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Instinct Sneak Peek

TO BUY

Chapter One

Hope is the enemy of reason. My father’s favorite saying. And he should know—hope was what kept him alive through half a dozen chemo sessions. It made him keep taking the drugs given free by Havemeyer Corporation, the ones that started a cure and then veered off in some horrible direction that left him skeleton-thin and coughing blood. And like he said to me toward the end, that was the thing about hope—you nurtured it, cradled it, kept it alive until it ran out and left you. The way it had four Decembers ago when he gripped my hand in a bizarre final-reflex action, breath rattling from his throat like paper being crushed.

And now I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. The first day of school, and there was no place I’d rather not be. Because my father’s replacement, the hideous Father Dan, reverend and wife-stealer extraordinaire, was waiting downstairs for breakfast. Talk about dashed hopes.

* * * *

My cell rang as I brushed my teeth, trying to clear out the taste of cigarettes. I’d stayed awake late last night, our third night back from Florida, wishing I had a joint or a flask or something stronger than the nicotine that made me antsy. The toothbrushing was protective—my mother knew I smoked, in that “I know but I don’t really want to know so I won’t ask you,” kind of way, but if Father Jerkoff smelled it on me, he’d lecture. And it would be all I could do not to toss a glass of juice into his face, or some other, more destructive, object.

I spat and half shut my eyes, waiting for the phone to stop ringing. It did. So much for Father Dan’s stupid prediction that if I didn’t recharge it over the summer it wouldn’t work. I left the bathroom, pausing to cinch my jeans a bit tighter around my waist, and picked the phone off the floor. Seeing Emily’s name on the caller ID, I flipped the phone open, then hesitated. Confront now or later?

Later, I thought. If you were the one to blame it was always smart to put it off. I tossed the phone onto my bedspread and slowly headed downstairs.


Chapter Two

My mother was making peanut butter pancakes on the griddle. I kissed her cheek, received an absent kiss in return, and turned to see the bane of my current existence already sitting at the table. In the seat that used to be my dad’s, naturally, and I knew I’d catch hell if I asked him to move. Father Dan’s brown hair was combed perfectly, not a damn strand out of place. I’d heard them screwing in the Florida hotel room night after night, and every morning he always looked as dewy-eyed and perfect as a catalog model. My mother’s pink and dewy days were behind her, although you’d never know it from the way she acted around him. As if the replacement was as good as the original.

“Hey, Hester.”

I nodded and sat at the opposite end of the table. The Times had been delivered, and I pulled it toward me and pretended to be interested in the headlines. Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Iowa. Each one as distant from this place, this table, as the moon. I rested my head in my hands to hold the beginning headache at bay, kept my head down, and tried to focus on the paper’s neat black print. The one place I didn’t look was out the window, where the grim square abandoned buildings of Havemeyer stood in a clearing a hundred yards or so from the house. A constant reminder of hopes dashed.

“You look beautiful, honey.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“But I really wish you’d wear something besides those jeans.”

I touched them, almost protectively. “I like them.”

“Let her wear them,” Father Dan said. He smiled at me, a smile I didn’t bother returning. “They look good on her.”

Ah, yes. The compliment from the father replacement. Too bad he hadn’t waited until after my father died to screw my mother. Maybe I’d have appreciated it more.

My mother slid a couple of pancakes onto my plate. I dug my fork into the edge, pulling up a strip and sliding it into my mouth. Didn’t look at him. “Better than they looked on my father, you mean?”

I heard my mother’s intake of breath. Ignored it. The words seemed to fill the kitchen alcove, drowning out the sounds outside—birds at the feeder, a dog from somewhere down the street.

“They were his?”

I looked up. What an idiot. “Yes. They were his. He wore them until he got too thin. They would fall down around his hips. Mom would probably have thrown them out, like she did all his other things, but I managed to get to them first.”

“Hester…” My mother’s tone held a warning. I looked up—not at her, but at the photo she’d framed and hung up on the wall. She did something she called self-referential art, which basically meant she took pics of herself reacting to certain situations. The one she kept in the kitchen was of her right after she’d given birth to me. Neither I nor my father had made the shot, but my mother, all bright-eyed and pink, lay in a hospital bed smiling for herself at the camera. Part of the reason we’d gone to Florida in the last two weeks of August had been to see if she could sell some of her work. I let the fork fall to the plate and got up. “I’m going.”

“Hester…” Still the warning note. I finally looked at Father Dan. His dark blue eyes were sympathetic, which for some reason made me hate him more.

“Sorry,” I said. I pushed back my chair hard enough to leave skid marks and headed for the door. My mother said something about taking my lunch, but I pretended not to hear.


Chapter Three

I headed down the street, hands shoved in my pockets. The early sun was warm on the back of my head. Absently I kicked at a beer bottle, watching as it skittered off the curb before shattering in a profusion of green glass shards near a sewer grate. Some asshole in a pickup truck thundered past and wolf-whistled at me—I flipped him the bird and heard him laugh as I headed for the corner where I’d catch the school bus. It occurred to me that today was as good a day as any to skip out, but cutting on the first day back wasn’t a great idea. The truant officers were fresh off summer vacation and eager for blood.

I saw her before she saw me. Summer camp hadn’t taken off any pounds, which I knew would have pissed her mother off. She wore a blue and white checked shirt with long sleeves, even though it was close to seventy degrees out, and a pair of baggy jeans. She turned suddenly, as if sensing me. I braced myself.

“Hester!”

I opened my arms, an automatic gesture, and felt her familiar warmth as she pulled me toward her. A strand of her dark hair tickled my cheek, and I pulled away and held her at arms length. “You look great.”

“Huh. Not according to my mother.”

“Since when does she say anything nice?”

“Damned if I know.” She laughed a little and then pushed her hair back from her forehead. Her eyes, wide and brown as a spaniel’s, looked into mine. “I tried calling you this morning.”

“Sorry. I didn’t hear anything…”

“Not a problem. I just…I was wondering what was going on with you all summer, you know? I mean, I was always in camp. You didn’t call or text or…”

“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I was just…dealing with some shit. You know?”

“Like?

“My dad.” Even four years later, it was hard to say it—most people, including my friends, felt I should have moved on. And they might have been right, except for the fact that I’d been living and breathing the medical malpractice case against Havemeyer all summer. The case we’d lost. But I didn’t want to bring that up. Not now, and not to Em, who had her own shit to deal with. Like the fact that it was a new school year, complete with a brand new set of disappointments. I forced a smile and punched her lightly in the arm. “And there’s Dan.”

“He’s still with your mother?”

“Of course. And if you think it’s fun to listen to the two of them getting it on…”

“Eeew.”

“That’s what I said.”

She smiled faintly and looked down, nudging a chunk of broken concrete with her sneaker. Without looking up, she said, “Kyle thinks you hate him.”

“How could I hate him?”

“Because of what happened before summer break. You know.”

I did know. “That doesn’t matter to me anymore. Okay?”

“It does to him.”

I ran a hand through my hair. “I’ll talk to him. Tell him I’m sorry.” I touched her shoulder again, lightly. “You know I am, right?”

“I know. And it’s okay.” She hesitated. “I just…”

“What?”

“I guess I just worry that you’ll…pull away from us. From me and Kyle. I mean, you’re…different. In a good way, obviously, but…different. You’re not…dorky. Like us.”

“You guys aren’t dorky.”

“Sure we are. I’m fat and Kyle’s brainy. In high school either one of those things is social death.” She smiled, but this time there was no humor in it. “And you…”

“Stop it, Em.”

“Okay. I’m sorry.” She held up her hands and turned away.

“Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“You guys are always going to be my best friends. BFFs. All of that. Okay?”

“Okay.”

For some reason I needed more. “You still mad?”

She shook her head. The sound of our bus rumbling up the street almost drowned out her next words. Almost.

“But I think Kyle is.”

End of sampler. For more information, please visit Instinct

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"I am not even sure where to begin with this one, so this might just be a bit of a ramble because there is soooo much in my head with both this book and these characters!!!  All i can say is  .. YOU HAVE TO READ IT!!"

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"...this book is perfect for the younger crowd. It gives them the fantasy of a fairytale, the elements of a mystery and just enough of a love story not to "gross them out""

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"This book has it all, love, action, tragedy, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi."
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"This book has so much to offer, I loved the characters so much & theres so much to offer in this new series, that waiting for us fans will be sheer torture to say the least."
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