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Enlightenment: Book One of the Bathala Series

Enlightenment: Book One of the Bathala Series

by Reno Ursal

Paperback

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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on March 14, 2019

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780984440818
Publisher: Imojin Group LLC
Publication date: 03/14/2019
Series: Bathala Series , #1
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

DOROTHY

Stella and I were at Tao Nightclub dancing to a dope EDM set by DJ Asia. Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man emerged onto the dance floor. He wasn't interested in the scantily-clad go-go dancers on raised platforms, shaking their butts around us. Instead, he ogled DJ Asia as she cupped headphones against her ears, her long hair and curvy silhouette hovering behind a laptop in the elevated DJ booth. When his view was blocked by a crowd of party-goers, he looked in our direction. He approached us, his musty scent forcing me to hold my breath. I turned away.

"Hey there," he said in a raspy voice.

Stella nudged me, a signal it was my turn to take the lead. She'd done the honors last night at Club Lavo in the Palazzo Casino.

I reluctantly turned back. "Hello," I replied, hating that my voice sounded more polite than intended.

"So you two alone?"

"Our boyfriends went to get us drinks."

The man shifted closer. "Your boyfriends are idiots for leaving you two by yourselves."

Stella gave me a get-rid-of-him look before disappearing into the crowd by the bar. I tried to think of any reason to get out of the conversation. "They'll be back, but thanks."

The man reached for my arm. "I guess it's you and me. Your friend left."

He somehow wrapped his arm around my waist and twisted me into him.

"What do you think you're doing?" I said in a rising voice.

"Come on now," he breathed in my ear. "Let's make this a night you'll never forget."

"Frickin' let go of me! You're like fifty years old. I could be your daughter!"

The man reached for my arms. "You can't believe I'm old enough to be your daddy, can you?"

A crescendo of sharp energy rose through me once I heard the word daddy. Perhaps being abandoned by my father at a young age had actually affected me, or maybe it was because of this guy's creepy demeanor. Whatever it was made me twist his hand and pin his neck against the wall with my forearm.

"I'm only eighteen!" I yelled. The look of shock on his face gave me a moment of satisfaction as I fought off a sudden urge to lick and bite his neck. Why did I want anything to do with his neck?

"Feisty," the man replied hoarsely, my arm still pressed against his Adam's apple. The color drained from his face, and I almost smiled at that, but the scent of his skin overcame me.

"Who are you!" I growled. And why did my throat feel like it was starting to burn?

The man strained for a breath. "I've never seen you before in my life!"

"Why did you walk up to me?"

"You were staring at me! And it's hard not to notice girls who look like twins!"

It was a bullshit response, even if Stella and I did look like twins, at least on this night. We had decided to wear matching black halter tops and skirts, while I added three inches thanks to my only pair of wedges. Stella soared like a model and her skin had a golden radiance; I was never in her league, but tagged along when she begged me to go out on the strip. And because I had given in, I had to confront this creepy guy who had noticed us in the Tao Nightclub's strobe lights.

"You shouldn't even be looking at girls our age!" I yelled.

My hold on his neck loosened when my stomach inexplicably convulsed in a split second of pain. I cursed the impeccable timing of female cramps as the man staggered away. A blue vein spiraled from his neck into his shoulder blade. I leaned closer to touch his skin until two powerful arms grabbed the guy's collar.

Harvey, a bouncer at the club, looked at me with a shocked expression. I backpedaled, suddenly aware an altercation had started because of me. Smoke seemed to rise from Harvey's face and over his bald head. There was absolutely no way the guy had a chance now. I took a deep breath, the burn in my throat quickly extinguished. What. The. Heck.

"What's going on here?" Harvey yelled in the man's face.

The man pointed in my direction. "She attacked me!"

Harvey tugged the man's collar and pulled him towards an exit sign. "You got to be kidding! She's barely over a hundred pounds!"

The stranger tried to push him, but his arms caught air against Harvey's six-foot frame. Once they disappeared down a dark corridor, chills ran through me.

Stella emerged and held my hands. "What was that about?"

Exactly. Why did I growl and jump on the guy? I leaned towards Stella's ear. "I'm not sure what just happened!"

Stella held my shoulders. "Oh my God! I ran to get Harvey when he reached for your arm. But that's before you pinned him against the wall!"

"I had to defend myself!"

"Shit! Maybe it's time for me to join Tae Kwon Do so I can be like my girl Dorothy Dizon! You kicked his sorry ass!"

I could still smell the trail of the man's scent. "I feel ... gross!" I absolutely wanted to take a shower to make the ickiness go away.

"Don't let that loser ruin our night! Come on!" Stella pulled me to the dance floor where she attempted an exaggerated running man in her flats, which somehow made me laugh. I tried not to get into the cheesiness of classic dance moves, but Stella's enthusiasm broke me down. Harvey emerged and motioned us to the bar in the middle of my halfhearted Roger Rabbit. He asked if I was okay. My insides squirmed at the reminder of the man's arm around my waist, but I assured him I wasn't hurt. Then a fight broke out.

Harvey sprinted up the stairs to the second level. He pushed a drunk and pointed at another guy to stay at the end of the bar. There were verbal threats between two guys with high-pitched yells from their girlfriends, making the scene even more dramatic. By the time Harvey and his crew had handled the situation, Stella and I had agreed to call it a night.

After a pit stop in the ladies' room, we waved bye to DJ Asia in the booth and accepted Harvey's offer to escort us to my car in case the creepy guy was loitering in the casino. Once we found my Mercedes in the self-parking garage, we thanked him for kicking the guy out. He said it was nothing and watched us drive off before he went back in the Palazzo.

After hitting all the greens on the strip, I accelerated into traffic and started to feel normal, especially when our favorite Cardi B. song played on the radio. But after dropping Stella off and promising to text her from home, my hands quivered on the steering wheel as I swallowed a strange craving at the back of my throat. I focused on keeping my trembling hands from driving me off the road as the image of the guy's creepy smile made me nauseous.

Who the fuck did he think he was?

I pressed my forehead against the steering wheel and took long breaths after pulling in the driveway, trying to settle the queasy reaction inside me. I texted Stella that I was home and quickly walked in the house.

I checked on my mom upstairs. She was snoring. Loudly. Which meant she would be knocked out until late morning. I closed her door quietly and threw my smoky halter top and skirt in the hamper. I took a long-ass shower, making sure my entire body was slathered with body soap. After toweling off and brushing my teeth, I changed into my favorite Golden State Warriors jersey and shorts and plopped on my bed, cringing at my urge to lick the sleazy man's neck. No girl should ever want to lick that man's neck! After a half-hour of tossing and turning, I fell asleep listening to Coldplay's Viva La Vida on repeat in my ear buds, hoping I wasn't losing my mind.

CHAPTER 2

ADRIAN

The Philippine Airlines Boeing 737 sat on the runway as I patiently waited for takeoff. I wanted to scream at how this had all gone down. I had been training comfortably in Mandalagan when Kaptan summoned me.

"You are the one," Kaptan had said in our mother tongue, his authoritative voice knifing through the jungle. A sudden breeze had rustled the palm leaves on the ground and swayed the coconut trees around us. "You're the one to protect the girl from Sitan."

The girl in Vegas. Dorothy.

Frustration swelled in my stomach, but refusing Kaptan was not an option. He accepted the Danag principle of protecting mortals, which meant underlings like me had to adhere to the values inherited from Queen Urduja, the woman warrior who preserved Danag culture by following her rajah's orders to leave Tawalisi before the Mongols attacked. She had sailed the Luson Sea for the greater good. Queen Urduja's legendary sacrifice reminded me that I had nothing to complain about.

Kaptan's booming voice echoed in my memory. "You are the strongest. No other Timawa has defeated you in combat exercises, so this is your calling. And you know as much as I do there is only one way to get a break from missions. And you haven't branded yet."

"My love life shouldn't matter," I murmured.

Kaptan laughed. "A Danag's love life always matters! It's central to one's existence! Once you brand, you'll never want to leave Mandalagan again. But until then, you're off to Vegas. Sitan is probably a step ahead of us. And Dorothy has no idea what's coming. Indeed, this may be a most important mission."

Most important was translation for most dangerous. There was a handful of Timawa warriors capable of taking my place, but I was still the lead warrior assigned the most important missions.

Apparently, the safety of Dorothy was important. Dangerous.

Within hours, I stared at the receding landscape of the coconut trees and rice fields of the Philippines as my plane ascended over the Pacific Ocean. I leaned back and tried to relax. Sitan could attack me now and I would only have my fists to defend myself. My Timawa abilities were minimized by the increase in altitude, a phenomenon called Anitun Tabu by my people, in tribute to the wind goddess exerting her power over our earthly abilities.

I prayed to Allah for an uneventful flight and a successful mission, already missing the comforts of home.

CHAPTER 3

DOROTHY

I hoped no one noticed Stella's zombie-like demeanor, her Gucci sunglasses hiding the bags under her eyes. "Stellz! Can you make it more obvious we were out last night?"

"Don't worry. No one assumes you were partying on the strip. As for me, I don't care what people think."

We entered the quad of Valley High. "Can you keep your voice down? At least try to pretend you're not sleep-walking! Everyone knows we do everything together."

"Besides Tae Kwon Do and basketball," Stella replied. "And you never go to Mary K's with Eric and me."

"Fine. Quite a few exceptions. But we do a lot together."

"Yup. We're attached at the hip all right."

"Don't make it obvious we were out. Okay?"

Stella ran her hand through her shiny hair. "Again. Don't care what people think. And besides, it's our last month of high school! An F on a test wouldn't matter!"

Stella was right, but I didn't want her to know it. "I still need to be focused."

Stella shook her head. "You are too obsessed with your GPA!"

"Possibly. But I feel like I have to keep pushing, you know?"

"No, I don't know. I think one day, you'll snap."

Like last night. My insides shifted at squeezing the man's neck. "You know I've always been a focused student. I will not let my GPA slip because of senioritis."

"My Filipina sisters!" It was Darcy Franklin, one of my basketball teammates.

"Hey Darcy!" We hugged, which meant being temporarily suffocated by Darcy's chest. She was over six feet tall, our starting center on the varsity basketball team. She squeezed between us and wrapped her long arms around our shoulders.

"Not to freak you out, little Dor, but Billy's pretending not to care you're in his line of sight," Darcy said in a low voice.

From my peripheral vision, Billy Schaedig looked our way. He had grown between his junior and senior year, his body catching up with his gangly arms and legs.

"I don't date baseball players," I replied, recognizing Darcy and Stella's give-him-a-chance look.

"Correction," Stella said. "You haven't dated anyone."

She said I was too selective, a legitimate accusation, even if I denied it all the time. My one kiss had come in seventh grade when Bobby Rivera planted one because of a stupid dare. Once our lips separated, I spit in his face and kicked him in the balls. Ever since, boys didn't approach me after seeing my martial arts abilities in the flesh. I didn't mind people knowing I kicked butt.

"I haven't found the right guy," I blurted out.

"Nor have I," Darcy said. "You know I have a thing for athletes, but there ain't any guys at this school willing to take me on."

I gave Darcy the stank eye. "OMG! Tons of guys have asked you out!"

"But not anyone I vibe with!" Darcy took out her phone. "The immature football players are childish. Hence, they are boys in my book. Not like the older guys online."

"Darcy! You better be careful who you meet online."

"Little Dor, don't be a hater. You know this girl has it locked down!"

Darcy always referred to herself in the third person when she was defensive. "Social media gets people in trouble."

"Don't even," Darcy replied.

"For real," Stella said. "Guys meeting high school girls online are losers."

Darcy thumbed and scrolled her phone. "Most girls aren't like you, Stella, with the hot and gorgeous boyfriend."

Stella dated Eric Garcia. He had transferred from San Diego last year, and girls swooned over his muscular build, bronze skin and black shoulder-length hair that somehow stayed in place when he ran his hands through it. He looked like a Filipino WWE wrestler and surfer mixed together. When he asked Stella on a date, she became the envy of all the girls at Valley High.

"Like Bruno Mars says! That's what I like!" Stella exclaimed. "The real question is, what's Dorothy's type? Is it Tae Kwon Do fighters named Christian? Or tobacco-spitting baseball players like Billy?"

"Yeah, that's the real question," Darcy teased. "Who is little Dor into?"

"Guys. Stop."

"Sparring with Christian doesn't do it for you?" Stella feigned a look of shock. "His hot sweaty body isn't to your liking?"

"Christian is only a friend."

"Who went to every home game to watch his favorite point guard play ball," Darcy said. "He needs to fucking man up and ask you out!"

"Darcy! You better watch your mouth, or you ain't getting the ball in the post."

"Whatever, little Dor! Your threats mean nothing anymore! Our high school basketball careers ended two months ago!" Darcy broke from us to turn towards another hallway. "Love you my Pinay sisters! See you laters!"

The mention of basketball made my stomach churn. I loved playing ball, but no college offers received, even with a killer crossover dribble and a lights out three-point shot. My basketball career ended the day I accepted an academic scholarship to UNLV. You would think not having to run sprints anymore would give me more energy. But I was more lethargic than ever and still skipped out on Tae Kwon Do.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder. "I'm abstaining from going out for a while. I should get back to working out."

"I feel the same, except for the working out part," Stella said. "I need sleep."

"Especially after last night," I replied. When I had almost killed someone.

* * *

We turned the hallway corner where a piercing white light blinded me. Strange tingly sensations spread through my body. Once my eyes adjusted to the brightness, a guy emerged with black and red neck tattoos spiraling in various directions beneath his The North Face shirt. His biceps strained against his golden skin. His hair was nicely combed to one side and his sculpted jaw stood out when his eyes connected with mine. It wasn't until the guy walked off, bobbing his head to music in his ear buds, that the tingles in my arms and legs subsided.

"Are you okay?" Stella asked, incredulous.

This guy — whoever he was — had made me dizzy. When he looked at me, he seemed to take pleasure in seeing me lightheaded. If I didn't know better, I would have said that he had laughed when he walked off. As if he enjoyed seeing me suffer.

My legs were jelly, forcing me to lean on Stella for balance. "Yes. I'm fine."

Stella pulled me down the hallway towards the band room for our next class. We stopped near the entrance, my self-confidence crumbling by the second.

"You are soooo not okay," Stella said, her glamorous eyebrows raised in genuine concern.

"Who was that guy? The guy with the frickin' tattoos?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Enlightenment"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Reno Ursal.
Excerpted by permission of Pacific Boulevard Books.
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.

Table of Contents

Ibn Mattuta observation - 1347 A.D.

Prologue - Urdurja 1357 A.D.

Chapter 1: Dorothy and Stella at the club

Chapter 2: Adrian takes off

Chapter 3: Dorothy and Stella at school

Chapter 4: Adrian amused

Chapter 5: Dorothy at home

Chapter 6: Adrian in hallway

Chapter 7: In the cafeteria

Chapter 8: Brotherly talk #1

Chapter 9: In the library, at the dojo and the lake

Chapter 10: Adrian arrives

Chapter 11: Lake Las Vegas

Chapter 12: At Bouchons Restaurant

Chapter 13: Graduation Day

Chapter 14: Brotherly talk #2

Chapter 15: Talk with mom, the barbeque and the mosque

Chapter 16: Adrian works out

Chapter 17: Dorothy and Stella, then the coffee shop

Chapter 18: Brotherly talk #3

Chapter 19: Filipino research, Stella’s change of heart

Chapter 20: Two new girls

Chapter 21: Dorothy responds

Chapter 22: The first kiss

Chapter 23: The second kiss

Chapter 24: Adrian’s backup

Chapter 25: The Dream, Christian and Adrian

Chapter 26: Adrian’s historical perspective

Chapter 27: Mom’s explanation and the voice

Chapter 28: Brotherly talk #4

Chapter 29: To the airport

Chapter 30: The attack at the house

Chapter 31: At the airport

Chapter 32: Talk with Patrick

Chapter 33: The third kiss

Chapter 34: The attack on the plane

Chapter 35: Dorothy

Chapter 36: In the cockpit

Chapter 37: The third, fourth, fifth and sixth kisses

Chapter 38: Enlightenment

Epilogue - Urdurja 1357 A.D.

Terms of Consequence

Alibata Alphabet & Laguna Copperplate Inscription

Maps

Acknowledgements