It’s career day at my kid’s school and he’s asked me for a special favor. He’s really proud that I’m an author and asked me to bring in one of my characters from my Para-Ops series. Now, you have to understand, this is my oldest kid and he’s a creative soul. He drew me a picture of my vampire hero, Knox Devereaux, the team leader, that I absolutely love. And he’s even started writing his own book. Since I really want to encourage his creativity (and my “cool mom” rep with his friends), I agree to his request. “Just this once,” I tell him.
But as I’m waiting outside his classroom for Lucy Talbot to arrive (she’s the team’s feline mage and the least intimidating of the six), I suddenly spot something that makes me groan. Oh no. What is Wraith doing here?
Wraith is the heroine of Chosen By Fate, the second book in my Para-Ops series. She strides up to me in her black leathers and four-inch blue stilettos. Her skin is tinged blue and her filmed-over eyes are hidden by her ever-present sunglasses. Her spiked hair is white and reminiscent of Billy Idol, but she has big breasts and an even badder attitude.
“What are you doing here?” I ask. I look frantically around and hope no one’s seen her.
Wraith’s chewing her cinnamon gum and pops a bubble before answering me. “Lucy can’t make it. She’s…tied up…at the moment.”
I wince. “The feline heat already? Didn’t she--?”
Wraith shrugs. “Every seven days for seven days, remember? You’re the one who stuck her with the affliction.”
I chew my lip. Of course I remember. It was part of Lucy’s character arc. The feline mage had to accept her innate sexuality and stop trying so hard to prove she wasn’t like her sexually adventurous (okay, more like sexually addicted) mother. There were things she could do to ease the heat, however, at least temporarily.
“She couldn’t take some licorice…” I begin, but Wraith rolls her eyes.
“She was all out. Look, the guys got called in by FBI Director Mahone so I was the only team member available. Do you need me or not?”
I almost say “not,” but something stops me. Wraith’s giving a good impression of not caring, but even with her sunglasses I can tell Wraith cares a lot about my answer. Of course she does. Her emotional wound is all about not having a place in the world. She’s the ultimate freak, even by Otherborn standards, with no pulse or brain activity, and no need to eat or sleep. She needs sex, but rarely gets it because being touched causes her pain.
I almost wince again. Yeah, I put my characters through the wringer before giving them their happily ever afters. Wraith especially. I’m surprised she even talks to me.
I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I’m not sure bringing her into a classroom of 6th graders is a wise idea. Not only might she scare them, but what if one of them starts teasing her? Or gets too grabby and ends up hurting her? Plus, Wraith curses like a drunken sailor. I don’t want to be responsible for a bunch of sixth graders with potty mouths.
She looks at her watch. “Fine. You don’t want me here. I’m gone.”
She turns on her heel, chin high, hips swaying, but I grab her arm over her leathers, which won’t hurt her, and tug her around. “Wait. What do you want to talk to them about? Because the war, the experiments with the mage, the sex clubs…”
She frowns. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Not exactly kid-appropriate topics. I’m not stupid, you know.”
“I know, Wraith. You’re one of the smartest females I know. That’s why I wanted you on the team.”
She looks slightly mollified and nods her head. “How about I tell them about Caleb?”
My eyes bug out. She and Caleb are hot for each other! The human psychic shaman is after her like gangbusters, unfazed by her desperate attempts to push him away. The only reason she even tries is because she wants him so much, and that makes her vulnerable, and Wraith doesn’t like being vulnerable with anyone.
“I’ll talk to them about how different we are,” she explains. “How we didn’t like each other at first.”
I suppress a smile. That was putting it mildly. The first day she met Caleb, she shoved a gun under his chin. She narrows her eyes as if she can read my mind but keeps talking.
“I can tell them how--well, sometimes you have to give people a second chance and look at your similarities rather than your differences.”
I stare at her. Wow. She’d had some great character development when I wasn’t looking. “So you and Caleb…” I begin.
Her expression shutters. “You’ll have to wait until the book comes out. October 4.”
I burst out laughing. “I wrote the second book. I know what happens and when it comes out. But I don’t know what you guys do on your own time, you know…”
Wraith smiles slightly. “Apparently what I’m doing is talking to a sixth grade class about being tolerant and making new friends. Or am I wrong?”
Again, there’s that hint of vulnerability in her voice. In the way she carries herself.
What the heck. Wraith isn’t safe or predictable, and she’s used to acting tough to protect herself, but something tells me she isn’t here to do me a favor so much as experience something she’s always wanted to.
“Let’s go,” I say.
We walk through the classroom door together. The first thing I see is my son’s face light up. The teacher’s eyes widen with a surprise, but then she motion us in. The kids gather around us, chattering and asking Wraith questions. She kneels down to their level and takes off her sunglasses. For a second, I see tears shining in her eyes. Tears of joy. She swipes them away fast and turns to the kid next to her. “Do you like ABBA?”
I smile when my son gives me a thumbs up sign.
Yep, mission accomplished.
Wraith was definitely going to help me with the “cool mom” factor.
Virna DePaul is a former criminal prosecutor and now National Bestselling Author for Berkley (paranormal romantic suspense), HQN (single title romantic suspense) and HRS (category romantic suspense). Her upcoming release Chosen By Fate (Para-Ops Novel 2) comes out October 4, 2011. http://www.virnadepaul.com/
Blurb of Chosen By Fate:
There's a fine line between life and death, pleasure and pain....
Five years after the Second Civil War ends, humans and Otherborn— humanlike creatures with superhuman DNA—still struggle for peace. To ensure the continued rights of both, the FBI forms a Para-Ops team with a unique set of skills.
Although he keeps company with a vampire and a were, human Shaman Caleb O’Flare can hold his own. But neither his psychic ability nor his healing powers can help his sexy-as-hell teammate, Wraith—a ghost with no memory of her human existence, one who cannot experience touch without pain.
No wraith has managed to exist past its tenth year, so Wraith’s time is about to run out. She wants only two things before accepting her fate: to learn her human identity and experience one night with Caleb. Willing to risk any amount of pain, Wraith propositions him. But when a sign of impending death appears on his chest, Wraith sacrifices her own needs on the chance that sex with her could kill him.
Caleb doesn’t understand Wraith’s change of heart but refuses to let her push him away. As the team travels to Los Angeles to investigate a series of crimes in the feline community, Caleb sets out to prove to Wraith that pleasure and love are worth any risk, including death.
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