"Blood Money" is now available

That almost sounds ominous, doesn't it?

As of today, Blood Money, the first novel in the Patty O'Donnell series, is up for sale on the Mundania homepage. It's available in Trade Paperback for $11.95, and in PDF, HTML, MobiPocket, MS Reader, and Epub formats for $4.99.

Need a teaser?

Here's the cover blurb:

When Patty O’Donnell married her Irish sweetheart and moved from America to her husband’s small home town on the Irish seacoast, the most dangerous things she had to deal with were the half-ton racehorses in her father-in-law’s stables. But when she and her husband return from a late night out to find their house being searched, she discovers there are far worse things lurking in her bucolic surroundings than temperamental Thoroughbreds.

The teenage son of a late family friend brings proof of a long forgotten debt owed by the O’Donnells, part of a cargo lost in a shipwreck over a century and a half ago. He wants the cargo salvaged, and quickly, so he can help his mother free herself from her abusive second husband. The O’Donnells are willing, but the search and salvage mission puts them square in the sights of modern-day pirates, who want the salvage for themselves.

Suddenly, Patty finds herself hunted and in a fight for her life, where yielding to panic means a swift and ugly death.

And here's a portion of the first chapter:

The thief had been hiding in our house for nearly a week before anyone realized he was there. Oh, there’d been small signs, of course, if we’d known what we were looking at. A missing flashlight, food that didn’t stretch as far as expected, sweaters and jeans of Mícheál’s that disappeared for a day or two before turning up dirty in the wash. Small, careful thefts that looked more like carelessness than what they actually were. That, coupled with the fact that he’d chosen as his hiding place a spot no one but family should have known about, kept him safe from detection much longer than even he probably expected.

It was only because we’d returned home just after midnight that we noticed the light in a window on the top floor. The night was overcast and moonless, and the light shone out of the dark bulk of Aill Tearmann like a dim beacon. Mícheál switched off the headlights and braked the Range Rover to a stop on the crest of the hill, studying the window as the light grew dimmer and brighter by turns.

“Someone’s in the house.”

“Are you sure it’s not your dad?” I ducked my head a little lower to look at the huge family home. It was five stories, and sat with its back against the steep slope of the cliff behind it. The front of each story was set back ten feet from the one below it, so the whole looked like a stairway for giants. The kitchen occupied a separate, small rectangular building to the left, and to the right, attached by walkways at the second, third, and fourth stories, was a round tower, its top floor a full two stories above the top of the house to give its upper room a clear view of the ocean on the other side of the cliff. There were no other lights.

“My father wouldn’t be using a torch,” my husband pointed out. “And I can’t imagine why he would be on the top floor at midnight.”

I glanced at him sidelong. The light from the dashboard played over the strong, masculine lines of his handsome face but revealed little of what he was thinking.

“So what do you intend to do?”

He frowned thoughtfully before shutting off the engine. “First, we have to get down there without letting whomever that is know we’re coming.”

Shifting into neutral, he took his foot off the brake and let us roll down the hill. The pop and crunch of gravel under the tires was loud inside the silent, closed car. The vehicle picked up speed and rolled across the bottom of the bowl-shaped hollow leading up to the house. It lost momentum and rolled to a stop within a hundred yards of the front door.

“We’ll have to walk from here.” He switched off the ignition. The dash light went out, turning my spouse’s solid form into darkness and shadows. Reaching for the dome light, he switched it to the off position. He opened his door and stepped out onto the gravel, turning back to duck his head and look in at me.

“Are you coming, or would you rather wait here?”

“Are you kidding?” I popped my door open.

“Don’t slam it,” he warned in a hiss, following his own orders by carefully pushing his door shut. I followed suit. A cold breeze off the ocean competed with the knowledge some stranger was sneaking around in our home to send tingles crawling across my skin.

The light in the window had disappeared. Mícheál paused, watching, until it reappeared in the next window over.

“He’s searching the rooms.” He instinctively kept his voice low even though we both knew the intruder couldn’t hear us. “Come on.”

I wasn’t exactly dressed for creeping through the dark. We’d just come back from celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary with dinner and a show, and I was wearing impractical high heels and a tight skirt. I wobbled precariously across the gravel to the grassy verge, stepped out of the shoes, and bent carefully to pick them up. There was no telling what I might step on out here, but it was bound to be less damaging than falling and breaking my ankle.

The grass was cool beneath my feet. Mícheál caught my hand and led me toward an enclosed walkway between the house and the kitchen. The kitchen windows were pitch black—Máire, our housekeeper, had long since gone home for the night.

The air held the chill of an Irish spring. The strong breeze off the Atlantic tugged at my hair and easily found its way under my clothes, making me envious of Mícheál in his wool suit. We entered the walkway through a door close to the house, escaping the wind. He turned right along the walkway and entered the house through the side door, which as far as I knew had never been locked in recent memory. After tonight, that was probably going to change, I thought, following him inside.

The air was warmer, and smelled of furniture polish and wood smoke. Mícheál paused, listening, while our eyes adjusted to the denser darkness. Ahead of us was the parlor, curtained and empty, while to our left, along a passage where coats could be hung, was the dining room. There were quiet popping noises from that direction.

Still holding my hand, Mícheál led me up the passage. The dining room was faintly lit by the dim, sullen glow of a dying fire on the ornate hearth. Mícheál gave the room a quick glance before leading me past the heavy oak dining table and chairs, content that there was no one lurking in the shadows.

Double sliding doors, always open, led to the great hall, a cavernous two-story room with a grand staircase and galleries on the upper level. The polished marble floor gleamed softly. The great hall was comparatively brighter due to the long ranks of tall windows flanking the front doors.

There was no place here an accomplice could easily hide. We mounted the broad staircase at the back of the room, following its right wing up to the gallery and the entrance to the library.

The hearth in the library also held the glowing embers of a fire. I suspected Séamas and Aunt Liz probably had been up until quite recently. We passed silently across the carpeted floor, through the adjoining study, and out into the back hall, which was lit only with a tiny nightlight. I looked back at the study, where one of the house phones sat on the desk.

“We really ought to call the police,” I whispered.

“I’ll get Séamas up.” Mícheál gave my hand a squeeze. “We’ll be all right.”

We climbed the stairs close to the back wall, where the treads were less likely to creak. At the third floor landing, he pointed me toward our bedroom door.

“Wait there,” he whispered, his mouth so close to my ear that his breath caused the small hairs beside it to stir.

Frowning, I did as he instructed. This went against everything I’d ever been taught about dealing with intruders. He crossed the floor, freezing when a misplaced step caused a board to pop underfoot. After a few seconds he moved forward, opened his father’s door, and slid inside.

The air seemed chillier. I hovered indecisively by our door, shoes in hand, and considered changing clothes. Before I could make up my mind, Mícheál was back in the hallway. Séamas followed in hastily donned slacks and sweater, his feet bare. Even without his shoes, my father-in-law was a burly six-foot-four. I would have hated to be the thief who suddenly saw him coming out of the dark. The pair passed me without a word and started up the next flight of steps.

My uneasiness grew. They had no way of knowing if the intruder was armed. Suppose whoever it was decided to shoot first and read about it in tomorrow’s paper? We should have called the police and let them handle it.

The broad plank floor of the third story hall stretched away in front of me, warming slowly under my bare feet. A small nightlight in a wall socket provided illumination for midnight bathroom visits. Besides the master bedroom and the bedroom Mícheál and I shared, this floor also contained an upper extension of the library, and a sunroom along the front of the house, which Aunt Liz had converted into her own bedroom.

I considered her door for a moment, thinking about getting her up. She would be seriously peeved if something exciting happened and we let her sleep through it. Besides, I really wasn’t all that keen on waiting alone.

I’d just started across the hall to her room when the shouting began upstairs. There was a thud that shook the floor two stories up, followed by a stampede of footsteps. My stomach knotted, and a chill raced across my skin. No shooting, so far, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be.

Aunt Liz’s door opened. A dim blue light spilled into the hallway, telling me she’d been up working on her latest novel. She stepped out into the hall, her black curls tousled and her emerald eyes wide as she belted her robe tightly around her slim waist.

“What on earth?” She threw the ceiling a questioning look.

“Mícheál and I spotted a light upstairs when we got here. He and Séamas went to investigate.”

She advanced to the foot of the stairs, looking up them.

“Sounds like they’ve flushed their quarry.” She cocked her head. “Hang on. I think they’re coming this way. Get ready.”

She stepped to one side of the stairs, blending into the shadows in her dark robe. I scooted back out of the way. I had no intention of blocking someone who was likely bigger and heavier than me and would squash me flat on his way by.

Footsteps pounded across the ceiling above us, reaching the top of the stairs. A dark figure descended them at speed, faster than I would ever have attempted them even with the hall fully lighted. As he reached the bottom, Aunt Liz blithely thrust out a leg, hooked the intruder’s ankle, and sent him sprawling across the plank floor.

To read the entire first chapter, go here.

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