Secrets & Shadows Launch!
It’s launch day for the Secrets and Shadows box set! This young adult collection includes ten full-length fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels from award-winning and bestselling authors. Do you have your copy yet? If not, click here.
I’m thrilled that my newest book, Sunset Empire, is part of this collection. To celebrate, I’m sharing one of my favorite scenes with Elyse and Phantom, which features Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast. Enjoy.
Excerpt from Chapter Five, Social Food Chain:
Mr. Mills led the group into Battery 245 at Fort Stevens. After the dark, unsettling walk through West Battery, Elyse was glad to see the bunker was outfitted with fluorescent lights.
“Battery 245 was built in 1944 to upgrade harbor defenses in World War II,” Mr. Mills explained as he led them down the narrow corridor, which ended in a T. There were a series of darkened rooms with opened doors on either side of the hallway. “The battery was self-contained, with its own power generator, plotting rooms, magazines, and other facilities. It was also designed to be gas-proof in case of chemical attack.” A few students laughed. “Yes, yes—you’re all very clever,” Mr. Mills said, a slight smile on his lips, “but let’s save the gas jokes until we’re outside in the fresh air. Come. On to the mine observation station and the steam plant.”
Elyse followed the other students out of the battery and stopped to read the plaque at the entrance. Hearing a scuffle behind her, she peered into the corridor. Jared and Parker jogged up the corridor, laughing. They were trailed by Leif, Maddy, Jackson, and Ava. She turned back to the plaque, feigning interest as they passed. Something about their hushed snickering worried her. What had they been up to?
She waited until they left, and then slipped back inside Battery 245. Her footsteps sounded overly loud as she walked down the corridor alone. At the junction, she turned a slow circle, studying each of the rooms. Nothing looked amiss, except one of the doors was closed. Not just closed—it was barred shut with a length of rebar. She was certain it hadn’t been before.
She stared at the door and then approached quietly, listening. The silence was eerie. Stomach churning, she grasped the rebar and pulled it loose from the door’s iron handle. Carefully, to minimize the noise, she set it on the floor of the corridor. Then she opened the door.
The boy with the scar sat cross-legged on the floor of the room, holding a cell phone. He looked up and then raised his eyebrows. “Oh. You. Not who I expected.” His bottom lip was busted and bleeding and his left eye was starting to swell.
“Who were you expecting?” Elyse asked. She thought she should feel guarded around him, considering what Lien had said about him being questioned in the Jenna Williams case. But she wasn’t afraid of him.
Phantom smiled, and then winced when his lip split open more. “The owner of this phone.” He returned his attention to the phone and swiped the screen, seemingly ignoring her. Then he glanced up. “What was the most annoying earworm from summer?”
Elyse stared at him. He’d clearly been beaten up, and he wanted to chat about music? Maybe his brain had gotten rattled in the fight. “What?”
“The most irritating pop song this summer. What was it?”
Elyse thought about it. “Tell Me, by Kat Savanna.”
“Never heard of it.”
Elyse laughed. “Yeah, you did. It was all over the net. You couldn’t have missed it.”
Phantom just looked at her blankly. “Maybe if you sang it?”
Elyse shook her head. “Uh, no.”
“Please?” He gave her a hopeful smile. It looked painful.
She crossed her arms. “I’m not going to sing it, but the lyrics were like, ‘Tell me I’m the one, summer’s just begun, tell me, say it’s true, I’m the only one for you.’ You know—total mindless, repetitive crap—gets in your head and you can’t get it out.”
Recognition dawned on his face. “Oh, that one.” He shuddered with mock horror. “It’s awful. Perfect.” He played with phone and then, more to himself than her, said, “Now—just have to change the ringtone…and…done.”
Phantom set the phone on the floor, and then retrieved a leather wallet from somewhere behind him. From the way he studied it, Elyse was certain it didn’t belong to him, any more than the cell phone did. He took out a twenty and shoved it in his jacket pocket. He started to close the wallet, then paused, thinking. Elyse watched, fascinated, as he retrieved a second twenty and stashed that in his jacket pocket as well. Then he closed the wallet, placed it on the floor in the middle of the room, and balanced the phone on top of it. He eyed the two items and then, satisfied with his work, rose to his feet and brushed off his jeans. “Let’s get out of here.”
Elyse put her hands on her hips. “So…I take it you’re a pickpocket?”
Phantom gave her a sly smile. “Something like that. But the way I see it, dude locks me in here, the least he can do is pay for my cab ride home.” His smile widened to a vulpine grin. “And dinner.”
“You’re not going back to school?”
He frowned, and Elyse got the impression she’d asked a dumb question. “I can’t very well show my face on the bus if I’m supposed to be locked in here, can I?” he asked. “Kind of ruins the mystique.”
Elyse had no idea what he was talking about. “Your lip is bleeding,” she said.
“Is it?” He wiped at it absently, and glanced at the blood on his fingers. “I’ve had worse.” She found herself staring at his scar and looked away quickly.
“You’d better run along,” he said, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. “Being seen with me will do nothing for your social standing.”
Elyse planted her feet. “I don’t care about stuff like that.”
“You should.” Phantom stepped around her, out into the hallway.
Elyse wondered why he would care about her social standing, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she followed him into the corridor and asked, “Why do they call you Phantom?”
He grinned. “For one, I’m pretty good at getting out of bad situations.” He pushed the door closed and secured it with the rebar.
It didn’t look quite right to Elyse, so she adjusted the metal bar so the door looked exactly the way it had when she’d encountered it. “And? What are the other reasons?”
But he just smiled and shook his head. “Some other time. Thanks for the rescue.”
Stay tuned for more news about Sunset Empire. It will soon be available as a single paperback!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016