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Short Story Las Immortales from The Hunters Saga by Heidi Angell

Sample Read Las Immortales The Hunters Saga

Hello Lovelies,

Welcome back to the exciting fun of #OctoberFrights! Today, as promised, I have a short story in The Hunters Saga for you. This is a prequel story and those who are fans of the urban fantasy series may love some of the Easter eggs presented. I know finally getting to write the origin story for one of the characters has been such a pleasure for me and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Do not miss the other awesome stops in the blog hop. You can find them in the links at the end of the sample read.

Las Immortales

     Kishar swept her long black hair back over her shoulder and lifted her head from her basket to gaze out across the heads bent over their own basket. Her icy blue eyes met Cadeyrn’s soft honey brown eyes and a smile danced across his lips. She resisted the urge to smile back as she saw other heads popping up as they finished this section of the basket. 

     “Now, to finish a sturdy frame, we will take this piece of willow here…” she picked up the willow stick and began deftly weaving it around her basket frame. “And be sure that as you weave it, it is lined up properly. You cannot scoot it down several rows in, like you could with the fronds.” 

     As heads bent back over their work she spared a small smile at Cadeyrn. He winked at her and she could feel herself blush. She turned back to her work hoping he had not noticed. 

††††††††††

     Most of the people who had come to learn to make baskets had already left. The sun was quickly setting and only a young girl and her grandmother were left. Kishar smiled as she watched the young girl pointing out how to finish the willow weave for her grandmother. 

     “Good evening Isthal, Ninhursag. See you again next week.”

      She gathered up her tools and the leftover materials and placed them in a couple of baskets. Then attached those to her yolk and scooped them up. Cadeyrn was bidding good night to the others but promptly turned and joined her as she headed out of the main gates. Kishar side-eyed his small basket, the only thing he carried besides his cloak. 

     “Would you like me to carry that for you?” Cadeyrn’s voice warmed the night chill. He was already reaching for her yolk and she ducked away. 

     “No!” She righted the swaying baskets. “You should stop,” Kishar admonished. “You know they will respect me less if they know.” 

     “Belteshazzar says that, but I do not know. I think he gives humans too little credit.” 

     “I think you see the best in humans, but he knows the worst. He is only trying to protect everyone. Like with the magic…” 

     Cadeyrn huffed. “I disagree. Why should we not teach those who are adept how to help others?” 

     Kishar bowed her head. There was no point in arguing this with him yet again. Especially as part of her didn’t necessarily disagree. Belteshazzar’s warnings of human greed and selfishness seemed void. They had worked with hundreds of humans in Babel and the surrounding cities. They all seemed good and kind and very community-led. Other than their short lifespans and the way they aged, Kishar felt that they were much like the Immortals. Or at least, much as her people were before. She could not fathom how helping them learn simple tools construction was allowed, but teaching them more advanced skills to help them make technological leaps was not. But the mission was to help them develop the knowledge to discover that greatness on their own. 

     Cadeyrn stiffened beside her and Kishar glanced up to see what was happening. A man stood in the road before them. 

     “Ba’el?” Cadeyrn called out. 

     A sob came from the loan figure and he collapsed before them. Cadeyrn dropped his basket and ran to the man. It took Kishar a moment longer to set down her yolk and go to them. Cadeyrn was cradling the man as he sobbed unintelligibly. He clutched a leather pouch in his hand and Kishar drew up straight. Those were used to keep sacred stones. Why did this human have them? 

     She was able to catch some of what he was sobbing. Someone had died. The stones did not work. Her guts wrenched at this man’s grief but cold dread settled at her spine. Cadeyrn had been teaching far more than simple herbal recipes and nature magic. Even many of the advanced practitioners among her own people did not have the skills to manage the sacred stones. If Belteshazzar knew then who knew what he would do to Cadeyrn. 

     Ba’el suddenly sat up, clutching Cadeyrn’s tunic and shaking him. “You can bring her back! We can still save her!”

     Cadeyrn took the man’s hands gently and shook his head, such deep sadness in his eyes. “I am so sorry, Ba’el. Nature magic works up to the point of death. But bringing someone back from the dead… it cannot…. Should not be done.” The man’s face crumpled into more tears. His face was swollen and he had obviously been crying for a long time. As Kishar leaned over him to offer comfort she could smell death and decay clinging to him. Her nose wrinkled at the stench. Whoever had died had been very ill and the scent clung to the poor man. 

     He recoiled from her touch then sat back on his haunches, looking up into Cadeyrn’s face. A hardness stole across his face. “Cannot, or should not, Cadeyrn?” 

     Cadeyrn hesitated at the hard look on the man’s face. “Both. I do not know of any way to bring a person back from the dead. It is not possible with nature magic. It is unnatural and it should not be done.I am so sorry for your loss.” 

     Ba’el pushed away from Cadeyrn and rose. “You immortals!” he spat in disgust. “You claim to love us, to want to help us be our best selves, but you keep the most important things from us so you can lord over us. Why do you get to never age, never get sick, but you will not share that with us?” With that, Ba’el stumbled into the night, taking the sacred stones with him. 

     Kishar watched Cadeyrn as he watched Ba’el walk into the night. Cadeyrn’s shoulders slumped. “His wife Zariaa has been so sick since they lost their child in child birth. I… was just trying to help. He is so adept at magic, you can normally taste it on him….” tears glistened in Cadeyrn’s eyes. “But he does not understand that magic cannot fix everything.” 

     “He is so angry,” Kishar murmured. 

     “Of course he is. Their love was much like ours.” Cadeyrn scooped her up into a crushing hug and sobbed. “I could not fathom losing you. I can only begin to grasp his heartbreak.” Kishtar hugged him back with all her might. Tears leaked from her eyes, dripping onto his cheeks and mingling with his own tears. She pulled back, wiping his face. “Shhh,” she murmured, kissing him gently on his cheeks, his nose, his forehead. She hugged him tight again. “Such a loss is unimaginable.” She buried her face in his neck and breathed deeply of his vitality and life. How could mortals bear such loss? 

††††††††††

     Kishar wiped the sweat from her face and arched her back, gazing out across the field.  She stood and stretched her back again, glancing down at the half finished rug she was weaving. A small white butterfly danced across the long grass at the edge of her station. Sighing, she scooped up a ladle of water in the bucket beside her. Taking a sip, she then poured a little over her hand and wiped her face with it. 

     Studying the others in the field practicing with their weapons, Kishar sighed. It had been 20 years since Belteshazzar began withdrawing their people from interaction with the humans.
Only months after they’d seen Ba’el on the road. In only a few months, the people of Babel had turned against them. As the hate, anger, and distrust spread throughout the land, her people withdrew even further from the humans. 

     After their fellow Immortal Azucar had been murdered on the high road, Belteshazzar ordered that defense training commence. They had not had to fight in battle in more than 500 years and the thought sickened Kishar. She watched as Cadeyrn swung his morningstar, wrapping it around poles and ripping them from the ground. While she could admire his grace and skill, the thought of him killing humans, even in defense, sickened her. The fear that he could fall clung to their every interaction of late. 

     This is not how life should be. But Belteshazzar had been right about humans and their greed and selfishness. He had not predicted their worst trait, though. Their fear. Someone had been whipping up that fear against the immortals. Kishar shaded her eyes to get a better look as a black spot appeared on the horizon. She squinted into the afternoon light to watch a bird as it swung over the field, searching. The bird dove towards their battle commander, Ichin. A messenger. It landed on his shoulder and leaned into his ear. He marched to the large horn in the field and blew it to bring everyone in. This could not be good. 

     Kishar gathered with the others in the field. Those who had been training brought their weapons with them. Those who had been working, left their projects where they were. As the crowd gathered, they whispered among themselves, wondering what new trial was upon them. Kishar observed Ichin’s normally bright countenance. No smile, no light twinkle of mischief in his eye. 

     “This must be serious,” she murmured. Hands snaked around her waist and Cadeyrn whispered in her ear. 

     “Serious, indeed.” He kissed her temple gently, smearing sweat across her cheek and hair. She leaned into him, the strong musk of his labor comforting her. She glanced about as more gathered, pressing in close enough to hear when Ichin spoke. Many others were also snuggled together. She waved to their friends Kitar and Shandahar who held hands talking to the side of them. Kitar pushed his way through the crowd, holding onto Shandahar to cut the crowd for the smaller man. They finally maneuvered next to Kishar and Cadeyrn. 

     “Dark days ahead,” Kitar muttered. “Word is they are stoning those like us,” he jutted a chin towards Shandahar, “in Babel.”

     “There are no more of our people in Babel?” Kishar whispered. 

     “Not our people,” Shandahar clarified. “Men who love other men.”

     Kishar couldn’t stop her gasp of surprise. “They are killing humans because of who they love? What madness!” 

     “They say it is because it is unnatural, like the immortals themselves.” Kitar sighed. 

     Cadeyrn let loose an incredulous laugh. “Humans do not understand nature at all.” 

     The men all nodded in agreement. 

    Ichin raised his hand for silence. As the murmur of the crowd died down he touched his throat and murmured an incantation that enhanced his voice so all could hear. 

     “A messenger has informed me that there is a hoard just over the Western mountains descending on the valley. He reports that there is all sorts of dark magic at play. We must prepare our defenses.” 

     Cadeyrn hugged Kishar tight and she realized she was trembling. Dark magic. 

    “The magi will lead the defenses. Regiments will provide backup support. Those magi here will join me now. We do not have time to delay. The rest of you relay the news to those still in the village and join us with supplies and weapons as soon as you can. We must hurry!” 

    Cadeyrn pulled Kishar into a tight embrace. “I must go. You warn the others.” 

     Kishar wrapped her arms around him tight, a cold dread wrapping around them. Tears eked from her eyes and she swiped them away with one hand. “My beloved, be safe. I will join you as soon as I can!” 

      He kissed her in a way he had never kissed her before. As if he were memorizing every detail. As if there would never be another. When the kiss ended she was weak in the knees. She cupped his face, gazing into those soft honey brown eyes filled with sorrow and dread. The lump in her throat prevented her from saying more. There was no more to be said. Now was the time for action. 

     She bolted through the crowd of people dispersing on their tasks, glancing back only once to see Cadeyrn already gathering with the other magi. Her long legs and the urgent fear drove her to the village before any of the others. She ran to the ramshorn at the townsquare and gasped to blow it, the wind escaping her momentarily and the sound came out as a plaintive whine that drew surprised stares from those in the marketplace. She caught her breath and blew into it again. The people of the village gathered, all staring at their comrade drenched in sweat and still winded. 

     Kishar focused on calming her breathing so she could speak as loud as she could. She was not gifted with magic and could not amplify her voice as Ichin had done. 

     She raised her arms for silence which fell quickly across the crowd. 

     “The humans are coming with dark magic from the Western mountains. Ichin and the magi are already on their way. Gather weapons and supplies, tell your neighbors, and then go to support the battle. Quickly!” With that, she leapt from the ramshorn and bolted through the crowd that was already in motion. Weaving through the people, she headed down a side street to the small home she and Cadeyrn shared in the south of the village. Snatching up Cadeyrn’s hunting pack, she began stuffing it with food and supplies.  When it was full, she grabbed her sword and sheath, strapping it to her waist, and grabbed Cadeyrn’s sheath of throwing blades, tossing them over her shoulder. 

     The village was a scramble, everyone gathering weapons and supplies. Kishar pushed through the crowds, heading for the western path. As soon as she was clear of the throng, she picked up her pace, jogging towards the western mountains. It felt like only moments had passed since Ichin had given his directives, yet Kishar could tell by the long shadows cast before her that it had been hours. With each bound the shadows grew longer and Kishar’s heart grew heavier. The fear of the unknown that awaited them pulled at her, weighing her down. But the fear for Cadeyrn was keeping her from collapsing under this weight. 

     As the gloom of dusk settled over the valley, Kishar had to slow her steps so as not to trip. She could hear the sounds of battle above her somewhere on the trail into the mountains. Small explosions of light let her know she was still about 2 miles away from the battle. The ground rumbled with other blasts. She wondered if the magi were calling the trees for help. 

     A deep rumble shook the ground, nearly knocking her off her gait and sending rocks and scree down on her from the trail above. She skipped and dodged the largest stones, but one sharp stone sliced across her cheek and she could feel her warm blood streaming down her face as she continued to pick her way through the trail. 

     A flurry of motion tackled her from the side of the trail and she and her assailant slammed into a tree. Her sword was pinned behind her and she struggled with all her might to push the man away from her so she could defend herself. She could smell death in the air as she fought for purchase. How was this human so strong?

      A blast of magic shot into the air, lighting around her. In horror, she saw her assailant. What was once a man was now something dark and twisted. There was no intelligence in his eyes. He lunged desperately for her face as if drawn to the blood still streaming from her cut. She was squeezing his throat to keep him back and realized that his trachea had collapsed, but it was not stopping him. 

     Scrabbling to create some distance between them so she could get to a weapon, she felt a fear she had never known. The fear of dying. There was a boulder between the tree and the mountain on her left so no escape that way. She tried to shift them to her right, getting some space around the tree. Her attacker slipped in some scree and she was able to break free, running into the trees behind her. She pulled her sword from her sheath and whirled on the attacker again as he came after her. One strong cut and his head dropped to the ground. The body stopped, hanging lifeless for one moment. Instead of collapsing as she had expected, it began stumbling about towards the head. Looking over, she saw the head looking towards the body. Bolting around the flailing body she kicked the head away from them as hard as she could, then headed back to the trail. 

     As she moved further into the battle, she was met with many more grizzly scenes that she had no time to process. Occasionally she would stop to assist one from her community who was in danger of being overwhelmed. But all the time her heart demanded she keep searching for Cadeyrn. 

     As the grey morning light began to tinge the tops of the mountain ahead, the enemy began to disperse. Kishar kept fighting even as they fled, searching desperately for Cadeyrn. But there was no sign of him. As the sun peeked over the mountain it seemed there were no more humans to battle. The immortals began retrieving their dead and wounded. 

     “Kishar, we have need of your healing!” a voice called to her as she searched among the dead. She stumbled over to assist. It was Shandahar. He was holding compresses to a fellow immortal’s face. “I cannot stop the bleeding,” Shandahar muttered. Kishar dropped her gear and moved over to examine the patient. Her face was tatters with muscle and bone exposed. Kishar gulped back the bile rising in her throat. “We need a magi,” she informed Shandahar. He shook his head. She glanced around. There were few still on their feet around them and none of them were magi. Taking a deep breath, she looked about them. A magi could fix everything later but she needed to stop the bleeding now or there would be nothing to fix. 

     White flowers in a clump near a tree caught her eyes. Staunchweed! She gathered up all the flowers, hoping it would be enough. Chewing the flower petals up, she applied the poultice to the poor woman’s face and wrapped it with clean bandages. “Look for more of this plant on your way down. I fear many will have need of it.” She handed one of the flowers to Shandahar. “Have you seen or heard anything of Cadeyrn?” 

     Shandahar averted his gaze. “I have not seen him since last night. When I saw him, he was further up, fighting with the other magi.” He pointed up the trail further into the mountains. Kishar thanked him and continued her search. 

††††††††††

     It was past midday. She had searched all the way up the path of blood and gore, finding very few injured and still living. Finding many more monstrosities like the one that had attacked her. They were maimed and unable to attack, but could only be put down with a blow to the brain. After going to the top of the mountain, she was systematically working her way back down, putting down all the dead things and dragging her comrades who had died to the edge of the trail so their bodies could be recovered for cremation. 

     Her back and legs ached from stooping and sorting through the dead, but it was nothing compared to the ache in her soul. So many lost lives, human and immortal alike. What could be worth this? As she was picking her way through a cluster of death, she found one of their soldiers beneath. He was still alive! She began pulling the dead off of him, to help him get free. As he reached his hand out from the pile it began to smolder and burn. He yanked it back quickly, howling in pain. She could smell the dark magic on him. 

     “Gandahar, what happened?” 

     “I… I do not know,” he moaned from under the pile. “The light hurts.” 

     “Were you injured before that? Is it dark magic?” 

      “He bit me!” Gandahar growled. “That monster, he… ripped out my throat!” 

      Kishar pulled back. “Ripped out your throat or was trying to?” she asked. 

      “What? Oh…. he must have only been trying to.” There was a change to his tone that made Kishar pull back further. 

     “I will get help. One of the magi to heal this dark magic upon you.” 

     “Do not leave me,” Gandahar begged. “Please!”

     Kishar hurried down the path until she came upon a group of her people. One was a magi. She rushed through what she had seen and heard. The magi’s face was dark and brooding. “Gandahar is gone. What is left must be killed or he will kill us tonight like those other monsters.” He marched the way she had come. She scrambled to keep up. 

     “Is this different from the undying ones?” she asked, pointing to a head with a spear through it. 

     “Indeed. The undying ones seem to have no memory of who they were or of anything beyond feeding on brains. But the others crave blood. They look like their former selves, can even think like their former selves, but they are stronger and more violent than any human I have ever known. They stink of death and dark magic. They are so difficult to kill. I will hold him in place with magic and you must pierce his heart. It is the fastest and kindest way.”

     Kishar froze. Was he ordering her to kill one of their own?

     “He is not like us anymore. You are doing him a kindness, letting him pass on.” 

     “Pass on?” she asked. 

     “It is a human notion that when we die we go to the Gods.” 

     “But are their Gods not based on our people?” 

      “Yes. We think. But it is a nice sentiment. Perhaps if we died as they do, we would have found our own eternal belief systems to ease our grief.”

     That grief. It weighed down on her. Where was Cadeyrn? 

     After disposing of the Gandahar-that-was, Kishar collapsed to the ground weeping. The magi stood by quietly. As her sobs subsided to mere gasps and hiccups, he coughed gently then spoke. “What were you doing up here by yourself?” 

     “I am searching for Cadeyrn. No one has seen him. Have you seen him?” She turned imploring eyes up to the magi. 

     The man’s eyes were filled with more sadness than she could stand. All at once she knew she did not want the answer he was searching to give her. He cleared his throat. “He is a magi, yes?” She nodded mutely. “Most of us did not survive.” He looked at the gore and bloodshed around them. “This is precisely why Belteshazzar forbade teaching humans more.” He shook his head in sadness. “So much waste and death. For what? Because they are greedy and wish to live like us? But they have children and families, simple lives filled with so much pleasure all because they know life will eventually end. Why trade that?” 

     Kishar sighed. “Perhaps they do not realize. Perhaps they hope to have both?” She looked out over the sea of dead. “And now none of us can have either.” 

††††††††††

     Kishar stared up at the ceiling as the soft afternoon light danced across the rafters. She sighed in bone weary exhaustion. Immortals were not meant to sleep during the day, but the hordes only came at night. She tried to go back to sleep but images of Cadyern as one of the undying ones flitted across her lids. Slamming her fist into the bed, she wept again for the millionth time in five days. Her mind told her he was dead. Her heart begged for it to be true. He could not be one of the undying. All chance of sleep gone, she pulled herself out of bed, performed ablutions, dressed in a tunic and pants, and went to assist with building the wall. 

     The wall was more of a barricade of pointed spears surrounding the village than an actual wall. Each night the hordes threw themselves against it with little mind or care, but it held them in place so the villagers could finish them off. Every day teams worked in shifts to replace broken sections. She found a group working on a section near her home and sat down to whittle the points on each end of the shaft. 

     “Kishar, this is not your shift. You should be resting.” Kitar stood before her with a water gourd in hand.

     Kishar shook her head. “Sleep eludes me.”

     “You are not alone.” Kitar looked around the village. Kishar’s gaze joined his. Many more than were scheduled to work were out and about. Some were cleaning stalls that had been knocked over in the night, others were preparing food and passing it around, and many more were sharpening weapons and working on the walls. The unusually light and airy village felt subdued and closed in. Very few spoke as they went about their work. 

     “Any word of Cadeyrn?” Kitar asked. 

     Kishar shook her head, focusing on attacking the point of the stick to get it sharper as it kept her eyes dry. Every day more of their dead were recovered from the mountain and the surrounding forests where the undying would drag them after snatching them through the walls or from the outposts. Their village had once held nearly 500 people. Now they barely had 100 left. The fact that the undying’s numbers were dropping at a much higher rate did not seem to stop whoever led them from attacking within the hour of sundown and not fleeing until the light began to be tinged with daylight. 

     “Any word from the other villages?” Kishar asked. Kitar had a much closer connection to those controlling the war effort. He had told her the other day that word was sent to Allandia and Uruk that first night by magi but no word had returned so messengers were sent.

     “Allandia is gone. No word on Uruk yet.” 

      Allandia was gone? How? “Do you mean they fled?” 

     Kitar’s face went dark. “No, it and all of its people are just gone. No bodies, no animals. The few buildings that were still there were burning piles of rubble.”

     Kishar blinked rapidly to keep the tears from flowing yet again. There were almost a thousand immortals in Allandia. How could they all just disappear? She gazed about the people working. Was that to be their fate as well?

     Kitar cleared his throat. “Well, I had better get back to work. Get some rest. We have everything in hand.” He rested a hand on her shoulder and the unbidden tears spilled down her cheeks. She swiped them away furiously, nodding as she handed him the spear she had been working on. “Thank you,” he murmured as she stumbled away. 

     Kishar wandered aimlessly about the village, looking for some way to help. But she could not settle on any task. Finally, her feet found her at the gates. 

     “Do you need to go out?” the sentry called to her. She peered up at the man, his name escaping her. She nodded. “What is your business?” 

     Kishar stared at him blankly. 

    “You are not the first to wish to look for a loved one.” 

     She shook her head and pulled herself together.  “I am a healer. I was going to gather herbs.” 

     The guard looked her over. “We could definitely use more healing.” he nodded for her to go through the gates. The other guards pulled them open for her. “Be sure to return before the sun falls behind the mountains. And do not go too far. Some of the undying still travel in the light.” 

     Kishar nodded to the warning and stepped through the small gap in the gate. As the gate closed behind her, she wondered if she should just go back. Ignoring her gut, she clutched her small blade tighter. It was more of a tool for cutting shoots and digging up roots, but could certainly puncture the skull if need be. She stalked across the open field towards the tree line. At the treeline she hesitated. The forest at the base of the mountain was not that thick, but in the shade of the mountain it was much darker than the field. She peered through the gloom looking for any movement. 

     The forest was unusually quiet. She could see dead bodies here and there. Two steps in and still no movement. Shifting her path to stay along the edge of the tree line, she began looking for herbs. She found more staunchweed, which is always needed. Some arrow bells which when mixed in water provided a cooling drink to stave off fever, Along the stream she found several more healing plants. Scooping up some fresh water, she slaked her thirst and decided to take a moment in the lovely patch of sunshine to rinse some of the roots and herbs she’d found. Setting them out on the rocks to air dry, she sat back for a moment and closed her eyes. 

††††††††††

    A cracking twig in the distance brought her to. Her eyes snapped open, scanning the gloom around her. She must have fallen asleep! The sun was below the mountain peak and no light trickled down to her. Sho slowly turned her head right and left looking for what could have caused the sound. There was no movement in the darkness. No rustling. Nothing to ease her fear. She quietly gathered up the herbs and roots she’d rinsed earlier, all well past dry and mentally cursed herself for being so foolish. 

     With her plants gathered, Kishar took one more look around then carefully crept along the stream towards the field. While the stream muffled her sounds of movement, she also knew it would likely muffle the sounds of any pursuer so she kept her eyes wide and stopped periodically to check her surroundings. No more sounds reached her ears and she could see the field up ahead. She hurried her pace. 

     Just as she was about to clear the last set of trees, a  pale hand snaked out behind the nearest. She barely dodged its grasp, slashing at it with her tiny blade and diving away, rolling to a crouch she faced her would-be attacker and froze. 

     Cadeyrn was staring at his hand where she had slashed him, a puzzled expression on his face. “Why Kishar?” His voice sounded different. She couldn’t quite place it. 

     “Cadeyrn?” She looked him over. He was filthy, his tunic torn and stained, but he seemed uninjured. 

     “What are you doing out here?” he asked.

     “Where have you been?” she asked at the same time. 

     He chuckled and shrugged. “I woke up in one of the caverns of the mountain. Took me forever to find the exit. Then to find my way home. And you. What are you doing out here?”

     Kishar gestured to the basket. “Gathering herbs. There are many wounded.”

     “Are they still attacking?” Cadeyrn asked. 

     Kishar gazed at him, longing for it to be her Cadeyrn, but there was a coldness to him that she had never seen, felt, or heard. He smiled uncomfortably under her scrutiny. Even the smile felt forced and unnatural. She took a step back towards the field. 

     “Do the others know you are here?” he asked as he took a step towards her. 

     She nodded. He smiled. The smile was cold and calculating. He took two steps forward. It took everything in her to stand her ground. “Let us return to the others then,” Cadeyrn waved her ahead. She stared at his hand. Nodding, she turned towards the village, keeping several steps ahead of this thing that looked like her Cadeyrn but not. 

     They cleared the trees and she picked up the pace. He was right behind her. Halfway across the field a gust of wind blew across her back carrying the scent of death. She spun on Cadeyrn. He had gained on her more than she realized and barrelled into her, knocking them both to the ground. She slashed at his face and he threw himself back, barely missing her blade. 

     “What are you?” she whispered, staring into cold dark eyes that were definitely not Cadeyrn’s. 

     He pulled back and a sneer crossed his face. 

     “That is a fair question. One I have not been able to ascertain. What makes you believe I am not Cadeyrn?”

     “I know Cadeyrn. You are not him.”

     Pain flashed across his features. “I do feel different, but I am Cadeyrn. I have all of Cadeyrn’s memories. His thoughts and feelings. I remember loving you. I remember kissing you.” he looked at her lips hungrily, making her gasp at the intensity of the stare.

     “Look at your hand. The hand I cut.” 

     Cadeyrn stared at it thoughtfully. The gaping wound had hardly bled at all. The blood that came out was dark and putrid. He sniffed at it. “That is different. But I still love you.” 

      Kishar hesitated. Perhaps one of the magi could fix this. 

     Cadeyrn stopped studying his hand and looked to Kishar. “Oh, Kishar. I long for you.” There was a hunger in his face. A hunger that scared her. He knelt down to her level, still clear of her reach with the blade. “My sweet Kishar. I can hear your heart beating. Does it beat faster in the thrill of seeing me, or in the fear of seeing me?” He tilted his head and his mouth opened. “In fear. I can taste your fear, Kishar.” He scooted forward still just out of reach. “But why are you afraid? I just told you I love you!” There was a pleading in those dark bottomless eyes. 

     Kishar’s chest heaved as she tried to hold in the sob. Tears came unbidden to her eyes. 

     “Oh, Kishar, my love, do not cry.” 

     She did not have the heart to swing at him as he crept forward. The scent of death enveloped her and she tried not to gag. He reached the unmaimed hand out to her and with one finger caught her tear that slid down her cheek. He licked his finger. “Such tears. You have cried too much.” He leaned in closer and she closed her eyes longing for the kiss. Something wet touched her cheek and her eyes flashed open to Cadeyrns look of surprise on his face. She touched her cheek. He had licked her! 

     His eyes flickered in the moonlight and a strange red hue seemed to settle over them. Kishar raised the dagger as he lunged at her. He growled as she slashed at him. Snatching one of her hands, he jerked her up so she dangled half kneeling, and dove at her face again. She stabbed at one of his eyes and he jerked back with a howl. She scrambled to her feet and took off running as fast as she could back towards the camp, he was right behind her. She was not going to make it. 

     She tripped right before the gates and once again he was upon her. In the fall, she lost her blade. She hooked a finger in his now-empty eye socket and pushed him back with all her might. 

      “You had better kill me, you witch, or I will drink you dry!” he howled, pushing all the way up to her knuckle into his eye as he scrabbled blindly at her arms and face. She could feel him ripping her skin and warm blood splattering everywhere in his ferocious attack. She thought about letting go. There was nothing left in this world without him. 

     “Please, my love,” she gasped. “Please Cadeyrn, stop!”

     He ripped away from her, and her finger lost purchase on his cheekbone. In their tussle, she discovered that the dagger was now within reach. But he did not lunge at her. 

     “Do you still love me?” Cadeyrn whispered. “Like this? Can you love this?” The disgust in his voice hurt her. 

     “Do you still love me?” She returned the challenge. “Can you still love me like this?” she pointed at him. 

     He sighed. His eyes closed. She reached for the blade and tucked it in her hand. He did not seem to notice. “I do love you. I told you I will always love you….. But your blood. It is so…” He sniffed the air and grinned in delight. 

      Kishar heard her fellows at the gate. Please, somebody stop him, she prayed. Maybe we can help him. Her heart raced as she heard the gates open. They would be here any moment. 

     “If I drink your blood, you will be with me always, forever, in love!” He lunged on her again. 

      The blade pierced him right below his breast. He looked down in shock. Then he looked to her with such love that she hesitated. Tears streamed down her face. “My love, you must go deeper or Ba’el will have won.” He leaned into her blade. She felt it catch on a rib then slip free deep into his tissue. 

      “Ba’el, is he who did this to you?” Kishar sobbed. 

      “No, my love. I did this to him. This is all my fault. Do not let your death be my fault as well.” He licked her arm… no, the blood on her arm. Then he bit her. She screamed, slamming the blade up into his heart. 

     As the others gathered around her, Kishar felt wind whooshing in her ears and the world going dark. 

††††††††††

     Kishar awoke to searing pain. She could not move. Opening her eyes, she saw herbs hanging and drying on the ceiling all around her. She tried to sit up and realized she was bound. Looking around the room, she tried to call for help. Her throat was so dry. 

     The rasping of air across her parched throat threw her into a coughing fit and that set off needles of pain all through her face and arms. A cup quickly came to her lips and she slurped the water to soothe her throat. As the coughing subsided, she gulped the cool liquid down while the person shifted her to a semi-sitting position on their lap. When the glass was empty she opened her eyes and nodded thanks to Zana, their head healer. 

     “How are you feeling, then?” Zana asked. 

     Kishar felt confused. Why was she here? What had happened? The sun was shining and it made her feel safe. Why? The events of the night flashed into her mind and she crumpled into tears. 

     “Oh, my dear!” Zana rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. “You have been through so much.”  

     “Cadeyrn?” Kishar croaked. The look of pity on Zana’s face told her all she needed to know. 

     She crumpled into tears again. When she cried herself into exhaustion, she heard Zana murmur as she drifted back into the abyss. “Rest, dear. I am here.” 

††††††††††

     It took weeks for Kishar’s body to recover from the attack. Not just the physical wounds, but the dark magic that had invaded her body from Cadeyrn’s bite. Each day her body improved, but her heart and soul would not heal. Life was empty and cold and pointless without Cadeyrn and it was her fault he was gone. She was too numb to cry anymore. 

     One day Zana took her for a walk around the village to get fresh air and sun. They made it to the town square before Kishar asked to rest. She sat on the stairs to the meetinghouse while Zana searched through the shops. The market was busy and loud on this beautiful warm day. The warmth and comforting sounds helped to ease the emptiness and Kishar closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sun. 

     She became aware of two women chatting under the tree next to the meeting house. 

     “Poor Kishar,” the one woman said. “You know she and Cadeyrn had been together for some time. I cannot imagine how awful it must have been.” 

     “We have all been through the worst, and I hear it is all because of Cadeyrn. I am glad she killed him!” the woman spat. 

     “How can you say that?” The other woman sighed. “I am glad he is gone too, but none of it was her fault. I could never have killed him, and I was not in love with him.” 

     Kishar squinted into the sun, her ears buzzing as the rage built up within her. 

     “I could have and would have if I had known his dabbling would lead to this. Immortal populations have been decimated because of him!”

     “I did not kill him!” Kishar growled loud enough for the women to hear. 

     The first woman stepped toward her, “Oh, Kishar, how are you?” 

     Kishar sent a frosty glare that froze the woman in her tracks. She turned the glare on to her compatriot. “And you could never have killed him, despite your slandering him in death.”

     “You did kill him,” the compatriot hissed. “I saw it with my own eyes.” 

     Kishar laughed as feelings burgeoned within her. New and powerful feelings. They were an aphrodisiac after weeks of numbness. 

     Both women looked at her as if she had lost her mind. She sighed. Not her mind. Just her soul. The last of the laughter died off in a cold chuckle. A warmth spread through her chest and into her limbs. 

     The first woman hesitantly asked, “You said you did not kill him. If not you, then who?” 

     A metallic tinge hit her tongue as Kishar snapped her mouth shut in rage. “Ba’el killed him. And I will kill him if it takes me eternity,” she vowed, letting the fury course through her. 

††††††††††
 

There you are, the enigmatic Fury origin story. Want to read more of Fury’s stories?

Grab The Hunters and The Hunted, the first two full-length novels in The Hunters Saga. I have about 30 copies left of the 1st edition paperback edition of The Hunters available for those who love collecting 1st editions. I also have some hand-crafted wooden stakes designed for Fury herself!

October Frights Hop

Don’t miss the other awesome events happening as part of #OctoberFrights. There is a bookshop full of awesome books on sale, a giveaway with fantastic reads, and lots of fun stops like this one!

Visit the other blogs here:

Nickronomicon

GirlZombieAuthors

Always Another Chapter

Angela Yuriko Smith

carmillavoiez.com

Frighten Me

Hawk’s Happenings

James P. McDonald

Blood Red Shadows

The Unicorn Herd

Creative Quill

Curiosities

Welcome to Avalon

Until next time,

Keep Reading! 

 

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Story Time sample of the scifi adventure Cloning Freedom by Stephen B. Pearl

Storytime sample of the scifi adventure Cloning Freedom by Stephen B. Pearl

Hello Lovelies,

Oh my goodness, everything has been so crazy and I’ve been running ragged in 50 different directions. But I decided to take a break from all the work to have a little bit of fun!

As part of LitCon2021 I am offering Story Time on An Angell’s Life and I got my first taker.

Prolific author Stephen B. Pearl requested a story time reading of his Scifi adventure Cloning Freedom.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this fun scene he sent over to tease this great story!

 

 

For real, though, while this was part of a project for LitCon, I loved reading this sample so much. I really want to get to learn and know more about Rowan and being able to use my acting again was great! I look forward to getting my own copy and reading and reviewing.

When I finished reading it, I was so jazzed I wanted to go out and buy it right now! Then I remembered that I have 20 books in my TBR and am not allowed to buy more books until I work that list down which kind of broke my heart. But I have added this to the top of my wishlist. Now I want to knock out more of my reading so I can pick this up too!

Join us for LitCon at Litcon.org March 5th-7th It is free for readers as we want you to focus on buying books!

Were you as intrigued with that sample read as I was? Grab Cloning Freedom from the publisher or at your favorite book retailer. Cloning Freedom also comes in a dyslexia-friendly print version, with larger character and line spacing, left-aligned text, and bold type instead of italics for emphasis.

Learn more about Stephen Pearl by visiting his website following him on Facebook  or Following him on Twitter 

Until next time,

Keep Reading! 

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Introducing The Girl Who Disappeared by James Lingard

Introducing The Girl Who Disappeared

Hello Lovelies,

I met an author on Linkedin and was intrigued by his story so I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to it. I’ve really been on a historical fiction kick but this one is unique in that is based on the author’s experience so not quite biographical but with that personal touch. Those tend to be pretty awesome!

THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED

by James Lingard is a fact-based historical novel set in Britain in the 1930s and continuing through the Second World War and the 1940s and 50s.
Emily living with her strict parents in Halifax falls in love with Walter Lingard but on bringing him home, her father throws him out of the house and tries to force her to marry someone else. Emily elopes with Walter during the night to escape her domineering father.
They start their married life in America but move back home for Walter’s career at Lloyds Bank. Their lives are turned upside down by the Second World War.

This sounds like a fascinating novel set in a turbulent time, using a woman’s voice on her thoughts and feelings of war. Her character grows as time passes from a spoilt young woman to a mature lady who has experienced a challenging life. We see her struggle to survive the devastation brought about by the war as she and her four year old son are thrown into the midst of danger and death. The family experience rationing and the terror of bombing. Their air raid shelter is destroyed by a direct hit. 

When Walter volunteers for the army, Emily and her son are evacuated to a rat infested cottage in a farming community near Hebden Bridge. The war changes Walter into an efficient army officer who demands to be obeyed. Emily worries that she might have a rival for his affections.

The Girl Who Disappeared is a moving love story about one woman’s enduring resilience, a story full of quiet humour and surprising twists and turns.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus

KEIGHLEY features in a new romantic novel set during the era of the Second World War.

Author James Lingard has devoted an entire chapter to his family’s time in the town, during the years immediately after the conflict.

“Chapter 18 is devoted to the years my family spent in Keighley,” said Mr Lingard.

“My father was manager of the Lloyds Bank branch in the town from 1947 until the early 1950s. I well remember the town as it then was.”

The Girl Who Disappeared is a historical novel, inspired by real events. ‘Heroine’ Emily falls passionately in love with working-class Walter but the relationship is fiercely opposed by Emily’s class-conscious father. Her actions see her struggle to survive the devastation which follows during the Second World War.

 “The war changes Walter into an efficient army officer and Emily worries that she might have a rival for his affections,” says Mr Lingard, who adds that he has been delighted by early reviews of the novel.

One reviewer described it as “hard to put down” and “a very well-defined – and at times frightening – view of life in Britain during World War II”.

I’m not generally up on the romance novels, but it sounds like this one pulls a lot from real life which I find quite compelling. Add in the historical elements and the struggle of life during war, I’m definitely intrigued.

How about you? Want to take a look at The Girl Who Disappeared with me?

Until Next Time,

Keep Reading!

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A Teaser from Cloud Diver by Joshua Pantalleresco

Sample Read Cloud Diver

As you will recall, the last couple of weeks we have been getting to know Joshua Pantalleresco a bit.

He shared a great guest post on How Books Learned to Love Video Games

And had the best character interview we’ve had in awhile Chester the Zombie Mobster from Cloud Diver

Today he is back to give us a taste of his cyberpunk novel

Cloud Diver

I put it down.

“Walk until I say stop.”

I walked forward three paces.

“Stop.”

I stopped.

“Turn around.”

Steel underscored the velvet tone in her voice. There was an or else implied in her tone. I got a good look at the redhead I was trailing since this all started. She was smaller than I expected. Diamond hard grey eyes stared right though me as if there was nothing out of the ordinary. There was only the tiniest bit of tension in her stance. Her outfit was like some­ thing from the Victorian era. She looked like a video game character more than a real person.

“Who are you?” The redhead caressed the trigger with her finger. She wanted to pull it so badly; I could see the tension in her stance. Why hadn’t she pulled the trigger? Could it be that this gun was a bluff? That it was VOID L I FE2 2 L E V E L 1 – 1

more tool than weapon? I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, this bullet will kill you,” she said, making my tension heighten. “This blade is more than it appears. Answer my question. Who are you?”

I considered my options. The tablet’s escape option mocked me right now—if only I’d brought it with me.

“Feeling shy?” She grinned. She had been in this place before. Her grin faded quickly and she resumed her hard-ass stance. “I will ask again, who are you? Or I will shoot you, and you will die.”

Was she bluffing? No way to know unless she shot me. I didn’t want to die here, but I wasn’t sure telling her my name was a good idea.

“If you don’t tell me your name and why you are here, you will die in five, four, three, two…”

“I’m an engineer at VoidLife!” I pleaded in a please-don’t-kill-me voice I didn’t know I had.

“Don’t you all play in the tower?”

“It’s a paycheque,” I admitted.

The honesty softened the steel in her gaze for just a second. The rational part of me realized that I should be asking her the same things. What was she doing here? What was she after?

“Why are you here?”

“I really don’t have a good answer,” I admitted. “The thirteenth floor isn’t supposed to exist. I opened it and saw you walking on air.”

“I see.” Her eyes softened again and they turned inward. She seemed to be weighing my words in her mind.

I blinked again, looking for my gnome-sized saviour, and did my best not to sigh in relief when I found him. I opened Stevie Y in silent mode, hoping she wouldn’t notice. He still seemed a little woozy in my mind’s eye when I gazed at him.C L O U D D I V E R 2 3

Dude, what was I thinking? His thoughts rattled in my skull. I didn’t respond, looking into the soulless eyes of a crazy chick with a gun, praying she hadn’t noticed me working on my own escape.

Stevie Y, naturally, was oblivious to my impending doom. At first. Why are you silent? Cat got your—ooooh. I see. The situation made Stevie Y go into his own form of silence as he worked on accessing the system’s nodes and pathways. He had managed to get into the system, and hopefully he could find a way to at least get to another room nearby.

“What’s going on in there?” A light flashed in her eyes and the gun was pressed tighter against my head. Perspiration trickled down my forehead.

I think I can get you away from her, Stevie Y said. It took every ounce of willpower not to squeal and show elation on my face; I was almost thank­ ful the gun was on my temple. There was no way for me to let my tension fall to a happy place while she still held my life in her hands. Sudden move­ ments might trigger my death knell.

You need to give me a minute, Stevie Y said. There’s a floor above here I can send you to. Stall her until I can. How could I last a minute?

“You gonna kill me?” I sucked at small talk. Small talk was significantly more difficult with a gun to the head when you are frantically seeking a way not to die.

“Thinking about it,” she admitted. “I like being the only one that knows about this place.”

“But…?” I thought asking this question might actually be beneficial for my well-being. Mentally, my count reached ten. Ten seconds down, fifty more to go.

“Why did you follow me?”

I stalled with silence. I was panicking, I admit. Should I tell her the truth?2 4 L E V E L 1 – 1

“Do I need to count down from five again?”

Okay then, the truth it was. Just had to last forty-five more seconds…

“I was curious.” I gulped.

“Of?”

“The thirteenth floor…” I gasped, catching my breath, finding it odd right here that I’m wondering exactly what I’m breathing in this simula­ tion. I really hoped this idle question wasn’t my last thought here.

“Ah.” She nodded and moved the gun just slightly away from my head. How many seconds was that? Five? Ten maybe? “My little back door. Must have been fate, I guess.” She considered me one more time and pointed the gun right between my eyes.

“You’re going to kill me?”

“I’m going to kill you,” she admitted.

I did the only thing I could think of to buy me another second or two. I screamed. Not my proudest moment, but my screeching grounded her movements to a halt.

“Ow!” She cringed. “No dignity?”

“Dead is dead,” I stated.

“True,” she admitted.

“Boss?” Stevie Y whispered in my mind. “Get ready.”

I braced myself as I saw her finally pull the trigger. I heard the gunfire before an intense flash blinded me. When my vision cleared, I was no lon­ ger standing in the disgusting remnants of a library. I was standing in a garden with trees and flowers blooming around me. I smelled dandelions and pine. This, much like the library, was an unvisited place; I felt like I was disturbing it just by standing there.

In the middle of this undisturbed realm stood an ugly bronze statue of a naked humanoid giant holding the scariest looking spear I had ever seen. C L O U D D I V E R 2 5

Pure menace was staring down at me. The giant’s spear itself was three of me. His only eye was closed as if sleeping.

Before I could sag in relief at escaping certain death, I heard a stone chip as the bronze eye blinked back into existence and the giant came back to life.

“WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER?”

His booming voice shook the room as he glared at me, his spear spin­ ning in his hands. That fear I felt with the gunblade paled into compari­ son, and I suddenly wished the chick had shot me.

I ran.

What would you do?

Want to read more? Grab Cloud Diver today

Where to Find Josh

You can follow his podcast Just Joshing

and you can follow him on Twitter @jpantalleresco

He has a great segment of motivational posts to really lift you up, shares lots of fun and wacky stuff, and is just an overall fun dude.

Until next time,

Keep Reading!

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October Frights- Survivalist Bible Sneak Peek

October Frights Blog Hop

Hello Lovelies, 

Welcome to my stop on the October Frights blog hop. This is a super fun hop that has been put together by A. F. Stewart, and there are so many great teasers, short horror stories, interviews with characters and authors of horror, and so much more. Be sure to check out all the fun stops at A.F. Stewart’s blog. 

 This event is tons of fun and I have done it the last several years and find all sorts of fun new content, so be sure to check out the other stops on the hop! 

Alright, on to my delicious offering for the hop. This is a small sample from Survivalist Bible- Genesis, which just released in the Power of Words Anthology. The anthology contains three other novellas that are absolutely awesome and show the power of words. You should definitely check it out! this scene is when the world collapses around our protagonist’s ears. Gabe Llewellyn is a modern, sophisticated, civilized man. He is not prepared for a world in which survival of the fittest becomes the norm. Now onto the excerpt: 


     I awoke unexpectedly, but couldn’t place what had woken me. The tv was playing some sort of infomercial. I fumbled for the remote turning the tv down. Scanning the room, the bedside table clock flashed 2 am. As the volume went down, another noise took its place. At first, I thought it was the crowd down below. Then I realized that is seemed to be coming from the hallway. My skin prickled with alarm, even as I stumbled out of bed half-awake. Looking through the peephole, I tried to see something through the fisheye warping. I managed to see a few people running by the door, but couldn’t see what was creating the panic. The commotion seemed to be coming from by the elevators.     

A chill ran up my spine and I locked the chain, trying once again to get a view out the hole. No dice. Opening the door as far as the chain would allow, I tried to peek out. There wasn’t enough room to see anything beyond a sliver of the hall to my right, but the sounds of what was unmistakably a fight echoed into my room. My blood ran cold as I thought of the thousands of angry protesters slamming into the window as I walked by in the lobby earlier that very evening. As I began to close the door, it was slammed back when someone crashed into it and slid to the ground. I realized the person was in the hotel security uniform.     

I recoiled in shock. The man was covered in blood. He turned terror-filled eyes on me, his mouth agape in horror. A gash split across his head and oozed blood into his eyes.     

“Help!” he gasped, reaching up to me.   

 I tried to force the door closed, but his full weight was upon it. “I gotta undo the chain,” I pleaded, but he didn’t seem to understand. Before I could make him understand, bloody hands snatched his shoulders ripping him away from the door. As the body was pulled from in front of the door, it slammed shut. I fumbled to remove the chain, but a howl of pain and terror froze me in place. Snapping the chain back into place, I stuck my eye to the eye hole again. A mass of bodies was flailing about and it was hard to tell what was happening. It looked like the security guard was taking a pretty bad beating. I ran to the hotel phone to call the lobby, but there was only a strange hissing at the other end.     

I grabbed my cell phone off the bedside table and dialed 911. A busy signal! Something slammed into the door and I jumped. Another thump echoed throughout the room. Slinking up to the door, I looked out the peephole and stifled a scream as my vision was met with a bloodshot eye trying to look in. Biting my knuckles, I forced down the hysteria that was embroiling within me and slid against the wall. I remember thinking, What in God’s name was happening out there?     

Trying to steel myself, I looked through the hole again. The man had moved toward the middle of the hall. His back was to me and he was staring at something on the ground. Because of the whorl of the glass I couldn’t really tell what it was, but based on the color, I suspected that I didn’t want to know. I tried to call 911 again and wilted at the pre-recorded message. “All lines are busy. Please try your call again later.”     

Suddenly the door reverberated, knocking me sideways and I dropped the phone. I couldn’t help the yelp that escaped. A steady pounding began and grew in volume and intensity. The door reverberated with several strikes, and I put my eye to the eye hole again.Cold horror trickled down my back. There were at least seven people outside my door, all slamming into one another, and into the door. They were splattered in blood and looked… strange. The one in front of the door raised his head as he charged and I realized that he had what looked like a chunk of bloody raw flesh hanging from his mouth.     

I won’t deny, I was in full-on hysterics at this point. Backing away from the door, I tripped over the settee, tumbled into the seat and slammed my head against the wall. I could see the door trembling and sagging further with each strike and I knew it was only a matter of time before they made it through. Frantically I scanned the room for some escape. The bathroom door to my left and the balcony behind me were the only doors in the room. Given that we were on the fourth floor, I wrote off the balcony and bolted for the bathroom.     It’s strange what you don’t notice about the places you go every day. I had been in this hotel room going on four days, but couldn’t tell you anything about the bathroom except that there was a toilet, a decent-sized garden tub, and a sink with a wall of mirror behind it that had good enough lighting to shave.     

I flipped the light switch on, scanning the small room. There were no windows, and the two vents were too small to fit more than an arm through. Being trapped in here would be worse than being trapped in the room. I spun out of the bathroom, and froze as a giant crack echoed through the small room. Two days ago, I would not have considered this a small space. I thought it was quite palatial when I rented it for the event. I had wanted a space that would impress a female guest.   

 Now, it was closing in on me fast. I circled around the bed, past the couch and hesitated in front of the TV at the foot of the bed when another loud crack echoed from the door. I thought the doors were reinforced steel and marveled that I could see gaps of light coming through the door. The gaps expanding with each crunch of the mob outside. If they’d made that much progress in ten minutes, I didn’t have much longer before they got in.     

I needed a weapon! The closest potential weapon was a standing lamp next to the mini-fridge. Grabbing for it, I thanked God that it wasn’t attached to the floor. Still, the thing was awkward. I figured the weighted base was my best defense, most certainly heavy enough to bludgeon someone.     

I took a step back and tested a swing. It was heavy and unwieldy. Another large crack from the door had me stumbling backward. Scanning the room, there were no better weapons. The bedside lamp next to the clock was too small, the TV too large. No, this behemoth was my only defense.   

 Staring transfixed, I flinched with each slam of the door. Every time the crack of the hinges giving echoed through the room, I involuntarily took a step back.     

I found my back pressed against the balcony window. The interminable waiting was killing me. Staring avidly, I realized that the top hinge was almost completely ripped from the wall, the middle hinge was only holding by a thread. I could see arms and shoulders forcing through, scrabbling for purchase, for a way to force the gap wider even as others continued to crash against it, opening that dismal gap more now with each thrust. I had no idea what I would do once they got through. It couldn’t be long. Glancing at the clock I was shocked to see 2:30 am flashing at me. The assault had been going on for at least 30 minutes. Where were the cops? As another crack echoed, I readied myself. I doubted that they would come at me one at a time like they did in the old Kung-fu movies.     

The lock on the door seemed to be holding. Perhaps that would slow them down? Maybe I should be closer to the door, so I could take them out as they forced their way through. My brain screamed at me to move the dresser to block the doorway and slow their approach, while another part demanded that I go nowhere near the mass of tangled body parts trying to squeeze and pull themselves through the door. Terror gripped me almost as hard as I gripped the lamp in frozen knuckles locked white and straining with the tension.     A quick rap on the glass behind me caused my heart to explode. I whipped about in terror, and the lamp slammed into the wall. The reverberation caused me to drop it. I may, or may not, have let loose a very loud and very unmanly scream.

This is just the introduction to Gabe’s world coming unraveled. I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to read the rest of the story, pick up Power of Words or come and join me on my Patreon Channel where I will be releasing each segment of the serial a month before other readers can get it on Amazon.  $1 a month will get you access to the rest of the Survivalist Bible series, and each of my members are included in the Thank you page when each segment releases on Amazon.  Hope to see you enjoying the fun! 

 And Speaking of fun, don’t miss out on the rest of the awesome stops on the October Frights Blog Hop! 
Until next time, 

Keep Reading!

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Character Spotlight- Gail Carr Johnson of Kindred- Birthrite Series II

Character Spotlight- Gail Carr Johnson

Hello Lovelies, 

We have a real treat for you today. We get to meet Gail from Tiffany Apan’s Birthrite series. This series is Dark Fantasy/Historical/ Supernatural/Gothic Horror and Romance. 

Gotta Love Gail​​ 

Gail Carr (or Gail Carr Johnson as she has become in Kindred, The Birthrite, #2) ) was born in Plains, New York in the summer of 1913 as the daughter of Alan Carr and Janina Carr (nee, Calabrese). Her father is of German/Scottish descent, and her mother Persian/Italian. Gail also has two older brothers, Lorenzo and Rory.

Gail spent much of her childhood in the town of her birth, having grown up playing with her two best friends, Linda Parker and Dorothy Blake. Out of the three girls, Gail is the most outspoken. She is not one to shy away from discussing politics, subjects like women’s issues, and just simply stating her opinion, especially if it’s on a topic she feels strongly about. She is the polar opposite from the more soft and high maintenance Linda and while she does share more common ground with Dorothy when it comes to their interests and stances on certain topics, Gail’s personality opposes Dorothy’s more reserved one. Her favorite colors are red and merlot (much of her attire, makeup, and room décor reflects the more bold colors).

​​During her junior year of high school, Gail started going with one of her classmates, Reginald Johnson, a handsome young man who shares much of her interests and opinions. Because of this, the two are very compatible with one another.


In Descent (The Birthrite, #1), Gail and Reginald seem to be the glue holding the group together whileeverything around them falls apart. They remain a source of solidarity until the very end, though shortly after the events of Descent, Reginald notices a change within the girl he loves. While he understands the reasons behind her shift in personality, he worries for her and worries for the future of their relationship, though that doesn’t stop him from proposing marriage on Valentine’s Day of 1932 (this happens in Made in Heaven: A Birthrite Series Short).


In Kindred, Reginald and Gail try their best at settling into married life, even maintaining communication with Dorothy’s cousin, Cletus. But life experience and marriage can sometimes change things, and Gail continues to spiral into a state where she is not herself at all… Here is a taste from Kindred, so you can get to know Gail a bit better. 

INTERLUDEA CHILD’S NIGHTMARE

October 25, 1831
The boy stirred, still half asleep as faint whispers drifted close to where he lay. One of voice stood out among the rest, calling to him, drawing nearer until it was as loud as a clap of thunder. He awoke with a start, sitting up and staring into the inky black as the voices ceased. Taking in deep breaths, he felt the chill in the still quiet. When his eyes adjusted, he averted his gaze toward the floor. He knew what was downstairs and who was laid out in the parlor. Slowly, the boy climbed out of bed, his bare feet touching the cold wood floor. Shivering, he considered lighting a candle. At least it would add a little cheer. But he recalled his parents saying something about the current shortage on rather expensive wax. Thus, he braved the darkness.

​​ Drawing in a breath, he moved through the second floor of the house, feeling an outside force pulling him toward the stairs. He descended, continuing his steps until reaching the parlor. He approached the chaise on which his older brother was laid out. The boy’s vaporized breath was visible as he leaned over the young man’s corpse. As the child stared down at the dead twenty-one-year-old, the whispering started again. He turned around to see a shadow rise from the floor in a far corner of the room. The boy trembled as the dark mass increased in size.A rustling from behind broke his stare. Slowly, he turned to see his brother, rising to sit with eyes wide open. The boy was paralyzed with fright as the young man’s head slowly turned to face him. The corpse pointed to the corner in the room from where the shadow was rising. Then the boy’s brother’s jaw dropped, letting out a horrifying, choked scream…
…The little boy sat bolt upright up in bed, frantically looking about the cold dark room. Letting out a shaking breath, he willed himself to remain calm. His thoughts immediately went to his brother, who was now at seminary. Bewilderment filled him as he wondered of the reasons for having such a terrifying dream. As far as he knew, his brother was not at all ill and was doing well in training for the priesthood. He was about to graduate, among the best in his class.

The young one laid back down, but found it impossible to shake the remaining dread. For as long as the two were able to recall, he and his brother both experienced prophetic dreams. He hoped that this dream was merely symbolic of something other than the horror that it showed. Perhaps by joining the priesthood, his brother’s former self would symbolically “die” before being reborn once he was ordained.

As the child tried to focus on keeping this in mind, a noise from behind made him freeze. His breath grew rapid as he tried moving, only to find his limbs stiff. Something was creeping up on him in the dark.

The boy shut his eyes, praying for whatever it was to disappear. In the blackness of his tightly closed eyes, a landscape appeared before him, one engulfed in purple light. He also had a feeling of being pursued.Finally, the scene disappeared and his eyes opened. His body trembled as he looked around to see who (or what) was in the room with him.There was no one else.

CHAPTER 4

Pennsylvania Railroad Station inWilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
June 22, 1933
Thursday Evening
1
The clock on top of a large, stone pillar just outside of the railroad station stated the time as five ‘o’ clock as the next train was pulling in. The locomotive came to a slow, grinding halt, waking Cletus from sleep. His vision was hazy as he glanced out the window, seeing parts of the town called Wilkes-Barre. He closed the thick copy of Les Miserables in his lap before rising to collect his small suitcase.As the other passengers filed off, the young man’s attention was once again drawn toward the window. His eyes fell to a corner that was a short distance down from the train. He wrenched slightly, squinting when he saw a tall, dark figure that seemed to be staring at the train. (staring right at the window that Cletus’s seat was next to) Cletus’s blood froze as he could feel eyes boring into him.

Disconcerting sensations crept out from his core and the figure seemed to go unnoticed by those passing it by on the sidewalk.The young man attempted to place the figure’s identity, fearing that perhaps this was Gavril, but his efforts were blocked by another vision of Plains. He had a sudden sensation of floating through the town. A blurred halo framed his vision of the Colonial and Victorian homes lining the street. We could easily drive out there…Such thoughts were seeping into every corner of his mind, beckoning, placing him into a more deeply lulled and hypnotized state…“Are you all right?”Like a splash of ice water, awareness hit him. The question that shook him from his trance was spoken by a rather pleasing voice. Cletus averted his gaze from the window to find a rather attractive young lady gazing at him. Her eyes reflected concern…and slight flirtatiousness. The remaining sunlight filtering in through the windows gave her light brown hair a lovely sheen, and her deep blue eyes were set off by the blouse she wore.Cletus inhaled. “Yeah…yeah I’m fine. Just a little tired from traveling. Thanks.” He motioned for her to go on ahead of him. When she did, he took another glance out the window, jolting slightly upon seeing that the figure was gone. After taking a second to collect himself, he started down the aisle after her.Upon reaching the door, the girl faced him again. “Can I ask where you’re coming from?”His heart pounded. “Dayton, Ohio.””Oh, do you have family out here?””Uh, yeah. Friends, actually. And a distant cousin.””You’re visiting.”He nodded.Rather awkward silence passed between the two as they stepped onto the stone walkway. As new passengers boarded the train, he tried ignoring her sideways glances at him.”My name is Christina,” she offered. “I’m actually from Delaware, but I’m moving because of a new job. I was recently hired as a hospital receptionist. I’m not too terribly thrilled about leaving my family behind, but I suppose we should all be grateful for any employment these days.””Yeah, definitely.””I do have to stay in town overnight,” she continued (obviously not willing to allow them to go their separate ways), “and then I board a train to New York. Plains, to be exact.”Cletus flinched upon hearing the town’s name. A vision of the old Blake house on Muholland materialized before him, causing him to pause once more.”Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked, again returning him to the present.”Oh, yeah…yeah. Just a bit of lag…”She smiled. “Well, I ‘m famished. Train food isn’t exactly what I would call appetizing. Or suitable for human consumption.”He allowed her a slight grin. “You’re right about that.”Her sapphire eyes reflected a sort of coyness. “I was planning on getting something to eat. I hear there are a few good diners in these parts.”Cletus’s stomach flipped as he regarded this young woman called Christina. While his ability to read people was not as strong as Dorothy’s, he could easily see that this girl had hopes in him offering to come with her.His blood raced as he knew that if his buddies, Patrick, Rob, and Grant, were here, they would be urging him to accept her invitation, calling him crazy if he didn’t. And if one thought on it, there was no reason for him not to. This young woman was attractive and seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. I could invite her along with Reg, Gail, and I…or at least get the number to where she’s staying… But as it had been with other girls that briefly entered his life, he knew nothing would ever happen with Christina. Because Christina was not her.(It’s a blessing and a curse)Finally, Cletus cleared his throat. “Well, good luck with everything. I’m sure you’ll do well. My friends are waiting for me here so I gotta run and I have to make sure I phone my girlfriend before it gets too late. But it was nice meeting you, Christina.”He turned away, never looking back as he felt her crestfallen gaze. He also tried shaking away the foolish feeling he had over the excuse of phoning a girlfriend that did not exist.Sure enough, not too far away, Reginald and Gail waited for him. Relief filled Cletus as he smiled and waved to his friends.Reginald grinned. “We were starting to wonder if you backed out.”Cletus quickened his pace as he approached the couple and shook hands with Reginald. “Sorry. I dozed off on the train and it took me a little while to wake up.””Yeah, well we actually did see you get off but didn’t want to interrupt.” Reginald winked. “Looked like you were making a new friend.”Cletus’s eyes shifted nervously toward no place in particular. “Oh…that was nothing much. Just small talk.” He anticipated telling them of the Gypsy girl at some point during this trip.”Well in that case,” Gail said, “I can see even more family resemblance between you and Dorothy. I think you broke the poor girl’s heart. How was the train ride?” She gave her girlfriend’s cousin a brief hug.”Long,” Cletus replied. He parted from Gail and the three started toward the Johnsons’ car. “Nothing but cows and fields as far as the eye could see.”Reginald laughed. “How exciting. No wonder you fell asleep.”“Yeah, not even Victor Hugo could keep me awake,” Cletus said grinning.“That’s pretty bad,” Gail said.Upon arriving at the car, Reginald opened the trunk for Cletus to set his suitcase and book in before going to get the passenger door for his wife.As Cletus settled into the back seat, and Reginald and Gail in the front, a brief moment of melancholy crept among the three. It was especially evident when Reginald glanced back at Cletus through the rearview mirror. There was something in the other young man’s eyes, and that same energy radiated from Gail.In an instant, the moment was broken and Reginald started the car, pulling out of the station parking area and onto the road. The silence between the three was broken when the young man in the drivers’ seat asked, “How’s life in Ohio?””Well, as I said in my last letter, I’m still working a lot,” Cletus replied. “Trying to help mom and dad with expenses and such, along with saving up for my own car and place.”Reginald sighed. “I completely understand. It took me a good year to save up for the vehicle I have now. By the way, we tried making the couch as comfortable as possible. You’re absolutely sure you don’t want our room? It’s still up for grabs.””Oh, I’m positive. Thank you, though,” Cletus replied. “The couch will be fine.””Well, if you change your mind, let us know. As of this moment, we can only afford a one-bedroom apartment. Hopefully that will change, but with the economy being the way it is, we can only play it by ear.””It gets especially interesting when our families come to visit,” Gail added. “Someone always ends up on the floor.””Yeah, and that someone is me,” Reginald said dryly. “Of course we allow anyone visiting use of our bedroom. Gail gets the couch and I’m on the luxuriously comfortable floor.””My man is a tough sheik,” Gail said, leaning in to kiss her husband’s cheek.”And this tough sheik’s back is always screaming at him the next morning,” Reginald quipped.Gail’s dark eyes regarded Reginald, as if to say, and you know I always take care of that later.Cletus watched the couple as images of the young Romany woman from his dreams entered. He thought of Christina back at the station, feeling guilt over dismissing her in such a way. He also nearly laughed out loud over telling her of a girlfriend that didn’t exist (at least not in the physical realm…). But leading her on wouldn’t be right either. Somehow, some way soon, he and this Romani girl were supposed to meet. Just how, he was unsure, but eventually it would happen.Cletus’s thoughts were interrupted when Gail turned around in her seat.  “There are a couple more sights we’d like to show you while you’re here,” she said. “Also, we still attend Mass on Sundays if you would like to join us.”Cletus raised his eyebrows. “We? You mean you’re taking the plunge and joining the fold, Reg?”Reginald shrugged. “I’m considering it. Staying in touch with Father Louis has been a huge help, if you know what I mean.”Cletus did know.In that moment, he saw Plains once again in his mind’s eye. Visions of the library with the painted portrait of its founder, James Livingston, life-like and staring back at him. The scene shifted, and Cletus was shown his cousin’s old, now vacant home before being taken to Gregory the Great Church. He could see Father Louis seated inside his chamber, reading over what appeared to be documents of great importance. Within seconds, the vision dissipated into the air and he could see Gail looking back at him, her brown eyes inquisitive.Cletus nodded as if to reassure her that all was well. Of course, the three knew better, and Cletus found the wistful expression in her eyes rather disconcerting. She seemed to force it away, allowing her old brazen self to return.”On the way to Tahatan’s,” she said, “we pass though Elmhurst. There is a beautiful set of Gothic buildings inhabited by an order of monks. Maybe we can stop and have a look tomorrow.”Cletus nodded. “I’d like that.””I do think the architecture would be of great interest to you,” Reginald added. “But in the meantime, who wants to grab a bite to eat?””I wouldn’t mind,” Gail replied.”Me neither, “Cletus said. “I could definitely go for a burger.”Reginald grinned. “It’s settled then.”Within a few minutes, the car pulled up beside Mildred’s Diner where they had eaten during Cletus’s last visit.During their time inside the restaurant, the group discussed college, jobs, and other aspects of their lives not related to the events experienced two Novembers ago. All three chose to avoid what needed discussed in favor of a few sweet moments of normalcy.Normalcy that they knew would not last.

2

It was close to midnight when Reginald and Gail retreated to their bedroom, once more offering their guest accommodations better than the couch. As before, Cletus politely declined and proceeded to make himself comfortable.This isn’t so bad, he thought, settling back and gazing toward the ceiling, recounting the evening’s events.It was a little after seven ‘o’ clock when the three left the diner and arrived at the Johnsons’ apartment. They stayed in the sitting area for about four hours more, conversing into the night, touching briefly on what would be discussed at Tahatan’s, though underlying dread over delving back into the devastating events was ever present. Now alone in the dark, Cletus decided to not dwell on such things for at least that time. This included the mysterious figure from the railroad station (which he also refrained from telling his two friends…at least for now, he told himself).His eyes started adjusting and looked out to the moon hanging in the sky. He could hear noises on the street below and was reminded of how different this area was from his rural life in Ohio.His mind started wandering and his eyes grew heavy. Suddenly he was drifting over a large field where two little boys, one with dark hair and the other fair, played. He had seen these two children several times in recent years after falling into sleep. The boys were running around with a ball and oblivious to the hooded figure standing at the edge of a distant forest. Beside the cloaked individual was a young man dressed in the nineteenth century attire of a peasant or slave.As Cletus drew closer, he could see the young man’s dark complexion and wavy black hair that reached the collar of his shirt. He felt a certain kinship, and – after getting close enough to see his features – knew who he was.Nicolae… Cletus could place some physical resemblance between the Romany slave and Dorothy’s friend Jimmy.When he turned back toward the two little boys, they vanished before his eyes and the scene shifted from day into night. The field around him disappeared and Cletus found himself on a dark, deserted road. Up ahead was a sign. He ran toward it, the balmy wind blowing back his clothes and hair. His steps slowed as he felt the cold, rough pavement beneath his feet. The moon illuminated the street sign, seeming to specifically cast its glow for the young man to read the letters etched into the wood:Hunters HighwayAbove that sign, two connected arrows pointed in directions opposing one another. The top one read Stone Creek and the bottom, Pinewoods. Both towns where 25 miles from where he stood.He gasped at the familiarity of the town names and felt a draw toward the latter. But when his eyes snapped open, he was back on the couch in the apartment.He turned back over to face the window, and his insides jolted upon seeing a face appear just outside the glass pane. He sat up, only to have the shape vanish.Cletus tried forming a rational explanation for what he saw, but it was a futile attempt. Chills enveloped his body as he glanced about the dark room. Faint whispers seeped in through the walls. Frozen to where he sat, he tried making out what was being said, but the words proved inaudible.As his body gained mobility, he considered heading to Reginald and Gail’s bedroom, but couldn’t move quickly enough, as though he were fighting his way through quicksand.Eventually, the whispers faded out and the air was overtaken by the distant sounds of a piano playing a familiar piece by the composer DeBussy.The song to the moon…To his relief, Cletus’s movement became more fluid and he was able to rise from the couch. He flinched when his foot touched an icy wood floor.His eyes darted about and breath hitched when he saw the property of the Fleming Orphanage surrounding him. The summer breeze turned into a crisp, autumn chill as the song flowed with the wind that carried it. Leaves fell from their branches, blanketing the ground, seeming to undulate with the notes being played.He was compelled toward the woods, feeling Dorothy’s presence and the grave danger she was in by being here. Confused and disoriented, he looked around, calling out to her, but she was nowhere in sight.His voice was getting lost in the wind stirring up as it carried DeBussy’s song. The woods and empty buildings of the former orphanage took on menacing shapes, as if they were alive and mocking him. Every fiber of his being wrenched when he heard a distant howling from somewhere in the woods. His breath grew rapid as his lungs took in the icy air. The song to the moon faded and the sound of someone humming another familiar tune took over. All the Pretty Little Horses…Cletus tried moving in the direction of the hill, knowing that it would take him away from the property, but the wind increased in strength and invisible arms seemed to hold him back. He heard the howling again, only this time, it was much closer, sounding unlike any animal he knew of. A foul stench started crawling out from the buildings as the windows radiated a deep red glow.(Like blood…)The glow pulsed, spreading throughout the property as the stench of death and decomposition engulfed him. His body stiffened upon hearing a bloodthirsty growl closing in behind him.He tried to run, but his feet were planted to the earth. He could sense it inching closer, crunching over the cold, drying leaves. The creature’s rancid breath assaulted his nostrils before it let out a deafening roar. Then the creature pounced, pummeling the young man forward…


3
Friday morning
June 24


…Cletus was jarred awake, relieved to find himself back in Reginald and Gail’s sitting area as early dawn filtered in through the window. He sat up, glancing about his surroundings and seeing that he was on the floor with the blanket tangled around him. His temples throbbed as he looked back toward the couch. Rising to stand, he untangled the blanket.As he started toward the couch, he caught a glimpse at his feet, stopping short upon seeing traces of dirt caking his skin.Blood raced in his ears as he tried coming up with an explanation for why this would be. Maybe Gail isn’t a very good housekeeper… But a look around the small apartment suggested otherwise.Cletus sat down, leaning back on the couch and running a hand through the dark strands of his hair. He attempted to decipher his dream, trying to hang onto the details, but most of it was fading from memory.Frustrated, he folded up the blanket and placed it neatly over the pillow resting against the arm of the couch. Then with a final glance at the morning sunrise, he forced himself toward the washroom.


4

Cold water rained from the shower head, fully waking him from remaining remnants of his troubled slumber. Trying to maintain a sense of calm, Cletus hurried to finish showering, shut off the water, and started drying off. After wrapping the towel around his waist, he stepped over the tub rim and started to dress.While buttoning his shirt, he heard someone exit Reginald and Gail’s bedroom. Intent on allowing the other two access to the washroom as soon as possible, he glanced in the mirror once more to check his appearance. A rather unnatural glint in the glass caused him to take a step backward. In an instant, the small flash disappeared.His heart pounded as he glanced around, trying to identify a possible light source. Chills rose on his arms upon the reminder of the room being windowless.In a flash, the Fleming Orphanage appeared before him, an image accompanied by a sensation of floating. He found himself moving passed the main building toward another on the property until going through a front entrance. He passed by what looked to be a large dining area before being taken up four sets of dark staircases. Finally, he reached the fourth floor, and continued down the corridor. When he came to a stop, he was in front of a room with a certain set of numbers nailed into the door.410…The sound of knocking wrenched him, and the interior of the orphanage disappeared.”Cletus?” Reginald’s voice spoke from the other side of the washroom door.”Yeah…” Cletus whirled around, struggling to keep his voice steady.”Everything all right in there?””Yeah…yeah, I’m on my way out.”Drawing in a breath and steadying himself, Cletus opened the door to see the other young man standing in the small hallway, wearing a robe over his pajamas.“Sorry,” Cletus stammered.The left corner of Reginald’s mouth quirked. “It’s fine. I just didn’t want to barge in. No need to make this visit awkward.”Gail emerged from the bedroom, wearing a red satin robe and holding a towel. “Did you guys want me to start coffee before I hop in the shower?” she asked.Reginald kissed his wife’s cheek. “I’ll do that. You go ahead and get yourself ready.”Her dark eyes held her husband’s light ones for a moment. Cletus could see the love that the two had for one another and while he tried to not stare, he couldn’t help noticing something that seemed to be brewing below the surface.Cletus looked away.”Thank you, my love,” Gail said, a hint of humor in her voice. She smiled at her friend’s cousin, moving passed him and retreating to the washroom.Once she was inside, Reginald motioned for Cletus to follow him to the small kitchen. The former started making coffee, filling the apartment with the liquid’s aroma.Noticing that conflicted look once again in the light-haired man’s eyes, Cletus blurted out, “Something eatin’ you?”Reginald’s eyes widened, blinking rapidly before his features relaxed.”I’m sorry,” Cletus stammered. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”Reginald held up a hand. “No, no, it’s fine.””Well…can I ask what’s wrong?”Reginald drew in a breath. “Actually, I probably should talk about it. I haven’t discussed it with anyone and it is eating me up. I haven’t even brought it up to Gail.” He paused. “Actually…that’s not entirely true…we have discussed…””What?”Reginald paused, regarding the other young man for a moment before replying, “Having a baby.””Oh…”Reginald dropped his voice. “I want us to.”Both young men were silent upon hearing the shower shut off.”Really?” Cletus’s voice was just above a whisper. “Well that’s wonderful.” Reginald sighed and smiled slightly. The two young men remained silent as the washroom door opened. Gail’s footsteps hurried toward the bedroom and the door shut.After being certain that she was out of earshot, Cletus asked, “What’s the problem?”Reginald shifted, reflecting a sort of guilt. “Gail wants to wait a couple of years and I understand her reasons. She wants us to be in a better place financially. So far, we’ve been careful and always take necessary precautions to avoid…” He paused, the inner conflict increasing by the second. “She also wants more time using her aviators license…which, I admit, worries me.””I thought you were happy for her.””Oh I am, don’t get me wrong. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns. I mean, one small mishap and…” He swallowed, his eyes moving downward as his anguish over what could go wrong in a plane visibly heightened.As Cletus watched the other young man, an image of the Romany girl flashed through every part of his being before fading into one of Jimmy and Linda. Jimmy was still heavily scarred from his time in Hell but continuing to make progress in his long recovery. He was seated beside Linda, just outside of a large, elegant, though rustic, building. Her head rested on his shoulder and his arms embraced her as the couple watched a small, dark-haired little girl toddling around in front of them.As the image left, Cletus studied Reginald once more and said, “I’m sure you two will work something out.”Reginald sighed. “I know. Compromise, right? It comes with being married. Besides, if this is the most conflict she and I have had so far, I guess things are pretty good.”Cletus started to respond but stopped when he heard the bedroom door open. Seconds later, Gail entered the kitchen, dressed and made up.She sauntered up behind her husband and playfully smacked his behind. “Your turn, sweetheart.”Reginald’s troubled expression quickly transformed into a loving smile. “Thanks, baby.” After one more sip of his coffee, he gave her temple a kiss. “When I’m done we can go to Mildred’s and grab a bite. I know it ain’t Chuck’s but it’s close enough.”Gail reached for the empty cup Reginald had left for her on the counter and poured some coffee. “Hey I’m fine with not having to cook today.” She took a sip and grinned. “No offense, Cletus.”Cletus chuckled. “None taken. I like diner food once in a while.””Well, I won’t be long,” Reginald said, and headed to the washroom, but not without regarding his wife once more.Gail’s long lashes blinked rapidly over her dark eyes as she caught her husband’s gaze. Once again, the mood seemed to take on a melancholy shift.Cletus watched the couple for another moment. As the washroom door shut behind Reginald, he turned to face the coffee pot, trying to push back the unexplained dread churning within.

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek. Do you want to learn more about The Birthrite Series? Visit Tiffany’s website.

Take a peek inside Descent, and Sacred Atonement (book 1.5 in the Atonement Series) from Amazon today. 

Tiffany Apan is a singer/songwriter/actress/author of dark romantic fantasy fiction and award winning producer/writer. Learn more about all she has to offer at www.tiffanyapan.com

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Meet the Author with Rhonda Lee Carver

Meet author Rhonda Lee Carver

Hello Lovelies, 

Welcome to another fun author interview with romance author Rhonda Lee Carver! At an early age, Rhonda fell in love with romance novels, knowing one day she’d write her own love story. Life took a short detour, but when the story ideas would no longer be contained, she decided to dive in and write. Her first rough draft was on a dirty napkin she found buried in her car. Eventually, she ran out of napkins. With baby on one hip and laptop on the other, she made a dream into reality—one word at a time. Her specialty is men who love to get their hands dirty and women who are smart, strong and flawed. She loves writing about the everyday hero. When Rhonda isn’t crafting sizzling manuscripts, you will find her busy editing novels, blogging, juggling kids and animals (too many to name), dreaming of a beach house and keeping romance alive. Oh, and drinking lots of coffee to keep up with her characters.


Welcome to an Angell’s Life, Rhonda! What is the current book you are promoting?

Cowboys Forgive (#8, Cowboys of Nirvana)


Coming from the Midwest, I have a special place in my heart for Cowboys! What is your next project?

My next project is Weston’s story, book 3 of Saddles & Second Chances. It will be releasing in July!


Sweet! Can’t wait to see. What is one place you would like to visit and why?

Bora Bora. I want to stay in a water hut. I love the ocean and blue water.


That would be really neat. How do you write your books?

With lots of peace and quiet. When my kids are in school I work all day.


Ha, I can relate. The day my kids started school was the greatest day of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to pieces (as I’m sure you do.) but man they take up a lot of time! What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?

We always have something to learn, no matter how many published books we have or how much money we make.

Rhonda has provided a sample of her latest book. Enjoy!
​​ 

Taking a dirt bath off a bull lands Jace Jackson into the hands of beautiful, smart, sexy country singer Jessa Garvey. In pain and loopy on pain meds, he has no clue he’s flirting with her, and making a big damn fool of himself. Back in high school she rejected him, and although years have passed, sometimes a cowboy can’t forget. When Miss Priss invades his space at Nirvana, he decides to give her a dose of her own medicine and puts her to work mucking stalls. That’ll teach her…
Or will it?
Trading her guitar for a shovel, Jessa is out to prove to Jace that she isn’t the same person she was as a teenager. As far as she’s concerned, he’ll forgive her even if it kills her, or lands her hot and willing in bed with the dangerously handsome cowboy.
She’s in deep.
Forgiveness is granted, but she isn’t prepared for the choices she must make. Has she changed enough? Does the sliver of selfishness remain?

“I’m getting my pants back on. I’m feeling a draft.” He searched the room and found his clothes neatly stacked on the table. As he stepped over to grab them his gown opened in the back, showing off a pair of blue striped boxers. She stifled a giggle. Good thing he wasn’t naked, but good for whom? She wouldn’t have minded. Tight asses were hard to find.“Damn!” He gave his head a quick shake. She noticed that he was having some difficulty managing sliding one foot into the leg of his jeans because he was favoring his sore ribs.“Here, I’ll help.”She heard his gasp as she knelt before him, helping him slide one leg in, and once that was done, she smiled. “That’s wasn’t too hard.” She looked up and gulped. she was eye-level with his crotch—his bulging crotch.

His eyes fell to her mouth and he didn’t need to say a word for her to realize where his thoughts headed. She couldn’t help herself as her own thoughts stumbled down the same direction. Looking further up his body, he was wide-eyed and a tuft of his hair hung down his forehead.

Clearing her throat, she wasn’t sure where to go from here.As if he couldn’t help himself, he closed his eyes. Could he be trying to control his thoughts? Things only got worse—or harder. The tip of his erection poked out of the hole in his underwear. He opened his eyes and groaned in humiliation.With jeans scrunched at his ankles, he took a step back, lost his balance and fell back onto the floor, hitting his head on the metal table sending it crashing against the wall.“Damn! Son-of-a-gun. Mother fucker!” After the strings of explicits finished, he lifted a hand to touch the back of his head, wincing in pain.“Jace? Are you okay?” She squatted beside him, helping him sit up. “Does it hurt?”“No, it feels great.” He touched his ribs lightly.She bit her lip, not sure what to do to help him at this point. “I’m sorry.”

“I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning.” He moaned. “Go ahead, hit me right here and knock me out.” He patted his cheek.“I wouldn’t do that.” She frowned.“Damn pain pills better work!” he groaned.“Hold on. Let me see what I can do.” She stood, scanned the small area and found an ice bag that he must have been using on his ribs. She brought it over and he watched her, his eyes glazed. Yeah, she’d guess the meds were starting to kick in. She sat next to him and patted her lap. “I’ll ice the back of your head.”He wrapped his steely arms around her. Their faces were so close she could see a freckle on his cheek. “I’m a little blurry-eyed and wobbly, but you’re beautiful.”

“Yes, you are.”Before she knew what was happening, he bobbed back and forth then moaned. Just as she’d suspected, she was no resistance against his weight. Together they fell to the floor with him sprawling on top of her, pinning her underneath his unconscious body. “Jace?”Nothing.“Hello? Yoo-hoo!” She tapped him on the shoulder. This time she received a deep snore in response.Oh no. I’m trapped.She tried pushing him to the side, but her arms were stuck under him. His snoring grew louder, tickling her ear drum. Her limbs were quickly falling asleep. And if this position wasn’t enough to throw her for a loop, his hand came up and grasped her breast. What should have been pure humiliation skittering through her body, instead was a reminder that she was a woman who craved a man’s touch. A woman who found this cowboy sexy and amazingly virile.He jerked and she looked down at his profile. He was staring at her. “Jessa? That’s you,” he mumbled. “You, snob, you. I didn’t like your prom dress.”She froze. So, he did recognize me. Although he was talking out of his head.“You’re cozy,” he said against her chest.Jessa realized she should be doing her best to get the brawny man off her body, but instead, she found it quite entertaining. And she had a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time she saw Jace Jackson, not if she could help it.


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Sample of Dulled Mind by Jared J. Fleming

Sample of Dulled Mind by Jared J. Fleming

Hello Lovelies, 
I have an exciting new sample story to share with you. Not one of mine, but a sample of fellow author Jared J. Fleming. He is a somewhat new writer, having been posting and published as an author for only a few months now. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm and passion. He’s 17 years old, and lives in Canada, writing mainly science fiction and fantasy stories.
He was kind enough to share the first chapter of his new story Dulled Minds with us. I LOVED it. 


DULLED MIND – CHAPTER 1 

“Welcome to the greatest hive of scum and villainy in this entire damned sector,” Bulat chuckled as he landed the cruiser in the spaceport of the most aptly named Avarice Quartus. “Now, let’s get fucked up, shall we?”​​

Naomi leapt off the ship, going through the bubble of contained air after their ship had been maglocked to the port. They landed on the surface of the spaceport, and walked inside. The artificial gravity kicked in, and Naomi’s feet planted firmly on the ground. She brushed the clinging static of the containment field off her black shirt and waited for Kate to get off the ship.

Kate’s long hair stood up in messy strands from the static electricity, levitating in the air. When she straightened her hair and let it hang down again, Naomi decided to have a little fun. Kate’s hair floated back up, suspended high in the air like some sort of creature that had taken up residence on her head. Kate flattened it down again, shrugging it off as just some electricity that hadn’t quite gone away.

Naomi made it rise up again. Kate caught on, glaring at Naomi, who responded with a smug smile. The hair came to life under her influence, moving and twisting around to form a false mustache around Kate’s mouth.

“Hey, stop!” Kate pushed the hair away, trying and failing to hide an amused smirk. “That tickled.” 

Naomi blew a kiss over in her direction.

“Love you, babe,” she said. Kate linked arms with her, and they waited for the captain to get off the ship. It always took him somewhat longer, given that he had to check every one of the countless systems that kept him alive. Make sure the musculature was charged and nothing was frayed, check that his internal organs were still all where they needed to be and none of the adapters had gotten loose. Plus, he may have decided to change out his liver, save the real one from himself. They were in port after all, and that meant that any sapient being on that vessel would probably do everything that a doctor would have a conniption over.

The spaceport was full of cheap bars and brothels, the kinds you went to if you wanted to play Rashun Roulette with STDs. Of course, these were the among the most successful, given that it was rare to see anyone there who wasn’t, for lack of a better term, occupied. Bright neon signs glared over, with every one of the major languages of the Galaxy spelling out the name of the establishments. One that caught Naomi’s eye, if only for the bizarre name, was called Hecatoncheires. Naomi tapped her auglenses to make sure that they were working properly. They were. Every language translated into the exact same word.

Naomi made a mental note to figure out what the hell it meant, but she passed by the place without even considering going in. She had been to a lot of different, seedy places before, but the ones here were enough to make her skin crawl. It wasn’t just that they were dirty, or that unsavoury things happened in them. Those, she could handle. Those, she had partaken in. It couldn’t be fully described. If asked, she would chalk it up to a sort of preternatural sense of dread, a natural side-effect of being a psion.

The space elevators were always something impressive. Massive spires, nearly a kilometer around and many, many kilometers high, extending all the way up to the spaceport. Dozens of floors that all had massive structures attached to them, from the thermoelectric generators that hung in in low orbit to the city-sized aerodocks to the arms companies who advertised their zero-g-manufactured firearms as if every other company hadn’t already taken full advantage of the benefits of space when it came to making products.

The captain plodded on behind them, the whirr of mechanical parts a familiar, if not slightly disconcerting, sound. Naomi could never place it, but even after 15 years of service, she still felt a little…unnerved by him. Maybe it was because when she joined his crew, he was still relatively human. Now, she couldn’t think of a single part of him that hadn’t been touched by machines, either completely and totally replaced, or heavily modified. He was a good man, of course, and had given a brand new life to Naomi, but that feeling still persisted. She had never told him, and suspected she never would.

“Alrigh’,” he said, crossing his arms. “I’s gotta go an’ get our stocks refilled. Damn near outta gauss shells and Silakor’s been complainin’ that ‘is nutrient bath’s feelin’ a lil’ thin. Think he’d like me to get a new sensory chip fer ‘is automaton too?”

Naomi shrugged. “It’s your money. You’ve transferred our cuts to our accounts, right?”

The captain snorted. “‘Course I have! You think I’d cheat ya or somethin’?”

Naomi rolled her eyes. “Of course not, captain, I was just asking.”

The captain shooed them away. “Go on, we didn’t stop a’ port fer ya to jus’ stand around.”

Naomi shook her head, and walked to the elevator. She let Kate pick where to go first, and the two of them descended down. They stopped somewhere about four miles above the surface, where the buzz of generators was present, but faint, and where the arms manufacturers had decided to peddle their wares.

The signs here were more muted than above. Of course, that was hardly saying much. More muted, in these circumstances, meant that the lights didn’t flicker between colours project holograms, but instead they were high contrast, white and black, blue and yellow, red and green, all reflective to the point of being glossy. TDM Arms, Personal Defense Limited, Ebonspring, every single corporation who decided to sell a weapon could be found here. A few smaller booths, local gunsmiths, existed here and there, in stalls. Naomi didn’t have any interest in the local goods. Half the time they were scams, and the other half of the time they were some poor sod’s attempt at reinventing the wheel.

Naomi nudged Kate. “Hey, so…do you need to get more stingers?” Kate shrugged.

“Uh…I used…three mags in the mission to Tel-kalar, uh…two during that suppression we were a part of…and another four…yeah, I need to get a lot more. Ol’ girl’s nearly empty. Ebonspring normally carries that kinda stuff, right?”

Naomi nodded. “Yeah, Ebonspring has a lotta stuff.”

Ebonspring’s store itself was massive, at least a few acres. Robots, luckily not sentient ones, and customers interacted, exchanging weaponry ranging from the smallest palm pistol to artillery pieces you could mount on your arm. Kate went off to the back, where the larger stuff was. They even had a full gauss weapon on display, nearly fifteen meters long, shells proudly displayed alongside it. Each one was taller than Naomi.

Something, or rather, someone, picked up on her radar. An extrasensory thing that felt most akin to knowing someone is behind you, eyes fixed on your back. It got stronger as Naomi got closer, until she found some Teluric talking to a robot. A psion, she could tell. He was talking to the robot, trying to convince it to give him a lower price. The stream of consciousness, the manipulation of reality, it was more obvious than a shotgun going off beside one’s ear. Naomi just tapped him on shoulder, or rather what was most akin to a shoulder for a Teluric.

He turned around, beady eyes (all eight of them) staring up at Naomi intensely. The recognition between two psions was almost never verbal, but they both knew. A three fingered hand rubbed the thick, wrinkled jowl, carefully considering their words.

“You do know we can’t influence machines, right?” Naomi asked.

The Teluric closed four of its eyes, in what Naomi assumed to be an attempt at squinting.

“Is that so…?”

“Yes.” Naomi was blunt. “And don’t you go trying it on organics, either. That kind of shit’ll get you hung upside-down and used as target practice. Trust me, it happens.”

The Teluric shifted uncomfortably, and finally relented, skulking away as best it could. He didn’t do a very good job, after all, it’s rather hard to sneak away when your method of locomotion is scrunching up like an inchworm.

A few minutes later, as she was examining the bolt of a reproduction of some extremely old gun, made all the way back on Terra in the 20th century, she heard people coming down the aisle, stomping. They were either very large, or wearing something very heavy. Naomi turned around.

They were both. Various species, wearing heavy dragonscale armor. Overlapping plates of metal concealed their bodies. Their faces were obscured by darkened visors, and each of them held in their hands a weapon. The Teluric was behind them, trying to conceal themselves behind a rack of shotguns.

“You have been accused of breaking the Psion Code that exists on this world. You are charged with manipulation of others through psionic powers, illegal abuse of psionic powers for personal gain. Come with us.” Their tone made it absolutely clear that it was not a request. One of them tapped at the teeth on their Mutilators’ chain, as if taunting Naomi with her fate if she went.

 Naomi, instead, decided to run.

Are you loving what Jared’s laying down? Check out more on his Reddit Thread.


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