Today I am so pleased to welcome Jenn Burke to Joyfully Jay. Jenn has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her new release, All Fired Up. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Read on to find out where Evan, Lexi, and Anika were going at the end of the excerpt featured in the All Fired Up cover reveal here at Joyfully Jay.
We pulled up in front of a semi-detached house in Bloor West Village to find Anika Kozlow had beaten us there. She stepped out of her SUV as Lexi brought her MINI to a stop along the curb. We shared greetings, then headed toward the front door.
The house was typical for the family-friendly area. It looked well maintained, even if the architecture screamed 1960s. Red brick stretched around the first story, with white siding covering the second. The tiny front yard had a neat garden with green things sprouting up between dark mulch. There was no garage or carport in sight—they were probably in the back. A narrow driveway extended up the side of the house, but there were no cars parked in it.
The door opened cautiously at Lexi’s knock. From my place behind her on the step, I couldn’t get a good look at the person who answered, but over the earthy tone of shifter I caught a scent I couldn’t describe. It wasn’t the slight coppery tint all vampires carried in their scent, nor the ozone-like tang of witches. It didn’t match anything in my catalogue of aromas—which, after five years of being around all sorts of paranormal creatures, was saying something.
But one thing I was certain of: that smell was wrong.
“I’m Asteria,” Lexi said, using her TWW screen name. “Lexi Aster. This is my friend, Evan Fournier, and a doctor for the community, Anika Kozlow. Can we come in?”
For a second, I thought the person who’d opened the door was having second thoughts, but then they opened it wider and some of the tension in Lexi’s muscles drained away. She stepped forward, and Anika and I followed.
The person who greeted us was younger than I’d expected. She seemed to be in her late teens and she was the source of the shifter aroma, which was overlaid with worry and, fainter, that odor of wrongness that permeated the house. Her light brown skin appeared dull, and there were dark circles under her eyes that spoke of worry. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a messy ponytail, revealing that she had an undercut extending upward from the nape of her neck.
“Hi,” she said nervously, her eyes flicking toward the back of the house. “I’m Tamra Long.”
I put on my most charming smile. “Nice to meet you, Tamra. There’s no reason to be scared, okay? We’re here to help.”
She sniffed at me discreetly, and her eyes widened. “You’re a—a—”
“But you’re out in the day!”
Yeah, that tended to confuse people. It was a long story to explain that, because my diet consisted solely of a god’s blood, the usual vampire rules didn’t apply.
Luckily, Anika stepped forward to get Tamra back on track. “You said your aunt is showing the symptoms Lexi was asking about?”
“Uh, yeah.” Tamra was still blinking at me, distracted, but quickly shook it off. “She’s in her bedroom upstairs.”
She led us there, past at least a dozen pictures of happy people that all looked as though they were related to Tamra. Most of them were doing family things, like sitting around a big campfire or posing with their arms over each other’s shoulders on a beach, with an expansive lake behind them. In the corner of one picture, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a marmot. Or, I guess in Ontario they called them groundhogs, though I wasn’t sure they were the same thing. Was that the sort of shifter Tamra was? Even though curiosity begged me to ask, all I said was “Big family.”
“Yeah.” Tamra shot me a small smile. “They’re in Manitoba. Aunt Heather came to Toronto for school and never left. She told me I could stay with her if I wanted to go to college here…” Her voice trailed off, and she swallowed as she paused in front of a partially open bedroom
door. Squaring her shoulders, she tapped on the door. “Aunt Heather? We’ve got visitors.”
There was no response from inside the room, but Tamra clearly didn’t expect one, since she pushed the door open. The scent I’d caught earlier flooded my nose and I had to turn away for a second to sneeze. God, what was that? There were notes of smoke—sort of. It wasn’t smoke in a literal sense. Smoke from a fire smelled completely different. It was so overwhelmingly weird I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Tamra didn’t seem affected by it, but then, I supposed she’d be noseblind to it by now. I trailed behind Lexi and Anika, and stayed out of the way as they stepped up to the bed.
Heather Long had probably been a vital forty-something at one time. There were still hints of it in the long, lean muscles of her arms and the fact that there were no age lines on her face or neck. But her skin tone was grayish, turning her light brown skin to something more ashy, and her long brown hair, so similar to her niece’s, was greasy and stringy where it was draped on the pillow. Her eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling, and they showed no awareness that someone other than a member of her family had entered her bedroom.
This was not good.
I let Anika and Lexi do their thing and turned my attention to Heather’s room. It was neat and tidy, but almost had an unlived-in feeling to it. Not surprising if she’d been lying in bed, unmoving, for however long. I poked at the items on the dresser, but found nothing of interest beyond costume jewelry. The en suite bathroom revealed nothing, nor did Heather’s closet or her nightstand.
Anika was completing what I assumed was a diagnostic spell when I finished my perusal. Lexi had Tamra over in a corner, speaking quietly, and I joined Anika at the side of the bed.
“It’s the same,” she murmured.
I pressed my lips together, hard, to keep the swear word I wanted to say from spilling out. “Can you do anything?”
She shook her head. “Her magic—everything that makes her her—is gone. There’s no trace of it. It’s only a matter of time before her body fails.”
“It’s been two weeks since she left the retreat, so maybe another two weeks? A week? Days? I can’t tell.”
I glanced over at Tamra, whose attention was consumed by whatever Lexi was saying to her. “Let’s see if Lexi can… I don’t know, find anything that might say where the magic went. You’d better prepare Tamra.”
“Yeah,” Anika said with a sigh. “Stuff like this makes me wonder why I became a doctor.”
I patted her shoulder. “Because we needed you to be.”
Once bitten. Twice burned. Forever bonded.
Don’t miss this riveting and romantic spin-off series from Jenn Burke, author of Not Dead Yet.
Paranormals are dying. All over the city, with no explanation and only one thing in common: their magic is missing.
Vampire and private investigator Evan Fournier isn’t supposed to be taking on paranormal cases, but when the murderer hits close to home, he agrees to look into it. The last thing he expects is to become a target himself—and then to become irrevocably bonded to the man who just tried to kill him.
With his memory gone and his soul bonded to a stranger, former firefighter Colin Zhang wants to be anywhere else. He doesn’t have a damn clue why he just tried to kill Evan, and he didn’t even know about magic until just now. The sooner he can get back to his real life, the better.
But every time either of them tries to leave, pure agony stops them short. Forced to work with Evan or suffer the consequences, Colin must excavate the secrets buried in his missing memories while battling two rising threats: the conspiracy behind the murder, and his mutual attraction to the bond mate he never wanted.
Preorder Link: Amazon
Jenn Burke has loved out-of-this-world romance since she was a preteen reading about heroes and heroines kicking butt and falling in love. Now that she’s an author, she couldn’t be happier to bring adventure, romance, and sexy times to her readers.
Jenn is the author of a number of paranormal and science fiction romance titles, including the critically acclaimed Chaos Station science fiction romance series (co-authored with Kelly Jensen) and the fan-favorite series Not Dead Yet, both from Carina Press.
She’s been called a pocket-sized and puntastic Canadian on social media, and she’ll happily own that label. Jenn lives just outside of Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and two kids, plus two dogs named after video game characters…because her geekiness knows no bounds.
Jenn is represented by Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency.