Thursday, August 2, 2018

*EXCERPT* Save a Horse, Ride a Dragon by Julia Mills

Grab your hat and boots and head for the desert, ‘cause this lady’s claiming her Dragon and nothin’ will ever be the same.



“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”
Whap! Cluck! Kick!
“Owwwwww, oh, owwwowwwowwww. Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Hopping on one foot, cursing the day she’d ever decided to take a cross-country trip all by her lonesome, Dax glared at the steam shooting from the radiator of her bright red Jeep Cherokee. “What the hell, Daisy Mae? Why now? Why here?” Dropping her booted foot onto the dry, dusty ground even though her toes still ached from where she’d kicked her beloved Jeep in the rear tire, she looked one way and then the other. “There’s nothing but dirt, cactus, and coyote crap for miles.”
Stomping towards the vehicle and throwing open the back door, she grabbed two of her last three gallons of drinking water with a grunt and a groan. Making her way back to the front of the vehicle, she plopped them on the ground and pulled her cell phone out of the back pocket of her jeans. Might as well call her bestie and listen to her bitch while waiting for the engine to cool off enough to work on it.
Leaning her butt against Daisy Mae’s front quarter panel, she slid her finger along the screen, tapped in her password, and spat, “Son of a…” Shaking her fist that was holding the device above her head towards the cell phone gods, she slapped the useless phone against her thigh and snarled, “No service. None at all. Why the hell do I even pay the stupid bill? I swear to the Goddess that damn salesman said, ‘Coverage all over the world’. I oughta burn his stupid little bubble-gum-pink shop to the ground.”
Marching back to the vehicle, she opened the driver’s side door, dropped into the seat and slapped the palm of her free hand against the steering wheel again and again as she threw back her head and screamed, “What did I ever do to you? I give to charity, feed stray animals, don’t litter, and say my prayers. Can’t I at least get a break this one time? I mean, come…”
The sound of her cell phone playing ‘Poison’ by Bel Biv DeVoe had Dax whipping the device up from her leg and punching the green button with so much force the tip of the nail on her index finger went flying through the air. Slamming the phone to her ear, she demanded, “Bryn is that you? Bryn? Bryndle Ma…”
“Stop right there, Dakota Jane Sparks. I swear I’ll turn you into a toad and laugh my ass off every single time your butt bumps the ground.”
Rolling her eyes and taking a deep breath to keep from shrieking at her best friend, Dax quickly changed the subject and asked, “How did you call me? This stupid phone has no service. I swear this whole damn cell phone thing is a serious rip-off. I oughta…”
“Did you really just ask me that?” Bryn interrupted with a tsk. “I am part witch, ya’ know? Just like you, except for the fact that I know how to use mine for more than heating up my coffee, popping popcorn, and making the margarita glasses frosty.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a regular Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” She’d thought about calling the woman who’d been her bestie since grade school Endora but knew that would only make the five-foot-nothing bundle of piss and vinegar feistier than she already was, so Dax had gone with the cute, little, blond TV witch just to keep the peace.
And Bryn will pay for that shit later…
Was there something wrong with embracing her Fire Horse side and basically ignoring her Celtic Witch heritage? Being a horse that could fly, breath fire, manipulate fire – basically make fire her beyotch, not to mention having a swirly, glowing-ember horn like a Unicorn if she wanted to was way better than zapping empty bottles with spells and wands any old day of the week.
Sure, her mom would never understand why she didn’t practice witchcraft. For the tall, slender redheaded witch who Dax called momma, with the face of an angel, and a heart of gold, being a Witch and wielding magic had come naturally. She’d taught many a novice with elegant expertise – every single one, but her own daughter, that is.
The battle had been ongoing from the first time sparks flew from Dax’s fingers when she was still in nappies. “Yoo cannae expect tae master yer magic if ye ne'er try, Dakota, me loove. Flyin' aroond wi' yer hooves in th' air will only git ye sae far.” She could hear her mother’s thick Scottish brogue as if the fiery redhead was standing at her side.
Of course, right on the heels of her mom’s warning came her dad’s smooth, southern drawl of reassurance. “Now there’s nothin’ wrong with Dax spreading her wings every once in a while, Darlin’.” He’d always pull his wife close and kiss her on the top of the head before adding, “Besides, if she doesn’t blow off some of that fire, she might just combust.”
Too damn cute for words – that was her parents. Even the story of how they met was something that made everyone swoon. It was actually kind of sickening and absolutely adorable and something Dax wanted more than she would ever in a million years admit out loud.
“Hello! Earth to Dax. Come in, Dakota Ja…”
“Dammit, Bryn, shut your mouth!” Dax seethed, feeling the fire building in her veins and working as hard as she could to keep it under control. “I let it slide once, but that’s all you get. I may not be able to turn you into a toad, but I can darn sure set that closet of yours ablaze.”
“You wouldn’t?” Bryn squealed.
Clearing her throat and getting her brain out of the clouds while ignoring her friends outrage at the threat to the metric ton of clothes, shoes, and purses she’d acquired over the hundreds of years they’d been alive, Dax snapped right back to reality and sassed, “Since you didn’t whip up this phone call to help me with my car troubles, and I’m praying it wasn’t to just call me by my Christian name and lecture me for the umpteenth time about my inept skills in the field of magic, why don’t you just get on with it?”
Yes, she was winding her bestie up, but that’s what friends are for, right?
“No, I will not help you with that beat-up, hunk of junk. I’ve told you a hundred times that you…”
“I need to get a new car or learn the spell to fix the one I have or both,” Dax groaned in unison with Bryn’s usual litany, laughing out loud when her friend added, “Because I am older, smarter, and prettier.”
Laughing even harder when she heard the chuckle in Bryn’s voice, Dax teased, “And more of a pain in the ass.”
“Hey, now, I resemble that statement.”
Laughing so hard she had to work to catch her breath, Dax wheezed, “Yes, you do, my dear, but then again, so do I.”
“No, truer words were ever spoken.”
Switching her phone to the other ear so she could take a drink of water when Dax was finally able to form a coherent sentence, she asked, “So, before you bibbidi-bobbidi-boo my pleasantly round ass home, what did you really call for?”
“Oh, yeah, that.” Bryn suddenly sounded distracted right before an eerie buzz joined their conversation. “I was…I was…yeah…ummm…”
“Out with it. I’m sweating like the last turkey in a field of pigs the day before Thanksgiving. This place is hot as hell and twice as dry.” 
Waiting for a snappy comeback from the girl who’d taught her to cuss with fluid elegance, blow spitballs with accuracy, and shoot beer cans off a fence at a hundred yards with an ancient Winchester, a creepy feeling started to creep up Dax’s spine. Something was off. Bryn was never quiet, even if she had nothing to say. The tiny Witch had two speeds – fast and faster – and that was for her feet, her mouth, her mind, and her magic.
Sitting up straight as she threw the empty water bottle over her shoulder and into the backseat, Dax growled, “Bryn, you’re freakin’ me out. What the hell is goin’ on?”
“I just can’t… It’s that…” Her voice sounded hollow and oh so very far away.

“Alright, enough messin’ around. This isn’t funny at all. Talk to me. Dammit, Bryn…”

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