Mind Games

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Overview

River Weston thinks her problems are over. She managed to escape the virtual world of her video game—and the clutches of the Dark Lord who attempted to enslave her—with body and mind intact. But her return to the real world is anything but easy. Framed for monstrous crimes she didn’t commit, and hunted by members of a dark government agency, it is all she can do to stay one step ahead of her pursuers.

Guardian Chase Hawkins gained his freedom from the Dark Lord’s prison, but it ...

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Mind Games

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Overview

River Weston thinks her problems are over. She managed to escape the virtual world of her video game—and the clutches of the Dark Lord who attempted to enslave her—with body and mind intact. But her return to the real world is anything but easy. Framed for monstrous crimes she didn’t commit, and hunted by members of a dark government agency, it is all she can do to stay one step ahead of her pursuers.

Guardian Chase Hawkins gained his freedom from the Dark Lord’s prison, but it came with a heavy price. Trapped in another man’s body, his soul slowly deteriorating, Hawk knows he must return to his world—and his body—before the damage is irreparable.

Racing against time, River and Hawk know that in order to have a future together, they must work to reveal the secrets hidden in River’s past.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a sequel every bit as convoluted as its predecessor, 2010's Game Over, Keating returns to the post-apocalyptic world of River Weston, game designer and fugitive, and Chase "Hawk" Hawkins, her Guardian from another world. Stuck in the body of River's ex-lover, Nick, Hawk wants only to protect River and take her to her Fae mother's home world. River is determined to free the souls of her parents, trapped for 30 years in the graveyard of a monstrous laboratory. Despite her growing attraction to Hawk, she would rather try to fix her broken world than leave with him, and Hawk's mind deteriorates while Nick's soul tries to reclaim his own body. Much is clarified about the Fae, the Guardians, and the evil Dark Lords, but the setting never comes together and the plot is unresolved, leaving readers as adrift as the lost souls.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
“A vibrant world of romance, action, and gaming adventure rolled into one darkly entertaining read!”—Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author, on Game Over

“Keating has created a female version of the film Tron, but with more excitement and realism. The romance is a soul-touching, emotional ride. Both River and Hawk are more than capable of taking care of themselves, but when they come together, they really thrive.”—RT Book Reviews on Game Over

“A perfect trifecta of danger, magic and romance. Game Over [is] a true page-turner and an instant favorite.”—Joyfully Reviewed

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765365484
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

TAYLOR KEATING is the pseudonym of writing team Catherine Verge and Paula M. Fox.

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Read an Excerpt

Mind Games


By Taylor Keating

Tor Paranormal Romance

Copyright © 2011 Taylor Keating
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765365484

CHAPTER ONE
 
They were being watched.
Chase Hawkins, Guardian of the Fae—freezing his ass off on an unfamiliar world while trapped in another man’s body—sprang into action. Even though Hawk knew better than anyone that this particular Fae, River Weston, was far from helpless, he could no more stop the instinctive reaction to protect her than he could stop breathing.
He didn’t plan to cease either activity anytime soon.
He pushed her slight frame behind him, her usual lightning-fast reflexes dulled by shock and lack of sleep. Whatever watched them from the thick undergrowth of the forest had the advantage on them. They had nowhere to run. At their backs a wide river, its cold, late autumn waters gleaming in the afternoon sun, blocked their escape.
Hawk hated the limitations this foreign body placed on him. It was tall enough, but lacked his muscle. He felt awkward in it, not to mention he had no love for its previous owner. That meant he felt no need to look after it, which was good. He clenched his fists and took a combative stance. So what if it acquired a few extra scars?
“What is it?” River asked, immediately trying to slip past him to see for herself what had made him react with such aggression.
“I don’t know,” Hawk admitted, grimly pleased that River didn’t brush off his concern. They’d been through too much together in the past few days for her to doubt him, but she wouldn’t take kindly to his attempts to protect her either. “It’s there. In the bushes. This is your world,” he added. “What do you think it might be?”
She didn’t get a chance to answer him.
An enormous brown bear, silver tipping its shaggy fur, lunged from the forest to their left and hurtled toward them. The attack was unexpected because it came from a different direction than where their watcher lurked in front of them.
River, who in Hawk’s experience feared very little, drew in a sharp breath and grabbed his arm, dragging him to the water’s edge with surprising strength. Awed by the sheer size and silent speed of the approaching monster, Hawk didn’t resist.
He thanked the Great Lords of the Guardians that he’d been able to step into Nick Sutton’s body—may he rot in his own special hell—before River’s virtual video game had failed, because her reality held every bit as much danger as the virtual one she’d found herself trapped inside through her use of untutored magic. If Hawk had let his soul return to his own body in his Guardian world and left her with no one to watch over her here on earth, who knew what might happen to her now?
Not that he would ever willingly leave her alone. Guardians protected the Fae. Except this particular Fae liked to prove she could take care of herself, which meant he had to do something. Fast. The bear, anger gleaming from its beady eyes, was almost on top of them.
Hawk yanked his arm from River’s grasp, pushed her into the water, and squared off against the snorting beast.
An arrow, accompanied by the low whine of whirling fletching, breezed past his cheek and embedded itself in the bear’s head, piercing its brain and dropping it in its tracks. Hawk dodged as its lifeless body fell with a heavy thump, a death groan rattling from deep in its throat.
River, wet and angry, surfaced gasping from the cold water.
“What the hell, Nick?” she shouted at him, her dark hair streaming around her shoulders, her blue eyes shooting daggers of ice.
Hawk’s heart froze in his chest. This wasn’t the time to be sensitive about the fact she’d called him by another man’s name, even though technically he was wearing that same man’s body and she could be excused for the mistake. Somewhere nearby, someone was armed and Hawk didn’t intend for his next target to be River.
“Get down!” he ordered her, and with a Fae’s instinctive response to the command of a Guardian, she dropped back into the water without hesitation. She was going to be angry with him later for that.
Hawk crouched in front of her, shielding her as best he could, and scanned the forest’s edge. He could detect no signs of movement and yet he knew someone was there.
“Show yourself!” he shouted in the direction he guessed the arrow had projected from.
“Step away from River!” came the equally determined response.
At first Hawk thought he’d misheard and that he was being ordered away from the river. Then he realized the owner of the voice, undoubtedly male, knew River’s name. And that he sounded unusually young.
That didn’t mean Hawk intended to let the faceless archer have a clear shot at her. He’d learned to trust no one.
River didn’t share his concern.
“Jake!” she called out. The warm welcome in her voice wasn’t lost on Hawk. She knew the identity of the watcher lurking in the undergrowth.
A boy, perhaps twelve or thirteen, gangly limbed and with shaggy blond hair, stepped warily from the woods. He held a crossbow in his hands, another arrow nocked and aimed steady at Hawk’s heart. Hawk didn’t doubt for a second the boy would shoot him if Hawk gave him a reason. What was going on in River’s world?
And who was this kid?
“Put down that crossbow,” River said to the boy she’d called Jake. She waded from the water, soaked and shivering and clearly as puzzled as Hawk. “What on earth do you think you’re doing, wandering around the woods by yourself?”
Jake kept the crossbow trained on Hawk, and Hawk felt a twinge of respect for him. He might be a boy, but he was a damned good shot and an even better judge of character. Nick Sutton had been the biggest piece of crap Hawk had ever seen.
And Hawk was going to be seeing the piece of crap in the mirror every day unless he could get his consciousness back to his own cryonically frozen body before it was too late. If he’d known when he accepted the mission to search for missing Fae souls that his own was going to be shanghaied by a pissed-off Dark Lord, he’d have requested a better contingency plan and possibly more danger pay. Finding River had been the only good thing to come out of the whole mess.
“Who’s he?” Jake asked River with a jerk of his chin in Hawk’s direction.
Hawk would be damned if he’d show fear of a little kid. He stooped to examine the still-warm carcass of the bear—not that he had to stoop far. He gave a low whistle. Crisos. That was one mother of a bear. Perhaps he should show a little fear of the kid, at that. He doubted if he would have been able to make such a shot at the same age.
“This is—”
“Nick,” Hawk interrupted River smoothly, glancing up at Jake. “Nick Sutton.”
River looked at him strangely, and a fierce gladness surged through him in response. This situation was going to take some getting used to—on both their parts—but at least she knew him for who he really was.
That didn’t mean Hawk wasn’t going to do his damnedest to get back to his own body. Or get River off this shithole of a world and to where she really belonged. Her birth father had been a Guardian, but the magic tied to her soul meant she was 100 percent Fae.
“Did you have to kill it?” River was scolding the boy. She had a Fae’s respect for life. She was a healer, a nurturer, a grower. She was not a killer, although she could kick ass when need be.
That was definitely the Guardian genes coming out.
Jake’s face grew sullen. “I thought about letting it rip this guy to pieces. But I wasn’t sure if he was a friend of yours or one of the people who’ve been looking for you, so I let him live.”
Hawk’s head shot up. “Someone’s been looking for River?”
“Don’t you watch the news?” Jake retorted.
River swayed on her feet and Hawk moved quickly to steady her. She had transported them from the Dark Lord’s disintegrating virtual prison to the place she’d been born and raised. She’d done so instinctively because she’d always felt safe here. To find out that she wasn’t—not anymore—had to come as a shock to her.
She was wet and shivering. He shrugged out of Nick’s jacket, wincing at the bullet hole and the damp patch of congealing blood, and wrapped it around her. Something had happened to River in the final level of the game. She’d disappeared from it suddenly, only to reappear a few moments later with Nick’s dying body in her arms. Hawk hadn’t yet had a chance to ask her about it, although the bullet hole told him quite a bit, and he was willing to bet whatever it was, it had something—everything—to do with River.
Someone else out there in her adopted world was aware she was … special.
“I haven’t seen the news recently,” Hawk answered Jake. “I’ve been out of touch the last little while.”
“You another gamer?” Jake demanded, a sneer of distaste curling his lip. The crossbow never wavered from its target.
Gee, Jake, tell me what you really think. Hawk turned to River and cocked an eyebrow. “Who’s the kid?”
She ignored the question, all her attention on the juvenile delinquent. “Put the crossbow down,” she ordered again.
When Jake finally lowered the weapon—grudgingly, Hawk noted with approval—River wrapped her arms around the boy and drew him close. He was tall for his age, although he hadn’t yet filled out, and he returned her hug with all the embarrassed enthusiasm of any normal teenage boy. Still, it wasn’t difficult to tell he was equally as fond of her as she seemed of him.
She turned her head to answer Hawk’s question.
“This is Jake. My little brother.”
*   *   *
River couldn’t get over how big Jake had grown. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since she’d last seen him.
She’d also forgotten how much he looked like their father.
She sat uneasily on the edge of her chair in the sunny kitchen of the farmhouse where she’d grown up, although it hadn’t been a true home to her for years. Her parents—the ones who’d raised her—were long gone and the blonde woman across the table from her was little more than a stranger.
River tried to get her head around all that had happened.
Hawk, and regardless of how he looked on the outside River would always know him, pulled his chair closer to hers as if he sensed her disorientation and wanted to shield her from it. River pretended she didn’t notice. This particular battle was hers, not his. Melinda had never welcomed her presence in this house. River’s father had showered too much of his love on her, and Melinda never forgave him for loving an adopted daughter as much as he’d loved the two natural sons she’d given him. It hadn’t mattered that River loved the boys, too. Melinda wasn’t big on female competition of any kind.
In all fairness, River didn’t care much for Melinda either. She’d appeared in her father’s life a little too close on the heels of her adoptive mother’s death. River could accept that her father had needed a woman’s companionship. She couldn’t accept Melinda’s need to erase her mother’s existence from her father’s life.
The flat palm of Hawk’s hand went to the slight curve between her shoulders, resting in a casual but protective manner, and Melinda’s pale eyes didn’t miss the intimate gesture. The room was too warm and River was tired, mentally and physically. She stifled a yawn and tried to focus on what Melinda was saying to her.
“You can’t stay here.” Melinda widened her fingers and pressed her hands atop the old oaken table as if to brace herself for a fight. “I have children to think about.”
Jake, who’d taken up a watchful stance by the wood stove, opened his mouth to protest. River held up a hand to silence him, her eyes pleading with him not to make things more difficult.
“I understand,” she said to Melinda, and she did. The friends River had worked with for months were now dead, and River was wanted for questioning. That was a polite way of saying she was the prime suspect. Being the prime suspect meant River was guilty until proven innocent, and anyone caught helping her would be considered guilty as well. It wouldn’t matter that Jake and their other brother, Sam, were only thirteen and eleven. She was lucky Melinda didn’t take this opportunity to plant a bullet between her eyes. She’d be well within her rights to do so, and call it protecting her property. River would bet the only reason she hadn’t was because of Jake standing watch.
Jake couldn’t watch over her forever, which meant she and Hawk weren’t safe here. They needed to go. But go where?
“Well, I don’t understand,” Jake declared. His feet were planted wide and he fixed his mother with a look of such disapproval he again reminded River of their father, and she would have laughed if she’d been able. “This is River. She’s my sister. And I’m not a child,” he added as an afterthought, suddenly picking up that his mother had included him in her reason for denying River a place to stay. He patted the strap of the crossbow still slung across his shoulder. “Anyone else tries to come after her, they won’t get close enough to the house to even know she’s here.”
Things might be settling down somewhat in the cities after the war but here in the mountains, vigilantism was alive and well. River hated this life for her brothers, and their father had, too, but Melinda seemed to accept it and River had no say.
“One night and all day tomorrow,” Hawk said. “We’ll be gone by tomorrow night, as soon as it’s dark.”
River wanted to leave immediately. “That’s not a good idea,” she said to him quietly. “If we stay, we put them all in danger.”
“You need to sleep,” he pointed out in return. His gaze went to Jake although he continued to address River. “You’ve gone too long without it. And if you’re going to sleep, I want someone I trust standing guard over you.”
That comment scored him major points with Jake. The boy glowed from the compliment and River tried not to roll her eyes. She looked at Melinda, stone-faced across the table from her, easily interpreting her stepmother’s thoughts.
“I think we should leave now,” River said.
Melinda bit her lip and looked at Jake. It occurred to River then that Melinda didn’t want to alienate her son, and that she relied far more on the boy than she should. Jake had become her protection, and River felt fury rise in her that Melinda would put a child in such a position.
Her fury died as quickly as it rose, replaced by guilt. Melinda had never been able to look after herself. Therefore, had Melinda put Jake in that position, or by walking away from them after her father’s death, had River?
“One night,” Melinda said, and River could tell that it almost killed her to make the concession. “But I want you out of here as soon as the sun goes down tomorrow.”
Another blond-headed boy, smaller than Jake and with baby fat still rounding out his cheeks, dashed through the door of the kitchen, banging it loudly behind him. He drew up short when he saw who sat at the table. His feet began moving again as soon as he recognized her.
“River!” he shouted, launching himself across the kitchen and into her arms. Laughing, he wrestled her from the chair and onto the floor.
She had him on his back with his shoulders pinned beneath her knees before Hawk could decide to take offense to the assault.
Hawk, however, seemed more amused than offended. He leaned back in his chair. “Another brother?” he guessed.
“This is Sam,” she said, getting to her feet. “Sam, meet…” Again, she stumbled over the name. She found it difficult to look at Hawk in Nick’s body. She couldn’t quite meet his eyes and she felt his amusement fade when he realized it.
“Nick,” Hawk said easily, holding out his hand for the eleven-year-old to shake.
River hoped Hawk pretending to be Nick wasn’t a permanent situation. Nick had died because of her, and more than anything else she hated that reminder every time she looked at him.
At Hawk.
Supper was awkward, not that she’d expected it to be one big happy family reunion. They all sat at the round table, Sam and Hawk chatting easily, Jake sullen and silent, and Melinda and River trying to ignore each other’s existence. Melinda kept looking at the drawn curtains as if worried someone might somehow be looking back.
Jake got up from the table and flipped on the television.
The news was on. River’s picture filled the top right-hand corner of the screen as the story of the dead gamers scrolled across the bottom, over and over, while the anchor delivered the local weather in a nasal monotone.
Hawk’s knife clattered to his plate. “Turn it off. River doesn’t need to see that.”
“Yes, she does,” Melinda replied, delicately sliding a forkful of peas into her mouth.
Jake’s hand hovered near the television’s control and he looked at River, clearly not knowing what he should do.
“Leave it, Jake.” River’s eyes fixed on the words on the screen as her dinner turned to ice in her stomach. She flinched when her picture was replaced with shots from the bloodstained crime scenes.
It was true. Her friends were dead. Johnny, Tanner, and Marcia, who’d never done anything bad to anyone. Okay, maybe Marcia had been a bit of a trashy bitch. That didn’t mean she’d deserved to die. Especially not the way she had.
“Who do you think really killed them?” Sam asked with all the tact of an eleven-year-old, although River appreciated his assumption that it hadn’t been her.
“On this world?” Hawk’s lip curled. “It could have been their own mothers.”
River had forgotten that Hawk—who looked like Nick—was Guardian, not human, and that his opinion of humans wasn’t particularly high. His antagonism for anyone who might try to harm her, even with words, could push him too far. To him she was Fae, and Guardians protected the Fae at all cost. Being here was a bad idea, but when the virtual game they’d been trapped in had begun to collapse around them, all she’d been able to think about was her father, and home, and safety.
She rubbed her temples to ward off an impending headache. Her parents were gone and this wasn’t home anymore, and she and Hawk were far from safe. Melinda was right. While they were here, neither were her brothers.
But where were she and Hawk supposed to go?
“I’ll do the dishes,” River said when the meal was over, pushing back from the table.
“No!” Melinda said sharply, and Sam and Jake both turned to look at her in surprise. She pulled herself together and smiled thinly. “I’m sure you both need some sleep. You look tired.”
River was. She knew Hawk was tired as well. But River didn’t need to read minds to know that Melinda wanted them out of sight.
“We’ll sleep in the attic,” River said. She had old clothes up there, and she’d be damned if she’d ask for permission to claim her own belongings.
“Come and wake me before you go to bed,” Hawk said to Jake, who nodded.
Men. It saddened River to realize her brother was becoming one far too soon.
“You realize, don’t you, that he won’t go to bed?” she whispered to Hawk as they climbed the creaky, narrow flight of wooden stairs to the attic on the third floor.
“Just like he realizes I won’t go to sleep,” Hawk whispered in return. He smiled at her frown. “Don’t worry. Nick had a bit of stamina left in him. One sleepless night won’t hurt.”
River bit her lip. There had been more than one sleepless night for Hawk. Physically, he’d be fine without it for a little while longer. Mentally, however, Hawk had been thrown more than most people could handle. He was strong, but she knew he worried about the state of his mind.
River worried about it, too. He’d spent months with his consciousness trapped in a virtual prison by an angry Dark Lord, and sleep hadn’t been an option for him. To go to sleep would have meant losing touch with reality. Somewhere on the Guardian world Hawk’s real body waited for him in stasis, and his soul was all that held his consciousness connected to it. River was the reason he hadn’t returned to his body when the virtual prison she’d tapped into through her game collapsed, because as long as he believed River was in danger, he would never leave her.
“You have to sleep,” she said to him.
“Tell you what,” Hawk replied. He pushed open the attic door and felt for a light switch. The bare bulb dangling from the slanted ceiling flared to life, blinding River for a split second. “Why don’t you grab a few hours first?” He touched her shoulder, just a light brush of his fingertips, before he drew his hand away. “I’ll wake you.”
She didn’t believe him. He might look like Nick on the outside, but the stubborn light in his eyes was all Hawk. It was pointless to argue. She reached out to place her palm over where Nick had been shot, intending to pass on some of her natural healing energy so his body would at least have that, but Hawk backed away.
“Please, River,” he said softly. “Let me get used to all this first. I promise you I’ll sleep, but not right now. Okay?”
What more could she say or do? Hawk knew his limitations better than she did. She found a couple of old folding cots and two sleeping bags stored against one wall, pulled them to the center of the room, shook out the dust, and curled up on one of the thin, musty mattresses.
It felt like heaven.
Sleep, however, wasn’t coming easily to River either. The video game she’d spent months developing in her adoptive mother’s memory had ultimately failed, and worse, had only ever worked because of magic. Her friends were dead and she was wanted for questioning. Somewhere out there, in another world, Hawk’s body waited for him to return to it. Her parents—her birth parents—were dead, too, their souls trapped in an unmarked grave she needed desperately to find.
And whenever her lids flickered shut, she saw the man with the crazy eyes aiming his gun at Nick and pulling the trigger. Something about that particular memory bothered her, but she was too tired to puzzle it out. She hadn’t been able to save Nick. Nothing else mattered.
Hawk flipped off the attic light and River heard him settle onto the cot in the darkness beside her. The tips of the old maple tree next to the house, its branches naked now of leaves, scratched at the weathered siding with every slight nudge of the wind.
“We need to find Andy,” River said.
Hawk’s steady breathing stopped for a second, then resumed. “Forget about her. She has magic, River. That’s why you chose her to be the Wizard in your game. The magic in you recognized the magic in her. I didn’t trust her then and I won’t trust her now. We need to find out what happened to your parents and then get the hell off this piece-of-shit world before anything more goes wrong.”
“If Andy has magic,” River replied, not liking the criticism of her friend, “then that’s all the more reason to find her. Maybe she’s Fae. Maybe she can help us find my parents. And it’s not a ‘piece-of-shit world,’” she added as an afterthought, not liking the criticism of her world either. “We’ve had a bit of a setback, but new technology is helping us to rebuild.”
“Andy’s not Fae. I guarantee it. And whatever she is, she’s not going to help us.” He sounded certain of that. The springs on his cot creaked as he shifted position. “I thought only the Fae and the Dark Lords had magic, but Dark Lords are male. I don’t know how she can have it as well, but she does, and I don’t trust her. Something’s wrong on this world. Really wrong.”
Fae souls, he’d told her, held the magic of life, and when the Fae passed on, their souls were reborn. Fae numbers were dwindling and no one knew why. Hawk had been sent to find out, and his drifting consciousness had been caught by a Dark Lord contained in a long-forgotten, Guardian-created virtual prison. River had tapped into that prison through her game and helped set Hawk free.
But he wasn’t free. Not yet. Now he was trapped in Nick’s body, refusing to leave her because he believed she was Fae, while River didn’t know what to believe anymore except that she’d felt the unmistakable presence of her birth parents somewhere here on Earth, and they were far from at peace. She had to find them. After that, she would help Hawk get home.
She would not, however, be going with him. Her mind was made up. No matter who her birth parents might have been, or where they were from, this was River’s world. She already knew she was good with technology. If she had magic as well then she owed it to the memory of the adoptive parents who’d loved her, and the brothers who needed her, to help her world recover after the devastation of a viral pandemic and the chaos of global war. Her ego wasn’t so large as to think she could do it single-handedly, but her parents had brought her up to believe that everyone had to do his part, and no part was too small.
“Andy is my friend.” River didn’t doubt that, regardless of what Hawk might think. “That’s the reason I copied the Wizard after her. She didn’t steer us wrong in the game, and if she has magic, she’ll help us now. Besides,” she added, pointing out the obvious, “with my photograph splashed all over the news, where else can we go?”
Hawk grunted, clearly unhappy but without an alternative suggestion. River would have liked to crawl into his arms and pretend everything was normal, but it would be too weird. In her game he’d played the role of Sever, the character meant to watch her back. Now he was Nick, and that was going to take some getting used to.
No matter what role he played though, inside, he was Hawk. And she trusted him more than anyone.
“If she starts talking that cryptic shit again,” Hawk complained, “I’m going to forget she’s a woman.” He reached over and nudged River’s cot with his foot. His voice softened as he changed the subject.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened to Nick?”
*   *   *
Nick Sutton had always assumed death would be more … final.
He hadn’t factored in the possibility of being hijacked by someone—something—with a bit more tenacity. Now Nick was trapped, without a body, on a world that looked like the ass end of hell, with some sort of psycho who thought of himself as a Dark Lord. And both of them were royally pissed.
He didn’t care what happened to the nutjob clinging like a hemorrhoid to his consciousness. Nick wanted to get his body back. He worried about River, too. The jerkoff had better not touch her.
The wind lifted and tossed shimmering sheets of red sand, snapping them about like the covers of an unmade bed. A thick haze of heat made the skyline dance. Nick could feel nothing solid—not the heat, not the sting of the flailing sand. Hate, however, he felt just fine. And he hated that thieving video game character Sever even more than all the crazy-ass psycho killers in his life. The fact that he had more than one of them was a fleeting cause for alarm, but then Nick remembered that he was technically dead and therefore had no life. Alarm disappeared to be replaced by another fear.
What if Nick couldn’t get his body back?
The raging homicidal maniac attached to him, hovering at the edge of his consciousness and mixing his thoughts with Nick’s, wore at Nick’s already frayed nerves. Regardless of what this other guy thought, he wasn’t yet ready to accept the possibility that this might be his new home for all of eternity. Worse, that this might be his new soul mate. He’d always hoped Marilyn Monroe would be waiting for him on the other side. He kind of dug hot, older babes.
Carefully, not wanting to alert the nutjob that he was snooping, Nick probed the edges of the swirling storm of memories thinly attached to his own. This guy made General Amos Kaye, the mother of all human crazies, look like the Tooth Fairy. But mixed in with the images of the video game character Sever being torn limb from limb—which Nick enjoyed—and of River with glowing red eyeballs and a crushed Sever oozing from between her tightly clenched fingers—which Nick also enjoyed but found creepy—he managed to pluck out a few details regarding his current unpleasant predicament.
The Dark Lord had been around for so long that he couldn’t remember his real name. He’d been trapped on this world in a virtual prison, which River had tapped into through her video game, by a race the Dark Lord called Guardians. The Dark Lord was held here now by the magic of another race he called Fae. And Nick, lucky bastard that he was, was held by the Dark Lord because the crazy fuck thought he might somehow be useful to him.
Nick was nothing if not an optimist. He’d survived life by doing what was necessary. He’d survive death the same way. Somewhere in all those random thoughts the Dark Lord couldn’t quite control because of his anger, Nick caught the image of a bowl of stones, flickering and gleaming with light, and the impression that these stones were somehow important.
The rising wind whipped the sheets of sand into swirling dust devils, boring deep to bare the ground beneath. A flash of light uncovered by the shifting sand, then another, snagged Nick’s attention.
Hey, Sandman, he thought, mentally shouting to catch the raving lunatic’s attention. If he could be useful to the Dark Lord, then maybe the Dark Lord could be useful to him. He projected an image of the stones lying in the sand to the other consciousness, and felt it go still. You got any use for these?


 
Copyright © 2011 by Taylor Keating

Continues...

Excerpted from Mind Games by Taylor Keating Copyright © 2011 by Taylor Keating. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Mind Games is the second in Taylor Keating's new exciting Guardian series. Taylor Keating is the pseudonym of the team of Catherine Verge and Paula Fox.

    River escapes her video game nightmare against the Dark Lord and now she and Hawk (in Nick's body) are on Terra Firma. She's looking for answers, answers she needs for self preservation and who's out to get her now. Hawk after being prisoner of the Dark Lord for how long he has no idea has "jumped" with River to her world and taken advantage of Nick's death to take his body, a body that was once intimate with River and is giving Hawk a good amount of trouble both physically and mentally. They're on the run for the murders of River's tech gaming partners, always looking over their shoulders for the next catastrophe. Time is of the essence because they have no idea when Hawk will be pulled back to his world and they have only each other to trust.
    In Mind Games the author(s) keep their multi-genre theme going with a mix of paranormal/ science fiction and urban fantasy and romantic suspense. The story line in this novel follows on the heel of Game Over, the characters continue their adventure on Earth and we get updated from time to time on the happenings on Hawk's planet. The dialogue has a very urban feel as well as the author takes us to the underbelly of society on a post apocalyptic Earth and she does an excellent job describing to her audience the pallor of the world and it's citizens. Her characters are once again bright lights in a dark setting and they continue to shine whether they be friend or foe. Her hero Hawk is fighting demons in his new and not improved body while fighting his intense feelings that continue to grow for River. River the heroine is a continuing lesson in self discovery as she continues the path of who and what she is from where she came from. As a team they are powerful together as they not only love but fight for each other. The romance is on a crash course and in which direction, the readers will just have to get on the ride and find out. The love scenes are sensual and rife with feelings that continue to deepen, they're also filled with longing and love.
    The author team of Taylor Keating has brought us another perfect example of a fertile imagination along with amazing storytelling abilities to bring us part two of this saga. The novel is best read after Game Over as it's the continuing story of this couple and their worlds.
    Ladies, I can't wait for round three, thank you for another must read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    an exciting amateur sleuth dark urban fantasy

    Game designer River Weston escaped the video prison of the Dark Lord along with another cell mate Chase "Hawk" Hawkins (see Game Over) but if she thought her troubles are over, she is wrong. Reality proves just as damning as virtual as she is wanted for the murders of her fellow game makers.

    Hawk uses the dead body of River's ex Nick as the pair investigates what her parents wrought and how to liberate their souls incarcerated for three decades in a hellish lab. Having been locked away much longer than his companion and determined to be her Guardian, he trusts no one as he tries to persuade her to allow him to escort her to the realm of her Fae mother before Nick's soul reclaims the body.

    Although this is a direct sequel so it behooves newcomers to read Game Over first, the focus is more on reality earth than in the virtual realm of the previous book. River made the first thriller work, but this time Hawk brings the freshness as he fights external demons and his adulation for his partner. That intense attraction is key as Hawk is unsure whether it is his heart or the remnants of the soul of the previous body owner. Loaded with excitement, fans will enjoy the game maker and her cell mate as they battle their deadly diabolical adversaries in an exciting amateur sleuth dark urban fantasy.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted May 23, 2011

    Great Read

    They thought freedom was the answer. If they only knew...

    The peril and romance of Game Over hasn't begun to climax...I had to grab a copy of Mind Games see what would happen next. I'm glad I did.

    I have to say first and foremost, if you love urban fantasy, this book is the book for you. If you're new to the genre and want to try an urban fantasy book, then start here. There is plenty of action and a healthy dose of romance to keep everyone happy. Taylor Keating writes with dynamic, keeping the reader firmly in the seat. I had to know what would happen next for River and Hawk.

    Now be it known, this is a complicated read. Taylor Keating has packed a ton into this novel. There were more than a couple occasions I had to go back and re-read what I'd read to make sure I understood and caught everything. I'd heartily suggest clearing your calendar for the evening when sitting down to read this book.

    Another point of contention was the Hawk/Nick situation. That's a whole microcosm of struggle in itself. Hawk's in River's world to be free of the prison, but he's in Nick's body. Nick is her former lover. Both parts want her. I alternately rooted for Hawk while being frustrated with Nick. But really, it's kind of a fun struggle, two men wanting you.

    I also want to note this book is part of a series, so the ending may not be for everyone. I got to learn that River was more than I'd expected, got to see into her lineage, but at the same time, there's a lot left open to -- you guessed it -- leave the reader craving the next story. Sign me up, I'm waiting.

    The book is complex and we see the characters at their lowest and highest. It's an emotional journey and I'm glad I got the opportunity to read the book.

    Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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