You all have been incredibly understanding and completely awesome both here on my blog, on facebook, and even in my email. I love my readers and you will be thrilled to know that I am working on getting you the book as soon as possible. And for being such awesome people, how about a little peek? Remember this is still in working mode so you’ll have to forgive any minor errors. And everything is subject to change until the book comes out. Enjoy!
Juliana Norris laid in the dirt, tracking the necromancer through the scope of her rifle as rocks dug into her belly. She shifted her weight for the hundredth time in an effort to get comfortable. The old man paced the clearing below. His oversized suit hanging on his thin frame made him look emaciated. Tattered cuffs spoke to many long nights spent in the cemeteries with the dead. But tonight they weren’t in a graveyard; they were in the Dead Zone.
The Dead Zone was the result of an accident at a germ research facility that some dumbass politicians decided should be relocated to America’s heartland about a decade ago. Less than five years after they opened their doors, the outbreak occurred. A quick response from the government kept the epidemic from becoming global, but every human or animal within fifty miles succumbed to the plague. A few stragglers had begun to move back into the area in recent years and with them had come rumors of zombies rising in the night.
Every now and then, the Agency or the locals would send a group out to lay the zombies to rest. Lately, the rumors had become rampant again so here she was, playing guard duty to a necromancer. She’d tried to convince her boss it was a waste of time and resources to send the death wrangler. She could have just put them to sleep her way. One quick shot to the head and the zombies would cease to be a problem. Even the undead needed a brain to function.
As soon as the necromancer finished preparing, he would cast a spell to summon all the undead in the area. The zombies would come straight to them and they wouldn’t have to hunt them down. She supposed that was one bonus of the necromancer being here at least. Once they’d gathered, he’d perform one incantation and lay them all to rest at once. That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately, things so very seldom went according to plan. That’s why she was here.
The badly sung chorus of a song about a man with a big gun came over her earpiece and she shook her head as she smiled. Correction, that’s why she and Nathaniel were here. Nathaniel West—werewolf, Realm Walker, and general pain in her ass—was singing the song in a voice low enough it was barely audible.
“Cute,” she said and found him in the scope of her rifle.
He laid on the hill across from her in much the same position, his own rifle scanning the area in a mirror to hers. The scope found her and he raised a hand in a half-hearted wave. “It’s fitting,” he said with a chuckle.
As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, flashes of light near Juliana’s position caught her attention. She turned on her gift so she could see the signature of anything creeping around. Several blobs of chartreuse and pink lit her vision. Pixies. She hated pixies.
She glanced at the scene below to gage the death wrangler’s readiness. The magic was rising in the circle he drawn, but it hadn’t built to the strength it needed to be yet. One of the pink blobs flitted closer. Juliana narrowed her eyes and watched it until it hovered beside her rifle.
“You bite me, you little shit, and you’re going to regret it.”
A tinkling laugh with an undercurrent of mania filled the air. The pixie darted forward and sharp pain radiated from the back of Juliana’s hand. A tiny, perfectly formed bite mark appeared on her skin. Damn pixie. The laughter gave way to high-pitched shrieks as she snatched it out of the air. Juliana didn’t speak pixie, but she had a feeling it was something along the lines of, “How dare you? Unhand me at once.”
Pixies had a bad habit of biting people and going invisible. You couldn’t punish something you couldn’t find. They could hide from sight all they wanted, but they couldn’t hide their signatures. Maybe since she’d caught this one, the rest of the cursed creatures would leave her in peace.
Chanting rose from below as the necromancer began to call the undead. “Get lost, pixie,” she said and opened her hand to release it. It hovered in front of her a moment more, still shrieking and then darted off into the growing darkness. She looked through her scope to find the clearing below now bathed in a sheen of red magic. Juliana opted to keep her gift up rather than switching to the night scope. After a few minutes, gray signatures appeared at the edge of her vision, moving across the fields to the necromancer.
There weren’t many of them and they were tightly grouped together which made keeping them in sight easier. She resisted the urge to look over her shoulder to ensure herself none of them were creeping up behind her. Nathaniel would warn her if they were. Keeping her scope trained on the corpses as they shuffled along, she occasionally glanced in her partner’s direction to make sure his back was safe. There were six signatures all together. No seven. A small signature hovered close to the ground. What was that? A baby? That would make the night perfect. A baby zombie. Why did she always pull the shit assignments?
“They got a freaking dog with them,” Nathaniel’s voice hummed over her earpiece. “I think it’s a Pomeranian.”
She huffed out a laugh in relief. A dog, not a baby. She’d seen weirder things than a zombie Pomeranian she supposed. Not that she could think of anything off the top of her head, but she was sure there was something. The figures shuffled along, arms in front of them looking more like some Hollywood throwback than any natural zombie she’d ever seen. “Gods, could they get any slower?”
“Remember, they’re all science. No magic.”
Juliana tilted her head from side to side in an effort to stretch her neck muscles. The scientists that worked in the research facility had been, among other things, trying to recreate the Altered with pure science. The result was vampires that caught fire in the sun and zombies that shuffled along. If they’d bothered to consult any actual Altered, they could have learned that you can’t duplicate magic with science. It simply couldn’t be done, as the abominations below her demonstrated.
“How’s our wrangler holding up?” she asked. His signature told her little of how the man was faring.
“Stone cold and chanting.”
Her attention shifted back to the zombies and their pet. They stopped at the edge of the circle and twisted their heads jerkily from side to side as if examining the air in front of them. Cold fingers of unease ran up Juliana’s spine and she frowned. They shouldn’t have been able to detect the circle.