Read an Excerpt
The Moonlight Trilogy
By Teri Harman
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2013 Teri Harman
All rights reserved.
Present Day, June
On a dull Tuesday night, two weeks after her high school graduation, Willa Fairfield stood at the soda machine filling a glass with Dr. Pepper, absently wondering what movie to watch after her waitressing shift, when she felt him walk in.
Warm electricity washed through her body, stealing away her breath. With a short gasp, she set the half-full glass of soda on the counter, almost spilling it. The intensity started in the space behind her heart, radiating outward to fill her whole body in the blink of an eye. She gripped the sides of her head, teetering on her feet, her head spinning, deliciously dizzy. She fought to pull in a full dredge of air as the heat heightened, growing, pulsing.
Willa swept her eyes around the small dining room of the Twelve Acres Diner, expecting to see patrons bending over and gasping, but everyone sat serenely eating, gossiping and carrying on as usual.
She spun around, looking for the source of the unexpected sensation. Everything was the same. Yet her body was absorbing warmth from somewhere, sucking it in like sand soaking up sunshine. The heat throbbed, warming her chest, belly, and pelvis. She pushed a hand to her gut and pulled in a shallow breath. Am I sick?
The fever curled inside her, blooming with a zing of energy, leaving her weak and exhilarated at the same time.
Do I collapse to the floor or run around the block?
Willa limped toward the swinging kitchen doors, thinking about the comfy chairs in the break area near the back of the restaurant. She wondered if she could make it without anyone noticing her wobbly legs and flushed skin.
Pulling in half a breath in an attempt to steady herself, she pushed through the doors.
There he stood.
A fresh burst of heat hit her full in the face as she stumbled back, bumping into the swinging door. He stood next to the time clock, fumbling with his apron, shaking his head, blinking in confusion. Instantly their eyes met and the warmth inside her boiled, bubbles bouncing in her veins, her head spinning even worse than before. The activity and noise of the kitchen were sucked away, leaving her in a void of heat.
He was the only thing Willa could see.
He managed to stumble forward, closing the distance between them. Willa couldn't remember how to draw breath. He pulled all the air away, pushing into the spaces inside her.
The details of his person came into sharp focus. His broad, powerful body towered over her and she gazed up at his face. He stared down at her with a stunning set of chocolate brown eyes, so rich, most people would think they were black — but Willa could see the brown; she was swimming in it. His hair spiraled off his head in short, delicious curls of butter blond, the color of the setting sun. His upper lip glistened with a thin sheen of sweat. Finally, a long, thin nose and squarely set jawbone completed the picture, each piece handsome and right.
"Hi," he said. The weak excuse for a word tripped out of his mouth and Willa gasped at the rich, silky deepness of his voice.
Willa still couldn't find her voice — it was somewhere back by the soda machine. She stared, eyes fixed, body burning, mind confused. What is this? She quickly searched her mind. Did I see this in a dream? It feels like something I would dream. But nothing came; it was all new.
He took another step forward and searched her face as she searched his. Deep inside her, she knew they belonged to each other. She knew it the same way she knew her dreams — and the ghosts — were a part of her she could never escape.
Is this real? Is it possible?
Then, as though someone had thrown a switch, the rest of the world came rushing back, snapping into place around them. Suddenly, there was a high-pitched flapping sound next to Willa's head. It took her a moment to realize it was talking — Rosa, the hostess, a round, top-heavy woman who tended to talk more than people wanted to listen.
"Oh, good! You guys have met. Willa, this is our new cook, Simon. He's a student at the University. Pre-med. Prestigious, huh?" Rosa put a pudgy, frigid hand — everything felt cold compared to the heat — on Willa's shoulder. "Simon, this is Willa, one of our cute, little waitresses. She'll start at the University in the fall, history major."
Willa didn't say anything and neither did the new cook. It was impossible to look away from him. The entire kitchen staff had stopped working to watch the odd interaction with growing curiosity. A few of the cooks snickered and whispered.
Rosa's eyes bounced back and forth between Willa and Simon. She lifted a hand and snapped her fingers in front of Willa's face. Both she and Simon flinched, and the line of cooks erupted with laughter. "You kids all right?"
Willa blinked furiously and shook her head. "I, uhhh, I ... don't know. I don't feel good." She looked briefly over at Rosa, but couldn't stand to look away from Simon for long. His eyes poured into hers, and his body leaned toward her only a few inches away. She could tell he was trying to think of something to say, but what words could he use?
Rosa pushed her clammy hand to Willa's forehead. "Whoa! You are burning up. Go home right now. It's a slow night anyway." The hostess put her arm around Willa's shoulders and started to pull her away. Willa resisted, lifted her hand toward Simon, her fingertips brushing his shirt before Rosa tugged her away. Moving away from him hurt — actual stabs of pain in her chest. She groaned.
"Come on. No puking in the kitchen. Let's go, Willa. It's okay. We'll cover for you."
Simon took one lurching step toward her, and Willa almost shoved Rosa away to fall into his arms, but reality pushed back into her head. She finally noticed the gawking stares of all her co-workers. Service had completely halted as everyone watched the cook and the waitress 'have a moment.' Willa didn't want weirdness attached to her; she had spent her whole life pushing it away.
He's a total stranger! What am I doing?
She looked at Simon once more before giving into Rosa's coaxing, accepting the bolts of pain in her chest as she turned away.
As Willa rounded the corner out of sight, the space behind her heart tugged, the confusing connection to Simon straining, fighting to hang on. Guffaws and taunts echoed from the kitchen as Simon took the brunt of the audience's reaction. Willa wondered what he was feeling. Did his chest ache like his heart was ripping in half?
She rolled the name around in her head, a rough stone in a tumbler. She attached his image and all that she had felt — was feeling — and let it roll and roll, feeling it change. Simon. The stone stopped tumbling, now smooth and shiny. A gem. A treasure. She dropped it from her mind and held it against her heart. It fit there, but she didn't know why or how.
The fever gradually pulled away from her body, like a wave pulling back from the shore, reluctant, but unstoppable. As certain as the shore misses the warmth of the sea, Willa fiercely missed Simon's warmth. Huddled under two heavy quilts, she shivered and shook, an odd, aching withdrawal pulsing in her core.
The newness of his name, of his image, rolled through her mind, lingering there since the moment she left the diner. His eyes like fine chocolate truffles, danced in her memory. The sound of his deep, resonant voice floated inside her like a drug. He had spoken only a single word — Hi — but the tone and feel of that word echoed inside her.
It had been an hour since Rosa had pushed her out the back door and she'd stumbled outside, sat on the curb and texted her mom to come pick her up. While she waited, head in hands, she fought the prickling urge to turn back, to run back inside to Simon. Her mom had arrived seconds before her will power gave out.
"Are you okay? You're so flushed!" her mom had declared when Willa dropped into the passenger seat. Sarah Fairfield's baby blue eyes were pinched in concern, her round face tense as she looked at her daughter. In a hurry to get to Willa, she'd come in her pajamas — black, cut-off sweat shorts and a raggedy Twelve Acres Museum T-shirt. Her chestnut hair, a shade darker than Willa's, was mostly up in a haphazard ponytail.
Willa rolled her head to meet her mom's worried stare, almost smiling at her mom's appearance and how she still managed to look pretty. "I'll be fine," was all Willa could manage, the ache in her chest now gripping her throat as well.
Her mom watched her closely all the way home and had personally tucked her into bed, something she hadn't done since Willa was six. After taking her temperature — a boiling one hundred and three degrees — and shoving four ibuprofens into her hand with a cup of ice water, her mom had finally retreated and left Willa in peace.
Willa replayed the meeting with Simon over and over. The electricity of it still bounced around inside her, unsettling, but she didn't want to let it go. She refused to listen to the part of her brain that demanded an explanation. Right now, she didn't care how or why she felt this way; she only wanted to hold on to it, keep it alive.
Willa didn't remember falling asleep, but she found herself standing in a field of tall grass, a dream taking shape. The field was bleached of all color, a palate of brilliant white that hurt her eyes. She squinted and raised a hand. On the horizon she saw a figure moving toward her. The same heat she'd felt in the diner flared, bringing with it the delicious dizziness.
Soon, Simon stood in front of her, dressed as he'd been at the diner — khaki shorts and a white V-neck t-shirt. His blond curls glowed in the harsh light, his dark eyes locked on hers. She smiled and tilted her head to look up at him; he was almost a foot taller than she. He reached out a hand but didn't touch her. She wanted desperately for him to touch her; although he stood directly in front of her, it was impossible to reach him.
Movement behind him caught her eye. A swirling cloud of coal black smoke tumbled across the field toward them. Simon spun around and placed himself protectively in front of her. The cloud moved like a great beast, rising and dipping as it surged forward, menacing, dangerous. Willa's heart began to pound against her ribs, her hands grew cold. Fear surged up her throat, acrid on the back of her tongue.
She should've run, but her legs ignored the command to move. Instinctively, Willa reached out and gripped Simon's solid, muscular arm, finally able to touch him. As soon as their skin came in contact, a jolt of electricity moved through her, rocking her head back. Simon gasped, feeling the same thing.
The power of their physical connection pulsed out of them in an arc of electricity, white-blue and crackling, curving through the air and connecting with the black cloud. With a deafening roar, the cloud exploded into nothingness, leaving behind no evidence it had been there.
In the alarming quiet that followed, Willa looked up into Simon's smiling face. He reached out a hand and touched her cheek — a soft, gentle brush of his fingertips — sending waves of warmth down her body.
Willa woke in a mess of sweaty confusion. Disoriented, she pushed off the heavy blankets. Her hair, face and body were damp with sweat, brought on by a sparking heat deep inside her, just like before, undulating and thrilling. Is this from the dream?
She pushed her damp hair back from her face and let her eyes travel over the scape of her dark room, finally settling on the window. An odd tickle of instinct burst to life in her stomach. She leaped out of bed and tossed back the curtain, her knees nearly buckling at the sight of Simon standing in a pool of light under a streetlamp. His face was lifted up to her window and his eyes met hers.
Without a second of hesitation, Willa bolted from the room, down the stairs and out into the warm summer night. Only then, on the front porch, did she pause. A breeze tickled her face and raised goose bumps on her slick, wet skin. She wore only a thin, short nightshirt, any pretense of modesty forgotten.
All she could think about was Simon standing only a few feet away.
Simon Howard tensed when he saw her at the window and then, just as suddenly, disappeared. What if he'd scared her? Was she calling the police? But a moment later the front door opened and she stepped out onto the front porch.
He didn't miss one inch of her. His gaze started at her toes, nails painted neon pink, and traveled up the line of her shapely, golden legs. Her nightshirt fell high on her thighs and clung to her body like a second skin. Mussed and untamed dark brown hair hung around her shoulders and face. She gazed back at him intensely, stirring up a thousand emotions until they roiled inside him like a hurricane. In the pearly light, a sheen of sweat glistened on her face and slender neck. Being near her, seeing her again made his whole body quiver. He fidgeted, fire bubbling under his skin, the same as before.
His shift at the diner had dragged on as if time itself had been buried alive. Every second after the chubby hostess had shoved Willa out the door had caused him pain. He did his job, working quickly, but his mind and spirit were caught up in that first meeting, in the memory of her gorgeous face and vibrant blue eyes. The second the clock ticked over to ten, signifying the end of his shift, he had bolted.
He had to find her before he went crazy. He had driven his black Jeep Wrangler through the sleepy streets of Twelve Acres, passing only a few other cars. The pulsing energy inside his chest guided him, pushing him on. For perhaps the first time in his life, Simon had forgotten about logic. He didn't wonder, didn't even care, if what he was doing was right. He only knew he had to find her. Tonight, he didn't care about consequences.
The heat and electricity inside him had crackled and bounced the moment her house came into view. He stared at the two-story Tudor-style home with its ivy-covered walls, inviting flowerbeds and big paned windows. Somehow, he sensed her sleeping, almost saw her cocooned in quilts on her bed. He'd parked the Jeep and stood under the streetlight for only a moment before she appeared.
Now she stood only a few feet away.
He took a few hesitating steps forward, and Willa did the same until they met face to face on the front lawn, under the canopy of a giant ash tree. For a moment, only breath passed between them, their eyes searching each other's faces. Finally, Willa broke the silence.
"I'm glad you found me." Her voice was like music carried on a fragrant breeze. Simon's face spread into a wide grin and he laughed softly.
He reached out and slid his fingers down her arm, her skin like cream, and then took her slender hand in his. The fever between them surged and the simple touch sent waves of longing through him, including a strange familiarity — the feeling that somehow they were not actually meeting for the first time, but coming back together after a long absence. A reunion.
Willa watched his thumb stroke the back of her hand. Then, lifting her eyes, she searched his face and took a step closer to him.
"I don't understand what's happening," she whispered.
Simon shook his head, lifted his other hand and brushed a few stray hairs away from her face. There were streaks of gold in her dark waves. "Neither do I, but this is the best strange thing that has ever happened to me."
She smiled. "Me, too." She took one step closer and rested her forehead on his chest. He put his arms around her, holding her. Never before had he felt so content, so at home. Never before had he felt so connected to another person; his strange abilities demanded a careful distance. But the threads that pulled him toward her, now busy tying knots, felt timeless, ageless, eternal. As if they had, and always would, exist, and most certainly could not be ignored.
Excerpted from Blood Moon by Teri Harman. Copyright © 2013 Teri Harman. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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