I’m absolutely thrilled to reveal the prologue for Breaker, the final installment of the Ondine Quartet!
Before I do, another reminder: Breaker will release on January 28, 2015.
Here’s all the information:
Okay, here’s the opening of the final book in the series….enjoy!
Between clouds and sea, there was a strip of sky promising freedom.
It hung, separate and infinite, commanding a subtle power even the sun must acquiesce to.
Every sunset crossed through on its daily trek to the ocean’s cooling embrace.
And every sunrise stretched pink fingers across its inky expanse to graze the fading ivory moonlight and reach the clouds.
I often pictured myself floating, suspended and untouchable, in that ribbon of sky, a neutral zone where neither water, sun, nor moon could trespass without permission.
A place where you could choose to soar up to the bed of clouds or dive down into the ocean’s depths.
It was spring, our first in Texas. Mom had been on a roll, whipping us through several towns in Louisiana as if something nipped at our heels. Our move to the small, coastal town nestled along the gulf was our second in four months.
Her increasing paranoia also manifested in other ways. Physical training, martial arts and weapons instruction had uniformly intensified. Magical education involved controlling my Virtue, wielding it over humans and manipulating them into providing me with the information she wanted.
It was a year designed to teach me survival.
But what I remembered most about that time was my bicycle.
It was an ugly contraption, the color a vomit-green, with peeling paint, rust-stained handles, and barely functional brakes.
Mom rescued it from a dumpster and brought it home one night, explaining it was a good way of improving my cardio, stamina, and balance. She mentioned other things, too, boring reminders about responsibility and maturity, protective gear and sturdy footwear.
My mind was too busy spinning with possibilities to hear it.
That bike was my first car.
Every day, I rode to school. I tore out of our tiny home, fleeing her disapproval and anger, and sailed off into the bright morning sun.
Every day, I raced out of class, leaped onto it, and escaped into the humid afternoon.
I had one hour to myself. She thought I spent that time finishing my homework at school and I convinced myself my daily detour wasn’t bad because it was a form of training.
It was the first real lie I told her and the first I told myself.
I sped through narrow back alleys and roads, taking shortcuts through backyards and store lots until I finally reached the beach.
The old promenade was a small, rickety wooden extension jutting from the parking lot over a modest sand dune. It ended abruptly, with a four foot drop to the beach below.
I pedaled harder. The bike accelerated, bumping over asphalt onto uneven boards. The clatter of wheels against wood trembled in the afternoon heat.
The edge drew near. I pumped my legs harder.
My breathing quickened. I focused on my target.
Three. Two. One.
The ground dropped away, leaving nothing but the soft cushion of air. Heady exhilaration engulfed my eight-year-old self.
Just over a second later, the bike landed on the sand with a thud and I shifted my weight to stay upright.
A breath, a moment to savor what had happened, and then I walked back up the sand dune, across the parking lot, turned around, and did it again.
Each time, I aimed for the same spot, that smooth stroke of azure sky just above the horizon.
And when the wooden boards disappeared, bicycle wheels churning through space, the knowledge of what I was doing made the thrill that much more potent.
During that one, fleeting second, nothing existed but the wind rushing through my hair, the sharp scent of ocean flooding my nose and blood, and the triumphant glee of defying gravity.
Nothing held or bound me. Like that pristine strip of sky, I was untouchable.
Those seconds on my bike defined my spring, a quiet mutiny against the iron discipline of training and the growing instability at home.
That desire to rebel escalated as I grew older. But back then, my revolt was more innocent and I easily found satisfaction on a dilapidated bike.
Until the day I stopped.
The weather had begun its slow transformation to summer. The air turned drier, grittier, but wasn’t yet hot enough to stifle spring’s mildness.
I’d just finished another jump and landed hard. The bike jolted beneath me.
“Careful. You might get hurt.”
The stranger’s sleek blonde hair, floral print sun dress, and kind face presented a vision of maternal concern. Her lips curved as if she had a perpetual secret she wasn’t telling.
I shrugged. “No, I won’t.”
It wasn’t a lie. My reflexes weren’t like humans.
“Are you here alone?”
Learned wariness itched under my skin. Empath stretched inside her, but sensed nothing wrong. Just a concerned mother.
“Mom’s at the store down the block,” I lied smoothly.
She watched me for a few seconds as if deciding whether or not to believe me. The sun dipped behind the clouds. Something hard and cold flashed in her pale eyes, a smudge on her perfect veneer.
Mom had that distant, slightly mean look all the time.
In the coming years, I would see it in many others – women, men, ondines, demillirs, selkies.
In my own reflection.
It was the look of someone who’d seen bad days, knew the taste of darkness and what it meant to endure.
The sun reappeared. Light melted away the hardness and her face returned to its luminous glow. This mother was too much in control to let that smudge show for long.
“What’s your name?”
She nodded approvingly. “Well, Kendra, would you like to join us until your mom’s done?” She gestured down the beach. A girl, no older than four years old, knelt in the sand, working on a castle with the same intensity I’d ridden my bike.
“I’m sure my daughter would like to make a new friend.”
I shook my head. She didn’t understand. “I’m not allowed to play.”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing right now? Playing?”
“No,” I retorted. I wasn’t sure why I was so angry at her. She was just trying to help. “I’m training.”
She tilted her head and gave a curious smile. “What do you mean —“
“I have to go.”
I took off, the motion of the pedals resisting then smoothing beneath my feet.
But I only pretended to leave. Just as I’d pretended someone was waiting for me around the corner.
Once I was certain she’d returned to her child, I dropped the bike in the high grass lining the shore and raced back. I hid behind one of the thick pillars supporting the promenade and watched.
They played in the sand for awhile, gracefully dancing across the golden grains. Then they moved into the lavender water, the sun dipping low behind them. The mother lifted her child high, their faces bright with laughter, the girl’s toes skimming the silky water’s surface. Her giggles and delighted squeals filled the air.
An ache yawned in my chest and swallowed me whole.
My bike no longer appeared like a chariot, a glorious tool in my quest for spring freedom.
It looked like a discarded hunk of metal no one wanted.
I didn’t ride home that day.
The sun beat down on my head and with each step, I recalled the look on that mother’s face.
Empath had already shown me that the masks people wore bore no relation to what lay within.
But what I’d witnessed hadn’t required my magic. The truth had been evident in their perfect laughter and warm embraces.
Emotion that pure and strong, with no twisted warping, left me restless and uncertain.
It was the same discomfort I felt years later watching Gabe and Marcella, or Aubrey and Ian.
Love that huge, that beautiful, made me feel small, insignificant. Ugly.
I’d once had that before Dad died, back when things were very different. But as those memories faded, a new truth emerged, a realization tied to the hours of relentless training and the inevitability of the countless more moves to come.
I may never have that again.
That second in the air, the second I grabbed on to with such fierce desperation, wasn’t really anything at all. A silly, unimportant diversion.
The stranger had been right. I was just playing.
So I walked home, dragging my feet across the dusty Texan road, my blood tied to the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean, my life fixed to the finite expanse of the land.
And all the while, deep within the hidden crevice of my heart, I continued yearning for that strip of sky between clouds and sea.