Enchanted Pearl

the cover for enchanted pearl by db sieders is a loving loving both with dark hair and purples and pinks in the backgroundTitle: Enchanted Pearl
Series: Dragons of Tarakona #9
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: October 2020
Contributors: DB Sieders
Pages: 140
ISBN13: 9781393790891
ASIN: B08LDWZPNM
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple
Genre: , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

She’s a mermaid out of water. He’s the man who can quench her thirst.

The clock is ticking for Alara, daughter of the Sea King, and her exploration of land. Rumor has it that a treasure unearthed from an ancient seabed near the town of Magic, New Mexico, can help. The painted pearl carries the power of the ocean, bringing the waters wherever its bearer wishes. With the pearl, she can carry the sea with her and convince land dwellers to respect and protect the oceans.

All she has to do is find it before sundown of the sixth day, after which she must return to the sea forever. Too bad her competition is cunning…and mouthwateringly seductive.

Wizard Devon Kaleo is a collector of rare magical artefacts. He has his sights set on finding the legendary painted pearl to defend his homeland, but his clever and alluring rival Alara threatens to derail his mission. And she’s not the only one—a mad sea god seeks the power of the pearl so he can drown all the lands of Earth.

The wayward mermaid and rogue sorcerer can accept defeat, or they can join forces to win the pearl, but only if they can trust one another and the passion they share.

Tropes: Enemies to lovers, forbidden love

NOTE:
No pufferfish were harmed in the making of this novella.


Also in this series:

Disciple

the cover for disciple by jody wallace, urban fantasy romanceTitle: Disciple
Series: Somnium Duology #2
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: August 2017
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 340
ISBN13: 9798201735272
ASIN: B075B15LD3
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble
Genre: , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Conquer your inner demons...before they break free.

Dreamwalkers protect the unknowing populace from what their powerful imaginations create: monsters. When student dreamwalker Maggie Mackey was discovered by Zeke Garrett, now her mentor, their sexual attraction blazed off the charts, as did their tangible dreamspace bond. Three months later, their relationship is as stalled out as Maggie's training. Irregularities in dreamspace combine with Zeke's less-than-charming manners to create an atmosphere that isn't conducive to learning. Or to friendship--of any sort. Zeke isn't sure if his clumsy mentoring, Maggie's stubbornness, or something more sinister is to blame.

When Zeke and Maggie are summoned to a restricted outpost for troubled and sick dreamwalkers to investigate the deaths of several patients, a nightmare from Zeke's past resurfaces to complicate Maggie's training further. In fact, Maggie's lack of progress has become so significant, there's a good chance she'll be reassigned to a curator. Disciples sent to curators are rarely heard from again. To survive the secretive inner workings of their organization and the deadly new force emerging inside the sphere, Maggie and Zeke must confront their inner demons as well as their feelings for each other.
Because in the world of the dreamwalkers, inner demons never remain politely inside one’s tortured soul. They prefer to manifest...and eat people.

Warning: Book contains sex, cursing, more cursing, T-Rexes, dire peril, and explosives.

Note: Book was previously released from a small publisher. Re-release does not contain substantial changes.


Also in this series:

A Pixie’s Tale

the cover of a pixie's tale which is a wacky paranormal romanceTitle: A Pixie's Tale
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Contributors: Various Authors
Pages: 140
Buy the Book: Books2Read
Genre: , , , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

When paranormal romance authors indulge in a round robin, the results are fantastical!

In an attempt to sway human voters—for a totally legitimate cause—Delphie the pixie targets a college neighborhood on Halloween. College students are notoriously liberal anyway, and the neighborhood is a human-only zone. She shouldn’t run into any other supernaturals to interfere with her important mission.

But instead of drunken students, she mistakenly bespells a mysterious, sexy fellow supernatural who doesn’t appreciate the fact her defective fairy dust turns him invisible. In retaliation, he curses her, too. She almost escapes, but he’s determined to enact the cure—a taste of her delicious blood, blood that may also give him a yen for her dainty body.

If only Delphie can resist her yen for his body, too, she might just survive the craziest night of her life.

A 40,000 word paranormal romance

Rated PG-13. Contains mild profanity, drug and alcohol references, dimensional travel, stressful situations, sexy situations, unicorns, evil kittens and characters making not-so-great decisions.

Blue Guard

blue guard coverTitle: Blue Guard
Series: Dragons of Tarakona #8
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: July 2020
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 250
ISBN13: 9781393373971
ASIN: B08DLK7JBF
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Paperback at Amazon
Genre: , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two operatives, two sides, same mission: if they choose to accept each other.

Cornelius Blue is a dragon and tracker, not a diplomat. A deadly interruption of the Blue Guard Trials, which should have begun an era of exploration for Cornelius's nation, threatens to crush his dreams of exploring his home world. So what's he doing in Magic, New Mexico, attempting to convince a dubious city council that his planet, Tarakona, should be allowed an embassy? Why is he playing statesman when he should be investigating the catastrophe?

Zuri Kaleo is a spy and wizard, not a seductress. And she should be, secretly, deciphering the disaster of the trials as well. But no, her king reassigned her to Magic, New Mexico, to sweet-talk a stubborn blue dragon out of building an embassy on Earth. Because an embassy there—as well as Cornelius's thirst for exploring Tarakona itself—might reveal the biggest secret Tarakona has ever known.

When Zuri discovers another spy was sent to disrupt the Blue Guard Trials, questions beg for answers. Surely no one was meant to die, were they? The Pirate King wouldn't have ordered that, would he? If only Neil was her teammate instead of her enemy, they could discover the truth together. And perhaps find each other in the process.

NOTE: This novella is the companion to DB Sieders' Blue Streak which is chock-a-block full of romance, gnomes, but not romance with gnomes, and adventure.


Also in this series:

A Mage by Any Other Name

a castle silhouette set against a blue and gold sky that is the book cover with fancy border around itTitle: A Mage by Any Other Name
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: December 2011
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 100
ISBN13: 9798201334178
ASIN: B006RO3LVS
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble
Genre:

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Mary's new job with Wizard Williwim is perfect. Through gainful employment and access to the classified central library, she hopes to discover a route to the respect and approval she yearns for. For years she’s attempted one plan after another, and this one appears to be working.

But Mary’s life has never been that easy. When an enemy from her past reappears to endanger everything she has nearly achieved, she has to decide whether to confess some dangerous secrets she’s been hiding.

A tricky choice, when those secrets could lead to her and Williwim being cast out of the district...or being very, very dead.

This fantasy novella is 26,000 words long and contains a bonus deleted scene at the end. Rated PG-13.

CHAPTER ONE

 Mary had only been Wizard Williwim’s assistant for a month when the challenge came. A black pigeon fluttered through the open window, landing on the back of the wizard’s chair. He freed the tiny parchment cylinder from the bird’s limb.

His wrinkled face grew more wrinkled when he read the message.

“Bother,” he muttered, his white hair floating around his head like a dandelion puff. “This is far sooner than I’d anticipated.”

Mary set aside the mortar and pestle she’d been using to crush the dried rose petals into a dust fine enough for the most discriminating spell caster. Pigeon mail meant bad news, and bad news for her employer was bad news for her.

“Has someone died, sir?”

“I’m sure someone has died somewhere, but it has nothing to do with the message.”

Williwim renewed the animal’s health with a rub of his index finger and sent it flapping back out into the summer morning. “It’s a wizardrite challenge.”

“Are you being invited to referee?” she asked hopefully.

He shook his head. “We should be so lucky. It’s a challenge for me.”

“You? But you haven’t been challenged in ages.” Rumor was, Williwim had transformed the last opponent into an animal of some sort. It had been hushed up by the Council, but no one had wanted Bannoch-Faoran enough to fight him for it in years.

Until now. The timing was a bit too on the nose to ignore.

“I suppose they think I’m getting decrepit.” Williwim didn’t meet her gaze. “Why couldn’t they pester Cheng or that Annui woman? They’re both a hundred and forty if they’re a day.”

Apprehension curled through her like ivy. “It’s because of me, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense.” Williwim allowed the parchment to curl back into a cylinder, a tiny phut of sound. “I kept it quiet when I let Tomas and Frieda go.”

“It’s got to be me. Most wizards have experienced assistants, while I—”

“Need to finish the roses. When you’re done, we’ll discuss the challenge. I need to think.” The frown line between Williwim’s brows deepened as he unrolled the parchment and released it again. And again. Phut, phut, phut.

Mary shut her mouth and ground the pestle into the remaining petals. The powder might put Williwim one step closer to perfecting the youth spell he intended to name after his patron, but it didn’t lessen her anxiety one bit.

During a wizardrite challenge, the strongest assistant stood beside the wizard on the field. Mary was Williwim’s only assistant. While they’d developed a friendly rapport, she wouldn’t say they worked together as well as a…mortar and pestle.

More like a dog and pony, before they’d trained for that show.

If Williwim were to lose the challenge, he’d be demoted to mage and the winner would take his place as wizard here. Williwim could find another job, but Mary needed this one. This particular one, with Williwim, whose powerful magics obscured her own and whose status gave her access to the central library. The other option that would conceal her magics was a spellball factory, but that would be unwise, considering why she left the last one.

She’d known when she’d applied to Williwim that challenges would be inevitable, but she hadn’t counted on her new employer firing his other assistants in one swoop. She hadn’t counted on being thrust onto the challenge field so soon, if ever.

Considering she knew no disguise spells that would survive tournament purification, she had to find a way out of this. Not only would it be embarrassing when her true appearance came to light, but that combined with the alias would cause Williwim to distrust her.

A wizard wouldn’t want an assistant he couldn’t trust, and he surely wouldn’t grant her library access.

The rose petals reduced to dust, Mary sealed them into a baggie. “I’m finished.”

Williwim paused in the act of unrolling the parchment. “Did you save all the dust? We can’t lay hands on that particular species again for a year.”

“I was careful, sir.” She shifted her bulk in the hard seat. “Can we talk about the challenge now?”

Phut. The parchment curled around Williwim’s finger. “I suppose.”

“Who is the challenger?”

“Not someone I’ve seen on the circuit before. A Professor Grantus. Are you familiar with him?”

“Did you say Grantus?” Surely she hadn’t heard correctly. The sudden buzzing in her ears had drowned Williwim out.

“He’s with Concerto College. It’s in the Velde-Faoran district. Primarily a shield and bludgeon sort of mage, but he’s got admirable reserves. Drat his hide. I should have known during the last lecture series he was up to something beyond his regular posturing.”

The bottom fell out of Mary’s stomach. Grantus on the wizardrite circuit? Grantus the Lion, who loved his role as big mage on campus? “Could you have misread the parchment? Perhaps he’s officiating.”

Williwim glanced at her with mild irritation. “I have access to a wellspring. There’s nothing wrong with my eyesight.”

“It’s just, I never thought he’d have the stones to—” Mary stopped herself with a shuddery exhale. “I’m sorry, sir. Questioning you was rude of me.”

Why was this happening? Of all the mages she’d ever met, Grantus was least likely to drag himself out of his cozy academic world for a run at a wizardrite. She’d banked on that when she’d come up with this plan.

And of all the districts in all the kingdom, Grantus just had to challenge the wizard in this one. This tiny, unimportant district she’d chosen because no-one coveted it and the wizard had two assistants already.

Mary swallowed hard enough that her tongue clicked. This could go from terrible to worse very quickly. This could ruin everything she’d been striving for. “Who…who is Grantus’s second?”

Williwim glared at the parchment, as if by the power of his will he could change the words. In fact, he could, but that wouldn’t change the message.

“Black Lily,” he finally answered.

Mary slumped against the back of her chair, the blood draining from her head so fast it left her dizzy. Her heart pattered like a trapped bird. If she hadn’t had herself tested by one of the best curse-breakers in the kingdom, she would have wondered if her consistently rotten luck were magically-induced.

Alas, it was Mary-induced. And here was more of it, coming home to roost above her head and shit upon her.

“I thought,” she began in a squeaky voice, “Black Lily was on the quest for the dragon fire scepter.”

“Apparently she’s back. Hm. Isn’t she a college-named mage? I can’t recall where she matriculated.”

“Nor I.”  If her heart leapt any more, it was going to choke her. She surreptitiously pinched the fat of her thigh to reroute the building panic.

Luckily, Williwim was too intent on the parchment to notice her reaction. “If it was Concerto, wouldn’t that be a kick? I gather mage students hate their professors by the time they finish schooling.”

“I’ve heard,” she ventured, “they have good reason.” Mage professors were responsible for busting inept students off the path to high magics, and their methods could create ineptitude where none had been before. It wasn’t a pleasant undertaking for anyone involved.

“Perhaps.” Williwim flattened the parchment. “Quite the coup on Grantus’s part either way. I wonder if signing the notorious Lily is why he, as you so eloquently pointed out, developed the stones to pursue a wizardrite?”

It wasn’t as much of a coup as the rest of the magical community might assume. More like favors of one nature begetting favors of another. She couldn’t share that information, though. Williwim would want to know why, and lying to his face was more difficult than lying by omission.

Instead, Mary said, “Could be.”

“I’m sure he offered a bonus the size of Mount Vorundum. This new generation is so mercenary. I’m glad you’re not collegiate.”

Mary managed a weak smile. If only he knew.

He slapped a hand against the tabletop. “No matter. We’ve got this. You won’t lose your position so soon.”

“I’m not worried about my position, sir.” She had more to worry about than a job with Grantus and Lily involved. Was the challenge their way of letting her know they’d found her, or was it a coincidence of the worst sort?

Williwim raised a thumb. “That’s the spirit, Sally. I’ve handled worse than Black Lily in my day.”

Mary gave him an even weaker smile. Her stomach graduated from floppy to queasy. Even if he pulled a win, or a bunny transformation, out of his pointy hat, there was still the issue of what he’d do when he realized she’d lied to him. And what would happen when Grantus and Lily recognized his assistant.

His quiet, harmless nobody of an assistant who was only trying to keep her head down and use her magics for the good of the kingdom. They had to be used, after all. As she and her estranged parents knew all to well, damming them up was unhealthy for anyone in the vicinity when they broke loose.

“We’ll start preparing this afternoon,” Williwim said with a decisive nod. “We haven’t tried combining our power as much as I’d like.”

They hadn’t tried combining their power at all. “When is the challenge?”

Maybe she had time to contract a disease. Get pregnant. Run away. Possessing the moral fiber to see things through was overrated when you stood to gain nothing but humiliation. Or worse.

Williwim sighed. “As to that, well, it’s tomorrow. He’s trying to ambush us.”

“Wow, that’s…a surprise.” The words could scarcely pass the lump in her throat.

“They do call it a surprise attack.”

What in the stars had she done to deserve this? Besides nearly explode a city block full of people when she’d been sixteen and totally untrained, that is. All she’d done beyond that incident was stroll past the wrong, supposedly deserted storeroom at the wrong time in college.

He folded his message parchment into quarters. “I wouldn’t have pegged either of them for the sort to pop onto the wizardrite circuit with no fanfare. And to challenge me first? I might be old, but I fancy I still have a fearsome reputation.” He flicked the parchment across the table like a tiny missile. It landed in a basket.

Thoughts spun in Mary’s brain like a drunken May circle. She shoved her mortar, pestle, books and papers aside on the wide table. She needed a clear space in case she was forced to bang her head. “Holy Stones of the Father, this cannot be happening.”

“Maddening, isn’t it?” Williwim agreed. “I hardly have time to choose and bespell a tournament field, post the announcement, notify the Council, and find an appropriate referee, much less prepare you for your first wizardrite event. It doesn’t seem fair.”

He had no idea how unfair it truly was. Mary wracked her brain for escape clauses. “Can we postpone? Claim hardship?”

“What hardship?” Williwim gestured, and the parchment returned to his hands, where he prepared to flick it again. “We’re not under attack or pestilence, and our employment rate is favorable. Comparatively.”

This time the parchment missed the basket.

“I thought two fortnight’s notice was standard.” Damn Tomas and Frieda, getting themselves fired like that! Why did they have to go and get pregnant?

“Standard but not required.” He scratched his scalp with a crooked wand. “Bugger it.”

“They should require it. These things take time.” Who could stand beside Williwim in her place? George, from the factory? He owed her a huge favor. Karina, the village hearth witch? At least she could stand there and look pretty.

“The wizardrite system exists as it does for a reason. You must be able to defend your patron and community at a moment’s notice,” he pointed out. “Only our best and strongest can wield the wellsprings.”

“I know, I know. It’s for the rite. It’s for the kingdom. It’s for the good of all.” It would be simple for Williwim to defeat any mage with the wellspring, but that wouldn’t be a fair assessment of which practitioner deserved to be wizard of the district.

“You took the oath when you took the position with me,” he reminded her. “Didn’t you read the contract, Sally? You seem so meticulous.”

“I read it, sir. Didn’t it mention—” Mary drew it out as if trying to remember, when in fact she knew the oath and its fine print by heart. “Hm. Was there something about how a host wizard can skip field preparations if desired?”

If Williwim didn’t organize a safe battlefield ahead of time, it would delay the tournament by a day or so. Every second might count.

“That wouldn’t be wise.” He shook the wand like one of those newfangled mercury thermometers. Smoke poofed from the end. “It’s the politics of the thing. Refusing such a courtesy implies you’re desperate to save strength. That puts you at a disadvantage, especially if your patron has reason to be displeased with you.”

As if conjured by mention of a displeased patron, Countess Bannoch burst into the chamber. She held a larger parchment in her age-spotted hand and brandished it like an accusation.

“Willie, what’s this nonsense?” she shouted. The Countess was very fond of shouting.

“Darling, so nice to see you.” Williwim rose and dusted his robes.

Mary popped out of her chair and bobbed a curtsy that nearly sent her to the ground.

“Careful, there,” the Countess told her.

Not only were her knees half-jelly with anxiety, but at times she forgot to take her camouflage weight into account. Everyone she’d met since donning this particular alias thought she was oafish.

While Mary righted herself, the Countess leaned on the cane she carried to whack at things she didn’t like. She groused at Williwim. “Your optimism always gets us in trouble. You promised we wouldn’t have to muck around with challenges for years if I let you try that spell out.”

“That was the plan,” he agreed. “Unfortunately, Grantus didn’t get the pigeon.”

“I don’t want that two-faced, stuffed shirt of a goat monger as the resident wizard for Bannoch-Faoran.” The Countess’s voice rose with every word. “Someone needs to remind him the last mage you faced ended up on four paws, wagging a tail.”

Mary blinked. She’d heard the rumors, of course, but rumors weren’t to be trusted. “Then it’s true, sir? You changed someone into an animal?”

“I wondered when you’d get around to asking,” Williwim said with grin. “Impressive, eh?”

The confirmation was reassuring, to know he had that capability, but it wouldn’t help Mary’s problem. If he forced her to stand in the tournament with him, purification and exposure were unavoidable.

“You need to transform Grantus.” The Countess slapped a cabinet with the cane, rattling all the bits and bottles. “Let’s see the Council cover it up twice. Blasted busybodies.”

 Williwim hastened to the Countess and soothed her with small pats on the back. “There’s no need to abuse the furniture, Amelia. Grantus the Lion is a worthy opponent, but his skills aren’t on par with mine. You’ve nothing to fear.”

“Don’t patronize me. I’m the patron here.” The Countess shook the parchment as if it were a castanet. “What about this Black Lily? The news scrolls describe her as some kind of whiz.”

“Black Lily has barely breeched the world of high magics. She couldn’t have earned her mage name more than ten years ago. She’s a child.”

The Countess raised an eyebrow. “And? The scrolls say she’s published. Some articles and a grimoire that sold a thousand copies.”

Williwim shrugged. “Mine sold more.”

The Countess rapped Williwim’s leg. “She led that quest thing for that scepter thing, I forget what, but it was a big deal. Had a stone in it.”

Williwim’s expression didn’t change by as much as an eyelash flicker. “That doesn’t change her inexperience. This isn’t academia. She’s never been in a real wizardrite tournament, and neither has Grantus.”

The same could be said for Mary, and the Countess looked happy to say it. She assessed Mary with a frown. “Who’ll be your second? I can’t spare much gold. Could you rehire Tomas for the day? After all, it’s his pecker’s fault we’re in a lurch.”

The wizard waved a nonchalant hand. “No need. Sally is quite capable.”

Mary straightened her shoulders and tried not to reveal how the Countess’s disregard hurt her—even though she agreed. She wasn’t a good choice for Williwim’s second. “If gold is the issue, Lady Bannoch, I can help fund my substitute.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Countess and Williwim said together.

“You can’t afford to help on what we’ve been paying you,” the Countess got in first. “Unless you’re an heiress?”

“I’m not,” Mary said, somewhat afraid the Countess would whack her for it. Even if she had been, her parents had disowned her when the Council had bustled her off to Concerto to receive emergency training. In the ensuing years, she’d drowned out the hurt with determination. It didn’t mean the hurt was gone, but she had a plan.

“Didn’t think so.”

“I know a few magicians we could hire cheap,” Mary offered. “I can pigeon mail them. They could be here before luncheon.”

“Both of you hush,” he said. “Sally is my assistant. She’ll stand beside me as my second.”

Mary clenched her plump, trembling hands. “I’m not good enough.” Or brave enough. Or was it stupid enough? “I…I refuse.”

“You can’t refuse.” Williwim stared at her as if seeing her for the first time. Tomorrow, he would be. “This was in the contract, too. It’s part of your duties. Is there something you need to tell me?”

She considered confessing everything. Dropping the disguise and gushing the truth out like water from a broken dam. If Grantus and Lily were challenging Williwim because of her, he deserved to know. But she wasn’t certain that’s why they’d challenged him, and oh, how angry he’d be! He might be angry enough to serve her up to them on a platter, with a side of carrots.

No, she’d withhold the confession as long as she could in case an alternate solution presented itself. She’d give herself until tonight.

No, tomorrow morning. First thing. Right after breakfast.

Pearl of Wisdom

the cover for pearl of wisdom by jody wallaceTitle: Pearl of Wisdom
Series: Dragons of Tarakona #10
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: June 8, 2021
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 250
ISBN13: 9798201743901
ASIN: B095JRTLV8
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble; Paperback at Amazon
Genre: , , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Blackmailed by the only man who can heal her—what’s a Pearl to do?

Pearl Courtier is a nobody. A human from Tarakona who just happens to have a famous wizard brother. When a lab accident transforms her into a walking lie detector, Pearl travels across worlds to seek help from a wizard on another planet.

But the price of stiff-necked enchanter Everett DeBoer’s agreement to remove her curse is high. Pose as his companion during a business conference, and use her unique skill to tell him which of his colleagues are lying. What will Pearl do when she discovers how he's been lying to himself—and how deadly that might be for both of them?

Tropes: Fake Relationship, Just One Bed!, Nerd Hero


Also in this series:

FROM  CHAPTER ONE:

 

A piercing whine followed by a hiss of steam and a ping! announced the failure of the R&D team’s latest magical experiment. With agility born of pure adrenaline, Pearl Courtier dodged the brass gear that exploded off the intricate contraption being tested. The gear thudded into one of the wooden supply cabinets and stuck in the door, both vibrating.

Gillian, the architect of said contraption, shoved her goggles to the top of her head and turned toward Pearl’s brother Barnabas. He and his spouse Nadia, the silver dragon in her human form, stood next to a long pipe attached to the complicated device. “Barnabas, I told you to trickle the silver magic into the receptor. We need to control the release of the magic and shield it from catalysts—like wizards. It’s quite reactive, and, for lack of a better word, volatile. It dissipates so quickly. That’s why it’s difficult to store.”

White smoke from the release valves, nowhere near as much this time, trickled to a stop. Did that mean the experiment had almost worked? Or was the machine as exhausted as the team? They’d been running this trial all day, and Pearl wasn’t sure she could keep dodging various flying brass bobbles without some dinner.

Pearl was nothing if not practical. As a human on Tarakona, she had to be, since she was surrounded by wizards and dragons and all their feuds and magic.

“Perhaps we need to give the charging device time to cool down,” she suggested to Gillian, who pulled a face. “Twelve times is not the magic number.”

“Haha, magic number, nice pun.” Gillian gave her a thumbs up.

Pearl grinned. “I do what I can. I’m the comic relief.” She was also the person keeping their resident genius inventor focused on one project at a time. Not the future she’d envisioned for herself, but better than the horse farm. Magic, she had come to realize, was somewhat wasted on wizards, who often lacked common sense.

“My sister is correct,” Barnabas said gravely. Her stuffy brother had removed his cravat and frock coat after the fourth run-through. He had a little more common sense than most wizards. “Not about her being comic relief but about the experiment. It could be that our haste is resulting in mistakes.”

Nadia flicked the brass pipe with a fingernail. She was a head shorter than Pearl’s tall, brown-skinned brother and clad in a warm blue dress. “We’re running a risk every time I go to Victoria and let her drain my magic. I don’t want to keep subjecting myself to her torture. Who knows when she’ll change her mind about our arrangement and try to imprison me again?” Nadia’s voice grew louder and then broke. “We need to find a way to store my magic in a talisman so we can sell her those, and I won’t have to see her stupid face ever again.”

“She’s not actually stupid,” Pearl countered. Victoria the Valiant, the ruling wizard of Valiant Province and probably the strongest wizard in all of Tarakona, governed her lands with a stern hand but did more charitable work than most people realized. Yet her insistence that wizards should continue to rule Tarakona instead of having equality between wizards, humans, and dragons made her the enemy. “But your point is valid. She has a very stupid face.”

Nadia cracked out a laugh, easing some of the tension.

Pearl, the only human in the room, yanked the gear free from the cabinet door and checked it for bent spokes. As a magically inert person, she’d been functioning as Gillian’s lab assistant for months, doing her part to support the DLF in its goal to free the dragons of Tarakona. And to free herself from dying of boredom on the farm. She wore a pair of Barnabas’s old breeches, a wool jumper, and a leather lab apron. “Hey, Gillian? I’ve heard rumors that the gnomes on Earth have an inventor who has almost mastered funneling dragon magic into talismans without needing a wizard’s help. They don’t have access to silver, obviously, since it’s so rare, but we could reach out to the gnomes and—”

Gillian cut her off with a curse, but Pearl knew she wasn’t mad—just frustrated that their weeks of planning this experiment were not coming to fruition. “The same gnomes who stole my gold battery technology and retrofitted it in a way that was never intended? That isn’t safe? To make weapons that hurt dragons instead of protect them? Those gnomes? I am not reaching out to them.”

“Do you know anyone else from Magic? Any tech wizards? Or maybe Aiden does,” Pearl suggested. Gillian’s lover, Aiden Silver, had grown up on Earth in the town of Magic, New Mexico, where the gnomes lived. “It doesn’t have to be one of the gnomes.”

Gillian humphed. “Supposedly there’s this old guy named Everett DeBoer who’s a computer specialist, but I don’t know him and we can’t trust him with…” She waved a hand around. “Everything going on here.”

Since Gillian was also from Earth, her talents weren’t the same as Tarakonan wizards. “If someone from Earth understood more about your native magic,” Pearl ventured, “it might be worth a try.”

“It just feel like we’re so close.” Gillian paced around the contraption, adjusting sensors here and gears there. Resetting it for another go, Pearl recognized. “You can tell by this measurement that the magic almost reached the talisman. The magic is definitely coming out of Nadia and into the charger, but then it fizzles. Nadia, how drained are you? Do you have enough magic to run this one more time, or should we call Aiden?”

Nadia was a pale-skinned blond in human form, but she didn’t have that pallid look she got when all of her magic was gone. Her silver dragon tracery glimmered faintly beneath her skin. “I can go one more time. But you’re gonna owe me chocolate. So much chocolate.”

Tarakonan people were all born the same. Human. At some point in their teen years, they underwent a transformation, or some did. A few turned into wizards and a few turned into dragon shapeshifters who produced and contained magic—magic only the wizards could access. The rest, like Pearl, remained human. Unremarkable, unimpressive, unimportant, and puttering along without any control over their own fate while wizards and dragons flew through the skies.

At least her connection to her infamous brother meant her life could have more meaning than the various jobs assigned to lowly humans in a magically based culture. As far as Pearl was concerned, she should have become the wizard, not her brother. Or in addition to her brother—she wasn’t greedy.

The things she could accomplish if she were the one with the power…

No use musing on fantasies. Pearl had a job to do.

Gillian adjusted the machine and gestured for assistance. “Can you bring me a gear? No, not that one. Bring a size ten. I have an idea.”

Gillian’s ideas, which combined her personal magic with machines and devices, often resulted in brilliant inventions. When they didn’t result in flying gears, small explosions, yelling, cuts, and bruises. Humans didn’t usually have much access to dragon magic, but Pearl had definitely gotten some green healing action in the year since she’d talked Barnabas into letting her come work with the DLF.

She located the larger gear from the supply cabinet and handed it to Gillian, along with a bulkier screw. Gillian’s hand glowed faintly as she affixed the gear to the convoluted device she had dubbed a talisman charger and hammered in the screw. A wizard and dragon pair sent the dragon’s magic into the receptor at one end of the tube, which led into the squat bowels of the machine, which, thanks to the infusion of Gillian’s magic, should then pipe the magic into the amulet placed on the collection plate. Silver magic was the one type of dragon magic that could not be stored in a talisman, and Gillian was determined to change that with some good old Earth ingenuity.

“That wasn’t a nail you were hammering,” Pearl said, raising her eyebrows at Gillian. She’d come to understand a great deal about the witch’s work. Most of Gillian’s tech was forged on Tarakona, but she did import Earth items when the DLF could afford it.

“But it’s not coming lose this time and letting all the magic steam out, is it?” Gillian smacked the screw one last time and gave the gear a flip. It turned, albeit grudgingly. “It’ll be fine. I added some woowoo. Way better than a butane torch.”

“I’m just going to…get out of the way,” Pearl said, hustling around the machine and preparing to take cover. That gear was not going to come anywhere close to her when it sprang loose. A size ten could do some real damage.

Gillian popped her goggles back on and checked the lump of shiny dark grey galena on the collection plate. “Molecular integrity intact. Object still empty.” She rattled off a set of numbers into a handheld recording device before tucking it into her leather apron pocket. Then she began cranking the hand wheel, and the machine coughed to life.

Gears turned and hissed. The machine whirred. Tiny bits of smoke seeped from a few spots. When the dial in front of Gillian reached the predetermined level, she shouted at Barnabas. “Hit it!”

Barnabas, clasping Nadia’s hand, drew the silver power from his lady dragon and drizzled it into the receptor. Nadia’s silver tracery throbbed with light, and she grimaced. The charger’s primary drum began to spin. Slowly. Then faster. A few seams in the machine glowed with silver.

It was going to work! This time, it was going to work.

The machine spun harder, rattling the sturdy table on which it rested. It thumped toward the edge in a dangerous fashion.

“I can’t supply magic much longer,” Nadia gasped. “I’m going to get the ague.” The machine lurched, and Pearl eased toward it. Should she grab it now or wait for orders?

“I will not hurt Nadia,” Barnabas warned. The rattle of the machine increased alarmingly, but all the gears turned, all the dials whirred, all the pieces remained intact.

“One more minute,” Gillian urged. “We’ve almost got it. Pearl, grab the other side, don’t let it fall.”

Pearl leapt forward just in time to stop the machine from bumping itself off the edge of the table. Gillian was cranking like a mad person, sweat beading her forehead above the goggles.

“Shit, shit, shit,” she chanted. “Work, work, work.”

Pearl chanted with her, but only inside her head.

The machine emitted a loud groan before the tube that was supposed to channel the silver magic into the talisman split open like the skin of an overripe plum. Brilliant silver fire splashed across Pearl, the shockwave sending her flying into the shelving behind her.

Pain cracked up and down her back. Her vision blurred, and Pearl screamed so loudly she hurt her own ears. Every inch of her body felt raw, enflamed by a horrific inferno. The magic blazed through her skeleton. Hands groped at her, but they only caused more pain, and she punched toward the source of it. Her consciousness broke free of her form in a desperate attempt to escape the agony.

Finally the crisp green scent of healing magic penetrated through the suffering, and she returned to her body. She blinked up at the concerned expressions of her brother and Nadia, and Gillian’s tear-streaked face.

“Don’t you ever do that again,” Barnabas said. “I love you very much.”

“Love you, too,” she managed with a pained cough. Damn, that was rough.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Gillian cried. “My friend, I am so sorry. Are you all right? Tell me you’re all right.”

Pearl raised a hand to her head and checked to see if she still had hair. Yep, still gorgeous, tight and curled. Her face seemed to be intact, too, she found, as she patted her cheeks. Her hands worked. Barnabas helped her sit up, and Nadia offered her a glass of water.

“I’m all right. Did it charge the talisman?” Pearl asked, flicking a tired hand at the device.

“No,” Gillian moaned. “The machine doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I endangered you. I’m going to start using orange magic shields when we conduct experiments. Except we don’t have many orange dragons in the DLF and their power is needed for battle.”

“What do you mean the machine doesn’t matter?” Pearl asked, bewildered. They had increased lab safety since Pearl had started helping Gillian, but no safety precautions were perfect—not on a horse ranch and not in a laboratory. “This machine is going to be revolutionary.”

“I must invent shields,” Gillian said. “Like the armor I made Aiden. Except for you in the lab.”

“And for you,” Pearl said.

“Pearl’s assistance in the lab after tonight is a subject we will discuss at some other time,” Barnabas said darkly, and Pearl glared at him. She might be his younger sister, but she was not a child. She’d been a woman grown for years.

“Yes, I suppose so.” Then Gillian’s face brightened. “But I know what went wrong. The magic from Nadia wasn’t turning into steam after all. It was pooled up in the drum, and it was too much, and that’s why…”

“It exploded all over me,” Pearl guessed. She felt as good as she ever did when healed after a lab accident. The water tasted crisp and cold, and she handed it back to Nadia with a nod of thanks. “Good thing it wasn’t red fire magic or something. The next time, we should—”

“We are not running more experiments,” Barnabas said in a voice that brooked no argument.

“Well, no,” Gillian agreed. “I’m going to have to smelt more brass for another tube, or we can import something from Earth this time, except the shields are more important. Protecting people is more important. If something had happened to you, I’d never forgive myself.”

“I volunteered for this,” Pearl said. “I knew the risks.” Granted, nobody truly knew the risks of combining Earth and Tarakonan magic since it was an entirely new field.

“Doesn’t matter. This can’t happen again.” Gillian grabbed her in a ferocious hug before releasing her just as abruptly. “Here’s what I’m thinking. If I could transmute orange magic into that armor…” The Earth witch stood and hustled toward another part of the lab, talking to herself.

“It’s a good time for a break,” Pearl commented to Barnabas and Nadia. She didn’t feel like standing up yet, and something about the expression on Barnabas’s face worried her. His concern had not lightened now that she was conscious, but it was his skill that had healed her, so he should know she was fine. “Dunno about you, but I’d like some dinner.”

She started to draw up her feet, but Barnabas put out his hands to stop her. “Take it easy. It was a sizeable healing.”

“It’s not like I was dead,” she complained, her stomach grumbling. “And I’m starving.” The particular DLF encampment where they resided masqueraded as a human logging town. There was usually a good crowd of people to chat with anytime she went to the kitchens, which Pearl appreciated.

Barnabas’s gaze fixed on hers, his dark eyes troubled. “Correct. You were not dead.”

As he said the words, sparks of silver burst from his mouth and shot toward her face.

Pearl gasped and jerked back. “What the heck?”

She wasn’t quick enough. The silver sparks, as bright and pure as Nadia’s dragon tracery, splattered across her face and eyes, making her vision blur. And in that blur, knowledge leapt into her head, as if spoken by the gods.

You were dead.

Her vision cleared as quickly as it had distorted. Barnabas was still frowning. “What was that?” she asked.

“What was what?”

“The sparks that came out of your mouth. And…who said I was dead?”

Barnabas’s eyes widened and he exchanged a glance with Nadia, whose face was now the color of snow. Either Nadia had the ague from being drained of her magic or she was extremely upset.

“No sparks came out of my mouth,” Barnabas said slowly.

“I didn’t see any sparks, either,” Nadia added. “And I never heard anyone say…that thing. That you were…”

Silver sparks burst from Nadia’s mouth this time, and Pearl flinched away with a shriek. They struck her face, her vision blurred, and knowledge jumped into her head.

Barnabas said you were dead.

Pearl blinked away the annoying blur and clambered to her feet, filled with a lot more energy than she’d had moments ago. “You said I was dead. Barnabas. I was dead. Are you telling me I was dead?”

“I…” Barnabas got to his feet, too, and reached a hand toward her. “I need to assess your condition. If I may?”

“Fine.” She smacked her hand into his palm and felt green magic tingle against her skin. This time, though, it was different. Not healing. Not hurting, either.

Barnabas withdrew the magic he was probably pulling from a green talisman and promptly sat back down. Standing above her tall older brother, the mighty wizard, seeing him hunched on the floor as if he were in pain, was not…right. “What is it?”

“I know what happened to the silver magic,” he said. “From the explosion. It’s inside you.”

“So?” she said, looking at Nadia, who shrugged. “I’m not a wizard. I can’t do anything with it. Sadly.” Silver magic was the magic of prophecy, one few wizards had mastered since there were only two silver dragons on all of Tarakona…and both were a million times more useful than Pearl.

“It doesn’t seem to want to leave,” he explained, staring up at her. “I can’t touch it. It’s as if it’s fused into your bones.”

Pearl glanced at her hands, the pale palms the same as ever, the brown creases long and unbroken. She wiggled her fingers. Her bones didn’t feel silver or magical. Everything was normal. “Can we get back to this thing about me being dead? And then some dinner.”

Barnabas’s head drooped. “You weren’t dead.”

Even though he faced the ground, silver sparks sprang from his mouth to Pearl’s face. This time she was ready for it when the mysterious knowledge appeared. You were dead.

“I keep seeing silver sparks when you say certain things,” Pearl said slowly. “And then I know what the truth is.”

“I don’t know what that means, and I don’t like it,” Barnabas said. No silver sparks. “It must have something to do with the prophecy magic in your bones.”

“I’m not seeing the future,” Pearl argued. “I’m seeing when you lie. Like how I was dead yet you insist I wasn’t.”

Nadia’s eyes grew wet with tears. “We think you might have been dead. Very briefly,” she added when Pearl stiffened with shock. “Barnabas used two amulets to heal you and Gillian added some of her Earth magic since I couldn’t find any other wizards to help and…” Nadia bit her lip. “I’m just a dragon. I don’t know what happened.”

“Seriously? Why did you lie to me?” she exclaimed, balling her hands into fists.

“I was frightened.” Barnabas’s low voice did have a tremble to it. “I didn’t want to say it because that would have made it true. How close we came to losing you, sister.”

Pearl’s heartbeat accelerated as the facts hit home. The lab accident had nearly done her in, and it had taken the combined power of a Tarakonan wizard and an Earth witch to revive her. Gillian’s magic didn’t even work that way, but apparently Pearl had been so injured, so…dead…that two magic users together had almost been unable to save her.

It explained Gillian’s tears and Nadia’s pallor and Barnabas’s droop. And now she had silver magic inside her.

“But you didn’t lose me.” She was uncertain how to fix this but positive about one thing. “And I am telling you, I’m starving.” She couldn’t think about this on an empty stomach, and this was chicken and dumplings night. “Tomorrow, bright and early, Gillian and I can get started on that new tube and—”

“You’re not working in the lab again,” Barnabas declared.

“He’s right. You’re too vulnerable,” Gillian commented over her shoulder. Pearl hadn’t even realized Gillian was still paying attention. “I’ll beg one of the lower level wizards who can shield herself to help.”

“But me being human…me being inert…makes your experiments more pure,” Pearl argued, frightened that they would take this away from her after one tiny accident that resulted in her being a tiny bit dead. She craved interaction and excitement, and she was so tired of other people deciding what she was allowed to do with her life. “I’m good at it. We can be more careful.”

“After I create shields, we’ll talk,” Gillian said. “I have learned my lesson.”

“But what the hells am I supposed to do?” Pearl said, tossing up her hands. “Cook? Do laundry? Groom horses? You have people for those things. This was my thing.”

“Pearl, it’s just not safe,” Nadia told her. “We’ll find something for you. You’re family.”

“I need a thing,” Pearl insisted. All her life, she’d had one future, a tedious human future, around the same tedious faces, until Barnabas had allowed her to enlist with the DLF.

Allowed, ha. Her future should be her choice. Like wizards got to choose. Like dragons…didn’t. Hasn’t she joined the DLF to change that?

Barnabas rose shakily to his feet. “It might be best to put you in isolation until we can figure out the implications of the silver magic inside you.”

“We already know what it does. Tell me a lie,” Pearl demanded. “I dare you.”

“Um. I’m pregnant?” Nadia said with a little smile.

Silver sparks again, splatting into Pearl. And the voice. I am not pregnant.

Pearl cackled. “No, you’re not.”

Barnabas put a hand to his chest. “I believe I have been terrified enough for one night, Nadia.”

“Gillian, tell me a lie,” Pearl urged. “It’s an experiment, to see if it works the same on a person from Earth.”

Gillian turned from a laden utility table, pushed back her goggles, and said, “The first time I saw Aiden, I was very polite and definitely didn’t knock him out.”

A plume of sparks crossed the room into Pearl’s eyes, and she laughed. Now that she knew what to expect, it was much easier to handle. “Everyone knows how you and Aiden met. You kidnapped him. Do another one.”

The four of them ran a few more tests on Pearl’s new ability, and they concluded she could indeed discern when someone lied, though if the lie were minor, she was unable to hear the true statement. It was unprecedented. Amazing.

Revolutionary.

Pearl felt like she could fly as inspiration surged inside her. “How long do you think this will last? Until the magic gets used up? I’m like a talisman, except I can do the magic myself. This will definitely earn me a better job in the DLF, won’t it? I can be a spy. I can question our enemies. I can…I can find out Victoria the Valiant’s secrets.”

Though her brother and friends looked worried, Pearl laughed with glee. She’d always thought she should have been the magical one in the family. With this ability, combined with the common sense she’d had to develop as a human on Tarakona, she could truly be of service to the world.

She could change everything.

“I don’t think using this power is a good idea,” Barnabas said. “You should be isolated. We don’t know anything about it. It could be injuring you internally.”

“On a cellular level,” Gillian added. “I should run some tests. Not dangerous ones,” she added hastily.

“I’m fine,” Pearl said, stretching her arms into the air and crackling her spine before putting her hands on her hips. “See? Same ole body. Now can we please go eat? And don’t try to lie to me about anything, I’ll know.”

Pearl was a lowly peasant on Tarakona, a nobody, a person who could never achieve greatness or fame because of the essence of who she was. Human.

But now? She was more. This power wasn’t the end of anything. It was the beginning of a new journey. And it wasn’t as if knowing the truth could hurt her.

Cat Vs. Cocker

a book called cat vs cocker by jody wallaceTitle: Cat Vs. Cocker
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: February 2020
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 30
ISBN13: 9781393703174
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Kobo; Apple

Scribd Audiobook:  

Free copy from Book Funnel

Genre: ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

A very good story about a very bad cat...

Raziel has everything a cat could want – her own house, her own human, and lots of tuna and cuddles. When her soft, wonderful human is seduced by a hairy, dog-scented male, Raziel does what any smart cat would do and resists the change, unwilling to give up her human's attention and the best spot in the bed.

Her stealthy resistance comes to an abrupt halt, however, when the humans try to introduce a dog into the household, and Raziel is forced to escalate into a literal campaign of terror. Have the humans been brainwashed by canine tail wags and fawning obedience, or can Raziel save the day?

This short story is not intended for children unless you like to read cuss words to children.

It's not on Amazon, because free and Amazon makes it hard.

Liam’s Gold

the book cover for liam's gold by jody wallaceTitle: Liam's Gold
Series: Fae Realm #10
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: January 2018
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 130
ASIN: B078YDVP3H
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; REAM Subscription
Genre: , , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

His plan: hide in plain sight. Not planned: falling in love.

Liam Connell is tantalizingly close to the end of his required sojourn in humanspace. On one hand, he’s eager to return and repair the leprechaun’s dysfunctional governing body. On the other, it means leaving behind his mouthwatering neighbor, Sal.

Salvia Rose Winter is no ordinary woman. She possesses a gene that lights up when leprechauns come near, which would blow his cover—and ruin everything he’s worked for. Yet when he learns he’s being hunted by an old nemesis from the Realm, he has no choice but draw closer to her for safety.

Sal never believed her grandmother’s leprechaun tales or that Liam will ever want her for anything other than her computer skills. But when he unexpectedly asks her out on a date, she wonders if wishes really can come true. One smoking hot night later, she’s convinced the answer is yes, oh yes.

By the time Liam realizes his plan has backfired, it’s too late—he’s fallen in love. Which makes her the target of a maniac who’ll stop at nothing to destroy Liam’s future—including murder.

Tropes: This best friends to lovers paranormal romance includes elements of disguise, a fling, a playboy, and unrequited love.

Note: This novella was originally published by Samhain Publishing in 2008. This edition has been reedited, reformatted, and updated with a new cover but has not been substantially altered.

 

This book and a few others are currently being offered as part of my REAM subscription service. If you subscribe, you get weekly chapters of various things and can pick what book I share next! There is also new, never before seen material, out of print books, and other goodies.


Also in this series:

Catagenesis

Cover of Catagenesis by Jody Wallace is a blond Caucasian lady in black clothes and a no nonsense attitude and a siamese cat, both on a a space shipTitle: Catagenesis
Series: Cat Ship #3
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: 12/31/2022
Contributors: Jody Wallace
Pages: 400
ISBN13: 9798215753163
ASIN: B0BRCNZ9K9
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple; Barnes & Noble; Paperback at Amazon
Genre: , , , , ,

 

A 2023 MUSE MEDALLION WINNER in the fiction category!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two humans, a bunch of cats, a space ship...and murder.

Han-Ja Gee has made a fine living on Trash Planet trading information and secrets with those who are willing to pay, either in money or in more secrets. He thought he knew everything...until a talking cat interrupted a business meeting. But cats can't talk. Cats are so rare that only very wealthy people own them. If he can discover the truth about the cats, he can pay off the life-debt he owes and leave Trash Planet forever.

Farah Shine Collins is a passenger on an ancient generation ship who wakes up two thousand years late in a galaxy that barely survived a catastrophic war...and the cats on her ship have become sentient. Her struggle to adjust becomes infinitely worse when she's asked to partner with an information broker named Han-Ja, who is clearly trouble, to solve a murder on board the ship. 

A murder for which the primary suspect is Farah's mother. A murder that not even mind-reading cats seem to know anything about. A murder that is only the first in a string of deadly attacks that threatens to tear the whole ship apart.

Han-Ja just wanted to escape a brutal racketeer. Farah just wanted a place that she and her mother could call home. Neither expected to fall in love while locked on a murder ship with three thousand terrified colonists and almost as many angry cats. But if they cannot stop the killer, the collateral damage will be a lot more than their hopes and dreams. It will be their lives.

 

Read an article about the series by the author! 

https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/2020/10/light-paranormal-try-cats-by-author.html

Read an article about the series by a person who isn't the author!

https://www.heathermassey.com/the-observation-deck/3-great-things-about-jody-wallaces-cat-ship-sci-fi-romance-series 


Also in this series:

Farah Shine Collins sat up with a strangled gasp, certain that the weight on her chest was about to crush her. Needles of pain stabbed the skin near her collarbone before the weight vanished.

She inhaled, gasping some more. Adrenaline surged through her veins. Intense whiteness blinded her, and a roar of sound that rose and rose until her ears hurt did not help her adjustment to wakefulness.

Or whatever was happening.

Warm hands on her arms. Someone sobbing, a person. A tickle of sensation in her nose right before…

Farah sneezed so hard that she almost peed. Dang.

“The final sleeper has awoken!” a magnified voice announced, and she realized the roar of sound was cheers. A multitude of people applauded, whistled, and whooped, their excitement echoing off a distant ceiling.

Farah turned her head and squinted toward the location of whoever was sobbing. She presumed it was the person who’d placed warm hands on her arm. A familiar outline swam into view, a rounded female figure with her head distorted by wild, upswept hair.

“Mom?” she croaked, surprised how dry and rough her throat was. When the colonists on the Catamaran had settled into cryosleep, the techs hadn’t mentioned that they’d feel like death warmed over when they woke. Perhaps they’d assumed it was common knowledge. “Did we reach the homestead planet?”

“Baby, you’re awake. Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much.”

How had Mom missed her when they were scheduled to be woken at the same time? Farah sat up slowly, puzzled by the dizziness. This wasn’t right. “I feel pretty rough.”

“It’ll be better soon.” Her mother stroked her arm, patting her as if she couldn’t believe Farah was real.

Well, of course she was real. Real uncomfortable in the barely cushioned casket of the cryopod. Not to mention, the pinpricks on her chest stung like fire, and there was something else. Something ticklish.

She sneezed again, which sent jabs of pain throughout her body. Her mother choked out a laugh. “Still got those allergies, I see. No, no, don’t try to get up yet. Take a minute. Javier’s on the way. He ran late because of a problem at the factory.”

“Cryosleep wasn’t going to cure a cat allergy. Who’s Javier? What factory? I don’t remember anyone named Javier.” Slowly the room in which Farah had awoken—one of the huge cryopod bays—swam into focus. Hundreds of colonists dressed in an assortment of clothing milled around, cheering and hugging. None were in their cryopod suits, which was strange. Neither was Mom, for that matter.

Someone raced past her pod, blowing on a party horn and throwing confetti. It sprinkled all over the cryopod and Mom’s hair.

“Congratulations, sleepyhead!” the person shouted, tossing more flakes.

It wasn’t the only confetti. Ugh, Farah knew who’d be stuck cleaning that up. Her. They couldn’t confirm they’d need her skills as a civilian advocate on the new planet, so she was being shipped in as labor.

Many cats bounded this way and that, winding around legs, perched all over the stacks of pods. Her vision continued to sharpen, and she realized the other cryopods were inactive. Off. Covered in cats, but off.

She was…the last? The final sleeper. Why? Newhome, the company in charge of their gen ship, had her scheduled for the second round. They needed her awake before disembarkment on Tiongos do things like clean up confetti.

“I know you’re confused,” her mother said, “but there have been some changes.”

Farah stretched her face as if yawning, trying to relieve the stiffness she felt everywhere. “Okay?”

“You were not easy to bring back to us,” said a high-pitched voice in front of her.

Farah turned her head and spotted a white and black feline sitting on the foot of the pod. Mom’s cat Xerxes. His comfortably plump black and white body had always reminded her of a Holstein cow. Xerxes stared straight into her eyes in that way he had, as if challenging her for her mom’s attention.

Stupid cat.

Beside him were a couple of other cats, but they were less interested in Farah and leapt off the pod moments later.

“I see Xerxes made it,” Farah observed, twisting her spine. It crackled all the way down. The advice for recovering from cryosleep ran through her head—find food and drink to stimulate your system before getting some real sleep. Some would want to bathe and hydrate their skin, and some might have a minor headache.

“Absolutely he made it. My fur baby.” Her mom took Farah’s hand and kissed the back of it. While her mother had always been affectionate, she was really indulging in this “you’re awake” bit. “You’re one of the ones who…who…”

Farah stared at her mother in alarm. Her questions were cut off by the person on the microphone.

“Now everyone, let’s give the final sleeper and Dear Barbara some time to adjust. Cats rule!”

More cheering, and the colonists dispersed, a few that she’d gotten to know during prep classes waving at her before they filed out of the cryopod bay. Farah’s pod had been positioned in the waking carousel, per protocol, but she was the only one left.

“Mom.” Her mother was waving back at the colonists. Well, she was probably waving at their cats. “I’m the one who did what?”

“You almost didn’t come out of the long sleep,” said that high voice again. “You’re one of the ones who’s just not very hardy.” It seemed to be coming from the foot of the cryopod. Where the cat was.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Farah asked, but there weren’t any people around besides her mother. It wasn’t as if waking from cryo, a science perfected millennia ago, was a big deal. Even if some snafu meant she was last. “Mom, seriously, what’s going on?”

Her mom burst into full-on tears. Why wasn’t she happy that they would reach the colony in a week? Green grass, blue water, clear skies, and healthy plants. No pollution, tons of animal species, and a lot less corruption and conflict. A lot less need for a civilian advocate, too. So far. Earth had grown too expensive, crowded, and polluted for peons like Farah and Barbara, so they had shipped out to a planet named Tiongos, and now all Mom could do was cry?

Farah grasped her mother’s hand and inspected the older woman. She…wasn’t the same as the last time Farah had seen her. Her hair was much, much longer and zanier. Her body seemed older, yet less soft. There were more lines on her face. The techs had insisted that the stasis would eliminate bodily functions such as hair growth and ageing, so the changes in Mom’s appearance didn’t make sense.

Farah put her hands on the sides of the pod, prepared to lift herself out. She wanted to get food and reach the bed in her quarters before she crashed. Because of her allergies, she was one of the few who had a room to herself. The others shared with cats and fellow colonists.

“Wait, honey. Wait. There have been…there have been…” her mother tried to say.

“We aren’t at the colony,” said the high voice. It was definitely coming from the cat. Farah stared at him, and the little shit’s mouth moved along with the words. “While we were sleeping, the humans had a ridiculous war with quantum tech and it pretty much destroyed the galaxy. Now it’s three thousand years later, we’re orbiting a very different planet, not everyone made it, and yes, I can talk and am much, much smarter than you.”

Farah rubbed her watery eyes and sneezed. She would need her allergy shot soon or she was definitely going to pee her pants. Not that the silvery leggings one wore in cryosleep were very good pants, but still. Her real clothes were in her room.

“Mom, is this a reality holovid?” she asked. “I’m not in the mood. I just want to…”

“It’s all true,” Barbara wailed. “Baby, I’ve been awake for several years. For years, I was the only person with the kitties. Something about the radiation, Javier says, evolved them right in their little pods. Xerxes is talking to you, and it’s rude to pretend he’s just an animal.”

Farah lay back down in the pod and closed her eyes. “This is a dream.”

“You don’t have dreams in cryosleep,” said the voice that absolutely wasn’t a cat. “And you’re welcome for saving your life. Who do you think brought you out of it? Me. Right up in your face. Doing my magic. You were too far gone.”

Barbara sniveled. Farah opened one eye and looked at her. “Can we not?”

“Xerxes is telling the truth,” said a new voice, a human one. “They both are.” A wrinkled old man with dark skin strolled up to the cryopod. His long jacket was white, which could be a lab coat and could be a fashion statement. “My name is Javier. I am a medic and I’d like to check your vitals, if that would be all right?”

“Uh, I don’t know you.” Farah sat back up. “You weren’t on the ship.” Few men or trans men had been on the ship. As the sixth (maybe) gen ship that set forth to Tiongos, theirs had been populated by adult labor and service. Less vital colonists. Specialized in one way since they almost all had cats and were a majority female-presenting, but mostly important as job fillers.

“Nevertheless,” Javier said dryly, “I am a medic, your mother is telling the truth, as is Xerxes, and I would like to check your vitals.”

He sounded like a doctor. Acted like one, too. Farah had seen enough of them in her time for allergy treatments. Medical science had cured a lot of things, but not most allergies. “And I’m just supposed to believe…this nonsense?”

“It isn’t nonsense. You’re nonsense,” the voice that was not a cat insisted. “Watch.”

She watched, and Xerxes blinked out of existence with a spark of xxx. Then he blinked back into existence in her lap. His claws poked into her skin in a familiar way.

“We can do all sorts of stuff now,” Xerxes bragged with a catty smirk.

“Shit!” Farah lurched reflexively, bucking and sending the cat flying through the air. He landed on all fours on the ground, tail fuzzed out and eyes narrow.

Farah’s newest claw marks stung as much as the ones on her collarbone. That was what the weight had been when she’d first woken, and the pain. It had been the damn cat.

“You must be made to understand,” the cat growled. The cat. It was the cat. The cat was talking. Xerxes was talking. Farah lifted a trembling hand to her mouth. “I am so dogging glad you’re the last one. We are sick of you disbelieving humans and your inflated sense of superiority. I’m going to find Boson Higgs. He’ll straighten you out.”

Farah lay back down again and closed her eyes. “This is a dream.” Then she sneezed, sneezed again, sneezed a third time, sneezed until tears ran down her cheeks. “My head is going to explode.”

“You did not mention her allergies were that extensive,” she heard Javier murmur to her mother. “Or perhaps it’s because we almost lost her. I’ll ask someone to carry her to the shuttle so we can transport her to my clinic at the box factory. I can care for her better where there are fewer cats.”

Unwilling to consider, unwilling to listen, Farah welcomed the onset of sleep. The sounds of the cryobay faded, but a million voices in her head, tiny, catty voices, followed her into her dreams.

(c) 2022 Jody Wallace

Blue Streak

blue streak coverTitle: Blue Streak
Series: Dragons of Tarakona #7
Published by: Meankitty Publishing
Release Date: June 2019
Contributors: DB Sieders
Pages: 180
ISBN13: 9781393280354
ASIN: B07T1FNHTX
Buy the Book: Books2Read; Amazon; Kobo; Apple
Genre: , , , , , ,

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In this race, love is the ultimate prize.

Tatiana Blue is a fast-flying water dragonshifter of impeccable breeding and high social standing with a wizard to match. She’s the perfect contender for the race that will win her a spot on the elite Blue Guard. Until, that is, another blue dragon enters the competition, a handsome bad boy from the slums of Valiant City. But these rivals will have to become allies when they land in hostile territory…on another planet.

Ranvie Blue appears to be a carefree rogue, member of a wizard-run dragon gang that dominates the human warrens. But looks can be deceiving. When the race catapults him and his alluring rival out of their dimension and to Earth, the two blue dragons must team up to save themselves and the enchanted town of Magic, New Mexico, from a magical anti-immigrant group that seeks to destroy enchanted creatures from other worlds or dimensions.

Can an uptown lady dragon find common ground and passion with a dragon from the streets, or will their differences lead them and the citizens of Magic down the path of destruction?

Tropes: Rich girl, poor guy; rivals to lovers.

NOTE: This novella is the companion to Jody Wallace’s Blue Guard (coming soon!) and is chock-a-block full of red-hot romance and rascally gnomes.


Also in this series: