I feel a little off today, kids. So instead of blathering at you for a while, how 'bout a snippet from The Heckmasters - Wystan. You might've read part of this on my author FB page, but here's a longer cut. It's unedited, so pardon the me-stakes. (Ha. A pun.)
Let's blurb first, then have an excerpt, shall we?
An ad in the newspaper for a school teacher in a small New Mexico Territory town is the answer to Rhia Duke's prayers. She packs her sister and friend into a rickety wagon and leaves Nebraska behind, intent on escaping a threat from her past. But her hopes are shattered when they arrive in Berner and she learns there is no job.
Sheriff Wystan Heckmaster is the oldest son of a demon who spurned evil for the love of a human woman. His duty is to slay any demons that rise from Hell to serve their master—his father's former liege and his greatest enemy. With a gut full of regret, a forgotten town filled with reformed demons and now a beautiful schoolteacher to look after, Wystan must decide whether revenge is worth dying for, or if he can find peace the way his father did—with enough love to overcome the blackest evil.
“Sheriff?” Rhia's voice cracked. “We should go.”
It stepped out of the vapor, six feet tall at its sloping shoulders. A wide mouth gaped with uneven teeth. Big eyes bulged from its face and pointed ears pricked forward. Its long legs carried it over the rocky ground without breaking stride. Cloven hooves clacked on the stone.
“Wystan. Astaroth sends warm regards.” A deep, gravelly voice issued from the creature's throat.
The horse's hooves clattered on the rocks and one of them cried out in distress. Killing the changesteed would take more effort than a bargest. It was safer for Rhia if she wasn't around.
He waved his arm at her. The changesteed crouched and sprang. Lifting the knife, Wystan braced for the impact of the beast. It crashed into him hard enough to take him off his feet. Sharp jags of rock bit into his back. A cloud of fetid breath clogged his nose. With all his strength, Wystan drove the knife into the changesteed's chest. The blade sliced through sinew and cartilage, but the tip stopped shy of reaching an organ similar to a heart. Demons didn't have hearts, didn't require blood to circulate through their veins. Brown sludge oozed over Wystan's hands and the creature's jaws snapped. Foamy flecks of saliva dropped onto Wystan's face.
He wrenched the knife free of the creature's chest and it sank its teeth into his shoulder. In response, he pushed the knife into the softer tissue below its ribcage. The changesteed yelped and turned him loose long enough for him to spill its entrails. Ichor spewed from its mouth, but it didn't stop snapping.
A shot rang out and the changesteed collapsed on top of him. Wystan craned his neck around and saw Rhia sitting calmly atop the horse, smoking rifle in her hands. The changesteed's black mouth and yellowed teeth were inches from his face. He pushed the corpse off him and removed his knife from its guts.
Rhia removed the spent shell from the chamber and looked down at him. “You still think I won't fit in here?”