Thank you so much for your support, everyone! It’s been a little over a month since I submitted ’TIL THE LAST STAR DIES to the Geek & Sundry fantasy contest, and already I’ve had 38 pre-orders. It’s a great start.
Don’t forget, the more you talk about the novel online and to your friends and family, the more likely it is that the pre-order goal will be reached and you’ll have a copy of ’TIL THE LAST STAR DIES in your hands. Let’s spread the word!
To thank you for your contributions, I’m sending you an excerpt from the novel that no one else has ever seen before. Feel special. ;) Enjoy!
Maybe it was the way she sat slumped over her glass of Coke, shoulders pulled up almost to her ears as her long, lazy curls of hair—a shade of burned golden, like a toasted marshmallow—worked hard to hide her face. Maybe it was the oversized hoodie that seemed to swallow her whole, dark clothes melting into the shadows. Maybe it was the fact that the ice in her soda had long since melted, watering it down, but in all the time Lila had been sitting at the bar, she hadn’t taken a single sip.
But most of all, it was her aura. A foggy forest green, but there was something off about it. It shimmered too much, almost like it was shivering. The energy was tense and buzzing, static electricity causing the hairs on Lila’s arms to stand on end. The woman was trying so hard not to be seen that it was difficult for Lila to focus on anything but her, on the nervousness and fear, on wondering what she could do to fix it. The draw to her was nearly impossible to ignore, pulling them together like a couple of magnets.
Lila raised her hand to the bartender and gave a quiet, “One more,” then gestured to the woman, who sat a few stools away from her. She didn’t even glance up when Lila spoke.
When the bartender set the ice cold beer in front of the woman, she jumped as if she’d been burned, eyes wide like a child who’d been caught playing with matches as she glanced around. Lila gave her a small smile when her emerald green eyes met Lila’s own sapphire blue ones.
The woman didn’t say anything as Lila grabbed her beer and went over a couple stools to sit next to her. She just stared. Not the same kind of stare as the men by the door when Lila had walked in, but a simultaneously terrified and curious look, frozen in place. Her hands trembled around the glass of Coke, hands slipping on the outside. There wasn’t any condensation on it though, so Lila reasoned it must’ve been her sweating palms.
Lila gestured to the woman’s untouched beer bottle with her opened one. “You looked like you could use a drink.” She took a swig, looking her up and down carefully with a gentle smile, reassuring.
“Th-thanks,” the woman stuttered, closing her fingers around the bottle so hard her already pale knuckles turned a ghostly white, and she took a tentative sip.
Waiting a few beats as they both drank their beers in silence, Lila looked sideways at her again, in what she hoped was a casual, friendly way. Just some small talk, two strangers chatting for a little while before they each went their separate ways.
“Mel—” But she broke off and bit her lip, blushing bright red and looking back down at the countertop. She rubbed the edge of it with her thumb, skin catching on the splintering wood.
“Mel?” Lila repeated.
The woman—Mel—shook her head ever so slightly, still not looking at her. Lila almost didn’t catch what she said next as it was a quiet mumble. “I shouldn’t have said that . . .”
So she was hiding from someone. That much was obvious. But Lila just shrugged and kept up her cheerful expression, taking another sip. “So what brings you to Sterling?”
“Just passing through.”
Lila nodded. “Sterling’s a pretty town. Lots to see. Have you checked out the bookstore just down the road?”
Mel shook her head again, barely a noticeable movement. Her skin was still pale and she was seemingly determined not to look at Lila.
Lila cleared her throat and pressed on anyway, desperate to put the woman at ease. Why, she had no idea, but now that she was trying, all she wanted to do was hug her tight and tell her everything was going to be okay, even though she didn’t know what was going on in the first place.
“Well it’s super cute, very Shop Around the Corner. Once you get to know the owners, they greet you by name when you come in, recommend their favorites, it’s great. And the café next door has the best coffee you’ll ever taste. Well, I mean you can’t really beat the coffee in Brazil, but as far as America goes, they’ve got the good stuff.”
Mel attempted a smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. Her aura was still far too . . . sharp, for Lila’s taste. “Thank you, that sounds nice.”
“Anytime,” Lila said with the slightest of sighs. It seemed she wouldn’t be getting through to her today. She just hoped wherever Mel was going, she’d be okay. She drained the last of her beer, set it back on the counter, and stood up, holding her hand out to Mel. “Welcome to Sterling, Mel.”
The woman flinched ever so slightly when Lila extended her hand, as if she’d expected Lila to hit her, but hesitantly took it and shook it once. “It was nice to meet you.”
Lila flashed her one more smile, swung her leather jacket back around herself, tossed a few bills on the counter, and said, “I’ll see you around,” before going outside without even looking over her shoulder. Even though she wanted to. Even though she really wanted to.
Once no one was around, Lila blinked back to Jordan’s house, made herself a cup of tea—she smiled a little when she saw everything was still in the same place—and went back to her room with a book, losing herself in the fictional world.
Just some small talk, she reminded herself. We went our separate ways. Mel would be fine. She would be fine.
It would all be okay.