It’s the holiday season, and as such, sharing is caring. Dragon and I decided, why not share some of our writing with you? Below you’ll find an excerpt from our second book Hand of Time available at Amazon. (<–Clicky the link below to grab your copy!) In this installment, you get to meet most of the main cast of characters and get a little taste of the sort of shenanigans contained within the pages of the book.
“Looks like a thank you is in order,” Bella said, straightening. “The Pithos appears undamaged.”
Then Betty turned and I saw that the back of her bodysuit was missing fabric from her shoulders to the soft swell of her ass, exposing the tattoo of a pair of large reptilian wings folded along the graceful curve of her back, and hinted at the others that I knew adorned the rest of her body.
“Of course it is. I can’t say the same for my poor heart though, Bella,” Betty sauntered away to her side, exchanging air kisses, “a chuisle, m’fhuil, I hear you’re doing well. Keeping busy?”
“Indeed. You look well, Grand Betty,” Bella said, a curiously warm smile winding across her lips. “How have you been?”
My pulse, my… blood? What the hell? I shot a glance over to Sam who chuckled quietly. My Gaelic may have been a touch rusty, but that was one endearment I’d heard often enough to remember.
“You know me. Up to no good,” Betty waved her hand blithely, spiraling a glance Dirk’s way. “I’m still working my way up a ladder that’s recently gotten longer.”
“Don’t you mean taller?” quipped Bree from the recently repaired terrace as she made her way in to join us.
“That too,” Betty chuckled, strolling over to give Bree a high-five and a hearty hug that left my jaw slinking away along the floorboards. I was utterly…completely at a loss.
“You’ll be attending the Midsummer celebration before it’s over, right? We’ve got lots to talk about,” Bree whispered the last bit.
“I bet we do,” Betty nudged Bree with a sly look. “You naughty girl, you. Have you finally opened more than just your books with that boy-toy you keep going on about?”
“Grand Betty!” Bree gasped, flared crimson cheeks quickly hidden behind a veil of copper hair, only to have that fringe swept aside as Betty planted a kiss on Bree’s cheek, eliciting a giggle.
I stared, dumbfounded as the pieces slowly gravitated into place, and when I got a look at the whole puzzle, I nearly walked out onto the balcony and tossed myself over. Great. Of course my last battle-mate was related to Bella and Bree. I honestly couldn’t fathom how I’d spent two months in Seattle without running into her, but given how quickly she’d jumped to rekindle that particular flame, maybe that was a good thing.
As far as I was concerned, it was a fire that had gone out a very long time before.
“I see you got my hail as well,” Sam gave a crooked grin before clasping forearms with Betty, and then pulling her in for a hug.
I leaned back against Dirk, patting his flank absently as I watched them. His warm hand enveloped my shoulder, giving it a squeeze. It was while I stared at the pair embracing that I noticed something peculiar. I’d seen Sam’s tattoo of a necklace of ravens before; a highly stylized series of black birds, it flowed down her shoulders, across her clavicle and along the base of her neck. Oddly enough, Betty sported the same tattoo, revealed between the deep V of the front of her outfit. She hadn’t had it when I’d known her. And for just a moment, I could’ve sworn the raven tattoos, at least, writhed when Sam and Betty embraced. Blinking, I shook my head, thinking my eyes must be playing tricks on me. I stared harder, but nothing else happened.
“Not exactly,” Betty said as she separated from Sam and nodded to Björn. “He’s the one that summoned me.”
“Good thing, too,” Björn said with a wary chuckle. “I’d hate to be in any way responsible for starting another Cataclysm.” The last one, a massively escalated war between Mythics and humans, propagated by hate and fear and a healthy kill-them-before-they-kill-us attitude, had been responsible for slamming its hand down on Earth’s reset button, wiping out vast populations of Mythics and humans alike. I couldn’t exactly fault him. I’d fought side by side with the Mythics before our tribe retreated back to Scythia to recoup our losses.
It had been a little over 700 years ago, but I still remembered the chaos and wasn’t at all keen on revisiting it. There were Mythic tribes that still hadn’t recovered, and human advancement had been all but wiped out entirely. It set the stage for diplomacy between Mythics and humans, due in part to a mutually shared goal of survival in a tumultuous world of suddenly populated with beings known as the Soulless. Viciously ripped from the cycle of life to become virtually immortal, no soul meant no emotion, and no emotion meant no conscience. Perfect killing machines bent on controlling the world, one human or Mythic at a time, by syphoning out the victim’s soul, and letting the id do the controlling of the body.
I didn’t think the world would survive another go-round.
“Have you ever seen what happens when this thing is opened?” Bree’s question pulled me out of my somber musings, as she rushed over to drum her fingers against the eagle’s head with wide eyes and a dramatic bent to her voice. “I heard that when King Philip of France and Pope Clement V unsealed the jar, it melted people’s faces off and yanked out their souls. It was some pretty gruesome stuff.”
“Honestly, Bree, some of the stories you read are full of rubbish,” said Bella with pursed lips and an eye roll. “There were no grilled cheese facials of any sort.”
“That sounds gross and appetizing all at once,” Dirk said, his stomach growling against my back. “Thanks for that visual, Bella.” He ran his hands down my arms, grasping them lightly and I sank into the touch.
“You’re welcome, Dirk,” was all Bella said as she shooed Bree away from the Pithos. Bella’s hand brushed against the jar’s lid and I could’ve sworn she cast a furtive glance my way. I frowned, straightening as a peculiar sensation skittered along my back.
Something’s wrong, my subconscious screamed. We need to leave. Now!
From the corner of my eye, I saw Björn bend down to pick up something from the floor. There was a sharp crackling sound and the scent of ozone filled the air. “Dirk,” I muttered, trying to turn to him, but his fingers tightened around my upper arms like iron bands. “Dirk, what’s going on?”
Björn’s face was grim as he hefted a large hammer rippling with the same electricity I’d seen Dirk wield and crossed the room in two long strides until he stood an arm’s length away. His eyes bore into mine but his words weren’t for me, “Steady, son.”
Panic squeezed my chest and sent my limbs into restless motion against his grip. Deep down, I’d always known that of all the people on earth, Dirk was the only one who could immobilize me with nothing but his own vast reserves of strength. But I’d never thought he’d ever actually do it. His fingers dug into my biceps as he widened his stance behind me, rooting me to the spot as though I were a sapling. I couldn’t tear my attention from that lightning wreathed hammer head. The tension in the room drew to a snapping point, thrumming to me from all sides. “Dirk, please, let me go!”
“Hold her,” Björn said quietly and Dirk did as he was told. I couldn’t move. I watched in horror as Björn lifted the hammer – Bella pulled the lid of the Pithos free as he did – and brought it crashing down across my jaw. Pain unlike anything I’d before experienced exploded behind my eyes as my head whipped to the right with a sickening crack and enough force that for a moment, I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to die.
I sagged in Dirk’s grasp as I lost complete control of my body, scorching electricity burning my nostrils and filling my vision with searing white followed by a crushing darkness so absolute I wanted nothing more than to sink into the unconscious oblivion of death.
But I wasn’t alone in that darkness. I felt Bella reaching for me, crooning to me in that seductive smoke voice. It snared me as surely as if I were a fleeing rabbit crashing through the underbrush, teasing along the edges of my consciousness until I could do no less than give her my full attention. Anything to stop the pain still ricocheting through my limbs.
My soul slipped free then, heeding her call, drifting from my body until something snapped me back. I wavered, floating beside Dirk, curiously impassive as I watched the tears streaming down his face, pleading with his father to stop as Björn prepared to strike my limp form again.
I saw what else held me back. A silvery iridescent tether, bridging the gap between Dirk’s chest and mine. I watched it pulse and coalesce, becoming dimmer, weaker. Heard Bella’s shout from across the room for Björn to “stop, hold, wait,” her voice strident. The sound of hundreds of raven wings taking flight echoed in the room. Looking to her, I beheld Bella as the dead must’ve seen her: a silvery glowing creature of pale, luminescent radiance, emitting a pulsing light of her own, so bright it almost hurt.
But the light called to me, promising sweet oblivion. Rest.
I watched as Dirk turned me in his arms and cradled my body against his chest, staring down into my lifeless eyes with his own deep forest pools so full of despair that it sent a fresh ache of unutterable sadness lancing through my soul. His pain tugged at me on a visceral level that set me to quaking, reaching for him, even knowing he wouldn’t feel my touch.
“Don’t leave me, my bad-ass Amazon,” his voice was a fierce whisper as he lowered his lips to mine. “Fight him. I love you too much to live without you.”
Fight who? I yelled soundlessly, confused, hurt, angry, and scared all at once. A maelstrom of emotions threatened to consume me and carry me away. Toward that light.
He kissed my trembling lips with such sweetness, his tears painting tracks down my ashen cheeks, that I felt sick from it. My stomach heaved and shuddered until I realized it wasn’t me feeling that disgust, and a fresh yearning to fight flooded through me. I shut out everything, focused on that life line, reaching for it and grasping it in my ethereal hand. It felt as insubstantial as smoke, as solid as water against my palm. Clasping at it, I pulled. Suddenly, with a lurch, I was back in my own skin.
But I wasn’t alone. Something was in there with me. Something dark and ugly, something wretched and repulsive. It pushed at me and I gasped aloud at the strength of it, filling my lungs and letting out a low wail. There was another flash of blinding white light and my body convulsed in Dirk’s arms, as I fought, tooth and nail, to be rid of this scourge. This interloper.
In an instant, everything changed. I heard an ungodly shrieking, and Dirk’s arms held me as though he were carved out of a mountain. For a moment, I worried that I was hurting him, confusion clouding my head. I wrapped myself around him, hanging on with every ounce of strength I could spare, despite his screams, and that’s when it dawned on me… the shrill, unearthly keening that threatened to deafen me wasn’t coming from Dirk.
It was coming from deep within the both of us.
Our screams of pain so loud they drowned out even the thundering in my ears, as I constricted around Dirk. My heart wailed in torment, the way it had when Bella told me of my mother’s death, the way it had when I’d seen my home a charred ruin. I felt a tearing at my back, like meat hooks had been fettered into my flesh and my body bowed back in response to that new agony.
Dirk took a halting step and stopped, gripping me tighter until I felt like I would break in two from the strain. Lashing out, I fought against him like a wild thing, my body no longer under my control, nails scoring deep red welts along his skin, my own flesh suddenly sweat slick. Another two steps toward the jar, and a fresh wave of misery rippled through me.
“Get… out… of me!” Dirk and I screamed in unison, and my eyes met his. Blue warred with green, mingling and sinking each into the other, finding strength enough to keep struggling. To abolish this monster trying to wear our skins.
Breathing was like inhaling pure fire, searing along my lungs, my blood boiling as an invisible hand clamped around my throat in protest. Understanding crashed over me and I grit my teeth, rioting with every ounce of my rapidly flagging willpower, to stay there. To stay in Dirk’s arms. To be rid of this parasite that had caused all this chaos.
I wasn’t screaming anymore. My voice had faltered, failing me completely, my vocal chords raw and bleeding. All I could do was cling to him, even as I felt my flesh being ripped away, layer after agonizing layer, until I was certain there would be nothing left. I held out for as long as I could, focusing on the one thing that I knew would save me: My love for this man and the evidence of that love, even if I hadn’t asked for them.
I thought of our children.
Feeling my reserves dwindling, I gave one last push against the creature, every cell of my body raising its voice in a cry of defiance. As he hit his ninth step toward the jar, a copper taste flooded my mouth from digging my teeth into the soft flesh of Dirk’s neck. I felt the last scrabbling of ethereal claws on my soul and abruptly everything stopped. Silence crashed down around me and I sagged in his arms, my legs completely failing me. I tasted blood on my lips, my sight swam, and every noise was filtering through to me as though my ears had been stuffed with cotton.
“All clear,” announced Bella with the hollow bang of the slamming jar lid.
Hand of Time (The Nemesis Chronicles, Book 2)
Morgan…Three months after the events of Vegas turned her life upside down, she’s finding that getting back to normal is anything but easy.
Dirk… Trapped between juggling his new responsibilities and making Morgan understand his feelings, the former courtesan is discovering that letting go of the past is much harder when the past refuses to let go of him.
Nemesis… Still reeling from the Society’s attack, they find themselves facing a familiar foe and a new menace hellbent on testing their fortitude.
Midsummer madness heats up Nemesis Island. It’s a time of celebration and renewal, but the Society has other plans…with Dirk, Morgan, and the rest of Nemesis at the top of their list.