Explosive Chemistry is an urban fantasy, paranormal slow-burn romance set 30 years into a hopeful future where fossil fuels are obsolete. Liliana, a reluctant spider-kin fortune teller, is faced with the task of solving the mystery of who killed four soldiers at Fort Liberty. Follow along as Liliana bands together with an irritating Fae Colonel as they defend their close friends, an oak goblin doctor and a fairy with a penchant for machine guns, from becoming the next victims. Including a neurodivergent main character and a diverse cast of quirky companions, Explosive Chemistry is the second installment of the Liliana and the Fae of Fayetteville series that started with Precise Oaths.
Read on for the action-packed excerpt!
She drew out a line of silk and picked up a pebble, encasing the stone in silk on one end. She stepped back behind a tree trunk, waiting for the right moment.
In the clearing, Sergeant Giovanni, Pete, Detective Jackson, and Lieutenant Runningwolf surrounded the giant, shooting her from multiple angles. The bullets made tiny chips in her flint hard skin, no bigger than a mosquito bite.
Utlunta laughed, holding the body of their now dead teammate in one hand, with the other behind it.
Pete tried hurling a few knives at the stone giant. When that had no effect, he reached to the back of his neck and pulled the machete from the sheath on his back.
Liliana shook her head. That would not help. If he had his sword, that might help, but the machete would do nothing. He needed to shoot her in the right hand like Liliana told him.
With a whooped war cry, Pete hacked futilely at a stone thigh, the steel blade clanging chang chang against unyielding stone.
The giant shifted her grip on the dead body so she held him by one leg, then swung the body at Pete and the others in a sweeping swing, ending with the body flying toward Runningwolf who had an automatic weapon. His bullets had made more little mosquito bite pockmarks in her stone skin than any other.
He dodged the flying body in a motion almost too fast to see, but it put him further away from the stone giant.
Only Sergeant Giovani was left standing within reach. The tall, athletic, dark-haired MP aimed carefully, and shot the giant in the eye.
Utlunta blinked, rubbed her matt black eye with her left hand, the one that didn’t have a long sharp spearhead where an index finger should be. Then, she reached for Sergeant Giovanni with that spear.
The military police sergeant ducked the giant’s reaching bladed hand, turned and ran for all she was worth straight up the trail Liliana hid beside.
Utlunta’s feet smashed everything in their path like massive boulders as she gave chase.
Sergeant Giovanni zoomed past, her long legs churning like an Olympic sprinter, but Utlunta’s longer stride rapidly closed the distance between them. Giovanni looked behind her just as the giant’s hand reached forward … and the soldier tripped on one of Liliana’s silk lines.
As Sergeant Giovanni tucked with the fall in a skilled reflex roll that Liliana admired, the giant’s hand grabbed air where she had just been a moment before.
Liliana threw her pebble-weighted silk line around one massive flint ankle, it whirled around and around like a tether ball on a pole.
Sergeant Giovani rolled to her feet and kept right on running up the path.
The stone giant took one more running stride and encountered the line Liliana strung that was just over the petite spider-kin’s head. Sergeant Giovanni had rolled under it. For Utlunta, it hit just below her knee. The giant, who had already been leaning forward to grab at her prey, overbalanced forward and tried to bring her other foot up to compensate.
Liliana dug in her ballet slippered heels, dropped her butt to the ground, held tight, and let the giant’s foot drag her like a weighted ball on a chain. Dirt, rocks and roots scraped the spider-kin’s bottom and feet.
Unable to get her other foot out fast enough, the giant fell, knocking over mature pines, their trunks snapping like rifle shots. Her body shook the earth when it hit like a landslide.
Pete ran up the trail, Detective Jackson and Lieutenant Runningwolf on his heels. “Lilly!” he shouted.
She looked up at him exasperated from where she squatted in the dirt of the trail, her skirt, leotard, and slippers all probably ruined. Her skin beneath the cloth scraped raw and burning. “Shoot her right hand.”
“That makes no sense,” Pete said.
The stocky soldier beside him said, “I’d swear that was U’tlun’ta, Spearfinger,” he said. “But she’s not supposed to be in this area. I heard she was killed in the mountains near Asheville a century ago.”
“She is immortal.” Liliana hauled backward just as the giant started to get up, so she tripped and fell again. “Killing her just makes her sleep in stone for a century, and awake somewhere else.”
“Lucky us,” the big soldier grunted and looked at Pete. “We’ll have to shoot her in the right hand. It’s Spearfinger’s only weakness.”
Pete looked at him sharply. “How do you know that?”
Lieutenant Runningwolf shrugged. “I dated an Eastern Cherokee girl in college. We traded stories.”
Lilly gave Pete a pointed look, too annoyed to be embarrassed to meet his eyes.
Pete’s pale, freckled face, already red from exertion, might have turned a shade of brighter pink. “Sorry, Lilly.” He sheathed the useless machete and pulled his pistol back out of the shoulder holster.
The giant yanked her foot, flinging the little spider seer, who was still holding tight to the silken cord attached to the giant’s ankle, into the trees.
Liliana released the silk line and twisted her body to miss a tree trunk. She landed on her feet and rolled to take the momentum … right into a bunch of winterberry bushes.
She groaned. New bruises and scrapes added their own shrill voices to the cacophony of pain her abraded skin was already singing.
As she extricated herself slowly from the bush’s branches–they tangled in her clothes and hair, punching holes and ripping fabric–she heard an angry inhuman bellow mixed with the grating sound of stone on stone. Three rapid pistol shots cracked and the brrrat of a burst of machine gun fire. Then … silence.
There was nothing more utterly silent than a forest with all the beasts hunkered down from fear. Not so much as a bird or a cricket chirped for a long moment.
Then somewhere a jay made its namesake call, and the normal forest sounds slowly returned.
Liliana worked her way around tree trunks and through brush to get back to her friends.
Pete, Detective Jackson, and Lieutenant Runningwolf now stood over the body of an elderly Native American woman in the path. Sergeant Giovanni had made her escape and was some ways further down the path, unaware of her pursuer’s temporary death.
Blood pulsed from the old woman’s right hand into a broad pool, then sank into the earth. As Liliana got to them, the enraged, wrinkled face faded to dull, striated charcoal gray. The body solidified into a vaguely human-shaped outcropping of flint that ran across the path.
Liliana let her shoulders sag. Pain saturated her bones. It would be nice if she didn’t have to fight any more giants until these new injuries healed.
From Explosive Chemistry by Paige E Ewing. Copyright © 2023 by the author and reprinted by permission.
Explosive Chemistry by Paige E Ewing was published yesterday November 21 2023 by City Owl Press and is available from all good booksellers, including