Hi guys, we have T.A. Moore stopping by today with her up new release Cash In Hand, we have short guest post from T.A., a great excerpt and a fantastic $10 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Cash In HandTitle
The last monster died a hundred years ago. At least, that’s what the monsters want you to think.
Half-monster Cash just wants to keep his head down and raise his daughter, Ellie, to be an upstanding member of monstrous society. Even if she’d rather spend the summer with her human friends than learn the art of man traps at Camp Dark Hollow.
So the last person Cash wants to see is her uncle Arkady Abascal, who’s also Cash’s ex-boyfriend.
Arkady has more than Ellie’s summer plans on his mind. He’s there to enlist Cash to find out who’s been selling monster secrets. Cash hasn’t gotten any better at telling Arkady no, but it’s not just his weakness for Arkady that makes him agree. The Prodigium thinks an Abascal exposed them to humans, and now the whole family is at risk—including Ellie.
Recruited to help Arkady identify the culprit—or frame a scapegoat—Cash finds the machinations of monstrous power easier to navigate than his feelings for Arkady. At least, at first. But when things get bloody, he wishes romantic disasters were all he had to worry about….
T.A. Moore & Exclusive Excerpt!
First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new release, Cash in Hand by TA Moore. Any of you who read Bad, Dad, and Dangerous very nearly got to read this in there. Cash in Hand was the first story I wrote for the anthology, the only problem with it was that it was…a bit long. It was a novel. So I was told to write another novella immediately, and Cash in Hand became a thing in itself! Which I hope you guys check out and enjoy!
For the blog tour I’ve written a short story set in the Prodigium world. I hope you enjoy!
Over slabs of freckled meat the butcher wrinkled his broad face at the question. Blood dripped from a sore on his forehead where his skin and split and he’d patched it back together badly.
“I don’t know. Never gonna be invited,” he points out and then scratches his jaw. “Turn up in the wrong clothes and everyone laughs at me?”
The hairdresser looked up from massaging the red-head’s scalp and pursed glossy red lips. Her eyes, behind cat’s eyes glasses, reflected the sunlight with sparks of red.
“Everyone’s naked, except me,” she said. She fished the scalp out of the tanning bath and positioned it on the mannequin head. Old blood and fresh bog water ran down the glossy, plastic cheeks like dirty tears. “Only none of them seem to notice. Should I be naked? Or should I point it to them? How do you tell Belladonna that she forgot to put her slip on?”
She sucked her teeth at the thought.
It was unanimous, and unhelpful. Everyone agreed that the worst thing they could think off was unauthorised nakedness, but that didn’t exactly fit Kohary’s remit. He wanted to insult everyone at the wedding, but probably not make himself look the fool doing it.
He’d not specifically forbade it, of course. Dim felt the temptation of that down in his marrow as he scratched the pencil over his sketchbook. Shoulders and lean hips sketched out roughly on the page, and the stern line of Kohary’s jaw and brow in more detail than he really needed.
He could stitch smoke and ill wishes into a suit that faded in and out with the breeze. A coat of reflections picked from mirrors, here from one angle and gone another.
Everyone in the caverns would know that Kohary was naked, more or less, and no-one would say anything. If the idea of telling Belladonna she’d forgotten her vest daunted people, they’d never spit a syllable at Kohary.
The Emperor’s New Clothes, but without that one honest voice to say they could all see his…altogether.
It would work.
Kohary couldn’t object that Dim hadn’t filled his remit. Even Dim’s monster would accept that as rising to the challenge.
First? It didn’t feel right. It was too easy–in concept if not execution. Or too complicated. Secondly? It didn’t really matter if Kohary couldn’t dispute the brief, he could still make Dim disappear and what would be done about that? Nothing.
Grandmother would mutter and curse them all, but she hadn’t got to be an old–old, old–monster by letting her heart rule her head. She’d just make Van take his place and swallow her pride. It was empty calories, your own feelings gnawed back down, but it would digest.
Dim turned the page and stared at the empty sheet of paper as he tried to come up with something else. Nothing crossed his mind. When he thought of Kohary, once the instinctive flinch had passed, he could only imagine him as he’d seen him in the shop. Horror in mundane wrappings…with distracting shoulders.
Dim tapped the pen against his forehead to try and spook that thought out. It didn’t really work, but he flipped the sketchbook shut anyhow. He had other commissions to finish, even if they’d only bad mouth him professionally if he let them down.
Although, to be fair, his next client was said to have the ear of the Worm. So he could probably make Dim’s pretty miserable if he really wanted.
Cobwebs harvested from the vestry of a church lay in a sticky mat on the work table. He’d asked Van to sort it, but the kid was useless at this stuff still. Plus he didn’t want to do it. One day it wouldn’t matter what he wanted, so Dim wanted to let him enjoy his defiance a while longer.
Although–he grimaced as he started to pick the mass apart–a while longer could be tomorrow.
Three days and six outfits later–basic construction quietly constructed by human staff who were paid enough not to ask questions while Dim quilled flapper fringes with bone chips and made batwing collars out of hair and strings of corpse soap.
It was passé to make them out of bats, apparently.
Luckily there were a few of clients who just wanted alterations made. A chupacabra had his father’s human skin and new measurements and a banshee had brought in handfuls of moth-eaten corpse finery from her dead clan to eke out to cover her bony, chicken-chested body—while leaving enough skin showing to keep her admirers about.
Dim sat on the floor in his workshop, a mug of coffee next to him and waxy white lace piled in his lap, and stretched Spanish moss and ivy over a massive old ball gown. He hunched over, his eyes hot and scratchy, as he tore the lace decoratively around the rotted out peep holes and old, crusty-edged burns.
He was engrossed enough that he missed the rattle of the door chimes. A warm, calluses rough on his shoulder, heavy through his thin shirt, was the first warning he noticed. Dim tried to bolt to his feet, but Kohary leaned on him.
“You’ll ruin your work,” he said. “Take your time.”
Dim swallowed and muttered something obedient under his breath as he gathered the gown up into his lap. He had so many pins in it that it rattled. While he hung back over the dress form and stashed the materials away, Kohary idly browsed the space. He ran fingertips along use-worn tables and tested his thumb against the point of an awl.
The bright red drop of blood that bubbled out of the skin and down to Kohary’s wrist stopped Dim in his tracks. He watched, breathless and tempted, as the thick liquid stained the leather cord on Kohary’s wrist a dull red. His throat was so dry that he couldn’t even swallow.
Kohary studied him for a moment, head tilted to one side, and then licked the side of his hand clean.
“I had started to wonder,” he said. “You look so human.”
Dim finally managed to find enough spit to lick his lips. “I’m not.” His voice sounded less offended than it should have been. There were stories of people who harboured human children and, out of sentiment or convenience, let them be.
They were short stories.
“Cursed blood,” Dim said as he tried again. “Grandmother was human once, we all get a good skin out of that. For a while.”
Dim shrugged. “If I can still fit into this skin, I leave Grandmother’s territory. If I can’t…she’ll tuck me in and put me to sleep with the others. But you know that.”
Kohary sucked the injury on his finger. “I do. My clothes.”
“Finished,” Dim said. The sudden shift in attention from him to his tailoring was….a relief and an odd disappointment. He gestured to the changing area, closed off with tarp curtains and plastic on the floor. Some monsters were messy when they took their skin off. “You can try it on if you want.”
“And here was me, thinking I’d get a say,” Kohary said.
Dim shrugged, not quite apologetically. “Cursed blood,” he said. “Sometimes I have to do what it needs.”
Dim squared his shoulders, because he’d dealt with this his whole life. “It’s an appetite,” he said. “Like any other. Grandmother’s line has never broken the Prodigium’s laws.”
“Only because they are broken after you’ve left,” Kohary said.
“Good enough,” Dim said.
Kohary picked up the folded clothes that Dim had indicated. He rubbed his thumb along the sharply stitched collar.
“Did you curse these?” he asked. “That would end–”
“No,” Dim said. “There’s no room.”
Kohary looked at him, an expression of genuine curiosity on his face even as his eyes flickered black and dangerous. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Dim said. He shrugged and spread his hands, fresh blisters under old calluses. “We aren’t witches or sorcerers. Grandmother knows some tricks, but…it’s just what we do. Weave and sew and curse…and it just doesn’t want you.”
“Huh,” Kohary said dryly, eyes green again. “And here I thought we had something.”
He disappeared behind the curtains and Dim clenched his jaw on the urge to splutter out that his monster might not want to eat Kohary, but Dim would. That would be stupid. He leaned back against the sewing table and rolled his head from one side to the other. There was a knot just between his shoulder blades that had been there long he’d started to think it had moved in.
Denim and an old grey t-shirt fell to the floor. The glimpse of bare feet and lean, tanned calf was oddly distracting. Dim looked away as he felt his temples flush. It wasn’t that he’d a foot fetish, more that it seemed intimate.
Clothes rustled. Zippers rasped. After a while Kohary brushed the curtain back out of his way and stepped out, still barefoot on the old, scarred floors. Hand-sewn jeans clung to his long legs and fit snug and low around lean hips. A black silk shirt fit him like a second skin, the cuffs folded back up his forearms.
“Not exactly what I expected,” Kohary said. “I could have bought this at Target.”
Dim snorted as walked over to adjust the way the collar sat and adjust the sleeves at the shoulders.
“It’s obviously an expensive outfit, to people who care about that,” Dim said as he tugged the line of the garment straight. “And anyone at the Abascal wedding, will care. So you have means, you have knowledge, you have connections — and yet you still chose not to try. I couldn’t think of a better insult than…indifference.”
Kohary made a thoughtful sound in his throat and Dim realised how close he’d gotten. He tried to stumble back, but Kohary caught his arm before he could get anywhere.
“How much do I owe you?” he asked.
Dim tried to think of the right answer. “Our gift,” he said. “Tithe to the Prodigium.”
Better than taking money from Kohary, probably. Maybe. Not from the brief, bleak expression that flashed over Kohary’s face.
“I take nothing from my father,” Kohary said flatly. “I make my own way.”
He pulled Dim back in and kissed him. His mouth was warm and his tongue insistent as it tangled with Dim’s. Sharp teeth chewed on Dim’s lips and drank the taste of his curse from his blood. He tasted like pride, black and old and angry, and Dim nearly drowned in it.
True pride. Hubris. Something that ran down to Kohary’s bones.
Despite his best intentions Dim surrendered to it. He curled a hand around Kohary’s hip, fingers tucked into the belt loops he’d stitched up hours before, and ran the other one up into the thick, tawny crop of Kohary’s hair.
When Kohary broke away from the kiss Dim was dizzy with it. He staggered, so full his skin felt like a sausage under the grill, and stared wide eyed and breathless at Kohary. If he didn’t know better he’d have thought Kohary looked nearly as startled as him.
Of course, that was stupid.
Kohary cleared his throat. “That seems a fair downpayment,” he said. “If these clothes irritate people as much as you claim, I’ll be back with the balance.”
The ‘no need’ managed to get to the tip of Dim’s tongue eventually. Too late, though. Kohary had already gone.
Dim wiped his fingers over tender lips. He wasn’t sure if he’d not been able to protest, or if he’d not wanted to.
TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sectors before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.
Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.