An excerpt from Moon Rise...

I stood perfectly still, waiting for someone to respond. No answer. No lights. Muttering, I made my way to the corner of the house and stopped. A screened porch stretched across the back of the house, illuminated by a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. The dim wash of light extended only a few feet from the house, into a large grassy area. Beyond the splash of light, in the deep shadows, I saw something that made me gasp and dart behind a bush. I tried to comprehend what I was seeing, but my brain said, Does not compute.

Two pairs of golden orbs floated above the ground, glowing in the darkness, moving toward me. Closer. Closer. Then, suddenly, they disappeared. I shook my head in denial. No way! I had to be hallucinating. Crouched behind my bush, I breathed deeply, trying to slow my racing heart. When I looked again, I sensed movement and sound just beyond the pale slash of light. Curiosity overcame fear. What was I seeing?

I stood. Took a couple of steps and peered into the shadows. I saw the outline of two individuals, one bigger than the other. They kicked and spun, throwing punches, ducking and dodging in a blur of motion, faster than any mortal could move. The smaller person stepped away from a roundhouse kick before leaping effortlessly over the taller one’s head. Not possible. Not humanly possible.

The tall person whirled around and the two faced each other again, both inching toward the light. Could it be . . . ?

Before my shocked gaze, Beck and Nicole Bradford appeared in the light, eyes fixed on each other, engaged in a silent, deadly skirmish, with moves so incredibly swift and powerful they defied description.

Nicole, dressed in knee-length exercise pants and a midriff-baring tee shirt, took a step back as Beck advanced. In spite of the weather, he was naked from the waist up. His shoulders were broad and gleaming with sweat, his chest and arms ripped with well-defined muscles. A pair of faded jeans rode low on his hips and clung to muscular thighs. Whoa! Where did this guy come from? The Beck I knew was lean and sinewy.

Mesmerized, I watched the ritualistic pattern of advance and retreat, feeling the tension build between them, each waiting for the other to make a move. Nicole made a little growling sound, her lip curled into a sneer. Beck’s face lit up in a savage grin. Caught up in their game, I was unprepared for what happened next. They turned and began walking toward me, their golden eyes glowing with anticipation.

I didn’t stop to think about it. Instead, I listened to the voice inside my head, screaming, Something’s very wrong with this picture. Run, Allie, run!

I’m pretty fast on my feet. Especially when chased by a set of twins with glowing, golden eyes who looked like they wanted to toss me back and forth to tenderize my flesh before throwing me on the barbeque. Never mind, I could hardly see my hand in front of my face, much less the various garden implements scattered in my path, I took off like the Road Runner pursued by Wile E. Coyote. Eyes fixed on the front of the house, I’d sprinted maybe six steps when . . . Whomp! I hit a brick wall. At least that’s what I thought. Turned out, it was Beck Bradford’s chest.

Steely arms held me tight against his body. Frantic to get away, I kicked and screamed and tried to sink my teeth into Beck’s chest. Through it all, I heard the murmur of his voice, deep and soothing. In my panicked state, the words became meaningless, nothing more than garbled sound. In our struggle, I must have nipped him in a sensitive place, because I heard a grunt of pain followed by, “Allie, stop! Listen to me!”

He released me and cupped my face. His hands were warm, his touch soothing. “You’re safe here. We won’t hurt you.”

A little hard to believe when you’re standing in the dark and all you can see is a pair of glowing eyes. Make that two pair. Nicole stood behind Beck. As I calmed down, I became aware of my breathing. Each inhalation was accompanied by a rhythmic squeak. I sounded like a terrified mouse cornered by a cat. Very embarrassing. But, hold on! Why should I be embarrassed? I was the victim, here. Beck was the aggressor.

I put my hands on my hips and glared up at him. “You know what! You’re a jerk! First, you tell me to come over and get my backpack and, oh, be sure not to use the front door. Then, I practically kill myself stumbling around in the dark and see you and Nicole doing. . . whatever you were doing. I have one question. Why? Okay, make that two questions. How? How did you get from point A, the backyard, to point B, here, so fast? Fly?”

I stopped my squeaky tirade and gulped air.

Beck took my hand. “I don’t blame you for being mad, but I needed you to see what we are. Nicole and me. We’re . . . well, we’re different. You’re different too, aren’t you, Allie?”

Struck dumb, my mouth opened and closed, unable to formulate an answer. How did he know about me? Should I trust him? Trilby seemed to think so. More importantly, she thought I needed him to restore my missing powers.

“Let’s go inside. We’ll explain everything,” Beck said.

Followed by Nicole, he led me to the back of the house and through the enclosed porch into the big farm kitchen. A wooden table and four chairs were placed in the center of the room. Beck pulled out a chair and guided me into it. He turned one of the chairs around, straddled it and studied my face like I was a science experiment gone wrong.

Nicole gave me a disinterested glance and turned to her brother. “Is that it? I’ve got stuff to do.”

“Stick around a while, okay?” Beck said.

Nikki heaved a sigh but flopped down in the chair across from me. She ran a practiced eye over my outfit (jeans and sweatshirt) and my hair (wild, frizzy, escaping from a pony tail) before saying, “It was Beck’s idea. I told him you’d be scared. Hope you didn’t pee your pants.”

I leaned across the table and narrowed my eyes at her. After what I’d been through, I didn’t need attitude from cute, little, I-can-kick-my-brother’s-ass-without-breaking-a-sweat, Nicole Bradford. “I wasn’t that scared.”

“Yeah, right.”

“What’s your problem, Nicole? What have I ever done to you?”

She glared right back at me. “Nothing. I just don’t want you here.”

I shot up so fast the chair crashed over. “Fine. I’ll get my backpack and leave.”

Beck took hold of Nicole’s arm and gave it a little shake. “Come on, Nikki, Allie needs help. You know I have to do this.”

Nicole looked down at the table. I saw her lower lip quiver. “But then she’ll know about us.” She pulled away from Beck. “This is the first time I’ve had friends. Cool friends.” She glanced at me then back at Beck. “What if she tells them about me? About us?”

“She won’t.” Beck said.

Even though I was still ticked off, I was intrigued by Nicole’s comments. I picked up the chair and sat down. I tried to focus on Beck’s face but it was hard. Think about it. Me, Alfrieda Carlotta Emerson, sitting next to a hunky, bare-chested, totally buff Mr. Beefcake centerfold. A feast for the eyes. To hold on to my anger, I thought about Beck’s little plan, how I’d played right into his hands. “Was all that really necessary? The mysterious note . . . ‘Come at exactly 7:30 . . .don’t use the front door?’”

Beck sat. “Yes, call it a demonstration. Now that you’ve seen what we can do, you’re ready to hear the rest.”

He looked at Nicole and waited.

She examined her nails then said, “We’re Cambions.”

Okay, now I was really screwed. But no way was I going to let Nikki get the best of me.

I nodded. “Oh yes, from Cambia. What’s so different about that?”

Nicole smirked and Beck fought to keep a straight face. “So, if you know so much, tell me where is Cambia located?” Nicole asked me. She looked at her brother and grinned.

“Um . . . I think it’s in Eastern Europe. Oh, I know! It’s one of those little countries with weird names like Uzbekistan or Herzegovina. Right?”

“Wrong.” Nicole looked at Beck. “Tell her.”

Beck leaned toward me, his face deadly serious. “Don’t say anything. Just listen.”

I nodded, silenced by the sudden pain in his eyes. He took a deep breath and began, “Nicole and I are half-mortal, half-demon.”

I bit my lip to keep from crying out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but it didn’t sound good.

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