Title: Night Wars Short Story Collection
Series: Night Wars
Author: Missouri Dalton & Sophia Beaumont
Publisher: Torquere Press
Release Date: 8/06/16
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Female
Length: 75000 words
Genre: Romance, Contemporary,Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Gay Fiction
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In Devilry Done, when Lucas decides he wants Ambrose back, he needs a plan. Unfortunately, Lucas has never been very good at plans. By the time he’s gotten Ambrose’s attention, Lucas is in trouble with some dangerous people and broke to boot. Of course, he also gets into trouble with Ambrose, and if he’s very lucky, his former paramour will be in a forgiving mood. Followed by An Eye for Trouble, Lucas and Ambrose are back for another spot of trouble as an old friend asks Ambrose to come to Chicago. Too bad Lucas just got bit by… something and he’s not exactly sure how much help he’s going to be. Poisoned Spirits takes us to Chicago Special Police Officer Ian Mulhane, who has never been stood-up before, so when Billy doesn’t show up to the speakeasy, he’s not a happy camper. But anger quickly shifts to worry, and Ian soon discovers Billy is gravely ill, poisoned by magically tainted whiskey. Ian’s used to the paranormal, but witches might just be more than he can handle.
Fast forward to modern day Chicago in Happy Halloween, Jack’s past has always been something of a question mark, until now. On Halloween, an eighteen-year-old Jack found himself in a world of trouble, and headed straight toward the man who would take him from hustler to cop. In Foxtrot, Remy starts this year’s Masquerade miserable, but with help from an old flame, things start looking up. Across the ocean in Ame, Takashi Matsumoto has spent his entire life in Tokyo. He’s seen terrible things working for the yakuza, but when an encounter with something straight out of folklore leaves him nearly dead he has to revise everything he thought he knew. After he recovers, he runs into an old flame, Daisuke. Can Takashi have a relationship knowing what he does? Or will his past catch up to both of them?
Cary Vaughn has found himself on the wrong side of a lot of people. When he ends up in Edinburgh hiding from one of those people he meets a tall Scotsman in a bar and goes home with him. He spies a small fortune on a bookshelf and takes a chance by stealing it—but he’s not the only one with an ulterior motive in Feumaidh Mi Ruith. In The Ten of Cups, Isaiah Cappelli is trying to overcome a broken heart and a cloudy future. Is it fate or only coincidence that leads him to a New Age shop and a handsome stranger? Christmas comes in This Time of Year and a dragon is loose in Chicago. Howl would be more concerned if the case didn’t keep interrupting his lunch reservations. Partnered up with the distractingly handsome Detective Reyes, Howl is going to have to pull himself out of his melancholy if he wants to solve the case and get back to his Christmas plans, getting drunk while watching It’s a Wonderful Life, alone. Well, not if Detective Reyes has anything to say about it.
In Fiends in Low Places, Simon Murphy, psychic and former thief is trying to rekindle the romance between himself and his FBI beau, Gabriel. Can a pizza date fix this mess? The Raven and the Wolf introduces Bran Morning, he owns an occult bookshop, has PTSD and doesn’t remember what happened exactly that gives him nightmares. Roped into attending the wedding of an old squad member, Bran is in for more than he bargained for and discovers that the body can remember things the mind forgets. Evie Cappelli has been with the Montreal Night Shift for a while now, but she’s about to get the surprise of her life—if a wedding dress and some rosary beads don’t kill her first in L’Île des Sœurs.
The Raven and the Wolf
The first thing I was aware of was the cat, yowling from somewhere downstairs. I was certain of this because of the closed off echo his cries were making as they bounced around the shelves of the bookstore my apartment was located over. The bookstore being my ostensible source of livelihood and the cat being what kept burglars out.
And if the cat didn’t keep them out, well, none of them ever came back. Some of them were never heard from again. Tyler had a bad habit of eating intruders—and the one mailman, but that guy was probably a criminal of some kind. Most likely. I kicked off the somewhat sticky covers and reached across the bed for my phone, back pressed to the headboard as I considered what must have happened in the night.
The nightmare. I’d have to wash my sheets. I peeled myself away from the headboard, back sticking to the wood a bit from the still-tacky sweat acting as an adhesive. My phone was blank—I’d forgotten to charge it. I fumbled about, looking for the cord and plugged the damn thing in before falling ignominiously out of bed and onto the floor.
Which accounted for my first injury of the day, when my knee made contact with a thumbtack and the corner of my bedframe. I’d no idea where it came from, but as I plucked the red plastic tack from my knee, Tyler yowled again.
“I know!” I shouted back.
I thought I heard him grumble, but that was probably my head playing tricks, it liked to do that sometimes. Rule number one: feed cat before coffee. I got to my feet, stumbled to the fridge, and retrieved a side of salmon from the freezer. We’d tried canned food for a while, but Tyler had a tendency to chew through the cans.
He was an industrious cat.
Jen, the owner of the store next to mine, questioned the validity of my calling Tyler a cat on several occasions, but I ignored her. He was definitely a cat.
He was definitely shaped like a cat. Most of the time. Whenever nonviolent strangers could see him. I’m sure intruders saw something else right before their life flashed before their eyes.
My apartment was cluttered with boxes of merchandise, trash, laundry and an overabundance of catnip mice. I wasn’t sure where they came from; I wasn’t buying them, that’s all I was sure of. I headed down the stairs with Tyler’s—sacrifice—breakfast and set it down at the bottom of the stairs and clicked my tongue.
The cat in question came sauntering out of the stacks with a thrashing tail, golden eyes fixed on the salmon as the human was discounted for the more important need of hunger. I didn’t stick around to watch him feed, heading back upstairs to make myself coffee, shower, and eat something.
Eating something was thwarted by the lack of milk to go with the cereal and an empty egg carton, so I replaced that with getting dressed and going grocery shopping in my mental list. I was supposed to be open today, but I was also known for keeping esoteric hours so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone if the shop stayed closed until the afternoon and was open until the wee hours of the morning.
Depended on my mood really and besides, Morning’s Books was an occult bookstore, it paid to create ambiance. I was the Morning in the marquee, as it were. Bran Morning, proprietor, it was on the door. It was also on the sign over the counter. By the time I got back downstairs, Tyler was looking practically pet like, laying on the counter in a well-fed repose and purring.
The Ten of Cups
It was over ninety degrees outside. With humidity, that was the equivalent of walking through a pot of boiling water.
Out of habit, I started walking toward St. Catherine West, a busy shopping area near Cora’s apartment. I stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall ice cream place—no, really; it was a little window set in one of the stone facades on Rue St. Marc—for a shaved ice, just to take the edge off the heat.
July in Montreal is festival season. From every street corner, a different kind of music could be heard—Jazz from one quarter, an acoustic guitar on another. I thought I heard steel drums from the direction of the park, and somewhere, someone was impersonating Celine Dion.
Over all of it, traffic blared and conversations in English, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic blended with the music. Exhaust mingled with the smells of hot asphalt, unwashed commuter, hundred-dollar perfume, Chinese food, and the elephant ears at a nearby food cart.
Everywhere I looked, there was something—neon signs. Street performers. Tourists, locals.
I could feel the bass beat from one of the festival musicians thumping in my chest, and couldn’t help but smile.
The first sixteen years of my life had been spent in an Indiana town so small it didn’t even show up on most county maps. There were more people in Cora’s apartment building than there were in my entire school district.
I felt a little bit like a cell phone with an almost dead battery that had been plugged in after being in airplane mode to conserve power. I was picking up signals, absorbing the energy that was all around me. I rode the wave of energy down the street toward the park. I had every intention of crashing whatever festival was happening, but stopped suddenly when I saw the sign over an Asian grocery store: The Magick Cauldron. There was a sign in the window advertising tarot readings, among other things, and illustrated some fanned out cards—including the Ten of Cups and the Moon.
I tossed my half-full cup in a bin and jogged up the dingy stairs two at a time, passing notices for massages and chakra readings and Saturday night poetry readings, to a light, cheerful shop with a window AC unit struggling to go full blast.
Rainbow crystals hung from the ceiling sending bright refractions over a display of mythology books. My eye was drawn to a table of oracles: I Ching, tarot, and runes carved on polished stones.
I made a mental note for later, but I’d already spotted the corner table partially blocked off with draped cotton scarves.
There were two women chatting behind the counter. The younger one had spikey blonde hair and so many piercings that I wondered if she ever had trouble with airport security. The older woman was a middle-aged hippie type, with frizzy brown hair and a long skirt with those little silver jangly things that are supposed to look like Roman coins. She was fanning herself with a leaflet from someone claiming to talk to the dead.
“Hi! Can we help you?” asked the younger one. She was about college age, I thought. Without meaning to, I found myself entranced by a series of piercings along her cheekbone, and trying to figure out how they got there. Almost by accident, I started counting them.
“Hi.” Three in her cheek. “I was wondering—” Two, right eyebrow. “—if the tarot reader—” One, center of her nose. “—is in.” Two, lower lip.
She smiled—one, tongue—but it was the older woman who answered. I tried not to keep staring at the blonde, but it was really hard, especially when I realized that there were six more of those weird piercings along her clavicle, mostly hidden in her elaborate tattoo. And if I wasn’t mistaken, her nipples were also pierced.
“Sure, this way. Basic reading is fifteen, in depth is twenty-five. I also do numerology, but that’s extra. And of course, all of this is just entertainment only.” She gave me a wink that said she was probably required to say that.
We went behind the curtain. I only had a twenty on me, so we started with that.
“Cut the deck three times, concentrating on your query,” she said, plunking a deck down in front of me.
I wasn’t familiar with the deck she was using. Instead of figurative illustrations that showed the meaning of each card, her deck had an abstract design. It reminded me a bit of a Thoth deck I’d seen once, but this one was more elaborate, more graceful curves and a little less Picasso. The name of each card was written in elaborate scrollwork.
I did as I was told, thinking about Matt and what in the hell I was going to do next. The little room created by the curtains was hot and stuffy, cut off from the straining air conditioner and the little electric fan by the register.
The spread she laid out for me was vaguely pyramid in shape, but not one that I had used before.
“You’ve recently had a lot of changes in your life. Someone has left your circle of influence permanently.”
I gulped. Deep down, I had secretly hoped that the Ten of Cups that had been following me from spread to spread would mean that Matt would call, apologetic. Maybe the change cards—Death, the Tower—meant that our relationship would change for the better. Maybe the World meant that we were destined for each other. It was a slim, pathetic hope, but it was all I had. Once upon a time, I’d come out to my ultraconservative family. A few days later, I came home to find a priest in the living room with my parents, my suitcase at his feet. They were shipping me off to some facility in Utah where they “cured” people like me.
I took the suitcase and didn’t look back. When Matt announced he was moving to the other side of the country, I didn’t hesitate to follow. I started using his last name on most everything, just to distance myself from my former family.
She continued, “This departure will prove beneficial. That relationship was holding you back, and preventing you from gaining your full potential. Now that this toxic person has been removed from your life, old wounds can heal, particularly between family members.”
I turned a snort into a cough and tried not to show how skeptical I’d just become of her abilities as a reader. If she thought that there was any way I was going back to my hateful, bigoted family after the worst breakup ever, then she was insane.
“Your life has reached a turning point. Soon, you will have to make a choice—a moderate road with a mediocre ending, or a harder road, with an extraordinary ending.”
“What do you mean by ‘extraordinary?’” I asked.
She blinked as though coming out of a trance. “I-I couldn’t say. That’s up to you, I suppose.”
Meet the Authors
Missouri Dalton is a writer of horror/paranormal contemporary fantasy and alternate historical novels.
Missouri was raised mainly in transit, slowed down to finish school in one place and was then determined to be as nomadic as possible, if only because that’s how things just worked out. She uses writing as an escape from her own neurosi and currently lives with her dear friend Sophia.
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Author and designer Sophia Beaumont has long dreamed of faraway places, both real and imagined. She writes from her home in Ohio and hopes to one day live somewhere with a palm tree in the front yard.