So I’ve been an absolutely horrid blogger for quite some time, but I will make an effort to get back into the swing of things by sharing the prologue for a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance (it hasn’t decided what it is yet) proposal I am working on right now. Life has been crazy busy and oftentimes tragic (my mom died at the age of 53 in November, 2011 and we lost my 11-month-old nephew to SIDS in November, 2012) over the past couple of years, but I really miss blogging so will make an effort to get back at it!
Unfortunately, I don’t have any updates on the Shades of Fury series or what project will be next to sell, but I’ll share as soon as I do! I may self-publish something for my fans later this year; keep an eye out for announcements as soon as I have any news to share. =)
This particular project came to me when the stray thought, “What would happen if magic were a disease you could catch, and what would happen if someone feared catching it more than anything and then–of course–they did?” The magic system is somewhat loosely based on the Chinese Zodiac (though not entirely, and only loosely). I don’t do prologues often, but this project is demanding one. With that said, here we go!
Incubation: The phase during the development of an infection between the time that a pathogen enters the body and when symptoms first begin to appear.
The first time Everly Gale saw the man who would alter her life forever, she was a bright-eyed 12-year-old who believed she could change the world if only she managed to collect enough money to feed the world’s starving children. With the cheerful verve and grit that only she could combine into one charming whole, Everly made plenty of progress toward achieving that goal the autumn she turned 12. Her parents humored her, as they always did, by driving around the community so she could set up in front of the mom and pop shops whose owners fell in love with the girl waging a personal battle against hunger. Unfortunately, that drive to save the lives of others nearly proved the undoing of her very own.
“Do we really have to waste another Saturday morning hitting up people for money, Ever? I thought that’s what freaking UNICEF was for, anyway. Wouldn’t you rather be shopping for our Halloween costumes?”
Everly grinned over at her long-suffering (though rarely without complaint) older sister, Cadence, as she finished setting everything just-so on the rickety folding table. She loved Cadie dearly, really she did, but her favorite sister often suffered from a severe lack of imagination. “Why do you think I chose this particular store, sister dear?”
Cadence glanced up at the old-fashioned sign which read “Molly’s Coddles and Crafts” with an extremely dubious expression. “What the heck is a coddle, Ever? Not that it matters; I’m pretty sure they don’t sell costumes here.”
“Very astute of you, Cadie.” Everly paused long enough to smile and thank the woman who dropped a few quarters into the UNICEF box. “Have I ever steered you wrong? I promised that I’d be the Beetlejuice to your Lydia so we could win the heart of your goth-boy Jared, but we’re not going to start half-assing Halloween just because you saw some cheapo costumes at the,” she gave an overly dramatic shudder, “shopping mall. We’re doing this up right. Nana promised she’d finally teach us to sew.”
This time it was Cadence’s turn to shudder. “You expect me to learn…” She let out a choked laugh when she caught sight of her sister’s smirk. “Fiery little Dragon Lady.” That was their Chinese grandfather’s nickname for Everly, since she’d been born in the last year of the Dragon. It also very much suited her relentless nature once she set her mind on something.
Everly gave a trill of laughter. “You should have seen the look in your eyes, Cade. Priceless. And yes, as you guessed, I will be doing all of the sewing on our costumes, and they are going to put anything that Brittany Kilpatrick could even think of coming up with to everlasting shame.”
Brittany was Cadence’s friend-turned-enemy who could have any boy that she wanted and regularly made the habit of proving just that to her less developed-in-the-upper-region former friend. Of course, that was before Cadence’s tastes in boys had matured past the stereotypical pretty boy jock type who Brittany didn’t even have to break a sweat claiming for her own. This Jared was actually different and way cool, just like Cadence herself. And he was going to choose her sister over that bleach blonde airhead, Everly just knew it.
Joy shone in Cadence’s eyes as she reached over and gave her sister a fierce hug. “God, Ever, you really are the best. As annoying as it is to hear everyone else say all the damned time.”
Everly opened her mouth to give an amusing little reply, and that was when she caught sight of him. A hot but way older man staring at her from across the street. Silver-streaked dark hair fell nearly to his waist, unusual when paired with a straight-laced suit and tie. His eyes were what most captured her attention, however; a piercing shade of ice-blue and all kinds of intense. They should have made her uncomfortable considering that the man had to be darned near 40, but they seemed strangely compelling.
“Earth to Everly, come in, please.” Cadence snapped her fingers several times and then apparently figured out who her sister was eyeballing–and vice versa. Her amusement faded, only to be replaced by the overprotective instincts that often kicked in by virtue of her being three years older. “I’m gonna scratch that sicko’s eyes out if he doesn’t stop visually devouring you in about five seconds flat.”
Everly shook her head to clear the fog that clouded her brain and forced a nervous laugh. “Chill, Cadie. I probably look like someone he knows. No big deal.”
Cadence settled back in her folding chair with a huff. “Yeah, well, it will be a big deal if he doesn’t stop…” Her voice trailed off suddenly. “Hey, where’d he go?”
Everly felt a weird stab of disappointment when she looked back across the street and noticed that the stranger had vanished. Oh, yeah, because that’s just what you need. Some disgusting pervert fixated on you. She kept her voice deliberately cool when she shrugged and changed the subject back to the awesomeness that would be the sisters’ costumes for the themed bash that their parents let them throw each year. Brittany had tried to woo their mutal friends to her own party the previous Halloween, only to discover that most of the teens in their St. Louis suburb weren’t as fickle as the boys she let feel up her oversized boobs.
It was surprisingly easy to forget about the man with ice-blue eyes as the day wore on. She kept herself busy with collecting money to send on to UNICEF, and then picking out odds and ends she spent most of the afternoon assuring Cadence that she and Nana could turn into the most kickass Halloween costumes ever. Her speeding bullet of a brain didn’t even think about the oddity of that man’s eyes boring into her own for one uncomfortably long moment until late that evening when she snuck outside to check on the family dog. The overgrown mastiff-German shepherd mix had once again been banished to his doghouse for chewing a pair of her oldest sister Harmony’s shoes. She had just finished sneaking Kong a bone and letting him slobber all over her hand when the dog let out a low growl and drew to attention. His fur bristled and he stared out into the darkness with an eerie intensity that had her mind flashing to that man watching her from across the street.
Fear bubbled inside her stomach and she reached down to unhook the leash that secured Kong to the doghouse, though she kept a tight hold on his collar. A hundred pounds of nervous energy pulled against her hand, indicating his desire to leap toward the woods backing up to their yard, but he was extraordinarily well-trained despite that penchant for chewing on Harmony’s footwear. That made what happened next seem even more unbelievable.
The dog gave one strangely high-pitched growl before jerking away from her grasp, only to fall straight to the ground. Everly started to let out a scream because she just knew someone must have shot Kong for him to drop like that, only to have a hand clamp over her mouth and an arm gather her in an iron-tight grip she couldn’t break away from no matter how hard she struggled; and struggle she did.
An unfamiliar voice murmured into her ear, “Be still; he’s just asleep, not dead. I mean neither you nor him any harm, so please just relax.”
Those words didn’t particularly reassure her, but struggling hadn’t gotten her anywhere. The man–the inexorable strength paired with such a low voice told her that much–made no move to drag her into the woods and so, for the moment, she allowed her body to grow still as requested. He relaxed his grip enough to nudge her around to face him, but kept one hand on each of her wrists snugly, though not uncomfortably so.
Beams of illumination from the nearby porchlight confirmed her suspicion as to the man’s identity. He still wore that sharp black suit and wavy dark hair streaked with silver rustled in the evening air. His piercing blue eyes gleamed just as intensely as they had before and this time, they succeeded in unnerving her the way they should have earlier.
“Who are you?” she blurted out in a harsh whisper.
A smile twisted his lips upward. “That is actually what I came to find out about you, Everly Qiu-Long Gale.”
She caught her breath at the unexpected shock of hearing her full name spoken out loud, something she had only heard when her father finally explained its significance to her just a few days ago when she turned 12.
The man let out a breath of his own. “I see you understand that, at least. Tragic that your grandparents chose to steal your legacy from you, little Autumn Dragon, but not for much longer.”
Dread unfurled in the pit of her stomach at his words.
“I bring a gift from your great-grandmother, little one.”
Dread burst into full-blown terror and she tried to throw herself back; struggled with all of the ferocity she could muster, and yet she failed once more. The man she now knew as one of her hated great-grandmother’s minions ground his fingers more tightly around her wrists as he lowered his lips down atop hers–not for some sexual purpose as her sister had originally feared, but for one even darker.
Pain ground into her wrists at the same time that quicksilver light spilled from his eyes, nose, and mouth, flooding out of his body and into hers. She gagged, wanting to choke on the ghastly light that meant her doom her as surely as if the man had dragged her off into those woods after all, but it was far too late for that. Something pressed into her mouth, but it wasn’t the man’s tongue or teeth. That horrid microscopic thing stabbed its way into the underside of her own tongue and curled up there as if it had the right, as if her grandparents hadn’t fought for the chance to break away from that circus of freaks over which her great-grandmother ruled.
The pain from the man–the carrier–tightening his grip upon her wrists faded to insignificance as fire flared beneath her tongue, an inferno beginning but not ending there as it swept through her entire body until she became a raging ball of fever until finally, it mercifully ended. As Everly lost her grip on consciousness, she felt the man lower her to the ground and murmur soothing words promising that she would remember little of this horror until he came for her again. Pain turned to agony until finally, she gave in to blissful nothingness where the pain could not chase her…at least, not until the next year of the Dragon.