Happy Friday the 13th! What better way to celebrate than with the release of the second book in The Punishers’ Series, The Guardian?
Last year, shortly after my father died, I kept my promise to him and released my first fantasy, paranormal, suspense novel, The Tigress, part of a series called The Punishers.
Paranormal Detective Ellie Taggart, a rakshasa capable of assuming the shape of a tigress, has always worked alone, searching for those responsible for her mother’s murder. When an investigation results in the death of a close friend and vampire, she’s forced to partner with handsome and mysterious peredhil, Steve Cassidy.
Like her, the half-human, half-elf uses his special talents to fight evil wherever it exists. Rogue vampires, shapeshifters, zombies, practitioners of black magic, poltergeists, ghosts—none of them can beat him. That is until someone or something no longer plays by the rules. There’s a new villain in New Orleans, one who threatens both the humans and non-humans who make the city home.
Is the enemy Draug, the wizard who murdered Ellie’s mother centuries ago? Is it someone from Steve’s shrouded past intent on revenge? Or are they facing a new enemy with an agenda all his or her own? As the tigress and her partner search for answers, trying to prevent the bodies from piling up, they have to manage conflicting emotions and desires that threaten to overwhelm them. Can two such different creatures of the light join forces to defeat the darkness, or will the powers of evil triumph?
This year, I’m continuing the tradition and promise with Book Two in The Punishers’ Series, The Guardian.
The Punishers are at it again in The Guardian, the second book in the series.
The past can always come back to haunt you.
After defeating the demon and casting him back into the abyss, Steve Cassidy and Ellie Taggart, the Tigress, expect a break, but evil never rests.
Knud, a dark-elf and an immortal, has escaped from his prison in Niflheim, intent on exacting his revenge against all of those who sent him there, including Steve. To make matters worse, Knud has teamed up with both supernatural and human criminals—a Voodoo priest and magician with an axe to grind against the city’s preternatural population, and a paramilitary group with an agenda all their own.
With a hurricane on the horizon, the lives of ten females and one male hang in the balance. With the help of a Vodun priestess, the head of the city’s Wicca coven, a selkie, mermaids, shapeshifters, and vampires, Steve, Ellie, Mike, and Chelsea, the Punishers, have 72 hours to find the missing yacht and rescue those aboard. Because if they don’t by October 31st, all hell will break loose.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find in the story.
The antique, grandfather clock bonged twelve times. Steve reached for his glass of brandy. Ellie was asleep in the guest room. While he was grateful she’d agreed to spend the last couple of days here, especially given how tired they’d been after the battle with Descry, he would’ve preferred holding her in his arms, assuring himself that she was safe. Her scent lingered in the sheets of his bed where she’d spent the night after her run-in with the revenants earlier in the week. He’d held her for a short time, hoping his heat and comforting presence would ease her fevered trembling. She’d settled, but once she’d awakened, it had been as if the intimacy had never happened.
If he suggested repeating the activity and maybe adding a little to it, she might well rip him open with those razor sharp claws of hers. He needed to be patient. They would come together—of that he was certain—but it would be on her terms, not his. Maybe that was why, as tired as he was, he was unable to settle.
He understood her reluctance to change the level of their relationship, but they might not have as much time as they thought they did. Lately, the battles they fought had been more dangerous and difficult. Even near immortals like them had their limits. They might not age like humans did, but they did grow older, although without the maladies and infirmities that afflicted humans. What they could do was die from other causes. There were poisonous creatures and plants in all of the Nine Realms, weapons, and magic that could be turned against them. Last week had been a close call. Only a fool would believe he could’ve defeated the demon Descry and his allies alone. He might be a lot of things, but he was no fool.
Finishing the amber liquid, he stood and then dropped back into the chair as a sudden shriek of pain exploded inside his head, causing him to bite his tongue, the coppery taste of blood strong inside his mouth. A second cry shook him.
What the hell?
He slipped deeper into his own mind, trying to locate the source of the scream. As Detective Steve Cassidy, his job was to uphold the laws and protect the humans and non-humans from the dark forces that threatened to enslave or destroy them, but he was more than that. He was the Guardian, responsible for those preternatural creatures from the Nine Realms who made Earth their home, too.
While he might not be a demigod or an immortal like his father, Skirnir, a light-elf lord, he was more than the usual half-elf, half-human peredhil. He possessed supernatural strength, speed, psychic abilities, and other magical talents, including the ability to wield Sigurdur, the flaming sword crafted by the dwarfs of Nidavellir, given to him by the Vanyr god, Freyr, whom he served. In addition, he had the rare capacity of being able to open any portal and travel through the dimensional corridors linking all the worlds, moving around the earth in the blink of an eye.
The fact that many of the immortals who’d chosen to settle on Earth preferred this corner of the world made his job easier. What it was that drew immortals and non-humans here he didn’t know, but there were ley lines nearby and cosmic energies resonating even at this distance from what the humans called The Bermuda Triangle. The whole of the American southern coast was somehow joined, but New Orleans seemed to be some sort of convergent point, where the veil between dreams and reality was at its thinnest, drawing both good and evil to it with equal force.
Closing his eyes, he honed in on the slight whimpers, recognizing the voice. That agonizing cry had come from a friend, a selkie who’d relocated to the Gulf of Mexico, almost three years ago, living among the whales, dolphins, and mermaids in the waters of the gulf beyond the Chandeleur Islands, often escaping into the Sigsbee Deep and cooler water. He’d taken her to dinner a few times. They’d gotten along well, but he hadn’t seen her since July.
What the hell had she gotten herself into? He’d warned her against walking the streets of the city alone at night. She might have magic, but unless she was in the water, it wouldn’t do her any good. Had she found herself at the mercy of a human or non-human male who wouldn’t take no for an answer?
Selkies were similar to mermaids, except when they chose to walk on land, they only had to step out of their sealskin. Unlike mermaids who preferred the warm water, selkies inhabited the cold waters around the Orkney and Faro Islands and Iceland, although many lived among the seal colonies off the New England and Canadian coasts. Lately, with the oceans warming, a few had ventured south.
Immortal as well as mortal men found selkie women highly attractive, and the selkies had to be vigilant and keep their sealskins carefully hidden whenever they shed them. If a mortal man were to steal a selkie’s skin, he could prevent her from transforming and returning to the sea, thus stripping her of her immortality. Until Ellie had walked into his life, he’d considered phoning Selma again, if only for companionship. Now, it seemed as if she needed him more than he’d needed her.
Since this was his responsibility and his alone, he decided not to wake Ellie and let her sleep. He warded the house to keep out any intruders and opened a portal. After grabbing his sword and donning his armor, he sped down the corridor, racing toward the weak sound.
Exiting the conduit, he found himself not in a back alley as he’d expected, but knee-deep in the dark, warm waters of the gulf. The half-moon silvered the surface. At his feet lay Selma, her lower body sheathed in her sealskin, her human torso covered in blood still seeping from huge gashes on her shoulder and the side of her head. Someone or something had attacked her, but judging by the crusted blood in her hair and the sand matted in with it, she’d been here, struggling to transform, for some time. Had a fisher or naturalist found her like this … he shuddered at what could’ve happened. Her sealskin should’ve healed the wounds, but the fact that she couldn’t complete the transformation to do so was troubling.
He sheathed his sword on his back and knelt beside her, gingerly raising her injured torso out of the water. How long had she been lying like this, her life blood ebbing out with each wave that covered her?
Her eyes drifted open, and she gasped, struggling weakly as if trying to get away but unable to do so.
“It’s okay, Selma. It’s me, Steve.”
She relaxed slightly, but he could read the terror in her deep brown almost black eyes, the white sclera, all but invisible. He wasn’t a doctor, but her body was on fire.
“What’s happened to you? Did you get caught in a propeller?” He couldn’t imagine anything else causing this kind of damage, other than perhaps a predator. “Were you trying to get away from the Great White you were telling me about and miscalculated? Why aren’t you transforming?”
Too weak to speak, she opened her mind to him.
Not sure. No accident. Two—maybe three days ago … We were attacked. Men … not men … We answered a distress call … others … another selkie…
Even her thoughts were halting, her life pulsing away with each beat of her heart.
“Selma, please. What happened? Did another selkie do this to you?” The thought that one of her own kind could turn on her was horrific.
No … So very tired.
“I know,” he pleaded for her help, “but if another selkie’s in trouble, I have to save her.”
He would do everything he could for Selma, but right now, it didn’t look good. Hopefully, Mamma Lou would have some of dlo sakre she’d used on Ellie’s wounds that night when the tigress had had her leg ripped open. The old Vodun priestess controlled powerful magic and was the best healer he’d ever met. If Mamma Lou couldn’t help Selma, no one could.
He stood, pulling the injured creature out of the water and cradling her in his arms. Like other immortals, selkies could be killed. While it rarely happened in their seal form because of their speed and magical abilities, on land or aboard a vessel, they were powerless, as mortal as humans.
She moaned, the sound so faint, he almost missed it.
“Hang in there,” he murmured. “I have a friend who can help you.”
Selma raised her hand and grabbed his arm, her grip surprisingly strong.
You must find them, Steve. You must help them. Such darkness … You must save them. If you don’t—
Her eyes closed, and her grip relaxed, her breathing so shallow he was afraid she’d died.
“Damn! Find who?” Using his night vision, he searched the coastline for other bodies. “Is there anyone else out here?” he cried, hoping desperately for an answer.
The only one he got was the sound of the water lapping the sand. Whoever she’d been with was either dead, in deeper water, or still in the hands of whoever had tried to kill her.
You can find both The Tigress and The Guardian exclusively at any Amazon retailer priced at 99 cents for a limited time. Both books are available in Kindle Unlimted!
The series will continue next year with Chelsea’s story.