Category Archives: science fiction

Release Day Contest: $100 Amazon GC – “Poisoned Web” by Crista McHugh

HOLD THE PRESSES!!!!

You won’t believe the Grand Prize in the contest for Poisoned Web’s Release Day Blitz . . . 

 $100 Amazon gift card

Other prizes:  20 autographed PRINT copies of the first book in the series, Tangled Web.

What are you waiting for??? Click the link below and enter now!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112f450

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Poisoned Web

The Deizian Empire – Book Two

Crista McHugh

Poisoned coverGenre: Fantasy Romance /SF Romance / Paranormal Romance

ISBN: 978-1-940559-99-5

Number of pages: 278

Word Count:  78K

Cover Artist: Jaycee Delorenzo at Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs

Book Description:

The fate of the empire hangs on one slave breaking her silence…

As the Deizian Empire prepares for the upcoming wedding of Emperor Titus Sergius Flavus and Azruha, one mystery remains unsolved—the sudden and unexplained death of the former emperor. And as her wedding gift to Titus, Azurha wants to give him answers. She suspects an unknown poison was involved, and her search for the truth enlists two unlikely allies.

Modius Varro’s thirst for knowledge caused an uproar in Emona three years ago and exiled him to the border town of Madrena. But when Titus falls victim to the same poison, his expertise in medicine becomes essential in solving both the riddle of the former emperor’s death and finding a cure to save the current one. His search leads him to far reaches of the Alpirion realm, to an ancient culture shrouded in secrets, and into the arms of one slave who must break her silence to save the empire.

Short Excerpt:

A roar ripped through the city of Emona, slapping against the walls of the Imperial Palace and making them quake under the force of the noise. The members of the Legion stiffened, their fingers tightening around the hilts of their swords. And all but two of the slaves ran deeper into the inner confines of the palace.

Izana and Farros stood in the middle of the courtyard, refusing to shrink in fear like the other Alpirions.

She glanced at her fellow slave, meeting his gaze in a silent challenge before bolting toward the outer wall. Neck and neck, they raced, the sun beating down on their skin and the thin shimmer of sweat that coated it. Izana ducked under Farros’s well-muscled arms when they reached the narrow staircase to the upper ramparts, using her smaller size to her advantage. She wanted to be the first person to see the newly engaged imperial couple enter the palace. She needed to see her mistress wearing the crown proclaiming her to be the future empress. And she prayed that this would be the first step in gaining freedom for her people.

Her lungs burned in protest as she ran into the wall, but her heart leaped with joy. Even though the carriage carrying Emperor Sergius and his bride-to-be was over a mile down the road, the crowd still cheered outside the palace walls. The people loved Lady Azurha, loved that she had been one of them, that she had walked along these very streets before she found her way into the palace and won the heart of the emperor. By now, the whole city knew how she’d saved his life from Pontus, one of the emperor’s cousins who coveted the throne for himself.

But very few knew the whole truth—that Azurha was the Rabbit, the most feared assassin in the empire. Varro had made those directly attending to the imperial couple swear to this a secret, but how quickly had the gossip spread before he made them take that oath?

Farros leaned against the wall beside her, his massive chest still heaving from their race. Did he know the truth?

“I think my lady’s fears were for naught,” she said, sweeping her hand toward the crowded streets below. “Look at how they cheer for an Alpirion empress.”

His dark eyes glinted with cynicism. “They cheer now, but how long do you think it will last? How many Deizians will bend their knee to a former slave?”

“More than you think.” But his words jabbed a sliver of fear into her chest. She chewed her bottom lip as she started counting the enemies Lady Azurha had made in the last three weeks. For starters, there was Governor Hostilius and his spoiled daughter, Claudia. Not to mention some other Deizians who believed the emperor was soiling the royal line by marrying a woman outside their race.

As though he knew what she’d been thinking, Farros gave a slow nod. “The Deizians may be few, but they hold all the power.” The muscle rippled along his jaw before he added, “For now.”

Nervous laughter bubbled up from her throat. “Are you suggesting someone is plotting to overthrow the emperor and his people?”

“Our people managed to withstand Deizian conquest for centuries.”

The dark intensity of his statement quickened her pulse. She took a step back, studying the man beside her. Farros was built more for the gladiatorial ring than the imperial household, where he worked in the stables. The sleeves of his tunic rose high enough to partially expose a tattoo on the inside of his bicep. He stared at the procession below, the sun reflecting off his freshly shaven head and coppery skin, the corded muscles in his forearms flexing as he pumped his hands into fists. If he wanted, he could snap her neck in a matter of seconds.

He looked back to her, his face sliding into the flirtatious smile he normally wore around her. Only now, she knew it was a mask. She’d glimpsed the man behind it.

“Why do you look so worried, Izana?”

“Because you talk like a man destined for trouble.”

Farros took her hand and pulled her back to the wall, caging her between his body and the stone bricks. The pounding of her heart drowned out the celebration below, but she still heard his low voice whispering in her ear, “As slaves, we’ve been told that as long as we obey our masters, we have nothing to fear. But that may not always be the case.”

Her breath caught, giving her a few precious seconds to choose her words carefully. “You are not my master.”

“Come now, Izana,” he continued, his hot breath bathing the hollow of her neck where the mark of her former owner was still visible. “How many men have mastered you over the years?”

Fury sizzled through her veins, driving away her fear. She rammed her elbow under his ribs. The air whooshed out of his lungs, and his arms retracted to cradle his injury, allowing her to escape. She retreated until she was well out of arm’s reach before replying, “I’m no longer engaged in that business, and unless you wish for me to tell my mistress everything, you’ll keep your hands to yourself.”

Her feet flew down the stairs in tempo with her pulse, never stopping until she was safely within the palace. Thankfully, Farros didn’t give chase. He was probably still doubled over on the ramparts.

Varro, the palace steward, stood beside the locked doors leading to the emperor’s private quarters. He pressed his hand against the plate as she approached, his brown eyes never missing a thing. “Is something wrong, Izana?”

She shook her head. “The sun was very warm today. I’m sure Lady Azurha will be ready for a dip in the tepidarium when she returns.”

Varro nodded, even though his expression told her he didn’t quite believe her. It didn’t matter. Once she was behind those doors, she was safe. But despite the cool tile beneath her bare feet, her cheeks still burned, and her gut twisted as though it held a den of snakes.

From now on, she needed to be wary of Farros.

About the Author:

cristaGrowing up in small town Alabama, Crista relied on story-telling as a natural way for her to pass the time and keep her two younger sisters entertained.

She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends.

Just for laughs, here are some of the jobs she’s had in the past to pay the bills: barista, bartender, sommelier, stagehand, actress, morgue attendant, and autopsy assistant.

And she’s also a recovering LARPer. (She blames it on her crazy college days)

For the latest updates, deleted scenes, and answers to any burning questions you have, please check out her webpage  www.CristaMcHugh.com

Find Crista online at:

 Twitter: twitter.com/crista_mchugh

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CristaMcHugh

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3035791.Crista_McHugh

Spotlight on: “Waking Up Dead” by Emma Shortt

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You’re going to love this contest! What’s not to love about a “Waking Up Dead” t-shirt???? Click on the link to enter.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1cb554194

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waking up Dead

End of Days Love – Book One

Emma Shortt

Genre: Horror romance

Publisher: Entangled Select

Date of Publication: 22 October 2013 

ISBN: 9781622660353

ASIN: B00BMKRLXG

Number of pages: 372

Word Count: 104,000

Cover Artist: TK Designs

Amazon   BN

Book Description:

You know your life has hit rock bottom when you’re living off cooked rats and showering once every few months—if you’re lucky. But for Jackson Hart things are about to get a whole lot worse. When her best friend, Tye, disappears hunting for food, kick-ass Jackson’s ‘head south to safety’ plan looks like it’s dead before it’s even begun. But then she meets ex-mechanic Luke Granger, who takes her to his bunker, feeds her with non-rat based food, and offers her protection against the zombie hordes—not that she needs it. She knows how to use a machete and isn’t afraid to.

Jackson was tempted to stay in the city with her rescuer. Food, shampoo and the possibility of finally getting laid, what more could she ask for? But the flesh eaters are getting smarter and the bunker is compromised, so Jackson and Luke have no choice but to make the journey south.

Luke and Jackson team up to find other humans in a road-trip romance for the ages. They travel for thousands of miles with zombies shadowing their every move. They must utilize every resource at their disposal…and then some. On the way, they discover that even if flesh eating zombies are knocking down their door, there’s always time for sex and even love.

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About the Author: 

Emma ShorttAs a kid Emma wanted to be an astronaut, or maybe Captain Janeway. Because she didn’t really think her career choices through very well she ended up in an everyday geek job, crunching numbers and sighing over syntax. It seemed a long way from the stars, and in an effort to escape Emma decided to get serious about her other passion. Writing.

Several years later and Emma has yet to walk on the moon or sit in the Captain’s chair, but she is still writing. She scribbles stories in all sorts of genres, contemporary, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, historical, sci-fi…if she hasn’t tried it yet she will before long. The only common theme is the romance. A hopeless romantic, everything Emma writes has a love story in there somewhere.

She lives on the west coast of England with her very Greek husband and teenage kiddos. Apart from all things geek reading is her main hobby and she likes nothing better than getting home from a hard day at work and curling up with a book, though sometimes she gets home and writes one instead.

www.endofdayslove.com

www.facebook.com/AuthorEmmaShortt

www.twitter.com/EmmaShortt

Converging Fates – Spotlight on Author Jonathan Cortez

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Converging Fates

Reagent Universe, Book 1

Jonathan Cortez

Genre: Science-Fiction 

Publisher: Fresh Publishing

Date of Publication: 03 June 2013

ISBN: 9780957606814

ASIN: 0957606818 

Number of pages: 376 p

Word Count: 133,750 words

Cover Artist: Jen Detchon

Amazon

 

Book Synopsis:

When an old and dangerous scientific project is revived by scientist Anleanlute, cybernetic humans and elves have to join forces to stop him from destroying two universes. They have to put age-old differences between their species behind them, and work together to stop the scientist.

They track him to the remote Undervalley. But Anleanlute is waiting for them and so are his allies – orcs, dinosaurs that should be long-extinct, and various monsters. But as the task force fight through hostile terrains to reach the scientist, they also bring the key to the whole situation.

Mahavir is a young human who was ripped away from his own universe when Anleanlute first opened his portal. He is unique because, unlike the cybernetic humans of his adopted universe, Mahavir is a fully organic human. Now, his very existence is the key that will allow the scientist to reach his ultimate goal. Mahavir’s death could prevent the destruction of two universes. But he has no intention of sacrificing himself.

Interview:

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave you that advice?

Life is too complicated for any one piece of advice to be the best piece of advice. I can throw out some quotes that mean the most to me though:

“Become what you are.” -Nietzsche

“The struggle to free myself from restraints becomes my very shackles.” -Meshuggah

“When you are in pain, that is when you focus sharp as the point of a knife.” Number Six in Battlestar Galactica.

“Got to have problem solving skills.” -my high school track coach

How did you become interested or get started in your craft? Did/Do you have a mentor, special teacher, or any other important influences on your work?

I’ve had a strong interest in reading and writing since I learned how to do those things. Great Illustrated Classics, a series of classic novels adapted for children, formed the basis of my imagination. And playing with Legos. Before I could write well, I had the power to create my own worlds with Legos.

Specifically for fantasy and science fiction, I did not get heavily involved until high school. Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and World of Warcraft are my favourite franchises.

My favourite works of fiction are:

1. Bright Starry Banner by Alden R. Carter. This is a historical fiction book about the Battle of Stones River in the American Civil War. I love the way Carter blends facts, details, emotions, and thoughts to create a surreal nightmare.

2. Paradise Lost. Lucifer is my hero, because he refuses to accept an unjust status quo based on divine bullshit.

3. The Bible. I have read the Bible since I could read. I find the story of King David particularly good. War, political struggles, rich characters, family treachery, foreskin collecting. Those are elements that make good stories.

4. 1984. Because it destroys the things I value the most: trust in those closest to you and trust in yourself.

5. The Lord of the Rings. If you write high fantasy, and don’t like the Lord of the Rings, you must be insane.

6. World of Warcraft. It’s merit has yet to be appreciated, but I think people will one day recognize how amazing it’s story is.

7. Star Trek. I like all five series. The franchise knows how to use characterization, plot, and science-fiction to present subjective meaning, unlike a lot of current literature which has nothing except contrived meaning.

8. Heavy metal. Science fiction is epic, and often dark. So is heavy metal. And there’s hundreds of metal bands with speculative fiction song topics.

9. My absolute favourite works of fiction are Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, both of which share Ronald D. Moore as a main writer. To me, they have the perfect combination of plot, character development, action, themes, and darkness.

I have no mentors. I am largely self-taught. I take what I can get from people I meet, but there are no specific individuals who particularly stand out.

What do you find most enjoyable or rewarding about what you do?

People enjoying my work. And being my own boss.

Were you ever discouraged in your craft? What did you do to turn yourself around and start again?

It is extremely difficult to get established in the field, and that is discouraging. I have a little bit of a head start now that I’m published, but it’s far from what I desire.

I heard from someone (not verified) that there are more people making a living as professional baseball players than freelance writing, but more people trying to make a living off of professional freelance writing than sports.

I stick with it, because a life of working a traditional job with set hours, breaks, and protocol for 40 plus years is not acceptable, and I feel it is my dharma to write.

What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies or something else you’d like to share?

I used to read a lot, but college course readings drained my enjoyment for the time being. Now, mostly I watch science-fiction shows since that takes less energy than reading. I’m big into World of Warcraft and some other PC games, but I’m not an avid gamer.

I try to exercising regularly. I’m a big fan of the outdoors, but not in the winter. Heavy metal, but I have yet to learn to play an instrument. Other than that, between college, work, and writing, I try to be social.

j cortezAbout the Author:

Jonathan Cortez is a graduate of Penn State Behren, with an Associate of Arts degree.

He was an avid reader and writer from a young age, but even before that his story-telling and world-building skills blossomed while playing with Lego. He largely developed his writing craft on his own.

Jonathan is a big fan of science-fiction and fantasy, although he only started reading the genres during high school. When not reading or writing, he enjoys watching TV and listening to heavy metal.

He is currently still studying at Penn State. He is also working on the sequel to Converging Fates.

https://www.facebook.com/jonathancortezru

E-Book SALE & CONTEST!

Holy Moly . . . I’m getting ready to make your day . . . and your week . . . and maybe even your whole summer!!!

bouquet-sale-buttonCheck out the fabulous sale going on at www.bookloversbuffet.net for three days – May 1-3. Over sixty authors have sale priced their e-books to .99 cents. Let me repeat – this sale is for THREE DAYS ONLY. These titles typically sell for $2.99 and up. You’ll be amazed at the authors participating in this great event. (Yes, I’m one of them and I’m honored to be grouped with such well known, talented writers.)

You can browse more than 150 romance titles by category/genre (from Inspirational to Erotic) or just peruse the entire list. Load up your e-Reader now and enjoy new titles all summer long.

To add a little extra sizzle, enter to win over $400 in gift cards offered by our participating authors. Please see the selection of prizes on the CONTEST page.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Now. Enter contests. Buy e-books. Tell your friends.

COVER REVEAL: King’s Crusade

Kings Crusade 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

KING’S CRUSADE

Seventeen Series – Book 2
AD Starrling
Genre: Supernatural thriller

The perfect immortal warrior.

A set of stolen, priceless artifacts.

An ancient sect determined to bring about the downfall of human civilization.

The exciting, action-packed follow-up to Soul Meaning and the second installment in the supernatural thriller series, Seventeen.

Book Description: 

When a team of scientists unearth scriptures older than the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave in the Eastern Desert mountains in Egypt, a mystery lost to the tides of time is uncovered. Heading the expedition is Dimitri Reznak, the Head of the Crovir Immortal Culture & History Section. But the monumental discovery is spoiled by evidence of looting and half the priceless artifacts Reznak has been seeking for centuries have disappeared.

Alexa King is a covert agent for the Crovir First Council. When she is approached by her godfather for a mission that could help elucidate the enigma of her lost past, she finds herself delving into the dangerous and shadowy world of secret religious societies. Assigned by Reznak to assist her is Zachary Jackson, a gifted human and Harvard archaeology professor.

In their search for the missing artifacts, King and Jackson stumble upon the existence of a deadly sect whose origins are as mystifying as the relics they are searching for. From North Africa to the doors of Vatican City itself, they unveil a centuries-old plan that aims to shatter the very structure of civilized society.

With the help of Reznak and a group of unexpected allies, King and Jackson must stop the enemy and uncover the astonishing truth behind the missing artifacts and King’s own unearthly origins before all is lost.

Bewitching B&W

About the Author:

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AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing.

Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the second novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea.

She still practices medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.

www.adstarrling.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/AD-Starrling/382768535066991

http://twitter.com/adstarrling

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6469599.A_D_Starrling

http://www.amazon.com/AD-Starrling/e/B008KS77GO/

SWAG ALERT “Soul Meaning” Book Tour

Oh me, oh my! Check out the incredible PRIZE PACKS available on this tour! Author A.D. Starrling has put together some awesomely cool swag.

8 prize packs containing a paperback, postcard and bookmark

2 prize packs with postcard and bookmark plus an ebook

10 ebooks and bookmarks

All you have to do to enter is click here: RAFFLECOPTER LINK or on the following link. It’s that easy.   http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112f236/

Soul Meaning

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Seventeen Series Book One

AD Starrling

Genre: Supernatural thriller

ISBN: 978-0957282605

ASIN: B008L8IU8C

Number of pages: 420

Word Count: 108,187

Cover Artist: Streetlight Graphics

Amazon  Amazon UK  Amazon CA

Smashwords   iTunes  BN  Sony ebooks

Blackwell   Waterstones  Book Depository    Foyles   Big Hay

Soul_Meaning-800-HeightBook Description:

A half breed immortal. An international manhunt. A race against time to stop a terrifying plot that threatens to kill millions. The gripping, action-packed debut novel by AD Starrling and the first in the supernatural thriller series Seventeen.

‘My name is Lucas Soul.

Today, I died again.

This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’

The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile.

Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters.

One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.

From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans.

Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?

Excerpt:

I woke up in a dark alley behind a building.

Autumn rain plummeted from an angry sky, washing the narrow, walled corridor I lay in with shades of grey. It dripped from the metal rungs of the fire escape above my head and slithered down dirty, barren walls, forming uneven puddles under the garbage dumpsters by my feet. It gurgled in the gutters and storm drains off the main avenue behind me.

It also cleansed away the blood beneath my body.

For once, I was grateful for the downpour: I did not want any evidence left of my recent demise.

I blinked at the drops that struck my face and slowly climbed to my feet. Unbidden, my fingers rose to trace the deep cut in my chest: the blade had missed the unusual birthmark on my skin by less than an inch. I turned and stared at the tower behind me.

I was not sure what I was expecting to see. A face peering over the parapet of the glass and brick structure. An avenging figure drifting down in the rainfall, a bloodied sword in its hands and a crazy smile in its eyes. A flock of silent crows, come to take my unearthly body to its final resting place.

Bar the heavenly deluge, the skyline was fortunately empty.

I pulled my cell phone out of the rear pocket of my jeans and stared at it. It was smashed to pieces. I could hardly blame the makers of the device: they had probably never tested it from the rooftop of a twelve-storey building. As for me, the bruises would start to fade by tomorrow.

It would take another day for the wound in my chest to heal completely.

I glanced at the sky again before walking out of the alley. I found a phone booth at the next intersection, closed the rickety door behind me and dialled a number. Steam rapidly fogged up the glass wall before me. There was a soft click after the fifth ring.

‘Yo,’ said a tired voice.

‘Yo yourself,’ I said.

A barely suppressed yawn travelled down the line. ‘What’s up?’

‘I need a ride,’ I replied. ‘And a new phone.’

There was a short silence. ‘It’s four o’clock in the morning.’ The voice had gone blank, devoid of all traces of emotion.

‘I know,’ I muttered in the same neutral tone.

The sigh at the other end was audible above the pounding of the rain. ‘Where are you?’

‘Corner of Cambridge and Staniford.’

Fifteen minutes later, a battered tan Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up next to the phone booth. ‘Get in,’ said the figure behind the wheel. I opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. Water dripped onto the leather cover and formed a puddle by my feet. There was a disgruntled mutter from my left. I glanced at the man beside me.

Reid Hasley was my business partner and friend. Together, we were co-owners of the Hasley and Soul Agency. We were private investigators, of sorts. Reid certainly qualified as one, being a former Marine and cop. I, on the other hand, had been neither.

‘You look like hell,’ said Reid as he manoeuvred the car into almost nonexistent traffic. He took something from his raincoat and tossed it across to me. It was a new cell.

I raised my eyebrows slightly. ‘That was fast.’

He grunted indistinct words and struck a match. ‘What happened?’ The orange glow of a cigarette flared into life, casting shadows under his brow and across his crooked nose.

I transferred the data card from the broken phone into the new one and frowned faintly at the bands of smoke drifting towards me. ‘That’s going to kill you one day.’

‘Just answer the question,’ he said testily.

I looked away from his probing gaze and stared blindly at the dark tower at the end of the avenue. ‘I met up with our new client,’ I muttered.

Reid looked at me expectantly. ‘And?’

‘He wasn’t happy to see me.’

Something in my voice made him frown. ‘How unhappy are we talking here?’ he said guardedly.

I sighed. ‘Well, he stuck a sword through my heart and pushed me off the top of the Cramer building. I would say he was pretty unhappy.’

Silence followed my words. ‘That’s not good,’ said Reid finally.

‘No.’

‘It means we’re not gonna get the money,’ he added, clearly heartbroken by the news of my recent passing.

‘I’m fine by the way. Thanks for asking,’ I said wryly.

He shot a hard glance at me. ‘We need the cash.’

Unpalatable as the statement was, it was regrettably true. Small PI firms like our own had just about managed before the recession. Nowadays, people had more things to worry about than what their cheating spouses were up to. On the other hand, embezzlement cases were up by a third; unfortunately, the victims of such scams were usually too hard up to afford the services of a good detective agency. As a result, the rent on our office space was overdue by a month.

Mrs Trelawney, our landlady, was not happy about this: at five foot two and weighing just over two hundred pounds, the woman had the ability to make us quake in our boots. This had less to do with her size than with the fact that she made the best angel cakes in the city. She gave these out to her tenants when they paid the rent on time. A month without angel cakes was making us twitchy.

‘I think we might still get the goods if you flash your eyes at her,’ said my partner thoughtfully after a while.

I stared at him. ‘Are you pimping me out?’

‘No. You’d be a tough sell,’ he grunted as the car splashed along the empty streets of the city. He glanced my way. ‘This makes it what, your fourteenth death?’

‘Fifteenth.’

Further silence followed. ‘Huh. So, two more to go,’ he murmured.

I nodded mutely. In many ways, I was glad Hasley had entered my somewhat unnatural life, despite the fact that it happened in such a dramatic fashion. It was ten years ago this summer.

Hasley was a detective in the Boston PD Homicide Unit at the time. One hot Friday afternoon in August, he and his partner of three years found themselves on the trail of a murder suspect, a Latino man called Burt Suarez. Suarez, who worked the toll bridge north-east of the city, had never had so much as a speeding ticket to his name before: he was later described by his neighbours and friends as a gentle giant who cherished his wife and was kind to children and animals. That day, the giant snapped and went on a killing spree after walking in on his wife and his brother in the marital bed. He shot Hasley’s partner, two uniformed cops and the neighbour’s dog, before fleeing towards the river.

Unfortunately, I got in his way.

In my defence, I had not been myself for most of that month, having recently lost someone who had been a friend for more than a hundred years. In short, I was drunk.

On that scorching summer’s day, Burt Suarez achieved something no other human, or non human for that matter, had managed before or since.

He shot me in the head.

Sadly, he did not get to savour this feat as he died minutes after he fired a round through my skull. Hasley still swore to this day that Suarez’s death had more to do with seeing me rise to my feet Lazarus-like again than with the gunshot wound he himself inflicted on the man with his Glock 19.

That had been my fourteenth death. Shortly after witnessing my unnatural resurrection, Hasley quit his job as a detective and became my business partner.

Over the last decade we have trailed unfaithful spouses, tracked down missing persons, performed checks on employees in high profile investment banks, took on surveillance work for attorneys and insurance companies, served process to disgruntled defendants, and even rescued the odd kidnapped pet. Hasley knew more about me than anyone else in the city.

He still carried the Glock.

‘Why did he kill you?’ said Reid. The car had stopped before a set of red lights. ‘Did you do something to piss him off?’ There was a trace of suspicion in his tone.

I grimaced and scratched my head. ‘Broadly speaking, he seemed opposed to my existence,’ I murmured. The rhythmic swishing of the windscreen wipers and the dull hiss of rubber rolling across wet asphalt were the only sounds that broke the ensuing lull. ‘He called me an abomination that should be sent straight to Hell and beyond,’ I added drily and paused. ‘Frankly, I thought that was a bit ironic coming from someone who’s probably not that much older than me.’

Reid crushed the cigarette butt in the ashtray and stared at me with narrowed eyes. ‘You mean, he’s one of you?’

I hesitated before nodding briefly. ‘Yes.’

Over the years, as I came to know and trust him, I had told Reid a little bit about my origins.

I was born in Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century, when the Renaissance was at its peak. My father came from a line of beings known as the Crovirs, while my mother was a descendent of a group called the Bastians. They are the only races of immortals on Earth.

Throughout most of the history of man, the Crovirs and the Bastians have waged a bitter and brutal war against one another. Although enough blood has been shed over the millennia to fill a respectable portion of the Caspian Sea, this unholy battle between immortals has, for the most, remained a well kept secret from the eyes of ordinary humans, despite the fact that the latter have been used as pawns in some of its most epic chapters.

The conflict suffered a severe and unprecedented setback in the fourteenth century, when the numbers of both races dwindled rapidly and dramatically; while the Black Death scourged Europe and Asia, killing millions of humans, the lesser known Red Death shortened the lives of countless immortals. It was several decades before the full extent of the devastation was realised, for the plague had brought with it an unexpected and horrifying complication.

The greater part of those who survived had become infertile.

This struck another blow to both sides and, henceforth, an uneasy truce was established. Although the odd incident still occurs between embittered members of each race, the fragile peace has, surprisingly, lasted to this day. From that time on, the arrival of an immortal child into the world became an event that was celebrated at the highest levels of each society.

My birth was a notable exception. The union between a Crovir and a Bastian was considered an unforgivable sin and was strictly forbidden by both races: ancient and immutable, it was a fact enshrined into the very doctrines and origins of our species. Any offspring of such a coupling was thus deemed an abomination unto all and sentenced to death from the very moment they were conceived. I was not the first born half-breed, both races having secretly mated with each other in the past. However, the two immortal societies wanted me to be the last. Fearing for my existence, my parents fled and took me into hiding.

For a while, life was good. We were far from rich and dwelled in a remote cabin deep in the forest, where we lived off the land, hunting, fishing, and even growing our own food. Twice a year, my father would venture down the mountain to the nearest village, where he traded fur for oil and other rare goods. We were happy and I never wanted for anything.

It was another decade before the Hunters finally tracked us down. That was when I learned one of the most important lessons about immortals.

We can only survive up to sixteen deaths.

Having perished seven times before, my father died after ten deaths: he fought until the very last breath left his body. I watched them kill my mother seventeen times.

I should have died that day. I did, in fact, suffer my very first death. Moments after the act, I awoke on the snow-covered ground, tears frozen on my face and my blood steaming as it stained the whiteness around me. Fingers clenching convulsively around the wooden sword that my father had given me, I waited helplessly for a blade to sink into my heart once more. Minutes passed before I realised that I was alone in that crimson-coloured clearing, high up in the Carpathian Mountains.

The crows came next, silent flocks that descended from the grey winter skies and covered the bloodied bodies next to me. When the birds left, the remains of my parents had disappeared as well. All that was left was ash.

It was much later that another immortal imparted to me the theory behind the seventeen deaths. Each one apparently took away a piece of our soul. Unlike our bodies, our souls could not regenerate after a death. Thus, Death as an ultimate end was unavoidable. And then the crows come for most of us.

No one was really clear as to where the birds took our unearthly remains.

‘What if you lived alone, on a desert island or something, and never met anyone? You could presumably never die,’ Reid had argued with his customary logic when I told him this.

‘True. However, death by boredom is greatly underestimated,’ I replied. ‘Besides,’ I added drily after a pause, ‘someone like you is bound to kill himself after a day without a smoke.’

‘So, the meeting was a trap?’ said Reid.

His voice jolted me back to the present. The car had pulled up in front of my apartment block. The road ahead was deserted.

‘Yes.’ Rain pounded the roof of the Monte Carlo. The sound reminded me of the ricochets of machine guns. Unpleasant memories rose to the surface of my mind. I suppressed them firmly.

‘Will he try to kill you again?’ said Reid. I remained silent. He stared at me. ‘What are you gonna do?’

I finally shifted on the leather seat and reached for the door handle. ‘Well, seeing as you’re likely to drag me back from Hell if I leave you high and dry, I should probably kill him first,’ I said wryly.

I exited the car, crossed the sidewalk and entered the lobby of the building. I turned to watch the tail lights of the Chevrolet disappear in the downpour before getting into the lift. Under normal circumstances, I would have taken the stairs to the tenth floor: dying, I felt, was a justifiable reason to take things easy for the rest of the night.

My apartment was blessedly cool and devoid of immortals hellbent on carving another hole in my heart. I took a shower, dressed the wound in my chest, and went to bed.

About the Author:

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AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing.

Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the second novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea.

She still practices medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.

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http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6469599.A_D_Starrling

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