Title: In Stone
Author: Louise D. Gornall
Publisher and Imprint: Entranced Publishing, Blush
Genre: YA paranormal romance
Release Date: July 1
Length: 120 pages
Beau Bailey is suffering from a post-break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later, the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he’s sprouted horns and is going to kill Beau unless she hands over the knife.
Until Eighteenth-century gargoyle, Jack, shows up to save her.
Jack has woken from a century-long slumber to tell Beau that she’s unwittingly been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races: Demons and Gargoyles. The knife is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they’ll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau goes with Jack in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they’ll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is, provided they can outrun the demons chasing them
I recently read this article in Cosmopoli-teen Magazine that gave tips on how to handle a break-up. Basically, the article said: go out; get yourself a new hair cut; buy yourself a shiny new lip gloss, and you’ll no longer feel the pain of being chucked away like yesterday’s trash.
Lies. Being dumped still hurts like a baseball bat to the pancreas. Only now my hair is slightly shorter and my lips taste of Strawberry Sunrise.
In real life, being dumped has me curled up on a bed of frozen grass, trying to soften the sound of a bark-cry with the snot-soaked sleeve of my jacket. I think maybe I will never love anyone ever again. Deciding on a life of celibacy at seventeen may seem a little extreme, but right now I couldn’t give a crap. My insides are bleeding.
A sudden gust of wind charges through the park. It makes the leaves of the Holly trees whisper to one another. The temperature is creeping into subzero territory. Any minute now, I’m going to pick my broken self up off the floor, head back home and probably, maybe, definitely listen to indie bands sing songs about bleeding love.
Any minute now.
I’m telepathically trying to send Mark take-me-back messages when a man’s cry echoes around the park. My eyes pop open. At first I think it’s him, that somehow my mind has found him across miles of landscape, and he’s here to scoop me up off the ground and tell me he’s made a huge mistake. But then I hear it again, louder, urgent, a strangled yelp. It’s a sharp slap back to reality, and I can’t stand up quick enough.
My house is right across the street, barely a two minute walk away, but before I can take a single step the earth beneath my feet begins to tremble. Earthquakes in Plumbridge are as rare as the Dodo bird, so heaven knows why I brace myself for the concrete to split open and swallow me. But I do. And it doesn’t. Instead there’s a dull thud. The shaking ground stills; the wind dies. My sobs cease, and silence, the sort that makes you think the whole world stopped and took a breath all at once, smothers me. Like if I move, the atmosphere might shatter into a million tiny pieces. Slowly, I turn my head toward where the thud came from.
Across the stone path, not three feet away, the full moon sheds silver streams of light onto a motionless man, limbs twisted up all over the place, sort of like a bug smashed up against a windshield.
This is a dream. Got to be a dream. I pinch my arm. I’m not really sure how the concept of pinching yourself during a dream works. Something about only being able to feel the pain when you’re awake? The nip stings all the way down to my elbow, so I guess, according to the rules of dream-science, I’m awake.
I look up at the sky, scan the vast, navy-blue blanket for signs of more free-falling men. I laugh, just once, because this is absurd with a big ole side of crazy. I’m spotting for men in the sky as casually as if I were counting clouds.
Minutes tick by before it occurs to me that I have to do something, something that isn’t wishing myself away from this situation. A lump that tastes like Penicillin rises in my throat and sticks there as I find my feet and edge closer to him. I kneel at his side, folding myself slowly, as if I’m about to curtsey. My mind is working at the speed of light, sifting through memories of health class, of one hour sessions trying to breathe life back into a plastic doll, while class clown, Ralph Frasier, pretends to pork his doll at the back of the room.
I push my trembling fingers against the man’s neck. There’s not a wisp of heat rising from his skin. He’s cold and clammy like the corpses at the funeral parlor where mom works. He has no pulse, and there’s no sign of a swell in his chest. He’s dead. He’s as dead as a Resusci-Annie doll.
My left eye breaks out into a twitching frenzy. I push it to a standstill because winking at a dead body is weird, even for me. In the last couple of years I’ve seen my fair share of cadavers, but never one that wasn’t wrapped in a green cloth, tagged around the big toe, and carrying its very own police report. I need to go home, call the cops, get mom.
Mom. Double crap.
She is going to kill me for being out here in the middle of the night. Screwing up a clump of hair in my hand, I slump back on my heels and take in a lungful of icy air. My pajama pants pull tight against my knees, and a cold, sticky sensation blossoms against my skin. My pants are sticking to me. My eye twitch is back with a vengeance, and it brought a dagger to jam into my eyeball. Fighting the hesitation in my fingers, I dab the damp patch. Please let it be dew from the midnight air.
Midnight dewdrops are not bright red.
“Oh god.” I choke at the smudges of blood streaked across my palm. The moonlight makes the deep-red stains glisten like rubies. A scream tears its way up from my chest, only to die in a whimper when I see something poking out of the side of the body.
I thought the fall had killed him. Now, I’m not so sure.
I back away, pushed by the idea that this poor victim of a freak falling accident might not be a victim at all. He has a knife sticking out of him. Thoughts of who put it there and why are assaulting me when the body expels a low groan. The sound wraps around my bones like a blanket of ice. Colder than death. Without thinking, I slap my hand over my mouth to stifle a second scream. Huge mistake.
The smell of iron dances under my nose as the moist stamp of almost-corpse blood bonds to my skin. I start spitting, scrubbing at my lips with the sleeve of my jacket. I can taste it. Him. Sharp, sour. I’m so wrapped up in the horror of my macabre facial, I almost forget he’s awake. Almost. I tiptoe back over. I don’t know why I tiptoe. It’s not like the sound of my steps are going to finish him off.
His eyes are wide open. Shining pale-blue with a soft, light behind them. They’re the strangest things. My breath catches, and for a second I know what it’s like to be a moth infatuated by a flame. Then the light goes out, and the color of his eyes dulls to grey. He stares vacantly at the empty space overhead. His lips twitch and slurp at the air, trying to quell a thirst for oxygen.
I can’t decide if he has the felon look. You know the felon look. It’s not down to any single feature, but when you see a photo-fit on the news, those dark circles around tiny eyes, mussed hair and crooked grin just seem to scream the guy is a serial killer. The almost-corpse has a pointy chin, a jaw and cheeks that I think if I ran my finger over I’d give myself a paper cut. His hair is long, dark. It’s pushed back from his face and splayed out around his head like a burnt-out halo. Quite beautiful, in a fragrance commercial kind of way.
My artistic eyes — the ones that I hope will get me into college so I don’t have to follow mom into the business of dressing up the dead — are roaming over his features when I spot something crawling around his cheek. I hone in for a closer look. Not crawling, cracking. Something I can’t see is sucking the moisture right out of him. As if he were clay being overcooked, his skin is splitting. My jaw drops as I watch the tiny lines tear up his face. His lips start moving, slower and more defined. I tip my ear toward him.
He snatches hold of my hand. His grip is vise-like. I try to pull away, but he’s strong, adamant. My fingers slip because they’re slick with blood. He gives my arm a yank, and I fall forward, stopping inches above his face. He smells like the pages of an old book.
“What’s your name?” he asks. My nails cut through his skin as I try to peel his fingers away, but he doesn’t flinch. “Your name, God damn it.” Boom. He has the voice of a giant.
“Beau. My name is Beau. Let go of me.”
“I found you.” I think he sighs.
“Yeah, you found me,” I say. My ears are flooded with the sound of my heart hammering.
“You see the blade? Beau, you must take it and run with it,” he croaks through labored pants.
“I’m not touching anything. We need to get you to a doctor. Let go of me, and I’ll go get help.” He ignores my request and starts leading my hand toward the knife handle.
“Please, you’re hurting me,” I say as he unhooks my fingers from his and wraps my hand tightly around the handle. He places his hand on top of mine. My knuckles turn white under his squeeze.
“You must do this,” he urges. His giant voice is dead. His words are now limping past his lips. “Take it.”
“My mom’s a doctor,” I lie. Not that it matters. I’m pretty certain this guy is beyond saving. “We live just across the street. She can help you.”
“No! No one else. Just you.” The blade starts to rise. It’s like watching the approaching fin of a Great White. Coincidentally, my heart is hammering out the opening of the Jaws theme tune. The further out the knife comes the more stained with crimson it is. It doesn’t look like any blade I’ve ever seen before. Not that I’m blade savvy or anything, but to me it looks more like I’m pulling bone.
“This is nuts. We need to stop.”
“My time is up,” he says. I’m grimacing, making squeaky sounds and tearless whimpers, as the knife slurps its way back through tough flesh and contracting muscle. It slips all the way out amidst a trickle of blood. The Lasagna I’d had for dinner sloshes about in my stomach.
“Listen to me. Listen,” he chokes. “You must do this. You have to take the blade and hide it where no one will ever find it. You have to do this.” He gasps. “Before he comes.”
“He?” I ask. I can’t pull my eyes away from the knife. An onslaught of drool is collecting inside my bottom lip. Wonderment. Can I say wonderment when I’m not a kid dreaming of sugarplums and warm, woolen mittens? I don’t care; wonderment is what’s got me when I look at the knife.
“He wants the blade, but you can’t let him have it, understand? If he has it the Gargoyle will become the hunted.” The almost-corpse exhales a long sigh, and his hand falls from around mine. The knife is in my hand now, only my hand.
I’m holding it.
It looks old. There are several lines of inscription carved into the handle. I can’t read it; I can barely see it through the blood, but I can feel the swirling, intricate lines like brail under my thumb.
“I don’t understand. I don’t understand at all. This is insane,” I exhale. “Who are you? What is this?”
“I am one of the Gargoyle. At least, that is what I was,” he replies.
“A Gargoyle? Is that some sort of gang?”
“It’s my job to protect you,” he says. He’s delusional, exhausted, sucking on his bottom lip in search of some moisture. I’m not sure he knows what he’s saying anymore. “But alas, my life has become a lie.” He groans. Then his cracking face starts to dissipate and blow away in the wind. I think some of it gets in my eyes because they start to sting. When I blink, the world is dressed in a fuzzy black haze. I try to rub my vision clear, but am unsuccessful.
“You must go now,” the man exclaims in a sharp breath. I quit rubbing my eyes and look back down on him. His stare swells. Something about my face makes his lower lip quiver. The way he’s glaring has me craving a bath of boiling water and some antiseptic scrub.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What…what have I done?”
“I don’t know. What have you done?”
He doesn’t answer. I know it’s time to run when the atmosphere starts to shake again, and the almost-corpse flicks his eyes toward a thick congregation of trees.
As a general rule, nobody walks the Switch on account of the overgrown nettle bushes, a pungent aroma of foot infection, and a collective fear of encountering something feral. However, the Switch shaves at least ten minutes off my journey, and lately I don’t trust the dark. I blame my encounter with the almost-corpse, two nights ago. Before then the dark was just a natural progression; something to be slept in, a different color in the sky. Now, shadows make me jump, and the dark carries a silence that makes me think of funerals. It breathes life into creatures that had always been safely contained behind a TV screen. I make my way down the Switch, striding over vicious flora and trying to ignore the occasional nip that sinks straight through my jeans.
“Hey, Beau!” A voice from behind startles me. When I turn, Gray is jogging in my direction, thwarting thorn bushes with his bare hands. “I was looking for you.”
The hairs on the back of my neck bristle. My hand is in my pocket, and my fingers are wrapped around a slender cylinder of pepper spray as he reaches me.
“Well you found me. What’s up?”
“There’s something I need to ask you,” he says sheepishly. He hammers his toe against the ground, grinding it nervously into the dirt and crushing several stems of dandelion into gold dust. He giggles; it’s a soft, sweet sound that suffocates my hostility. He reminds me of Mark moments before he’d asked me out on our first date. Maybe this guy could be the one to liberate me from my social network sabbatical. Maybe my slightly-too-heavy eyeliner and my reputation as the mortician’s daughter hasn’t freaked him out.
“Really?” Surprise raises my pitch. “What’s that?” The pepper spray is abandoned in my pocket.
“Where’s the knife?” he replies, snatching my throat and slamming my back up against the concrete wall. It’s so forceful, so hard, that my spine ripples. Red flashes across my vision. The muscles in my neck go slack, and my head flops forward. He stabs his thumb up under my chin, forcing me to look him in the eye. His eyes are like the moon; cold, giant circles of icy-silver. But a change in his eye color is nothing in comparison to the change happening on either side of his head. I don’t understand it. It makes me wonder, briefly, if what I’m seeing is a side effect of the migraine pills Leah slipped me at lunch. Gray is growing horns. Giant grey horns that slide out of the side of his skull and then curl like springs around his ears. They’re animal.
“Straight away I was drawn in by the story and Louise’s fantastic writing style, and I really struggled to put it down.”
“If a story can have me so invested that it brings out those kind of emotions in me – whether happy or sad – then I know I’ve found another to add to my favourites, and In Stone was one of those books.”
“The plot was perfectly executed and delivers a thrilling ride filled with adventure, trails and an unexpected end.”
*Please make it clear that this giveaway is open only to residents in the US, UK, Australia and Canada.
About the Author:
Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy. She is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. YA aficionado. Brit bird. Film nerd. Identical twin. Junk food enthusiast. Rumored pink Power Ranger. Zombie apocalypse 2012 survivor. She is also an avid collector of book boyfriends.
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