Hi everyone, the exciting, dark fantasy Bright Star is now available in print! Want to know a little about the book? read on!
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Print ISBN: 978-0-9818905-8-6
Purblisher: Lyrical Press, Inc. www.OnceUponABookstore.com
Blurb: In a clash of love and destiny, who pays the price? Jackson thought he was the most powerful shifter in the world. Blessed with gifts and popularity, he’s always felt bad for his brother Rush, who’d been born with the disadvantage of being normal. But when a beautiful shifter named Bright Star appears on the scene, Jackson learns his brother is far from normal. Bright Star forces Rush to reveal unimaginable talents he’s always kept hidden-talents Bright Star claims will save the world…whether Rush likes it or not.
Excerpt From “Return”, Bright Star
When Jackson Rush walked into his apartment that evening, he slipped in something slick. His shins bumped against a hard object and he fell forward. He tried to brace himself with his hands but they slipped in the dark, thick liquid on the pavement. He fell further forward until the side of his face hit the ground. Realizing that his legs were still lying on whatever he had tripped on, he flipped over onto his backside and scooted back. His eyes widened as he took in the dead red haired girl. Something dripped into his eye then onto his lips from the tip of his nose. When he raised a hand automatically to wipe it away, he saw that it was smeared crimson. Blood.
She was lying on her back. Her legs were closed and bent, her knees pointed to the East. Her arms curled gracefully at her sides. In the bright fluorescent light of the full moon, her skin was translucent and pale. The coppery red of her straw straight hair emphasized the delicacy of her skin and small bones. He could make out green-blue veins in her jaw. She wore a white dress with glossy white boots. She lay in an oval of dark blood. A smaller oval soaked her dress surrounding the hilt of a knife sticking straight up out of her stomach. Her fingertips and eyelids twitched. They were on a rooftop.
Jackson scuttled back even further away from her. He shook his head slowly as if he were denying the scene before him. He backed into a low wall at the edge of the roof. Quickly, he looked over his shoulder to see the twinkling skyline of his city. They were at least thirty floors up. He turned back to her. Her head lolled toward him. Her eyes were rolled into the back of her head, just slits of milky white. Then, as if from force of will, bright blue eyes snapped to attention and pinned him where he sat. Jackson swallowed. He tried to ask her who she was. He tried to ask her who did this to her. He tried to ask anything, but he couldn’t. Those eyes were on him. They held him and assessed him. When she blinked, tears streaked her cheeks and her eyelids flickering convulsively again, he was able to ask her, “What happened to you?”
“My name is Bright Star.” She answered in a rasp. Forming words caused her to pant in grating wheezes as she struggled to breathe. Her eyes were wide. Blood trickled from the corner of her lips with each violent gasp. She swallowed and her auburn lashes fluttered as she stared upward. “I’ll be dead soon.”
“No!” Jackson rasped. Somehow he found control of his limbs and rose up onto his knees at her side. He could handle this. He had been trained to handle this. He reached out to touch her hand with its endlessly working fingers. She was ice cold to the touch. He held those fingers still in his own willing them to warm.
“You have great Talent,” she stated in a deeper voice than she’d used before. Her eyes that had been a clear aquamarine, blazed bright and turquoise. They were so bright that Jackson imagined that her lids were tinted blue as she blinked.
Jackson shook his head. He needed to be clear. “Who are you, Bright Star? Please tell me.”
She started to speak but only managed a painstaking swallow. She opened her mouth again but only gurgled blood. Jackson pinched her nose with his left hand then used the fingers of his other to swipe excess liquid from her mouth thinking that it was the second time in the day that he had performed this technique. He pressed her tongue down then turned her head to the side to clear the last of the fluid. In the back of her throat he could see a thick, bloody bubble. Her breath was sweet, salty and metallic. He blew into her lips and she swallowed again, this time less painfully and her airway seemed to be no longer blocked. “Talk to me,” he commanded again shaking her wrist. He watched her hand flop at its end.
“Come on,” Jackson coaxed.
“I’m dying,” she told him again.
“You’re not,” he told her forcefully, rubbing her fingers more briskly between his palms. But, she shook her head silently refuting his words. “Just keep talking to me. Keep talking. Tell me who you are.”
“I am a Shifter, like you,” she told him though her words were slow and measured. She swallowed freely.. “I am going to die in seven minutes. The Shift I used to bring you here required too much of me, more than I have to give. The Perma-Shift sped up the bleeding. I… I…”
Jackson considered her words. She was a Shifter. Not a Serviceman. Amazing. Impossible. Children with Talent never managed to avoid the Service. None with any real power as far as he knew had ever done it. The only Shifters who escaped this fate were those whose Energy was so insignificant they could pass for instinct, intuition, good luck even. This woman was powerful, maybe more than he, but she was not a Serviceman.
An image of his brother Rush flashed in his mind. Jackson shook his head again. “How long have you been here?” He asked as he searched his pockets for his key ring. He didn’t have it, but located it on the ground having dropped it when he fell. The mini flashlight on it beamed light in each of her eyes. Her eyes—God they were incredibly blue—followed him intensely, but her pupils did not respond. He killed the light and her eyes drifted closed. Her fingers went limp in his hand, and he patted her cheek firmly to bring her back. Then he started talking to her again: “If you could call me—bring me here—you may have been able to save your own life. Why would you Shift to bring me here?” he asked roughly, though his voice sounded desperate.
Her eyes blazed brighter like a fire that had been stoked. “Save me,” She whispered in a full-hearted plea.
He would not tell her that he couldn’t save her, that he wasn’t sure he possessed the power to do so. “Why did you bring me here? Why won’t you save yourself?”
“I couldn’t, I can’t. I haven’t the Energy.” She answered bringing one forearm up to cover her eyes. “Please,” she begged, “you have to save me.”
Jackson considered her words then cast his gaze around the rooftop looking for something, anything that would help him save her. He turned back. “Bright Star,” her eyes were closed. “Bright Star!” he called again clapping his hands over her face. Blood spattered on her milky skin and her eyes came open gradually.
“Bright Star, I need you to keep your eyes open,” he told her in strong clear words. “Can you do that for me?”
There was barely a nod, but there was one just the same. Jackson leaned over to look her in the eye even while his hands eased up to her abdomen. “Please just keep your eyes open. Please. And keep talking to me.”
Her eyes widened and they snapped to the hand at her waist. She started to shake her head violently. Her chest rose and fell quickly with her increasingly rapid breathing. “Don’t.” she told him. “Don’t!”
“I’m not going to do anything,” he told her stroking hair from her face. He grimaced when he realized he had smoothed more blood into her skin. It was a red crescent over her forehead and cheek. “I just need to check your wound.”
“Don’t!” She pleaded again. Clear drops began to collect in the corners of her eyes. They balanced precariously on her cheeks then melted down her face. “Don’t,” she begged raggedly.
Jackson stopped gazing into those tortured eyes. He couldn’t do this if he had to see her looking at him like that. Slowly he slipped his hands up to the tender, opened flesh around the knife. He tested the thick syrup around the wound. It was clotting already. That was good. Clotting was good.
He leaned towards her again. His face nearly pressed against hers again. This time he tried to hold her mesmeric gaze. He would have to distract her from what he was about to do. He would have to see if the knife came out freely, without causing anymore damage. Ever so careful he eased his fingers up the black, plastic handle barely touching it. Then, just as slowly, he wrapped his fingers around it.
“Please stop,” she cried, her eyes were drowning pools. “Please stop.”
“Look at me,” he softly urged. She didn’t. “Look at me,” he commanded more firmly. Her blazing blue eyes turned back to him and he found himself lost in them again. But, he knew what he had to do. He firmly took hold of the handle and pulled. He sickened at the sound of the knife cutting away at her insides. He looked down and his pulse quickened as he realized the bleeding had started again and now her entire abdomen was soaked in blood. It was flowing from her as if her body was a scarlet fountain.
“Oh no,” he heard himself say. “Oh God no..” The blood was so fast and so abundant. Impulsively, Jackson pressed his fingertips to the wound applying pressure. He hoped that the pressure would stop the blood, but he also needed to touch her to release as much power as he could stand into her at full strength. He closed his eyes and tried to block everything but the wound and repairing it.
For a moment, he could feel it. He stopped the blood as his own veins started to burn and his muscles, all of them, started to strain. His neck tightened, his back, his arms and legs, his buttocks. He could feel the tissue rethreading itself as something in his head began to rip apart. Pain. His flesh, his cells were searing from the inside out. His eyes were bulging from their sockets. His teeth were grinding painfully as if there was a vice around his skull. The pain within him was so strong that his bones seemed like they were being stretched and bowed to the point of cracking. For a man who rarely experienced pain, it was too much and yet it was fascinating. His lungs refusedbreath. Blackness started to cover his vision and blanket his thoughts, but his years of training wouldn’t let him. He cut the Shift and started pounding his palm against his forehead and tears started in his eyes. He couldn’t save her.
“Please, Bright Star,” he turned to her finally. “Please. If you have any strength left, then maybe we can do this together. Maybe together.”
Jackson knew he couldn’t prevent her death alone. The Perma-Shift would kill him. There was never anything more certain.
“I can’t,” She wheezed. Her head started rolling from side to side as if the moving would shake away the cloud of death. “I’m not strong enough. We aren’t…” her breath started coming faster and in the silence, the rasp was equivalent to mental friction. Jackson ran a hand across the stubble on the top of his head. It was an additional scrape to the strained cacophony. She was going to die in less than a minute. He lashed out with his mind and called to the only person he could.
The warmth, the pattern, and the glow that was Rush flowed over him. The light collected in his open heart. He felt it slipping over his fingers and filling the gaping hole in her stomach. A low, barely visible gold light burrowing inside of her. Her mouth fell open and her wide eyes seemed to beam blue light into the night sky. Her chest arced into the air. Her head tossed back, and her jugulars strained. Her fingers curled into claws. Her teeth clenched.
Rush was saving this girl. He was saving her life and—Jackson realized—his life as well. Jackson tried to breathe but inhaled too sharply and started to cough violently because the rush of oxygen into his lungs was too much. Then, there was relief. Every muscle in his body unclench, and he buckled. Jackson turned his head as vomit rushed through his throat, filled his mouth and poured from his lips. Training had taught him to give into this. His body was righting itself from the excess of High Energy.
As he emptied his body, Jackson started focusing on facts. Something had to anchor him before the Perma-Shift really did kill him. Parameters of Shift 101. He could see the text behind his eyelids: The brightest recorded light manifestation of Shift was approximately .96 watts, about as much as can be powered by twenty-four volts. A single Christmas tree light. The longest recorded distance for a Shift was five kilometers, just over three miles. He looked at the skyline. If he judged correctly, he was about ten miles from the apartment. And his brother was doing this from long distance. Even Jackson had only been able to affect a Shift from ten miles away. Rush was at their apartment more than ten miles away. Jackson swallowed trying to push that thought from his mind. The youngest recorded age for someone to Shift was 11.Well, that had been true before Jackson was born. But, Jackson was the anomaly, the outlier always excluded from statistical measures.
He was special.
Jackson shuddered and rocked. He had to focus. The average age for someone to be able to manifest a Shift was thirteen and a half months. The phrase, Permanent Shift, was derived from a permanent magnet. A permanent magnet retained its magnetism after removal of the magnetizing force. Perma-Shift was what happened when the High Energy used to create a Shift was out of balance with the High Energy required for the Shift. When there was too little Energy, the strain started to tear the Shifter apart,inside out. When the High Energy was more than required and left unrestrained, it had nowhere to apply itself but back to its source. The average time it took to recover from minor Perma-Shift was 176 seconds. The average time it took to recover from major Perma-Shift was never. He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve and turned around.
Bright Star breathed normally beside him. There was no deep rush of air, no coughing as if she had drowned. Nothing. She simply started to breathe. The blood that had pooled around her slowly turned clear then evaporated up into the air in transparent flakes. Even her skin began to grow thick, opalescent. The veins disappeared, turning her skin from alabaster to porcelain. Bright Star had not been healed, she had been returned.
The Shifter sat up. Her shiny, copper hair fell just behind her ears. She blinked. Her eyes were slowly returning to a natural, earthly blue as she pinned them to Jackson. Her first words in this rewound life were accusatory. “You didn’t save me.”
Jackson felt the shame but was not sure if he showed it. He had been trained to hide such things. Her gaze fluttered to the ground at his feet and he knew she had seen..
“It was my brother,” Jackson offered scratching the back of his head. His brother.Funny. Jackson had not known before those moments that his brother possessed Talent, and yet he had known to reach out to him. He hadn’t been the least surprised at the strength his brother had exhibited. He shook his head.
“Is he dead?” She asked her eyes coming to his again, startlingly clear. He was beginning to recognize the incandescence as a signal of her High Energy.
“No. No, he’s not. I would know if he were,” and though he hadn’t once thought about it before, Jackson knew his words to be true. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure he can experience it.” Jackson pushed off from the wall and took a step toward her. Not another. He was too cautious for that. He shook his head, “I’m not sure of anything.”
“Is he here?” Her Bright Star eyes searched around the dark recesses of the rooftops a faint blue tint illuminated any and every thing she studied.
“No.” Jackson replied.
“But he is close?” she persisted.
“No,” Jackson answered warily. He knew her next question.
“Then how could he have—”
Impulsively, Jackson told her, “I can Shift from ten miles away.”
The blue gaze fell on him and stilled. Her eyes seemed to dim. “So can I.” In a soft voice she added, “I brought you here.”
Jackson said nothing. Five minutes ago he had been the One, the Precocial. He had broken records. He was the most Talented, most special of anyoneon Earth. And yet, here was a Shifter who claimed to match his Talent, and he had a brother somewhere whose power he had not known before that night. It was a power, he felt, that could not be measured or weighed.
In a swift and graceful roll, she came up to her feet and stood before him. She was rounder and shorter than she had looked lying down. The top of her head just barely reached his chin and he was less than six feet tall. Her face was a perfect pale, apple with defined cheekbones, a broad brow and with a shallow indention in her chin. Her lips were pink and her lashes russet.
“You nearly killed yourself bringing me here,” Jackson mumbled.
“Well, if you were who and what I believed you to be, that wasn’t much of a risk. You would have saved me. I realize, however, you are not who we thought you to be at all. It’s your brother we need.” Her eyes rolled skyward and Jackson could almost see twin blue ribbons of light reach toward the moonless sky.
Jackson did not deny her conclusion. He knew at that moment, and had maybe always known, that his power was nothing when compared to that of his big brother Rush. Now he wasn’t the only one who suspected his brother’s deific skill. He was nothing, and Bright Star knew it.
Without thought he reached out to her, his hands leaving his sides like metal drawn to a magnetic force. For a moment, she studied them then allowed him to take her hand. She asked him, “Where do you live?”
“Not far from here,” he answered. His voice had been quick and high and wavering. He sounded eager even to his own ears. Maybe there was a chance.
She tilted her head up a little and their eyes met. Her rod straight red locks hung back. Dark pink lips parted slightly before she licked them. The move had been natural, without artifice. Bright Star had nearly died. Of course, she was not trying to seduce him. Still, Jackson felt a sharp pressure on his sternum. Jackson couldn’t breathe for a heartbeat, then when he could, he noticed that she smelled like freesia. She stepped closer to him. Her body radiated heat. Her scent was even stronger and seemed to wend its way inside of him. Though she didn’t touch him, he knew her body was soft. “Does your brother live there, too?”
When evil is done for the greater good, a price must always be paid.