Dragon's Shadow

Dragon's Shadow

by Allison Morse

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Overview

Royal twins ripped apart at birth become reluctant champions of good and evil. Kylie, a teenage science geek, has no faith in people. Instead, she relies on what she trusts the most, the facts—what she can see, touch, and hear but never feel. With enough pain to deal with in her own world, she is thrust into another—a kingdom at war whose strange inhabitants fear one thing the most—the return of the dragon. All of this is illogical to Kylie, but even more so, when she discovers she belongs there. Her brother, Prince Jarlon, journeys to kill the dragon who has laid waste to his kingdom. His only hope for destroying the beast is help from his sister, whom he has never met. Will their paths cross before the beast’s malevolence infects Kylie and turns her into his creature or will Jarlon have to destroy her, too?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781509222384
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: 09/24/2018
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

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CHAPTER 1

Anger is just an emotion, or so Kylie had been told. But that description was too vague, too fleeting. Her anger had substance. Physical form. Explosive, and all consuming. On her best days, it diminished to a tiny ember, but it never died. The slightest gust roused it, encouraged it to crackle and burn, goading it to grow.

No wonder her stepdad had locked her up.

But no more. With only one class left, she'd almost made it through another week of "normal" school without incident. And, despite the school smelling like fish guts and gasoline from the shipping docks nearby and putrid body odors from, well ... just about everyone, Adams High School sure beat Sunnyland Residential Placement Center.

She trudged down the high school's hallway while nearby pandemonium reigned, with jostling, laughter, sweatshirts tossed, and pictures on smart phones giggled at — hilarity and camaraderie everywhere except for a small perimeter around her.

She heard a hiccup laugh from a few lockers down and stopped in her tracks. She stared at Julie. They used to be friends, before Kylie's mom died, before ...

Julie and her friends turned away.

Maybe she thought insanity was catching or something.

Kylie clenched and unclenched her hands at the slight. Inside, a familiar heat unfurled and began to grow.

Oh, no.

She darted out of the flow of traffic and ducked behind a row of lockers. Slowly, she counted to five while taking in deep breaths, the way her therapist had taught her. When the pinpricks of energy dissipated, she took one more deep breath and headed to her locker.

If it hadn't hurt so much, it would be funny to think that all these vacuous giants that mostly made up Adams High School scurried at the sight of her because they were terrified of her — a puny, grade-skipping freak.

Doug Lugar stepped in front of her locker with a toothy grin. "See any monsters today?" he gibed.

Well, not all of them were scared.

She tried to scoot past him, but his hand rubbed down her arm. Kylie growled and swung around to face him. She relished the thought of her small fist popping his angel face with so much force he'd go flying across the hallway. Her therapist would call such thoughts "indulging in grandiose views of self," not to mention "completely immature."

Get a grip, Kylie. She shrugged off his touch. Stepping around the jerk, she opened her locker. Musty, cool air wafted out. For a moment she wished she could crawl inside and never come out.

"Hey, I'm talking to you."

She inched her head farther into the locker. Couldn't Doug just go away?

"Is she all right?" a girl's voice asked.

Another girl laughed.

"Come on." Doug moved closer and banged the locker door hard against her arm. "Tell me what the monsters look like."

Pop! Inside, she ignited like a match. Slamming the locker shut, she swung out, ready to roar, to fight — not only Doug, but everyone who stood by, laughing.

Nearby, kids, all with expressions of morbid curiosity, stopped talking and looked up from their phones as if waiting to see her, the ticking time bomb, explode.

No. She was better than this.

Please let me be better than this.

Smashing the feeling down, she pasted on a bland smile. "Look — a monster." She jabbed her finger into Doug's chest. "Right there."

The crowd snickered as Doug's pasty white face turned red.

"Shut up!" Doug snapped at the crowd, then spun back to Kylie. He leaned into her. She tensed, waiting to feel his wet breath against her cheek and the slew of threats that tripped so smoothly off his tongue.

It didn't happen. Instead, she heard a majestic but familiar voice ring out through the hall. "'I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster. A most scurvy monster.'"

Peals of highly theatrical guffaws followed. Such resonant tones could only belong to someone in the Drama Club — a boisterous bunch.

Kylie grinned when she saw Mark's blond hair tumble into his eyes. He flapped his hands as he talked, using his movements like punctuation.

Mark. Sigh. Almost three years older and beyond cute. Sometimes he even talked to her. She liked to pretend his attention had nothing to do with the fact he worked for her stepdad after school.

He peeled off from his laughing crowd and positioned himself between Doug and Kylie.

Doug, wider but shorter than Mark, said, "Shouldn't you be wearing your pantyhose and makeup when entertaining us?"

Mark smiled, but his gaze held steady. "No need to play the fool when one is already here." His gang of thespians chuckled and moved in to support their friend.

Doug's eyes narrowed and his burly frame lurched toward Mark. Then nothing.

Mark stood his ground.

And either because of that, or Doug realized he was outnumbered, he fell back a step. He shook his head. "Why am I talking with inane and insane? I'm out of here." Before the jerk left, he narrowed in on Kylie, his voice measured and ice cold. "I'll make you pay for this."

He'd do it, too. Doug had never forgiven her. When they were kids, she'd had this spooky knack for showing up, with an adult in tow, just before he placed tacks under the wheels of a parked car or experimented on some small animal he'd caught.

She ground her teeth and watched him skulk away. He hated her. The feeling was mutual.

Her body relaxed as he disappeared from sight. Still, her hands trembled, not from fear but from releasing her muscles, which had been taut and ready to strike.

But she hadn't fought, or lost control. A victory!

"You okay?" Mark asked.

"Yeah." She nodded. For a moment she enjoyed just looking into Mark's gorgeous blue eyes and at the small scar on the left side of his chin that whenever he grinned gave his face an added swagger.

"Hey, you want me to tell —"

"No! Don't!" She grabbed his arm. "Please! I'll get in —"

"Okay, okay." He moved away from her grasp.

Shoot! She didn't mean to freak. Not at Mark.

"Doug's the monster — good one." Mark gazed at her in a proud, parental way. So totally not the look she wanted from him. He rubbed her head as if she were a pet. "That's why I like you."

He likes me!

"You're the only kid —"

"I'm not a kid!" Her jaw tightened.

"Yes, you are." His grin widened.

Unfortunately, since his older sister had once been her babysitter, they'd had this exchange more times than Kylie could count.

"But, as Shakespeare wrote, you're a kid, 'who speaks poniards, and every word stabs.'" He gave her a courtly bow. "Well done."

"Did you just call me a nerd?" Calmness was overrated! She squared her shoulders. "You do know that nerds — unlike actors — will inherit the earth."

He laughed. "I'm sure you will. And, by the way, you just proved my point — you speak poniards fluently."

"What does that even mean?!"

Lindsey, also a drama student and smelling of flowery perfume, sauntered up to Mark's side. "He's saying you have a wit that wounds. It's from my favorite play, Much Ado About Nothing." She placed her pale hand on his shoulder. Mark looked at Lindsey, in a way he most definitely did not look at her.

"We've got to go, or we'll be late," Lindsey cooed.

"Right," Mark said.

And, as if Kylie was an afterthought — which she probably was — he slipped his arm around Lindsey and returned to their group of friends.

Kylie turned back to her locker and exchanged her books for her last class.

I'm such an idiot!

He really did consider her a kid. And the competition was Lindsey. Lindsey! Who looked like one of those medieval princesses who should be off somewhere petting a unicorn — alabaster skin, long golden tresses, serene expression.

No one would ever call Kylie serene. Her eyes were so dark that they sometimes appeared as black as her tangled hair. Her best feature, her normally dewy olive complexion currently hosted a large, erupting zit smack in the middle of her chin.

The second bell rang. Late!

She avoided eye contact with her favorite teacher as she snuck into her last class of the day. Her nose tingled with the sharp smell of formaldehyde laced with a hint of mold. Mr. Sakai lectured about magnetism. She punched in a couple of words here and there on her laptop, but mostly she just listened. She could do this with science. For her other courses, she spent hours studying, but science was like a song she already knew.

When the bell rang, she raced to the teacher's desk. "Can I —"

"Yes, yes. You can stay and work on your project. Your stepfather already contacted me about the request." Mr. Sakai shook his head as he straightened several files on his desk. "How many grades does he want you to skip, anyway?"

"It's not Richard. It's me," she blurted. "Science is my sanctuary." Embarrassed, she gnawed on her pinky nail. Science was her refuge. Where problems got solved and messy feelings had no place. She peered at Mr. Sakai. "It's wonderful."

"I know what you mean." Her teacher smiled and leaned down to open his bottom desk drawer. He pulled out two books and held them out. "This should help." One was a college-level chemistry text book, and the other listed different alloys and chemical compounds as well as ways to test their purity.

"Thank you, Mr. Sakai." She hugged the books to her chest.

He walked over to the cabinets with chemicals and locked all but the one containing safe compounds. "You know the rules. No doing anything risky, and please finish up and have everything straightened before the faculty meeting ends at four-thirty. Okay?"

She nodded.

He strode out of the classroom, closing the door behind him.

Kylie pulled at the chain around her neck and brought up the amulet she'd hidden under her baggy T-shirt.

"Today I'm figuring you out," she announced to the empty room.

For the millionth time, she stared at the trinket. Black and spongy, it had the texture of partially digested licorice. The day her mother died, Kylie had clutched the object rambling about it belonging to a magical place inhabited by a monster, and a prince, and ...

Ridiculous!

Hadn't Richard, the doctor ... okay — everyone — told her that?

The object interested her intellectually, that's all. She simply wished to understand this ugly thing's composition because her mom had given it to her before she died a year ago and she'd made Kylie promise to keep it safe. Ergo, it must have some kind of value.

Grabbing acetone, bicarbonate of soda, and a bottle of distilled water from the open cabinet, she connected a long rubber tube from the small Bunsen burner to a gas outlet. She then set a wide-mouthed glass beaker on a tripod she'd placed over the Bunsen burner.

She'd already discovered that the amulet emitted a magnetic field. Intriguing since it had a rubbery texture. She slid it off the plain silver chain and plopped the object into the liquid-filled container. When that revealed no reaction, she marked her results in her notebook. After removing the amulet with tongs, she ran it under a steam cleaner then plopped it into a new glass beaker with a different liquid mixture.

During experiment number three, she glanced at the clock. Time to clean up.

She looked at the amulet resting in its chemical bath and sighed — still no reaction. What kind of weird material was this?

She felt the crawling sensation of being watched. A moment later, the door slammed shut. She jumped then leaned protectively over the beaker containing her amulet.

Doug walked to one of the shelves at the perimeter of the class. "Shame you have to go back to Sunnyland Residential."

Her hands clenched into fists and she turned to face him. "I'm never going —"

A shattering crash echoed as he swept a bunch of bottles out of the cabinet and onto the floor. Liquid and shards of glass sprayed out in all directions.

"What are you doing?"

He knocked off another row of bottles from the next cabinet shelf. "Go ahead, scream. Yell. I don't care." He shrugged. "Crazy girls do that." He strutted back to the door.

Panic, like a bird's wings banging against a cage shook her. Easy to picture how this would go down. He'd leave, and everyone would think that she'd trashed the lab. They'd send her back to Sunnyland and lock her up again.

"No!" She tore after Doug like a linebacker and threw herself at his girth. He stumbled — but only for a moment. He swung around and caught her wrists. He lifted her off the floor before banging her against the wall. He tossed her against her lab station, knocking her and her experiment to the ground.

Kneeling in the rubble, she tried to scoop the liquid around her amulet as if that might save her experiment. "Ruined," she choked. "You ruined it." Her right knuckles bled, cut by the shards of glass all around her. Heat simmered inside her. "I'll tell everyone you did this, not me."

"Go ahead." Doug shrugged. "One thing I like about crazy girls — no one believes what they say. Have fun back in Sunnyland." He grinned and turned toward the door.

Kylie's lip curled in a silent snarl.

"Never!" She swung her arm behind her. Her hand, smeared with her own blood, found the amulet. The trinket burned like fire. But instead of dropping it, she held it tighter, letting it infuse her. All her senses pricked with rage and power.

Doug still hadn't left the room.

She sprang to her feet and barreled at him. Her vision blurred. She no longer saw the lab or Doug but had conjured the image of a monster's long scaly snout and then the beast's eyes opened, while its fanged muzzle unhinged. With a volcanic explosion, fire blasted from the creature's throat. At the same moment, Kylie's arms jutted out, and her fists slammed into Doug's chest.

His shriek restored her vision to normal. She blinked. The door to the classroom had blown off its hinges, and her nemesis had been propelled into the hallway lockers.

He lay motionless, his eyes closed.

Oh, no. Is he dead?

He stirred.

Thank God.

Face white, he got up. He limped away, a look of terror in his eyes.

Kylie's legs trembled. She managed a step before sliding to the ground. The room looked like it had been bombed. She told herself to stand ... to clean it up. But she was tired, much too tired. She opened her palm, barely recognizing her amulet. It had changed. The stone now glowed red-orange, the color of a fireball, with a texture as smooth as jade, except for engraved images on each side. The image facing upward looked like a maze. She turned the amulet over, and her breath caught. A creature, with snake-like coils wrapped around a horned animal's face, stared back at her. Fangs and a protruding muzzle distorted the face, yet its eyes ... distinctly those of a man. The monster, her monster — the one she had seen just now and earlier, during her first breakdown.

She continued to gaze at the amulet and in her mind's eye she saw a brighter and more wonderful world — one filled with magic. She'd been there before, in dreams, visiting it through the eyes of a boy ... a prince, whose black hair and olive skin matched her own. But his eyes, rather than dark and brooding like hers, sparkled like limes in sunlight. When together with him, in her dreams, she felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. Of course, there was nothing to those feelings. Hadn't her mother told her the whole thing was nonsense? It was dangerous to live in a fantasy world. Logic, facts ... those were the things to rely on, never feelings.

She shifted her gaze away from her amulet. The images of elsewhere diminished and, once again, only the sights and smells of the ravaged classroom surrounded her.

She sat on the cold linoleum floor for a long time. Finally, Mr. Sakai found her and took her to the nurse's office. Daylight had long since dimmed when her stepfather arrived at the school.

Backlit, Richard's prematurely gray hair shimmered like a ghostly halo as he strode into the room and sat on the cot. "Kylie. Are you all right?"

She tried to answer, but no words formed.

He turned away and spoke to the nurse. After a few minutes, Richard grabbed his cell phone. His words and the tone of his voice told Kylie that he talked to someone at Sunnyland. "I don't know what to do. She's not speaking, and she's pale. What should I do?" After a pause, he said, "Yes. I'll pack her bags. Thank you, doctor."

Richard leaned down and tried to help Kylie up from the cot, then stopped abruptly, his eyes wide as he stared at what she held in her hand. "How did you ... It's too soon."

He reached for the amulet, but inches away from it, his hand popped up as though he'd hit an invisible barrier.

She saw that, right? Here in reality, in normal Adams High School, she saw some kind of field push Richard's hands away from her keepsake.

No, that's impossible. She closed her eyes. Delusional.

In the background, a voice she didn't recognize rumbled, "I'm awake."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Dragon's Shadow"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Allison Morse.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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