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Friday, March 15, 2019

Sleeping Angel Prologue & Chapter One






The wait is almost over!

Sleeping Angel (Soul Connection, #2) is releasing March 26th! This can be read as a stand alone, but characters from Peaceful Slumber DO make an appearance.

This is a paranormal romantic suspense novel.



















Blurb: 


Logan

Everyone thinks I tried to kill her on purpose.
Sure, she's part of the reason my sister is dead.
I'm angry, I won't lie.
But I never meant to hit Angel.
On the anniversary of my sister's death, I felt so much pain until I couldn't.
I made the worst mistake of my life.
The fate of my future lies in her hands, 
and I have to come to terms with everything I've done.


Angel

From one life altering event to another.
I'm the girl always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Haunted by the past, uncertain of the future.
I dreamed of becoming someone else and erasing my existence.
Now my wish is about to come true.
Not only can I not escape my own nightmare
I'm now living someone else's.
The one man who understands the guilt I feel
'is the same man who put me in this position in the first place.





Prologue



2016

Logan



   “Here we are, lovely ladies,” I say to my fifteen year old sister, Andi, and her three best friends. “First stop, the beach.” I climb out of the car and open the door for Andi, holding out a hand.

She loves it when I do this. She always tells me I set the bar too high for what a good guy is and how she'll never find anyone who will be as much of a gentleman as her big brother. I'm not always this way, but I love to play it up for Andi and the girls.

     My sister's eyes light up. Just the effect I hoped for. “Happy birthday, Andi. I hope fifteen is even more amazing for you. In half a year, we'll work on your driving.”
We're not certain she'll be able to drive, but it won't stop me from taking her out on the back roads to give her lessons, anyway.



      Andi was born deaf, and with that, she's never strengthened her vocal chords, so she's mute.

I've never once heard her voice, but my sister, she speaks to my heart. 

 

      Her grin widens, and she signs her response. “I love you, Logan.



      “Will you wait for me until I'm eighteen?” Andi's best friend, Liza, teases.



      I ruffle her hair. “You'll be famous by the time you're eighteen. You won't even remember ol' what's his name when you're the second biggest star.”



      Liza gasps. “Second biggest star?”



      “That's right. First place always belongs to my sister. Andi's always my number one.”



      Her eyes flash with amusement and understanding. “Like seriously, give my jackass brother pointers. I am falling hard for you, Logan McVey.”



      I'm pretty sure she's only partially joking, but I'm not going to lead any of Andi's friends on. Even if I didn't currently have a girlfriend, I'd never make a move on one of them.



      Andi hugs me again, then signs to her friends. “Told you he's the best.”



      “I might not be the best after spending the weekend with the three of you,” I tease, “especially with the all night laughs. What if you keep me awake? I'm a grouch when I don't sleep. Betcha Andi won't tell you that. And you'd better not get any notions in your mind about practicing makeovers on me.”



      “What are you, the big, mean monster in the middle of the night?” Janelle shoots back at me with a smile on her face.



      I raise my hands and wiggle my fingers. “Might be. Rawr.”



      The girls run toward the ocean, screaming, except for Andi. She beams at me, squinting in the sunlight. “Thank you for this weekend,” she signs quickly, but I know exactly what she's saying.

It hasn't been an easy year. Andi started high school, and there are a lot of assholes who pick on her because she's deaf and doesn't speak. Sometimes, she comes home frustrated and in tears, and I take it upon myself to be the one to cheer her up. That means late night adapted movies, root beer floats, and pillow fights.



      My little sister is everything. My whole world. I love this girl, and I know once she finds herself, she's going to shine. Until then, I'll do everything in my power to bring good days and rainbows in her life.



      Andi's my inspiration. She’s the reason I'm going into the field of teaching. Every time I feel like I've lost my way, she finds me and sets me straight again.



      Where would I be without Andi? I don't want to find out. Ever.



      Tapping my camera bag, I sling an arm around my sister and make sure I look at her so she can read my lips before speaking. “You're welcome, Princess Andi. Now come on. We've got pictures to get. Gonna attempt my photography skills for the star of the weekend.”



      Andi wants to have a photo shoot, but doesn't want to deal with strangers she doesn't know trying to get her in the right position for the photos, so I promised her I'd do my best.



      She grins like the Cheshire cat. I adore the happy smile on her face. I haven't seen it in a while. If I can bring her some excitement for a few days, then I'm going all out. A trip to the beach, Disneyland, Universal Studios … yeah, I'm going full on spoiling, but I don't give a shit.



      Mom and Dad were unable to get the weekend free, so I said I'd take full responsibility for the girls so that Andi could have a memorable birthday.



      Andi sprints toward her friends, her long, raven hair blowing in the breeze. As the sun sinks lower on the horizon, we spend the next hour posing and running through the waves as they crash on the shore, then we find a place and grab dinner.



      Late that night, before I say goodnight to the girls, since I'm staying by myself in the room next door, I wrap Andi in a hug. “I love seeing you smile,” I sign to her when I let go. “I need you to promise me something.”



      She eyes me, raising a brow in response. She doesn't have to sign for me to know she's waiting.

“If anyone threatens you, bullies you, or hurts you again, you tell me. You tell me exactly who they are, because I will ruin them. I've been terrified this year, Andi. You aren't yourself.”



      A tear slides down her cheek. “I'm sorry.” She rubs her fist in a circle against her chest. “I don't want to bug everyone all the time. I just want to be normal, not feel like I'm tattling every day because some jackass said something mean.

  

      It's a hell of a lot more than mean words, and I know it. Andi can't hide that from me. I rest my hands on her shoulders. “But it's becoming too common. I don't want you to feel like you have to get used to it. I love you, Andi. I want the best for you.”



      “I know you do,” she mouths in silence, “but I don't want you to get in trouble, either. You have a temper sometimes.



      I let out a laugh. She doesn't know the half of it, but I'll never stop when it comes to making sure bullies know to stop fucking with my sister. “Maybe I do, but when it comes to you, I'll fight. I'll always fight.”



      “I don't want fights. I want happiness. There isn't enough of that in the world lately.

“Then be happy, Princess. I'll be on my best behavior, but you have to work with me here, too. I don't want to hear how many times someone's been a jerk to you. You don't deserve it.”



      She throws her arms around me, and I hug my sister tight. If anything happened to her, I'd be a wreck.



      Sometimes, I'm scared to death she's going to get sick and tired of the pain one day. She's become somewhat reclusive and sullen. Mom and Dad have the same worry.



      I'm the only one who's able to reach her, but even I know she's not being completely honest. How can I get it all out of her so I know what we're facing?



      I'll fight for her. Always. I make a silent vow to watch over her. To protect her. I won't make a move against anyone who's nasty to her unless she asks, but my sister will be treated with the respect she deserves. And damn anyone who goes against that. They'll feel my wrath.



*****



Eight months later



      Staring at the last email from my now ex-girlfriend, a sigh blows past my lips.



      What went wrong? All of a sudden, she stops talking to me. Completely blows me off. We've been together for over a year. I don't even understand.



      Then I happened to spot her with someone else.
 

      Another man.


      Making out in public, of all things.


      She'd looked right at me without a damn regret, and then kissed him again.


      This happened a week ago, and I'm still wrapping my mind around the situation. 
 

      The doorbell rings. Why does my damn apartment have to have a doorbell? As if I want to know someone's on the other side of the door trying to reach me.



      I take the pillow and shove it over my face, letting out a grunt of frustration. Then I climb out of bed and stomp toward the door. I don't feel like having company.



      “Who is it?” I snap, then yank the door open. My stance softens.


      My sister steps inside. “I'm here to keep you company and cheer you up. You're always trying to bring out the smiles in me, so it's my turn.”



      Andi's presence melts my heart. I don't want company, damn it, but no way in hell am I turning my sister away.



      “Thank you, Princess,” I say before hugging her close to me, not wanting to let go.



      “She didn't deserve you.” Andi narrows her eyes when she steps away. “Only an idiot would let you go.



      “Don't tell your friends I'm newly single,” I tease. “They'll be lining up again, and I'm not ready for that.”



      Andi laughs, then signs, “I won't tell. I'm good at keeping secrets.”



      I know that she is, all too well.



      I wish she could hear her laugh. It's heartwarming. Andi doesn't know her worth. One day, I'll find a way to show my sister everything she's meant to see.



      “Want to take some frustration out on the court?



      Raising a brow, I can't help but grin. “You up for that?”



      “I've been practicing, butt head.” Andi shoves at me playfully.



      “You best bring your stuff, little sis,” I say before heading to the closet to grab my basketball, glad that she chose to come over. I've never reached out to Andi when I've been hurting, and she came to me, knowing more than I did about needing someone.



      There's always that someone. The one person to bring out a smile in you, even when you don't feel like it. The person to cheer you up when the world beats you down. The one person you can share a laugh with over anything, at anytime, and you feel like it's all right.



      Andi is, and always has been, that someone for me.



      My sister is my best friend. We have six years between us, but it doesn't matter. She's the sun in my dim universe, and I haven't shown her that much lately. Having a girlfriend and suddenly being single made me open my eyes. I've neglected my time with Andi without realizing it, which means I haven't been good at keeping an eye on her. That leaves me sick at heart. What the hell have I missed?



      “Hey.” I tap her on the shoulder so she turns and looks at me on the way to the basketball court. “I'm sorry I've ignored you so much lately.”



      Her expression turns into a frown. She puts her hands together and flies through the signs. “You haven't.”



      “You sure? I feel like I let you slide down to second place.”



      “I can't always be your first place, Logan. You deserve happiness, and I know you had it for a while. I liked that you opened your heart to someone. I'm just sorry she ripped it out and gave it back to you with little answer as to why.”



       “You bring me a happiness I can't express in words.”



      “Will you still say that when I beat your ass out on the court?” She grins.



      “Language, young lady.” I wag a finger at her.



      Andi laughs again. I'm pretty much the only person she laughs out loud for. She's told me as much. It means everything when she's comfortable enough to share something with me that no one else gets.

I point to the basketball court. “Last one there's a rotten egg!”



      Andi plays a damn good game, but I win. Still, we had a damn good time. I take her back to the apartment, and we both cook dinner. While it's simmering on the stove, we catch up. School, life, everything.



      Except I have this horrible feeling Andi is keeping something from me, and as much as I prod and poke, she's not budging.



      There's not much I can do but let her know I'm always here for her. She'll talk when she's ready.



*****



Two months later





    The frantic call comes in at six o'clock on a Saturday. Mom is in hysterics, and I barely understand a thing she's saying.



      “Whoa. Mom, calm down,” I plead. “Talk to me slowly. What's going on?” I've been in my apartment most of the day, studying. I need to get back on track after the last couple months, so this test has put a lot of weight on my shoulders. The school year is nearly at an end, and this isn't the only final I have to deal with.

 

       “Andi. S-she hasn't come home. I thought maybe she was with a friend and forgot to tell me, but I've been calling every single one and no one has seen her since lunchtime.”



      The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. “What? Why didn't you call me right away? I could have been out looking for her! I'm coming over right now!”

 

      I don't give her time to reply. I hang up, grab my keys, and toss a shirt on. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been washed in three days, but I'm determined to get to my parents' house and find my sister ASAP.

The last two months have hit me harder than I ever expected. I kept telling myself I'd do better the next day. Keep my promises, stay sane, and not think about all the screw-ups.



      Except I haven't.



       There are nights I'd find myself drinking more than usual.



      Andi would come by several times a week, and on those nights, I'd stay sober. If she knew I was feeling miserable and lonely, she didn't say.



      But I should have asked. I should have been more on top of everything, including the bullying situation.



      Because tonight, while searching for Andi, I'm learning that I have been a complete asshole.


      Her situation at school is far worse than I imagined. 
 

      How do some of her friends know more about this shit than I do?


      Back at my parents' by nine with no luck, I pace the living room while my mother makes another call.


      Police show up, and they take our statements.


       My gut is sick with worry. With anger. Fear. Disgust.


      “I'm sorry,” I mutter to Mom and Dad after the cops leave.


      “For what?” Mom looks at me funny.


      “I've been so wrapped up in myself and my pity me post break-up that I haven't been giving Andi the attention she deserves.”


      “Logan...” Mom sighs. “As close as you two are, you both have your own lives. I admit, I've been worried about you, too, especially since you picked up a drinking habit, but you have nothing to be sorry for.”



*****



Three months later





      Hours turn to days.


      Days turn to weeks.


      Andi hasn't come home.


      Every single day, I go back and sit in her room, pick up her favorite comfort items, sift through her stuff, hoping for a diary where she confessed all of her teenage secrets.


      There are none.


      No signs of her.


      Did she run away to start all over again? Is she dead? Safe?


      Does someone have her?


      Does she think about all of the good days we had?


      Does she know how much I love her?


      Sometimes I catch myself asking did she, but fuck that. I refuse to give up hope. I will not speak of her in the past tense. 
 

      My sister has to come home.


      She just has to.


      A few of my friends have been around, getting me through, but the drinking, it's not any better.

I can't help it. Can't stop it. I've been drowning my misery in a stiff drink. The loneliness from several losses in the last few months have taken a toll.



      I clutch Andi's favorite blanket in my hands as I sit on her bed once again. She's had this thing since she was about five or so. It's pink and hideous, but it's her must have to be able to sleep.



      I don't even give a shit this time. I let myself go. Tears fall. “I'm sorry, Princess. I failed you. Come home, okay? We'll play on the courts, or we can go to the movies and see all the chick flicks you want. I need you, Andi.” Wrapping myself up in her blanket, I stand and take another look at her room.

The same thing I've been doing for months: waiting, waiting, and waiting some more, hoping we hear news of her whereabouts. We don't know if she's alive, if she's in the state ... nothing.



     No trace. No sign. No leads.



      Picking up one of the photos on her desk, I smile through my tears. It's one of us at the ocean on her fifteenth birthday. Her smile is etched in my memory. I never realized how much we look alike until this photo. We've both got the same raven black hair. The same blue-green eyes. She's seven inches shorter than me. Anyone can immediately tell we're related.



      Will I ever see that smile again?


      “Logan.”



      I barely hear her, but when Mom comes in and sits next to me, the devastation is in her eyes.

I can't hold it in.



      “No...” I whisper, afraid of what she's going to tell me. I don't want concrete proof. I can't take it. The looks are enough. Don't let the words come. I want to be wrong. I want to be wrong!



      “Angel McCready just came forward. She provided information that now has two boys in custody. I don't know much else at this point.” She looks away, about to break. “Other than...” 

 

      “Andi...” I croak, not ready for this.



      “She's … she's not coming home, Logan. She was murdered.”



      I'll never forget the words. The pain. The way my world fell apart on the day my worst fears came true.



      I lost my sister. I failed her. I couldn't protect her like I always promised I'd do.



*****



       I'm not going to be able to sit through this trial much longer. Several days in, and I'm already fueled by anger.


      Those assholes.


      Sick fucks.
 

      Guys I thought were my friends are the biggest enemies of them all. Gabe Holden and Seth Layle are fucking murderers.



      Having to sit and listen to Seth talk about how he dated my sister, and when she tried to break it off with him, he stalked and tormented her until the end.



      Until they killed her.



      The night Angel saw something was the night Andi first tried to break things off. It was why Seth was angry. Why she didn't fear him completely, which went fairly unnoticed to Angel.



      But she'd seen enough and hadn't done a damn thing.



      Had Angel stepped in, maybe things would be different. Andi might still be here, instead of having to properly bury her just days after Angel's information brought on the arrest.



      My hands ball into fists as the sentencing comes in.


      Life in prison.


      Seth looks at me, and the fucktard smirks. I shoot to my feet as the courtroom erupts in chaos.


      “Don't, Logan.” Mom grabs my hand. Her eyes are red. Mascara runs down her cheeks. Dad is next to her, but since this whole thing, they've separated. I don't know if there's any chance of reconciling. He barely speaks to her, or to me.


      “But he...” I start.


      Mom's expression doesn't change.


      Seth and Gabe are already out of the courtroom. 
 

      And then Angel approaches me.
 

      “Logan.” She reaches out to touch my 

hand. “I'm so sorry.” Her bright blue eyes are

 bloodshot, and I know she's been crying.



      Rage fills me again. “You could have saved her, had you paid attention. You're selfish! How dare you come apologize to me! I'll show you sorry!”
 

      “Please, I-” She speaks again, completely shaken and flustered. 
 

      “Leave me the hell alone!” I roar. All eyes are on me now.

      I don't remember much else. Blinded by grief, anger, and revenge, I know that I'm going to spend a long time not only hating those assholes, but Angel McCready, too.


      Nothing can bring Andi back to me.


      I hate them, and I hate myself.










Chapter 1



2019

Logan



      Routines are usually a good thing. Except for mine.


      Every anniversary, birthday, holiday, or other significant occasion, I'm in the same place, doing the same thing. I know it's wrong, I know I should be somewhere else, but I end up in the same place, doing the same thing.



       It's like being on autopilot. I can't make myself change it.


      First stop, the cemetery. I hate this place, but it brings me closer to her.


      Regret follows me every step of the way. 
  

      I can't let go. Not after two years.


       I blame myself, but even more, I blame her. Angel McCready.


      Her name is a lie. No, I don't mean she's faking it. She's no angel.
 

      I watch her, day after day. She probably knows it. I don't give a shit. I want to see what she's doing. How can she go on with her life normally?


      She's a killer.


      Angel didn't kill anyone by her own hand, but her silence did.


      Some days, I want her to die. I shouldn't admit this, people would think I'm a sick dickwad, but I wish she'd suffer, the way my sister did.


      Both of my parents warned me I should never have gone to the trial. I was too close to Andi, and hearing the words from her killers stole anything remotely decent left in my already battered soul.

I've gone through grief counseling. I've talked to people. Not about the real deep stuff, but enough to satisfy my parents.



      It all comes down to guilt.


     I can blame Angel all I want, and I do, but part of it lies on me. I brought those fuckers into my sister's life.


     I didn't know.


      How was I to know they'd been tormenting her? How was I to know that Seth had a thing for her, they'd dated, but Andi wanted to end things? How was I to know Seth refused to take no for an answer?



      I'd tried to get Andi to talk so many times, but I should have tried harder, no matter what.

And I didn't.



       Seth was supposed to be my friend. 
 

      He'd looked me in the damn eye all the time.


      Behind my back, he made my sister's life hell until he drowned her. Held her underwater until she took her last breath.



       And he'd smiled at me right before they took him away.

      All I wanted to do was kill him right then and there. 
 

      Stopping before her headstone, I trace the lettering of her name. “I miss you, Andi. You would have been eighteen today. You were supposed to graduate high school. I should have been a better brother to you. I hung out with the kids I thought were cool, got stupid with them, and look how it turned out. You're gone.” I slump against the headstone.


     Holding the picture of my sister in my hand, I stare at it. She had so much life left in her. She'd still been the life of the family.



       Now gone, my parents can't stand the sight of each other and have moved on.


      I wanted to go to school, become a teacher, and get the hell out of Payson. I wanted to help Andi with her college courses and help her achieve her dream of becoming a chef.



      We made a damn great team.


      That all changed the fateful, heartbreaking day she disappeared, then again when I learned she'd never come home.



      I'm still here, labeled as the town drunk. At twenty-four years old.



      “I would have driven the limo for you and your friends to attend prom. I probably would have scared the shit out of your date, but he'd know not to mess with my sister.” I choke back a cry. “Damn it, Andi, it's not fair!”



      I lay the flowers down. Tulips. Her favorite. They'll wither and die in this late August heat, but I'll replace them when that happens.




      “I wish you'd talked to me. You should have known you always could, no matter what. Happy birthday, Princess. I miss you. I miss you so damn much.”



       I  could make tonight different. No drinking. No going to The Lounge, where Angel's brother Russ still works as he slowly pays his way through college, doing exactly what the hell I'd planned to do.

Except as I drive off after saying goodbye to Andi, The Lounge is exactly where I end up.



      Same stool. Same drink. Vodka. Straight up.



      It doesn't help that Russ is there, serving me. His eyes are full of sympathy as he greets me. “Hey, man.”



       “Same as always, please, and no comments.” I slam my fist against the bar top, startling him. The anger rages a war tonight. The pain and emptiness follows suit.



      Russ shrugs and brings me two of what I want.



       After downing the first one, the liquid burns my throat. I wish it would burn out the pain still living inside me.


      Time for the second.


       And another.


       And another. 
 

       I don't know how many I've had, but after a while, I get what I've been craving. The feeling of misery surrounds me. Sounds are muffled. I'm drunk, and fuck, I'm crying. Sobbing to the bartender about my life, and it isn't even Russ. 

 

       I think I just smashed the glass, crushed in between my shaky fingers. I see red, there's people rushing toward me with napkins and bandages, but I want nothing to do with it.



       Then I leave.


       When I get to my car and reach into my pocket, it dawns on me that my keys aren't in there.

Fuck, Russ must have known and snatched them.


       Whatever. I'm not going back inside right now for them.


       I stumble down the street, pissed at the world. A walk will do me some good. 
 

       I don't know how I managed it without getting hit or falling, but the next thing I know, I'm standing in front of Angel's house.



       She's having a damn party.


       On the night of what would have been my sister's eighteenth birthday.


      How the fuck could she?


      How?
 

       Rage consumes me, and I rush inside, ignoring the shouts from people.


      "What the hell is going on in here?” I slur. The bass from the music is too much. Overstimulating. I can't control the anxious state of mind hitting me hardcore. 
 

       “Logan? You're drunk, man,” someone says.


       “Ya think?” My vision blurs, and I swear I'm seeing things. The guy in front of me looks like Link, the hero from the Legend of Zelda. I blink several times. Nope, still there. I rub my eyes and hope for the best. 

 

       “It's Scott,” the guy says. “Maybe it's best we get you out of here, huh?”



        “How could she have a party tonight? Angel's a cold hearted bitch!”


       A hand lands on my shoulder. “Let me take you home, Logan. You don't need this, and neither does Angel.”



      “Fuck her!” I shout.


       It gets eerily quiet in here.


       “Sleep it off, Logan.” Ah, there's Russ. “You should have been cut off long before.” 
 

       “Then ya shoulda done your job, jackass,” I snarl at him. “What do you know, huh? You ever suffer a loss?”




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