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Friday, January 14, 2022

Blog Tour- JUSTICE AT SEA by @mrchrstn With An Excerpt & #Giveaway! @CamCatBooks, & @RockstarBkTours

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the JUSTICE AT SEA by Christian Klaver Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: JUSTICE AT SEA (The Empire of the House of Thorns)

Author: Christian Klaver

Pub. Date: December 7, 2021

Publisher: CamCat Books

Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 320

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle,  AudibleB&NiBooks, KoboTBD

The tides of the Faerie War are turning, but at how high a cost for the Kasric family?

Justice Kasric, her siblings, and her parents are locked in combat on both sides of the Human-Faerie War. At fifteen, Justice may be the youngest ever Admiral to command her own ship and lead a resistance, but she has the magic and the will to do it. If only nearly every other member of her family weren't either in immediate danger of dying-or attempting to kill her!

Forced to make dangerous pacts with more than one unpredictable ally, only Justice can decide how far she'll go to save London. Is it worth sacrificing even a member of her own family?

Praise for Shadows Over London

"Klaver dazzles with an adventure rooted in complex feelings about family loyalties, and magically full to the brim with faerie mystery." -Tobias S. Buckell, World Fantasy Award Winner and New York Times Bestselling Author

"An enchanting and enthralling series opener." -Kirkus Reviews

"Fantasy at its most fantastic. Monsters, mystery, and magic in a beautiful and frightening world all their own. Justice Kasric and her strange family are a delight from first to last." -Steven Harper, author of The Books of Blood and Iron series

"This first title in a new series slowly builds into a magical adventure in a world that is dark and unique . . . the plot and world building are sure to enthrall readers." -School Library Journal

"Klaver's rich, lyrical descriptions augment the fantastical source material in this engaging series starter." -Publishers Weekly


Grab Book 1, SHADOWS OVER LONDON now!


CHAPTER 1  

Estuary Raid

The Mist.

It pooled ankle-deep on the deck, moving in little eddies  around our feet every time we moved. A slow, dank current of it  flowed silently down the forecastle stairs in wispy trails, then down  to the main deck where it pooled again before draining out the  scuppers and down the hull to the ocean. But no matter how much  fog drained out, there was always more. Made me itch to grab a  broom or mop and get it all off the deck, only I knew it wouldn’t  do any good. There was plenty more where that came from. All  around us, in fact.  

I was at the front rail near the bowsprit, the very forefront  of the ship. A lantern threw yellow light that clung to the deck behind me but didn’t penetrate more than a dozen feet or so. All  I could make out was more fog pooled on quiet, black, still water.  The ship’s prow barely made a ripple as we cut through the water  without a sound. We’d been forced out into the Channel; coming  back towards the English shore had a forbidden feel. We weren’t  welcome here in England anymore. You could feel it.  

The mist had a way of dampening sounds, so that I kept looking back to make sure that everyone else was still there. I could  see the rest of the quarterdeck that Faith, Sands, and Avonstoke  shared with me, but the rest of the ship was lost in the haze.  

Quiet should have been good. We were prowling in enemy  territory. I’d given the orders for silence myself, but now the heavy  feel of it was making my skin crawl. I thought the darkness was  starting to show a little gray in it, at least, as if dawn might not be  that far off. 

“Justice,” Faith hissed from behind me. “We’re too far in!”  “Shh,” I said, craning my neck to listen for signs of other ships,  or possibly the English shore. England used to be home, before  the Faerie took it and shrouded it in this bloody fog. Now it was  enemy territory and there was no telling what changes the Faerie  had wrought to it. 

“Too far in!” she said again. I was supposed to be captain, but  one of the problems with having my older sister on board was that  she’d never taken orders from me and wasn’t about to start now.  Didn’t matter if I was a captain, admiral, or a bag of rutabagas.  

Faith looked unnatural in the eerie yellow light, with her  white London dress and her long ash-white hair. No pants for her,  despite being at sea. The Faerie might have conquered London,  but they hadn’t made much of a dent in Faith’s sense of propriety  or fashion. At least she’d forgone any hoops or a bustle. 

She stepped closer, her dark eyes wild with panic. “You know the strain it takes for Sands to keep the shield up. He’s going to  collapse if we keep him at it.” 

I pushed my weather-beaten wide-brimmed black hat back on  my head to peer up at her. She had to be prettier and older and taller. Life’s not fair.  

“What about you?” I snapped. “Do you feel anything? Anything at all?”  

Faith’s lips went tight. “No, same as the last time you asked. If  I felt anything, don’t you think I’d tell you? Everyone keeps call ing me a magician, but that’s all they can tell me. You don’t learn  magic as much as feel it, but I don’t feel anything! I’m about as  close to singing fish into a hat as raising a shield! You have to take  us back!” 

I shook my head. “You know we can’t do that. They get one  ship across the channel and it’s all over.” I turned my back on her.  She made a smothered noise behind me and I could sense her frustration.  

The worst part about Faith’s warning was that she was probably right.  

Sands looked an absolute and unmitigated shamble. The  man’s face, when I glanced back again, despite myself, was covered in sweat though he shivered in the cold damp. His black coat  and tails were spattered with salt, and he’d lost his hat. His cheeks  showed two day’s growth around his blonde mustache and goatee  and his blonde hair stuck out in all directions. His eyes, a startling  emerald green under normal conditions, now shone like cat’s eyes  or undersea lanterns, washing the forecastle deck and our boots  with lime, eldritch light. He stared out over the water, looking for  dangers most of the us couldn’t even see.

The Faerie invasion force had put up the mist to keep us out,  of course. The Outcast Fleet stayed on the edge of the mist, where  the rest of humanity couldn’t reach us, but venturing further in, like  we were doing now, was like taking out a rowboat into a monsoon. 

My ghost eye, which helped me see through Faerie magic,  allowed me to penetrate the first line of defense: the illusions,  or glamours, as the Faerie called them. Dark flocks of predatory  birds, specters gliding on top of the ocean’s surface, that sort of  thing. It was enough to scare the crew into a wailing froth and I  was just barely holding that fear in check, constantly reminding  them that the glamours weren’t really there. The only person not  showing any fear was Avonstoke and I had him to thank for bolstering the crew. Without him, I’d have a mutiny on my hands for  sure. I looked back to where he stood, supporting Sands. 

Avonstoke was tall, a Court Faerie like the stern and uncompromising Faerie marines. But Avonstoke wasn’t stern, not by a  long shot. The average Court Faerie was slender, with high cheek bones and angular features in a way that was disconcertingly in human. But Avonstoke wore it better somehow, more mysterious  

than inhuman, and with that kind of height and broad shoulders,  he took the breath of every woman around him. I found him  endearing, distracting, and exasperating in equal measures, but  he’d become a sturdy support, my rock when things got danger ous, like now. His eyes, like the others of his kind, were pale gold,  without any pupils. They were an echo of my ghost eye, a solid  black marble in my left eye.  

That ghost eye also allowed me to see the visions that really  were out in the mist. Dark shapes cresting the water, ghost ships,  an enormous bat-winged shape far overhead. But only Sands and I  could see those, and neither of us mentioned it to the others.

“Ghosts,” he muttered when another of the ships went by. “Intangible?” I said, keeping my voice equally low. “So, they  can’t hurt us?” Avonstoke and Faith were close enough to hear,  but I trusted them to keep their mouths shut.  

Sands turned his glowing cats eyes to me and shook his head.  “Probably not.” There was the hint, like always, of France and  other unfamiliar places in the lilt of his voice. “Ships, or other  things, caught by a vortex and wrenched free of their place in time.  If they are ghosts to us, or we are ghosts to them, I cannot say. Now  they move through when, as well as through where. Let’s hope they  are not close enough in the fabric of time to reach us. Years spent  in the mist would leave you quite mad. I should know.” 

I wanted to ask more, but now wasn’t the time. He turned  away, peering out into the fog with those luminous eyes. What we were really worried about were the vortexes. Dark twisters, like supernatural tornados, that threatened  either to tear us to pieces or pull us entirely out of the world we  knew. One false step and we could be ghosts ourselves. Or we  could just be dead. 

Even as I watched, another black tornado lurched out of the  mist, moving far too quickly for us to avoid it, and battered itself  against Sands’ shield. The shield, which, through my ghost eye, I  could see as a soft green shimmer around the ship, rippled under  the impact. But it held. It was all eerily silent and unreal. I felt no  sign of the impact under my feet, which was even more unnerving. 

But Sands shook under the impact, as if he had been hit  directly. Avonstoke’s grip on him was the only thing that kept  Sands from falling.  

Faith wasn’t wrong. The little blonde man couldn’t take too  much more of this. 

I could see back to the rest of the ship, which was a far cry  from a comfort. Every face that peered back was tight with sullen  fear, watching me, or Faith, but mostly watching Sands, our only  magician. 

Except Sands wasn’t a full-fledged magician anymore. Since  passing his mantle to Faith, his powers had been slowly fading. To  make matters worse, Faith, his replacement according to Father’s  plan, didn’t seem close to taking his place.  

I gnawed my lip. 

The air was still, the rigging quiet, the splash of water soft,  while we all struggled not to breathe too loudly. Everyone was listening hard enough to make their ears bleed. The ship itself made  barely a creak under my feet. No scent of land came with the bare  excuse for a breeze, even though I knew we had to be close. The  chill off the water was like something off a grave. 

A Prowler crew member ran up to report, knuckling his forehead. “Foretop lookout is seeing branches, Ma’am.” “Branches?” I said, raising an eyebrow. The man blanched,  his greenish skin going visibly paler, but nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”  Sometimes I forgot the reverence the Faerie from Father’s domain, most of our crew, regarded our family. If they only knew. I opened my mouth to get a better explanation, but by then  there was no need.  

“There!” Faith said, pointing. “What’s that?” 

The mist parted to reveal a tree growing up out of the water,  craggy and black and dripping with lichen and slim. The trunk  was easily as wide around as the Specter was long, with branches  angling up in all directions, long, jagged shapes that disappeared  into the fog. 

The tree was festooned with bodies.

There were dozens of them, all very dead, hanging from the  branches on nooses. They’d been tall when alive, and not at all human, with great horns on their heads, white or black hair, gray  skin, and talons on their hands and feet that immediately remind ed me of the Soho Shark. The talons swayed, very gently, though  there wasn’t any breeze. Drops of moisture dripped down into the  water with a morose and solitary dripping sound. 

“Formori,” Mr. Sands intoned, his green eyes still blazing.  “Leaders of the Faerie once, but all wiped out by the Seelie Court.” “Much to everyone’s relief, according to the stories,” Avon stoke said softly behind him. “The atrocities they tell are enough to  make even a hag’s skin crawl.” His handsome face looked thoughtful and a little curious. 

“Formori,” I repeated grimly. “Like the Soho Shark.” Sands looked confused and alarmed and I told him and the  others, in as few words as possible, about our encounter with the  Soho Shark and Victoria Rose. Just thinking about the two of them  gave me shudders. 

Mr. Sands whistled low. “The leader of the Formori was said  to be missing one eye. A very dangerous individual, if this Soho  Shark is the same person . . .” He frowned, lost in thought, while  his hands plucked nervously at the brass buttons on his vest. He  jerked with surprise when his fingers plucked one off completely. 

“Damn,” the little ex-magician said.  

I had Mr. Starling ready a few crew members with long poles  so they could push us off from the tree, if necessary, but we glided  slowly and silently underneath the long line of hanged Formori.  

Immediately after clearing that grisly obstacle, however, someone shouted up in the topmast. I heard a grinding sound, then the  sound of breaking wood and the snapping of lines as a piece of the topgallant mast went splashing into the sea on the starboard  side. 

“What happened?” I shouted, breaking my own rule of silence. “We hits a low branch, we did!” a gravely, squeaky voice shout ed back. 

“Was anyone up in the gallants?” I shouted back. 

“Don’t know, Captain!”  

I leaned over the rail, calling to Avonstoke and Nellie down in  the chains. “Have Wil check that wreckage and make sure no one  is in it.” 

“Yes Captain,” Nellie said. She called out in the soft and lilting  Prowler language and Wil’s head broke the surface of the water.  “What did you do that for?” Wil said after Nellie relayed my  orders, but then he dove without waiting for an answer. Two minutes later he surfaced. I couldn’t hear his words, but Nellie turned  and shook her head up at me.  

“Thank Heaven for that,” Faith said.  

I nodded in agreement, too overwhelmed with relief to speak.  At least that much luck was with us.  

There was a shadowy line of the riverbank on the port side  now, with the gleam of white through the fog as the gentlest of  surfs broke on the rocks. 

“Shoaling on the far side!” Nellie called out softly. 

I leaned over the rail, pointing so that there should be no con fusion. “Port?” 

Nellie nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Port.”  

“Pass along two points to starboard,” I ordered. The waiting  sailor nodded and turned to pass the message. 

A flurry of breezes came, luffing the main foresail immediately  above us with a snap like the crack of a whip.

“Hear that?” Faith said. 

I stared at her. The entire ship had heard it. 

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Not the sail. The singing.” “I don’t hear anything,” I said carefully. 

She frowned. “It’s gone now.” 

Then I spied what looked like not only a land mass, but a  familiar one. The Girdler, a sandbank, which would put us in the  Queen’s Channel. I let out a long sigh. It was incredibly gratifying  to know that this much, at least, of English geography remained. 

Suddenly, the mist cleared. Well, not cleared exactly, but  became more penetrable. More normal, like regular old English  fog and not some supernatural abomination. There was even  enough breeze to catch the sails and I felt the Rachaela make  decent headway for the first time in hours. 

“Well done, Sands,” I said. 

“Thank you, Captain,” he said. His voice sounded normal,  more human than when he’d spoken under the strain of his spell,  but utterly exhausted, too. He looked more normal now, too.  Still disheveled, but more like a man than a magical beacon. The  eldritch light had faded from his eyes. He smoothed down his hair,  then took a rueful look at his vest and trousers. He took a shaky  step and Avonstoke steadied him. 

“Through!” Faith breathed.  

We’d thought it possible, but hadn’t been sure. The Faerie  could have had this stuff over the entire country for all we knew.  But apparently not. That was worth knowing and information I  had to get back to the rest of the fleet. Or what was left of it. Father  had commissioned a dozen ships like the H.M.S. Rachaela, but  they had been lost in the mist before I’d taken command. Now,  all that was left was the enormous Seahome and a few schooners. 

This was why it was folly to brave the mist, but also why it had  been so necessary. It was worth all the risk I’d taken just to know  we could navigate it. Now we could attack the invasion forces,  rather than just wait for them to make a move. One bold move  here could outweigh months of ineffectual engagements. 

“Land on the port side!” came the hoarse whisper from the  main deck. “Crow’s nest reports land on the port side!” They were  still relaying messages to avoid shouting. Good. We were in the  Estuary proper, in the Queen’s Channel just as I thought. I tilted  my head, listening hard, suddenly sure I heard something. 

“Take him below,” I said to Faith, nodding at Sands. “Let him  rest while he can.” As soon as we’d done our business here, he was  going to be needed for the trip back. 

She opened her mouth to say something, then stopped, her  eyes wide as saucers. She heard it now, too. Sands looked around  as well. 

Voices. Another ship? Then I could see them. Three dark silhouettes of sails and rigging slowly sliding across the still water.  Yes. More than one ship, it seemed. The largest looked big enough  to be second or third rate, maybe, comparable to our ship. Only  they probably didn’t know we were here because of the fog and  our effort to remain silent. We might be out of the magical part of  the Faerie mist, but fog was still fog. Also, the enemy ships, from  what I could see, didn’t look to have anything like a full complement of crew on board. 

I passed the word for the spyglass and it came in short order.  The nearest ship showed me silhouettes that were unmistakably  men. Normal men, not Faerie. English men pressed into service  by the Black Shuck. Probably not even sailors, since the Shuck had  run out of those. 

That didn’t change what I had to do, because the ships’ holds  would be filled with all manner of Faerie infantry. Enough infantry  to get and hold a landfall in France. Even just a few could be too  much for mundane forces and the Faerie would spread over the  continent. The only thing stopping the Faerie from crossing and  taking over the rest of the globe was the remaining Outcast Fleet.  For three months, we hadn’t been able to penetrate the mist, but  we’d easily thwarted an attempt at crossing the channel because  the invading Faeries knew nothing of sailing. But we’d lost so  many ships trying to raid the coast that our defense of the channel  was stretched hopelessly thin. If the invaders realized that, we’d be  in trouble. 

Other figures, tall and angular, moved on the enemy deck.  Court Faerie like many of my own crew, but in uniforms of dark  leather and bone. The Unseelie Court. The Black Shuck’s people. 

The Rachaela might have been outnumbered, but that  wouldn’t matter as much if they were only partially manned and  rigged. They barely had any sail up and all listed and wallowed  uncertainly. They weren’t using the wind like we were; they were  being towed by rowboats. Foolish. In addition, something had  gone wrong with the towing ropes of the lead ship and a knot of the  enemy, Faerie and human, were huddled around the prow, arguing.  

Good. The Faerie still hadn’t learned any real seamanship.  They’d never had the need before now, since all sailing in Faerie  was done with magic. That was our only advantage and I was going  to exploit it to the hilt. 

“Oh God,” Faith’s voice came softly next to me. She and  Sands were still here. She sounded like she was going to pass out.  Or throw up. Maybe both. I had the same feelings when I’d been  poring over maps and planning the engagements. I’d have them again, when I was looking over the lists of the wounded or seeing  the damage wrought on my ship.  

But now, all I felt was a sudden, thrilling rush. I could even feel  a madcap grin crawl over my face. 

“Oh God,” Faith said again. “Whenever you get that look in  your eye, I know we’re going to be knee-deep in flying cannonballs  right away. I hate cannonballs.” 

“That’s why you’re taking Sands below,” I said cheerfully. “Go  on.” 

Of course, cannonballs could penetrate below decks, but mentioning that to my sister wasn’t going to make her feel any better. I  could have had Avonstoke take Sands below, but I needed Avon stoke up here as much as I needed Sands and Faith out of the way. 

Faith finally moved to go, and then stopped, glaring at me.  “It’s unnatural, you know.” 

“Of course it’s unnatural.” I turned and stepped past her to  bring the spyglass to bear on the enemy ship again. “We’re at war  with the bloody Faerie. Where have you been?” 

“Not them,” she said stiffly. “You. You’re not supposed to be  happy on the brink of battle. It’s unseemly.” 

I waved her away, keeping my eye to the glass, too busy to  bandy words with her now. But I could feel a delicious thrill rising in me at the prospect of action, unmistakable now that she’d  pointed it out. 

“Unseemly,” Faith said. “Especially for a girl.” She finally took  Sands below. 

I turned and leaned down over the railing aft of us and called  down softly to the main deck. 

“Password to Starling. Bring us about on the port tack. Ready  a turn to starboard and ready the starboard guns.”

M 12 N 

Justice at Sea 

“Aye,” a barely-visible crewman called back. They rushed off  aft. 

“Swayle,” I hissed at the Faerie marine colonel, also on the  main deck. “Have your people ready.” 

“Yes, Ma’am,” Swayle said. She nodded at her people, who  began nocking arrows to bows and readying themselves at the  rails. All the marines were Court Faerie like Avonstoke, tall, slender, with those same blank, golden eyes. Most of them looked  severe, but Swayle had an expression so stern you could crack  walnuts on it. 

She pointed twice, without speaking, and another detachment  of marines started climbing lithely up the masts to elevated positions, silent as wraiths. For all that the Faerie weren’t so great at  seamanship, war was another matter altogether. 

I looked back at the enemy ships. Amazingly, they showed no  sign of having heard or seen us. The nearest of them were still  arguing over the tangled tow rope. For once the mist was working  in our favor, dampening sound. 

Relieved of being Sands’ caretaker, Avonstoke came and  joined me at the front railing. He didn’t say anything at first, merely  stood there next to me, a comforting presence, tall and reliable. 

The ships were still moving closer. Slowly, so slowly. I’d have  to order the turn soon, but for now, we had everyone ready and  our slow progress through the water only brought things into a  better position for our maneuver. Better to milk our element of  surprise for all it was worth. Only it sent my nerves jangling, knowing I could hear an outcry any minute, but holding, holding . . . 

“Like an Avatar of Naval Warfare,” Avonstoke murmured,  very softly, “watching as battle draws nigh.” He sighed solemnly  and profoundly pained at the poetic sorrow of it all. “I wonder, perhaps,” he went on, “if an Avatar should have, I don’t know, a  cleaner coat? Or a hat that isn’t quite so lumpy?” 

“Shut up,” I said softly. “I love this hat. You, I barely tolerate.”  A captain had to keep a certain level of aloof decorum, but I let a  whisper of a smile come out. Avonstoke had a way of bringing that  out in me, even at times like this. 

He grinned down at me, a wild light in his eyes. There never  really was any way of telling what he’d do next, a creature of mercurial urges with so many apparently random emotions that it  wasn’t a matter of detecting them on his face so much as sorting  them out. Did he think of that kiss we had shared as much as I did?  Of course, that had been months ago and now things were different. I was his commanding officer. I couldn’t look at him that way  anymore, and yet, I couldn’t quite forget.  

If he was having any conflict with how he thought about me,  I’d seen no sign. 

The fog was breaking up even more, allowing me to see the full  length of the Rachaela behind me. I made out Mr. Starling, my se ond-in-command, back on the quarterdeck. He was a burly Dwarf,  completely bald except for a tall, startlingly-red topknot waving  above him like a thin scarlet flag. His mustache and beard were  equally red and his mouth, like always, twisted in a frown. He was  also quivering with readiness. 

The increased visibility meant that the enemy now had a clear  view of us, too. Astonishingly, they still hadn’t called out any  alarm, though if it was because they didn’t notice us, or simply  didn’t recognize the danger, I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. No  point waiting any longer. 

“Bring us about!” I shouted, no longer worried about anyone  hearing us. “Ready cannon!”

“It’s her!” someone from the other ship shrieked. “It’s Bloody  Justice Kasric!” A clamor went up, both from the enemy ships and  the rowboats down in the water. That, at least, felt good. I could  feel that grin on my face getting wider. 

“Fire as you bear!” I shouted at Render, another Dwarf and  captain of the gunnery crew.  

“Aye, Captain!” Render said. He signaled one of his gunner’s  mates standing at the hatch, who would then signal the gundeck  captains below. Then Render tapped both gun captains on the  shoulder with his riding crop. Both the guns boomed, shaking the  deck beneath my feet and throwing up two plumes of acrid smoke.  The glyphs and sigils on the side of the brass cannon glowed a fiery  yellow, then immediately started to fade. Extra enchantments to  pierce Faerie protections, but also to keep the brass cannon from  falling apart, since cold-forged iron couldn’t be used by the Faerie  at all.  

I turned. “Swayle!” Hardly had the word left my mouth than  the deadly twang and hiss of loosed arrows snapped all around  the deck as our marines fired. Screams from the other ship floated  across the water. Swayle’s Court Faerie archers, unerringly deadly,  would rack up as many casualties as the cannon by the end of this  engagement.  

Unfortunately, the enemy archers would be just as good, but  we had a few moment’s respite as they recovered from their surprise. 

But the gundeck below was still silent.  

“Render!” I snarled. “Why aren’t they firing down there?” “Aye, Captain!” He shouted and rushed to the hatch. Ren der was still new, having taken over as gunnery captain after  the previous one had been killed. He was alert, but still trying to compensate for both not having enough Dwarves to man everything, and the bloody slow process of passing commands from  deck to deck. 

Finally, the gun captains down there must have gotten it  together because more cannon banged and the ship shuddered  with even greater fury. More smoke drifted up into view off the  starboard side and more screams came from the opposing ships.  

One of the Goblins on our side, a little fellow named Chuck Chuck who had tufted bat’s ears and a bulbous nose, cackled merrily and a ragged cheer went up from my crew. 

“Back the topsails!” I shouted. I wanted to slow our progress  now that we were in prime firing position. 

“Aye,” Starling shouted back. 

Avonstoke, still next to me, clenched his hand. 

I’d seen it before but hadn’t gotten used to it. This was shadow  magic, and part of why Father had assigned Avonstoke to protect  me in the first place. One instant, his hand was empty, the next, a  dull-black scimitar blossomed in his fist. It looked like three feet  or so of heavy, curved metal, but I didn’t think metal had anything  to do with it. The material, whatever it was, trapped light rather  than reflected it, a thing of shadow with an occasional glimmer  of moonlight that hadn’t come from any sky above us. The edges  shifted slightly any time I tried to get a good look at them, making  the exact dimensions disconcertingly fluid. 

An arrow shot out of the cloud of gun smoke, coming right for  me. I ducked, but Avonstoke batted the missile with a flick of his  sword. Seemed the enemy archers had recovered. 

“Glad you’re here,” I said. 

Then the musket ball shattered part of the rail two inches from  my right hand.

I looked at the broken part of the railing. Two inches. Two  inches in the right direction and I’d never use that hand again,  regardless of Avonstoke’s protective intentions. I hadn’t even  caught any of the ragged splinters, which were deadly enough on  their own. 

But for now, I was fine.  

The other ship was still a skeletal gray shape in the mist,  with shadowy outlines on something flat a dozen yards ahead  that might have been sailors on a deck. Some of them must have  had rifles, because that’s where the shots were coming from, but  then a dozen more of Swayle’s marines fired and more of our  cannon banged away, shaking the deck underneath my feet, and  then all opposition stopped. Men were fleeing the rowboats and  already two of the three enemy ships were listing. We’d have them  demasted and sunk in a few more minutes and the enemy could do  little to resist us. More Faerie were pouring out of the holds and  jumping overboard. 

We’d won the day. 

I could feel the grin return to my face. The Black Shuck wasn’t  going to get any ships across the channel today. If Sands was  strong enough to get us back through the mist, we’d have dealt the  invaders a bitter blow with relatively little cost to us. 

Then the light wind tore the smoke barrier away and my grin  died as I could better see what kind of damage we’d wrought. Just  because we weren’t the ones paying a cost didn’t mean it wasn’t  being paid. 

But I kept my mouth shut and let the firing continue, despite  the taste of smoke and ash in my mouth. 

The Faerie weren’t going to carry their invasion forces across  the English Channel. At least not soon. 

We’d bought the rest of the world a few weeks’ reprieve, at  least. After that, it was still anyone’s guess. 

Faith came back out on the deck while the battle was continuing. If you could call it a battle. Mostly, it was our gun decks belching flame, smoke, and destruction and the other, smaller ships  screaming. I could see in her face that it would be no use trying to  send her below again. Her thoughts were as clear on her face as if  she’d spoken them out loud. I can’t fire the cannon or shield us from  vortexes in the mist, but I can stand with you here, now. 

She stood, very close, both our hands on the rails, which trembled under our white-knuckled grip as the topside guns and those  on the deck below continued firing, over and over. There was little  that needed done by way of sailing, so Avonstoke came and stood  with us, too. 

Having them next to me helped, some, but it was still horrible.  It was war. 

 


About Christian Klaver:

CHRISTIAN KLAVER has been writing for over twenty years, with a number of magazine publications, including Escape Pod, Dark Wisdom Anthology, and Anti- Matter. He’s the author of The Supernatural Case Files of Sherlock Holmes, the Empire of the House of Thorns series, and the Nightwalker series, but has written over a dozen novels in both fantasy and sci-fi, often with a Noir bent. He worked as a bookseller, bartender and a martial-arts instructor before settling into a career in internet security. He lives just outside the sprawling decay of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife Kimberly, his daughter Kathryn, and a group of animals he refers to as The Menagerie.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a finished copy of JUSTICE AT SEA, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

1/10/2022

Rockstar Book Tours

Kickoff Post

1/11/2022

Mythical Books

Excerpt or Guest Post

1/12/2022

YABooksCentral

Excerpt or Guest Post

1/13/2022

Writer of Wrongs

Excerpt or Guest Post

1/14/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

Week Two:

1/17/2022

Rajiv's Reviews

Review

1/18/2022

Jaime's Book World

Excerpt

1/19/2022

The Girl Who Reads

Review

1/20/2022

GivernyReads

Review

1/21/2022

Sadie's Spotlight

Excerpt or Guest Post

Week Three:

1/24/2022

The Phantom Paragrapher

Review/IG Post

1/25/2022

Karen Dee's Book Reviews

Review

1/26/2022

@sunnydeelights

Review

1/27/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

1/28/2022

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt or Guest Post

Week Four:

1/31/2022

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

2/1/2022

Pick A Good Book

Excerpt or Guest Post

2/2/2022

The Momma Spot

Review

2/3/2022

More Books Please blog

Review

2/4/2022

Coffee and Wander Book Reviews

Review

Week Five:

2/7/2022

@lexijava

Review

2/8/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

IG Post

2/9/2022

BookHounds YA

Review

2/10/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

2/11/2022

@jypsylynn

Review

Week Six:

2/14/2022

Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Review


Monday, January 10, 2022

Blog Tour- THE WITCH AND THE DREAMWALKER by @MimiMerlot With An Excerpt & A $10 Amazon GC #Giveaway! @changelingpress, & @RockstarBkTours

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE WITCH AND THE DREAMWALKER by Victoria Rogers Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: THE WITCH AND THE DREAMWALKER (The McKinley Women #2)

Author: Victoria Rogers

Pub. Date: December 14, 2021

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Formats: eBook

Pages: 111

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo

 It’s 1982, and rising star Vivian McKinley is determined to climb the corporate ladder of a growing paranormal security firm. With the help of Xavier Prince, President and CEO of Prince Charms, Vivian uncovers a plot to take over the business. The pair navigate office politics and machinations to prove a psychic vampire’s treachery.




Grab the companion book in this series, THE WITCH AND THE STAG now!

 

Chapter One 

“Congratulations on your presentation. Your prototype is the talk of the  convention.”  

Vivian McKinley turned around to face none other than Xavier Prince, owner,  president, and CEO of the largest paranormal security firm in the country, Prince  Charms. He smiled at her while offering her a flute of champagne. His eyes crinkled  warmly. Her fingers brushed his as she took the glass. She felt her face heat up as the  pianist on the far end of the ballroom began a soft, tinkling piece that had couples  taking to the parquet dance floor.  

She had never spoken to Mr. Prince before; she was merely a researcher in his  firm, one of half a dozen. As a storied ex-paramarine and playboy, he stood tall and  broad-shouldered. His immaculately tailored tuxedo showed off his athletic shape  causing him to stand out among the middle-aged men who populated the room. He  had a jaw as sharp as glass, and his brown eyes glittered in the candlelight.  

“Thank you,” she said, pulling her hand away abruptly, not wanting to be  caught savoring the feeling of his touch. The champagne splashed out of her glass and  onto her cocktail dress. “Oh!”  

“Careful,” he warned.  

Vivian’s face burned. The nervous laugh that erupted from her was high-pitched  and short. “Whoops!” She plucked a napkin from a server’s tray and dabbed at the  black sequins. Her dress would be fine. It was only champagne. She tossed her red hair  over her shoulder and forced a smile.  

“Thank you,” she repeated. “I’m glad it went well.”  

“Well?” Xavier’s face lit up in a broad smile. “We have people lining up to buy  your charm. We haven’t seen pre-sales like this since the personal were ward.”  She rose her brows and pressed her lips together as her stomach did a few flips  of excitement. “Oh! That’s wonderful,” she said. 

“It’s more than wonderful.” He touched her arm and began leading her away  from the crowd.  

His fingers on her bare flesh caused a ripple of warmth through her. She took in  a sharp breath. Easy there. He’s your BOSS, she reminded herself.  

He continued, unaffected by the situation. “I’ve been asking about you. Your  work is exemplary. John says you know charms like the back of your hand. You get  along with your colleagues and are described as intelligent, a hard worker, and you  think outside the box. Apparently, we’ve never seen talent like yours.”  

Vivian took a sip of champagne and squirmed in her heels.  

“John’s retiring. Gave me his notice today. Normally, for someone in his  position, I’d ask for a few months lead time from him, but I think we already have a  candidate.”  

She met Xavier’s gaze and stared at him. Her mind whirled. Was he… Was he  offering her the position of head researcher? Her stomach did a few more somersaults.  She opened her mouth and then closed it, not quite sure if she should say something or  let him continue.  

He laughed then, a deep masculine laugh that caught her by surprise. “Yes,  Vivian. I’m offering you the position of R and D head. You’d report to director of R and  D, Richard Simeon.”  

Richard Simeon. That was a name that would make anyone flinch. He was a  right old bastard, but he knew his stuff. He was older than John, why didn’t he retire?  Working with him would be a sore point, but she would get to manage the Research  and Development Department. She would guide the direction of their research and in  turn, help guide the future of Prince Charms.  

By the gods! This was a dream come true. She had been the first woman in her  family to attend university, and now she was going to be the first to climb the corporate  ladder. The McKinley women would no longer be solitary witches of the woods.  “You haven’t said anything,” he said from over the rim of his own glass. 

“I… Wow. This is incredible. I was not expecting this.” She laughed and shook  her head. “You caught me off guard, is all.” She laughed again, her brain struggling to  put sentences together. She took in a deep breath, ignored Xavier’s amused look, and  paused for a quick moment to compose herself. “Yes. I would love to take on the role.  Wow. Thank you.”  

“Wonderful! Congratulations, Vivian. You’ve earned this.” He clinked his glass  with hers and gave her a wink as he took a sip. “Ah! Troy, just who I wanted to talk to.”  Vivian swallowed and looked to who Xavier was addressing. The man, Troy,  looked to be around the same age as Xavier -- mid thirties, she thought. He had blond  hair, cut short with a side part. He was shorter than Xavier, though was just as wide.  While his tuxedo was not tailored as well as the CEO of Prince Charms, it was clear he  spent a lot of time at the gym. He strode over with a confident swagger that  immediately set off alarm bells in Vivian’s mind. She had met plenty of men like this  one before.  

“Troy, meet Vivian. Vivian, meet Troy. We go way back. We were marines  together.”  

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Troy,” she said with an outstretched hand.  He gripped her hand and squeezed harder than was necessary. She resisted the  urge to squeeze back and smiled sweetly instead.  

“The pleasure is all mine,” Troy said with a smile in return. The smile didn’t  reach his eyes. “Xavier,” he said, turning a shoulder to Vivian, “I’m glad I caught you  before you headed off for the night.” He looked her up and down a moment before  looking at Xavier expectantly.  

Vivian gritted her teeth.  

Xavier nearly spat into his drink. “This is Vivian McKinley. She invented the  psychic vampire ward we showcased yesterday. She’s just been promoted to head of R  and D. Vivian, Troy is the president of ParaSecurity.”  

“Oh,” Troy said, not bothering to turn. “Congratulations, Miss McKinley.”  “Ms.,” she corrected. 

He blinked.  

“It’s Ms., not Miss.”  

“Of course.” He gave her a curt nod. “Xavier, I wanted to hear more about this  idea of yours.”  

“I thought I had your attention!” Xavier clapped his hand on Troy’s shoulder.  “C’mon, let’s discuss details over a cigar.” He smiled at Vivian as he reached for a silver  case inside his jacket pocket. “John will want to hear the news.”  

Vivian knew a dismissal when she heard one, even if it was accompanied by a  smile that lit up her chest.  

The two men disappeared through the open glass doors into a forest of potted  palms on the balcony, leaving Vivian to herself. She glanced around the ballroom  through the sea of tuxedos and the occasional glittering wife. She judged that some  were mistresses, mainly because of the age differences and the way the women clung to  their balding partners. She immediately regretted her choice of dress. No wonder Troy  had been so dismissive, she was dressed like one of them. She had chosen to wear a  just-above-the-knee black-sequined cocktail dress, sleeveless with a sweetheart  neckline. She wore her grandmother’s single strand of pearls and matching pearl  earrings. Maybe she should have put her hair up? She sighed, annoyed with having to  navigate being a professional in a man’s world right at the moment she should be  celebrating.  

“I couldn’t help but notice you were talking to our hunk-in-chief.”  Vivian snorted and turned to face her friend Jenny. She was the receptionist for  the Research and Development Department. The blonde wore an emerald green off-the shoulder dress with a large bow on the right hip.  

“Here, you look like you need one of these.” Jenny thrust a shot glass into  Vivian’s hand.  

Vivian shook her head, “No. Thank you. This is work.” She passed the glass back  to Jenny. 

Jenny made a face. “Vivian, dear, this is a party. Work ended the moment you  stepped foot into this ballroom.”  

“Not true. This is work. Everyone here is networking. Besides, I was just talking  business with Xavier.”  

Jenny’s brows shot upward. “First name basis, are we? Not Mr. Prince? At any  rate,” she said, not giving Vivian the chance to answer the question, “look around.  People are here to attend a party. The bar is already on its fourth bottle of whiskey.”  

Vivian ignored her. “I’ve been promoted, Jenny. I’m now head of R and D!”  “What? Congratulations! That’s so exciting! Wait! That means you’re my boss?  Holy shit, Vivian! I’ve never had a woman boss before. You get it, Viv. Make these men  quake in their shoes. You’ve got to do a tequila shot with me, then.”  “Tequila? You want me to be sick? No, thank you. I’m fine. I should talk to John.  Have you seen him?”  

“Oh, yeah. He’s at the bar talking to Drew from sales.”  

“Thank you,” Vivian replied.  

“I will get you to do a shot before the night is out.”  

“No. You won’t,” Vivian called over her shoulder.  

* * *  

John was exactly where Jenny said he was -- at the bar enjoying a glass of cognac  with Drew from sales.  

“Vivian!” John bellowed, waving her over. “Saw you talking to Mr. Prince. Has  he taken my advice?”  

Vivian grinned. “If your advice was to have me take up the mantle, then yes.  Yes! By the gods, John. I don’t know what to say. I haven’t had time to process this yet.”  John beamed and took her hand and patted it lightly. “I’m proud of you, Vivian.  

You’re going to go far. You’d be wasted in that shop, peddling basic charms.”  “I wouldn’t call my grandmother’s charms basic. She taught me all I know. She’d  have a few choice words to say to you if she heard that!” 

“I stand corrected.” He chuckled, belly bouncing with each percussive breath.  “Drew, have you met Vivian? She’s now the head of R and D.”  

The salesman laughed at first, but when John didn’t laugh in response he quickly  sobered. “What? Where are you going, John? Is Simeon finally retiring?”  John shook his head. “No. I’m retiring, Drew. It’s time I spent more time with the  grandkids.”  

“Oh, come on. You’ve got a few years yet.”  

“No, no. It’s time to go home. I can’t compete with these kids anymore. Vivian’s  ward is one hell of a piece of work. I would never have been able to dream that up.”  “The psychic vamp ward? The one I’ve got people lining up to order? That was  you?” he asked while looking at her, mouth agape.  

John snorted. “Of course, it was her, she gave the presentation, didn’t she?”  “I thought… I thought she gave the presentation to…”  

Vivian arched a brow. “To what, exactly?”  

“You know, to, to sell --”  

“She’s goading you, Drew. And I’d stop with that thought right now. Vivian here  knows her stuff, and she’s going to put Prince Charms on the global map.”  Vivian could hear the clack of Drew’s teeth as he snapped his mouth shut.  “I think a drink is in order, don’t you?” John turned toward the bartender.  “Three bourbon, neat.”  

“Oh, I don’t think that’s --”  

“Nonsense. This is a party, and if you’re going to hang with the old boys you  have to play by their rules. Here, have a cigar.”  

Vivian stared at the offered stogie.  

“Might as well join us in smoking them. You’re going to be stuck in smoky  rooms and end up smoking them anyway. It’s better firsthand.”  

Vivian wasn’t sure she followed John’s logic on that one, but she reached out for  the cigar anyway. 

“That’s my girl. Now, here, you cut them like this.” He snipped the end of the  cigar with a gold-plated cutter he pulled from his pocket. “And let me get that for you,”  he said, flicking open his matching lighter.  

She didn’t cough. She knew enough from her father that you didn’t actually  inhale a cigar, unlike a cigarette.  

John grinned as she exhaled like a professional. “Now.” He clapped his hands  and rubbed them together. “Time for bourbon.” He passed both her and Drew a glass  and then held his aloft. “To Vivian, who’s going to shake the paranormal world so hard  it won’t know what happened.”  

Vivian expected everyone to sip their drink, but no, down their gullets the amber  liquid went. She tried not to gag at the flavor. A whiskey lover she was not.  “It’ll grow on you,” John said with a thump on her back as if reading her mind.  “Bartender! Another round.”  

Jenny was right, it seemed. It was a party. Already the dance floor was full, the  bartenders were busy at work and there were servers everywhere.  “First conference with us, Vivian?” Drew asked after Vivian examined the room.  “With the company? Yes. I’ve been to ParaCon before. My family used to  attend.”  

“Family? What company?”  

“Oh, we were small business, really.”  

Drew’s interest waned at that. “I see.”  

“Vivian here is a witch! Long line of witches.” John puffed on his cigar.  “Successful women. They’ve been running a shop downtown for over a century,” he  said on the exhale. “She studied at Serenity State in their Occult Sciences program, one  of the first to graduate out of that program, and, I might add, she was at the top of her  class. I was lucky to get her on board.”  

Vivian smiled fondly at the white-haired man. “Oh, you would have gotten me  eventually. It was just a matter of whether or not it was after a master’s degree or a  doctorate.” 

“This is corporate. With your experience you don’t need a doctorate. Besides,  you can still get one. You’re young, yet.”  

“For over a century? That’s impressive. What shop?” Drew asked, zeroing on the  only thing he cared about: money.  

“Ceridwen’s, on Hillcliff Lane.”  

“That’s in old historic, isn’t it? That section of downtown that’s all blocked off  from traffic?”  

Vivian nodded. “It is. Do you visit our little neck of the woods often?”  Drew looked up from his cigar, startled. “What? No. Can’t take the Lamborghini  there.”  

“What do you plan on doing with the shop now that you’re head?” John asked,  handing out the glasses of bourbon.  

Vivian accepted a glass and tried her best to not let her distaste show. “I can’t  just up and sell it. I’d be breaking tradition, and I have aunts and cousins who’d wring  my neck if I did. I could wait for one of them to offer to buy it, but there’s a stipulation  in the will that I’ve gotta hold on to it for at least five years. It’s supposed to ensure it  stays in the family. I can’t design charms and wards there like grandmother did, not  with working at Prince Charms. What I design is owned by them. I’m not sure yet. I’m  thinking of moving into the apartment above, though.”  

John took a much smaller sip of his drink this time around. He nodded. “Nice  location. Central to everything. It’s a fairly large space, isn’t it?”  

Vivian set her glass down on the bar and smiled at one of the bartenders to get  their attention. “It’s enough for me. I mean, why not, I own it. Why pay rent when I’ve  already got a place? Besides, it’d make grandmother happy, and she deserves that.”  

“Amen. To good ol’ Patricia McKinley, matron of charms and wards. May she  rest in peace,” John said, raising his glass. He swallowed the last of the bourbon. “Now,  enough serious talk. We’re at a party! C’mon, Drew, let’s go find those wives of ours.” 

Vivian shook her head as the pair wandered off. “Soda and lime,” she ordered  from the bartender as he finally made his way over. She tossed a bill into the tip jar as  she waited.  

At this rate she was going to need to go to bed at ten. She stubbed the cigar out in  the marble ashtray but kept it as a prop, hoping it would dissuade anyone from offering  her another. With John halfway into his cups the news of her promotion would spread  like wildfire, and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that. She squeezed the lime into her  drink and left the lime slice on a napkin. Bathroom. There would hardly be anyone in  there since men outnumbered anyone else in the ballroom. She could escape and  process there.  

The bathroom was old and gaudy and coated in marble and fading gilt. It had a  twelve-foot arched ceiling, and a maroon carpet. There was a sumptuous sitting area  adorned with cream colored wing-back chairs and there were grand mirrors for women  to, presumably, powder their nose in. The toilets were farther on through a gilded  archway and a fan of potted plants.  

The place was empty, thank goodness. She sat down at the far end in a chair by a  counter. She put the cigar in an ashtray on the mirrored side table and leaned back.  Head of Research and Development. Twenty-seven years old and the head of R and D.  She clenched her fists and bit her bottom lip, kicking her feet in excitement. By the gods!  Her. Vivian Mary McKinley, Head of Research and Development at Prince Charms.  This shouldn’t be happening. It was supposed to take her years and years and years to  achieve this, not three years and a major project later.  

But then again, Xavier had founded Prince Charms at the age of twenty-six. If he  could take a small paranormal security company and rocket to the largest in the country  in just nine years, well, she could achieve big things too.  

Her stomach was busy flipping about when the big wooden door with brass  handles and ornate hinges swung open.  

“Oh, honey, I thought I’d find you here,” Jenny said as she flopped down in a  chair opposite Vivian. “People are asking about you out there.” 

“Yes, well, they’re going to have to wait,” Vivian said with a wave of her hand.  “I need a moment to myself first. Plus, John made me drink bourbon. I need a break.”  She reached for her glass of soda water and took a sip.  

“You’re not going to be sick, are you?”  

“What? No. I’ll be fine. I just wasn’t expecting this, you know? It’s a lot to take  in.”  

“You better not be doubting yourself because you deserve every ounce of this  promotion. You’re smart, and you’ve got ideas, and you have every bit as much  wherewithal as one of those smug-ass bastards out there. No one has ever come up with  a psychic vampire ward! No one, not ever, until you figured it out. You got there before  anyone else in the world. Vivian, Vivian, look at me.” Jenny pursed her red lacquered  lips.  

Vivian ripped her eyes away from the ashtray and met Jenny’s pout with a  laugh. “Yes! Yes! I hear you. On paper it all fits, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to  accept.”  

“What? Why not? Any one of those assholes would accept it without batting a  lash. Even Peter, from accounting.”  

“OK! OK,” Vivian conceded. “Fine. I deserve this promotion.”  

“Yeah, you do, babe.” Jenny grinned. “Now, how long are we going to hide in  the bathroom?”  

“Give me a few more minutes.”  

“Whatever you need.” Jenny managed to stay silent for thirty seconds before she  spoke again. “So. What’s he like?”  

“Who?”  

“Mr. Prince! I’ve never met him. He never comes down to the labs. Mr. Simeon  always goes upstairs to the offices for meetings. I’ve only ever talked to Pam, the  receptionist upstairs.”  

“I talked to him for all of three minutes. He smiled a lot, but he was promoting  me. I assume most people smile at the person they’re promoting.” 

Jenny giggled. “I wouldn’t know.”  

Vivian looked up to the ceiling and sighed. “He seemed nice.”  

“He’s a god in mortal form is what he is,” Jenny interjected. “Have you seen him  on the tennis court?”  

“Well, yes, at the club, but he’s our boss.”  

“Just because he’s the boss doesn’t mean you can’t look.”  

Vivian shook her head. “That’s not what I’m here for, Jenny. I’m here to be a  professional. To grow and learn and well… be successful at it all.”  

“You can do all that and still look,” Jenny said with a shrug.  

“All right. Let’s go back to the party if it means I don’t get regaled with nonsense  like this.” Vivian stood and picked up her matching clutch from the chair next to her.  “Anything to help,” Jenny said, smirking.  

Vivian flipped her head and ruffled her hair to give it a bit more volume. When  satisfied with the height of her curls, she reapplied her lipstick and blotted her lips on a  tissue.  

When they ventured back out into the ballroom, it was a lot quieter than it had  been. The dance floor was empty, and people seemed to have formed scattered  conversational groups.  

“Well, this isn’t the party I left a few minutes ago,” Jenny murmured.  Vivian sighed in relief. Thank goodness people were settling down. The last  thing she needed was more booze. No one seemed to notice her triumphant return to  the party which pleased her to no end. Jenny, however, had her trademark pout. “Well,  this is no fun. Where’s the dancing? We’re supposed to find handsome dance partners  and be whisked away on the dance floor.”  

“It’s nineteen eighty-two, not nineteen fifty-three.”  

“Well, if it means I get whisked off my feet it should be. Hey,” Jenny said, her  voice slow and low as she got an idea. “What if there’s one of those psychic vampires in  here ruining the party? You said they could be anyone, some people don’t even know  they are one, right?” 

“They’re a lot more common than you think,” Vivian said, nodding.  Jenny looked around to see if anyone was watching them and then nodded her  head toward the roped-off dais at the front of the room. Vivian’s pride sat there for all  to marvel at. The psychic vampire ward. It was an amalgamation of solitary witch  tradition and cutting-edge science -- an energy conductor with an amethyst core. One  flick of the switch would cause a single light to glow and a whole lot of nothing, unless  you were a psychic vampire. If you were a psychic vampire, you would be driven  away. It was not an elegant solution, but that was why it was a prototype.  “Why don’t we turn it on and see?” Jenny suggested.  

“What? No! We can’t just walk up there. There’s guards.”  

“Why not? You invented the thing. You’re the Head of the Research and  Development Department. They won’t be able to stop you.”  

“We can’t!” Vivian said under her breath.  

“Why not? Isn’t this what the thing was invented for?”  

“It was designed to stop vampires from manipulating others.”  

“Well, I’m going to guess there’s a lot of serious manipulating going on here.  Look around, Vivian. This isn’t the same group we were with moments ago.”  Vivian cast a glance around the room. Indeed, it seemed a lot more subdued than  when John and Drew trotted off to find their wives. She spied them in the far corner.  Drew was talking animatedly while John scowled at him. She could see Xavier and  Troy still on the balcony. Xavier leaned on the railing and looked out over the Las  Vegas strip, cigar stub between his fingers. Troy was talking, his body turned away  from her. She couldn’t make out what they were discussing. A cluster of men stood to  their right. Two appeared to be disagreeing with each other, while a mistress in a red  contoured gown gave a bored sigh and tugged at her paramour’s jacket sleeve.  “The signs do point to something going on, I’ll admit.”  

“I’m glad you agree,” Jenny said with a grin. “Come on. Let’s get this party  started again.” 

Vivian followed Jenny as they skirted along the edge of the room toward the  raised dais. A big man in a suit intercepted her, shaking his head.  

“This area is off-limits, miss.”  

“Even for the Head of Research and Development?” Jenny asked sweetly, head  tilted to the side.  

Vivian took that moment to step forward. “Hello. Vivian McKinley, I made that  thing, and I would like to show Miss Williams how it works.”  

“Ms. McKinley, of course,” the man said. “I didn’t see you there. Please, by all  means,” he said as he stepped aside.  

Vivian led the way up to the dais. “This is the energy conductor. Over five  kilograms of amethyst is in its core.”  

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Jenny whispered. “I was there at the presentation. Turn it  on!”  

“I’m supposed to be explaining to you how it works,” Vivian responded from  the corner of her mouth. “Coupled with oil of rosemary and yarrow, this is a psychic  vampire repelling machine.”  

“By the way, that, was never a good joke.”  

Vivian huffed. “They laughed at the presentation.”  

“They were being nice. Where’s the on button?”  

“It’s the only button.”  

“That’s easy, then!” Jenny said and flicked the toggle switch upward.  The toggle switch glowed red, but other than that nothing happened. Just a soft  whir as the mechanisms inside heated the amethyst.  

“Well, that’s just fascinating,” Jenny said loud enough for the security guard to  hear. “Aren’t you a clever little thing?”  

Vivian cleared her throat. “Not a problem, Jenny.” She watched as the mistress in  red tugged vehemently at her partner and whispered something in his ear. He nodded  at her before shaking the other men’s hands and the pair left the party. 

Jenny pulled her off the dais before she could catch any more of that group’s  interactions.  

“That was Renee,” Jenny said. “I’m not surprised she’s a psychic vampire.”  “We don’t know that,” Vivian replied. “She wanted to leave before we turned  that thing on.”  

Movement on the balcony caught her attention as they walked by the security  guard. He nodded as they passed. Troy emerged from between two plants, a deep  frown on his face as he quickly crossed the room. Someone said something to him on  the way out, but he waved him off and left the ballroom.  

A few more people left right after him.  

“That’s six, I’ve counted,” said Jenny. “Six psychic vampires.”  

“Or people who just had enough of the party.”  

Jenny narrowed her eyes. “Vampires.”  

“Fine, if that makes you feel better, they’re all psychic vampires.”  

“Truth be told, I’m excited about seeing the prototype in action. I’m looking  forward to seeing how this pans out.”  

“You won’t have to wait long, look,” Vivian said, pointing out the couple making  their way to the dance floor. Soon the dance floor was a flurry of movement and color.  “Vivian!” said Xavier from the balcony. “Just who I wanted to see. Time to make  the announcement, shall we?”  

Vivian blinked. “Announcement?”  

“John’s retirement and your promotion. Have you seen John?”  

“Last I saw him…” Vivian stood up on her toes and strained her neck to get a  better look at the crowd. “Yes, there he is in the far corner, talking to Drew.” The two  men were laughing now.  

“Miss Williams, would you fetch Mr. Godfrey, please?”  

“As you wish, Mr. Prince,” Jenny said with a smile before she trotted off to find  Vivian’s mentor. 

“I can’t express how much I look forward to working with you, Vivian,” Xavier  said with a smile as he guided her through the whirling couples and to the piano where  a microphone stood ready.  

Vivian swallowed, her mouth drying out. “Thank you for saying so, Mr. Prince.”  “Call me Xavier, please.”  

“Xavier, then.”  

“This is the part where you tell me you look forward to working with me,” he  teased.  

Vivian’s cheeks flushed. “I do! I mean, I do look forward to working with you.”  His laugh was a clear boom from the chest. “I hope you have a speech prepared,”  he said with a wink as he approached the microphone.  

Vivian’s heart sank.  

“Attention, everyone! Attention! I have an announcement to make.”  The pianist trailed off and people turned and moved to get a view of Xavier  Prince at the head of the room.  

“Thank you for indulging me in this little conceit. You are all gentle people. But  of course, you’ll pay attention, because I’m footing the bill for this evening’s festivities.”  The room chuckled and murmured appreciatively. “I have news, friends, and it is with  fond thoughts, we say farewell to John Godfrey.” A collective gasp went through the  crowd. “I know! I am as shocked as you are, but John has decided to retire from Prince  Charms, and well, who am I to stop this man from doing what he wants? Thank you,  John,” he said, reaching out to the man as he approached the stage, Jenny behind him.  “Thank you for the years you spent with us. We wouldn’t be the company we are  without you.” The two men shook hands before Xavier passed the microphone to John.  

“I won’t bore you all, I know I’ve done that enough in the last decade.” Polite  laughter filled the room.  

“Then stop talking!” someone yelled from the crowd. Laughter erupted for real. 

“Ha!” John guffawed. “Well, lucky for you, I’m just going to pass this here baton  to the next generation of Prince Charms. I want everyone to extend a warm  congratulations to Vivian McKinley!”  

Before she knew it, the microphone was in her hands and John was nodding  reassuringly at her. Xavier was clapping and smiling with the rest of the room.  “Wow!” she laughed into the microphone. “I wasn’t expecting this tonight, so  please forgive me if I ramble. I’m Vivian. I’m a witch. I’m from a long line of witches  that spans centuries, many of which were spent in Serenity, where Prince Charms’ HQ  is located. As solitary witches, it’s our job to ensure the safety of our community from  paranormal harm. We are to protect and care for our community. Well, that tradition is  what I bring to Prince Charms. A longstanding tradition of safety, security, and well being. Couple that tradition with cutting-edge science, well, we can be unstoppable. I  look forward to working with everyone and seeing what heights we can achieve. Thank  you.”  

Vivian exhaled through her nose as the room erupted into applause. Xavier  shook her hand, and suddenly she was in a whirlwind of activity. Here was the head of  marketing, and there was the CFO. A cigar was pressed into her hands, and whiskey  burned her throat.  

She did it.  

She was Head of Research and Development. 

 


About Victoria Rogers:

Victoria Rogers is an award-winning podcaster, game designer, and storyteller known for their immersive worlds and strong female characters.

 

Witches, warlocks, gods, and spirits fill their dreams and stories. Consent and healthy communication are two major aspects of their work – after all, you can’t have what you want unless you ask for it.

 

Victoria can be found in the garden and in the kitchen making fruit wines, brewing beers, and infusing spirits. When not feeding friends, they attend tabletop gaming conventions and sit on storytelling and world-building panels, teach about online marketing, and produce live events.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

1/10/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

1/10/2022

BookHounds YA

Guest Post

1/11/2022

Mythical Books

Excerpt

1/11/2022

The Momma Spot

Excerpt

1/12/2022

Sadie's Spotlight

Excerpt

1/12/2022

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt

1/13/2022

Writer of Wrongs

Guest Post

1/13/2022

Jazzy Book Reviews

Excerpt

1/14/2022

brittreadsalattebooks

Review

1/14/2022

Rajiv's Reviews

Review/IG Post

Week Two:

1/17/2021

See Sadie Read

Review

1/17/2021

@curlygrannylovestoread

Review/IG Post

1/18/2021

Prison Wife Reviews

Review

1/18/2021

Fire and Ice

Review

1/19/2021

More Books Please blog

Review

1/19/2021

OneMoreExclamation

Review/IG Post

1/20/2021

@Locked_in_a_library

Review

1/20/2021

_bookbound_

Review/IG Post

1/21/2021

Coffee and Wander Book Reviews

Review/IG Post

1/21/2021

@meetcuteromancebooks

Excerpt/IG Post

 


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