Dear Reader,

Greetings and salutations! I’m thrilled to announce Tangled Threads, the fourth book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Tangled Threads is a fast-paced rollicking read full of magic, action, adventure, danger, and even a little romance, just like Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, and Venom, the first three books in the series.

Tangled Threads is set in the southern metropolis of Ashland, a dark, gritty, corrupt city that’s home to vampires, giants, dwarves, and elementals, or people who can control one of the four elements — Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

The heroine is Gin Blanco, who runs the Pork Pit barbecue restaurant. Gin also used to be the assassin known as the Spider before she retired. When a young girl is kidnapped, Gin is determined to rescue her – even though a deadly assassin named Elektra LaFleur is in Ashland and hot on the trail of the Spider. But Gin is determined to find the missing girl, even if it puts her directly in LaFleur’s line of fire. Here’s a little more about Gin in her own words:

I’d rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with something as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my feelings. But here I am. Gin Blanco, the semi-retired assassin known as the Spider. Hovering out­side sexy businessman Owen Grayson’s front door like a nervous teenage girl. One thing I like about Owen: he doesn’t shy away from my past—or my present.

And right now I have a bull’s-eye on my forehead. Cold-blooded Fire elemental Mab Monroe has hired one of the smartest assassins in the business to trap me. Elektra LaFleur is skilled and efficient, with deadly electrical elemental magic as potent as my own Ice and Stone powers. Which means there’s a fifty-fifty chance one of us won’t survive this battle.

I intend to kill LaFleur—or die trying—because Mab wants the assassin to take out my baby sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, too. The only problem is, Bria has no idea I’m her long-lost sibling ... or that I’m the murderer she’s been chasing through Ashland for weeks. And what Bria doesn’t know just might get us both dead ...

A strong, sassy heroine, cool magic/world building, fights to the death, and steamy sex scenes — the Elemental Assassin books have all that and more.

Here’s what some folks are saying about the Elemental Assassin series:

“Estep has really hit her stride with the gritty and compelling Elemental Assassin series. She surrounds her fascinating and complex heroine with a cadre of supporting players, each of whom are intriguing in their own right. Brisk pacing and knife-edged danger make this an exciting page-turner. Kudos to Estep, who is rapidly heading toward the top of the urban fantasy genre!” 4.5 stars and a Top Pick
— Romantic Times magazine on Venom

“Spider’s Bite is a raw, gritty and compelling walk on the wild side, one that had me hooked from the first page. Jennifer Estep has created a fascinating heroine in the morally ambiguous Gin Blanco — I can’t wait to read the next chapter of Gin’s story.”
— Nalini Singh, New York Times best-selling author of the Psy-Changeling series on Spider’s Bite

“Bodies litter the pages of this first entry in Estep’s engrossing Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series … urban fantasy fans will love it.”
Publishers Weekly on Spider’s Bite

If you enjoy Tangled Threads, you won’t have long to wait to read more about Gin and her adventures. Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in the series, will be published in October 2011.

To read the first chapters of each of the books, as well as several free Elemental Assassin short stories, visit the Excerpts page of my website at http://www.jenniferestep.com/excerpts-short-stories/. You can also check out my blog on the site and sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter, which is full of my latest news, reading recommendations, recipes, and more.

Also, be sure to follow me on these sites:
Facebook fan page: http://artist.to/jenniferestepfanpage/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/580315.Jennifer_Estep
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jennifer_Estep

Happy reading! ;-)

Jennifer Estep



Excerpt from Tangled Threads

©Jennifer Estep


I stood in the foyer a moment, letting my eyes adjust to the shadows. The front of the house was dark, although I spotted a couple of lights burning farther back. They must have been in the downstairs living room. Faint music drifted down the hallway toward me, someone crooning the old classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

The polite thing to do would have been to announce my presence, to call out and see whether Owen or Eva was still up. Instead, I crept down the hallway, sliding from one shadow to the next. Being cautious, just as I had when I’d lingered outside and listened to the murmurs of the stones, checking to see if there was anyone around who shouldn’t be. I couldn’t afford to be careless these days. Not even here.

As I walked deeper into the house, my gaze scanned what I could see of the furnishings. Looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything out of place, anything or anyone who might be a threat to me. But all I saw was the same simple, familiar furniture. Lots of pieces done in dark, heavy woods, thick rugs on the floor, iron sculptures standing in the corners. Everything in its place for the night.

Except for me, who felt decidedly out of place.

I reached the doorway to the downstairs living room. The music was louder here, though not unpleasantly so. Still staying well back in the shadows, I peered into the room.

It looked like a Christmas fairyland. An enormous Fraser fir reached almost to the ceiling in the corner next to the gray stone fireplace. Its crisp, clean, woodsy scent tickled my nose, even out here in the hallway. Twinkling white lights had been wrapped around the tree, and a variety of jewel-colored ornaments glittered on its thick emerald branches. More decorations spread out through the rest of the room—holly leaves clustered on the mantel, candy cane striped candles on the end tables, a fat ball of mistletoe dangling from the ceiling.

Eva Grayson stood in front of the tree, a large box of silver tinfoil icicles in her hands. Given the late hour, she wore a pair of pink flannel pajamas, cute and sexy at the same time. The fabric showed off Eva’s tall, lithe figure to its full advantage. The bright color also brought out the exquisite contrast of her features—blue-black hair, blue eyes, and flawless pale skin.

Eva plucked a single icicle out of her box and tossed it at the tree. She cocked her head to one side, making sure the placement was just so, before grabbing another piece of foil and throwing it onto the tree as well.

“Are you going to put those on one at a time? Because we’ll be here all night,” a man’s voice rumbled.

Owen Grayson moved out from where he’d been standing behind the tree, another box of silver icicles in his hand. Like Eva, Owen was dressed down for the evening in a black T-shirt and pair of gray pajama pants. The cotton stretched over his broad chest, highlighting his compact, sturdy frame, one that always reminded me of a dwarf’s stocky physique. But at six foot one, Owen had more than a foot on most dwarves. He had the same blue-black hair and pale skin that Eva did, although his eyes were a light, piercing violet. His face was also blunter and rougher than hers, with a thin, white scar that slashed down his chin and a slightly crooked nose. Somehow, the small imperfections gave his face a hard, dangerous edge that only made him that much more appealing.

At first glance, most people wouldn’t consider Owen to be a handsome man. Not like Finn, with his classic good looks, easy charm, and slick smile. But the more I looked at Owen, the more attractive he became to me. He was impressive in his own way, doing everything with a strong, authoritative air. I’d always been drawn to confident men, especially those like Owen who actually had something to be confident about. Even wearing pajama pants, Owen seemed ready for anything the world could possibly throw at him, from decorating a Christmas tree with his kid sister, to an unexpected business meeting, to a dangerous assassin lurking in his house. There was a quietness to Owen, a calm inner strength that I recognized and admired. He knew his power and his place in the world, and he didn’t try to hide it.

And the rest of him was pretty easy on the eyes too. My gaze drifted over his broad chest once more, then down to the flannel pants that hung loosely on his hips. Warmth bubbled up in my stomach, and it had nothing to do with the orange flames crackling in the stone fireplace. Mmm. Maybe Finn would be right about the booty call after all.

“You want the tree to look good for Gin, don’t you?” Eva replied, picking out another icicle to place on the green branches. “Where is she, by the way? I thought she was supposed to be here by now.”

“She’ll get here when she gets here,” Owen replied in his deep voice. “She had another assignment tonight.”

“Assignment. Right,” Eva drawled. “You don’t have to sugarcoat things for me, you know. You can just come out and say it. Gin’s off killing someone. Another one of Mab Monroe’s men?”

A faint wince crinkled Owen’s face at his sister’s blunt tone. At thirty-three, Owen was several years older than his sister and was the consummate, overprotective big brother. Even though she was nineteen, he still wanted to shield Eva from everything—including what I did late at night.

“I believe that was the plan, yes,” he replied.

Owen knew that I was the assassin the Spider. He’d had his suspicions for weeks, ever since I’d gone toe-to-toe with a greedy dwarven mine owner—and had been the only one left standing at the end. A couple of weeks ago, I’d told Owen my deep, dark secret when I’d gone after Elliot Slater.

Owen had been more accepting of my past then I’d ever dreamed he could be. He knew what a dark, twisted, violent place Ashland was, and he’d done his fair share of nasty things over the years too. Just to survive, just to keep himself and Eva safe. Owen didn’t begrudge me my strength, skills, or murky past, unlike another man that I’d once been involved with. His easy acceptance of me was one of the many things I liked about Owen.

We’d both agreed that Eva had a right to know about my past as well, so I’d sat her down one night and told her what I did. Eva hadn’t been that surprised, especially since I’d helped out Violet Fox, her best friend, several weeks ago. Violet had told Eva how I’d saved her and her grandfather from being murdered by the dwarven mine owner who wanted their land and the diamonds he’d discovered on it. Violet wasn’t the only one I’d saved. I’d also kept Eva from getting fried to a crisp by a Fire elemental who’d tried to rob the Pork Pit one night while she’d been eating in the restaurant.

Eva had been just as understanding about my past as Owen, mainly because my family wasn’t the only one that Mab Monroe had murdered over the years. She’d also killed Owen and Eva’s parents because of their father’s gambling debt when Eva was just a toddler. The two of them had been forced to live on the mean streets of Ashland, just as I’d done before Fletcher Lane had taken me in. Now Eva treated me like a big sister—a role I wasn’t sure that I was comfortable with, since I didn’t know where things were going between Owen and me.

And the small fact that I hadn’t even told my own sister, Bria, who I really was.

“Actually, you’ll be lucky if Gin shows tonight at all,” Eva said.

Owen’s violet eyes narrowed. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

Eva rolled her own eyes and put a hand on her hip. “It means you’ve been dating her less than a month, and you already gave her a freaking key, Owen.”

“What was wrong with giving Gin a key?” he rumbled. “It’s not like I could keep her out of the house, even if I wanted to. I thought a key would make things easier, make her feel like she was really welcome here. This is the first time that I’ve dated an assassin. I don’t want to piss her off.”

I smiled at his light tone, and logic. Two more things that I liked about Owen. He didn’t shy away from my past, or the fact that I could kill him as easily as sleep with him.

“Don’t get me wrong. I like Gin—a lot. Certainly more than those bimbos you’ve brought home,” Eva said.

“Hey, now. They weren’t bimbos. At least, not all of them.”

Eva sniffed. “When their boobs are bigger than their hair, they’re bimbos, Owen. Trust me on that.”

Owen grumbled something under his breath, reached into his box, and threw a wad of icicles at his younger sister. Eva snickered and ducked out of the way of the sparkling tinfoil.

“So what’s wrong with Gin?” Owen asked.

Eva shrugged. “It’s not that anything’s wrong with her. But she’s the Spider. Like, the best assassin ever.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is that Gin’s not the kind of woman who’s going to be ecstatic when you give her a key after a few dates. There’s a little bit more to her than that.”

Owen frowned. “You think it was too much? Too soon?”

“Way too much, way too soon,” Eva replied.

Well, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so, although I wasn’t sure if I wanted Owen taking relationship advice from his kid sister, who wasn’t even old enough to legally drink.

The two of them strung some more icicles on the tree for a minute before Owen spoke again.

“I like Gin,” he said. “More than I’ve liked anyone in a long time. That’s why I gave her the key. Because I wanted to. Because I want her to stick around.”

Eva looked at her big brother. “I know. Just remember that Gin’s not like anyone else you’ve ever dated. She’s not going to act the same as the bimbos, who would have started moving their stuff in and picking out wedding dresses the second that you gave them a key.”

Owen’s eyes narrowed, but a grin spread across his face, softening his chiseled features. “When did you get so smart?”

Eva grinned back at him. “Big brother, I’ve always been smart. You just failed to recognize my brilliance until now.”

Owen grumbled something else under his breath and threw another wad of icicles at Eva. She laughed, dug into her box, and retaliated with her own handful. And the fight was on. The two of them slung gobs of icicles at each other, until the air sparked and flashed with the thin, silver ribbons.

I leaned against the doorway and watched them shriek, laugh, and duck around furniture as they staged their mock battle. Eva and Owen Grayson loved each other the way two siblings should. The way I loved Finn. They had the kind of easy relationship I wanted to have with my own sister. With Bria.

Too bad Bria was a detective with the Ashland Police Department. One who wanted to track down the Spider and bring her to justice for killing Elliot Slater and the rest of Mab Monroe’s minions that I’d dispatched in the last few weeks.

But I wasn’t here to dwell on that complicated relationship, my war with Mab, or the fact that LaFleur was in town and gunning for me. All that mattered was tonight, and this brief happy moment with the Graysons. I hadn’t had many of those in my life, and I knew enough to appreciate them. To grab and hold on to and enjoy these precious moments as long as I could.

So I drew in a breath and stepped into the living room, letting the two of them see me. Eva spotted me first.

“Gin!” Eva shouted, ducking another wad of icicles. “You made it!”

Owen’s head turned in my direction, giving Eva the opening that she needed to leap up onto the sofa and dump the rest of her box of icicles on top of her big brother’s head.

“Ha!” she shouted in triumph. “I win!”

Owen glowered at his sister, before turning and giving me a sheepish grin. With the icicles streaming down his body, he looked like a tinfoil yeti.

I raised an eyebrow. “Sexy. Dead sexy.”

Owen grinned at me through the sparkling silver strings. “I do try.”

#

For the next hour, I helped Owen and Eva pick up wayward icicles and put them on the tree. When we finished, Eva announced that she was giving us some private time and headed off to bed.

“Sorry about the mess,” Owen said, bending down to pick up a stray icicle off the rug. “I didn’t mean for you to have to clean up after us.”

“It’s okay,” I replied. “I had fun helping you guys.”

Surprisingly, I wasn’t lying. It had been fun doing something so simple, so normal. Something that Fletcher Lane would have considered to be living in the daylight, his words for having a regular life. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a Christmas tree, much less decorated one. The old man hadn’t much cared for the holiday, and Finn had always been more interested in the presents underneath the tree than what it looked like. In addition to helping me with certain things, my foster brother was also an investment banker. Finn was all about money and the shiny things you could buy with it.

While Owen salvaged a few more icicles, I wandered through the living room, staring at the decorations, enjoying the mix of red and green, gold and silver. The gleam of glass on a table caught my eye, and I picked up a large snow globe. A charming Christmas scene of a family gathered around a fireplace lay underneath the smooth, curved surface. I shook the globe. White flakes drifted up before sinking to the bottom once more. Such a small, simple thing, but it made my heart twist all the same.

My mother, Eira Snow, had collected snow globes. She had dozens of them, and I remembered running from one end of the fireplace mantel to the other, trying to make the snow swirl in the last one before the flakes in the first one settled back down. A game that I’d played with Bria when we were kids.

Bria seemed to have the same fascination with the globes as our mother. I’d seen boxes full of them the night that I’d broken into Bria’s house and kept Elliot Slater and the rest of his giant goons from killing her. A few weeks ago, when Bria had first come back to Ashland, Mab Monroe had sent her giant enforcer to murder my sister. Mab had thought that Bria was a threat to her. That Bria was the Snow sister who had both Ice and Stone magic.

Mab had thought that Bria was the one who was going to kill her.

Once upon a time, an Air elemental who could see the future had told Mab that a member of the Snow family, someone who could wield both Ice and Stone magic, would kill her one day. Rather than let that happen, Mab had decided to make her own preemptive strike.

That’s why she’d come to my house all those years ago. That’s why she’d killed my mother and my older sister, Annabella. That’s why she’d tortured me, first by duct-taping the spider rune medallion that I wore as a necklace between my palms. When I hadn’t told Mab where Bria was, Mab had used her Fire magic to superheat the silverstone metal until it melted into my palms—forever marking me. Branding me as the Spider in more ways than one.

The Fire elemental just hadn’t realized that I was the one that she’d really wanted to eliminate that night. That I was the real threat to her, not Bria. That I was the one with both Ice and Stone magic—magic that I was going to use to kill Mab.

The prophecy, Mab’s actions, the fact that I’d survived anyway—it was all very tragic and somewhat Greek. Or maybe I only thought that because I’d just finished up a classic literature course over at Ashland Community College. We’d read tales of Oedipus and The Odyssey, among other things. Sometimes, I wondered if Mab and I were like two ancient Greek combatants, locked in this epic struggle, each move we made to prevent our tragic fates instead actually bringing us closer to our final, deadly confrontation.

Owen moved to stand beside me. “What are you thinking about?”

 “Nothing.”

I put the snow globe down on the table, turned to him, and looped my arms around his neck. I tilted up my head, and my gaze traced over Owen’s features. The white scar that cut across his chin, firm lips, slightly crooked nose, and finally up to his eyes.

As always, I looked deep into his violet gaze, losing myself in the pale, amethyst color, searching for a sign, a hint, a flash of feeling that would tell me that he’d finally wised up and decided to end things with me. That Owen saw how dark and twisted I really was deep down and that it finally, ultimately, disgusted him, the way that it had Donovan Caine, the man I’d been involved with before Owen came along.

As always, I saw nothing. No fear, no condemnation, no disgust. Only acceptance.

Owen put his hands around my waist and drew me into the warm embrace of his arms. His hands moved up my back, massaging my tight muscles, before sliding down to the curve of my ass and pulling me against him, so that I could feel every hard inch of him rubbing against the junction of my thighs, even through the thick fabric of my jeans. 

“Mmm,” I said. “Someone’s happy to see me.”

Owen bent his head and pressed a soft kiss to my throat. Heat flooded my veins at the gentle contact.

“Always,” he agreed.

I turned my head, and our lips met. We kissed slowly at first, sweetly, gently even. Our lips just brushing, our hands just skimming over each other’s bodies. I breathed in Owen’s scent, that rich, earthy aroma that always made me think of metal, something he had an elemental talent for using. But the connection between us flared too bright, burned too hot, to be contained for long.

The kiss deepened, and our tongues got involved, tasting each other. Owen’s hands slid up under my shirt, gliding across my stomach. Mine drifted lower, moving across his hips. Both of us not going any farther with our teasing—at least not yet.

“You know,” Owen murmured against my lips. “I think that Eva had an excellent idea about going to bed. Care to join me?”

“Why bother with bed?” I jerked my head. “I see a perfectly serviceable couch right there.”

“Hmm,” Owen said, grinning down at me. “Have I ever told you what good ideas you have, Gin?”

I smiled up at him. “No, but you could show me.”

“Oh, I plan to. Don’t you worry about that.”

Owen drew me closer. His lips met mine again, and I surrendered to him for the night.


Amazon Barnes & Noble Books.A.Million




Contest!


Jennifer is hosting a special contest for ASR Readers!

Three winners will each receive an autographed copy of Tangled Threads and One of these lucky winners will also receive a $20 gift card from Amazon!

To enter, visit Jennifer's website and find the answer to this question-

What is the name of one of the free short stories that Jennifer has written to go along with Tangled Threads?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer by midnight on May 2nd, 2011. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and please mark the subject heading as 'TangledThreads'.

Good luck!

Designed by AuthorSoundRelations.com
We'd love to know what you think of this newsletter. Please email us with your comments!
Not a subscriber? Sign up here! Join us on Facebook & Twitter