TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Okay, it’s snowing, but AUTUMN ROAST.
SURPRISE! I’M EXCERPTING YOU! BOOM!
For today’s Flash Fiction Friday, and because of last week’s Virtual Book Signing Party (http://wp.me/p2x7oj-DX) for RUNNING HOME, and my incessant babble about the sequel, RUNNING AWAY, I thought I would surprise you all with an excerpt! YOU’RE WELCOME.
I have one week to finish this first draft, and my excitement to get it out to all of you who’ve been so supportive of Eliza and crew is making me insane. I hope this little bit leaves you wanting more.
EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY
By Julie Hutchings
It was dark, and I had no idea where I was.
I heard noises, and worse, I felt something. I felt it again, death, lurking around me, as invasive and comforting as always.
My limbs shook when I threw off the blankets and threw my legs over the side of the bed, only to discover the bed was on the floor. The noise of my feet hitting the floor made me gasp.
When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw thankfully, nothing in the room but for the bed I’d been in and a few very small pieces of furniture. Shadows flitted across the walls from outside, the trees swaying in the winter night.
Japan, I’m in Japan, and in my own room. Nicholas isn’t here.
I steadied my breathing, knowing I was alone, and knowing anything could be waiting for me. The vampires had kept themselves hidden during the day, and now they were out, looking for blood.
No. These are Shinigami. They’re not that.
I needed light of some kind. Something. But there was nothing.
“Perfect time for some crap karate test, Nicholas, for the love of—“
A branch snapped. I could hear it as plain as day, the rice paper walls concealing nothing. Two walls of paper lead outside, and there was enough snow on the ground that a branch would have to be stepped on to snap.
Death was all around me. It was the only familiar thing I had here.
The silhouette of a man appeared on the other side of the door, inches from my face, and I screamed, stumbled backwards, and fell onto the bed.
He didn’t move. Didn’t try to run or come after me. He waited. Like death itself.
Death always knew I couldn’t resist. It owned me.
I stood, and walked to the door, never doubting if I should open it. When I slid the door open, the figure made no movement, and didn’t even blink. The full moon illuminated him.
He was breathtaking in his darkness.
The night made him brighter somehow. A full head taller than me, bare chested with only thin white karate pants the same crispness as the snow. Perfectly chiseled, smooth, strength in every pore. Beautiful and fearsome. He looked down at me with onyx eyes, shining black hair falling around his cheeks and chest, the front held up in a traditional knot.
He smelled like red wine and roses.
Rich, heady and slightly nauseating. The scent of looking into something beyond.
The smell slapped me with memory, one I hadn’t touched since it occurred. I knelt at my mother’s casket, eyes on my father’s next to her. My grandmother leaned over me, wine heavy on her breath, the scent of failing roses succumbing to it from the wreaths and bouquets all around us.
“There’s shadows all around you,” she said into my ear. I hadn’t budged.
My mouth was opening and closing, no sound coming out as I stared at him.
He was Shinigami. And he was looking at me with as much wonder as I was him, all in his eyes. The rest of him was rigor mortis still.
A crack resounded, one I knew all too well, and the man was gone.
I think I scared him away.
Snow was drifting in over my bare feet. I shut the doors and turned to run back to the bed, only to smack into Nicholas, making me scream.
“You’re late,” I muttered, and breathed in his cinnamon plum scent. A mix of New Hampshire and my new home, Japan.
“Who was that?” he asked, like I’d answered the door to girl scouts, not a vampire.
“I don’t know. But he was the same vampire from earlier, in the shadows.”
Nicholas flashed to the doorway, and looked out but we both knew nobody was there.
I collapsed back onto the bed, still drained. I could have slept for a month. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time it was. But I knew that Nicholas was in the room with me, and that I wanted him to stay.
Dragging myself to sitting, I pushed away the nothingness I’d been feeling, reminded myself that what had happened all around me was not my fault, and wasn’t his. I tried to make it a fact in my head before I spoke to him.
“Nicholas,” I said to his back. He didn’t move. “I know I’ve been—missing pieces—lately. And I wish it hadn’t been you I saw every time I thought of Kat being dead. But I’m trying really hard to fix it, Nicholas, I promise you.”
His shoulders relaxed some, or they sagged. I couldn’t tell which. I didn’t see him turn around or come to me, but he was there, kneeling at the edge of my bed.
“I’m not a man who needs apologies for everything to be all right.”
“Good. Apologizing is awful.”
“But necessary. I’ve nearly killed myself for you, Eliza Morgan, and you resent me for it. Feelings don’t die any faster than I do, and it’s agonizing trying to kill them.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m dying, and you’re spending the time we have hating me for something I had no control over.”
I stopped breathing.
“What is it, Eliza? All the times you said to me no, it’s not your fault, this is my fate you didn’t mean it? You seemed so sincere.”
“Your sarcasm isn’t making this easier.”
“Nothing is easy! Nothing!”
I was terrified that he was calling my bluff. I was terrified that I’d pushed him too far.
But I was pissed that he was treating me this way, knowing what I’d seen, what I’d been through, and what I was leaving; my life.
“I lost my best friend,” I said.
“And so did I. I spent my immortal life with Roman. Until you. Do I hold it against you? No. Because it’s not your goddamn fault. And for the number of times you’ve said to me through gritted teeth that it’s not my fault, it’s yours, maybe I started to believe you. You and I both know we need this to be somebody’s fault.”
The wind was knocked out of me. It felt like I was losing him, and of course, I was. He was melting into nothing because Roman took Kat’s life and he hadn’t. All this death for nothing, and no explanation except that there was no choice.
“I think we both need to remember what it feels like to be alone,” he said, and in a sickening flash, he was gone.
The only scent that lingered was red wine and roses.