We're just one week away from the release of my all new novel! Let's get ready with a final excerpt.
Minor spoiler for new characters, and warnings for violence and language.
“Closing in on the compound,” Agent Shannon said as quietly as possible. It wasn’t easy. He could hear the low growling hiss slithering out of the throat of the dragon standing several feet away, hidden in the brush. She hadn’t taken her yellow eyes off him since he’d appeared. He felt her glare like razor wire raking down his skin. Calloway stood to her left, one gloved hand on the dragon’s neck, the other holding a pair of binoculars.
The building had once been a Home Depot, if the lingering orange paint on the roof was any indication. The empty parking lot had grass poking out between the cracks in the concrete and an overturned cart that had been turned into a nest, perhaps for rodents of some kind. It was in a bad part of town on a long stretch of road in the backwoods, hence why the retail store hadn’t survived in the long run. It sat on a couple acres of land as well, so it had no immediate neighbors and no houses across from it that would notice anything.
The only thing out of the ordinary was the semi-tractor-trailer parked at the loading dock behind the building.
“Four men,” Calloway said.
“They armed?” Agent Shannon asked as he opened his equipment bag.
“Looks like handguns mostly.”
“Right. Tether the dragon, will ya? Don’t want her breathing down my neck while we get ready.”
“Give her a break already,” Jack said over the comm-link. “If she hasn’t spat venom into your eyeballs by now, you’re safe.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d take a picture and get it blown up to a 24 x 36 print, then frame it on my wall.”
“Guys,” Calloway said as he set the binoculars aside. “Cool it. I know we’re all a bit tense about catching these clowns, but we need to keep focused. Where are we at with SWAT?”
Shannon checked his phone. “ETA twenty minutes. They were running short on staff this morning. We’ll maintain surveillance until they arrive—”
Before he could finish that sentence, the tractor-trailer rattled as a roar bellowed from inside it.
Two of the men came running down the ramp, shouting something at the ones standing at the top of the loading dock. Seconds later, a Highlander dragon came barreling out of the truck bed at full speed. One man had already begun sprinting across the empty parking lot; the other hastily climbed onto the loading dock and screamed for them to close themselves inside the garage. Unfortunately, the other two men got there first and locked the door on him. The dragon flapped its wings and landed on the loading dock. Its long, spiny tail lashed behind it as it crept towards the man, who drew a .9 mm Beretta and took aim at the dragon.
He fired. Both shots ricocheted. One hit the wall. The other hit his right thigh.
“Shit!” Calloway hissed, grabbing his helmet. “Shannon, we gotta go!”
“Goddammit,” Shannon complained. “I’ll get the net launcher ready. You go.”
“What’s going on?” Kamala demanded.
“Highlander dragon’s loose,” Calloway said as he raced down the grassy hill towards the loading dock. “The crew bailed. He’s got a guy pinned. I’m gonna intercept.”
The man tried to crawl away from the dragon, his injured leg trailing blood in a long smear on the concrete. The dragon clamped its jaws down on his ankle and dragged him back. The man shrieked and kicked at it with his other leg in vain.
“Highlander dragons react to loud noises,” Kamala said. “See if you can distract it.”
“Hey, Lake Placid, over here!” Calloway shouted.
The dragon dropped the man’s ankle and snapped its head in Calloway’s direction. The man tried to wriggle out of range, but the dragon hissed and he curled into the fetal position to make himself a smaller target.
“What else ya got?” Calloway asked.
“Eyes,” Jack said. “Got anything that can blind it?”
“Yeah, a flashbang.” Calloway addressed the man. “Cover your eyes!”
He pulled the pin and flung it towards the dragon. The flash grenade bounced once, twice, and then ignited. The entire parking lot flashed with blinding white light for an instant.
The dragon roared in pain and backed away from Calloway, its head whipping to and fro in panic. Its deadly tail slashed at the air around it in erratic swipes, trying to hit something, anything, now that its vision had gone out.
“Calloway!” Agent Shannon barked as he approached with the net launcher in his hands. It was about the size of an automatic rifle with a wide, open barrel. He planted his feet and aimed as his partner moved over to one side.
Just before he could pull the trigger, the door to the abandoned building flung open and the dragon smugglers opened fire.
Agent Shannon cursed and raced for the other corner of the building for cover. Calloway followed him and narrowly escaped the men’s gunfire.
“This is going great so far,” Calloway said, flattening himself against the brick as the shots continued tearing holes in the wall.
Agent Shannon handed him the net launcher and drew his gun, waiting for a pause in the gunfire. “I’ll try and take them out. If I can’t manage it, I’ll see if I can lead them away from the dragon.”
“Any chance you guys can request a chopper?” Jack asked.
“Wouldn’t do us much good. There isn’t one close enough to make a difference. We’re on our own for now.”
“I’ve contacted the incoming SWAT team,” Libby said. “They’re hauling ass now, but they’re still ten minutes out even with their sirens going to cut through traffic. Be careful.”
“No worries, little bit,” Calloway said. “We got this. If we can manage to trap it, how the hell am I going to sedate it with scales that thick?”
“Underneath the jaw is a soft spot,” Kamala said. “Inject it there.”
“Gotcha.” He glanced at Agent Shannon as they heard the telltale clicks of the smugglers’ guns going empty. “Ready?”
Shannon nodded. “Follow my lead.”
He gauntleted the Beretta in his fist and whipped around the corner, firing twice. One of the men cried out and hit the ground with a shot to the leg and another in the shoulder. The other one took cover behind the tractor-trailer. The first injured man had managed to wedge himself in a corner away from the snarling, blinded dragon.
“Listen up,” Shannon said as he pressed up against the other side of the tractor-trailer. “I’m a federal agent. Lower your weapon and come out from around the truck with your hands up. I am authorized to use lethal force if you do not cooperate. If you fire on me or my partner, you will be shot.”
“Federal agent, huh?” the remaining smuggler said, his voice heavy with a New York accent. “Killing you oughta make my rep forever, then.”
“You sure you wanna go down this road, son?”
The tires behind Shannon’s legs abruptly punctured and deflated as the man ducked and tried to sneak a shot. Shannon knelt and held still as the truck groaned under the weight of the trailer as it shifted to one side. The smuggler closed in on him, all but emptying the clip in hopes of hitting him through the tire. A bullet grazed Shannon’s shoulder, but he didn’t budge.
Just as the smuggler got close enough for a point blank shot, Agent Shannon grabbed the man’s wrist and jerked his arms up. He fired a single shot into the man’s temple. Blood splattered against the side of the tractor-trailer and the man crumpled to the concrete.
Agent Shannon kicked the gun away from his twitching fingers just to be safe. “Clear.”
Calloway rounded the corner with the net launcher as Shannon went to subdue the other smuggler with the two gunshot wounds. The dragon still couldn’t see, but he could tell it knew where he was, based on scent and sound. It charged him each time he tried to get a clean shot, snapping its jaws or flicking its tail in his direction, missing him by a few inches. Calloway finally got just far enough away to fire, but then the dragon spread its wings and vaulted into the air.
“Son of a bitch,” Calloway whispered. “This just went from bad to worse.”
Of Dawn and Embers hits digital bookshelves on July 20, 2019, and for a special price of only .99 cents! Pre-order now, as the price will go up to $4.99 from July 21st onward. Don't forget to attend the launch party for a chance to win a free paperback copy!
Kyoko M is the Amazon bestselling author of The Black Parade series.