Here’s a fun treat. This is a prequel of sorts to the yet unpublished third book in The Body Hunters series. Call it a Halloween treat! Enjoy!
“I promise honey, this is going to be the best Halloween/Slumber/Birthday party ever.” Danny’s mother, Julianna happily announced as she hung the Happy Birthday banner.
For nearly a year and a half we have been living in the skin of our characters, Danielle Labouleaux and Aiden Stone, stars of The Body Hunters series. We know these characters and their supporting cast so well, we know how they would react in certain situations and can even complete their sentences. Right now the third book in the series is with our editor Reggie and we’re in the midst of writing the fourth book. After we release the fourth book, tentatively titled The Lazarus Effect, we’re taking a break from Danny and Aiden and starting another series. That’s where the problem lies.
One thing we’ve taken note of from our readers is that even though they love the mystery and paranormal aspects of our series, they love the drama between our characters even more. Therefore, we decided to delve into something that was strictly drama in a real world setting. We can promise that there will be plenty of twists and character conflict. The dilemma lies in creating characters who are not just Xerox copies of the cast from our first series. We’re not going to cut any corners and we’re not taking the easy way out.
Our new protagonist is a biracial young woman and that’s where her similarity to Danny Labouleaux ends. We’re purposely making her an edgier character who would do things to accomplish her goals that Danny would shudder to even consider. It takes a little work to take your brain out of one character and transplant it into another, especially when you’ve been in their mindset for so long. We’ve had a long time to develop Danny and figure out what makes her tick, now it’s time to devote that same love and attention to another protagonist. While Danny and company feel like home, these new characters and scenarios have us in uncharted territory where we are free to start over from scratch. It may be a daunting task, but it helps us grow as writers.
Now we’re not leaving The Body Hunters permanently, there’s still a lot more stories to tell, as well as a prequel, and the movie script that’s currently in the works. One day I’d love to see Danny and Aiden on the big screen. We’re just taking a little time outside our comfort zone to develop something else and challenge ourselves. If it’s not a challenge is it even worth doing?
Enjoy a snippet from the second novel in our series The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. This is the murder of Eric Winston our suspect’s first husband.
Eric Winston expertly trekked soundlessly over the rugged Alaskan terrain of Denali State Park. Mount McKinley, the highest mountain summit in North America, was in the backdrop, its snowy peaks stretching into the early morning sky. With the plush clouds and fluffy snowcaps, the breathtaking skyline looked like it had been painted by the hand of God. Denali State Park’s scenery varied from lushly populated green forests to seemingly untouched icy tundra. Year round frozen glaciers jutted from the landscape like jagged shards of glass feeding into the cool channels and streams. Denali State Park was a nature lover’s paradise.
Opting not to employee a guide like some inexperienced novice, Eric left camp at daybreak to explore the park. Not satisfied with the nature trails that catered to the tourist population of the park, Eric decided to walk on the wild side, literally. The temperature was comfortable, in the mid 60’s, his sweat cooling off his body before it could accumulate. Eric was six foot tall, his body composed of lean muscle mass acquired from his active outdoors lifestyle. A mutinous mop of black hair covered his head and his eyes were the color of flint. His female fans on the blogs called him a heart throb. One zealous devotee even commented that he was a pretty boy, but the tangible type, not one of those Hollywood guys that needed makeup before they left the house. Eric liked the critique very much.
Today he was traveling light, dressed in loose fitting camouflage pants, a black long-sleeved t- shirt that clung to his upper body, and a hunter’s orange hoodie. His lucky, well-worn Timberland boots protected his feet from toothy rocks and the roughened topography. Over his back he lugged a backpack full of health bars, water, his digital camera, batteries, and other necessary equipment, while on his left shoulder was a quiver full of arrows. He held his newly purchased compound bow in his hand, ready for his quarry.
For the better part of the morning he had been tracking a large, bull caribou. Being mid-August, he was just in time for caribou hunting season, and he wasn’t going home empty handed. Eric kneeled, observing the fresh caribou tracks running along the stream. He cursed, having just missed the beast by mere minutes. The creature had stopped to drink from the stream before heading right back into the wilderness. Consulting his compass, Eric noted that the beast was headed east. He had been on the caribou’s trail for awhile and wasn’t going to lose him now.
Shifting the weight of his backpack and quiver on his muscled back, Eric followed the hoof prints. A stark white snow hare darted out of his path. Songbirds anointed him with their serenades as he entered the wooded area. Solid thickets of plant life impeded his travel, low hanging limbs from young spruce trees slapped him in the face, but he would not be deterred. This is the life he loved.
Eric Winston was the Wildman, or so he was called on his internet viral videos. He had started off filming some of his outrageous outdoor adventures and daredevil stunts, and the videos had become so popular he was nearly a household name. Taking advantage of his Harvard Business degree, the twenty-eight-year-old turned his love of the outdoors and extreme sports into a lucrative multimillion dollar enterprise. His was the face that graced bottles of sports drinks, outdoor equipment, and sportswear. His agent was even working out a deal for an MTV reality show. He had literally become his own brand. He was living the American dream.
A year ago he had finally met the woman with whom he wanted to share that dream. Amanda McDuff, or Crystal Rose as she was called during her stripping days, was now his wife. He had first met Mandy when he was out partying in Boston and visited a topless bar with some of his randy friends. As soon as Crystal Rose took the stage, Eric was immediately mesmerized and had to have her. Model tall with coffee brown, shoulder length hair and topaz brown eyes, Crystal Rose seemed to be looking right into his soul. The woman knew how to captivate the room, leaving every male in the bar drooling and ready to leave their wallets and credit cards with her. With her stunningly perfect breasts and even more perfect backside, Crystal Rose was exactly what men’s fantasies were made of. With her first twirl around the pole, Eric was ready to throw her over his shoulder and lock her away in his apartment.
Instead, he waited around for her until the club closed. Sitting on the hood of his Porsche he was biding his time for her. At first she turned him down when he asked her out. But after three consecutive weeks of him showing up at the club on the nights she performed, Mandy finally relented.
Amanda was a Boston Community College Student, a computer programming major, stripping to pay her way through school. When they got engaged, Eric insisted that she give up her college aspirations to help with his career. She’d remained hard headed about the subject, refusing to give up her schooling, but things were about to change.
Two days ago they made it official and finally tied the knot. After a lavish private ceremony, he had spirited them away on a private jet to Alaska. To say that she didn’t appreciate their honeymoon destination was an understatement.
At first she complained that she didn’t want to sleep in a cold tent, let alone spending their wedding night making love on an air bed. After having to rough her up a little, Mandy let him have his way. She woke up complaining about the cold, and he was forced to get her straight again. Now that they were married, he wasn’t going to be putting up with her nagging. She was going to do things his way, or else.
On his way out to hunt, she whined about bears and wolves in the woods, so he decided to leave her with his hunting rifle. The gun was probably too cumbersome for her, but it would stop her bellyaching. Besides, if any wolves or bears came around, she would probably be toast anyway.
Eric tried on a wry smile at the thought of her, the typical city girl, trying to survive an animal attack. He stopped short, spotting his prey in the next clearing. Like a ghost, Eric silently plucked an arrow from his quiver and pulled it back against the bow string, all in one fluid motion. He was envisioning having the caribou’s head mounted on his office mantle as a wedding gift to himself.
A crack of thunder sent the startled caribou back into the woods. It was funny because the weather forecast hadn’t predicted any rain at all. Eric started to look up and realized he couldn’t move, but there was an agonizing pain in his back, like someone had ripped it open with a crowbar. Slowly he touched his fingers to his chest, to find them slick with blood.
There was another crack of thunder and he was face first on the forest floor, slowly slipping out of time and into eternity. The assailant stood over Eric and emptied two more bullets into the back of his skull for good measure. Stepping carefully around the body, the attacker headed back out of the forest.
Eric was dead, steam escaping from his body and dissipating into the cool, morning air. The scent of blood drew carrion crows who began feasting on the body. The crows scattered when a rogue grizzly bear approached. The bear nuzzled the body, before grabbing it by the leg and dragging it to its den.
Here’s an excerpt from Book 2 in our series, The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. In this snippet, our psychic detectives Aiden and Danielle meet with the grieving family of Jason Cartwright. Enjoy!
The JTC Technology Corporation campus occupied several hundred acres of San Jose real estate. The driver dropped Aiden and Danny off in front of the company’s headquarters. For a few seconds they stood gaping at the sharp inclines and daring angles of the building’s structural design which looked like some futuristic spacecraft from a science fiction movie. Security officers awaited them as they stepped into the expansive five-story complex. After signing the two of them in, giving them guest badges, and taking Danny’s laptop out of her messenger bag and giving it a once over before giving it back to her, they were allowed to pass into the lobby.
Stepping into the headquarters was like entering a time machine into the future. The building’s interior consisted of polished chrome, black marble and mirrored glass. Twin, glass enclosed elevators were located in the middle of the first floor, while a staircase that looked more like a glass art sculpture offered access to all levels of the building. The sun was nearly blinding, reflecting off the polished tile floor of the lobby. Since it was around lunch time, the atrium was hectic with activity. Mixed among the mundane sea of neutral office attire were what Danny assumed were the more relaxed creative geniuses in their brightly-colored classic cartoon and superhero T-shirts.
A man, no older than thirty of Asian descent was standing in the lobby near a large bronze sculpture of a hand holding a globe. His thin body was pretty much built like a stick figure, his polo shirt and khakis a couple sizes too large, hanging off his lanky frame. The smile he greeted Danny and Aiden with was as inviting as a bathtub full of ice cubes.
“I’m Carter Wu, lead software developer for JTC Technology. Welcome.” He said boringly as if they were stopping him from doing more important work. “If you come with me, I’ll give you a tour of the facility.”
“I thought we were supposed to meet with the Cartwright’s?” Aiden spoke up as they started to follow.
Carter sighed and rolled his eyes, his tone of voice condescending. “Unfortunately, their board meeting is running a little late. By the time our tour is over they should be ready for you.”
Carter didn’t sound very enthused to be doing what some would consider babysitting. With as much heart as an automaton, he gave them the abridged history of JTC Technology.
The company started in Boston, where Jason Cartwright a technological prodigy, was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT at the age of fifteen. He had programmed his first computer operating system at the age of sixteen. That same year, with his parents insistence he had started JTC Technology out of the family’s garage.
Eight years later JTC was a highly successful Fortune 500 company. Though they were successful in the private sector with their computer programs and consumer gadgets, the bulk of the company’s profits came from their contracts with the United States Defense Department. JTC did everything from create simulators where military recruits could enact crucial combat situations to supply electronics military personnel used on the battlefield.
They were given a full tour of the grounds, which included the Research and Development building located east of the main complex and the programming wing where computer programs were born. With the tour completed, Carter took them to the fifth floor of the headquarters where the board meeting was just ending. Sullen-faced board members were filing out as they approached
“Your guests, sir.” Carter snidely announced to Tim Cartwright, CEO and the victim’s father. “Would you be requiring anything else?”
Tim seemed to narrow his eyes on Carter as if silently reprimanding him and his unpleasant attitude. “It’s alright, Carter, we can take it from here.”
Dismissing the software developer,Tim took Danny’s hand in his own and kissed it. Aiden glared. He didn’t approve at all! Jealousy reared its head in him, and all he could do was to keep glowering at the man. Tim Cartwright failed to notice.
Tim smiled widely showing off a set of teeth worthy of a tooth paste commercial. He was rakishly handsome, the type of man who only looked better with age. He was a few inches shorter than Aiden. His height and wide-shouldered build hinted at a previous athletic career, evident in his stance and the graceful way he moved. His dark hair was surrendering to gray with strands of silver mixed throughout.
He led them into the conference room where Barbara, or Barbie as she liked to be called, was waiting. She and Tim looked to have coordinated their attire, both of them dressed in black power suits. With the shake-up at the company and with their son the brainchild missing and presumed dead, Danny assumed they were trying to keep up a united front for the stockholders.
“Thank you so much for coming.” Barbie welcomed them, offering them a seat at the oblong mahogany table. She took a seat at the table’s head with Tim to her right. Introductions were made all around with the Cartwright’s insisting on being addressed by their first names. Danny and Aiden also offered their condolences.
“Do you have a picture of Jason?” Danny asked.
Reaching into his jacket pocket, Tim produced a picture of his son and slid it across the table to Danny. Jason smiled back in the photo which apparently was taken on his graduation day from MIT since he was wearing his cap and gown. He was a good looking kid, a scrawny carbon copy of his father.
“Is it OK if I keep it?” She asked.
“Of course you can.” Barbie said with a nod.
“We really hope you can help us.” Tim’s jovial expression had softened, his hands clasped in front of him. He looked to be on the verge of tears, worry lines creasing his brow.
“We’ll try our best, Tim.” Danny sincerely offered.
“You two come highly recommended. What is your experience with cases such as this?” Barbie asked.
“Well I worked with both the New Orleans and the New York Police Department along with my brief experience with the FBI as a consultant. I also worked as a contractor with the Federal Government solving cold cases.” Danny said, offering her references.
“I served with the Marines for three tours in Afghanistan. After that I worked with the FBI for two years in their Criminal Investigation Division.” Aiden informed them.
“You were the one with Cassie when she was kidnapped by Gerard right? Weren’t you his fiancée?” Barbie asked Danny. Upon hearing Gerard’s name, she took a deep breath to answer, but Aiden spoke up before she could get a word out.
“Yes, she was, and I was the agent that rescued them.”
“Well then it looks like we’re in good hands.” Tim observed, nodding to his wife. “Hopefully you can help us track down that woman our son was fool enough to marry.”
Danny looked confused. “I thought we were also trying to locate your son? He’s still missing isn’t he?”
Frowning, Barbie waved her hand indifferently. “At this point it’s more of a recovery operation than a rescue. The authorities were only able to recover two bodies from the yacht’s wreckage. They say we may never find Jason’s body.”
“You try to protect your kids, but sometimes they just won’t listen.” Tim hid his reddened eyes with the palm of his hand and started bawling. Supportively, his wife clenched his other hand.
Vengeance blazed in Barbie’s eyes. “Whatever it costs to find that murderous bitch, we’ll pay it. We’ll give you access to our private jet, and we’ll provide you a company credit card to cover any expenses you may incur. Whatever you need, name it and it will be provided to you.”
Danny and Aiden considered the offer to be quite generous, and they were able to come to agreeable terms with the Cartwright’s as far as their fee for their investigative services.
Curiosity got the best of Barbie. “Tell me, you two are working together, but are you lovers as well?”
Danny gave a sharp intake of air, the sound similar to someone suddenly letting the air out of a balloon. “What?”
Aiden stepped in for her, his tone stern and reproachful. “With all due respect, whatever our relationship is, it’s between us. Danielle and I have worked well together in the past, and it will in no way affect how we work on finding your daughter-in-law.” Just because they were rich and paying for their services didn’t give them the right to pry into their personal lives.
Barbie apologized profusely. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend or be so forward. Since that business with Gerard and hearing that you were her rescuer, well there just seems to be a certain kind of chemistry between the two of you.”
“Please don’t mention that monster’s name again. It’s over and in the past now.” Aiden said.
“Please accept our apologies. I can see that would be a very horrible memory. We didn’t mean any harm, right honey?” Barbie nodded in agreement with Tim’s statement.
“Apology accepted, Now if we can get down to business let’s just focus on finding your daughter-in-law.” Danny changed the subject and opened her laptop ready to take notes. “What can you tell me about her?”
“She’s a gold digging, white trash bitch. How’s that for a start?” Barbie spat venomously.
“Ah OK, let’s start with where did she and Jason meet?” Aiden clarified the questioning.
Barbie turned to Tim, and he shrugged. “I think they met when she was still married to Jason’s friend. What was his name?” Tim snapped his fingers repeatedly as if it would help him remember. “What was his name…Winston? Eric Winston. I know for a fact Eric met her at a strip club where she was performing.”
Danny and Aiden exchanged a look. They weren’t privy to that particular nugget of information.
“She was a stripper?” Aiden asked.
Tim nodded grimly.
“She killed him, you know. Shot that poor boy to death and left him in the woods. The animals had devoured him before his body was found.” Barbie informed them, snatching a handful of tissue from a nearby box and blowing her nose. “My poor son. We don’t even have a body to bury. I swear she’s going to pay for what she did.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Danny offered, patting Barbie’s hand.
Barbie sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. “It’s OK darling.”
Tim had since composed himself. “She killed the Winston kid on their honeymoon. Good kid that he was. Jason felt sorry for her and offered to pay for Amanda’s legal defense. The prosecutors didn’t have enough to bring her to trial so they dropped the case. Next thing I know Jason is hanging around with this girl, and last week we find out they’ve eloped.”
“Eric didn’t put her in the will as his beneficiary so his family contested her inheriting his millions. She didn’t follow through with the legal battle because she got her hooks in another rich victim; my son.” Barbie said.
“I think the wise thing to do is start where it all began and track her from there.” Danny said to Aiden. “It’s only been a few days. She hasn’t gone that far.”
He nodded, turning to the Cartwright’s. “You said they eloped to Hawaii?”
“Yes. They were secretly married two days before the boat explosion.” Tim said.
“Jason and the girl used our private villa in Hawaii before the explosion. The police weren’t able to find any leads there and have given it the all clear. You two are welcome to use it. I’ll have it prepared for your arrival.” Barbie said, taking her smart phone and rapidly sending a text message.
“That’s fine. It may take a day or two, though” Aiden agreed. “We need to get back to Georgia, touch base with our government contacts and go from there.
After another twenty-five minutes of ironing out the details and arrangements, both of them caught the waiting Town car back to the hotel.
When we went about creating our hero for our first novel, The Body Hunters, we wanted him to be different. The white guy with the unruly hair and the roguish countenance had been done to death and we were tired of the sparkly vampires. Our guy had to be exotic and a man all his own. When Danielle saw him for the first time, we wanted her to be like ‘Whoa!’. I wish I could get a mental picture of what our readers fantasize about when they read about him. I know who we looked to for inspiration when we created him.
Like Danielle, Aiden is psychic, what we call a physical medium who can access the memories stored in objects. Danny may be a prodigy with her abilities, having been formally trained by her Grandmere, but Aiden needs work. She has to teach him how to use his new found psychic powers.
Our male lead had to be an alpha male foremost. It would suit him well since he would be Danielle Labouleaux’s friend, lover, confidant, and protector. Making him a former military man was no question, which would eventually lead to his career as an FBI agent. Though Danielle or Danny as we call her is headstrong and feisty, he needed to be her voice of reason during her emotional crisis. He’d give her so much leeway to misbehave, before reigning her back in.
We also needed him to reside on 64 Gutter Lane. A hero is no fun without the bad boy edge, so Aiden definitely has a one track mind that runs right into the gutter. His flirtatious comments always make Danny blush and make for some fun banter and situations between the two.
Though he may sound like the perfect man, we also wanted to ground him in reality. Aiden isn’t perfect, in fact he’s far from it. He’s bad with money and spends it like there’s no tomorrow. He also has a bad temper and can sometimes be a slob. That’s where Danny comes in to help him where he’s weak, while he does the same for her.
Our readers gravitate to him like bees to honey. Though we wanted women to love our hero, we didn’t think they’d love him to the point of taking his side in arguments and blaming Danny for all their problems. In creating Danny’s soul mate, we may have just created a monster. I’m pretty sure that Aiden Stone would be happy with that.