Publication date: December 2nd 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Callie Michaels isn’t pretty or popular, but her singing more than makes up for all she lacks. And as long as she focuses on what’s really important, she can survive high school. But how can she focus with all the drama? Between her best friend’s odd issues and a daily dose of weirdness from the social elite, she’s starting to wonder if she’s the only normal one around.
He pulled the front door open. “That’s how it’s done.”
I rolled my eyes and made my way through the crowd that had spilled into the hall, muttering. “That’s how it’s done. Yeah? Where? In the jungle?”
“Yeah.” James’ breath on my nape sent a chill down my spine. “Something like that.”
Just as her life begins spiraling out of control, the answer comes to her in a dream. In exchange for a token of blood, a demon will give her everything she desires. She says “yes.” From that point on, she finds herself changing, becoming something far from normal. Something dangerous.
No one is what they seem—least of all her. While the supernatural creatures around her struggle to maintain their humanity, Callie slowly loses hers. She doesn’t even know what’s important anymore. Friendship, the future, love? And is there anyone who can make her care?
"If I let you watch to make sure she's okay, you have to swear to be quiet and not tell anyone what you see."
Do I have a choice? I arched my neck and studied his face. Still just James. Scary fast—or maybe I was just slow. Either way, he hadn't turned into a monster. And he was trusting me.
I decided to return the favor and just watch the scene unfold.
"It was one stupid little remark, you big jerk. Whoever ratted me out made a big deal for nothing." The man's firm grip on her hair arched Amy's head back and put a strain in her voice. "Damn it, Ethan, let me go!"
Ethan. He had a name.
"There is no room for stupid little remarks. One slip and you ruin things for us all. Submit, Amy. There's no point to you resisting any longer."
"Go to hell!" Amy struggled against him.
Ethan shook his head and turned her to face the wall. "You tempt me, Amy, you really do. Maybe I should reclaim you from my brother. Would that make you happy?" Slipping his hand from her hair and letting it hang over her shoulder, he nuzzled against the side of her throat.
Amy whimpered. "No."
A growl rose from deep in Ethan's chest. He bared his teeth and set them into Amy's nape.
My eyes went wide. I twisted my body and James tightened his grip. He whispered in my ear. "Listen." Purring. Amy was actually purring and rubbing her body against Ethan. You're going crazy.
Ethan chuckled and let her go. "Good girl." He pressed a light kiss on her forehead. "Now get to class. I'll have your parents call the school so you won't get detention for being late."
Amy nodded and gave him a shaky smile. "Thanks, Ethan."
Before Ethan could turn, James was hauling me back, not stopping until we were in front of the school, out of sight of the parking lot. Crouched behind an evergreen, we watched a black, classic GTO pull out with Ethan behind the wheel. The car looked a lot like the one James had been driving before the Stingray.
Oh. My. God. I stood and stared at James. "That's your brother?" "Half." James corrected and confirmed all at once. "We should really get inside." "After you tell me what that was all about." "Family stuff. Kept on a need to know. Figure out where you classify." Turning
his back on me, James headed toward the front door. I ran to keep up. "Amy's not part of your family." "Yes, she is." Ew! "You guys are related? And your parents set you up?"
He arched a brow at me and shook his head. "No. We're not related. Our families are just . . . close." He stopped, smiling like something had just occurred to him. "Come Friday and I'll tell you everything."
Laughing, I shook my head. "You're so full of it. He's the reason for all the secrets. You're scared Ethan will find out if you tell me anything, aren't you?"
A blotchy red blush spread up his cheeks. "Tell me he doesn't freak you out."
Seriously? I laughed and tried to skirt by him. "I just watched him bite a girl after roughing her up—"
Before I could pass, James caught my hand and tugged me back. "He didn't rough her up. He was firm with her. There's a difference."
I licked my bottom lip. "Tell me you're not okay with what just happened." He pulled the front door open. "That's how it's done." The bell ending homeroom rang, and I groaned. Unlike Amy, we didn't have
anyone calling in with an excuse for us being late. Which meant we'd both get detention.
This was not my day. I rolled my eyes and made my way through the crowd that had spilled into the hall. I muttered, "That's how it's done. Yeah? Where? In the jungle?"
"Yeah." James breath on my nape sent a chill down my spine. "Something like that."
Before I made it two steps, James was out of the car. He slid across the hood and swept me off my feet. The sliding didn't stop there. Solid on his feet as he usually was, James underestimated the slickness of the snow. He fell on his back with a loud grunt. I landed softly on my side, with his stomach to cushion my fall. My elbow in his gut drew another grunt from him.
Dropping his head back into the snow, James held up his hands. "Okay, I give. No more corny lines."
"You'll save them for the other girls?" Hands pressed to his chest, I held myself up so I could look down at him.
"What other girls?" He arched up and pressed his lips to mine, just a soft pressure, a gentle massage on my bottom lip, and a little brush of his tongue on the crease, giving me just a hint of his sweet taste. Not the consuming, addictive taste of Nick's kisses. This was something welcome, still burning with the risk of being overwhelming, but a risk I was willing to take. A risk I wasn't taking alone.
Still, the kiss had crossed a line that we'd skimmed along before. I liked it, but it would take some getting used to. There was also the fact that James was trying so hard to be smooth. I decided to point it out. "That was a line."
The snow melted though the material of my jogging pants as I slid back on my knees and tried to stand. James sat up and held my hand until I was firmly on my feet. Not letting go of my hand, he stood beside me, swiped the sleeve of his jacket over the hood of his car, picked me up, and set me down on the edge. Hands braced on the car at either side of my hips he leaned his forehead against mine. "That was not a line. Not that it matters. You're not going to believe a thing I say, are you?"
"Things are real easy to say." I reached up and toyed with the zipper of his jacket, sure it was about to get awkward between us.
James caught my hand. "We don't have to say anything then."
A long soak in a bubble bath, hot enough to give me a head rush when I first submerged my whole body under the steaming water, did wonders for stiff muscles and stiffer resentment. James had been with me for days. He was entitled to a break. I was not going to be a pathetic, needy girlfriend. I was a strong, independent young woman, perfectly capable of fending for myself.
That conviction lasted the whole ten steps between the bathroom and my room. When I opened my bedroom door, I became someone who needed and was needed. And nothing could make that wrong.
A large, black cat stretched across my bed. James had come back at some point during my bath. While waiting, he'd fallen asleep. All I could do was stare. The beauty of him left me in awe.
Careful not to wake him I inched past the door, pulled it closed behind me, and turned the lock slowly to muffle the click. Every sound amplified in my ears as I tried to make my way across the room without waking him. My socks were like sandpaper on the carpet. My shallow breaths like heavy gasps. I heard it all, as I was sure he would. Humans were noisy things.
One black ear twitched, and I stopped and bit back a curse. The velvet of his fur glistened in the dim light as he stirred, but his eyes stayed closed. His huge form covered my bed, draped from one corner to the other, a piece of the exotic laid out in stark contrast to my very ordinary room. So alien to the surroundings, yet somehow so right.
I didn't want to wake him up, but at the same time I couldn't fight the need to get closer. Instinct flared up in warning, demanding I stay where I was. There was no denying the potential danger. Claws the size of my fingers peeked past his huge paws, little black daggers hooked into the delicate threads of my comforter. Without meaning to, he'd torn little holes in the cloth. Those claws would pass just as easily through flesh.
One step and then another, each one a struggle not to turn and run the other way. Again and again I reminded myself that this was James. He would never hurt me, not even in this form. He had control I couldn't match, and truthfully, I was the more dangerous of the two of us. All his life his family had taught him how to deal with what he was. There was no one to teach me how to deal with what I'd become.
Not seeing myself as a frail, helpless thing got me past the last few steps. Careful to avoid his tail dangling over the side, I eased myself onto the bed and curled up beside him. The warmth of his big body seeped over me, his familiar presence stealing away the fear of having sharp fangs inches from my face. I laid my hand over one massive paw and placed my head on my arm so I was facing him. Lids still closed, James shifted his head and rested it over my hand. Enveloped in perfect comfort, I prepared to surrender to the night.
Natasha Rogue is a Canadian author who's been writing for most of her life. After penning novels behind math textbooks all through high school, she attended Dawson College in Creative Arts with dreams of becoming a screenwriter. The best teacher she ever had took her aside and told her to go back where she belonged. To her roots with the books she loved to write.
Eternal Neverland (Steps Before the Fall) was one of her first complete novels. There are seven books in draft form completed in the series, but they gathered dust until experience and contacts with the right editors and crit partners gave them what they needed to be shared. However, A Breed Apart: The Token, was released through a small press in 2012. The book will be rereleased shortly.
You may find Natasha at several signings throughout the year as she writes multiple genres. Don't worry, she doesn't bite. But she will happily chat with you about the hotties who do. And shamelessly admit to liking Charlie way more than she should.