Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Secret Santa - The First Chapter!!


Chapter One

“Watch where you’re going!”

Holly Hamilton jumped at the harsh voice, her hands immediately shooting up into the air, as if to prove that she was holding nothing.

A large woman in a fur coat, carrying a little white dog far too adorable to belong to such an ugly person, glared at Holly, her round cheeks flushed, her eyes searching Holly suspiciously.

Holly grinned back as an apology until the woman turned on her heel with a practiced “Hmph.”

Letting out a deep breath, Holly lowered her hands and searched the crowded street for the man in the business suit she had been about to pickpocket before Miss Hmph had forced her to abort her mission.  She scowled as she saw the man duck into a nearby shop.  It was one thing to “accidentally” bump into someone on a crowded street to grab their wallet.  It was quite another to try to pick a pocket in a store with few exits, and no crowd to disappear into.

She debated for a moment on whether she should wait for him outside and try again, but the crowd was already noticeably tapering off.  She would have to target someone else, although she hated losing such easy money.

As she scanned the people milling about, hurrying home after work or running errands, she scolded herself for not being more careful.  She was actually lucky that the woman had yelled at her.  Had Holly been in the process of grabbing the man’s wallet when she’d bumped into Miss Hmph, she would have been in a real pickle.  She had to be more observant before she made a move.  Normally she was more attuned to her surroundings, but with the meager prizes she’d managed to swipe that day, she had to make up for her losses by being quicker, and thus, more daring than usual.  Or Mr. Grott would really make her pay.  She would be lucky to get anything to eat tonight.

As if on cue, her stomach growled, and her determination soared.  She would be eating tonight.  On a cold winter night such as this, she needed a nice hot meal to top off the day.

She felt the inside pockets of her coat, assuring herself that the lumps of wallets and jewelry that she’d procured so far were still there.  She had more than enough for Mr. Grott to approve of her work.  She was a natural sneak-thief, probably the best of his “students.”  Her younger brother Matthew, on the other hand, was clumsy and awkward at it, and usually ended up with only a wallet or two to show for a full day’s work.  Which is why Holly had to work so much harder.  She could have easily gotten by herself, but she had to look out for her brother.  She’d promised her parents she would, and she never broke a promise.

Turning to take a gander in the other direction, Holly gasped as a woman carrying a pile of boxes up to her eyes, walked right into her.

The woman let out a startled cry and fell forward, crushing the largest box, and spilling the contents of one of her bags.  Holly landed on her butt in a pile of slush, which quickly soaked through her jeans and sent an icy chill up her spine.  She jumped to her feet in a flash, then thought better of it and leaned over to help the woman gather her pyramid of boxes.

“Oh,” the woman surveyed the damage with a worried expression.  She blinked through thick glasses as she turned to Holly.  “I’m so sorry.  I hope I haven’t injured you.”

“Not at all,” Holly assured her as she dropped several chains of jewelry back into the bag, carefully sliding two of the more expensive-looking ones up her coat sleeve.  She handed the bag to the woman and looked down at the crushed box sympathetically.  “I’m afraid one box didn’t make it.”

“Quite so,” the woman agreed with a sigh.  She pulled off the box top to regard a broken toy airplane.  “Such a shame too.  It was a beautiful toy.”  With a shrug, she carried the box over to a nearby trashcan.  The box wouldn’t fit, so she dumped the contents into the garbage, before leaving the box propped up against it.  Then, without giving it a second thought, the woman hefted her stack of boxes up again, and continued on her way.

Holly stared after her for a moment as the teetering mountain of boxes disappeared into the crowd.  Some people have more money than they know what to do with, she decided as she walked over to the trash can.  But they make for easy pickings, at least.

She lifted the lid of the trash and gazed down at the airplane.  It gleamed white in the fading sunlight, a candy apple red stripe down one side, from propeller to tail.  One of its wings had broken off, but it was otherwise in perfect condition.  A little superglue would probably do the trick.  She reached in and carefully pulled the plane out, as well as the remote control that had been dumped unceremoniously beside it.  With a smile, she placed the items into the crumpled box the woman had left behind.  Matthew would love it.  He was only nine, four years younger than herself, and still loved playing with toys like this.  She imagined his eyes lighting up when he saw it, and quickly made for home, deciding that the extra jewelry would be enough to earn them supper for the night.  And if she got home before him, she could quickly glue the wing back on and it would be waiting for him when he arrived.

As was her custom, she stopped by the public library on the way home.  On really profitable days, when she was able to secure a good amount of valuables early in the afternoon, she wiled away the hours in the grand building, walking up and down the aisles and sitting down with a stack of books to lose herself in tales of daring young men, and girls with magical powers.  But more often than not, she made a very brief stop, as she did today.

Climbing the wide staircase, she looked around quickly before ducking behind one of the stone lions that stood sentinel on either side of the double doors.  Squatting down, she pulled on a loose brick and peeked into the hollow space behind it, a dark hole that only she knew about.  She reached her hand inside and felt the reassuring presence of a wad of bills.  She always went through the wallets she swapped, and took a few bills for herself.  She liked to think of it as a tip.  One that Mr. Grott didn’t need to know about.  It wasn’t as if he actually paid them anyway, so it served him right.  And one day, she would have enough saved up so that she and Matthew could leave, and start a new life for themselves.  A Life that didn’t involve petty crime.

She added two twenty dollar bills to her hidden cache and replaced the brick, before slipping back down the stairs and hurrying home.

As luck would have it, Matthew hadn’t returned, and she had just enough time to glue the wing onto the plane and figure out the instructions while it dried.  Holly considered the plane, which glistened in the light filtering in through the dingy windows of the orphanage bedroom.  There were four beds in the room, fitted with rough sheets boasting holes and smelling of mold.  Whenever an inspector came through, Grott would change the bedding, but until then, they would keep washing and bleaching the same sheets themselves, with the meager cleaning supplies he allowed, until they were all but rags.

“What’s that?” Patty, a girl the same age as her brother asked with interest, as she knelt next to the table where the plane sat, awaiting its first flight.

“A present for Matthew.”

Patty squinted at it and poked at the propeller, which spun weakly under the probe.

“Don’t touch,’ Holly hissed, slapping her hand away.  “It’s drying.”

“I never get presents,” the girl pouted, crossing her arms.  “Why does Matthew get one when he can’t even pick a pocket properly?”

“Patty picked a pocket properly,” Aaron, an older boy, said with a laugh as he entered the room.  He froze when he saw the plane.  “Whoa!”

“Whoa, what?” Matthew asked, coming in behind him.  His gaze fell on the plane and he tilted his blonde head curiously, his blue eyes sparkling as they drank in the toy.  “Whoa!”

Holly smiled with satisfaction.  “A present for you, Matthew.  It was broken, but I fixed it up, right as rain.”  She puffed out her chest proudly.  “What do you think?”

“Whoa,” Matthew repeated, stepping up to the table shyly.  He picked it up quickly, causing Holly to wince, but the wing held as he examined it.  “Does it fly?” he wondered, his gaze shifting to the remote control.

“It flies,” Holly confirmed, and watched with pleasure as he immediately began to fiddle with the controls.

“Let me try!” Aaron demanded, pushing him out of the way.  He always was sort of a bully.

“It’s Matthew’s,” Holly said sternly, glaring daggers his way.  “You can try it out after Matthew, if he allows it.”

With a grumble, Aaron relented.  “It’s lame anyway,” he decided as he plodded out the door.  “I bet it doesn’t even fly.”

But fly it did.  Patty clapped happily as Matthew flew it around the room expertly, his tongue sticking out from between his lips in concentration.  He had mastered sharp turns and kept flying it quickly toward the walls before making it veer away at the last second.  It gave Holly a heart attack every time.  He was just getting the hang of loop-de-loops when the bedroom door opened with a thunderous crash as it swung into the opposite wall.

Matthew paled and turned his attention toward landing the plane as Holly sauntered up to Mr. Grott, her eyes not missing Aaron lingering in the doorway, a wide grin on his face.  The dirty rat.

Mr. Grott’s beady eyes grew even smaller as he took in the scene before him.  His thick mustache twitched beneath his hooked nose, his dense eyebrows lifting in response to the plane.  He had a receding hairline, which he tried to hide by combing his hair forward, but it only served to accentuate the hair loss.  Holly theorized that he grew out his mustache to make up for his head, but whatever his reasons, the overall look screamed “villain.”  And that’s exactly how he acted, and how Holly perceived him.  Perhaps he’d realized that he was a bad guy and figured he may as well embrace the look.

“Hello, Mr. Grott.  Did you get today’s donations?” she asked sweetly.

He called them “donations,” like it would fool them into thinking that the people they stole from had willingly let them take their valuables.  Usually Holly refused to call them by the term, but she didn’t need to provoke him at the moment.

Mr. Grott ignored her, sidestepping her so that he was in full view of the plane that Matthew had managed to land perfectly.  Matthew was a genius like that, and managed to get the hang of things really quickly.  He read manuals for fun, for Pete’s sake, when his nose wasn’t stuck in his favorite book, that was.  The dictionary.  Talk about boring.  Before the accident, their dad had even let Matthew watch him take apart an engine.  Matthew had been in seventh heaven.

“Well, well,” Mr. Grott said in an oily voice as he cracked his knuckles before him, as if in anticipation.  “What is this, then?”

“It’s Matthew’s,” Holly said matter-of-factly.

“Is that so?”  His eyes pounced on her.  “And how did Matthew manage to procure such a fine airplane?”

Matthew looked like he was about to cry, which made Holly’s blood boil even hotter than it already was.  She knew she shouldn’t talk back to Mr. Grott, that it would only make matters worse, but she couldn’t help herself.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but some lady was throwing it away, and I saved it.  It only needed a little TLC and it worked fine.”

“Hmmm.  So, you’re saying that you didn’t buy it?” Mr. Grott prodded.  “Perhaps with some of the…donations?”

Holly gritted her teeth to keep from screaming.  “I told you how I got it.”

Mr. Grott nodded, like it all made sense to him now.  “So, you’re saying that you’re not skimming off the top of the donations you bring to me?”  He snorted.  “Well, I guess I’ll have to trust that you wouldn’t cheat me.”

And with that, he took a step in Matthew’s direction, making sure to step directly on the airplane, earning a definitive crunch.

Holly’s heart sank and she avoided looking her brother’s way.  When he was upset, his lower lip trembled and his eyes shined with tears.  She couldn’t face that right now, or she would punch the smug grin off of Mr. Grott’s face, and that wouldn’t be good for either of them.  They wouldn’t have a place to sleep tonight, let alone something to eat.

“How clumsy of me,” Mr. Grott said in mock surprise.

“You did that on purpose,” Patty frowned.

He sneered.  “A lesson in life.  For free.  Quite a bargain.”  Then he turned and swept out of the room, an evil-sounding chuckle following him.  He had to have worked on that laugh.  It sounded way too super-villainy to be natural.

“No fair,” Patty grumbled.  “I didn’t even get a turn.”
Holly sighed, staring down at the remnants of the plane.  The wing had come free again, but that was the least of its problems.  It was crushed and shattered in places that simply couldn't be repaired.  Without looking her brother's way, she turned on her heel.  "I'll get a dust pan and broom."

Suprise Book Release!

Ahead of the release of the new Hunters of the Dark book, I have released my first middle grade novel, just in time for the holidays! 

Here's the synopsis:

"Holly Hamilton hates Christmas.

Since her parents died last year, she's been watching out for her brother in an orphanage, where they pick pockets for the unforgiving Mr. Grott, who's some sort of supervillian-in-training.  The looming holiday brings back painful memories for Holly, and her brother getting his hopes up for presents he will never receive serves to make her feel angrier than ever.

That all changes one day when circumstances (and a sleigh pulled by a gaggle of ornery reindeer) whisk the orphans to The North Pole, where they meet creatures they'd only read about in fairytales.  Thus begins Holly's adventures in Tinseltown, where she learns the logistics behind Christmas, and uncovers the secret origins of the elves, and even Santa himself."


I wrote Secret Santa last year, and poured all of my enthusiasm and love for Christmas into it.  I hope you all love it as much as I do!  And if you're a fan of Oz, you're in for a nice treat!

You can purchase the ebook now from Amazon Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cover Reveal

Here is the cover for Hunters of the Dark, Book Six!  And the title:  The Abyss!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Preview of HOTD #6!

Hunters of the Dark #6 is going to be delayed slightly - watch for it in November.  For now, check out the opening scene to whet your appetite!

Prologue

Samantha took a sip of tea carefully, focusing on controlling her hands so that they wouldn’t shake in the presence of the La Faer Noir elders who sat with her.  She hardly tasted the scalding liquid as it slipped down her throat.  She set her teacup down with a practiced smile and turned to her guests.  “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company this evening?”

Lamia, a naga with light green skin and darker green hair, smiled politely back at her.  The woman was half-human, half-snake, and while Samantha noted the end of her tail uncoiling along the ground out of the corner of her eye, she ignored it out of politeness.  And perhaps a little out of fear. 

“Some concerning news has come to our attention,” Lamia said, pausing for suspense.  She turned to the other woman at the table.  The third and final member of their party sat still and tall.  She had an air of royalty about her, and the cold calm that Samantha felt in her presence was probably what she was intimidated by the most.  Iyln was of the fae, and her bone white skin contrasted with her black, bottomless eyes in a beautiful, very alien way.  Her ears were pointed, nearly touching the crown that sat atop her long, silky black hair.  Samantha had never sat so close to her, and could only admire the silver crown that threaded through her hair, inlaid with emeralds, topaz and amethyst.

“And what news is this?” Samantha asked nervously, looking back and forth between the two women.

Iyln looked out over the balcony of Samantha’s suite, where the sounds of New York’s nightlife traveled up to them.  Car horns blared, people yelled and hooted, and sirens rang out, echoing between the buildings.  Samantha swallowed hard, wondering if perhaps she should have invited them to sit indoors.  But then Iyln turned her piercing gaze on Samantha, and Samantha forced herself not to look away.

“The hunters, Miss Cummings,” Iyln stated.  “We are concerned about the recent rift between the hunters.”

“The hunters?” Samantha frowned.

Tessa, a girl with blonde hair appeared out of the shadows and refilled Lamia’s teacup, the pink stone that fell over her forehead from a silver chain bobbing in the air for a moment.  And then she disappeared back into the shadows, as if swallowed by the darkness.

It gave Samantha a small amount of courage knowing that Tessa was there, and she stood a little straighter, feeling more confident.  “Yes, the hunters have split into two teams,” she said.  “Valor and Hunter are leading a team with most of the original members, while this new government crony, Ross, has taken over their facility in Lime Bay.”

“Valor’s team is on the run, and are considered fugitives,” Lamia commented.  “That is of concern to us.”

“Why should it concern you?” Samantha wondered, her eyes swiveling to meet Iyln’s.  Then she smiled.  “Ah.  Shanna Hunt, of course.”

Iyln took a sip of her tea and tilted her head.  “Not only is Shanna Hunt a person of interest to La Faer Noir, given her connections to our founder, the vampire Diana.  But we had a…relationship with the hunters at The Agency that suited us.”

“Oh?” Samantha sat forward, her interest piqued.  “How so?”

Lamia chuckled.  “Frankly, the hunters are easily manipulated.  We need only feed them a little information to give them a push, and suddenly, they take care of some of our more…unsavory problems for us.  Like in New Orleans.”  She paused.  “They have been a rather surprising asset.”

“And, of course,” Iyln continued, “having no clue as to the whereabouts of Valor’s group is rather…unsettling.”

Samantha nodded slowly.  “Of course.  I have a spy in Ross’ team right now, but despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to locate the other team either.  However, given that they’re hunters, all we need to do is give them the right bait to flush them out.  They couldn’t stay away from a truly juicy supernatural threat.”

“Unless the other team responds first,” Iyln said, looking impatient.  “Miss Cummings, we are making this your branch’s top priority.”

“Do you realize what could happen to La Faer Noir without Shanna Hunt?” Lamia added.  “The Black Wings…they are everywhere, sabotaging our efforts.  The hunters have been able to keep them under control recently, but without their help…”  She shook her head.  “The future could be a very dark place indeed, if those fools have their way.”

“Shanna Hunt?” Samantha echoed, frowning.

“Shanna Hunt is to be turned over to us as soon as she is located,” Iyln said.  “If the Black Wings get to her first, we have no hope.  We must be proactive if we are to be triumphant in the coming war.”

“War?” Samantha paled.  “I didn’t realize that the situation had become so grim.”

“Without cohesion in La Faer Noir, without a truly united front, we will fall before our enemies.  Shanna Hunt can reunite us, and strengthen our cause.  With our original founder as a figurehead, we can continue to find ways to cohabitate with humans.  Without her, it’s only a matter of time before the Black Wings triumph and out us to the world, bringing about a dark age.”

Lamia nodded.  “It is pertinent that we get to Shanna Hunt first.

“But The Black Fire said that the choice was hers.”

“Irrelevant,” Iyln sniffed.  “The Black Fire is a tool.  We take its advice at our discretion.”

Lamia leaned forward.  “So if you know where Shanna Hunt is…”

Samantha shook her head.  “I don’t.  I wish I…”  She let her voice trail off, and chuckled.  “That was a close one, wasn’t it, Tessa?”

Tessa appeared among them again and refilled the cup before Samantha, even though she had hardly touched the brew.  “You let your concentration waver,” Tessa agreed.

“Ah, yes.” Iyln sat back to regard Tessa.  “Your djinn.”

“Reports state that you only have one remaining wish,” Lamia stated, also watching the djinn closely.

Samantha stiffened, wondering how such information had leaked.  It was perhaps a sign of weakness on her part, that she’d needed the help of a djinn recently.  “I assure you that I have everything under control.”

Iyln turned to her.  “If we didn’t have confidence in you, Miss Cummings, we wouldn’t be here.  Do not let us down.”  She stood abruptly.  “Thank you for the tea.”

Samantha stood with Lamia and watched as the elders swept from the room.  Lamia turned to look back at her from the doorway and smiled.  “You are in line to be the next elder of the fire element, Samantha.  This could solidify your place among us.”

Samantha hadn’t been expecting that, and stood there stupidly, blinking after them, long after they’d gone.

“Deliver Shanna Hunt to them, and you will claim the role you have coveted your entire life,” Tessa whispered in her ear, causing Samantha to shiver.  “You will have limitless power.”

Samantha frowned.  “Yes.  And they will change Shanna Hunt into a vampire, so that they can have their precious Diana back.”

“Not a bad trade,” Tessa shrugged.

Samantha nodded, wondering why it bothered her so.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaser!


The release date for Hunters of the Dark 6 will be a little later than I thought - I want to get this one just right!  Here's a little teaser banner for it - and you'll be able to get your hands on it just in time for Halloween!  :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dreamlover

A new Hunters of the Dark novel will be coming out at the end of the summer!  Until then, I am serializing a novel on Wattpad called Dreamlover!  It's free to access books on Wattpad - you just need to create an account.  Basically, you'll be getting this book chapter by chapter as I write it.  Which means you won't have to be without my writing for too long!

The description:

Claire Montgomery takes a part of her dreams out with her when she wakes up.  Usually just small things, like seashells and sand.  But that changes when she wakes up with a guy in her bed.  A gorgeous guy.  He claims to have come from her dreams, but can she possibly believe him?  What could this mean?  And how is it all connected to her missing friend?  As events spiral out of control and get downright scary, Claire clings to a man that she may have literally dreamed up, and risks her life to uncover the truth and protect the ones she loves.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Update!

It's been awhile, but rest assured, I've been a very busy boy the last few months! :)  And thanks to you fans, I've reached over a thousand followers on Twitter!  If you haven't done so already, follow me:  @Dave_Ferraro  There's a lot of great stuff coming in 2014, so expect to start seeing teasers soon!