And now, the second post of today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader for the Here Be Magic boxed set! This final post in this feature run showcases Angela Campbell, whose story in the boxed set is Gorgeous Nightmare. And I think it’s safe to say that Angela’s heroine’s goal is “navigate her way through chaos”, based on the excerpt Angela’s sent me to share with you all! And by chaos, I mean “figure out how to deal with her ex-husband”.
I am a big fan of books that can’t be pigeonholed into one specific genre because, let’s face it, the best stories are a mixture of drama, comedy, romance, and suspense—right?
Personally, I also love stories that toss in a little magic in the form of paranormal or fantasy. That’s why I’m so thrilled to be a part of this anthology, which features a great selection of stories that mix genres in an exciting way.
My contribution is GORGEOUS NIGHTMARE. Dakota McBride is doing everything she can to fit into her new life in Asheville while guarding secrets that could get her killed. An unexpected run-in with Tyler Jackson—her older brother’s best friend and her long-time fantasy—puts everything in jeopardy. Dakota is a woman being hunted by a deadly serial killer, and Tyler seems hell-bent on protecting her, same as he always has. Through dreams, he’s foreseen her impending death. What neither Tyler nor the killer understand is that Dakota doesn’t need a protector. Heaven help anyone who threatens her now…
For readers of my books, I should point out this story isn’t part of my psychic detectives series, although it features a psychic hero solving a (hopefully) suspenseful mystery.
Here’s a brief except:
She was about to open her mouth and ask Tyler again what he was doing there when there was a soft knock on the door behind her.
“Dakota? You in there?” Wayne asked.
Tyler’s smile widened as he smoothly shifted his feet to the ground. “Now things are about to get real interesting.”
“Shhh. Don’t move.” Dakota held up a hand warning Tyler not to disobey her as she turned, took a deep breath, and opened her door only a crack.
Wayne cradled Ricky Bobby in the crook of his arm as he frowned down at her. “You weren’t manning the desk.”
“Sorry. I needed to come grab something real quick. A feminine item.” Her pulse throbbed in her ears as she struggled to stay calm. “Can you please give me a minute?”
His gaze lifted, peering through the open space and into the room behind her. She moved to block his view as much as possible.
“Everything OK?” Wayne asked, his voice softening with concern.
Of course, that’s when all hell broke loose. The yappy hellhound started vibrating with a menacing growl that quickly morphed into a loud succession of ferocious barks. Wayne’s entire body stiffened as his gaze lifted above hers, and Dakota knew without a doubt Tyler was standing right behind her.
“Mr. Kohler?” Wayne’s expression matched the confusion in his voice as he struggled to keep hold of the squirming canine.
The warm press of a body against her back shocked Dakota into silence as an arm clamped around her waist, pulling her tight against Tyler’s front. “I appreciate you checking on my wife, but I can take it from here.”
Wife! Had he lost his mind? Wait a minute. Tyler was Kohler? That wasn’t Tyler’s last name.
“Wayne, he’s not serious. I’m not his wife.”
“Honey, we might have been separated, but we’re still married and you know it.”
Oh for the love of—
She elbowed Tyler’s side and was about as effective at moving him as a feather shifting a rock. His arm tightened around her middle, and the loud hum of a purr at her ear told her the cat was still firmly in his grip, too.
Things were spiraling out of control, and Dakota’s grasp on the doorknob tightened as she fought back the panic clawing at her insides. Worse yet, she had to fight the urge to lean back and let the comforting warmth of Tyler’s body seep into hers.
Wayne’s features paled before hardening. Ricky Bobby was now frantically trying to kill Tyler or the cat—or both. She supposed it didn’t matter because that’s when a door slammed open somewhere down the hall and Sandra’s voice called out, “Ricky Bobby?”
Seconds later, Sandra flounced into view, a pink eyemask pushed up and covering her forehead. “What on earth are you doing to my dog?”
The cat—she’d been calling him Harley because of how loudly he purred—began hissing and screeching, and Tyler’s arm fell away from Dakota’s middle, presumably so he could wrestle with the animal. Good. She hoped his muscular chest got shredded.
Wayne thrust the dog at Sandra. “I’m sorry, Ms. Coswell. Would you please excuse Dakota and me? I need to have a word with her.” He gave Tyler a stern look. “In private.”
Sandra’s eyes were wide as they flicked between Dakota and Wayne, and Dakota felt her face catch fire as she followed her boss down the hall. He stopped at the door that held the supplies before turning on her.
“What the hell is going on?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t—”
“Is he your husband?” He ran a hand through his graying hair. “Is this one of those abused wife situations? You were hiding from him? That’s why you were so desperate for this job and a place to stay?”
“I want the truth. Do you know that man?”
Dakota clenched her teeth and lifted her chin. “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
Wayne’s probing eyes scanned her face. “You’re a terrible liar.” He sighed. “That was the cat I told you not to feed, right?”
She glanced away, knowing she was caught.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I can’t have this kind of trouble here. I need you to leave. Do you want me to call the police so he doesn’t follow you?”
What? No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening.
“Wayne, please, no. I need this job.”
“Do you want me to call the police or not?” he repeated, biting out each word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
No. That was the last thing she needed. She crossed her arms and shook her head.