Today I am so pleased to welcome Jenn Burke to Joyfully Jay. Jenn has come to talk to us about her latest release, House on Fire. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I caught the distant sound of a fist ramming against our solid front door. My phone told me it was almost 4 a.m. Midnight—or early morning—visitors weren’t uncommon in the pre-Lance days, but Hudson had asked the band to spread the word to keep the nocturnal visits to a minimum for the time being. Someone clearly hadn’t gotten the message. I threw the covers back, grabbed my pajama pants from the chair next to the bed, and tugged them on.
I reached the front door before the person could knock again, and yanked it open with a harsh “What?”
Tommy stood on the front step, his usually neat blond hair a complete mess, and his eyes red-rimmed. “Evan.” He choked back a sob. “I don’t know what to do.”
All of my ire fled at the sight of puppy-dog Tommy looking like someone had kicked him and left him in a ditch. He was supposed to be perpetually happy and optimistic, not this bedraggled, scared version of himself. His shadow, Jonah, was nowhere to be seen, and that made my stomach lurch. I opened the door wider and waved him inside.
Three sets of footsteps on the stairs told me Hudson, Wes, and Colin had all followed me down. When Wes saw Tommy, he turned to head back up the stairs. “I’ll run interference with Lance.”
Hudson kissed his cheek. “Thanks. Love you.”
My heart squeezed at the easy affection between the two of them. Would I ever have that?
I led Tommy to the kitchen, where he slumped onto one of the stools at the island. Hudson gave him his full attention while I prepared coffee, and Colin raided the fridge for snacks. The synchronicity we shared wasn’t lost on me, but I couldn’t fool myself that it meant anything. Maybe it was a weird way the bond manifested. I couldn’t feel it otherwise.
“What happened?” Hudson asked gently. “Where’s Jonah?”
Tommy wrinkled his brow. “I don’t know. Out.”
I shared a glance with Colin, who shrugged as he pulled carrot and cucumber sticks from the fridge, along with some hummus. Normally Tommy and Jonah were attached at the hip, even though they weren’t boyfriends—as far as I knew, anyway.
“Did you see the video?” Tommy asked tearfully. “I’m so sorry, Hudson. I really, really am.”
Oh shit. “Sorry, Hud. I meant to tell you about it, but after closing out that case and coming home to see you playing cribbage with Lance…I completely forgot.” I dug my phone out of my pajama pants pocket and pulled up the questionable video.
Hudson watched it silently, his lips pressing into a thinner and thinner line as it progressed. When it faded to black, he blew out a breath. “Okay. I mean, it’s not great, but I don’t think it’s truly a threat to anyone. It’s only one video.”
“Except it’s not.” Tommy reached over the island and, before I could protest, grabbed my phone. He swiped through some screens, then held my phone out again, this time on a YouTube channel for one of Toronto’s local networks, CTOV-07. “The video was originally posted by CTOV. As news. I got a call from someone tonight that it was broadcast on the eleven o’clock news. And look at the views!” He pointed to the number of views on the video, which was hovering around the fifty thousand mark. “This is bad, right? And it’s all my fault.”
“Not your fault,” Hudson countered.
Tommy ignored him. “It gets worse.” This time, he held out his hand for my phone and I gave it to him. More swiping, and he handed it back. “Look.”
YOU NEED ADDITIONAL PROOF? was scrawled across a black screen.
The text was replaced by a night-vision image of a person, though it was impossible to tell if they were a slight-figured man or a woman without significant curves. The wash of white-green surrounded by darker green and black suggested they were naked. Text at the bottom of the screen said that the video was filmed in Rouge National Park, the urban park to the east of Toronto’s core, on June 5.
My stomach tightened. The Rouge was a popular spot for urban shifters, since it gave them lots of room to run close to the city. If my suspicions were correct, we were about to see…
“Shit,” Hudson breathed as the person in the video twisted, shifted, and became a wolf.
The wolf shook itself and slipped into the surrounding forest.
THIS IS NOT SPECIAL EFFECTS
The video showed the transformation again, this time in slow motion. The only saving grace was that it was shot in night-vision—otherwise, the shifter community’s secret would be right there for all to see. As it was, the graininess of the video and the lack of color helped to camouflage what exactly happened. I mean, I knew what I was seeing—but I really, really hoped that the average citizen who saw this couldn’t figure it out.
The video already had five thousand views.
THEY ARE ALL AROUND US
I opened the description of the video and read it out loud. “‘Like the other anonymous video sent to us recently, this one seems to show something unexplainable and extraordinary. It’s got to be special effects, right? But…what if it isn’t? If you’ve encountered something weird in Toronto that you can’t explain, share your comment below or contact us via email.’” I scrolled down to see the comments, surprised that there were already a dozen or more. Some scoffed at the idea that the video was anything but an FX extravaganza, but others shared stories that made a chill race down my spine.
I saw my neighbour turn into a fox once. At the time, I thought my edible was too strong, but now I wonder…
Pretty sure my ex-girlfriend was a witch. I saw a wooden spoon stirring a pot of soup by itself once.
Has anyone else come across wolves in the Rouge? I saw five, a whole pack, on one camping trip, but the park rangers thought I was high. I wasn’t, though! They were there. Maybe this person was one of them.
I lifted my gaze to meet Hudson’s and saw my own concern reflected there. This was not good. “Someone’s trying to reveal us,” I said, my voice low.
He’s done fighting his attraction to the sexy vampire…
To say former firefighter Colin Zhang is struggling to accept his new life would be a vast understatement. He’s bound to a vampire he didn’t choose, living in a house filled with creatures better left to the imagination—there’s a lot to resent. As much as he tries, he doesn’t resent Evan—far from it. But he needs to know that what he feels is real and that requires breaking their bond. No matter the cost.
Vampire private investigator Evan Fournier is more than willing to explore his connection with Colin, but the crisis at hand keeps getting in the way. Their bond makes it dangerous for them to be apart, so he’s forced to put the other man at risk while he investigates the latest in a series of murders. If he doesn’t find the killer soon, the paranormal community will seek retribution on all humans, not just the guilty ones.
As the tensions escalate, Evan and Colin find solace in each other and their growing attraction. But if their bond is broken, attraction—even love—might not be enough to keep them safe.
Ashes and Dust
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. She’s been called a pocket-sized and puntastic Canadian, 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.