Hey everyone, it’s been hectic around the ol’ Hunter household lately. Getting ready for the holidays, plus working my pen-monkey fingers right down to the bone. But … I’m never too busy to read. There’s a great new book out by Michael-Scott Earle—who is a wickedly-talented Urban Fantasy author—called Wings of Justice (City of Lights Book 1). Earle has a bunch of different UF titles out already, but this one is the first in a new series and is also on sale for 99 cents through tomorrow. If you’re looking for something fresh to read, check it out ASAP because it’s definitely worth your time. There’s a blurb, an excerpt, and a link below. Enjoy.
Welcome to Petrasada. The City of Light. The City of Clouds. The City of Joy. It is the last bastion of human life floating miles above an endless desert world.
And a string of serial murders are threatening to tear the city apart.
Anelia Orba is the newest rookie in the magical winged police force of Petrasada. She is inexperienced, naive, paired with a resentful partner, and fully expected to fail. But when a strange clue takes Anelia off the procedural path, she’ll have to overcome the odds before the City of Light falls to darkness, and she loses everything she cares about.
“I am not impressed by your flying.” The woman’s blue eyes made my heart freeze.
“I just got my cloak last night, and–” I began to say.
“Shut up,” Fallon said as she held the palm of her calloused hand a few inches in front of my face. “I don’t care that it is your first day on the job. I refuse to let you botch this investigation.” The blonde woman nodded to the door of the inn, and a leather-armored soldier saluted her.
The city guards had cleared a space between the curious crowd and the inn’s entrance. I had never met the inn’s owner, Rafa Manus, but he was well respected in this part of the city. Investigating his death, along with the slew of other murders in the city, was my first assignment as a member of the Potentia sisterhood.
“Don’t say anything. You are new, still a pigeon. You don’t know your ass from your wings. I will ask the innkeeper’s widow all the questions. Do you understand?” Fallon was my wingmate, and she was supposed to be providing me with her experience.
“Yes, Fallon.” I nodded at her and forced a smile to my lips.
I had felt such elation yesterday, when I had found out that the years of training had finally paid off and I was to be chosen as a Potentia. The joy had turned somewhat sour this morning, when the captain introduced me to the woman I would probably be spending the rest of my career with.
“Ahhh. Wait,” the woman said as she stepped past the guard and opened the door. “Stand here in the entryway and look out at the crowd. Oftentimes, the murderer will return to the scene of the crime. Look for someone with bloody boots, and tell me. Are you smart enough to do that job, pigeon?” Her square mouth turned upward into a sneer when she spoke.
“Yes, Fallon.” I nodded and swallowed to force my stomach down from my throat.
My wingmate pulled her light-blue cloak around her sides as she stepped through the doorway, and I could hear her greet the innkeeper’s widow. Fallon’s voice acquired a gentle timbre, and I did my best to observe the crowd while simultaneously eavesdropping on the questions that my partner asked the woman.
Then I saw the bloody boots.
They were thick leather galoshes and belonged to a grizzled man who stood half a head taller than the rest of the crowd. His eyes passed warily over the guards in front of the inn before his glance found me. We stared at each other for half a moment, and then he began to inch away through the dense throng of citizens.
“Fallon,” I said into the dark inside of the tavern. I could see that chairs had been tossed aside in the main room and that a pool of blood had formed on the wooden floor.
“Please excuse my wingmate for the rude interruption,” Fallon apologized to the weeping widow before she turned to me with a clenched jaw.
I nodded outside, and my partner directed her eyes out the door. I was going to tell her about the man with the bloody boots, in case she couldn’t see him, but my wingmate understood what I wanted, and she took a few steps to stand near me.
“Go walk toward him. Slowly,” she instructed.
I nodded at her and then walked from the doorway toward the crowd. The man was facing away from me now, but he glanced over his shoulder, and our eyes met again. I expected him to flee, so I wasn’t surprised when he pushed through the throng of citizens and began his dash through the streets of Petrasada.
“Catch him, pigeon!” Fallon’s gruff, raspy shout cut through the air like a rusted saw blade against a piece of rock. Her voice possessed the kind of timbre that would make my nose hair curl, but now I was focused on the back of the escaping suspect, and I tried to predict his next path while I chased him.
I wasn’t the only one who felt the lash of her command. The crowds in the street halted mid-step, and the people turned toward the pair of us with obvious confusion. The running man didn’t pause in his escape though, and I forced my legs to sprint after him.
“Faster, you idiot!” Fallon’s screech echoed off the brightly-colored clay homes, and I had to smile at the irony. I didn’t need to look behind me to guess that my wing-mate wasn’t bothering to move. That was fine. She had spent most of the morning telling me how useless I was, and I didn’t expect the crusty woman to assist me with anything other than a tongue lashing.
The man was muscular, wide at the shoulder, and possessed arms like tree trunks. I would have thought him a miner, but his skin bore the tan leathery patina of a lifetime in the suns, so I guessed that he worked as a farmer on one of the city’s base levels. Maybe it didn’t matter where he was from. The blood on his boots was proof enough that he had been at the crime scene, and I needed to bring him in for questioning.
The thick man plowed into the crowd and scattered half a dozen citizens. They screamed with panic, but their cries only seemed to make my quarry run faster. He leapt over a cart carrying fruit, rolled under a wagon hauling lumber, and then sprang down the stairs to the lower level of the city. They were practiced movements, and I wondered how a farmer had learned to move in that manner.
I reached the steps a few seconds after the suspected murderer and made a long leap down them. He took the steep steps three at a time, but I felt my cloak unfurl from my back and catch the air. It was a controlled fall, and I aimed my landing to smash into the man’s kidneys as soon as he reached the base of the clay stairs.
“Ahhh!” I shrieked when he turned suddenly, grabbed my foot, and threw me against the wall. I felt the wind explode from my lungs, my sword sheath snag on the steps, and my cloak sandwich between my spine and the rock.
I kicked my other leg out in a movement that was half instinct and half training. My boot caught the man in the chin, and his teeth shattered from the impact. He let go of my leg and rolled away like a tumbleweed.
Then the man jumped to his feet and started running again.
“Hold! I am Potentia! You are under arrest!” I screamed after the man. It was what they told us to do in training, but, as I suspected, real criminals wouldn’t pay attention to such a command. He kept running, and I pushed myself off the wall with my cloak to continue after him. We now ran on level thirty-two of the city, still in the residential zones, but the foot traffic wasn’t as thick as level thirty-three. My quarry picked a clean line through the streets, and I saw him lean forward to gain the most momentum.
My cape flapped behind me and added a timed boost of speed. The man might have been able to escape me a few days ago, but now that I wore the Alula cloak, there was no way he would escape. He had gained a fifty-yard lead when I first pulled away from the wall, but after a few seconds, I was almost close enough to grab his collar. The man outweighed me by some eighty pounds, so I knew I couldn’t just yank him back like a puppy. I could trip him though, and my left foot kicked out while my cloak lifted me off the ground at the last instant.
The suspect’s blood-covered boots collided, and he fell forward. He had been dashing toward the edge of this city level, and, for a second, I thought he was going to tumble off the edge. He popped to his feet a foot before the cliff, however, and yanked a dagger from his belt.
“Potentia bitch.” The man was all sorts of ugly, and his dagger looked more jagged than the teeth I’d just broken.
“Put down your weapon,” I tried to sound calm when I voiced my command, but this was my first day on the job and my first time apprehending someone. So it should have been no surprise that my command came out like a mouse squeak.
I realized that I should be holding my sword, and I yanked the rapier out of its sheath with a trembling right hand. The man eyed the length of my blade and then glanced at his own six-inch weapon. I could see the options dance in his eyes as he weighed the probable outcomes. Potentia weren’t invincible, but our magic was supposed to be powerful and our training impeccable. There wasn’t any possible way this idiot could think that he would win against me, but his eyes focused on my hilt and lingered there.
My hand shook like a stack of dropped gelatin.
He darted forward with a snarl and thrust his knife at my left side. For a fraction of a second, my mind spun with terror, and I froze. This was not a training drill. This was not a practice fight where I would beat one of my sisters and then hug her afterward. This was a man almost twice my size trying to punch a hole in my stomach with a jagged blade. This was someone who would kill me without a second thought. He would probably relish the experience and brag to his friends after he dispatched me.
Half a dozen years of reflexes took control of my arm, and my rapier danced to my unprotected side. The upper half of my weapon smacked into his blade, and the motion knocked the man’s muscled arm away easily. He snarled blood from his broken teeth and made another strike. This attack was telegraphed a bit more, and I flicked my wrist to parry the attack before it even made it part of the distance between us.
The ugly man made three more stabbing attempts, but each met with my well-prepared blade and a percussive sound of steel. I felt my muscles begin to relax. My training was holding true, and I was more than ready to wear my Alula and protect the citizens of this city. If anything, this man had only a fraction of the skill of my training sisters. I’d spent countless hours sparring with them, and our high-speed rapier play had evolved into a practice of predicting attacks as arms moved only fractions of an inch. This man was clumsy and slow, and his weapon had no range.
He could not best me.
My quarry seemed to realize I had him beat, and he glanced to the sides to find another way to retreat. He leapt away from me, and his blood-covered boots teetered on the sharp edge of the brick path. There should have been a protective rail placed on the edges of this level to keep citizens from falling forty feet to their deaths, but the spot was close to a wide wagon ramp. Any barrier would have prevented donkeys from pulling their carts to this level of the city, so none had been placed. The man seemed to realize he was about to fall, and he waved his arms through the air like a windmill to keep from tumbling.
I stepped forward and grabbed onto the front of his shirt with my left hand. I needed the suspect alive for questioning, and I knew that Fallon would shriek at me for the next week if I let the man throw himself to his death. My first few hours with the woman had made it apparent how delighted she was to be saddled with a new Potentia, and I didn’t want to hear her complaining for the rest of our career together.
As soon as my gloved fingers closed around the front of the man’s shirt, I realized my mistake.
He reached up with his left arm, trapped my hand against his chest, and then stabbed at my unprotected stomach. I shoved my waist away and twisted to the side. The jagged blade skipped along the edges of my leather armor, and the man’s eyes opened in shock when I pushed him off the ledge.
We both fell…
Get Wings of Justice Here: