The follow up to The Shelter is almost done. I’ve decided to focus most of my energy on finishing the final polish, cover and other administrative tasks so that I can get this baby out on time this Fall. Please join the mailing list for an opportunity to receive an advance reader’s copy. Also, here’s a free sample:
Long black hair flows behind the thin frame of a teenage girl. As her tattered sneakers slam into the slush covered road, her jeans become sullied with mud. She pumps her fists harder as she tries to run faster, her worn leather satchel hammering against her hip. The boys close in on her. There are six of them. They are fast. But the fastest, a freckled face boy with blond hair, quickly closes the distance. He reaches out to grab her. She can feel his talon-like fingernails stab at her shoulder. She pumps her arms harder and digs her sneakers into the mud in earnest. Panting heavily, sweat soaking her brow, she comes to a chain linked fence on the edge of the trailer park; but there is no exit, no way to get through. She claws at the fence trying to scale it; but the blond boy’s talons hook onto the hood of her jacket and yank her to the ground. Not more than a few seconds pass before the other boys swarm Sunni as she lies in a dirty mix of mud and snow. Baine lifts his talons, palm jutted out towards his pack of fellow hunters, “Back the fuck off!” The other boys stop, back up, but only slightly, just enough to allow Baine room to bend over and relieve Sunni of her leather satchel and dump its contents onto the ground. Four tins of sardines, a box of saltine crackers and a pair of tiny pink ballerina shoes pour out of the bag and onto the slush covered pavement.
Sunni drags herself backwards and presses her spine into the fence. Her lips mold into a snarl; but she keeps her angry gaze hidden. The sound of shuffling feet draws nearer. She lifts her head to find a grinning boy standing shoulder to shoulder with Baine. Not wanting to look the boy in the eye, she lowers her head slightly and is greeted by the skeletal face of an angry clown resting between the teeth of his jacket zipper. The zipper teeth widen as the boy extends his arms wide like a circus grandmaster, “Ladies and gentleman….,” circus boy says as if he’s talking to a large audience.
“It look like there some fucking ladies out here?” Baine interrupts, his freckles turning a fiery red.
Sunni drops her head. She secretly considers herself a lady on good days and despises the entire concept on others. But the idea of not being considered a lady at all feels humiliating.
Circus boy chuckles, gives a goofy grin and pipes up a correction, “Faggots and gentleman!”
“You saying I hang with fags now?” Baine’s freckles seem to grow into pulsating suns.
Circus boy’s goofy grin disappears. “That ain’t what I meant…,” he says.
Sunni smirks at the conflict. For a moment it’s as if she is just one of the guys participating in some twisted joke. But the feeling of normality doesn’t last. Baine gives circus boy one last nasty look and then squats in front of Sunni. He is so close that Sunni smells the deep musty funk of his unwashed body. With each breath Sunni takes, her anxiety level rises. She nervously rubs the silver ring on her middle finger and avoids eye contact as the other boys close in on her from all sides.
Circus boy’s voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper, “Live and in person…”
Baine plucks a sardine tin from the snow and holds it up for examination. “Who am I?” he asks Sunni.
Circus boy chimes in without missing a beat, “Pimp 007!”
“Shut the fuck up!” Baine presses the edge of the sardine tin into Sunni’s forehead forcing her to lift her gaze. “I want her to answer.”
Sunni’s brow furrows and her lips purse as Baine taps the sardine tin against her forehead…one…two…three times. Sunni’s eyes shutter closed.
“Look at me!” Baines blares.
Sunni’s eyes open again, narrowed and intense. “The collector,” she says.
Baine smiles with satisfaction. He shifts the sardine can into her line of sight just as Circus boy steps closer.
“Give her some money,” circus boy says and the other boys hum a collective agreement.
“I ain’t giving her shit,” Baine retorts. He reaches into his back pocket just as the streetlights flicker on. “She the one that should be paying…ain’t that right?” He pulls out a switch blade and flicks it open like a seasoned pro. Sunni focuses on the blade and her breathing grows panicky. Her eyes shift to the boys as she frantically searches the crowd for a sympathetic face – she finds none. But wait, there is something. A glimmer in the eyes of one of the boys? Barely noticeable, Jin, a thin boy wearing a jacket two sizes too small is partially concealed in the crowd of boys. He wears a stiff smile but his eyes – is that sadness — regret? Jin notices Sunni watching him so he quickly averts his gaze focusing on the pink ballerina shoes instead. But Jin isn’t the only one who notices the exchange of glances; Baine locks onto Sunni’s line of sight and his narrowed eyes settle on Jin, placing the boy in the spotlight. Baine’s smile is a hybrid of a snarl and a grin as he speaks, “You got a fan.” Baine’s declaration doesn’t stop Sunni’s staring. She continues to look, hoping to see those sympathetic eyes again; but Jin only lifts his gaze momentarily for fear of what it might reveal. Irked by the silent exchange of glances, Baine presses the cold blade into Sunni’s neck – carefully. “He ain’t the one you owing,” he says.
Sunni lifts her chin and swallows hard as the cold steel presses against her skin. She can feel its sharp edge threatening to slice her neck wide open and she can sense that Baine’s threat is no empty bluff. She wiggles her right leg; but keeps her gaze trained on Baine’s intense eyes. “My shoe,” she says, her voice just as shaky as her hands.
With a tilt of his head Baine orders circus boy to take off Sunni’s shoe. The boy complies and discovers a fold of dollar bills and some change. He counts it. “Three dollars,” circus boy says.
“That ain’t enough.” Baine removes the blade from Sunni’s neck. “Take off your coat,” he says as he slides the blade across her coat collar. Sunni’s foot is already stinging from the winter cold; so she hesitates. Getting another coat would be tough. Her chipped fingernails lightly scratch at the zipper; but she’s no closer to disrobing.
I can’t wait to share the entire novel with you. Please join the mailing list to be notified of the release date.