This is a very Special Teaser Tuesday, so I'm posting Alternate's first chapter.
SPOILER ALERT: If you've not read Interred or Fissure, you can get your ebook copies right now for #99cents. The sale runs til December 19th.
You can get your copies here:
Water drips down the wall and the dampness seeps deep into my bones, chilling me down to my canvas sneakers. The air is damp and musky in a totally rotten eggs way. It makes me want to hurl, but that would also make me hurt. Everything in my body was beaten by the portal and the fight against Declan and the Absorbers before the portal opened. My legs hurt, and as I roll onto my back, a few other things make me wince. Probably a broken rib, I think. I’ve also got a few bruises on the side of my left thigh and my back from hitting the branches on the way down.
I’ve been here for almost two days. At least, that’s what I think, since I’ve been given a total of five square meals since my arrival. Two Warriors escort me to the bathroom whenever they see fit, and clean clothes have been provided for me every day. Light blue scrubs, warm socks and a pair of flimsy canvas sneakers. I look like I’m ready to work in a hospital.
In the distance, I hear the distinct squeaks of mice as I once again concentrate on opening a portal. My attempts so far have added a few more gray hairs to my dark locks with no results. Time is ignoring me. It’s as if our direct link to each other has been irretrievably broken by the portal that brought me here—wherever here is. From what I’ve seen, this is the place from which I need to escape in order to get to my own timeline and world. With my abilities refusing to work properly, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll be stuck here forever.
The silence stretches on as I sit on the narrow cot that I’ve been sleeping in, trying to calm my nerves down instead of jumping at every sound around me. The onslaught of memories begins. It’s raw, painful…and soon anger rises to the top, boiling red and hot as my arms wrap around my body, bringing me little comfort.
My eyes close and my mind rattles as memories trickle down, beginning with the impromptu visit from one of my mother’s English relatives. Her cousin, Fred, brought more into our lives than just a simple annoyance. First there was the pendant and the boy, Declan, trapped in a Time loop linked to it. Then there was my Magical abilities awakening at midnight on my sixteenth birthday. From there, everything turned the color of death.
Remembered screams and the scent of burned flesh pull the false sense of safety away from me, leaving my soul bare naked with my pain. Ever since the night of my Interment, the night when my power first surged through me, I’ve been shrouded in it.
And now here I am, stuck while Jack and the others are still fighting in New York. Will I ever be able to go back home? The thought cuts through me, making me bleed salty tears of regret once more.
The only certainty in my life right now is that the Jack I saw when I arrived in this alternate world is connected to my mind as a Healer, is definitely older than me and worst of all, he’s not my Jack.
I close my eyes even tighter before my lips move. “Mara, Drew, Lorelai, Dickie, Sydney, Arthur, Ezra, Morgan, Zachary…”
The names fall around me in a hoarse whisper as I picture each of them. Soon, the memories of them laughing are replaced by memories of their deaths.
The idyllic life I once lived in Vermont has been turned upside-down by blood, and unfortunately, the blood isn’t mine. It belongs to those I loved…sometimes even the ones I could have loved but I never got a chance to know them better. All of this has made me reach the same conclusion: I hate being the Time Bender.
Darkness serves as my blanket, a companion to the never-ending dripping water that is my background music as I revisit the last few hours before I went through the portal while trying to escape Declan, who was intent on killing me. As I lay here now, I can’t help but wonder if the English Council is still active in this world. Have the Absorbers won in mine? Are they torturing the ones I love? Is my Jack alive? Will I be able to go back home?
Baxter? Can you stop with the depressing thoughts? I need to talk to you.
Jack’s voice invades my thoughts. My heart quickens and hope fills my veins, pushing me to sit up. It’s only then, when I look to the light shining in my cell, that I see him. Not my Jack. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since my arrival. My heart deflates as I notice the scruff of a few days on his jaw and the deep scar across his left eyebrow. His hair is short, which makes his eyes that much more devastating, even in this light. That emerald green color that makes me believe in everything that he says leaves me breathless. There’s no hope to fill my lungs.
He looks both ways along the hallway, then presses his hand against the lock of my cell, pulling it back when it breaks open. I hear the rusted metal creaking.
Unimpressed, I look at him and ask, “Where am I?”
Just stick to your thoughts.
Confusion knits my brow as he moves closer and holds his hands up.
I’m not here to hurt you. You’re in England…inside of the Tower.
I glance at the walls before looking at him. The Tower of London? A dark thought runs through my mind, making me wonder if they brought me through the Traitor’s Gate.
After putting a finger to his lips, Jack pulls me up, letting his hand press against my right side. The familiar warmth of the healing energy crosses from him to me, but makes me wince. It’s a million times worse to be healed by him than not. I keep my eyes closed, trying not to move, trying not to remember how different my Jack’s touch feels. I am never in this much pain when he heals me…just the usual tugs of my skin healing. This feels as if a new cut is being carved into my body.
Through the pain, I can feel my muscles, joints and everything else quickly recuperating, but at a price. When he’s done, he pulls away and then shakes his head. He breathes heavily as he leans against the wall, almost as if he needs support.
This is our new world, Baxter.
I thank him before shaking my head. Your Brave New World sucks. Why am I a prisoner?
Because the Council thinks you’re dangerous.
There’s a sharp, dangerous feel to his words. I have to go now.
And with that, he’s gone.
The cell closes behind him quickly. I look around the darkness as he fixes the broken lock. A few seconds later, I hear the creaking of a cell door next to mine closing.
My thoughts turn to my Jack once more. Is he okay? Did he manage to get the others out of New York? Has Declan inflicted any more pain on him, my friends, the world?
As I look at the wall, something in it catches my eye. There are many names carved into the stone, reminding me of the book my mother had on the Tower of London. Prisoners often did this, I remember. With nothing better to do, I look at all the names. My heart races when I see a very familiar name that I wasn’t expecting to see.
Baxter Arabella Ashdown.
I let my finger trace each letter as my eyebrow shoots up. My thoughts race with questions that immediately stop as two Warriors get to the cell. One stands in the middle of the hallway as the other joins in.
“Come on,” the first Warrior says as he stares at me.
My heart breaks into a sprint. “Where?” I ask.
He huffs in annoyance, grabbing my upper arm with enough strength to leave a bruise and make me cry out. Without another word, I’m dragged out of the cell by both Warriors and into the hallway.
Hushed voices line the corridor. Warriors and others I believe are part of the Council stop and look our way. An eerie feeling settles in my stomach as I try to pull away, but the hands of the Warriors just tighten around my skin, making me stop in my attempt to escape.
My heart gallops as I try to fight the fear that quickly overtakes me. Memories of the night of my Interment surface…the Warriors standing guard over the coffins before we were forced into them so we could be buried, all in an attempt to provoke our Magical abilities to guide us free. And then death.
Nothing but death.