Title: RADIANT CITY
Entry Nickname: Samba and Surrender
Word count: 100K
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance with Erotic Elements
Brazilian federal enforcer, Ana Mendes, doesn’t have the heart—or the time—for relationships. After losing her father at a young age and watching the world crash down around her because of the Radiant virus, she’s devoted her life to maintaining public order in a post-pandemic Brasilia where half the population is terrified of catching something and the other half seems hell bent on tempting it.
In a time when police enforce laws requiring citizens to wear infection-detection bracelets, and guerrilla vaxxers inoculate those who resist vaccination, getting close to anyone is high-risk. But one reckless kiss with a sexy American expat starts the slow unraveling of Ana’s defenses. For Will Hardwin, a wounded ex-Army medic, persuading Ana to surrender her heart might just bring him out of the darkness of his past.
When locals blame a fabled urban bogeyman for a string of child abductions, Ana and Will embark on a dangerous chase across Brazil to uncover the truth. Ana resents being paired with a consultant, even one as qualified as Hardwin, but the growing trust between them awakens an explosive passion, and together they confront the hidden scars of their pasts when they discover the shocking truth behind the abductions.
Now, the ruthless predator they’ve been chasing is hunting Ana. With time running out, and children’s lives in the balance, she’ll have to choose: face her shadowy enemy alone and probably end up dead, or risk the life of the man she’s falling for to take down a mythical killer and destroy a biological threat even deadlier than Radiant.
Clube do Choro screened B-Well bracelets at the door, but Ana still felt uneasy walled-in by so many people. She slipped through the crowd, holding her evening bag close to her body. The light inside Brasilia’s premier dance club was muted, the air thick with perfume and cigar smoke. Young professionals and couples thronged the bar and packed the tables near the dance floor, empty between sets.
As she searched for Marcelo, the house band took the stage to a surge of whistles and applause. Ana hoped that her informant, who had ties to various crime rings in Brasilia, would know something about last night’s ambulance hijacking. A baby boy inside the vehicle had been scheduled for a life-saving operation, but had never arrived at the hospital in Brasilia. Police found the ambulance abandoned outside the city limits, wiped clean of prints, and minus its three-hundred-pound transport incubator.
They probably just wanted the incubator, she reasoned. Theft of medical equipment was rampant since the Outbreak, as fear of catching Radiant from contaminated equipment in hospitals resulted in an explosion of devices being sold on the black market for home use. If their objective was the incubator, Ana had to believe, the baby was probably dead.
Several couples moved closer to the dance floor as the musicians warmed up, leaving space at the bar. Ana took an empty stool, glancing at the B-Well bracelet on the woman seated next to her and the green LED light that indicated she wasn’t contagious.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Big Town
Entry Nick Name: What’s Luck Gotta Do With It?
Word Count: 77,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Lena Huertas grew up hearing only the dead were welcome in Big Town, but it’s the only place she believes could save her life.
After her father is murdered by the Forty-Niners who claimed California, she becomes desperate to trade streets consumed by violence, and starving folk, for security among the modern royalty of the most successful boomtown in 1879. It doesn’t matter that the city lies hidden in the Sierra Nevada, or that the borders are protected from outsiders by a marksman of legendary skill. Bodies from the poorest regions of the West are shipped to Big Town for an unknown purpose, and Lena aims to follow to ensure her pa gets a proper burial and to seize a brighter future for herself.
She boosts her chances with the charity of Rolando Tavares, Big Town’s one-eyed, possibly two-faced, sheriff – along with the power of a mysterious pair of golden dice capable of granting favor to those who need it most.
But what she doesn’t know is that Rolando’s false eye allows him to enter minds, and that within the home she’s always dreamed of awaits outlaws and lawmen who desire corpses and are willing to kill for the magic luck she possesses. Because to a populace who take their wealth for granted, control over the future is worth more than gold, and neither the living nor the dead are welcome to leave.
Three coffins rested near the railroad beneath a sky as gray as a weathered barn. Sealed with rusty nails, the wooden boxes were reused anytime someone from Skidmore dropped dead, or was murdered, and had no kin to give them proper burial.
Or for those who, like Lena Huertas, had nary a penny in their pocket.
The young woman’s dry hair was bunched under her father’s Stetson. She sat in a ticket booth that was boarded up on one side and gutted open on the other, and watched a beetle scuttle between her boots across a cracked stone platform. The bandana covering her face helped shield her from the dirt and mud swallowing everything else, including most of the sign welcoming would-be passengers of Skiddy’s Wagon to her quaint mining town.
She folded her arms on her knees and ignored the mosquito bites begging for a scratch. A wind cut through the ticket booth, making her shiver and hug her knees tighter. The pale afterglow of the sun peeking up over the walls of the Sierra Nevada was fading, but she’d yet to find the courage to step closer to the railroad, put her hand on her pa’s box, and bid a last farewell.
She was surprised and grateful no one ever tampered with the coffins. They were usually left on the platform for days awaiting their journey. She supposed superstitions got the better of folk. No chance it was out of respect.