Read the Intro for Fury Rising:
Alicha wasn’t sure that she wanted to be a Dream-Walker anymore.
She’d gotten good, too good, at convincing innocent humans to switch to the dark side.
Working dreams was always exhausting, and last night had been no exception. Today, she was bone tired, so much so that she had overslept this morning, the first day of architectural exams. In a blur, she’d had to race to make it to the college campus and had just barely made into the School of Design building in time for her 1st presentation of the day. On days like this, she wished that she lived in the dorms like everyone else. Because of course, in the process, she had completely forgotten to take the damned demon medicine that kept her alive.
Good thing the meds were always stored in her bag for such reasons. “Good ‘ol Mom,” she murmured sarcastically, “keeping me alive when shit goes wrong.” The thing was, her presentation was about to start in a few minutes. There was no time for her to head back to the workroom where they stored their things so that she could grab the meds. Actually, she didn’t have a problem skipping it, only that her mother tended to flip if she missed even a day of taking the medicine.
‘It’s part of the deal,’ Alicha had been told. ‘Part of what’s keeping you alive, baby girl. If you don’t take it at the same time every day, I could lose you.’ And though Alicha usually sucked her teeth about it, she always took the blasted medicine, a new bottle of which appeared in the cabinet every morning.
Alicha Anthony knew all about it; all about how her mother had traded her only daughter’s service over to a demon in exchange for Alicha’s survival from brain cancer. Then had somehow managed to trade ‘down’ the bargain. So instead of losing her soul, Alicha went to the demon realm for one full 24 hours each month for ‘training’, and at night, sometimes she had to put that training to use by ‘dreamwalking’. The trade had saved her from a painful death as a child and allowed her, so far, to see finals in her third year of college.
And here she was. On time, unprepared, about to enter the lecture hall and pretend to be just another college student. Standing outside of the lecture hall, Alicha smoothed her clothes. She’d dressed lucky, in a fitted blue blazer, jeans hugging her butt, and matching heels. The blue went good against her dark skin, and with her freshly pressed hair styled down, she looked real good. Maybe that would draw attention away from her tired eyes.
‘I don’t wanna do this shit anymore.’
Especially when she had to wake up each morning, get ready, and attend college classes like normal. A weary sigh slipped her lips. Then, straightening her shoulders, Alicha pushed open the door to the presentation and went inside.
As she entered the room, a few heads swiveled toward her before turning away. Most students didn’t look up, either too busy preparing to present or caught up in casual conversations. Alicha didn’t bother trying to make eye contact with anyone. She hadn’t made any friends in this class or in any of the other classes that she was in. Making friends wasn’t a top priority for her. If there were friends out there who would understand why she Dream-walked at night, drank mysterious sludge out of an old glass vial, and was usually missing one full day a month, Alicha would be surprised.
Since she hadn’t found those people as yet, Alicha didn’t bother trying to sync her life with anyone else’s. Except for Chris, her almost-boyfriend. He was her silver lining on the stormy cloud of her life. Chris Artest had been trying to get with her for a while. Just recently she had given in, and so they were dating, but she hadn’t given him the goods yet. While he made her happy, Alicha wasn’t sure she wanted to go there with him. Not yet.
As she searched for a seat, her eyes grazed over one particular girl seated in a cluster of friends. Janessa. Immediately, Alicha felt a wave of guilt brush over her. The night before, she had been sent to collect Janessa’s soul, and though she’d done the mission, she had hated every second of it. Janessa was usually nice to everyone. As for why Tevit had chosen to pick on her, Alicha had no clue. But this was another victim that Alicha needed to save.
Last night, after only a few dream sequences of torture, she’d convinced her classmate to give up not only her soul, but also to work in demon service even while she was still alive. It was a record for Alicha, taking less than 45 minutes to screw a person’s afterlife forever. But while her evil boss would be pleased, Alicha hated herself for it. Making a mental note to add the doomed girl to the growing list of names in her black notebook, she promised herself that she would fix it. Like she’d vowed with all of her other victims, she swore to find them in the real world and help them somehow. As soon as she paid off her own debt to the demon.
Hate wasn’t strong enough to describe what she felt for her master, Tevit, House of Leviathan, Demon Lord of Envy, youngest of the seven princes. She hated having to torture innocent people into giving up their souls. What she hated even more was the fact that she was slightly grateful to Tevit…. simply because he wasn’t the worst of the seven princes. She’d heard that the other Hell Princes were wayyy more sadistic that Tevit, and she needed to be thankful that she belonged to Tevit’s camp, and not one of the others.
But she wasn’t, not in the slightest. She hated them all.
She moved closer to the group. “Hey girl,” she said to Janessa, catching the other woman’s eye.
Janessa, with her big smile and fluffed-out Afro, had to be the friendliest person on campus. Smiling, she gave a little wave. “What’s up, girl! Good luck on your thesis.”
“Yeah, you too.” Guilt wracked Alicha as she saw that her classmate’s eyes were dilated slightly and fuzzed around the edges. When a person had lost their soul, the eyes were the first indicators. It wasn’t noticeable if you weren’t looking for it, but to a trained Walker like Alicha, swollen pupils marked a victim.
Janessa turned her attention back to her notes, and Alicha made to move away, but then froze as she noticed something else. Janessa’s Inner had already shrunk. The Inner was a person’s mental voice/ spirit, and for captured souls, the Inner became frazzled over time. Janessa’s shouldn’t have started fraying already, but it had. That was bad, mostly for Janessa, since it meant she had less time before Tevit, Alicha’s master, would be able to control her.
But Alicha couldn’t dwell on it, because at that moment, her classmate glanced back up with a curious look. So Alicha kept moving along, searching for a seat.
There were no available seats left, so Alicha leaned against the wall at the back of the room. Shaken over what she had seen, Alicha slipped a tiny black notebook out of her pocket. Fingers trembling slightly, she reached for a pen too, so that she could add Janessa’s name to her book. But just then, the professor stood and called the room to order.
“Good day all! As you know, we are mid-way through our quarter, and the presentations that you will be delivering today-,”
And then suddenly, over the professor’s voice, she heard it.
Suddenly, the professor’s words rolled down to a drone as Alicha heard a louder, more otherworldly voice. Since none of the other people in the room even flinched and were all still listening to the professor intently, Alicha knew they hadn’t heard the awful voice calling her name.
COME TO ME.
Closing her eyes briefly, Alicha forced herself to breathe normally and ignore the voice. It was Tevit, and though technically she was bound to obey the demon’s wishes, she needed to ignore him this time. Although clearly his word meant nothing, Tevit had agreed that he would never interfere with Alicha’s schooling, ever.
Yet, here he was, summoning her while she was on the college campus. She grit her teeth against the sudden urge to leave the room now and transport to him. Frustration welled up in her.
She couldn’t just leave the presentation. There was no make-up for this grade, and she needed to do well on it in order to keep her grades up. ‘Tevit will just learn to wait,’ she thought resolutely. ‘I don’t care what he thinks about it.’
It was then that she noticed everyone in the room was staring at her expectantly. The professor raised his brows.
“Is your presentation ready, Ms.Anthony?”
‘Shit.’ She hadn’t expected alphabetical order for the presentations. Apparently, she would be the first one to present. “For real?” she mumbled to herself, and pushing off of the wall, headed to the front of the room.
Standing in front of the room at the podium, she stared back at everyone else. Everyone was giving her their full attention, unfortunately. Chris, she noticed, was seated towards the back. She hadn’t noticed him earlier, but she gave a tiny smile as he winked at her.
Making it a point to ignore Tevit’s voice echoing in the depths of her mind, Alicha greeted the class and immediately launched into her presentation with gusto. To her surprise, she was able to get through most of the presentation successfully. That was, until she began to near the end of her speech. A late student to the presentation opened the door and entered noisily, distracting most everyone in the room, including Alicha.
With her focus broken by the interruption, Alicha paused in her speech, only for a few seconds. Then she tried to resume her speech. But the small interruption had been enough. Now that she wasn’t entirely focused on her memorized words, all she could hear was Tevit’s verbal assault. And now that he realized that he had more of her attention, he turned up the attack. She began feeling ill, swaying slightly on her feet.
Vomit rose in her throat, and Alicha forced the flow back down. The roar in her head grew louder until she couldn’t stand it anymore. Giving up her pretense of normalcy, Alicha turned away from the podium and raced for the door.
Alicha flung the door open with one hand, pitching herself forward out of the room. Her legs took her down the hall with speed. Frustration mounted as she realized that she was jeopardizing her grades and hurting her chances of a transfer, but she had no choice.
Typically, she had about an hour to respond to Tevit’s calls. Given the fact that she had been ignoring him for a while now, Alicha estimated that she had about thirty more minutes before things got bad.
The confident, human voice came from behind her, off to her left. Sucking in an impatient breath, Alicha drew to a hasty stop, wondering what now.
There, leaning against the wall, was Marco Vasquez, a fine-ass dude in her major. The sight of him caused her heart to flutter, just a tiny bit. Marco wasn’t someone that she knew well, but they did have one design class together and he had asked her out a few times. Each time he did, though, she had turned him down since she didn’t know him like that. Yes, he was fine, but no, she didn’t go out with dudes she didn’t know.
And yet, she paused, waiting for him to speak, wondering why she was giving him the time of day. Especially now.
He didn’t say a word as he stayed where he was, lithe and relaxed. Silently, Marco’s gaze roved over her slowly, his light brown eyes seeming to assess her with a sexy look. He had a light-skinned complexion with brown hair faded low on the sides and back. Lean and athlethic, even slouched against the wall, he was taller than Alicha in her heels. High cheekbones and shaped lips added character to masculine features that Alicha always thought needed to be gracing the cover of urban GQ instead of wasting time in college. A confident look was settled on his handsome face as they studied one another. Though she had never heard him speak anything other than English, she knew he was Hispanic. Not usually her type, but she had a thing for him. Alicha knew that her chance to escape was slipping away, but for some reason, today, she wanted to hear what Marco had to say. So she waited.
When he spoke, she could make out his faint accent, as if another language was right below the surface. “You seem different today,” he finally said.
“That’s why you stopped me?” she asked incredulously. “To say that?”
He smiled, catching her off-guard, and Alicha remembered why she always avoided his dates.
“Not really. Good luck with the presentation, querida,” he drawled. Stepping closer to her, his fingers brushed through the ends of her hair and he smiled. His tone was low and lazy, and for whatever reason, sent sparks shooting through her privates.
She couldn’t ever figure him out. Guys like her kinda-boyfriend, Chris, were cocky and noisy, begging for sex and attention; Marco never did that. Instead, Marco had a relaxed confidence, as if he was entitled to whatever he wanted. That demeanor always unnerved Alicha, since he seemed to think that he would get her.
But to be real honest with herself, she found his self-confidence sexy, though she would NEVER tell him that. It was all she could do to figure out her business with Chris; she didn’t need more stress. So she just shrugged.
“Um, yeah, okay,” she mumbled, ignoring the tingles still shooting through her, and continued on her way, leaving Marco in the hallway. Fine or not, Marco couldn’t help her if Tevit showed on the scene, so she needed to keep moving. Hurrying past walls with campus notifications and apartment postings, she kept going until she was almost at the end of the hall.
Almost too late….
Without warning, her chest clenched painfully, and a stab of agony sliced through her head. Panic mounted in her. She had run out of time. She knew what was about to happen, and she was hoping to escape before-
A wracking pain ripped through her brain, just as she dashed for the emergency stairs. Making it through the stairwell door just in time, she let the door swing shut behind her. Her knees hit the floor. She barely had time to force herself to sit before she fell out completely.
A sudden surge of power slammed her head back into the wall and froze her in place. Blackness filled her vision and then slowly gave way to the gray-yellow hues of a cavernous room, a Dream-Walking room that existed only in her mind. Alicha relaxed a tiny bit, as she quickly understood what was happening, though she was still wayyy tense. Now wasn’t the time for this.
“Alicha! Get your life, girl!”
A pale woman appeared in front of her in the hallway, dressed in the unofficial Dream-Walker uniform: fitted tank top, tight jeans, and laced-up boots, all in black leather. The dark clothes were in stark contrast to the woman’s colorless skin and hair. It was Ronell Atkins, the Walker that Alicha had been paired with for the last several years. But Ronell hadn’t just come for a social visit. Even as they faced each other in the empty stairwell, Ronell had pulled them into a dream state, where they stood together in the yellow-hued room of Alicha’s mind and could talk without being heard.
Anyone who happened to enter the stairwell would simply see two women talking together, and once past them, would immediately forget them. It was the best part of the Dream-Walker magic.
Rolling her eyes, Alicha knew exactly why her partner had been sent to summon her....
That's it for now, readers!
BUT, Chapter 1 does continue in Fury Rising (Book One)
Get it HERE!