Thanks for having me here on your blog today! I'm really delighted to be here to share a teaser from my new novel, DARK DAYS, the sequel to BLOOD WITCH. One of things I most enjoyed about writing this book was sprinkling in a few more details about Tristesse's home world, Gehenna, and the other creatures that inhabit it. I pulled on some of my favourite bits of English folklore as inspiration for one particular creature - the hell hounds. I don't want to give too much away, but think Black Shuck, barghests, and devil dogs! As this series gets bigger and deeper, I expect to be introducing a lot more monsters, but in the mean time, how about a quick look at the hell hounds?
Lola shushed her, holding her breath. In the silence of the cottage, she heard it again, louder this time. Fear tripped through her. "Someone scratching at the door," she whispered.
"You got foxes around here?" Imani asked.
"Maybe." That was a nice explanation, one that made her jangling nerves seem childish. "Sure, maybe. There are chicken bones in the trash..."
They both shrieked as a blood-curdling howl boomed outside. Imani reached for her and Lola snatched her hand gladly, heart in her throat.
"That's not a fox," Imani said, her voice unnaturally high.
Lola couldn't find her tongue. It wasn't quite the same as the baying she'd heard last night, but it echoed down in her bones in the same chilling way. The scratching came again, louder and more frantic this time, and Lola felt as though the house was shrinking around her, caved in by the noise and whatever creature lurked out there.
"Maybe—” Imani began, only to be drowned out by another howl. She dropped Lola's hand, covering her ears and cringing. "What is it?"
Lola shook her head, trying to gather her scattered wits. Whatever was out there, she didn't want to know what it was. She just wanted it to stay outside.
A flare of light caught her eye and she spun to see the stones on the windowsill crackling and sparkling. The resinous scent of frankincense filled the air. The image of algiz flashed into her mind and she grabbed Imani again. "I don't think it can get in."
Imani's eyes widened. "You don't think it can? Not very reassuring, Lola."
"Turn out the lights," Lola said, rushing to the window. A second howl crashed in the night just as the lights went out, leaving the flickers from the stones as the only faint illumination. Lola pressed her face to the window, staring out into the garden. Street lights cast long shadows across the yard and fog rolled everywhere, increasing her sense of claustrophobia. But she saw nothing. Even the lights from her neighbors' houses seemed extinguished.
The howl rang out a third time, and this time something thudded into the front door. Imani screamed, then clapped her hand over her mouth to silence herself. Lola reached for her again and they clung together in the dark, waiting for the next howl, the next thud at the door.
When it did, Lola swore she heard wood crack under the weight of whatever was out there. Dread slammed into her, and she was sure she could smell smoke. She swallowed, trying to push down her fear. "Come on," she said, tugging Imani along.
"Are you crazy?" Imani let her drag her into the hall despite her words, and Lola took strength from that. As the creature outside howled again and the smell of smoke thickened, she needed all the strength she could get.
The creature threw itself at the door again. A halo of blood-red light exploded from the wood and the creature cried out in pain this time. Lola ran to the door, pressing her hand to the wood. It was hot to the touch. When the light faded, there were scorch marks in the wood, forming the straight, stern shape of algiz.
"What the fuck?" Imani touched it and pulled her fingers back with a hiss. "Is this keeping it out?"
"For now." Lola listened, but there was no sound outside now. She couldn't relax though. A thick, thrumming fear filled the whole house. The stink of smoke pressed down on her, urging her to throw the door open and let cool, clean air sweep in.
A resounding crack shot from the kitchen. Panicked, Lola ran back with Imani right behind her. She had visions of a shadowy monster smashing in the window, bringing fire and smoke in its wake.
Another angry howl rang out, followed by the desperate shrieking scrabble of claws on glass.
About the Author
Naomi likes writing, perfume, fancy tea, and unfathomable monsters from the dark spaces between the stars, not necessarily in that order. She has been writing stories ever since she learned how to write, but is still trying to master the art of biography writing. When she's not dealing with werewolves, demons, or sea monsters, she's hanging out with her cat and probably watching a documentary about Bigfoot. If the cat isn't available, she's with her fiancé watching cookery shows and silently plotting her next book.