**Visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Deadly Destination tour with Veronica Wolff & enter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of The Keep**
It wouldn’t be summer without the annual Deadly Destinations event! Lee Roland is here to kick off the event with the release of her newest novel Vicious Moon. The third novel in the Earth Witches series will be released on July 2, 2013 from Signet/Penguin books. Today’s Deadly Destination is the Barrows – please follow Nyx as she gives the newest resident of the Barrows a tour.
Enter for a chance to win Vicious Moon! Today’s giveaway is courtesy of Penguin books!
**Vicious Moon is the story of Nyx Ianira, an earth witch and former soldier turned mercenary guard. Nyx goes to Barrows section of Duivel, Missouri to find her missing sister, Marisol. In the Barrows Nyx meets her match in Etienne, a man with a past even more complex than her own. She also finds that it will require all her mercenary and magical skills to survive.
The story below begins some months after the end of Vicious Moon. The Barrows, as always, is drawing in new people, some magical and some not, but all will be required to fit into its strictures, not make it fit theirs.**
I watched the girl climb out of the car. How old was she? Twelve? Younger? She stood staring around, eyes darting quickly from one place to the next. Her thin body, covered with ill-fitted and well-worn clothing, spoke to near starvation, a thing no child should ever face. Hunched shoulders, small hands clenched into fists, she would run at any moment. I’d seen that look before. I’d seen it in the eyes of children in Africa. A deep, gut wrenching fear filled this little girl.
Her driver was at the back of the car, opening the trunk. I didn’t know him, even though he was from my hometown of Twitch Crossing, Georgia. Twitch Crossing sat on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, surrounded by all the good, bad and dangerous things the black water provided. I considered my relatives in that small town to be inbred cretins. This one was no exception. Short, balding, his ugly face had frozen in what was probably a permanent sneer.
He reached in the trunk and jerked out a gym bag. He threw it at the kid—hard. I deflected it with quick twist of magic. What the hell? If he’d hit her it would have knocked her flat on the pavement.
I marched up to him, grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him against the car. He bounced off with a satisfying thump and landed face first on the asphalt.
I glanced at the girl, expecting to see her overcome by terror and running away. She hadn’t. Oh, her face and body still said she was afraid, but I could see fear battling with curiosity. I went to her.
“Sorry, kid. Didn’t mean to startle you. I really didn’t like him.”
She gave me a tiny twitch of a smile. Her eyes met mine for a fraction of a second. “I really didn’t like him either.” Her soft child’s voice could barely be heard above the traffic. “His name is Beau. Someone else was supposed to bring me. He made them let him do it.”
“Ah…did he…hurt you?” If he’d molested that child I was going to take him someplace and bury him.
She gave a slight shake of her head.
The driver struggled to get to his feet. I helped him. Didn’t want him staggering out of the grocery store parking lot into the street. I slammed him down again so he wouldn’t get run over. I nudged him with my foot. “Okay, you delivered your package. Go back to the Crossing and crawl in your hole.”
I grabbed the girl’s bag. “I’m Nyx,” I said. “Nyx Ianira. You’re Celia. You were supposed to meet my sister Marisol. Right?”
A little nod, but this time she met my eyes.
“She couldn’t make it, but I’ll take care of you. Let’s go. I’ll give you a tour of your new home. How’s that?”
Ah, that brought me a faint smile. My sister Marisol had agreed to take the child at the behest of the girl’s mother. The girl came from a very crooked branch of the Dutere family, one of the six families of witches that had founded Twitch Crossing a couple of hundred years ago. Low on the power structure of the Earth Witches, this rotten twig eked out a poor living in the swamp. Celia’s mother was ill and feared for her daughter. No witch was invulnerable.
We climbed in the SUV I had borrowed and I started the engine. “Hey. I didn’t scare you too bad back there, did I? I swear I’m a gentle soul most of the time.”
Celia giggled. “Devil gonna get you for telling lies.”
Whoa! More to this little thing than she let on. She was still frightened, but working past it. Good. A hard life hadn’t sapped all her strength.
“Well, Celia, the first thing we do is feed you, little witch.”
“You think I’m a witch.” I heard the hope in her voice. “Most of us Dutere in the swamp don’t have much power. Some don’t have any.”
“I don’t know, but Marisol will find out. She’d better at that than I am.”
I took her into a restaurant that advertised home cooked food. Everyone stared the moment we walked in. Oh, Great Mother, her posture, facial expression and movements immediately went back to the pitiful creature I seen at first. She produced a helpless little child persona as a stress reaction, a defense, when she was unsure of herself.
There were four waitresses in the room and they all immediately flocked to our table. Celia had a glass of milk in front of her almost before she sat down. One had a menu in front of her, suggesting certain good wholesome foods. I was lucky to get one to actually take my order. I had to laugh. Marisol was going to have her hands full.
Celia Dutere was a witch all right. A natural with the unconscious ability to summon others to her aid. She used her helplessness to create a spell. When she was grown she’d want for nothing. People would stand in line to do her bidding. Why was she so thin? Most likely the isolation of the swamp. You can’t get people to help you if there are no people around.
When I finally dragged her out of the restaurant she carried a huge bag of food with her. If we’d stayed longer, people would have begun dropping donations on our table.
“Okay, kid, we’re going into the Barrows.”
“I thought this was Duivel.”
“It is. It’s just a special part. The Earth Mother…you know who that is?” The Earth Mother was a demi-goddess, guide, and occasionally total pain in the ass for witches.
“Yes. Mama prays to the Mother sometimes.”
“Well, the Mother had put a ward around the Barrows. It’s like an invisible prison wall. There are bad things in the Barrows. Bad people, too.”
Celia gasped. Her eyes widened and her thin arms clutched herself.
I laughed. “That was the ward. You’re now officially in the Barrows.”
This part of the Barrows, the northern edge, looked normal. Couple of strip malls, gas stations, convenience stores, nothing special.
“Look over to your left.” I slowed the SUV when we passed the glass and steel shining in the sun.
Her mouth dropped open. “Oh, it shines. Is it a palace?”
“No. Believe it or not, that’s an exercise studio. Something you might need someday if people keep feeding you. It’s call the Archangel.”
I thought about taking her in, maybe to see the owner Michael, the beautiful son of a demon. No, she was too young for that. She’d learn about gorgeous, enchanting men later. I had a better place in mind. I pulled up and parked in front of the Armory. “Do you know about the Sisters of Justice?”
Celia nodded. “They’re like the Mother’s police for bad witches.”
“Two Sisters of Justice live here in the Barrows. Retired. They run a school. They teach girls how to fight, to be strong, take care of themselves.”
I led her inside.
Good. Sister Eunice was there. Six-foot Eunice epitomized the Sisters of Justice. Like all of her kind, she lived balanced on the edge of instant violence. She had tan skin that spoke to heritage rather than baking under a hot sun, and a healthy, muscled body. A woman that tall, with that kind of bulk, could look coarse and masculine. She didn’t. She simply looked dangerous.
“Hello witch.” Eunice’s deep voice filled the room. “Where did you get this little chick?”
“This is Celia, Sister. She might come for lessons someday.”
“Need a bit of meat on her first.” Eunice grumbled a laugh, but I saw her staring. Oh, dear, the child’s natural spell ability had to be controlled or she would own the Barrows in a week.
Celia gave Eunice a look filled with hope. “Can ya teach me ta fight? I sure do want ta punch my cousins. They pick on me. I gots ta hide in the swamp.”
Great Mother. Where did that southern redneck hick accent come from? For some reason I will probably never know, it hit Eunice right between the eyes. Her mouth open, closed and opened again. Celia had struck the right note to spell a Sister of Justice and that Sister didn’t have a clue.
I left the Armory with Eunice begging me to bring Celia back. She could teach her the basics while she fattened up.
When we were back in the car, I had to ask. “Why doesn’t your hoo-doo charm work on your cousins, Celia?”
“Because they’re Dutere like me.” She laughed softly. “Like you?”
“Yeah.” So I didn’t like to admit that I dangled from that crooked branch, too. “My mother was a Dutere.”
“One of the high-class ones from town. Mama said that.”
“Not to be insulting, Celia, but I don’t think there is such a thing as a high-class Dutere.”
The girl was smart and quick. She’d do okay. Marisol would probably be ticked off, but I drove on down River Street. We passed the strip joints with all the triple x signs, the early ladies walking their patrols, until the road ended at the Bog.
“That’s Sullen Bog.” I pointed out the flat morass of open water and small tufted islands. “Don’t go there. It’s not clean like the swamp.”
Celia asked no questions as we traveled. That concerned me.
“Celia, those places, the people on the sidewalk…did it bother you?” What had I done? Were those tears in her eyes?
“Honey, what’s wrong. You can trust me. I know I just met you, but…”
She shivered. “Cousins Henry and Blake grabbed me last year. Went to a place with lots of x letters on the sign. They met a man and took me out to the Old Swamp Road.”
I waited. That couldn’t be all.
“They tried to sell me. They took money. But then Mama came. She’d followed. Mama’s sick. She shouldn’t have used all that power and it hurt her, but she took me home.”
She took me home. And the bodies disappeared into the swamp. Good for Mama.
“There’s more cousins, though. So Mama sent me to Marisol. That’s why Beau made them let him drive me here. He wanted to make me tell what happened to Blake and Henry. But I didn’t. You won’t tell about Mama, will you?”
“No. I won’t tell.” But maybe I should take a trip home and talk to some of my relatives.
I drove Celia back north to where Marisol had a pretty little house not far from the river. It had a yard full of flowers, shade trees and room to grow. Celia would have her own room, go to school, learn. She’d be lonely, but most Earth Witches are. It came with the Mother’s call to service. The Mother gives a witch power and expects her to use it. I liked this child. I had other things to show her, too.
I’d take her to the compound where we soldiers trained to fight dangerous creatures that came through the Zombie, that lethal portal to other worlds. Someday, a long time from now I prayed, she’d get to meet the exquisite and deadly golden demon who lived deep in the ruins. There are few things of beauty in the Barrows, but many people to like and to love. It would sharpen this not so delicate child and give her a home.
Lee Roland writes dark, contemporary fantasies where strong, defiant women and men battle evil. Her characters are passionate in love, savage in hatred, and defy conventional mores as they pursue justice.
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This contest is provided by Penguin books!
One lucky reader will win a copy of Vicious Moon by Lee Roland
Available July 2, 2013 from Signet/Penguin
About this Book:
“A powerful witch might live a long time, but a single well-placed bullet could change that. While my preferred weapon was magic, I was not averse to shooting anyone or anything offering my sister or me harm.”
Ex-soldier and earth witch Nyx Ianira is working as a PI in San Francisco when she sees the last thing she ever wants to see: the Sisters of Justice—the mysterious earth witch police force. A Triad of Sisters usually means an execution mission, but the Sisters’ only goal is to capture and escort Nyx across the country.
Nyx is badly needed back in Twitch Crossing, Georgia, the place she ran away from ten years ago to escape the stiff rules and duties of being a true witch. She wanted a life of her own. Now she’s being dragged back to her swampy hometown because another life is in danger: Her little sister is missing, and Nyx is the only one who can track her down in Duivel, Missouri.
But the key to finding her may lie with dark and tempting Etienne—a sinister criminal with a fearsome reputation, a ruthless attitude, and a total immunity to magic….
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