It’s a new year, 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 first book Minutes to Midnight available at Amazon. (<–Clicky the link below to grab your copy!) In this installment, you get a glimpse at how one of the main protagonists, Morgan, deals with uninvited attention as a woman in a male-dominated establishment.
The inside of the bar was a throw-back to old Viking mead halls. Rough-hewn crossbeams ran the length and breadth of the low ceilings, mirroring the sunken wooden floors. Tables and long benches dotted the landscape along either side of the main room as brightly dressed bar-wenches wove in and out of the rowdy crowd. At the far end of the hall stood a long bar top, forcing me to walk a gauntlet of grabbing hands to reach it. The lighting in the room was dim; torches held aloft by black wrought iron sconces bolted to the brick faced walls added their oily smoke and soot to the overall ambiance.
This was a place where men came to drink, gamble, and fight, often at the same time. I let the general attitude of the bar engulf me in a welcome embrace of the familiar as I shouldered my way through the sea of people, intent on getting something to ease the dryness of my throat.
I was just mere steps from my goal when I felt a hand slap against my right ass cheek. Ready to ignore it, thinking perhaps that it was just the flailing of a drunkard, I froze when it was followed up by a vulgar invitation that I wanted no part of. I turned, only half hoping I’d misheard him.
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?”
“A hot piece of ass like that can warm my lap anytime.”
Problem solved. The frustration I’d been hanging on to since the fight roared to the surface, finding an outlet. My fist shot out, slamming against the bridge of his nose with a sickening crack that sent him reeling from his chair to the floor. Blood gushed from between his fingers as he clutched his nose. I watched him struggle to his feet.
“You bitch!” He bellowed, bloody spittle flying from his enraged lips. “You broke my nose!”
“I’m not one of the wenches.”
His friends stared at us, silent and wide-eyed, each one shrinking back as my gaze drifted among them. He was alone. No one wanted to intervene. I was prepared to walk away, satisfied that he’d learned his lesson about unwelcome advances, when he unilaterally decided that the altercation wasn’t over by pulling a knife.
Wartooth’s didn’t have a ‘no-weapons’ policy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Brom, being one of the last remaining true Dwarven weaponsmiths, had a fondness for them, and was prone to launch into lectures about the quality or craftsmanship of the various armaments that made it past his door. I’d even found him coveting Aduro on more than one occasion, not that I could blame him.
My adversary waved his Bowie knife from side to side. I wasn’t sure what he thought my reaction would be to him wiggling his shiny pig- sticker in my face. Maybe he was hoping for a scream of dismay and the immediate groveling. My fingers were itching to pull Aduro and do a size comparison.
Men tended to get a little sensitive about the length of their blades.
Best not to add insult to what was about to be serious injury. We had everyone’s attention, but no one else dared to intercede.
“Careful,” I kept my voice low, forcing him to pay attention while I did a quick scan of the surrounding area. “You keep waving that blade at me and I might have to teach you how to use it.”
He spat another obscenity and lunged forward. I angled out of his reach, my right hand snaring his outthrust wrist. His own forward inertia, aided by a not-so-gentle shove with my off hand between his shoulder blades, sent him sprawling face down to the floor. His body slammed against the wooden planks with a solid thump, my follow through positioning me crouched next to him. I wrenched his arm up and back until I heard the crunch of his shoulder leaving the socket. He let out a shrill scream of pain and I plucked the knife from his fingers just as they went limp.
Stepping over him as he curled into the fetal position cradling his injured arm, I slid the weapon to Brom, busy tending the bar with one eye on our little scuffle. He whisked it away, a mug brimming with an amber brew appearing in its place. “On the house,” he said, holding the knife up to the light with an expert eye. “Scrap,” he concluded, tossing it into the bin labeled as such along the back wall behind the bar.
Brom was a swarthy little man, surprisingly tall for a Dwarf, standing almost five feet. He’d long since lost all the hair on his head, but sported a lengthy, black beard with streaks of white as the only indicator of his considerable age. A bulbous nose and ruddy cheeks dominated the rest of his face, his shrewd coal eyes nearly hidden beneath the bushy black brows above them. He was built like one of his beer steins, with wide shoulders, barrel chest, and ample belly.
I took a long draught from the mug, savoring the crisp, sweet honey mead that reminded me why I fell in love with Wartooth’s in the first place. Say what you will about the Vikings, but they made a damned fine drink. I’d never had the opportunity to meet one in person, but if the rumors about them were true, I’d have a fine time indeed if we ever crossed paths.
“Food, Brom,” I called to him having taken the edge off my thirst. “I hunger.”
“With what I’m hearing, it’s no wonder.” He swept a cloth against the bar top and pegged me with a gimlet eye. “A werewolf?” At my nod, he clucked his tongue in disbelief. “Solveig!” He bellowed back through a small window leading into the kitchens.
I wasn’t surprised that he knew. Word travels fast in Vegas, and I was willing to bet that a good chunk of his patrons tonight had been witness to Primo’s shenanigans. The irritation crept back in.
Great. And just when I thought I could relax.
“Why are you yelling?” Brom’s wife appeared at the window, wearing a cantankerous expression. “I’m not deaf.” Brom motioned to me as he turned to take care of another patron. She took one look at me and inwardly I groaned. She wasn’t happy with what she saw.
For as dark as Brom was, Solveig was light. Honey colored hair in thick braids coiled around her head, fair skin flushed pink from the heat of the kitchen. She, too, was built like one of the steins, but where Brom’s girth was in his belly, hers was reserved for her bosom and sizeable backside. She was a few inches shorter than her husband, but she made up for it with attitude.
“I’ve seen road kill that looked livelier than you do right now,” she announced, keen amber eyes sweeping over me. “Let me get you something to perk you up a bit. Menfolk appreciate perkiness.”
“I’ll just bet they do.” Leave it to Solveig to make a woman feel beautiful.
She’d been after me to find someone and settle down from the first day I set foot in the bar, no matter how many times I’d tried to tell her that I don’t settle. But then, in Dwarven society, a solid marriage gave the woman power and status that she otherwise wouldn’t have. Amazons didn’t marry for power, but for love. Or at least that’s what I’d believed before my mother paired with Primo. It was a union, a melding of two halves into a whole. Extremely rare and fundamentally sacred.
I just hadn’t found my other half yet. But I’d long since given up trying to explain that to Solveig.
It was like teaching a cat to fetch a sword.
She disappeared from view, reappearing in front of me moments later to set down a steaming helping of thick stew in a sturdy wooden bowl along with a hunk of coarse bread slathered with creamy butter. “Eat,” she commanded.
I dug in, shooing her away with the spoon. It wasn’t gourmet, but it was stick-to-my-ribs food, hot and filling, and exactly what my stomach needed. I didn’t need her hovering, although it made my heart happy to know that someone cared about my well-being. I wondered if they’d consider adoption.
“Hey there, good looking,” crooned a voice behind me just as I finished the last piece of stew-soaked bread.
I didn’t respond, wanting to be left alone. When the owner of the voice didn’t leave, I twisted around, intending on making my lack of need for companionship crystal clear. I stopped abruptly when I found myself faced with my in-ring interloper from earlier.
I must’ve said his name out loud, because his smile, already as wide and as suave as he could make it, stretched wider, crinkling the corners of his green eyes. “Is this taken?” He motioned to the stool next to me.
Shaking my head, I swiveled my body to lean my side against the bar top, watching him perch his bulk, light as air, on the seat. Sitting brought his eyes level with mine. It was rare for me to find a man taller than I, but Dirk had at least three inches on me. Impressive enough, but the longer I studied him, the more I realized that I liked what I saw.
I was struck by his sheer physical presence. He was big all over, broad-shouldered and lean, with a solid ruggedness that seemed naturally borne. A mountain made flesh, but without all the rough edges. His dark vest hung open, tufts of the red fuzz that spotted the landscape of his chest battling for dominance at the low ‘V’ of the unbuttoned collar of his shirt. He’d pulled his long auburn hair back into a low ponytail, and for the barest of moments, I really wanted to just undo that tie and run my fingers through it to feel if it was as soft as it looked.
Dirk had an honest face, his square jaw already dusted with the signs of a well-past-five o’ clock shadow, and I got the impression from the laugh lines around his mouth that he wore a smile more than a frown. This was a man who laughed often. Dark green eyes looked at me eagerly, sending heat spiraling through my core. Slowly, it dawned on me that he’d spoken after sitting down.
“What?” I asked, embarrassed that I’d been caught staring.
“This is fortuitous,” he repeated, a hopeful lift making the statement sound more like a question. He had nice lips too, generously curved and expressive, with a full lower lip that begged to be explored.
“Yes. It is. I was just thinking that myself,” I lied, dragging my attention away from his lips and back to his eyes. Warmth having nothing to do with the stew I’d just finished suffused my belly. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d found myself this attracted to a male.
Dirk motioned to Brom and paused. “I’d get you one, but it looks like you already have a drink.”
In answer, I lifted the stein and drained the rest of the contents in a few strong swallows. I set the empty tankard back on the bar and slowly slid it in Dirk’s direction. “There,” I said. “Now you can feel like a man.”
“Make that two beers,” he called to Brom, whose raised eyebrows betrayed his surprise. I absently wondered if Solveig was watching. The crash from the kitchen followed by a string of Dwarven curses answered my question. I half expected her to appear and launch into an interrogation.
Minutes to Midnight (The Nemesis Chronicles, Book 1)
Mythics… Creatures and beings of legend, possessing extraordinary abilities. Once thought of as merely stories, they’ve learned to blend into society to survive. Until someone decides to tip that balance.
Amazons… Morgan, an outcast searching for answers that will unravel the mystery that led to her exile from the only family she’s ever known.
Vikings… Dirk, a renowned courtesan in the city of sin, forced to choose between the life he has and what could be.
Nemesis… A group of powerful Mythics determined to find out who is behind the rash of random transformations, before chaos grips the city.
Together, they must stop what’s coming, before what happens in Vegas…changes everything.