Dear Reader,

Greetings and salutations! I’m thrilled to be able to share the kick-off of my new Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series with you. The first book in the series, Spider’s Bite, is a rollicking read full of magic, action, adventure, danger, and even a little romance.

Spider’s Bite is set in the southern metropolis of Ashland, a dark, gritty, corrupt city that’s home to vampires, giants, dwarves, and elementals, or people who can control one of the four elements — Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. The heroine is Gin Blanco, who moonlights as the assassin the Spider. But Gin gets more than she bargained for on her latest assignment, including help from a sexy detective. Here’s a little more about Gin in her own words:

My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South — when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I’m out for revenge. And I’ll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I’m still one of the bad guys. Which is why I’m in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I’m battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction ... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

An assassin, a detective, a deadly conspiracy, and loads of sexual tension. What could be better than all that?

Here’s what some folks are saying about Spider’s Bite:

“Spider’s Bite is a raw, gritty and compelling walk on the wild side, one that had me hooked from the first page. Jennifer Estep has created a fascinating heroine in the morally ambiguous Gin Blanco — I can’t wait to read the next chapter of Gin’s story.”
— Nalini Singh, New York Times best-selling author of the Psy-Changeling series

"Watch out world, here comes Gin Blanco. Funny, smart, and dead sexy."
— Lillith Saintcrow, author of Redemption Alley

If you enjoy Spider’s Bite, you won’t have long to wait to read more about Gin and her adventures. Web of Lies, the second book in the Elemental Assassin series, will be out in June 2010, while Venom, the third book in the series, will debut in October 2010.

To read the first chapters of each of the books, as well as Spider’s Bargain, a free prequel short story, visit 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, reading recommendations, recipes, and more. Also, be sure to follow me on Facebook at http://profile.to/jenniferestep/.

Happy reading!

Jennifer Estep



Excerpt from Spider's Bite

©Jennifer Estep


Brutus smiled, his teeth red with his own blood. “You’ve got two options, Gin. You can kill me or save yourself—or try to.”

I touched the top of the crossbow bolt against his eye. Brutus might be as cold as stone, but even he shuddered at that. “What do you mean?”

“I told my client you were good, that you might get away. So we devised a backup plan. Even if you kill me, you’re still going to get blamed for Gordon Giles’s murder. I’ve got another man standing by ready to take him out. The paper trail leading back to you has already been set up. Threatening letters and the like. It’s all in place—”

I raised my knife up and slammed it into Brutus’s heart. The first time, he gasped in surprise and pain. The second time, his brown eyes bulged, and more blood trickled out of his mouth. By the third time I stabbed him, he was dead.

“Arrogant prick,” I muttered, climbing to my feet. “You should have just shot me. Not talked yourself to death.”

Brutus’s body spasmed a final time in agreement.

I was already stepping over him and gathering up the weapons. Because Brutus was right about one thing. I had to save Gordon Giles’s life instead of taking it—if I had any hope of saving my own.

I stuffed the crossbow back into the cello case, sprinted down the catwalk stairs, and shoved through the exit door. My wounded shoulder hit the doorjamb, and I hissed. Being shot, even just grazed, always felt like someone had shoved a red-hot metal poker into my flesh. Like a Fire elemental had put her hands on me and let loose with her incendiary magic. But I ignored the discomfort. Compartmentalizing pain, learning how to block it out and keep going no matter what, had been one of the first things my mentor Fletcher Lane had taught me.

Fletcher. My thoughts turned to him. He was in this, too. If Brutus’s client wanted me to take the fall for Gordon Giles’s death, killing Fletcher would be next on the to-do list. They couldn’t afford to leave him alive. His son, Finnegan Lane, either. I had to get to them. Soon.

I hurried through the executive floor of the Ashland Opera House, dropped the cello case by the unlocked balcony door, and went on into the stairwell. I pounded down the stairs to the second floor. Intermission was still several minutes away. No one crowded into the hallway yet, and I had a clear path to Gordon Giles’s VIP box. I didn’t need people to start screaming when they realized a woman dressed in black was holding a bloody knife in one hand and an even bloodier barbed bolt in the other.

Up ahead, a man pulled open the door to the box seats and stepped inside. Brutus’s backup. And I realized he wasn’t just going to kill Giles. A dead-end trail and no witnesses meant he’d have to take out Donovan Caine, too. Killing Giles and blaming me was one thing, but I didn’t need the heat of a dead cop on top of that. Especially an honest one like Caine, who was something of a folk hero in Ashland. The cops, even the crooked ones, would lean on everyone they knew to get Caine’s killer. The insatiable appetite of the press and public pressure would force them to. Donovan Caine and Gordon Giles definitely needed to keep breathing tonight.

I quickened my pace and charged through the door. Gordon Giles squatted half in, half out of his seat, his blue eyes wide with panic and fear. Donovan Caine stood tall and erect. He just looked furious. The man with the gun turned at the sound of the door opening. I stepped forward and sucker punched him. His nose crunched under my tight fist, and blood spattered onto the curtain-covered walls. The man cursed and stumbled back. I used his own momentum to spin him around, pull him toward me, and hook my right arm around his shoulder. My knife pressed into his throat.

“Nobody moves or he dies!” I hissed.

He was going to die anyway, but they didn’t need to know that. Gordon Giles didn’t move. Donovan Caine’s hand fluttered over the gun in the holster on his hip. Cowboy.

The would-be assassin jerked against me, trying to break my hold. More hot pain blossomed in my shoulder, but I ground my teeth together and shut it out. I jabbed the knife tip into his throat to dissuade him from further movement.

“Who are you working for?” I snarled in his ear.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sweat trickled down the back of his neck, mixing with my own. He stank of garlic.

“Bullshit. You were assigned to kill Giles if I didn’t.”

Giles gasped, and his ferretlike face paled. Donovan Caine’s hazel eyes narrowed, and his mouth flattened into a hard line.

“Tell me who you’re working for, or I am going to cut your throat right here, right now. Brutus isn’t coming to help you.”

The man stiffened at the mention of the other assassin’s name. For a moment, I thought he might tell me, might give me the information I needed, but he arched his back, and I knew he’d made the wrong decision. “Go to hell, bitch,” he spat out the words, along with a mouthful of blood.

“You first.”

I cut his throat. Hot, sticky blood spurted out onto my hands. The man gurgled and clutched at the open wound. Gordon Giles screamed once, a high-pitched, girlish sound better suited for an enthusiastic cheerleader than a middle-aged man. He swayed back and forth. His eyes rolled up in the back of his head, and the accountant toppled over in a dead faint. Donovan Caine had a stronger stomach. The detective went for his gun.

Before Caine could get his weapon free of his holster, I shoved the dying man forward, sending him into the detective. Then I turned and sprinted out of the box.

I ran back the way I’d come, pounding up the stairs to the executive floor, grabbing the cello case, bursting through the doors, and running out on the balcony. As soon as I stepped onto the stone patio, I hurled the cello case over the side into the river and rushed toward the hidden rope.

I’d heard Donovan Caine’s heavy footsteps in the stairwell below me. No time to be cautious, to be safe. I’d have to climb down the side of the cliffs and hope Caine was a lousy shot or didn’t cut the rope before I reached the bottom—

“Stop right there!” a male voice boomed.

I froze and looked over my shoulder. Donovan Caine advanced on me, his gun leveled at my chest with the steadiness of man who knows he’s an excellent shot. I turned and raised my hands, even as I took a step back toward the balcony.

“Who are you?” he snarled. “Who are you working for?”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said in an even voice. “Things have gotten a little complicated this evening.”

His eyes glinted like smoky topaz. “Complicated how?”

He wasn’t shooting me on the spot. Good for me, sloppy on his part.

“Somebody set me up,” I said. “I was supposed to kill Giles and walk away, but somebody had other ideas. They wanted to kill me before I did the job, then blame me for his murder. If you check up on the catwalk, you’ll find a dead man. His name is Brutus. He’s an assassin. Goes by the nickname Viper.”

Caine took another step forward. “I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t care what you believe. The point is Gordon Giles is still in danger. I’d be more worried about him than me.”

The detective thought about it, his black jacket struggling to contain the strength of his coiled muscles. His features were rough and rugged in the shadows. Patches of darkness painted his cheekbones, but the moonlight frosted his dark hair and outlined his thick lips.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, I thought about those lips against mine. His heavy tongue stroking my own, then moving down my body one sweet, slow inch at a time, before plunging into the curls at the junction of my thighs. Mmm.

“You’re coming with me,” he said.

With his free hand, Caine reached inside his jacket pocket and drew out a pair of silverstone handcuffs. He tossed them on the balcony between us. The metal clinked to a stop at my booted feet. “Put those on.”

“Handcuffs. Kinky. But I prefer to have a bit more freedom during sex. Don’t you?”

Caine jerked as though I’d yanked the gun out of his hands and shot him. His eyes flicked down my body, going to my breasts and thighs, before coming back to my face. Yeah, he was thinking about it. All the distraction I needed.

“There’s no need to bother with those because you aren’t taking me in, detective.”

“Where are you going to go?” Caine asked. “You’re trapped up here.”

I smiled. “Me? Trapped? Never.”

Using my legs, I turned, leaped up onto the balcony wall, and launched myself over the side into the darkness below.

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Contest!


To celebrate the launch of her new trilogy, Jennifer is hosting a great contest for ASR Readers!

Three winners will each receive a book from Jennifer's backlist and One of these lucky winners will also receive a $20 gift card from Amazon!

To enter, visit Jennifer's website and find the answer to this question-

Name one of the recipes in Gin Blanco's recipe box.

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer by midnight on January 31st, 2010. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and please mark the subject heading as 'Spider's Bite'.

Good luck!

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