It’s been one week since my paranormal fantasy novel, In the Dark, was published. The first chapter is available on the book’s page here on my blog and also as a preview on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Nook. So I thought I’d give you guys the chance to read chapter two.
If, after reading, you realize this is the best thing since sliced bread and you simply have to purchase the rest of the book immediately lest you spontaneously combust, there will be links at the end of the post. Thanks for reading!
Considering the tornado cellar was a place a family would come to for safety in a catastrophe, there wasn’t anything useful. Avery found a few thin blankets, a rotting wooden table and chair, an old oil lamp, and a few bottles of water.
He cheerfully distributed the water. “Good to know our kidnappers don’t plan to kill us by dehydration.”
Lindsay propped the unconscious woman’s head up with a folded blanket and wrapped her up in another, hoping to make her more comfortable on the earthy floor. The woman stirred a little at being moved but otherwise remained unconscious. After the oil lamp had been lit by Avery’s handy lighter, the hostages emptied out their pockets and piled the contents before the light.
“These guys haven’t come to check up on us,” Bailey muttered, throwing a reproachful look up at the ceiling. “Either they’re too busy to make sure we’re still alive, or they don’t care if we all starve.”
Kyle’s stomach growled when he caught sight of the smashed Baby Ruth bar Bailey had added to their pile of supplies. Avery swore he had a stomachache from all the junk he’d eaten before being captured and Lindsay promised she wasn’t hungry, so Bailey and Kyle shared it.
“All right,” Avery said when the kids finished eating their meager midnight snack.
“Let’s see what we’ve got. Three cell phones—one dead, one broken and one having
no signal whatsoever—fifty bucks and forty-three cents, two pieces of squished gum,
a receipt for the Baby Ruth bar that has already been eaten, a small box of matches,
a pack of cigarettes. . .” He gave Lindsay a sideways smirk. “Now, Jules, really. A nursing student should know better.”
“Those are yours,” Lindsay said with a flat look.
Avery tried to smother a smile that was both adorable and infuriating. “You can’t prove that.”
“I’ve never smoked a day in my life and you know it.” Lindsay batted her brother’s hand away from the switchblade in their midst. “Don’t touch that.”
“But I’ve always wanted one of these.” Kyle sent a worshipful look Avery’s way. “Where’d you get it?”
“Now, that’s just stereotypical, little man. Not all BMX bikers carry switchblades. That could be Bailey’s for all we know.”
“Is everything a joke to you?” Bailey asked, her mouth twisting in annoyance.
“What else do we have?” Lindsay asked, trying to be patient.
“We’ve got a comb and a piece of string, an MP3 player, two empty wallets, a driver’s license, and a note from a secret admirer.” Avery opened up the folded piece of paper. “Bailey, this is so junior high. How old are the people you hang out with?”
Bailey huffed. “Wrong again, biker boy. That MP3 player, the receipt, the comb, and the pieces of gum are the only things that I had in my pockets when I was taken.”
Avery turned to Kyle. “Sandy wants to know if you ‘heart’ her and asks you to circle yes or no.”
Kyle snatched the note and shoved it into his pocket. “I wasn’t going to circle anything. I didn’t even know I still had it.”
“Uh-huh,” Avery said. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pooped.”
“How can you think about sleeping at a time like this?” Bailey asked. “We could’ve been snatched by sex traffickers!”
Kyle shuddered and wrapped his arms around his knees.
Avery threw the boy a worried glance before he cleared his throat and summoned a lazy smile. “Believe whatever you want, Bails, but don’t go spreading your fear around. It’ll only make things worse.”
“Everyone else is thinking it,” Bailey said, crossing her arms.
“We don’t know that for sure.” Lindsay scooted closer to her brother and wrapped an arm around him. “They could just be desperate lowlifes looking for a pay
Kyle was too quick to smile. “Yeah. I’m sure you’re right.”
“Kind of gullible, aren’t you?” Bailey muttered.
The boy flushed.
“Let’s not turn on each other now,” Lindsay said, wrestling with her motherly indignation. What’s this girl’s problem? Why pick on Kyle?
Bailey snatched the MP3 player before crawling away. “Whatever.”
“Well, that was dramatic.” Avery stood. “I’m going to find a quiet corner to sleep. Peace out, homies.”
Lindsay rolled her eyes at him and pulled her brother closer to her side. “I’m sorry you have to be here, munchkin.”
“I’m sorry you have to be here with him,” Kyle said, scowling at Avery’s retreating back.
“I’m an adult, hon. I’m perfectly capable of handling my ex.”
“Does it hurt a lot?” Kyle asked. “Seeing him again?”
“A little.” She fidgeted with a loose string on her frayed jean shorts. “But I expected that. I didn’t expect to. . .miss him, though. Not like this.”
“Did you love him?”
Lindsay watched Avery’s silhouette settle back into the adjacent corner of the room. “I did once.”
“Is that why you came back home? Because it was too painful to stay in Laguna?”
Lindsay sighed. “Yes and no. You deserved to know why I ran away to nursing school so suddenly, why I didn’t visit, why I hardly ever called.”
“It was Dad’s cheating, wasn’t it?”
Lindsay gave him an incredulous look. “You knew?”
Her little brother shrugged, staring intently at the dancing flame. “Not right away. After you left, Mom and Dad started arguing a lot. They stopped whenever I walked into the room, but I listened at the door once and heard everything.”
“I caught him having lunch with the other woman,” Lindsay said. “I saw the way he smiled at her. I knew they weren’t coworkers or friends. I confronted him about it later that day, told him to break it off or I’d tell Mom. He begged me to keep his secret. He wanted me to lie to you guys and I just couldn’t do that.”
Kyle nodded. “I understand.”
Her grip around him tightened momentarily. “You okay?”
He scoffed. “Our parents are going to get divorced. Are you okay?”
“No. . .but I’m glad it’s out in the open. Maybe I’ll be able to stay with you and Mom once this is all over.”
“If this is ever over,” Kyle said miserably.
“Hey, don’t say that. Mom and Dad will pay the ransom. We’ll be out of here in no time.”
When she woke up, there was light in the cellar and not just the glow from the lamp.
Two men with masks crouched by the fifth hostage, murmuring to each other as they wrapped a clean bandage around her knee and gave her some medicine. A third man stood directly below the opened trap door in the ceiling, guarding the rope ladder. A fourth man stocked a small cooler with ice not too far away from the corner Avery had retreated to. A fifth man tossed a few rolled up sleeping bags onto the floor and eyed Bailey, who slept in another corner. A sixth man pointed the barrel of a gun at Lindsay’s face.
She went cross-eyed looking at it. Then her gaze slid up to meet the bright blue eyes barely visible through the holes in the mask. The heat of anger spread down the length of Lindsay’s body. The beast within reacted. It wanted to kill this man, to tear him apart with its teeth.
The stranger put a finger to his lips and gestured to the gun.
“We could use some hot food and a couple of pillows,” she said. “A little light would be nice too. I get it; you’re trying to scare us senseless by having us wake up to darkness. You’ve accomplished your goal already. Now let’s be adults.”
“Shut up! This isn’t a hotel service,” the man said with only a hint of an accent. He turned to his lackeys. “Hurry the hell up.”
They rushed to do as they were told.
“Leave some extra bandages and painkillers. I’ll make sure your injured hostage doesn’t get an infection and die before her family pays the ransom,” Lindsay said. “I’m a nurse.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” He hit her across the face with the butt of his gun.
Her head jerked to the side, her neck popping painfully and her whole face throbbing. She slowly turned to look at him, pulling her lips back to expose her fangs. A growl filled the space between them, low and menacing.
The man stepped back. “Holy shit.”
“Jules?” Avery murmured groggily.
Lindsay reined in her anger and shut her mouth, willing the beast to retreat. It wasn’t easy. She was one day closer to the full moon. Pretty soon, she would have no control over it whatsoever. The thought made her stomach clench in fear. I have to get out of here!
Avery sat up, going from sleepy to nonchalant. “Morning, gents.”
The men pulled out their weapons.
Avery held his hands up. “Whoa, calm down.”
Kyle woke with a start and huddled closer to Lindsay. She gripped his hand, heart skipping in her chest. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine.
“You just scared us, that’s all,” Avery said.
None of the men in masks said a word. They backed away from their hostages, guns raised. It wasn’t until all the men had climbed up the ladder and had closed the trap door behind them that Bailey started crying. Lindsay hadn’t noticed the teen had awakened until Bailey sucked in a long ragged breath and sobbed.
Lindsay reached up to wipe the fresh blood from her face.
“Lindsay, you’re hurt!” Kyle gasped.
Avery scrambled to his feet and ran to her. “Those bastards!” When he was close enough, he reached out to tentatively touch the cut across her cheekbone. There was nowhere else to look but at his face, not crinkled in amusement, not lazy and indifferent, but open and vulnerable and real. It was like turning back the clock to four months ago, when they were still together, when she believed he’d never do anything to hurt her. Pressure built around her throat. The world blurred around his face and then tears cascaded down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Avery whispered.
She could almost believe he wasn’t talking about her cheek. From the way he was looking at her, he could’ve been reading her mind and apologizing for breaking her heart. She turned away and hurriedly dabbed at her tears.
Avery let his hand fall back to his side, adopting a hollow expression. Before anyone could say a word, the unconscious hostage sat up and screamed. Avery dashed over to her. Bailey yelped. Kyle jumped with a girlish shriek. Lindsay stumbled to her feet, ignoring the pain that raced up her shin. It wasn’t sharp enough to send her sprawling but it did slow her down.
“Calm down. It’s okay, it’s okay,” Avery said soothingly.
Her face was frantic with pain. “My knee! Oh, God, my knee! Wait a sec…” She looked around, short hair bouncing. “Where’s Dev? Who are you? What’s going on?”
“D-Dev as in Deveron Bo, the actor?” Bailey raced over to join them. “You’re his girlfriend, aren’t you? Cordelia Ridge.”
“Whoa, Cordi Ridge the model? It’s very nice to meet you!” Avery said.
“Yeah, I’m Cordi. Who the hell are you?” She moved her hands as if to grip her knee, but then paused. Her teary eyes widened. “Oh, God, my knee’s killing me.”
“Just take it easy,” Lindsay said, kneeling beside her and holding out placating hands. “We’re not going to hurt you. Kyle, can you get me some ice?”
Her brother raced to the cooler to obey.
“I want you to breathe deeply and listen very carefully to what I’m going to tell you, okay?” Lindsay said.
The grimacing woman nodded and leaned back against the wall, biting her lip.
“My name is Lindsay Whittaker. I’m a nurse. I’m going to take care of you. We’re pretty sure we’re being held for ransom. Thanks, Kyle.” She took the ice cubes and placed them on the thin blanket lying next to Cordelia. “We should be all right if we keep our heads. Once the kidnappers have what they want, they’ll let us go. I’m willing to bet we’ll be home by tomorrow night at the latest.” Lindsay tore out the section of the blanket around the ice cubes and twisted the ends together. “Hold still. This might hurt.”
Cordelia recoiled from the ice. “Are you sure that’ll help?”
“It’ll make the swelling go down. I promise. ” Lindsay applied little pressure but kept the ice over the model’s knee. “Can you remember anything that happened before you were taken?”
Cordelia nodded. “I was with Dev. We had lunch and then he drove me home. Men in masks jumped out of the bushes as soon as he drove away. They. . .They grabbed me.” Tears streamed down her face. “I struggled. A neighbor tried to intervene, but they shot my knee and threw me over their shoulders before he could reach us. They shoved me into the backseat of a van, where a guy was waiting with a syringe. Whatever they gave me knocked me out and. . .well, now I’m here. What kind of monsters would—?” She noticed the kids and made a strange little sound of outrage. “You poor things! What’re you doing here?”
“Paying for our rich parents’ success, apparently,” Bailey said with an odd chuckle.
“But you’re. . .Kelly Dune’s daughter, right? How did you get kidnapped? Don’t you have your own security guards?”
Bailey sighed. “I have a boyfriend. My mom doesn’t know and neither do the guards. I go to Zumba three times a week and sneak away from the guards before the class is over to visit him. I was leaving his house when those guys with masks took me.” She scowled at her fellow hostages, suddenly defensive. “I wouldn’t have had to sneak around if my mom would trust me more.”
“Parents. They think they know what’s best, but just end up choking the life out of you.” Avery must’ve seen the questions on their faces because he adopted a tired smile. “Not a story you would want to hear.”
“Were your parents abusive?” Kyle asked, serious and curious all at once.
“Not unless you consider abandonment abuse.”
Kyle lowered his gaze. “Oh. Sorry. . .”
Avery forced a smile and stood. “Don’t sweat it, little man. It’s not a big deal. I’m going to go see what’s in the ice chest. Anybody want anything?”
Kyle and Bailey jumped at the opportunity to get some food.
“Bring something for me and Cordi, won’t you?” Lindsay asked, gently rubbing her shin.
Kyle nodded and jogged after Bailey.
Cordelia threw Lindsay a quizzical look. “Why do you think he’s here? I mean, if he doesn’t have a rich family. . .”
Lindsay had no answer for her.
To prevent spontaneous combustion: