Happy 2017 Everyone!
Without further ado, here is the official cover for BROKEN SUNRISE!!!
(Click to enlarge)
Less than a month to go now and Broken Sunrise will be hitting shelves and breaking hearts 😉 Pre-orders will be up in February, so keep an eye out for all the relevant links. I’ll be doing a few digital ARC giveaways through my Newsletter too, so if you haven’t signed up, now’s the time.
Here are the first 2 chapters, as promised 🙂
My surroundings come into focus slowly and sharply. I’m lying on my back in the middle of a dark, noxious alley. Tiny drops of water fall from the gloomy sky above me. Light from the street barely reaches me. I shift and realize I’m lying in a dirty puddle of water. A weather-beaten poster hanging on the alley wall flutters loudly, booming through my already aching ears.
I can hear voices from the street―people talking, laughing, and yelling.
How is that possible?
I take a deep breath and flinch at the smell of off meat and other composts nearby.
Something is definitely wrong.
I roll onto my side and groan in pain. My ribs feel as if they’ve been broken. I push past the discomfort and haul myself up into a kneeling position, my hands braced on my knees as I pant for air. Liquid dribbles down my neck. I lift a hand to investigate, my fingers coming away wet and dark. Blood? Lifting my head, I glance down the alley to the entrance. People walk past, in and out of the lights, oblivious to my presence.
I should be asking myself where I am, or what happened to me, but instead there’s only one question tumbling around my shattered mind. Who the hell am I?
I jump at a shuffling noise surrounding me, like light footsteps from rubber-soled shoes. How do I know that?
“Stay where you are!” a loud, commanding, female voice shouts from the entrance of the alley. I freeze, not game enough to move in case she has a weapon.
Her dark silhouette comes into focus as she steps closer, and she’s not alone. Two more shadows approach me from either side.
“Who have you killed, monster?”
“What?” I answer in disbelief, my voice weak and fragile compared to hers. I squint into the darkness, trying to see her face.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Vampire!”
Is this lady crazy? Did she just refer to me as a mythical creature? “I haven’t killed anyone.” At least I hope I haven’t. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She comes closer and I notice she’s holding a gun. Without pause, I throw my hands up in surrender. One of the shadows approaches me from the side. I don’t dare turn my head, less she shoot me for moving.
“Mom, I think he’s been bitten within the last couple of hours.” This voice is also female, but much younger. I flinch from the light touch on my neck as her fingertip swipes at the blood.
“Right,” the lady with the gun says. “Let’s take him to the holding cells until I can contact the Council and see what they want to do with him.” She lowers the gun. I can make out her features now―middle-aged, brown skin, greying hair, stern brow, and thin line for a mouth. Her dark brown eyes narrow and she steps closer. “What’s your name, changeling?”
I open my mouth to answer and then pause, thinking―maybe if I concentrate hard enough, it will come to me, but it’s just a blank. Finally, I shake my head. “I don’t know?”
The lady frowns and then lifts her gaze to the girl beside me. I turn my head to look at her as well, but before I get the chance to see her face, something hits me on the back of the head and I collapse into darkness.
My head throbs painfully. I roll onto my back and hit something hard. Groaning, my eyes flutter open slowly, and then I tilt my head to investigate. Am I in jail?
I push myself up and glance around the large dungeon-looking room, complete with thick, steel barred door and sparse furniture. The same steel bars are on every wall, and they’re high enough for me to stand up and lay down, but that’s about all.
Deep down, I know that I should be worried, possibly even scared, and maybe I would be if I had any idea what was going on.
It’s so dark in here. There’s no window or door other than the thick metal bars at the front of my cage. I lean back against the cold bars on the brick wall, run my hand through my short hair, and take a deep, steadying breath.
Footsteps echo down the corridor outside. I move to the door and peek through the bars, but I can’t see who it is; there is another brick wall across from my caged room. The steps become louder as they get closer. It sounds like more than one person.
The woman from the alley appears before my door with a snarl on her face. Whoever is with her stays out of sight. They smell like lemon grass and chocolate chip cookies.
I jerk my head up as the woman starts to speak. “Care to explain how you were attacked in an alley, right in the middle of the city and no one saw you?”
I shake my head. “I told you, I don’t know. I didn’t even know I was attacked. Last thing I remember is waking up alone. I don’t remember anything before that.”
Dark eyes narrow. “Let’s see if this jogs your memory.” She pulls a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and unfolds it, her eyes scan the paper as she reads, “Dylan, you said you wanted to meet. You know where. Don’t be late.”
I sit up straighter. “Where did you get that?” It doesn’t sound familiar, but it could be a clue about my identity.
“We found it in your coat pocket,” a female voice says―the girl from the alley. “So, that’s your name then? Dylan?”
She steps in front of the door and wraps her hands around the bars, her dark brown gaze intense as she stares at me. She can’t be very old. I mean, I have no idea how old I am, but she appears to be barely into her teens, possibly even younger.
It would help if I had a mirror. I don’t even know what I look like. What color are my eyes?
“I don’t know?” I answer. When are they going to understand? I don’t know, I can’t remember anything. It’s all a blank. I don’t have the answers they want. It’s just as frustrating for me as it is for them.
The sturdy woman screws up her nose and drops the piece of paper in front of the bars before turning and walking away.
“Come on, leave him to rot for a while longer.” She motions for the girl to follow as she leaves. “Maybe he’ll decide he remembers something after a few days alone.”
The girl tilts her head to the side and purses her lips before following the woman back up the corridor.
I listen to their footsteps echo along the bricks as they get further away, a feeling of loneliness creeping in the further away they get. As soon as I’m sure they’ve gone, I reach through the bars and snatch the paper off the cement near the barred door.
I un-crumple it and peer down at the words scrawled across it. The handwriting loops and swirls in places I haven’t seen before, it’s actually quite beautiful. But that’s all. It doesn’t spontaneously bring my memory back―it’s just a piece of paper with writing on it.
The name stirs something though.
Could it be my name? Too bad there isn’t a last name as well. I gently fold the paper back up and push it into the pocket of my pants. My unusually heightened sense of smell prickles and I tilt my head up at the aroma drifting into my room. My stomach grumbles uncomfortably and I lick my lips. I don’t know how long it’s been since I last ate.
Resting my head back against the brick wall, I let out a heavy sigh and close my eyes.
I glare at the beans on my plate as I spear them with my fork. I hate beans, and he knows it too, that’s why he keeps putting them there. Next time I see that little twerp, I’m going to kick his arse.
“Don’t play with your food, Miya,” my mother scolds from across the table.
I screw up my nose and drop my fork. I’m not hungry. I’m too busy thinking about our captive downstairs.
“What’s going to happen to him?”
She knows who I’m talking about, but she still pretends to be confused. “You mean the monster in the basement?” I roll my eyes and nod. “It will be up to the Council to decide, but I’d say, it will have to be put down.”
“What?” I frown. “Why? He hasn’t killed anyone.”
Mom shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. It’s still a Vampire…”
“Not yet,” I cut her off.
She narrows her eyes in annoyance. “It will become a Vampire very soon, and when that happens, it won’t be able to help itself. Just stay away from it. I don’t want you getting into trouble.”
I huff at her and cross my arms, looking away while she finishes her meal.
It doesn’t seem fair. Yes, I know how dangerous they are, I’ve seen first-hand what they’ve done to people―what they did to my father, but this just seems cruel. He has no idea what has happened to him or what he’s about to become, and to make matters worse, he has no memory of his previous life. I just feel like we should give him a chance. Maybe he won’t turn?
Okay, that last thought is just wishful thinking…they always turn.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she says softly, leaning over the giant wooden table to touch my arm. “But remember what happened to your father, God rest his soul. They lose control, Miya, and hurt the ones closest to them.”
I purse my lips. “He doesn’t even remember who his family is…how can he hurt them?”
“That just means the monster will turn on us instead.” She shakes her head and stands. “I’ll see you at five for training in the compound. Don’t be late.” Then she walks away.
I sit, staring at my plate a while longer before finally deciding to head to bed. I steal across the main entrance and up the stairs just as the Delta hunting party arrive home. Murmurs grow in to full blown shouting. Something happened while they were out and I’m going to find out what. My bed be damned.
I flinch at my loud footsteps as I follow them to the meeting chamber. Sneaking is hard. The Hunters’ voices can be heard through a crack in the door up ahead. It sounds serious. The rumbling echo of my mother’s voice makes me pause. She sounds upset. All the more reason to figure out what’s going on.
I peek through the crack of the door. Everyone is standing or leaning up against a wall, their faces pinched with worry.
Someone taps me on the shoulder. I jump and cover my mouth before I scream in fright and give myself away.
“What are you doing?” Matthew asks quietly, standing over me with his hands on his hips, one dark eyebrow raised over one of his hazel eyes.
Frowning, I hold a finger to my lips. “Shhh.” I pull him down to the floor beside me. He leans forward and squints through the gap.
I move closer so I can listen to the hushed voices. Without thinking, I stare at the tanned skin of Matt’s neck. I’m so close, I can feel the heat radiating off of him. His clean soap smell weaves its way up my nose. He smells fantastic. I remember the last time he held me. It was nice. We were watching a scary movie in the media room. Matt had jumped so high when the ghost appeared, I couldn’t stop laughing. Then he wrapped his arms around me and we both went quiet.
“You know what happened last time things got weird like this, Joanna.”
I shake my head to clear my thoughts and concentrate on what’s being said in the meeting room.
“Yes, I know,” Mom says quietly. “We all need to be vigilant. No risk taking. I’ll be contacting the Council in the morning, hopefully they’ll be able to provide some help.”
“What about the prisoner?” a female voice asks that I don’t recognize.
No one answers her.
“I’m not trying to cause any problems or anything, but the creature I saw looked exactly like the monster that killed your husband, sir. Not to mention the intel about the half bred changelings they’re creating. It’s as if they’re looking for something.”
Matthew jerks his head around to meet my gaze. The Vampire that killed my dad is still out there? I stand and turn around in one swift move. I’ve heard enough. How could they lie to me like that?
“Miya, wait,” Matthew calls out softly as he follows me down the hall. He grasps my arm and pulls me around to face him. “Please don’t do anything stupid. You heard your mom. No risk taking.”
I stare him down, eyes narrowed in defiance. “I can’t just sit by and do nothing while my father’s murderer walks the streets freely.” I shake my head and rip my arm out of his hand.
“Come on.” Matt grabs my hand again and pulls me along the hall and into a room at the end. I glance around at his sparse decorations―at the dark walls and the hunting equipment spread out on the desk. I’ve only been in his room once before. He’s always so quiet and secretive about his space. He sits on the bed and pats the spot next to him. I sit with a heavy sigh and he wraps his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m sure your mom will know how to handle this. Just please, Miya, promise me you won’t do anything reckless.”
He’s not going to let this go, so I rest my head on his shoulder and lie. “I promise.”
I jerk awake, smacking my head on the brick wall and metal bars behind me.
“Ouch.” My voice echoes oddly in the small room as I sit up and rub the back of my head.
I glance around. Yep, still a prisoner. Footsteps reverberate down the corridor―that must have been what woke me. Someone else is coming to torment me with endless, silly questions. The footsteps are light, as if they are trying to sneak up on me.
Suddenly, the girl appears on the other side of the barred door. I shuffle back a little bit, just in case. She looks back the way she came warily and then kneels down so we are at the same level.
“Okay Vampire, you’re going to answer some questions and you’re going to do so honestly,” she says, her voice full of a restrained anger I don’t understand. She looks down and nods as if she understands my silence. Her braided red hair falls over one shoulder and she flicks it away as if it’s annoying her. “The Vampire that bit you, what was his name? Where is he from?”
I frown and cross my arms. I’m not going to answer, not even with a pleasantry. Why should I?
She grasps the bars in front of her, knuckles turning white. “Tell me what you know.”
“I already told you crazy people, I don’t know. I don’t remember anything before last night.”
Her gaze narrows dangerously. “You will tell me.”
Okay, that does it. I uncross my arms and stand, advancing on her. “Why on Earth would I tell you anything?” She steps back at the ferocity of my words. “What have you done to help me? What have you said to make me trust you?”
Her gaze drops and she nods. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have let my anger get away from me. How do you feel?”
I arch an eyebrow at her. “That’s a stupid question.”
Her nose scrunches, the glare returning. “I meant are you having any cravings or weird thoughts.”
She shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “Blood, you idiot.”
I shy away from the word. She still believes I’m a mythical creature. This is getting ridiculous. I’ve been kidnapped and held captive by a bunch of crazy people.
She sighs loudly at the look on my face. “I know you don’t believe me, but you will.” She throws me a nasty smirk and sits down on the cement with another glance up the dark corridor.
I narrow my gaze on her, and slide back. “What do you want from me?”
“Are you scared of me?” she asks. I turn my head away without answering. “Well, you should be. I’m the best Vampire Hunter this Clann has.”
I burst out laughing, leaning forward over my knees. She huffs, I glance over at her indignant face and crossed arms and laugh harder.
“What’s so funny?”
I try to pull myself together enough to answer seriously. “You? The best Hunter? Even if I believed in this stuff―which I don’t―I would still think that’s ridiculous. What are you, like twelve years old?”
She sits up straighter. “Seventeen.” Older than I thought. “You know, for someone who has no idea who he is or even what he is, for that matter, you’re being pretty rude.” I shrug and turn back to look at the brick wall across from me.
She’s quiet for a while, then, “Do you think anybody is looking for you?”
Sucking in a shallow breath, I look down. “I don’t know,” I say softly, not meeting her gaze. Do I come from a big family? Do I have lots of friends? Would they search for me if I went missing? Are they searching for me now? Do they know what happened to me?
Or worse―am I alone, with none of this?
The thought of being alone terrifies me more than the thought of a distraught family.
The girl stands up and looks down the corridor before turning back to me with a pitying look. “Good night, Dylan.”
I listen to her walk away and then curl up on my side. The cold cement sends a chill through me, but I don’t care.
I punch the sand filled bag with all I’ve got. It bounces against my mother’s hands and she nods in approval. “Again.”
I hit again, grunting with the effort, all the while thinking about the boy in the basement. When I got a closer look at him last night, I realized how young he must be. He can’t be much older than me. What if he has a family? I can’t just let them kill him knowing there might be someone out there looking for their son or brother. It’s different with the others. They’re monsters who are usually so far gone that they’ve either murdered their family, or their families have moved on, thinking them dead. Dylan hasn’t lost himself―not yet. It would be like killing another human being.
“Miya, that’s enough,” Mom’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts. She frowns and grabs my hand. I look down at the blood on my knuckles and wince. Whoops. “You weren’t concentrating.”
“I know,” I sigh, pulling my hand out of her tight grasp and walking over to my water bottle.
“What’s wrong?” She follows me to the bench at the edge of the room. I sit down and take a swig from my bottle.
After I’ve quenched my thirst, I glance up at her. “It’s not right.”
She sighs. “Not the Vampire again.”
I move closer. “Yes, the Vampire. Mom, we can’t.”
She shakes her head. “It’s not up to us, sweetie.”
“Can’t you say something to the Council when you call them?”
“And then what? We keep it as a pet? Putting it down is the right thing to do.” I shake my head and purse my lips. This can’t be the only way. “Just let it go, Mi-Mi.” My nose twitches. She knows I hate that nickname.
Right on cue, Matthew enters the training room from the large double fold steel doors. I stare him down as he gets closer and starts on the weights. I completely forgot last night―I owe him a butt kicking for those beans. Slamming my water back down on the bench, I walk away from Mom without saying good-bye. She’s not listening to me anyway. I hear her huff behind me and leave.
Matt doesn’t acknowledge me as I stop beside the bench press. I square my shoulders and cross my arms, waiting.
“Can I help you with something, lovely lady?” he asks with a grunt as he lifts a barbell. I don’t answer and he tilts his head, smiling. He’s trying to charm me. It won’t work. I’ve known him since he was an awkward little boy of six, who loved trains and Lego.
“Don’t you have food to cook? Oh, and by the way, I don’t appreciate the beans.” I flick my fingers at him.
“Oh, is that what you said, I thought you said you love beans and you want them with every meal.”
I shake my head and laugh, punching him on the arm. “You’re an idiot.” And then softer, “Thanks for last night.”
He rubs the spot where I hit him and pouts. “An idiot with a broken arm now. And you’re welcome. What are friends for?” I roll my eyes at his dramatics and he grins, putting the barbell down and moving over to the treadmill.
“I heard you and your mom took a prisoner last night?”
I follow him to the oversized looking treadmill and lean up against the weight set next to it. “Yeah, found him in an alley. He hasn’t turned yet.”
“I know, right? I have a funny feeling about it too.”
“What did the Council say?”
“Don’t know yet. Mom said she was going to talk to them.”
He grunts as he turns the speed up. “Most humane thing to do would be to put him down.”
I frown. “You sound just like my mother.” Matt smirks and I start walking on the machine next to him.
After fifteen minutes I shake my head and leave the gym without another word. I can’t stay still. I have too many thoughts floating through my head. I need space to think.
I wander aimlessly through the ancient stone halls of the compound, thinking. Something like this has never happened before. We have never come across a Bitten―by the time we get to them they’ve already turned and killed. The boy in the basement has me questioning what we do. When you look into the dead, glowing blue eyes of a Vampire, you don’t see the human they once were, you see the monster they’ve become, the monster you must kill in order to save others’ lives.
I stop walking and focus on my surroundings. I’m in the corridor leading to the dungeon―leading to the boy. Before I can think better of it, I keep going and sit down cross-legged in front of his cage.
Dylan is sitting in the back corner with his legs up against his chest. He doesn’t move when I sit. His sea-blue eyes just watch me. I study his face as he studies mine. His thick dark hair falls in an unusual way across his forehead, making his eyes seem a deeper blue. I tilt my head to the side. “How do you feel?”
He answers with his own question. “Why are you staring at me?” I glance back down the corridor without answering. He moves quickly, startling me. He notices and shifts back into his corner as if trying not to scare me. “Why are you here? Do you like tormenting me?”
My brow presses into a scowl. “I’m not trying to torment you.”
“Then what are you doing?”
Good question. “I’m not sure.”
He lets out a short, harsh laugh and shakes his head. “You’re crazy, just like the others.”
“We’re not crazy, you’ll believe us soon enough. When you turn.” He rolls his eyes. “My family has been hunting since the first Hunter was born back in the Middle Ages. Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
He sighs. “Look, I just want to go home.”
“You don’t even know where that is.” He flinches and I immediately regret being so harsh. I can’t imagine how it would feel to not know who I am. “I’m sorry.” Maybe I should leave. I’m only making things worse. “Do you need anything before I go? A blanket? A drink?”
He moves suddenly and kneels down in front of me, gripping the bars so tightly his knuckles turn white. “Please,” he whispers. “Let me out. Help me escape.” Desperation swirls in his eyes, clouding my own judgement.
I almost grab the keys. I almost let him out.
Standing, I leave him before I do something stupid. He calls out after me, making me cringe. “Please! Please let me out! Let me go home!”
I squeeze my eyes shut and keep walking all the way to the west wing of the gothic monastery we call home.
The library is dark when I enter―just the way I like it. I close the heavy oak door softly behind me in case someone is already in here. The Clann’s library is huge. I’m talking Beauty and the Beast huge. Shelves upon shelves of books, ledgers and journals―most of them older than my father’s, father. I take a deep, settling breath. The musk of old pages and ink welcomes me like an old friend, wrapping me in a warm hug. I wander through the shelves. My eyes scan the book spines, searching. I know what I’m looking for, but it’s been years since I saw it last. Where is it?
My gaze darts over each spine until I find the one I’m looking for in gold italics and raised embossing.
Vampire Lore for the Skilled Hunter.
“It’s been a while since I last saw you in here.” Matt’s voice scares me and I jump, holding my arms up, ready to attack.
“Whoa,” he says, lifting his hands in surrender. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I roll my eyes and move to one of the sofas scattered around the room. “I wasn’t scared, just surprised.”
He laughs and sits in the chair opposite me. “What’s that?” He points to the heavy book in my lap.
I grimace and hold it up.
He frowns. “Why are you reading that?” I bite my lip while I think of how to answer without incriminating myself.
“I―uh, I was just brushing up on some facts.” Matt rolls his eyes and leans back into the soft cushions of his chair. “So,” I say to change the subject to something safer. “You’ve been awfully distracted lately.”
“How do you mean?”
I raise an eyebrow and start counting things off on my fingers. “You’ve been leaving the compound a lot. You haven’t been coming to training. When we went into the city last, you ran off on some secret errand…” I narrow my eyes. “Who is she?”
“What?” he sputters. “Who is who? What are you talking about?”
A smirk stretches across my face. “Bit defensive there, aren’t you, Mattie?”
He pulls a funny face and stands. “I have chores that need attention.”
“Sure you do,” I call after him as he leaves, shaking his head.
Once I’m sure he’s gone, I open the book in my lap and continue flipping through the old cracked, brown pages looking for the information I’m already dreading is true.
There―“A Changeling must ingest its first victim’s blood within 12 hours after the change otherwise they will perish…” I don’t read the rest, that’s all I needed to confirm.
So, even if Dylan does turn, he’s going to die anyway? Why didn’t Mom say anything? Maybe that’s why she hasn’t contacted the Council yet―she’s waiting for him to die so she doesn’t have to deal with it.
I snap the book shut and move toward the shelves to put it back. Well, she’ll be waiting a very long time if I have anything to do with it.
………….to be continued in the book!!! (Out February 21st 2017)