It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, because I’ve been busy working on a new book. LUCKY BLOW, Gods and Pawns Book 1 is now available for pre-order and will be released 9/27/16. Here’s the first chapter, and the pre-order links are below. Enjoy!
MY DAY STARTED upside down. No joke, I was harnessed, suspended midair, with my feet up and head down, looking over a room full of priceless artifacts when the antique grandfather clock beside the door struck midnight. Dings and dongs thundered, reminding me I was running out of time. As much as I’d like to pretend my days didn’t normally begin in an upside-down race against the clock, I’m not a liar, just a thief. But hey, a girl’s gotta make a living somehow, and this was what I was created to do—there’s a contract and everything—but that’s a story for a time when my life isn’t literally hanging from the ceiling.
As I released another inch of rope and lowered myself further, the black cocktail dress I’d hastily tucked into the knife sheaths around my thighs tumbled free, covering my upper body in chiffon and revealing my panties to the vacant room. I sighed. This was exactly why I hated dresses. But since I couldn’t magically make my normal work pants and T-shirt appear, I ignored my wardrobe malfunction and focused on my objective.
My target rested two feet, five inches below my head, locked away in an engraved metal display box chained to a pedestal, which was bolted to the wooden floor and surrounded by trip wires. Red lasers sliced the air between me and the box, rotating randomly.
Randomly…that’s what the alarm company’s brochure says.
I smirked. Human security…so quaint.
Everything has a pattern if you’re patient enough to find it, and I was so patient, my new harness dug craters into my shoulders while I memorized the cycle. Random, my ass. As my opening approached, I bent at the waist and let out a foot more rope. The lasers shifted. I spit a small key out of my mouth and sprang back down, sliding it into the lock. I technically didn’t need the key, but picking the lock could potentially take longer than I had between laser cycles.
Besides, the owner of this building was a sleazeball who’d been too busy “accidentally” bumping into his party guests to notice my hand sliding into his pocket. A little piece of me felt like I was doing a solid for women everywhere by ripping the jerk off.
Getting back to the task at hand, I turned the key and popped open the box. Magic flooded the room like a pulsating glow of sunlight and power. Music sprang forth—some sort of ancient battle song—forcing a vision into my mind. I suddenly found myself in a bed chamber, watching an enormous brute swing a singing sword back and forth as he advanced on the figure asleep in the bed. Shaking myself free of the vision, I ignored the deafening tune and fought to stay focused on my orders. Get in, get the weapon, get out.
The bedchamber dissipated and I was once again in some rich guy’s trophy room, hanging upside down and staring at a metal box. Within the box, a magical sword almost as long as my legs and hooked at the end like a sickle, kept right on singing, declaring its greatness to the world.
The lasers were coming back around. I should have grabbed the sword, but the familiarity of it gave me pause. I pulled back from the lasers and struggled to process what I was seeing. I’d stolen some pretty high-value goods before, but this sword…I knew this sword. I’d seen pictures of it in books and read the lore about it. I was almost certain I knew what I was looking at, but I couldn’t accept it.
It seemed to glow brighter in response.
It can’t be.
Nobody seems to know where the Harpē came from, but its lore began when Gaia, the goddess of earth, and Uranus, god of the sky, birthed a handful of hideous children, known as the cyclops and giants. Uranus sent the uglies to live in a hell-like prison for deities, pissing off Momma Gaia so much she gave the weapon to their son, Cronus, and asked him to whack off his father’s junk.
And I couldn’t think of a single reason why a weapon powerful enough to take down the god of the sky would be locked away in the trophy room of a human.
Was he human?
I’d done my homework. Public records had the owner of this place listed as Aaron Blake, some corporate CEO spawned from old money and raised to power on the backs of blue-collar workers. The guy was textbook for a hit. I had no reason to believe he was anything more than some greedy player.
If Aaron Blake wasn’t human, what was he? A god or a demigod in disguise? Everyone called the disguises glamours. They were more like a trick of the eye…easy to create. I’d used the same type of magic to disguise the daggers strapped to my thighs, assuring nobody would see so much as the outline of them through my dress. Yet I hadn’t even looked for a glamour surrounding Mr. Blake. I wasn’t prepared to go up against a god, but the more I stared at the sword, the more certain I was of its identity, which meant touching it would bring someone’s ire down upon me.
Damn. What does Shade want with the Harpē?
Shade was terrifying enough without a magical sword at his beck and call. He already wielded me like a weapon, and the idea of arming him with the Harpē made my stomach churn.
No. I won’t take it! I won’t give him this.
Determined to follow through with my decision, I pressed the button on my harness and let the rope retract. Pain blossomed inside my chest, and the further I got from the sword—and the task Shade had ordered me to complete—the more I hurt. My insides seemed to fold inward, squeezing the air from my lungs. I knew from experience it wouldn’t let up. The pain would drive me crazy until I gave in and did my sire’s bidding.
Stars danced before my eyes, I smelled copper, and felt blood welling up in my nasal cavity, especially unpleasant due to my upside-down position. Swearing, I pressed the button again, halting my retreat. I’d only managed to get about five feet away. I dangled midair, cursing both my sire and the mother who’d abandoned me with him. Once again accepting the fact I had no choice, I lowered myself back down to hover above the sword and wait out the next cycle of lasers.
Giving in to Shade’s commands despite my personal convictions always left a sour taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t disobey. Not with my kid counting on me to make it home.
My brief rebellion squashed, I studied the box again, trying to come up with a plan. A weapon as valuable as the Harpē would be protected by a ward. Wards were magical barriers, used to keep valuables safe from thieves like myself. Generally speaking, the more treasured an item or a place was, the stronger and more potent its ward would be.
And the Harpē probably had a doozey of a ward on it, which didn’t bode well for me.
Once the lasers cycled, I blew into my hands. Gold shimmered across my palms, imbuing them with luck. Hoping it would be enough to breach the ward, I sprang down and reached for the sword. My hands hit the invisible barrier and stalled, but I pressed harder.
There was a loud pop, and then I surged past the barrier and grabbed the Harpē’s hilt. It felt like plunging my hands into an open flame. Despite its length, the sword was light enough to wield with one hand. I hefted it toward me, but it hit the ward and bounced back. The heat intensified, and my flesh burned. Biting back curses, I shifted the sword to my right hand and pulled back my left to push the button and retract the rope again. The electronic pulley system clicked, then whirred to life, tugging at the rest of my body while the ward fought to keep hold of the hand wrapped around the sword’s hilt.
Voices came from the hallway, growing louder. The doorknob jiggled. Mr. Blake had to feel me messing with his ward, and now he was here to investigate.
I clenched my jaw, trying not to scream in pain as the rope and the ward fought over my body, tugging me in two like some jacked-up version of the rack. The door slammed open, and there I was, caught with my dress around my waist and my hand in the cookie jar.
Another loud pop sounded. I flew a few feet in the air and then my body jerked to a jarring stop. As I tried to assess my level of whiplash, the mechanism whirred again, taking up the slack. With the Harpē still clutched in my blistered, smoking hand I lurched upward, ascending toward the high ceiling for what I hoped was the final time.
Once I reached the top, I pushed the button to stop my ascent and flipped myself right side up, grabbing hold of the rope with my free hand to manually tug myself the rest of the way.
“Hey! Intruder!” someone shouted. “Stop!”
Not a chance in the underworld. Blisters popped and flesh tore from my hands as I pulled myself up to the skylight. I pushed it open and slid through, unhooking my equipment and shoving it into the backpack I’d left on the roof on my way in. Swearing as I scooped up the pack and my discarded Louboutin pumps, I sprinted across the annoyingly well-lit roof on bare feet. I made it almost to the shadows of the partial third level before something yanked on my backpack, tugging me backwards. Heart racing, I turned to find Aaron Blake grinning down on me.
No human could have followed me. Suspicions confirmed, I looked from the host to the skylight and asked, “What are you?”
His hand went from my backpack to the bare skin of my arm. Godblood pulsed through his veins, revealing his heritage in a way that rendered words useless.
As if he’d heard my thoughts, his grin widened and he released the human glamour he’d been wearing. Mischievous green eyes that sat a little too close together stared out at me over cheekbones sharp enough to slice a ripe tomato. He stood at least two feet taller than me, and his shoulder-length hair—dark at the roots and red at the tips—was styled back and up in a do that made a mockery of gravity. With his hand still securely wrapped around my arm, he gave me a quick bow. “Talon, son of Dolos.”
A demigod. That explained the quick travel, but why would someone willingly admit their sire was the god of trickery? Not exactly the best way to build trust and make friends.
“What do you want?” I asked. I had to ask. That’s how these warped little godblood games worked. If you caught someone of the blood, and could hold them, you could weasel anything you wanted them out of them in exchange for their release.
Talon released my arm only to wind his fingers in my hair and trail down to my bleeding sword hand. “For now, what I want is to know the name of the enchanting little thief who broke my ward and stole my sword.” His gaze drifted back to my face and locked with mine.
“Your name?” he repeated.
I stared at him defiantly.
“Oh, come on, I’ve already seen what’s under your dress.”
Refusing to acknowledge the heat creeping up my cheeks, I didn’t so much as blink.
“Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” His demeanor intensified and the air crackled with a charge. “Tell me your name.”
Compulsion laced his words, making me want to spill my secret, but not even a son of Dolos was skilled enough to break my current contract. Shade had forbidden me to give out any personal information at all, so my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.
One thin, dark eyebrow arched up his flat forehead. “Interesting. Well, I caught you, so give me back my property.” He held out his hand expectantly.
I considered returning the sword, and the torturous twist of my internal organs made me rethink my position on the matter. Having no idea whether or not I was immortal, I didn’t necessarily fear death. It was the promise of a fate worse than death that scared the bejeebers out of me. I could potentially live through disobeying a direct order from Shade only to spend an eternity writhing in pain, lingering on the verge of having the life squeezed out of me. No thank you.
Talon took a step back to study me, clearly perplexed by my ability to resist his magic. That was a big mistake. The second he put distance between us I leapt backwards, calling the nearby shadows to me.
Shadows are living, breathing, brutal beings, always vying for power and wiping out the weakest among them. Sensing my pain, they launched a full-on attack against my burnt and blistered hands, extorting what they perceived to be a weakness. Gritting my teeth through the prickling pain of what felt like a thousand needles stabbing into my wounds, I opened myself to the power of Erebus and let it pulse from me. It consumed the first round of shadows, strengthening and energizing me.
The Harpē’s song increased in tempo as it flitted through notes in what now sounded like some sort of escape tune. I called more shadows, and this time they enveloped me with a loving caress.
Talon’s eyes widened as he watched the whole ordeal. “A child of darkness,” he said, chuckling as I stepped into my grandsire’s realm.
Reality shifted and my stomach did a little flip. Darkness surrounded me, spanning out as far as I could see. Keeping my destination firmly locked in my mind, I took another step. Another shift, and I was standing on the uneven cobblestones of the Seattle Underground.
Home sweet home.
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