Fantasy Excerpts

Fantasy Excerpts Page on BTH Reviews

These fantasy excerpts are from past promotions we featured when we were on Books That Hook.

Because all of that site is gone forever, I’m using my email to try to compile all the fantasy excerpts from those deleted posts.

This page includes some of the subgenres of fantasy as well, such as paranormal young adult, urban fantasy, fantasy romance, dark fantasy, and more. It does not include paranormal romance, which has its own page.

These fantasy excerpts are all ones I had permission to post. I am just moving them to our new website. Enjoy!

 

Excerpt from SOMETHING LIKE VOODOO by Rebecca Hamilton

 

Something Like Voodoo

Buy SOMETHING LIKE VOODOO on Amazon

Chills jolted across every inch of my flesh. As I turned to bolt, a man shouted behind me, “Hey! You can’t be here!”

I peeked in again, but Sarah and the It Girls were gone. I took off running, my shoes slapping the pavement as the night guard fell into step behind.

“Stop!” he yelled.

Yeah. That was gonna work.

I didn’t slow until I cleared the fence. The guard glared from the other side of it, but he made no effort to see if the wire fence would hold his weight as well as it had mine. But I wasn’t so concerned with him as I was with who loomed in the far distance behind him. By the entrance to the Forst building stood Sarah and the other It Girls, watching after me, the stones on their matching choker necklaces glowing green.

It was as though they had nothing to fear, no one to run from the way I did. It was as though…as though I was the only one who could see them.

But that would be…crazy.

I blinked away the thought in time to realize the guard had made his way over to a gate and was trying his keys in the locks. I spun on my heel, sprinted back to my car, and peeled out onto the main road as fast as I could. A glance in the rearview mirror, and my stomach jumped to my throat. My mom stood in the street in front of the asylum.

But when I glanced again, she was gone.

I couldn’t go back. I hadn’t seen Mom. No way. Sarah must have found some way to mess with me—those hallucinations Noah said she was capable of. I couldn’t know anything for sure until I learned more about the symbols she was using and the words she’d chanted and what role Noah played in it all and why he needed me to help him.

Once I veered onto the highway, I pulled over and puked Dad’s pasta dinner into the bushes on the side of the road.

I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure what was going on, but whatever it was, I was way out of my league.

Excerpt from THE PROPHECY OF SHADOWS by Michelle Madow

 

Prophecy of Shadows excerpt image

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Everyone stared at me, and I looked to the front of the room, where a tall, lanky man in a tweed suit stood next to a blackboard covered with the morning announcements. His gray hair shined under the light, and his wrinkled skin and warm smile reminded me more of a grandfather than a teacher.

He cleared his throat and rolled a piece of chalk in his palm. “You must be Nicole Cassidy,” he said.

“Yeah.” I nodded and looked around at the other students. There were about thirty of them, and there seemed to be an invisible line going down the middle of the room, dividing them in half. The students near the door wore jeans and sweatshirts, but the ones closer to the wall looked like they were dressed for a fashion show instead of school.

“It’s nice to meet you Nicole.” The teacher sounded sincere, like he was meeting a new friend instead of a student. “Welcome to our homeroom. I’m Mr. Faulkner, but please call me Darius.” He turned to the chalkboard, lifted his hand, and waved it from one side to the other. “You probably weren’t expecting everything to look so normal, but we have to be careful. As I’m sure you know, we can’t risk letting anyone else know what goes on in here.”

Then the board shimmered—like sunlight glimmering off the ocean—and the morning announcements changed into different letters right in front of my eyes.

 

Excerpt from PIRATESHIP DOWN by Suzanne Johnson

About five minutes passed before I heard Jean Lafitte in the hallway of the prison, having a spirited, if one-sided, argument about Spanish fruit. I definitely heard the words orange and Spaniard. And the pirate never had anything nice to say about Spaniards since he’d spent most of his human life plundering their ships.

The door opened, and he strode into the room, sending my empathic senses into overload with the force of his outrage. I closed my eyes and tried to squelch the urge to bray like a donkey, because the source of his anger was obvious.

They’d taken away the cord he used to tie back his shoulder-length, wavy black hair, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was his fluorescent orange jumpsuit with Terrebonne Parish Prison stamped on the back. The suit was tight across his shoulders and baggy across his hips, obviously not tailored for the pirate’s athletic build, and the pants were three inches too short and flashing bare calf. He wore short white athletic socks someone had scrounged up for him. Obviously, his pirate boots had been confiscated. It wasn’t an outfit designed to please a man as arrogant and aware of his good looks as my undead pirate.

Jean shifted his commentary from his guard to me. “Drusilla, a grievance must be made against these ruffians and thieves. They have stolen my clothing and given me only this…this….” He ran out of words.

“Ugly-ass orange jumpsuit?” I offered, always ready to help Jean with his command of modern English.

“Oui, exactement. I demand that you obtain my release, tout de suite. And you must know, a woman who allows her husband to remain in such conditions for an entire evening must face reprimand.”

I leaned back in the chair and crossed my arms. “And you must know that, in this day and age, should a man reprimand his wife too much, said wife might leave her husband to enjoy a longer time in his prison cell wearing his ugly-ass orange jumpsuit.”

The guard who’d accompanied Jean into the room listened to this exchange with no expression. Now that Jean and I were both in silent mode, he leaned over to fasten the handcuffs to a ring on the center of the table, which forced the irate pirate to sit down.

“You got half an hour,” the guard said. “I’ll be right outside. If I hear or see anything through that door that I should not hear or see, visitation will be ended. That includes shouting, moving of furniture, excessive use of profanity, or sexual activity. Do you understand?”

I nodded. “Not a problem.” I had a confusion potion with Jean’s name on it in my shoe, and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

 

Excerpt from STEAMBORN by Eric R. Asher

Jacob ran. He heard the shouts of the market guards as they chased him through the muddy cobblestone streets of Ancora. Their
armor gave away their position as the metal plates clanged together and their boots fell heavy on the stones.

“There!” a guard said.

Jacob dove under a peddler’s table, scattering rugs and crates as the woman hissed at him to run faster. Jacob grinned when he realized the peddler was rooting for him and not the guards. The armored guards would never be able to dip under the thick stone tables that rested across the ancient troughs. They’d have to go around, or over, and Jacob knew their armor was too heavy for that.

“Get back here, you Lowland maggot!”

Jacob glanced back. The enraged armored forms were momentarily frozen in front of the brightly colored tents and tables before Jacob vanished down an alley. They could still catch him on the next street if he wasn’t careful, or if he wasn’t fast enough.

Something sizzled in a large metal pot near the last stall he sprinted past, and for a moment, Jacob wished it were food in his pocket instead of the loot he’d been lucky to take. He slid around the corner of an old brick house with a tiled roof and slipped into a narrow alley most people never would have noticed. The Highborn guards, used to the wide streets behind the city wall, didn’t have a chance of tracking Jacob through the maze of dim back alleys.

He eased farther into the shadowed space as the shouts and curses of the guards grew louder and then faded as they passed him by. He caught a glimpse of the polished silver armor as two of the men rushed onward. None of them glanced at the small alley. Jacob smiled and felt his pockets. Still there, his fingers met the reassuring bumps of his prize. He forgot the smell of food as he imagined finishing the pistons he’d built with Charles for the new boiler. With a good cushion, they could run for hours, or more. They’d just have to—

“Jacob Arthur Anders,” a voice said from behind him, deeper in the alley.

Jacob spun, knocking his elbow on an uneven brick in the wall and cursing as he stumbled back a step. “Alice! What are you doing here?”

Alice leaned forward, her gray wool dress barely clearing the wet ground. Her red hair hung in curls, brushing her shoulder as she looked down at Jacob’s hand and frowned. She raised her eyes to meet his, and he could still tell they were blue, even in the dim light of the alley. “What did you steal now?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You have your hand over your pocket.” The amount of accusation in her voice startled him. Alice pointed at his hand and said, “You only do that when you’re hiding something.”

“None of your business,” he said, squaring his shoulders and standing up as straight as he could. It left him a fraction of an inch taller than Alice.

“Oh, I think it is my business,” she said.

 

Excerpt from EARTH GOD by Jon Messenger

“What if there was a previous dominant species that we replaced after they screwed it up?”

Jessica arched her eyebrows.  “You’re not going to bring up the dinosaurs, are you?”

“Yes, the dinosaurs, exactly!  Think about it.  The whole world started off with Pangaea, one super continent where all the dinosaurs lived.  Then, boom, all of this sudden something happens and wipes them all out.  Scientists keep saying it was probably a meteor, but what if it wasn’t?  Think about it.  What would a meteor have done to the planet?  Set it on fire?

Filled the sky with ash to choke out most other life?  Doesn’t that sound exactly like something the Fire Elemental would do?”


“I’m impressed you know about Pangaea.  But it doesn’t change the fact that if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were a giant stoner.”

“The Earth Elemental could have easily made Pangaea for the dinosaurs,” Sean continued as though he hadn’t heard her.

“After they screwed it up somehow, the Fire Elemental wipes them out, the Earth Elemental splits the continent, and they start over, only this time with primitive mankind.  It makes sense.”

Jessica pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I want to tell you that none of that makes sense, but we just held a conversation with an Easter Island head before Xander become the embodiment of the Earth itself.  Anything’s possible at this point.”

“Do you think they ever tried a Xander before?”

Jessica paused.  “A Xander?”

Sean glanced away from the blond and stared across the ocean.  “They must have had Warriors for each of the elements.

The fact that a Velociraptor Fire Warrior is a pretty badass mental image notwithstanding, do you think they tried this before?  Creating someone who can stop the cycle?”

“I don’t really know—“

“Because they failed,” Sean said bluntly.  He turned back toward his girlfriend.  “If they tried it, they failed because the dinosaurs were wiped out.  I just keep thinking that we’re not taking this seriously enough, and I know that’s ironic coming from me.  I keep worrying that the Fire Elemental is just sitting back laughing right now, knowing that it kicked the crap out of a Sarcosuchus Water Elemental once before and is about to do the same to Xander.”

“I think by this point we’re all taking this seriously,” Jessica said.  “Just because you’re joking doesn’t mean you’re not; we’ve known each other long enough to know it’s just your defense mechanism.”

They sat in silence, watching the lapping waves and trying not to see the lava pouring into the ocean not far away.  It was peaceful, sitting on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific.  It was easy to ignore the fact that the world was coming to an end.  Sean mentally noted Easter Island as a place to visit, once this was all over.

Jessica chuckled softly, disrupting Sean’s musings.  He turned toward her inquisitively.  “What’s so funny?”

“Pterodactyl Wind Warriors,” she said.

 

Excerpt from WAKING THE DRAGON by Juliette Cross

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

The beautiful blonde froze.

Silence.

She peered down the darkened corridor of the cellar beneath the Vaengar Stadium. No one.

The Morgon with black hair and black eyes at the bar had told her the restroom was this way. The only sound was the wafting crackle of the torches. The only sight was long shadows cast by flickering flame. An eerie tendril of fear snaked up her spine. Even half-drunk, something primitive warned her of danger, like the innate foreboding a deer senses when the tiger stalks unseen from the trees.

She shook it off, flipped her long hair over one shoulder, and walked on, knowing the restroom must be just around the bend up ahead.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

She stopped again and spun around, unable to tell from which direction the sound came.

“Bennett? Is that you?” A hollow echo of her voice reverberated down the empty corridor. “Stop it! You’re scaring me.” The last came out a faint whisper. A presence—corporeal, malevolent, and drawing closer—plunged her into icy fear. Her pulse quickened. A hiss of wind pressed the thin fabric of her mini-dress to her thighs. The flame on the wall guttered to nothing, then relit anew.

Tick.

Tick.

Directly behind her. She whirled and stared up at a massive Morgon man who stood only feet away. A behemoth silhouetted by the flambeau. His pointed wings, half-open and huge, kept the rest of him in shadow, as if the light itself repelled him. She could see nothing but his eyes—amber orbs with serpentine slits, bright as the torch-flame. Her breath hitched in her throat. She fell back against cold stone, scraping her bare shoulders against the rough cavern wall.

He passed near a sconce, the light illuminating hard, angular planes, the ancestral lines of the dragon sculpting his face in stark relief—more beast than man. Her heart thrashed against her ribcage.

“I—I lost my way, I think. I should go.” She gestured in the direction she had come, inching along the wall.

He moved with lethal grace, angling closer in slow, even steps.

Tick.

Her gaze dropped to his large hand. Claw-tipped fingers spread wide, the sharp nail of the index tapping the stone. She bolted left, only to find a wall of six Morgon men blocking her exit. They’d materialized out of the shadows in silent stealth. Unmoving, watching. Backing against the wall, she swiveled her head from those blocking her path to their master stalking closer.

“What—what do you want from me?” Her voice cracked, primal fear ripping through her gut.

By now, she’d reached the pinnacle of terror, petrified in place. Tangible evil seeped into her skin as the sinister creature loomed, enveloping her in his shadow. Something screamed for her to run, while a compelling power rolling from the beast kept her pinned in place. It was as if his very presence demanded obedience, subservience.

The beast braced one arm next to her head, her panic filling up the confines of their space. He inhaled a deep breath, drinking her fear in like the sweetest nectar.

“Will she serve, my lord?” A voice of authority from one of the Morgons in shadow—sultry but edged like a razor.

Her chest rose and fell, drawing the beast’s gaze. He leaned closer, trailing one claw lightly over her swelling breasts. Viper-swift, he clamped her mouth with his other hand, stifling her screams, and continued his exploration of her naked skin with the blade-like nail. Her rapid pulse beat frantically at the base of her neck.

“Perhaps.” One word, grating and broken. The voice of a monster.

He snaked his claw across the bottom of her throat, then down the line of her cleavage, pressing just enough to scrape the skin, a thin line of red rushing to the surface. Keeping her immobile with his crushing weight, he scraped a drop of blood from her breasts. He opened his mouth, revealing a row of sharpened teeth, the canines most prominent. Reeking of menace and power, he licked the tip of his claw.

“Perhaps.”

His voice fell to a raspy whisper. A rumbling growl rattled her bones. A flash of flame and shadow and all was black.

 

Excerpt from CAGE OF DECEIT by Jennifer Ann Davis

Allyssa despised sparring in a dress. However, that was the way her father had taught her to fight. He said if someone attacked her, she would be in a gown, so she had to be able to maneuver in heavy fabric.

“Faster,” Marek instructed. “You’re not focusing.”

She wanted to growl because he was right, she was too distracted. Putting all thoughts of the pretty prince out of her mind, she gave Marek her full attention. He swung his sword, hitting hers near the hilt, making her drop it. Not intending to lose their match so easily, she twisted and came in close to him. When he went to grab her, she rammed her elbow into his stomach. He hunched over and she yanked him down, slamming her knee into his face.

He dropped his sword.

“I win,” she declared.

Catching his breath, he wiped his forehead. “You seem to have gained a few new moves.” Not a question.

“Perhaps,” was all she said in reply. The training room was lined with her personal guards. She knew her father didn’t want her practicing—he’d rather she prepare for the ball. But in order to make it through dinner and dancing, she had to release her anger and frustration.

Marek took their wooden swords and put them back on the rack.

“I’m not ready to return to my rooms.” She still felt off balance and unsettled.

He glanced to the door where Mayra and Madelin were waiting for her. “I need to go over some security details with my father,” Marek stated.

“Then go.” She waved him away. “I’ll only be a few more minutes.”

He briefly spoke with the guards before he said, “Your Highness,” and left.

As soon as he was gone, she put leather gloves on and went to the hay figure secured to the wall. Taking a deep breath, she started punching it, imagining the dummy was the prince. Smiling, she started hitting it harder and faster, allowing all of her aggression to evaporate.

Someone started clapping, and she spun around about to yell at whoever had interrupted her.

Prince Odar stood there with a smirk.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded, wiping the sweat off her forehead with her arm. He was accompanied by two of his soldiers and the squire she noticed earlier in the Throne Room.

He clicked his tongue. “A testy remark from someone so delicate and lovely.”

Her eyes narrowed. She was dirty, smelly, and certainly not the picture of a princess at the moment. The squire clasped his hands behind his back, staring daggers at her. He must not approve of a woman who could take care of herself, knew how to fight, and who dared to sweat. She hated him almost as much as she hated the prince.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness,” she said, trying to keep the detest from her voice. “Please excuse me, I must prepare for this evening.”

Mayra rushed forward and placed a cloak upon Allyssa’s shoulders. The princess yanked the hood up, concealing herself so no one from the court would see her all sweaty. She swept out of the room, not looking back. She could have sworn she heard the prince chuckling as she hurried down the corridor.

“Why didn’t you use the opportunity to speak with the prince?” Mayra asked, trying to keep up. “He obviously sought you out.”

Allyssa’s eyes sliced over to her lady-in-waiting. “Because,” she snapped, “I don’t want to talk to someone who flatters with pointless words.”

Mayra laughed. “He is rather charming.”

“He appears to be exactly as a prince should,” Allyssa said. “And I have no interest in princes.”

“Aiming a bit higher?”

“No,” Allyssa replied. “I’m aiming for someone a bit more real.”

 

Excerpt from ILL FATED by Rachel Rawlings

“You’re awake?” He sounded more than a little surprised.

“I’m not really sure the state I’m in qualifies as awake.”

“Here I was, terrified to poke the dragon, and you’re already drinking coffee and talking in complete sentences.”

I snorted and took a sip of the aforementioned liquid gold. “Are you always like this in the morning?”

“If you’d let me sleep over you’d already know the answer to that question. Why aren’t you asleep?”

In general or just tonight, I silently wondered. “Bad dream. I’ve been tossing and turning all night. I finally gave in and got out of bed.”

Papers rustled in the background and when he spoke again, his voice was lower, intimate.”You want to talk about it?”

“Something tells me my nightmares are the least of our problems.”

“You have no idea. I need you to come down to my office.”

I sighed. “Can it at least wait until after sunrise?”

“Would I be breaking the no phone calls before noon policy if it could wait?”

“There really is no rest for the wicked, is there?”

He laughed and the sound warmed me more than a hundred cups of coffee. “Apparently not, in your case. Now, there’s a dirty chai latte and a croissant for you if you’re here before Amalie. I can’t promise real coffee and pastries will survive beyond five minutes of her arrival.”

“It’s four-thirty in the morning, Mas. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make sure at least  one dirty chai and croissant remain unmolested.”

“I’ll see you soon.” He was laughing as he hung up the phone.

Three hours ago I’d practically crawled through the doorway, exhausted from cleaning up after a newbie vamp who’d broken the Jus Sanguinis Intergentes when she killed her donor. The blood pact between people and vampires had a clear no killing, no exceptions clause.

It was up to the maker to ensure their child was ready to feed unsupervised. If something went wrong and the Council found out about it, we cleaned up the mess and the sire was subject to heavy fines and possible revocation of their rights to expand their blood lines. She’d been quite literally a bitch to track and take down.

It had been a long night and it was shaping up to be an even longer day.

I wasted little time getting dressed, opting for a slip on black jersey dress, eighteen hole Docs and a leather jacket. Jewelry was a hindrance in my line of work. My meeting with Mason could easily turn into a run. Choked with my own chain? No, thank you. Unclasping the necklace, I set it in a glass dish on my bathroom counter. I ran a brush through my hair, a toothbrush over my teeth and slipped into the between. I stepped out of the alley two buildings down from the station and walked the last block and a half.

Amalie was swarmed by detectives trying to get at the goodies she brought over from the Daily Grind. She greeted me with a warm smile, shaking her head when I offered to pull her out of the fray. She had managed to endear herself to the entire department in record time. All it took was real coffee and fresh pastries. I pointed to Mason’s office. She’d make her way over once the starving masses had their fill.

Mason was so engrossed in the file on his desk he didn’t hear me come in. He looked as tired as I felt – too many double shifts. Despite an uptick in activity, SPTF was short staffed due to budget cuts. Without enough man power to staff the shifts properly overtime was mandatory.

“Is that for me?” I pointed at the to-go cup and white paper bag on his desk.

He finally looked up and gave me a smile which lit up his whole face. “As promised.”

I stole a quick kiss, grabbed the coffee and croissant, and settled in the chair across from him. I took a long sip of my latte, savoring the delicious mix of tea and espresso. “Man, I needed this. Is that the case you’re working on?”

“Yeah, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.”

“Don’t we always.” I tried to peak at the file.

Mason closed the manila folder. “I’d rather wait until everyone is here.”

“Who else is coming besides Amalie?” My curiosity was definitely peaked now. I reached across his desk, hoping to grab the file.

“You look exhausted. Tell me about your dream while we wait.”

I narrowed my eyes and glared at him. “I see this for the obvious distraction it is but you’re right.” Sighing, I rubbed my temple.“However, I’m exhausted, too exhausted to argue. So I’ll tell you. Prepare to be confounded.”

He listened intently as I filled him in on the nightly visits from the weathered old woman who washed my clothes and hauntingly called my name. I expected him to laugh and tell me it was just a dream, that I had nothing to worry about.

I didn’t expect him to look so stricken.

“Bean Nighe.” He all but whispered the name.

“You’ve heard of her?”

“Of course I’ve heard of her. How long has she been coming to you?”

I stared at him curiously. “A few weeks. Why?”

“A few weeks and this is the first I’m hearing of it?” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, obviously struggling to control his temper.“We talked about this. No holding things back, remember?”

“I thought it was just a dream.” I shrugged.“Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

“It was a big enough deal for you to research it.” Agitation rolled off him in waves.

When I agreed to give this thing with Mason a chance I also agreed to some conditions. No more flying solo, no more rash decisions or rushing off to play the hero. We were a team, in everything. This was just one of many set-backs.

“I got curious, did a little digging. Until tonight, everything I found pointed to deep seated family issues, particularly with a mother figure. I’ve told you about my childhood, does that dream analysis surprise you?”

His growl told me he wasn’t in the mood for reasonable—at least to me—explanations. “When did you discover the true meaning of the dream? How long have you known about the Bean Nighe?”

“Tonight. This morning. Before you called me.” I held up a hand to stop the tongue lashing I knew he wanted to give me. “I would have told you. I got the impression on the phone there were more pressing matters than my insomnia.”

“Is this why you won’t let me stay at your place?” His gaze roamed over my face, searching.“Why you never stay at mine?”

“Is that the real reason why you’re so upset?” I arched my brows. “Because we’re not having sleepovers?”

“I stayed at your lovely apartment the first night we met.”

I turned to watch Aidan glide into the room, stopping behind my chair. Rolling my eyes, I snorted and muttered, “In the closet.”

Mason’s jaw twitched but he didn’t take the bait. “Aidan.”

“It’s almost sunrise. Shouldn’t you be hunkered down for the day?” I sighed, wondering what he was doing here. I was too tired to deal with Aidan and Mason and their combined testoserone.

Putting the three of us in a room together was like throwing lit matches at sticks of dynamite – eventually one of them will explode.

 

Excerpt from HOOK by K.R. Thompson

The breeze picked up and was bursting insistent, frigid puffs that threatened to dislodge his hat. Archie clamped one hand on top, squishing it down around his lean face as he resolutely lengthened his stride and marched on, determined to make it home before the storm set in.
He’d almost made it to the corner, to the place where he normally made the left on N. Westburl, and then a right onto 43rd, followed by a various assortment of other long deviations that would get him safely home, when a large crack of thunder shook the air. He decided that just this once he might consider taking the most direct route, albeit dangerous, foreboding, and possibly life-threatening. He stopped right on the bend of the street, uncertain for a split moment, until the next jolting crack of thunder made up his mind for him. He headed straight along Market St that followed the length of the Thames River, hoping that the seedy individuals who lurked around the pier were as mindful of the storm as he and would not cause him trouble on this particular evening, for even though he was quick-witted and could talk himself out of most troubles, sailors tended to be a harder breed of people. They were a sharp and cunning lot, and Archie did not know if he could outsmart anyone else that day and didn’t wish to press his luck.

He made it past the pier, hesitating just long enough to glance at the small boats tied to the dock. There were obviously people about, and so far he had been lucky enough not to encounter any of them.
But one final ground-shaking crack and the tinkling sound of bells changed it all. The clouds overhead clashed and he ran for the shelter of a nearby tavern, barely escaping the torrent of rain.
Archie had never been in The Captain’s Keg before. He stopped just inside the door and let his eyes adjust to the dark, smoke-filled room. He realized that not only had he run into the very people he wished to avoid, but that he also had a new problem.
These men weren’t just sailors.
He was ready to run back out and take his chances of drowning in the street, when he heard the same tinkling of bells from earlier. This time, it sounded like mocking laughter.
Well. He might very well be losing his mind, but a coward he was not.
He straightened to his full height—all six feet and four inches of it—and removed his crumpled hat with a flourish, tucking it under his arm. He walked proudly down the three steps that led into the heart of the tavern—to a bar, teeming with pirates.
A couple of heads turned at his arrival and those who met his solemn, blue gaze were quick to drop their eyes back to their drinks. His spirits momentarily lifted, Archibald nodded to himself more than to anyone else in particular, a slight smile playing on his lips. He was holding his own.
Still erring on the side of caution, he scanned the length of the bar, finding three open seats. Two were between rather burly, shifty-looking blokes with tattoos. The third seat, nearly on the end of the bar, sat betwixt an elderly gentleman with longish white sideburns, a round belly, and spectacles to match that sat precariously upon a rather bulbous nose. The gent on the other side was scrawny, his clothes in tatters, thin face in a scowl as he stared at a leaflet of paper before him. Even though he sat still, there was a nervous energy that pulsed off the small man. He gave Archibald the impression of a jittery, starving squirrel.
Archibald decided his best chances lay between the old man and the squirrel and so he took his seat, nodding in a genial fashion to the old man, whose watery blue eyes barely gave him a passing glance. The squirrel didn’t acknowledge his presence.
“What’ll it be, mate?” the barkeep asked.
Archibald bit his lip to keep from laughing. Every drink in the tavern was the same yellowish liquid. Why the bald man standing behind the bar bothered to even ask such a mundane question was beyond him. Perhaps he was daydreaming again. He did do that a lot and at times it seemed real. “‘Tis all ale, is it not?”
“Aye, but will it be single or double ye’ll be havin’?”
Archibald lifted a single finger and waited for his drink.
“Ye’d have much better luck with rum, I should think,” the old man said quietly as he stared down into his own glass, “The ale’s watered down. Not fit for a fish to drink, it isn’t.”
One dreg out of the glass, and Archibald was quite certain the gentleman was more than right. It tasted like something poured from an old boot. Not that he regularly drank from old boots, mind you. Thank heavens he hadn’t ordered twice the amount of the vile stuff. Deciding it better not to even bother asking for the rum, which most definitely hidden beneath the counter and out of sight, he tossed a couple of coins down on the scarred wooden bar, and sat looking down into the remnants of his glass, listening to the patter of rain on the tin roof.
A strange thought came suddenly. For a bar filled with pirates, it was most unusual. It was rather quiet, an odd comment here or there, but otherwise there was nothing but silence. Surely they weren’t all sitting around listening to the rain. Archie couldn’t figure it out. But he knew one thing, these people certainly weren’t living up to his expectations of the loud, fearless persons he always thought pirates to be.
The squirrel on his left shifted around on his stool, staring even harder at the parchment. Sweat popped out on a face that was now a color that reminded Archie of the paper in the print shop, a colorless, pasty white. Good for paper, not for squirrels.
“Well?” a low, deep voice rolled out from a dark corner and broke the silence so suddenly that it startled Archie. “Give us the news then, Harper.”
Ah, well now. Things may get lively yet, Archie thought, casting a quick look to the corner from where the voice rumbled. It was too dark to see the man who sat against the wall, but Archibald got a good look at the pair of worn, dark leather boots propped up on the table, and the curling wisps of cigar smoke that floated up to the rafters.
“It says a r-roy, royy…” the squirrel named Harper stuttered, the paper shaking in his hands.
“Ach! The man canna read it anymore than the rest o’ us.” A complaint hurtled from one of the tattooed blokes at the opposite end of the bar.
As if he were getting more anxious, Harper tried again, his voice in a near squeak, “A royy-alll…”
Archie spied the lettering, and against his better conscience, whispered just loud enough that Harper would hear, “A royal pardon is offered to those pirates who surrender on or before the fifth of September, this year of 1718.” He waited as Harper relayed the message, then continued, “Being limited to crimes committed before the fifth of January. All other crimes committed after such date, will be considered for a death of hanging.”
Archie sensed the old man on the other side of him shuffle about, as if he were searching for something on the insides of his pockets, but Archie’s attention was fixed on the squirrel he saved. Harper turned and gave him a toothless, yet thankful, smile and set to guzzling the contents of his glass as quickly as possible in an effort to calm his shaking nerves.
“Well, that counts us out, lads,” a dark chuckle came from the corner, “‘No pardon for the likes o’ us, I fear. We all be hanged.”
“Aye, but they must catch us first. I won’t be finding me neck in a noose,” a shout rang out, followed by the murmur of agreement from all the others as they lifted their glasses in salute.
Feeling rather in-tune with the pirates, Archibald picked up his glass as well and toasted the luck of the now boisterous lot, draining the last contents of his glass. Some small part of his brain noted that while the ale was certainly vile before, it also became bitter the longer it sat. The bitterness left nearly as soon as he noticed it, having been replaced with a rather calming sensation.
Pirates truly weren’t a bad lot, he thought sleepily, just people like everyone else. They were only misunderstood. He turned to convince the elderly gentleman on his right of exactly that, when the darkness came and took over. The last thing he heard was the old man chuckle, singing softly,
“Yo-ho, me mateys, yo-ho…”

***

“Careful now, lads, mind the poor lout’s head, aye? He’ll be having a dreadful headache come morning without any extra bumps ye’d be givin’ him along the way.”
The voice was familiar—rather achingly so—though Archie couldn’t quite seem to get his faculties in order to remember who the owner of the voice was. The few times he could open his eyes, nothing at all made sense. It all came and went in blurs with distorted figures he couldn’t quite make out. The darkness came and went, so in the end, he figured it better to keep his eyes shut for the time being and try to concentrate on other things, foggy and confusing as they might seem. He thought he was being drug along the rough boards of the pier, and while that familiar voice seemed to care about the condition of his head, his legs and backside seemed to be another matter entirely of which the man cared not a whit as they bumped him along each splintering plank. Luckily, the drug slipped in his drink deadened the pain, and he only registered the faint, odd pricks and scrapes where the wood had its way with his flesh.
“He’s got hair like black candles, he does,” a crackling voice snickered by his head.
“Aye, Smee, are we taking this poor soul aboard for his long locks? Did the Cap’n order you fetch him a wifey, then?” another voice chimed in, followed by raucous laughter, and a low retort from the man named Smee that Archibald couldn’t make out.
“A good bit heavier than he looks,” the first voice by his head huffed, “Slow ye down a bit, Murph. I’m losin’ my grip. Oh drat, there he goes!”
And those were the last words Archibald ever heard on the shores of bonnie England as his head hit the pier and the darkness crept over him once again.

 

Honorable Mentions…

These are books we did other types of promotions for on Books That Hook and I have decided to not move to this new blog. It’s not that the books are inferior in any way; it’s just because the promotions were something I can’t recreate or are no longer relevant, such as cover reveals, giveaways, or release day spotlights.

Angelus by Sabrina Benulus

Blood and Spirits by Dennis Sharpe

Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection by Bishop O’Connell


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