I Dream... Book Excerpt
I have had quite a few people contact me lately eager to find out when I Dream... is coming out. I have been plugging away at it and decided to give you all a little taste of what's to come. I Dream... will be coming to you on Kindle and Nook this fall.
By: Tia Harrington
© 2012 by Tia Harrington
TayLore stared at the dilapidated building. The Iron Cage… ironically, that was its name. It was a crumbling wood structure patched with corrugated metal. The whole thing looked like it was held together with wire and paint.
He sneered and scratched the scraggly growth of hair on his chin. TayLore wouldn’t have even found the place if he hadn’t finally stopped to ask a local. He hated talking to locals, having to shift into human form and conform his speech to avoid notice. It was all the Jackel’s fault. He was tempted to just walk away and forget the meeting. It was damned inconvenient… and dangerous to boot. They were within spitting distance of the City of Fen. Hell! He had passed at least five Jinn on the way here.
TayLore rubbed his rodent like face and blew out a hissing sigh through his sharp teeth. He didn’t like admitting that anything scared him, but the Jackel did. He was just unpredictable enough… just powerful enough… just mysterious enough to cause a serious unease about the whole situation. But you never said no to the Jackel.
TayLore shook his head. The place didn’t even have a door. He shifted back into human form, put one hand on the gun concealed at his side, and pushed the curtain of beads and chunks of metal aside.
Cool, damp air brushed over his skin, eliciting a shiver that skittered up his neck. TayLore squinted his eyes into the dim haze of the dilapidated building. It was surprisingly busy. Several tables were filled with patrons of all walks of life, including (TayLore visibly shuttered in revulsion)… fairies.
He cautiously edged his way around a table to a location where the wall was at his back. It was little protection, but anything was better than the exposed feeling that made his legs feel like the bones had been plucked from them. TayLore’s heart was racing, and the desire to vacate this place in all haste almost overwhelmed him. But the thought of provoking the Jackel’s anger held him firmly rooted in this place.
TayLore surveyed the room. Tall, skinny fairies with gangly arms and legs created a festive, carefree environment, but Taylore knew how quickly everything could change. Mischief, riots and violence were always just a breath away from wherever these creatures stood.
To his left was a group of fairies squatting in the corner, playing an aggressive game of dice. Ahead of him stood a pack of five magically-disguised beings – currently in human form- huddled closely together and glancing furtively over their shoulders. There was no telling what exactly they were unless they chose to show you.
Tables scattered about the center of the bar were overflowing with fairies, mysterious creatures cloaked in magic, and humans of the more seedy persuasion… and then he spotted the Jackel. Alone in the darkest corner. It was like the entire population of the hole-in-the-wall place knew that this creature was far more dangerous than every other person inside the Iron Cage combined. Even light avoided the presence of this man. He sat shrouded in absolute darkness, with only a sliver of light daring to touch the strong, lean fingers wrapped around a thick, metal mug.
TayLore took a deep, shaky breath and then hesitantly pushed away from the wall. He had no choice. Or rather, the choice was… do this or die an awful death where his body may… or may not ever be found.
He took one side step and then another until he had passed the full tables. One more step into the edge of the darkness and then… then Taylore tightened his quivering stomach and reached for the empty chair. He sat and waited.
For all of the noise of the room, the silence at this particular table was deafening. TayLore continued waiting in silence… carefully keeping an eye on the ghostly-white fingers clutched tightly to the cup. Beads of sweat broke out on his neck and he swallowed down a storm of nausea. TayLore closed his eyes and took a deep calming breath, and that’s when he heard it. The deep, gravelly voice, like it was rusty from disuse and pent-up anger.
“Well, I see you didn’t have enough courage not to come, Thylacine.” The hand flexed around the cup, and TayLore heard a chair scrape against the stone floor. A laugh like rocks being rubbed together emerged from the darkness before the Jackel leaned into the light. His head was tilted with a sneer across his thin lips. Black hair contrasted sharply against pale skin. He was all sharp, unforgiving lines with an air far more menacing than any he had met before.
TayLore tried, and failed to get coherent words out of his mouth. He cleared his throat and attempted again, saying, “I’m here. Wha… what do you want of me?” It sounded like more of a shaky squeak, but he had managed to get the words out and was going to leave it at that. The Jackel’s eyes narrowed, and he uttered ominously, “Careful, TayLore, your stripes are showing.” He tipped his head to the other side and ran his tongue across his severely straight, white teeth before he continued, “I requested your presence because of your,” he paused for emphasis, “gathering abilities. You have the largest cluster of squatch in the northern hemisphere, and I will need them all.”
TayLore stared down at the table and stuttered out his response. “It-it-it is not pppossible. They are taken up at the moment.” His eyes reluctantly looked up into the Jackel’s and he backpedaled, “Well, I mean. That is to say, I do have six in storage, but the rest are out foraging for other clients.”
The Jackel leaned back and snapped two fingers together. A flicker of fire wavered and then licked the tip of his finger. He leaned forward and lit a long, skinny cigar. Taking a deep draw, the Jackel released a line of green smoke that seemed to slither out of his mouth like a snake stalking its prey. He reached inside his jacket and dropped a leather bag in front of TayLore. TayLore opened it carefully and gasped. It clinked heavily on the table as he dropped it. “All,” was all that emerged from the Jackel’s mouth.
TayLore’s business side fought with his sense of preservation. His eyes narrowed, and he peered into the bag again. Calculations bounced around in his mind before his mouth dropped open. The draw of all of that bottled magic made his fingers itch with the need to have it. He swallowed and said, “I could free up another ten by the end of the week…” He clicked his talon like finger’s together in an anxious twitch, “Maybe… maybe even eleven.”
The Jackel’s fist came out of nowhere, grabbing TayLore’s collar; squeezing until he could feel himself being lifted from his chair. The table screeched across the floor and dug into TayLore’s stomach, trapping his hands. Eyes like molten silver physically struck the thylacine with absolute fear. Green smoke emerged from the Jackel’s mouth and wove back and forth between the two men, as he repeated through clenched teeth, “All!”
TayLore nodded mutely, afraid to say another word… afraid he wouldn’t be able to say another word for a good long while. He felt the leather bag shoved into his chest as the Jackel loosened his grip and dropped him back into his chair. With the boot of his heel the Jackel shoved his chair back, causing it to tumble over with a clatter of noise. He straightened his jacket and warned, “One week. I want them all ready for me in one week.” Without a backward glance, the Jackel strutted, head high, through the middle of the silent room and out the opening of the Iron Cage.
TayLore felt like he had made a deal with the guardian of hell.
The nightmare was tangible.
Pure absence of light imprisoned him, bound only by the inky tentacles of darkness. Jack blinked back the pulsating ache in his head and sat up slowly. His hand went automatically to the source and encountered a sticky slick of blood oozing from a gash behind his ear. Pain in his stomach clawed its way out and through his body at just the mere brush of his fingers across the wound. He tried to swallow down the sickness by taking deep, calming breaths… but the heavy air stuck in his throat.
Jack’s mind began to fight past the haze of pain as his instincts kicked in. The absolute night didn’t scare Jack... Even the pain was something he could deal with… No, it was the thickness of the air that made Jack’s blood run cold. It was unnatural.
Jack focused his senses and took stock of the situation. He reached around him. Hesitantly at first and then with more confidence as he pictured his surroundings in his mind. His fingers slid across rocks covered in a thick coat of spongy moss. Jack sniffed the air. He could smell pines and the faint scent of wood smoke. A soft mist touched his cheeks, and Jack identified the sound of rushing water close by. Beneath the roar of the water he heard what sounded like a very human moan. Jack slowed his search and cautiously reached his hand in the direction of the source. His fingers grazed something, and he felt a familiar tremor of energy run up his arm. Jack’s heart began to pound wildly in his chest. “Kira?”
Kira’s fingers tangled with his, and she tried to edge herself closer to Jack. He grabbed hold of her arm and pulled Kira until her head rested on his lap. She moaned and rolled to her side, tucking her face into Jack’s shirt.
Jack gathered Kira into his arms and felt her tremble in his hands and then go completely limp. Her power ebbed from his soul.
Jack felt… agony!!! A deep, raw pain clawing at him from the inside. On a great, wrenching sob, Jack cried out, “No!”
Jack woke in a cold sweat. His heart was thundering through his chest as he gasped for a full breath. “It isn’t real. It isn’t real.” Jack rubbed a hand over his throat and chanted the words over and over in his mind. Every fiber of his being betrayed this belief. He could still feel the warmth of Kira’s breath seeping through his shirt where her head had lain. Jack sat up in a bed that was not his own and fought off the feeling of disorientation by blinking through the memories of his journey back to the City of Fen.
Closing his eyes, Jack massaged his head until the memory came into focus. It all started just a week ago. He had been taking out the trash for his aunt.
“Yeah, yeah. I don’t want to smell last night’s dinner any longer than you do.” The screen door creaked as he bumped it open with his back, holding the bag comically as far away from him as possible. Jack jumped and dodged a banana that was thrown in his direction. Laughing, he make a smart-aleck comment to Sheila. With a smile on his lips Jack turned, feeling almost light-hearted in that moment.
He backed up a step to pick up the banana and bumped into someone blocking his path. Jack swung around with an apology on his lips… but the words fell away as he gazed at the magical being standing before him.
Councilor Mundo stood on the steps leading to the back yard, his back to the door, staring off into the woods. Mundo didn’t turn at the noise of the door opening, but instead greeted Jack with, “These woods do look to hold more magic than most. Don’t you agree, Mr. Morgan?”
Jack shook off the shock of seeing this particular magical being standing on his porch. Mundo looked powerful and alive with energy while he stood pondering Jack’s woods. The pinstriped white, leisure suit that contrasted against his dark skin only stood to make him stand out that much more.
Jack looked past Mundo into the woods, but his vision clouded with the memory of Kira – the sight of her emerging from the shadowed wood, with the moon glistening off the ethereal dress that clung and flowed with the breeze. Her hair floating down around her. That was all he ever saw anymore when he looked into the woods. Instead of sharing that bit of knowledge, Jack replied, “It’s like the woods belong to another world entirely.”
Mundo nodded and turned his head to glance over his shoulder at Jack. He asked with a casual tone, as if they were talking about the weather, rather than Jack’s entire future, “Have you made your decision?”
Jack thoughtfully took a deep breath, reached over the railing and dropped the garbage bag and banana into the can on the other side of the porch, dusted off his hands, and looked calmly back into the woods. He knew this question would be asked of him soon… was he willing to give up a portion of his life as a human and join the ranks of Jinn… granting wishes, fighting fairies, becoming part of a mythical world so far distant from his nice, normal life? He also knew his answer. He had made the decision right here less than a month ago. His heart ached with missing Kira, and he would do anything… anything to be with her again. Even leave his world behind and step into a magical realm where fantasy became reality and fairytales were the things of nightmares.
Jack crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his hip against the porch rail. He looked up into Mundo’s shadowed eyes and answered, “I have.” He paused and steadied his nerves before committing to the unknown. Jack’s jaw clenched and he said, “I am ready to serve.”
Mundo nodded and smiled ruefully. “I did wonder.”
Jack highly doubted the Counsilor’s answer. From the little he knew, Mundo seemed to know things… Jack fidgeted a little before asking, “So, what now?”
Mundo reached for the door and opened it. He swept his arm before him and answered, “Now, we get the okay from your Aunt.”
Jack blinked back his shock at that announcement and entered his small suburban home with an extremely intimidating, giant genie following behind him… to tell his aunt that he had magical powers. This was really going to go well.
Aunt Sheila was shuffling around in the kitchen, humming along to the music blaring from her antique radio sitting in the window. Her pink and yellow tie-dyed mumu swayed to the rhythm of the song. Bacon was sizzling away on the stovetop, and Sheila ducked into the fridge to grab some milk.
Jack stood just inside the back door and hesitantly offered, “Um, Aunt Sheila?”
“Yes, Sugar?” She was still rooting around in the fridge.
“I, uh… well, that is…”
Sheila spun around with a carton of soy milk under one arm and bunch of green onions in her hand. “What is wrong with you, Ja…” Her eyes went large and she dropped the contents of her arms. Sheila waved a hand in front of her chest. Surprise lit her eyes before she ducked her head and reached up to pat at her long braid hanging over her shoulder.
Jack ducked down to grab the carton that was slowly spurting milk from its top. He palmed the carton of milk and stood.
Aunt Sheila looked up timidly and extended her hand in an utterly feminine way to Mundo. “Well now, Jack, are you going to introduce me to your friend?”
Jack looked back at her and was perplexed by the subdued smile that somehow made her look younger. He answered, “This is…” Jack paused, thinking of how to introduce Councilor Mundo, Head Councilor of the Infriti, Tribe of Yafahi. Jack said, “This is an acquaintance of Kira’s parents, Mr. Mundo.”
Mundo looked anything but shy. He took her hand and hesitated for the briefest of moments before bowing over it and saying, “Jelani Mundo at your service, Ma’am.” Sheila actually giggled. Jack’s mouth dropped open, and the milk almost ended up on the floor again.
Mundo looked up into her eyes and said, “If you would have a seat, I have a matter I would like to discuss with you concerning your… nephew, Jack.” Mundo pulled out a chair for her and Sheila sat without taking her eyes off the Councilor.
Jack shook his head. He placed the carton of milk on the counter with the onions and proceeded to remove the smoking bacon from the heat; mopped up the spilt milk with a handy towel, all the while his aunt was eyeing a mythological creature. Jack tossed the soiled cloth into the sink, and turned to sit in the empty chair next to his aunt. He really didn’t want to see her eyes as she learned of his… magical inclination.
Mundo sat in one of the mismatched chairs and a mighty creak emanated. He straightened his suit jacket and said plainly, “I am a Jinni of the tribe of Yafahi.”
The next few minutes of Jack’s life were a blur. So much was said, but Jack recalled little except for the paling of his aunt’s complextion, the widening of her eyes, and her unnatural silence as Mundo explained all about Jack’s father being a genie and Jack’s following in his magical abilities. He also explained Jack’s willingness to serve the tribe in a limited capacity after a period of necessary training.
Aunt Sheila may have been in absolute fascination with Mundo, but when it came to her Jack and Lily, she was as protective as a mama bear. When the councilor had finished, her eyes narrowed, her back straightened, and she folded her hands politely on the table. All she said was, “I beg your pardon?”
Jack sighed. He knew that tone of voice. This would not end well if he didn’t intervene now. Jack cleared his throat and peeked up at his aunt saying, “It’s not what you think… Well, it kind of is, but different.” Jack ran a hand through his hair in a frustrated manner. “Councilor Mundo, is telling the truth. Jack Sr. was a genie and he passed his powers down to me.”
Aunt Sheila turned her wide eyes to Jack’s. Her mouth quivered slightly, but she said nothing. Just sat, and waited.
Jack swallowed, trying to block the fear of disappointing his aunt. “I’m still me and all, but they need to borrow me occasionally to help… I don’t know, grant wishes or something like that.”
Sheila pursed her lips and covered one of Jack’s hands with her own. She looked directly at Mundo while talking to Jack, “I don’t know about this. It sounds like it could be dangerous. I won’t have my babies put in harm’s way just to satisfy some wish quota for genies!”
Mundo cleared his throat and replied, “I assure you that every precaution…”
Sheila waved away Mundo’s reassuring words and twisted in her seat to look directly at Jack. She lifted his chin to peer deeply into Jack’s eyes – exposing her worry… maybe even more than that. She seemed afraid. Sheila asked in quiet voice, “Are you sure about this, Honey?” She shook her head in a motherly fashion and continued, “I know how much you like your normal, and… well, this,” Sheila flashed her eyes in Mundo’s direction, “isn’t exactly the most normal.”
Jack half smiled and squeezed his aunt’s hand. “Remember that talk we had after I came home from the spring dance? You sat down with me and gave me a bit of advice. You said that I would never really feel at ease with my life until I found what I was missing.” Jack smiled ruefully and continued, “I found the part of me that was missing, and although I’m not completely at ease with everything, I finally don’t feel like a stranger in my own skin anymore.”
Aunt Sheila finally consented to a two week training period in Fen, with the stipulation that Jack would not be dumped off to fend for himself after that time.
Two weeks of watching Aunt Sheila’s worried silence had left Jack unnerved. He had almost been eager to leave, but her last goodbye had left him feeling unsure and confused. Aunt Sheila had reached out and hugged him fiercely. Tears gleaming in her eyes, but unshed. She leaned back with her hands catching his shoulders.
“You have always stepped so carefully through your life. Always known exactly what you were getting into. I have never doubted any of your decisions… but I am afraid that this one…” She shook her head. “You may have chosen wrong.” Sheila looked intently directly into Jack’s eyes. “It’s not too late…”
Jack frowned, not wanting to choose between his family and his heart. He opened his mouth, but stopped as his aunt shook her head. A sad smile lifted the edge of her mouth. “Nevermind. I can see that your decision is made. Just remember that you are who you choose to be. Remember that your worth cannot be judged by some council or by the number of wishes you grant… Your worth is based on how you respond in difficult situations.” She squeezed his arms a little. “Never forget who you are!” Sheila released one of his arms and pressed two bright stones into his palms. “One is for courage and the other to keep you safe.” On a half of a smile, one tear escaped. She ignored it and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Go with my love and my blessing.”
With that she turned to give a measured glare at both Kira’s brother, Liam, and another member of the circle of Lumbee, who had been chosen to escort him.
Jack smiled at the memory. He would never doubt his aunt’s ability to intimidate anyone again.
Jack rubbed the back of his head and looked around him. This space had apparently been his father’s room. The room seemed to be a nice one. Spacious, but oddly bare. No pictures. No clutter or clothes lying about. None of the personality that Jack had seen in the picture of Jack Sr. that Kira had shown him right before she had finished her quest.
The one saving grace to all of the baron cold was that the room backed up to the outer wall of Fen providing an open vista to the sea beyond the city. A school of iridescent fish coasted back and forth through the current, shimmering in the faint moonlight filtering through the ocean.
Jack stood and crossed to the wall. The glass arched up and over his head stretching into a portion of the ceiling. Moon beams rippled through the water… simultaneously highlighting and hiding the sea beyond.
Jack fingered the braided band on his wrist and couldn’t help but think of Kira. She was ultimately the reason that he was here. Her presence made him stronger and more… sure about all of the chaos of this new future.
He would be starting his first classes on how to be a genie tomorrow, and Jack wanted nothing more than to have her here with him. But Kira wasn’t here. Kira was gone… off on another quest… moving forward with her life. If he had had any doubts about it, Liam had been sure to inform him of those facts during their journey to the city.
Jack felt a sharp sense of insecurity run through him. What ifs were running rampant through his mind. What if he failed at being a genie? What if his powers had only been temporary or if he couldn’t control them? What if Kira had only been doing her duty as a Jinn? What if this was all just one big mistake?
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The image of Kira looking up at him was instant. Her eyes sparkled with warmth and love, but her mouth never formed the words. Jack drifted back to sleep with her image on the edge of his dreams.
Kira sat in silence... waiting. She fiddled with the bracelet on her wrist and could almost feel Jack's arms wrapped around her... his breath on her cheeks... the feel of his lips for one brief moment.
She sighed deeply.
Her bracelet had turned a vivid crimson that night. Kira had only noticed the color after Jack released her… after she had turned to walk back into her world... away from Jack.
It was that vivid red color that had quickly faded back into a nondescript opaque that scared her the most. She wondered if Jack had noticed his stone as well, for it was only when two halves of a destined whole came together that both stones would burn from within. She wondered what the kiss had meant to him. But more than anything she wondered if it had been a mistake to not admit her love to Jack when he had whispered those words to her.
She was scared, plain and simple. She had only just turned 17, and eternity scared the Hades out of her. She knew with every fiber of her being that she loved Jack, but… But everything! With the biggest ‘but’ being that he was still a human… and he shouldn’t have to choose between being human or being with her.
Kira absently rubbed the heel of her palm against her chest... trying to rub away the ache that gnawed at her heart ever since that one fated moment when her heart had found its other half and then left it behind.
"Kira?" Kira looked up into the face of an innocent kidnapper. The old lady smiled and said, “It’s time, Sweety.”
Kira lifted her head. It was time. She had come to this quest even more unsure of what to expect than she had with her first. Her fears quickly subsided when she first looked into her human’s eyes. Claire Lovestead. The girl was… a puzzle. Bright green eyes, curly red hair, a beautiful smile, only four years old… Oh yes, and completely unwilling to speak a word to anyone.
She had apparently wandered off during a county fair in the-middle-of-nowhere, Wyoming and had been picked up by a forgetful, if overly loving grandma, who didn’t remember that the girl wasn’t hers. The local police had lost her trail, and Claire, who refused to say a word, was now swinging in the most picturesque tree swing.
Kira stood up from the porch steps and brushed the dust from her jeans. She was almost used to the uncomfortable contraptions. She replied to the old lady, “Yes, Mrs. Calhoun. I’ll go get Annie,” That was the name that Grandma Kidnapper called little Claire, “and get her washed up for supper.” Supper. It was a new word for Kira. Part of the dialect she supposed came from the more rural areas of this northwest region.
Kira had finagled her way into the Calhoun household by pretending to be a teen runaway who needed a good meal and a place to stay for a few nights. It hadn’t been difficult, what with a little use of her persuasive powers and Mrs. Calhoun’s natural inclination to want to nurture.
Kira eyed Claire. This quest wasn’t turning out to be as easy as Kira first thought it would be. Of course the girl’s true wish would be to be returned to her parents, but if she refused to talk… and actually say her wish, then Kira was up a creek.
Kira put a smile on her face as she approached Claire. She would just have to gain the girl’s trust and hope for the rest. “Hi Claire.” The girl drug her bare feet in the grass below the swing and looked up at Kira with the biggest green eyes she had ever seen. Kira felt a little melting in her heart. It was good to feel something other than just the constant ache that had pressed down on her for the last several weeks.
Kira knelt a couple of feet away from Claire, not wanting to scare her. She continued, “My name is Kira, and I’m here to help you get back to your Mom and Dad.”
Claire’s fingers tightened in the rope of the swing and lower lip trembled ever so slightly. Kira asked, “Is that what you want?”
The girl ducked her head almost trying to hide behind the rope of the swing. Her brows furrowed and she stuck her thumb in mouth.
Kira sighed. She almost wished for another human as vocal as Jack had been when they first met. He had no problem telling Kira his thoughts and hurling words left and right in her direction.
With a half smile lingering from the memories flooding her mind, Kira relented and reached out a hand to Claire. “We can talk more… later. Come on. We need to wash up for supper.” Claire slid silently off the swing with her thumb still firmly plugged into her mouth. She hesitantly took hold of Kira’s hand. Kira smiled down at her and gently squeezed the chubby little fingers reassuringly before walking toward the quaint, white house with the child-snatching grandma standing on the porch.
More of I Dream... will be coming your way soon via Nook and Kindle.