Sunroper (Goddesses Rising #3)Marley Canton is done being a victim. A year and a half has passed since she discovered her ability to nullify power in those who aren’t supposed to have it. She’s now on a quest not only to stop the brats who’ve become addicted to goddess power, but also to find the source of their addiction.
Like Marley, Gage Samargo is tracking down the goddess who went rogue decades ago. Insane with too much power from the sun, she’s selling that energy to Gage’s younger brother and his friends, who are no longer content to come into power naturally. While they work to find a way to neutralize the goddess, Marley discovers that every time she nullifies someone, she takes on some of the goddess’s insanity.
Gage falls for Marley’s sharp wit and intense desire to right wrongs. But once he discovers she’s turning into her enemy, is it too late to back away?
Natalie J. Damschroder
is a multi-published author of contemporary and paranormal romance, with an emphasis on romantic adventure. Her 10 novels, 7 novellas, and 15 short stories have been published by Avid Press, Echelon Press, and Amber Quill Press. She currently publishes romantic adventure with Carina Press and urban fantasy romance with Entangled Publishing. She has been involved in the romance industry since 1996, and has witnessed many waves of change over the years. A chronic volunteer, she has served as president (and more) of her local RWA chapter, the Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, and on many RWA National committees. A self-proclaimed know-it-all, she is always eager to share her knowledge and opinions.
Damschroder is a 2012 recipient of the RWA Service Award. She has had two finalists in the EPIC eBook Awards romantic suspense category: Fight or Flight the 2012 awards, and Acceptable Risks in the 2013 awards. You can learn more about her at www.nataliedamschroder.com, where you'll also find links to her blogs and social media.
“Introducing the Goddesses Rising Series“by Natalie Damschroder
Sunroper came out on 12/31, and for the next few days (until 1/8/14), you can get the first book in the trilogy for only .99.
I love writing paranormal romance, because it allows me to write things that can’t happen in real life. I wanted to write about goddesses, but not from the original mythologies. I wanted my own creations. I wanted modern society, because I love the juxtaposition of the fantastical with the real. It almost makes it feel possible to have powers of my own! So I decided to see what happened to the descendants of ancient goddesses.
Goddesses Rising is about those modern-day descendants who have carved a niche for themselves in society. They’re not secret, but there are only about a hundred of them in the United States. Some people are skeptics and don’t believe they exist; some people hire them to use their abilities for anything from finding lost objects and missing persons to healing injuries and illnesses, improving crops, and fixing physical deformities. Each goddess has a natural “source” that lets her tap into energies normal people can’t access. What she can do with that energy varies from goddess to goddess. The stronger the source, the greater the abilities.
In Under the Moon, that comfortable life goddesses have created for themselves is under attack. A leech is stealing their powers for his own use. Quinn and her protector, Nick, go on the offensive to try to find and stop this man, uncovering painful truths along the way and forcing them to confront the long-buried feelings they have for each other.
The threat is negated only temporarily, however. In Heavy Metal, Riley is a new goddess who never knew she was one, and she’s being harassed and stalked. She turns to Sam because he seems to be the only person she can trust, and when Sam reluctantly agrees to help her, they find that the leech was only one element in a larger, more frightening conspiracy against the goddesses.
The conspiracy escalates in Sunroper. Quinn and Nick and Riley and Sam are struggling to find solid ground for the goddesses after discovering Numina, a secret society of descendants of the gods. But the biggest threat to everyone turns out to be a rogue goddess driven insane by her uncontrolled powers. Marley, a leeched goddess with unique abilities, and Gage, the son of Numina’s leader, team up to try to stop the rogue goddess and her acolytes before they tear both of their societies to shreds.
It is the final book in a trilogy and I really enjoyed it despite the fact I have not read the 2 previous books in the trilogy. However, Damschroder wrote this story so well, she was able to sneak in explanations early on about what has already happened previously, allowing us to read this even as a standalone novel.
The idea that both Gods and Goddesses may live amongst us in present day is not a new one but the author really runs with it! Immensely satisfying to read and this storyline just seems to grow with each book.
The book centers around the modern day Goddess Marley who has been cruelly drained of her own powers. But now she possesses new ability - to nullify stolen energy or flux. She is trying to find the goddess supplying their male counterparts, the Numina, with power or flux. She is also trying to nullify the flux in as many of these men as she can. Once she nullifies a persons power, they are no longer able to accept power in the future. The splinter group that she's trying to take down is aided by a rogue Goddess who get her energy from the sun, and Marley will need to keep her wits about her. Fortunately she's not alone in wanting the leeching of powers stopped and meets Gage who believes his brother is in danger. Realizing that their aims coincide the couple try to work together but Gage is falling hard for Marley.
For Marley she can't be a a goddess if she no longer possess the typical power of a goddess. And.....Marley just doesn't love herself, as she feel responsible for introducing leeching of goddesses powers. Marley avoids her sister Quinn, and her friend Riley, and works to help find those who have been given some of the goddess powers. It's clearly very hard for her to truly see her own worth and in a way quite heartbreaking that she doesn't seem to place much value on herself without her Goddess powers.
Luckily - Gage, a member of the Numina, who is also looking for the goddess dealing in flux. He also fears for his brothe who went undercover to infiltrate a group of guys who are getting high off power doled out by a rogue sun goddess. Gage becomes an unlikely ally to Marley and they work together to stop the goddess and her influence. The pair works well together playing off of the strengths of the other. As the pair are falling for each other.
The story became very tense, especially as Marley continues to absorb the flux from others, which causes her to become more unstable each time. Marley knows to fight the goddess might cost her life, but she will let nothing stand in her way to save her friends and family.
Excerpt from Sunroper by Natalie J. Damschroder
The secrecy in which we have dwelled for centuries is threatened not only by modern technology, but by the actions of our members.
—Numina internal documents
Many things had changed since the day six months ago when a single touch altered Marley Canton’s entire life forever. But she was still not the kind of woman who would typically be found in a trendy dance club in downtown Boston. She could play the part, though, if she needed to—and tonight she needed to.
“Jameson,” she said, holding up two fingers at the bartender, who nodded and reached for the whiskey. Marley gave the guy eyeballing her a polite but standoffish smile as she turned to study the dance floor and scan the clusters of tiny, clear tables along the sides of the room. She didn’t immediately see her prey, so with her drink in hand, it was time to prowl.
Lights flashed in time to the pumping music as she moved through the room. Bodies arched and ground and bounced on the dance floor, generating a steamy heat combated by the icy air-conditioning. As she eased her way toward the far side of the room, she glanced at every face, concentrating on the younger men. The guy she was looking for was twenty-three, arrogant, and slim. She’d studied enough pictures of him online and in the tabloids to be able to recognize him even in here. Once she got close enough, she would know her target.
She paused at the corner and angled her shoulders back to rest against the wall, sipping her whiskey to cover how closely she watched a group entering the club. It felt good to be on a mission. A few years ago, she’d lived a quiet, content life as the owner of an inn in Maine, giving lost souls a place to heal and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. She’d been whole, happy, a middling-powerful goddess surrounded by her natural energy source, crystals, that helped her channel her power. Not that she’d used her abilities for anything special back then. But she’d fallen in love and stupidly given that man a piece of herself as well as a dose of power, allowing him to rip the rest—and more—away from her and four other goddesses before he’d been stopped. She’d helped to build a new educational program within the Society for Goddess Education and Defense, which had given her purpose for a little while, but the events of the past year had only shown her just how worthless she’d been.
Marley glanced at the door as a woman tucked away her ID and a new group of clubbers pushed into the crowd. No sign of the guy Marley sought, so she moved on, too, striding down the long side of the club’s main area. This side was darker and filled with couples making creative use of their tongues. Marley closed her eyes and tuned in with the rest of her senses. The usual ones combined in a natural awareness of the bodies around her, but over the last few months she’d developed a new ability to detect guys like Josh, the kid she was after, because of differences in his personal energy related to his generic heritage. Almost like reading his aura, except inside rather than outside.
She sighed and opened her eyes. All the guys over here were normal. Relatively speaking.
“You want to say that again?”
She stopped short and swung her drink out of the way as a tousle-haired guy in a silk shirt shoved a shorter, burlier guy into her path. Everyone around them halted—or at least paused in their dancing and flirting—and the sweet, hot aroma in the air sharpened with their interest in a potential fight.
Burly guy shook his head slowly, a smile twisting one side of his mouth. “Yeah, I’ll say it again. Suck. My—”
Silk-shirt guy launched himself at Burly, and chaos erupted as friends staggered around trying to separate the two. They sprawled at Marley’s feet, failing to land effective punches on each other. She wrinkled her nose against the blend of yeasty beer and fruity alcohol wafting from spilled drinks all around her, and her body curved and swayed to avoid the flailing limbs. She tried to ignore the hand-wringing laments of the guys’ dates or friends or whatever the women were. The tears streaming down their faces were an uncomfortable reminder of how it felt to be useless in a fight.
Marley weaved toward the wall, out of the way of the bouncers pushing through the crowd, those feelings strengthening despite how poorly they fit into her current reality. She wasn’t worthless anymore. She may have accidentally created a leech by giving the man she loved a bit of power, but now she could take it away from those who didn’t deserve it.
Bestowing power on the son of a goddess—someone who had the genes but not the legacy—was a dangerous game. Marley had misjudged her fiancé’s intentions. She’d wanted to bring them closer, to share something so vital to her identity. But she’d been played. He didn’t want her, just her power. Limited as it was, it had been enough to allow him to steal from others and keep on taking until her sister Quinn—along with Quinn’s now-husband Nick and assistant Sam—had stopped him. Quinn had drawn all the stolen power out of the leech and stored it inside her own body until a few months ago, when she was finally able to return most of it to its original goddesses.
Except Marley. She was too damaged, and for a couple of years she’d struggled to adapt to being powerless, to being part of a community she no longer belonged in. Just like those women as they watched their boyfriends brawling on the dirty floor of a club.
Marley straightened up, skimming her gaze across the room. The girls still stood to the side as the bouncers took care of the fight, just as Marley had stood by, helpless, when Quinn and a young goddess named Riley had been abducted by descendants of the gods, young men who wanted to steal their power.
Marley would have been a liability in that fight. Not that she’d ever been a warrior, but the first time, when she and Quinn and the others had defended her inn against attack, the energy she’d channeled through crystals allowed her to disorient and even knock out the attackers without even touching them.
But after being leeched, she had nothing. She would have become another victim to be rescued, so she’d stood by and let everyone else do the job. When it was all over, she’d vowed she’d never be that weak again. Yet here she was, standing by during a fight—never mind that this one had nothing to do with her—and struggling not to feel worthless.
This is not why I’m here, she reminded herself. She focused on reaching out with her senses, searching for her target.
“He’s here,” said a familiar voice in her ear.
She shook away the memories that voice dug up and touched her earpiece. “I’m kind of stuck back here. Where did he go?”
She tilted her head up and spotted Anson at the rail around the second floor. They’d been working together for five months now, but she still had to brace for the cascade of split-second reactions he caused, the ones telling her to run as fast as she could.
He’d been her fiancé, her enemy, the man who’d leeched her. And now he was her unlikely partner, a chameleon who managed to blend in wherever they went.
“I’m not leaving!” Silk Shirt shouted, yanking his arm away. Burly jerked forward to shove him, and the whole thing started all over again.
Anson caught Marley’s eye and jerked his chin toward the rear of the building. “Straight back. Looks like a group of them have taken over one of the nooks.”
Marley took a swallow of whiskey. She was still corralled against the wall, with no clear path to get where Anson indicated. She relished the woody burn in her chest and the warmth that seeped through her body. “Keep an eye on him. Let me know if he tries anything.”
“Will do.” Anson raised a beer bottle to his mouth and kept his gaze on an area Marley couldn’t see.
She stood still, balanced on her ridiculous six-inch heels. The clutch she held in her left hand vibrated. She wasn’t going anywhere and couldn’t see past the tangle in front of her, so she popped open the clasp to check her phone’s display. Crap. It was her sister.
She snapped the bag closed again and took another, bigger mouthful of whiskey. Avoiding Quinn never worked, but this wasn’t a good place to take scolding phone calls. Quinn was going to try one more time, no doubt, to get Marley to go to Riley and Sam’s wedding tomorrow. But Marley couldn’t do it. As much as she wanted to be there when her friends celebrated their well- deserved happiness, she couldn’t face them. Not when all she could do was imagine the pity and resentment they must harbor for her after all that had happened.
The noise level around Marley dropped as the bouncers finally hauled the fighters away, their pack trailing behind them. Her gaze fell on a handful of young men standing around a tall table near the dance floor. They were lanky and slouchy with long arms and legs, wearing carefully distressed jeans and short-sleeved shirts. She checked their faces and jolted when she recognized two of them.
“What’s the matter?” Anson asked over the comm.
She cursed to herself and drained her glass, setting it on an empty table. She shouldn’t have let him see her reaction. Their partnership only worked if they never referenced the past, and these guys were part of it. “Nothing. Burst of air-conditioning.” She rubbed her arm to illustrate. “You’re supposed to be watching our guy in the back. He still there?”
“Yeah, just hanging out, but he’s talking up a couple of girls.”
“I’m on my way. Keep your eye on him.” Her path was going to take her by the guys she’d just recognized, and she didn’t want Anson to spot them. They were young Numina, men descended from gods who’d kept themselves secret for years, and these particular kids had been part of the group that had abducted Quinn and Riley on Anson’s orders when he was still Marley’s enemy. She didn’t know if these guys were Deimons like Josh and his buddies, lazy bastards who wanted the power of their ancestors without having to do the work, but they were definitely Numina.
Goddesses weren’t secret like Numina were. There weren’t many goddesses in the world, and people who heard about them didn’t always believe in their existence, but many goddesses used their abilities commercially, and they even had a professional association with the Society. They were open about what they were. But the descendants of the gods? Everyone had thought those bloodlines had disappeared thousands of years ago. It turned out they’d just taken “secret society” very, very seriously.
The legacy of the gods was far subtler than the power goddesses wielded, much easier to keep secret. Numina had “influence,” an enhanced level of charm, charisma, and the golden touch that brought them unimaginable success in business and politics. That influence varied, though, and was sometimes trumped by greed or laziness, especially in the younger generation. Hence the Deimons, who’d named themselves after Deimos, the god of fear. They had somehow discovered a goddess who would dole out her own power like a drug, a potentially easier path to the fame and fortune of their fathers.
Marley and Anson had stumbled across the group while researching Numina as a whole. “Flux,” as they called the drug, provided a surge of energy that also gave them abilities of the goddesses, like telekinesis or increased strength. Marley didn’t know if it also made them stupid, but one group of fluxed-up idiots had robbed a casino recently.
That was why she was hunting them. Deimons were irresponsible at best and potentially dangerous, and the only good thing about her void of power was that she was now able to take the flux away from them, to nullify them. As far as she knew, she was the only one who’d ever had that ability.
Tonight’s target, Josh, was seriously high on flux. Marley didn’t know if he was connected to the kids huddled in front of her, but with their history, she needed to know what they were up to.
She eased closer and caught the attention of a passing server. “Whiskey, please. Jameson,” she added close to the woman’s ear.
She nodded and yelled to Marley, “You gonna be here?” She pointed at the floor where they stood.
Marley nodded back, satisfied. Now she had an excuse to stay where she was and lurk for a few minutes. The music covered a lot of the conversation, but nullifying the flux had enhanced her senses somehow in the last couple of months, and she caught snatches of it.
“…to the beach house one more time before closing up…”
“…with third-quarter returns better than last year, we can monetize the…”
“…man, I need nachos…”
“…I swear, gozongas out to here, nipples the size of…”
She screwed up her face, wishing she’d missed that last bit. She was wasting her time—there was nothing useful here, and she didn’t detect any flux.
The server slipped between a couple of sweating bodies and handed Marley her drink. She gave her a twenty and waved off change. The woman’s face smoothed from annoyed at the inconvenience to pleased with the high tip before she hustled away. Marley sipped and was about to move on when the young men’s conversation stopped her.
“Did you hear what Gashface is doing tomorrow?”
Marley tensed at the nickname of one of the guys who’d kidnapped Quinn and Riley a few months earlier. So his friends were calling him Gashface now, too? Riley must have called him that in front of the others after she’d sliced up his face. Interesting that they’d adopted it.
“Don’t call him that, he’ll pound your face in,” one of them retorted.
A snicker. “Yeah, right. He’s a total pansy.”
“You haven’t seen him lately.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Marley saw the guy who’d mentioned Gashface lean on the table. His voice hushed a little, but the DJ lowered the music to call out something garbled, leaving a sound gap she could easily hear through. The other guys at the table leaned closer to the one talking.
“That stuff is doing something to him. He claims it’s the cleanest high you’ll ever get—no crash, no freakiness, but he’s got an edge now, man. He says he’s gonna kill the bitch that cut his face.”
Marley froze. She didn’t just stop moving—she went so cold on the inside that her teeth chattered once before she clamped them together. Her numb fingers could barely feel the glass she was holding.
Gashface was on flux, and the “bitch” was Riley.
“Yeah, right,” another kid scoffed. “Says who?”
“Delwhip.” The first guy took a casual pull from his beer bottle, clearly relishing having the floor. “His dad’s got everything figured out. Gash will take out the bitch and her friends, and then he’ll move on the board. We’ll be back on top in a matter of days.”
Marley’s head spun, the implications almost too much to absorb. Tomorrow was Riley and Sam’s wedding. Gashface was going to attack her at her freaking wedding?