Really, the book is done. I can't edit it anymore. I can't take it off the shelves and bring that one character who you loved back to life. It's out of my hands. Let's move on.
Through all this chaos with the Jane Doe series I realize my Heroes & Villains fans have all been super supportive even though their favorite series is down for the count. The books are scheduled to be reformatted next week and on schedule to be back up by mid-May. For now though, there's no pretty villain stories for you. So, just for fun, I'm posting the opening pages of Heroes & Villains 4 for your amusement. Enjoy!
Read the open pages below the break.
Maria... she takes after her villainous father Dr. Charm and started a play for world domination by taking over South America. Now the pleasure of power is wearing thin. She's older, wiser, and ready to quit being Evil Overlord. But power isn't something you can just give away and Maria is finding it harder than she thought to transform herself from Super Villain to The Girl Next Door.
Shakespeare once wrote that all the world was a stage, and once you realized that politics was nothing more than a billion dollar act, you knew everything. Maria leaned against the balustrade of a hotel in in Natal, Brazil that she'd already forgotten the name of. Outside, the camera crews gathered. Stern men and beautiful women in layers of stage makeup gave serious reports to riveted viewers and protestors screamed from behind road blocks. Hurray for politics.
"There you are." Vitoria Almeida, Maria's best friend, vigilant protector, and right-hand women grabbed her elbow and steered her away from the balcony. "I thought you'd slipped away already."
"No. Wish I could, but no," Maria replied in the same Portuguese Vitoria used.
Vitoria shoved a chapel veil into her hand. "Quickly. Mass starts in less than thirty minutes."
"Can't have the people seeing their evil overlord skip mass." Maria's lips twitched in a sardonic grin. "Do you think the good friar will try to beat me with a cross again this year?"
"I shouldn't complain. These things are good for ratings." Ahead of them a violet mist sparkled in the florescent light. That was Vitoria's doing. She was, like Maria, not quite human. Blessed with the ability to set up a defensive field that skimmed ahead of them knocking out everything from improvised explosives to bugs. Literal bugs, although she supposed Vitoria could dispense with the electronic kind too. Maria's own talent of controlling sparks of lightning, moving at the speed of light, and manipulating light to create illusions was all offensive really. Vitoria balanced that out.
"Strike, Miss Strike!" Heavy footsteps and heavier breathing heralded the arrival of Breno Rocha.
Maria raised an eyebrow. "You're making me late for mass."
"Here," he held out a paper. "This is what the reporters are going to go after today. Immigration, looting, the renewed drug trade, and of course everyone who hates you is wondering when you'll step down."
"Minor problems. I can still shoot anyone who argues with me. At least for a few more weeks."
Behind her, Vitoria sighed.
"What? No shooting?"
"It's bad for your image," Vitoria said.
"Right. Image." Maria ground her teeth. "How is the PR campaign coming along?"
"The initial pitch looks promising," Breno said. "We have the Defenders of the Southern Cross who come to the aid of the noble Dark Lady, Strike, and help her bring down the corrupt politicians and drug cartels."
"Too religious," Vitoria said instantly.
"Too white," Maria said at the same time. She shrugged when Vitoria looked at her. "Not every country I control is so ethnically balanced. Plus, the white girl from Texas coming down to rescue everyone? Shades of colonialism!"
Breno studied her for a moment. "You aren't white."
"I'm ethnically white."
"White's a color. You're ethnically Pardo American. Mixed race. Mutt," he said the last word in English with a happy smile.
Maria shook her head. "It's not going to play well outside of the cities in Brazil. There's too much weight. Besides, it's not like I managed to clean up everything. The drug trade is still going."
"It's not as strong as it was," Vitoria said as they resumed walking.
"Better armed," Breno muttered. When Vitoria glared at him, he shrugged. "I can't change facts, just spin them."
"Find a better spin," Vitoria said.
Maria held up a hand. "What if the Defenders rescued Strike? The poor little lost waif, broken and abused, lashing out in a rage against the cartels? They came to her aid, helped her see the light, turned her to God -"
"Still too religious," Vitoria said.
"Religion plays well to the voters. They like pious women," Maria said. "So the Defenders turned Strike to God, taught her how to love the people, and now see how happy she is? No longer killing, and happily stepping away from her throne of evil to stand with the Defenders in the defense of defendable things? This is why I don't write my own speeches."
Breno wrinkled his nose. "I'll work on it."
"Veil on," Vitoria ordered.
Maria secured the white lace chapel veil over dark hair and smoothed her too long black skirt. "How do I look?"
"Evil," Vitoria and Breno said together.
"But in a good way," he added.
Vitoria shrugged. "It'll work. Here, touch up your lipstick and remember to glare at the cameras like you intend to melt the viewer's faces off."
"Isn't that a little vicious?"
"Do you want the peace to get brokered or not? Until we have the Mães Righteous on our side you can't let up. People need to believe that there is a chance this election cycle will fail. You need to get them hot-blooded and angry. Remember?"
"Right. Anger the voters. Bring them out in droves. Viva la revolution!"
"That's the spirit." Vitoria touched up her lipstick, a deep blood red that looked like she'd feasted on the souls of innocents, and pushed the door open. Violet light crackled in front of them, disarming the crowds and keeping the three of them safe.
Lucas Gonzales, a reporter for the most popular evening news program, was outside the door wearing a three-piece suit despite the humid weather and going on about something in his "deeply disturbed voice number four". He caught sight of her, "Madame President, what do you have to say to those people who don't feel you're addressing the Arab immigration problem fast enough?"
"I say I can shoot anyone who asks questions I don't like." Maria smiled as she let a flicker of lightning flare along her arm and pool in her hand. "Dissent is welcome. I like to have my enemies where I can see them."
"Madame President!" Another reporter shoved a microphone in her face. She was female with a strange accent, and Maria didn't recognize her.
"Do you believe the people of Brazil will have a fair election?"
"Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
"Do you deny that your enforcers have been trying to keep people from the rural areas from registering to vote?"
"Enforcers?" Maria scowled at Vitoria who shook her head the tiniest bit. "What enforcers? When have I ever used enforcers? If I don't want someone to vote, I'll kill them. It's that simple. But look, here I am in an open plaza with people all around. They seem happy to me. What do you see?"
The reporter recoiled even though the protestors in the background were clearly yelling, some of them for blood. This was an angry crowd cowed to resisting with words only because of fear.