Free Fiction Thursday – Famous

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Lots of fun stuff this week.  If you look over at the sidebar under New Releases, I’m happy to announce that the next issue of Fiction River–How to Save the World–is out, and it includes my story “The Shape of a Name.”  Cool beans!  How to Save the World is available in ebook and will be available soon in paperback and audio formats as well.  You can also subscribe to the entire Fiction River series, which is a heck of a good deal.

I also just got done listening to the audio of Fiction River #1: Unnatural Worlds.  Boy, was that fun or what?  The book was narrated by a full cast, who all did a great job.  It’s the first time I’ve heard a story of mine narrated.  Jane Kennedy did a wonderful job with my Diz & Dee story “Here, Kitty Kitty.”

This week’s free fiction is my dark fantasy story “Famous,” which has a brand spanking new cover as well as a paperback edition that’s currently on sale at Amazon.  Enjoy!

Famous cover smallweb

Famous

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2011, 2013 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)

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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 – Don’t Touch

Good morning, everyone! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, last week’s free story, “Love Among the Llamas,” will be up for another week. “Love Among the Llamas” is a traditional romance. This week we have a story about a different sort of love. I hope you enjoy “Don’t Touch”.

dont touch cover

 

Don’t Touch

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2013 by Annie Reed

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 – Iris & Ivy

Good morning, everyone! How’s your Thursday going so far?

In honor of Halloween next week, how about a ghost story? That’s tradition, right? To sit around a campfire (or a dark room) and tell stories designed to scare your socks off and make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Fun!

I hope everyone has a suitably spooky Halloween. In the meantime, enjoy “Iris & Ivy.”

 

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.

(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 – Ties That Bind

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This week I’m catching my breath between big projects at work.  I don’t know about you, but those breathers help me keep my cool (or at least attempt to) when the big rush jobs hit.  In this week’s story, a corporate CEO of a whole different kind of business — a magical enhancements company — faces not only a rush job gone wrong, but the possibility that a corporate spy has infiltrated her business.  I hope you enjoy “Ties That Bind.”

Ties That Bind

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 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.

“Keep me informed,” I said, and I hung up the phone.

I unlocked the bottom drawer in my desk and took out the thick, three-ring binder I kept there under lock and key.  To the uninitiated, the binder looked like nothing more than what a high school student might carry around in a backpack.  But instead of notes on Shakespeare, calculus, and the culture of ancient Rome, this notebook was chock full of page after page of spells and instructions written in a tiny, crabbed hand, all neatly separated into categories by brightly-colored index tabs.  My father had been anal in the extreme.  This was his spellbook.  What he’d built this company with.

And what he’d handed over to his only daughter when he died.

(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, everyone!

I’m finding it hard to believe it’s the last Thursday in January. Where did this month go? Seriously. It seems like it was just Christmas, and now it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Sheesh!

For this last Thursday in January, I’m in the mood for a little ghost story. “Iris and Ivy” will be free to read for a week. Enjoy!

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?”

(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)