Phoenix Rising


First, look at one of my Mother’s Day presents:

agent carter, SHIELD

Yep, time to get cracking on the Agent Carter cosplay.

That was from the eldest daughter who, UNBELIEVABLY….

Graduates college this weekend.

The mind boggles.

I also received three wonderful reviews of my books.

A 4-Star review from the Romantic Times magazine (the biggest romance magazine going) for Phoenix Inheritance, calling it an “all around great book.”

The longer quote:

“Lawson’s newest addition to the Phoenix Institute series is sentimental, exciting and also spotlights Charlie, an autistic boy who steals the show at times. Fans of the paranormal will be wowed right out of their seats, and those who love romance won’t feel left out either, thanks to the passionate sex scenes, which are tastefully done. The several twists and turns keep readers engaged in the suspenseful plot. An all-around great book! – 

2. Another review of Phoenix Inheritance that used explanations points for “recommended” at Just Talking BooksI love it when reviews use exclamation points.

What really surprised me was the concept of making their son Charlie autistic. I found it quite poignant that both parents had a very different approach to their son’s behaviour. Renee is a woman fighting for support for her son, whilst for a lot of the story Dax is a man in denial and that felt very realistic. I’m sure it’s terribly difficult for parents to accept any difference in their child and ignorance and prejudice is an awful thing. Luckily, as the story progressed, Dax grew in my estimation (trust me he had a lot to make up for!) and realised autism is not something to run from but just a part of his son’s makeup. Charlie’s autism is, quite simply, just a part of who he is and all differences should be embraced!”

3. An unexpected and welcome review of my Holmes-inspired steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract at Ramblings From This Chick. 

“There is so much more than a mystery to be solved in this book. Romance. Of course there is romance. Gregor’s and Joan’s ability to merge their minds to solve a mystery presages the sweet uniting of their hearts. In addition to mystery and romance, there are class issues, an arranged marriage (unwanted), old magic, curses, new magical ability, and secrets. So many secrets. There is not a boring page in The Curse of the Brimstone Contract. I hope to be reading another book in the series soon!”

Now I have to go. The mother-in-law is coming in a couple of days, which means..cleaning. Lots of cleaning. :)

First up, a 4-star review from Night Owl Reviews on Ghosts of Christmas Past:

“The strong compelling characters grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning and the fast paced and smooth flowing plot keeps readers shivering in apprehension with suspense, excitement and passion.”

Love Al and Noir. Plus, hey, you don’t need it to be Christmas to read it!

Phoenix Inheritance was reviewed at the big romance reader site, Dear Author. I love that the reviewer completely got the story. My publisher made this cool image for me, so I’ll share the whole review. As for my prose? Well, lyrical language isn’t a specialty though every now and then I turn a pretty phase. To me, story is all.

PhoenixInheritance_Review_3.11.2015_DearAuthor

fools for love retouched

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” –As You Like It, William Shakespeare.

SF Romance Station is running a HUGE sci-fi romance reading giveaway throughout the month of April. Check out the prizes below. Each winner will have their choice of a gift card for either Nook, Kindle, All Romance or iBooks, plus they will win great eBooks from participating SF Romance authors. You can see all books below!

Be sure to join the Facebook party, too, for discussions, silliness, and, well, fun. :)

But, now, on the theme…this one was hard for me because to me, being foolish, means being stupid. But that’s no so, especially when it comes to relationships.

In so many ways, falling in love is the most foolish act of all.

It takes a leap of faith to believe that the person you love somehow loves you back in equal measure. In a sense, every romance novel character who falls in love is a fool.Shards_of_honor_cover

The first example that jumped to mind isn’t from my own work but from Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan are on opposite sides in an intergalactic war. Even so, they’ve managed to save each other’s lives. But when Cordelia returns to her home planet, nothing is right. Her superiors believe she’s a hero, the spy agency believes she’s been brainwashed to serve Aral’s people (untrue), and even her mother doesn’t trust her own judgment.

Cordelia flees, wearing casual clothes and with only her slippers on her feet. She goes to Aral, taking a leap of faith that she can be herself among his people.

Undoubtably, the most foolish thing any of my characters have ever done is when Beth kidnaps Alec in Phoenix Rising. Beth sees this smart, powerful, and, most of all, kind, man that she’s come to love being trained by his superiors to became a weapon in a war. She can’t stand it and kidnaps him, having no idea if he’ll listen to her when he wakes up, if he’ll ever trust her again, but she knows whatever the outcome, her own life won’t be the same.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero.

“How would you like to go farther than the clearing?”

Was she asking him to her place?

“That could be good.” He put his arm around her shoulder as they reached the bottom of the hill. The
connection between them was a steady hum. He was close to full arousal and wondered if she was too. But she seemed more distracted than anything else.

Gravel from an old service road crunched under his boots. “How would we get to your place? It’s too far to walk.”

She paused, as if thinking hard about the answer. “A friend left me a car around here,” she said. “At least, I think it’s around here.”

“You’re kidding.”

She leaned against him. He pulled her close. “You want me to go home with you?” He held her out from him, searching her face to see if she’d object. This was better than he hoped.

“In a way. The house where I want to take you belongs to a friend but he lets me use it.” She put her hand on one of the large pine trees, looking around, squinting. She took two steps, and banged her knee into something that made a hollow metallic clunk.

“You okay?” he said. “That was no tree.”

“No, it’s our ride.” She rubbed the knee. “This way, we can leave without anyone following. I wanted to surprise you.”

“I’m surprised.” He knelt down to look closer, and dropped her hand. She’d walked into the front fender of a car that was covered by a green tarp.

“Cool camouflage.” He peeled back the tarp. A Honda. He’d been hoping for a sports car. But at least he was leaving with Beth to go to her place, where they could be alone with no watchers.

“Thanks.” She punched in a code on the driver’s side lock.

He got in the car as she pulled the rest of the tarp off. She dropped the tarp in the backseat, sat down behind the wheel, picked up the keys from the driver’s seat and turned over the ignition.

“Wait, how’d you get a car out here?”

“Just lucky, I guess.” She reached down into a side pocket on the door and slipped something into her hand.
His back stiffened. This whole thing was weird. He hadn’t been seduced many times but this suddenly didn’t feel like it should. He grabbed her right hand.

“Counselor? What’s really going on?”

She turned, eyes wide. “I—” Her hand closed over whatever was in her palm. “I work with the CIA on occasion, so I’ve learned to be careful and plan ahead. The car was left here by a friend in case I needed it.”

“Plan ahead for what? Why would you need to hide a car from the Resource? It can’t be just to have sex with me.” He gripped her hand tighter.

“The Resource isn’t as benevolent as you think, especially its director.”

“What exactly are you afraid of?”

She tried to pull her hand free. He tightened his grip. Lansing had warned him the CIA would like to
get hold of him. Maybe that’s what she was doing. And he’d walked right into it because she’d let him put his arm around her shoulder. Daz would never let him hear the end of that one.

“Alec, it’s complicated. It’ll take too long to tell it here, especially given how quick they’ll miss you. As soon as we get where we’re going, I’ll tell you. But I swear, I will not hurt you.”

“Not good enough.” He dug his fingers into her wrist. “Talk to me now, before we go anywhere.”

She tried to pull her hand free. He let her pull him closer to her, intending to pin her to the seat and get some real answers. But she twisted and her left hand came forward. He caught a glimpse of something sharp just before she plunged it into his shoulder. He jerked backward and hit his head on the rearview mirror. He looked down at his shoulder. A syringe was stuck in there, just above his collarbone.

Oh, fuck, another tranq?

“You—” He grabbed the syringe and pulled it out. Blood trickled down his T-shirt. Lethargy started to spread through his arm. Drugged. Again. “Why? I trusted you!”

“I’m sorry. We need to get away from this place. Fast. I won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah, well, this needle doesn’t scream harmless.” He jerked away from her and banged his back against the passenger door. He took a deep breath. Already, his arms and legs felt twice as heavy. He fought to keep his eyes open. “I’m out of here.”

He fumbled for the door lock. Bad enough to have Daz drug him but now he’d been fooled by someone half his size. And Lansing had been right again. He couldn’t trust people from outside.

Alec set his jaw and pushed Beth against the driver’s side door with his TK. She let out a muffled cry of pain. His vision started to go blurry at the edges. Okay, let’s see how she liked a fire show, close-up.

Something shifted inside his head, like a finger scraping against an open wound. He put his hands over his ears to block it out, almost doubling over. What drug did this?

He felt the car lurch into gear as he lost consciousness.

When Alec wakes up, Beth knows she’ll have an angry, possibly uncontrollable firestarter on her hands. One she can’t keep locked up, or she’s no better than the people using him, and one who might turn her into those same people.

It’s a supremely foolish act on her part. But so was falling in love with Alec.

Now onto the PRIZES!

prizes fools

To Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: this is a universal entry form, meaning you can only fill it out once, not on every blog in the April even that you’re visiting. :) However, many of my fellow bloggers are giving away prizes on their individual posts as well. Check out not only that but some wise and witty words about science fiction romance.

PhoenixInheritance72lgWe’re up to book 4.

Wow. Part of me is pumping my fist and thinking “hells, yeah!” especially with the recent SF Romance Galaxy Award for the Phoenix Institute series. The other part of me is just grateful: for my editor, for my readers, for my friends and family who’ve supported me through my writing career.

This book is different. Well, they’re all different. But there’s a great deal of personal blood and sweat in the pages of this one.

By that, I don’t mean the book drove me crazy or was hard to write. I mean that this one hit home hard.

Usually, I can keep my writing separate from my personal life. My writing is all the fun stuff I read about that I want to write about and I have a glorious time doing it.

Phoenix Inheritance, however, is my first book with a kids, dogs and a cat. Like me.

Have I gone sentimental? Yes but for  a good reason. We were going through stuff at my house that’s reflected in the issues Renee and her son autistic son Charlie are having in the story.  A more elaborate explanation is over in my post on Superheroes and Mental Illness at TheMarySue or at SF Signal in my post in Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

Don’t worry, however: things still blow up in this book and there’s still sexy times, though of the more human variety, since neither Renee or Daz Montoya, the hero, have superpowers. They’re still heroes, however, and I wrote about how Daz came to be my series’ version of Batman over at EverydayFangirl.

I hope you all enjoy Phoenix Inheritance and come to love these people as much as I did. In the meantime, I’m also running a Goodreads contest to win a print copy of Ghost Phoenix, Book 3. And I’ll be along later with some excepts and other goodies, like the hidden Easter eggs in my books.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ghost Phoenix by Corrina Lawson

Ghost Phoenix

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends March 13, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Final author’s note: As always, I write my books so they can be read as stand alone novels. That’s because I’m one of those readers who will pick up any book in a series and read it and I wanted my series to be accessible for people like me.

autistic kids, superhero romance, SF Romance

 

Isn’t it pretty?

Phoenix Inheritance may be the geekiest book I’ve ever written.

It’s definitely the most personal. One, because the heroine is very much a geek, like me, and loves all her geeky attire. But mostly because Renee Black deals with her autistic child on a daily basis, often without help, and I know what that’s like. Without giving away too much of my children’s privacy, I’ve been in her shoes any number of times. For that reason, I’m terrified at the book’s possible reception.

I also know it’s a book I had to write.

As part of the SF Romance Brigade Showcase, here’s the first scene with Renee and my lovely cover, with Daz. The book is already up for pre-order on Amazon and comes out March 3, 2015. And check out the showcase link for other science fiction romance sneak peaks, covers, and other fun news.

Renee Black stored the last of her full gas canisters in the backyard shed. There. That was enough to keep the generator going for days. Even if the early snowfall materialized and knocked out power, she and Charlie would be all set.

The old-fashioned ring tone of her cell phone echoed in the quiet air of her backyard and she tugged the phone out of the pocket of her military-style peacoat.

Please don’t be Charlie’s school, please don’t be Charlie’s school.

It was Charlie’s school. “Hello?” “Ms. Black? This is Principal Partnope.” “Yes? Is something wrong? Is Charlie okay?” “Your son is fine now, Ms. Black, but we really need you to come immediately. How soon can you be here?”

“What happened?” She hated when they did this, told her to come down without telling her exactly why.

“We’ve had an incident. It’s best we discuss this in person. Will you be able to come?”

“I’m already on my way.” She dug out the keys to her pickup from the coat. “Is my son okay?”

“He’s calm and safe now.” Now. Implying he hadn’t been before. Oh, Charlie. How bad had it been this time?

“What happened?” she asked again.

“I’ll explain when you get here. Thank you, Ms. Black.”

He hung up on her. Dammit. The least he could do was give her some hint what had happened instead of making her run fifty million scary scenarios in her head on the way. She whistled for Thor and Loki. Her search-and-rescue-trained German Shepherds came bounding over from the other side of the yard. She knelt down and hugged them, noting the white on their muzzles, which struck her as especially prominent today. They were elderly dogs by regular standards and especially old for SAR dogs, as the work took a toll. Any day they could get outside and romp was a good day for them. She dreaded the coming of winter. They felt the cold so much now.

“I heard you barking at some animal, boys. What did you find?” They didn’t chase squirrels. They knew better. Maybe it was the stray cat Charlie had spotted over the last few days.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. In the house you go!”

She pointed and they headed inside through the open garage and through the doggie door. She pulled her truck out, closed the garage door, and drove down her long, winding driveway at a higher speed than she should have. She’d made this kind of trip far too often lately.

Charlie needed routine and order. He was already on a 504 Plan—special accommodations—because of his diagnosis of autism. She stayed hyper-alert around Charlie because if she spotted the signs of an incoming meltdown, she could head it off. But Charlie’s teacher had a full classroom and couldn’t do the same.

She’d asked the school for full psychological testing that might result in Charlie being classified as special ed and being given an aide who could watch him fulltime at school, like she did at home. Charlie’s teacher, Mr. Lamoreux, was on her side but he kept saying the principal, Partnope, was against it. Partnope had given her an entire litany of excuses as to why they should put off testing.

“He’s not that impaired.” “His grades are very good.” “His behavior chart, full of rewards, will be a big help.”

A big help? It obviously hadn’t helped today.

Every time she convinced herself her son was stabilizing, the school called again. It was one step forward, two steps back.

A text alert blared from her phone. She ignored it while she drove along the twisty corners of the back road. Only when she entered the center of Bernard and stopped at the main traffic light did she glance at the text. It was from the school too, but this time a general message informing parents the school had an early release because of the impending snow.

The light turned and, as she went through the intersection, she noticed the traffic was heavier than usual. Likely everyone was preparing for the storm.

Once she reached the school, finding a parking space was nearly impossible. She finally parked the truck on the grassy divider between the two main lots. The office buzzed her in the front door without even asking for her name. After her many visits over the past two months, the staff knew her by sight. She ran her hand over her hair to smooth it down and unzipped her jacket.

Only then did she realize she was still wearing her Captain Marvel “Princess Sparklefists” superhero T-shirt.
She bet Principal Partnope wouldn’t get the joke. Add that to the old peacoat and her looking ragged because of this morning’s work outside, and she’d earn Partnope’s disdain again. Maybe if she wore designer clothes and shoes like half the women in town instead of her jeans, work boots and her geeky T-shirts, the principal would take her more seriously.

Steeling herself for yet another confrontation, she opened the front door to the school office. Dorothy, the office manager, smiled at her. “Good to see you, Ms. Black.”

Dorothy, impeccable as always in a pretty sweater, seemed glad to see her. “Good to see you too. Where’s Charlie? Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, Ms. Black. He’s been asking for you.”

“Thanks.” Not for the first time, Renee wished Dorothy ran the school. Charlie liked her and listened to her. “What happened? Where is he?”

Dorothy pulled a pencil from behind her ear and pointed with it. “He’s in the conference room over there. He promised to draw me a picture of Thor.”

“Great. Did he mean my dog or the superhero?”

“You know, I didn’t ask. But I’d love either.”

Renee turned to the conference room but Principal Partnope came out of his office and intercepted her. “I’d like to talk to you first, before you see Charlie. This was a pretty serious incident.”

“I just want to make sure he’s okay, thanks.” She pushed open the door to the small conference room. Charlie sat there with a supply of crayons and blank paper in front of him. He smiled and ran over to her. She hugged him tight.
She drank in the sight, smell and feel of her son, his dark unruly hair, his brown eyes, his favorite Batman T-shirt and the whiff of peanut butter on his breath. I love you, kid.

Yes, she definitely needed this hug before talking to Partnope. She knelt down to look him in the eye.

“I like your T-shirt,” he said. “Is it new?”

“Just came yesterday. Along with your new Batman Beyond shirt.” “Awesome.” But he stared at the floor instead of at her. He shuffled his feet. “I did something really bad, Mom. But it was their fault. They were mean to me.”

“What did you do?” “I hit Mr. Revis,” he whispered.

“Who’s Mr. Revis?” she asked.

“Our substitute teacher this week.”

“Right.” Mr. Lamoreux was out for several weeks after having broken his leg. “What happened?” she asked.

Charlie waved his hands. “He was really mean. He tricked me!”

Mr. Partnope poked his head into the room. “May we talk now, Ms. Black?”

“All right.” Now that she’d seen Charlie, she could deal with whatever this was. “Charlie, I’ll be right back. Are you finishing that drawing for Miss Dorothy?”

He nodded. “Yes! I promised her I’d finish before school gets out.”

“Good.”

Once in the principal’s office, Partnope sat behind his very official desk. He looked like a bureaucrat with his thinning hair, thin red mustache and conservative tie. She preferred Mr. Lamoreux, who sometimes wore loud ties and shirts that broke the mold.

“Would you please sit down?” Partnope asked.

Renee thought about standing but decided since Charlie admitted he’d hit his teacher, looming over the principal and taking out her frustration with the situation was the worst thing she could do.

“That’s an interesting T-shirt, Ms. Black.” His gaze flicked over the shirt. It featured Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, in a red, blue and yellow costume with her energy power blazing at her hands. Hence, Princess Sparklefists.

“Thank you, it’s one of my favorites.”

“Interesting.”

“I think so.” She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t rise to the bait. “Why did Charlie hit his teacher? What happened?”

“I’m glad he admitted it. A lot of kids don’t.” Partnope laced his fingers together. “First of all, you should know that we take any assault on a teacher extremely seriously.”

She nodded. “Of course. Was the teacher hurt?”

“No, I don’t believe he was injured at all. Still, we might have to suspend Charlie.” She took a deep breath. She wanted to protest because she was sure Charlie’s impulse control issues had caused him to overreact, but it would be far better to hear this out first. “Could you please tell me what happened?” she asked again.

“Mr. Revis gave the students a surprise quiz today.” He paused. She nodded but what she wanted to do was say that didn’t they know Charlie hated surprises? She’d talked to all the school officials about it, including Partnope. Teachers were supposed to give him advance warning of any quiz. “And Charlie failed this surprise quiz?”

“It wasn’t that kind of quiz,” Partnope said.

He handed over a sheet of paper that started with Read this over fully first, and included all kinds of instructions about drawing shapes and writing sentences. It was busy work but work Charlie knew how to do. It wasn’t until she reached the last sentence that she knew why Charlie thought they’d been mean to him.

“It says at the end that no one has to do any of the problems.”

“Yes. The very first instruction was to read the paper fully and the last instruction is that they don’t have to do any of the work. This is a test we give to make sure students follow instructions and read their papers fully.”

“How many students in third grade read this all the way to the end?”

Partnope’s eyes narrowed. “Only two.”

“And after Charlie did all the work and got to the last sentence and realized he didn’t really have to do any of it, he lost his temper?”

“Exactly.” Partnope nodded. “He rushed to the front of the class, screamed at Mr. Revis for tricking him, kicked him in the leg and ran out of the room.”

Renee rubbed the bridge of her nose. Of course, Charlie would see this as being tricked and react. The whole quiz was a trick. Still, he shouldn’t hit anyone. But his reaction was entirely predictable and could have been avoided by letting him know beforehand.

“What happened after he ran out of the room?” she asked.

It was Partnope’s turn to take a deep breath. He cleaned off his glasses. “Charlie ran out of the school, toward the road.”

“Toward the road?” The elementary school was located on one of the town’s busiest streets.

“He was out the door before anyone could catch him. We did get to him before the road.”

“How did you get Charlie inside?” she asked, hearing the hoarseness in her voice.

“Dorothy called to him. He slowed down. Then she asked him to come back and sit next to her for a while.”

Dorothy. She had no way to repay the woman for this. “And he did?”

“Yes, he listened to her. And then she asked him for a drawing because she knows he likes to draw. Once your son was settled, we called you. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“I understand your concern.” She tucked her hands into her lap, having no idea what to say. She was frustrated at the school for a situation that could have been avoided, worried about Charlie for running outside and just completely sick to her stomach because she had no idea how to stop it from happening again.

As bad as it had been at school so far, she’d thought he was at least physically safe there.

 

A nice start to my holiday shopping day with a great review of Ghosts of Christmas Past over at Long and Short Reviews:

“The romance between Noir and Al began before the book started but I had no trouble picking up what was happening.

The love is there, but so is the mounting tension. Personal barriers, police vs. transient population, politics and greed all play a part in this great novel.

I will be going back for more books from this author and she is on my must read list for urban fantasy.”

Full review here.

And, about that cover…

 

Ta da…the cover to Phoenix Inheritance, due out on 3/3/2015!

 

I have a book out today, Ghosts of Christmas Past.

I’m proud of it, I love the characters of Al and Noir, I love that it’s a Christmas story, and I love that I was able to integrate A Christmas Carol into the plot.

But a part of me feels like it’s a little gauche to celebrate my personal victory today with the tragedy of what’s happening in Ferguson and the continued tragedy of deadly race relations in America.

My story features a cop as the hero, an African-American detective who’s one of the few honest men in his city, like Jim Gordon on the Gotham television show.  Why is he African-American? Why wouldn’t he be in an urban city like my Charlton City aka the Double C? And there seemed something off to me about a white cop trying to impose order on a racially mixed city, even a fictional one.

When I was writing this story, I tried hard to make the setting realistic, to make certain anything that happened could potentially happen in our world. In one sequence, Al stops the corrupt SWAT team from tossing flash-bang grenades into a restaurant full of civilians.

I thought this might be pushing the boundaries of what could happen in an American city.

Then Ferguson happened.

And suddenly, my corrupt SWAT team paled in comparison to the sight of police officers, 99 percent white, in full riot gear imposing order on the mostly African-American citizens of a city.

I don’t want reality to be worse than a horrible situation I create for fiction.

But this is another reason that Aloysius James is who he is. Because as long as we (society) view the world as black and white, as long as some people are seen as the other, then we’re going to continue to have these problems. We need change.

I’m not patting myself on the back. I think adding in diverse characters to my stories, like Al, or the Japanese-American heroine in Phoenix Rising or the Native American heroine in Eagle of Seneca, or a mixed race hero in the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance, is the absolute MINIMUM any writer can do.

Because, at this point, using only straight white characters in stories is ignoring reality. A writer has to deliberately eliminate part of the reality outside our windows, on the internet and on our televisions screens, in order to create an all-white world.

Acknowledging reality’s truth is the least I can do.

 

 

Out tomorrow!

Also available for Nook and at Samhain Publishing.

Here’s Lucy/Noir’s first point of view chapter, chapter two in the book.

*******************
Lucy wasn’t sure which was worse—that she couldn’t get Al to admit exactly how much of a dumbass he was being or that she was terrified of him being right.

At this point, she was shocked he’d ever unbent enough to have sex with her in the first place, with his talk of giving her space. He thought she’d change her mind about him. Now that this was real, a normal relationship, he was having trouble because he didn’t trust what she felt.

They were together because they had a connection, not because of any weird mess in her head. You’d think he’d know that.

At least, they had a connection when he was around. Okay, so maybe they had two issues. And he was using the second to cover up the real problem, which was he was terrified to truly commit. He made room for her in his place but not in his life, certainly not the way he lived it. He thought she’d walk so he kept her at arm’s length except in bed.

Space? Hah!

She drew in a deep breath, the cold air freezing her teeth. She wasn’t just hanging around the Double C for Al, as her parents seemed to think she was. She’d built something here, even if she couldn’t quite figure out how to square it with her old life. This was important.

Hanging around in that transient-artist place. Damn Al for saying that.

As she walked the final block, she pulled her fedora lower to stop the snow from dripping onto her face. She’d grown to like hats from her time in costume as Noir. She wore Noir’s black leather duster and boots too. Noir was a part of her. She had her name and most of her memories back but she didn’t completely feel like Lucy yet.

Were Lucy and Noir the same person?

The blast of air that heated her face the instant she walked inside the colony was a welcome break from that thought.

And then she laughed at the clashing holiday displays that had sprung up overnight in their little art collective. To one side sat a metal tree made of old car parts, strung with blue lights that reflected the chrome and steel, and topped with a Smurf. That had to be Cassandra’s doing. To the other side, there was a tree made totally of newspaper clippings. She stepped closer and realized all the clippings talked about atheism and the evils of religion and how even Christmas trees were pagan.

But in the middle? A traditional tree topped by a star, full of handmade paper ornaments. Was it revealing her normal suburban upbringing that she liked that one best? This was the first year she’d celebrated Christmas in a long time. Hell, it was the first Christmas she would even remember since she was seventeen.

Five days until release day for Ghosts of Christmas Past! A little taste of the first chapter.
*****************

“Dinner smells good,” she said. “That’s the only good thing about it.” “It’s nice of you to cook.” “This is my uncle’s chili recipe. He makes it for the guys in the firehouse. Maybe you can tell me what’s missing.”

He offered her a taste on the edge of the wooden spoon. She tentatively flicked out her tongue over it and that gave him images not related to food at all. She wrinkled her nose. Yep, it was definitely awful.

“Needs more tomato,” she offered.

Unable to resist, he bent his neck and kissed her. All resistance melted as he pulled her close, the soft, honey scent of her filling his soul.

She drew back and put her head on his shoulder. “Right, I should close the curtains,” he said.

She laughed, a sound of joy so pure it made his heart ache. “I could care less about who sees us.” He brushed her hair back and kissed where her shoulder met her neck, caressing it with his tongue. She pulled away from him again. He got the right message this time.

“Still stuck on the phone call?” Family. Always a mood killer. But working through this was part of her recovery. Listen and support. He knew that part of the psych drill too.

“I don’t seem to know what to do with them lately, even though I’ve visited at least twice a month since…”

He stroked her back. She never liked finishing that sentence. “Since you regained most of your memories of being Lucy, you mean.”

She entwined their hands. Restoring all those lost memories had required the help of a trained telepath. They were damn lucky to have found one in Beth Nakamora. The bonus to remembering everything, including all those horrible things in her captivity, had been learning how to switch her invisibility on and off. Noir claimed dealing
with that pain all over again had been worth learning the control. He wondered. But he didn’t push. Listen and support. That had been the mantra Beth gave to him as Noir’s boyfriend.

“What do you want?”

“We’re throwing a huge holiday party at the artists’ collective. I want to be there. And I want to stay here in the Double C and spend Christmas with you.”

For that statement alone, he’d give her the world. Yet what if his world was too small for her? All he had was this small apartment and a job that never gave him much time for a private life. She had the talent to go places, and she had so much time to make up.

He caressed her neck with his thumb. “I love you.” God, I love you, Noir. But Lucy might well decide that while he was part of her present, he wasn’t her future. He had to face the possibility that their relationship was simply a step in Lucy’s recovery.

“Yes, we’ll get a tree, but whether it’s your parents’ house or the artists’ party, I can’t go with you. I’ll be on duty.”

She pushed his hand away. “You could take time off if you wanted. I’m not sure you do.”

“What? That’s crazy.”

“Is it? I mean, you want the sex—I want the sex—but you don’t seem to want much else out of this. Okay, sometimes you want help with a case.”

Crap, this was going to be a mess now, wasn’t it?

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