My sci-fi novel, BURN OUT, originally published by Egmont USA, was called "a scorching series opener not to be missed" by Kirkus Reviews and I am hard at work on the final book in the trilogy. My most recent release, KILLER POINTE (Dark Edge Publishing, May 2020), is an urban fantasy novel following a teenager who plans to fund her dreams of attending Juilliard School for dance in this world by serving as a hired assassin in parallel fairy tale land. As my favorite holiday is Halloween, a short horror story, THE HOUSE ON 6th STREET, releases next month and involves a group of Halloween party-goers who decide to take on a dare by stopping at a haunted house.
I reside in sunny Colorado in the U.S. and when not writing, I'm usually cheering on my son and daughter at their respective baseball games and dance competitions, or taking long walks with my hubby and our behaviorally-challenged rescue dogs. It is also extremely likely that I am eating chocolate.
Epping Forest, England
September 8, 6:04 a.m.
I wait for her behind a large oak tree. Cool mist dampens the morning air, yet I feel no chill. I’m too focused. I know how it will unfold; the girl’s initial confusion will give way to anger, then fear. Despite what I am about to do, I don’t want her scared.
I want her dead.
Killing her is necessary in order to find the One. Streaks of gold penetrate the woods, and I watch the rising sun with impatience. The less light, the better.
Light, tentative footsteps crunch the dead leaves underfoot. The girl mumbles under her breath, “I don’t know why we had to meet so early.”
I take a slight step in her direction and a twig snaps.
She peers into the fog. “Matt?” she whispers. “Matt, is that you?”
I step out from behind the tree. “My deepest apologies, but Matt couldn’t make it.”
She starts to run when she sees the knife, and the crumpled note from her crush—as written by yours truly—slips from her hand. Her back turned to me only makes what I have to do easier.
I wipe the blood on a cloth that I’ll later burn. One down, but many remain. I won’t waver. I won’t tire. I’ll make the world a better place—one freak at a time.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
September 8, 1:04 a.m.
The scream tore from my throat as I jerked awake, certain someone was in the room with me. Shaking, I bolted upright in bed, the sheets drenched in sweat. I fumbled in the dark for the wastebasket and vomited into it. The room was almost pitch-black thanks to the thick, custom-made shutters that covered the inside of all windows in the house.
Light flooded the room and I shielded my eyes from the glare. Mom ran to my bed and pushed the hair back from my face. She stared with concern at the stench-filled waste basket. “Lila, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
I couldn’t stop shaking. “I don’t know.” Had I had a nightmare? My eyes fell on the large rose-quartz crystal in her other hand. “Seriously, is that your idea of a weapon?”
Mom managed a weak smile, her blond hair in frizzed ringlets around her face. “It was the closest thing. She pressed the back of her hand to my forehead. “No fever . . . you’re just clammy.”
I clutched my blanket around me. “I thought it was impossible for me to get sick.”
Her brow wrinkled. “I thought so too. Was it a bad dream?”
I tried, and failed, to grasp at something at the edges of my memory. I shook my head. “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
Just to be sure, she checked my closet and under my bed with the crystal raised above her head like some kind of hippie warrior. Satisfied that no one lurked inside my room, she pocketed the rose quartz. “I’m worried about you. Do you want me to stay?”
“No, I’m fine, really.” For emphasis, I leaned back against my pillow and tugged the blanket up to my chin.
“Okay, but yell if you need anything.” She took the wastebasket and lingered a minute by the doorway, concern etched across her face, before she flicked off the light and returned to her room.
The darkness fell heavy around me, enveloping me in a black cocoon. Only the lazy whirring of the ceiling fan overhead masked the silence. I tried to steady my rapid breathing. No one was here in the house aside from Mom and me, same as always. We were safe. I told myself this over and over again for the next few hours until sunrise . . . because I couldn’t quite make myself believe it.
Heathrow Airport, London
I buckle into my seat, ignoring the chipper flight attendant who acts as if the life vest under the seat can actually prevent death if the plane plummets into the icy Atlantic. Still, a smile creeps across my face at what I’ve accomplished . . . at what is waiting for me across the pond. I can almost smell them—their rotten souls permeating the air around me. I don’t know why they think they have the right to be here at all. Like they can fool us into thinking they are human. That the hideousness behind their normal-looking exteriors will go undetected for long. Stupid creatures.
The plane lifts into the air and I settle back in my seat, gazing at the splendid morning sky out my window. The countdown has begun, and I am the timekeeper. They think they are better than humans, but I’ll show them just how wrong they are.
Patience and Other Wasted Virtues
It takes me almost a month to find the next one. The pace will have to pick up if I have any hope of succeeding. The waiting is the hardest part—double-checking their sub-human status, planning the most effective location for their death, and in this case, neglecting my regular obligations in order to finish the task. No one will notice, though—I’ve covered my tracks too well.
She makes the mistake of leaving early today. Maybe she senses something is wrong, senses that I’m near. Sadly, in trying to save herself, she leaves herself vulnerable—walking home alone by a creek. Tsk, tsk. And to think they consider themselves smarter than humans.
Such pretty wings, though. I have plans for these. My glee is barely contained as her blood soaks into the water . . . and her life ebbs to nothingness. Not just because I’ve taken out another one, but because I feel closer to . . . the One.
Of all the mutants I will kill, none will compare to the One.
The way they stared, you’d think they had never seen a girl run before. More likely, it was that they’d never seen me run. Maybe the quiet girl charging through school as if her life depended on it did warrant some attention. Still, I didn’t appreciate the amusement I saw on their faces. Or the laughter. Though I had no idea what was happening to me, it felt like death was a distinct possibility.
“What’s up, Kincade, they givin’ away free calculators in class today?” one boy yelled.
Ignoring him, I raced down the hallway, my footsteps echoing against the tile. The wrenching sensation in my stomach increased, propelling me faster. I threw open the girls’ restroom door and darted inside. My gut lurched as I locked the stall.
What the hell is going on? Sweat beaded on my forehead. Bending over with my head hovering over the toilet, I focused on the cracked floor tiles as I gagged, a stream of bile erupting from my mouth. Gross. Maybe it was the eggs I had for breakfast; maybe they’d gone bad. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I might have kept myself safe all these years, only to die of food poisoning.
Get a grip, Lila. I’d heard about stomach viruses—had even seen one of my classmates puke—but I’d never experienced it for myself. I was supposed to be immune to illness—one of the few perks of being me—yet I’d puked twice in as many months. Though it was still difficult to muster much empathy for most of my classmates, I had to admit this sucked.
At the sound of the homeroom bell, I attempted to stand. I put a hand on each side of the stall, partially covering a scribble proclaiming Lexie was here. Different colored writing underneath inquired, Where hasn’t she been?
Relief washed over me as the wave of sickness passed. I stumbled to the sink and splashed cold water on my face, then reached over my shoulders to make sure the bindings hadn’t slipped. As much as I hadn’t wanted my “extra parts” discovered, not vomiting in the hallway of Northeast High had taken priority. The wayward hair staring back at me from the mirror would have to wait. Only one more class to go. I hurried out the door toward my locker.
The bell signaled the start of Ms. Gable’s Advanced Algebra, or AA, as nerds like me called it. It was my absolute favorite class. I pressed my fingertip against the pencil point to ensure adequate sharpness, a satisfied smile on my lips. Some girls might be obsessed with boys or shoes, but my obsession involved numbers. Why shop when you could find the unknown variable in a complex equation?
Although my classmates complained that algebra had little value in the real world, they didn’t have a clue. There was inherent perfection in numbers. Something was either right or wrong—no pesky shades of gray.
I shifted in my seat, my bindings already damp from the humidity still hanging in the warm autumn air. It was marginally better than the thick heat of August—North Carolina summers were brutal, and wreaked havoc on both my hair and my bindings. When I looked up toward the front of the classroom, the empty teacher’s desk stared back. Weird. Ms. Gable was never late.
Giggling erupted behind me.
“Seriously, did you see Jackie’s pants? I mean could her ass look any bigger?”
Miranda. Miranda thought anyone who weighed over a hundred pounds belonged on laxatives.
“Speaking of the fashion-challenged . . . ,” Miranda continued, then thankfully dropped her voice to a whisper.
Even though I could no longer hear her, when Glen, the big football jock with an even bigger mouth, laughed the loudest, I knew who they were talking about. He never let an opportunity pass if it involved harassing me. His voice echoed through the classroom.
“What a nerd.”
What a jerk, I wanted to say, but didn’t—I never did. Instead, I shrank in my seat, cheeks burning. My ever-present hoodie was a precautionary measure rather than a lack of fashion sense, but Miranda couldn’t know that.
Trendy tops didn’t provide adequate wing coverage.