Coming this April: Wind and Shadow, Book One of the Talbot Trilogy from Melange Books

Rayvin Woods, professional photographer and natural witch, is returning to her hometown to start her life over, even though it’s the last place she wants to be. In the small community of Talbot, people think she tried to kill someone when she was only a teenager. It’s the place where she was orphaned, and where her high school crush betrayed her. It’s also the place where, unknown to all, a vampire has been trapped underground in an abandoned mine for a year — and is about to be released to wreak havoc on the community. Will her magick be enough to stop this ruthless predator? With practically the whole town against her, who can she turn to for help against a non-sparkly, non-angsty, all-malevolent fiend?

Grant Michaels became an officer of the law to protect Talbot, the town he grew up in and has always loved. As a teenager, when his best friend survived an attempt on his life, and ended up in a wheelchair, Grant stood by him even though it meant hurting the one girl he’d always had a crush on, because she was the murderer. Even though the court had released her, everyone knew she was different, that she was wild and couldn’t be trusted. When Rayvin Woods comes back to Talbot, and unexplained deaths begin to occur, Grant knows where to begin his investigation. He believes in logic — not in the supernatural.

I can’t wait to see the cover! Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter One:

Lost in her thoughts, the appearance of red and blue pulsating lights in her rearview mirrors escaped her attention for a full five minutes. A brief pulsing siren woke her up. Shock and disbelief exploded in her chest and throat, as much from interrupted anticipation of the journey’s end as from embarrassment. Her heart accelerated with adrenaline, and she had to fight the urge to accelerate. “Breathe, Rayvin,” she told herself, aiming the vehicle for a section of straight road shoulder. Braking carefully, she laughed ruefully — she had never gotten a ticket before. Magick had nothing to do with it; she was simply good and careful. She made it a general rule to avoid problems with civil authorities but here she was, not twenty minutes away from her destination, already being cited or warned or fined or whatever. This was not an auspicious start.
She should have remembered to check her almanac. It was probably a waning moon.
Waiting with her hands on the wheel and looking straight ahead as her driving instructor had advised, so many years before, her eyes couldn’t help but stray to the tall, well-proportioned male figure in dark navy blue striding along the pavement to her car door. The bulky standard-issue padded jacket enhanced his broad shoulders; corded muscle and tendon were thrown into brief relief above the collar as he got closer, and the gun belt slung almost casually around his narrow waist suggested a healthy contrast in size between shoulders and abdomen. Clearly, this was neither a sergeant close to retirement nor a fresh recruit. Then he was there, tapping gently on the glass with the butt of a long-handled flashlight. At his gesture, she lowered the window, squinting against the orange glare of the sunset. Unable to make out a face from the officer’s position, silhouetted against the dying sun, she looked directly at his mirrored glasses. The convex angle distorted her nose and the wrinkle of skin above it, produced by her squinting; she hoped that she didn’t look as hag-like as Smokey suggested, and tried to relax her vision as she asked the inevitable question.
“What’s the problem, officer?
The silence stretched a trifle longer than it should have, and just on the edge of discomfort, the policeman responded. “License and registration, please.”
She shivered slightly, trying to pretend it was only from the chilly air that was quickly invading her car. The presence of the police officer, so close to Talbot, was forcing up flashbacks that were taking her breath away. The strobing lights, primary colours casting shadows against her bedroom walls. The degradation and disgrace of interrogation, first in front of her foster mother in the spacious living room of the house she had come to love after her mother had died. The further humiliation as she was marched out, in handcuffs, and had seen her foster sister’s tearful expression reflected in the hallway mirror. Rummaging through her purse first for her wallet, and then leaning across to the glove compartment, Rayvin fought down rising panic, recalling the glaring, accusatory stares of the neighbours, gathered in little bathrobe-dressed groupings, muttering acidly amongst themselves as a firm hand pushed her head gently under the edge of the car door. The officer shifted his posture, and something metallic clinked against her car door, echoing the cold sound of a key locking her into a sterile, tiny isolation room. Restrained by the seatbelt, Rayvin had to strain slightly to reach the papers she needed; the movement pulled her sweater up her body, a hands-breadth from the waist of her low-rise jeans, and as she wrestled the insurance papers from between maps and Canadian Tire money, she felt a perceptible change in the atmosphere — almost as if the cop had suddenly sucked air through his teeth, and she had heard the slight sound register only in the most primal part of her brain.
She froze.
Her heart thudded. Magick flooded her body, an instinctual survival tactic. She closed her eyes, pretending to fumble with the document, struggling now for control. Great Mother, if she lashed out now, she’d be back where she’d started in every sense of the term. The radio came to life for a heart-stopping few seconds, crackling with static, as a field of energy built around her and rang in her ears. She trembled with the force of it, and then the momentum ceased as she regained control of her breathing. The yoga classes and meditative visualizations had been worth every penny of her tips, if they helped her to avoid repeating history.
Rayvin swallowed uncomfortably as the officer scanned her papers, pulled a pencil and pad out of a pocket and wrote something down. He shifted his stance, and with an effort, she stopped biting her lip. He was probably trained to see that as an indication of guilty behaviour or something, she thought to herself. Attempting to keep her forehead smooth as she strained to see past the shadows on his face was impossible. Maybe if she appeared to be furrowing her brow in concern he might be more lenient. “What’s the problem, officer?” she finally asked, half-embarrassed at the way the cliche sounded — it felt phony, but the silence had stretched to the breaking point. Mentally running through the last moments of her driving, she recalled the speed limit — she’d been within five kilometers per hour over or under, she was sure — and the last time she’d checked, all her lights were functioning, no dents or broken glass. Her stickers were up to date. Maybe he just had to fill a quota before the end of the month, or something.
An SUV approached from the east, heading in the opposite direction; automatically, she turned her head as it passed. The light from the SUV’s headlamps, just starting to wash the road in the early twilight, passed across the cop’s face, clearly illuminating every feature. Rayvin’s heart skipped a beat. It couldn’t be. Please, please, let it not be true. Let this be a trick of the light. She couldn’t breathe.
Suddenly, everything clicked into place; time seemed to slow down as he tucked the notepad away and folded her papers. The backwash of air from the passing vehicle caused his scent to surround her. She felt heat rising from deep between her thighs, tendrils of warmth sparkling upward through her core, swelling into her breasts and tightening her nipples. No other man had ever made her feel this way, and deep in her heart, she knew no-one else ever would. She had felt this urge to be with him when she was too young to know better, when these feelings had both thrilled and frightened her. She had managed to ignore the strange magnetic pull she had felt then, by ignoring him as much as possible. But it had taken so much strength to stay away from him, to protect him from herself; in this state, she wasn’t sure if she could find it again. Turning to face away, desperate to compose her expression before he saw her, she gripped the steering wheel with both hands, pressing her palms into the raised leather chevrons and curving her fingers until her nails just bit into the sensitive skin folding out beneath the curve at the midsection. Time had passed; they had both matured; she was an adult and could control her impulses. How had she not recognized his voice? It had deepened since the last time she’d seen him, suspicion and hatred rippling from his aura; he’d refused to look at her directly, then, but she’d felt the burn of his gaze against her back. Once more, she could sense him staring at her; how she had blocked his energy before, she wasn’t sure — maybe her exhaustion from the eight-hour drive had something to do with it. But as now she had recognized Grant, and a light was growing inside her that she was powerless to control. Vitality, a powerful earth energy, melded with something not quite tame and entirely masculine, penetrated her awareness, forcing her to concentrate on her own mental and emotional shielding. He was clearly waiting for her to turn and look at him, but in her own vulnerable state, she couldn’t risk looking at him and losing herself. Not again.
“So, where are you headed, miss?” the officer asked gruffly. “If you’re not from the region, you need to be aware of the night dangers this far north.”
“Isn’t that a bit obvious, Grant Michaels?” Ravyin kept her voice low, unclenching her teeth just enough to speak. “Drop the ‘miss,’ you know who I am.”
“Just being professional, Ray. Don’t take it personally,” Michaels replied, leaning down to rest his right elbow on the edge of the window. “But seriously, what are you doing here?”
It was probably driving him crazy, the way she kept her face in profile to avoid looking at him. She remembered how easily he could read truth and lies into a person’s expression; she was denying him the chance to judge. In her peripheral vision, Rayvin saw his jaw clench. He was biting back an urge to order her out of the vehicle, she just knew it. Heat moved through her skin when he finally snapped. “Fine, keep your secrets — that’s nothing new. Ten, eleven years — it’s plain to see you haven’t changed. I’ll find out sooner or later anyway; this isn’t the place you want to be if you want to be left alone. But it’s not like you don’t know that.” His anger stung, but she refused to rise to the bait.
“If I’ve done something wrong, officer, I’m happy to take my ticket,” Rayvin responded. She enunciating each word carefully, her voice filled with ice. “Otherwise, I’d like to have my license and registration back, please, so I can be on my way.”
Silently, without changing his stance, Michaels extended the arm he was leaning against the door, offering the papers just outside of her range of vision so she was forced to turn to see them. She moved to take them, and he pulled them away, just out of her reach. Rolling her eyes, she turned again and lunged, this time catching them firmly.
He didn’t let go.
Exhaling sharply in frustration, she tugged once, and then finally turned her eyes up to his face. Her skin tingled as she took in how very close he was — only inches away, so close she could feel the damp heat of his breath on her skin. The dark brown of his eyes searching her own was nearly irresistible — pulling her in, inviting her even with their fury, or because of it, to explore the passion she could sense just beneath the surface. It was too much. Imperceptibly, he was closing the distance between them, anger turning into something else just as dangerous. Electricity crackled again on the radio, though no power was reaching it from the stilled engine.
“Let go, Michaels.” Rayvin’s voice came out in a whisper, nearly a plea.
His eyes moved to her mouth as she spoke; she saw them widen as she licked her upper lip in nervousness.
For the space of a heartbeat, they were frozen together, a breath from sweet, scorching contact.

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