Blackcoat Chapter 1

As you may have heard, my new book, Blackcoat is out on October 5th for Paperback and Kindle. Here is the first chapter. If you’re interested in pre-ordering, and it really does help out the launch of a new book, the links are at the end of the chapter.

From the award nominated, bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles. 

When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.

Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.

The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.

Chapter One

My cell was little more than a steel framed bed that had seen better days, a mattress that was thin enough that I could feel the springs underneath, and a bucket. I had no idea how long I’d been a prisoner. A few days, probably. There were no windows. No glimpses into the outside world. Just a steady stream of cold air flowing around the badly fit steel door. 

I would remain in my dingy cell until those who put me here decided when to execute me. That had been made clear from the moment I’d arrived. That was my fate. A fate I was still trying to figure out how to ensure didn’t come to pass.

No matter that I’d worked for the city of Euria—the largest city on the planet of Xolea—and the people who lived there for a decade. No matter that I’d fought against the criminal gangs of Euria while the galaxy around us burned in civil war. No matter that I protected the people of Euria from those same gangs, or that I saw friends give their lives in their duty as judges and Blackcoats of this fine city. No one will ever know that I tried to do the right thing, no one will remember that I stood up against corruption. It was all for nothing. 

The realisation had taken a toll on my confidence of being able to get out of the predicament I found myself in. 

Xolea is on the far edge of Union space, and consisted of four continent-sized cities. Only Euria, with its population of over twenty million, was considered helpful to the Union in any meaningful way. It was one of the largest manufacturing cities within the entire Union, and during the civil war had been heavily guarded by the Union’s fleet to ensure it couldn’t be captured or destroyed. Life had been hard in Euria before the war, but during it, when everything was done for the war effort, life had gone from hard to almost unbearable, while those in charge got rich and powerful. Richer and more powerful.

Now that the war was over, those who had benefited from it the most refused to give up their gains. Refused to allow people to go back to what had gone before. The gangs that had been around for my entire life, had been taken over by the most affluent in society to be used for their own goals. Keep the people down. Make sure no one tries to stop them from becoming more powerful. I knew the Blackcoats had been infiltrated, knew there was corruption, but I hadn’t realised just how deep and far-reaching it had become. Until one dark night on my way home from work, I was jumped by half a dozen people who were meant to be colleagues. Meant to be friends. 

The anger at what had been done to me and my city had been all that had sustained me for my time in my dark cell. My partner had vanished, presumed killed by the gangs, and I had been framed for treason against the Union. All because I didn’t take bribes. Because I thought that Blackcoats—the Union’s law enforcement—were meant to be better than that.

The door to my cell opened with a shriek of metal on stone, bringing with it a gust of freezing air. A Sanctioner stepped inside. One of the five judge ranks. Sanctioners usually didn’t deal with crimes that involved the death penalty. I got the feeling in this case there might be an exception. 

Two guards—both wearing charcoal-coloured, thick, thermal protection suits, and carrying plasma rifles—stood at the door. Masks covered the lower parts of their face, and each wore dark glasses either to protect their eyes from the harsh sunlight outside or because they thought they looked menacing. Their pale foreheads were all the skin that showed, and both had short, dark hair cut close to the head. The Sanctioner waved them away after one of them brought the man a metal chair that had seen better days. The folds of the Sanctioner’s fur-lined, ornate red and yellow robes almost enveloped the chair when he sat. 

A scan mask hovered into the room, its two red eyes glowing inside the dark face. At some point, someone—possibly a psychopath— had decided to make vid recorders look like black face masks with red glowing eyes. I’d always hated them. Not because they were particularly creepy or unpleasant—although they were definitely both—but because I found them to be intrusive. Which, I had to concede, was probably the point. 

“Celine Moro,” the Sanctioner said, looking down at the brightly lit screen of the data-slate in his hands. “Thirty-eight, female, no family. If you like, I can read you the list of commendations you’ve received over your career as a Blackcoat? It’s honestly very impressive.”

I glared at the Sanctioner. “I didn’t expect to see you,” I said through gritted teeth. “Not here. Not with these murderers and thieves, Gorat.”

Gorat took a deep breath and let it out slowly, reclining as much as possible in the rigid chair. “You should have taken the money,” he said eventually.

I wanted to rip his tongue out for that. I wanted to beat his head against the thick walls of my cage, but instead I remained seated and seethed inside. “I am a Blackcoat of the district of Euria,” I said, keeping my tone level. “I do not accept bribes. It’s quite literally a line you have to say when you’re sworn in. I’m pretty sure there’s an identical line for judges when they’re sworn in too.”

“Maybe you should have just taken that line as a suggestion,” Gorat said with a slight sigh. 

“I can’t let people’s lives be ruined when I could do something to try and stop it,” I snapped, before reining in my temper. 

“And that, dear Celine, is why you’re here in this shithole,” Gorat said. “The mask is here to document this conversation for… prosperity. You were offered wealth to look the other way in the dealings of one Trias Nateria, a well-known and wealthy Confessor of the Golden Dawn, and a Councillor of the Union. Did you really think you were going to win this? Did you really think your actions would do anything but end with you here?”

I turned to the scan mask. “You can fly into a wall.”

“That’s not very mature,” Gorat said. 

“No, but you’re going to execute me anyway because I’m not corrupt. Unlike you, unlike half of the people I worked with.” The words tumbled free before I could stop them. “I did what was right and for that I end up here. I end up a criminal. Framed for treason because I was an inconvenience. Because I wasn’t corrupt. Framed by a Councillor of the Union. Godsdamned it, Gorat, these people aren’t meant to be tyrants, that’s why The Wardens exists.”

“There are no Wardens on Euria,” Gorat said. 

“Which is exactly why people like Trias are allowed to do whatever they like.” I wanted to throw something at the wall in frustration. 

The Wardens were responsible for the protection of every single Councillor and their families throughout the Union. But they also investigated any wrongdoing by those same Councillors. If they’d been on Euria there was a good chance I wouldn’t have been stuck in a damn cell, and Trias wouldn’t have been allowed to make himself the tyrant of the city.

“You always were too stubborn, too sure of what was right and wrong,” Gorat said, angry. “Everyone else just manages. You don’t have to like it, but it’s how things are done here. Especially during the war.”

“The war has been over for two years.” 

“Yes, which is why we need to help the people of this planet,’ Gorat explained slowly, as if I was an idiot. 

“And corruption helps them, how?”

“The workers here need these drugs, need to be helped.”

“Because they got addicted helping the war effort,” I said, the anger bubbling up inside me once again.

“There’s no going back now,” Gorat said. “Too many people made too much money to change things back to how they were.”

“Then maybe those things need to change,” I snapped. 

“You think you’re the one to do it?” Gorat snapped back. “Trias doesn’t play games. He wants you dead. He wants to know what you know, and then he’s going to have you executed, and your body will be taken to one of the factories and burned up in a furnace. The people will look the other way, and do you know why? Because Trias either pays them to, or they’re not worth his money and they’re so terrified of him that they do it for free.”

“He’s a Confessor of the Golden Dawn and a Councillor of the Union,” I said, not really sure how to convey the betrayal I felt, not only at Gorat and my old comrades turning against me, but that a Confessor—a man who was meant to protect the people of their planet—could turn his back on everything he was meant to believe in. For profit and power. The fact he was a Councillor too, made the transgression doubly hard to take. Two jobs that were meant to be carried out by those who were meant to want the best for their people. It was a corruption of two great institutes of the Union, and when I’d first discovered the truth, it had made me physically ill. 

Gorat sighed again.

“You knew my parents,” I said, my voice now barely above a whisper. “You worked with them. You knew me as a child, and now you’re going to be the one to have me executed. Why keep me here for however long it’s been? Why not just kill me?”

“I told you, Trias needs to know what you told to whom.”

“So you can go and kill more people?”

“Your parents were good people in a different time,” Gorat said, rubbing his eyes after several seconds of silence. “They would have taken the bribe.”

really wanted to hit him for that. 

“Trias wanted to come see you himself,” Gorat continued. “That’s why no one has hurt you yet. But instead, he’s decided you aren’t worth him venturing out into the cold. You’re just not important enough to him.”

“I could have brought him down,” I said more to myself than Gorat. 

“You gathered more information on his operation than anyone else ever has. You and that other Blackcoat you were working with.”

“His name was Prasan,” I said, the familiar and warming sensation of anger keeping me from breaking down.

“He’s dead by the way,” Gorat said. “They’d considered framing you for the murder, but honestly, you both vanishing is much easier. Neither of you have families, both single, both married to the job, both disposable.”

“He didn’t deserve that,” I said. Prasan did have a family, a sister. They’d kept their mutual existence secret from those they worked with. Prasan the Blackcoat, and Rika the criminal arms-dealer. Having a criminal or a Blackcoat as family members didn’t inspire confidence or trust in their allies. “He was a good Blackcoat. He was a good man.”

“He was,” Gorat said. “I made sure his death was quick. It was all I could do for him. Some of Trias’ more… ardent supporters wanted him flayed. Wanted to send a message to other Blackcoats, but I managed to convince them otherwise.”

“Am I meant to be grateful?” I shouted.

“You’re meant to understand that I can only do so much for you and those you work with,” Gorat said. “I can’t begin to tell you what some of those same people wanted to do to you. I got Trias to agree that making you vanish without a trace was better in the long term, but if you won’t tell me who you spoke to, his people are going to get to make you talk. I can’t stop that.”

“So, did you come in here to get information, or to taunt me?”  

“This isn’t easy for me either,” Gorat said. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you being betrayed by your own people and about to be executed for standing up against a crime boss?” I looked around the room. “No? Just me then.”

“Councillor, not crime boss,” Gorat corrected, his tone soft as if imparting a lesson.

I laughed in his face. “If it walks like a crime boss, talks like a crime boss, and shoots people in the face like a crime boss, he’s a crime boss.”

“This isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it?” Gorat said with a sigh. He got to his feet and looked down on me as if about to scold a child. “For the final time, Trias told me that if you cooperated, your death would be quick. But if not, then the guards will come in here and get the information out of you in another, much less pleasant way.”

“They’re going to sing a song?” I asked. “Or maybe do a dance routine? I think both of those would be less pleasant.”

“You never could keep a civil tongue in your head,” Gorat said, disapprovingly.

“And, apparently, you never could stop taking bribes to look the other way,” I said, leaning back on my bed. “I guess we’ve both been disappointed today.”

I looked up at the mask as it stared at me with its red eyes. “Trias, when you read this back, or watch the vid, or whatever you’re going to do, I hope you realise one day someone will actually find you in that lovely home of yours looking down over the rest of the district, and they’ll kill you. I’m just sorry to say I won’t be there to celebrate it myself.”

“Trias controls this city,” Gorat said, the palm of his hand against the door. “You should have realised that. Soon, the four guards in this building will come for you. They will take you to the room where you will eventually meet your death.”

“Only four?” I asked. 

“Torture doesn’t take many people,” Gorat said. “They will hurt you before you die. You could have ensured that didn’t happen.”

You could have ensured that didn’t happen,” I said, throwing his own words back at him. 

“Goodbye, Celine,” Gorat said, pushing open the door, letting in the cold air from outside. 

The mask left the cell first and Gorat reached inside his robes and placed a small box on the floor. The rectangular box was eight inches long by three inches wide, and was no deeper than the length of my finger. It was coloured orange and red with yellow trim, and reminded me of Gorat’s robe. 

“Goodbye,” Gorat said again, and left me alone in my cell. 

I stared at the box for some time. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. Was it a bomb? No, probably not. That seemed too much like hard work for Gorat. My curiosity eventually overrode my feelings of trepidation and concern, and I picked up the box, flicking open the metal clasp and lifting the lid. 

Inside sat a six-inch-long carbonate-fibre combat knife. I lifted it free and examined it. It was light, and sharpened to a dangerous edge. Knives were used by anyone from generals to street scum, but carbonate-fibre was different. They were used to by Special Forces members to be able to cut through shields and armour. It was the same material used to make the battleships and was almost indestructible against conventional weapons. It was the weapon of an assassin, of a warrior. And they were banned on Euria for one reason and one reason only: Trias and his loyal supports wore specially designed force shields at all times. If you wanted to kill one of them, you’d need to get close, and there was little chance of that with all of their guards and spies looking out for them. 

Thankfully the carbonate blade would work just as well on flesh as it would on those with shields. The question was why had Gorat left it? Had he intended for me to use it to escape, did he think I could use it to kill Trias? Or had he left it because he knew I would try to escape and would be killed in the process. Giving me a heroic death instead of one screaming through hours of torture? Did it matter? Probably not. But it still played on my mind. Whatever else happened, escaping from the cell was my first move. 

The shuffling of feet sounded outside the cell, and I held the knife down by my leg, the blade against the outside of my thigh, hidden from the man in foul weather gear who opened the door and stepped inside. 

“It’s time to go,” he said with a snarl, a plasma rifle casually slung over one shoulder. He considered me no threat. He was an idiot.

“I think I’m okay right here,” I told him. 

“I didn’t say I was giving you a choice,” he barked, stepping toward me, reaching for my arm. I sprung toward him, brushing his arm aside as he tried to grab me. He never saw the dagger until it was buried in his throat, his eyes wide with shock. He was dead a moment later.  

I stepped aside as I removed the dagger, avoiding any blood as the guard collapsed forward. I dragged him further into my cell and checked the hallway beyond, finding it empty. There were three more guards somewhere in the building I’d been held in, and I had to work fast in case they were on the way to me as well. 

I removed his red, fur-lined jacket and put it on; it was a little big, but it was that or deal with the sub-zero temperatures of a Euria winter without one, and that wasn’t much of a choice at all. I removed his second layer of clothing too—a skin-tight, black, cold-resistant top that was designed to change size to fit any frame. Anything to make sure I didn’t freeze to death the moment I stepped outside. I took his back holster and the energy pistol inside it, leaving the well-used plasma rifle where it was. The damn things only take six to eight shots before the magazine overheats and you need a new one. An energy pistol can put three times that number of shots out. 

It took me a few minutes to get dressed, and every noise outside of the cell made me pause, and pick up a weapon, waiting for the inevitable attack. But none came. I wondered where the other guards were. Had they expected this one guard to be able to deal with me? Were they torturing some other poor soul? I pushed the thoughts aside; I didn’t need the distraction right now. I was soon dressed and ready to battle both the enemy inside the facility, and the elements outside. 

I picked up the cell key card—a small, transparent blue device— and after checking the hallway once again—and finding it thankfully empty—I stepped out of the cell. The cold air whipped through the hallway of the building. Six doors ran the length of one side of the hallway, and large windows opposite each showcased the frozen tundra outside, the snow coming down hard. There would be several feet in a few hours in some parts, a dangerous time of the year for those working on the trams moving goods to and from the space port. 

A light overhead flickered, and I counted to thirty to see if anyone would come check on their friend. But after forty-five seconds, I decided it was safe to continue. I had no idea exactly where I was or why Gorat had left me a weapon, but I planned on finding out. And then I was going to find Trias and we were going to have a long conversation about the error of his ways.

**************

So, there you have the first chapter, I hope you enjoyed it, and that it made you look forward to the rest of the story.

Pre-order links:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Amazon.com.au

Becoming An Author. Part 1: 15 Things You Should Know

I did a video.

Blackcoat Cover Reveal

As you may or may not know, I’ve been writing a Sci-fi novella by the title of Blackcoat. Well, I’m ready to reveal the cover, and let you know that the kindle version is available to pre-order from your local Amazon right now. There will also be a paperback version, and I’m looking into the Audible version. Hope you like it.

When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.

Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.

The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.

Pre-order links:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

May Update – I Sold A Million Books

A quick Youtube video update about my current work, and what’s coming next.


It’s Been A While

Hello all.

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I last posted anything, and I know I was going to keep better up to date with everything, but seeing how the kids were home for 3 months during lockdown the best laid plans flew out of the window.

So, this is just to update everyone on a few things.

BOOKS

I’m currently no contracted for anything, although I’ve got a book with my agent so hopefully that’ll change sooner rather than later. It’s the first book in a new world, so that’s pretty exciting.

Yes, Horsemen’s War is the end of Nate’s storyline involving Avalon and Arthur, but it’s not the end of the me writing in that world.

The first book I’ll be writing outside of the Nate stuff is the Diana Novel, titled No Gods, Only Monsters. It’s the first of 3 books that at the moment I’ve titled Antiquity, although that may change. It’s not a Diana trilogy as each book will have a different Main Character, all of whom anyone who has read the Hellequin books will have met already.

Hopefully I’ll have details of it soon.

NOVELLA

In the mean time, my 3 current Novellas are still out there.

Infamous Reign

Hunted

Frozen Rage

All 3 are available on Kindle/Paperback, and at Audible.

Audible

https://adbl.co/3u3xiRF

Amazon

https://amzn.to/3nsCZ9i

Book Depository

https://bit.ly/32TuUkm

MISC

For years now, people have been asking me for my address so they can send me copies of books/whatever cool stuff they want to send me, and I really don’t like giving out my home address. So, after far too long, I got myself a PO Box address.

Should you wish to send me something (nothing illegal/weird/creepy/ you get the general idea), the address is:

Hidden Realms Publishing

PO Box 1925

Southampton

SO18 9QE

UK

And that’s it for the post. It was just a catch up, and I’ll be making sure to post more regularly, and also do Youtube stuff about writing now that all 3 kids are back at school and I can return to doing somewhat normal stuff.

Take care.

Horsemen’s War Release

Horsemen’s War is out now.

So far, it’s been in the top 50 books in the UK and Australia, and top 20 Audible Science Fiction and Fantasy in the USA and UK. Basically, it’s doing very well and thank you to everyone who has picked up a copy.

Also, Sorcery Reborn and Death Unleashed are only 99p each in the UK on kindle, so if you haven’t had chance to catch up with Nate and co yet, now’s as good a time as any.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, and you want to, here are some links to help you

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Audible

Thank you to those who decide to pick up a copy, and I hope you enjoy it.

Horsemen’s War: Prologue

It’s almost time for the launch of Horsemen’s War (Dec 3rd 2020 Kindle/Audible/ and Paperback, and available to pre-order right now), and I know that 2020 has been a long year for a lot of people, so I thought that I’d post the prologue now for people to read.

I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

Nate Garrett

Virginia, United States, Earth Realm

1798

The interior of the barn was covered in blood. None of it was mine.

The two dozen inhabitants had arrived here believing they were meeting with me as an envoy from Avalon. I was meant to discuss future business deals, bring them more prosperity, and they, in return, would keep Avalon’s influence alive in the newly free coun­try of America. Things had changed.

There was a gargle in one of the four empty stalls. The horses that had been kept there were long gone.

I walked over, stepping around the top half of a torso and a severed head, and found the still-living man inside the stall. The smell of blood and shit was overpowering, but I pushed it aside. I didn’t plan on staying long.

His tunic was bathed in blood, and more blood covered his face. There was a deep cut along his chest, and it continued to bleed heavily.

“Why?” he asked, a look of betrayal in his eyes. 

I followed his gaze to the body of his nearest companion.

“You are murderers, thieves, slavers. Scum who relish and traf­fic in human misery,” I said, my voice completely calm. “Why should so many innocent people die while people like you continue to make wealth off their pain?”

“But we work for Avalon,” he said, his face waxy. He did not have long. “You work for Avalon.”

I nodded. “I was sent here by Merlin to ensure that Avalon’s reach continued into this new world. But I decided that it was also an excellent time to remove the rotten parts of the system.”

“We work for Avalon,” he said again.

I didn’t remember his name. It didn’t really matter. He was one of hundreds I’d killed since arriving in America in 1784. All of them had deserved it. Their deaths had made the world a better place.

“I don’t care,” I told him.

“Merlin will find you,” he said with a gasp. “He will punish you.”

I smiled at him. “And you’ll still be dead.” I drove a blade of fire into his chest, ending him properly.

I stood and removed the long black coat I’d been wearing. It was covered in blood, as were my dark trousers and black boots. I tossed the coat onto the floor. There was a second one on my horse, outside the barn.

I pushed open the partially stuck wooden door and stepped outside into the cold. I ignited my fire magic, keeping myself warm as I stared at the familiar face of the man who stood fifteen feet away. He was taller than me, with long dark hair tied back with a blue bow. He was clean shaven, and his hurt expression was clear. He wore a long black coat, similar to the one I’d dropped in the barn, and like me, he carried no weapons. He didn’t really need them. I’d once seen him tear a man in half with his bare hands. 

“Tommy,” I said, feeling like the word would get stuck in my throat.

“Nate,” he replied, taking a step toward me. His voice was calm, almost sad.

“They deserved to die,” I said, my tone harder now as I let my anger fuel my voice.

“Probably,” Tommy said with a slight shrug. “Not for us to say.”

“Why?” I shouted. “Why not for us to say? We have the power.”

“Because that’s not what we do,” he countered immediately. “We’re not here as judge, jury, and executioner to people we deem to be bad. Humanity is meant to police its own.”

“Why should innocent people die and bastards like this con­tinue to live?” I snapped, marching toward Tommy until I was only a foot away.

“Because we’re better than them,” Tommy said. “Because we can’t rule humanity—especially through fear. That’s not our place. They are ignorant of our existence for a reason. Their safety—and ours! Your actions are putting us all in danger.”

“They. Are. Monsters.” Each word was said louder, the last a bellow.

“You killed bad people,” Tommy said, his voice never rising. “But what about all the innocents who also died because of that? We don’t just blindly kill people we disagree with. We can’t. We’re not conquerors. They’ve literally just had a war here to destroy oppression. You were not sent here to decimate the population of people who you deem to be unworthy. Mary Jane would never want that.”

I punched him in the mouth, my hand wrapped in dense air magic. Tommy flew back ten meters and collided with an old wooden shed, which imploded from the impact.

The silence that followed felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure how to take back what I’d just done. I wasn’t sure how to stop the anger and hate inside of me, how to burn away the pain that had all but consumed me.

“Did that make you feel better?” Tommy asked as he hurled a large piece of wood a hundred meters into the fields beyond.

“Don’t you ever say her name,” I snapped, feeling the warmth of the hate return to push aside the pain.

“Mary Jane was your wife,” Tommy said as he strode back toward me, shrugging off his coat and dropping it onto the snowy ground. “I know her death hurt you, but it’s been sixteen years. Everyone involved in her murder is dead. You killed them.”

“I said, don’t mention her name,” I seethed.

“We found the soldier,” Tommy continued. “We found him without his tongue, his eyes, his fingers, his toes, lips, and several other parts you’d removed. He didn’t even look human. You think Mary Jane would approve of that? You think she would be standing beside you, telling you this is a job well done?”

I threw another punch, and Tommy caught it in midair as if he were catching a child’s toy.

“Mary Jane was a good woman,” he said, pushing my arm away. “You disgrace her memory with every life you needlessly take.”

I threw another punch, this one wrapped in fire, but Tommy growled, low and mean, and struck me in the chest with the palm of his hand.

I smashed through the barn doors and crashed into one of the beams inside before dropping to the floor. I charged out, leap­ing over the blood, directly into Tommy, who had turned into his werewolf beast form. He caught me one handed and threw me aside into the fence that surrounded the barn. I wrapped myself in air magic as I bounced along the frozen ground into the field beyond.

Dirt and snow rained down around me as I got to my feet, ready for Tommy, who was methodically walking toward me.

“I don’t want to do this,” I shouted at him. 

“Then stop,” he said sadly.

I created a blade of fire in one hand and extinguished it. Tommy was my best friend. I wasn’t going to fight him. I just needed to get away; I needed to finish what I’d started.

“Mary Jane would be disgusted at what you’ve become,” he said.

Blind rage took over, and I charged Tommy, trying to drive a short blade of fire into his chest, but he punched me in the jaw with enough strength to spin me in the air but not break every bone in my face, which he certainly could have done.

“You’re not doing this for Mary Jane,” Tommy said as I spat blood onto the snow and took another swipe at him, cutting him across the chest.

“Stop saying her name,” I screamed at him.

Tommy backhanded me across the face, and I felt my entire head ring from the impact as I hit the ground once again.

“You’re meant to be my friend,” I snapped at him.

“Yes,” Tommy said. “And that’s why I’m here. You need saving from yourself.”

“Liar,” I said, spitting blood onto the ground once more. “You’re here to stop me from what I have to do. What needsdoing.”

“You’re delusional,” he said softly, even through his werewolf mouth. “You’ve lost yourself to pain, anger, hate, and hurt. You think that if you somehow drench yourself in enough blood, you’ll either make up for your wife’s death, or you’ll just become numb to it all. But it’ll never be enough, Nate. Not ever. You know this.”

“You think beating me senseless will do the trick?” I shouted.

“I’d hoped to talk,” Tommy said with a sigh.

“Why do they get to live, and Mary dies at the hands of some piece-of-shit English soldier while I’m not there? Why, Tommy?”

“I don’t know,” Tommy said softly. “I wish I did. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But neither is how you’re dealing with it. You can’t stop the hurt inside you by hurting everyone else.” 

I threw another punch at my best friend, but he caught my hand again, dragging me toward him, where he enveloped me in a hug, taking us both to our knees.

“No, Nate,” he whispered softly. “No more.”

“Why is she gone, Tommy?” I screamed to the heavens. “I miss her so much,” I whispered, my voice breaking.

“I know,” he said, his own voice cracking and tears running down his face. “I’m so sorry.”

I cried then, for the first time since Mary Jane’s murder. I cried for her, for me, for the horrors I’d inflicted. I cried in a snowy, blood-speckled field in Virginia as my best friend held me and brought me back from the darkness that had enveloped me. And right then and there, I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do to repay him for that kindness.

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Frozen Rage – Chapter 1

As you may or may not know, I have a book out on 15th September called Frozen Rage. I thought that you might like to get a look at the first chapter.

pre-order links (and the pre-order links for Hunted and Infamous Reign on Audible) are at the end.

Enjoy

Chapter One

The Realm of Dreich.

I was pretty sure I’d made a terrible decision to come here.

“No, fuck you,” the large man bellowed, getting to his feet at one end of the table laden with food and drink. He pointed a long finger at the man sat at the opposite end, thirty feet away. If I was honest, it could have been three times that, and it still wouldn’t have been long enough.

Tommy Carpenter, my best friend, stood beside me and sighed as he stroked his long, dark beard. A sure sign he was beginning to lose his patience. “I really wish I’d stayed at home,” he muttered under his breath.

Thirty people sat around a table designed for twice that number, although the shouting match between the two men at the opposing ends had everyone else move back from where they’d been seated.

The hall we were in was designed to look like something from a European palace, with high ceilings where murals of various gods—some of whom I couldn’t have named if I’d tried—looked like they’d stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. The walls were adorned with paintings, several of which I was almost sure were from masters of the craft back on the Earth Realm. At least one was an original Michelangelo, and I wondered from where they’d been stolen. The stained-glass windows that ran along one wall let in rainbows of color that bounced off the highly polished wooden floor.

“It’s fucking Shakespearean,” Remy said from the other side of me. “Maybe they’ll murder one another, and we could all stop pretending we care.”

As far as ideas went, it wasn’t the worst I’d heard recently.

“Well, it is a wedding,” Diana said from the other side of Remy. “It’s probably not a proper wedding until at least one person has been bludgeoned with something.”

“You go to some weird ass weddings,” Remy said, looking up at her.

Remy was a three-and-a-half-foot tall fox-man. He’d pissed off the wrong witch coven, and they’d tried to kill him by turning him into a fox. Clearly, it hadn’t worked but the witches had all died, and their lives had been poured into a newly fox-man shaped Remy. He dealt with it by swearing and threatening to stab people. To be honest, as far as coping mechanisms went, I’d heard worse.

The two men were now face to face, spewing insults about each other’s mothers, fathers, and at one point a particularly inventive curse about a goat and a block of cheese.

“When do we step in?” Diana asked.

Tommy sighed. Like half the people sat at the table, he was a werewolf, although he was probably stronger than any of them, and certainly less likely to pick a fight at a wedding brunch with the father of the bride.

Werelions made up the other half of the guests. There was a long and unpleasant history between the two species, mostly involving vast numbers of murders. Peace had been brokered for a few centuries but that hadn’t stopped either side trying to tear the other in half whenever the chance arose. Some don’t forgive or forget, and some are just arseholes. The father of the bride and uncle of the groom most certainly fell into those categories.

An apple was thrown, and it smashed against the wall beside Diana’s head. Diana hadn’t even flinched, she just slowly turned to look at the remains of the destroyed fruit, and then back at the no longer arguing families. All eyes rested on her.

Diana was half werebear, and not someone you wanted to anger unless you liked the idea of having your arms ripped off so she could beat you to death with them.

My mind cycled through options of what was going to happen next when I spotted the expression of glee on Remy’s face.

The doors to the dining hall were thrown open. “Enough,” a large man bellowed as  he stormed inside. He had a dark bushy beard, was broad shouldered with bulging muscles on his arms, and a barrel chest. Long, dark hair flowed over his shoulders. He couldn’t have looked less like the romanticized version of a Viking if he’d been pulled into the room while standing on a long boat.

“I’m going outside,” I said. “Come get me if they start to throw anything more dangerous than fruit.”

Tommy clapped me on the shoulder, and I left through a side exit usually reserved for the staff. The castle was on theme with the dining hall, designed to resemble something from the Middle Ages, if not earlier, but it was a much more modern piece of architecture. Even so, there were several secret passages for staff to use, and on more than one occasion as I walked the long hallway—adorned with old water color paintings of wars, and a carpet that I was pretty sure was thick enough to lose yourself in if you stood still for too long—one of the larger paintings was pushed open and several members of staff emerged. Most wore an expression of oh crap on their face as they presumably tried to remember if I was one of the arseholes fighting in the dining hall.

As I exited the castle, nodding to the two guards directly outside the main entrance, I walked through the large courtyard to the sound of horses neighing in the distance. It had been snowing on and off for the twelve hours since I’d arrived in the realm, and while there were runes inscribed in the stone exterior of the castle to ensure the snow never built too high, there was still a satisfying crunch where my thick boots punched through the soft layer.

A large granite water feature sat in the center of the courtyard, depicting a sword in the stone. Water bubbled from the sword hilt, streaming down into a bowl beneath the statue. I smiled as I walked past. I’d seen Excalibur many centuries earlier, before it was lost, and I don’t remember its hilt being quite so bejeweled.

After the courtyard, where there were more guards, I headed through part of a small village that encircled the castle and separated the makeshift from the real. The village, like the castle, had been purposefully-built, although the people who lived here were the workers and caretakers, so in that respect it was a real working village. But it was still designed to look hundreds of years older than it actually was. The village was surrounded by a forty-foot high, grey stone wall. The only way out was through the portcullis and across the drawbridge. As I strolled beneath the portcullis and across the dark wooden bridge, I noticed the crystal-clear water that made up the moat wasn’t particularly deep, yet it was all part of the facade of the place.

At the end of the drawbridge, was a huge stone archway, and I found one of the guests from the little soiree. He was sat on a stone bench, looking out into the thick forest. Mountains, forests, and lakes made up about eighty percent of the entire realm, which was probably one of the reasons why it had never boasted a large population.

A light wooden walking stick leaned against the man’s leg, and he looked up and me and smiled.

“Gordon,” I said.

He got to his feet and hugged me. “Nate, I didn’t know you were here,” he said before re-taking his seat.

“Tommy roped a few of us in to help with security,” I said, settling beside him. “Nice beard,” I said. “Distinguished.”

“You’ve grown one too,” Gordon said with a smile, stroking his own bushy yet greying beard—being a werewolf certainly had its advantages in the beard-growing department.

I rubbed my short growth. “Laziness,” I said with a smile. “How’s things?”

“Not too bad,” he said. “Hera took London, and I hear you and Mordred fought a dragon, destroying part of the city in the process.”

“A small part,” I said with a smile. It had been a just over a year since Hera had claimed London as her own, and, if I was honest, it had been a year of peace. I, like many of my friends and allies, was forbidden from returning to London on pain of death, but Hera had needed to spend time getting her stuff sorted, and with Arthur waking from his centuries long coma, it appeared she’d been forced to take a pause and behave. At least for now. It was unlikely to last, but I’d long since learned that you took your good times where you could.

“So, how did Tommy rope you into this?” Gordon asked.

“Ah, he said I needed something to do,” I told him. “Apparently, taking some time away from destruction and mayhem is being lazy.”

“Considering how much of your life has been destruction and mayhem, maybe he had a point,” Gordon said with a smile.

“Well, this is anything but boring.” I motioned to the castle. “This whole realm is batshit crazy.”

“A hundred years ago, this whole realm was uninhabitable,” he said. “I don’t know who came up with the idea to turn it into a rich person’s getaway, but I’m pretty sure they were rich.”

“It must be nice for the people who live here all year around through,” I said. “An entire realm for a thousand people for nine months of the year, and only having to put up with people like the wedding party for three months.”

“It would be nice if it didn’t rain for seven months of the year, and then snow for the rest of it. I think warm days here make up about a week in the year.”

“Sounds like Yorkshire,” I said, and we both laughed.

“I’m going to tell Matthew you said that,” Gordon told me, his smile at the mention of his pack alpha husband, growing wider. “He grew up there.”

“Where is Matthew?”

“He likes to go for an evening run before the sun goes down,” Gordon said. “The snow gets heavier at night. The runes all around the village and castle make sure we don’t wake up with six feet of snow, but out there it’ll be different. Matthew didn’t know when he’d get the chance for another run.”

“You not joining him?” I asked.

“I don’t need the run as badly as he does,” Gordon said. “Never have. I’m more content to curl up in front of a fire with a good book. Matthew prefers to run until his heart feels like it’s going to burst.”

We sat in silence for a moment, enjoying the peace. “How long have you known the bride, or groom, or whichever one it is you know?” I asked, somewhat regretting that I had to break the tranquility.

“Bride,” he said. “She’s a descendent from the werewolf royalty who signed the pact stopping hostilities with the werelions. The royal family doesn’t exist anymore, primarily because everyone just decided to ignore them and go about their business, but it’s still a formality that they invite several alphas to their weddings, or funerals, or brunch. Matthew is one of the most powerful alphas in Western Europe, so we get the invite. There are about a dozen of them. Probably the same with the werelions.”

“Any chance all of those alphas in one place will cause a problem?”

“Yes, a big one,” Gordon said. “But most of them are sensible and don’t want trouble. There are one or two who might decide to start a cock measuring exercise, but they’re in the minority, and I’m hoping the others will calm anything before it gets out of hand.”

“There was an argument brewing in the dining hall,” I said. “It’s why I left.”

Gordon nodded. “The bride’s father and the uncle of the groom, I assume,” he said with a long sigh. “Both arseholes, I’m afraid. Thankfully, their kids are smarter than them, but they both adhere to the old idea that any slight, imagined or otherwise, must be met with aggression. Matthew can’t stand either of them, so I’m guessing by the time we’re done, at least one of them is going to get hurt.”

“By Matthew?”

Gordon laughed. “No, not unless they try something with him, and that’s why Tommy and you guys are here. We both know Tommy is one of the most powerful werewolves in any realm. Everyone respects him because he’s earned it. And Diana? Everyone fears her.”

“Because they’ve met her,” I said, making Gordon laugh again. “She almost got hit by an apple earlier. Never seen so many people look like they were going to piss themselves.”

“Diana might actually be the scariest person I’ve ever met,” Gordon said.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why Tommy asked her to come along,” I said. “That, and for Remy’s amusement.”

“Some of the weres don’t know what to make of him,” Gordon told me.

“They should be wary of him,” I said. “He’s small, got a big mouth, and is more than happy to back it up.”

“How many more of his people did Tommy bring?”

“Twenty-six,” I said. “Most of them are in the village getting a feel of the land, talking to the people who work here. This realm has a big security force, so they’re trying not to step on any toes, but werewolves and werelions together is not exactly a recipe for a happy time.”

“It’s all very Shakespearian,” Gordon said.

“Remy said the same thing,” I told him with a chuckle. “Hopefully, it’s less Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth, and more…” I tried to think of a Shakespearian play that fit the bill. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I’m not entirely sure that any of his plays would make for a fun thing to live through,” Gordon said.

“Yeah, I was kind of grasping at straws there,” I admitted. “Still, if no one dies, I’ll consider this weekend a success.”

“How about the loss of a few limbs?” Gordon asked.

I was about to reply when a figure burst out of the forest. He was naked from the waist up, wearing only a pair of denim, knee-length shorts that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Hulk after he’d turned back into Banner. Matthew was a muscular, hairy man which, seeing how he was a werewolf, wasn’t exactly unusual, although he had several dozen scars over his body that he’d gotten before his change. The life of a Knight’s Templar had been a hard one for many reasons, most of which Matthew didn’t want to talk about.

“Nate,” Matthew said, walking over and hugging me.

“You smell like pine needles,” I told him.

“I’ve had an invigorating run,” he said as Gordon passed him a red hair tie. Matthew cinched his long, dark hair before kissing his husband on the lips. “I missed you.”

“It’s been an hour,” Gordon said with a wry smile.

Matthew’s grin was full of warmth. “Even so, a run with my husband at my side is always preferable to one without.”

“Go shower,” Gordon said. “You really do smell like pine needles.”

Matthew took a deep breath. “I smell of manly smells,” he said, which caused Gordon to laugh.

I smiled; it was nice to see them both happy.

“You see how I am treated?” Matthew asked me. “An alpha, and my own husband mocks me.”

“Would you prefer if I got someone else to mock you?” Gordon asked.

“Remy isn’t busy,” I said.

Matthew’s eyes narrowed as he looked between us before a deep rumble of laughter burst from him. “I will go shower and change. Can I assume the wedding parties are still at one another’s throats?”

I nodded. “I think some of the guests went to explore the realm instead, but basically, yes. It’s going to be a long weekend.”

Matthew sighed. “I was hoping they would be able to act as adults for a few days.”

“To be fair, it was only two of them when I left, although someone came in at the last minute and started shouting at everyone.”

“Ah, that would probably be Sven, one of the werelion alphas,” Gordon said. “Sven is not known for suffering fools gladly, and he’s more interested in keeping the peace than he is in getting into petty squabbles.”

“I don’t think I’ve met him,” I said.

“He’s a good man,” Matthew said, which was high praise from a werewolf. “I’m pretty sure Sven and his council are the reason the werelions and wolves haven’t gone back to the old ways. He reminds me of Diana a lot. His presence here should stop anyone from thinking about acting in a stupid way.”

“Is there a werewolf equivalent here?” I asked.

“The bride’s mother, Victoria Walker,” Gordon said. “She was one of those who left for a walk. She divorced the father some time ago, and she very much wears the alpha crown without contest. If she’d been there, no one would have started an argument. She’d have thrown them through the damn window.”

“I haven’t met her either,” I said. “Haven’t met the bride or groom for that matter.”

“Beth and Logan,” Gordon said. “Both are sweet kids, although they’re about a century old, so the ‘kids’ thing is subjective. Beth is the spitting image of her mother, in both temperament and looks. Logan is a calm, relaxed, surfer dude type. I’m pretty certain there’s never been a situation he couldn’t charm himself out of. They’re made for one another. A fact Beth’s father and Logan’s uncle both hate.”

“That’s why they were fighting,” I said.

“Those two have been looking for a fight for a long time,” Matthew said. “One killed someone the other liked, or some such. I don’t even think either of them know anymore.”

There was a shout from deeper in the forest, and all three of us turned to look in the direction.

“Did you see anyone else in there?” I asked Matthew, who shook his head.

I took a step toward the forest when a young woman with dark skin burst out of the dense woodland, stopping a few feet away. She was breathing heavily, her long dark hair sown with leaves. She was completely naked, her body covered in scratches. She looked up at us as if seeing us for the first time, horror in her face, and pitched forward onto the snow, a small crossbow bolt jutting between her shoulder blades.

“Oh shit,” Gordon said as he rushed over to her.

“I’ll get help,” Matthew said, racing off.

I removed my coat and helped Gordon move the woman on to it.

“She’s still breathing,” Gordon said.

“You know her?” I asked.

Gordon nodded. “It’s Victoria, the mother of the bride.”

“Oh shit,” I whispered as Victoria opened her eyes and screamed.

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Frozen Rage

The upcoming Hellequin Novella, Frozen Rage will be released on 15th September in Kindle, Paperback, and Audible edition. But not only that, the Audible editions of Hunted and Infamous Reign will also be out on the 15th September.

 

Links are below the covers, and if you do plan on purchasing, please do consider pre-ordering as pre-orders are really important to a new book. Thanks.

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Writing And Upcoming Releases

I thought I’d do a quick update about the upcoming release of Frozen Rage, as well as the releases of all 3 of my novellas in Paperback and Audible forms.

 

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