Inn Between Worlds is out now!
In my story, Chaos Candy, reality jumping bounty hunter Zee is hired to find a missing fugitive, and stumbles into a conspiracy far worse than anything she could’ve imagined.
Sitting outside of time and space is the Inn Between Worlds. Residents might say it’s a place for travelers, or a place to rest, a place to find excitement. Or they might say it’s dangerous and to be avoided at all costs because Reality Does Not Work Right inside its infinite walls.
Contained in these pages are three stories that all share one important point: Their events would not have been possible without The Inn.
“Gideon Wallace and the Sapphire Woman” is the first story in a new series by Thomas A Farmer, and shows what happens when a mortal man finds himself drawn into a fight between gods.
In “Chaos Candy,” by Amie Gibbons, supernatural bounty hunter Zee tries to uncover a dark secret and learns much more than she ever wanted to know.
Finally, Michael David Anderson’s “Flux” continues the adventures of Teddy Dormer, taking him once again to strange new places and showing him new nightmares.
Here’s an excerpt from my story, Chaos Candy:
Lindsey Pratt had always been a bitch. Now she was just a bitch with a badge.
Zee crossed her arms, slouching in her chair and sizing the bitch up over her desk.
They’d met on their first day of Parata University. Zee had barely joined with her order a month before classes started, and Lindsey’s had been together for about six months and had had a chance to learn the basics of magic.
And Lindsey thought that made them so superior.
Witches joined into orders of five elements after they turned eighteen: fire, water, air, earth, and multi. Their powers couldn’t come on until they were eighteen due to the spell the Parata government put over the world, and even then, they didn’t come on until five witches were drawn together and formed a bonded order. Zee’s didn’t form until she was nearly twenty-one, making her one of the older beginners.
Lindsey had showed Zee up in Potions, Zee broke her pointy little nose in martial arts, and after that, it was on.
Lindsey won their ongoing bitchfest when she dated Zee’s order’s water Brad, and then broke his heart.
Three years after his death, Zee still hated her for that.
Fire witches held grudges like that.
And now Lindsey wanted her help?
Oh, this was rich.
Zee’s office was a converted living room. The thick white carpet set off the squishy gold and black chairs. Little froufrou, but she didn’t decorate it. Then again, she wasn’t about to change it either.
You didn’t change things your dead best friend decorated.
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Zee said. “You want to hire me? And it’s not through the Agency?”
Lindsey flushed and worked her jaw for a second before she forced it into an obviously painful smile. “Yes.”
If she was swallowing eight years of rivalry, it had to be good. It couldn’t hurt to find out what was going on.
“What’s the job?” Zee asked.
“My order’s fire’s missing. I need you to find him.”
That was it?
Zee knew Jarred. He was a playboy. He was probably in the Trenster reality, hanging on the beach and downing mojitos while he hit on everything in a bikini.
“Was he arrested and ran?” Zee asked.
Lindsey’s left eye twitched and she shook her head, making her blond curls dance around her chin.
Zee smiled. “Then why are you coming to me?”
She scowled, meeting Zee’s eyes with fire. “Fuck, you’re going to make this difficult, aren’t you?”
“Why don’t you start with explaining why you don’t just use the Agency’s resources to find him yourself? You’re an agent. Missing persons are part of your job. I’m a bounty hunter. They’re only my job if they’re running from you guys.”
Lindsey leaned forward, resting clenched hands on Zee’s desk. “Exactly.”
Zee blinked, pursing her lips. Jarred was actually on the run? She couldn’t imagine Jarred being in trouble with the Agency for anything serious.
Maybe with the human police in the main reality for speeding tickets… or picking up a prostitute. But something Parata authorities would care about?
“Really?” Zee asked.
“There’s a warrant out for his arrest. The Agency has people looking for him. I need to find him first and prove he’s innocent.”
Hairy black holes, this was getting good. “What’s the charge?”
Big whoop. With the Agency’s regulations, who didn’t smuggle?
That made Zee’s eyebrows shoot up. Drug smuggling?
Lindsey licked her lips, taking off a layer of shimmery gloss. “And conspiracy to commit murder.”
“And now we get to it. So that would be charges?”
Lindsey’s hands went limp like they’d been shot. “Please don’t be a bitch, Zee. This is hard enough. You want me to beg, I will. You want three, five times your going rate, it’s yours.” Her voice cracked and her big baby blues sparkled.
Damn. Tears. Zee didn’t do tears.
“Consider me de-bitched. Just tell me what happened.”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know. Last night, Secretary Jolnavich came to my place, asking where Jarred was. He said there’s evidence Jarred’s involved with the Chaos Kings, and when he went to bring him in for questioning, Jarred wasn’t there.”
“Wait.” Zee held up a finger. “Chaos Kings? As in the only gang of witches powerful and smart enough to evade the Agency and smuggle Chaos Candy into the main reality?”
“As in the punk asses who spread that drug around humans, witches, and vampires alike. As in the bastards who’ve paid off and memory wiped more agents than they’ve killed, which is saying something. As in the gang so bad they make the Crips and Bloods look like fucking rabbis. Those Chaos Kings?”
“I know it looks bad.”
“No. Mullets look bad. This looks messy. The Agency is desperate to stop the Kings. Any lead turns them into the Gestapo and KGB rolled into one… more so than they already are. What do they have on Jarred?”
“They wouldn’t tell me. My order and I aren’t allowed within a mile of this case. I’ve talked to everyone I know. If any of them are on the case or know anything, they aren’t talking. Agents could’ve found Chaos Candy at his place, money somehow traced back to some other lead they have, or just saw him talking to a suspected member of the Kings. I haven’t heard from Jarred since Friday in the main reality, and there was nothing out of the ordinary then.”
It was Saturday. Parata ran parallel to the main reality. Witches lived out their lives in the human world, then went into the pocket reality of Parata to repeat the week and work on magical studies and exploring alternate realities.
“So Jarred’s been missing for a day and didn’t make it into Parata for the week? He could’ve been sleeping off a bender and missed the opening for the week.”
“Does that mean you won’t help me?”
Zee held up a finger. “I never said that. How do you know Jarred’s innocent?”
“Because I know him. He might do recreational human drugs here and there, but he’d never help get that kind of poison into the world, especially not when humans could get it. Zee, you know he’s a playboy, sure, but he’s not a bad person. Chaos Candy kills its users. It shouldn’t even be considered a drug. It’s poison that makes you high first, that’s all.”
How did Zee know she was going to say something like that?
A warm weight settled against Zee’s leg and she scratched the big head without looking down. Sasha whined and licked her hand, tail thumping against the side of the desk.
Lindsey wrinkled her nose at the giant Husky and Zee smirked.
“Cracking into the Kings would be a serious coup. The Agency would be falling over themselves to thank me.”
If Zee got any info regarding the Kings, the Agency might even let her run the bounty hunter course she’d proposed last year. The arrogant, controlling bastards said it wasn’t necessary. Anyone wanting to learn those skills could learn them from the Agency and become an agent. They had no qualms about hiring her when they needed help tracking down a criminal though.
“So you’ll do it?” Lindsey sounded way too hopeful.
Her smile was brilliant, absolute gratitude. Oh God, she was grateful to her nemesis since she’d agreed to help her friend.
I might have to like her after this.
Zee was a sucker for loyalty.