Unveiled: A Paranormal Urban Fantasy Novel (The Dark Skies Trilogy Book One)

BOOK: Unveiled: A Paranormal Urban Fantasy Novel (The Dark Skies Trilogy Book One)
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Unveiled
The Dark Skies Trilogy Book One
Lysa Daley

T
his is a work of fiction
. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 Lysa Daley

All rights reserved.

ASIN B01B8QD8RG

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the expressed written permission of the publisher.

www.lysadaley.com

Lysa’s newsletter:
http://eepurl.com/bOu71b

Cover design by
Paper and Sage
.

Dedications

In chronological order

To my mother, who instilled in me a passion for books and a lifetime love of reading.

To my husband, who believed in me enough, all these years, to never once tell me to get a real job.

To my daughter, who makes me strive every day to be a better mother, a better writer and a better human being, in the hopes she can be proud of me.

“Many a night I saw the Pleiades,

rising thro' the mellow shade,

Glitter like a swarm of fireflies

tangled in a silver braid.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson,

1837-8, Locksley Hall

Chapter 1

S
omehow the idea
of sneaking out at 9:30 p.m. on a school night seemed like a way better idea this afternoon when my best girl Ruby and I were hatching up this brilliant plan during a super dull junior class assembly on disaster preparedness.

Right now. Not so much.

Here I am -- at 9:27 p.m. -- desperately using every ounce of strength I have to pry open my second story bedroom window, in the hopes, that I can then scamper across a dangerously pitched roof, shimmy to the ground via a rickety drainpipe, then fight my way down a dark hillside filled with prickly brush.

All of this, in order to see a lame zombie movie I don't really want to go to in the first place.

Fantastic plan.

But, as Ruby pointed out, Chad Olson -- my one true love -- is supposed to be there with his squad. Unfortunately, Chad is not yet aware that he and I are soulmates destined to be together forever and ever.

To be perfectly honest, Chad is not yet aware of my first name. But I'm working on that. Perhaps tonight will be the night someone will introduce us. So you see, there is a method behind this madness.

The first major obstacle I encounter while sneaking out my bedroom window is my bedroom window. The stupid thing is totally stuck. In fact, I'm starting to think it might be painted permanently shut.

Nevertheless, after much heaving and straining, the thirty-year-old, double hung window suddenly unsticks itself, making an ear-splittingly loud screech as it flies up ten inches, then gets stuck again.

I freeze, certain I'm completely busted by the noise and about to be grounded until I'm 25. Motionless, I listen for my uncle's heavy boots to come stomping up the stairs. Or, at the very least, his deep voice bellowing my name from the first floor.

Miraculously, only the chirping of crickets in the canyon and the distant buzz of the California freeway fill the night air. When I'm pretty sure I'm safe, I give the stupid window a few more serious heaves until it finally inches up enough to squeeze my butt -- in super-tight, low-rise jeans -- through.

Thank God no one can see how ridiculous I look awkwardly swiveling around, jeans sliding lower and lower, in order to wiggle forward with my feet planted underneath me on the roof.

"You can do this, Astrid," I say under my breath, gazing up at the star-filled sky. "A night of Chad Olson watching depends on it."

For the seventeenth time in fifteen minutes, the cell phone in my pocket vibrates. Another text from Ruby. Where r u???

At this very moment, she's no doubt sitting, all comfy and warm, on the heated leather seats of her big sister Phoebe's shiny new white BMW. I'll text her as soon as I’m safely on the ground.

Ruby's lucky because she and her sister don't have to lie to their parents and sneak out of the house just to see a movie.

Personally, I don't think it's unreasonable for a 16-year-old girl to go to a movie on the occasional school night. Especially when she's finished all of her homework, plus half her Lit paper -- which isn't even due until next week.

I think most parents of a high-schooler would find the occasional night at the movies pretty reasonable.

But I don't have most parents.

In fact, I don't have any parents. I'm an orphan. Yes, an orphan. I know, how classically archetypal and tragically mythic.

Perhaps this even sounds like the beginning of some lame modern fairytale.

But believe me, I see no handsome prince or long abandoned kingdom -- not to mention the whole happily ever after thing -- in my near future.

Sadly, not even with Chad Olson.

My dad died before I was born. Which sucks. But I never knew him, so it's hard to miss someone you never met. Then my mom died when I was four. Her, I remember in flashes. Fleeting images that could either be actual memories or just wishful fantasies.

There aren't even any photographs because she died when our house burned down and all our earthly possessions went up in flames, including any photographic evidence of baby-me with my mom and dad.

I was too young to remember the fire. But I do have this weird burn scar in the shape of a seven-sided star on my shoulder that serves as a permanent reminder of this early childhood tragedy, as well as ruining the look of any sleeveless tops. Plus, sometimes my scar itches.

After the fire, my mom lived for two days. During that time, she made my Uncle Conrad -- her brother -- promise that he would always keep me safe and protected.

Uncle Conrad, now my legal guardian, takes his job seriously.

To say my uncle is strict is like saying the sun is kind of warm; water is sort of wet; Mount Everest is on the tall side. My uncle is insanely, ridiculously, annoyingly, infuriatingly, mortifyingly strict.

This basically means I have all the freedom of a naughty 6-year-old in a timeout.

No going out on school nights. In by ten p.m. on weekends. And when I do get to go out, I have to call or text him every 30 minutes or he has a full-scale nuclear meltdown. And don't even get me started on the topic of guys and dating.

It's like I’m trapped in a repressive Victorian novel.

Believe me, I am counting the months -- 15 in total -- until I can get out from under his dictatorial regime and go to college on my own.

A distant owl hoots from the top of a nearby redwood as I release my death-grip on the window frame, plant my feet on the curved Spanish tiles and stand up. A ripple of fear flutters through me as I balance on the pitched roof.

Slowly at first, I baby step my way down the steep incline toward the roof's edge. With each teeny step, the wooden support beams beneath my feet creak and groan like they're about to give way.

A vision of tumbling off the roof, flailing through the air and breaking my neck when I land on the Walmart patio set we bought when we moved to the central coast last fall flashes through my brain.

Okay, technically, I'm only one story off the ground, so it's probably a bit of an exaggeration to say I feel death's icy fingers wrapping themselves around my soul, but I think it's fair to conclude that if I fell off the roof, I'd most certainly break at least a couple random bones. Any normal person would.

Just as I start making some excellent progress toward the drainpipe, I'm startled by a loud--

"RE-OOOWW!"

The back porch light snaps on, followed by the shiiiing of the sliding glass door directly below me. I nearly pee my pants as my uncle's deep voice booms, "Out! How'd you get in this house anyway? Everything's locked up tight."

Beneath me, a blur of swirling gray fur sails past. It's the local stray cat we've named Tom. While airborne the cat manages to untangle himself and stick a perfect four-footed landing in the nearby grass with the ease of an angry gymnast.

This is just one more chapter in the ongoing skirmish between my uncle and Tom.

Despite surviving quite well on a diet of rats and lizards from the nearby wooded hillside, Tom prefers the warmth and comfort of our house. Like some stealthy feline ninja, he somehow manages to sneak inside and curl up on one of the beds or the couch almost every night.

This drives my clean freak uncle totally nuts.

Rumpled and generally pissed off, Tom gives him another loud, indignant meow, clearly the equivalent of a cat eff-you, buddy.

Luckily, my uncle pays him no mind and heads back inside the house slamming the sliding door and flicking off the porch light, leaving the cat and me alone in the purple moonless night.

Tom raises a paw to smooth his mussed fur as his glowing eyes flick up to me on the roof.

"If you don't want to get thrown out, then stop sleeping on his bed," I whisper loud enough for his feline ears to hear. "Just a suggestion."

My cell vibrates again. Ruby's calling me this time.

"Astrid, where are you?" she says as soon as I answer.

"I'm doing the best I can," I murmur, pushing a strand of pink hair out of my eyes and gathering it all into a ponytail. "I got stuck cause you-know-who wanted to go over the Trig questions. But I'm on my way."

"Your uncle is like some over-protective GPA obsessed prison warden," she replies.

"Yeah, he takes the job of preparing me for a solid, well-rounded, law-abiding adult future pretty seriously."

"We're going to miss the movie if you don't haul ass."

"I'm hurrying. Don't leave without me." I hang up before she can add anything else.

Only two more little steps until I'm at the edge of the roof, then I just need to slide down the drainpipe, and I'm practically home free.

Except, when I reach the edge of the roof, I realize the drainpipe, critical to my escape plan, is no longer attached to the house. It's now lying in the nearby grass not far from Tom.

"Fantastic," I sigh.

My uncle hired this deadbeat handyman named Jax to do some work around here and at his karate studio. Jax probably started fixing the leaky gutters then abandoned the job halfway through.

Figures.

He dropped out of high school a couple of years ago or something and now just drifts around finding work where he can. The guy's a total loser. And totally gives me the creeps.

Unfortunately, now I have a choice to make: to jump or not to jump. Well, as they say, no guts, no glory. In one swift motion, I leap from the roof and land firmly on both feet on the patio below. The hard concrete doesn't even sting my ankles or knees.

Which, I know, seems odd.

Right after I turned 13, I started noticing that I'm pretty rugged and a bit more durable than most people. My uncle says we come from hearty stock. Whatever that means.

When I'm sure the coast is clear, I sprint from the house over to the cluster of trees at the edge of the hillside. Our secluded little rental house sits at the top of a small mountain canyon overlooking the little California town of Ocean Grove.

We're not alone up here, but the other houses are few and far between -- just the way my uncle likes it. He's something of an amateur astronomer, so he prefers houses that are high up or in dark secluded places. In Ocean Grove, we’ve got both.

To get down to the chain-link fence that surrounds our property, I fight my way through 50 feet of thick bramble and poky hawthorn. Then I sidle along the fence until I locate a secret hole under the chain-link known only to a few local raccoons and me.

Near the bottom of the slope, I see the glowing lights of the idling BMW. Just as I’m about to descend that last few feet, my feet slip out from under me, and I slide the rest of the way down on my butt.

Ruby laughs as I come to a stop in the gully next to the blacktopped shoulder. "Way to go, Astrid. Pretty sure you ripped your jeans there," she says, leaning calmly against the parked car, her face softly lit by her phone screen as she scrolls through Pinterest.

"Aw man!" I get to my feet and try to look over my shoulder to assess the damage, but I just end up turning this weird circle like a dog chasing its tail. "These are my only good jeans too."

Ruby laughs and waves a hand to pop the trunk. "I got a pair of Rag and Bone in here with my dry cleaning. You can have them."

"Those are like $200 a pair," I say as I realize there's a second rip in my back pocket. Also, who dry cleans their jeans?

"They're too tight on me. I go all muffin top when I wear them." Ruby squeezes an apparently invisible inch of fat and hands me the designer jeans. "God! Look at my gut."

"Thanks," I say, quickly changing pants behind the car. "But you have like 0% body fat, so I have no idea what you're even talking about."

Ruby and Phoebe are half African-American, half Japanese and totally gorgeous. Not to mention smart and funny. Ruby was the first real friend I made when I moved to town last year.

'Hurry up!" Ruby's big sister Phoebe pokes her head out from the driver's side. "We're so going to miss the movie if we don't haul."

Picking a random leaf from my hair, I dust myself off and slide into the cushy leather backseat. Ruby pulls a cigarette out off its red pack, but Pheebs catches her. "Hey Virginia Slim, that gross thing isn't coming in my car."

I love Ruby, but I don't dig the smoking either. She frowns, flicking the unlit butt out into the night then climbs in the front seat. "So what's this zombie flick called anyway?"

"It's a vampire love story." Phoebe corrects her as we glide down the dark residential canyon road. "Totally different genre."

"Sounds like a standard-issue monster movie to me," Ruby replies.

Phoebe practically snorts. "Vampires are all about the higher self. The elevated darkness of the human soul. They're dark symbolic angels that remind us of our basic urges." She's hoping to go to Stanford next fall as a Lit major. "Zombies are -- as the name implies -- zombified idiots who do nothing more than eat brains. It's a banal symbol of the lower psyche."

I love Phoebe, but sometimes she takes the smarty-pants thing a little too seriously.

"Ugh. They both sound boring," Ruby sighs, reapplying lip gloss in the visor mirror.

"What do you think, Astrid?" Phoebe's eyes flick to me in the rear view mirror.

I'm about to suggest that zombies could potentially be seen as a metaphor for the mindless consumer culture we live in, or the quest of the downtrodden masses to attain education (brains) and status like the rich, but Ruby interrupts.

"Don't ask her. She's only going because Chad Olson and his crew are supposed to be there."

"I hope that's not Brad Olson's brother?" Phoebe makes a face. "Cause he's a total bro-tard. You heard about him at Ashley Fisher's party?"

Before she can finish, the car unexpectedly starts to shake, gently at first, but it quickly turns into a violent bouncing.

“Oh my god!” Ruby jerks forward, grabbing the side of the seat.

Holding on for dear life, I ask, "What's happening?"

"Feels like an earthquake," Phoebe replies, pulling off onto the shoulder. At the same time, a deafening roar from the west fills the night air getting louder and louder.

I've only lived in California for eight months and have yet to experience one of their legendary earthquakes, but if this is what they're like, then I'm shocked anyone still lives in this crazy state.

BOOK: Unveiled: A Paranormal Urban Fantasy Novel (The Dark Skies Trilogy Book One)
11.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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