The not-so-secret ingredient.

The not-so-secret ingredient.

As I sat down to write this post, being tagged in this awesome cookie exchange by my friend, author Gin Jones,  I pondered which of my characters would actually make fudge.

Alec Farley, the firestarter from Phoenix Rising, would likely burn the fudge on his first attempt but he’d persevere. Philip Drake of Phoenix Legacy, the man who can become whatever you need, already knows how to make it and has modified it to feature several different flavors. He makes it for the love of his life, Delilah Sefton, who loves the fudge but is trying to figure out how to make it a mixed drink of some sort.

I bet Marian Doyle of Ghost Phoenix has made it but she doesn’t like baking and would rather buy gourmet chocolate in Little Italy. And Renee Black from the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance makes it with her son, Charlie. They (of course), lick the remains on the fudge on the saucepot, even at risk of burning their tongues.

Meantime, Al and Noir of Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past ask:

What the heck is Marshmallow Fluff?

To those who don’t know, it’s a mix of corn syrup, sugar and egg whites. It’s even gluten free!

Here’s the base recipe for Never Fail Fudge, which is on every jar of Marshmallow Fudge:

2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp margerine or butter
5 ounces of evaporated milk
1 jar of Marshmallow fluff, 7.5 ounce size
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (12 oz.) of semi-sweet chocolate

My additions? Always, always use real butter. And buy Ghiradelli or other gourmet chips. They don’t have to be chocolate either. I’ve made this with peanut butter and white chocolate chips too. When I used white chocolate, I crushed up small candy canes and sprinkled the crumbs on top when the fudge was still hot.

To make:
1. Combine first 5 ingredients Stir over low heat until blended.
Advice: Trickiest part? Getting the fluff out of the jar. I run my spoon under hot water first so it doesn’t stick.

2. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to mistake air bubbles for boiling. (That’s because Fluff is full of air). Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Advice: Stir, stir, stir. Never stop stirring. How do you know when it’s done? When hard residue begins to build up on the edge of your stirring spoon. But always do it for at least five minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Pour into a buttered 9X9 inch pan and cool.
Advice: If the mixture is super-hot, the vanilla will boil and spit when you add it. Put in the chips first to cool it down, then add the vanilla. Stir, stir, stir and the chips will blend in nicely. And make sure you transfer it to the pan right away because it will start hardening quickly.

Also, I grease the pan, cover the pan and side with wax paper, and then pour in the mixture. This allows you to basically lift the fudge out of the pan with ease for cutting.

Voila!

You’ll notice I forgot the wax paper this time. And this is a 13X9 pan because I made a double batch. Also, yes, we did sample some, just to make sure it tasted good before we cut the fudge to give away as gifts. I know, I know. A rough job, tasting, but someone had to do it.

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

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?

First, quickie reminder:  it looks like Amazon and B&N haven’t changed the price yet on Phoenix Rising, the book that started all this. The sale could end any time now, so if you’re at all interested, now’s the time to grab it. Romantic Times magazine gave it four stars and Night Owl Reviews said: “Put Phoenix Rising on your keeper shelf, it’s an amazing read. I absolutely loved it…”

That out of the way, some fun stuff for Ghost Phoenix! :)

First, a few reviews.

 

Releases 10/7/2014

From the All ThingsUrban Fantasy site:

“The story is fast paced starting out as a simple madcapped heist to find the body of Rasputin, only to become a more complex race against time with massive deadly roadblocks in store for Richard and Marian. The conflict with Rasputin was very entertaining and suspenseful. The way in which they incorporated Marian’s ability into the quest to get Rasputin’s DNA was genius.  GHOST PHOENIX is a thrilling science fiction adventure story with a sweet romance that doesn’t overwhelm the exciting plot.”

From It’s About the Book:

“Corrina Lawson has built a very unique series with the Phoenix Institute novels–in fact, I would say it is unlike any other I’ve read. Each book is a unique story in and of itself; yet they build on each other like layers of a wedding cake. You can read one without reading the others and have a completely enjoyable read; however, to get the entire scrumptious mouthful, you’ll want to plunge into the whole set, making sure you get a taste of each. Honestly, even read out of order it works! Then you will get the total swirl of delicious textures, tastes and delights that this author has on offer with this truly one-of-a-kind series. Enjoy!”

I will always take it well when someone calls my writing genius or scrumptious. :)

And then I went podcasting with the geeks at Mass Collision, who hang out on the community blog of That Guy With the Glasses. What a fun bunch. From their description:

U.S.A’s Tyr hosts this episode’s runway disaster with Co-hosts Maluku from Germany, Darrius-Jonah from U.K, and Spookypony from Australia, also joining us, special guest writer and editor of Geekmom.com Corrina Lawson.  In this episode we talk about Corrina’s Phoenix Institute saga, Battle Royal is messed up, and you should totally read it, the plight of geeky mothers, Watchdogs DLC, and the Primetime fall lineup of shows, including Gotham, and Agents of Shield.

What’s next?

I’m leaving on a jet plane to Seattle tomorrow morning for GeekGirlCon. GeekMom will have a table, come visit! And don’t miss the presentation of “Sex From the Female Gaze” at 7 p.m. on Saturday. There will be smut, oh yes.

I’m presently wondering if they’ll let us bring a bottle of wine…

And the promised peek into Ghost Phoenix.

Richard Genet is part of a Court of Immortals. Why immortals? Because I decided early on that the first psychic ability discovered was a telekinetic ability to heal one’s own body. This ability is usually unconscious, meaning that only people with a strong will to live would live long enough to consciously realize what was happening.

I searched European history for these kinds of steely personalities and came out first with Eleanor of Aquitaine, ruling Duchess of Aquitaine, wife to two kings, mother to two kings, and whose descendants ruled Europe. And then there was William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Regent of England, who at the advanced age of 77, saved England from a French Invasion.

Marshal was Eleanor’s favorite knight. One of the joys of writing this book was putting them in a scene together.

“I’ve every right. Now that my brother is dead, I am the Queen’s heir.” Richard tilted his head and glared at the doctor. “You forget your place.”

“And you finally remember yours, Richard,” the Queen whispered, her voice muffled by the curtains around her bed.
The Queen’s words were barely audible, yet still carried a rebuke. All was not lost yet, Richard thought, if she possessed the energy to chide him. He strode to the bed and pushed aside the opulent curtains to reveal the occupant.

Only years of practice in courtly manners kept his face from showing the shock of seeing her like this.

None of his Queen’s beauty remained. Her sallow cheeks, the sick yellow tint to her skin, and stringy muscles that covered bone made her look like a corpse. Her silk bedclothes seemed a grotesque joke, beauty covering death.
Their immortality relied on the desire to live. Thought became deed. No disease could destroy them, and very few injuries were immune to their psychic healing abilities. Doctors and their precautions be damned—the only way the Queen could die was if she wanted to die.

“How could you let yourself become this?”

“How could you stay away from me so long?” Her eyes gleamed, full of anger. She raised a skeletal finger to him and pointed. “And with these clothes and with your hair bleached? This isn’t you.”

Richard bit his tongue and waited a few seconds before replying, lest he let loose his horror at what remained of the most vital person he’d ever known. “Ah, I see you’re not too far gone yet if you criticize me. But you didn’t answer my question.”

“We are not required to answer your question,” said the Queen, using the royal “we”.

Another good sign, he hoped. She must live. What could be so wrong? He sat on the bed, next to her. With her so tiny, there was plenty of room. “You chide me for leaving. And yet you’d give up and leave them without a Queen.”

“You could lead our court. You’re my heir, as you just said.”

“I’d lead them into the waves, perhaps.” He smiled. “Is that why you insisted I return, then? To assure yourself the Court could continue without you?” He shook his head. “I’m no replacement for you. No one is. You’ll simply have to live.”

She blinked and looked past him. Richard glanced over his shoulder and saw Marshal standing directly behind him. The others had moved to the opposite side of the room, giving them relative privacy.

“His manners lack, as always, but his words speak the truth, Eleanor,” Marshal said.

“You wound us, William,” she said.

“Truth often wounds. And I fear you may be too far gone for any words to have effect,” Marshal answered.

Releases 10/7/2014

::tosses confetti::

Today is the official release day for Ghost Phoenix, Book 3 in the Phoenix Institute series.

And if you don’t want to start with book 3 (though I do write them so you can read separately and out of order), book 1, Phoenix Rising, is still just 99 cents on all platforms: Amazon, B&N, Samhain, and all other stores.

Go buy it before the price swaps back tomorrow!

The cure they desperately need just rose from the ashes of evil…

Ghost Phoenix, The Phoenix Institute, Book 3

Richard Plantagenet, self-exiled prince of an immortal court, is content living the uncomplicated life of a California surfer. Until his brother’s sudden death and his Queen’s wasting illness wrest him from his ocean-side solitude for one last quest.

The Queen needs a cure. To get it, Richard needs assistance from someone with a singular—and slightly illegal—talent.

As the latest of a long line of ghost-walkers, Marian Doyle can, literally, walk through walls—bringing objects with her. Her gift comes in handy for her family’s shady antiquities business, but Marian’s had it with breaking the law. She wants a life of her own choosing.

Instead, she gets Richard.

Their mission seems simple: Find the body of Gregori Rasputin and procure a small sample of his DNA. But when they discover the Mad Monk of Russia is very much alive, the prince and the phantom must form a bond to battle a man who desires to remake the world in fire.

I’ll be bad all day to update the post and add excerpts but you can also follow around on Facebook. Ghost Phoenix can be purchased for Kindle, Nook, and in any format at Samhain Publishing.

And while I know romance readers love their heroes, I know they also love their heroines. Here’s a glimpse of Marian Doyle, wanting to change her life around and using a kitchen skill we all wish we had….

Besides, if she’d been caught, she would have missed her new nephew’s baptism party.

She would never let down Jen. Her sister was the only one in her family she could relax with, the only one who cared about Marian the person, not Marian with the gift for smuggling million-dollar items. She liked her brother-in-law too. She expected she’d like the little guy at some point but all her godson James did so far was cry and sleep, so that was hard to tell right now.

But even crying, James was still definitely preferable to Grandfather.

She washed off the pastry knife in the sink as her brother-in-law rushed in to get the last slices to distribute to the guests gathered in the backyard. Scott looked harried, his eyes tired like only the eyes of a parent of a newborn could be. He barely mumbled thanks, added the slices to a tray and slipped back out. Laughter wafted in from the backyard as Marian slumped against the refrigerator, her job nearly finished. Hiding in the kitchen allowed her to plan her speech to Grandfather.

She was done with this. Over, finished. Screw their guilt trip. Her father had plenty of legitimate clients. Let those support the family firm. She couldn’t go on like this.

Marian pulled at a drawer to get out the last of the plastic silverware. It jammed. She tugged the drawer harder and that accomplished nothing except making herself angry. Dammit.

She looked down at her hand and concentrated until it was translucent. She stuck her arm up to her elbow through the jammed drawer and closed her eyes. Usually, she could do this to her hand without thinking, but her mind was stressed and jumbled today. How stupid would it be to screw up something as simple as un-sticking a drawer? She’d never hear the end of it.

She fumbled around in the drawer. The wisps of the solid items tickled her ghost fingers as she tapped around inside until she found the cheese grater in the back stuck upright. She concentrated again, feeling her fingertips take on their regular weight and become solid so she could shift the grater. When the rough edges of the grater scraped her thumb, she knew she had it. She twisted and it fell on its side.

She pulled her hand back through the drawer and dropped her concentration. Her hand filled out and became flesh and blood once more. She tugged at the drawer again. It came free. Success!

If only she could get her life unstuck as easily.

 

 

 

You can be certain if my characters start a scene by sitting down in Bryant Park on a beautiful morning, it won’t end that way.

Ghost Phoenix is out on 10/7/14 and now available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, and my publisher, Samhain Publishing.

Releases 10/7/2014

************************************************************

The sunlight was in Montoya’s eyes. No doubt that was why Richard saw the red dot appear on the soldier’s chest before Montoya did.

Richard tackled Montoya and grabbed Marian’s waist. The three of them went down in a heap behind the carousel. A bullet dinged off the sidewalk, raising small puffs of concrete dust. Richard rolled free from their pile, moaned and grabbed the side of his chest. His fingers came up bloody.

God’s eyes, he’d been so focused on the person stalking him that he hadn’t considered someone else could be after Montoya.

“What’s going on?” Marian scrambled to her feet.

He snatched her hand and pulled her back to the ground.

“Who’s shooting at us?”

“Unknown sniper, after Montoya. Stay down, please, Angel.”

Richard sat up, his back to the fence. Montoya was in a crouch, staring at the hotel windows, likely trying to locate the sniper.

“That bullet was aimed at me, Genet,” he said.

“I know. You’re welcome,” Richard said.

“I’m going to get us out of here,” Montoya said. “Be right back with transpo. Stay put.”

“Isn’t it dangerous to run out from cover?” Marian’s eyes were wide. But her voice was firm.

“Staying here and getting shot at is more dangerous. I can handle this. Stay down, miss. Besides, if he’s after me, you’ll be safer if I go.”

Richard liked Montoya a little already for trying to save Marian. He liked him evenmore now for protecting her. Edward might have misjudged these Phoenix Institute people. Which meant his brother had probably died needlessly. He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry about that. But he could do neither. Every breath he took was like a knife in his gut.

Marian, face white as a ghost, nodded at Montoya. “Okay.”

Montoya scrambled away, keeping structures in front of him as much as possible. No shots rang out. The sniper might have left already. Not that they could take that chance.Marian turned to him and noticed the blood soaking through his T-shirt and into the gray hoodie.

“Oh my God, you’ve been shot! I’ll call 911.”

“No. Would you like to spend the next few hours in a police station? Very boring, and then we’ll have the questions as to why my bullet wound healed so quickly.” He inhaled, holding back a moan. He needed to use shorter words. The stabbing pain crested. He exhaled and felt his whole side turn to fire. That was his body, healing itself, and driving down some of the pain.

“You’re losing a lot of blood,” she said.

Yes. He wouldn’t fully heal if the bullet remained inside him, as he suspected it was. It would have to come out. Soon. He had an idea how. But not here.

“Slide off my sweatshirt and press it against the wound. It’ll slow the bleeding.”

She did as he asked, and he wished pain didn’t prevent him from enjoying the touch of her fingers. He pressed his hand against the sweatshirt to keep it tight against him. “Don’t look so worried. It’s all right. Just stay put. I want you safe.”

“I’m safer than you are.” She curled her hand around his forearm. “I’m going to lookaround and see if someone is sneaking up on us.”

“You can’t—”

“No one can shoot a phantom. Bullets go right through me.”

“How would you know that?”

“I’ve been shot at before.”

He wanted to ask where and when and, if she had, why did she look so pale now, but it hurt to speak again. His head lolled down against his chest. Blood loss. Dammit. She straightened, and by the time she stood upright, she was immaterial. Again.Sunlight streamed through her. Again. Angel.

“I can’t see anyone or anything that looks dangerous.” Her voice was a low whisper, almost as immaterial as the rest of her, the sound of a ghost. She turned, and he lost sight of her in the sun. “Nothing.”

“Did you look at the windows of all the buildings?”

“Yes, but I don’t see anyone.” “Then come back here and return to normal, because there will be people at BryantPark who might convince themselves they’ve seen a ghost.” She must not suffer any fallout from this attack. “I need you to help with the blood loss.”

He took a deep breath. A sharp pain jabbed through his side once more, centered near the back. His healing fire couldn’t touch it. That must be where the bullet was lodged.Tires squealed around the corner. A black van sped toward them on the narrow street.

Ally or enemy?

 

 

This is a look at our heroine, Marian Doyle, doing what she does for the family firm. She enjoys using her ability but not this part of it.

Ghost Phoenix available for pre-order at AmazonSamhain Publishing, and B&N. It releases on October 7th.

*************

The wheels of the plane touched down on the runway at LaGuardia. A day in the air after taking off from Athens, and now it was almost done, almost time to deliver the item. Deliver. That’s what her grandfather called it. Everyone else, including the legal authorities, called it smuggling.

Marian preferred smuggling. Call it what it was instead of pretending.

When Marian had first started working for the family firm, she’d stupidly thought it was fun. The adventure of evading authorities, the rush when she used her phantom ability, and the praise of her grandfather and father made it all worthwhile.
But in the last few years, there had been too many close calls, too many hours of uncertainty that set her nerves on edge. Now, all she wanted was for the jobs to be over.

The best part was coming home, like now.

The plane taxied to the gate. Most of those around her pulled out their phones to contact those waiting at the other end of this flight. For her, that had to wait. Only after she successfully snuck the little ivory elephant carving past customs could she consider her work over.

All she had to do was duck into a bathroom before customs, go phantom, phase through the walls and hand off Tantor—it was too cute to not give a nickname—to whomever her grandfather sent to wait on the other side of the customs gate.

She hoped it would be Dad. That would be perfect. He’d pamper her with dinner, and pampering was desperately needed after this marathon trip. She’d spent weeks looking for Tantor for their client, traipsing around the hills and dirt-encrusted ruins of Greece.

Worth it, however. Little Tantor would bring in a cool million. Grandfather was probably salivating over the money already.
Once Tantor was delivered to the other side, she’d phase back through the walls to the bathroom before anyone knew she was even gone and navigate customs perfectly legally, like any other passenger. Aside from the over-long and complicated forms and the risk of death by boredom, that was the easy part.

Marian waited over fifteen minutes for the plane to clear out enough to grab her carry- on from the overhead bin. Grandfather was a damn cheapskate. She smuggled for him, and he made her fly coach back to New York every time. She could have used the extra pillows.

Marian tapped her front pocket to reassure herself Tantor was still there. She hoped most people would assume she was checking for her phone. She shuffled behind the other passengers disembarking and wiped moisture from her palm on her jacket sleeve. Sweat already drenched her back.

I hate this.

But she couldn’t quit. It was the family business. Everyone, extended cousins and all, depended on her to keep the family firm flush with money. She was the only one in the current generation of Doyles to have the phantom ability that had supported the family for over two centuries.

Quit and she’d let everyone down. Maybe she’d even be exiled or shunned. It might be worth it. They took no risks. She was the one who sweated out all the trips through customs, terrified that this would be the time she would be caught, or worse, have her phantom ability exposed.

“Miss Doyle!”

She blinked and raised her head. Damn, she’d spent too much time staring at the floor, or she would have noticed people in front of her before this. She focused on the person wearing a uniform, calling her name. Flight crew? No, it was a TSA agent.

Oh, hell.

“Yes?” Swallow the fear, swallow the panic. She could do this. There had to be a way out.

“Please follow me, ma’am. The customs officers need to speak to you.”

“I don’t understand. Speak to me about what?” Maybe if she stared at him long enough, he would vanish as if he were a figment of her imagination. Two other uniformed officers came up to her from behind. Not figments.

“Follow us, ma’am,” said the first one.

She did, wishing she could go phantom and disappear through the floor. Better yet, float up and out through the ceiling and ride the air until she landed near the cabs that would take her home.

And then what? They knew her name, probably her address and her place of work. Unless she wanted to be a fugitive, she had no choice but to go with them. To say nothing of what would happen if she went ghost on them. Never let anyone see her do it, that was the family rule, and the airport had to be full of cameras.

It was Tantor that needed to disappear, not her, and before they searched her. “Just what is the problem?” she asked again. “Do you need to see my papers? I know there are some items in my luggage that need documentation. I have everything in order.”

“That will be up to customs, ma’am,” the officer said. “We are ordered to deliver you to
them.” “I don’t understand.” “I’m sure they’ll explain it, ma’am.” Somehow all the ma’ams made it much worse. “Can I use the bathroom first? It was along flight and I really need to stop there.”

“Orders are to take you directly to their office,” he said. “Sorry.”

They kept hustling her along, one person ahead and one person behind her. Customs knew something. Someone must have tipped them off about what she was carrying. It was the only explanation that made sense. Maybe the tip came from someone who also wanted the carving? No, they would want it to get through customs, not to be confiscated. Unless someone paid off one of the agents. Bribing agents was the usual way to smuggle antiquities into the States. Doyle Antiquities never did that.

They had her.

**************

Releases 10/7/2014