Hey guys, I wanted to post a super long teaser to help ease the time until Night Storm hits the shelves, so that’s why it’s over here instead of on the FB page.
(and thanks for being patient with me on this one)
My baby sister is gone. Lost in the universe as a time traveler with no idea how to control her ability. This is all my fault. The worn walls of the ancient tattoo parlor spin and bile surges up the back of my throat. I sit up quickly and rush out with barely an apology to the grizzled artist.
I grab Ilif by the lapels of his pristine suit jacket and stiff-arm him, shoving him against the side of the building. “How did this happen!” I scream. “We were supposed to keep her safe.”
“No, Evy,” he says and manages to look down his nose with disdain while I press my curled fists tighter against his chest. “You trusted Penya with that. Until you’re willing to see that Penya is not who you believe her to be, she will always be one step ahead of you. I know all too well the lengths she’ll go to to get what she wants. You never should have made her aware of Tiana’s ability to travel.”
I slam him against the wall again. Fear and anger fight for control and it’s all I can do to keep my lightning in check so he doesn’t disappear. “How do I find her?”
He shakes his head. “You’re asking the wrong person. You need to find Penya.”
“No!” I scream and the realization of what I’ve done to my baby sister and how I’ve left her alone and possibly in extreme danger slices me across my belly. I let him go and lean over, gasping for breath. I did this. For the second time, I’ve put my own desires first and it’s cost someone that I love. Cost them dearly.
A dozen feet away, Constantine steps between two buildings and onto the path, hair mussed and with nothing more than a tunic on. He must have woke without me and come searching. His gaze darts from me to Ilif and in a heartbeat he misjudges the situation and races toward us, muscles bunching and flexing as he hurries to my aid. He passes me and wraps his fingers around Ilif’s throat, lifting him to his toes before I can stop him.
“What have you done to her?” he growls, his deadly intent evident.
I try to breathe and call him off, but part of me wants him to finish Ilif so I don’t have to figure out who he is and what truths are lies. But that sensible part of me thinks Ilif might still be valuable. I find my air and straighten. Constantine is watching me closely, but his fingers haven’t lessened one fraction on Ilif’s throat. The poor man is turning a more unsightly shade of ghost.
“Give me your order,” Constantine asks me.
He would do it without hesitation, too. With the slightest tip of my head, he would break Ilif’s neck or slit his throat, and leave his body right here where it fell, then throw me over his shoulder and carry me to safety.
“Not yet,” I whisper and clench my fists.
He studies Ilif, then looks at me again. “Are you certain?”
He pulls Ilif closer until their noses almost touch. Constantine towers over Ilif’s slight frame and even without his full armor, the sheer size of him is imposing. “I will warn you only once. If you hurt her or so much as threaten her, I will you kill you with no remorse.”
Constantine drops his hands and swiftly pulls me to him. “What troubles you? What happened?”
“It’s my little sister.” My throat constricts and tears well in my eyes.
Ilif makes a grand show of straightening his tie and tugging on his sleeves, clearly disjointed about Constantine’s manhandling of him and his attire, more so than the death threat. “Yes, well, Evy’s gone and trusted the wrong mentor. I told her not to.”
Constantine cuts a look at Ilif and he quickly snaps his mouth shut. Ilif looks pointedly at me as if to say, Well, I did.
There’s nothing I can tell Constantine right now, not without knowing who’s listening but I have to make some decisions and fast. “Come with me.”
I grab his hand and drag him back to his place, rapidly marching us around soldiers and stacks of armor along the path. I don’t bother to see if Ilif is following. He wouldn’t miss this for the world.
Constantine slams the door on Ilif but he slips through and stands off to the side. Constantine grips my shoulders and shakes me once, hard. “Focus. I cannot help you if you won’t tell me what’s happened. Tell me what I need to know.”
My teeth clack together and I draw strength from him. He’s right. I’m no use to Tiana if I’m falling apart. I quickly update him on what happened at the warehouse and the last time I saw my little sister. His hands ease down my arms. “Let me get this straight. There are two time travelers?”
Ilif clears his throat. “Actually, there are only two female lightning riders, anyone can time travel.”
Constantine jerks quickly toward Ilif.
He flinches. “I’m just pointing out facts.”
“And you knew they could both travel?”
Ilif glances away and coughs. “I may have, perhaps, overlooked the fairer sex.”
I don’t have time for his misogynistic attitude, so I don’t bother to rise to his bait. His dislike for me isn’t my concern. I have one mission right now and he’s not it.
“Does she travel like you?” Constantine returns his attention to me.
I shake my head in confusion. “Maybe. I don’t know. She traveled under her own lightning last time but it didn’t send her home, which means she’s either been intercepted by Penya—” I dismiss Ilif’s flinch because I don’t want that one to be true. “Or she started her own alteration.”
“I don’t understand. You must explain.”
I wave my hand at Ilif. He’s better at explaining the sciency details anyway and while he gives Constantine a rundown I can come up with a plan. If Tiana’s alterations work anything like mine, I can intercept her somewhere along the timeline, but if Penya is with her, there’s no telling how she will warp and twist it to meet her needs. Though, I still don’t think Ilif’s told me the whole story, especially with what Nikola said about Ilif’s wife and Penya. I don’t trust Ilif to give me the answers I need; I don’t trust them to be truths yet. He has always manipulated me and I have to expect it. The only person I trust is Constantine, but that might not help me anymore. Not where Tiana is concerned.
Ilif finishes explaining alterations and our time travel to Constantine and for a guy from ancient Rome, he does a good job of keeping up. And considering that Ilif is a guy who only speaks scientist, that’s impressive. Constantine rubs his temple and steps closer. “His babble confuses me, but I understand enough to know that you cannot go without me. Not anymore.”
My heartbeat quickens. Taking into account all the evil I had on my tail when I got here, the fact that my apartment doesn’t exist anymore, the FBI may or may not be after me, Penya and her own henchman are either willing to destroy me and my family or kidnap and manipulate us as she sees fit, not to mention Ilif as the ultimate wildcard, I’d say being anywhere outside a ten foot radius of Constantine is a bad idea.
Ilif adjusts the cuff of his sleeve a micrometer and though I’m loathe to ask, I do it anyway. “What should I do?”
He looks up, feigned surprise on his face. Sometimes he’s such a douche. “It would be wise to speak to your father.”
“Oh no.” I shake my finger. “No way are you getting him involved in this again. You almost got him killed.”
“No! You almost got him killed!” Ilif charges me and Constantine punches him in the throat, sending him flying backwards.
I blink, startled, then round on Constantine. “Don’t fight my fights for me!”
“Do not pick fights in front of me!” He’s barely restrained and his words are tight and clipped.
While Ilif staggers and sputters and wheezes, Constantine and I seethe at each other. “Why don’t you want your father involved?” he asks.
“How much did Rom tell you about when I saved Aurelia?”
He shakes his head, trying to remember. “He told me little, most of his account referenced your sorcery.” Constantine looks away, searching his memories. “I recall mention of a man… one who saved his life. Injured. Killed.” He quickly snaps his attention back to me, both surprised and concerned. “Your father died while saving Aurelia?”
Tears spring to my eyes as I remember that night and the dread and guilt I’d felt when all hope had spun away in the dirty current of the river. I truly thought we’d lost him in that moment. I swallow and blink back the tears. “No, no. Almost. Lightning nearly killed him, but he recovered. The only way he’d agreed to arc again was under Penya’s guidance.”
“Nooooo!” Ilif roars, surging upright.
Constantine spins and I leap forward to restrain his arm. Ilif trembles with rage and shakes a finger at me. I know he wants to attack me again but Constantine’s presence keeps him in place. “Do not let that whore anywhere near your father.”
My eyes widen in shock. The only time Ilif lost his cool to that extreme was when we met and I wanted to arc. I hold my hands up, palms out in surrender. “This time I agree with you. She’s not getting close to him. But I don’t know how to prevent it if that’s already her plan.”
“We will consult your father. Now,” Ilif says and vanishes.
I turn to Constantine and open my mouth but before a single word leaves my lips, he yanks me against him.
“Go,” he commands. “Take us.”
My arms fly up and I link them behind his neck. Lightning erupts from my fingertips and encircles us in wide ropes of crackling white light. I think of home and blackness collapses everything.
We arrive in Papi’s living room ahead of Ilif and everything unravels in chaos. Constantine quickly shoves me behind him and unsheathes his sword, swinging it wide over the back of the worn beige couch. Mami and Papi jump apart like we’ve just caught them necking in the driveway. Mami screams, running to stand on the far side of the coffee table. Papi steps to the middle of the room, flexing his knees and balling his fists.
“No!” I shout and hurry between the men. “Papi, it’s me, it’s me.”
Mami clutches her chest and rattles off a string of brilliant curse words in Spanish.
“Sorry, Mami. Sorry.” I force Constantine’s sword arm down and grab Papi’s hands, forcing his to relax as well before they kill each other. “Papi, do you remember Constantine?”
He quickly scans my warrior, noting an age difference, I’m sure. He takes a step back and pulls Mami close to his side. Once he’s relieved she’s safe, he nods curtly at Constantine, who scowls as he assesses the situation. I assumed that he’d be okay since he’s been here before—although he hasn’t. The timeline gets confused in my head, but I don’t have time to sort it right now. Constantine will adjust quickly, like always. “Papi have you seen Tiana?”
“She was with you.”
I avert my gaze and try to come up with an acceptable response.
“Where is she?” he asks with a growl.
Mami inhales swiftly. “Evy, what did you do?”
“It wasn’t me, Papi, I swear. Nothing happened right. How long have we been gone?”
He glances at the clock. “Five, maybe ten minutes.”
“Son of a—” I swallow the rest as Mami gasps. She frowns at me and I duck my head, but my anger and frustration fails to dissipate as easily as the curse. “The time never works like it should. Hours, hours have passed since I left here for dinner. We went to my apartment, I accidentally took her to the warehouse. She should have come home… she was supposed to be here. Fu—dge!” I’m not making any sense. I pace the room and tug my braid forward, feathering the end across my lips, trying to sort out all that happened in Nikola’s warehouse after Tiana showed up and Penya made me send her home.
One detail is clear. “Papi, we can’t trust Penya.”
“What? What are you talking about? She’s coming back to train me. I’ve talked to her Evy. No.” He lets go of Mami and crosses his arms across his chest in defiance. Penya was the one who kept him in details while I was gone, manipulating him too. He trusts her, and I get it, because I did to. And he’s worse than I am about being told that he made a misjudgment, we trust that intuition and being wrong… well, we don’t take it well. I know he’s about to dig in and we don’t have time.
“No.” He shakes his head. “You’re wrong. And what about Ilif?”
The air ripples and Ilif appears near the front door. He sags with relief at seeing us all together. “Oh, thank goodness.”
Papi looks over at me, questioning.
“Have you explained the situation?” Ilif asks.
“No, I was just getting to it. Why don’t you fill him in?”
Ilif extends his hand to Mami and kisses the backs of her knuckles. “My pleasure, madam.”
“Oh, fuck’s sake.” I want to punch him in the throat myself. We don’t have time for his antics. I didn’t give him the floor for ridiculousness. We need to find Tiana, not sway Mami.
She smiles and totally buys Ilif’s idiocy. I groan.
“What is going on?” Papi asks curtly as Ilif straightens and tugs the bottom of his jacket.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Vic. I apologize for the circumstances.” He steps further into the room. “It would seem Penya has been out to deceive us all. Most of all me, and had I thought it impacted you, I would have told you the story when we first met and cautioned you both.” He glances at me. “Against allowing her to influence you.”
“What does she have to do with Tiana? How much danger is my daughter in?”
Mami gasps and clutches Papi’s arm. He wraps her against him waiting for answers.
I glance quickly at Constantine. The tip of his sword rests in the deep pile of the carpet, his hands crossed over the hilt, watching, assessing. He may look relaxed, but I know it’s all a deception and he’s missing nothing.
“I do not know,” Ilif says. “Perhaps none if she did indeed trigger her own alteration. But perhaps much if Penya has intercepted her.”
Lightning crackles inside my squeezed fists. “Stop blabbering!” I shout. “What is the plan?”
Ilif ignores me.
“Can I go after her?” Papi asks.
Ilif places steepled fingers against his lips. “I fear that any attempt you make may well trigger a new alteration.” He turns to me. “And that goes for you as well. The three of you,” he chuckles to himself. “I never thought I’d see the day. The three of you might quite possibly enter into separate alterations and may need to complete those before you can get to Tiana. If she’s in an alteration, she may be just fine.”
“Fine?” I throw my hands up in the air. “You are the worst mother fucking mentor in existence.”
“Evy,” Mami scolds, drawing out my name.
“Sorry, Mami, but it’s true. He’s terrible. Look what happened to Papi.”
She tsks and shakes her finger at Ilif, stepping out of the comfort of Papi’s embrace. “I am not about to let you take off with my family. You are not going to injure my Vic again. You are lucky I have not kicked your ass for the first time. Now my baby is gone, missing, and perhaps in danger. You are not finding favor in this house.” She crosses her arms over her ample bosom. “I would not expect me to cook for you. You fix this or you are not welcome here.”
Ilif takes a large step backward and gives Mami a slight bow, his hand pressed into the top of his chest. “My sincerest apologies. When Victor and I began his training, it was fraught with inconsistencies. I’d never encountered anyone quite like Evy before, and I’m certain her sister Tiana is every bit as skilled. I will keep you all safe. You must know that is my top priority.” He bows to her again. “Please understand that.”
Mami tsks again and gives him her best scowl—the one that still terrifies me. “We shall see.”
I shift from foot to foot, ansty about how much time we’re wasting. “Papi, just let me go save her.”
“Absolutely not. I can do this, Evy. I’m not sending you out after her. I’m not putting you both in danger.”
“How do you know it won’t put you in danger? I almost killed you once.”
“And we know why that happened. Now that I’ve activated my own arcing, it won’t happen again.”
Fear rages inside me. I should have just gone straight to the warehouse. I should have traced her residual. I shouldn’t have ever left her. “This is my fault. I need to fix it.”
“Evy,” Papi scolds. I hear the non-negotiable in his voice. There’s no more time for questions or regrets, only action.
I shift toward Ilif. “Can you make it work right this time, or is he just going to get stuck in New York? I won’t lose them both.”
“We’ll go first,” he says. “I believe now your father can find Tiana, but follow our residual.”
Papi pulls Mami to him. He brushes her short curls back from her face and kisses her gently. “I’ll bring them all home.”
“You better.” She melts into him and I take a step closer to Constantine. He’s been silent and still since our arrival. I have to trust that he can handle all of this, and if he can’t, he’s going to have to speak up. I make a lightning ball and toss it to Papi. We can’t afford the delay of him messing with it like the last time we tried. He catches it and recites the chant.
Two words in, Ilif holds up his hand. “Wait! In order to find Tiana, you must use her talisman.”
Oh shit! I shake my head. “She didn’t have one. We never got to that point—besides, you said that was only to track us… oh.”
He smiles in that annoying pencil-lipped way of his while I figure out what he already knows. We are trying to track her. I glare at him and finish my thought. “In the warehouse, Tiana traveled with my lightning both times. Wait—“ I frown in concentration. “That’s not true. She followed my residue the first time and that’s how she got to Nikola’s warehouse. But the second time, when she was leaving to come hime, Penya forced her to use her own lightning.” I punch my palm with my closed fist. “She knew that would trigger an alteration and then she’d be able to follow Tiana and corrupt her.”
“All right,” Ilif says. “We just have to abide by what you know. It is those details we must use to determine where Tiana’s alteration led her.”
“But it wasn’t a true alteration,” I say, frustrated again at my own stupidity. “It was whatever Penya wanted it to be. Tiana could be in freaking Africa for all we know. Where would Penya take her?”
“Tell me where you encountered Penya last.” Ilif asks.
“My apartment.” I shift so Papi can’t see my face.
“And what happened?”
“She went after Nikola’s papers. I tried to grab her, I arced and showed up at Constantine’s alone.” I clear my throat and pray Papi won’t kill me when he finds out what really happened. I don’t think my trap has anything to do with Tiana. That was about keeping Nikola’s work safe… totally separate deal.
Ilif paces the living room, hands clasped tightly behind his back. I hate that we’re at his mercy, but out of all of us in the room, he knows more about arcing, though mine and Tiana’s are different, and he’s definitely better versed about Penya and what she’s capable of. I can no longer trust any of my feelings about that woman.
“Oh my gosh, Penya! I’m so glad to see you!” Relief washed over Tiana at the sight of someone she knew in this forgotten land of nothing.
“Yes.” Penya smiled kindly. “Yes, I would imagine you are.”
“What the heck happened?” Tiana had been standing there with Evy and now she was here. “Where is here? What’s going on?”
“Well, my dear, this is an alteration. And instead of returning home, you became a little lightning rider.”
“Really?” Tiana couldn’t believe it actually worked! All that practicing in the back yard, and then, zing! right to her own alteration. She wished Evy could see this. “That is so awesome.”
“Now, now.” She walked around Tiana. “Settle down. You have much to learn and I would prefer that it happens correctly and not in the manner that your sister prefers.”
“Yeah, Evy’s crazy like that.”
“Yes, well, she’s also talented, which I think is why we’ve afforded her a certain amount of grace. But you won’t need that because you’ll be learning how to complete an alteration properly from the beginning.”
“Sweet!” Tiana rocked up on her tiptoes and clasped her hands together. “Let’s do it!”
“Settle down young one, settle down. First, you have to understand the beauty of this power. Everyone thinks that there’s a magical universal power that guides the lightning riders.”
“Oh. Yeah, we totally thought that was how it worked.” She felt dumb and hated that feeling.
“See? This is why it’s helpful that I’m guiding you from the start.”
“Yeah, it really is. This is fantastic. Where are we again?”
“Where you are is of no importance, what matters, is where you’re going.”
“Wow,” Tiana sighed. “That’s deep.”
“You like math, no?”
“I do! I love it. I adore everything about it. The simplicity and complexity working in tandem. Math formulas are perfection.”
“Good, good good.” Penya rubbed her palms together like they were about to get down to business. “Your first alteration affects a brilliant mathematician and scientist.”
“Really? Awesome. Who?”
“Her name is Augusta Ada Byron. She is unknown to most.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ve heard of her.” Tiana hadn’t paid much attention to the actual people who’d come up with her favorite equations, but that didn’t mean that she hadn’t already been introduced to this Augusta girl’s stuff.
Penya held up her hand to remind Tiana that she’d been talking and that Tiana had totally interrupted and should probably keep her trap shut. “Sorry.” Tiana pressed her lips together but it was so hard to not be super excited about time travel and math all smushed together.
“Your enthusiasm is spectacular and will serve you well as we begin the alterations. But yes, if you could hold your comments, that would be helpful.”
She crossed her arms and tried not to fidget, paying close attention to what Penya wanted to teach her.
“Ada was born to Lord Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron. Her mother wanted Ada to have the best education and saw no reason why being a female should hinder that worthy goal.” She scrutinized Tiana and she withered beneath Penya’s sharp gaze. “A point I quite agree on. She hired brilliant tutors and Ada led a educated life. There’s a man who’s largely been avoiding Ada and her requests to assist him. You must bring them together so Ada can showcase her brilliance and revolutionize the way computers are coded.”
“Yeah! Let’s do it. When do I start? Where do I need to go?”
Stay tuned for more teasers between now and release date, January 28. If you haven’t preordered, here’s linkage: