Echoes of Balance – Exclusive Content!
REUTS is kicking off the Echoes of Balance blog tour on an exciting day for both us, and our talented author, Cally Ryanne. On this day, December 17, 2013, we debut our first title! Not even a year ago, REUTS Publications signed Cally and her fascinating tale (then dubbed All of the Demons), and we’re ready to introduce the world to the Naimei, a new paranormal race Young Adult fiction has never seen before. So, to start off the tour, we’d like to share the FULL cover art for Echoes (as we’ve been calling it around the office. And by “around the office” I’m obviously referring to the section of our inbox title “REUTS office” since, as you know, we’re all online-based), as well as Echoes of Josef, Part Two.
You can purchase Echoes of Balance on the REUTS website, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in both paperback and electronic format.
Please note: Purchasing directly off of our website supports both REUTS and Cally the most, however there are many online outlets you can use to purchase Echoes of Balance.
Echoes of Josef: Part Two
Josef LeRoy had only been to the town of Molton once. As a general rule, he avoided small towns; there was an uncomfortable silence that tended to settle over them, the sort that allowed one to think, and that was just unacceptable.
As far as small towns went, Molton was not particularly tiny. Some might have even gone to the lengths of calling it a ‘city,’ but it still remained far from the status of ‘metropolis.’ At that size, there was a decent smattering of supernaturals intermixed with the unsuspecting humans. He caught their scent occasionally as he made his way through the miserable excuse for a downtown on one of Gavin’s motorbikes. Running, of course, would have been faster – it was always the fastest way for a vampire to travel – but Josef did not feel like operating in the complete secrecy required for using those powers. At least not yet.
The office buildings, the cafes, the small shops and countless bars, none of them interested Josef. For the most part, those things were the same everywhere. Even the one place that he had his mind set on going to had several locations nationwide, making it far from special. Though of the establishments in Molton, it was probably the most surprising to find in this particular town.
It was late afternoon when he eased the bike to a stop in front of a large brick building. Despite what human culture believed, vampires were not exclusively nocturnal creatures, though they did fare much better at night than during the day. The light could be bothersome, and it was definitely counterintuitive to their natural cycle, but it was far from deadly.
He squinted up at the signs above the three businesses that shared this building. One, a sushi restaurant, another, a steak joint, and between the two: DUCANTE’S. That was all it said.
The outside of the bar was bland and sleepy. This middle section of building housed no windows – just the heavy wooden doors with their tiny rectangular panes of frosted glass. The unassuming exterior made the inside even more lavish: dark wood floors and shining tables, a swooping bar that gleamed in the low light. A chandelier, a trademark of this particular chain, shone overhead.
“I’m telling you, the fucking delivery driver was a total goddamn dick. He came in like he – oh.” A short girl with a ruffled pixie cut, the one who had been moving boxes to and from a small storeroom, stopped short as Josef made his entrance. The bar was empty except for himself, the girl, and another man who stood over the bar, his gaze darting over a packing slip.
Before the door had even clicked shut, the man at the bar stiffened. “Maya. Out.”
“But – “
The girl’s eyes flickered from her boss to Josef at the door, and then back to her boss. She seemed on the verge of speaking again, but simply bit her tongue, turned on heel, and left through what Josef assumed was a back door.
The man who remained turned slowly, leisurely, even, to face the new presence in what was presumably his bar. He looked every bit the part of a businessman: his face was young, but his salt-and-peppered hair gave him an air of dignity that came with age. His frame, a slender, medium tall build, was wrapped in a well tailored suit that subtly screamed that it cost more than the entire crystal chandelier hanging above them.
There was a long moment of silence as the man across from him scanned Josef with his deep, chocolate brown eyes.
“Well, well, look who has reduced himself to small-town life.” The man said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I would ask what brings you here, but I think we both already know that.”
“Ducante,” Josef said evenly, striding to the bar and taking a seat at one of the high, polished stools. “I was under the impression that we were over this.”
“Are you still under his employ?”
“You know that. I haven’t done any work for him in years.”
“And yet, here you are,” Ducante said crisply, extending his hands in an open gesture. His body seemed to relax, just a fraction as he moved to take a place behind the bar. It seemed like a very natural spot for him to occupy.
Josef leaned on the bar, thumbing the shining metal that rimmed it. “I don’t recall mentioning anything about Gavin.”
Ducante scooped up a glass and began absently polishing it. “And so why are you here?”
The vampire seated across from him gnawed the corner of his lip, before begrudgingly saying, “Looking for someone.”
“And who would that someone be?”
“Do you think I could get a drink before you start the interrogation?”
The bartender spread his hands before him, teetering the cup between his ring finger and thumb, the bar rag draped lazily over his wrist. “I wasn’t aware a simple question was an interrogation, unless you had something particular to hide.”
“A drink would be nice, Ducante,” Josef said steadily.
Ducante arched one eyebrow, indicating that Josef’s behavior was curious. Out of the ordinary. Cause for concern, even. But then he shrugged, and bent to snatch a bottle from beneath the bar top. “But you are looking for a person, correct?”
Josef’s dark-dark eyes stared through the bottle, watching as its contents sloshed back and forth. “Something like that.”
“So who is the unlucky soul this time? Do they have a name?”
The bartender set the bottle down, waiting patiently as if he knew the sentence was not finished.
True to expectations, Josef sucked in a sharp ever-unnecessary breath before adding: “A Naimei.”
Ducante’s grip tightened, just ever so slightly, on the bottle. He lifted it and sniffed the contents lightly before he began pouring a measured amount into the brightly polished cup.”What would Gavin want with a Naimei? They’re far too rigid to want to help him, and far too powerful for him to easily take down.”
Josef ground his teeth. For a moment it seemed as if he would not respond, and then his lips parted and out spilled the most melodramatic telling of the truth he had ever attempted. “He thinks the Naimei in this town will be an issue when he resurrects Pan and Damonos.”
The sparkling cup and the red liquid that had been tipped into it shattered. The bartender’s hand simply squeezed through it; shards of glass littered the ground and stuck out from his skin, where darker-than-normal blood was oozing from the cuts, mingling with the ruby red from the drink.
“I know,” Josef said blandly, completely unfazed by either the reaction or the fact that there was a man with several chunks of glass in his hand.
Ducante swore under his breath. “You’re sure?”
“That’s what he said.”
“It’s impossible. He has no means, no way…”
“He doesn’t. But she does.” Josef sighed, shaking his head. “Or at least, she claims to. New connections, or some garbage.”
Ducante began slowly plucking the glass from his hand, flexing his fingers as each cut slowly shut. “And what does he want you to do with this Naimei?”
“Stop it from stopping him, of course.”
Ducante’s gaze darted up to meet Josef’s. “And you’re going to do it?”
“What other choice do I have, Ducante? He’s my creator.”
“He’s your employer,” spat the bartender. “Don’t pretend he is something more.”
Josef forced out a laugh. “And you think you don’t demand obedience from your employees? You think that little girl who scampered out of here isn’t loyal?”
“Maya would not murder, even if I asked her to.”
The corner of Josef’s lips twitched. “I remember her,” he said, bobbing his head in the direction the girl had fled, “and I’m not sure if that’s true.”
Ducante growled, and Josef held up his hands defensively.
“Whoa, easy, now,” he said. And then, some of his momentary charisma slipping away, he added, “I came to warn you. As a professional courtesy.”
The bartender leaned back, crossing his arms as he studied the man before him. “I’m not sure that’s true.”
“You told me because you don’t want to do it,” Ducante said slowly. “I know enough of Gavin to know he does not appreciate his dogs sharing his secrets.”
“So what do you want me to tell you?” He asked, raising his blood stained hand. “That I can make it all go away? That you don’t have to be the piece of the puzzle that stopped the destruction of the world as we know it?”
“Because if they return, no one can guarantee that.”
Josef thumped his fist down on the polished dark wood of the bar. “Then what can you do?!”
Ducante smiled. “For starters,” he began, “ I can tell you where to find the Naimei.”
His dark eyes widened. “So you want me to do it. You want me to kill the Naimei and let the demons return.”
The bartender waggled a finger at him, making a tsking noise. “Josef, Josef. You know what they say about what happens when we assume.” When his patron didn’t respond, he continued, “You are only half correct, my dear. Find the Naimei, kill the Naimei.”
“And in what world does that not guarantee – “
Ducante held up one hand and Josef abruptly stopped speaking, as if by magic. “Kill the Naimei,” he repeated, “but leave a trail. You work for Gavin, do you not? Plant his calling card. Make it appear that he was responsible. When the rest of the Balancers find out – and they will find out – they will seek him in revenge, if their bloody ways haven’t already pointed them in that direction by then.”
Josef frowned. “You’re asking me to make a martyr.”
“What a harsh word,” he replied, rummaging about the bar for a fresh glass and a dark, unlabeled bottle. “I’m simply offering you a solution that both prevents a tragedy and guarantees your freedom. That’s what you want, is it not?”
“There’s no other way?”
“My dear,” Ducante said with a grin, “There are always other ways. This one is simply the most… cost effective,” he winked. “You can always find me if you’re willing to pay a higher price.”
The forest wasn’t very old, which made it tough going if one was trying to stay silent; the trees were young, and it allowed a great amount of foliage to sprout on the ground between them. Josef didn’t particularly mind. It took effort to conceal his presence. Despite being supernatural, vampires were not particularly magical. Masking vampire blood was a skill that Gavin claimed to have invented, and whether or not that was true, Josef had learned everything he had from Gavin. The trick took effort, but it was possible.
The Naimei ahead of him might have been implementing something similar. It felt
strong enough, but nothing like what he might have imagined from such a rare being. At any rate, the hunter was not moving quickly, and with good reason. There were very few creatures of interest in the area, once Josef was off the map. He thought briefly of exposing himself, just for a moment, to entice the Naimei into giving chase.
But then he caught a scent. Blood, and something more interesting. A new vampire, strong and wild. It was rare to catch that scent on its own; new vampires needed constant supervision lest they slip up and say, murder a whole town.
Gavin never believed in supervision, he thought bitterly.
He increased his pace as much as he dared, closing the gap between himself and his query. The Naimei had just slipped into a clearing and he dared not follow; not yet, at least. He gripped a branch of a nearby tree and quickly hoisted himself into its limbs quick as a flash. Josef sucked in an involuntary breath – pointless, as he had not required breathing in decades – and dug his fingers into the bark, his eyes fixed on the person in the clearing. He prayed he had been quiet enough to go unnoticed but then –
She turned her head. She. Her. Not to him, no, but glancing around the clearing – she knew that something was amiss.
Her hair was dark and fell heavy around her tanned shoulders. She was dressed simply, jeans and a dark shirt that made her blend into the night. It was clear, even from here, that she was petite. But strong; lean muscles coiled as she slunk into a more ready position, her gaze darting around the treeline.
And then the new vampire crashed through the trees.
The Naimei girl was done with her in an instant. She moved fast, impressively fast, but she used very little extra power beyond that. It wasn’t necessary, Josef supposed, when her target was so easy. He couldn’t begrudge her wanting to get a newborn out of the way; he was not particularly fond of new vampires, either. He wondered if she – if all Naimei – disposed of all of their problems in such an easy, calculated manner. Slash, step, stab. Clean up. Leave.
She was examining something on her knife – a stubborn speck of blood, perhaps – when the second vampire came through the underbrush.
“You… you killed her…!”
Ah. There is the supervisor. Josef settled back into the tree, waiting to see the encore. This would be an actual fight; he could learn from this. Or, in an even better scenario, the newcomer could gravely injure the Naimei. Kill her, maybe. Make his job easy, and then he could be free of Gavin, he could go and do… well. Whatever he wanted, whatever that meant.
The vampire was winding down in his tyrid. He had turned the newborn because she was about to die, or something. He had loved her, or something. It was all very trite and cliche; Josef had never particularly found another vampire worth loving, perhaps because he had learned everything there was to know from Gavin.
In act two, the Naimei seemed to be more dodging than attacking. She rolled aside. She dodged to the left. She aimed a well placed kick to take down her opponent, but in the last moment changed to a defensive move as she slid to the ground.
Curious, Josef thought. Whatever he had thought about easy and calculated was quickly melting away.
And then, there, an opening. She drew her knife back, poised, and for a moment the clouds shifted and her face was flooded with moonlight. Josef took in her expression: hard, determined, with icey blue eyes and flushed lips pressed thin.
“She was going to die anyway,” the other vampire choked. “It was the only way… Why -”
And then her expression shifted.
He watched as her eyes widened. The blue softened. A heat flooded to her cheeks and then her opening was gone as the older vampire snapped back from regret to anger, seizing the Naimei’s arm and squeezing it until there was a sickening crunch. He flung her into a tree, bam. She hit hard enough to split bark. He still had her arm – she slashed out once and the silver of her knife made contact. It was enough for her enemy to drop her free, and while Josef half expected her to retaliate, she just looked up with a pain that was only partially her own.
And then, quick as a flash, she vanished, her form pulling in on itself and disappearing into nothing.
The vampire on the ground let out a wail as he moved to the body of the fallen girl.
Josef stayed where he was, up in the tree. It was not particularly comfortable, nor was it the best place for meditation, what with the other vampire still wailing on the ground. But he found that he was unable to move. The eyes of the Naimei girl – those deep blue eyes – were burned into his mind. So were her lips, which he was sure had mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry.’ before she vanished.
Both made him feel deeply uncomfortable.
“Damnit, Ducante,” he swore quietly.
Following the girl was starting to get dangerous. He hadn’t been back to Ducante’s bar since the event in the clearing; he wasn’t ready to give Ducante word on anything, mostly because he didn’t know what his words were.
Kill the Naimei, gain his freedom.
Spare the Naimei, and then…
And then. And then and then and then.
It was getting to the point where he was unable to help himself as he followed her. He wanted to know more; there was something about her that he just couldn’t let go of. She felt… she felt like a pure person, and that was something he had not felt in sometime. There was a week after her incident when he could not find her; and the next time he did it was not in the forest.
She lingered in a park that he soon learned was near her home. Her hunting was no longer driven; she spent late afternoons pondering the small shops around her new haunt. She spent more time than most would in a dusty human bookstore and emerged with a battered copy of Oliver Twist, if he read correctly from the hidden spot where he had been watching. She held doors open for old humans, and once he saw her smile at a child in a stroller.
When she sat, she plucked at the bandages on her arm and when his angle was right, her gaze looked distant. Confused, and something else – sad, maybe.
He began getting closer. He wasn’t sure his endgame: part of his being demanded that he kill her. And then you’re free.
And if he didn’t…
He started watching her for longer than was necessary. He was sure that she had spotted him once or twice in the last few weeks. Certainly, she had moved further from the pensieve she had been right after her injury. Now she seemed more determined. She walked in the woods several more times – though if she was hunting, she did a bad job, as she purposefully avoided the presence of vampires on more than one occasion.
She was looking for something.
Looking for me.
The night before, another Naimei had joined her in the woods. The addition of another one shook Josef; this one wore his powers about him like a banner, and he was strong. The scent of the magic stung Josef’s nose and bothered his senses. He lingered for just a moment – just long enough to hear words like Pan and Damonos before he took himself elsewhere, away from her for the first time in nights.
So, it was starting. The Naimei were figuring it out. Killing her before would have been convenient, but now it would become necessity, if he were to satisfy Gavin. Rather, if he were to satisfy Ducante’s conditions.
And then I’d be free.
He cursed and wheeled himself around towards the park. He could have been more purposeful about tracking her, but by now, he knew her. She would be in the park tonight, without a doubt. And as he slunk from tree to tree, sure enough, there she was, twisting through the paths in a would-be casual way. Josef dipped around a lamp post, staying just slightly out of sight. She was looking for him, again, though she didn’t know it was him. Or that it was anyone; she was starting to get paranoid. He could see it in her far-off gaze, the one that wasn’t focused on the path in front of her, but on her periphery. She glanced behind her every few steps, and every few steps he froze, blending backwards into the shadows.
Her motions were becoming more erratic as she tried to catch the person following her – Me, he thought – and the effort to both track her and stay back was making him sloppy. He had just misstepped – right when he should have gone left – and given her a full view of his jacketed shoulder when it happened. He was sure she would be on him in an instant, but then she wasn’t.
She wasn’t, because there was another vampire in front of her, now. A new comer, young with the sharp fresh scent to prove it. He was the first vampire he had watched the Naimei encounter since the night in the forest.
Run, he thought. Run now, get away, run, run, run, and then…
But curiosity glued him to the spot. His energies were focused on numbing his presence – he didn’t need her piqued senses picking up on the fact that there were two vampires in this park – and his gaze was focused on them. They were talking. There was tension, and then… chatter.
But then, that sharp magic smell was back. Another Naimei – he had appeared in a blind spot behind the two, and now he was pulling her away and the young vampire was running, perhaps tipped off by the word ‘hunter’ that had been dropped not-so-casually into the conversation.
And then they were gone, pulled in on themselves away into nothingness. All that was left in their spot was a glint of silver; as Josef approached, his jaw set firmly, he saw that it was a slim silver knife. A hunter’s knife; the hunter’s knife, the same one she had used on that last hunt.
He flipped it up by the hilt, examining the dangerous silver blade and the stoic engravings that wrapped it.
Perhaps he would need to pay another visit to Ducante, after all.
We wonder where Part Three is going to show up 😉
Make sure you join us from now, through January 17th as we make multiple stops around the interwebs of reviews, exclusive content, giveaways, interviews and more. Check out our schedule:
12/17/2013 – REUTS Official Blog (hey, that’s us!)
12/20/2013 – Nightwolf’s Corner
12/24/2013 – Mission To Read
12/31/2013 – Veronica Park’s Blog
1/3/2013 – Much Ado About Books
1/5/2013 – Book Swoon
1/7/2013 – Art Over Chaos
1/9/2013 – Diane’s Book Blog
1/13/2013 – Fault in our Words
1/17/2013 – Ducante Originals (Cally Ryanne’s wrapping us all up!)
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