Thursday, 26 July 2012

Teaser: Parabellum

In a few days, I will be releasing book two in the Thirty Minutes to Heartbreak books. I am very excited about this one, and thought I would share this teaser from the beginning of the novel. Just to warn you... things may get a little steamy. ;) Literally.

Chapter 1: Between Mountain and Metropolis

        In the dip of the crater on Mount St. Helens, massive cracks began to appear in the solidified magma. Soft molten rock began to lift and swell, becoming engorged like living flesh. The pressure from the hot liquid rising below provoked undulations in the once motionless, solid surface. What had been flat and lifeless landscape now ballooned upward, a breast expanding with quivering breaths. To an onlooker, if anyone had been unfortunate or blessed enough to be looking on, the pulsations in the growing dome might have resembled the mountain’s heartbeat—racing with the excitement of approaching release.
        With a sound like a sigh, a thin white plume was released from the crest of swollen rock, sending ribbons of hot ash billowing up into the air. A growing fracture began to form in the apex, from which more and more steam was emitted, spurting thousands of feet into the atmosphere. The rupture rapidly expanded, allowing the first drops of bubbling lava to trickle from its creases.
        A woman’s hand abruptly broke through the crack in the rock. More steam immediately surrounded the lime green fingernails which just barely poked out of the seam. The fingers began to flex and writhe as they clawed at the crevice. A second hand smashed through the fissure, feeling around tentatively. If one could have seen through the thick steam, they would have noted the woman’s dark copper skin, slender fingers, and several eclectic rings with multicolored gemstones. The hands thrashed around in distress as lava bubbled up around small wrists, hot enough to boil rock, but apparently not the tender skin of this human being.
        Finally, emitting an ethereal silvery glow, the two hands paused—they firmly gripped the sides of the gap and worked in unison to forcibly rip the rock apart. A forearm followed, elbow resting on the surface to help push the woman’s torso through the crack, and when her head was above the surface she gasped for oxygen hungrily. Crawling along the surface away from the crevice, she panted as she rested gratefully on a firmer portion of the crater—the bright light surrounding her entire body intensified. When the mountain continued to hiss, teeming with pressure from below, she struggled to rise to her feet.
        Stumbling as she limped to the edge of the mountain, the woman leaned weakly against a jagged portion of rock that jutted out along the rim of the crater. The translucent white blaze which hugged her curves like an outline began to fade. She coughed as she inhaled some of the hot grey ash that was spewing out of the volcano’s mouth. She glanced up at the steamy plume with dismay, and looked down at her damaged lime-green jumpsuit. She began hastily brushing ash and clumps of drying lava from her bizarre garment. 
        “I am never doing that again,” she vowed.
        Jumping off the edge of the crater, the woman began to levitate slowly toward the ground. She interlocked her arms across her chest and frowned at the skyline of a city visible to the north. In the blink of an eye, she propelled her body across the dozens of miles between the mountain and the metropolis. She now hovered above a busy intersection, staring down in confusion.
        “Is this Seattle?” she whispered as she lowered herself to the sidewalk. “Looks different without piles of dead bodies in the streets.” She ignored the judgmental looks as pedestrians strolling by examined her oddly vibrant, neon-green outfit. When a grandmother pulled her small child away protectively, and the young boy stared up at her with his mouth in a little O-shape of surprise, the woman growled. She reached up to touch her curly black hair to check if it was out of place. Finding nothing wrong with her appearance, she made her way to a payphone.
        Staring at the machine in bewilderment for a moment, she seemed to be trying to remember how to use it. Mumbling a few numbers under her breath, she lifted a hand. Her fingers paused slightly in front of the phone, not making contact, but causing the receiver to float toward her ear and mouth. Numbers on the keypad began to depress automatically, and the payphone reacted as though coins had been inserted, beginning the call. After a few rings, a polite, professional voice filtered through the receiver.
        “Kalgren Technological Enterprises, CEO’s office. Nina speaking. How may I help you?”
        “I was supposed to meet with Thorn Kalgren an hour ago!” The young woman in the green bodysuit acted convincingly annoyed. “God, he still hasn’t shown up and I can’t sit here all day—I have other appointments!”
        “The CEO is a busy man and he seems to be occupied with some sort of emergency. I apologize—I’ve been cancelling his meetings for the day, but I must have missed yours—who is calling, please?”
        “It insults me that you even have to ask,” she told the secretary. “Never mind—is Thorn’s sister available? Amara should be able to help me.”
        “I’m afraid Miss Kalgren isn’t in the office today either. Is this about one of her inventions? I could forward you to her department manager…”
        “No, no.” The dark-skinned woman chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “This is a matter of some delicacy, Nina. I need to speak to a Kalgren directly—is Rose available?”
        Nina seemed to hesitate. “Thorn’s mother is retired. Sorry, ma’am, who did you say you were? If you’re from the tax office, I can forward you to the financial…”
        “No! Is Pax Burnson there?”
        “Why, no.” The secretary paused. “In fact, I don’t believe she’s involved in any current projects. Thornton recently broke up with his girlfriend, you see.”
        “What?” the young girl shouted. This seemed to bother her more than the volcanic lava. She tried to regain composure after slipping out of character. “Well, what about Asher Burnson? Any of the Burnsons really.”
        “I highly doubt the Burnsons would be able to assist you with Kalgren Tech company issues. If you just call back tomorrow, I am sure we can schedule you another appointment. I’ll mention to the CEO that you called.”
        “No!” the woman in the lime jumpsuit hissed. “Where the hell is he? I’m going to kill your boss.”
        “Uh… excuse me?” Nina’s voice faltered.
        “All of them. I’m going to kill all of them.” The woman turned her back on the payphone and it promptly exploded behind her. People traversing the Seattle sidewalks began to shriek when she levitated several meters off the pavement. The girl ignored the attention and swept her body up into the air, moving away from onlookers in a fraction of a second. Her slender silhouette barreled through the air so briskly that she was just a kiwi-colored blur. Finally, she landed in the middle of a forest clearing before a massive Victorian manor.
        “Burnson Grove,” she muttered. She had been hoping to see several cars in the driveway, signifying that the Kalgrens were visiting. Instead, she could tell without entering that the house was empty. She could not detect any formidable life forces within the walls of the mansion, and the Burnsons and Kalgrens were all strong enough that they would have been easy to detect. “Damnation,” she swore, glancing to the west. Her eyes narrowed angrily. “They’re in India. I should have known.”
        Before the final word had left her mouth, her toned body exploded into the sky—a sleek missile launched to a distant destination, sure to wreak carnage upon arrival. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Aazuria's Dance

This is a piece of writing I did several months ago and tucked away in a folder to gather dust. I am rather fond of the concept, so I've decided to share it with my readers. In my first novel, Drowning Mermaids, we begin by looking inside the mind of Captain Trevain Murphy as he watches a mysterious woman dance on stage. I thought it might be fascinating to take a peek backstage, and see the same scene from the mind of the dancer. I considered including this in the main story, since it's "canon" and could have actually happened, but I realized that it might reveal too much about the characters far too soon, disrupting the whole element of mystery in the beginning of the story.
So, this is solely for your enjoyment. 
Hope you like it!

 Aazuria's Dance

      Her cheek grazed her knee as she waited backstage, doing simple stretches. A woman with large fake breasts tottered by shakily on towering heels, sending her a suspicious glare. Aazuria was stricken by the disproportionate size of the woman's breasts with respect to the rest of her emaciated body; she remembered something Sionna had told her about new procedures which augmented certain physical attributes. It was fascinating, but not really of much significance to her, and she returned to pressing her forehead flush against her leg.
       The carpet under her bare legs was rough and abrasive. She imagined that it was already leaving ugly scratches on her newly-tanned skin. As she straightened slowly from the stretch, she stared at the unfamiliar color of her knee. She missed being underwater. More women strolled by, sending her more suspicious and disdainful looks. Aazuria sighed to herself, and continued stretching. A redheaded woman burst into the room, strutting buoyantly on her shoes as though she hardly noticed she was wearing them. Her whole body was finely muscled, and her height was intimidating; at six feet tall she towered over the other women in the room who barely came up to her chin. Her pleasant laughter rang out loudly in the dressing room.
       "For Sedna's sake! Zuri, you really don't need to stretch. Don't bother giving this any effort! It's supposed to be a low-class, inferior form of entertainment." The redhead turned to the women who had been watching Aazuria with airs of superiority and glared at them. She flung her hand towards the exit as she barked an order, "Skedaddle, bitches."
       The women quickly complied. Aazuria smiled at her protectress. "It is not worth doing unless it is done properly, Visola."
       "Then show me how it's done, Princess," Visola said with a wink. "I'll be watching."
       "You have always been watching," Aazuria said fondly. She heard the first few notes of her song begin, and she bolted to her feet nervously. "Well, here I go."
       "Break a le—"
       "I would much rather not." When Aazuria pushed past the beaded curtains, she felt the music seeping into her bones. Her eyes were downcast as she ascended the stairs, feeling a strange sense of simultaneous nervousness and excitement. She had always been confident in her dancing technique—she had studied various styles on various continents, and she had practiced for hundreds of years. She usually trained in water, and it was far more difficult to dance in water than it was on land. By all accounts, this should be a cinch.
       The familiar vocals began, and Aazuria plunged her limbs into motion. Indescribable sensations of loveliness washed over her, as they always did when she began dancing, reaching her lips to settle there in a smile. Finally, she turned to gauge the reaction of her onlookers.
       The audience was a sea of eyes. Adoring eyes of those seeking something from her dance which she would never be able to give them. They were seeking the things which they did not really need. They sought sex and excitement or momentary stimulation, but her every gesture and expression, her every step, was dancing in homage to something transcendent and everlasting.
       Slowly, the audience was pulled out of the realm of their own expectations and into the realm of her creation. Yes, she could hold them spellbound with a little help from the haunting sound of her sister's recorded voice. Aazuria was strong enough to guide them all—she had always been in a position of leadership, and this was no different. She created the atmosphere, she poured her personality and her principles into it, and she invited them inside for a moment to glimpse the d├ęcor of her soul. She felt like she was challenging their roughness with her grace, and ultimately, she was winning. She was overpowering them.
       She spun, and spun, and felt windborne. There was an impossible fire within her which seemed to radiate forth from her limbs. All of the elements coalesced in her emotions; as always, she felt far greater than herself when she danced.
       She was in complete control. The stage was hers, the audience was hers, and time was hers. She could bend it and make the moment last an instant or a lifetime, depending on her whim. She was in complete control until he looked up from his drink. She was thrown by unmistakable shine of intelligence she saw glinting at her from across the room in a pair of sad green eyes. Her chest constricted at the sight which hit her like a tidal wave and nearly knocked her off her feet. All she could do was hang on for dear life, as she pushed her body onto automatic mode. At the same time, she became doubly conscious of her motions. She tried a little harder, knowing that there was at least one person in the room who could discern the quality of her movements.
       The rest of her dance flew by in a blur that she could barely remember. Her heart was beating unusually quickly under the fine scrutiny. Every moment she could justifiably spare was spent glancing at or staring into the green eyes of the man at the other end of the room. He was probably the person sitting farthest away from her, concealed in an extremely dark-lit corner. Luckily, her vision, especially in the dark, was better than most. There were dozens of men, probably handsome young admirers, clustered around the stage; she was not sure why her attention was held rapt by the pair of distant, shining eyes.
       As the world spun, those green eyes were a solid island. How sweetly they shone, and how firmly they were grounded. She could not resist being drawn to them as a windswept ship eagerly seeks a harbor. She could not resist the immediate intimacy that was provoked in her chest, completely unbidden and unanticipated.
       When she had finished her dance and retreated backstage, she stood naked against a wall, trying to calm her racing heart. Excitement flowed through her with a huge burst of energy, somehow laced with triumph. The audience had loved her; she had sensed it. She felt strangely affirmed by this; she was by no means a young woman anymore, despite her smooth skin and outward appearance.
       But that man! She closed her eyes as she leaned against the wall, remembering his gaze.
       "How was it?" came a soft voice from the shadows. It was Visola, of course. The red-haired warrior never strayed far from Aazuria's side.
       "Oh, Viso," she said, her chest heaving with exhilarated breaths. "It was divine. There was a man…"
       "There were many men, darling."
       "Yes, but this one… his eyes were shining."
       "Be careful. Minimal interaction, remember? We make our money and get out," Visola said sternly. She paused, studying her friend. "What did this man look like?"
       Aazuria tried to picture his face, and she frowned as her mind faltered. She could not remember a single attribute of the man—not his skin, his height, his hair, or clothing. Nothing came to mind. But burned into her memory was his peculiar pair of emerald eyes, and the strange feeling which they had stirred in her breast.
       "I do not know," she said in confusion.
       "Well, go find out," Visola encouraged, nudging Aazuria playfully. "Remember, the most important part of a man's appearance is the girth of his…"