Golden Heart Winner & RITA® Finalist for First Book and Paranormal Romance
Mind Sweeper (Mind Sweeper Series Book One)
An angel, a demon, and a vampire walk into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s just another day in the life of Kyle McKinley.
Kyle was born with the ability to erase memories—and the inability to keep her opinions to herself. She and her vampire and demon teammates provide supernatural damage control when humans see too much. Today’s problem? A sword-wielding angel and a demon had a supernatural smackdown during happy hour in a Cleveland bar, leaving behind a headless vampire and a dozen human witnesses.
This latest supernatural slipup is attracting all kinds of attention. So much attention that the police step in, and Kyle has to deal with Joe Dalton, a know-it-all human with the sexiest turquoise eyes she’s ever seen. Kyle doesn’t dare open her battered heart to him, but as the case escalates, they must join forces to solve a dangerous puzzle. And when they uncover the truth, the apocalyptic ripple effect forces Kyle to make a choice. Learn to trust again, or risk losing everyone she cares about, including Dalton.
RWA RITA® Finalist for First Book and Paranormal Romance
RWA Golden Heart® Winner!
PRISM Award for Best First Book
PRISM Award for Best Light Paranormal
“MIND SWEEPER burst out on the pages with a fully developed world and great characters.” — Star, The Bibliophilic Book Blog (Oct 2014)
“The reality of this story exceeded my expectations!” — Carly, Carly’s Book Reviews (Oct 2014)
“This new series has it all, action, comedy, suspense and great characterization.” –Natasha, Books-n-Kisses (Sept 2014)
“This is a new author to watch and get behind. Let’s hope she does not stay in the shadows for long.” — Vix, Fluffy Red Fox Reviews (Sept 2014)
“I would love to read more about these four fantastic characters.” — Julie B, The Reading Cafe (Sept 2014)
“If you love paranormal adventures like I do, I highly recommend this book.” — Ange, Cover to Cover Book Blog (Sept 2014)
An angel, a demon, and a vampire walked into a bar. No seriously, they did. And all hell broke loose. Then I got called in, or rather the team got called in, to handle supernatural damage control. My job was to manipulate people’s memories. Don’t ask me how. I was born with it, and, like someone born with double joints or the ability to flip their eyelids inside out, I just do it and hopefully not freak out too many people in the process.
On this particular night, I was destined to spend the evening in a bar with no chance of getting lucky. Dead bodies tended to put a damper on romance.
Not that I was dressed to attract men—my jeans, graphic tee and black work boots didn’t exactly fit in with the skimpy dresses and three-inch heels worn by the other women in the bar. But then I had missed the class about fitting in, so this was nothing new.
I held open the door, and the muggy Cleveland night invaded the air-conditioned bar, steaming up the door window. Pasting on a flight-attendant smile, I barely restrained myself from muttering “buh-bye” as the witnesses filed out calmly. Calmly, because I had spent the past twenty minutes implanting them with new memories.
Instead of a demon and a vamp facing off, their recollections featured a brawl between a biker and a drunken fraternity boy. Crisis averted. Now the rest of the team could get to work.
Jean Luc peeled the tablecloth off the corpse he’d stuffed in the corner during my shtick with the patrons. Even though moving the body had meant disturbing evidence, we couldn’t very well keep a dead vamp—especially a headless dead vamp—lying around when minds had to be scrubbed and altered to believe nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Humans don’t do well with different. So our team’s job? Clean up the mess.
I studied our potential publicity nightmare—the headless body in a rumpled suit. Dead vamps always surprised me. Every movie I’d ever seen showed the vamp disintegrating. Stab him in the heart, instant ash cloud. Chop off his head, get out the dust vac. It wasn’t until I met Jean Luc that I learned those movies were bunk. And since he’d been a vampire for the past four hundred years, he was the foremost authority in my book.
“What do you think happened?” I asked.
Jean Luc grinned slowly. “Well, Kyle, I would say he was decapitated.”
I frowned at him. “Thanks, Dr. Obvious. I meant why the supernatural smackdown in the middle of the happy hour and hot-wings crowd?”
He shook his head. “Supernaturals are not normally this careless. There must be a compelling reason why this happened when it did.”
“Have you ever seen an angel before?”
“Yes, but never one that revealed himself to humans this blatantly. Nicholas will be watching us closely until we figure this out.”
I bristled. “Nicholas can chill. If he’s worried we’re not doing our jobs, he can come here and supervise us himself. Did you find the vamp’s head?”
I didn’t want to think about why someone would take it. “Where’s Misha?”
“Talking to our supernatural witness in the back room.”
Since the place had been busy, odds were good at least one supe would be in the crowd, and we had hit pay dirt. There’d been a shifter working as a bartender.
“Hopefully we can get a credible story from him.”
I walked through the kitchen door. It was quarter-wing night and the sweet-smoky smell of barbeque sauce hit my nose. My stomach growled like a pissed-off Haltrap demon. Definitely a crime scene faux pas, perusing a dead body one second and drooling over mesquite the next.
I hurried through the kitchen and into the storage area. Misha glanced up when I pushed open the door and then turned back to the bartender, who was cowering nervously in a chair.
The pencil-thin shifter bounced his leg so hard his teeth were chattering. He pushed his dark hair off his forehead in a jerky motion which made me wonder what type of animal he could change into—a monkey? One of those yappy little Chihuahuas? Of course, having Misha breathing down his neck didn’t help matters.
Six-foot-six and two hundred and fifty pounds of pure muscle, Misha looked like a Browns linebacker. With short, blond hair and ice-blue eyes, he was intimidating when he smiled and terrifying when he scowled. The little guy didn’t stand a chance. I stayed close to the door, not wanting to interrupt the interrogation.
Misha’s bass voice, laced with a thick Russian accent, rippled across the room. “So what happened?”
“The vampire came into the bar first and was acting weird.”
“Weird how?” Misha scrubbed his perpetual five o’clock shadow.
“You know vamps, normally nothing fazes them. This guy was actually nervous. He kept looking over his shoulder. Even asked me if there was a back way out. Then the demon came ripping through the front door, and the vamp took off at a dead run.”
“What kind of demon was it?”
The shifter paused for a second before answering. “He wasn’t a Shamat like you.”
Misha stiffened. He did a good job of suppressing his demon side when he was out in public, but a shifter’s nose could sniff out anything. “Then what kind was he?”
“I couldn’t get a good whiff of him at first. It wasn’t until later, when the angel got here, that he transitioned into his demon form—purple skin and yellow eyes. Then I knew he was a Pavel.”
I gasped like a little girl. I couldn’t help myself. Demons didn’t show their true selves in public, ever. And a Pavel demon? Even by supe standards they were badasses.
Misha scowled at me before returning to his questions. “What happened before the angel arrived?”
“The demon tackled the vamp. The vamp bared his fangs and sank them into the demon’s arm and the normals wigged out. After a couple more seconds, the room started to vibrate. My hair stood on end and all the humans froze. That’s when the angel appeared. Then it got really weird.”
Misha’s gaze held mine for a second. His left eyebrow rose as if saying How in the hell could it get any weirder? He composed his face. “Go on.”
“Like I said, the angel showed up, and the demon changed and stood between the angel and the vamp like he was protecting him.”
Misha frowned. “So you’re telling me the demon, who had just been fighting the vampire, was now protecting him from the angel?”
The shifter shrugged. “Hey, I know it sounds crazy. I’m just telling you what I saw. The angel and demon circled each other. At first they seemed pretty well matched, until the angel pulled out a sword. The vamp tried to make a run for it, but before he got to the door he was dead.” The shifter gulped and fidgeted in his seat again.
Misha prompted him to explain. “Who killed him?”
I stepped forward, interrupting. “What?!”
“You heard me.” He glanced up toward the ceiling, his voice lowering to a frantic whisper. “The angel killed him.”
Misha continued unperturbed. “What happened to the demon and the head?”
“The demon ran out the back door, and the angel followed him. I don’t know what the hell happened to the vamp’s head.”
I stood still, even though my nerves were firing off warnings to find the nearest exit. An angel decapitated a vamp… What the hell was going on? Angels rarely showed themselves, and an angel killing another supe in front of witnesses was unheard of.
The shifter gaped as if seeing me for the first time. His nose wrinkled for a second as he tried to sniff out what I was. After another second, his eyes widened.
“You’re that freaky human with powers. The Mind Sweeper. Kyle something…Kyle McKinley, right? You need to scrub my brain. Now!”
My fists clenched. You’d think I would have gotten used to being called a freak, but each time was like another dose of salt in a festering wound. “Why should I?”
“How long do you think I’ll live after what I saw? If you scrub my brain,”—he looked up at the ceiling again—“they’ll know I can’t remember and leave me alone. Please.”
“You don’t know anything else?” Misha interrupted.
“I swear. I told you everything.”
Misha nodded and I stepped forward cautiously. The shifter was skittish as a colt, so I placed my hand on his damp shoulder and pushed calming thoughts toward him. Scrubbing supes was not easy. Some didn’t respond to me. I closed my eyes.
I pictured the fight he’d described and changed it in my mind. I replaced the vamp’s image with a drunken fraternity boy. The glowing-eyed demon morphed into a leather-clad biker and the angel turned into a cop. Warmth prickled along my forehead and I reached mentally for his consciousness, easing the new images into his agitated kaleidoscope of a brain.
His shifter senses resisted my intrusion, so I backed off, leaving the new memories hanging in the ether between us. After a couple of seconds, his brain calmed down, and the energies swirled in a fixed pattern instead of bouncing around haphazardly. I tried merging with him again. A yellow haze blinded me, and for the briefest of moments I lost myself in the connection. Almost as quickly, I severed the link, my thoughts snapping back into my brain like a taut rubber band. My vision cleared and the shifter’s scared expression relaxed. The transfer of new memories was complete.
Misha and I walked out of the room toward the front of the bar. Both Jean Luc and the body were gone, but I wouldn’t have to worry about erasing anyone else’s memories. Jean Luc would have avoided witnesses by using his vampire speed to load the body into the van. Misha strolled out the front of the bar and opened the van door. “Jean Luc’s not here.”
I went in search of him behind the building. Jean Luc stood in the middle of the alley with his arms outstretched and his head thrown back, concentrating. Not a muscle twitched. I held my breath, hoping my presence didn’t disturb him, and watched him silently.
Normally, I wouldn’t have used the word beautiful to describe a male, but in Jean Luc’s case it was more than appropriate. With his dark brown eyes and long, black hair tied back with a leather strap, he reminded me of a sexy pirate with fangs. Women had a tendency to drive their cars off the road when they saw him on the sidewalk. Somehow I’d managed to avoid succumbing to his charms.
After a few moments, he dropped his arms. “I do not sense anything. They did not continue the fight here.”
I rolled my eyes. “Jean Luc, you’ve been speaking English for over a century. Don’t you think it’s time to embrace contractions? What about a slang word here or there?”
His eyes narrowed. “When you learn the seven languages I speak, I will consider it.”
I bowed. “Touché.”
We spent a few more minutes checking the alley to make sure no evidence was left behind. I didn’t expect to find the angel’s bloody sword thrown in the dumpster, but it pays to be thorough. When we returned to our van, we found Misha sitting in the back scanning surveillance equipment worthy of the FBI.
“I just did a sweep. There’ve been no other weird reports in the city.”
Who would have thought Cleveland, Ohio, would be a hotbed of supes? Maybe the lake attracted them, or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Either way, it kept us hopping.
Jean Luc chose to drive, as always, and pulled away from the curb, or rather screeched away. He drove like a vamp possessed, but his reflexes hadn’t failed him in four hundred years, which I constantly reminded myself about every time he took a corner too fast.
Misha smirked at me as if reading my thoughts. He could be a smug bastard.
Frustration bubbled to the surface and burst from my mouth. “What are you grinning about? All hell’s breaking loose.”
“Really, little one, you can be terribly melodramatic,” Misha answered in a condescending tone, which didn’t sit well with me.
“Excuse me? You don’t find it somewhat ominous that an angel descended from heaven and killed a vampire in front of human witnesses?”
“You’ve been sucked into the hype, my dear. Angels are not babies with wings. They’ve been alive for millennia. For every artistic rendering of fat cherubs, there are just as many angels depicted with swords. Many are soldiers.”
I needed some backup. “Jean Luc?”
“Misha is right. Angels are soldiers, and soldiers do what they are ordered to do.”
My mouth opened like a fish chasing a worm. “You don’t think”—I poked my finger toward the roof of the van—“He ordered the vamp killed?”
Jean Luc shook his head. “Not directly. Remember, heaven is a hierarchy. Someone lower probably ordered it.”
“Holy crap,” I responded, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans.
“Stop worrying, ma cherie, we will figure it out.”
I must have looked pretty freaked out for Jean Luc to pull out the French. He thought it helped calm me down when I was about to lose it.
It wasn’t working.