Authors: Jenny Schwartz
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal
By Jenny Schwartz
She is the Bringer of Death
Cali, a djinni, has sworn to twist the wishes of humans so they die by their own greed and evil. Her latest master is arms dealer David Saqr, a man Cali believes deserves the fate she has in store for him. But this time she finds herself up against Andrew, David’s guardian angel.
He is a Protector of Life
Andrew believes David can yet find redemption. He fights Cali for the man’s life, even as he tries to persuade her to give in to the sizzling attraction between them. He shows Cali another side of David, and invites her to trust again, to hope. But centuries of being enslaved have hardened Cali’s heart—it’s going to take all of Andrew’s love to convince her to open it and let him in.
I’ve always loved May, because it heralds the beginning of one of my favorite seasons—beach season! I’m fortunate to live close to the Atlantic Ocean, so every year in May, I start dreaming about the sound of waves on the sand, dolphins swimming off the coast, and me, lying in a comfortable beach chair, with a frosty beverage in one hand and my eReader in the other. Part of the fun is, of course, planning what I’m going to load onto the eReader for my beach adventures.
This month of Carina Press releases has provided me with plenty of reading material for my upcoming beach days—not that I’ll be able to wait that long to read them (I do get sneak peek copies in advance, after all). So, with everything from fantasy, to mystery, to contemporary, historical and paranormal romance, it doesn’t matter what I’m in the mood for, Carina Press has something to help me while away the time until I can make my beach dreams a reality.
I’m especially happy to introduce new novelists Maureen Miller, and her romantic suspense,
and Diane Dooley with
a science fiction romance that’s out of this world (sorry, I couldn’t resist going for the corny joke). Of course, we also have several return authors as well, with sequels you want to be sure not to miss, including
by Leah Braemel,
South of Salem
from Janni Nell,
Portrait of Seduction
by Carrie Lofty, Maria Zannini’s
from Jenny Schwartz.
These books are only a sampling of the tremendous lineup we have for May, so I hope you’ll be sure to take a look at all of the releases, as well as taking advantage of the weekly sales offered on the Carina Press website. And whatever you choose to read, may it help take you one step closer to your own summer getaway!
We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.
Executive Editor, Carina Press
“More coffee?” David Saqr accepted the irony that purchasers of death and mayhem liked to conduct their dealings in an atmosphere of hospitality and luxury. He provided what they wanted—guns, bombs, mercenaries and transport—and used a stage setting like this five-star Parisian hotel for negotiations.
“Thank you.” Agrib pushed his cup forward. He was on the wrong side of middle age, muscles sagging, waistline expanding, but still dangerous. He’d been a minor resistance leader decades ago and, despite late-won political legitimacy, hate and resentment were a way of life.
His thin mouth turned up in a false smile. “I have a gift for you, my friend.”
“Gifts are unnecessary among friends.” David put down the coffeepot, face blank to conceal his impatience. After two hours, they were finally getting to the reason for Agrib’s presence. The contract David had signed to supply Agrib’s political masters with weapons and weapons training was not sufficient in itself for this visit.
“Faroud! Bring in the box.”
A hulking bodyguard appeared in the doorway, a plain cardboard box balanced on one palm. David’s man stood at his shoulder.
David nodded and his man stepped back. Agrib’s bodyguard entered and gave the box to Agrib.
The manner of Agrib’s reception of it was odd. His tight grip dented the cardboard, but he held it away from his body. The triumph and resentment in his eyes was marred by…
It couldn’t be an explosive device. Agrib valued his hide too highly to risk his own safety—even when eaten up with envy. Despite the honeyed words, they weren’t friends. Agrib resented David’s relative youth and wealth.
“It is yours, my friend.” Agrib pushed the box across the coffee table. “A gift to one I know appreciates antiquities.”
“My thanks.” The box was lighter than expected, a fraction taller than the length of his hand but significantly narrower. The top of the box folded in on itself. David untucked the tabs and a couple of foam packaging balls spilled out.
Agrib watched avidly. His bodyguard had departed. David’s lingered in the doorway.
David plunged his hand into the foam and touched smooth glass. He got a firm grip on the sinuous curves and pulled out a bottle.
Parisian spring sunshine streamed in the window and lit the bottle with red fire. It glowed the color of fresh blood, a rich rare color created by the addition of gold in the glassmaking process. The bottle nestled into the curve of his hand.
The elegant shape proclaimed it the work of a master craftsman. The thickened base provided mute evidence of its age. Ancient glass always sat thicker at the bottom.
It was an object to covet.
The unexpectedness of it astonished David. His gaze flicked up, his eyebrows drawing together in a quick frown. “A beautiful gift.”
Agrib lit a cigarette. The smoke swayed upward, weaving patterns on the gentle air currents. He narrowed his eyes against the sting of it.
“You are most welcome, David.” Satisfaction and anticipation laced his words. “There is a story that accompanies the bottle.”
“Please.” David invited the story. He set the bottle on the coffee table with a final caress.
His bodyguard retreated from the doorway.
“The bottle is old, so old that it is said Solomon commissioned it. He had Jerusalem’s master glassblower create seventy-seven bottles, each recognizably different to the others.” Agrib broke off. “Do you know about the djinn?”
“The smokeless fire?” David shrugged. Mythology didn’t interest him, but he’d learn everything Agrib was willing to share. People revealed themselves in the details. And he was curious, if still wary. This was Agrib—there would be a sting in the tale. “Tell me.”
“The djinn are the offspring of Lilith’s matings with demons. Lilith was Adam’s first wife, but he cast her off because she was adulterous. Seventy-seven children she had. The djinn have the power of angels and demons, and like them they are spirits. They hate the world and they tease men to destruction. The djinn would lead caravans from their paths in the desert and torment lone travelers with honeyed words of gold and jewels and visions of houris.
“They disrupted trade and caused so much trouble that on a moonless night in the depths of winter Solomon summoned the djinn. He called them by name and his magic was so strong, they had to answer. He held the djinn in the great hall of his palace and bound them inside the glass bottles. More than that, he bound them to serve men. Whoever holds a djinni’s bottle commands the djinni for three wishes.”
“Ah.” David picked up the red glass bottle. “Am I to believe this is one of the fabled seventy-seven?”
Agrib stubbed out his cigarette. Yellow teeth showed as he grinned. “I knew you wouldn’t believe the story. We are men of the world. Modern men. Superstition is for the uneducated.”
David eyed him steadily. Was the last sentence pointed, an attack where David was vulnerable? He regretted his lost education. He’d been scrabbling for survival, fighting for respect when other boys were at their lessons.
Agrib heaved himself out of his chair. “The deal is well done. We shall expect your weapons trainers next week.”
“On Tuesday.” David rose too. He escorted Agrib out of the room and to the door of the suite. He carried the bottle absently.
Agrib glanced at it. His bodyguard held the door open. “The bottle has a name. It is called Bringer of Death. But you and I are not superstitious. Goodbye, David Saqr.”
“Swine eater.” David’s bodyguard swore beneath his breath.
The bottle’s name had been a charming parting gift.
David laughed. “Agrib is less than nothing. Is the plane ready to leave?”
“Good.” David replaced the bottle in its box. It was all the luggage he’d carry. “Let’s go.”
Home was a steel-framed modern house in Syria. It sprawled like a lion on the cliff tops overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Amorites and Canaanites had lived on this land. Hittite and Egyptian armies had clashed over it. The invading, mysterious Sea People had conquered it around three thousand years ago. It had been inhabited by Phoenicians and Romans. It had seen the rise of Christianity and of Islam.
There had been violence and bloodshed, but also hope and passionate commitment to ideas and ideals.
The ruins of a Crusader castle was the house’s nearest neighbor. A village huddled in the shallow valley.
David’s bedroom claimed the southwestern corner of the house. One bank of windows watched the sea, the other framed the view of the castle.
He owned the ruins, or rather the land on which they stood. Who could own a ruined castle? It was the free possession of those with imagination and romance. That he sometimes thought he heard the scuff of donkey hooves, the jingle of horses’ bridles and the rough shouts of soldiers only proved he sometimes worked himself to exhaustion.
“Damn Libyans.” David unbuttoned his shirt as he walked in the bedroom door. Africa was lucrative for a man in his business. The continent swallowed weapons and mercenaries and came back for more. But tangled plots and loyalties, shifting alliances and outsized egos made dealing with its leaders a cluster-bomb minefield.
He’d been on the plane flying home from Paris when the phone call came. One of the Libyan high-ups had insulted a mercenary captain. The captain had decked him. The man had fallen into a pile of horse dung. Horse dung. How the hell had that been there?
Apparently insult and retaliation had happened during a ceremonial visit to the stables.
When he’d heard the Libyan’s insult, David had backed the mercenary captain. It was a tactical decision on his part—a show of force. Although now wasn’t the time he’d have chosen to tweak the Libyan’s nose, he knew which of the man’s compatriots would enjoy his discomfiture. From there, a bit of wheeling and dealing, a subtle invitation to renegotiate the delivery of a new helicopter…
“Bloody waste of time.” He stepped into the shower and turned his face into the pounding water. The games people played. He was tired of them, tired of massaging egos and killing for effect. How many men had he killed?
His conscience had kept count. Of course, that didn’t include those who died as a result of the weapons he supplied. No, his kills were men who’d come after him. The majority he’d simply crippled. “Oh, so now you’re a Samaritan?”
Talking to himself, he got a mouthful of shampoo. He spit it out.
He dried off roughly, pulled on clean trousers and a white shirt. One of the servants had brought the box containing the glass bottle to his room. David saw it standing on a chest and an unwilling smile curved his lips.
Would Eli, his bodyguard, have shared the knowledge that David now owned the Bringer of Death?
Leaving his shirt unbuttoned, he crossed over and pulled the bottle from its box. The only light from the room came from the bathroom, spilling out across the Ushak carpet. Through the western window, the Mediterranean was dark and sullen. To the south, the ruined castle caught the few gleams of moonlight and hunkered low to the ground.
David turned the bottle over in his hands. It was indubitably old. A beautiful thing. He ran his finger around the firmly placed stopper. It wasn’t sealed.
For a moment melodrama ran through his mind. Agrib, the resentful old goat, had filled the bottle with poison that would release into the air when David opened the bottle—except Agrib couldn’t have counted on David not opening the bottle in Paris in his presence.
If he was going to think like an old woman, then he ought to pick out his burial plot.
He plucked the stopper from the bottle.
His shoulders relaxed. He whistled a little tune, scornful of his own forebodings. Bringer of Death, ha. Agrib had cursed him with nothing more than a story and his own imagination.
“O great and powerful djinni.” He mocked his own fears. He tossed the stopper into the air and caught it. “Grant me three wishes.”
The bathroom light switched off.