August 6, 2019

Chasing Midnight -- First Chapter Reveal!

Happy #TeaserTuesday!

Chasing Midnight goes on sale in THREE WEEKS!! Woohoo! I'm so excited to finally return to my Once Upon a Curse series and I hope this sequel is everything you all were hoping for! I absolutely fell in love with Nymia and her story, and I think you guys will too 💕

So...to get everyone as excited as I am...

I'm revealing the entire first chapter today!

As a little reminder, Chasing Midnight goes on sale on August 26th, 2019! If you want to pre-order a copy, just click this link :) And don't forget to check out the pre-order giveaway for a free set of bookmarks if you live in the USA!

I hope you enjoy the preview!

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Apparently, I slept through the apocalypse…again.
The first time wasn’t my fault. I was sixteen, naïve, and far too unsure of myself to trust the tingle at the base of my neck whispering ill omens. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was meeting my sister’s bright green eyes through swaying blades of grass. We were curled on our sides on two thick beds of moss in the outskirts of a meadow, and my hands were folded beneath my cheek. There was a twinkle in her irises I couldn’t ignore, no matter how much my tired eyes yearned to close. It promised mischief, but for the first time in our lives, I didn’t know why. I wasn’t privy to her plan.
“Aerewyn,” I whispered.
She blinked and the light faded from her eyes as she focused them on me. “Yeah, Nymia?”
“Please don’t do anything stupid.”
She laughed, the sound soft and melodic, like summer rain on a still lake. “Me? Do something stupid?”
I frowned. Most things she did were reckless, but at least she usually had me by her side to bring a little bit of sense. Not anymore. Not since the day she met her human prince, the day everything changed. He was like a phantom over her shoulder, invisible yet there, sewn into her thoughts, woven into her mind, ever present. She was going to meet him. I knew it. But she usually told me, usually asked me for help. Her secrecy sent a shiver down my spine.
“Promise me, Aerewyn.”
“I promise.”
I should’ve trusted my instincts. I should’ve stayed awake to follow her. I should’ve known she wouldn’t listen—Aerewyn never listened.
But I didn’t.
I went to sleep.
By the time I woke, it was too late.
I blinked and rolled onto my back, still half-asleep when I noticed what drew me from my slumber. It was too quiet. The world was blanketed in a hollow, vacant absence that sent an uneasy twinge up my spine. The woods were never silent. Even in the middle of the night, they teemed with life. The swish of fur on leaves. The chirp of crickets singing to the moon. The gentle coo of an owl nestled in the dark. But not that night. It was as though the world were holding its breath. No breeze. No movement. No sound. All the critters had gone into hiding. The only thing buzzing was the magic simmering beneath my skin, across the air, and in every fiber of nature. It thrummed, screaming danger, danger, danger!
I came alert in an instant and jerked to a seated position. Aerewyn was gone, but I wasn’t alone. Strangers stood in the shadows at the edge of the clearing. I’d seen their faces in the scrying water. They were human. They were royals. They weren’t supposed to be here. It could only mean one thing. My sister broke her promise. She did something stupid. She trusted her human prince—and he betrayed her.
I opened my mouth to sound an alarm to my faerie brethren asleep on the other side of the meadow. Before my scream could burst forth, an invisible fist wrapped around my heart, then squeezed tight and pulled. Claws scratched at my chest, my legs, my arms, digging into my skin from the inside out, as though trying to rip my soul from my body. I realized too late it wasn’t my soul they were after, but my magic. In the last few seconds of my waking life, I saw the golden spark of my power shoot across the clearing and sink into another woman’s chest. Then I was gone.
Awareness ceased.
Without the Mother’s magic to give us human form, faeries return to their natural state as flowers. We’re her children brought to life, given the gift of consciousness for one purpose and one alone—to protect her. And we failed. Of course, I didn’t realize how thorough the failure was until I woke in the clearing years, decades, maybe even centuries later. I have no way to know. All I know is the world was utterly transformed.
I opened my eyes to daylight, but even in the dark I would’ve felt the shift. The magic that once lived in the air and the earth, that flowed in every river and flew with every breeze, that was woven into every fiber of life, was gone. Oh, my magic was back. Its return was what brought me back to life, back into the same body at the same age in the same place, but the rest was gone.
I stumbled across the meadow full of flowers too bright to be natural. They were blossoms fused with faerie souls, exactly as I had been a few moments before. Every time my fingers grazed a petal, I felt the little tug of life, the silent whispers of my sisters pleading for help. I fell to my knees by the pond on the far side of the clearing and held my palms above the water.
“Show me the world,” I whispered, voice hoarse.
Magic simmered at my fingertips and the scrying water listened. Images flashed across the glassy surface, vignettes of what the world had become. I’m not sure how long I sat there with my tears dropping into the water, their ripples warping the pictures my eyes couldn’t bear to see. Eventually it began to rain, as though the Mother mourned with me.
Humans had stolen the magic.
All of it.
They’d ripped it from the world and locked it inside their bodies. All the faerie priestesses were gone. All the girls in training, as I had been, were gone. All the creatures we were supposed to protect were either gone or in hiding. The Mother had gifted us this power as a source of life and light, a tool for peace and love. But the humans twisted her magic, caged it and coiled it, until a force that had once been the most beautiful and natural thing in the world was now ugly and cruel. They wielded it like a weapon, a means for dominance. Kingdoms ruled by humans with this stolen magic were scattered across the globe.
I vowed to see the atrocity undone.
The first human royal I killed had a penchant for fire. He kept a wall of flames burning around his city night and day, to keep people out, to keep more in. He burned alive anyone who opposed him, laughing at their pain. Despite the magic, his heart was ice cold, but it wasn’t frozen enough to stop the blade I put through it. The moment he died, the power he’d stolen returned to the world. I watched it float above his lifeless body, only to disappear in the wind. Then I ran to the nearest pond to scry for a faerie priestess, for a face I remembered, for Aerewyn, but I didn’t find anyone. His magic had belonged to a different being—a shifter maybe, or a mermaid, or a unicorn, or a pixie, or maybe just the world.
The second human royal I killed had the power to wield metal. She’d twisted her kingdom into a prison until I set her people free. The third and fourth were much the same—both horrible in their own way, both earning the endings I gave them. I told myself I killed these humans so that more deserving creatures could be reborn—with every human heart I stopped, a magical one awoke. But I killed for vengeance too, driven by the memory of everything I’d lost, with no intention of slowing down.
I was on my way to target number five when the humans found me.
Well, stumbled upon me, more like.
I was sloppy, lazy. There were rumors of a king in a desert land with the power to make his enemies spontaneously combust—his people too. His kingdom was on the other side of a mountain pass and it was the height of winter. I spent three days trudging through snow. My feet were numb. My hands were ice. I’m a summer faerie, and I thought I was alone, so I lit a fire, just to warm my fingers and my toes. I must’ve fallen asleep in my exhaustion, because I woke to the sound of unfamiliar voices in a scene that was all too familiar.
“Who is she?”
“She’s beautiful.”
“Why does her skin glow like that?”
“She’s a witch.”
“She’s a siren.”
“What if she’s a magic queen?”
While they whispered, I kept my eyes closed and gathered a wind beneath my skin. I could deal with a few prying men. 
Or so I thought.
The moment I heard the distinct ring of metal sliding free of a scabbard, I rolled to my feet and unleashed my tempest. A gust of wind blew them off their feet. A spike of lightning made the ground explode. Hail rained from the sky.
“She has magic!”
“Get her!”
“Run!”
In the chaos, I turned to make my escape—and ran right into the sword leveled at me from behind. The human looked as shocked as me as the blade cut deep into my stomach. He was young, a boy on the brink of manhood, eyes wide with innocence. In an instant, he grew up. His eyes narrowed and the edge of his lip curled as he twisted the hilt. Then an arrow landed in my back, striking my spine.
I gasped and shot my magic deep into the soil beneath the snow. A thorny vine erupted from the earth and wrapped around his neck, his arms, his torso—a python suffocating its prey. I’m not sure if those men lived or died. I ran before I had time to find out, leaving a cyclone in my wake to make sure they couldn’t follow.
I pressed a hand to my abdomen, trying to keep my luminescent blood from spilling to the ground. It was no use. My vision started to spot. My body grew too heavy for my legs to carry. I was dying, though that wasn’t what I feared. Death was never permanent for a faerie—but how long would I be gone before being brought back? And without me, what chance did the world have? If I slipped into the Father’s realm, there’d be no one left in this world to do my work. I was the only one trying to free the magic, trying to stop the humans. I couldn’t die. I told myself I needed to stay alive for them, for the Mother and the Father and all their children, for the creatures awaiting the return of their magic. But deep down, I knew the truth.
I didn’t want to die without seeing Aerewyn again.
Yes, she’d started this disaster——with her impulsiveness, her unyielding curiosity, her stubborn faith that nothing would go wrong. Yet I still loved her, even more than I loved myself. She was my sister—not in the human sense, connected by something so inconsequential as blood, but in a deeper sense. We were family because we chose to be. Time and time again, no matter what obstacle we’d faced, we chose each other, we helped each other, we saved each other. Our souls were bonded. One mistake didn’t undo all of that, no matter how large. And right now, I knew her magic was out there somewhere, stolen by a human and held hostage, leaving her stuck as a flower. 
I needed to free her.
I needed to bring her back.
So I reached out with my senses. I wasn’t strong enough to heal myself, and there wasn’t enough free magic left in the world to borrow, but I knew of a place nearby where I could find the power I needed. I’d seen an entire kingdom of magical creatures in the scrying water—the home of the shifters.
My strength was nearly gone by the time I walked through their iron gates. I expected to be met by guards, but the streets were quiet. Gently falling snow was the only thing keeping me company as I stumbled over cobblestones, making for the castle whose glass windows flickered with golden candlelight. As I pushed the front door open, I was greeted by music and laughter, the sounds of celebration—sounds more painful than my wound. This agony came from deep within, stirred by the awareness that after my visit, there’d be no joy left in these halls.
Still, I kept walking.
The ballroom fell silent when I entered. The orchestra stopped playing. The shifters stopped dancing. Two figures in the center of the room caught my attention—a man with cool slate eyes and a woman with a warm, inviting smile, both with gleaming crowns upon their heads. I gathered my magic beneath my skin as I crossed the dance floor. No one tried to stop me. They were all waiting and watching, the instincts of predators used to stalking their prey.
“Please,” I whispered when I got close. “Please…”
Then I collapsed. My legs gave out, but while I fell, a single thought crossed my mind—they’ll only trust me if they think I’m one of them. When my body landed on hard tile, I wrapped myself in Father’s shadows and used Mother’s light to cast the illusion of a magnificent striped tiger in my place.
Someone gasped. “A lost tigress!”
“She’s wounded.”
“Quickly, we must help!”
The illusion fell and I returned to myself as arms scooped beneath my shoulders and legs, then lifted me from the ground.
“To the royal wing, now. We have an empty room already made.”
“Send for the healers.”
“Arm the walls. She may have been followed.”
They laid my body on a bed and tucked me beneath warm blankets. A palm cupped my cheek as fingers gently brushed stray hairs from my clammy skin.
“No healers.” I forced the words out, hoarse and raspy. “Just sleep.”
“We need to tend to your wound—”
“No,” I urged, squeezing the hand that held mine, unsure of who it belonged to. My eyes flickered open, finding the reassuring smile of their queen as she stared down at me. Over her shoulder, the king looked on with stern concern. By their side stood a little boy with a crown too big for his head and eyes the color of downy gray fur, soft and curious. His face was the last thing I saw before darkness returned. “It’ll heal. I’ll heal. Just sleep. Please. Just…”
Shifter magic had healing capabilities, a side effect of being around so many beings with claws, and cats were notorious for their solitude, so it wasn’t an unfounded request. They had no idea of the real reason I wanted to be left alone—if they saw my wound, my faerie blood, they’d know I was lying.
“Okay,” the queen cooed. I wish I could say the warmth in her voice made my frozen heart fracture, but my resolve was steel. I needed to live, and I needed their magic to do it. “We’ll honor your wishes. Let’s go.”
“Already?” the young prince whined.
“Yes, Cole. You can come back tomorrow, if she agrees.”
He grumbled out an acceptance. Then a small hand pressed against my cheek, cupping the space around my ear. “I hope you feel better. And if you can hear me, please let me come back tomorrow. Please. Please.”
There’d be no tomorrow.
Not for them. Not for me.
Still, I lifted the corner of my lip in response and felt his exalted breath brush against my cheek. Then they were gone. I spent the next few hours listening to the celebrations wane and gathering my strength.
Then, in the dead of night, I cast my spell.
I stole their magic, using the same enchantment the humans had used to destroy the world. The priestesses used to use it all the time, to borrow free magic from the earth to cast enchantments far grander than their own magical resources would allow. In the old days, it was like stealing a glass of water from a lake—there was more than enough to go around. But now, I ripped power from innocent shifters while they slept, trapping them in their animal forms, just as I had been trapped as a flower. I became the very evil I promised to protect them against. It was only temporary, I told myself, as I wove their borrowed power into a new spell for healing sleep. I’d never used the incantation myself, but I’d heard the priestesses mutter the ancient words and tried to recall them as best I could. It was risky, I knew, to be so weak while wielding a spell I’d never used before, but I had no choice. I had to believe that in a few weeks, my body would recover and the shifter magic would be freed. A worthy sacrifice for a worthy cause—saving the world.
I left the royal family with their magic so they could watch over their people while I slept cocooned in their power. It was my last conscious decision before all thought slipped away and my mind was lost to the spell.
Time passed.
Days. Weeks. Maybe months.
I hovered in a dreamless state, protected by the magic, unaware—until now.
Once again, I wake to a new world.
Awareness comes first, a little prickling of life at the back of my mind. I take a deep breath, pulling air into my lungs as my consciousness returns, and already I can taste the change. My magic is attuned to any shift in Mother’s realm, and it feels a difference in the earth, a transformation. Before I can dwell on that too long, another scent catches my nose—power whispering of saccharine sweet roses with the hidden bite of thorns.
Aerewyn is here.
I feel her in my soul. Her magic sinks into my heart, reviving it, restoring it, a touch far deeper than human bodies could ever understand. Her power overwhelms my senses, sending them into an excited frenzy as I fight the lingering hold of my healing sleep. I want to see her. I need to see her for it to be real. She’s always been the rebel, with me the follower. Typical that I’ve been searching for her for so long, and now she’s the one who found me. I force my eyes open, and—
A face I don’t recognize hovers above me.
Not my sister, but a stranger.
Actually, worse still.
A human with my sister’s magic trapped beneath her skin.



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Thanks for reading!

If you want to keep going, click here to check out the second chapter reveal!

And I hope you also check out the pre-order giveaway :) 



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