Tuesday, July 26, 2016
A Red Plague Novella
Red Plague Series 4
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Mild Red Books
Date of Publication: July 26, 2016
Number of pages: 175
Word Count: 45,000
The red plague has devastated the human race, turning billions of people into zombies with red eyes and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
Seventeen-year-old Callie Crawford is used to fighting. She was an all-star wrestler in high school, and since 212R destroyed her world, she hasn’t stopped fighting. When her high school boyfriend Levi caught the virus, Callie saved him by keeping him chained in a rural North Carolina barn, waiting for something to change.
Before 212R, Roman Duran was a computer nerd, but since the virus, he’s become a guard in the survivor enclave in Washington, DC. After volunteering for a rescue mission, Roman has been belittled, robbed, and left for dead. He hasn’t saved a single person.
Until he stumbles across Callie. Because she has a zombie on a short leash, and Roman is carrying a syringe full of zombie cure.
Callie and Roman will face soulless survivors and rabid zombies on their journey to save a single infected. Along the way, Callie will have to choose between her past and a whole new future.
Roman Duran ran a step behind Jared and saw the moment the other man faltered on his wounded leg, careening into a chain link fence. Without missing a step, he ducked under Jared’s arm and forced him forward. The pack of infecteds was only two or, at the most, three blocks behind.
“Here,” Pollard Datsik, the third member of their trio, hissed, slipping around a block wall and sprinting up a set of exterior stairs to an apartment above a liquor store. Roman dragged Jared behind him.
While Roman helped Jared to a sagging sofa, Pollard shut the door with a quiet click and peered through the window, his breath a puff in the silence.
“Are they following?” Roman whispered. “Are they swarming the stairs?”
Pollard stretched his neck to see further, and then soft-stepped to the next window and stared at the street below.
“I’m fine,” Jared murmured unnecessarily. “I tripped. It won’t happen again.” He shoved Roman away. “I just need a couple minutes.”
Roman didn’t buy it. The injury in question was a jagged slash above Jared’s knee he’d earned climbing a fence the night before. Though they’d stopped running long enough to wrap it, Jared wasn’t as energetic as he’d been before the wound.
Separating from Jared, Roman peered through a broken windowpane, blinking away the exhaustion that had dogged him for the past couple of days. Without enjoyment, he chewed one of their last handfuls of goldfish crackers, the food dry and pasty in his mouth. Water was about to become a serious issue.
“I’m so thirsty,” he complained in a whisper. “And dirty.” What he wouldn’t do for a clean, clear stream of fresh water.
Roman glanced at his companions, noting their equally stained and stinking uniforms. Maybe volunteering to leave Washington, DC had been a crappy decision all around. Maybe the veep should have sent older, more experienced survivors on her search and rescue mission. Maybe his eighteen years on the earth weren’t enough for this kind of mission.
A pack of infecteds had caught their scent in Raleigh and hadn’t let go. Forty-eight hours without sleep or rest. Two days of running, of hiding, of trying to lose the predators. And now, they were out of food and water.
“What if we climb on the roof?” Roman whispered. “We could wait them out.”
Pollard took the bag of crackers from him and crammed a handful into his mouth.
“We’re out of water,” Jared reminded them. “What if they trap us for days? No.” He shook his head at the room’s closed door. “We could end up a lot worse than we are now. I say we keep running.”
“Forever?” Pollard scoffed. “There has to be a point where we say we can’t continue like this. A point where we circle around the pack and head home.”
Roman wouldn’t call Washington, DC home. But then he’d never called anywhere home. An orphan kicked into the system after his mother abandoned him, none of the dozen foster and group homes he’d lived in had ever been his home. And DC was no different. It was a way station to somewhere else, no matter whether he had an apartment or a job or a purpose. It still wasn’t home.
Roman had yet to find his real home.
Swallowing dry crackers, Roman double-checked the number of rounds for his M-16. When they’d left the safety of DC’s walls, they each carried forty rounds for their personal firearms. It had sounded like a lot at the time, but he was down to nineteen rounds. The other two men had less.
For an entire day, Jared had fired warning shots at their pursuers—a mistake, Roman realized now—but the only result had been bringing even more infecteds into the pack, as nearby stragglers were attracted by the noise.
His ears perking up, Roman rushed to the far window and scanned for movement. Was he crazy, or did he hear a car engine?
Roman had left DC wanting to help people, both infecteds and survivors. After running into people, one worse than the last, his companions were nearly to the point of abandoning the mission. But Roman hadn’t given up. Even though they hadn’t helped a single person.
Between two rooftops, he caught a glimpse of a fast-moving white Range Rover driving in a westerly direction. A part of him wanted to catch up to the driver, but another part of him, a starving and sleep deprived part, wanted the vehicle to pass them by and disappear.
The sound of the Range Rover’s engine quieted as it drove out of sight.
“Let’s try the distraction method again,” Roman suggested. The last time they’d thrown empty cans near the zombies, they’d been curious enough for Roman and the other two men to escape. “It worked before.”
Their rescue mission to Myrtle Beach could still be salvaged once they shook this pack. Unhindered by the starving horde of infecteds, the three men could scavenge for food and water, sleep safely in shifts, and cover ground at an easy pace. This running for their lives, though, couldn’t go on forever. Without water and more substantial food than goldfish crackers, he wasn’t going to survive much longer.
“I’ll open fire,” Pollard said, as if Roman hadn’t spoken, “and you two run for the cell tower at the end of the street. I’ll meet you there.”
“Good plan,” Jared said, “except you’re a horrible shot. I’ll do the shooting, thanks.” He stood, trying to hide a wince of pain and failing.
Pollard clenched his jaw at the insult. “Fine.” He grabbed Roman by the sleeve and dragged him toward the door.
“You sure about this?” Roman asked, still thinking his idea would work better than wasting more bullets and hoping to find each other under a tower.
“Just run fast,” Pollard said.
About the Author:
Anna Abner lived in a haunted house for three years and grew up talking to imaginary friends. In her professional life, she has been a Realtor, a childcare provider, and a teacher. Now, she writes edge-of-your-seat paranormal romances and blogs from her home in sunny Southern California about ghosts and magic. You can connect with her online at AnnaAbner.com.
Fiery Seas Publishing
December 6, 2016
Two worlds...one glass wall...no turning back.
The human race has been divided. The chosen few live in the safety of the domes, watching through their glass walls as those left on the outside suffer and die. But desperation has brought invention, and new drugs have given the outsiders the strength to roam the poisoned night unafraid – but it comes at a price.
Seventeen-year-old Nola Kent has spent her life in the domes, being trained to protect her little piece of the world that has been chosen to survive. The mission of the domes is to preserve the human race, not to help the sick and starving. But when outsider Kieran Wynne begs for Nola’s help in saving an innocent life, she is drawn into a world of darkness and danger. The suffering on the other side of the glass is beyond anything Nola had imagined, and turning her back on the outside world to return to the safety of the domes may be more than she can stand. Even when her home is threatened by the very people Nola wants to help.
About the Author:
Megan O’Russell is the author of the young adult fantasy series The Tethering, and Nuttycracker Sweet, a Christmas novella. Megan’s short stories can also be found in several anthologies, including Athena’s Daughters 2, featuring women in speculative fiction.
Megan is a professional performer who has spent time on stages across the country and is the lyrist for Second Chances: The Thrift Shop Musical, which received it’s world premiere in 2015. When not on stage or behind a computer, Megan can usually be found playing her ukulele or climbing a mountain with her fantastic husband.
About the Book:
Karma’s a bitch…and her name’s Cassie.
Working for Karma Incorporated might sound like the best job in the world, but there’s one really big catch: you’ve got to die to get it. Cassandra Mercier died at the ripe old age of twenty-one and is now gainfully employed by the Afterlife Corporation as a Karma operative. Her job duties include manifesting bad karma on unsuspecting victims.
Two months into her internship Cassie is promoted and given her first solo case. His name is Bishop and he is a cheat. He needs some bad karma, and Cassie’s the right girl for the job.
Inflicting a bit of payback on this cheat should be easy for Cassie, so she gets permission from her boss to do a little investigating on her own time. Investigating into her living life, the one she can’t seem to remember. The only problem, she is forbidden from doing the digging herself. Afterlife Corporation rule. She can hire someone to look into it for her, though, and that someone turns out to be Drake Greco. She regrets her decision the moment she walks into his office…
About the Author:
Gillian Zane is the author of the NOLA Zombie series. Zane is the pen name of a prominent blogger in the publishing industry, which will remain a mystery unless you Google it. Since she can remember her goal has been to become Master of the Universe and has decided to focus first on the literary world. Things are progressing nicely.
Zane has been a freelance writer for the last ten years and has published a few non-fiction works, none of which was very exciting. Zombies are much more exciting and a way for her to combine her two current obsessions, hot boys with guns and Doomsday Prepping. When she isn't stockpiling MREs (Meal's Ready to Eat) or researching how to build a cistern on a budget, she's taking care of her little family and exploring the city that she loves, New Orleans. You can find Gillian Zane on twitter @GillianZane.
Sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bmCzWf
Out of the Frying Pan
Genre: Gay romance, action adventure
Publisher: All Romance
Date of Publication: July 1, 2016
Word Count: 20000
Cover Artist: Erin Dameron Hill
Trust comes at a price.
Jenson Parkinson can't believe it when Sloane Marlen shows up at his Colorado mountain fire station. They were lovers years ago, until Sloane broke Jenson's trust, and his heart.
Sloane knows he's not guilty of the misdeeds Jenson believes he committed, but he never figured out how to convince Jenson. Or how to get over him. Can Sloane grab this second chance with both hands and teach Jenson he's worthy of trust... and love?
“The training session will start tomorrow morning at nine AM.” Jenson looked at his guys, some of them volunteer, a few career, and gave them the stern eye. “I know we all have jobs to do, but they’re expecting a wildfire season like no other this year thanks to the drought, and the Forestry Service wants all able bodied personnel to be able to dig firelines, offer support to hot shots and smokejumpers, and know how not to die.”
They all murmured, but no one argued. Carroll, Colorado was big enough to have a permanent fire crew only because of the ski areas that surrounded it, the population transient but relatively wealthy. Their very existence in this Rocky Mountain paradise was predicated on the fact that people had expensive homes and vacation rentals which they’d never let burn down. Jenson frickin’ loved his life. He didn’t want to have to move back to Denver or Boulder or someplace.
“They’re sending several scientists who should help map possible fire routing and containment, as well as two of their lead trainers in hot shots and smokejumping. In addition to our regular duties, we’ll be giving full attention and support to the training team so that we can deploy and offer assistance during the wildfire season. Clear?”
His men and women all nodded, and Jenson gave them all a tight smile. “Good deal. Assignments have been posted for the new shifts. See Josh for all the deets.” Jenson left the meeting room, ready to get on with his day as best he could. He had to get the station ready for the influx of personnel he was about to have, not just the trainers but the firefighters from other small towns around the area. He knew it was a coup for the mayor that Carroll was chosen for this big get together of high mucky mucks, but really, all he knew was he was going to be handing out coffee and doughnuts to a bunch of assholes who did a lot of dick measuring and making a mess in his territory.
“You ready for this, Cap?” Carson Diets asked. Carson was a Forestry guy, and he worked closely with the Carroll department to keep their area clear and keep the campers educated.
“No.” He winked, though, trying for light and happy. “If I get through this without losing my shit we’ll all be grateful. It’s good for the guys, though, right? Trading ideas and shit.”
“Yep.” Carson stepped close and lowered his voice. “There are a couple of real big names in the biz coming, Jenson. Just be diplomatic, huh?”
“Don’t make you look bad, is that what you’re saying?” He grimaced. “Come on, man, I got your back. You know that.”
“I do know that.” Carson clapped him on the back. “I also know you have a reputation for ruling this place with an iron fist and being pissy when someone invades your territory.”
“Well, I’ll try to be all sweetness and light. I don’t suppose you have a roster of who’s coming so I can prepare myself?”
“I do.” Carson pulled out his phone. “I’ll email it to you.”
“Great. Thanks.” His head started to throb, his temples tight and his neck freezing up. Lord. He needed more coffee before he could deal with this shit. His phone chimed, an email popping up from Carson when he looked at his notifications. Jenson walked into his office and set up his K-Cup coffee maker for a hazelnut cream latte. That was his one luxury, because he was from Boulder, dammit. He loathed the Folgers sludge the other guys seemed to adore so much.
He sat at his desk and opened the email, a forward of an interdepartmental memo. When he read the list of presenters, Jenson’s eyes widened. Oh, Jesus fuck. No way. He tried to blink away the name he’d just read, but when he opened his eyes it was still there.
Jenson leaned back in his chair, letting his head thunk against the backrest. He hadn’t seen Sloane since they were probies, and he really never wanted to see the bastard again.
There wasn’t enough coffee on earth to make this shitty day better now. Jenson was never gonna make it through tomorrow.
About the Author:
Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Samhain Publishing, Dreamspinner Press, All Romance eBooks and Changeling Press. She believes in stories that leave a mark, and that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter.
For more information on other books by Julia, please visit her official website:
Genre: erotic paranormal romance
Publisher: Cara Bristol
Date of Publication: July 25, 2016
Number of pages: 116
Word Count: 31,000
Fate gave her a gift. Is she brave enough to accept it?
Destiny Grable has loved Chance Everett for as long as she could remember, but he was never interested in her until a tragic act of fate grants her heart’s desire.
Chance is all hers—body, mind, and soul. But once they’re together, she discovers he has a kinky side she never knew about. Is she ready for it? Can she handle it?
And Chance isn’t the only one with a secret. If he discovers what Destiny is hiding, will he still want her?
Destiny expelled her breath in a heavy sigh and reached for the phone to try her parents one more time.
What the hell? She’d been too wrought by news of Zoe’s death to pay attention to much else, but now she noticed her arm looked…weird. Her wrist seemed thinner, her skin paler, the hair so fine it appeared almost nonexistent. And when had she gotten acrylic nails?
Her pulse rate doubled. The arm, the hand, the silver infinity ring on the index finger weren’t hers, but she recognized them. She fixated on the ID bracelet encircling the skinny wrist. RICHARDS, ZOE. And her friend’s date of birth.
They got the bodies mixed up. Gave you the wrong wristband.
But they couldn’t have switched arms. She flipped her hands over.
Destiny ripped back the covers and swore in frustration when the bed rail fought her frantic efforts to lower it. She forced it down, but her hospital gown caught in the metal. She tore it loose and scrambled for the bathroom.
Bruised and battered, Zoe stared at her from the mirror over the sink.
A nightmare. Wake up! Wake up! “No! No!” Slapping her face, Destiny searched for her plump cheeks, her ski-jump schnoz, and the mocha-brown eyes she considered one of her best features. The image mimicked her movements but presented high cheekbones loved by the camera, a perfect nose, and large blue eyes gone feral.
She yanked up her hospital gown. Where were her hips? Her boobs! She stared at her flat chest. She dropped the gown and screamed.
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Cara Bristol has published more than twenty-five erotic romance titles, including contemporary, paranormal, and science fiction romance. No matter what the subgenre, one thing remains constant: her emphasis on character-driven seriously hot erotic stories with sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine. Cara has lived many places in the United States, but currently lives in Missouri with her husband. She has two grown stepkids. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading and traveling.
The Dead of Haggard Hall
Darke of Night
Genre: Gothic/historical/paranormal romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date of Publication: 26th July 2016
Number of pages: 216 (paperback)
Word Count: 71,000
Cover Artist: Kelly Martin
Spirit possession is easy to remedy. Possession of the heart is another matter.
After vicar’s widow and natural medium Barbara Darke loses her respectable teaching position, she reluctantly agrees to become companion to her former pupil Emily, now the bride of young Sir Arthur Haggard.
Once settled at Haggard Hall, Barbara finds her friend is beset by ghostly voices and unexplained deaths. In a maelstrom of dark spirits and wicked emotions, Barbara battles to lay Emily’s ghosts to rest—both hampered and helped by Arthur’s skeptical cousin Patrick, who provokes and attracts her in equal measure.
It would be a mistake to trust a secretive, guilt-ridden man suspected of driving his wife to suicide, if not outright murdering her. And it could well be lethal to give in to her own desires, confused as they often are with the lusts of the dead.
But Arthur and Emily are in genuine physical danger, and suspicion is falling closer and closer to Patrick—the man who haunts Barbara’s sensual dreams. The man who stands to inherit Haggard Hall.
Warning: Contains a medium whose body is open season for spirit possession, and a scandal-ridden journalist who only believes what he can see—and touch.
As I skirted the throng, which was broken into several smaller ones, like satellites around my mother, I cautiously opened myself further to their emotions. I felt my gaze tugged once more towards the open doorway to the hall. And there he was, my sceptic, looking right at me.
Something jolted inside me. I had been right. Full-on, his face was dramatic. Angular, almost bony, it was dominated by black, straight brows over dark, harsh eyes that concealed layers of turbulence and profound, conflicting emotions; a hard mouth with a sensual curve.
Tall, straight, and broad shouldered, his body gave the impression of being only loosely flung together. His dress was respectable and yet hung on him with such carelessness that it somehow suggested the entirely disreputable.
His unblinking regard washed over me in waves. Anger; constant anger. Curiosity and annoyance. He didn’t want to be here and yet needed to know what would happen.
Contempt, disbelief. And a sudden surge of lust that made me gasp and spin away from him in shock, for my own body flamed in wicked reply.
It was hardly the first time I had sensed such feelings directed at myself. It was a normal part of life, usually distant, unthreatening, and easy to ignore. But this man’s emotions ran deep.
Deep, damaged, dangerous, just the kind of man we didn’t need here. Just the kind of man I should avoid. My entirely worldly, physical response to him told me that. Even with my back to him, I could feel his eyes burning into me like caressing hands. And I wanted those hands. I needed them—on my breasts, between my thighs, everywhere—with a force that made me tremble. He would be a fierce lover, strong and demanding and exciting… I longed to be excited like that.
He wanted me. If I walked over to him now, I’d only need to smile and touch his arm and he’d take me away, to his own rooms, wherever they were, or to some anonymous, discreet hotel where we could spend all night in wild, sensual delights. Forbidden, delicious, without inhibition…
Maybe he’d exorcise the demon in me. Maybe I’d ease the demons in him.
But it would never happen. I needed my demons safely locked up, and I knew instinctively that this man spelled danger for me.
But I’d watch him for my mother’s sake, for I sensed he meant us no good.
As I walked back, I glanced to either side. He moved with me, following me, not just with his gaze but with his person, along the length of the wall, like a large, predatory cat. Or a wolf, perhaps. His lust enfolded me, teasing my own. But even over the space between us, interrupted by other guests who blocked my view from time to time, I caught the hint of contempt, the tinge of anger amidst the desire in his dark gaze.
Which made my temptation suddenly easy to resist. I halted and lifted one haughty eyebrow, allowing my own disdain for his undeserved judgment to curl my lip. I’d always found my stare and my eyebrow to be an infallible deterrent, but this man didn’t hesitate.
His lips curved upward, and as though he took my attention for an invitation, he swerved suddenly in my direction.
My breath caught in uncharacteristic panic. A new, fierce tug of sensual yearning told me I couldn’t be anywhere near this man, and yet I wouldn’t run. I refused to be despised when I’d done nothing to deserve it.
“Shall we begin?” my mother said, shattering the strange illusory bubble which seemed to have formed over myself and the sceptical stranger. “Those who would like to join in, please sit down at the table. Everyone else, feel free to watch and move around as you wish.
All I ask is that you don’t interrupt. Sir, would you mind closing the outer door?”
She looked directly at my sceptical stranger. She might have seen our little byplay, or she might have sensed the same danger I did. On the other hand, he was nearest the door. I wondered if he’d be rude enough to ignore her request.
But my sceptic inclined his head. The gesture was somehow more mocking than gracious, but he obediently walked back and closed the door as she asked. Then he leaned one powerful shoulder against it and waited, apparently, to be entertained.
I found my own refuge by the bedroom door for escape purposes, and waited with resignation for the show. God knew there was enough emotion in that room to make it a good one.
About the Author:
Marie Treanor lives in Scotland, in a chaotic house by the sea, together with her eccentric husband, three much too smart children and a small dog who rules them all. Most days, she avoids both housekeeping and evil day jobs by writing stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.
Marie is the award winning author of over forty sexy paranormal romances - Indie, New York and E-published.
New Release Mailing List Sign-up:
Monday, July 25, 2016
Here are a list of top websites that authors can use to help build their careers. There’s no specific theme behind them, and it includes advertising websites, review websites, services, and anything else that I’ve found beneficial since hitting that publish button on KDP.
10 – BookBub – The king of email advertising. Bookbub has been around for a long time and only takes the best of the best books with a lot of reviews, and even then only if it matches the current tastes of their readers. It can boost your book sales unlike no other program out there, and if you’ve submitted before and been denied don’t worry: everyone has. Just keep trying.
9 – Online Book Club – A website where you can submit for a free editorial review. They have a lot of promotional options as well, and if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to join the community it can really help you out.
8 – CLC – Literary Classics comes with reviews and a contest. It isn’t necessarily cheap to enter, but they put a lot of work into their annual book awards and there are some amazing people who work here. If your book is a good fit for YA or children, then this company can help immensely in building up your career and helping you expand. When they like a book, they will champion it.
7 – Reader’s Favorite – This website can help immensely for anyone interested in getting a free review or entering a contest for their works. The submission process is easy and the company has a lot of different systems in place to help indie authors to build their careers.
6 – IBPA – A very professional organization that has discounts and benefits for its members. A lot of their services are powerful and expensive, so this is something that can be hugely beneficial as an author’s career expands. The discounts alone can pay for the yearly fee.
5 – Wattpad – An online forum for authors and readers to look at works in progress and offer feedback and critiques. It’s a difficult community to work into and the site feels somewhat fractured, but it can be immensely useful.
4 – WriteOn – Similar to Wattpad, but the site is a little easier to navigate. This forum is filled with more authors and less readers, so occasionally it can feel like shouting into the abyss to get attention for your book. That being said, people can be very helpful.
3 – RRBC – An online community of authors and readers that are full of information and support for your career. When you join, you’ll find an engaged and professional group of people who are always willing to help. The more you put in, the more you’ll get. Has an annual fee, but it isn’t a lot.
2 – BookFunnel – A hosting service for eBooks you’re planning to give away, BookFunnel can help you distribute watermarked copies of your book to readers. Great for giveaways and being able to track how many copies you give a month, or for newsletter signups to track the number of people who take advantage of free offers. They have a really cheap entry level option for authors who aren’t making a lot of money, and they deliver the preferred format directly to your readers.
1 – KBoards – If you want to put your finger on the pulse of amazon’s publishing network, this is where it is. Anything that is happening in the world of self-publishing can be found here, and usually as soon as it comes into existence. The people are friendly and supportive and browsing will teach you more about writing and publishing than you ever would have expected.
There you have it: those are just a few of the websites I’ve discovered as an indie author that can help build a career. A lot of them I only found out about recently and wished I knew about sooner.
My best advice for authors is to just have fun with it. Experiment and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re having fun with your books, then other people will too.
World on Fire
Genre: Horror/Paranormal Thriller
Date of Publication: 7/4/16
Number of pages: 280
Word Count: 76,000
Cover Artist: MN Arzu
A quiet little mountain town is hiding a big problem. When the townsfolk of Raven's Peak start acting crazy, Abigail Dressler is called upon to find out what is happening. She uncovers a demonic threat unlike any she's ever faced and finds herself in a fight just to stay alive.
She rescues Haatim Arison from a terrifying fate and discovers that he has a family legacy in the supernatural that he knows nothing about. Now she's forced to protect him, which is easy, and also trust him if she wants to save the townsfolk of Raven's Peak. Trust, however, is considerably more difficult for someone who grew up living on the knife's edge of danger.
Can they discover the cause of the town's insanity and put a stop to it before it is too late?
“Reverend, you have a visitor.”
He couldn’t remember when he fell in love with the pain. When agony first turned to pleasure, and then to joy. Of course, it hadn’t always been like this. He remembered screaming all those years ago when first they put him in this cell; those memories were vague, though, like reflections in a dusty mirror.
A buzz as the door slid open, inconsequential. The aching need was what drove him in this moment, and nothing else mattered. It was a primal desire: a longing for the tingly rush of adrenaline each time the lash licked his flesh. The blood dripping down his parched skin fulfilled him like biting into a juicy strawberry on a warm summer’s day.
“Some woman. Says she needs to speak with you immediately. She says her name is Frieda.”
A pause, the lash hovering in the air like a poised snake. The Reverend remembered that name, found it dancing in the recesses of his mind. He tried to pull himself back from the ritual, back to reality, but it was an uphill slog through knee-deep mud to reclaim those memories.
It was always difficult to focus when he was in the midst of his cleansing. All he managed to cling to was the name. Frieda. It was the name of an angel, he knew. . . or perhaps a devil.
One and the same when all was said and done.
She belonged to a past life, only the whispers of which he could recall. The ritual reclaimed him, embraced him with its fiery need. His memories were nothing compared to the whip in his hand, its nine tails gracing his flesh.
The lash struck down on his left shoulder blade, scattering droplets of blood against the wall behind him. Those droplets would stain the granite for months, he knew, before finally fading away. He clenched his teeth in a feral grin as the whip landed with a sickening, wet slapping sound.
“Jesus,” a new voice whispered from the doorway. “Does he always do that?”
“You’ll cuff him?”
“Why? Are you scared?”
The Reverend raised the lash into the air, poised for another strike.
“Just…man, you said he was crazy…but this…”
The lash came down, lapping at his back and the tender muscles hidden there. He let out a groan of mixed agony and pleasure.
These men were meaningless, their voices only echoes amid the rest, an endless drone. He wanted them to leave him alone with his ritual. They weren’t worth his time.
“I think we can spare the handcuffs this time; the last guy who tried spent a month in the hospital.”
“Regulation says we have to.”
“Then you do it.”
The guards fell silent. The cat-o’-nine-tails, his friend, his love, became the only sound in the roughhewn cell, echoing off the granite walls. He took a rasping breath, blew it out, and cracked the lash again. More blood. More agony. More pleasure.
“I don’t think we need to cuff him,” the second guard decided.
“Good idea. Besides, the Reverend isn’t going to cause us any trouble. He only hurts himself. Right, Reverend?”
The air tasted of copper, sickly sweet. He wished he could see his back and the scars, but there were no mirrors in his cell. They removed the only one he had when he broke shards off to slice into his arms and legs. They were afraid he would kill himself.
How ironic was that?
Mirrors were dangerous things, he remembered from that past life. They called the other side, the darker side. An imperfect reflection stared back, threatening to steal pieces of the soul away forever.
“Reverend? Can you hear me?”
The guard reached out to tap the Reverend on the shoulder. Just a tap, no danger at all, but his hand never even came close. Honed reflexes reacted before anyone could possibly understand what was happening.
Suddenly the Reverend was standing. He hovered above the guard who was down on his knees. The man let out a sharp cry, his left shoulder twisted up at an uncomfortable angle by the Reverend’s iron grip.
The lash hung in the air, ready to strike at its new prey.
The Reverend looked curiously at the man, seeing him for the first time. He recognized him as one of the first guardsmen he’d ever spoken with when placed in this cell. A nice European chap with a wife and two young children. A little overweight and balding, but well-intentioned.
Most of him didn’t want to hurt this man, but there was a part—a hungry, needful part—that did. That part wanted to hurt this man in ways neither of them could even imagine. One twist would snap his arm. Two would shatter the bone; the sound as it snapped would be . . .
A symphony rivaling Tchaikovsky.
The second guard—the younger one that smelled of fear—stumbled back, struggling to draw his gun.
“No! No, don’t!”
That from the first, on his knees as if praying. The Reverend wondered if he prayed at night with his family before heading to bed. Doubtless, he prayed that he would make it home safely from work and that one of the inmates wouldn’t rip his throat out or gouge out his eyes. Right now, he was waving his free hand at his partner to get his attention, to stop him.
The younger guard finally worked the gun free and pointed it at the Reverend. His hands were shaking as he said, “Let him go!”
“Don’t shoot, Ed!”
“Let him go!”
The older guard, pleading this time: “Don’t piss him off!”
About the Author:
Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.