She Returns From War by Lee Collins - Sample Chapters

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A free sample from She Returns From War by Lee Collins, the second Cora Oglesby novel, published by Angry Robot in Febnruary 2013.

Transcript of She Returns From War by Lee Collins - Sample Chapters

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  • She Returns From War

    A page-turning thrill ride of a novel that couldwell redefine your perception of the wild west.

    Rio Youers, author of Westlake Soul

    The Dead of Winter aint your granddadsWestern Read it with the lights on but fordamn sure read it.

    Chris F Holm, author of Dead Harvest

    A brilliant, bloody, violent dark fantasy CharlieHuston turned up past 11.

    Andy Remic, author of The Clockwork VampireChronicles

    [It] turns in your grasp and bites you like arattlesnake when youre least expecting it. TheDead of Winter is a gripping read that has left meeager for the sequel.

    Graemes Fantasy Book Reviews

    Stunning, mind-blowing, amazing, fan-frikkin-tastic.

    The Founding Fields

    Lee Collins has a winner on his hands!Popcorn Reads

    Im impressed. Very impressed Collins displaysa nice diversity of writing skills, including aunique voice, a solid story, and damagedcharacters that are both likable and strong. Not tomention an original storyline that throws plentyof punches throughout its course.

    Shattered Ravings

  • an excerpt fromSHE RETURNS FROM WAR

    by Lee Collins

    To be published February 2013(everywhere US/UK/RoW)

    by Angry Robot, in paperback andeBook formats.

    UK ISBN: 978-0-85766-274-3US ISBN: 978-85766-275-0

    eBOOK ISBN: 978-0-85766-276-7

    Angry RobotAn imprint of Osprey Group

    Distributed in the US & Canadaby Random House

    [email protected]

    Copyright Peter Friedrishsen 2013

    All rights reserved. However, feel free to share this

    sample chapter with anyone you wish. Free

    samples are great. We are so good to you. Of

    course, the whole book is even better...

  • ONE

    Their eyes appeared first, floating in the night like orbs ofyellow flame. One minute, the Oxford countryside was coldand still beneath an early April moon; the next, canineshapes ran alongside a certain backwoods lane. Tonguesblack as ink lolled from phantom jaws. Though they roseto the height of small horses, their feet made no sound onthe young spring grass. They might have seemed likeillusions playing at the edge of sight only to vanish whenlooked at directly but for their eyes. Saucer-sized, theysmoldered like pits opening into a blazing furnace, silentbeacons lighting the road ahead.

    Victoria Dawes pulled her scarf up over her chin.Beside her, her mother wore a look of exasperation.The motion of the carriage threw their shoulderstogether time and again, but the seat left the twowomen no room to move apart.

    Come now, my dear, came her fathers voicefrom the drivers seat. He had given their usualdriver the night off so he might enjoy the nighttime

  • countryside with his wife and daughter. It isnt asthough we are asking you to marry a chimney sweepor stable boy. Roger is a fine young man.

    A fine young man, a fine huntsman, and heir toa fine estate, Victoria finished for him. Fine hair,fine teeth, and fine smallclothes.

    Really, Victoria, her mother said, no need to becrass. Your father and I simply want whats best foryou. Roger Grey will take good care of you and yourchildren.

    Assuming he could see us around that beak noseof his.

    Her father glanced over his shoulder. I hardlythink a large nose is reason enough to decline amarriage offer, especially for a woman your age.

    You make it sound as though Ive one foot in thegrave already, Victoria said. Her scarf tickled herchin as she spoke, and she pushed it down. Im onlyjust twenty-three.

    And the last of your friends to be married, hermother reminded her.

    Victoria folded her arms and looked away. Theycould say what they liked; she would not marryRoger Grey. Even if he had a proper nose, the manwas still too simple by half. She didnt want herchildren to carry on his legacy of dull-wittedcomments and friendliness with hounds and hawks.Roger seemed to prefer the company of such animalsto that of people, but she couldnt fathom why. Herown fathers hounds held little interest for her, andalthough she had learned to ride at a young age,

  • shed never formed any special friendships with herhorses. She had no pet cats or canaries. Animalswere animals; dumb beasts bred to serve, not sit attable. Were she to wed Roger Grey, she would nodoubt find herself breaking her fast with his favoriteriding-horse each morning.

    A flicker of light in the distance caught her eye.Leaning forward, she squinted into the darkness. Ashadowy line of trees stood at attention across anopen field, their crowns forming a jagged horizonagainst the night sky. The moon, just past the firstquarter, flooded the field with silver-blue light.Despite the rumbling of the carriage beneath her,Victoria could still see well enough to make out anodd shape running over the grass. It looked asthough it might have been a horse, but she couldntmake out a rider. The shape was also wrong,somehow, but she didnt know what else it could be.No other animal that size lived in this part of thecountry.

    Father, what is that? she asked, pointing at thestrange shape.

    He glanced in the direction of her finger. Just afellow out for a ride, the same as us.

    No need to change the subject, Victoria. Hermother sat up as straight as she could. Ive half amind to

    The carriage swerved to one side, throwingVictoria against her mother. The older woman let outa grunt as they collided. Before they coulddisentangle themselves, the carriage veered again.

  • Victorias lungs emptied as her mothers elbowlanded on her midriff. Struggling for breath, she triedto roll out from under the weight, but her motherclung to her in a panic. She was dimly aware of herfathers surprised exclamations as he regainedcontrol of the horses.

    After a few agonizing seconds, Victoria managedto climb out from beneath her mother and reclaimher seat. What on earth was that? she asked.

    I havent a clue, her father replied. The girlsmust have spooked at a fox, I suppose. He took adeep breath to steady himself.

    Victoria reached down to help her mother up.Before their hands met, the team let out a chorus offrightened whinnies and broke into a gallop. Caughtoff guard, her father tumbled backward into thebuggy, landing squarely on his wife. She cried out inpain and desperately tried to shove him off. Thecarriage shook and rattled as the horses picked upspeed, and the motion kept knocking him off balanceas he tried to gather himself. His struggles onlyprovoked further cries from his wife, who startedcrying.

    Climbing over her fallen parents, Victoria pulledherself into the drivers seat. The reins bouncedalong the floorboards, coming dangerously close tosliding out of the buggy completely. She made a grabfor them and missed, nearly tumbling off her perch.Righting herself, she tried again. This time, a bumpon the road shook the buggys frame, knocking thereins into her outstretched hand. Clenching the

  • leather strips in a white-knuckled fist, she pulledherself upright. Grunts and scraping sounds camefrom behind her as her parents struggled to regaintheir balance.

    Without thinking, Victoria pulled on the reins withall her might. The heads of both horses snapped tothe right. The rest of the frightened animalsfollowed, pulling the buggy off the road and into thegrass. Panicking, Victoria continued to fight with thereins, causing the buggy to swerve violently fromside to side. Stealing glances ahead of them, she sawflashes of bright yellow light looming ahead in thedarkness. She pulled the reins to the right again. Thehorses whinnied, fighting her. Looking right, she sawthe reason for their terror, and a powerful shock offear slammed into her stomach.

    Beside the carriage, not three yards away, was ahuge black animal. At first she thought it might havebeen another horse, but its gait gave it away: it wasan enormous dog. Dumbstruck, she stared at it, thereins slack in her hands.

    Before she could understand what she was seeing,the monster turned its head and looked at her. Eyeslike tiny suns seared trails of liquid fire across hervision. Victoria jerked backward, instinctively pullingthe reins to the left. The horses eagerly followed herlead, pulling the buggy headlong toward the waitingtrees. The black creature slipped from view as theyturned, bringing her a moments respite. Turning herattention back to the team, she coaxed it intorunning at an angle toward the tree line. She could

  • still feel those terrible eyes on her. The creature waschasing them now, she was sure of it. With any luck,she could turn the buggy in a slow circle, bringingthem back to the road and a chance at escape.

    Two more creatures charged out of the trees. Theireyes flashed in the shadows as they ran straight forthe buggy. The terrified horses veered sharply to theleft. The buggys wheels skidded along the ground asit pulled through the turn, but it stayed upright.Victoria clung to the reins in desperation. Shethought she could make out the road ahead of them.Just a few seconds and they would reach it.

    Victoria! her father shouted from behind her.Whats happening?

    I dont know, she called back. Now hush!Victoria could feel the monsters behind them, but

    she forced the thought out of her mind. If she lostcontrol now, she would kill herself and her parents.She had to focus on keeping the horses undercontrol. In their present state, not even her fathersdriver would have had an easy time of it, and shehad little experience with driving a buggy. Still, if shecould take herself in hand and guide the animals inthe right direction, they might just live through thenight.

    The road appeared ahead of them much soonerthan she anticipated. As luck would have it,however, they were ru