HER DRAGON'S FURY - Sneak Peek
Hey Lovelies! How the heck are y'all doin'? I sure hope you're having a SUPER weekend! Ready for a SURPRISE? Ya' are? YAY!!!
'Cause I was thinkin' I needed to give a little first-hand look at Her Dragon's Fury - Coming TUESDAY, 10/10/17 - Just TWO days from TODAY!
Grab your kindle, sit back and put your feet - this one's one helluva ride!
“Come on, Pip. We really need ya’ on this one.” “No, Shep. I just can’t, not after…” Pippa shook her head and took a deep breath, trying to fend off the demons of her last case, the one that nearly cost her the little bit of sanity she had left. “But…” “But nothing!” She screamed, spinning around so quickly the room was but a blur. Closing the distance between them in three steps, she snarled through gritted teeth, “Stop!” Punctuating every word with a poke to Shep’s chest, she went on, “I. Can’t. Do. It.” Adding another, stronger poke to the hard-muscled chest of the six-foot-two, gray-at-the-temples, fifty-something Head Sheriff for Mule Pass County, Texas, Pippa stood tall and hissed, “Better yet, I won’t do it.” Stepping back, he pleaded, at least Shep’s version of pleading, which included messing with the brim of his county-issued, beige Stetson and resting his hand on his thick, dark-brown leather gun belt while he looked at her with hound dog eyes. “But you’re the best damn PI I’ve ever seen. That’s the reason I got the Commissioner to hire you on as my Consulting Detective.” He raised his hand, waving a manila folder in her face. “This woman’s been gone almost a month, and the Feds just now came to me for help.” Staring into Shep’s, more properly known as Sheriff Shepherd Bartholin’s, dark green eyes, Pippa refused to budge. It was a Mexican Standoff between two stubborn-as-hell people, and she was sure as shootin’ gonna win. Several long seconds later, certain her point was made, Pippa walked back to the table, turned to her open duffel bag, and continued stuffing it with enough clothes for at least a month. Listening to the heels of Shep’s scuffed, brown cowboy boots striking her wooden floors as he paced the length of her living room, Pippa took long, deep cleansing breaths, trying to control her temper. It wasn’t that she didn’t love the old coot. God knew he was the closest thing to a father she’d ever had, even if he had picked her up from shoplifting when she was thirteen. It was the fact that they’d just laid Jason to rest. She needed a break, needed to escape, needed to be anywhere but where she was, thinking about what and who she’d lost. Smiling, despite her frustration, images of the day Shep, a rookie at the time, had grabbed the collar of her ratty, old, navy-blue windbreaker and dragged her kicking and screaming back into Woolworth’s filled her mind. The heavenly scent of ice cream sundaes and chocolate malts from the old-fashioned soda counter filled her senses just as it had twelve years ago. Closing her eyes, Pippa could hear the man who had become her mentor grumble a whisper as he scolded, “You know better, Pippa Marie. Sister Mary Margaret is gonna be very upset with you.” “I don’t care,” the smart-mouthed teenager spat, hiding her fear with a great big dose of attitude. Truth was, she did care, and worse than that felt really bad for what she’d done. Hated the fact that she’d let the nun down…again. Pulling on her jacket so hard that she stumbled and fell back against his stomach, the large silver buckle of his belt digging into the small of her back, Shep warned, “You better watch that back-talkin’, little missy.” Unable to sass back before the cop marched her straight into Mr. Wiggins’ office, Pippa rolled her eyes and refused to look at the department store manager as Shep ordered, “Sit down and keep your mouth shut.” Turning her head and opening her mouth, ready to fire the witty retort dancing on the tip of her tongue, the tall, thin, red-headed teen with freckles covering her nose and cheeks, snapped her lips shut as the deputy leaned down, looked her right in the eye and growled, “I said, sit down and be quiet.” Seeing the cop had reached the end of his rope, Pippa did as she was told, wondering if this was the time she’d finally find out what juvie was all about. Pushing the limits and testing her boundaries – rushes of adrenalin - had been the only way to escape the visions haunting her every thought for as long as she could remember. No matter what she touched, where she was or who she talked to, pictures of their past, their emotions, even their pain and their joy, filled her brain near to bursting. She was forced to walk in their shoes, feel their feelings and relive their every action whether she wanted to or not. It was absolutely maddening, along with infuriating, exasperating and not to mention, made human interaction damn near impossible. And now she’d gone and done it, pushed her luck once too often. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to lose the only person who ever believed in her and the only place that felt like home. Mother Superior Mary Margaret McCarthy, the Head Mistress of St Frances of Assisi Home for Girls, was the one person in all the world who saw a human being when she looked at Pippa, not a check from the state, a way to get free food or as a babysitter for a bunch of bratty young’uns. The nun recognized a girl who had only known pain and disappointment, but who was still worthy of love and respect. It hadn’t been love at first sight for either of them, but after a time, the two strong-willed women made peace and two years after arriving on St Frances’ doorstep, Pippa trusted Sister Mary Margaret enough to tell the older woman her secret. Pip had been in the garden, pulling weeds when the Mother Superior stopped by on her way to morning prayer. It all come rolling out in a bundle of sobs and tears when the nun simply asked, “How are you today, Pippa Marie?” To her utter surprise, the nun hadn’t told Pippa that she was crazy or making up lies for attention like one of her foster mothers had. Instead, the Mother Superior saw the young girl’s ability as a gift, one that should be used for the good of the Lord. Sister Mary Margaret said Pippa had a light in her soul that had come from God, one that made her special, and in no way a freak. The nun tried to help the young girl. She taught her to channel the overwhelming overload of images and emotions that Pippa experienced on a daily basis through meditation and prayers. And, for a while, it actually worked. But just like a band-aid, it had worn off, lost its sticky and frayed at the edges. Before long, Pippa reverted to her old ways. Sitting in a dark room, with candles all around her, whispering her prayers, flew straight out the window and was quickly replaced by the hunt for excitement and thrills, anything to fill her mind so full that the stupid visions couldn’t get in. Problem was, this time she’d been caught. “Are you listenin’ to me, Pippa Marie?” The sheriff deputy’s gruff question pulled the little girl from her daydreams all those years ago… just as his bark of, “Dammit, Pip, talk to me!” Did in the present. Not to mention, he growled, “What the hell is this?” Looking over her shoulder, Pippa shrugged when she saw Shep pointing at the map of the United States she’d hung on the wall. “Practicing darts?” He asked as she watched his index finger run along the edge of the fake-feather flight out of the corner of her eye. “Yeah, something like that,” Pippa mumbled under her breath, ignoring the knowing look in the Sherriff’s eye as he came closer, throwing the manila file folder he’d earlier shook in her face onto the table beside her bag. Leaning on the back of the chair closest to him, Shep’s head fell forward as he sighed, “Look, I know what happened is hard. Hell, Butch and Kenny were two
of my oldest friends and Jason was a damn fine private investigator, unfortunately, this is all part of the job.” When he lifted his head, Pippa was shocked to see his unshed tears and hear the crack in his voice as he went on, “But when that call came across the radio, I swear…” Pausing, the strongest man Pippa had ever known cleared his throat and as a single tear rolled down his cheek, he admitted, “I nearly drove off the road ‘cause I thought you were the one who was dead.” The silence caused by that one admission was deafening. The tension palpable. Sweat slid down her spine and wet her palms. Under the guise of wiping her hand on her jeans, Pippa slid her fingers into her pocket and wrapped them around the black handled Kershaw pocket knife, the only thing she had left of her best friend and partner, Jason. Memories, his memories, raced through her mind like a runaway train. One right after another, flashing and flipping, going forward and then backward until they finally fell into sequence, playing like a video she’d recorded on her cell phone. No longer was she in her house on Wurzburg Drive, but instead Pippa was transported back in time, experiencing the whole horrible ordeal through the eyes of her partner. She saw the north side of the empty warehouse. Could feel the cold steel of the grip of his Sig Sauer against her palm. Felt her muscles tightening, ready to fight to save an innocent child. A picture of Joey, the six-year-old who’d been taken from his front yard by some scumbag looking for a million dollars, was in her head in that moment, just as it had in the ex-marine’s ten days earlier. The whisper of the thick rubber soles of his combat boots against the steel stairs leading to the top floor echoed through her mind. She saw Butch and Kenny over Jason’s shoulder. Sensed their need to save the boy and capture the kidnapper. Tension was running high. The three men responsible for the takedown, as they called it, were chomping at the bit to put another baddie behind bars. Reaching the top step, ten paces from the only door on that level, suddenly everything switched to slow motion. She was standing in front of the entrance, slightly to the right. Her lips moved, just as Jason’s had when he mouthed, “Three…Two…One.” Vibrations shot up her leg and into her hip just as Jason kicked the wooden door off its hinges and shouted, “Hands on your head. Back away from the child.” She saw the fear in Joey’s eyes, his tear-stained cheeks and the dirty, gray duct tape covering his mouth. Her eyes snapped to the kidnapper’s. Icy nails of dread slid down her spine at the look of laughter in his cold, dead stare. She took in his long dark hair and the bulk of his shoulders. The bastard was evil incarnate, absolutely no doubt about it. He was getting off on scaring a defenseless little boy, even had the nerve to smirk as he snickered, “I give up. Do you?” A single snap of his calloused fingers echoed through the room, and that’s where the vision ended… Because Jason was dead. Pulling her hand from her pocket, Pippa zipped her duffle bag, placed it in the foyer by the front door and returned to the table. Glancing at Shep, working hard to control her temper and her tears, she looked him right in the eye and in a matter-of-fact tone stated, “I’m going to Serenity, IL.” Grabbing her purse and small carryall, she marched to the door, calling over her shoulder, “Don’t call. I won’t answer.” Out of the house, straight to her Jeep Cherokee, Pippa threw her bags in the back, jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, whispering, “It’s now or never, Pippa girl,” to herself. Rolling down the passenger’s side window, she looked out and added, “See ya’ when I see ya’, Shep,” before pulling away from the curb and heading out of town. Passing the ‘You Are Now Leaving Mule Pass. Come Back and See Us Sometime’ sign, Pippa let out the breath she hadn’t known she was holding, turned on the radio and as Danielle Peck belted out the words to ‘Finding a Good Man’, the private investigator chuckled, “How about any man?” Then laughing out loud, she added, “And a beer and a shot of Tequila, in no specific order.” Chapter Two
The everyday sounds of life assaulted his finely tuned senses. Children playing a game of hide-and-seek. The tell-tale clink and clang of his brethren’s blades as they trained for battle. The sigh of two lovers, their lips touching for that all-important, life-affirming first kiss of the day. Everything mushed and mashed together in a cacophony of dissonance and chaos that fed every single one of his demons from the past. Sharp, stabbing pain, like red hot pokers, pierced the backs of his eyes. The muscles across his shoulders and down his back bunched tight, preparing for the unseen adversary he knew was lurking in the shadows, waiting for its chance to attack. Pounding, like the drums of an ancient civilization, images of everyone’s future beat a staccato rhythm against his consciousness, trying to gain entrance, attempting to drag him down the rabbit hole of insanity. His dragon roared, charging the confines of the Guardsman’s mind, seeking escape from the misery that compounded with each step. Sliding the black, mirrored glasses over his eyes, hiding from the blinding rays of the sun as it rose over the mountain pass, he sighed at the immediate relief and thanked the Celtic Goddess of the Moon, Cerridwen for her gift. Pulling from the magic of his still-growling dragon, Fury reinforced his mental blocks, steeling himself for the onslaught of inevitable agony as he approached the Lair of the Blue Dragons. “Had it not been for these blasted visions and haunting dreams,” his low grumble filled the silent forest. “I would still be tucked away on my mountain.” His anger was all a smokescreen, an act he used to fool not only his brethren but also himself. Fury longed for the comradery of his kin. His soul, the part of him intertwined with the spirit of Amarock – one of the original Dragon Kings - yearned to commune with his ancestors and give thanks in the Cave of the Ancients. Dragons were designed by the Universe to be Her ultimate warriors, drawing power from one another in order to fight the evil threatening Her greatest creation, the Earth and its inhabitants. They were not meant to live alone. Had it not been for the visions of the futures of everyone and everything he encountered feeding on his emotions, threatening everything he held dear, he wouldn’t have been forced to abandon his Clan and retreat to a life of solitude. Estranged from the world, living the life of a hermit had been the necessary evil. There hadn’t been a moment while he lived among his kin, not even when he was asleep, that his brethren’s ever-evolving futures hadn’t been flashing through his mind. It was like watching a movie made with time lapse photography, each vision changing with every decision, thought and action his brethren made. Dazed and confused was how Fury spent every moment of every day, no matter how strong his mental shields were. Focusing on the path appearing before him as the magic that kept the Lair of the Blue Dragons hidden from the world evaporated in his presence, Fury stopped, his chin falling heavily to his chest. Letting out the breath he’d been holding since his first glance of the large, iron gates of his home, the Guardsman pushed pure, powerful, white dragon magic into his mental shields. “Thank ye for the strength, old friend,” he spoke directly to his dragon. Fury knew many of the younger Guardsman had abandoned the practice of talking to their beasts, but not the one they all called ‘the Seer’. He believed in the unfettered communion of man and dragon. Stepping onto the path, slowly approaching the gate, pleased that the blocks in his mind was holding steady, Fury wasn’t surprised to hear the voice of one of his oldest brethren, Kayne, as he called out, “What brings you into the land of the living, old man?” One of the elite Enforcers, a golden dragon, the son of Lugh, the Celtic God of the Sun, and recently returned from a century in Hell trapped in the body of a hellhound, Kayne was one of two of Fury’s brethren he had spoken to while safe and secure on his mountain. It had been a blessing from the Universe the day the demi-god’s voice had broken though the older Guardsman’s meditation, announcing he was one again topside. “I need to speak to ye and Maddox. Where can we meet?” “Well, hello to you, too,” Kayne chuckled. It always amazed Fury how quickly the demi-god picked up the slang of the day, no matter when or where they were. Never one for social graces, and even less after all his years as a hermit, the Seer simply waited for his friend to respond as he strode into the rear entrance of the Lair, turned to the right and blended into the well-maintained foliage along the perimeter of the dragons’ land. “Okay, I can see nothing’s changed with you, ya’ old sod. You’re still the epitome of decorum and friendliness,” Kayne laughed. His positive attitude and ability to see the good in everyone and everything was one of the many reasons Fury considered him a true brother, someone with whom he liked to be around despite the visions. He’d always considered the pros to outweigh the cons where the demi-god was concerned. “We can meet at the mad dragon’s house. His mate and her sister are at the Clinic, taking care of Grey’s brother, Garrett, so there’ll be the privacy I’m sure you need.” The corner of Fury’s mouth curved at the mention of Maddox’s nickname. There had been a time, not so long ago, when the old, blue dragon also inhabited a mountain of his own. Burrowing deep into a cave, scouring through every volume of their kin’s long, illustrious history, and speaking in riddles, the mad dragon was renowned from growling at any who dared to approach him. But, as the enemies of the Dragon Guard became more active, Maddox returned to civilization to assist in the fight and was rewarded with a mate. “I’ve spoken to Calysta,” Fury mentioned. “Her power is considerable, and she seems the perfect match for our Maddox.” He moved closer into the shadows before asking, “How is Garrett? I understand he has still not awakened. Any changes?” “Not a damn thing. If it weren’t for Grey’s mate, I think the young’un would be laying right beside his brother. That Star is one strong wolf. I thank the Heavens Grey has her.” “I am sure ye are right,” Fury agreed, pushing the vision of the fiery redhead with a smart mind and curvy figure he longed to explore to the back of his mind. It wouldn’t do for his all-too-perceptive brethren to pick up on the Seer’s thoughts and learn of his mate. Just the thought of the woman who was the other half, the light, of his soul, cleared his mind and lightened his heart. “Since you’re so close to Maddox’s, I’ll meet you there,” the demi-god’s comment broke the spell, cutting through the thoughts of the one Fury knew the Universe had made for him, but, he wasn’t angry, for she was always there, a beacon amidst the darkness. Walking up to Maddox’s house from the rear, the heel of Fury’s left boot had just touched the varnished white ash planks of the porch when Kayne appeared at his side. Dropping his foot back to the ground, Fury prepared himself for the vision he knew would come as he took the demi-god’s outstretched hand, and allowed himself to be pulled into a hug. “Damn, it’s good to see you, Brother.” Leaning back, his face bright with a smile of true brotherly love, Kayne laughingly added, “You’re a sight for sore eyes, even if there are a few more gray hairs in that goatee and at your temples than the last time I saw you.” Trying some out-of-character humor, Fury smiled, “Not all of us can have locks of gold woven by the gods.” Howling with laughter, Kayne slapped the Seer on the back. “A joke! You’ve just made my whole damn week, Fury.” Stepping onto the porch in unison with the demi-god, Fury’s gaze darted to the right a half a second before the large wooden door swung open and his tall, burly brethren burst onto the scene. With permanently mussed hair and an air of danger about him, Maddox bellowed, “Son of a bitch! I think I might have to sit down. Fury’s come down from the mountain.” Stepping forward, the mad dragon pulled the Seer into a hug, slapped his back and chuckled, “It’s damn good to see you, Brother.” Stepping back, feeling oddly calm, the images of each man’s future staying at bay, Fury nodded, smiling as best he could. “It is good to see ye, too.” Taking a longer, deeper look at his brethren, he continued with a raise of his eyebrows, “Ye look happy. I’d heard it in yer voice when we spoke, but now I can see it.” Then trying another joke, he added, “Maybe we should call ye the happy dragon instead of the mad one.” For a full beat of his heart, there was absolute silence. Fury was sure he’d made a mistake, insulted instead of teased those he loved like family, but was immediately reassured as both his brethren burst out laughing, commenting on his newfound ability to crack a joke. “What makes it even funnier is that you keep a completely straight face,” Kayne commented with a gasp while still laughing so hard his eyes watered. Maddox slapped his hand on his thigh, his cheeks red with amusement. “I think that’s only the second time in all the years I’ve known you that you’ve actually cracked a joke, and let’s not forget that the first time you made us all laugh. I’ll never forget the look on your face and the way you kept askin’ ‘What have I done? What have I done?’. I laughed til I cried.” Chuckling along with his friends, trying to polish his rusty social graces before meeting his mate, Fury waited until the frivolity died down and as his brethren were taking a seat in the wooden, high-backed rocking chairs on Maddox’s front porch before in a rather matter-of-fact tone he stated, “I’m taking a trip to the States and need someone to keep an eye on the house.” “House?” The demi-god teased. “You mean your castle?” At the same time that Maddox blurted, “You stay hidden for decades, and your first trip back into civilization leads you to the States?” “No, I mean the house,” Fury corrected Kayne, just as he always corrected the few who’d dared to visit him when they commented on the size of his home. Yes, it was big. Yes, it was spacious. Building it had helped Fury with his control and concentration. It taught him the power of working with his hands and kept him sane after the visions of the future that had driven him into seclusion. So, what if having a six-bedroom, six-bath, house with a great room, formal dining room, game room, office and a huge kitchen containing all the latest in culinary technology, along with a pool, hot tub, workout room and sauna was considered a mansion in what he called ‘the world below’. To the Seer, it was his house, and they would damn sure call it that when they were talking to him. Turning to Maddox and explaining as much as he ever explained anything to anyone, Fury simply said, “I have something I need to do.” Jumping to his feet, the demi-god happily offered, “Then I’ll go with you.” Motioning with a nod of his head to the right, he went on, “Doxie has to stay with the little woman. But since I’m still a free agent,” he beat on his chest like an ape. “I’m more than willing to hang out with you.” “No,” Fury flatly replied, then feeling the air sizzle with disappointment and confusion, quickly added, “This is something I have to do on me own,” in the calmest tone possible while using some of his dragon’s magic to blanket his brethren with a calming cool breeze. “Cut the magical mind games,” Maddox growled, getting to his feet and taking a hasty step forward. Fury could feel both his brethren using their unique mental connections to try and discover his plans. Expending even more of his dragon’s magic, Fury reinforced his shields and while trying to control his temper, reiterated through gritted teeth, “Please do not try to read my mind. Not only do I not want ye to, but please remember there are things in the depths of my consciousness that neither of ye want to experience.” The mad dragon’s brows furrowed as he shook his head and pulled back on his mental intrusion. “I knew there was something different about you, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.” “Yeah,” Kayne agreed, also retreating as he added, “I thought it was just the jokes, but it goes deeper.” He stepped closer. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you’re less stressed, almost calm…at least for you.” Never one to mince words or mislead anyone, especially his brethren, Fury divulged, “I have located my mate. She is on her way to Serenity, Illinois and is being hunted by a bloody demon.” He looked Maddox in the eye and when he was sure the mad dragon understood, did the same with Kayne, before adding, “I am goin’ to save her, and I am goin’ alone. I will call if I have need of yer help.”