Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a nice weekend. I have enjoyed mine as I enjoyed time with my children and other family members at a baby shower for my oldest daughter, Amber. We are all excited to welcome baby Lukas, soon. 🙂
Today, I thought I would provide a sample from the beginning of my novel The Gifted: Adversaries & Healers and give you an opportunity to read a tiny bit and see if you think you might want to see more. Right now, the ebook version is on sale at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk but only until midnight Monday, July 11th.
I will provide the prologue below. If you like what you read, then click either of the following links to take advantage of the sale.
And, here we go … enjoy!
November 28, 1982
Sage watched the storm approach for the last two hours while his wife slept. They left Nashville late and now he drove his black Jeep Cherokee down I-65 South back home to Birmingham.
At first, the storm pursued them cautiously from the northwest and appeared as bright flashes of lightning above swollen, black clouds. Sage could only see it at a distance from the corner of his eye. After two hours of edging closer, the storm was almost on them like a great, venomous spider that scurried toward its prey, hidden above the black clouds in the night sky.
He estimated they were within an hour of Birmingham as the first fat drops of rain plopped on his windshield. Jenny shifted in her sleep. A lock of blonde hair slid across her sleeping face. Sage brushed it back into place and she smiled unconsciously. He could not repress an answering smile, despite his road weary stress.
They had been married for two years and, thus far, he had no complaints about the state of matrimony. He glanced at the dashboard’s digital clock. The time glowed in an eerie green – 3:20 a.m. He yawned. His eyes felt hot and gravelly with fatigue. His mouth was stale and his face needed a good scrub and a shave.
A clap of thunder startled him. Lightning briefly lit the landscape around him, then the storm chose to unleash its fury and released the torrent. The rain fell in heavy, blinding sheets. Sage could barely see the road, even with the wipers at the highest setting. Another roll of thunder caused Jenny to open her eyes briefly, but she was too tired to stay awake and she slipped back into a peaceful slumber.
He envied her. He hated driving in weather like this. He lost his parents and his little brother ten years ago in a car accident. As the lone survivor, he still hated driving in tumultuous weather. Storms terrified him. After a few minutes, he slowed his speed to a mere 35 miles per hour and still had trouble with visibility.
He decided not to take any further chances and pulled over onto the shoulder to wait out the worst of the storm. He winced as a boom of thunder vibrated the Jeep. He turned on the radio and tried to tune in to his favorite Birmingham station. He fiddled with the dial until a strange sound made him glance up.
At first, all he could see were the clear, multi-layered sheets of rain beyond his headlights and the sight made him think of crystal beaded curtains. Past his headlights was a darkness so complete that it seemed almost hungry. He soon heard another sound, though it was muffled and distant. The sound was like the groan of metal resisting force. The groan was joined by a steady screech that chilled Sage’s blood. Still, he could see nothing in the darkness and heavy rain beyond his headlights. He nervously glanced around. He could not decide from what direction the sound originated. Darkness all around. Sage could see nothing and the sound grew louder … closer.
Thunder vibrated the Jeep, followed by a brilliant show of lightning that revealed a glimpse of the landscape around him … and of the horror that had come to visit.
The polished steel cylinder of an overturned gasoline tanker was currently sliding down the interstate across both southbound lanes and part of the shoulder. Sage’s Jeep was directly in the tanker’s path. Adding to the terror, the lightning that briefly illuminated the tanker was gone, taking with it any sight of the tanker’s progress. The screeching grew louder.
Sage’s cry was hoarse as he forced it from a throat constricted with terror. “No!”
He threw the Jeep into reverse just as the tanker became visible and he could see his own headlights reflected back at him by the steel monster. Fear took a painful grip on his pounding heart. It was as if he had just caught sight of his own screaming visage reflected in a killer’s eyes.
The Jeep’s tires spun on the wet pavement for a few precious, impotent seconds before they clutched the road and dug in.
He hissed through clenched teeth. “Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Goooooooooooooooooo!”
For one triumphant moment, it looked as if he could outrun the tanker’s unrelenting progress, but the tanker hit the Jeep’s front driver’s side bumper and the back end veered off the shoulder and up against a jagged rock face. The tanker smashed into the front of Sage’s vehicle and the passenger side and back of the Jeep were crushed against the rock wall.
He screamed, “Jenny!” He tried to reach out for her.
He was thrown forward to meet the cracked windshield and part of the roof that now jutted inward. The Jeep was pushed back several yards. Sage was unconscious by the time the tanker and the Jeep came to rest.
He awoke when rain splattered his face. He was tightly wedged into his seat, but could turn his head enough to look out his door. The glass was gone. Oddly, some of the dashboard lights still worked, but cast a weak illumination. Sage could only make out grotesquely mangled shadows. Headlights appeared behind him as a car approached. It slowed and parked close. A man in a long, black trench coat got out of the car. Oh, goody, Sage faintly thought, a Sam Spade version of the Grim Reaper.
The man walked with no apparent urgency as Sage glimpsed him as he passed the headlights of the parked car. The man came directly to Sage and stared at him for a long moment through the broken window. He put his hands on the edge of the door where the window had been. The stranger wore black leather gloves. Something about him created a sickening fear within Sage. The man removed one of his gloves. In the darkness, Sage saw a dim flash of white on the man’s face and it took a moment for Sage to realize the stranger had just smiled at him. Sage shivered.
The stranger’s tone was warm and friendly, just an old chum saying “hello” on this frightful night. “Hello, Sage,”
Sage’s voice was a hoarse whisper in his own ears. “Who … who are you? Do I know you? How do you know my name? You need to call an ambulance … you need to call for someone to help us.”
The man laid his ungloved hand to his chest. The gesture was elegant. “My name is Trent Rivers. You don’t know me, but I know you,” Rivers’ tone was apologetic. “I’m very sorry, but I have no time for more questions right now. I’m here only to introduce and assess.”
In an outrageous move, the man reached into the Jeep and unzipped Sage’s jacket, then used both hands to rip open Sage’s shirt. He heard the buttons bounce off the Jeep’s twisted interior.
“Stop …” Sage protested. He was too tightly wedged. He couldn’t move his arms to stop him.
“Ssshhh … quiet, now. I’m not going to hurt you.” The statement was followed by another dim flash of teeth as Rivers gave him a smile he probably meant to be reassuring. Rivers parted the cloth and laid his bare hand in the center of Sage’s chest. Immediately Sage felt an unpleasant crawling sensation as something probed him from within. The experience was over almost as quickly as it began. The man removed his hand.
Rivers studied Sage’s face closely in the dark. “You’ll live. You’re hurt but nothing from which you won’t recover,” he said. He added, “except for this, of course.” Rivers ran a finger alongside of Sage’s nose. Rivers’ touch stung considerably. Sage realized he was bleeding when Rivers pulled his finger back and it was stained with a dark shadow against Rivers’ pale skin. Rivers sucked his finger to cleanse it of Sage’s blood. Sage thought he would be sick as he watched him.
“There will be a scar of course, but perhaps this will be a good thing. You know … a reminder,” Rivers said. He abruptly turned to leave.
“Wait! You can’t leave … you’ve got to help us …” Sage cried out to Rivers’ retreating back.
Rivers turned and smiled. “Don’t worry, Sage. We’ll be seeing each other again very soon.” He turned away and strolled back to his car. When he got back into his car, Sage watched him speak on what appeared to be a large, cordless phone for a few moments. After his call, Rivers drove away.
A short time later, Sage saw the flashing lights and heard the sirens that heralded the arrival of help.
Sage was not entirely surprised when Rivers appeared in his hospital room fourteen hours later. It was past the dinner hour, around seven p.m. Sage had let his supper congeal untouched. When time came for the tray to be retrieved, he received a deep scowl of disapproval from the attending nurse.
He sat quietly in bed. There was no sound except for the passing of carts, gurneys, and the whisper of thickly soled nurse shoes. Occasionally, he heard the electronic “ding” of someone summoning help from the nurse’s station down the hall. The Highway Patrol officers had already come and gone after they took his statement. He was alone except for the annoyingly frequent visit of a nurse to check his vital signs. He resented their looks of pity.
Jenny was gone. It was unbelievable, but she was just … gone. He expected her to come in anytime and tell him to get out of bed and “walk it off,” and she would say it with the signature twinkle in her eyes. Her sense of humor was what attracted him back in college.
The pain medication he received made him fall into intermittent bouts of an uncomfortable slumber. He dreamt of the wreck. The tanker approached, like a fairy tale monster out of the darkness and rain, and it called Jenny’s name over and over. “Jenny … Jeennnnyyyy … I’m so huuuunnngggggrrrryyyyy …”
He awoke with a gasp. A sob broke from him, but he choked it off and hastily wiped at the tears. He refused to give full reign to his grief for fear he might drown in that treacherous sea. Suddenly, he realized he was no longer alone in his hospital room. A black trench coat and hat were neatly lain across one of the visitor’s chairs near the bed. Across the room, by the window, stood a man in an expensive suit. The man had his back to Sage as he stared out the window, but Sage knew it was Trent Rivers.
“Glad to see you’re awake, Sage,” Rivers said without turning. “I’m so sorry about your wife. I understand that she didn’t suffer. She was crushed instantly against that rock face. It was a nasty business recovering her body from the wreckage, though. It took longer for her than it did for the unfortunate driver of that tanker.”
Sage remained silent — his jaw tightly clenched.
Slowly, Rivers turned around. Sage was surprised by Rivers’ appearance. In the previous encounter, Sage had not been able to get a good look at Rivers’ face and he was now shocked to see Trent Rivers did not look the part of a sinister specter. Rivers was good-looking in a friendly, guy-next-door sort of way. Rivers was tall and slender, his hair was dark and curly, and his icy blue eyes danced with mischief. Sage placed his age somewhere around his own age of 30.
“You’re a lucky man, Sage,” Rivers said as he approached the bedside. “I know you’ve got some broken ribs and that awful cut on your face needed a lot of stitches, but all in all, you’re lucky to be alive.”
Sage’s answer to Rivers’ statement would have been obvious – he did not feel lucky. “Who are you and what do you want?” Sage asked suddenly.
“I am an Adversary,” Rivers said. He raised a hand and met Sage’s alarmed expression with a comforting smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not your adversary. As to what I want … well, I want you. I want to be your Mentor. I have a gift to give you, should you choose to accept it.”
“I don’t understand.”
Rivers answered with gravity. “You’ve been chosen, Sage”
Sage was speechless. This was crazy and yet … there was something about Rivers. Sage found him to be equal parts fascinating and frightening.
“You’ve lost your parents, your brother … your grandparents,” Rivers continued, his tone weighted with sympathy, “and now you’ve lost your wife. There is no tally that could measure the losses you’ve suffered. And, you do suffer … The pain is unbearable, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sage admitted, as unbidden tears welled up in his eyes.
“I can ease your pain and make it so that you will never feel helpless again. No more suffering … It would be gone … poof,” Trent spread his fingers and flared them out gracefully like a magician performing a trick.
“But … there is a price to be paid for this kind of miracle,” Rivers said as he leaned closer. “What price would you pay to never be afraid again? What price would you pay to be free from this grief and pain?”
“Anything … I would pay any price,” Sage surprised himself with his answer. What more do I have to lose? He was beyond caring.
“Power and relief from the pain and grief is what I can give you, but you must understand that your life will be changed from now on. You will lead a life of service in exchange for walking among The Gifted.”
Tears spilled down Sage’s face and burned the stitches along the right side of his nose.
“You’ll never feel helpless again, Sage. Would you like to possess that kind of power?” Rivers sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Yes,” Sage managed to answer between sobs.
Rivers’ answering smile was a terrible thing to behold – it was wide and alligator-like. Sage nearly took back his agreement. Something else moved behind Rivers’ dark eyes, but it was too late. Rivers reached around Sage and untied the back of his hospital gown. Rivers slid the gown forward and down enough to expose Sage’s bare chest, visible above the clean white bandages that wrapped his ribs. Rivers placed one hand in the center of Sage’s chest, over his heart, just above the bindings. Rivers placed his other hand on Sage’s forehead, causing Sage’s wound to sting.
As if an electrical line had been put to his body, Sage instantly felt the power that hummed through Rivers’ hands. It was dark and cold. The chilling cold spread throughout Sage’s body until his teeth chattered. Sage felt a powerful jolt shoot through him, and his body arched forward like a bow. He clutched the edges of his bed. The pain from his cracked ribs howled at the position his body was in, but the excruciating sensation of mounting strength soon cancelled out all other feeling and Sage knew he was lost.
The room dimmed. The light behind his headboard flickered. He stifled a scream. It was too much. He was cold … freezing. There was a scratching at his hospital window, but he was afraid of what he would see if he turned his head to look. There were whispers and skittering sounds coming from beneath his bed. He gritted his teeth against the terror.
Rivers brought his mouth close to Sage’s ear. “You’re so strong … but, you’re resisting. Relax, Sage. Accept The Gift.”
Sage tried to relax, but the sensations that came as the power filled him were as commanding as they were terrifying. He felt so POWERFUL … He knew he could tear the room apart if he chose to do it. He panted and shuddered with the pleasure of it. The process seemed to go on forever.
Just when Sage did not think he could take anymore, Rivers removed his hands and collapsed into a nearby chair. Sage could see his benefactor was exhausted as he was by the process. Beads of sweat dotted Rivers’ upper lip and forehead. He straightened his sleeves and suit coat and fussed with his tie as he stood up.
Sage still quaked visibly from the effects, but his rapid breathing began to slow. Rivers politely ignored Sage’s trembling as he helped him properly tie the hospital gown again.
“It’s quite a rush, isn’t it?” Rivers asked, with a grin.
Sage nodded and pulled his blankets higher.
“That was quite a transfer of power. The most I’ve ever had the privilege of Gifting. The Dark One must have great plans for you. You are now an Adversary, and it won’t take you long to discover what that means,” said Rivers as he walked over to the chair and retrieved his coat and hat.
Alarmed, Sage asked, “You’re leaving?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I’ll be in touch soon, I promise,” Rivers said with a smile as he opened the door to leave. “Goodbye, Sage.”
Sage stared at the closed door long after Rivers left. He felt a combination of relief and panic. His shaking had ceased as the coldness faded, but he could feel the dark power that now pulsed within him. His grief had been removed, as Rivers had promised, but it had been replaced with something else.
You’ve been deceived. Sage’s mind whispered with a frightened voice.
Something far worse had been fixed in place of Sage’s grief. Now, he was warmed by the heat of a growing and ever present emotion.
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