Free Fiction Thursday – Hunger in Blue

Hunger in Blue webMatthew Reynolds turned himself into the perfect cop. He purchased the perfect uniform. Worked for years to get his body in perfect shape. Practiced his cop’s stare for hours in front of a mirror to master the perfect mix of intimidation and understanding. He’s finally ready for his first night on the streets.

Matthew Reynolds never applied to the police academy. He knew he wouldn’t qualify. He’s not about to let a little thing like that stop him.

He’ll do anything to protect and serve. Anything at all. He has no other choice.

This story is no longer available to read for free, but it can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Hunger in Blue

Annie Reed

Reynolds tucked the tail of his new uniform shirt into his pants. Deep blue, almost black in the low light of his apartment, and one hundred percent cotton, or so the tag inside the collar claimed. Just enough starch in the fabric to keep the pressed lines crisp and clean.

He almost wished he hadn’t put on a clean black T-shirt underneath. The feel of the long sleeves against his forearms as he buttoned the cuffs was exquisite. How much better to feel the slightly stiff, scratchy cotton against his chest? His newly-flattened belly?

How much better to help him play the part?

He closed his eyes and breathed in deep. He had to control himself. The T-shirt kept the vest from rubbing his skin raw. The uniform shirt was tailored to fit over the T-shirt and the bullet-proof vest and still show off his physique in a way that made him look solid and powerful.

He’d been working toward this day for over a year. Scrimping and saving and studying, checking every move he made in the mirror to make sure his body language was right, his expression suitably intimidating and kind all at the same time. Not an easy feat. How did the real cops do it? Given the cops he saw on the street every day, most of them cut out the kindness. Reynolds promised himself he never would.

He was going to be a different kind of cop. The kind the world of today needed. The kind the world deserved.

(end of sample)

# # #

“Hunger in Blue”

Copyright © 2014 by Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

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Free Fiction Thursday – Firebug

Happy Thursday, everyone!

In honor of the release of a paperback edition of my five-story collection IT’S A CRIME (complete with free ebook version!), this week’s free fiction is “Firebug,” one of the five stories in the collection. Enjoy!

crime v5 ebook small

 

FIREBUG

Annie Reed

Copyright ©  Annie Reed

Me and Bobby, we started a fire yesterday in that empty house on Colfax, the one with the ugly puke-green Realty Masters “For Sale” sign in the front yard.  We got in through the patio door, real easy like.  The guys working on the inside, fixing up the place, they don’t always lock up when they leave.  I guess they think nobody notices, but I do.  Even I know better than to leave a house open like that. Just asking for trouble.

We were outside the AM-PM on Fourth and Garnett, hanging out in the shade, when I came up with the idea.  Me and Bobby, we went to AM-PM for drinks just like we always do.  I had a Mountain Dew with lots of ice.  I like lots of ice in the summer, crunch it between my teeth like candy.  Bobby was sucking down AM-PM’s lame-ass version of a sour berry Slurpee.  He stuck out his tongue every now and then just to gross me out, like a blue tongue is all that gross.  I’ve seen grosser.

I’d slipped a lighter in my jeans pocket when the AM-PM cashier wasn’t looking.  The lighter was clear orange plastic, the kind where you can see the fluid inside sloshing all around.  I almost forgot about it until I did that little jump-skip thing I do over cracks in the sidewalk, and I felt the lighter poking hard against my hip.

“Wanna see something cool?” I asked.

I took the lighter out of my pocket and showed it to Bobby, and all of a sudden, just like that, I had the idea.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Ties That Bind

Happy Thursday from the Oregon coast!

I never realize how much I miss the coast until I get here. Then I get a whiff of the ocean, surround myself with tall evergreens and the kind of flowering shrubs that the desert would suck the life right on out of, and bam — it hits me that it’s been far too long since I’ve been here. I’m even enjoying the rain.

Okay, enough nature nattering and on with this week’s free story. “Ties That Bind” is one of my urban fantasies set in the corporate world. Kind of. I hope you enjoy it.

ties cover v2

Ties That Bind

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

The first hint of trouble came from Gris in Research and Development.

“We’re having a bit of a problem getting the enchantments to stick to the new cuffs,” he said to me in an early morning phone call.

I’ve never done mornings well, but when you’re the wizard in charge of the largest magical enhancements company in Moretown Bay, and a woman in a man’s profession to boot, whether you do mornings well or not doesn’t matter one damn bit.

I leaned back in my leather chair and gazed out my tenth floor office window at the overcast sky.  The streets below were still wet from last night’s rain. I could almost smell the wet asphalt.  It would probably rain again today.  I pinched the bridge of my nose against an impending headache that wasn’t all sinuses.

“Is it the alloy or the spell?” I asked Gris.

“Can’t tell yet,” he said.  “We’re still testing.  Just thought you should know, Nell.  Considering.”

Yeah.  Considering.

My company had a contract with the city to supply enhanced weapons and restraints to the police department.  Research and Development had been testing redesigned handcuffs.  Lighter-weight with an easy snap-close lock, the new handcuffs were supposed to address problems the cops had with the old handcuff design.  Personally, I thought any set of handcuffs that could keep a changeling in its true shape or prevent a wizard from casting a spell to escape custody were good enough, but my father built this company by supplying our customers with whatever they wanted.  And what the customer I had a meeting with later today wanted was new and better handcuffs.

(read the rest of the story here )

Free Fiction Thursday – Actual Darkness

Happy first Thursday in 2013, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I had a very nice, mellow New Year’s Eve. In fact, I didn’t even notice the new year had arrived until about three minutes after midnight. At least I was awake this year. My family likes to tease me about the fact that most years I’m asleep by midnight even though I try not to be.

This week free fiction returns to Thursday with a science fiction story that’s definitely on the noir side. The title for “Actual Darkness” came from my friend Marcelle Dubé, a marvelous writer. Enjoy!

actual darkness ebook large

 

Actual Darkness

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2012 by Annie Reed

When the naked woman fell on the hood of Jefty’s cab, at first I thought she was one of them End Times partiers jumping off the top floor of The Wynn.

People can’t take it, you see. End of the world’s not just a Bible thumper story, not no more. People see that dull light in the sky that used to be the sun and they get scared. So the rich ones throw parties to make themselves feel better. The hangers-on and party girls, they show up too, and when they all get drunk enough and stoned enough they think they can fly, well, they up and step off the roof. Guess it eases the pain, but it sure makes a godawful mess for those of us trying to get by best we can.

Most times the sun’s still got enough juice left you can see those damn fools plummeting down soon enough to avoid ’em, but once it gets to be about four in the afternoon, even the headlights on the cab ain’t enough to cut through the gloom, not now that half the damn neon on The Strip’s all busted up and nobody cares to fix it.

Now, if the cab was mine, I wouldn’t be driving it all hours like Jefty does. He says driving a cab up and down The Strip’s all he knows how to do, and that even in end times people still got places to go. I guess that’s true enough, but the end times we’re living in robs people of their good sense, just like them partiers falling from the sky. Some people who get in Jefty’s cab don’t want to pay him for their ride, or they might think about taking Jefty’s cab for themselves. That’s where I come in. Me and my gun.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Friday – Night of the Cruisers

Good morning, everyone!

I’ve messed with the space/time continuum once again this week, morphing Free Fiction Thursday into Free Fiction Friday. Evil me. 😉

Last week, the Reno area was inundated with classic cars for Hot August Nights, an annual bragging-rights festival for classic car owners and eye candy overload for classic car enthusiasts. So what better story to feature this week than “Night of the Cruisers,” a disturbing tale about a whole different kind of wannabe classic car that just won’t leave a former hitman for the mob alone. Enjoy!

 

Night of the Cruisers

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover Design by Thunder Valley Press

Vince saw the first Cruiser on the way home after a grueling day flipping burgers at the DQ on West Fourth.

He didn’t normally notice cars.  He noticed the people in the cars, a longtime habit leftover from his former occupation.  But cars?  They were nothing more than a way to get from here to there that wasn’t a truck.  Then again, Vince was a product of the city.  Out here in the west, everybody had a car.  Or a big-ass truck.  In his old neighborhood back east, only the rich could afford to own a car.  Working stiffs like Vince took the subway.  The only time he drove himself was when the boss sent Vince on a job and Vince had to steal some wheels to get the job done.  The only criteria then was a big trunk.

P.T. Cruisers, now them Vince noticed.   Little Tommy, one of JoJo’s boys, used to say Cruisers were the yuppie version of an old-fashioned gangster car.  Like Little Tommy would know what an old-fashioned gangster car looked like even if one came up and bit him on the ass.  But you hang around a guy like Little Tommy long enough, some of what he said was bound to sink in.  Vince half expected Little Tommy to keep right on yammering about gangster cars even after Vince popped him one in the middle of his forehead.

Bullets tended to shut a guy’s mouth up good.  Vince should know.  He’d popped so many guys over the years he’d lost count.  Then one day the boss started looking at him funny, like the boss thought maybe Vince had run his mouth too much around the wrong people.  Vince decided the wise thing to do was make a deal before someone popped him for knowing stuff he shouldn’t.

He might not have made the deal if he’d known he’d be stuck behind a grill in a Dairy Queen in goddamn Reno eight hours a day.  Some wiseass in the Witness Protection Program must have had a sick sense of humor, or maybe they were just tired of guys like Vince using the system to keep their own butts out of prison.  Why else would they stick a shooter like him in Nevada?  At least it wasn’t Vegas.  He would have been made in Vegas within a week.  In Reno it might take a month, six weeks tops.  Vince had been flipping burgers at DQ going on five weeks.  The only thing keeping his ass in place was knowing that no self-respecting wiseguy would walk around sucking on an ice cream cone that had a little curlicue on top, so Vince felt pretty safe.

Right up until the Cruisers started tailing him.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Dead Things

Good morning, everyone! Hope your Thursday and your week are going well so far. Ready for a little free fiction?

A tension-filled drive down a rain-slicked coastal highway provides the setting for “Dead Things,” a story about a man who fantasized for years about killing his wife. He never quite had the courage to do the deed, but the lines between fantasy and reality blur when they reach an ugly stretch of dead marshland. What’s the old adage? Be careful what you wish for?

Enjoy!

DEAD THINGS

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art © 2012 Annie Reed

The damn trees gave Jerry the creeps.

Mired in mud along the ugliest stretch of Highway 101 known to man, the dead forest looked like the aftermath of a nuclear blast.  Stripped of needles and bark, the massive trunks lay strewn like ancient skeletons across marshy wetlands on the ocean side of the highway.  Gnarled branches reached like arthritic fingers toward the sodden Oregon sky.  Jerry had a sudden vision of dead things hauling themselves out of all that muck.  He gripped the wheel tighter and edged the accelerator down, pushing the car over seventy.

He could have predicted his wife’s reaction.

“Slow down,” she said, like he was some stupid little kid who needed scolding.  “You want to get us both killed?”

Well, maybe not the both of them.

The wipers beat double time against sheeting rain blown sideways from out over the sullen, gray ocean.  It had been raining since Coos Bay.  Even running the wipers on high, Jerry could barely see the damn road.  His shoulders ached from mile after mile, hour after long hour, of driving when he couldn’t really see.  It was a wonder he even noticed the damn trees through all the rain.

“Jerry!”  His wife’s voice was shrill, like it always got when he ignored her.

He eased up on the accelerator.  Doing seventy on wet pavement was just asking for trouble anyway.

The thought had no more than crossed his mind when he felt the rear tires begin to slide.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Changeling

Good morning, everyone! Happy Thursday the 12th, one day before Friday the 13th. Anyone going to celebrate the 13th with a horror movie marathon, or perhaps by going to see Joss Whedon’s new movie, The Cabin in the Woods? Me, I’m holding out for The Avengers. *g*

I have a new five-story collection available at Amazon and Smashwords, and soon to be available at Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore. TALES FROM THE SHADOWS collects five of my dark fantasy stories set in the Pacific Northwest city of Moretown Bay. This week’s story is “Changeling,” the lead story in the collection. Enjoy!

CHANGELING

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Bblood|Dreamstime.com

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

The changeling reclined on her narrow bed in the squalid little room, rumpled sheets testifying to a busy night already spent on her back.  Features flowed across her face, flesh moving like liquid to thin her lips, widen her brows, sharpen her chin and the delicate shells of her ears.

“This what you want, sugar?” she asked.  Her waist narrowed, lean muscle flattening her naked belly.  Her breasts shrank from the porn queen size they’d been when Rory picked her up on the street to something he could cup in his hand. “This what you’re after?”

Most normals couldn’t watch a changeling shift.  Couldn’t witness human features rearrange themselves and know, deep in the gut, it wasn’t an illusion.  The wrongness of it hurt the eyes, made the stomach heave and the pavement tilt underfoot.  Rory didn’t have a choice.  He had to watch.

The changeling hadn’t turned on the overhead light when she let Rory in her room.  Enough watery streetlight filtered through the sheets of rain beating against the window for Rory to see her try to become what he wanted.  What he’d told her was his fantasy.

A half-full World’s Best Mom mug sat on the bedside table next to an overflowing ashtray. Lipstick smears circled the rim.  In the dim light, the lipstick looked black.  Judging by the boozy smell, the mug hadn’t seen coffee in a long time.

“You got a kid?” he asked.  No toys littered the room, but that didn’t mean anything. Not every mother was the world’s best.

She saw him looking at the mug and laughed.  “Goodwill, sugar.  Got it cheap. Someone’s momma didn’t want it no more.”  She took a drink.  “You want some?  I got a clean glass and a bottle in the closet.  Five bucks extra.”

The place stank of sweat and cigarettes and sex. “No.” A drink wasn’t what he was after. He leaned one shoulder against the wall at the foot of her bed.  Unzipped his coat.  She didn’t have a kid.  He couldn’t stay if she had a kid.  He allowed himself to hope.  Maybe she’d be the one.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Don’t Touch

Happy Thursday, everyone!

How’s your Thursday treating you? I’m on the Oregon coast this week, and I seem to have brought winter with me. Instead of walking along the beach yesterday, I sat in my car and watched the sea foam blow through the parking lot. Very windy and chilly, with lots of rain and hail and sleet. Fun stuff! Even the seagulls were hunkered down.

So enough nattering from me, and on with this week’s story, a little fantasy noir tale set in my Tales From the Shadows series. I hope you enjoy “Don’t Touch.”

Don’t Touch

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2012 by Annie Reed

Image licensed by http://www.depositphotos.com/Innervision

You lift the curtain with the tip of one finger and peer out at the customers ringing the edge of the bar. That’s all you can see through the glare of the stage lights. Emma’s up now, dancing around the pole like it could rub her back and pay her mortgage and put her kids through school, and maybe it can because no man’s ever gonna do those things for her, like no one’s ever gonna do them for you, but it’s all you got, and you take what you can get.

The customers look the same as last night’s and the night before. Middle-age losers, their mouths slack, hands cupped around their drinks, staring up at Emma with so much naked want in their faces, it makes you sick. Cigarette smoke curls around Emma’s ankles like so many fingers pulling at her. That’ll be you out there in five minutes once Emma’s done with her routine and she goes out on the floor so the men beyond the bar can stuff dollar bills under the elastic of her G-string and pretend that fleeting touch is enough.

How many of them would want to touch her if they knew she went home with you? Would it matter, or would they pay more to watch?

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Famous

Good morning, everyone!

How’s your Thursday going so far? It’s cold in my neck of the woods this morning. I guess winter wanted to remind us it really is a season, not just a memory. Brrrr! We have snow on the ground from Tuesday night, but it’s supposed to be warm today. At least according to the news.

This week’s story features a guy who really wants to make the headlines, but in a whole different way. “Famous” is one of my Tales From the Shadows stories, so it’s gritty urban fantasy. Enjoy!

Famous

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

 

The cab pulled into the loading zone in front of Kitty’s Kool Kat Lounge.  The pink neon sign over the entrance promised live nude dancers.  Jeremy doubted they’d be totally nude, but that wasn’t what he was really here for.

“Seventeen-fifty,” said the cab driver.

The windshield wipers slapped a steady beat against the late night rain off the Bay as Jeremy dug out two tens from his wallet.  Enough for a tip, not enough to make an impression on the driver.  Not enough for the man to remember he was here.

Jeremy passed the money through the slot in the clear plastic shield between the driver and the back seat.  “Keep the change,” he said.

The driver grunted as he took the cash.  He was a bald guy twice Jeremy’s age.  He had a scar bisecting one eyebrow, and the kind of muscular neck Jeremy had seen on guys who worked out but never really bulked up.  The driver’s eyes were bloodshot, and he had enough scruff on his lined face to make him look like Bruce Willis after a three-day bender.  He’d driven as if he was sober, and he’d taken Jeremy to the kind of place he wanted to go.  Beyond that, Jeremy didn’t care if the guy was drunk off his ass.  In fact, that might make things easier in the long run.

“Let me give you a piece of advice,” the driver said.

Jeremy was about ready to make a run from the cab to the club.  The driver hadn’t said a word to him since Jeremy caught the cab downtown and asked the guy to take him to a nightclub, any nightclub, in The Shadows.  Jeremy kept his hand on the door handle but didn’t open the door.

“I give you a tip and now you talk to me?” he said.

The driver looked at him in the rear view mirror.  “Think you’re a smart guy, don’t you?”

Jeremy tensed.  “What did you say to me?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Iris and Ivy

Good morning, Internets! How about a little ghost story for this last Thursday in April?

Iris and Ivy

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art copyright 2009 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com

 

Iris leaned her weary back against the inside of the front door to her apartment.  She felt as well as heard the latch snap shut.

Home again, home again, whoop de doo.

She closed her eyes and concentrated.  In her mind’s eye, she saw a faint green glow surround the lock.  She kept concentrating until the glow spread to fill the crack between the door and the jamb, like a bit of glow-in-the-dark weather stripping.

Satisfied the bit of threshold magic would hold, she opened her eyes and pulled off the  wig with its long, brassy red curls.  Her scalp itched.  She scoured her fingers through her own blonde hair until the skin on her head tingled.

Her face itched, too.  She’d caked the makeup on pretty heavy tonight.  Foundation and blush.  False eyelashes so thick they looked like furry caterpillars crouching on her eyelids.  Enough steel grey and dark brown eye shadow to make her look like the sexiest nearly-dead person trolling the dockside bars. She couldn’t wait to wash all the crap off her face so she could get back to being herself.

Changelings shifted their appearance with hardly a second thought.  All they had to do was see you, or better yet touch you, and presto chango, say hello to a brand new version of yourself, original model no longer required.  Non-changelings like Iris had to work a little harder to become someone else.

“Well?” she said to the not-quite-empty apartment.  “What did you think of that one?”

The wig she still held jerked out of her hand and floated in the empty air in front of her.  The elastic netting that anchored all those red curls filled out.

“Oh, you’re so big and tall, you man, you,” said the disembodied voice in front of Iris.  “Could you possibly help poor lost little old me?”

The accent was thick Southern belle, the fake kind northerners who’d never been farther south than New York City used when they wanted to make fun of someone born in a Gulf Coast state.  The voice was accompanied by the overpowering scent of gardenias.

“Stop it,” Iris said.  “I’m trying to help you, remember?  Don’t make this anymore difficult for both of us than it already is.”

She pushed past the floating wig and stepped out of the heels that hurt her feet.  The shoes weren’t hers, just like the obscenely short spaghetti strap dress wasn’t hers.  The wig wasn’t even something she’d pick out on her own.  They were all red, and red wasn’t Iris’s color.  None of her borrowed clothes fit her quite right, but then again, Ivy’d had some work done over the years.  Iris wanted back in her comfortable jeans, in her oversized sweatshirt and the ratty tennis shoes that fit her feet like a glove.  She wanted to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and a good book, and fall asleep right there if the mood took her.

Most of all, she wanted her apartment back all to herself, like it had been before the ghost of her dead twin took up residence.

The wig dropped to the floor.  “I’m sorry,” said Ivy’s disembodied voice.

The fake southern accent was gone.  So was the smell of Ivy’s favorite perfume.

“It’s hard being stuck like this,” Ivy said.  “You know that.”

Yeah.  Iris did.  She felt sorry for her sister, but she’d heard the pout in her twin’s voice.  Funny how after so many years of growing up in the same house, she didn’t actually have to see her sister to know what expression would be on her face.

“You never answered me,” Iris said, ignoring Ivy’s obvious ploy.

Their parents used to coddle Ivy, giving in to her every whim.  Odd, considering Iris and Ivy were twins, but Iris supposed even with identical siblings, parents were bound to favor one over the other.

Not that they were identical in every way.  Certainly they’d looked alike when they’d been younger, but Iris had always been the practical, reliable one.  Ivy had been the wild child.  Iris used to wonder sometimes if the fates hadn’t mixed them up somehow, putting the wrong consciousness into her body, or into Ivy’s.  Maybe somewhere out in the world there was another mismatched set of identical twins grappling with the same not quite sameness.

Ivy didn’t say anything.  Still hoping for sympathy, no doubt, but Iris had never coddled Ivy when she was alive.  She wasn’t about to start now.  She needed to keep Ivy on topic.  If Iris couldn’t find what Ivy needed in order to move on, she might be stuck with her ghostly sister for a long, long time.

“Well?” Iris asked again.  “Did I find the right guy?”

(read the rest of the story here)