I am so excited to be participating in the cover reveal of Nathan Squiers re-launch of his book Crimson Shadow: Noir but before I post it let's read the awesome excerpt that Nathan has provided for us.
The cab ride home was an unpleasant one; reeking of stale farts that the driver replaced with new ones without the slightest sign of embarrassment. Xander, ignoring the gross driver as best he could, checked behind them several times for anything that could be following. When he was certain there was no immediate threat, he faced forward and tried to relax; catching sight of a hanging section of fat that hung from the driver’s neck that rippled with each imperfection in the road and stifled a dry heave.
Finally, the cab pulled up at the address that Xander had specified and he opened the door and stepped out.
"Th’ fare’s twen'ee-eight fort’five." the cabby called out.
"I haven’t got it." Xander muttered.
"Sonababitch!" the cabby yelled as he threw open the door and hoisted himself out, his gut snagging the steering wheel and giving birth to a new wave of obscenities, "Im’a kill ya’, ya’ robbing b’stard!"
"Disgusting!" Xander muttered as he started across the lawn.
No argument here. Trepis chimed in.
The address he’d given the driver was several blocks away from his own home. He had known from the start that he didn’t have the money to pay the fare but felt that he needed a safer way to get home than walking. Running around the back of the house, he hopped the fence and cut through several bushes that separated the one house from another. From there, he crossed through the yard on the opposite side and slowed to a walk, leaving the cursing cabby several houses back.
He was a block away when he first saw the smoke.
As he got closer, his fears were confirmed: the roof of his house collapsing in a violent greeting of his return. Standing in front of the smoldering wreckage were three figures, all wearing black sweatshirts and long, black pants. Two of the three had black baseball caps on while the third wore a black bowler. Xander watched, horrified, from a distance as the last of his life burned to the ground, wondering why nobody else had seemed to notice or bothered to call the fire department.
It's time. The small boy's voice echoed in his head. It was the first time he’d ever heard a voice besides Trepis’ and he wondered if he was finally going insane.
Having seen enough of his burning home, he turned his attention to the three, who had noticed his arrival and were now approaching. The closest—a younger-looking man—cracked his knuckles. As he neared, Xander noticed a pinkish stain on his chin and a shudder forced its way up his spine. The other cap-wearer was a dark-skinned woman with a tattoo of a snake that breached her collar and ended on her cheek. The figure in the bowler was a man whose black hair hung from under the hat in front of his left eye.
Too much. . .
It was all too much for him.
Too much pain. Too much suffering. Too much anguish and guilt and doubt.
Too much to hold back.
Too much to keep it all locked in. . .
As an unbearable itch—carrying with it an infernal heat that seemed to cook him from the inside-out—crept over Xander’s body, the young man in front of him crouched down like an angry cat then and launched himself several stories into the air. Squinting, Xander fought to keep his eyes focused on the unnatural spectacle as it was lost in the sun; after all that had happened, he once again began to question his sanity and begged reality to return the stranger’s feet back to the ground where they belonged. Still gawking into the sky, he was caught off guard by a powerful force and thrown down the length of the street, skipping like a stone over the concrete surface several times before finally rolling to a stop against the curb.
Too much. . .
It was too—
His eyes rolled in his skull as he wrestled to get his bearings; the world spinning beneath him and keeping him off balance. Getting his left foot centered beneath him, he adjusted his right and tried to stand, only to feel the ground roll under him and drop him all over again.
Behind him there was a soft thud, and Xander gave up on the effort to stand up in the hopes of coaxing his blurred vision to focus.
Distortion. . .
A kaleidoscope of fractured light and rolling shadows. . .
Xander groaned and blinked, watching as the previously airborne young man step towards him.
The familiar sensation of a foot being driven into his ribs; harder and more sudden than he’d expected. As a dry heave ripped the oxygen from his lungs, Xander found himself once again crashing to the unforgiving street.
. . . too much.
Head still reeling, Xander fought to fill his empty lungs as he was lifted from the ground in an iron grip and shaken before being thrown. . .
Xander could feel the impending heat growing as he hurdled towards the inferno that was consuming his home.
Consuming his life!
The brittle remains of the house proved too frail to stop Xander as he careened through the sidewall—an avalanche of ash and memories crashing down around him—and slammed into a flaming support beam. No longer able to support the burden of its purpose, the structure crumbled with a fiery hiss and he found himself trapped beneath the mass. Pinned under the scalding pressure and seeing every stolen moment of happiness he’d ever had go up in smoke, he began to succumb.
"JUST FUCKING LET ME DIE!" He roared at the flames.
Dammit, Xander! Fight!
Xander blinked, feeling his tears evaporate before they could fall. "Mom. . ."
Nothing can be done about that! Now get up! Get the fuck up!
"Grandma. . ."
Stop it! Sadness fixes nothing! Anger motivates change! USE YOUR ANGER AND FIGHT! FIGHT, GOD DAMN YOU!
The sudden wave of intense heat overwhelmed everything else, and Xander did nothing to stop it from consuming him. Though he could feel the burning remains of the beam holding him down—could smell the burning denim and flesh that had begun to feed it—he knew this new fire had nothing to do with his surroundings. Crying against everything that had befallen him, he pushed up and shook off the offending piece of wood and pulled himself to his feet. He saw his mother, her sweet smile and her slightly curled strawberry-blonde hair. Her green eyes, long since closed, burned in his mind. He saw his Grandmother, with all her wisdom and calmness.
He closed his eyes and let the visions of those he loved burned in his mind.
And then he imagined Kyle. . .
Use his anger? Up until then all his magical rages had been done by instinct—chaotic events that had turned themselves on.
But what if he could control it?
Though his eyes remained closed he could sense the strangers as they approached; the young man taking up the lead again. Inside his mind, Xander could practically see the extended snarl stretching the jaws of each his attackers; could feel their determination and hatred roll off of them in waves.
What could they know about hatred?
“He’s still alive!” Xander felt a swell of disgust roll from the snake-woman—could practically see her thin lips curl in a sneer from the other side of the collapsed wall—and he felt another wave of energy rocketing towards him.
Frantic to hold his ground, Xander threw his arms out in an attempt to hold himself up. The swell of energy he’d come to recognize as his own kicked up, then, and the ash and debris around him scattered in a momentary gust as his attackers’ wave collided with the house. As the dividing barricade burst towards him, the gust shifted and pushed back; the burning chunks of wood and furniture parting around Xander and splaying out in either direction. Growling against the whipping hair in his eyes, Xander fought to maintain his footing as his shoe dragged across the ashes of his home until the force finally died down around him.
The three stopped in mid-stride as the dense cloud between them settled.
Xander felt a swell of excitement at the sight of their confusion.
They had power; there was no doubt about that.
But he did, too.
And now they saw it.
“He got lucky,” the snake-woman growled; her words nearly inaudible to Xander, “Kill him!”
The three started toward him again, and the swell of their emotions once again grew; the force becoming so strong that their bodies seemed to radiate with it.
But it was too much.
Xander was too angry to be afraid.
Too eager to see them suffer for everything that had happened.
Do it! Trepis urged him.
“It… it can’t be,” the snake-woman’s eyes widened then, her purposeful advance ceasing as she stared at Xander in disbelief. The analytic gaze melted to one of concern, and the woman took a step back, followed soon after by another, “S-Stryker?”
The other two, unaware of their companion’s retreat, continued to stride forward.
Trepis’ voice echoed in Xander’s head: DO IT!
“Oh no. . .” the woman held out her hand, “Get back!”
But the warning came too late. The excruciating heat in Xander’s body churned about in him like a boiling whirlpool; a new purpose driving it to spread. As he concentrated on the sensation, he felt the gust pick up and swirl around him, growing in intensity. When the force became too much for him to contain—too much for him to hold back any longer—he shut his eyes and unleashed it on them.
There was a series of snapping and crunching sounds followed by panicked screams. Driven by this, he increased the intensity of his attack. Even when the screams were silenced, he continued to let the energy whip around him; let it rip and tear until there was nothing left to feed the destructive force.
Until there was no energy left in him, and, feeling drained, he stumbled and collapsed into the dying embers.
When he finally looked up, the little boy was standing over him, his hand outstretched. As he watched through blurred vision, a man and a woman appeared behind the boy, who faded away and disappeared.
You will come with us now?
As the effort to keep himself conscious became too much, Xander finally offered a weak nod.
Nathan Squiers (The Literary Dark Emperor and the author formally known as “Prince”) is a resident of Upstate New York. Living with his loving fiancé/fellow author, Megan J. Parker, and two incredibly demanding and out-of-control demon-cats, Nathan lives day-by-day on a steady diet of potentially lethal doses of caffeine. When he isn’t immersed in his writing, he often escapes reality through horror and/or action movie marathons, comic books & graphic novels, Japanese anime & manga, and gnarly tunes. While out-and-about, The Literary Dark Emperor can be found in the chair of a piercing studio/tattoo parlor or simply loving life with friends & loved ones.
Learn more about Nathan’s work and join The Legion at www.nathansquiers.com
Now for the cover reveal of Crimson Shadow: Noir
When all those you love are dead, who do you turn to?
When there’s nothing left to strive for, what do you stay alive for?
Xander Stryker wants to die.
Ever since witnessing his mother's murder at the hands of his abusive stepfather when he was a boy, he has spent every day trying to reach that goal. But every night he's denied the death he craves.
As his eighteenth birthday approaches, a chance for change is offered when his life is plunged into a supernatural world of vampires and other creatures of darkness. Caught in the depths of this new reality, mysteries of his vampiric lineage begin to unravel and he’s offered the ultimate choice:
Continue on with his wretched human life or begin a new one as the vampire prodigy he was always meant to be.
Unfortunately, the supernatural world can be just as unforgiving and brutal as any other and Xander's choice is met with disastrous consequences. Now, with a little support and even less hope, the chaos of his new world collides with his torturous past and threatens to crush him once and for all.
Will Xander be able to use his new strength to conquer his fears, or will he succumb to his own darkness. . .
. . . and allow it to finally destroy him.
There is no going back now.
No more running.
It’s time for a bloody change!
How EPIC is that cover and excerpt?! I for one can not wait to buy this book and have it sitting on my shelf.
Thank you to Nathan for letting me participate in his cover reveal.