I started one project and was a few chapters into it when other little voices started messing with me--another story idea. Now that The Zombie West Series is complete and the trilogy will be available on the 9th of December along with bonus stories and content, I figure why not? Why not write two books at once? So far, and I'm only a wee little ways into it, I'm enjoying myself. I can switch back and forth when I get stuck. Me likey :)
I posted on my Facebook page that I was thinking of letting everyone read the first chapters of these new projects, so here they are. Keep in mind, they are raw and unedited. I have several fabulous editors who make me look amazing, but unfortunately they only edit when the manuscript is completed. So forgive typos, missed words, and punctuation mistakes. I suck at that, but I try real hard. That counts, right?
ANYONE is a Young Adult book or will be and SANGUINE SANDS is a clean Adult Romance or will be. Let me know what you think. I'd love to know which story you want to know more about. That may push me to finish one over the other just that more quickly :)
The blast rocked the house on its foundation, exploding the windows inward. I covered my face with my arms and dove onto my mattress as tiny shards of glass pricked my skin. A loud rumble washed over me, almost deafening. I didn't dare raise my head, but when the shaking subsided a minute later, I peeked between my arms, unsure of anything. What in the world?
Pictures had fallen from the walls and lay broken on my carpet. The wall shelf dangled by one hook and swung side to side, all my trophies and souvenirs lay scattered below. My desk chair had tumbled over and large snowflakes flittered in through the broken windows to die a melted death on my warm floor. My curtains danced with the winter breeze.
Dad came to a skidding halt at my open door, his hand gripping the frame. "You okay?"
I wasn't sure and took a moment to examine my cut up arms and legs, mostly scratches, before nodding.
"Then grab your bag, Tess! Grab it now!"
"What's going on? What was that?"
"Just do it!" He disappeared down the hall, giving me no explanation.
Maybe I didn’t need to know what was happening or maybe he didn't know either, but either way, being told to grab my seventy-two hour kit was enough. I wasted no time and slid to my knees next to my bed and reached underneath to pull out the emergency duffle bag—clothes, toiletries, blanket, MRE's, my own compact Smith & Wesson I'd been given almost seven years ago for my tenth birthday—a gift I remembered being quite pissed about. I'd wanted an American Girl Doll.
I tugged my winter boots over my bare feet and threw a jacket over my nightgown just as Dad stopped in front of my door again. He didn't look at me, but continued to stare down the hallway, looking both ways. He waved me toward him. "Let's go!"
I hitched my bag onto my shoulders, but a tiny meow stopped me before I took my dad's outstretched hand. The orange and white ball of fluff trembled in the corner of my closet amid the large pile of dirty laundry I swore I'd wash but never seemed to get around to.
"Come here, Callie. Come here girl."
"Leave her, we've got to go!" Dad still wouldn't look at me.
I took a step toward the closet, ignoring him. "Come on, Callie. It's okay. Come on now." If I can just get her quickly....
"Leave the damn cat! We don't have time for this."
"She scared. I can't leave her!" She was my responsibility. How could I leave her to defend for herself when she could hardly remember to use the litter box on her own?
Dad released his breath and pushed me aside. The cat let out a chain of protests as he reached for the four month old kitten and grabbed her by the scruff of her neck. He shoved her into my arms. "Can we go now?"
I nodded, and he slipped his own bag onto his shoulder and darted down the hall.
I wrapped my coat around my terrified cat, doing my best to ignore her frantic claws as she wiggled around, seeming to find safety in the pit of my arm—a very sensitive place to be.
Dad already took off for the front of the house, but when I stepped into the hallway, my breath caught in my throat and my feet held me in place. Down the far end of the hall our house stood wide open. The wall lay in a crumbled mess, covering my dad's bed in sheetrock and aluminum siding. Snow blew in through the giant hole and dusted his overturned dresser. The ceiling lamp dangled from an electrical cord.
I found my feet and turned in the opposite direction and made my way along the hall, away from the destruction, and followed after dad's voice. Most of the windows in the living room and kitchen were shattered, and my boots crunched the glass into the wooden floor as I passed over it. The microwave had fallen from the counter. Cupboards had dumped dishes and food alike on the floor and family pictures had fallen from nails. Mom's treasured curio cabinet, with all the knickknacks she'd collected before her death, lay face down—bits of broken ceramics and blown glass figures mixed together. I fought the urge to right the curio and save what I could—save her memories—but Dad called me to follow him.
He climbed out the sliding doors toward the backyard. "Watch yourself!"
I angled my body sideways and avoided the jagged edges. I'd barely stepped onto the patio when he grabbed my hand and yanked me across the snow covered grass. Callie dug her claws into my side and hung on to my ribs. A yelp escaped my lips, but dad didn't stop pulling me away from the house, and Callie adjusted herself again and her sharp nails tore even further into my cold flesh. Maybe trying to save her had been a huge mistake.
Another boom caused the ground to tremble, and I nearly lost my footing, but dad held me upright and dragged me after him. Dark clouds mushroomed a few blocks away and rose into the sky. The crackling of fire and the smell of smoke rattled my senses as wisps of snow twirled around me and licked my lashes and stung my eyes.
He didn't have to tell me where we were headed, I knew, and when he knelt over the square metal door, partially hidden by shrubs and wild trees, a great sense of gratitude flooded over me for my doomsday father and his insane need to prepare for every possible end of the world disaster. Only now, it didn't seem so insane anymore.
He brushed the snow aside, popped the hatch, and lifted the door that led down into the darkened shelter. He tossed his bag inside and it landed with a resounding thump against the metal floor. "Go on!" He urged me forward. "The generator switches are on the left." He grabbed my bag and tossed it into the hole too.
I tried to adjust Callie, but she wouldn't retract her claws from my skin, so I ignored her the best I could and climbed down the ladder into the dark metal tube.
"Can you find the switch?"
I ran my hands over the cool interior of the bomb shelter, searching for the elusive switches that would bring the whole thing to life. The metal reminded me of a tin green bean can with all its rolling bumps—life in a giant vegetable can.
My fingers ran over the switches and I flipped them both upright. The florescent lights flickered and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the harsh light. "I got it!" The air system started to whirl, bringing fresh air from the outside into the underground bunker.
Callie released her mad grip on me and ran down my side to disappear under the couch. I couldn't have been more pleased.
Dad knelt near the opening and looked down at me. "Don't open this door for anyone, do you understand? Not anyone."
"Wait! What? You're leaving me?" Panic gripped my chest and crushed my lungs. I reached for the ladder determined to climb back out. I'd rather fight against whatever was happening outside than being left alone down there.
"I've got to go for Toby, and once I find him, we'll be back."
Toby. My brother. How could I have forgotten him? Maybe because he was a giant asshole to me and an even bigger one to dad, but whatever. He was still my brother, even if the idea of spending any amount of time with him in an underground bunker sounded torturous.
I let go of the ladder. Of course, Dad needed to find him, wherever he was—his girlfriend Kenzie's? Behind the MoviePlex smoking with his douche bag buddies? Or maybe he was hustling pool at Parker and James's bar? It shouldn't be that hard to find the loser.
"We'll be back, I promise. It won't take long. Don't open the door unless you hear this." He gave the metal door a rap with his knuckles--my name in Morris Code. "Don't you come out, Tess. You stay put and we'll be back. Promise me that you won't open this door."
He paused, his hand on the square door. "Lock it from the inside. Every latch."
Panic began to rise in my chest again. "I will."
"I love you, Tess."
"I love you too." Tears welled in my eyes. "Please hurry."
With that, he lowered the door into place.
(Chapter one doesn't read romance too much, so I thought you might like this chapter instead).
"It's not what you think." Ian took Megan by the elbow and led her from the room. He didn't want to wake Claire and find himself smack dab in the middle of a rock and a hard place. Well, one worse than he was currently in.
"I should hope not. Not when I'm wearing this." She raised her left hand and flashed him the two carat diamond on her ring finger.
At the end of the hall, he dropped his hand from her arm. "Nothing is going on here that you need to be worried about. She used to live next door. We grew up together, and right now she's back in town, living with her father, Axel Willard. You remember him, right?"
Megan nodded as she folded her arms over her chest. "The old man next door? He's hard to forget."
"She's going through a lot right now. I don't know the whole story, but from the pieces I've gathered, it's not good. She got caught in the rain, and I offered for her to come inside and get dry. That's all."
"How nice of you, especially since she lives less than a hundred yards from here." Her arms fell to her side and she cocked her head. "Why invite her into your home and give her your clothes to wear? I'm sorry, but I don't get it. I'm having a hard time understanding why you didn’t just send her to her house."
Ian stepped closer and placed his hands on her upper arms, drawing her to him. "I'm having a hard time understanding why you don't believe me."
"Are you telling me that if you came to my apartment and found a man asleep on my couch, wearing one of my t-shirts, that it wouldn't bother you?"
Ian continued to hold her. "You're right. It looks bad, but I'm telling you that sometimes what something appears to be and what it actually is, are two different things all together."
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry, I know. I'm just... it just took me by surprise. You called your office and said you needed the day off, you didn’t explain, and there's a woman asleep on your couch wearing your clothes... what was I supposed to think?"
"You're supposed to think that I love you and that I'd never do anything to hurt you or hurt our relationship, and that there was probably a damn good explanation behind it all." He pulled her into his arms and held her. He knew firsthand what it was like to be lied to and cheated on, it hurt like hell, and he'd vowed that he'd never do that to someone else. "I think she got in an argument with her father, and if I hadn't invited her inside, she'd still be standing in the rain. She's about as stubborn as her dad is."
"So now what?
He kissed the top of her dark curls and pulled back to look at her. "Honestly, I have no idea. It wasn't like I expected her to fall asleep."
"Can’t you just wake her up and send her home?"
Ian shook his head. "I kind of promised her dad I'd let her keep on sleeping for awhile." When Megan tipped her head to the side, he put his hands up. "I know, really I do, but if you believe in me and believe there's nothing going on here, then what harm is it to let her sleep? From what I gather, she hasn't been sleeping too well for quite some time. I'm only trying to do a nice thing here, that's all."
Megan sighed and ran her hand over his rough cheek. "Of course you are. You're a good guy, coming to everyone's rescue. A hero without a cape."
He knew that she wasn't mocking him, only reminding them of how they'd first met two years before. Her car had overheated on the side of the road and he'd stopped to lend her a hand. She'd called him a hero then, too.
"Well," she said. "I guess the right thing to do is let her sleep then."
"I guess so."
She seemed to think for a minute, looking past him before turning her eyes to his. "She isn't the girl, is she?"
He nodded, denying it wouldn't do anyone any good. "Yeah, that would be her."
She paused for as moment, staring at the floor before returning her eyes to his. "Then you wouldn't mind if I stayed, would you?"
He minded it quite a bit—his past mixing with his present didn't settle well with him—but he didn't say so. "You're more than welcome to stay."
She sighed again. "So, I'm thinking I could use a glass of wine. How about you?"
"It's not even ten in the morning."
Megan smiled and pushed past him toward the kitchen. "True, but wine doesn't know that."
Claire rolled to her side and the leather couch groaned under her movements, forcing her eyes wide at the unrecognizable sound. She bolted upright and took in the crackling fireplace, the blanket draped over her, and the smell of garlic and onions floating in the air. The large clock on the wall chimed out the time—seven in the evening. What? No, no, no! That can't be right.
Outside the large pane window, the rain had ended, but scattered clouds dusted the darkening sky, confirming her fears. Embarrassment, humiliation, complete mortification gripped her, and she jumped to her feet ready to make a run for the door. No sorry, no thank you for your kindness, she just wanted to disappear and avoid seeing Ian all together, but lightheadedness forced her back to a sitting position. She hadn't eaten anything since... when? She couldn't remember.
"Hey, you're awake." Ian smiled from behind the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. Steam rose from a pot he stirred. "Feeling hungry? I made spaghetti."
A dark-haired woman, standing at his side, lifted a bottle. "And I've got wine." She didn't wait for her answer, but poured the red wine into a glass and carried it across the room to where Claire sat and handed it to her. "Here you go."
"I... I really should be going." She placed the glass on the coffee table and ran a quick hand threw her wild tangled hair. The woman standing in front of her was absolutely beautiful—dark wavy hair, bright eyes, and her coordinated outfit, casual but fashionable, caused Claire to glance down at herself wearing the too big sweatpants and wrinkled t-shirt. She wanted to get out of there and stood again. "I'm sorry, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I... my family must be worried. I need to go." She did her best to fold the blanket, but gave up and tossed it over the arm.
"Your dad knows you're here. I told him." Ian turned off the stove and came around the counter. He stood next to the gorgeous woman and slipped an arm around her shoulders. "So stay. Have something to eat. Then you can go."
The woman smiled up at him before turning back to her, the smile still curving her lips. "Please. We have plenty."
His wife? She wore a ring, a nice sized one, on her left hand. It didn’t matter. It shouldn't matter, but it did. Only not in the way that maybe she's expected it to. She was happy for him, glad he found happiness with another person. That was all she'd ever wanted for him—happiness.
"Thank you, but no." She took several steps toward the door. "I've overstayed my welcome and this... this is just awkward. I'll make sure you get your clothes back." She grabbed the front door and tried to open it. It wouldn’t. She turned the lock and tried again. Still it remained closed.
Ian came forward, placed a hand on her arm and gently moved her to the side. He turned the lock back to its original position and opened the door for her. "You have to pull hard."
She couldn’t look at him. "Thanks, for this, for everything. Really, it was very kind of you."
"Let me walk you home, okay?"
Heavens no. "I'll be fine. Please go and enjoy your dinner." Before he could respond or insist upon walking her home, she hurried across the porch and down the stairs. The damp grass met her feet, but she crossed from his property and onto her father's, not worrying about the wetness that cooled her bare toes. She didn't look back, but could feel their eyes watching her They must really think I'm pitiful. Even as she thought it, she couldn't blame them.
Megan slipped her arms around Ian's waist. "That went really well, didn't it?"
He didn't say anything as he watched Claire climb her porch steps and disappear inside the house. He should've felt a sense of relief having her gone, but he didn't. Somehow he felt as if a missed opportunity had passed him by, an opportunity to correct some of the past, even though he really had no idea how he would have gone about doing that.
"Was she in an accident or something?"
He forced his eyes from Claire's closed door to look at Megan. "What?"
"The bruises, her eyes—was she in an accident?"
"No," he said. "It wasn't an accident."
When he didn't go on, she gave him a gentle squeeze. "Should we eat?"
"Yeah." He cast a quick glance at Claire's darkened window. A few seconds later, the light turned on and her shadow passed by it. "I'm sorry about canceling plans with your parents. We could always call them over and they could have dinner here, with us?"
She rose to her tiptoes and kissed him on the lips, a smile teasing her own. "We can have dinner with them another time. Besides, I'm not sure I'm all that hungry for spaghetti right now." She nibbled his lip.
"That so, huh?"
"Yeah, that's so." Her tongue traced his lips as she slipped her hands from his waist and tucked them in his back pockets. She gave his cheeks a gentle squeeze.
He pushed thoughts of Claire aside as his beautiful fiancé took his hand and led him back inside.