Authors: Emi Gayle
Tags: #goodbye, #love, #council, #freedom, #challenge, #demon, #vampire, #Changeling, #dragon, #responsibility, #human, #time, #independence
“[Darkest Day is] an emotional roller coaster ride filled with mystery and intrigue. The ending is just perfect.”
— The Cover Contessa
“This was a total jump and down, hug my Kindle moment. Such character growth! Such plot twists! Such fun! And then it all came together perfectly. I cried I was so happy!”
— Known To Read
Praise for After Dark, Book 1 in The 19th Year
Recommended by USA Today HEA Blog
“Come along for the greatest paranormal ride I have read in years.”
— A Diary of a Book Addict
“After Dark is made of pure ambition that is impressive and divine.”
— Books with Bite
“This is a fun and unique book that promises to be an addicting new series.”
— A Dream Within a Dream
“Awesome beyond awesome! For lovers of YA Paranormal, this is a MUST READ!!!”
— Romancing the Book
J. Taylor Publishing
Published by J. Taylor Publishing
Copyright © 2014 Emi Gayle
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, locations, or any other element is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 978-1-937744-39-7 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-1-937744-40-3 (EPUB)
First Printing: January 2014
To my Girls,
Love with all your heart while being true to who you are.
“If you touch him, I will kill you.” I meant it, too, and forced myself not to crumble the orange juice cup I’d been sent out to get.
Ridge, standing in front of Winn’s hospital bed, raised his hands. “Whoa, what gives, Mackenzie?”
I stepped farther into Winn’s private room, the door closing behind me. “Get away from Winn.”
Ridge backed up toward the far wall, across from where Winn had lain for the previous twelve hours. “Seriously, girl, what’s going on?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
He shook his short blond hair, hands still in the air, blue eyes boring into me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His gaze shifted to Winn, but I didn’t follow.
I kept my eyes focused on Ridge, expecting that, if I even glanced at Winn, Ridge would attack or poof his way to oblivion. No one had given me any answers on what magic he could do since the last unexpected event at our party months before. Not to mention, I didn’t understand why Ridge would want or need to visit Winn. “What are you doing here?”
“Visiting a friend.” He pointed toward where Winn slept.
“I don’t believe you. Spill it, baseball boy, or I’ll make you.”
Ridge huffed a laugh. “Like you could.” One hand lowered a little.
“Get it back up, or I call security, and I don’t mean the police.”
Ridge cocked his head in my direction. “Who else would you call?”
For a moment, I wondered if he didn’t understand, or if he’d started a game of chicken and egg, just waiting for one of us to spill our magical secrets to the other.
“C’mon, Mackenzie. I came to see how Winn was. I heard he was in a car accident and today was the first day we could visit.”
“At six a.m.?” I snorted. “Right, and I’m a monkey’s uncle.”
“Wouldn’t …” The sound came from Winn, still in bed and barely awake.
I forced myself to keep my eyes trained in Ridge’s direction.
“… that be …”
The desire to turn, to check on Winn had me clenching my hands and tightening my muscles.
“… a monkey’s aunt?”
He would try to make a joke.
I let my gaze travel to him and found his big brown eyes blinking at me. Even just ten minutes before, he’d barely been able to open them.
Winn. I love—
His eyes darted to the left.
I spun back to Ridge, and as his lips moved in a near-silent cadence, the room burst into light, and a wind that couldn’t exist blew through my hair.
“Spirit guides, I ask you, lend me focus and clarity.” Ridge’s voice held a mystical quality—almost feminine.
No! That’s the spell to go to the in-between.
If he finishes, and sends Winn in, Winn’ll die.
The wind picked up speed. A glance down showed the floor beneath my feet breaking away, one piece at a time, like a reverse tornado.
I forced one foot forward, pushing myself toward him, but my human-only body couldn’t beat back the gale-forces, and I slid as far back as I’d progressed forward with each step.
“Take Winn to the place beyond.”
“Mayday, Suze. Mayday!”
No! No! No! This cannot be happening.
Like my thoughts, the sound of my words didn’t even pass over my ears, all of them swept away by the torrent of wind ranging around me. “Suze! Help!”
“Where life and death know no form.”
That I heard Ridge made me pause.
That Suze didn’t instantly appear had me wondering just what kind of magic Ridge could do to seal off a room from the rest of the world.
“Ridge, stop!” I yelled as loud as I could, my hand over my eyes as the air bit at me.
Where is Suze?
Mom! Help, please!
“Give me wisdom. Give me strength.” If Ridge managed one more line in the chant, Winn would be zapped into never-never land, with never-ever a chance to return.
I jumped into the wind. My body rose as if I’d become a plane, air pushing me backward and around inside the cyclone’s grip. With my arms held wide, I grasped for something. Anything. Eyes closed, I swung out, landing a hit on a solid surface, and fell to the floor, my nose, shoulders, knees and toes cracking against the cold tile.
Everything in the room went silent; small slices of light shone through the blinds.
Every bone in the front half of my body ached. Inch by inch, rising first to my knees, I straightened until I stood, my breath ragged as if I’d sprinted, and turned, hoping with a fast beat of my heart that Ridge hadn’t been successful in sending Winn back to where he’d just come.
With a smile across his face, Winn sat in the same place as before.
I shuffled to him, my body crying out in pain even as I dropped to the edge of his bed.
“What just happened?” he asked, voice raspy.
I blinked. My head cocked to the side. “Uh …” Had he not just witnessed gale-force winds and an insane teenager trying to kill him?
Winn reached out for me, his movement as slow as my own had been. “You’re … burning up, Mac. Do you … have a fever?” His voice arrived as no more than a whisper.
“A fever? I don’t get sick.” I didn’t either. All my illnesses came in the form of someone trying to kill me and having to recuperate from their actions.
“You’re … sweating.”
“I don’t sweat.” Beads dripped down my forehead, falling onto my shirt.
Winn’s chest bumped up with a soundless chuckle.
“Let me just get some water.” Before I could even plant my feet on the floor, the entire scene before me went black.
• • •
Blinking my eyes open to soft light filtering through the blinds, I fought with my memories. Or dream.
It had to be a dream.
I remembered Ridge and that he intended to send Winn back into the in-between. That I’d had to fight with him through a hurricane of wind in a hospital room. In Winn’s hospital room.
Where I am now.
Finding myself on Winn’s bed, in the same place I’d lain throughout the previous night, confirmed that my asleep mind had messed with me.
Oh, yeah, that wasn’t possible.
Had to be a dream.
I reached up for Winn, who, in that nightmare, had talked to me, asked me for orange juice and to not share with the doctor’s that he’d woken. Like the previous half day, I found his eyes closed, the monitor attached to him registering the same numbers they had every time I’d checked.
He never woke up.
A spin had me facing the spot where I remembered Ridge had fallen.
Nothing out of place. I imagined it all.
Standing gave me no new information. Walking to the sink to get a cup of water didn’t either. I ran a hand through my hair and pinched the bridge of my nose. I’d seen my dad do that a lot when it came to me and the situations I seemed to find myself in.
Definitely a dream.
Yet, it seemed so real.
Had I simply thought Ridge would be standing at the end of Winn’s bed ready to kill him? Why did he even flit through my mind when my boyfriend—the one I loved—rested in a bed in a coma? A hard headshake made my hair fall out of my clip but didn’t reveal any new answers.
Why does it even matter? Dream is over. But life isn’t going on.
With Winn still asleep, I made for the door and exited, hoping to find Suze or Bernie—something or someone—to distract me. Obviously, my lack of sleep, and Winn’s predicament, had me going slightly crazy.
The outer nursing station bustled with life that the closed door kept out. Suze sat at the side of the door, as he had the whole time, my trained puppy of a destroyer demon, dressed in a candy striper outfit complete with pink and white skirt, pink apron and pink hat.
“Really?” I asked him. “That’s what you picked for today?”
He blinked big, black eyes back at me. “Well … I saw it on a television show, and I thought it would be appropriate.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “This one is your best yet, Suze. Really. I gotta pee.” While not modest, peeing in my half-dead boyfriend’s hospital room did not rank high on my list. “You’ll keep an eye on Winn, right?”
He nodded and went back to his spot, though with the outfit, I expected someone, at some point would either ask him to leave or ask him to help. Given his height and solid two-hundred pounds of demon muscle, I suspected the first option.
A splash of water to my face didn’t help my overall appearance. “Geez.” Blue-grey trenches formed under my fading brown eyes. My walnut-black hair flipped all over the top of my head. I hadn’t showered in a whole day, and my clothes smelled like something I shouldn’t ever try to describe. “This is why I never wanted a human boyfriend. Not supposed to happen.” With one final headshake, I forced myself out of the bathroom and back to Winn’s room.
He nodded to me.
I pushed the door open. Soft light broke in through the slats of the blinds, and Ridge stood at the end of the bed.
“If you touch him, I will kill you.”
Oh. My. God. Didn’t I say that, like, fifteen minutes ago? No, that was a dream. A dream, Mac, a dream.
Ridge raised his hands. “Whoa, what gives, Mackenzie?”
That was in my dream, too. I’m in a time-warp. That’s what this is.
I stepped farther into the hospital room, the door closing behind me. “Get away from him.” My finger wagged at Winn even as I kept my eyes trained in Ridge’s direction.
This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not groundhog day.
Ridge backed away toward the far wall, across from where Winn remained for the previous twelve hours. “Seriously, girl, what’s going on?”
Holy freak, this
“Mayday, Suze!” I rushed Ridge before he could say another word, ramming him with my shoulder and throwing him into the wall.
His head bounced, a crack echoing through the room.
Unlike before, the room door swung open, and Suze filled the frame, his hulking muscles breaking through his tattered candy striper clothes like Tarzan on steroids.
“What the hell happened to you last time?” I asked. “Why’d you let him in again?” Under my hold, Ridge’s body slumped, and I let him flop against the floor.
Suze’s plump fingers wagged in Ridge’s direction. “What did you do to that boy?” He stormed his way over, grabbed Ridge by the neck mother-cat-style, and yanked him to his feet.
“Uh, Suze? That’s probably a bit rough.” Why I had any compassion, I didn’t know.
“Oops.” Suze let Ridge drop again, and his head bumped against the wall for a second time. “Looks like he’s done for.”
“He’s … unconscious …” The words came from Winn.
I rushed to his side, slid up on his bed and wrapped my arms around him. His went around me, too.
“Winford!” Suze’s excited call had Winn chuckling. “You’re not dead!”
“Not … yet … at least.”
“What do I do with him?” Suze asked, nodding to Ridge.
“I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help him god, or I really will kill him.”