For those of you who are anxiously awaiting the release of Book 5, The Shattered Heart, I’ve got a little treat today. This story was originally a part of Chapter 1 of TSH, but it was cut to move the action along. This scene, along with two others that I’ll share later, takes place in the year that passed between the end of The Poisoned Cure and the beginning of The Shattered Heart. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read The Poisoned Cure yet, don’t read the below. Instead, go get it already!
Alex loved fall. The days were still warm, but the nights were crisp and cold. She got to wear her jeans every day again, and on the best days, her dad would build a fire in the fireplace. Even her mounds of homework didn’t seem that bad when there was a fire to sit by while she worked on it.
When Adam dropped her off after school, Alex took her time walking toward the front door, making sure to crunch all the leaves on the path as she went. She pulled her key out and waved at Adam. He beeped the horn as he drove away. He was proud of his car, even though it was just a little hatchback from a previous decade. Adam had worked just as hard to convince his parents to let him buy it as he had to earn the money for it. Alex was happy to let him feel proud. Now that Dom was off training with the Messengers and Eve was taking community college classes, Alex and Logan would have been riding the bus home without Adam to drive them.
The key stuck in the lock as it always did, but Alex leaned into the door and gave the key a practiced twist. It clicked into place and the door popped open all in one motion. Alex stepped into the dim entry and closed the door with a nudge from her backpack.
When she turned around, something launched itself at her head.
Claws were raking at her face before she could even react. Alex threw her hands up and felt something furry. It bit her finger hard. Alex batted it away.
For a second she could only think of her pounding heart and the throbbing on her cheek and her hand. Then the creature leaped up again, this time sinking its teeth into her shoulder. Alex twisted in a circle, trying unsuccessfully to dislodge it. When she finally got a grip on the flailing thing and ripped it away, it took a little piece of her with it.
Alex yelled in pain, but there was no one to hear. Her dad’s studio in the backyard was too far away.
The creature twisted out of her hands and disappeared into the shadows of the darkened house.
Alex tried to think through the pain. She needed a weapon.
The living room was just ahead. Alex sprinted to the fireplace and grabbed the metal poker from the stand of fireplace tools. Even as her hands closed around its handle, she felt the creature jump onto her back. Her backpack protected her from the claws, but the furiously snapping jaws were right by her ear.
Alex dropped to the ground, and the thing tumbled off to the side. She whirled around, weapon held high. The creature darted forward again, and Alex swung. She felt the poker make contact with a crunch. The creature dropped onto the carpet, motionless.
The poker slid out of Alex’s hand. She was shaking all over, but at the moment her pain was masked behind a flood of adrenalin.
She stared at the thing that had attacked her. It looked small now that it was lying still, hardly bigger than a possum. It even had little hands like a possum, though the rest of it was covered in fur.
Alex recognized those tiny hands. If she could just get her brain to work, she would remember where she had seen them before. In the woods somewhere. This last summer? No, it was longer ago than that. If Eve were here, she would know.
That was it. Eve had talked to it. She had wanted to follow it. When they were looking for Logan a few years ago. But when they didn’t it had attacked them, and they knew it had been sent by the Breaker.
Against her will, Alex saw the Breaker’s last shuddering breaths, saw her lifeless body on the cave floor.
Alex’s legs gave way, and she slipped to the floor.
This animal belonged to Candice. It was attacking her because she had killed its owner. Or had someone sent it?
Alex’s trembling was getting worse. She couldn’t feel her hands or feet. Vaguely she realized that she was going into shock.
She stared at the limp creature on her carpet. Was it dead or just knocked out? She couldn’t tell if it was breathing.
How was she going to get it out of here?
She needed help. Walking to her dad’s studio was impossible at the moment, but she could fumble off her backpack and pull out her cell phone. Her dad might not have his phone on him, but he wasn’t who she really needed anyway.
Her hands were so unsteady, she almost couldn’t punch the auto dial button.
“What’s up?” Adam’s carefree voice was jarring.
“I need you to come back,” Alex said, suddenly aware that she was breathing too quickly.
“What’s wrong? Alex?” When she didn’t answer, he cursed under his breath. “I’m turning around now. I’ll be there in two minutes. Stay on the line. Are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said.
“Right. Well…okay. You will be soon. I’m almost there.”