A Bounce Before I Die

Midlife Muddle Book 2

Villains, Annoying Assistants, and Monsters…Oh My!

My best friend had nothing to do with bouncing or monsters until something went terribly wrong in my new job. Suddenly she’s missing, and the rumor is that a nest of monsters might have her. Those monsters are about to meet their match. I’m going to go medieval on their furry butts. If only I can figure out how to control my bouncing magic for five solid minutes.

I just hope Molly will forgive me for bringing her assistant Rog along on the rescue mission. The man has taken annoying to levels heretofore unknown. Believe me, I’ve tried to shake him. But he’s like a giant octopus with a thousand tentacles. He insists he needs to go with me on the rescue. Unfortunately, the man has even less sense than he has magic. And he has zero magic.

Something tells me this is going to go badly.  

    

"STOP!! WARNING!!! Before starting this second book in this amazing series, go to the bathroom, get your snacks, grab a cup of coffee and a blanket. Then strap yourself in securely as you are about to go on a non stop ride from beginning to end! I'm not kidding...let the action begin!" 


Praise for A Bounce Before I Die

Thomas P Booksprout reviewer

"...fast-paced with developed characters and almost constant action.I didn't want to put this book down."

Margery, Booksprout Reviewer

"Right from the beginning of the book you are gripped into the action...an impossible book to put down. Cats have 9 lives, I think travelers have the same! Ms. Cheever had me yelling at the book when I had to put it down for the characters to hold still, I would be back A.S.A.P. My hubby laughed saying I lived on Terra Ferma, not in the wonderful world Ms. Cheever created. Thank you!"   


Read an Excerpt

Give the Rat Some Cheese


“Rog, I swear to the goddess I’m going to throttle you if you don’t step back,” I said. 

Molly’s assistant cocked a bony hip and fixed his expression into a look of disgust even the “get off my lawn guy” would envy. “We’ve had this discussion a thousand times,” he said in a thoroughly disgruntled tone. “I’m right and you’re wrong. There’s nothing more to say. Now step aside grasshopper and let the sensei do his work.”

I grabbed the nearest piece of wood and brandished it in his direction. “Step back Lackofsensei. You are physiologically and emotionally ill-equipped to assemble this desk.”

Hands on hips, the pushy assistant glared at me, his brown eyes bulging with rage. Since both of us were around five feet seven inches tall, we met eye-to-eye across the battlefield, Molly’s Spring designs surrounding us like fancy cloth soldiers. “Woman, you rarely make any sense. But that excrement is beyond ridiculous. Why would I be ill-equipped to tackle this simple project?”

I snorted to ward off a barrage of snarky responses. He’d really left himself open on that one. But I took the high road…or as high as it was possible for me to go at the moment. “Everybody knows that the male of the species doesn’t read directions. Even though you’re a beta male at best, you apparently inherited the instruction-resistant gene.”

Rog launched himself at me, his bony frame hardly creating a backdraft as he chest-bumped me into the desk we’d been struggling to assemble. Unfortunately, instead of a sleek example of Swedish simplicity, it looked more like an alien pod. Parts stuck out from strange places. We’d run out of screws and bolts five minutes into the project. I was pretty sure that one of the drawers had been installed backward. And there was a strange slit in the desktop that I didn't think was supposed to be there. The thing might as well have been made for ET since I was pretty sure the assembly directions had been written by little green men.

Yeah, I know. I’d just accused Rob of not following the directions. But there’s a difference between not reading and reading but not understanding a set of badly crafted instructions. 

A tiny woman swept past us on a wave of flowery scent and glossy black hair. Molly rolled her eyes so hard I feared she’d crack her eye sockets. “Sweet Cherubs on a crescent moon!” she exclaimed on her way by. “You two are worse than my sister’s teenagers. Just leave it. I’ll put the thing together after I finish doing everything else you were supposed to do today.”

Molly’s diatribe shamed me and I frowned. Rounding on her annoying assistant, I focused such malevolence on him that my brain conjured a picture of a twitching pink nose with whiskers and big, rat teeth. It looked so real it startled me. 

I needed to get hold of my temper before I started attacking the man with mis-assembled desk parts. 

Sighing, I extended the board I’d been clutching in a gesture of goodwill. You'll have to forgive me if I cocked my arm into a throttling position with the offering. I’m only human after all. “If you can figure out where this goes, I’ll take back my mean thoughts about men not reading directions.”

Rog crossed his arms over his skinny chest and glared at me. “What about the mean thoughts you were having about me?”

I curled my lip. “Don’t push your luck.”

A soft sigh traveled in our direction from across the room, where Molly was pulling racks of designer duds around in an attempt to perfect the showroom’s feng shui.

I opened my mouth to relent when the rat-face from seconds before reappeared, the tiny black eyes and nasty mouth slashing past inches away from my face on a shriek and a hiss. 

“Ah!” I yelped, caught off guard. A beat later, I realized what was happening. “No, no, no, no, no!” I chanted, reaching frantically for the place of serene control that Justice had been trying to help me find. 

Another rat joined the first, the two of them mere inches from my face when they leaped into the air. I ducked as the vision sifted away into nothing, fighting to concentrate on my control.

“What are you doing?” Rog asked in his usual nasally tone.

“Huh?” I asked stupidly. Shaking my head, I clenched all my muscles as if that would keep the bounce from coming. That, actually was the exact opposite of what Justice had been trying to teach me. 

His deep, sexy voice slid across my thoughts. It was almost enough to distract me into calming the heck down. “Close your eyes,” his sonorous voice intoned in my mind. “Take deep breaths. Think about easing into your bounce rather than being ripped into it.”

Given that I’d been thrown into the traveler gig with zero warning and no preparation, Justice had been trying to get me up to speed for the last several weeks. We’d eschewed training in weapons and fighting since I’d been a cop for decades before I’d retired with the now defunct notion of relaxing more, reading lots of books, and sleeping as much as I wanted in between buying copious pairs of shoes.

Since I’d been coopted into my role as traveler—a sort of inter-dimensional cop—rather than recruited into it or joining by choice, I’d known nothing about the job when the previous traveler had popped out of thin air and magically transferred her job and responsibilities to me before promptly dying at my feet. 

After learning to deal with my new future, I’d done my best to succeed. But I’d been shocked and slightly delighted to learn my new job actually came with magical skills. For example, I was supernaturally good with knives of all kinds. Apparently, I also had inner sight, which I had no idea how to use. But mostly, Justice and had I been practicing my bouncing skills, since that was the part of the job I needed and used the most. I was pretty bad at it. So bad, in fact, that I’d bounced over another traveler’s gig in my first weeks as a traveler and nearly killed us both. For me, bouncing was basically a messy shift between dimensions and locations, meant to stop illegal interdimensional travel. For travelers who knew what they were doing, bouncing was much more elegant and targeted. I won’t say I had no skill when it came to bouncing. But I definitely had no control. 

Which was a massive problem. 

Without warning, massive, rectangular teeth, framed by stiff, quivering whiskers, snapped at my face and I jumped as the vision slid through me and disappeared. 

“You look like a toddler trying not to pee her pants,” Rog snarked.

My eyes snapped open. “Pee,” I said, then nodded. “Yeah, I need to pee.” I pointed toward the restroom at the back of the store. But before I could turn away, Rog’s face turned ratty again. I still had hopes that I could clamp down on the bounce until his mouth opened and he hissed.

I had a sense of water rolling over me and I knew I was a heartbeat away from bouncing. 

Snatching the board away from Rog, I took off. I dove behind a rack of faux-farmer fashion just as the bounce grabbed hold and ripped me into the next world, one hand wrapped around a pair of white denim overalls with bling on the front that was shaped like a pocket. 

I slammed into the ground, skidded three feet on my knees, and barely managed to throw myself backward to stop my forward motion before I crashed into a light pole. A distant chorus of hissing greeted me as I slowly climbed to my feet, listening to the sound of heavy footfalls heading my way.

I leaned over and put my hands on my grass-stained knees, groaning. White denim flopped in my hand and I glared down at the piece of clothing, noting the mud stains that hadn’t been there when I’d grabbed it in a fit of desperation. I sighed, realizing I was going to have to pay Molly back for the damaged outfit. 

The darkness leaped in my direction. Scary red eyes glowed eerily as an enormous, furry form went vertical and planted massive paws on my shoulders. I grimaced as a huge tongue slathered me from chin to hairline and gagged at the putrid stench the doggy kiss left behind. "Ugh!" I whined. "Dog breath." Elvo barked happily, bouncing around my feet in frantic canine bliss.

Another form stepped out of the darkness and my mind went blank as I slid a hungry gaze over a man who could only be described as tall, dangerous, and sexy. A former cop in my fifties, I'd spent a lot of my life looking for justice. But I'd never known finding him could be so inspiring. I wanted to rub myself all over him and purr a sexy suggestion into his ear, but I was still annoyed that my new job, a job I’d never asked for and mostly didn’t want, was taking over my life. So, I narrowed my gaze on Justice instead. “I was in the middle of something important, you know.”

His deep-set sapphire eyes seemed to spark in the moonlight, though that wasn’t possible given the cloud-covered sky. “I take it you didn’t manage to control your bounce again?”

Irrational anger, directed at him because I was feeling weak and inept and hated the feeling, brought heat into my cheeks. I didn’t think I’d made a sound, but something about my present mood warned Elvo that he needed to be somewhere else. Whining softly, the big Hellhound mix turned on his furry heels and trotted to a spot behind Justice, dropping onto his belly in the thick grass. 

My irritatingly sexy guide grinned. “Did you at least slow it down?”

Biting back a sarcastic response, I considered his question. After a beat, I had to admit that I had, if only for a few seconds. I sighed. “I saw rat things.”

Justice’s smile faded. “Rat shifters. Nasty things. One of the few monsters whose humanoid form is almost as repugnant as their animal shape.” He glanced around as the moon came out from behind the clouds and I frowned up at the sky, realizing it didn’t look right. “The moon is red.”

He nodded. “Under the blood-red moon, monsters dance and croon, with flashing fangs and slashing claws, they rip the world to ruin.”

I blinked. “Huh?”

“It’s a childhood poem my ma used to recite. One I’d like to forget.”

“No kidding.” I couldn’t help wondering what kind of childhood my guide had. “Where are we?”

That question wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been. When I bounced, I was just as likely to change dimensions as geographic location.

“Aqua.” He winced. 

According to Justice, there were at least a dozen dimensions, which had been news to me since I’d always assumed I’d lived in the only one. However, I’d been assured we only worked with a few of the dimensions. There was Terro, otherwise known as Earth and its universe; Aere, a place of winds that could scour the skin off a body in minutes rather than hours; and the world of monsters, called Igne. 

Then there was Aqua. 

I frowned. “I thought you said we rarely got called to Aqua.” It seemed the land of water didn’t often need our help chasing dimensional boundary breakers. 

“Rarely is not never,” he said, wincing.

Apparently deciding I was over my snit, Elvo got up and trotted back to me, dropping to his belly on top of my feet. Not near my feet, but on them. Judging by the newly flattened aspect of my toes, I guessed he weighed around three hundred pounds. I tried to extricate my poor feet from the crushing weight and failed. Glancing around, I asked, “Where’s the water?” My understanding was that, like its name, Aqua was a place of copious amounts of water. Yet we were standing on grass-covered ground.

Rather than respond verbally to my question, Justice hit a button on a large, lantern-type device I hadn’t noticed until he’d turned it on. It flared to life, sending a bright white illumination around us. My guide held the lantern up and the light spread into the distance. The ground glistened in the moonlight, reflecting the bloody tint of the oversized orb high above us. 

“Why does it look glossy?”

Justice hit another button and all the light tightened down into a single beam, which spread further into the distance. As the beam of light settled, a sleek white creature speared upward, twisting its muscular form in the air before bending to plunge downward again without a sound. The creature severed the ground with a knife-like precision, triggering a soft splashing sound as liquid rose up to mark the spot where it had disappeared. 

Justice turned in a slow circle, illuminating the same glossy surface all around us. 

I swallowed hard, realizing finally that we were standing on what appeared to be a fifty-foot-wide patch of land, in the middle of a literal sea of water. 

Then, with a soft crackle of electricity, the light atop the light pole finally kicked on, and the space where we stood seemed to shrink beneath the overwhelming presence of water, reaching into the horizon all around us.

“Sweet cherubs on a crescent moon,” I muttered as ice slid down my spine. “That’s a lot of water.”

A Bounce Before I Die releases on 12/20/22.


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