Shadow Sport: Sneak Peek

I've been working on putting the final polish on Shadow Sport this month in hopes to publish the novel mid-October.  I thought it would be fun to show a sneak peek of the work in progress.  Hope you enjoy!

Chapter One
Year: 1911
      A line of dirt clung to the blood on Ember’s face. Looking up through dense pine branches, the moon was almost overhead, only minutes remained until midnight.  The hunters would quit trying to kill him then, but he needed to hide until the final gong from the mansion tower bell. After that, he could find an escape, somehow. One thing at a time, and surviving was first.  Sixteen was too young to die.  Every ounce of terror drained from his tired muscles over the past two days; now there was only a determination to survive.  He knew another of the monsters might appear any minute, but he couldn’t dredge enough feeling to worry about what might happen in several moments.  He worried about what was happening now.  Any second he was going to pass out and leave himself exposed, with only a mile of forest separating him from the main house. Already, he only had the strength to crawl. His arms shuddered as if each might stop functioning.  Ember pressed against the short grass again, avoiding the broken fingers swelling on his right hand.  His body bent in a heap, inches from the bush he struggled toward.  Maybe rolling under the low, bowed ferns would hide him well enough.  A bush rustled behind him.
      He spun his head, but only mossy juniper and pine trees shone in the dim light.  Much of the forest underbrush was so dense he could hardly pass through.  This area, however, was cleared, with meadow grass that had grown in naturally.   Several yards down the path, a blackberry bush grew at the edge of a trail.  Crickets chirped not too far away.  The place seemed serene, empty.
      “Would you like to try again?” a soprano voice asked, only a foot away.  She moved into view.
      Terror grabbed at his chest.  She was one of them, a monster.  He recognized her voice as the leader’s.  Sticky blood dripped into his eye again from the cut on his temple.  Through the pain, the fear rebounded, trumping all other emotion.  He forced himself to be calm, refusing to die afraid.  He would go on his own terms.  His head lifted from the ground and then, exhausted, fell back to the dirt.
      “That’s the best you have?” she asked.  “Tsk, tsk.  And I thought you were going to make the midnight bell.  Hiding in the trees was clever; lucky we’re in Oregon and not Arizona, hmm?  I think I might use this venue again.  Something about the greenery of Oregon forests goes so well with bleeding men.”
      “You can…” His tongue ran over the cracked lips and he tried again.  “You can go to…”  His speech failed.
      “Yes?” She leaned closer, but he no longer moved.  “Are you still breathing?”   Her boot kicked his shoulder and his arm flopped.  A gash in his black shirt exposed his chest. “That’s a pity.  I hoped to feel your heart quit beating in my hand.  I guess there’s always next century.”
      He let out a cough that convulsed his entire body, and simultaneously clutched the knife handle.  The metallic glint flashed in his hand as he plunged the blade as high as his arm would allow.  She staggered back, clutching her stomach.  The handle of his hunting knife protruded from her side.  A smile flitted across Ember’s face.  Going on his own terms felt good.
      “Not quite dead,” he said in a hoarse voice.
      The seven-inch blade slurped out, her white knuckles grasped firmly to the grip.  Crimson drops fell from the end.  One hand clutched the side of her black shirt, blood seeping through her fingers, and the other hand gripped the knife as if the weapon were an extension of her fingers.   “But…what…”  A shiver shook her shoulder.  She stumbled back two paces.  Ember could plainly see she’d never been stabbed and he smiled again.  Her bloody hand rose to her blank stare, palm toward her face, and trembled.  She turned to him and his expression fell.  A mask of hatred now covered her face as she raised the knife high over her head.
      “Now you die!” she screamed.
      In the distance, a heavy bell began to toll.  Everything froze.
      “The bell,” said Ember.  “The bell,” he repeated his eyes growing wide. A new, intense terror leapt into his chest.  He’d resigned himself to death when he saw her, but now things were much worse. 
      “Very well,” she said, and the knife fell from her fingers to the dirt.  Panic controlled his every thought.  He struggled, pushing with his broken fingers, not feeling the pain, but his energy was too depleted to fight or run. His heart hammered faster.  His limbs no longer heeded what he wanted and instead became rigid, freezing him like a battered gothic statue. The moon disappeared behind her black silhouette.  “From now on, you will know me as Queen Lilith.”  She yanked his head to the side, exposing his neck, and bit down hard.

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