Monday, December 15, 2008

Left Side of the Moon by Sophia Titheniel

Dance Wars 1: Left Side of the Moon
by Sophia Titheniel

Cover art by ReneƩ George
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-148-0
Genre(s): Futuristic, Paranormal
Theme(s): Werewolves, Gay and Lesbian
Series: Dance Wars
Length: Novella

The Pony Express Rides Again… On a motorbike.

Lachlan enjoys living on the edge, and in a war-torn land rife with savagery, life as a Pony Express Rider puts good cash in his pockets and, on occasion, a roof over his head. Any roof will do. Doesn’t have to be his.

Until his path clashes with Adair’s. At the Chlodwig, a ramshackle pub renown for its dance fights and high stakes betting, Lachlan and Adair’s heated argument turns into something far more raw and powerful -- something neither of them is prepared for. Something Lachlan’s not sure he can recover from. This time, he’s met his match.

But beyond the cover of the dance fights, Adair belongs to a group of scavengers, thieves who make Pony Express Riders their intended targets. Is Lachlan prepared to risk his loyalty, his job, and everything he thinks he’s earned -- for a werewolf?

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The barroom’s nothing short of dismal inside, dirty and dank, but there’s a fire crackling beneath a wide, finely carved marble fireplace. Lachlan wonders where it came from. Maybe the Pentagon? It was rumored to be on this side of town.
His skin tingles at the abrupt but welcome change in temperature. The few people scattered about are playing rounds of cards or nursing their own drinks, each of them indifferent to the new arrival, and that suits Lachlan just fine. He takes off his jacket, throwing it on an empty stool in front of the bar, and raps the wooden surface with his knuckles. “D’ya have any JD?”
The barman, a carbon copy of every other barman Lachlan’s met on his roaming around the country, looks at him from underneath a bushy eyebrow and plucks the cigar out of his mouth to speak. “Money up front.”
Lachlan slips a hand underneath his jacket, plucks two bills out of the elastic band that keeps his savings together and hands them to the barman. The man eyes him up and down with a slight sneer, then limps off and disappears behind a curtain half-hidden by darkness and dust.
Must be where he keeps his stock. Lachlan twiddles his fingers and huffs out a sigh. He’d swear he can hear his frozen, tired limbs purring with contentedness at the newfound warmth. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s at the pit of the known world and to stay safe he needs to keep moving, he’d curl up and sleep for twelve hours straight.
The barman reappears to deliver that message, popping up practically out of thin air. The unexpected swift movement makes the hair at the back of Lachlan’s neck stand up in discomfort. He nods and grabs the brass token the man’s handed to him, picking up his jacket and walking in the direction the bartender indicates.
The rickety staircase, illuminated only by naked light bulbs set around the railings, looks dangerous, so Lachlan’s cautious as he descends. As he approaches the bottom of the stairs, he hears the faint thump, thump, thump of music filtering from the latched door. He pulls at the hook screwed in the center that serves as a knob, and blanches at the deafening volume he’s met with the second the door opens.
He sets off, eyes peeled, his fingers curled around the handle of his knife. A guy can never be too careful. Pubs and clubs in the cities are a bit of a sanctuary for all those creatures who couldn’t disguise themselves in the “human” world. The clientele in the basement, though, looks exactly the same as the one you would see in any regular bar in the country, and for an instant Lachlan feels a bit let down. With a setup like that, he was at least expecting a couple of vampires.
A woman with a red corset saunters over, draping herself over his back. Lachlan goes rigid, his hand tightening around his knife. “Not interested,” he says calmly, the pocket where he’s hidden his money burning.
“You here for the fights, sugar?”
The fights? “That’s right.” He grabs her wandering hand and pushes her away, none too gently. “And I’m not interested.”
The music’s even louder now that he’s fully in the room. An opening lies before him, between the tables, right in front of the bar. People are pushing at each other for the best viewing spots, some of them exchanging money and talking excitedly among themselves. Lachlan frowns, the brass coin heavy in his palm. For fuck’s sake, he just wants a bottle of whiskey already.
Instead of making a fuss about it, he takes a seat in front of the bar, craning his neck to try and locate the person he has to hand the coin to. The sooner he leaves, the better. If he makes good time, the Dulles station is twenty-five miles west, and a good night of sleep sounds just about fantastic right now.
The barman walks up to him, taking a dour glance at Lachlan’s coin. Either he’s an identical twin of the barman upstairs, or he’s a clone, or maybe all barmen look the same -- Lachlan doesn’t care. It’s even warmer here. A slight sweat’s starting to bead on the nape of his neck, and his long hair is sticking to his skin. He rubs his hand over his neck as if to displace an irksome fly. Turning to toss the hair off his shoulder, he stops abruptly when he finds himself looking across the bar into the brightest gray eyes he’s ever seen. They look like molten silver, like shards of moonlight around large, black pupils.
Lachlan blinks and leans across the bar for a better look. The guy’s still staring, unmoving, as if he’s waiting for something or someone, and Lachlan fights the urge to turn his head and see if he’s looking at anyone else beside him.
“Here,” the barman grunts, the bottle landing in front of Lachlan with a heavy thunk. Lachlan feels like crying in relief. He grabs at the neck of the bottle and tips it back, taking a long, blissfully scorching hot sip. It burns in his throat and in his empty stomach, but he doesn’t mind. Limbs that he hadn’t quite thought were still connected to his body waken, making him feel more alive than he’s been in quite a few hours. Bless you, whiskey.
He fills his flask, finishing in a single gulp the glassful left over, and, handing the empty bottle back to the barman, decides it’s time to head back out on the road. If nothing happens, he’ll manage to be at the station in less than an hour.
“Want to take a chance there?”
Lachlan looks down at a bucketful of dollar bills held by some clown who’s up in his face and frowns. “Take a chance on what?”
“Leave it, Riff.”
A shiver runs down Lachlan’s back. He knows who the voice belongs to even before he raises his eyes to meet the man’s compelling, liquid gray ones. “He’s one of them bikers,” the man says like it’s an insult.

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