Read An Excerpt From Ember By Madison Daniel
~Time Is Running Out: Muse~
Sunday morning – 10:03 a.m. – August 13th.
My plan for getting up early didn’t quite pan out. I woke up to Oz jumping on my head. His warm little paws scratching at my fore head.
“Ow…quit it,” I slurred from the corner of my mouth but he only bounced harder when I resisted. He was ready for his next adventure and my lazy butt wasn’t going to slow him down today.
“All right, you win,” I groaned as I stumbled to my feet. I found my way to the bathroom and took a quick shower. As I walked to the kitchen I realized that Frank had already left for the day. On the kitchen table was a glass of juice that sat on top of some cash and a piece of paper. I stuck the cash in the pocket of my board shorts and read the note out loud.
“Max…I’ll be back this afternoon. Enjoy your first full day on the island. I hope the map’s enough to get you there? If not…just follow the thunder. Be safe…Frank.”
Scribbled below his writing was a simple map that he had drawn up himself. It was clear and easy enough to read. I stuck the map in my other pocket and glanced down at Oz.
“Well little man, you up for an adventure?” I asked and he danced in place. “Some lions, tigers and bears!” I sang to him. He jumped straight up, front paws reaching out and barked twice. It almost sounded as if he were singing along with me. I swung my guitar behind my back, stepped out the front door and inhaled the morning air.
“We’re off to see the wizard!” I teased.
Sunday afternoon – 2:33 p.m.
Frank was right about this beach, it was totally empty and completely overcast. I thought that was strange because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when we left the house. It seemed even darker over the water, giving the ocean a menacing shade of black.
“…You’re something beautiful…a contradiction…I want to play the game…I want the friction…” I sang out loud as my feet first touched the sand. A small wave crashed against the sand, signaling our arrival. A cool breeze hit us and the sun was nowhere to be found.
“…You…will be…the death…of me…” I sang softly and a shiver danced down my back.
The beach was quite breath taking in its own morbid way. There was a thin stretch of sand shaped like a crescent, with yellowish brown highlights and sprinkles of black peppered throughout it. Dangerous, sea carved rocks stuck from the ground and ocean on both sides of the beach. The largest cluster resided at the back, where the sand met the pavement of the road. Some were in the shapes of miniature mountains, while the others resembled daggers peaking from the earth. The image of a human shish kabob popped into my mind. Softly something rattled my nerves.
“Whoa…do you smell that?” I asked Oz as the mysterious new scent hit me. He grunted, lifting his snout into the oncoming breeze. It was a familiar smell to me but I stood confused by its presence here.
“Cherry blossoms,” I whispered. How is that possible? I asked myself. Oz shook his head gently as I tried to ignore the overwhelming scent and continued inspecting the beach.
The waves rolled in faster then the wind was letting on and they rolled back out with hardly a sound. The only real noise was coming from the blowing wind as it rushed through the tropical vegetation. Instantly it fell even colder, sending a whine from Oz’s mouth and a quiver along his body. He also seemed uncomfortable with the uneasy vibe of the ocean.
The faintest of sprinkles began to fall on us and I felt like maybe this wasn’t the best spot to have brought my guitar. So I wrapped it up in the towel I had brought with us and carried it to the edge of the trees, where it could have some coverage from the rain. Oz looked up at me shivering and the damp sand had begun to cling and clump to his fur. No matter how hard he shook it just wouldn’t let go of him.
“Sorry big guy…I guess you weren’t really built for the beach,” I joked. I felt my temperature drop now too but all I had to do was heat myself from within. I was fine but that didn’t help Oz at all, so I devised another plan.
“Maybe we could get a small fire going,” I said petting his head. I was sure it wasn’t aloud but from the seclusion of the beach, I didn’t think anyone would throw too big of a fit. Besides, this would give me a chance to practice one of my tricks I had been working on.
“Okay, prepare to be amazed!” I called to Oz. He had begun to sulk and huddled his wet torso next to my guitar. I swiftly snagged one single stick from the pile of wet kindling I had gathered, bringing it inches from my face. It was only a foot long with a slight bend at the top of it.
“Now focus,” I breathed harder. As I exhaled, steam rose from the hot slit of air escaping my lips and quickly burst into a slice of fire. The thin flame jumped to the tip of the stick and danced around. It only managed to last for a few seconds before surrendering to the building rain.
“Damn it.” I thought I had it. I inhaled deeper this time and forced an even bigger flame onto the stick. It ignited easily and I was happy with myself. I glanced over at Oz for approval who just sat with his front paws tucked under his chin with a worried stare on his mug. When my eyes turned back to the stick the flame had burned out again, this time making a wet sizzling noise.
I was officially annoyed now and could feel my chest filling with disgust. Steam slowly swept from my shoulders to the air as the cold rain began to feel like falling pieces of ice against my burning skin. My temper began to flair and that’s probably why I didn’t notice the pair of curious eyes watching me from the waves.
“Stay where you are Oz. Don’t move,” I warned. The steam was coming off of me thick now as the raindrops increased in size and strength. From behind my dripping bangs I concentrated my anger on the drenched pile of wood and tossed the stick into it hard. My core was burning now and felt as if it wanted out from inside me. Within seconds a white and orange flame covered my hand while the rain pushed down harder on me.
“Just let go a little more,” I told myself. The flame flared up and grew, twisting in the storm. It slithered up my arm, stopping just before my steaming shoulder as my muscles clinched tightly. The thunder rumbled over the top of me in defiance, making me smile.
“You’re gonna have to try harder than that Mr. Rainmaker,” I boasted. I could hear Oz whine from behind me as the wind increased too. I sucked in a breath and pushed at the building fire in my arm. In a burst, a ball of fire escaped my hand, slamming itself into the kindling. Sand and sparks scattered as the trail of smoke withered in the rain back to my hand. The pile of wood burned hot with the sound of the raindrops dying inside it.
I let the remaining fire flicker along my fingers as lightning flashed above me. It was so close that I thought if I reached up I could grab it out of the sky. The sight of lightning that close should have scared me something awful but it didn’t. What did send chills down my fiery spine was the flash of white fire above me made no sound at all. It was accompanied by something much more startling….the sound of someone screaming. I wasn’t alone.
Oz started barking as I whipped my body toward the sound of the scream. My eyes searched the breaking waves as time started to slow back down to a crawl. That is when I saw her, the girl from the day of my arrival. The one in the Jeep with the haunting blue eyes.
I found that I could not speak, I could not move as my body had frozen stiff as stone. Locked in her gaze, I stood there with my left arm ablaze in the pouring rain. Smoke danced off my silhouette like a ghostly ribbon and trailed off into the sky.
She was twenty yards from the beach and even from that distance her features were intoxicating. She stood like a statue at the front of her surf board as it slowly cut through the black water. Her legs were long and tone, like an athlete. Her black bikini hugged her fit torso, exposing her stomach and tone arms. The menacing water barely touched her, only peppering her skin in soft delicate bursts. Her hair fell with dark beads of water trailing through her soft curls. The ocean was a beast now but her hair hardly moved, it cradled and shaped her shocked face.
The flickering lightning revealed every line of her face and exposed her full lips pulled together in a serious pout. Her eyes were glowing blue and sparkling, like two jewels on fire. How could someone’s eyes burn so bright from so far away? It didn’t make any sense.
As I stood burning on the beach, the sea became tiresome of our time bending interlude. It swelled up and began to rise behind her and I could feel time pulling at my body again, speeding back to normal. My eyes pulled from hers and focused on Oz who was running back and forth in hysterics. My flames disappeared as I looked back at the girl and the wall of water building behind her. She didn’t seem to notice the danger, even when the waves began to tilt the back of her board up and out of the water. She continued to stare at me with those angry eyes in some kind of quiet calmness. Thunder seemed to rattle the surf over and over again, shaking my bones in the process.
I tried to scream to her but nothing came out of my mouth. The dark wave stood up behind her like a monster rising from his grave, covering her in an icy shadow. It hung there just long enough for her to snap back to reality and realize that she was in trouble. She broke off her stare just as the wave crashed down over her and buried her in darkness. Lightning split the sky with the force of an explosion, almost knocking me off of my feet. She was gone now and the sea quickly began to settle itself, satisfied with its latest meal.
Oz and I ran to the edge of the water in a panic trying to see any sign of her but it was nearly impossible to see anything. The water was much too dark and the rain was falling too thick now.
“Oz…do you see her? Do you see anything?” I screamed. Nothing…only water. Water that seemed to be settling itself down as quickly as it had grown angry. The waves faded to what looked like ripples and the rain began to stop. That didn’t make any sense.
“Don’t panic Max. Stay calm,” I tried to convince myself but it was too late, I was losing control of my emotions and the steam poured off of my shoulders again. I filled with anger as I started to blame myself for not warning her sooner. Heat was pulsating from my body in waves as I tried to keep myself under control. That’s when Oz began barking feverishly from the end of the beach. I knew exactly what he was saying…he had found something.
Her surf board had washed up on shore in two pieces. I ran to them hoping that she wasn’t far behind but she never appeared, sending me back into my panic. My hands fell onto the two pieces of board, quickly burning into them as I threw them behind us. I was so angry now that I tore my shirt off in a fit, readying myself to jump in the water. I knew I wouldn’t be able to swim against the current, even with it calming down now but I had to try. That’s when I felt something hit my shin. It was her hand followed by her broken body.
I calmed myself as best as I could, trying to cool my hands and gently picked her up. I raced her limp body to the middle of the beach where my bonfire had burned out. In my arms I could already tell that she wasn’t breathing or at least not strong enough for me to tell. As I lied her down Oz rushed to her side with a soft whine in his throat. I could see how bad she really was now.
Her body was twisted and bloody with her color fading fast. Her back looked broken, with many gashes along her left side where she must have collided with the sharp rocks. Her left leg looked even worse. It was fractured in at least three places. One of the fractures was so bad that the bone had torn through the skin, completely exposed. She had been bleeding heavily but now it was beginning to slow.
“Not a good sign,” I told nobody. I lowered my head to her mouth and listened for any sign of breathing. She had the faintest pulse but it was almost gone now too. I was out of time. There was only one thing left to do. I closed my eyes and tried centering my racing thoughts and focused. This was probably not a good idea; I had never attempted something like this before. There were so many questions. Would this kill her? Would this kill me? How do I explain this to her if I was actually able to do this? Too many questions.
“Never mind!” I scolded myself as my hands made my mind up for me and filled with burning heat. Oz leaned his head down, whimpering in confusion and fear.
The steam came in waves again, blowing off of me in the breeze. The rain had faded to a mist now and the clouds had pulled back enough for the sun to peek through. Its warmth was welcoming and soothing. I slid my left hand under her head on the curve of her neck. Her hair felt soft and cool on the back of my hand. My right hand followed the length of her left side, down to her hip and small of her back. That is where the most damage had occurred.
My palm settled around her hip as my fingers traced themselves down her spine and the fresh wounds. Her skin was pasty white now…I needed to hurry. So I let go and fire filled my every pore, followed by my hands glowing with hot fire. The smell of burning hair filled my nose but only for a moment and nothing happened as I pushed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked the fire inside of me. As I grew frustrated I dug my knees into the sand and tried again. I pushed the fire much harder this time and my head spun like a top for a second but I shook it off quickly. My chest felt like burning razors while my mouth gasped puffs of hot steam as I tightened my grip on her.
The gashes on her side started to close, pulling themselves together and fading away. Slowly at first but then in a blink her wounds were gone, leaving only goosebumps covered in smeared blood. Her color started to return as her breathing grew from nothing to very strong. Her chest filled with air and her back began to arch and twist with the sounds of bones cracking and snapping back into place. The sound was too familiar for Oz and he turned and ran but stopped himself a few feet away.
More bones set as the sound of rumbling thunder replaced the cracking. Her breathing was almost back to normal when the last few bones healed themselves. Her skin filled with heat and she lurched forward. It took all my strength to hold on to her as her eyes peeled open. She ripped her head from my grip and sat up dazed. A scream tried to escape her mouth but was drowned out by the crashing thunder around us. Fresh new drops of rain started to fall on us, washing the blood into the sand. I let my free hand find the other side of her hip to hold her steady in place. As my hand found her skin, her eyes filled with confusion and anger. She reached out and slashed her fingernails across my face, drawing blood instantly.
“Ouch…” I said through gritted teeth. Four bright red streaks glowed through the rain on my face and my temper flared again. I held steady, never easing up my grasp and looked her directly in those hateful eyes. She kept up her struggle until she watched the four bloody scratches vanish as if the rain had washed them away.
“Don’t,” I warned her. “I’m not finished.” My voice was calm and she stared as the steam billowed away from my mouth as I spoke.
I slid my right hand along her devastated leg, being careful not to touch the exposed bone. My left hand lowered to her stomach and gently held her in place. She fought this at first but stopped as she watched the steam escape my burning hands. I was in the zone now and her leg healed itself quickly with a snap, crackle and pop. The rip in her flesh sealed closed in one swift motion as the excess blood washed away, leaving her leg good as new. Her hands reached out to her leg and traced themselves down to my hand that was still wrapped around her ankle. She had a tattoo of flowers circled around it and it was almost glowing as if she had just had them inked.
The rain fell silent again and the sun forced its way through the dark sky, showering us with its warm rays. As the light washed over us, I found it hard to see and my eyes hurt from the light. Oz stretched his head toward the rays and shook the excess water off his body. My silent angel just sat there staring up at the sun like she had been living in a cave for the last ten years. My eyes fell from the sky and back to her face, her features were striking. I could feel my pulse quicken and my hands heat again as I realized I was still holding her stomach and ankle firmly. She was so soft and so smooth that I didn’t want to let go of her. I didn’t even know her name but I felt the strongest connection with her, almost like I was whole. That scared me immensely.
I let go of her and stood up slowly with her eyes falling upon me again. We were both frozen again when Oz barked, yanking her hypnotizing stare at him and I was able to breathe again. She stole a glance at the sun again and then back at me. Her eyes were full of anger and I thought she might get up and clobber me but I summoned every ounce of courage I had left and extended my hand down to her. She ignored the polite jester and hopped to her feet with a kick of wet sand.
“You’re welcome,” I quickly said. I tried to sound like I was half joking but I don’t think I pulled it off too well. She saw the pieces of her busted surf board lying in the sand behind me and her face tightened in more anger. She pushed past me and scooped up the two halves. I tried to help but she stepped away from me as if I was still on fire. My chest burned with uneasiness and I kept my distance.
She stepped forward as if she was going to say something but stopped herself at the last second. Her eyes fell to my hands and the thunder returned, this time with less intensity. The sun was pushed back behind the weary clouds, bringing the waves to life again. She turned and walked toward her truck which was parked behind some trees on the other end of the beach. I felt stupid that I hadn’t noticed it before and hung my head in disappointment.
Her pace quickened as she stomped closer to her Jeep and the rain began to fall again. I wanted to call to her but I couldn’t think of anything to say. I wanted to chase after her but my legs would not move. I could think of only one thing at that moment. I had been on the island for little more than twenty-four hours and had already given away my secret to a complete stranger.
She threw the broken pieces in the back of her truck and climbed behind the wheel. I waited for her to drive off but she didn’t. She just sat quiet and still, gripping the steering wheel tightly with her blue eyes burning into mine again. I could feel my hands fill with the fever to burn again but I held back the urge. She drove away in anger and the thunderstorm seemed to follow shortly after. I watched petrified.
“…You…will be…the death…of me.”
A touch of fire.
A soul lost to darkness.
A longing to change the past.
Max Valentine is 18, alone and has the power of a thousand suns at his fingertips. The crush of love will haunt him. The promise of normalcy will elude him. With a song in his heart and a guitar in his hand he will discover the painful truth…
…love never dies but it can kill.
About The Author:
Music is LIFE and the written word is our SOUL. Music and writing have been my true ambition since I was a child. I have used music in every form possible; writing it, performing it, healing with it, etc. I call it my “life’s soundtrack.”
I have always written in some form, from comic books to screenplays to short stories and now the new series “Ember.” I have spent my writing life inspired by all the music of the universe, 80’s movies and eye candy.
When not writing I enjoy dreaming out loud, challenging the real world and inspiring the ones I love. I have found a true passion for my stories and characters and am eager to share them with the world.
See you on the next book tour…M.D.
Connect With Him Online:
Facebook Author: http://www.facebook.com/Madison.Daniel.Author
Facebook Book Series: http://www.facebook.com/EmberSeries
Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005DMSAIO