Blurb: Just when she thought the dreams couldn't get any stranger, Ariel Donovan is transported in her sleep to Dark. A dog barks, and she knows she must heed his call. During the journey, she finds what she lost long ago, and discovers how important it is in her quest to outsmart the Thornhill Society...before it's too late.
Here's a teaser from the first Chapter:
"Luminosity" excerpt, copyright © 2012 Abigail Boyd. All rights reserved.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I didn’t sleep much after my nightmare. I hadn’t had a lucid dream like that in a very long time, and it spelled trouble.
I ruminated over the details in French class while my teacher plodded through a particularly snore-inducing lesson on verb conjugation. When I'd had those dreams previously, I barely interacted with the ghosts. To have had a conversation—no matter how absurd—with two deceased murderers left me anxious. I didn't think I was overreacting.
Ambrose had aided Warwick in kidnapping my best friend. Two other girls went missing later, and all three ended up murdered with ritualistic cuts on their bodies and signs of bloodletting. Then, after Warwick escaped jail and the police were closing in, he came back and silenced Ambrose permanently.
It wasn’t long before he attempted to grant me the same fate, luring me with a fake text from my boyfriend, Henry. In an old ballroom downtown that had been converted into an office, Warwick had menacingly advanced on me with a hunting knife. The sharp blade had still been stained with flecks of Ambrose’s blood.
If it hadn’t been for the bullet of an unlikely savior—Henry’s father—Warwick would have slashed me to ribbons.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. Trying to be discreet, I slid it out and concealed it beneath my desk.
Come see me.
Just three little words, yet my pulse sped up instantly. I kept the phone hidden so the teacher couldn’t watch me reply.
I’m in the middle of class. Shouldn’t u be too?
It’s nothing you don’t know. Make an excuse.
What makes you so sure that I want to?
I was ready to jump out of my seat and race out of the room, but Henry couldn’t sense that.
Give me some credit, I know you well enough by now. Or maybe he could. Don’t leave me waiting, dear.
I sighed internally, fighting back a grin at the same time. He was right. It was a request I couldn’t ignore.
The teacher finished speaking and assigned book work. I traipsed up to her desk, knowing she was pretty strict about allowing people to leave unless they had already wet their pants or lost several liters of blood.
A hasty plan formed in my mind, but anticipation made me flub my request. She raised her eyebrows suspiciously, probably instantly assuming I was planning on getting high in the bathroom.
“You can’t wait twenty minutes for the bell?”
I shook my head, praying she wouldn’t make me demonstrate with a potty dance. “I drank a huge bottle of water. Bad idea in hindsight.”
“Fine, go. Be back before class ends.”
I rushed out of the classroom on light feet. I lucked out. The halls were virtually empty as I made my way to the current meeting spot.
It was February, and Henry and I had been officially dating for almost two months now, but no one knew about it—neither our families nor my closest friend, Theo. I hated the dishonesty and the sneaking around even if it did add an air of foolish excitement. I’d experienced too much danger in the past few years. I was worried I was falling in love with peril.
Texts were mostly how we’d grown our budding relationship. A romance of words more than actions, sometimes misspelled but always meaningful. These were the bright spots in my week—when we could sneak minutes of time together.
Henry and I weren’t supposed to be dating. His father, Phillip Rhodes, was the leader of the influential—and shady—organization called the Thornhill Society. They had connections to what Warwick did and why he did it, we just didn’t know exactly what. The details were all loosely related like a misprinted connect-the-dots page. I had the theory that they were some kind of cult, but no proof.
Thornhill wore the mask of a social group, and most in town thought they were benign and good. Were all of the members of Thornhill involved or merely a few? What had the sacrificial rituals been for? Why had Phillip killed Warwick and saved me if he hated me?
Principal McPherson and his assistant appeared, and I ducked my head, anxiety rippling through me. McPherson would surely catch me and send me back to class. Instead, he was preoccupied in his evidently stressful conversation.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about," he argued, agitated. "Misappropriation of funds? Every penny is accounted for. He can check it himself or have his accountant analyze the records.”
“Sir, I’m only repeating what I was told over the phone,” the assistant said. “Maybe he was being overly cautious."
“He wouldn’t have brought it up at all, if he wasn’t planning on using it against me,” McPherson insisted.
As they passed by me, I turned to watch the back of McPherson’s bald head and ugly suit. Misuse of funds was a big deal. McPherson had always struck me as suspicious, to the point where I’d suspected him of the girls’ disappearances. I didn’t have time to wonder about his troubles, though.
I headed for an unused part of school that had been closed off since Warwick lit a few fires there. I slowed my frantic steps as I arrived. The school had never gotten around to fixing the hall up, preferring to forget it since it was an area still under construction. Smoke marks stained the walls above the lockers. Half of the lights were burned out, enhancing shadows that I normally wouldn’t have noticed. Henry was nowhere to be found. Mr. Impatient must still be on his way, I mused.
Ambling silently, I peered into the locked classrooms. The blinds drawn inside of the rooms made the hall several shades darker than the rest of the school. I nearly tripped over an old Halloween streamer that lay abandoned on the floor.
Paranoia attacked me hard and I stopped moving. It felt like I was being watched. I twisted to see behind me. The security camera on the wall was disabled, part of why this hall was safe. Its dead lens stared at me, and I could just barely make out my tiny reflection, my pale face and long, black hair.
A hand shot out and grabbed me. Another wrapped around my mouth to stifle my scream. “Where are you going?” Henry's deep voice whispered in my ear. I instantly relaxed against him. He dropped his hand from my mouth and grinned impishly at me, brown eyes amused.
I waited for my heart to realize things were okay, but it was still pounding, just for a different reason. His closeness brought on a wave of irrationally strong euphoria. I took in his handsome face: his full, inviting lips, the strong set of his cheekbones and jaw, the nose curved just enough to give it character. I adored his face, and I knew I'd never get tired of looking at him.
Wiping my sweaty palms off on my pants, I scowled lightly at him. “I didn’t know where you were.”
“That was the whole point: the sneak attack.” Part of me wanted to wipe the smirk off of his face, but his smile was too enticing, full of suggestion. He grabbed my hand and dragged me to the small closet he’d been hiding in.
“Where are we going?”
“I think this is better than being out in the open. Plus, I can have my way with you.”
He whipped the door shut, darkening the small nook completely except for a slit of light beneath. There wasn’t much room inside so he was practically on top of me—not that I minded. My insides quivered at his proximity; yet, I felt the same strange shyness I always did the first few minutes of being around him.
“Uh, I hate to inform you, but this is creepy, not sexy,” I said softly, trying to diffuse the mounting tension. “Unless you’re going for a seven minutes in heaven effect.”
An alluring chuckle sounded beside me. “Maybe I am.”
All kinds of beguiling images drifted through my head, and his lips found mine in the dark. My heart began beating triple time in my chest.
His arms wrapped around my waist and he eliminated the modest gap between us. The scent of his cologne was utterly intoxicating—like trees after rain. We kissed for a long minute, and I savored the feeling of his arms around me. Heat filled my chest, spreading down into my stomach. I pressed myself against him and I felt him relax and give in to me just as completely.
Breaking away, I settled my head into the nape of his neck and listened to the strong echo of his heartbeat. I could barely see anything, but being with him was calming. "I'm guessing our time is running out," Henry said softly. His words broke the spell.
“It's so ridiculous that we have to sneak around," I muttered. "I feel like a criminal."
He rested his chin on top of my head and squeezed me tighter. “Me too. We could buy matching orange jumpsuits."
I laughed despite myself.
"I don’t want to take even the slightest risk of something bad happening to you," he said, his tone instantly serious. "Dad knows you’re connecting Thornhill to Warwick. Right now he sees you as overwrought and harmless, but if he knew his only son was in love with you, he’d see you as a major threat.”
“Throwing that word around again, I see.” I was glad he couldn’t see the furious blush racing across my face.
“As much as I have to until you bounce it back to me.”
I changed the subject. “It’s been almost two months, Henry. You really don’t think we could come out of the closet?”
He laughed softly into my hair. “If he and Thornhill did have anything to do with Warwick’s crimes, then no one is safe. Especially not if that person is sniffing close to what’s his.”
"I think you just like having a secret," I teased.
"If you're my secret, then yes, I do." He captured my lips again and held me in a lingering kiss.
“I wonder when....” Just as I finished the last word, the bell rang, jarring me out of my reverie. He dropped his arms from my waist and I wrenched open the door, sliding into the hall.
I heard him let out a heavy breath, but we were already rushing back to the main area. I silently cursed time for not slowing down when I wanted. I knew my teacher would have a tardy slip helpfully written out for me.
Classes spilled out around us, and Henry and I blended in, becoming two more anonymous faces in the crowd. We were back to being silent enemies.
“I have interesting news for you today, class,” Mr. Golem chimed in chemistry. Alex Perkins, my best friend Theo’s boyfriend, groaned in his seat beside me. His lanky frame shifted, barely fitting in the desk. “The news is only good if there’s a lot of blood. Or strippers.”
I rolled my eyes. "What newspapers are you reading?"
"They're called tabloids and they're very credible," Alex said smugly.
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Golem said to the class. “I know that together you guys have the collective attention span of a goldfish. I won’t waste too much of your time; that’s your job.”
He held up this morning’s local paper. On the front page was a huge, grotesque picture of a dead blackbird with its ebony wings spread out stiffly. BIRD DEATHS SOLVED, screamed the headline.
Golem gave the paper to a student in the front row to pass back. “As a refresher, hundreds of crows and blackbirds died during a cold snap several months ago. The CDC retrieved the bodies for testing, and now the results of those tests have been reported.”
The birds had multiplied like crazy last summer, and then one morning in October, their lifeless corpses littered the ground. I’d thought about them often. Sometimes the dark birds flew soundlessly through my dreams, dropping feathers that floated in the still air.
“Anybody want to take an educated guess at what the scientists found?” Golem scanned the room for raised hands.
“Zombie DNA?” Alex proposed. The class snickered, none louder than Alex himself. “Radioactive blood?” cracked another boy.
“Nothing that movie-worthy,” Golem said. He scrawled quickly across the board with squeaky chalk. “They found crush injuries. The theory is that a strong antagonist, possibly the changing winds or the intense cold front, either hit the birds with debris or caused them to hit each other because their natural sense of direction was off.
“They’ve settled on the temperature change as a suitable answer, despite the fact that not all the evidence points to it. The front was severe, of course—from the low seventies to below freezing. But when you put the pieces together, it's still an incomplete picture.”
“Okay, kind of interesting,” Alex relented. “Is class over yet?”
“Patience, dude. Don’t be a hater,” Golem said in a tragic attempt to be cool ten years too late. “The tests were thorough—air, water, soil. No abnormalities were found. But I’m still not buying it. I think there’s more to the story. I want you guys to think of this as extra credit. Let’s drum up some theories on what killed the birds. Break up the monotony. Since this is chemistry, we’ll start by looking at the chemicals involved.”
“Isn’t the cold snap a good scientific reason?” asked a melodious, unfamiliar voice from the back row.
I turned, interest piqued, along with the rest of the class. It was rare to have new students at Hawthorne, especially in the middle of the school year. Theo and Henry had been the last that I could recall.
“Sure,” Golem said, addressing her. “But there’s a lot you missed. For those of who haven’t met her yet, this is your new classmate, Harlow Briggs.”
A round of murmurs cycled through the room. Harlow's stunning face was calm, not even acknowledging that she was now the center of attention. Her smooth, dark brown skin was complimented by a beautiful leather jacket on top of a royal blue shirt. Her black hair was styled effortlessly around her face. An expensive pair of slouchy leather boots stuck out from beneath her desk.
Golem continued speaking. “Only blackbirds died—none of the robins or sparrows. Why did they multiply so quickly in the first place? What caused all of the them to die at the same time?”
“It just seems like a waste of time,” Harlow said evenly. “But I didn’t witness it. I’m glad; I wouldn’t have wanted to scrape bird guts off of my Mercedes.”
Golem smiled tightly. “What I’m striving to teach here is the ability to think critically and not just accept an answer that is handed to you, if it’s not satisfactory.”
Harlow shrugged, seeming satisfied or bored. The birds were forgotten by the rest of the class as they continued to peek at her, a diamond among the rest of us plain old rocks.
If you want to read more, head on over to download! Hope you guys enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it, Luminosity is definitely my favorite in the theory so far.