Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat (again)

It’s only been two weeks since I posted an excerpt from this novel, which will release on February 7, 2017. I’m sharing again because now I have cover art. And also because Midnight Chat is now available for pre-order from Harmony Ink Press!

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All day Sunday, my phone stayed silent other than a text from Talia to remind me I’d taken her Sunday afternoon shift. I’d completely forgotten she had some family reunion thing. Working wasn’t my ideal thing to do, but maybe it would take my mind off Rob.

Keeping my mind on the job turned out to be harder than I’d expected. Rob had never gone this long without talking to or texting me. Not in the whole time I’d known him. I checked my phone every chance I got to see whether Rob had answered my texts, and each time I didn’t see a reply from him, I got more worried. But I got through the five hours of work and then went home and failed to finish my homework.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, I went to bed early. Lying down staring at my ceiling was better than pretending to Dad and Olin that I wasn’t worried about anything.

I shouldn’t have promised Rob I wouldn’t talk to Dad. I needed help figuring out what to do about the messages Rob had gotten and how to find out whether he was okay. If he’d hurt himself, his parents might not let me know. They would probably blame me.

Just before midnight, my phone buzzed. I yanked it out from under my pillow so fast I almost dropped it and had to fumble to see the message.

It was Rob, but he didn’t use his usual greeting. Stay home tomorrow.

What? Why? He had no reason to tell me to skip school. No one had threatened me. Rob was the one they’d sent the messages to, and I refused to abandon him. He would need backup, especially on the way to school in the morning, and I would be there.

I don’t want you to see.

I blinked at the text. It didn’t make any sense. What didn’t he want me to see? Maybe he was afraid someone would seriously hurt him and was trying to protect me from seeing it, but if anyone attacked him, surely he would rather have a witness. See what?

A few minutes passed. I kept staring at the phone. With each second, my heart beat faster, and I caught myself holding my breath a couple of times.

Finally Rob replied. I’m going to take them all out. They’ll never hurt me again. You’re my only friend, so you get to live.

The words took a few seconds to register—take them all out.

I got to live.

He was going to kill someone. Maybe more than one person.

I had to be reading it wrong. Rob would never hurt anyone. He was scared and angry, and plenty of people had hurt him, but he couldn’t actually want to kill people.

He was venting. Spouting off the way he always did. He just meant he wished he could stop the bullying, not that he would actually do anything.

But if he was only venting, he wouldn’t have told me to stay home from school.

Whatever he was planning, I had to talk him out of it. I was the only one who could. He knew I cared about him. If I tried to stop him from ruining his life and other people’s, he would listen. He always listened to me.

The kid in Wyoming hadn’t listened to anyone, though. If someone had tried to stop him, they’d failed. Now he was a murderer, and people probably thought he wasn’t worth caring about.

I didn’t want anyone to think that about Rob. I had to convince him to calm down. What are you doing? They aren’t worth destroying your life.

I won’t have a life to destroy. We’re all going to die. That’s why I don’t want you there.

A chill ran through me, and for a second I forgot how to breathe. Die. People were going to die. Including Rob. If he was just blowing off steam, he needed to shut up. He was scaring the hell out of me.

He couldn’t mean it. He’d gotten freaked out by the messages online the day before, and now he was talking about wanting to make them stop. He wouldn’t actually do anything.

Even though I didn’t know how to handle this, I couldn’t tell anyone else. Dad would only call Rob’s parents or the police. They would think he meant it and would go through with locking him up. Maybe in a hospital, but they might put him in jail instead. Threatening to kill people was against the law.

I refused to let it happen. Every time Rob had been upset about bullying or his parents before, I’d been able to settle him down. I could this time, too.

Teaser Thursday- Doll-Baby

This is from an unpublished New Adult suspense novel.

After a little while, Kenzie tapped me on the shoulder. I knew it was her. Even with my back to her and my gaze on the metal counter beneath the pass-through, I could see her bright red sneakers which totally clashed with her bubblegum-pink uniform. But I still jumped about a mile.

It pissed me off. Fear always did.

I whirled around, and she took a step back. “Don’t do that!” I snapped.

“What crawled up your ass?” She held out a napkin. “The guy who was sitting up front left this on the table. No tip. Just this.”

“So why are you showing me?” I didn’t take the napkin. My chest was so tight I could barely get any air, and adrenaline blurred my vision. I didn’t care what the guy at the front table had left. If he was gone, that was all that mattered.

“When I gave him the check, he said he had something for you. I’m guessing this is it.” She folded her arms and studied me. “Damn, Elianna, you’re white as a ghost. And you’re shaking. Do you need to sit down?”

“No.” I leaned against the counter and tried to breathe. The guy was gone. If I focused on that, I’d be okay. I still didn’t remember exactly who he was, but he was almost definitely someone from my past. Someone I was better off forgetting.

I’d had lots of men like that in my life before foster care.

Kenzie rested her hand on my arm. The last thing I wanted right then was anyone touching me, but I knew she meant to be comforting, so I let her.

“He was kind of creepy,” she said. “I don’t blame you if you’re freaked out. He’s gone now. It’s okay.”

“Kenzie, you have other customers.” Bill leaned out the pass-through. “Elianna, is everyone in your section covered? They all have water? Coffee?”

“She needs a break,” Kenzie said before I managed to squeak out a sound. “I’ll take care of her section for a few minutes.”

Bill gave me an intense look. I couldn’t meet his gaze, so I focused on the counter again.

“Okay,” he said after a second or two. “Out back, Elianna. Kenzie, go do your thing.”

He ducked back into the kitchen. Kenzie held out the napkin. “I know you don’t want to see this, but he said to make sure you got what he left for you. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but it might be important. Who was he, anyway? He acted like he knew you.”

“Maybe he did.” I took the stupid piece of paper. I didn’t care what it said. I just wanted Kenzie to leave me alone so I could hide in the back room before I broke down. “I’ll talk to you later. Bill’s going to get pissed if we keep standing here.”

“Yeah.” She rolled her eyes and trotted off to check on the customers.

I didn’t read the creep’s message until I’d shut myself in the back room, safe and quiet. I sat on the folding metal chair, the only piece of furniture in there. Bill hadn’t set up the room for comfort, only to give employees a place to get off their feet for a few minutes.

My hands shook as I unfolded the napkin. The guy had recognized me. Whether I could put a name to him or not, he was someone I’d encountered before. I prayed I was wrong. That he was some weirdo who’d seen me on the street here in town and developed a crush on me or something. The town wasn’t so huge that I wouldn’t have seen him around if he lived here, but it was big enough I might not have actually met him before.

That had to be it. He had to be some creep around town. Not anyone from the past.

But the words on the napkin confirmed my deepest fear and told me exactly who I was dealing with.

Hello Doll-Baby.

I choked back a scream. The napkin slowly drifted toward the floor.

Teaser Thursday- Shoulder Pads and Flannel

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“It’s Wednesday,” Holly said, as if the fact surprised her.

“Wednesday generally does follow Tuesday,” Evan said. “And precedes Thursday. Which is a good day because it’s the second-to-last day of the week.”

Holly rolled her eyes at him. “They’re in court today, aren’t they?”

“Thanks.” Evan put his head down on the table and covered it with his arms. “I needed to be reminded.”

“Who’s in court?” I blinked and tried to think. No one had told me anything about any court, and I wasn’t sure whether Holly meant Evan’s parents or the two F’s.

“You know who,” she said. “It’s to decide whether Evan’s going to have to testify, I think. Like whether they’re going to plead guilty or not. If they do, he doesn’t have to testify.”

“If they don’t, I’ll be testifying too.” The possibility made my heart skip a couple of beats. I hadn’t heard anything from the prosecutor, so I doubted I’d be going to court. But I’d witnessed the fight. Hell, I was the one who’d pulled Frankel off Evan. So if it did come to a trial, they would almost definitely call me in.

“She doesn’t think anyone’s going to have to testify,” Evan said, his voice still muffled by his arms. “She said if she showed the pictures of me that day to a jury, the jerks will almost definitely be found guilty and have to go to juvie or wherever they go. If they just say they did it, she’s going to say they should be on probation and maybe do community service, because neither of them has a record. And they’ll still have to stay away from me.”

He looked up, and his eyes were wet. He glared at Holly. “Why did you have to bring that up? I told you I didn’t want to think about it today. At least not until I hear what happened.”

“I’m sorry.” She put her arm around him. “Evan, it’s going to be okay. Those guys will get what’s coming to them.”

“They should have more than probation,” Holly’s friend Julia said.

“I don’t care if it’s only probation,” Evan muttered. “It’ll still be on their records. They still won’t be able to come anywhere near me. And it’s better than nothing, which is all they’ve ever gotten before.”

“What are you guys doing this weekend?” I asked. I had more questions about the court thing and, more importantly, how Evan felt about the probabilities. Evan seemed more upset the more we talked about it, though, so changing the subject seemed like a good plan.