As you may have heard a time or two by now, my FIRST novel-length story is coming out in July. This world and these characters have been living with me for the past couple years, so that I now have the opportunity to share them makes me grin ear to ear.
Stone Guardian is the first book of the Entwined Realms series. The series is set in an alternate world – this world looks just like our everyday world, but magic and magical creatures are real and co-exist. So you can be on your way to work and see an elf riding the subway car with you. You can look out the window of your building and see a gryphon flying by. Magic is regulated but that won’t necessarily stop a couple mages from fighting over the last mocha available at the local coffeeshop.
And of course, there are bad guys. Necromancers bide their time and wait until they can unleash their master plan…
Because I’m about as impatient as a person can be, I’m offering a sneak peak of my story. Unedited – we’re in the middle of edits now, so this will probably be tweaked a touch when in its final form.
I debated what to put up. In the end, I decided to give you the introduction to two of my favorite characters, Fallon and Laire. They are so much fun and tickle me no end. Plus, you’ll get a touch better explanation about this world.
Without further ado, I present – Stone Guardian
*** The whoosh of students running past her in the hallways, the slamming of lockers, the girls talking about their hair and clothes and make-up and the boys talking about the girls – all welcome signs of normalcy to Larissa as she made her way to her first class of the morning.
The bell rang moments before she entered the door. “OK everyone, that was the bell. Settle down and take your seats,” Larissa said as she headed towards her desk, placing her bag on the chair and taking out graded papers and lesson plans.
Juvenile grumbling, paper rustling, and feet shuffling met Larissa’s words in first period History. The mood was not a shiny happy one.
Ah yes, what senior in high school didn’t just love being up this early, especially on a Monday morning with only a few weeks until vacation. It was about time to petition for hazard pay.
Larissa handed out papers and accepted homework, answered some questions and shushed Jason Evans after he let out a wolf whistle when she passed. All in all, a normal Monday, making the events of this weekend seem even more surreal.
Necromancers after her? No, no.
A gargoyle protector? What an insane notion.
“Now,” said Larissa, coming to stand in front of the room. “We are going to get into a favorite topic for most. We are going to discuss the Great Collision.”
As expected, a hush fell over the room. No student could keep up the façade of indifference when the topic of the Great Collision came up, reason numero uno she always saved it for Mondays. “So, twenty-six years ago, probably the most momentous moment in history outside of the actual creation of life occurred. I’ll let your science teachers explain the theories behind why it happened, parallel dimensions and quarks and neutrons and all that good stuff. That’s not for my discussion here.”
“You trying to tell us you weren’t a science genius, Miss Miller?”
Ah, Jason Evans, star quarterback and all around smart-ass. Class would not be the same if he didn’t inject his too cool for school attitude into her lectures at least once a day. “Science is wonderful, Mr. Evans. I do admit though, I never had quite the head for it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask Mr. Patel to go into details for you. Anyway, the Great Collision. In layman’s terms…”
“Dummy terms!” Jason interjected.
“Layman’s terms,” Larissa continued on, not bothering to waste breath to engage him. “Our universe is comprised of multiple dimensions. How many is still a question the scientific community is grappling with, but that has no bearing here. What matters for our discussion is two of these dimensions collided. One dimension was very similar to what you see around you every day – skyscrapers, cars, computers – but in this dimension humans were the only sentient race and no magic existed. I’m sure many of your parents have already told you stories about the good old days.”
Groans sounded then, followed by tales of parental misconduct. Larissa let it go for a few moments before bringing attention back to her. “The other realm was a realm of sword and sorcery. Elves and dwarves existed here, as well as countless other races and magical creatures. For simplicity, we have come to label these dimensions the Human Realm and the Magic Realm, though humans did exist in the Magic Realm. They just weren’t the only sentient race.”
A hand rose at the back of the class. “Miss Miller, my mom told me we used to use oil and electricity for power, not magic.”
Larissa nodded. “That is true. You see, what seems to have happened at the Great Collision is the Human Realm absorbed the Magic Realm. That’s why Earth looks much like it did before, but now it is infused with magic. I’m sure those old folks of thirty-five and above can give you a huge list of all the small changes between then and now.”
“But Earth wasn’t altogether unchanged,” a female voice interrupted. Taneasha Jackson reminded Larissa of herself at a younger age, too smart by half and surrounded by family who protected her to the point of suffocation. The young woman was more likely to be found in a library than at any of the school events.
“No, it wasn’t,” said Larissa. “There is a section of Earth that was changed. This is caused by Necromantic magic.”
“Are we going to talk about Necromancers?” asked Jason with a little too much enthusiasm.
“Not as much as you probably want,” Larissa said. Not at all, if she had a choice. An eye hanging out of its socket, and she rubbed the heel of her palm against her forehead as if the motion could erase the image. “But yes, when we get into talking about the different classifications of magic, such as transmutation, illusion, conjuration…”
“Necromancy,” added Jason.
“You are beginning to worry me, Jason,” she said to the young man, who looked unrepentant. “Why are you not supposed to be so excited over Necromancers?”
In the tone of someone who is humoring you and wants you to know it, Jason said, “They derive their power from death.”
“Exactly,” said Larissa.
“But all the girls love vampires, and I’d look hot with red eyes,” Jason said, causing some girls to giggle and smile in his direction.
“Yes, well, while all Vampires are Necromancers, not every Necromancer is a Vampire. Only the strongest of Necromancers become true Vampires.”
Jason leaned back in his seat, a satisfied smirk over his mouth. “Gives me something to work for, then I’d have an eternity with the ladies.” The guys all started high-fiving amongst themselves, and Larissa shushed them before the words got too far out of hand.
Taneasha spoke again. “I want to learn more about the fantastical creatures that we thought were just myths until they appeared after the Collision. I really want to see a unicorn one day.”
It was almost scary how the young woman echoed her own younger years. “I was always fascinated by the new races and creatures myself.”
“Ever see any, Miss Miller,” said a voice from the back.
Not until three days ago. “No, I’ve lived in the city all my life and never traveled outside of it.”
Another male voice from the back said, “Unicorns are too girly. I want to see gryphons, basilisks, dragons, like that.”
And from the doorway came the response, the voice a smooth feminine growl. “There are no dragons.”
Larissa hadn’t heard the door open and turned to question why someone was interrupting her class.
The textbook Larissa was holding slipped from nerveless fingers, causing a sharp crack as the second silence of the morning fell over the classroom.
In the open doorway stood the redheaded woman from Friday night, her gaze locked on Larissa as she leaned against the frame, her arms and legs crossed in what would have been a relaxed posture for anyone else, but on this woman it seemed more akin to leashed watchfulness.
The woman continued, “Dragons were as much a myth on the Magic Realm as in ours, disappointing as that seems.” She smiled then, the barest trace of a dimple in her grin. “Or maybe not. Having a dragon fly overhead would not be my idea of a good time.”
She was the very definition of an Amazon – taller than some men with broad shoulders and long limbs displaying muscle, but her evident strength only highlighted how very feminine she was. She had classic features most women would kill for and hourglass curves her musculature enhanced.
A higher-pitched feminine grunt came from behind the redhead, and the redhead’s body shifted as she glanced behind her. “Move your ass, Fallon. I want to see her. I missed all the excitement, remember?”
“If you quit poking me, I will,” the redheaded woman said to whoever was back there, and took several steps into the room.
Larissa’s mouth gaped as she beheld the person coming in behind the amazon.
This woman was short. Very short. So short even the platform heels on her shoes only brought her to average height. She was wearing an elaborate jade green kimono – except unlike a traditional kimono the skirt ended mid-thigh – with matching jade hair styled in three rolls and piled so high it added an extra half-foot of height to the woman.
It was hard to tell what age or ethnicity the woman was under her dramatic kabuki make-up. Best guess, early-to-mid-twenties, and Japanese but mixed with some European ancestry.
The unnatural quiet the class had been under broke. With one voice, her students started calling out questions – about the women, what they were doing here, why did they want to talk to Miss Miller?
“Quiet,” the woman called Fallon said, her voice level but her tone absolute, and in a situation Larissa had never before experienced her class shut up as they were told. “Miss Miller, I have some questions for you. Please step outside with me.”
The small Japanese woman hopped onto Larissa’s desk, crossing her legs once she was seated. “It might have sounded like a request, but it really wasn’t.” She flicked her fingers at Larissa in a dismissive gesture. “You need to go. I’ll stay with the kiddies.”
Sure enough, the redhead didn’t look like she was moving, and Larissa didn’t want to have this conversation in front of her students. Stifling a sigh, she said, “Class, talk quietly amongst yourselves for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.”
There was an empty classroom a few rooms down. Larissa went in, not bothering with politeness to allow the woman to enter first. The redhead followed, though not before her eyes scanned the room. Classic tactical maneuver. No cop in the world ever entered anywhere before getting the lay of the land.
The woman didn’t crowd her, but her unwavering gaze and unvoiced suspicions made breathing a tad difficult, like wearing a shirt with a constrictive collar. It was so different than what she felt that night with the gargoyle, where towards the end of the night their interactions edged into the companionable.
Larissa cleared her throat, ready to start this inquisition. “This is private property. You are not permitted to come into my school and disrupt my teaching of my students.”
“I didn’t just walk in. I asked the Superintendent for permission.”
School politics being what they were, the Superintendent clearing the way for this woman meant she had some power backing her. “Did you inform him of what happened that night?” Though there would be no reason for the Superintendent to believe the redhead even if she did. Larissa had come home to find not a single trace of the battle, and no mention of it made the news the next day.
“There was no reason to. I simply said I needed to speak with you. He didn’t need the details.”
Larissa sat down. No sense on getting a crick in her neck looking up at the woman. “How did you know where to find me, or who I am? Who are you, for that matter?”
“Me? I’m Fallon, and the monochrome midget currently alone with your students is Laire. We’re part of a special group that protects the city.”
Larissa crossed her arms in front of her chest. “If you’re part of a group that protects the city, then why didn’t I know you existed before today?”
“We like to keep our specialness under wraps. Not everyone tends to appreciate how wonderful us special people are.”
“You mean the type of specialness that has a man appearing out of shadows from a solid wall?”
Fallon nodded. “He is a prime example.”
Terak hadn’t mentioned anything about them being protectors of the city, but as he was tight-lipped about them in general that was not surprising. However, Dad had never told her about any such group. So if this woman was telling the truth, that either meant Dad had kept this from her – and given his standard modus operandi that wouldn’t be a shock – or this group was very, very secret.
And if a very, very secret group told you about their existence…
“Oh gods, you’re going to kidnap me right now, aren’t you?”
The corner of Fallon’s lip quirked at Larissa’s outburst, that shadow of a dimple again displayed. “Your students just saw you walk out of a room with me. It would be kind of stupid for me to grab you and run.”
“You could make them forget. Who knows what kind of magic you can perform.”
“I don’t do magic. I turn your attention back to Friday night and the big-ass sword I was carrying around. My job is to run and swing.”
Larissa’s head was heavy on her shoulders. Laying it on the desk and closing her eyes until the woman disappeared would be heaven. Unfortunately, there was no chance Fallon would cooperate. “What do you want from me?”
Fallon walked over and crouched in front of her, bringing them to eye level. “What happened Friday?”
“I don’t know. You tell me. You were there so you obviously knew what was going to happen.”
Annoyance reflected itself in Fallon’s features. “You would think I should have been told the reason I was there, but no, the person who sent me doesn’t believe in giving anyone details. They think it’s enough to just send you on your way.” By the end of the sentence Fallon’s head was moving in rhythm to her words, emphasizing the dislike in her tone.
Not anxious to step on this particular minefield, Larissa still had to ask. “What about afterwards? Couldn’t you get any information from the zombies?”
“No. No information from that path.” Fallon’s tone was a stop sign, telling Larissa no questions asked down that path would be answered.
Larissa swiveled in the chair and stood, needing space. “I don’t know why the zombies were there. I wasn’t even supposed to go out that night. It was a spur of the moment decision to join my dad’s poker game. I think it was a coincidence, nothing more.”
Fallon stood as well, and Larissa conceded that Fallon rising to her full height was a much more impressive scene than she could ever pull off. “What about the gargoyle?”
“What about him?” Good, no cracks in her vocals. Learning to deflect her father’s questions was paying off in unexpected ways.
Fallon’s eyebrow arched at that. “He flew away with you. You were gone for a considerable length of time. Are you telling me that happens to you every day?”
“Of course not. I don’t know why he was there either. He flew me away, and I guess when he decided it was safe, he brought me back?”
“Well, at the time it wasn’t! At the time I was scared to death. Actually, I’m still sleeping with my lights on. But I don’t know what to tell you when I have no clue why what happened on Friday night… happened. I swear, I think it was completely a random event. Zombies attacked, you appeared, the gargoyle appeared. The more time that passes, the more it becomes a blur in my head, which is good, because I want to forget it!”
Fallon stared at her like she was a bug under a microscope. Breathing as she did in her yoga class, Larissa quieted her mind, quieted her body. She would not give away anything to his woman. No matter what assurances Fallon gave, the little warning bell in the back of her skull was still sounding an alert.
Fallon’s body relaxed, the signal to Larissa that she won this round. At least she wouldn’t be kidnapped right now, but Larissa didn’t need the narrowing of Fallon’s eyes to tell her that the amazon was not yet finished with her. “By all means, you know nothing and the gargoyle flew you around for a couple hours before taking you home. Why, it almost sounds romantic.”
“I need to get back to my class now.”
“Of course, who am I to deprive those poor children of their education? Then again, Laire is probably educating them beyond their wildest dreams.” Fallon went to the door and opened it, then turned and motioned for Larissa to precede her out.
As Larissa entered her classroom again, she saw her students scribbling furious notes, their expressions sharpened as they seldom were for any of her lectures.
Then she heard the Japanese woman speak.
“Yes, I do realize men who have an Orc ancestor tend to be really ugly, but that’s why they invented paper bags. Trust me, as long as a guy knows he’s getting some, he’ll wear a pink bunny costume if that’s what’s needed to seal the deal. What matters here and what you need to remember is guys that have some Orc in them are hung like nobody’s business. If you like your men large and dominating, make a beeline for them.”
“What about elves?” called a male student.
“Elves are ridiculously high maintenance. If that’s fine with you, the key for elves is the ears and the back. Sure, they like the other areas just fine, but you want to make one a little puddle of goo, spend ten minutes massaging their back. It’s practically a sure thing after that.”
“What are you telling my students?” While Larissa’s squeaky tone may not have been what one would call commanding, it did stop the small woman from talking.
“I was just answering questions. They are woefully unprepared to enter the real world,” Laire said, turning back to a student in the front with her hand up.
“I think that’s enough question and answer. Let’s go,” said Fallon, a quick movement of her head signaling the other woman to get off the desk.
“But Fallon, they need educated. You wouldn’t believe the misconceptions they had about how to have sex with a shifter.”
Fallon walked over to the desk and grabbed the woman’s ear, walking towards the door without waiting to see if Laire was on her feet yet. “Ow, Fallon, ow! Let go, I’m coming, I’m coming!”
“Goodbye, Miss Miller,” Fallon said. Larissa didn’t have to be a mind reader to see the for now Fallon mentally added onto the end of that sentence.
Fallon walked towards the door, pulling the small woman behind her. “I knew I should have brought Aislynn,” Fallon said as they left the classroom.
Laire’s snort was loud and clear though her voice was fading, their steps indicating they were walking away from the classroom. “Good idea to bring an elf amongst hormonal high school seniors. Do you really think Ais wants to be the jerk-off fantasy of the graduating class… OWWWWWWWWW!”***
Like what you read? Make sure to add it to your Goodreads to-be read list! Release date July 15!!!