Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 2

If you missed the prologue last week, make sure to read it HERE to catch up before reading chapter one! Otherwise, enjoy this week’s chapter:

Copyright Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel 2019


Chapter One: Anna

Imagine living your life inside a body bag, breathing through a minuscule hole poked in the side to get oxygen. You’re desperate to escape but the zipper is on the outside, out of reach, and the plastic refuses to rip.

That’s how I live my life.

That is my existence.

It’s a wonder I don’t suffocate.

Currently every ounce of my aggravation was being taken out on the aging punching bag in the corner of my suite. Left strike. Right strike. Someone’s head was getting bashed in my mind, namely my mother’s… and I didn’t feel guilty considering what she’d pulled this morning. Obsessing over my diet was one thing. Deciding to starve me was another.

But as my sneaker got stuck on the Velcro edge of the bag, leaving me to wobble unsteadily on my feet, I cursed. “Crappy piece of-“

“Your father would throw a fit if he heard that.”

Unable to turn to Mortimer as he came in and still stuck by one shoe, all I could do was laugh sarcastically as I loosened the shoelaces that’d gotten caught. “He can kiss my ass. There aren’t any TV cameras around; are there?”

There would never be one in this room. Daddy dearest wanted to broadcast to the public that I was a dainty, perfectly primped and competently obedient woman. Showing the fact that I was a fighter and one that could kick most of his security teams’ collective asses wasn’t his idea of a good daughter.

As the presidente of Dejado Atrás, or so the public thought, he was the subject of a federally funded reality television show. Every part of his life was televised to the public on Friday nights. To my condescension, I was also expected to appear weekly. Lucky me.

Finally managing to get unstuck, I smirked. Looking back at Mortimer, his eyebrows were definitely up; his greying buzzcut wet with rain. I smirked, gesturing at the bag. “What? No comments on my error?”

Usually he would. Mortimer had been by my side since I was ten, teaching me how to fight. Considering my father’s position of power, he’d done his best to turn me into an absolute beast in case I ever was captured. His lip quirked. “You already know the critique. I merely came with news…”

I groaned in a manner that I didn’t dare do on camera. “Don’t tell me. I have to meet with another ambassador.” I wiped off the sweat that was dripping down from my brow. “Tell them how honored I am to meet their worthless ass?”

He chuckled, going to sit by the door.  “You’re in a fine fettle.”

I leaned on the punching bag with a weary chuckle. “Heard Dad on the phone with the loser from Espocha City. Wonder if he’ll have the balls to approach me with that moron.”

Mortimer sniggered as I rolled my eyes, pitching my voice down to imitate my father. “Pumpkin, I’ve found you a very special man, one even more corrupt than I am. You’ll make a perfect couple, providing you don’t tell him how morally repugnant you find his business practices…“

He shook his head at my ranting. I could tell he agreed, though he didn’t dare say so for fear it’d get back to his boss. “Aiyla, you’re his daughter. Get over it. Can’t change it. Gotta get used to the bullshit like I did if you want to survive.”

I nodded, glumly tightening my gloves. As the former head of my father’s security and before that an army beret, he knew everything. “I know. Just another day in the life of chica numero uno, the most useless-“

“You’re not useless.”

“Sitting pretty is useless,” I grumbled, looking at him. I knew damn well just what everyone outside of these walls thought of me. I was collectively despised.

“Ah,” he said theatrically, his murky grey eyes solemn as he leaned forward. “I take it your proposal to become spokesperson for the children’s literacy grant was blackballed?”

Bingo. I punched the bag again, this time with renewed vigor. “Of course. I have too much on my plate already.“ I kicked the bag and then sucker punched it, gritting my teeth. “Especially since there’s only so many times I can straighten my lipstick in a day!”

“For once, your father is correct,” Mortimer harrumphed.

That declaration certainly got my attention. I turned to look at him, seeing his amusement gone as he rubbed his hands together. Whatever it was, he was dreading telling me. “Aiyla, they’ve decided to broadcast the Tourney again.”

No. God, no.

I sat down on the floor with a dull plunk, my knees without feeling. They were holding it again. The Tourney was a series of deathly televised games where men would compete, supposedly to win a chance at ten million dollars. Oh, plus my hand in marriage to cement themselves as an elite.

What all the entrants didn’t know was that it was rigged; not to test the contestants but to kill them all right there on the silver screen. Pure entertainment to cater to the bloodlust of masses; the height of reality television. Blood sold just as well as sex and the TV networks knew it.

It was my father’s sick idea of boosting public ‘morale’ with the idea the winner, too, could become one of us if he survived.

But my father didn’t know what the less fortunate public called the Tourney behind his back: Espectáculo de Asesinato. The Murder Show. A real morale booster for sure. And we were considered the murderers.

“He’ll announce it at the press conference tomorrow along with the names of the competitors,” he continued, looking troubled.

Estan loco!” I said, referring both to the show itself and the willing competitors. Father had already managed to dig up contestants; more morons who would die for a worthless competition. I slammed my fist on the floor. “How many lunatics did he get this time?!”

“Ten.” I groaned and flopped back on the mat, letting a few more four-letter words slip past my lips. Mortimer grunted, always a sure sign that he was on the edge of admitting what he really thought but decided against it. “Don’t upset yourself. They’re grown men. It’s their choice.”

“All this is a con,” I groaned, running a hand through my hair and looking at the ceiling. “A trick to make people think there’s a one in a zillion shot that they could win. How can they not see that?!”

My last sentence ended with me shouting. Thirty men had died already, and all in my name. Their deaths were televised across the country, this being the third year in a row.

“Power is a tempting lure; as are you,” Mortimer said simply, lugging himself up to come over to me with arms crossed.

I snorted humorlessly, ready for another round with the punching bag despite having done so for the last hour. “Yeah, because a piece of ass and a wad of cash is really worth dying over.”

Getting up, I met Mortimer’s stare evenly. He was only a bit taller than me, a stocky but strong man. And he knew exactly what I was going to ask. “Your father isn’t here. Don’t waste your breath-“

“I said nothing the last time,” I declared, raring to go confront him. “I know damn well how much money there is to be made off of this! All the elites involved do! They know no one will survive and reel in the advertising money all the same! Now he has ten new victims.”

Mortimer put his hand out to stop me, placing it on my shoulder. He shook his head, still somber. “Nor does he care.”

“I have to try!”

This time he physically stopped me, stepping in front of me. He took my shoulders in his hands, making me stop and face him. “Aiyla,” he said softly, dropping his normally brusque tone. “You can’t stop it. The system is designed so that-“

“No one can fight it,” I whispered, knowing that if he was saying it was futile, it really was. I lowered my eyes to the floor. “Even me.”

Much like the citizens, I was trapped. Father was only a figurehead, controlled by the more powerful shadow state behind the scenes. He was a puppet for them to manipulate, a face for the public to equate as the leader and falsely blame for their troubles.

As his daughter I was held to the same standards. If I displeased those in true control, I’d be killed. I was an unwilling marionette, one that was manipulated every day of my life. A lamb for the slaughter before the golden calf of society. At twenty four years old, there was absolutely nothing in this life that was mine; not even my face.

He tipped my chin up. There was no hint of a smile in his eyes as he muttered, “These men are all volunteers. They’re not your problem.”

I smiled sadly, putting my hand on top of his. “Dangle a diamond in front of a beggar long enough and they’ll do anything for it. But I’m no diamond. I’m a crystal. Looks like a diamond only because it’s been polished for so long.” I shook my head. “Rub off the shine and it’ll crack.”

“Your beauty isn’t a curse.”

“I don’t care what I look like,” I grumbled as he gave me a teensy hug and then stepped back.

No matter how much he obviously wanted to comfort me, Mortimer knew better than to get too chummy with me in this place. Cameras were everywhere and we both knew if Father started to feel threatened as my ‘paternal figure’, he’d fire Mortimer in a heartbeat. I forced myself to smile, keeping my usual sarcasm as a defense. “Everything in my life is superficial except you.”

He cracked a rare smile, the expression fleeting from his features. “You are a diamond, hun. You’re as hard as one, as well as the strongest person I know. Someday you’ll see.”

For the millionth time ever, I wished that Mortimer was my true family. In my heart, he already was. He’d been by my side since forever, teaching me everything he knew. I even stayed at his house a few times when boarding school had holidays and my parents were away. He and Aunty Lola would do their best to care for me.

He went to say something else, but we were interrupted as my personal assistant came trouncing in. For all intents and purposes, I despised the woman but knew better than to tell her that. Tiny thrived on making me miserable and I knew she could turn up her efforts to an even higher notch.  

Her name didn’t fit all two hundred pounds of her as she charged toward me, her black hair pulled into an insanely tight bun. But my stomach bottomed out as I saw that she had another garment bag.

“Aiyla, you have a dinner with the police chief’s son,” she proclaimed, acting more like I was her servant than her boss. Then again, she answered to my mother Elena so any control I had over her was a farce. She tapped her tablet, barely even looking at me and clearly already put out. “You’re supposed to have been ready-“

“Gorgen can handle me like this,” I grunted, unbothered while taking another chug of water. “I used to kick his butt every week in boxing class before Dad decided I was ‘above’ taking public classes.”

She sniffed with impatience. ”You’re so predictable, Anna.“

“My name is Aiyla,” I snapped, officially losing patience. “If you want me to listen to you at all, use my friggin’ name.”

She rolled her eyes. “You know that the statistics of the poll showed that the public prefers a European name. We need to make the citizens more comfortable.“

Comfortable was another word for pliable. “Yes, because giving me a bland, European name in a Latin American dominated culture is really going to make me popular,” I growled, my eyes narrowing and hers mirroring the movement. “Need to keep them passive, right?”

Mortimer choked on a laugh, cackling as he strode off. He hated Tiny just about as much as I did. She knew it, too, thrusting the garment bag at me. ”Get changed.”

“If you don’t like it, then quit,” I challenged, snatching it from her.

She tutted, absolutely scandalized. “When I took the job I was assured you were socially pliable.“

Socially pliable equated with being dragged along like a yap yap dog in her wake. I.e., I’d be her bitch.

“If ya wanna keep your job, give me a little more sugar and drop the spice, sweetheart,” I drawled, bearing down on her. Tiny squared her jaw, looking like she wanted to scream at me. I smiled, letting her know that despite my general tolerance for her orders, I wasn’t going to give in. “Bring the car around…”

She quickly disappeared from my suite, loathing radiating out of her every pore. Looking over at Mortimer, I shrugged as I saw his open amusement. “What little power I’ve got isn’t going to be wasted.”

He just chuckled as I headed for the bathroom to change. “Enjoy your ‘date’. Tell Gorgen that I hope his left hook has improved since the last time you beat the crap out of him.”

All I did was wink, draping the garment bag over my shoulder as I went.

***

Two hours later and I was beyond bored.

Sitting in the upscale, five-star restaurant on an obscenely hard plastic bar chair, I was wishing it’d cone complete with a punching bag like the one I’d left behind with Mortimer. Gorgen had yet to show, leaving me alone, looking like an idiot and trussed up like a Barbie doll.

Done up in a pastel pink suit with a pencil skirt, silk blouse, diamonds on my neck and pointy shoes, I oozed high fashion. What it didn’t scream was ‘me’. I hated everything about it, even down to the body that was currently in it.

Oh no. I liked me right fine. I just hated my bleached, blonde hair and the pale tinge my skin had taken on since mother insisted I needed skin treatments to lighten my ‘commoner’ colored tan skin. Between that and feeling grouchy because of the diet they’d stuck me on, my heels were killing me.

Sipping on sparkling water with lemon, I stared at the bottle of Jack that was behind the bar. Could’ve done with a shot of that right about now but I knew better. The glasses on the table were glinting with the flashes of the paparazzi’s cameras. They were all outside watching me, snapping photos from the outside of the restaurant. The entire wall of this place was glass. Bulletproof glass, but glass all the same.

My pink-dyed fur stole fell on the floor again and this time I just left it there. I hated the damn thing with the fox’s head still attached. It should’ve been alive; not slaughtered for the sake of high fashion.

As a waiter came up, I turned toward him. I noted that he appeared too young to be working here, but he had a kind smile. He even had the same light, cognac-colored skin and dark hair that I once had. His hazel eyes rested shrewdly on me, taking in my continued vigil in front of the window.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked for the fifth time, looking me over. “You look like you could use-“

“Cyanide with a side of arsenic,” I said out of the corner of my mouth, not bothering to hide my aggravation.

He smirked with a wink, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Best I can do is a suicide. Our bartender is a magic maker. Had a sip once and that was enough to knock me for a loop.”

At least he had a sense of humor. “I’ll pass.”

The last thing I needed was to get smashed in front of the cameras. Then again, screw it. I knew another form of preferable suicide. I smiled at him. “You know what? Bring me a hot fudge sundae. Better: two.” I gestured at the empty seat next to me. “It’ll kill my mother when she sees it in the headlines tomorrow. ‘Presidente’s daughter commits diet suicide’.” I sneered. “An absolute tragedy. Put it on Gorgen’s tab.”

He smirked, enjoying my behavior. “Hardly a tragedy, miss. If your date can’t appreciate you, then he’s not worthy of you.” I stirred my drink with my straw, eyebrows up as he added flirtatiously, “I wasn’t kidding when I offered you anything you like.”

I took a sip, drinking him in a little with my eyes. By the looks of him, he was certainly a looker but a little young for me.

“You’re very cute,” I said slowly, enjoying myself but also withdrawing from him. “But take my advice. You may want to bite into an apple, but sometimes even the shiniest red sheen can turn out to be rotten to the core.”

He stared at me for a second, clearly unnerved with my candor before moving off to do as I ordered. I lost my patience and slipped my shoes off, turning my back to the window entirely. I snapped my fingers and the AI drapes lowered over it, shrouding me inside.

I closed my eyes, feeling the tightness of my skin from the makeup and wondering just what it’d take to get it all off. I felt like a wall with peeling paint, my lips dry from the matte lipstick that’d been painted on.

But as I heard footsteps and then something being placed on the bar next to me, I opened my eyes. There were three sundaes in front of me: one with candy, another with cookie crumbs, and the last with sprinkles. And next to them stood someone I knew all too well.

“I didn’t know what toppings you’d like, so I had all three made differently,” Ryan Haynesworth said with some amusement, noting my shoes on the floor along with the stole. His flashing blue eyes were filled with laughter. That and a great deal of lust.

He held out a whipped cream container. “I brought the whipped cream since you drew the curtains. You can eat straight out of the can without fear.” He lowered his voice, sitting next to me with a saucy wink. “Or off of me. Say the word and I’ll have the restaurant cleared for us. You’re worth it.”

I took a spoon and pulled the sundae with the cookie crumbs toward me. “Ah, Ryan. You’re always so… sweetly inappropriate.”

He laughed, taking his jacket uniform off and sitting next to me. Since he and Gorgen were brothers, he had the same striking blonde hair and light features. Despite being of an elite status, he was on the police force as a captain.

I extended a spoon to him. “Take your pick.”

He pulled the candy sundae toward himself, still eyeing me with amusement. “I don’t mind double dipping so help yourself. You can dip into my ice cream anytime.” He wasn’t talking about the sweets either as he took a bite. “You’re trying to spite your mother with calories, eh?”

He licked his spoon suggestively and I rolled my eyes. “Now you’re just trying to get my goat.”

“Now why would I go for your goat when I can have you?” he said with some humor and dug further into his ice cream. “My brother sends his apologies. He was… waylaid. Emphasis on laid.”

“Send my regards to his hookers because that man needs a sure thing,” I retorted, making him chuckle. “So you came instead? My hero…”

“Hero? Well, I could be,” he said, making me snicker again. “Just say the word.”

Oh, dear Lord. I turned to him, sensing he was doing his best to be outrageous. His eyes were glinting with ulterior motives as always. I crossed my legs, leaning back in my chair. “Why are you here?”

“I’m your personal escort until the games are officially over,” he said with no further humor, dropping his teasing. Seeing my revulsion with that announcement his eyes hardened and he chuckled. He took my hand and squeezed it, saying in a teasing tone, “I’ll be as sexually obnoxious as possible to keep you distracted. I promise.”

That I could believe. “Why, thank you,” I said dryly, taking another spoon of vanilla ice cream. As I felt something go up the inside of my calf, I looked down.

Ryan smirked at me. “Complimentary footsie is included in the ‘obnoxious’ package.” I rolled my eyes as he leaned forward deviously. “And believe me, the ‘package’ is fabulous. You should really consider inspecting the goods…”

As he sat back with cat-like smugness, I looked at him and all he entailed. While he was undoubtedly attractive, he knew it and that immediately turned me off. His arrogance was legendary. As his eyebrows went up, I said, “We do this every time we cross paths, Ryan. We both know you don’t want me.”

It was a game just to see how far he could get me to go. There was absolutely no chemistry between us, other than the innuendo banter to see who could outsmart the other party. He rolled his eyes, knowing I was dismissing him. “Oh, I want you; just minus the hideous pink fur stole.”

This time I laughed and he chuckled. That was a load of bunk, the quip made purely to get a reaction out of me. I stood in a fluid motion, bending to pick up the stole and then draping it over his shoulders. I kissed his cheek as I slipped my shoes back on. “See you tomorrow.”

He chuckled, wrinkling his nose at the pink fur around his neck. “I’ll be there cocked, loaded and ready to go.”

“I’m sure,” I said dryly, heading for the exit. His low laughter followed me, his focus probably shifting to bedding one of the waitresses who had been flitting around the restaurant. He was a notorious womanizer, one with immense success at landing himself willing prey.

Eyes followed me as I headed for the back entrance, all from people who were dining in the obscenely expensive restaurant. The waitstaff stayed out of my way, keeping a reverent distance.

The limo was supposed to wait in the back for me, away from the crowds out front. I texted the driver to make sure he was waiting and got an immediate response. Passing the kitchen, I headed out but, to my displeasure, once outside there was no limo. I looked both ways, seeing no cars whatsoever. Adding to my unease, the door snapped shut behind me almost like it’d been closed from within.

Immediately my hand went for my clutch, thinking of the handgun I kept inside it. Now on red alert I drew it, taking the safety off. I slipped my heels off, knowing they’d be nothing more than a hinderance in a fight.

The damp alley was dimly lit so I wasn’t able to see beyond another ten feet from me. Only an orange, overhead light shone, giving it a stark, creepy look. A dumpster was on one side, blocking the view beyond it.

Whirling as I heard a noise from behind it, I aimed and stepped out to keep the area in view. I hastily lowered my gun as I saw my previous waiter yelp and then put his hands up. He’d been behind the dumpster, apparently sneaking in a drink. His glass bottle fell from his hand and smashed on the pavement.

“Whoa!” he sputtered out, hands still up as I studied him with suspicion. “Please don’t shoot me. My family won’t be able to afford the loss of income if I die!“

Clearly he wasn’t the fighting kind. He looked even younger out here than he did inside – maybe on the edge of seventeen – and remained absolutely terrified. I lowered the weapon. He heaved a sigh of relief as I stepped forward. “You seen a town car?”

“No,” he said, looking around bewilderedly. “Usually VIPs go out the front, so I thought you were my boss coming to yell at me.”

I nodded, wondering where my driver had gone to. I studied the alley and rooftops beyond, wondering if I was in for an ambush. It wasn’t the first time nor especially the last. And since Father wanted people to believe we lived in utopia here and didn’t need protection, I had no bodyguards to fall back on either.

Leaving the alley and going on the main street would be dangerous. I was so ill-liked that I’d probably be attacked.

The young waiter ambled up, mournfully looking at his smashed bottle. “And no, I haven’t been drinking. I don’t handle liquor well, so I put root beer in the bottle to stop my co-workers from making fun of me. I’m Alvin-“

Alvin was clearly a friendly talker. I grunted, paying him little attention besides monitoring his movement. He frowned. “Shouldn’t you be out of here by now? VIPs never linger.“

“Driver’s bailed and the door locked before I could get back in,” I grumbled, having stuck my hand in my pocket and pressing the panic button on my alarm system. It’d alert the police and I had a very bad feeling I’d be needing them. The question was where Ryan had gone to.

Alvin’s eyes widened in alarm. “Locked? That shouldn’t be.”

He went to the door, testing it himself. It didn’t budge, confirming to me that we were in for a rough time of it. But as he looked back to say something, his eyes darted past me to widen with dread.

Following his gaze, I spotted men coming from the mouth of the alley. There were seven, all in black with their faces covered with black bandanas. I aimed the gun squarely at the closest’s chest, not taking any chances. Lord knew they were probably looking to abduct not kill, but I wasn’t taking any risks.

Surprising me, however, Alvin put himself in front of me. He squared his shoulders, saying with authority, “This is private property!”

Somehow I doubted very much that the men would be dissuaded by that. They were toting heavy automatic weapons.

My eyes darted around, spotting a fire escape about fifty feet away, but I wasn’t going to make that. They’d likely shoot before I could get to it. Not to mention one side of it was held up by a rusty bolt half hanging out of the brick wall. Any weight on it could bring it crashing down.

“Alvin, run,” I muttered, seeing he wasn’t going to back down. Preparing to defend me, his fists were clenched but he was in no way a threat. He hadn’t grown into his body yet, still more scrawny than muscular.

He stepped forward before I could stop him and was instantly struck down, the man closest punching him out. I edged away from them toward the back of the alley, keeping the gun aimed at the biggest’s head as they stepped around Alvin’s limp form.

“Whatever it is you want, it’s not worth dying over,” I snarled, edging back as they prowled forward. A trigger-happy woman was something nobody ever wanted to deal with, so they would probably try to sway me into giving up.

None of them stopped and, if anything, a few hands were twitching toward their own guns. One snickered at me, clearly not bothered by my threat. “You sure about that, Anna?”

They all laughed together, making my stomach sink. There’d be no ending this peacefully. Their leader gestured at my gun. “Put that down before you hurt yourself.”

“It won’t sting a bit if I shred your brain,” I threatened, still creeping toward the other end of the alley. At worst, I could wedge myself in the narrow to try to avoid them grabbing me. If I kept them talking long enough, I could keep them at bay until the police answered the summons from my panic button.

As one lunged for me, another used the distraction to his advantage, coming at me from the side. Before he could subdue me, I officially decided to stop playing nice.

Firing on the one going to grab me, it hit him square in the chest. But to my disgruntlement, other than staggering back a little, it didn’t stop him. He must’ve been wearing a concealed, bulletproof vest, most likely meaning the rest were, too.

I kept my aim true, hissing out, “Next one goes in the head. Tell me what you want and you might live.”

The back of the alley was getting closer as I paced backward. I refused to be cornered. They didn’t know what I was planning, matching my every step just like I wanted. They would be right under my target ambush zone in a minute.

They moved into a tight, half semi-circle around me, blocking any attempts to run past them. They’d obviously taken me to be an untrained fool. The lead one sneered from behind his mask, “Come quietly. There’s only five bullets left in that pistol now, and seven of us…”

I snickered, making them pause. “Only need one.”

Looking up, I shot the faulty bolt holding up the end of the fire escape. As I broke the bolt, it groaned and crashed down on top of all seven; the men crying out as it landed on them. Darting around it as they struggled to get free, I headed straight for back door of the restaurant.

I shot out the lock on it and attempted to kick it in. I reeled back as it failed to move, somehow barred shut from the inside. Deciding to abandon the idea as I heard movement behind me, I whirled for the open end of the alley. Better to risk running into the street than to remain within firing range. Before I could make it two steps, I was grabbed from behind.

Now down to three bullets, I pitched forward, trying to throw my assailant over my back. He anticipated my move, jerking back and dragging me with him.

Taking my next shot and managing to get one arm out of his grip, I fired at his foot. He screeched and then fell as I pistol whipped him, taking him down.

Whirling to see only two more of the men coming at me, the rest trapped under the fire escape, I decided to make sure they wouldn’t stop me from escaping. I popped one of them in the neck and then aimed directly at the second one’s forehead.

He paused mid-run, skidding to a halt with fear. His eyes widened and then abruptly changed course, booking it for the open end of the alley. I snorted humorlessly. “Yeah, you’d better run, you lousy, mother f-“

Hearing a noise from behind me, I whipped around to aim at a male figure in the shadow of the dumpster. While I couldn’t see him well, I could make out that he put his hands up as my finger twitched on the trigger.

“Whoa,” a heavily vocoded voice said to me, leaving me to see a set of shining eyes widen in the gloom. “I come in peace. Don’t shoot.”

Not altogether assured, I bellowed, “I warn you-“

“You took out all these guys before I could, chica, so chill,” the man said, cutting me off and stepping out further into the light.

Thoroughly bewildered as I saw black attire with what looked like some kind of a mask-helmet with two huge, horn-like things on top, it took me a second to realize they resembled some kind of animal ears. Between them and his black, flapping cape, I was absolutely astounded. What the hell was this supposed to be?

Apparently he could see my incredulity. He grinned, the lower half of his face discernable; only his eyes visible otherwise. “I’ll take credit for scaring the last guy off, but the rest was all you.” He looked over at the fire escape that was still pinning down several of the struggling men. “I came when I heard the scuffle but I was too late. Not to mention unnecessary.” He looked back to me, grin widening. “I’m impressed, chica.”

He was clearly from somewhere in the lower end of the city. While he had a voice changer, he carried the accent of one of the less wealthy ends of town. And one so thick that if it’d been any of my father’s men here, they likely wouldn’t have understood him.

Still unsure what his game was and deciding to cut the crap, I asked in Spanish, “You a cop?”

He laughed, flat out annoying me as he replied in what I was sure was his usual Spanish dialect. “Nah. If I were with the fuzz, you think I’d be talking with you? You look awfully guilty with that pile of bodies behind you.”

He was yanking me around now. I could hear humor in his voice, despite the voice changer in the side of his mask. He leaned against the wall, completely unbothered by the gun I kept aimed at him.

Your driver won’t be coming,” he added further, clearly waiting for me to lower my weapon. I did so slowly, realizing he wasn’t out to harm me. “Those men got to him before they could you.”

So that was where my ride went. As I studied the newcomer further, I couldn’t help but ask in English, “Who are you?”

If anything, he reminded me of a Zorro-wannabe. He only smiled wider, as if he’d been waiting for the question. He reverted back to English as well. “I am the Lynx.”

That didn’t sound right. Had I misheard? “The link?”

His smile faded a little, using his foot to nudge the fellow who I’d pistol whipped. “Uh, no. The Lynx.”

Completely stymied, I gave in and asked, “The link to what?”

He rolled his eyes, starting to look frustrated. “Ai! No, señorita. The Lynx. You know. See the ears? El lince? Meow?”

As he pointed at the enormous ears on the top of his mask, suddenly I understood. “Oh, a ‘lynx’?”

He nodded, satisfied with my recognition. Now remembering what my father had been bitching about a few days previous, the word ‘vigilante’ had been mentioned, as had a mysterious Lynx that’d been interfering with police territories. And here he stood in front of me now.

Knowing that the police absolutely hated him, as did all of the elites, I inclined my head. “Well, ‘Lynxy’, while I thank you for the assistance, you’d better scram. My entourage doesn’t like civilian interference.“

  Hearing my tone change, he cocked his head. “Eh. Watch it. Do I know you? Swear I’ve heard your snotty tone before. Few gatos speak with such authority.”

Now he was just sassing me right back, calling me a ‘cat’ in his disparaging manner. I rolled my eyes and suddenly his eyes zeroed in on me. He pointed at me with one fingerless-gloved hand. “Si! That’s it! Señorita Anna Gobacheva. The Presidente’s daughter.”

    Didn’t sound like he was altogether that fond of me. I inclined my head before turning, deciding that humoring my vigilante tagalong would be bad on a number of levels and mostly for him.

“Wait. Now that I know who you are, we should talk,” he insisted, getting a belligerent tone and following behind me, refusing to give up.

I sighed. “Unfortunately, I don’t have the time-”

“For anyone,” he finished incorrectly for me, cutting me off and thinking I was dismissing him. A gaze of steel met mine. “What I want to know is how it is all you silver spoonfed aristocrats can brush off the people’s suffering! They die by the thousands while you pad tu billeteras-“

Recognizing the word for wallet, I rounded on him. This one talked big, but didn’t know who the hell he was attacking. “You think I like it?! You think I don’t get angry over the same thing?!”

He got up in my face, not altogether much taller than me. It put us on the same level, nose-to-nose while he snarled, “That diamond necklace on your chest could feed an entire slum for a month! That tells me where your intentions lie! If you gave a damn-“

“If I gave a damn I’d be dead,” I growled back, not backing off in the slightest and jabbing him in the chest. “You’ve no idea what you’re talking about! Don’t waste your breath. I’ve wasted mine too many times-“

“All you care about is yourself,” he spat in my face, starting to get riled up. “I can see that now-“

“Oh, can you? Then congratulations on seeing through all their bullshit,” I snapped, making him pause. I shrugged, mocking him. “You’ve obviously figured out that my father’s ‘social preservation’ campaign is a farce. Or is it you’re too short for the armed forces?”

The Lynx turned mottled red below his mask, my jab hitting its mark. If I was five-four, he was barely five-five. The tension between us was fierce, neither of us backing down.

I sighed and shook my head. “Look, we would agree on every point you make. But I can’t help you. I can’t help anybody. It’s not that I won’t. It’s that I can’t.”

“I don’t believe that,” he said with just as much ferocity as before, not softening one bit.

I looked down, unhappy with the way that things had turned out between us. “Believe what you want. Now I’d suggest you go. My security team will be here soon. Then you’d get to see just how much control I’ve got. They’ll shoot you even if I order them not to.”

He just glared at me, completely unmoved by my statement. I looked at the gun in my hands, wishing he’d leave. “Do yourself a favor. If you want justice, keep this up. But don’t expect any help because you won’t get it.“

“Then don’t expect me to help you the next time you’re in trouble,” he snapped, looking me over with hatred. “Because-“

Hearing sirens coming, I turned to the opening of the alley. Realizing I should warn the Lynx, I turned back. But no one was there.

All that was left was the downed fire escape and the bodies of the men who’d been knocked out. Where the hell did he go? It was like he’d evaporated.

Hearing a groan, I stepped back to Alvin. He stirred with a pained grimace, looking up at me groggily with widening eyes as he came to. “Oh, God! Where did-?”

He sat up, seeing the remainders of the men who’d tried to take me. His eyes came back to me with astonishment. “Did you – you’ve must’ve – are they dead?!“

I extended a hand to him as a few cop cars pulled up at the opening of the alley, flooding it with blue and red light. Their doors opened as Alvin took my hand, rubbing his head where he’d been hit.

I sighed as he stood, all the security getting out and thinking he’d been an attacker because of his ethnic features. Alvin let out a frightened squawk and threw his hands up as I shook my head. This was not going to end well; that was for sure.

 “Just let me do the talking…”


And that’s it for chapter one! Sparks certainly flew between Aiyla and the illustrious Lynx. Any predictions for next week’s edition? I’m all ears and so is the Lynx – wink, wink! I know. A bad joke but still.

If you’re enjoying this story, make sure to mark it as ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads HERE and share this blog post with your friends. The more people reading, the more likely I am to release extra chapters at a time.

Thanks for tuning in and much love during the quarantine! We’re all in this together and I want to be there for you, my dear readers. Hugs to you!

– XO Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

If you want alerts every time a new chapter is released, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter. As a free bonus sign up gift, I’ll send a complimentary copy of my best selling e-novella STILL DEATH, as well as a coupon for 25% off my online book store.

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Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 1 | The Prologue

Remember that serial novel I was promising you my dear readers to keep you entertained during the quarantine? Without further ado, I present:

DEL MUERTA: Sanctum of Hell Series
Welcome to Infierno. Directly translated: welcome to Hell…
In the city of Dejado Atrás lurks a dark secret; a paradox that hides behind the veneer of democratic deception. Dictators will fall and vigilantes will rise in this dystopian action novel.

Without further ado, here is the first part of Del Muerta. I hope you love this novel as much as I have loved writing the characters. Each one is dear to my heart, even down the low, rotten scoundrels. And there are plenty of them in this series, believe me. No more spoilers, I’ll let you enjoy the story.

Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel


Prologue

Restless sirens pierced the dark as five silhouettes raced across the rooftops of Dejado Atrás. The wraith-like figures flitted over the lip of the nearest roof, jumping to the fire escape below to scramble into the protective cover of the alley.

One was livid; the other four no different but all a united front as they dove behind the shadows of a forgotten dumpster.

The ghetto of Infierno lay beyond them; the dim streets as black as the hearts of those who governed it. It was their home to protect. Their sanctuary. Yet simultaneously their hell. Hunted like common animals, they were constantly chased within an inch of their lives.

The searchlight of the armored police car roved over their hiding spot, then disappeared as it drove past. In a flash it was gone, still scanning for the vigilantes that dared defy its authority. All breathed a collective sigh of relief, the danger silently ebbing away.

 “This is getting out of hand,” the alias called the Chupacabra muttered, breathing hard as her hazel eyes combed the surroundings. Pulling off her mask, she shook her head. “We can’t even meet without them trying to catch us.“

“Ya think? We need to get inside information about how the Hacienda operates,” another of the five murmured; the Reverend’s eyes glinting with barely concealed fury as he gave the other four a cursory glance. “Otherwise the Forge is going to bury us all.”

Nobody disagreed, thinking of the uprising that regularly attacked the governance of the city. The members of the rebellion didn’t care who they killed in the process, so long as they claimed control. Almost as corrupt as the regime in current control, neither side of the fight cared about the inhabitants of the metropolis. 

Only one of the five dared to reply.

“Already done. I’ve infiltrated Tourney,” the Lynx replied, removing his mask as the others turned to stare at him. The original vigilante of the city, he shook out his hair, damp from the drizzling rain. “I’ll get the information we need-“

“The Tourney?! Are you insane?!” Chupacabra hissed in horror at her foster brother, knowing he was already willing to sacrifice himself to defend them all. “Everyone who enters it winds up six feet under! You’ll die!”

“It’s our only option,” he insisted, his cherry wood eyes as solemn as the grave he would likely wind up in. “Once in, I’ll report back what information I can get. They’re housing the contestants in the manor. I’ll have direct access to the inside.”

“What about fixing that bitch of a daughter the presidente’s got? The ‘prize’ of the whole bloodbath?” Eden snickered, leaning against the brick wall of the alley. His grin was positively sinister, his fingers suggestively tracing the holstered gun at his hip. “Worst comes to worst, you kill her-“

“Or the complete opposite. You seduce her,” the Chupacabra said with an equally fiendish gleam in her eye, relishing the idea. She pulled off her flesh-colored gloves and brushed her raven hair back. “Use her to get the information we want. Then discard her when we’re done.”

The Lynx’s eyes gleamed at the thought of finally exacting revenge on those who had murdered his wife and daughter. Yes, that idea had a certain ring to it. A tempting, cloying edge that he couldn’t resist.

Everyone in the city hated ‘Princess’ Anna of the Hacienda as she sat poised on her royally pompous duff, pampered with riches and spoils while the rest of the world starved. She was no princess by blood; only as a common derogatory nickname amongst the people of the city. Fixing her for good would do everyone a favor beyond measure, even just for morale’s sake.

But the Lynx had a better idea still.

“No. I seduce her to our cause,” he said, seeing the other four brighten as they considered the idea. “What better way to get back at them than to corrupt the one thing they count on to continue their regime?”

All five shared a conspiratorial smile, thinking of all the havoc they could wreak working from the inside out of the deep state of Dejado Atrás. With this move, they could potentially outmaneuver the entire government. Using intel they’d steal, they’d at long last take down the corruption that saturated the streets.

Before they could plan further, however, searchlights flickered back into the alley. Discovering they’d been conned, the police had returned. Four of the five scattered like frightened rabbits, heading in different directions as the light blinded their eyes.

Instead of fleeing with them, the Lynx quickly ascended the fire escape to lead to the roof above. Not caring if he was caught so long as the others escaped, he scrambled over the top of the building as the policemen followed in hot pursuit. The Hacienda couldn’t stop what he’d started; a movement to recover the city from their grip. Vigilantes were sprouting up in every corner to best them; to fight for what was right.

Darting past the billboard video screen atop the roof, he stifled a grim smile. Princess Anna glared out of the billboard advertising the Tourney with bored apathy. She had no idea just what was coming for her.

The Lynx only laughed as a shot rang out, a bullet ricocheting off the billboard screen and missing him entirely as the police fired. Two more bullets zipped past and missed, the yells of the pursuing officers demanding he surrender. To hell with that.

Like the phantom spirit that he was, he disappeared into the night without a trace; without a whisper of a sound. Before the eyes of the disbelieving officers, once over the side of the building, the Lynx was gone.

As they searched through the dawn, the promise of revenge hung in the air like smoke over a smoldering fire. Even if the Lynx had to give up his life, at least freedom would belong to the people of Infierno once more.

Dejado Atrás would be free at any price. Princess Anna was going down.

- Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Copyright 2019 

I hope you enjoyed the prologue! Be nice to me and comment your predictions about the story below and I might just release chapter one tomorrow instead of making you wait another week for it!

PS. Make sure to sign up to be alerted every time a new chapter is released. As a thanks for signing up, you’ll receive a free gift just from me.

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Love and hugs,

Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

Announcing Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | A New Serial Dystopian Action Series

Remember that serial novel I was promising you my dear readers to keep you entertained during the quarantine? Without further ado, I present:


DEL MUERTA: Sanctum of Hell Series
Welcome to Infierno. Directly translated: welcome to Hell…
In the city of Dejado Atrás lurks a dark secret; a paradox that hides behind the veneer of democratic deception. Dictators will fall and vigilantes will rise in this dystopian action series.

❤️☢️

Tune in every Friday for a new chapter / podcast in the Sanctum of Hell series by yours truly. All episodes of the chapters will be posted here on this site in text and in audio form for your enjoyment.

I am so looking forward to sharing this story with you. In addition to my usual flair of action in my books, this series is very special to me. It covers some very difficult topics which are so very relevant to this current time. It also explores cultural traditions such as El Dia de Los Muertos. And yes, as always, from the POV from a kick ass heroine.

All in all, while it’s a dangerous world out there, so my aim is to keep you distracted and hopefully entertained while this storm passes. Sign up for my email list and I’ll even send you reminders about when every chapter is posted.

All my love and prayers,

Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

CHAPTER DIRECTORY

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 1 | The Prologue

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 2

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 3

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 4: Game Day

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 5 – Splash Dunk

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 6 – Poison

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 7

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 8 – Treachery


https://maggielynnheronheidel.com/
https://sanctumofhell.wordpress.com/

Cursed Hart: An Exclusive Excerpt

An exclusive excerpt of Cursed Hart:

“… Before Brin could question me further, Heidi’s car swerved in front of us and came to a screeching halt; a figure all in black rising from the pavement in front of her Hummer. Brin jammed on the brakes, swerving to miss them both. “What the hell-?”

“Uh, oh,” I said under my breath. A flash in my mind told me what I needed to know. The blood red hair of the woman under the black hood brought back images that didn’t belong to me, having seen them in Shitheed’s mind. “That’s Marlana.”

She was advancing menacingly at our car, eyes riveted on me and sparks flying from her fingertips. I could feel her black magic building, black smoke swirling toward our car.

Fortunately for us, I glanced in the rear-view mirror. A ginger-haired fellow with yellow eyes waved back tauntingly and stuck his forked tongue out at me. Dread coiled in my gut. “That’s Toby.”

Peter cursed shrilly. Brin remained deathly calm, his fingers winding into position around the stick, moving the gears into reverse out of their view. “Shira, you attack. Pete, get the defense ready.”

Tro was already gathering at my palms. Both people had black magic shields around them. Plus I wasn’t exactly sure they were entirely human; judging by Toby’s yellow eyes. “Just tell me when.”

He didn’t have to. Brin slammed the gas pedal down, the car rocketing backward. Much to my dismay, Toby disappeared into thin air the second we were about to hit him. I fired an energy bolt at Marlana and it bounced off her shield harmlessly, though it did work handily enough to distract her as Heidi gunned her engine and proceeded to slam into her with the Hummer. I never saw if the woman got up.

Fishtailing the car around, Brin sped toward the open highway. Peter gripped his seat nervously. “Who are these people?!”

I screamed as Toby appeared in the back seat next to me. “So you’re the precious Väktare. Xydon is gonna love you…”

Peony lunged at him as I kicked Toby in the face. Peony’s paws went through him as did my foot. He giggled and disappeared again, my hands meeting empty air as I struck out. I sat bewildered for a second, as did Peony. “Where did he go? He didn’t teleport.”

“And what the hell is he?!“ Peter yelped.

“Wall-walker,” Brin said grimly. “Moves through solid objects.”

“Shira, when I give the word, bend down,” Fae hissed in my head, creeping up under the front seat. “He’s right behind you on the back dashboard. I can smell him.”

I froze as I pictured him crammed in back there, right behind my head. Something was sniffing down the back of my neck, and it wasn’t Peony. Fae stealthily slithered up onto the console, looking anywhere but at me.

“Peter, take Shira and tele-send with her to safety.”

“No!” I exclaimed to Brin, realizing that would interrupt Fae’s plan. “No, I’ll come to you.”

“What? We won’t fit-”

“Now!” Fae screamed in my mind at the same time she screeched and launched herself into the air. I ducked down as she flew over my head. She must have hit her target because I heard a rather loud yell in response. I looked back to see Toby trying to get her off as she clawed at his eyes.

I dove over the front seat, grabbed Brin’s dagger from its sheath, and then jammed it down hard into Toby’s leg. Another agony-filled scream met my actions. I pulled it back, preparing to drive it down again, but he disappeared out the back windshield. Green drops of blood fell from the blade as Fae growled. “I don’t smell him anymore.

“Where did he go now? He wouldn’t give up that easily!”

Brin didn’t answer as he wound in and out of traffic, speeding onto the on ramp of the interstate.  He put his fingers to his lips and pointed upward. I followed his finger up to the roof with a foreboding feeling. “Pete, take care of it.”

“With pleasure,” Peter replied to him, digging around in the glove compartment. I dove for the floor. Fae took one look over the seat and bailed, too, with a yowl at seeing his pistol. I covered my ears as he fired off a bunch of rounds at the ceiling with a maniacal laugh. “How do you like that, sucker?!” I flinched as he hit the end of the cartridge. “Think I got him?”

“Load up the other cartridge just to be sure.” Brin’s eyes met mine in the rear-view mirror. “You okay back there?”

I sat up warily. “No. My boot went through him!”

“He’s a hybrid, I think. Wall-walkers don’t normally turn invisible or bleed green,” he said, eyes traveling around. Nothing pierced his steely calm, as he weaved in and out of traffic.

“Where do you think Heidi went?” Peter said worriedly.

“She’s likely better off than us. I didn’t see anybody fall back onto the road, so I’m guessing we still have a tag along.”

“Well, if he’s not on the hood or the roof, or in here, then…” A horrible thought clogged my mind. “Peter, is there space in the trunk?”

“Nothing but bags. Why? Oh,” he said, turning to me and eyeing the trunk. “How do we get back there? There’s no way to-”

I heard no more as a set of arms seized me from behind and grasped my throat; choking me. Glancing to the side, the arms were floating out of the back seat with no owner attached. I attempted to stab down on him with the dagger, but it went right through air. Peony went to bite him and the same happened.  Running an electric current over my skin in desperation to try and break his grip on me, I gasped as my air supply ran out.

Peter fired a shot and the arms disappeared, dropping me. I promptly dove for the floor of the car again when I saw the muzzle of the gun aimed behind me. I covered my head and felt Fae’s silky fur against my face. Her low growl sounded in my ear as Peter realized all he would do was shoot the seats if he fired again. “Damn! I didn’t get him!”

“He’s still back there,” Brin said, accelerating the car, the engine whining in protest. “Either take care of him or take the wheel.”

“I am! Shira, get in the front!”

“If I do he’s liable to come for me through the front windshield!”

“It beats getting choked through the back!” Peter snapped. “We need to pull over. We’re handicapped by the car-”

Perhaps what he said gave Toby the idea. I don’t know. But suddenly there was no car beneath any of us. I dropped painfully onto the open highway along with everyone else, rolling over and over until I skidded to a stop on my belly. My eyes opened to see an enormous truck zoom over me, its horn blaring.

I screamed out and attempted to further flatten myself against the pavement. After a few horrifying milliseconds, I felt the air pressure lessen and opened my eyes a crack. The next car was a little distance away, but the wheels were in alignment with my head. Attempting to stand, I was too slow. I prepared for impact as it barreled down the highway. A set of arms grabbed me from behind and a much faster rush of air flew past me. My feet left the ground and then slammed down again with a breakneck force. Falling on my face, my cheeks tore against some unseen object…”

Countdown to the Vampire’s Handmaiden

The Vampire’s Handmaiden – Watchmen of the Grail Series

Only one thing matters: the reclamation of Dracula’s soul…

Her blood rights sold in return for her mother’s life, Yasmina Tolite longs to be free of living her life in the night. Bound forever in servitude to a vampire as his handmaiden, her virgin blood belongs to him alone until the day she dies. But when a new neighbor moves in next door and threatens to steal her heart, there’s nothing her vampiric master won’t do to keep her as his.

Between the arrival of Viscount Dracula and the discovery of Van Helsing’s long lost heir, one thing is for certain: the night has just begun.

Dracula’s salvation is at hand. The Holy Grail has been found.

Yasmina Van Helsing will rise. A Watchman has been born.

The Vampire’s Handmaiden is perfect for fans of vampires, were-wolves, were-cockatrices, the Holy Grail, and twisted tales of the undead. Proceed with caution, for the dark fantasy world of the supernatural is about to become yours…

Move out of the way Twilight, Dark Shadows, and the Vampire Diaries fans. The vampire hunters of the Grail are coming for you…

Editorial Review:

Dang. I’m a writer more than a reader. I’m an editor more than an avid, willing reader. Heavy duty college courses as an English major all but ruined my zest for reading books. Plus, I am not intrigued with those trendy vampire stories. Well, that zest is back along with the intrigue with thanks to Author ML Heron-Heidel. I’ve fallen in love with some of her characters and I passionately want to snuff out some others. With my bare hands nonetheless. Then along comes the talent of their creator and I want to invite most of them into my home. Well, not entirely most. Some are not welcomed yet all live within my mind and heart. They will forever thanks to the talent of this writer. Her work is absolutely brilliant, captivating and never, ever repetitive. With the end of each piece I find myself longing to read more, to know the outcome, the happiness my favorite characters so deserve – and the justice the others’ misdeeds merit. Ah but my thirst is never quenched novel to novel. How absolutely brilliant this author is! I get hooked every single time and, you know what? I’m loving it.”

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z9QWT5N

The Vampire’s Handmaiden: Exclusive Excerpt #2

“If my plan works,” Dune continued, “he’ll lift his hypnosis to find out what we’ve done. Once he does, when you remember all this – remember me – I want you to make a decision. You need to decide what you want. If you call out for me, I will come for you and break you free. I promise you I will. I won’t let him take you again. Never.”

“And if I don’t remember?” I asked, sensing he had moved closer.

“Then I’ll find another way to free you,” he swore.

I looked at the obscured man, still unsure. All of this mattered very little considering I doubted Remy would ever let me go. “And what are we supposed to have done?”

“This,” he murmured huskily, invisible hands cupping my cheeks.

I shivered as my lower lip was traced. “What‘re you-?”

My question broke off with a low gasp as lips kissed the corner of my mouth, then along my jaw. I trembled, eyes closing and breath hitching in my throat as he feathered kisses under my ear, traveling lower with every brush of his lips against my skin.

Despite the bizarreness of the situation, not being able to see the man whose hands were encircling my waist and all but dragging me to him, I found myself swayed by the intoxicating feeling of his touch. A thrill went up my spine, wondering just where this moment would lead. On some level, it felt very wrong not knowing who was touching my body. But on another one, it felt so right; too good to tell him to stop.

One arm bowed my body to him, letting me feel the planes of his chest. My hands tightened on the chair arm rest, resisting the urge to reach out to touch him. To pull him even closer, to feel his body against mine.

As I gave in to the feeling, I tilted my head back to give him better access as he kissed my collar bone. Lower and lower he went, down between my breasts and across my stomach. With every kiss, I grew steadily hotter, feeling his lips through the thin, cool silk of my shirt. I trembled as his fingers dipped below the waist of my skirt and I fought to breathe as his lips came back to my ear, his hands lingering on my body and shaking over my skin.

“Choose us,” he rasped in my ear, his voice rough with desire. ”I will come for you.”

The Vampire’s Handmaiden

Pre-order it at amazon.com/author/maggielynnheronheidel

The Vampire’s Handmaiden will be available on October 31st 2019

©️ 2019 Maggielynnheronheidel

The Vampire’s Handmaiden: An Exclusive Sneak Peek!

There was only one thing in the world Count Dracula wanted.

One thing in the entire universe. The entire world could go to hell for all he cared, so long as he got what he desired; what he’d so desperately hunted for centuries. He’d torn up entire continents looking for it, not caring who or what would be destroyed by the search. Only one thing mattered.

Approaching his father’s throne with that in mind, he bowed before the old bastard. He sank down so low that it killed his ego, longing to spring forward and tear his longtime enemy’s throat out; that being … “Father, may I speak with you?”

But it seemed the Viscount already knew why he’d come. He sat back with a smug smile. A very knowing smile. “You’ve finally found it; haven’t you? The being you’ve been searching for so stridently.”

Dracula inclined his head, displeased with the Viscount’s knowledge. “So you do know of Van Helsing’s thievery…”

His father chuckled, gesturing with three fingers that he may leave. “Few things would please me more than to see you reacquire it. I will wait for your return, Rafe. Safe travels.”

“I may not return for decades,” Dracula warned, satisfaction curling around his mind like a sharpened set of claws. His freedom was at hand.

Still the Viscount dismissed him, ignorant of his offspring’s second aim. “Even so, go, my son. You have my blessing.”

Standing upright, he fled from the Viscount’s presence before another word could be said. He’d gotten his permission. The Viscount wouldn’t know of the truth or even search for it for a few decades. Even a century could pass before he would inquire of him again. By then it would be too late.

Ascending to the balcony before anyone could stop him, he’d already embraced his inner monster and shifted, sailing into the air with a savage cry. He rose into the updrafts of the wind, the air ruffling his fur and leaving his human skin behind. He set his course for the west, allowing the sun and stars to guide him.

Before long, his prize would be ready. While he would have to wait thirty years for it to mature, it was still satisfying to know his salvation was within grasp. There would be no stopping him in reclaiming it now; no matter the price.

His soul would once again be his. He would fight Hell’s legions to reclaim it if he had to, setting his course for the North American continent. Little else mattered now, so long as he got it back.

Van Helsing had failed in his quest. His ancestor would belong to Dracula and give him what he so desperately craved at long last. Nothing would get in his way this time; not even death. He would possess his vitality at all costs.

Dracula had found it at long last. He had found the one.

The first of its kind. The only of its kind.

The female. The first female heir of Van Helsing’s legacy.

Her womb alone would restore his soul.

She would belong to him and he would have his revenge on her sire… even if it meant sacrificing her life.

Copyright ©️Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel 2019

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! Here’s a little more about the series!

The Vampire’s Handmaiden: Watchmen of the Grail…

Only one thing matters: the reclamation of Dracula’s soul…

Her blood rights sold in return for her mother’s life, Yasmina Tolite longs to be free of living her life in the night. Bound forever in servitude to a vampire as his handmaiden, her virgin blood belongs to him alone until the day she dies. But when a new neighbor moves in next door and threatens to steal her heart, there’s nothing her vampiric master won’t do to keep her as his.

Between the arrival of Viscount Dracula and the discovery of Van Helsing’s long lost heir, one thing is for certain: the night has just begun.

Dracula’s salvation is at hand. The Holy Grail has been found.

Yasmina Van Helsing will rise. A Watchman has been born.

The Vampire’s Handmaiden is perfect for fans of vampires, were-wolves, were-cockatrices, the Holy Grail, and twisted tales of the undead. Proceed with caution, for the dark fantasy world of the supernatural is about to become yours…

Move out of the way Twilight, Dark Shadows, and the Vampire Diaries fans. The vampire hunters of the Grail are coming for you…

Editorial Review:

“Dang. I’m a writer more than a reader. I’m an editor more than an avid, willing reader. Heavy duty college courses as an English major all but ruined my zest for reading books. Plus, I am not intrigued with those trendy vampire stories. Well, that zest is back along with the intrigue with thanks to Author ML Heron-Heidel. I’ve fallen in love with some of her characters and I passionately want to snuff out some others. With my bare hands nonetheless. Then along comes the talent of their creator and I want to invite most of them into my home. Well, not entirely most. Some are not welcomed yet all live within my mind and heart. They will forever thanks to the talent of this writer. Her work is absolutely brilliant, captivating and never, ever repetitive. With the end of each piece I find myself longing to read more, to know the outcome, the happiness my favorite characters so deserve – and the justice the others’ misdeeds merit. Ah but my thirst is never quenched novel to novel. How absolutely brilliant this author is! I get hooked every single time and, you know what? I’m loving it.”

Available October 31st 2019 just in time for Halloween!

Click to preorder it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z9QWT5N

The Fashion House: Slave to War Behind the Scenes Excerpt #3

❤️ Hello readers!

Here’s the third behind the scenes look at Slave to War, the bits that were deleted to move the novel long. This was the raw, unedited beginning of the third chapter, but was cut for time.

Enjoy!

(Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read Slave to War yet! Read at your own risk!)

“….

I take it back. I did not trust Michael.

Staring at the upscale boutique in front of me I wanted to smack him. He knew very well I abhorred such frivolous clothes like those displayed in the window but still he steered me in through the double doors. Inside I didn’t see a single article of clothing. Shiny white walls greeted us and an equally stark desk with a woman behind it.

The haughty-looking lady strolled towards us, taking in our attire. She obviously thought we had the wrong store. “May I help you?”

“Yes. I need a full wardrobe for my dear friend. I believe my father General Xorratti has an account here,” Michael said smoothly.

Her attitude changed immediately when she heard that name. “Ah. Is Vinkent not with you today?”

“He’s indisposed.”

She regarded me openly and I gulped. Judging by her attire she was an expert in top fashion. She might have even been a model. “Come. You must be cold. Frigid night out there, isn’t it?”

Her demeanor had changed so drastically in the time we arrived I was expecting her head to start spinning. Wave a black credit card and she worshipped the ground you walked on. She opened a door to an open hallway. Many doors lined it and we were escorted into the last one. When we got in it my jaw dropped.

Here was a huge, generously decorated room. In the middle was a walkway where models must come down displaying the clothes. In front was a couple of enormous leather arm chairs. This wasn’t an expensive boutique. This was a fashion house. Why the hell had Michael brought me here?

I backed up unconsciously until I bumped into Michael’s chest. He prodded me forward and the strict-looking woman shut the door behind us.

“Is this your first visit here?” she asked curiously.

“Naw. Dad dragged – er – brought me here a few times when I was small. Sierrenna may have, though. I’m not sure.”

She did a double take and her eyes widened comically. She obviously knew that name. “Really? Didn’t she wear one of Balille’s concept gowns to your birthday party? The violet silk evening dress with the matching illusion pumps?”

Now I knew where I was. Ballile was one of the top, most exclusive designers in the city. No, scratch that; the world. And worse off, he was one of Antigo’s personal favorites whom he had helped rise to the top. Up until I had been unceremoniously kidnapped and forced into servitude, I always received his newest creations as a token of his respect. He knew to scratch my back and I would scratch his, as did all of Antigo’s associates. I hated the clothes just because of what they stood for.

“Oh, I guess so. I must say it looked nice. Pass on my compliments to Ballile.”

“I’ll do just that,” she replied. “Be back shortly.”

As she disappeared, I sank into one of the pompous armchairs. It was so cushy I sank into it and had to push myself back up. It probably had so much give because of all the fat, lecherous men that sat in it with their mistresses on their laps.

Michael sat beside me. I sent him a scathing look, wondering why he had brought me here. It was only a matter of time until someone came after us. “Don’t look at me like that. You need clothes. If the price tag is the problem, it’s my father’s money. So spend as much as of it as you can. But I had another reason for coming here.”

He picked up the phone in the center on the small table. “Yes, you can help me. Would you please patch me through to the Wrap Inger base? I’ll talk to the operator thank you.”

I watched him sullenly as he waited. Now I knew what he was going to do. He had put us in a central location with a cover purpose of hijacking their untapped phone system. Even if he didn’t get the desired party on the line, they would trace the call here and come asking questions. They would discover who had placed the call and come to find us.

“Yes, would you please patch me through to Squadron 472? I have an urgent matter for General McRattin. They’re in the city today? Where?” His eyes darted back and forth as he heard whatever information he was given. “For how long? I need to speak with them immediately. Fine. Tell them that the Rain has been hidden behind the clouds. They’ll know who was calling. Thank you.”

He turned to me brightly with a hint of sadness in his eyes. “Let’s get you clothes and then get out of here. They’re here nearby in the city. They were dragged to some diplomat’s side to protect her at a baseball game. It’s an old grandmotherly type woman who I’ve met. She likes to request her ‘favorites’ and bring along arm candy to reminisce the days she was good looking enough to catch their eye. Not sure how McRattin was the chosen one this time. She usually likes dark and handsome as opposed to blonde and stup-”

He changed course as I looked wryly at him. I understood the word stupid though he had cut himself short. “Stupendous. That’s the word I was searching for. Haha, right. But this will be easy enough to finagle. There’s a private box at the stadium reserved for military generals. I’ll bet that’s exactly where they are. Now where did that woman go? We-”

The back door the sharp woman had exited in now opened to reveal none other than Ballile himself strutting through the door. He still wore his signature spiky black hair the same way and the usual monocle hung off his head with a chain. I had always thought he looked ludicrous with it but the general public predictably ate it up.

He spotted me, threw his arms open wide and squealed in his signature high pitched voice in welcome. “Sierrenna, it has been too long! You must introduce me to your friend. Enchanted to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Michael said uneasily as the smaller, skinnier fellow leaned in and kissed his cheek. I hadn’t mentioned to him Ballile’s signature flamboyance also came with an insatiable appetite for younger men, women, and both at the same time on a regular basis.

“I had hoped I would hear from you after I had that last dress custom designed for you. McRattin came in here and said who he was shopping for and I knew I had my vessel to carry my exquisite creation! You wore it marvelously!”

I nodded, trying to be friendly. He didn’t seem to notice that I was not responding back verbally. Either that or he wasn’t bothered. I had never been the most verbose person as it was.

“Yes, I must agree,” Michael said. “But now she needs a new wardrobe. We’re in a bit of a hurry, so if you could have one packed up, that would be great.”

Ballille tapped his foot contemplatively. “Yes, I have all of her measurements on file and to my happiness she fits all of the samples of my new collection. And with her new prestigious station with McRattin, I absolutely insist she bring all of them with her.”

He wanted me to wear them publicly. That would indeed bring him good business. But I was never going to have anywhere to wear those. I needed loungewear and travel clothes, not high fashion.

“That sounds wonderful,” Michael said. “But she’s been keeping her public presence pretty low, so maybe some more understated, basic pieces would do better? We wouldn’t want to waste your masterpieces on eyes that won’t appreciate your work.”

“Hmmm. Too right. Are you well, Sierrenna? You don’t usually like being spoken for.”

“She has a throat injury,” Michael said quickly. “I’m the mouthpiece for now.”

Ballille nodded speculatively. “Indeed. Well, I’ll have some more modest pieces packed up for you. In the meantime, I will not have you go out of here in that dreadful attire. I know that’s his jacket, but that crop top and skirt? How tacky! I’ll have a screen brought out so you can change in privacy. Call me when you stage your next public event. And you,” he said gesturing at Michael’s informal white t-shirt and ripped black jeans with work boots. “Keep the jacket you gave her on. It makes the rugged look work for you. Otherwise you look like a common slob. Ciao!”

He glided out of the room with the grace of one of his models, twirling his pencil as he went. Michael looked at me with raised eyebrows. “So I’m a common slob?”

I shook my head as the model-like lady reappeared with a bag and a box. A screen was carried in behind her by two frightened looking assistants and put up. They retreated from me as fast as they could and the woman handed me the items. “He is having the rest packed up. He’ll have it sent wherever you wish.”

I nodded my head in thanks and headed behind the scrim as Michael told her the address. I opened the bag and was relieved to see black jeans, a black knit turtleneck, and a leather jacket to match. In a smaller box was a tiny pair of underwear and bra, along with thigh high black leather boots. Inside was an even tinier box was a long, simple necklace that ended in a black metal cross.

I donned the impeccably fitting outfit and shoes before walking out to meet Michael. He gave me the once over. “Shall we?”

I nodded and slipped behind him into the long stark white hallway. It was strangely befitting. In all the whiteness, I moved along all in black. Poetic somehow. I was one black spec walking across the pure tones. What an accurate depiction of my life.

…” (Copyright 2017 ©️ Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel)

Hope you enjoyed the scene! If you haven’t picked up your copy of SLAVE TO WAR yet, make sure to grab your copy here! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited!

Happy Nut Hunting Season!

Happy Fall!

The kids may be back in school and the stores stocking up candy for Halloween, but that’s not how I know the season has come. At this time of year without fail, living out in the country, something always occurs. My husky starts his nut hunting.

Much like a human bobbing for apples, I wind up walking an eighty pound, nut hunting menace on a leash, diving for every acorn he sets eyes on. Mishka thinks he’s the doggie-squirrel version of of Top Gun, dive bombing and zig zagging in every which what direction as we walk, without warning and the stealth of an F18 after a target. And since acorns are potentially poisonous to dogs, I essentially wind up walking him like a hangman on a noose, keeping his head above the ground.

Ah, what a mother won’t do to keep their little one safe, practically forced into choking him on his collar so he won’t poison himself. Then again, this is the little ‘hero’ who managed to swallow a sock the within three days of getting home and threatening us with a potentially two thousand dollar vet bill before yacking it up again days later. Needless to say, no socks or acorns for Mishka ever again.

Anyway, after a terribly short Summer (too short in my opinion), I’m back from my hiatus. After recovering from surgery and taking a break from social media, I have returned. Tell me, did you miss me? As a thank you to you all for all your wonderful support during my illness, I managed to write four new books.

For Halloween, I have a new story for all my vampire lovers. While I’m not a huge fan of Halloween, I figured what better a time to publish a story with our favorite blood sucking undead? My readers enjoyed the Swan Princes so much that I thought another standalone fairy tale style story was in order.

For November, my Vaktare of All Realms series is finally coming out with the first three books! My Vaktare stories have taken over ten years to make it to print since inception, so I’m very excited to share them with you all. Shira was one of my first ever characters in my novels.

I’m looking for ARC readers for all four books, so if you’d be interested in reading them first before they’re released, all you have to do is let me know! Comment and say you want in!

Again, thank you so much for all your loving support. I couldn’t keep writing without you all.

Love and hugs,

Maggie Lynn and her fluffy nutcase Ser Mishka

P.S. He’s still sulking I wouldn’t let him poison himself. Oh well.