Excerpt from Jinx by Jennifer Estep

Jinx (Bigtime)Greetings and salutations! My name is Jennifer Estep, and I write the Bigtime paranormal romance series for Berkley.

You probably haven’t heard of me, so here’s a little about me. My books take place in the colorful city of Bigtime, N.Y., which is just crawling with sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and lots of smart, sassy gals looking for love. Books in the series are Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx, which was released in September. Basically, my books are like the old “Batman” TV show with Adam West and “Wonder Woman” with Lynda Carter come to life–campy, fun, and completely over the top.

I also recently signed on to do an urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The series, tentatively titled the Elemental Assassin series, focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin who runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit when she’s not busy killing people. The first book is tentatively titled “Gin on the Rocks” and will probably be released in fall 2009/winter 2010. The book is darker and grittier than my Bigtime series and has a heavy Southern flavor.

Overall, if you’re looking for fun, sexy reads, you might like my books. For more info and updates on the Elemental Assassin series, visit my Web site at http://www.jenniferestep.com.

Happy reading! 🙂

There is contest information at the end of the excerpt, so keep on reading.

* * * * *

I headed back towards the library, admiring the rooms and furnishings I passed. Many of them were familiar to me. Johnny and I used to have a ball playing hide-and-seek in the mansion, while Berkley entertained Bobby and James. Sometimes, it took us hours to find each other. Once, Johnny had hidden so well Berkley had to get his staff to help me look for him so we could go home. We finally found Johnny asleep in a bedroom closet–

POP!

I stopped, wondering at the strange sound. It reminded me of cereal snapping when you poured cold milk on it. For a moment, I wondered if I’d imagined the noise. And why. I didn’t particularly like cereal.

POP!

POP!

POP!

The sound came again and again, louder every time, and I knew I wasn’t daydreaming. The pops! emanated from a salon a few feet ahead. I crept up to the doorway and peered inside one of Berkley’s viewing rooms, where he kept his paintings and statues and other expensive, important works of art. Cushioned chairs and low couches scattered throughout the area invited people to sit and stare at everything. Night had already fallen outside, but white footlights highlighted the art against the dark walls. I’d spent many hours in this room and others like it, trying to draw and paint and sketch as well as the masters.

POP!

A man appeared in front of a particularly abstract Picasso, where there had only been empty space a moment before. He wore a form-fitting, leather suit so blue it was almost black. The insignia of a scarlet rose intertwined with a silver thorn flashed on his chest. Dark hair curled around his face and silver mask, which had jagged edges that matched the thorn insignia. Although I tried to listen to as little superhero and ubervillain gossip as possible, I still recognized him.

Debonair.

One of the most notorious rakes – superhero, ubervillain, or otherwise – in Bigtime. He seduced women of all ages like other men breathed – with supreme, unconscious ease. He had a body that even the other male superheroes envied – totally, perfectly chiseled. Michelangelo’s David come to life. He wasn’t too tall or too short and had a dazzling smile that could make a blind woman see. The gallant teleporter oozed sex appeal from head to toe, and billed himself as the ultimate lover and seducer. Debonair even had his own aptly named hideaway – the Lair of Seduction. Any woman who spent any time with Debonair there couldn’t help but fall under his charming spell. At least, that’s what they said on SNN, the Superhero News Network. I’d never found blue-black leather to be any sort of turn-on, no matter how impressive the body underneath it was.

Debonair wasn’t a superhero, but he wasn’t quite an ubervillain either. He didn’t care about taking over the city or world domination. Instead, he was a master thief. Of sorts. Several priceless works of art had gone missing from various homes and galleries in Bigtime over the years after Debonair had paid them a visit. But just as many had later turned up in museums and other public places around town. Debonair had his own shady agenda no one had ever really been able to figure out. The only thing you could really count on was for him to pop! in using his teleportation superpower, make some witty, charming quip, and pop! back out. He was rather like Swifte that way.

Debonair snapped his gloved fingers. A painting depicting a field of irises left its frame and appeared in his hand a second later. Berkley had more security than Fort Knox, and I waited for an alarm to start blaring. Sirens to sound. Bars to crash down over the doors and windows.

Nothing. Not even a whisper.

Debonair snapped his fingers again. A long, hollow tube appeared in his other hand. He carefully rolled up the painting and stuffed it inside. He snapped his fingers a third time, and the tube disappeared. My eyes darted around the room, wondering where the container had gone, but I didn’t see it anywhere. Only an empty frame remained where the painting had hung on the wall.

I looked up at the ceiling. The mansion’s security cameras swiveled left and right and up and down as though everything was fine and dandy. Debonair must have done something to them, obscured them in some way. Or maybe he teleported around too fast for them to follow. Either way, it was up to me to stop him.

“Hey!” I said. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Debonair turned at the sound of my voice. He didn’t seem alarmed by the fact I’d caught him stealing the painting. Didn’t seem worried or bothered in the slightest. Instead, the thief titled his head and gave me a thorough once-over. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to look taller and scarier than I really was. Of course, that’s rather hard to do when you’re just over five feet. Still, I tried.

POP!

He appeared at my elbow, and I stifled a surprised scream. I would have stepped back, but he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him. I put my other hand out to brace myself against his chest and immediately realized that Debonair didn’t wear a sculpted breastplate like some of the other superheroes and ubervillains did to improve their looks or hold in a less-than-flat midsection. Those tight, taut muscles under that slick leather were all him.

My fingers spread out. Oh my. I couldn’t help but be impressed, despite my hatred of all things superhero.

“Bella Bulluci. What a delightful surprise.” His voice was low and throaty.

“You know my name?”

I stared at his broad chest, the rose insignia just even with my eyes. He smelled of some sweet smoke, like smoldering rose petals. The heady scent made my head fuzzy.

Debonair put a finger under my chin and tipped it up. His eyes slammed into my hazel ones. They were blue – as blue as blue could possibly be and then some. A ring of silver and black shimmered around the edge of his bright irises, adding to the intensity of his gaze.

“Of course, I know your name. You make some of the finest clothes in all of Bigtime. And, as you may know, I’m a purveyor of fine things.” His gaze raked over me in a slow, sensual way that made my breath catch in my throat. “All sorts of fine things. In fact, I think it’s time for me to sample one right now.”

Debonair leaned in and lowered his lips to mine.

And I got angry. Really, really angry. Yeti Girl angry. Debonair might be attractive – okay, sexy with a capital S – but that didn’t give him the right to just pop! over here and manhandle me. Lots of sexy heroes and villains called Bigtime home.

But Debonair thought he was going to kiss me just because he could? Without any encouragement whatsoever from me? After he’d stolen from my friends? I didn’t think so.

I might be short, but I can take care of myself. Johnny’s supertough exoskeleton had given him an unfair advantage when we were kids. As a result, I’d learned lots of dirty tricks to ward off unwanted noogie and tickle attacks. Like the one I was about to use right now.

I ducked Debonair’s looming lips, turned my body into his broad chest, grabbed his left arm, and flipped him over my shoulder.

POP!

He teleported away a second before he slammed into the floor. My eyes flicked around, wondering where he’d poof to next.

POP!

He appeared in the hallway in front of me. “That wasn’t very nice, Bella. All I wanted to do was kiss you.”

“Well, I didn’t want you to kiss me.”

“But I’m Debonair,” he said.

His tone was smug and self-assured, like the very mention of his name should be enough to make any woman his willing slave. And get her to take off her panties. Sexy and arrogant. A dangerous combination. One I had to work very hard not to find attractive. Maybe the Casanova routine worked on other women, but it wasn’t going to on me.

“Oh, get over yourself,” I snapped. “You’re not all that.”

He smiled. That too was perfect, just like the rest of him. White teeth. Nice lips. A tiny dimple in his chin.

“I think the folks in SSS would disagree with you. I’ve been their Man of the Year three times in a row now.”

“Slaves for Superhero Sex? The cult group full of crazies who worship heroes?” I snorted. “They’re hardly an appropriate judge of character. They’ll do anything in spandex.”

That was an understatement. Slaves for Superhero Sex was a group of men and women whose sole purpose in life was to get up close and personal with superheroes. SSS members deliberately did stupid, life-endangering things – like handcuff themselves to railroad tracks and swallow the key or climb to the top of the Skyline Bridge – in hopes that some superhero would come along and rescue them. Not only that, they usually tried to make time with their superhero savior after they were out of danger. In recent months, some of the more enthusiastic, morally challenged members had gone over to the dark side and started volunteering to be flunkies for various villains. At least, that’s what had been reported on SNN.

“And what about you, Bella? Do you like spandex? Or are you more of a whips-and-chains kind of girl?” Debonair asked.

“That’s none of your business!”

I couldn’t stop myself from blushing. Whips and chains? I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Why, I hadn’t even been much of a regular-sex girl lately. Not since before my father died, really.

Debonair gave me another sexy, knowing smirk, but I’d had enough of the witty banter. I was damp and tired and smelled like moldy bread. So, I skirted around him, careful to stay at least six feet away at all times, and headed down the hall.

“Where are you going?” he called out. “We were just starting to warm up to each other.”

“You want warm?” I asked, stopping in front of a small, red knob. “Think how warm you’ll be when the police show up and toss you in the slammer. Stealing from Berkley Brighton? Now, that was dumb. But pissing me off? That’s what’s really going to get you into trouble.”

I yanked down the fire alarm. Loud bells and sirens blared to life throughout the massive house. Please exit the building, a man’s voice intoned over the commotion. Please exit the building.

Debonair smiled and bowed his head to me. “Well, it seems you’ve bested me. I’m afraid I’ll have to take my leave of you now. Until we meet again, Bella Bulluci.”

“Which will hopefully be never.”

Debonair gave me another long look. “We’ll see.”

POP!

He appeared in front of me again. Before I could stop him, the thief grabbed my hand and pressed a quick kiss to the inside of my wrist. Then, he gave me a sly wink and teleported away.

I leaned against the wall and let a long breath. I suddenly felt weak and shaky. And for some strange reason, my pulse pounded in time to the fire alarm.

**********

Jennifer Estep is going to try to be with us this weekend and she is graciously offering up a complete set (all three books) of the Bigtime series to a random commenter. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday, November 16 sometime in the evening PST.

So, you’ve now read the except and hopefully you jumped over to Jennifer’s website to learn more about the series. So, my question to you is, what intrigues you about this series of books?