Book Snippets

 Shadowed Horizons

     Carlin strode beside his bodyguard through the dimly lit parking garage fidgeting with his keys. “Adam, this does not make it to my top five favorite places to visit.”
     A rat skittered across the floor in the shadows, and he imagined it turning a gimlet-eyed stare on its intruders. Filth, gas, and pizza from a nearby restaurant thickened the air, reminiscent of the alley apartment he occupied during college. 

     Small pools of dingy light challenged macabre shadows for dominance—and lost. Clashing of the bleak rays and murky silhouettes added an ominous, prophetic feeling he couldn’t shake. Water stains mingled with the shadows to create fleeting two dimensional monsters. Carlin was not a fan of Rorschach. Crap, I haven’t been spooked like this in years.
     Adam shrugged. “Sir, as your bodyguard, I admit this isn’t my idea of a secure location either, but it is the closest enclosed parking available to meet with your client. The open street leaves you too vulnerable. As much as you cherish your privacy, I’m surprised you agreed to help at all.”
     “He’s a college buddy, needed help with a simple, high-tech security task. Seems twenty-first century technology left him in the dust.”
     “Next time, why don’t you at least suggest meeting during the daytime?” Adam’s narrowed eyes and tilted head as if listening to a far-off sound—usually spelled trouble.
     “Next time, remind me a proctologist’s exam would be more enjoyable, okay?” Sweat beaded his forehead despite the cool December breeze drifting over the graffiti-covered knee wall.
     “Yeah, I’m feeling it too. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
     Carlin’s skidding on a badly patched piece of concrete prompted his bodyguard to scan the area around them. Dirt and crumbles skittered, their audio report echoed off the walls.
     "Watch your step, sir, we don’t need to broadcast our location."   Adam murmured as he reached out to steady him.
     “You know…” Carlin muttered, “Folks generally think of me as a good analytical and concrete thinker. Perhaps whatever higher power gifted me with intuitive abilities for logistics and computers decided on a mental tariff—common sense.”
     "My sixth sense says trouble’s GPS has already locked on. Stay close.”
     The gentle slide of Adam’s gun from its shoulder rig compelled Carlin to suck in the cool night air, searing his lungs.
     “Sir, instincts are the best survival tool we have. They’re rarely wrong. Better safe than sorry.”
     Sharp chirps split the silence, Carlin’s cell threw his heart rate into overdrive. Hair on his nape prickled as he fumbled in his pocket. With an all-thumbs equivalent, he extracted the nuisance and hit ignore.
     Massive pillars supported the five-story concrete structure. Rounding one to his left, his foot stalled mid-step when Adam snatched him sideways. The colossal thug he almost plowed into blended into the shadows.
     “Jesus!" The man personified hulkish features with abject malice in his gaze. The split-second observation brought Carlin a rush of adrenaline. "You're huge!" Brown hair pulled back in a ponytail swept his shoulder giving the look of a mob enforcer. A bulge of pitted, tanned skin separated a straight line of bushy eyebrows. Dark eyes appeared to hold a terrible knowledge and gave his hard stare a cold calculating look.
     The brute’s gaze raked Carlin's body head to toe. Chipped yellow teeth appeared as his thin lips pulled back in a wide grin. "Time to meet your maker, prodigy." He mimicked Carlin's sidestep in a lightning-fast move and knocked Adam's gun from his right hand. Its ricocheting underneath a nearby Toyota produced multiple tin-like clinks.
     Time seemed to fracture. Adam's left arm shoved Carlin to the side. His assailant took wily advantage in that flash of time. He watched his bodyguard go down hard from his attacker's leg sweep.
     One blink and a dagger appeared in the thug's hand. Its arc and swift speed toward his belly made it little more than a glimmer in the weak light. His neurons couldn't fire fast enough to follow its passage. Two feet stood between Carlin and a trip to his maker, complements of this walking nightmare.

Shadowed Origins

      Kiera woke to the sound of growling dogs. After bridging a brief connection with their minds, panic knotted in her chest.
“Kyley! We’ve got intruders. Lots of em. Up and out. Let’s go.” Never had her home turf been invaded. Her first thought—Roth. Trouble had arrived en mass. A glance at Kyley proved she’d made the same connection with the dogs.
     Her sister bolted upright and then sat frozen on the cot.
Crap. Not now…” Kyley, I know you’re afraid. But we’re gonna be okay.”
     She whimpered in response.
     “Come on, sis, I’ll keep you safe, but we have to move—now.”
     That speared her twin into action. With little wasted movement, Kyley slipped into her clothes while she pulled on her leathers and slid weapons in her waistband. Experience and self-assurance guided her. It took little effort to engage the dogs’ minds and signal them to stay behind her.
     A slice of moonlight peeked through their window. Kyley’s fearful expression as she moved toward the door made Kiera’s breath hitch.
     “Kiera, I don’t know how to fight. It’s probably Roth. He’s found me. Oh God.”
     Kiera glanced again at the window before whispering to her twin. “It’s okay, Kyley. Stay behind me. Come on, we have to warn the others.” The house maintained redundant alarms that she hoped remained active. A book from the nearby shelf served her purpose. After snatching it up, she tossed it at the window.
The silence shattered.
     When it bounced back from the screen, the thick tomb thudded to the floor among shards of glass. Nice welcome mat for any intruder.
     The screeching alarm that echoed through the house suddenly shut off. Shit. Still…message delivered. Within seconds, footsteps pounded down the hall amid various shouts.
     Nicholai reached for her door as she pulled it open. “Keep Kyley behind you. She’s not ready to fight. I’ll be with Lorne and Kenner’s men on the east wing.” His face typified his mask of concentration as he pivoted to leave.
     “Take Leyna and Raptor with you. They’ll protect Carlin.” A silent command sent her white shepherds with Nicholai.
With one step in the hall, the dim emergency lights exposed Kiera’s worst horror.
     Two intruders crested the stairs ten feet away. Each bore a double-edged knife. One also held a semi-automatic Sig Sauer. The other raised his other hand, palm up. The ball of flame that danced there reflected light back to his face. He turned an eerie smile her way. Behind him, more soldiers advanced up the curved stairway.
     As she stepped forward to throw her knives, the first intruder raised his muzzle to shoot. She jumped as Taylor stepped beside her and growled a curse. 
     With a flick of his hand, he swept both over the banister. Their bellows of surprise died under the din of approaching chaos. They crashed into the marble entry table below. Her gaze flicked over the railing to see the flame gone, as lifeless as its wielder. Both their necks were cocked at an odd angle.
     “Guess Kenner’s men don’t need much orienting. Figured you’d be here shortly.” Kiera snorted as her gaze flicked to Taylor.
     “Telekinesis definitely comes in handy.” Taylor focused on two more men approaching them. “Where else would I be?”
     “How many times can you do that without exhausting your strength?”

Shadowed Passage

    “The choice is yours, boy, but understand—not deciding is making a decision. Do it before I make the decision for you. Only difference is, I won’t kill one, I’ll kill them both. Father or sister. You have all the power.”
     Roth kept his tone calm and gentle. The evil coiled tightly within warmed his soul. He fancied the boy killing his father, silently rooting for the infant to survive. He could have lots of fun with her over the coming years.
     The boy’s father would die either way. He’d bound and beaten Devon just for fun.
     “Daddy? What do I do?” Tears streamed down Dylan’s face, sobs racked his entire nine-year-old battered frame. His gaze slid from his father to his baby sister, now held by Roth. When he looked back at his dad’s bruised and bloodied face, he cried harder.      His dad’s eyes were swollen almost shut.
     The gun shook uncontrollably in the boy’s small hand. “Daddy?”
Boredom shadowed Roth’s mind as the excitement of the climax dimmed with the child’s indecisiveness. His gaze wandered out the window above the kitchen sink.
     In the back yard, a massive, wooden play structure stood, complete with swings, tunnels, overhead ladder, and a slide. How extravagant for just two children, one still an infant. His sister always belabored the little things. Shame she’s not present to witness this. He would’ve found this even more amusing.
     The blond haired infant cradled roughly in his left arm actually cooed at him. Disgusting. If he kept this thing, he’d have to hire a nanny. Still, the thought of it growing up with half the powers his sister enjoyed years ago made the brat worth the trouble...If she survived today. He sighed.

* * * *

  “Dylan, son, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. Look at me. Remember how we played catch this morning? When you think of me, you’ll remember how we played ball today. Okay, son?”
What else could Devon say in this horrific situation? His own psychotic brother-in-law was forcing Dylan to commit the most heinous act imaginable, choose between patricide and sororicide. Roth had always been unbalanced and dangerous, but even Devon hadn’t seen this coming.
     “Awww, isn’t this touching?” Roth muttered, no doubt weary of his twisted game. “What a little wimp. I’m growing tired of your indecision, boy. I think I’ll just slice this little bitch’s throat. After all, she’d probably just grow up to be a carbon copy of her mother, stubborn and willful. Wouldn’t want more of that in the world, would we?”
     “Noooo, please. Please don’t hurt her! She’s just a baby.”
He faced where he knew his son to be by the sound of his sobbing and stifled his thoughts. “Son, I know this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you must. Please. It’s all right. I love you more than anything.”
     Dylan retched, fumbling and almost dropping the Glock 9mm pistol. It probably felt like the heaviest thing he’d ever held—certainly his first time holding a gun.
     His small frame trembled, tears streaming from his eyes, hair matted to his face. Red swollen tissue marred the right side of his face, the result of Roth’s cold temper. The kitchen table supported his slight weight as he leaned one forearm on its edge.
     “Roth, please don’t do this. He’s just a boy. Be the sniveling coward you’ve always been. Do it yourself.” Articulation was slurred through split and bloody lips. His tongue slipped between the gap of two missing teeth.
     Though partially open, his right eye refused to focus properly. Warm, wet liquid traced a path down his face. Gravity would always trump decency. Blood splattered his clothes. Patches of gray clouded the edges of his vision. Unconsciousness loomed near. The drumming in his head kept pace with his rapid-fire pulse. No child should ever see his father this way, unable to protect his family. Even if his son survived Roth, which he began to doubt, he’d be scarred for life.
     “Oh, Devon, Devon, Devon. You just don’t get it, do you? I’m not a coward,” Roth admonished. “I have no qualms about ending any of your lives. Watch, let me demonstrate.” His patronizing voice oozed in the air like oil spreading over water to corrupt with its filth. Roth pulled the six-inch blade from its sheath at his waist and held it to the throat of the baby, who lay cuddled in the crook of his left arm.
     “No, don’t. You bastard!” Devon strained at the rope binding his hands behind his back. “Dylan, listen. Take the family crest ring off my finger. Go ahead, son, take it. It’s yours. It’s our coat of arms.” Twisting sideways forced the bonds to cut his wrists as he removed the ring from fingers slick with blood.
     When his son took it, he realized these would be his last words to his boy. “Put it in your pocket, you can get a chain for it until you’re grown. That ring is a symbol of your strength, son, a symbol of your commitment to do whatever’s necessary to protect your family. Remember this, Dylan.” Dear God, he’ll have nightmares the rest of his life...if he survives.

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