Here’s a taste of my current work in progress. Potential titles are “Beleryn” or “Three-Blood Prince.” It’s an urban fantasy involving primarily Celtic mythology and the Fae Courts. This is Chapter One. Let me know if it catches your attention.
J.D. pulled his hood tighter around his face, trying to protect his cheeks from the freezing rain stinging his skin like tiny needles of ice. A bitter wind poked frozen fingers into every tiny opening in his coat it could find, chilling exposed flesh into goose bumps before he could close the betraying gap with an irritated jerk of the fabric.
“I hope you run out of gas!” he yelled at the taillights of the retreating car as it splashed away with his older sister, Megan, behind the wheel. Then he looked around to make sure no one had overheard him. Not like there was anyone nearby. His sister had dropped him off at the top of the parking lot, claiming she didn’t have time to wait in the line of cars to get him closer to the front doors of the high school.
“It’s raining!” he’d said, when she stopped fifty yards from the entrance.
“Sucks for you,” she shot back.
“I’m not walking. You need to get in line.”
“J.D., I can’t! I’ll be late for work.”
“Sucks for you,” he replied in a mocking voice.
“If I’m late, I’m telling Mom it’s your fault.”
J.D. had clenched his teeth and muttered under his breath as he shoved the car door open. Since their mom had helped Megan get her current job, the prospect of her learning his sister had been late getting to work because of him effectively ended the argument.
So now here he was, pushing wet, blonde hair out of his eyes and trying to avoid the deepest puddles while jogging toward the heavy red metal doors opening and closing for his mostly dry classmates, all the while hoping his sister’s car broke down. It wasn’t like he wanted Megan to actually get hurt or anything. It just seemed only fair that if he had to be this cold and wet, she should too. But, as usual, she always got her way. What else was new?
His overloaded backpack bounced against his spine, threatening to send him flopping face first into the asphalt. Just a few more months, he grumbled in his thoughts. Then I can drive myself to school. Mondays sucked anyway, but the weather forecast hadn’t mentioned anything like this on the horizon. Gotta love Missouri weather.
He swerved to the side as a passing car tossed up a curtain of water on its way out of the parking lot. The icy wetness suddenly numbing his shins informed him he had not been quite quick enough to escape unscathed. With a sigh of frustration, he looked down to see that his jeans were now soaking wet from the knees down. “Thank you!” he yelled as the car faded into the downpour. He shook each leg, for all the good it did, and then resumed his jog toward the doors. The rhythmic squishing sounds from his waterlogged Nikes kept time with each dire curse he mentally wished upon his sister and the driver of the water ride car as he hurried through the parking lot.
A gust of wind blew rain into his face. As he blinked it away, he saw someone standing outside the school, just underneath the “Aurora High School, Home of the Houn Dawgs” letters on the side of the building. It was a girl. She was staring at him with an oddly intense expression on her face. Although she wasn’t standing under the awnings, she didn’t seem to be bothered by the wind and rain. The gusts trying to push him over barely seemed to move the long dark hair hanging past her shoulders. Way too much eyeliner, babe, he thought. Even from here he could see the dark lines outlining her eyes. The black lipstick and dark clothes—no coat was evident—completed the “nights of the dead” ensemble. Not exactly a common look in the small Midwestern town. There was something else strange about her face, but the rain blowing in his eyes made it hard to tell what it was from where he was.
Even though their fashion senses were clearly miles apart, he was strangely intrigued. There was something about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Something that seemed to pull at him. It was as if—
Another sharp gust of wind forced him to close his eyes again. When he opened them, the girl was gone.
He looked around, but she was nowhere in sight. Before he could wonder at how quickly she had disappeared, or why the sight of her seemed to tug at him, the second bell sounded. He had to hurry. He already had two tardies. One more before semester break and he’d be spending some quality time with Mr. Johnson after school counting spit wads on the ceiling—and maybe adding a few more when Mr. Johnson dozed off, as he inevitably did.
He pushed through the doors and squelched his way through the crowded halls to his locker, trying to ignore the snickers he heard as he passed his less sodden classmates. The cold from his legs made him shiver and caused him to fumble at the combination lock on his locker. As it finally opened on the third try, he heard a familiar voice from behind.
“Yo, rat boy. Anybody tell you it’s raining outside?”
“Ha, ha,” he said, as he turned to face the comedian. “Shut up or I’ll punch out your kneecaps.”
He looked up to meet the smiling eyes of “Big Ben” Rosewood, his best friend since sixth grade. Ben was holding a towel and a pair of dry shoes.
“I saw you from the window walking in. I got these out of your gym locker. Thought you might need them. Mrs. Jennings would probably blow a gasket if you dripped all over her floor.”
J.D. grinned as he took the towel. “Thanks.” He pried off his shoes, stripped off his socks, and began vigorously wiping at his jeans.
Ben Rosewood was one of the nicest guys a person could ever hope to meet. Unless, that was, if said person was meeting him across the line of scrimmage on a football field. Then it was a different story. Off the field, Ben was the first one to offer a helping hand, no matter what the situation. He was one of those genuine good guys that would, quite literally, give you the extra-extra-extra-large shirt off his back. But put pads and a helmet on him, and he became a six-foot, eight inch, three hundred and eighty-five pound, quarterback-eating rage machine. J.D. had lost count of how many times Big Ben had introduced a quarterback to the turf of Kelly Field. Double team him, triple team, it didn’t matter. If Ben smelled a football, things were not going to end well for whoever had it. It was common knowledge that opposing teams ran a lot of quick slants and sweeps to the opposite side of the field from Ben whenever they played the Dawgs. Some football players made opposing coaches cringe. Big Ben made them cry. And if the wind was blowing just right on game night, you could almost hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the opposing team’s bench.
“I didn’t see any socks in your locker, so you’ll just have to wring those out the best you can. Unless you want mine.”
J.D. looked down at Ben’s size sixteen shoes next to his own size tens. “Nah, I’m good. I’ll just leave these off and hope no one notices. At least my gym shoes are high tops.” He shoved his bare foot into the first shoe.
“Suit yourself, but you better hurry. You don’t want to be late again.”
J.D. looked up as he pushed his other foot into the second shoe to see that the hallway was almost empty. A few stragglers scrambled for doorways like people clearing the streets before a gunfight in one of those old westerns his dad watched sometimes. “Yeah, no kidding. You better get moving too. I’ll see you in history.”
He turned his attention to his shoes, tying the first one as the vibrations from Big Ben jogging down the hallway faded away under his feet. Just as he cinched down the laces, the third bell began to sound. The second shoe would have to wait; he’d have to sprint for it. Fortunately, he could see the door to Mrs. Jennings’ classroom from his locker. He might just be able to make it before the bell stopped.
No such luck.
He slid through the door just as the last echo of the third bell faded away. Mrs. Jennings looked up from her laptop at his entrance, and his heart sank. He knew that look all too well. She started to reach for the pad of tardy slips on her desk—she was a little old-fashioned that way—when she did a double take and inspected him again. He saw her gaze travel down to his soaked jeans, and he glanced down at his shoes, one tied, the other with the tongue hanging out, exposing a bare ankle. He looked back at her and gave a weak shrug. With a barely perceptible shake of her head, she withdrew her hand from the pad and turned back to her laptop. He took a step toward his desk and then froze at the sound of her voice.
“Don’t drip on my floor, Mr. Williams.”
A chorus of snickers and giggles accompanied him to his desk, where he slid into his seat with what he hoped was a silent sigh of relief.
Kenny leaned up from behind him. “You must have done something right in a past life,” he whispered. “I can’t believe she let you off.”
He considered replying, but didn’t want to push his luck, so he settled for a quick nod as Mrs. Jennings stood up from her desk to begin the lesson.
After forty-seven minutes of listening to Mrs. Jennings extol the virtues of proper punctuation and condemn to eternal purgatory any who would dare overuse passive sentences, the bell finally rang. The almost-catatonic students came back to life and surged toward the door and their four minutes of freedom. J.D. reached his locker and dropped his English book on top of the stack. As he was pulling his American History book out from the bottom, a shadow fell over him.
“Hey, dude, let’s go. Mr. Parker awaits.”
J.D. looked up to see Ben grinning down at him. “Y’know,” J.D. said with a yawn, “they should make it against the law to have Comp first hour.”
“I know what you mean,” Ben chuckled. “I’m glad I have French.”
“Yeah, just because you like Ms. Finster.”
“Well—“ Ben stopped suddenly, a frown crossing his face. Then he started sniffing at the air as if he smelled something disturbing. As he turned his head left and right, he reached up and adjusted the chain around his neck that he’d worn ever since J.D. had known him.
J.D. was about to ask what he was doing when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck spring to attention. He leaned over to glance up the hallway around Ben’s massive shoulder, and, through the mass of bodies, saw her: the same girl who had been standing outside earlier. As if feeling his gaze, she slowly turned toward him. As their eyes met, he felt an almost electric shock course through his body. Intricate black designs ran up both sides of her neck before branching across her cheeks and her dark hair seemed to float on an unfelt breeze, creating a shadowy halo around her face. Returning his stare, her lips twisted in an amused smirk. But her eyes… It was almost as if her gaze was pulling him toward her. Then he felt Ben’s giant hand on his shoulder, moving him down the hallway.
“Hey!” He just managed to slap his locker door shut before it was out of reach. “What’s the deal?”
“Come on. We need to get to class,” Ben said, not sounding at all like his normal jovial self.
“What’s wrong?” He turned to try to get another glimpse of the girl, but, as before, she had vanished as quickly as she’d appeared. “Did you see that girl?”
Ben stopped suddenly, drawing complaints from a couple of boys immediately behind them. The grumbling quickly cut off as the boys realized who was blocking their path and decided a quiet detour around the two was the more prudent course of action.
“What girl?” Ben demanded. “What did she look like?”
“Dark hair, heavy eyeliner, tattoos on her neck and face. She was just standing over there,” J.D. said, pointing.
Ben turned to look, sniffing once again at the air.
J.D. took a whiff but didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. “What’s with the sniffing?”
“It’s nothing,” Ben said. “I think I may be getting a cold. Come on.” With one more glance around, Ben put his hand back on J.D.’s shoulder and headed toward class. As Ben propelled him through the hallways, J.D. thought he heard a quiet giggle in his ear, like a feather brushing across wind chimes, but then it was gone, and they were at the door to Mr. Parker’s classroom.
The class was the same old same old, just like any other day, except for Ben’s mood, which was more taciturn than usual, even for this class. The giggle echoed in J.D.’s thoughts as Mr. Parker droned through the day’s lesson.