Our countdown to Valentine's Day continues today with Phoenix Files series author Alexandra Kane and the heroine from Book I, Darkness Rising, Lalah Norris....
City council secretary Lalah Norris is propelled into the center of a scandal. Born of two African American parents with the panthera trait, Lalah's a no-nonsense woman who, when she finds out about the money laundering ways of the city's assistant manager Dell Christopher, will risk her job to see him pay for his crimes. Little does she know, the loss of her job will be the least of her worries.
When she refuses to be intimidated by Dell's thug, she's kidnapped and locked away. Rescue comes in the form of a mysterious Chinese man, Junjie Yu, but Lalah finds herself being taken against her will for a second time. When the night is over, she's forced to join PHOENIX, a covert organization that assists law enforcement on the Federal, state and local level through the use of shifters, sorcerers, and all manner of 'gifted individuals.'
But which will prove more dangerous, her new role in PHOENIX, or her attraction to Junjie?
Our Cozy correspondent, Tink, sat down with our guest earlier this week for 20 Questions with Lalah Norris! Take it away, Tink....
Tink: Are you the first one on the dance floor or not so much?
Lalah: I don't have time for night clubs. Especially not now that I have two jobs.
Tink: Do you prefer to spend the night at the theatre or at a bike show?
Lalah: If I had to choose, I would say the theatre. Better chance of learning something there.
Tink: Do you give relationship advice or think it’s a bad idea?
Lalah: I'm not really in a position to give advice on that, it could lead to a break up!
Tink: Describe the ideal hero – rough and tumble highlander, titled gentleman of the ton, modern-day bad boy, or supernatural anti-hero?
Lalah: I hate to admit it, but J is the perfect hero. He's dark, dangerous, and touch, but still caring and gentle with me. I never thought I'd be attracted to an Asian man, but what's a girl to do when a man's got it all?
Tink: Would you rather tell someone you love them or show it?
Lalah: I'd rather show it. Words are easy but gestures are truer.
Tink: Travel to the past or into the future?
Lalah: I'd travel to the past, if only to slap some folks who really needed it.
Tink: Bubble bath or hot shower?
Lalah: Definitely the shower. I have too many things to do to be lounging in a tub.
Tink: Flats or high heels?
Lalah: Heels. I never sacrifice fashion for practicality.
Tink: Flowers or chocolate?
Lalah: Chocolate. Flowers wilt and then I gotta throw 'em out.
Tink: G-rated or unrated?
Lalah: Unrated. Just don't tell my brother, he's way too protective.
Tink: Alpha or beta?
Lalah: Beta. I don't know why but J's brooding and the way he wears those shades all the time, even at night, is somehow attractive to me.
Tink: Would you make the first move or wait it out?
Lalah: I've always waited it out. But now, with J...
Tink: Favorite love song?
Lalah: "For the Cool in You" - Babyface.
Tink: For Valentine’s would you rather go out or stay in?
Lalah: I'd rather stay in and enjoy some amorous activities.
Tink: Karaoke: yes or no?
Lalah: No way would I embarrass myself! I can't sing a note.
Tink: Describe your most romantic moment.
Lalah: Probably my first kiss with J. If only those feelings had lasted a little longer.
Tink: Boxers, briefs…or kilts?
Lalah: Commando! Just kidding. Boxers, because briefs seem so ...constraining.
Tink: What is your idea of a dream date?
Lalah: Action movies on DVD, popcorn and sodas, and a man who can protect me from the bad guys onscreen.
Tink: Valentine’s Day watch: sappy love story, romantic comedy or forgo all of the above and go with the action flick?
Lalah: I reiterate: action all the way!
Tink: And, most importantly – do you like your man clean shaven or with a five o’clock shadow?
Lalah: The five o'clock shadow is a little endearing. I'd like to think he was too busy thinking about me to remember to shave.
Thank you, Lalah, for answering Tink's instrusive questions! And now for an excerpt from Lalah's story, Darkness Rising....
Lalah awoke in a pool of cold, sticky blood. Her clothes clung to her like a slimy second skin, the metallic scent invading her nostrils. Corbin, Dell Christopher's thug, lay a few feet away from her, unmoving. His body was covered with claw marks, and a particularly large one traversed his chest beneath the jagged, ripped halves of his dress shirt. I must have shifted.
Her head throbbed, and she cursed. If Corbin woke up, he would demand to know how she, a petite black woman, had suddenly been replaced by a ferocious panther. It wasn't a conversation she wanted to have.
I'm not a killer. But if I'm here when he wakes up, what choice will I have?
Sitting up slowly, she reeled from the crushing pain in her temple. The morning sunlight was streaming through the kitchen window, casting a very clear light on the grisly scene. Her cloudy mind, however, shrouded the events of last night from her memory. She stood, walking slowly around him, and crossed the kitchen to the foyer. As she passed her grandmother’s antique mirror, she saw her reflection and was shocked at the sight. Her thick mane of wavy black hair was a tangled mess. Small splatters of dried blood were on her cheeks, and there was a large purple bruise on her forehead. Touching it, she winced. That must be why I can’t remember.
This was short term memory loss, because she was fully aware of who she was... Lalah Norris, secretary to city councilwoman Gloria Phillips. She scheduled meetings, took phone calls, and pushed paper for the citizens of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Working in City Hall made her privy to the the conversations of other city officials as they passed her desk. Okay, she was eavesdropping, but with her super- panther hearing she really couldn't help it. That was how she knew that Dell Christopher, the assistant city manager, had his hand in the cookie jar. He was involved in several schemes, all of which involved stealing funds from the city's taxpayers.
From Lalah's conversations with the other assistants working in City Hall, she found out that his corrupt ways were common knowledge among the 'underlings', as they called themselves. None of them, however, was willing to risk their job by blowing the whistle on Dell. Now it looked like the politician was resorting to intimidation to keep his dirt swept under the rug.
She jogged down the carpeted hallway to her bedroom. I've gotta get my stuff and get the hell out of here. Her heavy breathing filled the silence around her as she stuffed a few tee shirts and underwear into a large purse. Her mind was jumbled with frantic thoughts of how this situation would play out. What if the neighbors had heard a noise? If somebody called the cops, Lalah knew she'd be in trouble. Wild animal attacks in North Carolina were rare...what would she say to them? No doubt they'd throw my black behind in jail like Mama throwing catfish in the deep fryer. No, she wasn't waiting around here. None of the scenarios she could think of ended well for her.
Lalah was startled by a slow, creaking sound coming from the front of the house. Afraid that someone would discover Corbin, she jogged down the steps and dashed into the kitchen. To her horror, he was gone. Only the pool of blood remained on the ecru linoleum in the place where he had been. Scanning the floor, Lalah noticed a few bloody footprints leading to the garage. She produced a heavy metal rolling pin from her tool drawer and slowly followed them out the side door. She descended the three stairs into the darkened garage, the rolling pin poised in swinging position.
A hand shot out and grabbed her ankle, pulling her down.
Her head hit the concrete floor and everything was consumed by blackness.
Readers, to find out more about Lalah, J, and the Phoenix Files, visit Alexandra Kane's website!
A military spouse and mother of two, Alexandra Kane leads a sometimes hectic, always interesting life. Whether watching her husband jump from a perfectly good airplane, chasing the children, or penning her next tale, adventure is never far away. She's been writing since middle school and can't imagine life without it.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more 20 Questions!