Greetings! First of all, I want to say thanks to Jen for hosting me on her blog again. I appreciate it!
Stings and Stones is a collection of short stories from my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Back in the early 2010s, I used to write short stories for Gin Blanco and the secondary characters and post them on my website. The stories are basically stand-alone adventures for many of the characters. Stings and Stones collects all those stories in one place, along with a couple of stories that have been featured in various anthologies over the years.
My favorite story in the collection is “Spider’s Nemesis,” which is from the point of view of Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who is the main villain in the first five books in the Elemental Assassin series.
“Spider’s Nemesis” is basically a villain origin story that flashes back to various points in Mab’s life when she tangled with Gin’s mother, Eira Snow, and other characters. So much of the Elemental Assassin series is from Gin’s point of view that I thought it would be interesting to show Mab’s perspective, especially as Mab morphs from a young girl into a full-fledged villain.
I really enjoyed diving into Mab’s personality, and she ended up having a dry, sardonic tone and a sort of dark humor in how she looks at the world, including the mysterious Spider assassin who keeps thwarting her time and time again.
Villains are always fun to write, but Mab is definitely among my most determined villains. She is definitely driven to achieve her goals—no matter who stands in her way—and it was really interesting to write about why Mab did some of the things she did.
I hope everyone enjoys “Spider’s Nemesis” and the rest of the short stories. Happy reading! 😀
Chapter One—Mab Monroe
This story takes place after Tangled Threads, book 4 in the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.
The assassin just wouldn’t die.
No matter what I did, no matter how hard I had my men look for her, no matter whom I hired to kill her, the Spider just wouldn’t die. Once again tonight, she’d escaped the trap I’d set for her—and embarrassed me in the process.
I hated being embarrassed. It wasn’t good for business or, more important, my image.
It was two days before Christmas, and I was standing in the old Ashland train yard. My property, which was currently littered with bodies.
The cops were already here, the blue and red lights on top of their city-issued sedans spinning around and around, throwing garish flashes of color everywhere. The bright pools of light illuminated the railcars that stood in the yard and made the rusty metal tracks gleam like bronze ribbons. The cops had already broken out the yellow crime-scene tape, stringing it up from one railcar to the next.
I always wondered why they bothered with such asinine things after the fact. My men were dead. Cordoning off the area wasn’t going to do the dead giants any good, and there wouldn’t be much evidence to collect. The Spider never left anything important behind at the sites of her kills.
Just that damn rune.
Tonight she’d drawn it into the loose gravel underfoot, like a chicken scratching in the dirt. A circle surrounded by eight thin rays—a spider rune.
I stared down at the mark at my feet, my hands curling into fists and a bit of steam rising off my clenched fingers. I would have liked nothing more than to unleash hot, pulsing wave after wave of my Fire magic until that damn rune and all the ground around it were charred to ash. But I couldn’t do that, not while other people were watching.
Reporters from the city’s newspaper and the TV and radio stations, along with various social-media outlets, clustered in groups behind the crime-scene tape, their phones and cameras all aimed in this direction, filming the cops as they loaded the bodies onto gurneys to slide into the coroner’s vans that had been dispatched to the scene.
And folks thought I was evil. At least I wasn’t a media vulture. Sure, I killed people for money, whim, pleasure, or simply to make a point, but I didn’t film the process—or the aftermath.
A few of the reporters noticed me staring in their direction and took that as an invitation to start squawking at me.
“Ms. Monroe! Mab! Mab! Can you give us a statement about what happened? Is it true that the Spider killed several members of your security detail?”
The reporters’ questions all ran together, like a swarm of mosquitoes whining in the background. I ignored them and stared at the rune on the ground again. I wondered the same thing I always did whenever I saw the symbol.
Why a spider rune? Out of all the runes out there, why had she chosen such a simple one to leave behind as her mark?
The rune nagged at me, like a pin pricking my skin over and over again. I knew I’d seen the symbol before, but I couldn’t quite place where or whom it had belonged to. Someone I’d killed, most likely, since the Spider always cheerfully crowed about payback during the brief phone conversations I’d had with her. But who could it be? I’d long ago lost count of all the fools I’d eliminated over the years.
You didn’t get to be the head of the Ashland underworld by being a shy, retiring type, and I’d risen through the ranks faster than most. Of course, I’d had some help from certain colleagues who preferred to remain hidden in the shadows, but I’d clawed my way to the top of the criminal food chain in no small part due to my own ruthless determination and especially my Fire magic.
The elemental power burned inside me, as though my veins were filled with lava instead of blood. Oh, sure, other elementals had Air, Ice, or Stone magic or pitiful offshoots of those areas like electricity, water, or metal, but nothing could compare to the feel of my Fire magic, to that molten heat that was always lurking just below the surface of my pale skin, ready to be used in the most vicious, painful, creative way possible.
The snowflakes swirling in the cold December air hissed and steamed away as they came into contact with my copper-colored hair. I was one of those elementals who constantly gave off waves of power, even when I wasn’t actively using my Fire magic to let someone know exactly how unhappy I was with them. Right now, I would have loved nothing more than to show the Spider just how displeased I was with her—and that you tangled with Mab Monroe at your own bloody peril.
About the Book:
Stings and Stones
Author: Jennifer Estep
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2023
Series: Elemental Assassin short story collection
Genre: Urban fantasy
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Estep serves up an Elemental Assassin short story collection featuring danger, magic, and a touch of romance. Perfect for fans of Ilona Andrews, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, and Faith Hunter.
Flash back to one of Gin Blanco’s many missions as the assassin the Spider. Learn more about Gin’s relationships with her mentor, Fletcher Lane, and her foster brother, Finnegan Lane, and see what trouble the other characters get themselves into when Gin’s not around. From a ghost’s lost love to a villain’s origin story, this action-packed collection has something for every urban fantasy and paranormal romance fan.
The Stings and Stones collection features ten short stories told by various characters:
“Spider’s Bargain” — Gin Blanco
“Web of Death” — Gin Blanco
“Web of Deceit” — Fletcher Lane
“Poison” — Finnegan Lane
“Wasted” — Finnegan Lane
“Tangled Dreams” — Jo-Jo and Sophia Deveraux
“Tangled Schemes” — Bria Coolidge
“Spider’s Nemesis” — Mab Monroe
“Haints and Hobwebs” — Gin Blanco
“Parlor Tricks” — Gin Blanco
Note: Stings and Stones is a 67,000-word collection of Elemental Assassin short stories. Some of the stories previously appeared on Jennifer Estep’s website, while others have been featured in anthologies.
STINGS AND STONES EBOOKS: 📕⚔️🕸️🕷️
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/42C5jtw
Barnes & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/yc2dwyk8
Apple Books: https://tinyurl.com/bdz2yca2
Google Play: https://tinyurl.com/4rnxtr3e
STINGS AND STONES PRINT BOOKS: 📕⚔️🕸️🕷️
Amazon print: https://amzn.to/3R4kc4O
Barnes & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/yp9d3td6
Booksellers and librarians can order through IngramSpark: https://www.ingramspark.com/
About the Author:
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.
Stings and Stones, a collection of Elemental Assassin short stories, will be released Nov. 28.
Jennifer is also the author of the Galactic Bonds, Section 47, Crown of Shards, Gargoyle Queen, and other fantasy series. She has written more than 45 books, along with numerous novellas and stories.
In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys hanging out with friends and family, doing yoga, and reading fantasy and romance books. She also watches way too much TV and loves all things related to superheroes.
For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, BookBub, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.
Happy reading, everyone!
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Jennifer_Estep (@Jennifer_Estep)
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