Born into FlamesRoyland crouched as he walked along a crudely-made roof of mostly two-by-fours and plywood. It seemed to be a lookout station. Too bad that hadn’t worked out so well for the previous occupant, but now it made for a perfect viewpoint for Cammie and him.

They had been observing the pirate outpost for several hours now, mostly to ensure it was actually pirates, but also to see if there were any vampires or Weres among them. So far, it seemed the answer was no.

This wasn’t the first group of pirates they had come across, which kind of surprised him. When they set off from Old Manhattan, they had expected to come across one main pirate base where everything was being conducted. Turns out, at least along the coast, a lot of pirates had gathered. They weren’t all Canadians, either, but groups from overseas—Spanish, Algerian, Laotian, and, most of all it seemed, Norse. Apparently, someone had been hard at work organizing the pirates around a cause.

Unfortunately for that someone, said cause conflicted with Old Manhattan’s path toward becoming a conflict-free hub of the new world, or at least a new America. They couldn’t allow interruptions in trade, and the idea of allowing a massing of criminals just north, on the same continent no less, was certainly unacceptable.

The first group they had come across was one of these ragtag groups, apparently on a scouting mission. Cammie didn’t even bother hiding that time, she just walked right up, asked if they were part of the pirate group known to be stealing supplies via ship and airship interceptions.

“You bet your pretty little ass we are,” a tall man said. He stared down at her over a crooked nose with eyes so dark they looked black.

“What, we steal your new panties and now you’re looking to swap?” a fat guy amongst the group said, earning him a chuckle from the other three, all except the tall one.

She didn’t even bother with a retort. Royland knew doing so wasn’t her style, so he wasn’t surprised in the least when she simply pulled out her kali fighting sticks and whacked the guy across the temple, hard enough to draw blood.

He stumbled back as the others froze in confusion, then she smiled and said, “As we were asking—”

But one of them charged her, doing his best to lower his center of gravity and pick her up. She was too fast for that and, with a twitch of her nose, was off to the side and had shaken the top parts of her kali sticks off to reveal the blades beneath. A downward thrust brought the blades into the area between the man’s neck and shoulders, causing him to moan and then simply collapse at her feet.

The tall man turned his almost black eyes on Royland and stared, then held up both hands. “You with her?”

Royland nodded.

“You the same thing as her? ‘Cause we have a hefty bonus waiting for any that bring back the head of a Were, or any supernatural creature for that matter.”

“Not interested,” Royland said. “But I’m very glad you told me that.”

“How’s that?”

Royland smiled enough to show his vampire fangs, and then his eyes began to glow red. “Makes me feel better about my decision to kill you.”

He lunged forward, Cammie taking the hint at his side and moving in for the fat one. The pirates couldn’t have done anything about it even if they had seen it coming. With each action coming faster to him, he had taken down two before she took down her one. The tall man stumbled backward and fell, but Royland leaped for him just as Cammie was about to make her move.

She growled, and he smiled up at her, claws to the man’s throat. “What, you wanted us each to get two? It was an odd number to start.”

“That means you get the majority?”

“One of us has to.” He smiled. “Tell you what, let’s flip for him.” He stepped back and, with one hand, lifted the guy by the waist of his pants to hurl him, spinning in the air. “Call it.”

“The fuck?” she started, then, seeing the man was about to land, shouted, “tails!”

The man landed with a thud, face down, and commenced with shouting obscenities.

“Wish I could say I was sorry,” Royland said with a shrug to Cammie, then kicked the guy in the face to shut him up. “But this guy did insult me.”

“How do you figure?”

“Well, he basically said he wanted to take your head, and maybe mine.”

“And that’s an insult to you?”

“You’re my girl, after all.”

“Hell no,” Cammie said, and tossed one of her blades so that it landed in the pirate’s side. She lifted her other one, preparing to strike.

“The hell?” Royland pulled the short sword free and tossed it back to Cammie. “I won the toss, fair an’ square.”

“And then you tried to claim ownership of me, for which you’re gonna have to pay.”

He stared at her for a moment, then said, “Ah, shit. Go on then.”

The pirate started squirming at that comment, then shouting as Cammie pulled his head back by the hair, blade to his throat. “What do you do with the supplies?”

“The hell are you talking about?” the pirate muttered.

“Whatever you intercept, or steal. Where does it go?”

“I’m a scout, not one of the raiders.”

Royland nodded and stepped forward so that he could kneel in front of the pirate. “But you’ve seen where they go, haven’t you? There’s a home base of sorts?”

The pirate glared, then spat. “Go to hell.”

“You fucking goat-cheese smelling dick,” Cammie said, her knife digging into the man’s throat.

Royland’s hand shot out, catching her wrist and holding it from going farther. “Wait. Let’s give this man a choice. He tells us and dies quickly, or,” here he let his fangs grow extra long and his eyes burn with red, “we allow me to slowly feed on him, until he’s entirely too thin, and then kill him anyway.”

The pirate gulped, but held strong. Or tried to, until Royland’s fangs sunk into his wrist and the first blood drained away.

“There’s an outpost not far from here!” the man yelled.

“We flew into one, just a ways south,” Cammie offered.

“No, I’m talking north and a bit east. You can’t miss it, but you’ve gotta be looking and know which direction you’re headed.”

“And maybe you’re telling us wrong? Maybe you’re leading us into a trap?”

He laughed at that. “After what you just did to my boys? Damn right, it’s a trap. But it’s the trap you asked for. You go walking into a pirate outpost, even if it isn’t the main base of ops, you can damn well bet they’ll tear you a new asshole.”

“Speaking of tearing and new ones,” Royland said with a nod to Cammie, “let’s get on with it.”

Cammie’s knife tore across the man’s throat and Royland swept in to feed. It was a much-needed recharge after the cramped blimp ride and then the fighting.

The next two groups had confirmed the direction, and Cammie even insisted they let one of the men live when he told them he had only just joined up with the pirates and had nowhere else to go.

“Head south to Old Manhattan,” Cammie told him as she watched Royland feed on the man’s dying companions, her chest beating at the sight. She licked her lips and turned her focus back on the man. “You’re truly looking to reform, they’ll take you in.”

He ran off, so scared he forgot to thank them for a second chance at life.

Now this blimp was arriving, and it became very clear that this was pirates, and that the flapping tents and crudely constructed buildings at the water’s edge made up the pirate outpost.

Something bothered Royland as he watched the blimp touch down and then the men begin to unload. More ran out and helped, looking like ants scurrying about in the darkness. There was a sizable population here, it seemed, but the pirate who’d given them directions had said something about a main base of ops. Based on the way he spoke, that led Royland to think that the guy might have been former military, and that there was a much larger group of these pirates… and they were organized, at least to some degree.

“No use standing around staring,” Cammie said, hands resting on her belt, cowboy hat tilted to one side.

“The sun will be up in a couple hours, I’d wager,” Royland said.

“All the more reason to get in there and get rid of them ASAP.”

He nodded and muttered, “Looks like I won’t go hungry, at least.”

“You know what I find hot as hell about you?” She laughed and gave him a shrug. “You’re fucking hot, the way the blood drips down your chin when you feed, or how you almost caress the body as you drink, as if you’re making love to it.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” He frowned, thinking back to his feeding and wondering if that was remotely true. “Maybe you’re putting something on me that isn’t there.”

She scoffed. “Just pay attention next time, you’ll see. Don’t get all self-conscious about it, I’m telling you it’s hot as balls.”

“Please tell me you didn’t just metaphorically compare my supposedly sexy drinking of blood to wrinkled skin that holds reproductive spheres.”

“Just a saying.” She made a face and glanced at his crotch, then back up when he cleared his throat. “We can change it to something like ‘hot as Royland drinking blood,’ but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. In your case, I’d say both apply.”

He actually felt himself blush at that, then shook his head with a laugh. “You’re an odd one, Cammie. And that’s what I like about you.”

“Yeah?” She waved him off as if the subject was played out. “So, get in there, or what?”

Knowing her way of talking, he had to be sure she meant ‘get in there’ like go down to the outpost and attack, not something else. He chuckled and said, “We kill pirates, find out where their main base is, then take shelter from the sun and tear each other to pieces, figuratively speaking, of course.”

“I like your plan, big man.” She was the first to step off, not even looking to see if he was following.

He loved that about her—confidence that he would follow. And he had no problem following someone like her. Especially when he knew where it led and what followed.

FROM JUSTIN >>> There they are, Cammie and Royland! For the end of chapter 1 🙂 And guess what? I just finished my draft of Shades of Dark (The Hidden Magic Chronicles Book 2), so that’s off to the editor. I love this stuff, and hope you all love it too! Reclaiming Honor 6 is already starting to form in my mind and, since 5 is coming out soon (a couple of days I think!), I better get on it for you all.

As for today’s recommendation, how about I tell you all about my other series that’s going pretty strong. It’s Space Marines / Time Travel, and has ranked #1 in LGBT Scifi since it launched 6 weeks ago. It’s written with two cowriters, and is honestly more their work than mine, which is why I feel okay promoting it as ‘my recommendation.’ Here it is…


Syndicate Wars First StrikeWith an alien invasion and survival of the human race at stake, service in the Marines was no longer simply about honor and duty, it was a matter of life and death. 

This was especially true for Quinn, a Marine sergeant who was hell-bent on ensuring that her young daughter had a world to grow up in. But one thing separates Quinn from the others:

She’s a certifiable badass.

And as the aliens will learn, it’s tough to keep a good woman down

“SYNDICATE WARS is the perfect mash-up of STARSHIP TROOPERS and THE DIRTY DOZEN. A space opera with heart, great characters, and neverending action, the set-up will suck you in and the characters and story, including a very cool time-travel hook, will keep you wanting more.”

— Stephen L’Heureux, SOLIPSISTFILMS (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For)

*** Book 1 is $0.99 on Amazon, and included in Kindle Unlimited