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Shires Press Series – Sneak Peak #2

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About The Author: Alena Hunt grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts where she surrounded herself by books and stories. The first story she ever tried to publish, was a Little Red Riding Hood retelling she wrote when she was eight. Unfortunately, the idea was declined. Twelve years later, she decided to continue a story about a boy with a traumatizing nightmare through Shires Press! In May of 2019, Alena will be a graduate of Southern Vermont College, with a BA in Creative Writing and a double minor in both English and Rhetoric. When she’s not writing, you can find her in a bookstore, probably with a coffee in hand, listening to music, or spending time with her family. This will be her first novel.

 

Summary:

When Aeva Jones wakes up in the middle of the night to her house on fire, she thinks her nightmares are just coming true. Until her friend, who she thought had been dead for two years, shows up and takes her away, telling her she has to trust him. Aeva doesn’t think it could get any worse. Her parents are dead (and they weren’t even her real parents), the friend she thought was dead isn’t, and there’s a target on her back for reasons she didn’t have anything to do with. As Aeva struggles to figure out her past and find a new future, she will discover that everything she thought was true is a lie. And the truths now, are even more horrifying. Ones she is not ready to live with. Ones she will fight to survive through, if she can. Even if it means facing a past that already broke her once. And will not hesitate to break her down again, for good.

 

Chapter 1

 

four months later

 

It was two-twenty-seven in the morning when Aeva found herself lost and found. Her ears throbbed with the alarm that blared throughout the house. Fire. There must be a fire, she thought. But before she could rub the sleepiness from her eyes, her bedroom door banged open, and a man screamed, “I found her!” He couldn’t be older than twenty. “Aeva, come on we’ve got to go.” He made to take her hand, but she shot away from him as if she’d been burned.

 

“Who the hell are you?” The figure sighed and just rushed, “I can’t explain right now, I just need you to trust me. We’ll tell you everything soon.” We? Who the hell was we? And why did she feel like she’d heard that voice before? The man took another step towards her, and Aeva moved away again. “You want to burn in your house, that’s fine, but you’ll die never knowing who killed your parents.” Aeva froze. Her parents. Dead. No. Please, no.

 

“D-dead?” Tremors shook the sleepiness from her hands. She couldn’t breathe. Her dream had come true. And it had taken her father with it.

 

“Yes, Aeva. I’m sorry, I truly am, but I can’t explain anymore. We need to go, now.” Her arm was practically torn out of its socket as he pulled her through the door and into the smoke infested hallway, down the stairs, and out into the freezing night. Her toes curled in on the cold and fields of goosebumps popped up all over her arms as they hurtled towards a silver Honda Pilot. The door was barely shut behind them before the screech of tires shifted them into the night.

 

No one said a thing for a long time, the hiss of leftover rain on the highway being the only sound. The young man had his head propped up on his hand looking out the window. Moonlight lit up the bags under his eyes. Finally, the driver spoke, shattering the silence. “You’re sure no one else was in there?” The boy sighed before replying. “I was only told to bring Aeva, not be a lookout as well.”

 

“Watch your tone boy, unless you’d prefer to be back where we found you.” Eyes rolled in response. “I’d suggest learning some respect. Fast. Did she even get your name?”

 

“She already knows me.” Aeva looked at him again. The voice was so familiar yet, there was something in it that fogged out her memory. Childhood. The messy auburn hair that used to fall into eyes that Aeva was sure were bought from the Devil. So deep, demanding. Knowing. Holy shit.

“Adam?” Aeva breathed. She took in his whole face; a beard had grown in whereas kids it had been bare, and the lines of his neck ran down strong.

 

“Hi, Aeva. How you been?” Aeva couldn’t find words to answer. The last time she’d seen Adam was two years ago, when he mysteriously disappeared overnight with his mother somewhere. Aeva couldn’t remember how many calls and texts she’d sent him, worried sick. It took six months for her to finally stop and admit to herself that he was gone for good. Or dead. She’d seen the latter at night, woke up screaming to it until she finally believed it. And now, here he was very much alive. And grown up. The high young voice had faded away to a deeper tone

and his once messy brown waves were gone, cut short save one section in the front that was brushed off his forehead. Nothing remained from the past except that attitude. At least that clearly hadn’t left. Like everything else had. And her parents. Oh my god.

 

“What happened to my parents?” A weight fell upon the air. Adam didn’t move, only turned his attention back to the window. The sound of skin and rubber squeaked as the driver gripped the steering wheel harder, whiting out his knuckles. Finally, a sigh, and the driver replied, “We’re not entirely sure. But Hansel will explain everything once we’re back.”

 

“How are you not sure? Adam said they were dead.” She asked. “They are. I’m sorry Aeva but yes, they are. And that’s all we know. We came to get you as soon as we were aware.” Aeva slumped back against the seat. Her eyes stung, but she swallowed back the tears that dared to break out. She would not cry here. She heard her mother’s voice instead. She whispered to her, I’m here, I’m with you. It only made the heat behind her eyes flare and the tears push against her lids harder, but she shut her eyes and breathed. She would practice quiet deep breaths when the voice from the night before slithered back into her head and threatened to break her down. The visions would blur in and attack, but she’d gotten stronger since the first. She would not let this news crumple her. I’m here. I’m with you. Aeva held her hands in her lap and rubbed her thumb over the top of her hand like her father used to, when the dark promised nothing but fear and pain and there was nothing to prevent it. You’ve got a stronger spirit than anything that may hurt it. Be strong.

But what if it’s not enough? She asked. Then hold on to what you do have, and do not let go. The voice of her father hummed through her like a hive of bees. Urgent but not threatening. Strong but not harsh. Do not let go. I’m with you. Pushing down the rest of the tears, Aeva took her hands, another deep breath and surrendered to the sounds of the road until she fell asleep.

Aeva’s chest felt like a spider had intruded and weaved a web of flesh, pulling it tight. She shivered as she sat up, trying to rub the sleepiness from her eyes and head. Everything was gray and heavy, as if dying. Waiting to die. Massaging her chest, trying to relieve the tension, Aeva got up from the bed she awoke in. Her nose wrinkled at the stale smell permeating the air. This wasn’t her room. It wasn’t even her house as she opened the door and found an unfamiliar hallway, and three more doors at the end. She winced at the growing tension in her chest. She adjusted her breathing to shorter breaths and took one step. Two. A staircase appeared to the right. Aeva went down and saw what she didn’t want to. What she had been working so hard to forget and leave alone.

 

Adam stood with his back to her, looking at a fireplace that was just as dead as the rest of this place. She found her breath bump as he turned to face her. Nothing had changed. The person who had taken her from the house had melted back into who she remembered. Unlike the boy who had mouthed off to an adult, the boy who stood before her, reminded her of everything. The laughs, the adventures, the tears, all of it. Her eyes winced again, as the burning began to spark, a

fire trying to come to life in her heart. But just the process of getting it started made her regret wanting it at all. Because she also remembered when he changed. When his smile no longer was meant for her, but for some new friends he had made over summer at his new job. The amount of texts and snapchats she’d left him were pathetic. And the one time they planned to see each other, he’d stood her up, leaving her to walk city streets until she finally tugged herself back to the bus station, giving into the truth. She wasn’t good enough anymore. He had grown up and started some new life. And clearly, he’d decided it would be without her in it.

 

She remembered that day as clearly as any other. But the boy standing in front of her just stood, hands in his hoodie, as if nothing had happened.

 

“Hi, Aeva.” Damnit even his voice was lighter. It tore through her, to hear that familiar tone. Of calm, happiness. The genuine tone of just being happy to see someone you loved. Or thought you loved.

 

“Hi Adam. What’s up?” He shrugged, but his eyes were weary as he continued, “You’re mad.”

“I’m not mad. Why would I be mad?”

 

“Because I left you.” “Yeah. Yeah you did. What the hell was that for?” The situation meant more to him than Aeva thought. For suddenly, Adam’s eyes wore the exhaustion he’d wear while they were at work after a long day of school and he hadn’t gotten any sleep.

 

“I was going to make it up to you.” “Bullshit.” The word was a bullet out of her mouth. “That’s complete and utter bullshit.” “No, it’s not.” His voice bore stone as he grabbed her gaze and tunneled down. “Honest to God, I was planning on seeing you that day. Someone called out sick from work and I had to cover.”

 

“And you couldn’t think to tell me that before I hauled ass all the way down there? You have no freaking idea what it did to me.”

 

“I’m guessing it felt pretty horrible.” Aeva felt her chest relax a little as a laugh bubbled up, sounding more sarcastic than not.

 

“Horrible? Jesus Adam, you don’t even care. You just want me to forgive you so we can move on like we used to, right? That’s how it works, right?” Adam wasn’t even looking at her anymore. Coward. You are a fucking coward.

 

“I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m sorry Aeva. I’m sorry.”

 

~o~

Aeva decided she hated sunlight. Or any light for that matter. It woke her up at the most inopportune moments. Like that dream. So much she still could have screamed at him. And he knew she wanted to. And if that damned sun wouldn’t be up, she probably would have. It occurred to her only after she rubbed the sleepiness out of her eyes that she was in another bed. The window to her left was the traitor as she noticed no shade had been pulled down to block out

the light. Shading her scrunched up eyes, Aeva moved off the bed and over to cover the window. There was a little seat with a blue cushion just asking her to sit down. It sunk beneath her but felt soft and gentle beneath her. Memory foam, she guessed. Her mother had gotten her a memory foam mattress cover for Christmas one year, and Aeva had never slept better.

 

A semicircle of gravel bordered a large patch of pine trees while the rest of the yard on the opposite side of the circle was trimmed and being watered by sprinklers. Hedges lines the front of the house, and a simple staircase led to the front door. Where Aeva would be as soon as possible. She headed for her door, when a loud buzzing noise made her jump at least two feet in the air and screech. And a woman’s voice said, “Good morning, Aeva. Breakfast is ready downstairs.” Aeva made to open the door when she looked down and noticed she was still in her pajamas. She opened a small mahogany dresser that was filled with shirts pants and even undergarments that fit her. Planned. All of this had to have been planned, Aeva thought as she rifled through the pieces, settling on a gray t-shirt, dark green hoodie and jeans. Then she headed down to breakfast, trying her hardest to swallow the echoes of all the things she wanted to scream.

Bacon grease and maple wafted from the door to her right as Aeva descended the staircase and headed for the kitchen. Aeva eased the door open and found Adam and the driver from the night before sitting at a marble topped island, a large gas stove sitting in front of it. The man working at it was near her dad’s age, maybe a little older with the speckles of grey in his russet colored hair that was neatly combed. He was flipping the bacon, the crack and pop the only sound until the man turned his face towards her and smiled. It was the kind of smile that you couldn’t help but smile back. “Good morning, Aeva. You’re just in time.” His voice was strong and deep. One that Aeva could imagine got everyone’s attention quickly. His body was lean however for a man of his age, of at least fifty. He wore no apron but gray sweatpants and a clean white t-shirt. Adam and the driver were dressed; Adam downing a black hoodie under a green jacket and jeans while Mitch sported just a black sweatshirt and jeans. Both were waiting patiently with empty plates for whatever the man was preparing. Aeva slowly inched towards the bar and slid onto a stool next to Adam, at the end of the bar.

 

“Good morning.” Adam mumbled. He clearly hadn’t been in the mood to get up either. He was still wearing lounge pants and the t-shirt he probably went to sleep in. Aeva forced a smile to her lips and echoed the welcome. The driver said nothing, only kept his head down on his phone doing whatever was so important. He was wearing a rugged brown coat and had combed his black hair as well. She couldn’t tell whether it was the sunlight that poured in and onto his figure, the outline from the sun’s stream through the window made the man look severe in a way that said, “stay away.” Finally, a gentle clunk sounded the plate of bacon and pancakes that looked better to Aeva’s stomach than to Aeva. An emptiness grumbled, but Aeva couldn’t find the will to grab her fork.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry. You can help yourself. Take as much as you want. I’m happy to make more.” The cook said, noticing Aeva’s hesitation. Aeva nodded meekly but replied quietly, “I’m not very hungry. I kind of lost my appetite.” A grunt sounded at the opposite end of the bar. The driver had already doused his pancakes in syrup and was stabbing his fork to the plate making a high kink noise.

“You’re really missing out you know,” Adam said, giving his own stack a dressing of syrup and slice of butter. “Hansel’s the best breakfast cook in town, and I’m not just saying that because I live with him. Seriously, have at least one.” Before Aeva could make another case, he was already spearing a pancake and plopping it on her plate, offering the syrup, which Aeva nodded to. She cut a piece, and bit down. A feeling of home washed over her. They tasted exactly like her dad made them, crispy on the outside, and soft like cotton on the inside. She couldn’t help it when a smile appeared, making Hansel chuckle. “Like them?” She loved them. Going back or piece after piece before Hansel was already giving her another. After a sip of the coffee in his cup, Hansel looked to Aeva, already halfway through her second pancake and mused, “Did your dad ever tell you where he got the recipe from?” The fork stopped halfway to her mouth. The room deadened; all movements stilled. Hansel took in a breath, realizing what he’d just brought up and closed his eyes, cursing himself, Aeva hoped.

 

“I’m sorry, Aeva. I didn’t mean to bring that up.” “It’s fine,” Aeva said more forcefully than she’d intended. “Don’t worry about it.” But it was anything but fine. Her parents, two of the most trusted people in her life, who had loved her, were gone. Dead. It fell like an anchor to the bottom of her heart, echoing the word back up her throat and staying there. She felt the tears begin to well up again but shoved them down. She would not cry in front of them. I’m with you. Don’t be afraid. Sweet nothings they may have been, but that’s all it took for her to blink back the words that threatened to break her. Only you decide what breaks you, Aeva. She heard her father say. This wouldn’t break her. She may be hurt, and she would be healing for a long time, but this wasn’t going to break her. That wouldn’t do any good when she still had no idea why they were dead.

 

“You still haven’t told me anything of why I’m even here, or what happened to them,” Aeva demanded.

 

“I was going to bring everyone into the library so we could tell you in more appropriate way,” Hansel replied, ignoring the impatience in Aeva’s voice.

 

“What do they have to do with it?” Aeva demanded, glancing at Adam and the driver, too enthralled in his mountain of bacon to bother acknowledging anything else.

 

“A great deal, I’m afraid. And there is a lot that you have been kept from for your own safety. But now that that too has been jeopardized, there’s nothing left to protect you from, except what has now already made its move.” An abyss. That’s what Aeva felt she was drifting towards with every word out of this man’s mouth. And from what she could see, it was coming up very quickly. She glanced at Adam, wanting to know what he had to say, but he just stared at his empty plate and moved to put it in the sink. This was not going to be good.

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