Sixteen-year old Toby was trained by a family of hunters to kill shape-shifters — but he has a unique weapon in his arsenal. With a touch of his hand, Toby can lift the magical protection shape-shifters use to disguise themselves as human. It’s an unusual skill for a hunter, and he prefers to kill monsters the old-fashioned way: with a blade.
Because of his special skill, Toby suspects he may be a monster himself. His suspicions deepen when William, a jackal-headed shape-shifter, saves him from an ambush where Toby’s the only survivor. And Toby doubts William helped him for purely altruistic reasons. With his list of allies running thin, Toby must reconcile his hatred of shifters and the damning truth that one saved his life. It’ll take both of them to track down the monster who ordered the ambush.
And Toby needs his unlikely alley because he has a vicious enemy — the infamous Circe, who has a vendetta to settle against the hunters. Toby has to unravel the mystery of his dual nature. And he has to do it on the run — before Circe finds him and twists him to her own ends.
When we took the train ride to my grandfather’s country house, I felt trapped by the rail cars; with the sun beating down, I got a headache. My mum gave me pills, and I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t nod off. In the compartment, I felt like an ant under a magnifying glass. I fidgeted in my seat, but my mum told me to sit. Her hands flexed over her knife, twisting it in her palm. She didn’t keep it out long because she didn’t want one of the other passengers getting wrong ideas about her.Excerpt
It was a week or so after I first turned the boar. My mum kept me home from school for a few days, and she brought me snacks and tea when I woke with nightmares. When I watched the telly, she threw me furtive gazes while pretending to do her check book. At dinner, I heated up my own meals because she’d already ate. As a treat, she asked me if I wanted to have a few friends over. Since the fight, I had no friends, and I told her so. Instead, I spent the time at the rec center, fiddling tunelessly on the dust-covered piano. She didn’t know what I did to the monster, and neither did I, so she took me to the only person she thought might know.
I had been to my grandfather’s house once before, but I didn’t remember it. I was little, just a baby, and the only reason I knew I visited him was because my grandfather greeted me with, “Haven’t seen you in a long time. All grown up, are we? You were crawling the last time I saw you.”
I wasn’t aware he’d seen me at all. I said, “I’ve never met you before.”
“Sharron,” my grandfather said, motioning my mum to follow him down the hallway. She wrinkled up her lips into a frown even while she nodded her assent.
“Sit,” my mum said. She steered me towards a velvet –cushioned seat in the hall, and I did what she commanded. She turned, her boots clicking on the hardwood floor until a door shut. I stared at the wooden paneling, thinking Grandfather’s house reminded me of the fancy restaurant down the street and the corner cathedral rolled into one place. I saw the cathedral during a field trip because Mum and I didn’t go to church. My grandfather’s house felt sacred and foreign; it could be the home of an angry God. I peered out the stained glass― chunks of blue, green, and red, which distorted my vision― and gazed at the front lawn and high hedges around the property. It wasn’t a maze, but it did its job of closing out the wider world. I wanted to go over and play with the little pewter figures on the mantel above the window, but I stayed put. This was a house of worship, not a playground.
After twitching on the chair and counting tiles on the mosaic in the entry way, my mum came down the hallway. When she reached where I sat, she motioned for me to stand, and I did. She put a hand on my shoulder and guided me forward. I was disappointed my trainers only squeaked on the floor instead of clicking like her boots. “Your grandfather needs to see you. He wants to ask you about… about last week after the movie.” Her pinched face was a map of what happened in grandfather’s study. She never told me what it was, but it wasn’t glowing praise. She ushered me through the double, wooden doors. I felt like I was going to meet the priest at church. I thought about muttering a prayer, but I didn’t know what saint might protect me from my grandfather.
He sat behind his desk, bright green eyes set in a sagging frame. It was like seeing the royal jewels stitched onto a sweater. My mum shut the doors, and I sat on the high-backed chair facing the desk. My grandfather smiled at me, but I didn’t see anything of a doting grandfather reflected in his eyes. When I leaned closer, chamomile permeated the air around his desk, radiating from the tea cup beside his clasped hands.
“Tobias, do you know what the Veil is?”
I furrowed my brow. He spoke with a smooth tone, a trained counselor well versed in mediation. I never looked away from those eyes. I learned that in the school yard. When I turned my back on a bully once, he jumped me. He didn’t do it again because I never gave him another chance at my backside.
Unblinking, I said, “No.”
As a formality, Grandfather nodded, expecting my answer. “The Veil was supposed to rid the world of monsters. It was a protection the monsters made to hide in human shape. If they could blend in, they wouldn’t be monsters anymore. That’s how they reasoned it, at least. They didn’t understand blood is blood and can never really be changed.”
I didn’t make a motion, but he waited for me to speak, allowing the silence to stretch between us. I thought about that: blood is blood. “But that man was a monster? Even though he looked like a man before?”
My grandfather nodded. “Yes, he was. That’s the problem with the Veil. Hiding a monster’s form doesn’t stop it from being a monster. That man was never a man, not in earnest. He was always a monster. You just revealed him to us.”
“How?” I asked the led-weighted question.
“You lifted the Veil,” my grandfather said, and a spark erupted in those clear eyes.
I looked at my mum, but her face was drawn tight. She clasped her hands in front of her, standing at attention in front of her father. She met my gaze, but her features remained plastic, and I didn’t know what I should say.
“How?” I asked again. This time, I kept my eyes on my mum, who didn’t break from her stoic pose. She wasn’t going to tip me off on how to answer my grandfather.
“I don’t know, but it is a gift,” he said, his voice smooth like a cream shake. “You see, Tobias, your family hunts monsters. Some of them change back to fight us, but most are cowardly and hide in human shape.”
“You want me to fight monsters,” I said. He smiled with thin lips.
“Not right now,” my mother spoke, as if in pain. “You have to train first.”
“When you’re ready― and you will be ready soon enough― your talent will be useful. No monster can ever hide from you.”
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About The Author:
H.D. Lynn is like Harry Potter in one way: she’s currently renting an apartment with a bedroom under her building’s stairs. Other than this, she explores fantasy worlds through storytelling like anyone else. She loves books with a mix of humor, adventure, and horror, and especially enjoys the urban fantasy genre. GOD’S PLAY is her first published novel.
When not writing, she enjoys hiking, climbing, and running. She’s a voracious reader, and has found listening to audiobooks while backpacking to be a perfect mix of two of her favorite things. She currently lives in Connecticut, but finds herself on the road often.
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