I’m so thrilled to finally have the third book in the Randi Sanderson series out in the wild. Things are heating up been Randi and Cash and Kalon.
The below excerpt is a spoiler for those who have not read books 1 and 2. If you haven’t, then hop over to the series page here and download them in KU or buy them. Rise of the Shade is FREE until Sunday, April 16th.
Now, here is the excerpt! Enjoy.
I turned to peer through the front window. In the driveway, leaning against my car, stood Kalon, his fists stuffed into his jean pockets, his expression severe. His expression is always severe. I ruminated on that fact, and that it had been the very same expression that first lured me in, as I walked out to meet him. “I thought it was too dangerous to leave your hideout.”
He looked past me to the house. “How’s he doing?”
I crossed my arms. “I’ve had him less than a day, and you’re checking in? You know I raised him on my own for eleven years, right?”
“Looks like you had a little help.”
I glanced over my shoulder to find Mom hovering near the window, doing a bad job of pretending she wasn’t watching us.
“I’m glad they’re around for him, too,” said Kalon. “You’ve done a really good job with him. Thank you.”
I saw a flicker of sorrow in his eyes. “Kalon…” I wanted to ask him where he’d been all this time, how he managed to return from the dead, why his first impulse wasn’t to return to his family, but for some reason all these questions seemed more intimate than our present footing could allow. To ask them meant crossing a divide I didn’t feel comfortable yet traversing. From where I stood, it looked riddled with mines, and Kalon seemed disinterested in clearing the path.
He pushed away from the car and stared out across the neighborhood. “Tell me about work. Any more trouble from Stone and his cohort?”
I took up his place against the car, wondering if I shouldn’t just leave him out of the loop. After all, if he was going to keep me in the dark, why shouldn’t I return the favor? But I thought the better of it. If Kalon believed he was in danger serious enough it required holing up in an undisclosed forest retreat, I figured he ought to be kept abreast of developments. “They’re targeting the Vampire Council.”
He looked back at me.
“They’ve already killed Rico Vincent,” I told him, “and now Erna Keller is missing.”
“Any clues as to who may be the assassin?”
“Aside from the Shade?” I shrugged.
Kalon scratched at the stubble on his jawline. It looked like he hadn’t shaved in a while, which was new. Despite the likely explanation involving anxiety and a preoccupation with present stressors, I found it kind of hot. You know, rugged. Kalon always had a powerfully masculine aura, and the five o’clock shadow complimented it. “Guessing they wiped the scene?”
I nodded, holding back the question of how he knew. “But unlike the last few murders, there was…a message.”
He signaled his curiosity with a raised eyebrow.
“Written in blood above Rico, ‘The world will be swallowed under shade.’ All caps. Pretty emphatic.”
This detail piqued his interest. “Anything else?”
I shook my head. “Oh, apparently, there was a gator at both scenes? Someone saw a tail slipping into the bushes at Rico’s murder scene, then Cash found gator prints in Erna’s kitchen. I don’t know what to make of that, really, possibly a very bizarre coincidence. It is Florida, after all.”
More than the message, the alligator deepened the furrow in his brow, his eyes drifting off in thought. “Huh,” was all he said.
“Does that mean something to you? Know any murderous reptiles on the prowl?”
He snapped out of his reverie and turned a cold stare on me. “You said Cash found the paw prints, hm? How’s he at his job?”
“How’s he with you?”
My vision constricted around Kalon as I glared back at him. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”
“Protection,” he said, pronouncing the word like he was jabbing me with it. “Is he adequate?”
I scoffed. “What, to protect me? I can look out for myself, Kalon.”
He looked dubious. “Ace gave his life to save you. He was one of the strongest men I knew.”
I stepped forward, into his personal space. “He also said some cryptic things before he passed. He implied, more or less, that there are somehow good Shade out there.” I took another half step closer, bringing me up under his nose. He glared down it as I continued, “What could he have possibly meant by that, Kalon?”
At this distance, I could see the finer details of his icy-blue eyes, the way they lightened nearer the pupil, darkened to a ring of cobalt at the edge of his iris. As they’d always been, I found them impenetrable, a quality he recently bestowed upon our son. For a man so quiet, his absence from our lives was felt profoundly, a terrible black hole once filled by his enormous stature. Stoic, brooding, moody, irascible, and yet loving, affectionate, even sweet. His silence in the driveway performed a strange trick, returning me to all those quiet moments spent together in the years before he died. Or nearly died. Or died temporarily. More mystery.
“Nothing to say for Ace?”
His eyes cut briefly at my lips, an effect of my proximity eroding his resolve. I smirked, knowing how I might pluck an admission from him. I raised up on my toes to bring my lips to his. He kissed me like he used to, hungrily, only now with a touch of despair, for all he had lost. A gateway into his mind was left briefly unattended, and I slipped quickly into his thoughts. It was a sea of undulating tar, black waves rolling over into one another. Rather than construct a defensive wall, he masked the contents of his mind by filling it with a dark sea. A manipulation of his very specific set of skills; namely, control over abyss. One was as likely to decipher his intentions as they were finding one specific fish in the whole of the Pacific Ocean.
Unless they’d sailed his sea before.
Plunging into the mire, I allowed the currents to drag me in the direction of his consciousness. After discussing the Shade, it seemed his thoughts focused on the subject. The shifting material globbed onto the topic and I forced my way to the center of it, until the kernel transmitted itself to me.
It was a brief glimpse of honesty, stolen from his will that thrust me out as soon as it found me. But it was long enough to make a confounding discovery. My lips pulled away from Kalon’s and uttered two words, “Shade king.”
My eyes inquired from his the meaning of this revelation, but he only castigated himself for falling victim to my clever maneuver. “You always knew how to get my guard down.”
“Randi?” Cash stormed across the street, and suddenly I became aware of Kalon’s hands at my lower back, holding me close to him.
When Kalon saw Cash approaching, his grip tightened at my sides. “Isn’t this after hours?”
Cash glared at me. “What are you doing?”
But he already redirected his ire to Kalon. “What are you doing?”
“Kissing my wife. What were you doing? Peeping?”
I could see the red filling Cash’s vision. “This house happens to be where I stay. So, you’d be the one who doesn’t belong.”
Kalon released me and faced Cash. At his side, he summoned a small, holy blade. “That so? I suppose you consider yourself my wife’s protector. But I haven’t had the opportunity to test your abilities as a guard dog.” He swiped at Cash, who only just managed to partially summon a small shield in time. He cast his forearm between them and Kalon’s blow glanced off the flickering holy metal, raining sparks onto the driveway. Cash’s retort came in the form of a glowing fist, infused with empyrean strength, hurled from below. Kalon pivoted in time to avoid it, then lashed out with his knife in one fluid motion. His fingers still pulsating with heavenly magic, Cash seized Kalon’s wrist with the blade’s point mere inches from his right eye.
“Good lord!” I called out, forcing myself between them. “Either of you give a moment’s thought to where you are right now?” I glanced around the neighborhood and felt a small dose of relief when I saw no onlookers.
Huffing, they both stepped away from each other, a touch shamefaced. Kalon backed down the driveway, glaring at Cash who obliged him by glaring back. I swear, men make more drama than women. It’s not fair we get the bad rap.
“We’ll talk soon,” said Kalon, before teleporting.
I threw up my hands. “What did I just say?”
“The guy’s a loose cannon.”
I raised my finger to Cash. “You don’t score points off this.”
“Fair.” He moseyed then back toward his car.
“Where are you going?”
“We,” he corrected. “Hop in.”