Exclusive Excerpt for YEAR OF THE SCORPIO, PART ONE!


Guess what? I’m more than halfway done with YEAR OF THE SCORPIO, PART 1 (currently at 42K words in what will be an estimated 75K word project)!

It’s flowing now, but at first it was a STRUGGLE. I wasn’t having any problem with the plot or understanding the characters; I’ve had this plot figured out for almost a year, and the characters are so real in my mind they often don’t let me sleep until the wee hours of the morning (they’re such talkers, heh).

The problem was that I’d decided to challenge myself with a new (for me) way of writing. From the time I wrote a 300-page whopper of a book when I was fourteen to now, I’ve always written in third-person. You know, the usual “he said, she said” kind of thing. But since many of the books I now read—and have saved on my Favorites shelf—are in first-person, I thought it would be great fun to have Polo and Dash’s story in first-person.

So, has it been great fun?

No. No, it has not.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d keep reverting to third-person. The first week or so of writing Scorpio was awful. Flat-out awful. I’m used to cranking out 8-10K words per week. By the end of that first week, I had written a little over 3K. Ugh. That’s slower than George R.R. Martin’s Winds Of Winter pace.

I thought about trashing the whole idea and going back to what was familiar, but I’m stubborn (typical Taurus here, yo). I’d decided this was how it was going to be, so I just had to put my head down and bulldoze my way through the weirdness. Other writers had done this, so that meant I could too, right?

Luckily, the stubbornness paid off. After that rough start, things began to flow a bit more easily, and I’m now thoroughly happy with how SCORPIO is coming along. If I don’t get snarled up or life doesn’t throw a monkey wrench into things, I should be ready to release this first half of Polo Scorpeone’s story September 4, 2016. *cautious happy dance*

Obviously, this project is a departure from anything I’ve written so far. Not only is it in first person, but it’s also the first two-parter I’ve ever done. Also, since it deals with a (former) Russian Bratva torpedo, or hitman, it’s got violence and death in it. But the one thing that is consistent about this story is the absolute devotion and love between the hero and heroine. That’s my favorite part of any story, so that’s what I always wind up writing about. 😉

Here’s an exclusive peek at the prologue for YEAR OF THE SCORPIO, PART 1! (Remember, this is the rough draft, so please forgive any typos/mistakes.)



Scared. Scared. Scared.

The word hammered in my brain, keeping time with my body-shaking heartbeat. I hugged my knees tighter to my chest out of fear that the sound of it would be heard by the men outside the locked door. But the old cabin’s paneled walls and wooden door across from where I huddled on the bed were enough to muffle the sound.

Or so I hoped.

I shivered, though the air inside the small room I’d been locked inside of for days was stifling, and the bed squeaked at the slight movement. Not surprising. It wasn’t even a bed, really. In my twelve years of life I’d never gone camping even once, but I figured the squeaky thing I sat on now had to be like one of those cot things people used in tents, or maybe in the Army. It was just a flimsy metal frame holding up a grid of springs, topped off with a cushion like the ones on the chaise lounges by the pool at home.


In the dark, my throat tightened so much I wheezed, while tears spilled out from my unblinking eyes. The wetness burned hot tracks down cheeks that were gritty and tight from the tears I’d cried over the past week—or six days, as far as I could tell, despite the one tiny barred window that had been painted black. I didn’t bother to wipe the tears away. Since I hadn’t seen a bath or even a washcloth since I’d been thrown into this crappy little room, wiping at the wetness would just make my face feel dirtier than it already did.

If I ever got home, I’d never have to be told to take a bath or change my clothes again. I’d do it five times a day, just because I could.

Then I jerked my head to the side while my already-tight stomach dropped, as if I’d missed the last step on the stairs.

When I got home. When.

Not if.


I was going to get out alive. I had to believe the whole getting-out-alive thing was going to happen in order for me to do what I had to do.

And I was going to do it tonight.

If I was brave enough.

The rumble of men’s voices reached my ears, and my gaze snapped to the bar of light at the bottom of the door while my breathing slammed to a halt. Sweat broke out everywhere, my skin prickling feverishly with it, but I didn’t move as I concentrated every sense I had on what was happening beyond that door.

Shift change.



I focused my attention to the outside of the cabin, angry now with myself for not having the guts to bust out one of the small, blacked-out windowpanes so I could see what was going on. My plan wouldn’t work if all four of the jerkfaces that took my brother and me were still there. I wasn’t sure my plan would work with just two, but dealing with two huge dudes who didn’t give a crap about hurting kids was still better than dealing with four.

“Leave.” I whispered the prayer so softly that not even I could hear it as I listened for the telltale sound of a motor. “Come on, come on, leave.”

A rough rumble of laughter sounded from beyond the door just before the rev of an engine reached my ears. Yes, I thought, my eyes closing on a wave of relief. Now all they had to do was leave, get far enough away so they wouldn’t hear anything—

The rattle of a lock being released halted my breath again, and my eyes jerked back to the bar of light at the bottom of my door—a bar of light that remained unbroken by any shadow.

It wasn’t my door that was being opened.


A whimper squeaked out of me as I pushed off the bed, and my little plan vanished under a choking wave of panic when I heard the snarling, gravel-rough voice through the locked door. Even though I couldn’t currently see him, I knew what Gravel Voice looked like—big and bald with a heavy, gorilla-like brow and almost no eyebrows. He was the bad one of the night shift, though my two captors were both bad. It was just that Gravel Voice’s level of badness was on a super-villain level compared to the other sniffling, snuffling guy I’d come to think of as Sneezy. Sneezy didn’t bother his victims. Gravel Voice did. Or at least, he bothered Nizhy.

Only, it wasn’t really bothering that Gravel Voice did to my brother. He did…something else.

Whatever he was doing to my brother, I knew it was something bad. It was something that had started the third night we’d been there. Something that had made my big, strong, fifteen-year-old hero of a brother cry like a frightened child, for hours on end. Something that made him beg for his life.

That was bad enough. But last night had been so much worse.

Last night, whatever had been done to my brother had made him beg for death.

“Please… please just kill me.”

The voice I heard last night… it didn’t sound like my funny, strong, capable Nizhy anymore. My brother had sounded like a child younger than me. A broken, helpless, pitiful child who wanted to die.

That, more than anything that had happened so far, scared me the most.

That was the moment my brain had gone weirdly silent. Until then it had been a jangling, never-ending tangle of fear and confusion and a dread so deep I was half–convinced it was doing acid-like damage to my internal organs. But now that everything was suddenly silent and calm, I was finally able to see what had to be done.

We needed to get out of there, or die trying.

We were probably going to be killed anyway. At first I’d been sure this whole nightmare would end up with Nizhy and me shaken but okay, and back in the safety of our home, a home that could easily be turned into a fortress when it wanted to be. But then our captors began to hurt Nizhy. I knew what that meant. They weren’t going to give us back. If our dad had been an ordinary guy, like a used car salesman or a factory worker, then yeah—returning damaged goods would still be an option. There wouldn’t be any big-time consequences like retaliation.

But our dad wasn’t a used car salesman or a factory worker.


Our dad was Borysko Vitaliev, head of the Vitaliev Bratva, a fact that Papa had never kept from us because he needed us to have our guard up. He needed us to be strong. And in case something went wrong and we found ourselves in a tight spot, he wanted us to know that it wasn’t a game where we had to be polite. It would be life or death, and that we’d have to do whatever it took to make sure we landed on the side of life.

That was where we were now.

The men who took us thought we were just kids—kids of a mafiya boss, yeah, but still just kids. They expected us to not fight back. They expected us to go like stupid, brainless cattle into some hamburger-making machine and not fight it. But I was smarter than a cow. Sure, they’d probably kill me for fighting back, but since they were going to kill me and my brother anyway, what did I have to lose?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Besides, I’d rather die than live through one more night of listening to Nizhy beg for death.

My plan was a simple one, really. I had waited until the morning shift served up “breakfast” of a stale, cold bagel with nothing on it and water—the same thing I’d been fed every day since Nizhy’s and my driver had had his brains blown out in front of us as he’d picked us up from the movies. Once my captors closed and locked the door, I had made myself wait a few minutes more, until I smelled the mouth-watering scent of bacon being fried. It was a mean little trick those jerks liked to pull, keeping my brother and me alive on bread and water while driving us insane with the scent of real food cooking just beyond the door.

For the first time since I’d been there, I didn’t get ragey over how mean this was. I was glad. Glad they were bad guys who enjoyed sticking to their lame daily torments, glad their cruel ways convinced me all the more that they deserved whatever they got. And besides, their routine gave me comfort. Routine meant I knew what they were going to do next. For instance, right now they weren’t giving me a second thought as they went about the usual business of trying to make us miserable.

That was fine with me.

I’d ignored the bagel they’d thrown on the floor, and instead focused my attention on prying loose one of the thin metal support bars under the cot’s frame. My kidnappers were so smug, they didn’t even come to check to see what I was up to when all my tugging made the bed stutter-drag across the floor. My heart stopped dead at the giveaway sound, but one of the jerks from the day shift just yelled out for me to pipe the hell down or he’d find a way to make me pipe down.


I had been more careful after that, and eventually I twisted the bar off the cot’s frame with a faint metallic squeak. One end was jagged and corkscrew-sharp, thanks to all the twisting I’d had to do to snap the thing off. Then I’d gone to the room’s single bare bulb, squinting as I looked into its center. I’d never changed a light bulb but I’d seen it done on TV lots of times, so I reached for it. A second later I flinched away, biting my lips together to stifle a yelp. I brought my burned fingers to my mouth to suck on them for a second before I tried again, tugging my grungy sleeve over my hand so I could unscrew the bulb. I had thought about just smashing the thing, but the sound of it breaking might alert them that I was up to something. I couldn’t have them all suspicious and on-guard. My plan wouldn’t work if I couldn’t get at least one of them close to me, and inside this room.

I had hoped that I could get things done by the time lunch rolled around, but to my surprise our captors skipped it. That unusual break in the routine worried me, even as it convinced me that getting out now no matter the risk was what I had to do. They were no longer interested in keeping me and my brother fed, that much was obvious.

That meant, as far as I could tell, that they were no longer interested in keeping me and my brother alive.

We had to get out of there.

I began to fear they would just leave us in our cabin jail cells to starve to death as the day wore on and the air in the closed-off room became smothering. I carefully rationed the water I’d been given along with the bagel, even managed to doze off during the worst of the day’s heat. But the sound of my brother’s voice, clearly asking for water snapped me to full wakefulness. He’d been yelled at—“Shut the fuck up, you’ll get water when I say you’ll get water!”—and that led to where I was now, alone in the dark, listening to the shift change while Gravel Voice unlocked what had to be my brother’s cell. If they didn’t come to feed me, none of this would work…

Shadows flickered through the bar of light at the bottom of the door. In a heartbeat I went under the bed, holding onto my “weapon” for dear life and staring at the place where there should be a knob, but wasn’t. It was the perfect jail cell, really, and if I could get even one of them stuck in here…

The bar of light under the door suddenly darkened, and with my cheek pressed to the dusty wood plank floor I could see shiny black boots through the gap. “You still alive in there, kid?” There was a rattle at the door. “Dumbasses forgot to feed you today, didn’t they? But I figure one day without food or water ain’t gonna kill ya.”

Again my heart nearly stopped. It wasn’t Sneezy at the door, like I’d expected. It was Gravel Voice.

The bad one.

My skin iced over as the door swung open.


Hope you enjoyed that! If you’re interested in seeing where Polo Scorpeone and Borysko Vitaliev originated in my world, they make a vital appearance in HOUSE OF PAYNE: RUDE, available for only $0.99!
 photo House Of Payne_Rude Cover for CRC 600 pixels wide_zpsj2xo3fjt.jpg

The Last Thing She Wanted…
From the moment Sass Stone overheard her social worker call her “broken,” she’s been hell-bent on proving her wrong. A broken woman doesn’t have a posse of kickass friends, a foodie lover’s dream job and a string of pretty boys she enjoys playing with. Sure, she has scars, but they’re buried so far down no one even knows they’re there. Certainly her former foster brother, Rudolfo Panuzzi doesn’t know about them. The man she’d dubbed “Rude” could sniff around all he wanted, but it wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He’d never get inside—her pants, or her heart.

…Was The One Thing She Needed
A dozen years and several combat tours in the Marines has a way of maturing a man, and Rude is no exception. His last mission killed his closest friends and almost killed him, leaving him with wounds on both body and soul. When he looks in the mirror, the haunted eyes staring back remind him far too much of his sexy little foster sister, Sass. That’s when he knows there’s more to her than he ever imagined… and he’s imagined one hell of a lot.

When Want And Need Collide
One by one, Rude destroys the defenses that have kept Sass locked inside herself. But even as she reluctantly allows him to coax her out of her shell, a dark cloud casts its shadow on their world. Is it something from his past… or hers?
109,000 words

***This is the fourth book in the House Of Payne series, but each book can be read as a standalone. Not intended for readers under the age of 18 due to adult language and sexual content***



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