In a secret society hidden from those without the Sight, spirits stuck in purgatory roam the earth. In this society stands Madeline Knox, a human girl who doesn't have much going for her. That is, until an accidental run in with the Crossers. Without even realizing, they give Maddie the ability to see past the veil between the living and the dead. They give her the Sight. From there, she falls victim to a fragmented truth she was never meant to see.
Being thrown into their world, Maddie is caught in the middle of a life or death game put on by a notorious sociopath named Ayer Therrian, who has it out for her Crosser friends. Fending for herself, Maddie must adjust to the undead limbo she got herself mixed up in. It could cost her her life, and from what the Sight has shown her so far, it's becoming clear that death isn't as peaceful as anyone thought.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.04(d)|
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By Meaghan Nicholson
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2015 Meaghan Nicholson
All rights reserved.
If everything had stopped back then, I would have let it. But now?
The strobe lights sparked a strange gleam in the eyes of the dancers, a manic light that implied intoxication despite the lack of alcohol offered at the club. The Clubhouse was a new hot spot in the city, located in the basement of a casino that shared its confines with a hotel. Personal opinions aside of it being a degrading shit-hole that attracted the attention of the worst types of people, the Clubhouse wasn't such a bad place to be. I had gotten the job on a whim as one of the old bartenders had put in her two weeks notice so she could prepare for college. I had no college plans of my own and my long-term availability as an employee made the rest of the joke interview go pretty smoothly. The job allowed me access to the club without the restriction of having to wait in the long lines that sometimes formed outside. I got to listen to decent music blare through wall to wall speakers and sometimes dance if I wasn't in charge of closing. All of that for ten dollars an hour plus tips wasn't something to complain about, though the crowd sometimes was.
"Two Amp's and an iced tea" A kid screamed at me from across the bar. People weren't my strong suit, though working the bar didn't involve much conversation. They screamed at me, I listened, they threw money at me and I went about my business. Even clubs for the underage part of society managed to degrade it's employee's into feeling worthless when thinking about their job descriptions. I took the twenty dollar bill from him, opening the register to get change but he grabbed the drinks and walked away. He had been a short thing with deep blue eyes and dark hair. Maybe fifteen at best, and just the thought of that made me feel sick. Summer vacation or not, didn't parents care enough to monitor their kids? Or were they the type of parents who were up in the casino's spending the lunch money they never gave them? Hopes of a better life as their excuse to gamble ...
I stopped trying to justify anything. If I had been allowed to come to places like this when I was fifteen, I would have. So I passed it off as jealousy and moved on to the next group that was waving frantically for my attention while checking the clock. I got off at ten tonight instead of midnight and Craig was running late. He was supposed to take over ten minutes ago, and the only thing saving him from a very malicious phone call was the good selection of music tonight. I had planned on going home to play some games with my sister, but I was already running late for that, so why rush? I'd still be mad at Craig, but at least I could stick around for a few songs.
He came in a flurry of motion. One minute I was passing a strawberry smoothie over to a tall blonde and the next, Craig's bag hit the floor beside me as he jumped over the bar. He sprang up, twisting to face me with a sly smile on his face before ruffling my hair. His smile was infectious, but the hair ruffling was not.
"You're late. Again." I growled, shoving the strawberry mix at him and going back to the customers. He tossed the mixer back up on the shelf and came to rest beside me on the bar, watching without any slight indication of helping.
"I am in fact late Ms. Knox, but the time limit for being considered unacceptably late is fifteen minutes, not ten. So I'm not late enough to be in trouble for it, only late enough to meddle with your cute little temper."
"You push the rules too much, Craig." I shoved him aside to get past him, handing a soda to a red head. She handed me a five and walked away. People were throwing money away like candy tonight. A soda was only three bucks. Some of these kids were too young to even have a job. But Craig was sliding right over to continue pestering me, so I got the change out and shoved the tip into my pocket, trying to avoid him.
"I don't push them, I bend them right until they're about to break."
"I assume there's a difference in your mind, isn't there then?" "Of course there is." He said incredulously. I walked by him to tend to the other side of the bar despite my shift being over, but Craig grabbed me from behind, pulling me back towards him for a second. "The difference lies in how much fun you can have when you aren't always so careful about your life, Maddie." He pushed me back towards the bar with a lightness meant to tease. I rolled my eyes, making this my last customer I would tend to for him after treating me like a little kid yet again. His words always hit home in a way that sucked the energy out of me. Crazy was not my strong suit. Crazy, adventurous and risk taking weren't on my top three characteristics. I was always ten minutes early, not ten minutes late. The teasing about me always being on time and doing what I was supposed to do always put me in a foul mood. But I never stuck around long enough for him to realize. I grabbed my bag from my locker in the back room. It was a small, cramped area more like a hallway that lead into a closet. There was a beaten up couch on one side, and a coffee table pressed against the other wall. A lot of the time we got asked to work double shifts, so we were able to come back here to rest for half an hour. The music wasn't always the best thing to keep away headaches, given how loud it was. The hallway was long though, so it at least reduced the decibels back here. There was also a bathroom cut into the hallway with a door that was nearly falling off the hinges. For such a new place that opened only months ago, this whole back area seemed to tell a different story. I fixed my hair, brushing it back down into place and untangling the rest before heading back out to leave. Craig was doing double time, handling twice as many people than I ever could at once and talking away while he did it. He noticed me come out and turned away from the crowd that was forming.
"Off so soon?" He made a face, and I hated that face. His eyes used to work on me, but it became clear that it was his only weapon. I grew immune to it within my first month and it always seemed to bother him.
"It's late. I should have left already."
"You know that's not what I meant, you aren't hitting the dance floor tonight?"
"I repeat, it's late, I should have left already." I went to open the side door that lead to the other side of the bar so I could finally get out of here but as I opened it, Craig slammed it closed. I jumped back as he was suddenly right in front of me.
"Maddie its a weekend, and its only ten. What the hell do you got back at home that's so important and better than that?" He pointed out to the dance floor where everyone was pushed together and moving to the same beat that it looked like a massive wave beneath the strobe lights, making the whole Clubhouse quake with adrenaline. Techno made people high enough to move as one despite the different moves within the rotations. I watched them for a moment, knowing he was right and wondering why I had to be home.
"Craig did you ever stop to think that maybe people have lives that don't revolve around their job or places like this?" As usual, my mind and my mouth worked separately.
"Of course, but at ten at night after your shift? Got a date?"
"Maybe I do. Whatever it is, it isn't your business." I countered.
"You sound like a little kid trying to hide her barbie dollhouse from the bullies who live next door."
"You sound like one of those bullies."
"Anyone ever tell you that you're terrible at making friends?" He raised an eyebrow, his smile faltering a little at my attitude.
"Anyone ever tell you that maybe they don't want to be your friend?" The smile dropped completely, his eyes taking on a strange distance I had never seen before. I immediately regretted it as he stepped aside, opening the door for me. He never looked away though, and the people at the bar were getting impatient as the two bartenders weren't bar-tending. But still his eyes watched me. I looked back, wanting to apologize but my eyes remained locked on his, a mirror of his distant, icy indifference. My mouth remained a tight line as I bowed my head down away from him and walked out into the mass of people. He didn't slam the door shut like I expected him to, but when I looked back it was sealed tight, locked and ominous.
Oh stop worrying. You didn't mean it and you can apologize to him on Sunday. My mind tried to calm my nerves, but I couldn't get my legs to work. The exit was on the other side of the dance floor and a lot of people were between it and myself. I didn't want to move, I didn't want to dance, I just wanted to be home so that I could forget about this and everything else. No Craig, I wasn't good at making friends. I was dry, quiet, and stubborn. He was open, childish and optimistic about everything. We repelled each other like the same magnetic poles. No matter how hard you try to push them together, they never touch. That's how it was with most people and by now I had gotten plenty used to it. But there weren't many who interacted with me enough to point it out right to my face. It was usually myself saying it, not other people. I did want to stay and dance, but I didn't want to be anywhere near people so I sucked it up and made my way towards the edge of the crowded floor, ready to make a path to get to the exit. The strobe lights flashed consecutively, the techno edit having a siren that made people scream and the foam bubbles spray out into the crowd. The flashes made it hard to focus, but I kept my eyes on the exit, lightly pushing people out of my way and apologizing absentmindedly.
I was always within the crowd and never had issues with it, but pushing through the mesh of tangled bodies tonight for some reason made me feel claustrophobic. I wanted to get out but the exit was still far away. Though I was on the edge of the floor, there were crowds swarming me. There were long, swirly glowing lights all along the walls of different colors; purple, pink, green, blue ... They all blended together as I got more impatient and less polite about pushing through the people in my way. Something just felt heavy and wrong and though I had felt both of those feelings before, mixing it with this atmosphere wasn't the best idea.
I came to two guys who were leaning against a high top table and laughing as they pointed out to the dance floor. I thought I had said excuse me to them, but by this point I was mostly screaming it in my head as my mouth refused to work anymore. They were shocked as I broke them apart to clear a path but what was going on behind them had no idea I was coming. Someone had been walking at a fast pace just like I was from the side and as I stepped out, they smashed right into me. My balance was shot and I fell right to the side, knocking someone else over who had been holding a very full drink. It fell right over my head, splashing both myself and the person who had rammed into me. He was half on top of me, a small thing with dark hair and a boney frame. It was digging into my rib cage as he moaned in pain. The other guy who lost his drink in the process tossed some insults around before walking away.
"Uhm ..." The boy didn't realize he was sprawled on top of somebody else from his limp and unresponsive state. He jumped a little at the noise. "Would you mind moving a little?" I squirmed a bit in annoyance to try and get him off of me. It figured this had to happen on the one night I just wanted to be out of here. My instincts told me to just shove him and keep running, but I was just as much at fault as he was. I worked here, I couldn't be rude to people just because my shift was over.
He slid over, quickly jumping up with cat-like reflexes and rubbing at his eyes. The soda had only hit my hair and neck thankfully, but I knew how much soda could sting. My side was killing from the impact, but I hobbled up to grab a napkin for him off of the high table that was now abandoned. That was one way to clear an area I guess, face plant on top of other people. I held the napkin out to him cautiously, the soda seeming to irritate him more than it should have. He kept rubbing at his eyes, keeping them clenched shut and muttering to himself. I bent down so he would hear me over the music.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, I'm not usually this clumsy I was just in a hurry." He took the napkin from me without looking up and it seemed to help some.
"I was too, both our faults I'd say. We can share the blame." I glanced over at the exit again, wondering if it would be okay to just excuse myself now. As he steadied himself better, I recognized him as the boy who had thrown the twenty and walked away. The one with the dark hair and blue eyes. He was a lot shorter than me, coming up just below my neck. He blinked a few times, still looking down to make sure the pain was fully gone before tempting to look back up. He rubbed at his neck a bit, smiling sheepishly.
"My bad, really. I shouldn't have done that. It was rude. Are you okay?"
The question repeated in his eyes, but it wasn't the question that caught me. It was the eyes. Earlier when I had given him his drinks, his eyes had definitely been blue. Some people just had eyes that you didn't forget because of how different they were. His had been blue, but they had been a very deep royal blue.
Now as he looked up at me with his concern, one of his eyes remained that color, but the other was different. It was lighter, and it was green. Not a forest green or a sea green or a blue-green. It was almost a mint green that seemed to lighten as time went on. Almost growing to a neon, cat like shade. One eye blue, the other this strange green, both stood out even in the limited lighting offered here.
His brow furrowed as I was taking a long time to answer. I snapped my mouth shut, swallowing my confusion and smiling back at him.
"Yeah I just hit my side and got some soda on me, nothing too serious. A few bruises tomorrow is all."
"I'm really sorry...." He bit his lip, looking away.
"It's fine. You got soaked in the onslaught of it all too. We can both have the satisfaction of being a bit uncomfortable on the way home."
That seemed to snap him out of his cautious front a little as he smiled a bit more, his eyes filling with amusement. It was easy to tell the switch in emotion. Was it always this easy to tell when you looked at someone's eyes long enough? Mine burned with the need to blink, but there was such a peculiar feeling building up inside of me, like a knowing of something but without knowing really what it was. But I couldn't take my eyes off his. They seemed to pulse the longer I looked at him, the music becoming background noise. Even he seemed to become background noise.
"My name's Maddie." I tried to fill the growing silence. Bad mood aside, I didn't want to leave now as I held my hand out awkwardly. He seemed to flinch away, but recovered before I could take my hand back and shook it.
"Uh, nice to meet you I guess ..." He had a deep voice for someone as young as him. Something of a scratchy wisp that reminded me of leaves crunching beneath your feet or a fire crackling in the dead of night.
"I'm not good at introductions either, but I think this is where you give yours." I joked weakly.
"Oh, right. Gavin." He seemed to cringe back into his shell, scratching his head now as he clearly was done with whatever this was. "My name's Gavin."
"Nice to meet you too. If you don't mind me asking, are those natural?" I pointed to his face, looking into his eyes. There was no way they could be. They were too bright, too different. But there was this foggy haze moving behind them, almost like a storm fading, as if the clouds were rolling away, leaving these colors behind in their wake. Contacts couldn't do that. There was something so different, so real about them.
Excerpted from Tainted by Meaghan Nicholson. Copyright © 2015 Meaghan Nicholson. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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