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Title: The Bird With The Broken Wing
Author: D L Richardson
Genre: Paranormal, Young-adult
Publisher: Etopia Press
"When mortals make mistakes they’re forgiven.
When angels make mistakes they’re forsaken.
Angels may not reveal themselves to mortals.
But when the mortal Rachael’s watching over is hurting, how can she stay hidden in the shadows?
Guardian angel Rachael becomes trapped with the mortal she’s been assigned to watch over. Unable to watch him suffer, she decides the only way to free him of his inner demons is to break the rules about becoming involved, revealing her true identity, and applying divine intervention. But what choice does she have? Without her help, his soul will be trapped forever. Then a stranger appears, giving Rachael reason to wonder if his is the only soul in need of saving...”
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She was a chronic worrier—
“I have a bad feeling about this, Ben.”
—and a touch melodramatic.
“This is suicide. It’s also stupid, morally wrong, and pointless. And did I mention suicide?”
Ben wasn’t listening. He was reaching a hand inside the open neck of his shirt. She’d spent enough time with him to know he was touching the cross on the necklace that had once belonged to his dad.
“Detached, that’s how you make me feel, Ben. Like I’m watching your life through a window.”
Striking up an old conversation was hardly creative, yet the feeling of not belonging with him was just as strong now. She gave a heavy, audible sigh but Ben wasn’t taking the bait. “A bubble. I live in a bubble.”
“Relax.” Ben closed his eyes as he sucked up a deep, dusty red breath like he was meditating on Mars. “Everything will be all right.”
As well as a chronic worrier and a touch melodramatic, she was also an eternal optimist. So she looked around in case she was missing something, but all she saw was proof to the contrary. She, Ben, and a few hundred others were in a convoy, crossing a desert that appeared to be empty, yet the drivers had dodged gun and mortar fire since they’d passed over the border an hour ago.
What this land must have looked like when it’d been fertile with lush, green trees and wide, blue rivers was hard to imagine, but she tried. Her eyes had closed for a second when a burst of gunfire to her right jolted them wide open again.
“We signed up for non-combat jobs, remember?” She wondered if punching him in the head would do any good.
Probably not. If her bubble-hands were too weak to smash through the invisible wall surrounding her, they’d be like wet rags against his thick skull. Plus he was wearing a metal helmet and she was likely to break more than a nail.
“We’re meant to be back home making trucks. That’s what we were promised we’d be doing. Jeez, Ben. Think about your mom.”
Perhaps he was. Perhaps many of the soldiers here were thinking about loved ones they’d left behind. Many of the men and women seated on either side of her had grave expressions, like tufts of unruly hair, peeking out from underneath their helmets. Or were they just scared?
Maybe a sense of duty impelled them to enter a war zone. Responsibility was her only motive; she certainly wasn’t here for the ambience. And she would rather have thrown herself under the truck’s heavy wheels than dodge her responsibilities. So with an dramatic sigh—in case during the past minute Ben had suddenly developed the ability to take a hint—she settled back into the role of accepting what she couldn’t change while wishing that she could.
A round of cheers sprang up from a group of soldiers at the back of the truck, a malevolent presence screaming as if newly born and was demanding to be fed. She shivered and huddled closer to Ben.
It can be the brightest day, but fill it with just one dark soul and the day is ruined.
She made a mental note to keep well clear of these soldiers. She hoped Ben was smart enough to do the same.
“I’m here to keep my homeland safe.” The tremor in Ben’s voice was at odds with his bold statement. She wanted to tell him he could’ve made trucks at home, but because his eyes were fixed on his boots she succumbed to the rhythm of the back-jarring ride across the pothole-filled road and held her breath, hoping it wouldn’t be her last.
Their convoy of flatbed trucks was carrying hundreds of troops, weapons, ammunition, Abrams tanks, armored personnel carriers, and Humvees to the compound, their base for the next six months. With any luck they’d move out faster than they were moving in. Their convoy was doing twenty miles an hour, but she felt as if ants could have passed them.
She wanted to laugh as she pictured tiny insects kicking up orange dust, flipping the bird at the drivers and shouting obscenities. Instead, she bit her lower lip. This was neither the time nor the place to flaunt her eternal optimism. Besides, she wasn’t sure she had any cheerfulness left in her.
“I still don’t see why we’re here,” she mumbled.
What made the trip seem slower, she realized, was the lack of perspective. Much like an ocean without any land mass to help judge distance, this desert seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of them. If only the drivers would go faster; it had to be harder to hit a quicker-moving target. She was tempted to grab Ben by the collar and pull him off the truck, but the heat was around a hundred degrees, and with all the gear packed on them—M-247, M-249, backpack, flak jacket, radio, helmet, goggles—it would’ve been like sprinting around inside an oven.
Sand began to whirl in all directions, marching up and down the convoy as if sizing it up to establish whether it could be swallowed whole. This was the most dangerous time for the convoy. The trucks had to slow to a crawl or risk running into each other or off the road. Their only saving grace was that the enemy was exposed to the same elements. So while the soldiers couldn’t see a thing, they also couldn’t be seen. At least that was her theory.
Time went by. Soldiers weren’t killed so everyone began to relax a little and make conversation. But when the flatbed truck passed a burned-out tank on the side of the road, everyone went quiet. Nobody could take their eyes off the ruins. Despite wanting to look away out of respect, she was enthralled.
Did everyone want to know the same thing she did? Had the tank internally combusted from the constant battering of the sun? Nice concept, but this damage had been caused by man. Judging by the looks on their faces, everyone knew that. When the eyes of the soldiers around her widened she guessed they had silently asked another question. Was this one of their tanks or the enemy’s?
They lowered their eyes and she had her answer.
“Do you think they got out before it got hit?” she asked.
Ben didn’t respond, but from the rear of the truck the loud-mouthed soldiers yelled, “Oh yeah, you’re gonna get it now, you freakin’ sons of bitches.” Cheers followed. Even if she’d known what insults to hurl at these soldiers, she reminded herself that she’d sworn moments ago to steer clear of these men. So she kept her gaze forward and her mouth shut.
Like a good soldier. A ripple of self-loathing rose and lodged in her throat. She’d never have guessed it would taste so foul.
Outside, the sand was swirling faster as though thrown about by a crèche load of bad-tempered toddlers, and pretty soon both the ground and sky were painted flame orange, crackling like an open fire. She was afraid to breathe. Soldiers pulled down their goggles to cover their eyes, but this action was a useless defense against the sand that bit into their exposed flesh.
The dust cleared, and finally, the convoy arrived at the compound. Without a word, she and everyone else began unloading the contents of the flatbed trucks—smaller trucks, enough guns to keep the war going for centuries, tanks, food, water and whatever other supplies they’d need for the next six months.
Breathing was difficult. This was the most physical work she’d performed in ages. When she stopped for a break, resentment at the lies welled inside her. Tears stung her eyes. “Forget home sweet home, this place is home sweat home.”
Each and every soldier was drenched from top to bottom from the exertion of working under the glaring sun. Their sweat filled the air; she could have sworn she was in a sauna. Optimism dripped off her forehead. She wiped at her brow and was surprised when her hand came away wet, not with sweat but something else.
No tears. At least not for herself.
After half an hour, a few companies got into the smaller trucks and disappeared, perhaps to do their hard labor in another section of the growing heat. Another hour after that, once everything had been unloaded, the company she and Ben were assigned to was ordered into one of the smaller trucks, and they too left.
A sergeant with silver hair and eyes was seated in the front. He looked the type who was too mean to have ever had a pet. For long.
“You pussies will stand guard at the hospital for the next twenty-four hours,” the sergeant bellowed. “You will each do two twelve-hour shifts, one shift inside the hospital, one outside.”
“When do we get time to shoot the enemy?” the kid next to Ben asked. For one so young his eyes were hard, like steel.
“Don’t be fooled. The enemy is out there.” The sergeant’s gravelly voice roared as loudly as the aircraft parading over their heads. “If you ladies find yourself in a threatening situation, well, you know what to do. Are you pussies prepared to protect your fellow countrymen?”
A roar of cheers engulfed the truck. If the enemy hadn’t known they were here before, they were well aware of it now.
“Shoot first and ask questions later. That’s what he means.” The kid inched his way closer toward Ben. “You ever shot a bear? They come at you even after you’ve pumped ten rounds in ’em. I’ve heard it’s the same with these bastards. You shoot ’em and shoot ’em, but they keep coming at you with guns and knives. All the while cursing at you in the Devil’s language. You got to be careful not to touch ’em either. Their blood is poison.”
“I doubt we’ll shoot anyone at a hospital.” Ben scowled and moved along the bench as best as he could without falling off the edge. The kid must have gotten the hint because he kept quiet after that.
Unaffected by the searing heat outside, the truck chugged along until it rolled up outside a hospital that had weathered grenade blasts and gunfire till it resembled a thousand-year-old relic.
For some, this was their first time on foreign soil. For others, this was simply another day at work. Yet everyone jumped off the truck and danced boxer-like on their feet as though something invisible was going to jump out from the air and snatch them.
The sky above was on the go with Apache helicopters, hellfire missiles, dust, and jet stream. On the ground was a different story. The air barely stirred. No sign of anyone or anything with a pulse, let alone the dreaded enemy. Aside from one or two civilians she could see sneaking peeks at the soldiers from around corners of shattered buildings, the street was empty. So why could she feel the distinct presence of something out there? Watching, waiting, and blistering with hatred at this invasion.
“Each and every one of you signed a contract with the U.S. Army, which means your asses belong to me,” shouted the sergeant. His eyes scanned the soldiers with no more than a passing glance, as though he already considered them obsolete. “Your mommies can’t help you now. So if any of you pussies don’t want to be here, you can kiss my red, white, and blue behind. Now secure the building and welcome to hell.”
About the Author:
D L (Deborah Louise) Richardson is an author of Young Adult fiction. She has run a secondhand clothing store and was bass player/lead vocalist in a band she helped form. Today she is a writer. The Bird With The Broken Wing is her debut novel. She lives in Australia on the NSW South Coast with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing or reading she can be found practicing her piano, playing the guitar or walking the dog.
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*This tour was put together by FMB Blog Tours