As promised, here’s a teaser from Chapter One of my romantic (erotic?) urban fantasy novel Reborn. (Kids, don’t try this at home. And by “this,” I mean going off into the woods at night because you see something kinda strange.)
“Hey, look at that!” He pointed into the woods.
Anna joined him and peered into the thick, dark trees. “I don’t see anything, Jim.”
“No, look! Something’s glowing!” He turned and gave me a lopsided grin. “Let’s go see what it is, kids!” He swung his arm in a sideways punch as if it were the 1950s and something was really swell.
“Ugh, come on, Jim,” Anna groaned. “Just stay here. Dad’s picking us up soon, anyway.”
I came up on Jimmy’s other side, the distant flicker of a white flame catching my eye. “I see it.” I didn’t know what it was, but there was something mesmerizing about it. I took an involuntarily step forward and looked over at Jimmy.
“Let’s go.” I smiled. Jimmy grinned back, his eyes alight with mischief. Anna sighed, and I sensed a frustrated inner eye roll.
“Fine.” She looked back at our drunken peers. “No one’s even going to notice we’re gone. If something happens to us –”
“If we realize it’s too far, we’ll turn around,” Jimmy assured her. Sometimes it was hard for me to believe that cautious Anna and impulsive Jimmy were even related, let alone twins.
We crept into the woods, our feet crunching over fallen twigs and leaves. Even though it was late and dark, I wasn’t afraid –maybe because I was with Anna and Jimmy, or maybe that one beer I had instilled me with false confidence. The white glow really wasn’t as far away as it seemed from the yard, and it grew steadily larger and more luminous. A cool autumn breeze caressed my face, bringing a blend of sweet scents to my nose, like someone was burning a honey vanilla candle.
“It’s a fire,” Jimmy whispered. We stopped a few yards away from it. But it wasn’t like any fire I’d ever seen –it was yellow-white and lapped at the ground without burning it. It stayed inside an almost perfect circle a few feet wide, only the curling tendrils of sweet-smelling smoke escaping it.
All of us went completely still at the sound of the weak, hoarse voice. I looked wildly around but didn’t see anything.
“You saw my signal, and you came to help me.”
Then, I saw him, sprawled against a maple tree beyond the strange fire.
I looked away quickly, my face flushing in embarrassment. I got enough of a glimpse to realize he was mostly naked, muscles rippling down his marble-white chest and abdomen before disappearing underneath a black loin-cloth.
My head snapped up again when he whispered my name. This time I couldn’t look away, my eyes drinking him in. Even in as vulnerable a position as he was, his presence permeated the forest, seeping into every crevice of every tree trunk, saturating every pore in the dirt floor. And he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Tousled dark hair brushed his shoulders framing high cheekbones and a sensuous mouth. A pair of magnificent, black feathered wings protruded from his back, crushed against the unforgiving ground. He reminded me of a fallen angel, but if angels existed, I didn’t think they had his kind of sinister, carnal magnetism. But what shocked me the most wasn’t his perfect body, his handsome face or even the wings.
He was the man from my dreams.
“Siobhan.” This time it was Anna saying my name as she fearfully watched me tiptoe around the fire to go to him.
His thick eyelashes fluttered open, and underneath his eyes were a deep blue whirlpool sucking me in even further. His lips moved, but I couldn’t hear him, so I leaned down closer.
“Psyche. You came back to me.”
What was Psyche? And what did he mean, “You came back to me?” With the exception of my dreams, I’d never met him before in my life.
I didn’t pull away or snap at him. In his final moments of life, he was feverish and confused. “I don’t know you,” I reminded him gently, “but I will help you if I can.”
His eyes pleaded with me as he raised his hand into the air, palm facing me. In a trance-like state I extended my own and brushed my palm and fingers against his, which were warm and slick with sweat. I almost jerked away, but I took a deep breath and maintained the contact, all the while staring into the dark pools of his eyes.
“Siobhan, you’re it.” At least I thought that was what he said –his voice was so small and weak.
“Let’s go back to the house.” Anna’s insistent voice was shrill with anxiety. She pulled on my arm while Jimmy pried this strange man’s hand away from mine. Jimmy didn’t let go of my hand immediately, instead clasping it firmly in his.
“Anna’s right,” he said, although I barely heard him as a flood of nausea suddenly seized me, waves of it coursing through my stomach and back.
Wait – my back?
I slipped my fingers out of Jimmy’s and brought both hands to my stomach.
“What’s wrong?” Anna asked and took a step toward me, but I staggered away from her. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I knew was the urgency crashing down on me. I had to get away from them before it happened.
Their panicked voices followed me as I took off deeper into the woods. Frenzied footsteps picked up behind me, but a burst of adrenaline pushed me forward so I outran them even in my delirious state. I made it to the muddy bank of a stream before tossing the orange sports drink I’d drained at the game all over the matted grass.
I felt better after throwing up, my stomach settling, but the unfamiliar rolling underneath my varsity jacket persisted. Bone and muscle liquefied as two jagged edges knifed through my skin. I tore my jacket off to the sound of splitting seams as they exploded out of my back, leaving the vest of my cheerleading uniform in strips of sweaty polyester.
Panting, hands still at my stomach, I sat still for a few beats to calm myself. Once the hammer of my heart in my chest dwindled to a patter and my breathing steadied, I crawled to the bank and looked through bleary eyes at my reflection in the roiling dark silver surface on the creek. My violet eyes glanced at my face, white with shock, and the blonde hair sticking to my cheeks and neck before coming to rest on the butterfly-like wings looming behind me, shimmering midnight blue and indigo in the dark.