Title: Hand of Time (The Nemesis Chronicles, Volume 2)
Author: H.R. Jackson
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Geek Treats Collective
Date of Publication: April 20th, 2013
Morgan... Three months after the events of Vegas turned her life upside down, she's finding that getting back to normal is anything but easy.
Dirk... Trapped between juggling his new responsibilities and making Morgan understand his feelings, the former courtesan is discovering that letting go of the past is much harder when the past refuses to let go of him.
Nemesis... Still reeling from the Society's attack, they find themselves facing a familiar foe and a new menace hellbent on testing their fortitude.
Midsummer madness heats up Nemesis Island. It's a time of celebration and renewal, but the Society has other plans... with Dirk, Morgan, and the rest of Nemesis at the top of their list.
Excerpt from Dirk’s POV:
“I’m fine, Dirk.” She wasn’t and we both knew it, but I wasn’t about to press the issue.
I let out a frustrated sigh. “I’ll go see if my father has a shirt or something he can lend me to wear.”
“Good idea,” Morgan said, starting a slow pace in front of the terrace doors that reminded me of a tiger restlessly circling its enclosure. She sounded distracted and the concern I’d already been fighting to keep from spilling all over her nudged its way back to the surface of my demeanor. I wanted to scoop her up and port back to my home, tuck her into bed and remind her of my stellar bedside manner. But as she made another pass across the doorway, I could see the limp in her step easing, slowly, until her strides were sure and smooth. Her body was healing.
Ah well, I thought, there’s always next time. Although, I really hoped there was a very long interval of non-injury between them full of bedside activities that were infinitely more fun.
“And shoes,” I added, curling my toes against the cold, damp hardwood floor as I glanced down and finally got a good look at the damage. My pajama bottoms were soaked through with rain and had clearly seen better days. My skin was grimy with sweat and blood, the mottled green and yellow of my healing bruises slowly fading. “Gods. I look like a war refugee.”
“What’s wrong with being shoeless?” asked Bree, looking up from where she’d been hunched over, studying the Pithos. She stretched out one of her naked feet, her expression all ruffled feathers and huff. “I prefer it. Helps with my Credomancy.”
Opening my mouth to apologize, I was stopped when Betty strolled back into the room. She’d disappeared down the stairs after leaving us and it looked like she’d been busy raiding my father’s closet. One arm was laden in textiles, an expensive looking auburn and charcoal three piece suit on a hanger dangling from the fingertips of her free hand.
“Morgan,” Betty let the name roll off her tongue, her brogue giving it a delicious quality that almost made me jealous. “Why does that sound familiar?” she mused, stopping in front of me and thrusting the garments into my startled grasp.
A flash of black around her throat gave me pause to stare and suddenly, I understood what my father and Sam had been talking about when they’d mentioned Betty answering their call. My father had long employed a specialized group of bodyguards as his security detail, scattered all across the globe, acting as his eyes and ears. His Ravens, he called them, and they all sported the same tattoo as an indicator of their allegiance to him. My eyes drifted to Sam. She had received hers shortly after our hookup.
I wondered if my father’s interests ever conflicted with those of Nemesis.
“Why does what sound familiar?” Morgan murmured, still pacing.
“I can’t quite place it…” Betty’s eyes widened and she did a slow turn, snapping her fingers in Morgan’s direction. “Wait. Wasn’t that the name of your horse?”
“Betty.” I knew that tone. Morgan didn’t want to talk about it. Based on Betty’s delighted expression, she was going to poke the bear until it snacked on her. I didn’t know if I wanted to be present for the carnage. Betty’s grin widened and Morgan’s glower scrunched her face until I wanted to kiss it.
“What are you talking about?” I couldn’t help it. I had to know. I felt like I’d been left out of a private joke, and I wanted in, damnit.
Betty trilled out a laugh. “Och, you mean she hasn’t shared that with you? Well now, doesn’t that make me feel all special.”
“It hasn’t come up,” Morgan stilled and focused her glare on Betty. “It’s a moot point anyway.”
I knew that names held power within both our cultures, but it was the first time I’d ever heard Morgan called by an alias and I was intensely curious to know why she’d changed her name. I knew she had a history, one that I’d apparently not even scratched the surface of discovering, and I’d take Betty’s rendition of things over nothing at all.
My gaze swung to Betty. She didn’t say a word. I narrowed my eyes at her. She dissolved into a fresh round of laughter that practically lit up the room. “Fine. Since Dirk insists. Let me procure a little story for you. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived an Amazonian Princess named Airlea. She was fiercely beautiful, fearsome on the battlefield, and more than skilled between the furs. She had this thing she liked to do with her tongue –” Morgan crossed the room in three strides and clapped a hand over Betty’s mouth as my eyebrows rocketed to the ceiling.
“So help me, Betty,” Morgan said in frosty, clipped tones, “I’ve half a mind to shove something in your mouth to shut you up. If you wouldn’t like it so much.” Betty wiggled her eyebrows at me from above Morgan’s hand and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Reaching out, I pried Morgan’s fingers away from Betty’s face and dusted a kiss against their tips. Morgan responded by pulling away and punching my arm in protest.
“Oh come now, you know how I love a good story,” I grinned, rubbing my arm. If it took a little pain to get what was promising to be an amusing-as-hell insight, I’d take my lumps gladly. “Please continue, Betty.”
“Long story short,” Betty resumed the second her mouth was free, ignoring Morgan’s warning scowl, “it appears someone decided it was time for a name change. Honestly, Morgan, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you were trying to avoid me altogether.”
“Maybe I was.”
Excerpt from Morgan’s POV:
Sam was a flash of Cimmerian shade, her outfit matching her blackberry hair as she zigzagged through the dense forest with the fluid grace of a gazelle with a lion on its tail. She played hide-and-seek with the shadows, and I was having a hell of a time keeping a bead on her. Bursting through the pines and out into a large clearing of short grass, I spanned the distance between us, waylaying her with an aerial kick to the back that sent her tumbling forward into a combat roll with an explosion of breath. Springing to her feet before she came to a full stop, Sam pivoted into a roundhouse kick that I barely dodged, my fist aiming directly for her jaw.
She deflected the strike with the momentum of her spin, managing to avoid my follow up kicks, before rushing in to clip my chin with her elbow. The shockwave from the sharp hit almost made me bite my tongue, pain spiking down my jaw and into my neck. Capturing my next jab, she used my kidney as a speed bag before I managed to retreat with a grunt of rapidly mounting irritation. Regrouping quickly despite the ache in my side that threatened to drop me, I lashed out with a flurry of fists and feet, hoping that sheer speed would somehow get past her defenses.
Sam expertly blocked and dodged everything I threw at her before unexpectedly stopping my forward inertia with a hard palm to the chest that sent me reeling back gasping for air as my lungs forgot how to work.
Breathing is highly overrated anyway.
In the two months since I’d joined Nemesis, I’d had many occasions to spar with Sam, the current head of the group and perpetual pain in my ass, but never at quite this intensity. With the exception of Sam’s fraternal twin, Tequila, no other member of Nemesis understood the training style I’d grown up with in my Amazonian tribe. It was a brutal, no holds barred, out for blood mode of fighting, meant to test our skills, to keep them as honed as our blades. But there was a fine line between training and the outright brawl this session was quickly turning into.
And damned if I didn’t have the first clue as to what set her off this time. But then, getting a read on Sam was like trying to capture smoke with a sieve. Holding back, she eyed me as we circled one another slowly.
She and her sister had been raised outside the tribe until they were fifteen by their mother, the former Queen Antiope. Both were formidable fighters in their own rights, thanks to her guidance. Tequila, the resident healer of Nemesis, had come back to her Amazonian roots, while Sam decided to serve with our shield-sisters the Valkyrie, before they were both recruited into Nemesis’ ranks. Where her sister was exceptionally skilled in the healing arts, Sam’s abilities resided in tactical strategy and a natural talent for Psychomancy.
I deflected another whirlwind of strikes and growled, dancing out of the way. Over the years, my experiences going toe-to-toe with Psychomancers had shown me they generally resorted entirely on fighting with their mental acumen, relying on telekinesis and telepathy to swing the odds in their favor.
But Sam had elevated it into an art form, wielding both blade and brain with the ferocity of a woman possessed and the skill of an accomplished warrior. She’d managed, numerous times, to make even me question if I’d somehow become dumb and clumsy, and I’d been swinging swords since before she and her sister were even a twinkle in Antiope’s baby blues.
Truth be told, this fight had been a long time coming. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Sam, per se, but I was unaccustomed to being bossed around, even if I understood the hierarchy as it stood within Nemesis. I wasn’t used to being the puella, the rookie. It rankled me, getting under my skin like a sliver of glass.
Sam motioned for me to attack, egging me on with a gesture. I hung back. She was baiting me. My eyes narrowed.
When she’d suggested we ‘take it to the wood line’ after our most recent verbal altercation, I was more than happy to oblige, despite wishing her timing had been better. We had a house full of reveling Amazons, Valkyrie, and other guests for Midsummer celebrations, and I had a gala date later that evening with Dirk. I’d been dragging my feet about it all day and that black cloud had gotten me into this predicament.
Still, it felt good to take out all of the pent up frustration and worry on someone who’d been an absolute thorn in my side for the last two months, even if she was making me wonder if this was going to end with one of taking a one-way trip to Bella’s morgue. The gnawing sensation of impending disaster intensified when Sam reached for her blade, a scarily grim and focused expression smoothing the lines on her face into an impassive mask. I immediately followed suit, loosing Aduro from her scabbard and pulling her free with a single smooth movement.
The slow circling continued and I knew she was waiting for an opening. The ground below me was springy, damp from the perpetual moistness that helped to keep the Emerald City its lovely verdant hue. It was a hell of a drastic change from the Vegas citadel’s sandy sparring fields, but at least it wouldn’t hurt as much to get knocked down.
And with the way Sam kept eyeballing me, I knew one of us was going to end up ass over teakettle soon.
What the hell is with her today? I hadn’t realized that telling Sam I had plans for the evening that didn’t include sitting through another boring debriefing warranted this kind of ass kicking.
About the Author:
Once upon a time, a man and a woman looked at each other and asked, “Why aren’t we writing this down?”
Inspired by Sci-Fi and Fantasy, with a healthy appreciation of all manner of geekery, they longed to create a world where sword, sorcery, and a little sprinkling of real life could come together. With this in mind, the pair sat down and started the stories that would eventually become The Nemesis Chronicles.
When they aren’t weaving fantastical tales, they spend their time being owned by the Feline Mafia and watching the rain fall in their home city of Seattle.