Prologue

I’ve been furiously editing and revising for a few months now. This is the final, final product for my prologue. Please forgive the lack of proper paragraphs–I blame it on the formatting of the blog roll. I hope you like it!

Prologue
Devil’s Bath Hot Springs, Uintah Mountain Range, Utah
Four years ago

The deep ruts from early spring runoff and the roots of stubby evergreen trees reached up from the ground, plaguing her path with ankle twisting obstacles, as the young woman sprinted down the rugged mountain trail. She slowed her pace after she nearly fell, slipping when her heel skidded on loose scale dropped from the higher elevations. The developing fog made for slick travel. The woman panted into the rapidly chilling air and glanced nervously behind her, still not seeing anything to justify her panic. The dim light filtering through the gloom of the cloudy day told her it was late afternoon. She knew she had plenty of time to make it back to her car before sunset.
Clutching her Swiss Army knife to her chest, the woman continued down the trail at a fast pace, adeptly jumping over large rocks, fallen branches, and mud puddles. The knife was more of a security blanket than a potential weapon. Her husband had given it to her on their first Christmas together, and she always brought it hiking. The woman was especially grateful she had it with her as she scrambled anxiously down the trail. It was a short hike, only two hours from the parking lot to the hot springs, but being alone on this hike was making her jumpy.
She had taken her time drying off after her hour-long soak in the sulfuric, hot springs. She knew that she had plenty of flexibility in her unusually empty day and as she patted her cool skin dry, she relished the break away from her responsibilities of wife and mother. She intensely loved her family, but it had felt great to get away and relax for the day.
At first, the feeling of eyes on her as she dressed, only slowly enveloped her consciousness. Then, with the sharp sting of realization that she was being watched, she took off at a run, no longer laxidasical. She felt that something was after her—something predatory.
Now, halfway down the path, the frightened young woman tried to slow herself to a calm, collected walk, but could not. Just beyond her normal senses of hearing, sight, and logic there was a place in which she knew something was chasing her down. It was irrational, she knew that, but she felt it nonetheless. She hopped with panic-addled awkwardness over another obstacle in the trail. Being married to a cop had taught her to trust her instincts, and at that moment, her instincts screamed, “Escape!”
Since she had been running instead of hiking, she couldn’t tell how much farther down the trail her car was parked. Whether it was from her urgent fear or simple inattention caused by running so blindly, the path, once so familiar to her, suddenly seemed too narrow, too cluttered with overgrowth. She slowed again, disoriented, and came to a stop to make sure that she knew where she was. The woman turned to face the direction she had come from, but couldn’t see anything through the burgeoning fog.
The fog meant that it was going to rain soon, and at this altitude, this time of year, it could very well be snow. She strained to hear any sign of the danger she sensed, but there was no noise behind her—no footsteps or sounds of sticks breaking, nothing to say she was being hunted. She turned and ran anyway.
The woman lost all track of time as she fled, and in doing so panicked, thinking that she had strayed from the trail again. Then saw the Bureau of Land Management sign indicating the parking area was only two tenths of a mile away.
“Thank god,” she panted, and slowed her pace. She felt foolish for her haste, now that safety was only a few feet away, and decided to cool down with a slow walk for the remainder of the hike. She even chuckled to herself, knowing she would have a great time telling her husband the story of how she had frightened herself.
“What’s so funny?”
The woman jumped when she heard someone speak, and then froze. A tall, incredibly handsome young man, dressed in black stood just off the side of the trail ahead of her, leaning against a tree. She wouldn’t have even noticed him until she was standing right next to him, if he hadn’t spoken. There was something off about him and instinct again shouted at her to turn and run, but she felt hesitant, wondering if the young man might need help. “Besides,” she inwardly chastised herself, “hikers are always so friendly.”
She waved and gave the man a small smile as she slowly approached him. She slipped her knife up her sleeve; she didn’t want to insult the young man.
“Hi,” she greeted him. At the closer range, she saw that he was even younger than she had first thought; maybe even still a teenager, and she realized what was off about him. The young man was dressed for a dance club, not a hike. His long leather jacket reminded her of the garb from a futuristic cowboy movie, and his boots looked like motorcycle boots, not at all good for hiking. Her heart fluttered nervously.
The boy emanated the distinct swagger of overconfidence that she saw in the addicts she often treated in the emergency room where she worked as a nurse. He possessed the extreme confidence of someone with a false sense of immortality, someone hyped up on a good trip.
The woman’s innate desire to help people switched on. Even though instinct kept trying to push her back, away from what she should have known was danger, she couldn’t help herself from reaching out to someone who may be in need. The young man, if indeed high on a hard drug, may be lost or injured, and she had to help him.
“I said, ‘what’s so funny,’” the boy repeated. He sounded sweet, coy even, but there was an edge to his tone that sent an involuntary ripple of fear through the woman.
The woman stopped walking, and tried to pretend that she didn’t hear the menace resting beneath his words. “Do you need help?” The woman paused and added, “You aren’t dressed for hiking, and the trail is quite long.”
“I’m not hiking,” the boy explained and pushed away from the tree. “I was waiting for you, actually.” He advanced on the woman.
“Me?” The woman chuckled nervously. “Why were you waiting for me?” Her eyes flickered around her for an escape route. She knew she had to run, but she couldn’t turn away from the boy; she couldn’t make her feet take her away from him. New fear suddenly sliced through her mind, rooting her to where she stood, as if the boy had her entranced with fright.
“You have something I want. Something I need,” he crooned, a mere foot from her now.
“I do? What do you need from me?”
The boy stopped moving. A terrifying grin that never reached his icy black eyes, twisted his handsome face. “I need your life,” he said, too quietly.
The woman set her feet free and whirled around, running full speed back up the trail, feet beating the loose ground, heart pounding against her ribcage. To her horror, the boy materialized before her in the path, and she collided with him before she could slow herself down. The impact knocked her to the ground as if she had slammed into a brick wall.
Lying on the cold, damp ground dazed, but conscious, the woman saw the boy lean over her, his beautiful face too close to hers. Her warm, brown eyes frantically searched for a way to escape the terror she knew was planned for her. The boy’s lips were moving but she couldn’t understand him; she wondered if she had a concussion. She shook her head, scrambling to try to get back on her feet, knowing she had to run. She had to get away from this evil boy. Sound crept back into her ears just in time to hear his frightening question.
“What’s your greatest fear?” he asked as he pinned her to the ground with strong hands, thwarting any attempt to flee.
“This,” she thought, “this is my greatest fear.”
It was not, as it turned out, her greatest fear. Again, a leaded sense of immobility overtook her.
An uncomfortable buzzing filled her ears, as the boy’s awful, inky black eyes bore into her, captivating her. The sound overwhelmed every other sense, paralyzing her with a crippling pain in the front of her brain. To her horror, she found that she was incapable of looking away from him, as the mountain trail and cold fog disappeared around her. Then she found herself immersed in the actual nightmare that she feared most.
The woman was suddenly walking to the front door of her home. Utter dread filled her soul as she put her hand out to open the door, knowing what waited for her. Her pounding heart seared as adrenaline poured into her chest, creating a strong need to run from the truth that waited on the other side of the door. She no longer remembered that she was lying on the damp ground in the mountains, but completely believed that she was home, in the middle of the night, answering the knock that every police spouse fears with their entire being.
When her shaking hand finally succeeded in opening her front door, two police officers stood before her with sympathetic, but strong, expressions on their grim faces. She whimpered; she knew what was coming next. This was her greatest fear.
The woman had dreamed this nightmare a thousand desolate nighttimes. She shook with the awful knowledge before the police officer even said the dreaded words, and she collapsed in a heap at their feet. In this, her greatest and most private fear, she learned that her beloved husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her alone, lost in inconsolable grief.
She witnessed her worse fear come to life. She screamed and screamed and screamed, until her lungs emptied of air and life.

When the young woman he had pinned to the ground, stopped thrashing under his palms, the boy smiled greedily, lost in the reverie of killing, and sated by the life force he had stolen from her. As the blissful haze cleared, he looked into her lifeless eyes, and grimaced. The familiar, but always fleeting, sense of regret in his damaged conscience flared, then rapidly abated. As he stood up, he wondered, as he always did, what exactly her greatest fear had been. What terror had his Song brought forth from her mind to horrify her as she gave her life?
He spotted a blue Swiss Army knife lying next to the woman’s body and snapped it up with inhuman speed. It was an expensive model worth keeping. He turned it over and saw an engraved message: “To My Maria, so you will always be safe. All My Love, Manny”
“Isn’t that sweet,” he sneered, as he slipped the knife into his pocket. Then the handsome, young man vanished into the air.

“A Prince and a Monster Went into a Bar…Have You Heard This One?” Excerpt from Tethered

From the chapter titled “A Prince and a Monster Went into a Bar…Have You Heard This One?”

“Celeste?” The wooden door subdued Arc’s resonant voice. She smiled.

“Yeah, come on in.” She shut the water off, grabbed a towel and then opened the curtain as she was wrapping the towel around her wet body. Arc merely watched her, leaning on the door jam, the look of a hungry jackal on his face. She tried to ignore that.

“You’re packed, I see. I checked the Jeep and saw your bag. When do you want to leave?” Celeste went about her drying and primping routine while Arc was still in the room. He didn’t avert his eyes as she unwound the towel, feeling ever so slightly self-conscious, but hoping to make an impression. She thought of it as enticement.

“I’ll be ready in a few minutes. Sound good to you?” He didn’t answer her so she turned to look at him and saw that he was watching her differently now and she tried to slip discreetly into his mind and see what was going on.

Arc was remembering the day on the beach when he had almost killed Celeste. He wasn’t remembering the killing part though; he was remembering their nearly joined and very naked bodies entwined and happy. He cringed when realized she was trespassing on his thoughts, but he didn’t kick her out.

“I hadn’t thought of you like that in a few years. I had done a pretty good job of turning you into an enemy instead of a lover.” He paused waiting for her to challenge him. When she didn’t, he continued.

“It kept you alive though, hating you. It certainly wasn’t fun. I would have preferred more nights on the beach.” He moved closer to her, Celeste’s body shivered in anticipation and then Arc stopped and backed away. A wry smile spread across his beautiful face, distorting it into a sarcastic mask.

“What is it?” Celeste was growing cold and started to dress in the clothes she had draped on her bench seat by the bathroom window. The day’s events were wearing on her and she needed to get something to eat.

“We should go if you still want to.”

“Of course I do.” Celeste looked up in surprise at Arc, wondering what he was getting at. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing, just want to make sure. That’s a long drive for me and I don’t want to do it, if you are uncertain of your desires. That’s all.” They went around shutting down her computer, unplugging large appliances and making sure the windows and doors were locked.

When they were done, Celeste stood in the door and looked back at her home. She was sad to be leaving, of course, but somehow she felt like she was moving towards her true home. She looked at Arc, already by the Jeep, and wondered if it was more that he would be joining her there—this strange and enigmatic man who had captured her heart and never truly given it back.

Excerpt from Tethered

I am so excited to be able to say that I finished writing Tethered after midnight on Tuesday morning. I sat back, clicked “save” and looked around the room like I had been somewhere else for a while. I really have been somewhere else…lost in my characters and their story. There are still revisions to make and lots of polishing up to do, but I wrote a book! And there are plenty more stories and characters rattling around inside this mind of mine. I’m not quite ready to leave Arc and Celeste’s world, but I have many other stories to tell and it makes me supremely satisfied to feel this burning addiction to storytelling.

Here is another excerpt: (Thanks for reading these and for all of the great feedback!)

In what she considered a potentially very stupid move, Celeste looked over her shoulder to see the man making great long strides with a fierce hunter’s look on his face. She actually sobbed out loud. This was so not good.

“Arc, please. Come and find me!” She said it out loud with tears forming in her eyes. She was about to break out in an actual run when a hand clamped down over her shoulder and her mouth at the same time, preventing that well planned scream for help. She still had the pepper spray in her hand and she twisted around with so much force that she loosened his grip enough to bite his hand. This surprised him and she twisted away far enough to get out a burst of pepper spray in his general direction. The stream of spray didn’t hit his nose or eyes directly, so there wasn’t much stopping power with the defense. And unfortunately, he seemed even more interested now, the thrill of her fighting back wetting his appetites. Bile rose in Celeste’s throat and her headache threatened to send her to the ground. She felt like the world was tilting and rotating around her. Why isn’t there anyone else on the street to help me?

He grabbed her again and pushed her with so much force that she flew into the alley they were walking by and she stumbled to the ground. This time she got a good long scream out which elicited a hard, backhanded slap from her assailant. She saw nothing but bright light for a split second and then when she could see again she looked up at him and saw, for the first time, his large, shiny knife.

Then it seemed like the whole world exploded around her as her eyes were blinded by a white light accompanied by the most intensely crippling pain her brain had ever endured. Celeste was sure she was dying, that the murderer had sliced her throat or stabbed her in the face with his horrible knife. She couldn’t imagine ever surviving pain of this magnitude. The headache that had plagued her since she got to New Mexico was going to be the disabling factor that lead to her death. Unable to defend herself, she was certain that this was the end. Miraculously, the light faded to reveal that she was seemingly alone and she looked around her. What is that humming noise? Celeste lifted her hand to her head. The pain had been replaced by a drone of noises that she couldn’t place.

Unbelievably, her attacker wasn’t there anymore, threatening to kill her. Could she dare to hope that he was gone? Celeste shook her head feeling dazed but no longer in such horrid pain. She was panting and still lying on the street, but she wasn’t cut or bleeding. It was after a quick assessment of her condition that she warily looked around to get her bearings and twenty feet away she saw the strangest thing she had ever seen. The taxi driver was lying on his back, his panicked, flailing limbs held out in an “X” pattern and Arc was kneeling on his chest, head thrust back, mouth open and a serene look on his beautiful face.

Excerpt from Chapter One of Tethered

Chapter One
Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 5, 1999

The bar was packed for a Wednesday night, making it hard for Celeste to get the scary looking bartender’s attention amidst the throng of bodies crushed against the smoky bar. Celeste adjusted the comfortable, yet frilly, tank top that she was sporting this evening. It was dusty rose, form fitting and had a built in bra that her, larger than average, chest kept wanting to mutiny from. Her jeans were a little too big and long for her, even though she was five feet, eight inches tall, but she tended to couple one tight piece of clothing with one baggy piece. She liked the juxtaposition—imagined that it was sexy. Her multicolored, patched handbag was slung casually over her right shoulder and laid on her left hip but it contained nothing other than a four-year-old cell phone that her mother had made her take, a simple hair tie that she would pull her long dirty blonde locks into at some point this evening and a wallet full of nothing much other than her ID and a few small bills. She was good at hiding valuables. Being a world traveler at the age of twenty-three made you astute and congenially suspicious of your fellow man.

Everyone was clamoring for each other’s attention and laughing, pushing forward trying to buy bottles of beer and glasses of cheap well drinks. As she folded her twenty dollar bill lengthways and stuck it out to make her alcohol buying intentions better known, she glanced back at Padma and Joshua, her new friends from the Albuquerque City Youth Hostel, where they were all staying, a few blocks from the bar. The cramped dance floor forced the two of them to stand very close to each and they were cutely awkward about it. Celeste smiled. She liked these two and she could tell, in that way of hers, that they liked each other too but were too shy to do anything about it. It was decided—she would have to make the first move for them. Of course, it would be clandestine enough to make it seem like their idea. Happily, they seemed inexperienced enough to probably not notice her meddling…

…Padma’s open beauty transcended age and her kind manner made her even that much more likable. Her attire tonight was much the same as every other time Celeste had spent time with her; flowing skirts, lots of chunky jewelry and finely polished hair and nails. She was eccentric, yet stunning. And she had the natural kindness that could win over the most hardened cynic and Josh, in his plaid shirts and combat boots, had come across as a cynic right from the start… But Padma was totally the opposite and once she understood Celeste’s needs, she had said that the three should combine all of their ingredients to make one big family meal. Upon hearing that suggestion Josh looked like he was about to burst a capillary or run away screaming but by the last drop of after dinner cardamom and cinnamon tea, compliments of Padma, he was laughing and acting like they were all old friends. After that night together there had been a new and completely different look in his eye every time he was around Padma.

The bartender shouted at her and she turned to lean over the wooden bar and yell her order at him over the loud music and raucously lively bar sounds. With not so much as a smile, the efficient seeming bartender was off to fill her order. Celeste could only assume it was the demands of a busy day that created his unfriendly attitude since he took two more orders as he quickly moved around the inside of the large bar. She watched him reaching into the cooler, grabbing bottles and throwing the handle of the keg to fill a glass and decided that he was just no non-sense, hard working and possibly the only bartender working tonight, so she decided to give him a good tip.

While she waited for her drinks, Celeste let her gaze sweep around the bar, imagining what all of these moving bodies really wanted out of this place. She just wanted to get to know her friends a little better and have an experience worthy of recording in her daily travel journal when she got back to her room. She spotted a mysteriously handsome man leaning on the far wall near the back entrance and did a double take. He was that hot, albeit weird, guy from the train. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that his gaze was fixed directly on her. That couldn’t be a coincidence.

This guy was seriously good looking, like Hollywood gorgeous. Most of the guys that liked her were nice, smart college-bound type guys. Attractive, but not really the kind of guy you liked for his overt sexuality or heart throb exterior. Celeste knew she was considered pretty, if you liked that sort of thing, but she wasn’t the kind of physical beauty that solicited deep soul crushing stares like the one this guy was throwing her way. In all honesty, it was more odd than it was flattering. Despite this illicit attention from such a stud, she was distractingly aware of a weird sensation starting in her head, sort of behind her forehead. She touched it absently wondering if she was developing a migraine.

The bartender thumped three heavy Newcastle’s on the bar in front her and she jumped, startled into turning her attention to the beer delivery. She handed him the twenty and held up her hand to show that she didn’t want any change back. He broke a quick smile of gratitude and then stalked off to fill more drink orders. Celeste had waited tables for about five seconds in college and she knew what it was like to work in this sort of environment. Poor guy probably wouldn’t get a break for another five hours. As she grabbed the beer bottles by the neck, she dared another look in the direction of the hot guy. “Yep, still watching me. Damn this is weird.”

Excerpt #2 From the Prologue of Tethered

Lying on the ground in his long dark coat, looking up at the sky, expecting to die at any moment, even though he knew that wasn’t possible, slow recognition began to creep into his mind. This pain was familiar. He had felt this before but realizing that did not make him feel any better. In fact, it enraged him. As the pain subsided again, a new sensation replaced it. An itch. An insatiable, infuriating itch behind his forehead, deep in his brain. This time he cried out, not in pain, but with terrifying anger. He slammed his fists and forearms into the earth beside him to propel himself back into a standing position and glared into the night, allowing himself to feel the itch spread from a pinprick sensation to the size of a dime and then a quarter and then it was in his entire brain. He knew the only way to really scratch it was to open up to what was trying to force its way in. But this he refused to do.

He absolutely despised the fact that she had found her way back into his brain. For years he had built the wall, brick by brick, kill by kill and the wall had never been breached, until tonight. Rage festered and oozed within him. She no longer belonged in his life, in his world. It had been a long, long time since he had known her and he wasn’t ever letting her in again. Never. He would never allow it.

And then, as if he had no choice, there she was…in his mind whispering his name with her beautiful, angelic, human voice. He swore aloud. He couldn’t remember how to keep her out once she was there, but he could put an end to her life. That would do the trick. He smiled a crazy, ferocious smile as he scratched the space between his eyes and let out a low, animal snarl. Finally, he would find the will to finish what he could never finish before.

And then there were just the two bodies, the smoking fire and a cool Rocky Mountain breeze. The ghost of his snarl lifted up and away on the tendrils of smoke.

Excerpt from the Prologue of Tethered by Lia Angelini

“She slowed, shivering and came to a stop. She needed to get her bearings and make sure that she was still on the trail. She turned to face the direction that she had come from but couldn’t really see anything without the moon for light and she cursed herself for not bringing a flashlight. There was no noise behind her, no footsteps or sounds of sticks breaking, nothing to say she was being hunted, but she turned and ran anyway.”