Coming mid-November to an Amazon near you!
After a year and a half in the making, Drake and the Fliers, my Young Adult urban fantasy/dystopian novel, is 99% fit for public consumption. While I apply the last tweaks to it, I thought it would be fun to give you guys a sneak peek at the final product – namely the cover, description, and Chapter One. Enjoy!
Sixteen-year-old Drake can’t understand why the virus spared him. The only survivors he’s seen vandalized his makeshift dwelling, and despite his sister’s dying wish that he connect with others, he spends his days alone – that is, until he develops the ability to shapeshift into a dragon.
While exploring his new abilities, Drake nearly flies into Preston, another shifter. Their chances of survival increase if they team up with others like them, but when their search leads to a group in Las Vegas, they find not everyone is welcoming.
As Drake develops new relationships, Preston endures daily confrontation and eventually takes off on his own. Concerned for his friend’s safety, Drake launches a search and stumbles into a situation stranger than anything he could imagine. Now he must embrace his animalism if he wants to save his humanity.
Drake glanced over his shoulder and entered the office tower through the broken window. Dirt and glass crunched under his shoes, and he stole another look behind him when he reached the stairwell.
No one followed.
He adjusted his backpack, exhaled, and clicked on his flashlight as he took the first step to the twenty-eighth floor.
It was as good a place to live as any. Though after the power quit, and leaving the building required hiking down and back up three hundred ninety-two steps, he’d considered finding a home closer to the ground. He stayed on the upper floor because no one knew he lived there.
Plus, it was the last place he and Kelsey had been together.
He hustled up the switchback staircase, pausing on the west landings, each one brightened by the sun shining through a small window. Pointing his flashlight up the stairs towards each east landing, he prayed the beam would fall on an empty space. The possibility of finding someone hiding there made his heart race at every turn.
When Drake neared the tenth floor, a bang echoed from the base of the stairwell.
He froze, then clicked off the flashlight, leaned over the rail, and strained to see anything in the dark half of the stairs. Motionless, he held his breath and listened.
Must not have shut the door all the way.
He exhaled and continued up the stairs. The soles of his Converse sneakers made a soft scraping sound, frustrating his attempt to listen for more unusual noises.
He reached his floor and entered the office, bright from the late afternoon sun shining through the large windows. After he opened a bottle of water from his backpack and took a drink, he tossed the rest of the bottles into the closet where he kept his rations. He scowled at the mess and spent a few minutes organizing it. Satisfied with his work, he grabbed a packet of beef jerky, shut the door, and turned around.
Drake yelled and fell back against the door.
The black-haired guy stood before him, flanked by the skinny blonde girl and the pimply brown-haired guy. “I knew we’d find you eventually.”
Drake’s heart pounded, but he stood taller. “What the hell do you want?” The shakiness in his voice betrayed the confidence he tried to fake.
“What kind of greeting is that? Didn’t your mom teach you any manners?”
The other two laughed.
How did they sneak up on him? He’d watched out for them since they terrorized a girl on the street a few days ago. They must have stationed themselves near the building and waited for him to return.
To Drake’s surprise, the guy held out a hand. “I’m Zeke.” His collared shirt and neat hair made him look like the leader of his school’s chess club, not the leader of a street gang.
Drake glanced at Zeke’s hand and stepped forward to cut through the group.
Zeke blocked his path. “Come on, man. Why hang out here by yourself? You’re not the only survivor.” His proximity and tone reminded Drake of that jerk in ninth grade who’d tried to pressure him into sharing test answers.
“I know that.” Drake stepped sideways to walk around the group again.
Zeke nodded, and the other two grabbed Drake’s arms. Drake pulled against them, giving more force to the girl’s side, thinking he could pull free. Pain shot up his neck when she squeezed a nerve near his elbow.
“You should hang with us now,” Zeke said.
Zeke walked to the desk and crouched behind it. Moments later, he popped up holding a computer tower.
“You’re stealing that? It’s useless.”
“I’m not stealing it.” Zeke lifted the tower over his head, walked to the window, and threw it.
The glass shattered, and Drake held his breath. Weren’t these high rise windows supposed to be unbreakable?
Zeke stomped towards Drake. “How about now?”
“How is breaking my stuff supposed to convince me to go with you?”
“Your stuff?” Zeke grabbed the leather chair from behind the desk and grunted as he heaved it through another floor-length pane. Jagged shards of glass remained in the top of the frame. “We’re just offering easy access.”
“Easy access to what?” Drake tried to swallow the lump in his throat.
The other two thugs laughed again. Maybe Zeke kept them around for this purpose.
“I tried being friendly, but you didn’t want to play it that way, Ponytail.” Zeke looked at the broken pane before he approached Drake and leaned in; his gross Cheeto breath wafted over Drake’s face. “The world’s started over, and someone needs to take charge. Might as well be us.” He plucked a marble paper weight from the desk and tossed it in his hand like a baseball. “You changed yet?”
“Changed?” Drake scowled. He didn’t survive the virus to be bossed around by this jerk. “Screw you.”
Zeke hurled the weight through the next window. Drake hoped he would run out of ammo before breaking all fifteen windows in the corner office.
The pimply guy planted a fist in Drake’s gut, sending a bolt of pain through him. Drake doubled over and coughed, unable to pull in an adequate breath, as the trio took his things and broke more windows.
Drake could only listen to the destruction. His eyes burned at his inability to stop the vandals, but he pushed back his frustration. His injury didn’t give him an excuse to look weak.
The girl approached him as he hunched over. “Give us something that matters, and we’ll stop.”
“Matters? What difference does that make?” He pulled a breath into his tight chest.
“You want us to stop, or–”
“Nothing matters. Just finish and get the hell out.” He coughed again and crouched over his hip, resisting the urge to bring his hand to his pocket. If she found what he hid there and destroyed it, his statement would be true. Nothing would matter.
Before rejoining the guys, she pulled the elastic band from Drake’s short ponytail. His wavy, brown hair fell around his face.
Drake’s hands balled into fists, and his nails dug into his palms. If he could breathe, he might have thrown the girl out the window.
Hot wind blew through the office. Zeke kneeled next to Drake and held something out to him: a black feather. After a moment of hesitation, Drake took it. The moving air shook its thin fibers.
Zeke stood. “Give it a few days. I think you’ll change your mind.”
“Yeah, he’ll change more than his mind.” The girl tossed the hair tie next to Drake’s feet as the other two laughed. They returned to the stairwell.
He’ll change more than his mind.
What did that mean? Drake stared at the pieces of shattered glass and willed himself not to cry.
He dropped the feather and picked up the hair tie. After redoing his ponytail at the back of his neck, he pulled his sister’s dead iPhone from his pocket as he walked to the first broken window. He sat on the floor and studied the orange butterfly that decorated the phone’s protective case.
Kelsey had loved butterflies. He traced the wing with his finger.
Find the others. Figure out why you survived.
How could she want him to hook up with those jerks?
Maybe Kelsey was wrong. Maybe he was supposed to be alone.
He looked out at the decrepit city and pretended the building across the street was full of employees finishing their work days. Abandoned cars littered the street below, relics of a time when people cared about things like traffic lights and gas mileage. The wind carried both the garbage that hadn’t yet found a permanent place and the rotting stench Drake barely noticed anymore: the stench of food, waste, and countless bodies of those who died too late for anyone to bury them.
No one cared how they left things, even as it became obvious that a few, like Drake, were immune. And why would they care? They weren’t the ones dealing with a decaying world.
Drake had counted eight survivors, including the thugs. But the others had run away before he could talk to them.
He wasn’t like Zeke. It would be nice if they cared to learn that about him.
Drake turned the phone around in his hand and listened to the silent remains of Denver. The sky glowed orange as the sun set, too early to go to bed in his old life. Now, he spent most of his time fitfully sleeping. He’d read through the last stash of comic books he’d taken from the library, and until he went back for more, there wasn’t anything else to do.
He should leave. Zeke knew where Drake lived; it would be smart to find a new place to hide.
His stomach turned at the thought. Here, he at least had the memory of Kelsey. He’d be truly alone if he went somewhere else.
He walked down the hall and into the dark, interior office, put Kelsey’s phone on the desk, lit a candle, and settled on the couch that had been his bed since she died a month earlier. At first, he slept there hoping he’d catch the virus from the place she’d been. When that didn’t work, he stayed because sleeping elsewhere felt unnatural.
In the flickering light, he studied the paintings he’d set on the floor and leaned against the desk. His favorite showed a young woman in a green dress patting the nose of a red dragon. The dragon looked peaceful and strong, while the woman appeared gentle and kind. Drake extinguished the flame and imagined standing next to her, touching the dragon’s scaly skin.
The sensation of falling into cold water yanked him from his sleep, and he blinked several times to get his bearings. Something pinched his back when he tried to roll onto his side.
“What the hell?” He reached around for the offending nuisance, but his tight skin hindered his flexibility. He brought his hand to his face and rubbed his eyes but could hardly feel anything with his fingers. They were like gloves, but tougher, less pliable. He ran his long nails down his cheeks, tracing distinct, hard bumps. Holding his breath, he moved his fingers to the top of his head, following sharp protrusions. Horns.
He shot up from the couch and knocked the phone off the desk.
That didn’t make sense. The desk was in the middle of the room, out of his arms’ reach. His eyes focused in the darkness, and he barely made out the end of the thing that had pinched his back: a wing.
He gasped and spun around, yelling when his tail smashed into the desk.
His heart rate skyrocketed. He lumbered from the office, scraping his sides as he squeezed through the doorway.
The moonlight shining through the broken windows offered a dim illumination. He stopped running and shook his head to wake up.
This had to be a dream.
He held his hands – his claws? – in front of his face. Pointed nails jutted from the tips of his long fingers. The moonlight glinted off his scaly arms and torso. His gaze drifted to the wing, then he jerked his head around to an identical wing on the other side.
Though the possibility terrified him, he willed the wings to move.
He yelled, but it didn’t sound or feel like a yell. Centering his energy in his chest, where the sound came from, he opened his mouth and released a roar that echoed off the building across the street, startling him.
He froze and refused to move or make any other noise. He’d wake on his couch as a human at any moment.
Eventually, the rising sun brightened the sky. He’d stayed by the window, lying on his belly so his tail wasn’t in the way.
This didn’t feel like a dream anymore.
Wanna read more? Click here to pre-order!