I want to welcome Robyn Bachar today who will be telling us a little bit about her new paranormal release from Samhain Publishing: BLOOD, SMOKE AND MIRRORS. Welcome, Robyn!
I love Urban Fantasy. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and my neighborhood is filled with brick houses that all look pretty much the same. On the long walk home from school I always wondered what went on inside those houses. What secret dramas were hidden behind those boring brick exteriors?
As an Urban Fantasy writer, I can take those secrets and give them a far more fantastic spin. Instead of just an affair, it’s an affair between two shapeshifters. Two shifters from rival packs, afraid of being caught and kicked out, or even killed. That creepy house with the owner that only comes out at night? Clearly a vampire. A vampire on the run from a terrible past—why else would he spend his unlife in Berwyn, where nothing ever happens? The family with the White Sox flag on their porch? Obviously a group of evil sorcerers bent on world domination.
Okay, maybe not, but I love the idea of taking a fantastic creature and giving it a crappy day job and a used car, and then telling it to save the world. In Blood, Smoke and Mirrors, my heroine is a witch who works full time as a waitress. Sure she has powerful magic, but that won’t pay her rent or the rest of her college loans. Having magic doesn’t make her life easier—in fact it’s made it a lot harder. And thanks to me, her bad days are about to get a lot worse.
Even a bad witch deserves a second chance.
Wrongly accused of using her magic to harm, the closest Catherine Baker comes to helping others is serving their coffee. Life as an outcast is nothing new, thanks to her father’s reputation, but the injustice stings. Especially since the man she loved turned her in.
Now the man has the gall to show up and suggest she become the next Titania? She’d rather wipe that charming grin off his face with a pot of hot java to the groin.
Alexander Duquesne has never faltered in his duties as a guardian—until now. The lingering guilt over Cat’s exile and the recent death of his best friend have shaken his dedication. With the murder of the old Titania, the faerie realm teeters on the brink of chaos. His new orders: keep Cat alive at all costs.
Hunted by a powerful stranger intent on drawing her into an evil web, Cat reluctantly accepts Lex’s protection and the resurrected desire that comes along with it. Lex faces the fight of his life to keep her safe…and win her back. If they both survive.
Warning: This book contains one tough and snarky witch, one gorgeous guardian, explicit blood drinking, magician sex, gratuitous violence against vampires and troublemaking Shakespearean faeries.
For the entertainment portion of our evening Lex bravely—or perhaps foolishly—decided to teach the faeries how to play Texas hold ’em poker. The only cards I own are Tarot cards, but he’d brought a deck of playing cards with him in his gym bag, and we used pretzels and chocolates as poker chips. The man displayed the patience of a saint as he tutored my cousins in the basics of the game—I’d learned it when we’d dated, though we’d bet clothing instead of snacks.
Tybalt was enthralled, but Portia was slow to warm to the idea until she figured out how to cheat by magically marking the cards. Poker ended soon after that, and we turned to the Game Show Network for entertainment. Few things are quite as entertaining as watching millennia-old frost faeries shout “No deal, Howie!” at your television screen.
It was a welcome break, and I could almost imagine this was a normal night of fun with my cousins. The addition of Lex didn’t hurt, but it added to the strangeness. He was acting like the Lex I remembered—funny, caring, charming. I wanted to stay angry with him, but having him stand steadfast by my side today made that difficult. He was there when I needed him, which felt weird after what had occurred between us in the past.
A little after midnight I kicked the faeries out and sent them home so Lex and I could get a good night’s sleep before our big day tomorrow. Not that I predicted being able to sleep with the cold dread that’d settled into my stomach, but I was willing to give it a try. I gathered up the empty drinking glasses and the bag of chips we’d devoured, and brought them into the kitchen. When I returned to the living room for the second round of mess, I found the lights had been switched off. Barely visible, Lex stood at the window, staring into the night as he held the curtains aside.
“You need to see this.”
“What is it?”
“Might want to put your shields up in case they try to take a shot at you,” he advised as I crossed the room. With a deep breath I put my shields in place, feeling the energy snap around me and then continue its new odd habit of stretching to include Lex.
“How are you doing that?” I looked up at him, confused.
“You keep getting through my shields.”
“Huh. Probably ’cause your subconscious knows I’m not going to harm you, so there’s no need to keep me out. Those vamps outside, on the other hand, they’re probably not here to play cards.” Lex pointed into the darkness, and I looked out the window.
“I don’t see anything.” Squinting, I pushed my glasses up on my nose and strained to see what he indicated.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the rainy night. The streetlights had been doused, and this time it wasn’t my fault.
“There.” Stepping close to me, he gestured again. “Two in gangways across the street, one behind that oak tree.” Following Lex’s lead, I managed to spot three figures hiding in the shadows, and they were definitely not my neighbors.
“What are they doing?” I asked, my voice dropping to a tense whisper.
“Waitin’. They can’t get in, so they’re waitin’ for us to come out. Sooner or later they’ll get impatient and figure out a way to force their way in. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t tried to set your building on fire and smoke us out.”
“They can’t, I have a ward against that too. Fire here can’t grow any bigger than a stove burner.”
“Damn, you are good. Still, with those vultures outside it’s not safe here anymore, Cat. You’ll have to stay somewhere else from now on.” With his point made, he let the curtains fall back into place, plunging the room into darkness, with only the light from the kitchen to see by.
“You’re right,” I reluctantly agreed.
“You could come stay with me.”
“With you?” Surprised by the suggestion, I turned to look up at him. We were standing so close I could feel the heat of his body and the light brush of his breath against my face. Nervous, I took a deep breath and unintentionally inhaled the familiar, unique scent of him. My heartbeat drowned out the steady patter of rain against the windows. With an amazing display of willpower I resisted the urge to bolt, knowing I’d only trip over something (like the cats that were still standing guard over Lex) and break my neck. Instead I took a slow step backward. “Why, you think it’d be easier to babysit me on your own turf?”
“I’m not babysitting you. Really, I’m protecting them from you,” he teased. Grinning, he reached up and tucked a stray lock of hair that’d escaped from my braid back into place behind my ear.
“Thanks, that makes me feel so much better,” I joked, a blush heating my face.
“I try. But seriously, Cat, I’ll be here as long as you need me.” Lex looked down at me, seeming sincere, and I shook my head at him.
“Don’t, Lex. You’re only here on orders. You’ll be gone and on to the next as soon as this assignment is over.”
“What if I don’t want that?”
“What if I do? I’m all for the life-saving thing, but I don’t want you in my life again.”
“Are you sure of that?”
Scowling, I took a steadying breath and prepared to launch into an explanation of the myriad reasons why I wasn’t about to go through another round of heartbreak with him, but before I could speak he leaned down and brushed a kiss across my lips.
A warm tingling suffused my body as soon as our lips met, the sort of electric reaction I usually associate with casting magic, but much, much better. He was hesitant at first, probably afraid I’d slap him or zot him with a spell, but when I didn’t object he slowly began to deepen the kiss. My knees went weak as my good sense vanished, and I slipped my arms around him to steady myself. Lex held me close as he continued to kiss me, and I leaned into him. I’d forgotten how well we fit together. He sighed, as though my lips were delicious and he savored them.
“This is a bad idea,” I murmured.
“No, this is a good idea.” Lex nudged me back toward the couch, and I sat down in a less-than-graceful flop. Next he joined me and drew me into his arms.
“Oh yeah? How?” My hormones were obviously happy to see him, but I still had a little bit of brainpower left, enough to be skeptical of the situation.
“Because letting you go was a bad idea. I don’t want to make that mistake again.” His voice was low and strained, and I wished it wasn’t so dark so I could see his expression. I sighed, a mix of old pain and new uncertainty, but he kissed me again and I stopped arguing.
I relaxed into the embrace, returning the kiss passionately. I felt better instantly—safe, warm, desired. Lex stroked my braided hair and let his hand rest at the small of my back. I ran my own hands up and down his back, debating whether or not it would be a good idea to tug his shirt off, but then I felt him unhooking my bra. My pulse jumped, and my magic decided to take that opportunity to wreak havoc on a pair of unsuspecting table lamps. With an electric sizzle followed by two sharp pops the light bulbs flashed and exploded. Startled, we jumped apart, the mood broken. We stared at each other, and I felt a guilty blush heat my face.
“Cat—” he started, and I held a hand up to stop him before he could say anything further.
“I don’t want to hear it. I’m going to get some new bulbs, and we’re going to pretend that never happened.”
Every bad witch has a story…
BLOOD, SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Available now from Samhain Publishing
Don’t forget to come visit me at Gabriella Hewitt’s Blog today for her March Madness Blog Tour!