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P&X

My back hurts, my legs burn, and everything sticks to me, sweat painting my neck. I scrape my hair out of my face and find pieces of lettuce and dried enchilada sauce. Angel is just as filthy, the hours stuck to us in layers of grease while time has burrowed even deeper in my father’s skin.

He’s been waking up at three AM every morning for the past fifteen years. Cooking migas and tamales and pozole and carne asada. Cleaning up broken glass and spilled drinks and half-eaten food. Hiring bartenders and dish boys and steak cooks, firing them too. Waking up every morning wondering if people are going to show up that day, if they’re going to like the food, if they’re going to pay what it’s worth. And going to bed every night hoping that it was enough. To pay the bills. To raise four kids. To open the doors another day.

I can see those worries on his face, and even covered in filth, in food my father used to love, in sweat I can’t wait to wash off, there’s nothing I want more than to wear the same worry he does, to wake up with the same hope.

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TDOTN-C2-P2

“Let it out.”

At first his scowl didn’t register, his outline a smudge beneath misty eyes and sweat. And then the sweat pouring from my neck and hands began to freeze, each drop burning my skin like the hot end of a cigarette. The last time my past had haunted me I’d been searching the corridors of Anso’s prison for Bryn. My mother had stopped me with just the sound of her voice. She’d called me a killer. She’d told me that I should have died the night of the car accident. That it should have been me instead of Bryn…

She was right.

Not because she was real—I knew the vision I’d seen wasn’t my mother—but because the only reason I existed at all was to keep Bryn safe. And I’d failed. If anyone should have been lost in Anso’s destruction it should have been me doing what I was made for—protecting Bryn. With my last breath.

The second I thought the word, my ghost snatched the air from my lungs, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Let me out.”

Six months ago he’d pleaded with me to let him in. He’d pleaded with Carlisle too, taking on Cassie’s face and carving into his skin until he’d finally relented. For me there’d been no moment of surrender because the darkness wearing my face had been there all along. Still was if I dug deep enough into those parts of me I hated, that hated everything and everyone too. I couldn’t let him out. Not after what I almost did to Drew. Not after everything I’d done to my father. Not after ending Carlisle’s life. But I also wondered what would happen if I held him in. Would he claw his way out? Would he destroy me in the process?

My mind raced, memories yanking me back and forth between Drew’s blood quenching something awful in me and Carlisle’s floating body, black trailing from the gash I’d carved into his forehead. My heart yanked me somewhere else—to the fist I’d hurled in my father’s direction, to the hole in the wall that matched the one inside me, to the way my father had held me after I found out that Bryn had slipped into a coma. To the way he’d forgiven me before I’d even mustered the courage to tell him I was sorry.

My weight shifted and so did the walls, my ghost dragging me to Bryn’s bedside.

“No…” I strained from the sight, sick. “I—” don’t want to look. I can’t.

Something pinned my gaze, forcing my eyes to scale Bryn an inch at a time. The blood was barely drying near her lips, red still lining her fingernails where Dani and Celia’s scrubbing hadn’t reached.

“I’m…sorry…I’m…” This time there wasn’t a word strong enough for what I was feeling. It was probably on purpose, the human race deciding somewhere along the way that it was a hopelessness too dangerous to name. I was glad for it. I didn’t want to name this thing inside me. I didn’t want to make it real.

My ghost wrenched my face, blue fingers stinging my skin as he forced me to look closer. So close I could smell the memory of her skin. “Let it in.”

“No.”

Heat swirled at the base of my stomach, thickening until I felt like I was going to be sick. The smoke slithered up my throat, singeing my tongue. I clenched my jaw, fighting the flames that wanted to incinerate everything in sight.

“Let me in…” My reflection trembled and I thought he was about to disappear. But then I felt his cold breath against my face, more real than I’d ever felt him, and I realized he was pleading. “Don’t you want to be with her?” His words burrowed inside me, chipping away until I was an open wound. Until I wanted to say yes.

“No.” The word barely escaped before the eruption. My mouth unhinged, flames leaping out and strangling my ghost. But he didn’t flinch. The flames tore at his false flesh while he looked at me with the most miserable…pity.

TBC

 

*This excerpt is from a WIP and is subject to change*

The Daughter of the Night Sneak Preview #6

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TDOTN-C1P3

Vogle leaned over my father, examining him. But I didn’t want to know the diagnosis, only the cure, if there was one at all.

“Is this my nightmare?” I asked. “Is that why I can’t wake him out of this?”

Vogle cleared his throat. “Maybe you’re not supposed to.”

“Then who? I’m the one who’s supposed to fix everything else.”

“I’ll do what I can for him,” Vogle said. “Cole and Adham will be back soon with supplies.”

“You mean stolen supplies, which Cole and Adham will acquire unscathed after Cole manipulates the people who work there.” Cole was lucky he was useful, his ability to manipulate people’s memories keeping him off my hit list. For now.

“Just long enough for us to get what we need, including supplies to provide your father some kind of nutrition intravenously if it comes to that.”

“If…”

“It won’t,” he said.

“And if it does?”

“I’ve done it many times before, Bryn.”

“For me.” I looked down. Vogle and I hadn’t had much time to speak since I’d woken up in the hospital and there were things I needed to say to him, that I needed him to know without a doubt. “Thank you.”

His voice wavered. “For what?”

“For everything you’ve done for me,” I said. “For taking care of me. For taking care of my family and Roman.”

“Bryn…”

“I need you to know how close I was Vogle…to giving up. I need you to know how grateful I am that you never did.”

“I would never,” he said, his voice more certain than I’d ever heard it. “We don’t give up, Bryn. Ever.”

I’d never really thought about all of the time that had passed since Eve’s death or how hard it must have been on Vogle. How hard it still was. He could have given up on everything. I know that he wanted to. But he never did. Not even when he felt like her death was all his fault; Sam’s too.

“Thank you,” I said again.

He dismissed the thought, turning his attention to the sounds coming from the other rooms. Doors opened and shut as whispers and groans escaped between the seams.

“They’re growing restless,” Vogle said.

“I know.”

“Lathan’s been crouched next to his wife’s body for the past hour and Andre’s been pacing up and down the stairs like a caged animal.”

 

“Domingo’s on edge too,” Vogle went on. “He won’t admit it yet but I know he senses Stassi’s body is in danger. It doesn’t make any sense why it wasn’t with the others. But neither does the fact that she hid it from us all this time.”

The reason Stassi had needed constant physical contact wasn’t because her powers were transitioning or because they were getting stronger. It was because she was sleeping. This whole time she’d been sleeping, a secret she had kept from everyone. Until I’d named the bodies, hers not among them, and Domingo crumbled, realizing what she’d kept hidden all this time.

“Maybe she really doesn’t remember what happened,” I said. “You weren’t there when Sam and I found her. She was delusional, traumatized by what she’d been through. She still is.”

“She won’t be the only one,” Vogle said, getting to his feet.

My gaze fell, a heavy nod. “It’s time.”

TBC

 

*This excerpt is from a WIP and is subject to change*

The Daughter of the Night Sneak Preview #3

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TDOTN-C1P2

He stood behind me, waiting for me to finally turn around and tell him what to do next. I wondered if it had crossed his mind yet that I didn’t need him, not like before when I was made of flesh that needed protecting. But I wasn’t made of something finite anymore. I was made of dreams and starlight and in just a day it had already pressed me into something impenetrable.

I stood just inches from him. The inches became centimeters and still there was nothing. No shock, no surge. Nothing stirred in me. I told myself it was because of death—my grandmother’s and the other Dreamers’. Mine. He touched me and I waited to feel something but the brush of Roman’s fingers sparked only silence.

“Everything is going to be okay,” he said, a sense of finality to his voice.

But this was just the beginning of something terrible and what Samson, Magda, and the other Dreamers the Rogues had rescued didn’t realize was that it was going to start with them.

“Bryn…” Roman reached for me with words this time, not daring to graze my skin again. “Please tell me everything is going to be okay.” His voice had changed, desperation and a delusional hope lacing every word.

I didn’t want to hurt him so I just nodded. I spotted Vogle in one of the spare bedrooms and I stepped inside before Roman could ask me for another lie.

When I saw my father’s body on the bed I could barely stand within the emptiness. All around me. Inside him. I’d never seen my father so still; the shadow’s poison turning him to stone. I’d seen him passed out before, drunk, erratic, yelling at my mother. But I’d never seen him still, empty of even his own chaos. I missed that chaos. Not because it was good but because it was him. Looking at this shell, I wasn’t sure if I would ever figure out how to get it back.

I remembered the startling sight of his truck outside Celia’s house, his hands on me, the frantic look in his eyes. He’d pleaded with me to listen but in his panic he didn’t make any sense. He’d said something about the Dreamers, about how dangerous it would be for me to find them and take their dreams. He said that if I did, I’d die. He knew. But how much? Nothing made sense anymore. Not then. Not now.

I remembered how he’d tried to fight off the strangers who’d come for my body but they were stronger. They were Dreamers. They’d ripped me from my body while the shadows tore my father from his. And this was all that was left.

I touched him and it turned my stomach, his hardness inhuman. I imagined what this body would look like if another day passed, two more, a week. He was deteriorating even if I couldn’t see it. Just like everything else in my life he was another bomb I’d have to diffuse before time ran out.

And it was running out. For all of us. Whatever anchor I’d been between this world and the one we only dream about was gone. There was nothing separating us now and I didn’t know how to fight something that I couldn’t control. Maybe the chaos I’d grown up seeing in my father hadn’t disappeared after all. Maybe like me, and like everything else, it had only grown and evolved into something too big to recognize.

TBC

 

*This excerpt is from a WIP and is subject to change*

The Daughter of the Night Sneak Preview #2

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TDOTN-EXCERPT-C1P1

I used to think nightmares were like memories, tactile but harmless, the fear confined to that place inside me I could never reach with my eyes open. They would steel me to the bed in panic, turning my thoughts and muscles against me. But all it took was that first breath back into consciousness and the darkness would let go of me. I could count on that, on the morning always rescuing me.

But now I was standing in a room full of bodies, some filled with nothing but air, some filled with nothing at all. All dreaming. All wading through darkness waiting for morning.

For me.

But I was not a beacon of light. I was not the sun. I was the moon, the night in all its darkness, and the moment I touched them, the moment I woke them that’s all they would know. I knew I had no choice but the thought of finding the Dreamers was nothing more than a light nudge. Because despite their closeness, empty faces all turned up, limp bodies breathing in unison, I couldn’t tear my eyes from the one that belonged to me.

I could see a sliver of it through the hall and the half-closed door. Celia and Dani circled it as if there was nothing but a silent sickness inside that could be chased out. They couldn’t feel what I felt—unsettled and unbound—a strange current casting me adrift now that there was no flesh and bone to tie me down.

But I let them tend to my corpse the same way I’d let Roman carry it inside. Celia had managed to stay hidden from the shadows for almost four decades and I couldn’t imagine a safer place for the Dreamers to finally wake up. We’d covered the floors of the spare bedrooms in quilts and pillows, moonlight shining in through the lace curtains. It inched across the Dreamers’ skin, streaking shapes and shadows that made it easy to pretend there was still life inside some of them.

When Roman carried in my body I’d kept my back turned, that tug towards sleep, towards giving up, illuminating like a beacon from behind. I forced myself not to look even when I heard Roman whisper something to Celia about keeping it safe. Even though the request made me bristle. Even though I could smell the blood from this far away.

I’d breathed hard through my nose until the air wasn’t trying to strangle me. All I wanted was to hurl myself at Roman. At something. Because I was dead. I was dead and I wasn’t and being stuck in that in-between where it wasn’t blood pumping through my veins but something stronger didn’t make me feel weak or sad or even afraid. Thinking about the permanence of it, the freedom, I was relieved.

And Roman could never know.

TBC

 

*This excerpt is from a WIP and is subject to change*

The Daughter of the Night Sneak Preview #1

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