Snapshots Of A Stray Parade

 

The streets allowed a ghostly grey limousine to invade their labyrinth. The car swung wide around tight corners, slowing every time a pack of vibrant revelers crossed its path. Shiny tires crunched to a stop in a parking lot on the neighborhood’s edge.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Sorcha rapped on the smoked glass until it disappeared. “I said I missed the French Quarter, but actually being here makes me…”

“For years, not a soul on earth could pry you out of this district.” The blond man squinted at a handwritten note. “Ivori and Charmaine are waiting in the lobby.” 

“Feels lonely.” Sorcha gazed down the tapered alley at snapshots of a stray parade. “Or empty? Might just be me.”

“It’s positively hollow.” He tossed the crinkled paper to the only other person in the car. “I’ve deciphered that scribble correctly, Lock?”

“Indeed you have, sir.” Lock kicked the car door open and grabbed for Sorcha’s hand. “Leave that dreadful device here.”

“It’s brand new.” Sorcha pulled her phone away from Lock, just to have it plucked away again. “Seriously, Draven?”

Draven flung Sorcha’s phone to the farthest corner of the car. “Doesn’t the incessant, social connection exhaust you?”

“Nothing feels like the old days, except the weather.” Sorcha peeled off her sweater and glared into the dark limousine before tossing the garment. “But, what if?”

“Anyone you’re looking for…” Lock pulled her away. “Has no need for that.”

The trio crossed the gravel lot, rounded a saltwater pool and stopped in the middle of a checkerboard floor. They found two girls drumming their fingers on a mahogany desk. Disguised in the realm of the concierge, a hidden door admitted them to tunnels below the building.

“It’s a sauna down here.” Sorcha swept the hair off her neck and twisted it into a loose knot.

“When you mentioned an Equinox reunion, Ivori, I assumed you meant something spectacular.” Draven touched the muddy wall and cringed. “Or at least, uplifting.”

“Nights of grand balls and original dresses are history.” Ivori walked into the pitch black. “Y’all took your sweet time getting here.”

“We were in opposite corners of the earth.” Lock’s frown was unveiled when Charmaine struck a match and lit her torch.  “I was hoping for an enchanted courtyard.”

“Me.” Sorcha raised her hand. “The cathedral bell tower.”

“This will be better.” Ivori stopped so short, everyone crashed into her back. “None of your supernatural eyes saw the big door?”

Charmaine pulled chalk from her pocket and began to write. She waited for each letter to disappear before she scripted the next. When the jumble was finished, a steel barrier slid open. Ivori strutted past and snapped her fingers.

“Aren’t you coming with?” Sorcha tugged on Charmaine’s sleeve.

“I’m playing gatekeeper tonight.” Charmaine handed her the torch. “I need to be here when the spell is complete.”

“Just lovely.” Draven growled when Ivori disappeared into the maze of shadows.

“Let’s humor her.” Lock tucked dark hair behind his ear and urged them forward.

“Bar noise, coffee-shop racket.” Draven pointed to the corridor’s grimy ceiling. “Is that traffic?”

“We’re under Decatur Street,” Ivori said, “Clueless fool.”

“Your creepy friend has grown nastier over the years.”

“Draven, calling her my friend is a bit—” Sorcha howled and dropped to her knees.

“That would be the railroad tracks.” Ivori scampered back and yanked Sorcha to her feet. “Suck it up.”

Sorcha took a deep breath and slammed across the barrier. She turned back to see Lock and Draven stroll past the same spot, unaffected. “What the hell?”

“That steel is the boundary of your city, girl. Not theirs.” Ivori dragged her forward. “Now that we’re on the fringe, maybe we can send some messages.”

“Infernal drumming.” Sorcha clamped her hands over her ears.

“That, even I can hear.” Draven clenched his jaw. “Can we get to the bloody point before we all go deaf?”

“It’s the river,” Ivori said, “Just swallow to equalize the pressure—like in your private jet.”

 The tunnel flared into chamber with solid walls and a tile floor. Crude benches surrounded a round fire pit.

“This is unexpected.” Draven ran his fingers over glittering gems set at regular intervals in cut stone.

“Sit down, it’s nearly midnight. The currents are whispering.” Ivori loomed over the fire pit and emptied her deep pockets. She arranged an array of sachets, vials and boxes onto a low altar. “Sorcha, center bench.”

Draven whispered in Sorcha’s ear. “Creepy enough?”

Sorcha choked back a giggle and Lock smacked her shoulder.

Ivori glared at them until the room was dead still. She tipped her head side to side in the heavy air and motioned to Sorcha’s hair. “Take it down, glamour girl. That’s where all your power hides.”

 

To be continued…

Where The Power Hides

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YALit Giveaway Blitz!

XPRESSO Book Tours is throwing a magnificent #YALit Giveaway Party!

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Here’s an excerpt from just one of the featured authors…

 

Curse of the Sphinx

Exclusive Excerpt

By Raye Wagner

 

The box slipped from her hands, the contents spilling on the asphalt. The sleeve of her mom’s sweater landed in the gutter, the splash of red contrasting with the darkness around her.

Even before Hope turned to the car, the fermented stink of alcohol wafted on the breeze. Two men, just more than shadows, came from the left, their drunken gait slow as they ambled toward her car. Even if she ran, she couldn’t get in the car before they reached her. Sucking in a deep breath, she turned to face her fate. Adrenaline washed through her, and her muscles tensed. The sound of her heartbeat pounded in her ears, and pages of a book rustled in the wind.

One of the men sucked in a sharp breath, and Hope tried to measure her risk.

The shorter man leered, and his brown eyes bespoke his mortality, and his smirk promised pain. In his fist, he clenched the handle of something. A hammer? No, a wrench.

The taller man’s gait was steady, and something about his features was . . . off. Wrong. Washed out. And . . . his eyes! Two solid orbs of pitch.

Skia.

She swallowed back fear as it clawed up her throat. Hope grabbed for the golden dagger in her back pocket but came up empty. In another second, they would be in striking distance.

The human raised his arm, and instinctively, she moved. Stepping to the left, she hooked his wrist as he moved to strike, rotated her grip, and lunged behind him. She brought his arm with her, applying torque until she heard the snap. Before he had time to register the pain, she kicked his knees with the heel of her foot, buckling him to the ground. Not even a second later, he screamed. He dropped the wrench and clutched his shoulder.

She spun to face the other attacker and dropped back into a defensive stance, her arms up in a guard position. The Skia chuckled, a ghostly wheezing sound. They circled each other twice, and Hope struck. She jabbed twice, measuring his ability. Fast and hard. He knew how to fight.

“You are not as you seem,” he rasped.

He reached as if to grab her, and she swung her left leg up in a crescent kick, clearing his arms. Before she brought the leg completely down, she shifted her stance and kicked him in the ribs. Sliding close, she delivered a hook punch where his liver would be, as if the dead still had their organs.

He bent over, exposing his left side, and she slammed her elbow into his jaw. The Skia crumpled to the ground.

Her legs trembled, and it felt like she was running through water, her movements lethargic and contorted. The man wrapped his warm hand around her forearm, and she stumbled.

Panicked, she lashed out with the heel of her palm, bringing her right hand back at the same time as she struck with her left. Over and over and over again. Using every ounce of force, she struck. Bones crunched and warm wetness covered her hands. Only when the man released her arm did she stop.

Hope looked around for the Skia.

The tall figure leaned against the wall of the alley, the shadows lapping at his feet, the weight of his gaze fixed on her.

She shifted back into a defensive stance, waiting for him to attack.

“Interesting.” He tipped his head. “Little monster . . .” He stepped into the shadow and disappeared.

 

Purchase Link (or read for free on Kindle Unlimited): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013PD4U5O/

 

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