Friday, March 16, 2012

Scratch the Surface - Excerpt for Friday

On Monday, my second novel, Scratch the Surface, is being released by Lyrical Press.  Instead of a Friday Flash, I thought I would post an excerpt.   When I first saw the cover art, I wasn't sure about Stanzie, the main character, being in her underwear in the middle of a snowy New England field, but then I remembered this scene...

Run, run, run and run more. Friend chases me. I run faster! I want words but I want to
run too! Friend chases me. Friend tries to catch me! Me run, fast, fast, fast! White stuff flies up in the air. Paws cold! Cold paws, but me warm. Me...I...I happy! I run! I run fast!
* * * *
Jesus, it was cold. I came back to myself in human form, naked and colder than midnight
in February.

Murphy was close by and swearing in Irish. Luckily, our clothes were in neatly folded
piles right where we’d left them. The first thing Murphy’s wolf had taught mine was to
remember where we left our clothes and to return there before shifting back. 
It was a simple, obvious thing, but it was something my wolf was notoriously awful at remembering.

But she had remembered this time. Here was the clearing where we’d shifted near the lot
where we’d left the car. It was so cold no Others were around. The parking lot was empty save for the Prelude. One good thing about shifting in the daytime in winter, when it was this cold--the Others stayed away.

Grey, Elena and I had loved this small state park in Manchester and used it far more often
than we’d gone to the Devil’s Hopyard. That was more for the whole pack, not our triad.
Today seemed a day to go back to old haunts, and I was handling it relatively well. I
knew it was because Murphy was with me but I was still proud of myself.

“Jaysus, goddamn, sonofabitch!” Murphy switched to English and half-ran, half-hopped
to his clothes and began with his jeans. 

I swore too and stood on my coat so I could put on my socks. My nipples were so hard they hurt and my teeth chattered so loudly I could barely hear Murphy’s steady stream of inventive cursing.

I did hear the crow. It sat in the top of a maple tree about ten yards away from us and it
gave a sudden squawk that was just ahead of the shot.

It was enough of a heads up for Murphy. I was slower than he was, trying to fasten my
bra. I was struggling with the damn straps when the crow cried out its warning.

The next thing I knew I was flat on the ground, snow crushing up into my mouth and
nose as Murphy crawled on top of me and held me down, trying to cover every inch of me with his body.

There were more shots then, enough so I realized what was happening and started to

Snow choked me and I bucked and struggled beneath Murphy, trying to get free so I could run but he held me down until he yelled, “Now!” He half dragged me to my feet and we ran like hell for the cover of the maple tree and the trees beyond that one. It was only thirty yards, maybe less, but it seemed a million miles to safety.

A bullet zinged by my head, so close I felt the heat. It buzzed in my ear like a wasp and I
screamed and ducked, losing my balance. Murphy had my hand and if not for him I would have gone down, but he held me up and dragged me into the woods.

“Run, just run, keep running,” he urged. In human form he could outrun me, but he didn’t
leave me. He kept behind me, trying to shield me from the bullets in case the person with the gun chased us.

But there were no more bullets once we reached the sanctuary of the woods.

We ran until we couldn’t breathe and eventually had to stop, bending double to catch our
breath, wheezing, coughing and choking. I was coated with a cold sweat and so scared my brain felt like it was bouncing around inside my skull as if it had been shot out of a pinball machine.

 Murphy fell to his knees, gasping, and that’s when I smelled blood. His.       

“Oh, fuck.” I turned to him in horror. Bright scarlet drops of blood stained the forest floor
and the clumps of snow that had dropped through the canopy of bare black branches.

“I’m all right,” he told me, holding himself as he bent double, trying to breathe.

“Where did you get shot? How bad is it?” I crawled across the ground to get to him.        

“Stanzie, it just a graze. My arm.” He held his right arm out to show me.

A thin, bloody slash zigzagged down his forearm. He was right. It was just a flesh wound.
It was bleeding like a bitch though and I grabbed his hands with mine. Our fingers clutched as we stared at each other.

His brown eyes were glazed with both pain and fear, and I could barely see past the tears
in mine. This was my fault. I had planted a seed and it had borne poison fruit.

“We have to get out of here,” Murphy told me in a quiet, calm tone even though his chest
heaved and his eyes were wild. “Okay, Stanzie? We need to get to the car and get the hell out of here.”

“The car?” I moaned. “What if whoever has the gun is waiting in the parking lot?”

“I don’t have my coat and neither do you. It’s nearly sunset and it’s going to go below
freezing.” His gaze took in my shivering form. I only had on underwear and a pair of wet socks.

“We can’t stay out here.”       

“Jesus Christ, let me think. Let me think. I know this place, Murphy. If you let me think I
can maybe figure a way out that doesn’t mean the parking lot. There are houses nearby. We can go to one and call Allerton. We can’t go to the parking lot, can’t you understand that?”

“Calm down, Stanz,” he said gently, squeezing my hands with his. We were both
kneeling in a combination of pine needles, mud and snow. My kneecaps were frozen and he was still bleeding.

We were so absorbed with each other and with fear that we didn’t hear the person
approaching us from behind until he was nearly upon us and then it was too late to run.

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