The First-Ever Excerpt from The Black Wasp


Good news for those awaiting The Black Wasp! I’ve just received word that it’s currently scheduled for a mid-June release, and while I don’t have an exact date yet ( know, I know) I will very soon. I promise to share that information here as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, (and, of course, the Thorne & Cross newsletter) as soon as I have it.

Now that I know its release is imminent, I feel safe sharing an excerpt – something I’m always a little reluctant to do (with my luck, I’ll pick something with major spoilers and ruin the whole book for everyone.) I don’t think I did that here…

The scene I’ve chosen for The Black Wasp’s first-ever excerpt is taken from chapter 20, which is titled, Hard-Blessed to Believe, and in it, Cade Colter is in desperate search of whatever anti-vampire paraphernalia he can get his hands on. The reason for this is that he needs to get (and keep) his undead night guard, Chynna (one of the good guys) out of his house in order to execute some rather pressing vampire-related plans that involve … things I can’t tell you about yet.

The point is, with Crimson Cove’s only Catholic supplies shop, The Immaculate Connection, being temporarily closed, Cade’s best bet is Father Vincent Scarlotti, the local priest who lives in the old rectory at St. Anthony’s. So, he decides to pay the Father a visit … but how do you explain to a man of God that vampires are a thing and that you need to safeguard your house against them? The answer, Cade wisely decides, is that you don’t …

The Black Wasp, book three of The Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming this June.

He didn’t touch his tea, just stared down at his hands, wondering how to proceed. For long moments, the only sound was the hypnotic snick-snack that came from the grandfather clock in the corner, and when he finally spoke, Cade’s words had none of the finesse he’d planned. “Um, I have a ghost in my house.” Oh, the originality.

“A ghost?”

“Mm-hmm.” With no small effort, he met the priest’s eye. 

Father Scarlotti blinked at him.

“But not just any ghost,” Cade added at a gallop. “An evil one. A demon, I think.”

Scarlotti’s brow furrowed. “We don’t really do exorcisms anymore, if that’s what you’re asking, Mr. Colter. I’m afraid I can’t-”

“I don’t mean an exorcism,” said Cade. “Just … I don’t know. Maybe you have some … stuff I could place around the house. You know … holy stuff.”

A pause while the clock’s pendulum patiently swung. “Holy stuff?” 

“Yeah, like crosses or something,” said Cade. “A Bible, maybe. Saint medallions. Things like that.”

“I’m not sure-”

“Or holy water! Maybe you could bless my tap water and I could fill up some buckets and put them around the house or something.”

Snick-snack went the grandfather clock as Father Scarlotti regarded Cade with the kind of caution reserved for untamed animals, escaped convicts, and unstable mental patients.

“Look,” said Cade, “I know it sounds crazy, but … well, how is it any crazier than that?” He nodded at a painting of the haloed saint above the fireplace. “Or that?” At the open Bible on the cherrywood coffee table. 

“I see your point, Cade, believe me, I do. I’m more open-minded than you’re giving me credit for … but … a ghost?”

“Yes. Or a demon, maybe. I don’t know. Something evil, for sure, though.”

“Evil? What makes you think it’s evil?” 

Cade shifted uncomfortably. “Um, because I can feel it, you know?”

“I see.” The priest’s eyes narrowed. “And this … entity … have you … seen it?”

Cade shook his head. “No. But it’s doing stuff, you know?”

“Doing stuff?”

Cade thought fast – too fast. “Um, well, it’s moving my kitchen chairs around and making sounds from my television. Really scary sounds, like voices and stuff.” Hearing himself, he wished he’d thought this through a little more. If Scarlotti had ever seen Poltergeist, he’d know Cade was plagiarizing in the worst way. “And banging on the walls.” This, from The Haunting of Hill House, just to shake things up a little. “And my cat. It’s scaring my cat. He almost attacked me yesterday.” The Legend of Hell House. Cade stopped short of claiming to have mystery bite-marks around his nipples; no need to get too carried away.

Scarlotti’s skepticism was obvious. “Well … I suppose I could give the place a blessing.”

“A blessing? And that will keep the … damned away?”

“The damned?” The priest cocked his head. “That’s an interesting word choice.”

“I just meant the demon or whatever it is. You know, the evil. Will a house blessing keep it away?”

 Scarlotti eyed him with a strange new interest. “Ideally, yes, it will ward off evil and-”

“Great. When can you do it?”

“I could come by tomorrow and-”

“But I need it today,” said Cade. “Well, tonight.” Not until sunset, until after I can get Chynna out of the house! “Yeah, definitely tonight.”

Another beat of that puzzled silence.

“After sunset,” Cade quickly added, “That’s when the ghost is most active.”

“I see.” Scarlotti’s tone was cautious. “Then I guess you can expect me tonight after sunset.”

“Great. Thanks.” Cade gave the man his address and hurried home, wondering how the hell he was going to get Chynna out of the house once the sun went down. 

Think, think, think … 

An idea came to him … but no. He couldn’t do that. 

It would definitely get her out of the house, though … 

But could I live with it? By the time he got back home, Cade had come up with nothing better and supposed that he’d have to live with it, though he couldn’t believe what he was about to do. He hoped he’d be forgiven for it one day.

Excerpt: The Crimson Corset


Following yesterday’s interview at Tamara Thorne’s Little Blog of Horrors, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Crimson Corset, which will be available in just a few weeks.

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Untidy, Ryan Closter had called it. The young deputy had a knack for understatement and when Ethan arrived at the scene, he was prepared to be put off – but this was downright ghastly. This wasn’t the way Ethan liked to start his mornings.

Blood was everywhere, a dried riot of red rust all over the floor, across the bed, and even on the ceiling. It was as if someone had put a bomb in a can of paint. And the smell was unbearable. Flies swarmed like a black cloud above the body.

Closter spoke at Ethan’s side. “A neighbor heard some noises last night. She informed the landlord this morning, and after knocking and getting no response, this is what he walked into.”

At the center of the bed lay the woman, face-down, in her own dried pool of fluids.

“Her name’s Rose Keller,” Closter said.

Ethan shook his head. “Day manager of the Black Garter.”

“You know her?”

“Our paths crossed recently.” Ethan wouldn’t have been surprised to hear the woman had overdosed on something, but would never have guessed she’d go like this.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Closter looked a little green, and his partner, Nick Grayson, gave Ethan an uncertain glance.

“Why don’t you go get some fresh air, Closter?” Ethan said. “We’ll be fine till the others show up.”

The deputy swallowed and nodded, his face clammy. The last thing they needed was for someone to throw up on the crime scene – not that it’d be the first time it had happened.

As Closter stepped out, Ethan heard the buzz of bystanders just outside the door. “Jesus,” someone said. “I’ve never seen so much blood …”

“I heard they can’t find her head,” said another.

The voices faded as the door closed. How eagerly people swarm to violence and death. Like ants to a piece of rotten fruit. It unsettled Ethan.

The room was hot, intensifying the reek of blood, of innards – of death. Dozens of flies crawled lazily over the body and more were landing. Ethan’s own stomach roiled a little. He hadn’t been sick at a scene since his earliest days on the force and he didn’t intend to buckle now, but it wasn’t easy. He’d never seen anything this theatrical; it looked like the police photographs from the Jack the Ripper crimes. But in horrible living color. He moved closer and stared down at the woman on the bed. Two stumps of spine, glistening white, jutted out of the mess that was the rest of her. It was as if someone had unzipped her skin, reached inside, and yanked her backbone out. And they’d managed to snap it in half in the process.

“Whoever did this was sending a message.” Deputy Grayson was crouched beside the bed, his gaze roving over the late Ms. Keller. A former quarterback in his early-forties with broad shoulders and the earliest beginnings of a beer gut, Nick Grayson was one of Ethan’s best.

Ethan nodded. “I’ll agree with you on that.”

Grayson’s gaze never left the victim. “A killer doesn’t cause a scene like this unless he wants to make a statement.”

The question was, who was the killer, and what was he trying to say? “No sign of any weapons?”

Grayson shook his head and Ethan noticed some graying at the temples of his deputy’s black curly hair. This was the kind of job that would do that. “Nope. Nothing.”

Ethan had figured as much. There was something about this scene that didn’t work.

The woman was tangled in white sheets reminding him, morbidly, of an old barber’s pole. Red and white, red and white, blood and bandages, blood and bandages. He walked around the bed, seeing it from all angles. Every crime scene told a story, you just had to know how to read it. And this one, Ethan was certain, was one hell of a tale.

The more he saw, the more certain he became of two things. One, Rose’s killer was not human, and two, it was not an animal. Not in the usual sense, anyway. He bent and moved the victim’s hair back, careful not to disturb anything. He saw the bite marks on her neck that confirmed his suspicions. He’d have them checked against dental records and if he was lucky – which was highly unlikely – maybe they’d catch the perp fast.

There were also several places along her shoulders and arms where the skin was torn. Someone went to town on her. The thick sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach went colder.

“I’ve been trying to figure that out, too,” said Grayson, watching him. “They’re bites.”

Ethan’s knees popped as he stood and moved to the window. He pinched back the blood-spattered white curtains and stared down. Outside, the Ivory Heights apartment complex was already surrounded by a swarm of onlookers, and it was only going to get worse. Rose Keller’s one-bedroom, second-story apartment would soon be a frenzy of technicians, detectives, plainclothes, more uniforms, a photographer, and probably even a man with a video camera. There was no dignity in death, he thought as he looked at the shredded body on the bed. Especially not when you die like that.

Ethan decided it was time to pay Michael Ward another visit.

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