Friday, July 31, 2015

~ Symposium: Que Sera, Sera ~

Hello Everyone! Welcome to my July Symposium!

This month is all about self-reflection! Writing has its ups and downs, and the publishing industry can be crazy at times. Still, we all love what we do...even when we hate it. *wink, wink* 

With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to ask my friends and fellow authors what they would say if they could give some advice to themselves before they published their first book. Read on, and hopefully all of you can learn from the lessons we've experienced!

LAURIE ROMA: Dear former self - A lot has changed since we first began publishing, but the essentials remain the same. Keep writing what you love, and construct your stories how YOU see them. Reviews are great, and there is nothing better than hearing someone loved a book you’ve written, but not everyone is going to like what you create. Just accept it. You will meet a lot of individuals as you continue on your journey…some good and some bad. Some of those people will become amazing friends, confidants, and a support system that will help you through the good and bad times. There are others who will try to take from you, and who would take great pleasure in seeing you fail. Ignore them, they are nothing to you. Keep working hard, and focus on your own career, because only you control your own fate. Oh, and wear sunscreen.

Katra Tesera is a female Dragon Warrior on a mission. Unsatisfied with the life her family wishes for her back on her home world, she seeks something more for her own future. When the opportunity to visit Earth arises, Katra is eager for the excitement and adventure of traveling the stars. She believes she is ready for whatever lies at the end of her journey, but nothing can prepare her for meeting her mate…the dark and dangerous Tarin warrior, Lord Jaden Tor.

Warlord Jaden Tor is a dedicated leader who is fighting a civil war to save his people. He has always known his path in life, but everything changes the moment he meets the dark-haired beauty with glowing silver eyes. Jaden wants to claim her for his own, however, there is more at stake than his own happiness… 

When legacies are challenged, and with Tartarus in turmoil, can Jaden and Katra find a way to be together, or will their love be shattered by the chaos that threatens everything around them?


S.E. SMITH: Ten steps which I break down into the Three Keys to Success: First, don't try to compete or be someone else. There will always be those that sale more than you and those that sale less. Be true to yourself. Next, write a great book that pulls the reader in (I know, Jeff, you said not to put this in, but it is essential). Readers talk... alot! It doesn't even have to be perfect. If it's not, work on it, but show the readers you are growing. Third, exposure. The more places they see your name/product, the more curious they will be. It doesn't have to cost you a fortune, just have your book available in multiple places and your name in even more. Fourth, stay on top of it. Tweak what is working and redo what isn't, don't be afraid. Look at what the big names are doing for marketing and see how it can be applied with what you have/are doing. Fifth, look at your blurb and your covers. Think long term. Sixth, talk with your fans. Use the discussions on FB, GR, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Amazon. If you build a relationship, they will follow you and talk about you. Seven, have a business plan (a visual one is awesome). This will help you think out three months, six months, a year, five years from now. What do you want, how do you plan to get there? Don't be afraid to tweak it, but keep it in the forefront of your mind. Eight, find people that you trust. To grow, you need people who are willing to work just as hard to make you successful because they can see/believe what you see/believe. Nine, network, but be choosey as to who you deal with and what information you use. While CI (I'm just using CI as an example, don't get mad) has tons of great information, it doesn't work for everyone and it can become so overwhelming you drown in things that aren't relevent to what you are doing/want. Finally, listen to your gut/inner voice. It will guide you. It is much like the GPS, you don't know if you should trust it but it usually gets you where you are going. When you don't listen, you get lost. Your inner voice is the most important tool you have. Don't ignore it. Whether it is a release date, the way a story is going, whether it is the right name for the book/series, the right cover, the right ad, whatever, you will know when/what you should do. This is the hardest thing of all to accept.

When Ariel mentions another human holiday, the women get excited. They aren’t the only ones, though. The Dragon Lords, Vox, and Ha’ven decide they want to be part of the planning this time. Things get a little out of hand when the men begin competing with each other to create the best Christmas ever for the Dragonlings, Roam, and Alice. Fuelled with tales of St. Nick, Rudolph, Frosty, and the newest tale of the Old Dragon of the Mountain, they are determined to light up the palace like never before and turn it into the new North Pole. 

Just when the women think they have everything under control, panic ignites when the Dragonlings, Roam, and Alice suddenly disappear just days before Christmas. What no one expects is for the children to take it upon themselves to go search for the legendary dragon who has threatened to steal the Magic of Christmas. 

Now, their parents are in a race to find the Dragonlings before they lose them forever. Will they be able to find them and celebrate the magic of the season or will the Dragon of the Mountain keep them hidden forever?


N.J. WALTERS: What do I wish I’d known before my first book was published more than a decade ago? Plenty. This is a wild and wonderful business, but it is a business. I’d tell myself to make a plan. I’ve written books in many different genres—erotic romance, contemporary, vampire, werewolf, paranormal, futuristic, shapeshifter, time travel and more. I think I might have been better served by focusing my energies on one or two genres. That’s happened naturally in the past three or four years and I’ve mostly been writing paranormal/shapeshifter books. That may change, but for now, I’m enjoying the ride. I’m technologically challenged, so I’ve struggled to keep up with all the changes, especially social media. I don’t always succeed, but at least I try. The best part of this business is the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. That’s been the biggest and most unexpected pleasure of all.

The curse that imprisoned the Lady of the Beasts’ warriors is broken. Their mates are safe from Hades, but not their human friends. As the only unmated warrior, Stavros retreats to the Louisiana bayou. Better to be alone than put anyone else in danger.
Then he senses a presence in his woods. It’s a woman stalking wildlife with her camera, a woman who has unwittingly put herself on Hades’ radar—for she is Stavros’ mate.

Wildlife photographer Toni Richards doesn’t need any man to be her hero. But when three suspicious men try to kidnap her, she’s shocked when the rare jaguar she’s been tracking leaps to her rescue—then morphs into a man. An incredibly sexy man with a jaguar tattoo snarling across his back.

Despite his better judgment, Stavros can’t keep his distance, even though he knows that when the time comes, much will have to be sacrificed to foil Hades’ plans. Stavros prays Toni will forgive him for what he must do to protect her soul.


LACEY THORN: There are so many things I’ve learned since my first book was published eight years ago. So what would I go back and tell myself? Know your publisher. Google them. Research them. Join loops and listen to what authors are saying about them. There is validity in everything. Where there is smoke there is usually a fire, whether it’s embers or a raging inferno is irrelevant.  Read your contract thoroughly and question anything you don’t understand. Another big lesson for me is to separate business from friendship. It’s hard to mix the two with the wrong people. Differing opinions are bound to come up. Sometimes you have to ask yourself if it is worth a friendship, because it may come down to that. I’ve been very fortunate in those I work with, but I’ve seen others crash and burn. Be smart. Think. Act. Take chances. Be fearless. Chase your dream relentlessly. Never stop believing in happily ever after.

The Avenging Angel…

Gabriel is the man his people need, an avenging angel who brings death to those who torture and massacre shifters. He never planned to take a mate, but once he does, it takes everything he has to walk away. She wears his mark, but for now, that’s all he can give.

A Woman Alone…

Abandoned at birth then shuffled between foster homes, Kenzie knows what it means to be unwanted. Even adoption didn’t make her feel loved when she was booted out at eighteen. She’d expected her mate’s mark would give her a place to belong…and someone to whom she’d belong. It didn’t. She was marked, mated then discarded.


The mark awakens things long dormant inside Kenzie and sends her on a journey for answers. She won’t stop until she learns the truth, even if it tears her world apart. She’ll find the ones who left her to stand alone when they should have loved her. She’ll start with her mate.


KALI ARGENT: Dear Me, a lot of well-meaning people are going to try to give you advice and tell you the “best way” to do just about everything. Listen to them, but also know that there are a million ways to get things accomplished in this business. So, do what works for you and trust your instincts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there will be people who actively want to see you fail. You don’t need these people. Brush off the negativity and keep your head up. Bad reviews aren’t the end of the world. It might feel like it, but it’s going to be okay. Follow your heart, not the trends. Write what you’re passionate about, and readers will be passionate about it, too. And finally, look to tomorrow. Some days, you’ll want to quit, but it’s going to get better. Take a deep breath and just keep moving forward.

When the Purge nearly wiped out humanity and gave rise to the Allied Races Coalition, Roux Jennings refused to become a paranormal’s new pet. Forced into hiding, she remains constantly on the move, never staying in one place for too long. It’s a harsh existence filled with too many dangers and not enough food, but at least she’s free.

Coalition Captain Deke Collins is tasked with protecting the citizens of Trinity Grove—both human and paranormal alike. Presenting the mask of a loyal and dutiful soldier isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary evil. If anyone discovers he’s the leader of a group of rebels secretly known as the Revenant, he won’t live to see the next sunrise.

When circumstances force him into the path of a beautiful and tenacious female, he’s immediately drawn to the human. Dragging Roux into his world may put her in more danger than even he realizes, but it’s a risk he must take to protect her.

In a reality where paranormals rule and humans are nearly extinct, lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and a war for freedom rages in secret.


SUSAN HAYES: Dear me, We wrote our first book, congratulations! Now, comes the hard part. I know we thought writing was the hard part, but we were wrong. We have a lot to learn. Writing is one set of skills, promoting yourself and your books is a whole other skill set, and the rules keep evolving. Be aware of that, and keep learning every day. Be careful who you trust. There are some amazing people in this business, but there are thieves, too. They’ll steal your time, energy, and even your ideas. Guard yourself and copyright your work. Don’t push yourself too hard. A career in writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself permission to relax and have fun sometimes. Learn to love coffee and accept that a full night’s sleep is now a luxury. Your muse is a night owl, deal with it.

Summoned and Sold

Torn from her world and enslaved by magic, Vela’s fate is to be sold to a king who plans to breed her shifter traits into his family bloodline. Torin is heir to a madman’s throne, forced to watch as his father’s depravity pushes the kingdom to the brink of chaos.

One look at Vela & Torin knows he’ll do anything to keep her, but how can she ever learn to love a man she is forced to call master?

Summoned and Stolen

Enslaved by magic and taken as a prize of war, Lily finds herself at the mercy of a cruel new master.When the man who hired Kel to win a war breaks their contract, the mercenary takes a pretty fae pleasure slave as payment instead.

To survive, Lily must put her life in a killer’s hands. To have what her heart desires, she’ll need to heal more than Kel’s wounds. She’ll need to heal his heart.

Summoned and Bound

Two souls bound by fate. Two lovers enslaved by magic.

Vamir Halmar is the Commander of the last Company of Guardians. When a summoning spell targets the wrong man and drops Vamir into the enemy’s hands, he discovers his salvation in the form of Gwyneth Annaren, a beautiful slave with quicksilver eyes and the heart of a warrior.


JENIKA SNOW: If I could give advice to myself before I got published it would be to never give up, to write each and every day, if only for a short time, and to always believe in myself. I’d always tell myself that you can’t get through this without the support of your family, fellow authors, and the readers. A rejection isn’t the end of it, but a little boost to let you know to keep going. Keep your head up, focus on what you want to accomplish, and in the end it’ll be all worth it because you’ll be doing what you love.

Three decades ago a race of humanoid aliens landed on Earth. 

Humans were inferior, weaker, and no match for the stronger, warrior-bred beings known only as Rogues.

Now the Rogues rule Earth.

Greta is a human and in hiding. When she and the other humans are found, she fears she will be used for labor, or as breeding stock.

Tolcan is enforcer for his kind. When he finds humans his job is to capture them. But he takes an interest in one particular female. Going against what his kind believes, he takes her as his own. Something primal and possessive in him takes over. He wants her as his mate. He won’t stop until he’s claimed her, damn the consequences.


DORIS O’CONNOR: The one thing I would say to myself is to trust in your characters. They are always, always, right, and as long as you listen to them, everything will work out just fine. Do your research into publishers. Just because you get an acceptance does not mean you need to accept it, and as exciting as that yes is… DO your research. Trust me, you’ll save yourself lots of heartache down the line. Reviews aren’t personal, even though a bad one will tear you in half. You can’t please everyone, so grow a thick skin, and just carry on writing the best possible story you are capable of producing. Write from the heart, and enjoy! It’s an awesome job!

A son and a mate in one fell swoop—he’ll never live this down.

Panther shifter Sasha Draven might be a Protector, but that doesn’t mean he’s is in a hurry to get his ass kicked protecting clueless humans. This bad boy doesn’t do commitment, but when he comes face to face with his past in the form of his son, every protective instinct he never knew he had kicks in. He will protect what’s his at all costs.

Macey Laine thought she’d escaped the inner city violence threatening her nephew when she left Glasgow behind. The last thing she expects is to come face to face with her sister’s past in her own home. There’s no denying this bad boy biker is Kenny’s father. If only she could deny the instant connection she feels to this stranger, as easily.

Nothing good will come of this, especially when the threat to Kenny tracks them down…


JESS BUFFETT: Honestly, if I could go back and give myself some advice when I first began it would be…don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to take an approach, to write a different style. Don’t be afraid that no one will like your story because chances are someone will, and even if it’s only one person, then that’s one person you made smile, laugh and/or cry depending on the book you write. If the story is in your head, then let it out and don’t worry about when you get it finished, just enjoy the journey.

After recovering from a shooting that took the lives of his best friends, Seth Hall returns to his hometown for the first time in eleven years with his two children in tow. Intent on setting up a happy, stable life for them, he vows not to allow his past to intervene with their future. That is until Jared, the boy who had broken his heart all those years ago, returns to his life a full grown man who knows exactly what he wants...Seth.

Jared Stewart thought he had lost his only chance to be with Seth after a series of misunderstandings and mistakes. When Seth finally comes home and back into Jared’s life, Jared vows to do anything it takes to keep him there. However, while Jared and Seth grow closer, they discover that not everyone is so happy for them.

Will they be finally able to make a life for themselves together? Or will they be torn apart again, by people they thought they could trust?


BETH D. CARTER: I would tell myself to find a genre and stick with it.  When I was first published, I wrote a plethora of genres because I was still figuring out my “voice”, per se.  I have historical, contemporary, futuristic, sci-fi, time travel, rock-n-roll…which is great for creativity but sucks trying to find a target audience.  When you hear the names of certain authors, like Lisa Kleypas or Julia Quinn, you know exactly what story you’re getting.  Not so much when my name comes up, and for that, I think my career has suffered a little.

Ravage is the fierce Alpha of his people, the Lycans.  During the mating celebration, while their guards are down, his people are attacked and twelve are captured for the gladiator games of Kappuah, including Aleirah, the woman Ravage wants above all others.

He tries to resist, but he’s unwilling to see his men and his female harmed by the ruthless tyrants of the games.  He must make the ultimate sacrifice of taking lives if he’s to protect his people.

But there is one secret no one knows, and Ravage is more than willing to show how some myths are based in truth, by letting his inner wolf come out to destroy all those who enslaved them.


KAYLEIGH MALCOLM: Dear Rookie-Author-Me, Goals…You have them, lots of them and sometimes, too many of them. Scheduling writing time and planning on when you want to submit/release your books is great but don’t be afraid to be a bit more fluid. Life is sneaky and there’s nothing Fate (or Loki) likes better than a well laid out plan. So when you don’t make those lofty goals, don’t be so hard on yourself. We’re not sprinting here, it’s not a race. It’s a marathon. You plan on writing for years, you don’t have to get them all finished next week or month or year even. Instead of staying completely focused on your plan and schedule, remind yourself why you started writing in the first place. Fall back in love with your characters. They are the ones who will keep you going on those days when you think astrophysics would be an easier career.

An exciting weekend in Sin City with her friends is just what Audrey needs. Living a mundane, repetitive life in a data entry job and having major body insecurities have held her back from pursuing her deepest fantasies. A trip to Vegas with her best friends might be her chance for a single night of memories to last her for the rest of her life.

Max and Geoff are lovers well known in high-rolling poker games. Spontaneity and exhibitionism brought them together, but now they want a woman to share their lives with. Hopefully, Madame Eve can find them a woman open to their fetishes who isn’t more interested in their money than them.

Audrey is the physical embodiment of everything they desire in a woman. Lush, gorgeous and intelligent. One night isn’t going to be enough with her, but can they convince her to stay?

It doesn’t take long for Audrey to realize she’s way over her head with the gorgeous gamblers. They actually think she’s sexy and desirable. Not only that, they want to share their lives with her! Can she set aside her insecurities and spend her life with them?


C.R. MOSS: The advice I’d give myself is the same that I’d give anyone just starting out… On top of knowing about writing mechanics, learn about marketing, promotion and how to implement it all, then start promoting yourself before the first story is picked up/published. If you’re going the e-book route through e-book publishers, get two or three publishers under your belt right away. If you’re doing the independent route (or e-publisher even), perhaps finishing two or three books first before you send out book one to the world would be a good idea. This way you don’t have to rush building a back list and can space out the publications of the ones you already have done while you work on more. Another suggestion, research the publisher you’re submitting to and make sure they’re a good fit. This way you have a healthy author/publisher relationship.

A woman once shunned. A man now changed. There’s a thin line between love and hate.

When Wiccan practitioner Cassandra VanAlder encounters a man from her past who’d broken her heart, she casts some spells to help herself while wishing karma would deal out some payback. The spells turn against her, and before she knows it, she finds herself falling for him again.

Ryan Keene finds Cassandra enchanting and feels he’s met her somewhere before. She and her best friend, Debi, won’t give him any clues as to her identity. He loves challenges and doesn’t plan to back off from her until he finds the answers he seeks. He’s told he has three dates to win her over.

Will she close off her heart or will she allow herself to feel again?


TEHYA TITAN: I haven’t been in the writing game long, but I’ve still learned a few things that I can share. Writing is a combination of hard work, a good imagination, and a healthy dose of luck. It’s important not to get lost in the creative side of things, but to also acknowledge that publishing is a business, and to do what’s best for yourself long-term. Publishing companies can help you, but be cautious of the contracts, and be sure to read the fine print. Stay true to your own vision, work hard on the stories you create, and most of all…have fun!

Army Lieutenant Jordan Ramsey is having the worst day of her life. Kidnapped, Jordan is taken from Earth and brought to a new world where she is to become the property of an alien warrior that is more demon than man. But even though her future is no longer her own, she won’t go down without a fight…

Kadan Krell is the King of Tor. As a ruthless warrior, he never thought he would find his mate, but when he sees the beautiful human named Jordan, he knows she is destined to be his. Nothing will stop him from claiming what belongs to him, and showing her exactly what it means to be a warrior’s mate.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

~ The Midnight Gala ~

Come join me, Kali Argent, Susan Hayes, Lacey Thorn, Jenika Snow and Erika Reed in New Orleans the weekend of Oct 9-11th for the Midnight Gala Masquerade Ball and other events! 

The weekend will provide a unique opportunity to spend time in an amazing city that is seeped in history and culture.

The event ticket will grant admittance to the Saturday night Midnight Gala Masquerade Ball, as well as an official Q&A and book signing with all the authors earlier that day. Wanna know what's in the swag bag I'm giving away? Well, you'll just have to come and see! 

There’s sure to be a tour or two, plenty of beignets, lots of music, and great conversation. We will be exploring the city, and everyone is encouraged to join us. So, grab a friend or drag your partner with you, and come along to experience the magic of the city and indulge yourself at the masquerade!

I always love dressing up for an evening out, and the masquerade ball is the perfect opportunity. Do you have a bridesmaid dress in your closet you've only worn once? How about a ball gown you've always wanted, but never had an occasion to wear it to? Get it and wear it to The Midnight Gala!

This will be my first author event, and I'm so excited about it. Registration ends September 1st and seating is limited, so don't miss your chance to join us for an amazing weekend. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

~ Guest: Kali Argent - Shadow Soldier ~

I'm so excited to present the first book in the Revenant Series -- SHADOW SOLDIER! Happy Reading!

Available now from:

When the Purge nearly wiped out humanity and gave rise to the Allied Races Coalition, Roux Jennings refused to become a paranormal’s new pet. Forced into hiding, she remains constantly on the move, never staying in one place for too long. It’s a harsh existence filled with too many dangers and not enough food, but at least she’s free.

Coalition Captain Deke Collins is tasked with protecting the citizens of Trinity Grove—both human and paranormal alike. Presenting the mask of a loyal and dutiful soldier isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary evil. If anyone discovers he’s the leader of a group of rebels secretly known as the Revenant, he won’t live to see the next sunrise. 

When circumstances force him into the path of a beautiful and tenacious female, he’s immediately drawn to the human. Dragging Roux into his world may put her in more danger than even he realizes, but it’s a risk he must take to protect her.

In a reality where paranormals rule and humans are nearly extinct, lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and a war for freedom rages in secret.


Nevah shrugged and dropped the subject. “After we get supplies, we really need to move on.”

“That’s the plan.” Roux glanced sideways at her comrade. “We never stay in one place for too long, and we don’t stick around after a raid.”

Nevah shook her head. “That’s not what I mean. We need to get as far away from this place as possible, away from Trinity Grove.”

“What’s in Trinity Grove? Other than a horde of vampires, that is.”

“Not just vampires, but all kinds of Gemini.”

The Gemini. That was what everyone called them—the monsters with two faces, with dual natures. Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and whatever other strange supernatural creatures prowled the night. Normally, most looked no different than her or any other human, but their dark essence always lurked just beneath the surface. Roux didn’t know where the term had originated, but she definitely found it fitting.

After the Purge, the Gemini had been all too eager to come out of hiding. With so few humans left to oppose them, they’d quickly risen to power, forming the Allied Races Coalition. By the end of the year, they’d divided North America into territories—cities and surrounding areas governed by prominent paranormal families—and nothing had been the same since. 

Trinity Grove resided in vampire-controlled territory, but beyond that, Roux didn’t know much about the town or the family that ruled it. 

“I still don’t get it,” she admitted. “Gemini are everywhere, what makes this place so different?”

“They call it the Devil’s Den,” Nevah answered after a long pause, her voice quieter, more subdued. “It’s controlled by the Diavolos family. Very old, very powerful, and very deadly. The rumor is their roots go all the way back to the amphitheaters of Rome.”

“Like gladiators?” Roux snorted and shook her head. “Are you serious?”

Nevah didn’t return her smile. “Exactly like gladiators. They’re not strangers to carnage, Roux, and they won’t be merciful if they catch us.”

As far as Roux could tell, they sounded no different than any other member of the Coalition, but she didn’t argue. The trees had started to thin, their branches trimmed back from the two-lane highway as houses and businesses appeared on the side of the road. Just ahead, past a two-story farmhouse with blue siding and white shutters, the grocer stood illuminated by a pair of yellow streetlamps. 

Bright paint decorated the glowing, storefront windows in a summer mural of colorful flowers and a corny depiction of a smiling sun. A shingled awning stretched over a wooden porch that wrapped around the sides of the small store, and by all appearances, the grocer had once been someone’s home. 

As usual, Cade went first, motioning for everyone to stay put until he’d crossed the highway and ducked into the shadows at the corner of the building. Denny followed next, moving quicker than his fragile appearance would suggest he could. Once Greg and Brody had joined them, Nevah stepped out of the tree line, her gaze cautious and alert as she started across the street.

Roux crouched in the bushes, sliding her utility knife from its sheath as she listened for Nevah’s footsteps to fade. The humidity of the day paired with the falling temperatures of the night produced a hazy fog that covered the ground and swirled around her feet. A light mist had begun to fall, and while it wouldn’t wash away the weeks of dirt and grime, Roux closed her eyes, allowing herself a moment to enjoy the cool water against her skin. 

The crunch of gravel reached her ears, meaning Nevah had reached the grocer’s parking lot. Rising from her position, Roux kept low, checking her surroundings once again before stepping around the neatly trimmed hedge. She’d just stepped across the white line on the edge of the asphalt when a scream pierced the air.


A lump formed in her throat as her heart pounded a hard rhythm against her sternum. Torn between helping her group and saving her own ass, Roux stood frozen, one foot still planted on the street. She’d never proclaimed to be brave, and it wasn’t as though she could do anything useful. More than likely, she’d only end up dead, or worse…captured. Better to be dead than what awaited her in the city.

Against her better judgment and all of her instincts, Roux released the breath she’d been holding and darted across the highway. Instead of a direct route to the grocer, however, she veered to the left, slipping into the darkness cast along the side of the farmhouse. Another cry rose up on the wind, this one deeper, more guttural, and Roux instantly recognized it as Cade’s.

A line of peach trees separated the residential home from the small store, its low-hanging branches creating a perfect swath of shadows. Gathering her courage, Roux pushed away from the side of the house and hurried across the sodden grass to the nearest tree, just as the rain began to fall in earnest. With her back pressed against the wide trunk, she paused, fighting to control her rapid breathing. 

“Your plan is what, exactly?” a low, masculine voice asked from somewhere in the darkness to her right. “Rescue your friends armed with a single knife and determination?”