Felt like sharing a little excerpt from what I’ve been editing today. Probably not great to share something that’s not really finished, but it’s happening anyway. This is a scene from Chapter 5 of Reclaim, in which Carly and Victoria pay a visit to an old friend who might be able to help them find the antidote for the curse Hera placed on Carly’s sorority sisters. He’s one of the few brand new characters I introduce in Reclaim (most of the others have already appeared in prior books) and the president of a fraternity at a different university. It’s supposed to be a rather silly scene, a bit of comic relief.
“Is it this one?” I ask Victoria as we cruise slowly down Applewood Lane, known to Shadesburg University students as Greek Row. I have to admit I’m a little jealous their fraternities and sororities live off-campus in spacious, colonial-style homes. They line either side of the road, uniform and perfect, each with the same white siding, dark blue shutters, and wrap-around porch surrounded by columns. The lawns are also large and well-maintained, the gardens orange and gold with fall-blooming flowers. In comparison, the Gamma Lambda Phi house looks like a shack. The neighborhood is quiet for the most part, the thump of dance music in the distance the only sign of life.
I see Victoria shake her head out of the corner of my eye. “Keep going.”
“What about that one?” I say hopefully as we pass a house with colorful, stained glass Greek letters in the window and a porch filled with autumn-themed decorations. There’s even a pie cooling on the porch table.
“Nope,” Victoria says, sighing as though she wished it were. She points a few houses down. “It’s the house on the end.”
“The one where the music’s coming from?”
She nods. “There’s a space. Pull up over here.” I park in front of a house with a few broken windows, peeling paint, and wicker porch furniture that has definitely seen better days. The Greek letters “ΔΙΚ” are scrawled in magic marker on a piece of paper taped to one of the windows.
“Delta Iota Kappa,” I read out loud as we get out of the car. I give their initials some further thought. “Wait a minute. So they’re…”
“DIK,” Victoria finishes for me, rolling her eyes.
“But they don’t actually call themselves that. Right?” Victoria doesn’t answer me as we walk up to the house.
The music is coming from their second story balcony, where some of the fraternity brothers are stretched out on lawn chairs, having beers. More people are congregated on the front lawn, wearing white sheets like togas and drinking out of red Solo cups. Some of them are simply standing around, talking, others are dancing, still others are engaged in extreme public displays of affection. Someone has even set up a lopsided net for a drunken game of volleyball.
“Talk about playing hard,” I mutter, feeling out of place as we make our way to the house. “It’s Monday night.”
Victoria shrugs. “It’s a party school.” We take our time ascending the crumbling porch stairs, which creak ominously with every step. Almost as soon as we’ve cleared them, a tall, wiry young man jumps in front of us, barring our way to the door.
“Halt!” he says, thrusting his hand, palm out, toward us. “Who seeks entry into the sacred house of Delta Iota Kappa?”
My roommate crosses her arms, an amused lift to her eyebrows. “Victoria and Carly,” she says, humoring him, “of the esteemed house of Gamma Lambda Phi.” At the mention of our sorority’s name, his eyes grow wide, face as white as the bed sheet draped over his slender frame. “Now, let us in.”
He flattens himself against the door, shaking his head vigorously. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”
“Oh, come on,” Victoria groans. “You’re having a party. What’s a few more guests?”
“I can’t let you in without the…” He trails off, racking his brain for a reasonable excuse. “Proper attire?” he finishes, voice going up slightly at the end almost like it’s a question.
“Too bad I left my toga at home,” Victoria says with a rueful snap of her fingers. Thinking he’s successfully turned us away, the guard relaxes a bit, crying out a moment later when Victoria picks him up by the shoulders. Setting him aside, she pulls open the door, gesturing for me to go in first.
“Hey! You can’t just go in there,” he says, panic in his voice. He runs past us, shouting into the house, “Dion! Dion! We have trespassers!” A couple devouring each other on the couch look up at the commotion, regarding us curiously before returning to their make out session.
“We’re not trespassing,” my roommate insists, sounding fed up. “Your president and I go way back. Now, where is your fearless leader?” she asks no one in particular, eyes scanning the living room. She walks up to a second couple making out on a recliner, trying to see the guy’s face. “Dionysus?”
“Nike?” A man’s deep voice calls her Olympian name from the next room. “Is that your sweet, lilting voice I hear? Pledges. Up!” The order is followed by the sounds of furniture scraping against the hardwood floor and a chorus of male grunts. Four skinny freshmen come hobbling through the doorway, lugging a gold-framed chair with scarlet cushions. Lounging in it is a mass of long, well-muscled limbs attached to a man with curly blonde hair and a complexion like a bronze statue.
“Pledges, down!” he bellows, and the four boys gladly drop the chair directly in front of us before crawling away, trying to catch their breath. The man I presume is Dionysus stands up, opening his arms to give Victoria a hug.
“Nike! It’s so good to see you. You look…pissed off,” he realizes, taking a step back, arms falling. Like his brothers, he’s wearing a makeshift toga, only his is pulled tightly across a broad chest, exposing the corded muscle of his abdomen.
She gives him an exasperated look. “Of course I am. You’re hazing your pledges!”
“You call it ‘hazing,’” he says, making air quotes, “I call it building character. Besides, they like helping out around the house.”
“If that were true, there are a lot of other things they could be helping out with.” As she says it, Victoria stoops to pick up an empty beer can from the floor and sets it on the table next to a takeout container that looks like it’s been sitting out for a few days. “This place is a mess. But in any case, they’re not supposed to be catering to your every whim. They’re your new members, not your servants.”
“Hey, you don’t get to come over here, uninvited, and insult our way of doing things,” Dionysus tells her, crossing his arms. He doesn’t sound truly angry, just mildly annoyed. “Sure, we could clean up a bit, but the house is fine.”
Victoria’s eyebrows go up. “It’s literally falling apart. But I suppose you’ve been too busy partying to notice.”
“We’re fine,” he insists. “Everything’s fine! And the pledges couldn’t be happier.” A quick glance at the four who carried him in here, still panting and glaring at their president, tells me this probably isn’t the case. “They live to serve me—I mean, the house,” he corrects himself when Victoria’s jaw twitches angrily. He gives a nervous chuckle before turning to me instead. “I see you have a new toy.”
“What? No,” Victoria says quickly, realizing he’s talking about me. “This is Carly. She’s one of the Gamma Lambda Phi sisters.”
“Ohhhh.” Eyes the color of gold rum look me up and down as he nods his approval. “Can I play with her, then?” After a moment’s pause, he bursts out laughing, slapping his leg. “I’m just kidding! You should see the looks on your faces. Priceless! It’s nice to meet you, Carly,” he adds, sticking out a hand. “Welcome to Delta Iota Kappa.”
I hesitate, then give his hand a brief shake. “Thanks.”
“So,” he continues, re-crossing his arms, “tell me a little bit about yourself, Carly.”
“Well, I…go to Thurston. I’m a math major. I’m in Gamma Lambda Phi…but Victoria just told you that,” I recall, feeling myself blush. “That’s pretty much it.”
His face spasms like he’s trying to hold back a yawn. “Fascinating. Anyone want a drink?” he asks abruptly, picking up a bottle of vodka from the table. He notices it’s empty and frowns. “I think I need a drink.”
“We didn’t come here to party,” Victoria says, taking the bottle from him and putting it back. “We need some information. Is there somewhere we can go that’s more private?”
He forces a smile. “Of course. Follow me.”