BOOK TOUR PROMO: Kings & Queens by Courtney Vail
Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father’s fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek…or, no…maybe Alec…maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.
All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they’re sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it’s not like she cries wolf. Not really. They’d be freaked too, but they’re not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.
So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do…try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she’s left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.
Finished with player updates, an article for the team site and most deliciously, the call, Majesty laughed, dropping her office phone into its cradle. Getting to gloat to the Wasps’ Athletic Director thrilled as a definite managerial perk. The Colts and Wasps usually faced off in the regionals, but the Dragons just scorched the lousy buzzers, 12-5.
But, every ounce of funny was suddenly slain by the unrelenting sting from nearly being taken out by Derek. Cornered in the brush, the last one standing, and ‘Time’s up!’ was what had saved her? Disgraceful.
She groaned at the sour taste of loserdom while tucking her hair under her cap, then snatched flavored water from her mini-fridge and kissed the school goodbye. Out in the back, she thought of Jase and prayed to the ears in the air that he’d find peace or something. She dashed around to the front and down the driveway and turned left toward the town center, and away from homes with yippy purse dogs and diamond-studded mail boxes.
A sprinkle of storefronts, a second-run cinema, St. Marks, one restaurant, one gas station and Spanky’s, a mini-golf/ice cream shop-gone-wild made up the entirety of Cedar Creeks hub.
Banners put up for the St. Paddy’s Day parade still hung on utility poles and she searched for surprise additions amongst the bunnies and flowers. No screwing dogs or puking rats yet? Boring, people. Get with it! These sugary spring-things always flapped in the wind beside mini American flags until the day after the Independence Day fireworks, which was not necessarily on the 4th … or even in July. She’d have to be on the lookout for the perfect demented treasure to tack up before then. Little sound was lovelier than a chorus of old lady shrieks and tsks.
She passed Fisher Price village and the lions guarding Markies cathedral and booked it into The Common, a fancy name for an ill-equipped park. Woods laced through town, but this strip behind The Common aroused whispers.
Three kids, holding hands and singing Ring around the Rosie, stopped and gawked.
One cried, “She’s goin in. Must not be ascared a the spooks.”
Traversing from grass for dirt, Majesty chuckled that Alec’s tale about the wood-dwelling people-creatures endured. “They grow more fierce each day, waiting for their kings and queens to come and lead them to overtake the area, the country and eventually, the world. ”
Six years ago, a girl disappeared. Theories abounded, but most of the children believed, “The spooks got her. ”
Crows griped about the invasion and the drooping sun spilled beams through the evergreen towers, creating an inky leviathan war deep in the thick. Majesty growled as anxiety resurged.
Near the tripod, where three towns converged, and a coven reportedly danced nude, she slowed to a stroll. Birds departed the treetops in a flurry of flapping wings, but one crow remained, voicing stern warnings to friends, or maybe her. She gulped her drink, enjoying its grape hint. When glitchy male voices found her ears, she froze with a bead of water dripping from her mouth.
“So, everything’s set?”
“Yep. Got the guns, supplies. It’s a go.”
Majesty searched. There . . . little over ten yards.
“Hope . . . doesn’t blow up in our faces. Thought we were gonna kill one. Those people won’t know what hit ’em.”
People? . . . Can’t see anything! Imaginary ants tingled her neck and her legs wobbled with each step she took toward a concealing tree. She braced herself and peered around the trunk. Fatigues, bulky vests and face-engulfing Buffs, muffled and muddled all identifiers. Great!
That’s the beauty . . . They’ll learn how dead and buried their Jesus is when . . . doesn’t help . . . start shooting up the church. Haven’t. . . . how many I wanna off yet. Needs to be impressive . . . national coverage. Let’s snatch our gear . . . do this lame paintball thing, get back to our real deal.”
They headed for the even deader town of Megans Corner. No. Wait! Majesty leaned forward, shifting her weight. If I could just . . . A stick snapped underfoot. The taller one stopped and whacked his buddy’s arm. She cringed and jerked back.
“Shh. Hear somethin? They were likely debating the noise she’d stupidly made in the whispers she couldn’t make out, but the clatter of them moving through the woodland was deafening.
Sweat dripped from Majesty’s temples and frightened fairies fluttered beneath her skin. She stood motionless as the rustling drew much too close for her comfort. Shoved into flight, she took off like a sprinter at the shot. Water sloshed on her leg, awakening goose bumps with its chill. She chucked the bottle and cap into reaching shrubs.
Muddled threats nipped at her heels, but agility and swiftness aided her evasion, as well as knowing the woods, not well, but well enough.
Majesty bolted through the clearing, rounded a bend and deserted the path. Busting through brushwood as fast as she could, she spotted a hollow. She jumped into its bowl of dead foliage with way too much crunch, slid under a bush and clammed her mouth with her hands to prevent gasping. She swallowed to rid the tightness that was crawling up her throat.
“Some girl. See anything?”
She tried to catch vocal distinctions, already smothered by a babbling stream. She swept a tickling spider off her arm, lifting freakin’ trumpet blasts into the air. Idiot! Her heartbeat drummed in her ears as she muscled her gaze through
The watery white noise had proven a godsend for her foolish misstep and cranky stomach, now bellowing for food.
One of them kicked debris her way and a fleck of something hit her eye. She closed her aching eye and covered it with her fingers.
After a string of salty slurs, one said, “Hair was hidden . . . Colts shirt.”
“Good. One of our own. Should . . . find her.”
She shuddered. Agony seduced her to dislodge the foreign body with her knuckle. She couldn’t wait.
“But what if she . . .”
“No one can stop us, especially some girl. We’re in control. I’ll find her first . . . eradicate her.”
Their nerve-grating footfalls walked away, veering into silence.
Majesty finally allowed her lungs to yank air.
She’d never been so petrified . . . except for the time men in blue had come to her door . . . and she just knew.
About the Author
COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.
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