Excerpt for Into the Fire (William Bernhardt's Shine Series Book 11) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





INTO THE FIRE



by Tamara Grantham


Copyright © 2015 Tamara Grantham

All rights reserved.

Published by Babylon Books

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Other Books by William Bernhardt

The Ben Kincaid Novels:

Primary Justice

Blind Justice

Deadly Justice

Perfect Justice

Cruel Justice

Naked Justice

Extreme Justice

Dark Justice

Silent Justice

Murder One

Criminal Intent

Death Row

Hate Crime

Capitol Murder

Capitol Threat

Capitol Conspiracy

Capitol Offense

Capitol Betrayal

Other novels:

Challengers of the Dust

The Game Master

Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness

Dark Eye

Strip Search

Double Jeopardy

The Midnight Before Christmas

The Code of Buddyhood

Final Round

Nonfiction:

Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction

Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life

Perfecting Plot: Charting the Hero’s Journey

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak

Sizzling Style: Every Word Matters

Excellent Editing: The Writing Process

Powerful Premise: Writing the Irresistible

The Fundamentals of Fiction Video Series

Poetry:

The White Bird

The Ocean’s Edge

For young readers:

Shine

The Black Sentry

Princess Alice and the Dreadful Dragon

Equal Justice: The Courage of Ada Sipuel

Edited by William Bernhardt

Legal Briefs: Stories by Today’s Best Thriller Writers

Natural Suspect: A Collaborative Novel of Suspense





For Alice, Beth, Kadey, and Madeline





“You laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at you because you're all the same.”

Jonathan Davis


Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Note from the Author

Acknowledgements

About the Author


Chapter 1

Someone followed me. My Shine ability allowed me to hear the heartbeats pattering in the distance. At first I thought it was a coincidence that I’d heard the same thumping beats from the first floor up, but the closer I neared my condo, the more I realized that someone stalked me.

I spun around. No one. An empty hallway. Either I’d imagined it, or someone very skilled lurked in the shadows. With my luck, it would be the stalker.

Walking through my condo building felt surreal. I’d dreamed of coming back so many times, but now that it was happening, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I hadn’t seen my sister since the Revens captured me.

Katelyn needs me, I’d told myself. She has to see me one last time.

But what if it was the other way around?

What if I needed her?

What if I had to see her one last time?

My captor turned rescuer, Memphis Stone, said I could have a few minutes with my sister before we left.

He said he needed my help finding someone. I hadn’t asked who. I also hadn’t asked where.

Deep in my heart, I knew the answer.

I pushed the thought away as I knocked on the door. Nanny Gorda opened up after the third try.

“You?” she gasped.

“Hello, Nanny.”

“I call the cops on you, chica.”

“Please don’t call the cops.”

“I already did. You know what they tell me? The city is full of runaways. They add you to the list.” She barked a laugh. “They don’t care that you’re missing.” She sounded happy about it.

“Have you spoken to my parents?”

“No for a week. Seattle still a war zone. Heaven knows why they went.” She let me inside.

The place looked dirtier than the last time I was here, and that was saying something. Empty Jarritos bottles sat atop piles of unfolded laundry. Dishes sat in the sink. I would have chided Nanny, but she took care of Katelyn, which is all she’d been hired to do in the first place.

“You have your sister worried sick, sick,” Nanny said as she led me through the kitchen.

“Is she in her bedroom?”

Nanny nodded.

I avoided piles of pizza boxes to make it to Katelyn’s room. Her door was opened a crack and I peeked inside. The lights were off, but the glow from the New York City skyline illuminated the room well enough.

“Katelyn?” I asked as I pushed the door open.

Her bed was empty, so I scanned the room. In the milky light, her china doll collection looked otherworldly, like I’d stepped into a fairy tale.

White lacy curtains billowed. I spotted Katelyn standing on her balcony.

I stepped over more piles of laundry and made it to the open doors. Katelyn didn’t turn when I walked outside.

The balcony brought back memories. Tea parties while sitting on the wrought-iron chairs, feeding the pigeons off the edge of the stone ledge—it seemed like another lifetime.

“Hi, sis,” I said as I stopped beside her.

“Hi.”

Her voice sounded cheerless. Wasn’t she happy to see me?

“How are you?” I asked.

“The same.”

I took another step closer to her. Her bald head shone in the dim light, reflecting off the city.

Something shiny sparkled on her face. Tears. Good Gandhi, I’d made my terminally ill little sister cry. What kind of monster was I?

She sniffled, and I caught her in a hug. She resisted until I hugged tighter, and then she wrapped her arms around me. She hugged me as if she never wanted to let go.

“Where were you?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.

“I thought you were dead. I thought I would never see you again.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. I’d come here to tell her I was leaving. How would I ever be able to tell her?

Katelyn pushed away from me. Though it had only been a couple of days since I’d seen her last, her eyes looked more sunken, her cheeks more sallow.

I caught Katelyn up on the past couple of days, how the Revens had captured me, how they’d taken me to a facility, how I’d tried to escape and nearly killed myself in the process. When I got to the part about Memphis, she became very still. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“Are you going with him?” she asked.

“I don’t have to. I can stay here with you.”

She bit her lip, seeming lost in thought. “But you promised him?”

“Yes.” The word stung. I never should have given him my word, but if I hadn’t, I’d still be stuck in that facility.

“Then you should go.”

A gentle silence clung to the air. Usually I felt a breeze up here, but not now. The crescent moon shone bright in the cloudless sky. The fragile calm should have comforted me. Instead, it unnerved me. This moment wouldn’t last. They never do.

“You know I love you, don’t you?” I asked.

She crossed her arms. Goosebumps prickled her flesh. “I know,” she said in her tiny voice.

“I’ll be back soon. I promise.”

She eyed me. “Don’t promise it, June.”

“No,” I said with determination. I wasn’t one to break promises, so I was cautious when I entered into one. “Listen to me, Katelyn. I know how hard your life has been. But you’re brave. You’re strong—stronger than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ll come back. I love you too much not to. You’ll wait for me, won’t you?” Translation: Please don’t die while I’m gone.

“I’ll wait for you.” Translation: Don’t get killed while you’re gone.

I noticed something on the garden table. She scooted it toward me. It was her book of fairy tales. “Read to me before you go?” she asked.

I didn’t need to know which story she wanted. I turned to Rapunzel. Daddy had read this to me. I had read this to her. We’d recently discovered that we both loved this story.

I started reading.

My sister sat in her tower and listened.


Chapter 2

I didn’t cry when I left. I held back the tears as I stepped out on the street. When I was sure Katelyn couldn’t see me from her balcony, tears welled up, but I pushed them back as best as I could.

I’ve heard it’s healthy to cry, that bottling up emotions can actually be damaging, but I hate doing it. It makes me feel weak and helpless and alone.

Skyscrapers loomed overhead, the lights like glowing baubles in my misted eyes. I blinked the tears back, inhaled a deep breath, and forced myself not to think of Katelyn.

She’d be fine. What could I do for her anyway? Vacuum the floor?

Katelyn was tougher than I’d ever been.

She’d be okay.

Memphis stood in a back alley. Leaning against the wall, his arms crossed, his dark clothing revealing his lean frame, he reminded me of a jaguar waiting for prey. Everything about him seemed dark. His clothes, his hair, and most of all his eyes. He could stop traffic with eyes like those, hooded in thick lashes, as if he had some great secret that only his eyes hinted at.

My stomach squirmed as he turned his gaze on me.

Memphis had been a Reven, a Shine bounty hunter, until he’d decided to rescue me.

The tattoos on his forearms stood out in the muted light, black lines of script against his pale skin. I’d asked him once what they meant and he’d spouted poetry at me, something about the ancient city of Alexandria being at war with the city of Memphis, Alexandria burning to the ground, and two lovers caught in the crossfire. That’s right, the nefarious criminal had love poems inked on his arms.

Memphis confused me. I still hadn’t figured him out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

I blotted my eyes with my shirt sleeve. I prayed he didn’t notice the tears.

“You’re sister’s okay?” he asked.

“Yes. She’s brave. She’ll be fine.” I was surprised he’d asked. I shouldn’t have been. I’d learned that he wasn’t like the rest of the Revens. He was smarter, for one thing. And he wasn’t motivated by money.

A choppercar whizzed high overhead, the rotors beating, echoing the soft thrumming of Memphis’s heart.

A sudden wind gusted past, tossing empty cups and paper wrappers through the alley. I crossed my arms, the chill seeping into my skin. “When are you going to tell me where we’re going?” I asked.

“Soon enough.”

I raised an eyebrow. He’d been dodgy ever since he’d rescued me. So far I hadn’t gotten any explanation of where we were going, or even who we were rescuing. If he wanted my help, he’d have to be more forthcoming. “How about telling me right now?”

“Not now.” His gaze wandered over the skyscrapers, searching out the deep shadows. The heartbeat that had followed me through my apartment building persisted. Someone followed me. Memphis must have sensed it.

I knew the other Revens were out there. They couldn’t be happy that Memphis had stolen their capture. They’d be after us. They’d want revenge.

A shadow leapt over us. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck prickled.

“Follow me,” Memphis whispered. On silent feet he crept down the alley. He gripped a blade. Funny, I hadn’t even seen him pull it out.

My hands felt naked without my knife. I balled my fists, my only weapon. Sweat beaded on my forehead. In the hazy darkness, my heart clattered in my chest as I followed Memphis through the maze.

He glided through the alleys like a panther. He rounded a corner. I followed, but lost sight of him, the empty alleyway staring back at me.

I stopped and listened for his heartbeats. His were easy to detect. Memphis had a slight heart murmur, like a whisper of a heartbeat that followed his own.

Up ahead, I heard the sound and raced toward him.

The heartbeat grew louder. Surely I was getting closer.

But the pounding heart following me interfered. As I neared Memphis, it neared me.

I spun around.

White puffs of air left my mouth. The alley stretched empty in either direction.

No one ahead of me.

Non one behind me.

Without my Shine ability, I would’ve thought I was alone. I knew better.

I tightened my fists. “Who’s there?” I shouted.

The wind whistled through the buildings with a shrill scream.

“Memphis?” I called.

Silence answered. I stood in the middle of flicking New York City and it was as quiet as a morgue.

I listened.

Heartbeats up ahead. Definitely Memphis’s.

I crept through the labyrinth until I found him standing at the edge of a building. He stared with wide eyes at something up ahead.

I stopped behind him and he held his hand up as if to quiet me.

“Do you hear that?” he asked after a pause.

“What?” I whispered.

He shook his head. “I feel like someone’s following us.”

“Revens?” I suggested.

“Yeah, probably.” He didn’t sound convinced.

A shadow dropped from the building. It landed with a quiet thud, and then an arm wrapped Memphis’s neck.

Bad move.

I’d fought Memphis once before. I never planned on doing it again.

Memphis threw the intruder to the ground. The person wore a black ski mask and he pulled it off to reveal a head full of thick, kinky curls.

“Naomi?” I gasped.

My best friend, and fellow Reven-hunter, stared at me with narrowed, suspicious eyes.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

She struggled, but Memphis pinned her arms to the ground. “Tell your Reven bloke to back off, will you?” She spoke with a thick British accent. Her familiar voice would’ve brought comfort if it weren’t for the hostile look she flashed me.

“Memphis, let her go,” I said.

“No way,” he answered. “I told her to stay away from me.”

“Our agreement is off,” Naomi said. “I promised to stay away as long as you didn’t hurt June.”

“I haven’t hurt her,” Memphis answered.

Naomi stared at me. “Has he?”

“He hasn’t touched me,” I answered. “Why are you following us?”

She looked from me to Memphis. “You’re with him. I figured you wouldn’t be unless he’d done something bloody awful to make you.”

“So you’re rescuing her?” Memphis asked.

“Yes,” Naomi said with sarcasm. “I’m rescuing her.”

He scowled. “She doesn’t need your help.”

“Memphis, get off her,” I repeated.

“No way. She tried to kill me.”

“I tried to take you down,” Naomi clarified.

“Same thing.”

Naomi thrust her knee up, but Memphis caught it, flipped her over, and pressed his elbow to the base of her neck. “Wanna try that again, princess?” Memphis said.

“Bloody bastard,” she shot back with her cheek pressed to the ground.

“No one takes me down,” Memphis said. “Got it?”

Naomi grunted something.

“Got it?” he repeated.

“Memphis, leave her alone,” I said.

“Not until she promises.”

“Leave. Her. Alone.” I enunciated each word with steel in my voice. “Or I swear I’ll never help you. I’ll run. I’ll call every Reven hunter from here to Alaska. I’ll fight you until I flicking die. Got it?”

He looked at me as if I’d lost it, and then he stood up.

Naomi dusted off her leather pants as she stood. Her pride looked wounded, but nothing else. She snatched a knife off the ground.

“Do you two want to explain what’s going on?” she asked.

“I’m helping him,” I said.

She raised an eyebrow. “Come again?”

“It’s a long story. He rescued me from certain death so I agreed to help him find someone.”

“Who?”

I eyed Memphis. “Don’t know yet.”

“Where are you going?”

“Don’t know that, either.”

“So let me get this straight.” She stuck the knife in her belt. “You’re following this bloke to bloody who-knows-where to find bloody-who-knows-who, and you’re going with him, alone?”

“Yeah, that’s basically it.”

“You’ve lost it.”

“Maybe.”

“I’m coming.”

“No you aren’t,” Memphis said.

“Listen, Reven,” she said the name with disgust. “Just because June is too naive to see what you are doesn’t mean her friends are. I’m coming. End of discussion.”

“You are not.”

“Stop it,” I blurted. “Both of you. Listen, Memphis. Naomi is a good fighter. Her dad’s ex-British Special Forces. She’s an army brat. He taught her everything. She knows more about survival and self-defense than you and all your Reven buddies put together.”

“I doubt it.”

“The point is—she’s an asset. Wherever we’re going, whoever we’re rescuing, it’ll be easier with Naomi.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Even if it were Mordock?”

I knew it. I knew it! The only place in the world I didn’t want to go, and that’s where we were going.

“Mordock?” Naomi said with distaste.

“His friend is Shine,” I clarified. “At least I think so.”

Memphis pressed his palms to his eyes. “Good Gandhi, why can’t things be simple for once?”

“So she can come?” I asked him.

“I didn’t say that.”

“But you didn’t say no.”

He exhaled a frustrated sigh and turned to Naomi. “Will someone come looking for you if you’re gone?”

She crossed her arms. “Not for a few weeks. The parents are on holiday.”

“You’re sure? No one else is nosing around?”

“No one. I’m positive.”

He scrutinized Naomi, and then turned to me. “Fine, she can come. But that’s it. No more friends, all right? This isn’t a flicking slumber party.”


Chapter 3

Buses are the worst way to travel.

The smell is overwhelming. Dozens of bodies all producing human sewage is enough to drive anyone insane. I sat with my shirt over my nose, but the smell permeated my clothes.

No one else seemed bothered. Maybe they’d gotten used to the stench.

I could’ve kissed the pavement when we unloaded in Indianapolis.

Memphis refused to buy plane tickets. Something about being too easy to track.

Whatever. At this point I was just glad to be off the bus.

Until I got a look at the hotel.

“You really haven’t been out much,” Memphis said as he unloaded Naomi’s and my suitcases onto the pea green bedspread.

“I’ve been out plenty, just never to a dive like this.”

A half-grin tugged at his mouth. Did he enjoy seeing my misery?

“I just don’t understand why we’re staying here.”

“Because it’s the last place the Revens will check. Need any more explanation?”

“You really think they’re after us?”

He looked me straight in the eye. “I know they are.”

Naomi walked out of the bathroom. “The loo checks out. The room seems secure enough.”

“You really think Revens will attack from the bathroom?” I asked.

“Yes,” Naomi and Memphis answered at the same time. They eyed one another.

“I’ll be in the room next door,” Memphis said. “We leave first thing in the morning. Don’t try anything stupid like trying to call someone. The Revens will be on us faster than you can blink.”

He turned to leave.

“Memphis,” I said, halting him. “When will you tell us who we’re rescuing?”

He stood with his back to me. “I’ll tell you when you need to know.”

“I need to know now.”

“The less you know, the safer you’ll be.”

“She’s safe enough,” Naomi answered. “We’d like proper answers, if you don’t mind.”

“You’ve got to tell us sooner or later. Or else I might lose interest in helping you.”

“Two Reven hunters against one Reven—seems the odds are against you,” Naomi added.

He turned. “Is that a threat?”

“If you want it to be.”

He flexed his fingers. His veins bulged beneath his skin. I felt his blood burn hot as he locked his gaze on Naomi.

“I’ve told you everything you need to know,” he said.

“You’ve told us nothing,” Naomi answered.

The tension between these two was thick enough to cut. Naomi’s tactics were getting us nowhere. A few more minutes and they’d be pulling out their knives. I’d spent enough time with Memphis to know that he didn’t respond to threats. Time to try asking nicely.

“Memphis, may I speak with you outside?”

Naomi eyed me.

“I’ll be fine,” I told her. “I need some fresh air.”

She crossed her arms. I took that as an affirmative answer.

I left the room with Memphis. Miraculously, Naomi didn’t stop me.

The motel sat on the edge of town surrounded partially by a thick forest. The setting sun cast the trees’ shadows over the parking lot. We entered the forest. The carpeting of leaves muffled our footsteps. I scanned the area, looking for possible threats. Memphis did the same, his dark eyes focused on every sound, every movement.

I inhaled the scents of the forest. Dead leaves mingled with the scent of new growth. A gentle breeze tugged at the strands of my brunette hair.

We reached the edge of the thicket.

“Memphis,” I said as we reached a chain-link fence, “I know you have your secrets, and I respect that. But how can you expect me to follow you, to fight for you, to help you, if you tell me nothing?”

He rested his elbows on the metal railing. The steady rhythm of his heart filled my ears, calming me. “Because if I tell you, I’m afraid you won’t come.”

That surprised me. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

He nodded. The sun sank deeper, and I watched his form blur with the shadows, as if he were part of them. The murmur in his heart increased, that steady whisper that I found so odd, and somehow, alluring. I’d never heard a murmur like that, almost as if it spoke to me.

I turned away from him and stared at the forest instead.

“We’re not going to Mordock,” he finally said, his voice a whisper.

“Where are we going?”

He tapped his fingers, as if debating whether to tell me or not. “How much do you know about the Revens?”

“Not much. They’re bounty hunters who capture Shines.”

“There’s more to it. The term Reven comes from the French word revenant. It means ghost.”

The gentle wind tossed the leaves, making the eerie stillness feel more penetrating. “Ghost?”

“There’s a legend about a ghost looking for blood so he can become mortal again. It’s said that he’ll find the blood he needs in a young girl with extraordinary abilities. They call him le Tueur Revenant. It means the ghost killer. His followers are known as the Revens.”

I eyed him.

“Most Revens don’t know any of this. They join up for the money and don’t care about the history of where we come from. I didn’t know at first either.”

“How did you find out?”

“I did some research a few years ago. I learned that the Revens appeared before Shines did. It didn’t make sense, so I dug deeper. In the past, Revens were called the Revenants. They tested anyone with unusual abilities. Psychic powers, witnesses to paranormal events, that sort of thing. Of course, they never found anything. When Shines appeared, they focused their attention on them instead. They hired bounty hunters to find the girls for them.

“The Revenants test the blood of Shines, trying to find the right person, the right blood, I suppose. Their facilities operate separately from the government rehabs. They run a few facilities in the US. One is in Arizona. There’s another one off the coast of Prince Edward Island.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Green Wood.”

“Yes.”

“They took my blood while I was there.”

Memphis nodded.

“Is that why they’re still after me? Not for money, but for my blood?”

He leaned forward. “Exactly.”

My stomach sank. The wind picked up, howling with a shrill wail. “You still haven’t told me where we’re going.”

He turned to me, eyes livid in the failing light. “Two years ago, the Revens took someone. I joined the Revens so I could find her. I got some intel about a month ago that she was being kept in a facility in Arizona. The blueprints, and its location, are top secret. Governor Fernandez keeps them in the mansion somewhere. There’s a ball on Friday night.”

“Is that why you need me?”

“You’re a senator’s daughter. I need a way in.”

I mulled over the situation. “You still haven’t told me who we’re rescuing.”

He swallowed. “June, it’s my sister.”

I listened to his heart to see if he was telling the truth. It beat with a steady rhythm. Maybe I could trust him, but he hadn’t explained everything. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Because she’s a very powerful Shine. The Revens aren’t the only ones after her. You know how dangerous it is to reveal your powers. I’m only telling you now because I’m fairly certain we aren’t being overheard.”

I pondered his words. Some things still didn’t add up. “Let me get this straight—a ghost-man needs a Shine’s blood so he can become human. Your sister was captured by his followers. And you need me to help you find the map to the facility she’s in. It’s a little hard to swallow.”


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