Welcome, and thanks for dropping in!! It's pretty chill here...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cover Reveals for my 2 newest books coming....

YES!! During the first part of my social media Hiatus, I have completed not 1 but 2 book covers!! The first for H.U.M.A.N.S 2 Bloodless Black Sheep - AND the second for my newest series, INCENDIARY Taste of Fire Book 1 ... things are coming together... FINALLY! Cover reveals will be posted right here as I get closer to release dates for both books! Unfortunately, I don't currently have set release dates yet for both books, other than to say it will be soon. Damned real life gets in the way often.

Be sure to check back and be one of the first to see them! #accomplishments #bookcovers #ebooks #creativeflow #makingprogress #iamwriting #lifeofanauthor

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Social Media Hiatus...

Actually, I was hoping they could at least start or edit themselves BUT alas they do not.....

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Me: I don't know if its more nerdy or pathetic looking forward to the "word of the day" from my dictionary app and getting excited about ways I can use the new word in a sentence...

Me answering self: Definitely both...🤓😒

But I'd much rather be a known nerd than a known dumbass #readabook #writeabook #vocabularyiscool #nerdsrule #literacyissexy 

Monday, March 26, 2018

INCENDIARY: Taste of Fire- First peek is HERE!!!

A 3 chapter excerpt of my newest work. It is still considered a rough draft, but I do hope that you all enjoy this excerpt that took me forever to finally share!! Please be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments. This will help me out a great deal in finishing the first book!

Susan Reid

Nerios Island, Tranquil:

The sun was high as the mid-day tide rolled towards the shore and crashed in a bubbly froth and spray of cool moisture. The water was clean and crystalline. The light of the brilliant sun star created sparkling ripples that resembled strewn diamonds across the surface. This land was new when his ancestors and family first arrived and settled here a long time ago. He was schooled on all the tales and history many times over. Having been born here, this island was home and all that he’s known.
Their kingdom was surrounded entirely by water for the purposes of protection and enhancing their natural affinities and powers. His mother explained their lineage to him once he was old enough to communicate although he was not yet quite able to understand what it meant completely. What he knew was that his entire family was venerated by brethren of other races and revered widely as the ruling peacekeepers of the water bearing regions.
As a toddler, his favorite thing was to be outdoors, gazing up endlessly into the vast and infinite skies, and marveling at all the Dragons gliding in arcing, circular, and serpentine formations. Their white, gray, and blue scales glimmered like armor plates against the light of the sun star. They were so magnificent and exciting to watch. He couldn’t wait to find out what his Dragon form would look like when he was able to morph and take flight too. No one, as he understood it, ever did until on or after their 18th birthday.
 Once he got a little older and was used to seeing all the elder Dragons and soldiers doing their duties, all he truly cared about was adventuring over the element dense landscape with all its natural and hidden wonders. There was always something new to discover each time he managed to stealthily elude the magnifying eyes of his bodyguards to go exploring. Building things and creating magic tricks was exciting, but then it began to become lonesome with no one to share in the discoveries or to show his creations and skills to. Neither of his two older brothers shared his interests because they were more interested in studies, fighting, and the females. His bodyguards, trainers, and stewards couldn’t care less about what he was doing if he wasn’t hurt, and his parents were always preoccupied with other important matters.
He didn’t really care to hang around his brothers much anyway because they often teased him, especially the eldest, Dayvid. At sixteen, Dayvid was six years older than he was and a often cruel to him when his parents weren’t looking. He would constantly tell him things like; he had been crapped out of the sky by a wandering archaic homeless Dragon; found naked and dirty and floating in a box on the sea; or that he was regurgitated from the pit of a dormant volcano because the earth Dragons didn’t want him.
While all the members of his family possessed fine ash blonde hair and turquoise blue eyes, he was the only one with slightly curly midnight black hair and mismatch-colored eyes. His left eye was a bright cobalt and his right eye was a metallic silver. Had he been adopted? Was it a genetic defect? He often wondered about that many times but his parents and extended family all assured him that he wasn’t. To their jubilance, he had inherited a unique chimeric trait that had not been seen in their generations for a long time, and they wanted to ensure and preserve his bloodline by attempting to find the perfect, compatible match for his mate.
 His loneliness soon became short-lived once she arrived on the island along with her family. Their origins were unknown to him, coming from a far off land that he had never heard of and that intrigued him. She never had a chance to warm up to any of the other children here because she was schooled at home and alongside her parents when they were working. It only made him more determined to get to know and break her from her shell of isolation whenever he saw her doing chores in her yard.
It was evident that she and her parents were different and not of the same lineage as everyone else on the island. Perhaps that was why the people in town either avoided or gossiped about them frequently. Though their ignorance upset him, it also fueled his own desire to befriend her.
Once her parents began to work for his parents, he was able to see her nearly every day and he quickly became enamored with her beauty, her quiet yet kind nature, and her spunky curiosity. They were poor yet brave refugees, his father explained to him. He told him what being a refugee meant and reminded him of what their duties as the ruling Dragon race of this kingdom entailed.
At first, he assumed that she was shy or maybe just afraid of associating with him because of his status and being monitored by his armed bodyguards, who were always never far behind him. But after about a month of simply saying hello to her every day with a smile and sharing lunches and sweet treats with her whenever he could, he had finally succeeded in winning her trust.
Both he and she connected in a way that he had never been able to connect with anyone outside of his family, even with his own brothers. He often thought of her as his girlfriend, especially when he held her hand . . . in a friendship meaning way, to help her across a stream or to climb.
His questions about her roots and family lineage was met with sincere naivete. She didn’t know, which was strange, but he didn’t care. They had quickly become inseparable, though mostly in secret. It wasn’t long before she quickly became his favorite playmate . . . and not long after, his unexpected crush.
He often wondered if she felt the same way about him because he really liked her. Maybe one day he would marry her if they stayed friends when they were older. That would make his parents furious because of tradition and their plans for being the ones to find and approve his mate. He imagined the chaotic scene and the expressions of horror on the faces of his family when he suddenly introduced her as his wife.
That brought a satisfactory smile to his lips. He instantly thought of her while meticulously working at perfecting the ninety-degree angle of the beginning base of a grand sand fort. Whatever this creation would become, he hoped it held up long enough for her to see. It had been over a week since his best friend and he last hung out together and it depressed him.
Suddenly, feeling as if he were no longer alone, the boy stood up and turned to face the sound of rapid thumping approaching his location. Still holding a fistful of sand, he grinned from ear to ear seeing her long, dark, locks flying wildly in the wind behind her as she ran at full speed towards him.
“There you are! I finally found you!” She called out to him while waving her arms in a cheerful greeting.
He beamed excitedly, “Hey!” He waved back as his heart automatically started to beat faster. Seeing her always gave him a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach.
She was ecstatic, loving the feel of the wind on her skin and the warmth of the sun bathing her face. Even more so, to see and play with her super cute best friend in one of their most favorite hidden coves along the shore of the ocean.
The pressing thick weight of a mysterious heat arrived just before she did, and it seemed to be emanating from her. Holy Gods! Standing in front of her was like standing in front of a kiln! He thought in comparison and it puzzled him while he gave her a once over. She seemed fine. Was that heat coming from her? Her skin didn’t look flushed or red. It appeared to be the normal and flawless honey color he was used to seeing.
The sand was unnaturally soft here but easily pliable when mixed with water, so they could easily build sturdy bases for their structures. She immediately kicked off her sandals and dug her bare feet deep beneath the sand. She wriggled and spread her toes, feeling the fine granules sliding in between each of them. She wasn’t afraid of insects or getting herself dirty, even in a dress, and he loved that about her.
He contemplated giving her a hug, wanting to badly but wondering how she would take it and how her skin would feel to his touch.
“You’re all better.” He commented with concern instead.
“Better?” Doe-eyed, her brows knitted together in sincere confusion when she looked at him. She was so cute when she did that. He thought to himself.
He couldn’t help but stare at her now though. Something else was very different aside from the heat surrounding her. Her eyes.
It was her eyes. They were no longer a copper orange anymore. Now, they were like dark red rubies and that captivated him. Why had they changed colors like that? Not that it would be unusual or bad because his own eyes were two distinct colors.
“Yeah, your mom said you were sick.” He reminded her.
She didn’t answer right away, appearing to be thinking at first, “Oh, yeah. I was sick.” She replied carefully as if her answer had been rehearsed.
He gave her a questioning look while fully releasing the sand that had begun to slowly sift through his fingers. Clapping and rubbing his hands together to shake off the residual granules he then asked, “What did you have?”
 “Um — I’m not sure. It was just a bug.” She shrugged. Her uninterested response made it clear that she wasn’t going into detail past that.
He looked her over for any marks, scars or bandages but saw none.
“Were you throwing up?”
She shook her head, “No.”
“Sleeping a lot?”
Again, she shook her head no.
“Did you break out in bumps or spots?”
She giggled, “No spots.”
“Then what was wrong with you?” He honestly wanted to know, concerned that her obvious physical changes and the weird heat coming from her had something to do with her illness.
The girl shrugged again, “I was just hot.”  She brushed away a wisp of hair from across her eyes. Her eyes were almost holographic in the light of the sun and he was mesmerized.
So that explains the wave of heat surrounding her, he supposed. He licked his lips, still confused and not quite sure why that vague answer bothered him so much. By nature, he was very observant with an acute attention to details, and he was extremely inquisitive more so than any other normal boy of ten should be. He had always been told that by his elders.
Accepting her explanation, he nodded, “Oh, so you had a fever. Well, at least you’re feeling better again. You look different though.” He then noted, studying her sweet face and her way too thin body.
She peered over at him, loving the adorable way his wavy bangs cascaded messily over his pretty silver eye. His family all had blonde hair except for him. What made him stand apart from his brothers is what made her like him so much, plus he was the cutest of all of them too. She trusted him because he was kind and funny. He understood and accepted her as she was regardless of what everyone else thought, and he always defended and stuck up for her.
She wished she shared the same status and lineage as his or like the other females that attended his school. At least then she would have more of a chance of having him as a boyfriend one day and their relationship would be blessed and accepted.
She squinted, wondering why he was so persistent instead of just wanting to play. “Different? You’re being weird.” She chuckled with a shake of her head and then plopped down beside him. She began to scoop some sand into a pile in front of her.
“I was just worried about you, that’s all.” He wanted her to know and he couldn’t help but blush when he said it.
She smiled at him and cocked her head to the side. “I thought you’d be mad at me for not coming.”
“Well, at first I thought I made you angry or something. No one told me anything about you when I asked.” He explained.
She didn’t think anyone would. Her mother and her father were both stern about keeping her ailment a secret.
“My mom wouldn’t let me leave the house.” Her petal soft pink lower lip stuck out in a pout.
“That’s understandable if you were sick. She wanted to make sure you were better first.” He explained.
She didn’t reply or even nod in agreement, occupied with staring down at the sand as if she were thinking of something. He watched as she lazily drew circles in it with her big toe during the momentary silence.
Suddenly, her voice was soft and wistful when her eyes returned to meet his, “You’ll always be my best friend because you make me happy.” She beamed.
Then, she paused with a slight frown. The shimmer of excitement in her new red eyes temporarily waned when she looked directly into his and said, “But you would make me really sad if you found a new best friend and forgot all about me.”
He shook his head with conviction, “I would never forget you. Don’t worry about that . . . especially now.” He smiled with assurance and blushed once again.
His reply returned the sparkle in her eyes and her smile radiated even more brighter this time. He was glad to see it.
“Now? Why now?” She cocked her head and inquired with wonder.
He scratched his cheek and laughed a bit, “Nothing,” he shook his head.
He kneeled back down beside her, continuing to study her features and wondering exactly what else about her had changed and made her seem even more strange to him. When she pushed a stray hair behind her ear, he caught a glimpse of the dark birthmark behind her earlobe near her hairline. It resembled the shape of a candle flame and the blue-violet mark was more pronounced now than it had been before.
Seeing she was no longer interested in talking about her illness, the boy began to watch her work to scoop, pat smooth, and form the sand into a rising mound. As her delicate hands slid down the sides of the growing conical shape, the surface instantly became sleek, turning into solid glass in their wake.
He gaped, eyes bugging in amazement. Had she learned that trick from her father, the court Alchemist? That was so cool! He wished he could sit with them and learn magic like that too. It was a lot better than the magic he was accustomed to seeing and being taught to do.
“Whoa! How do you do that?” He asked excitedly as he leaned over and ran a finger over the slick surface of what used to be plain light brown sand. It was still hot to the touch and he immediately drew his hand away. Why was it still so hot? He wondered in fascination. His fingers became wet and cool and he quickly wiped them dry on the side of his pant leg, but it was no use. They’d stay wet for a few minutes longer until his skin had completely cooled.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged, not in the least impressed with or excited about her own unique talent. He didn’t know much on alchemy, but he did know that it took an extremely intense amount of heat and pressure to turn sand into glass, especially that fast.
“Did your father teach you? Turning sand into glass?” He asked in excitement.
She shook her head no, wispy bangs swishing wildly back and forth across her forehead, “It’s not a trick.”
He was confused and disappointed by her secrecy, figuring that she’d tell him anything as his best friend, but he didn’t press it. He absently wiped his wet hand against his pant leg again.
“Did you get the flowers I brought you?” He decided to ask shyly.
She looked over at him and smiled, “Yes, Thank you! They were so pretty!”
He grinned big, proud of himself. “You’re welcome.”
She was severely contagious, and her parents would not let him inside their house when he brought her the flowers he had picked.
As far as she knew, the truth was that she hadn’t been sick at all. Her entire body suddenly ignited with heat and she became a walking furnace, hotter than the blazing coals in their firepit. There were some moments when she became dizzy and nauseous because of the sudden changes, but it wasn’t anything that she couldn’t stand.
Regardless, her mother wouldn’t let her leave the house even though she felt perfectly fine. She was dead-set against her hanging out with her best friend, but she never told her why. It made her mad that she never told her a lot of things, like why they had to leave their homeland and cozy house to come here in the first place. She hated it here at first but when she met the boy, that all changed for her. He was so cute, and he made her laugh. She never understood why his parents seemed so nice at first, and then they seemed like they didn’t want him to play with her at all.
His oldest brother was mean to her and she didn’t like him. He often made fun of and teased her, purposefully hurting her feelings in front of the other little girls in the town so they would hate her too. Then they would all laugh at her, some trying to pick physical fights with her because they said she had no business playing with her best friend.
 However, when no one else was around the eldest brother’s treatment of her would change drastically. He would watch her in a way that made her very uncomfortable. He tried to touch her on a few occasions, and once even convinced her to climb the ladder to what he called, his secret treehouse, while he held it steady when she was wearing a dress. He had gotten so angry when Maxwell showed up unexpectedly and wanted to play too. She didn’t understand why he didn’t want his own brother to play with them, too. Using her own limited instincts, she took the opportunity to flee while they fought. To her, Dayvid couldn’t be related to her best friend. He was far too creepy and mean.
She never said anything to anyone about it, not even her best friend because she didn’t want him to hate his own brother. Her mother already knew without her having to tell her anything. After that incident, her mother watched him with a fiery gaze that could instill fear in anyone, making sure that she no longer wore dresses and skirts, and that she was never left alone with him.
Her family worked for her his family and the difference in their statuses was always reminded of both her and the boy whenever his older brothers and stewards caught him playing with her. It was why they had to play in secret, choosing to steal away on this side of the island for privacy. They always chose a different play spot to keep his spying brothers and bodyguards confused and guessing.
“Hey, come on. I found this great place with many colorful rocks we can use for our castle.” He suddenly piped up with excitement.
At the mention of colorful rocks, she suddenly remembered the gift she made for him in the pocket of her overalls. “Oh, wait! Here, I made something for you.” She said as she fished it out of her skirt pocket and held it up between her thumb and forefinger out towards him.
It sparkled. About the size of a small walnut, the jagged facets on the face of the stone twinkled with intense clarity. The bluish tint inside caught the sun and cast brilliant winking prisms of light dancing across his face. The longer he studied it the more he realized the shape could have resembled somewhat of a heart. Then again, maybe it only appeared to be heart-shaped to him out of hope, and that thought made him blush once again.
“Wow, thanks!” His face lit up with genuine awe as she placed it in his hand. It sizzled, immediately causing cool water to well up into his cupped palm and completely immersing the sparkling gemstone. Steam hissed and rose from the tiny pool in his hand as he peered at the gem in admiration. The stone had been hot too? What was going on with her? She absently rubbed her fingers together and fisted both of her small hands. Even she seemed to be perplexed at what was happening to her, but she didn’t know how to explain it or what to say.
“How did you make this?” He wanted to know as he rolled it around in the water. No longer hot, he picked it up and shook the cool water away. He held it up to the sun to admire its raw brilliance.
“From a coal in the fireplace,” She grinned as if it was a secret she just couldn’t wait to share with him.
“I just pressed it in my hands like this,” She demonstrated by bringing her hands together in front of her in a prayer-like pose. “It got real hot inside. And after a few minutes and some smoke the coal turned into a pretty rock,” She opened her hands again as if to say, ‘Voila!
She was so proud of herself and pleased to see that he liked her gift.
What an amazing skill! He wished he could do this kind of magic too. His mother would love something like this, he knew.
“Can I watch you do another one?”
“Only if you show me your magic.” She replied with a challenging smirk.
He wasn’t sure how he made water appear. It just happened. He had no idea how to trigger or control it. Maybe that was the case for her too.
“I don’t really know how to do much, not like your magic, so maybe later. Anyway, let’s go gather some of those fancy rocks.” Thrilled, he closed his fist around the shiny stone and jumped to his feet while grabbing a hold of her small wrist.
“Ow!” He shrieked and swiftly jerked his hand away. A hiss of smoke curled from his fingers upon contact with her skin.
Her flesh was as hot as heated ceramic. Biting his lip to keep from crying in front of her, he cradled his painfully throbbing hand and observed the tender flesh of his palm through watery eyes. It was blistered and red. The mysterious healing water from within his body immediately began to surface and coat his freshly scalded skin with nearly freezing water.
Fearful, she reached for his hand to see what was wrong. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
Was this why her mother didn’t want her to play with him while she was sick?
He backed away from her before she could make contact, “It’s nothing.” He quickly assured not wanting to make her worry or feel bad for hurting him.
Out of his periphery, the space around her warped like ripples in water. His body automatically counteracted, cooling him with cold moisture all over. His dampening clothes began to stick to his skin like papier Mache. He hated that.
In no time, his natural water affinity had both cooled and completely healed the heat blisters that touching her had caused. He was astonished. He hadn’t experienced anything like this with her before in all the times they played together.
“I’m sorry.” She frowned. Her response seemed filled with shame. He wasn’t sure if she understood what just happened or maybe she did. She didn’t need to be sorry about it though.
“For what? I told you, it’s nothing.” He laughed off, “See?” He held his wet hand up to prove it. Her expression went from uncertain shame, to relief, and then inquisitiveness. “How come you sweat so much?”
“It’s not sweat.” He defended, wiping his hands against his damp shirt.
“It’s not?” She was confused. She had always thought he sweat so much more than she did because he was a boy.
“Why do you feel like fire? Do you still have a fever?” He asked her in return.
She pouted as she placed a hand over her own forehead, “I feel fine.” She took a step towards him with her palm out, “Feel.”
He hopped to the side away from her, nearly tripping over his own feet and shook his head, careful not to allow her to touch or graze him, “I — I believe you.” He stammered with a nervous chuckle.
She frowned again, hurt by his sudden avoidance of her. He felt bad knowing that she and her family often got the same reaction and hateful looks from the other townspeople sometimes.
Right now, he wanted nothing more than to hug and maybe kiss her on the cheek to comfort her if she’d let him. Maybe the strange heat coming from her was just a temporary thing. They both stood silent for the next few seconds, unsure if they should still play together or not.
Possessing a natural and harmonious affinity to water, everyone in his family had the ability to both produce and draw it from themselves or other living sources.
‘We are beings unlike those of man and this world. Water gives and sustains life, which is why we rule with responsibility. You and your brothers will continue to rule long after I am gone because we are the defenders of diplomacy and of the weak.’ Was something that his father, the King, reminded him of daily as part of his schooling.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make it seem like you have germs or something. Even if you did, I don’t care if I catch them from you.” He wanted her to know and he meant it even though it sounded weird.
She slowly smiled, her red eyes sparkling like rubies and this time . . . she blushed.
After another brief awkward silence, he cleared his throat. “Uh- well, come on, let me show you where the rocks are.” He waved her on this time.
“Okay!” She chirped with excitement.
He loved seeing her happy.
“JAIDE!” a female voice abruptly called out from a distance and it made them both jump. It sounded like her mother.
Her attention snapped to the direction that she had initially come from. The boy’s heart hammered, prepared to stand with and stick up for her in case she got in trouble for playing with him. He didn’t understand why she would though. Her parents were nicer and more accepting about their friendship. They didn’t seem to have a problem with the two of them playing together as much as his parents did.
 “Jaide! Where are you?” She called out again, the sound of her voice getting closer.
“You didn’t run away from your mom again, did you?” He asked her.
Her crooked smile was sheepish. Though she was quiet and shy, she had a rebellious nature that he admired. That never worked for him though. His sass and opposition always got him grounded or made to do extra difficult exercises during trainings.
“I don’t want you to get into trouble.” His plea was serious.
She giggled, “I won’t. Don’t worry.”
“Are you sure?” He worried for her sometimes.
She nodded an affirmative and he finally accepted her assurance with a smile.
Glancing in the direction of her mother’s voice while she quickly slipped on her sandals Then, she turned back to face him, “I don’t want her to know our spot. You’ll have to show me the rocks next time.” She whispered as she turned to run off in the opposite direction she had come.
“Wait, Jaide . . .” The boy impulsively whispered.
She stopped and turned to face him. This time, he didn’t care if she blistered his skin again.
He carefully leaned down to kiss her molten hot cheek and drew away just before the searing heat of her petal soft skin began to blister the tender flesh of his lips.
“Thank you for the gift.” He told her as he carefully and gently flipped an unruly tendril away from her face. He gripped the precious gemstone in his hand to show her that he would never lose it.
The image of her beautiful smile and the ecstatic glow in her eyes after his lips barely brushed her cheek would be forever emblazoned in his memory.
Neither the boy nor the girl realized that next time would never come for them.

Chapter 1:
Present day, 16 years later:

The SUV slowed to a crawl and eased alongside the curb on the other side of the street across from a club. It was still dark at pre-dawn, about a quarter till six a.m. and in this district, everything was dedicated to the night life so there was hardly any foot traffic.
Both traffic and flashing neon lights were still active, lighting up enough of the front doors to offer them a lit glimpse of it every few seconds. They were made of sleek black glass with sparkling glow-in-the-dark trim surrounding the entrance. Pretty sheik for nothing more than a rave warehouse. Nothing looked out of place, but he did catch sight of a something small and white stuck to the front of the door.
“This it?” The passenger inquired, shifting in his seat to lean forward and give the venue a once over.
“It’s the address I was given.” The driver replied while checking his cell phone again to be sure.
The passenger nodded. “It looks new. Is there a reason they chose this place? Do they own the club?”
“How would I know? Probably. Stop asking so many questions and just get the damned case.” The driver snipped in reply with a huff of exasperation as he killed the engine, opened the door, and stepped out.
Donning expensive business suits for cover, both men casually crossed the street. Hidden in a small circular alcove beneath the awning, the front doors were tucked in shadow several steps from the sidewalk. The passenger took off his sunglasses to read the sign:
 DELIVERIES GO AROUND TO THE ALLEY ENTRANCE’ was neatly printed in the center of a white sheet of paper.
“It’s says to go to the alleyway.” He told the driver.
“The alleyway? We didn’t agree on anything like that and we aren’t making any damned deliveries either.” Agitated, the driver pulled out his cell phone to review the last call he received on his phone. The number came up as private on his display earlier, but he took the chance anyway and punched in the code sequence to call back the last number.
“What?” The voice on the other end was snappish.
“I’m here at the agreed time. Is anyone here or what?” He replied with impatience.
“Motha’ fucka,’ did you read the damned sign? Take yo’ dumb illiterate ass to the back! Shit!” She shouted tersely and clicked off to end the call before he could say anything else.
He immediately grew livid over the brief insulting reprimand. No female had ever disrespected and talked to him like that! Wait until he saw her face to face.
 His partner, who couldn’t help but overhear the girl even though the phone was not on speaker, chuckled out loud.
With clenched teeth, the driver released a pissed exhale through his nose, “You think that shit was funny?”
“Very.” The passenger nodded.
“Good, then you get to go in first. I may need a shield. You got your piece locked and loaded?” The passenger pursed his lips in annoyance with a firm pat to show that he was indeed armed.
Their choice of weapons was an alternative on the slim chance that these underground dealers were human. They themselves would be able to defend easily against any other supernatural threat. However, the last thing they needed was any attention drawn to their choice of ‘business dealings’ from the SIU, let alone the human police.
  Both the stocky and the lean businessmen made their way around the side of the club towards the alleyway. After a moment of hesitation, they cautiously proceeded onward to the plain square metal door next to a set of four dumpsters.
No potent smell of days old neglected trash was odd, but they were grateful. However, it was almost pitch black back here and it made him realize just why they told them to go around back.
As if triggered by motion once they stood in front of it, the door slowly began to open almost ominously on its own. Had they been watched? Were they being watched now?
Taking the time to look above and towards both ends of the alleyway in hopes of seeing a camera somewhere but finding none, the driver finally focused his attention inside the doorway. It was super dark inside the club, but they could still make out some shapes and the start of a clear walkway leading into the darkness.
“Foo, come on in here and hurry up!” a random female voice demanded from out of nowhere and it startled them both. The voice was amplified as if she were talking into a microphone or PA system. It sounded like the same girl that had answered the phone a moment ago.
With the briefcase tucked securely under one arm, the passenger placed his free hand on his gun and slowly entered first, attempting to adjust his vision before venturing further. The driver was right behind him with a hand also ready on his gun.
“Why is it so fucking dark in here?” the driver snapped.
“Keep walkin’ forward. I’ll tell you when to stop.” The female ordered.
They were being watched. Both men grew even more wary about the unusual situation, remembering plenty of horror stories that ended up badly for the trusting victims who knew better. Their paranoia was confirmed when the door slammed shut and startled them both.
“You think this is a sting?” The passenger whispered to the driver.
“I wouldn’t rule out anything. Pay attention to any moving shadows.” The driver replied.
If it was a set-up, they were prepared. They were armed if needed, and were more than ready to fight to the death otherwise.
“Hey! Let’s see some faces here!” The driver called out into the darkness of the club.
“You will. Keep moving.” The response was curt.
Sweating, and after a brief hesitation, he urged the passenger on. “Keep your hand on the handle.” He whispered as they continued to walk forward a few more feet.
The disconnected voice spoke again. “Set the case down and slide it forward.”
“No way, I better see someone with the item I’m buying first. The money is all here, you can count it first if you turn on some fucking lights!” The driver demanded impatiently.
The loud pop of a spotlight suddenly illuminated a conical beam over a shiny onyx floor. In the center of the spotlight sat a twelve-inch high statue of a bearded Dragon curled in a figure eight around a sword. Aqua blue gemstones completely encrusted the scales of the Dragon and two emeralds were inset for its eyes.
 Both of their eyes bulged, gleaming with fascination and greed.
The statuette was indeed even more glorious in person. The photos did it no justice, but was it real? Even if it weren’t, the entire statue was completely encrusted in what appeared to be very real precious sparkling jewels. It was clearly worth far more than their asking price. This led the driver to believe that it must have obviously been stolen, which didn’t matter to them so long as it was genuine.
This mysterious charade had gone on for long enough and it was pissing the driver off. This piece would do them no good if they got killed in the process of obtaining it.
“We’ll need to examine it first. The money is all there, fifty-grand. We can make the exchange at the same time . . . pending its authenticity.” The driver propositioned cautiously while scoping out any movement beyond the darkness. A sudden plan of divergence to the original deal began to weave its way to the forefront of his confident criminal mind.
“Authenticity? Are you questioning my sources?” A different, more softer tone admonished into the PA.
“You’re shittin’ me, right?” He snapped back with an inconspicuous nod towards the passenger.
There was more than one female here. Actually, there was more than five in all,  and for all they knew, they probably had specialized weapons trained on them, ready to kill at her command. Though hidden, the slightest of movements, scents, and heat signatures could be detected by the two men and it made them edgy. They were currently at a severe disadvantage. Their guns would be useless tools after all. He wiped his forehead and casually slipped out of his suit jacket as to not make it seem purposeful. Removing any or all valued clothing was customary practice when one was about to morph.
The slow but steady and sharp clicking of high heels against the onyx floor began to approach them. Whirling to face the direction of the footsteps, they were met with a massively powerful and scorching force. It obliterated them both with precision on impact before either one could even register what it had been.
Underneath the conical light, the fireball quickly dissipated into nothing more than a wink, along with the briefcase filled with counterfeit bills. The statuette managed to withstand the intense heat of the fire, fully protected by the encrusted diamonds. It shimmered and sparkled amid the growing pile of raining bits of clothing and ashes.
“How did you know for sure?” the first girl asked their leader.
She kicked at a warped and melted chunk of smoking black metal that used to be a gun buried beneath the ashes with the toe of her boot. “They were willing to buy what they knew was probably stolen, and a little too prepared for some kind of a fight.”
They all immediately agreed with her sentiment and accurate assessment.
Standing at the head of the semi-circle that now surrounded the statuette and growing mound of disintegrated flesh she said, “Ladies, this is definitely going to require an industrial-sized vacuum cleaner.”

Chapter 2:

The cutesy chime of the bell over the barred glass door resonated throughout the quaint jewelry store. It was loud enough to gain attention but not enough to startle. The store had just opened twenty minutes ago, but she didn’t expect for anyone to show up this early on a weekday. Working carefully on perfecting the personalized engravings inside the engagement ring diamond, she didn’t even bother to look up to greet the unknown customer. Judging by the scents that immediately overwhelmed her, she was already certain of two things.
He was male . . .  and he wasn’t human.
His hesitation in the doorway was enough to garner her attention and she flicked her eyes up to assess the new customer. He was young, maybe a little older than her twenty four years, typical clean-cut, blonde-haired, blue-eyed— and all Dragon. A water Dragon.
The store alarm was modified to specifically identify supernatural beings. His entry triggered it and he was keenly aware of its electronic scan. Her eyes traveled down to the bulge and shape of a firearm beneath his blazer, and the ‘special’ police badge on his hip as he scoped the boutique with curiosity and admiration.
With already two strikes against him as part of the police force and a water Dragon, she couldn’t care less if he was an actual paying customer. The sooner he got the hell out of her store the better.
 “Good morning.” His acknowledgment was pleasant, and he flashed a non-hostile smile in her direction as he approached the display counter. She remained perched on a stool behind the counter, her workspace draped in soft cloth with her work tools scattered on both sides of her main piece. Keeping mindful of his every move, she didn’t bother to remove the magnifying lenses or her goggles when she glanced up at him.
“You’ve got some really unique pieces in here. This is a very nice establishment.” He complimented with a nod. It was obvious he already knew the she was a of the Dragon species too, which was probably why he was checking her out, attempting to search for a name tag, and trying to focus past her lenses and goggles.
“Are you the owner?” He then inquired.
“Is there something you need help with?” Her answer was less than courteous and laced with impatience.
He was clearly taken aback by her lack of customer service skills.
“I’m Detective Adrian Lorza, head of the SIU here in the city. You are?” He held his hand out for her to shake.
“The owner.” She flatly replied, refusing his friendly gesture.
He slowly withdrew his hand, wondering if she were telling the truth or trying to give him a hard-time on purpose because of who he was or why she thought he was here.
When she failed to attach a name to her response, he smiled and pressed his lips. “I see.”
She was cute but full of shit, cocky, and lacking manners. She was way too young to own a high-end jewelry store like this. If anything, she was probably the owner’s daughter or grand-daughter. Her millennial attitude was irritating, but he maintained his cool so that he could successfully establish some sort of rapport with this new Dragon run business.
 “How long have you guys been at this location?” He then inquired.
“If you’re not here to buy anything, I really need to concentrate and finish this. I don’t have time for small talk or twenty useless questions.” She pointed down at the princess cut pink diamond set in a vise clamp with the tip of her engraving laser pen. She had completely ignored his question.
Stunned by her rudeness, he gave her a once-over. Her long, thick dark hair with subtle red highlights was neatly pulled back into a pony tail, and she was petite from what he could see. She had delicate soft hands and full naturally pink lips with a light glaze of gloss. She wasn’t wearing much make-up, but she had an amazingly smooth and even-toned honey complexion.
The goggles and lighted magnifying lenses clipped to the front of them made her eyes appear distorted and huge, like they would appear behind thick bifocals or like an anime character. It was hard to tell what they truly looked like. At this rate, it didn’t seem like she was going to be polite and remove them at all either.
When he didn’t specify his reason for stopping by, she continued working as if he weren’t even there. He studied the pieces that she handled with great care. A hand-carved infinity symbol had been perfectly etched onto the face of the diamond. He watched in awe as she carefully squeezed a tiny drop of epoxy onto that piece and then gently aligned and placed the top portion of the polished pink diamond back onto the main piece with fine point tweezers. The final creation was a charming and meaningful engagement ring. It bore an infinity symbol with two sets of perfect cursive initials inside each of the ovals, and it appeared to be floating inside the diamond.
He figured this was a task more than likely done by a laser machine or something, so he was fascinated and beyond impressed by her technique and crafting precision. Young or not, her hands were amazingly steady and gentle, and she was skilled. It was a huge tinted diamond, and he estimated the stone to be at the very least, possibly four to five carats. Way out of his salary range, that was for sure.
“The reason I stopped by is because there’s been some unsavory criminal activity a few blocks over unrelated to humans if you get my drift.” He suddenly spoke.
She paused and then slowly looked up at him, waiting for him to go on. That seemed to get her attention. He reached into the pocket of his blazer and pulled out a few cards. One being his business card and the others being passes for the grand opening of a Museum dedicated to the supernatural, which was owned by one of his cousins. It was a statement of their known presence in the city among adoring humans.
He thumbed back towards the door. “That’s a very sophisticated alarm system you have there. Who’s the manufacturer?” He queried next.
“It isn’t an alarm,” She stated without looking at him, “It’s my own personal database.”
He gaped. “Personal database? What kind of information are you collecting?” He demanded to know.
“You might have missed it when I said, personal.” She casually reiterated.
No respect for his authority or being an elder, not that he was that much older than she appeared to be.
 Taking a deep mental breath, he veered towards another approach. “It sounds impressive. Mind if I have a look at your set up?”
She met the intensity of his gaze with an offended glower. “Not unless you have a warrant.”
“I could get one if I need to.” He challenged.
She sighed and straightened in her seat, clearly more agitated than afraid of his threat.
“Then you’d better get one . . .  and good luck with it.” Her reply sounded imperious.
Was that an underlying threat? He frowned and studied her indecisively. Remain proactive and calm, Adrian, he coached himself. She’d better be thankful he was opting to disregard it and not cite or arrest her on the spot for it. Perhaps he needed to remind her of that. Surely, she couldn’t be that naive.
Though neither one of them raised their voices the entire time, the direction of this conversation was going to gradually get there real soon at this rate. As a law enforcement official, he had to maintain his composure and set the example though.
Without even knowing her, he could already tell she was going to be a major pain in his ass. She managed to irk him, and her low-brow threat was logged into his own mental database. He grunted in annoyance. He didn’t come in here to make enemies, not initially anyway. Unless she was bullshitting him, he would eventually gain permission to check out this so-called, ‘database’ she referenced. For now, he decided to keep the peace and maintain a friendly and non-intimidating back and forth.
He remembered the promise that he made to his cousin earlier in the week. That he would spread the word and give a few tickets out before Friday. Sweet. A peace offering.
 “Given the value of all the merchandise you have here, you can never be too careful, so here’s my card,” He set his business card down on the counter in front of her first, “Have the owner give me a call if you guys ever run into any kind of trouble.”
She scowled at him, barely peering down at his formal official title on the card.
“I appreciate the concern, but I won’t ever need to call you guys.” She calmly assured him with confidence.
Not only blatantly disrespectful but bold, however, her response was interesting. He noted how slyly she insisted once again that she was indeed the owner of this boutique.
Remaining professional, he smiled, “You never know. In addition, here are two free VIP tickets to the grand opening of a new museum this Saturday. It isn’t far from here, directions are on the back.” He explained as he placed the printed tickets next to his business card.
“What kind of museum?” She asked to indifferently, not even bothering to look at them.
“Run of the mill beings, you know, like us.” He smiled down at her flirtatiously.
She stared up at him through the goggles for several seconds before finally setting her tools down, licking her luscious lips with a sigh, and then carefully removing the magnifying lens and goggles.
Once they were removed he straightened his posture and his breath caught. She was stunningly gorgeous, and he was mesmerized by her intense ruby red eyes fringed underneath long, thick ebony lashes.
Caution immediately gripped him the longer he gazed into her alluring eyes.
Oh shit. She’s a full-fledged fire Dragon. A fucking Incendiary? How the hell could he have not picked up on that immediately when he first walked in while she was able to sense him? Incendiaries were wild, unpredictable, and extremely deadly by their very nature.
In short, they are considered to be quick-tempered and crazy.
Her bold threat and statement of not needing the police for any assistance made perfect sense now. They didn’t.
Remembering the death and destruction that only one had inflicted on their island hometown sixteen years ago verified that fact. From what he’s heard and studied, the fire of an Incendiary was excruciating, target specific, and swift. Once you were a target, you were as good as dead and there was no escaping your fate. Incendiaries can ignite heat and fires both from the outside and within and are very difficult to douse if at all. They have a notorious reputation and history of being paid assassins, because they could efficiently kill from afar without leaving any trace evidence or bodies.
His instincts made him very uneasy and worried that fire Dragons have set up shop and put roots down here. It spoke volumes. This was a big city with a huge population of all sorts of supernatural beings and mainly water and earth Dragons. All supernatural beings either visiting or living here permanently were required to register their lineage and identity with the city and the police department.
As far as he knew, there was no record of any fire Dragons since he’s been a part of the Supernatural Investigation Unit. It was a good thing he did finally stop by to take inventory today. He’d have to do some fast research of the owners if that pulled up anything. Then, he’ll need to inform everyone in the SIU unit as well as Maxwell and the others to be aware and on their guard.
“There are a handful of desperate Pixie prostitutes on the other side of town that would love the business if they were invited.” She flat out declined.
Ouch. Hot or not, she certainly was a contemptuous bitch. Maintaining his stance and air of authority, he leaned onto the glass display case as if divulging a juicy tidbit to her, careful not to disturb any of her work tools. “You know, simply just telling me to shove them up my ass would’ve been more direct and a lot less offensive.” Adrian finally returned her bitter sarcasm. To his surprise, his response managed to get a very subtle smile to lift the corner of her mouth.
“Well, maybe some of your customers would be interested then,” He offered, stacking a few more cards on top of the first two. “At any rate, you can never be too careful, so keep us in mind anyway. We should all be looking out for one another always. You have a wonderful day.” He winked with a nod as he turned to head towards the door. He glanced back at her once with a smile as he let himself out. She watched him walk down the sidewalk past the panoramic glass window and out of sight to the right.
Adrian immediately phoned in a favor to get a urgent background business check on the Eye of the Beholder jewelry boutique, and then called Maxwell.
He seemed awfully tense suddenly, she noted. Once he was gone, she reluctantly picked up one of the museum passes and skimmed over it: ‘VALID FOR 1 VIP ENTRY INTO THE MUSEUM OF SUPERNATURAL LEGENDS AND LORE.’
How pointless and tacky, she thought to herself.
The address was followed by the name of the host and owner printed along the bottom of the card. Maxwell Nerios. Nerios? That surname instantly slashed open an old wound that had been overstuffed with both rage and sadness.
She managed to keep those emotions in check for a long time now, but a sudden deluge of memories nearly made her wince out loud at the bitter ache. Out of mechanical reflex, a bright red flash fire popped and incinerated the pass held between her fingers into barely a few flakes of black ash.
Miki soon entered the boutique with coffee and breakfast in hand and Denise followed quickly in her wake, breaking her from her momentary thoughts.
“Hey Boss, sorry. The line was ridiculously long this morning, but I managed to get you the last two of those fruit and walnut Danishes you wanted.” Miki announced as she set the bag and drink tray on the draped display case.
“Morning, Boss. Why was that cop here?” Denise wondered with a nod in the direction he had gone.
When she didn’t answer her, both girls looked at each other with caution. They were unsure of what to make about her current mood past possibly having something to do with an unannounced visit from law enforcement. The stool screeched abruptly as she stood up and the sharp sound made them both jump.
“Is something wrong?” Miki asked with sincerity.
“Meeting tonight at my place. Get the girls together. We need to talk.” She stated. She bypassed the breakfast that she specifically requested and headed towards her office in the back, closing the door firmly behind her.
Miki bit her lip, staring at the shut office door. As a spirit Dragon and empath, she interpreted the closed door as symbolic when it came to their Boss. It was typical with her no matter how hard she tried to establish a deeper connection in the last four years of their friendship. She was so young, and she could feel that her soul craved closeness, but at the same time she rejected it. Her Boss was good at maintaining the space around herself and guarding it well with avid sarcasm and underlying coldness.
“Damn. Didn’t mean to piss her off this early. I was only two minutes late.” Denise whispered as she placed her purse in the under counter storage locker and began to straighten a display stand.
Miki stood with a hand fisted at her hip in thought.
“That wasn’t anger. She’s not mad.” She assured.

INCENDIARY: TASTE OF FIRE: Release date TBA 2018    © 2018 Author Susan Reid