Lucky Courage Sneak Peek

I’ve been MIA lately, but with my marketing, writing, and reading goals there is very little time left to blog. Speaking of writing goals, book two of the Gods and Pawns series will be out ahead of time! I’m releasing it December 6th, and wanted to give you a sneak peek at the first chapter. Here you go. Enjoy!

lucky-courage-coverIN MY TWENTY-THREE years of life I’ve trained with legendary thieves, stolen priceless goods and artifacts from all sorts of monsters, and racked up an impressive list of scars, both physical and mental. Through it all, I’ve managed to remain breathing with my digits intact. I’d like to believe this practically stellar record gives me street cred, or at least makes me sound competent and capable, but apparently my teenage griffin sidekick still questions my abilities.

A fact made known when he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The parking lot is empty.”

As if I didn’t have eyes to see for myself that not a single car was parked in the spots designated as maternity clinic parking only. I nodded and bit back a snarky response. It wouldn’t do the kid any good. He was still learning, after all, and as his teacher I was supposed to be supportive and encouraging. And since no supportive or encouraging responses came to mind, keeping my mouth shut was my best bet.

“Last time we were here it was packed,” Tweety added, clearly oblivious to my desire to strangle the Captain Obvious right out of him. “It’s the middle of the day. Where is everyone?”

Demarco, the six-foot tall, dark-skinned blacksmith walking with us pointed at the entryway to the Swedish clinic. The half-glass steel door was closed. We stood back and watched for a moment, but nobody came or left. Growing restless from waiting we approached. The frosted window was dark, and no sounds of ringing telephones or muted conversations came from within. Anxiety twisted my stomach into knots as we stepped onto the landing.

Demarco tensed and slid a big-ass hammer from its sheath on his back. Silvery-blue eyes flashed a warning as his exposed biceps flexed, chest rising, enough to make a lesser lady swoon. Good thing I’m a strong, independent woman, immune to my baby-daddy’s charms. Locking my knees, I bit my lip to hold back any drool as I refocused on the door. We were here to get information and there’d be no swooning until we got it.

“Think they found out she helped us and came after her?” I asked.

The “they” in question were a group of gods who’d aligned to take Zeus down by removing his essence from his body and hacking it into five portions so they could separate him and keep him from regenerating. The “her” was Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth and labor pains who ran the seemingly empty maternal clinic we currently stood in front of.

Eileithyia had pointed us to the first essence of Zeus, which we’d restolen from her sister, Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord. And since we had four more essences to collect, we were hoping the goddess of childbirth would be able to help us out again.

“Maybe it’s a holiday?” Tweety suggested. He stood a couple of inches taller than Demarco, all corded muscle with piercing green eyes and dishwater-blond hair. Although he spent most of his time looking like a twenty-something hottie, Tweety was a teenager in griffin years, complete with all the curiosity and raging hormones. He needed no weapons, since he could instantly sprout sharp talons and a beak to rain down awesome mythological beast-type wrath. And sometimes he could be annoyingly optimistic.

Demarco and I both shook our heads at him.

“What? It’s possible,” the griffin defended. “I don’t know anything about Swedish holidays, do you?”

“Nope.” But I did know a little something about luck, and it didn’t seem to be on our side lately. “Can you hear anyone in there?”

Another benefit of being a griffin came in the form of enhanced hearing, as in the guy could make out heartbeats and movement through a wall or a steel door. He held a finger to his lips and cocked his head for a few tense moments before nodding. “I hear shoes against the carpet. Clothes shuffling. Someone’s walking around.”

“How many?” Demarco asked.

Tweety listened for a moment more. “One. Maybe two? Hard to tell.”

One, maybe two, we could handle. “They’re luring us in. It’s probably a trap,” I said.

Demarco nodded. “What do you want to do?”

“We don’t have a choice.” We needed information and were out of options.

“You ready?” Demarco asked, reaching for the doorknob.

Normally I’d be the one to charge into danger, but the blacksmith and I had recently upgraded our uneasy friendship to a partnership, which meant we now worked together using logic to determine which lucky idiot got to put themselves in danger first. And when logic failed, we rock-paper-scissored it. This morning his paper had covered my rock, so I’d hang back and evacuate us if things got too hairy.

I drew my daggers and nodded.

Demarco jiggled the knob. Locked.

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Tweety breathed.

Not like a locked door was an issue for me, though. Demarco moved out of the way while I re-sheathed my daggers, grabbed a small tool kit out of the inside pocket of my jacket, and went to work. Within seconds I had the lock picked and we were once again in position to storm the building.

Demarco turned the knob and pushed open the door. Nothing exploded. Nobody rushed forward and scratched off our faces. We weren’t sucked into a black hole and transported through time. All in all, I’d had worse entries.

“Again, maybe it’s a holiday,” Tweety said.

I didn’t kick him in the kidneys, but I really wanted to.

Demarco flicked the lights on. Overhead fluorescents buzzed and flickered before illuminating the entryway. With my daggers ready, I followed Demarco into the building while Tweety covered our backs.

Last time we’d been in Eileithyia’s office—less than a week ago—there hadn’t been an empty seat in the waiting room. Phones had been ringing, printers had been printing, and patients and staff had been milling about. Now the phones, printers, and people were gone, leaving only the furniture, a few scattered flyers, and a full wastebasket behind.

Demarco bent and retrieved one of the flyers from the floor, handing it to me. I scanned it long enough to see it was full of breastfeeding dos and don’ts. Eileithyia and her team had left in a hurry.

I balled up the flyer and tossed it into the trash. “Let’s search the place. Maybe we can find some clue about where they’ve gone.”

Tweety started to walk away, but stopped midstep, cocking his head again. He took a deep breath through his nose and worry creased his features as he scanned the room. “Smell that?” he asked.

I sniffed the air. Although my nose wasn’t nearly as sensitive as a griffin’s, the distinct burnt ozone scent made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Magic. There wasn’t a scent in the world like it. Wrinkling my nose, I nodded.

Demarco swung his hammer, loosening his wrists as he widened his stance and prepared. “A god?” he asked.

Lots of beings were capable of manipulating magic, and there was no way to know what we were dealing with until they decided to appear. I shrugged. Time to find out what sort of asshole we were dealing with now.

“Hello?” I called. “Anyone home? I’d like to make an appointment with my midwife.”
Tweety arched an eyebrow at me.

Creepy, high-pitched laughter erupted and echoed throughout the almost empty office, bouncing off the walls and making it impossible to narrow down the source. It continued for at least thirty seconds past annoying until a head of short silver curls peeked over the counter.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible.” The high-pitched voice belonged to a little girl, but something in her tone sent shivers up my spine.

“Is Eileithyia okay?” I asked.

“That coward? As soon as she realized she’d aligned herself with the losing side, she turned tail and ran.”

I let out a breath. The goddess was all right, which meant we could still find her and possibly get more help. “Any idea where she went?” I asked.

More laughter. The silver head of curls bobbed once, and then popped up. Wide, dark, almond-shaped eyes locked on mine and held me captive as her short legs and a small torso swung over the counter and landed in front of it. She bounded like a rabbit to perch on an empty end table not five feet away from me. Barefoot, frowning (despite her laughter), and sporting a sleeveless white karate gi, she looked like a miniature pissed sensei, ready to drag me and the guys to some otherworldly sparring event.

Looking down on me from her elevated position, she said, “Rumor has it Eileithyia’s hiding in her mommy’s basement now.”

So much for the hope I’d harbored of finding the goddess of childbirth again. I might as well kiss any chance of getting help from her good-bye since Eileithyia’s “mommy” was Hera, who lived in Mount Olympus, a place I never intended to visit.

“She’s weak, Romi. You shouldn’t be surprised she let you down.”

“Who are you?” Demarco asked.

The impish sensei ignored him and continued to speak to me. “Eileithyia doesn’t know the first thing about fighting, but you…” Her eyes wandered over me like I was a side of beef hanging from a hook at the butcher shop, and she was a starving homeless kid. “You’re a fighter.”

This time it was my turn to laugh. “Nope. Definitely not. You must have gotten some bad intel, because I’m just a thief.”

“Oh yeah?” She cocked an eyebrow at me in question.

Sure, I’d been trained to kick ass, but fighting was always the last option, only to be used when all else had failed. Basically, whenever I’d gotten caught with stolen merchandise and couldn’t talk or disappear my way out of it.

“Fight,” she demanded, putting her hands on her hips. “Show me what you can do.”

I didn’t want to fight anyone, but the question of “Who?” still tumbled from my mouth.

She glanced at my two companions. “Them.”

I looked from Demarco to Tweety, wondering how high her level of crazy was that she expected me to turn on the guys. “No way. Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The air shifted and the smell of ozone burned my nostrils again. “Fight them,” she repeated. This time her command was powered by compulsion. I could feel it battering the walls of my resolve and I gritted my teeth, planted my feet, and fought the sudden urgent desire to do as she said. I’d spent my entire life enslaved to my sire, forced to do his bidding, and I refused to let anyone else control me. “NO! They’re my friends.”

She quirked a half-smile at me and clicked her tongue. “Oh, Romi, how many times have you been told? Thieves have no friends.”

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