Nominated for Best PNR - Wizard & Witch 2011 by The Romance Reviews (TRR)
Spellbound Series - Book 1 (part one)
For as long as I could remember, I’d heard whispers in the shadows—black, twisting shapes that chilled my blood. Slithering through the night, their greenish skin, crimson eyes, and sharp claws were illuminated even in the dark.
Sunlight now meant the difference between life and death.
I normally felt safe during the day, with the heat of the sun brushing my skin, so that morning—when the shadows showed up in my bedroom—I barely recognized their eerie whispering.
The desk lamp flickered, startling me. I stared at the last line I’d typed on my essay for English class, one hand hovering over the keyboard.
Homework could wait.
I raised my head and closed the laptop. My heart hammered. A hint of chilling menace climbed up my spine. Finishing my homework was the last thing on my mind.
The spooky whispering—inhuman and ominous—grew more intense.
Setting the laptop aside, I uncrossed my legs and jumped off the bed, nearly tripping over my long nightgown. I scanned the dark bends and edges of the room. The swirling azure colors of the witch ball suspended over the bed rotated in a slow circle. I got down on my hands and knees to check under the bed. Nothing.
The closet door was open a crack. I stood up and wavered, shoulders hitching.
I dragged my feet over to the closet and pushed the door open with my foot. On tiptoes, I leaned over the threshold, stretching to grasp the brass chain, and then gave it a yank. Light bled across dirty laundry, illuminating metal hangers scattered on the floor. Dusty board games littered the shelf, and haphazardly hanging clothes swayed on the bar. My fuzzy bunny slippers stared upward with glassy button eyes. Nothing unusual.
So why was I so freaked?
The feeling—indistinct but ominous—lingered like the remnants of a bad dream. I couldn’t isolate the source. But something felt wrong.
The closet light and lamp blew out. As I turned around, my peripheral vision caught a maelstrom of shadows. Things withered within it. Something snaked past my leg.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I’d forgotten to keep my telepathic shield up. Again.
Shadows murmured in an ancient language, covering the round pink rug like an opaque stain. The creatures fed off my fear, which was doled out like bitter candy. Within the inky blobs were gleaming eyes. Red orbs, open and staring. Spiny reptilian fingers reached out to grab my ankles. Instinct alone jerked me from their grasp. Demonic things with darkling eyes glared at me.
Trembles traveled from my legs and vibrated up my neck. Bile rose in my throat. I struggled to calm myself; all I had to do was run from the room.
Instead I froze with my back against the wobbling closet door. Then my eyes caught something else. An entity, dense and vertical, detached itself from the shadows across the room. Bigger. Darker. Malevolent.
The blackness grew deep and vast. From within that shadow—a mass of darkness, like a terrible yawning hunger rose in front of my wide eyes. The shadow hung heavily, like a spatter of crude oil, pulsating and swirling until it nearly touched the ceiling. It morphed, muscles expanding over bones, skin convulsing, a resurrection of shiny obsidian, smooth and razor-sharp. It throbbed, altered, trickled into limbs and flesh and—
Oh, God, it’s almost touching me!
I flinched and stumbled sideways, bumping into a chair. My knees buckled. I swayed and leaned hard on the wall. Blood roared in my ears.
The nest of smaller shadows shimmered and seemed to crouch in terror. They whispered in tangled voices, circling my legs like frightened children.
When scary things get scared—probably not a good omen.
Breathing out desperate little choking noises, I shook my head. But the head shake didn’t help the horrible images fade. Only reinforced my worst nightmare.
Shadows had come alive and coalesced, taking on form. A human form.
My palms went damp and a cold tremor shot down my back.
Power surged through the demon as he swelled into a seething black mass of energy, bent on blocking my escape. His rough skin, the color of soot, held a sturdy flexibility, more sinuous than flesh, like a venomous viper. His strange features—part phantom, part skeleton—fought to become corporeal. Partially humanoid. No hair. His man-parts were covered with black pants and he wore nothing else. He flexed his hands, revealing long fingernails. Knife-sharp teeth. The reptilian creature did not move. He watched me with ocher eyes that blazed, searing through my nightgown and scorching my skin.
The smaller shadows—demonic shapeshifters—slunk away, blending into the dim corners. Beady eyes blinked. However, the seven-foot-tall creature remained. The hellish warmth radiating from his body entered mine like the breath of a dragon.
“Greetings, Thirteen Daughter,” the shadow man said. “Or should I call you by your birth name, Shiloh Trudell?”
It knew my name. It knew my name!
I swallowed. Hard. My scalp prickled with sweat. It wasn’t as if I were some girly-girl afraid of her own shadow, but when they had glowing eyes, sharp teeth, and spoke to me…well, I tended to freak out.
My gaze darted to the window. Sunlight was my only ally. If I lifted the blinds, the sun’s rays would swallow the darkness. At least that was the idea. A crack of light ebbed into the room, soaking the crevices.
“So, um, what do they call you?” I asked, my voice trembling.
Inching forward, I kept an eye on the junior shadows with their onyx hands, arms…flashes of carved faces. They continually moved, sliding under the bed in a twisted game of peek-a-boo. But the shadowy demon stood very still. Intent, watchful, calm. Dangerous. The disgusting odor of sulfur, musty and acrid, wrinkled my nose.
“It is of little consequence,” he said.
I wanted to say something tough and snarky, but I could only gape stupidly at Shadow Man. Big bad evil. Whatever.
The demon raised one hand and pointed at my arm. “Debts must be paid.” His inhuman voice slid across the space between us, resonant and sinister, like the threat of a snake before it strikes. “You bear the Devil’s Mark.”
My eyes bulged. “Say what?”
The ugly scar on my forearm—the one I’d lived with for years—burned at his words, as if I’d plunged it into scalding water. It totally caught me off guard. It had never hurt like this before.
Sucking in a breath, I held my arm against me. Tears filled my eyes. I gritted my teeth, twitching, unsure what to do next.
Move. Now. But my legs refused to budge. My gut clenched. My skin prickled.
Please, oh, please, go away.
Too bad I lacked the courage to scream or fight rather than stiffen like a statue, immobile and breathless.
Shadow Man glowered. The miniature shadows swarmed around me. Were they his little minions? Or were they still as freaked as me? Didn’t matter because now they had me cornered.
I backed up against the closet door and stared, waiting for them to attack. Shadow Man stepped closer. The freaky hellspawn crouched behind him. The circle tightened, then he stopped. He cocked his head to the side.
Someone knocked on the door. “Shiloh?” My mother’s annoyed tone penetrated the wood. “What’s going on in there? I heard a noise.”
Why wasn’t Dad the one pounding on my door? He’d want to protect me.
Wait—what was I thinking?
He would think I was hallucinating. Only I saw paranormals in this dysfunctional family.
No way was I letting Shadow Man leave this room to hurt my dad. Who knew what the demon would do?
“Uh, sorry,” I croaked. “Can’t decide what to wear.”
“Be quieter then.” She twisted the knob. Thankfully, the door was locked.
Now I had no choice but to do something about this…this thing. Before it went after my parents. Hurt my dad. I glanced from the door to the demon. I recognized danger. I recognized warnings.
“Okay.” My fists clenched at my sides. Fingernails cut deep into my palm.
“We’re gonna be late…and do something with your hair,” she said.
The soft tread of my mother’s feet padding down the hall rattled me enough to do what I’d first intended—run like hell. I took a step, then stopped. My eyes narrowed and my hands shook as I take a menacing step closer to my enemy. A sudden burst of courage struck my heart. I didn’t know where it came from, but I was glad for it. More than glad.
The flare-up of bravery flushed my cheeks. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror above the dresser—gaze steadfast and cheeks stained with the blood of roses. My lips tightened.
Come on, Shiloh—think!
I rubbed my hurting arm over the cotton nightgown. Door or window?
Shadow Man stood between the door and me. His black and muscular physique looked invulnerable. No escape there. The heat of his stare slammed into my scar. Yellow eyes that expressed lust, hunger, and death.
He crooked a finger like a hook. “Come here.” The demon’s gaze flicked sideways, settling on me with such heaviness and animosity my skin recoiled. “Now, or pay the consequences.”
Something uncoiled in my heart. A dark force unfurled within me, as black as the demon before me. I jerked forward, my cheeks flaming. My short fingernails dug into my palms. But I felt no pain. Only the slow graze of terrible rage. I bared my teeth in a snarl as the obscure dark power stirred within my chest: precarious, unwinding.
“Is that a threat?” I asked, but the tone was not mine. This time power flooded my voice.
No one moved. Even the nasty little shadows became rigid. Shadow Man hesitated. Our gazes met in silent combat. I held my breath. My heart was beating at a dizzying pace.
The demon flung back his head. A thin stream of smoke spewed from his parted lips. The predatory cloud-snake pulsed with electricity. His smoky vomit was viscous and black, generating an electromagnetic vibration and a sulfurous residue.
At that moment, the only things real to me were the rage coursing through my veins and the heat scorching the scar that traced a jagged line from my elbow to my wrist. A constant reminder, ensuring I’d never forget my freakishness.
Instead of screaming like a smart girl, I’d be brave and sprint for the one thing that might save me: the window.
As I raced past Shadow Man, a blistering heat slashed into my chest. Stumbling, I tripped over a book and fell to my knees. I gripped the ledge of the windowsill.
Blazing strong, a surge of mystical energy encompassed my body and radiated through my limbs, crackling with power. Static electricity lifted my long hair. I squeezed my eyes shut.
Oh, god. Please—OPEN!
Want to read more?
Read the thrilling excerpt from the sequel, SHATTERED SILENCE
This teen series was inspired by the popular TV shows Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Charmed - Phoebe and Cole