Today we’re welcoming K.A. Stewart on the blog. And today happens to be a big day for her since it’s the release of her third Jesse James Dawson book, A WOLF AT THE DOOR. Along with the short story she has kindly wrote for all of us, she’s also giving away two copies of this newest release. So don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
Welcome to the blog and Happy Book Birthday K.A.!
I swear I wasn’t creeping on the kid. Let me say that first. But when there are ten teenagers sitting around a fire bowl in your back yard, it pays to check on them from time to time. I mean, I remember how I was at that age. I knew what they could get up to. Had to make sure no one was smoking anything funny, and no couples were sneaking off into the dark parts of my yard. That’s me. Jesse James Dawson, demon slayer and chaperone.
Estéban had invited some of his friends from school over for a cookout, and as the night settled in, they huddled around the flickering fire trading campfire stories. Watching from the kitchen window, I could say that I’d heard most of them, and they were just as corny as the ones I’d heard as a kid. Hell, most of them were the same as the ones I’d heard as a kid. The guy with the hook for a hand, the ghostly girl passenger picked up along the highway. Always happening to “a friend of a friend” or “my cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s dog” or something.
“What about you, Estéban?” One of the girls, one who’d had her eye on the kid all night from what I could tell, nudged my quiet student with her elbow. “What kind of summer camp stories do they tell in Mexico?”
The teen shrugged a little, ducking his head so that his dark bangs fell into his eyes. “We didn’t really go to summer camp.”
No, I was willing to bet he hadn’t. Being the heir apparent to a long line of demon hunters, I could imagine what Estéban’s summers had been like. He hadn’t been totally untrained when he came to me, and I could picture him and his brothers working all they could in their spare time, preparing for the day when their turn came.
“Come on, you guys didn’t sit around and try to scare each other with stories?” The other kids were looking at him now, with that gleaming pack mentality behind their smiles. The kid was going to have to come up with something, or they’d hound him all night.
“Well... Once, my brother saw a chupacabra.”
The crowd chuckled a little, and one boy snorted. “Thought they proved those things were coyotes with mange or something.”
Estéban raised his gaze from the flames, and there was something glittering in the depths of his black eyes. A small smile curved the corner of his mouth. Something cold trickled down my spine, seeing that expression. Estéban had seen things, things no kid his age should have to, and I was suddenly worried about what he was going to tell these nice suburbanite teenagers.
“The real chupacabra doesn’t look like a coyote. Its skin is gray-green, and it has spines from its neck all the way down to its tail.” The kid got up, hunching over in a crouch. “It stands like this, three or four feet tall, and moves with a little hop.” He proceeded to demonstrate, managing to make even the kangaroo-style movement look sinister. While the other teens chuckled, I could tell he had their attention. “The name means ‘goat-sucker’, because it attacks livestock, drains their blood. Three little holes, like an upside-down triangle, right here.” Lightning quick, his hand darted out to tap the boy next to him on the chest. The other kid flinched, then tried to cover with a nervous chuckle.
“Your brother saw one?” The first girl, the one who had asked for a story, leaned forward eagerly.
Estéban nodded and took his seat again, his elbows resting on his knees. From that angle, the fire cast eerie shadows across his face. “My brother, Miguel. Many years ago. I was still a small boy, maybe seven.” Something changed in his voice then, his accent growing thicker, and even at that distance, I could see the seriousness settle into his eyes.
“There had been livestock losses in the area. Some neighbors lost a lamb, some chickens, small things like that. Not dead, just missing. Not unusual, and we all figured it was a coyote. We had a couple of goats, my mother keeps them for milk and such. So just in case, we locked the dogs in the small barn we had, to guard the goats.
“Late at night, Miguel woke up because the dogs were barking, and the burro was kicking at his stall. So he grabbed a machete and a flashlight and went to see what was going on.”
I knew that machete. It was currently lying next to Estéban’s bed in my spare room, the blade black and tarnished from decades of use. A demon-killing weapon. I knew Miguel too, before his death, and I could picture the young man creeping through the darkness, grim purpose in his eyes.
“Miguel opened the door to the barn, and he found all of the dogs pressed into one corner, still barking, but obviously terrified of whatever had come in there. And as he walked toward the other end of the building, he heard rustling in the straw, a noise that didn’t sound like one of the goats.
“He said he saw the shadow first, hunched over, and the legs of one of the goats sticking out of the fence. When he turned the light that way, something big stood up and looked at him.
“The eyes were the size of baseballs, and they glowed red from the inside. The thing wiped at its muzzle with one clawed hand, and he saw it come away glistening with blood. It had to be old, he said, its hide almost black it was so dark, and the scales were dull in places from sheer age. It stared at him, and it wasn’t afraid in the least. It was smart, Miguel said, because he could see it thinking, see it trying to figure out what was going to happen next.
“My brother said that all he could think was that no one in the house knew he’d come out there, and if the thing decided to jump at him, no help was coming. He was on his own, and he had no idea what the monster was capable of.
“They looked at each other for a long time, Miguel and the chupacabra, until finally Miguel raised the machete. He told it, ‘You know what I can do. Leave now, and never come back.’ After a moment, the thing reached down and grabbed the dead goat by one leg, and slowly hopped its way out the back door, dragging the goat with it.
“Miguel said that he knew it was really gone when the dogs stopped barking, and then he closed the back door and came back inside.”
There was a long tense silence before the kids realized that Estéban was done speaking, and then there was a round of slightly nervous laughter around the fire bowl. One of the other boys asked, “Do you think he was pulling your leg?”
My protégé looked up from the flames, finally. “The goat was gone, the next morning. I know that for fact. And as near as I can tell, in his entire life, Miguel never lied to me. That’s all I can say.”
“Damn, dude, that is messed up.” There was a chorus of agreement, and heads shaking all around the fire bowl. I kept an eye on Estéban until I saw the tight set to his shoulders relax, and he sat back up again, once again the typical teenager. The general chatter resumed, but the desire for scary campfire stories seemed to have passed.
The party wound down shortly thereafter, the kids all calling their goodbyes as they wandered out to their cars. Estéban and I watched them go from the front porch until we were left standing alone in the dark.
My eyes followed the last of the taillights as they rounded the far corner and disappeared out of sight. “Did you make it up?”
My protégé shrugged his lanky shoulders, never bothering to look at me. “As far as they know.”
More about A WOLF AT THE DOOR, which is out today, August 7th, 2012!
Jesse James Dawson was once an ordinary man until he discovered that demons were real, and fighting them meant putting his own soul on the line. His new case is a beauty: Gretchen Keene, a Hollywood starlet who’s become an unwitting catalyst in an all-out demon war. It’s not her soul Jesse needs to protect, but the two-hundred-and-seventy-six others she’s carting around—all the souls sold to spend just one night with the blonde bombshell. That’s a lot of baggage, although it might explain her meteoric rise to fame. And it’s all up for grabs by the demon world.
All Jesse has to do is keep her safe until New Years. Sounds easy. But darkness is casting a nasty shadow in the California sun—a new unseen enemy is closing in and leaving Jesse to wonder, how do you fight something you can’t see coming?
K.A. Stewart’s Jesse James Dawson Series
K.A. is offering a copy of A Wolf at the Door to two (2) lucky winner!
To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Ends Wednesday, August 5th, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal Summer Camp giveaways)
K.A. Stewart has a BA in English with an emphasis in Literature from William Jewell College. She lives in Missouri with her husband, daughter, and several furry demons who pretend to be cats.
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