I haven’t done any Teaser Tuesdays in quite a while, so I thought I’d share a clip from my most recently finished novel, The Arbiter & The End of Time. I have three short stories in this really fun, urban fantasy universe available for $0.99 here at amazon.com and here at smashwords.com, if you want to read Cecily’s previous adventures while waiting for the novel to come out.
What you need to know: The Shadowedge is a realm that exists betwixt and between the human world and that of Others; it houses those with magic, or those who are magic: fae, vampire, witches, weres, and more. As the Arbiter, with the power to make anyone tell the truth, Cecily Madden works with the Guardian of San Francisco, Justin Chambers, to keep the peace between the Others and keep the humans in the dark. In this book, war is about to break out between the Fae and Vampires, time keeps stopping for no apparent reason, and Cecily’s best friend thinks that aliens have invaded but really, he’s discovered the Shadowedge which is a huge no-no.
And now, from The Arbiter & The End of Time…
Anger flashed through Cecily and she slapped him across the face without thinking. The crack of the blow echoed through the confines of the car. Jack’s mouth twisted into a snarl and he reached over the bench seat to get to her. Cecily scrambled for the door to escape just as Jack’s door opened and Justin dragged him out, throwing him a few feet into the scrub lining the road.
Looming over the other Guardian, fists clenched, Justin demanded, “What the hell is going on?”
Cecily climbed quickly out of the car and grabbed him by the arm. “It’s fine. Just a misunderstanding.”
Justin looked between them and clearly didn’t like whatever he saw in her face because he crouched down and said something low enough to Jack that she couldn’t hear.
Frank stood beside her and said, “You okay?”
The shot of adrenaline from the brief confrontation had her shaky, but she nodded anyhow. “Fine, thanks.”
Frank looked at her a moment longer before walking over to join Justin and Jack. The slender man put a boot on Jack’s gut to keep him down when he tried to sit up. There was enough pressure in the move for Jack to ‘oof’ out air at the move.
Cecily wasn’t surprised by the exclusion – Guardians were the ultimate boys’ club after all – but she was still angered by it. She found the uniforms dropped by the car and took the opportunity to walk around the other side of the car and make a fast change into the shirt. The massive 1986 Olds was more than enough shelter from anyone’s gaze, even if any of the Guardians had been looking. She unbraided her hair, using the window to run her fingers through the long, blonde locks to try and put it into some sort of order.
She waited there for Justin to join her. It was several minutes before he did, but he’d apparently taken the time to change as well as yell at Jack. Cecily looked up at him and said, “You ready?”
Justin nodded and said, “The guys are going to stick around here and call if anything drastic happens while we’re inside.”
Cecily smiled and said, “Because infiltrating a fae compound during some kind of war meeting isn’t drastic enough.”
Justin laughed softly and agreed, “Not nearly. Come on, then. This was your idea.”
It was surprisingly easy to walk in, tagging along behind a group of the legitimate workers. It always amazed Cecily, how normal humans didn’t see the Shadowedge when it was all around them, especially in a house of fae. The inky lines adorning all the rich tapestries, art, and furniture were thick enough to momentarily steal her breath. It was more intense than the other times she’d been there; maybe it had to do with the gathering. She’d only really dealt with Others on an individual or small-group basis, never a large amount like that night.
Apparently all humans looked alike to the fae, because even with her hair down, she should’ve been recognizable to a number of them. She had a minor heart attack when they walked right by Gordon, but the fae was obsequiously in conversation with a female fae who had serious jewels dripping all over her body and outfit.
They split off from the group before reaching the kitchen, taking the main hall to Michel’s study by silent accord. Michel wasn’t there when they walked in, but he would show up at some point in the night, that was for sure. The large room was filled with books and his desk was just about a monument to overcompensating, the leather furniture nothing but the best.
Cecily grinned a bit and said, “Well. That was fun. What’s the encore?”
Justin snorted. “I think this will do me for now, thanks.”
The doorknob rolled and before she could even react, Justin grabbed her around the waist with an arm and hauled her into the corner furthest from the desk. He muttered sharp, foreign words as the door opened and Cecily gasped at the unexpected rush of power that slithered through her. Justin kept her pinned to the wall with an arm around her waist and his leg in front of hers. The air around them felt thick, making it hard to breathe but she didn’t utter any complaints. It was a fair guess that Justin had just invoked a shielding spell and it probably didn’t cancel out noise.
“…want you to coordinate with Gordon and make sure that everyone is armed properly. After this afternoon, I don’t want anyone going out alone, either,” Michel said as he led three other fae into the room. He walked behind the desk and sat, gesturing for the other three to take the chairs in front of the desk. “The vampires will look for easy prey, cowards that they are. And…”
Cecily stiffened as Michel’s gaze unerringly locked onto them, but held her breath and her tongue.
Michel stood and walked back around the desk. “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t reveal yourself right now, I assure you the results will be most unpleasant.”
Justin muttered something unflattering under his breath, but then stepped away from Cecily. He stood straight and true as he faced Michel and said, “Evening, Amirault. It looks like our invitation got lost in the mail.”
Michel’s mouth pinched for a second and he said, “So you thought you would fix that on your own, is that right?”
Cecily stepped forward and said, “Actually, it was my idea.”
“Of course it was,” Michel said, shaking his head. “You have no business here, Arbiter. Leave.”
The other three fae stood beside Michel, taking up defensive positions. Cecily didn’t see any weapons, but that didn’t mean they had none. “Look, I just need to ask you a few questions and then we’ll go.”
“I’ve answered your questions.”
“Well, yeah. But not under geis.”
“Educating yourself, are we? How bourgeois of you.”
Cecily ignored the insult. “Tell me if you started all of this fighting with the vampires.”
Michel frowned at her, but only said, “You know I can resist you far longer than you can manage to avoid being ejected.”
“Why are you being such a dick about this?” Cecily exclaimed. “It’s like you want to get blamed for this. Like you want…”
Justin finished her thought. “An excuse to keep fighting.”
Cecily looked right into Michel’s blue-gray eyes and put all her will into the words as she spoke. “Tell me if you started all of this.”
Michel gasped and staggered back against the desk, catching himself on the edge of it. He bared his teeth at her and ground out, “What have you done to yourself, Arbiter?”
The burst of heat deep within warmed instead of burned and she welcomed the surge of her power. Ignoring the question, she continued to stare into his eyes and gave herself over to the power. “Tell me if you started the fight with the vampires.”
“No!” Michel shouted, dropping to his knees. His eyes glinted silver in the overhead light, his true nature reaching through the human façade, maybe in response to her power. “This is that bitch Adrianna’s doing, not mine.”
Cecily shook her head. “She didn’t start this, Michel.”
Michel accepted help from one of the fae to stand and told her, “Yes, she did. She’s been itching to get more power for herself since the start. Accord or no, vampires are power-hungry creatures who abide by no rules but their own.”
“She didn’t, Michel, I questioned her this morning. She thinks you did this.”
Cecily didn’t like the brief flicker of his gaze to his fae.
Justin didn’t either, it seemed, because he stepped in front of her and said, “Don’t even think about it.”
Without warning, the fae jumped at them with swords magically in hand. Justin brought up his broadsword, parrying all three in one go like some superhero. The metallic clash rang unpleasantly through Cecily right to the bone.
Cecily stumbled out of Justin’s way, and shouted, “Michel, stop this!”
Everyone froze in place.
Cecily blinked in surprise at the instant obedience and then realized that it hadn’t been her words. Time had stopped again.
“Oh fer cryin’ out loud,” she muttered, taking a steadying breath. At this rate, her nerves would be shot completely through by morning.
Not knowing how long it would last, Cecily pushed each of the fae fighting with Justin to the floor, wincing when they thudded onto the carpet, their arms still sticking into the air like frozen dolls. She also had fun wrestling Michel back in his seat behind the desk. It was harder to do than she’d thought, his muscles locked into place as they were. She hoped a bit vindictively that he was at least moderately sore later.
Cecily walked back to where she’d been, not wanting to get accidentally skewered by Justin’s very large, very sharp sword. That lasted about two minutes before she got bored. She spent the next ten minutes wandering around the study, looking at the old books and finding an interesting mix of philosophy, spell books, and human history. Most of them were older than a couple of hundred years, which meant he’d been reading about humans for a very long time.
A couple of times, the inky wisps of the Shadowedge lining the shelves reached out to touch her, but she yanked her hand back whenever it happened. Death wasn’t exactly on her approved list of activities for the foreseeable future.
From the bookshelf, she saw Justin’s sword cut the air where the fae had been and heard the thuds of the fae swords hitting the ground. She turned and saw all of them floundering at the strangeness of having been moved in what to them would have been a split second.
Justin exclaimed, “What the hell?”
She hurried back to him and said, “Time stopped again.”
Justin only gaped at her for a second before pulling himself back to the situation at hand.
The three fae were scrambling to their feet and Michel looked bewildered at finding himself sitting down. He met her gaze and demanded, “Did you just say ‘time stopped again?’”
Cecily shrugged. “Your little spat with the vampires isn’t the only thing going on right now.”
Michel made a sharp gesture at his minions and said, “Enough. Leave us.”
They did so, the worst of them looking murderous and the best frowning in confusion.
Leaning back in his chair, Michel said firmly, “This is the last time we will speak, Arbiter. I did not start this war, but you can be sure I will end it.”
She sighed. “Michel, please. This is a needless waste of lives. If neither of you started this, then someone’s playing the both of you.”
“I don’t care who started it. If one more of my fae dies, I will tear the Accord up with my own hands and take out those bloodsucking creatures until none remain.”
The words echoed with finality and she gave Justin a helpless look.
Justin sheathed his sword with a loud click. Looking at Michel, he said, “I’ve brought in additional Guardians, Amirault. Whoever we find fighting, wherever they are and whoever started it, we will be the ones to end it. I will tell you this… you don’t want to take us on. Let’s go, Cecily.”
Cecily allowed him to usher her out of the study. She took a last look at Michel to find him staring after her as though his gaze alone could burn her to cinders. She shivered and shifted closer to Justin, not commenting when he put a protective arm over her shoulders.