Spirit & Soul
It is Spirit & Soul release day! I’m so excited to share this new adventure and all the challenges Maya faces with you again! After a long time her story continues! The usual suspects are present the irresistible Demi-god Nik, her besties Joss and Ria and we can’t forget the enigmatic gods Kali and Chayya!
Chapter 1 Excerpt
Forgiveness was far harder than Maya had ever expected it to be.Maya took a slow breath through the stinging at her mouth, then ran her tongue over the skin of her lower lip to remove the beads of blood welling up along the cut.Not that she was bothered at all by the injury. Wounds obtained during practice sessions were par for the course and normally she’d take them as a badge of honor. But today, both her busted lip—and the steady throbbing in her knee—were inflicted only as a result of her own lack of concentration.As though proving Maya’s point, Sabala sat near the door, a gleaming obsidian fur-covered, four-eyed guard, not even blinking when her blood was spilled. The beast was a gift from Lord Yama, the god of the underworld, and Maya had found she wasn’t able to go many places without him trotting at her heel.Now Maya sidestepped the pointy end of her sparring partner’s madu, allowing her fire to simmer against her skin and flow along her hand to form a warm armor of shimmering flame.She felt a ripple of triumph as the deadly end of the weapon skimmed her protective barrier from her outer elbow to her wrist, its cool point deflected as though a magnetic field existed around her arm.Then, stark white pain exploded at the base of Maya’s skull, the shock of the blow eliciting a raw gasp and instantly rendering her protective field null and void.And, unfortunately for Maya, her armor of flame flickered out too soon. Her opponent’s blade had failed to penetrate the barrier along most of the length of her arm, but her distraction canceled the protection before she was safe from the full arc of the strike.The sharp blade slid along the top of her wrist, slicing her skin open as it went, leaving her with a cut all the way to the knuckle of her middle finger. Maya hissed, more annoyed with being distracted than at the injury to her hand—or the throbbing from the blow to her head.She shucked her hand out then just as blood rose to fill the thin cut, she slapped her palm onto the wound. Best to hide the extent of her injury as quick as possible.“Where’s your head at, Maya?” asked Maya’s sparring partner and trainer, an impatient edge to her voice. Her tone was also filled with concern but her dark eyes also held regret. Still, she didn’t mention the wound either.Pushing back the blindfold from her eyes, Maya rested it on the top of her damp hair. She blinked as the bright lights from the fluorescents above seared her retinas, though even as her vision adjusted, her palm hand remained fixed to her wrist as she sent steady pulses of healing heat into the damaged skin.Now, Maya shook her head in reply to the question. Though her admission sat ready and waiting at the tip of her tongue, her natural instinct toward honesty threatening to reveal the issues occupying her mind, she bit her tongue. The subject of her own worries would only create more heartache for the woman she sparred with.Maya forced her lips to curve into a smile and prayed her expression didn’t look as fake as it felt. “Not sure. Maybe I’m tired.” Releasing her now-healed wrist, she rolled her shoulders, clapped her hands, the sharp sound filling the silent room. Cupping her fingers in a ‘gimme’ motion, she grinned and said, “Hit me with it.” The cut had healed as swiftly as Maya had expected and only a narrow smudge of blood remained to indicate anything had happened at all.“I know when you’re lying, Maya. Comes with the territory.”Maya pursed her lips and half-rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Mom. I know. No point in reminding me,” she muttered, supremely glad Leela Rao couldn’t read her mind.Hang on. Do avatars of powerful earth goddesses have mind-reading powers?Maya thrust the thought away. Thinking along those lines was only asking for trouble. A mind-reading mother was the last thing she needed.Leela smiled gently though her gaze flicked briefly toward Maya’s wrist, and the telltale smudge. “You’re usually focused, honey. Perhaps a visit to the Meditation Centre would help? Refresh your clarity-of-mind techniques?” she suggested as she swirled the curved horn of her madu in her right hand. Her left fist was empty, her fingers tightly clenched and ready. White wrappings protected her knuckles, the stark purity marred by a few flecks of Maya’s blood.Her mom had been her substitute sparring-partner whenever Maya’s sexy demigod boyfriend was busying with stuff the son-of-the-god-of-the-underworld had to do.She and her mom had been practicing for nearly forty minutes now, and Maya was all too aware that she needed to focus on using her fire as a weapon rather than a reactionary defense mechanism.So many new abilities had come to the fore, more so because she’d begun to learn how to manipulate her fire with more skill. Had it not been for her distracted thoughts, Maya would have had real fun with her fiery staffs and batons.She shook her head. “I’m fine, Mom. But thanks for the reminder. Can we go again?” she asked, her expression neutral now as she tried to clear her mind.Her mom’s eyes narrowed for a moment but then she relaxed. She’d begun to nod in agreement but was interrupted by a voice on the intercom which filled the small room. “Leela Rao, you’re needed in WTP3 for a short revision briefing.”Leela sighed and shook her head, staring up at the little square box as though she wanted to aim an arrow at it and let loose. “Okay, I’m going to head up to see what these guys need. You keep warming up and I’ll be back in a bit,” she said as she stalked toward the door.“Mom?” Maya called, her tone dry as she lifted an eyebrow.Leela paused on the threshold to look over her shoulder at her daughter, a question in her eyes.Maya pointed at her mom’s sweat-drenched chest, abs and arms, all exposed by her gym crop-top which was identical to Maya’s. “You may want to cover up. Wouldn’t want the boys and girls in Weapons Tech to get distracted with all that sweat-drenched cleavage,” she said with a smirk.Her mom’s eyes narrowed as she shook her head, her expression one of forced patience. Still, Leela strode over to the bench where she and Maya had left their sweatshirts, then drew it over her head without a word.As she left, Maya heard her mom muttering, “Thought it was my job to tell my kid to put on more clothes.”Maya chuckled at her mom’s words, enjoying the irony. Even Sabala chuffed as though laughing at Leela’s expense. Still, her mom had also been distracted, and Maya knew exactly what it was—the very same reason Maya’s own mind wasn’t on track.Aunt Claudia.It had only been a little more than a month since they’d returned from the mission to India where Maya had discovered who had betrayed her. Claudia had made decisions born out of anger and self-pity, choices with ramifications she’d never expected.The woman who’d been Leela’s best friend, who’d been Maya’s confident and surrogate aunt through her entire life, had sold Maya out for revenge, and to regain her ability to walk.Maya had spent weeks wracked with guilt at Claudia’s paralysis after their mission to Prague, but she’d come to terms with the fact that it hadn’t been her fault things had gone wrong. Back then, even Claudia hadn’t blamed Maya. But they had eventually discovered the truth.Claude’s injury had fed her self-pity, which had in turn resulted in her blaming Maya. And fueled by her anger, Claudia had made a deal with the devil.Not literally, but close enough.A deal resulting in Maya’s dad in a coma, Maya injured and her powers almost taken from her, and with an admission by Claudia capable of ripping the family apart.But they’d kept that secret from the agency. They’d promised to work through things with Claudia. She was family after all. And Maya had tried to keep her word. She’d watched her parents work things through with her aunt, but she’d also sensed the tensions still simmering between the trio of friends.Was their friendship truly capable of withstanding such a betrayal? Only time would tell.Though she’d seen Claudia’s argument with the priest, her demands for Maya not be injured and even her insistence that the deal was over, Maya still struggled with forgiveness. Perhaps she wasn’t as good a person as she’d believed herself to be. But, the truth of it was simple enough.Maya needed more time.