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CASI 2.5 — an interlude with Heath and Monica

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CASI 2.5… The next story up in the CASI world is Lunatic Fringe, which is Heath and Monica’s story.  Since Shoot to Thrill was released on 31 December, I thought it’d be fun to play in their world, and give you a snapshot of how they first met.  And for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, check out Behind Blue Eyes & Shoot to Thrill at your retailer of choice.  In the comments below tell me 1) What is Sara’s job in Behind Blue Eyes, and 2) What kind of special forces are trying to kill Arin and Jonah?  I’ll pick a random winner on 1/5 and shoot you the gift card!

And after you’re done here?  Check out the next blog in the hop HERE or go back to where it all started and read some great stuff!

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The night I met Heath Farrell my life changed.  Just how much would come back to haunt me.

We were young then, just turned twenty-one, less than a year away from getting our degrees and charging out into the big wide world, ready to save it.

The bar was packed with students that New Year’s Eve night, which wasn’t really any different than a normal night in Austin.  We were watching the countdown in both Times Square and Dallas, ready for a reason to party to two different time zones.  And kiss a cutie we might not otherwise have the chance to lock lips with.

So when the ball began to drop in New York, I wasn’t so surprised that a warm, obviously male hand grasped my shoulder and turned me for a stranger-to-stranger smooch.  But the man in question, well, he stunned me into speechlessness.

Five… he was taller than me by at least three inches, even in my strappy little heels, and I had to lean back to look at his face

Four… his eyes were an icy blue I’d never seen before in real life, his face clean shaven and strong

Three… my hands rose to his chest and beneath my fingers, hard, lean muscle flexed and moved

Two… “Hello sunshine,” he murmured, and his voice rolled through me like thunder

One… “Monica, my name is Monica,” I squeaked

And then his lips were covering mine and everything inside me went molten and liquid.  Around me the crowd was whooping it up, but it was a dull sound I could barely hear over the roaring in my ears.

When his head lifted, those blue eyes had gone stormy, cloudy with passion.  All from one kiss.

He curled one of his hands around mine, pinning it to his chest.  “I’m Heath. Wanna do that again in an hour?”

He startled a laugh out of me, and when he smiled in response, I was a goner.

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Blog Hop Goodness!

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The oh-so-wonderful folks at the Blog Hop let me hop on the train late–so sorry for being tardy!  If you’re reading this as part of my normal blog, then please head to:  http://justromance.me/naughtynewyear/  and check out the nifty prizes they’re offering.  Many authors are also giving away books and gift certifs, so get to reading and filling your e-reader of choice!

Okay, now onto the excerpt!  This one is from the 4th book in my Runequest series, Breath of Heaven, and is a snippet of Liam and Rhiannon reuniting.  Hope you enjoy!!

Let me know what you think of the excerpt, and I’ll draw for a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate at the end of the hop.

Happy New Year!!!

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He settled onto a barstool, acknowledging the bartender with a nod, and ordered a Hennessey. He had a few moments before his set began, and couldn’t think of a better way to water down his disappointment and anger than with the spirits of his homeland. He was better off on his own, as he had been for over forty human years.

He took a sip, relishing the burn of the liquor as it slid down his throat, leaving a trail of warmth in its wake. The relaxation seeping through his body jerked to an abrupt halt as the amethyst gem he wore at his throat grew warm. A tremor of awareness ran up his spine, rumbling through his body to settle into a low, heavy throb in his groin. He’d only experienced these sensations once before, months ago on the Oregon coast.

He looked cautiously into the mirror and his breathing stuttered as he caught sight of her, framed in the doorway of the bar like a stunning portrait. All of the oxygen in the room seemed to disappear, leaving his lungs clogged and heavy.

She hadn’t changed. Her silvery hair still caught the murky light and seemed to amplify it; her skin still looked like the finest porcelain, as if it would shatter if touched too harshly. When their gazes clashed in the mirror, her eyes were the same; violet, luminescent, as if she were an innocent transported into a world not of her own making. It was a damned good thing he knew she was anything but.

What was she doing here, of all places? The one woman who made him forget who and what he was, what he’d done in the name of kith and kin. The one woman who’d speared a shaft of brutal sunlight into his life, even as she faced him down as an enemy. Rhiannon. Moira to the Fae. His bloodsworn enemy.

He watched as she realized who he was, the indrawn breath that drew the plain woolen sweater tight across her breasts, the fury flashing across her expressive face before she schooled it in a blank expression worthy of a diplomat.

She strode directly toward him, settling onto the barstool next to his, her spine ramrod straight. The bartender appeared as if by magic, and she dipped her head toward the half-empty lowball glass sitting in front of Liam.

The bartender shot Liam a disgusted glance, no doubt damning him for attracting the most beautiful, ethereal woman he’d ever seen. Liam patently ignored the glare, settling his attention on the fae instead.

She waited until she’d been served, taking a long draught before turning to him.

“Pixie,” she acknowledged, the fire he’d seen in her eyes banked now, but still there. Challenge burned in his gut.

“Fae,” he returned impassively. There was no godly reason she should be here, of all places. If this was a fae plot, and it surely had to be, then she could throw down the opening gauntlet. It wasn’t as if he had any information to give. His ties with the Jionagh were irrevocably severed, with the sole exception of his informant within the Jionagh, his best friend in youth, Dell. He’d learned the value of maintaining contacts, no matter how loathsome he might find them now.

He and the fae sat in tense silence, sipping at their drinks until each glass was drained dry. They were like poker players, Liam mused as he waited patiently … on the outside. Inside he was a seething ball of nerves and anger. She may be the very thing he’d been raised to despise, but damned if she didn’t hit every one of his buttons.

The way she looked, the scent of spring that seemed to follow her from the Realm, even here in the wilds of California. When she moved, it was a lesson in sensuality, yet he could tell now, and those months ago on the beach, that she chose not to deploy her sexuality, and instead used her brain.

It was her brain, her intellect, he was pitted against, and instead of the revulsion he knew he should feel, he was stimulated. She would make him think two steps ahead, this loathsome fae, make him question what he’d always wanted to see come to pass … the reunification of the fae and the pixies. A fool’s quest, he now knew. He’d been so close, with the Rune of Inspiration, so close. In retrospect, Fiona-Sidhe’s strength had saved them all, for if he’d done the unthinkable, trading the rune and a large piece of his soul for a foothold within the Jionagh, the world would have been irrevocably changed for the worse.

And now his nemesis, the Moira of the Fae, sat at his side, and all he could think about was the way her silvery hair fell over her breasts, and the fact she smelled like home. He should be contemplating a way to tame her awesome energy and use it to gain retribution against the mix of fae and pixie he had once called family. She would trump a rune, and solidify his claim to the Jionagh throne, where he might actually make a difference.

Rhiannon shifted, reaching into her purse, and Liam involuntarily flinched. Ridiculous, he scolded himself. It wasn’t as if she would employ a human weapon when her power, evidenced in Oregon, eclipsed his.

Instead, she pulled out a wallet, laid a twenty on the table, and stood.

Liam hated to break their stalemate and show weakness, but it must be done.

“Do you have it?” His voice sounded loud in the close confines of the intimate barroom, harsh and accusing.

She turned, facing him fully for the first time, and looked him straight in the eye. Awareness streaked through him, bringing his cock to life, throbbing and insistent behind the placket of his slacks. How could she incite him with just a look? And how could he respond? She was the enemy, the hated fae.

“Why would I share anything with you, pixie?” Her voice had a breathy quality to it he hadn’t heard before, but beneath was pure steel.

“Because the Jionagh would like nothing better than to discover it is still in Fiona-Sidhe’s possession,” he answered honestly, surprising even himself. “And that is a very dangerous position for all of us.”

When she smiled at his response, it was all teeth. “Ah yes, the Jionagh. You would have cause to know much about them, would you not, pixie? Their taint rises off you like a cloud.”

Even though Liam knew she was speaking metaphorically, the insult stung more than it should. She assumed because he was a trueblood he was allied with the pixies … she knew nothing of his now-dead alliance with the Jionagh. “Oh, aye, I know them. More intimately than you could ever dream.”

She inhaled sharply, as if he’d struck her, and he realized he had, at least verbally, in payback for her little jab. Acknowledging he knew of the Jionagh was tantamount to treason for her.

She regained her composure and smiled beatifically. “Die long and slow, pixie.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the bar, taking the attention of every male in the room with her.

Liam smiled in anticipation. This could be very interesting indeed.

Just Romance Me “The Bewitching” Blog Hop

Greetings, all!  If you’ve come to this site by way of the Blog Hop, then you’re on the right track.  If you didn’t, I highly suggest you hit the banner above and get yourself some blog hop goodness!  Seriously, there’s some great stuff being offered this round, and you know you want a Kindle Paperwhite, right???  My contribution to the main prize was a download of my Keira book Redemption, but play with me on the blog by telling me your favorite Halloween tradition and I’ll sweeten it by giving one commenter the choice of my backlist!

Okay, now onto the writing stuff…  Here’s the first chapter of Gardens of Stone, a book I’m working on in fits and spurts while I finish up a few projects.  It’ll probably be the next “new” book on the horizon for me, after I finish Shoot to Thrill and Duck & Run up. Hope you enjoy!

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Chapter One

Most fables begin with “once upon a time.”  Since this is no fable, I shall dispense of such frivolity and simply speak what I have witnessed to be the truth…

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The Adar Llwch Gwin whirled in the air above the battlefield, their great wings slicing through the air.  They numbered seven, and lived only to obey their sworn command on this day…to kill the first man to enter the field of battle.  They neither knew nor cared who that man would be, only that their mission was fulfilled.

Beneath them, men massed on the edges of the great meadow, hidden in copses and behind hedgerows, their hatred all but wafting into the heavens.  But none had yet lifted a weapon, so were safe from the Adar.

And then, from one eyeblink to the next, their mission had a focus.  A man strode forward, gesturing wildly with his sword, bidding his men to follow him.

As one, the seven beasts swooped from the sky, deadly talons outstretched.  They tore the man limb from limb as he wailed and screeched at them to stop, to cease as he ordered, as their owner.

But the Adar paid him no mind, and destroyed the man who had been their master, then perched on that bloodstained ground, awaiting new direction.

The men who had followed their master fled, the clank of their sword and armor loud in the gloaming.  And still the birds stood, emotionless as stone, as they would until a new Lord claimed them.

The opposition held, muttering amongst themselves, until a man exited the forest, sword strapped to his back, hands held out in supplication.  Behind him walked a mage, one whom the Adar knew by bloodline.  He was Merlin, kin to the Fae mistress who had first created, and then gifted the Adar to her husband.

The man leading Merlin halted and spoke to them, as if he understood their sentience.  And mayhap he must, if the magician stood by his side.  And then the Lord, Arthur by name, gifted them with something they’d never even dreamed.  Human form, the ability to put voice to their cognizance, and a noble mission clearer than they’d ever known…to search for, find and guard the Grail…

 

Gavin pressed a splayed palm against his wounded shoulder and gritted his teeth.  This was not how he’d expected to be animated from his prison of stone.

The vandal who’d fainted as soon as he’d become skin and bone—and a griffin at that—laid at this feet.  He’d shifted just seconds after the reanimation, but his defacer was already out cold.

The night swirled, dark and mysterious around them, the Ivy League college campus silent in the summer’s night.

He glanced left, then right, nothing catching his preternatural senses.  The human who’d known the exact words to say, in the exact ancient dialect and accent, was alone.

His stomach roared with hunger now that his perimeter had been cleared.  He ignored it for the moment, choosing instead to focus on the human form sprawled across the concrete stairs.  He’d need sustenance in the very near future, but could “deal”, as the current generation said, for the time being.  Right now he needed to know why his human sentinel, of all people, would attempt to bring him back whilst taking a slice of his shoulder.  It made no sense, and he was a great lover of making sense of things.

He bent, securing the vandal in his arms, surprised by the slight weight.  He focused on the child’s face and cursed foully.  Their sentinels were supposed to be prepared, to have immediate shelter, food and clothing available until the Adar could reach Haven.

As he straightened, he heard the whisper of cloth against leather, smelled the unmistakable scent of gunmetal and cursed silently once again.  Campus security…the very last thing he needed.

He took a deep breath, willing his shift even as he turned.  By the time he faced the policeman…policewoman, his senses corrected, and one he knew all too well…he’d fully shifted, his sentinel cradled in his front claws.  He screamed in the face of the stunned female and lifted himself on mighty wings.

*

Layla O’Neal stood, shell shocked and flatfooted, for the first time in her life.  She had not just seen a naked, incredibly hot man morph into a gigantic eagle, had she?  One who’d then flown away, holding a child in his claws?  No freakin’ way.

She’d no sooner had the thought than her feet were in motion, Glock drawn as she gave chase.  She had no idea what she’d seen, but it sure as hell wasn’t what she’d thought.  What she did know was that something was seriously hinky, and it was her job to figure it the hell out, and fast.

The flying beast—that’s all she would think of it as—was still in her line of sight, but not by much, as multi-story brick buildings and spires hid him—it—for too-long seconds.  And in those seconds that stretched into minutes as she searched, her mind tried to justify exactly who and what she’d seen.  Because before it had flown away, it had looked exactly like the griffin guarding the doors to the School of Finance.  Oh, hell no.

She pushed the thought away as she became more and more winded, her gaze jerking from above to the brick buildings creating a familiar maze and back again, searching for a threat, her nightstick banging against her hip with each step.

She rounded the corner, and instead of the griffin she’d fixed in her mind, the naked man stood again, guarding a clump of clothing she could barely make out as the child she’d seen earlier.

Bringing her Glock to bear, she set him in her sights cleanly.  Maybe a little too cleanly, because she could see…everything.  Including a penetrating amber gaze that caught her eyes like a sci-fi tractor beam.

And then “everything” began to weave.  Naked guy went down as if in slow motion, falling first to his knees, then to his hands, and still he maintained eye contact, as if that were the only thing keeping him alive.  “Protect the sentinel,” he rasped, and then fell face-down onto the dirty brick without another sound.

Layla blew out a holy-crap breath and edged forward, her Glock still at the ready.  Naked guy didn’t even twitch, and neither did the child behind him.  She stopped and lowered her weapon enough to take in the whole scene and considered her action.

Walking a beat in Four Corners had nothing on this when it came to violence, but on the weird scale, it was way up there.  It wasn’t as if she couldn’t call on Boston PD for this one, but since it had been on campus property, they had first dibs, unless the child was harmed.  Somehow she didn’t get that feeling, and not just from naked guy’s last words.  It was more the way he handled himself, as if the child was precious, rather than a commodity.  Harsh, yes, but in real life, a realism.

So instead, she’d fire up her Taser and keep it at the ready while she examined the child.

Then, and only then, would she call in Rick the Prick, her “back up” for this evening’s shift.  Sometimes it was better, safer, to go solo than to follow protocol and call for reinforcements.  Rick, on a good day, would seriously consider ventilating this perp.  On a bad day…all hell would break loose.  At this point, her curiosity was piqued enough to make her want answers more than an uncertain collar, especially when her Taser could take him down in about two seconds flat.

She holstered the Glock and armed the Taser, then got close enough to naked guy to prod him with her nightstick.  Nothing.  Edging around him, she kept the stun gun aimed at his back.  If he got all frisky, then he’d have a hell of a wake-up call coming.

She dropped into a squat next to the child, checking for a pulse at the carotid.  Rapid as all get out, but strong.  And then her patient began to move, swimming to the surface of consciousness.

Layla made a decision she hoped she wouldn’t regret and pulled the child away from the perp.  As she did, his hand closed around her ankle in an iron grip.  “No harm.”  His voice boomed, coming from everywhere, from nowhere, especially since he was still face-down on the bricks.  Freaked her the hell out even as it echoed through every cell in her body.

“No harm,” she agreed, pushing the child behind her back as she tried to extricate her foot and aim the Taser at the same time.

The bundle at her back came to sudden, screeching life, clawing at the hand holding the Taser.  “Not the Guardian,” a boy’s voice sobbed.  “My fault, all my fault.”

Layla wrenched her hand away from the suddenly active “victim” and squared her back against a wall, her ankle still firmly grasped by the “Guardian”.

After five years of being a street cop, handling this should have come easily, but it was so damned surreal that she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it.  So instead she moved the Taser from one target to the next and wished like hell she’d called in Rick.

The victim crawled to naked guy and pulled his head into his lap.  “Please don’t go back, please don’t go back.  We need you.”

“Shush, child,” that voice came again, seeping through Layla like good single-malt.  Her ankle was suddenly freed, and she quickly stood, moving away from the weirdness that had become her life over the past two minutes.

“On your feet, mister,” she ordered, Taser still aimed for the sweet spot in the high muscles of his shoulder.  If she had to shoot, the barbs would penetrate high and low and create a wicked-ass arc for the electricity to travel through.

“Stand down, warrior, while I tend the Sentinel.” Tall, dark and crazy pushed away from the child, taking care to shield his goodies while he settled into a crouch.

Layla was relieved on a base level, even as she pushed away the command in his voice.  This whole thing might be weird as hell, but she was glad her initial feeling of him not being a perv had been confirmed.  Sorta.  It didn’t stop her from keeping her aim true, though.  This would play out long before Rick could get here.

 

 

Earth Day Blog Hop — Excerpt from Ends of the Earth

Greetings all, and a blessed and happy Litha (aka Earth Day for most folks)!  I thought, for this blog hop, that it’d be appropriate to excerpt one of my Runequest novels, since they’re so tied to the elements (Baptism by Fire, Ends of the Earth, Sea of Dreams, Breath of Heaven).  And obvioulsy the title of this one–Ends of the Earth–struck me as being particularly appropriate.   Hope you enjoy!!

As a prize for this hop, I’ll be giving away the winner’s choice from my backlist.  On that note, if you didn’t know it, the first book in the series, Baptism by Fire, is free! Just swing by my Books page for links and to check everything out in case you win!

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Logan Whitefeather shifted his backpack more comfortably on his shoulders, prying the shovel blade away from his back and lifted his head, his attention snagged by fragments of words riding the scant breeze, lyrical and potent. Then he saw her, and stopped dead in his tracks.

A pagan goddess stood, not twenty yards away, brown robes swirling in a strong gust that cycloned around her, but nowhere else. Long, chestnut hair tumbled down her back in a riot of curls stopping just shy of her ass. Slender, well-defined arms were flung out, as if welcoming the world. Her chant raised the hair on his arms. “Mother Goddess, I humbly beseech you; return the Rune of Domain to its rightful guardian. Show me, with your guiltless wisdom, where it lies.”

Logan’s heart stuttered to a stop in his chest as he quickly considered what she was asking Mother Earth. Rune of Domain? There damn sure couldn’t be two mystical stones hanging out in the Los Angeles hardpack, so he was almost positive she was referring to the Moonstone. His relic. The question of the day was what he was going to do about it, if anything.

She solved it for him by swinging around and piercing him with a sharp, assessing glare, her face half hidden by a swath of hair. He wondered what had given him away, because he could’ve sworn he hadn’t made a sound.

“Begone mortal. You have no place here.”

No place here? Logan was stunned, sudden anger boiling his blood. This was his tribal land. Whoever she was, she was the usurper. “No place here? I have every right to be here. Who in the hell do you think you are?”

“I know who I am. Who you are is irrelevant.” She actually waved her hand, as if shooing him out of a room.

He strode forward in furious, ground-eating strides until he was within an arm’s reach of her. “That’s where you’re wrong, medicine woman.” He surveyed her body in one slow sweep, from the tips of her toes to the riotous mass of curls still covering half of her face. The side he could see was radiant, beautiful and so unbearably arrogant he had the insane, overwhelming urge to wipe the expression from her face with a punishing kiss. So he stepped forward to do just that.

What he got when he grasped her arm was the very last thing he expected. Power screamed up his fingers, crawling through his body like a living thing. He yanked his hand away with a muttered curse and stared at her.

“What are you?”

She still looked at him haughtily, face half-hidden, but something flickered behind her eyes.

“It is of no concern to you,” she paused as if weighing her words, “human.” When she answered him, he detected a hint of fatigue. Even with, or perhaps because of that fatigue, her voice took on a throaty Lauren Bacall rasp that shivered over his skin like pure sex.

Before he could blast her for performing rituals on the reservation, before he could even begin to consider the electricity still dancing over his nerves, she began chanting in a language Logan had never heard before and placed a cool hand on his forehead.

Logan’s muscles immediately froze, locked in place. Even his vocal cords were immobilized. Only his brain seemed to work, and it was whirling like a dervish. What in the hell had she done?

“Have no fear. The binding spell will only last a few moments.” Now the weariness in her voice was more evident. Not that he gave a damn.

She removed her hand and shifted, revealing her whole face for the first time.

As stunningly beautiful as one side had been, the other was covered in a mass of scars snaking across her cheek and chin, winding around one eye and disappearing into her hairline. Logan would have gasped if he’d been able. Her face was a perfect dichotomy.

A bitter smile tipped her lips. “Shocking, isn’t it? I can see it in your eyes.” She lifted a hand in salutation. “As always, it is of no matter. Be well, human.” Then she was striding away from him in quick, loping strides, robe billowing around her, molding to a delectable body that would have made his cock stand at attention—if it’d been capable of vertical motion.

Long moments passed as he stood, petrified, capable of only one thing—thinking. What in God’s name was she? He turned her words over in his head, hearing again the phrase that seemed the most important—Rune of Domain.

Just Romance Me Blog Hop–NOOK Grand Prize

Wanna win a Nook?  Check out some awesome writers in this blog hop, and register to win some great prizes!!!  Begins tomorrow at 0900!!!

Cupid’s Choice Blog Hop

Hopefully you got here via the blog hop bar at the top of the site, but if not, here’s the link that brings you into our web…bwah ha ha!!  http://justromance.me/

Here’s a story idea I’ve been playing with for awhile.  Hope you enjoy it!! And don’t forget to continue the hop all the way to the end to enter for some awesome prizes!!!

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Rose Carpenter prided herself on being a pretty normal woman.  Well, expect for the whole demon-servitude thing. How in the hell (ha ha, pun intended) she’d landed herself in this gig still boggled the mind.

And now she had six more months of her sentence to work through.  Some days, like today she didn’t know if she’d make it.

Yeah, this assignment seriously sucked.

The man she’d been assigned to monitor, hottie though he was, was boring.  Utterly, completely boring.

Right now he was in his basement, running on the treadmill, watching ESPN.  Stereotype, much?

And while seeing sweat roll down his so-fine chest was a bennie, her sentence had included deadening her libido, which really sucked.

She sighed and straightened out her invisible legs.

Martin McAllister would run his ever-loving heart out for the next forty-five minutes, and in that time, nothing incriminating or promisory would pass his lips.

Figured, she had to get the one “good” vice cop in the city as an assignment.  An angel to her devil.  It just wasn’t fair.  All she’d done was promise a tiny bit of her soul to help her get a promotion.  Unfortunately, Satan had heard and sent his regards. She’d had the job of her dreams for one whole day, then the “terms” of their agreement had come due.

One day of anchoring the news instead of being Barbie the Weather Girl.  One day where all hell had broken loose.  Where an earthquake had struck and almost swallowed the station whole.  She’d had a few minutes of gravy, and was now officially “missing”.

Yeah, her situation officially sucked.

Six more months of watching Mr. Perfect save the day and make the city safe, and then she’d be among the living again.

She didn’t usually feel this sorry for herself, but today was her thirtieth birthday and she had less than squat to show for those years.

Six more months, and her only hope for an early release was if Mr. Perfect fell from his lofty perch.

Considering the fact she now kinda liked him, okay, liked him a lot, that was highly unlikely.  She’d rather serve out the rest of her sentence than stick it to someone else, which meant she’d grown as a person, right?

Yeah, Martin was safe from her.

As if she’d spoken the words aloud, his gaze shifted to where she sat on the weight bench.

His eyes widened for one shocked moment before he blurted “Who the fuck are you?” and catapulted off the end of the treadmill.