Just a quick thanks to everyone who bought Shattered Souls! Once you find time to read it, let me know what you thought. More of Sam and Cait is coming in June!
And now, to today’s announcement. The release date is officially next week, but I happen to know Amazon is already shipping copies of Best Lesbian Romance of 2013. I have a little ole story in the collection, entitled “Night at the Wax Museum,” which originally appeared in Girls Who Bite.
Here’s a snippet…
12:02 AM—Remind V.H. to call the exterminators. Rats, again, in the vicinity of the freak show exhibit!
Krista Pike clicked the end of her ballpoint pen, slid the small spiral notebook into her pocket and clipped the pen in her uniform lapel. Then she slipped her mag light from its holster, picked up a sturdy broom and went in search of the rodent.
For the third night in a row her nerves were wired tighter than an M-16’s recoil spring. Shouldn’t have been. The security company that’d hired her told her that other than some minor vandalism to the museum’s windows and door, this shift should be a cake walk.
“Tell that to the fucking rats.”
A skittering sounded behind her. She spun and aimed her light toward the floor. Nothing. As she raised the beam, it caught the exhibit. Light flickered in the eyes of the wax figure lying in the open coffin—a scene straight out of a horror movie, created especially for the Halloween crowd.
She shivered at the tableau. A raven-haired vampire, red glassy eyes, milky-white skin , the tops of her breasts exposed above the black, corseted gown, not a hint of color in her or the white-satin-lined coffin other than blood-red paint on her full lips. Above her, the vampire hunter stood with arms raised, a hammer and a wooden stake in his hands, ready to puncture her chest. The setting surrounding the two figures was straight Hollywood kitsch—a gnarled tree, an open pit readied for the coffin, and a tall Celtic cross knocked at an angle.
The overhead track light beamed directly on the vampire’s face, and her glass eyes appeared to be fixed right on Krista.
She shivered, and aimed the beam back to the ground, unsure which creeped her out more now, the rats or the red glowing lights the artist had placed behind the wax figure’s eye sockets.
She moved along, scuffing her feet to make enough noise to scare away any critters looking for discarded scraps of popcorn or candy bars that patrons of the wax museum had tossed.
Damn nerves. She needed to make an appointment with her VA shrink to up her meds. Problem solved.
Total pisser she still needed those damn happy pills. Until she had a clean bill of health, the PD wouldn’t clear her for duty again. And there was no way she wanted to return full-time to the force without being whole again. Eighteen months in Afghanistan had left her in little broken bits. Shattered hip. Shattered mind.
A year of therapy—for the bones and her mushed brain—and she still wasn’t one hundered percent. Not when a goddamn rat could spook her like this.
She was tempted to hit the utility closet and turn on all the lights just as she had last night, but the manager had chewed her ass for wasting electricity. She was stuck with the thin beams illuminating the exhibits, making the surrounding darkness feel dense and alive.
Another shiver shook her. “Fuck this,” she bit out, pissed at herself for letting the place get to her. Maybe she should move onto the presidents. Nothing scary there other than the looming height and craggy face of Honest Abe.
The skittering sounded again, behind her. She spun and crouched, flashlight held like a nightstick, the broom like a sword, blood pumping every bit as hard as when her squad had come under fire in Kandahar. She’d shimmied under a burned out van only to discover she didn’t have enough room between the road and the vehicle’s undercarriage to effectively return fire. She’d scooted back the way she’d come, but the battle was already over. Or so she’d thought. Kneeling beside Randy Hays’s body, she’d caught a round in her ass, another in her torso, which the Kevlar ate, but the impact had still been strong enough to knock the breath out of her.
“Fuck this,” she repeated, her voice sounding every bit as hollow as her resolve. Her beam caught the edge of the coffin, glared on the white lining of the lid. She moved on—then swung her light back to the bed of the casket. It was empty.
Not a goddamn rat. Someone else was inside the museum and playing a nasty trick.
“Not fucking funny,” she said, straightening and aiming her voice around the room.
Soft laughter came from right behind her, and Krista punched her elbow backward and whirled, but again saw nothing except for a blur of grey.
Her breath caught. Nothing moved that fast.
Straightening, she tossed down the broom. “I know you’re here,” she said, deepening her voice, hoping whoever or whatever it was couldn’t tell how freaked she was.
“I’ve been watching you,” came a feminine, singsong voice.
Krista jerked, then cursed herself for giving away her fear. “Come out of the shadows. I’ll walk you to the door and let you leave. I won’t call it in.”
“How sweet.” The voice was girlish, almost childlike, but with an undertone of menace that chilled Krista to the bone. “Why do you limp?”
Krista breathed deeply, calming her heart. The voice had come from near the door leading to the Marilyn exhibit. Krista didn’t know if the woman had a weapon or was just a thrill seeker. There wasn’t anything of value inside the museum other than big wax dolls. Nothing irreplaceable. The cash box was cleaned out every night after closing. “Why’d you move the vampire?”
Another laugh. This one so close the hairs on the back of her neck stirred.
“Pretty boy, I didn’t take it.”
“I’m not a boy,” she said, more to keep the conversation going than because she’d been offended.
“But you act like one. Even walk like one.”
“I was a soldier.”
“And they made you walk that way?”
“I don’t have girly hips.”
A hand cupped one notch of her uninjured hip from behind. A citrusy-floral scent tickled her nose. Something wet slid down the side of her neck. A tongue. Panic shivered down her spine.
“Not boy’s hips.” A hand trailed down the front of her pants, and fingers traced her split. “Not a boy’s anything at all.”
Krista didn’t know why she stayed so still. She wasn’t a superstitious person. Didn’t believe in ghosts or God. But she knew in her gut whatever was behind her wasn’t human. As fast as the thing had moved, she couldn’t outrun it. “You’re that woman in the coffin, aren’t you?”
“Not stupid like a boy either. Not like the last one.”
“The last guard?”
“They didn’t tell you?”
Krista shook her head. “I wasn’t told why he had to be replaced.” Fingers walked across the top of her shoulder and up her neck, pads skimming over her thudding pulse. Krista swayed, her eyelids dipped.
“Poor thing couldn’t hold his bladder. All I had to do was blow in his ear and he’d shriek—”
“Like a girl?”
The laugh this time sounded more natural. Hands drew away.
She blinked and the raven-haired creature stood in front of her, her gaze studying Krista’s face. “You’re different.”
“Than what? There are other female guards employed by Security Systems.”
“Not what I meant. You’re not frightened of me.”
“Sure I am, but the rats creeped me out more.”
“Rats won’t kill you.”
“I’m not afraid of dying.”