Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Chandrea: The Return of the Avatar Queen by Marlene Wynn



Chandrea:
The Return of the Avatar Queen
Marlene Wynn

Book Description:

Chandrea Averill thinks she’s just like any other normal young woman.  But, on the day of her 23rd birthday, her life changes forever.  Surrounded by magical creatures, dangerous sorcery, and insidious political intrigue,

Chandrea desperately wants to return to Earth and the only life she’s ever known.  But, the longer she stays, the more she realizes that she may be the only one with the power – both magical and political – to save the people of Lyrunia. 

Will she find the courage to remain and fight for her home world?


Available at  BN  Smashwords  Amazon  Kobo  iTunes

Add it to your Goodreads Shelf

The morning sky was overcast and cloudy and a stiff southwesterly wind blew the grasses erratically. A bank of heavy, dark grey clouds were visible over the horizon to the south, and it was moving quickly towards her. The constant flashes and murmur of thunder confirmed that she was in for a bad storm, and had nowhere to take shelter. She didn’t know how long it would take for it to reach her, but she wanted to be closer to civilization when it did. And she did not want to get caught in an electrical storm out in the open.

Chandrea started to walk, and after a few minutes began to jog, though it was not easy to do on the uneven ground. Her pulse quickened as her body warmed up to the accustomed exercise, and she made quick work of the first couple of miles. But, you can only push an already weakened body so hard before it starts to reach its limits, and, as she anticipated, she began to labor, her breaths coming in short ragged pants, her throat hot and dry. She slowed to a walk until she got her breath back.

Looking anxiously to her right, she saw that, despite her brief run, the clouds had come much closer, and that the clashing lightning and thunder were almost on top of her. Flutters of fear crawled down her spine and made a home in her belly. This was not good. Chandrea looked around for some place to find protection. Though the grasses seemed to be thinning out and she was seeing small scrubby bushes here and there, there still weren’t any signs of civilization, so she continued to walk tiredly east.

The brisk wind turned into powerful gusts, and she had to lean to avoid being thrown off her feet. Dust and debris were torn from the ground and swirled all around her, and she was forced to raise her hands to shield her eyes. Lightning struck nearby, followed by a powerful blast of thunder that shook the ground. Chandrea cringed and screamed in raw fear.
She felt the first few warm splashes of water on her skin, and looking up, saw that the bulk of the sky had turned a deep heavy looking grey. She began to run again, the flight instinct now in full control of her.

The heavens opened up and rain came sheeting down. The drops were huge at first, but quickly became small and piercing as they pelted her skin. Her clothing soon became saturated, weighing her down.

Lightning flashed all around her, dazzling bursts of light followed closely by violent claps of thunder. The strikes blew chunks of dirt and debris into the wind. The world was shaken by the repeated crack of thunder and her eardrums throbbed in painful harmony from the overwhelming sounds.

Animal instinct took over. Throwing herself to her knees, she clawed at the dirt. Her breath came in terrified, ragged gasps, but she was all but oblivious to it as she dug and tore at the stubborn soil. Every time lightning struck near her, she screamed and ducked, covering her head with her arms in an unconscious effort to protect herself, and then continued digging.
She tore at the web of roots, desperate to dig a hole she could take shelter in, but to no avail. The old grasses had been in the dry plains for a long time, and had grown their roots long and wide to find any available ground water. Without a shovel or a pick, she could make no headway, and only managed to tear her hands to the point of bleeding in the effort.

Gasping, she stopped and looked around with wild, frightened eyes. The world around her had gone mad. Lightning struck rapidly now, all around her, for miles in all directions, and the sharp booming thunder was close on its heels.

A small, sane portion of her mind recognized that she should hunker down and try to make the smallest target of herself possible, but that was akin to taking your eyes off the hungry lion crouched nearby and hoping it wouldn’t notice you. Instead, she knelt and watched with horrified fascination as the prairie took a beating from mother nature. Her entire body shook from the fear that washed through her, and she knew that at any moment lightning would strike and kill her.

Without conscious thought or effort, her magic bloomed to life. She gasped at the suddenness of it, yet welcomed it with a desperate hope. She felt it growing and expanding inside her, filling her completely with an eerie, tingling sensation. What was happening? What would her magic do this time?

Her skin began to glow a soft ethereal white. She held her hands out in front of her, and, despite the dangers surrounding her, wonder filled her at the sight. She’d seen her skin glow before, but never so clearly. The glow rapidly enveloped her until she was encased by a soft white ball of energy that extended a few feet out from her on all sides. The wind and rain no longer affected her, apparently unable to penetrate her protective sphere.

Curious, she poked a finger at the ball. It rippled like water when she touched it. She became bolder and stuck her whole arm out. Once again, the wind, rain, and nearby grass stalks pelted her tender skin. She pulled her arm and hand back inside and the sensations ceased.
She looked around with a newfound sense of security. The storm raged on around her, but in her sheltering bubble, it seemed that none of the elements could touch her. She gasped as a bolt of lightning struck nearby. She could only hope that the bubble would protect her against the lightning strikes as well.

With a frightening intensity, suddenly a new roaring sound filled her senses, causing her to gasp and duck involuntarily. It was followed immediately by anther, and another, each successfully competing in volume and depth with the crashing thunder. But, these new sounds weren’t caused by mother nature.

It was almost as if a whole pride of hungry lions were surrounding her, and roaring in excitement of the hunt and the kill to come. 

But, it couldn’t be lions, for, like the thunder, these sounds came from the sky itself.
Some had a deep, throbbing quality to them. Others were shrill and almost metallic. All of them were terrifying.

Chandrea tried to determine what was up there in the deep dark grey of the clouds. It was difficult to see through the soft glow of her bubble. When several lightning bolts struck, causing a strobe effect, she sucked in her breath in disbelieving terror at what she saw.
Silhouetted in brief, white-clad glory, were dozens upon dozens of dragons of various shapes and sizes. Each time the lightning flashed, it would cause a still-life effect of the great beasts circling in the sky with an almost playful air about them. With huge, earth- shaking roars, some shot massive flames from their mouths, causing the heavens and the ground far below to be lit by the intense yellow-red flare.

But what was the most astonishing to Chandrea was when one of the monsters would get hit by a bolt of lightning. It would open its immense, toothy maw in what appeared to be almost a silent scream, then arch its back and long serpentine neck as though in ecstasy.
She watched in awed amazement as one of the airborne dragons was struck by a large bolt of energy. The massive creature’s blue scales briefly burst into glittering brilliance. Small electrical charges snaked and popped across their surface. A large, bright turquoise nimbus shimmered around the rapturous dragon. It temporarily highlighted the dragons surrounding it until the dazzling luminescence died down to a soft glow. Once the strike was finished, the dragon would start to swoop and circle faster, almost daring the lightning to come again.

Chandrea felt her heart would beat its way right out of her chest. She could actually feel her chest vibrating from the intensity of her heartbeat. She panted, feeling cornered and very small. Her protective shield may keep the lightning and elements at bay. But its glow might be noticed by the serpents in the sky. Would a human make a tasty treat during a dragon sky party?

God, she wanted to go home.

The storm went on for what seemed like an eternity. Chandrea felt rather like the little field mouse trapped in the corner of a covey of cats, hoping upon hope that it wouldn’t be noticed, but knowing in its heart that eventually it would be. A part of her couldn’t help but be fascinated by the colorful display of serpentine bodies soaring high above her, at times almost floating in their deadly dances. Death, it seemed, had a very mesmerizing effect on her.

Eventually, the storm started to weaken, the lightning and thunder to come less and less, and the bulk of the dragons began to disperse. Though it was still quite dark around her, she started to breathe a little easier, thinking she might just come out of this alive. Her magical ball, reacting instinctively to the lessening threat, dissipated then vanished completely.
Then one of the dragons swooped down out of the sky and landed right in front of her, folding its wings flat against its back.

It was difficult for Chandrea to see the beast clearly in the gloom of the storm clouds, with only the occasional lightning flash. But, boy, could she smell it. Its body reeked of moldy ash, its hot breath of rotten flesh. Its eyes, as large as her body was tall, glowed a sullen dirty yellow in the grey light of the day. It was immense. Its head and shoulders were about thirty feet over Chandrea’s head, and looked like it was no less than 140 feet from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. Its legs were as thick as tree trunks, and long, wickedly sharp claws adorned its massive feet. Its scales dully reflected the dim afternoon light in shades of rusty red, while the underside of it was a soft tan color. Copper colored spikes of different sizes ran from its snout, along its spine and down the length of its long tail. At the end of its tail were numerous long, sharp spikes. Nestled atop its massive head was a pair of lengthy horns that pointed straight back.

Lowering its head, it sniffed at the air above her, apparently trying to determine what she was, and if she was edible. Its long, forked tongue licked the air. Chandrea tried not to gag as its foul breath washed over her in hot waves.

Rearing back, the beast then cocked its head to the side, and eyeing Chandrea, it said in a soft, deep voice filled with menace, yet somehow female-sounding, “Ah…what do we have here? A lone, unprotected human out in the grasslands.”

Narrowing her sulfur-colored eyes, the dragon moved a bit closer to her and murmured in satisfaction, “Yes… you’ll make a nice meal for my hatchling.”

Chandrea blinked up at it in stunned surprise. The creature could speak!

Belatedly, the dragon’s words finally registered in her mind. Terror lanced through Chandrea. She was trapped! She could never even hope to out-run this creature even at her top physical best. In her weakened condition, it was a laughable concept at best. She had nowhere to hide, and nowhere to take shelter, surrounded as she was by miles of grass.
Unbidden, her magic rushed to the surface, once again responding to her fight or flight instinct. This time, though, it came much faster, absent one moment, there the next. She could feel it rushing through her, instantly filling her every fiber and pore. Energy snapped around her, and her eyes and skin glowed with a pearlescent sheen. Her breathing deepened as she stood up from the ground and faced the beast before her.

The dragon growled in anticipation. Flame and smoke started to lick out of its snout, and in a rush, it lowered its head, roared, and shot out a huge column of white-hot flame, aimed right at Chandrea!

Feeling as though she were a distant observer of her own body, she watched as she raised her hands in a defensive position and her magic called up a shield.

She had a mental flash of the dream the Dark Fairy had cast on her, where she drew the energy from all the objects around her to fuel her magic, and attempted it again. She siphoned the energy from the dragon’s flames into her body, using the very thing that was threatening her to protect her. She could feel the intense heat pouring into her body, almost burning her from the inside out, and, before they could even reach her, the flames from the dragon sputtered harmlessly out.

Upon seeing this, the dragon narrowed its eyes, lowered its head, and growled menacingly. Her body throbbed in harmony with the deep resonation and the very ground seemed to vibrate beneath her.

Chandrea frantically tried to figure out what she could do to scare this creature away. She was supposed to be the most powerful sorceress in this world, but her magic was untested and very unreliable. However, she didn’t see as she had much choice in the matter. She couldn’t very well use her Taekwondo on this monster! And running was definitely not an option. So, even as the dragon’s growl was echoing off in the distance, she decided to stand and fight as best she could with what she had, and hope that the dragon didn’t eat her before she could conjure anything up. Were dragons like birds? Did they eat their prey and then regurgitate it for their young? She quickly banished that horrifying image from her mind and focused on the task at hand. She would try to use fire again. She would just have to do it better than last time. And quicker.

Chandrea concentrated. She could feel the dragon’s hot energy swirling around inside her, growing ever stronger, mixing with her own fear and panic to create a maelstrom of intense power.

She stopped focusing on the shield in front of her and it simply disappeared, the energy rushing back into her. Her skin suddenly glowed a fiery red. She raised her hands, and, as Adelaide had taught her, with a mighty mental and physical shove, she flung the energy from her own body out at the beast. Chandrea watched as a great ball of flame materialized and was cast out at the dragon. Like before, when she’d tried to create fire, this ball was intensely white hot on the inside and deep yellow and red on the outside. However, this ball didn’t have as far to go as the first time, and instead of plowing through huge swaths of trees, it plowed into the dragon directly in front of her…

…and blew out as it struck, as though nothing had happened at all.
Unable to fathom what had just happened, Chandrea just stood there in stupefaction. Her magic had just dissipated on the scales of the dragon and done nothing at all.
The dragon looked somehow amused by this turn of events. Chandrea would’ve sworn the beast even smiled. Lifting her mighty head, the serpent then carried the motion even further and stood on her hind legs. Clawing at the air in front of her and spreading her massive wings wide, she bellowed out a trumpeting call that echoed up and down the grasslands and throbbed painfully in the tiny earthling’s ears.

Chandrea threw her hands over her ears in a feeble attempt to lessen the sound, but to no avail. Then, the massive reptile lowered its body, jaws open, clearly intending to finish this one-sided battle by devouring her whole.

An answering bellow washed over her from above as a second dragon plummeted from the sky to crash into the first one, knocking it from its feet with a powerful blow. Chandrea screamed and jumped to the side, narrowly missing the powerful swipe of a tail studded with spikes. Chunks of dirt and grass were gouged out of the ground where she’d previously stood, showering her with grit and hard rocks.

This new dragon was unlike any she’d ever imagined or seen in fairy tales. It had scales on its belly, but its back and wings were covered with feathers. Its head and legs were a bright, scarlet red. The feathers on its legs were short and spiky, while the ones surrounding its head were long and stiff, and puffed out, making it look both fierce and dangerous. The beast’s back, body and tail were covered with short, dense feathers in a striking deep indigo color. Its deep and muscular chest narrowed down into a snakelike torso and a tail that was covered in spikes. It had what appeared to be two sets of wings. One was a feathered set, shaped rather like immense eagle wings and were the same indigo color as its body. The second set were over the first, and were covered with ocher-colored scales, the same color of its belly. This second set of wings were much larger than the first, and tipped with razor sharp claws. Where the first dragon was large and muscular, the second one was long and slender. The first dragon was the stronger of the two by far, but what the second one lacked in strength, it made up for in speed and its sinuous body. Its movements were a blur to watch, as it snaked its way around its bigger foe, striking with lightning quick attacks and then slithering out of reach of the larger dragon.

 With ear-splitting snarls and growls, the two beasts flipped and rolled across the prairie, savagely tearing at each other.

Chandrea, panting from the fear of the sudden attack, scuttled backwards in the grass, trying to get as far away from the two battling titans as possible.

When no headway could seem to be gained by either one, the two monsters backed warily away from each other. Growling fiercely, they flapped their wings, extended their necks, and slammed their tails on the ground, all in an attempt to show strength, power and dominance over the other.

The larger dragon rushed the smaller one, but in a sudden blur of motion, the blue one slithered its body around its larger opponent. Using its own momentum against it and reminding Chandrea of a javelin toss, the blue one spun the rusty red beast back around and threw it across the field. The dragon landed with an earth-shaking thud that threatened to throw Chandrea from her feet.

Spinning around, the blue dragon jerked its head back and forth until it found Chandrea. It hunched down, then gave a mighty leap, and flapping its massive wings, swooped up then back down, heading directly for Chandrea.

With a scream, Chandrea spun on her heels and tried to run away, but what little speed she could muster was nothing in comparison to the flying monster. To her horror, its sharp claws grabbed her up and before she knew it, they were airborne.

Chandrea clutched at the long talons that held her in their grasp. The grasslands dropped away below and her stomach dropped. The huge wings of the dragon flapped quickly in an effort to get the beast and its prize higher in the air. She could feel the rhythmic motion of its muscles working, and the roaring sound of the wind assaulted her ears.

Craning her head down and around, Chandrea frantically checked on the whereabouts of the red dragon. Her eyes widened as she saw it taking to the air in pursuit of her stolen meal.
Dear God…how did she get into these things?

And how was she going to get out? The claws, even though none of them had actually pierced her skin, were holding her as securely as any jail cell. And, as far up in the air as they were now, even if she could get out, she would fall to her death.

Watching behind her in horrified fascination, she saw the larger dragon was having difficulty keeping up with its prey. But it clearly was not giving up. With a roar, it doubled its efforts, cutting through the misty clouds.

Up the trio soared, higher and higher, until they were engulfed in clouds and Chandrea couldn’t see the ground anymore. Nor could she see the rusty red beast that had been chasing them, which was particularly worrisome to her.

Cool, misty air rushed over her as the blue dragon climbed with powerful thrusts of its wings. Her wet clothes and hair whipped around in the wind, and she found herself wishing for a ponytail holder. A hysterical giggle threatened to burble out of her throat at the thought, but at the last minute she was able to halt it. She knew that if she let it out, she might never stop.
Without warning, they reached the top of the storm clouds, and with a final flap, burst out into bright sunshine. Once above the clouds, the blue dragon settled in and took to soaring, only flapping its wings occasionally to maintain its altitude.

Squinting against the glare, Chandrea couldn’t help but look about her in wonder. Spread out for miles below them was the massive storm, its dark clouds large and menacing. Even heading away from the storm as they were, she could still hear the occasional rumble of thunder and see the clouds light up with the strobes of lightning encased within. Above them, the sky was pristinely blue, the sun a huge golden ball of light. Warm air now gently passed over her as the dragon glided in the stillness of the heavens.

But as beautiful and peaceful as it was, Chandrea could not fully relax and enjoy it. She knew her life would soon be cut short in a horribly violent fashion. Against her better judgment, she pictured the dragon landing amongst its young then standing back in peaceful satisfaction as the babies tore her to bloody pieces with their sharp teeth and claws. She began to tremble violently, her breath coming in short, sharp pants.

However, eventually the gentle peace of the heavens did help to make the mortal fear coursing through her veins a little more bearable. Trying to make herself as comfortable as possible in the hard claws of her cell, she did the only thing she could at that point: she settled back for the ride.

They flew for hours. It was rather like flying in a passenger airplane, but with a much better view. She saw farms, cities, forests, and hills all passing beneath them. People and animals looked like tiny ants scurrying around on the ground. Were they even aware of what was flying up here?

The one thing that she didn’t see, thankfully, was the red dragon. The speed of her captor must have finally worn the bigger dragon down.

As the day wore into evening, the dragon finally started to descend toward a large grassy meadow filled with wildflowers. Large leafy trees surrounded it in an uneven circle, and the sounds of night insects were humming in the air. Off to the side was a small crystalline lake, the sun glistening off its gentle waves.

Fear started to flutter again in her chest, and her breathing hitched. If she’d had anything in her stomach, it would’ve come back up. So this lovely, serene place was where she would die.
She wondered where the beast’s nest was.

She wondered if it would hurt terribly when the hatchling tore her apart.

She wondered how long it would take her to die.

About the Author: 

Marlene Wynn is a Utah native - fondly referred to as "Utonian" by a friend.  She transplanted herself in 1992 from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the beachy shores of sunny Virginia Beach, Virginia and has been there ever since.  Though she has worked in the benefits field for several years, she finally worked up the courage to chase her dream as an author.




Memory War by Paul Anthony Shortt



The Memory Wars Trilogy
Book 3
Paul Anthony Shortt

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: WiDo Publishing LLC
Date of Publication: September 2nd, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937178550
ASIN: 1937178552

Number of pages: 330
Word Count: 104,500
Cover Artist: Steven Novak

Book Description:

War is coming to New York. Nathan Shepherd's growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat.

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan's memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it.

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan's past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next.

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.

Available at Amazon
Excerpt Chapter One

Tuxedos were the worst. At least in the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, even during the Renaissance, clothing, men’s especially, was designed to allow enough freedom of movement to fight or defend oneself. The 21st century had long seen the end of that. Nathan Shepherd’s feet blistered in polished shoes. He was sure they were too small, despite what the man in the rental store had said, and found himself longing for a practical form of battle dress which would also go with black tie events.

He scanned the ballroom as he descended the marble steps. The scent of expensive perfume drifted across the air, accompanied by the gentle sway of a string quartet on the stage. Tugging at his collar, Nathan walked to the buffet table and plucked a glass of champagne.

“Status?” Cynthia Keller’s voice crackled in his earpiece.

“Champagne’s not bad,” he said, softly. “Not sure about the caviar though.”

“You’re supposed to be watching the mayor.”

“I’m getting into character.”

“Well listen, 007, we’ve got four people who just went in through the kitchen door and one of them looks a lot like Lucius.”

Lucius was a vampire, one of the top-ranking enforcers for the Council of Chains. He’d been seen on the street a lot since Dorian went missing last year.

“Were they armed?” Nathan asked, sipping the champagne.

“Couldn’t see,” Cynthia replied. “Nothing big, at least. No heavy bags or boxes that could conceal large amounts of weaponry.”

“How are they going to do this?”

“Poison?” Cynthia said. “That’s how they got the chief of police.”

“Difficult,” Nathan said. So many people were taking hors d’oeuvres and drinks from tables and passing servers that it would be impossible to predict what the mayor would take. “Unless they poison something other than the food,” Nathan said. He frowned. It was something to watch for.
“What else is there?” Cynthia asked. “This is too big for a bomb or a shooter.”

“Keep me posted on anything suspicious entering or leaving the building,” Nathan said, sipping his drink and wandering along the dance floor. The crowd on the dance floor parted and he saw the mayor speaking to a group seated at a table.

“I have him,” Nathan said. “Tommy, what’s your status?” This was Tommy’s first time in the field, and he was doing everything he could not to seem nervous.

“Uh, restroom,” his voice came back through Nathan’s earpiece.

“You’re supposed to be by the stage.”

“Sorry boss,” Tommy said. “Must have been the crab meat crackers.”

“I’ve got Green,” Nathan said. “I need your eyes out here.”

“I’ll do my…” The sound of Tommy’s voice was replaced by retching and the splash of liquid hitting liquid. Nathan’s stomach turned a little.

“Just give me a minute,” Tommy said, coughing.

Movement caught Nathan’s eye. Four men moving through the crowd, shoulders set back and arms loose. They were ready to pounce. “I don’t have a minute.” Where was Lucius?

One of them nodded across the ballroom. Nathan turned to follow the gaze and spotted Lucius emerging from a staff door. Nathan set his glass down and started across the dance floor.
Then he saw her, flowing across the floor in a backless scarlet dress, split along the sides to reveal her sculpted calves and thighs. Three ebony hairpins held her long black hair in a coiled bun, leaving only a few tantalising locks framing her face. She turned and narrowed her eyes. He wondered how many other people would have been able to spot the marks on her arms and back where she’d used make-up to cover her scars. Marks earned in battle. Nathan’s gaze drifted of its own accord, up each curve from her hips to her neck, settling for a moment on her blood red lips and wide, practiced smile. Her sea green eyes fixed him and she advanced, sweeping toward him and locking her arms around his shoulders.

“Elena,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“Making sure you get out alive,” she said. Her smile never faltered. She pulled Nathan into the crowd as the musicians started up a new piece.

“I don’t have time to dance.” He tried to pull away, but Elena held him firm. Nathan placed his hands on her hips and pushed, but she pressed herself against him. He shivered and inhaled her perfume.

“You have four behind you,” she said, “and another four coming from the staff entrance.”

“I know,” he said, leading her across the floor in time to the music. “Lucius is leading them. It’s a Council hit.” He glanced to the side. “Two more on your left, dancing.” They moved apart, keeping their steps in perfect rhythm.

Elena flicked her eyes around. “Three by the stairs. Just you?”

Nathan shook his head as they closed in together again. “Tommy’s inside. Cynthia and Cadence are watching from the next building. Sue’s got the truck waiting.”

“Sam?”

“Watching the bar.”

“You should have Cadence in here,” she said.

“I can handle this,” he said.

“You need help.”

Nathan smirked and dipped Elena, gazing down at her.

“That’s the wrong step,” she said.

Nathan felt the energy in the crowd shift. A forgotten sense most mortals possessed, but which only those regularly exposed to the supernatural were aware of, allowed the detection of emotional energy and even the presence of supernatural creatures and magical effects. The crowd was nervous. Eyes moved to Nathan and Elena. People backed away. One of the men approaching from behind Elena flashed a grin, showing a pair of long fangs.

“It’s time to change the tempo,” Nathan said. “Allegro, perhaps?”

Elena nodded and reached for one of her hair pins. Nathan pulled her back up and she threw the pin. It flew straight into the heart of one of the Council agents. Nathan ignored the scream and delivered a side-kick to the sternum of the vampire behind Elena.

“Tommy,” Nathan yelled into his radio. “Where are you?”

Nathan spotted him pushing his way through the crowd as two more vampires moved in on him and Elena. They fought back to back. Elena kicked off her shoes and used another hair pin as a close-range stabbing weapon. Nathan blocked a wild punch and twisted the vampire’s arm, breaking it at the elbow joint. The vampire yelled and Nathan spun, hurling him against the buffet table.

A female vampire leaped onto Nathan’s back. Her hiss closed in on his ear as she reached for his throat. Nathan reached around to grab her, but another vampire kicked him in the stomach.
Tommy tried to push onto the dance floor, but the crowd was too thick and panicked.

“Cadence,” Nathan said, struggling to breathe as the woman on his back tried to strangle him. “Now.”

A window smashed inward as a rolled-up black wrap flew through the air. It landed close to Nathan and fell open, revealing the hilt of his sword.

“Elena!”

The woman on Nathan’s back seized and shrieked. Her grip loosened. Nathan spun his hips and threw her off. One of Elena’s pins stuck out of her back. These vampires weren’t dying immediately upon wood piercing their hearts. That meant they were older; more powerful than the average street vampires. They’d need their heads cut off or their bodies burned to finish them off for good.

Nathan dove for his sword, snatching it and slashing the next vampire’s leg. He rolled to his feet and swung down as the vampire’s fingernails grew into long black claws. Its hands fell away and the vampire shrieked, running from Nathan.

Elena reached for the roll of weapons and took two small curved axes. Five vampires surrounded them. Nathan pointed for Tommy to get to the mayor and he nodded, running to the stage. The vampires pounced.

Nathan and Elena reacted as one, fighting off their attackers with precision and unity honed over a hundred lifetimes. Dark blood splattered the dance floor as they cut down the vampires one by one. With every heartbeat, Nathan felt Elena’s soul pulsing and his own respond in kind. They breathed in unison, feeling what the other felt, seeing what the other saw. It was in this, the work of performing death, that their last true bond remained. Nathan was almost used to the regret. It urged him on, giving him power, bringing forth memories of past-life battles to fuel his strength and speed. He reached into those memories now, plucking one from the chaos and taking his past-self’s adrenaline to keep his mind focused on the task at hand. There was no room for mistakes here.



About the Author:


A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends.

The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica. Their fourth child, Olivia, was born in January, 2014.

http://paulanthonyshortt.blogspot.com



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Witch’s Bane by Ann Gimpel


Witch’s Bane
The Witch Chronicles
Book 2
Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Taliesin
ISBN: 
Release Date: 8/7/14

Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance
Word Count: 65,000

Two stubborn people—a witch and a mage—come together with a fierceness borne of desperation. Can passion trump their intense need for independence? Will they live long enough to find out?

Book Description:

Roz, Jenna, and Colleen are the last of the demon-stalking witches. So far, they’ve escaped disaster, but their luck is running low. When demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, Roz launches desperate measures because she and her sister witches are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of the demons, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

In Roz’s secret heart she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material, she tells herself, unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

Ronin set his sights on Roz when she was at his home in the U.K. for a strategy meeting and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and rebuffs him.

Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too strong to be denied. Roz and Ronin come together with a fierceness borne of desperation, but demons are determined to rid themselves of the witches for good, no matter what it takes.

Excerpt:

Ronin Redstone unwound his arm from Roz and gripped his hands together in his lap to lessen the temptation to touch her again. Where he figured most of the guests were anxious to see the bride, he’d been interested in Roz. Probably too interested since he’d bounced to his feet the moment she entered the room and had even spun the mildest of spells to coerce her to sit near him. He pressed his lips into a flat line as he wrestled with his thoughts. Ever since he’d met the tall, imposing witch at his home in northern England a couple of weeks before, he’d been able to think of little else. She even entered his dreams with her silky black hair, pronounced cheekbones, and hawk-like nose. In those dreams, she was naked, her bronze skin glimmering in moonlight.
Her heady scent, pine forests and jasmine, tickled his nostrils and made him wonder what she’d feel like in his arms. Once he kicked the door open to that slippery slope, his cock sprang to life, clearly eager to find out. He tried to clip his libido before things whirled out of control and she noticed his arousal, but his cock wasn’t in the mood for negotiation—or retreat. He wove the tiniest don’t look here spell and draped his lower body with it.
In years past, he’d simply have created a love charm, imbued it with compulsion, and bedded the woman. That probably wasn’t a good idea, though. Roz would sense his magic, be outraged he tried to coerce her, and that would be the last he ever saw of the striking witch. Never mind she had good reason to not want much to do with him since he’d been one of the key players two hundred years ago who’d suggested foisting demon stalking onto the witches. He tightened his jaw muscles. Who could have guessed his little machination to get his kin out from under a highly unpleasant task would nearly be the death of the few witches who’d inherited the power through a magical version of gene splicing? Of course, he’d also been the one to send Duncan to fetch one of the witches to quell a demon uprising in the U.K. last month. That was how they’d discovered only three of the special witches remained…
No wonder she’s not overly fond of me. Ronin grimaced, not liking the truth in his thoughts. An inner voice huffed, reminding him it wasn’t his fault the witches in question hadn’t produced more offspring, but he shushed it.
Surely I can at least charm Roz out of that sour expression on her face.
He forced his breathing into a regular pattern and glanced toward Duncan and Colleen at the front of the room. The resident witch had completed her part of the ceremony and Titania was speaking in Gaelic so old he had trouble following it. The Sidhe binding ceremony lasted at least half an hour, so he let his thoughts drift. Anywhere but to his cock, which still throbbed uncomfortably.
As de facto leader for the Sidhe, a post he held more because no one else wanted it than because of any special skills on his part, he sensed they stood at the edge of a cataclysmic event. Abbadon and his henchmen, the Irichna demons, had grown appallingly strong. Capturing them one at a time and shepherding them to the Ninth Circle of Hell where they were trapped for all eternity wasn’t a workable solution anymore. There were too many of them, and maybe not enough space in the bottom of Hell.
Because he was afraid of a firm answer regarding Hell’s demon storage capacity, he hadn’t asked Titania, though surely she’d know. If they couldn’t dump Irichna behind the Ninth Circle’s gate, he had no idea what they’d do with them. And if Abbadon consolidated his full power, Earth would be laid waste. Ronin clamped his jaws together. Apocalypse didn’t come close to describing what would happen if Abbadon were freed from protecting his demons and could concentrate on taking over Earth.
In addition to not inquiring too closely about the Irichna, I also haven’t asked about Oberon. Ronin grimaced again. If the King of Faerie were truly so tired of immortality he’d let himself fade into the Dreaming, Ronin didn’t want to know about that, either.
When did I turn into such a craven I avoid unpleasant answers?
Even though he wasn’t expecting one, a response popped up anyway. He’d loved a human woman once, but she’d died bearing their son, who’d perished right along with her. The major vessel serving her heart had ruptured, and no amount of Sidhe magic could heal her or breathe life into their dead child. Ronin withdrew from the other Sidhe after that, mostly because he didn’t want to hear their lectures about the whole debacle being his own fault. After all, they weren’t supposed to mate outside their blood. When he finally picked up the reins of command a couple of centuries later—or maybe it had been three—he held himself aloof and avoided confrontations with anyone, about anything.
He ground his jaws harder together. His internal inventory was damned depressing; it forced him to take a harsh look at himself, and he didn’t like what he saw. He glanced at Titania. She clasped Duncan’s and Colleen’s hands between her own, and his eyes widened. Had he truly spent the entire ceremony sunk in memories and self-pity?
It would appear so, he thought dryly. In moments, Titania would utter the final words, Duncan would kiss Colleen, and the ritual would be done. He barely had time to wonder why Titania hadn’t kicked up more of a fuss about Duncan marrying a mortal, when the bridal pair kissed.
The tiniest sigh escaped Roz, and he looked sidelong at her. Her full lips were parted in half a smile, and she looked captivated by the ancient binding that had unfolded, mostly without him paying one whit of attention to it. She leaned toward him, her earlier ire apparently forgotten. “They make such a lovely couple,” she whispered.
Ronin narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Duncan and Colleen, wrapped in one another’s arms and kissing enthusiastically. He didn’t know about the lovely couple part, because he didn’t view the world that way. “They do look happy,” he whispered back because he thought he ought to say something.
Bubba, who’d been standing off to one side, made a grab for a bag Ronin hadn’t noticed before. The changeling reached inside and Ronin’s internal alarm went off. The changeling was about to throw something at the couple. Had the creature been co-opted by demons? It wasn’t unheard of since their race contained a smattering of demon blood. Afraid if he hesitated he’d be too late, Ronin pulled strong magic and rose to his feet.
Before he could loose it, Roz fastened a hand around his lower arm. “It’s just rice,” she said, her voice still low. “He’s going to throw rice at them. Stand down.”
Ronin met her dark, luminous gaze. “What sort of custom is that?” he demanded. Magic thrummed around him, making the air shimmer in iridescent hues. The changeling indeed tossed rice high in the air, showering everyone within a ten-foot radius of him, laughed uproariously, and then did it again.
“An old one.” Roz tugged on his arm and he sat reluctantly. “Bubba adores Colleen. He’s laid his life on the line for her a bazillion times. He’d never hurt her.”
“Better safe than sorry,” he muttered, feeling like an ass. “How was I to know?”
“It’s okay.” She let go of his arm and patted one of his hands.
As long as he was in an apologizing mood—they were rare for him—Ronin exhaled sharply and said, “I’m sorry I, um, suggested you sit next to me.”
She cocked her head to one side and quirked a brow. “If you’d only suggested, it would have been fine, but you did a tad more than that.”
Flutes and guitars began to play Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Colleen and Duncan turned and floated up the center aisle with Bubba right behind, still throwing rice. Even Ronin had to admit they looked radiant. He’d known Duncan his entire life, and he’d never seen his fellow Sidhe look so carefree and besotted with joy. In one wild, unrestrained moment, before he glossed his emotions over with rationality, he wanted the same for himself.
Ronin felt Roz’s gaze still on him and knew he couldn’t ignore her comment. “You’re right,” he said stiffly. “I did do more than that.”
She repositioned herself so he had to look at her. “Why?”
Because I’ve wanted to strip you naked and worship your body from the day I met you. He cloaked his mind, hoping he’d been fast enough and she hadn’t read his thoughts. “I’m not quite sure,” he stumbled over the words, because they weren’t the truth.
Her dark gaze never left him as she weighed his statement. Finally she nodded, almost to herself. “When you figure it out,” she said and winked broadly, “be sure to let me know.”
Heat rose from his neck and swooshed over the top of his head. Damn! He was a Sidhe and a warrior. It was unseemly to blush like a love-struck maid. He opened his mouth to stammer some sort of reply, but she got up, along with the rest of the guests. “Come on,” she said. “I’m starving.”
He’d been afraid the second the ceremony was over, she’d race away from him as far and as fast as she could, but she’d just invited him to eat with her, at least he thought she had. He bit back a smile until just the edges of his mouth twitched. Maybe she didn’t abhor him as much as it seemed when she’d shot him that poisonous look once she sensed his magic.
I learned something. I have to ask her, not simply push her to do what I want. He hurried after her swishing skirt, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. He could always locate her, but the less magic he used until she got to know him, the better.
*
Roz caught up to Jenna just inside the dining area and hugged her. “Wasn’t it just perfect?” she gushed, still caught up in the mystical pull of dual wedding ceremonies.
Jenna hugged her back and nodded. She disentangled herself and eyed her friend. “What the hell, Roz? It isn’t like you to fall all over yourself.”
Roz settled her face into its usual, stern planes. “There. Is that better?”
Jenna grinned. “Yup. There’s the grumpy witch I know and love. What happened to you anyway? I looked back and you were trailing after that hunky Sidhe.”
“He snared me in a spell.”
“Ooooh.” Jenna clapped her hands together. “He must be interested.” She leaned close. “What did he do during the ceremony?”
Roz felt her face redden. “Nothing. I got mad at him once I realized he’d bamboozled me. Hush. Here he comes.”
“Awesome.” Jenna practically vibrated with enthusiasm. “He can eat with us.”
“I already invited him.”
A knowing look crossed Jenna’s face and she opened her mouth, but Roz hissed, “Can it, sister,” just before turning to Ronin and asking, “Where would you like to sit?”
He half-bowed—a courtly, old world gesture that drove home just how old he was—lifted Jenna’s hand to his lips, and said, “Nice to see you again, Miss Jenna. Anywhere the two of you wish to settle is fine with me.”
“Maybe we should get our food first,” Jenna suggested brightly, “since the tables will fill fast.”
“Good idea,” Roz snapped, feeling unaccountably jealous. Ronin hadn’t kissed her hand, but he’d been quick enough to snatch Jenna’s.
“If you don’t want him…” Jenna spoke in their telepathic speech.
“I thought you were interested in Tristan.” Roz led the way to a buffet table and picked up a plate.
Jenna smirked. “I am, but he’s not here.”
Roz dished up an interesting looking salad, brimming with shrimp and crab, and followed it with a few slices of rare beef and a roll. They found a table beneath a leaded glass window and laid their plates down.
“I’ll get us something to drink.” Ronin smiled. “Preferences?”
“What are you getting?” Roz asked, avoiding Jenna’s gaze.
“Mead,” he answered. “It’s what I prefer.”
“I’ll take Irish whiskey,” Jenna trilled and settled into her seat.
“Just bring me a glass of one or the other,” Roz muttered. “I’m not picky.” As soon as Ronin was out of earshot, or close enough, she glared at Jenna. “Leave him alone.”
“But you’re not even sure you’re interested in him,” Jenna protested.
“And how would you know that?” Roz stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth, chewed with a vengeance, and swallowed.
The other witch dropped her gaze, looking sheepish. “I, um, peeked.”
Roz slammed a fist on the table hard enough the dishes rattled. “You looked inside my head without asking?”
“’Fraid so. Sorry.” Jenna started eating with a studied nonchalance.
Roz exhaled and then did it again. Both of them were lonely; getting angry with her longtime friend wouldn’t serve any purpose other than creating bad water under the bridge they’d have to clear at some point. “Jenna. It’s the wedding ceremonies. All the old magic in them makes us want what Colleen and Duncan have.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Jenna’s hazel gaze met hers and she looked repentant, her brows drawn together. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too.” Roz smiled crookedly. “Let’s not fight. Not today.”


About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains.

It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.





@AnnGimpel