First Book of the Grave Series
Genre: paranormal romance
He's handsome, reliable, and punctual-the perfect gentleman when you want him to be. But this dream man is Death's best agent-and now he's got more than his soul to lose . . .
One act of mercy before dying was all it took to turn soldier David Anderson into a reaper-an immortal who guides souls-of-untimely-death into the afterlife. But the closer he gets to atoning for his mortal sin and finally escaping merciless Fate, the more he feels his own humanity slipping away for good.
Until he encounters Sarah Griffith. This skeptical scientist can't be influenced by his powers-even though she has an unsuspected talent for sensing the dead. And her honesty and irreverent sense of humor reignite his reason for living-and a passion he can't afford to feel. Now Fate has summoned David to make a devastating last harvest. And he'll break every hellishly-strict netherworld rule to save Sarah...and gamble on a choice even an immortal can't win.
The accident had blocked traffic in all directions, creating a rush-hour nightmare that would take hours to unravel. David wove a path between the idling vehicles, leaving Adam no choice but to follow in his wake. The stench of gasoline grew stronger as they got closer, until they reached the intersection and the scene came into view.
It was a wonder she was still alive. The young woman’s broken body lay pinned inside the wreckage, the steering wheel crushing her chest like a vise. Her ribs were shattered, puncturing her lungs, making each desperate gasp increasingly painful.
Her passenger got the better end of the bargain. He died on impact; his mangled remains barely recognizable among the tangled heap of metal. Already, his soul was separating from his body, confused and chaotic in its search for some semblance of order.
David rounded what was left of the front end and sank down beside the passenger side door. “Take the driver,” he ordered Adam before turning his attention back to the passenger.
“How?” Adam kneeled down by the driver’s side window, taking in the sight of a life soon to expire.
“Just do it like I told you!” David barked, too occupied to hold his trainee’s hand. Already, a crowd was forming, human vultures eager to witness carnage, so long as it wasn’t their own. Sirens wailed in the distance as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene. They needed to finish the job and get the hell out of Dodge before the cavalry arrived or anyone got suspicious.
David opened himself up and the soul swept into his body, drawn in by the unspoken promise of warmth and answers. He could feel its essence now, could feel the swirling tempest of love, hate, unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and regrets. When the soul realized its body was gone, there was a sharp spike of bitterness, disappointment, and undiluted despair, and David thought, right there with you, pal.
“David?” Adam called out from the opposite side of the car. “A little help over here?”
It took him a few seconds to respond while he waited for the soul to settle down and make itself at home.
“Yeah?” David finally said once he regained his composure.
“Could you come over here, please?”
Moving around the back of the wreck, he crouched down beside Adam. His eyes tracked briefly to the dying driver, her breaths coming closer, her life force bleeding out. A trickle of blood seeped from the corner of her mouth, but she didn’t seem to notice or care. “What is it?”
“She’s not dead, yet,” Adam whispered. “I think I can save her.”
David studied the driver for a fleeting moment, assessing her condition. Already, he could smell the sharp tang of Death, waiting to swoop down to claim its prize. “No, you can’t,” he said with a shake of his head. “She’s not going to make it.”
“How do you know that for sure?” Adam asked, his tone ripe with accusation. He tugged on the handle, but the door wouldn’t budge. “She’s still alive. If I can figure out a way to get her out of the car, maybe I can—”
“No, you can’t,” David interrupted, his patience exhausted. He grabbed Adam by the shirt collar and dragged him away from the window. “I know you mean well, kid, but let’s get something straight. You are an agent of Death, not the angel of mercy.” He gave his apprentice a good shake. “Stop acting like a Boy Scout and do your damn job. If you need to comfort her until she takes her last breath, that’s your choice, not mine. Do whatever the Hell you have to. But do not forget why you’re here.” He nodded toward the woman. “She will die, no matter what you try to do. Get over it.”
He let Adam go and shifted closer to the window. “Take it easy, ma’am,” he said calmly, digging deep for a slice of compassion but coming up with crumbs instead. “Adam’s going to take real good care of you.”
The woman’s gaze drifted up, distant and unfocused. Her mouth cracked open but no noise came out. Then a strangled moan escaped her lips and her eyes went blank.
David grabbed Adam’s arm and dragged him over to the door. “Time to pop your cherry, boy.”
“Rise and shine, Newbie,” David said as he walked past Adam’s rumpled form. “Time to face another fun-filled day of death and dismemberment.”
He’d given the kid an extra half hour to sleep off the booze from the night before, but now they needed to get moving. When Adam mumbled something incoherent and burrowed deeper under the covers, David gave the end of the couch a solid kick. “Come on, get your ass in gear. We’re rolling out in twenty.”
The covers shifted and Adam’s head popped out, squinting like a mole under a floodlight. He pushed himself up to a seated position and swung his legs over the side of the couch. Teeth gritted, he cradled his head in his hands and groaned. “Just kill me now and get it over with.”
“Too late. And you’re not getting off that easy.” David moved to the kitchen and poured two cups of coffee. In a rare act of mercy, he brought one over to Adam. “Here, it’s good and strong. It’ll help with the hangover.”
“Thanks.” Adam accepted the mug and took a healthy swig. “You got any aspirin?”
“Bathroom. Medicine cabinet, bottom shelf.” He watched while the kid gingerly eased up from the couch and lumbered toward the bathroom, coffee mug in hand. “And if you think you’re going to puke, do it now. I’ll kick your ass if you blow chunks in my ride.”
Adam glanced back over his shoulder, his expression saying, “Drop dead,” but instead he uttered, “Thanks for the compassion.”
David could have sworn he heard a muffled, “asshole” right before the bathroom door slammed shut.
Fifteen minutes later the rookie emerged, clean-shaven and hair still wet from the shower but appearing slightly more human and a little less green around the gills. He set his empty coffee cup on the kitchen counter before moving back to the couch to lace up his shoes.
“You still feel like heaving half your body weight?”
Adam shook his head and winced. “Already did.”
“Good, let’s move. We’ve got a busy day, four stiffs on the schedule.” David rinsed both mugs and loaded them into the dishwasher.
“Four?” Adam’s face paled.
“Yeah, but between the two of us, it shouldn’t be too bad.” Besides, it wasn’t like they had much in the way of alternatives. Reap or damnation? When you boiled it down to the bare essentials, there was little left for debate. David stuffed his wallet in his back pocket and picked up his keys. “Two for me, and two for you. First stop’s at the railroad tracks down on Colonial. Give you three guesses how this one’s going to play out.”
About the Author:
Growing up the youngest of three girls, Lori never had control of the remote. (Not that she’s bitter about that. Really. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s not like she’s scarred for life or anything.) That meant a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits – you name it, she watched it. It fed her imagination, and that came in handy when the hormones kicked in and she needed a creative excuse for staying out past curfew.
After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science, Lori worked for nearly a decade in retail management. When that got boring, she switched to financial planning, and then insurance. The writing bug bit a few years later. After completing her first manuscript, she joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at work, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.
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