Free Fiction Friday – The Magic of Home

This week’s free fiction story celebrates the first issue of the Uncollected Anthology with my contribution, The Magic of Home.  This story will be available to read for free right here until August 15th.  Enjoy!

Annie MM for website

THE MAGIC OF HOME

Annie Reed

The motorcycle whispered to Twig as they zoomed past the shipyards at the south end of Moretown Bay.

Home.

Tucked safely inside her helmet, the tips of Twig’s long ears quivered in response to the motorcycle’s rumbling voice. She felt its yearning not only in the subtle change in its magic, but in the throaty roar of the engine as they increased speed, racing north on I-5 toward the city that shared its name with the bay.

Twig leaned forward. “Almost there,” she said. “Almost there.”

Her words tore apart on the damp night air rushing past her, but she knew their meaning would still reach the heart of the machine that had been her friend for a decade. Not all magical beings needed ears to hear or words to understand.

As much as she wanted to get them both home, they couldn’t afford to draw the attention of any police—or wizards—who might be patrolling the freeway.

I-5 passed through the center of the city as the freeway wound its way north into Canada, a wide ribbon of asphalt and concrete hemmed in by high-rise office buildings, luxury hotels, and apartment buildings too rich for Twig’s blood. This part of the freeway had always been heavily patrolled. Twig doubted that had changed in the years she’d been gone, so she throttled back on the engine to bring their speed closer to the surrounding traffic.

The motorcycle fought her, so Twig whispered soothing words to it until it accepted her decision. She hoped it was the right one.

Under other circumstances, just seeing the city itself might have taken her breath away. Tonight the sky was clear. No fog had rolled in off the water to obscure the view, and the tall buildings in the city center gleamed like jewels against the starry sky. She could make out the spires of the Justice Center, gleaming white and silver like a monument to law and order for all, human and magic folk alike. Spotlights had turned the modern glass and steel Trexler Towers blue and green, the colors for a local sports team.

Twig wasn’t surprised that the city was still celebrating the team’s world championship, even though that particular sport wasn’t truly played on a global scale. Everyone, magic folk and humans alike, needed something outside themselves to believe in.

Hurry, the motorcycle whispered. Gillfoil approaches.

Twig tensed. As sensitive as her ears were to the currents of magic in the world around her, the motorcycle’s senses far exceeded hers. If the motorcycle felt the presence of the gang’s enforcer, that meant he was near.

“Where?” she asked.

Behind. Less than a mile.

“Can we make it?”

The motorcycle hesitated. Twig could imagine her friend calculating speed and distance, and the effect of mass and magic on both.

No.

(end of sample)

~~~

The Magic of Home is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the other stories in the Uncollected Anthology series!

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Free Fiction Thursday – Here, Kitty Kitty

Kitty Kitty webPrivate investigator Dee and her gorgeous but grumpy elf partner Diz find missing people for a living. Tracking down a fairy’s missing ceramic cat should be a snap, right?

Dee should have known any case involving one of the fey would lead to disaster. Much less an angry little fairy who hurls weapons at her head and yells at her in Japanese.

To save her skull and find the kitty, Dee and her partner plunge headlong into the world of manga, anime, and cosplay. Diz might never be the same again.

This story is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Here, Kitty Kitty

Annie Reed

I dove behind my desk as my miniature Zen garden went whizzing past me. The garden’s stone base slammed into the wall right about where my head had been a split second ago, sand rained down into my hair, and I wondered what else I’d left lying around the front office that the little fairy might decide to throw at me.

My name’s Dee, and I’m a private investigator. Clients usually don’t show up at my office and launch deadly weapons at me. Along with my partner, Diz, I run D & D Investigations. People—and by that I’m loosely referring to elves, leprechauns, Greek gods, and my family—hire us to find loved ones who’ve gone missing.

We rent office space in a shabby building on the inland side of Moretown Bay. The neighborhood’s seen better times, but I like it. A masseuse with a unique flair for marketing and questionable taste in aromatics has a shop across the street, and there’s an Asian store next to the office run by a very nice lady who two days ago introduced me to the little fairy currently hovering over my desk and yelling at me in Japanese.

I don’t speak Japanese. I think my dog might since his usual Golden Retriever grin was dialed up to a near giggle.

“Want to let me in on the joke?” I asked him as I crouched behind my desk clutching my battered executive chair like it was a shield.

Dog didn’t say anything. He only speaks to me in my visions. And yes, that’s his name until he tells me otherwise.

We’d been having a nice afternoon at the office, Dog and I, up until the fairy barged through the door. Diz was off doing whatever tall, grumpy, gorgeous elves do—by themselves—after they crack a case with their partner. Dog had been curled up asleep in a small patch of actual sunshine coming through the front windows. I didn’t blame him. Clouds, rain, and mist are the norm in Moretown Bay. Rare slices of sunshine should always be celebrated with a good nap. My cat was probably doing the same thing in my upstairs apartment unless she was still pouting. She hasn’t quite forgiven me for allowing a dog to invade her life.

Faced with an office full of sleeping animals and no cases to work on, I’d been trying to distract myself from obsessing over my terminally single state, this time with Zen meditation. Diz told me recently that I should learn to live in the moment and enjoy the process instead of focusing so hard on the results. He thinks that might help me control my visions. I’m not an elf or a fairy or any other brand of magical folk. Vanilla human, that’s me, only with a seriously unreliable touch of precognition. Since I suck at living in the moment, I thought learning Zen meditation might help, hence the little desk-top sand garden I’d purchased at the Asian market two days ago.

I’d been sitting at my desk raking lines in that stupid little plot of sand for what seemed like hours, trying to stop thinking about my partner’s pointy ears and the one time I’d witnessed the tantalizing curve of his towel-covered derriere and just be in the moment, when our latest supposedly happy client flew in the door, picked up the Zen garden, and threw it at my head. I ducked just in time. She’s got quite an arm for someone only ten inches tall.

“Okay, okay!” I said from behind the safety of my desk. Which, let’s face it, isn’t all that safe when the fairy hurling weapons at your head can fly just about anywhere she wants to. “I get that you’re angry. Want to let me in on why?”

(end of sample)

# # #

“Here, Kitty Kitty” previously appeared in Fiction River #1: Unnatural Worlds

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

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)

Free Fiction Thursday – Bluesman

Good morning, everyone!

This has been a pretty cool week so far.  Fiction River #1 – Unnatural Worlds – released this week with my brand new Diz & Dee story “Here, Kitty Kitty.”  I always love getting contributor copies.  There’s just something about holding the book in my hands — I don’t think I’ll ever get past the awesomeness of that. *g* If you’d like your very own copy, it’s available at Amazon in both ebook and paperback, and also from Ella Distribution.

I also have a new release from Thunder Valley Press.  “Bluesman” takes me back to the days when I actually played guitar– in front of an audience, no less — only thank goodness, I never had an experience like the blues guitarist in this story.  Enjoy!

Bluesman ebook cover small

Bluesman

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright © Depositphotos | InConcert

Johnny ripped the wrapping paper off what he knew had to be another lame-ass inspirational poster as his momma belted out the last off-key strains of “Happy Birthday.”

He’d put her call on speaker so he could hear her sing while he opened her present.  There for a minute, she’d actually made his cell phone rattle around the metal top of the battered TV tray he used for a table in the low-rent motel room where he lived.

She didn’t have the greatest singing voice, his momma.  She used to tell him he yanked whatever musicality she had right on out of her when he was born and took it all for himself.

What she lacked in skill, she more than made up for with enthusiasm and volume.  Every year she insisted on singing to him on his birthday whether they were together or not.  This year found him in Vegas trying to get a gig.  She was still back home in Mississippi.  As far as Johnny knew, she’d never left the delta, not in her entire life.

“Happy birthday, baby!” she said when she was done singing.  “How you like my present?”

For once, Johnny didn’t know what to say.

The posters his momma sent always had sayings like Soar With The Eagles or Believe In Yourself coupled with photographs of high mountain peaks covered in snow or beautiful, sandy beaches, the sun setting low over the water.

She was a great believer in the power of positive thinking.  Life had pretty much sucked the positive out of him, but every year he still thanked her for her gift and said something nice about it because she was his momma and she loved him, and it was only polite.

This year he couldn’t quite bring himself to say “Cool picture, momma,” or “You’re so good to me, thinking about me like that,” like he did usually did, even though he always threw the poster away as soon as he got off the phone.

“You got me dead rock stars?” he said instead.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This weekend marks the second year I’ll be spending Easter at Sakura-Con in Seattle. Last year’s con experience had a direct influence on the brand new Diz and Dee story, “Here, Kitty Kitty,”  I wrote for Fiction River # 1 – Unnatural Worlds.  Who knows what kind of mayhem this year’s con will inspire. 🙂

You’ll be able to purchase Unnatural Worlds beginning next month. I’ve seen the rest of the stories in this volume, and trust me, they’re all kickass. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Fiction River family, and I’ll have some more cool announcements along that line as the year progresses. As they used to say in television land, “stay tuned.”

In the meantime, in honor of the holiday, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story finds Diz and Dee tracking down Dee’s missing cousin Harold, who has a unique problem with the Easter season. I hope you enjoy “My Cousin, the Rabbit.”

my cousin cover art

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2013 by Annie Reed

I was balancing my morning coffee and a bag of donuts in one hand and fumbling with the key to my office with the other when my cell phone rang.

I’m not a morning person.  I’m also not the world’s greatest cook.  Even though I live in the apartment upstairs from my office, I go out most mornings for coffee and something my mother would not approve of as breakfast food.  So when I recognized the ring tone I’d assigned to my mother — a snazzy little number that sounded like the music from Psycho right about the time Anthony Perkins goes gonzo on Janet Leigh with a knife in the shower — my first reaction was to drop the bag of donuts like a hot potato.

What?  Donuts?  Not me, mom.  I’m going upstairs to fix myself sprouts and granola right this minute.

Not that I had sprouts and granola in my apartment.  I barely had enough food for my cat.

The bag split open when it hit the sidewalk, spilling all that sugary goodness on the wet concrete.  So much for breakfast.  At least I still had my coffee.

I managed to get the office door unlocked and my cell phone out of my pocket before the call rang over to voicemail.

“Your cousin’s missing,” my mother said before I could even croak out a hello.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Just My Luck

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m back home after a marvelous — and productive — week on the Oregon coast. Lots of fun with writer and editor friends, I discovered exactly how awesome the BBC’s Sherlock is, and I even have some exciting publishing news that I can’t really talk about yet, some of which involves our intrepid heroes from this week’s story. Woot!

In honor of the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day holiday, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story features my urban fantasy detectives Diz and Dee, a leprechaun, a pot of gold, and the missing love of the wee man’s life. I hope you enjoy “Just My Luck.”

just my luck cover

 

Just My Luck

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

I’d just kicked back in my chair with my feet up on my desk, the first cup of coffee of the morning steaming a wonderful, fresh-brewed aroma, when a snazzy little man in a kelly green suit opened the door to my office.

When I say little, I mean this guy was little.  No more than three feet tall, he was perfectly proportioned, from tiny feet encased in black leather loafers to the top of his wee, curly-haired head.  He had chubby cheeks and coppery red hair, and a full beard to match.  Brilliant green eyes peered out at me from behind wire-rimmed, rectangular spectacles.

He shut the door firmly behind him then turned to face me.  He held a green fedora that matched his suit in hands that looked far stronger than their diminutive size implied.

“I’m wondering,” he said, his voice surprisingly deep for someone so small.  “Do you think you can help me, miss?  I’ve come about someone gone missing.”

That’s what I do.  I help people find other people.  I’m Dee, one half of D & D Investigations, and as the sign says on the glass window in the front office, Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.

However, just because someone’s polite enough to call me “Miss” doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.

I dropped my feet on the floor, sat up straight, and narrowed my eyes at my potential client.  Except for his size and his red hair, this guy bore more than a passing resemblance to Cupid… er, Eros.  I’ve already helped one member of the God of Love’s huge family, and instead of a “thank you” for my trouble, I got a box of bad-tasting Valentine’s Day chocolates and a tantalizing yet all too brief glimpse of my partner’s towel-clad physique.

“You’re not related to Eros, are you?” I asked.

The little man blinked.  “Not that I’m aware of.”

“And you’re not an elf?”

He blinked again.  “No.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against elves.  My partner’s an elf.  A tall one.  Diz, the other half of D & D, is built like The Rock back when The Rock was still The Rock and not Dwayne Johnson, movie star.  Trust me.  I’ve seen nearly all of Diz, and when I say he’s built, he’s really built.  Diz also has The Rock’s glower, without the raised eyebrow thing The Rock used to do, and about as much patience as I can fit in the tip of my little finger.   But Diz and I had a whole passel of dinky little elves for clients right before Christmas, and let me tell you, I’d give just about anything for a normal client right about now.

Not that I was going to get it.

“I’m a leprechaun,” the little man said.

(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 – 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)