Read the free first chapter of Lightning & Power online, now! The third book in the Indigo Skies series is released this Saturday. That means three days of excerpts. Free excerpts. Free chapters. And free reading.
Just to get you in the mood.
I know how much you guys love a free first chapter and I’m sure you’re going to love this one. And after the free first chapter, you get the second one. That’s tomorrow!
And then a third free chapter. That’s Friday!
And on Saturday…?
Lightning & Power goes live!
So here we go, delve back into Violet & Simon’s adventures…
LIGHTNING & POWER
There’d been a flash of something not quite right before the sickly scent had burned up inside my nostrils. I opened my eyes to darkness, still blind but aware that I was no longer where I should be. Cotton rumpled under my fingertips as I pushed myself shakily into a sitting position, feet sweeping over the side of what appeared to be a bed.
The edges of the room bled into my dark head, a blurred, electric blue pattern somewhat akin to sonar. It fizzled in and out, badly affected by whatever my attacker had administered. I tucked a sliver of pale blonde hair behind my ear. It wasn’t unusual for somebody to kidnap a seer, but the lack of psychic sensory warning was disconcerting.
I straightened to my full height, toes wriggling against the cold tile. My clothes were gone. Instead, loose material wafted around my calves, reminiscent of a hospital gown I’d once worn.
It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday, a getaway for me and Graeme, but all of that had come to an abrupt halt when he’d gone to get me an ice cream in the park. I’d been sitting on a bench. Goosebumps had skittered up my arms and I’d stupidly brushed them off without thinking, distracted. I’d been working on a way to tell Graeme my news without him kicking up a fuss, but it was a difficult subject to broach where my husband was concerned.
He wasn’t the most docile of men and his wolf nature only served to amplify that characteristic, making it an incredibly bad idea to get on the wrong side of him. And my news? He wouldn’t take it very well, no matter how much I sugar coated it.
I thought I’d nearly pinned down the best approach, though, when something had flashed in the corner of my mind. A blue sparkle of warning that didn’t materialise into the usual vision as if dampened by an otherworldly force.
And then a dirty rag, soaked in something nasty, had crushed over my nose and mouth, forcing me to breathe it in until my struggling stopped and dizziness had left me drowning in darkness, until now.
I tried to reach out in my mind, searching for where I was and who had taken me, but the knowledge was carefully blanked out, perhaps a sign that this situation was something I needed to work through without prior instruction. That or I was losing my touch.
“I’m sorry for the travel arrangements,” a crisp voice spoke up. I didn’t flinch despite being unable to sense a human presence in the vicinity. “How are you finding the accommodation?”
“Where am I?”
“Think of it as a kind of private hotel.”
“This is no hotel,” I replied. “Where’s my husband?”
“You’re right.” I sensed the smile in her voice even if I couldn’t see it. “It’s not exactly a hotel, but we hope you’ll enjoy your stay. As for your husband, he didn’t exactly fit our requirements.”
“And what might they be?” I asked, channelling the disagreeable nature of my friend, Violet. Somehow I needed to get a message to her. If there was one person who could help me in a situation like this, it would be her.
“You’ll find out very soon.”
Chapter one: Dead End Street
I screwed my eyes tightly shut and tried to imagine the wakefulness away. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Instead, I ended up listening to the sound of the television burbling through from the living room. Why did Logan always have to have the volume up so loud?
It wasn’t as if he couldn’t hear it. He’d developed incredible hearing recently, much to everybody’s irritation. I guess that was part and parcel of becoming half werewolf.
I rubbed a hand over my face, trying to smooth out the drum, drum, drumming of a particularly vicious headache. My eyes protested at the light, lids closing and rims burning. The computer screen had begun to blur before I’d eventually crawled to bed last night, desperately sifting through past emails in the hope of extra work. A yawn pitched my lips of its own accord. It would be so easy just to fall asleep again. The notion of a dream tried to tug me back under, but the hour apparently demanded my body awake even if my mind was against it.
After a few groggy minutes dressing, I headed through to the kitchen, the dream trying to rehash and rearrange itself in my mind but making zero sense. All I could remember was a hard bed and a papery nightdress.
Simon nodded a greeting from behind his computer screen as I entered the living space. He was seated at the dining table, occasionally peering across at the sofa where Logan was slopped out with his feet up on the seats and his eyes glued to the huge screen. Sound blasted from the television.
My fingers massaged the angry pulse on the side of my head as I scooped up the remote and dialled the sound down, my lips forming a bitter line.
“Hey!” Logan snapped, the expression of a petulant child crossing his face as he twisted to glare over the arm of the sofa. “I was watching that.”
“You can still watch it,” I muttered, depositing the remote control on a side table, “but you can do it at a more agreeable level. You’ll blow your eardrums. I’m surprised you haven’t already.”
“Yeah, well,” he grumbled, “super hearing is all well and good until you realise you can hear the neighbours banging from across the street.”
I rolled my eyes and moved from the back of the sofa to the kitchen area, regretting the step as soon as my tired gaze found the ridiculous mountains of pots, pans and just general mess that encompassed the worktop. My teeth set, a mistake that made the pulse in my head jump yet more viciously.
Trying to move a pan so I could clear a space next to the kettle simply made things worse, the incomprehensible pot pile collapsing in raucous disarray. Plates scraped the counter and at least one metal frying pan, laden with cooking oil, slipped off before I could catch it, clanging with delirious determination against the floor. My eyes squeezed shut, braced against the throbbing as it kicked up inside my head with each crash.
“I can’t even see the kitchen for all this crap!” I snapped, circling to glare at the back of Logan’s pig ignorant head. He was supposed to be a grown up by now. He was supposed to be able to fend for himself. “Get your backside over here and get this cleaned up!”
“Simon did it.”
I felt my nostrils flare, mouth stiffening into a thin line. He hadn’t even turned his head. Blood boiled in my veins. For the briefest of moments, I considered throwing a ball of fractious energy at him.
“Don’t bring me into this,” Simon responded from behind the safety of his computer screen. He didn’t even shift his gaze as if making eye contact with either of us would be a dangerous move.
“You’re the only one with a wolf’s appetite!” I railed at Logan, holding my feet still for fear that I would storm over there and smack him across the side of the head.
Frustration fizzled through my whole body, charging my bones. I forced myself to turn away from him, tapping the touchscreen on the kettle with more gusto than strictly necessary. It double clicked, thankfully selecting my personal settings before the appliance started to chug away.
“Now get yourself over here and clean this place up.” My eyes ran over the plates and pans that had all been pristine and put away last night. “What did you even eat?”
It could have been an entire farmyard.
“Just a couple of pancakes and some bacon and eggs…”
Simon joined in quietly, keeping his eyes on his screen. “And six waffles, a stack of toast, and–”
Logan swivelled on the sofa, hands clamping to the back edge as he threw a scowl at Simon. “Alright, snitch!” His eyes flickered over to me. “Look, I’ll buy some more bits.”
My teeth grit again, tugging the strings of tension in my head. I slammed a mug down on the slither of space I’d created and loaded it up with sugar. It seemed like I was going to need a hell of a lot of extra sweetness today. “How, Logan? You need a job.”
I poured the kettle, scorching pre-brewed tea piling into the mug. After a few minutes, the milk kicked in and swirled, soothingly, from the same spout. The colours blurred and blossomed in a strangely relaxing way.
Simon still seemed amazed that kettles were ‘advanced’ enough now to create the perfect cup of tea with little human intervention. His eyes sparkled everytime he got to press his personalised settings on the machine – a recent addition to the preferences list that I’d begrudgingly made.
My spoon dropped to the bottom of the mug and blended the concoction before I discarded it and snagged a couple of paracetamol to down along with the burning liquid. One good slurp. The roof of my mouth zinged.
“You can’t survive on your savings forever,” I reminded my brother, trying to impress some importance of getting a job on him, “and I can’t afford a living for the three of us when work is already so scarce.”
At least, that was one way to phrase it…
It wasn’t that there wasn’t any work. There were definitely plenty of investigative jobs out there right now for a PI, but I wasn’t getting any of them. Almost two months ago, a local detective, Bakiir, had outed me for being a half necromancer. Maybe I could have survived that storm by dismissing it as a simple rumour, but my last case, one where I’d had to prove Logan’s innocence, had ended with a rather large number of zombies running around at my personal disposal.
For a little while, anyway.
I’d sent them all back to rest as soon as I could.
Still, the damage was done. Everyone had seen what I was capable of and there was no returning from that. Work had dried up. I’d had to take a step back, focusing on those dreaded bread and butter cases that I’d begun my freelance detective career with, like divorcees and paranoid partners.
And even they were few and far between.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about it,” Logan answered, pretending not to notice that I could only stuff one slice of bread in the toaster because he’d eaten all the rest.
Simon raised an eyebrow, glasses slipping a little lower on his nose as if he knew what stupidity was going to fall from Logan’s mouth next.
“And I figured that if Simon can be your assistant–”
“Simon isn’t my assistant,” I sighed in irritation, snatching the butter from the fridge and procuring a knife. The silver rammed into the yellow substance with a little more gusto than was necessary.
“Don’t be like that, Holmes,” Simon piped up.
“I’m not averse to blasting a mute, Simon,” the warning exploded from my lips. My attention turned back to Logan. “He’s not my assistant. He’s a constant pain in my neck, a bit like you, and he’s only helping me until we can get him a real job. As for you, you had a real job–”
“Which I was forced out of!”
I closed my eyes, fingers bracing the edge of the countertop, wishing the pounding in my brain would cease. According to Logan, everything was up to his now ex-boss. “If you just talked to him, I’m sure he’d reconsider.”
Logan released a sigh. “I already tried. He says I’m bad for business and that, even though my name was cleared, people still think of me as a crazed werewolf.”
I couldn’t help but wonder that, if I’d solved the case sooner, collared the real bad guys quicker, Logan wouldn’t be in this situation. “Then you’ll have to try somewhere else,” I insisted. There was nothing else I could do. We couldn’t both be out of work. “Since that little fiasco with Bakiir, cases have been rather thin on the ground.”
“What about Jenna’s case?” he prompted.
“I’m not getting paid for working that one, Logan,” I reminded him, “and right now it’s almost the only case I have, bar a few petty divorcees. And those cases aren’t going to pay the bills.”
Logan shifted uncomfortably. “How far are you with Jenna’s case?”
I rubbed my forehead, still trying to eke out the tension. “Not far.”
It was a complicated situation involving disappearing women, all of whom could shapeshift into panthers. But, of course, the panthers were loath to come forward, trying to hide their abilities from the rest of the human race. God only knew what would happen if the rest of society realised that there was a secret race of beings able to shapeshift just like werewolves in their midst.
The secrecy made it difficult enough, but, when those accused of abducting the women were amongst the werewolf community, there was little hope in making anybody talk. Even without the complication of outsiders’ views, both supernatural types were very similar to their animal counterparts, keeping everything within their packs or prides.
“I could help,” Logan prompted as if he could read my thoughts. “I’m a werewolf. The other wolves would talk to me.”
And how I wish I’d been able to prevent him from ever being infected by that vicious, DNA altering bite. “No,” I muttered, reservedly.
The toaster popped. Almost blackened bread jumped to attention. “I said no,” I snapped, reaching for the burnt slice.
A buzz emanated from the kitchen island. I wheeled, spotting my iCom vibrating on the pale counter. I sensed Simon was watching me without having to look up at him as I scooped up the small, silver compact. A number flashed on the inner screen. It was the police station. I watched the green line flicker up and down like a heartrate monitor.
I had no cases that involved the local bobbies. Why were they calling?
Licking my lips, I tapped the symbol for a voice only call, jamming the handset between my ear and my shoulder. “Eonsen here,” I answered, scraping my knife viciously across the butter.
“It’s Maloney,” a gruff, harassed voice responded. “I need your help.”
The raised butter knife paused in my hand. “No chit chat…?” Not that I liked small talk, but Maloney usually did. It was rare that he didn’t open with the same tired request to meet up for a drink that I would never go for.
His voice sounded strained. “Not really in the mood and I don’t have the time.”
A frown etched into my brow. Butter scratched over bread as I juggled the iCom. “Okay… What’s wrong?”
“I have a case for you. A paid one.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Maloney,” I interjected uneasily. He didn’t need to put his reputation on the line for a half necromancer like me. “When the client finds out what I am they’ll flip just like everyone else and it’ll reflect badly on you.”
“I am the client.”
Silence stiffened the line. I cleared my throat, sensing Simon straining his ears.
“Yeah. I’d take the case myself, but the Captain won’t give me any time off.”
Maloney would never normally take a case on himself outside of the police station. The notion was ominous leaving a taste of dread in my mouth. “Sounds serious…”
“It is. I’m booking you a teleport to the states now.”
I blinked. He was getting ahead of himself. I hadn’t even said yes to the case yet. Then again, it was a paid job. I’d be stupid to turn him down. I put the butter knife on the worktop, pursing my lips and ignoring the sticky yellow that instantly clutched the counter.
“Will Specs be going with you?”
A pivot had me facing Simon, my lower back resting against the worktop, probably getting butter and crumbs tagged onto the back of my top. Simon’s eyebrows screwed together, his face pinched as he tried to decipher my expression. “Possibly. What is this about, Maloney? Where in America do you want to send me?”
Simon’s mouth worked into an ugly line.
I snatched a pen and paper off the opposite workspace, jotting down the address of a hotel somewhere in New York as Maloney spoke. “It’s not a five star,” he clarified, “but I don’t know how long you’ll be there and Jemima doesn’t have much room in her house.”
The pencil stalled in my hand, concern running up my wrist and into my chest. “Woah, woah. Slow down. Back up a bit. Who is Jemima, why are you sending me to see her, and what has your knickers in such a twist?”
“She’s a friend.” He struggled on that last word, as if it didn’t sit very comfortably on his tongue, but I didn’t press him. “And her son has been abducted.” Stress fractured his tone. “I need you to take the case, Violet.”
My stomach somersaulted. Maloney never called me by my first name. Tension curled over the line. I rolled my pen between my fingers and then laid it down on the worktop.
“You’re the only one I trust.”
I wet my lips, words hushed, turning my face away from Simon’s concerned stare. “And this friend of yours is happy that I’m a necromancer?”
“Who cares about that? You’re a damn good detective and I need your back on this.”
Another pause as a deep breath settled my nerves. It wasn’t as if I’d physically changed, but people’s perceptions had. I’d already found that I was pre-emptively distancing myself before the anticipated disgust could roll down over their features. Maloney was one of the few people who hadn’t given a damn that I was a half necromancer. He’d continued to treat me as he would normally and perhaps that was why I was trusting his judgement now.
“Okay. What time is the teleport?” I asked, thumb and forefinger rubbing over my temple.
“It’ll be this afternoon. I’ll text you all the details within the hour.” I could almost hear him hold his breath. “I appreciate this, Eonsen.”
“Don’t mention it. But I’d better take Simon with me.”
“Yeah, that’s cool,” he hurried, sounding worryingly unconcerned by expense. “Twin or double?”
My eyebrow raised involuntarily. “Twin or separate,” I corrected with steely tones that went unnoticed.
Noise expounded in the background of the call, as if somebody had opened Maloney’s office door. “Okay, okay. I gotta go. Boss is looking for me. Thanks, Eonsen.”
“Sure,” I muttered to thin air as the line clicked off.
The iCom flipped shut in my hand. One more futile rub of my forehead and I put the receiver down on the worktop, half turning to meet Simon’s gaze. He was standing on the other side of the island, watching me with a degree of concern from beneath his spectacles, gaze flicking to my discarded breakfast. The toast was probably cold by now, anyway.
“Is he okay?” he asked quietly, meaning the detective he so disliked.
My lips thinned as I ruminated on the conversation. The answer was half hearted, but I had other matters to attend to now. “Yeah. Looks like we’re headed to New York. Go pack a bag.”
Logan bounded over the sofa, somersaulting from his seat and landing perfectly on two feet to face me without so much as a minor overbalance. “Can I come?” he chirped, light in his eyes.
“No,” I replied, pulling the thin glass newssheet from under a stack on the counter. It slipped into his big paws before he could open his mouth. “You’re going to job search instead.”
Check out chapter two: Abeona Teleport. Tomorrow. Right here.
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