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

Advertisements

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 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

 

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

 

On the Fourth 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, and a hunter or three. 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 Fourth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Four lightning birds.

A sizzle of kinetic energy lit up every nerve ending in Blade’s body. It was followed by a booming crack, a whip of sound and colour across the sky.

“You have got to be shitting me,” Blade said, depositing an unconscious woman onto a nearby stretcher.

Alayah followed his gaze, her breath hitching when she spotted them. Two lighting birds, their vibrant red feathers like a flame glowing in the night.

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Lo meant when he said we needed light on the situation,” she said.

Blade grinned, despite the crap storm above them. “Hey, you never know. They could be friendly.”

She snorted, and it was one of the sweetest sounds he’d ever heard. Yep, he was pathetic. But it meant she was comfortable with him again. That their friendship wasn’t a lost cause.

Those thoughts vanished when a bolt of lightning hit the ground in front of him.

“Hey, cat-boy.”

Blade turned to see Maddison jogging over to them. “We need to deflect those blasts away from the danger zones. And it appears they’re attracted to you.”

“I’m not sure I can outrun lightning. Why do I have to be target practice?” He would do it, he just liked messing with her. It probably had something to do with the fact his cat had a major crush, and she took his harmless flirtation in her stride.

He frowned, glancing Maddison’s way when she didn’t rise to the bait. She had her eyes closed, her head dipped to the side as though concentrating on something she couldn’t quite hear.

Blade studied her, his gaze dropping to her right hand. It took him a second to understand that the subtle movement of her fingers coincided with the increase in air current. What started as a gentle breeze became a gust of wind that made his hair dance and the dust swirl at his feet. She was creating a distraction.

Tipping back his head, Blade watched the lightning birds circle overhead. They seemed amused by her. Curious even.

“Can’t you guys like…woo them or something?” he asked, smirking when he felt Maddison’s gaze on him.

“If that’s a crack about witches using lightning birds as pets, I’m going to pin you to a lamp post and colour you a sacrifice.”

“Kinky,” he purred, wiggling his brows.

“I wonder if they have a thing for honey.”

Blade looked at Alayah, thrilled when he saw the light of amusement in her eyes. It felt better than the powerful energy crackling in the sky.

“That sounds like an interesting story, and I want to hear all about it,” Maddison said, interrupting. “But now would be a good time to let the cat out. We need a distraction so the others can start moving the injured.”

Blade shifted without another word, his good humour disappearing along with his human skin.

There was a small park bordering the housing estate, so he headed that way – hoping to draw the birds away. It worked. Though Maddison probably helped them along. He felt the blast of air like a hard caress along his fur.

For the next ten minutes, Blade zipped from one end of the park to the other as blast after blast of lightning mapped his progress. His fur got singed a few times, but his cat was enjoying the chase. At least until he took a hit. The burning pain along his right side was enough to slow him down.

“Son of a bitch.”

His words were punctuated by a crack-crack-sizzle. That couldn’t be good.

Blade glanced to his right, following the fiery snap of sound and saw two more of the damn birds, their feathers intertwined with blue. How the hell was he supposed to dodge four of the fuckers?

Drawing in a deep lungful of air, he prepared to bolt as a stream of power tore across the sky in a breath-taking display of dominance. He would have been toast for sure, if they had aimed that power at him. Instead the newcomers were aiming at the two using him for target practice.

He dropped to the ground, shifting as he did so he could lay on his back. The new pair were friendly, perhaps one of Orion’s countermeasures.

The birds went at each other with everything they had. A no holds barred assault that lit the sky like a fierce, fiery storm.

“Go team Orion,” he murmured and tucked his hands behind his head, content to watch the show.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

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

Welcome to day three. This is my take – a slice of fantasy – on the twelve days of Christmas theme. So far we’ve had a god who caused destruction in the mortal realm, and a rescue effort which began with a changeling or two. The story continues.

On the Third Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Three fearless hunters.

Logan waited beside the impromptu command centre, a tent one of the squads had set up to coordinate the rescue effort. He was on guard duty, a necessity considering the shit-storm of surprises they’d had to contend with over the past hour.

He’d already caught several wraiths trying to break through the barrier the elves had erected. Those wraiths hadn’t found the site on their own, but now that they had, they were looking for a quick fix.

Logan knew what they wanted. The people still trapped beneath the rubble were already weak, some barely holding on. Those poor souls would be easy pickings.

A growl built in his chest before he could stop it. His cousin was late. The fact Riley was one of the best hunters he knew, made it worth the wait. At least for a few more minutes.

And right on cue his cousin stepped into view. His timing perfect.

Logan blinked in surprise when he saw his companions. He’d known Riley would come packing, and by that he meant fully armed with his own team, but he hadn’t expected him to bring Maddison Wood.

The dark-haired witch had been out of commission for a while. She’d recently escaped from a war camp, or as the Fractured were calling them, recreational clubs – for the sick and twisted.

“Lo,” Riley said, flashing his trademark grin. “I hope you don’t mind, but a couple of my friends tagged along. You get three hunters for the price of one.”

Three? He’d expected more. Then again, the two he’d brought were their own army. If the rumours were true.

For some reason, Maddison was wearing and elfin uniform, Logan hadn’t seen anyone besides the Elite wear one of those beauties.

Her gaze travelled down his own suit, which was also elfin in nature, and she smirked as though reading his mind. “So, you’re a member of the exclusive club we’re all hearing about?”

“And you’re the witch who charmed the elves.” It felt odd that he would be recognised as a member of the Collective, but that was the nature of the beast, and his own was far more interested in Maddison Wood.

She laughed. “Zac here does the charming in our family.”

Zachariah Thorne, her adopted brother and partner in crime, stepped forward. “Good to meet you.”

“Thanks for coming.” Logan wanted to kick his own ass for that one. He rolled his shoulders and sucked it up. He still wasn’t comfortable with the position he’d been given, and his welcome speeches usually sucked.

Speaking of which. He was glad to have a vampire on board. Zachariah would be able to regulate the tempers in and around camp. Since they started pulling people out, tensions were running high.

“Riley speaks highly of you,” Zachariah said, shaking his hand.

Logan frowned. It was a nice sentiment, but it was full of crap. Riley didn’t speak highly of anyone. Not if he could help it.

“He’s just playing with you,” Maddison intervened. “We’re both curious about Ry’s family. He’s not exactly a sharer.”

“Now that I can believe.” Logan glanced down the road when he heard the rumble of an approaching vehicle. It had to be the supplies they were expecting.

Movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention and he realised it was Maddison’s hair. It was like the tail of a cat, twitching in frustration.

“What is it?”

It was Zachariah who answered. “Not sure. Whoever is driving that truck reeks of deception. The poor sap is terrified.”

A low growl came from Riley’s throat.

“Easy there, wolf-man,” Maddison said, and Logan watched as her hair snaked out to wrap around his wrist.

He couldn’t decide what shocked him more, that Maddison could soothe his cousin, or that Riley allowed it.

“What do you say we go do our thing, boys?” Maddison said. “I think our new visitor needs to check in.”

She didn’t wait for a response. Releasing Riley, she moved to intercept the truck. Logan didn’t tell her they were expecting the additional supplies he could see piled in the back. Instead, he stayed where he was and watched the three close in as a unit.

A minute later, Riley had the driver pinned up against the cab of the truck, aggression rolling from him in waves.

“Care to tell me what’s going on here?” Logan asked, moving to the group.

“This dipshit just led a shit load of trouble our way,” Riley growled. His eyes flashed when they turned Logan’s way. “It’s time to let the wolf off the leash, cousin. There’s a group of lost souls less than a mile away.”

That explained where the wraiths came from at least. When they conquered a soul, for a time their hosts became animated corpses. Temporary or not, they were strong, and their presence would seriously damage moral. Nobody liked a reminder of what the demons had planned for the mortals who stood in their way.

Logan didn’t even hesitate, he shifted. It appeared his job at welcoming committee wasn’t over just yet.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Writing a Serial – The Saga Continues

In August I wrote a post about the trials of beginning my journey into serialised fiction. I learned a lot from the process, and the result of those lessons meant I had a few decisions to make about the future of the Collective.

In short, I had to rethink my whole plan. I still believe it will make a good serial, it just needs a stronger foundation before the group can come together and share their adventures. I’m sure readers will appreciate the time to familiarise themselves with the characters – all thirteen of them.

It’s for that reason I’ve decided to give each character their own novel. Yes, that’s thirteen books (at least) before the collective can be formed. By that time, readers will know the history, will be familiar with the world itself, and regular episodes will complement the series as a whole.

So, since the first novel won’t be ready until February 2017, and I promised a release this month, I wrote a novella – Badge of Honour – featuring Maddison Wood from the Fractured series. I will be releasing that Christmas week, and I’m excited about it.

I’m also excited about the fact that I have a new image of Maddy to share with you. I’ve been working with Magical Designs to create covers for The Collective, and The Fractured. Bekah Reece sketched Maddy for me, and I’ll be using her for future covers because she looks fantastic.

Yes, I messed up my timing when it comes to the serial and the planners among you are probably shaking your head, but there’s a silver lining. So, here she is, my feisty witch with hair that will tie you up in knots…I give you Maddy…

maddy-comission-2

I will be providing a sneak peak of Badge of Honour, and of course there will be a cover reveal coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

 

Feverish Part 3: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes #9

Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes

This week, Ronovan challenged us to write a story based on the following sentence:

Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.

To find out more about Ronovan’s challenge click here.

I’m cutting it fine this week, and I have good news and bad news. The good is that I finally managed to finish the story! The not so good is that I couldn’t complete it within the suggested word limit. As it is a suggested limit I don’t feel too bad, although I did double the 500 word target!

As this is the third part, here is a quick summary of the previous installments:

Maddison Wood is a mercenary. She is also a powerful witch, and a member of the Enchanted League. When the Hympe King contracts a virus, and his people begin to get sick, Maddison agrees to help. Her partner in crime, a werewolf named Riley, located the source of the virus – a hympe who imprisoned himself in the shape of a tree (hympe’s are shapeshifters). The Hympe King is the only one who can free the prisoner but, due to an uncontrollable rage brought on by the fever, the team might not be able to contain him long enough for him to focus his power.

Feverish Part 3

Marcus and the siren twins made it in under thirty minutes. All three guards looked exhausted; their expressions grim, their shoulders hunched. Of course, they had the added weight of a king on their shoulders, since they were carrying Tobias – literally.

“We don’t have much time,” Marcus said, and his voice was heavy with fatigue.

Maddison made her way over to the group, with Riley on her heels. The tension was so thick, it was like wading through treacle. Jonas’ words sprang to mind; their commander and chief had a tendency towards the dramatics. Maddison could hear his voice in her head, like an echo of his earlier warning.

Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.

That mission hadn’t gone so well, and Maddison still remembered the bitter taste of their defeat. But they wouldn’t lose this time. She wouldn’t allow it.

“What’s the plan?” she asked Marcus. “Other than poking the bear and waking his ass up.”

Riley’s low rumble of laughter did nothing to ease the animosity. It was leaking out of Marcus’ pores and, since he ignored her question, Maddison took that as a zero in the ideas department.

By the time they lowered Tobias to the ground, Maddison was out of patience. She didn’t have it in her to argue protocol, or worse, debate over how they would handle Tobias’ condition.

She knelt beside him and focused her power. Her hair shot out, the braid controlled, and as lethal as a snake, her locks wound themselves tight around Tobias’ torso. When she had enough energy focused on her silken trap, she leaned forward to take Tobias’ hand until her fingers brushed the wide band on his finger. Maddison had given the ring to him for protection, to anchor him in the present. It had worked before, and she had to believe it would work again.

“Wake him,” she said to Marcus, and cut off his protest before he could utter a word. “We don’t have time to argue.”

Marcus didn’t like it, she could feel his anxiety, yet she knew he couldn’t deny her connection to his king.

Maddison closed her eyes, pushing out with her mind to find Tobias. ‘How’re you holding up, half-blood?’ she asked. It probably wasn’t a good idea to push his buttons, but it hadn’t stopped her before.

Every muscle in Tobias’ body locked, and she knew he was getting ready to fight the binds. ‘What’s happening?’

He sounded confused, whether from the prolonged sleep or the amount of power she was using, Maddison’ couldn’t be sure. ‘You’re sick, and the virus has put you in a perpetual bad mood, so you need to get a hold on that temper and help us out.’

‘I hurt you.’

Maddison felt her brows draw together, and for a second she thought her brain had scrambled too. Then she remembered he’d drawn blood during their fight; the first indication of the illness. ‘Yes, I still owe you for that one, but we’ll save the rematch for when you’re not feeling so cranky.’

“What’s happening?”

The question came from one of the twins. Maddison didn’t know which one, it took all her effort to hold on when Tobias began to thrash. ‘Stop.’ She directed a blast of power into the ring, and felt it heat beneath her fingers. ‘You need to focus your energy to use your gift.’ When Tobias’ body stilled again, Maddison forged ahead. ‘Your people are sick, Tobias. You have to help them.’

Tobias didn’t reply, but he didn’t move either. So she told him about the hympe who had imprisoned himself in the form of a tree, one of Tobias’ subjects in desperate need for an intervention. She didn’t tell him they were running out of time, or that the hympe was the key to curing him.

She wanted to sag in relief when she felt Tobias’ power dance with her own. He was reaching out, using his entire focus. She didn’t move. Maddison remained locked in place, ignoring the pain in her skull and the exertion of maintaining the connection.

Maddison had no idea that Tobias’ guards were using their skills to strengthen that hold. All three had linked to their king and were helping to ease his growing frustration.

Riley, whose animal half had detected Maddison’s distress, howled in warning. She felt his presence like a comforting hand on her shoulder.

She knew the moment Tobias freed the hympe from his self-induced prison, but there was no pull of relief this time. Maddison didn’t have it in her. Tobias was straining against her, the rage hitting her in great waves as he struggled to regain control. She felt their connection break when he tugged his hand out of hers, and fear ran along her skin.

“Put him out,” Marcus barked, his voice coming from somewhere far away. “We need to get them out of here. Now.”

The second Tobias stilled again, Maddison let go. She didn’t have any choice. She had expelled too much energy and there was nothing left to give. There was nothing left to keep her upright either. If it hadn’t been for Riley, she would have fallen on her face.

Riley’s arms were like steel traps around her, and she leaned into his strength. Maddison even allowed it when he nuzzled his face into her neck. It was a compulsion of the wolf, and a sign of the animal’s affection. Still, she didn’t humour him for long. Her hair flipped out like a cat’s tail and flicked him playfully on the head. Maddison felt his body shudder with a growl of laughter.

“Okay, fur-face, stop slobbering on me and let me up. Our job here is done.”

Riley obliged with a wicked grin. “What about Tobias?” he asked, as she straightened.

“His guards will serve up the cure, and then I’ll serve up an ass kicking for all the shit he’s pulled.”

The rumble of amusement came again, deep from Riley’s chest. “You do know that he’s a king, right. And he happens to rule the League.”

Maddison shrugged. “Somebody has to keep him on his toes.” Then, because she was still feeling a little weak, she rerouted her energy and looked across the clearing. “Let’s get out of here. Make yourself useful and find the nearest portal.”

“Try to keep up,” Riley said in a low taunting voice, and set off at a run.

The burst of challenge was just what Maddison needed. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing Tobias would be well, and sparring with her again in no time.

***

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel