~ Excerpt ~
A large oak bar that matched the tables encompassed the entirety of the left wall. In front of it, a smattering of mismatched stools with names like “Butch” and “Oliver” stenciled onto their colored vinyl seats filled my vision. Bottles of various liquor filled the shelf behind the bar along with a smattering of weird trinkets that didn’t seem to fit together very well. An old wooden Indian sat next to a green army man and a model tie fighter.
The brunette sat in the far corner, elbows on the bar with her head in her hands. She was no doubt waiting for the old man behind the bar to finish wiping out his beer mug with his stained white towel. From the look of things, he didn’t even know she was there, but I was reasonably sure the smirk on his wrinkled face was due to the brunette’s slowly simmering rage. I got the distinct feeling they’d done this particular dance many, many times. It made me wonder what the status of their relationship actually was, and if that was the reason for her reluctance outside.
“Mac,” she said, shooting me a little wave. It was a little weird because we’d been separated for all of thirty seconds. Had she thought I was going to leave her this close to meeting the people she swore could help me?
Before I could take even a step toward her, the old man turned abruptly and shot a lopsided grin at me. His dark hair was clearly a dye job, identifiable partially because he looked to be in his seventies and partially because the new growth along his sideburns was white as snow. I didn’t really see the point, but then again, my hair was pretty light. If a bit of silver speckled it, no one would be able to tell. Besides, I looked like I was in my late twenties or maybe early thirties. I wouldn’t have much gray to hide anyway.
“Can I get you something?” he asked, voice like a rough leather strop being pulled across a knife edge. He moved along the bar in my general direction, and the brunette shot the back of his head a glare that could have melted glass. It made me immediately glad she hadn’t turned it on me.
“What do you recommend?” I replied, my mouth practically salivating at the idea of drinking something. I was so thirsty I’d have drunk pretty much anything, even light beer.
“Real men wet their whistle with whiskey.” He raised an eyebrow to me. “But if you’re one of those yuppie pussies, there might be some Michelob Light in the back room somewhere. Want me to go fetch you one along with a little pink umbrella?”
“So no Zima then?” I asked, and the look of horror on the man’s face was worth a thousand words. “Whiskey is fine,” I added before he could recover, almost relishing the thought of the amber liquid in a glass with a couple cubes of ice. “You’d better leave the bottle.”
The old guy shook off his shock and turned to the counter behind him, grabbing a dark, dusty bottle with no label before snatching a glass from some unseen place. He set the glass down in front of one of the empty stools and poured a heavy dose of dark liquid inside. His lips separated into a wry smile that revealed a few missing molars along the sides.
“Here you go, tough guy. One Zima.” He set the bottle down beside the drink. “I’ll leave the bottle here. Don’t go making me regret it. I swear to the Holy Mother herself, if you wind up spitting whiskey all over my bar, you’ll be mopping it up with your face.”
Before I could reply, the brunette stood up abruptly, making her chair skid backward across the concrete floor with a sound like nails on a chalkboard. “If you guys are all done being macho assholes, maybe we can get this show on the road. I need to get back to my son.”
The old guy glanced at her like he was seeing her there for the first time. “Sera, how nice of you to drop by. Didn’t see you there.” His gaze flicked from her to me and back again. “Is the dumbass with you?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Sera let out an exasperated breath. “That’s why I’m here. I was attacked Duane. The werewolves are getting more serious about their advances. The Cursed saved me, but he doesn’t remember anything before this morning. I thought you might be able to help him.”
The old bartender glanced back at me and gestured toward my drink. “Guess that one’s on the house. Thanks for saving my girl.” His girl? What the hell did he mean by that? Was he seriously implying he was dating the brunette even though their age disparity could be counted in half-centuries?
“Just give the wolves what they want and call it a day,” the Indian from the back called before a thunderous break sent billiard balls flying across the table in front of him. “It’s not like you won’t enjoy it.”
The brunette, who I was assuming was named Sera, puckered her lips like she’d just sucked on a lemon. “Can it, vampire. When I want your opinion, I’ll pull out your tongue and smack it against the bar.” She slapped the oak with one hand for emphasis. “Whatever sound it makes will doubtless be smarter than the shit you’re spewing now.”
Laughter filled the back of the room, and I suddenly got the feeling I was standing in the middle of a family squabble. That was a little crazy because she’d called the Indian a vampire. The sad thing was, I didn’t know if she was joking or not. I mean, I’d just fought werewolves, why couldn’t vampires be real?
“So what do you want me to do? Make a tea? That might help him with his memories,” the old guy, Duane said, turning his back to me and moving toward Sera with quick, purposeful steps. Without warning, he reached across the bar and snatched up her hand. “I could go talk to Ricky. We go back a ways. Could have a talk about how the pups are acting. They might back off.”
“We both know they wouldn’t be bugging me without their alpha’s express permission.” Sera let out another sigh, and I was starting to think she might be able to medal in sighing if it were an Olympic sport. “No, Ricky is definitely putting them up to this. I just don’t understand why the wolves are working with the Stars and Moons. Ricky’s never been one to involve the pack in human business before.”
“Whoa, let’s all hold up a second and tell me what’s going on. Maybe I can help. As it stands, I’m barely following your conversation, and that’s no good for me,” I said, sliding onto a red stool with the name Biff written on it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I’d offered to help. Everything inside of me was screaming at me to get them back on track with the whole magic memory tea thing. That was the selfish part of me though, and something told me if I started listening to that part of myself, I wouldn’t last long in a world I was woefully unprepared to face.
I snatched my whiskey off the bar as their eyes turned to me. I ignored the heat of their stares and tossed back the liquor in one quick swallow. The liquid burned the back of my throat in a way that was both familiar and comfortable despite the drink being three parts paint thinner and one part horse piss. Whatever this stuff was, it had been set here as a test. I wasn’t sure if I passed or not, but since I didn’t wind up spitting it across the bar, I was giving myself seventy-thirty odds.
“You don’t even have a memory,” Sera replied, giving me a long, appraising look. “You might think you’re tough because you beat up some wolves, but Ricky, the alpha, is another story. Werewolves aren’t the sort of things you piss off unless you’re packing serious heat and have a death wish.”
She had a valid point, but I never let little things like being sensible stop me. At least, I didn’t think I did. The werewolf I’d fought before had been scary, so much so, that I wasn’t sure how I’d won. That said, I had the distinct feeling I could beat them. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew, just knew, if I put my mind to it, I could stop the werewolves from attacking her.
I tilted the bottle to my glass and refilled it, making sure I doubled what Duane had poured for me. Then, like I was a badass who didn’t actually like to taste things, I swallowed the contents in one gulp. It made me a little sad because I would have liked to sip the whiskey, but this stuff was probably used to fuel jets. It didn’t want to be tasted, and besides, that was hardly the point. It must have worked because Duane nodded approvingly.
“You see these marks?” I pulled up my right sleeve, revealing my black, tattooed arm. “They mean I’m a bad ass. So why don’t you let me in on why the wolves are really after you.”
“You don’t know that for sure. For all you know, the demon you talked to is some low level imp. Besides, we’re not here so you can be El Macho and save me from an evil monster. We’re here so Duane can make you one of his special teas—” The rest of her words were cut off in an explosion of sound and debris as one of those big silver tanker trucks people use to haul dangerous liquids burst through the front door in an explosion of glass and debris. Flames poured from the cab like someone had lit a bonfire inside. It ripped open as it jackknifed, spilling a metric ton of its contents across the floor.
The horrible smell of gasoline filled my nose as I flung myself over the bar. My shoulder crashed into Duane, knocking both of us to the cement as black smoke billowed up against the ceiling in a way that let me know the second that gasoline caught fire I was as good as dead.
~ About the Author ~
When J. A. Cipriano was in second, grade his teacher gave everyone in class a journal to write down whatever they wanted. Their first subject was to write about something they didn’t like. J. A. chose to write about why he didn’t like writing. His reasoning was simple. He had bad handwriting. Even then he was destined to be an engineer due to his messy scrawl.
Unfortunately, he found through the course of this little adventure that he actually liked writing. That year was sort of the high point for his writing career because he won a writing contest for the state. He got to go to a big dinner and his teacher was all dressed up.
He kept writing little stories, year after year, and in sixth grade, won another contest. In seventh grade he broke his arm and got the cast signed by both Dean Koontz and Stan Lee. It is, by far, the coolest cast he’s owned. That was about the time he found video games and anime. His writing turned mostly toward fanfiction until about ninth grade where he wrote his first novel, a small book about twenty thousand words called Revelations. In sophomore year, he wrote two more books to complete the trilogy because he saw Star Wars that year and learned trilogies were the cool thing to do.
Since then, he’s written six more novels, four of which are in the Lillim Callina Series, and one in the Abby Banks series. The other is stuck in a drawer for time undetermined. He’s writing his next book now which is about werewolves fighting mummies in Ancient Egypt. After that, he will move onto Abby Banks 2.
To find out more about his newest book – “Cursed” – CLICK here 🙂
Be sure to check out other stops at this blog tour!!!
Cursed Blog Tour ~~~~~ February 8 – 15
February 8th ~~~ Riding & Writing * REVIEW
February 9th ~~~ Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover * REVIEW
February 10th ~~~ Bookbug’s World * Excerpt
February 14th ~~~The Travelogue of a Book Addict * Excerpt
February 15th ~~~ Amanda’s Book Nook * REVIEW