Everyone has secrets. I had no idea mine would lead me into shadow.
Dez has found the place where she belongs. With the otherkin. With Caleb. Or so she thought.
As the barriers between our world and Othersphere fall, a wall rises between Dez and Caleb, leaving her fiercest enemy her only friend.
And maybe something more.
Now Dez must make a devastating choice: keep the love of her life, or save the otherkin from annihilation.
"Be prepared to lose some sleep. Otherkin is full of non-stop action and suspense, and you're not going to be able to put it down!" Brigid Kemmerer, author of the Elemental Series
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|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.82(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Nina Berry grew up bodysurfing in Hawaii, learned to throw snowballs at the University of Chicago, and now lives and works in Hollywood, pretending to lead the glamorous life. She’s had jobs at places like Playboy Television, Married…With Children, and That 70’s Show. Meanwhile, she got a screenplay optioned, wrote for a TV show called Ghost Stories, made it to the finals of the Disney TV Writing Fellowship, and became a semi-finalist in the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship. She currently works at Warner Bros., helping to develop new television series for cable channels like ABC Family and TNT.
Inspired by novels she loved as a teen, she sold her debut YA paranormal novel OTHERKIN to KTeen in 2011. When not writing, Nina loves to travel, read, and tweet links about saving big cats in the wild. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Read an Excerpt
By NINA BERRY
KTEEN BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Nina Berry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe night before we moved away, I couldn't sleep. Not bothering to turn on the light, I sat up in bed at three a.m. and put my earbuds in to blast the audiobook for The Tempest. Rain beat down on the jacaranda tree in our front yard. I resolutely gazed out at it to avoid seeing the walls of my room, which had been stripped of all my posters and photos, leaving nothing but uneven holes and sticky tape residue.
The man reading Shakespeare's play had a crisp English accent, but his voice didn't have the depth of Caleb's. No one's did. No one human, anyway.
Caleb. Thinking his name sent a stab of longing up from my heart to tighten my throat. We'd talked till midnight, but I hadn't laid eyes on him in weeks.
"Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air ..."
Something glinted in the corner of my eye. I caught sight of a gray van slipping into the rain-soaked fog down the street.
We'd stolen a van like that, a white one, from the Tribunal, my otherkin friends and I, after we burned their compound to the ground. But the Tribunal had other sites, other acolytes.
I tapped the headphones. Electronics and metal gadgets tended to break down around me. That last noise was more like a creaky floorboard in a horror movie or the rusty door to my medicine cabinet than Shakespeare. The iPod snapped on again.
"We are such stuff As dreams are made on ..."
A shape glided through the downpour outside. The gray van was back, but now the headlights were off. The downy hairs on the back of my neck stood up as it came to a stop across the street.
That didn't come from the headphones. I popped them out of my ears and rolled silently to my feet, senses alert with fear. For a moment the only illumination came from my iPod, the only sound the interrupted lines of Shakespeare coming faintly from the headphones.
Then, down the hall, light as a feather falling on grass, came a footstep. And another.
Someone had been in my bathroom at three a.m., opening and closing my medicine cabinet, and was now heading toward the living room.
It couldn't be my mother or Richard. I knew every variation of their footsteps, and neither one had any reason to search my nearly empty medicine cabinet.
I used all my training to move quietly to my bedroom door and turned the knob. I didn't want to wake my parents. Perhaps there was an innocent reason for the sounds. If not, I could deal with the Tribunal. And if I couldn't, better it be me that was taken or killed.
The hallway was dark and empty. I stilled and heard the footfalls again in the living room, moving faster now. Half-running down the hall, I kept my body out of sight as I peered around the doorframe.
To my night-sensitive eyes, the living room lay before me as clear as day, unfamiliar territory now that packing boxes and bubble-wrapped furniture dominated. The front door creaked open, and a hooded figure was silhouetted for a moment against the dim greenish streetlight before it stepped outside. Gray hood, gray camouflage, the slender waist and broad shoulders of a man. But why would he leave without trying to kidnap or kill ...?
"Desdemona?" Mom's sleepy voice came first, then the creak of her bedroom door opening. She had always had a motherly sense for when I was restless at night.
That was all it took. The gray figure took off, slamming the door shut behind him.
"Stay here, Mom!" I shouted, and ran. In a heartbeat, I had the door open and leaped down the front steps, blinking against the rain. The hard, heavy drops were icy cold and drenched me instantly.
The figure sprinted straight for the van, rounding the jacaranda tree. I was fast, inhumanly fast in short spurts, but he had too big a head start. Then his foot bumped hard against one of the tree's roots, and he sprawled facedown onto the grass.
"Thanks, tree," I said, lunging for him.
He rolled out of reach, brown eyes behind his muddied ski mask very wide, and scrambled to his feet. I knew those eyes. The sound of his breath coming hard and fast brought back a memory of a tall blond boy, his arm broken, his once angelic face sneering to hide just how lost he was. It was Caleb's half-brother.
"Lazar," I said.
He pulled off the soggy ski mask as I moved between him and the van. Beneath it his wavy blond hair was already dark with rain, curling against his forehead. Droplets raced down his temples and aquiline nose, collecting on his lips as they tightened in a familiar way. The gray trousers clung to his lean hips and thighs, and the wet gray shirt outlined the taut definition in his shoulders and chest. His breath misted briefly in the rain as it came fast and even. A muscle in his jaw clenched as he stared at me, and for a moment he looked so much like Caleb that my heart skipped a beat.
Then he spoke, and his voice, harsher, more guarded than Caleb's, broke the spell. "Desdemona. Let me go." It was a warning, not a plea.
I glanced over my shoulder. Behind me, steam rose from the van's exhaust pipe, but no one emerged. Maybe they hadn't seen us in the darkness and the deluge. But that didn't explain why Lazar hadn't summoned them on the communicator every member of the Tribunal wore on every mission.
His slightly tip-tilted eyes, with their thick, rain-spiked lashes, were the same size and shape as Caleb's, but with rich brown irises rather than black. His gaze flicked up and down my body.
Water ran down my face, plastering my T-shirt to my skin, and I realized I was only wearing that and my underwear, my usual bedtime apparel. My cheeks grew so hot under his stare that I was suddenly grateful for the icy rain. A month ago that would've been enough to send me running for safety. Now I ignored the blush and stood my ground. Who cares? Let him look. And if I have to shift, it means fewer clothes to shred.
"What were you doing in my house?" I demanded.
He lifted his eyes to my face, a tiny smile playing around his mouth. I realized I'd never seen him genuinely amused before. It lit up his dark eyes and carved dimples into his cheeks, highlighting his high cheekbones and strong chin. "I'd love to stand here all night discussing my activities with a beautiful half-naked girl," he said. "But I don't think my father would approve."
His tone made me want to smack that look off his pretty, pretty face. Focus, Dez. Lazar was an objurer, which meant that his voice, like Caleb's, was a powerful instrument, able to persuade, anger, or paralyze in just a few words. Objurers were specially trained by the Tribunal to manipulate the minds and bodies of shifters like me. Every word he spoke was a potential threat.
"Still Daddy's little boy," I said, and was glad to see his smirk drop away. "It doesn't look like you took anything, but maybe you planted something. Is there a bomb in my house, Lazar?"
He considered me, eyes narrowing. Then, almost imperceptibly, he shook his head.
I frowned. The gesture seemed oddly sincere. But it couldn't be. Was he trying to throw me off, delay me?
"If we wanted you dead," he said, "you would be."
"Your father tried a couple of times and failed," I said. "How is Ximon, Lazar? Does he beat you now that your sister isn't available?"
"Amaris." His voice softened when he said his sister's name. Something in his face changed.
A weird stab of pity hit my gut. Lazar's estrangement from his sister had been sudden and violent. Amaris had chosen to come with us, her supposed enemies, rather than live under her father's thumb and marry a man she hated. Lazar had wavered for a heartbeat, but ultimately he'd chosen to leave her with us and escape with Ximon. When I imagined how it felt to be raised by such a monster, all I could feel was sympathy.
"She's doing well," I said, even as I wondered whether reassuring him was a good idea. "She says she misses you. Though I can't imagine why."
His face hardened. "Let me go. Don't make me call the others."
"Go ahead." I bared my teeth, fingers curling like claws. "Call them, and I'll kill you all."
"Desdemona?" My mother stood on the porch, arms crossed to keep her robe closed. "Are you okay?
I startled, turning my head toward her. Lazar seized the moment and ran down the middle of Kenneth Avenue, away from me, leaving the Tribunal's van behind.
"I'm fine, Mom!" I shouted. "Get Richard out of the house!"
The van's tires made wet sucking noises as they began to roll, following Lazar. So they weren't here to hurt Mom and Richard, which meant I could tear after Lazar. I bolted down the sidewalk, outpacing the skidding van, and kept my ears peeled to make sure it didn't head back toward my parents.
Ahead of me, Lazar raced flat out, cutting left into the park. Behind me, the van was gaining. No time to waste. I'd never shifted while running full speed before. But I needed to find out what Lazar had been up to in my bathroom, and I'd never catch him this way.
I kept sprinting as I sent my mind down into the darkness that always roiled at my core, blacker than a night sky without stars.
I asked. A blazing answer of power poured forth, shooting up my spine, along every limb. Then my feet were feet no longer, but great striped paws. My clothes ripped and fell away as I gathered my back legs to leap forward thirty feet per stride. It felt so good to stretch and run. The rain bounced off my coat, no longer a nuisance. Darkness was my time to hunt, and every sound, every scent, every current of air bent to my will.
I laid my tufted ears back, shook my whiskers, and roared.
At the sound, Lazar pelted across the grass even faster. But my great galloping bounds ate up the ground between us. He ran past my favorite tree, the lightning tree, and I heard another engine rev. My ears flicked forward. The gray van was still behind us, keeping to the road, but ahead, alongside the park, another van waited, engines on, but headlights off.
Damn it. The Tribunal was thorough.
Just three more leaps, and I'd have Lazar between my paws once more. The side door of the van up ahead slid open. A figure in gray aimed a rifle at me and fired.
I zigged left, putting the lightning tree between me and the gun. Something thunked into the trunk, and I smelled the silver-laced tranquilizer the Tribunal used on shifters. So they weren't trying to kill me. Yet.
No time to wonder why. Lazar was steps from the van. I gathered all the power in my back legs and jumped.
Lazar ducked into the van as I left the ground, while the man with the rifle followed my arc with his gun and pulled the trigger. But I was going faster, farther than he reckoned, and the dart zoomed harmlessly beneath me.
I went farther than even I had wanted. I'd asked my body for all it had without thinking enough about accuracy, and instead of launching myself into the van, I arced completely over it to land on the other side. In my astonishment, I stumbled slightly as I hit pavement, then rolled, coming to my feet.
I looked up to see Lazar staring at me through the rain-smeared window of the van, eyes wide in amazement. Then the tires spun hard, and the vehicle took off. I lashed my tail and sent them off with a roar that made the raindrops fly.
The van vanished into the mist. Still energized with anger, I turned and ran at the lightning tree, jumping onto its rough, familiar trunk, digging in my claws to climb higher. The tree was closely linked to Othersphere, vibrating with shadow, and it drew me like the scent of blood. Better the neighbors saw a naked girl than a tiger in the treetops. But I didn't want to shift back to my human form just yet.
Being a tiger felt so right, so perfect, especially near the lightning tree. A current of power seemed to flow from deep within it up through my paws. I was atop the world now, invincible, at one with all, yet more myself than ever.
As I watched Lazar's van screech toward the freeway, I felt as if I could leap onto it even now and tear its roof off with one swipe.
"Desdemona!" I turned to see our sedan headed toward me, Richard at the wheel, my mom in the passenger seat, her head out the window, yelling.
So much for Tiger Queen rules the world. I climbed down and then dropped to the ground as Mom got out of the car, clutching a thick terry-cloth robe, and ran on her tiptoes across the squelchy grass to me.
"Are you all right?" She patted my neck as I butted my head into her waist, automatically marking her as mine. "What the hell were they doing? Richard couldn't find anything different about the house. They didn't take anything we could see, and left nothing behind."
She draped the robe over my long back. It was drenched already, as was she, but when I shifted back to my human form, at least I had something to cover me up.
"It was Lazar," I said, pushing long damp strands of hair from my face.
"Caleb's brother?" She blinked back water drops, one hand massaging her stomach, looking faintly sick.
I nodded. "I have no idea why he was here. And he seemed kind of ... I don't know. Different."
Mom's eyelids fluttered more rapidly. She looked pale, even considering the greenish light of the street lamp. "Are you okay?" I asked.
"I ... something's wrong," she managed to say, staggering a few steps to lean against the lightning tree. Then she clutched her stomach with both hands and doubled over.
"Mom? Did they do something to you? Richard!" I screamed at the car.
Mom gasped. "I feel this way in dreams, sometimes...." Then, as if the texture would sustain her, she ran her hands up the bumpy bark of the tree, tilting her head back to stare up into its branches, her eyes glassy.
Then she curled her fingers into the tree, and I saw long, shiny claws cut into the wood. Thunder boomed deafeningly as lightning flared just a few feet away, knocking me flat on my back. A smell of ozone cut the air.
But my mother still stood by the tree, looking somehow taller than usual. Her hair, which should have been brown and limp with rain, looked long and red. Another bolt of lightning shot up between her feet, illuminating yellow-green eyes that were usually hazel.
"Mom?" I said, suddenly not sure who stood before me.
"The storm." It came out of her like a growl. Her voice, normally sweet and slightly high-pitched, now sounded like she'd spent her life drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes.
She swiveled her head to me with an odd, unnatural suddenness, like a marionette. "I came in the midst of the eternal storm that I might speak to you, my daughter."
"Who ...?" I started to say. Richard was getting out of the car. He'd be here any second. "What's going on?"
"I can only speak to you briefly here and now." Lightning stabbed up at the sky all around her, raising the hairs on my arms, and haloing her head like a crown. Thunder shook the ground.
Richard came to a pounding halt beside me, one arm up to shield his eyes from the terrible brightness. "My God, my God, Caroline!"
"Even I, who rule here, may not long endure this tempest," she said, in that dusky voice that cut through the crackling and rumbling. "But you must learn who you are."
My mouth went dry. "Who are you?" It came out as a whisper, a gasp.
A bolt of lightning bigger than the tree itself thrust up from the ground where she stood. The deafening boom knocked Richard to his knees.
Mom screamed in agony, draining every ounce of blood from my heart. Then she cried out something as more lightning danced around her, but I couldn't hear through the explosions. I caught just a word here or there, like the voice on my malfunctioning iPod. "Never ... belong ... Amba!"
Then the lightning was gone, and the thunder and the claws, leaving nothing but my tiny, wet mother leaning against an old oak tree in her bathrobe. She crumpled into the mud and lay still.
Chapter TwoAccording to the doctor in the ER, Mom's tests showed that she'd had a seizure but would suffer no long-term effects. Her MRI showed activity in what he called "some unusual areas" of her brain. We took her home later in the morning armed with pointless anti-seizure meds and a mandate to keep her hydrated.
Richard and I didn't say much to each other as we made her comfortable in bed, but we both knew this wasn't a case of dehydration or a sudden onset of epilepsy.
It was all my fault. I'd brought her to the lightning tree. Somehow her proximity to it or to me had triggered something from Othersphere. Something that called me "my daughter" and used the word "Amba." Both my teacher Morfael and my enemy Ximon had used that word when referring to me.
I didn't allow myself to think too much just yet about who or what had been speaking through Mom. She had adopted me when I was nearly two years old from a Russian orphanage. No one knew who my biological parents were, and no tiger-shifters had been heard from in over twenty years. The remaining otherkin whispered that they'd all been wiped out by the Tribunal, that I was the last of my kind.
Excerpted from Othermoon by NINA BERRY Copyright © 2013 by Nina Berry. Excerpted by permission of KTEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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