If you’ve been anywhere near me in the last week or so, then you know that Roar — the third book in my Witches & Warlocks series — is set to release November 15th. That’s THIS SUNDAY, PEOPLE! WOOOO!
I may be juuuuust a little excited about this release. 🙂
I’ve heard back from my beta readers, one of whom is totally taken with the first sentence and another who cried as she told me her favorite scenes. And then, because I was so excited that she was so excited, I may have cried a little, too.
I thought you might like little sneak peek at the first chapter of Roar. Maybe then you might get as excited as I am. (OK. Probably not. I’m pretty wound up.)
But first, have you joined my mailing list? I always send an email to my list the moment I have a link to the product page. If you want to know the minute Roar releases, sign up by clicking here.
And now, without further ado, here is the first chapter of Roar, just for you!
**Spoiler alert. If you haven’t read Speak or Hush yet, you might not want to read this chapter yet.**
It’s a weird thing, stalking someone with the sole intent of killing them. Following them from place to place, studying their movements. I always wonder if they’d want to live the night differently if they knew how it was going to end.
I say that like I’m a seasoned killer. Always wonder. I say it like I’ve done this more than four times. Although, I do get a little … I don’t know … harder … each time we kill someone. A little colder. It gets easier to consider the next one.
And so far, there’s always been a next one.
This one has a name. Nancy. I don’t like it when they have a name, it makes them feel more like a person with friends and a family who cares about them and will miss them once they’re gone. I like it better when Daya gives us a target that’s only a description and a place to find said target. Not so lucky this time, I guess.
Nancy is one of Lucy’s errand girls. Her main job is finding people suitable enough for Lucy and Albert’s little vampire/werewolf ‘create a species’ project. You know, where the leader of the vampires and the leader of the werewolves are actively trying to breed some sort of crazy hybrid. A super-race that’ll basically let them take over the world.
Nancy is really good at her job. She’s got a knack for finding people who get excited about the whole prospect of possibly dying or going insane in the hopes of ending up as some powerful new creature. Not that it matters if they’re excited about it or not. I don’t think Lucy’d stop what she was doing if the people Nancy brought her were suddenly all ‘but wait, stop!’. Knowing what I think I know about Lucy, she’d probably end up liking the whole process all the more if her victims end up scared out of their minds. Regardless, taking out Nancy will be a stumbling block in Lucy’s whole ‘take over the supernatural world’ game.
Of course, that’s what Daya says about all the vampires she’s sent us out to kill. “Taking out this target will make the world a better place. A safer place.”
I do my best to believe her. Otherwise, I don’t think I could do what she wants us to do. What she tells us to do. She says it’s our job ‘cause we’re the Trinity — Noah, Luke, and me. The champions of the witches. The heroes of the human world. Saving them all from a terrible future they don’t even know they’re facing. I hold onto that ‘cause otherwise, we’re nothing more than assassins.
Our job’s gonna be easy tonight, though. This Nancy is nasty. We’ve followed her from nightclub to bar to nightclub, watching her toy with the men — and women — who pretty much just fall down at her feet. She seduces them, draws them into a dark corner or abandoned bathroom, then goes all psycho vampire, scares the shit out of them, drinks just about all of their blood, and leaves them to either live or die, alone and scared. She’s cruel. And she hasn’t found anyone suitable to take home to Lucy, so right now, she’s on the move again.
I nudge Noah and jerk my head in her direction as Nancy slips out of the men’s bathroom, wipes her mouth, and blends right into the crowd of her victim’s drunken friends. They’re all busy dancing and laughing, unaware of the disaster waiting for them in the men’s room. She doesn’t know it, but she’s leaving a trail of magic behind her, a faintly glowing line that traces her path, dissipating after just a few seconds. A tracking spell we put on her earlier tonight. The line really doesn’t last long enough to be of much use, but we couldn’t risk using too strong a spell on her or she’d have felt it. Damn vampires and their supernatural senses.
As soon as the door to the club closes behind her, Noah, Luke, and I slide off our barstools and follow her outside. We don’t make an effort to blend in like she did. We cut through the crowd, ignoring the protests, comments, and nasty names. No time for courtesy ‘cause if we don’t get outside quickly enough, we’re gonna lose her.
We hit the sidewalk and fan out like we know what we’re doing, Noah heading right, Luke heading left, while I head straight out towards the street.
“Here,” Noah whispers and I turn just in time to see the line of our magic disappear around the corner, heading into an alley behind the club. This is it. The break we’ve been waiting for. Need to kill a vampire? Best to do it in an abandoned alley. Luke and I converge on the spot, moving quickly, mercury loose on the table.
Noah’s already calling on his magic. I can see it coalescing around his edges and it still takes me off guard to see him like that. It’s beautiful. He’s beautiful. His golden energy crackling at his fingertips, his blue eyes glowing faintly in the dark. I let my fingers graze his arm as we pass and his magic surges into me, awakening mine. He only tolerates the touch because he knows I need to draw on his power. Otherwise, he pretty much avoids me like the plague.
“Tueri trinitas,” he whispers — a protection spell.
“Tueri tinitas,” I say, grasping his hand and reaching out for Luke. When his fingers entwine with mine, his magic flows through my arm and into my center where it blends with Noah’s and twists itself up with my energy. We are the Trinity and I am the centerpiece.
“Interficere hostium.” Luke growls his incantation — death to our enemies — and I echo it, adding my magic to his. After spending more than her fair share of decades on this earth, Nancy’s life expectancy is now only minutes long.
Still holding hands, letting our power gather and grow, we round the corner. Stride down the alley, hands held, energy coalescing. The tiger is pacing and roaring, ready for the kill. Me? My stomach is a roiling boiling mess of nerves and anxiety. Sure, I was bred for this. Sure, Daya made certain that I had just the right combination of light and dark magic so I’m some sort of moral question mark. Sure, there’s a part of me that’s designed to kill.
That doesn’t change the fact that the rest of me is a good person. I value life. All life. And, since Daya kept me embedded in normal human society rather than raising me with all the other little badass witches and warlocks she created, I fully believe that killing is bad. So, even though half of me is growing ever more excited by what we’re doing, the other half of me is very loudly going on about the whole thou shalt not kill deal.
My magic falters as my resolve wavers. The guys can feel it. Noah squeezes my hand and Luke sends a wave of dark magic straight to my heart. And that’s that. My resolve is totally strengthened. Whatever it means about me and my everlasting soul, Nancy will die tonight.
If we can find her, that is.
The trail’s gone cold. The little glowing line of magic is gone. She could be anywhere. We stop. Put our backs together so not one of us is exposed and there’s no chance of Nancy sneaking up from behind.
Laughter echos down the alley and of course, there’s no way to tell where it’s coming from. Damn vampires and their supernatural creepiness. I peer into the dark, calling on the strength of my tiger, hoping to channel some of her night vision and use it to see. One of the benefits of having a predator for a familiar, I guess. Makes me a better predator, too.
Tonight though, even with the improved vision, I see nothing. Nancy could be anywhere.
“You think I didn’t smell your magic all night long?” The words come from above us and have the faintest trace of an accent I can’t really place. Clearly, this isn’t gonna be easy. If she’s smart enough to have known we were following her, she’s bound to have a few more tricks up her sleeves.
“Baby witches are so fun to play with.” Her voice comes from the other side of the alley now. Ground level. “You think you’re so powerful.”
Luke mutters a long string of incantations, so quiet I can’t even hear them, his voice nothing more than a low growl sounding in his chest. Nancy laughs again and I can’t help it, the hairs on my arms stand straight up. There’s nothing human or humane or hell, nothing even a little pleasant about the sound. God, I hate vampires. They’re nasty and pompous and self-satisfied and have absolutely no respect for anything other than themselves.
It’s snowing. Not the polite little flakes of a late fall snow, but the heavy duty, real deal. Huge clumps of snow plop onto the ground and catch in my hair. One drops onto my eyelash and as I blink it away, I catch just the slightest movement out of the corner of my eye.
I choke back a scream and try not to pay any attention to the shame that catches in my throat along with it. Just because I’m supposed to be on my way to ‘hardened killer’ doesn’t make me immune to fear. I mean, I’m standing in a dark alley and a vampire is barrelling towards me. Of course I’m gonna want to scream.
I gather my magic and call on the tiger and am ready to let all kinds of hell loose when something hard and unforgiving slams into my shoulder. I fall to the ground in an uncoordinated heap, my breath knocked from my lungs and my head bouncing off the concrete, summoning a cloud of stars to dance with the snowflakes.
That hard thing that hit me and knocked me down? That was Noah. And now instead of running right at me, Nancy is running right at him and her teeth are bared and her eyes are glinting and there’s no way she’s gonna be quick and merciful. I’ve seen what she does to the people she eats.
My head’s throbbing and my chest is tight, and that sucks, but I’m OK. Which is good because I’ve got about half a second before the bitch is on Noah and that’s simply not going to happen.
“Tempore prohibere!” I scream the words to my timestop spell and everything just screeches to a halt around me. I scramble to my feet.
Nancy’s got one hand on Noah’s arm and the other on his head, tilting it way back, exposing his neck. Her mouth is wide open, her wicked sharp fangs pressed against his throat. I lean in close, making sure she hasn’t pierced his skin yet and sigh in relief to see that she hasn’t.
His skin is actually dimpling under the pressure of her extended canines. If I’d been even a little bit slower …
I brush the thought away. I wasn’t too slow. Noah’s fine. For now.
The trick is gonna be to make sure he’s still fine once I get time all set back to rights. I take a minute and walk around the scene. You’d think the snowflakes would melt when they touch my skin, all suspended mid-air like they are, but instead, it’s like the whole world distorts, bending them out of my way, only to spring back into place as soon as I’ve passed. I’m truly outside of time and therefore can’t affect anything.
Which means that I’m probably not going to be able to move Noah out of range of Nancy’s teeth. Doesn’t hurt to check though, does it? Her hand moves without resistance when I pull it off his head. When I let go, though? It falls right back into place, like I’d never even been there. So now what? I’ve got him safe, but the instant I get time moving again, her teeth will pierce his skin and that’s just not gonna work for me.
Luke’s right there. His magic all coalesced into something all spiky and dangerous. Even with time stopped, it kind of hums with the threat contained inside. Of course, his eyes are glowing red, a furious crimson that I really can’t make myself look at. His face is all screwed up with rage. Truth is, he looks scarier than Nancy ‘cause when I actually do make myself look at his eyes, it’s clear how excited he is by this whole thing.
So, Luke’s ready. The moment I let time go free again, his magic will be loose, slamming into Nancy and probably hurtling her back away from Noah a bit. I just can’t quite trust that it’ll hurtle her backwards fast enough.
I take a breath. Close my eyes. Focus. Think.
There’s got to be a way to do this without Noah getting hurt. I’m a badass witch, after all. If Daya trusts me to save the whole flippin’ world, surely, I can save the man I love. Of course, that man doesn’t love me back, but that doesn’t matter at all right now. I run my hand through my hair and gather it over my shoulder.
I think … possibly … if I can manage to let time come back together very slowly, I can get a spell off before Nancy’s teeth sink all the way into Noah’s throat. I take another breath. If I misjudge the timing even a little, Noah will die.
Another deep breath and then I free the tiger, charge her with keeping me and Noah safe. I call on my magic and while it roars to life, I ever so slowly let time slip free, hoping and hoping and hoping some more that I’m strong enough to get the timing right.