Edits are slowly sucking my soul.
The first draft of Forged by Fire is done and has been for some time now. What I’d focused on at the moment, are edits. I did most of my writing while I was pregnant and well, pregnancy brain sucks. I have bits and pieces in this book that make me question my own sanity so yeah — edits.
Everyone is asking when Forged by Fire will be released. Ideally, next month at some point in July. That is the goal and at the moment, it seems reasonable. There is a chance for august though so don’t hate me if that happens instead.
Forged by Fire is the last book in Aria’s story arc. Most of my books end on a cliffhanger and typically leave a few tidbits unfinished. I can’t do that with this book. That is very unlike my usual style of writing. I keep finding holes I need to fill. I would like Forged by Fire to be perfect. Well, as perfect as it can be.
So no holes. No loose strings. No cliffhanger. And that my dear friends is why FbF is currently killing me.
Once I plug all the wholes and take care of endless rewrites, FbF will go to proofing which goes pretty quick and then we’ll hit publish. Since you’re being so patient, chapter one (un-proofed) is pasted below. Enjoy.
If you had trouble of the magic variety you had two options. One, you could call the Human and Paranormal Enforcement Division also known as the HPED. First problem in doing so was that in order to call the HPED you needed to be human. They didn’t work for paranormals no matter how low on the food chain you might be. And if you were human but the job wasn’t entirely human related, as soon as they got a whiff of supernatural, they were out.
Sure, if someone broke into your house, they were happy to assist. But if that someone was a vampire ex boyfriend with boundary issues, you were on your own.
Second problem you’d face when calling the HPED was that the problem needed to be small enough that they felt comfortable handling it. The HPED prided themselves in being competent so they would never outright say that a job was out of their league. They would however tell you that their case log was a mile long and that unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to assist in a timely manner.
If you were lucky, they referred you to a mercenary like myself. If you were unlucky, they just hung up.
The HPED didn’t deal in murder or brutal assaults. They didn’t take jobs that actively put their lives in danger. And to be honest, I couldn’t blame them. They weren’t paid enough and unfortunately for them tax dollars were a thing of the past.
Members of the HPED were paid by the job and upon completion. If it looked like an investigation would take several weeks let alone months, they probably were going to pass when they could find a simple fender bender to manage that they could wrap up in an afternoon.
Option two was calling a mercenary like me in the first place. It’s like that children’s cartoon saying goes. “No job’s too big. No mercenary’s too small.” I’m pretty sure it had something to do with pups but this version works for me so I roll with it.
I wasn’t the only merc in town but I was one of the best and I didn’t charge an arm and a leg if I knew the client couldn’t afford it.
There was a time when I would, but all that changed when a boy was murdered in my city and it was like a switch went off inside of me. Couple that with my boss slash surrogate father being murdered and me inheriting his business and we’ll just say that my priorities changed.
It could also have something to do with being mate-bound to Declan Valkenaar—Alpha to the Pacific Northwest Pack, but I tried not to give him credit when I didn’t have to. It would just go to his head.
So with all that said, why the hell was I standing in an abandoned warehouse covered in sweat when I could be in my new shiny office or out in the streets taking down baddies?
I glared at the handsome asshole across the room. He smiled and blew me a kiss. Before I could respond, I was forced to jump over the table or risk getting run over by it.
I landed in a crouch as it sailed past me before slamming into the metal wall leaving a dent. “What the hell did I get myself into?”
Another object — this time a metal folding chair — zipped through the air aiming for my face. “Motherfuc—”
My feet pounded through the warehouse as I sprinted through the wide-open space, zipping past more flying furniture in my haste to get away.
Chair — end table — lamp — They were all out to get me.
“Think Aria. Think.”
Easier said than done. You try coming up with a plan when a full warehouse worth of furnishings is trying to kick your ass.
Soft afternoon light filtered in through the dirt-coated windows, lighting the space and illuminating Dia’s annoyed frown. What the hell did she had to be upset about? She wasn’t the one being pelted.
“Stop thinking like a merc and think like a psyker!” She shouted.
Easy for her to say. I flipped her the bird. Jerk.
A smile spread across her face. Oh when I was done with this—
Chest heaving, I rounded a pillar and ran smack into a coffee table that brought me to my knees.
Jumping to my feet on autopilot, I kicked the table in the center with my steel toe booted foot. It split so I kicked it again, this time breaking it in half.
“Take that!” Stupid table. The karate kid in me jumped for joy.
“You can’t win by killing the furniture.” Jason Hoang’s voice rang through the open space.
I shifted my gaze and spied him across the room. He was leaning against a brick pillar with a bored expression on his face.
I wanted to punch him. What the hell kind of training exercise was this supposed to be anyway?
An idea formed in my mind and before I could second guess it, I launched to my feet and sprinted in his direction.
Jason’s dark brown almond shaped eyes narrowed. Of Korean and Chinese decent, Jason had dark brown hair that was shaved on the sides and longer on top. Today he wore ripped jeans and a quarter sleeved white shirt with a v-neck. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be fooled into believing Jason was the boy next door type. But let me tell you — he was far from it and I sure as hell knew better.
He was the telekinetic mind behind the attacking furniture. Disable him and I’d disable the furniture. Sounded like a solid plan to me so I was going with it.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Oh, wouldn’t he like to know.
I smirked and continued my forward charge.
I was five feet away now and closing in when all of a sudden an invisible wall formed between us.
I ran head first into it and bounced back falling on my ass.
“Shit.” I spit blood and glowered up at him.
“You can’t beat every opponent with brute force. You’re not a shifter.” He flicked his gaze toward Declan who had so far been a quiet observer. The silent asshole. He was the reason I was here, training.
I threw my hands in the air. “What do you want from me? I’m trying here.”
Dia stomped over and helped me to my feet before giving me a small shove in the shoulder. “You’re not trying. You’re a telekinetic. Use it.”
I shook my head. They didn’t know what they were asking. “I fight better with my pyrokinetic powers —”
“Too bad. You’re never going to take down your mother if you don’t figure out how to master both and use them in conjunction with one another. And stop fighting like a street fighter. Look at you.” Jason waved a hand in my direction. “You’re covered in sweat, breathing heavy, and look like a strong wind could topple you over.” He shook his head and then turned to Declan. “Has no one been working with her?”
Declan’s emerald green eyes narrowed and filled with flecks of gold. “What exactly are you insinuating?” he asked and took a menacing step forward.
That’s right, baby! You tell him. I clamped my jaw shut before I could embarrass myself and voice those words out loud.
Jason didn’t seem cowed. If anything he was angrier.
“She isn’t a shifter yet her first instinct is to run toward danger and try to beat it into submission. You’re handicapping her.”
Up until this past two weeks, Declan was who I trained with. Before him, I’d trained with James — my werewolf best friend who was conveniently unavailable ever since he went off on some hush hush Pack mission. So yeah, I could kinda see Jason’s point, not that I’d ever openly agree with him.
But I didn’t have a whole lot of options. Declan and James were two of the few people strong enough to train with at near full strength. Sure, both men could tear me in two if they wanted to, but between my pyrokinetic and telekinetic abilities, I could do permanent damage if not accidentally kill someone.
I had been focusing on strength and hand to hand training. It was safer. But that was on me. Not him.
Declan growled and every hair on my body stood on end. Rather than get involved I decided to take this opportunity to catch my breath and took a seat on the floor.
It was nice down here.
“Why do you think you’re here? Help her or get out. Stop wasting our time.”
Jason sighed and turned back to me. “Whatever you learned during your time with the shifters, unlearn it. You need to create new instincts. You need to start reacting with your telekinetic powers first and physical force second. Understand?”
I nodded. Easier said than done but I was willing to give it a go.
“Okay then. Let’s go again.”
I heaved out a breath and rose to my feet. That break hadn’t lasted long.
This was my fifth training session with Jason and Dia. I was supposed to learn how to better manage my TK abilities. Instead, I tended to get my ass kicked and it was getting old.
“I can’t believe Inarus never went over any of this with you,” Dia mumbled as she strode back toward her seat.
Dia’s telekinetic abilities were still bound thanks to a spell worked cuff the Evergreen witches had provided back when she was just one more in an endless line of people who wanted to kill me. It should have come off by now but it hadn’t and I wasn’t going to bring it up.
Dia might not be the enemy anymore, but she still wasn’t a friend.
Rather than responding I chose to ignore her and rolled my eyes. Inarus had taught me a lot. She didn’t know the mess I was before his help. But I wasn’t going to mention it.
My past wasn’t any of her business. And right now, Inarus was the last person I wanted to think about. That way led to nothing but anger and depression.
We still didn’t know if he’d survive his injuries.
It’d been over two weeks since my mother — the leader of the Northwest HAC — had abducted and brutalized him.
We’d managed to get him out but not before he’d sustained life threatening injuries.
He’d undergone surgery but the damage had been so severe that the Pack healers had needed to put him into an induced coma to give him time to heal.
It’d been nearly three weeks.
Frankie and Annabeth checked on him daily and his vitals were stronger now than before but we still didn’t know when, or if, he’d wake up. Most of his bones had fused back together thanks to advanced psyker healer but his skin was still mottled with bruises and we didn’t know what other internal damage he may have sustained.
It was hard seeing him like that.
The stress of it all ate at my nerves.
If Inarus didn’t pull through, I would never forgive myself.
I shook the thoughts away and focused on my task at hand. He’d wake up. I just had to keep believing that and make sure that when he did, I was ready.
The name of the game was to take out Jason. As my self-nominated trainer he claimed he would whip me into shape and prepare me for the battle we all knew was coming.
The more I worked with him though, the more I thought he was trying to kill me. He didn’t pull his punches and I had the bruises to show for it.
A metal folding chair leapt through the air toward me.
“Don’t hit it!” Dia shouted. “Use your abilities.”
“I know,” I ground out.
On instinct I called my fire to me but quickly realized that the stupid chair would just fly through whatever fire barrier I managed to erect.
Shit. I snuffed out my flames and raised both hands trying to call on the telekinetic energy buried inside of me.
I didn’t use it often. Not with conscious thought.
It was volatile and I had no idea how to control it so I’d worked at burying it deep inside me. And doing so made it slow to respond but when it did … I shivered.
The chair closed in and I pulled harder on the ball of energy I knew was buried deep inside of me.
“Come on. Come on.” Sweat dripped down my brow. A slow vibration started beneath the surface of my skin increasing to create a roar in my ears.
I threw my hands up in front of my face as the chair zipped closer. It slammed into an invisible barrier only inches from my face and hovered there.
I looked up. Relief flooded through me. I did it. I stopped the chair.
And then it pulled back, charged forward, and broke through the invisible barrier I’d erected around myself and slammed into my face.
I fell flat on my back. Blood dripped down my chin and my vision went black before it flickered in and out.
I groaned and rubbed my eyes. When my vision cleared, Dia’s face came into view above me. A shit-eating grin spread across her face.
“Well, you tried.”
I flipped her off and rolled to the side before pushing myself to my feet.
“Maybe it’s time for a break,” Dia suggested.
I waved her off. I didn’t need a break.
I leveled my gaze on Jason. “Again.”
“Fine by me.”
Declan remained quiet but I could feel disapproval radiating from him through our bond.
I shook my head to clear out the dark spots and took a few steps back.
A table screeched across the floor toward me. I dodged it and blasted it with fire.
“Wrong ability.” Dia shouted.
“I know that!” The table whirled and slammed into my back knocking me off my feet. I careened forward but managed to stay upright.
Dia’s voice grated on my nerves.
The table came at me again. The sound of scraping metal had me looking over my shoulder to see another table coming in from the rear.
I pulled my TK power to me and melded it with my fire. Air stirred all around me. This wasn’t working. At this rate, I was going to be pulverized by furniture and wouldn’t that make for a hilarious headstone.
Here lies Aria Naveed. Pyrokinetic. Mercenary. Idiot killed by a coffee table. May she rest in peace.
I bit my lower lip. I was making too many mistakes. I needed a Plan B.
I stilled and closed my eyes for a moment as I racked my brain. The name of the game was to avoid being hit using only my TK abilities. Which meant I couldn’t rely on my fire or my speed.
I snapped my eyes open and my fire surged back inside of me. The two tables closed in.
“Here goes nothing.”
Opening the floodgates on my TK abilities, I wrapped both tables in an invisible shield and forced them to halt.
My knees shook. My skin vibrated and sweat dripped down my back between my shoulder blades. It itched but I ignored it.
Jason shoved against my hold. My teeth clattered and my head pounded. Black spots filled my vision but I held on.
“Not today, buddy. Not today.”
I pushed back but it wasn’t enough. I was barely hanging on. I could already feel the mental push back. I wasn’t going to be able to hold out much longer. Apprehension coursed through me. The blow back was going to hurt like a bitch.
I braced myself in anticipation.
A surge of warmth brushed along my subconscious and I reached for it.
The bond between Declan and I lit up like a neon sign at a strip club. I reached for it and a cascade of strength surged through my bloodstream.
Adrenaline consumed me and I shoved against Jason with everything I had.
The tables flew back, each slamming into the opposite wall with an audible thwack.
My knees buckled and I fell to the floor.
I did. I finally did.
Declan rushed toward me and pulled me to my feet. I smiled up with a wide grin and kissed him square on the lips.
“Thank you.” I was so happy I didn’t care that I was acting like a love drunk idiot.
He scowled but pulled me close. “Next time, don’t wait so long to lean on me.”
I laughed. “Hell, if I knew the bond could do that, I’d have taken advantage of it earlier.”
Okay, so I might not have. The bond between Declan and I was still a scary thing but I was happy for it in the moment.
Jason walked over rubbing at his forehead.
“The kickbacks a bitch, isn’t it?”
He scowled. “I think that’s enough for today. Get some rest and we’ll do this again soon.”
Hopefully not too soon because after today, I needed a nap. Preferably one that lasted several days. And one that maybe included a wine break or two.