The Caregiver Series

Out now! THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series)

Yay! Happy dances are in order. The Beast has been released!

The Beast

The trip to Puerto Rico proves to be even worse than the nightmare Scarlett thought it would. Adrian’s assassination starts what becomes a series of revelations that will bring her face to face with demons from her past.

Stakes get higher as she learns this is more than a government conspiracy but a personal vendetta led by a man scarred by the same two people who made Scarlett’s early years a living hell.

Everyone she loves is in danger and she’s vowed to protect them no matter what. And they’ve vowed to fight by her side in return. What she isn’t counting on is that in love and war, sacrifices must be made.

Get your copy now!

 

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/395358

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The Beast – Chapter 2 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 2

There was no chair that could contain me inside that hospital, nor a corridor long enough to stop my pacing. Millions of things were bubbling inside me.

We had all been questioned about the incident but Police Superintendent Rivero dismissed us. He was a good friend of Adrian’s and obviously affected by what had happened.

There was a Christmas tree next to the nurses’ station with colored lights flashing to high-pitched electronic carols. I was making my way towards it to rip it apart when Armand intercepted me.

Scarlett, you should eat something.” His hand landed on the crook of my elbow, dragging me to a corner with him.

You shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here; take you somewhere safe.”

Scarlett, calm down.” He held on to my upper arms, leaning over to level our gazes. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

He saved you.” I still couldn’t grasp what had happened.

Sit down with me. Let me get you something.”

He wasn’t the target after all. It was you. It was always you.”

They’d be very stupid if they tried to get me here with so many cops around.”

There was so much frustration inside me. I knew I had to calm down before continuing the conversation so I shrugged out of his grip and started walking away when Bobby came into sight.

He stretched out a hand to my shoulder but didn’t touch me, only caressed the air around it. I knew that gesture. He used to do that whenever he knew I was in distress.

This particular kind of distress.

The rifle was remotecontrolled. There was no one inside the apartment.”

Then we must get to that second hotel.”

No one there either. No documents, nothing. Superintendent Rivero will get us the CCTV videos.”

He glanced at Armand behind me but I pulled him back. “How’s Raakin?”

Devastated. Mahmoud isn’t exactly cooperating. How are you feeling?”

I’m not sick, just pregnant.”

You know what I mean.”

It was starting to dawn on me that I had been exposed to all of them beyond belief. I was feeling naked all of a sudden and there was no amount of clothes that could cover me up.

Like shooting myself.” I pushed him aside and stormed out of the corridor.

I heard Armand’s footsteps begin to follow me, then stop. Bobby must have been the one to bring him to a halt.

Maybe a walk would help me clear my mind. A walk that, if I let myself go with how I felt, would never end.

I didn’t get far though; Kathy had arrived with Eliza and Oksana and her arms went around me the moment I was within her reach.

I can’t, Scarlett…” She cried as she buried her fingers into my aching back. “I can’t lose him.”

I wrapped my arms around her and filed my thoughts for later. “It’s all right.”

He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

I shut my eyes for a second. “I think yes.” I was good at omitting information but never at lying, not in situations like this one.

She trembled and sobbed against me and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for making her go through this.

Sit down. We’re waiting for the doctors to come out and tell us how he’s doing.”

I gestured Eliza to get her into a nearby waiting room. However, when I pushed Kathy off me, she clasped my hand.

Don’t leave me.”

Kathy, I…”

Please?”

Dammit. I obliged. It was the least I could do. Armand was relieved to see me walk into that waiting room and sit next to Kathy, our hands entwined. Eliza sat on the opposite side and took her other hand. Bobby, Armand, Rhys, and Rooney each took a seat at the other end of the room.

I encountered Armand’s gaze the moment Kathy put her head on my shoulder. The amount of love in his eyes made me shiver. How could he look at me after all the shit that had been stirred?

George walked into the room, followed by Larry and, you guessed it, a doctor wearing scrubs and a face of pure defeat.

Everyone stood to hear the detailed explanation of the fatality of Adrian’s wound. I couldn’t listen; as much as I strained my ears no sound made it in. All I felt was Kathy’s hand squeezing mine before going limp and sliding down. I pulled her up with the help of Eliza and George and we set her back in her seat.

Adrian Lang was brain-dead. Breathing with the aid of machines.

A surge of anger ran through me and I tensed under Kathy’s half-dizzy wailing. She was pressing herself further against my chest, her face hidden under my chin and her hands making fists on the collar of my jacket.

I gathered her in my arms. For a moment I wished I could join her, that actual tears were forming in my eyes, but all I could conceive was an immeasurable anger. I couldn’t comfort her. I couldn’t comfort myself. I should’ve felt happy or, if not happy, at least okay with it. But death and murder have one unwavering characteristic: they never feel as you imagine.

The doctor asked if we wanted to see him and, of course, Kathy jumped to say yes.

I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see anyone. Dead or alive.

Armand put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and I had to suppress the sudden need to duck away from it.

We were led into a room smelling of disinfectant. The constant beeping of monitors and the rhythm of the ventilator served as background music. Kathy kept an arm around my waist as we entered together, leaving the rest to watch through a glass window.

Her breathing hitched as we inched towards the man who lay on that bed. His blanched, lifeless face struck me. He looked so peaceful. Not even his signature frown was left.

The crying subsided when Kathy was able to touch him. I studied her profile and she bore no resemblance to the young woman who had sashayed her way around the party the first night after our arrival. No, this was someone else altogether. It was a woman who was slowly landing on the realization that there was an invisible knife stuck in her chest.

Adrian,” she whispered, her hand sliding away from me to caress his face.

There was movement outside and I saw Jin-Jing pushing through to peek into the room. I shot her a warning look, shaking my head, and she understood that it wasn’t the right moment.

He loved you.” I rubbed Kathy’s arm.

I know.” Then she turned to me. “He loved you, too. Even though he wronged you, believe me, he loved you. There were too many conflicted feelings inside him about you.”

I wasn’t catching her drift and, sincerely, I didn’t know if I wanted to.

We’d have a conversation about this later. It’d be more prudent to let the body get cold before we started hashing out truths about him.

I glanced at the window and there was only Jin-Jing now. Kathy saw her and beckoned her to come in.

The small dark eyes framed by the cascading black hair were filled with tears. She took a couple of shy steps then halted, obviously taken aback by the sight of the man lying on that bed. She exchanged a glance with me and I pressed my lips together into a thin line.

Kathy took Jin-Jing’s hand and gently tugged her forward. To this, I stepped back. Not that the latter complained. We were both trying to drop the snideness but failing miserably.

We were sharing a moment of silence when the door opened and a black woman in her late twenties sporting a beautiful mane of curly brown hair peeked in. The moment her eyes fell on Adrian she brought one hand to her mouth, the other to her chest.

Kathy smiled at the weeping woman. “Daniela. So glad you came.”

Reluctant, calculated steps took the woman from the door to the bedside, from where she stroke Adrian’s cheek with trembling fingers.

Bloody hell, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Meet the Characters: Armand Sayer

“Even the strongest and wickedest of us need to find solace.” He whispered, as if not to disrupt her peacefulness. “And I won’t let anyone destroy ours.”

Armand Sayer

Born in London, England, around late July 1948 (don’t have an exact date but he’s a Leo) which makes him 65 years old at the time of book 2. Fathered Briony with his first wife, Marie. I haven’t come up with too many details about his upbringing but it’s mentioned that he comes from an upper class family. No sad or troubled past here. Went to Oxford, where he met business partners Rhys Owen and Eamon Rooney. He got into drug dealing like anyone else enters a business and that is the reason why he conducts it as so. His two closest allies in London at the time of the series are Max MacGowan and Rafael Cisneros.

More than try and come up with details about Armand, I’d like to tell the reasons behind the character. With Armand I wanted to create the kind of bad guy every woman would fall in love with. He’s loving, caring, charming, he’d be the kind of guy you’d bring to your mother… if he wasn’t a drug lord. And that’s the thing about him that I like the most, that he deals in a world ruled by coldness and violence but hasn’t let it turn him into a cold-blooded monster. He’s nicknamed The Beast because of how ruthless he is, however, his inner circle knows how much of a softie he is on the inside. Which is exactly what Scarlett needs. A man that understands her line of work and can love her without trying to change that.

Also, it was what people like George, Ollie, Bradley, and Cat needed. Armand has been a guardian angel for them; someone that has come to their lives in order to rescue them from whatever mess they were in and give them a second chance. All of Armand’s men are loyal to him thanks to this, the fact that he’s been there for them when they needed him.

When it comes to family nobody feels as strong about it as he does. Maybe Vincenzo Pietri does, but that won’t be explained until Book 4. 😉 The biggest dilemma in Armand’s life was the fact that Marie didn’t approve of his business and that went on up until when Scarlett came in and dragged him into her own mess. And it is that same love he’s expressed towards everyone around him that makes him follow her and try and fight the fucktards wanting to hurt her.

In summary, Armand is the villain we all hate to love because he has so many redeeming qualities even I forget he’s a drug lord every now and then.

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

The Beast – Chapter 1 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 1

Arms. Around me.

Hands. Reaching out to me.

George’s face inching closer. Bobby’s eyes, wide as saucers, as he runs towards me.

Someone touched my shoulder and I cringed, even though I couldn’t feel a thing.

It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t hear either.

Hands helped me to my feet, coaxed me to follow.

At first I wasn’t sure whose hands they were; all I knew was that they were warm, that they felt safe. I focused my eyes and it was Bobby who was dragging me away, walking against the current of police and paramedics rushing to the scene.

Ollie welcomed me into the van, sat me on a seat next to his, and covered me with a blanket without uttering a word. Then Armand climbed in with Bradley and we started moving. The rattling of the wheels on the cobblestones and the swaying of the giant metal cube added to my discomfort. I wanted to puke, to run, to scream, to snap in some way, but I had no strength.

The only time I lifted my eyes was to meet Armand’s. Even when I tried, I couldn’t get the tears to flow. It felt as if they were flooding the inside of my face but encountering a dam when they reached my eyeballs. He noticed and held me in a tight embrace.

Adrian Lang, my grandfather, was dead. My teacher and tormentor had given his life to save the man I loved.

I, on the other hand, hadn’t saved his life in return.

The day I became the protagonist of my own book

These have been some very weird days for me. Since the 6th my life has taken a turn I never foresaw. My sister suffered a stroke that day and died on the 14th. It’s been really hard for me and my parents (we were their only two daughters). Add to that another friend in the hospital and a close friend of my husband dying on the 21st and you get the picture.

However, what’s been even weirder is how all of a sudden I found myself inside my protagonist’s skin. The Beast (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will come out this month and the situation with my sister felt as if taken from the first chapters of that book. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but it all begins in a hospital during Christmas time. Exactly like it was for me and my family. The long corridors, the uncertainty, even the Christmas tree I, like Scarlett, wanted to rip off the wall.

There’s a point in the story where Armand, sensing Scarlett’s distress, brings her a pint of chocolate ice cream. My husband hasn’t read the manuscript, so he had no idea about it when he came home during my sister’s hospital ordeal with a pint of chocolate ice cream in an effort to cheer me up. It was a shock, to say the least, but I like to think it prepared me for what it was to come. It was a confirmation that I was, indeed, living my own writing.

I like to think it gave me the courage to tell my sister to let go if she had to while she was under an induced coma, that everything would be all right, that there was nothing she should worry about.

They say one should write about stuff one knows. When I wrote those first chapters of Book 3 I hadn’t been through anything like it. Now that I have and have reread them, I can’t help but feel the sudden chills running through my system because I recognize myself in those words, in those paragraphs, and in those conflicted feelings.

Now I feel closer to Scarlett than ever before and that can only mean that writing Book 4 will be even a wilder roller coaster than Book 3 was. And that’s a lot to say.

Meet the Characters: Scarlett Lang

I’d been wanting to write about the characters in my series, The Caregiver, for some time now, although I believe it’s a little too early to do so, don’t ask me why (maybe it has to do with the fact that I refuse to think of myself as an author). However, The Beast (Book 3) will be released into the wild soon and I thought it would be nice to give you some inside info about the main characters in the series (I may get to the secondary and tertiary too because I love them all so much).

Consider this something in the likes of loose character notes because these people tend to take matters into their own hands most of the time, leaving me as the mere channel through which they tell their stories.

So, let’s get this party started with the protagonist:

Scarlett Lang

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, USA, around March 1981 (don’t have an exact date but she’s an Aries) which makes her 31 years old at the time of books 1 and 2. Granddaughter to Adrian Lang, daughter to Daniel Lang and Margaret Lang. Became an orphan after her parents’ murder at 12 and went to live with her grandfather up until she was 17, when she married Xavi Pontevedra and moved to Puerto Rico. She didn’t become an active hit woman until after that marriage ended (only lasted a year) and she was taken under Rafael Cisneros’ wing back in Miami (right around 1999 – 2000). Rafael Cisneros was the one who coaxed her into becoming a nurse, all the while employing her as hit woman and helping her become the well-known assassin she is. Cisneros’ half-brother, Roberto, is another main character in her personal history, turning from childhood crush to lover around 2002 and keeping an on and off relationship with her until she’s offered the Interpol position within The Filius Project in 2005. The Gibraltar mission takes place in 2007, the Sayer mission in 2012.

      I wrote a post about face claims on my Tumblr and put up a collage with pics of the men in the series because it’s been so much easier to find male actors to fit my characters than female ones. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and like to think of every female character as an extension of myself, although the male ones are also extensions of myself… Or maybe it’s because I’m so jealous of them I can’t even… Emotions aside, I picture Scarlett a lot like actresses Emily Hampshire, Jemima Rooper, or Suranne Jones.
      I didn’t want to make her a sex symbol, nor a masculinized woman. A friend once commented on how much she liked to read scenes where Scarlett’s in a room filled with men and not have the situation turn into a sexual one (she was mainly referring to this vignette). Scarlett’s confident about herself and her abilities to the point of not having to prove them to anyone. And she prefers shirts and trousers rather than dresses, but I want to believe I’ve given her enough emotional balance to say she’s not a man with a vagina, or a woman with a dick, whatever rocks your boat. There is a lot of sex in Scarlett’s past. Part of it is revealed in Book 2, but Book 3 shows a tad more, and the possible prequels I’m working on thanks to the vignettes do have a heavy sexual component. There is the subject of BDSM, nevertheless, this is no Fifty Shades. I just wanted to show a female character that can walk into a dark alley and, although she’ll be scared shitless, can deal with the situation should she get mugged. And that, of course, enjoys sex as much as the next guy without feeling guilty about it.
      Also, I like that she’s got body issues like any other woman, to the point of even mentioning the fact that she can’t wear a gun between her thighs because she lacks the coveted thigh gap. This is also a loaded weapon in the hands of the wrong people. In Book 2 her new superior, DS Ethan Young, uses it when he tells her “I wasn’t aware that the Sayer mission was a deep penetration one. Romulus assured me you weren’t a honeytrap. Seeing you now I can tell what he meant. However, I know he was aware of the fact that Sayer was never a shallow man, unlike his colleagues.” The bastard. She may seem unfazed right then but, believe me, that kind of talk does hurt. And then he goes into slut-shaming mode in Book 3 and will keep it up in Book 4 because he’s a dickhead like that.
      Scarlett isn’t a complicated character, at least from my point of view. She’s pretty simple and even though she thinks she’s got a hold on life, she doesn’t. The situation she’s in is what’s complicated about all this and she’s trying to figure things out as well as she can. She’s made a lot of mistakes (haven’t we all?) and will keep making them until the day she dies.
      She’s no Cinderella. She’s a hit woman, for fuck’s sake. And even when she’s been dragged into this whole Filius Project shit, she’s never stopped being one of the best assassins in the world, which translates into a lot of money in the bank and a lot of traveling around. This being said, she’s no poor girl falling in love with a filthy rich prince. As a matter of fact, she may be one of the few that can look a drug lord like Armand in the eye when it comes to both nerves and financial stability. She doesn’t need anyone giving her anything, to the point where, in Book 3, she’ll be the one gifting Armand some pretty cool and expensive stuff. She has a life apart from him and his people and a lot of it will come to the light in Book 3.
      Even though she could be, she’s not alone. There are some revealing scenes in Book 2 where readers learn how Scarlett was abused as a child. This whole sad, dark past subject worked itself into the story. It was never my intention to do that but, somehow, it fit. However, this doesn’t mean she’s lived a secluded or estranged life, quite the contrary, she took it to herself to surround her persona with friends and allies that, although work related, regard her as part of their families and will do everything they can to help and protect her. Many of them don’t know what actually happened in her past (hence Bobby Cisneros’ reaction when it’s revealed) even when her grandfather, Adrian Lang, was also their acquaintance, yet that didn’t stop them from adding her to their circles. There’s Eliza Pontevedra too, who lived such abuses in tandem and acts as a sisterly safe haven when the past comes at them in waves. Then, when Armand comes into the picture, we can all see how she wins over his people and manages to bend them for her own purposes.
      “You seldom kill for your own benefit, Scarlett.” When Han, the Chinese Dragon Head, said this while I was writing Book 3 I had to pause and think for a while. There’s a scene in Book 2 where Scarlett has a bit of a breakdown after a very tense moment between her, Adrian, Bobby, and a very concerned George. But when Han spoke those words it all became so clear. Scarlett’s a hit woman. This means she’s paid to kill people that other people want dead, not her. Now the tables are turned and she’s finding out how different it is when you’re killing people you want dead yourself. It’s a whole other game she’s entering and it will prove not to be as easy as she thought.
All this said, I want to add that there’s a bigger character arc in the works between the vignettes/prequels and the books already in the series. This can be seen already in the vignettes (another one of those things that’s come as a surprise while writing them). The Scarlett pre-Gibraltar mission is very different from the post-mission one in a lot of ways. I like to think the pre-mission Scarlett would’ve never thought of getting married again, not even remotely, much less let herself get caught up in the illusion of planning a wedding and a happy ending kind of future…
But you’ll have to read Book 3 to know what happens with that!

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett even further

[Crossposting from thecaregiverseries.wordpress.com]

I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.

“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.

After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.

“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”

“You took my other key.”

“I did.”

“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”

“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.

I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.

“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.

“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.

Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.

“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”

“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”

“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”

“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”

“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”

“I have a flat.”

“No.”

“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”

“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”

Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?”

“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”

It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”

“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”

“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”

“No. They don’t.”

I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”

“Maybe you can teach me, then.”

I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.

I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.

“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”

“Wait.” He shook his head.

“What?”

“Where’s the sentiment in this?”

“Sentiment?”

Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?

“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”

Huh?

“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”

“And what was that?”

“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”

“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”

Oh don’t fuck with me!

“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”

I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.

“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”

Now he was getting on my nerves.

My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.

“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”

He smiled. Wide.

I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.

“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”

“Are you?”

He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.

“To the very last second.”

I took the flower and held it to my eyes.

The mobile ceased vibrating.

And so it began.

——————————

Go to: The Vignettes

Bye bye KDP Select

Not exactly a bye bye because it’s just for Book 1 of The Caregiver Series. I’d probably drop Torn in the near future, that’s still to be decided. I want to make Book 1 perma-free to try and give the rest of the books a kick in the butt. Let’s see how that goes.

Anyway, The Caregiver is now free of the Amazon exclusivity shackles and will become available through other channels before the end of the year, in time to celebrate the release of Book 3. Yay!

For now, I’ve given The Caregiver Series its own blog. Book 1 is available there, as well as the vignettes (I’ve been writing more of those lately) and some other neat info you may find useful or just plain entertaining (like this list of characters). More things will be added with time, so keep your eyes peeled.

Also, if you’re a Wattpad user, The Caregiver is now available there too so feel free to check it out: http://www.wattpad.com/28636561

That’s it for now, folks. ‘Til next time.

On how Scarlett met some of Armand’s most trusted men (Meet characters from Book 2!)

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer.

This vignette is a BONUS! In this one she meets characters that will make their appearance in Book 2: Ollie, Bradley and Cat.

Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , and Vignette #3.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heaven was pissing down at us. The Bentley’s wipers weren’t enough as George drove us both to where we were heading: to meet with three of Armand’s most trusted men.

I must confess I was nervous about it. These guys weren’t known for their gentle ways. That, and the fact that George wasn’t exactly the nicest of people when it came to interacting with me, made of this endeavor one that threatened to leave the palms of my hands bleeding, with my nails dug into them.

Yeah, yeah, I’m a hitwoman, and a fucking undercover agent, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel nervous every now and then. We’re all human after all.

All the tension vanished, however, when we met with them on a street corner in Vauxhall. Standing under two matching black umbrellas were three men in equally black coats.

“Cat. Bradley. Ollie.” George said dryly. “This is Scarlett.” He wasn’t happy I was there. We were both out when Armand called us. He’d tried to convince him it wasn’t a good idea to take me with him, to no avail.

“About time we met you!” Ollie, with his longish curls and matching bright eyes, shook my hand eagerly. He wasn’t as tall as the other two, which made me like him instantly. “We’ve heard so much about you.”

“Hope it was good.”

George cleared his throat. Heh.

The one in the middle was the tallest, Bradley. He just smiled, and, oh god, what a smile… And then there was Cat, with his dark brown skin and green eyes. He waved at me and we made our way into the hotel.

Cat led us to the lifts, while Ollie and Bradley had an animated conversation that eased all my uneasiness.

“So, I waited and waited for the couple to show up.” Ollie’s raspy voice echoed through the hotel’s lobby, “it’s a two-million-pounds property and it’s exactly what they’re asking for. Armand would murder me if I let a client like that down.”

The lift’s doors slid open and we got in. George’s facade was as stern as always, yet the other three were grinning all the way.

Nobody would’ve guessed what they were really there for.

“Did they show up?” Cat asked when Ollie paused.

“They did, yeah… with a fucking dog.”

“A dog? There’s nothing wrong with that.” Bradley’s Australian accent clashed with the Brits’, as he leaned on the back wall, his umbrella dripping on the carpet.

“Not just any dog, you muppet. A Great Dane. The thing was the size of a horse.” They all laughed, even George. “No,” he proceeded, “but that’s not it. They bring it into the house, and it has wooden floors. The thing is scuffing the wood as it sniffs around. I tell the client and he just cocks an eyebrow at me and keeps walking.”

“Armand would’ve given him a piece of his mind.” Cat commented as he held the doors open for us. “Last time I had a client with a pet in an open house I shut the door on them.”

The corridor was dimly lit and the carpet had already been stained by wet shoes.

“You guys work for Armand’s real estate firm?” I had to know.

They turned their heads slowly to me, their longer strides leaving Ollie and me a few steps behind.

“Yeah, we all do.” Ollie stayed with me once we reached the room they were looking for. “It’s our day job. Except for George, of course.”

George merely looked up, then back towards the closed door in front of us.

“Open up, Geoffrey.” Bradley knocked and received no answer. “We know you’re in there.”

“So, what happened with the dog?” I brought Ollie’s attention back to me.

“Open the door, Geoffrey. Or else,” Cat warned.

“Not only did it scuff the floor. It pissed on one of the bedroom’s carpets!”

“Liar!” Bradley swiveled towards us.

“It bloody did! And, well, you know, the buyer didn’t want no stains on it.”

“Geoffrey!” George was knocking now. “Open the fucking door.”

“I had to pay to get the carpet cleaned and the floor restored before Armand learnt about it. With me own money!”

“Bradley,” George stepped back from the door, “do your thing.”

Ollie pulled me to safety as we watched Bradley kick down the door.

Forget stealth. These men got in and rummaged through the room like rabid dogs, except no pissing on the carpet.

“Geoffrey… come out, come out and play,” Cat crooned sarcastically.

It was a small room with only a dresser with a TV on it, a bed, a wardrobe, and an equally small bathroom.

George signaled me to stay by the door by raising an open hand at me.

Bradley opened the wardrobe to find a thin man no older than thirty-five hiding behind a large coat. “There you are!” He caught him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him out with a swift movement and threw him face up on the bed. “You think you can hide from us?”

Ollie cocked his head for me join him while he thrashed the dresser, throwing its contents all over the floor. I glanced at George.

“Oh, don’t mind ‘im.” Ollie nudged me, then whispered, “he’s a bit of a stuck up, ain’t ‘e?”

“You don’t have to say that twice.” I dug my hands into the drawer and felt my way around it until my fingers hit something cold and solid.

A folding knife.

“Where’s the money?” Bradley was shaking the poor man against the mattress. “Where the fuck is it?”

“I…” He could barely answer over the manhandling he was being subjected to. “I don’t…”

One rough push threw him, face down, on the floor and Cat was on him, punching his face mercilessly.

I gave Ollie the knife and he scoffed at the sight of it.

George knelt down next to the now broken-nosed man. “The money, Geoffrey. This is your last chance. We’ve given you one too many already.”

“Look what he had hiding in a drawer.” Ollie handed the knife to George.

“I did’uh mean to use it.” Geoffrey cried, his knuckles white from his tight grip on Cat’s wrists, who was holding him down by the neck. “I don’t have the money, but I will. I swear.”

“MacGowan said he lent it to you,” George said in a nonchalant tone while holding the knife to his face. “He didn’t want to get on Armand’s bad side, since he was the one who recommended you.”

George stood, giving the man no time to retort before Bradley and Cat went back to beating the crap out of him.

A gesture from Ollie cued me to follow him to the wardrobe where the bloke had been hiding and resume our search. There was nothing there either.

“Stop! Please!” Geoffrey’s screams were muffled by Cat’s fist.

“Not until you tell us what you did with that money!” Bradley’s shitkickers landed on his ribs, getting a loud crack in response.

“He did’uh give me nofing!” He rolled to his side, his arms wrapped around his torso. “MacGowan’s a fucking liar.”

Ollie glanced at me and I had to peel my eyes from the scene unfolding in front of our eyes to meet his glance. I hadn’t realized how mesmerized I was by it.

Bradley’s leg was travelling backwards when Ollie called him out, “Oi, give her a chance.”

“No,” George snapped at him. “She shouldn’t even be here.” Then he turned his eyes to me. “Get Armand on the phone.”

The built-up momentum of Bradley’s kick wasn’t put to waste as the force of it made contact with Geoffrey’s torso once more, making him squeal.

I rang Armand’s mobile and he was quick to answer. I told him what was happening and he asked me to put him on speaker so Geoffrey could hear him.

“You’ve messed up enough times, Geoffrey.” Armand’s deep tones made everyone perk up. “Your pathetic excuses are reason enough to kill you.”

“MacGowan lied to you!”

“I have no reason to believe that.”

“It’s true! He did’uh lend me nofing. Said he did’uh care.”

Armand went silent for a moment. I kept the phone pointed towards the beat up man even when my arm was starting to shake.

“Kill him.”

All of a sudden, George had yanked the mobile from my hand, turned off the speaker and started talking into it in a low voice.

Ollie took the opportunity to push me towards the man lying on the floor. “Come on, just a couple of kicks,” he said, with an ear-to-ear smile.

Geoffrey’s eyes bulged as I approached him, my stare blank on his bleeding face. He muttered something I couldn’t comprehend.

“Excuse me?” I leaned forward, holding my hair away from my ear.

“Don’t let them kill me.”

What?

Oh, he was begging to the only source of estrogen in the room.

A rush of adrenaline ran through my system. It made me straighten my back and kick his already aching body twice before answering:

“Sorry, pal. Boss’s orders.”

Another kick and George’s grip was on my elbow. “Enough.” He handed me my mobile before turning to Bradley and Cat. “Take him to bathtub.” He then unfolded the same knife I had retrieved from the drawer, “It’ll make it easier to clean.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel

On how Scarlett got into this mess in the first place… (The Caregiver Series vignette #3)

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met Romulus Moretti, the one that would become her superior at Interpol, years before the story on the book starts. It gives a glimpse of how and why she became an agent. Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 here.

Read Vignette #2 here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a fucking long corridor. I kept glancing at the backs of the two men walking in front of us, thinking how wrong all of this felt. The air conditioning was a nice change from the scorching Miami sun, that was for sure.

Their names were Douglas and James. They introduced themselves when we reached the lobby of the unidentified building we were in, right after we exchanged some of the most uncomfortable handshakes I’ve ever experienced.

Cisneros’s incredibly sober look didn’t help either. I was sure they were cops, it showed in the way they walked with their puffed chests and the permanent grimace in their faces. Why we were there was beyond my comprehension. All Cisneros told me was to trust him.

He’d never given me a reason not to.

But, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

The officer by the name of James opened the door to an office and ushered us into a pair of chairs in front of a cheap-looking metal desk, then left. Douglas stood behind us in silence.

Cisneros was fidgeting with the edge of his jacket over his lap. I was starting to believe it hadn’t been a good idea to leave my gun in the car, like he asked me to.

James opened the door –apparently, he was the designated doorman– and a tall man, dark hair peppered with gray at the temples, appeared. We stood to greet him but he crossed us.

“No need for that.” His English accent struck me. “I promise this will be quite quick.”

He was the oldest of them all. Douglas didn’t look more than forty, and James could only be a couple years older than me, nowhere close to thirty.

Cisneros stirred in his seat. He had deals with some London people but they never came to the States, he always flew to meet them there.

“My name is Romulus Moretti.” He proceeded to sit behind the desk and place the folder he had been carrying on the desktop. “I’m a Detective Inspector from the Metropolitan Police in London, and do believe me when I tell you I’ve been looking forward to this meeting, Miss Lang.”

“Have we met?” As soon as I spoke, Cisneros gave a little jump. Odd.

“No.” He drawled, as he started pulling pictures out of the folder and setting them on the desk. “But I know more about you than you think. Come. Take a look at these.” I stared into his eyes and he gave me a half-grin. “I don’t bite.”

I don’t need to say that phrase didn’t make me feel any better about this.

I pushed myself forward and felt the color on my face vanish. An array of pictures lay between us. Pictures of victims I had murdered. Blown heads, bloodshot eyes, brain matter scattered on the pavement.

“What is this about?” I flashed Cisneros an angry glance that he didn’t meet. “What the fuck is this?”

“It’s OK, Miss Lang. We’re not here to prosecute you. We’re here to make you an offer.”

“Whatever it is, I’m not interested. Thank you.” I rose, but a pair of hands were immediately at my shoulders, pushing me down.

“Not so fast, Miss Lang,” Moretti barked, nodding at James, encouraging him to make sure I sat back down. “You can’t jump to conclusions if you haven’t even given me the chance to explain.”

I rearranged my shirt and stared angrily at Moretti, all the while shooting darts out my eyes at James.

“Good. Now that I have your attention, I can proceed by telling you that after being in contact with your grandfather for a while, we’ve decided to make you a deal. I’m currently working for the Interpol in the United Kingdom and have taken part in an interagency project that is seeking recruits…”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Moretti, but I think you’re mistaken.” My interruption drew a nice frown in his face. “If you know me as well as you say you do, and if you’ve spoken to my grandfather, you should know there is no way an agency like the Interpol would even consider hiring me.”

The frown melted into a sardonic smile. “That’s exactly why this is a deal and not a job proposition. You see, Miss Lang, this project requires both expertise and… connections. We’re not looking to recruit sheltered young men and women that dream of becoming agents just to put a spice in their lives. We’re looking for people that have been there, and – literally – done that. Young people like you, with the skills and the desire to get out of that life.”

“Get out?” A sideways glance confirmed Cisneros was looking intently at me.

“Yes.” He leaned forward, his hands steepled over the desk. “Get out. We are aware of the tension that has permeated in your relationship with your grandfather. And Rafael here has told us about your intentions to leave the murder-by-contract business as soon as you finish studying. You will not be removed from the life you lead, all you will have to do is pick up the phone when we call and be available to go on missions when we ask you to.”

“Missions? Military kind of missions?”

“There will be some akin to military jobs. Undercover work may also be necessary. You’ll have a steady paycheck and agency credentials. In your case, since you will be working under my supervision, we would be arranging for you to have Interpol credentials.”

This didn’t make any fucking sense.

“I’ve been working with them for the past year.” Cisneros spoke like someone that had broken a vow of silence. “Scarlett, I know how much you want to leave all this behind you.” He turned to me and some of the nervousness had slipped off his features. “It’s not too late to change paths. At least not for you.”

“What if I refuse?” I switched to Moretti. “What if I don’t want any of your shit?” I spat out that last word in utter disgust.

Moretti snorted, then looked at me from under his eyebrows. “When was the last time you spoke to your grandfather?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Six years ago?”

“He’s never shown any repentance from the things he did to you, or has he?” He was staring at me, searching for whatever sign my face was giving away. “He still regards you with that nickname he had for you. What was it? Scumbag?”

Oh poker face, don’t forsake me now. “Yes.”

Again, Cisneros was looking intently at me. Fuck this psychological shit.

“This doesn’t make sense at all. They could’ve sent someone from the Miami Police Department, not you from the other side of the Atlantic.”

“It is in our interest that you work far from where you’re already known. I was randomly selected to recruit you. As I said, this is an interagency program, so you will be working with other agents with Interpol credentials, as well as from other agencies. It really doesn’t matter as long as we can guarantee that travel won’t be a problem.”

“What’s the catch?”

“There is no exact catch. Just the fact that you will be working for us, all under my strict supervision. You will have to travel, and it may be required that you spend some time in London, but that hasn’t been decided. Other than that, you will receive, as I said, a steady paycheck, while having the liberty to go on with your current job.

Once your work with us is done, your record will be clean. You’ll be given a clean slate, a new life, Miss Lang. Away from the world that has hurt you, from those that have deserted you. The same world that took away your parents and forced you to live a life of misery and loss. Isn’t it time you took your knowledge and used it for good? We are giving you what you crave, a second chance in life. We don’t give this out to just anyone, you know?”

I rested my eyes on Cisneros and, when he faced me, it was with a solemn plea in his eyes. He was mentally setting his hand on the small of my back and pushing me, ever so gently. Like a father would.

Like he always did.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“Take all the time you need, Miss Lang.” Moretti rose from his seat, collecting the pictures and putting them back into the folder. “We will be in touch.” He strode to the door, where James was, already waiting for him. “This is James, by the way, but we all call him Jimmy, and that is Douglas.”

Cisneros and I were standing next to our chairs. “Yeah, they introduced themselves.”

“Great. After you, then.” He gestured us to the open door and when I had crossed it, he cut between Cisneros and I to set his hand on my back while leaning into my ear. “Your grandfather told me you were no good. That I would be disappointed.” He then shifted to step in my way. “I beg to differ.” His teeth gleamed through his smile. “And I would love to prove that old man wrong.”

He patted my shoulder and started down the corridor, an air of casualness in his stride.

I looked at Cisneros and he held my gaze.

“Please?” The porter called James nicknamed Jimmy interrupted, beckoning us to follow him out.

Decisions. Decisions.

I rushed towards Romulus’s receding back. “Hey!” He paused, waiting for me to reach his side. “What if I say yes?”

He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side. “Then I swear I will make it worth your time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel