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Sneak Peek- Shifting Problems, Book 1, Bloodline Awakened Supernatural Thriller Series-December 5 Release Date

Shifting Problems

Bloodline Awakened Supernatural Thriller Series, Book 1

By Jason Paul Rice

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Jason Paul Rice

All rights reserved.  Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction.  All names are made up and used fictionally.  Any resemblance to real people is completely coincidental.   Any resemblance to real events is only part of the author’s imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

I heightened my senses to detect dark forces as I lingered in the lobby.  Satisfied the building was clean, I let my magic subside back down into the reservoir.

I entered the meeting room and guilt attacked me as I said hello to the other members.  I had sworn an oath in front of the Celtic Gods to protect Pittsburgh from demonic entities.  In exchange for my oath, the druidic physicians and healing witches had cured my lung cancer.  The Gods had also promised to turn me into a powerful wizard, awakening the bloodline I shared with Merlin, but I was only twenty-three, beginning a lifelong journey of magic.

As I sat down, my guilty feelings increased, knowing I had an underworld advantage in my battle, while the rest of the group was at the mercy of their insurance providers to stay alive.  I was a proud regular at the Cancer Support Group on Locust Street in Oakland.

We sat on folding chairs set up in a horseshoe configuration.  The early morning sun crept through a set of cracked blinds, casting long shadows across the burgundy carpeting.  A small table in the corner had a pot of coffee and pumpkin-spiced rice crispy treats on it.  The heat kicked on, creating a competing aromatic swirl of java, perfume and cologne.

A woman with a gaunt face and red handkerchief covering her bald head stood up.  “I’m Stacy and I’m a cancer fighter.”

We all rang out, “Hi, Stacy.”

Stacy scratched one of the moles on her pale cheek with a trembling thumb and sniffled through her flared nostrils.  “I’m doing better, but not out of the woods yet.  I’ve been given a forty-percent chance at survival.”  Tears formed in her reddened eyes and she produced a used tissue from her pocket.  She blew her nose and everyone waited patiently.  Her soft voice cracked as she continued, “I know that’s not the greatest odds, but I’m going to beat it.”  She barely got the last few words out.

The rest of the support group started clapping and I jumped up from my chair.  I took four steps forward and wrapped my arms around Stacy.  Her forehead hit my clavicle and her tears meshed into the fabric of my hoodie with the cursive writing, Merlino Detective Service, across the chest.

I hadn’t known her before she had walked through that entrance door about an hour ago, but when you’re fighting cancer, we all fight under the same flag.

I felt the warmth of her body, but it wasn’t complete warmth, almost an artificial heat.  She was in pain.  Her outer shell carried the heat and hid the icy glacier just beneath the surface.  Fighting cancer could do that to a person.  You could lie to everyone else about it, but deep down, you could never fool yourself.

It didn’t take a wizard to sense her pain.  The group leader, Sharon, cleared her throat for several seconds.  The stubborn phlegm didn’t want to come up.  It was like centuries of collected cobwebs that she wildly swatted away with a broom, only to create a tangled mess on the bristles and tire herself out in the process.

She finally wrestled the obstruction loose, chewed it up, took a swig of her Diet Dr. Pepper, and swallowed it.  I wanted to gag.  Sharon said, “Thank you for sharing, Stacy.  I know it’s difficult right now, but you have this group behind you.  If you ever need anything, we have a master list of everyone’s phone numbers that you can take with you.”

It’s hard to explain what it had been like to hear the diagnosis, once the words finally seeped through the thick layers of shock and denial.  Everything had changed.  I’d heard almost all those words during the diagnosis a million times before, but not in that particular order.  And not that one particular word.  Cancer.

I remembered what it was like at first.  Why me? What did I do to deserve this?  Everything faded, became dull, jejune, vapid, pallid.  Like there was nothing there.  Everything was stupid.  Everything sucked.  I was simply waiting to die.  A skeleton of bones waiting for the flesh to waste away.

It was important to have people invest emotionally in you when your head was in that state.  For me, it was Alayna, the wingless faerie, my savior, and my mentor.  I loved her more than my limited vocabulary could properly express.  She had taken me to the druidic underworld known as the Deep Burrow and introduced me to the Celtic Gods.

Some of these survivors didn’t have anyone to turn to, nobody to give a shit about them.  You needed somebody, and I wanted to be that somebody that everyone could lean on.

I had an amazing advantage fighting my cancer, and even then it was a great struggle.  I wanted to be there for the fighters who didn’t have a strong support system.  I let go of Stacy, looked encouragingly into her crying green eyes, and we both returned to our seats.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and I slid it out just enough to see who it was.  Lieutenant Gretchen Meyer of the newly formed Pittsburgh Police Department of the Occult.  I checked the message and it said she needed to talk to me.  Strange.  She never wanted to talk to me unless she desperately needed help.

I had been providing detective work, even though I didn’t fully understand the craft, for the past year to pay rent and bills.  Alayna hadn’t told me the whole truth when she had promised that I wouldn’t have to worry about money.  I thought I would get a rich benefactor to put me up in a mansion and give me a new car every week.  Wrong.  Wrong to the tenth.

I texted Lieutenant Meyer back and let her know that I was in a meeting.  My phone immediately buzzed again with one word in all caps.  URGENT.  Gretchen, who hated it when I called her by her first name, was never one for one-word messages so I had a good idea something big might have happened.  Finally.

I had taken on several cases over the last year, only to have them turn out to be paranormal hoaxes and the alien attack had turned out to be nothing more than a rabid barn owl, so I hoped I would finally have the chance to take on a real case.

I texted her back to pick me up at the meeting.  I had left a few meetings before they ended, but I always felt terrible about it.  These survivors were now my battle brothers and sisters and I wanted to be there for them, as they had for me, for the entire meetings.  Unfortunately, the meetings weren’t going to ward off my mentor/angry landlord, Alayna.

Ten minutes later, another text came through.  Gretchen was waiting outside, so I apologized and slipped out the gray door with a square slab of glass at about head level.  I stepped out into the chilly autumn day and secured the middle button on my leather jacket.

I opened the passenger door of the ’98 Jeep Cherokee.  Gretchen had never picked me up in a squad car.  I hopped in and was met by a stiff face and pursed lips.  G.M., another nickname I had given her that she hated, scratched her firm chin.  I assumed she was in her mid-forties, short and stout, filling out the black police uniform.  Her German roots had given her amber eyes, short, sandy-blond hair, bronze skin with light freckling, and a tough-as-nails attitude.

She barked, “You’re not carrying anything wet this time, are you?”

I turned away from her and looked at the sky.  A cerulean setting streaked with ivory clouds.  No gray ones to be found.  “What are you talking about?”

She spoke in a light German accent and a deep voice for a woman, “Look, it only takes one time.  I don’t know what to expect out of you.”

One time.  One time, I had been experimenting with potions and the process went a little haywire.  The tiny vial exploded in her car, soaking most of her vehicle and me.  In my defense, I did pay for her to have the entire SUV professionally shampooed.  I had hoped she would turn down the offer from a broke young man struggling to make his way.  I overestimated her.  She had told me I needed to learn responsibility someway.

“We’re all good this time.  What is so important?”

She pulled out onto the main road and jammed down the gas pedal.  “What do you know about animal shifting?”

Okay, this party just got kicked into overdrive.  “What is your real question, G.M.?”

She turned and stared at me as she flew down 5th Avenue.  “What did I tell you about that?  We’re not in some fraternity together, dude, so show me respect and call me Lieutenant.  All right now.  Who in this city is capable of shifting into a demon-like creature?”

Now we were getting somewhere.  Paranormal activity had been on the rise in Pittsburgh for the past decade, hence the new department that had been set up about a year ago.  “Off the top of my head, that’s a little difficult to say.  I’d first probably say it could be the McNights.”

“They are a huge family.  I assume the McNights from the goth bowling alley?”

“Those are the ones.  I’ve received a few stories that they are connected to demons from the Red Cavern.  Not sure if I believe it and I can’t get close to them because I don’t have any proof other than hearsay.”

Gretchen turned to me again and let the car veer toward oncoming traffic.  The blaring car horn alerted me to grab the wheel with some of my mental magic and jerk it back into our lane.

She peeked over a few times, trying to keep her attention on the road.  “Are you sure?  Any corroboration you could provide?”

She knew that the underworld of demons named the Red Cavern was real, but she didn’t want to believe it.  Nobody did.  Not even me.  For heading a specialized department dealing with the occult, G.M. hadn’t the slightest interest in the paranormal and taken the job for the pay raise only.  She remained focused on making enough money to start her own detective agency.  She hadn’t confessed the details to me, but I knew she hated working for someone else and really hated taking any advice from someone half her age.

I couldn’t argue with her on either measure, especially the latter.  I wouldn’t want to take advice from a ten-year-old in the same way that she wouldn’t want to take advice from a twenty-three-year-old know-it-all.  What could I say, I had a lot of knowledge in my head and was proud to share it.  I just needed to work on my delivery and sarcasm so I didn’t come across as such an asshole.

I knew it was a deficiency, but I was working on it.  Most of my time during my cancer recovery was spent with Mabon, the youthful God.  It had done wonders for learning new information, but little for my development as a mature adult.

I also suffered from social anxiety because I wasn’t fully comfortable with myself.  I was okay talking to people as a detective or once I got to know someone.

“Yeah, see, corroboration, see.” I mocked in a funny tone, like the bad guy from the Dick Tracy cartoons.  I used to watch them with my Mom.  “You know how I work.  Have any of my uncorroborated stories turned out to be false?  Give me the whole picture, G.M., not just little hints.”

“It’s Lieutenant Meyer, you dolt.  All right, tough guy, you ready?  We received a report about a board meeting in the PNC Building downtown.”

“Sounds pretty exciting.”  I jabbed at her.

She huffed, and cutoff another car to get into the right lane.  “If you’ll allow me to finish.  One surviving eye-witness said that Darren Danbergh suddenly changed into a dark, reptilian figure and used its massive claws and teeth to rip into, and devour everyone in the meeting, except for one traumatized eye-witness.  One of my colleagues said it was the most gruesome crime scene she has ever seen.  And she’s seen them all.”

“Okay, if that’s true, we seem to be driving away from the city.”

“Ahh, very good Einstein.”

“I’m smarter than you.”  Damn my childish nature.

“Not sure if you want to be bragging about that.”

“I’m smarter than you.”  I don’t know how the second one slipped out of my mouth again.  I needed to work on that.

“Focus.  We are going to the house of the shifter.  Scrounged up some quick information that he had a live-in girlfriend.  Thirty-two year old Ruth Westerhouse.  Quite a last name there.”

“Is she from, ‘The Westerhouses?’”

“The one and only.  Although it sounds like she was ousted from the good graces of the family.”

The Westerhouses basically ran the city of Pittsburgh.  You couldn’t walk more than two blocks without seeing a sign for one of their numerous businesses.

“The shifter.  What’s the file on him?”

“Darren Danbergh.  Up and coming Vice President at PNC.  Co-workers say he kept to himself.  Not much more information as of yet.”

“I can already tell you’ve visited the crime scene.  Where is this house?”

“Fox Chapel.  Should be there in about five minutes.”  She speeded up.

I wondered if G.M. knew that Fox Chapel was becoming a hotbed of paranormal activity.  I had several side jobs, separate from Gretchen’s work, which proved that a lot of rich people were suddenly dabbling in the dark art of magic.  Dark magic almost always carried a tragic cost.  Or so I had heard.

Being a novice in the game of magic was frustrating.  The one thing I had learned was that I hadn’t learned very much.  I had absorbed about two drops out of the ocean of magic.  I had the ability to harness more magic than almost anyone in the world.  The end-game potential was scary.  I had learned about the different nuances of magic, the threat of the Red Cavern, and how to use magic in the city with thousands of innocent people running around, but I still yearned for more.

We arrived at the house.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

I got out of the car and took a gander at the place.  Nice house.  Not Westerhouse nice, but I would have loved to call it home.

A two-story house, the bottom level made of brick that receded into the second floor covered with dirty white aluminum siding in desperate need of a power wash.  Two Doric columns held a rectangular roof over the entrance to the house and a walkway snaked around the yard, ending near the mailbox.  A Lincoln Navigator sat in the driveway.  The vehicle had the two driver’s side wheels in the driveway but the other two were in the grass.

Gretchen parked in front of the house and we made the awkward walk to the doorway.  I didn’t know what to say.  Oh, hey, sorry to bother you, but do you have a minute to talk about how your boyfriend turned out to be a grisly murderer?  Or, maybe you’d like to discuss how you were booted from the richest family in Pittsburgh?  Neither sounded like a good opening line.

I had experience in consoling people, but in those situations, I wasn’t trying to garner information.  Totally different ballgame when you were trying to pry information out of a traumatized witness.

We got out of the car and walked up the cobblestone walkway.  We were about ten feet from the entrance, when the glass screen door opened toward us.  Gretchen dug into her pocket to grab her badge as a woman came outside and held her hand up in a fist.

Disheveled, strung-out and tired were the first words to pop into my head.  The short woman with dyed bright red hair and black roots had freckles under a heavy sheen of makeup.  Her dainty nose and the complete package made me envision that Little Orphan Annie had grown up to be a stripper.

She screamed, “I told you we would have the stuff ready, when it’s ready.”  She stopped when Gretchen held up her badge.

“Ma’am, I am Lieutenant Gretchen Meyer of the Pittsburgh Police Occult Unit.  This is detective Merlino.”

I nodded my head, tightlipped.  “Ma’am.”

“What do you want with me?”  Her face went pale, and I realized she didn’t know.

What the hell, G.M.?  Being the first to talk to a witness is great, but I didn’t know we were rolling up Grim Reaper style.  I took a deep breath and hoped Gretchen would take the lead.  She didn’t.

“Ma’am.  I’m afraid we have some bad news for you.  Your boyfriend is suspected of some really heinous criminal behavior.”  I danced around the exact truth and had to be delicate.  I didn’t know how to say it.  “Multiple murders.”  I can’t believe those were the comforting words I settled on.

Her crying eyes rolled back in her head and she looked like she might pass out.

Smooth, real smooth.

I reached out, hooked underneath her sweaty armpits and held her up.  It wasn’t dead weight.  I helped straighten her out and rubbed my ridiculous mustache.  Not because I wanted to play with the ratty stash, I needed a quick sniff.

Body odor, yes, but body odor was drowned out by deodorant.  Not a clue, but this was a sign.  My suspicion had been raised.  I leaned in and hugged the woman.  I pulled her close and the shorter woman lay her head on my chest.

I silently sniffed fresh layers of makeup and stale whiskey.  I wiggled my nostril hairs.  Jameson Irish Whiskey.  Good taste.  Back to the makeup.  Although it had been smeared across most of her face, it had been applied within the last few hours.  I looked at the sun as Ruth bawled.  It couldn’t be past 8:30 a.m.

It didn’t add up.  Why would this woman put makeup on this morning unless she was expecting company?  Was she wearing an evening gown underneath the full-length red cotton bathrobe?  When I put more thought into it, her melodramatic performance seemed rather fishy too.  Her legs had given out, but not completely.  I didn’t know what was going on, but it didn’t seem right.

She added to the collage of tears on my hoodie as I rubbed her back.  I needed to know more.  “Would you mind answering a few questions, ma’am?”

She kicked her bawling up a notch, sending off more bells and whistles.

She looked up at me, lips quaking, and said, “I don’t think now is a good time.  This is all too much right now.”

I broke the embrace and took a step back.  Too much?  I hadn’t even told her about how her boyfriend ripped human beings to shreds—not to mention, he probably was a cannibal.  I remembered when my father had gone to jail and I had wanted to know every single detail.

Gretchen finally found her tongue and joined the conversation.  “Are you sure?  When would be a good time to come back?”

Ruth sniffled and wiped away some tears.  “Maybe tomorrow?”  She shrugged.  “I can’t really say after a tragedy like this.  We really loved each other, you know.  How do you put a time on something like this?”

Gretchen responded, “We understand.  Please let us know if you hear from him.  I’ll leave you my card if you want to talk sooner.  If not, I’ll be contacting you tomorrow.”

Ruth grabbed the card, but it fluttered between her fingers and fell in the mulch next to her sidewalk.  I reached down to pick it up.

I snatched the card off the cobbled walkway and stood up.  I held it out and made sure Ruth had a tight grip on it before I let it go and started to walk back to the car.

Acting quickly on my instincts, I turned around, “Ma’am, would you mind coming down to the car and getting my card too?  I live closer.”  That was stupid.  Not sure why I had said that.

The woman reluctantly followed us down the walkway, tightening the tie on her robe.  I needed to play this perfectly.  We got to the car and I opened the door, trying to angle it perfectly.  I ran my fingers over the mirror, closed my eyes, and said, “Videte omnia specula.  Videte omnia specula.”

I reached inside the vehicle, grabbed my imaginary card, and peeked back at Ruth.

Damnit.

I opened the door more, but I still don’t think I hit my target.

“I really don’t have time to be waiting out here.  Just wait till the neighbors find out about this.”

Seemed like a strange worry at a time like this.  I jammed the door open more, bending it outward.  The door creaked and I held my hand in front of the side view mirror.  “Here it is.”  I announced with my hand in front of the mirror.

She turned around, rubbing her eyes with one hand and holding out the other.

Damnit.

I said, “After all, it looks like I can’t find it.”

“Wasting my time,” the annoyed woman announced and turned to go back inside.

She took five steps and I screamed out, “Stop.”

The woman turned back toward me and I knew it was my last chance.  I waved my left hand like a crazy man in front of the door.  She squinted her eyes and focused on my hand.  I slid my hand to the left and had what I needed.  “I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss.”  That was stupid too.  He wasn’t officially dead yet.

She forced a smile, nodded, and turned to go back inside her house.  I jumped into the Jeep and Gretchen started busting my stones about bending her door too far open.  Then she started blathering on about how some people can get fragmentary PTSD and just hearing about gruesome details can warp their minds.  I agreed.  Only problem with her argument was that we had never revealed any gory details.

I wanted to yell at her about making me the bearer of bad news, but I stared silently into the side view mirror.

Nothing.

Not even my own reflection.  I was using it as a window, which was why I had needed Ruth to look into it, and in a flash, the magic kicked in.

The interior of a nice house appeared in the side view mirror.  A flash ran across the mirror.  Another flash of red fabric zipped by.  The mirrors inside the house acted like motion detectors to provide images.  Finally, Ruth stopped in front of one of the mirrors.  She stared into the mirror and I noticed a dresser with a hairdryer and makeup in the background.

Her image became distorted and she disappeared.  I realized she had opened a door with a mirror on it.  I waited, impatiently.

Nothing.

I knew it was a long shot, but worth a try.  I was about to divert my attention back to Gretchen when the distorted image returned and captured my attention.  The door closed and Ruth knelt over a two-piece wooden box the size of a small suitcase.

She disappeared for a few moments and returned with duct tape.  She began to seal up the opening around the box.  She put multiple layers of duct tape over the case and stared at the wooden object.  She tried to lift the heavy box by a leather handle, and struggled.  She propped it up on its side and I nearly suffered a heart attack.

The symbol.  If only it didn’t have that symbol, my heart might stop rattling against my ribcage.

Ruth Westerhouse dragged the brown wooden box embossed with the black symbol of the Dank Artistry out of sight.  She reappeared in the side view mirror, dragging the case through—her kitchen I presumed.  I noticed a refrigerator behind her.  How handy, a mirror magnet.  How vain were these people?

She opened the door, which led outside.  I had what I needed and started listening to Gretchen, who had been yammering on.  “Are you even listening to me?”

Damnit.  Busted.  “Of course.”

She barked at me, “Then what did I just say?”

“You were saying some stuff, you know, about the PTSD and such.”

Gretchen stopped at a red light.  “You weren’t even listening to a word I said.  You wonder why you’re the last investigator to get called all the time.”

I didn’t wonder.  I knew all the officers thought I was a prick.  “Detective,” I shot back in a venomous tone.

“What?” she asked with a sour look on her face, the tight skin on her cheeks wrinkling.

“I’m a detective.  We solve cases.  We don’t just investigate them.”  I don’t know why it made a difference to me.  It just did.  I desperately needed to ditch my pomposity for sagacity.  Alayna called me the idiot savant wizard.

“Is that so?” she asked.  I didn’t see it, but I knew she rolled her eyes.

“That’s how it is, I’m afraid.  New sheriff in town.  I’m kind of like a Psychic Detective.”  I grabbed the oh-shit bar when Gretchen gunned it to run a yellow light.  I’d like to see her out on the autobahn.

“More like a psycho detective.”  She chuckled.  I didn’t.  She continued, “Moving on.  Once they finish sweeping the crime scene, I’ll email you with the findings and pictures.  Don’t open them around kids, please.”

“Don’t worry.”  I wondered if Gretchen had kids.  She had never talked about her personal life except for her own aspirations a time or two.  She liked her private life to remain that way and I didn’t pry.

Gretchen dropped me off at my humble abode, and my mentor was waiting for me.

 

 

Chapter 3

Alayna sat on the porch swing, rocking back and forth.  I lived in a block of row houses that had been financially backed by the Deep Burrow.  All except for one.  The house next to mine was inhabited by Normals.

The rest of the duplexes were filled with gifted young people like me.  Ones that had shown an affinity toward magic in one way or another.  It was nice being around like-minded individuals.  We weren’t very high on the social ladder in Pittsburgh, but we had all taken an oath to protect the city, and needed to spend our time acquiring more magical skills.

I hopped out of the car, and as I crossed the street, Gretchen yelled, “Don’t forget to check your inbox for that stuff.”

I nodded, waved, and turned my attention to Alayna.  I made sure nobody from the neighborhood was around. “My lady.”  I bowed slightly.  She wore her signature glimmering purple dress that hugged her thick body and swept the ground when she walked.  I stood about 6’3, and although I’d never measured her or asked about an exact height, I’d estimate she was about three feet shorter than me.

There were only a few of us in the duplexes that could see the wingless faerie and I had suffered a few embarrassing moments talking to Alayna around Normals.

She smiled but the crow’s feet and narrow eyes made it seem unnatural and forced.  “Good sir, how goes the day so far?”

I titled my neck to the side and shifted to my serious face.  “Have you heard about the shifter murders yet?”

She spoke with an English accent, “Not yet.”

I loved when I got a scoop before her.  Even though Alayna had somehow arranged for me to be a consultant for the Pittsburgh Police, she didn’t find out information before they did.  Alayna had rescued me a few years ago when I was in a major downward spiral and wanted to die.  She had informed me that I shared a blood line with the Mighty Merlin, which meant I had a special capacity for magic.  The family had used the last name Merlinus, until they moved from Wales to Italy and changed it to Merlino.  Then the family moved to the United States and settled in the northeast.

I checked the sidewalk again and turned back to Alayna.  “Boardroom meeting at PNC Bank, so pretty highbrow stuff.  Boyfriend of Ruth Westerhouse.  We go to her house and I got her to look into a mirror so I could track her a little bit.  Turns out, she drags a wooden case marked with the symbol of the Dank Artistry out her back door.”

“Hmm.”  She played with her hair and constantly emitted an aura of enchantment.  Alayna had long, thick braids that alternated from platinum blond to obsidian black and hung to her midsection.  The two-colored hairdo had seemed strange at first, but I’d grown used to it by now.

I pushed my lips together and nodded.  “That’s what I said.  Now it could be any hooligan trying to stir up some dark powers or it could be a powerful demon.  Either way, something crazy is going on in Pittsburgh.  Not to worry my lady, I will take care of the problem.”

She frowned.  “And we were doing so well for so long.  I knew it wouldn’t last.  Therefore, I needed you to learn quickly.  What do you plan to do?”

I realized I only had one lead.  “We didn’t get to question Ruth Westerhouse, so I’d like to do that.  Later tonight, I’m going to go by her house and pick up that box she dragged out back if it’s still there.  I’m not going to let the garbage men beat me to it, that’s for sure.”  Maybe I had two leads.

“Be careful.  You never know how much dark energy could be inside that thing.  Exercise caution when opening it.  If you are going to open it, that is.”

I hadn’t thought about that.  I was just going to rip it open like a wrapped present.  Maybe that’s why Ruth Westerhouse had been duct taping it shut?  “It’s not even close to a full moon.  Who can shift without full lunar power?”

She pondered the question for a moment.  “Only higher-up demons from the Red Cavern.  You know, the demi-devils or an extremely powerful Chieftains.  Let’s see.  Spring-Heeled Jack, the Jersey Devil, Vlad Dracul of Wallachia, the Six Bend Serpent, Sabretooth Gilda and Hot Iron Indigo.  That’s just a few off the top of my head that specialize in shifting.  At least, to the best of our knowledge.”

It was much too early to peg one of the Chieftains of the Order of the Red Cavern as a prime suspect, but way too early to rule them out.  I wanted some action in Pittsburgh, but if it were one of the big dogs of dark magic, I would be rendered useless.

I had defeated the two-hundred-year-old warlock named George by pure luck, recklessly using magic.  I had learned over the past two years that I couldn’t do that again.  I had to play by the rules now.  And the book of rules on magic was almost as long as the compendium on magic itself.

One thing I had learned, wizards had to read.  A lot.  See that splendiferous vocabulary I’ve picked up.

I waited impatiently for the email from Gretchen and for a chance to investigate the dark box at Ruth Westerhouse’s place as my mind churned with fractions of puzzle pieces, not even the entire pieces.  Sometimes, a wizard has to construct the pieces before he or she can assemble the puzzle.

Sounds daunting, but on the flip side, if one created the best pieces, manipulating them to his or her advantage, building the puzzle became simple.

We went inside my hole of an apartment, a huge upgrade from the hole back in Prince’s Mountain, but not exactly a castle either.  It was a two-bedroom apartment, both on the second floor with a bathroom and a small attic.  We walked into the modest living room, couch against one wall, loveseat against another.  The rest of the room consisted of a rectangular coffee table, bookshelves and books.  Some were in piles on the hardwood floor, but I had a system, don’t you worry.

Alayna held her nose, although the smell wasn’t that bad.  Okay, it wasn’t that great either, but I hadn’t figured out what was causing that odor from the basement.  Because of the harsh stench, I used the stone basement as a short-term storage facility.  Mostly for books.  I had a lot of books.

Alayna brushed off the couch and sat down, her purple dress sparkling in the strained sunlight begging for permission to pass through my black shades.  I obliged it and cracked the blinds a bit.

She had a worried expression on her face.  Alayna never worried.  I asked, “Is everything all right or is this just the Lancelot thing again where you stare at me and make me nervous?  By the way, I saw a movie a week ago and he had black hair and brown eyes.”

Alayna had told me that she had met Lancelot from King Arthur’s court during her travels.  “I’m sorry that you look like him, but you do.  Most books and movies have gotten it totally wrong.  It’s not just the blond hair and blue eyes, but the strong chin and tight jawline.  And then you throw in the broad shoulders and it’s a perfect match.  However, that wasn’t what I was doing.”

What could it be?  Nothing ever got her down.  I said, “I don’t like seeing you sad.  I know what will cheer you up.  Beatles music.  We can even sing a song or two,” I offered.

She shook her head, and her long braids slithered back and forth on her shoulders.  “Maybe later.”

I thought about what she really liked.  “I know.  You can tell me about another crazy adventure from your favorite wizard in St. Louis.  You know, the one you have a big crush on.”

“I don’t have a big crush on him, although he is rather striking.  Powerful and gallant, sure.  Quite smooth as well.”  Her lips started to curl up and stopped just short of a smile.  Her face and eyes always lit up when she talked about him, but not so much today.  She loved to tell me about his wild times and I enjoyed hearing them.  Even though some of his outrageous missions seemed impossible, and I was extremely jealous of his financial situation, the man always came out on top.

The wizards from St. Louis and Chicago were legendary.  They had already attained what I was striving for.  They were Hall of Famers, where I was just a rookie entering the professional ranks.  I would have been the number one pick if there was a wizard draft, but I had no accolades to speak of.  I needed to prove myself in the field.

I’d even been hearing a lot of stories about an odd couple/dynamic duo in New York City.  I wanted people to start telling stories about me, but first I needed to create those legendary stories.  I’m inclined to call them tales, but I know they are true.

I gave up.  “What’s wrong?”

She wrung her tiny hands together.  “We have a problem.”

I was late on rent again.  She had every right to tear into me.  I tried for a preemptive strike to gain sympathy.  “Like you and me?  I’ll get the money from this work in less than a week.  I’ll be able to pay you easier if they would just give me more jobs.”  I didn’t think she would ever follow through on the threats.  Sure, I was late before.  Okay, I was late most of the time, but I always paid.  Always.

“It’s not that.”  She shook her head and closed her eyes.

I exhaled audibly, chest shaking, relieved.

She took a deep breath and continued, “We have a problem in the Deep Burrow.  Or more specifically, Clara Spiritus.  Mabon has disappeared.”

“What?  How?” I asked in shock.

“Obviously nobody knows.  One report.”  A look of great disgust came over her face and she buried her forehead in her palm.  “One report—saw him entering the Red Cavern.”

I defended my friend.  “No.  He wouldn’t do that.  By himself or was he being dragged in there?  Why would he do that?”

She threw her hands up dramatically.  “The only reasoning the Gods have come up with is that he was offered more power in the Red Cavern.”

That didn’t make sense.  “How can he get more power?  He’s already a God.”

“A God among many, and he possibly views himself at the bottom of that totem.  There are only thirteen devils that we know of.  The only line of thinking I can even begin to understand is that he saw more power in being a devil.  I really don’t know.  It’s all too confusing right now.”

I’d never seen Alayna like this.  The one-thousand-one-year-old woman, who would smack me for not saying she was nine-hundred-ninety-nine, was normally a happy go lucky faerie.  She had always been in complete control, especially when I was frazzled.

She hid it well, but she was clearly distraught.  Her ivory skin had red splotches rising to the surface in random areas and her glistening red eyes looked up at me.

I moved closer and hugged her.  More tears went into the collection on the front of my hoodie.  The news had rocked me, too.

Mabon had accepted me more than anyone else in Clara Spiritus, the home of the Celtic Gods.  That’s not to say I wasn’t accepted by the rest of the Gods, but the Young Son had gone out of his way to be nice and joke around with me.  He was also a member of the Golden Chamber, the panel of Gods that made all the final decisions of judgment.  I didn’t like where this train was headed.

Mabon had a thorough and advanced knowledge of shifting.  He could easily do it without a full moon.  I started to get a rotten twisting pain in my belly telling me that this was a powerful demon or rogue god, or a rogue god turned devil.  Even worse.

“I got the rest of the stuff you asked for to complete the potion for invisibility,” I hinted.

“You want to make the magic mist today?”

“We don’t have to, but it might take your mind off the other problems right now.”

“I suppose it shall, but I can’t guarantee any success from the state I am in right now.  If you want to heat up the cauldron, I need to grab a few things from the kitchen and I’ll meet you up there.”

I went upstairs, which consisted of two bedrooms and a small bathroom.  I closed the door to my bedroom so Alayna wouldn’t make fun of me for the mess and went into the other room.  I used this one for experiments and had blankets covering all the windows.

I lit the portable burner underneath the cauldron that hung from a tripod with a triskele amulet attached at the apex.  The black cast iron cooking device could hold about a gallon, but most of my tests involved much less volume than that.  Alayna entered the room with an armful of supplies that she dumped on middle of the table, next to the cauldron.

She dimmed the lights until they were almost out and laid out the ingredients for the magic mist.  She handed me a mortar and pestle with acorns in it from the Tree of Life.  I mashed the acorns around with the stone pestle as Alayna took the caps off the liquids.

She started with the vodka, which sizzled as it hit the red-hot cauldron and released a caramelized alcohol aroma.  She added still water and tonic water next.  Twenty seconds passed and she threw in some plastic wrap and broken glass.  I picked up the wooden spoon and gently stirred the mixture as Alayna tossed in some Granny Smith apple slices, the crushed acorns from the mortar and pestle, and some freshwater salmon oil.

The pleasing scent instantly took a fishy turn as I continued to stir the cauldron.  Alayna reached inside her bra and pulled out the secret ingredient.  She placed three pieces of mistletoe from the Tree of Life that had been cut away with the silver serrated knife on the seventh day of the new moon next to the cauldron.

I adjusted my necklace made from hemp from the Sacred Pages that always reminded me of my oath.  I grabbed the silver triskele charm that the druidic craftsmen had helped me make and pulled it out of my hoodie.  I thumbed the mother of pearl set in the center of the triskele and prepared to make the mist.

I picked up the piece of coarse rope on the table and tied a loose knot in it.  We each grabbed one end of the rope and Alayna positioned her free hand near the mistletoe.  She tossed in the mistletoe as we chanted in unison,

“Once, twice, and thrice is always nice,

See me now, then see me not,

In the cold or in the hot,

A sleight of shape to disappear,

And make my tint so crystal clear,

Respect I keep for the Sacred Pages,

Along with witches, wizards, and mages.”

We repeated the words six more times while pulling the knot tighter as we went along.  We finished and I turned off the blue flames to let the mixture sit for seven minutes.

After the short resting period, I stirred the liquid around and used a punchbowl spoon to scoop it into a strainer over a mason jar.

The potion was still hot, but I was very impatient as I carefully poured it into the tiny spray bottle.  I screwed the sprayer on tight and made the lights brighter.

I smiled at Alayna, and focused on her folded hands and FAB FOUR tattoos.  Seven of her eight fingers had a letter in between the second and third knuckles spelling out the nickname of her favorite band.  “Ready?”

She tried to match my enthusiasm with a smile and nod, but her reddened eyes indicated she was still perturbed about Mabon’s disappearance.  I seriously doubted this magic mist would work because of her mental state.

I sprayed some on my left forearm and immediately pulled it back from the hot splash.  I stared at my arms and waited for the mist to take effect.  After about thirty seconds, I could still see myself.

“I guess it was worth a try,” I mentioned to Alayna.

“It’s working.  I can’t see you.”

I looked down at my arms and the rest of my body.  “I can still see myself.”

“That is good.  You can control your body much better when you can see it and others can’t.”

About two minutes went by and Alayna said, “I’m starting to see bits and pieces of you again.  It’s rather freaky actually.”

I was stunned that the magic mist had worked.  My downtrodden mother figure decided to go back to the Deep Burrow, leaving me to clean up the mess.  I strained and bottled up the magic mist with a giant smile on my face.  Mabon’s news saddened me, but this had been the most successful experiment I’d ever pulled off.

I didn’t know when or where I would need this, but the ability to become invisible seemed like a great advantage to have in a fight.

 

This book will be released December 5th, 2017.  If you would like to receive an Advanced Copy in exchange for an honest review, please sign up here: ARC TEAM

 

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Whispers from Another World-Rough Draft Preview

 

 

 

Whispers from Another World

by Jason Paul Rice

PROLOGUE

Authors Note:  Unattributed/unmarked dialog is always Whitney Powers.

 

As Whitney looked at the bookshelf, a glowing blue light magically developed around the entire frame.

“Get away from those spooky books and go look at the normal ones.  There normal books for girls like you are over there,” Whitney’s mother said to her.

Ursula Powers grabbed the twelve-year-old’s hand and dragged her away from the corner of the Granny Larson Library.  Whitney’s mother pulled her to an aisle with books by her favorite author, Agatha Christie.  Her father, Robert, walked up and smiled at his daughter.

Ursula said, “Finally, there you are.  Keep an eye on her.  I found her over by the supernatural books again.  Take her to find books that little girls should be reading, please.”

Her loving father started to lead his daughter through the endless shelves of books and stopped.

He looked her in the eyes.  “Do you want to go look at the books that you like?”

Whitney eagerly nodded her head up and down and all it took was for her father to say, “OK.”

She smiled and darted for the corner that housed the paranormal literature and ghost stories.  She stared ahead and tried to pick out a title.  Suddenly, the shelf started to shake and several books fell to the floor.  She stepped back and the wooden shelf separated from the wall.  A forceful flash of light temporarily blinded Whitney.

She finally regained her vision and noticed the adumbration of a young boy through the crack in the wall.  The boy was gesturing with his hand for her to follow him and the inquisitive Whitney walked right into the small opening.  She entered a dark, tiny room with what looked like saw dust everywhere and blew some off a table.

A mesmerizing swirl of gold, silver, ruby and emerald dust danced in the stale air around the excited girl.  She followed the ghost-like creature into a tunnel that got darker and hotter as they went farther along.

She walked up to a strange-looking object unlike any she had ever seen.  It looked like an oval of swirling mass comprised of colors, letters and numbers that went in and out of focus and kept changing shades.  The boy ghost held his see-through ivory hand out and Whitney placed hers into it.

To her surprise, he had substance and it felt like a human hand.  He floated a few inches above the ground as they moved forward.  He looked back with a big smile and pulled her into the vortex.  She felt a strange sensation of pressure as she fell into complete darkness.

She could sense the boy ghost’s body pressing against her right side as they slid down a huge incline.  Their speed increased substantially until they were plunged into deep sapphire waters.  She swallowed some salty liquid and felt a little hand pulling her to the top.  She emerged and gasped for air as she splashed around on top of the calm waters.  The dark sky worried her until she noticed her new friend hovering on top of the water a few feet away.

The boy ghost helped her get over to a boat that appeared to have been crafted from metal and gilded with gold.  The ghostly figure looked like a boy wrapped in flowing robes who appeared to be about her age or perhaps a bit younger.  His face and body seemed to be composed mostly of flowing shades of gray, black and white.

However, he had brown hair, bright blue eyes and two red tattoos on the back of each hand in the shape of a seven-pointed-star.  When he moved, his skin took on a silver gleam that was a perfect foil to the gold boat.  He was unlike any ghost she had ever read about or seen in a movie or TV show.

He helped her get into the small vessel and pulled something from inside his robes.  It was a rectangular box that opened on its own and formed into an outboard boat motor.  The boy ghost attached it to the back of the boat and the tiny motor proved to be powerful as they moved along the still waters.

She peered through a rolling fog at the light coming from a full pumpkin-colored blood moon and wondered what had happened to the day.  The boat powered along a channel of water with amazing houses along both sides.  A small castle appeared in front of them and the boy ghost pulled the boat right up to the shore.

The boy ghost moved to the front of the vessel where he opened a security pad and entered a secret code.  A harsh grinding sound filled her ears as the flat hill that led to the castle transformed into a staircase.  They both got out and ascended the steps.  Whitney didn’t know what to expect as a shower of glittery purple dust came down from the sky. The boy ghost looked back at Whitney and pushed open the huge front door.

She stepped into the foyer of a gorgeous castle.  It was like the middle ages had a lovechild with the future.  Huge ebony columns emitted a strange sparkle and lined both sides of the hallway ahead.  Computer touch pads and call boxes adorned the walls with classic paintings from the Renaissance period.  It was quite a majestic sight for a twelve-year-old.

The boy ghost led her to a scarlet-colored rectangular stand that appeared to be hovering above the gleaming marble floor.  She stood on the object and the boy ghost joined her.  He put his hand on Whitney’s back as the hover board took off and quickly achieved a fast pace.

They zoomed down the straight hallway for a few minutes until the board came to a stop.  The boy ghost led her into a room in which a family appeared to be seated at a table.  The other people had the same hollow look as the young boy and wore nice robes and dresses.

The family all had blue eyes and brown hair of various shades.  They all had the red seven-pointed star tattoos as well.  Whitney thought this looked like a mother, father, daughter and son at the dining table with twelve burning candles in the middle of the table.

The woman said, “Come, sit.  We have many things to discuss.”

Whitney walked up to a chair and joined the rest of the people at the table.

The woman asked, “How are you, my dear?”

“OK.  How are you?”

The woman smiled, “You have good manners.  We like that over here.  You will come to understand a great deal about your life but this visit might also raise more questions than it answers.  You will probably leave here confused and wanting to know more.  However, we can only tell you a small part of the story because that is all we know right now.”

The father said, “We know you believe in ghosts like us.  Do we scare you?”

“No,” Whitney answered without hesitation.  “I’ve read books with good ghosts in them but they never looked like you guys.”

The mother said, “Good.  People like to think that all ghosts are bad, evil or possessed and want to cause them harm.  We ghosts are just like the living.  Some good, some bad, some awful.  What you see here is what you can accomplish when you put wars aside and everyone works for a common goal.  We are like an alien civilization that is so far ahead of the humans on earth, they couldn’t even comprehend some of these things.  We know when people are going to commit crimes before they are going to do it, so no uprisings or wars can ever start.”

Whitney wanted to ask so many questions, but she listened as the mother continued, “And while things are much more serious down here, you still have spirits that love to joke and play tricks.  We don’t have much time today, so we will be serious with you.  This is going to take a big commitment on your part.  This burden is unfair to ask of a young girl, but you have the opportunity to achieve incredible accomplishments with your life and possibly change the world for the better.  The ghosts and our spiritual friends will help you, but you must believe.”

“Believe what?” Whitney asked.

“You must believe in yourself first and foremost.  You are destined for greatness, Whitney Powers.  Then you need to believe in the ghosts or spirits, if you prefer.  Whatever you would like to categorize us as, the classification doesn’t really bother us.  You must believe that we will help you realize your dreams,” the father said.

“How could I not believe when I can see you sitting right here?” she asked.

The ghost that appeared to be the daughter moved to the front of her throne-like chair and said, “Yes, well, you’d be surprised at how many people still refuse to believe.  You must stay close to the Granny Larson Library until you are needed.  You must remain patient.  We can’t tell you when this opportunity will happen; we can only guarantee that it will definitely occur someday.  That’s why it’s important to trust us and stay close to the Library.  Do you understand?”

Whitney looked out the clear window and said, “I understand that, but how is the sun coming up already?  I came here in the afternoon and then it was night and now the sun is coming up already.”

The mother said, “Time goes much faster over here.  You see we are on a parallel planet that has the same conditions as your home but with a faster rotation than earth.  It causes our days to go much faster.”

“Wow,” was the only word Whitney could manage to get out.

“All your questions will be answered on your next visit.  Keep in mind, that might not come for many years, but when it does, everything you’ve ever wanted will fall into your hands.  You will be tempted to leave this town you live in and many opportunities will tantalize you, but you must remain steadfast and strong,” the mother told her.

A floating circular tray with drinks floated into the room and stopped in front of each family member who took his or her beverage from the flying machine.  She stared at the amazing sight as the metal tray disappeared out the door.

The boy walked over to Whitney and held out his hand again.

She said, “But there are so many questions I have for all of you.”

“Next time,” the mother said as the son pulled Whitney out the front door, down the steps, and back into the boat.

They went back over the enormous slide and Whitney wondered how they would get up the steep incline.  A great gust of wind hit her back and pushed her and the boy up the slide.  They got to the top platform and she saw the vortex again.

The boy stood and pointed as Whitney dove into the strange portal.  She felt the gripping pressure again and became very dizzy.  A refreshing wind helped her to refocus and when she opened her eyes, she stood on a mass of land in the middle of a huge public pond.

She looked down at a velvety purple dress that shimmered in the bright sunlight for what felt like forever, screaming for help.  Finally, she saw the flashing lights of a police car.  The officers called to get a small boat to get the girl off the tiny island.  She waited as the townspeople kept showing up and crowding the banks of the pond.  Everyone pointed and whispered and Whitney began to cry.

Finally, the little boat pulled up with her father, who grabbed his daughter and hugged her.  She felt secure with him and buried her head in his chest.

Her father kept telling her how much he loved her and how scared he’d been when she had been missing, but she didn’t hear any of it.  As they got closer to land, the only things she could hear were the whispers about how she ended up on the remote piece of land.

The word witch started to hit Whitney’s ear and she hoped everyone would leave.  She got out of the boat and her mother ran up and hugged her.  Ursula helped get Whitney into the car.

“I’ll meet you guys down at the station,” her father told the police as he got in the driver’s seat.

“What happened?  Who took you?” her mother asked.

“Nobody took me.  I went behind the bookshelf at the library and went to a magical world where I saw the nicest ghosts,” Whitney said.

“No, you didn’t.  You stop that right there.  I know whoever took you probably said that you shouldn’t tell us the truth, but you need to.  This is serious business, young lady.  The policemen are going to ask you a lot of questions and you need to tell them who took you,” her mom said.

“But nobody took me,” she replied.

“Just tell the truth, honey.  But if someone did take you, you have to let them know.  You’ve been gone for three days so they are going to ask you a lot of questions,” Robert said.

“I wasn’t gone for three days.  I was only gone for less than an hour.  Time moves faster over there,” Whitney said.

“You cannot say that,” her mother urged.

“She needs to tell the truth,” her dad argued.

Ursula immediately retorted, “Listen to me right now.  I am trying to protect our daughter.”  She turned around to face her daughter in the back seat.  “Whitney, you have a decision to make.  You can go in there and tell the police that you don’t remember anything that happened.  They will push you for answers, but you can say you don’t remember.  The other choice is to tell this story of ghosts and magic lands and face being made fun of for the rest of your life.  You already have a bit of a reputation for your strange taste in books and all that scary and spooky nonsense.  This is a small town, people won’t be very understanding of your story.  So you have a choice to make.  March in there and say I don’t remember or risk being the butt of all jokes.  The choice is yours, my dear.”

 

If you are already sold, you can get the book here:  WHISPERS

 

Chapter 1-18 Years Later

 

Whitney woke up in bed and peeked over at a familiar partner.  The hardback version of The Shining had taken on the look of a disheveled lover.  It had been caught in the blanket, folding some pages over and crimping the dust jacket.

“Sorry,” she apologized and massaged the imperfections until they were straightened out.  She had a signed copy in her collection, but she always tried to be respectful to books.  She showered and as she got ready for work, she looked at herself in the mirror.

Whitney Powers’ sharp blue eyes gazed at a reflection of beauty.  Unfortunately, her humility never allowed her to truly appreciate her own great looks.  She had soft brown hair that cascaded to the middle of her back, nice curves and ample breasts, although most of her outfits hid those features.

Whitney was about five and a half feet tall and looked to be in perfect shape although she hardly exercised.  She carried a serious look most of the time, and her friends affectionately called it resting bitch face, but her warming smile could always melt her father’s heart.

A knock on the door startled her.  She wasn’t expecting anyone and didn’t like people just stopping by.  She thought about her gun in the closet as she peered through the spy hole.

What is my mother doing here?

Whitney looked around her messy apartment and threw a towel over her Ouija board.  She opened the door to see a smiling Ursula Powers.

Her mother shared the same hair color, although her hair was cut much shorter and she dyed it black.  She had gray eyes, big, rosy cheeks and a dark complexion.  Her mother was a little taller than Whitney and carried more weight.  Her developing wrinkles and welcoming face made her look like a young grandmother.

“What do you want, mom?” Whitney immediately asked before her mother could get in the door.

“I can’t stop by to see my daughter?  I haven’t seen you since your birthday, that was weeks ago.  I wanted to talk to you.”

Oh boy, she has some sort of agenda.  I wonder what it will be this time.

“What do you want, mom?”

“Jeez, I just want to make sure you are OK.  I remember I got pretty down after my thirtieth and I wanted to see how you are handling it,” her mom said.

“Feels the same as 29, mom.  I know what you are driving at and I am fine being alone.  You and I are different.  I know the most miserable time in your life was when dad went away to college and you stayed back here.  I realize you had your husband and children by the time you were thirty and you think I can’t be happy unless I have that too.  Believe me when I tell you that great things are about to happen to me,” she explained.

“That stupid prophesy again.  All that did was make you the laughing stock of our town.  Not to mention the grief it caused me trying to explain it to everyone,” her mom said.

“You were caused grief?  Luckily I don’t care what these imbeciles think, but I’m known as Weird Whitney and you think you’ve been mistreated?”

“But it’s your story.  Whatever happened to you was because of that silly story you’ve been telling all these years.  I did nothing and still I had to hear about it nonstop,” Ursula told her.

“Alright, mom, let’s not go through this again.  Just tell me what you really want.”

“OK, you know my friend Gabby right?” her mother asked.

“Gabby Risnowski?  Of course I know her.”

“Yes, that Gabby.  Well her daughter, Angie, just got married to a guy she met on this dating service called Dating While Honoring Religion.  Or at least I think that’s what it’s called.  I know that’s not really your thing, but these are men who live in Pennsburgh.  I think you need to get away from this town to meet a good man is all that I’m saying,” her mom opined.

“There it is.”

“Oh my God, there what is?  Did you get a snake or something?” her mom asked as she grabbed her daughter’s arm.

“Mom, you know I hate snakes, why would you even ask that.  No, I mean it took a little beating around the bush, but I should have known why you are here.  You want me to marry a church going business executive, but I would never go to church.”  Whitney continued to get ready as her mom followed her around.

“So you believe in ghosts and aliens, but you won’t believe in God?” Ursula wanted to know.

“I believe in facts and scientific research and it is mathematically impossible that there isn’t another species of living beings comparable to humans.  God on the other hand, has very little evidence on his or her side.”

Whitney turned on her hair dryer to try to silence her mom.

Her mom shook her head and smirked.  She screamed over the hair dryer, “Funny to hear that from someone who sticks to a story that’s never been verified.  We can stop with our usual fights.  All I want is for you to be happy.  You’re thirty now, the clock is ticking.  My biggest worry for you is that you realize you want children when it’s too late.  Look at your sister.  Twenty-five and she already has her husband and two kids and that huge house to live in.  Now she can do whatever she wants.”

Whitney turned off the hair dryer and ran her fingers through her long hair.  She smiled in the mirror to make sure she didn’t have anything stuck on her teeth.

“No she can’t.  She has a husband and two kids to worry about constantly.  Anything she wants to do, she has to take them into consideration.  And furthermore, Victoria failed out of college.  If it wasn’t for her huge boobs, she’d be serving milkshakes at Big Boy Burger.”

“I’m just saying that the greatest achievement in my life has been my children.  You and I have had our problems over the years and still do, but everything I do is out of love.  I know you don’t always agree with what I tell you and sometimes I might come across as a bully, but it’s all out of love.  I want you to be happy and my ideas might not always be what you are looking for, but I’m never going to stop because I’m never going to stop loving you,” her mom said as she playfully poked her daughter.

“Mom, stop.  You’re gonna make me cry.  What will it take to convince you that I am happy?”

“Aaric is having a barbecue for the family at the castle in three weeks.  I want you to bring a man.  You got three weeks; that should be plenty of time to find someone.  And just in case, here you go.”  Her mom put a piece of paper on the table.

“What is that?”

“That’s the flyer for the dating service, just in case,” her mom said with a smile.

Whitney laughed as she put on her belt.  “Oh mom, leave it to you to have a full page flyer for an online dating service.  Look, I’m going to be late for work.  I will have to continue this talk later, okay?”

“You got it honey,” her mom said.

Whitney gave her mom a kiss on the cheek, wiped her lipstick stain off and watched her walk out the door.  She finished getting ready and arrived at the parking lot of the Granny Larson Library about ten minutes later.

The library looked like a spooky, old stone castle which only enhanced the rumors about the building being haunted.  She got inside and her co-worker Tara was sitting with her feet up on the main desk in front of the library.

“Excuse me,” Whitney said.

“Well look who’s late for the first time in like, ever.  This better be a good story,” Tara said and sat up in the chair.  She laid the latest issue of Hollywood Insider on the table and looked at her fingernails.

Tara had thick black hair and a dark bronze complexion with green eyes and freckles all over her face, neck and shoulders.  The freckles gave her tall friend an innocent look that Whitney knew not to trust.  She wore her hair in thick braids today and used her long, perfectly manicured nails to push two of them away from her eyes.

“It’s not a good story.  My mom ambushed me while I was getting ready and I lost track of time.  The end.  Sorry, no refunds.”

“Girl, you need to create some crazy adventures.  Go into the city and cause some trouble.  I’m sick of hearing these lame ass stories,” Tara encouraged her.

“Sorry to disappoint you.  My mom did throw down the gauntlet and basically demand that I bring a boy to Aaric’s party in three weeks.”

“Is it at the castle?” Tara asked.

“Yes.”

“Tell you what.  If you can’t find a boy, I’ll dress up like one just to get in that house.  That place is capital A, amazing,” Tara stressed the last word.

“Leave it to my sister to find a man who basically hit the lottery when his family firm was picked up for the government job.  Don’t even get me started on how he got that contract either.  Anyway, where was I?”

“Bitchin about your little sister,” Tara reminded her.

“Right, did they have to build the biggest house our town has ever seen?  Do they really need that medieval fortress?”

“Well I think it’s bad to the bone, girl.  Also, did you want some fries with that jealousy burger?” Tara asked.

“Shut up.  I’m not jealous of my sister.”

Whitney couldn’t admit it even to herself, but she was living in the shadow of her sister.

“Oh hey, I’m trying to get out of here early today and since you came in all late, this should square out right?” Tara asked.

“I don’t care.  What are you going to do?”

“My man is coming down after work and we don’t have much time, if you know what I’m saying.”  Tara looked at Whitney with her tongue out until a serious expression came over her face.  “Oh, sorry.”

“What, no.  Just because I don’t brag about my sexual exploits to you, doesn’t mean they don’t happen.”

It had been two years since Whitney had sex.  She had a few boyfriends over the years, but nobody that really excited her.  She was almost ready to give up on finding somebody.

Tara left at about three o’clock and Whitney looked at the local papers, in what had become a daily ritual.  The library was never really crowded and she had a lot of free time during her shift.  She read the headline, ‘Captain shot outside Jelly’s.’

She considered herself a local historian and knew that was a high-ranking member of the Dante Crime Family.  His name was Larry Laramie and the police had found him dead in the middle of a busy street with fourteen bullets in him.  She kept reading near the front of the library.

Susan Foley walked through the glass door and said hello to Whitney.  She had always liked the divorcee who was widely considered the most beautiful woman in Clearhaven, despite her advancing age.  The ravishing woman had always been nice and understanding to Whitney, something she always remembered.

“Hello there, gorgeous,” Whitney greeted her.

Susan Foley was an extremely tall woman with short, spiked, blond hair and haunting brown eyes.  Her left eye was tainted by a wide, dark bruise right below it.  She was a regular at the library and her ravishing body had its own reputation around the small town.

“And you wonder why I love you.  What’s cooking there, sister?” Susan answered with another question.

“Same old, I’m afraid.  What happened to your eye?”

“This, oh this is nothing.  I was mopping the kitchen floor and trying to watch TV at the same time.  By the way, I don’t recommend trying it,” she laughed.  “Anything new you would suggest?”

“Not really.  We’re actually getting a new delivery tomorrow.  Oh my goodness, I almost forgot, I am so sorry to hear about your son.  That’s just horrible.”

Susan had a serious look on her face.  “That’s what happens when you mix heavy drinking with frat boys and open windows.  They say he’s going to be alright, but thank you for the well-wishes.  If he loses that scholarship, I don’t know what I will do.  Ever since the insurance company screwed me out of the settlement, it’s been tough, but nothing you need to worry about.”  She smiled, exposing burgundy lip stick stains on her teeth and pain behind her brown eyes.  “I guess it’s time to do a little free shopping.  I’ll catch you on the way out.”

“Sounds good and again, I am so sorry about everything.  I wish I was more successful and could help.”

Susan replied, “Don’t be silly, darling.”  The woman disappeared into the aisle of books.

 

A few hours went by and Whitney was surprised that Susan was still in the library.  Most people didn’t like to be there past three o’clock because of the stories.  Several people had reported seeing strange occurrences, especially after dark.

Much to her dismay, Whitney had never seen any of these happenings even though she really wanted to.  She had spent many late nights in the library, hoping something would happen.  She wanted the ghosts to come back and explain how her life was going to be great.  She didn’t know how much longer she could live like this and planned to move away when her lease was up.

Whitney started her daily routine of checking the murder reports of Pennsburgh and all the surrounding areas.  She had been trying to find out who the family of ghosts were for the past eighteen years.  All the research had never revealed a viable comparison that made sense to Whitney.  She didn’t find anything today but she would check again tomorrow and every following day until she figured it out.

She started to walk around with the return cart and put the books back on the shelves.  She heard the front door open and close, and assumed Susan had finally left.  She kept emptying the cart and heard a car peel out in the gravel parking lot.  She didn’t believe that Susan would do it and thought it must have been the high school kids messing around again.  She picked up a book to put on the mystery shelf.

“BANG,” a gunshot rang out.

Whitney dropped the book and hit the floor.  She started shaking and her heart felt like it was going to explode.

What the hell is going on?  This must be a dream or something.

Whitney became even more terrified and looked down the aisle to see pinstriped dress pants and Corinthian leather shoes run by.

“BANG,” another shot sounded and the world went dark for Whitney Powers.

 

GET THE BOOK HERE:  WHISPERS

 

Group Author Viral Giveaways

These giveaways are run with KingSumo to maximize the viral sharing.  All participating authors share the giveaway with their newsletters and social media.  Then when people sign up, they are encouraged to share the giveaway with their friends to earn extra entries.  Each person agrees to sign up for each participating authors’ newsletter.  At the end, I gradually send around a CSV to make sure we don’t bombard the contestants with emails.  You will normally get the list within a week and a half or two weeks after the close of the contest.  Here are the upcoming giveaways.

 

KINDLE FIRE HD  APRIL 10 – MAY 10

Wow, I bought a bunch of these a while back for contests and this is the last one.  There isn’t much to explain on this one.  I think everyone knows what a Kindle is.

SIGNUP FORM

 

 

A GAME OF THRONES ARC   MAY 1 – JULY 1

 

 

As you can see from the pics, this isn’t a perfect copy but it was meant to be read and is over twenty years old now.   Most of the wear is on the gold sticker on the dust jacket of the front cover but you can see the rest of the colors still pop.  With that being said, this is an ultra-rare item that any hardcore fantasy reader would love to ad to their collection.  This should be a pretty epic giveaway.

SIGN UP FORM

 

 

LONGCLAW STAINLESS STEEL REPLICA(JON SNOW’S SWORD FROM A GAME OF THRONES)   MAY 25 – JULY 30

 

This is just what it says and looks like, a full-size replica of the sword from the books/show.  It’s a nice, big sword that one lucky person will be able to use on white walkers.

SIGNUP FORM

 

 

 

Group Author Promotion Opportunities

Hello fellow authors.  I am putting together some promotions to increase sales on Amazon.  I will set up a landing page to feature all the participating authors/books and all the authors agree to share it with their mailing lists and social media.  They will run for four days and you must share with your fans during the date range listed for each promotion.  There is no cost to join these promotions.

 

Strong Female Characters in Literature

April 3-6

LINK TO SIGN UP FORM

 

 

Royal Intrigue

April 20-23

LINK TO SIGNUP FORM

 

 

Books with Knights and Ladies

May 3-6

LINK TO SIGNUP FORM

 

 

 

Books Featuring Dragons

May 17-20

LINK TO SIGNUP FORM

The Wall of Winners

THE WALL OF WINNERS

This is a list of people who have won Jason Paul Rice’s Giveaways.  This is just a recent list from memory so there are even more giveaways that I can’t remember from years past.

A Storm of Swords UK Version and Signed George R.R. Martin Bookplate–Terry L.–Awarded March 1, 2017

 

A Game of Thrones Comic(Signed By George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham)–Scarlett K.–Awarded January 3, 2017–Jamaal T.–Awarded January 2, 2017–Danny C.–Awarded July 23, 2015–Samantha–Awarded January 2, 2017

 

Kindle Fire HD–Derek L.–Awarded December 20, 2016–Kyle O.– Awarded August 13, 2015

 

A Game of Thrones Collector SlipCased Edition–Bob M.–Awarded December 10,2016

 

A Storm of Swords First Print Hardback–Barbara S.–Awarded December 30, 2016

 

$50 Amazon Gift Card-Kyle O.–Awarded March 11, 2017

 

Autographed Copy of Two Heads, Two Spikes–Scarlett K.–Awarded December 15, 2017–Erica L.–Awarded January 24, 2017

 

Autographed Copy of Fractured Families–Cheryl D.–Awarded March 11, 2017–Angeline T.–Awarded August 12, 2016

 

Personalized Bookplates–Too Many to List(See picture below)