Hey! James here. Since we’re only a week out from the release of book 5 of Bulletproof Witch: Shadows and Revelations, I thought I’d give a little taste of what waits inside. I’m really excited to share this volume with everyone, as it has several events that I’ve literally been waiting three years finally get down on paper. I hope you enjoy the preview, and I hope you’ll also enjoy reading the rest when volume 5 releases on July 26th!
That’s the problem with reputations, Temperance mused to herself as she watched the men gathered across the table. Despite all our best efforts, they still have a bad habit of escaping one’s ability to control.
Take her current predicament. For so long she had been concerned about the attention her family name might bring her—and its association with her grandfather, the famous Brimstone—that it never even occurred to her to give her alias an equal consideration. Instead, she had continued blithely on, not realizing the name Alba was gaining its own brand of notoriety.
Thus, after she entered a dusty saloon in the town of Spooner Flats and offered this particular moniker, she had been caught more than a little flat-footed when it drew every eye in the building.
Shortly thereafter, Temperance found herself sitting across from not only the town’s sheriff and mayor, but also a dozen deputies, shop owners, miners, and ranchers—not to mention a few people whose place there she couldn’t have rightly said. They were all staring at her like they expected her to start flying. Or maybe grow an extra head.
The mayor especially was giving a look that didn’t bode well, no matter which way the wind ended up blowing.
“You really are Temperance Alba, the same as defeated the daemon wolf up north?”
“I am, though that wasn’t any daemon, it was a—” Temperance paused. “How do you know about that?”
“Hell, it was all over the papers weeks ago. Along with the story about how you single-handedly put down an uprising in Arkton. Saved us from another Pauper’s Rebellion, from the way I heard it!”
“You don’t say.” Temperance pressed a knuckle against her forehead, already feeling the start of a mighty fine headache building. Clearly her stance on avoiding anything to do with the world at large would need reconsideration.
Why do I suspect Uncle Stephen is behind this? Probably thought it was a good way to build up my reputation. He always did have my best interests in mind—although his attempts as of late seem to backfire more than they catch their mark.
“Miss Alba, I know this might seem rather sudden, but we were wondering—that is, I was wondering, if you might consider—”
“What exactly is your trouble?” Temperance cut in, already guessing where the man was leading to in his own stumbling way. “Train robbers? Horse thieves? Disgruntled miners causing mischief and mayhem?”
The mayor didn’t respond.
“Unusually large rodents?” Temperance tried. “Problems with the local gentry? I don’t charge for that last one.”
“Daemons.” The mayor’s voice was barely a whisper.
Temperance sighed. It figures. All the other problems already had an easy solution or two. No, the only reason for Temperance to deserve such an enrapt audience was for the sort of skills that were the purview and sole domain of one such as herself. A Pistol Warlock.
Or in her case, Witch.
“My services don’t come cheap, Mister . . . .”
“Hudson, although Jack will do just fine. As for payment, we’d be happy to provide you with room and board during your stay, along with provisions—”
“One hundred kos. Half now, half after I deal with your little problem. Sound square?”
“A hundred?” the mayor sputtered. “Surely you can’t . . . but even I don’t . . . isn’t that price a little high?”
“It’ll cost as much to replace the hexbullets I use to bring the creature to heel, Mister Hudson. Frankly, I’m only offering such a low price because you all seem like nice people.”
The Sheriff, who had been watching her silently this entire time, finally spoke up. “According to the stories, James Whiteoak never charged the towns and waystops who needed his services, no matter how dire their situation. What makes you think we won’t just find someone else to handle this matter, someone who isn’t dead set on robbing us blind?”
“If you couldn’t tell, Sheriff, I’m not the Brimstone, not by any measure of the imagination. As for finding someone else, well, I reckon if there was anybody willing to lend a hand out of the goodness of their heart, they would have done it already.”
That last comment elicited a grunt from the Sheriff, who leaned back to watch her but said nothing further. Mayor Hudson quickly filled in the space left behind. “We aren’t opposed to paying the asking price, Miss Alba, but how can we be certain you are who you say you are? Might be you heard about our troubles and thought to take advantage of us poor small-town folk.”
Temperance’s first instinct was to pull out her warlock soul symbol and toss it on the table. Only her quick memory and a bit of good fortune stopped her. These people thought she was an Alba, not a Whiteoak, and showing off that particular piece of jewelry would earn her a mess of additional problems she neither wanted nor needed.
Instead, she drew one of her revolvers.
The mayor’s eyes bulged out at the sight of the weapon. Next to him, the sheriff let out a curse and reached for his own firearm. Several deputies—all farmers’ sons, if Temperance had to guess, and newly sworn in from the way they held their weapons—made fumbling attempts to do the same.
Before they could even see fit to get halfway out of their holsters, Temperance flicked a hexbullet from her bandolier into the waiting chamber and took aim. Runes etched into the revolver’s wheel glowed with their own purple light.
Everything in the room appeared to slow to a crawl as the bullet erupted from the barrel, leaving a line of silver hanging in the air, suspended there for a heartbeat that seemed to last days. Around her men dove for cover, their movements like swimming through honey, cries rumbling from their lips in rich baritone. A fly hovered before her, the slow beat of its wings even and melodic.
Then reality caught back up. The lance of quicksilver shot towards the ceiling where it embedded itself through a wooden beam, the force of the impact so strong it left a palpable tang in the air. Fleeing townsfolk froze to look up and gaze in wonder at the metal bar, which glowed dully under the light of the gas lamps.
Eyes slowly turned back to regard Temperance. She waited until she had their full attention. “Way I see it, don’t really matter if you think I’m the same Alba you read about in the papers. I’ve got hexbullets enough to take down a daemon, and the willingness to do the job. If that’s not enough, well, I’ll just be on my way.”
She made to stand. The mayor practically launched himself across the table to stop her. “Wait! I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement, Miss . . . Miss Alba.”
Temperance smiled and sat back down. “Why don’t you tell me more about this daemon, Mister Hudson?”
Read the rest on July 26, only on Amazon.