sci-fi

The Last Superhero signed copies giveaway winners!

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It’s December 22 and two people have won signed copies of The Last Superhero! Yay!

So, drum roll please!

Rafflecopter Winners(Rafflecopter won’t let me embed the widget on my wordpress.com blog so I had to do a screencap. You can check the widget here.)

Poiboy and Tenzin, I’ll be emailing you shortly for details. πŸ™‚

Everybody else: thanks for participating and don’t feel bummed if you didn’t win, I promise there will be more surprises coming in the next few months!

Woot!

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The Last Superhero – Chapter 3 and Launch!

Dontbreakhisheart-Quote

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! πŸ˜€

Now, have chapter 3!

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.

That bookstore.

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.

β€œLandlord’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. β€œHe won’t leave me alone.”

β€œGiana?”

β€œI got you coffee.”

β€œThere’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

β€œHi,” 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. β€œI can get another one.”

β€œNo, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. β€œJoin 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.

β€œWhat brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

β€œAre you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question. That’s rude.

β€œYes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London Bridge falls every fucking day.

β€œProblems with the landlord?”

I scowl. β€œHe’s a moody old perv.”

β€œWhat?!” He’s outraged.

β€œOh 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. β€œWould 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.

β€œWould the park be okay?” he asks.

β€œThe 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.

β€œI’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.

β€œI 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.

Fewer witnesses.

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.

β€œWhat are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

β€œYou wouldn’t believe it.”

β€œTry me.”

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.

β€œMy mother, she told me about you.”

β€œDid she?”

β€œYeah. When I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. β€œYou 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.

β€œShe 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.

β€œMisunderstood,” he whispers. β€œMaybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

β€œYou saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time, I hear him scoff. β€œGood-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.”

β€œI’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. β€œI wanted to be a psychologist.”

β€œWanted?”

β€œYes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

β€œAnyway. 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, β€œDon’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.

β€œI like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. β€œIt’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.

β€œHow long have you been hiding?”

β€œTwenty-eight years.”

β€œThat’s a long time.”

β€œIt is.”

β€œEver feel lonely?”

β€œAll the time.”

β€œI bet.”

β€œI bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. β€œWatch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

β€œHow come?”

β€œHow come what?”

β€œYou’re… young.”

β€œIs that a compliment?” He stares a bit too intently at me. β€œI like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

β€œHmm.”

β€œWhat’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. β€œIt was time I did.”

Good enough.

β€œAnd when was that?”

β€œA month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

β€œDo you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

β€œThat 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.”

β€œI thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

β€œWhere is she? Your mother?”

β€œIn 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.

β€œOh,” he says.

β€œYou know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

β€œYou believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

β€œI’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”

β€œGood.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. β€œI’d like to think that too.”

β€œWhy are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

β€œBecause you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. β€œMaybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

β€œSure. I always get mine from that coffee shop around the corner from the bookshop.”

β€œPerfect. I’ll see you there around eight?”

β€œYeah.”

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.

β€œWhat the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

β€œHey!” 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.

β€œGoddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s minds.

β€œYou bastard!”

Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a β€˜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.

###

Signed copies are still available here!

You can win 1 of 2 signed copies through this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Or pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

The Last Superhero – How it came to be

TLS Twitter HeaderIt may sound absurd but don’t be naΓ―ve. Even heroes have the right to bleed.

Back in 2008-2009 I had an idea for a story focusing on a retired superhero. Songs like 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite and Five for Fighting’s Superman inspired me to create a superhero character exploring a more intimate, human side of it. That’s how Steven S. Waldorf came to be. The last superhero to roam the Earth.

My friends and family liked the idea and a first draft was born. A first draft that was passed around and read and edited and I thought I had it so I started posting chapters on my Tumblr.

That was when one certain person told me to stop and rewrite the whole thing. To say I was angry is an understatement. If so many people liked it why couldn’t he?

Still, I do listen to this one person I shall not mention by name since he’s old and wise. I stowed the manuscript and waited, not for the world to change, but for my world to change.

Four years and a couple of books published later, I decided to revisit this story, rewrite it from scratch. My world has changed considerably. I’ve been married for 10 years and life has given me a bunch of lessons about love, family, friendship, and loss. All this, of course, spills into my writing and what was once a novella has blown up into a 93k words novel with not only science fiction elements but fantasy and thriller too.

THE LAST SUPERHERO was reborn with a vengeance. A story that has lived inside me for years grew to what I believe is its full potential.

So, what’s the story about?

An aging superhero marked by rejection and tragedy meets a young woman that will put her life on the line to save him from his nightmares. Literally.

Steven S. Waldorf is the last superhero to roam the Earth. He’s been living in seclusion for 28 years and only now is coming back out into the world. Giana’s a twenty-nine year old woman trying to keep it together while searching for a way to get out of a rut. They meet one night when he saves her from getting mugged and that sparks a relationship between them that will throw her right into the center of his continuous unknown-to-the-world torment.

See, Steven’s got the power of telekinesis and can project fantasies into people’s minds, this last one being his most controversial power and the culprit of his torment.

But you’re going to have to read the book to know more about it.

I like to call it a sci-fi fantasy story for the non-sci-fi fantasy reader. It’s, above all, a love story between two people who’ve been through a lot and are able to find solace in each other.

Roles are switched, and it’s the superhero the one that needs to be saved from his internal battles. It’s a psychology thing, using Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego theory and research on dreams from people like Carl Jung.

The writing style

Last year I published a short story called At the Corner of Mars and Neptune (FREE 11/25-11/26 2014). I’m going to steal Stacey Cochran’s term and call it a noir romance. With it I wanted to try out a looser type of writing than the one I use on The Caregiver Series, a more poetic one, resembling how I talk to myself (yeah, I do that… a lot).

Knock. Knock.
He looks at me. I look at him. We both know.
I stride to the door faster than he can reach an outstretched hand to me.
Turn the doorknob, hold my breath.
Open the door and the punch lands square on my face.
β€œHey!” Noah exclaims.
I’m on all fours, trying to get up, when a foot kicks me to the side.
β€œHe’s clear!” I shout when I see John closing the distance. β€œDon’t hurt him, he’s got nothing.”
β€œHe’s a cop!” He’s pointing a gun at Noah’s face. β€œWhat the fuck is wrong with you, bitch? Bringing cops in here?”
I have to get up. Noah’s holding his hands in the airβ€”so policeman of him. The pink straw pointing at his face, as if it was looking at him and telling him: you’re fucked.
β€œLeave him, John. He’s leaving now.”
β€œHe better.”
β€œGo fuck someone else, John.”
β€œYou,” he turns to point the gun at me now because I’m on my feet again, β€œstop fucking around.”
β€œI never fuck around.” I push the gun barrel out of my sight. β€œI said he’s leaving.”
John lets a couple of beats pass. Like techno, just the bass of his chest marking each one. He lowers the gun, turns to Noah. β€œNext time I see you β€˜round here Imma a pop one in your skull, you fucking pig.” And exits like he’s some kind of warrior, looking down at us, flexing his chest muscles so he looks bigger.
Noah runs to me, checking my face. I slap his hands away.
β€œGo. Before he comes back.”
β€œYour cheekbone is busted.”
I touch it with my fingertips. Yeah, it’s open. β€œWhatevs. Just go before he comes back and kills you.”
β€œMeet me tomorrow. Ten. You know the Greek restaurant a couple of blocks from here?”
β€œYeah.”
β€œThere.”
β€œOkay.”
He gives me another look, his eyes stray to the place in my face sporting the open wound. Go, I mouth, shoving him out the door and locking it. Locking him out. Locking me in. And I don’t know why but I’m silently praying he makes it out in one piece.
~ At the Corner of Mars and Neptune – Chapter 3
That story got some nice praise from readers and fellow authors so I decided to give it a shot with this book too and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.
I park in front of his house and turn the car off.
Shiver again at the thought of that cop.
I’m not telling Steven. No.
Deep breaths.
It’s early in the afternoon and I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I need to see him.
And I’m out of cigarettes.
He ain’t got a phone so I can’t call him up and say ‘hey can I come over?’
So I get out of my car, walk up to the gate, and search for something like an intercom or even a bell.
Nope, no such luck.
Gate’s locked and the path to the door is pretty long.
How tall is this wall?
Do I really want to see him that bad?
Ponder.
Use the padlock, tap it on the gate a couple of times.
No answer.
I am not shouting his name and I am not honking either.
I’ve climbed walls before. And this one’s got some sturdy looking ivy branches.
Grab one, wrap it around your wrist, pull on it, think it’ll hold.
And it does. It will.
Move the fuck over Tarzan, ’cause here goes Jane.
Just like one of those rock climbing walls people are so amused by, only this surface’s flat and slippery, and I’m not wearing a harness.
Some small scratches on my hands and I’ve made it to the top.
Who’s awesome, eh? Who’s fucking awesome?
Get off before someone drives by and sees you straddling the top of the wall like it’s a horse.
Grab some branches and lower yourself.
Easy. Easy.
They say it’s the climb, man, but going down is nerve-wracking sometimes.
Crack.
Crap!
~ The Last Superhero – Chapter 8
I thought my editor would hate it. The style, the story, the characters, everything. Until she read it and told me “I can honestly say the most compelling story I’ve read in longass while has been yours.” That made me feel somewhat better. Here’s to hoping you all enjoy it as well.

The Last Superhero – Music β™ͺβ™«

I’m close to publishing my next novel, The Last Superhero, a sci-fi fantasy romance about the last superhero to roam the Earth and the young woman that turns his life around. It’s a superhero story with a twist, exploring the human side of things instead of the usual/fantastic. More on that in next posts, I promise!

Right now we’re working through the edits for a December launch. Yay! And I want to start writing about it, kind of get the ball rolling.

One thing I do when writing is listen to music that either appeals to the characters or helps set the mood for a scene. It’s something I’ve written about before so I won’t bore you with details, what I’ll give you, for now, is part of this book’s playlist. Enjoy!

There’s plenty of action in the book and for those parts I have my own special “war” playlist:

The Last Superhero – Chapter 3

This is a WIP. Unedited, unbetaed, raw stuff. I’m also posting it on Wattpad.

Read Chapter 1, Read Chapter 2

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.

That bookstore.

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 deadweight wherever I’d go.

β€œLandlord’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. β€œHe won’t leave me alone.”

β€œGiana?”

β€œI got you coffee.”

β€œThere’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

β€œHi.” He says all shy and charming and innocent like.

I can swear he even looks younger than before.

I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. β€œI can get another one.”

β€œNo, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. β€œJoin 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.

β€œWhat brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

β€œAre you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question, that’s rude.

β€œYes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London bridge falls every fucking day.

β€œProblems with the landlord?”

I scowl. β€œHe’s a moody old perv.”

β€œWhat?!” He’s outraged.

β€œOh 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 to that.

And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out but I’m not saying that to his face.

He cocks his head to one side. β€œWould 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 with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back’.

There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking it twice.

β€œWould the park be okay?” He asks.

β€œThe 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.

β€œI’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.

β€œI 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.

Less witnesses.

Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it on me if this fails.

β€œWhat are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

β€œYou wouldn’t believe it.”

β€œTry me.”

We reach the lake inside 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, tell him something I’d never told anyone.

β€œMy mother, she told me about you.”

β€œDid she?”

β€œYeah. She used to talk to me about you when I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. β€œYou 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.

β€œShe 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.

β€œMisunderstood.” He whispers. β€œMaybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

β€œYou saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time I hear him scoff. β€œGood-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.”

β€œI’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my sight to him and, oh, he’s amused. β€œI wanted to be a psychologist.”

β€œWanted?”

β€œYes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

β€œAnyway. 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 clear all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, β€œDon’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.

β€œI like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. β€œIt’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.

β€œHow long have you been hiding?”

β€œTwenty-eight years.”

β€œThat’s a long time.”

β€œIt is.”

β€œEver feel lonely?”

β€œAll the time.”

β€œI bet.”

β€œI bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. β€œWatch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

β€œHow come?”

β€œHow come what?”

β€œYou’re… young.”

β€œIs that a compliment?” He cocks an eyebrow at me. β€œI like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

β€œHmm.”

β€œWhat’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. β€œIt was time I did.”

Good enough.

β€œAnd when was that?”

β€œA month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

β€œDo you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

β€œThat was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterwards. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”

β€œI thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

β€œWhere is she? Your mother?”

β€œIn 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 envelope my insides.

β€œOh.” He says.

β€œYou know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

β€œYou believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

β€œNo. I don’t.”

β€œGood.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. β€œI’d like to think that too.”

β€œWhy are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

β€œBecause you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. β€œMaybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

β€œSure. I always get mine from that coffee shop on the corner from the bookshop.”

β€œPerfect. I’ll see you there tomorrow. Around eight?”

β€œYeah.”

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 retrieving in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.

β€œWhat the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

β€œHey!” 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.

β€œGoddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s mind.

β€œBastard!”

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.

The Last Superhero – Chapter 2

This is a WIP. Unedited, unbetaed, raw stuff. I’m also posting it on Wattpad.

Read Chapter 1

Chapter 2

It’s a week after the incident and I’m chatting with Daphne –my right-hand, store clerk, and all around guardian angel that has worked here for free for far longer than I care to admit– about hair colors. She’s punk and has purple and white streaks in her hair and keeps trying to convince me about dying mine any color I choose from the rainbow.

β€œI’m trying to run a bookstore.” I reply.

Well, it’s not my bookstore, it’s my mother’s, but I’m the one that runs it for her thanks to people like Daphne that believe the written word isn’t dead.

Anyway, that’s another story.

β€œBlue would look perfect on you.” She says, eying the customer that’s just walked in. β€œIt might help us attract a younger crowd and less of those.” She nods the customer’s way.

I give a fright jump.

β€œOh fuck.”

β€œWhat?” Daphne frowns. She doesn’t know.

She doesn’t know the old dude’s back and he’s here to kill me.

He glides through the bookshelves, like some cat.

Shit.

β€œI’ll be outside.” I say, rush through the back door.

He’s on my tail and I hear Daphne trying to stop him.

He steps out and finds me.

β€œI just want to talk.” He says, closing the door on poor Daphne.

β€œIt’s okay, Daph, I’ve got it!” I cry, praying it makes it through the door seams and to her. Address him, β€œyou don’t want her calling the police.”

He opens the door again and there’s Daphne holding her mobile to her face.

β€œIt’s okay.” I tell her, my arms crossed over my chest to hide my trembling. β€œHe’s a friend of Mom’s.”

β€œOh.” Daphne lowers her phone.

β€œI’ll be back in ten.”

She shuts the door.

This is it. This is where I die. Next to the dumpster. So classy.

β€œPlease make it quick.” My voice quivers, breaks. β€œAnd don’t let Daphne see my dead body, she’s squeamish.”

β€œWhat?!”

β€œLook, I didn’t tell the police it was you, just some Good Samaritan that then ran off. The surveillance cameras haven’t worked for years, so there’s no evidence.” It’s difficult to speak but I push through, at least let me explain myself before he kills me off.

His brows furrow, every time a little deeper.

β€œThe guy’s in the hospital. He has no family or anything so no one will miss him.”

He’s breathing hard.

β€œAnd I think you should know I’m an only child and this bookstore is my mother’s, so maybe you’d like to dump my body somewhere they can’t find me.”

β€œWhat the fuck are you going on about?”

β€œYou’re here to kill me, aren’t you?”

β€œI’m not.” He looks around, exasperated.

β€œWhat are you here for then?”

He brings his hands to his head. β€œThis is fucked up.”

β€œNo shit.”

β€œI’m not here to kill you and it wasn’t my intention to injure that man.”

β€œIt’s not like you haven’t done it before.”

His stare is so intense I step back and bump into the wall behind me.

β€œWhat do you know about me?”

I feel my knees buckle, lean on the wall to remain vertical.

β€œThat your name is Steven Waldorf.”

β€œWhat else?”

β€œThat…” Should I say it? He’s pressing me with those menacing hazel eyes… β€œYou’re the last superhero to roam the Earth.”

His face falls for a second before he steps back, away from my quaking self.

I know too much and now he knows I know and he’ll do to me what they do to all the people that know too much.

β€œI’m not here to kill you.”

I brave a glance at him and he’s standing next to the dumpster, his head down.

β€œYou’re not?”

β€œNo, I’m not. What made you think that?”

β€œApart from all the glaring and the sneering?” And the fact that I witnessed you almost murder someone.

He runs his fingers through his graying hair. β€œLook, I’m sorry I was rude to you.”

β€œAre you even real?”

β€œOf course I am.”

β€œAnd you are Steven Waldorf.”

β€œI go by Steven Dennis now.”

β€œOh.” A pause. β€œYou’re supposed to be dead.”

β€œYes. And I would appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone that I am not.”

β€œOkay.” Sure. Or you’ll kill me. I get it.

He’s about to say something but it dies in his throat. His face’s softened and, giving him a second look, he’s not that old, or bad looking.

It takes a depraved mind like mine to think such a thing in a moment like this.

Something drives me to talk, maybe it’s that same thing that made me get out of the car and read the plaque.

Step closer to the boogeyman so he can slash you straight.

β€œWere you looking for something? Is there anything I can help you with?”

Now he softens further and there’s the ghost of a smile on his lips.

β€œI came to buy more books.”

β€œOkay. Follow me.”

Don’t touch him in case he’s startled and then kills you.

We walk back into the bookstore and I signal Daphne that all is okay. She gives Steven an ‘I’m watching you’ look that he doesn’t notice.

He’s got superpowers, yes, but not all of them. I think there’s a rule about that, you only get one or two, not more. He’s got telekinesis. It explains why the hobo flew through the air, he pushed him with his power.

We’re in the poetry section and I try to interest him in some crime novel that just came out.

β€œDon’t read crime.”

Of course you don’t.

A long, elegant finger settles on a particular poetry compilation that happens to be one of my favorites and pulls it out.

The guy seems to know. β€œGreat choice.”

β€œIs it?”

β€œOne of my favorites.”

I’m regarded with a quirked eyebrow and a satisfied nod.

β€œI must ask…”

β€œNo questions.”

And here I was thinking he’d softened.

Why am I following him, I don’t know.

Well, maybe because he’s the last fucking superhero in the fucking Earth and, right now, I’m the only one who knows he’s still alive.

When I turn around he’s staring at me.

β€œCan you read my mind?”

That makes him burst in laughter.

β€œNot funny.” I give him an about face and his hand lands on my shoulder, startling me.

β€œSorry.” He says.

Daphne’s checking on us from a distance.

β€œIt’s okay.”

β€œGot any naughty thoughts you don’t want me knowing about?”

Is that humor? Must be.

β€œMaybe.”

That amuses him.

β€œI’m taking this one but only because you said it was your favorite.” He hands me the book.

β€œOne of my favorites. I’ve got many.” I lead the way to the register, where Daphne’s sitting.

She’s quick to slide off the stool and run for cover.

β€œThen I shall come back for the rest.”

Am I getting hit on by a man twice my age? From murder to flirting. This is new and unheard.

He’s smiling, it makes him look less menacing. Almost nice.

Apart from the murder thing.

He pays, I bag the book, give it to him.

β€œWhat’s your name, by the way?”

β€œGiana.”

It hits him, something, don’t know what, then says, β€œBeautiful.” And it’s as if it physically hurt him.

A slight bow and he’s out. Out the door but not my mind.

β€œWhat did he want?” Daphne approaches me.

β€œI don’t know.” Is my reply and I have to shake it off. β€œI’m getting lunch.” Hit a button on the cash register and see there’s not enough.

β€œI’ll get it.” She pats my shoulder and is off the same way Steven was seconds before.

I bend over and hit my forehead on the counter.

β€œFuck everything and everyone, dead, alive, or about to die.”