On July 27th, we release the second book in the awesome Dark Lakes urban fantasy series. The book is titled Blood Stones and we thought we’d share the first chapter with you to get you all ready and excited to dive in come release day! Have a read, and let us know what you think!
Okay, well, here’s the thing, and, as far as things go, it is really, really, quite the thing.
It turns out that I, Joseph Lake, am a murderer. A killer. A man with blood on his cotton-soft hands.
Yes, the revelation came as something of a surprise to me too. Particularly as—and you’d agree with this if you knew me—I’m probably the least murdery sort of person you could ever meet.
A well-meaning doofus? It has been said on more than one occasion. A man gifted folically by the gods? Certainly. That’s not a brag, it’s a stone cold fact. Someone who knows the lyrics to every song on Fleetwood Mac’s seminal soft rock masterpiece, Rumours? Guilty as charged, your honour.
But a murderer?
It’s weird how a revelation like that makes you look at yourself differently in the mirror. There it is, the same daft face, the well-meaning, slightly crooked smile, but you start studying the eyes a little closer. Is there something grim in them that you hadn’t noticed before, perhaps?
It was not so very long ago that I had no idea about my past. Any of it. I mean, especially not the murder bit.
Then I found out that I was a warlock.
A male witch.
Which no, was not something that I’d ever considered a possibility, strangely enough.
Furthermore, I had been just one of three witches, tasked with protecting the local area from mean vampires, naughty wizards, and other assorted magical bastards.
A trio of witches that had lived within a coven, with a familiar as our helper. Now it was just me and that familiar left, a rather fighty, drinky, scary woman by the name of Eva. It was she who had, just a couple of days earlier, informed me that I was a murderer. That the reason there were no longer three witches in the Lake District, was because I—a man who once danced in the aisles with a sixty-seven year-old former post office mistress during a Barry Manilow concert—had killed them.
Two dead witches.
Thanks to me.
Oh, but my tally doesn’t stop there. No, no, no; three days ago I was responsible for the death of one Chloe Palmer, a nurse at Carlisle Hospital, where I was employed as a dogsbody-cum-cleaner (and I use that phrase in the Latin sense, not the… you know). Chloe was a woman I had been madly in love with for several years, and who, I had started to believe, felt the same way about me.
Until it turned out that she was, you know, a bit mad.
And in league with some tentacle-limbed, soul-sucking vampire thingies.
And intent on being in control of who got to live and die on planet Earth.
That was a real red flag for me. A definite roadblock to us moving forward together romantically.
Plus there was the fact she was going to eat my soul, which I selfishly like to keep hold of, un-chewed.
Long story short, Chloe’s dead now, and I felt like a turd wrapped in a poop. It didn’t matter that I’d done the right thing in stopping Chloe, she was still the woman I’d been friends with for years, and in love with since the first moment we spoke.
The whole thing was really tarnishing the rush I should have been feeling since having had my real self revealed to me. And so there I was, sat on my couch, wrapped in a duvet, watching my Seinfeld DVDs on repeat, and hoping that a little Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer might prod me out of my blues.
The fact that I was to be found quietly snivelling as I watched, eyes red, nostrils damp, was perhaps a sign that this gambit was failing somewhat.
‘What happened to the pub?’ asked Eva, who was slouched beside me on the couch, ciggie in her mouth, can of beer in her hand, dressed in her usual assortment of black rags.
‘What?’ I mumbled.
‘The pub. You know, the pub. The pub they work in. Pub.’
‘There is no pub.’
‘The pub with the fat drinky man and the man with the brain of a child.’
‘Cheers,’ replied Eva, raising her beer can and taking a gulp.
‘No, you’re thinking of a different… never mind.’
I would love to have been left alone to grieve for Chloe, but Eva had decided that what I wanted didn’t matter. She was sensitive like that. So she’d been letting herself into my small, poorly insulated ground floor flat to slump next to me on the couch for upwards of eleven hours a day.
Perhaps, in some small way, forcing her company on me was her way of helping me through the grieving process. It was as that thought passed through my mind that an empty beer can bounced off my temple.
‘Get me a cold one from the fridge, idiot.’
I already knew better than to argue with her, so up I got and over I went, duvet dragging behind like a stain-riddled cloak.
‘You know, this whole feeling-sorry-for-yourself-pity-party is really starting to get on my tits,’ said Eva, as I passed her a fresh can of lager. ‘That woman is dead. It was bloody weeks ago! Move on!’
‘It’s been three days.’
Eva looked at her watch, then after a few seconds, realised she wasn’t wearing one.
‘Are you sure? You’ve lied to me before, you know.’
‘Yes, I am very sure. What’s more, this is at least the fifth time I’ve had to bring that up.’
‘You sure, love?’
I nodded again.
‘In my defence,’ she replied, ‘I have a massive alcohol dependency issue that is probably eating away at my brain cells.’
She cracked open her new drink and slurped up a fresh eruption of foam.
‘You drink?’ I asked. ‘Can’t say that I’ve noticed.’
‘It’s true! I don’t think I’ve been fully sober in ten years. But boy, what a decade it’s been.’
‘Why, what happened ten years ago?’
I already knew the answer, but since Eva told me about my having murdered my fellow witches, she’d clammed up on the matter, as though she couldn’t bear to reveal the whole story at once.
‘Eva? I couldn’t feel any worse, so maybe now’s a good time to spill the beans.’
Eva nodded, downed her empty can, burped with such ferocity that a picture fell off the wall, then stood up with purpose.
‘Okay, enough of all this blubbery, it’s time to get you in fighting shape.’
I pulled my duvet tighter around my shoulders. ‘Maybe tomorrow.’
‘No, now,’ she insisted, and clapped her hands together, which somehow tore the duvet from me, ignited it mid-air, and turned it to ash before it hit the carpet.
‘How did you…? I mean, magic, I get that. Stupid question.’
‘That was nothing,’ replied Eva, lighting up a fresh ciggie, ‘but it’s still more than your sorry, good for nothing arse is capable of right now.’
‘Well excuse me, but my mind is still pretty much a blank about all this magicky, warlocky stuff.’
‘Exactly, and there are people out there who are going to need our help. It’s the whole reason I came back here. We’ve been out of business for too long and this whole area has gone to ruin. It’s time you learned a few basics.’
‘Tomorrow,’ I said, curling up on the couch, hugging my knees to my chest.
Another beer can, this time not quite so empty, bounced off my head.
‘Fine!’ I cried.
I stood, turned off the TV, and followed Eva to the door.
‘You know that was my only duvet. I’m going to be freezing tonight.’
So, what happens next? And just who is Joseph Lake? Click the link to find out!