Entry Nickname: Bounty and the Beast
Word Count: 85,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance
Exiled beast charmer Leena Edenfrell is in deep shit. Empty pockets force her to sell her beloved magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—and the Charmers Council hires a lethal assassin to exact punishment. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes him an offer he can’t refuse: a promise to procure a handful of mythical creatures in exchange for her life.
For assassin Noc, murder comes easy and pays well. But only fools pass up the chance to own rare and powerful magical beasts, even if that means lying to one enchanting charmer. Agreeing to Leena’s terms, Noc plans to keep the bounty live on her head until the creatures are his. Two paychecks, one job, no sleep lost.
To hunt for creatures, Noc and Leena embark on a quest across the countryside of Lendria. But traps capture more than beasts, and ensnared hearts are hard to untangle. Banished by the people she loved, Leena has no desire to take her heart out of exile, yet Noc is nothing like the monsters on the Council—or so she thinks. Bound by the magic of the assassin’s oath, Noc can’t renege on the contract for Leena’s head unless he’s willing to sacrifice his own. But neither can tame their growing feelings, and the ever-watchful Council demands blood. With Noc’s hands and heart tied, and Leena dodging enemies at every turn, no manner of beasts or money can protect their hides.
By the time evening fell, three things were certain: the gelatinous chunks of lamb were absolute shit, my beady-eyed client was hankering for more than the beasts in my pocket, and I was being watched.
Two out of the three were normal for my after-hours dealings.
Sliding my meat to the side, I propped my elbows against the heavy plank table. My client lasted two seconds before his gaze roved to the book-shaped locket dangling in my cleavage. Wedging his thick fingers between his shirt collar and neck, he tugged gently on the fabric.
“You have what I came for?” Nasally and high-pitched, his voice grated along my skin. A businessman. A rare visitor in Midnight Jester, my preferred black market bar. My pocket hummed with the possibility of money, and I fingered the copper key hidden in my pants.
“Maybe.” I nudged the metal dinner plate farther away, and the gray meat jiggled. “How did you find me?” Dez, the bartender, sourced most of my clients, but a businessman? Neckties and Midnight Jester didn’t mingle. Shady with a side of grime, the regulars were as dirty as the floors. I shifted in the booth crammed against the shiplap wall, and the cracking black cushions creaked.
The unseen pair of eyes lingering in a dark recess of the bar burrowed further into the back of my head. Faint movement from the shadows flickered into my awareness. Movement that should have gone unnoticed, but I’d learned to be prepared for such things.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Only When I Fall
Entry Nickname: From Gutters to Galleries
Word Count: 80K
Genre: Multi POV Adult Upmarket Fiction
If she could find a better paying job than the Museum of Fine Arts café, Mia Clarke wouldn't have to keep selling heroin. As a single mom, it kills her to contribute to people's afflictions—especially Tris, her former partner in both love and graffiti art. When he stops by the café for a couple of grams and accidentally leaves behind a gorgeous painting, Mia anonymously enters it into an online art contest hoping to help him turn his life around.
Soon, the image goes viral, sparking a widespread search for a troubled loner with a singular gift. But not everyone searching for Tris means him well. A posh art dealer with a trail of disappearing protégés, a social network moderator obsessed with the anonymous contest entry, and a groundskeeper required to evict the homeless are all closing in on the abandoned utility room under a Charles River bridge where Tris has been staying.
Unaware of the pursuers closing in, Tris must shake the heroin in his veins and leave his old life behind or risk losing not only his life's work and the person he loves, but the very life to which he clings. While Mia, weighed down by her guilt over being both Tris's dealer and the one person who can help him find the recognition his talent deserves, vows to quit selling drugs and to fight to save the man she wishes she didn't love—for herself, for him, and for the daughter he never knew he had.
ONLY WHEN I FALL is 3rd person multi-pov, uniquely structured with interspersed chapters in the 2nd person as descriptions of paintings that are moments from the astist's life seen through his creative lens.
The Museum of Fine Arts was humming. Patrons clopped around on marble tile toward the new Vermeer exhibit, loners sketched landscapes in their spiral pads, and tour guides directed groups between potted ferns from the European galleries to the Americas. An odd tang of coffee and parmesan wafted from the café on the first floor.
Mia Clarke wiped down table five, the edge of her full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from beneath the black uniform shirt cuffs buttoned at her wrists. She brushed a strand of pink hair behind her ear. As she rushed to take an order from a customer at the next table over, a different kind of customer stepped into the café.
She saw him out of the corner of her eye. He was hard to miss.
His dirty blonde hair was matted and fell past his shoulders like a neglected houseplant, its tendrils winding their way through his overgrown beard. Glancing around the room, he found an empty chair and slid into it. Their eyes met.
Finishing up with her customer, Mia closed her pad and wound her way through the maze of tables before stopping at his.
"Hey, Tris. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"
He sat hunched over the table, his eyes unreadable. "No thanks. Just a fruit cup."
A thin sigh escaped her lips. "How about a muffin or something?"
She knew he didn't care about the fruit. He came for the heroin she slipped inside.