Blurb: Handsome and haunted, he's a reaper who prefers to work alone. But Fate has other plans for him and the sassy secret agent who shot him in another life—if their pasts don't catch up with them first.
Dmitri Stavitsky has never played well with others—a Soviet KGB spy in life turned reaper after death, his work of bringing souls to the other side is best done alone. But orders from the top soon place him alongside fellow reaper Gwen Peterson, the American counter intelligence agent who took his life so many years ago.
“What kind of assignment?”
Okay, that didn’t sound too bad. On top of his normal duties as a reaper, he worked two or three retrievals a year. Mostly, they consisted of rogue demons, possessed witches, and the occasional poltergeist. The skills he’d mastered during his mortal lifetime as a spy made him perfectly suited to perform Fate’s dirty work. He suspected it was why they’d spared him from damnation and given him the chance to earn his salvation. But why did Samuel want Gwen tagging along? With rare exceptions, he worked alone, and even if he needed help he’d rather choose his own partner.
Anyone but her.
“It appears one of your kind has gone rogue,” Samuel said.
“What?” Disbelief marked Gwen’s voice as she leaned forward and propped her forearms against the countertop. “How is that even possible?”
Good question. Samuel lorded over his domain with an iron fist and absolute power. In all Dmitri’s years, he’d never heard of a reaper stepping out of line and surviving long enough to spread the tale. A couple years ago, one of his associates had faced damnation for breaking the rules to spare the life of his mortal woman. He would have burned for the infraction if not for the sacrifice by his lover and a rare act of mercy on Fate’s behalf.
“The particulars are irrelevant,” Samuel snapped. His polished veneer cracked along the edges, exposing a glimpse of the anger beneath. Or was it worry? With Samuel, it was hard to tell. He brushed a piece of lint from his jacket and the cool façade slipped back into place. “Three weeks ago, an unsanctioned termination occurred in the Charleston area. An additional four were taken the following week. At first, I suspected a demon of some sort and ordered the leader of the local unit to investigate.” He paused as if gathering his thoughts.
“And?” Gwen prodded.
The boss pinned her with a withering glare. “Typical woman. So impatient.” He tipped his chin in Dmitri’s direction. “You could learn a thing or two from this one.”
Under normal circumstances, Dmitri would have seized the opportunity to gloat, but Samuel’s foul mood left him holding his tongue.
“As I was saying.” Samuel looked as annoyed as he sounded. “Much to my surprise, the culprit was actually a reaper.”
“Which one?” Gwen asked.
His hard gaze bored into hers. “Patrick Ziegler. I’m certain you remember him.”
The blood drained from her face. She’d been Ziegler’s mentor in the early 1980s. After his training, he’d been assigned to Eric Lazlo’s unit. The Charleston territory covered the eastern third of South Carolina, from Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach and everywhere in between. Dmitri didn’t know him very well, but his reputation was solid. The room went quiet for nearly a minute.
Dmitri finally broke the silence. “So where do we come in?”
“I need you to secure him and bring him to me.”
That didn’t make sense. Samuel always knew the exact whereabouts of every reaper under his command. He prided himself on the ability and made sure every reaper knew that no matter what you did or where you went, he could pinpoint your location in an instant. Or so they’d always been told.
“I thought you knew where we were at all times.”
“I do. Under normal circumstances.” Now Samuel looked downright uncomfortable. Again, he tugged at the cuffs of his shirt. “But it seems Mr. Ziegler has developed the ability to evade my detection.”
“What, like a cloaking device?”
“I don’t know what it is.” He was back to sounding annoyed. “All I know is that I can’t find the little bugger. That’s where your particular skill sets come to mind. Do whatever it takes to locate and secure Mr. Ziegler.”
Dmitri glanced in Gwen’s direction. On the outside, she appeared unshaken by the prospect of working together. But he’d be willing to wager she hated the idea as much as he did. Maybe more. Why she wasn’t objecting was anybody’s guess.
“I can handle this more effectively with my own crew. Allow me to bring in Adam and Martin—”
“No,” Samuel interrupted. “You are to work with Ms. Peterson. Fate specifically chose the two of you for this assignment. I expect you to work together in a manner consistent with your station.”
He squared his shoulders before meeting Samuel’s unwavering gaze. “I refuse to work with someone I cannot trust.”
Surprise flashed across Samuel’s face, only to be replaced by barely contained fury. God only knew how long it had been since a reaper openly defied him. “Figure a way,” he growled.
Samuel stepped closer. The planes of his face were taut with tension, his eyes thinned with impatience. “I don’t have all day. Either work with Ms. Peterson, or accept the consequences of your impudence. The choice is yours.”
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Author Bio: Lori was a born a coal miner’s daughter. No wait, that’s not right. Actually, she was born a carpenter’s daughter. Her mother was a housewife/homemaker/stay-at-home mom – whatever the politically correct term is these days. Basically, she made sure Lori didn’t get into too much trouble, a task easier said than done.
Growing up the youngest of three girls, Lori never had control of the remote. (Not that she’s bitter about that. Really. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s not like she’s scarred for life or anything.) That meant a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits – you name it, she watched it. It fed her imagination, and that came in handy when the hormones kicked in and she needed a creative excuse for being out past curfew.
After completing her first manuscript, she joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at work, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.
Be sure to visit Lori at: Website