Only 5 weeks left until the release of my fourth novel in the Jesse Sullivan fantasy series, Dying Light.
Because I'm so excited I could pee myself, I'm going to give you guys a special sneak peek. Here's the first chapter, as told by Jesse herself:
“Come on,” I wail. “Jumping out of a burning building is not the craziest thing we’ve ever done!”
“If you hadn’t panicked, the building wouldn’t be on fire,” Ally snaps back.
“I had to do something,” I say, defensive of what I thought was my one good idea on this mission. “If I hadn’t we’d still be stuck with him.”
We both turn our gaze to the locked door twenty feet behind us. A row of unoccupied desks rest between us and where we entered. The open office is spacious, with rows of desks running between the entry and the windows behind us. Spacious—but not enough for me when a homicidal maniac is just on the other side of the door.
The sound of a body slamming into the locked office rattles the walls again, as ominous black smoke oozes through the crack beneath the door.
“Just because we’ve been reckless before doesn’t excuse it now,” Ally says. She holds a wrapped bundle in her arms like a swaddled baby. Her blond hair is disheveled, hiding most of her face and half-covering wide terrified eyes. She looks out the window and down to the street below. “God, Jesse. No. We’d never survive a fall from this height.”
I shrug and sputter my lips. “Ha! It’s fine. I’ve fallen from higher. We’ll be fine.”
She just blinks at me.
“Really, we’ve got this,” I say. I’m talking out of my ass here, but what choice do I have? The earlier blasts have no doubt left the building unstable, and it’s only a matter of time before it falls down around us, or the ten-kinds-of-crazy in the hallway gets into this office and rips our heads off.
The door rattles for the fourth time and a thick crack appears to the left of the jamb, allowing more smoke to pour into the room. Then the first hint of flame licks at the ceiling.
“We don’t have a lot of options,” I tell her. I go to the window and press my hands to the floor-to-ceiling glass. It’s cold under my palms and my breath fogs on the clear patina despite the growing heat of the room. I can feel sweat forming at the hairline under my ponytail and in the folds where my coat sits snuggly against my body. The city shines bright around us, each pinpoint of light a beacon calling us to shore.
“I don’t like this option. Think of something else.”
“Ugh,” I moan and resist the urge to throw her out of the window. “You’re the smart one. You think of something.”
My gaze flits from building to building, but I don’t see salvation. We aren’t close enough to another skyscraper to signal for help, or do anything sensible. No scaffolding or window-washer platform is available to carry us to the safety of solid ground or to the roof above, where we were supposed to meet Jeremiah.
Ally’s com buzzes incoherently for the billionth time, but we can’t understand the message. Whatever the Hulk out there is doing to the building interferes with our technology.
Ally hisses in irritation again. When the com stops crackling, she mashes the speak button flat with her thumb. “For the thousandth time, we can’t understand you. Something is wrong with our com. If you can hear us, we are on the 34th floor of the Jensen building and we’re trapped. Send help.”
“He’s going to kill us,” Ally says. A look of absolute resolution solidifies on her face.
“No,” I insist. “Me? Maybe, but I’ll die before he puts a hand on you.”
She cocks her head in warning. “We talked about this. No more dying. It’s too dangerous.”
“And getting ourselves locked in burning buildings with rageaholic madmen on the other side of the door is playing it so safe.”
“You know what I mean,” she says, resuming her search of the useless room for anything that can help us. “And you’re not helping.”
I throw my hands up and do another search of the room. No doors. No escape. I pick up one of the office chairs and immediately know that this flimsy ergonomic piece of crap won’t be able to break the window. Sure enough, when I throw it, it just bounces off the glass and comes back at me with a vengeance. It clips my knee and I swear.
It’s not safe. I grumble, rubbing my knee and stumbling to another desk. Sure, every time I die I lose a little bit of my sanity, but at least I can resurrect. If Ally dies, she’s not coming back. What choice does she give me when she keeps insisting that we help commando Jeremiah and his team save the day?
I have half a mind to remind her that it wasn’t my idea to come to Chicago. I was happy in Nashville. Sure, my boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—wasn’t talking to me, but everything else was okay enough.
Caldwell is up to something in Chicago. We’ve tracked quite a few strange movements lately. It would benefit us greatly if we would join our team. Jeremiah knew just want to say to get bleeding heart Ally on board. But I agreed to come, so I can’t be pissed about it now.
Even if I about to have my arms and legs torn from my body.
I’ve scanned half a dozen useless desks while the door rattles and cracks on the other side of the room. I’m about to give up when Gabriel appears at a desk two rows up from the one I’m searching. He flickers in and out, unable to hold his form with another partis—a weirdo with powers like me—nearby. This is real inconvenient given that I need him most when the others show up looking for a fight.
“Here,” he says, stretching his black wings long before tucking them in to lay flat against his back. “You can use this.”
He points at a giant rock sitting on top of one of the cleanest desks I’ve seen yet. No, not a rock, I realize as I run up and place my hands on the massive stone. It’s an amethyst the size of a grapefruit. Beside it sits a little note: Don’t touch me. Please. You’ll change my energy.
I look up but Gabriel is gone again.
“Sorry,” I say and heft the rock off the desktop into my palms. “But I need your energy to club this fucker.”
“Get over here,” I shout to Ally. She’d moved steadily away from me as we searched the room. No doubt she’d been looking for a way to not jump out of the window.
Ally only makes it halfway to me when the door explodes inward in a rain of splinters the size of my legs. I freeze, clutching the gigantic stone to my chest.
Standing in the flames, his body smoldering but not burned, Jason steps into the room. His face twists into a murderous scowl.
“Stop running,” he yells at me. “Let’s do this.”
His blistered arm goes from burnt to scabby to pink before my eyes. He smiles at me as if seeing my jaw on the floor amuses him.
“Just think, this power could be yours if you’d just face me already,” he says and takes a step toward me.
I see flashes of black wings and smell rain. Gabriel is close even if he can’t quite materialize. And I can feel him dialing up my power. My muscles contract and my whole body itches. I can’t stand still with my skin thrumming like this.
“I don’t want to fight.”
“It’s what we’re built for,” Jason says, his smile tight at the edges. He’s trying to talk himself closer, as if I’m too stupid to know what he’s doing.
“Don’t you have someone else to play with?” I ask him. “How about my father?”
Jason’s face twists up in fury again. “After you.”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?” I say with mock anger. “Why doesn’t anyone think I’m as badass as he is? Is it because I’m a girl?”
My temper flares. “You’re trying to kill me because I’m short?”
Ally begins to cough beside me as smoke fills the room. My eyes sting with it and I blink away tears.
I look away just long enough to wipe my eyes, and rough hands shoot through the smoke.
Gabriel’s voice booms in my head and I feel my soul rip open, power exploding out from the center of me in all directions. The walls and ceiling shudder with the force of it, raining dust and plaster down on our heads. The smoke whooshes back away from us, carried by the force of my blast. Glass explodes out behind me as the windows shatter. When I open my eyes, I see Jason sprawled on the office floor, unconscious. My power blast knocked him out, burned his skin again, but didn’t kill him. His flesh is already healing before my eyes as I step closer to him.
I force myself to relax despite the power shaking me. Ally shakes glass out of her hair and checks the bundle wrapped in her arms. Cold air rushes into the room, swirling the black smoke around us, fueling the flames in the hallway and inviting them into the office.
Kill him, Gabriel says in my ear. The weight of the amethyst doubles in my hands. Kill him.
The idea of killing Jason and taking his healing powers appeals to me, of course. Instead of having to die in order to heal myself, I could simply stay alive, and after a few breaths, be as good as new again. Wasn’t that a hell of a prospect? Less pain. Less wasted time. Less danger for myself and the people around me.
I lift the amethyst without thinking, my eyes fixing on his skull, the perfect target for my strike.
I lift the rock a little higher.
Ally’s face appears in front of mine. Eye to eye, she blocks my view of Jason.
“Baby,” she whispers. “We need to get out of here.”
The murderous feeling entwining itself with my muscles and mind relaxes.
“Come on,” she says, pulling at the rock until it slips from my hand and rolls along the floor.
“I’m sorry,” I begin, but I don’t get to finish. Jason is climbing to his feet. He snatches up the amethyst and throws it at Ally.
“No!” I scream as the rock sails through the air. Gabriel!
My shield goes up around Ally and the rock ricochets off the force field, shoots through the broken window and out into the open night sky. Jason runs at her, but I pulse again, knocking him back into a desk.
“Fuck this!” I say and run. I grab hold of Ally and yank her forward. Before she can process what is about to happen, I shove her out the big window, holding onto her.
I suppose this is a perfectly natural reaction to your friend shoving you out of a high-rise building. I hold her against me.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “My shield will keep you safe.”
Right? I ask Gabriel.
“What about you? What about you!” she screams.
You will not survive the fall. He plummets with us, his wings folding back to embrace the drop. You must shield yourself.
No. I insist. Ally lives, not me. Ally always lives. We have a deal.
You must shield yourself also, he says, but he knows I don’t know how. The purple shimmer of my force field only encapsulates Ally. I watch it shine about an inch or so above her skin. I’m hoping that my brain doesn’t splatter on the pavement below because if it does, I won’t be waking up this time.
I wonder what it will look like, my brains all over the concrete. I start to picture it, but the purple shimmer intensifies. I look down to see the force field growing, covering first my hands, then my forearms.
An explosion of pain erupts through my legs, my back. Before a scream can even escape my throat, the whole world goes black.
Dying Light is on preorder now (Amazon) for a special price of $0.99. The price will rise on release day (November 2nd), so if you like what you read, I encourage you to snag your copy now.