The days grow shorter and the nights colder, but for Millie Lucas and her wealthy protector Benjamin Castle, things are about to heat up.
The trouble starts on the road when they nearly have a collision with thunder, the name for cars in the strange world in which Millie finds herself. The driver is unscathed, and Millie finds herself intrigued by the vehicles. She discovers that Ben is also an enthusiast, and together they delve into the world of thunder racing.
Unfortunately, trouble is never far behind and they find themselves neck-deep in charms, talismans, and witchcraft, all carried by the thunder drivers to ward off a string of bad luck that stalks their members. Ben smells something fishy about the whole thing, and they delve deeper into the mystery only to find that his suspicions are more than just true. They’re deadly.
As if that wasn’t enough, Millie finds herself the talk of the town when an exclusive book club asks her, as the intimate companion of a nobleman, to join their group. A simple ‘no’ is never accepted, and she is thrown into a perfumed jungle of secrets, lies, and a petty jealousy that may threaten the very life of her newest friend.
Magic and mayhem collide as the lovers wade through the mysteries of the city and dig up the ugly intentions of those who would cultivate chaos, and where a single misstep could spell their doom.
The day had finally arrived.
I lifted my chin and took in a deep breath of country air. Birds flitted about the groves of trees on either side of the road that stretched out of view. Rabbits scurried off the winding dirt road and into the tall grass that lined the path. They disappeared amidst the mess of brush a few yards beyond the dirt edges.
And a handsome dragon man sat by my side in the carriage seat. He, too, had a calm smile on his lips as he admired the view.
"So how long has it been since you were there?" I asked him.
A chuckle escaped him. "So long that I hardly remember. I believe it was some time before my twelfth birthday. My aunt had invited us for a visit and my father could get away from his duties only long enough for a weekend."
I lifted an eyebrow. "Why so long ago?"
He leaned back in his seat and sighed. "
As you know, there were some health complications due to my condition, both before and after my mother's intervention. I was thought too frail to make this half-day journey, especially as my doctor rarely desired to leave the city."
"Who was your doctor?"
I snorted. "I can believe that. He doesn't seem the type to go anywhere unless it's for his honor."
"Or a summons from the academy, though even that's doubtful due to their treatment of him," Ben mused.
His words perked up my ears. "Treated him? What did they do?"
He folded his arms over his chest and shrugged. "Truth be told, even I'm not sure. The details have been obscured by time and secrecy. I only know that he had a falling out with them and left the academy many decades ago."
I snorted. "Are you sure he didn't try to blow up the academy?"
Ben chuckled. "That may not be far from the truth, but we're forgetting the beautiful view around us."
I took a deep breath and smiled. "It is nice to finally get out of the city."
"Has the view begun to bore you?" he wondered.
There was a touch of worry in his voice. I smiled and nudged his arm with my elbow. "I haven't had a moment's boredom since I got here, but I could use a break."
And that's when the car flew out of the nearest thick grove of trees and careened toward us. Ferox reared up and the carriage rocked from side to side. Ben pinned me against the seat with his body as our steed scurried backward and pawed the ground. The strange vehicle, meanwhile, had flown across the road and into a mess of brambles on the opposite side. The bushes had stopped its maniac driving and swallowed all but the rear end.
Ben sat up and I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the driver and his machine. "You guys have cars?"
My local guide shook his head. "I don't know that word, but I believe the machine is called a thunder."
I blinked at him. "Why?"
"Because they're known for being as loud as that force of nature," he explained as he climbed out of the carriage.
"But that one wasn't," I pointed out as he helped me down.
"No, and that makes it rather unusual," he mused as he stepped off the road and navigated the broken bramble branches to reach the vehicle. "Hello there!"
A soft groan came from the driver's compartment. Ben held out both hands and his fingers lengthened into dragon claws. He used the talons to slice through the brush and reach the driver.
My heart beat hard in my chest as I watched Ben unbuckle the person and drag the semi-conscious driver out of the bucket seat. He was about thirty and shorter than average height. The man wore a simple brown suit and a pair of goggles. His short brown mousy hair was filled with bits of brush and dirt, and his face was scratched in many places.
Ben carried him over to the road and lay him on the dirt. "Is he going to be alright?" I asked him.
Ben nodded. "Yes. I think he hit his head on the wheel, but it's nothing more than a bad bump and a pair of black eyes."
A stampede of hooves made us look up. The sound came from a pair of horsemen who sprinted in our direction. One was tall and lean with a tan overcoat flowing behind him. The other man was slightly shorter with longish hair and a plaid cap perched atop his head.
They skidded to a stop close by us and leapt off their horses. The taller of the two tossed his reins at his companion, who gave him a scowl in return, and hurried over to us.
"What's happened?" he questioned us.
Ben stood and shook his head. "I'm afraid we don't know many of the details ourselves. This thunder shot out of the brush in front of our carriage and crashed into the bushes on the other side."
The man who held the reins snorted. "Of course he did."
Ben gestured down at the man he had carried out of the machine. "We don't think there's any lasting damage, but you may want to take him to a doctor."
"I doubt that's necessary," the tall man replied as he knelt beside his fallen comrade and rapped on his head with his fist. "Mouse! Mouse, wake up!"
The short man stirred and his eyes fluttered open. They were unfocused until he squinted up at us. A loopy smile slipped onto his lips. "Hey, there. How'd I do."
The other man rolled his eyes. "Terrible, as usual, and you've wrecked the car again."
"Again?" I repeated.
"It's his second time in the driver's seat and the second time in a ditch," the taller man explained as his compatriot eased himself onto his arms.
‘Mouse' winced and clutched one side of his head in his hand. "What hit me?"
"I believe it was the steering wheel," Ben told him.
"At least you used the hardest part of your body to cushion yourself," the other man quipped.
Mouse grinned. "I did, didn't I? How's Bashful?"
His companion rolled his eyes. "We are not calling it that."
"Bashful?" I repeated.
Mouse bobbed his head. "That's the name of the thunder because it's so quiet."
"We are not calling it that," his acquaintance insisted as he climbed to his feet. "Now get up on the horse and let's get you to see a doctor before I finish the job you started."
Mouse tried to stand, but the moment he climbed onto his feet his legs wobbled. He would have toppled over if Ben hadn't caught him. Mouse sheepishly smiled up at him. "Looks like I don't have my land legs back yet."
"I don't believe you'll have them back for a while," Ben mused as he turned his apologetic face to me. "It would be best if you came with us in our carriage."
I sighed but nodded. "It would be safer than him falling off a horse, but will he fit?"
"I can ride Ferox," Ben offered. The horse in question flung its head and whinnied in protest.
The man who held the reins walked over to us. "We wouldn't think of burdening you two with our nincompoop friend."
I smiled and shook my head. "It's no problem."
"Then why don't we have you take him back to our rooms at the inn?" the taller man suggested as he nodded down the road in the direction of the city. "We can get a doctor to come see him there and the rest of us can have a pint while we wait."
"And where is that, Mr.-?" Ben asked him.
"The Griffin Arms," the man replied as he waved a hand in the air. "And the rest of that can be taken care of later."
The man who held the reins glared at him. "Your manners, you oaf. We need to introduce ourselves or they'll think we're taking them for a ride."
His compatriot shrugged. "I don't see the point. They probably already know who we are." Ben and I shook our heads in unison, and his face drooped. "You don't recognize us?"
"Should we?" I wondered.
"See? I told you those posters were no good," his acquaintance scolded him.
The tall man recovered from his disappointment and cleared his throat. "Let's not bother about that right now. My name's Grant Pender, and these two fools-" He nodded at the man standing and then his limp comrade, "-are Chase Cobb and Paul Mallory."
Paul's grin widened. "Surely you know us now." Ben and I shook our heads, and Paul slumped deeper into Ben's grasp. "Damn. . ."
"Are you guys famous?" I guessed.
"Only on the three continents," Grant assured us as he puffed out his chest a little. "We're known for being-"
"Long-winded and not getting on our way," Chase piped up as he shoved one set of reins in his friend's hand. "Now let's get going."
Ben and I looked at each other, and a smile slipped onto both our lips before we shrugged. We'd found ourselves another adventure.