My first book, Talent to Burn, is out today! You can see the cover over there in the sidebar.
I am over the moon with excitement – this day has been a long time coming. I first started working on this book when I was pregnant and couldn’t ride my horses…it kept me busy, that’s for sure.
To give you a taste of what it’s about, here’s an excerpt.
When I walked out of Reilly’s bar shortly after midnight, every vestige of psychic Talent I possessed stood up and shivered.
I stopped on the doorstep in the frigid Washington night, turning my head, listening, trying to work out what had triggered the feeling. Reilly’s had one lamppost in the parking lot, an island of light on the concrete. The only other illumination came from the neon beer signs in the window beside me, beacons against the dark.
I’d been working at the bar for nine months now, and the late-night noises had ceased giving me the creeps long ago. I knew the scurry of rats in the Dumpster and the hum of the lamp. This was something else, one of the echoes of Talent that sometimes broke through. Unlike other members of my family, I had no real Talent. Only shadows.
Nothing unusual jumped out at me. My rational brain took the bad feeling—hunch, whatever you want to call it—and shoved it in a corner. My heart slowed again. I shuddered, pulling my coat closer around my body. Years ago, I’d grown tired of starting at every little thing, despite my upbringing. Time to go home.
I trudged over to my hunk o’ junk car and climbed in. The key turned and the engine coughed and struggled.
My father would have parked closer to the door, checked both directions before crossing the ten feet in between, looked under the car for suspicious packages, and driven away white-faced, pretending everything was normal. Screw that. There were plenty of rational things to be afraid of, like being stuck working in a dive bar for the rest of my life. I had bigger plans.
The car started at last, and I pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.
A few minutes later, I jogged up the stairs to my apartment. The stairwell stank of tomcat and mold, but the place itself wasn’t bad, although kind of cold at this time of year. Winter would be over soon enough.
I pulled out my key and as I touched it to the lock, the door drifted open. The apartment lay dark in front of me, and I swore under my breath. My last place had been broken into, and I’d lost everything of value. At least there would be less for them to take this time.
I stood still and quiet, waiting, but the apartment lay silent. I detected no trace of an aura within.
I couldn’t stand out here all night, and it wasn’t like I could call the police. Quietly, I slid my arm around the doorframe and flipped on the light.
The living area resembled the aftermath of a hurricane, at least a category three. Complete disaster area. Everything I owned lay on the floor, and all of it broken. Among smashed plates and glasses were chunks of foam rubber from my couch, which had been knifed. Everything from the fridge had been poured out, my cookbooks torn up, DVDs smashed.
I repeated my cautious approach to the bedroom, although my instincts told me whoever did this was long gone.
The mattress had suffered the same treatment as the couch. Ripped from the closet, my clothes lay in a pile of slashed rags at the foot of the bed. Even the cheerful red and white snowflake curtains I’d sewn myself had been torn down. The window had been thrown open and an icy draft stirred the ruins of my possessions.
I slid down the wall and rested my head on my arms, let things get the better of me. I knew I’d stand up again in a minute and start cleaning, but I needed to breathe first, to get my head back in a positive place. No crying allowed, because if I started it would be hard to stop.
“Those bastards made a real mess,” a voice said, and I leaped to my feet, stumbling, reaching for a weapon I didn’t own anymore.
A huge man in a leather jacket stood in the doorway of my apartment. The aura of his Talent surrounded him, a dark gray blur of pure power around his edges. He stepped toward me.
“Get out!” I heard the note of hysteria in my own voice from far away, like a long distance call on a bad line. I turned to run, to escape, but my legs gave out and I tripped over something in the mess and fell flat out on the floor. I began to crawl away as fast as I could manage, panting to drag air into my lungs.
The man’s legs moved into my field of vision, and he crouched down in front of me, blocking my path. “Are you all right?”
“Get away from me!” I sat up and shoved myself back into a crouch, ready to run. The fear dropped from a roar to the hum of blood rushing through my ears. Get it together, Cat. Remember your training.
He spread his hands in front of him, whether to show me he didn’t have a weapon or to calm me as if I were a skittish horse, I didn’t know. “I’m here to help you, if you’ll hear me out.”
“What did I do to you?” I tensed my muscles, ready to fight. “Why did you do this?”
“I didn’t.” He must have seen the disbelief in my eyes, because he reached out and put a hand on my shoulder, steadying.
Although I wanted to smash his hand away, I didn’t flinch.
“I wouldn’t do this—partly because I have no reason to, and partly because I’m not that much of an ass. This was done by Grey Institute men.”
A cold feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. I hadn’t heard that name since my father had passed away when I was seventeen. I rose to my feet, slowly, warily, and the man did the same.
“Are you one of them?” My voice came out raw and scratchy. Perhaps it was a naïve question, but I wanted to gauge his reaction when I asked.
“No.” His eyes turned dark, the pupils huge. “I swear to you, on my mother’s grave. I have nothing to do with those sons of bitches. You couldn’t pay me enough.” His voice held steady and strong. He held out his hand. “I’m Jamie Murphy. I already know you’re Catrina Wilson.”
I ignored his hand, watching his face and his aura instead. “What do you want with me?”
He lowered his hand to his side. “The Greys are looking for your brother. I want to find him before they do.”
Eric. I hadn’t even thought his name in years.
I considered, watching Jamie, adding up the evidence. He knew the Greys existed, which could mean he was one of them, or he worked for one of the few top-secret government agencies who knew of their existence, or he’d tangled with them like I had. He didn’t look regimented enough to be one of them, or boring enough to be a government employee. The hatred in his voice had been heartfelt. His aura churned around him, his control slipping. I saw no traces of deceit in it.
Through the open window came the sound of a car door closing quietly. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and my gaze connected with Jamie’s.
“We need to get out of here,” he said, not whispering, but hushed. “They might be coming back for you. This stinks of trap.”
I walked to the window. My apartment faced the street. Several identical black vans had appeared, parked in a line along the curb on the opposite side of the street. No one in sight. I had a profoundly bad feeling about this.
“Come with me?”
I looked back at Jamie. “Where are we going?”
“Somewhere we can talk.”
Not a good choice, to trust a complete stranger. He looked like a clichéd bad boy— dark hair falling in his eyes, unshaven jaw, leather jacket. I’d bet he had a raft of bad Celtic knot tattoos. But he had a remarkably clear aura. Something about it felt right to me, and if I’d learned anything in all these years, I’d learned to trust my gut. I made an instant decision. “All right. We can talk. I’m not promising anything else. I need to get out of here, anyway.”
Jamie led the way out to the stairwell. Suddenly, he stopped, turned and lifted a finger to his lips. In the darkness, several people’s footsteps echoed up the stairs. They were running.
My heart kicked back into overdrive, the adrenaline rushing through my system once again. I beckoned to Jamie and then made my way down the dark hallway, past the neighboring apartment, to the window that opened onto the fire exit.
He took one look at the window and grimaced. Setting his hands, he forced the window open, making the old sash screech against the frame. Footsteps pounded behind us and he said, “Go, go,” as I pushed myself through the window and hit the fire exit running.
Talent To Burn is available online wherever ebooks are sold!