Thursday, July 29, 2010





Monday, June 14, 2010


So, tomorrow, I’ll give you the first three pages of Personal Demons, and they’re from Luc’s perspective, so you’ll get to see just how “bad” he really is…
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sneak Peek: Personal Demons Chapter 1

Personal Demons is told from dual first person points of view. It opens with Luc, my honest to goodness (or badness, I suppose, is more accurate) demon.




If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school. And if there’s anyone distinctly qualified to make that statement, it would be me. I draw a deep breath—mostly out of habit since demons don’t have to breathe—then look up at the threatening sky, hoping it’s a good omen, and pull open the heavy security door. The dingy halls are quiet since the first bell rang almost five minutes ago. It’s just me, the metal detector, and a hunched wisp of a security guard in a rumpled blue uniform. He hauls himself out of his cracked plastic chair, looks me over, and scowls.

“You’re late. ID,” he says in a three-pack-a-day rasp.

I stare him down for a few seconds, sure I could blow him over with a whisper, and I can’t suppress a smile when beads of sweat sprout on his pasty forehead. I’m glad to see I’ve still got the touch even though I’m getting really sick of this job. Five millennia in the same gig will do that to a demon. For this trip, though, the fact that failure will result in dismemberment and the Fiery Pit is all the motivation I need.

“New,” I say.

“Put your bag on the table.”

I shrug, showing him my hands. No bag.

“Give me your belt. Studs’ll set off the detector.”

I pull off my belt and toss it at the old man as I walk through the metal detector. He hands it back and hacks, “Go straight to the office.”

“No problem,” I say, already walking away.

I slide my belt back on and push through the office door. It bangs sharply off the cracked wall and the ancient receptionist looks up, startled. “Can I help you?”

The office is just as drab and poorly lit as the halls except for the brightly colored notices that cover every inch of plaster like psychedelic wallpaper. There’s a nameplate declaring the receptionist is Marian Seagrave, and I swear I can hear her joints creak as she pulls herself out of her chair. She’s got more wrinkles than a shar-pei and the requisite short, blue, curly hair of all hundred-year-old women. Her round body is clad in the uniform of the ancients: turquoise polyester slacks and a matching floral blouse neatly tucked in.

I meander up to the counter and lean toward her. “Luc Cain. First day,” I say, flashing my winning smile—the one that always keeps mortals just a little off balance.

She stares for just a second before finding her voice. “Oh…welcome to Haden High, Luc. Let me pull up your schedule.”

She bangs on her computer keyboard and the printer buzzes to life. It spits out my schedule—the same schedule I’ve had for the last hundred years, since the advent of the modern education system. I do my best to feign interest as she hands it to me and says, “Here it is, and your locker number and combination too. You’ll need to collect an admit slip from each of your teachers and bring it back here at the end of the day. You’ve already missed homeroom, so you should go right to your first class. Let’s see…yes, senior English with Mr. Snyder. Room 616. That’s in building six, just out the door to the right.”

“Will do,” I say, smiling. It won’t hurt to stay on administration’s good side. You never know when they might be useful.

The bell rings as I make my way out the door into the now bustling halls, and the scents of the sea of teenage humanity hit me in waves. There’s the tangy citrus of fear, the bitter garlic of hate, the anise of envy, and ginger—lust. Lots of potential.

I work in Acquisitions, but it isn’t usually my job to tag them, just to sow the seeds and start them down the fiery path. I get them going on the little ones. Starter sins, if you will. Not enough to tag their souls for Hell, but enough to send them in our direction eventually. I don’t even need to use my power…not that I’d feel guilty if I did. Guilt isn’t in the demonic repertoire of emotions. It just feels more honest when they come to sin of their own volition. Again, not that I care about being honest. It’s just too easy the other way.

In truth, the rules are clear. Unless their souls are tagged, we can’t force mortals to do anything out of character or manipulate their actions in any way. For the most part, all I can do with my power is cloud their thoughts, blur the line between right and wrong just a little. Anyone who says the devil made them do it is feeding you a line.

I stroll the hall, taking in the scents of teenage sin, so thick in the air I can taste them. All six of my senses buzz with anticipation. Because this trip is different. I’m here for one soul in particular and, as I make my way toward building 6, a crackle of red-hot energy courses through me—a good sign. I take my time, walking slowly through the throng and scoping out prospects, and am the last to arrive in class, just at the bell.

Room 616 is no brighter than the rest of the school, but at least an attempt has been made at decorating. Prints of Shakespeare’s plays—only the tragedies, I notice—grace the walls. The desks are grouped in twos and are nearly full. I walk up the center aisle to Mr. Snyder’s desk, holding out my schedule. He turns his slender face toward me, glasses perched just at the tip of his long, straight nose.

“Luc Cain. I need an admit slip…or something?” I say.

“Cain…Cain…” He rakes a hand through his thinning gray hair and scans down his class roster, finding my name. “Here you are.” He hands me a yellow admit slip, a composition book, and a copy of The Grapes of Wrath and looks at his roster again. “Okay, you’ll be seated between Mr. Butler and Miss Cavanaugh.” Then he stands, pushing up his glasses and smoothing the unsmoothable creases in his white button-down and khakis. “All right, class,” he announces. “We’re shifting seats. Everyone from Miss Cavanaugh up will shift one seat to your right. You’ll all have a new essay partner for the rest of the semester.”

Many of the good little lemmings grumble, but they all do as they’re told. I sit in the seat Mr. Snyder motions to, between Mr. Butler—a tall, skinny kid with glasses, bad skin, and obvious self-esteem issues—and Miss Cavanaugh, whose sapphire-blue eyes stare straight into mine. No self-esteem issues there. I feel the play of hot electricity under my skin as I stare back, sizing her up. And her size is definitely petite, with wavy, sandy-blond hair that she’s tied in a knot at the base of her neck, fair skin, and fire. A definite prospect. Our desks are grouped together, so it looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunity to feel her…out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sneak Peek: Personal Demons Chapter 1 (part 2)


Okay, so I’m not generally the swooning type, but Holy Mother of God, I can’t believe what just walked into my English class. Tall, dark, and sorta dangerous. Mmm…nothing like a little eye candy in the morning to get the day off to a sweet start—and possibly rot my brain. And, bonus. Apparently we’re gonna be essay partners, ’cause obsessive-compulsive Mr. Snyder is having me move down a seat to make room for him. God forbid we should ever be out of alphabetical order.

My eyes work slowly over his black T-shirt and jeans, not to mention the body underneath—very nice—as he saunters over and sits to my left. He folds his tall frame into the attached desk and chair with the grace of a sly black cat, and I swear the temperature in here just shot up ten degrees. The dim classroom lights glint faintly off the three steel bars piercing the outside corner of his right eyebrow as he stares at me through silky black bangs with the blackest eyes I’ve ever seen.

Mr. Snyder paces the front of the room for a moment, taking silent roll, then says, “Pull out your composition books and The Grapes of Wrath. Since Mr. Steinbeck was unable to find a convenient place for a chapter break in the seventy-one pages of chapter twenty-six, you’ll recall we arbitrarily imposed one at the end of page 529. Today, we’ll be reading the rest of the chapter in class and outlining Steinbeck’s major points.”

Mystery Boy looks away, finally, and I feel like I’ve been ransacked—but not in a bad way, if that makes any sense. I feel like he just checked me out from the inside out and maybe kinda liked what he saw.

“Miss Cavanaugh, care to join us?”

Mr. Snyder’s voice is like a bucket of cold water to my face—which I probably needed, ’cause things were getting kinda steamy inside. “Um…what?”

“Nice write-up in the Boston Globe yesterday. I think they captured the essence of your program nicely. I especially liked the picture,” he says with a smile. “Will you start the reading off, please? Page 530.”

I look around and everyone has their books open, even Mystery Boy. Mine’s still in my book bag. So, I’m also not usually the blushing type, but I feel my cheeks burn as I pull it out, flip it open, and start reading. My mouth articulates Steinbeck’s description of the preacher Casy’s death at the hands of a pick-handle-wielding stranger as his friend, Tom, looks on. But my mind only vaguely registers any of it, ’cause I’m keenly aware of Mystery Boy, sitting only a foot away, staring at me. I stumble on the words when he leans closer and I catch a hint of cinnamon. Mmm…

Mr. Snyder comes to my rescue. “Thank you, Miss Cavanaugh.” His eyes scan the room.

Pick Mystery Boy.

He smiles at me, then his gaze shifts to Mystery Boy. “Mr. Cain, will you continue please.”

Mystery Boy’s still looking at me, a wry smile just turning up the corners of his lips. “Certainly,” he says, and his voice sounds like warm honey, smooth and sticky-sweet, as he starts reading. But his eyes don’t shift from mine to the book right away. “Tom looked down at the preacher. The light crossed the heavy man’s legs and the white new pick handle. Tom leaped silently. He wrenched the club free. The first time he knew he had missed and struck a shoulder, but the second time his crushing blow found the head, and as the heavy man sank down, three more blows found his head…”

He seems like he’s enjoying the gruesome passage. Savoring it, really. Mr. Snyder closes his eyes and looks as though he’s meditating. He lets Mystery Boy read through the end of the chapter, which is much longer than anyone else has read all year. I glance around the room and everyone—even tough guy, smart-ass Marshal Johnson—seems hypnotized.

“Would you like me to continue to chapter twenty-seven, Mr. Snyder?” Mystery Boy asks, and Mr. Snyder snaps abruptly out of his trance.

“Oh…no. Thank you, Mr. Cain. That will be sufficient. Beautifully done. All right, class, the chapter outline on Mr. Steinbeck’s major themes in the second half of chapter twenty-six is to be finished before class tomorrow morning. You have the rest of the period to work.”

Mystery Boy turns toward me, closing his book, and I get caught in his eyes for a second. “So, Miss Cavanaugh, do you have a first name?”

“Frannie. You?”


“It’s good to meet you. That was a nice little trick.”

“What?” His eyes flash as a beautifully wicked grin spreads across his face.

“Reading without looking at the book.”

He shifts back in his seat, and his grin falters slightly. “You’re mistaken.”

“No, actually, I’m not. You didn’t even glance at the book till you were on the second sentence, and you were behind turning the pages. Why would you memorize Steinbeck?”

“I haven’t.” He’s such a liar, but before I can call him on it, he changes the subject. “Why a Globe article?”

“It’s no big deal. Just a thing where we send letters to kids in Pakistan. Kind of like pen pals, I guess. Mostly, it’s a way of helping us understand each other…you know, our cultures and stuff.”

There’s a cynical edge to his expression. “Really.”

“You want a name?” I shuffle through my bag and come out with a folder. “I have a few more.”

“Let me think about it. I’m assuming we’re essay partners, whatever that means?”

“Guess so.” Despite the freaky reading-without-looking thing, I’m not about to complain. He’s definitely a step or twenty up from Aaron Daly, who has taken his bad sinuses across the aisle and is now sniffling all over Jenna Davis’s composition book instead of mine. “We’re supposed to discuss the reading and come up with a chapter outline with all the major points. Mr. Snyder’s big into discussing things,” I say, rolling my eyes. That’s all for show, though, ’cause I’m seriously into discussing things with Mystery Boy. “So…what do you think of Tom’s conundrum?”

I write “Frannie and Luke—Chapter 26-2 outline” on the top of an empty page in my composition book.

He raises an eyebrow, slides my pen out from between my fingers, crosses out “Luke,” and writes “Luc” above it.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sneak Peek: Personal Demons Chapter 1 (part 3)

Here is the rest of that first conversation from Luc's perspective. This is also the end of chapter one.


I watch her write “Frannie and Luke 26-2 outline” in her composition book, and for some reason it really bothers me that she spelled my name wrong. I fix it before answering her. “I think he made some choices that he’s now got to pay the consequences for.” One of which is eternity burning in the Abyss.

She looks at me, all incredulity. “Just that simple, huh? No extenuating circumstances. No second chances?”

“Nope. Don’t believe in second chances.” The Underworld’s not big on that concept.

She shifts back in her chair and folds her arms across her chest, scrutinizing me. “You’ve never made a mistake? Done something you were sorry for?”


“Everybody has something they wish they could undo.”

I lean toward her and gaze into those sapphire eyes. “What do you wish you could undo, Frannie?”

She shudders when I say her name, and I realize I’m being unfair. I pushed a little power at her without really meaning or needing to. But I like the reaction.

When she replies there’s more than a hint of pain in her tone, and the faint scent of rose—sadness. I search deep in those eyes to find the root of it. “Lots of things,” she says without breaking her gaze.

For some reason, out of the blue, I don’t want her to hurt. I feel Hell-bent on making her happy. Just the tiniest push is all it would take…

Stop it. Where the Hell did that come from? I don’t even recognize the sensation that passed with that thought. Demons don’t have feelings. Not like that, anyway. This isn’t a charity mission…I’m here for a clear purpose, and Miss Frannie Cavanaugh is showing promise. Lots of promise. As a matter of fact, I’m starting to hope she’s The One. And as the bell rings I realize, to my own astonishment, that it’s her eyes holding me locked here instead of the other way around. This is going to be interesting.

She blinks as if startled from a dream and looks down at her empty composition book. “So…I guess we didn’t get too far.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” I push my book across the desk.

She reads the ten bullet points listed there in block print under the heading “Frannie Cavanaugh and Luc Cain, Steinbeck’s Themes—Chapter 26-2” and scowls.

“Oh…well, I guess these look okay.” Incredulous again. She’s fiery for sure. I like a little fire. Makes me feel at home. “Have you found your locker yet in this rat maze?” she says, throwing her books into her book bag and standing.

“Haven’t looked for it.” I hold up my only possessions: my composition book and The Grapes of Wrath.

“Well, it’ll only get worse, so unless you wanna lug all your stuff around with you, I could help you find it.”

I pull the slip of paper with the locker number and combo on it out of my back pocket as we walk together to the door. “Number…hmm.” I smile. The mortal world is so droll sometimes.

“666,” I say, and she looks at me funny.

“Oh. That’s right there.” She points across the hall. “Right next to mine.”

And even though I know fate is a crock—nothing but an excuse for mortals to make choices they wouldn’t otherwise make—this is a sign. I look at her more closely. If she’s The One, which is starting to look more likely, I need to tag her soul for Hell before some filthy angel beats me to it. Which roughly translates into now. Because the fact that she’s been so difficult to locate probably means she’s being Shielded by them. If they’re Shielding her, they’re watching her. It won’t be long before they know I’ve found her. I scan the crowded hall. So many prospects, but no angels—so far.

She starts across the hall to her locker and I hang back to admire the view for a few seconds before following her. She is petite—maybe five-two. Nearly a foot shorter than my human form. But she’s no little girl. There are curves in all the right places.

I laugh at myself. Although lust is one of the seven deadly sins, it’s not the one that got me where I am and not something I’ve experienced often in the seven millennia I’ve existed—though I’ve used it to my advantage a few thousand times. This is going to be fun.

I stride across the hall and catch her just as she reaches her locker. I spin the lock on mine a few times, and it springs open.

“How’d you do that?” she asks, like she could possibly know I used my power.


“I had that locker at the beginning of the year and switched ’cause the lock was broken.”

“Hmm. They must have fixed it.” I’ll need to be more careful. This mortal is extraordinarily observant. I slipped up in class by not keeping my eyes on the book—which she’d noticed because her eyes weren’t on the book either. And again with the locker, because as I try the real combination, I find she’s right: it is indeed broken.

She looks skeptical. “Yeah, I guess, except they never fix anything around here. Welcome to Hades High.”

What the Hell? “Excuse me? Hades High?”

“Yeah, get it? Haden High—Hades High. It’s just one letter, but it so much more accurately describes this hellhole.”


“Well, wouldn’t you agree?” She gestures to the cracking plaster, peeling paint, burned-out lightbulbs, gouged gray linoleum, and dented gray metal lockers surrounding us.

“Well, it looks like I’ve chosen just the place, then.” A grin stretches my face. How perfect is it that my target goes to a high school nicknamed Hell? This is too rich.

She looks away and reaches into her locker, but she can’t hide the smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “If your ‘just the place’ is this crappy, washed-up fishing town, then you’re more pathetic than I would have guessed.”

I laugh—I can’t help it—and then shudder when I catch a hint of Frannie’s ginger. Mmm…pathetic must be her type.

“How come you had to change schools a month before graduation?”

I smile inwardly. “Business.”

“Your father’s?” she presses.

“In a manner of speaking.”

She looks at me and her brow furrows as she tries to figure out what that means. Then she pushes her locker shut with a crash. “So…what’s your next class?”

I pull my schedule out of my back pocket and shake it open. “Looks like calculus, room 317.”

“Oooh, you have Mrs. Felch. Sooo sorry.”
“Why? What’s the deal with Mrs. Felch?”

Just then the bell rings. She cringes. “First, you get detention if you’re not in your seat at the bell—so, sorry—and second, she bites.”

“Mmm. We’ll see about that.” I kick my locker shut and turn to head to building 3—and don’t try to hide the smile that pulls at my lips as her eyes burn a hole through my back the whole way down the hall. A good start.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sneak Peek #4: Personal Demons

Starts from middle of chapter two, where we meet Frannie's best friends, Taylor and Riley. Although Taylor and Frannie are best friends, their relationship has always been a friendly rivalry. Frannie gets the grades and Taylor gets the guys.


I’m washed through the door of the cafeteria by the human tide and find Taylor and Riley at our usual table, just inside the door for an easy getaway. The walls, floor, and tabletops in the cafeteria are all puke green so the real puke won’t leave stains. Just looking at it always leaves me feeling a little queasy.

Riley’s leaning over a book and picking through her salad with a bent fork. Taylor is bouncing in her seat, her spiky yellow-and-pink hair vibrating wildly. Between the bouncing and the lascivious gleam in her eye, I know there’s no keeping Luc to myself. She knows.

Despite everything, Taylor has always been exactly what I needed in a friend. ’Cause, really, we’re just alike in all the ways that matter. Neither of us is warm and fuzzy. We both have our boundaries to keep anyone from getting too close. And we’ve both respected those boundaries from the beginning. I don’t know what hers are about, and she’s never asked about mine. I’ve never had to be afraid of Taylor pushing me, trying to get through my defenses. And neither has she.

Riley and all her feelings, on the other hand, are dangerous. The first time I ever saw Riley’s face, Angelique Preston was grinding a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone into it. It was the summer after seventh grade, and Taylor and I had walked to the ice cream shop, where Angelique had Riley pressed up against the outside of the building. I could tell from the words coming out of Angelique’s mouth—something along the lines of “lard ass”—and the wounded and humiliated look in Riley’s eyes, that this was no harmless prank amongst friends. Without even stopping to think, I yanked Angelique’s arm off of Riley and twisted her into a headlock. And, in that instant, all in one fell swoop, I made an accidental friend and a mortal enemy.

Looking at Riley now, she’s a mere shadow of her former self. Still curvy, but in a way that turns guy’s heads. I would bet money it was in that moment, shoved up against the brick wall of the ice cream shop, dripping mint chocolate chip, that she’d resolved to lose weight.

“Dish!” they both say as I drop my book bag on the floor.


Taylor glares at me, which she’s very good at. “No holding out, Fee! We know about New Gorgeous Hunk Guy, so dish! Now!”
Great. News travels fast. I go all innocent. “Is he gorgeous? Who said that?”

Taylor’s still glaring. “You’re such a bitch.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Spill it!" Riley screeches, slamming her book down on the table, and everyone in a three table radius is suddenly staring at us.

“All right. Chill. Let me get lunch,” I say looking at the unrecognizable glop on other peoples’ trays as they pass by. “What the hell is that?”

Riley’s face scrunches. “Probably some tofu thing. The district ran out of money again this week.”

“Great. Let me get up there before all the salad’s gone.” I glance to the door, hoping Luc might change his mind, and make my escape as Taylor simmers. I take my time in the line picking all the best pieces out of the wilty scraps of lettuce, spend at least five minutes choosing the biggest brownie, and sip and refill my Coke twice before making my way slowly back to the table. When I get there, I swear there’s steam coming out of Taylor’s ears.

“Dish, dammit!” she says as I slide into my chair.

“He’s just a new guy. Luc.” My eyes gravitate to the door, hoping he’ll appear there.

“Where’d he come from?”

“No clue.”

Taylor’s eyes press me. “How’d you meet him?”

“Essay partners, Mr. Snyder.”

“Did he ask you out yet?” Riley asks.

I glance at the door again then roll my eyes. “I couldn’t even get him to eat lunch with us.”
“Hmm…” I can see Taylor’s gears grinding. “He doesn’t really sound like your type.”

I just shrug.

Her eyes are eager. “So, maybe you can hook me up with him?”

And there’s the knot in the pit of my stomach. “Whatever.”

“What about that party Friday? The one at Gallaghers’. You think he’d go if I asked him?”

“You haven’t even met him.” The acid in my voice startles me. I knew this was coming. Why am I surprised?

Her expression shifts to planning mode. She taps her finger on her chin. “The party’s day after tomorrow. If you’re not going to ask him, he’s mine.” She grins at me.

I smile back, as fake and sweet as saccharin. “You know what, Tay? Go to hell.”
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sneak Peek #5: Personal Demons

So...picking up where last weeks pages ended, Luc meets Taylor and Riley.


I’m working on those things I need to take care of during lunch, which mostly entail slinking around the parking lots, locker rooms, and loading docks on the prowl for anyone useful. But I’ve got to say I’m having a harder time focusing than I’d hoped. I’m imagining how a five-two, sandy-blonde would fit just perfectly against my body as I…
Okay…this is getting ridiculous. Focus.
But, for some reason, I find myself meandering past the cafeteria door—not once, or twice, but five times, until I finally give up and go inside. I walk up right behind Frannie, where she’s sitting near the door, in time to hear her say, “You know what, Tay? Go to hell,” and I smile, because I think it’s cute that she’s inviting her friends along.

“Hey,” I say. “This seat taken?” My smile pulls into a grin when she nearly jumps out of her skin. Mmm…what’s that? Grapefruit? Feeling a little afraid, are we? Smart girl. But then I catch a hint of ginger and my grin widens. She wants me. Excellent.

Her friends—a slender blonde with pink highlights, a gleam in her charcoal eyes, and a labret and a shyer-looking brown-haired beauty with intense brown eyes—are both staring at me. I’ll work on them later.

“No, I guess.” Frannie turns in her seat and her eyes flit to mine. “I thought you had things to do,” she says, the disappointment in her voice at odds with the ginger she’s giving off.

I scrutinize her as I answer. “Done.”

With a flash of her eyes, the blonde stands and presses her hands into the tabletop, enhancing her cleavage as she leans across the table toward me. “Ahemmmm…Fee, don’t you want to introduce us?” A suggestive half-smile quirks her glossy pink lips, and her eyes never leave mine.

Frannie shifts in her seat, turning away from me so I can’t read her face. But I’m sure I catch a hint of anise—licorice—sweet in the air. “Whatever…Luc, this is Taylor and Riley.”

I nod in their direction. “So why are you sending your friend to Hell? Not that it’s a bad thing. Just wondering…”

“’Cause that’s where she belongs.” She glowers across the table at the blonde—Taylor.

“You think?” Riley says with a grin.

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.” I smile encouragingly at Taylor. She might be useful.

Taylor’s eyes spark as she says, “So, Luc…did you hear about that party at Gallaghers’ on Friday?”

And now I understand Frannie’s disappointment. Her anise almost knocks me over. Envy. Interesting. I should be able to use that to my advantage.

“Think I heard something about it.”

“You going?” Taylor asks.

I give Frannie my best Sensitive Guy Penetrating Gaze. “Depends. Are you?”

She stares for a heartbeat then says, “I guess.”

My mouth spreads into a grin. “Then I wouldn’t miss it.”

I don’t miss Taylor’s glare or the way Frannie blushes as she turns back toward the table and pulls her hair out of the knot, letting it fall around her shoulders and hiding her face. I slip into the chair next to her and pull it up to the table so our shoulders are nearly touching. I’m sure she can feel my heat, but I don’t mind getting Frannie all hot and bothered. All in a day’s work.

“Will you ladies be needing a ride to this party?”

Frannie looks up, wide-eyed, and shouts, “No!”

Riley and Taylor both laugh, then Riley smiles shyly across the table at me. “What she means is we always go to parties together.”

Taylor’s eyes are eating me alive. “But we don’t always leave together,” the blonde says, arching an eyebrow at me and elbowing Riley, who cracks a grin and elbows her back.

“Good to know.” I try to catch Frannie’s eye, but her face is hidden behind her hair again.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sneak Peak #6: Personal Demons

Okay, so, where there's a demon, there has to be an angel. Skipping ahead to chapter 3, this is where Frannie meets the angel Gabriel at a party. (Though, she doesn't know he's an angel.)

This scene needs a little set up. Frannie's ex-boyfriend is a cute dreadlocked kid that we meet in chapter 2 named Reefer. Another kid, Jackson, has been chasing her around since she made out with him in the closet at the last party when she was afraid she might cave and go back to Reefer. So, here we go...


Jackson is hovering. And I’m pretty sure from the way he’s looking at me that he’s already got me undressed in his pathetic imagination. I’ve spent the last half hour circling between the group and the bonfire that’s just crackling to life, trying to stay out of his reach. I reposition to the outside of the cluster and see Jackson circling the other way to intercept me.

Where is Reefer when I need him?

I kick myself mentally, lean against the porch rail hanging my head in defeat, and wait for the inevitable hand on my ass.

So the voice, smooth as music, scares the snot out of me. “Looks like you could use someone to run interference.”

I look up into these incredible sky-blue eyes and, if Heaven had a face, I swear this would be it. His tight white T-shirt shows off his tan and some pretty serious muscle definition. He’s leaning on the rail next to me like he’s been here all along—like he belongs in this godforsaken place rather than on a beach in San Diego with a surfboard under his arm.
“What?” It’s all I can manage.

He smiles and rakes a hand through chin-length platinum waves that seem to change from gold to red and back with the flicker of the flames. “Was I misreading the situation?” he says with a tip of his head toward Jackson.

I roll my eyes. “No, but I can take care of myself, thanks.” I push off the rail and head back over to the group.

Angel Boy doesn’t follow me. He just leans back and watches as Jackson resumes his stalk. After another lap of the circle I head back to the rail and slouch into it next to Angel Boy. I glare at the ground. “Don’t think this means I needed you to rescue me.”

He chuckles and I turn my glare on him. “You know what? Just forget it.” I push away from the porch rail, but something intense courses through me like a thousand tiny bolts of lightning when his hand touches my shoulder, stopping me dead in my tracks.

“Sorry, I really wasn’t laughing at you,” he says with a chuckle in his voice. “I was laughing at him.” He looks me over and a shiver races down my spine. “He never stood a chance.”

“Whatever,” I say, leaning back into the rail. Truth is, I came back as much to ogle Angel Boy as I did to get away from Jackson.

“I’m Gabe,” he says, turning to face me.

I’m staring at him. Oh, God. Stop! I shift my gaze to his chest, which turns out to be no less stareworthy. “Frannie.”

He glances at the beer cup in my hand and shrugs away from the rail.

And that’s when I hear Taylor’s “Oh. My. God.” I look over and the whole group is staring at us. Marty has managed to sidle up and slip his arm around Taylor’s waist, but she shifts away.

And we’re not the only ones to notice Gabe, because I see Angelique and her posse making their way over from the bonfire. She makes a beeline for Gabe as he lifts the lid on the ice chest next to the keg and she leans over it, pretending to inspect the contents of the cooler. What she’s really doing is pushing her double Ds right up in Gabe’s face. I look for Adam Martin—senior-class stud and Angelique’s boyfriend—but he’s nowhere in sight.

“Something else to drink? Water, soda?” Gabe says, staring at me.

And, mmm…those eyes. I feel my heart flutter for an instant, fighting to hold onto its normal rhythm. “I have a beer, thanks,” I say, but as I speak, I feel the cup being lifted from my hand.

“And I’ll just top it off for you.” Luc’s hot breath on the back of my neck sends a shiver through me, and my fluttering heart stops. I turn and his face is just an inch from mine. The silk wisps of his tousled mop brush my forehead and I breathe him in: cinnamon…mmm.

Taylor’s all but losing it. “Holy shit! Where’d you come from?”

Luc straightens up and refills my cup. “I’ve been around,” he says, gesturing to the crowd at the bonfire. But I was just there—and he wasn’t.

“Wow…okay. This party just got a whole hell of a lot cooler.” She looks from Luc to Gabe and back, then eases out of Marty’s grasp and meanders over to stand next to Luc. She looks at me with raised eyebrows. “So…are we sticking around?”

“Uh…well…” I look to Riley for backup. “I think we’re leaving?”

Riley is still staring at Gabe. “Not yet.”

Luc hands me my beer and glowers at Gabe, who’s moved closer. “Gabriel,” he says, his warm-honey voice suddenly cold enough to freeze hell.

“Hello, Lucifer.” And, though his smile doesn’t falter, Gabe’s musical voice just went flat.

“Wait…you know each other?” I stand between them, a little wobbly. The air around us seems charged with static electricity, making me tingle all over.

Gabe quirks a crooked smile and eyes Luc. “You could say that.”

“Unfortunately,” Luc adds. He’s sort of smiling, but under that calm demeanor he’s anything but calm. Even from a foot away, I can feel the tension in his body, coiled and ready to spring. His jaw clenches and his fists are balled at his side, dying to swing out at something—or someone. As I watch, I swear I see a tiny lick of red lightning flicker over the surface of his hand and disappear between his knuckles.

I just stand here, speechless, my whole body buzzing with the growing electric charge in the air, and try to figure out when I slipped into the Twilight Zone. ’Cause, as my gaze shifts between Luc and Gabe, what I know for sure is this can’t be real. And I start to wonder if maybe Jackson spiked my beer or something.

Angelique, realizing the attention isn’t on her, shoots me a glare before peeling off her jeans jacket to reveal a very low cut tank top. She wedges in front of me, between Luc and Gabe, and I’m actually relieved to be released from whatever that bizarre electric pull was. But immediately, Taylor shoulders her out of the way.
“Where’s Adam?” she asks Angelique in a slimy-sweet voice with a matching fake smile.
Angelique grinds her heel into Taylor’s foot. “Adam who?”
I start to feel a little dizzy and realize I’m not breathing. I back away from the group, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, trying to collect myself.

“So…” Luc’s voice, low in my ear, makes me jump. I open my eyes and feel my legs go soft. He quirks half a smile and twists a strand of hair out of my face, looping it behind my ear. “I was hoping you’d let me drive you home.”

It’s clear from my racing heart that leaving with Luc would be a mistake. I glance at Gabe, who’s still staring at me. A hot flush works its way up my neck into my face as I realize staying might be a bigger mistake.
I step up next to Riley. “Are you ready? Let’s go.” I sound completely desperate, which I guess I am.

She glances over at Trevor and smiles. “Sorry, Fee,” she says turning back to me with a shrug.

I feel Luc’s heat, too close behind me, but I don’t turn to look at him. “I’m ready,” he says.

Oh, God. Why can’t I breathe?

My eyes slide back to Gabe, which turns out to be a mistake ’cause he’s still staring at me, and those blue eyes are doing nothing to help the breathing situation.

I pull my eyes away and spin with my back to both him and Luc—and see Reefer and the band piling out of his black pickup.


I turn back to Luc, careful to avoid his eyes. Oxygen deprivation makes thinking a challenge, but I’m able to stammer out, “Um…okay. We can go, I guess…if you want.”

Riley is standing back from the catfight. I raise my voice slightly to be heard over the foray. “Riley.” She looks my way. “I’m going with Luc…’kay?”

The firelight flickers in her eyes as she smiles knowingly and nods.
I glance once more at Gabe, who holds my eyes with his and shoots me a glowing smile, and then I feel the tips of Luc’s fingers scorch through the shirt in the small of my back. I catch his cinnamon as he leans in from behind and whispers, “Let’s go.”

At his touch, a tingle starts low in my belly and works its way through me, growing in intensity till my whole body is humming—some parts more than others. I let him steer me and my Jell-O legs to his car.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sneak Peek #7: Personal Demons

Welcome back for more Personal Demons! I wanted to introduce the last key character in Frannie's life, her grandfather. I've jumped ahead again, and this is the end of chapter three, where we meet him for the first time.

Frannie has taken some serious knocks in life, one of which is the death of her twin brother, and she relies heavily on her grandfather to help her sort things out, which you will see from the conversation.

“Hand me the torque wrench, Frannie.”

I rifle through Grandpa’s tool chest and come out with it. Then I lie on the cement floor of his garage and slide in next to him under his restored ’65 Mustang convertible.

The smell of oil and exhaust means Sunday afternoon to me. From the time I could hold a screwdriver without putting my eye out, I’ve been under a car with my Grandpa every Sunday after church. My sisters think I’m weird, but I can’t imagine anything better than the feeling of accomplishment when you take something apart and then put it back together with no pieces left over—and it works. Some of my warmest memories are of being on the cold cement floor in this garage.

“It’s coming along,” I say, looking up at where he’s tightening the last clamp on the engine we spent all winter rebuilding.
“Not more than a week or two out. Can ya grab that wrench and hold this bolt while I tighten the clamp?” he says, and his deep sandpaper tone resonates to my bones.

“Sure. You’ll let me drive it?”

“You’ll be first—after me, course. Reward for all your hard work.” He turns and grins. His smiling blue eyes are warm and soft even in the harsh glow of the shop light hanging from the belly of the Mustang.

“Excellent!” I picture myself cruising down the street, top down, music blaring.

He runs his grease-covered hand over his balding head, leaving a large black smudge in the middle of the short gray fringe. “We’re almost ready for oil. There’s a case in the corner. Can ya pull four quarts?”

“Sure,” I say, sliding out from under the car.

“There’s a funnel over there too. I’ll tell ya when I’m ready.”

I grab the oil, bring it back, and twist the oil cap off the engine block. “Grandpa?”


“How did you meet Grandma?”

He laughs—a rich sound that fills the garage and my heart. “At a street race when we were in high school. She was a good girl. Barely been kissed.” He chuckles. “But I came along and fixed that.”

“When did you know you loved her?”

“The second I saw her.”

“How did you know she loved you?”

I can hear the smile in his voice. “She told me…and then she showed me, if ya catch my drift.”

I try to picture them young, like in some of the pictures I’ve seen: Grandpa, all strutting around in his jeans with a pack of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of his T-shirt, and Grandma, the good girl with the mischievous gleam in her eye. And then I picture my grandma—how I loved to curl up with her on the couch while she read me the classics—and my heart aches. “Do you miss her?”

“Every day.”

“Do you believe in Heaven?”

“Do you think Grandma’s there?”

“If anyone is, it would be her. I don’t think God would hold lovin’ me against her.”
“Do you think Matt is there too?” I ask past the tight lump in the back of my throat.

“For sure. Sittin’ on his grandma’s knee.”

Even though I know it’s all a lie, it still feels good to hear him say it. Like a comfortable old fairytale. “Thanks, Grandpa.”

“I’m ready for that oil. Slow and easy.”

“You got it.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sneak Peek  #8 :  Personal DemonsLuc

Monday morning and the hall is crowded with hot, sticky bodies. Mmm…just like home. And then I feel it. That itch in my sixth sense. Gabriel.

I swing my locker shut, turn, and there he is, leaning against the wall next to room 616, talking to Frannie. And she’s smiling up at him and laughing—and flirting—and blushing.

That bastard’s cheating!

Suddenly, I’m flooded with some unrecognizable emotion mixed with rage, and all I want is Gabriel’s bloody head in my hands. Except angels don’t bleed even when you rip their heads off.

In three long strides I’m across the hall. I realize I’m grimacing and tone it down to my best smirk. “Gabriel.”

Frannie looks a little out of it when she turns to me. “Oh… Hey Luc.”

Gabriel smiles. “Lucifer.”

“So nice to see you. What brings you to the humble halls of Haden High?”

“Same as you, dude. A quality education,” he smirks.

Frannie’s eyes clear a little and shift warily between us. “Play nice.” She turns back to Gabriel and touches his arm. “If you need any help writing up that physics lab…”

My rage bubbles dangerously close to the surface. I feel my power surge. “You’re in physics together?” I say, glaring laser beams at Gabriel.

Frannie’s beaming at him in a whole different way. “Gabe is my new lab partner.”

“Really…” I growl through gritted teeth.

He shrugs away from the wall and shifts closer to Frannie. “Just lucky, I guess.”

Luck’s got nothing to do with it. More like divine intervention.

My appraising eyes shift to Frannie. No real damage done. None that I can’t fix anyway. “So, history?” I say.

“Oh, yeah. Let me grab my book.” As she moves across the hall, her brow creases. She shakes her head once, pushing off the fog. I turn back to Gabriel as she twists her lock.

“So why did they send you anyway? Seems like overkill. Any run-of-the-mill angel could fail as spectacularly as you’re going to.”

“We’ll see,” he says. I don’t like the confident smirk on his face. He knows something I don’t.

I put on my poker face as I fish for information. “You and I both know you would have tagged her already if you could. What’s the hold up? A little too much devil in her?”

He’s still smug, but the frustration in his undertone gives him away. I hit a nerve. “You’re still the same stupid chump you’ve always been. All that pride and arrogance that got you here in the first place. I’d think after all these millennia…you have no clue why you’re here, do you? What the deal is with her?” he asks.

Now he hit a nerve. I struggle to keep my composure. He doesn’t need to know he’s right. “All that matters is Frannie’s soul will be tagged for Hell—soon.”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” he jabs. And if I could kill him, I would, but I’ve tried before and it didn’t work out so hot. Turns out the cherub is tougher than he looks.
Then Frannie’s back. She brushes against my elbow and a tingle courses through me. “Ready?” she says.

“Yep. Let’s go.” I place my fingertips in the small of her back and guide her down the hall. He may need to cheat, but I don’t. No power, just charm.


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