Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat

A message popped up at the bottom of the screen. Quickly, I got up to read over Rob’s shoulder.

You’re in for it Monday, freak. I hope you’re ready.

Rob made a strangled sound and looked up at me, ghost-white. “See? You see, Mira? I’m never going to be safe anywhere!”

“Easy.” I touched his shoulder and hoped he wouldn’t notice my hand was shaking. “Someone’s just being a dickhead, that’s all. It’s okay. They’re just trying to scare you.”

“No. You’re wrong.” He stared at the screen again. He was trembling and breathing the way he had in the office when he found out the police were arresting Craig and Seth. “This isn’t the first one. That’s why I wanted to check.”

“What do you mean? The first what?” I read the message again. I didn’t recognize the name on it. “Who is that?”

He shrugged. “The profile is blank. I get notifications on my phone when someone messages me on here. No one ever does, but this morning, someone did. The same person as this. I deleted that one. It said something about I’d better hire a bodyguard.”

He shoved the wheeled chair away from the desk and spun to face me. “They’re out to get me. All of them. If I go to school Monday…. Hell, I probably won’t even make it to school. They’ll ambush me on the way or something. You’d better not meet me, because they’ll attack you too.”

“I’m not going to let you deal with them alone. If someone really is planning something, I’ll be with you.” My heart pounded. Despite Ms. Cramer’s warnings, I hadn’t actually believed there would be any fallout from the arrests. But it sounded as if someone planned to seriously hurt Rob. “We have to tell someone about this, Rob.”

“Who?” He narrowed his eyes. “No one’s going to care. We don’t even know who sent the message. If we tell anyone about it, they’ll say it’s someone playing a joke or something.”

“Dad wouldn’t.” I didn’t know what Dad would be able to do, but he could at least help us figure out how to handle it.

“Don’t tell your father.” He sighed. “Don’t tell anyone. There’s no point. It’s just another case of me whining, right?”

“No!” I knelt in front of him so I could look him in the eyes. “This is real. You aren’t whining. You have every reason to be worried, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“You’re the only one.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to die on Monday. That’s it.”

“Stop saying that!” I sat back on my heels and looked at my laptop again. There had to be some way to help Rob. Something I could do to make people leave him alone, or something I could say to convince the school and his parents to protect him. He didn’t deserve to be this afraid all the time. I hated the people who knew about it and didn’t do a damn thing to help him.

“It is what it is.” Without looking, he reached behind him and closed the laptop. “I don’t want to think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter. None of this is going to matter.”

“It does matter. You should be able to feel safe.” His deadened tone and blank expression scared me again. Not to mention his talk about dying. He might not mean someone else would kill him. Maybe he was planning to take care of it himself.

I had to talk to Dad, even if Rob didn’t want me to. If Rob was serious about wanting to die, I needed someone to help me help him. And I couldn’t protect him by myself either.

“Don’t worry about it.” He stood. “And don’t tell your dad or anyone else. Promise. Otherwise I won’t be able to trust you, and then I won’t have anyone. I need to trust you, Mira.”

“I….” I couldn’t say much to that. He was right. I was his best friend. If I went behind his back, even if I only talked to Dad, I wouldn’t be any better than Talia. “Okay. I promise not to say anything if you promise you won’t hurt yourself.”

“I promise I won’t if I can avoid it.”

That wasn’t good enough. He might decide he couldn’t avoid it. But before I could argue with him, he opened the door. “I think I’m ready to go home now. Thanks for letting me come over.”

“I thought your stepmother was picking you up.” I couldn’t let him leave yet. I had to calm him down first.

He shrugged again. “I’ll call her on the way home. Talk to you soon.”

And then he walked away.

Teaser Thursday- Dolphins in the Mud

We started toward the point. I kept my eyes on the ground, watching out for anything I might trip over and for anything Cece might like. Even if taking her on walks and stuff wasn’t my job, I decided I should do it once in a while anyway. She loved going outside, and it would give both of us a break from the routine.

Except that she needed the routine so she didn’t flip out, so maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.

“What did you fight about?” Noah asked again.

“You don’t give up, do you?” I snapped. “It was about my sister, if you must know.”

“You’re good with her.” He didn’t seem to mind my being angry, if he’d even noticed.

“Yeah, well, my dad doesn’t seem to think so.” I shut up. Noah didn’t need to hear the whole story, and I didn’t want to tell him anyway.

“Did he say that?”

“Get a clue, would you?” I said. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about anything to do with my family. I came out here to get away from my dad and Cece, and now you’re walking with me asking all these stupid questions. Why can’t you just stop talking for a while?”

“Sorry,” he said quietly. “Sometimes talking helps, that’s all. I’ll leave you alone.”

I didn’t know whether he meant he’d drop the subject or whether he intended to leave me alone. Even though he’d gotten on my nerves, I didn’t want him to go away. Having someone with me, someone I liked, calmed me down a little.

“Stick around,” I said. “I didn’t mean to yell at you. It’s just been a crappy morning.”

“I understand.”

We kept walking, and neither of us said anything. His hand brushed against mine. It happened a couple more times before I realized he was trying to hold hands. I’d never held hands with the guys I’d gone out with, because we were always worried about someone else seeing us. Here, on a beach near a point where half the homes were seasonal and the people who lived there year-round were probably getting ready for work or school, it didn’t seem likely that anyone would notice Noah and me.

I took his hand.

He grinned. “I like this. It’s nice being with you.”

“Yeah, same here.” I just hoped he wouldn’t get all sappy about it.

“How many boyfriends have you had before?”

Just when I thought the guy was going to act normal, he had to start a new line of interrogation. It made me not want to talk to him at all. “Don’t ask me things like that,” I said. “Does it matter?”

“I guess not. I was just curious.” He paused. “You get ticked when I ask you things.”

“Yeah, and when I ask you things, half the time you don’t answer,” I countered. “If you want to find out more about me, you should try talking more about yourself. I know we only met a week ago, but by now I should know more about you than I do.”

“What do you want to know? Ask anything.”

Of course, as soon as he said that I couldn’t think of a single question. We walked for a few more minutes before I came up with something. “Why do you and your parents move around so much?”

“I told you, it’s for my dad’s work. He has meetings and stuff in all these places.” It sounded like an answer he’d rehearsed, and it wasn’t what he’d told me before. At least, I didn’t remember that explanation. He’d just told me that they owned a lot of houses.

“What does he do for work?”

“Computers. I told you that too.” He stopped and let go of my hand. “Did you think I’d lied to you or something?”

“No, I just didn’t remember that you’d told me those things,” I replied. I still didn’t remember him telling me.

“Why should I tell you anything now if you’re going to forget?” He grinned. “Yeah, I know, my life isn’t interesting enough to remember. Ask me something else if you want to.”

This time, I decided to go with a question he probably wouldn’t answer. I wanted to see if he’d say anything at all or just brush me off. “Why does your dad seem so against the idea of you having a friend here?”

He sat down on the sand. “That’s going to take a while to answer. Have a seat.”

If the sand was anywhere near as cold as it had felt through my socks, I didn’t want to sit on it. But the possibility of getting some actual information out of Noah motivated me to plop down beside him. The sand was just as cold as I’d figured it would be.

“Thanks,” he said. “I was kind of tired of walking anyway.”

“So tell me what your dad’s problem is,” I said. “Is it just me, or does he act this way any time you have a friend?”

“I haven’t ever had friends,” he replied. “Not because of Dad. Mostly just because of the moving. I mean, we’re going to the same places every time; we’re just not usually there long enough to meet people. Mom and Dad have some friends, but they don’t have kids my age.”

That didn’t really answer my question, which didn’t surprise me. Noah had avoided my other questions about his father too. Which made me wonder even more what was going on there.

Teaser Thursday- Where No One Knows

“You okay?”

I hadn’t even heard the waitress walk over to me. Or sensed her. If I was going to take care of myself, I had to pay more attention. I forced a smile and turned away from the window. “Yeah. Just really hungry. And thinking too much.”

“It happens.” She set down a huge glass of cola and a wrapped straw. “I figured you’d probably want this while you’re waiting for your food. So you’re stopping off the bus. Where are you heading to?”

“East.” The word popped out without me even thinking about it, and right away I knew it was the right answer. I’d already come east from home to this place. West would either take me home or to California. I couldn’t go to the first and had no interest in the second.

“You have family back east?” she asked.

“Hey, Sadie, more coffee,” one of the guys at the counter called.

I bristled a little. He could have at least been polite to her.

Sadie didn’t seem to mind. “Be right there, Jimmy. Hold your grapefruit.”

The guy laughed, and so did most of the other people at the counter. Sadie shrugged at me. “Sorry. Have to go to work. God forbid these guys don’t get their caffeine. I’ll be back in a few with your food.”

“No problem.” I was glad she’d been distracted. It saved me from figuring out how to avoid answering her question.

My stomach growled so loudly everyone else must have heard it. The little packets of jam on the table looked pretty darn good, and I picked one up. It would have been better than no food at all.

Before I could open it, Sadie set a plate in front of me and smiled, then walked away. The burger smelled way better than jam, and I had to force myself not to wolf the whole thing down.

I took my time eating, partly because I didn’t want to make myself sick by chowing down too fast and partly because the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d have to go back to the motel. My stuff was there. I’d barely been able to get it out of my mother’s house, and I wasn’t about to lose it now because of some creep with grabby hands. Before I went back, though, I had to make sure I was calm enough not to burn the place to the ground.

Sadie started toward my table a couple of times. Each time, someone at the counter or one of the other booths called to her to bring them something before she had a chance to say anything to me. The constant interruptions would have been funny if I hadn’t wondered whether I made them happen somehow. I’d done it before. Wanted someone to do something, or not to do something, so bad I could almost taste it, and then it occurred. I hoped I hadn’t really made them do anything. I didn’t want to have power over anyone. Too many people with power abused it.

I finally finished eating. When I stood up, Sadie came over. “I’ll take care of the plates and stuff, hon. You should get out of here. Your food’s covered.”

“I have money.”

“You need to go.”

I looked into her eyes to argue again, and an invisible force shoved me into her head. Suddenly I saw what she saw. Someone was hunting for me. More than one person. They weren’t close yet, but the longer I stayed in town, the more likely they’d find me. And the longer I stayed in the diner, the more likely someone would remember me and be able to tell my pursuers where I was.

My heart pounded. The people’s faces weren’t visible in the image I picked up from Sadie. I had a pretty good idea, though. Gene and his buddies must have decided on the eye-for-an-eye option after all.

They wouldn’t give up until they found me. Which meant I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. The farther I went from home, the less chance they’d succeed, but I would never be completely safe.

Teaser Thursday- Redemption

From an unpublished novel.

“Been arrested before, have you?”

“No, but I know a load of crap when I see it.” I sat down in one of the chairs. “So why’d you really bring me here, Detective?”

“You’re under arrest for arson.”

“Really? That’s it? What about Tracy Hinson?”

“You have a serious attitude problem, Mister Letellier. This is no joke. The investigators have proven that the fire at your video store Saturday night was arson and you’re the prime suspect. Actually, you’re the only suspect.”

“That’s because the one who actually set the fire is dead. And I’m planning on being at her funeral at eleven o’clock, so whatever’s going on, make it quick.”

“Get this through your head. You will not be going to Kara’s funeral. You will not be leaving here except in the back of a cruiser when we transport you to jail. You are under arrest.”

The door opened. “No, I don’t think he is.” Thomas came in. “I’m sure the police chief would be interested in knowing who you’re really working for, Detective.”

“He’d never believe it.”

“Oh, really?” Thomas smiled. “I know him personally, Detective. He and I worked together against your, shall we say, employer years ago. I gave him a little heads-up on what kind of people are on his force. He seemed to feel he should follow up on it.”

Morrow turned on him. “You’re nothing. You couldn’t even protect your own son.”

“I’m not his son,” I said. “And he did what he could.” I looked at Thomas. “I know.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. Where’s Zeke?”

“At the front desk trying to pay your bail. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any paperwork on you. At all. Care to try to explain that, Detective?”

“I don’t have to explain anything.” Morrow focused on me. “You’ve been a problem far too long, Dominic.”

Just in time, I blocked my mind. I felt Clyde adding to it. “I’m still a problem, Detective. I will be until that thing’s gone for good. There’s nothing you can do that will keep me from fighting it. And maybe I can’t destroy it but I’ll come as close as I can.” I looked at her. “Want to take a chance, Detective? You can’t get to me. Do you think I can get to you?”

I couldn’t, of course, not without opening my mind, but I was counting on her not knowing that. And she didn’t. She took a step backward. “I’m a police detective, Mister Letellier. You’re adding to the charges.”

“There are no charges.” Thomas didn’t often use his abilities but when he did, they were very effective. And mind control was one of them. “You never brought Dominic here, Detective Morrow. He did not commit any crimes and there is no record of his having been here. You will not interfere with him again.”

Morrow’s face went blank. After a moment, she turned and left the room. “Thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” Thomas replied. “Almost twenty years too late, but I can help you now.”

“You did what you could back then. It was out of your control. Come on, we’d better find Zeke.”

Zeke was at the front desk, arguing with an officer. “I don’t care if you have a record of it, he’s here.” He turned at the sound of Thomas’s and my footsteps. “Right there.”

“We’re all set,” I said. “Strange how Detective Morrow forgot why she brought me here.” Zeke looked questioningly at me and I shook my head. “I’m not the only one who can do that.”

He glanced at Thomas and nodded. “Good. Let’s go. There’s just enough time for you to change for Kara’s funeral.”

I looked down at myself. “Change? Why? I’m wearing black.”

“I hope you’re joking.”

Thomas and I followed Zeke out to his car. “Need a ride home, Thomas?” I asked.

“Thanks, I can walk.” He looked at me for a moment. “How do you feel now that you know the truth?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I should have been able to destroy the force of darkness. I would have ceased to exist afterward but it would have been worth it. Instead I was-” I stopped. Even now I couldn’t say aloud what had been done to me when I was younger. “I was separated. I became human. The force of light- I don’t know. What happened to it?”

For a while, it was like me, Clyde replied. Zeke’s met it, actually. It’s incarnate again now.

Thomas looked amused. “You’re talking to a force of light now. Not the one who was you, I take it.”

“No.” I held out my hand. After a moment, Thomas took it and we shook. “You did the best you could,” I said. “You weren’t able to protect me. That wasn’t your choice. I accept what happened.”

He hesitated. “Thank you, Dominic. That means a lot. I know what you have to do. Zeke told me a little; the rest I already knew. Good luck. And if there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“I will. Thanks.” I turned to Zeke. “Okay. Kara’s funeral first. Then I have the feeling I’ll need a ride to the Black Bridge.”

Teaser Thursday- Intercession

It took a few minutes for the line to clear out. Then Dominic came over to us. Before he could say anything, Laura said, “Dominic, I was wrong yesterday. I’m sorry. You’re one of my best friends and even if I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m still here for you.”

Dominic just looked at her for a minute, then hugged her. “That means more than you know, kid. Thank you.”

“We want to help you,” Laura said.

Dominic glanced at me. “Really?”

I shrugged. “If you want help. What’s going on with your employee over there?”

“She didn’t even notice how angry you were,” Laura added. “It’s like she’s used to it.”

“She probably is.” Dominic sighed. “She’s lasted longer than any of my other employees. I don’t exactly like being a jackass but I can’t help snapping sometimes.”

“Stress.” Laura touched his arm. “Dominic, you’re trying to do too much. Do you even know how you’re making yourself feel?”

“No, but I know how you’re trying to make me feel. Thanks for the thought, kid, but don’t waste your time. Even if my emotions go away, the problems causing them won’t.”

“That doesn’t make it a waste of time.”

“You still like to argue, don’t you.”

Laura grinned. “With you, always.”

“Yeah, well, like I said, don’t waste your time. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need help from either of you. I’m getting everything under control. I can handle it.”

“No, Dom, you can’t,” I said.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Zeke. Look. I have a store to run. Laura, thank you for apologizing, not that I think you really owed me one. I hated thinking that our friendship was over; you’re really important to me. But I don’t need help. If I do, I’ll let you know.”

“Dominic-” Laura began.

Let it go, Clyde advised. You can’t force him to accept help he doesn’t believe he needs. That will only make him more resistant to accepting it when the need becomes apparent.

Laura took a deep breath. “Just remember we’re here for you, Dom. No matter what.”

“Thanks, kid.” He glanced toward the counter, where the high school kid was having trouble scanning a movie. “I’d better get over there. She’s a good worker but not always so good at working, if you know what I mean.”

“Dominic, what did you do yesterday morning?” Laura asked.

He looked away. “I think you already know.”

Laura nodded. “I understand why you did it, I think. And we’re still your friends. Think about it, Dominic. Think about getting help from people who actually care about you instead of an evil being who couldn’t care less as long as it gets what it wants.”

“I’ll keep it in mind, Laura.” He gave her another hug. “Come see me again, okay?”

“I will.”

“Dominic, take care of yourself,” I said. “And like Laura said, let us know if you need us.”

“Yeah. See you later.” He went back to the counter but watched us as we left the store.

 

Teaser Thursday- Retribution

From an unpublished novel.

It was less than an hour from the donut place to the United States border. I was afraid we might have problems at Customs, but the agent just asked which country we were citizens of, where we’d been, and where we were going. Then he waved us on our way. Dominic let out a breath as he drove away from the Customs booth. “I can’t believe it was that easy.”

“No one wants to stop us from getting to the city,” Adam replied. “It’s us reaching Boston that they’re going to try to prevent.”

“Who’s they, Adam?” Phil asked.

“Anyone the forces of darkness can control. Which might include-” He stopped himself.

“Might include us?” I finished.

Adam nodded reluctantly. “You and Dominic, anyway. I think Clyde keeps them from being able to get to Phil.”

“Then why can’t Clyde keep them from getting to Laura and Dom?” Phil wanted to know.

I’m more directly connected to you than to them, Clyde replied. When Grace and I were separated you were meant to become my human form. My host, you could say. Because of Stacy, it didn’t work that way, but the connection is still there.

            “Because of Stacy?” Adam asked. “What did she have to do with anything?”

“You can hear Clyde now too?” I said.

He knows he’s a force of light now, Clyde pointed out. Therefore, I can communicate with him. That isn’t a question I’m going to answer, though, Adam.

            “Whatever,” Adam muttered. “I really wish I could have waited to fulfill my destiny until after I learned some of the stuff everyone keeps telling me I’m too young to know.”

In human form, you’re limited by human constraints, Clyde said.

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better how?”

There isn’t anything that will make you feel better except one of us answering your question. Which isn’t going to happen.

            Adam leaned back and folded his arms. “Are all forces of light like him?”

“No, Clyde’s one of a kind,” Phil replied.

“Thank goodness.”

Now that we’ve settled that, could we focus on what Adam said that started all this? He’s right. There will be problems when you get to the city. Dominic and Laura, both of you may do or say things that you’ll regret afterward. Don’t regret them; it won’t truly be you doing them.

            “That’s not encouraging, Clyde,” Dominic said. “Isn’t there some way you can help us?”

No. I can’t interfere in any way. If there was a way to break my connection with Zeke, I’d have to do it. This is Adam’s fight. He can only have help from you three to get to the portal. That’s it. I’m not even really supposed to be here.

            “Then we’ll have to try to resist it ourselves,” I said. “Won’t that be easier since we know it’s coming?”

“Not necessarily,” Adam said. Clyde echoed him.

“Laura, remember when I taught you to block your mind?” Dominic asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good. Use it.”

We stopped for lunch a few hours later in Augusta. We only had about an hour to go before we reached the city and none of us felt much like talking while we ate. It was bad enough knowing that Dominic and I might be forced to act against Adam. What made it worse was that Adam didn’t seem at all bothered by it. And he could have prevented it if he just hadn’t told Dom we had time to stop in the city.

Adam tried to catch my eye during lunch but I wouldn’t look at him. When we were finished eating and headed back out to the car, he grabbed my arm. “Let go,” I ordered.

“Not until you listen to me. Laura, don’t be mad. Please. I know you think I should have made sure we didn’t go to the city but it’s what has to happen. I don’t know why, I wish I did, I just know it’s supposed to.” He let go of me. “Please, Laura.”

Teaser Thursday- Uncertainty

From an unpublished novel.

As usual, the old city was packed. Also as usual, no one was around the portal. Well, almost no one. A tall girl and a little boy, both with brown hair, stared into the alley. I went up behind them. “Laura, have you lost your mind?”

She jumped and turned around. “I had a feeling you’d show up here.”

The boy didn’t seem at all startled. Clyde had told me once that as strong as Laura’s abilities were, he believed Adam’s were stronger. Adam must have sensed me there before I spoke. “You’d better leave us alone, Dominic,” he said without turning.

“I’m not any threat to you,” I replied.

“I didn’t think you were.”

“Adam, stop,” Laura said. “Dominic, I know what happened to you yesterday. I dreamed it.”

“Now you’re dreaming about things that have already happened?”

“I fell asleep watching TV. I think I dreamed it while it was happening. I saw what happened to Miranda, too.”

Adam looked at Laura impatiently. “What are you talking about? Dominic did something to your friend Miranda?”

“No, Adam.” Laura came closer to me. “Dominic, I’m glad it didn’t take you. I know you didn’t want it to take Miranda.”

“Why wouldn’t he if he’s working for it?” Adam demanded.

“I’m not working for the one in Boston,” I said. “The one here isn’t the same one.”

“So you admit you’re working for this one.”

I managed not to laugh; Adam sounded like a cross-examining lawyer, which made a strange contrast with his age. “I don’t have to admit it, Adam. It’s no secret.” I paused as something came to me. “Laura already told you anyway. Look. What are you two doing down here? Laura, you told me you were going to stay away from the portal.”

“I also told you I had a feeling you’d be here today. I was looking for you, Dominic. I wanted to see for myself that you’re all right.”

I was but I wouldn’t be for long. Although I hadn’t sensed the dark presence when I arrived, I could now feel it coming closer. “You need to get out of here, Laura. Both of you. Now.”

“Why should we listen to you?” Adam wanted to know.

Laura looked into the alley again, head tilted as though she was listening to something. “He’s right, Adam. Come on.” She smiled at me. “Dominic, if you were truly dark you wouldn’t have warned us. Remember that.”

I wasn’t in the mood for that either. “Just go, Laura. And stay out of this part of town if you have half a brain.”

“I have more than that, Dominic. And I know you better than you want me to. Let’s go, Adam.”

They headed up the street. Just as they rounded a corner, I heard it. You were told to keep her away.

            I just got here, I pointed out. I got rid of her as soon as I could.

            She should have been told not to come near.

            That’s kind of hard to do when I’m trying not to speak to her. Anyway, I’m not here for you to rant at.

            Use caution in how you speak to me, Dominic.

            Yeah, I was really worried. The worst the thing could do to me was take me and at this point, that wasn’t such a big threat. Whatever. Look, about your buddy down in Boston.

            I do not know what you are talking about.

            Really? I thought all you dark forces chatted regularly about how many people’s power you’ve drained lately. Here’s a hint. I was almost a victim.

            That is not possible.

            Sorry, but it is. I was almost taken by another force of darkness. Maybe that doesn’t matter a lot to you but I’ve kind of gotten used to existing.

            It will be dealt with.

            The tone of its thought clearly indicated that as far as it was concerned, that part of the conversation was over. I figured I was better off not pushing it. Thanks. Have a good day.

Teaser Thursday- Regression

From an unpublished novel.

Laura looked at me, pain obvious in her blue eyes. “He doesn’t want us here.”

“He wants you here. He just doesn’t want to hear that he has a problem.” I put my arm around her. “Do you want to go in, or should we just leave?”

“He wants us to leave. Which means we shouldn’t. Phil, when you saw him the other day, did you sense anything?”

“No. I wasn’t here long enough. And Clyde said Dom’s mind was blocked. Why? Did you sense something?”

She nodded. “Remember what I said the other night? About darkness not always coming from outside? There’s always been some darkness in Dom, I think it’s because of what he went through when he was a kid. But this is more than what was there before. A lot more. And I don’t think he realizes it.”

The door at the top of the steps opened. “Are you guys coming in or not?” Dominic asked.

“You don’t seem to be in the mood for company,” Laura replied.

“Empathy again?”

“No, the way you’re acting.” She pulled away from me and went up the steps. “Dom, if you want us to leave, just say so.”

He looked surprised. “I don’t want you to leave. I haven’t seen you since September. I told Zeke to bring you over.”

“That’s what he said. But like I said, you’re acting like you don’t want us here.”

“I’m sorry. I do want you here, Laura. I just- I’m getting a little tired of people telling me there’s something wrong with me. You’re different. You wouldn’t be saying it without a reason. I’m sorry for what I said.”

“If more than one person has said there’s something wrong, Dom, they might be right. But if you don’t want to talk about it, okay. I’ll drop it.”

“Thanks.” Dominic looked at me. “Sorry, Zeke. Come on in, both of you.”

We followed him inside. In his apartment, Dominic went to the fridge but hesitated before opening it. “Go ahead,” Laura told him. “It’s your place.”

Dominic shook his head. “Never mind. Unless one of you wants some soda or something.”

“No thanks,” Laura said. I shook my head.

Dom took his wallet out of his pocket. “Hey, Laura, did Zeke show you what he got yesterday?”

“No.” Laura looked at me, puzzled. It only took her a second to figure it out, though. “Did you get another picture of your son?”

Dominic grinned. “Yeah. Poor kid looks like me, at least Morgan thinks so.” He opened his wallet and handed it to Laura. “What do you think?”

She looked at the picture and smiled. “I think he’s even cuter than in last year’s picture. And Morgan’s right, he does look a lot like you, Dom. Which isn’t a bad thing. Remember how Miranda and the others reacted to you? That wasn’t because of your personality, you know.”

Dominic took the wallet back. “Watch what you say. You’ll make Zeke jealous.”

“I’m not that insecure,” I said.

Laura sat on the bed. “Dominic, have you heard about anything in the old city lately?”

Dom stared at her. “Why?”

“Because last time I was here I was almost taken through the portal in the alley there. I know Adam and I didn’t destroy the force of darkness. I think I’m here now because it’s recovered. Phil says it took one of the kids in his after school group.”

Dominic turned to me. “You didn’t tell me about that.”

“I found out Friday. I haven’t really had a chance to tell you much since then.” I paused. “It was a ten-year-old boy. He went to the store Thursday night and never came home. He doesn’t live in the city, though, so if it got him at the old city portal, someone took him there.”

“I haven’t heard about anything in the old city,” Dominic said. “That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything. I know I live on the edge of the old city but I try not to go any farther into it. It’s too close to…”

He trailed off but Laura and I both knew what he was thinking. For years, Dom had relied on a man named Hal Leighton to help him out when things got hard. Hal had given Dominic a safe place to get away from his parents and had given him a job when he was old enough. Hal had also turned out to be Dominic’s birth father. But he served the force of darkness and when Dom fought against it, Hal turned his back on him. Hal owned a video store only a few blocks from Dominic’s apartment. Dom would want to stay as far from it as he could.

Teaser Thursday- Reunion

From an unpublished novel.

Mom started to argue but took a breath instead. “It’s your choice.” Then she spotted the envelope. “Oh, good. I was hoping that would come today.” She looked at me. “Laura, you weren’t planning to open that, were you?”

I was really good at looking guilty. Not so good at lying. “I thought about it. Why are you getting a letter from there?”

Mom opened the letter and handed it to me. “Since you seem to think you have to know. Just don’t say anything to Adam.”

She sounded angry but I sensed she wasn’t. It had been hard for her not to tell my brother and me about this. I read the letter out loud. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker, I’m so pleased that you’ve chosen to rent my cottage for a month. I will meet you there at noon on June twenty-second. To reach the cottage…” I trailed off, not seeing the point in reading the directions, and looked at Mom. “We’re going to be there for a month?”

“It won’t be that bad, Laura. We’ll be right on the lake, so you’ll be able to go swimming, and there are other kids your age around-”

“Mom. I didn’t mean it was a bad thing.” It was a wonderful thing as far as I was concerned. My grandparents lived near where the cottage was. Better yet, Dominic and Phil would be nearby. “Mom, do you think I’d be able to visit Dominic while we’re up there?”

“That’s the one who stayed here overnight back around Christmas?” she asked. I nodded. “I don’t see why not. Do you know where he lives?”

“Not exactly. Somewhere in the city near Grandma and Grandpa.” I wasn’t worried about finding Dominic. When I’d first gotten to know him I’d discovered that if I concentrated on wanting to see him, he’d find me. I hoped it would still work. Dominic had become the closest I had to an older brother and I hadn’t seen him since Christmas. Plus I wanted to see Phil and I wasn’t sure I’d dare to go to his house without Dominic.

“Well, we’ll try to arrange it.” Mom took the letter and put it back in the envelope. “Didn’t you have other friends up there last summer? Grandma said you’d met a few people. We’ll try to make sure you get to see all of them.”

I hadn’t really made any other friends there but I didn’t think I should tell Mom that my only friends were two guys who were more than three years older than me. “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“Did you have…” Mom shook her head. “Of course you didn’t have homework.”

“Actually, I did. History. Wait, don’t tell me. Better get started so I’ll have it out of the way.”

Mom pretended to glare. “You know, just because you’re psychic doesn’t mean you know everything.”

“No kidding. If I knew everything I wouldn’t have to do the research for this history paper.” I went into my living room and got my backpack, then went to my room.

Teaser Thursday- Betrayal

From an unpublished novel.

The holiday season. Ho ho yeah right.

December definitely wasn’t the best time of year to sleep in an abandoned camper at a campground that was officially closed for the season. I was there only because I had nowhere else to go. And because Suzanne, the owner of the campground, was friends with my mother when I was a child and felt guilty about some of the things she’d seen back then.

It was still dark outside but it was too cold to go back to sleep. By now Suzanne and her husband would be up and I’d be able to warm up in their house, for a few minutes at least. I had a space heater in the camper but Suzanne had warned me not to leave it on overnight. If the camper burned I’d have nowhere left to go.

I slid out of my sleeping bag and unwrapped myself from the blankets I was in. Definitely too cold to stay out here. I turned the heater on so it could warm up while I was at Suzanne and Victor’s and left.

Suzanne was waiting at the door. “I was just about to go get you, Dominic. You have a phone call.”

“I do?” No one knew I was staying here. No one other than Thomas, the man I’d believed was my father until a year and a half earlier. Thomas hated phones; he wouldn’t be calling me. Could he have been stupid enough to tell anyone else where I was? I’d made it clear that I didn’t want anyone to know but Thomas’s memory wasn’t that great. Probably the drugs.

With an impatient look Victor sat at the table, holding the phone out to me. “We’d appreciate it if you didn’t give out our phone number,” he snapped.

“I didn’t give it to anyone.” I took the phone. “Hello. This is Dominic.”

“Dominic, hi. It’s Morgan.”

That was a voice I hadn’t heard in a few months. One I’d hoped not to hear again. “How’d you find out where I was?”

“From Hal.” My biological father. “He said Thomas told him.”

That figured. Hal had been friends with Thomas for years. If anyone could get information from Thomas he could. “Wonderful. So should I expect Hal to show up to get me and feed me to the force of darkness?”

“Hal isn’t looking for you, not really. He got this number for me because he knew I was worried about you. No one’s seen you in months. We’ve all been worried. Even Zeke.”

“You’ve talked to Zeke?” In a way that was good. It meant Zeke had survived fighting the force of darkness and had returned from its world.

“Yeah. He checks in with me once in a while to see if I’ve heard from you. He was afraid something might have happened to you because of what you did last summer.”

“Gee, why would he think that? Just because I was supposed to be working for the force of darkness and I helped him get to the portal to fight against it?”

“He won.” Morgan paused. “At least I think he did. There wasn’t any sense of darkness at the Black Bridge or the alley for a long time.”

“But now?”

“Now there is,” she admitted. “Just the last week or so. I’ve been trying to stay away from those places but it’s looking for its people again. It’s recovering its strength and wants to get back at Zeke. And you.”

“No surprise there. So when are you going to tell it where I am?”

“I don’t really know where you are, Dom. Hal only gave me the phone number. I don’t know if he knows any more than that. And I wouldn’t tell it anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to work for it anymore. I hate watching it take people. I hate knowing I’ve caused it to take people. That’s why I called. I need your help, Dominic. You’re the only one I know of who can help me get free of it.”

I went into the living room so Suzanne and Victor wouldn’t overhear any more of the conversation, though I thought they might already have heard too much. “Morgan, why should I believe you? I know what kind of people work for the force of darkness. I’m one of them. I don’t trust myself all that much and I sure don’t trust you.”

“Dominic, please. It’s calling to me and I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“How do you think I can help you? I betrayed that thing, remember? At least that’s what you said at the time. If it found me it would probably destroy me.” The thought crossed my mind that maybe that was what Morgan wanted but I couldn’t believe she’d be that evil. She and I had known each other since childhood; for a while a few years earlier our relationship had been much more than friendship. She couldn’t want to see me destroyed.