Do you love dragon shifters?
Here’s a special Steel Dragon snippet just for you! I can’t wait for this one to go live! It’s right up my alley! 😉
Kristen Hall stepped out of her car, careful to avoid a puddle slick with oil—no easy task, considering the parking lot was more cracks than concrete. Despite being surrounded by a chain-link fence and a guard seated near the back of the building with a shotgun resting across his lap, she didn’t feel like she was in any danger. On a day like today, her family wouldn’t go anywhere else. Buddy’s Pizza offered the best food in Detroit.
She opened the door to the diminutive building and the smells of perfectly crispy crust and melted cheese washed over her. Her smile was instinctive. She loved this place.
As she stepped inside and savored the aroma, her younger brother blocked her path. “I thought police were supposed to look tough. Shouldn’t you wear a scowl with your hair in a bun or something?” Brian enveloped her in a bear hug.
Although he was taller and wider than her, she still wrapped him up and leaned back to lift his feet off the floor. “I could still wrestle you to the ground and make you eat bugs, Brian,” she whispered sweetly.
Despite being treated like a big doll, he merely grinned as she placed him on his feet. “You always were a terrible bully, but bugs off the floor at Buddy’s would still be better than your cooking.”
“Ha-ha.” She laughed dryly. Everyone in her family seemed to be able to cook except her. Even Brian, as lazy as he was, could roast a chicken and vegetables. She was basically a master of the microwave and nothing more.
Her mom approached from the back of the restaurant and threaded her way through the narrow spaces between tables. “I think you look lovely, honey.” She kissed her daughter on the cheek. “But Brian’s right, if you let that red hair of yours run loose at your new job, you’ll distract the entire force. Now, come on. Let’s go find your father. He’s holding a table like he’s pinned down.”
Kristen followed her through the crowded pizza parlor. Smiling people crammed around tiny tables with red and white tablecloths, argued over the Tigers’ latest loss, or scarfed pizza. The walls were covered with photos of celebrities who’d come to Buddy’s to do the same. Eminem, the Temptations, and even Arethra Franklin had all eaten there, and those were only some of the more famous celebrities. She had been coming here since she was a little girl. It was her family’s go-to celebration venue when her mom didn’t want to cook.
She located Frank Hall at a table in a corner, pouring over the menu as if he hadn’t seen it a million times already.
Her grin wide, she shifted her posture so her feet would fall silently as she approached. “It looks like you need a spotter.” She poked her dad between the ribs with a finger.
He flinched but as soon as he heard her voice, he broke into a smile. “Aw, Kristen, now that you’re an honor grad, I can finally let my guard down.” He studied her affectionately. “You look beautiful, sweetie. The police don’t deserve you.”
Kristen pulled a chair out and sat down beside him. “They didn’t deserve you either.” This wasn’t the first time she’d had this conversation with him. He was proud of her for following in his footsteps—at least on the surface—but he was still an old cop. And he was a dad who didn’t want to see his little girl hurt, even if she was more athletic than he’d ever been.
“Yeah, well, an old baldy who won’t ever shave his mustache is a far cry from the woman you’ve become.” He threw an arm around her shoulder. “I still say you could do anything you want.”
“Being a police officer is what I want.” She raised an eyebrow. “I want to protect people and help this city become even better than it has in the last ten years. Exactly like my old man did.”
His only response was a smile. Despite his misgivings, she could see that what he felt most of all for his daughter was pride.
“Come on, can’t we get a pitcher of beer before we get into all the mushy stuff?” Brian plopped into an empty seat and gestured toward a server.
“We’re proud of you, too,” his mom said to him.
“Yeah, those high scores don’t set themselves,” Kristen quipped, unable to help herself.
He laughed. “Oh, my God, do you have any idea how you two sound? High scores? No one’s cared about a high score since pinball machines were popular.” He scratched his hair and shook his head. Brian took after his mother with brown hair and plain features. Kristen was the only one in the family with red hair or a figure, despite her eating virtually as much pizza as the rest of them.
“From the rumors I’ve heard, Kristen knows more than enough about high scores. Honor grad, huh?” Her dad beamed. “You know I barely scraped through. You’ve already done well for the family name.” He finally put the menu down as the server approached.
“We’ll have two pizzas. One pepperoni mushroom, one ham and pineapple, plus an antipasto salad,” Kristen ordered before he could speak up. “Oh, and a pitcher of something hoppy from Founder’s.”
The server nodded and vanished into the noise and hubbub of the restaurant.
Brian grinned. “At least you know how to order food.”
“It’s not her fault she likes her meat raw on the inside and blackened to a crisp on the outside.”
“Mom!” she exclaimed, shocked that her mother would say that until she remembered it was exactly what had happened the last time she’d cooked chicken.
“Nice one, Mom. Get in on the action before her and dad start going at it.” Her brother chuckled.
“Now that you’re a member of the force, you won’t have to cook ever again if you don’t want to,” her dad stated matter of factly. “Christ knows I don’t.”
He was lying, of course, and could grill a mean burger. Even that was beyond his daughter’s skill in the kitchen.
“I’m not a member yet,” Kristen reminded them. “Only a graduate.”
“A graduate with honors, honey,” her mom added quickly.
“A graduate who was hand-picked by a dragon,” Brian said incredulously. “It’s not like you won’t actually get a job.”
“I was not handpicked,” she protested.
Her parents shared a look that said they thought that was exactly what happened.
“I still think it’s insane that you bumped into one at all. You’d think I’d have seen one by now. After all, enough come through Detroit to perform or whatever.”
“Honey, you have to leave the house if you want to meet people.” Their mother turned to Brian. “Or dragons,” she added after a moment.
Kristen laughed. “Nice one, Mom!”
“But that’s kind of how it happened, right, Krissy?” Her dad leaned closer over the already cramped table. She’d told him the story so many times and yet he always wanted to hear it again.
“No. I mean, yes, I bumped into a dragon at a concert—”
“What did it look like? How big are its wings? Did it buy you a drink?” Brian winked.
“It was in human form, duh, and he was…well, handsome, obviously. We talked for a few minutes at the end of the show and he gave me a card with an address.”
“So what you’re saying is he literally handed you a job.” He had skipped every recounting of the story and preferred to spend his time working his way up leaderboards.
She shook her head. “No, not at all. I arrived there and had to take a number of tests. I still don’t know the point of half of them. There were physical activities like running on a treadmill, an obstacle course, and things like that. I enjoyed that part of it.”
“Yeah, well, no surprises there,” her brother said.
“Brian!” their mom chided. “We should be proud someone in this family is athletic. I don’t know where you get it, honey, but whoever it came from, I’m happy they gave it to you.”
For a moment, she wanted to press her on what that had meant. She sometimes said things like that—like Kristen had history that was different than the rest of them. She certainly looked different. But before she could say anything, the server returned with the salad and a pitcher of beer which broke the moment. Not that she intended to complain. She was starving.
Everyone scooped piles of salad—and didn’t skimp on the cubes of salami or cheese—onto their plates and dug in. For a moment, they simply ate and let the sounds of the cozy little pizza place wash over them. As usual, though, Brian couldn’t stay quiet for long, “So, what parts did you not like?”
“Well, I still don’t really like olives,” Kristen mumbled around a mouthful of salad.
“Not the salad, stupid—the tests. You liked the physical stuff, obviously, so what were the parts you didn’t like? Did you have to play videogames? I told you that you should’ve practiced.”
“No videogames, Brian, sorry.” She shrugged. “I honestly didn’t understand much of it. There was some weird history stuff. Questions about dragons in America during colonialism and the Civil War. All kinds of other odd things too. What was strange is that they hooked me up to monitoring devices to measure my brain waves or whatever.”
“And they were able to find some? I’m impressed, Kristen.” He grinned like a fool.
She put an elbow on the table and flexed her bicep. “Do you want to arm wrestle, or what?”
“Pizza’s here.” He evaded her question neatly because obviously, he’d lose like he did every single time.
Their server put two rectangular pizzas on the table and the Halls wasted no time in digging in. It tasted exactly like it had for her entire life—perfect. Baked on a steel pan, the crust of each square piece of pizza was perfectly crispy. A lake of sauce covered the cheesy bread and toppings and more cheese were sprinkled on top of that. It was heaven on a plate.
“So uh…did they uh…tell you anything else?” her dad asked around bites of food. Kristen shot him a look. That wasn’t really like him. Frank Hall was a direct man and always had been. When he wanted something, he demanded it, whether it was the TV remote or a crook to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
She shrugged, swallowed another cheesy bite, and washed it down with cold beer. “Well, not really. The tests were kind of all over the place.”
“Did they let you ask questions, or did you have to fight your way out of there?” Brian had already wolfed down three slices of ham and pineapple and now reached for a fourth. She snatched it from him before he ate the whole pizza himself.
“That was the weirdest part, actually. They said I could ask anything I wanted to, so I did.”
Her brother lowered his voice. “Did you ask the big one?”
“The big one?” her dad whispered, concern in his voice.
“Yeah. Are they always smoking hot in their human form or can they choose how they look? If I could change shape, I know I wouldn’t keep this.” He slapped his round gut and laughed.
Kristen and her parents all shared a groan.
“No, I didn’t ask them about their glamor. I don’t like it when people ask why my hair’s red and curly instead of brown and straight like Mom’s, so I assumed they wouldn’t appreciate it either.”
Her dad straightened in his chair. “Did you ask to be a cop like your old man?”
“Because if you did, you’ll be in big trouble, Krissy,” her mother huffed. “I spent thirty years staying up late wondering if Frank would come home, and I don’t look forward to spending another thirty worrying about you.”
“No, I didn’t ask about joining the academy. I asked about the tests, mostly, and why they selected me. I…well, this will probably sound stupid, but I asked if they thought I was a mage or something.”
Brian spat out a bite of pizza. “You asked what?”
“Why else would they be so interested in me? Seriously, think about it. I barely bumped into this guy in a concert and suddenly, I’m doing all this crazy stuff and taking these tests. I thought there must be a reason I didn’t know about.”
“Maybe dragons like redheads.” Brian ran a finger through his brown hair and pouted his lips in a poor impersonation of her.
“Brian!” his mother snapped.
“It’s fine, Mom. They answered that question anyway. No. I’m not a mage. They almost laughed in my face when I asked it.”
Her parents shared another look.
“What?” she demanded.
“We worry about you is all, honey.” Her mother dabbed the corners of her mouth with a napkin. “I mean, two rebellions, both led by mages—”
“Marty’s right, Kris. One of those wars made Canada, for Christ’s sake. I hope you’re not a damn mage. You’d either have to serve them or… Is it true they can really breathe fire?” Her dad shook his head. Everyone had heard rumors, but dragons were rare and fairly secretive, especially about the extent of their powers, so most rumors remained exactly that—pure conjecture.
“I don’t know, Dad. Like I said, they didn’t answer most of my questions, and it’s not like the one at the concert transformed and took the time to show me his powers. They merely took more notes on what I asked. Honestly, I think that was one of the tests too.”
Brian—having devoured a fifth slice of pizza—rejoined the conversation. “Why would you be a mage, though? Doesn’t that run in families or whatever? Unless mom and dad are holding out on us, the Halls are basically normal.”
“You’re definitely not normal, Brian,” she retorted and drew a look of mock indignation from him.
“Halls aren’t magic,” their dad stated in a tone as frustratingly opaque as the dragons had been.
Kristen nodded. “That’s what the dragon said too.”
“So, then what happened? They popped you off the diodes and you felt compelled to join the police academy?” Brian gestured at the ridiculousness of his sister being selected instead of him. “They do that, right? I’ve read about it on the Internet. Compulsion or whatever.”
“No. No, not at all. They took a few minutes to look at the results, then told me I’d be a great fit for police work. It wasn’t like they forced me or whatever. Dragons aside, you guys know I’ve always wanted to be a cop like Dad.”
“Which is still not okay,” her mother said, but her voice lacked the fervor it had possessed when Kristen first applied to the academy. Marty Hall might not be happy her daughter was following her father into the force, but she’d accepted it.
Her dad reached for another slice of pizza. If they waited, Brian would eat it all. “It’ll be fine, honey. With a pretty face like that? They’ll put her on meter maid duty for a few years before they promote her to detective. Before long, she’ll run the force without so much as a scratch on her.”
As they usually did, her parents fell into their familiar patter about the job. Since she’d joined the police academy, dinner often devolved into the two of them debating her choice. She might have had second thoughts about her decision—she had always loved her parents and wanted to make them proud—but since they weren’t in agreement, she knew she couldn’t please them both. The choice was ultimately hers to make.
She’d always been athletic and wanted to help people, so being a police officer made sense. Still, she hoped her mom didn’t continue to stress eat.
Kristen’s phone buzzed in her purse and she glanced at it. Brian had already tuned out of reality and now played a game on his phone, so she knew her parents wouldn’t say anything.
“Oh, my God—Dad, it’s an email from the force. They’ve given me my first assignment,” she blurted before she’d even read the whole thing.
“That’s great, honey!” Her mom obviously tried to be enthusiastic but sounded like she didn’t think it was great at all.
“Now, Krissy, remember, the force is still a man’s world,” her dad began. She’d heard this speech before too, but beer often made him repeat himself. “I’m sure that once they see what you’re capable of, they’ll get you into more action, but there’s nothing wrong with starting out as a meter reader or a traffic cop. The force has to make money.”
She almost couldn’t hear him. Not because of the noise of the restaurant or because his words were slightly slurred, but because of the four capital letters that glared at her from the screen of her phone.
“I’ve been assigned to SWAT.”
Uh-oh! Kristen’s mom is going to have a heart attack! How in the world did a rookie cop get assigned to SWAT for her first assignment? This is going to be fantastic! Check out the FB page or our Home page to find out exactly when this one goes live!
In today’s episode of Behind The Fiction: The Book Lover’s Podcast, we give you all the details on what is coming your way this week from LMBPN!
First up, our favorite witch’s road trip adventure continues in Europe with the couple on their way to Greece in To Find A Witch. Unfortunately, Lily and Romeo are being followed and a trail of death and destruction lies behind them. Lily’s finding out more about who and what she is and it’s painting a target on her back. Will that knowledge make her stronger or turn powerful forces against her?
Set in the world of Middang3ard, if you enjoy that series, you will enjoy Death of an Author. Your favorite authors appear in this novel. They’re at a writer’s conference trying to discuss the war efforts. The Dark One decides to try and take them out in one fell swoop. Find out who survives the fight!
A new series launches this week with Steel Dragon! Set in Detroit, Kristen Hall thought she was an everyday human until her day went horribly wrong. She finds out she’s a dragon. Now everyone takes an interest in her. Find out how her life changes with the Steel Dragon Series.
Check out The Idlewood Collection this week to get the complete Seven Sisters spin-off series. In this series, Carry Jo puts her skills to the test when she takes on the ghosts of Idlewood. Can Carrie Jo reach across time again and bring peace to Idlewood? The Idlewood Collection contains the entire Idlewood series including The Ghosts of Idlewood, Dreams of Idlewood, The Whispering Saint and The Haunted Child.
If you like vigilante stories with a twist, you’ll enjoy Supernatural Vigilante. it contains the first four books in the series which follows former cop and recently turned vampire,
Two new series, set in the same world but across the country from each other, is two magical academy stories. Learn about Unveiled Academy in Snakes and Shadows and Paranormal University. You’ll enjoy the adventures of both girls in these urban fantasy adventures
This episode is available as a podcast available through your favorite podcast app and through LMBPN’s YouTube channel. If you’d like to subscribe through your favorite podcast apps you can search on Behind The Fiction.
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The ZOO wants to kill THOR. Humans would want that as well, but they don’t know what he is. Check out this awesome, new book today!
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Are you ready for some Snippet Time?
Opus X Snippet #4 Has Arrived! I don’t know about you, but I’ve started counting down the days for Obsidian Detective to arrive and I can’t wait!!!!
Obsidian Detective launches 2 weeks from today! Woot Woot!!! You can pre-order now and the book will miraculously show up in your eReader the moment it’s released on your favorite eRetailer site! I’ve grabbed a copy via iBooks. What site are you using to pre-order?
Opus X Snippet 4:
Erik shook his head. “Who said anything about you betting?”
This time, even the squad seemed confused. “Wait.” Adeyemi held his hands open. “You just did. That’s why you told that whole story.”
“Nope, not quite,” Erik replied. “You don’t need to bet anything. I’ll be the only one to bet. If I lose, you get the coin. If I win, I get the satisfaction. Can’t buy that with money, and it’s worth more than gold out here. I told that story because I wanted it clear I’m beyond one hundred percent confident I can bullseye without looking at the board. That might not be a blindfold, but it’s got to be good enough to impress you. How about this? I’ll turn around and toss it.” He paused for a moment. “Guaranteed bullseye.”
Adeyemi frowned, now looking more annoyed than worried, and waved a hand in a negative gesture. “No way, no how.” He jerked a thumb behind him. “You can’t hit that target with your back turned. Smart lenses aren’t going to help you if you’re not using your cybernetic arm.”
Erik lifted his right hand and waved the dart. “You’ve got nothing to lose but your pride, or are you ready to admit that I’m just that damned good?” He gave a lopsided grin.
“Sure, why the hell not?” Adeyemi snorted. “Let’s see it, Blackwell. Show me the pride of the Knights Errant. Make me believe I didn’t shoot myself in the foot when I got a transfer here.”
Erik laughed. “So if I’m good at darts, that makes all this worthwhile?”
“It’s something.” Adeyemi shrugged. “Better than sitting around on my hands.”
Erik turned around and closed his eyes, then took a few deep breaths and stepped a few centimeters to the right. After a quick jerk of his arm and flick of his wrist, the dart flew out of his hand. A thud and a familiar chime followed. The room filled with the roars and cheers of the other soldiers.
Erik opened his eyes and faced the dartboard. His throw didn’t place the dart directly in the center of the board. It lay just inside the bullseye circle.
Adeyemi’s let out a loud groan. “You have got to be kidding me.” He slapped his forehead and pulled his hand down his face, his eyes focusing back on the board one more time. “I can’t believe what I just saw.” He pointed at the board but was talking to two of the guys to his left. “He didn’t have his freaking eyes open, and his back was turned!”
Biyu smirked and popped him in the stomach to get his attention. “Told you. At least he let you off easy.” She reached up and patted him on the shoulder. “We all think he’s lucky, too. Our platoon hasn’t lost a single soldier since he took over, and we saw plenty of action before getting sent here to watch dust and rocks and wait for hissing aliens.”
Erik’s mark looked around, exasperated. “You’re not a bunch of green scrubs,” Adeyemi argued, his hands up as if he were preaching to a bunch of sinners. “That’s not luck. It’s experience.”
So, what do you think? Are you starting to get excited? If you are anything like me, then you are just itching to get your hands on a copy of this eBook!
The Uncommon Rider Snippet #2 Is Here!
Don’t hate me when you get to the end…
On the edge of a giant’s yard, in a city that was never quiet, the first dragon’s egg in over a century began to hatch.
Sophia Beaufont sucked in a breath, watching as a large crack started at the top of the blue egg and split down the side.
The full moon was the only light in that area of the yard, showing the progress the dragon made as he worked his way out of the eggshell, making a strange noise that wasn’t music and wasn’t crying. It was the sound of birth. Of awakening. The echo of the soul of the dragons that lived deep in the consciousness of the creature taking his first glimpses of the moon rays in this lifetime.
Only a few months ago, Sophia had found herself in a strange magical shop, among mortal dwellings. That’s when she’d magnetized to the egg before her, sealing her fate.
A dragon hadn’t magnetized to a rider in a hundred years. Dragons were actually thought to be extinct. But the truth was, there had simply been little reason for them—until now.
The time of the dragon riders was starting anew. And only a few knew that it was being reborn with the gentle cracking of the shimmering blue egg sitting on the soft patch of ground before this young girl now.
Sophia and the egg had both grown at alarming rates since magnetizing to one another. She had always been well ahead of her age, but now her body had caught up with her.
Losing her childhood hadn’t mattered. Having her fate chosen on a random trip to a shop, hadn’t bothered her. It all made sense from the beginning—because Sophia Beaufont always knew she wasn’t a normal magician.
Most don’t come into their magic until they’re older, in their teens at least. Honing those skills takes time. None of that had applied to Sophia. She might have been born to parents who she couldn’t remember—taken from the Earth when she was only three years old. She might have spent much of her childhood alone. But she was no victim. From the beginning, Sophia knew that her life wouldn’t take a predictable course. And at this point, there was absolutely no certainty in her future. But she knew something with true conviction—one day, she wanted to be like her big sister.
Without knowing why, Sophia was positive that the dragon quickly breaking out of the egg had chosen that night in particular to hatch for a specific reason. Over the last few months, Sophia had spoken telepathically to the dragon. Hearing him in her head had felt second nature. Right then though, all her attention was on the cracking that seemed to echo so loudly she thought everyone nearby could hear it.
However, no one approached as the dragon poked his head up through the top of the shell, knocking a large piece out of the way. He swept his neck to the side, breaking out of the bonds that had held him for so many years. Had it been a decade? A century? A millennium? Sophia didn’t know. The dragon had simply said, he had been waiting for her to be born—to be ready.
She reached out, wanting to help with the arduous process, but pulled back her hand, sensing that wasn’t her job. The dragon, she knew so well and was meeting for the very first time, threw his head covered in small horns down and to the side, smashing the rest of the shell to bits. His tail whipped behind him, knocking the back of the egg to dust at once. He shook like a dog, shuddering off the rest of the shell. It was then that the moon light shined down, properly showing the entirety of the dragon.
She’d never seen a blue like what covered him. His scales were sapphire, dipped in crystals, radiating the light.
This girl didn’t know what it felt like to be in love… until that moment. She knew, at her core, that she loved the creature before her with her whole heart. He was good and brave and undeniably connected to her in every way for the rest of their lives.
This dragon would be her life force and she his. Neither could prosper without the other. His aches would be hers. Hers he’d feel intimately. A rider and its dragon signed on for more than a long life of sacrifices and challenges. They signed on to experience everything exponentiated.
The dragon stood, steady as if it wasn’t his first time. He took a step, no falters as he lowered his green eyes, blinking at the young girl before him. He only came up to Sophia’s shoulder, but he was growing moment by moment.
She took a step forward, not feeling steady, but hiding fumbles.
“And so we meet, like it’s the first time,” the dragon said.
“Isn’t it?” Sophia asked, running her eyes over the dragon as he tested his wings, with a sticky sound, unfolding them and then pressing them back beside his body.
He shook his head. “Oh, no, we’ve met many a times, Sophia Beaufont. Or so I believe.”
She nodded, turning her gaze to the moon. “Why tonight?”
A pleasant expression fell on the dragon’s face as he followed her gaze. “Each dragon is connected to an aspect of the Earth, whether it be night, day, the ocean, the winds—”
“The moon,” Sophia said, sudden realization dawning on her.
“Yes,” he affirmed. “For however long we have here, I’ll be strongest on the full moon. And so will you.”
Sophia took a step forward, kneeling down and looking up at the dragon before her. He was more beautiful than she could have ever imagined, full of timeless wisdom. It was impossible to think that the consciousness of the dragons lived in him. And yet, as she stared into his eyes, she could hardly doubt it.
“It’s time to name me, Sophia Beaufont. But do it with diligence.”
She lifted her hand, not hesitating before running her fingers over the top of his snout. Her hand sank to his scales at their first meeting, the union as natural as a baby’s first breath.
Sophia smiled, unafraid, as she stared into the eyes of the most ancient type of magical creature in the world—and the one that would live beside her from now until the end of her own life.
“I named you long ago,” she began, her eyes dimming from the bright moonlight. “Even before I met you. Before I became a dragon rider, I knew you. And I knew that you’d be <REDACTED>.”
The blue dragon bowed his head, a silent respect in the movement. “Yes, my name has always been <REDACTED>. But only my true rider would know that. Well done, Sophia.”
Ok, Ok, I know. I want to know the dragon’s name as well. I have some ideas. What are yours?
If you pre-order the book, the moment it’s released you will have it in your e-reader and you can go to the end of chapter 2 and find out the name.
Here’s a Chuck Dixon double feature snippet! After you read the first chapter of Blooded, keep going for the first chapter of Gomers!
This wasn’t the first time I woke up in a cheap motel wondering how I got there. After three rough divorces, I know the turf. Only not a shack-up as cheap as the one I found myself in this time.
I opened my eyelids as far as I was able. Stained ceiling tiles. Never a good sign. Drop ceilings hide things like mold or bullet holes. I tried to raise my head for a better view. Bad move. Nausea. The room shimmied like I was seeing it in a home video. I caught a glimpse of the plastic alarm clock on the nightstand before my head dropped back on the pillow.
AM or PM?
That’s how hungover I was.
Only this was like no hangover I’ve ever had. I’ve had the dry heaves hangovers. And the ones where your tongue feels like it’s been replaced with a dead slug. And the ones where your eyes can’t seem to look in the same direction. And the headaches. The epic, put-me-out-of-my-misery skullbangers that feel like they’re never going to go away.
This one was nothing like any of them.
I felt like my body had no weight to it. Something like a tingling chill over my whole body but not unpleasant. My head felt funny but there was no pain. No headache at all. I tried to remember what I’d been drinking. The taste in my mouth was tinny. Whatever I’d been abusing the night before, it wasn’t my usual.
It took a year and a half but I managed to turn on my side to face the front of the motel room. A sliver of yellow light under the drawn blinds. Afternoon then.
The room was grim. And it reeked. My nose took in every funky smell like they were in high definition. Spilled beer, cigarettes, sweat, and sex. And something else. A dense, organic smell that was sweet and musky all at the same time.
Walls covered in cheap paneling that shared the secrets concealed by the ceiling tiles. An old Samsung tv was secured to the wall with a bicycle lock. An ancient chest of drawers dotted with cigarette burns. Yard sale paintings of horses crooked on the walls.
There were dried drops on my pillow. I lifted the once-white sheet to find a broad smear of blood fringed with red fingerprints. Some of it was still tacky. The bed was sticky under me. My naked ass came off the sheets with a ripping sound.
Something barreled up my throat from my stomach. I made it to the bathroom, sliding on my knees over the cracked tiles. I tore the shower curtain aside to empty my guts into the tub.
I vomited up what looked like a gallon of blood. Bright red with black clots sliding down the walls of the tub toward the drain.
I was dying. Right?
I ran a shaking hand over my sides and back. No stiches there. No one had taken any vital organs from me. My fingers found a wound on the side of my throat. Two crossed slits about two inches long with the flesh at the edges puckered. Someone had cut my throat and left me for dead.
My hand came back without blood on it. Maybe I was all out of blood. Maybe I was bleeding out internally. I had no idea then how much blood an adult male holds. I do now. But then I figured I must have puked up most of my supply.
On shaking legs, I levered myself off of the side of the tub to get a better look at that cut on my neck.
I didn’t get that far.
Scrawled across the glass of the mirror were words spelled out in blood. My blood.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
Uh-oh! I think I know what just happened, do you? Find out Friday when the Chuck Dixon Paranormal Double Pack is published!
Now, on to the Gomers snipper!
The military vehicles passed them in the opposite lanes going hard and loud.
A long stream of deuce-and-a-halfs, Hummers and army semi-trailers, including a tank on a flatbed, all rolling tight and fast, northbound.
“That’s the third one this morning, right?” Mercy said from the suicide seat of the Coachman.
“Some kind of maneuvers or something,” Uncle Fuller said, watching the trucks flash by on the other side of the grass median.
“Maybe those riots that were on the radio?”
“I don’t know much about being a soldier but I don’t think they bring tanks to a riot.”
“Still, something’s going on,” she said.
“Nothing to do with us,” he said and lit another Camel.
Mercy turned on the dash radio and switched to AM. It was all talk radio, gospel, and Spanish language stations. Nothing more about the riots up north in Philadelphia and Camden. She moved the dial a little more to a country oldies station.
“Keep it there,” Uncle Fuller said.
Mercy sat back and watched the trees go by while some old-school redneck warbled about lost love and getting drunk. She liked riding up front in the RV, but Uncle Fuller’s taste in music had fossilized back in the ’70s. But she could deal with that.
The Coachman was better than riding in the minivan with Mom, Bill Tom, and Raquel. She didn’t miss Mom harping on her for every little thing. And she could do without the way Bill Tom, her mother’s latest boyfriend, watched her when he thought no one else was looking. And Raquel, her little sister, was only six months into puberty and having her time of the month, which turned her usual annoying self into the Bitch Queen of the Universe.
Her other ride option, which was no option at all, was in the crew cab of the pickup. Hard to tell which smelled worse: Doe at the wheel or the four hundred gallon tank of used motor oil sloshing around in the truck bed. Doe was a first cousin and named that for all the John Doe warrants out for him from Maine to Florida and as far west as Indiana. He smoked a lot and didn’t talk hardly at all.
Five miles before the next exit, a highway sign was flashing to tell drivers to be prepared to stop. State trooper cars, blue lights whirling and flashing, were parked behind barricades placed across both lanes. Troopers on the shoulder directed traffic onto the exit ramp. The staties wore surgical masks. Mercy saw that some of them had shotguns out and ready. One had a rifle cradled in his arms, an ugly black thing with a curved magazine. There were a few cars pulled onto the grass median with no drivers or passengers in sight.
Uncle Fuller slowed down for the exit. The crucifix swung from the rear view on its beaded chain as he tapped the brakes enough to holler out to a trooper, asking what was going on. The trooper only waved on with more emphasis, stabbing his hand ahead, eyes hard over the top of the paper mask.
“Still think this is nothing to do with us?” Mercy said. Uncle Fuller grunted and powered up the exit ramp.
Mercy’s smartphone lit up playing “Fallout Boy.” It was Mom in the minivan following behind.
“Mercy? What’s going on?”
“We don’t know, Mom.”
“What’d that police say to your uncle?”
“He didn’t say nothing, Mom. Just waved us on.”
“What’d Fuller ask him?”
“Same thing you’re asking me, Mom.”
“Tell her I’m pulling off into that K-Mart up ahead,” Uncle Fuller said.
“You hear that?” Mercy said into the cell.
The phone went dead. Mercy sighed heavily and tossed the cell phone to the dash hard enough to bounce it off the windshield.
“You know, you don’t need to be a bitch alla the time,” Uncle Fuller said.
She looked at him, brows furrowed, eyes mean.
“Like that.” He laughed and turned his eyes back to the road.
“I don’t like how she treats me,” Mercy said.
“That ain’t it and you know it.”
“Then why don’t you tell me what it is, Dr. Phil?” she said with a crooked smile, eyes still mean.
“She told me you want to go to school. College. And I’ve seen you reading that GED book.”
“And why can’t I go to school? Learn something?”
“You’ve learned plenty of knowledge out here on the road. You knew more about human nature at ten years old than most girls learn their whole lives,” he said, slowing as he came to the rear of the stopped column of cars.
“Maybe I’m tired of always moving. Spending half the year on the road. Maybe I’d like to stick in one place. Learn something different. Talk to someone who isn’t a cousin of mine for once,” she said, gazing ahead to where a group of men were pushing a stalled pickup off the road. Horns hooted encouragement.
“Well, that’s between you and your mother,” he said, pulling up as the traffic ahead began to inch forward.
“And there it’ll stay,” she said with a bitter smile.
They gathered in the K-Mart lot. The lot was close to full so they had to park in a row of far spaces near the road. Cars were pulling in and pulling out. Some parked on the walk in front of the store. People were pushing loaded carts from the store. More people crowded the entrances.
Mom and Bill Tom were busy talking to Uncle Fuller. Mercy took the opportunity to bum a beer from the cooler Doe kept in his truck bed by the oil tank. Doe made a chirping sound and she tossed him a cold Miller.
“Is there a hurricane coming or something? Looks like a hurricane,” Doe said, leaning back in the open door of his cab after his first pull on the can. His usual Marlboro burned between his yellowed fingers like a natural appendage.
“Nothing on the radio but bullshit,” Mercy said.
“Sure looks something like a hurricane. Everybody shopping like Jesus was on his way.”
“Look at the sky. Not a cloud.”
“I mean the people. They’re stocking up on shit like there’s no more shit left. At a K-Mart, for Christ’s sake. You know what that means, right?” Doe said, nodding toward the crowded storefront.
“What?” Mercy said.
“Means the Walmart ran out of shit.” He grinned, showing the silver tooth in the middle of his uppers.
“Is that a beer?” Mom said, leaving the conference by the RV to charge back toward the pickup.
Before Mercy could answer her mother swatted the can from her hand. Foam went everywhere.
“What’d I tell you, Doe?” her mother said, voice rising, her own Marlboro waggling where it was pressed in the corner of her mouth.
“What? She ain’t driving.” Doe shrugged.
“You’re riding with us, Mercy. Get in the car with your sister,” Mom said, taking Mercy by the arm.
“Where are we going?” Mercy asked.
“This county road takes us to Harrow. There were new developments going up last time we were through here.”
“That was only last year,” Doe said, crushing his empty in his fist.
“Fuller says two years. We passed it by last year,” Mom said and turned to follow Mercy to the minivan.
“Could be right,” Doe said and climbed behind the wheel of the pickup.
Mercy got in the rear seat of the minivan beside her little sister. Raquel never left the minivan and her eyes never left the monitor set in the back of the driver’s headrest. The movie on the screen was something with cheerleaders. Tinny music escaped from her earbuds. Her full attention fixed on the movie.
“Nice to see you too, sis,” Mercy said and strapped in.
Keep your eyes peeled to the LMBPN Facebook page on Friday to see when the ‘Zon releases this double pack! You know when you get a Chuck Dixon book you’re going to get one hell of a ride!
In today’s episode of Behind The Fiction: The Book Lover’s Podcast, we chat with Erick Black and Greg Tremblay, the production and narrator team for the Opus X series.
In this episode, Erick and Greg share about how the talent for a given audiobook project is selected, how far in advance they schedule their projects, and how an audiobook narrator handles being sick. I would have never thought of this, but wow, losing your voice would be a big deal as a narrator!
In this interview you will hear a significant difference in the sound quality between when Erick and Steve talks and when Greg speaks. This is because Greg is in the recording studio he built in his home for audiobook recoding! He shares all the details about how his studio came to be and how long he spends recoding each day.
Following Greg’s insight into the life of a narrator, Erick sheds light into the world and life of an audio engineer. He shares about the process audio recordings go through from the time the come from the narrator until they are produced & YOU WILL GET TO HEAR A THREE MINUTE PREVIEW of book one!
This episode is available as a podcast available through your favorite podcast app and through LMBPN’s YouTube channel. If you’d like to subscribe through your favorite podcast apps you can search on Behind The Fiction.
Opus X website
Preorder book 1
It’s Wild Wednesday on October 16, 2019!
Each week we bring you a list of books from not only LMBPN authors, but also friends of ours, that are on sale! Here’s a fantastic opportunity to discover some new authors or some exciting books you may not have seen yet.
Most of these books are FREE in Kindle Unlimited and are also on sale today.
Please remember to double check the price before you one-click.
If you see this message after October 16th and want to be notified of future price promotions, please sign up for our email list at www.lmbpn.com/email
The Uncommon Rider, now on pre-sale!
Here is the first snippet in the exciting upcoming series, The Exceptional S. Beaufont! You get to follow Liv’s little sister and see what she’s been up to in the background. Well, she’s really not so little anymore.
The Uncommon Rider Snippet #1 is HERE!!!
Nothing in the last eight-hundred years had prepared Adam Rivalry for this.
Atop and aside his dragon, Kay-Rye, he’d defeated leagues of armies, taken down lines of trebuchets and sent murderous monsters into extinction. And yet, he’d never faced a beast like the one trailing them presently.
Icy winds raced through his long hair and beard, sending them flying over his shoulder as Kay-Rye swerved to avoid the strange projectiles the thunderous monster fired at them. It was a magic that Adam had never seen before.
The beast didn’t move with the wind, like the dragons, but rather cut through it—making a noise like a thousand vibrating drums. And the monster left behind a chemical smell that burned Adam’s nose.
Daring to look over his shoulder as they passed through a dense cloud, Adam tried to make out the form of the enemy. As far as he could tell, it was covered in a strange armor. Not a dragon. And not a bird. Its wings didn’t fold and expand like Kay-Rye’s.
Instead they stayed stick-straight.
Its attacks didn’t come from its mouth or from its rider, who was locked inside a clear compartment on the top. They shot from under the wings, large metal capsules that had many times whistled by Adam’s head or scraped Kay-Rye’s wings, injuring him little by little. There was also a weapon on the top of the creature that fired rapid attacks which were harder to avoid since they were smaller.
The dragon was okay though.
They’d make it to the Barrier of the Gullington soon. Then no matter how close the beast was to them, they’d disappear into the mists—safe once more.
Adam and his dragon would return once they’d rested. He knew the monster was guarding something that it had harmed. The dragon rider may not know much about his new enemy, but he knew that it deserved no mercy.
It was Adam’s job to protect. He and Kay-Rye had taken an oath to uphold justice. And even if they hadn’t been able to do that properly for several hundred years, there was little stopping them from returning to that mission now.
The sun had just set on the other side of the Pond. Night belonged to the black dragon, giving it speed and increased agility. Adam lowered himself, his chin barely grazing the neck of the dragon he’d known for most of his life.
We’ll be through the Barrier soon, Adam thought, feeling the dragon slow. Only in battle did they choose the more draining method of telepathy to communicate with one another.
We won’t make it in time, Kay-Rye insisted. He nearly halted in mid-air, the lights from the modest village below blurring as they began to free-fall as the dragon folded his wings into its body.
Wind whistled by Adam’s ears as they plummeted. Pushing against the force of the fall, he peered up, to find that the monster had a sudden burst of speed. It shot forward, quickly covering the distance where they had been. The beast turned into a nose dive as soon as it caught the change in their direction.
How did you know that was going to happen? Adam asked.
Instinct, Kay-Rye simply answered, unfolding his wings and regaining height.
The cottages on the eastern hills were all turning on their lights for the night. Adam watched them with affection, remembering when that area was unsettled.
He’d spent most of his life in this area of Scotland, and he wasn’t going to allow this monster to ruin it. As a dragon rider, he wouldn’t stand for anyone to bully, especially not in what had become his homeland over these centuries.
Kay-Rye’s wings flapped furiously, in perfect rhythm with the wind. They were headed back for the Barrier. As fast as Kay-Rye was at night, he couldn’t outpace the beast. It made up the space between them in seconds, sending multiple attacks.
Adam tried his best to shield, but the assaults were unrelenting, exploding through his spells and continuing undeterred.
He sent two attacks off course as Kay-Rye sped through the clouds, spiraling to the side, his massive wings soaring through the darkness, perfectly camouflaged by the night. Although, wherever they flew, no matter how much the dark masked the black dragon, the monster’s attacks seemed to find him.
Almost like it was using a homing spell of sorts.
We must make it to the Barrier, Adam insisted, feeling Kay-Rye’s exhaustion like it was his own. This chase had gone on for what seemed like hours, the strange creature behind them never slowing. It wasn’t natural. It almost didn’t seem to be alive at all—but rather a machine.
Adam had never heard of a contraption the size of a dragon that attacked like this one did. However, there were many things he didn’t know about the modern world he realized.
If granted more time, he’d learn. He’d adapt. He’d figure out how to outmaneuver and overpower the thing gaining on Kay-Rye’s tail, flying several yards behind the dragon.
Even with the increased power of the night, Kay-Rye was no match for the many attacks that whizzed by, one of them tearing straight through his wing, sending it back at a weird angle.
Adam held on for dear life as his dragon toppled to the side, his wing flying uncontrollably in the wind like a flag, knocking into him.
The dragon’s screams unleashed a pain inside of Adam so deep that he felt his heart might pound out of his chest. They had to land. Kay-Rye was too injured to continue much farther. But the monster would pursue. It was out to kill. And the Barrier was too far to reach.
Adam had one only option left.
Don’t, Kay-Rye urged, a soft pain in the one word as he tried to make his broken wing work.
I have to, Adam stated, feeling the adrenaline shoot through him as he stood up on the back of his dragon, twisting around to face the strangest enemy he’d ever seen. He pooled his and Kay-Rye’s collective energy, not unleashing it until it nearly made his chest explode.
With a guttural scream Adam shot the attack at the monster barreling through the night’s sky. The use of that much magic depleted them both severely, leaving them with few options should they need more power. However, Adam’s attack hit the front of the beast with a punishing blow, knocking it to the side, tearing off one of its wings.
Adam was about to rejoice, feeling the first bit of hope in hours. Smoke flew up from the center of the creature as it spiraled to the dense mountain range below, crashing with a fiery blow. Thankfully they were past the village and over the unchartered territory that surrounded the Gullington.
Yes! Adam whipped around, ready to guide his injured dragon home when he froze, his eyes wide as his mouth sucked in what would most assuredly be one of his last breaths. Racing towards them, faster than they could avoid, uninjured or otherwise, was another of those strange weapons the monster shot. This one must have been sent prior to Adam’s attack. It sped forward, turning around and coming back in their direction.
Kay-Rye, worked to hold his injured wing straight, gliding for the hills below. They might be able to make it. Out maneuver the attack. Get to the safety of the grass and caves.
Both held onto this hope, feeling the doom in the other’s hearts as they made their final descent. The projectile zoomed at their back, closing in like a hungry dog on a hunt.
Adam gripped the reigns tighter. Held closer to the creature that was more a part of him than his own skin and bones. He didn’t close his eyes when the blast met its target, hitting Kay-Rye straight in the backside, exploding fire over Adam as well.
The dragon rider didn’t let go of hope even as Kay-Rye stopped flying, spiraling into a free fall, his wings like broken kites, tangling in the wind.
Adam didn’t let go even as they tumbled onto the stony earth, the dragon rolling onto his already broken body, smashing it even more. He did close his eyes when he felt Kay-Rye’s breaths slow to almost non-existent quickly after impact.
Whatever the monster was they’d angered that night, it was a force they weren’t prepared to defeat or survive. The oldest living dragon rider hoped with everything that he had left that his brothers would be in a better position to fight this enemy if they should ever come in contact with another like it. And he hoped they did—because it was evil, and what it guarded needed their help. He knew that much, without knowing why.
Kay-Rye pulled his head around, awkwardly gazing back at Adam, lying half under him. There was no point in moving the dragon. They both knew it was over.
“It’s been a good reign, my friend,” Adam said, coughing up blood, feeling something sharp cutting into his chest.
“It has,” Kay-Rye replied, his breaths too far apart, eyes drifting closed.
“Thanks for the ride.”
“The pleasure has always been mine, Adam.”
And with that, the dragon and its rider took their last breaths together, closing out the end of an era.
I swear I don’t have tears in my eyes, only chills going down my spine, honest! Ok, I’m totally ready for this new series! Who’s joining me?
You can pre-order book 1 now and get it auto-delivered to your eReader the second it goes live!