“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 1

Dave stared at the blinking cursor on his computer screen, which had been in the same spot for several minutes. Incident reports were never fun to write, but this one took the prize for being the worst. He tried to think of a way to type “Then I threw a plastic tiara at the suspect” that wouldn’t make his supervisor call him over for a very long and loud talking-to. He replaced “plastic tiara” with “projectile.” Yes, that sounded much more professional.

“Dude, is your nose broken? Can you even get a broken nose?”

Dave turned from the computer, feeling his eyeballs relax immediately after leaving the screen (he really should have paused for a break earlier), and found himself looking at Harris Holt. Better known as Supersonic to the world, Harris was tall and thin with wiry muscles and a runner’s build, which was appropriate given how he could outrun most cars. Not that most people would recognize him as a famous superhero right now. Like Dave, he wore slacks and a button-down shirt. If the DSA made them wear their costumes to the office, they’d have all quit by now.

“It’s probably just bruised,” Dave said. “The doctor’s going to check for fractures in a few days once the swelling goes down.”

“And you’ve got to wear that mummy bandage until then?”

It was a narrow, rectangular bandage that went across the bridge of his nose. Dave resisted the urge to reach up and touch it. “Dr. Ortiz said it was small and unobtrusive.”

“Yeah, she was lying, man.” The sentence faded into a laugh, and then Harris looked sharply to the right. “Hey, there he is.” Continue reading “Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 1

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Epilogue

Jean-Baptiste Dupree spent maybe half an hour in the car. Eddy had on a radio station that played rock from the 50s and 60s, and he didn’t talk. JB had thought the Black Valentine talked too much, but now he wished she was there to fill the silence. When Eddy stopped the car, he got out and had a muffled conversation with someone before telling JB to get out, too.

They climbed up metal stairs and entered something that JB figured out was an airplane when the cabin pressurized. It must have been a private one, because there didn’t seem to be anyone else on it besides the pilot. It figured the Black Valentine had a private plane. She’d probably robbed enough banks to own a whole fleet of planes. Eddy spoke again, his gravelly voice asking if JB wanted anything to eat or drink. JB ended up with a Sprite and a bag of Doritos, which were the highlight of the boring, quiet flight. They landed about two hours later, got into another car, and maybe an hour after that, stopped at what JB assumed was their destination.

JB smelled pine trees before they went inside. Then Eddy led him through twisting hallways, across thick carpet and smooth wood before finally grunting “sit” and pushing him down onto a soft couch.

“Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” said a voice as dry and brittle as an old book. “We meet at last. So you’re the one that all this fuss has been about?” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Epilogue

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 8

The back of Dave’s skull felt like a cash register that had been smashed open with a crowbar. He put a hand to his head, groaning, and tried to get his bearings. His eyes were closed. Why were his eyes closed? Well, that was easy enough to fix. He opened them and saw a hole in the ceiling, sparks jumping from torn electrical wires. When had that gotten there?

Jeffries spat a curse.

Oh, right.

Dave pushed himself up so fast that dizziness nearly took him back down again. But it wasn’t fast enough. Jeffries was already on his feet. His massive fist swung at Dave’s head, and Dave knew instantly that he wouldn’t be able to dodge in time. He flinched back on instinct, but Jeffries’ fist never made contact.

The bulky man screamed, clutching his head as if someone had set his brain on fire. Movement caught Dave’s eye near the hole in the ceiling, and he saw the Black Valentine glaring down at Jeffries like a vengeful goddess. Either she’d just saved Dave, or he’d hit his head so hard that he was hallucinating.

Jeffries’ eyes widened as he saw her, too, and he jumped a good four feet into the air. His meaty hand grasped for her feet, but she scrambled back just in time. Instead, Jeffries grabbed the edge of the hole and tore off a chunk of ceiling as he came down. The same chunk that the Black Valentine was standing on. She fell with a startled cry. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 8

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 6

Agent Moreen Lee rushed up the stairwell after Dave, her breaths short and quick. She didn’t like trailing behind him, but there was something to be said for having a bulletproof human shield in front of you.

“This place must have ten floors.” Dave’s voice echoed off the tall, blank walls. “They could be anywhere.”

“The Black Valentine mentioned a helicopter. Head for the roof,” Moreen said.

Which meant they had to climb every single stair in the whole damn building. When they reached the tenth floor, Dave yanked open the door so hard that it came off its hinges. He tossed it aside, and they found themselves in the corner of a nondescript gray hallway.

“See any way to the roof?” Dave asked.

“You go right, I’ll go left. Shout if you find more stairs.”

Dave turned to her, his eyes full of annoying concern. “If you run into Jeffries—”

“I’ll shout. You’ll be able to tell I found Jeffries and not the stairs because I’ll be shouting profanity.”

“I think I’ll shout a polite request for help if it’s me.”

“Great. Get going.”

Moreen walked swiftly down the hall, Glock held out in front of her but pointed at the floor. The walls were lined with wooden doors that opened to small offices. Plaques displayed room numbers, and she kept her eyes open for one that said “Roof Access.” The whole floor was ominously quiet. If Jeffries had already left in his stupid helicopter, she was going to be pissed. Then again, maybe the Falconer or whatever his name was could ask his birds to track the machine to where it landed.

A bump came from the room to her right. Either something had fallen off a shelf, or someone was in there. Moreen’s arm muscles tightened, but she kept her gun pointed at the floor. The door was cracked open. Moreen approached it slowly, alert for any sign of movement. This could be a trap, someone waiting in there to shoot her. She shouldered the door open, and of course the hinges creaked. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 6

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

Arm linked with the Prophet Kid, Val escorted him to where Eddy waited in a parked car behind the warehouse. Val opened the back door and nudged the kid inside.

“Eddy, meet the Prophet Kid. Prophet Kid, Eddy.”

Eddy Capello was a big, barrel-chested man who’d worked for Val’s family since before she’d been born. Despite having sat in the comfy air-conditioning all this time, he’d taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, revealing a huge tattoo of a skull on his forearm. (Val had always thought it was tacky but didn’t have the heart to tell him.) Oh, and without his jacket, you could see his shoulder holster with two Brownings. That was probably more noticeable than the tattoo.

“Hey, Kid,” he said, putting the car into drive.

“My name is Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” the kid muttered.

“You sure you’d rather go by that?” Val asked. “It’s kind of a mouthful. And that’s coming from Valentina Mariangela Belmonte.”

“Whatever.”

“Can you believe this kid, Eddy?” Val asked. “The Black Valentine breaks him out of police custody—something that I’m sure is the start of a fantasy for lots of teenage boys—and all he can say is ‘whatever.’ Not even a thank you.”

“Kids these days.” Eddy shook his head as he drove five miles under the speed limit. “No manners at all.”

Val watched the Prophet Kid’s reaction. He was slouched over and scowling, ignoring their banter. Oh, well. She would have preferred a thank you and a profession of undying devotion, but she didn’t strictly need it. This was a job, after all.

“So do you really go by Jean-Baptiste, or do you have a nickname?” she asked.

He didn’t answer, so she read his mind.

“JB, huh? I like that better.”

“Only my friends call me that.”

“And we’re not friends? After I risked life and limb to keep you out of prison? JB, I’m hurt.”

“Did you ever think that maybe I didn’t want to get broken out?” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1

Valentina Belmonte was waiting for a police van. She stood in an alley between two warehouses, drinking a mango smoothie as she watched cars pass by. Some kind of office building stood across the cracked, pothole-filled street. She should have talked her way in there and waited in the air-conditioning. The shade from the warehouses brought the temperature down from ninety to maybe eighty-eight. Summer in Florida. How the heck did other supervillains work here?

If this were any other job, she’d be in costume, but her costume had long pants, knee-high boots, and no small amount of black leather. She’d have gotten heatstroke twenty minutes ago if she’d worn that thing. So today, the Black Valentine was breaking the law in her civvies: the shortest pair of denim shorts she could find and a sleeveless shirt that showed off her midriff. And as a bonus, she didn’t have to worry about anyone spotting a masked supervillain and calling the cops.

Not that there were many people around to notice her. Two men had come out of the warehouse for a smoke break about twenty minutes ago, but Val had telepathically convinced them to ignore her and hadn’t had any trouble since. She sucked on the straw of her smoothie, trying to get the last bit of mango goodness from the bottom of the cup. Sweat dripped down the nape of her neck despite her hair being pulled up in a ponytail, and her skin felt sticky and gross. Once this job was over, she was celebrating with a dip in a pool somewhere.

A wolf whistle cut through the ambient noise of the street, directed at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Hey, honey!” the younger of the two warehouse workers called. “You’re looking sexy today. Where are you going?” The woman sped up, her mix of anger, shame, and fear hitting Val’s telepathic senses like a wave. “You’re just gonna ignore me?” the man hollered at her retreating back. “Learn to take a compliment, bitch!” He went back to talking with the other man, who was chuckling. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1

Villainous Cover Reveal

I’ve kept you guys waiting for this one for a while, but here it is. The final cover for Villainous:

Villainous Cover

I’m scheduled to send the book off to my editor at the end of this month and should hopefully have it finished and up on Amazon by the end of September. This is a little later than I’d hoped to have it out, so thank you all for your patience! I’ll be posting a preview chapter soon, and in the meantime, here’s a rough blurb of the plot:

 

Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) Val’s practically a model citizen these days; this time, it’s her goody-two-shoes former superhero of a husband who’s in trouble with the law. He saved her life two months ago—and committed a spectacular amount of property damage and assault along the way. The feds won’t press charges…as long as Val does something for them in exchange.

Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, so of course it blows up in her face. Her best lead dies mysteriously in custody, and Val nearly follows him to the grave. The feds are clueless as usual, but Val’s not used to being out-played at her own game. She’s worried she’s lost her touch since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…

Hero Status, Chapter 1

Hero Status is almost ready to be uploaded to Amazon! (That sound you hear is my excited squeal.) While I’m working on the final steps, check out this sample chapter.

Chapter 1

People like to debate where superpowers come from. What genetic mutation causes special abilities beyond what seems naturally possible? Experts theorize how the traits are inherited and what part the environment plays in affecting if and how they develop. I don’t have much to add to the discussion. Just because I have superpowers doesn’t mean I know how they work. Sometimes, though? I think they’re fueled by caffeine.

Lack of coffee was definitely my problem this morning. When the cook burst into the dining room with a shout, I should have calmly assessed the situation before reacting. Instead, I jumped and hit the table, jolting the silverware and knocking over my full cup of café con leche. Coffee drenched my wife’s favorite—and very expensive—white tablecloth and splattered onto the imported wood flooring. I winced and grabbed a napkin to sop up the spill.

Our cook was a big, burly man who’d gone to seed with age, the apron stretched across his beer gut reading, “Charred and Dangerous.” He tried to untie it, but his hands were still covered by oven mitts.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Feds outside.”

Before I could ask anything else, he rushed down the hallway, muttering something about hiding his guns. But I doubted federal agents had come all this way just for our cook’s illegal firearms.

“It’s probably nothing to worry about.” The maid smiled at me, ignoring the spill as she snatched a steak knife off the table. “They like to come around and ask questions every now and then.”

“This happened a lot in the old days?” I asked.

She shrugged and hurried off in the same direction as the cook. I stared stupidly after them for a moment, coffee still dripping onto the floor, then picked up my cane from where it rested against my chair. Standing up always made my knee twinge, but I ignored it and walked slowly into the kitchen. The room was wide, its floors and granite countertops so clean they reflected the light. The cook had left an omelet sizzling on the stove, and it filled the air with a smell that made my mouth water. I walked past it to the big window over the sink, and sure enough, two black SUVs were coming down the palm tree-lined driveway.

The omelet hissed and crackled angrily. I flipped it over, but the fluffy yellow egg mix was already crusted with black. I turned off the burner with a sigh. If I was going to have to deal with a government raid first thing in the morning, I’d like to do it on a full stomach, at least. Continue reading Hero Status, Chapter 1