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A Quick Introduction to My Free Reads

The following are story snippets or scenes. Check the title to know what series or characters each relates to. If they are snippets from one of my books, the title will say so. If the snippet is outside my books, there will be a note about that as well. I hope you enjoy these tidbits and that they make you hungry for more!



That's What She Said (Prequel Short TEASER)

Regardless of the numbing affect of the haze of cigarette smoke or the sharp scent of sweat and the stink of stale beer staining the worn and sticky carpet, Alexi sensed trouble just minutes before Max made it.


Alexi built an awkward open bridge on the green felt table with his left hand, lining up. Or maybe it was twenty-three hours after Max had...made it. He smirked, took three hesitant practice strokes and hit the cue ball, rolling out a curse in Russian when the balls went wide.


His gaze skated over the money stacked on the table’s edge and the man he was playing smiled. Alexi grimaced, straightening and shrugging. “It is still not so bad,” he said, playing his part. Dumb Russian was what they expected around here so dumb Russian was what he gave them, up until the moment he left the hall with their money. His balding opponent stalked around the table, strategizing in his worn t-shirt—a sharp contrast to Alexi’s crisp button-down shirt—and Alexi silently reminded himself he didn’t need the money.


Mother and Father were still doing better than making ends meet—he wanted for nothing of a monetary sort—but still. He watched his opponent sink his 2-, 3- and 5-ball in a slick combination shot. Horashow. Good. Maybe there’d be a challenge here after all. Alexi had already thrown one game out of their two out of three set.


The man tried for his 6-ball but it spun wide with too much english.


The bills fluttered as Alexi moved past them, skirting the table, looking for the shot he wanted.


He’d gladly take the money—needed or not. One never knew when things would take a sudden turn.    Not when you belonged to the Rusakova family.


He cast a glance two tables over to where Max lurked just beyond the pale glow cast by the dusty faux Tiffany lamps, shadows clinging to him nearly as tightly as girls usually did. Alexi knew what he was doing immediately. He was waiting to be noticed by someone other than the pair of hot blondes leaning on the long bar at the pool hall’s far side.


He shouldn’t have let Max come along again. He drew too much attention even wearing his chain—what Cat called his collar.


Actually Alexi knew he shouldn’t have come back again himself. You never hustled in the same hall twice in one week. But Alexi never drew as much attention as his siblings. He adjusted his feet and lowered into his stance. A little tremble... He nearly scratched, but he sank both the 1- and the 3.


Grinning, the balding man swept his comb-over back.


Alexi pocketed the 2 and 4. He didn’t want to be caught hustling—small town “justice” could be fiercer than what his parents usually feared was breathing down their necks. So he usually pulled ahead slowly. But the three men heading in Max’s direction made him think he needed to speed things up.   “Best two out of three,” he reminded.


Da, comrade,” his opponent drawled.

Alexi didn’t twitch. His breathing steady, he refused to acknowledge the jab. Now it would be even more enjoyable taking the man’s money.

Pietr would have created the same problem Max did—luring girls his way and angering their boyfriends. Pietr wasn’t the sort to sneak out and dive into the gutter with his older brothers; Alexi was comfortable in the gutter—it was easy to be once you knew you’d been thrown away before. If Alexi had to make a bet on what Pietr was doing right now…? He would bet he was reading. And Alexi didn’t make bets he couldn’t win.

He knew Pietr as well as he knew Max.
And as well as he knew Max was looking to pick a fight tonight. He tried thinking about the money riding on the game and not overhearing the conversation starting a couple of tables over as the three guys paused in front of his younger brother.

“Dude’s at our table.”

Three to one? The odds were still in Max’s favor as long as no one was packing. Simply adjusting his position at the pool table, Alexi appeared to ignore the way one man’s voice rose in volume and he chose a different set of balls to hit so he could watch the action better. He chalked his cue’s tip and squinted, examining his options.

“Who the hell are you?” one of them asked Max.

Three balls left to sink and then he’d still need to pocket the 8-ball. Maybe five minutes worth of work if he ran the table. And how long until all Hell broke loose?

His younger brother straightened and pushed back his shoulders, making himself as broad and tall as he could. “I’m Max. As in the maximum.”

Crap. It was about to get ugly. If he caromed his opponent’s 4-ball off his 6, it should take down both his 5 and 7. Creating a closed bridge, Alexi took a single, slow practice stroke and then took his shot. The balls smacked into each other with a crack, hurtling across the felt like he’d expected. “Finally I am feeling lucky,” he said to his stunned opponent. “My people must first warm up.”

“Warm up. Uh-huh.”

Alexi noticed how Max’s eyes briefly searched the smoky shadows behind the men, spotting the girl. He remembered her—well, what he had managed to glimpse of her nestled in the darkness made by Max’s broad body as they clung together last night in a dimly lit and seldom noticed corner of the hall.

Alexi eyed the table again. “6-ball in the side pocket.” This was not some emotional attachment Max was reacting to—he didn’t connect that way with girls. Alexi snorted. But the way his little brother did connect with them never got any complaints. At least not from the girls.

“Heyyy. How come I feel I’m gettin’ hustled?”

Alexi shrugged, trying to pull his most innocent expression. “What is this—hustled?” The 6-ball went wide, slinging into the bumper. “It is your shot,” Alexi said, stepping back.

“Yeah,” the man muttered, his eyes narrow as he bent, took a shot and missed.

“6-ball, corner pocket,” Alexi said, seeing Max raise an eyebrow at the three men in challenge. Time was nearly up. He dropped the 6-ball in without hesitation and slid around the table to line up his last move and end the game. “8-ball, side pocket.”

“Damn,” one of the men near Max said, “You’re huge.”

Alexi snatched the money off the table’s edge. In a moment it wouldn’t matter if the man realized he’d been hustled or not. In a moment all that would matter was how fast he could get Max out of there and how much damage would be done before he could.

“That’s what she said,” Max countered, unrolling a brash grin. He winked at the girl standing behind them and they spun to face her. Her sudden blush explained everything and somehow still managed to condemn Max more than her.

Want to read the rest? Registered users can read it easily enough in our special "Spoilers and Insights" section. :)

 

On Christmas Day

*What follows is a prequel short (like a glimpse into action before 13 TO LIFE actually occurs). It introduces Alexi--the eldest Rusakova--while in Moscow. Alexi gets very little time in the series as it focuses more on his youngest brother, Pietr. This story (and the character of Nadezhda) only presented themselves to me recently. This is also written in present tense (not like 13 TO LIFE) because I wanted to draw a clear distinction between this scene and 13 TO LIFE itself. So: not in the same voice or POV, not of the main characters, it's more for my older readers...


“Must you go so soon?” she whispers, eyes shadowed by long and lacy lashes.

His breath catches in his throat and he looks away, past the shelf of snow globes where winter lies in wait—only needing a shake of the glass to be summoned. He stares out the window, wondering how soon this area will go from the warm tones of summer and fall to the cool and cleansing white of winter. “We’ve been in Moscow nearly a month.”

“Nearly a month,” she echoes, “and I’m only now getting to see the man beneath all his masks, behind all his walls.” Her lips, soft and red as a fresh cut rose twist in a sadly wry smile.

 

Homecoming Hell: Segment from 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale

I quickly slipped out of my bloodstained gym shirt and shorts and into my street clothes. Today had officially been Hell and tonight would be Homecoming—the bonfire and game.

Hell. Round two.

There was no escaping it. As an editor of the school paper, I needed to attend. Besides, didn’t I want to watch Derek on the football field, leading Junction’s Jackrabbits to victory?

I sighed and tried to fix my hair in the mirror. “Ugh!” My fingers still trembled from the fight. Why did I bother trying to fix unfixable things? Fixing my mop of mousy brown hair here and now was like a metaphor for my life—wrong place, bad timing, never the right tools to solve the problem. But I kept trying. Stubbornly stumbling forward.

 

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