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.