Hi guys! We have a treat today with the lovely Lexi Ander visiting with her new release Releasing Chaos, Lexi’s brought along a fantastic bit of flash fiction, a great excerpt and an AWESOME giveaway, so guys check out the post and click that giveaway link! <3 ~Pixie~
Everything Tristan, Ushna, and Brian have fought for comes down to the moment they face Inanna and Marduk. Before then, Ushna must embrace his destiny and be transformed by Tiamat. But he returns with a fractured mind and will need the help of the new firebird or he’ll be lost to the insanity of a primordial God. If he’s lost, so is the balance Brian and Tristan sorely need.
Tristan has vowed to care for his ex-Flame, Theo Sullivan, who is doomed to forget more and more with each use of his new ability. When not dealing with his stubborn ex, Tristan must free the warriors stolen by the government and devise a trap for Inanna.
And that’s only the start of the challenges, and everything that can still go wrong.
Lexi Ander’s Flash Fiction!
Thank you for having me on the blog today! Releasing Chaos is the last book in the Sumeria’s Sons series. For the final sendoff, I have put together a series of flash fiction pieces that happen near the end of Dragon’s Eye or in between Dragon’s Eye and Releasing Chaos. These are little on-the-side scenes that don’t have an impact on the plot arc of Sumeria’s Sons so you won’t encounter any spoilers for the final book. This takes place between the end of Dragon’s Eye and the beginning of Releasing Chaos. Enjoy!
Meeting a True Blood
“They’re coming!” Dawn called excitedly from the front of the house.
Justus wiped his wet hands on the dish towel before handing it to Neoma. Then he glanced at Neoma’s mother, Mary Jane, waiting for her dismissal. Ira and Marek had come to stay the week. Justus and his sisters had scrambled to complete all their chores so that when the boys got there they didn’t have to wait to play.
“Good job,” Mary Jane said with the ghost of a smile. “Now, go and have fun.”
Justus was running out of the kitchen before she finished speaking. Upon seeing Justus and Neoma leaving the kitchen, Dawn opened the front door. Justus followed her out. A maroon sedan came down the driveway and he could barely contain his excitement as Mr. Gillander parked the car.
Marek and Ira piled out of the backseat. Justus could practically feel their excitement.
“Hello, Mr. Gillander. Mary Jane is in the kitchen,” Dawn said as she ran by, reminding Justus of his manners.
Skidding to a halt in front of Marek’s dad, he said, “Hey, Mr. Gillander, thanks for bringing them.”
Mr. Gillander chuckled and messed Justus’s hair before he bent so Neoma could claim her hug. “Don’t get into too much mischief,” he said before heading into the house.
When Uncle Tristan heard that Ira and Marek turned twelve but didn’t have their first change, he went to visit the Gillander’s. After Ira’s parents had been arrested, Marek’s family had given Ira a home so when Uncle Tristan visited he was able to speak to both of them. Justus had watched Uncle Tristan interact with his friends. Like other Lycans, he could sense Uncle Tristan’s output of power that rolled off him in soothing waves. Justus had met several alphas but none exuded as much power, except perhaps Corey, but Corey somehow hid his power. Justus wanted to learn how to do that one day.
Uncle Tristan had gathered Ira and Marek close, the Gillander’s looking on with worried expressions.
“Not all pups change when they turn twelve,” Uncle Tristan said as he held each boy by their neck, his power growing. Justus could also since the energy probing his friends. He wished he could see what he felt, to know how Uncle Tristan used his power so that Justus could do the same when he grew up. Uncle Tristan made a small noise and smiled. “I sense they are both very close. Why don’t they come stay at the ranch for a week or so? They can join the monthly hunt and, if they change before then, we don’t have to worry about a human seeing them.”
That had been a couple days ago and Justus looked forward to having the extra company. The mood of the adults was intense at times, causing a constant itch to run in his will form. But he ignored the urge, refusing to get too far away from Randy. The nagging fear that Randy would disappear kept him awake at night.
“Stop daydreaming and come on!” Neoma grabbed and pulled his hand.
He noticed that Ira, Marek, and Dawn were running to the hay barn. He and Neoma hurried to catch up. They spent the rest of the afternoon playing. Justus snuck away a few times to check on Randy, but he spent the majority of the day outside. When that time rolled around, Justus fell into the blanket fort so exhausted he slept the night through without dreams.
The next morning, they were eating in the warrior’s cafeteria with Christie and Mary Jane. The air was filled with the low murmur of conversation when a scent wafted through the room and all talking ceased. Every Lycan sat up and glanced toward the door where the Cimmaron brothers had entered. Gradually, conversation started again, but the wolves were watchful.
“Who are they?” Ira asked, his black hair flopping into his amber eyes. He sniffed the air and Justus waited for his reaction before answering.
When Ira only seemed curious, he replied, “They are the True Blood royals, princes I think. Ace and his brothers saved Uncle Tristan.”
“True Blood’s like… like, my dad?” Ira asked, his hand trembling when he put his fork down.
Justus frowned, knowing what Ira asked and wanting to disagree. The Cimmaron’s were different.
Marek leaned in, his gaze on Ira intent. “Your dad was a jerk and a traitor to the tribe,” he said softly.
Justus glanced around to see if anyone was paying attention to their conversation. Dawn and Neoma were talking animatedly to Mary Jane and Christie. The warriors sitting around them were paying more attention to the Cimarron’s than to what they were eating.
“Yeah, but, he said I would—”
Justus made a negative noise. “Uncle Tristan told you that you would be a wolf. It’s one of Shamash’s blessings; our wolves will always breed true.”
“But what if that is the reason why I haven’t changed?” Ira said in a rush, fear in his voice. “I’m only half Lycan. What if—”
“Uncle Tristan said—”
“But what if he’s wrong?”
But Uncle Tristan wasn’t and Justus couldn’t find the words that would reassure his friend. After he finished eating, Justus made a plate for Randy and ran it back to the house. He would have stayed but Stan told him to go play since Randy slept. Back outside, the Cimarron brothers were following the trail that led to the river. The pasture running along the south side of the water was where the wolves ran when they needed out. Uncle Tristan made sure the horses and cattle were kept at the opposite end of the ranch. “No use tempting anyone,” Uncle Tristan would say.
Justus was ready to bound off the porch and go find his friends when he caught a glimpse of Ira sneaking along behind the Cimarron brothers. Worried, Justus followed, not bothering to hide himself. Ira was too focused on the Cimarron’s to notice he was being followed.
The trees along the river swallowed the Cimarron’s. Ira hesitated at the edge before plunging into the foliage. Justus rolled his eyes. Really, could Ira announce his presence any louder? If the Cimarron’s didn’t know they were being watched, they did now.
Following the tracks wasn’t hard. Strangely, Ira was hiding behind a tree, not peeking around it but with his forehead pressed into the rough bark. Purposely making noise so not to startle Ira, Justus approached. His ears picked up other noises. He smelled the warriors who were tasked with keeping an eye on the Cimarron’s. But the other barely discernible sounds… He glanced back and caught a quick glimpse of a white T-shirt. Randy’s men who had stayed behind to guard him for Randy still watched over Justus. He always felt shy when he thought about approaching one of them. They were related to Randy and very loyal, but Justus wasn’t sure what they thought about him.
Pushing the thought aside, he refocused on his friend. Ira’s eyes were squeezed shut. Beyond him, the Cimarron brothers stared at the two of them from a small clearing next to the water. Ira was hurting and Justus wanted to help. Gathering his courage, he moved past Ira and approached the five True Bloods. He hadn’t spoken to them before so it felt strange to ask them for a favor when they didn’t know him. He hoped they wouldn’t turn him down.
Wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans, he approached Ace, the oldest of the brothers. They said nothing as he approached. For a second, he faltered, not sure what to do. His dad would smile so Justus put on his best grin. Uncle Tristan would introduce himself. Justus held out his hand. Ace took it, showing dimples when he grinned back.
“Hi, I’m Justus and that is my friend, Ira.” He pointed to the location of the two hiding wolves. “And in case you didn’t know, that is Helios and Robert.” He pretended he didn’t hear the exasperated animal groans. Then he hooked his thumb in the opposite direction. “Over there are a couple of the ranch hands who followed me.”
Ace’s smile widened. “Is that so?”
Justus nodded, not sure how to proceed. “None of us meant to intrude on your privacy. Well, Helios and Robert did.”
Ace nodded. “Already knew that.”
“Ah… I was hoping you could help me out. Well, not me but my friend, Ira.” Ace’s gaze flicked to where Ira stood, now looking around the tree trunk. Ira’s eyes were huge, as if to ask Justus what in the world was he doing, ignoring Justus when he waved Ira over.
“What sort of help does your friend need?” Ace asked with concern.
“His dad is a True Blood and his mom is a Lycan. Mr. Weatherby was real mean to Ira the last time he saw Ira, and he told Ira lies. Could Ira see you shift so that he’ll know…” Justus didn’t know exactly what Ira needed because Ira hadn’t said. Instinct told Justus that Ira seeing and interacting with Ace would help him, he just didn’t know how or why.
Ace motioned for Ira to approach. Justus refrained from rolling his eyes when Ira came forward. He could have come when Justus motioned, but he didn’t say anything to his friend.
“Have you seen a True Blood’s true form?” Ace asked.
“True form?” Ira squeaked.
“The father of our people, Enkidu, his first form as an animal that lived in the wild and ran with the herds of ancient elk and deer. Later he became… almost human.”
Ira moved closer, his eyes locked on Ace as he drank down every word Ace spoke. “Almost human? What does that mean?”
“His feet were hooves and his haunches weren’t like human legs. He also kept his curl of horns.” Ace grinned when Ira looked down at Ace’s feet. Justus looked too, curious. “The human in us has given his descendants human legs and feet. But a very few of my people have horn nubs in their human form.”
Justus’s eyes suddenly began to burn and he closed them, pressing his thumb and finger to them as he tried to figure out where the burst of overwhelming sorrow had come from. He could almost imagine running alongside the thundering herd, hear the rumble of hundreds of hooves as they moved across grassy plains. What would it feel like to be in sync in such surroundings?
An old and weary voice inside him whispered, “Wonderful.”
When he opened his eyes, he brushed at a tear that tried to escape. Neither Ira nor Ace noticed he struggled with an emotion he was hesitant to name. Instead, Ira had reached up and parted his hair, revealing two raised nubs.
“Like these?” Ira’s voice wavered.
Ace and his brothers stepped forward, a couple grinned with delight.
“Alpha Janick,” he stammered, “says I smell like wolf, that when I change, I will be a Lycan, but I have these. And I’m half True Blood through my father. And I don’t know… I’m afraid of what I’ll become.”
Ira didn’t pull away when Ace touched the exposed baby horn. “You will be you,” Ace said as he stepped back.
Justus grinned. When Ace saw him smile, he nodded. Turning back to Ira, Ace said, “Why do you have to be one or the other? You carry the blood of two regal lines and you will probably bear the markings of both.”
“So I’m going to be a wolf?” Ira used his hair to recover the knobs.
“I do smell wolf on you, but I also scent how you are also kin.”
If possible, Ira looked more miserable than he had before. “But when I change, where will I belong? I don’t want to be alone.”
Ace’s frown was full of concern. “Do you not have a place now?” He glanced at Justus and Justus nodded because Ira wasn’t an outcast.
“But when I change, I might be different.” Ira worried his lip with his teeth.
“Ira,” Justus said to get his friend’s attention. “Your dad told you lies. Marek and the Gillander’s love you no matter what. Neoma and Dawn and I will always call you friend. We won’t leave you either. And Uncle Tristan has claimed you as part of his tribe. We all belong to him.” If Justus saw Mr. Weatherby again, he was going to bite him on the butt for making Ira doubt everything.
“And you are brother to the True Bloods,” Ace added.
“You don’t know me,” Ira said incredulously.
“I don’t have to in order to welcome you into my circle. In our culture, we often are invited to the first change of the young of families we don’t know. They are added to our personal collective, connecting the families together.” When Ira looked confused, Ace said, “It’s something similar to being a godfather. I can smell that your change is near and I would be honored to be a witness, thereby connecting you to my family.”
Ira’s bottom lip trembled. “You would do that?”
Ace smiled fondly at Ira. Instead of answering the question, he asked, “Would you like to see me change?”
Ira nodded mutely. Justus stepped away, but not because he felt like an outsider. On the contrary, even though this bonding moment was between Ira and Ace, Justus already felt connected, anticipating what would come, as if he’d been waiting for many lifetimes to see the form of a True Blood. He’d think he was going crazy and be tempted to tell Uncle Tristan if not for the dreams that he’d been having for a year. When he slept he was somebody else, in another time and place. That person was like him, but not, and Justus was beginning to understand who exactly he dreamed about.
He sat at the base of a tree and he was joined by Helios and Robert in their wolf form. When they lay on either side of him, Justus sank his hands into their soft fur, needing the soothing their touch brought.
Ace and his brothers disrobed and changed without preamble. The scent of wild magic grew strong as their short fawn-colored fur cover their bodies. The joints of their legs suggested they could run on all four limbs even as they continued to stand upright. Justus recalled his bestiary anatomy lessons. What most people assumed was a reversed knee joint was actually a heel and ankle. Ace’s hands shortened, his fingertips becoming blunt and square. The True Blood form was different than his wolf, but Justus saw graceful lines and a body that proclaimed Ace could run for hours and not be short of breath.
Closing his eyes, Justus inhaled. The scent of prey stronger now that the Cimarron’s had changed, but instead of calling his wolf to hunt, a protectiveness searched through him. When he opened his eyes, Ace and his brothers were staring at him. Their faces were flat, their nose short and triangular. Beneath that, their lips were thin and dark brown against their golden pelt.
“What do you smell?” Ace asked, nose tilted as he snuffled the air softly.
Justus looked at Ira, chagrined because he’d forgotten his friend was still there. This whole encounter had been for Ira’s sake, but Justus had gleaned something for himself. He spoke the truth that had been buried in his soul. “They smell like home.” His wolf chuffed in agreement.
Ace cocked his head to the side and grinned, showing square and blunt teeth. “Then I greet you, brother wolf.”
We Nameless had been running hard for many days. Something crawled under our ruff, beckoning us to go southeast. The part of us that was once human cowered in the back of our minds, pleading with us to stay in our dens, but we could not. The pull was strong, and we responded to the urgent need that seeped into our paws from the ground.
“Hurry,” The Earth Mother whispered to us.
Months ago, our alpha freed us from the vileness of our human side, locking away the corruption so we could teach our humans the lessons they had either forgotten or were never taught. We shared the joys of running on four paws, of being family, of supporting each other through the hunt. We gave them our love for the land, the sky, the water, and for each other. We showed them how to work together and yet still be individuals. For we were wolf. Hunter. Predator. Mother. Father. Family.
Now as they proclaimed their fear, we would teach them how to stand together, to use their instincts to discern right from wrong. The Earth Mother called us to the alpha’s aid. Though he made us Nameless, he had shown us mercy and set us free. He would forever be our alpha and we his tribe, his people.
As we loped, closing the distance between us and the one who needed us, the Earth Mother pushed healing through our paws, fortifying our energy and curbing our hunger. We stopped briefly alongside a stream to drink our fill before once again we hurried on. The urgency rode us as we ran across fields, through sleepy towns, over grassy plains, and entered foreign woods. We were close now and we hoped we would arrive in time.
As one, we threw our voices into the wind. “We come to stand by your side. To be your shield. To hunt with you and take down your prey. To protect our people. We come, our Alpha, we come.”
I didn’t know what disturbed me from a sound sleep, but an itch between my shoulders forced me from my room to prowl the dark house. For a couple of days now, I’d been sensing… I pushed out the back door, barely catching the screen before it slapped noisily against the frame, waking the whole house.
Before tragedy had taken Tristan away from us for half a year, he’d entrusted into my care the wolf forms of the traitors who’d attempted to murder him. Members of Tribe Uras collaborated with the rogue, Craig Stoiler, and invaded Tristan’s ranch. I would’ve had them killed for their treachery, but Tristan had another idea. He’d stripped the people of their human form, giving their wolf dominion. The demonstration of his power as the supreme alpha and prince of our people proved his lineage to the doubting members of the Council of Five, but there was an additional reason for his action. He’d given them a second chance, of sorts, and ordered some twenty-eight wolves to follow my commands as their handler.
Whatever type of transformation magic Tristan performed had a lasting effect. With the events that had transpired following his return, I didn’t have a chance to relay to him I could still feel those wolves. He’d tied them to me that fate-filled day, not that I was upset. What I sensed of them was harmless, a simple awareness nestled in the back of my mind, telling me their state of being and general welfare… until now.
The stars shone sharp and bright overhead, the sky a virtual blanket of diamonds. The sight still made my breath catch, especially after spending so many years in California cities, where the light was muted. My eyes were drawn to the northwest. The string attaching me to them pulled with their sense of urgency. They were coming. Perhaps it was time to tell Tristan about my relationship with them. Something caused the pack to leave their dens in the Canadian tundra. I wasn’t sure if this sense of urgency coming from them was a portent of good or evil. For Tristan’s sake, I hoped the banished members of Tribe Uras didn’t intend to attack him a second time. I’d grown quite fond of the playfulness of their wolves in the corner of my mind, and I’d hate to be the one who sent them on to their next reincarnation.
Lexi has always been an avid reader, and at a young age started reading (secretly) her mother’s romances (the ones she was told not to touch). She was the only teenager she knew of who would be grounded from reading. Later, with a pencil and a note book, she wrote her own stories and shared them with friends because she loved to see their reactions. A Texas transplant, Lexi now kicks her boots up in the Midwest with her Yankee husband and her eighty-pound puppies named after vacuum cleaners.