Dear Reader,

Greetings! I’m thrilled to announce Heart of Venom, the ninth book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Heart of Venom is a fast-paced rollicking read full of magic, action, adventure, danger, and even a little romance, just like Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, Spider’s Revenge, By a Thread, Widow’s Web, and Deadly Sting, the other books in the series.

Heart of Venom focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Here’s a little more about Gin:

When I say you’re a dead man, take that literally.

To me, killing people is like a day at the salon: cut and dry. Well, more like rinse and repeat when you moonlight as the assassin the Spider. But my last spa day ended redder than my freshly painted nails after a twisted Fire elemental and his goons kidnapped my close friend Sophia Deveraux and nearly killed her sister Jo-Jo in the process.

Up Ashland’s most dangerous mountains, and deep into the heart of its blackest woods — I’ll track these thugs no matter where they take Sophia. It doesn’t matter what kind of elemental magic they try to throw at me, my Ice and Stone powers can take the heat and then some. I will get Sophia back, over their dead bodies.

Because anybody that hurts Gin Blanco’s family becomes a body.

A strong, sassy heroine, lots of magic/world building, action scenes, and even some romance – the Elemental Assassin books have all that and more.

Here’s what some folks are saying about the Elemental Assassin series:

“This series kicked off with a bang, and the action hasn’t let up since.”
Fresh Fiction

“One of my favorite urban fantasy series.”
Paranormal Haven

“Gin Blanco is one of the most intriguing heroines on the scene. . . . If you have not gotten on the Gin bandwagon yet, do so today!”
RT Book Reviews

To read the first chapters of each of the books, as well as several free Elemental Assassin short stories, visit the Excerpts page of my website at http://www.jenniferestep.com. You can also check out my blog on the site and sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter, which is full of my latest news.

You can also follow me on these sites:
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/JenniferEstepAuthor?ref=ts&fref=ts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/580315.Jennifer_Estep
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Happy reading!

Jennifer Estep



Excerpt from Heart of Venom

©Jennifer Estep


Jo-Jo noticed me frowning, and she leaned over and patted my hand. “Don’t worry, darling. It’s probably nothing. Sometimes, I take these spells where it seems like something bad is going to happen at any second. Most of the time, it turns out to be nothing more than a little bit of heartburn.”

Despite her words, her clear eyes grew cloudy and troubled once again. “I’ll just … I’ll be glad when Sophia’s here.”

Like Roslyn, Sophia was running a little late this morning since she’d wanted to get rid of the two dead giants in the cooler near the Pork Pit. I’d given all the restaurant staff the day off with pay, so both Sophia and I could enjoy our time at the salon. I’d told Sophia that the giants’ bodies could wait another day, or at least until after our salon time, but she had insisted that she was going to dispose of them this morning. Or maybe she was simply being practical. Odds were that someone else would jump me at the Pork Pit sometime in the next few days, and, well, that cooler could only hold so many bodies. As it was, Finn and I had had to pack the two giants in like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, carefully fitting them together, just so we could close the lid and lock the cooler.

Sophia had disposed of dozens of bodies for me and for my mentor, Fletcher Lane, before I’d taken over the assassination business from the old man. She could handle two dead giants with her eyes blindfolded and one hand tied behind her back. But Jo-Jo looked so worried that I wrapped my hand around hers and gave it a gentle squeeze, careful not to smear the polish that she’d put on my nails.

“Do you want me to call Sophia and see where she’s at?”

Jo-Jo shook her head. “No, that’s all right. Like I said, it’s probably just heartburn. I think I had one too many cups of Finn’s chicory coffee this morning. That stuff will knock your teeth plumb out of your mouth, it’s so strong.”

She gave me a chipper smile, grabbed the plastic tub, put it on her lap, and started sorting through the many bottles of nail polish. Jo-Jo held up first one pink, then another, trying to find one that she thought that Bria might like, but the cheery colors did little to brighten my mood.

Maybe it was the way that Jo-Jo’s sculpted eyebrows were pinched together in worry or maybe it was how quickly her smile slipped back into a frown when she thought that I wasn’t looking at her anymore. I couldn’t see the future like she did, but Jo-Jo had been right about too many things in the past for me to dismiss her dread as nothing more than caffeine overload. If she thought something ominous was gathering on the horizon, then no doubt the wind was blowing storm clouds in our direction right now.

Despite my unease, the next half hour passed by in a blur of cheery conversation and good food. Jo-Jo opened one of the doors set into the back wall of the salon, and Rosco dutifully heaved himself to his feet and slowly waddled outside to do his doggy business. Bria finally finished her pie and sat down in my spot in the salon chair so Jo-Jo could do her nails while we waited for Roslyn and Sophia to arrive.

I wandered over to the buffet table, piling my plate high and then taking a bite of everything in turn. The fried chicken salad on the mini sourdough rolls. The salty, crunchy, homemade potato chips. And then, of course, the mousse pie which melted on my tongue bite after sinfully rich, decadent, delicious bite, as though I were eating a light, frothy cloud made of dark, luscious chocolate. I’d gotten up early this morning to put everything together, but it had been worth it. Cooking was a passion of mine, a chance for me to show the people that I cared about exactly how much I loved them—and a way for me to deal with whatever was bothering me.

Like Jillian Delancey’s death.

Not for the first time, Jillian’s face flashed before my eyes. Dark brown hair, dark eyes, great smile. All gone because of me, because of the dumb luck that seemed to delight in messing with me and mine time and time again.

“What are you thinking about, Gin?” Bria asked, walking over to me and waving her strawberry pink nails in the air to help dry them.

I looked away from the patch of wall that I’d been aimlessly staring at and down at my plate of food, which I’d set on the table. “I’m thinking that I should have put some more kosher salt on the potato chips.”

Bria shook her head, causing her blond hair to glimmer like strands of spun gold in the sunlight streaming in through the windows. “No, you’re not. You’re thinking about something else, something important. What happened at Briartop? Or is it Owen?”

I grimaced at the mention of Owen Grayson, my, well, I didn’t know exactly what Owen and I were these days. Not together, but not as far apart as we’d been. Owen had brought Jillian to the museum for Mab’s gala. She’d been his friend and business associate and had wanted to be more, although Owen had told me that he didn’t think of her like that. Either way, Jillian had still ended up dead because of me—the second woman associated with Owen to meet that particular fate in a matter of weeks.

Bria laid a hand on my arm. “You know you can talk to me, right? About anything?”

I nodded. I did know that, although it always amazed me. After years of thinking that Bria was dead, she’d reappeared in my life several months ago. It wasn’t easy, her being a cop and my being an assassin, but we were making it work—and we were closer now than ever before.

“I know, and I appreciate it. What can I say? I like to brood over my food.”

Bria laughed, but then her face turned serious, as if she wanted to ask me something. She started toying with the silverstone pendant around her throat. A primrose, the symbol for beauty, her rune.

Watching her fiddle with her necklace made my fingers curl into my palms, touching the scars on my skin there—a small circle on either hand, each mark surrounded by eight thin rays. The same symbol was also stamped into the middle of the silverstone ring that I wore on my right index finger. My rune, a spider rune, the symbol for patience—and so many other things to me.

It too had once been a necklace, until Mab had used her Fire magic to superheat the silverstone and melt the pendant into my hands—her brutal, effective way of torturing me and marking me in more ways than either one of us had known, at the time.

“Gin?” Bria asked.

I snapped out of my memories. “I’m sorry. I spaced out there for a minute. Was there something that you wanted to ask me?”

Bria drew in a breath, but before she could tell me whatever was on her mind, the sound of a door banging open at the front of the house cut her off. A moment later, footsteps sounded. I recognized the heavy tread as belonging to Sophia, but the odd thing was that she didn’t seem to be walking normally. Instead, a series of scrape-scrape-scrapes screeched across the hardwood floor, as if Sophia was dragging one of her feet behind her and moving as fast as she could at the same time. Before I could puzzle out why she would be walking that way, she appeared into the salon doorway.

Jo-Jo might be a sweet Southern lady with her pink dresses, polish, and pearls, but Sophia had a different style altogether: Goth. Today, as usual, she wore black from head to toe—boots, jeans, and a T-shirt with a big pair of puckered crimson lips on it. A crimson leather collar spiked with silverstone ringed her throat, although her lipstick was a flat black that matched her hair.

Normally, I found Sophia’s style to be dark but also cool, quirky, and funky. The problem now was that her black clothes kept me from noticing the blood on her arm and leg for several crucial seconds.

“Sophia?” I asked.

Her black eyes met mine, and I saw something there I’d never seen before—fear.

“Run,” Sophia rasped in her low, broken voice.

Then she collapsed without another word.


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Contest!

Jennifer is hosting a special contest for ASR Readers! Five winners will receive papers copies of Heart of Venom. To enter, visit Jennifer's website and find the answer to this question-

What is the name of the Elemental Assassin e-novella from Owen Grayson's point of view?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer by midnight on September 11th, 2013. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and please mark the subject heading as 'Heart of Venom'.

Good luck!

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