Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lifelines - Undead Series #3 Sneak Peek

Thank you so much to everyone who attended my Meet the Author chat on Goodreads!  I really hope you guys enjoyed it.

As I promised during the chat, I'm posting a special excerpt from Lifelines, the third and final book I have planned in the Undead Series.  In the third book, Riley accompanies Lychgate to his hometown near Chicago, upon rumors of dead humans being kept in a state of puppet-like animation by way of an undead-worshipping ritual.

Meanwhile, someone from Riley's past has devised an elaborate scheme that puts Riley and Westwood's relationship—and their lives—in jeopardy.

Going back home for Riley is not an easy thing, as the excerpt I'm about to share shows.  Before the start of Lychgate's assignment, Riley spends the night at his sister's house, but he's blindsided when his parents show up out of nowhere for a visit.  This scene takes place that night after they leave.  And we see that after four years with Nick and now a year with Westwood, Riley is still having trouble opening up.

When Riley entered his bedroom, the first thing he saw was his reflection in the mirror on the far wall.  He looked haggard, old, worn out.  He looked a lot like he did after coming out of a fight in Barclay’s class, except without the visible bruises.
He looked depressed.
Closing the door behind him, he headed across the room.  He took the mirror down and turned it around to face the wall.  Then he retrieved his toiletries from his suitcase and headed around the corner to the bathroom.
After getting ready for the night, he climbed into bed and turned off the lights.  But even after closing his eyes, his mind raced with repetitions of all the painful little phrases he’d heard throughout the day.  Being away from his parents for so many years, he had finally managed to build himself a new identity, something different from the weak, irrational, unstable, incapable kid they had previously convinced him he was.
Tonight, he felt like that kid again.
Half an hour passed, and the racing, repetitive thoughts didn’t cease.  He stumbled out of bed and grabbed his cell phone and then climbed back under the covers, drawing them tight around him to keep in the warmth.  He ran his fingers over the phone’s smooth, hard surface.  Then he turned it on and scrolled through his contacts.
Westwood’s number appeared on the screen.  He stared at it.  Just a touch of the screen, and he could hear his lover’s voice.
He tapped the button.
Four rings.  Five rings.  Leave a message after the beep.
He froze.  What was he doing?  Why was he calling Westwood?  What would he say to the man?  That he was sad?  That he needed someone to reassure him, like a goddamn toddler during a thunderstorm?  Westwood had never seen this side of him before.  And if he saw it now, he’d probably start to have doubts about whether Riley was still competent enough to participate in Lychgate’s mission.
He lost track of how long it’d been since he’d heard the beep on the other line, of how long he’d been breathing into the phone without saying anything.
Abruptly, he hung up.

Sleep came and went, flitting in and out and making Riley toss restlessly in his bed.  He sank into darkness, only to be jolted half-awake by the erratic beating of his own heart.  He heard the eerie creak of taut rope being stretched.  He saw a dangling shadow swaying in the wind beneath the branches of a tree.  He felt himself screaming—Andrew—against the wind.  Screaming over and over, until his throat burned.  But not a sound emerged from his mouth.
His eyes sprang open.  He stared up at the ceiling, seeing nothing but black.  It took a moment for his supernatural night vision to kick in and the room to come into focus.  He could feel his heart pounding against his ribcage, so hard he could almost hear it.  His own heartbeat unnerved him to the point that he finally scrambled out of bed and rushed for the window.
The moment he pulled back the curtains, he felt that startling pang in his chest again.  His skin went cold with dread—or perhaps fear—when his gaze settled on the apple tree in the backyard.
Someone was standing under the tree.
He recognized the figure’s familiar build—broad shoulders, skinny torso and arms, and long, skinny legs.  A teenage body that hadn’t yet filled into its new adult framework.  Torn jeans.  Sandy blond hair.  Emerald eyes that mirrored his own.
No, it couldn’t be.  His brain was filling in details that his eyes couldn’t possibly see from such a distance.
He heard a knocking sound behind him and whirled around, his breath catching.  In the window of the adjacent wall, another figure loomed.  Riley jumped.
The figure knocked again on the window, and suddenly Riley recognized Westwood across the pane of glass.  He raised a hand to his pounding heart, willing it to slow while he took in a few controlled breaths.
Out of the corner of his eye, he glanced out the window at his side again.  He saw no figure under the apple tree.
Westwood knocked one more time.  Riley yanked the curtains closed over the window beside him and headed across the room to allow his lover entrance.
“What are you doing here?” Riley whispered.  He was embarrassed to hear a tremor in his voice.
“I got your message.”  Westwood climbed the rest of the way into the bedroom and closed the window behind him.  Then he took Riley by the arms and pulled him close.
Riley didn’t resist.  Rather, he wrapped his arms around his lover and squeezed him as hard as he could.  “God, I’m so glad you’re here,” he gasped, even as he willed himself to play it cool.  “I didn’t say anything on the phone.  How did you know to come?”
Westwood stroked Riley’s hair.  “I could tell by the sound of your breaths.”  He continued stroking for another moment before pulling back and looking into Riley’s eyes.  “What’s wrong?  You’re upset.”
“It’s nothing.”
Westwood continued to stare at him, his gaze unwavering.  “Liar.”
Riley shook his head.  “I don’t want to talk.  I just…  I just….”  He tightened his grip on Westwood’s sleeves.  “I just want to be with you.”
“You’re cold,” Westwood said.  “You’re shaking.  And you look like hell.”
Riley felt his throat tightening, and he felt a dangerously telling sting along his lower eyelids.  He blinked and shook his head again.  “Just be with me.  Please.”  He grabbed Westwood’s hand and pressed it against his bare chest, but Westwood pulled his hand free.
Westwood glanced across the room and then back, and Riley knew he’d been looking at the mirror that was facing the wall.  “Riley, cut it out.  Talk to me.”
Riley lunged and kissed Westwood on the lips.  Again, Westwood withdrew, but Riley leaned in again.  When Westwood tried to turn his face away for a second time, Riley pushed forward and bit his lip hard enough to nick the skin.
Westwood sucked in a pained gasp and shoved Riley back.  “What the fuck?”
“Come on, Westwood.”  Riley grabbed Westwood’s arms again, digging in with his fingertips.  He dragged his nails all the way down Westwood’s left arm, closing his fist around the man’s hand and yanking it close.  He pressed it against the bulge in his tight boxers.  “Just do it.  Fuck me.”  He squeezed Westwood’s wrist as hard as he could.  “Make it hurt.”
Westwood wrenched his hand free.  “What the hell is the matter with you?”
“What’s the matter with me?” Riley asked.  “What’s the matter with you?  What happened to the guy who used to be able to fuck me till I could barely walk?  Where’s that guy now?”
“I bet you can’t.  You don’t even have it in you anymore—not even if you tried.  You’re acting all sensitive, but the truth is you’ve gone weak.  You probably can’t even get it up.  Maybe I should be the one fucking you this time around.”
He saw the flicker in Westwood’s eyes and the twitch in his cheek, and he braced himself.  Westwood was no idiot.  The man knew he was being manipulated; Riley was sure of it.  But still he charged, tackling Riley and knocking him flat on his back across the nearby mattress.
Riley gasped, winded.  He felt Westwood stripping off his underwear and then trying to flip him over.  But even though his blood rushed with desire, he twisted out of Westwood’s grip and pushed him back.  It wasn’t enough.  Westwood had to try a lot harder than that.  He wanted all of Westwood’s strength, all of his roughness.  He wanted to be pinned so hard it hurt, to be squeezed and crushed under Westwood’s weight.  He wanted Westwood to pound him until he couldn’t take any more.
No, he didn’t want it.  He needed it—desperately.
He needed it, so he wouldn’t have to think.


  1. Replacing one type of pain with another. Bad start for Riley, let's see where this'll end.

    1. Yep, we'll see! ;) When you're in a relationship with someone like Westwood, and Westwood is actually being the less dysfunctional boyfriend, you know something is up. ;)