Hello Readers!
I have a special announcement for you.  Jan Gordon, my friend and editor, and I have teamed up to write a Christmas novella called In the Cards.  It’s not a shifter story, we’ve ventured into a more heavenly realm for a change of pace.  This time the hero is a guardian angel. 
In The Cards
by Nicky Charles and Jan Gordon
There are regulations governing the relationship between a guardian angel and their charge, boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. So what happens when a guardian angel falls in love with his current assignment? And when the human returns those feelings, how many rules will that guardian angel break in order to save his love? Alex and Emma are caught between two worlds. Will their love be enough?

A Christmas novella by Jan Gordon and Nicky Charles, both of whom are venturing into new ground with this angelic tale.
Release date: November 2
Pre-order your copy for 99 cents at:
Barnes & Noble
*In The Cards also includes two bonus short stories written by Nicky Charles based in her Lycan universe.  As well, there’s a strong hint as to the direction the next Lycan story will take!
So why did Jan and I take this plunge?  Well, it’s really Jan’s fault, LOL.  Last year, she signed us up to write a short Christmas story for a fan-based webpage we both belong to.  The idea of writing together sounded like fun.  We’d done it once before, creating a short cross-over story between her panther universe and my Lycan one.  The final product was entitled “An Unnatural Alliance” and can be found in Jan’s anthology “Life in the Shadows” https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/232275.
With that successful venture in the back of my mind, I agreed to the Christmas story project.  It was supposed to be a few thousand words.  How long could that take?  We’d whip something together and be done with it. 
Well, as often happens, that simple project kept growing and evolving, taking far longer than either of us planned.  Once we were done, I was quite enchanted with the tale and began to prod Jan about publishing it.  She wasn’t overly keen on the idea but I knew the story had potential.  I started tweaking it and then passed it back to her.  She added a bit and sent it back to me.  We’ve continued in this manner for most of the year and now neither of us can tell who wrote which part!  It doesn’t really matter though.  The end product is something we are both very pleased with and hope you will enjoy.
Pre-order your copy for .99 at iBooks, kobo or Barnes and Noble.  If you prefer Amazon, it will be available there on release day, November 2.
Until next time,
-Nicky (& Jan)
He arrived in an anteroom and sat down to wait to be called into the presence of his immediate superior.  Soft classical music played in the background; a few magazines were neatly stacked on a coffee table.  He ignored them, instead wondering again if he was about to be given a new assignment.  If so, he hoped there’d be a bit of a challenge to it.  His cases had all been pretty calm lately.  Perhaps that was contributing to his sleep difficulties; there was nothing like a good day’s work to help usher in the presence of the proverbial sandman.
Not that he was complaining about getting an easy job now and then.  Being a GA was hard work and there was always the potential for danger lurking.  Humans were so unpredictable.  There were even stories—unfounded rumours no doubt—of guardians who failed to return from assignments.  Alex strongly suspected the tales were fostered to reinforce the importance of following the rules laid out in the guardian angel handbook.
The inner door finally opened and a GA exited Michael’s office, her eyes fixed on a picture taped to the front of a folder.
“Morning, Eugenie.  New assignment?”  Alex stood, nodding towards the folder she was carrying.
The woman made an indistinct sound in reply, her brow furrowed.
Alex took a moment to watch the normally talkative woman leave before heeding the implicit summons of the open door.  If Eugenie’s assignment could render her almost silent, what might his next job be like?  Whatever it was, he’d handle it.  Being a guardian angel was his life and he’d pledged to do whatever an assignment required of him.
Michael silently observed the GA who had entered the room, using that scant time frame to compose himself.  He’d just given out an extremely difficult assignment, the details heart-wrenching.  While he presented a calm façade to his employees, he wasn’t immune to the emotional toll of the job.  It would never do for the GAs to know that, however.
He pushed Eugenie’s case from his mind and focused on Alex.  Alexander Flint was one of his best men.  Devoted to his job, clever; a man who thought on his feet and could handle a curve ball when it came at him out of nowhere.  Yes, Alex was reliable despite the maverick streak that reared its head at times.
“Alex.”  He acknowledged the greeting and gave a nod indicating the other man should take a seat.  The GA complied and Michael eased back in his own chair, allowing himself a moment to appreciate how the soft leather conformed to his contours.  One of the perks of the job, though it hardly compensated for the weight of responsibility he carried.  Managing a squadron of guardian angels wasn’t for the faint of heart.  So much depended on matching the right human to the right angel.  A mistake on his part could have consequences that would have a domino effect down through the centuries.  Like a house of cards, one person’s life supported all those around it.  If removed too soon, without proper precautions, the whole thing could collapse.  Yet, conversely, too many cards in one place could have the same result.  A balancing act, that’s what it was.
Yes, the proper angel for the job…  He eyed Alex, noting the faint shadows under his eyes.  “How are things on earth, Alex?”
“Same old, same old.”  A one-shouldered shrug accompanied the comment.  “The weather is crappy in the northern states, half the human population have head colds and those who don’t are already complaining about the holiday season.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner and then there are the Christmas preparations they have to do.  Seems there’s always something stressing them out.”
“Wearying of your neighbours?  Would you like to have a room up here?  It can be arranged.”  Michael leaned forward, his right hand raised to give an elegant flick that would turn his spoken word into reality.
“No need.”  Alex shook his head.  “I like being in the trenches.”
“Of course.”  Michael smiled and lightly clasped his hands on the surface of his desk.  A maverick indeed.  Most GAs preferred to rest between cases, taking a short vacation in one of the Heavenly spas and sports complexes.  But not Alex.  He might complain about the weather and the humans around him, but his heart and soul were tied to the occupants on that lump of rock and water called Earth.  Commendable but it could also lead to burn out.
Alex had been in his employ for centuries and Michael felt he knew the angel inside and out.  Which was why, when he sensed a subtle change in the man’s demeanour, he’d taken pains to determine the cause and then find a potential treatment.  Unfortunately, sometimes the cure was more dangerous than the ailment.
“I’m sure you didn’t call me in today to discuss my living arrangements.”  Alex seemed to have tired of their idle conversation.  Yet another cause for concern.  The man never relaxed.  “Do you have a new assignment for me?”
“Could there be any other reason I’d send for you?”  Michael raised a brow and enjoyed watching the frown that flitted over the GA’s face before his expression cleared.  More than once, he’d had to call Alex on the carpet for his unorthodox approach to an assignment.
“Not that I can think of.”
“Or at least not that you’ll admit to,” Michael murmured as he reached for a file of papers that were neatly stacked on the corner of his desk.  He took a moment to flip through the pages, lips pursed, before handing it over to Alex’s outstretched hand.  “Her name is Emma.”
“A girl?”  Alex flicked the file open, barely glancing at the contents.
“A woman.  She’s twenty-seven.”
“It’s in the file, if you’d take the time to read it yourself.”  He chided the GA lightly before answering.  “For the record, she’s an accountant.”
“Oh.”  A hint of disappointment tinged Alex’s tones.
“Is that a problem?”
“No.  Not really.  I was just hoping for something a bit more exciting.  Most of my cases have been pretty straightforward lately.”
“Well,” Michael made a show of furrowing his brow.  “If this case doesn’t suit you, I seem to recall there’s a mall Santa who will be in need of a guardian angel.  Someone to help him with all those children…”  He let his voice trail off before fixing a hard stare on the man before him.  “Would you be more interested in that job?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Keeping his expression bland, Michael secretly smiled.  He possessed an excellent poker face and sometimes enjoyed watching the GAs try to second guess him.  After a moment of studying him, Alex sighed, apparently not willing to call his bluff.
“No, thanks anyway.”  Alex made a face while rising to his feet.  “On second thought, I’ll stick with the accountant.”
Michael nodded.  “Excellent choice.  She really does need you.”
“What’s the situation?”  Alex paused, his hand on the door.
“She’s scheduled to die.”