With a book launch this Saturday, Novel Three decided to post a sample from Rachel’s 2nd book in the series, Personal Guardians.
Excerpt: Personal Guardians, Chapter 1
The cool morning air nipped at my neck and arms as I circled the compound’s courtyard. The smell of freshly fallen rain filled my senses but did little to boost my mood. I nonchalantly stepped down from the beautifully paved steps of the square to the flat ground in the center. My new combat boots squished in the mixture of dirt, dust, and water as the sky above, pregnant with dense clouds, threatened to burst with a rumble.
Do I seriously have to do this? I growled from a dark place before silencing the frequently embittered voice.
I shifted my step, adjusting my stance to that of my partner as we claimed the attention of the entire square. The small group of early attendants stopped in their work to watch the unfolding scene. Heat flushed my face, and despite the cool temperature of the morning, sweat trickled down my chest, dampening my black ribbed tank top. The comforting metal of my mother’s pendant, hidden from view, rested against my skin.
My opponent, who crouched impatiently at the opposite side of the muddied arena, became my focus. Stopping a yard from where she stood, I inclined my head in an effort to show respect, despite the fact it was a lie. It’s what I had been taught by my father and I would honor his teachings even if her responding smirk was infuriating. When I got the chance, I would rip her grin right off her face.
Sharp, ice-blue eyes scrutinized; her silver-blonde hair, cropped short at the jaw line, made her features look severe and even intimidating, but it was just a smokescreen. Camouflage to hide whatever was lacking beneath.
“Breathe, Ava,” instructed a voice from behind and it took me half a second to realize Laith used my new name.
Sarah Mathis was dead. I was now Ava Matthias, the Defender of humanity, one of The Three, and best friend to the Heralds. The muscle below my brow twitched. This little bout was their idea. I would make them pay for it soon enough. Somehow.
During the prior week of my forced recovery, the residents of the compound began to trickle in, returning from their information search and from handling the details of my fake death. I was asked to stay separated from the group until Laith and Elisa could return from Arizona, where they were dealing with some unfinished business. They were back by the end of the week.
A day before their arrival, I met Charlotte after one of my late evening walks around the complex. The commotion of raised voices preceded a loud bang as my door swung wide, and an unfamiliar female stormed into my room, Darius hot on her heels. He clutched her shoulder, only to have his hand roughly pushed away.
I stood as the young woman, not much older than myself, stopped only a breath away. My brow raised and I stared down at her from my five-foot-eight-inch elevation. She, a whole three inches shorter than myself, grew an even brighter shade of red upon seeing my delight.
“So, this is her?” she asked, regarding me with a piercing eye. “This—this is our Defender?”
She spoke only to Darius, as if I was no more than a simpleton, but glared at me in a way that suggested great personal offense. As I watched her interesting reaction to me, I thought she could be pretty, if not for the ugly enflamed splotches exploding upon her face.
“This is a joke.”
“It’s no joke, Charlie,” Darius said, concern etched in his words. “This is your Defender.”
She scoffed. “This girl has no right to that title. She is not worthy. Something has to be done to stop this imposter. I was—”
“Enough,” Darius shot out, but then leveled his voice. “A lot has happened, but you and I will discuss this later. I promise.”
He placed a soothing hand on her shoulder and I could feel my face flush red. Who was this stranger, and since when did Darius say anything nice to anyone? Apparently, this girl was a witch with magical abilities, able to control even the roughest of beasts.
The return look she gave him spoke volumes. She trusted him, cared for him. I wondered just how long they had been together and how anyone could have feelings for a man such as Darius.
She glared at me with an evil glint. I realized, with a twist to the gut, she reminded me of the group of possessed girls that had once attacked me in the bathroom of a restaurant, and I instantly hated her. Witch indeed. Despite my rising anger, I reined in my tone.
“I’m sorry I do not meet your level of expectation,” I said, through a clenched jaw. “And who are you, might I ask?”
She looked to Darius, apparently offended I had addressed her without permission. Eyes wide, she responded. “I am second in command here.”
“Second in command of—the compound?” I asked, sounding confused.
“I see. In that case, shouldn’t you be, oh, I don’t know, checking the perimeter or something useful, rather than occupying space in my room?”
Darius had to escort her from my chamber just moments later. I admit I could have handled things better than I did, but I was provoked. And I didn’t care.
Laith’s solution when he returned? To make us sparring buddies. Brilliant. But I had to give it to him. This would be a quick way of establishing who was the alpha and who was the weakling. In my mind, there was no doubt.
Laith cleared his throat, drawing my attention back to the present. “Charlotte is trained in hand-to-hand combat, Ava. We’re going to start there, assess your powers, and see where additional coaching is needed.”
I nodded my understanding.
From the corner of my eye I could still make out the dark lines of his tattoos. Although mostly concealed under a plain gray t-shirt, they stretched from under his collarbone, down both arms, his chest, and back. His green eyes were the only color against ivory skin and jet black hair.
Next to him, Elisa stood with her arms crossed, her long wavy hair pulled into a tight blond bun on the top of her head. Her usually sun-kissed skin looked pale as she silently watched, and my heart went out to her, longing to comfort her. She was so caring, so loving. Laith and Elisa were my only true friends and they wanted to help me. Despite my angst over this match, I knew they were right. I needed training and I needed it now.
A row of four men, ranging in age from their early to late twenties, lined one side of the pitch behind their champion. I knew them to be Darius’s security team, and now Charlotte’s cheering squad. How sweet. They watched me with guarded expressions—except for the largest of the group. He looked almost bored.
“Why don’t we just get started,” Darius said from his perch atop a tall planter that enclosed one of the courtyard trees. His thick, windswept hair lay messily across his brow, his unkempt beard growing past the stubble phase.
At that moment, with the breeze playing in his locks of deep chestnut brown, he looked almost young, maybe in his early twenties, but he was too severe. It made him appear older. Although his honey-colored eyes seemed bored, I knew the head of security was taking in every detail.
I tried to ignore that he was attractive—annoyingly beautiful, if I were being honest with myself—but I did my best to overlook that detail as I narrowed my focus at him. I wondered just how much he was enjoying himself.
“Keep it clean, Charlie, and pull your punches,” Darius ordered. When his gaze caught mine, one brow lifted. Strong jaw muscles flexed as he measured and weighed me against his champion.
“But the enemy won’t pull their punches,” Charlotte replied in a venomously sweet tone. “Would it be fair to teach our Defender a false sense of strength when it could mean her life—or the life of another?” She lightly shuffled forward, tilting her head to the side. “Wouldn’t you agree, Ava?” she asked, receiving a snicker from one of her comrades.
Taking another quick step, she threw a mock jab that was slow and sloppy—her apparent opinion of my unrevealed skills. But I was already done with this game. Blocking her punch, I slid my hand down her forearm and grabbed her by the wrist. I yanked hard, pulling her forward, and hit her in the face with the back of my hand. A satisfying sting on my knuckles and a grunt from Charlie caused me to smile.
“I won’t, if you won’t,” I quipped, releasing her.
She took several steps back, lifting a hand to her now bleeding nose. Unexpectedly, she grinned. A twinkle in her blue eyes, she sprang, knocking me away with a muddied kick to the stomach. I rallied, launching into the ring, fists flying.
As we battled, I acknowledged Charlotte’s skills: her strikes lightning fast, her kicks strong—but so were mine. Deflecting a downward blow, Charlie grabbed my wrists and threw me. I landed on all fours and crouched low in the mud. When she lunged, I raked a handful of mud, flinging it into her face. She bellowed as it flew into her eyes, momentarily blinding her. Taking full advantage, I rushed my opponent and tackled her into the muck. I straddled her and placed a strong hand on her neck, applying only slight pressure.
“Do you yield?” I yelled, raising my fist high.
She looked at me through dirt-caked makeup. It took all I had not to laugh at her murderous expression.
“You cheated,” she hissed.
Warning her with a look, I lowered my face, bringing it close to her ears.
“But the enemy won’t fight fair,” I said sweetly, using her words against her. “Would it be wise to teach your Defender a false code of conduct when it could mean her life—or the life of another?”
Keep checking back with us to read more samples of Personal Guardians and other great writings from all of our authors. If you haven’t read the first book, Personal Demons, make sure to check it out on Amazon. You can also read previous samples of Rachel’s writing here and here.
Join Rachel’s book launch party on Facebook August, 19th from 11 am until 1 pm.