ABOUT THIS AWESOME BOOK BY EMMIE MEARS
Mediator Ayala Storme kills demons by night and handles PR by day. She avoids Mediator luncheons and a fellow Mediator who’s been trying to get in her pants for years. She does her job. She keeps her sword clean and her body count high. But when a rash of disappearances leads her to discover that Nashville’s hellkin are spawning a new race of monster on human hosts, Ayala will be the first line of defense against these day-walking killers. That is, until one of them saves her life. Dodging the Mediators and the demons alike, Ayala’s new knowledge of the hybrids’ free will challenges everything she’s ever known about her job. Racing the clock and trying to outrun her comrades and enemies alike, she’s not sure who will catch her first…
EXCERPT OF EPIC PROPORTIONS
I keep my car messy so no one can hide in the backseat and scare the bejeezus out of me. At least that’s what I tell everyone else. At times like this, when I’m rooting around for my SPF 120 prescription sunscreen, it’s more of an inconvenience.
Being out here is better than pushing my pen around my desk, I suppose.
I find the bottle of sunblock hiding under a pair of only slightly bloodstained jeans, halfway inside an empty pizza box. The cream goes on white and greasy. What I wouldn’t give to tan.
I get out of my car, sliding my favorite sword from the scabbard that rests next to my duffel bag full of sweaty gym clothes. Yeah, you heard me right. Sword. She’s beautiful. Almost a saber, actually. Curved in all the right places, tapers to a delicate point, and she can slice your eyebrows in half before you can say “Hello, Dolly.”
She glints in the sunlight. I don’t glint. I wince. Like now. I blink into the sharp light, adjusting from the air-conditioned haven of my car to the muggy Tennessee summer. Moisture clings to my bare arms and beads on my forehead within seconds.
A truck is parked a little ways away from my car, busy not glinting in the sunlight, just like me. The truck is a rusted black piece-a. Short for piece-a-shit.
I know that truck, and it doesn’t belong here. If it’s here, its owner is here. And if its owner is here, Ben’s not far.
Dammit. I kick a discarded beer bottle cap and send it skittering over the gravel.
It’s too bright out here. An open field isn’t the place to be doing this. I reach the edge of the grasses and peer at the center of the field. Ben’s out there. So is Ripper, the proud owner of the rusted black piece-a. They’re both pointing their weapons at waist-level.
Jeez-oh-sakes. The critter they’re pointing at doesn’t clear the level of the grass. And this is my critter. They’re invading my afternoon.
I stride through the waist-high weeds, resisting the urge to slash at them with my sword. That would just be unprofessional.
I feel the imp before I see it, like someone’s placed a fist-sized rock on top of my beating heart. The sense is somehow a comfort, a squeeze of a teddy bear that reaffirms every step I take in the monster’s direction. Ben and Ripper surely hear me whooshing through the grasses, but they don’t turn. “Exactly what are you two doing here?” Gregor wouldn’t dispatch three Mediators to deal with an imp.
The imp in question chitters something, but doesn’t move. It’s hemmed in between Ben and Ripper, gnawing on something I can’t make out. The presence of the guys makes this sort of like sending three lions to take out the gopher in your grandad’s carrot patch.
Ripper grunts something noncommittal and jerks his head in Ben’s direction.
Why Ripper allows Ben to lead him around like he’s got him on a leash, I’ll never know. Ben turns toward me with a grin on his face, and I stop. Ben’s cheek drips with blood from a small family of little wounds. It doesn’t fit well with his ashy brown hair and farm-boy-with-a-pitchfork-handle-you-know-where looks. Not that blood complements anyone’s face, really. Why is he here again?
Oh, yeah. Because he jumped at the chance to be within ten feet of me. Probably overheard Gregor on the dispatch channel. I’m gonna regret this. Should have stayed at work, out of the sun and ensconced in the air conditioning.
I start walking again. “Can’t you and Ripper handle an imp without turning into a pincushion? It did that while it was eating?”
Ripper, who has his back to me, stiffens at my comment. Baby. Ben, on the other hand, grins at me again, causing a half-dried rivulet of blood on his cheek to crack and start seeping again.
I wave my sword at the area between them. “Probably shouldn’t turn your back on that little fellow,” I say. “Might get feisty.”
The little fellow in question growls something indecipherable. His skin, steel gray and metallic in the sunlight, steams and hisses. It’s not the heat – it’s the sun. There’s something wrapped around its neck. It looks like a thin dreadlock. Is the imp wearing human hair? Red blood drips from his mouth, and it chucks whatever it’s been chewing onto the grass. For a moment, I expect it to be a bit of person. It’s not. It’s rabbit’s head, dangling bits of fur and spinal cord.
The imp snarls again.
The snarl culminates in a rasping growl, and its eyes glint at me, the color of kryptonite, just like its blood. Something squeals. The gods-damned monster has a baby bunny wedged under its foot.
“Oh, hell no,” I tell the imp. I advance a step toward it, eyes on the bunny. The fucking monster killed a mama bunny and is wearing a necklace of human hair? Sometimes I hate the world.
It’s the third creature I’ve seen wearing such a necklace in two months, too. I don’t like new trends.
“Careful, Ayala. It’s quick,” Ripper grates, turning ever-so-slightly to look at me. Shit.
His neck and face are slashed in ten different places. One of said places is dangerously close to his carotid artery. It’s also about two feet out of the imps reach. The little creature has also managed to slice off part of Ripper’s blond ponytail and the leather thong that ties it. He looks more like I think a Mediator should, like he’s got some grit to him – a younger, bitchier Robert Redford. Ripper’s wounds are already healing, but from the looks of it, a millimeter or so closer, and he would have been watering the parched field with a sprinkler of his blood.
“Jumper?” I ask.
They nod. Great. This day is just getting better. And I have to get back to work without looking like I’ve been at Hannibal’s Slice-n-Dice.
I take a breath. The thing with imps is that you have to get them quick. Usually it’s nighttime, and we have a leg up on them. I don’t know what this little bastard is doing out in Miller’s Field, skin sizzling, at half past one on a Tuesday afternoon. Imps are the only brand of hellkin that can withstand the sun, but since they usually get skewered the moment they pop their heads into the daylight, they still avoid coming out before sunset. I doubt this one came out here just to munch on a family of bunnies. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Mediator strength may be better in the dark, but that doesn’t mean I’m Susie Homemaker at afternoon tea, either.
That baby bunny the imp’s holding down ain’t dying here. It’s going to live a long, happy bunny life. Do bunnies get PTSD?
I push the furry critter from my mind and flash a grin. Always, always, right before a fight — even as insignificant as this one — my blood starts to sing. It’s like having sparkling water in my veins. Effervescent. This is why I came trundling out here when Gregor sent me.
I whirl my sword once and fall into a back stance, left arm pointed toward the imp, right arm holding the sword poised above my head. I stand on the balls of my feet. I feel a tingle behind my right ear, and I lunge.
The imp bounds into the air, aimed at Ben. The bunny shrieks and goes streaking away toward a bush. I swing my foot around and kick Ben out of the way. He grunts and curses, but the jumping bean from hell is coming down right at me. I swing my sword in a smooth arc, ending with the point facing up. The imp lands right on it, the force of the impact causing me to drop my elbows to absorb it. Imps may look small, but they’re dense.
I heft the sword again, using the momentum of the imp’s impalement to fling him to the ground, then I decapitate him. I look at the fallen carcass — es — for a moment, then stab the imp through the heart. Better safe, as they say. I’ve been on the sorry end, and it’s not fun.
Ben grumbles to his feet. Ripper scuffs his Nikes against the grass, looking abashed.
“Explain to me again why you two are out here?” I feel like glaring, but settle for rolling my eyes. They feel relieved by the motion, like scratching a hard to reach itch. My eyes always want to roll more often when I’m in proximity to Ben.
“Thought we could help,” Ben says, grumble changing to a you-got-me grin in a moment. His grin is made goofier by the spray of kryptonite green mist across his face from where the imp splatter painted him with its blood. I can’t help but grin back – until I remember the probable reason behind Ben turning up at my kill.
No such luck with Ripper. “We had him fifteen minutes ago. Ben insisted on waiting for you, since it was your call and all.”
Right. That’s my cue. “I gotta go, guys. Catch you later.” I turn and start walking back to my car.
A startled whoomph makes me spin back around just in time to see Ben go down as if he’s been clotheslined. Ripper tightens his grip on his sword, meeting my eyes from five feet away.
“You okay, Wheedle?” Ripper takes a step toward the dent in the grasses where Ben lies on his back.
“Something hit me.”
“I’m guessing it wasn’t a pissed off rabbit.” I look around, scanning the field. A light breeze from the west tosses the stems around us. Except there. Just behind Ben, the swaying grass changes direction.
Ripper’s there first, his blade slicing the air just behind Ben’s head. Another spray of neon green wets Ben’s hair, and he scrambles forward, fumbling with his sword.
I peer at the second corpse. It’s wearing a hair-necklace too, and I don’t like that. I scan the grasses around us for any sign of movement. A breeze ripples the field, but none of the stalks of grass bend suspiciously. I know without the peaceful breeze that there aren’t more out there. The pressing weight in my chest is gone, leaving the immediacy muted until nightfall when I’ll go seeking these creatures out again. Time to go push my pen around my desk some more.
“You’ll call for the body pickup?”
I wonder what the Summit’ll make of this little affair. Two imps in Miller’s Field sporting human hair like they’re Southern belles making a fashion statement. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. I wait only long enough for Ben and Ripper to nod, then turn and head back to my car, the crackle of grass underfoot turning to the crunchy gravel of the ungraded track. I glance at the bush where I saw the baby rabbit vanish. No movement, but I have a feeling it’s still in there. Maybe with the rest of its litter. I’m not leaving them there. No mama-less bunnies are getting eaten by imps today.
The right leg of my linen slacks has two crossed lines of bright green blood spatter across the knee. Dammit.
“Wait.” That’s Ben.
I keep walking. I don’t want the blood of undead hellspawn drying on my favorite sword blade — or my slacks. “What?”
“Can we talk?”
“About what, Ben?” Damn it all to the six and a half hells. This is why he pulled a fancy-meeting-you-here. I didn’t have to suffer through junior high school, so maybe this is my cosmic punishment. The universe’s way of saying I didn’t get out of this part, the hormonal fizzy fits and spurts that send blobs of burning Ben-feelings spattering all over me. Ew.
“About what I asked you at the last Summit.”
I stop, one hand on the door handle of my car. I hate being right. “Ben. Don’t even tell me you decided to turn up on a Class Five dispatch just to ask me out on a date again?”
Ben stops and shuffles his feet on the gravel road. He manages to look somewhat embarrassed.
“Oh, gods of the earth. You did.”
“I like you, Ayala.”
“That’s sweet.” I don’t want to talk about this. I look beyond Ben, at the bush where I saw the baby bunny disappear. Ben keeps talking.
“Really. I mean it. I know I’m being stupid, but I can’t help it.” He sounds sincere. I don’t doubt that he is, but the little streams of drying red and green blood on his face make him seem more than a little desperate.
I open my car door and jam my sword at Ben. No, not point first. I don’t stab people. If I did that, the Summit’d throw me in their underground gray-walled beehive of doom.
Ben looks surprised, but he takes the hilt.
“Hold that,” I say, and climb into the front seat. My phone sits on the center console, the LED light flashing. Probably my boss, wondering why I’m not back yet. I wish I could wipe my sword on that. I look around for a second. Aha. I grab the jeans that had concealed my sunscreen from me, duck back out of the car, and hold out my hand for the sword.
“You really should clean out your car,” Ben says as he gives my sword back to me.
I do glare this time. “Okay, Ben, here’s the deal.” I start wiping the blood off the shiny blade with the old pair of jeans. They’re already toast. I have a hell of a laundry detergent made by a neighbor who happens to be a witch, but it won’t help these pants. “I don’t date coworkers.”
“You work alone.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’re a Mediator, and therefore a coworker. Dating in the workplace is just…wrong.”
“But you like me.”
No, I don’t. Not as a boyfriend, and maybe not even as a friend. He’s that guy who always invites himself to parties, today being the perfect case in point. Guess it’s time to go for blunt. He’s right. I work alone. Mostly because people have these things called expectations.
“No. I’m not interested. I’m sorry. But I told you that when you asked me the first time.” I almost feel bad for saying it that way, but it’s true. Honesty. Best policy. Yadda yadda.
He gives me a sullen look. He’s pouting. Oh, mercy.
“Fine,” he says.
I sigh. “Ben—”
“No, it’s fine.” He walks away. Ripper is standing in front of his truck, pouring water from a canteen to wash the blood off his face and hands. He, for one, looks completely unimpressed by the whole exchange, which I am fairly certain he heard.
Nothing new there. Ripper is very seldom impressed.
My blade clean, I shove it unceremoniously back in the scabbard, murmuring a mental apology for treating it so harshly.
I give myself a quick once-over. Dammit. The splash of demon blood has eaten away the linen of my nice new slacks. My skin itches. Fantastic. I’ll have to go home and change before I go back to work.
I’ve got something to do first, though. I fish a shoebox out of the back seat of my car, dumping its contents – a packet of earplugs and an empty bottle of orange juice – onto the floor.
My phone buzzes, insistent. I snatch it up. “Yello.”
“Concerned for my safety? Usually I can handle imps on my own, but I’m touched that you’re checking up on me.”
“I’m not checking up on you.” Gregor sounds about as merry as a stump. “Are you back at work yet? I’m faxing something I want you to look at.”
“Still at the field.”
“You’re getting rusty. Call me when you get back to the office.”
“Rusty my ass,” I say, but he’s already hung up. Dammit.
I ignore Ripper’s eyes on me as I stalk over to the bush. Gregor can wait.
The halfhearted rustle of leaves tells me they’re in there. I’ve never tried to pick up a wild baby rabbit before, and I suspect these two are far too traumatized to flee. I pick up one of them. It must be the one the imp stepped on, because the bunny’s ear is bent back at an awful angle, and it piddles on my hand the moment I lift it.
“Hush,” I tell it. I place it in the shoebox and retrieve the other. They snuggle together in a corner of the box.
I don’t look at Ripper or Ben as I drive away with the box in my lap.
Storm In A Teacup is set for release on February 3rd, 2015.
You are one click away from preorder: CLICK HERE!
ABOUT THE WILDLY CREATIVE AUTHOR
Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.
Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.
Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two intrepid kitties.
She spends most of her time causing problems and ruining worlds. Emmie is represented by Jessica Negrón of Talcott Notch Literary Services.
Emmie is also the editor and Grand Pooh-Bah of Searching for SuperWomen, a geek hub focused on furthering the conversation about the role of women in geekdom and loving awesome things in the process.
Emmie may or may not secretly be a car. Her next novel, STORM IN A TEACUP, comes out February 3.