Today, I’m happy to post a cover reveal and share an excerpt from BR Kingsolver’s upcoming paranormal suspense novel, Broken Dolls. Check it out! After the cover, there’s also a short excerpt!
You can pre-order this story at Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and it will be available widely on September 29!
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Private investigator RB Kendrick makes her living nailing cheating spouses, digging up other dirt to help in a divorce, finding long-lost relatives, and occasionally sniffing out criminal activity and fraud.
When she takes a job to find a missing girl, she has no idea she is headed for the most dangerous case of her career. Usually, her ability to read minds gives her an edge. But when the people she’s hunting are also telepaths, that advantage is limited.
The search takes her into the dark underbelly of telepathic society, where anything, and anyone, is for sale. She discovers that telepathic women and girls are being trafficked as the ultimate sex slaves.
With people trying to kill her, she’s on the run, not knowing who she can trust. Will she find the missing girl, or become a victim herself?
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Broken Dolls A novel of paranormal suspense set in the world of The Telepathic Clans
For the third night in a row, the office light went off at 7:30. Three minutes later, the man I was following walked out the front door of the building wearing his jacket and carrying his briefcase. He turned right, walked two blocks and turned right again. Another block and he walked into a pub. He sat at the same table and ordered shepherd’s pie and a pint for the third night in a row.
Following this guy was getting very old.
I tried the shepherd’s pie the first night, lamb stew the second. Looking at the menu, I decided on the steak and kidney pie. I didn’t have high hopes it would be much better than the previous meals in this place. I wished he’d find a pub with a cook who knew how to cook. Congealed grease is not one of my favorites. If this assignment lasted much longer, I was going to start billing a hazard surcharge for the food. Lousy fish and chips three days in a row for lunch, and terrible shepherd’s pie three days in a row for supper. No wonder he was thirty pounds overweight.
He took the Tube to the train and walked in the front door of his house at 10:00, again for the third night in a row.
By the time I got off the train back in London, it was almost 11:00. It would be after midnight when I got home and I needed to be back at his place at 7:00 in the morning.
I ducked into the Hilton to see if I could get a bed for the night. Passing the lounge, I spotted a good-looking Yank drinking alone. Scanning his thoughts, I learned he had finished his meetings for the week. He was looking forward to spending the next three days exploring London without the wife and kids before flying back to the States on Sunday.
I proceeded to the loo and changed clothes in one of the stalls, pulling the travel dress from my bag and shaking it out. I loved that dress. You couldn’t wrinkle it with an iron. I replaced it in my bag with my sweater and jeans, shimmied into it and changed shoes. After unbraiding my hair and pulling a brush through it, I drifted back into the lounge and had the barman pull me a pint.
Sitting at the table next to the Yank, I sipped my beer and tried to act bored. It didn’t take me long to attract his attention. It never does. There were a dozen people in the room, and every one of them was watching me. My problem is getting men to leave me alone.
Reading his mind and emotions, I could tell he was excited. I boosted my Charisma and added a bit of Empathic Projection to send him feelings of lust. We retired to his room before I even finished my drink.
He was attractive, tall and dark haired with a fit body, but I had to be up early in the morning. I slipped into his mind and triggered his sleep center. I called the front desk to leave a wakeup time and place my breakfast order. Then I showered and slipped between the freshly laundered sheets on the other side of the king-sized bed.
Breakfast the next morning was the best meal I’d had all week, and I had a bounce in my step as I boarded the train. At 7:00, my assignment walked out of his front door and headed to the train. I braced myself for another boring day.
Sitting in the coffee stop across the street from his building, I mused on why his wife thought he was worth keeping, let alone why she thought someone else would want someone so boring. But she was willing to pay, and my rent was due.
It would have been so much easier if he were a norm. I could just read his mind and know if he was screwing around. I’d give her my report, charge her a thousand pounds, and be done with it.
As distasteful as following cheating husbands is, I’d rather be sitting there reading a book than selling my high-end services. It wasn’t so bad when I was paid ten thousand pounds to seduce a norm. But with another telepath, unless his shields were leaky, I couldn’t be sure if I was seducing a cheater or inducing an honest man to cheat. That was part of why I charged twenty-five thousand for that service. The price discouraged a lot of women, and if it didn’t, I made enough to deal with my guilty conscience.
I met the wife of my assignment for lunch on Saturday.
“Meg, I haven’t seen anything that would indicate he’s cheating on you,” I said. “He’s working ten hours a day. He goes straight to work in the morning, and in the evening he has dinner at the pub and goes straight home.”
His wife was pretty and thirty years younger than he was. I wondered what he’d done to win her in the first place.
“Something doesn’t feel right. I know he’s hiding something. Can you stay on the job another week?” Meg Whitman asked.
“Yes, but I need the money in advance. I’m burning all of my time keeping him under surveillance. Not to be offensive, but I’ve had clients try to back out of payment when an investigation doesn’t produce any results.”
She pulled money out of her wallet and paid me, cash, no arguments. How many people carry five thousand in cash? She’d paid cash up front the previous week as well.
“Miss Kendrick, I’m not crazy and I’m not paranoid. Is there any chance he’s carrying on an affair at work?”
“I’m not seeing any evidence of it,” I said. “I can see through the window of his office all day, and I’ve checked his schedule. His presence is accounted for. But I will admit, sometimes an illicit affair may be an occasional meeting. For all I know, he may already have an assignation planned for two weeks from Monday.”
I thought back on that conversation the following Thursday when he left his office at 3:00 in the afternoon. He walked five blocks to a hotel, bypassed the front desk, and took the elevator to the fifth floor. I got on with him, but got off at the fourth floor. Pelting up the stairs, I opened the door to the hall in time to see him enter a room. A woman, older and plainer than his wife, kissed him and closed the door.
To my surprise, she was a norm. Now, I’m not prejudiced, but it’s generally acknowledged that sex with the most repressed, homely telepath is a lot better than sex with the most beautiful, passionate norm. A telepath shares their emotions and sensations with a sexual partner, enhancing the experience in a way a norm never could. There had to be something else going on there besides the physical aspects of sex.
I extended my awareness, and entered her mind. I had to be careful, because he was in her mind, too. She definitely thought he was the best lover she’d ever had. It didn’t take long to figure out why he wanted her. I withdrew, feeling a bit sick.
Shit. How was I going to break this to his wife?
I called Meg Whitman and arranged to have lunch with her the next day. We met in the town where she lived. She chose a nice little café with checked tablecloths and a fresh carnation in a bud vase on every table.
“Your husband is meeting a woman named Gloria Watson at a hotel called the Western Grand. They get together twice a month on Thursday afternoons. She’s a norm and he met her on the Internet,” I told her. She got a bit pale and her mouth set into a grim line. Her eyes got a little glassy.
“Why? Do you know?” she almost whispered.
This was the hard part. I’d hoped she wouldn’t ask, but they always do.
“They’re having sex. Sex that most people would consider rather kinky.”
“Oh my God,” she breathed. “So he’s going to this woman for something he doesn’t think I’d do.”
“Meg, it’s something you can’t do,” I said. “He uses compulsion on her. What she remembers isn’t what happens.”
The blood completely drained from Meg’s face and she looked sick. “Does he hurt her?” her voice came out thin and shaky.
“Yes, and other things. Are you sure you want to know everything? I don’t consider myself squeamish, but it’s really something I’d rather not talk about. It’s in my report.”
“That bad, huh?” She wiped her mouth with her napkin, her hand shaking, and taking her purse excused herself to go to the ladies’ room.
There aren’t any laws against using compulsion on an innocent norm, primarily because norms don’t know it can be done. It’s frowned upon by telepaths. Of course, all of us know how to do it, but using it on a sexual partner is essentially rape. Considering Meg’s husband’s perversions, it would be difficult to find a willing partner.
We parted ways. If she wanted more details, they were contained in the report I gave her. I urged her to burn it before she read it. I put the really nauseating part in a separate appendix to make that easier. She might burn it, but I was pretty sure she’d read it first. We’re like normal humans in a lot of ways.