Posted on January 29, 2010 by Flames
FlamesRising.com is pleased to present an exclusive preview of a new anthology put together by Kerrie Hughes and Martin Greenberg. THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO GUNS AND MONSTERS includes several of your favorite urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors including: Lilith St. Crow, Anton Strout, Tanya Huff, Jim C. Hines, Mickey Zucker Reichert and Elizabeth A. Vaughan.
Featuring several new heroines that aren’t afraid to do the “rescuing,” this collection of thirteen short stories is all about empowered female characters. Now, you can read an excerpt from three of these stories.
Best Friends by Lilith Saintcrow
“You can’t be serious.” I pushed my bangs back fretfully, I hadn’t had a trim in ages. I wanted to wriggle out of my damp bikini top, but I hadn’t brought a T-shirt. “He’s just your stepfather. Or going to be, anyway, since your mom’s…well.”
Kate sighed, a sound of sharp metal frustration. “Look, do you think I’d be telling you if I wasn’t sure? I’m not crazy, Becca.”
I eyed her for a long critical moment, sucking on the straw. Finished my chocolate milkshake, set the paper cup down, and slid my shades down the bridge of my nose. We both smelled like chlorine and sunscreen, because you can’t ever wash pool-smell out of your hair in the showers at the Y. Kate’s blonde braid dripped, soaking a dark patch through shoulder of her Frexies T-shirt. Her burger was half-eaten. She hadn’t even touched her fries.
It was unheard-of. Usually Kate finished her potato products first, and a healthy helping of mine as well, world without end, amen. But today she had a few lone survivors on her spread-out cheeseburger wrapper.
She hadn’t been eating much, lately.
It was a ninety-plus day, but I shivered. “Okay. So what are we gonna do?”
Kate’s face crumpled. For a moment I was sure she was going to cry, so I looked down at the ruins of my lunch, just to give her some privacy.
But Kate just picked up a napkin and blew her nose. A hot breeze from the Tasty Freeze parking lot made the tattered umbrella over our table flap. Everyone else was inside enjoying the air conditioning. Sitting outside on a day like this could fry your brain.
“He’s awake sometimes during the day, even if he never goes outside.” Kate’s voice was small, as if she was six again. “He hates garlic, too. And at night he’s just bouncing off the walls. Mom thinks it’s cute. They’re really into each other since she brought him home.”
It was what she’d said before. But my gaze came up and fastened on Kate’s hand. She’d taken to wearing that fashionable buckled leather cuff everywhere, even into the pool. Now it lay on the table, getting lighter as it dried, and the two marks on the pale underside of her wrist where she hardly ever tanned had worn, white-looking edges. Their centres were dark and angry, though. Scabbed over.
Right where they taught you to take the pulse in First Aid.
Kate made a restless movement. “I thought he was just creepy. But he…God.”
“He just comes in your room while your mom’s gone, right?” That was important, though I couldn’t say just why. “Is she…acting weird? I mean, weirder than normal?”
“She’s tired a lot.” Kate hunched her shoulders. “He’s got money, says she doesn’t have to work. She’s about ready to agree. Her shifts are pretty long.”
“Yeah.” I sucked on her straw thoughtfully, making a weird bubbling noise. “But if she’s home more often…”
“She’s so tired.” Kate’s eyes came up, and she stared significantly at Kate. “You know?”
As tired as Kate looked, probably. Dark circles under her eyes. Worn out.
The sunshine was hot, but it didn’t touch the ice inside my stomach. “Okay,” I said again. The exact same way I said it every time Kate had a problem. “Don’t worry. We’ll figure something out.”
Lupercalia by Anton Strout
A lot of people had walked through the doors of New York’s Serendipity on East Sixtieth Street over the years, but it was doubtful than any had come in with a crossbow strapped across their back. In that respect, Leis Colchis was singular. Her roommate Helen Leda certainly didn’t have one on her. Helen hadn’t even realized Leis had one until she took off her winter cloak in the restaurant.
“Is that what I think it is?” she whispered. “I’m pretty sure our R.A. would tell us that we’re not allowed to have one of those in our dorm room.” Although no one was paying attention to the pretty, long-haired blonde with the weapon yet, Helen figured it was only a matter of time.
Leis turned to her. “Good thing we’re not on NYU property then,” she said. Leis dropped her cloak onto a bench by the front door and released the crossbow’s strap.
Helen grabbed Leis’s arm. “You’re not going to hurt anyone, are you? I know you’re pissed with James and everything…”
Leis pulled away from her dark-haired roommate with ease. Helen’s grip wasn’t strong enough to hold on, and for once the petite girl wished she was a little stronger so she could restrain her friend.
“Relax,” Leis said. “I’m not going to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it…”
Before Helen could ask her what the hell she meant by that, Leis strode into Serendipity’s dining room. It was packed to the gills, full of seated couples and families doing the tourist thing. The ceiling was white pressed tin, and just below it hung the restaurant’s famous Tiffany glass structure that was a mix of pop art, twisted wires and glass butterflies. Helen thought it stood out against the whitewash of the surrounding walls like a wrecked car on the West Side Highway. Red hearts of all shapes and sizes were stuck to every wall.
As Helen watched Leis walk through the crowd, a few heads turned. Helen shook her head. Leis was stubborn over simple stuff, like policing who ate what food in the common room fridge. God only knew what she do if she found James in here…
Helen watched the crowd fall silent as Leis wandered through the tables. The wait staff didn’t quite know what to do about a woman with a crossbow in the shop. They just stood there, holding large cut crystal chalices filled with their signature frozen hot chocolates, an iced slush of chocolate topped with a mountain of whipped cream drizzled with even more chocolate on top. They were so huge a small child could probably bathe in one of them. Helen looked closer at the tables around the room. Practically every table had one or two of them on it.
Never having tasted one, Helen was curious, but turned back to Leis, who was looking at one particular couple a few tables away where she had caught the eye of the man sitting there. Leis dashed over to it and grabbed the well-dressed man by his tie, pulling it tight. The woman he was sitting with started to stand, but Leis pointed her crossbow at her and used her foot to kick her back into her seat.
“Hey!” the woman shouted.
Leis shot her a look over the crossbow that killed any further outbursts.
No Matter Where You Go By Tanya Huff
“I overheard a couple of uniforms talking today.”
Her head pillowed on Mike’s shoulder, palm of her right hand resting over his heart, Vicki made a non-committal hmm.
“There’s been some vandalism in Mount Pleasant Cemetery the last couple of nights.”
She tapped her fingers on sweat-damp skin to the rhythm of the rain against the window, wrapping it around the steady bass of his heartbeat. “You don’t say.”
Mike closed his hand around hers, stopping the movement. “Someone dug a small firepit on a grave and cremated a mouse. The officers responding found wax residue on the gravestone, chalk marks on the grass, and evidence of at least four people.”
“Uh huh.” Vicki rose up on her left elbow so that she could see Mike’s expression. He seemed to be completely serious. Although the pale spill of streetlight around the edges of the blind provided insufficient illumination for him to see her in turn, his eyes were locked on her face, waiting for her to draw her own conclusions.
“You think some idiot’s trying to call up a demon.”
“I think it’s possible.”
“And you think I should…?”
He shrugged, a minimum movement of one shoulder. “I think we should check it out.”
His fingers tightened, thumb moving down to stroke the scar on her wrist. “I don’t want you there alone.”
She had a matching scar on the other wrist, a pair of thin white lines against pale skin, a reminder written in flesh of a demon nearly unleashed on the city by her blood. But that had been years ago, when Vicki Nelson, ex-police detective, not particularly successful private investigator, had only just discovered that creatures out of nightmare were real.
“Things have changed.” Turning her hand in his, she stroked in turn the puncture wound on his wrist, already healing even though it had been less than an hour since she’d fed. “I’m pretty sure vampire trumps wannabe sorcerer.” When he didn’t answer, merely continued to look up at her, brown eyes serious, she sighed. “Fine. A vampire and an exceedingly macho police detective definitely trumps wannabe sorcerer. Worst case scenario, it won’t be much of a demon if all they’re sacrificing is a mouse. We’ll check it out tomorrow night.”
Dark brows rose. “Why tomorrow? It’s barely midnight.”
“And it’s pouring rain. They won’t be able to keep their fire lit.”
* * *
This preview for was provided and published with express permission from DAW.