Stalking the Moon
Angel Leigh McCoy
Genre: Supernatural Suspense
Publisher: Wily Writers
Date of Publication: April 24, 2020
Number of pages: 290
Word Count: 88,868
Cover Artist: DIStudios.pl
Tagline: A New Mythology for the 21st Century
Normal life is complicated enough. Add magick to the mix, and suddenly all hell breaks loose!
Viviane doesn’t have time for voices in her head or monsters in her bed! Her family relies on her. She’s in charge of a mentally ill mother, a sneaky grandfather, and a sexy (but delusional) fiancé. And yet, the whispers in her mind are barging into Reality—with claws and teeth and murderous intent.
When her fiancé goes missing, she’ll do anything to find him. If that means magical, mythical creatures hunt her down, then so be it. This could be the end of her life as she’s known it, but well… Consequences be damned.
Excerpt from STALKING THE MOON:
The staff entrance was on the women’s wing, near the employee parking lot. Out of habit, I entered there. Nurses, orderlies, and doctors all greeted me as I made my way to Richard’s office.
Richard was seated at his desk. “Hey, Vivi. Come on in.” He rebuttoned the collar of his white, custom-fitted dress shirt.
“Howdy.” I shut the door behind me and went to the leather couch. It was overstuffed with a high back and deep seat. I felt small on it, but that was part of Richard’s evil plot. Plus, it would have been impossible to fall off it while under hypnosis. It cradled me.
“What part of my psyche are we going to poke today?”
Richard folded his arms on the desk, a pen flapping in one hand as he looked me over. “I want to revisit your early days,” he said. “I’ve been going through the transcripts of our sessions, compiling them, and there are a couple things I’d like to revisit.”
“Let’s get to it then.”
The first time I met Richard, back in the early days, he was finishing his last year as a graduate student in the Psychology Department at the University of Illinois. He was in Peoria doing an internship at the counseling center, and Abram had dragged me there to get my head fixed—at the junior high principal’s request.
Back then, Richard had a long ponytail and was every teenage girl’s dream of the older college boy. I was only thirteen, and he was taller than me, though that changed when I had my growth spurt a few years later.
Thirteen-year-old Me had gone into his office with a chip on my shoulder, hating Abram, hating my illness, and hating Dr. Richard Reuter before I’d even met him.
He’d appeared in the waiting room and asked, “Viviane? Right? Would you come with me?”
“I don’t got a choice.”
Abram hissed, “Hey,” at me, and said “Be nice.”
I walked into the office and went straight to a chair, flopped there, and crossed my arms on my chest. The first thing I noticed that interested me was the plate of cookies on the coffee table. They were chocolate chip and appeared homemade. I pretended not to see them. I didn’t want him to think I was going to stay all that long, and besides, my stomach didn’t feel too good.
Richard sat in the chair opposite me and watched me for a full minute. Finally, he asked, “How old are you?”
“Fifteen.” It was a bold-faced lie.
“I know you’re lying.”
I asked, “How old are you?”
“Are you gay?” I said with vehemence, calculating his possible reactions.
He didn’t even flinch. “Viviane, do you know why your grandfather brought you here?”
“Because he’s a sociopath afraid of being noticed. I draw attention to him, and he wants me to stop.”
He smiled at that, and for the first time, but not the last, I thought how handsome he was.
In that first session, he didn’t hypnotize me, though later, it became a regular part of our therapy sessions. Richard felt it was the best way to track down the source of my hallucinations. He would take me back to the time before my first hallucination, and we’d go over the events of a day or two in each session, gradually working forward through my memories. It was my own personal reality-TV show.
One time, I had what can only be described as a past-life memory, or maybe a dream. Both Richard and I waved it off as an aberration, though I never forgot it. The dream had been wonderful, about a place with emerald hills, crystal streams, and a palace that felt like home. Whenever I thought about it, I could still imagine the smell of honeysuckle on the breeze.
Twenty years later, I was thirty-three, and our regressions were catching up to the conscious flow of time. In the hypnosis sessions, he recorded my soul in bits and pieces, saved forever as audio recordings, transcribed to digital documents, and printed out on paper. He kept the files in his cabinets.
I’d often wondered what would happen when we finally caught up to the present moment. Maybe I’d die. Maybe he’d die. Maybe the entire world would end as the Ouroboros swallowed its own tail.
“All right.” Richard got up from his desk. “I’m ready, if you are.” He sat in the chair opposite me and leaned forward to turn on the metronome.
I said, “Take me to a happy day.”
“You know the drill. Close your eyes, relax, and remember.”
Not every tick and tock of the metronome sounded the same. The differences were subtle, but they were there if I listened for them. It was a song without rhyme or reason.
It started small and distant: tick.
The cuckoo clock on the wall at Abram’s house had to be wound. I loved pulling the chains that raised the heavy, metal pinecones. Tock. It had been my job, every morning, when I was a kid. My body rocked to the beat: tick tock. Time ebbed, and space flowed. My spine relaxed. Tick. Gravity released me. Tock. The metronome sang its song in my belly. Tick tock. I was energy, and I radiated.
“We’re going to continue our journey back in time,” Richard said. The waves of his voice rippled through me, and the present faded into the background.
I followed the metronome down into a trance. We had a signal. I raised a finger to indicate that I was ready to begin.
“Go back,” Richard suggested, “to the moment when you first met Simon, when you were thirteen.”
The scene formed around me, inside me, throughout me.
“Describe it to me.”
I’m home, and I’m taking a shower. There’s blood running down my leg. It’s swirling in the water and spinning down the drain. I know what it is. Lettie’s had hers since last year, and she took me to buy the stuff I’d need. I’m really glad I didn’t have to do that with my grandpa.
Lettie and me, we read the little instruction book that came in the box and made fun of the pictures. She warned me how it would be, the cramps and mess, but it’s worse when it’s actually happening. It’s scary and weird. I keep thinking that my blood is supposed to stay in my body.
So, I’m standing there in the shower, watching my blood drain away, and I’m trying not to cry, wondering if I’m going to die, and that’s when I hear a man. He sounds like James Bond. “You’re probably not going to die.”
I scream and cover my private parts with my hands, but no one’s there.
The voice says, “What I mean is, you are going to be just fine.” But nobody’s there. I’m freaking out. I jump out of the shower and run through the house. I’m screaming.
The voice is following me. “Oh, lass, it’s okay.”
I streak into the kitchen, and my grandpa is there, trying to calm me down.
I’m crying, naked and wet, shaking all over, blood staining my leg, and Grandpa thinks I’m upset because of my period, but that isn’t it. It’s the man talking to me right next to my ear, when there’s nobody there.
He says his name is Simon.
The metronome sang. Tick. Tock.
About the Author
Angel Leigh McCoy wears author, game designer, and audiobook narrator hats—sometimes simultaneously. She is the creative force behind the Wyrdwood series of novels and the Dire Multiverse audio drama. She was a senior writer on the award-winning video games CONTROL and GUILD WARS 2.
Her work on the White Wolf World of Darkness series included books for Mage, Vampire, Changeling, and several others. She was also the first female game designer on the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS team at Wizards of the Coast. These days, she works from home and is intent on building her own epic worlds, including Wyrdwood and the Dire Multiverse. Her cats approve.
Entitles you to partake of the Audible Originals titles offered free each month to members. (all-told, a $45 value) If you’ve ever wanted to try audiobooks, this is the time.
5 – Wyrdwood Welcome Swag Bags
Each swag bag includes:
-Free ebook copy of JUMPING THE MOON, Wyrdwood Welcome Book #2, due for release on May 15, 2020.
-A “Proud to be Wyrd” pin
-A Wyrdwood magnet
-Invitation to the private and exclusive Wyrdwood Facebook group
-Treats from the “Wyrdwood Candiporium”
-A surprise toy!
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal
Publisher: Kensington/Lyrical Press
Date of Publication: 12/8/2015
ISBN: Ebook 978-1-61650-989-7 /
ISBN: Print 978-1-61650-990-3
Number of pages: 233
Word Count: 88,373
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde
In a world divided by war, falling in love is the ultimate betrayal.
Galena Shantos has never questioned her loyalty to Eden. As sister to the Myren king, she serves as a healer, one of the best in the army fighting to suppress the brutal Lomos Rebellion. She’s never doubted the importance of stopping the rebels bent on enslaving humans, until she spots a warrior across enemy lines—and knows instinctively that their destinies are entwined. . .
Rebellion warrior Reese Theron has nothing left to lose. He’s been forced to fight on the wrong side of a war he abhors in order to protect his family secret. His honor lost, as well as the trust of his own people, Reese has thrown himself into a battle he cannot possibly hope to survive. But after being rescued by a beautiful woman whose exquisite eyes seem to see him for more than the traitor he’s become—he may have just found a new reason to live. . .
A lightning bolt sheared past Reese into the smoke-filled night sky and left an acrid stench in its wake. Streaks of fire and blue-white fingers of electricity flared so bright he could barely focus. He wasn’t getting out of this. Not this battle, or this life, with any modicum of honor.
Darting through the air, he dodged another electrical strike.
An elite flashed into view and swung wide, his bloodied dagger aimed at Reese’s gut.
Reese barrel-rolled up and over his attacker, wrapped him in a chokehold, and masked their presence from the rest of the fighters. Praise the Great One, he should be fighting beside this warrior, not against him.
The warrior flailed and tried to break free, the lack of footing giving him zero leverage. He slumped, unconscious, into Reese’s ready hold seconds later.
He lowered them both to the tree line at the battle’s edge, out of site from the rebels. The man couldn’t be more than twenty years outside his awakening. Probably barely into his elite torc and cuffs. Beneath Reese’s fingers, the man’s pulse thrummed slow, but steady. At least this innocent’s death wouldn’t be on his conscience.
A twenty-five-foot wall of flame exploded across the open field and rattled the air and earth around them. The bright flare faded under heavy night, and more rebellion warriors thunked to the mottled field.
The sharp rustle of leaves against the forest floor sounded down the tree line, one quick shift and then silence.
Reese backed deeper into the foliage and strengthened the mask that kept him hidden. It couldn’t be a rebellion man. All those were engaged against the malran’s warriors. Focusing his thoughts, he sought the soulless black thread that represented the link he’d grudgingly created with Maxis Steysis, and traced his location.
No, not the rebellion leader either. His energy showed more than ten miles to the east, well away from the fight. Reese levitated off the forest floor and floated through the trees. Gnarled and leafless branches scraped his cheek and shoulders.
Darkness enveloped him, broken only by the bright attacks where the forest opened to the battle beyond.
There. Not five feet from the tree line, a figure knelt facing the battle.
He drifted closer. The sweet, damp scent of soil and decomposing leaves overpowered the metallic residue of electrical strikes floating on the wind. Grunts, shouts, and the too-frequent thuds of perished men sounded in a haphazard pattern.
A flash spotlighted long, auburn hair. A woman. Bowed over a body, she cradled a fallen companion’s head in her lap.
Reese angled to better see her and nearly faltered in holding his mask. His heart kicked in an awkward rhythm and reality faded to nothingness. Galena Shantos, sister to the malran. The last person he wanted to witness his disgrace.
Seventy years since he’d seen her this close. Her elegant features were still as staggering as the days when he’d trained to serve the malran, but there was more to her now. A confidence in the way she protected her charge and watched the battle.
Knowledge behind her tropical blue-green eyes that spoke of experience and age.
And he fought alongside the men who battled her brother.
Galena flinched at another blast and hugged the limp body she cradled tight. As the light dimmed, she uncurled from her burden.
Another woman, her long blond hair stark against Galena’s black tunic and leggings, and her sightless eyes aimed at the heavens.
No. Surely not. Reese crept closer, pressure building at his temples. The zings and thunder of battle rumbled louder, and his gut clenched.
Phybe. She’d been alive when Reese left her, tucked away in a zeolite mine where Maxis couldn’t trace her link. He touched down in the thick carpet of leaves at Galena’s right and dropped his mask. “I failed her.”
Galena jerked and reached for something beneath one leg. “Who are you?”
Smudges marked Phybe’s ashen face, her blue gown torn and satin slippers stained. Somehow Maxis had found her and finished the job he’d sent Reese to do. “He’ll kill me for trying to save her.”
More strikes burst through the thick residual smoke, the malran’s fighters airborne and casting one attack after another. Fewer than twenty rebellion men still lived, half retreating north.
“A cause that fights without honor isn’t worth fighting, is it?” he said.
Galena straightened and squared her shoulders. “I’d have a hard time counting on honor from any man who fights with Maxis.”
“You’re right. I gave that up the moment I agreed to his schemes.” He crouched beside them.
Galena tensed and tightened her grip on whatever she hid beneath her leg.
Reese palmed Phybe’s forehead, cool and lifeless. May your journey be swift and your spirit find peace with The Great One. The same Myren prayer he’d offered his mother when she’d drawn her last breath. He stepped back. Maybe it was time to find his own peace. On his own terms. “You don’t remember me do you?”
She shook her head. A terse, barely-there jerk as she eased from beneath her dead charge, crouched on the balls of her feet and coiled for escape.
“My name is Reese Theron.”
She froze, flashes of light from the battle winking off the edge of her blade. She assessed him head to toe, no spark of recognition.
Maybe if he’d been braver all those years ago, he’d have had a chance with her. Or broken his vow and killed Maxis himself when he’d had the chance. He shook the memories off. He’d taken the wrong path and now it was time to pay. “Call your guards. Make sure they know you’re in danger.”
A gunshot rattled the skies and a woman’s blood-curdling scream sounded across the battlefield.
Galena lurched to a stand and then stopped, zigzagging her attention between the shouts along the battlefield and Phybe’s body.
Now was his chance. Either he took the brave farewell, or he’d die by Maxis’ hands. “Your face is a good one to remember. Go with The Great One, Galena.” He shot to the sky and built a violent ball of energy in his palm, sharp tendrils darting from its center. Drawing back, he aimed the bogus attack at Galena. Surely The Great One would understand.
An elite guard spun from across the skies and drew back for counter- attack.
Reese braced for impact.
A streak of auburn flashed below him. Galena, spearing through the air, her trajectory centered between the elite and Reese.
The energy in his palm fizzled. Not her. Not Galena.
Lightning fired from the elite’s palm, sheered past Galena’s cheek, and pierced his shoulder. He jerked and spasmed, locked in place by the force of the strike. Blue-black spots dotted his vision and his lungs seized.
A woman’s scream ripped through the air.
Wind whipped around him, dead weight as he fell, and darkness took over.
* * * *
Galena twisted midair and shot toward Reese, wind blurring her eyesight.
His arms and legs flailed boneless as he hurtled to the earth.
She’d never make it before impact. Even if he survived the fall, Jagger’s strike had been a killing shot, off by inches at most.
Reese crashed against the unforgiving ground, his head and limbs thunking against the trampled turf.
She landed seconds behind him. The sticky iron scent of blood, dirt, and sweat surrounded her. So many men strewn across the grass, their bodies contorted in unnatural shapes.
Less than ten feet away one of her brother’s men struggled for breath, unconscious with a trail of blood at his temple. A loyal fighter who’d battled against an indecent and cruel rebellion.
But it was Reese her palms burned to touch. To feel the beat of his heart. She dropped to her knees and rolled Reese to his back, muscles surging with wells of strength she’d never felt.
His pulse fluttered beneath her fingertips, faint and irregular.
A thud sounded behind her. Her name registered, a voice she recognized.
She ignored the call. Shedding her mortal form, she dove into Reese’s unconscious body and let her spirit spread and assess. Gaping, charred flesh at least two fists wide, muscle and sinew around it lifeless from the electrical shock. She followed the damage, too much impairment radiating dangerously close to his heart. She couldn’t lose him. Traitor or not, her instincts didn’t care. Only knew this moment would shape the rest of her life in a way she didn’t dare ignore.
Shouts rang out beside her. Short, brusque words delivered with a frustrated bite. Footsteps shuffled around her and the injured moaned. Detached in spirit but still connected to her physical senses, the muffled distractions rattled as she healed.
Five inches. That was the gift of her intervention. Had she not flown in the path of Jagger’s bolt, he’d have pierced Reese’s heart. Blood seeped from the violent gash and his heart trembled with the aftershocks of the delivering jolt.
Swift and sure, she spread her spirit, cauterizing and mending the most critical lesions. A touch here. A brush there.
Near his heart, a fine opaque mist appeared.
Her spirit vision faltered. The odd substance settled into every nook and cranny. It shimmered and sparkled, a mix between morning dew and midnight fog. Seventy years she’d been healing men and not once had she seen anything like it.
“Damn it, Lena, we need you.” The admonition rang in her ear and a firm hand clamped on her shoulder.
Galena ripped her spirit from Reese’s body and spun in a levitated twist to a defensive crouch, hands lifted to protect herself. Her vision wavered.
Ramsay came into focus, the whites around his gray eyes glowing in a way that promised dire loss of control and a vicious scowl aimed squarely at her. “What in histus is wrong with you?”
Her knees nearly buckled. Maybe she’d put too much into her healing. “He’s wounded.”
“He’s a traitor. To me and to Eryx.” Glaring at her, he swept his arm behind him. “What about them?”
There were dozens of them. Good men, battered, bloody, and fatigued. Most were upright and lumbering across the battlefield, checking for rebellion survivors. Six were laid out for triage close to Maxis’ estate, Eryx and Ludan seeing to their care.
Her cheeks burned and her stomach pitched. There wasn’t any logic to defend her actions. She’d acted on pure emotion and instinct, and put the lives of loyal men at risk, but she still wouldn’t change what she’d done. Not a second. A truth she wasn’t altogether sure how to process.
“Focus on the ones worthy of your gift. Not someone—”
“Enough.” She straightened and met her brother’s scowl. Every muscle shook with fatigue. “I watched an innocent woman die tonight. Held her in my arms while she screamed.”
“Trust me.” Ramsay glowered at the unconscious man behind her. “He’s not innocent.”
For years she’d trusted her brothers. Loved and followed them with unwavering loyalty wherever they asked her to go. Until this moment. She inched forward on trembling legs, hands fisted at her sides. “Innocent or not, I saw goodness in him. Watched him say a prayer over Phybe’s body and felt his grief. Healing is my gift to use when and how The Great One guides me. Not to be commandeered and directed by a man swept up in the heat of battle. Life is life, no matter whose heart feeds it.”
Ramsay sneered. “Even Maxis Steysis?”
Nearly six hundred years their families had been at war, since their grandfather left Maxis’ grandmother pregnant at the altar in favor of a commoner.
“Everyone has a shred of goodness in them.” Well, maybe not Maxis. But she’d be damned if she let Ramsay question her judgment. There was a reason she was drawn to Reese. She just needed a little time to figure out why. “If you’d stop and think for a minute you’d know saving him is a smart move. If he fought with Maxis, he knows things. Things you won’t be able to learn anywhere else.”
Reese’s chest rose and fell, slow and steady. With a push from her senses, she registered the faint but solid rhythm of his heart. More than anything she ached to kneel beside him. To finish the job she’d begun and skim her fingers through his wild hair. Perhaps link her fingers with his long, tapered ones and rest alongside him while she waited for him to wake.
Praise The Great One, what was wrong with her? This protectiveness didn’t make sense.
Eryx’s best friend and somo, Ludan, shouted from the furthest edge of battle. “Ramsay.”
Galena knew that tone. Had heard it after too many battles. Another warrior in need of care. With a last glance at Reese to placate herself, she headed in Ludan’s direction. “I’ve got it.”
Three steps in she stopped and glared at Ramsay. “You may not care for him. May see him as the vilest of men. But do not disrespect my gift by hurting him.”
She left her frowning brother behind, and prayed the promise of a traitor’s information would stay Ramsay’s hand until she returned.
Rhenna Morgan writes for the same reason she reads—to escape reality.
Yes, her life rocks—two beautiful little girls, a great husband, a steady job, and the kind of friends that would take you out back if you hurt her. But, like most women, she’s got obligations stacked tight from dusk to dawn. So, when the world gets her down, she slips into something…less realistic.
Romance is a must. So is a steamy romp (or four). Nothing thrills her more than the fantasy of new, exciting worlds, strong, intuitive men, and the sigh of, “Oh if only that could happen to me.”
So, if you’re picking up one of her books, expect portals into alternate realms and men who’ll fight to keep the women they want. Romantic escape for the women who need it.
$25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Carina Press
Date of Publication: October 28, 2013
Word Count: 76,000
An estranged mate, a mangled body and a powerful demon who calls her by name…
As a Realm Walker for the Agency, Juliana Norris tracks deadly paranormal quarry using her unique ability to see magical signatures. She excels at her job, but her friends worry about her mysterious habit of dying in the line of duty without staying dead. That’s only the first of her secrets.
Most people don’t know Juliana became the mate of master vampire Thomas Kendrick before he abandoned her seven years ago. Most people don’t know the horrors she endured at the hands of the vampire he left in command. Most people don’t know her true parentage, or why a demon on a world-threatening rampage has taken a personal interest in her…
Even as Juliana pursues the demon, it goes after all she holds dear—including Thomas, who is back to claim her for his own. But if she can’t reconcile her past and learn to trust herself again, she will lose him forever.
The troll picked her up with nothing more than his teeth in her shoulder and shook her like a hellhound with a chew toy. She clenched her jaw in pain and let out a terrible keening groan as muscle and tendon ripped. She fought her base instinct to struggle, to squirm away from the source of the pain. If she did, she’d only injure herself further. Blood poured from the wound, staining the ground a horrible, vibrant crimson.
A growl tore through the clearing seconds before a brown blur flew through the air and landed on the troll’s back. Nathaniel. They all rocked forward with the impact and fresh pain lanced through her shoulder. The troll roared in anger, releasing Juliana’s shoulder by default and she dropped to the ground. She backed away, eyeing the two of them warily. The troll reached over his back, trying to grab Nathaniel who still had his teeth and claws dug deep into the beast. The wolf snarled, growled and shook his head as the troll danced around the clearing trying to get a grip on his attacker.
Juliana’s arm hung limp and worthless by her side. Pain burned through the wound and nausea rose in waves. Her head swam. She swallowed the acid down, sucked in crisp, cool air. She used her right hand to wrap her left arm around her waist in an effort to keep the shoulder from moving any more than necessary.
“Nathaniel,” she yelled as the troll ran backward into the trees.
He slammed his back with Nathaniel still attached into the trunk of a large oak tree once, twice, three times. The blows stunned Nathaniel enough that the troll was finally able to snatch the wolf and hurl him across the clearing. Her friend lay unmoving on the ground.
The troll locked crimson eyes on her and stalked across the clearing. She fought every impulse inside of her that told her to run and waited for him to come. One taloned hand wrapped around her throat and picked her up. Pulling her close, the troll roared in fury once they were almost nose to nose. She wrapped her legs around his waist to take the pressure off her throat. Juliana raised the Taser and jammed it into his ear. Not caring anymore if she fried his brain, she squeezed and held the trigger. His roar changed to one of agony.
He released her throat and raised both hands to his head. He stumbled backward in an effort to get away from her but her legs stayed clamped around his waist. She continued to pour electricity into him until he dropped to his knees. Only then did she put her feet on the ground and back away.
Her opponent stayed on all fours, shaking his head, trying to clear it. The air hung heavy with the scent of burnt fur and troll. As he rose to a kneeling position, she adjusted her grip on the weapon. From the corner of her eye she saw Nathaniel stagger to his feet.
The troll held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “No more, Walker. I will go where you ask. Wherever you ask.”
Relief eased the tightness in her chest. She wasn’t sure she was up for another round of Taze the Troll. She ran her thumb along the side of her ring preparing to use it to call the portal tied to it. Then the troll began to laugh. A low sound at first, it quickly grew to a volume that made her ears ache. Great. She had fried his brain and now she had a crazy troll to deal with.
After putting more distance between them, she put her Taser away and drew her sword. It left the sheath with a ring of steel. She adjusted her hand on the grip. Nathaniel came to stand beside her, leaning his weight into her leg to let her know he was near. “You okay there, Mr. Troll?”
He opened his blazing red eyes and looked at her. “I’ve had your blood, Juliana Norris. It tells me things.” Apparently it told him her name, because she’d never given it.
Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Publisher: Carina press
Word Count: 68,000
Juliana Norris, Realm Walker with the Agency, is an Altered. A fact that she runs up against every time she’s forced to work with human police officers, and their species-ist commissioner, on cases they can’t solve themselves. Which happens more than they would like to admit.
Her gift—the quality that makes her the best Realm Walker in the business, without boast—is the ability to read magical signatures. Whether the gift came from her father, the dark fae god of death, or the mage mother she can’t remember, is anyone’s guess. And when Altered children start going missing with only wild magical signatures as clues, her heritage is the last thing on her mind.
She can’t afford such distractions, and she definitely can’t afford to worry about the fact that her mate, master vampire Thomas Kendrick, hasn’t spoken to her since she saved him from a demon—maybe it’s because she had to stab him to do so. Because whoever is kidnapping these children must be very powerful to wield wild magic. Very powerful, and very dangerous indeed.
In the warm afternoon light, a lone swing rocked back and forth in a steady rhythm, its chains groaning a mournful dirge despite the fact no one sat upon it. It hadn’t faltered once in the hour since the child vanished. The fifth to disappear in three weeks. Each one taken in front of at least a dozen witnesses who couldn’t recall a single thing later—no details of when they’d last seen the child, nothing about any strangers hanging around. They didn’t even recollect hearing a scream of protest. In this case, every student and teacher on the playground had been distracted at the same exact moment, but no one could remember by what when asked.
Police and technicians swarmed the steps of New Hope Elementary and the courtyard in front. All of them instinctively avoided the playground and the magic at work there. All except the figure that stood in the far corner by the rusty swing set, hands in her pockets as the late-October wind whipped around her, snatching at her clothes and carrying the scent of burning leaves. Her hair was short but still long enough for her to catch an occasional glimpse of the royal-blue streaks among the black as it blew into her face. She tucked an errant strand behind one ear, but doubted it would stay put for long.
A Realm Walker, an officer for the Agency, Juliana Norris was here because the first policeman on the scene had called her directly. This wasn’t the Agency’s investigation. Not yet, anyway. Her involvement was strictly advisory until the commissioner climbed down from his shiny pedestal long enough to admit local law enforcement wasn’t up to doing the job on their own. While the victims thus far had been Altered, the perp hadn’t been identified. Since it was possible a human was behind this, Commissioner Phipps claimed jurisdiction. No one high enough at the Agency cared enough to contradict him. Yet.
Her phone vibrated at her hip. She glanced at the screen as she pulled it out—Ben Nichols, her boss. The initial kidnappings had garnered so much attention in the Altered community he’d been forced to cut her suspension short by a week—an action he hadn’t been happy to take at all. A fact he reminded her of every day.
“Norris,” she answered and braced herself for another reprimand.
“You haven’t filed a report. What’s your status?”
The clipped tone of his voice exhausted her. She was tired of the daily conflict. “I haven’t filed a report because there is nothing to report. We know nothing further than we did before.”
“I took you off suspension to get results, Norris. So far I’m not impressed.”
“No, you took me off suspension because you didn’t want to get shredded by the press for keeping the Walker with the best record out of the game while the Thief does his hunting. You know I’m the most likely to find him.”
There was a stretch of silence. “I know you are. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
He hung up and she slipped her phone back into her pocket. Her insistence she was the best Walker for the job had nothing to do with arrogance and everything to do with her particular blend of talents.
She possessed a gift that enabled her to see the unique signature of any living being. A signature was a spectrum of colors that told her exactly what type of creature an individual was, no matter how artfully they might try to hide it. She could also see the signature of a spell cast on anyone, or anything, other than herself. Whether the gift came from her father, the dark fae god of death, or the mage mother she couldn’t remember, was anyone’s guess.
Activating her gift made her eyes glow several shades brighter than their normal emerald, so she kept them hidden behind a pair of dark glasses. She studied the muddy brown of the stasis spell used on the swing. This particular shade of brown marked it wild magic. Dangerous magic. It also meant that whatever cast the spell wasn’t using his own power. Wild magic belonged to no one; it simply existed. And its signature was strong enough she hadn’t been able to get a read yet on what was doing the casting. It could be a mage, a fae, a god or anything else with any kind of magic ability. Which narrowed the suspect list down to about nine-tenths of the Altered community.
What she did know was the magic took great power or skill to wield. While it was better for everyone if they did, power and skill didn’t necessarily go hand in hand. Maybe luck would be with them for once and one of the bastard’s spells would backfire and fry him.
Genre: urban fantasy, dark fantasy
Date of Publication: August 30, 2014
Number of pages: 20
Keep your distance. Don’t look him in the eye. Feed him and leave.
Michael D’Augustino is a priest in the time of the Inquisition. Marked as weak for his refusal to torture those charged with sorcery, heresy, devil worship or worse, he’s given another task. Feed the prisoner in the cell in the darkest corner of the dungeon. With the edict comes a set of instructions.
Ever obedient, Michael does exactly as he is told. Until the night his charge doesn’t eat and Michael has to enter the cell to find out why. Instead of the beast he believes to be imprisoned there, he finds a man. A broken, tormented man who asks for help.
But all is not as it seems and, before the night is through, Michael will be changed forever.
An unlit torch hung on the wall beside the cell and Michael took the flint from the table beneath it. His hands shook as he tried in vain to light the torch. Finally, it sparked and flared to life. With trembling fingers, he pulled it from the wall and reopened the door. Stepping quickly inside, he shut the door behind him and pressed his back to it. He could not risk anything escaping, animal or otherwise.
Darkness recoiled from the flickering flame and receded before him. There along the back wall a huddled form. Michael’s pulse raced and his palms grew slick with moisture. He adjusted his grip on the torch. He both anticipated and feared the moment the creature revealed itself.
“I can smell you, priest,” it said, without lifting its head. When Michael didn’t respond, it looked up, squinting its eyes against the light. Michael was careful not to meet its gaze directly. His father told him the creature could ensnare with a look.
He was struck by how normal the man—the vampyr, he corrected himself—looked. Emaciated from his captivity perhaps, but otherwise his blond hair and dark eyes could have belonged to anyone. Any human. This was not the beast Michael had been led to believe was imprisoned here. Was this another innocent falsely accused? No, Michael had heard it kill and eat the animals he brought to it. Whatever it was, it was not purely human. He needed to remember that.
“You’re the timid one. If they sent you, they must intend for me to live another day yet,” its abused voice croaked.
The creature’s words had an echo of the bishop in them. Pointing out Michael’s flaws, his inability to hurt another as if it was something to be ashamed of. “Why do you say that?”
“You feed me, heal me. You have never injured me.” The voice sounded so pained, Michael cringed in sympathy. The creature detected it, though it misinterpreted the cause. “You have no reason to fear me. You have done me no wrong.”
“I am uncertain of that,” Michael said. “If I were a merciful man, I would not continue to bring you food.”
The vampyr’s dark eyes studied him, the flickering flame of the torch reflected in their depths. “Why do you say that?”
“They only heal you so they can torture you afresh on the morrow. If I did not feed you, you would not heal and perhaps they would leave you be. For a day at least.”
“Do you honestly believe that?”
Michael shook his head. If it didn’t heal, the bishop would only torture it further to find out why. “Abomination you may be, but no one deserves an existence of endless torture.”
The vampyr chuckled, a low sound, halting as if he’d forgotten how to laugh. “Don’t be so sure of that, timid one. I can think of many who deserve the punishment I have been given, even if I am not one of them.”
Can she find a killer in a town where the basest desires are allowed to run free?
There are zombies in the Dead Zone and Juliana Norris is sent to take care of the problem. And for there to be zombies, there had to be bodies. When vampires are found to be the culprits, Juliana is sent undercover in the red light district of Kansas City. Lying to her mate, Thomas Kendrick, isn’t something she wants to do, but she’s in another vampire’s territory and Thomas would not be pleased. Besides, she’s more than capable of doing the job and she needs to prove it to everyone. Most of all herself.
Charles Morgan is in control of the Kansas City area, making a rich living off his various enterprises. Juliana goes undercover at the strip club Lust and gets sucked into his dark, decadent world. More victims turn up and the Agency is positive they’ve got their man, but Juliana is not so sure. When the Agency refuses to listen, she reluctantly turns to Thomas for help. He intervenes but finds Juliana unaware of the danger she is in and discovers she may just be too deep for him to save.
Juliana pulled her coat tighter around her body as a cold wind whipped in a frenzy sending a chill through her. She hated the weather in this city, constantly changing without even a weather mage to blame. Maybe she should try to convince Morgan to bring one in just to regulate things. At least until she left town. Scanning the area again, she shook her head. How was she supposed to find a killer in the midst of so much depravation?
The scene around her seemed as if it was pulled straight from a public service announcement about the dangers of prostitution. Hookers and blood slaves staked out their territory, chasing off those that dared encroach. Flyers littered the fronts of buildings, and loose ones skittered along the pavement as they raced to freedom. While several of the men and women plying their trade made eye contact with her, it was evident that she was poor and not a vampire. Their interest quickly waned and moved on to the next target. The unclean taint in the air was familiar from the time she’d spent in Devil’s End in New Hope. Desperation had the same stink no matter where you were.
Juliana had opted to walk to work, hoping that immersing herself in the city would help her find a clue, a suspect. So far it wasn’t working. But it wasn’t as if she thought someone was go-ing to hop up and down in front of her screaming, “I did it!” It would be lovely if that was the way things worked, but nothing ever happened the easy way.
Walking through a neighborhood like this without her sword or her gun was not high on her list of experiences she cared to ever repeat. Even though she knew Nathaniel was following dis-cretely not far behind, it did little to ease her nerves. She trusted the wolf more than most, but a lot could happen in the time it would take him to get to her.
Kathleen Collins lives and works in Missouri. By day, she labors in the local prosecutor’s office. At night she writes while surrounded by her husband, two boys and two loveable mutts. She is constantly thinking of her next project and loves to connect with her readers. You can find her most often on Facebook or on her website.
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 10/5/15
Genre: Paranormal romance
Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic,
and Scottish dragon shifters
When pressed, Jonathan Shea admits magic runs through his blood, but he’s always been ambivalent about it—until a dragon and her mage show up in the Scottish Highlands, and then all bets are off. Jonathan’s charmed and captivated by the dragon—a creature fresh out of myth and legend—but the woman bonded to it is so enticing, he tosses caution aside and catapults into the magical power he’s avoided for so long.
Britta and her dragon prepare for a battle to save Earth. Freshly transplanted from a much earlier time, she feels awkward, out of place. The first person she lays eyes on is Jonathan. There’s something about him. She can’t quite pinpoint it, but he has way more magic than he lets on. Magic aside, it runs deeper than that. For the first time ever, she questions the wisdom of remaining a maid. If she doesn’t make up her mind damned fast, though, her choices will fritter away. Beset from every side, she’s never needed her magical ability more.
Surrounded by dragon shifters, Celtic gods, Selkies, time travel, and a heaping portion of magic, Jonathan comes into his own fast. Fell creatures target him, Britta, and her dragon. In the midst of chaos, he and Britta find scorching passion and love so heartbreakingly tender, it will change their lives forever.
…Jonathan tried not to stare, but it was a losing battle. The woman—no, the dragon shifter—was the most perfect, the most alluring, creature he’d ever laid eyes on. Tall, with high, rounded breasts, a slender waist, and curvy hips, she looked like a goddess. Who knew? Maybe she was. The Celts had many deities. He fumbled with his rucksack and pulled out a turkey sandwich on rye bread, which he handed to her.
She yanked the wrappings aside, dropping them onto the floor while she stuffed food into her mouth, chewing and swallowing quickly. “Ye said there were two of these meat and bread things.” Britta surveyed him, her golden eyes alight with interest.
“Yes, I did. If I give you both, I’ll be hungry.”
She shrugged. “Not my problem. Also, I requested mead.”
Jonathan’s lips twitched. He corralled the smile that wanted out. Britta was an imperious bitch, yet there was something so undeniably appealing about her straightforward nature, it was impossible to feel offended. “No mead. At least I don’t have any. We could ask the other witches, or if we found you some clothes, we could go into the city and buy a proper meal, and as much to drink as you wanted.”
She cocked her head to one side and popped the last bite of sandwich into her mouth. “I can go as I am. Shall we walk or use magic, witch?”
“Um, no, you can’t go as you are. You’d be arrested.”
She tilted her chin up. “Why? I can see where I might freeze to death, but who would give a jolly fuck whether I’m dressed or not?”
Before he could craft an explanation, Kheladin stalked over, trailed by three female witches stroking the scales on his lower body. “Lachlan kept a clothes chest against the far wall.” He pointed with a talon. “I’m certain some of his shirts and tights would work, though there’s little to be done by way of shoes.”
Britta’s gaze landed on a particularly large heap of gold jewelry and coins. “I could borrow a bit of money from your hoard, just a coin or two, and—”
Kheladin’s eyes whirled faster, glittering dangerously. “I doona think so. Unless your First Born bondmate orders me.”
“No need to disturb Tarika.” Britta turned a brilliant smile on Jonathan and tapped his chest with her index finger. “He can buy me what I need.” Magic shimmered around her. “Come close, witch. We’re leaving.”
Kheladin stumped to Britta’s side. The counter spell he summoned to dampen her power sparkled, and multi-hued strands wrapped around her. Her lips curled in fury, and she raised her hands to call magic of her own.
“Not so fast,” Kheladin snapped. “First, ye’ve forgotten ye need clothes. Second, Tarika was in an all-fired hurry to find me. Such a big hurry, ye went without food or rest. Why?”
Britta shook her head so hard, her hair danced about her body. She swept the heels of her hands down her cheeks, distorting her perfect features. “Och aye, whatever is wrong with me? Nay, I know the answer. The Morrigan is furious because Lachlan triumphed over the black and red wyverns, and their dragon shifter mages.”
“Good the old Battle Crow even noticed,” Kheladin growled and breathed a fiery gout of flames.
“She did more than notice. She cast a spell to disrupt our memories out of sheer meanness. If ye wouldna have reminded me… Hell, ’tis surprised I am we got here at all. The Celtic gods, Gwydion and Arawn, sent us to warn you and Lachlan. They told us their magic would trump the Morrigan’s, but not forever.” One corner of her mouth turned down. “’Twould appear I just ran up against forever. Or mayhap their magic got subverted by your wards.”
“What impact has the Morrigan’s mischief had on the rest of our kind?”
“Those in Fire Mountain are safe so long as they remain there. The memory-altering spell only snares them when they set foot on Earth.”
“We just saw Gwydion, Arawn, and Ceridwen, and they dinna tell us aught of any such casting. Did they try to neutralize it?”
She cast a look Kheladin’s way that said he should ask something worth her time answering.
Jonathan watched the exchange, chest tight with excitement, feeling he’d fallen into one of the old tales where heroes and heroines walked among humans.
“Let me try again.” Kheladin sounded exasperated. “Did the Morrigan wake the black wyvern’s mage, Rhukon?”
“’Twas the first thing she did.”
“So all our effort was for naught.” The dragon clanked his jaws together. “I must alert Lachlan. Where’d the Celts find you? And how long ago?”
Britta rolled her eyes. “Not in Fire Mountain, though I admit Tarika and I retreated there after Rhukon, Connor, and their dragons teamed with the Morrigan, and things werena looking good. Nay, the Celts plucked us out of the sixteen hundreds. They told us enough about what the future holds to alarm us and sent us on our way.”
“Aye, and how long ago was that,” Kheladin prodded.”
“Mayhap a week. Tarika had things to attend to afore we could come. Why is that important?”
“Because Lachlan and I just sought them out, and they reminded us they doona censure their own, meaning they have no plans to clip the Battle Crow’s wings.”
“I believe I understand.” Tarika forced her voice through Britta’s vocal chords. “They rousted us out to excuse themselves from action. Craven bastards, the lot of them.” Fire rolled from Britta’s mouth.
“For the love of the goddess,” she sputtered from around flames. “Stop that.”
Kheladin inclined his head. “Though the circumstances leave much to be desired, thank you for coming.”
A warm smile lit Britta’s face. It softened her features and made her look barely more than a girl. Jonathan’s cock stiffened where it pressed against his jeans. Breath caught in his throat, and he fought against touching her, running his hands down her golden skin. He drew magic around himself to mask his lust, make it unobtrusive, but she noticed anyway.
Britta turned an appraising glance his way. “Aye, ye’d do well to hide your rut from me.”
Embarrassed at being caught out but curious too, he asked, “Why?”
She tossed her head at Kheladin. “Tell him, dragon. Mayhap he’ll believe it if he hears it from another, ahem, male.” Her last word dripped sarcasm…
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 10/19/15
Genre: Paranormal romance
Tumble off reality’s edge into myth, magic,
and Scottish dragon shifters
Bloated on chaos, the Morrigan leaves the Scottish Highlands to gather power. A trip through Hell yields quite the assortment of allies tagging along behind her. Fell creatures straight out of myth and nightmare that haven’t darkened Earth’s boundaries for centuries heed her call.
Heartily sick of the Morrigan’s maneuvering, the dragons are close to shutting their world off from everywhere, Earth included. If they do, every dragon shifter bond will be broken. Horrified, Lachlan and Britta launch a desperate campaign to hang onto their dragons.
Magic may bite back, but if the dragons take their magic ball and go home, Earth will fade, along with all other worlds. That suits the Morrigan fine. War and anarchy are her favorite companions, and she collects misery like children gather beloved toys.
Arianrhod’s fellow Celts found out about her fall from grace and her half-Druid son, Jonathan. With nothing further to hide, she goes back in time hunting Angus, Jonathan’s father. Forty years apart was a steep price to pay. The world needs Angus’s magic. And Jonathan needs all the help he can get. Late to accept the power thrumming through him, he holds a key role in keeping the world from spinning off its axis. Reluctant at first, Jonathan finally gets it.
Anything less and everyone he loves will pay an unthinkable price.
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…Jonathan Shea cradled Britta in his arms. She was asleep, the rhythm and cadence of her breathing revealed her exhaustion. He still couldn’t believe he’d found a mate, and a woman linked to a dragon at that. Britta KilKerran was actually the Countess of Cumbria, or she had been a few hundred years back. He wasn’t certain such a title still existed.
It didn’t matter. He’d offer up his life to protect the woman slumbering against his chest. He loved her dragon too, but Tarika scarcely needed his protection. When he thought of the scarlet-scaled dragon, one of the First Born, the place on his neck where she’d marked him with a mating bite tingled. It was her contribution to his bond with Britta.
She stirred in his arms. He stroked strands of long, red-gold hair away from her face and spun a small spell to keep her asleep. They’d just come from a major battle to free Tarika and Kheladin, another dragon, from the Morrigan’s clutches. Both of them needed rest, but his heart and mind were too full to let go quite yet.
After years of never believing the rumor about his mother being a Celtic deity, he’d finally met her. He brought it on himself by calling for her when they desperately needed help, but he never believed she’d actually show up. Regardless, he couldn’t deny her existence anymore—no matter how much he might want to. Arianrhod had abandoned him when he was so young he had no memories of her, and when he cut to the bone of things, he resented the crap out of her neglect.
Jonathan shut his eyes for a moment and summoned an image of his father. Tall and rangy with shaggy, rich brown hair and amber eyes, Angus had been a dreamer. He did his best for Jonathan, but often as not, he’d been caught up in some trance state or another. Though Angus hadn’t said so, Jonathan understood his father was relieved when he grew old enough to be on his own. Once Jonathan left Ireland, Angus vanished. Their modest cabin near Inishowen remained, but Jonathan knew better than to waste time hunting for a man who didn’t wish to be found.
Had Arianrhod seen Angus all these years he’d been missing? Jonathan could ask her, but she might just stare him down with those inscrutable eyes—one gold, the other silver—and not bother to answer.
He tightened his hold on Britta, and she nestled closer. She was more comfortable about Arianrhod being his mother than he was, but then she was far more comfortable with magic in general. He blew out a breath, recognizing his life would never be the same.
Not that he wanted it to be, but he would’ve preferred finding the love of his life without having to deal with a long-lost parent. Particularly one who stirred up a welter of prickly feelings. Now if Angus were to show back up, it would be a different story…
Britta wriggled against him, and her golden eyes flickered open. She regarded him sleepily through thick red lashes. “Ye canna rest, my love?”
Jonathan shrugged and offered a sheepish smile. “Lots to think about.”
She cupped the side of his face in one hand. “Do ye wish to talk about anything?”
He shrugged again, feeling uncomfortable. What was there to say, really? He was a little old to be struggling with parent issues. Besides he’d long since come to terms with his father’s magic being too pervasive for him to spend much time around normal humans. Jonathan dealt with some level of that as well, but his job as a software engineer who designed games let him keep to himself.
Britta brushed her hand across his lips. “Whenever ye wish, I’ll be here. Tarika too. She’s verra old and much wiser than either of us. If ye canna get the information elsewhere, mayhap we can figure out what sort of hold the Celtic gods had on your da.”
“Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.” Jonathan reached around her and snagged a bottle of Irish whiskey off the nightstand. “Would you like some? I can get us glasses.”
“Och, and I can drink from the bottle. No need to get fancy.”
She smiled, and it transformed her into something so striking he couldn’t look away. A high forehead gave way to sculpted cheekbones and a defined chin. One of his old T-shirts covered her from chest to knees, but the outline of her breasts was clearly visible through the well-aged beige fabric.
His cock stirred, and he rolled his eyes. “We made love twice after we got here. I don’t understand why I can’t get enough of you.”
“Are ye complaining?” She quirked an arched red brow.
He shook his head and drew both of them to a half sitting position against the carved oak headboard. He uncorked the bottle and handed it to her. She drank deep before handing it back.
Britta narrowed her eyes and watched him drink. “We’re far from home free,” she blurted without preamble.
“Which problem are you referring to?” He placed the bottle on a side table not bothering to cork it. He wasn’t done yet, and likely neither was Britta.
She moved away and sat cross-legged facing him, her lovely face creased with concern. “We may have permanently removed Connor and Rhukon and their dragons from the action, but there have to be other corrupt dragon shifters. We must seek them out and destroy them too.”
Jonathan shook his head. “It won’t matter unless we get to the heart of things.”
“Aye, ye’re correct. We must find a way to corral the Morrigan, or she’ll just entice more mages and dragons with promises of limitless power.” Britta caught her lower lip between her teeth. “Tarika plans to warn the dragons. She believes the dark mages want to drain their dragon bondmates’ power.”
Jonathan straightened and recaptured the whiskey bottle, taking another swallow. “I thought mages became dragon shifters because they loved dragons and wished to share their lives with them.”
“Aye and that would be true—for most of us. Power lures dark mages, though. Far more power than can be had through the normal dragon shifter bond.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw it in Connor and Rhukon’s minds afore we thrashed them.”
“You didn’t say anything.” He handed her the bottle. Maybe they should eat something, if they were going to drink much more.
“I would have. Eventually. Tarika and I needed to determine just what it meant. And if ’tis really true, or just conjecture on our part.”
He kissed her forehead before swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I’m going to cut up a bit of cheese for us and get some crackers.” He pulled on a pair of black sweat pants, securing the waist string to keep them from falling down, and got to his feet.
“Excellent.” She grinned. “Plotting revenge is hungry business, but ye dinna have to cover that amazing cock.”
He bit back a laugh, enjoying the compliment, and made his way to the kitchen. His apartment was small enough to keep talking. “Did you discuss this with Lachlan?” he asked as he chopped cheese off a block and opened a box of biscuits.
“Nay, but Tarika and Kheladin figured out what was going on while they were held prisoner.”
Jonathan returned to the bedroom and plopped the snacks on the bed next to Britta. “How does this bondmate thing work? Would Lachlan be privy to the dark mage problem, if it’s in his dragon’s mind?”…
Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2015 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
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Setta Jay’s Guardians of the Realms series returns with the long-awaited and much-anticipated story of Drake in Searing Ecstasy!
(Guardians of the Realms #7)
by Setta Jay
Publication: October 7th 2015
Drake, the powerful dragon and leader of the Guardians, has spent his long life protecting all inhabitants of the four Realms, but fails to save the one who matters most. His mate. In the month since finding her feral, he’s been slowly losing control of his beast and soon he fears the dragon will reign free unleashing it’s fury upon the Realms.
Delia has changed. No longer a carefree young woman, she is now a nightmare in the making. After her abduction and torture she unwillingly houses two beasts and more power than she can ever contain on her own. She can never be released. Nor can she have the male who gives her any semblance of sanity in her new world, the one she craves more than her own freedom.
With unknown enemies on the horizon and yet another God awakened will they lose themselves in the madness of an impossible mating? Or will they come together in searing ecstasy, bonding them in a way that sets them both free?
Warning: Sexually explicit content (beds actually get burned down, people) and alpha males and females with bad language.
Fall of Heroes
The Galilee Falls Trilogy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Devil on the Left Books
Date of Publication: 10/31/15
Number of pages: 253
Word Count: 100,000
“Show me a hero; and I’ll write you a tragedy.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hero and Villain.
Good and Evil.
Love and Hate.
Would that the world were that simple. Nothing is ever simple in a world filled with superheroes and villains. She may not wear a cape or have superpowers, but no one would say Joanna Fallon isn’t a hero. At great personal cost she’s saved the city of Galilee Falls from two supervillains, but has finally found a measure of peace. But whatever rises often falls, and even the city’s champion may not be able to fight the cataclysm about to befall not only her city but the whole of the world…or even want to.
Read the conclusion to the critically acclaimed Galilee Falls trilogy from the imagination of the IPPY award winning author Jennifer Harlow.
Excerpt: Chapter One-Wedding Bell Blues
I swear to fucking Christ, if he’s late for this wedding, a supervillain won’t kill him, I will.
If your boyfriend is the premier superhero in the city with the highest concentration of the super-powered in the country, you get used to situations like this. Dinners where you find yourself sitting alone in a restaurant, cancelled vacations, missing birthdays. I’ve endured them with a smile and forgiveness, but not today. I’ve stressed to him a thousand times how important this day is to me. Just this morning, before my hair appointment, I told him three times. But no, when I got home to put on my dress, he was nowhere to be found. I had to start up the comms on Doris Jr. to track him down. Sure enough he was out in the field fighting Hexen and more of the villains damn zombies at a war reenactment. Still, he swore he’d be here on time. Trust me, he said. Damn superheroes. Guess it’s partially my fault for falling in love with one. Again. I should have learned the first time around. Damn you for being so amazingly brilliant, Jem Ambrose. Damn you.
“What are you still doing out here?” my old partner Cam, Detective Terrence Cameron to you, says behind me. I spin around just as he reaches me on the bottom of the church steps. He looks damn fine today, the white shirt off-setting his dark skin, and he’s even sporting the paisley blue silk tie I bought him two Christmases ago. “You should get inside. It’s freezing.”
“I’m not going inside without him.”
“You catching pneumonia won’t make him show up any sooner,” Cam points out.
“If he shows up at all,” I mutter. “Fucking Hexen.”
“He’ll be here,” Cam insists.
Two stragglers hustle toward us from the overflowing parking lot. I recognize the man, former plainclothes now Detective Conover, who worked the Alkaline case with me. He and his date both smile and nod as they pass us up the church steps.
“Seriously, Jo, come on. The ceremony’s supposed to start soon. And—”
“I can’t go in there without him, okay? This shit’s awkward enough for me already. Just…I’ll give him a few more minutes then I’ll come in. These things never start on time anyway.”
“Fine. I’ll just tell everyone…I’ll figure something out.” I nod at my friend who nods back before returning inside the warm church.
Dead. Jem is so fucking dead. And I get he’s saving people’s lives, I do. Most of the time I’m on the comms in our apartment, guiding him, literally watching his back on the surveillance feed. Hell, I’m the one who suggested he become the new Captain Moonlight. I should have kept my damn mouth shut.
It’s not as if we had tons of free time on our hands before. I had to cancel my fair share of dinners too. Being the figurehead of an international billion dollar empire with the board meetings, charity events, and general boring day-to-day business bullshit leaves little time to sleep let alone spend quality time with the man I love. Add to that Jem’s day job at the hospital, his research for his new virus project, and the city constantly being in peril from asshole villains, we’re lucky to spend a few hours a week face to face just being a damn couple. At least we make those few precious hours count. And we do work damn well together. Just last week we stopped an eco-terrorist cell from releasing a toxin in the meat packing district that would poison anyone who consumed the meat. If this were any other day I’d be on Doris Jr. helping him bring down Hexen, but this isn’t any other day. He needs to be here. He has to be here. He will be here. He will. Unless of course he’s…no.
God, why does my mind always go there? I have personally seen him survive multiple gunshots, being impaled by a rod, being beaten to a pulp, and an explosion. He has super-healing, super-intelligence, has a black belt in Judo and Karate, knows Krav Maga, not to mention the suit I commissioned for him is bullet, knife, and flame resistant. But every time I lose contact or he’s a minute late, that is my first damn thought.
I should be used to this by now. I knew what he was before I fell in love with him. Hell, I had a front row seat to that side of his life. I ended up in the hospital twice because of it, well three times if you count the plastic surgery needed to fix the scar on my face left by his brother. Not to mention the horrible minute when I thought he’d died that day. I lost my soul mate, my best friend to a supervillain, I couldn’t handle another man I loved dying for me.
We should have learned our lesson then. Jem killed Lord Nightingale right along with his psycho twin brother, and that should have been it. No more capes and cowls. No more kidnappings, attempted murders, and torture for either of us. Yeah, that lasted all of three months. The crime rate skyrocketed again, there was a supervillain attack every week, and despite his assurances he was content fighting crime behind our supercomputer Doris, I knew he was lying. It was in the way he’d stay glued to the computer and news. The way he’d stare out the window down at the city when he couldn’t sleep. How he spent more and more time in his dojo beating up the punching bag and dummy. He couldn’t help it. He’d fought the good fight for almost a decade. Before me, it was all he had. It was what got him out of bed. Something else we had in common. He couldn’t deny that part of himself, it was literally in his blood, and I know the longer he repressed that for me, the more he’d resent me down the road. So one night I shoved his new black and yellow costume at him, and told him I wanted him back before dawn. That was three months ago. Crime’s gone down twenty-two percent, two new villains are now rotting in Xavier Maximum Security Prison, they’ve just released the new Captain Moonlight action figure, and I’m freezing my ass off worrying about the man I love. Doing the right thing sucks balls.
Shit. He’s not coming. He’s not. I’m going to have to go in there and face all those people alone. All their whispering, their looks, their stares. How am I going to explain his absence? Fuck. Damn it. I need to get in there. Me being out here just looks worse. With a sigh, I start up the steps. Jem Ambrose you are—
Here. Thank Christ. Never had a doubt.
Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, Midnight Magic Mystery series, The Galilee Falls Trilogy, and the steampunk romance Verity Hart Vs The Vampyres.
For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at www.jenniferharlowbooks.com
1 $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Giftcard
2 E-book Copies of Justice
2 E-Book Copies of Galilee Rising
2 E-Book Copies of Fall of Heroes
Jennifer Harlow name a character after you in her next release, The Sin Eater
A Yancy Lazarus Novel
Yancy Lazarus Series
James A. Hunter
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Shadow Alley Press, Inc.
Date of Publication: January 16th, 2015
Number of pages: 221
Word Count: 75,000
Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.
Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive dark mage with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body-snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.
Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said dark mage before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.
Available at Amazon
PRAISE FOR STRANGE MAGIC:
“Move over Harry Dresden because there’s a new wizard in town. Yancy Lazarus a chain-smoking, take no prisoners S.O.B. with a heart of gold and a fistful of primal power. A stellar debut novel from James Hunter, the next big name in Urban Fantasy.” —Rick Gualtieri, Author of Bill the Vampire (The Tome of Bill)
The piano keys bobbed and danced under the pressure of my fingers. Music—low, slow, and soulful—drifted through the club, merging and twirling with wandering clouds of blue-gray smoke. So many places have no-smoking laws these days, it seems like there’s nowhere in the country where a guy can take a drag from a cigarette in peace. Everyone is so worried about their health, they make damn sure you stay healthy by proxy.
Not Nick’s Smoke House, though. Nick’s—like some rare, near extinct animal—is the kind of bar where you can die unmolested by laws or ordinances. You can burn yourself up with cancer, drown yourself into liver failure, or binge on a plate of ribs until a heart attack takes you cold, and no one will say boo. And you can die to music here: the beautiful, lonely, brassy beats, of the like only ever found in New Orleans.
The house band was on a break, so I sat thumping out an old Ray Charles tune in the interim while I watched the man standing offstage in a pool of inky shadow.
I’d never met the guy before, but I instinctively knew he was looking for me, or rather The Fixer—a shitty alias I’ve been trying to ditch for years. It was in the way he stood: chest forward, back straight, arms crossed, chin outthrust. He was a man used to intimidating others, used to being obeyed. In short, he was a thug. A thug sporting an expensive suit, a three-thousand dollar watch, and a pair of loafers that probably cost more than most people paid on rent. At the end of the day, though, he was still just a thug—somebody else’s trained pit bull.
I don’t know why, but thugs are always looking for The Fixer. Either they’ve got something that needs fixing or they’re looking to fix me. I didn’t know whether this guy wanted option A or option B, but I figured he’d get around to it in his own sweet time. So, instead of tipping my hand prematurely, I continued to pound out melodies on the black and whites. My Ray Charles faded out, and I started up a gritty, ambling version of Meade “Lux” Lewis’ famous “Honky Tonk Train Blues.”
My left hand hammered out the thudding, rhythmic, rock-steady pulse of a driving train pushing its bulk across the rolling open space of some forgotten Midwest wilderness; the bass notes offered a mimicry of the ebb and flow of pumping gears. My right hand flitted across the keys, touching down here and there, sending up a rusty whistle blowing in the night. The dusty clatter of track switches being thrown. The braying of hounds, while bullyboys searched for stowaways. If there was ever a song to make a man dance his way onto the boxcar of a rolling train, it was this funky ol’ honky-tonk rhythm.
I let the beat roll on, hoping the thug would hop and jive his way right out of Nick’s Smoke House and out of my life, no harm, no foul. Though a whole helluva lot a people think of me as The Fixer, really I’m just an old rambler trying to get by and enjoy the time I have on this spinning little mud ball. All I wanted was for this overdressed clown to walk away and leave me be.
The man in the black suit just glared at me like I’d offered him an insult, and I knew then things would not end well between us. Still, I mostly ignored him. I should’ve been worried, but I wasn’t.
I’ve been around for a good long while, and I don’t scare easy.
After what felt like an age, the hulking suit stepped up to the stage and into a pool of soft amber light, illuminating his features for the first time. He was enormous, six and a half feet of pro wrestling muscle, with a pushed-in nose and military cropped blond hair. His face was a mosaic of scars, though the thick tissue on his knuckles put them all to shame. One meaty paw lifted back a coat lapel, revealing the glint of chromed metal: a Colt 1911.
A Colt 1911 is a big gun, not the kind of thing a person normally chooses as a concealed carry. The things are too large to conceal easily, and they can be awkward to draw on the fly, so he probably wasn’t here to assassinate me. A pro assassin would never have used something as ostentatious and conspicuous as this McGoon’s 1911. A hitter would’ve chosen a sleek, nondescript .22. The kind of gun that’s easy to hide, would go off unnoticed, get the job done without much mess, and could be disposed of in a dumpster somewhere. This guy’s choice of weapon told me he was intimidating muscle, but likely better with his fists than with his piece.
“Yancy Lazarus?” he asked with a low voice like grating cement. “You the guy who fixes things?”
Yep, a thug.
I could’ve denied it, but the guy had found me fair and square, so it was safe to assume he already knew the answer. I nodded my head a fraction of an inch. That was all. I went right on playing as though I hadn’t noticed his veiled threat or didn’t care. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal and I’m not a pompous jackass—at least that’s not how I see myself—but I knew I could take this guy. I had an edge, although Macho Man Hulk in the other corner didn’t know it.
I can do magic and not the cheap kind of stuff you see in Vegas with flowers, or floating cards, or disappearing stagehands. People like me, who can touch the Vis, can do real magic. Although magic isn’t the right word: magic is a Rube word, for those not in the know, which is precisely why we who practice call it the Vis in the first place. Vis is an old Latin word meaning force or energy, nothing fancy about it.
There are energies out there, underlying matter, existence, and in fact, all Creation. As it happens, I can manipulate that energy. Period. End of story.
Hey all, my name is James Hunter and I’m a writer, among other things. So just a little about me: I’m a former Marine Corps Sergeant, combat veteran, and pirate hunter (seriously). I’m also a member of The Royal Order of the Shellback—‘cause that’s a real thing. And, a space-ship captain, can’t forget that.
Okay … the last one is only in my imagination.
Currently, I work as a missionary and international aid worker with my wife and young daughter in Bangkok, Thailand. When I’m not working, writing, or spending time with family, I occasionally eat and sleep. Strange Magic is the first novel in the Yancy Lazarus series—the third, full-length novel, Wendigo Rising, just released on November 3rd, 2015.