It's been about a week since INIMICAL went live, and readers are going CRAZY about the thrilling ending! I'm hard at work on the followup novella, REKINDLED, and since I truly love all y'all, here's a sneak peak at the first unedited chapter of REKINDLED.
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Hit me up on the GirlyEngine Contact page.
Please be advised: this is an unedited chapter and subject to change. Also! If you haven't finished INIMICAL, beware of spoilers!
Realer than real
Realer than my real life
Mystery girl, who are you?
“Dreams of Her” - Euphoria
It’s 1 a.m. on a Saturday, the club is still packed after my killer show, and I’m utterly failing at being the spoiled, rising goth rockstar the tabloids say I am. After all, it’s my first night playing the LA club scene. By rights, I should be drunkenly trashing my dressing room and making wild demands—animal-print throw rugs, thirty cases of Perrier, sterling-silver tea service, a thousand green M&M’s in a bowl shaped like Elmo’s head.
You get the picture.
Instead, I’m lying on the leather dressing-room couch like a dork, memories that aren’t mine—can’t be mine—streaming through my brain like a fast-forwarded movie montage: me and the redheaded girl from my dreams racing across a midnight city skyline, fighting side by side against awful creatures made of dark circuitry, us standing in the throne room of a strange, magical realm divided by an ancient war.
Us, hand in hand. Mortal enemies. Girlfriends…somehow.
I shift restlessly on the couch, the expensive leather sliding like silk beneath me. I should enjoy this, and all the other trappings of my rising fame. Like the fresh fruit buffet, the mini fridge stocked with sodas, the assortment of snacks laid out. The chocolate fountain.
But the ache in my heart only levers me open wider.
I heave a heavy sigh. Ignore it, Roue. Get back to being a demanding rock star. What were my demands again? Oh, right. A case of red-only Engine Energy drinks. Moleskine notebooks in every color of the rainbow.
A girlfriend who sees me for who I am. Who loves and accepts me.
A knock on the door saves me from myself.
I try to make my voice sound normal. “Come in.”
Jess, my manager, pokes her head in, red ponytail swinging. “It’s almost time to head out there and meet your adoring fans.”
“Right.” I’m not much for crowds, but these impromptu autograph/selfie sessions after every show have been a huge success. I like meeting my fans. If only I could do it without Jess and the Goon Squad (i.e., my two bodyguards) looming over me.
“Nice digs.” Jess pushes her chunky black spectacles up on her snub nose and looks around the dressing room.
“Yeah.” I follow her gaze, letting mine wander over the Italian leather couch, the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, the bay windows that overlook the hazy LA skyline, all lit up like smoggy Christmas.
It’s a perfect night. Perfect dressing room. Perfect gig. Perfect.
If only I had someone to share this all with.
You do, Roue, a tiny little voice inside whispers. That’s the trouble. You just don’t remember.
“Euphoria?” Jess cracks the door open wider.
Blast and bloody bones! My one-word answers have clearly tipped her off to the fact that I’m distracted tonight. “I’m fine.” I slide my long legs off the couch and stand up, but when I catch my reflection in the mirror—long black hair, sapphire-blue eyes, bronze skin, black leathers and motorcycle boots—I see the liar I really am.
I’m not fine. Aaaaand…something tells me that’s not my real reflection.
In my fake memories, I’ve got pointed ears and fangs and glowy eyes. Tentatively, I run my tongue along my canine teeth. Nope. No fangs there.
“I know that look.” Jess steps all the way into the dressing room and smooths her hands down her sporty blazer and pencil skirt. Her reddish-brown eyes narrow. “The dreams again?”
“Yeah.” I run my hand through my dark hair and try to distract myself with the scents of the club—clove cigarettes, theatrical fog, hundreds of human bodies packed into a small space. Someone in the audience used too much gross body spray. Mentally, I add some rose-scented candles to my list of demands.
Only… I don’t need them because for some reason, this place reeks of roses.
Jess’s heels click-clack on the lacquered floor as she walks to the bank of windows and looks out. She stands like a statue, hands clasped behind her back. “And the fainting spells?”
Oh. Those. “Haven’t had one in a while.” Not since that little girl at my last paparazzi meet-and-greet asked if I was a fairy in disguise. I swear, she pointed right at my ears and fangs. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her how she saw the same weirdness as my dreams, but the next thing I knew—BOOM!
I was down and out for the count.
Not my finest moment, I tell you.
“Hmm.” Jess’s noncommittal murmur is almost lost in the throbbing pulse of Club Abattoir’s house music, but it isn’t really an answer anyway. She studies me, the dressing room lights flashing hellishly on her glasses. The smell of roses intensifies. “Should we call it off?”
“No.” I’m a little too quick to answer. Trying to look normal, I stride to the brightly lit vanity and grab one of the tabloids, the LA Tattler. “I mean, they’re just dreams.” I laugh, but it comes out, an awkward bark.
They’re not “just dreams.” Not really. They’re memories. And my memory? It’s got a hole big enough to punch a troll through—
A troll. Ha-ha…wheee! Officially going crazy here. I can already see the next tabloid headline: Euphoria Cracks Under Pressure of Making It Big. I crumple the Tattler in both fists. My skin tingles all over with prickles of electricity. A sudden ozone smell hits the dressing room, and the air super-charges.
Like lightning’s about to strike.
That’s when a note flutters from the tabloid’s pages and falls at my feet. My eyes barely catch the writing.
“Come to me. Let me help you remember who you are.”
Uh-oh. I know that handwriting.
“Look.” Jess comes click-clacking my way. “I’m sure it’s just nerves. Your popularity’s on the rise. You’ve got gigs, stadium shows, sponsorships, the photo shoot for Teen Vogue next month…”
Not to mention my very own personal stalker sending me notes.
But when Jess rounds the vanity, I put my giant New Rock boot on the note, hiding it. “Yeah.”
Suddenly, I want to be alone with my note.
Did she write anything else? Does she want to meet up? Does it smell like her?
Because it’s not the dreams of her that trouble me—dreams where she’s a white beacon in the darkness, red hair like flame, her grey eyes burning, cables of fire running beneath my skin at the very sight of her…
Like something in me is awakening. Something long dead or dormant.
Those are no trouble at all.
It’s the reality that’s hard.
Because the girl in my dreams? She exists.
Come to me. A blush rises to my cheeks. She’s more than just a pretty face. She’s smart, clever, quick. She’s followed me across the country, even snuck backstage a few times since I left Richmond on my late-summer tour. The Goon Squad caught her each time, so I’ve never spoken with her.
Still, I get the feeling I know her.
But I don’t remember her.
Just the dreams.
“So…” Jess pulls open the mini fridge and grabs two Engine Energy drinks. She tosses one to me and pops the tab on hers. “Go out there and kill it.” She raises the fizzy can. “Right?”
I clink my unopened can with hers. “Right.”
Because every morning after I dream of her, I wake up with an ache knifing my heart—an ache no amount of fame or fortune could ever fix. Still, I smile and nod like a bobble-head toy until Jess heads to the door.
“Five minutes,” she tells me.
“Got it.” My heart’s racing, and it’s not from the thought of meeting a thousand crazy fans screaming my name. No. The note beneath my boot is practically burning me up. Come to me, come to me…
Jess raises an eyebrow, her glasses giving that weird hellish flash again. “Don’t be late.”
“Not even fashionably?”
“No.” The door whumps shut on her.
It’s agony, but I wait three long breaths before moving my foot and snatching up the note. Instantly, the scent of vanilla and sweet summer sunshine hits me like a punch to the gut.
Oh, so that’s what teen hormones are for. Gotcha. Thanks.
I turn the note over, but all it says is, “Come to me. Let me help you remember who you are.”
Who you are.
The words are like some kind of accusation. Who I am is Rouen Rivoche, aka goth rockstar Euphoria. Singer. Violinist. Performer. Eighteen years old, and about to take the world by storm. Jess tells me this is the usual stalkery stuff that comes with the territory.
But my heart tells me that’s not the truth.
My heart, and those wee hours of the morning when I wake in a sweat from dreams of dark crowns and dark thrones. Dark and light. Me and her. When I catch my reflection in the mirror—those pointed ears, fangs, those crazy glowing blue eyes.
How every day, I feel like half of me is missing.
Out in the club, the cheers rise to epic proportions, the chant of “Euphoria! Euphoria! Eu-phor-i-a!” booming down the hall to my dressing room. Jess’s been working it hard, making sure every club I play is packed, making sure everyone stays for the meet-and-greet. I’ve got everything I could ever want—a great manager, a budding music career, an awesome summer tour…
But all I want is to know the girl who wrote this note, to know her and to find out what she knows about yours truly.
I tuck the note into my leather pants and head to the door.
It’s time I faced her and the truth—about her, about me, about us—and let the chips fall where they may.
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