Congratulations, Jacqueline! I have to ask, why did you write this book and where did the idea come from?
Romance, adventure, a rough around the edges hero, a smart and resourceful heroine, some humor, some life lessons, hot sex, a little mystery, buddy cops, a corrupt corporate system,and a spooky paranormal setting that is the train driving them forward.
If I could have logically and legally added the Tardis trapped on the Enterprise, it would be perfect. At least to me.
How I came up with the idea.
My good friends, Maggie and her husband Ed, love travel and art. Rodin is one of their favorite artists. After a trip to the Paris “Museé Rodin” they shared their pictures, and as true art lovers do, described everything they saw in the museum. I love art, but have no educational background to support my opinions. I only know what I like and I really liked Rodin and wished I could go to Paris, too.
In describing the bronze casting of the Gates of Hell they mentioned they’d also seen the one locally at the Philadelphia Rodin Museum.
Being me, I jumped right on that. And not because I didn’t have to fly overseas. My mind instantly connected the two Gates as a way to travel from Philadelphia to Paris, without using public transportation of any kind.
The one drawback – you’ve got to dodge demons. I knew I had a story here, a complicated one, but dodging demons to get to the City of Lights wasn’t enough, so I decided to back burner the idea for a while.
I’d finished writing the time travel novel I’d been working on and wanted to start something totally different. My parents requested I write something they could tolerate reading, like a contemporary mystery. They wrinkle their noses at anything paranormal. I’m the odd child out under that roof.
Unfortunately for my folks, by the time I’d finished the first chapter of my nice normal romantic mystery, my heroine and had dug up an angel wrapped in chains out of her father’s garden and didn’t want to call her stubborn if sexy partner to help. Her father insisted as her boss, head of an organization, designed to deal with paranormal issues.
I could picture Rodin’s Gates of Hell and the demon powerful enough to commit such a heinous act.
The seeds for my Hell Runners series took root. Before I knew it, Prudence and Jesse took over the pages and the missing pieces filled. Though the chapter one I wrote didn’t make the final cut for Rule Breakers Soul Takers, pieces of it are still present throughout.
For more than a hundred years, gifted humans of the uber-elite, ultra-secret Hell Runners Society have sworn to rescue lost souls from the First Ring of Hell. Thousands of misguided spirits have been saved and sent onto Heaven without one Soul Saver ever questioning the Society’s authority.
Prudence Luckett trained almost her entire life to earn the prestigious position of Soul Saver. Just like her father. But once Jack Luckett became Chancellor, he wielded his power to prevent his daughter entering Hell’s First Ring. Her career stunted. Without explanation. Bent on circumventing her father’s orders, Pru swallows her pride and approaches Hell Runner’s only-ever demoted Soul Saver with a proposition. Though as arrogant and stubborn as he is sexy, she’s certain he’s like her—desperate to regain his good reputation as she is to create one.
Jesse Thorne rescued more souls than anyone else in the Society’s history, but lost everyone’s respect the day his former partner decided to punt the rules. Though forbidden by the boss, his partner chose to remain behind the Gate and search for the Legendary Door connecting Heaven to Hell. Jesse didn’t agree with his decision, but he kept his friend’s secret. The backlash resulted in accusations of negligence for leaving his partner behind.Worse still, he suffered a total shunning by all the other Soul Savers.
All, except one. The Chancellor’s irrepressible and smokin’ hot daughter, offering him a chance at redemption.
He accepts Prudence as his new partner and together they storm Hell, saving more souls than ever. Their bond is immediate and charged with delicious sexual tension. But at the instruction of a council elder, she drinks holy water. The result is a new and powerful weapon—she burns demons with her sweat.
Possessed by a demon as a teenager, a stain remains that marks him as one of Hell’s own. The stain enables him to see hidden demons, but Prudence must keep her distance if he wants to maintain his secret. And his skin. No kissing. No touching. No future.
Complications arise when his old partner returns, swearing he can find Heaven’s Door, but the ancient prophecy requires use of all their unique gifts, including the love growing between Jesse and Prudence. Against the rules, they help search for Heaven’s Door and navigate the dangers of Hell’s deeper rings. The deeper they go, the more secrets are revealed and the deeper they fall into love.
In a showdown that locks horns with the Chancellor and the demon from Jesse’s past, they find the key that will open Heaven’s Door. And the chance to free Jesse from his eternal curse.
But will the pull of Heaven pull them apart, separating them forever?
Though he knew every word by heart, Jesse read the single sheet of handwritten instructions for the umpteenth time.
The incomplete mission. His last one. Seven happy years of saving souls now in the hopper, all thanks to Swift.
Ungrateful, impatient dipstick.
Jesse had never left a mission incomplete in all his days as a Runner. He fisted the heavy paper, crushing it into a ball, and then pitched it out of his bedroom door.
Angry thoughts tortured him. Even the random rotation of songs from the radio couldn’t block out his resentment. Leaving might finally give him peace, though he couldn’t picture a single destination for settling down.
He jacked the top drawer free from his dresser and dumped the contents onto his dark blue comforter. Half the mound of underwear and athletic socks bounced onto the floor.
“Chit.” He kicked the pile, sending three pairs of rolled socks under the bed. A man in possession of more clothes than could fit in a duffel bag lived too comfortably. Jesse had never considered himself a man of comforts. “What falls on the floor stays.”
He booted the whole mess into a corner and propped the drawer against the wall.
The doorbell wailed out a two-tone chime. Jesse started, surprised since he couldn't remember having ever heard it before.
“Who the heck is that?” The only person he'd want to speak with would be Jack, and the chances of the boss beating on his door to apologize were nil.
The bars repeated, but Jesse ignored it. He didn't know anyone not associated with Hell Runners, and right now they could all kiss his sweet--
Ding-dong. Ding-dong. Ding-dong. It sounded like someone deliberately leaned on the button.
He killed the radio and stomped down the short hall of his one-bedroom garden apartment. “Get off the bell and get off my—” he turned the deadbolt and twisted the knob, swinging the steel door open wide “—stoop.”
More than a little shocked, his breath caught in his chest. Prudence Luckett tilted her face up to meet his gaze and flashed him a sunny smile. Even in the meager porch light, her eyes danced with delight, as if his misery didn't matter.
“Hey, Jess.” She lifted her index finger, and the chime faded away. “Glad I caught you before the road dumped you somewhere.”
The phrase cut him like a fistful of barbs. “How did you…?” The vision of Jack’s office with the back door ajar appeared fresh in his mind. “You little sneak. You were eavesdropping.”
“It was accidental, trust me. And I wasn’t mocking you or being mean. I wanted you to know I was up to speed to save time. Granted it sounded better in my head.” She mashed the words as if in a hurry to get them out.
“No accident. You chose to listen.”
“Not true and true. I coincidentally showed up at Dad’s back door. But I’m not sorry I overheard.” Her eyes tried to latch onto his. “And you won’t be sorry in a minute either.”
Jesse avoided her gaze and forced a sigh through his nose. “He sent you? He’s too chicken to come here himself?”
“I take it you mean my father.” She frowned. “And no, he didn't send me. I haven’t spoken with him all week.”
A chilly March breeze mussed her hair, and she brushed a web of tawny locks out of her face. His fingers flexed, remembering the silky tresses between them the one time he'd held her close. Funny thing. The same memory had crossed his mind not more than an hour ago.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, trying to look past him into his apartment. “Gonna invite me in?”
“No.” He wasn’t a Hell Runner anymore and felt no obligation to be nice. Without guilt, he stepped back and swung the door shut. Before inhaling a full breath, the doorbell jumped to life again. “Stop it.” He cracked the door open. “Get outta here, Princess.”
She twitched her finger at him. “We can do this all night,or you can let me in to say my piece.”
“You said he didn't send you, and I'm not”—he cut the air with a short karate chop—“groveling to him.”
“I wouldn't either. He should have assigned you a new partner though they’re all a bunch of crybabies.” She’d said it softly, but her words hit him harder than a clip on the chin.
He intentionally focused beyond her to the half-full parking lot. Pale light pooled from the mercury lamp posted twenty feet high in the center of the blacktop, where his motorcycle sat ready and waiting.
“Look, I can't imagine what we'd have to talk about.”
“Of course not. That's why I'm here to tell you.” She crossed her arms beneath her breasts, and his gaze followed.
He couldn't help but notice the full curves framed by her arms. If she wasn’t Princess, he’d have invited her into get her coat off and then maybe a little more. Instead, he glanced back to his bike. “No point. I'm putting this place in my rear view as soon as possible.”
“If you were going to leave, you would have done it a month ago. You've been biding your time, waiting for Swift to return.”
Ouch! He detested her easy perception and wanted her gone in the worst way. “Fine. You got me. But I'm done waiting.”
He nudged at the door, but Prudence slammed her palm against it and pushed back with more strength than he expected for someone pint-sized. She planted one sneaker between his spread feet and leaned up. A good ten inches shorter, her determination bridged the gap between them. Her smoky-blue eyes leveled on his, and her lips compressed in a way that could have been construed as either concern or disdain. But he didn’t care one way or the other. He couldn’t afford to.
“The Jesse I know wouldn't ever turn tail. He'd fight for what he wanted. Admit it. You want to be a Hell Runner. You live for the job.”
Her words landed a direct hit. Of course they did. She was an Empath. Probably couldn’t control her gift any more than the urge to eavesdrop. He set his jaw to keep from reacting.
“I can give you your life back.” A tiny vertical line etched between her brows. “You deserve it.”
The princess of Hell Runners believed she could hit the reset button. He’d never pegged Prudence as a fixer. That was his territory.
“Well? You gonna stand there with the door open?” She wiggled her doorbell finger and her mouth quirked, knowing she'd piqued his curiosity.
His gut stirred with hope, and he hated it.
Like a stray cat, she edged toward the open space between him and the door.
Oh hell. Hearing her out would probably be the only way to get rid of her. And kill his desire to stay.He’d keep his hands to himself and his heart off his sleeve. He pulled the door back and stepped aside. “Make it quick.”
She slipped past him, darting for the vent blowing out heat, and held her hands to it. “Says the man who preaches patience.”
His heart softened a little more than was wise. Part of him wanted to believe she could do it. He wanted to cup her heart-shaped face in his hands and thank her for trying. No one had stood on his side in more than a month. He'd been alone before, but being shunned after all this time stung more than a butt full of buckshot.
Jesse closed the door and watched her sashay around his living room. As if a regular visitor, she shed her coat and tossed it over the rolled arm of the brown velour sofa. She wore a plain pink T-shirt, plain blue jeans, yet nothing about her ever struck him as plain.
He tore his eyes off her and strode back down the hall to his bedroom. Clothes wouldn’t pack themselves.
“Where are you going?”
“Don’t know yet,” he said over his shoulder. “But I’ll take some suggestions.”
“You can go to Hell.” She stopped at the doorway of his bedroom. “And I mean literally.” Her eyes flicked to the mess on the bed and on the floor, and to the empty drawer propped against the wall.
Not caring what she thought of the mess, he winged back the double doors to his closet. “I can’t enter Hell, even if I stay. Which I’m not.” Fisting two handfuls of hangers, he emptied the wooden rod, dumping it all on the bed.
Her mouth hitched in the corner with the kind of smugness that pissed him off. “You can once we earn back your reputation.”
“Earn it back?” The concept was almost laughable. He turned away from her, rubbing his tense neck muscles. Smart thing would be to flip her over his shoulder and tote her, kicking all the way, to her apartment on the other side of the Hell Runners complex.
But curiosity had him hooked—for the time being. He turned his head enough to glimpse her. “Supposing I was interested, how would I go about it?”
She picked up a few hangers’ worth of clothes and hung them in the closet. “We're going to find Swift and bring him home.”
Every muscle froze tight enough to shut down his circulation. She'd uttered the worst idea in history. He swallowed hard. “No, we're not. You're not cleared for the field.”
She gathered more hangers and then dropped another bomb.
“I can be—if you’ll be my partner.”
“Absolutely not.” He wrenched the clothes out of her hands. “And stop doing that.” He tossed the lot on the bed.
She plunked her butt down, anchoring the entire mess under her. “We both know, only Dad stands in my way. You can go back as long as you have a partner. The council will promote me to get you—their number one Runner—in the field again. Think about it for a second, Jess. It’s perfect.”
“No, it’s not. As you well know, I gave my formal resignation.”
Prudence stretched back and slipped her fingers into the front pocket of her pale blue jeans, retrieving a creased sheet of paper. Before she unfolded it, he knew she’d stolen his I quit note.
“One scribbled line isn’t exactly what I’d call formal. No address at the top, no cc to the council. Shoot, it looks to me like you weren’t serious.” She offered it to him. “Tear it up, Jess. Be my partner.”
Jacqueline Jayne is a multi-award winning author of paranormal romance who writes what she loves to read—adventure laced with deep insights on the human condition, and a hard-won happily-ever-after.
Her Hell Runners Series features fearless heroes and clever heroines determined to overthrow Hell’s demons while navigating the emotional ups and downs of falling in love.
Jacqueline enjoys everything sci-fi and paranormal, especially those Winchester Boys, Jon Snow and all things Star Trek. She loves spending time with her sports-crazy husband (even though she doesn’t get football or the infield fly rule) and their two sweet rescue cats.