Hello all! You made it!
When I started this giveaway a few weeks ago, I’d just finished yet another round of edits on my little paranormal novel. Now, I’m thrilled to get to share a bit of that story with you! A glimpse into Noel, Eli, Taryn and Jude’s world. A sneak peak, if you will.
Thanks for being a part of the competition! Enjoy…
Most people are afraid of things that go bump in the night.
Me? I’m best friends with the monster under my bed. It’s those soft sounds, drifting into your dream world that are far more dangerous—if you don’t react quickly, you could awaken to the metallic chill of steel against your neck.
A ding penetrated my hazy mind, like a faint stroke on the taut bowstring of my coiled instincts. The same instincts small animals have when chased by an eagle.
Only, I’m no prey. At least, as far as humans are concerned.
In a single fluid motion, I thrust sheets aside, pulling my feet under me to crouch on top of my mattress. Chest heaving. Listening.
The dreaded echo of heavy footfalls was nowhere to be heard. I rubbed my eyes with a sigh. Even when he’s nowhere in sight, Dad still shreds my beauty sleep to pieces.
Shoulders lowering along with my adrenaline, a headache started to throb. Shifting back into a sitting position, I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
It was moments like these that made me wonder what it would be like to sleep peacefully. To have nothing more to worry about than SAT scores and boy drama. To be normal—or at least on the opposite side of the war I’d been born into.
I ran a hand across my lips, mouth suddenly dry. These dangerous thoughts were what had gotten me into so much trouble in the first place. Still, here I was, wrestling with the very conscience I’d sworn never to acknowledge. And that was most dangerous of all.
Shoving the overly-philosophical ideas to the back of my brain, I looked around for what had woken me and scooped up the smartphone lying haphazardly by my bed, its face lit. I glimpsed the name on the small grey text bubble: Jude MacKeenan. I’d known Jude for most of my life, but he rarely bothered to text .
U down 2 crash a concert?
I texted back. Yea, sure. Where? When?
The reply was not a hard choice as I pressed the tips of my fingers against the pounding in my forehead, knowing that anything had to be better than wrestling through dark dreams all night long—the perks of having a father who practically personified darkness. A distraction sounded good, especially if it included music and an adrenaline rush.
Seconds later, my phone vibrated with his short reply. A extravagant concert in Branson. Biggest show of the year tonight.
Interested as I was in going, the idea of spending several hours with Jude’s sharp tongue wasn’t completely inviting. I texted back to make sure that his brother at least was coming. Somehow, everything seemed a little softer with Eli around.
Eli will b there, right?
He didn’t want 2, of course. But, he’s in the car.
K, good. No need 2 pick me up. C u there.
Don’t get caught.
Get caught? Ha!
The smirk disappeared as my gaze darted over Jude’s message about his brother again. Eli had been acting strangely for months now, ever since going to that camp, he’d changed. But when we pressed about his sudden sense of morality, he’d always shrug off the questions.
Palming the phone, I slipped off the bed. Balling my fists to stop their shaking, I tiptoed softly toward the window, avoiding the piles of dirty laundry and weapons scattered in the dark as I navigated toward my closet. My night vision was superhuman.
With the speed of habit, I picked out a pair of black skinny jeans, a purple tank that had two long slits in the back, and a dark sweatshirt. Not hard choices when everything in my wardrobe is drab as a starless night. Cheery image, that.
Moving on to the more important things, I stuffed a can of mace, and a switchblade into my pocket. Being careful not to make any noise, I crept to my window and peered out into the ashen hues of a night sky. This was the hardest part—getting outside without him knowing.
Breaking into a high-class concert hall? Slipping past the security and into the stands without paying a cent? Winning a crazy late-night chase if they do find us? It was all child’s play. But, getting outside of my own house without my father finding me?
So. Much. Harder.
You see, my dad doesn’t mind me sneaking out. Most of the human laws don’t apply to him, anyway. As long as I don’t get caught, he’ll turn a blind eye.
But, if my leaving wakes him up, he’ll make me pay for it. Painfully.
Carefully sliding open the window, my heart was trying to beat out of its cag. Silence. Utter silence.
Suddenly, the pane grated against the sill in a creaking noise that sounded like thunder to my sensitive ears. Holding a breath, I paused to listen. Nothing.
Exhaling, I slipped the pack over my shoulder and prepared to leap out the window. Suddenly, adrenaline shot through my veins, screaming for me to flee as one word echoed toward me, warning that I was not alone. “Noel!”
My own name sounded like a death gong, bursting in cruel tones from his lips. Not this time, dad.
I rolled out the window, knelt at the edge of the rooftop overhang, sweatshirt in one hand, then spread my wings and jumped.
Yeah, wings. You see, I’m not exactly human—more, supernatural. My pinions aren’t the result of some sci-fi experiment. I was born with them. You’d think that having wings would be hard to disguise, but they fold neatly into my back, causing barely a lump. They apparently don’t know the laws of physics.
Right now they were helping to put a solid buffer of space between my father and I. Feathers stroking the air in a steady rhythm, I threw a glance behind me. Dad was nowhere in sight. So far so good!
Fully aware that he could follow me to the North Pole if he chose, I was relieved that he had decided not to give chase. He would probably confront me in training the next morning.
The thought sent a rare stab through the scars lacing my side—a phantom pain from the dark memories of other punishments. Just as suddenly as the pain had come, a breath of air rustled through my feathers, as soft words spoke to my heart.
He will cover you with his features, and under His wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
There it was again. The strange voice that seemed to speak right into my soul. For a second, I let the words mull through my mind. The hint of light creating a fissure in the darkness cloaking my soul.
It would be nice to have someone fighting for me—protecting me.
I shook aside the silly thought.
If Dad knew what I was thinking, I’d have to fight for my life. Shoulders lifted, I turned a determined gaze to the horizon. “I can take care of myself. End of story.”
Picking up the pace, I glanced below as the rows of small farmhouses, stretching lengths of wooded areas, and the rippling green of fields flooded past.
My pinions beat the air furiously as I soared away from the rural area where I lived on the outskirts of Branson, toward the bustling metropolis of the city itself. Being one of Missouri’s largest tourist traps, Branson didn’t seem to sleep. Flashing lights and rustic decorations gave the city a country-meets-Vegas feel.
Glimpsing the concert just ahead, I tucked my wings in, diving behind an old motel across the street from the theater. The circular building was hardly able to contain the flashing lights and music that thundered inside.
I hadn’t realized how much energy the flight had taken until I paused for a second to rest, away from the shifting mass of humans lined up outside the concert. Curling in my dark wings around the leaden hue of my clothes, I faded effortlessly into the shadows. Closing my eyes for a second, I shut out the excited shouts of the concert goers.
Launching forward into a spinning kick, I landed my booted foot in the intruder’s chest. It should have broken a few ribs, or at least sent the person hurtling backward. Instead, the dark figure shook off the blow and started to laugh. The next thing I knew, I was looking up into a familiar pair of hazel eyes—tauntingly vivid with specks of gold like dancing stars. Feeling instantly foolish and angry for being caught off guard, I growled, “Eli!”
He shrugged. “Watching your surroundings?”
Ouch. There’s nothing worse than being reminded that I blew one of the techniques my father pounds into my brain. And by Eli, of all people!
“I was just…strategizing,” I said, suddenly becoming very interested in the leather of my boots, steeling my features—but he caught the look of regret.
“You’re fine, Wings.”
Three words that made me want to hit him, and he knew it too, from that impish look on his face. I was not some wounded creature who needed to be comforted. A sharp retort was on the edge of my tongue, when a dry voice broke through.
“If you two are done with the counseling, we have a crime to commit.”
I turned to Jude, blood pounding in my ears as we locked gazes, just daring him to mouth off one more sarcastic remark. If he wanted a throw-down, I was so ready to deliver.
Jude looked every bit the rogue in his black leather jacket, torn jeans, and an array of chains hanging off him. His dark hair was spiked, and a hoop in his right ear that caught the light spilling from the nearby theater, caused the silver to glimmer. All he needed were a few tattoos and he could join the hood.
A sly smile lifted his lips. “All through, then? Let’s get going.”
Eli cleared his throat, and I twisted to level my gaze at him, “Please tell me we don’t have to go through this again. You’re here, aren’t you?”
His mouth tightened. “Yes, I am, but maybe I shouldn’t be. We should just get a ticket like everyone else. I’m not stealing anything…”
He started to turn and walk away, sending my stomach plummeting. I ran forward, grabbing his shoulder. “Wait! Look, you don’t need to steal anything. Just find a way to dodge the register.” His eyebrows had risen, and I knew he wanted more. I sighed dramatically. “Oh, all right. I’m sorry for kicking you! Just…stay.”
Eli studied me for a few moments, his features softening in a way that I couldn’t understand. His fingertips brushed my face for the slightest moment, then he strode past. “I’ll stay.”
Hiding the smile, I turned to follow him across the parking lot and toward the line of people who were waiting outside the theater.
Jude grinned at me. “You do have an effect on him.”
Sometimes it took all of my mental training just to keep from body-slamming Jude. Then again, he was one of the few people I could actually trust. I couldn’t afford to lose another person who actually understood the crazy things going on in my life. Even if he couldn’t do much to change my destiny—no one could—it still meant a lot to me that I didn’t have to carry the secret alone.
And without Jude and Eli, that’s where I’d be. Alone.
What did you think? Noel is certainly more of an anti-hero, but the doubts she harbors are about to take her on one supernatural adventure as she searches for the light. The truth.
Please, leave a comment below! Would you continue to read a story like this? Was there anything you especially enjoyed? Or anything you’d prefer I changed?