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Faith Hunter Short: Off the Grid + Giveaway

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Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter // VBCVBC is thrilled to welcome back Faith Hunter to the blog. We love the Jane Yellowrock series and are eagerly awaiting the release of Faith’s new series with the Blood of the Earth on August 2 (pre-order it!). In the meantime, though, we have this exclusive short and a giveaway (read to the end for your chance to win).

This story, titled “Off the Grid,” takes place just before Broken Soul. In it, you’ll meet Nell, who will be getting her own series! The first book is Blood of the Earth.

That’s enough from us! Let’s turn it over to Faith.

Off the Grid

By Faith Hunter

Nell knew stuff. Nell was like a font of knowledge and wisdom, strength and power, innocence and hard-won independence. I liked her instantly, which didn’t happen to me often. I sat at her antique kitchen table, the boards smooth from long use, the finish mostly gone and the grain of the wood satiny beneath my fingertips. She had an old boom box loaded up with CDs: jazz and blues and even some forty-year-old hard rock, which started while we set the table. And her chicken and dumplings smelled so good I wanted to cry. Trusting her for reasons that had everything to do with her magic and her calm self-assuredness, I turned off the video; I had no desire to record Nell Ingram. She was a private woman and I wanted to honor that.

Nell didn’t offer grace, and when I commented on that, considering her ultra-right-wing background, she said, “I believe in God. I just don’t know if I like him much. I sure don’t like the colonel’s God, but then Ernest Jackson’s going to hell someday. If I get lucky, I’ll be the one to send him there.”

She was fierce for such a tiny little thing. Sharp-faced, delicate, and lean, with long, slender, strong fingers and hair she had never cut, worn parted down the middle and hanging to her hips. She’d have been almost pretty, if she had tried to be. But Nell didn’t put on airs for anyone. Nell was just, purely, Nell. Pale-skinned where she wasn’t tanned, farmer-John-style clothes, work boots. Capable-looking. And man, could she cook! The odors were enough to make Beast want to come out and chow down, the music selection was funky enough to make me want to dance, and Nell had cooked enough to feed herself for a week, which meant that there was plenty for me without the guilt of taking someone else’s food.

As I ate my second helping of flaky biscuitlike dumplings in thick chicken gravy, served up in green, hand-thrown pottery bowls big enough to double as horse troughs, Nell sketched what she remembered of the compound. I was able to overlay her sketch with the sat-map photos of the current compound, and quite a few of the buildings were unchanged, which helped a lot in the planning stage of a raid. She knew which building the colonel lived in and where the jail was. And best of all, she knew where the armaments were stored. “They keep ’em here”—she tapped the uneven rectangle that represented a building—“which is right next to the nursery. They know no one’s gonna blow up the weapons and risk killing all the children.”

“Yeah. That’s . . .” I thought through possibilities and discarded cruel, insane, and evil, to choose “. . . not unexpected.”

Nell snorted, and it wasn’t a ladylike snort; it was a hard, ferocious sound. “It’s the way cowards work.”

I didn’t disagree.

“You asked about caves,” she said. “They got several, but they’re used for storage. So far as I ever heard, they weren’t the kind that went anywhere. But there’s a long crevasse here.” She pointed at my sat map to a darker green area. I had thought it was just a different kind of tree growing close together so the leaves overlapped, but according to the topo map, she was right, it was a narrow ravine. “That’s how they get in and out. A crick runs along the bottom, then goes underground for a ways. It comes back out on the Philemons’ property, and the entrance can be seen from their house. There’s no way past. Trust me. The Philemon family are church-related, and they let the colonel use their vehicles in return for concessions.”

“Money?” I asked.

“Access to the womenfolk.” Her eyes went harder, a flint green. “Young womenfolk, the ones who don’t agree with the plans made for them by their men.”

“Oh,” I said softly. I had no idea what this woman had been through in her short life, but it sounded as though it might have been pretty horrible. Somehow she had escaped. She had survived. I was curious, but the expression on her face warned me not to intrude. I kept my questions and my sympathy to myself.

Nell knew the history of all the families who were members of the church, and showed me her family’s house on the church grounds. She also posited one reason why Heyda had gone with the colonel. “There’s a family named Cohen in the compound. If one of them was sick or in danger, or was confined to the punishment house, and if they were related, she might a gone with the men willingly, thinking she could do something to help.”

“Punishment house?”

She tapped the drawing she had made, and when she spoke her voice was colder than any winter wind. “Here. Where the women are kept until they achieve the proper, scriptural attitude of obedience and do what they’re told.”

I took a chance and asked, “Did you do what you were told?”

Nell shot me a look of pure venom. “My life is none of your business.”

“Okay.” I sent another text to Alex to check out the Cohens, but so far, he hadn’t responded. When Nell realized that I wouldn’t bring up her former life again, she quickly became talkative and helpful, but all her reticence did was make me want to know more—a history I knew she wouldn’t share.

The very best thing Nell told me was about the old logging road that twisted through the woods from her property right into the heart of the church grounds. It curved around and under a ledge of rock and hadn’t been visible from cameras in the sky. “Last time I looked, which was this past winter, when we had a couple of feet of snow on the ground, they didn’t have the road blocked or booby-trapped, but it’s grown up pretty bad. You’ll havta hoof it in.”

“This may make all the difference in saving the v—Mithran the colonel took prisoner.”

“Sure. One thing,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Vampires. Are they spawn of Satan? That’s what we were taught at the church. And if they’re devils, why help them? Why work for them?”

I gave her a halfhearted shrug. “I was taught the same thing. But I’ve met humans who are surely Satan’s children. And I’ve met vamps who are no worse than the best of us. Except for that whole needing-to-drink-human-blood thing.”

She grinned and slid her hands into the bib of her overalls. “I reckon that could be a mite off-puttin’.”

I expected her to ask if I’d ever been bitten, but she didn’t. Private to her core, was Nell. I walked to the door, where she shook my hand, hers feeling tiny but with a grip like a mule skinner’s. I said, “Thank you so much. I have no way of letting you know when we’ll get back here, what with no cell signal, but either tonight or tomorrow night.”

“I’m good for whenever, but you better take out my observer if you want this to go off in secret. I got no idea who it is, but it’s a good guess he reports to the church. Most folk hereabouts do.” She stuffed a plastic grocery bag into my hands, one filled with Ball jars of raw honey and preserves. “If he’s still there, he’ll think you got my name from someone in town and came for remedies or jelly.” She smiled shyly. “I make pretty good jellies, and my antioxidant tea is great for colds.”

I smothered my surprise at her use of the word antioxidant. Nell might talk like a country hick and wear clothes that swathed her in shapelessness, but she wasn’t stupid. Not at all. “In that case, I’ll pay my way,” I said, and placed two twenties on the table. Before she could object, I said, “The hospitality was free. I know that. But my partners will love the treats, so I’m paying for them. Period.” She smiled, and her face was transformed from merely almost pretty to downright lovely.

I left Nell washing dishes and walked back up the drive, this time not keeping to the shadows and tree line, but walking out as if I had a right to be there. Fang was sitting just as I’d left it, behind the tree. I started the bike and draped the grocery bag around the handlebars where it could be seen. I dawdled my way down the mountain and back to Knoxville. On the way I ascertained that the deer stand was still manned, and this time I got a good look at him. White male, brown, greasy hair, scruffy beard, pasty-skinned, and wearing camo. I could pick him out of a lineup if needed, but I intended to make sure that he never got a chance to be in one. One way or another, I’d see that Nell Nicholson Ingram’s spy was sent packing or was left to crawl away and lick his wounds.

GIVEAWAY TIME

a Rafflecopter giveaway

19 Responses to “Faith Hunter Short: Off the Grid + Giveaway”

  1. Pauline E. says:

    Wow, thanks for posting this excerpt to prep us fans for the new release next week! Also thanks for hosting my favorite author on her blog tour!

    Pauline E.

  2. Brenda R. says:

    Thanks for hosting this stop on the blog tour. I love the Jane Yellowrock series.

  3. Carol Gilreath says:

    Great excerpt! Thanks for hosting one of the stops on the blog tour and the giveaway.

  4. Northwoman says:

    I really love the Jane Yellowrock series. Off the Grid is an excellent introduction to Nell and this exciting new series!

  5. Lisa W says:

    I’m so excited!! Thanks for posting!

  6. Tammy M says:

    Thanks for hosting this stop, and posting the excerpt to get people familiar with Nell! I can’t wait for Blood of the Earth to come out next week!

  7. larisa says:

    Each day this gets more exciting. Thanks for another great post!

  8. snapdragon says:

    I am really excited about this book.

  9. Diane N. says:

    I loved Nell the first time she appeared. Can’t wait to get to know more about her. Thanks for hosting.

  10. Liz S says:

    Can’t wait to read the new series!

  11. Dawn Roberto says:

    Thanks for this giveaway and for sharing this short story. Just started the Jane Yellowrock series and am looking forward to the new one with Nell.

  12. Denisetwin says:

    OH I love this!!!!

  13. Amy Storch says:

    I look forward to reading the whole series.

  14. Amber says:

    Faith is one of my favorite authors. I have already pre-ordered the book and look forward to the second one!

  15. JenM says:

    This new series sounds really good. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  16. Texas Book Lover says:

    This sounds like another great series!!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. I love Jane and can’t wait to start this spin-off series.

  18. Sarah says:

    oooooh more books more books!!!!

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