It's been a while since I did Sample Sunday...the rift started during the freak October storm when I lost internet for 2 weeks, quickly followed by a computer virus...still don't have the computer back, so "borrow" my work laptop on occassion to do stuff.
OK, so I have this new work in progress, an urban YA fantasy, that I'm just starting to peddle. I've also entered it in the Amazaon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It's nice to have something new under the old belt, a sense of accomplishment and a job well done, and all that. I'm now moving on to the editing process of Strong Blood, sequel to Fire in the Blood (#2 in the Last Moon Rising series). I'll get back to sampling Fire in the Blood soon.
So for this week, I'm posting a sample of Kiss Me Dead. Hope you enjoy.
Kiss Me Dead
Enslaved to the Goddess of the Underworld, Giltine, and addicted to her poison, half-reaper Christian longs to free himself from servitude and addiction. Enslaved to her phobic cocoon since witnessing a reaper steal her brother’s soul, seventeen-year-old Brooke longs to free herself from fear and phobia. When these two worlds collide, more than sparks fly, because there can be only one survivor.
Christian watched the dying girl, and did nothing.
Watery sprays shimmered in the moonlight from the girl’s flailing arms, and her fear chopped across the water like turbulent waves. Longing tightened his stomach. He dug his nails into his palms and, teeth clenched, turned his head away.
He despised his addiction.
Christian envied her and her release from this life. Not that he loathed life…he simply loathed the life he led. And though he yearned to walk away, he knew he wouldn’t. He would stay and watch her die.
And then take her.
Her flooded gasps saturated the night’s stillness and her head dipped below the surface. Christian crept from the trees that circled the lake, his movement stilted from cold. The iciness came from his bones, his marrow, his soul. He’d gone too long without a hit, and now he suffered.
Christian lurched over her discarded dress and stopped just short of wetting his boots. The lake was snow-melt frigid. He detested the cold, and the water, as all his kind did.
With a violent thrust, her body broke the surface. Christian’s short intake of breath followed him backwards. Wet moonlight clung to her breasts, and the mark on her cheek glowed like slick silver.
The girl’s hands slapped the water. She slid deeper into the shadowy lake, lifting her chin, but the water covered her mouth, sucking out one last, drowning breath before consuming her nose and fear-glassed eyes.
Still he watched, and did nothing to save her.
He rubbed his thumbs along his pants’ seams. Excitement tempted a tremble through his body. Soon she would come to him in death and defeat the decaying cold.
The girl’s stillness revived the nocturnal silence: the grinding cheeps of tree frogs, a distant owl’s chirruping hoot. Wooden docks crept into the water like skeletal fingers, and a red fox’s tail flashed lakeside. Moments later, like dust motes in a sunbeam, the girl appeared. Her skin shone with an ethereal glow, and her hair hung in damp ringlets. Christian could smell and taste Giltine’s poisonous mark on the girl’s cheek, so saccharine as to make his teeth ache.
Gods, how he wanted her.
He studied the drop of water that tickled her neck and trailed between her breasts. Biting his lip, he focused on the ground, trying to remain detached and unemotional as a proper reaper should, but he was also human. The girl might be dead, might no longer care about decency or modesty, but Christian believed in dying with dignity. He bent like an old man and scooped up her dress.
Put it on.” His voice squeaked like an adolescent boy’s.
The girl hesitated then took the dress. Christian averted his gaze until she’d slipped it over her head. The dress was old with a frayed hem and torn collar. Most of the buttons were missing, and it barely covered her nakedness. The loose flapper-style made her seem like a young girl, but he’d seen her nude, and her figure suggested she was one or two years older than him; maybe nineteen.
Christian slid a fingertip along the silver mark, sweet and sticky like icing on a hot bun, and then licked his finger. Giltine’s poison shot like bathtub gin down his throat and seared his lungs. His sigh bordered on a groan.
“Who are you?” She was pretty, with cat-green eyes, and hair that he was sure would lighten like honey when it dried.
She wrinkled her forehead. Her inner pain seemed to leak fragile tendrils that looped around his chest. Her soul wouldn’t open to him until he’d taken her to the underworld, but he could taste the earthy flavor of her confusion.
She turned to the lake. “I’m in there.” She smoothed her dress. “But I’m here.”
Christian hardened the anguish from his voice. “Only your body’s in the water, Mary. You don’t need it now.”
He tasted the first, metallic tang of Mary’s fear. She peered past his shoulder at the dark house tucked into the woods. Her fear increased, the taste pinching his tongue.
“Oh, bugger.” Mary frowned at the lake.
A girl appeared on the porch of the dark house. Christian froze the air in his lungs, trying to melt into the shadows, while dead Mary wafted like smoke.
She stared at the girl and murmured, “I know her.”
Setting empty milk bottles by the front door, the girl tossed her light hair over her shoulder and slipped back into the house. Christian released the breath from his lungs. It was time to dust this place.
Mary’s poison-drenched soul made him dizzy with need, and he licked his lips. “Take my hands,” Christian said. “It’s your time.”
A pause, then warm fingers slipped into his. Christian closed his eyes, focused on that reaper essence deep, deep inside himself, and a tingling fizz burst from his core, enveloping him in an evanescent fog. He drifted into the darkness. He clung to Mary and her warmth, floating through time, not caring about the glacial space sweeping through him. He only cared about Giltine’s poison seeping from Mary’s fingers and touching the cold-rotted holes inside him. A shudder swelled along his spine.
His cells and muscles gelled, contracted, solidified. Time stopped flowing, and the air stilled. White walls loomed on either side, and behind them the dark-gray entrance to the underworld shimmered like a silken sheet in a breeze. Christian swallowed, trying to ignore the cries of souls lost in the void.
Mary clung to his sleeve. Her hair had dried. Not the color of honey, as he’d imagined, but the color of sunlight. It hung around her face in a tangle. Her soul cracked open, and her broken thoughts tumbled through his head:
It’s dark, and cold. I want to go home.
Not that Renkin slob.
Poor Izzy. Who’ll protect her?
Mary squinted down the tunnel. Christian knew that, for Mary, the tunnel held only darkness; the darkness of the unknown, the darkness of eternity.
Christian brushed her fingers. “Take my hand. I’ll guide you.”
Hand-in-hand, they crept forward. Giltine’s poison oozing from Mary’s hand teased him, made him dizzy, dried his mouth with longing. He wanted to take her, right there, but Mary needed to make the choice to climb the stairs and cross over.
It seemed an eternity before a marble staircase stretched upward and out of sight, licking the whiteness like a long, black tongue. Its hardened exterior was cracked and gouged from centuries of reapers and mourning and death.
Shadowy souls moved within the whiteness. Some stomped up and down the stairs, yanking their hair. Others crouched into recesses as though in hiding, and still others had settled on the steps to rock back and forth with their heads tucked under their arms. Christian’s head reverberated with their screams.
Like an ethereal ballet, reapers drifted among the pale shadows. Silver eyes glinted below dark hair, their black coats swirling a ghostly fog. Expressionlessly, they watched and waited for their next hit. Occasionally, a reaper would touch a soul, causing it to shudder.
Mary whispered, “Who are they?”
“The dark ones are reapers. The others are souls who are either undecided or lost.”
Mary squeezed his fingers. “Undecided about what?”
“Some people don’t want to take the stairs to meet their fate. They stop, or try to turn and go back.”
“Not if they’ve been marked for death by Giltine.” Christian glanced at the silver mark on her cheek. He didn’t bother explaining that the others, the lost souls, were caught between life and death, lingering in the void until Giltine left her mark on their vacant bodies topside. Some unfortunate souls would be lost in the void for a very, very long time. Christian’s stomach clenched. He refused to dwell on that.
“Goddess of death. She marks people who are going to die so that reapers can usher their souls to the other side.”
“The dark ones frighten me.”
“Don’t be afraid. They’re merely guides.” Christian didn’t add that Mary was right to fear some reapers, the rogue reapers; but she was dead now, so none of that mattered.
Mary traced her bottom lip with her index finger and studied the stairs.
Christian tugged her hand. “Come on. I’ll be with you.”
Mary hesitated, and then let him lead her. They reached the top of the stairs, met by an iridescent-white wall that glimmered with rainbow streaks. The area was devoid of souls. Mary didn’t breathe hard, but to Christian the climb had been long and arduous. He needed a hit of Giltine’s poison very badly.
Reapers, attracted by Mary’s poison-drenched soul, skimmed behind them. Christian rubbed his chilled hands, and then took Mary by the chin. Tendrils of Giltine’s poison throbbed toward him like warm, seductive arms, holding him captive.
“It’s time.” He ran his tongue over his cracked lips. “Your mother’s waiting for you on the other side. You miss her, don’t you?”
Christian’s head snapped back.
Mary continued. “I can’t go. Who’ll protect my baby sister?”
He struggled to focus on Mary so he could answer in a hoarse whisper, “Your father.”
“No, he doesn’t know. That pill, Renkin, will come after her next.” Mary’s lips twisted over the name. She glanced down the staircase. “Who’ll protect Izzy?”
Christian reached for Mary, but she’d drifted away, her warmth receding.
“Will you?” Her eyes widened; so deeply green that if he stared too long he would become lost.
Christian turned away. He couldn’t promise her anything. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth when he tried to wet his lips. He’d promise her anything.
“Yes.” The word barely slid through his cracked lips.
Christian needed a hit. Now. “Yes.”
Mary’s mouth relaxed. The trust and gratitude that wafted from her eyes wrapped him in a warmth so foreign that he had to blink. Christian almost corrected the lie, but he couldn’t. He needed to take a hit, and the only way was for her to cross over.
“Thank you, thank you.” She took his hand in both of hers and kissed his knuckles. “I’m ready.”
Mary stepped into his embrace. Christian absorbed Giltine’s poison and the delicious, dizzying warmth. A small flash of light signaled Mary’s entrance to the other side. An explosion burst inside his chest and blossomed flowering heat throughout his body.
Christian tilted his head back and drifted in ecstasy.