Monday, February 25, 2013

Okay, so I seem to keep forgetting that not everyone is stalking me on Facebook, I know, shame on me! But I'm making up for it, I promise!

Ahem. Enjoy! Here's a peek at Ethereal, which will be here on February 28th. ♥ 

“Hold up, Slayer,” came a low, coarse voice. Rinae paused for a fraction of a second, wondering if she could get away pretending not to have heard him. But Jake always knew when she was lying. He had since Day One.

Nervously, she turned around, suddenly self-conscious in her own skin. A little voice in her heard reminded her that there was nothing to be nervous about, it wasn’t as if she was forbidden from leaving the group’s underground home. Maybe it was her clothes? She did a quick once-over, noting her black pants, black top, shit-kicker thrift boots, and maroon hoodie. Nope, definitely not the clothes.

Jake came up to Rinae, slowing his pace until he inched his way toward her. Out of the dozen or so that roughly lived in their hideout, Jake was both the person you wanted in your back pocket, and the person you wanted to avoid at all costs. He stood at average height, his short blonde hair shocking and naturally bright, the same way his blue eyes glowed on their own. Rinae thought back to the first time she had joked he soaked up all the radiation from a power plant, and how he’d punched her so hard in the shoulder she had sworn it was dislocated. Over time, he came to warm to Rinae, as all the others had carefully done, too. In some ways, she viewed him as an older brother more than their unspoken group leader. He was their dark angel, the protector of their small, tight-knit group to the city’s cruel and unforgiving streets.

“Leaving so soon?” His voice was smooth, but gritty, like sand polishing your feet at the beach. “Del said you only just got back.”

Fighting the mechanical urge to sneer at the mention of Del, she gave a short, jerky bob for a nod. Opening her mouth would have the same effect as pulling the plug to a bathtub full of water; rushing of words that couldn’t be said.

Reaching with a pale hand, Jake touched the hem of Rinae’s sleeve, slipping a finger in the thumbhole. A small frown dashed his lips. “Guess it’ll be the clubs. Kickin’ it out tonight?” Jake probed. He had a terrible habit of sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, but Rinae never could bring herself to say something. “What, are we not good enough for your precious time?”

She knew it was meant to be a friendly jab, still since winced. “You know me,” she offered, shrugging off the verbal sting. Her free hand flexed in and out of a fist, starting to shake. “Can’t sit still for more than a few seconds.”

Jake studied her for a moment, then nodded. She thought back to the first time they met, and how he’d made a passing comment of her visible shaking. In an act of desperation, Rinae had claimed she suffered from some kind of ADD. Couldn’t bring herself to sit still, never kept her mouth shut. And yet somehow he managed to tolerate her, smooth talk the rest of the gang into accepting her like a little sister while she kept the real reason hidden. Now it was her calling card, an excuse she could slap on anything in case she got out of hand.

“So which club are you thinking of crashing?” His hand moved from her sleeve to the ends of her hair, twirling a strand around his index finger. 

Rinae ignored the urge to bite the inside of her cheek, that would be the quickest way to tell she was about to lie. She could feel the tears stinging her eyes, working a wall of liquid that would spill if she didn’t control herself, fast. 

Forcing herself to stop twitching for a moment, she let the lie slip effortlessly from her lips. “Nowhere special. Was thinking about Slash.” She paused, long enough to fake contemplation. “Maybe Glitz & Bitz if I’m feeling edgy.”

“The lesbian bar?” Jake arched a single blonde eyebrow in true, classic cartoon form. Confusion and amusement riddled his voice as he spoke between two chuckles. “Funny, you don’t take me for the gay type.”

She made a move to turn and look away, but it was too late. A fresh, strawberry red blush tinted the upper half of her cheeks. The shakes riddling her body stopped, replaced by a new kind of jittering that swallowed her stomach and rattled her heart. Memories of his lips, brief and strong as he kissed her lips and palms, only made the quivering worse. Against all odds, she kept her cool. “Hey, you never know. Maybe that’s where my true love is at. You know, true love’s kiss can take form in a variety of ways.”

A knowing, come-on-now look settled in his eyes. “So can a chicken’s egg. Scrambled, sunny side up, hard-boiled, deviled, the list goes on. Just picture freshly made deviled eggs, laid out on your naked-”

“Jake Mathews, you finish that sentence, and I’ll-”

“You’ll what?” He pressed his body closer, stealing the space she had been keeping between them instinctively. Heat flamed her cheeks brighter, a twisting sensation in her gut making her brain go hay-wire. She could feel the beginning of her control unwinding, stripping away like paint to a wall. Or clothes to a body.

“What happened, Rinae? What happened to us?” His breath tickled the side of her neck, teeth grazing the edge of her earlobe. Hands found themselves on her hips, holding her tightly in place. “Tell me, Slayer, tell me you miss it. Tell me you miss us like I do.”

Rinae could feel her jaw forcing itself to lock. Her tongue rammed into the roof of her mouth. Sure, she could have told him she missed being together, missed it like a flame misses wood when it burns to ashes. But that would have been a lie. A beautiful, hopeless, damning lie.

He couldn’t be with her, just as she couldn’t be with him. For more reasons than he’d ever know.

Seconds ticked by, slow and silent. Each moment felt like a painful gunshots to the chest. It sealed her fate. Jake’s hands, having moved up and wrapping in her hair, withdrew carefully until they hung to the sides of his body in defeat.

She sighed. “Jake...”

“Be safe.” Red tinged the white in his eyes, hurt wavering inside them. He quickly blinked both eyes, the hurt dissolving with each blink. She could hear the faint wavering of his voice as he fought to keep himself in check. “I’d hate to break someone’s face if you didn’t come home in one piece.”


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