To celebrate the holiday season, I’ll be sharing the first few chapters of TIED, book 1 in the Fire Born Novels trilogy, over the next few days.
If you missed chapter two, it’s here: TIED
I’m falling. Spinning and twisting through darkness and heat. Smoke and fire. Stone and ash.
“Layla?” a soft unfamiliar voice asked. “Can you hear me?” A cool gentle squeeze of my hand followed. “You’re in the hospital. My name is Dr. Jessup. Can you open your eyes for me?” My lids fluttered. “Good. Try to squeeze my hand.” I gripped it. “That’s right, Layla. You have a concussion, but you’re okay.” He patted my hand and something cold touched my palm. “Hold this. It’s the button for the nurse. Push it if you need anything.” His footsteps faded, replaced by whispers from somewhere close by.
“I can’t believe you are even here. You need to leave.”
“I’ve been keeping my distance. I didn’t mean for her to see me, Lorelei.” The voice sounded excited but cautious.
“Keep quiet, or she will hear you. Her protection relies on your secrecy.” My mother’s cold, distant voice reached me.
“I can’t walk away from her again. It almost killed me the first time.” That voice—the one pleading—I’d have known it anywhere.
“Have you forgotten the dangers?” My mother spoke again.
“The risk? You will draw our enemies to our doorstep and risk her life. Be sensible. She can never know the truth.”
“I haven’t forgotten the danger, but . . .” “Good. Now, go. “
“Lorelei . . .” The pain in his voice crushed my heart. “. . . you can’t stop this anymore. I can protect her now.”
I pushed hard against the weight pinning me down, my eyelids flitting.
“Shh! She is coming around.”
“Lorelei . . . please.”
“You gave me your word.” My mother’s tone raged even through her whispers. “See her from afar and continue your duty, or do not do so at all. It is your choice.”
I sat up too quickly, searching for the voice, waves of nausea washing over me.
“Teine?” My mother sounded sweet, nurturing—unlike the person I’d overheard.
“Mom?” I squinted, attempting to bring my surroundings into focus, while ignoring the sickening dizziness running through my head.
“Take it easy. You need to rest.” A hand to my shoulder urged me to lie back.
“Who were you talking to?” My head pounded as I rested against crisp linens.
“Just a minute ago.” I glanced around the stark room. It was deserted except for the two of us.
“I wasn’t talking to anyone.” She eyed me with suspicion. “Should I call the nurse in?”
Panic leached into my brain, a medicinal odor tingling my nose. “What’s going on?”
“Everything is okay, Teine. Try to relax. You fell and hit your head. Do you remember? You have been in the hospital since yesterday.” She tucked the thin blanket in around me. “Devon is in the waiting room; he has been so worried. I should get him.” She turned, and I grabbed her arm.
“Wait. Can you sit down for a minute?”
“Of course.” She lifted her brow.
“Max was here,” I said, staring directly in her face. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t flinch.
“Mom.” My jaw tightened, gaze set on hers. “I heard his voice. Where is he?”
“I have no idea who you are talking about. You do not know anyone named Max, Teine.” She stared back at me. “I am going to call for the nurse. You are starting to scare me.” She reached for the call button as Devon entered the room.
“Devon, I was just coming to get you.” Mom smiled. “Teine, I mean Layla, is up and well enough for visitors. I will give you two some privacy.” She hurried from the room.
“Why does your mom always call you that?” Devon grinned, ambling forward.
“Teine? It’s kind of a nickname.” My mom had called me Teine all my life. It was sort of a nickname she never properly explained, and I got tired of asking about.
He sat down on the edge of my bed and slipped his hand against mine. “You scared us all.”
“Sorry. I’m not sure what happened.”
“You passed out and hit your head on the counter. The doc said you had a concussion, but it’s already healed. Said he’s never seen anyone heal so fast in the twenty years he’s been practicing medicine. The bad news is you’re suffering from exhaustion.”
I sighed, unsurprised. “Good news is … the doctor’s releasing you this evening. Sometime. Said you’ll need to take a few days off to rest, though.” He leaned down and kissed my forehead. “Glad you’re okay.”
“Thanks. Um . . . where’s my phone?”
“Why do you need your phone?” He cocked an eyebrow up. “Hello? To check my messages. Can you get it for me?”
“Benny’s asleep in the waiting room.” He rummaged around in the corner of the room and extended his arm to me. My phone sat in his palm. “You’re supposed to be resting.”
“It’s a phone, Devon.”
He handed it over and gave me a wink. “I’ll go wake her up. Don’t want her going ballistic on me.”
I checked my missed calls, text messages, emails. Nothing. Not sure what I was hoping to find, I chucked it back into the corner, and kicked the blankets loose, laying against the pillows. Of their own accord, my eyelids relaxed and closed, and I could just make out a faint spiciness in the air.
I wander along, peeking through gaps between the trees, searching, hoping. It’s been so long since I’ve been here. Birds chirp overhead. Crisp leaves crunch under my feet, and a sweet scent drifts in from the nearby waterfall. I listen to it splashing off the rocks, inhaling a deep cleansing breath, the dampness of the forest warming my bones, before turning, heart hammering, eyes narrowing, frozen in my tracks.
Standing only a few yards away, his smile seems to fade, and he hesitates before coming closer, his hands held out in a friendly gesture, a light breeze rippling his white T-shirt across his chest.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” Max’s voice is low, nervous. “You scared me.”
I don’t speak. My brain whirls, attempting to make sense of what I’m seeing.
“You’re mad at me.” He nods, and glances toward his feet, shifting the leaves around. “You should be.”
I try to take him in, comprehend him being here. All my years willing him to return, and here he stands, gazing at me, his chest falling up and down with uneven breaths.
“I’ve been hoping you’d come back. I still check now and then. Not sleeping much these days, I heard.” The corner of his mouth pulls up in a hint of a grin that I know so well.
I still can’t speak.
This isn’t real. A side effect from the concussion. More hallucinations.
Max bows his head. “Layla, please. Talk to me. You know this isn‘t a hallucination.”
“I . . . Did you just read my thoughts?”
He beams at me. “No. I heard them.”
I scrunch my brow, taking him in, watching the way waves of his sandy hair fall across his face. “You can hear mine, too, if you try. You don’t remember?”
“No. Why’d you leave?” Tears sit on the verge of overflowing. I bite them back.
“I should have explained.” He kicks at the ground. “I was trying to protect you.” Clear eyes cloud over with sorrow as he gazes into my face. “Forgive me?”
I eye him back, puzzled. “You were talking to my mom in the hospital.”
“Yeah, I wanted to make sure you were all right.” He takes a cautious step forward, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“She asked you to stay away from me?”
“For your safety, yes.” His voice remains low and uncertain.
“For my safety?” My throat tightens, heartache rising. “You were my best friend, and you left!” Tears roll down my face, anger burning my chest. “I needed you, and you were gone!”
He rushes forward with arms out but recoils. “It killed me to leave. You must know that.”
“I only know that I never saw you again.” My face flushes with heat, fury overriding sadness. “I’m delusional. Something is wrong with me. You can’t be real!”
He grins, shaking his head. “I forgot how mad you can get. You’re not delusional, you know. Your mom just won’t let me see you. I’m breaking the rules right now.”
I glare at him.
“You don’t believe me?” He runs his hand through his hair and glances around the forest. “Listen, I can’t explain everything right now . . . and you probably wouldn’t believe me if I did.” Walking forward, he grabs my hand, warmth radiating up my arm, and gives me a sideways grin. “Come on.”
“What?” I glance away, finding it difficult to concentrate.
“I’ll race you to the falls.” He crouches, still smiling at me.
“You want to race?” I have the urge to pull away my hand, now tingling with tiny shocks. “You’ve lost your mind, or I have since this is my hallucination.” I give a weak laugh.
“You’re not hallucinating.” He huffs. “Trust me, please. Now, when I say go, go. Okay?”
He squeezes my hand, electricity racing up my arm.
“Go!” He takes off, practically dragging me behind him. The rich smell of the forest inundates my senses. Cushioned grass under my feet, Max’s steady breathing, the wind in my hair—all come rushing back. He laughs—the sweetest sound I know.
“Believe me now?” His voice carries over the wind rushing by my ears.
I smile and let go of his hand, speeding passed him.
“Layla, wait!” He reaches for my hand, and we leap off the ledge and plunge into the pool below, Max gripping my hand as if it’s a life raft, until our heads break the surface.
Water streams down his face. “I missed you so much. Please forgive me.”
“I missed you, too.” My voice hitches, as he gazes into my eyes. I splash him in the face. “Don’t leave again.”
(end of chapter 3)
Thank you for reading my sampling of TIED. Hope you enjoyed it. Happy Holidays!
December 22, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Books, TIED, Writing, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, book excerpt, chapter sample, Fiction, J. Taylor Publishing, laney mcmann, Layla and Max, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, YA Fiction, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | Leave a comment
To celebrate the holiday season, I’ll be sharing the first few chapters of TIED, book 1 in the Fire Born Novels trilogy, over the next few days.
YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Here is chapter one if you missed it: TIED
I tiptoed up the steps to my house, the wooden planks on the deck creaking under my feet. Easing the backdoor open, careful to keep the hinges from squeaking, I brushed the sand off, and ducked in time to miss the new wind chime hanging from the ceiling. My mom wouldn’t be understanding if she found me sneaking in again, and I’d never been able to explain what kept happening to me.
Creeping down the dark hallway, I dodged the night-light’s glow and crawled into bed. Five A.M. pulsed on my alarm clock, turning the white ceiling a fluorescent shade of orange. I stared at the light until my eyes watered, the weight of exhaustion blanketing me in a continual haze. I didn’t sleep. Not much, anyway. Staying awake kept most of the visions at bay—the ones I didn’t invite in, visions that used to wake me in the middle of the night in a cold, terrified sweat.
I lay, staring blurry-eyed into nothing. The face I knew so well came into focus, and I smiled in spite of myself, knowing I should push the thoughts away—knowing I made myself crazy by thinking about him.
I missed Max more than I’d ever missed anyone in my life. For years, I’d tried to will him to return. He never did. Max didn’t exist. Somehow, I’d created an imaginary life, and my heart ached for it. For him.
I wiped the tears from my face, got out of bed and pinned down my mass of scraggly hair. The sound of my mother banging around in the kitchen reached my room, her percolating coffee permeating the air. The aroma, I loved; the drink, I didn’t.
Bare feet peeked under the refrigerator door as I rounded the corner into the kitchen from the stairs, our cat meowing hungrily at the hem of my mother’s pink bathrobe.
“Aw, Teine. Look at you.” She reached for my cheeks over the top of the door, but I dodged her hands. “Your eyes are so dark. I think you’re overdoing it.”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“You’re continually trying to convince me of that, but …” She shook her head, eyes cast down toward my clothes.
I glanced at my worn-out pink ballet tights with only a few holes, and my black faded leotard, partially covered by a too large, and beat up, grey sweatshirt. “What?”
She shook her head again. “Teine . . .” She sighed. “Benny is outside. Can you feed Kaevnor before you leave, please? She’s been pestering me all morning.”
“Why is Benny here?” Kaevnor ran to my side as I poured her food. “I’m supposed to pick her up.”
“She didn’t say. I asked her to come in.” My mom shrugged and began unloading the dishwasher.
I pulled on my old, low-top Converse shoes and grabbed my dance bag from beside the front door. “Bye, Mom.”
“Take it easy today, Teine.”
I opened the front door, but before I could leave, my mom rushed up behind me, breathless. “You forgot your juice.” She held it out, tucking stray hairs behind my ears and smoothing out my bun before shaking her head.
My shoulders slumped. I hadn’t forgotten, but I’d hoped she had. “Mom . . .” I groaned. “I hate that stuff.”
“It’s good for you. Drink up.”
I held my nose and gulped it in one swallow before breathing again. “Ugh. It tastes like freshly mown grass.”
“Old family recipe. Keeps you strong and focused.”
“Yeah, right. More like weak and nauseous.”
Thick early morning air hung on my clothes as I walked outside and found Benny dancing in the driveway next to my car with her iPod blaring.
“I was supposed to pick you up,” I said.
She pulled her ear buds out. “What? Oh, yeah, I know.” She smiled and slid into the passenger seat of my nineteen seventy-seven AMC Gremlin—rated nineteenth out of fifty of the worst cars of all time.
I slung my dance bag into the back seat and climbed in after her. The car stalled twice before it started, the engine screaming like a cat caught in the fan belt. I gunned it out of the driveway, afraid it would cut off again, spinning my tires and throwing gravel everywhere.
“In a hurry?” Benny clipped her seatbelt, eyebrows raised.
“No.” I avoided her gaze and turned out onto the road.
“Why so grumpy?” She tilted her head.
“Why so cheerful?” I rubbed my eyes.
“What’s up with you, Layla? You’re like the walking dead these days. I don’t see one speck of green through all the red in your eyes. Your clothes are all random, too. Did you roll out of bed and get dressed in the dark?” Her eyes made an up and down movement as if scanning my entire body.
Next to me, Benny resembled a walking ad for Capezio with her perfect pink tights and her hair tucked into a flawless bun.
I leaned over and cranked the portable satellite radio—the only decent feature about my car—in an attempt to drown out any further conversation she might try to start.
Benny gave me the sideways glare as M83 blared through the speakers. I took the warning as, ‘You better be taking care of yourself, or I’ll take care of you’, as she turned the volume down.
“I’m fine. Drop it.” I turned the music back up. I didn’t need to hear how awful I looked. I knew.
“Your hair’s a mess. Did you sleep?” She shouted loud enough that I could actually hear her. I groaned, trying to block her out. “Who doesn’t brush their hair before they leave the house? Have you even washed it?”
She eyed me again and scrolled through the songs on her iPod before shoving her ear buds back in and hitting play.
We drove down US-1, along the coast to school, crawling at thirty-five miles per hour due to tourist season. The blustery weather from the night before had all but vanished, leaving a calm gleam across the surface of the ocean. Devon flew past us, music blaring, and waved out his open window.
We only had a couple weeks until summer break. After that, our senior year would begin, and the sizzle in the air was like a live wire.
“Your boyfriend is going to get pulled over one of these days.” Benny mumbled under her breath, crossing her arms over her chest.
I ignored her, focusing instead on reaching my goal— Historia Performing Arts School. The only one of its kind within a hundred mile radius, it was the reason we lived in Historia. I’d been dancing as long as I could remember, and my mother made sure it was a part of my everyday curriculum. Not that I minded. Dancing had become my life, but more than that, it had become my escape.
Our high school appeared to be as old as the city itself, which was founded sometime in the late sixteenth century. The building resembled a crumbling stone castle—which I supposed it was in its original state. Although beautiful in its own way, the deep cracks snaking through the walls made it eerily decrepit. Beyond the football field were endless views of the ocean, but unfortunately, those views didn’t extend to many of the classrooms, most of which had oddly high windows and drafty undercurrents. I imagined them as dungeons hundreds of years ago.
Live oaks dotted the massive campus lawn, and every year, at least one tree would inflict some sort of damage on the school during hurricane season. A thousand pound limb might crush the side of a building or an entire tree might fall on an old artifact. It was always the same, but they never cut those trees; they were as important as the buildings themselves.
My mother even sat on the historic preservation board for the city, which had control over the school. I never understood why she got involved, considering she didn’t attend any of the meetings. She just insisted the school be maintained in its near original state, which meant it was in constant need of some kind of repair. Why the school heeded her rules, I had no idea. The student parking lot filled as the warning bell rang.
“Took you long enough.” Devon opened my car door, a mocking grin on his face.
“She’s … tired.” Benny answered before I did. She’d been my best friend all my life, and she was fiercely protective of me. The same way my mom was. It was annoying.
Rolling my eyes at her, I grabbed my stuff from the back seat and started the walk towards the dance wing, sick of all the remarks, her questioning glances, and Devon’s constant worrying. They climbed the hill after me. Whispering. Surely discussing their newest concern.
“Lock the Grim, Layla.”
“For what?” I shouted and turned around to find Benny with her arms on her hips. “No one’s going to steal it. Look at it.” I pointed to where my car, the Grim as Benny liked to call it, sat parked. It was the color of mud and looked like a semi-truck had smashed into the tail end of it at about ninety miles an hour. It had bug-eye headlights and a thick faded orange stripe running up each side toward the hatch-back where it flared out in three smaller stripes. The makeshift convertible top the previous owner had attempted to rig himself was so loose it barely kept the rain out. No one in their right mind would steal it.
I turned my back on both of them and continued the climb across campus, sighing as they continued to whisper. I knew my behavior was upsetting them—my angry outbursts—my temper spikes, especially since I’d stopped trying to control them all the time.
No one, though, was aware of my visions, or whatever they were. The more I tried to understand them, the more confused I became. The angrier I became. I’d tried to block the thoughts, to push them away and ignore them all, but years had passed since my last cherished memory, or what I’d hoped with all my heart was a memory. For six years—since I was eleven—I’d seen strange, unexplainable things.
After bringing up Max’s name so many times that my mother threatened to send me to a psychologist, I’d stopped asking about him—stopped talking about him altogether.
Even worse, I could only remember pieces of my past. While other kids recalled skinned knees and sleepovers, I conjured up snippets of voices and muddled colors. Besides my mom, Benny was the only constant in my life, and even memories I knew I had to have had with her were sometimes impossible to call up. I didn’t understand it. Who doesn’t remember the majority of their life?
“Layla, wait.” Devon jogged up to me and reached for my arm. His golden eyes implored concern. “Did I say something wrong?”
My shoulders relaxed. “I’m tired. Benny was telling the truth.” It’s only a small lie.
He bowed his head, peering up at me. “Okay, well, as long as that’s all.”
I nodded, giving him a half-smile. “Meet you at lunch.” He kissed me on the cheek and ran off as the second bell sounded. As sweet as Devon was, he would never understand me, and sometimes, knowing that, made everything worse.
All the other dancers sat in huddled groups on the scuffed wood floor of the studio as I walked in. The morning light reflected off the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, casting tiny rainbow prisms along the walls, as the stench of sweat hung in the still, thick air.
“Shh! She’s right there.” Dena, my understudy for the spring show of Sleeping Beauty, sat across the room. She dropped her stare when my gaze met hers. We’d been through the same dancing drill together for years. Same classes. Same performances. Her disdain for me was known. She twisted her hair into a knot at the back of her head, obviously pretending I hadn’t busted her running her mouth again.Between dancing as my understudy, and me dating Devon—the only boy she ever ‘truly’ liked—her hate was ingrained. Not that I cared.
“Places along the barre. Quiet down. First position please.” Ms. Trudy clapped her hands together. “And one, and two, and three. Chins up, heads high, shoulders down,” she said in time with the classical music.The steady repetitive rhythm, the music I’d known all my life, the same low droning chant of Ms. Trudy’s voice, all of it fell over me.
Ms. Trudy made her rounds, checking everyone’s form, making corrections. Sunlight shone through the high windows in cascading sheets, its warmth touching my face. I closed my eyes, raising my head to meet its heat, my grand plies repeating in perfect unison, and let the slow music take over. “Nice, Layla. Very nice.” Ms. Trudy’s voice rang out right before it faded.
The sun blazes through the tree line, and Max paces in the underbrush, halfway hidden by thickets and shadows.
“Where have you been?” He rushes forward.
“Benny was on alert all morning. She’s been setting traps to catch me,” I say.
“What?” His eyes widen. I shrug, picking beggars’ lice off my shirt. “She doesn’t like you.”
“Maybe you should go back.” He drags a hand through his hair.
“Go back?” My arm drops, leaving my shirt covered in little green specs.
“What are you talking about?”
“I . . . I don’t want you to get in trouble.” He averts his gaze.
“Since when are you worried about me getting in trouble?” I ask.
“Never mind, it’s nothing.” His smile is fake. I’m not buying the mock reassurance.
“Max, what’s going on?”
“Nothing.” He bites his bottom lip, his gaze skirting the trees. “I’m trying to look out for you.”
“Uh-huh. What’s up?”
“I told you. Nothing.” He shoves his hands in his pockets.
Lifting an eyebrow, he grins. “Race you to the falls.” He crouches forward like a cat ready to pounce, hands resting on his knees.
“Distractions won’t work.”
“No?” He takes off running.
I catch his hand as he turns and catapult myself past him.
“Hey, no cheating!”
I laugh, as he runs up behind me, his breathing steady. Our pounding feet sink in the thick wet grass of the open field. Max is taller than me, with longer legs, but I’m faster, and he hates it. The rush of crashing water leads us to the ledge, each of us pushing harder to stay in the lead.
“Don’t jump, Layla!” He reaches out.
I catch it in mine and pull us both off the ledge in a blind leap.
We plummet into the depths of the waterfall, Max‘s hand gripping mine. As our heads break free of the churning froth, he lets go, splashing me in the face.
“Hey.” I push water back at him. “What was that for?”
“For getting here first.” As he shakes his sandy brown hair out of his face, droplets of water run down his golden skin, and the corner of his mouth lifts in a grin.
I splash him again and swim to the edge of the pool, climbing onto the bank in dripping wet clothes.
He follows, and sits next to me, wiping the water from his grey eyes. “Lay, we’ve been friends for a long time.”
“Yeah.” I lean back against a gardenia bush covered in pure white blooms, their rich sweetness intoxicating the air.
“You’re my best friend.”
“I know that. You’re acting so weird today.” I nudge his shoulder, and say, “Beat you to the ledge again,” and spring to my feet, leaving him sitting on the bank.
“Layla!” He races after me. ”Wait!” Grabbing me around the waist, he sends us both over the ledge in a tangle.
“What are you doing?” I shove him as our heads rise above the surface.
“Be quiet.” Putting his finger to his lips, he drags me behind the falls onto the rock shelf. “Someone’s coming.”
Distant footsteps approach, crunching through the crisp leaves on the forest floor. Voices reach us.
“Stay still. It’s Lorelei.”
My mother walks through the forest, her sister at her side.
“They are here. You must find them.” She paces through the trees. “This is not safe.”
“Sister, please. There is no need for your concern. They are in no danger here.”
“No danger? My daughter is to be nowhere near the boy. I warned him to stay away.”
I try to shift my position, but Max pushes me back. “Stop moving.”
“Warned him?” my aunt asks.
“Yes.” My mother’s gaze sweeps past our hiding place. “The bond grows stronger by the day. Their connection, their energy. Teine must be kept hidden. Away from this world, away from the boy. They must be separated.”
“That isn’t necessary. No one knows they exist.”
“We know! Others might know as well.”
My aunt gathers her cloak around her shoulders. “It wasn’t I who placed the curse. That untimely deed falls on your shoulders, sister.”
“Once the truth of the children’s existence is revealed, my simple curse will no longer matter. I will be hard pressed to keep our enemies at bay.” My mother wrings her hands.
“Your attempt to sway the children must end. As long as the light shines, we will remain safe.”
“You presume too much, and do not speak to me in that tone. I am still the eldest.”
“Tone? I speak with understanding, but my patience wears thin. You renounced your position here. You are a fool to think you can keep the children apart. Let them be, or I am afraid you will regret it.”
Max turns to me. “You have to go.”
“Your mother is trying to separate us. You have to go.”
“We’re not doing anything wrong.” I start to rise, but he grabs me by the shoulder, eyes staring into mine. “You heard your mother. She believes you’re not safe here. She thinks it’s dangerous for us to be together.”
I stare back into his face, confusion welling up. “Then I’ll explain it to her.”
“Layla, please. For me. Go back now. Stay safe.” He pulls me into a hug before standing.
“But . . . wait.” I reach for his hand.
He wrenches it free, his gaze roving over my face. “I’m sorry.”
I sit alone with only the sound of water splashing against the cliff.
“Layla.” Benny’s terrified voice rang out above me. Her fear-filled eyes came into focus as glaring fluorescent lights radiated down from the ceiling. “Can you see me?”
“Who else would I see? You’re in my face.” I shielded my eyes from the light’s glare, the vision reverberating through my mind. The same vision I’d seen a hundred times before. The one I thought had to be a memory but knew couldn’t be. The vision that made my heart ache as if it were being ripped out. A crowd of dancers hovered around me, all gazes fixed on me as I hastily wiped my damp eyes. What did I do?
“I told you she was crazy,” Dena said.
“Shut your mouth, Dena, or I will.” Benny’s threat came out calm and controlled.
“Let me up,” I said.
“Back away. Back away now.” Ms. Trudy pushed her way through everyone and knelt down. “Layla, are you all right?”
My head throbbed, mind spinning as she rose to her feet, pulling me slowly to mine. As my knees buckled, Benny swooped in and draped my arm over her shoulder. “Let’s get you some water.” Ms. Trudy steered me into the hallway. “I believe you’re overheated. It’s very warm today.”
The chill from the air conditioner, and Ms. Trudy’s jasmine perfume, sent shivers up my spine and made me want to gag.
“Benny, you may go back to rehearsal. I believe I have the situation under control.”
“No, ma’am, I’ll stay.” Benny’s tone was unthreatening but firm and Ms. Trudy didn’t argue.
“I’m okay, Ben, really.” My voice, on the other hand, must have given her the impression I wasn’t because she tightened her grip.
“Sit down for a few minutes until you compose yourself. I’ll get you some water.” Ms. Trudy headed down the hall, wringing her hands.
“What happened?” Benny hissed under her breath after Ms. Trudy rounded the corner.
“I don’t know.” I slid down the wall, to the floor, shaking. “I closed my eyes for a second and then I woke up with you crouching over me.”
Scrutinizing, unbelieving eyes narrowed. “You just passed out?”
Ms. Trudy rushed back, carrying a glass of water. “Drink this.” She thrust the warm, right-out-of-the-tap water into my hands. Gross. I handed it back. “Perhaps you should see the nurse.”
“No. No nurses. I’m fine, really.”
“Well, if you say so, but no rehearsal for you today. Benny, please help Layla into the dressing room so she can get changed.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Benny tugged on me as though I was five years old.
“I can walk on my own.” I pulled my arm out of her grasp.
“What the hell was that, Layla?” She shifted in front of me, blocking my way. “Tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing’s going on.” I pushed past her. “I … blacked out.”
“Blacked out?” She ran up beside me. “Blacked out? You think that’s normal? That’s not normal.”
“I didn’t say it was normal.”
“No, you didn’t. You don’t say anything lately.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” What does she mean by that?
She stomped passed me. “You’re going to give me a heart attack, I swear.” She ranted along under her breath and disappeared inside the dressing room.
I tried my best to control my trembling limbs. If Benny thought I was in a panicked state, I’d end up at the E.R. with her hovering over me. Hallucinations at school weren’t something that had happened before, and I’d never passed out. Ever. Not that I should have been too surprised. What should I have expected after having become a semi-insomniac?
I pushed the vision into the depths of my brain, shook off the eerie chills that accompanied it, and made Benny promise not to tell Devon what happened.
Devon tracked me down in the outside courtyard during study hall.
“I went to the nurse’s office.” He hugged his chest. “To the dance studio and the girls’ bathroom.” He gripped his side, leaning over the picnic table, trying to catch his breath. “Are you all right?”
Benny, unable to keep her mouth shut, had spilled the truth.
“I’m fine. Benny’s overreacting.” I glowered at her where she sat with me at a table.
“Scoot over.” He nudged my shoulder and slumped down. “Don’t scare me like that again.” He huffed, his breath still ragged.
“I told Benny not to tell you.” He stopped breathing altogether and glared at me.
I didn’t say anything else.
During lunch, Devon asked the cafeteria lady to create an ice pack out of zip-locks and paper towels, after I’d refused again to go to the nurse. He held it on my head himself. Between him and Benny, I was lucky not to have been admitted to the hospital.
I poked around at my pizza—usually my favorite, but my appetite seemed to be lying on the floor in the dance studio. The cafeteria, my least favorite place in school, made my stomach turn. Not to mention the inescapable deafening high school drama prattle. I’d never been that girl who attended every football game, and cried on the last day of school because summer break meant three whole months away from the cheerleading squad. I wanted out of high school.
I squinted through the cafeteria window, bringing the ocean into view in the far distance, and pretended to listen to the sound of crashing water, to block out all the lunchroom noise.
“You should eat something.” Devon dismantled my lunch tray, one item at a time. His mouth overflowed with my pizza, as I glanced over and down at my emptied plate. “Oh . . . sorry.”
“I’m not hungry, anyway.” I shrugged, looking up at him. Dark brown hair framed his golden eyes, a sheepish grin playing at his lips.
“Listen, don’t worry about helping at the shop later.” He raised the ice pack to my head again, and I swatted it away, while Dena, across the cafeteria, sat glaring in our direction. The little clan of cliquey chatterboxes at her side followed her lead and turned toward us.
The sight of Devon doting over me had to be too much for her.
I smiled to myself.
She tossed her long dark hair behind her shoulder, her black painted nails glimmering under the fluorescent lights. It seemed like only yesterday that she ran barefoot and played baseball better than anyone. Then again, I remembered so little, maybe she’d always been that way, and my deluded brain had it all backwards.
“I said I would help. I’m helping.” I spoke to Devon, not breaking my eye contact with the one who had nothing better to do than stare at me.
Dena’s lips moved, and they all turned their heads away. “Layla, seriously,” Devon said. “I. Am. Helping.”
“Layla!” Benny rushed across the cafeteria, waving a fluorescent yellow piece of paper, her dance bag swinging wildly on her shoulder. “Oh, good, you ate.” Her breath came out in a huff. “Here.” She thrust the paper at me. “I got the nurse to sign you out early. You can go home.”
I shook my head, sure she had run from the nurses office. “I don’t need to leave early.”
“You passed out.” She kept her voice low, head turning as if searching for something.
“So?” Truthfully, I would rather have gone home, but giving Benny a reason, any reason, to believe something was actually wrong was a bad idea. I’d rather suffer than have her pamper me. Devon was already taking care of that.
“So? So . . . you will be the death of me, Layla LaBelle, I swear.” She stomped off, throwing the note in the trash as she went.
The rest of the school day, I spent in a dazed stupor. The custodian had to cut the lock off my locker because I couldn’t remember the combination, and I laughed out loud when Mr.Jones, the Algebra teacher, asked me to solve a quadratic equation on the white board for the class. Algebra. What a waste. Who, ever, uses algebra after high school? If my school didn’t have a Performing Arts program, I probably would have ditched every class.
My head pounded by the time I pulled into the parking lot of the shop where Devon worked. A giant sign above the door read: ‘TOURISTS WELCOME’ in bright blue letters, reminding me of Bike Week in Daytona, Florida, where all the businesses felt compelled to remind everyone that ‘Bikers are welcome’, as if, for some reason, they wouldn’t know without the signs. Tourist season was the money maker in Historia. With the colleges, beaches, and historical sights, the city had a natural pull.
The owner of the shop stood in the doorway, smiling and waving at random passersby, unable, or unwilling, to hide his smile. “Good afternoon, Layla. Thanks for giving us a hand today.”
I stifled a yawn. “You’re welcome. It’s no problem at all.” I wasn’t the best person to help at a retail store, due to my lack of interest in customer service, but I said I would, so I did.
“Yes, good afternoon, Layla. How are you today?” Devon strolled up one of the aisles with a sarcastic grin. “Tired, I see.”
“Tired.” I nodded. “But here.”
He leaned down and kissed my cheek. “I think you should go home.” He glanced at the owner, his voice low. “I can handle it.”
I put my car keys behind the counter. “It’s almost the summer season. You need my help.” “Don’t start with that. You hate how busy it is this time of year. Seriously, listen, I’m starting to worry about you.”
“Starting?” I walked away before he could continue.
He shook his head and wandered off toward the display cases.
I squatted down behind the counter, digging around for a magazine to read, and rested my throbbing head in my hands. The entrance bell chimed on the front door, and I popped back up, wobbling slightly.
Afternoon sun flooded through the shop’s front windows in sheets, creating a back lit silhouette in the doorway. Dust particles floated past my scope of vision like miniature ghosts, and the clear grey eyes glancing at me made my breath end in my throat.
The room spun and slowed to a time-warped crawl, and the spicy sweetness of gardenias wafted through the air. Visions rushed up to the surface, flooding my brain, blowing the circuits. My magazine dropped to the floor, and I swayed, grabbing the counter for support, forcing myself to blink.
“Layla?” Thudding feet echoed in the distance.
Blood sped through my veins as I gripped the edge of the counter, gazing into the face I knew so well. A shadow of confusion crossed his expression as he stared back at me before the corner of his mouth drew up in a slight grin, and my face flushed with a burning heat. Goosebumps shivered down my arms, the air seeming to quiver with a faint breeze.
“Layla, are you okay?” Someone shook me by the shoulder. “Layla?” Devon’s voice rang from far away.
I tried to speak, but words wouldn’t form. I remembered his face, the waterfall, the forest. The warmth of his hand in mine. Droplets of water cascading down his golden skin. His eyes reflecting the sunlight like crystals. The rush of wind as he ran beside me. His laughter. The sound of his voice when he called my name.
“Max …” I strangled an inaudible whisper, unable to breathe, consumed by the light in his eyes.
“Lay.” He stared back at me, seeming unable to move.
He couldn’t be real. I swayed, my eyes rolling upward, and dropped to the floor.
(end of chapter 2)
Stay tuned for chapter three and Thank You for reading! ;)
December 21, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Books, TIED, Writing, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, Fiction, J. Taylor Publishing, laney mcmann, Layla and Max, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, YA Fiction, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | Leave a comment
I’m happy to once again be participating in the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Book Hounds. :)
For the Hop this year, a few titles are up for grabs, all in the fantasy genre, all YA. There will be ONE winner, just choose the book you want. ;)
by Julie Reece
YA Urban Fantasy
Eighteen year old Birdie may be homeless, but she’s surviving, that is until a mysterious guy throws money in the air like a crazy game show host and she grabs some with the idea she’ll be able to buy dinner that night.
In that singular moment, unassuming Birdie becomes the girl in everyone’s viewfinder. Thugs want to kill her. Money-guy wants to recruit her. The very hot, very rich and very out of her league Grey Mathews wants to save her.
Birdie, though, wants nothing to do with any of them until she realizes fate didn’t bring them all together.
Her heritage did.
Now, with only twenty-one days left, she’s got to decide whether to follow in the footsteps of those before her or risk her life for people she’s only just met.
by L.S. Murphy
YA urban fantasy
She’s supposed to enjoy her sophomore year, not learn about some freaky future Destiny says she has no choice but to fulfill.
It doesn’t take long for Quincy to realize the only way out of the game is to play along especially since Death can find her anyway, anywhere, anytime. And does.
Like when she’s reassuring her friends she wants nothing to do with former best friend Ben Moorland, who’s returned from god-knows-where, and fails. Miserably.
Instead of maintaining her coveted popularity status, Quincy’s goes down like the Titanic.
Maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.
It seems, perhaps, becoming a grim reaper isn’t just about the dead but more about a much needed shift in Quincy’s priorities—from who she thinks she wants to be to who she really is.
And last option:
TIED (Fire Born #1)
by Laney McMann
YA Urban Fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Layla Labelle, though, is far from normal. Her delusions walk the earth. Her hallucinations hunt her, and her skin heats to a burn every time her anger flares.
Or is that all in her head?
Layla doesn’t know what to believe any more because if none of that’s true, Max MacLarnon must be an illusion, and her heart must still be broken.
No matter how much she wants to believe Max is real, doing so would mean everything else is, too. How, then, is that possible?
The answers lie in an age-old legend the supernatural aren’t prepared to reveal, and with a curse that could tear Layla and Max apart forever—if it doesn’t kill them both first.
In TIED, book one in the Fire Born trilogy, learning the truth will mean fighting an arsenal of demons, and being with Max will put Layla on a path toward her own destruction.
Just how far will Layla go to protect the one she loves?
The answer may never be far enough … away.
In addition, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to the same winner.
So, to make this easy, and fast, the book will be in e-book format (Kindle or Nook) and I will have a simply entry. Random.com will choose the winner. No purchase necessary to win. International entries welcome. Just leave me a comment in the form below, tell me which book you want, your email address, and the format (Kindle or Nook). That’s it!
**the giveaway will run from December 21-31, 2014.
Check out all the other bloggers participating in the Hop here:
Powered by Linky Tools Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
Good Luck and Happy Holidays!
December 20, 2014 | Categories: Author, BLOG HOPS, Giveaways | Tags: Arts, Book Giveaway, CRUX by Julie Reece, Fiction, laney mcmann, REAPER by L.S. Murphy, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, YA book Giveaway, YA Books, YA Fiction, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | 5 Comments
To celebrate the holiday season, I’ll be sharing the first few chapters of TIED, book 1 in the Fire Born Novels trilogy, over the next few days.
YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
My window opened easily. The same way it had so many times before. Climbing out on the ledge, I found the ground empty and dropped from the second floor—a jump I’d made a hundred times. In another life.
My feet sunk into the sand, and I followed the well-worn pathway through the dunes. Even the strong evening winds hadn’t misshaped the deep gully. The ocean’s breeze lashed at my hair as the moonlight glinted off the water’s surface. Seagulls flew up from their nesting grounds. They should have recognized me, since I’d been wandering at night for so long. Wrapping my arms around my knees to block the slight chill, I settled in the sand, and the birds quieted in a tight huddle, the wind blowing their feathers in awkward angles.
My gaze fell on a figure standing beyond the dunes edge, a shadow hidden within the darkness. My pulse quickened, but I didn’t move. Another trick—an illusion. Weary of the games my mind continued to play, I bit back tears and the catch in my throat. I should have been immune to them—the hallucinations—the way they haunted me and followed me, but I wasn’t.
Forcing myself to blink, I turned my head away. The visions had grown worse as I’d become older. I’d tried to convince myself they were nightmares—or weird dreams. Hoped for years
they were, but only people who sleep dream.
Unable, or unwilling to stop myself, I glanced back over my shoulder, thoughts flooding my brain. Memories I knew couldn’t be memories but I cherished all the same. For years I’d tried to shake them away. To make myself forget. I couldn’t.
A stone raps against my bedroom window. I creep over and peer through the blinds. “You’re late.” I lean out over the sill, grinning at the boy staring up at me.
“Come on, let’s go before she comes,” he says.
I climb onto the window ledge. “Be nice. She’s my friend.”
“Okay. Jump.” He waves at me to go faster.
“Move, and I will.” He takes one casual step to the side.
The jump isn’t too high; I make it all the time.
He grabs my hand when I land beside him in the soft sand.
“One, two …”
“I’m going to tell!” Benny runs across my yard toward me, her blonde pigtails flapping in the wind. “You’re not allowed to talk to that boy, Layla! Your mom said!”
Max tightens his grip on my hand. “Shut up, Benny! I’m old enough.”
“You’re only nine. Don’t go! “
“Three!” Max and I leave the ground.
“You’re going to get in so much trouble.” Benny’s yell rings in the distance.
Our feet touch down in the wet grass of the Otherworld, icy sea air whipping at my face.
“Hopefully, she won’t follow us again.” Max lets go of my hand.
“She won’t. I told her not to.” I lead the way down the cliff face to the ocean.
“She never listens to you.” I glare at him and keep walking.
“Wait.” He scrambles down the path after me, losing his footing on the rocks for a moment before he catches himself.
I reach for his hand, my fingers brushing over the leather bracelet wrapping his wrist—the one that matches my own. “Let’s go see if the water spirits are out.” Pulling him beside me, I run through the last stretch of pebbles to the sand.
“The Merrows don’t like to be gawked at. Let’s do something else.” He tries to yank his hand away, but I tighten my grip and hold it in place.
“We could play skip the stone.” His voice rises above the wind in my ears. “I’ll let you win this time.”
“I’m the youngest, so I get to choose what we do.”
“You chose last time. And who said you were the youngest? Anyway, the Merrows hate us. Let’s do something else.” He trudges along behind me, pouting.
My laughter rings on the wind.
The sting of loss reverberated in my chest as the chill of night air seeped into my bones. I opened my eyes to the darkened shoreline and glanced again toward the dunes. No shadow remained. No one stood watching me. I had lost my mind.
(end of chapter)
Stay tuned for chapter two and thank you for reading! ;)
December 20, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Books, TIED, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, Fiction, J. Taylor Publishing, laney mcmann, Layla and Max, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, YA Fiction, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | 1 Comment
I will be giving away copies of both TIED & TORN on Goodreads for the holidays. Check out the details and enter below!
Goodreads Book Giveaway
December 3, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Giveaways, TIED, TORN, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, Book Giveaway, Fiction, Goodreads, laney mcmann, Layla and Max, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | Leave a comment
The TORN Book Blitz winners are in,
and thank you so much to everyone who participated in this awesome shout-out,
as well as Shane Morgan at Itching for Books.
There were TWO winners chosen for this giveaway, and they are:
You both won a signed paperback of TORN.
Congrats, and thanks for entering!
I’ll be contacting you soon, so check your emails. ;)
September 22, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Blog Tours, Book Blasts, Giveaways, TORN | Tags: Author, Book Giveaway, Fiction, Itching for Books, J. Taylor Publishing, The Fire Born Novels, TORN (Fire Born #2) by Laney McMann, TORN Book Blitz, YA Fiction | 1 Comment
Hi guys! Thanks to everyone who entered the
September is for Sequels Blog Hop Giveaway.
There were a lot of entries, and to show my thanks,
I’ve decided to choose TWO winners instead of one.
Check your emails.
You both won copies of TIED and TORN in e-book form.
I’ll be contacting you soon!!
September 15, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, BLOG HOPS, Giveaways, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, Book Giveaway, Fiction, J. Taylor Publishing, laney mcmann, Layla and Max, September is for Sequels, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, TORN (Fire Born #2) by Laney McMann, YA Fiction, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | Leave a comment
Today marks the RE-release of J.A. Belfield’s Darkness & Light, first book in the Holloway Pack series.
And to celebrate its release, as well as her birthday (which is also TODAY) there’s a GREAT giveaway going on.
But first, let’s check out the book.
Jem Stonehouse, a housewife with a neurotic husband bent on keeping her in line, dreams about werewolves in, what she believes, is a bid to escape boredom.
Sean Holloway is a werewolf, living a charade within the human race, whose mind drifts to a bond he shares with a woman he hasn’t met — at least, not in this lifetime.
Apart, the two are safe but live unfulfilled lives.
Together, they’ll become prey to rival packs just as they have been for hundreds of years.
When their worlds collide, and not for the first time, instinct takes over. Dreams become reality. Futures are uncertain. To keep history from repeating itself, Sean must teach Jem about his heritage, convince her of her role, and win her love.
Can Jem accept her destiny before it’s too late, or is her inner wolf buried too deep to save her future with Sean?
You can add it to your Goodreads by clicking on the cover art above.
And if you want to grab your own copy, you can do so at the below links:
And now for the giveaway.
Check out these awesome prizes*
Yup, yup, ALL of those prizes are up for grabs for ONE lucky winner.
You can enter via the Rafflecopter below**
**Comment entry must be made over at Katherine Skye’s original post HERE, but feel free to comment here, too, because we love comments!
Thanks for stopping by & good luck!
*I would HUGELY like to THANK Katherine Skye for arranging this giveaway for me and her generosity. I would also like to thank Jen of At Random for her prize donation, AND Keri Lake for the donated signed copy of The Fallen & swag.
J.A. Belfield lives in Solihull, England, with the best husband in the world, aka Mr B, a couple of back-chatting but pretty cool kids, a pooch she treats likes the baby of the house, and a couple of scrawny cats that like to vomit in unnecessary places.
Although best known for her Holloway Pack series: DARKNESS & LIGHT (July 2011, J. Taylor Publishing/September 2014, J.A. Belfield), INSTINCT (February 2012, J. Taylor Publishing), ETERNAL (July 2012, J. Taylor Publishing), BLUE MOON (December 2012, J. Taylor Publishing), RESONANCE (April 2013, J. Taylor Publishing), CAGED (August 2013, J. Taylor Publishing), and UNNATURAL (April 2014, J. Taylor Publishing), amongst other titles, she is currently trawling her way through a New Adult Post Apocalyptic and would LOVE to try her hand at YA. Maybe she will.
The Fire Born are back and
TORN is LIVE.
In honor of TORN’s release, I have a ton going on.
Check it all out:
That’s all Layla cares about. Not healing from the Fomore attack. Not finding answers to how she survived a fall that nearly killed her. Nothing will stop her. She will find him. She’ll even pair up with an overbearing Fallen Angel who’s hell bent on making everything harder than it needs to be if she has to.
For Max, nothing else matters. Not the bruises covering his body. Not the pain radiating from his broken bones. Not even his hands tied behind his back. He will find a way to save Layla, and the Fomore will pay if they’ve hurt her.
Every. Single. One of them.
In the second installment of The Fire Born trilogy, a new breed of villain looms—one Layla and Max will never suspect, and this killer has nothing to lose. Better yet, with Max and Layla’s deaths, victory is in the grip of the enemy.
Will Max and Layla find each other in time, or is it already too late for them both?
The Book Tour is happening now, and here’s the schedule for anyone who wants to see what I’m talking about: TORN Book Tour
The TORN Book Blast and Book Blitz are also happening all over social media for the next few days. Thank you, thank you to all the awesome bloggers/readers, and writers who are participating!
Also, as I mentioned a few days ago, TIED (Fire Born 1) is one sale until September 15th to celebrate its ONE YEAR book birthday. : ) (Plus, it gives you guys a chance to pick up the book if you haven’t yet, before you read TORN. They kind of need to be read in order.)
And finally, the GIVEAWAY!
I have several giveaways happening across the board, three to be exact.
The TORN Book Tour giveaway and the Blast I’ll be hosting alongside my publisher, as well as all the other bloggers participating. The Book Blitz Giveaway is being hosted by Itching For Books (click the banner)
HERE’S WHAT’S UP FOR GRABS on my blog for the Book Tour:
Signed paperback copies of TIED and TORN to ONE winner (U.S. & Canada), E-book copies of TIED and TORN to ONE winner (Int), and signed bookmarks of TIED and TORN to FIVE winners (U.S., Canada, and U.K.)
AND here’s what up for grabs for the Book Blast:
Signed paperback copy of TIED and TORN to ONE winner & e-book copy of TIED and TORN to ONE winner (Int).
WHEW! That’s it guys. Sorry for the long post. I’m off to finish the 3rd Fire Born Novel ;)
September 8, 2014 | Categories: A Fire Born Novel, Blog Tours, Book Blasts, Fire Born Updates, J Taylor Publishing, New Releases, TORN, Young Adult Novels | Tags: Author, Fiction, Giveaway, Goodreads, J. Taylor Publishing, laney mcmann, The Fire Born Novels, TIED by Laney McMann, TORN (Fire Born #2) by Laney McMann, TORN Blog Tour, TORN Book Blitz, Upcoming urban fantasy 2014, ya fantasy author, YA Fiction, Young Adult book releases 2014, young adult paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy | Leave a comment