UPDATE: The winner, chosen by a random number generator, is…ilona!
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I’ve written a lot of books and every one of them is special to me, but there are a few that are my favorite babies. Shattered Souls is one of those. From the moment I dreamed the pivotal scene in the first act, I was driven to write this story. I knew Cait inside and out from day one. I didn’t know exactly what she was capable of, but she led me through her story, bitching all the way. The words came fast, just as though they were being fed through a funnel. Like they weren’t coming from me at all. The sequel was almost as fun to write, although there was one particular scene that just about killed me. Those of you who read Lost Souls will know which one I mean… Enjoy the excerpt.
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“SHATTERED SOULS shocked me with its exhilarating story line and its magical world of Witches, Wraiths and Demons. Ms. Devlin wrote an intriguing urban fantasy with just the right balance of romance, nail-biting scenes and well-developed characters. She really got me hooked from the beginning until the end.” 5 Feathers and Top Pick, Under The Covers
“An intriguing paranormal tale that combines romantic suspense with a mesmerizing tale of otherworldly beings.” Top Pick, Night Owl Reviews
“Delilah Devlin has created a fascinating world of magic and the mundane in SHATTERED SOULS… A terrific book, SHATTERED SOULS will leave you breathless for more.” 4.5 Blue Ribbons, Romance Junkies
When her mentor is brutally murdered by a supernatural force, an alcoholic former cop turns to her past lovers—her ex-partner and a powerful sorcerer—to help her hunt down a demon terrorizing Memphis.
Caitlyn O’Connell had it all: a career with the Memphis PD, a passionate marriage, and the satisfaction that her work made a difference in the world. But she also had a secret, a supernatural “gift” that cost her everything. Now she scrapes by as a private investigator, taking cases the cops won’t touch and counting down the minutes until happy hour. But when Sam Pierce, her former partner and estranged ex-husband, comes to her for help with a bizarre murder case, Cait can’t say no. And not just because Sam is still as irresistibly sexy as he was on the day they met. Something sinister—and demonic—is terrorizing Memphis, leaving a bloody trail of bodies and clues only Cait can read. Together she and Sam will venture into a dark world of magic and unholy terror, hunting a killer who will lead them to the brink of reality as they know it—and back into the thrall of their stormy past. Steamy and suspenseful, Shattered Souls is the pulse-quickening new offering from romance author Delilah Devlin.
“You don’t remember calling him here last night, do you?” Sam said evenly.
Cait closed her eyes. Bad move. The floor shifted beneath her feet. “No.” She didn’t remember making the call, didn’t remember if she’d come. She didn’t remember a damn thing past her fourth Scotch at O’Malley’s. Par for the course. And why she didn’t work past midnight these days.
The ever-present whispers softened, almost extinguished, and she swallowed, really needing that shot of Scotch now. She opened her eyes and met Sam’s flinty gaze.
Disappointment shone in his face. Anger she could have shrugged off, but this was the same look he’d worn through the last days of their marriage. It still cut her to the bone.
“This was Henry’s room?” She lifted her chin because she didn’t want him guessing that shame heated her cheeks.
“He registered yesterday. And we found his wallet on the nightstand.”
“What was he doing here?” Her head pounded, and she fought to pull together her thoughts. “The last time we talked he was in Florida, enjoying his retirement.”
“I hoped you’d be able to answer that.” He drew in a deep breath and ruffled the top of his head with a hand—a clear indication of his frustration. “Have a look around the room. Tell me what you see.”
“Your team’s been all over it. What can I add?”
She shrugged casually while a bad, bad feeling crept along her spine. When his expression settled into stubborn lines, she knew he’d just wait her out. So she stood in the center of the floor and visually scanned the room, looking for clues about what had gone down while she fought emotions she didn’t want to acknowledge.
Henry had been her first partner when she’d been a brand-new detective. He’d shown her the ropes, fussing and castigating her every time she’d missed a clue or screwed up something. He’d stayed on her ass until the day he’d handed in his badge and gun, satisfied she’d do just fine without his mentorship.
She’d missed the ornery cuss but hadn’t had a lot of time to mope because Sam had been assigned as her new partner. And, well, suddenly the strict lines she’d drawn between her personal life and work had blurred. Deliciously.
Now wasn’t the time to reflect. With fists on hips, Sam waited for her to tell him something he didn’t already know. Her gaze went back to the bed. To where everything had started.
Henry had put up one hell of a fight. Her stomach lurched.
“Looks like his attacker surprised him while he slept,” she said, eyeing the spray pattern on the headboard and wall above it. “He must have suffered a head wound. Don’t know how he didn’t go down, as much blood as there is here.” Again, she shivered, wondering how hard combing the room must have been for the team. Everyone had loved Henry.
She glanced at the blood soaked into the brown carpet beside the bed. “He was still fighting. His head hit the comforter here.” She pointed at the rumpled bedding that had been pulled half off the bed. “Then the floor. These stripes,” she said, kneeling beside parallel lines of blood, “…he must have been facedown, and the guy was dragging him.” She glanced behind her and stilled. The stripes, like fingertips digging at the carpet, streaked all the way to the dresser. “That’s…weird.”
Cait glanced at Sam and noted the sharpening of his gaze. He had known she’d be struck by the oddness of the direction of the pattern. Whispers grew louder, and she rose.
With slow steps she approached the dresser, noted small, round smudges on the front pieces of several of the scattered drawers. She squatted next to the dresser and peered upward, seeing for the first time the dried ovals just underneath the dresser top. He’d gripped the dresser top, but from what angle? Sweat popped out on her forehead. Her anxiety deepening, she took a deep breath. His bloody fingers left streaks across the top. Scrapes left by fingernails, mixed with the blood, ended at the glass.
Her glance caught on one more telltale clue, and her stomach tightened. This time, she was afraid she’d add vomit to the gore already present in the room. Cait raked a hand through her tangled hair. She needed to get out of here and let the techs and the detectives figure out what had happened, because she wasn’t ready to complete the trail.
Goddamn, she really needed a drink.
“Don’t stop now,” Sam said, an edge of warning in his softly spoken words.
“I can’t do this,” she said, swallowing hard and dropping her gaze to her hands, which had begun to shake. The whispers that always rose when there was trouble of a spooky persuasion clamored in her head. So loud, so many. She couldn’t distinguish the words, but she understood their warning.
“Henry was your partner,” Sam ground out, his gaze narrowed. “Your mentor. You can’t walk away from this one.”
She snorted and shot him a glare. “You walked away from me.”
“You left me a long time before I moved out.”
Still avoiding his stare, Cait took a deep, quivering breath. She couldn’t think straight.
“I need you on this one, Cait.”
He used “the voice.” The one that made her putty in his hands to mold whichever way he wanted. The one that made her melt, but not because he’d turned on any heat. It was more the ragged, naked texture.
Unless he felt he really needed her, he wouldn’t be asking for her help. She was the last person on the planet he’d ever want to ask. Begging her had to be costing him.
She owed him. Big-time. He’d helped her leave the force with her dignity still intact. Pointed her toward Jason and his agency. In reality, he’d saved her life.
Cait straightened her shoulders, then looked at the handprint on the mirror attached to the dresser’s top. “I don’t get it.” She glanced at the bare, white ceiling. “It’s almost like the killer used a pulley to haul him feet first off the floor and drag him up the dresser.”
“Look again, Cait. I know you see it.”
A shudder ran through her. Cait didn’t want to. She averted her face from the glass. From the one bloody outline she knew shouldn’t be where it was. Henry had fought an attacker in this room. He’d fought ferociously. The mussed bedclothes, the shattered furniture, the sprayed blood—all told the story.
But the scene was as if the room had been turned upside down. The streaks led to the dresser, all the way up to the frame surrounding the old mirror.
“The handprint can’t be his,” she whispered. “He was upside down. Lifted somehow. By the feet. But the fingers of the handprint point upward. Your techs, can they get a clear print?”
“Look again, Cait,” Sam repeated.
The sharper edge to his voice told her he’d keep her there until she faced it.
Cait swallowed and forced her gaze to rest on the handprint. Dark brown, and it glistened. As though frozen.
Again…weird. The print wasn’t raised but appeared flat. Frowning, she glanced back to see if it was OK for her to touch. Sam gave her a nod, and she leaned closer to touch the glass. Her finger slid along the smooth, clean surface.
How—? She jerked back her hand and rubbed it on her hip.
“You see why I needed you?”
She didn’t bother looking back. “You don’t believe in this shit.”
“I’m skeptical,” he said, his gaze meeting hers in the mirror. “But explain how a bloody goddamn handprint is on the inside of the glass.”
With a shake of her head, she backed away from the dresser. “I can’t. Waste of time bringing me here.”
Sam caught her shoulders from behind. “All those times you asked me to trust your gut,” he whispered harshly beside her ear. “Prove there’s something to it. That you weren’t just losing it to the booze.”
Her face began to crumple, then she tightened her expression and shrugged out of his grasp. As far as Sam Pierce was concerned, she was all cried out. But she might feel satisfied to let him take a walk in her shoes. Just for a day or two. Long enough to find out who…or what…had taken Henry.
She jerked her head toward the dresser, which was pulled four inches away from the wall. “Your guys move the dresser?”
“Yeah, trying to see whether they could pull the silver off the back and get at that print.”
A waste of energy. She shoved the dresser back in place, careful not to leave a print on the edges, and making sure to match up the dresser’s legs with the grooves in the carpet. Then, hoping she didn’t sway and fall on her ass, she stepped into the casing of an empty drawer and onto the dresser top.
From her perch, she peered into the mirror at the reflected image of the hotel room. She stared at the handprint, noting up close the frosted texture. The blood had crystallized.
Then she moved from side to side, peering into the mirror from different angles. Not until she stood on her toes and peered downward did she find what she’d hoped with all her heart she wouldn’t. Her breath caught in her throat.
Henry’s body lay at the foot of the dresser, his bruised and bloody face a deathly gray blue.