Sneak peek of my new contemporary fantasy novel...

 

Chapter 1

 

Dragons could be a little needy—especially the big ones. But Ellen did her best. She had to. If it wasn’t for her, they wouldn’t exist.

She sipped at the bottom of her second pint, cracked her knuckles, then forced her hands back to the keyboard, posing for the scene to formulate in her brain and radiate down nerves to her fingertips. Her normally responsible digits hovered in position. Her characters weren’t going to write themselves out of danger.

After a few moments of inactivity, the muscles in her fingers started to twitch and a glint from the front window caught her eye. Light from the green open sign reflected on the shiny scalps of a group of guys that had moved under the eave. Every one of them held an unlit cigar and had a freshly shaved head, like they’d all lost the same bet.

Ah, not again! Ellen forced her attention back to her work. Tuning out the world was a personal skill, like cranking out first drafts and baton twirling. She could focus—usually. And the chapter was fully outlined so it should write itself. The vinyl seat crackled as she stretched back into the booth and glanced at the time when laughter erupted outside the bar. The group had managed to create a little smoke.

A lifetime fan of fire breathers, Ellen watched their mouths. The smoke that coughed out the lungs of a newbie sprayed in an eye-watering fog. The seasoned smoker controlled exhales with elegant lip and tongue movements that pushed it out in puffs or circles. It appeared to be the first cigars for all but one.

This mouth was older, maybe mid-thirties and closed tight and tense, forcing the smoke out his nostrils in tiny spirals. Partially blocked by the tavern sign, she couldn’t see his eyes, but judging from the shoulder-length brown hair, he wasn’t part of their group. As a character, she’d write him into a thriller—the dark stranger who ends up saving the world. An unexpected whiff curled out.

Ellen sucked in and held her breath, then matched her breathing with the subtle rise and fall of his chest. At each exhale, smoke appeared even though he’d lifted nothing to his mouth. He was smoking.

Bold green eyes cut to her through the glass, intense and demanding. Then, he disappeared. Vanished might have been a better adjective, but the sound of her pounding heart blocked clear thought as she struggled with the impossible.