FATAL FREYA releases in four days. FOUR DAYS! I’m thrilled beyond words to have the Gifted Girls Series completed!
Have you read the first four books in the adventure? Well, if you have, and if you’ve been waiting anxiously for this fifth and final book, here’s a peak at the opening chapter.
Enjoy… and be sure to secure your copy of FATAL FREYA!
Chapter One: FATAL FREYA
I killed a man, turned him to dust, with nothing more than a hand touch. The thought screams through my mind. Echoes over and over. The center of my chest weights and collapses inward. I’d only meant to help a girl in need, but my intervention resulted in a man dead. Beyond dead.
I soak in my surroundings, a mostly empty parking lot at the back of a business building. Daylight has faded the sky to a shade of royal blue, and the air carries the sounds of the busy street over the rooftop and drops the noise into the parking lot. I’d been drawn by unexplainable energies to this place and for what? For this?
I stepped deeper into the parking lot to help the girl. She was being accosted by two men, and now, one of the men is withering on the ground, attacked by things unseen, and the second man is nothing but dust, thanks to me and my touch.
What is happening here? Have I walked into a nightmare?
My feet are frozen, unable to move. “I can’t,” I mumble, shake my head. Press my fingers to my temples. I glance at the girl, the dust pile, the man dropped and withering on the ground.
I can’t breathe. I bend forward and hug myself.
“Thank you for coming to my aid,” the girl says. “Are you alright?”
“I’ve never done that before.” Never. Never. Never. “Never has my touch turned a man to dust.” I rock forward then back. Steady breaths, I tell myself. Don’t hyperventilate.
The air around me stirs my nausea. Rotten egg and sulfur. Death and ash. I press against the desire to vomit.
“That was no man.” The girl takes a step toward me, and my muscles go rigid. “He was a monster. A vampire.” Her words are camouflage in a sea of static.
“A what?” I blink. Is she kidding me? This is not the time for jokes. I shiver and glance in all directions, noting my escape options. In the process, I spy a man pressed into the darkest of shadows cascading against the side of the building. Something about him causes my skin to crawl. I blink again, this time harder.
Someone new steps into the parking lot, jolts at the scene, and starts talking to the girl. The girl I recklessly stepped in to help. The two of them are conversing, but I don’t hear a distinguishable word. My head is already crowded.
Vampire? She’s got to be lying. That kind of stuff is for movies, not real life.
I shouldn’t have come. Shouldn’t have stopped.
They don’t appear nearly disturbed enough by the situation. At least, not by my standards.
I seriously messed up. I’m in trouble now. I should run.
My attention swings back and forth between the newcomer and the girl, shifts to the man on the ground. My head jerks back. A black cat is now standing on top of the man, hissing and growling. When did the cat arrive?
I suck back a quick breath.
This isn’t real. None of this is real.
My gaze drops to my hands, flared out before me. Unsafe, deadly weapons. They’ve turned a man to dust.
“I gotta go.” I spring straight and my jaw tenses. “I’m glad you’re okay, but I can’t stay.” I turn and run away, leaving the parking lot scene in a distant past.
Tears slide down my cheeks, and the soles of my shoes slap against the sidewalk at a mad rhythm. My breath drags and snags in my chest, only to repeat another drag and snag.
I don’t want to go home right now, not to my foster home. They’re nice to me, but they can’t possibly love me, not enough to deal with what I’ve done. They aren’t invested in all things me. And why should they be? They’re not my real mom and dad. They don’t need to love me. They merely need to make sure I’m fed, clothed, and have a place to rest my head.
True or not, these are the things I tell myself. I can’t afford any emotional attachments. Not after what happened to my parents.
I ache to race to my real mom, but she’s not well, and, most of the time, she doesn’t remember who I am.
Still, I could go, be close to her. Even if I don’t see or talk to her.
My heart aches. It’s an old, familiar pang. A deep-seeded desire for the mom I once knew… the family I once had.
Walking as if on automatic pilot, I find myself moving not in the direction of my bed and foster family, but toward the home where my birth mom now lives with her caregiver. She’s ill and I think it’s partly, if not all, my fault. Just as my touch turned that man to dust, several years ago it also did something to my mom. She’s been a mess ever since.
I stare at my hands. They appear normal enough. I’ve been reading a lot of things, trying to figure out what it is about me that sometimes affects others negatively. I can’t quite figure out the issues, but maybe it has to do with my personal energy. A whole metaphysical thing. It’s the only explanation that sort of makes sense. The destruction of my touch seems to be related to my emotions… something I need to learn to control better.
I sigh and swallow hard against the desert residing in my mouth.
My shoulders are knotted, and my mind is in a haze, I walk block after block, past house after house, navigating the streets until I find myself standing in front of a quiet green house with white trim. Across the street from the house is one of New Orleans’ many cemeteries. This one is smaller, quieter. I take a position across the street, in front of the cemetery, lean against a tree, and imagine. Orbs and wisps—old, familiar sights—dance around me, keep me company.
My mother is across the street, inside the home, needing constant care because of me and my dangerous touch. Before that day, when I hurt her, she had overflowed with beauty, life, and color.
I miss her so.
I bite my nails and picture her sitting in bed watching television, or possibly settled at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, while her caregiver makes dinner.
Taking a seat upon the ground, I lean against the cemetery’s surrounding wall and continue to daydream about my mom, the mom who hardly knows me anymore. Not because she’s old, but because I somehow did something to her heart and mind when I squeezed her hand one day. Now she’s disabled and in need of constant care.
How could I have messed up so immensely? Damaged the life of another human? A human I care for deeply?
Adding salt to that festering wound, the day prior to my mom’s disabling, She and I moved from our home, adopted new names, and everyone we had previously known forgot who we were. Mom forgot them, too. Everyone forgot everyone. Everyone but me. I still remember, and sometimes, I wonder if it was all a dream. A made-up, horrible dream to help me cope with my messed-up life.
The royal-blue sky fades to Prussian blue and the cricket population takes to song. Lori, my mom’s caregiver, steps out into the side yard for her usual smoke break.
She’s in the yard and Mom is inside the house… alone.
Something inside of me clicks. With quick, wide steps, I cross the street, climb the front steps, and slip into the house. I sneak down the hall to the bedroom where I know my mom to be. She’s there, in bed, with her head back. She tosses gently from side to side.
“Mom?” I step into the bedroom and close the door. Approach her bedside. My heart is a tangle of knots. “Mom? Can I talk to you?” Her head shifts my direction, her gaze locking with mine. She mumbles something I don’t understand. I take a step deeper into the room. “I’ve had one of the worst experiences, and I could use your hand and understanding right now.”
“Fred?” She smiles, even as the word slowly dribbles from her lips.
My heart drops into my gut.
Fred is not my birth-given name, but it is the name everyone now knows me by… since that fateful day everything changed. Overnight, I was enrolled in a new school under the new name. I had new teachers that only knew me by Fred, a name I barely knew myself.
“Yes, Mom, it’s me. Fred.” I take another step closer. She remembers who I am today. My chest squeezes and neck warms. If only she remembered me by my real name and not the lie we now live. “Can we talk?” I ache to reach out and touch her, and I glance at my hand. Is it safe? Are my emotions in check? Will my touch be benign or inflict more damage?
“Come,” she says, waving her hands in the air, motioning me forward. “Give your mom a hug.”
My heart swells and warms, though I glance over her and hesitate. I want to hug her, hug her tight, but should I do so, and something happens… “I don’t know, Mom.” I shake my head. “You know I want to, but…”
She dismisses my concern with a short wave. “Nonsense. Come here.”
My forward steps are short and slow, but I cannot deny her request. She’s my mom and I love her. Besides, I don’t always hurt people with my touch.
I wrap my arms around her, hug her warmth close. “I love you,” I whisper.
“Right back atcha, kiddo,” she says. “You’re like your father in so many ways.”
I pull back and stare at her. She clings to my hand, holding our connection. “Really? Dad? You never talk about him and it’s been so long since we’ve seen him.” I suck back a deep breath and release it. “How am I like him?”
“Who?” Mom asks and she blinks several times.
“Like Dad, Mom.” I frown. “How am I like Dad?”
Her brow pinches and eyes narrow. “I. I don’t. Who’s your dad?”
My heart drops into my gut. “Remember, Mom? Michael, the love of your life?”
“I don’t know any Michael.” She shakes her head and turns her gaze toward the television. A detective show is playing on mute. She points at the screen. “That man there, his name is Michael.”
“Yeah, okay.” I pat her hand. “That’s a different Mike.” Totally deflated, I take a seat on the edge of her bed, careful not to rest my leg against her. Even with the sheets and blanket laid over the top of her, I don’t trust my body not to harm. Still, she holds my hand and that’s a concern. I tug gently, but she refuses to let me go. “What’s wrong with me, Mom?”
Her gaze shifts back to me and her brows arch. The expression is a clear sign she doesn’t understand the question.
“I hurt a man today and I didn’t mean to, not like that. I only meant to stop him. I don’t even know what exactly I did.” I clench my jaw and bow my head. “It was like I stole his lifeforce, simply took it away, all with a single touch. Can you explain this to me?”
Her eyes widen and her breath quickens. “Borrow, steal. Borrow, steal. Is there a difference if the borrow is not agreed upon?” Her head shakes in a sharp back and forth motion. “I’m tired. I don’t have the strength to reset the moment.”
“I don’t understand?” My chin yanks back.
“I told you, Michael, don’t ever try to borrow from Sadler. It’s dangerous. He’s dangerous.” Her clutch upon my hand tightens, and she drags me closer. “Promise me you’ll never try such a foolish thing.”
“I don’t.” I shiver.
“Promise me!” Her voice pitches and she grabs me with her second hand, shakes. Shakes hard. “Promise. Promise. Promise.”
“Okay,” I say and try to pull away. She continues to grip tight.
“I don’t believe you” Her eyes narrow and her face reddens. “You did it, didn’t you? You borrowed from him. Why, Michael? Why?” She squeezes the blood in my arm to a stop. My skin burns, my muscles and bones cramp and sting.
“Mom, stop. You’re hurting me.” I pull and she yanks, my body shifting back and forward. My heart quickens, thrums heavily.
Stay calm. Stay calm, I tell myself.
“Why?” she says again, her voice urgent and demanding.
“You’re confused.” My head tingles and swoons. I blink hard to steady my runaway emotions.
I shiver and my limbs warm, prickle. Mom quakes, then shudders. She drops back against the bed, convulsing, a wretched screech leaping from her lips.
No, no, no! I jump to a stand. My hands have done more damage, sent additional electrical whatevers that have hurt my mom. “I’m sorry,” I say. “So, so sorry.”
Mom’s caregiver, Lori, burst through the bedroom door. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” she says and shoves me aside, attends to my mom. “Breathe,” she tells my mom. “Deep breaths.” She turns my mom onto her side and rubs her back. “You shouldn’t be here. I’m calling the police.” She snags the phone from the nightstand. Dials 9-1-1 with one hand while tending to my mom with the other.
“I. I.” I back against the dresser. “I didn’t mean to.” I spin toward the door.
“You aren’t going anywhere,” she says to me. “You’ll stay right there and wait to talk to the cops.”
“Sorry,” I say again and race out the door, out of the house, and down the street. I head for my foster home and remain there, holed up in my room, for the rest of the night.
I check on the green house the next day and the day after that. No matter what happens between my mom and me, I need to keep an eye on her, even if it is a distant one. I need to make sure she stays safe from whatever it is that took my dad from us. If the cops answered Lori’s call, I miss their visit.
I return to my old habit of visiting the sidewalk in front of my mom’s care home, stopping by every day for a week. One time, Lori catches sight of me, shakes a fist at me, and promises to call the police, again. I run away, but I return again the very next day. I stand motionless, in front of the home, staring at the doors and windows, wishing with intense desire for my mom to press her face against any of them and see me.
“Can I talk to you?” The question comes from behind me.
I spin around and… my eyes widen. I gasp and take a step back. “You’re that girl for the other day.” I press my eyes to a tight close and then open. Stare.
“As are you.” She points at me and my head jerks back.
“What are you doing here?” I blink, several times. Has she been following me? Chaos flutters in my chest.
“Looking for you, actually.” She steps onto the curb and pauses. Shoves her hands into her pockets. “I’m Chloe, by the way.”
“Fred,” I say, making no further effort to be friendly. Every nerve ending is caked in anxiety and suspicion. Her face pinches. “Is it because of what I did?” I add.
“I’m sorry?” She shakes her head, and a tiny v pressing between her brows.
“Were you looking for me because of what I did to that man?” I chew on my thumbnail. I turned a man to dust right in front of her. Has she come to make sure I pay for my actions?
“The vampire? No. Although, that was really something to witness.” She grins and her eyes twinkle.
There’s that word again; vampire. “Then I don’t understand.” I don’t understand this monster talk. My heart double-thumps. I glance back to the house, then return my attention to her.
“You’re here for family?” she says and motions to the house. “Your mom?”
My gaze narrows, but I nod, nonetheless. “How did you know that?” I ask. “My mom’s not well and she’s the only family I have.” My muscles tense and I gasp, my hand flying to my lips, attempting to shove the spoken words back down my throat. “I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t even know you.”
My mom is none of her business, and I definitely don’t need to be revealing family weaknesses to a stranger.
“It’s okay.” She reaches for my arm. What the heck. I pull away. “Your mom is not the only family you have.” Her lips twitch in some sort of sympathetic smile. “I’m part of your father’s family, and we’ve been looking for you for a very long time, Freya.”
Family? Could it be? My chest squeezes, and my mouth drops open. “You know my name? My real name?”
“I not only know your name, but I am familiar with your magick. Come with me. Let my family help you.” She extends her hand.
Someone other than myself knows the truth of who I am? My insides are a flurry of activity, and I want to scream to the heavens with joy. Only… I glance over her… Magick? Vampires? She’s a bit on the looney side of things.
Still, what if she really is family? Relations to my dad?
I stare at my open palm, glance at the house, then swing back and consider the press of Chloe’s lips and the squint of her eyes. I decide she believes she’s telling the truth.
And I so want her message to be true. I want to have family. Family who have been looking for me.
With reluctance, I slip my palm into hers. A shiver rolls through me. Odd, to be connecting with my father’s kin after all these years. And yet…
The anomalies I’ve always seen around me—orbs and wisps of color—grow brighter, more vibrant. Chloe glances to the empty air at her side and whispers something to nothing.
My body jolts and I jerk my hand back, clench it to my chest. “Are you mental?”
The rest of the GIFTED GIRLS SEREIS is now available on all platforms. FATAL FREYA will start publishing outside of Amazon after the 14th.
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