Tuesday, April 1, 2008

april F.I.R.S.T.

It is April FIRST--no foolin'--, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The special feature author is:

and his book:

Ryan Watters and the King's Sword
Creation House (May 2008)

Illustrated by: Corey Wolfe


Eric J. Reinhold is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. The former Naval officer writes extensively for a variety of national financial publications in his position as a Certified Financial Planner® and President of Academy Wealth Management. His passion for writing a youth fantasy novel was fueled by nightly impromptu storytelling to his children and actively serving in the middle and high school programs at First Baptist Sweetwater Church in Longwood, Florida.

Visit him at his website.


Angel’s Visitation

It first appeared as a gentle glow, almost like a child’s night-light. Heavy shadows filled the room as the boy lay face up, covers tucked neatly under his arms. A slight smile on his face hinted that he was in the midst of a pleasant dream.

Ryann Watters, who had just celebrated his twelfth birthday, rolled lazily onto his side, his blond hair matted into the pillow, unaware of the glow as it began to intensify. Shadows searched for hiding places throughout the room as the glow transformed from a pale yellow hue to brilliant white.

Ryann’s eyelids fluttered briefly and then flickered at the glare reflecting off his pale blue bedroom walls. Drowsily, he turned toward the light expecting to see one of his parents coming in to check on him. “What’s going on?” his voice cracked as he reached up to rub the crusty sleep from his eyes.


Under a pale half-moon, Drake Dunfellow’s house looked just like any other. A closer inspection, however, would reveal its failing condition. Water oaks lining the side of the curved driveway hunched over haggardly, like old men struggling on canes. The lawn, which should have been a lively green for early spring, was withered and sandy. A few patches of grass were sprinkled here and there. Rust lines streaked down the one jagged peak atop the tin-roof house. The flimsy clapboard sides were outlined by fading white trim speckled with dried paint curls. Hanging baskets containing a variety of plants and weeds all struggling to stay alive shared the crowded front porch with two mildew-covered rocking chairs. Inside, magazines and newspaper clippings both old and new were carelessly strewn about. Encrusted dishes from the previous day’s meals battled each other for space in the bulging kitchen sink. In the garage, away from the usual living areas, was a boy’s room. Dull paneling outlined the bedroom, while equally dreary brown linoleum covered the floor. The bedroom must have been an afterthought because not much consideration had been given to the details. A bookcase cut from rough planks sat atop an old garage sale dresser.

Moonlight pressing through the dust-covered metal blinds tried to provide a sense of peacefulness. Instead it revealed bristly red hair atop a young boy’s head poking out from beneath a mushy feather pillow. His heavy breathing provided the only movement in the quiet room. Tiny droplets of perspiration lined his brow as he began jerking about under the thin cotton sheets.

Starting at the edge of the window, the blackness spread downward, transforming all traces of light to an oily dinginess. Drake was slowly surrounded and remained the only thing not saturated in the darkness. Bolting upright to a stiff-seated attention, Drake’s bloodshot eyes darted back and forth. He stared into the black nothingness shuddering and aware that the only thing visible in the room was his bed.

“Who . . . who’s there?” Drake cried out, puzzled by the hollow sound that didn’t seem to travel beyond the edge of his mattress. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck, connecting his numerous freckled dots. He strained, slightly tilting his head, ears perked. There was no reply.


Neatly manicured streets wandered through the Watters’s sleepy, rolling neighborhood. If someone had been walking along in the wee morning hours of March 15, they would have noticed the brilliant white light peeking out from around Ryann’s shade. Below his second-story window the normally darkened bed of pink, red, and white impatiens was lit up as in the noonday sun.

Ryann was fully awake now and quite positive that the dazzling aura facing him from in front of his window was not the hall light from his parents entering the bedroom. Golden hues flowed out of the whiteness, showering itself on everything in the room. It reminded Ryann of sprinkles of pixie dust in some of his favorite childhood books. His blue eyes grew wide trying to capture the unbelievable event unfolding before him.

“Fear not, Ryann,” a confident, yet kind, voice began. “I have come to do the bidding of one much greater than I and who you have found favor with.”

Rapid pulses in his chest gripped Ryann as he struggled to understand what was happening. Instinctively he grasped his navy blue bed sheets and pulled them up so that only his eyes and the top of his head peeked out from his self-made cocoon. Squinting to reduce the brilliance before him, Ryann stared into the light, trying to detect a form while questions scrambled around his mind. What had the voice meant by “finding favor,” and who had sent him? As Ryann struggled to work this out, the center of the whiteness began to take the shape of a man. Human in appearance, he looked powerful, but there was a calmness about his face, like that of an experienced commander before going into battle. Ryann recalled hearing about angels in his Sunday school class at church. He wondered if this could be one.

“Ryann, thou have found favor with the One who sent me. You will be given much and much will be required of you.”

Still shaking, Ryann was fairly certain he was safe. “S-s-s . . . sir, are you an angel?”

“You have perceived correctly.” “And . . . I’ve been chosen by someone . . . for something?” Ryann asked.

“The One who knows you better than you know yourself,” the angel answered.

Ryann knew he must be talking about God, but what could God possibly want with him?

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Thou must search out and put on the full armor of God so that you can take a stand against the devil’s schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“The devil? Forces of evil? I’m just a kid,” Ryann said. “What could I possibly have to do with all of this? You’ve got to be making a mistake.”

“There are no mistakes with God. Thou have heard of David?”

“You mean the David from David and Goliath?” Ryann asked.

The angel nodded. “He was also a boy chosen by God to accomplish great things. God chooses to show His power by using the powerless.”

Ryann tried to comprehend the magnitude of what this mighty being was saying to him. Realizing he was still sitting in his bed, covers bunched around him, he pulled them aside and swung his feet out, never taking his eyes off the angel. Landing firmly on the carpet, Ryann’s wobbly knees barely supported him, the bed acting as a wall between him and the angel.

“Who are you?”

“I am Gabriel and have come to give you insight and understanding.”

“Wow!” Ryann couldn’t believe this was the same angel who had appeared to Joseph and Mary in the Christmas story he heard every December. The lines of excitement on his face drooped as he fidgeted, thinking about the angel’s words. “I don’t want to . . . seem . . . ungrateful,” Ryann hesitated, “but . . . is there any way you can . . . ask someone else?”

“Only you have been given this trial, Ryann, yet you shall not be alone.”

“Who will help me?”

“As the young shepherd boy David spoke, ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. For He commands His angels to guard you in all your ways.’” Gabriel’s twinkling gaze rose as he stretched his arms heavenward, “And these will assist you along the way.”

Beckoning Ryann from behind the bed, the angel glided effortlessly forward to greet him. Walking to within a foot of Gabriel, Ryann bowed humbly, basking in the radiant glow that emanated all around him. Reaching out, the angel grasped Ryann’s left hand firmly and slipped a gold ring, topped by a clear bubble-like stone, onto his finger. Before he could inspect it, the angel took his other hand and placed a long metal pole in it. Ryann’s hand slid easily up and down the smooth metal finish. Its shape and size were similar to a pool cue. Bone-white buttons protruded from just below where he gripped the staff. They were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Mesmerized by the gifts that begged for more attention and questions, Ryann hardly noticed Gabriel loop a long leather cord through his arm and around his neck. From it a curved ivory horn hung loosely below his waist, resting on his hip.

As Gabriel finished and backed away, Ryann continued marveling at each of the gifts. Reaching down to inspect the horn, he ran his hands along its smooth, yet pitted surface, until he reached the small gold-tipped opening. He wondered how old the horn was and if it had been used before.

“What do I do with these? How do I use them?”

“It is not for me to reveal,” answered the angel calmly. “You shall find out in due time.”

“But what do I do now?”

“Thou must seek the King’s sword.”

“How? What King? Where do I look?” Ryann blurted out, panicking as questions continued to pop into his head.

“The Spirit will lead you, and the ring will open the way,” the angel replied as he began floating backwards, the light peeling away with him.

“Wait, wait! Don’t leave—I don’t know enough—where do I go now?”

“Remember,” Gabriel’s clear voice began to fade, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that you may be thoroughly equipped for all good works.”

Clutching the mysterious heavenly gifts he had been given, Ryann collapsed in a heap on his bed, body and mind drained from his supernatural encounter. He drifted into a welcomed sleep.


It seemed Drake’s bedroom no longer existed. Only his bed remained, an island floating in a sea of darkness that completely surrounded him. His eyes bulged, darting about for anything that would give him a hint of what was going on. A cool draft drifted down his neck, chilling him despite the safety of his covers. Caught between reality and a nightmare, he let loose a scream that normally would have been heard throughout the house and beyond, but now was absorbed into the heavy darkness enveloping him.

“Who’s there?” he said again. He pinched himself to see if he was dreaming.

With a loud swoooooooosh, huge wings shot out of the darkness surrounding his bed. Drake dove for the safety of his covers.

A thunderous, commanding voice ordered, “Come out from hiding and stand up!”

Drake hesitated, knuckles tense and white as they curled tightly around the edges of his blanket.

“Now!” the voice thundered.

Jerking his covers off, Drake scurried to the edge of the bed, lost his balance, and awkwardly fell face-first onto the cool floor. Petrified at what he might see, yet too scared to disobey, he raised his head slightly. Half expecting some hideous beast, Drake was surprised at what he was facing. The black-winged warrior towering over him was imposing enough to paralyze anyone with fear, but his face was what captivated Drake. Instead of a hideous three-eyed ghoul with fangs, like Drake imagined, he stared into one of the most ruggedly handsome faces he had ever seen. Drake froze, mesmerized.

“Sit up and listen closely, human,” the dark angel began, closing his wings in an effortless swish. Lowering his voice, he spoke in a precise, but less threatening tone. “I have chosen you to carry out my wishes.”

Drake raised himself to a clumsy crouch. The face he looked intently into was perfect in almost every way, except for a long thin scar that traveled from his left ear to his jaw. He was convinced now that this wasn’t a monster trying to devour him.

“Why me?”

The angel’s scar became more noticeable when he smiled at Drake. “I have been here before with great success and have reason to believe you will serve me well.”

“What do you want me to do?” Drake blurted.

“The one who seeks to bind me must be stopped!”

Drake stumbled backwards, putting a hand on the floor to keep from falling. Swallowing hard, he could feel the black, penetrating eyes staring deep into his.

“You are the one,” the creature said confidently.

No one had ever chosen Drake for anything, yet this powerful being wanted him. He didn’t know if he could trust the dark angel or not, but the chance for power excited Drake. “How do I do it?”

The dark angel continued to smile, sensing the blackness in Drake’s heart spreading murkily throughout his body.

“I will be your eyes and ears, a guide to lead you in the right direction, and,” he hesitated, “I will give you these.”

The dark-winged angel stretched out his hand, his index finger pointing toward the empty floor in front of him. Immediately three items appeared before Drake’s eyes. He blinked again. They were still there. Drake’s hand shot out in a blur to grab the closest item.


Drake froze, and then cowered, his eyes shifting back to the booming voice as he slowly retracted his hand. His eyes darted back and forth between the three items and the dark angel in the awkward silence.

“You move when I tell you to move. Now . . . kneel before me, child of the earth, while I make you ready for your task.”

Still hunched-over, Drake pitched forward onto his knees with his head bowed, eyes glancing upward in anticipation.

“My first gift to you is a cloak of darkness. It will provide you with cover at night. You and the night shall become one.”

Drake reached out his hands to receive the cloak. It felt smooth and slippery. Looking intently at it, the cloak seemed several feet thick, as if it was projecting darkness.

“My second gift to you is a ring of suggestion. With it you will have the ability to project persuasive thoughts to those who are weak-willed or in the midst of indecision.” Powerful hands with long curled fingers took hold of Drake’s hand, spreading an icy chill from the tip of his fingers to his wrist. As the creature slipped the black band onto his finger, Drake briefly noticed a red blotch on the top. His hand felt stiff, then the numbness traveled up his arm and throughout his body. Chattering clicks from his own teeth broke the silence as he awaited the angel’s next words. “Lastly, I provide you with a bow and arrows of fire. These arrows were formed in the lake of fire and will deliver physical and mental anguish to those they touch.”

“Thank you . . . uhh . . . what should I call you?” Drake asked.

“I am one of the stars that fell from heaven. My master is Shandago and I am his chief messenger. You may call me Lord Ekron.”

“Thank you, Lord Ekron, for these gifts. I may be young, but I’ll do as you ask to the best of my ability.”

“It is expected. Also, these items I have given to you are not for use in this world. When the time is right, you will find a passage into another land. There you will put these gifts to work.”

The darkness in the room began to rush toward Lord Ekron, as if he were absorbing it, except he wasn’t getting bigger—only darker. Drake kept staring at him, trying not to blink, so he wouldn’t miss anything. Despite his efforts, the dark angel began to fade, and Drake found himself peering into the darkness at the blank wall. When he was sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him and enough time passed so that he felt safe to move, he stood up.

Drake would have thought this was all a bad dream, but the items he held in his hand were proof that it was real. He ran his hands through the dense blackness of the slick cloak, wondering how he might use it. Drake was anxious to try the bow and arrows as well. He didn’t dare pull the arrows out of their quiver right now, but decided that he would have to buy a regular bow and quiver of arrows as soon as possible so that he could begin practicing. Looking down at his hand, he examined the unusual ring he now wore. The entire band was a glossy black, except for the unusual red marking on the top, which resembled a flying dragon.

Not much had gone right for Drake during the first thirteen years of his life. “Now things are going to be different,” he thought. The smile inching across his face looked evil. He knew with Lord Ekron at his side no one would be able to tell him what to do.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

march F.I.R.S.T.- a little late, but hey, i had a baby!!!

It is March FIRST, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature is:

Sharon Hinck

and her book:

The Restorer's Journey

Navpress Publishing Group (February 7, 2008)


Sharon Hinck holds a BA in education, and she earned an MA in communication from Regent University in 1986. She spent ten years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a homeschool mom, a church organist, and a bookstore clerk. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but in the meantime, she’s pouring her imagination into writing. Her stories focus on characters who confront the challenges of a life of faith. She’s published dozens of articles in magazines and book compilations, and released her first novel, The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House), in 2006. In April 2007, she was named “Writer of the Year” at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking at conferences and retreats. She and her family make their home in Minnesota. She loves to hear from readers, so send a message through the portal into her writing attic on the “Contact Sharon” page of her website, http://www.sharonhinck.com/. She is also an avid blogger...visit Stories for the Hero in All of Us.

The first and second books in The Sword of Lyric series are The Restorer and The Restorer’s Son. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's Journey. Enjoy!


Chapter One - JAKE

My mom was freaking out.

She stared out the dining room window as if major-league monsters were hiding in the darkness beyond the glass. Give me a break. Our neighborhood was as boring as they came. Ridgeview Drive’s square lawns and generic houses held nothing more menacing than basketball hoops and tire swings. Still, Mom’s back was tight, and in the shadowed reflection on the pane, I could see her biting her lip. I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.

I ducked back into the kitchen and used a wet rag to wipe off the counters. Clumps of flour turned to paste and smeared in gunky white arcs across the surface. I shook the rag over the garbage can, the mess raining down on the other debris we’d swept up. Broken jars of pasta and rice filled the bag. I stomped it down, twist-tied the bag and jogged it out to the trashcan by the garage. Usually, I hated the chore of taking out the trash. Not tonight. Maybe if I erased the signs of our intruders, Mom would relax a little.

So Cameron and Medea dropped a few things when they were looking for supplies. No biggie. Why did my folks have such a problem with those two anyway? They’d been great to me. I trudged back into the house, rubbing my forehead. Wait. That wasn’t right. A shiver snaked through my spine. Never mind. They were probably long gone by now.

“Kitchen’s done.” I carried the broom into the dining room, hoping Mom had finished in there. But she was still hugging her arms and staring out the window.

She turned and looked at the china cabinet, then squeezed her eyes shut as if they were hurting. “Why?” she whispered.

Glass shards jutted from one cabinet door, and the other hung crooked with wood splinters poking out. Broken china covered the floor. Mom and Dad had been collecting those goofy teacups ever since they got married.

I pushed the broom against the edge of the fragments, but the chinking sound made her wince, so I stopped.

Dad strode past with an empty garbage bag from the hall closet and stopped to give my mom a squeeze. He nodded toward me. “Honey, Jake’s alive. Nothing else matters. We all got back safe.” He leaned his head against hers, and I edged toward the kitchen in case they started kissing. For an old married couple, they were a little too free with their public displays of affection. No guy wants to watch his parents act mushy.

But my mom didn’t look like she was in a kissing mood. She pressed her lips together. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was more freaked out about what had happened to my hand than our house. Like when I had cancer as a kid. She’d gotten really stressed about the details of a church fundraiser and cranky about everything that went wrong—stuff that wasn’t even important. It gave her a place to be angry when she was trying to be brave about a bigger problem.

“It’s only a piece of furniture.” Dad was doing his soothing voice. When would he catch on that only made things worse?

“Only a piece of furniture we bought as a wedding gift to each other.” She swiped at some wet spots on her face. “Only twenty years’ worth of poking around garage sales and thrift stores together. Don’t tell me what it’s only! Okay?”

“Okay.” Dad backed away from her prickles.

I made another ineffectual push with the broom. My folks didn’t argue much, but when they did, it grated like a clutch struggling to find third gear. Typical over-responsible firstborn, I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.

Mom picked up a Delft saucer, smashed beyond repair, and laid the pieces gently into the garbage bag. Dad folded his arms and leaned against the high back of one of the chairs. “I can fix the cabinet. That splintered door will need to be replaced, but the other one just needs new hinges. I can put in new glass.” His eyes always lit up when he talked about a woodworking project. The man loved his tools.

Mom smiled at him. Her tension faded, and she got all moony-eyed, so I ducked into the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. Thank heaven. “Pizza’s here!” I yelled.

Dad paid the delivery guy, and I carried the cartons into the living room. Flopping onto one end of the couch, I pried open the lid. “Hey, who ordered green peppers? Mom, you’ve gotta quit ruining good pizza with veggies.”

That made her laugh. “We’d better save a few pieces for the other kids.” She cleared the Legos off the coffee table and handed me a napkin.

I gladly surrendered the top pizza box, along with its green pepper, and dove into the pepperoni below. “Where is everyone?”

“Karen’s spending the night at Amanda’s—trying out her new driver’s license. Jon and Anne are at Grandma’s. But if they see the pizza boxes when they get home tomorrow . . . ”

I nodded. “Yep. Pure outrage. I can hear it now. ‘It’s not fair. Jake always gets to have extra fun.’” I did a pretty good impression of the rug rats. What would the kids think if they found out what else they had missed? This had been the strangest Saturday the Mitchell family had ever seen.

I popped open a can of Dr. Pepper. My third. Hey, I’d earned some extra caffeine. “So, what do we tell the kids?”

Mom smiled and looked me up and down, probably thinking I was one of the kids. When would it sink in that I was an adult now? I guzzled a third of my pop and set it down with a thump. “We could tell them there was a burglar, but then they’d want to help the police solve the case, and they’d never stop asking questions.”

“Good point.” Mom licked sauce from her finger. “Jon and Anne would break out the detective kit you gave them for Christmas.”

Dad tore a piece of crust from his slice of pepperoni. “If we finish cleaning everything, I don’t think they’ll pay much attention. The cabinet is the only obvious damage. If they ask, we’ll just say it got bumped and fell.”

Dad wanted us to lie? So not like him. Then again, when Kieran told me Dad wasn’t originally from our world, I realized there were a lot of things he’d never been honest about. Now I was part of the family secret, too.

He rested his piece of pizza on the cardboard box and looked at Mom. “Do we need to warn them?”

“Warn them?” She mumbled around a mouth full of melted cheese.

“In case Cameron and Medea come back.” His voice was calm, but I suddenly had a hard time swallowing. Something cold twisted in me when he said their names. The same cold that had numbed my bones when I’d woken up in the attic. Why? They’d taken care of me. No, they’d threatened me. Confusing images warred inside my brain.

“You think they’ll come back?” My baritone went up in pitch, and I quickly took another sip of pop.

Dad didn’t answer for a moment. “It depends on why they came. If they plan to stay in our world, we need to find them—stop them. But my guess is that Cameron wants to return to Lyric with something from our world that he can use there. That means they’ll be back to go through the portal.”

Mom sank deeper into the couch and looked out the living room windows. At the curb, our family van shimmered beneath a streetlight.

They might be out there, too. They could be watching us right this second.

“Maybe we should call the police.” Mom’s voice sounded thin. I’d suggested that earlier. After all, someone had broken in—well, broken out.

Dad snorted. “And tell them what?”

He had a point, but it’s not like there was a rulebook for dealing with visitors from other universes. Unless you attended Star Trek conventions. “So what’s your plan?” I asked.

“I’ll get extra locks tomorrow. Maybe look into an alarm system.” Dad believed every problem could be solved with his Home Depot credit card. He turned to me. “Can you remember more about your conversations with Cameron? What did he ask you about? What did he seem interested in?”

A shudder moved through me, and pain began pulsing behind my eyes.

Mom gave Dad a worried glance, then rested a hand on my arm. “It’s okay, honey. We don’t have to talk about it right now.” She smoothed my hair back from my face.

“No problem.” I brushed her hand away, sprawled back on the couch, and studied the ceiling. “It just seems like it was all a dream.”

“What’s the last thing you remember clearly?” Dad pulled his chair closer and watched me.

“Braide Wood.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It reminded me of summer camp. And I was so tired of running and hiding in caves. I finally felt safe. Tara fussed over me, and I taught Dustin and Aubrey how to play soccer. It felt like home.”

I struggled to remember the rest. For some reason my memories were tangled up, like the time I had a major fever and took too much Nyquil. Mom and Dad waited.

“I went to see Morsal Plains with Tara. Brutal. The grain was all black and it smelled weird. Tara told me about the attack. How Hazor poisoned it on purpose and how Susan the Restorer led the army to protect Braide Wood.” I squinted my eyes open and looked sideways at my mom. They’d told me she had ridden into battle with a sword. “Unbelievable.”

Even though she was watching me with a worried pinch to her eyes, she smiled. “I know. I lived it, and it’s hard for me to believe.”

“Anyway, I hiked back to Tara’s house, and some guys came to take me to Cameron. He made a big fuss over me. Said it was his job to welcome guests to the clans. Said I’d run into bad company but he’d make it up to me. He gave me something to drink, and there was this lady. She was amazing.” No matter how fuzzy my memories were, Medea was easy to remember. The long curly hair, the sparkling eyes, the dress that clung to all the right places. My cheeks heated. “I can’t remember everything we talked about. She made me feel important, like I wasn’t just some teenage kid. It was . . . ” I sat taller and angled away from my parents, my jaw tightening. “She helped me realize that no one else had ever really understood me. I wanted to become a guardian. I had an important job to do.”

“Jake.” Dad’s voice was sharp, and I flinched. “The woman you met was a Rhusican. They poison minds. Don’t trust everything you’re feeling right now.”

A pulsing ache grabbed the base of my neck. I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. Mom’s hand settled on my shoulder, and I stiffened. Weird static was messing with my head.

“Jake, they used you to find the portal. She doesn’t really understand you.” Mom’s voice was quiet and sounded far away. I felt like I was falling away inside myself. She squeezed my shoulder. “Remember my favorite psalm?”

I managed a tight smile. “How could I forget? You made us learn the whole thing one summer. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…’ blah, blah, blah.”

Despite my smart aleck tone, the words took hold and some of the static in my brain quieted.

“What’s the rest?” Dad pressed me.

What was he trying to prove? That I couldn’t think straight? I could have told him that. I struggled to form the words.

“‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.’” Once I got started, I rattled off the verses by rote. In some strange way, the words actually stopped the sensation of falling away inside myself.

“Sounds like there’s someone who understands you a lot better than Cameron and Medea. Remember that.” Dad stood up and tousled my hair. Then he yawned. “Let’s get some sleep.”

Mom didn’t move. She was still watching me. “How’s the hand?”

I rubbed my palm. “Still fine. Weird, huh?” I held it out.

A scar, faint as a white thread, marked the skin where broken glass had cut a deep gash an hour earlier. My lungs tightened. What did it mean?

Dad shook his head. “Come on. Bedtime.”

Mom hesitated, but then stood and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead. “Good night, Jake. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Oh, great. She sure loved talking. I looked at Dad. His mouth twitched. “I’ll get us signed up for some practice space at the fencing club.”

Good. He hadn’t forgotten his promise. I couldn’t make sense of my trip through the portal, or the sudden-healing thing, but I knew I wanted to learn to use a sword.

My parents gathered up the pizza stuff and carried it to the kitchen, out of sight, but not out of earshot.

“If we hide the portal stones Cameron and Medea won’t be able to go back,” Dad said over the crinkling of a sheet of aluminum foil.

Someone slammed the fridge door shut hard enough to make the salad dressing bottles rattle. “We don’t want them running around our world. They don’t belong here.” Mom sounded tense.

“I know. We have to send them back. But on our terms. Without anything that would hurt the People of the Verses. And what about Jake?”

Silence crackled, and I leaned forward from my spot on the couch.

When Mom refused to answer, Dad spoke again, so quiet I almost couldn’t hear. “We need to keep the portal available in case he’s needed there. But how will we know?”

Needed there? Did he really think . . .?

I waited for them to head back to their bedroom, then slipped down the steps from the kitchen to the basement. Most of the basement was still unfinished – except for my corner bedroom and Dad’s workbench.

I hurried into my room and shut out the world behind me. Tonight everything looked different. The movie posters, the bookshelves, the soccer team trophy. Smaller, foreign, unfamiliar.

I pulled a thumbtack from my bulletin board and scratched it across my thumb. A line of blood appeared, but in a microsecond the tiny scrape healed completely. I had assumed the healing power was some heebie-jeebie thing that Medea had given me, or that had transferred over from my interactions with Kieran.

But now that my head had stopped throbbing, I could put the pieces together. Excitement stronger than caffeine zipped around my nerve endings. My folks thought this was more than a weird effect left over from my travels through the portal. They thought I might be the next Restorer.

Friday, February 1, 2008

February F.I.R.S.T.

It is February FIRST, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature is:

Rebeca Seitz

and her book:


B&H Books (February 1, 2008)


Rebeca Seitz is Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. An author for several years, PRINTS CHARMING being her first novel.

Rebeca cut her publicity teeth as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2005, Rebeca resigned from WestBow and opened the doors of GRPR, the only publicity firm of its kind in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview.

Rebeca makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Charles, and their son, Anderson.


Tandy’s purple stiletto heel tapped in perfect rhythm to the pulse that threatened to leap out of her neck. She stared at the phone, willing it to ring and someone on the other end to declare this a joke. Her boss did not just call her into his office. Now.

The smooth tones from her CD player of Ole Blue Eyes crooning I Did it My Way mocked rather than soothed. She had to calm down, but Meg’s idea of music soothing the savage soul was not working. Fingers shaking, Tandy snatched up the receiver and dialed her sister. Calm, stoic Meg always knew what to do in a crisis. From falling off the swing set to supplying Oreos and caffeine the night before Tandy’s bar exam, Meg was a pro at handling crises and keeping her three sisters’ lives humming.

A busy signal sounded, and Tandy slammed the phone back down. Of course Meg would be on the phone right now. Why on earth couldn’t that woman understand the helpfulness of call-waiting? Tandy could hear Meg’s soft, persuasive response now: Why would I stop talking to one person before our conversation ended, T? It’s rude and I just won’t have it in my house.

Grabbing the receiver again, Tandy punched in Kendra’s numbers, jumping when yet another hawk flew into her window. Why did Orlando have to have a courthouse with the perfect nooks and crannies to build a nest? Ever since the completion of this new structure, hawks circled attorneys in the Bellsouth building across the on a daily basis.

Kendra’s melodic voice floated over the line, its harmonious tones the same as in childhood: "You have reached the voicemail of Kendra Sinclair…"

Tandy slammed the receiver down again and glared at the circling hawks. Of course Mr. Beasley was angry. He had every right to be, really. That fat deposit in her checking account every other week meant the continuation of her dedication to keeping their clients out of jail. Certainly it meant she wouldn’t hand the prosecution the very evidence they needed to obtain a conviction. She fiddled with the purple and black silk scarf tied around her neck.

Would Joy be any help at all in this situation? Joy might be the baby sister, but her quiet strength could come in handy right now. Except that Joy loved to talk and Christopher Beasley was waiting. The thought of him in his office high above the hawks, tapping his long fingers on the glass top of a heavy mahogany desk, didn’t allow for long phone conversations.

Tandy’s office phone rang and she jumped. "Tandy Sinclair."

"Tandy, it’s Anna." Tandy smiled, thinking of the gentle lady seated a few floors above her. "Mr. Beasley’s on his third cup of coffee."

Her smile vanished. "Oh, no, Anna. Couldn’t you have dawdled a bit? You know how he gets with caffeine overload."

"And you know how he gets when I dawdle. You’ve got maybe three minutes before he asks me to get cup number four."

"I’m on my way." Tandy pushed back from her desk and stood up. "Thanks, Anna."

"No problem, sweetie."

Tandy dropped the phone in its cradle, her gaze darting around the room for something, anything that would prevent the next ten minutes.

If that idiot Harry Simons had been one iota less smarmy, this predicament could have been avoided. His outright ogling of her figure had been bad enough, but certainly not the first time Tandy had been forced to ignore a man’s unwanted attentions. They all seemed to believe her red, wavy hair was a sign she’d fulfill their wildest dreams. Heck, Mr. Beasley had probably even made that assumption at some point, as evidenced by his swift promotions landing her in a cushy corner office of Meyers, Briggs, and Stratton.

Tandy swigged caffeine and paced the office. It wasn’t even Harry’s condescension. His superiority, rooted in maleness, made no effort to hide the belief that a brain resting between the pierced ears of a thirty-year-old female graduate of Yale School of Law somehow negated its existence. That idiocy didn’t even raise her blood pressure. She fingered her pearl earrings and grimaced as a hawk glided to rest on the ledge outside.

No, she would have been fine, and Christopher Beasley would not at this very moment be preparing to fire her, except for one innocent little lunch with small-minded Harry. Why, oh why, had she agreed to go to lunch with the lizard? (Honestly, his head rivaled the shape of geckos that ran in and out of every flower bed in Central Florida.) Come to think of it, his eyes were shifty like a gecko, too. Was the single life getting to her so much that she’d date a lizard? She stopped and tapped the window ledge. Meg and Kendra were on her case to date more. But who had time to meet people after spending sixty-five hours a week at the office? She sighed. The sisters just didn’t understand life in the city.

"You guys have got it easy," she said to the hawks. "Circle, eat, rest, repeat. With the occasional head bang into a window to keep us lawyers on our toes." She shook her head.

Well, it didn’t matter now. Mr. Beasley awaited her presence and it would only get worse the longer she stood here. Her heels sank into the plush pearl-colored carpet as she crossed the office, ignoring the latest sacrifice to her black thumb—a nearly dead African violet. She opened her office door and cast one last glance at what, in about ten minutes, probably would not be her office. Oh well. Maybe she could take the plant to Anna.

She picked up the violet. At least the charade of defending a slimeball, who made fun of an old homeless man to make himself seem big, would come to an end. And the day was still young; she could hit the beach before the lunch rush hit I-4.

Shoulders thrown back, chin up, Tandy made her way down the hallway and entered an elevator lined in the obligatory mahogany, brass, and mirrors, testimony to Christopher’s desire to never rock a boat even in the decoration of his law firm’s offices. She eyed her reflection and saw steel in the brown eyes staring back. Cutting Harry off at the knees in public wasn’t the best financial move to make. How would she buy food for Cooper? Pay his vet bills? Keeping an old basset hound with arthritic knees and hips in comfort was a pricey endeavor. Still, it had been worth it to see the shock on Harry’s face when she announced in her loud voice the impending completion of his career. From a 9x9 prison cell, that cardboard box would look like heaven.

She checked her chignon, tucking in a stray curl and smoothing the rest down. Picturing Harry’s smug, pudgy face behind bars did way more to calm her pulse rate than Sinatra’s croon. The elevator dinged, announcing her arrival to Christopher Beasley’s penthouse lair.

Tandy took a deep breath, tightened her grip on the sagging violet, sent up a prayer of thanks that she’d picked the Ann Taylor suit today—must look sharp when being fired--and stepped across the threshold.

"He’s waiting for you." Sympathy shimmered in Anna’s blue eyes. The Orlando sun shining through the window made Anna’s hair glow like a fresh pearl.

Tandy set the violet down on Anna’s desk. "Thanks, Anna. It’s been good knowing you. I wonder if you might coax this little guy back to life?"

Anna raised her eyebrows. "Tandy, how many times do I have to tell you? You’re a danger to plants." She smiled and wagged her finger. "You taking them in isn’t an act of kindness. You leave the greenery to us old chicks."

Tandy laughed. "Yes ma’am." She took another breath. "I guess I should go in now."

Anna sobered. "Guess so."

"Still on cup number three?"

"I just took in cup four. I doubt he’s taken a sip yet, though. He’s slowing down."

"Thanks for everything, Anna."

"You’re welcome, honey. Take care of yourself. And you call me if you need anything, hear?"

Tandy nodded, only now realizing that losing her job also meant losing Anna’s kind wisdom. She blinked hard. Crying at work would not do. She stepped to Christopher’s door and knocked.

"Come." His deep voice bellowed through the door and Tandy’s pulse kicked up again. This was it. For the first time ever, Tandy Sinclair was about to be fired from a job. When she’d moved to Orlando to take this job and declare war on the city that took her childhood, Tandy never would have guessed she’d become an actual beach bum.

"Tandy, sit down, sit down." Christopher stood, gesturing to a chair and patting the telltale stripes of his Ben Silver tie. "Seems we have a little situation on our hands." The hawks circled one story below his window, the tops of their feathered backs lit by the sun.

Tandy sat down and nodded.

Christopher’s padded leather chair creaked with his weight. He settled back, propped his elbows on the arms, and templed his fingers. "Harry tells me he’s headed for a prison cell."

She nodded again.

"He also tells me that would be your fault."

Another nod. This must be what bobbleheads felt like.

"And he says he’s ready to sue this firm for inadequate representation unless I do something about it."

She quirked an eyebrow. Score one for Harry.

"I’ve assured Harry that there must be some misunderstanding since you’re one of the most capable attorneys this firm has seen in quite some time. So, please, Tandy, explain to me how one of our biggest clients, someone for whom you serve as lead counsel, suddenly finds himself facing jail."

Tandy tilted her head. He was giving her an out, bless him. Leave it to Christopher Beasley, King of Calm and Proper Appearances, to smooth the choppy waters and restore her professional boat to proper order. An image of Harry’s sneer popped into her mind, though, and the thought of backtracking fled like money from her wallet during a trunk sale.

She smiled and adopted her lawyer voice. "Well, Mr. Beasley, I appreciate your belief in my professional abilities, but it seems Mr. Simons has some rather extreme positions regarding personal values that led me to determine he is, in fact, guilty of the crime for which he has been accused. When I asked him directly, he admitted as much to me."

It was Christopher’s turn to raise a brow. "He told you he embezzled funds from Hope House?"

Tandy nodded. "Yes, sir. I advised him I could not put him on the stand, since I would be suborning perjury, but he refused to listen. It was either let him lie to the court or remove myself from his case. I chose the latter."

Christopher swiveled his chair and stared out at the courthouse. What she wouldn’t give for a hawk to barrel into the glass. Anything to break the tension. Losing this job wouldn’t be the end of the world…just of her bank account, for the time being. She really didn’t want to lose the paycheck, but Harry gave her no choice.

The man wouldn’t listen to reason if someone etched it in a brick and threw it at his head.

She thought about their lunch again, seeing the hump-backed old man picking through a dumpster across the street. His coat had been threadbare, but Tandy knew too well the value of a coat, threadbare or not, on the streets. The priceless nature of every layer between skin and street. How the three bites of cheeseburger he found wrapped in its foil was enough to fill his belly for an entire day.

Harry’s voice had faded into the background of restaurant chatter as Tandy’s mind flew back to the seven years she spent living in a box with her mother. Before she met Marian and Jack Sinclair. Hearing the trains rumble past where they camped. Begging people for money, searching for a dry place when it rained, for a piece of food that hadn’t already been discovered by bugs. Watching her mom bob and weave as she walked, that scary light in her eyes that was both mesmerizing and terrifying because it meant mom wouldn’t make sense.

Tandy knew now her childhood had been stolen the first day her mother lit a match beneath the bowl of a pipe.

"Stupid junkie. Probably lost his job because of some drug habit." Harry’s voice joined a thousand other voices that still kept her awake on too many nights. "Bet he chooses to live like that. Easier than getting a job and working for his money like the rest of us."

Tandy looked at Harry sitting there in his three-thousand-dollar pin-striped suit, black crocodile shoes, and platinum cuff links with the Brooks Brothers insignia. Thought about reminding him his money came from his father’s hard work and planning, but decided against it. Harry was, after all, a huge client.

"Oh, probably not, Harry. You’d be amazed what some of the people living on the streets have been through." She sipped her water and willed her blood not to boil at the stupidity of the man before her.

He sneered and pointed a stubby finger at her. "Don’t be naïve, Tandy. That man could get a job flipping burgers at McDonald’s just as easy as sit out there with a cup in his hand, begging me to part with my cold hard cash that I worked very hard to get."

Silence was about as possible as finding a pair of Ferragamo’s in a size ten. On sale. Never gonna happen.

"Harry, how would he get a job? I doubt he owns any clothing other than what’s on his back. What would he wear to a job interview? Where would he get enough sleep in one sitting to be awake for an entire shift? What address would he even put on his job application?"

"Why, Tandy, I didn’t know you cared so much about our fair city’s homeless degenerates." His voice, so patronizing and smooth, grated. It fought with the pockmarks on his face to portray a polished image. "I’d think, with such convictions, you would have a hard time taking my case."

"Why is that, Harry? You didn’t embezzle from Hope House. Which means you didn’t take money from the mouths of homeless people. Which means my awareness of the plight of the homeless works in your favor." She took a sip of her water and tried to relax.

He wagged his finger at her. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, Tandy. There goes your naiveté again."

It took her a second to catch on. "Excuse me?"

He grinned and, for the first time, Tandy knew what jowls meant. "I think we both know what I’m saying."

"I certainly hope not. Because if you’re confessing to taking money from a homeless shelter, I can’t put you on the stand. I’d be suborning perjury."

Christopher cleared his throat, snapping Tandy back into the present. He swiveled around to face her. "I’m in a predicament, Tandy. Harry Simons brings a lot of money to this firm, been with us for years. That must count for something. Yet I find myself struggling with the thought of firing you since I understand the ethical dilemma you faced."

A tiny smidgen of hope blossomed in her heart.

Christopher placed his palms down on his glass-topped desk, an act of finality. "And yet, I see no course of action but to terminate your employment with Meyers, Briggs, and Stratton. Anything less would cause serious repercussions in our relationship with Harry Simons."

She fought to breathe normally. Blinked to hold back tears. Her savings account was basically nonexistent, which meant she and Cooper better start looking for a big refrigerator box to call home. Or maybe finding Cooper another family to live with would be a better idea. One of the sisters could take him. Meg, or maybe Joy. Kendra would be a last resort. She was as good with pets as Tandy was with plants. Well, except for Kitty, but cats were self-sufficient.

A hawk slammed into the window, making Christopher jump and spill the coffee sitting on his desk. "Dadgum it! Anna!"

Anna came rushing in, saw the mess, and snagged a roll of paper towels from the cabinet by the door without a word.

"You’ve got to call somebody about these hawks, Anna. They’re ruining my concentration!"

"Yes, Mr. Beasley. I’ll make the call today." Anna shot Tandy a sideways glance. Tandy grinned. Seeing the unflappable Christopher Beasley in a snit was worth getting fired--almost. Anna sopped up the mess and left the room.

"Now, where were we?" He pushed paper around the desk, checking to ensure all the coffee was gone.

Tandy cleared her throat. "I think you were firing me."

Christopher stopped arranging paper and looked up at her. "Right, right. Well, I don’t think we have to be that drastic. How about a leave of absence?"

Thank heaven for hawks.

"A leave of absence, sir?" Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but, hey, it had to be asked.

"Yes. I think that will mollify our good friend Harry." Christopher nodded and patted the desktop, warming to his idea. "I’ll let him know you’ve taken some time to think through your behavior and will come back to the firm when you’ve gotten some perspective. Say, two months?"

Two months? She calculated the amount in her checking account and began deducting bills. With no extracurricular spending at all, it might work. Two months to find something else or learn how to eat crow. Okay, maybe this was a good thing. There was no immediate need to take another boring job in a legal firm. Two months was a ton of time. Figuring out her professional passion should be a snap. She could almost see Meg’s eyes roll at that thought.

"Thank you for that, sir."

Christopher smiled. "It’s the least we can do. You’ve been a good employee. I just wish this mess hadn’t occurred."

Poor Christopher. Conflict between an employee and a major client. He must have been up all night figuring out ways to smooth ruffled feathers.

She shrugged. "These things happen for a reason, I think." She stood up and held out her hand. Christopher took it with his own limp one and made a motion that might optimistically be called a handshake.

"Good luck, Tandy. We’ll see you back here in two months."

"Thank you." She turned on one Ferragamo heel and walked out of Christopher Beasley’s office. Eight weeks of nothingness spread out before her like a gift. There had to be a way to make money off of this.

She tapped her chin and watched the lights over the elevator. Maybe some tourist would want her apartment for a couple of weeks. Tourists would pay just about anything for somewhere to stay during season. A couple thousand bucks, easy.

But if someone were to stay in her apartment, where could she go? The whisper of her heart tickled Tandy’s brain. Stars Hill, Tennessee’s rolling countryside, Daddy’s smile, Momma’s painted roses, the sisters’ scrapbooks…

The ding of the elevator dispelled her mind’s image, but not the idea. Stars Hill. Well, it had been a while since she’d been back. Three years, if memory served. And, with Daddy and the sisters around, there wouldn’t be any need to spend money on restaurants. Though what she’d save might be spent on scrapbook stuff. It was one thing to scrap alone and quite another to sit around Momma’s old scrapping table with the girls.

Tandy exited the elevator and smiled. If she left right now, she’d be home in Stars Hill by morning.

She walked into her office, snagged her briefcase, and whipped out a tiny cell phone on the way back to the elevator.



"Hey, T, what’s up in the big city?"

Tandy laughed. "Well, not me. I’ve got eight weeks of a sudden vacation."

"What? What happened?"

"I’ll tell you all about it when I get there."

Meg’s squeal pierced Tandy’s ears and she jerked the phone away from her head. "You’re coming home? To Stars Hill? Yes!! When will you be here? Wait, what happened? Did you get fired? Did something happen at work?" Tandy could hear Meg’s three kids squealing now in the background. They must have caught on to their mom’s excitement.

"Seriously, I’ll tell you when I get there. Call Kendra and Joy. Breakfast at Joy’s, 9 a.m."

"You’ve got it, sister. James, get down off that table!" Tandy could just picture Meg’s eldest. He must have grown a foot by now. "I’m telling you that child will climb on anything," Meg said.

"Go keep your kids from tearing down the house. I’ve got to get home, get all my scrapping stuff packed, call the rental company to let some crazy tourist in my place for a couple of weeks, and get on the highway."

"On the road again…" Meg’s voice blared through the phone.

"Sheesh, Sis, are you ever going to stop with the songs?"

"Not as long as there’s a breath in me." Tandy heard scuffling. "James, put your sister down! I am not kidding with you, mister!"

Tandy chuckled. "See you in the morning."

"Okay. Be careful and buckle up."

"You’ve got it."

Tandy snapped the phone closed and walked through the parking deck toward her new little silver BMW 323. Man was this car going to stand out in sleepy little Stars Hill.

Friday, November 30, 2007

December F.I.R.S.T.

Okay, I read a LOT, but this is definitely the best book I've read in ages. I seriously could not put it down, which is quite a feat for a 7-month pregnant mother of a two-yeaar-old who is also working part time aside from taking care of her husband and child....*inhales sharply*

this book is really thought-provoking and challenging on many levels. I found myself amazed time and again as I reminded myself this is Jodi's FIRST ever novel- what a talent.

KUDOS, Jodi. Brilliant work. I think it would make a great movie, just for the record!

check it out...

It is December 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

The Minor Protection Act
Musterion (December 1, 2005)


Jodi Cowles caught the travel bug when her parents took her on her first international flight at six months of age. Since then she’s been in over 30 countries. Along the way she’s gotten locked out of her cabin on an all night train to Kiev, helped deliver a baby in Indonesia, taught English in South Korea, gone spelunking in Guam, hiked the Golan Heights and laid bricks in Zimbabwe. Her interest in politics stems from hunting Easter eggs on the south lawn of the White House as a child. For her 30th birthday she ran the LA Marathon and promised to get serious about publishing. Jodi resides in Boise, Idaho and this is her first novel.


If the politically correct set was searching for a poster couple, they would need to look no further than Erik and Roselyn Jessup. In college they lit up doobies while attending passionate speeches about legalizing marijuana and freeing Tibet. Erik was even arrested once for helping break into an animal research center. Roselyn bailed him out. After five years of dating they decided to tie the knot. Seven years later, after Roselyn had enough time to get established in her career, she gave birth to their pride and joy, Jayla Lynn Jessup.

Both had satisfying full-time jobs that left them only enough time to pour themselves into Jayla. They attended every event at school, even if it meant working overtime and paying the after school program for a few extra hours. When Jayla made the principal's list or won a spelling bee, they were cheering, and filming, from the front row.

Jayla began junior high at a brand new school with a brand new curriculum. It was being called "progressive" in the papers; the first program of its kind implemented in California with plans for a nationwide rollout over the next 10 years. Praise poured in from around the country, applauding the straight talk about sexuality and focus on tolerance.

Erik and Roselyn were thrilled to have their daughter in this groundbreaking program. Granted, it took several phone calls to district authorities to accomplish the transfer and Roselyn had to drive an extra 30 minutes each morning to drop off Jayla, but it was quite a coup to brag about in their circle of friends.

Jayla turned 13 two years into junior high. For her birthday she told her parents she wanted to order pizza and hang around the house – there was something she needed to tell them. Over pepperoni and Coke, Jayla calmly informed them that she'd been discussing it with her friends and teachers and had decided she was gay.

Though she had never had a girlfriend, or a boyfriend for that matter, Erik and Roselyn were quick to affirm her decision and let her know she had their full support. Roselyn applauded her daughter's honest, courageous move and told Jayla how proud she was. Erik was also supportive and went so far as to tease Jayla about her best friend Sara.

There weren't too many lesbians in her junior high and Jayla had a pretty average experience, but she attracted attention when she entered high school wearing the rainbow buttons specially purchased by her mother. Soon she was 15 and seriously involved with Carla, the 17-year-old senior who was President of the Gay Pride Club. When Erik and Roselyn saw the relationship deepening they sat Jayla down and had a heart to heart "sex talk," encouraging her to be responsible and safe, and only to have sex if she was truly in love.

She was. However, when the year ended Carla left for college on the east coast and broke off the relationship in a letter.

Jayla was heartbroken. Erik and Roselyn were quick to comfort, as any loving parents of a shattered teenager, but their answers seemed hollow to Jayla, their comfort cold. At 16 she began dabbling in drugs - a first for her.

By the time her senior year began the family bond that was once so strong had disintegrated to the degree that she seldom spoke to her parents unless it was to strike out in anger. She had not entered into another dating relationship, as much as they encouraged her in that direction. Rather, she seemed withdrawn from the world and spent endless hours either locked in her room or suspiciously absent. Finally, Roselyn had enough and took her to a doctor who prescribed an anti-depressant for teenagers that had just been released on the market.

By Christmas the medication seemed to be working. Jayla was coming around, spending more time at home. She seemed calmer and more at peace. They were even beginning to talk about college. But New Year's morning they found her dead, her anti-depressant bottle and a quart of vodka laying empty in the trash and a mass of journals and letters scattered around her in the bed.

Erik and Roselyn were devastated. Jayla had been their whole life. They dove into the letters and journals, trying to make sense of it all. What they found only served to inflame their anger. Some boy named Nick had been telling their daughter that she was a sinner, quoting Bible verses that said her sexual preference was an abomination before God. Jayla's journal was full of self-loathing, page after page about her relationship with Carla, page after page of rambling, agonizing pain. Why was she made like this if homosexuality was a sin? Why would her parents have supported her if it were an abomination? Why had she listened to the seventh grade teacher who told her experimentation was the best way to determine her sexuality? What was wrong with her?

They could hardly stand to finish it but they read every word. In the end their grief found relief, as it so often does, in bitterness and hatred. The day after Jayla's funeral, attended by hundreds of students from Jayla’s school, Erik and Roselyn met with the District Attorney. A year later, bitterness not yet assuaged, they went to see a lawyer. In the culture of America, where there is rarely tragedy unaccompanied by litigation, they found a willing law firm. Someone would pay.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November F.I.R.S.T.

hey, I'm running late for work but I just had to add that i really enjoyed this book! can't wait for the second offering, due out next year! -kaz

It is November 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

Hollywood Nobody

Th1nk Books (August 30, 2007)


Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens. Visit Lisa at http://www.hollywoodnobody.com/

These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.

Other Novels by Lisa:
Straight Up, , Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End


Hollywood Nobody: April 1

Happy April Fool’s Day! What better day to start a blog about Hollywood than today?

Okay, I’ve been around film sets my whole life. Indie films, yeah, and that’s all I’m saying about it here for anonymity’s sake. But trust me, I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments. Like outgrowing Tom Cruise by the age of twelve — in more ways than one, with the way he’s gotten crazier than thong underwear and low-rise jeans. Thankfully that fashion disaster has run for cover.

Underwear showing? Not a good idea.

Fact: I don’t know of a single girl who doesn’t wish the show-itall boxer-shorts phenomenon would go away as well. Guys, we just don’t want to see your underwear. Truthfully, we believe that there is a direct correlation between how much underwear you show and how much you’ve got upstairs, if you know what I mean.

I’ve seen the stars at their best and at their worst. And believe me, the worst is really, really bad. Big clue: you’d look just as pretty as they do if you went to such lengths. As you might guess, some of them are really nice and some of them are total jerks, and there’s a lot of blah in-betweeners. Like real life, pretty much, only the extremes are more extreme sometimes. I mean honestly, how many people under twenty do you know who have had more than one plastic surgery?

So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little hard on these folks. But if it was all sunshine and cheerleading, I doubt you’d read this blog for long, right?

Today’s Rant: Straightening irons. We’ve had enough of them, Little Stars, okay? It was bad on Helen Hunt at the Oscars, worse on Demi, yet worse on Madonna, and it’s still ridiculous. Especially on those women who are trying to hold onto their youth like Gollum holds onto that ring. Ladies, there’s a reason for keeping your hair at or above your shoulders once you hit forty, and ever after. Think Annette Bening. Now she’s got it going on. And can’t you just see why Warren Beatty settled down for her? Love her! According to The Early Show this morning, curls are back, and Little Me ain’t going to tell why I’m so glad about that!

Today’s Kudo: Aretha Franklin. Big, bold, beautiful, and the best. Her image is her excellence. Man, that woman can sing! She has a prayer chain too. I’m not very religious myself, but you got to respect people who back up what they say they believe. Unless it’s male Scientologists and "silent birth." Yeah, right. Easy for them to say.

Today’s News: I saw a young actor last summer at a Shakespeare festival in New England. Seth Haas. Seth Hot is more like it. I heard a rumor he’s reading scripts for consideration. Yes, he’s that hot. Check him out here. Tell all your friends about him. And look here on Hollywood Nobody for the first, the hottest news on this hottie. Girls, he’s only nineteen! Fair game for at least a decade-and-a-half span of ages.

I don’t know about you, but following the antics of new teen rock star Violette Dillinger is something I’m looking forward to. Her first album, released to much hype, hit Billboard’s no. 12 spot its third week out. And don’t you love her hit single "Love Comes Knocking on My Door"? This is going to be fun. A new celeb. Uncharted territory. Will Violette, who seems grounded and talented, be like her predecessors and fall into the "great defiling show-business machine" only to be spit out as a half-naked bimbo? We’ll see, won’t we? Keep your fingers crossed that the real artist survives.

Today’s Quote: "Being thought of as ‘a beautiful woman’ has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble. Beauty is essentially meaningless." Halle Berry


Friday, April 2

I knew it was coming soon. We’d been camped out in the middle of a cornfield, mind you, for two weeks. That poke on my shoulder in the middle of the night means only one thing. Time to move on.

"What, Charley?"

"Let’s head ’em on out, Scotty. We’ve got to be at a shoot in North Carolina tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got food to prepare, so you have to drive."

"I’m still only fifteen."

"It’s okay. You’re a good driver, baby."

My mom, Charley Dawn, doesn’t understand that laws exist for a reason, say, keeping large vehicles out of the hands of children. But as a food stylist, she fakes things all the time.

Her boundaries are blurred. What can I say?

Charley looks like she succumbed to the peer pressure of plastic surgery, but she hasn’t. I know this because I’m with her almost all the time. I think it’s the bleached-blond fountain of long hair she’s worn ever since I can remember. Or maybe the hand-dyed sarongs and shirts from Africa, India, or Bangladesh add to the overall appearance of youth. I have no idea. But it really makes me mad when anybody mistakes us as sisters.

I mean, come on! She had me when she was forty!

My theory: a lot of people are running around with bad eyesight and just don’t know it.

I throw the covers to my left. If I sling them to my right, they’d land on the dinette in our "home," to use the term in a fashion less meaningful than a Hollywood "I do." I grew up in this old Travco RV I call the Y.

As in Y do I have to live in this mobile home?

Y do I have to have such an oddball food stylist for a mother?

Y must we travel all year long? Y will we never live anyplace long enough for me to go to the real Y and take aerobics, yoga, Pilates or — shoot — run around the track for a while, maybe swim laps in the pool?

And Y oh Y must Charley be a vegan?

More on that later.

And Y do I know more about Hollywood than I should, or even want to? Everybody’s an actor in Hollywood, and I mean that literally. Sometimes I wonder if any of them even know who they are deep down in that corner room nobody else is allowed into.

But I wonder the same thing about myself.

"You’re not asking me to drive while you’re in the kitchen trailer, are you, Charley?"

"No. I can cook in here. And it’s a pretty flat drive. I’ll be fine."

I’m not actually worried about her. I’m thinking about how many charges the cops can slap on me.

Driving without a license.

Driving without a seat belt on the passenger.

Speeding, because knowing Charley, we’re late already.

Driving without registration. Charley figured out years ago how to lift current stickers off of license plates. She loves "sticking it to the man." Or so she says.

I kid you not.

Oh, the travails of a teenager with an old hippie for a mother. Charley is oblivious as usual as I continue my recollection of past infractions thankfully undetected by the state troopers:

Driving while someone’s in the trailer. It’s a great trailer, don’t get me wrong, a mini industrial kitchen we rigged up a couple of years ago to make her job easier. Six-range burner, A/C, and an exhaust fan that sucks up more air than Joan Rivers schmoozing on the red carpet. But it’s illegal for her to go cooking while we’re in motion.

"All right. Can I at least get dressed?"

"Why? You’re always in your pj’s anyway."

"Great, Mom."

"It’s Charley, baby. You know how I feel about social hierarchy."

"But didn’t you just give me an order to drive without a license? What if I say no?"

She reaches into the kitchen cupboard without comment and tips down a bottle of cooking oil. Charley’s as tall as a twelve-year-old.

"I mean, let’s be real, Charley. You do, in the ultimate end of things, call the shots."

I reach back for my glasses on the small shelf I installed in the side of the loft. It holds whatever book I’m reading and my journal. I love my glasses, horn-rimmed "cat glasses" as Charley calls them. Vintage 1961. Makes me want to do the twist and wear penny loafers.

"Can I at least pull my hair back?"

She huffs. "Oh, all right, Scotty! Why do you have to be so difficult?"

Charley has no clue as to how difficult teenagers can actually be. Here I am, schooling myself on the road, no wild friends. No friends at all, actually, because I hate Internet friendships. I mean, how lame, right? No boyfriend, no drugs. No alcohol either, unless you count cold syrup, because the Y gets so cold during the winter and Charley’s a huge conservationist. (Big surprise there.) I should be thankful, though. At least she stopped wearing leather fringe a couple of years ago.

I slide down from the loft, gather my circus hair into a ponytail, and slip into the driver’s seat. Charley reupholstered it last year with rainbow fabric. I asked her where the unicorns were and she just rolled her eyes. "Okay, let’s go. How long is it going to take?"

"Oh." She looks down, picks up a red pepper and hides behind it.

I turn on her. "You didn’t Google Map it?"

"You’re the computer person, not me." She peers above the stem. "I’m sorry?" She shrugs. Man, I hate it when she’s so cute. "Really sorry?"

"Charley, we’re in Wilmore, Kentucky. As in Ken-Tuck-EEE . As in the middle of nowhere." I climb out of my seat. "What part of North Carolina are we going to? It’s a wide state."

"Toledo Island. Something like that. Near Ocracoke Island. Does that sound familiar?"

"The Outer Banks?"

"Are they in North Carolina?"

Are you kidding me?

"Let me log on. This is crazy, Charley. I don’t know why you do this to me all the time."

"Sorry." She says it so Valley Girl-like. I really thought I’d be above TME: Teenage Mom Embarrassment. But no. Now, most kids don’t have mothers who dress like Stevie Nicks and took a little too much LSD back in the DAY. It doesn’t take ESP to realize who the adult in this setup is. And she had me, PDQ, out of the bonds of holy matrimony I might add, when she was forty (yes, I already told you that, but it’s still just as true), and that’s
OLD to be caught in such an inconvenient situation, don’t you think? The woman had no excuse for such behavior, FYI.

My theory: Charley’s a widow and it’s too painful to talk about my father. I mean, it’s plausible, right?

The problem is, I can remember back to when I was at least four, and I definitely do not remember a man in the picture. Except for Jeremy. More on him later too.

I flip up my laptop. I have a great satellite Internet setup in the Y. I rigged it myself because I’m a lonely geek with nothing better to do with her time than figure out this kind of stuff. I type in the info and wait for the directions. Satellite is slower than DSL, but it’s better than nothing.

"Charley! It’s seventeen hours away!" I scan the list of twists and turns between here and there. "We have to take a ferry to Ocracoke, and then Toledo Island’s off of there."


"Groovy died with platform shoes and midis."

"Whatever, Scotty." Only she says it all sunny. She’s a morning person.

"That phrase should be dead."

Honestly, I’m not big on lingo. I’ve never been good at it, which is fine by me. Who am I going to impress with cool-speak anyway? Uma Thurman? Yeah, right. "Okay, let’s go."

"We can go as long as possible and break camp on the way, you know?" Charley.

I climb back into the rainbow chair, throw the Y into drive, pull the brake, and we’re moving on down the road.


Sample from Hollywood Nobody / ISBN: 1-60006-091-9
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, come back to www.navpress.com.

Monday, October 1, 2007

october F.I.R.S.T.

It is October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

Demon: A Memoir

(Zondervan, September 1, 2007)


Tosca Lee received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has also studied at Oxford University.

As a Leadership Consultant, Tosca works with managers and leaders of organizations throughout the Pan-Pacific region, Europe, and the U.S.

Tosca is a former Mrs. Nebraska-America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska-United States 1998 and first runner-up to Mrs. United States and has been lauded nationally for her efforts to fight breast cancer.

In her spare time, Tosca enjoys cooking, studying history and theology, and traveling. She currently resides in Nebraska with her Shar Pei, Attila.

Visit her at her website and her blog.


Chapter One

It was raining the night he found me. Traffic had slowed on Massachusetts Avenue, and the wan light of streetlamps reflected off the pavement. I was hurrying on without an umbrella, distracted by the chirp of a text message on my phone, trying to shield its illuminated face from rain and the drizzle off storefront awnings. There had been a mistake in my schedule, an appointment that I didn’t recognize and that I had stayed late at the office for — until six forty-five — just in case. Our office manager was texting me from home now to say she had no idea who it was with, that the appointment must have belonged on Phil’s calendar, that she was sorry for the mistake and to have a good night.

I flipped the phone shut, shoved it in my bag. I was worn out by this week already, and it was only Tuesday. The days were getting shorter, the sun setting by six o’clock. It put me on edge, gnawed at me, as though I had better get somewhere warm and cheerful or, barring all else, home before it got any darker. But I was unwilling to face the empty apartment, the dirty dishes and unopened mail on the counter. So I lowered my head against the rain and walked another two blocks past my turnoff until I came to the Bosnian Café. A strap of bells on the door announced my entrance with a ringing slap.

I liked the worn appeal of the Bosnian Café with its olfactory embrace of grilled chicken and gyro meat that enveloped me upon every arrival and clung to me long after leaving. That night, in the premature darkness and rain, the café seemed especially homey with its yellowing countertops, chipped mirrors, and grimy ketchup bottles. Cardboard shamrocks, remnants of a forgotten Saint Patrick’s Day, draped the passthrough into the kitchen, faded around their die-cut edges. A string of Christmas lights lined the front window, every third bulb out. On the wall above the register, a framed photo of the café’s owner with a local pageant queen, and another with a retired Red Sox player, had never been dusted. But no one, including me, seemed to mind.

I stood in the entry waiting for Esad, the owner, to notice me. But it was not the bald man who welcomed me.

It was the dark-haired stranger.

I was surveying the other tables, looking for inspiration — chicken or steak, gyro or salad — when he beckoned. I hesitated, wondering if I should recognize him, this man sitting by himself — but no, I did not know him. He impatiently waved again, and I glanced over my shoulder, but there was no one standing in the entryway but me. And then the man at the table stood up and strode directly to me.

“You’re late,” he said, clasping my shoulder and smiling. He was tall, tanned, with curling hair and a slightly hooked nose that did nothing to detract from his enviable Mediterranean looks. His eyes glittered beneath well-formed brows. His teeth were very white.

“I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong person,” I said. He chuckled.

“Not at all! I’ve been waiting for you for quite some time. An eternity, you might say. Please, come sit down. I took the liberty of ordering for you.” His voice reminded me of fine cognac, the Hors d’Age men drink aboard their yachts as they cut their Cohíbas.

“You have the wrong person. I don’t know you,” I insisted, even as he steered me toward the table. I didn’t want to embarrass him; he already seemed elegantly out of place here in what, for all practical purposes, was a joint. But he would feel like an elegant fool in another minute, especially if his real appointment — interview, date, whatever — walked in and saw him sitting here with me.

“But I know you, Clay.”

I started at the sound of my name, spoken by him with a mixture of familiarity and strange interest, and then I studied him more closely — the squareness of his jaw, the smoothness of his cheek, his utter self-possession — wondering if I had indeed met him before. But I hadn’t, I was certain of it now.

One of Esad’s nephews arrived with a chicken sandwich and two cups of coffee. “Please,” the stranger said, motioning to a vinyl-covered chair. Numbly, stupidly, I sat.

“You work down the street at Brooks and Hanover,” he said when the younger man had gone. He seated himself adjacent to me, his chair angled toward mine. He crossed his legs, plucked invisible lint off the fine wool of his trousers. “You’re an editor.”

Several thoughts went through my head in that moment, none of them savory: first, that this was some finance or insurance rep who — just like the pile of loan offers on my counter at home — was trying to capitalize on my recent divorce. Or, that this was some aggressive literary agent trying to play suave.

Most likely, though, he was a writer.

Every editor has stories to tell: zealous writers pushing manuscripts on them during their kid’s softball game, passing sheaves of italicized print across pews at church, or trying to pick them up in bars, casually mentioning between lubricated flirtations that they write stories on the side and just happen to have a manuscript in the car. I had lost count of the dry cleaners, dental hygienists, and plumbers who, upon hearing what I did for a living, had felt compelled to gift me with their short stories and children’s books, their novels-in-progress and rhyming poetry.

“Look, whoever you are — ”


I meant to tell him that I was sure we didn’t publish whatever it was he wanted me to read, that there were industryaccepted ways to get his work to us if we did, that he could visit the website and check out the guidelines. I also meant to get up and walk away, to look for Esad or his nephew and put an order in — to go. But I didn’t say or do any of these things, because what he said next stopped me cold.

“I know you’re searching, Clay. I know you’re wondering what these late, dark nights are for. You have that seasonal disease, that modern ailment, don’t you? SAD, they call it. But it isn’t the disorder — you should know that. It isn’t even your divorce. That’s not what’s bothering you. Not really.”

I was no longer hungry. I pushed away the chicken sandwich
he had ordered and said with quiet warning, “I don’t know who you are, but this isn’t funny.”

He went on as though he hadn’t heard me, saying with what seemed great feeling, “It’s that you don’t know what it’s all for: the hours and days, working on the weekends, the belief that you’ll eventually get caught up and on that ultimate day something will happen. That everything will make sense or you’ll at least have time to figure it out. You’re a good man, Clay, but what has that won you? You’re alone, growing no younger, drifting toward some unknown but inevitable end in this life. And where is the meaning in that?”

I sat very still. I felt exposed, laid open, as though I had emptied my mind onto the table like the contents of a pocket. I could not meet his gaze. Nearby, a couple — both of their heads dripping dirty blond dreadlocks — mulled over menus as the woman dandled an infant on her lap. Beyond them, a thickset woman paged through People, and a young man in scrubs plodded in a sleep-deprived daze through an anemic salad. I wondered if any of them had noticed my uncanny situation, the strange hijacking taking place here. But they were mired in their menus, distractions, and stupor. At the back counter, a student tapped at the keypad of his phone, sending messages into the ether.

“I realize how this feels, and I apologize,” Lucian said, folding long fingers together on his knee. His nails were smooth and neatly manicured. He wore an expensivelooking watch, the second hand of which seemed to hesitate before hiccupping on, as though time had somehow slowed in the sallow light of the diner. “I could have done this differently, but I don’t think I would have had your attention.”

“What are you, some kind of Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. It was the only thing that made sense. His spiel could have hit close to anyone. I felt conned, angry, but most of all embarrassed by my emotional response.

His laughter was abrupt and, I thought, slightly manic. “Oh my,” he said, wiping the corners of his eyes. I pushed back my chair.

His merriment died so suddenly that were it not for the sound of it still echoing in my ears, I might have thought I had imagined it. “I’m going to tell you everything,” he said, leaning toward me so that I could see the tiny furrows around the corners of his mouth, the creases beneath his narrowed eyes. A strange glow emanated from the edge of his irises like the halo of a solar eclipse. “I’m going to tell you my story. I’ve great hope for you, in whom I will create the repository of my tale — my memoir, if you will. I believe it will be of great interest to you. And you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

Now I barked a stunted laugh. “No, I’m not. I don’t care if you’re J. D. Salinger.”

Again he went on as though I’d said nothing. “I understand they’re all the rage these days, memoirs. Publishing houses pay huge sums for the ghostwritten, self-revelatory accounts of celebrities all the time. But trust me; they’ve never acquired a story like mine.”

“Look,” I said, a new edge in my voice, “You’re no celebrity I recognize, and I’m no ghostwriter. So I’m going to get myself some dinner and be nice enough to forget this ever happened.” But as I started to rise, he grabbed me by the arm. His fingers, biting through the sleeve of my coat, were exceedingly strong, unnaturally warm, and far too intimate.

“But you won’t forget,” he said, the strange light of fanaticism in his eyes. His mouth seemed to work independently of their stare, as though it came from another face altogether. “You will recall everything — every word I say. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the name of this café, the way I summoned you to this table, the first prick of your mortal curiosity about me. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the most basic details of your life. You will remember, and you will curse or bless this day.”

I felt ill. Something about the way he said mortal . . . In that instant, reality, strung out like an elastic band, snapped. This was no writer.

“Yes. You see,” he said quietly. “You know. We can share now, between us, the secret of what I am.”

And the words came, unbidden, to my mind: Fallen. Dark Spirit.


The trembling that began in my stomach threatened to seize up my diaphragm. But then he released me and sat back. “Now. Here is Mr. Esad, wondering why you haven’t touched your sandwich.” And indeed, here came the bald man, coffeepot in hand, smiling at the stranger as though he were more of a regular than I. I stared between them as they made their pleasantries, the sound of their banter at sick odds with what my visceral sense told me was true, what no one else seemed to notice: that I was sitting here with something incomprehensively evil.

When Esad left, Lucian took a thin napkin from the dispenser and set it beside my coffee cup. The gesture struck me as aberrantly mundane. He sighed.

“I feel your trepidation, that sense that you ought to get up and leave immediately. And under normal circumstances, I would say that you are right. But listen to me now when I tell you you’re safe. Be at ease. Here. I’ll lean forward like this, in your human way. When that couple over there sees my little smile, this conspiratorial look, they’ll think we’re sharing a succulent bit of gossip.”

I wasn’t at ease. Not at all. My heart had become a pounding liability in my chest.

“Why?” I managed, wishing I were even now in the emptiness of my apartment, staring at the world through the bleak window of my TV.

Lucian leaned even closer, his hand splayed across the top of the table so that I could see the blue veins along the back of it. His voice dropped below a whisper, but I had no difficulty hearing him. “Because my story is very closely connected to yours. We’re not so different after all, you and I. We both want purpose, meaning, to see the bigger picture. I can give you that.”

“You don’t even know me!”

“On the contrary,” he said, sliding the napkin dispenser away, as though it were a barrier between us. “I know everything about you. Your childhood house on Ridgeview Drive. The tackle box you kept your football cards in. The night you tried to sneak out after homecoming to meet Lindsey Bennett. You broke your wrist climbing out of the window.”

I stared.

“I know of your father’s passing — you were fifteen. About the merlot you miss since giving up drinking, the way you dip your hamburgers in blue cheese dressing — your friend Piotr taught you that in college. That you’ve been telling yourself you ought to get away somewhere — Mexico, perhaps. That you think it’s the seasonal disorder bothering you, though it’s not — ”

“Stop!” I threw up my hands, wanting him to leave at once, equally afraid that he might and that I would be stuck knowing that there was this person — this thing — watching me. Knowing everything.

His voice gentled. “Let me assure you you’re not the only one; I could list myriad facts about anyone. Name someone. How about Sheila?” He smirked. “Let’s just say she didn’t return your essage from home, and her husband thinks she’s working late. Esad? Living in war-torn Bosnia was no small feat. He — ” He cocked his head, and there came now a faint buzzing like an invisible swarm of mosquitoes. I instinctively jerked away.

“What was that?” I demanded, unable to pinpoint where the sound had come from.

“Ah. A concentration camp!” He looked surprised. “I didn’t know that. Did you know that? And as for your ex — ” He tilted his head again.

“No! Please, don’t.” I lowered my head into my hand, dug my fingers into my scalp. Five months after the divorce, the wound still split open at the mere mention of her.

“You see?” he whispered, his head ducked down so that he stared intently up into my face. “I can tell you everything.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve made a pastime of studying case histories, of following them through from beginning to end. You fascinate me in the same way that beetles with their uncanny instinct for dung rolling used to fascinate you. I know more about you than your family. Than your ex. Than you know about yourself, I daresay.”

Something — some by-product of fear — rose up within me as anger at last. “If you are what you say, aren’t you here to make some kind of deal for my soul? To tempt me? Why did you order me coffee, then? Why not a glass of merlot or a Crown and Coke?” My voice had risen, but I didn’t care; I felt my anger with relief.

Lucian regarded me calmly. “Please. How trite. Besides, they don’t serve liquor here.” But then his calm fell away, and he was staring — not at me but past me, toward the clock on the wall. “But there,” he pointed. His finger seemed exceedingly long. “See how the hour advances without us!” He leapt to his feet, and I realized with alarm that he meant to leave.

“What — you can’t just go now that you’ve — ”

“I’ve come to you at great risk,” he hissed, the sound sibilant, as though he had whispered in my ear though he stood three feet away. And then he strode to the glass door and pushed out into the darkness, disappearing beyond the reflected interior of the café like a shadow into a mirror. The strap of bells fell against the door with a flat metal clink, and my own stunned reflection stared back.

Rain pelted my eyes, slipped in wet tracks through my hair against my scalp, ran in rivulets down my nape to mingle with the sweat against my back. It had gotten colder, almost freezing, but I was sweating inside the sodden collar of my shirt as I hurried down Norfolk, my bag slapping against my hip, my legs cramped and wooden, nightmare slow.

The abrupt warmth inside my apartment building threatened to suffocate me as I stumbled up the stairs. My ears pintingled to painful life as I fumbled with my keys. Inside my apartment at last, I fell back against the door, head throbbing and lungs heaving in the still air. I stayed like that, my coat dripping onto the carpet, for several long moments. Then a mad whim struck me.

With numb fingers, I retrieved the laptop from my bag and set it up on the kitchen table. With my coat still on, I dropped down onto a wooden chair, staring at the screen as it yawned to life. I logged into the company server, opened my calendar.

There — my six-thirty appointment. It was simply noted: L.

Sample from Demon / ISBN 1-60006-123-0
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing.
All rights reserved.
To order copies of this resource, come back to www.navpress.com.