Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cast in Fire by Jaime Johnesee, Lisa Lane, Christine Sutton

Roughly five years before the attempted apocalypse….

Drew sat alone on a bench, watching the fabricated specters emerge with the coming darkness. After spending the last of her money on one final bus ticket to a big-name nowhere and a greasy burger at a no-name diner, she’d found herself at a crossroads.

Keep running, homeless and penniless, in search of whatever it was out here that was better than what she’d fled—or hitchhike her way back to California, back to the only life she’d ever known.

The scents of all different kinds of people began to mingle with the fall leaves. Just like back home, the trees didn’t change a whole lot this time of year. Some went yellow and dropped their leaves, but they didn’t create the array she’d been hoping to see with the change of scenery. The contents of her piggybank had only gotten her so far as Las Vegas, so unless she ran into the means to get across the country sooner rather than later, the picturesque reds and oranges would likely have to wait another year.

Still, it was cold here, uncomfortably so, and Drew found it puzzling that so many people had chosen to prance around in such skimpy costumes. It seemed the Vegas Strip was the place to go for all those who wanted to show off as much skin as possible for Halloween. There were slutty devils, sluttier angels, cats in cat suits, and corset-clad bunnies. The guys, for the most part, went the more traditional routes. There were tons of zombies, several Draculas, Jasons and Michael Meyers, and all sorts of variations of super heroes and other store-bought standbys. There was, however, one man in a pink tutu and another wearing nothing more than a diaper and, presumably, Cupid wings—a lovely combination with the beard and beer belly—but they appeared to be the outliers.

As the crowd grew thicker, so did the stench of ill intent. While many of the bits of auras wafting by smelled more like innocent mischief—sweet vanilla—many of the exhibitionists falling into that category, many others gave off the distinct smell of predators switched on by the sight of so much revealing dress. Their scents hit her like bitter, burning vegetable oil and rancid lard, lingering in her nose and forcing her to grimace. Then, there were the prostitutes, who were able to hide in plain sight on this special night of nights, drifting among those dressed just as sparsely. They smelled like rising bread mixed with almonds.

She didn’t want to be here anymore—this succubus’ playground, a nightmare for anyone like her wanting to get as far away as possible from such elements. It made her think even more of what she’d just recently run away from.

It was difficult to reconcile how she could love and hate a person so much at the same time. Her father was a loving man; he had never abused or neglected her. He’d always provided for his family. Drew had wanted for nothing. Yet, the beast in him was on its way toward killing yet another person she loved, her second stepmother, a kind woman who’d stepped in where the last had dropped off.

She’d already grown so gaunt, so thin and frail. And he knew he was killing her; he couldn’t help himself. The thought of it made Drew’s throat go tight. The beast in her was still small. She’d never fed it the extra to make it grow. Once she did, it would only demand more, until she was just like him, slowly consuming those whose only crimes would be to fall in love with a monster. She’d rather be lonely the rest of her life than become that.

That last doctor’s visit—that had been the final straw. Drew had gone with her stepmother, who’d developed an intense fear of going anywhere alone. It was almost as if the neediness her father’s soul had for her stepmother’s life force had created a neediness in this woman to simply be around whatever living thing she could manage to keep by her side. Maybe she knew she was dying, even if no one could tell her what it was that was killing her.

Seeing the look on that poor woman’s face when the doctor told her, again, he could find nothing physically wrong with her, had broken Drew’s heart. Seeing the desperate tears trickle down that emaciated, pale face had provoked tears of her own, and she wanted so badly to tell the woman what she knew.

But she also knew her stepmother would never believe anything so outlandish as the idea that the man she loved with every ounce of her being—a love only compounded by the spell his spirit had over hers—was the very source of her suffering. Drew couldn’t bring herself even to try; she’d only end up making the woman hate her over assumed jealousies. Even more, she’d betray her father in a way only another supernatural being could. The “mundanes,” as her father called them, held a different kind of worth. Love them as they might, their utility trumped their emotional value.

Drew didn’t see it that way. That was why she had no choice but to leave.

The faint scent of chocolate came her way when a small group of teens only a couple years her senior approached. One of them, a boy dressed as Abe Lincoln, took notice of her, and he broke off from the group. Her aura reached out for a stronger taste. Of course, he didn’t notice.

“Hey,” he said.

She looked down. “Hey.”

“Here on vacation?”

She shook her head.

He looked around for a moment before asking, “Here by yourself?”

She shrugged.

“Why aren’t you wearing a costume?”

“I am,” she sighed.

Another brief pause. Finally: “What are you supposed to be?”

“A person.”

He seemed to think she’d made a joke, and she shot him an angry glance when he laughed. His face went serious, and their eyes met. His scent shifted, he backed away, and then he turned and caught up with his friends.

She turned back to the growing crowd of mundanes dressed as monsters, feeling even more isolated and alone than before.

Alone amid a sea of human people.
Cast in Fire
Revelations Series 
Book Two
Jaime Johnesee, Lisa Lane, 
Christine Sutton

Genre: Paranormal horror

Publisher: Devil Dog Press

Date of Publication: November 1, 2015


Number of pages: 400
Word Count: Around 75,000 words

Book Description:

Chaos has taken over, wreaking havoc not only across the globe but also throughout Heaven and Hell. The next apocalyptic seals have been breached, and the leaders of the ethereal realms are paying the price. With tensions high and defenses at an all-time low, Polly, Lenny, and Drew continue to hunt down the evil behind it all. Millennia-old secrets rise to the surface, testing friendships and pushing loyalties to their breaking points.

With the clock ticking and uncertainty in the air, will enough time remain to unravel a curse that the darkest of forces have Cast in Fire?

Excerpt: Chapter One

Polly’s fist smacked into the demon’s nose with a loud crunch. “What did you do?”
“Nothing, I swear! I had nothing to do with the angelite or the djinn escaping, honest, Apollyon.” Frank backed his large self up against the break room wall trying to escape the angry Knight.
“I have a hard time believing that, since the hellhound who just tracked your ass confirms you as being in the room where someone killed my prisoner.”
As if on cue, the massive beast growled at Frank from behind Polly, its huge face covered in thick tufts of oily, black fur. The dog’s eyes glowed a shade brighter in its anger and flames licked out of his orbital cavity. His giant, razor sharp teeth and thick, talon-like claws were sharp enough to rip into any type of prey. The hellhound’s skin was as hard as stone and its breath reeked of sulfur. Its growl was so loud it rattled Frank’s chest and his terror only served to feed the beast.
“I swear I had nothing to do with that. I went looking for you and found your door open. The djinn was already dead, honest. When I saw he’d ingested angelite I got the hell up out of there and grabbed a cup of coffee.” Blood flowed in light rivulets down either side of the goat-like demon’s ruined nose.
He looked wistfully at the pieces of his broken mug on the floor. The little orange kitten hanging from the tree was still visible though the rest of the mug was pretty smashed up. Its message, “Hang in there,” was lost forever in a mess of ceramic shards.
“Tell me the truth, Frank, or I’ll let Shuck here eat you for lunch.” Polly growled and pointed at the hellhound, who gave a light roar.
“Come on, Polly, I am telling you the truth.”
“Did you see anyone enter or leave my office when you came?”
“No…. Wait, yeah, actually, I did. Lucy was there.”
“I saw Lucy leave your office before I got there. I called a hello but she just walked away.”
“Dammit, Frank, that wasn’t Lucy. I saw her before I left my office to talk to Bis. She was heading for her own office.”
“She could have doubled back.”
“No, she was already in her office moments after I discovered the djinn dead. That’s good, though, it tells me whoever is smuggling the angelite in can shapeshift.”
“So, you’re done beating me?”
“Yes. For now.”
“Aw, man, I was rather enjoying that.”
Polly patted Frank’s arm. “I’ll buy you a new mug.”
“Yeah, you will.”
“Excuse me?”
“I mean, uh, thanks, Polly.” The big demon grinned sheepishly and walked to the counter for paper towels. He grabbed a few and used them to clean up the blood from his mangled sniffer.
“Don’t forget to clean up the mug when you’re done.”
“No worries, I’ll clean it up.”
Polly conjured up a full slab of ribs and presented it to the hellhound. “Here you go, Shuck. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good ol’ big boy?”
The giant black stump of a tail began wagging and the hound dug into the ribs with a lusty appetite. When it was finished the hellhound wiped its sauce covered muzzle on Polly’s leg and she laughed and scratched his ears.
“Frank, I want you to look into the angelite.” When the demon started to speak Polly interrupted him, “I know you’ve got a few tortures on your plate today but I want you digging into this.”
“Why me?” Frank gave a sigh as he dropped the remains of his second favorite mug in the trash. Polly felt bad for the poor fellow; that was the third mug of his that had been broken that month.
“Because if you ask, they’ll wonder if you saw the true form of whomever it was that killed my prisoner.”
“Oh, so I’m pretty much just bait here?”
“If you need a fancy term for it.”
“I hate being bait,” Frank whined.
“Suck it up, buttercup.”
“You owe me for this, Polly. Not just a new kitty mug, though you owe me that too, but I want a vacation after this. Three weeks, somewhere cold, maybe even frozen.”
“You help me find my dirty double-crossing demons and you have a ticket to anywhere you want, Frankie.”
“Don’t call me Frankie; my name is Frank.”
“You need to loosen up.”
“Apollyon, you assaulted me in the break room and broke my favorite mug. I am feeling a little violated by you right now. If I can be honest here….” At her shrug he continued, “You and your friends have been awful hard on me as of late and I really don’t feel comfortable with it.”
“You mean the shifter and succubus you tried to torture?” Polly snorted incredulously.
“I wasn’t trying to torture them. I was just trying to get to know the succubus a bit better and they attacked me, honest!”
“Frank, did you put your hands on Drew without her permission?”
“Yeah, but—”
“No buts. You didn’t like that they fought back, am I right?”
“Well, I expected them to fight back, but I didn’t expect them to gang up on me and beat me up. I felt so violated.”
“Frank, when you attack a woman, you ought to expect they’ll fight back. Whining that they did, and that they kicked your demon ass, is not going to help your cause. You got what you deserved, buddy.” Polly conjured up a video monitor and showed him the whole attack.
“Oh, I guess I probably seemed threatening to them. I promise I wasn’t really going to hurt them.”
“Doesn’t matter, Frank. Your intentions, good or bad, no longer matter when you touch someone without their consent.”
“I’ll try to do better.”
“Please do. Hey, when you’re torturing a soul go nuts, do whatever you want, that’s why they’re here. Be safe in the knowledge that they deserve the torture. If you’re in the break room, those rules do not apply. Here, you use the same decorum you would show in Lucy’s presence.”
“Lucifer is the Queen of Hell. Those were lowly half-breeds.”
“Doesn’t matter. Guests of the realm are to be treated as royalty, capice?”
“I understand.”
“Good boy.” Polly conjured up a blue mug with a picture of a grumpy looking cat and text that read “Just say no…to Mondays.”
“Aw, I love it! Thanks, Polly.” Frank hugged his new mug tightly.
“I’ll see you later. Be sure to look into this, Frank.”
“I will! I love my new mug.” When Polly looked up she saw he was already washing it in the sink and eyeing the coffee pot excitedly while softly humming “Let it Go … Let it Go….”
She smiled and said, “Later, make sure you behave yourself.”
Frank held up a sudsy hand and waved in response. Polly left the break room shaking her head. For being the best torture master Hell had, Frank sure was a softie about his kitten mugs.

About Jaime Johnesee

Jaime Johnesee lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. She spent fourteen years as a zookeeper before shifting her focus to writing full time. Widely known for her bestselling horror comedy series, Bob the Zombie, she is currently coauthoring the paranormal horror series, Revelations, for Devil Dog Press as well as working on her Shifters series.

You can find out more about Jaime Johnesee at her website:  

About Lisa Lane

Lisa Lane has been writing dark speculative fiction for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and dozens of published short stories written under genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the outskirts of Sin City.

About Christine Sutton

Christine Sutton is the author of more than fifteen short stories, novellas and novels. While she tends to cross genres within horror, she is always passionate about scaring the hell out of you.

Her passion would have to be serial killer fiction, but she also loves ghosts, ghouls, demons and monsters of all types. Christine's work ranges from modern day fairy tales to demonic soul eaters to ghostly children that just want to play. Her writing has been called passionate, realistic, gritty, fun, enthralling and tons of other cool adjectives.

You too can pick up some of Christine's work and come up with some cool adjectives of your own. It won't be hard. I promise.

Twitter: @csuttonauthor

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