Here's what people are saying already:
"After reading all of Shrum's other work, this one took me by surprise. It wasn't what I expected at all. Having said that, it is my favorite piece of her work so far. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of paranormal mixed in with their mystery."--Amy B., Amazon Review
"Wow, what a ride! Amazing character development, action packed thriller with twists of the paranormal twining throughout. Excellent plot development that keeps you guessing what will happen next." --Mary B, Amazon Review
"Loved this book so much I could not put it down. Kory knocks it out of the park with this story which is part detective story, part revenge plot, part power struggle, part paranormal, and part learning how to open one’s heart to other possibilities." --Julie E., Amazon Review
"What a way to start off a story. No idea where it was going, but I wanted to make sure I kept staying with it to get there! OMG let's keep the series coming."--M. V. Albano, Amazon Review
"An outstanding fast paced paranormal action novel."--E. Hutton, Amazon Review
You can read full reviews here.
* * *
And here is Chapter 6 from those of you looking for a taste:
Lou bolted upright in her bed, head throbbing with adrenaline. She had the gun pointed without consciously choosing a target.
“You’ve never been a morning person,” Aunt Lucy said, closing the closet door behind her and stepping into the studio apartment. “But this is a tad extreme.”
Her aunt stood by the closet with two take-out cups in hand. A long skirt rubbed against her calves and the tops of her sandals. Jesus sandals Lou called them. Like Lucy should be trudging across the desert preaching love and forgiveness to anyone who would listen.
Lou lowered the gun to the soft coverlet draped across her legs.
“Where have you been?” Lucy shifted her weight to one hip. “It’s been hard to track you down.”
In the three weeks since killing Angelo, she’d been restless. She’d hardly slept. Hardly ate. A pervasive feeling of loss surrounded her, like she’d forgotten something and couldn’t stop searching for it. She’d searched, but she’d only found was violence.
Last night she’d ended up in a dive bar in West Texas, beating the shit out of six bikers in a parking lot. She’d only wanted one of them—Kenny Soren. But when his friend grabbed her ass, she’d broken his wrist instantly. Then introductions were made by all.
She looked down at the dark purple and rose colored bruises across her knuckles. A marble-sized pocket of fluid rest above her second knuckle. She’d obviously busted a vein.
Lucy’s breath hitched, and her eyes slid away. “You need ibuprofen.”
“I don’t have any.”
“Here,” Lucy said and gave Lou one of the Styrofoam cups. When Lou reached to accept it, the aches and pains from last night made themselves known. She’d done something to her shoulder. It throbbed. It was probably the baseball bat that’d come down on her shoulder blade. She raised her arm overhead, rotated it until the tension eased. Then her neck cramped.
“You need to do bhujangasana,” her aunt said. She put her own coffee cup on the counter and went into the kitchen. Drawers opened and closed loudly. Ice rustled in the freezer. Then Lucy reappeared with an ice pack wrapped in a dishcloth.
Lou accepted the ice pack. Her aunt’s cheeks were flushed, and her jaw worked furiously. And if Lou wasn’t mistaken, a hint of wetness glistened near her temples, as if she’d quickly scrubbed at her eyes.
They wouldn’t talk about Lou’s injuries. Lucy wouldn’t ask how she got them, no matter how much she might want to. Lucy had set this policy herself and the fact she’d taken her tears to the other room was proof this rule had not changed.
Lou’s stomach turned. “Bhujangasana. Is that what the kids are calling it?”
She swung her legs out of the covers and put her bare feet on the cool wood floor. She let her hand rest between her thigh and the ice pack as she drank the coffee using her free hand.
“It’s yoga,” Lucy said, her voice strong again. “Cobra pose.”
Lucy laid on the floor in demonstration, belly down, and pushed away from the floor with her forearms. “It opens up your chest and shoulders and feels so good.”
Yoga. Of course.
Lou had no idea why she thought her aunt would suggest drugs for her aching body. As a child, when Lou got migraines, her aunt would boil her tea rather than fill her prescription for Sumatriptan. Lou would be an inch from a brain bleed, and Lucy would hand her a steaming cup much like the one she held now and say some shit like all the love and none of the side effects.
“Or!” Lucy said, her eyes widening and lips breaking into an ah ha grin. “You could do Thunderbolt, Vajrasana.” She rose into a lunge, arms out in front of her.
Lou tuned out the woman doing yoga in her periphery and lifted the cup to her nose. She inhaled. The scent of roasted coffee shifted the whole world into focus. The harsh sunlight softened to a warm glow. Her aches seemed to relax with the rest of her body. She was wondering if this was how cocaine addicts felt after their first line of the day.
“It’s still there,” Aunt Lucy said, her face smashed into the wood floor as she held her next pose. “As charming as ever, though I see no one is adhering to the smoking ban. Gah.”
Sunlight streamed through the large windows and warmed the back of Lou’s neck. She sipped her coffee and pictured the Paris café in her mind. A corner building across from a boulangerie. Round tables were evenly spaced in a row on each side of the door, so if a patron so wished, they could drink their coffee while watching the 13th arrondissement buzz around them. Across the way, an ancient church, beastly the way only churches in the Old World could be, rang gigantic bells on the hour.
A month after her parents had died, Aunt Lucy had brought her to this café. Bought her a baguette from the boulangerie across the street. She’d drank espresso from the tiniest cup she’d ever seen and nibbled her warm loaf. It was the first happy memory she had since her father died.
Lou stood, leaving the warmed ice pack on the bed and stretched her arms overhead. She was careful not to dump coffee on herself and then padded over to the window.
Aunt Lucy continued to prattle off yoga poses behind her, building her own flow. It was hard for the woman to stop once she began. Besides, yoga always calmed her aunt. The tension that had erupted between them at the sight of Lou’s injuries had diminished, like a mist slowly dissipating from the room.
Lou kept her eyes on the window, on the pool glistening two stories below. The sparkling water surrounded a lush garden with white and pink roses twining the fence. Petunias in patio planters and a creeping morning glory reached for the No Lifeguard On Duty sign.
Stretching out beyond the pool and its walled garden was the St. Louis skyline. The arch cut the sky with a delicate whoosh. The river coursed behind it, shimmering like melted silver. A boat with a large red wheel churning at one end cut through the waters. People as small as ants roamed the boardwalk.
This was the way with Lou and her aunt. Together. Perhaps even occupying the same space, yet an undeniable distance. Sure, each tried to cross the barriers to the other’s side, out of love or respect, yet never quite breaking the borders of their own worlds.
“What are you doing tonight?” Aunt Lucy asked. She was on her knees, looking up at her. The yoga flow had ended, and Lou’s coffee was nearly gone.
Lou thought of Jimmy Castle.
She’d been in Texas looking for names. Names of anyone associated with the Martinelli crew. Pimps. Drug pushers. Traffickers. She’d weed out all the rats who’d served him, starting with the worst. Before she put a bullet in Kenny Soren, he’d blabbed about Jimmy Castle, a dealer in Dallas, an old-time peddler who still carried the Martinelli torch.
Lou intended to pay Mr. Castle a visit tonight.
“I’m busy.” Lou kept her eyes on the St. Louis skyline, on the cars speeding from one end of the bridge to the other. A hand clamped down on her shoulder and turned her around.
“With what?” Lucy demanded. Her blue eyes shimmered with the threat of tears. “They’re all dead.”
Lou’s skin iced and she put the empty Styrofoam cup on a cinder block serving as a bedside table. “How would you know? Is there some Martinelli bulletin board I don’t know about?” She forced a smile. Aimed for joviality. She came up short.
Lucy’s lip trembled. “Your father gave you to me—”
Like a goddamn coffeemaker, Lou thought bitterly. She stared at the callus on the side of her thumb.
“—because he wanted me to keep you safe. He wanted you to live, and you’re trying your damnedest to get yourself killed!”
They’d begun with the usual cold silence and now the argument. Lou’s shoulders relaxed as the conversation turned familiar. She was on solid ground again.
Her aunt drew a breath, seemed to draw on some inner reserve and stilled herself. “I know you can’t stop cold turkey.”
Lou snorted. “As if I’m an addict.”
Lou thought it was her one good quality. She’d never fallen prey to drugs or alcohol, no matter how deep she went into the underbelly of the world. Lou was her father’s daughter in that respect. She could walk beside the derelict without succumbing to the temptations herself.
“Aren’t you?” Lucy spat. “Normal people have jobs and friends. Relationships. You’re too self-serving for that.”
Lou flinched as if slapped.
Lucy grimaced. “I’m sorry.”
“Self-serving,” Lou repeated. Self-serving was her least favorite word in the world. That’s what the papers and media had called Jack Thorne. Self-serving. They claimed he’d forgotten his purpose. Forgotten his duty as a public servant. He’d turned self-serving in a quest for more money. More power. And this greed had gotten him killed. “Like my father.”
“Those were lies,” Lucy said. Tears broke the surface and spilled over her aunt’s cheeks. “Your dad was a good man.”
Lou turned toward the window so she wouldn’t have to see those tears. She didn’t overlook the fact Lucy was professing Jack’s innocence, not hers.
And her aunt was wasting her breath. Lou didn’t believe the slander printed on every front page in the June of 2003, yet it still stung to hear even the suggestion Jack Thorne had been self-serving. Her mother? Without question. She loved her mother, but she had been a cold and selfish woman. Every inconvenience was taken personally. Every mistake a personal insult.
But not her father.
“I’m at my wit’s end. Every night you go out, you hunt down some criminal and—”
Lou’s headache worsened the harder she worked her jaw. She turned when Lucy appeared beside her at the window.
Lucy reached up and brushed the hair out of Lou’s face. “I want you to have a life.”
“Because your life is full of people,” Lou said, knowing it would cut her.
Lucy’s hand fell away. For a moment, she looked unsure what to do with it. Then she settled for putting it on her hip. “I want more for you. I want you to be happy.”
“That’s the thing about happiness. It’s different for everyone. What makes the executioner happy?”
Her aunt reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose. Lou couldn’t count on all ten fingers and toes how many times she’d seen her aunt do this. Here it comes, she thought. All the patience is gone, and we’ll jump right to the demands now.
Lucy took a breath. “Your father had a friend, Robert King. He’s a private detective in New Orleans. He’s offered you a job. He thinks your skills would be useful for his current investigation.”
Lou blinked. The conversation had gone in a direction she hadn’t expected. She searched for purchase, hoping to pull herself upright again. But her aunt charged on.
“He’s an old friend. And he likes to bend the rules like you do. I think you’ll like him.”
“I don’t like anyone.”
“He can be trusted.”
“No one can be trusted.”
Lucy pinched her nose again harder. “He’s known about me and what I can do for sixteen years. He hasn’t told anyone. I trust him.”
And now he knows about me.
“Everyone needs allies, Lou. Even you,” Lucy said, and it was her own father’s words from long ago.
Lou understood what allies were. A big fat liability.
“He wants to meet at the Café du Monde, tonight at eight o’clock. Please be there.”
Lucy marched toward the closet and stepped inside. Lou thought she was alone until her aunt reappeared and hurled a bottle of ibuprofen at her.
It hit Lou square in the chest before she caught it.
“And don’t shoot him,” Lucy commanded, before disappearing again.
Sunset was at 8 o’clock in New Orleans. She wouldn’t show up to the café before 8:15. Maybe he wouldn’t wait, and this whole situation would dissolve like ice in water.
Fine. She would indulge her aunt if only to buy her a month or more of peace before the nagging resumed. And by then, she’d have followed the Castle trail to new monsters in the dark.
A Martinelli was best. They slaked her hunger better than any other kill. And she had to accept the possibility she would never know peace, no matter how many men she bled dry.
But she had to start somewhere, and there were other demons in the world worth hunting.
Ready to meet Lou? The ebook is only $0.99 until release day. Preorder and save.