Eye of Danger
I cringe; not wanting to confess the extent of my obsession of finding the boy I’ve convinced myself for too long never existed. After I’d miraculously healed from the fever, I went half mad looking everywhere for him. Like a maniac, I searched in every room, closet and under every desk at the schoolhouse for any indication where he might’ve gone. Then I took it one step further. Dressed like Neliem himself, I snuck at the crack of dawn into the Untouchable section of town which we are forbidden to enter. I scourged the marketplace, the temples of their false gods, the fields, the hills, our cave, any place I could think of, going as far as to risk my own life for weeks to find him. Just for the chance to see him and touch him again, I would’ve done anything. Me, who hated to be touched, ached for this boy the way a dying man aches for water in the desert.
The wind picked up, howling through the unsheltered channel. It prickled every inch of Myah’s skin, blasting through her damp clothes. A chill raced up her spine when the gust died.
It was not the wind marking her end, but the cries of the wolves.
Myah would die to their song.
“I find you baffling.”
He laughed quietly. “I get that a lot.”
“If you don’t want to blackmail me, then what do you want?” she pushed.
He leaned forward as if to get a better look at her in the moonlight. “To test a theory.”
“And what is your conclusion?” She was curious now, much less afraid, although still untrusting.
Garrett’s breaths were becoming ragged. His blood, warm and hot and sticky, dripped down his chest. He could feel the moisture on his skin. He blocked a swing aiming for his head, and then took a knife to his left side. It was shallow, but his muscles knotted. He stumbled backward, lost his footing as he slipped in the snow, and went down hard on his side.
When he looked up, the man’s arms were raised over his head, the blade angled to drive it through Garrett’s chest. His breath caught.
Title: The Sword of Souls (The Last Valkyrie, #2)
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Orina Kafe
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Blurb: Raven Romero lost the Sword of Souls to Fen and his sister, giving up the search for the only weapon that could kill Odin.
Instead, she teamed up with human detective William Callahan to find the drug lord responsible for Venomâa narcotic leaving dead humans and supernaturals in its wake. But priorities change when a greater evil threatens Midgard and the only way to defeat it is with the sword.
Being the humansâ champion isnât easy, especially during withdrawal while trying to stay sober. And Raven is struggling with both.
Enemies become friends and new enemies emerge as the hunt begins for The Sword of Souls.
Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy author of the Sins of the Fallen series and the Mackenzie Grey novels. Infatuated with travel, pop culture, and the need to write everything down, she spends much of her days in front of a computer working on her next book, shopping online, and listening to music. With nomadic tendencies, she is currently resting her head in South Florida until the itch to move strikes again. You can usually catch her on Facebook, Instagram and live-tweeting during episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Orphan Black. Follow her on social media!
Title: Chaos Reigns
Author: G. S. Scott
Genre: Epic Fantasy (with Romantic Elements & LGBTQ Characters)
Cover Designer: Colleen Nye
Editor: Genevieve Scholl
Publisher: True Tree Press
Publication Date: May 21st, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Reviews & PR
For 500 years, the God of Chaos has ruled in a torturous reign of brutality. Now, desperate gods and goddesses are seeking an end to his dominion. To counter them, Chaos calls for the Cleansing: the sacrifice of all children under two.
Ellis escapes the Cleansing through intuition and prophetic dreams. Visions drag him north toward an ethereal tower, deep in The Lands of the Dead. His life is saved by Dirge, a swordsman with a haunted past who thinks Ellis was born to end the reign of Chaos. Ellis grows to head a troupe of traveling entertainers. His only true friend is Daylin, a young woman and former priestâs slave who talks with wolves. Always on the move, they stay steps ahead of the fire-wielding priest who killed Ellisâ parents.
To the north, villagers discover Betal at the forestâs edge. Sensing Betalâs immense power, a local paladin excludes Betal from the Cleansing and declares him The Hand of God. As Betal falls into a roll as an acolyte to Chaos, strange dreams of wolves haunt him. His only friend is a fellow acolyte, Mangin, a beguiling young woman who delights in twisting the minds of others. The pair set out to Citadel, where they will become full-fledged priests, if they can escape a murderous beast and assassins who stalk the path.
When the two groups meet, intrigue, love, and sex intertwine them. Can they trust one another when the old gods challenge Chaos using mortals as pawns? Even fools know to trust Chaos is to invite death.
G. S. Scott is the author of CLEANSED, and SORROWâS HEART, from the series THE CHRONICLES OF THE TRUE TREE.
Mr. Scott spent his youth, sitting in a basement playing tabletop role-playing games. It got his creative juices flowing. Characters of all types banged around in his head, demanding to be let loose into the world. And he obliged them.
G. S. Scott is active in local writing groups and is an avid gamer, with the Fallout series topping the list. He enjoys local theater with his playwright wife, Sarah. He knew she was the one when she quoted Monty Python on their third date.
G. S. Scott can be found at http://www.g-s-scott.com
Heartless squatted on the edge of his golden throne, his eye color changing wildly. A snarl played on his lips as he reveled in the power flowing from the Lord of Chaos through the bejeweled, multihued crown, entangled within his long black hair. At the foot of his dais lay the bubbling pool that used to be his heraldâthe man had the poor luck to bring him the spy. Heartless didnât dare kill his eyes and ears within the Council of Taneer so he took his rage out on the herald.
A voice whispered in the back of his head.
He glanced at the spot where the spyâs gateway closed when the man left, the lingering scent of burnt ozone still in the air. âWhat were you holding back?â he asked, his voice echoing in the vast, dust-choked chamber. The light from mangled, crystal chandeliers and rush torches, along with the sparse rays peaking in through boarded windows left the castle in perpetual dim, earning it the name, the Black Keep.
Heartless clenched his fists, the knuckles whitening. It didnât matter what the spy withheld, the news he brought was bad enough. His face twisted. âGabriel thinks he can take what is mine? The gall! I won their damned Game. EdisâChaos himselfâchose me, and I won. The world is mine. And now the Arbiter expects me to step down over some time limit? A time limit?â Heartless hurled his golden scepter across the room, the crystal top shattering on the rippled, uneven marble floor. Taking a deep breath, he chuckled. âA Rebirthing? Why would Gabriel do such a thing? Why be a mortal when heâs already a god?â
Taken by the Phantom
I appraise the Phantom of the Opera in shadow and light. For an eternity, he says nothing. Neither do I. There is no barrier between us, yet I can’t make myself move. I’m porcelain shot through with fissures—if he touches me I’ll shatter.
What if I want to?
Finally, he speaks. “Prima Donna.”
I stare at him. His one visible eye is dark, almost black. Set in his white face, against the pale of his mask, it is stark. Of course he is rendered in extremes. For the first time since our encounter here, he is less clothed than I am. He wears a white dress shirt, loose and open. He has a lovely body, finer even than it felt when pressed against mine. He’s more muscular than his tailored suits and sweeping cloaks would lead one to believe, with a sculpted chest, clear lines chiseled across his abdomen.
It’s then that I realize he is also young, probably only a few years older than me. If he were from my world, he might still be a student. He might go to Juilliard; an upperclassman who might tutor me or play me opposite in a musical.
Of course, in my world he probably wouldn’t wear a mask or live beneath an opera house.
He wouldn’t kill.
“I am not the Prima Donna,” I finally answer. My voice trembles, and I kick myself internally for showing even one crack in my facade. Still, neither of us have moved. I can see the hard plane of his stomach ripple when he breathes; his jaw is set, and a muscle ticks there. His hands are closed into tight fists. But he doesn’t move.
“Not yet.” At last: a step. I force myself not to retreat. “But after I am through with you…”
Through with me? Heat licks up the back of my neck. I’m grateful for the darkness. What would he make of me blushing? What do I make of me blushing? “Through with me?”
Another step. He’s framed in the doorway: a beautiful, horrifying portrait. Oils and lust and treachery all painted in broad strokes. “With my teaching.”
I bark out a laugh. “You’re not serious.”
He takes another step. We are toe to toe, and it takes everything in me not to run screaming through the Hall of Mirrors. I’m such an idiot. What was I thinking, coming down here? Staying when Charlotte left? Singing for him?
The Phantom looks down his nose at me, lips parted. “Deadly so.”
I snort. Narrow my eyes. “Oh,” I say, “so you’re funny now?”
“I have always been in possession of quite a sense of humor, Krissy Davis.”
“Even while you killed them?”
He cocks his head, eyes flaring. I’ve pissed him off. Good.
He lifts his hand, no longer gloved, but bare and plain as any man’s. Not monstrous at all. My knees shake, and I hope he doesn’t see. He touches his fingers to my jaw, tender as he might a kitten’s belly.
“Especially,” he murmurs, his eyes on my mouth, “while I killed them.”
Title: Seeing Angels
Author: Harmony Lawson
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Publication Date: April 19, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Harmony Lawson and her family live in Northern California in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is a self-published author and self-taught in drawing, painting, and writing. She is fascinated by angels, Nephilim, and fallen angels. She incorporates her research into her fictional stories.
While she has endured many hardships in life, she believes she learns something new from her experiences. Life has its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and Heaven and Hell. She believes the bad times are a test to prove a person's worth. Her books reflect on that concept. Writing also helps her heal from past traumas. In the meantime, she cares for her family, loves her pugs, and remains silly through all that life throws at her. Her goal is to be an introverted hobbit.
Author Links: Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HDwBWS
I give him a quick peck on the cheek and open the car door. âSee you tomorrow,â I say. He can relax and go home.
âIâll pick you up.â His touch is soft and electrifying, making my core shiver and pulse race. Iâm halfway out of the car when he reaches out to grasp my hand and I stop to gaze at him. His eyes are so full of emotion and heâs struggling with something internal. When our eyes connect, I move closer to him and touch the side of his face. He closes his eyes and I lean in to brush my lips against his.
His eyes flash open when I pull away. Illuminated passion flares in his eyes, making his hazel tone brighter. His hand rubs the side of my right shoulder as he turns to face me. My left arm goes around his neck as he pulls me in. His chest is hard against mine as our lips dance in a heated kiss that has the promise of forever etched within. I want my soul to melt with his. My breath mingles with his and my pulse is high. Then the kiss slows and we both know this needs to slow down.
âHave a good evening. Again, happy birthday. Thanks for inviting me.â He rests his forehead against mine as our breathing is fast like we ran a mile.
âYouâre welcome and thank you.â Our hands gently pull apart as I climb out of the car and watch as he drives away.
“You wished to speak with me, child?” he asked. Only the fact that he was older than her grandfather kept her from being annoyed by the endearment.
“Yes,” she replied, bowing her head. “I want to know how to get to Annwn. The tales say there’s an entrance somewhere nearby.”
He blinked and sat up straighter. “What business does a young lady have in the land of the dead?”
“Someone I love arrived there recently, and I’m going to get him back,” Nia said, clenching her fists.
The Archdruid sighed. “It hurts to lose a loved one, I know, but it is not for us mortals to interfere in the natural cycle of life and death. The gods have a purpose beyond our comprehension.”
“There was no purpose to Celyn’s death!” Nia exclaimed. A hush fell over the hall, and her face flooded with heat, but she soldiered on. “If the gods have an issue with my plans, then surely they can stop me without your help. All I ask is knowledge. Will you deny me?”
He frowned, and she wondered if maybe she had taken things too far. But then, he nodded thoughtfully. “I will take an omen. If the gods do not wish you to undertake this journey, they will tell us so.” It felt like just a more roundabout way of refusing, but Nia sensed this was the best chance she was going to get, so she nodded.
Nia was led into the chamber behind the main hall, a room dominated by a colossal round hearth sunk into the floor. The Archdruid gestured for her to sit on one of the cushions around the edge of the room. Once she was settled, he tossed a bunch of herbs onto the fire. Fragrant smoke tickled the back of her throat. The shadows leapt and danced in a way that made her shiver with unease.
“This will help us to see more clearly,” he said, seating himself beside her and picking up a pouch that rattled like raindrops on a hollow log. “Close your eyes, and when I speak the words, I want you to tell me what images come into your mind.”
Nia did as he said, though she was beginning to feel anxious. It was well known that druids practiced magic, and though it was fun to hear about magic in tales Nia never thought she’d be participating in it. There’s probably a lot more magic in Annwn, she thought before turning her attention back to the Archdruid. The hollow sounds from the pouch seemed unnaturally loud.
“Journey,” said the voice of the Archdruid, and the images swimming behind her eyes reformed, becoming rain lashing her face while the sounds of wind and water roared in her ears.
“I see… a storm, on the ocean I think,” she said, shivering. Though her family had not been sailors, she knew a storm at sea could be deadly.
“Good.” More rattling. “What about choice?”
Again, visions flickered rapidly before her. “I see… a cauldron, and then… animals? A raven, a fox, others? I’m not sure.”
“That’s fine. One more… what does your heart say about fate?”
At the word, Nia felt like she was swallowed by darkness. In the distance she saw something shining. A thread, golden-white in color, fragile and all alone out in the void. Four new threads appeared. One was a violet so dark it was nearly black, one bright red, one cool blue, and one brilliant green. These threads wove around the original thread, and as a weaver, Nia knew that they were much stronger together. This vividly colored thread spooled upward into a tapestry. It was so intricate and beautiful that she couldn’t form words to describe it. When the vision disappeared the loss felt like a blow. She relayed everything to the Archdruid in a shaking voice.
“Hmmm,” he hummed for a moment. “You can open your eyes now. I am ready to give my judgment, if you are still willing to hear it.”
His words didn’t bode well for Nia in her estimation, but she was determined to see this through. She sat up straight, set her jaw in a fierce line, and nodded.
The Archdruid sighed. “This omen tells me that this journey is important for you, and perhaps for others. You will not, I think, find what seek, but you will find your destiny. Are you certain you wish to enter Annwn?”
Elise De Jong/Sami Ali Book 1
Published: May 2018
Imagine a world where modern governments failed their citizens and long-simmering conflicts escalated into global war. Imagine if its survivors migrated toward those who share the same faith. Imagine the continents are ruled by religions.
When the mysterious death of a teenage girl triggers memories of a similar childhood event, police Detective Sami Ali becomes consumed with solving her murder. Persecuted by the shame of his past, Ali will stop at nothing to find the killer, even if his investigation puts his wife and daughter at risk.
As he follows the clues, Ali collides with another lost soul - a foreign spy. Elise De Jong's official mission in Eurabia involves the acquisition of a priceless item that could shift the balance of power among the theocracies. But she also has a personal objective - to find her last living relative, the little sister whom she hasn't seen since her birth.
To succeed in their missions, Elise and Ali must find common ground despite their religious differences, for they can depend only on each other.
Major Sami Ali knew heâd been assigned the dhimmiâs murder because he was the worst detective on the Budapest police force. And he understood exactly what his boss expected him to do â use minimal departmental resources to conduct a basic investigation, find no evidence of religious cleansing, and bury the case.
Ali knew such a weak effort rendered him a fraud and he didnât care. Pride didnât pay his daughterâs tuition. His job was to follow orders and provide for his family. Also, his father had made him take an oath as a child to hate Christians and Jews for the rest of his life. He didnât give a damn about the dhimmis.
The body had been found at the Matthias Catholic Church, one of only three remaining Christian churches in the section of the city known as Dhimmi Town. Gothic spires decorated with gargoyles towered above a diamond-patterned roof, green and brown ceramic tiles glittering in the sun. Ismael, the crime scene technician, was kneeling beside the corpse near the altar when Ali arrived inside. His friend reminded Ali of a mongoose â unassuming at first glance, but pity the snake who dared to test his mettle.
âFirst comes Saturday,â Ismael said.
âThen comes Sunday,â Ali said.
The salutation had originated in the Middle East during the early twentieth century, long before the third world war, the collapse of governments and economies, and the migration of survivors toward people who shared the same faith.
First weâll take care of the Jews, who pray on Saturday, and then weâll take care of the Christians, who pray on Sunday.
The old prophecy had been fulfilled in Arabia. Then, after Muslims flooded Europe, Sharia law had been enacted throughout the continent. Only the dhimmis prevented the prophecy from being true in what was now known as Eurabia, too.
And now there were one fewer dhimmis.
Ali couldnât see the corpse. Ismael was hovering over it, blocking his view.
âWhat are we celebrating?â Ali said.
âDeath by strangulation,â Ismael said.
âWhat? No machete?â
âNo blood. He strangled her with his hands.â
âNo blood. Youâve got to be kidding â¦ Wait. Did you say her?â
âBruising on both sides of the neck but no actual prints. He must have worn gloves.â
âSigns of struggle?â Ali said.
âNone that I can see.â
Ismael stepped back to reveal a girlâs corpse, a lithe figure with hair the color of sun-drenched wheat. âLook, A. She canât be more than fourteen or fifteen.â
âIsh,â Ali said. The first syllable of his friendâs name was the only sound he could muster because the sight of the girl had taken him to the place he hoped to never revisit.
âWhat a waste,â Ismael said.
Aliâs childhood memories were secured in an impenetrable vault protected by imaginary barbed wire, steel walls, and padlocks. Whenever something or someone prodded the vault, its protective devices tightened. This time, however, its defenses disintegrated and the locks sprang open. Out streamed the vision he loathed so much it made him long for sudden death.
It was all in the past, Ali tried to tell himself, but no one could detect a lie more easily than a cop, even a lousy one. A similar-looking girl was lying before him. And she, too, was dead.
âThe eyes,â Ismael said. He reached over and lifted the dead girlâs eyelids. âYou see the eyes?â
They looked like aquamarine jewels.
Of course Ali had noticed the eyes, as surely as heâd noticed the girlâs oval face, alabaster skin, and golden locks. It wasnât their beauty that shocked Ali and Ismael, but rather their presence in their sockets, because the typical religious cleansing involved their removal. Lower your head â submit to Islam â lest your eyes be snatched.
Ismael nodded for Ali to come closer, then glanced in both directions to make sure the other two technicians taking pictures of the church interior couldnât hear him.
âShe wasnât killed here,â Ismael said. âShe was brought here after the fact.â
âHow can you be sure?â
Ismail lowered his voice further. âBecause there was a witness.â
Ali lost his breath. âA witness?â There were never any witnesses in Dhimmi Town, at least none brave or stupid enough to come forward.
âThe caretaker who called it in. He was here when the killer brought in the body. Point of entry, front door. Point of exit, front door.
âHe saw the killer?â
âHe was taken to headquarters to give his statement and for his own protection. But I donât think itâs his protection your boss will be worried about. Especially not with the world leaders in town for that conference. Think about it. The heads of all four kingdoms â the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and us â all in the same place. Canât have religious cleansing when the religions are trying to find a way to get along, can you?â
Ali heard the question and understood Ismaelâs point. His boss wanted the case buried quickly. But that mattered less to Ali than Ismaelâs previous implication, that the higher-ups would do everything necessary to make sure the witness was silenced. To Aliâs own amazement, something compelled him right there and then to do everything in his power to make sure the witness was heard.
But was he too late?
Ali told Ismael heâd be in touch and rushed out of the church. As he ran toward his car, the call to prayer sounded. It was the second such call of the day which meant it was just past noon. The sound of the Muezzinâs mellifluous voice always slowed Aliâs pulse, drained him of angst and sorrow, and lifted his spirits. The thought of not stopping whatever he was doing to contemplate the substance of his Islamic beliefs five times a day was unthinkable.
Yet thatâs exactly what he considered doing the moment the initial call sounded. The image of the dead girl from his youth gripped him so tightly that he wanted â no, he needed â to begin a thorough investigation of this girlâs murder immediately. One death bore no relation to the other. More than twenty-five years had past since the first girl had died. The victims merely resembled each other.
Ali realized this but it made no difference to him. To say that heâd failed the first girl was a gross understatement. He couldnât contemplate repeating the mistake. Did he even have the skills to solve a murder? Ali wasnât sure himself. The other cops called him the Dhimmi Lover precisely because he had no love for them. It was a joke well-known throughout the force. What would they say if the worst detective in Eurabia started acting like a real police? The Dhimmi Lover actually trying to solve the murder of a dhimmi? Theyâd all get a laugh out of that one.
When the second call came for prayer to begin, Ali didnât stop to face Mecca. Instead, he climbed in his car, hammered the gas pedal and raced toward the station. Never before had he thought of the streets of Dhimmi Town as his own. Who in his right mind would want them?
But they were his, he realized, whether he liked them or not, just as surely as he was among the few Muslims not prostrating themselves before Allah in the capital city of the central region of the Eurabian Caliphate.
Ali hoped like hell no one recognized him behind the wheel.
About the Author
Orest Stelmach is a mystery and thriller writer and the author of the Nadia Tesla series. His novels have been Kindle #1 bestsellers, optioned for film development, and translated into numerous foreign languages. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Orest was an institutional investment portfolio manager for twenty-five years. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
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