Earth Reclaimed, Book 1
by Ann Gimpel
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 3/1/15
Genre: Dystopian Urban Fantasy
Resilient, kickass, and determined, Aislinn's walled herself off from anything that might make her feel again. Until a wolf picks her for a bondmate, and a Celtic god rises out of legend to claim her for his own.
Aislinn Lenear lost her anthropologist father high in the Bolivian Andes. Her mother, crazy with grief that muted her magic, was marched into a radioactive vortex by dark creatures and killed. Three years later, stripped of every illusion that ever comforted her, twenty-two year old Aislinn is one resilient, kickass woman with a take no prisoners attitude. In a world turned upside down, where virtually nothing familiar is left, she’s conscripted to fight the dark gods responsible for her father’s death. Battling evil on her own terms, Aislinn walls herself off from anything that might make her feel again in this compelling dystopian urban fantasy.
Fionn MacCumhaill, Celtic god of wisdom, protection, and divination has been laying low since the dark gods stormed Earth. He and his fellow Celts decided to wait them out. After all, three years is nothing compared to their long lives. On a clear winter day, Aislinn walks into his life and suddenly all bets are off. Awed by her courage, he stakes his claim to her and to an Earth he's willing to fight for.
Aislinn’s not so easily convinced. Fionn’s one gorgeous man, but she has a world to save. Emotional entanglements will only get in her way. Letting a wolf into her life was hard. Letting love in may well prove impossible.
Excerpt Book One:
Aislinn tried to stop it, but the vision that had dogged her for over a year played in her head. She squeezed her eyes shut tight. Mental images crowded behind her closed lids, as vivid as if they’d happened yesterday. She raked her hands through her hair and pulled hard, but the movie chronicling the beginning of her own personal hell didn’t even slow down. She whimpered as the humid darkness of a South American night closed about her…
Her mother screamed in Gaelic, “Deifir, Deifir,” and then shoved Aislinn again. She tried to hurry like her mother wanted, but it was all too much to take in. Stumbling down the steep Bolivian mountainside in the dark, she ignored tears and snot streaking her face. Her legs shook. Nausea clenched her gut. Her mother was crying too, in between cursing the gods and herself. Aislinn knew enough Gaelic to understand her mother had tried to talk her father out of going to the ancient Inca prayer site, but Jacob hadn’t listened.
A vision of her father’s twisted body lying dead a thousand feet above them tore at Aislinn. Just a few hours ago, her life had been normal. Now her mother had turned into a grief-crazed harridan. Her beloved father, a gentle giant of a man, was dead. Killed by those horrors that had crawled out of the ground. Perfect, golden-skinned men with long, silky hair and luminous eyes, apparently summoned through the ancient rite linked to the shrine. Thinking about it was like trying to shove her hand into a flame, her pain too unbearable to examine closely.
Aislinn was afraid to turn around. Tara had already slapped her once. Another spate of Gaelic galvanized her tired legs into motion. Her mother was clearly terrified the monsters would come after them, but Aislinn didn’t think they’d bother. At least a hundred adoring half-naked worshipers remained at the shrine high on the mountain. Once Tara had herded her into the shadows, her last glimpse of the crowd revealed one of the lethal exotic creatures turning a woman so he could penetrate her. Even in Aislinn’s near-paralyzed state, the sexual heat was so compelling, it took all her self-discipline not to race to his side and insist he take her instead. After all, she was younger, prettier. It didn’t matter at all that he’d just killed her father.
…Aislinn shook her head so hard, it felt like her brains rattled from side to side in her skull. Despite the time that had passed since her father’s murder, she still fell into these damned trance states, where the horror happened all over again. Tears leaked from her eyes. She slammed a fist down on a corner of her desk, glorying in the diversion pain created. Crying was pointless. It wouldn’t change anything. Self-pity was an indulgence she couldn’t afford.
Pull it together. The weak die.
Even though she wasn’t sure why life felt so precious—after all, she’d lost nearly everything—Aislinn wanted to live. Would do anything to hang onto the vital thread that maintained her on Earth.
A bitter laugh bubbled up. What a transition: from Aislinn Lenear, college student, to Aislinn Lenear, fledgling magic wielder. A second race of alien beings, Lemurians, had stormed Earth on the heels of that hideous night in Bolivia, selecting certain humans because they had magical ability and sending everyone else to their deaths.
It was a process. It took time to kill people, but huge sections of Salt Lake City sat empty. Skyscraper towers downtown and rows of vacant buildings mocked a life that was no more. In her travels to nearby places before the gasoline ran out, Aislinn had found them about the same as Salt Lake.
Jacob’s death had been a harbinger of impending chaos—the barest beginning. The world she’d known had imploded shockingly fast. It killed Aislinn to admit it—she kept hoping for a miracle to intercede—but her mother was certifiable. Tara may as well have died right along with her husband. She hadn’t left the house once since they’d returned a year before. Her long, red hair was filthy and matted. She barely ate. When she wasn’t curled into a fetal position, she drew odd runes on the kitchen floor and muttered in Gaelic about Celtic gods and dragons. It was only a matter of time before the Lemurians culled her. Tara had magic, but she was worthless in her current state.
The sound of the kitchen door rattling against its stops startled Aislinn. On her feet in a flash, she took the stairs two at a time and burst into the kitchen. A Lemurian had one of its preternaturally long-fingered hands curved around Tara’s emaciated arm. He crooned to her in his language—an incomprehensible mix of clicks and clacks. Tara’s wild, golden eyes glazed over. She stopped trying to pull away and got to her feet, leaning against the seven-foot tall creature with long, shiny blond hair, as if she couldn’t stand on her own.
“No!” Aislinn hurled herself at the Lemurian. “Leave her alone.”
“Stop!” His odd alien gaze met hers. “It is time,” the Lemurian said in flawless English, “for both you and her. You must join the fighting and learn about your magic. Your mother is of no use to anyone.”
“But she has magic.” Aislinn hated the pleading in her voice. Hated it.
Be strong. I can’t show him how scared I am.
Something flickered behind the Lemurian’s expression. It might have been disgust—or pity. He turned away and led Tara Lenear out of the house.
Aislinn growled low in her throat and launched herself at the Lemurian’s back. Gathering her clumsy magic into a primitive arc, she focused it on her enemy. Her tongue stuttered over an incantation. Before she could finish it, something smacked her in the chest so hard she flew through the air, hit the kitchen wall, and then slumped to the floor. Wind knocked out of her, spots dancing before her eyes, she struggled to her feet. By the time she stumbled to the kitchen door, both the Lemurian and her mother had vanished.
An unholy shriek split the air, followed by another. Aislinn clapped a hand over her mouth to seal the sound inside and clutched the doorsill. Pain clawed at her belly. Her vision became a red haze. The fucking Lemurian had taken her mother. The last human connection she had. And they expected her to fight for them? Ha! It would be a cold day in Hell. She let go of the doorframe and balled her hands into fists so hard her nails drew blood.
Standing still was killing her, so she walked into blindingly bright sunlight. She didn’t care what happened next. It didn’t matter anymore. A muted explosion rocked the ground. She staggered. When she turned, she wasn’t surprised to see her house crack in multiple places and settle. Not totally destroyed, but close enough.
Guess they want to make sure I don’t have anywhere to go back to.
Her heart shattered into jagged pieces that poked her from the inside. She bit her lip so hard it ached. When that didn’t make a dent in her anguish, she pinched herself, dug her nails into her flesh until she bled from dozens of places. Fingers slick with her own blood, she forced herself into a ragged jog. Maybe if she put some distance between herself and the wreckage of her life, the pain sluicing through her would abate.
As she ran, a phrase filled her mind. The same sentence, over and over in time to her heartbeat. I will never care for anyone ever again. I will never care for anyone ever again. After a time, the words etched into her soul…
Earth Reclaimed, Book 2
by Ann Gimpel
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 3/1/15
Genre: Dystopian Urban Fantasy
Clinging to their courage in a crumbling world, Aislinn and Fionn vow to save Earth, no matter what it takes.
In a post-apocalyptic world where most people have been slaughtered, the Celtic gods and a few humans with magic are all that stand between survival and Earth falling into chaos. The combination of dark sorcery leveraged by the enemy is daunting. Destruction is all but certain if the small enclaves of humans who are left can’t get past their distrust of the Celts.
Captured by the enemy, Aislinn Lenear wonders if she’ll ever see her bond wolf or Fionn, a Celtic god, again. She’s had nothing but her wits to rely on for years. They haven’t failed her yet, but escape from her current predicament seems remote.
An enticing blend of dystopian urban fantasy and romance, this second volume of the Earth Reclaimed Series provides fertile ground for Aislinn and Fionn’s relationship to deepen. Headstrong and independent, the pair run up against each other’s demands time and time again. Fireworks spark. In the end, they learn to savor every moment in a bittersweet world where each day may well be the last.
Excerpt Book Two:
…One last quick breath. Aislinn threw her power wide open, diverting some to shield herself. She funneled the rest into a wild sprint away from the gaping maw of a door. Pain lanced up her leg, but she ignored it and urged her muscles to greater speed. She needed to free up at least a three-minute lead so she could jump herself out of there. Portals took time to form, so she was vulnerable at the start of traveling jumps.
Her lungs burned; the ragged sound of her own breathing echoed off the walls. Where were Rune and Fionn? Throwing caution to the winds, she called for Rune. Maybe he could find her. If he can do that, he’ll lead Fionn to me.
A high-pitched shriek filled her ears and built to where it was unbearable. Her leg wasn’t the only thing on fire. Her eardrums ruptured. Hot fluid ran down the sides of her face. A wave of dizziness threatened to flatten her, but she didn’t slow. It had taken the Lemurians a few precious seconds to react to her disobedience. She prayed it would give her enough time to escape.
The air in the corridor shimmered fifty feet ahead. Desperate, she looked for a side tunnel, an open doorway, anything she could duck into. It would be just like the Old Ones to cut off her escape from all sides.
Noooooo, a voice in her head screamed. I do not want to die here.
The brightness intensified. It may not matter what I want, a different inner voice muttered dourly. She snuck a peek over one shoulder. The air looked funny there, too, but it was different somehow. Bleaker.
“Lass, drop your shielding.” Fionn’s voice sounded in her head. “Ye must, or I canna jump us out of this hellhole. Hurry, or they’ll have you from behind.”
She wondered if it was some kind of insidious trap. She tried to sense Fionn, but couldn’t. He’d be warded as well, but still... She risked another glance behind her. The ocher-tinged air was, indeed, closer. It smelled like the reptile exhibit at the zoo her parents used to take her to when she was a child: musty and rank. A few more steps, and the brilliance ahead surrounded her. “Now, lass. Now.”
Fionn’s unique energy pulsed against her. Practically sobbing with relief, Aislinn pulled magic from her wards. The second she did so, he closed his arms around her. The gut-wrenching sensation of jumping when someone else controlled the spell pummeled her. Even if it made her puke, she’d never felt anything quite so welcome.
“He’s fine. Hush. I need to concentrate. This was a much narrower margin than I’m comfortable with. We’re not out of the woods yet, leannán.”
Her ears throbbed. Her leg ached. She didn’t mind being quiet. Not when Fionn’s arms were around her. She could stand just about anything so long as they were together. Travis’s sneering face filled her mind, along with an impotent rage.
I’m going to kill that bastard if I ever see him again.
“Only if I doona get to him first,” Fionn snapped.
She considered complaining because he was in her head again—without her permission—but choked on a snort. After today, Fionn MacCumhaill could spend as much time as he wanted in her mind. Hell, he could take up residence there for all she cared.
The familiar walls of Marta’s kitchen rose around her. Snarling and snapping came from the study, followed by Gwydion’s Celtic brogue. “There now. She is back. ’Tis a stubborn creature, ye are. Ye dinna believe me. Go.”
Rune galloped into the kitchen, his claws skidding on the wooden floor, and launched himself at Fionn in his eagerness to get at Aislinn. “Put her down,” the wolf demanded.
Bella flew into the room right behind the wolf, quorking, “Yes, put her down.” The bird landed on Fionn’s shoulder.
“Be careful,” Fionn cautioned. “She’s hurt. Doona be too exuberant. Bella, watch your talons.”
“I know how Aislinn feels,” Rune said indignantly. “After all, she is bonded to me.”
“Och aye, I hadna forgotten.” Fionn rolled his eyes and chuckled indulgently, while ruffling Bella’s dark feathers.
Aislinn lowered herself to the floor and closed her arms around Rune. She gloried in the feel of his rough outer coat and the soft fuzz beneath. Fionn and the hard, muscled planes of his body would keep. In spite of everything that had happened, desire forked through her at the thought of his lips on hers, his hands stroking her naked flesh, and his hardness buried deep inside her.
“Soon, lass.” Fionn winked at her. He added a vision of her mouth locked around his shaft and quirked a brow.
She laughed and raised her gaze to meet his intensely blue eyes. “No secrets, huh?”
“Never, lass. It may not be a Hunter bond like ye share with the wolf, but our pledge, one to t’other, runs just as deep.”
Bella took flight, landed on Aislinn’s shoulder, and rained love pecks on her head. “Don’t be listening to my bondmate. He always had a honeyed tongue.”
“Really?” Fionn stepped close enough to mock-swat the raven.
“No secrets,” the raven cawed scornfully.
“Point taken. Come here.” Fionn held out an arm, and Bella fluttered to him. The two bent their heads together. Aislinn figured they were probably talking in their private mind speech.
The wolf howled and then whined and licked every inch of skin he could find. “Hurt? Where are you hurt, bondmate?”
“Ankle and ears. It’s nothing. Aw, Rune. I never thought I’d see you again.” Gratitude swelled inside her. Her throat thickened until it was hard to breathe; tears rolled down her face. The wolf licked them up…
Earth Reclaimed, Book 3
by Ann Gimpel
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 3/6/15
Genre: Dystopian Urban Fantasy
Power so old, deep, and chilling it hurts to think about it will overrun Earth if nothing changes. Targeted, furious, and fighting back, Aislinn runs wide open, gathering allies and putting her life on the line.
Aislinn Lenear has traveled a long road since the dark gods invaded Earth better than three years ago. After seeing her father slaughtered in front of her, and her mother sink into madness, Aislinn built strong walls around her heart. First her bond wolf, and then Fionn MacCumhaill, changed all that, but she and Fionn are far from home free.
Four of the six dark gods are still sowing destruction, and they’ve joined forces with Lemurians, a desperate lot, running just ahead of the tide of their own mortality. In a bold move, they try to coopt a group of young dragons, and very nearly succeed. Dewi, the Celtic dragon god, and Nidhogg, the Norse dragon god, banish their brood to the dragons’ home world, but they refuse to stay put.
In a fast-paced, tension-riddled closure to this dystopian, urban fantasy series, Earth's Hope sweeps from Ireland to the Greek Islands to the Pacific Northwest to borderworlds where the dark gods live. Fionn’s and Aislinn’s relationship is strained to the breaking point as they struggle to work together without tearing one another to bits. Fionn is used to being obeyed without question, but Aislinn won’t dance to his tune. If they can find their way, there may be hope for a ravaged Earth.
Excerpt Book Three:
…One of the red dragons leaped from the water, wings flapping, and dive-bombed her, showering her with slimy moat water.
“Ewww.” Aislinn sputtered the dank water away from her lips.
“Play with us,” the female dragon demanded.
“It’s almost time for bed.” Aislinn tried to sound stern, but she had the same problem with the younglings that plagued Dewi. They were so damned cute, it wasn’t easy to pull rank.
“Bed?” echoed from six other dragonlings. They vaulted from the water and converged on her, nearly crushing her beneath their bulk.
“Get off me,” Aislinn cried. “You’re heavy.”
“Yes,” the one black dragon announced proudly and nudged Rune with his scaled snout. “Once I rode you. Soon you’ll fit atop my back.”
“Don’t count on it,” Rune snarled.
Aislinn snickered. Flying atop a dragon wasn’t the wolf’s favorite activity. He tolerated it when he had to, but avoided it when he could.
“How’s it going, leannán?” Fionn strode down the greenway separating the moat from his castle.
Aislinn scrambled to her feet and shook water out of her hair. Her beige trousers were thick, boiled wool and fairly resistant to moisture. A cloak woven from the same wool wrapped around her body. She’d found the clothes in one of many trunks in Fionn’s attic. He couldn’t recall who they’d belonged to, but she assumed it was an earlier wife or girlfriend since he’d been born in 1048.
“Good, you’re here.” She squinted through the gloom. When he got close enough for her to see his face, the welcoming smile died on her lips.
“Aye, well at least someone is glad of my presence.”
“Didn’t go well, huh?” She held out her arms. He walked into them and wrapped his around her.
“Nay. Mostly the humans want to wait until we’re attacked. Bran wants to annihilate the Lemurians first.” He tightened his arms around her shoulders. “I want to bash our way through the dark gods until they get fed up enough to retreat, but I canna do it by myself.”
“We’ll help.” The black dragonling tried to wriggle between Fionn’s and Aislinn’s bodies. His scales caught on Aislinn’s pants.
“We will, we will,” other young voices chimed in.
“The dark ones killed our sister,” the black dragon went on, his piping voice serious. “We want revenge.”
“Mother won’t let us fight,” a green dragon spoke up. “She already said so.”
“Father disagreed,” the red dragon who’d invaded Aislinn’s lap said.
She’d gotten better at telling them apart, but it would be a relief once they named themselves. In all, there were two red females, three green males, the black male, and a copper male.
“I fear all of us will get our chance in battle afore this is over.” Gwydion, flanked by Bran, walked into their midst. “Come with me. Time to give Aislinn a break.”
“Will you tell us a story?” the copper dragon demanded.
“Yes,” a red dragon clapped her clawed forelegs together. “You tell the best stories.”
“I’ll be your bard tonight.” Bran made a sweeping bow. “Mayhap you’d care to hear about how dragons came to be.”
“Yes!” the red female shrieked.
“Follow Bran,” Gwydion urged. Once the dragons were in motion, some flying, some walking, he rolled his eyes and brought up the rear.
“Thanks,” Aislinn shouted after him.
“Ye owe me, lass,” he called over one shoulder.
Aislinn leaned her head into the nook between Fionn’s neck and shoulder. “Would you like to walk a bit before we go inside?”
“Aye, lass. Now ye mention it, I’d like that verra much.”
“Do you suppose we could go as far as the sea?”
“I thought we’d remain within my wards—”
Bella flapped out of the darkness and landed on Rune’s back. “We’re coming,” she announced.
“Of course we are,” Rune seconded. “My bonded one would never consider leaving me behind.”
Aislinn stifled a snort. The bond animals had their own network and frequently shared things among themselves that they’d never tell their humans. Apparently Bella had complained about Fionn ditching her, and the wolf was reminding her of that in a less-than-subtle manner.
“Since we’re all going,” Aislinn cut in before Fionn got into another argument with the cantankerous raven, “let’s do this. I sat for so long, I’m cold.” She wriggled out of Fionn’s embrace, reluctant to leave the warmth of his body.
“Would ye like me to find you a warmer wrap?” Fionn asked.
She shook her head. “I don’t want this to be a big production number. Mostly, I want to work the kinks out of my legs before we go to bed. Thank Christ Dewi will be back by the middle of tomorrow.”
Fionn hooked a hand beneath her arm and guided her toward the wall that rose all around his manor. He’d had the mansion built in the fifteen hundreds to exacting specifications. Flat, gray stones comprised the outer wall; they fit together so precisely it was nearly impossible to detect their edges. The house itself was built from huge wooden beams and river rock. Five stories, with turrets and a tower and leaded glass windows, it looked like something out of a movie set.
Aislinn fell into step beside him, grateful for her long legs that let her keep pace easily. They passed beneath one of four curved gateways set into the outer wall and out onto open moorland. Humans who’d been assigned sentry duty nodded as they passed. The salt tang of the sea deepened, tickling her nostrils. For a moment, she felt homesick for the dry air of the American west where she was from. Rune jumped to one side, jaws snapping, and came up with a small, wriggling creature.
“I shall hunt too,” Bella declared and launched herself off the wolf’s back. The black of her wings melted into the shadows until Aislinn couldn’t see her anymore without magic.
“Why’s she unhappy this time?” Aislinn asked.
“What it comes down to,” Fionn replied, “is she doesn’t enjoy sharing me. Aye, she likes you well enough. Not like your mother, who she detested, but jealousy still gets the better of her.”
“She’s good to have by our side in battle, though.” Aislinn licked her lips and tasted salt from perpetual mists that hung in the air. “Speaking of which, I assume there’s another pow-wow with the humans.”
“Aye, that there is. If nothing else, we must craft a defensive plan should we be attacked.”
“Not if, but when,” she cut in. “I can’t put my finger on it, but time grows short. I feel it here.” She laid a hand over her chest.
“Ye and Bran, both. He says the Lemurians are closing, and I presume the dark gods are masterminding whatever they’re up to.”
Rune growled from around his impromptu meal. “I’m ready.” He shifted to mind speech because his mouth was busy.
Aislinn waited for the raven to jump in, but either Bella was out of earshot, or biding her time. The roar of breakers on sand got louder as they closed the distance to the beach. Fionn stopped walking and spun her in his arms until they faced one another. He murmured a string of Gaelic endearments just before he closed his mouth over hers.
Aislinn wove her arms around Fionn’s muscled torso and opened her mouth to his insistent tongue. Need flared, hot and urgent, but Fionn always had that effect on her. From the moment their bodies had first slammed together, passion drove reason from her mind.
She’d lost her father to Perrikus and D’Chel the night they’d pierced the veil separating Earth from their borderworlds. Lemurians had killed her mother a year later, and Aislinn had vowed to never let another soul get close enough to hurt her if something hideous happened to them. She’d held firm for two years, but first Rune and then Fionn, had walked into her life and changed everything.
Too late. It’s too late to worry about it now. Her breath quickened, and her nipples formed hard peaks where they were squashed against his chest.
Fionn dropped his hands lower and cupped the curves of her ass, pulling her hard against an obvious erection. She tore her mouth from his. “So, do you just want to fall into the wet grass and get it on?”
He made a decidedly male sound deep in his throat. “Not a bad idea, leannán. I can make us a dry place with magic.” He butted his hard-on against her pelvis. “At least we’d have a shred of privacy. No telling who’ll burst into my rooms back in the house.”
“No kidding. Do you suppose the dragons have figured out how to work their way past the deadbolt?”
“Och, lassie. Now ye mention it, I caught the black one using magic to do just that earlier today.” He tugged one of her arms from around him and pushed her hand over his engorged flesh. “We willna be long. Think of the adventure aspect.” Muted humor ran beneath his words…
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.