Exclusive Snippet From A Lesson In Wickedness!

Hello folks! 🙂 Did you miss me? I’ve been gone a little while due to the combination of sitting two exams for my degree’s second year, and my nana having an operation (she’s okay, and was chattering everyone’s ear off again the moment she was out of theatre!). So everything’s okay my end now, and I’m getting my head down to get A Lesson In Wickedness well and truly finished before its publication on June 30th. I’m excited to finally be doing Mika’s story because she’s normally so closed up and quiet, and I thought it was only fair to share a wee snippet with you guys to enjoy. 😉

*There are some swear words in the snippet, so I’ve done some blanking out, haha.

Break

“I’m D-Derek.” Before she could warn him not to, he glanced down to the floor, his eyes popping out of his head as his features paled. “Is that…it can’t be…” Realisation suck in, and he staggered backwards, shaking his head. “Am I dead?”

F**k this. I hate being a Reaper. The bitterness of her profession had never left Mika, and she had never adapted to believing in what she did as well as the others had. Even Ryder was more comfortable with explaining what was going to happen to those who passed on. Mika peered over at Sigrid, who was silently watching the exchange with a knowing expression on her features. Of course. I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. Sigrid took the dead, too, and loved them as people. And for longer than I have, probably. Taking in a deep breath, Mika rested her hands on the edges of her jean pockets, giving a slow nod. “Yes, you are, Derek. I’m sorry. But don’t be afraid. I can take you somewhere safe.”

“What? This can’t be happening. It can’t be real. But…what about Becky?” Derek slid down to the floor with a haunted expression, wrapping his arms around himself and hugging his knees into his chest. Rocking himself back and forth, he looked up sharply at Mika. “What about my Becky? She’s my girlfriend.”

A lump formed in Mika’s throat at his broken tone, and she coughed to clear it, clenching her fists for a moment. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do, Derek. I’m just the messenger. I need to get you to where you need to go.” Turning away for a moment, not wishing the young man to see the sorrow etched on her face for him, Mika delved into her pocket and pulled out her phone. Before she tapped in the number to call down the white light to take Derek to the Hall of Rest, her eyes lighted on the flashing numbers on the screen, showing the time coldly. The Reaper snapped her head up, her grey eyes stormy as she gave Sigrid a conflicted look. “It’s only one minute from six o’ clock,” she said flatly.

The Valkyrie gave a soft shrug, hiding her obvious disappointment as she gave her trademark smile. “It’s okay, Mika. I can wait. This man cannot. Get him to safety. Besides, I can no longer feel Bifrost. They’ve moved it.”

Mika’s heart broke as she saw the frustration in Sigrid’s eyes, her mind screaming for her to go over and envelop the Valkyrie in her arms to comfort her. “I’m sorry.” Her voice came out in a cracked whisper. The words were an echo of so long ago.

As though time was listening in, against them as much as possible, the first golden fingers of daylight slid through the small windows at the top of the building. They cast long streams of sunlight into the factory, casting Sigrid’s face into shadow as she murmured back, “It’s okay, Mika. We can try again tonight.” Before Mika could say another word to her, the Valkyrie’s head fell back as she let out a strangled cry. The sound of bones snapping and breaking filled the air for a few moments as her figure twisted and reshaped itself in the half-light, Derek and Mika both looking on in horror. The clothes Sigrid had worn slid to the floor with a soft puff of air as two long, graceful white wings fanned out and shook themselves in place of her arms. The transformation complete, Mika found herself gazing back at an elegant swan where moments before the Valkyrie had stood. The only hint that it was still her were the eyes, as glacier-blue and ancient as ever.

Locking her emotion away as she had done for over a century, Mika bent her head, blinking hard against the sudden assault of prickling tears against the back of her eyes. It hurt more to hold them back, but she bit the inside of her cheek, willing her mind to settle. The horror of what Sigrid had gone through for centuries hadn’t hit her until she had seen the transformation, and anger burned through her veins at the thought of anyone—even a god—doing such a thing to their own child. It made the fiery skull tattoo on her arm, the one that all the Reapers wore to mark their trade, tingle in a way she had never felt before. And the pain she felt at failing Sigrid was too close to how she had felt over a hundred years before. A face, long thought lost in her memories, danced for a moment with a beautiful smile, before vanishing again. No. We are not going to think about Siobhan. We are not going to remember her now. Here. Sigrid’s not gone, and you haven’t failed her. Not yet.

Mika willed courage into herself as she tapped numbers busily into the phone, turning to Derek and nodding at him as kindly as she could manage while holding her hand out. The familiar stream of pure white light faded into the factory from the ceiling in response to her text message. “Come on. I’ll take you to the Hall of Rest.”

 

Copyright © Miranda Stork 2016, taken from A Lesson In Wickedness

Teaser Tuesday – A Lesson In Wickedness!

That’s right, lovely people, it’s Teaser Tuesday! I know it’s normally Thursday, but I’m switching things up, just to confuse everybody. I’m going to share a little snippet from A Lesson In Wickedness, the 5th book in the Grim Alliance series, which is well under way! So enjoy a little light reading on your break, ladies and gentlemen. 🙂 (Bearing in mind this is still unedited!)

Tuesday Teaser

The night air was cool as it kissed Mika’s cheek, still damp from the evening’s rain. She leaned back against the white bricks of the house, folding her arms as she cocked one leg against them too, blowing out a harsh breath. She closed her eyes, welcoming the sting of relief as her tired eyeballs rested for a moment. It had been a long few weeks for all the Reapers, but Mika was feeling it now. As the oldest—besides Greek—she had always felt more wearied from than the others. A cold shiver travelled across her skin as an insect dropped onto her arm, flying off again rapidly as her eyes snapped open to stare at it. You’d think they wouldn’t like dead flesh, but there you go. A morose smile curved her lips as she gazed across the garden, lazily watching the tall wildflowers and grass bending against one another in the semi-darkness of twilight.

Her nerves jumped as she was startled by the sound of heavy footsteps coming through the hallway, and Gabe stepped out through the open front door. He pensively turned his green eyes to Mika, rubbing a hand over the blond stubble on his head, giving a shifty look over his shoulder back inside. The sound of the others chatting travelled out to the still air, and he cleared his throat softly. “Er…you’re not going to tell Talia I was out here, are you?”

Mika raised an eyebrow, grinning coyly. “Why? Lover’s quarrel?”

“No, but there might be one if she spots what I’m doing.” In answer to Mika’s frown, he pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket, holding them up for her to see before tapping the packet and pulling a slim stick out. He rummaged in his other pocket, finally pulling out a yellow lighter, snapping it and holding the flame close as he took a drag. The tall Reaper’s eyes closed in pleasure, and he took a long drag, placing the lighter back in the seat of his jeans. “Oh, gods. I needed that.” He gave Mika another panicked glance. “Seriously, don’t tell Talia. I’m trying to quit, but it’s fucking hard, you know.”

“Gabe,” Mika admonished, giving a cluck of her tongue. She peered around the corner of the open doorway. The hallway was dark, a shaft of light showing across the floor from the door to the living room, left ajar by a few inches. Laughter came from within, and she could hear the raised sounds of the TV.  Groaning aloud, she turned back to the stillness of the night air, shaking her head at Gabe. “You know I’ll get in trouble if your faerie sees you. And I don’t want to be on the wrong end of Mother Bear.” The Reaper pushed herself off from the wall, her hair bobbing with the movement as she stared at Gabe. He stared back, unblinking, taking another sharp drag of his cigarette as though it might be his last. Eh. It’s his un-life. “Fine. But you have to give me one.”

Gabe scoffed, his forehead wrinkling as he widened his eyes in surprise. “Since when do you smoke?”

“Since you lot never notice me sneaking out the back and spraying myself in deodorant. Since when do you sneak out the front to have one?”

“Touché.” The blond Reaper held his pack out, allowing Mika to take one. He tilted his head back as he passed her the lighter, narrowing his eyes. “You know, smoking is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The lighter made a grinding noise as the flint struck, and a large orange flame leapt up, dying down as Mika pulled it, and the poisonous contents of her cigarette, into her lungs. Passing the lighter back slowly, she blew out a long plume of smoke over her shoulder, resting one hand on her hip. Great, more deep talk. Just what I need when I feel like my brain’s wound down for the year. She cast her eyes back towards the waving wildflowers at Gabe’s statement. “What do you mean by that?”

Gesturing for her to follow with a jerk of his head, Gabe turned and headed over to the far side of the house—the side with no windows—towards a large, black garden sofa. The wooden decking groaned under his weight as he marched over to the couch, sinking himself down into the cushions with a contented sigh, pulling his feet up and resting them against the arm. Mika stepped up to the far end of the corner-sofa, plumping herself down as she continued to stare over at Gabe. I want to know what the hell he meant by that statement. Fear gripped her for a second. She was always worried that her sarcasm and iciness made the others think she didn’t care about their group, when nothing could be further from the truth. I love this gang of misfits—even our new misfits. We’re a family. Even if sometimes it’s like the Addams Family. And I’m Wednesday. Who didn’t love Wednesday?

Copyright © 2016, Miranda Stork.

Author Feature – Not Juliet!

Hey, everyone! Today we’ve got a special feature from Ella Medler’s Not Juliet – read on to find out more! 🙂

 

NJ banner single

~~~

Excerpt:

Luca buried his face in her hair, trying to save his eyesight. Riella was lethal. She would have made a very successful cage fighter.

“I begged you to leave him alone. I begged you on my knees!”

“He knew it,” he shouted, trying to still her. “He gave up his life to protect yours.”

She still fought, but he could feel her tiring, grief weighing her down. Deep sobs erupted from her chest, replacing her will to fight.

“Come on.” He pulled her to her feet and towed her into the darkness, farther away from the fire and shootings.

They made it to the last trailer just as he heard the grenade launchers.

“Fuck. We need to run like you’ve never run before. Over to that line of trees. Ready?”

“No. Wait. I can barely stand up.”

“Tough. You can complain later. C’mon.”

Luca grabbed Riella’s hand tight in his hand and started for the trees. They ran for their lives, while behind them the campsite turned to churned mud and fire. Trailers and cars alike blew up, and the few people who hadn’t already taken cover ran away into the darkness.

As soon as they were hidden by the first line of trees, Riella pulled her hand out of his and dug her heels in. “Wait!”

“Riella, we’re not safe here. We need to get farther in.”

“I don’t give a shit! You stop and answer me one question, Luca Anziano, or you may as well kill me here and now.”

Luca stared at her for a split second. Dogged determination was shining in her eyes. Hell of a gene to inherit from her father. Why couldn’t she just have his color eyes, or same shape chin instead?

Riella stood, hands on hips, hair wild and twisting in the wind, outlined against the conflagration that had been her and her people’s home, like some avenging angel come to rid the world of its canker.

“Luca,” she panted, “when you told me you loved me… I just need to know… Were you lying to me?”

The metallic whizzing of several simultaneous barrels resonated over the crackling of the fire. Sprays of bullets showered the already destroyed site, catching any stragglers unawares.

“Who the hell sold him a metal storm? The guy’s nuts!”

“Answer me!”

“I’ll answer you on the go.”

Luca grabbed her in his arms and ran. The bullets kept coming and Riella was shouting something over the noise, but not loud enough for him to make out individual words. He ran, mind focused on one thing, and one thing only: to get her away from the danger, to make her safe.

The forest floor was uneven, and it would have been difficult terrain even without having to carry a struggling woman in his arms; with her added weight, Luca felt like he was wrenching each step through a vat full of treacle. His thigh muscles burned, his lungs were on fire, but now he could see the road, and parked to the side, the truck in which Karalius must have brought over his arsenal designed to teach Goliath’s people who’s boss.

Escape was in sight.

From in front, someone opened fire, and Luca stumbled. Before he could work out why, he hit the ground and knew no more.

~~~

Want to read more? Find Not Juliet on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Juliet-Addicted-Romance-Collection-ebook/dp/B00IDC1Q50/

Reaper’s Deliverance Is Released!

Hey everyone! Today the first book in my new Grim Alliance series is released – Reaper’s Deliverance! Scroll down to find out a bit more about it. 🙂

Blurb

When Ryder dies in a horrific motorbike accident, he’s left facing a choice. Go onto his next life, more terrible than his last, or become…a Reaper.

Ryder’s life has little meaning to him. A violent hedonist who left his broken childhood behind, he would rather spend his time chasing women and smashing up bars than consider his future. But when it all comes to an abrupt end, he’s forced to make a decision that changes everything.

Elizabeth is a single mother, and the light of her life, her son Thomas, is terminally ill. With no time for a job, a normal social life, and definitely not a relationship, her world is turned upside-down when Ryder strides in with his biker boots. She’s always known there was something more to the universe than what she can see. But when she learns the real reason for him being in their lives, she has to do something she hasn’t done for a long time. Trust someone.

When little Thomas is threatened by an evil that would misuse his special gift, they must work together, along with a troubled but caring group of reapers. Time is running out to get him back, and Helheim beckons with its black jaws. All of them must fight, and be prepared for the centuries-waiting battle they will kick off.

And will Ryder finally gain his redemption?

Excerpt

The wail of sirens filled the air, followed by the screech of tyres somewhere on the other side of the nightclub. The thump of dizzying music still pounded out from the club, matching Ryder’s heart as it hammered against his ribs. Not waiting to see if the others were following him, he twisted the handles towards the main road through the town, and hit the accelerator, lurching forwards as the heavy clatter of police feet came behind him. Ignoring the shouts and yells, he pulled out onto the road and sped onwards, picking up speed as he pressed his foot harder.

He grinned broadly as the wind he kicked up breezed under the neck of his jacket, sending a rush of cold air tingling down his spine. He narrowed his eyes as he zipped around corners and roundabouts, dipping and diving as though he was on a racecourse. Horns and shouts came and went in isolated blocks of sound as he passed streets full of taxis and club-goers, and he skidded around a red vehicle as it halted in time from an adjoining road. Blood raced through his veins at the thrill, and Ryder let out a joyous laugh, tilting his head back as he became a blur against the muted colours of the quiet neighbourhoods he passed through.

A siren cut through his senses, a mournful wail fast catching up on his tail. Gritting his teeth, Ryder drove the bike harder, gliding around cars as he weaved through the late night traffic. Not again. I’m not fucking going back in, I’ve only been out six months. Sweat formed on his forehead as he felt the throttle of the beast under his legs vibrating across his skin, freezing like ice as it was whipped by the wind. He couldn’t go back inside. Not after the last time. If it was a choice between prison and getting injured, he would risk injury. There were a lot of people in jail he had pissed off over the years, and he would rather not meet them again if he could help it. Coming to the end of the main roadway, Ryder dared a glance over his shoulder, red and blue flashes filling his vision as the police cars narrowed the distance between him and themselves.

He pulled his head back to the road, confusion flooding his brain as he was met with the grill of a large blue truck. A cry of terror ripped itself from his throat as the horn blared loudly into the night, warning him of his impending doom. The headlights of the massive vehicle flashed on and off, blinding him, and he couldn’t stop himself from throwing an arm up to shield his eyes. The bike’s going too fast. The bike’s going too fast. I’ll never stop in time. Ryder slammed the brake down, but the bike squealed with protest as it was forced down sharply from the breakneck speed he had been travelling at. The blue metal bore down on him, and he braced himself for the impact, willing his body to survive, even though he knew it was too late. There was a grinding slam as metal twisted into metal, and the air was knocked from his body as he hit the truck at full speed, feeling as though his lungs had sprung out from his throat. The world tornadoed around him, colours and sounds whirling together in a maelstrom as the bike twisted out from under his legs, throwing Ryder to the ground.

As Ryder Thompson hit the cold, hard ground beneath his cheek, grit digging into his flesh, a burning sensation ripped across his legs and torso, and he gave a gurgle as he tried to cry out, red liquid pooling across his vision. Blinking a few times as the world darkened, he clutched at the air weakly as booted feet charged across to him, blue and red flashing lights meeting his gaze. He tried to move his other arm, but it wouldn’t move when he willed it to, leaving only a cold throbbing as he twitched his shoulder. Voices cried out above him, but they were far away and underwater, burbling in non-coherent syllables as he tried to respond. His tongue was thick against his mouth, and the air grew thinner as he gulped for it, closing his eyelids against the brilliant lights as he gave into the heavy throb behind them…

Where to get your hands on it

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Reapers-Deliverance-Book-Grim-Alliance-ebook/dp/B00LG3BIGK/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404305218&sr=1-2&keywords=reaper%27s+deliverance+miranda+stork

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reapers-Deliverance-Book-Grim-Alliance-ebook/dp/B00LG3BIGK/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404305174&sr=1-2&keywords=reaper%27s+deliverance+miranda+stork

Amazon CAN: http://www.amazon.ca/Reapers-Deliverance-Book-Grim-Alliance-ebook/dp/B00LG3BIGK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404305257&sr=8-1&keywords=reaper%27s+deliverance+miranda+stork

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Snippet Time – Reaper’s Deliverance

Hey, everyone! 🙂 sorry for the lack of posts over the past week or so, I’ve had one of those weeks where you just don’t stop spinning around with work and family. You know the kind of week, right? Anyhoo, to make up for it, here’s a snippet from my new paranormal WIP, Reaper’s Deliverance, and I’ve got a post coming tomorrow about the first line of any book, so keep an eye out! Enjoy! 😀

(Also, my MC here swears quite a lot, but I’ve beeped them out. LOL)

*****

Copyright © Deklofenak at bigstockphoto.com

Copyright © Deklofenak at bigstockphoto.com

This is a joke. A sick joke one of the others is playing on me. Ryder let out a shaking breath, digging his nails into the soft flesh of his palms as he shook his head vigorously. Thoughts tumbled one over the other in his mind, shifting against each other in a flurry of colours and faces. The fear in the pit of his stomach squeezed at him, and he felt the hairs rising up on the back of his neck in response. Limbs trembling, he staggered backwards, away from the nightmare in front of him. The hooded figure simply crooked its finger again, letting out a deep, mournful sigh.

Ryder blew in and out a few calming breaths, drawing himself up and sticking his chin out proudly. Come on, Ryder, what the f*** are you frightened of? It’s a joke. Making the decision firm in his mind, he swallowed back the bile that threatened to erupt from his throat, striding across the hall confidently. His footsteps echoed sharply back to him, the hard rubber soles of his boots hitting the floor with uncustomary heaviness. Stopping just shy of the two figures, Ryder felt a chill travel along his skin, lifting hairs with it in its wake, as he parted his dry lips and passed his tongue across them. “So, who’s the joker? Is it Greg? Matthew? It was Matthew, wasn’t it?” He let out a dry chuckle, his nerves jumping at the croakiness of his own voice.

When no response came from either of the figures gazing down at him with their dark expressions, anger flared in his gut, his natural reaction to anything being withheld from him. It was a reaction every probation officer and police officer had ever seen from him. Temples throbbing, Ryder glanced from one to the other with wild eyes, screaming, “Tell me who the f*** it was!”

“It’s no use shouting, young man. I’m stood right in front of you, and I can hear perfectly, despite my age,” the cloaked man intoned. His voice boomed across the hall, and the resonance of the tone brought memories of worlds long since passed, of lives come and gone in the blink of an eye. He lowered his crooked arm, the fabric of his cloak whispering as he shifted down the steps to come closer. Ryder lifted his boot as if to take a step back, but held his ground, tensing his jaw. The man paused for a second, holding the staff out for the woman by his side to take. She gripped it silently, grasping the wood with both hands as she brought it before her and rested on it.

The man brought his hands up to the hood, pulling it back deliberately. Ryder bit his tongue to prevent whimpering as the deathly countenance of the figure was revealed. His skin was as pale as snow, both eyes milky-white and blind, no hair on his head. Wrinkles covered his skin, but there was something youthful about the way he held himself. “Gilbert Ryder Thompson, I am sorry to greet you here, for one so young. This,” he continued, gesturing around the grand space with raised arms, “is the Hall of Rest.”

“What is this? What’s going on?” Ryder bit out, taking the step back with his boot as he swallowed hard to coax saliva back into his dry mouth.

The figure fixed him with both milky eyes, and uttered, “My name is Ankou, and this is my wife, Morrigan. We are the Guardians of Death. It is our solemn duty to help those who have died…pass over into their next life.”

The words slammed into Ryder like the truck had slammed into his fragile body. Air seemed to evaporate from his lungs, and he clutched at his throat, wheezing for oxygen as his stomach twisted.

 

Taken from ‘Reaper’s Deliverance’, copyright © Miranda Stork, 2014. 

Vigilante of Shadows Audiobook Snippet!

Hey everyone! 🙂 Exciting stuff today – I just heard the first two chapters of the audiobook for Vigilante of Shadows! I cannot describe to you how amazing it was to hear Aodhan’s ‘voice’ – I  nearly fell off my chair with excitement! Okay, so maybe I’m being overdramatic, but the narrator is doing an incredible job at turning my pages into real people.

So…do you want to have a listen? 😉 Here’s the snippet from the first chapter of the Vigilante of Shadows audiobook (I don’t want to give away too much, wait until it’s out – it’ll be worth it), as narrated by the awesome Matt Lloyd Davies. (You can find out more about him here – http://www.matthewlloyddavies.com/) You can check out all the other projects he has going here too, there’s some great audiobooks he’s already done for other authors.

 

 

Audio sample copyright © Miranda Stork

Narration copyright © Matthew Lloyd Davies

Thursday Teaser – Creator of Shadows!

 

“Help us! We’re trapped!”

“Trapped…”

“TRAPPED!…”

 

Andred’s eyelids burst open as she let out a cry, staring blankly up at the ceiling and not knowing if she really had called out of not. As the dream tumbled into place, she reached across a shaking hand to turn the lamp on, needing the comfort of the glow around her bedroom. As the bulb burst into life, shining on every corner of the room, she eased herself up. Her flesh still trembled from the nightmare, and she wiped a hand across her face, staring down at it with wide eyes as she realised she was coated in cold sweat. It had drenched her bedsheets, all of them twisted and tangled up in her legs and half on the floor.

Letting out a shaky breath, the goddess leaned her head back against the headboard, her chest heaving like a pump. The nightmare had been too real, too vivid. So many wailing voices and cries, all trapped together in the darkness. And that feeling that hovered over them all, a being of unimaginable terror that prevented any of them from ever leaving. And the Andred herself had been one of the many, calling out names of people who would never come, who would never hear them, shrieking until her vocal chords gave out.

As she rubbed her sore eyes with her fingers, trying to ease herself back into some form of calm, she heard footsteps hammering down the hallways outside. A second later, the door burst open to reveal Vladimir, out of breath with flashing eyes. Casting a quick glance around the room, he came over to Andred’s side, taking in her frightened expression and soaked bedsheets. Shaking his head, he grasped her cheeks gently in his palms, forcing her to stare into his piercing eyes. “Andred, what happened? I heard you screaming.”

“Oh, Vladimir,” Andred whispered, her own voice croaky and weak, as though she really had been screaming endlessly in that horrifying void. Her eyes fell to his side, unable to look him in the eyes, and they fell on the sight of his sword, hanging by his side. He was dressed only in pyjama bottoms, but he had still found time to arm himself. Throwing her arms around his neck, uncaring what the implications might be, she let out a sob.

“Hey, ssh. Was it a nightmare?” the vampire asked gently, concern thickening his accent as he rubbed a hand over her back soothingly. Andred could feel his palms pressing her closer with each motion, willing her to be alright.

Nodding her head profusely so he would know she was otherwise unaffected, she pulled away and leaned against her headboard again, locking puffy red eyes with his fierce gaze. “Vladimir, it was a terrible nightmare. And the worst part is…it was real,” she whispered.

“No, not if it was a nightmare. It will—“

“If I dreamt it, it was a nightmare, Vladimir,” she countered firmly, clasping his hand so tightly her nails dug into his skin. Throwing the sheet off herself, she drew her knees up to her chest and let go of him, hugging them into her chin. “You’ve never asked about my ancient years. I was known then by my formal name of Andraste. My sister was Brigitania, and between us, we were in charge of the land now known as Britain—here, in short. She had the north, and I had the south. We were older than those names, of course, but it’s the name we were known by when we were truly known as Goddesses of the Green Isle. I had the gift of divination, and I could bestow it on anyone I chose. But it also means when I dream, I see into other worlds, other places.” She gave an involuntary shudder. “And I saw somewhere terrible tonight.”

Searching her face, Vladimir asked quietly, “Where was it?”

Andred screwed up her face to catch onto a fragment of the dream, a memory which was fast fading away with being awake in the light and safety of her room. “I’m not sure, but…it wasn’t here. It was somewhere else, another plane. Like the Otherworld, but not there. And there were voices, so many voices. All calling out and crying our names. Like they knew us. And…I think they do.”

Vladimir’s features paled, and he shifted on the bedspread, pulling one leg up to see the goddess better. Giving a shrug, he asked, “Are you going to give me a clue?”

“The Dansu?”

His mouth fell open as he let out a soft gasp, and he blinked a few times, carding his hand through his hair. Finally he uttered, “But it can’t be. All those years ago, they helped us to fight the demons. We knew they were going to the Otherworld—“

“They never got there,” Andred interrupted, shaking her head slowly. Biting her lip, she fisted her hands against the sheet, scrunching it in her palms. “I’m not sure what’s happened, but they’re trapped somewhere. Someone—or something—is keeping them there. And I don’t know why.”

 

Taken from Creator of Shadows, Copyright © Miranda Stork 2014

 

Have you read the first and second books in the Scarlet Rain Series yet? Get the first one, Vigilante of Shadows, FREE for a limited time! click here!

And grab the second book, Keeper of Shadows, here!

Snippet Time – Creator of Shadows!

I love reunions. Just saying. Especially when it’s a character from the past. Also, PSSST! I’m going to have the pre-order links hopefully up by end of the week, so watch out for them. 😉


Arianwen swallowed hard, her throat tightening with worry. They hadn’t expected the people here to know anything about the goings-on in the capital, but they seemed as informed—possibly more—as they were. Deron stepped out carefully from behind Inghard, offering up a tense smile to the two guards. “Both,” he answered easily. “I’m human, and I have friends who are part o’ the Human Resistance. But ‘dis lot,” he gestured with a thumb, “are part o’ the Immortal Resistance. The point is, we’re all Resistance.”

The older man narrowed his eyes at Deron for a moment, chewing at his lip. Seemingly satisfied with the answer, he gave a curt nod, replying, “Aye, we agree. But it’s all humans here, I don’t think I can let you in. We won’t attack you, but you’ve got to move on. Get going.”

As he and the younger man turned to leave, Arianwen was gripped by a sudden mad idea to run over to him, and her legs pumped forwards before she had a chance to think over her decision. “Nae, lass!” Aodhan cried out as she jogged towards them. Opening her mouth to shout for the older man, her heart leapt into her throat as two hot black barrels appeared in front of her face, the young man’s tense features at the other end.

“We said ‘get going’, immortal. Do as you’re told,” the young man hissed in a faint French accent, his hair blowing gently in the wind that had picked up, scattering dust particles through the air. As if to make his point further, he clicked the safety off on the weapon, and moved forwards enough to make her stagger backwards, her feet scraping against the loose gravel below.

Holding her hands up to show she meant no harm, she shook her head, gazing deep into the man’s eyes. She saw terror there, not the cold, steely gaze she expected of someone guarding an entire fort. Speaking softly, she urged, “Please listen to me. We’re really not here to harm you in any way, or anyone inside. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have to be, I promise you. There is only one thing we want, and that is to bring the Clan to their knees.” Arianwen bit out the last few words, venom from her emotions flavouring each syllable.

The older man spun on his heel and took in the sight of the demoness stood on her own, hands still raised in the air, before marching back across and lowering the younger man’s rifle. “Easy, Pierre, easy,” he soothed. “Let’s not lose our heads. They already said they mean no harm.”

Pierre gave an exasperated sigh, but he slung the gun over his shoulder as his companion asked, giving Arianwen a cold stare. “And you believe them?”

“Yes,” the other man replied, “I believe them. They haven’t tried to attack us in the last few seconds, have they?” Pulling his own rifle onto his back, he clasped his hands in front of his camouflage-covered torso and directed his attention at Arianwen, giving her hands a gentle nod. As she lowered them slowly to her sides, he continued, “My name is Franklin. We’re not making you stay out here because we don’t want you. But there are children inside there, and youngsters who have never been outside the walls of the Castle. Do you have any idea how it feels to be that human and terrified?”

Arianwen drew herself up smartly, smiling broadly. “I do,” she answered honestly. “I wasn’t always an immortal, you know. I was once human, like you all. And Deron here is human, and Psyche is…” She trailed off as she gestured towards her jet-haired friend, struggling to find the right words. “Well, she’s still half-human, anyway.” Turning back to Franklin, she added, “We know, believe me. I used to be a police officer before the war started. I know what people are capable of. And I also know what’s capable if we stand by and do nothing.”

Franklin gave a heavy sigh and squeezed his temples between his forefinger and thumb, before blinking and looking back up at Arianwen with tired eyes. “I’m sorry,” he retorted with a shrug, “there’s nothing I can do. Rules are rules.”

With that, he gestured to his companion, and they both turned to head back to the entrance. “No!” Arianwen begged, breathing heavily. “You have to listen, I—“

“Arianwen! Arianwen Harris?”

The male voice that called out her name from above the watchtower was familiar and hard to place all at once. Her mind buzzing with names of anyone and everyone she had known in her lifetime so far, she gazed up towards the tower and bright blue sky, squinting and using her hand as a shade. An elderly man was leaning over the side of the walls, waving frantically down to her. Narrowing her eyes further, she searched his face, flickering over every wrinkle and line around his shining eyes—it can’t be. It is! Waving excitedly back, she shouted up, “By the gods! Shiner! What the hell are you doing here?” Turning back to Aodhan with a face flushed with happiness, she grinned and cried out, “Aodhan! It’s Shiner!”

The rest of the group exchanged confused looks with each other, watching curiously as Aodhan’s jaw dropped and he raced over to Arianwen’s side. Gazing up with her, he let out a low gasp. “F**k me, it is. I never thought I would see that wee guy again.”

The elderly man disappeared from view, and unintelligible shouts came from the other side of the fort. Cries and yells could be heard making their way down from the air to the ground, and when they hit the bottom the screech of pulling wires echoed into the hazy afternoon air. With a groan, the metal entrance door scraped forwards, heaving up from the ground as the pulleys worked their magic in opening it wide. Arianwen nearly had to cover her ears from the metallic sound as it rose up into the air and revealed the inside of the fort, a crowd of people stood on the other side with wide eyes and frightened expressions.

As the dust cleared, Shiner came striding through the crowd, racing outside to meet his old friend. Arianwen’s lip wobbled before she felt the emotions bubbling up from her chest, and her eyes watered with tears. Holding her arms out wide, she sprinted across and wrapped them around the old man, sobbing with relief—relief that he hadn’t died, relief that she had found him again, and he was safe. She felt the warmth of Aodhan’s hand on her back, and he slapped a hand on Shiner’s shoulder. “Good to see you again, old man,” he said hoarsely, voice thick with feeling.

Breaking the bear-hug, Shiner stood back and smiled broadly at the two before him, wiping his tired eyes with the back of his sleeve. His features were etched with lines and worry, and his once thick hair was thin and grey, but it was definitely still him. “Come on,” he croaked in his Geordie accent. “Let’s get you inside, like. We can talk about why both of us are in the middle of nowhere in the fort.” Giving a wave to the two guards, he beckoned the group forwards.

After glancing nervously at one another, then over to the two demons, the others eventually trudged forwards. They stared forwards, ignoring the two guards in case they changed their minds, and they vanished into the fort as the heavy door slammed down again behind them with a cloud of muddy dust.

 

Taken from Creator of Shadows © Copyright Miranda Stork 2014

Snippet Sunday – Daughters Of Brigitania!

Morning, folks! 🙂 Hope your weekend is treating you well so far. Today I’ve got a wee snippet (the first chapter, actually) from Daughters Of Brigitania, the historical fiction I’m writing under my pen-name, Kathryn Northwood.  Enjoy! 😀

Chapter 1

Brigantian Rebirth

Two girls stood aside from the crowd, frozen expressions as they watched the druids chanting over the barrow. An old man lay within, curled in the position he entered the earth, his chariot beside him.

The older girl wrapped her arm around her younger sister, but her green eyes never lost their cold edge. The younger girl gave a sniff, but silenced herself as she remembered her place, and gave a short nod to her older sister. The arm fell away. A strong wind whipped through the valley, picking up their woollen cloaks and tugging them, creating the effect of flags flying out under their plaited auburn hair.

The druids and priestesses moved in a wide circle, chanting and murmuring to the gods, one of them holding a torch aloft. The flames from the torch flickered and danced in the wind, creating brilliant patterns in the air above as sparks jumped away. Some of the crowd behind the girls fell to their knees at the sight, sobbing as though their hearts would break. The older girl peered over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow, casting them a hard look.

The King was dead.

“Carti…does this mean you are now Queen?”

The whispered question from her sibling surprised Cartimandua. It was hardly the time for discussing such matters, but she understood that her sister Aiia was young, and didn’t always know when not to voice such concerns. She didn’t answer, but pressed a finger to her lips instead, indicating silence. A thrill ran through her at the idea though. Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. I am now ruler of all northern Albion. The only thing that didn’t thrill her was the notion of her husband being King, even Prince Regent. An ugly frown darkened her face.

Their father, King Vecorigo, had wanted the marriage to go ahead to secure more lands for his daughter. The Brigantes were a tribe of hardened warriors, but years of trying to secure their lands against other tribes had decimated their coin and defences, and this was her only chance to have security. Her husband was at least ten years her senior, and he had already blessed her with child. Unbidden, her hand stroked across the bulge of her stomach, swollen with her son.

And who knows what will happen to Aiia now. I must make sure I protect her. Cartimandua’s eyes roved across to her thirteen-year old half-sister, taking in her drawn white face and tightly folded arms. Aiia had even less prospects than herself, as the illegitimate child of one of her father’s concubines. Cartimandua’s own mother had died in childbirth, so she had never known the loving touch of a matronly hand. Aiia’s mother had come by court many times, but only ever lavished attention on her own daughter. Cartimandua didn’t resent it, she felt just as close to Aiia herself, and the two had been true sisters as soon as they could utter words.

The chanting grew louder, and one of the druids stepped forward to usher the two sisters over to their father’s grave. Cartimandua gave the white-hooded man a curt gesture, and waved him away. He stepped back, and Aiia gripped her sister’s arm tightly as they made their way over. The trees around them twisted harder in the wind, sending leaves spinning down to cover the King in his final rest. The man the Brigantes had known looked so different in rest, so less forceful. He had been a well-respected King, despite the losses to other tribes, and his booming voice would be remembered by all as though it had spoken in their very ears. He lay in a foetal position, his body wrapped in a blue cloak, his head adorned with the gold band of his authority. It wasn’t until he had been laid in the barrow that the sisters had finally realised how old and frail he looked, with his grey moustache thinning across his lip.

Cartimandua thrust her arm out, dropping a richly-inlaid bridle bit into the barrow. She gave Aiia a nudge, and her sister tremblingly held out a bronze dagger, glinting in the weak evening sunlight as it fell in. Aiia leaned over to gaze at her father, whispering, “May the gods watch over your journey to the Otherworld.”

Cartimandua gave a sad smile at Aiia’s words, and tugged on her sleeve. The younger girl looked up at her, eyes swimming with unshed tears. “Do not worry, sister. He will be watched over and protected, even into his next life.”

The druids and priestesses stopped circling the barrow and swayed from side to side, lost in their utterances, the whites of their eyes turned to the heavens. Their hands rose as one, inviting the goddess Brigantia to bless the ceremony. One of the priestesses produced two silver spoons, both short and without stalks, and one with a small hole at the edge. Cartimandua gave an inward shiver at the sight. Even as a bloodthirsty Brigante, she wasn’t too comfortable with the druidic sacrifices. They were a necessity, nothing more. Without them, the tribe was vulnerable, with no graces from the gods. As she stared in horror, a druid produced a small animal, already slaughtered at the beginning of the funeral. The animal was tipped gracefully, so that its blood dripped into the first spoon. The priestess leaned the first spoon so that the blood trickled through the hole to the second, chanting to herself as the whole putrid mixture was poured into the barrow.

Cartimandua turned herself and Aiia away from the sight as they began the process of laying stones around the graveside, and faced the crowd behind. Her people. Denorix, Cartimandua’s husband, came forward and gave her a curt nod. She eyed him for a second, a curious expression crossing her features, before she turned her attention back to the waiting faces of the Brigantes.

The young girl cleared her throat, collecting her thoughts before she spoke. The crowd fell silent, the only sound the wind howling through the trees, shaking more leaves down in a golden carpet. Her hand tightened for a second on Aiia’s, before she let it fall away, clasping them before her in a regal gesture. “My people,” she called out, “face your Queen.”

Cries of, “Queen Cartimandua!” rose up among them, filling the air with a new sound. Aiia glanced down at the ground and repeated their confirmation, trying hard to bat away the tears that still escaped for their fallen father. Cartimandua attempted to remain stony, but a small smile etched itself onto her lips, and her emerald eyes sparkled with new purpose.

Copyright Kathryn Northwood 2013.

 

To find out more about Daughters Of Brigitania, and to follow Kathryn Northwood (AKA me LOL) in her run-up to publishing it, click here to keep up with her Facebook page! 🙂

Snippet Sunday – Keeper of Shadows

Hello, everyone! 🙂 Well, I’ve actually managed to scrape enough time for myself lately that I’ve decided to set up a new blog schedule, rather than leaving it to ferment on its own. So borrowing an idea I’ve seen quite a few authors doing, I’m going to set up each day with a theme (one for Mondays, one for Tuesdays, etc.) so hopefully this might make the blog a bit more fun to read! 🙂

So of course, Sundays are going to be…..drum roll please……Snippet Sundays! There may also be more gifs. I’m just warning you. O_o And this week I’ve have a snippet from Keeper of Shadows, due out on Tuesday 30th June! Remember to mark your calenders! 😀

KOS banner3

Excerpt From Keeper Of Shadows…

People hung about in small groups, bartering over this and that, shouting and calling for produce. Many of them were behind makeshift stalls of wood and metal poles, calling and hawking their goods. Coloured sheets flapped limply in the breeze, some patterned with long-ago threads. The sheer vibrancy of the colours alone flooded Psyche’s brain, sending her senses into overdrive. And the produce itself was enough to keep her staring for hours, a treasure trove of foil-wrapped meats and sweets.

“Anything you want?” Torolf inquired, watching her face light up like a child’s. He smirked, and gave a sly wink. “I’d sure like to get you another chocolate bar. I remember how you enjoyed the last one,” he whispered next to her ear.

Well, that's the rudest thing said about chocolate I ever heard.

Well, that’s the rudest thing said about chocolate I ever heard.

Psyche flushed scarlet, and shook her head, tearing her eyes away from the temptation of both sweets and husky werewolf. “I’m good, thank you. I don’t want to ask you for anything.”

“You never ask me for anything. Didn’t you say you only once had chocolate? Before I got you some in the house, I mean?” He lost the smirk, and shook his head slowly. “There’s something not right about a world in which a woman only has chocolate twice in her lifetime. I’ll get you some chocolate. Women love chocolate. It’s traditional.”

Psyche stuttered. “Well, yes, I suppose. But I don’t—“

Her words were cut off as Torolf dragged her over to the stall, amid a worried sigh from Arianwen, who relented with a small grin. He stopped Psyche in front of one covered in various goods, squeezing her shoulders firmly to make sure she stayed there and didn’t run off from embarrassment. Small shaped objects in several colours were in paper bags, and one side of the stall was strewn with foil-wrapped rectangles. He gestured to the stall-keeper, a short man wearing a ratty blue shirt and sporting a scarred eye. As Psyche dared to look closer, she saw that the eye beneath the cut eyelid was milky-white. The stall-keeper grimaced at her, folding his arms, and turned his attention to Torolf.

“Aye?”

“Your finest milk chocolate, good inn-keeper.”

“We’ve got the usual. Take it or leave it.”

“Crappy brown-coloured plastic it is,” Torolf wise-cracked, grinning widely. The stall-keeper shook his head and muttered, turning away with a sheet of brown paper in his hands.

Psyche tried to protest once more. “Really, Torolf, this isn’t necessary. I can—“

Torolf closed his eyes for a second as the stall-keeper gathered up a few of the bars, spinning her around to face him. “Psyche, stop it. Just allow someone to look after you for a bit, okay? I’m not telling you what to do, or forcing you to do it. You don’t have to fight me. I’m just trying to do something nice for you. You know, and it’s chocolate.” Ignoring her open-mouthed gape, he turned to grab the package off the wizened man behind the stall, passing him a few bent and tarnished coins. Without another word, he shoved the parcel towards Psyche.

Fine, but if I get a coffee one, I'm out of here.

Fine, but if I get a coffee one, I’m out of here.

Regretting her earlier treatment of him during the day, she whispered, “Thank you.”

“Just promise to eat it in front of me,” Torolf chuckled hoarsely in reply. Seeing her still-humbled expression, he cleared his throat. His hand came up to scratch nervously at his scalp, something he seemed to do a lot when Psyche ignored his flirtations.

Psyche’s face broke into a cheeky grin at his uncomfortable stance, and she raised an eyebrow. “I might. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m in bed.” Her eyes sparkled with mischief as they rose to meet the werewolf’s, his jaw dropped at her bold statement.

“When you guys have finished with the pillow talk, can we please get going? We need to talk, and I need a drink. I’ve got Irish in me, you know.” Arianwen’s clear tones cut through the reverie, bringing the pair back to focus. She set on her heel and disappeared through the throng of people, heading towards the back of the Market.

drink

Hold the umbrella, pet. Ta.

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