Oh, like I was really going to let today go by and not post about the holiday?? Come, now. Even a drunken penguin remembers the holiday where it's perfectly acceptable to eat ridiculous amounts of food and consume alcohol, then pass out. Please. However, courtesy of my mother and two brothers, I am accepting donations for the therapy I know have to put my toilet through after our giant dinner. Say a prayer, light a candle, whatever you do, it is in desperate need of help...
Okay, now that the turkey day junk is out of the way, I have a special treat for all you non-drunks out there. The second book in the Daughters of Night trilogy will be available soon, but just for you, I convinced my blogger, Ashley, to post the first couple of chapters here. It's still in it's roughest form, but you get to read it before it goes on sale next month. (Hopefully.) Enjoy!!
Daughters of Night: Possession
“Her house sinks down to death,
And her course leads to the shades.
All who go to her cannot return
And find again the paths of life.”
“Her gates are gates of death, and form the entrance of the house
She sets out towards Sheoul.
None of those who enter there will ever return
And all who possess her will descend to the Pit.”
-4Q184 (Exorcism text)
“Abby, does this dress make my butt look enormous?”
As soon as she asked the question, every hormone-driven teenager in El Paso County High School jerked their heads to gawk at my best friend’s rear, which, at the moment, was inches away from my face as I was kneeling down to tie my shoe, with a clingy black material stretched against it.
It was no secret Olivia’s butt was quite possibly the most sought-after in the whole school. She was gorgeous, golden hair, clear blue eyes, flawless skin tanned just right, with a perfect body, and she knew it. She also craved the attention.
I blushed, brushing a few wisps of auburn hair out of my eyes. Not that I was a total eyesore, but I was definitely no Olivia Parks. I had deep auburn hair set against fair skin a few shades away from being pale. My eyes were my favorite feature, a deep emerald green ringed by long lashes. I stood a little short at 5’3”, but even Olivia envied my shapely curves. No, I was definitely not ugly, but I was always in the shadow of Olivia.
Which was fine by me, I didn’t really care for the spotlight so much. I was actually glad Olivia took so much attention off of me, because I only had one guy in my radar.
Just thinking his name caused a little smile to tug at my lips. Sure, technically I could have dated nearly anyone in my school, but Jackson was my best friend, and had been my best friend since we were 2, when our moms had arranged play dates for us. And even though I grew up to be on the dance team and run with the popular crowd, while Jackson was a science and math junkie, part of the yearbook team, and class treasurer, he still had the social status every student craved and only a few privileged were blessed with. Besides, I loved the way his gray eyes danced every time he looked at me. He made me feel like I was the only girl in the world. Despite the fact that we had been together practically our whole lives, my stomach still turned flips when I saw him. When he kissed me, my heart fluttered in my chest, hard enough that I felt sometimes like it would lift us both off and fly us far away. Everything was perfect.
“Um, he-llo, Earth to Abby?”
Olivia’s voice jerked me back to reality. Literally. I nearly fell I jumped so violently. I looked back up again at my best friend’s butt wagging at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Liv, your butt is huge, mammoth, and in fact-” I reached down and grabbed my history book from the stack I had set on the floor, then lifted it up in an attempt to balance it on her backside-”I think I can use it to help me carry my books, now!” I burst out laughing.
Olivia spun quickly as I grabbed my book back and stood.
“Abby!” Olivia glared at me.
“Relax, Liv,” I laughed. “If your butt gets any more perfect it’s going to take over the rest of you, and then all the rest of us won’t even be able to look at you without your perfectness blinding us.”
“You’re just jealous,” Olivia said, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
We walked down the hall toward our 3rd period class, Olivia shaking her perfect rear as we walked, me just trying to keep up, taking 2 steps to her one. Olivia was droning on and on about her wardrobe choice and how she was super concerned that it would make her look fat, but thank goodness she has such considerate friends (which she sneered and dripped sarcasm as she said it) to make her feel better. I pretended to listen, faking interest the whole way to class, stepping into the room right as the bell rang, making a beeline to my desk. Which happened to be right in the middle of my two favorite people-Olivia on my left and Jackson on my right? Life was good.
After school, I was being forced to participate in this family thing. Dinner with my mom, her boyfriend, my sister Lily, her new fiancé, and my cousin Jeff, fresh out of the closet. At least I won’t be the only one there without a date. I hope.
Dinner was set for 5:00pm at some new fancy restaurant downtown, and I would be meeting everyone else there. Which, by the time school let out and I got home to change, left me zero time to work with. I traded in my baggy blue sweater-dress and skinny jeans for a form fitting black dress that flared out at the hem just above my knees. I had gotten the dress just for the occasion. It came with a silver belt about three inches wide, covered in fake diamonds that shimmered in any light, which sat high on my waist. The halter strap was a string of the same jewels, and the hem was adorned with a scattering of the jewels.
It looked absolutely stunning on me, which was exactly what I needed. It was going to take all the confidence I could get just to make it through the night unscathed. I threw on my drop diamond earrings and a simple silver chain, pulled my hair back into a tight bun, and just before leaving I pulled on my strappy black stilettos. I was a knockout.
Of course, even though it only took about 10 minutes to throw myself together and touch up my makeup, I still managed to head out late, and was stuck in traffic when the clock hit 5:00pm. A few seconds later, a message came through on my cell.
“Where are you? Are you still coming?”
My mother. Of course. I started to text back when another message popped up on my screen.
“Abby, Mom is freaking out! And I need you to meet Edwin…he’s SOOO dreamy! :)”
I sighed in exasperation. Heaven forbid I be 5 minutes late. I texted both of them back, letting them know I was on my way, stuck in traffic, then turned the ringer off and tucked my phone away in my purse. I would get there when I got there. And if that wasn’t good enough, then I would bail, grab Olivia and a huge tub of ice cream, and we would spend the evening watching old movies.
I made it to the restaurant at 5:08, and the overly friendly hostess guided me to the table where my family had already ordered.
“Abigail!” My mother’s screeching voice was filled with excitement and impatience. “Oh, you FINALLY made it!”
Great. I haven’t even been offered a seat and already I’m feeling guilty. Awesome. I can’t wait to get through this dinner.
“Abby, I’m so glad you made it, we were getting worried!” Lily exclaimed.
“Sorry I’m late,” I replied, the irritation leaking through in my voice. “Actually, I’m not even 10 minutes late, which, I might add, is not too shabby on my part, considering the traffic out there.”
I took a sip of my water, clearing my head.
“That’s our Abby, always fashionably late,” came a high-pitched male voice from behind me.
I turned in my seat, my night already getting a little better.
“Jeff!” I exclaimed.
He beamed at me; the whitest and straightest smile on the planet aimed straight for me, as he reached out and pulled me back out of my seat. I wrapped my arms around his neck, standing on my toes against his height, and he pulled me in a bear hug.
I adored my cousin. He was the only one in my family whom I felt totally comfortable around. We were practically raised together, until his aunt became a raging alcoholic and moved him out to California. I had missed him so much, and I buried my face into his shoulder. He smelled like peppermint and axe body spray. I pulled away and he held me at arms length, examining me.
“Looks like someone has been doing something right, gorgeous!”
“Oh, and look at you, handsome!” I looked him over. “You look amazing! How long has it been?”
“Too long. You’re still in high school, right?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” I cringed. “I swear, one more year, and I’m SO out of here.”
“Um, hate to break up the happy reunion, but the waiter wants to know what you’d like to order, Abby.”
I turned from Jeff to my sister, and the blood rushed to my cheeks. I glanced at Jeff, who just shrugged and helped me back into my chair.
I ordered the grilled mahi mahi, and as soon as the waiter left, my sister and mom started giggling. I noticed there were two empty chairs at the table.
Oh. Right. The new boyfriend and fiancé. Where were they?
As if on cue, two men approached the table. One was quite tall, well over 6 feet, dark hair cut military short except on top, where it was gelled into a spiky style. He had a well trimmed goatee, and looked very snazzy in a white button down shirt under an ivory blazer and slacks. He was rather attractive, probably not older than 25. The other man appeared older, probably in his mid 40’s. His receding hairline gave way to dark blonde hair, a little shaggy. He kind of gave me the impression of a mad scientist. Especially with those dark rimmed glasses perched on his beak-like nose, and his thin, lanky build. Which was the complete opposite of Mr. Goatee, who was well built, muscular, and lean, his face chiseled off in a square-like shape. Everything seemed so proportionate on him, he almost looked unreal.
Imagine my surprise when the older mad-scientist guy walked up and planted a kiss on Lily’s cheek, then Mr. Goatee plopped down next to my mom, draping an arm around her shoulders. I couldn’t stop my eyes from bulging out of my head or my jaw from clanking to the ground.
Lily took the mad scientist’s hand as he sat down, then looked between me and Jeff. Suddenly, the giddy school-girl-in-love look vanished from her face and she crunched her brow.
“So, Abby, Jeff, this is Edwin.”
My voice failed me. I could do nothing but gawk at the scene before me. What I wanted to do was ask Lily if she picked up a bum from the shelter as an act of charity. Then ask when her new fiancé would get there. I felt her glaring at me as I moved from staring at Mr. Goatee with my mom to Mr. Mad Scientist. I was just so incredibly confused I couldn’t force my mouth to speak. At least not until I felt a pointy elbow jab into my ribs. I jumped, tore my gaze from the train wreck in front of me and shot a glance at Jeff. Who just happened to be gawking as badly as I had been.
“I, er, pleased to meet you, Edwin,” I stumbled, looking back at Mr. Mad Scientist and my sister. Of course, if looks could kill, I’d have died 3 times from the look on Lily’s face.
Much to my surprise, Edwin laughed heartily.
“The pleasure is mine, I assure you, Abby. I know I’m not exactly what you were expecting, but I hope that I will be able to prove myself worthy of your amazing family.”
The surprises just kept coming. Not only was Edwin a perfect gentleman, but he spoke in a rich voice with a heavy English accent.
“I’m sure you’ll fit right in, Edwin,” Jeff spoke with an air of elegance, as if intimidated by this guy. “So tell me, how did the two of you meet?”
Lily answered quickly, “Oh, Edwin and I work together.”
She smiled at him, and I almost felt bad for all the gawking. She genuinely seemed attracted to him.
I glanced toward my mother’s voice.
“Abby, I also wanted you to meet David. David is a writer, and my company took an interest in his books. Then, well, we just seemed to hit it off!”
My mother was all smiles when she spoke, then giggled like a love struck schoolgirl. David looked at me and smiled lazily.
“Abby, Jeff, it’s good to meet you. And Abby, I know you what you’re thinking, I’m barely older than you are, but I hope that doesn’t stop us from becoming a family.” Then he smiled like a dirty used car salesman. “I sure do love Kathryn, and I think we’re going to get along just fine.” Yeah, I didn’t like him already.
The rest of the dinner went by as uncomfortable as the beginning. Fortunately, when Jeff and I excused ourselves everyone else seemed more than happy to let us leave.
I gave Jeff a ride back to his hotel room. Even though it was the opposite direction of my house, I didn’t mind spending some extra time with him. After all, he was my best friend growing up.
“Jeff,” I said when we were in the car driving, “I would really love for you to meet my best friend Olivia. You would love her, and her style.”
“Oh, really, so I’m not your best friend anymore?” Jeff joked. “I didn’t think I was going to be that easy to replace.”
Jeff puckered out his lower lip and gave me the puppy dog eyes.
“Whatever, Jeff, you’re more like the sister I wanted but you just couldn‘t follow directions and fell into a boy‘s body.”
“Hey, this is boy’s body grew into a fine specimen of sexy man, thank you very much. I just happen to want another one as a companion.”
We laughed and played catch up for the rest of the drive to his hotel. It was kind of sad to leave, but I knew he had things to do, and so did I.
I was rocking out to some awesome tunes on my long drive home, trying to push thoughts of my sister with Mad Scientist and my mom with Mr. Goatee. I had SO much to tell Olivia when I saw her again. I guess my head was distracted a bit too much, though, because when I finally turned the radio down, I realized I had missed my freeway exit by about 5 miles.
Damn. This is definitely not what I needed after tonight’s fiasco.
I took the next exit, which put me in a really bad part of town. It was already really dark out, and I didn’t know my way around that area, so of course I couldn’t find my way back to the freeway. I pulled over on a side road to plug my address into my GPS so I could get back before my mom got home. I had already heard enough criticizing for one evening between the main course and dessert; I didn’t need her harping on me for getting lost in a bad neighborhood, too.
I plugged the address into the GPS and pulled away from the curb. As I followed the verbal commands telling me where to turn, I noticed a car following me with no headlights. I started to get nervous. I kept my eyes ahead, glancing in the rear view mirror only occasionally, each time finding the same car with no headlights on keeping pace with me. Even after I found my way back to the freeway and drove back to familiar territory. I turned onto my street and the car still followed. I pulled in the drive quickly and watched the car creep past my house.
Great, I thought. Now I’m going to have to tell my mother about this. She’s going to completely freak out on me.
I walked in quickly after locking up my car, made my way upstairs to my room, and flopped on the bed. I was not looking forward to the conversation with my mother about the evening’s events.
I fell asleep lying there on my bed, still in my party dress. If my mother checked on me, she left me alone to sleep. I didn’t wake up until 9am the next morning, which was thankfully Saturday, considering if it were a school day I’d have already been late.
I dragged my disheveled self out of bed and stumbled across the hall to the bathroom. I was still in my little black dress and my makeup had smeared all over my face while my hair was poking out all around my bun. I was a nightmare.
After a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes I felt a heck of a lot better. It’s amazing how a pair of yoga pants and a tank top can make a person feel completely at ease and renewed. I settled onto the couch with a bowl of cereal and some cartoons, completely forgetting about the previous evening and the creepy car that followed me home.
My cell rang at 10:30, and Olivia’s perky voice was on the other end.
“Ohmigosh Abby, you will never believe what happened to me this morning!”
Olivia proceeded to tell me how she got into a huge argument with her boyfriend over doughnuts at breakfast. Every last detail, down to how many had sprinkles, with much emphasis on the part where he actually had the audacity to pick up doughnuts when he KNEW she was on a very strict diet. I sat there patiently talking her though her latest crises with sympathy and support.
“Oh, Abbs, I almost forgot, you’re still coming over today, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, a little too slowly.
“Ohmigosh, Abby, I swear your brain is dead! Remember? My house at 1, going to look at prom dresses? Only 3 months till the big day?”
Crap. I forgot.
“Come on, Liv, you think I’d forget something that important?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever, just don’t be late. I am NOT getting my prom dress from Wal-Mart or worse, the consignment store.”
“Liv, I’ll be there.”
“Kay, loves ya, buh-bye!”
Olivia hung up before I even had a chance to respond. It was going to be a long weekend.
I met Liv at her house at 1:30. I’m always running late. When I pulled up, she was standing outside her house tapping her foot impatiently, while shooting me dirty looks.
“Really, Abby?” Liv said after sliding in my passenger seat, clearly irritated at my tardiness. “I swear you are going to be late to your own funeral.”
I sighed. Liv was my best friend in the whole world, but sometimes she was a handful.
“Liv, let’s just get this over with.”
We drove to the mall and spent the next 3 hours trying on dresses. Liv found a gorgeous orange dress that proudly displayed her generous cleavage. I had to admit it was awesome. It fell just below the knees and flared out in a wide swooping ring around her body, it was strapless, and had wide lacing across the back like a corset. It really flattered her body type and skin tone.
I picked out a beautiful floor length champagne gown trimmed in silver. It had spaghetti straps and was low cut, the whole back was cut out, and the close-fitting bodice was covered in sequins. The skirt had several layers that made it a little poofy but flowed with my body. I loved it, and couldn’t wait to show it off at prom.
After an early dinner, I dropped Liv off back at her house around 6pm, and started making my way back home. Halfway there, I got a call from Jackson. My heart fluttered when I answered.
“Hi, babe, what’s up?”
“Just dropped Liv off at her place, now I’m headed home. Why?”
“Abby,” he said, voice turning serious, “you know I hate it when you use your phone when you drive. It’s not safe; call me when you get home.”
And that was when it happened. After all that protesting over the last few years about how nothing was going to happen, the worst did. I didn’t see the truck speeding toward the intersection. I didn’t even think twice about it because there were hardly any cars on that particular street, and I had the green light going straight. So when the semi plowed into my driver’s side at a 90 degree angle, I didn’t even have time to tell him I loved him before I felt the searing hot pain engulf my entire body. The phone had been knocked from my hand, but I still heard Jackson screaming for me.
“Abby? Abby! What’s happening? Ohmigosh, Abby, please, answer me! Oh, God, baby, please…”
I wanted so badly to tell him I loved him. Tell him I was sorry for not listening, and to comfort him. But all I could do was scream in pain and terror. And as the flames consumed my body, darkness took me over and his voice faded into nothing.
“Abby, please hold on, baby girl, PLEASE!”
What the hell just happened? And what is the horrible roaring sound?
I started freaking out the moment I heard the loud crash and the sound of metal scraping and bending. But the moment I heard Abby’s terrified screams, I snapped into action. I grabbed another phone and dialed 911, slid my shoes on without tying the laces, and as soon as I gave the specifics to the 911 operator I jumped in my car. I raced to where I assumed Abby was, considering there were only a handful of streets between Abby’s and Olivia’s houses.
By the time I got to the intersection of Hapley and Oak, where I suspected the accident had happened, the police, along with paramedics and fire trucks, were already on the scene. But what I saw was far worse than anything I could ever have expected. Abby’s car was engulfed in flames several stories high. The fire fighters were working hard at putting out the car so they could get Abby out. She was trapped inside. My car came to a skidding halt behind a cop car, and I jumped out. An officer grabbed me as I ran toward the inferno, but I barely heard his words. I needed to get to Abby. She was my life, my heart, the other half to my soul. All I could think about was getting to her.
“Son, you can’t go over there!” the officer was screaming.
“ABBY! ABBY! I’m here, Abby, I’m gonna get you out of there, just hold on, baby, HOLD ON!”
I screamed for her, thrashing my scrawny body against the massive wall of the officer’s body. I felt her burning alive. I heard her screaming with pain, agony, and anguish. My heart shattered. I finally stopped fighting and slumped to the ground with the officer holding on to my shoulders. I couldn’t feel the tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t hear the officer when he tried to find out who I was and if I was going to be ok. My mind was spinning. All I could focus on was Abby’s screams.
They finally let me see her on Sunday evening. She had been through multiple surgeries and was still in ICU, but her mom and new boyfriend told the doctors I was family, so they let me in. She had 3rd degree burns covering most of her body, almost every bone in her left side had been either fractured, broken, or shattered completely and had to be reconstructed, she had a punctured lung, and one of her kidneys had been obliterated in the crash.
I was sitting with her cousin Jeff in the ICU waiting room when the doctor came out and told me I could go in there. Her mom was already seated by her side when Jeff and I slowly made our way into the room. There were machines everywhere, and they all seemed to be hooked up to Abby in some way. Wires, cables, IVs, cords, they all seemed to flood into her body, which looked like a mummy wrapped in cloth. It didn’t even look like her. When I walked up to the foot of her bed, I heard Jeff behind me suck in a choking breath. I glanced back and saw the tears welling up. It broke my heart even more. Jeff was a good guy, and he loved Abby as much as Mrs. Wheeler and I did.
Mrs. Wheeler looked up when she heard us, and gave us a weary, teary-eyed smile.
“Oh, Jackson,” she started before her voice caught in her throat and fresh tears spilled down her cheeks.
I rushed over to her, Jeff on my heels, and we both kneeled down and embraced in one big group hug around Mrs. Wheeler. We all cried, thinking about how different everyone’s lives would be, especially Abby. If she makes it. If she ever gets to leave this hospital breathing.
I cried harder at this thought.
I stayed with Abby while Jeff took Mrs. Wheeler home for a while. It was good for both of us. Mrs. Wheeler needed some time away and I needed some time with the love of my life.
I sat there, staring at the shell that was hiding the love of my life, reliving the last 17 years. Abby and I going camping in her backyard. The first time I realized I felt something for her in 6th grade. Abby losing her front two teeth just in time for school picture day in grade school. The year her mom decided Abby needed a perm, and we stayed up all night with scissors and a straightened trying to get the kinky twists out, eventually giving her a very short haircut that her mom pitched a huge fit over the next morning. Our first kiss behind the bleachers in 8th grade. The homecoming dance when Abby told me she loved me for the first time. The 8 months Abby and I broke up sophomore year and she dated Connor Manning to spite me, and I realized I needed her to make me whole. The junior semi-formal dance where we stayed out till 3am talking and both got grounded. The Christmas her dad left when we were 8 and I stayed with her all night holding her while she cried herself to sleep, and when I was still holding her when she woke the next morning.
Years and years of memories, some good, some painful, all flooding through my mind. There was no doubt that I loved her now, always had, and always would. And it scared me to think that this could be the last memory I ever made with Abby. This was serious. The doctor gave her a 20% chance of surviving this. Can I go on without her? What would I do without that smile? Those eyes? Her strength?
I was lost in reverie when I heard the door to Abby’s room open. I expected Jeff, or Mrs. Wheeler. I never, EVER, expected to see him.
“Connor?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper, raspy from the frequent battle with the tears.
“I heard about the accident. I wanted to see her.”
I stood up abruptly, anger growing inside my chest.
“Well, you’ve seen her. Now you can leave.”
“Come on, Jackson-”
“No. Get out. Before I call security and have you escorted out of here.”
“Brother, you might want to sit back down and chill. She’s still important to me, too, so you need to get over that.”
“I don’t think so.” I put my hands on his chest and gave a little shove. “I think you’ve outstayed your welcome.”
Connor’s hands balled into fists and in the dimly lit room I saw his expression go from upset and passive to dark and violent. His eyes narrowed and his head bowed slightly. I noticed his right arm pulling back just slightly, ready to take aim at my face.
Suddenly the door opened again.
“What’s going on here?”
Jeff. Back from the Wheeler home. Connor relaxed his arm, but his eyes never left mine.
“This guy was just leaving,” I said, turning and walking back to my perch by Abby’s bed.
Jeff was well built, and Connor was thin and, in my opinion, kind of gangly, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew if he started anything Jeff would have him pinned down and in pain in seconds. Such a pity, it would have been nice to see the rat get some sense knocked into him.
“Don’t think this is over, Shears,” Connor snarled, before spinning on his heels and storming past Jeff and out the door.
Jeff shot me a surprised look as I flopped on the chair and buried my face in my hands.
“Don’t ask, Jeff,” I mumbled through my palms.
“That seemed to go well.”
Jeff walked over and rested a hand on my shoulder. I liked the guy, and I was glad he was there.
I sat back and closed my eyes.
“You should take a break from here too,” Jeff said. “You’ve been at this hospital as much as Aunt Kathryn and I. Well, more than I have, even.”
“Uh-uh, I need to be here in case she wakes up.”
“She won’t be alone, Jackson, I’ll be here. And you know I’ll call you the second she starts to come around. You need to get out of here. Besides,” he kneeled next to me and crinkled up his nose. “You kinda need a shower.”
I smiled at that and fake punched his arm.
I hated to admit he was right. I needed some sleep and a shower. Badly. I grudgingly agreed to let Jeff take my position for a few hours. I drove home in a daze, took a hot shower, and fell asleep the moment I laid on the bed.
Tomorrow, I'm going to try and convince the blogger to post a bit more for you. Plus, we may have a guest blogger join us this week. A good one, too. Stay tuned, and after I come out of the turkey coma (with a little help from my pals Jack, Jim, and The Captain, of course) I'll see what I can do for you.