First off, let me apologize for bailing on Tuesday. We’ve all had those days when, no matter how well you have the day planned, something happens to throw everything to the wind. Tuesday was that day for me. I appreciate all the comments you guys left about potential topics and I promise to get to them. But I want to do them justice, so I’m going to put them off until Tuesday or maybe even next weekend. The simple truth of the matter is, as Sarah noted in her comment that day, I’m pushing deadlines myself right now and my head isn’t into anything but finishing the current WiP as well as real work for NRP.
The current WiP started out fighting me tooth and nail. I knew the basic plot. Since it is the third book in the Nocturnal Lives Series (and the 4th title), I knew the characters. But the notes I made and the first try at writing the opening chapters just felt wrong. The voice wasn’t right — even after I went back and re-read the other titles in the series. The tone of the book wasn’t right. And, when I tried to figure out what was going wrong, all that happened was my muse laughed mockingly at me.
So I talked to Kate and Sarah. Both assured me it would come if I quit fighting it. Maybe I needed to write something else. The problem with that was I needed to get this book written. I was already late delivering it. I had fans — all three of them — asking when the next installment was coming. Besides, I’m a stubborn woman — quit laughing, Sarah — and I was going to write this book come Hell or high water.
I put the pages I’d written aside for the day and did what I normally do when the muse is being particularly uppity and not talking to me: I worked myself into exhaustion in the yard. There’s something about physical labor that has always helped me clear the cobwebs out of my head. It’s a time when I can just let my mind wander and this time, fortunately, it helped. The muse started talking and I realized what was wrong with those opening chapters.
Those original pages were retitled and put into another folder. They very well may turn up in another book with different characters. But they most definitely weren’t part of the Nocturnal Lives universe. A new document was opened, formatted and I sat down to write.
And write I did. In about a week, I’ve written over 40,000 words. I’m not always sure about the book and where it is going. For one thing, it has the potential of being much darker than the other books in the series have been. It’s necessary for it to be slightly darker because of where the overall story arc of the series is going. But it means I’m going to be killing off a character I started out not sure I liked but over the course of the series so far have come to realize isn’t nearly as bad as I thought. It means other characters may be broken. Since I like my characters, I don’t like hurting them. But they’ve told me to pull up my big girl pants and do what the story requires. Since I don’t want to make them mad and have them go silent on me again, I’ll do as they say.
All this is a long way of getting around to this. Here’s a snippet from the beginning of Nocturnal Interlude, the third novel in the Nocturnal Lives Series. As always with snippets posted here, this is a rough draft and there very likely will be changes before publication. Nocturnal Interlude is © Amanda S. Green 2013. Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission. Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog.
“Someone had better tell me what the hell is going on!”
Mackenzie Santos slammed her fist down on the table with a satisfying thud. The only thing that kept her from flipping it over was the fact it was bolted to the floor. Angry as she was, even that might not be enough to hold it into place if she didn’t start getting some answers soon. From the looks on the faces of the two men sitting opposite her, they were no happier about the situation than was she. Well, too freaking bad.
Breathing deeply, she leaned back and struggled for calm. This wasn’t the first time she’d been in an interrogation room. Far from it, in fact. But it was the first time she’d been in it in this position. Each time before, she’d been the one reading a suspect his rights and starting the questioning aimed at eventually getting a conviction. Now she sat on the other side of the table, so to speak, with two dark suited men with regulation haircuts that simply screamed “Fed”.
Not that they’d asked her anything. In fact, from the moment she and Jackson Caine had stepped off the jet way into the terminal at DFW Airport, they’d spoken probably fewer than a dozen words. They’d asked if she was Lt. Mackenzie Santos and then told her she needed to come with them. Before she could react, she’d been cuffed and escorted outside to a waiting black SUV, another indication that they were feds. A moment later, they were speeding out of the airport and toward downtown Dallas and the federal building.
Damn it, this was why she never took vacations. Things always happened while she was gone and, apparently, this time the world had taken a sharp left turn into a nightmare she didn’t understand yet.
At least she was no longer cuffed.
A quick glance around the room provided no clues either. It was a standard interrogation room with white walls, battered table, equally battered chairs and a scuffed floor. The overhead light was recessed into the ceiling so a suspect wouldn’t be able to get to it easily to use either as a weapon or as a means to harm himself. The plastic bubble in the far corner housed one of the two cameras monitoring the room. The second camera was located directly opposite the door so it could capture anyone coming or going. What was different about the room was that there was no observation window for witnesses or other investigators to use to monitor an interrogation. Maybe the feds had gone to video monitoring now.
Mac closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten. As she did, she let her senses expand. She didn’t dare shift, not in the middle of the federal building, but she could ease her control on her jaguar enough to enhance her hearing. Mutt and Jeff, the two men sitting across from her, were obviously nothing more than babysitters. They’d been tasked with bringing her in. She wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover they didn’t know why they’d brought her there.
That meant someone was watching, sizing her up before they came in to talk to her. While that didn’t give them an advantage, the fact she had absolutely no idea why she was there did. So did the fact Mutt – or maybe it had been Jeff – had taken her cellphone and tablet PC when they’d taken her into custody, leaving her no way to check in with her captain or even to scan the latest headlines for some clue about what was going on.
The only saving grace was they hadn’t pulled Jackson in. At least she didn’t think they had. That meant he’d been on the phone just as soon as they were out of earshot, calling first her captain – and their pride leader – and then anyone else he could think of. Hopefully, that also included an attorney because she sure as hell wasn’t going to talk without having someone there looking out for her best interests.
She heard the steps outside the door before her companions did. They weren’t the sounds of dress shoes like Mutt and Jeff wore. She’d have expected that. No, the sounds she heard were definitely made by boots, combat boots unless she missed her guess. And that most definitely wasn’t what she’d expected.
Heart beating a bit faster, Mac did her best not to let the others know anyone was outside the door. She wanted to see their immediate reactions to the newcomer. That would tell her much more than words. But it was hard to just sit there. Her jaguar, already nervous and angry at being detained like a common criminal, pushed against her control. It wanted to fight, to make Mutt and Jeff pay for chaining them and separating them from their mate. Cameras and technology didn’t matter to the jaguar and, if Mac were honest with herself, if she didn’t find out why she’d been detained and soon, they wouldn’t matter much to her either.
Damn it, what was going on?
Through half-closed eyes, Mac watched as the door knob turned. A split second later, the door flew open with a bang. Chairs slid across the floor as Mutt and Jeff shoved away from the table and surged to their feet, their hands reaching for guns they’d locked away before entering the room. Then Mutt lifted his right arm to his mouth, urgently speaking into the mic located at his cuff. From the almost panicked look on his face and the way he reached up with his left hand to tap the earbud in his left ear, Mac guessed he either wasn’t getting any answers or at least not getting the ones he wanted.
Well too freaking bad.
Slowly, almost casually, Mac sat up. As she did, her eyes never left the figure that seemed to almost fill the doorway. The newcomer most definitely was not a Fed, at least not the same flavor of Fed Mutt and Jeff were. He wore black utilities. His pants legs were expertly bloused into the tops of his black combat boots. If looks could have killed, Mutt and Jeff would have been nothing more than two piles of smoldering ash.
Instead, they were reacting, and badly, to a situation they obviously didn’t understand. While Mutt continued to try to contact someone, anyone, for orders, Jeff moved around the table to stand behind Mac’s chair. His hands rested on her shoulders, his fingers digging painfully into the skin as he exerted pressure he didn’t need to in order to keep her seated. For the moment, until she knew what was going on, she’d sit there. Let him think he held the upper hand. But as soon as she saw a chance to get out of there, she’d show him just how foolish he’d been to put himself between her and the wall. It was a rookie mistake and she looked forward to teaching him the error of his ways.
“Who the hell are you?” Mutt demanded as he drew himself up to his full height.
Mac couldn’t quite hold back her smile then. The fed might be taller than the newcomer but she had no doubts who would prevail if push should come to shove. Things might just be getting interesting after all.
“ID!” the man snapped.
As he did, another man, also dressed in black utilities, entered the room. Standing next to the first man, he extended on hand and waited.
“Halsey?” Jeff’s fingers dug even more painfully into Mac’s shoulders as he looked to his partner.
“I don’t have to identify myself to you, but you sure as hell better tell me who you are and what you’re doing in our interrogation room!” The blond tried to stare down the two men only to have them look past him to where Mac sat.
“Lieutenant, are you all right?”
“Yes, sir.” She didn’t know what game they were playing – yet – but she had a feeling she needed to play along. “Or I will be as soon as this gentleman quits trying to dig holes in my shoulders.” A jerk of her head in Jeff’s direction.
“I would have thought you could deal with that, LT.”
There was a glint in Captain Mateo Santos’ eyes as he spoke. Mac grinned slightly and dug her heels in against the battered tile. A moment later, her chair slid back, forcing Jeff against the wall. As the chair came to a halt, she pushed up with all her strength, angling her head at the last moment so her shoulder instead of the crown of her skull, connected with the Fed’s chin. He gave a cry of pain and she felt the satisfying jar as his jaw snapped shut. Then she was on her feet and away from the table, her back to the side wall and her eyes watching everyone as she waited for the next act to play out.
She saw Mutt’s muscles tense as he prepared to rush her cousin. At the same time, Jeff pushed to his feet. With a bellow, he leapt in her direction. Before she could react, the man who’d entered just after Mateo was there. He caught the Fed mid-air and body slammed him to the floor. Shaking her head, wonder and disbelief filling her, Mac watched as he then flipped the fed over and secured his wrists behind him with a pair of flex cuffs. Then her attention snapped back to Mateo who had one hand around Mutt’s – no, Halsey’s – throat and was lifting him so his toes barely touched the floor.
“I asked for your identification.” Mateo’s voice was calm but anger flashed in his dark eyes as the man’s hands dropped from where they’d been clawing at Mateo’s wrist to pat his pockets in search of his ID. A moment later, Mateo released him. Even as he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath, Mateo’s companion was there to secure him just as he had the other agent.
“Captain, don’t get me wrong. It’s good to see you, but would you mind telling me what’s going on?”
And if we’re going to have to fight our way out of here?
“In a moment, LT.” If he was trying to reassure her, he was doing a damned poor job of it. His expression was hard and his eyes dark with anger as he tossed the Agent Halsey’s ID onto the table. Then he nodded to his companion to lift the agent to his feet. “All right, Halsey. I’m going to say this only once, so you’d better pay close attention. Nod if you understand.”
Halsey nodded but he wasn’t happy about it. Not that Mac really blamed him. He had to be scared to death. At least he ought to be if he had a grain of common sense. Two men in black fatigues had just made their way into a secure federal building, through several checkpoints and had just taken him and his partner down. Now they were the ones cuffed like common criminals and no one, none of their fellow agents had come to even see what the disturbance was. If she happened to be in their shoes, she’d have been doing everything she could to get free and then to see what had been done to her fellow cops.
“My name is Captain Mateo Santos, USMC on detached duty to the Department of Homeland Security.” Now he produced his own ID and shoved it in Halsey’s face. “You and your idiot partner violated orders when you took Lt. Santos into custody. You were to simply meet her and her companion at the airport and escort them back here.” Before Halsey could protest, Mateo held up a hand, effectively silencing him. “Don’t bother trying to deny it. I’ve seen the orders. Now, if you want to have a chance at all of saving your job, you will tell me why you took the lieutenant into custody, confiscated her cellphone and tablet PC and denied her her civil right to call an attorney.”
“They also confiscated my off-duty piece, sir.” And that had been the most insulting of all. No cop ever willingly gave up her weapon. The fact that she’d been arrested, cuffed and disarmed rankled more than she wanted to admit.
“LT, did they say anything about why they took you into custody?”
“No, sir. Not a word.”
He nodded, frowning. “Halsey, I’m waiting.”
“Go to hell.” He tugged ineffectually against the flex cuffs securing his wrists behind his back. “We don’t have to explain anything to you. In fact, I’ll have your ass as well as hers up on charges just as soon as we’re out of here.”
Mateo actually laughed. Then he reached down and grabbed Halsey by the collar, hoisting him to his feet. “You can try it.” With his left foot, he hooked the chair Halsey had occupied earlier, turning it around so he could shove the agent onto it. “Ask yourself why no one has come to help you and your partner. Or why no one answered your call requesting backup. They know you screwed up and that screw up may cost hundreds, maybe thousands, of people their lives.”
Mac stared at her cousin in disbelief. Surely that was all just some sort of cover story. She was a cop. None of her cases were such that they involved more than a few people. What he was talking about was on the magnitude of a terrorist attack or –
God, the or scared the hell out of her. Was it possible their kind had finally been discovered? No, that couldn’t be the case. If it was, Mateo wouldn’t be there. He’d be doing everything he could to protect the others. Her life, one single life, wouldn’t be worth risking so many others.
“Captain?” If her voice shook a little, she didn’t care. She needed to know what was going on and what he’d meant.
“Let’s get you out of here, LT. Unless you’d like a few minutes alone with these two gentlemen.”
As tempting as it was to take him up on his offer, she shook her head. She wanted as far from there as possible, as quickly as possible. Then she wanted to know exactly why the feds were supposed to meet her at the airport and why these two had disobeyed orders.
“Sir, we do need to know why they detained Lt. Santos,” the other man said softly.
“I believe you can get that information from them, Sergeant Lee. Once you have, turn them over to their supervisor for appropriate disciplinary action. Then report in.”
“Understood, sir.” The look he gave Halsey and his partner sent chills down Mac’s spine. “Don’t worry, ma’am, I’ll find out what went wrong.”
Mac nodded, not trusting herself to speak. As she turned back to Mateo, a man with greying hair appeared in the doorway. Without a word, he handed Mateo Mac’s cellphone, tablet PC and off-duty weapon. Then he looked at the two agents, both now sitting before the table. His expression hardened and he stepped inside.
“Halsey, Ferrer, you will answer their questions and tell them anything and everything they want to know. I’ve already authorized them to go through your electronics as well as your desks and lockers. When they are done with you, we’re going to have a chat of our own.”
“Thank you, Special Agent Ramirez. My sergeant is going to stay and ask them a few questions.”
“I’ll make sure the office knows to give him any information he needs, Captain.” He turned to look at Mac and she smiled slightly. She’d worked with Ramirez on several cases before and knew him to be one of the few feds who worked well with local law enforcement. “Lieutenant, my apologies for the actions of my agents. I assure you, they will be disciplined.”
She nodded. Much as she didn’t like it, this wasn’t her game to play. All she hoped was that someone filled her in on the rules soon, before it was too late.
“Let’s roll, LT. There’s a lot to do and not much time to do it in,” Mateo said as he handed her first her gun and then the rest of her things.
He waited as she slid the gun into her waistband at the small of her back and then he left the interrogation room. With one last look at the two agents, she nodded to the sergeant and then to Ramirez before hurrying after her cousin.
Nocturnal Interlude is the third novel and fourth title in the Nocturnal Lives Series. The other installments in the series are:
Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.
Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.
Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.
Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.
In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.
Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.
Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.