When I was asked to write a Gatekeeper book the first thing that came to mind was a dragon protecting a gate within a volcano.
The gates are located on Earth so the question I had to answer was where? When I think of volcanoes I think Hawaii. It’s the most popular one that is talked about by my friends and family. But as I researched I discovered a plethora of volcanoes in Japan. It’s the mega mart of volcanic activity.
There are over 100 active volcanoes in this country. It sit on the rim of Pacific Ring of Fire.
What a better place for a dragon to live. Especially a stone dragon that controls lava flows with his innate talent.
Type: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Never make a deal with a dragon.
Sandra’s sister is dying. All the doctors agree that nothing more can be done, but she can’t give up hope. After using all her resources searching for a cure, a little bird whispers in Sandra’s ear about secret worlds, Gates, and the Keepers who protect them. A dragon Gatekeeper, who hoards magical treasure within his volcano home in Japan, can possibly hold an item to cure her sister.
Gates choose their Keepers and Koishi thinks his did an excellent job in picking him. Not many dare to cross and none who try survive. However, one tiny human female with either the courage of an army or the intelligence of a gnat has arrived on the island asking for him. Curious and not wanting to disappoint, he waits for the locals to steer her to his human ‘servant’, which is him in his man form.
Let the games begin…
Koishi yawned so wide his jaw cracked. If he didn’t kill something soon, he’d–he’d have to find a hobby. A shudder ran down his human form’s spine. At least the winds were growing stronger so there would be good flying tonight.
Takai Crossing, the gate to Outremer in the east, had been quiet the last two months. Too quiet. Nothing had tried to escape into Inverness, otherwise known as Earth.
Outremer was the realm of magic. All manners of creatures lived there, including his kind. It was a dark and dangerous world. The gates, where both worlds touched, allowed people to cross. Keepers, such as he was, protected the worlds from spilling too much into each other.
The two worlds around his gate were safe for the moment.
The rough seas splashed warm water onto his bare feet and washed away the dirt from the dock. Dark storm clouds brewed over the horizon, racing toward Izu Oshima Island. Bands of orange and red slashed across them as the sun set.
He couldn’t wait until it arrived. Flying against the elements, muscle and sinew versus lightning and rain, would provide some relief from this calm.
Sheep bleated as the cargo ship knocked against the dock wall.
“Moe,” he called out over the noise.
The animals scurried to the far end of their pen and silence fell over the small herd. Sometimes animals were smarter than humans. They could sense a predator in disguise.
“Koishi.” Captain Moe waved from across the ship’s deck. He helped a female to stand, hanging her head and arms over the side rail. “Vomit in the sea, not on my ship,” he told her before shuffling toward the stern.
Clinging to the pens, Koishi kept his balance and surveyed the stock. A few cattle, less than he’d like. Twentyish head of sheep, difficult to count when they squeezed together like that. From the barking–he grinned–a few dogs.
Moe gave him a quick bow, then gestured to the livestock. “This week’s order. Was Master Ishi pleased with last week’s?” His voice shook. Who could blame him? Koishi’s dragon form was fierce, which forced him to hide among them in his man-form, as his own servant. A genius idea.
“Yes, he especially enjoyed the little dogs you brought.” The small bundles had been tender and their hair very short so they didn’t tickle when swallowed. They went well with a movie.
“Yes, those. You should buy a few breeding pair and start producing them. He’ll buy whatever you bring.”
Moe grimaced, but nodded.
Why did humans frown upon him eating dogs? They were delicious. He’d even sent his crazed mother a basket of them as a present. He would have loved to see the expression on her stern face when those arrived. She never played with her food. Her warrior nature wouldn’t allow such nonsense.
The boat jerked from under his feet as a fierce wave knocked the ship once more. “Better unload my–uh–Master Ishi’s–cargo before the storm hits. He finished the last of his prey yesterday and is hungry.” His stomach grumbled and he rubbed it. Not long now.
A groan traveled from the half-conscious female hanging on the side-rails for dear life.
“Your woman looks ill.”
Moe snorted. “Not mine. The ferry won’t run in this weather and she refused to wait. She bought passage with me.” He chuckled. “She fed the fish the whole way across. Where such a tiny thing keeps all that stored is beyond me.”
The smell from that side of the ship soured the air. He shook his head. Tourists. Always in a rush, clogging the beaches and disturbing his home. No matter the rumors of his existence, a few had to be chased down the volcano’s side as a reminder that the area wasn’t safe to play around. He doubted any of them truly wanted to cross through the gate–it would be suicide–but he couldn’t allow concrete evidence of him to surface. Baker Morris, a human company that dealt with the gatekeepers, would have a fit.
The magic realm tolerated some humans, but not the section where his gate exited. Shadowburn was a place where nightmares were born, and Takai gate resided close to a goblin nest. Whatever mortal stepped through wouldn’t survive for long. No, his duty was to keep the vermin from crossing into Inverness, or like the humans called it, Earth.
His memory surpassed those of the short-lived locals, though they did tell their young the goblin stories. He had heard them repeated often in taverns and around campfires. In each one he was the hero. He’d driven back the goblin hordes when the last gatekeeper had been overwhelmed, and he would continue to do so until he fell.
What dragon wouldn’t want such a destiny?
He had easy food, battles at his doorstep, and an island full of people who worshipped the myth of him. The gate had chosen well when it bonded to him.
Moe followed him off the ship. “She barely speaks Japanese.”
“Thank you.” Sandra shifted the weight of the pack on her back and marched toward the street.
The stranger twisted as she passed him, his gaze weighing heavily on her. “It’s about a three hour walk to the nearest hotel. If you run, you might beat the storm.”
She spun around. “What?” she wanted to smack that stupid grin off his face. The trip across the strait had been harrowing enough. She wasn’t in any shape to hike in a storm. “Do you have cabs?”
“Yes.” He approached her. “During tourist season.”
“Then how do people move around the island? There have to be buses.” She peered at the storm clouds, which appeared closer than before. She hadn’t considered the consequences of rushing here. Time was running out and she’d jumped on the first flight out to Japan.
“They walk or bike. There are a few buses, but I don’t know their schedules.” His gaze lowered to the opening of her blouse. “Maybe we could come to some kind of arrangement.”
Gasping, she clutched the edges of her blouse shut. “I don’t think so.” She must look better than she felt or smelled. How could anyone be interested in her in this state?
He rolled his eyes. “I meant your necklace.”
“Oh.” The heat of her mortified blush almost blistered the skin off her cheeks. Of course, he wasn’t making a crude pass at her. He was only trying to swindle her. Nice.
He gave her a crooked smile as if he knew exactly what she’d been thinking. “The gold reflects the light very nicely.” Reaching for her jewelry, he bypassed her swatting hands until he held the small heart-shaped pendant in his palm.
She yanked it away. “It’s not up for trade. My mother gave it to me.” She’d died in her sleep a year earlier after a long, happy life. Out of all the things from her estate, Sandra had only wanted this necklace. Her father, who’d passed years ago, had given it to her mother when they’d first met.
“It has a nice weight to it and is well crafted.” His gaze lingered on her necklace for a second longer before meeting her stare. “I have a truck. I could drive you into town where you would have a pick of fine hotels.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“For the necklace.”
She growled like a rabid dog. Yes, it had been that kind of day. “I said no. Nain!”
“What?” She threw up her arms and abandoned all hope of help.
“That’s what you said. Nine what? Rides? I usually don’t play taxi for tourists, but…” His gaze grew heavy with darker promises. “For you, I’d offer a ride on me.”
She blinked. Did he understand what he’d just said? “I think we lost something in translation.” In both their cases. “I’ll manage on my own.” Stalking to the road, she ignored his laughter and pulled out her phrase book. Lost and tired, all she wanted was a room. Maybe she could stay in someone’s home for the night. But how did she ask? These sentences were more tailored for people who had already arrived at their destination. Where is the bathroom? Where is the phone? She didn’t see a Can I spend the night? written anywhere. Then again, that could translate improperly and she’d end up in a worse situation.
Reaching the road, she turned right and kept searching for some kind of help. Another American tourist, an embassy, or even a flipping McDonald’s would be welcome.
A pick-up truck slowed next to her and the window rolled down. “Maybe you have something else to trade?”
The stranger had followed her and she gave him a what-the-hell look.
“I’d hate for you to walk all that way after such a harrowing boat ride.” He winked at her.
“That’s very kind of you.” She stopped walking, forcing him to slam on the brakes to maintain their conversation. Could she trust this stranger who exhibited a touch of stalker tendency? Flashes of serial killer music sang through her thoughts. She glanced around at the
mostly empty road. What choice did she have? At least he spoke good English so when he murdered her she’d understand his evil monologue. “Maybe you could offer to drive me for free?”
He stared at her with mock surprise. “There’s such a thing?”
“Yes.” She dropped her pack to the ground, her shoulders already aching, and tried her best to not smile back at the jerk.
Leaning forward, he tilted his head to the side. “Why?”
She shook her head. “It must be a cultural thing.” Kneeling, she rummaged inside her bag and pulled out her wallet. She was on a tight budget. All her savings had gone to purchasing information. “How much?”
“Money?” He grimaced. “I don’t like paper. Don’t you carry anything valuable?”
“Most people would consider money valuable.” She mumbled under her breath as she shoved her wallet back into her pack. With a little more digging, she found her small carrying case and held out two silver earrings. “That’s all I’ve got. Take it or bug off.” She laid them on his outstretched hand.
He sniffed at the metal. “There’s not much silver in this.”
“How can you tell?” Her shout echoed over the water.
“I just can. Get in. I’ll give generosity a try.”
She climbed inside the old cab with peeling leather seats before he could change his mind. “It’s only charitable if you don’t keep the earrings.”
He dropped them in his breast pocket. “Believe me, this is charity.”
Annie Nicholas hibernates in the rural, green mountains of Vermont where she dreams of different worlds, heroes, and heroines. When spring arrives the stories pour from her, in hopes to share them with the masses one day.
Mother, daughter, wife are some of the hats she happily wears while trudging after her cubs through the hills and dales. The four seasons an inspiration and muse.
***GIVEAWAY – If you’d like to win an e-copy of Koishi, simply leave a comment here. Open internationally until Feb 10th @ 11:59pm EST. Winner announced shortly after. ***