Here it is, the night before. To be technical, very, very early, the morning of.
The night before my first signing. I will be sharing the event with K.L. Bone, author of Black Rose, Greg Wilkey, author of the Mortimer Drake vampire series, Sarah M. Cradit, author of the House of Crimson and Clover series, and Brandy L. Rivers, of the Other of Edenton. Anne Rice even shared the event on Facebook!
And to say I’m nervous is a gross understatement. I’m pretty much terrified out of my wits! Already I’ve had one major mishap. The printer screwed up, so couldn’t get me my books on time. That’s right! A signing with no books. I have five left in stock that I’ll take. I had a bunch of postcard-type cards printed up, cover one on the front, back cover (minus bar code, plus contact info) on the back, that I’ll be signing and giving away for free with a certificate to get Sacred Blood for free, at least as an ebook.
I’ll either come home squealing, or in desperate need of the OBT tumbler I got while volunteering last night during dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker. Actually, I’ll have wine either way, to either wash away my sorrows, or to celebrate.
Nervous. Nervous. OMG.
The passage I’ve settled on for the reading part of the night is one that I hope gets across ho cruel Nathaniel and Daniel are, that Juliette feels trapped, and that there’s something more with the panther. Since all the jewelry in these books are either based on vintage pieces I found, or had made, the ring at the end exists, and I’ll be wearing it during the event.
Well, wish me luck! I’ll be the first to admit I could use all I can get!
A large black panther stalked the Hills property. Sapphire blue eyes stared out of the dark furred face, body hidden by the broad leaves of a low-lying palm tree. Several men with the athletic bodies lounged in swim trunks, others lining up to cannon-ball into the pool. A dozen women frolicked around in the water, far from the splashing. A few more lay on lawn chairs near the water’s edge. Juliette stood next to Nathaniel, her hair in a tight bun, a white pool robe concealing whatever she wore underneath.
“Take that stupid thing off,” Nathaniel ordered her, in a low tone unheard by any of their friends.
She glanced up with a pleading expression on her face. “I’m already cold. Please let me go inside.” A warm breeze made the bottom of the pink fabric flutter, though she shivered slightly.
“Quit making excuses. Off. Now.”
Juliette slowly nodded and cast her eyes down, ordering herself to not cry. She untied the belt, and Nathaniel yanked the robe off. She wrapped her arms around her waist, trying to hide. The tiny gold string bikini she wore was better suited for a Playboy party, not for a shy young woman who didn’t want to uncover. She’d grown thinner in the month since her last class with Tristan. Already slender, her fingers now stroked over her visible ribs and hip bones.
Nathaniel draped a possessive arm across her shoulders and squeezed her to his side. Juliette tensed up, vaguely aware she was physically near him while mentally drifting above the wispy clouds. Nathaniel shoved her toward one of his friends.
“Please stop, Daniel,” Juliette whispered, brushing his hands away from her chest and backside. She blinked rapidly at Nathaniel, confused that he allowed this.
“Make me.” Daniel lifted her up and carried her to the pool, yanking on the strings holding her bathing suit top.
Juliette grasped at the scraps of fabrics and tried to clutch them to herself. “No! Daniel, no! NO!”
With a laugh, he tossed her, maintaining a hold on a string. The air seemed to turn colder right before Juliette’s bare back slapped against the water.
While the women ignored her except for quick glances and giggles, the men roared with laughter at her embarrassment. Hands over her chest, Juliette climbed out and snatched up her robe. Her jaw was clenched and her nostrils flared. With her back to the party, she shoved her fists through the sleeves and knotted the belt. Tears burned her eyes.
Juliette took long strides toward the far side of the landscaped yard. She noticed the large cat crouching beneath a broad frond and she stepped back.
“You’ll do me a favor if you kill me and eat me.” Her voice cracked. She walked a little farther and lay on the sun-warmed grass, stomach down, her temple resting on her arms. She watched the creature with a hand stretched to him.
The cat cocked its head at her and bared his teeth at the party-goers. He slowly inched toward her. His sandpapery tongue brushed over her palm, depositing something hard with his saliva. Slower than before, he crawled closer until his cool nose rubbed against her forehead.
Without thinking, Juliette closed her finger over the object and raised her hand to caress the cat’s cheek. “Oh, kitty,” she whispered, “why can’t you be Tristan? I miss him so-”
“A panther!” someone cried. “Oh my god, over with Julie!”
Several women shrieked and ran into the house. A few men rushed toward Juliette. The cat flicked his tail as he leapt up and over the stone wall. Juliette hurried to her feet.
“Go inside, girl!”
“Call animal control. Think they can kill that thing?”
“Julie, it could have eaten you.”
“Well, he didn’t, and stop calling me Julie!”
“Get your ass inside!” Nathaniel twisted her arm and shoved her.
Juliette stormed back across the yard and through the door, rubbing the stinging his fingers left.
“Daniel tossing you in the pool was so funny!” a woman laughed while opening a soda can onto the kitchen island.
“Shut up, April! You wouldn’t agree if it happened to you!” Juliette slapped the drink to the floor.
A redhead grabbed her wrist. “You’re lucky you got both Dan and Nate into you.”
“You can take them.” Juliette glared at her.
“Oh, hey, what’s your diet secret?” another asked.
“All of you, just shut up and leave me alone!” Juliette pushed through them and ran upstairs. She closed her bedroom door and wished the lock worked.
Juliette tossed her pillow across the room and picked up her cell phone. For a minute she thought about calling Tristan and asking to stay with him a while. The end of spring term had meant a summer without seeing him at all, and the depression was hard for her to take. But if she called, and Nathaniel found out, Nathaniel might carry through on his promise to kill Tristan. Her chest grew heavy. She couldn’t endanger Tristan.
Her fingers ached. She flexed them open and glanced at the object. Her brow knit together as she studied the fleurs de lys. The sapphires appeared to glow from within. “What on earth?” she whispered.