And now, for your entertainment: an excerpt from False Awakening, Book One in the paranormal teen mystery series Nightmare Island now available from Writers-Exchange.
She was only able to see the wall of solid black for a split second before she collided with it, dropping her books and stumbling backwards. She looked up, straight into the large, midnight black eyes of Ian Crane. He was nearly a head taller than her, and she had to drop her head back to peer into his face. It was even more beautiful up close than when she’d first glimpsed him in homeroom, as chiseled and even and flawless as a store front mannequin or the two-dimensional faces in magazine ads. And he was just as cold and pitiless and distant, like a walking statue. Their collision hadn’t even mussed a perfect hair on his sleek, pale head.
His sculpted lip curled as he looked down at her. “Watch where you’re going,” he growled snidely, striding away as quickly as he had appeared, his pointed boots clicking smartly on the floor as he rounded the corner without looking back.
“Argh!” Mia exclaimed loudly, bending down to scoop up her fallen books. “What a jerk!”
She was still grumbling irritably when she strode into Mr. Quillen’s English class. Her confrontation with Ian Crane had nearly caused her to forget her impending hour with Luke Brennan, but the moment she saw him, sitting in the back of the class with Roman, Adam, Kaitlin, Aylin and Lorien, she forgot the horrible island boy almost instantly. She smiled when Lorien waved at her, indicating the seat she’d saved beside her a row in front of Luke.
“Hi, Mia,” Aylin greeted happily, smiling brightly at Mia when she sat down a desk away. “This is going to be such a fun class.”
Mia laughed. “I’m sure it is.” She leaned over to Lorien to talk quietly in her ear. “How can she be so nice when her brother is such a complete and total ass?”
Lorien grinned. “Something happen I should know about?”
“I ran into him in the hall, and he knocked my books–” She cut off, a sense of dread filling her at the sound of boots clicking on the floor. “Oh, god, no.”
Ian Crane strode casually towards them, and Mia’s sour mood came crashing back as she watched him approach, a glare on her face. Beside her, Lorien lit up, and Mia shot her a disgusted look. “Ian!” Aylin exclaimed cheerfully. “Come sit by me.”
“No no no,” Mia muttered under her breath, but Ian didn’t seem to notice. He slid into the desk between she and Aylin and looked at her with raised eyebrows.
“Well, if it isn’t the clumsy girl from the hall,” he said in a disdainful voice.
Mia’s temper flared instantly. “Me?” she demanded in a slightly shriller tone than usual. “Oh, you are such a jerk!”
The conversation had captured the attention of everyone around them instantly. Ian smirked. “You should pay more attention to where you are going.”
“You should! You’re the one who bumped into me and knocked my books out of my hand!” Mia growled in response.
His dark eyes glittered, and she stared into them defiantly. “If you weren’t running through the halls with your head down, you wouldn’t have bumped into me,” he told her coldly.
“I wasn’t running through the halls. I was the one standing at my locker when you came barreling through the hall out of nowhere! You should be more careful. This isn’t the Kentucky Derby.”
“What’s the Kentucky Derby?” Aylin whispered, leaning towards her brother.
The bell rang, interrupting the confrontation, and Mr. Quillen strode into the classroom, dropping his briefcase on the desk. A silent, collective sigh passed through the class as he did, and Mia’s attention immediately snapped to him, forgetting Ian Crane as if he were a particularly nasty insect. Mr. Quillen was one of the younger teachers on the staff, in his early thirties, and he was tall, broad-shouldered and very handsome. He had the bookish, intelligent look of a professor with square-framed spectacles and bright blue eyes, but he carried himself with the confident, effortless grace of an athlete or an outdoorsman. His hair was roguishly over-grown, caramel-colored and often disheveled, as if he spent long hours pouring over a book, absently running his hands through it.
He smiled as he faced them all, perching on the edge of his desk. “Hello, everyone,” he greeted in a cheerful, casual voice. “For those who don’t know me, I’m Mr. Quillen. I hope everyone has been having a nice first day back.”
“Yeah, it’s been brilliant,” Ian Crane muttered under his breath. Mia shot him a filthy glare. On the other side of him, Aylin shushed him in a stage whisper.
Mr. Quillen’s lips turned up in a slight smile. “Well, welcome back anyway. And welcome to Junior English.” He walked around to the other side of his desk, opening his briefcase. “I thought for our first lesson, we could try something a little fun.”
“He is so sexy,” Lorien whispered to Mia. “You need to get me on the newspaper staff.”
“Forget it, Lorien,” Mia whispered back. “He’s a teacher.”
Quillen glanced in their direction, smirking slightly at them. Mia blushed crimson and shot Lorien a glare. “I have a few announcements before we get started,” Quillen went on, as if he hadn’t noticed their whispered conversation. “As you know, I am the staff supervisor for the Voice. I am pleased to announce this year our new editor is Mia Burke, who is sitting so very attentively in the back of the class.” Mia slouched in her seat, waving at the class as they clapped politely, trying to hide her face behind her hair.
“Congratulations, Mia,” Quillen continued, unabashed. “You earned it. Now, each year, the Voice puts out a literary edition featuring original pieces from students. Poetry, short stories, essays, art, whatever captures my fancy. I encourage you all to participate. You may submit your pieces to myself or Mia. Submissions will be accepted until November 10th, so mark your calendars. That said, this year we will be reading books, plays and poems you will find both interesting and excruciatingly boring. I will do my best to make the excruciating bits bearable. Today, however, I thought we could try something a little more interesting.”
He removed a stack of papers from his briefcase and handed a stack to the first person in each row. “I have composed some Mad Libs for you all. I will be honoring the most interesting responses throughout the year in the Voice and reading the most embarrassing or ridiculous in front of the class. Profanity is, of course, not allowed. Don’t think I don’t recognize your handwriting, Mr. Genovese.” The class chuckled, turning to peer at Roman, who smirked and waved.
“These will be given a participation grade based on how seriously you take the assignment and my general mood,” Quillen continued. “If you need me, I will just be here at my desk reading the new Stephen King novel and ensuring none of you attempt to sneak out. You may work together, but you must all turn in your own paper.” He grinned at them all, moving around his desk to sit and opening a fat paperback in front of him. “Go.”
Mia and Lorien put their heads together immediately, peering down at their papers. “Mine first,” Lorien ordered, waiting with her pencil poised for Mia to speak.
Mia laughed. “I’m not going to do it for you. Just think of a noun.”
Lorien’s eyes slid away, and she leaned forward, whispering across their desks. “How about…hot for teacher?”
“Lorien!” Mia scolded, giggling. “That is not a noun.”
“Yes it is. It’s a state of being. A noun.”
“I think it’s more of a verb. Anyway, if you want to humiliate yourself in front of the entire class, go ahead and put it down.”
Lorien seemed to reconsider. “How about abstinence?” she suggested, and Mia sniggered.
“Will you two stop giggling?” Ian Crane hissed irritably at them.
They both snapped their heads in his direction. Mia scowled at him, and Lorien raised her eyebrows in interest. “I beg your pardon,” Mia said scornfully. “I didn’t realize the task was such a strain on your limited faculties.”
“What the hell are Mad Libs?” he demanded, staring down at his paper with an air of angry perplexity.
Beside him, Aylin was equally bemused, and she leaned across her brother. “Mia, I don’t understand. How am I supposed to answer these questions?”
“You’ve never heard of Mad Libs?” Lorien asked, surprised.
“No,” Ian replied in annoyance.
Mia suppressed a smirk. “You just make them up. You put in whatever verb or noun or whatever it is you want. Then Mr. Quillen fills them into some probably highly amusing and diabolical phrase or story or poem he’s made up.”
“We don’t get to see it first?” Aylin asked, frowning. “How will I know what the right word is?”
“Well, that’s the point of it. There is no right word; the sillier the word, the greater the hilarity. You don’t get to see until you’re done,” Mia explained.
Aylin’s face split into a grin. “Oh, it makes perfect sense now. I can put whatever word I want.”
Ian did not seem to regard this with quite as much delight. He sneered down at his paper. “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
“It’s supposed to be funny,” Mia told him heatedly. “It is funny.”
“It isn’t funny.”
“No, you aren’t. Not even a little.”
Ian’s eyes snapped to hers. “Luckily, my life isn’t dedicated to your amusement.”
Mia snorted in anger. “Whatever. Just do it yourself then.”
“Fine. I will. I planned to.”
Beside him Aylin was giggling wickedly, muttering to herself. “Flapdoodle. Short pants.”
Ian glared at her. “I’m glad you’re enjoying this, Aylin.”
“Is surly an adverb?” she asked.
Ian curled his lip. “No, it’s an adjective.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, there you go. There’s one for you. I also recommend tetchy, crabby, cranky, grouchy or belligerent. ”
Ian gave his sister a scathing look. “Why don’t you try silly, asinine, ridiculous, simple, ludicrous or idiotic?”
“Why don’t you pipe down, be quiet, belt up or shut it?” Aylin shot back brightly.
Lorien giggled, practically draped across Mia’s desk to listen in on the argument. “You two make me wish I had a sibling.”
“He makes me wish I didn’t sometimes,” Aylin responded, but the cheerful note in her voice made it hard to believe her.
“Why doesn’t everyone just back off, leave me alone, go away or let me do my stupid Mad Lib in peace?” Ian muttered.
“Lorien, you’re on my paper,” Mia complained, brushing her friend’s arm off her desk.
Aylin slammed her pencil down on her desk with an air of satisfied finality and shot her hand up into the air. “I’m done!” she exclaimed proudly. “Can I see my Mad Lib now?”
“I think strangle is a verb,” Ian grumbled. “A good one. One of my favorites, in fact.”
“Choke, asphyxiate, garrote, throttle, smother,” Mia added in an undertone.
“I don’t like your attitude,” Ian told her.
“I don’t like yours.”
“I think that’s enough,” Mr. Quillen announced wearily. “Let’s move on, shall we?”