The Night Everything Fell Apart (Book #1: The Nephilim Series). Paranormal Romance / Paranormal Fantasy, October 2016, 370 pages. Paperback ISBN 978-1941017012/$13.99 eBook ASIN B01IRMBM68/$5.99
Demon descendants of fallen angels battle for control of fractured Nephil magic and the mastery of the human race. Arthur Camulus, the last living descendant of Merlin the Sorcerer, has inherited the vast and perilous magic of his ancestor. With gaps in his memory and blood on his hands, Arthur vows to wrest the leadership of the Druid clan from Mab, its beautiful and deadly alpha. Cybele Herne joins Arthur’s quest though she knows defeat will bring death or enslavement. As the young lovers race to find the lost staff of Merlin—their one hope for victory—a second enemy surfaces: a rival Nephil who seeks to use Arthur to resurrect a deadly evil from the great sorcerer’s past. One fateful night a beacon of hope shines. When Arthur reaches for it, the forces of Heaven and Hell collide.
And everything falls apart.
“Breathe, damn it. Breathe.”
Perhaps Heaven was watching. If so, Arthur was sure it was laughing. Cybele’s third breath was a choking gasp. Fear closed his throat. His arms were banded around her ribs. Too tightly? He forced himself to loosen his hold.
He lowered her onto the floor. Her lips parted. With trembling hands, he cupped her face.
“Come on,” he muttered. “Come on…”
She sucked in a breath, and then expelled it in a bout of fierce coughing. He rolled her onto her side and pounded between her shoulder blades. When at last the hacking subsided, he eased her onto her back. She was definitely breathing. But her chest rose and fell in an erratic rhythm.
“Cybele.” She gave no indication she’d heard. “God damn it, Cybele. Wake up.”
This time, her eyelids fluttered. He tensed, willing them to open. They didn’t. Her complexion was deathly pale, her lips a faint shade of blue. Fuck. Her hands were like ice. The red stripe across her neck might as well have been a lash against his own back.
He couldn’t bear to look at what he’d done to her. He gathered her into his lap and cradled her head against his chest. She shivered. His ran his hands up and down her arms, generating friction. If he could have brought her right inside him and given her all his heat, he would have done it.
A sick feeling settled in his chest. He’d remembered Mab, that bloody bitch, but somehow, he’d forgotten Cybele. How the hell could she have left his mind, even for an instant? She meant everything to him.
“Don’t you dare die,” he muttered. “Don’t you dare.”
He didn’t know how to heal with his magic. He tried anyway, pouring all the life energy he could muster into her body. His effort seemed to help. Her shuddering abated. The blue tinge of her lips yielded to a pale pink.
Her next inhale was less of a gasp and more of a wheeze. Her lips parted.
“Not…dying.” Her eyelids fluttered open. Their gazes locked. “Not even…close.”
He swallowed. “Are you sure?”
“Harder…to kill…than tha—” Another coughing fit took her.
“Bollocks,” he muttered. “Not again.” He urged her to sit up and lean forward, his hand on her nape.
She held up one finger. “Just…give me…a sec.”
The coughing abated. Her hand fluttered downward, as if it weighed too much for her arm to support.
“Take your time,” he said. “Take all the time you need.”
She nodded. Several long moments passed. Finally, she raised her head. “Better,” she said. “I think.”
He examined her more closely. When his gaze fell on her neck, he tasted bile. He might have killed her with his blind strike. If he had proper control of his magic, she wouldn’t have stood a chance. His mind started to run with the scenario. Ruthlessly, he choked it off.
She’s not dead, he told himself. Not. Dead. Not dead, not dead, not dead. Color had flooded her cheeks. Her breathing was still uneven, though. He grabbed her wrist and pressed the pulse point. Weak. He frowned at her eyes. The pupils were dilated.
She blinked up at him. “Dang it, Arthur. Quit looking at me like that.”
His chest eased a fraction. If she had enough energy to tell him off, she wasn’t dying quite yet.
“Don’t look at you like what? Like you’re bloody lucky to be alive? Sweet Lucifer, Cybele, what were you doing, sneaking down those steps? You scared the piss out of me.”
“I scared you? What about me? Next time try looking before you attack.”
“Rubbish. You should’ve let me know it was you.”
Her green eyes flashed. “Give me some credit. I’d have to be dumber’n a bag of rocks to call out before I knew—” She sucked in a breath. “—before I knew—it was y—” She dissolved into another round of coughing.
“Fuck. I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s my fault.” When she started to reply, he shook his head. “Quiet. Don’t talk. Just breathe.”
She pressed a fist to her chest and nodded. When the coughing finally stopped, she looked up and offered a wry smile. “You know, I think that’s the first time you ever apologized to me.”
He snorted. “Don’t accustom yourself.”
Clearing is all the rage. Get rid of your stuff, we’re told. Value new experiences rather than new things. Find bliss and serenity. Sell your McMansion and move into a Tiny Freaking House.
Really, I just needed some room to breathe.
It’s not that my house looked like an episode of Hoarders or anything. Most of my stuff was hidden away inside closets, under beds, or shoved into the basement. But there was a lot of it. Where did I get all this stuff anyway? I don’t even like to shop. A day at the mall makes me shudder. Still. I might not enjoy shopping, but I’ve done my share. What I didn’t do is throw anything away.
And all that never-thrown-away stuff was starting to get to me. It was there, laughing at me, when I opened the closet to find something to wear. It rolled its eyes when I went looking for a spatula. It tripped me up when I was in a hurry. It intruded, smirking, when I needed to find something.
I really needed to get rid of some stuff.
It helped that we were planning renovations to our bathroom and bedroom. Nothing like a contractor deadline as a clearing incentive. Like a brave archeologist in a harsh foreign land, I dug through cabinets, closets, and drawers. Filled bags and boxes. I plowed through the bedroom and bathroom. Moved on to my college kids’ bedrooms and bathroom (if it didn’t fit or work, and they didn’t take it with them, it was fair game). Then down the steps into the kitchen, family room, and living room. And finally (shudder) into my home office.
I threw out a ton of stuff. (That may even be a literal assessment.) I piled more stuff on the porch and watched the charity trucks cart it away. When it was gone, I felt lighter. And only slightly panicked.
The panic didn’t last. When I walked through my uncluttered house, something in my chest loosened. So much space! So much light! So much breathing room!
And I knew what book I wanted to write.
It’d been years since my last new book had come out. I’d had seven novels and almost as many novellas published in six years. Then my publisher collapsed in the recession and my rights to much of my work was tied up. I was working a day job I didn’t like, my kids were going off to college, and health issues kept popping up like uninvited house guests. I came down with a massive case of writer’s block. It lingered for five years. I started several books, then drifted away from them when the stories and characters didn’t seem quite right.
I’m not even really sure how that all changed. Hoping to give my muse a kick, I started a creativity group with some author friends. One spring weekend, the four of us took off for a writers retreat in the country. They all were super-productive during the three days we were away from civilization. I was not. I plodded along with my work in progress, not really liking it. I hit a snag that soured me on the whole project. When I got home, I put it aside and cleaned out some more closets.
A couple weeks later I wrote the opening scene of The Night Everything Fell Apart.
And this time, instead of everything falling apart, everything came together.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of clutter is gone, but my house isn’t going to be featured on any minimalist blogs anytime soon. I still have way too much stuff to fit into a Tiny Freaking House. Or even a half-dozen Tiny Freaking Houses, to be honest. My most cluttered space of all—the basement—has barely been touched. And the papers in my office file cabinets? They go back twenty-five years at least.
But I’m thinking of attacking them with trash bags and empty boxes. Just to see what new ideas pop out of my head when I do.
Joy Nash is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and RITA Award Finalist applauded by Booklist for her “tart wit, superbly crafted characters, and sexy, magic-steeped plots.” When Joy was seven years old, she read a book about a girl who lived on the moon. She thought it was real until her big sister came along and messed up the story with the truth. Ever since, Joy’s been of the opinion that fiction is way more interesting than reality. She credits her love of tortured heroes to the Brontë sisters, her fascination with magical adventure to J.R.R. Tolkien, and her weakness for snarky humor to Douglas Adams. Joy is the author of paranormal and fantasy romantic fiction. Her best-loved works include The Druids of Avalon series, her contributions to the multi-author Immortals series, and the Jersey Shore contemporary romance A Little Light Magic. May the stories never end!