Sandra couldn’t take it anymore. After the first gunshot had gone off, she ran to the door and looked up the stairs, trying to decide her best course of action.
On the one hand, her Mistress could be in trouble. On the other, a vampire in trouble was rarely a concern, and trying to help Valerie might just get them both killed.
That’s what she’d thought until last night, when her Mistress would have died if not for her.
It was an odd feeling, knowing that her Mistress was only alive because, instead of staying in her place, Sandra had gone out in search of her, and even more so that Valerie was alive right now because of Sandra’s blood.
Another shot sounded, and then the ship shook. A moment later, the screams of a man told her someone had fallen, or been tossed, overboard.
Waiting here wasn’t an option.
The stairs went by three at a time, until Sandra burst through the doors to the deck above. It was an amazing sight. The sun cast an orange glow across the ship, and the shadows danced so that the two ships now tethered to it had the impression of demons of darkness overtaking a ship of fire and light.
But there was no sign of Valerie.
The wind was crisp, almost cold if not for the warm air. Men were fighting, some with swords, others with guns, and one man had what looked like a Tesla Coil gun—the type that fired ionized gas and, while often homemade, packed a punch. She’d never seen one except in books, so couldn’t be sure.
Half the men she saw were the sailors they’d watched board the ship before sneaking on themselves. The others were coming in by the ropes that attached the smaller flying ships to this one, and they wore brightly colored silks with bandanas tied around their heads.
She knew this look well—a children’s book she’d read about pirates called Teddy Bears and the Christmas Pirates. Somehow, it had survived the massive riots and fires that had consumed the majority of stores and people’s houses in the great downfall of the world.
Apparently, these ass-clowns were doing their best to be real pirates. What they lacked in creativity, they made up for in the ability to copy from a children’s book. She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or run for her life.
A blast from the coil gun shot past her head, severing one of the ropes and sending a pirate to his death. But it also nearly took out the blimp.
“You’ll bring down all of us with that!” a man in a captain’s hat yelled. He took the pistol away from the crewman just before a pirate lunged at him with a rapier.
The captain dodged, pulled out his own knife, and was able to block another lunge and then slit the pirate’s throat before kicking him so that he fell overboard.
No screaming from that man.
“No bleeding on my ship!” the man yelled, and turned to see Sandra. She gasped and took a step back, but he moved quickly toward her, knife held at the ready, but not menacingly. He wasn’t wearing the colorful silks of the attackers, so she had to assume he was on the defending side. That helped put her at ease, if only somewhat.
“You’re with the vampire?” the Captain asked.
She blinked, unsure how to answer that. Regular people weren’t supposed to be aware of the UnknownWorld, so she had to assume Valerie had somehow, in the short amount of time since she’d ran off, let this man know about her.
With a nod, she took the gamble.
“That way,” the man said, then lifted the knife and threw it. The sun glistened on the blade as it shot past Sandra’s face, inches from her nose, and lodged in the chest of a pirate behind her.
She gave a second, more grateful nod, and then turned to see where the man had gestured.
“Merde!” she swore in French, which for her was the epitome of swearing. She’d been found en route to the Algerian sex-trade before being made Valerie’s servant, and something about a bunch of big, hairy men swearing in French and planning how they’ll sell you as a sex slave made her never want to repeat such language.
When Valerie had taken her under her wing after Donovan and their clan had destroyed every last one of those bastards, Sandra swore a lifetime’s allegiance to the vampires. She’d do anything to serve.
And now she was going to be tested, it looked like, because she’d spotted Valerie and it didn’t look good.
The vampire was on the ship to their left, and somehow a group of pirates had surrounded her and backed her up to the edge of the sunlight, so that every time she tried to strike at them, the sun burned at her skin.
The Were was in his cat form, or cougar or puma or whatever he was, and was putting up a fight. But from where Sandra stood, she could tell it wasn’t going well. A quick glance over the edge showed that the sun was quickly approaching the horizon, but not fast enough.
As little as she knew her help mattered, it looked like she was going to have to do something here. Something stupid, she realized, as she climbed out on the rope and started making her way over. Having never really tried something like this, it only took two steps for her to fall, but she grabbed hold and hung there, upside down, with her legs wrapped around the rope.
The sound of fighting continued behind her, but all she cared about was reaching her master. She shimmed on, one hand after another. Nothing would stop her. Nothing but death, and she didn’t plan on meeting that asshole anytime soon.
Valerie was exhausted and frazzled. Every time she moved for an attack, the pirates would leap back into the sun.
She darted forward and took down a pirate who’d stepped into the shadows, but a second later, two other pirates slashed at her with swords. They knocked her off balance so that her hand went into the sunlight.
Her skin had instantly burst into pain, and she almost went into shock at the burning sensation. But Diego was there to tear at one of the pirate’s shins with his teeth and then leap on her to knock her back into the shadows.
He growled in a worried way.
Instead of responding, she grabbed him and rolled aside as a bullet exploded in the wood where they’d been lying.
“Not my finest hour,” she admitted as she looked around.
She ripped some of her shirt with her fangs so that she could wrap it around her hand for protection. The hand would heal, but not right away. Sunlight burns were always bad that way.
The pirates were jeering, daring her to come in for the attack. They were in a bit of a stalemate, in that she couldn’t attack them in the sunlight, and they were dead if they stepped into the shadows.
Meanwhile, she glanced over to see that the fight wasn’t going well back at the main ship. And then, something on the ropes caused her to do a double take.
No, it couldn’t be.
Sandra was hanging from the rope with her legs wrapped around it, pulling herself up and over.
That stupid, stupid, girl would need a good talking to if they survived this. She needed to learn when to stay where she was told.
Then again, Valerie would be dead if Sandra had done that last night, so… who knows.
A pirate turned and saw what she was looking at.
“We got a fresh fish!” he called out, and then moved for the rope, blade in hand.
If he cut that rope, Sandra would fall to her death in the stormy ocean below.
That couldn’t happen.
Sunlight be damned, she thought as she leaped with a burst of energy and sank her teeth into the man’s neck. She twisted as the two fell to the deck, so that he fell on top of her. To her relief, it’d worked, and his larger body blocked the sun. Doing her best to ignore the pain of her exposed skin, she kicked off from the ship’s railing so that they slid back into the shadows.
The man’s blood poured into her mouth, helping her heal at an accelerated rate. She was still hurting pretty damn bad, but at least Sandra was safe.
Diego growled a warning.
She kicked the dying pirate aside and saw that the others had decided to use this situation to their advantage, charging all at once. They were almost on her, true, but they were also in the shadows.
The first two froze when they saw her smile, but it was too late for them. The fresh blood had fully restored her strength, and then some. With a sweeping spin, she kicked out their legs and then leaped at the next two. Diego had one at the rear down, and was thrashing his head from side to side with his teeth in the pirate’s throat.
The pirates let their fright overcome them and started swinging swords frantically, even cutting at each other in a mad dash to escape.
Exactly where Valerie wanted them.
This was different from what she’d seen in the slaughter at her brother’s hands. This was a defensive fight. There were no children being killed pointlessly this time, and there was one more thing that made this different.
This was damned fun.
It was a thought that almost scared her. She was sure that later she’d look back on this moment and wonder what the hell had gotten into her, but right now, she was in her zone.
She dodged a sword and knocked a gun sideways, so that the bullet took out another pirate instead of Diego. Then she flew into a double kick that sent two more pirates over the edge of the ship.
Now that she had them in the shadows, this was child’s play.
Turning, chest heaving and blood dripping down her chin, she focused on the last of them. He had a pistol aimed at Diego and had managed to get back into the sunlight.
The pirate grinned, two of his teeth missing, “One more step and this cat’s head explodes all over the deck, got that?” the pirate told her in his best attempt to sound menacing, but his shaky voice gave him away.
“I don’t need to do anything,” Valerie replied with a confident smile. “Because I know something you don’t.”
The pirate cocked his head, and then a sword chopped off the pistol hand before plunging into his back.
“That’s my girl,” Valerie smiled.
“Sorry I was late,” Sandra said, bowing her head. She smiled and released the sword so that the pirate, unbalanced, took two steps backward and then fell overboard, another scream piercing the evening.
Diego transformed back into a man, “That’s a hell of an entrance.”
Valerie noticed Sandra blush and look away.
Rolling her eyes, she asked as she pointed in his general direction, “Diego, what’d I tell you about the twiglet and bits?”
He smirked, looked around and took a couple of steps to a dead body. He grabbed a pirate hat to cover himself as he stood back up.
Valerie had to laugh at that. Male burlesque shows had popped up in the parts of France that were making their way to being rebuilt, right alongside the female ones. Valerie had to imagine this was what one of those dancers would look like right at the climax of the show. Minus the blood and cuts, of course.
A BOOM sounded from the main ship, and they all turned, smiles fading instantly. The blimp had taken enough hits that its protective layer was finally punctured. Before their eyes, it started to deflate, the ship heaving from side to side, pulling the two pirate ships with it.
This was followed by a second, bigger explosion as the pirate ship opposite them burst into flames and then exploded.
“Well, that’s not good,” Diego said.
“Your wisdom knows no bounds,” Valerie said, staring in shock.
FROM JUSTIN >>> They snippets just keep coming! We’ve passed the point of what was in included at the end of Michael’s book, so that’s exciting – and I hope you’re still having as much fun as we are. I was up until 1:30 am yesterday working on edits and all that, and then woke up bright and early the next day to do some more. I love this project and am giving it my all. Ooh, we’re also in talks with potential narrators, and each of them is AMAZING. I mean… wow! So stay tuned for updates on that.
You can also get the snippets (1-4) on your e-Reader by grabbing the sneak peek over at Instafreebie.
And… for this week’s feature I’m going to highlight JL Hendricks work, because she’s super cool and also writes about vampires, space, and shifters. Just in time for Christmas, I present…
MISS CLAUS AND THE SECRET SANTA: A SHIFTER CHRISTMAS ROMANCE
Santa Claus is an Arctic Wolf Shifter, and the mantle has always passed down to his sons. But this Santa didn’t have any boys, he has 4 girls!
His eldest daughter is supposed to marry the son of the pack’s Beta wolf, Rock. But she has refused. Lizzy wants to marry for love, not pack standing.
Lizzy is pulled to Los Angeles looking for adventure and possibly her future Santa. What she finds instead shocks her and her family.
If you like clean, shifter romance, then you will love this newest book by J.L. Hendricks. She merges her favorite season, Christmas, with a hot genre, Shifter Paranormal Romance. Come and see how these Arctic Wolf shifters celebrate Christmas.
If this sounds like a fun-filled adventure the whole family can read, that’s because it is! It might even help to convince your unbelieving teens that Santa really does exist! And maybe you will come away believing as well.
It is a clean and wholesome read that teens and adults will enjoy.
So go check out J.L.’s new book, and don’t forget to preorder Justice is Calling for only $0.99. You’ll love them both!