Today is a bittersweet release day: Kindling the Darkness
is the last in my Sisters in Sin series
from Harlequin Nocturne, which closed in
early 2017. The three half sisters of the Carlisles—Laurel, Rowan, and
Rosemary—were destined to take things to their conclusion—and possibly change
the world. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll decide to revisit their
stories, but for now, I’m happy to have the series finale tell the story of
Lucy Smok—twin sister of Lucien Smok, aka the Prince of Darkness.
Lucy may be one of my most difficult heroines. I won’t be
surprised if some readers don’t care for her. She’s prickly and conflicted, and
she’s super hard on herself. But she’s also one of my favorite heroines, for
those same reasons.
From a young age, she’s had to take on too much
responsibility, taking the brunt of her father’s authoritarian abuse while
Lucien played the irresponsible rake. At only 25, already having spent years managing the family’s
paranormal consulting business and now the head of Smok Pharmaceutical in the
wake of her father’s death, she finds it impossible to make human connections.
Lucy is used to having one-night stands for practicality’s sake—scratch the
itch when it’s needed so she can get back to concentrating on business. Feeling
betrayed by her father and abandoned by her mother—and left holding the bag
when Lucien descended to Hell’s throne—she’s resorted to dangerous coping
mechanisms, including projecting a cold, caustic personality. Her one pleasure
is hunting down Hell’s escapees—and choosing her favorite gun to do it. Frankly,
she’s a mess. And I can totally relate to her.
Oliver Connery, on the other hand, is probably one of the
most grounded heroes I’ve written. He’s older than my usual hero, and he’s had
time to work out what he believes in and what’s important to him. He brings his
groundedness and calm to Lucy as a stabilizing force—even when she resists that
stability—and, more importantly, he doesn’t try to take the lead—in business or
in love. As young as Lucy is, Oliver quickly recognizes that she’s as
experienced as she claims to be in tracking paranormal fugitives—and can not
only hold her own against monsters but can kick Oliver’s ass if she needs to.
Oliver, of course, isn’t without his own problems. He’s
spent years blindly following orders—first in the Marines and later in a secret
paramilitary organization whose mission was tracking and capturing paranormal
creatures for experimentation. It was the death of his wife and fireteam
partner that finally made him take stock of what he was doing and what he
wanted out of life. Now he’s happily hiding out in the small mountain town—and
thriving “ghost town”—of Jerome, Arizona, acting as the unofficial protector of
Jerome’s paranormal community. That is, until Lucy shows up, shooting first and
asking questions later.
While we’re on the subject of Oliver, I need to say
something about the cover. Oliver is half Navajo and half Welsh, with cinnamon-brown
eyes and skin to match, and his hair is a heavily salted dark brown. As you can
see, the Oliver on the cover is blond and blue-eyed with light skin. The
design process didn’t permit me to see the cover until it was final, so although
I tried to get it changed, there wasn’t really anything they could do at that
point. Harlequin has done a wonderful job with my covers, and this is the first
time they’ve missed the mark, but I just wanted to acknowledge that this is not
representative of Oliver.
Kindling the Darkness
(Sisters in Sin, #5)
He Wants Redemption... She
Only Knows Damnation
Oliver Connery left a
secret paramilitary group because he couldn't stand the thought of torturing
supernatural beings. Lucy Smok's mission is to send infernal creatures back
where they came from. When Lucy learns that Oliver has been harboring
hellhounds, she wants to think of him as an enemy—and Oliver wants to think the
same of her. But their feelings for each other are another story...
Available now from the following retailers:
| Book Depository
Climbing back up to the car took a monumental effort. Lucy
leaned back in the driver’s seat and closed her eyes just for a moment. When
she opened them, the stars visible through the windshield had shifted
significantly. The clock on the dash read two in the morning. Her muscles
ached, and her shoulder was killing her. She touched her fingers to the torn
cloth over the bite; it was soaked with blood. There was no way she was going
to make it home like this. And she knew the address of exactly one person in
Jerome. He’d said he lived in the building his shop was in, which meant the
upstairs must be his residence.
Lucy drove back to Main Street in Jerome and managed to find
parking in front of Delectably Bookish once more. Her head swam, and the ground
dipped and swayed as she got out of the car. Lucy gripped the post beside the
entrance of the shop to steady herself and pounded on the door.
A light came on above, followed by the lights in the shop a
moment later. Oliver Connery appeared, shirtless, salty hair askew and glaring
furiously out of those cinnamon-brown eyes as he unlocked the door.
“What the hell is—?” He stopped, staring openmouthed as he
took in her appearance. “Jesus. What happened? Come inside.” Oliver put an arm
under hers and led her in to sit on one of the couches. “The werewolf?”
“I’m even more sure now that it’s not a werewolf.” Lucy
rubbed her brow with the back of her wrist. “It’s incredibly fast and
resilient—and strong—and it shifts with the wind, like it just decides when it
wants to be human.”
Oliver had gone to the café counter to grab some towels, and
he returned with them, shaking his head as he pressed one to the shredded
shoulder. “I knew this was a bad idea.”
“I assure you, I’m perfectly capable of handling this thing
now that I know what I’m up against.” She was sure of no such thing, but she
wasn’t about to listen to more of his criticism of her age and experience. Or
implicit criticism of her sex.
“So you didn’t kill it.”
Lucy grabbed the towel from his hand. “It wasn’t for lack of
trying. You need to get over this idea that all lycanthropes are misunderstood
people who need to be given a chance. This thing is a monster.”
“That isn’t what I meant.” Oliver frowned down at her.
“You’re going to have to take that suit off. We need to disinfect the bite, and
you’re probably going to need stitches.” He held out his hand. “Come with me.”
Lucy bit back another retort about being fine and not
needing any help and instead took his hand to let him pull her up from the
couch. Because as much as she hated to admit it, right now, she was not fine.
Upstairs in the bathroom of Oliver’s apartment, Lucy peeled
off the torn suit and blood-soaked white shirt—both of them ruined by her
transformation before the creature’s teeth had even sunk in—and sat
begrudgingly on the covered toilet to let Oliver clean the wound and sew her
up. “I can do that myself,” she complained between gritted teeth. “I know how
to stitch up a wound.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, stop trying to impress me. I get it.
You’re experienced. You’re tough as nails. You’re a total badass.”
“I’m not trying to—”
“That wasn’t sarcasm.” Oliver glanced up, his cinnamon eyes
dark with concern. “I am impressed. I’m also very worried about this bite. If
it’s a werewolf—”
“It’s not a werewolf. And…I happen to be immune.”
Oliver’s dark brows drew together. “Immune?”
“One of the perks of owning a biotech firm that specializes
“I see. I don’t suppose that particular pharmaceutical is on
the market for ordinary folk?”
“It’s part of a limited trial.”
Oliver’s jaw tightened, but he said nothing else.
As he tied off the stitches in her shoulder, Lucy became
acutely aware of the fact that she was sitting here in his bathroom in her bra
and underwear while he was wearing nothing but a pair of flannel pajama
bottoms. One of the other aspects of her heightened senses at this point in her
cycle was unusually intensified sexual desire.
After putting the first aid kit away, Oliver glanced up and
seemed to realize her state of undress as well. “Let me get you a robe.” He
slipped out of the bathroom and returned with one in blue-and-black flannel
that matched his pants.
“Thanks.” Lucy rose and attempted to slip her left arm
gingerly into the sleeve and nearly pitched forward into him.
Oliver steadied her, instinctively avoiding her arm and
shoulder, instead catching her about the waist. His hands nearly circled her.
Lucy looked up into his intense russet eyes. There were similar-colored
highlights in the salt-and-pepper hair, and what she’d thought of as a tan was
a matching cinnamon-bark undertone in his skin, evenly warm…everywhere.