Nine of Stars
A Wildlands Novel
On Sale Date: December 27, 2016
Following on the heels of her critically acclaimed prequel novels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde comes the first installment in Laura Bickle’s dark contemporary fantasy series, Nine of Stars, a Wildlands Novel
Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…
As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors—especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.
The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill—a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.
It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all—before the trail turns deathly cold.
He’d run as far as he could, into the summer grass that came up almost to his chest. He fantasized for a brief moment about what it would be like to hide in this grass, to build a fort and live among the cows and the ravens that always seemed to mass over the land in swarms, like flies.
He crouched in the grass, making a nest. No one could see him here. He could be out here forever, and no one would ever find him. This world of sunshine and grass and sky would be far preferable to dealing with Sal’s petulant wrath and the anger of his aunt and uncle, who treated Sal like he was the heir to the universe, a young King Arthur wielding a Popsicle stick.
Maybe he was. Owen remembered peering through the grass walls of his hideout into the valley below, at all the vast land and green and gold. He felt a pang of jealousy, but then he saw it.
A man walked along a beaten-down path in the grass along a barbed-wire fence. He looked odd—like he had no arms. The sleeves of his plaid shirt hung at his sides like wet laundry, and he trudged along, looking up at the sky. Ravens swarmed overhead in a seething mass, cawing.
And then Owen saw them dive toward the man.
Owen gasped and clapped his hand over his mouth. The ravens were about to attack that poor crippled man, were going to tear him apart. He crawled forward out of his nest, terrified but compelled to watch.
The ravens slammed into the man, a dozen of them, one after the other, whacking into his body from the front and back. The man stumbled in the flurry of feathers, turning like a scarecrow in a storm as they assaulted him. But that was the funny thing—they didn’t bounce off with chunks of meat in their beaks. They just . . . disappeared.
The man staggered upright, surrounded by a miasma of dust and a few feathers. With a start, Owen realized that his arms had grown back. They’d grown right down past his sleeves, with pale hands that opened and closed.
As if he heard him, the man in the field turned toward Owen with a black and distant gaze.
Owen scuttled backward in the grass, clawing through the stems, and scrambled to his feet. Keeping his head down, he ran as fast as he could back toward the house. His aunt and uncle’s punishment were nothing compared to . . . to that. Whatever that was.
Tour Giveaway: Signed print copy open to US Shipping
Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology-Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.