Thanks for letting me visit your blog today, Annette. I’m very excited to share my new release, In Her Element, which kicks off my Elemental series. The book is set in the fictional location of Paradise City, Florida. The hero, Ethan Zale, works in marine biology, while the heroine, Darya, uses the city as a place to hide from other Elementals. Surrounded by water, hot sun, sand you can sink your toes into, and ocean breezes, the tropics seemed like a great setting for Elementals who can control water, fire, earth, and air.
Darya Drake is a Water Elemental who has lived a difficult life. She’s raising her younger brother, Matthew, who is mentally ill, and she has had to fight off Phages—Elementals who kill and cannibalize other Elementals to steal their powers. It isn’t until she meets Ethan Zale, a Water Elemental with stormy blue eyes and a body to die for, that she dares to hope for a better future. Ethan is everything she has ever wanted, but trouble looms when a Phage begins stalking her. Can Ethan find out who is after her and keep her safe? Will her brother accept another man in her life? Darya discovers true love in the midst of strife, but for a girl who has lost almost everyone she has ever cared about, it’s hard to believe in happy endings.
She stood alone at the east end of the plaza near where Paradise City’s biggest hotel was unveiling its new water display out front. Her friend Kristy was supposed to meet her here, along with Kristy’s boyfriend Orrin and one of his friends. They were all going to dinner together after the show.
Darya took a deep breath and fought not to fidget. Friday night had just gotten started in Florida’s newest east-coast hotspot, and the bright lights of the nearby storefronts and restaurants bathed everyone in yellow and blue. She didn’t see any sign of her friend, though it was already ten minutes past when they had agreed to meet. If Darya hadn’t forgotten her cell phone in her rush to get here, she might have called Kristy to see where she was. Still, it wasn’t late enough to get herself worked up.
Staying out of the main stream of foot traffic, she did her best to blend in. She and Matthew had moved to Paradise City precisely because it was such a good place to hide. They could mix with the regular humans here. Running into that other Elemental had simply been bad luck, like getting struck by lightning or having a falling coconut kill you. She certainly wasn’t afraid of coconuts.
The thought made her smile. She was about to check her watch again when a shiver ran up her spine. Although it was just after New Year’s, it wasn’t the chill in the air that caused the tremor. Every muscle in her body turned rigid, and her heart pounded as she recognized the familiar feeling.
“No,” she whispered.
This couldn’t be happening. Not again.
But it wasn’t her imagination. Somewhere, lurking among the ordinary humans, there was another Elemental in the crowd. Even now, his magic pricked at her senses and made the hair on her arms stand up. All of her bravado abandoned her, and her heart pounded so hard she was sure she could hear it. Every nerve in her body trembled at high alert as she scanned the faces around her. The danger had to be close. She never sensed another Elemental until he was nearly on top of her. But where? Where was he?
She backed away and looked for an escape, but she hadn’t taken more than a few steps when one man caught her eye. His stormy gray-blue gaze instantly snared her, and his hair—the color of rich, gourmet coffee with a bit of cream—stirred softly in the wind. She noticed his strong jaw and chiseled cheekbones stopped just short of being severe, and his rugged features smoothed instantly when one corner of his mouth kicked up. He had to be at least six feet tall. His lean, muscular body was a sight to behold, especially as he walked closer.
Darya found herself rooted to the spot as her heart did a strange somersault in her chest. She swallowed hard, aware that her mouth had gone dry. This man was gorgeous. He was also one of the few things on Earth that could get her killed in less than one lustful heartbeat. This was the other Elemental she sensed in the crowd.
“Sister, get away from him!” her brother cried telepathically.
Although Matthew was nowhere near her, his voice came through loud and clear in her head, and it finally shook her from her trance. The stranger was advancing on her, and she could see the curious glint in his eye. She tore her gaze from his and backpedaled right into a group of tourists. With no time to apologize, she blocked everything out as she shifted her concentration. She tapped into the power of her element to make herself invisible. Her body became as clear as water as she took off running across the square.
She was better at staying transparent when she wasn’t moving, but experience had taught her well. After the last attack, she had practiced her magic until she had learned to use her limited powers with better skill. The murmur of human voices warped as she raced through the crowd. When she sped past a nearby food vendor, a cloud of steam briefly clung to her, and the thick scent of hotdogs punched her in the face. Lights and colors blurred together and trailed like streamers along her periphery. Although she didn’t look back, she sensed the other Elemental was following.
Memory stalked her along with this new pursuer: the shadows, the knife, and the pounding of feet right behind her. She ripped her mind from the past before she gave in to mindless panic. By sheer force of will, she made herself slow down when she reached Atlantic Street so that she could drop the spell and use the foot traffic as cover. Once she had traveled three blocks, she risked a backward glance, but she didn’t see the stranger. She should have been relieved, but she remained cautious as she turned the corner and darted down the next lane.
This roadway wasn’t exactly a dark alley, but it was one of the narrower, less-traveled side streets. The parking had been terrible, and this was the shortest route to her car. If she could get behind the wheel and lock the door, she would be safe.
“Please wait,” a masculine voice said behind her.
Darya spun around. The sexy Elemental stood at the corner less than ten feet away. Her sense of self-preservation caused her to glance around for help, and she almost cried when she realized how stupid she had been. She had been so focused on escaping and reaching her car that she had abandoned the safety of the crowd. She was pretty sure she had just gotten herself killed.
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