My heart was in Cruz’s expert grip throughout. Love, loneliness, grief, salvation, finely wrought drama and no-holds-barred fantasy… This book has it all.
– Walter Conley, screenwriter of Badderlands
Less than 36 hours to go for the book launch and I’m ecstatic, to say the least. Pre-orders are pouring in and the support from friends and family has been amazing. That doesn’t mean the work is over. Far from that, we’re just getting started!
If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, what are you waiting for?
My editor, Stacia Rogan, was nice enough to write a post about editing this book. A book we both thought she’d hate since she’s a ‘self-proclaimed hardcore non-reader of science fiction’. I was glad I didn’t have to stab her! 😀
Now, have chapter 3!
It’s one of those days when you don’t want to see anyone, but you have to because you have to go to work and run errands and talk to people.
Top it off with the fact that I was running late and you can see the picture.
Daphne had opened the shop.
The only constant in my life, having been established by my mother before I was born, and the one thing that I was now carrying like dead weight wherever I’d go.
“Landlord’s being an asshole again,” I say once I walk in, my eyes on the two coffees I’m carrying, my mind replaying that scene between Mr. Brownstone and me when he knocked on my door to remind me my rent was late, yet again. “He won’t leave me alone.”
“I got you coffee.”
“There’s someone here to see you.”
I look up and see him. Steven.
I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.
“Hi,” he says all shy and charming and innocent like.
I can swear he looks even younger than before.
I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. “I can get another one.”
“No, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.
Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.
Whatever. “Join me in my office?”
He steps aside for me to cross the store and into the back room we call the office. It’s more of a closet or a cupboard than an office, but it works.
He sits on the red armchair facing the gray desk inside the green walls. My mother has something for colors.
“What brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.
“Are you okay?”
Don’t answer my question with another question. That’s rude.
“Yes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London Bridge falls every fucking day.
“Problems with the landlord?”
I scowl. “He’s a moody old perv.”
“What?!” He’s outraged.
“Oh no, no, don’t go thinking… It’s just that he’s… He’s always wearing these old, stained clothes and he sputters when he talks, mostly when he’s angry. The spit sometimes pools in the edge of his lips…” I almost dry heave at that.
And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out, but I’m not saying that to his face.
He tilts his head to one side. “Would you like to take a stroll with me? Take your mind off it a bit?”
I sip from my coffee. I just got here and shouldn’t leave. At least not with him.
Then he’s looking at me, pleading. This isn’t so much for me as it is for him and I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a thing for pleading souls.
I wrap the scarf around my neck again and this time he leads the way out of the store.
Daphne sends me a questioning look that I respond to with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back.’
There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking about it twice.
“Would the park be okay?” he asks.
“The park would be fine,” I say.
And we’re off.
He walks with purpose, as if not to be distracted. I fight to keep up with him.
Where is he taking me?
Has he changed his mind and is going to murder me?
There’s a lake in the park and heaven knows I never learned how to swim.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he says once we reach the entrance.
I open my mouth to protest. I know he’s not a bad person.
“I know you’re not a bad person.”
His eyes change and I see him bite the inside of his cheek as we walk into the park, every step taking us farther into that area where the trees grow thicker and the crowd thinner.
Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it out on me if this fails.
“What are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”
“You wouldn’t believe it.”
We reach the lake and I’m glad to see there are people on the other side. It’s a large lake, but a scream would make it to them. I think.
My coffee secured in my hand, I tell him something I’d never told anyone.
“My mother, she told me about you.”
“Yeah. When I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. “You saved her once from falling off a cliff.”
He raises his eyebrows and it’s clear he can’t remember. It must be awfully hard to remember so many people, so many faces.
“She told me you were a good man. Misunderstood, but a good man nonetheless.”
His eyes are on his shoes, his hands buried in his pockets.
“Misunderstood,” he whispers. “Maybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”
“You saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”
For the first time, I hear him scoff. “Good-guy points. That’s new. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to you were I not there. It’s not easy to talk your way out of a robbery, much less when it’s a junkie.”
“I’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my eyes to him and, oh, he’s amused. “I wanted to be a psychologist.”
“Yes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”
Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.
He doesn’t say anything.
“Anyway. Thank you for being there that night.”
I start back for the trees when he touches my shoulder and I’m compelled to turn around and face him again.
His hand travels upwards, to the side of my face.
I see him so clearly all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, “Don’t go.”
How can I not stay if he’s looking at me that way? Fuck. Can’t deny the fact that his features are more than agreeable, I’d even say he’s quite handsome.
Or is it the light? It’s such a beautiful day.
“I like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. “It’s one of those places that makes me feel better, lighter, as if the world were still a nice place to live in.”
I stand beside him and, dammit, it feels so nice.
“How long have you been hiding?”
“That’s a long time.”
“Ever feel lonely?”
“All the time.”
“I bet you don’t know about that.”
Now it’s my turn to scoff. “Watch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”
“How come what?”
“Is that a compliment?” He stares a bit too intently at me. “I like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”
“What’s made you come out of the cave after so long?”
He ponders, brushes the grass with the sole of his shoe. So pretty, so green. “It was time I did.”
“And when was that?”
“A month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”
“Do you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”
“That was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterward. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”
“I thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”
“Where is she? Your mother?”
“In Spain visiting my father and, in the meantime, the Madrid Book Fair.”
I sip from the coffee and, as I swallow it, I let its warmth envelop my insides.
“Oh,” he says.
“You know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”
“You believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”
“Good.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. “I’d like to think that too.”
“Why are you being so charming all of a sudden?”
“Because you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. “Maybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”
“Sure. I always get mine from that coffee shop around the corner from the bookshop.”
“Perfect. I’ll see you there around eight?”
Another smile and is that my heart fluttering?
What I do feel all of a sudden is my feet hit the ground and I have to step back to keep my balance.
Steven’s hand is retreating from in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.
“What the fuck?!”
He’s walking away.
“Hey!” I feel the coffee in my hand and it’s cold as cold can be and the air doesn’t smell as pure as it used to.
I search for him, but he’s disappeared into the trees.
“Goddammit!” I cry, frustrated.
Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s minds.
Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a ‘Do Not Litter’ sign that makes me squat to pick it up and throw it in the trash before exiting the park, swearing there’s smoke coming out of my ears as I go.
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