Sunday, June 10, 2012

Excerpt: The Between by @lisajanicecohen

Title: The Between

Author: Lisa Janice (LJ) Cohen
Website: Click HERE.
Twitter: @lisajanicecohen

Synopsis: High school senior, Lydia Hawthorne, is less than grateful when Oberon has her snatched from the mortal world and she finds out she's actually Fae. And not just any Fae, but a trueborn with enough inherent magic to tip the balance between Oberon and Titania's warring Bright and Shadow courts.

But that's their game and she doesn't want to play by their rules. Together with Clive Barrow, a Bright Court Fae with embarrassing family ties to the mortal world, Lydia fights to regain her old life, fueling her magic with the very human power of love and loss, challenging the essential nature of Faerie itself.


Lydia glanced at her phone and jumped down from the edge of the sink in the girl’s bathroom. Ten more minutes before the late bus. She could risk leaving now. Cracking open the door, she looked up and down the hallway for any sign of Clive. So far, so good. She’d kept her backpack and jacket with her all day so all she had to do was escape outside without being seen. Then she’d have the whole weekend without him following her around. The way he seemed to know where she’d be at any given time was more than a little creepy. It wasn’t right. He wasn’t right. Lydia couldn’t figure out what Clive wanted, but whenever he looked at her she felt unsteady, like the ground was tilting under her feet.

For once she’d timed it perfectly—the halls were empty. Shouldering her pack, Lydia sprinted down the stairs to the side exit where she could see the bus loading zone and had a clear view of anyone coming in or out of the building. A few other students and several of her teachers passed by as if she were invisible. If only she were invisible, then Clive wouldn’t be her problem.

She waited until everyone else boarded before jogging across the field to the bus. There were a few other kids she knew, but no one spoke to her. It had been a long week and Lydia didn’t want to talk to anyone, either. As they pulled away from school, she let her breath out in a long sigh, shoved her backpack under an empty seat, and slumped against the window. With Monday off, she had three days to work on her college essays and get her history paper finished. Three whole days without having to dodge her personal stalker. “Thank God it’s Friday” had never seemed more appropriate.

“May I?” a deep voice asked, full of exaggerated politeness.

She jerked her head up, heart pounding. It couldn’t be. Clive was standing, leaning over her seat, staring at her with his odd emerald eyes. He shouldn’t even be here—as far as she knew, he didn’t live anywhere near her side of town. As usual, no one even glanced her way. She wondered if anyone would react if she screamed. If Clive tried to touch her, she sure as hell would. He sat down beside her and she inched closer to the window.

“It’s the glamour,” he said.

All that effort avoiding him for nothing. How did he even get on the bus? Lydia was sure he hadn’t boarded before her and she was the last one on. Maybe he would just go away if she closed her eyes.

“That’s why they don’t really notice you.”

Lydia could hear the perfect smile in his voice. Ever since he came to school in September, most of the girls and even some of the guys had practically drooled over him. But no one else seemed to catch the odd things he said to her. Not the kids who orbited around “Planet Clive,” not the teachers, who somehow never called on him or collected his homework. Not the guidance counselor, who didn’t seem to register her complaints about him. No one.

“But it’s thinning,” he said.

At least her stop was next. Then she could go home and pretend there wasn’t anyone named Clive Barrow following her around at school. And in seven months, she would graduate, then head off to college. With any luck, she would never, ever see him again.

“Once it’s gone altogether, you won’t be safe here anymore. Even Oberon couldn’t keep you hidden forever.”

She opened her eyes. He was staring at her, smiling. Oberon. Shakespeare. He was talking nonsense again. And she was pretty sure he was mocking her, too. They just finished reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in English class. “Taking the in-character exercise pretty seriously, aren’t you?” Lydia said, irritation making her sarcastic.

“Where do you think he stole his ideas from?”

“Who?” she asked, before pressing her lips closed. She shouldn’t have opened her mouth. The last thing she wanted was to encourage him. In a few minutes, she would be home. Surely he wouldn’t follow her there.

“Shakespeare.” Clive shook his head, his straight, black hair falling to frame his oval face. “Never mind.”

“What’s wrong with you? Just leave me alone,” she said, tugging her backpack free from under the seat in front of her. The bus groaned as it turned the corner of her street. Lydia glared at Clive, but he didn’t budge, effectively trapping her there.

“Excuse me,” she said, not even trying to mirror his formal tone. Her mom’s Subaru was parked in the driveway. Good. She stood up and shouldered her bag, cursing as the bus accelerated past her house. Freaking driver wasn’t going to stop. Again. “Hey, that’s my stop!” she called. He slammed on the brakes and the bus squealed to a halt. The door hissed open.

Clive stood up and swept his arm in a bow that should have seemed weird and awkward in the confined space of the bus, but somehow didn’t. “After you,” he said.

Lydia pushed past him into the aisle, trying not to think of what she’d do if he followed her. Yell? Call the police? Run? She smiled. There weren’t a lot of kids who could outpace her when she poured it on. “Whatever,” she said.

As she turned toward the front of the bus, a shadow fell over it, darkening the afternoon to instant dusk. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Thorn pierce it,” Clive said, his voice a low growl.

She glanced back at him, not sure why the strange things he said bothered her, why she couldn’t just ignore him. He was staring out the window, his face chalk white. Something had ruffled his perfect composure. Lydia followed the line of his gaze to her house. Her brother Marco’s bike was leaning on the railing of the front porch, his muddy soccer cleats draped over the handlebars, as usual. One of her neighbors was walking a yapping Corgi. The sky that had been threatening rain all day let loose with a spray of fat droplets. It was all utterly ordinary. So why was her pulse pounding in time to the beat of the rain on the roof of the bus?

The door closed. They lurched forward. “You idiot, you made me miss my stop,” she said, reaching out to shove him in the chest. He muttered something under his breath.

A flare of lightning turned the other kids on the bus into distant silhouettes. Lydia squeezed her eyes shut against the searing brightness. Thunder roared like a freight train, rattling windows and leaving her ears ringing. She had never seen a storm hit so hard or so fast. Tornadoes weren’t common around here, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t happen, right?

The hair on her arms fanned out and a wave of pressure thrummed against her chest. The bus skidded to a stop, throwing Lydia against the edge of a seat. Its high back caught her in the stomach, leaving her gasping for breath.

Screams and shouts competed with the eerie harmonics of the wailing horn, making her skin crawl. She blinked, trying to clear the afterimages from the lightning strike. Her ears still buzzed. The bus was complete chaos. Kids were scrambling to get to their feet, climbing over scattered backpacks and one another, shoving their way toward the door.

It all seemed so far away. Lydia stared out the windshield, her mouth falling open, as a torrent of water rushed down the street. Flashes of lightning pierced the dark sky. Pain burned like a stitch in her side, making it hard to breathe. She had to get out. She had to run. Lydia shivered, pushing her way through her panicked classmates to the front of the bus.

The driver was slumped over the wheel, blood running from his forehead. Outside, a huge maple tree lay across the road. It was a miracle they hadn’t hit it.

“Come on!” Clive said. “They’re looking for you.”

“What? Who?” Lydia shuddered, his words like the cold rain lashing the bus. She reached for the door release.

“Not that way, you fool!” he shouted. “Look!” Clive pivoted her shoulders around toward the windshield.

The next flare burned a nightmare into her memory. The darkness outside was moving, like a sky full of insects. Each lightning strike erased huge swaths of wriggling blackness. As she watched, more of the swarm poured in to fill the gaps and ate their way closer to the bus. Her arms broke out in goose bumps. She couldn’t look away. “What the hell is that?” The sounds around her faded and all Lydia could hear was a low vibration from outside, pressing against the skin of the bus.

“Darklings. Let’s go,” Clive said.

“I don’t understand!”

He grabbed her wrist. “Come on, Lydia.”

“Let go of me,” she said, pulling away and cradling her hand.

“I can’t let them find you.”

The kids around her were crying or shouting, but it was as if she were in a sound-proof bubble. Only Clive’s voice and the buzzing darkness felt real. Some part of her recognized this sense of floating as shock. Like the time she fell out of the apple tree and fractured her arm when she was six. She remembered the thump of her body hitting the ground, and the snap of bone, like a tree branch breaking. The pain had been a distant thing. Lydia frowned and took a deep breath. Something was happening here. Something important. She took an uncertain step toward the bus driver, trying to shake off the numbness. “What about him? We have to call 9-1-1.”

“It’s you they’re after. We have to get you away from here. Now move!” She had never heard that note of panic in Clive’s smooth voice before.

She looked from the driver to the writhing shadow outside. As she watched, she knew whatever the darkness was, it saw her. Her mouth dried and she couldn’t swallow. Something deep inside her was being slowly unwound like a spool of thread.


She couldn’t move. He grabbed her arm again. There was a tug near her heart. She gasped, her free hand grappling for what was tearing at her chest. “No, stop!” she cried. The pressure built and built until Lydia was sure she was being turned inside out. Just when she thought she would collapse, there was an abrupt snap like a rubber band recoiling, and she lurched backward into an open seat, her lungs burning.

“Shut your eyes,” Clive warned.

“What was that?” she whispered. “What are you doing to me?”

“We don’t have time for this,” he snapped. Still holding onto her wrist, he pulled her to her feet and flung himself toward the emergency exit window. Lydia was too shocked to flinch.

Rainbow-colored ripples moved through the glass, slowly liquefying it. She tried to yank free, but his long fingers clamped down like the jaws of an animal. He dragged her along with him through the spreading waves of what had once been a dingy bus window. She could still read the placard below the window frame—in case of emergency, push glass out. There was no glass left to push. They were swimming through air as dense as sea water. Warmth and color lapped at her skin.

This couldn’t be happening.

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