Authors: Ashelyn Drake
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Legends, #phoenix, #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Folklore, #Mythology
INTO THE FIRE
Kelly Hashway writing as Ashelyn Drake
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.
Copyright © 2013 by Kelly Hashway
INTO THE FIRE by Kelly Hashway writing as Ashelyn Drake
All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Month9Books, LLC.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Published by Month9Books
Cover art and concept by
Mette Breth Designs
Cover designed by Stephanie Mooney
Cover Copyright © 2014 Month9Books
When I set out to write
Into the Fire
, I thought I was writing a paranormal novel. But after I witnessed Cara and Logan together, I soon realized I wasn’t just writing a story about a Phoenix trying to save her kind. I was writing a love story. And the further I got into the novel, the more it became obvious that the book was equal parts paranormal and romance. In essence, you could remove the paranormal and have a straightforward romance, or remove the romance and have a full-fledged paranormal novel. Honestly, I prefer the blend of the two, but the tricky part became how to brand this particular series.
As many of you know, I write under two names. Kelly Hashway is my speculative fiction name, and Ashelyn Drake is my contemporary romance pen name. When it came to deciding which name should be on the cover of
Into the Fire
, there was really only one answer: both. For a book that is so clearly two genres, I need both my names. I hope that everyone who reads the book will agree and see why I chose to blend the names I write under.
So for the Kelly Hashway fans, I can promise you will get a Kelly Hashway paranormal novel that you are accustomed to, and Ashelyn Drake fans will get the kind of romance they are used to. It’s the best of both worlds, something for everyone.
Thank you for picking up
Into the Fire
. I hope you fall in love with Cara and Logan the way I have, and that you root for Cara and the Phoenixes as they fight for their lives against the Hunters.
Kelly Hashway/Ashelyn Drake
To Ayla with love
INTO THE FIRE
Kelly Hashway writing as Ashelyn Drake
In one month, I’m going to die and be reborn from my own ashes. I’ll forget everything and nearly everyone I know. But I can’t worry about that right now. Jeremy needs me, and I need him to remember.
Please remember me.
The fire alarm screeches, making me jump, and thick smoke wafts up from the basement. This is more than Jeremy setting his pillow on fire again. It’s time. He’s going to be reborn. Mom and I exchange a look, and the panic that washes over her face sends my heart racing. “He’ll be fine,” she says, but I’m not sure if she’s trying to convince me or herself. We rush downstairs to find Jeremy standing next to his bed, staring at his arms, already beginning to ripple with the first signs of fire. I don’t know which of us is more freaked out right now.
Mom grabs the broom we’ve kept by the stairs for just this occasion, and she smashes it against the blaring fire alarm, sending it crashing to the floor. “Remove the batteries, and hurry. The last thing we need is the fire department showing up,” she says as she picks up the alarm and shoves it into my hands.
I scramble to get the battery compartment to open, but my hands are shaking so much I can’t get the panel off. Mom shoots me a look. The screeching must be making her nerves worse, just like it’s doing to me. I scream, putting all my fear and frustration into that stupid alarm. The compartment finally opens, and I yank the batteries out, tossing them and the alarm to the ground. I’m already breathing heavily and the worst is still to come. I can smell Jeremy’s flesh burning, reminding me that my baby brother is dying.
“We have to get him to the bathtub before he burns the whole room down.” Mom’s voice is calm, and she’s already leading Jeremy to the bathroom. I follow, not having a clue what to do or how to help. He steps into the tub and stares at Mom. The expression on his face reminds me of when he was four years old and he’d crawl into bed with me after having a bad dream. If only I knew how to comfort him now.
“Relax, Jeremy. The flames won’t harm you. Keep telling yourself that. There’s no pain during a rebirth, and your body will know what to do on its own. Don’t fight it.” Even though her voice is steady and reassuring, Mom’s eyes fill with tears. She’s scared for Jeremy.
“Remember,” he chokes out. The word is followed by a puff of smoke.
“I promise you’ll remember us.” Mom forces a smile, the strain of her sorrow evident in the lines of her face.
The only people he’ll remember when he’s reborn will be our kind, the Phoenixes. Everyone else will be a stranger to him, no matter how close they once were. Jeremy won’t even remember me as anything other than his sister. He’ll know we’re related, but all those memories… they’ll be gone. I’ll mean virtually nothing to the one person who should know me best in this world. My insides lurch as Jeremy studies my face like he’s trying to take in every detail. I try to tell him I love him, but the words get caught in my throat.
Mom reaches for his hand, but flames rise from his fingers and palm. She grabs the shower curtain, yanking it down before it catches fire.
I bite my tongue to hold back my tears as the flames spread up Jeremy’s arms and across his chest. They dance and flicker until only his head is visible. I step closer, wanting the fire to consume me too. It has to be better than the agony of knowing I’m going to lose everything, starting with Jeremy.
“I’m so proud of you, Jeremy.” Mom’s eyes are puffy and red as she forces herself to coach him through this.
I’m terrified for Jeremy but jealous at the same time. He’s my little brother, but in a way, going through the rebirthing process makes him the older one now. I shudder as flames shoot from where Jeremy’s eyes used to be. It’s like something straight out of a horror movie. My eyes close, unable to watch anymore. When I force them open again, Jeremy is gone. Nothing but a pile of ashes remains.
I can barely breathe thanks to the hollow feeling in my chest, but I force myself to ask, “What’s going to happen?” I never stopped to think about the whole rising out of the ashes part. I kind of assumed that was a metaphorical thing, that the flames would die out and he’d still be standing there—only different somehow. But Jeremy is gone, and it feels like he took a part of me with him.
Mom squeezes my hand. “It will be okay. Give him time.” She bites her lower lip, probably to stop it from shaking.
My heart hammers with each passing second. Why is this taking so long? I count in my head. Forty-five seconds. Fifty. Fifty-five. The tension in the air is strangling me, and if I have to wait much longer, my heart is going to burst from my chest. “Jer,” I choke out. The ashes stir and begin to take shape. “Jeremy?” Steaming hot tears burn my eyes as I stare at the ashes and silently pray that my brother is all right. My nails dig into my palms, and I don’t breathe until Jeremy’s lying in the bathtub in the same pajamas he was wearing when this began. I swallow the lump in my throat, but I can’t speak. I’m frozen, wondering what he’ll remember and if he’s really okay. I’m afraid to touch him. Afraid he’s not real.
Mom breathes out long and hard and relief washes over her features. She reaches for Jeremy’s hand, but he backs away. A vague recognition flashes across his face, but there’s nothing behind it—no feeling. He knows who we are, but it’s clear he doesn’t remember much else, like the fact that he loves us and we love him. I knew this would happen, but my God, it’s killing me.
“You did beautifully, honey,” Mom says, tears streaming down her cheeks.
What’s so beautiful about watching my sixteen-year-old brother burst into flames, turn to a pile of ashes, and rise up out of them, reborn? I can still smell the smoke. See it in the air, like a dark cloud waiting to take me next.
Jeremy looks around the room, disoriented. Everything is unfamiliar to him. I thought I’d feel better seeing that Jeremy is okay, but I don’t think he is. Not really. How could he be? He just died.
He grips the tub and finally stands. His eyes go up to the black mark on the ceiling, the only physical sign of his rebirth. The ashes are gone—a part of him again. He shuts his eyes, and I wonder if he’s reliving the experience.
“How do you feel?” That’s not really what I want to ask, but Mom’s giving me the look. The one that says, watch your tongue. Forget that
freaking out. I have so many questions for him. What does the fire feel like? Will I be aware of what’s happening while I’m being reborn, or is it really like dying and coming back to life? Does he remember me at all? I wish the questions could drown out the sound of my heart breaking.
Jeremy looks at me like he doesn’t know me, like I’m a complete stranger. “I feel fine. A little hot.”
“Let’s check your temperature to make sure everything is as it should be.” Mom grabs the thermometer from the medicine cabinet and presses it to Jeremy’s forehead. He pulls away for a second but gives in when Mom smiles at him. How can he not remember us?
“Your temperature is one hundred thirty degrees,” the mechanical voice says.
“Perfectly normal.” Mom puts the thermometer away and motions for Jeremy to step out of the bathtub. He’s barely moved since he rose from the ashes. Mom’s careful not to touch him, and I can’t help wondering why. Is he sensitive to touch because of the fire? Or will he freak out having people he doesn’t really know anymore holding his hand?
My palms are sweating, and I don’t know if it’s because the room is still so hot from the fire or if my temperature is rising again. I woke up with a fever yesterday—the first sign of my rebirth. My temperature was one hundred and nine degrees, which is nothing compared to Jeremy’s, but that’s how I know I have one month left in this life. First it’s the fever, then the dreams. I’m not looking forward to those. After having a front row seat to Jeremy’s rebirth, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle having visions of my own.
Jeremy scans the room, his face darkening. I reach for him, but he stares at me, expressionless. I swallow the lump that’s found its way back into my throat and say, “Come on. Let’s look around your room.” Mom said he’d pick up on things pretty quickly, but we’re going to have to remind him of his likes and dislikes, who his friends are, how much he loves us. That last one rips what’s left of my heart to shreds. How do you relearn feelings? How do I make him understand that he and I are inseparable? My friends are his friends. We share everything. We’re a year apart, but we may as well be twins. We know each other that well. Or, at least, we did.
He comes with me, but his eyes are jumping from one object to another. Posters of bands litter his walls. His laptop is open but in sleep mode. Dirty clothes are piled in a corner. He runs his hands over everything—books, the basketball on his desk chair, his guitar—testing how each object feels. He walks right by the iPod on his nightstand without even looking at it or the playlists he loves so much.
“Cara.” My name on Jeremy’s lips is like a knife to the heart. There’s no feeling behind it. He’s saying it like he’s trying to commit it to memory, which means Mom had to
my name. I was too lost in my own misery to hear her. A tear trickles from my eye, sizzling and turning to smoke before it falls to the floor. One month. One month, and I’ll be like Jeremy. I’ll forget everything. The only positive I can cling to is knowing this ache in my chest will go away and I won’t remember this feeling.