QSFer M.R. Graham has a new ace-aro paranormal box set out: The Liminality Series.
It begins with the breaking of a gentle monster, with the capture of girl who dwells in dreams, with the hidden strength of a young wizard, with the bitter rage of a wounded vampire. It ends in victory… or a world drowning in Shadows, overrun with Death.
The Rules are in flux, the balance shifting. Never in memory has a medium, a being both alive and dead, become a vampire. Never has a creature born to aid the dead been impelled to violence. Never has the Shadow, spirit of balance and betweenness, begun to reach toward Darkness. Never has the Veil thickened, trapping the spirits of the dead in the world of the living. And never have the nameless forces beyond the borders of the world sought control over mortal affairs.
Lenny was happy enough teaching high school physics, helping the ghosts of Abilene pass into the next life, awkwardly pretending not to be a vampire. Kim was happy enough in grad school, using book smarts and magic to keep Texas free of the worse sorts of monsters. It is a monster who throws them together, a vicious abuser bent on twisting Lenny into a proper bloodsucking fiend. But how can she justify saving a vampire when war is looming, black magic stirring among the wizards of Scotland, drawing on terrifying powers from beyond the natural world? Politics has never been her cup of tea, but her family is relying on her to forge necessary alliances with creatures a wizard would usually shun. And the longer the violence rages, the more she realizes these clashes of power are literally tearing the world apart at the seams…
Ace and aro protagonists with a slow-burn QPR.
M.R. is giving away an eBook copy of “The Siren” with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
Kim didn’t mind bodies as much as some people might. That cellar was horrible, and it stank, and it vibed her freaky in all the wrong ways, but it wasn’t horrible because there were dead people in it. It was horrible because something horrible had happened there, and it had stained the place in ways that bleach couldn’t fix. Fire would clean it out better than anything else.
She slid her improvised telephone back into her pocket and zipped a flame out of her little plastic lighter. Bones wouldn’t catch, and cement wouldn’t catch, but she could give the flame a little boost, and the whole place would go up like her family’s last Thanksgiving. It was only a shame Sebastian Duran wouldn’t have the front-row seat he deserved. But if he had been anywhere nearby, this wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly.
She blew carefully onto the flame, coaxing it brighter with a trickle of magic. Once the basement was going, she could go back up and light the building. All the buildings, just in case. She estimated ten minutes before the nearest fire station could get word, and another five for them to get there. Fifteen minutes would be more than enough time to destroy the structure of the place, maybe wipe the walls clean of some of the bad juju they had collected. There had to be ghosts in a place like that.
She blew on the flame again, and it fanned out yellow onto the heap of corpses. There wouldn’t be enough left to match dental records, but everyone down there looked like they had been gone long enough to have been pronounced dead, anyway. It twinged her conscience to take that closure from those families, but it was more important to keep that pile from getting any bigger. The flame caught, dancing along a broken femur with a cheerful crackle as it slowly grew brighter than her flashlight.
And something hit her from behind, knocking her knees out from under her. She stumbled and hit her hip on the stairs. She could feel spindly, brittle fingers close on the fabric of her blue jeans, and she brought her flashlight down hard on them. They crunched like corn chips and pulled away with a papery hiss, and Kim scrambled up to try to get a look at her attacker.
She had taken it for the freshest of the corpses, halfway to mummification, but now that she looked closer, there was a weird suppleness to the withered flesh. It wasn’t rotting, either, just drying up like a raisin. Pruny, wrinkled skin clung close to its bones and stretched tight over a highly visible skull. Its eyes were dull and stained dark red from pupil to lid, and its lips were drawn back from white, slightly crooked teeth. The canines, top and bottom, were long and sharp.
The jaws parted as Kim watched, and the body tightened as though to lunge, but it toppled forward instead and lay still for a moment before gathering the strength to drag itself cross the remaining distance. It was fascinating to watch, and painful at the same time. Kim stepped back, up the steps and out of reach. The thing pulled itself to the foot of the stairs, put out its broken hand, and then stiffened. Its eyes rolled back, and it fell to its side with a scratchy exhalation.
Not taking her eyes off of the thing, Kim took her compact back out and shoved a spark of power into the glass.
“Hey,” she said. “It’s me again.”
“Kim?” said the voice from the other end. “Whatchoo got?”
“I found something. I think it might be a vampire. Been down here a long time. Should I try to get it out of here or just let it burn?”
“How bad is it?”
“Looks like a mummy. Can’t tell the sex. Tried to get me, but can’t seem to move real well. My guess is Duran was keeping it for a pet or something, then forgot it was down here.”
There was a moment of silence on the other end. Then, “Let it burn. Put it out of its misery. Just knock it out first, or something. Be the kind thing to do.”
“’Kay. I’ll see you in a few.”
She hefted her flashlight and stepped down to the lowest stair.
One flat, red eye rolled up to look at her. There was no intelligence there, but it took in her stance, and there was a flash of recognition, the same way a beaten dog recognizes a broom. The eye shut so it couldn’t see the blow coming, and the crispy face turned down, pressing into the grimy floor.
“Oh, honey,” Kim whispered.
The fire flickered along an empty rib cage and leaped to the mummy’s tattered khakis. It whimpered.
“Oh, honey,” she said again. She cinched up her necklace, bringing the little cluster of religious medals up closer to her throat, shoved her flashlight into the waistband of her pants, and shook out her milagro bracelets. Then she slapped out the fire that was creeping up the mummy’s leg, threw its arm over her shoulders, and dragged it up the stairs.
USA Today bestselling author M.R. Graham is a native Texan who traces strong cultural roots back to Scotland, Poland, and England. A mild-mannered PhD student during the day, Graham transforms at night into a raging Holmesian loremaster and rabid novelist.
Though passionate about all scholarship and academia, Graham’s training and true love lie with anthropology, particularly the archaeological branch. Graham’s writing explores the uncanny, the mystical, the mysterious, and the monstrous, seeking to capture the beauty of strangeness.
Also, steampunk and vampires.