For those who asked about Dry Spell, here is the excerpt I used for the WAW challenge.
“Oh, shit.” Lightning hissed as it ping-ponged across the night sky. “Hess, get your feathered ass back here, now.”
Annalise leapt, tucked into a graceless roll seconds before a fissure split open the ground where she’d stood.
Glancing over her shoulder, she watched what looked like a grizzled bear climb from the cracked earth. It threw back its head and uttered a roar that raised the hairs on the back of her neck and arms.
Shaking its shoulders, the beast shook several clumps of dirt to the ground. When it glanced up, its lips curled over bark-covered teeth in an eager grin.
Shit. Shit. Shit. She swallowed hard, tasted fear and smoke from the wildfire Hess had inadvertently started. Burnt ozone clogged her nose and sweat made her eyes burn. This was not how she saw her life ending, eaten by a pissed off earth elemental.
“This is the job and those are the breaks.” She almost heard Vaughn’s smug voice in her head. If she survived this, she’d kill him. He had known she wasn’t cut out to be a handler. Hell, she had known she wasn’t cut out to be a handler. The only one ignoring the obvious was her father.
Since she’d only known him a grand total of sixteen weeks, his opinion carried about as much weight with her as a sack full of feathers.
“Hestia isn’t a pet. She doesn’t love you. You’re food. Watch your own back.” More golden nuggets of Vaughn’s wisdom gave her the extra kick in the ass she needed to get back in the game.
With a harsh grunt, she huffed through regaining her feet and hit the ground running, careful to avoid the vicious traps set by local hunters. The bear uttered a pleased growl then took off at a gallop, right on her heels.
Fuck Vaughn. Hess would come for her. All she had to do was make it a few more minutes. She could do that. Sure she could. God, she hoped she could.
“Why,” Annalise screamed at the sky, “do you always have to play with your food?”
A hawkish cry meshed with furious thunder. Sonic waves rattled her eardrums, distorted her sense of direction for a second.
Sure, now Hess realized her handler was in danger. Come on, girl. End this before it ends me.
Behind her, the bear bellowed in challenge. As if she needed the reminder it was still there, closing the gap with each of its lunging strides.
“Your brain must be made of rock, too.” Annalise panted. “Otherwise, you would have run the other way when you had the chance.”
Two steps later, her foot hooked something heavy, another fucking bear trap, and she went down hard. It didn’t snap closed, thank God. Her relief lasted just long enough to register before splintered teeth sank into one ankle.
She yelped then ground her teeth together. Every involuntary jerk of her leg ripped tissue where the elemental had snapped its jaws closed over her foot.
The bear’s sandpaper tongue flicked out and muddied her leg as it tasted her. She rolled onto her side and kicked at its snout.
Desperate for a weapon, she scooped up the heavy trap. Its sharp edges sliced through her fingers, but she got the sucker up and hurled it at the bear’s skull. It bounced off and snapped shut over air.
“Hess,” she kicked at the bear while she scanned the nebulous skies, “now would be a really great time to get this thing the hell off me.”
Black clouds rumbled and churned overhead. A snarl of thunder accompanied a thick bolt of lightning as it shot towards the ground and drove through the elemental’s head.
Annalise and the bear shrieked in shared pain.
Electricity jolted her system, transferred through the foaming dampness of the bear’s mouth and right into her. Fire surged through her veins, arched her spine, and rolled her eyes backwards into darkness.
When she opened her mouth to cough or scream or something, she swore smoke curled out over her lips.
Stunned one shade dumber than she had been, the bear turned her loose. Scrambling as far as she could with her mangled ankle, she let Hess go to work.
Hess zapped the bear a few more times, playing with her damn food again, then grew bored and swooped in for the kill. The birdlike form she generally preferred, a sort of storm-cloud gray hawk, wavered as she head butted the bear then sank inside it as only a being of pure energy could.
The bear tossed its head, tried to dislodge her, then roared to no avail. Layers of caked-on dirt crumbled from the bear’s hide and brilliant light exploded from its center. It collapsed in a dusty plume with a howl of agony as Hess consumed its essence.
When the dust cleared, she uttered a pleased chirrup then made a few walking-hops forward. Inclining her regal head, she paused at Annalise’s ankle and made an inquiring sound.
“Nah, it’s fine. I’m fine.” Hess ignored her and picked at the blood-soaked hem of her jeans. “Hess, I said I’m fine.”
The hawk’s silver eyes narrowed. She glanced between Annalise’s shredded ankle and her face then spread one wing.
“Wait a minute,” Annalise’s mouth ran dry. “Don’t even think about it.” Hess fanned the barest tips of her feathers over Annalise’s wounds then jolted her with an anklet of electricity. “Motherf—”
Skin hissed and sizzled as the puncture wounds cauterized, and the world—thankfully—went black.