Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Code Black by Tina Moss

Title: Code Black
Author: Tina Moss
Series: Paranormal Crimes Division #1
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Gossip mag reporter Sera Benenati knows a thing or two about unearthing secrets...and burying them. As an unregistered supernatural, her freedom depends on keeping her fire-wielding abilities contained. Yet, the threat of a little flame isn’t enough to snuff out her journalistic pursuits. She’s determined to claw her way to the top and land a spot with a real paper.

When she tracks a lead on a string of gruesome paranormal murders to the small town of Buckhorn, Arizona, she’s certain she’s landed the perfect scoop. But, as the crime scene reveals victims with bite marks, torn flesh, and battered bodies, Sera may have smoked out more than she can burn. As the investigation grows hot and Sera winds up in the crosshairs, she’ll need the help of a sexy shifter, special agent Talon Rede, to unmask the murderers before she becomes the next victim.

Sera stared at her fingernails, picking at the chipped red paint and wondering how in the hell to interview a murder victim’s sister. “How do I get myself into these things?” She flicked the cherry apple flecks at the dashboard and leaned her skull back against the headrest. Remembering exactly how she ended up in this suburban neighborhood, procrastinating in the morning sun shifted her thoughts to seven days earlier.

And a conversation she couldn’t forget.

“Don’t you think people deserve the truth?” That line had gotten her into this mess in the first place. One week ago, she’d won a huge bet with her favorite poker buddy, who also happened to be the county medical examiner. When he couldn’t cover his bet, he gave her a prize of equal value—the unlisted office number of Special Agent Talon Rede, team leader for the Paranormal Crimes Division in the district. She’d been after an inside connection to the PCD for months. He knew the weakness and played his hand well. Information proved the ultimate jackpot, far more than any dollar amount. The journalistic philosophy accounted for her not big enough to be called a studio apartment and the meager double digits in her savings. The phone number almost made up for her severe lack of closet space.

Her fingers couldn’t whip over the touchscreen fast enough.

“Agent Rede, you can’t possibly believe releasing these ridiculous tidbits of information is fair to the public.” The accusation had flown a few seconds past the initial greeting of, “Hello. I’m Sera Benenati. A reporter. Don’t hang up.” The collar of her button down blouse irritated her neck. When he’d stayed on the line, she dug in. “The more the people know about these crimes, the safer they’ll be.”

His silence dragged on, and then, he growled. “Well now, this should be interesting.”

She’d been instantly intrigued. His strong velvety voice did something to her insides. Donning her most professional tone like armor, she said, “What’s interesting is the way the PCD dodges every reporter’s questions about the Rodriguez case.”

“Sweetheart, you can ask me anything you like.” His pause spoke louder than his words. “But, if I think for a second my answer will put more people, the public, the same citizens this office protects in danger, you’re damn right the only phrase you’ll hear is ‘no comment’.”

“Wow.” She hadn’t meant to let it slip, but his honesty and boldness impressed the hell
out of her. “You always this straight forward?”

“What you see is what you get.”

“But, I only hear you, Agent Rede.” She could almost envision his grin over the line, picturing it in her mind and imagining the man behind the voice.

“For now, Ms. Benenati. But, I doubt you give up easily.” Another heavy pause. “Am I wrong?”

“Not on your life.”

They’d traded barbs for almost an hour after, each striking and dodging in turn. She never did get more from him on the case, but it ended up her poker pal had the scoop. Another game, three days later, and she had the details she needed. Only now, she couldn’t get the special agent out of her head.

“Stupid. You never even met the guy!” Yet, it didn’t seem to matter. Her cheeks heated whenever she thought about their one phone call—a conversation she replayed over in her head far too many times. It’d been forever since a man had captured her attention so much. Hell, had any man ever fascinated her like Agent Rede? But, when the conversation had ended, he didn’t ask for her number and she hadn’t called him back. Better to keep the fantasy than be disappointed with reality.

Sera sighed and flipped down the visor to check her makeup. The foundation she’d spent way too much on flaked in the heat and the simple lipstick she’d chosen to look “professional” clashed with her hair. Worse, the nail polish she’d been picking at as she killed time in the car made her fingers look like bloody stumps. “Perfect.”

Resigned, she flicked off the dried red polish and hopped down from her Jeep 4x4. With the victim’s file clutched to her chest, she hurried to the house. Her heels clicked over the endless cement driveway. She’d read the medical examiner’s report—the latest aforementioned poker prize—six times. Details of the crime remained hidden away from the press, but with this, she’d been able to uncover the crucial facts. She flipped through her notes for the seventh time as she walked.

Victims, Juan and Margaret Rodriquez, aged 32 and 29 respectively and registered as humans, were found dead in their home. Bite marks and bruises on the victims’ arms and legs show signs of a struggle, but no foreign DNA fibers could be identified. Reports of similar blood and tissue loss from attacks by unregistered SUBs are on file, but no suspect type can be recorded without further analysis. See appendix on supernatural or undead beings for possibilities.

Her hands started to sweat. “This is what you wanted, remember?” She tucked the file under her arm and wiped her palms on the hem of her pencil skirt. “A chance to prove yourself, to be a real reporter. No more gossip mags or d-bag bosses.”

The little voice in the back of her mind started screaming, the bastard echoing her fears. You should be nervous, pet. After all “Man gives Birth to Two-Headed Alien” and “Tractor Comes to Life Killing Farmer” don’t exactly put you up for a Pulitzer. Rubbing her temple, she mouthed a silent, “Shut up.” Over the last eight years, she’d fought to tune out the annoying monster, the secret she’d had to keep from everyone. It was part of— okay, maybe more than part of—the reason she hadn’t contacted the special agent again.

How could she have a relationship with anyone when she had this thing in her head?

And that was the big problem—it was literally all in her head. Her mind to be exact. The neurons in her brain fired on two different planes of thought. One was hers and the other belonged to another, an entity. Sera could manage to get his side quiet most of the time, but every now and again, he surfaced at just the right—or rather wrong—moment.

“Guy, if you start with me,” she said, addressing her inner tormenter, “I swear I’ll zone out on sleeping pills for the next three days.”

Touchy. Whatsamatta? Big bad reporter got a bug up her—

“Stop it!” At sixteen, she’d dubbed the voice, Guy, and thought he might be some type of supernatural creature or a part of her own mixed heritage. Her human father refused to discuss Sera’s otherworldly side, and her mother, who as an unregistered supernatural had no legal protection or paper trail, died giving birth to Sera. Thus, the sole keys to unlocking the mystery of her inhuman DNA remained buried. Whether Guy was some type of freak or just a part of her damaged psyche didn’t make much difference in the end. He still remained a major pain in the ass.

“Guy, can it. I don’t need your shit now.” She stalked down the football field masquerading as a driveway to the front door, blocking out all other thoughts than the task at hand. A tentative knock on the brass handle had her fiddling with her bun and smoothing the wrinkles from her tan suit jacket. As she waited, she shifted her feet, the high heels pinching her toes something fierce.

“Ms. Brown?” she said, knocking again. “Ms. Brown, I’m from the Arizona Hornet. I’m here for an interview.” Sera could hear shuffling inside, but the front door remained closed. She leaned to the right, trying to catch a glimpse through the window. An overgrown myrtle bush blocked her view and tickled her nose with its allspice scent. The sun reflected off the glass in harsh streaks. She shielded her eyes with the back of her hand and tried to keep the desperation from her voice. “Please, I just want to ask some questions.”

More shuffling preceded a scraping sound as the door opened mere inches. “Another reporter, huh. What’d you want now?” A pair of red-ringed eyes narrowed on Sera.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Ma’am.” Grabbing a pen in one hand, she tightened her grip on her file with the other. She flipped through her notepad and looked down at the list of questions. Nerves poked at her concentration. The letters blurred together like a Rorschach inkblot. She chewed the pen cap. The urge to rip the paper into tiny shreds made it impossible to focus. “This won’t take long. I have a few questions about your sister’s murd...about what happened to your sister.”

“I already told the police everything I know.” She clipped each word as if struggling to get them out through her clenched jaw.

Ms. Brown began to close those precious inches. Cursing her stupidity at wearing heels, Sera wedged her foot in the thin space.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The dark circles under Ms. Brown’s eyes lessened as her gaze widened. “How dare you!”

“You don’t understand. I think I can help you.”

“Help me? You think you can help me?” Ms. Brown shook her head and muttered, “Crazy bitch. The only way you can help me is if you bring my sister back from the dead.”

The door pulled open wide and an umbrella’s metal tip poked Sera in the chest. She stumbled backward. “Ms. Brown, I want to find the killers.”

“Get off my property! Or you’ll find a killer right here.” She slammed the door closed.

The chain rattled as the lock slid into place.

Author Bio:
Tina Moss is an award-winning author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and New Adult novels. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and two alpha corgis, though all the males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5'1" Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.



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