Dear Readers,

I’m super excited to share an exclusive sample chapter from THE BRUTAL TIME (Angelbound Origins Book 6), which releases in October, 2019. 

To Order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Apple Books / GooglePlay

Christina

The Brutal Time

At last.

The three most acclaimed geniuses in all Purgatory now stand before me and Lincoln. In honor of the occasion, I have given this trio-o-brainiacs some secret nicknames.

First, there’s Ginger Girl. Self-explanatory.

Second, I have Old Guy With A Throatbeard. Which I decide to shorten to OGWAT.

And third, it’s Bill. I call him that because he’s wearing a bowling shirt with Bill written on it. I’m smart that way.

Every know-it-all in the after-realms assures me that these very quasi-demons—I’m talking Ginger Girl, OGWAT, and Bill—are masters of creative ways to fix crappy situations. None of these smarty-pants were brainwashed into knee-jerk rule following by our ghoul ex-overlords. In other words, these three will help me solve the question that every Great Scala before me has totally bagged on, namely …

What to do with the misfit angels? 

I’m talking about the folks with white wings and mopey faces that I call the Angels of Meh. For weeks, everyone’s been saying there’s no way to help these angelic losers. Fortunately for me, everyone else is totally fucking wrong.

And these three geniuses will prove me right.

Addressing the trio, I gesture to the concrete walls around me. “Welcome to Ghost Tower Six,” I declare. “This is the oldest facility in Purgatory for storing souls. I thought we’d meet here so you can see our problems first hand.”

I pause and give the group a chance to open their yaps. After all, if a demi-goddess and her hottie Consort just summoned me into the equivalent of a three-story-tall concrete tower packed with ghosts, I know I’d have questions.

In reply, there is only silence. Tapping my chin, I consider this turn of events. Lincoln and I can be a little overwhelming. Maybe my people are just waiting for some official stuff, like introductions.

I clear my throat. “I am Myla Lewis, the Great Scala, and this is my Consort, Lincoln.” Beside me, my husband bows slightly at the waist.

Still nothing. Unless you count the blank stares.

Normally, Lincoln never says much at Purgatory events.  Now my guy breaks his normal no-talkie rule. “The Great Scala needs your help.” Lincoln raises the control pad in his hands. “How about a brief demonstration?”

“Yes,” all three say together.

Say whaaaat?

My guy and I exchange a pointed look. Speaking only when asked a direct question? That’s a total red flag for non-creative dumbassery. And talking in unison? An even bigger warning sign.

Still. Maybe these three just need more information.

“Great idea.” I point to Lincoln’s control pad. “Let’s show these folks what’s up.”

Lincoln presses some buttons. A holding tank comes down, which is a clear glass-like structure that’s filled with souls. The transparent spirits lay in neat rows on what looks like a rolling hillside. All of them are blissfully asleep. It’s how we keep ghosts happy in Purgatory while we process their souls for Heaven or Hell.

I gesture toward the sleeping spirits. “See these souls?”

“We do,” they all reply.

Wow. I really wish they would stop speaking in unison. It’s so creepy that it makes me want to hurt people. Mostly these three.

“Well,” I continue. “They did not live purely good lives. You can tell because if you look really closely, there are black spots where their mortal hearts used to be. Back when the ghouls ran Purgatory, we all know what would happen to spirits like these.”

Ginger Girl raises her hand. “Me, please!”

“It wasn’t really a question,” I say dryly. “I said, we all knew the answer.”

Ginger Girl hops in place. “Right here! I got it!”

She’s so not dropping this. “Sure.”

“They’d all get sent to Hell!” Ginger Girl says the word Hell with a little too much enthusiasm for my taste.

“That is true,” I agree.

“So I got it right.” Ginger Girl beams. “Do I get a gold star or a cookie now?”

I pull on my ear. Maybe I heard her wrong. “Did you say—”

“I’d rather a gold star.” Ginger Girl holds out her palm.

My eyes widen. “No, you do not get a gold star.”

And with that, it’s official. I’m supposed to be brainstorming with a trio of brilliant thinkers. Instead, this discussion as bad as fighting Papyrum demons, and those minor class monsters give out a shit-ton of paper cuts.

Ginger Girl stomps her foot. “Then what about a cookie?”

I fold my arms over my chest. “Nope.” Cookies are for creatives.

“Wait a second,” says OGWAT. “We aren’t here for a test?”

“I know,” agrees Ginger Girl. “I thought we were getting quizzed.”

“Hey, no one gave me a study guide,” whines Bill. “I want a study guide!”

A lot of discussion ensues about tests and study guides. Things get rowdy, fast. So I set my pinkies into the edges of my mouth and let out a loud whistle. Blissful silence follows. I use this quiet time to press my palms against my eyes. After months of planning, this whole situation is going way off the rails.

Thankfully, Lincoln keeps things moving. He gestures to the soul carrier. “Souls like these now end up in Heaven. It’s true that they’ll all go angel when they arrive, which means they won’t cause trouble. But they also can’t understand the other angels or perform any afterlife services. They simply aren’t ready.”

“Exactly,” I say. “And so these souls spend eternity sitting around. They’re like…” I wave my arms around, trying to think of the right example. Then it hits me. “They’re like the biggest bunch of kids who are never picked at gym, ever. It’s really unfair to send them to Heaven knowing they’ll just become Angels of Meh. Over time, they even start to fade.”

I give a moment for the word fade to sink in before pulling out the big guns. 

When I speak agin, I take care to talk super-slowly and with extra drama. “And once they disappear entirely, those angels die. No more souls. No more wings. No more anything. And that’s why we simply must help them.”

That was a pretty good closing speech, if I do say so myself. In fact, I can almost hear the pew pew pew of the big guns going off in the minds of this trio. Hope sparks in my heart.  Perhaps I’ve finally broken through.

“But they aren’t in Hell,” says all three geniuses. In unison. Again-again. Which means that my awesome speech so did not break through. And with that realization, a little part of me snaps.

“Stop saying the same thing at the same time,” I say super-calmly. Kinda. Sorta. Not really.

I should have expected what happens next, but I never do. Because now is when the tears start.

Ginger Girl tears at her hair. “Don’t kill us!” she cries.

“Don’t send away my soul,” wails OGWAT. “I can’t take eternity in Hell.”

Bill crumples onto his knees. “Waaaaaah!”

I bite my lips together, hard. This is one of the dark sides of being the Great Scala. Little critiques can mean lots of tears.

“Look, I won’t hurt any of you,” I explain. “I asked you here because I need your help. Let’s all calm down. Take some deep breaths.”

At this moment, a thrax messenger steps through the front door. I’ve never been happier to see someone wearing inappropriate medieval wear in a modern setting.

“Hello, Eurydice.” Lincoln knows the chick’s name because that’s my guy. Mister Memory.

“Your Majesty. The latest in air quality reports for Antrum. There were reports of stale air, so you asked these be delivered immediately.” Eury-whoever hands over a scroll. Unlike Lincoln, I am not memory-endowed.

Lincoln scans the parchment while the three quasis practice deep breathing. I try not to notice how they are doing so in unison. Total fail.

After a few moments, Lincoln points to areas on the page. “Items 62 and 93 look off. Run more tests and confirm the systems are working properly. Other than that, it’s good.”

“Thank you.” She bows and leaves.

A pang of jealousy moves across my ribs. Lincoln inherited a lot of sweet systems to run Antrum. My parents have the same from Purgatory’s Republic era. Yet since no one has ever given so much as one little round craplet about the Angels of Meh, there’s nothing in place to help them. The question echoes through my mind for the umpteenth time.

Why can’t I just let some of the angels fade?

Well, I can’t.

So I round on the three geniuses again. “Here’s the deal. I need to come up with some way to help souls develop an inner light—and erase their inner darkness—before they leave Purgatory. I want everyone to have the best chance at an awesome afterlife. I know it’s something no other Great Scala has worried about before. And yes, it’s true that a limited-but-bleugh life in Heaven is better than suffering for all eternity in Hell. But we can do this. At least, we can try.”

Ginger Girl pipes up again. “I have a question.”

At last. “Yes?”

“Why don’t you get help from Minister Walker or your Consort?”

I frown. “Because they’re already busy doing a million other things.”

“The Great Scala wishes to build her own team,” explains Lincoln. “It’s important that she accomplish this solo. As Myla develops her leadership skills, her abilities will aid every last soul in the after-realms, including yours and mine. Do you understand?”

At this point, I notice two things.

First, that was a super-sweet speech.

Second, a lot of blank stares are the only response to it.

I rake my fingers through my hair. Maybe I should try asking the thrax for help again. Or the angels. I could even check out a few humans. There’s a solution out there, I know it.

“Yes, that was helpful,” says Ginger Girl. “I do understand.”

“And I took notes,” adds OGWATB.

“So…” begins Bill.

“Are we dismissed?” they all ask.

In every situation, there comes a time to let go. I am almost there with this particular trio. Still, I’ll give one last try. It really was months of scouring the after-realms to find these three. So I clasp my hands together in the motion of pleading people everywhere. “Do any of you think you can help me, your Great Scala?” I ask. “Even a little bit?”

“No,” they all reply.

Well, that’s honest. I make shoo-fingers toward the door. “You’re dismissed.”

Suddenly, deep peals of thunder rumble overhead. My ears pop. Lighting flashes beyond the windows. The Soul Tower shakes with such force, great cracks tear up the concrete walls. An electric kind of energy fills the air.

Magic.

The three quasis stare around in open-mouthed fear. One thing I’ve learned as the Great Sala: if I freak out to a level five, then everyone else takes their terror to eleven. So I act super-calm while I whisper-speak to Lincoln from one side of my mouth.

“Do you know what this is?” I ask.

“Powerful magic.”

“Anything more specific for me on that?”

He gives me the side eye. I take that as a no.

Fresh thunder rumbles. More lightning strikes. The sense of magic on the air turns so thick, it’s as if stones were weighing on my chest. The bare lightbulbs along the walls burst in a flare of light and glass.

Complete darkness surrounds us.

The soul tower turns silent.

A moment later, the lights flicker back on once more. Only their appearance has changed. This is one of the first towers, so the bulbs here were always bare and simple. But now? They look like fancy orbs with multi-colored facets to them. I scan the room, wondering what else has changed.

The three quasis are gone. Not a big shock. They probably ran out in the dark. 

Lincoln’s data pad is gone. Okay, he might have dropped it or something. 

The floor is white plastic instead of concrete. Weird, but pretty minor. Plus there was some heavy duty magic flying around. Floor transformation isn’t that big of a deal in the big picture.

That’s when I see it. 

All the soul storage containers have vanished.

That’s a problem. Every last hovering rectangles that was chock-full of spirits has completely disappeared. My stomach drops. What just happened? Who took all the souls? 

Thud! Thud! Thud!

I speak to Lincoln from one side of my mouth again. “Is someone at the door?”

“Oh yes,” he replies.

Slam!

The front door opens. A demon steps through. The guy is tall and pale with slicked-back hair. He wears a white suit over a open, black shirt. His massive amounts of chest hair are accented by a round medallion while his golden tail ends with an arrowhead shape. My own tail perks up to arch over my shoulder. That settles it. Even my tail knows this isn’t just any demon.

Crap on a cracker.

This is none other than Lester, the Archdemon of Lust. As in, one of the nine archdemons that offset the nine archangels.

Even worse, Lester brought back-up singers and dancers with him. And no, I am not kidding.

A pack of twenty minor demons actually follow Lester into the soul tower. They’re of many different skin tones and ages, but all wear matching white suits that go along with their pale bat wings and white tails. No question about it.

Lester is into disco. Not sure how I feel about that.

I take it back. I feel totally freaked out.

My life is really one long shit show of odd stuff. But this? Next generation strange.

I stand perfectly still, my gaze frozen on the sight before me. An idea appears. Maybe I’m hallucinating.

Yes, that’s it. 

Magic clouded my mind.

I nudge Lincoln with my elbow. “Hey, babe.” I nod toward the hopefully-fake disco guy. “Is that Lester, the Archdemon of Lust?

Lincoln rubs his jaw in a slow rhythm. “Yes, it is.”

“Shouldn’t he be locked up?”

“Absolutely.”

All the archdemons were imprisoned ages ago. If the world was created in seven days, then locking up Lester and his pals was definitely done by Tuesday afternoon at the latest. This creep should not be here.

Lester struts across the floor to pause before me. His dancers stand behind him in a classic v-shape that’s popular in music videos on Earth. “Hey, hottie.” Lester winks at me before turning to Lincoln. “And Consort to the hottie.”

I raise my hand. “I have a name, Lester.” There are some things I never back down on. Correct use of my name and-or title is one of them.

Lester sniffs. “Like I care.” The archdemon spins about in that disco move than ends when he sticks his finger in the air. “I’ve been sent to talk to you both. Somehow, you survived our demonpocalypse.”

“Demonpocalypse?”

“Yes, remember a few minutes ago?” asks Lester. “There were thunder bolts and lightning very very frightening? That was the demonpocalypse. The Crimson Scourge went back in time and changed history. Now, we’re all free.”

My blood chills over. I was just adjusting to the concept of Lester running around. This is so much worse. “All nine arch-demons are loose?” I ask.

Lester bobs his brows. “All nine.”

“What about the archangels?” asks Lincoln.

“It’s like this,” says Lester. “Thanks to a little change in history, there are no thrax anymore. No angels, archangels, quasis, ghouls, humans … You and lover boy here are all that’s left. Seems you’ve got a magical item which allowed you to survive.” Lester kicks leg up, falls down into a split, and then scissors his legs so he’s standing again. Once he finished that dance move, he winks in my direction. “Boo-yah.”

Oh, no.

Lincoln and I exchange another long look. Both of us still have the magical butterfly charms that allowed us to chat with the fading Angels of Meh. Somehow, those little enchanted buggers must have protected us from whatever the fuck this is.

That’s my theory, but I’m not announcing it to Lester here.

Turning to Lincoln, I set my hands together and make them flap like butterfly wings. “Yeah?” I ask. Hopefully, Lincoln will get the message, the butterflies saved us?

Lincoln mimics the movement. “Agreed.”

Lester twirls, stops, and does that thing where he laces his fingers and makes them into a wave shape. “No worries. I’m here to offer you asylum. You can join my dance troupe and live until I tire of you. How’s that for a deal?”

I’m ready to tell Lester to stick it, but his demonic back-up singers start singing the refrain of Staying Alive, but with new words.

Deal deal deal deal
Lester’s is making a deal
Making a deal
Deal deal deal deal
Lester’s is making a deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal
Ohhhhhhh OH!

After a few more dance moves, the back up group pauses. Lester then gestures to me and Lincoln. “Well?” he asks.

I tap my chin, like I’m seriously considering this option. “Wow, that’s really tempting.”

Lester winks. “Of course, it is.”

Lincoln takes my hand. “Myla and I will step outside for a few minutes and talk this over. Can you wait for an answer?”

“You got it.” Lester turns to his group of demonic back-up singers. “You know what we have time for now? Disco contest!”

Everyone cheers. The back-up singers launch into an Abba medley. I actually could stay for that part, but things are odd enough already. Plus, Lincoln and I need to figure out what this crazyness is.

It can’t be that everything we’ve ever known has vanished or transformed into something else.

No.

That’s not possible.

Lincoln hitches his thumb toward the door. “Let’s …” he stammers. “Uh …” Somehow, it’s comforting that he’s as thrown off as I am.

While pretending the watch the disco contest, Lincoln and I step backwards toward the main doors. Never give any kind of demon your back. That’s basically asking for a dagger between your shoulder blades. And this is doubly true for archdemons.

It takes some careful backward maneuvers, but eventually Lincoln and I exit the soul tower. The moment we’re outside, one thing becomes clear.

The landscape is a ruin of rubble in every direction. There isn’t a living anybody as far as the eye can see. My old Purgatory is gone. Probably the rest of the after-realms, too.

Which leads to one thought.

Fuck fuck fuckity FUCK fuck FUUUUUUCK. 

Notice how I put an extra fuck in there at the end? Things are just that bad.

* * *

—End of Sample—

The Brutal Time – Description

Myla Lewis loves kicking demon ass. Sadly, now that she’s the Great Scala as well as Queen of the demon-hunting thrax, there’s no time to battle baddies. Sure, it’s great to rule alongside her main squeeze Lincoln—and their baby Maxon is adorbs—but what about some demon killing fun?

Then Myla gets a chance to fight tons of evildoers, but it’s in the worst way imaginable. All the demon-hunting thrax disappear, except for Lincoln. Even Octavia and sweet baby Maxon vanish. With the demon hunters gone, the worldwide population of big bads goes berserk. Talk about a nightmare.

Turns out, the evil archangel Lucifer left behind another magickal trinket that’s causing trouble. This time, Lucifer’s signet ring has changed the past, preventing the thrax from ever organizing in the first place. To bring back the thrax and their family, Myla and Lincoln must travel back in history—to the era called the Brutal Time—and try to convince the pre-thrax peoples to team up. Trouble is, these folks already have a powerful leader, the Red Scourge, and that creep doesn’t want his people hunting down demons. Nope. The Red Scourge has only one goal.

Kill Myla and Lincoln, fast.

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