Friday, April 3, 2015

Hosting a Preview: Maxon by Christina Bauer (#Angelbound 4)

So, it is hardly a secret I ABSOUTELY LOVED Angelbound. (my reveiw here)

Since then the series kept being SO GOOD (though I have yet to publish my review of the second and the third book).

The Fourth book of the series is out in May, and Christina had been so kind to share the First Chapter of Maxon on the InkyMonster Website.

Here it is folks:

Book CoverMaxon
Chapter One
Take our picture, and we look like three guys hanging and banging on a beach. We’ve got lawn chairs, sunglasses, beer bongs, you name it. And the picture’d be right, too, except for one thing.
We’re all in black body armor.
Truth is, we’re thrax. Demon killers. And we’re not partying on a beach, we’re staking out an empty stetch of Arizona desert, a magical place called Charybdis.
“How much longer?” I ask the guys. No need to add ‘until the next demon shows up.’
“Two minutes,” answers Nizam. Zee’s two hundred and fifty pounds of pure warrior with a bald head and mad skills for predicting demon strikes. “You never know with Charybdis, though.”
“True enough,” I say.
Zee’s spot-on with this one. Charybdis is the exit point for Scylla, an enchanted underground vortex that sucks in supernatural evil. Scylla pulls in demons from anywhere in the after-realms, holds them underground for awhile, and then chucks them back out again at Charybdis. Love it.
Zee’s eyes light up with mischief. “You ready for the next fight, Maxon?”
I shake my head. No question where Zee’s going on this one. This particular question always gets Tyberius cranked up.
“Don’t be a douchebag, Zee,” I warn.
“False acc.” Zee raises his hands in mock-surrender. “I’m just doing the traditional thrax safety check.” He speaks the next words super-slowly. “So, are you ready, Maxon?”
I look to Ty. “You really want to do this?”
Ty shrugs. “It’s just a safety check.”
Clueless, that’s my man Ty. 
“Fine. I’ll play along.” I gesture across my torso, showing how I look the same as I always do: Short dark hair, broad shoulders, and a body built for killing demons in hand-to-hand combat. “This is as ready as I get.”
“Now, how about you, Ty?” asks Zee. “Wouldn’t want to be missing anything really important, now would you?”
Sure enough, Tyberius starts speed-fidgeting in his chair. He pats down the pockets of his body armor. Here we go again. Before every damned fight, Ty always thinks he loses the same thing, thanks to Zee and his crafty safety checks.
“Where are my fireball charms?” asks Ty, his voice rising with alarm. “Where’d they go?”
“Chill,” I say. “You’ll find them. You always do.”
“I don’t knoooo-ow,” says Zee in a sing-song voice. He has a shit-eating grin on his ebony face. “There’s only one more minute left.”
What a player.
“Damn, damn, damn,” chants Ty. He starts tearing through his pockets, the lawn chair, the cooler, and even the sand. I watch him freak out and realize a key fact. Ty should be the poster child for wizards from the House of Striga. He’s got olive skin, a pointy face, blondish dreads down to his waist, and a major hard-on for frying enemies with fireballs.
“Wait a second,” Ty pats one of his pockets and exhales. “Got ‘em.” He bounces on the balls of his feet, totally pumped for the upcoming battle.
I take another long pull from my beer and watch him fidget some more.
Ty’s clearly cranked up, but me? Not so much.
Sadly, my ass feels glued to this lawn chair. At least, my tail’s in the game. It’s arced into battle stance behind my shoulder. All thrax are part human and angel, but I’ve got some Furor demon blood in me, too. That means I’ve powers across two deadly sins—lust and wrath, the best ones in the bunch—as well as a long black tail with an arrowhead-shaped end. It’s great in a fight.
“Thirty seconds,” says Zee.
Ty starts the traditional thrax roll call. “Tyberius of Striga, ready to fight!”
Zee rises to stand beside him. “Nizam of Horus, ready to fight!”
It takes a huge effort, but somehow I manage to peel my ass off the chair. The guys look at me like I should say something. Which, let’s face it, I should. I am their High Prince after all, and there’s a traditional speech that I’m supposed to give before a battle. I cut to the chase instead.
“Let’s do this.”
“That’s it?” asks Ty. “No formal speech?”
Zee squares his shoulders. “In that case, I’ll do the honors.”
Damn. It’s worse when one of the guys gives the speech. If Zee does this, he’ll launch into how I’m the High Prince Maxon. Fighter of demons. Slayer of hearts. The warrior who killed none other than Armageddon, the King of Hell, when I was just three years old. And now, I’m a grown Prince who’s about to lead them all into another epic adventure.
But I’m not that Prince anymore. Maybe I never was.
I stop Zee before he gets started. “No speeches this time around, man.”
“Sure,” says Zee, his mismatched eyes wide with shock. “If you say so.”
“I do.”
Zee still looks confused, and that’s fine with me. The guys can’t know this, but about a year ago, it’s like my life went from color to black and white. Fighting demons isn’t a kick anymore. My nightmares are getting worse. And half the time I see a hot piece of ass, my inner lust demon doesn’t even wake up, let alone get my body in gear. I’m seriously screwed, and not in a good way.
Damn, I need to think about something else.
“How much longer until the next demon?” I ask.
“Ten seconds,” answers Zee. He tries to act all calm and cool, but his voice breaks with excitement. “And that’s five, four, three, two, one.”
A circle of sand blackens before us. The air fills with a sickly-sweet smell. Bit by bit, the darkened ground moves in a clockwise motion. Charybdis is coming to life. A twitch of excitement crawls through my nervous system. Finally, some battle excitement is kicking in.
With a low roll of thunder, more dark clouds appear in the sky. Meanwhile, the black sand spins faster and faster. My heart rate picks up a little more speed, too.
All of a sudden, the ground stops moving. A small form appears in the center of the darkened sand. Tiny demons always haul ass, so my tail whips out before me, ready to block any quick strikes. Trouble is, the sky’s now so dark, it’s hard to see what’s going on. The creature’s nothing but a small white blob. I issue a new order.
“Sun spell, Ty.”
Tyberius snaps his fingers and a small bright orb appears in mid-air. At first, this mini-sun blinds me. Seconds pass before I can see things clearly. Once I see what’s going on, none of it makes any sense.
“Is that what I think it is?” I ask.
“Can’t be,” replies Zee.
“Oh yes, it can,” says Ty.
Sure enough, a small white creature sits at the center of the black sands. It might be an albino demon adder, a white maggot monster, or any other breed of small and deadly enemy.
Only, it’s not.
I crack a smile. “That’s a fucking bunny rabbit, man.”
“Hey, who gets the big bad demon?” asks Ty, his voice dripping with sarcasm. The rabbit hops around, its tiny pink nose twitching up a storm. “I don’t want to screw up our rotation schedule with such an important kill on the line. Do you want the rabbit, Zee? I mean, you predicted it and everything.”
“Shut your cake hole,” snaps Zee. “It could be like, a vicious killer bunny.”
“It’s a regular rabbit.” I give Zee a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Look, every so often, Scylla pulls in extra baggage along with a huge haul. Mark my words, the real demon will show itself in a few minutes.” I gesture to Ty. “While we’re waiting, how about you send the little guy somewhere safe?”
“Sure thing, boss.” Ty waves his arm and the rabbit disappears in a puff of purple smoke. Once it’s gone, the desert and sky return to their regular state. I focus on Zee.
“Now, when’s the next demon due?”
Zee glances at the sand and sky for a few seconds. After that, he closes his eyes, his mouth making silent calculations. He reopens his eyes and makes his call. “It’ll be here in two minutes, just like you said.”
Ty’s mouth thins to a worried line. “In that case, it’ll be a doozy. Everyone got their best gear on?”
“I’m all set.” Zee pats his massive breastplate. “What about you, M?”
“Don’t worry your pretty bald head about me. I’m covered.”
Raising my hand, I summon a small lightning bolt on my palm. The shape twists across my skin, the form all crackling and bright. My chest warms with confidence. I’ve conjured lightning since I was a little kid. In fact, it’s how I downed Armageddon at the ripe old age of three, and my skills have only gotten better over the years.
Ty frowns. “Maybe you should bring something else, too. How about a baculum?”
I shoot him a dry look. No question what he’s hinting at. Lightning isn’t the ultimate weapon in my power class. By now, I should also have control over igni, which are sentient lightning bolts. They have more brains and brawn, that kind of thing. However, for that to take place, I need to fall in love—what they call getting Angelbound—and that garbage isn’t happening any time soon.
“Lightning works fine for me,” I say, my voice low and firm. “Change the subject, guys.”
“Happy to,” says Ty. He and Zee exchange a long, knowing look. Ty bobs his eyebrows up and down. “How about we kill time with a quick recap of last night?”
I shake my head. Damn, I walked straight into that one.
“What a good idea,” says Zee. He smiles, his teeth looking all white and predatory in his ebony face. “Maxon left the club early, as I recall. And what did you have with you again?” He taps his chin, acting all dramatic-like. “Was it two leggy blondes, perhaps?”
“You know it was,” I say dryly.
“So, how were they?” asks Ty. He doesn’t need to add ‘in bed.’
Both guys stare at me, fixated. When it comes to my lovelife, they’re worse than the papparazzi. I’d like to say that I screwed the girls senseless, but I didn’t. They were human nurses who work with vets from Iraq. We started taking about PTSD—why, I don’t know—and it was a total mood killer. I took them out for ice cream and drove them home. They said I was a really nice guy. So, I got friend zoned, which was bad enough. Even worse? It didn’t bother me.
The High Prince Maxon, a really nice guy.
Shoot me now.
There’s no way I’m talking about that disaster, so I dodge the question. “Don’t you pack of dicks have anything better to do than talk about who I nail?”
“No,” they say in unison.
Thankfully, I don’t have to continue with this depressing conversation because the desert sands start to darken once again. Black clouds reappear in the skyline. A low chittering noise fills the air. The ground gently shivers beneath our feet. No question about it; this next demon’ll be killer. Definitely the kind of fight where we stick to our rotation.
“Who’s turn is it again?” I ask.
“That would be Raj,” Zee replies. Raj is a Prince of Kamal, a group of thrax who specialize in hunting demons with hawks and tigers. They’re also one of the big five houses, along with Striga, Horus, Acca, and Rixa (where I’m from.) We do everything together, which makes me wonder.
“Where the hell is Raj, anyway?”
Nizam shrugs. “It’s his turn to babysit Uther.”
I nod. There’s nothing you can say to that. Uth’s been working on his new ‘phase bomb’ for months now. You practically have to kidnap the guy to get him out of his lab. The man’s a nut job, but a brilliant one.
Beneath my feet, the ground rumbles and heaves. I suck in an excited breath. Any second now, something demonic’s gonna appear.
Only, it doesn’t.
For a long time, nothing happens. The desert stays unnaturally quiet. Some small part of me warns that I should be more pumped and battle ready, unless I want to get myself killed.
With an ear-piercing shriek, hundreds of little creatures pour out of the sand. My body goes on alert. They’re Rodentia, a cross between rat and lizard demons. These monsters have rodent features, glowing yellow eyes and blood-red scales. By themselves, Rodentia aren’t too tough. It’s when they move together that things get tricky.
“That’s the Scarlet Horde,” whispers Nizam. “Class B demon.” We thrax rank demons by letter. The higher the letter, the tougher the kill. But Zee’s wrong on this one.
“Class A, actually,” I say.
“Even better.” Zee rubs his hands together in a happy rhythm. “Since Raj is a no-show, this one’s all mine.”
A new voice calls out from behind us. “Who says I’m a no-show?” We turn around to see Raj and Uther high-tailing it towards us.
Zee grins. “So you finally got Uth out of his hidey hole.”
“Tell me about it,” says Raj. “Fucking miracle.” Like everyone from the House of Kamal, Raj has cocoa skin, brown hair and a hunting animal. In Raj’s case, it’s a black hawk named Jetal.
Uther rakes his hand through his short blonde hair. He has a wrestler’s build and no interest in anything other than blowing shit up. “It’s not a hidey hole. It’s my lab.”
I chuck him on the upper arm. “We know that, Uth.”
“What do you say, Raj?” asks Nizam eagerly. “Want company?”
“Always, my friend.”
Zee and Raj are battle brothers. Acting in sync, they unsheath their swords and race out to face the horde. Meanwhile, Jetal circles the skies, picking off some demons and herding others into a loose circle. The battle brothers move in unison, skewering the mini-monsters with lightning speed. It sure looks pretty to see them fight, but beyond that, I don’t get the appeal of having a battle brother. I’ve tried it, and other warriors are never fast enough. I spend more time trying not to kill my battle buddy than downing demons.
In short order, the horde is wiped out. Little rat-demon carasses lie scattered on the desert floor. Raj and Zee let out whoops of joy while Jetal hops around the carnage. I’m about to give the ‘all clear’ when the ground starts rumbling again. Fresh chittering sounds fill the air, but this time, the noise is deafening.
More are coming.
Suddenly, a huge and writhing mass of Rodentia pour out of the desert floor. This time, they’re packed in so tight, the tiny bodies make a kind of fountain as they stream onto the sands.
“They’re everywhere!” cries Zee.
“We need back up!” calls Raj.
I slowly rise to my feet. Time was, a battle like this would really get my blood pumping. Now, I can’t seem to focus on it. For some reason, I only want another beer. What the hell is wrong with me?
After following Uther and Ty out into the battle, I start slicing down Rodentia with my sword. Ty casts balls of fire to burn more into little crisps. Uther sits down in the middle of everything and starts fiddling with something in his lap. I fight over to his side.
“Uth, you do realize the rest of us are fighting?”
“Yeah, yeah. My new bomb’s almost ready.” He holds up a block of gears and wires. “Phase bomb. Will open up a hole into another dimension. Then, we can go straight into the desert floor, and get right into the heart of Scylla. No more waiting for demons to come to us, get it?”
Uther’s not what you call a traditional thrax warrior. Never has been, either. His bombs sure work wonders, though…When he can get them to work.
I slice off four heads at once. “We’ve got plenty to fight up here, Uth.”
“But don’t you want to know what’s inside Scylla? Like, all if it?”
Used to be, maybe I did. Now? Not so much.
I mow down more Rodentia. “Just keep the little buggers off you.”
Without looking up, Uther screws something into the bomb with his right hand while skewering a rat demon with his left. “You got it, boss.”
A figure stalks out of the darkened tunnel. He’s humanoid and stocky with a rodent face, red scaled body and long, rat-like tail. I’d know this guy anywhere. He’s a Class A job called the Scourge. This demon is what turns a small pack of Rodentia into a massive horde of trouble.
Oh, yeah. My day just got a whole lot better. More of the old kick of excitement moves through my veins. Not a ton, but I’ll take it.
I stride over to stand before him. “I’m Maxon Vidar Xavion Aquilus, High Prince of the Thrax. Surrender and live.”
The Scourge makes a chittering sound, which is then echoed throughout the horde. He speaks past a mouth of long pointed teeth. “Never.”
I grin. “Glad you feel that way.”
To begin with, I slice through the Scourge’s tail with my own. Mine’s covered in dragon scales. His is a major liability. Plus, losing your backend is a real game changer. You get attached to your tail, and not in the obvious ways. Chopping it off it always makes my opponents do something dumb.
The Scourge glares at his bloody tail-stump, howls his lungs out, and then rushes at me with his shortsword. Not a great plan.
Like I said, dumb.
Blow after blow comes at me from the Sourge. I block them all with my right arm, which is also covered in dragonscales. This is my own built-in shield and I love it. We trade punches and lunges for awhile. It’s only a matter of time before this demon slips up again.
Sure enough, the Scourge makes a bad play for my jugular. I grab his shortsword with my bare right hand and fold it in half. Gotta love dragonscales.
The Scourge’s big yellow eyes flare red. Now, he’s really pissed. Things are about to get fun. I move into fighting stance and start whaling on his head. Then, I follow up with kidney punches to the gut and deep knee-kicks to his belly. I’ve been trained in every kind of martial arts out there, plus a bunch of stuff you only learn on the streets. This is one of the few times I get to use it.
Finally, I’m really getting into the zone. Adrenaline pumps through me. You’d think I was a junkie scoring a hit, I’m so fucking happy. Sure, my knuckles are sore and the Scourge is down, but I don’t give a crap. I’m not stopping for anyone.
That’s when the Scourge’s rat face turns into someone else’s. It becomes long and black with a nose like a knife. Small red eyes lock with mine. I can never forget that face.
It’s Armageddon, the King of Hell.
This freak abducted me when I was three years old. I still have nightmares about it.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I roar.
Wrapping the demon into a sleeper hold, I start speed-whaling onto his temple with my fist. The skull cracks, and there’s no question about it. This bad boy’s dead. I drop the carcass onto the ground.
Catching my breath, I scan the battlefield. All the Rodentia are toast. Their bodies cover the desert floor in a solid bloody mass. The guys stand around me, their mouths hanging open. Not good. The fight’s long over. I must’ve been beating up on a dead demon for a while. There’s a long pause before anybody speaks.
“What did you mean before?” asks Zee slowly.
“About what?”
“You were talking to the Scourge. You wanted to know what he was doing here?”
A wall goes up inside my mind. On one side, there’s the guys. On the other, there’s the truth. I’m guarding that wall with everything I’ve got. No way I’m admitting to seeing Armageddon.
“I don’t know, Zee. I was in the zone. Whatever.”
“You lost it for a while,” says Uther.
My defenses go on high alert. Uther’s getting way too close to the truth. What I say next isn’t a thought-out thing. More of a knee-jerk response.
“Lost it?” I repeat. “You don’t get to say that to me. You spent the battle playing with bomb toys instead of fighting like a thrax.” The second the words are out of my mouth, I feel like a total ass for saying them. Uth’s face gets all red.
And the worst thing is, I was only getting on his case for telling the truth.
Uther was right. I totally lost it. Isn’t it bad enough that I don’t like fighting or fucking anymore? Now, I have to have flashbacks on the battlefield, too. Damn, this crap mood of mine better let up soon. I start giving orders, and that makes everything feel a little more normal.
“Ty, cast an incineration spell. We need these carcasses out of here. Then, lock down Chaybdis. We’re calling it a day.”
“Sure thing, M.”
While the rest of the guys clean up, I pull Uther aside. “Look, man. I’m sorry about what happened back there. I had no business saying any of that. You’re different, and I know you get flak about it. But I want you to hear me right now. I respect the hell out of what you do. You’re an important part of the team.”
Uther stares at the ground. “Okay, Maxon.”
“Promise me something.”
“Keep calling me on my shit. You’re the only one with the balls to do it.”
Uther cracks a smile. “Does that mean my balls are bigger than yours?”
“In your dreams, pal.”
Ty jogs over to join us. He does not look happy.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I can’t get the sealing spell to work.”
“What?” I’ve never heard of Ty being unable to cast a spell, ever. “You sure?”
“I’m telling you, M. Something’s immune to my magic.”
I jog over to Charybdis. Sure enough, bizarre lights dance under the grains of sand. Everything’s in different shades of blue, and none of it’s human-made. Doesn’t look demonic, either. What can do something like this while blocking Ty’s magic?
For the first time in I don’t know how long, my heartrate skyrockets. Every cell in my body vibrates with life and energy. This is the kind of electric excitement I’ve been missing for months…the charge that only happens before a really badass battle.
A new opponent is coming.
I can’t wait.

You can read all of Maxon when it’s released on May 12, 2015 by pre-ordering your copy on:

Christina Bauer

Written by Christina Bauer

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in Television, Radio and Film Production and English. Her day job is in marketing for companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and Brainshark, as well as founding her own software start-up, Mindful Technologies. Christina believes that, upon close examination of Tolkien’s text, it’s entirely possible that the Balrog was wearing fuzzy bunny slippers. Angelboundis her first book with Ink Monster LLC.

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