Badge of Honour – A Maddison Wood Story

As you may know, instead of publishing the first season of the Collective, as I had intended to do, the plan changed. Quite drastically. I will now be publishing several books in the series, starting in February 2017.

So, to satisfy fans of the Fractured, I wrote a companion story featuring Maddison Wood. Badge of Honour is now available on Amazon. I’ve added a sneak preview below.

badge-of-honour
Cover Art by Alfredo Pachicano. Character Sketch by Rebekah Reece. Title Work by Kathryn Jenkins @MagicalDesigns

When the Fractured descend on the mortal realm, and the Demonic War begins, Maddison Wood is the first to sign up. But when she follows her brother into the enemy camp, things go terribly wrong.

What began as a rescue mission, becomes her worst nightmare. Maddison is forced into slavery and stripped of all her power.
Trapped, she finds strength in the relationship she shares with her brothers, Zachariah and Michael. Together, they form an unbreakable, if unorthodox bond. The witch, the elf, and the vampire; a powerhouse of three.
After months in captivity, Maddison is offered a chance to escape. A chance that, for one of her brothers, comes too late. Michael finds his way out of one prison, only to be locked in another – the hell inside his own mind. Now Maddison faces her toughest challenge yet. She must find a way to bring her brother home, before they lose him forever.
Sneak Preview

 

Maddison felt a swell of anticipation as she followed Kian to the large rock face. He touched his hand to the rough surface and the concealment spell dropped away, revealing an enormous door. Above the carved stone and glass entryway sat the family crest. It shone with the aquamarine and dark juniper shade of the house colours.

She couldn’t dredge up her natural armour, or the prickly barb she used as a shield to deflect deep emotion. So she couldn’t distance herself from the awe that encased her heart. This was Michael’s home, and she felt him everywhere. If she hadn’t already accepted their connection, she might have been afraid. The affection she felt made her almost giddy.

She had a hard time processing the softer side to her nature. Only with her family could she drum up the nice. Well, most of the time.

Oh, she could be reticent, and sometimes a total bitch. She had never been very good at all the touchy-feely crap. The vulnerability that came with sharing her innermost thoughts. And her barb could sting.

But Michael was part of her, too, so he evoked the gentleness that was all but choking her. She would give him that. She would give him anything if he came back to them.

It was easier now that she could feel him. So much easier to shake off the guard that usually had people reaching for the nearest weapon, and relax.

Kian paused when he crossed the threshold, as though anticipating her need. And because she wanted to soak in her surroundings, Maddison stopped too. She let her head fall back onto her shoulders, and took in the way the room went up, up, up. So far, she could barely make out the roof.

She couldn’t see with any detail, but she recognised the material. A mixture of glass and stone, infused with the house colours. They lit the space, flooding onto the levels beneath. Floors that wound around and around the room, before coming to a stop about fifteen feet above her.

Maddison righted her head until she was looking at the elegant staircase. Beneath it, a series of corridors led off from where they stood.

“You have a beautiful home,” she said, glancing at Kian.

He smiled. “There is much to explore. Come.”

Maddison followed him down one of the corridors, and into a room on the left. Two alcoves drew her attention. Carved out of the wall on her right, they held a complex series of multifaceted shapes within the stone.

Then her gaze swept left, to the large circular bed, and to Michael in the centre.

He was lying against sheets of emerald green. A colour that should have complimented his honey toned skin. Instead, they accentuated his grey pallor, and Maddison’s chest tightened. She knew the signs. His organs were failing. Again. The first time they were able to slow the process. This was different, and it made her want to scream.

Without conscious thought, she moved. One minute she was in the doorway, the next she was scrambling across the bed. Somehow, she had the foresight to look at Kian, to prepare him for what he might see. “Whatever happens,” she said, untangling her hair. “I would never hurt him.”

Turning back to her friend, her brother of the heart, she positioned herself next to him. Power was already pulsing along her skin, so she released it. Her hair began to seep across Michael’s body. A dark silken blanket that wrapped him up tight. She didn’t stop until he was completely covered. Only his head was visible above the cocoon she created.

Maddison ignored the startled sound Kian made, and instead focused on Michael’s energy. She reached into his mind, followed the echo of him that wanted to pull her under, and let go.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

One the Twelfth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, nine brave soldiers, ten borrowed shapeshifters, and eleven Noble Shields. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Twelve Fallen Guardians.

Orion sat beneath the large tree in the centre of the newly built site. He studied the tidy structures that were so different to the original design, but sturdier – harder to crumble. Not that he would allow his asinine cousin to make a repeat performance.

His attention was caught by a small group of children racing across the path above him. They were laughing, a sound that felt good and right. It drifted into the night, relieving some of the guilt that still weighed heavily in his gut.

The children couldn’t see him. He’d used a cloak to conceal his presence. It would risk his mission to be seen here, not to mention his reputation for being a cold-hearted bastard. The ice had cracked a long time ago, and the damn thing wouldn’t stop thawing. It was good that his acting skills were as flawless as his complexion.

Orion rose to his feet when he heard a heavy crash, followed by sound of shattering glass. A horrified gasp, had his attention returning to the group.

It took him a few seconds to figure out what happened, and he had to smile. One of the children had been carrying a jug of liquid – that smelled of summer mornings – and had stumbled. The boy had tried so hard to save their treasure as he fell, but the jug had dropped from his grip and now lay shattered on the ground.

Unable to help himself, Orion donned a disguise and dropped his cloak. He watched four sets of eyes widen as they spotted him.

“Shh,” he put a finger to his lips, glancing around to make sure they were alone.

“Are you Santa?” one of them asked, voice so low he barely heard it.

Orion almost laughed out loud as he looked down at the red tunic he was sporting. He’d meant to come across as unassuming, and had chosen an elderly, grandfatherly skin. The white beard did feel rather long, but the effect was purely coincidental.

The thought of all they had been through, stopped him from denying the character they cast him in. He preferred a different kind of magic, but if this was what they needed, then so be it.

He winked, but didn’t say another word. He didn’t need to. The excitement was palpable. How easy they were to please. How wonderfully innocent they were. It made him feel lighter, almost giddy with shared delight.

Taking a step forward he used his power to gather and lift the broken shards. When they were hovering before him, he chanced a glance at the group and saw he had their undivided attention.

He let the glass spin in front of him, faster and faster until it fractured into tiny splinters. They twinkled, like tiny specs of light, and it gave him an idea. Turning, he slowed their progress and blew hard.

Now, almost as fine as sand, they drifted through the air and coated the tree he’d rested against.

A collective gasp rippled through the group as the glass settled, shimmering against the branches.

“Cool,” one of the children murmured, and Orion grinned. He sounded like Blade.

Moving back to the group, he snapped his fingers and a jug appeared in his hand – this one plastic. He handed it to the clumsy child with another wink, and searched his memories for something appropriate to say. Something befitting of the legendary figure.

“Go. Share your drink, and go quickly to your beds,” he whispered, conscious that he felt an adult presence close by. A mother worried for her children.

Before they could respond, Orion disappeared. Or rather her used concealment magic to hide himself from view.

Several hours later, and still firmly cloaked, he watched as the community came out on masse to witness the Christmas miracle. A large, sparkling tree, with a pile of brightly wrapped presents beneath.

“Are you going soft on me?” a voice said beside him, a beat or two before Lucas showed his angelic face. The Guardian, the angel on his shoulder, liked to make an entrance.

“If I am, then you made me this way, brother.” Orion shrugged. “This eases some of the guilt for what happened here.”

“You’re not responsible for your cousin’s actions. And you’ve been acting on that guilt all along. For you, this is overkill.”

“And you always have my back.” Orion smiled when Lucas feigned an innocent look. “Do you think I don’t know about the Fallen?”

“It’s their job to protect,” Lucas countered, as though he hadn’t gathered them to watch over the small community. A temporary assignment or not, they had done more than protect. They had soothed, eased and in some cases healed.

The Fallen were former Guardians. Angels who chose to fall from Empyrean to take a more proactive role. Orion counted twelve among the gathering group. It was their job to blend in, but he saw them. Saw the light shining from each of them. It was almost as strong as his brother’s blinding energy.

“Perhaps we both got a little carried away.” Lucas’ mouth twitched. “Perhaps it’s the spirit of the season.”

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” Orion muttered and transported himself home. Lucas’ laughter followed closely on his heels.

And that concludes my Twelve Days of the Fractured. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, nine brave soldiers, and ten borrowed shapeshifters. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Eleven Noble Shields.

Blade’s eyes narrowed, his cat pushing against his skin as he watched the procession flying across the sky. The Siren Queen was surrounded by her guards, but they couldn’t hide Constance’s power; her shimmering glory. Perhaps it was the wings, so dark they seemed to blot out the landscape, or the blue at the edge of her primaries that blended with the sky. It made her wing span seem endless.

His gaze flickered over the guards. There were thirteen Noble Shields in all. Constance always left two to hold down the fort, and there were ten in the sky, which left one on foot. The one the queen never went anywhere without – her golden boy. So to speak.

Blade tensed the moment he felt him. The vampire was a sneaky son of a bitch, but they had known each other too long, too long to think the cat didn’t smell his arrogant stench.

Smiling, Blade allowed his cheetah to take over; exploding in a blur of movement. Before his friend could react, he spun and barrelled into him. Blade took the favoured Shield down with enough force to knock the wind out of him, or maybe that was because he was sitting on his chest.

Come on, Pan. I thought we were over this? Aaron’s mental voice brimmed with good humour, though Blade didn’t miss the hint of confusion. The fact they were now on the same team had softened Blade’s anger a little. But that was before he was reminded of Aaron’s juvenile prank.

No. I still want to chew on your bones. I just hide it better.

Aaron laughed, bending his neck to look behind him as Constance and her guards came to land. They shifted seamlessly into their half forms; downy feathers covering tall, lean bodies – a natural uniform.

“Panashe Rivera,” Constance said in that lilting tone she had. The one that made him want to obey her every command. “What have I told you about trying to snack on my head Shield?”

Blade reined in the cat, shifting as seamlessly as the sirens had done. His own body suit settling into place. “Connie,” he said, grinning when she arched her brows.

She gave an exasperated little sigh, before waving her hand in permission. Blade moved to her, leaning in briefly to rub his face against her inky hair. “Your majesty,” he said, then. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

“I couldn’t talk her out of it,” Aaron grunted, already on his feet. “One of the soldiers you’re treating is a friend.”

That wasn’t a surprise. Of the squad still recovering, all but two were human. The siren in their group had yet to regain consciousness. She had a nasty head injury, and even with her healing capabilities, the prognosis wasn’t good. Not if she didn’t wake up.

“I’ll take you to her.” Blade stepped aside as Aaron took his position beside Constance. Even inside the secure compound, none of the Shields would take chances.

They followed him to the infirmary, and not for the first time, Blade was grateful for the sense of community that had only grown in strength. The shapeshifters had gone all out to boost morale, and it worked like a dream.

Constance and her guards moved directly to the siren in the first bed. All but Aaron. He hung back, standing beside Blade as the others formed a half circle.

The space was filled with a hushed silence. Those who lay recovering, looked on with matching expressions of awe and curiosity.

Then Constance began to sing, her voice so soft, so beautiful, Blade almost staggered on his feet. His cat was purring in his mind, the compulsion in the queen’s gentle tone relaxing his animal like little else could. When the others joined in, Blade thought he could happily bathe in the glorious sound. The safety in it, the pride they were projecting to their fallen comrade.

As her guards took control, Constance leaned forward and put her lips close to the wounded siren’s ear. No matter how much Blade concentrated, he couldn’t hear the words she spoke – not above the lyrical music still filling his ears.

Whatever it was, the siren’s eyes opened. They were a tawny colour, still clouded with prolonged sleep, but she recognised her queen and her smile was radiant. After a few seconds, her lids drooped again, but the smile remained.

Blade glanced at Aaron. That is the coolest damn thing I’ve ever seen.

You always say that. Aaron grinned. But I must admit, Constance is scary good.

Good? She’s extraordinary. My cat his half in love.

Now Aaron rolled his eyes.  I’ve heard that before, too. And you don’t fool me. Your cat is the reserved one.

Yeah. Consider yourself lucky Constance lulled him into sleep.

It is a treat, isn’t it? Smooth and soft…kind of like honey.

Blade laughed and slapped his friend on the back. He could never stay angry with the son of a bitch for long.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muze sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, sixe members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, and nine brave soldiers. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my Crazy muse sent to me…Ten borrowed Shapeshifters.

It’s a little crazy, this one. I think I have Christmas fever or something 😉

Maddison worked a cloaking spell as she slipped into the large tent assigned to the hympe family. She felt a moment of unease for spying on them. The feeling evaporated when she spotted their visitor.

For a moment, she fought the urge to drop her cloak and berate him for slipping into the site unannounced. But she had a feeling that wouldn’t go down too well. He was the Hympe King after all.

They had never met, not officially, yet she recognised him at once. It was his air of dominance, the way it filled the space. The way he filled the space, with his wide shoulders and long limbs. Tobias Locke, like all hympes, had a haunting kind of beauty. He kept his dark ebony hair long, which strangely fit with his regal appearance, and those damn shirts he wore. Made from the finest silk, they should have looked ridiculous on his large frame. They didn’t.

Okay, Maddy, stop drooling over the monarch.

Backing up, she left the group to their privacy. In her haste, she forgot to drop the spell, and she was glad of it when she collided with one of Tobias’ guards. She knew Marcus, and she didn’t like him very much. The feeling was mutual. Since becoming one of Tobias’ three, his arrogance was off the charts.

“Is that you, witch?” he asked, his voice mocking.

Sighing, Maddison dropped the cloak. “Marcus. It’s a pleasure, as always.”

He didn’t answer right away; his gaze was fixed on her suit. She was used to that. Yes, so the elves had gifted her with a uniform, get over it already. “Are you finished ogling?” she asked, and barely held back a laugh when his eyes jerked up.

“Why are you sneaking around?” he demanded.

“Not that it’s any of your business, since you didn’t announce your presence on a secure site, but I’m trying to find a way to make our guests more comfortable.” She sighed, thinking of the Mizon family.

They still knew so little about the group. Jacob, the patriarch, along with his wife and siblings, had found a way to serve their contract in the Hympe Trials together. It wasn’t the only unique thing about them. Jacob had eight siblings, which was rare in their community. Hympe parents tended to avoid big families because they knew what fate awaited them.

“They’re scared, hurting, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, so that might be a tall order,” Marcus said, but his tone held less bite than usual.

“Other shoe to drop?”

“They think they’ll be shipped back to the asshole who bound them for another century.” His lips tipped up. “Tobias is breaking the news that he took care of that little problem.”

Little problem? He called a powerful sorcerer with ties to the Fractured a little problem. Maybe she could grow to like Marcus after all. “How did he manage that?”

“He’s a king.”

That didn’t tell her anything, but it was the only answer she was going to get. “Okay, so they’ll soon have something to celebrate. How can we integrate them into the community? They barely eat, hell, they barely even sleep.”

“Why do you care?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Because she knows how it feels to be a prisoner in this war,” said a deep commanding voice behind her.

Maddison turned and came face to face with Tobias Locke.

Shit, should she bow or something? She never felt this intimidated, but with his probing blue eyes and overwhelming presence, she felt trapped.

“Since you were eavesdropping, why don’t you tell us your opinion on the subject?” There went her mouth. She just couldn’t help herself.

Tobias laughed, and even that was appealing. “As a matter of fact.” He flicked a glance to Marcus, then back to her. “The Mizons would like to express their gratitude to their rescuers, and haven’t been able to visit with them since they arrived.”

In fairness, the troop hadn’t been up to visitors. They were all in the makeshift infirmary, and were still in bad shape. “That can be arranged,” she said, bowing her head slightly. See she could show respect. “In fact, there’s a custom in the mortal realm, which suits the time of year. How would they feel about entertaining the troops?”

“You’re joking, right?” Marcus scoffed.

“No. She might be on to something.” Tobias turned slightly, his expression considering. “They’re shapeshifters. What better way to make them feel welcome than to have a little fun?”

Maddison had to agree. If there was ever a time for laughter it was now, and her playful side had kicked into overdrive since hanging around with the damn cat. Blade would eat this up.

She turned to Marcus. “Don’t you have a thing for old black and white movies?”

The growl he gave her rivalled Logan’s. “So, what? You want us to act out the Wizard of Oz.”

“Perfect,” she said, letting her laughter free. “You could be one of the flying monkeys.” Winking at him, she turned back to Tobias. This time her bow was more pronounced. “Your majesty. It’s been a pleasure.”

He smiled. “Before we leave, you must tell me how you know Marcus. I have a feeling that’s a fun story.”

“Oh, it’s a barrel of laughs. Right, Marcus?”

He ignored her, well, except for the glare.

“I’ll look forward to it.” Tobias looked to his guard. “Marcus, do you want to share your excellent idea with the Mizons? There might even be a little role play involved.”

Maddison couldn’t help but smile as she walked away, heading to Blade’s tent. If there was one thing her new friend would appreciate, it was a roomful of shape shifters putting on a show.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, and eight greedy goblins. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Ninth day of Christmas my Craze Muse sent to me…Nine brave soldiers.

Blade? What the hell?

Logan jumped from the vehicle he’d driven back to the site and stared. The security fence, the mechanicalised gate he’d expected to swing open, was gone. Now there was – nothing. Not the site beyond, or the newly constructed dwellings. Not the tents littering the outer edge. Nothing.

His mind struggled to process exactly what he was looking at; like a visual moratorium . An all-around blind spot.

It was instinct to defer to the wolf, to allow him to prowl closer to the surface, because the animal detected things the man didn’t. The scent registered first, a subtle blend of sophisticated magic. If concealment spells had a flavour – this one would be goblin.

Why are you standing there gawking? Don’t you have a truck full of wounded soldiers?

As though the sarcasm soaked voice in his head was a trigger, the spell dropped and Blade came into view. He was watching Logan from the other side of the open gate, and wearing a ridiculous grin that flashed his own animal.

Logan flipped him off as he climbed behind the wheel again. His brother was right about his precious cargo. He was carrying nine severely wounded soldiers. Brave men and women who had volunteered for a mission nobody else wanted.

It was no secret the Fractured were establishing camps across the realm. Logan refused to refer to them as clubs – recreational or otherwise. The bastards were conducting experiments, and had acquired a family of hympes. Borrowed. That was the term one of the soldiers had used. Because the family had a long history of forced imprisonment. It made Logan sick.

They had been placed together during the Hympe Trials – a hundred-year contract enforced on the race – and had been tricked into servitude.  The sorcerer who owned the original contract had convinced them to sign over their freedom for another century.

It was a gruesome history, and the soldiers in the back of the truck had risked everything to get them out. Logan was fucking proud to serve beside them.

Blade was waiting for him when he parked the truck. He left enough room for Riley, who was driving the second vehicle.

“How bad?” Blade asked, with no hint of his earlier humour.

“Bad enough.” He pulled back the rear doors and grimaced at the scent of blood and pain.

Zachariah was beside them in a flash, his dark skin pale. As though he were the one bleeding. And perhaps he was, in a way. The vampire could feel them, and had connected with the soldiers’ pain. It was Zachariah’s duty to protect humans, and the compulsion to help everyone at once was riding him hard. He was already fighting off exhaustion.

“Easy, Zac,” Logan said, placing a hand on his shoulder as he moved to enter the truck. “We’ve got this.”

When he felt Zachariah tense under his hand, he knew he wouldn’t see reason. Not without a little help. “Sorry about this, bud.”

Logan let out a low, high-pitched whistle, and right on cue, Maddison ducked her head out of the command centre. She had a connection to her brother, was likely fighting the urge to take his back, and Logan had just given her permission.

The sound was also a call to action. In seconds, he was surrounded by medical personnel, armed with stretches.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, and seven of the Elite. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Eight greedy goblins.

Maddison stepped through the portal, and emerged on the other side at the foot of Durin Mountain – home to the dwarves.

She usually avoided their domain. They were a little sensitive – something about her lack of respect. Whatever. So she’d made a mistake and destroyed a priceless weapon. It was time to move on.

Right now, she was on a mission, a mission that included a visit to one of the most manipulative creatures she knew – Levi Levingsworth. He’d made his home at the outer edges of the mountain, the crafty goblin having made a deal for the privilege.

She was about to make a deal, and though not exactly the devil, Levi could be a sneaky son of a bitch. He ran a trading centre of sorts, and gathered merchandise from across the Enchanted realm to entice customers into his lair.

Maddison entered the treasure trove of trickery, senses on full alert for the little minefields she knew were awaiting her. Levi’s kids.

She felt the subtle shift in the air at her back, and almost smiled. The mini manipulators were trying to sneak up on her.

Glancing around the store, at the explosion of colours that dazzled the eye, she waited for the attack. Her hair shot out, winding around a small ankle and securing tight. Then her braid lifted the bundle up into the air, presenting Maddison with a wriggling goblin who was laughing so hard she felt the vibration all the way to her roots.

“Romi,” she said, eyes twinkling. “You almost had me that time.”

His eyes widened, probably because she knew which little terror she held in her grip. Romi was one of three, and each of Levi’s boys were identical. The girls, too. Levi had two sets of triplets.

She didn’t have to wonder where the others were hiding for long. The brood sprang out of their hiding places and charged, their small bodies crashing into hers in a tangle of limbs.

Maddison laughed, and spent a few minutes listening to their excited chatter. They were sweet, and charming. At least on the surface. It was, like the interior of the store, an illusion.

“That’s enough,” Levi said, stepping into view. “I can take it from here.”

The children scarpered. All except Romi, who was still suspended in the air by his ankle. Facing his father, Maddison hid her smile when the boy began to giggle.

“You have something in your hair,” Levi said, playing along.

“I do?” She twirled as her hair unravelled from Romi’s ankle and caught him as he fell. “Well, would you look at that.”

Romi continued to wriggle, brown eyes shining, until she put him down. He darted a glance at his father and then followed after his siblings. Maddison heard the soft lyrical sound of his mother’s voice somewhere close, but Pearl didn’t reveal herself.

“What brings you to our humble store?” Levi asked.

She turned to see the sly grin on his face. It was the only thing that gave away the nature of his beast. His appearance was deceptively benign. With his mousy coloured hair, and soft brown eyes, he could have passed for human.

Maddison didn’t have time to play his games, so she got straight to the point. “I’m here to purchase your particular brand of concealment magic.” She refrained from calling it pixie dust, because she knew how much it pissed him off. Besides, the powder came from another branch of the fay family.

Levi plucked a sturdy green bottle from a shelf, a shelf that hadn’t been there moments ago. No, that wasn’t accurate. It had been there, she just couldn’t see it.

“And what are you willing to pay for this precious gift?”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes. Why couldn’t they barter in cold hard cash like the rest of the sharks who ripped people off for a living. Cynical much? “Why don’t you tell me the price, and I’ll tell you if I’m willing to pay it.”

Levi pretended to consider, though she knew he had been turning over the options in his head the second she stepped in. “For this,” he held up the bottle. “I would need a quarter of dorlac.”

That was it? He wanted a few ounces of the prickly plant that grew on the outer edges of Firmani. Sure, it was dangerous. She’d have to battle a tribe of Lechens to get to it. But that’s what she had Riley for – the wolf ate danger for breakfast.

Holding back the smile, because Levi might be manipulative, but he didn’t know her at all, Maddison took the bottle. “Deal. But you wait until after my current mission, and a quarter is all you’ll get. Nothing more.”

He nodded, and it was just a little too eager. Something more was going on here, and she knew she’d stepped into the middle of it. But she didn’t have time to dig right now. She would find out what kind of deal she’d made soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, and six members of the Battalion. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Seven of the Elite.

It took every stubborn cell in his body, but Logan managed to stand in place. He didn’t roll his shoulders, didn’t pace or growl when Blade smirked from the front row. The soldiers crowded into the large tent were looking to him to make decision.

“Hilmore is the perfect place to relocate a community of this size,” Riley pointed out. His cousin was lounging against a table; a strategic placement because it put him beside the food. “It’s an established safe zone.”

“I agree, despite the logistical nightmare of transporting all the wounded. But the community have lost enough. They want to stay, so we need to revise the plan.”

“If I may make a suggestion,” a lyrical voice spoke up from the back.

Logan’s attention snapped to the last row, where the elves crowded together, conferring quietly. They were the relief team, seven members of the Elite who had arrived an hour before.

Apparently, Maddison Wood had friends in high places, because these soldiers had offered their services, even knowing the team they replaced were sleeping off their exhaustion. They had pumped so much power into the earth during the rescue effort, Logan swore he could feel the heat burning the soles of his feet.

“Go ahead,” he said, clearing the gruff from his throat.

“We took the assignment on behalf of the House of Gilliford. With the right help, we could transform the site.”

Logan had a feeling the right help meant one seriously sassy witch.

“Maddison is overseeing outer security, but we can pull her in,” Blade supplied helpfully.

“I suppose you’re volunteering to deliver the news?” Logan shook his head. His brother couldn’t resist getting his flirt on, but when he was in full on avoidance mode, his cat was lethal.

I live to serve.

Logan rolled his eyes. You live to goof off. Get out of here.

Blade rose to his feet. “It’s hell being the fastest one in the room,” he said aloud, wiggling his brows in Zachariah’s direction. “But you know I always pull my weight.” He didn’t wait for a response. The soft whoosh of the tent flaps signalled his exit.

Scratch goofing off. The damn cat lived to torment him, and gloating was one of his favourite ways.

Don’t be a grouch. Blade’s voice in his head only proved his point. And keep me updated.

Relaxing now his brother wasn’t around to get under his skin, Logan met the expectant eyes of his team.

An hour later, he was standing at the edge of the site, his wolf at attention as he watched magic flow in every direction.

The team of elves, an Elite group of seven, were subtle in their use of power. They communed with the earth, manipulating its energies with heads bent and expressions pulled tight in concentration.

In contrast, Maddison Wood was standing in the midst of a storm. Her long, dark locks unravelled and flying around her as she worked with the team to rebuild what was broken.

They weren’t alone. Landon and Lochlan had taken to the sky, their own power a vibrant, sizzling current as it streamed down upon the emerging construction below.

I thought only the gods could wield that level of power.

Even in his head Blade’s voice held a ring of awed disbelief. Yeah. She’s no ordinary witch. That’s for sure. He studied her. The elfin suit, the unmistakable glow of her power that shone a midnight blue through the strands of her hair. Maybe she’s part elf. Why else would her energy blend so seamlessly with theirs?

Beats me. But thank the gods that it does. It’s been a while since I saw anything that cool, man.

Logan didn’t know about cool. The earth was white hot. They’d had to move back several feet to avoid the burn. But he had to admit he was impressed. As the group worked together, several structures began to form; the bricks and mortar bending to their will.

Those structures looked nothing like the houses that had once stood in their place, and yet the aesthetic beauty was undeniable. Not only that, the houses blended with the environment, as though the earth now shaped them. A gift to the community who would thrive once more.

Perhaps the most spectacular thing, was the effect the power surge had on the trees and shrubbery littering the site. In the centre, a sapling that had been crushed under the weight of a falling building now stood erect and tall.

Logan remained in place until the group completed their task. He only moved when Maddison teetered on her feet, but Zachariah got there before him. He caught her, slinging an arm around her shoulders and leading her towards a nearby tent.

He was just about to follow when he heard Riley call his name.

“We have a problem,” his cousin said, though his eyes were following Maddison and Zachariah’s progress.

“What kind of problem?”

Riley turned back to him. “We just received a distress signal. A squad about a mile out.”

They began to head back to the command centre. “Do you want to take a team? “

“I thought we could head out together.” Riley smirked. “You’re looking a little tense there, boss. A little action might be just what you need.”

Logan laughed. He was right. His wolf needed out. Needed to run, to feel free for a while. But then Riley knew all about that. “Sounds good to me.” He nodded. “Let’s go.”

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

On the Sixth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, and five gold rings. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Six members of the Battalion.

Blade stretched his aching muscles before moving to the next bed. Zachariah was way ahead of him. He was already pumping his happy juice into a young girl who had so many broken bones in her leg it would be a miracle if they saved it.

The vampire couldn’t heal, but he could ease her pain, and it was all they had right now.

Staring into her wide blue eyes, his cat pushed against his skin. He wanted out. It wasn’t a surprise, the damn fur-ball had charmed Louise, and she adored Blade’s animal half.

Giving in, Blade shifted. He ignored the grunt from Zachariah and placed his big head on the stretcher, nuzzling Louise’s cheek.

She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. Blade’s cheetah lapped up the affection, purring into her ear.

The happy sound she made pleased the man, too. Anything to distract her from her injuries.

“We have company,” Logan said, sticking his head into the tent.

With one last nuzzle, Blade left Zachariah to it, and followed his partner out.

In his cat form, Blade had excellent vision, so he spotted their visitors immediately. Of course, he’d have to be an idiot to miss the fact that all eyes were on the sky.

He shifted again, letting out a low whistle. “Woah,” he said, as his suit snapped into place. Gone were the days he had to scrounge up a pair of pants. Thank the gods for elfin magic. “We must be doing something right to deserve a visit from the Battalion.”

Logan flashed a wicked grin. “I don’t know. Some would say we belong on the naughty list.”

His cat huffed at that. “Maybe we have V and Joshua to thank.”

The Battalion were Empyreans finest soldiers. Warrior angels, who were sent in at the start of a war. Blade and Logan had the honour of working beside two such warriors, Joshua and Nevaeh. It was the first time members of the Battalion had taken on a more active role.

Actually. I’m responsible for the reinforcements. It’s customary at this time of year to exchange gifts. Is it not?

Logan growled beside Blade, which meant Orion was in his head, too.

And we’re responsible for cleaning up your mess. Blade said, watching as the Battalion drew nearer. Consider us even.

Does that mean I should send back the rest of my gifts?

“Don’t listen to him,” Logan said, lips quirking. “Besides, I like surprises.”

Blade decided it was a sorry state of affairs when he began to miss Orion’s presence. He’d expected him to show his face the minute he got rid of his cousin, but then, being a silent member of the Collective meant he couldn’t advertise his involvement. Pity that didn’t extend to the voice in their head, because, man did the god love the sound of his own voice.

“That looks like a pretty big surprise,” Zachariah said from behind them.

He was talking about the large container the six members of the Battalion were carrying. The thing was huge, but the angels made it look easy. Each warrior had a modified harness strapped around their chest. It attached to the crate in a way that left their wings free to do all the heavy lifting – so to speak.

“Want to make a wager about what’s inside?” Logan asked, as they moved to intercept.

“I’d win that bet,” Zachariah answered, but didn’t elaborate.

Blade studied the crate. The angels were making slow progress, and appeared to be treating their cargo with a little too much care. Even when they lowered it to the ground, they unburdened themselves with practiced skill, settling the crate on the outer edge of the site without so much as a tremor.

A tall, dark skinned angel, with wings a vibrant turquoise, stepped forward. Her harness dropped away as she moved. “You must be Logan,” she said, inclining her head.

It was the hair that did it. Even in wolf form, Logan’s coat was the purest white. An anomaly within his family, due to the absence of darker tones. In human form, his hair fell in thick waves, making him stand out like snow on a mountain top.

“It’s an honour,” Logan said, rolling his shoulders.

Blade snickered, which earned him a sharp look from his partner. It was just too damn funny to see Logan play the role of ambassador. Sure, his brother had a wicked sense of humour, but he overcompensated for his lack of social skills. Blade preferred Logan’s surly side. At least it was honest.

“I’m Celestia.” The angel flicked a glance at the warriors flanking her. “This is my team. We were told you’re in need of medical assistance.”

No sooner had she spoken the words, the front of the crate fell open.

“Surprise,” Zachariah muttered, making Blade laugh.

It was a surprise. A pleasant one. There were a least five medical personnel, each strapped to a seat, and so many supplies they could cure an army.

“We’re at your disposal,” Celestia said, tucking her glorious wings into her back. “It’s my understanding you want to secure the community.”

Which of course meant that was Orion’s plan. Blade couldn’t fault him, but he doubted they could restore the peace the humans had found here. They were no longer safe in their obscurity.

“Let’s start with healing the sick,” he said, thinking of Louise and so many others who needed help. He met Celestia’s pale green eyes. “You can rest up and then get a lay of the land. It’s good to have you on board.”

He didn’t wait for a response, he moved around the team and went to introduce himself to the medical staff. They had their work cut out for them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Badge of Honour – A Maddison Wood story

As it’s day five of the twelve days of the Fractured, and Maddison plays a big part in this instalment, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to share the cover and synopsis with you. I will be releasing Badge of Honour next week.

When the Fractured descend on the mortal realm, and the Demonic War begins, Maddison Wood is the first to sign up. But when she follows her brother into the enemy camp, things go terribly wrong.

What began as a rescue mission, becomes her worst nightmare. Maddison is forced into slavery and stripped of all her power.

Trapped, she finds strength in the relationship she shares with her brothers, Zachariah and Michael. Together, they form an unbreakable, if unorthodox bond. The witch, the elf, and the vampire; a powerhouse of three.

After months in captivity, Maddison is offered a chance to escape. A chance that, for one of her brothers, comes too late. Michael finds his way out of one prison, only to be locked in another – the hell inside his own mind. Now Maddison faces her toughest challenge yet. She must find a way to bring her brother home, before they lose him forever.

And here it is…the unveiling of the cover!

badge-of-honourNow for a sneak peak…

Maddison studied the latest demon to face her in the arena and, what do you know – this one was royalty. He had to be, given the amount of feedback she received through the walled barrier. The damn thing amplified sound, but still, the blood-thirsty audience loved him. Go figure.

She felt tired, so damn tired of the endless cycle. The greedy, arrogant expression on a cacophony of faces that dissolved first into rage, then disbelief as she kicked their sorry asses.

This one was too pumped up on the ravenous applause to show fear, or perhaps he’d heard the rumours. It was more likely he was coasting on a false sense of security. After all, she was forbidden to use her secret weapon – the hair which contained the crux of her power.

It was not her only weapon. Her captors might appreciate her skills, but they didn’t know her history. Maddison’s training regimen had been brutal, but then, she had expected nothing less. Tristan Thorne was the best. A warrior at the top of his game, one whose role it was to protect the human race. With or without her magic she could wipe the floor with the piece of shit preening like a peacock in front of her.

She raised her hands in a ‘bring it on’ gesture, wiggling her fingers. The demon complied on a low snarl. Cute. He thought he could intimidate her.

He was a Sentinel; a beast in human skin. The only way to tell them apart was the shattered affect across the pupil. It bled across the demon’s iris in a deep blood red.

Spinning out of his way, she avoided the brunt of the collision. But she hadn’t accounted for his intelligence – clearly he’d been watching her fight. He anticipated her first few moves. Maddison was almost impressed when he managed to unbalance her enough to pin her to the ground. But then he made a mistake. Not only did he straddle her, he lost himself in the jeering of the crowd and placed his filthy mitt on her left breast.

Oh no you didn’t.

With measured deliberation, Maddison looked down. “I’ll give you three seconds to remove your hand or you’ll lose it,” she said in a conversational tone. “One…two…” Oh what the hell. She used three short, sharp jabs to debilitate – gut, face, windpipe. Then gathered her power into her core and flipped their positions. She didn’t wait for him to recover, or for his adrenaline and rage to kick in. She swiped his own sword, sheathed at his back, and brought the blade down on his left wrist.

The demon howled; a deafening sound matched only by the angry cries of their audience. It turned out she’d been right about his importance, and they wanted to teach her a lesson the hard way. A tag team descended on her before she had a chance to prepare. Not that any amount of preparation would have done her any good. A white hot shaft of pain tore down her spine as her jailer gave her a mental command that went against her natural instincts. ‘Do not defend yourself.’

She couldn’t ignore the compulsion, or utilise her unique weapon. The feedback rendered her powerless. The only upside to the whole thing was that she couldn’t feel the meaty fists striking her body. The slave collar was causing its own damage. It was like a freaking magnet for pain. It radiated throughout her body until she had to clamp down hard on her jaw to hold back a scream.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, and four lightning birds. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Five gold rings.

Maddison drew in a deep breath and prepared herself for trouble. It came in the form of two tall, arrogantly attractive men – the human halves of two lightning birds.

In their feathered form, they were like beautiful, long billed peacocks, shimmering with red and blue. They still reflected those colours, only it wasn’t feathers now, but silky locks that flowed to the shoulder.

Rolling her eyes, she whistled to one of the nearby soldiers on duty. His eyes were rolling too, but for an entirely different reason. The young human soldier was practically salivating.

Maddison gave up waiting for him to come to attention and walked to the table topped with clothes. They weren’t only for the changelings, but right now she needed to get Landon and Lochlan covered up.

“Thanks for the assist,” she said to the twins, throwing them each a pair of pants. “We’ve got it from here.” The last thing she needed was a camp divided. The gods weren’t the only ones prone to games.

Landon donned the pants quickly, his multi-hued hair glinting as he moved. “Mad, you wound us. Where is the love?”

She could have stopped him at any time, but Maddison allowed him to wrap his arms around her and brush his cheek against hers. The twins had saved her hide once, but more than that, she understood their need for acceptance. They didn’t allow her to throw up barriers, and she didn’t allow them to hide behind theirs.

Lochlan’s arms squeezed a little tighter than his brother, and she sensed his need, so she gave him the extra time. Lightning birds could be as private as the elves, and rarely allowed in outsiders. But, like changelings, they needed touch.

“We want to help,” Lochlan said, stepping back. “And we can’t be sure the Ancher twins have had their quota of fun.”

Maddison was about to protest when she felt it, the low vibration under her feet, as though the earth was fighting against the surge of power still being channelled by the elves.

She glanced over to the only structure still standing, a four-storey block of converted flats. It was going to fall, Maddison sensed it more than saw the signs.

If it fell, it would destroy the progress they’d made on the neighbouring properties. Even now she could see the gap they had meticulously uncovered.

So far, eight people had died in the collapse, and they had saved forty-seven. The medical tents were overflowing with injured, all awaiting for safe transport to a medical facility.

That left three. Those people had fought the hardest, and now they were about to be crushed because they had run out of time.

Everything inside Maddison protested. Between them, the rescue party had so much power they shouldn’t have to lose a single person.

Yet, like pawns in a sick game, they were prevented from overstepping the rules.

Screw that. Maddison began to pull rings from her hair as she jogged towards the building. The harmless looking accessories that bound her hair were actually a conduit to her power, and a secret weapon.

She’d only had them a few months, and hadn’t experimented nearly enough, but she didn’t have time to worry about that now.

Tossing them high into the air as she moved, Maddison unleashed her magic. The rings began to expand, spinning furiously as they continued their ascent.

When they were wide enough, she let them drop. Each fell around the building, hovering above the ground as she provided a link deep in the earth.

“Holy hell, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Landon said from beside her. The twins were serious about helping, and she was suddenly grateful they stuck around.

“What we need is a little heat, boys.” She kept her eyes on the building as she spoke. “You see the top ring. I need you to hit it with everything you’ve got.”

They didn’t say a word. One minute they were beside her, the next they were flying up in a blaze of fiery blue. Lightning crackled around them, and though it was taking all of Maddison’s concentration to hold the rings in place, she watched the brothers light up the sky.

In a focused blast, they aimed their power into the highest ring. The energy exploded, creating a polarity effect, which travelled through each of the five rings, and held the building in check.

Maddison was aware of the heightened activity around her, and knew the others had moved in to double their efforts. She ignored them, concentrating on regulating the force field she’d created with the twins’ help.

If it took every drop of her energy, she didn’t care. They would rescue the three remaining survivors, because nobody else was going to die on her watch.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel