That Moment When Trust Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death.

“Is it a crime to care about the welfare of my partner. Let me ask you this. If it were me cursed and possibly facing down death, how would you act?”




Magic In Disguise
Agents of A.S.S.E.T. Book 3
Sample Chapter 2
(Unedited)


The day had far too many ups and downs to be dealt with on such a little supply of caffeine. Grey brought them to a diner to refuel before they started on the shopping list Mark had given them.
Sage slid into a booth, grabbing the menu, eager to devour everything listed in the breakfast column.
Grey flagged a waitress down and ordered the coffee. He must have read her mind. After all the driving they’d done, she could probably polish off a pot all on her own.
“Did you know Ava would track us?” Sage asked, keeping her face behind the plastic menu.
“Are you really that surprised?” Grey chuckled.
“So all that back in my apartment, about turning me in, was for show?” Sage hated the way she just couldn’t read that man’s intentions.
“Someday you will have to trust that I’m on your side.”
She glared at him over the top of her menu. “You didn’t answer the question.”
“Yes and no. How’s that for an answer?”
“I hate you,” Sage grumbled.
“You’re so cute when you’re angry.”
The waitress set two mugs down and filled them to the brim with liquid energy. Sage ordered herself a lumberjack’s breakfast. Grey ordered the endless stack of pancakes.
“I’m serious you know.” Sage whispered as the waitress walked back to place their order.
Grey’s brow scrunched with confusion. “No. I don’t know. What?”
“I can’t read you.”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “We’re back to that again, are we?”
“Truth time. I want to know what’s going on in that head of yours.”
“I could ask the same of you.” He fidgeted with his coffee, adding sugar and staring down at it as he stirred it well past the point of mixing his drink.
“When we first met, you were a royal ass who made no secret of your unhappiness in being tethered to me as a partner.”
“Newbies are insufferable.” He leaned back and put his arms over the edge of the booth.
“I’m still a newbie. But you’ve changed.” She stared into his eyes. “What’s with the mother hen act?”
“Is it a crime to care about the welfare of my partner. Let me ask you this. If it were me cursed and possibly facing down death, how would you act?”
“Not fair. I’m–”
“A girl?”
“I was going to say I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m not the one acting out of character here.”
“So now I care too much?” He chuckled, clearly amused with his ability to get under her skin.
“No. Stop twisting my words around. I just mean that you’re acting different than expected and I want to know if there is something else going on?”
“I told you we’re not talking about my past or partners.”
Exactly what she thought he’d say. She sipped her coffee, black, hoping the hot infusion of caffeine would spur her brain into action. She needed all the help she could get, playing the mental game with him. “Probably an insufferable girl, right?”
“You don’t give up, do you?” He moved in closer, hovering over his coffee as if looking deep into its murky depths for an answer.
“We agreed to honesty and laying it all out there. So that we can better understand each other and work together.” She whispered softly so the waitress would not hear as she passed the booth on her way to another table.
“You don’t need recounted war stories and death tallies to understand me.”
His evasiveness more than anything else made her want to dig deeper. He could have given her any small detail and she might have dropped the subject, but the fact he continued his blockade had her curiosity up to an eleven. “But I do need to understand you.” She gulped down the rest of her coffee, giving time for her words to sink in. “I have nothing to go on. I don’t even know where you live.”
Grey was as thick as a brick wall. He shrugged her off. “Why would you?”
“You know where I live.”
“Because you need a damn chauffeur.”
The transportation issue was going to become a serious problem if she didn’t get a car eventually. “I’ll ride the bus,” she snapped at him.
“You don’t have to get so defensive. Not everything is an insult.”
“Sounds like it coming from you.” Her coffee gone, Sage looked around for the waitress, and motioned with her cup when she got her attention.
“That’s just you being sensitive.”
“Hey.” Her mouth hung open with no snappy reply finding its way to the surface.
“You said it.” Grey smirked, clearly satisfied he’d silenced her. “You wear your emotions out there for all to see.”
Her instincts would normally have her fighting back but that would only egg him on. She needed a better way to wipe that self-important grin from his face. Kill him with kindness. That had thrown him off his game in the past. He expected her snark. “You got me there.” She conceded his victory sweetly.
The waitress came by, hot pot of coffee in hand and refilled their mugs. Sage took a long pull from hers. Black coffee wasn’t exactly her favorite flavor, but slugging it down the way she did, worked wonders in jump-starting her mind.
Grey on the other hand looked as if he’d lost something. Her plan was working. He just couldn’t compete against her when she played nice.
“You’re right. I’m sensitive to those I care for. And you’re my partner. I want to know more about you.” Sage gave him her most innocent smile. “So tell me about Grey, the guy, not the agent. Where do you live?”
He looked at her suspiciously, his brow forming deep creases, crow’s feet creeping out from the corners of his eyes, aging his eternally youthful face. “I’ve got an apartment down by Boulder Highway and Trop.”
“Any roommates?” She fired off her next question eagerly, a few more ready should he take the bait.
“We are really doing this? The whole first date line of questioning?”
“This is not a date.”
“I don’t know. We’re at a restaurant, about to share a meal, talking about our feelings.” Damn him, he was on to her.
“Whatever.” She pretended to shrugged him off. “Poke fun all you like. I’ve learned more from you in five minutes here than I have the entire time we’ve been partners.”
“That’s just because you don’t pay attention.” He took a swig of his coffee. “No roommates.”
“Pets?”
“Nope,” he responded with mild amusement.
She fired off the next question, “Hobbies?”
“Please stop.”
“Girlfriends?”
Grey looked up from his coffee, his eyes meeting her in a dead stare. “Enough!”
She’d hit a nerve there. “See? You’re a closed book. I can’t read you. And anytime I get you to open up slightly, you slam shut.”
“You’re not trying to get to know me, you’re fishing.”
“Semantics.”
“You want some truth? I appreciate genuine people. And I can smell bullshit a mile away.”
“I smell bullshit,” she mocked him.
Grey’s phone went off. He picked it up, and his already angry expression darkened.
Sage’s phone went off next. She reached to answer it but Grey snatched it from her and dunked it into his cup of coffee.
“What the hell!”
“Time to go.” He grabbed her by the arm, threw two twenty-dollar bills on the table, and pulled her toward the door.
Sage didn’t fight his grip on her arm. As mad as she was he’d just destroyed her phone, the fact he’d done it meant some major kind of shit was hitting the fan. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
They came to an abrupt stop at his bike. Grey looked around suspiciously. Before showing her his phone.
Text from Ava.
Agent Cynwrig: location unknown. In possession of artifact id: SPONGE. Apprehend and return to Las Vegas HQ.
“What the hell?” She gasped and immediately slapped her hand over her mouth. Things had truly taken a turn for the worst.
“That text just went out to all active ASSET agents.” Grey didn’t need to explain it. She’d already guessed as much. “You’ve been marked. We’re not safe here any longer.”
“But why?” That was the bit she didn’t understand. Ava had always been two steps ahead of them. She had even known they were in Phoenix. Why send this? Why now was she a marked woman? Why not contact them personally instead of sending in all of ASSET?
“My guess,” Grey spoke calmly. If he was worried, she’d never be able to tell. “Word of your little escapade with the Ethereals just got to her.”
“Didn’t take her long.”
“I was hoping we’d have more time before that piece of information crossed her desk.” Grey sighed.
“So you’re taking me in then?” She held her hands out, ready for cuffs, really wishing she’d have gotten a last meal. She’d been so looking forward to bacon and eggs. No luck of that being locked up in ASSET’s prison.
He slapped her hands away. “What do you think?”
“Ava gave you an order.”
“You’re not good a reading between the lines are you?”
“Apparently not,” she huffed.
“Ava told you if your secret got out. Your life was forfeit.”
“Yeah.”
“So taking you in to headquarters right now is a death sentence.”
If she hadn’t been stressing out she might have called him Captain Obvious. At best she might lose her hand and be locked away in ASSET for the rest of what remained of her life. At worst, she might get a quick death. Either way she’d run out of time. “You’re a company man. You do what you’re told, right?”
“You wound me.”
“Just tell me what the hell you plan to do. I can’t read you. So stop the cryptic crap because I’m about two seconds from a heart attack.”
“You’d survive a heart attack.” Disappointment soured his tone, but it was the look of outrage that struck her as hard as a slap to the face. Had she really misread him that badly? “I’m not about to march you in to die when we have a shot at fixing you.” He turned away from her and grabbed his helmet. “And I can’t believe after all we have been through together, you’d think so lowly of me.”
She hadn’t realize how much her offhand comment would affect him. With his helmet on, Sage could no longer see the pained look in his eyes, but somehow felt the weight of her words more strongly. She hadn’t intended to insult him. Calling someone a company man would normally be a compliment. More evidence to her argument of not knowing him, but this wasn’t the time to bring that back up. “I’m sorry.” She stumbled for the right words. “I just thought. Not following a direct order from Ava will get you in trouble.”
“I’m always in trouble.” The helmet hid his face bug couldn’t disguise the disappointment in his voice. “That’s why Ava assigned me to you.”
“Should I be worried or impressed?”
“Yes.” He answered quickly. She meant her question as a joke but he’d responded as if she’d lobbed yet another accusation at him. Best she keep her mouth shut. At least until things blew over. Despite all her confusion one thing was clear. As long as she was with Grey, she was safe from ASSET.
Grey threw his phone down in the dirt and stomped on the screen a few times before mounting his bike. “We better go before they track our phones here.” 

Ready for More?



Using the Weapon of Magical Destruction wasn't Sage's smartest idea, and now she's become the weapon she had been charged with protecting. 

Hunted by the shadow clans, and cut off from A.S.S.E.T., Sage is forced to go deep under cover, on a quest to collect the elements and people needed to invoke the Mother Goddess and destroy the WMD before it destroys everything she's ever loved.


 Free Sample




Haven't started the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series yet? No worries. Grab this FREEBIE so you can meet Sage Cynwrig and learn how she joined the ranks at Anonymous Supernatural Security and Elimination Taskforce.



 Sample Ebook


And if you'd like to sample more from the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. , be sure to check out the

book series page on KatieSalidas.com

Can Love Trump a Vampire's Blood-lust? The Answer Might Surprise You.

“The human demanded entry into a house filled with vampires, one of which is new and untested around temptation....Next time I’ll just let him in and grab some popcorn for the show.”


Magic In Disguise
Agents of A.S.S.E.T. Book 3
Sample Chapter 2
(Unedited)

Sage stormed into her apartment. Her palm burned with the seed’s fiery hunger for magic, it mingled with her anger using it as kindling. Her eyes landed on the source of her rage, and for a moment she entertained unleashing everything she had on Zack. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t slap you.”
Zack matched the scorching glare, blowing a teasing kiss in the air back at her. “Because if you did, you’d probably kill me. And what would become of Junior?”
A door opened in the hallway. Sage held her breath. Matt was there, no doubt, listening to them argue like the new parents Zack had pretended they were. Not far from the truth in reality. Only most newborns weren’t prone to killing people with their temper tantrums. Tension had been building between them for days. They’d all been trapped together, bound by the inability to interact with society, magical or not, and it wasn’t just Sage feeling the cabin fever. She kept her distance. Matt needed time to come around. He’d had no choice. Zack turning him had been a last resort to, keep him alive. In the days that followed, Matt had told Sage he forgave her, but a lingering sense of uncertainty still hung in the air. She waited, letting Matt decide whether or not he’d emerge from the darkness of the hallway.
“That got your attention.” Zack held no such reverence for her roommate’s mental state. He smirked as if his words had summoned the beast to punctuate the arrogant point of their conversation. “What would become of poor Matt if I wasn’t there to help him keep his cool?”
That man knew every damn button to press to get under her skin. She held her tongue, and turned to see Matt casually stepping, into the living room. His hair wet and shaggy around his face. Fresh from a shower, he wore a towel around his waist and another like a cloak across his shoulders.
“Everything okay, Sage?”
“I could ask you the same.” Sage wanted to give him a great big hug. He looked more himself, in that moment than he had for the past week. A good sign for sure. Only the otherworldly icy blue eyes gave him away as a vampire. It took all her strength to force herself to stand still.
Matt stiffened suddenly. His nostrils flared as if smelling something of interest. “Josh was outside, wasn’t he?”
“Yes.” She perked up with a renewed sense of hope. Not only did he look better, his voice remained calm despite the stressful nature of the subject. Seeing him like that, was worth the constant pain she felt as the seed continued to make its hungry demands for their power. She clenched her fist trying to shut it out and focused on Matt. His wonderful progress. He’d be able to see his boyfriend soon. That was definitely something to celebrate. “Josh is going to give you a call so you guys can talk.”
Matt returned the smile. His fangs poked out from his lips, more evidence of his new predatory nature. “I’m glad. I miss him.” His words came slowly, his tone pleasant, and free of the strain she had heard from him all week long. Sage beamed with pride, absolutely impressed with this new level of control he’d mastered.
“Baby steps,” Zack cautioned. Could he not see how good Matt was doing?
“Shut it fang boy.” Sage turned on him, seed burning in her palm, souring her mood, losing her own battle for control. She could appreciate a little of what Matt was going through.
“Why loose your venom on me?” Zack quipped with a stolen movie quote.
“Because you mock our pain.” She answered in kind.
“Life is pain. Anyone who says differently…”
“Is selling something. I know.” Annoying as Zack was, he did speak her language, geek. Employed with tact, it had a disarming effect on her. Zack had failed that part miserably. “You’re not going to win me over with movie quotes.”
“Even when they are so on point?”
“You have no power over me.” She clenched her fist tight and shoved it in her pocket, hoping that might dampen the pain.
Zack eyed her movements with suspicion. “Come now. My ability to match every situation with pop culture quotes is impressive, right?” He’d crossed the line this time. What made it worse was the fact he didn’t even realize how badly he’d messed up.
“This hasn’t been easy for any of us,” Sage shot back at him. “And Josh has no basis of comparison. You didn’t have to be a dick to him.”
“What did you do to Josh?” Matt growled, turning his otherworldly eyes on Zack.
“The human demanded entry into a house filled with vampires, one of which is new and untested around temptation.” Zack matched his accuser’s angry glare. “Pardon me for utilizing a little tough love to keep all parties safely at arm’s length. Next time I’ll just let him in and grab some popcorn for the show.”
“I can handle Josh.” All of the calm evaporated from Matt’s tone, souring, turning even the simplest of phrases, sinister. “Just watch.”
“No you can’t,” Zack insisted. “One whiff of his blood and you’d drain him dry.”
“Who said anything about blood?” Concern for Matt and Josh’s wellbeing worked like a charm, providing the distraction Sage needed to focus past her own physical discomfort.
“No one had to. It comes with the territory,” Zack replied.
“I can handle it,” Matt assured them. He sounded so confident she believed he could actually do it.
“Do I really have to do this?” Zack pressed his forehead into his hand. A sigh escaped his lips and Sage swore she heard, “you’ll be sorry,” floating in the air.
“No.” She clenched her fist in her pocket, driving her nails through the skin. Why did she always have to be the voice of reason when she was clearly the least qualified to do so? “Whatever stupid idea you’re cooking up. No!”
“You both are operating under the false assumption that Junior here, is his good old self. Let me burst that bubble before it explodes very messily in your face.” Zack’s eyes darkened, his fun loving Doctor Jekyll persona fading behind his inner Mr. Hyde. She’d only seen Zack let his beast out a few times and knew to be on guard. She kept her damaged hand clenched tightly in her pocket, sending the other to locate the folding knife at her belt. Just in case. “Matty here is only appearing so calm because of my careful training.”
“No one is training me.” Matt scoffed defiantly, proving he deserved the title Zack had so lovingly bestowed on him, Junior.
In a blink Zack appeared at the refrigerator door. Sage pulled her knife, holding it at the ready. When she realized she hadn’t been the intended target she relaxed, dropping her hand, and watched in confusion as Zack opened the fridge and rummage through the crisper drawers.
There was only one reason a vampire might need to use a refrigerator. She hadn’t seen any severed body parts the last time she reached in for coffee creamer, so what the hell was he after in there? The moment the thought wandered through her mind she realized there was another equally disgusting alternative. “Please tell me you’re not keeping” She stopped short when Zack stood holding a medical collection bag filled with blood. “For real? Come on. That’s where I keep food.”
“Exactly.” Zack’s eyebrow lifted, a silent challenge for her to continue that argument to its natural end.
“Can you at least keep your…” She struggled to force the words past chunks rising in her throat, “juice boxes… in the drawer… covered…or something out of sight?”
“What an excellent word.” Zack turned to Matt holding up the adult sized sippy. “Tell me you don’t want a… juice box.”
Matt’s nostrils flared. His jaw tightened as if he were struggling to fight against the tempting aroma. To his credit, Junior remained where he stood. His Adam’s apple bounced hard as he gulped, but the only move he made was a stiff shake of his head.
Sage couldn’t have been more proud, and doubly so for making Zack look like a melodramatic helicopter parent. Her roommate was made of tougher stuff. And now he’d proved it.
Zack moved a little closer to Matt, but remained firmly on the linoleum in the kitchen. He waved the blood bag in the air, level with Matt’s eyes. “2018. Excellent year. A positive, full bodied.” He sniffed the plastic casing like a fine vintage wine. “With a slight nutty finish.”
The corner of Matt’s lips twitched. He stood noticeably stiffer as if all the muscles in his body had been strung taut as a bow string. The struggle was more than real. No doubt about that. But Sage kept faith he’d be strong enough.
“I’ll give him credit.” Zack surprised her by praising Matt’s control. “He’s trying very hard. I myself couldn’t have stood there as long as he has with a…juice box… tempting me.”
Matt’s eyes had begun to darken, their gorgeous blue taking on the feral blackness that signaled the beast was coming. Zack wasn’t playing fair. But he still remained where he stood, fighting the good fight.
“See. He will be able to deal with Josh,” Sage replied confidently.
“You think so?” Zack cocked his head sideways, his eyebrows arched sharply as if to say challenge accepted.
Before she could backpedal, he slashed the bag with the nail on his pinkie finger. A gush of cold blood poured out like a morbid waterfall, painting her linoleum floor red.
Matt flew across the room, landing at Zack’s feet, before Sage could even let out an indignant shriek. All that control she had praised him for moments earlier had gone. The monster had replaced her roommate, it laid at Zack’s feet, lapping up the mess like a hungry dog.
“You were saying?” Zack smirked.

Ready for More?



Using the Weapon of Magical Destruction wasn't Sage's smartest idea, and now she's become the weapon she had been charged with protecting. 

Hunted by the shadow clans, and cut off from A.S.S.E.T., Sage is forced to go deep under cover, on a quest to collect the elements and people needed to invoke the Mother Goddess and destroy the WMD before it destroys everything she's ever loved.


 Free Sample




Haven't started the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series yet? No worries. Grab this FREEBIE so you can meet Sage Cynwrig and learn how she joined the ranks at Anonymous Supernatural Security and Elimination Taskforce.



 Sample Ebook


And if you'd like to sample more from the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. , be sure to check out the
book series page on KatieSalidas.com

All Magic Comes With A Price but This Sample and Book Offer are Both #Free!


Magic In Disguise
Agents of A.S.S.E.T. Book 3
Sample Chapter 1
(Unedited)

How did I get here?
Sage’s fingers twitched. Deep within her hand, the twinges began. She stared at the ugly blemish blackening her palm. A few days earlier the only deformity she could claim was the birthmark that labeled her a Terra: The Tree of Life. 

The Great Mother had bestowed innate magical protection upon those who bore her mark. But all magic comes with a price. Especially for Terras. If only she’d read the fine print, she’d have been more careful with her gift.
Sage had been tasked with protecting the greatest weapon known to the magical community, The Seed of Destruction; daring to use its magic however, earned her this penance. And if the ever growing black mark on her palm was any indication of the consequences, she too would ultimately be destroyed by the seed’s need to consume power. 
Pain was fast becoming her constant companion. Living in a house with vampires, she was never too far from magic. Dark or light; it didn’t matter. The seed burned with insatiable hunger for power. She clenched her fist tight, but it did nothing to silence the throbbing.
A knock at her front door provided a perfect distraction from all the negative thoughts that came to her during the lonely hours of isolation.
She jumped to her feet, happy to have any kind of company. Well, any kind of non-magical company. What she wouldn’t give for a pair of missionaries to drop by. She’d endure whatever religion they wanted to pedal as long as they would sit and have a cup of coffee with her.  
“What’s the password?” Sage called playfully.as she clicked the door lock.
“Coffee,” Grey responded mechanically.
“That was last week’s password.” She yanked the door open, and met him with an impish smirk. “Try again.”
Grey stood, arms crossed, that silly fedora ever present on top of his head. She was tempted to knock it off, just to continue her playful greeting but he beat her to the punch with an annoyed, “Grow up.”
Mercurial as ever, she never knew if he was going to play along with her jokes or throw a wet blanket on her good mood. Still, she had to try. He was the only person who visited her since she’d earned the scarlet letter at ASSET. Administrative leave they called it. Sage had other words. Cabin fever; a slow decent into madness.
“Don’t you want to know the new password?” She stood her ground, hands on her hips, a flimsy barricade, more playful than purpose, but enough to prevent Grey from entering her home.
“You’re either going to let me in, or find a new way to get to work.”
After nearly a week without news, his words renewed her spirit. Her blockade crumbled. She reached out and yanked Grey into the apartment. “Do we have a case?” Thank the goddess! Real human…er…Terra interaction. Non-bloodsucker company. Vampires didn’t make the best of roommates. “Fill me in. Shifters, witches, trolls? Who needs our help?”
“Slow your roll there, newbie.” Grey cracked a smile. He had to know how much she needed this. How desperate she was for something useful to do.
She closed the door behind him and ushered Grey to the kitchen table. “Easy for you to say. You’re not on house arrest. I’d willingly jump on the back of your bike, and ride across the country and back if it means getting out of this house.”
“Careful what you wish for,” he teased.
She pressed him down into one of the dining chairs and rounded the table to take the one opposite him. “I might be a newbie, but I’m not messing with wishes and djinn again. Hell no!” Fingers crossed behind her back. Luke’s fate had been a need-to-know basis kind of thing and even though Grey was her partner, she hadn’t quite let him in on that secret yet.
Luke was still very much alive and living across the walkway from her apartment too. Though he couldn’t possibly have retained his magic after what she’d done to him.
 “All right, there’s this kid.” Grey folded his arms on the table, and leaned in closely. “Poor pitiful little thing.” He whispered the words like a secret none but the two of them should share. “She got herself into a lot of trouble. Mixing with the wrong sort.”
“Really? Do we need to rescue her?” Chills prickled at the back of Sage’s neck. She bristled with excitement. This was her chance to make amends. Anticipation had her salivating for more information. She wouldn’t fail. “Who has her?”
“Oh yeah. She needs rescuing all right. If I had my way the minute I brought her in, I’d have her locked up. For her own protection.” He snickered, breaking just long enough for Sage to catch the cruelty of his joke.
“Jerk,” she reached across the table and swatted the hat off his head. Too bad she’d been aiming for his cheek.
Grey laughed all the way to the ground as he ducked under the table to retrieve his fedora. His amusement vanished as he came back up. Eyes widened with fearful curiosity. He stared silently as if seeing Sage for the first time, only he hadn’t looked her in the eye. The target of his concern fell much lower than her face.
“You sure you’re up for working in your current condition?”
Sage hid her ruined hand behind her back, but it was too late. He’d already taken in the new damage. “I’m fine. I can still work.”
He stood and dusted off the hat before placing it back on his head. “I’d rather we get you sorted before hitting the field again, but Ava’s ordered you in for a meeting.”
She cringed at the prospect of another lecture from Queen High Bitch herself. “Should I be sacred?”
Grey gave a noncommittal shrug. “Whatever it is, we’re partners so we’ll take our lumps together.”
She stood and grabbed her keys off the wall hook. “Speaking of… How come I got sent home while you were still allowed to work?”
“I didn’t get anything stuck in my hand on our last mission,” he pointed an accusing finger at her, “but don’t think I got off easy. Ava’s had me tied to her desk all week.”
Her mind instantly sank into the gutter, conjuring up a naughty vision of Grey bound at the wrist and ankles across Ava’s mahogany desk. Ava certainly fit the dominatrix persona, but Grey as a submissive. Nope. Can’t have thoughts like those. Bad Sage! Where was the mental bleach when she needed it?
“You’re right. Administrative leave is so much better. But I’m still ready to get back to work.” A sharp shock jolted through her palm quick as a strike of lightning. She winced, hissing as she clenching her fist tight enough to send her nails into her skin. The seed never failed to make its desire known. Even the prospect of being near magic was enough to awaken its insatiable hunger known.
Grey was at her side before she opened her eyes, taking her hand in his. “You’re getting worse.” Carefully, he inspected the damage. Blackening skin spread out from the center where the seed had made its home, its darkness reaching out in all directions, devouring her slowly. He tiptoed the pads of his fingers across each of the lines in her palms.
The shocking tenderness of his touch took the edge off her pain. Tickled a bit too. Sage fought against the smile it brought to her face. It wasn’t like Grey to be so… Had he numbed her mind as well? What new magic was this? His gesture was stirring something else within her. “Fine…I’m…Good. Can I have my hand back?”
He let go as if she’d burned him. “Does it hurt?”
So much! “A little. More when I’m around magic.”
“I don’t doubt that. You’re like a lightning rod caught in a thunderstorm. All the magic around you, right there for the taking.”
“To put it mildly.” She scrubbed her hands trying to neutralize the tingling left in the wake of his grip.
“You sure you’re going to be okay?”
“I’m fine.”
“Good because I don’t need my partner getting all weird on me when we’re out there dealing with whatever shitstorm Ava assigns us.”
Snarky tone. Condescension. Teasing. That she could handle. That didn’t send butterflies buzzing around her stomach. She reached for a pair of silver-lined gloves on the counter and slipped them on. Ava had suggested she wear them. She hadn’t tested whether or not it blocked the seed’s power, but better safe than sorry. “Me, weird?” She waggled her silver coated fingers at him. “Don’t know what you mean.”
“Maybe keep those in your pocket.”
“You think, Captain Obvious? Gloves in the desert, in the middle of summer. Might as well walk around with a neon sign on my head.” Looking weird was the least of her worries. It was the very real risk she could accidentally kill someone with a single touch that weighed heaviest on her mind.
“I know this is difficult. I’m proud of how brave you are being. You’re handling this so well.”
What the hell was that tone? He’d gone from snarking to simpering in a blink; talking to her like she was some fragile creature moments from shattering into a thousand pieces should he utter a negative word. Come to think of it, he’d been noticeably less Grey since she’d been cursed. “Don’t talk to me like a lost cause.”
Grey stepped back as if she’d took a swing at him. “What?”
“You being too nice!”
His brow crinkled. Grey opened his mouth but no words came.
“You know something you’re not telling me, partner.” Sage threw her hands on her hips. He wasn’t going to weasel out of giving her an answer. He wasn’t a soft and gentle kind of guy. The new case was a charade. Sage was dying. Or worse. If there was a worse. That thought sent a whole different kind of chill slithering down her spine. 
“As long as I’ve lived, I’ve pissed off my fair share of women,” Grey stared at her in disbelief, “but not once has any girl ever yelled at me for being nice.”
“You know what I mean.” She narrowed her eyes, daring him to blow more smoke up her ass. “You’re not being you. What world altering devastation are you hiding from me?”
“Woah. Hold on there, Drama Queen.” Grey threw his hands up in the air, taking yet another step away from her. Any further and he’d plaster himself against the front door. “You jumped right onto the crazy train.”
“You’re an insufferable ass-hole, and that’s on a good day. But since this whole thing happened.” She pulled the glove off and shoved her blackening hand in his face. “You’ve been distant. And when I finally do see you, you’re speaking to me like…I’m some sort of…cancer patient who’s been given two weeks to live.”
“Put that away.” He swatted at her hand.
“No.” She held it firmly in his face. “Not until you tell me why you’re acting so weird.”
“Stop this now!” He took hold of her hand with a growl that made him sound part wolf. His grip was iron, tightening when she resisted, preventing her from pulling away.
“Let me go,” she demanded.
“You can’t hurt me. I’m not afraid of you. Probably the only person in your current circle of friends that can say that right now.” His breath came slowly as he moved her hand to his chest. Grey fixed the ruin of her palm directly over his heart. Stubbornly, she gave one final attempt to pull free before resigning herself to his will.
 His heart knocked against her wounded hand. The steady rhythm vibrated powerfully through his chest but it was the warmth that radiated from him that worked true magic. Each pulse of his heartbeat fought against the ache, absorbing it, neutralizing it, and steadily gaining ground against her pain.
He loosened his iron grip, letting the choice to continue their physical connection fall to her. Sage found herself floating somewhere in the neutral zone between pain and something much more intense. His thumb ghosted over the back of her hand, so tender, so intimate. She sucked in a frightened breath realizing how much his touch had kindled within her. A wonderful distraction from the pain in her hand but sure to leave lasting scars on her heart. She wasn’t ready to let him past her defenses. This wasn’t the time for those thoughts anyway.
She let her hand fall, instantly regretting the loss of his warmth, and released her breath in an attempt to force with it all the stress she could expel from her body. Their physical connection had said what words couldn’t, and that scared her more than the meeting she would soon have with Ava.
 “You paid a high price for your service to the gods,” Grey’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat to cover the sound and leaned in, their noses almost touching. The silent way his eyes had begged her to come closer, could not be unseen.
“It’s only temporary.” Her legs went soft like warm jelly. She backed away awkwardly, struggling to stay upright. “I’m sure ASSET had a way to fix this.”
“One way or another we’ll set things right.” Grey mopped his face with his hands, wiping disappointment away as he replaced it with a stony mask of indifference. She’d have much rather he kept the smile, but ultimately his game face was what she needed.
“Yeah.” She chuckled nervously. “Because I’m not wearing these gloves for the rest of my life.” She turned away, her cheeks burning with raw emotions she wasn’t ready to process. Her focus had to be on removing the stone.
“Sage,” he called to her.
“What?”
“You’re not going to die, okay? We will fix you.”
“Of course we will. I’d hate to inconvenience you with my death.” Sage found snarky comebacks flowed much more freely than heavy emotions.
“You know how much I hate paperwork.” Grey responded in kind.
“Good, because the alternative is the Luke Skywalker approach, and prosthetic hands are not that advanced yet.”
“You have a movie to quote for every situation, don’t you?”
“Pop culture is my second language.” She fit the glove back over her bad hand. “But I do draw the line at the Michael Jackson references.”   
“He only wore one glove.”
She snorted at his attempted humor. “You think I could get away with that?”
“Better safe than sorry. But if you’re itching to test the theory, I could hold Zack down for you.” That was more like it. Grey was beginning to sound like himself. Dumb jokes and playful condescension she could deal with.
“Don’t tempt me. He’s been nearly as insufferable as you this last week.”
Grey’s lips twisted into a sneer. “Something you haven’t told me?”
Was that jealousy she detected? Sage nearly took the bait, but inciting another testosterone war wouldn’t help matters. “It’s just difficult having him live here at the apartment while he trains Matt, that’s all.”
“Better than the alternative.”
“You don’t have to listen to him. The one saving grace about my new little….Affliction.” She wiggled her fingers again as if casting a magic spell. “He can’t come anywhere near me.”
“He’d only make that mistake once.”
“And I’d have more blood on my hands. First month on the job… what’s my tally?”
“You do have an impressive kill count for a newbie.” The wink he gave her held a little too much flirt in its wake. Sage turned to the door before things got awkward again.
“Lets go see if I’m up for any awards then.”
“Promise not to kill me?” Grey shoved her aside as he rushed to open the door. Yet another oddly un-Grey-like gesture.

“We’re meeting with Ava,” she reminded him. “Are you sure it’s not my head on the chopping block?”

Using the Weapon of Magical Destruction wasn't Sage's smartest idea, and now she's become the weapon she had been charged with protecting. 

Hunted by the shadow clans, and cut off from A.S.S.E.T., Sage is forced to go deep under cover, on a quest to collect the elements and people needed to invoke the Mother Goddess and destroy the WMD before it destroys everything she's ever loved.


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Haven't started the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series yet? No worries. Grab this FREEBIE so you can meet Sage Cynwrig and learn how she joined the ranks at Anonymous Supernatural Security and Elimination Taskforce.



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And if you'd like to sample more from the Agents of A.S.S.E.T. , be sure to check out the
book series page on KatieSalidas.com

2018 Las Vegas Book Festival



Book lovers of all ages flocked to the Historic Fifth Street School on Saturday October 20th for a day in celebration of the written, spoken, and illustrated word.  Formerly known as the Vegas Valley Book Festival now re-branded as the Las Vegas Book Festival is a place where all authors, indie and traditional are one big happy family.

 The festival offered a variety of workshops, panel discussions, children’s activities, and music performances.





Special guest included:


Luis Rodriguez -Keynote
Luis J. Rodriguez has emerged as one of the leading Chicano writers in the country, with 15 published books in memoir, fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, and poetry. From 2014-2016, he was the official Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, California, and has received numerous awards for his writing. His best-known work, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” received the prestigious Carl Sandburg Literary Award, among others. Due to its frank depictions of gang life, it was the subject of controversy when schools in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas included it in their reading lists. Luis’ honors include the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a California Arts Council fellowship, and several Illinois Arts Council fellowships. He was one of 50 leaders worldwide selected as “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” presented by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.



Sara Shepard - Keynote
The author of two New York Times best-selling series, “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Lying Game,” as well as the series “The Perfectionists.” Freeform TV (formerly ABC Family), has created television series for both of her books and announced in 2017 that they are also adapting “The Perfectionists” for a new series. From 2000 to 2005, Shepard worked at Time, Inc. Custom Publishing and produced lifestyle magazines for corporate clients. She started ghostwriting as a freelancer in 2002 and writing her own books in 2005. Sara grew up in Pennsylvania, earned a Bachelor of Science from New York University, and a Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College.


Colson Whitehead - Keynote
Colson Whitehead is the author of the widely celebrated and awarded novel “The Underground Railroad.” It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Heartland Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hurston/Wright Fiction Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The book became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, was selected by Oprah’s Book Club, and was a Best Book of the Year for the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsday, GQ, Publishers Weekly, Esquire, and Buzzfeed.


Lisa Loeb – Musical Guest
Lisa crafts irresistible pop songs for the 21st century, while designing Lisa Loeb Eyewear, writing children's books, and supporting non-profit causes. The Los Angeles based mother of two is well-known to parents and kids for her albums “Catch the Moon” (with Elizabeth Mitchell) and Amazon Music exclusives, “Nursery Rhyme Parade!” and 2018 Grammy winning Best Children’s Album, “Feel What U Feel” (featuring Craig Robinson and Ed Helms). She has also published two picture book-CDs for Sterling Children’s Books:  “Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ and Shakin'” and “Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing Along.”


Workshops and panel discussions covered a variety of topics, including immigration, illustration, a lyrics workshop, young adult sci-fi and fantasy, and poetry. The schedule was overflowing with new discussions beginning every half hour from 9am-6pm.


Both the Las Vegas Clark County Library District and Henderson Libraries were out in full force with exciting hands-on Projects and free giveaways. If you missed Sean Hoad’s haikus on demand, you should kick yourself. Quite the quick quipper that one!




If you know me, you know I’m a bit biased about the Henderson Libraries. I’ve worked with them on many occasions as a speaker but beyond that, they are also my local library. The Paseo Verde Library to be exact is my home away from home and they never fail to amaze me in all they do for the community. But I’m getting away from the point. The Las Vegas Book Festival is an all ages event, and what better a way to keep those kiddos happy than to let them learn through play. Both Las Vegas and Henderson libraries had booths set up to entertain young and old, offering virtual reality, bubbles, button making, building projects, and coloring. Because who doesn’t love coloring? My children were so entertained we spent at least an hour glued to one booth, the children refusing to walk away.

Kicking off the event was a panel discussion: Adventure, Chills and Thrills, Sci-fi and Horror Stories from Las Vegas Authors” with Mercedes M. Yardley, Katie Salidas, Mathew Kaufman and Tim Chizmar.


You may find a few of those names a bit familiar. Quite a few of us Las Vegas authors are also columnists for First Comics News.
It was an immense honor to be selected to sit on a panel with such amazing authors, and to be front and center for the first talk of the day. Our discussion highlighted key elements in the writing process: Whether Writer’s Block was real, and how to deal with it, dealing with Impostor Syndrome, and where the line is drawn between genres. Topics that truly needed more than an hour to cover, but with so many talented speakers on the schedule, an hour was all that could be spared.
Still, it made for an excellent start to a day filled with lively discussions, new literary adventures, and quite a few networking opportunities. I had a chance to sit down with a few of the authors at this event. For more on that, check out my video interview.