Here's the prologue and first chapter to my upcoming paranormal romance/urban fantasy CHAMELEON. It's the first in a 4-book series. I'm excited for it to release, but June is just so far away don't you think? I also have a short excerpt that I posted a while back from a little farther into the story. You can check that out HERE.
“On the eve of that last great battle there will rise up one more powerful than the world has ever known. Without her Evil will win. Delicate, though, she is, for she carries the power of both light and dark, and could easily be swayed by those who would use her for harm. Nothing but the truest love will keep her an agent for good.”
~ The last prophesy of the Oracle.
I am in a large, empty room—a warehouse. It is abandoned. It is dark, damp, and drafty. The air is chilly but not bitingly cold, which means this will take place soon, for autumn has already arrived, and it will not be long before the bitterness of winter hits.
In the distance I hear a door slam. I look to the sound and notice a dim flickering light casting shadows upon the wall in the far corner of the building. Whatever is creating the light is hidden behind old machinery. My feet shuffle forward automatically and when I round the corner I gasp at what I see.
A girl hangs from a cross, dying as her blood spills from her wrists onto an altar built at her feet. It is not the sacrificial offering that surprises me—I expect this kind of violence form the visions—it is the girl herself.
I am taken aback by the strength of her aura. Never before have I seen such a radiant spirit. It shines with brilliance. It is beautiful, colorful and dancing with life. It is the most powerful aura I have ever come across.
I am surprised to see such a strong aura belonging to such a tiny, fragile looking creature. I figure her to be about the age of twelve, but as I draw nearer I realize she is closer to my own age of seventeen. Younger, but perhaps only by a year or two.
Her hair is a beautiful chocolate brown, and full of so much curl that she looks almost wild. Her eyes are a few shades lighter than her hair, and pierce my soul as I look into them.
I no longer take notice of any other details in the vision. I concentrate solely on her. I cannot help it. I am drawn to her in a way that I cannot explain. It is as if her soul is calling out to me, begging me to find her, trying to close the distance between us.
It is in this moment that I know. The Creator is guiding me to her, to this girl, this angel. She is the one I have been searching for. The one who will save us all.
A feeling of conviction stirs inside me more powerful than any I have ever experienced. I vow to find her. Vow to save her from this devastating fate.
I watch the rest of the vision with a new fervor, taking in every possible detail I can. A thousand questions race across my mind but only one escapes my lips. The one I am most desperate to know. “Who are you?”
Great. I was even hearing his voice in my sleep now.
“Psst! Dani, wake up.”
Or not. I pulled myself from the deepest corner of sleep and opened my eyes. It was dark and I was disoriented, but I didn’t need light to know who was hovering above my head.
“Russ,” I groaned. “Go home right now.”
“No. And be quiet on your way out. If my parents find you here—”
“We won’t get busted. Sit up. I have something for you.”
I glanced at the clock on my nightstand and groaned again. All I wanted was to roll on my side and throw the covers over my head until my alarm went off at seven. But Russ was in one of his moods, and I knew he’d never leave me be until he got whatever it was he came for, so I sat up.
Russ plopped down on my bed in front of me, crossing his legs Indian style to match mine. He sat close enough that our knees rubbed against each other. Even though my covers separated us, the touch seemed intimate.
I looked at him and in that moment realized, maybe for the very first time, that he was actually kind of beautiful. In the moonlight his hair looked a lot darker than the honey brown it is in daylight. And his eyes, normally crystal blue, were indistinguishably dark. His usually clean-shaven face was also covered with a light layer of stubble, accentuating his high cheekbones and square jaw line.
This was a side of Russ Devereaux I’d never seen before, and I found it very unsettling.
I also wanted to smack myself for my current train of thoughts. I swear I’m not one of those sad sacks who has spent her entire life secretly pining over her best friend. Honest. I’m not even sure how I’d feel if he ever did try to make a move. We’ve just never been like that.
Still… Over the last couple weeks I’d been getting this really strange feeling. Not sexual really. Just… like I needed to be around him. All the time. It was kind of annoying, actually.
I shook myself from my daydream to find Russ watching me with intrigue. “Mesmerized by my stunning good looks?”
“You were staring at me.”
“That was just me sleeping with my eyes open,” I snapped. “It’s three in the morning. What are you doing here?”
I hoped my irritation covered the sense of nerves I had. I’d never been nervous around Russ before, and I really didn’t want him to figure out I felt so tense now.
Instead of answering my question Russ said, “What happened to the Disney Princess nightgown you wore the last time we were in bed together? That was hot.”
I followed his gaze and to my horror realized I was wearing nothing but panties and a tight camisole. And no bra. Not that there was much there. My barely B’s almost didn’t need a bra, but I hadn’t bothered to turn on the space heater in my room and the fact that the nights were starting to get cooler was painfully obvious.
I scrambled to pull my covers up over my chest. “You’d better have a damn good reason for being here or you’re going to be very sorry.”
“Since when do I need a reason?”
I started to say something but Russ held up a hand to stop me. “Patience grasshopper,” he said. He turned his gaze to the alarm clock on my nightstand.
We sat in silence for a full two minutes. Then he said, “There. It’s three eleven in the morning on September twenty-third. You are officially sixteen.” He flashed a dashing smile and pulled a huge, beautifully wrapped box up off the floor. “Happy Birthday, Dani.”
I was speechless.
“Surprised?” Russ asked with a chuckle.
“Actually, yes. Very.”
Not that Russ would ever forget, he loved making sure everyone in the world knew it was my birthday every year, but this wasn’t some big spectacle like usual. There was no one here to impress but me, and that was surprising.
“For future reference this surprise is a lot better than most of your previous ones,” I said. “Definitely better than last year.”
Russ frowned. “You didn’t like the poem I wrote you?”
“The poem I could live with. Even though I don’t think anything that starts with, ‘Dani, Dani, she’s good for the heart. She likes crap like Shakespeare and hates when I fart,’ really counts as poetry. But the fact that you recited it during a mandatory pep rally thrown in my honor?”
“Yeah.” Russ beamed with pride. “That was a good one.”
“How did you get Principle Green to agree to it anyway?”
Russ grinned like the devil. “I’m a very persuasive guy.”
There was no use arguing that. Russ has a gift for charming over everybody he meets. It makes him very convenient to have around because the only talent I have is pissing off everyone I come in contact with.
“Now if I could only persuade you to open this gift already.”
Russ dropped the package into my lap. It was so heavy it nearly knocked the wind out of me.
I pulled the bow off the box and stuck it on his head. “Should I be scared?
Russ’s eyes were full of mischief so I quickly tore away the wrapping paper. I laughed when I saw what it was. “A ten-pound bag of jell-o?”
Russ handed me a piece of folded up paper. I accepted it suspiciously but gasped when I realized I was looking at a picture I’d drawn back in the fourth grade. It was of Russ and me swimming in a pool of red jell-o. The words at the top said “My Birthday Wish.”
“Where did you get this?”
“I’ll never tell,” Russ said. “But tonight, Miss Webber, you are getting your birthday wish.”
“No way!” I yelled almost loud enough to wake my parents.
Russ hopped up suddenly. “Get dressed,” he said. As he disappeared out my bedroom window he called back in a whisper, “Don’t forget your swimsuit.”
“You are a freaking genius!” I squealed when we broke into Brad Halloway’s back yard. Or, more specifically, his big, super nice pool.
It was genius because Brad Halloway sucks. His dad owns the plastics factory that keeps the tiny town of Carmine, Pennsylvania—the town in which I live—alive. That means he’s the only rich man in town and the boss of nearly half of our fifteen hundred residents. Somehow Brad thinks this entitles him to be a total douche bag. If anyone deserves to have their pool gelatinized it’s him.
“Okay, so maybe you’re only a genius in theory,” I told Russ once I began pouring my jell-o into the pool.
It was one of those fancy heated pools with a rock waterfall and a slide. It was massive. My ten-pound bag of jell-o didn’t seem all that impressive anymore.
“You’d need like five hundred pounds of this stuff to make this pool solid.”
Russ stuck his hand in the stream of jell-o spilling from the bag and caught a handful of powder. “Where’s the trust? This is industrial jell-o.”
“Even still. It’s barely going to be enough to turn the water red.”
“Just make sure you spread it out Doubty McDoubterson,” Russ said and gave me a shove toward the deep end.
I started pouring the jell-o all around the edge of the pool and didn’t even get half way around before I was out. “You see?” I called across the water in a whisper. “It’s not even turning red. It’s barely pink.”
“Ah, but you’re forgetting I still have this.”
Russ held up the tiny handful of powder he’d collected. He made a show of holding the jell-o up to his mouth and whispering something to it—most likely begging it not to make him look bad. Then he held is palm flat and blew the dust out over the pool. The tiny granules sprinkled across the top of the water and dissolved instantly.
“That’s it?” I was completely unimpressed. “You are such a moron.”
Russ frowned, insulted. “I can’t believe you have that little faith in me. Go get the skimmer and start stirring.”
It seemed pointless to me but I grabbed the skimmer anyway. I gasped when I started stirring and found the water already getting thicker.
“Told you so.” Russ smiled smugly.
“I don’t get it. This shouldn’t be working.”
“Maybe the jell-o knew my birthday present would be totally lame if it didn’t work.”
After a minute the pool was completely jelled so Russ stripped down to his swim trunks and sat on the edge of the pool. Slowly, he stuck his feet into the goopy mixture and frowned. “This feels pretty nasty.”
I stuck my feet over the side of the pool and wrinkled my nose. “Slimy.”
“And sticky,” Russ complained.
“At least it’s warm.”
“Yeah,” Russ said, fighting a laugh. “That’s why I picked this pool. It’s the only heated one in town.”
“How very insightful of you. I thought you picked it because Brad is a prick.”
“Happy coincidence.” Russ gave me an innocent shrug. “And I swear I don’t know anything about his big pool party on Saturday.”
We had a good laugh and then I swirled my feet around once more. “It kind of tickles.”
“It’s gross. You sure you want to go all the way in?”
“Of course!” I said. “It’s not every day your best friend magically fulfills one of your life-long wishes.”
I couldn’t understand the look I got from Russ just then, but he stared at me long enough to make me feel nervous. “What if I could?”
“Magically make all your wishes come true.”
I laughed at the thought. “Yeah, that’s all I’d need. I’m spoiled enough as it is. Besides, if wishes came true every day they wouldn’t be magical anymore. Nope, once in a lifetime’s good enough for me. Now come on, I’ll race you to the other end!”
As sticky, and slimy, and even kind of, well, extremely disgusting as it was, swimming in a giant pool of jell-o was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. But it was definitely a one-time thing, and after about fifteen minutes I was more than ready to call it quits. I climbed out of the pool and was so sticky that the thought of wrapping myself in a towel was too unappealing despite how cold it was outside.
“Let’s rinse off in the hot tub,” Russ suggested.
“Ooh, good idea.”
I didn’t wait for Russ. I practically dove into the hot tub and scrubbed my hair beneath the water. Once the slimy coating was washed off my skin I sat back and enjoyed the heat and bubbles.
I closed my eyes and sighed. “We should make spa hopping a weekly occurrence.”
Of course, I quickly changed my mind when Russ slipped into the water with me and I nearly reached out to touch him.
Seriously, what was wrong with me lately? It’s not like I was surprised by the way he looks without a shirt on. We’d spent most of the summer at the lake together. I knew he kept in shape. So why did I suddenly wish he hadn’t sat all the way across the hot tub from me? Why did I have a desire to climb in his lap and lean against his bare chest?
I felt myself starting to blush so I closed my eyes again and tried to pretend he wasn’t there. “Seriously Russ, you’ve outdone yourself this year. Thank you. Best birthday present ever.”
“Really? So then I didn’t need to get you this?”
I opened my eyes and Russ handed me another present. This one was just as beautifully wrapped but smaller and way, way lighter. “What’s this for?”
“You didn’t think I was only going to give you a bag of jell-o for your birthday did you? I’m way smoother than that.”
“You gave me a lot more than just a bag of jell-o and you know it.”
Russ shrugged like it was no big deal even though we both knew it was. “Yeah, well, now I’m giving you that so shut up and open it.”
“Yes, sir,” I teased with a mock salute and happily tore off the wrapping.
I was surprised to find a rectangular box covered in black crushed velvet. It was too big to hold a ring or a bracelet, but it was definitely a jewelry box.
“Russell Alexander Devereaux what did you do?”
I was only teasing. I fully expected to open the box and find, knowing Russ, a lock of his hair that I was supposed to treasure for eternity or something like that.
When I looked up I saw a flash of insecurity in his all too confident eyes. “Just open it,” he said. He tried to sound playful but his voice shook the slightest bit and he couldn’t fool me.
Suddenly afraid to look, I swallowed back a lump in my throat and pulled open the box. “Russ!” I gasped.
The necklace was absolutely breathtaking. It was Victorian-style—with turquoise beads sown intricately into silver chains. A large turquoise crystal cut into the shape of a teardrop dangled delicately from the center. It looked like it was hundreds of years old and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It was my mother’s,” Russ said. “My father gave it to her after they were married, and he gave it to me after she left. It’s been handed down in our family for generations.”
When I looked up there wasn’t a hint of play anywhere in Russ’s expression. It may have been the first time I’d ever seen him one hundred percent serious.
My face went white. “I can’t accept this.”
I tried to hand him the box and he pushed it back at me. “I told Dad I wanted to give it to you, and he agreed that I should.”
“But it was your mother’s. It’s an heirloom. This should stay in your family.”
“You’ve been my best friend since we were riding tricycles and making mud pies. I want you to have it.”
I looked down at the necklace again and my eyes burned. “I—I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Russ.”
As I stared at the jewelry, awestruck, Russ crossed the hot tub to sit next to me. And I mean like right next to me. His closeness made me shiver.
“Dani, there’s something I have to talk to you about.”
My head snapped up. First the private birthday celebration, then the necklace, and now the soft tone in his voice? None of this was right. None of this was like Russ.
Call me crazy, but it felt like he was about to cross a boundary he’d never dared breech before. He’d never even seemed like he’d wanted to, but right now he was all up in my personal space like nobody’s business.
Russ took my hand, and before I had any time to analyze that I was overcome with a strange sensation. The hand holding mine was warm, more warm than any hand had a right to be. It felt like it was sending fire through my body.
“Dani?” Russ asked suddenly. “Is everything okay? You look like you’re about to pass out.”
“I’m fine,” I said, though my breath was ragged. Something was definitely off, but I couldn’t tell what exactly was happening to me.
I put my hands to my head so Russ wouldn’t have the chance to be offended that I’d ripped my fingers from his. “It’s just a headache. I haven’t been feeling all that well for the last couple weeks, but I’m okay.”
“A couple weeks? Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”
“Because it hasn’t been that bad. I’m fine, I promise. I’m already feeling better.” That wasn’t completely true, but I plastered a smile on my face anyway. “Now, what were you saying? You wanted to tell me something?”
Russ seemed to remember himself and took a deep breath. “You’re my best friend,” he said.
It sounded like the beginning of a rehearsed speech. That meant this was serious news.
“Duh…” I agreed slowly. My voice betrayed how nervous I was.
Russ shifted uneasily next to me and continued. “Because you’re my best friend, there’s something I can’t hide from you anymore. But before I tell you what it is, you have to promise you’re not going to freak out.”
I sucked in a breath. “He is!" my brain screamed at me. “He’s making a move!”
Was I ready for that? If he told me he wanted more than friendship could I give it to him? Could I kiss him and keep a straight face? Could he?
Terror seized my chest making me unable to breathe. And yet… Maybe it wasn’t fear causing my pulse to race. I couldn’t deny the things I’d been feeling lately. Still. I had no idea how to respond. “Um...”
Russ took my hand again, and I did my best to ignore the strange connection between us. I wondered if he felt it too.
I waited with wide eyes, holding my breath for Russ to spit it out. He looked completely terrified. Which, lets just say, is not a look you often see on Russ Devereaux.
It was surprisingly nice that he was drawing this out because the suspense was making me realize just how much I wanted to hear him say it. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe it would be perfect. I mean he was my best friend. Who better than him to be my first boyfriend?
“You…?” I prompted.
Russ broke into a sweat. I don’t think it was from the heat of the water. He took a deep breath and blurted, “DaniI’mawarlock.”
“Huh?” I had no idea what he’d just said, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t, “Dani I’m in love with you and want to be more than just your friend from now on.”
“I’m a warlock,” he said again—very slowly this time.
Okay, definitely not, “Dani I’m in love with you and want to be more than just your friend from now on.”
Was he joking? Or did he just chicken out? Because the panic I saw in his eyes a minute ago was completely real. But, “I’m a warlock?”
There was literally no way I could respond to such a statement. Like none. I know because I sat there for a really long time trying to come up with a reaction and simply couldn’t. Eventually Russ just had to start talking again.
“Supernatural beings, like the kind you read about in books—witches, vampires, werewolves—they’re real. I’m one of them. I’m a warlock, Dani. I have magic. My dad too.”
Okay, so he was crazy. My best friend had snapped his cap. I remembered the fire I felt when he touched me and immediately plastered my hand to his forehead. Again I was met with an overwhelming sensation. He was definitely radiating something warm and tingly. It didn’t exactly feel like a raging fever, but it was enough explanation for me.
“We need to get you home,” I told him. “You feel way too hot. I think meningitis is supposed to make you delusional and that can kill you.”
“I’m not sick, Dani.”
Russ covered my hand with his and moved it from his forehead to the side of his face. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and shuddered. There was something in the gesture that made goose bumps form all over me—something that leaned me back toward my first theory of Russ wanting to up the stakes in our relationship.
Apparently he was just too big a wuss to say it.
“I know I sound crazy but—”
“Crazy?” I asked with an incredulous laugh. “You don’t sound crazy. You sound like a moron!”
Russ flinched when I yelled. I didn’t mean to lose my temper but I was surprisingly upset. I could have just called him out and forced him to admit he had feelings for me. Then I could have told him I was interested and ended the most romantic birthday of my life having my first make-out session in a freaking hot tub. But excuse me for having a little dignity and wanting my potential boyfriend to have the guts to make the first move.
“After everything you’ve done tonight to make this the most perfect birthday I’ve ever had, you’re really going to ruin it now?”
“I’m not trying to ruin it!” Russ snapped.
“Then stop being a coward and just say what you really want to say!”
Russ had the strangest look on his face. It was a little bit confusion and a lot frustration, but also, I swear there was disappointment mixed in as well.
We sat there in the most uncomfortable silence as he searched for something to say, and were both extremely startled when the back porch lights of Brad’s house flicked on. “Who’s out there?” Mr. Halloway shouted. “I’m calling the sheriff!”
Russ and I scrambled as silently as we could for our clothes and then bailed before Brad thought to set his dog loose on us. It looked like my birthday celebration was over. Not exactly the way I’d envisioned the night ending, but considering it was us, not that surprising either.
I just hoped that by the time I saw Russ at school in a few hours he’d have realized what a tool he was and manned up, because the minute we went our separate ways I got this really strange ache inside me. I missed him the second he was gone and knew that I didn’t just maybe want him. I really wanted him.