Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Musketeers – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

“Work in groups of three and be ready to present your project to the class at the next session. I’ll give you the rest of our time to find your groups and get started.”

Alerich looked to the desk on his right at Thomas, his roommate and newest friend. Thomas was kind and funny and put up with Alerich’s melancholy and exuberance, both. They had been thick as thieves since the first day of term. “You and me then, mate?”

“Yeah, but we’ll need a third, won’t we?”

Alerich looked from the chestnut-skinned boy to the other lads in the room. They were slowly forming into groups of three, all of them new to the school like Thomas and him and unsure yet where friendship may lie. He watched a tall, gangly boy hover at the edge of several groups, his shoulders stiffening a little with each group that turned away from him. Alerich thought the boy’s name was Edward Fitzmartin, but all he really knew about him were three other things: he was a wizard, like all the lads here; he was smart as all get out; and he was deaf. Alerich doubted that it was the first two that had the other boys giving Fitzmartin the cold shoulder. He looked at Thomas to find him watching the boy be rejected by group after group with a look of sympathy on his face. Alerich nudged him, “How ‘bout it, then?”

Thomas nodded. “Absolutely.”

Alerich got out of his seat and tapped Fitzmartin on the shoulder to get his attention. The boy tensed and shied away from the touch in a way that felt very familiar to Alerich. He would bet that Fitzmartin’s father beat him the way Alerich’s own father did. He smiled at the boy’s wary expression. “Want to join up with Thomas and me? We seem to be a lad short.”

The boy looked from Alerich to Thomas as though judging their potential and their threat, then nodded. “Alright, then.”

His diction was excellent, but his voice was too loud for the small classroom and several of the boys laughed.

Alerich gave them unfriendly glares. “I’m Alerich Ashimar, but my friends just call me Rick. That is Thomas Griffin. You’re Edward Fitzmartin, right?”

The boy watched Alerich’s lips closely but frowned at his own name. “Just call me Fitz. I hate Edward. Edward Martin is my father. He doesn’t like me having anything else of his. I don’t know why he insists on me having his name.”

Alerich nodded. “Alright, Fitz then.”

Fitz watched him closely then sighed. “Why do you want me?”

Alerich blinked a little. “Pardon?”

“For your group? Surely you can see that I’m social kryptonite. If it’s pity, you can shove it.”

Alerich grinned, both at the comic book reference and the general foul-tempered tone. “Are you always such a testy bastard, Fitz? I’m not sure if two of us in a group might not be too much attitude for poor Thomas.”

Fitz grinned at Alerich. “Too right, mate.”

“It’s not pity, Fitz. It’s greed. Why wouldn’t we want the smartest lad in our year?”

Fitz looked at Alerich as though searching for something in his face. Whether he found it or not, he shrugged. “I suppose I’ll be your third musketeer, then.”

Alerich grinned and turned to lead the way back to where Thomas was getting paper and a pen ready. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a tentative smile on Fitz’s lips and his own broadened. He was pretty sure he and Thomas had just found an Athos to his Aramis and Thomas’s good-natured Porthos.


We hope you enjoyed “Musketeers.” For more free flash fiction and all things Books of Binding, please follow us at www.aelowan.com.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles

A Difference of Opinion – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Lunch with his fiancé. Alerich stood beside the corral gate, watching Celia’s car arrive. That was going to take some getting used to. Lunch with his fiancé. His grandmother, Hildreth, the matron of both House Ashimar and House Van de Mere, considered it the arrangement of the decade, and it seemed a lot of their set agreed. The congratulations flowed in in an endless stream. Grandmother thought Celia was perfect for him. She was politically powerful, the only child of Roland Carralond, the Archwizard of the Wizard’s Council. With Alerich as his father’s heir, marrying Celia would give their family control of three seats on the council: Ashimar, Van de Mere, and Carralond. Grandmother thought that set Alerich up to be Archwizard someday.

Judging by Celia’s ambitious reputation, Alerich was wasn’t so sure.

Fiancé. It wasn’t that Alerich didn’t want to get married. He was a wizard. Wizards married, it was simply how it was done. He would have preferred to have had a say in who he married, though. But Hildreth had not given him that consideration.

Celia slipped from the driver’s seat, dressed to ride in the English style, helmet in the crook of her arm, her blonde hair catching the sun like winter wheat in its complicated bun. She was beautiful, he could not argue with that. She looked him over, intelligent eyes filling with approval, and she approached with a sharp smile. “I do hope you’re Alerich. Pictures in the face books are one thing, but it is far better to meet someone in person.”

Alerich gave her a small bow and a smile of greeting. “Alerich Ashimar, at your service. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Celia.” He hoped it was. He was trying, at any rate.

Celia looked towards the corral, looking over the horses. “Bit of a barbaric business, this arranged marriage thing is, isn’t it?” She gave him a sidelong glance. “But so far, so good.”

Alerich’s smile widened a little. He couldn’t help it.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m acting as my own matron in this arrangement. My family’s matron… well, she’s gone a bit dotty, and we’re man-heavy in my line, so that leaves me to my own devices. Though I will say that your grandmother has been very considerate to me. I’ve asked for a long engagement. I feel it would be best for us to get to know each other.”

Alerich’s brows twitched up a little. That must have taken some wrangling to get Gran to agree to that. “How long, if I may ask?”

“Two years. We’re both young. We have the time.”

Alerich nodded, feeling a little relieved. “Thank you. I agree, a long engagement benefits us the most.”

Celia went up on her toes a little, watching the horses. “Oh, look at that black gelding with the magnificent blaze. Isn’t he a fine gentleman?”

Alerich watched the horse prance across the corral with pride. “He’s one of my favorites. I thought you might like to ride him to our picnic.”

Celia looked up at him, again evaluating. “You’re not the usual sort of wizard, Alerich Ashimar. I was expecting dinner at an elegant restaurant followed by the theatre.”

Alerich’s smile pulled at one corner of his mouth. “But I heard you love to ride. And I love to ride. I thought, if we have this one thing in common, perhaps we have other things in common. Besides, it’s too beautiful a day to waste indoors.”

Celia laughed, and it was a good laugh, the sort to turn heads. “Then let us ride.”

They spoke of small things as they rode side by side, knees occasionally touching. She spoke of her father and little rumors about the Council. He spoke of his family, his twin, Elspeth, and his two best friends, Thomas and Fitz. As they rode he wondered how well Celia would get along with his brittle sister.

Something rustled just off the path, and from his vantage point in the saddle Alerich could see a flash of red in the bushes. He brought his horse to a standstill and dismounted. “I see something.”

Celia frowned and dismounted, too. “A snake?” She obviously was concerned about her horse rearing under the trees.

“No, I don’t think so.” Alerich parted the bushes to reveal a small fox caught in an old trap, and he felt a flash of rage for the trapper. “It’s all right,” he murmured to the little one. “I’m here to help you.”

The fox cowered on its belly. It couldn’t have been more than a few months old.

Celia looked over Alerich’s shoulder. “Ah. Pity.”

Alerich grabbed the trap and began to pry it apart.
Celia frowned. “What are you doing? You’re getting filthy.”

“I think its leg is broken. My stablemaster has a talent for rehabilitating wildlife. See if you can hold it steady when I get this trap open.”

“I’m not touching that dirty little thing. It could have rabies.”

Alerich looked over his shoulder with disgust. “I see.” He pried the trap fully open and slipped it away from the kit’s leg before closing it in a controlled fashion to keep from startling the little fox into a run. He then slipped out of his riding jacket and wrapped the kit in his warmth.

Celia was watching him as if he was an alien. “You can’t possibly take it to our picnic.”

Alerich frowned at her. “One thing you’re going to have to understand about me is that I do a lot of animal rescue, both hands on and funding. That handsome fellow you’re riding is a rescue horse, as are most of the horses in my stable. This is me. Take me or leave me.” He moved to remount his horse.

Celia looked genuinely confused. “But what are you going to do, now? It’s just going to die. That’s that natural order of things, isn’t it?”

Alerich fought to not glare as he cradled the fox kit in one arm. “Not if I can help it. Enjoy the picnic. I may not make it, after all.” With that he turned his mount on the path and rode back to the stable. He let out a sigh. “You’re lucky, little one. You don’t have a fiancé.”

How could this possibly work between the two of them? Two years. It had to be enough time to talk his Gran out of this madness and find a woman better suited.

It had to be.


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Filed under Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles

Lively – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

“Girls, it’s time to stop playing and help me get dinner on the table. Sorcha, Mirilyn, you two go out to the garden and dig up a basket of potatoes and half a basket of carrots. Winter, you can help me snap beans. Now everyone, scoot!”

Winter giggled as Grandma Maria brandished her spoon at her and her sisters, but they all moved to obey. Grandma Maria might look funny shaking her glyphed focus object, but she was also known to apply it liberally to shirking backsides and none of the girls relished a spanking today.

Six-year-old Sorcha and Mirilyn grabbed baskets and headed out the sliding glass door into the garden while four-year-old Winter went to the apron rack and pulled on her strawberry-printed one. She checked that her white pigtails were secure and went to Grandma to have her tie the strings.

Grandma Maria cinched the little apron around her and playfully tugged one pig tail. “Don’t forget to wash your hands.”

Winter laughed at the tugging and went to the wide double-sink, climbing up the step stool to reach the faucet. As she soaped her hands she surveyed the kitchen. Three fruit pies cooled under the window and on the long bar were six plump chickens and an enormous bowl of green beans. She rinsed her hands, climbed down the step stool then back up a barstool to sit in front of the bowl. Quick little fingers were practiced at snapping the beans and separating out any blemishes from the large colander where the freshly snapped pieces landed.

Grandma Maria watched her for a moment, then nodded, apparently content with Winter’s technique, and turned to the chickens. “What should we do with these, Winter? Something lively, I think. Let me see what I have in the pantry to give them some zip.” She set her spoon on the bar and headed into the deep, cool pantry where her cooking spices were kept separate from her potion ingredients. Grandma Maria was a potion master—maybe one of the best in the world—and she had promised Winter that she would teach her all she knew. They had already begun doing simple potions together and Grandma said that Winter had all the makings of a true potion master.

Winter eyed the chickens and Grandma Maria’s focus object as it lay beside them. Lively? She wasn’t sure what Grandma was looking for in the pantry, but she was sure that she could help. She glanced over her shoulder at the pantry door. She really wasn’t supposed to touch the spoon without Grandma Maria being with her, but she was right in there. It should be fine.

Winter picked up the spoon, smiling at the little tickle of power she always felt when she touched someone else’s focus object. She pushed the green bean bowl to the side and knelt up on the barstool. She held the spoon aloft, closed her eyes and said, “Lively.”

She opened her eyes and looked at the chickens. They looked the same to her, pale and lying on their cutting boards. What had she done wrong? Oh! She squeezed her eyes shut and put Command into her voice. “Lively!”

She opened her eyes and squeaked. Oh blast! Maybe that was too much Command? The chickens certainly looked different now. They were no longer on the cutting boards. Instead they were dancing on the counter!

Winter looked panicked over her shoulder toward the pantry, then back at the chickens. “Stop! Stop it! Lie down!” The chickens ignored her, which Winter thought was very rude. She smacked the nearest one with the spoon. “You lie back down, right now!” The chickens began to dance in pairs, moving in complicated patterns as though to music only they cool hear.

Winter heard a gasp behind her and turned guilty eyes to Grandma Maria. Grandma’s face was stern, but her eyes were alight, and Winter thought she looked like she was shaking a bit.

Grandma held out her hand for the spoon. Winter swallowed and handed it to her. Grandma shook her head and her voice resonated with Command. “Revert.” The chickens each found their cutting board and laid down, stilling under Maria’s gaze.

Winter looked up at her great-grandmother. “I was trying to help.”

Grandma Maria let out a laugh and then couldn’t seem to stop. She finally choked out, “Help by snapping beans, Miss.”

Winter’s cheeks pinked, and she quickly got back to snapping.

Grandma Maria swatted her lightly once with the spoon, moving to season the chickens, still laughing to herself. “Lively chickens. I can’t wait to tell Katherine.”


A. E. Lowan is the pseudonym of three authors who collectively create the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding. If you liked this flash, there is more original short fiction on our website. You can read more about Winter in Faerie Rising, available on Amazon now.

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Guest Post – C. L. Schneider with a new Urban Fantasy Release! (And a sale!)

We are thrilled to introduce you to urban fantasy author, C. L. Schneider, and her newest book, Chain Reaction (Nite Fire Book #2), that releases today!

 

New Release

Chain Reaction (Nite Fire Book #2)

Murder, mystery, mayhem, dragons—and mutants!
Shapeshifting creature-hunter, Dahlia Nite, is back in an all action-packed new adventure!


Meet C. L. Schneider

C. L. Schneider is an award-winning independent author of adult epic and urban fantasy. Born in a small Kansas town, she currently resides in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley Region with her husband and two sons. Though she has been writing since childhood, Schneider’s first published novel was the first installment in her epic fantasy trilogy, The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price. With the trilogy complete, she is excited to venture into new territory with her urban fantasy series, Nite Fire.


About Chain Reaction

If anyone can tell the difference between monsters and humans, it’s Dahlia Nite. For nearly a century, she’s hunted one to protect the other; safeguarding humanity from the creatures that slip through the torn veil between the worlds—creatures like her. But the lines are blurring. As people begin mutating and combusting on the streets, Dahlia realizes a strange affliction has descended upon Sentinel City. The mysterious ailment strikes all walks of life, from the posh, high-end nightclub district to the homeless community. Its victims, driven to random acts of savagery, are drawing attention too fast to cover up.

Assigned to the case, Dahlia and her human partner, Detective Alex Creed, investigate the deaths. But all they have are questions and bodies, and a public on the verge of panic. Working behind the scenes with her self-appointed sidekick, Casey Evans, Dahlia struggles to discover what, or who, is behind the alarming transformations. As the violence spreads and the mystery unfolds, she wonders: are the victims still human? Were they ever?

Chain Reaction is the second book in the Nite Fire Series.


An Excerpt from Chain Reaction (Nite Fire Book #2) – Chapter One

Murky, black tendrils of pain slithered up my ankle. They wrapped around my legs, anxious and cold and begging to be felt. The ghost they spawned from was an old one. Shed in the last moments before death, the tattered remnant of human trauma had been drifting here for years. It was forever a part of this place now, forgotten and abandoned like the building it was trapped in.

Regret, I thought, processing the emotion’s distinctive touch. It was sad, but it wasn’t the trauma I was looking for. I shook my leg, dislodging the shadow, and moved on.

My quick dismissal wasn’t as callous as it appeared. As an empath, I understood: no matter the species, the age, or the cause, every hurt was significant to the soul that owned it.

This one wasn’t significant enough, not tonight. Not for what I needed.

Shivering, I yanked the zipper up on my hoodie. It was late. The building was drafty. But my sudden chill wasn’t sparked by cold. If it was, exchanging my human skin for scales was far more efficient. Being a half-dragon shapeshifter had its perks. Generating heat was one of them. But it was the end of August. There was plenty of heat to go around. It was disgust that had me trembling.

I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m terrible, I thought.

At least, I would be if I continued on my current slippery slope. It was a figurative decline. The crumbling concrete floor of the derelict apartment building I was trespassing in was as flat and unwavering as it should be. My morals, however, were careening steadily downward. If shifter-hell was a place, it was a sure bet I had a standing reservation carved in stone.

Of course, the name Dahlia Nite had been on that list for a while now. A former executioner for the dragon-queen, Naalish, there was no way my elevator had ever been going up. Not even the last ninety-seven years I’d spent performing (mostly) good deeds in the human realm could change my eternal destination. But this… Trolling the slums, looking to loot the trauma from whatever poor souls I could find and use it for target practice—this was going to plummet me straight to the bottom.

But I had to do something. My empathic abilities had been a mystery from day one. Over the years, they’d grown to become an important part of my life. The clues my empathic glimpses provided were mostly reliable, even if the results were inconsistent. Since moving back to Sentinel City three months ago, that inconsistency had flown off the freaking chart.

I’d tried not using my empathy, but I didn’t like being limited. I solved crimes and hunted monsters for a living. I needed every edge I could get. Unfortunately, this edge had become too unpredictable to be trusted. Hurting an enemy with an involuntary psychic attack was one thing. Sending an innocent man into cardiac arrest was a near-fatal mistake. I wanted it to be my last. If absorbing and reassigning pain was something I could do now, I needed to get a handle on it.

Yet, the last four weeks, I’d been dragging my feet. Because there was only one way to train my sixth sense. I needed pain. I needed to feel it and play with it, and doing so, for the sake of my own gain, made me feel no better than the creatures I hunted.

Ignoring the issue, though, was dangerous, which was why I was spending my Monday night touring one of the city’s most notorious buildings in the old waterfront district.

The Fletcher had been condemned for years. Rumors of spirits and ghouls fed into the city’s love of legends, but the only activity in the ramshackle structure was the unseemly kind. There was no electricity. Most of the rooms were missing doors. Grime coated the few remaining broken window panes. Termites and humans had riddled the interior walls with holes. Fire had scorched the rest. Graffiti bubbles colored nearly every surface. A few surviving furnishings were coated in layers of filth. Just looking at them warranted a shower.

The kids who snuck in to party mostly stuck to the lower levels. The junkies who stumbled in to forget their lives for a few hours or days favored the solitude of the higher floors. Runaways and vagrants, however, made use of the entire six stories. Most would crash for a while, then get smart and move on. Some graduated into permanent residency. Now and then, the city came in and cleaned the place out, rounding up the runaways, busting the dealers and the junkies.

They came right back.

Curling up in dark corners and old closets, hiding from the world, shooting up and fading away; their decaying souls shed trauma like autumn leaves in a perpetual windstorm.

There were certain places empaths preferred to avoid. Hospitals, nursing homes, cemeteries, prisons, the sites of ancient battles, all made the top ten. I wasn’t sure where drug den fell on the list, but I couldn’t walk five feet without someone’s suffering reaching out to me. It was everywhere: darkening the fissured concrete, drifting over the decomposing garbage and mold-infested blankets—clinging to the hunched human forms that had moved past unfortunate to wretched a damn long time ago.

What I saw and felt wasn’t your typical ghost, but I’d found no other word to describe the residue that haunted a soul. It grew with each new trauma, polluting humanity’s insides. Eventually, it manifested into a shadowy form that clung to their bodies; tainting, suffocating, sloughing off bits of trauma with each step. Sometimes, after death, their ghosts stayed behind. Here, so many had stayed, not even a spotlight could have penetrated the layers.


New Release Sale

Celebrate the release with a special .99 Kindle Sale. Both books in the series are on sale for only .99 for Amazon US and UK until 4/24!

Flash Point (Bk#1) http://mybook.to/NF1

Chain Reaction (Bk #2) http://mybook.to/NF2

The Nite Fire Series is also available in paperback or read free with Kindle Unlimited.


Connect with C. L. Schneider

Learn more about C. L. Schneider, and the worlds she creates, at clschneiderauthor.com where you can read reviews, excerpts and sneak peeks, join her Street Team, and subscribe to her newsletter. An active part of the indie author online community, you can connect with her on social media, where she is often found chatting about the daily ups and downs of a writer’s life.

Website www.clschneiderauthor.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/cl_schneider
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CLS.Author
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/clschneiderauthor/
Google# https://www.google.com/+CLSchneider
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomCLSchneider
BookBub Profile Page https://www.bookbub.com/authors/c-l-schneider
Amazon Author Page http://author.to/CLSchneiderAmazonPg

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Filed under Excerpt, Guest Blog, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles

Lelia – A Books of Binding Short Story

Lelia did not remember much about the night she met Jeremy Moore.

She remembered going to the club, Fever, in Midtown. She remembered drinking, but not that much because they were overpriced and not that awesome. She hadn’t been looking to hook up. She’d just wanted to dance and celebrate her new job, and mentally flip her parents off for their snotty attitude about her dropping out of college. She didn’t need a liberal arts education to be successful, no matter what they said.

She remembered seeing Jeremy watching her from the other end of the bar… and then she was waking up in her rumpled bed next to him. She’d totally freaked out, waking him up, and he’s gotten pissed at her for “pretending” to not remember anything. But he’d grabbed her phone and put his number in, anyway, and told her to call him if she ever decided to stop screwing around, and he’d left.

Lelia was sure, now, that she’d been drugged or something. She just wasn’t sure how. But the second his name came up with the police, the interview had ended, and she’d been rushed out the door.

All she was sure of was that he’d gotten her pregnant. He was the only guy she’d had sex with in months.

It had taken her a few months to figure out what was wrong with her. Why she was sick and tired all the time. She knew now that she didn’t want to face the truth and had procrastinated taking a pregnancy test. She’d then spent a lot of time working up the guts to call Jeremy.

His answer? “Bullshit.” And he’d hung up on her.

That had set a fire under her, and she resolved to track his ass down. But while she searched she got sicker and lost her job, and her parents wouldn’t help. She’d “made this bed so now she’d have to lie in it.”

Fuck them, too.

Finally, she’d figured out that Jeremy Moore was the son of some big investment executive or something—which explained why the police wouldn’t listen to her—and decided that if Jeremy was going to be an asshole that she would try to take this up with his father, Jonathan. Maybe he would help her?

But now… now she was at Moore Investments and it was as if the whole world had gone insane.

What had she just seen? Lelia crouched near the wall as the black tower fell, her eyes wide. The occasional car—the occasional police car—drove by, and no one else seemed to notice the battle. The knights in armor. The… monsters! A building fell! People were hurt, dead, and no one seemed to care.

Why?

She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t crazy! Lelia felt tears pooling yet again. All she knew for certain was that she was in trouble and it was Jeremy Moore’s fault. She had come here to see his father, to tell him what Jeremy had done to her, to settle this once and for all, but there they both were, being dragged away by knights in armor. Knights in armor!

She rested her hand on her pregnant belly. She needed help but forced herself to walk away into the dark night before they dragged her away, too.
What was she going to do now?


 

A few weeks later, Lelia was still trying to answer that question.

Her landlord liked rent money more than he liked her and nobody would hire a pregnant chick, so now she was staying in a women’s shelter near the Waterfront. She wandered the touristy part of the docks, trying to walk off her swollen feet and looking for an answer in the dark water below.

She came to an empty bench and sat down, feeling like a swollen cow and wishing she could go back to that night at Fever and just stab Jeremy in the eye or something. Her life was in shambles and it was all his fault, and now not even the building he’d lived in remained. Both he and his father were considered missing, and she felt like she was the only one who knew the truth.

Oh god, would the monsters come for her, next?

Tears of fright startled from her eyes, and suddenly she was crying her despair into her hands, regardless of who might be passing by.

A young man with long, curly brown hair approached. He was carrying a battered guitar case and he sat at the far end of the bench. He pulled out his guitar and began to play softly, something gentle and intricate and soothing. She looked up, sniffing and wiping her face, embarrassed, and realized he looked familiar. He was one of the shelter volunteers. Steven or Stephen or something. Stephen, that was it.

He pulled a tissue packet from his pocket and handed her one. “I’ve seen you at the shelter. What’s got you so scared?”

Lelia dabbed at her nose, hesitating, but she was so lonely and needed to talk to someone. “It’s a long story.”

Stephen smiled and rested his hands on the strings of his guitar. “I have all the time in the world.”

She laid her hand on her belly, feeling the baby move. “I ran into a guy at a club named Jeremy Moore. I think he drugged me, but no one will listen to me. I finally tracked him down to Moore Investments—” she stopped. He would think she was crazy. “But they were already gone.” The disappearance and building collapse had been all over the news.

Stephen began to play, again. “I’ve heard of Jeremy and his father. They’re bad news, but Jeremy has good family still here in town. An older brother. They’ll help you, Lelia.” He gestured across the Bay to the spit of land jutting out creating a separation between it and the Pacific Ocean. “He and his family live out on the Point, at Mulcahy House.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out two twenties. “Take a cab out there and tell whoever answers the door that you are looking for Jeremy’s brother and are carrying his son.”

Lelia’s brows rose. “A boy? How do you know that? I can’t go to the doctor.”

Stephen smiled. “It’s just a hunch, but my hunches tend to be good.” He squeezed her hand. “Don’t wait, now. These are good people and they’ll help you. I promise.”


 

Lelia was afraid, but more afraid of having to do this alone, so she grasped at those frail straws of hope with both hands and called a cab from the shelter.

Mulcahy House was huge, covered in brick and trellises thick with what might be rose canes all the way to the roofline. Hard to tell in late November, though, even in the temperate Pacific Northwest.

The cab rolled away, leaving Lelia with only one real option. She walked down the sandy walkway and gave the ornately carved door a tentative knock.

After a few minutes, the door swung open, revealing a woman not much older than Lelia but with iridescent white hair pulled up in a matronly bun. Very cool. Lelia briefly wondered where she’d gotten it dyed like that. There was something vaguely familiar about her. The woman tilted her head just to one side, curious, and then her gaze dropped to Lelia’s belly. “Oh! Hello. Please, won’t you come in? Would you like some tea?”

Lelia felt something tense inside her release and she almost burst into tears with relief. “I would love some.”

The woman gave her a smile and opened the door further to give Lelia room to come inside. “My name is Winter Mulcahy. Let me show you the way to the kitchen and we’ll get you settled in.”

Settled in?

But Winter was already leading the way down the wide hallway, past the front entryway filled with a riot of pictures, past room after warmly lit room, until they arrived at last at the biggest kitchen Lelia had ever seen. It was warm and cozy, and yet the space was soaring with a massive, battered table to one side and multiple refrigerators and freezers on the other, separated by a long island bar. The space smelled like the holidays, all apple cider and pumpkin spice, and when Winter presented her with a cup of herbal tea it tasted of warmth and home and family. Nothing like her messed up life.

A beautiful young man came in through the sliding glass door with grocery bags and gave Lelia a welcoming smile. He also looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place it.

Winter put several cookies on a plate and passed it to Lelia. “Now, what can we do to help?”

Lelia opened her mouth… and then burst into tears. These people had no idea why she was here, but they were offering to help, anyway. She told her story about Jeremy drugging her and getting her pregnant, and about trying to track him down, only to find—

The battle.

That was where she knew these people from. She’d seen them near the tower where Jeremy and his father were being dragged away! She jumped up from her stool as best she could and backed away. “I need to go.” If they knew she knew, they might… they might do anything to her. She had to—

She backed into a wide chest that let out a soft grunt at the impact, and she turned to see Jeremy—only not Jeremy. He had dark auburn hair and was shorter and broader, but the same gray eyes and the same face. He was also carrying groceries and looked at her with mild confusion. “You need help?”

What was with these people and offering help?

Winter came around the island and laid a gentle hand on Lelia’s shoulder. “Lelia, this is Etienne Knight, Jeremy’s brother. Etienne, Lelia is pregnant with your nephew.”

Lelia’s eyes widened. “How did you know?”

Winter gave her a gentle smile. “I have my ways. Now, come sit back down. We won’t hurt you.” Her tone was firm, like a teacher or a doctor.
The beautiful young man held out her chair for her and Lelia sat back down, not seeing much of an alternative. “Promise?” Who were these people?

Etienne was looking a bit floored, but he went down on one knee in front of her. “I swear on my life, you won’t come to harm in this house.”

Okay, that was new. “Are you, like, a real knight or something?”

“Yes.” He rose to his full height, which wasn’t all that tall, but that was okay.

Lelia laid her hand on her belly. “Do you know where Jeremy is?”

Etienne nodded. “He’s with his—what’s the word, again?”

The young man answered him. “‘Birth parents.’”

Etienne made a small noise. “Them. He’s very ill. Jonathan made him very ill, and no one knows if he’ll recover.”

Lelia’s face fell. Then there was no hope for help, after all, was there?

Winter took her hands. “Jeremy is sick and can’t help you with his child. We are not. Please, stay here with us. We will help you with everything you need. Both of you.”

Lelia broke down again, hormones and emotions making her vulnerable, and she finally spoke the truth that had been dogging her for months. “I don’t want there to be a both of us. I don’t want this.”

The three looked to each other and Winter looked back at her, determined and compassionate. “Then we will help you until you deliver, and however long you need afterwards. We’ll help you get back to your life, and we will make sure this baby is loved, cherished by family, and never wants for anything.”

Lelia shook with emotion and nodded, whispering, “Thank you. Thank you.”

Winter gave her a gentle hug. “Come upstairs and we’ll get you settled into a room. I think you have time for a nap before dinner, is that right, Cian?”

The young man nodded. “Of course. And if you oversleep, that’s fine. We’ll keep something warm for you.”

Lelia let Winter take her by the hand and lead her upstairs, turning her hope and her child over to these kind strangers.

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Tin Lizzie – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

“You bought another one?”

A shameless smile pulled at the Vampire King’s lips, and he made a sweeping gesture to the shiny black automobile parked in front of the Seahaven Opera House. Under the August sun, the sheen to Erik’s new toy gleamed. “‘Another one,’ Katherine? You’re making it sound like an old nag!”

Katherine cast a long-suffering look at Bridget, assuming that her ward would be as tired of Erik’s antics as she was. But the young seer grinned back at her. Apparently not. She smiled fondly at the girl—really a woman full-grown and at the height of her power. When had that happened? Katherine turned her attention back to the Erik’s latest frippery. “You already own the Model A, Erik. Your horseless carriage is frightening all of the real horses whenever you use it.”

Erik held up a hand, stilling her objections. “But that is the point. It’s the Model A—the prototype.”

“To be fair, Katherine, this one is a bit more pleasing to the eye than his last automobile,” Bridget put in, her words wry as she ran a gloved hand over the geometrically defined steel hood. “Perhaps it’ll be a touch less obnoxious.”

Given an inch of support, Erik took a mile. “Precisely! That was 1903—it’s been six years. Consider for a moment how much innovation we’ve had in just two years. Color photographs, the helicopter. That’s something I should invest in, by and by. We’ve traveled by foot, cart, beast, ship, train, now automobile. Why not by air?”

“Oh, lovely.” Jason, the Vampire King’s secretary and ofttimes keeper, leaned against one of the gilded double doors of the Opera House, taking in their conversation and the subject of it. “Bridget, did you get him started again?”

The young woman snorted. “He doesn’t need our help for that.”

“No, I suppose not. He gets carried away with all these newfangled contraptions. I’m still of the opinion that Katherine should take away his camera,” Jason said, and gave his king a bland stare.

The grin he got in return was entirely unfazed. “But Katherine loved our photograph.”

The queen in question arched her brow at him. “As much as you detest having to face the music of your rude creation, Erik…”

“I would take that as a warning. You do get your fair share of exercise in pushing your luck, Erik,” Jason nodded, woefully contrite, to the vampire queen. Erik’s off-the-wall sense of humor more often than not found Jason doing things the king’s secretary knew were beyond the pale.

“That he does.” Bridget mirrored her mentor’s posture and folded her arms but couldn’t keep the smile from tugging at her lips. “That aside, I can think of much better uses of your pricey innovations than antagonizing your queen. Do you intend to drive your Model T, or simply admire it?”

“If you’re going to be sassy—”

“It’s not as if you don’t deserve it, now is it?” Katherine’s own lips were beginning to curve into a smile.

The Viking waved away his queen’s teasing and tapped the hood. “Why don’t you give it a spin, Bridget? Tell me if my investment is worthwhile, hmm?”

She laughed, doubtful. “I am to believe that you intend to share?”

If Erik had ever mastered a mischievous grin, it was at that moment. “No time like the present to ruffle some feathers. Remember the rise you got from the humans with your bicycle?”

The sound that escaped her was far from ladylike. “I stand by the same statement I made two decades ago. Bloomers are an offense to the fabric they are made from.” The redhead pinned her large hat more securely and gathered up the short train of her long, iris-shaped skirts in one hand as she spoke, all while Katherine pinched the bridge of her nose at the prospect of their afternoon.

After a moment Katherine finally just sighed and gave Bridget’s hand a single pat while Erik set about starting his vehicle. “Do be careful with it, Bridget, and don’t let him talk you into a helicopter. He has enough paraphernalia to last him at least another decade,” the vampire queen said, and gave Erik a dry glance.

Bridget’s lips quirked into a smile to rival that of the vampire king’s, and the dread beast came to life with a roar—much to the chagrin of a handful of bays tied to the hitching post across the street. “That would be a pity, wouldn’t it? I will try to keep him reined in, but his hobby seems to be … what was it, ‘getting our goat?’”

“The goat has already been gotten, ladies.” Erik said, grinning wildly. “But seeing as we’re burning daylight, let’s get a move on, shall we? How many humans can we knot the knickers of in one afternoon?”

 

Check out aelowan.com for more flash fiction and all things Books of Binding.

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Unremarkable by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee – A Review

Unremarkable by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee could not be any less like its title. This supernatural historical fantasy is set in Chicago in February of 1929 and casts the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in an unexpected way. The novel, the first in a series, is tightly plotted, fast paced, and has plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing and engaged.

The story follows the character of Saul Imbierowicz, an ordinary man who is just starting his life away from his parents’ home. He lives an ordinary life, with a tiny apartment, no food in the ice box, and a brand-new job with a strict boss sorting mail on the night shift at the Post Office. Early in February 1929, Saul meets a woman in the Post Office diner after work—the beautiful and enigmatic Moira. Within days, Moira has turned his world upside down. Moira’s life is far different than Saul’s. She is confident, sexy, outgoing, and seems to have her finger on the heartbeat of Chicago. She is also carrying a secret and his association with Moira might just get Saul, and everyone he loves, killed.

I really enjoyed this protagonist. Unremarkable is told in first person, and so we get a close look into how Saul thinks and how the events of this novel change him. Saul is funny and self-depreciating, even when trying to shrug off the pervasive anti-Semitism of the 1920s. Habiger and Coy do not handwave these parts of the story. They have written a good glimpse into early twentieth century Chicago and do not shy away from the many casual, and sometimes not-so-casual, aggressions toward women and people of the Jewish faith in that time. But through it all, Saul’s thoughts and reactions are authentic to an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

I wholeheartedly recommend Unremarkable. It is a ‘read it in one sitting’ kind of book and a remarkable beginning to a series I cannot wait to read more from.

You can get the Kindle e-book or paperback here. Also, check out Habiger and Kissee’s upcoming fantasy crime novel, Wrath of the Fury Blade. It is available for pre-order here.

-J.V.

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The Faerie Rising Paperback is Now Available and Other Team Lowan News

It’s finally here!

We are excited to announce that the paperback of Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding, is now available at Amazon.com. We appreciate the patience and support we have received during this long process. For those who prefer e-readers, Faerie Rising is available in e-book as well.

New cover for Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

What’s coming up?

We are hard at work on the sequel, Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding, which should be available in both e-book and paperback Spring of 2018.

For those who enjoy audiobooks, we are working on audio editions of both books to be released late in 2018. We will keep you posted on that exciting project.

Why so quiet lately?

Team Lowan took a bit of an extended hiatus at the end of 2017 to concentrate on getting healthy. We are back at work and excited to be bringing new projects out this year! There is more short, original fiction on the way through the blog, and a lot of fun Seahaven trivia coming to the website this year. If you’ve missed any of last year’s short fiction, you can find links to all of them on our Books of Binding Reading Order Page.

We’ll see you at the con!

Two-thirds of Team Lowan will be returning to Kansas City Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, MO from February 16-18. Our third member is up to her elbows in Ties of Blood and Bone and will be sitting out the convention to concentrate on introducing the world to one of our favorite characters, Alerich Ashimar.

We appreciate you all!

Thank you all for subscribing or clicking! We are honored to have the opportunity to share Seahaven and The Books of Binding with you all. Drop us a comment here or leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads! We’d love to know what you think.

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Exposure – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

“Erik, you have to hold still for this to work.”

“I still feel like it needs some adjustment.”

Jason rolled his eyes in the direction of the new, breadbox-sized Kodak ‘Brownie’ camera and muttered softly in ancient Greek before raising his voice. “You do know that Katherine’s going to kill you, right?” He returned his attention to the viewfinder. Erik had a bee in his bonnet about getting this… picture… taken and wouldn’t be dissuaded.

The Vampire King laughed. “Isn’t that the point of this exercise?”

“Hold still. I’m still getting the exposure.” Dammit, Erik had moved again. “We’re going to have to try again. You moved.”

“Did not.”

This time Jason cast his look fully at his master, arid and annoyed.

Erik dropped his hand to below his waist and made an obscene gesture. “Is this in the shot, too?”

Jason sighed a long-suffering sigh. “I’m going to help her hide your body. Just letting you know.” He advanced the film with the turnkey and felt the small tug that told him this was the last attempt. “Last try, unless you want to break into the rest of the celluloid.” He shook his head. “I still can’t believe you spent this much money just to prank Katherine.”

“It wasn’t so bad.”

“The camera alone cost a dollar.” Jason tracked Erik’s expenses. If he kept spending at this rate, he would have to write to Erik’s vampire father in Rome for money.

Again.

Erik fidgeted with his pants some more until he finally looked up, grinning broadly. “Okay, now I’m ready.”

Jason sighed. He couldn’t believe Erik was making him do this. Never mind—it was Erik. “Okay, just hold still. Taking the picture… now.”

Katherine really was going to kill him.

 

For more original fiction and all things Books of Binding, please visit our website: https://www.aelowan.com

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Ties of Blood and Bone Cover Reveal

We are thrilled to reveal the cover for our next full-length book! 

Preorders for Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding are available now. We are offering $1 off the list price of $3.99 to anyone who pre-orders before January 15, 2018. Click here to grab yours!

This cover, like our beautiful one for Faerie Rising, was designed by the incredible team at Deranged Doctor Design. We are just left speechless by them each time we work with them. You can find them here.

We are also working on print and audio editions for both books. We will announce once those are available.

And now, our beautiful new cover!

2017-520 AE Lowan b02 final

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