I’ve been asked by a few loyal and lovable readers for a teaser from book 3, “Wings of Defiance.” Keep in mind, it’s always prone to change. Hope you like it! The entire book should be out sometime in the late fall of 2015 if everything goes as planned. Happy reading!
Text copyright © 2015
Sherri A Wingler
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WORLDWIDE
The girl knelt beside two freshly cut graves, so new the earth seemed newly wounded. No headstones marked the remains of her dearly departed, but I knew who lay below. This was the final resting place of the bodies of Izzy Maitland and her father, Edmund. Izzy’s best friend, Gwen came here often to haunt the grave as one of the walking wounded. Barely eighteen years old, and already she’d seen too much of the world.
The girl was a wretched figure, all bundled up against the biting wind. Usually, I let her have her space, but she was spiraling farther and farther into depression. She was of no use to me there.
I watched her for quite some time, in that other place, between one reality and the next. Gwen was a problem for me. One I really should eliminate. At best she was a distraction. At worst, a sharp annoyance. I felt a certain responsibility for her, though, and it irritated me endlessly. It wasn’t really my fault she was changing. She’d bitten me, not the other way around. Conscience prickled. It was my blood changing her.
The moment I shifted back into her reality, her spine stiffened and her head came up as if pulled by an invisible string. She scrubbed the heel of her hand hard against her swollen eyes and sniffed back her tears. “Go away, Grim. I’m not in the mood to deal with you.” She enunciated each word so carefully, as if afraid her voice might break. She wouldn’t shatter in front of me. I liked her for that.
“You’re much prettier when your face isn’t all puffy and red.” I perched on the headstone directly across from her and studied her with a critical eye. “You look horrible. Have you bothered to brush your hair this week?” She glared at me. The girl had no respect for her elders. No fear, either. I rather liked her for that, too. Most of the time.
“Nope. I’m thinking I might stop brushing my teeth while I’m at it.” There were hollows beneath her eyes and her face seemed slightly thinner. It might have been a trick of the light, but she had a drawn, used-up look about her. She’d not been sleeping well
“Look, sweetheart, I know you’re grief-stricken, and all that, but I need you to brace both feet and pull your head out of your ass.” I nodded toward the graves she knelt beside. “There’s nothing in those holes, but rotten flesh. They’re not here.” She flinched as if I’d slapped her.
“They’re not here because of you,” she snarled. She came quickly to her feet, hands balled into fists. Ah, there it was, that glorious temper of hers. Better her rage than her grief. Something else was there, too. The first glimmer of red in her pupils. It slid across her eyes as gently as a shadow slips across the moon. There and gone. The glimmer of red was my problem. No human should have the eyes of a Reaper.
I was happy to see her anger. It beat the hell out of the hollowed-out, broken look she’d adopted since losing her only friend. “You might as well stop wallowing in self-pity. There wasn’t anything I could have done for her, and certainly nothing you could have done, except get yourself killed.” I was a bastard for pushing her like this, but I refused to feel guilty about it. Sometimes it takes a bastard to get the job done.
“If you hadn’t kidnapped Izzy in the first place and dropped her into Fate’s lap, she’d still be alive.” Her cheeks were flushed with more than the cold. If I concentrated, I could hear the rush of blood as her heart picked up. Much better.
“If I hadn’t done it, another Reaper would have. I thought I could help her if I was the one who took her. I thought I could help them both, but I was wrong. You have my humble apologies on all counts.” As much as it galled me to admit it, my part in Izzy’s death may have been my biggest regret, but it was mine to deal with. My intentions had been good, no matter what anyone thought.
“If you hadn’t taken me away in the first place, I could’ve stopped her.” She really believed it. She clung to that idiotic notion.
“Asher couldn’t even stop her.” Her eyes flickered. Was anything I said getting through her thick head? Did anything I’d said to her register? Probably not. “Her death was beautiful, Gwen. She destroyed her enemies in a blaze fire and glory. You can’t ask for much more than that. I was actually rather proud of her.”
“Her death was shit and you know it. Fate got away, and Izzy and her dad both died.”
Apparently, there was no getting through to her. I don’t know why I bothered. “She saved you. She saved Asher. It was enough for her.”
Gwen chuckled, and it had a brittle quality to it. “I’m not stupid. She didn’t save me for long. I’m surprised no one has come knocking at my door, yet.” She eyed me suspiciously. “Or is that what brings you around? Come to clean up your mess?” There was a hard edge to her voice. It wasn’t in any danger of breaking, now.
“You think I’m here to kill you?” I must admit, her words stung a tad. Granted, I’d thought about it, but I thought we understood each other better than that.
The girl sighed heavily. The anger was draining away, and the apathy was returning. “The thought occurred to me. I’m sure, after what happened with Izzy, nobody wants a human with Reaper blood running around. It’s such a terrible inconvenience to everyone. Abomination. Isn’t that what you called her? Is that what I am, too?” I squirmed a little beneath her blue-eyed scrutiny.
“I may have been somewhat hasty in my judgment, but you have to admit humans and Reapers are a dangerous mix. They’re unpredictable, at best.”
“And a liability, at worst,” she finished for me.
There was a deadened look to her eyes which bothered me. Once you got past the flash of raw anger, the spark which made her so unique was almost gone. I didn’t like it. I hopped down off the tombstone. “You’re right. You have the life-expectancy of a fruit fly. Is that what you want to hear?” Her eyes widened. I half-expected her to make a run for it, but she stood her ground. She should have run from me.
I stood a breath away from her, made sure I invaded her personal space as much as possible. She didn’t flinch away as I ran my hand from her cheek to the column of her throat. Her flesh was warm compared to the harsh, late autumn wind whipping around us. My fingers pressed, just so, against the smooth skin. Her heart beat picked up in triple-time rhythm against my fingertips. “I could kill you, if you wanted me to. You’d be out of your misery. No more crying beside her grave. No more haunting her old house like a pathetic ghost. No more pain,” I said softly. “What do you think?”
She wet her lips carefully, and gave me the longest stare. I refused to drop my gaze. “I think you’re trying to turn yourself on.”
Surprised, I had to laugh as I dropped my hand. “I know you aren’t indifferent to me, so don’t pretend you are.”
“I never said I was indifferent to you, Grim. I have a healthy and active dislike for you. Don’t ever forget it.” There was a tiny half-smile playing about her lips as she took a step away from me. She looked up at the iron-grey sky and heaved a tired sigh. “I’ve never liked November. It’s a dead month, you know? It’s just sort of a let-down after Halloween is over. There’s nothing to look forward to.” Her shoulders slumped and the fire went out of her eyes as she turned away from me and walked back to her car. “I’m tired. Tired to the bone, and I don’t feel like fighting with you. Nice try, though.” Well, hell.
If you’re new to the series, Book 1, “Wings of Darkness” is on sale until April 25 for only .99. It would be a great time to grab a copy and get caught up. Just follow the link below.