New upper YA / science fiction romance coming June 2014!
Lost in Starlight
VOLUME ONE: Starlight Saga
Is a star-crossed romance worth sacrificing your own life?
High school senior Sloane Masterson lives a quiet existence. She has awesome friends, gets excellent grades, and writes a column for the Haven Gazette. But her life goes from dullsville to bizarro when she witnesses mysterious loner Hayden Lancaster performing some freaky superhuman feats.
Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, and she’s not above stalking. But one look into Hayden’s eerie eyes, and she’s crushing hard.
Even with the swoonworthy hunk’s insistence that hanging out with girls like Sloane is “off limits” by his strange family, she can’t resist him or wanting to solve the mystery.
Things get really complicated when a beautiful alien sets her sights on Hayden—and this devious girl’s not looking for a green card. Talk about awkward love triangles!
Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, über snobby extraterrestrials, and getting a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating.
As their diverse worlds collide and the romantic sparks fly, Sloane must decide if Hayden’s secrets are worth risking her life to protect.
Sneak Peek: CHAPTER ONE
I don’t usually stalk boys, but if I hadn’t been spying on Hayden Lancaster, I never would’ve seen the mind-blowing fork-bending incident.
My best friend, Viola Saks, shifts in her seat, her nose stuck in the latest Jack Kilborn novel. Totally oblivious to my stalkery tendencies. She prefers her book boyfriends over real guys, and I gotta admit, she has a point. Fictional hotties fighting paranormals are way more exciting than the real thing.
“Are you scoping out a new story?” Viola asks from behind her book.
“Maybe. Right now, I’m only observing,” I say. “People watching.”
Tiny white lie. I’m secretly kicking off: “Operation Lancaster.”
With a sigh, I scoot back in the creaky plastic chair and rest my chin on my fist. Lunch hour is the best time to study my classmates undetected.
Not that I’m a bad person. Honest. I’ve never narced on anyone. I don’t kick puppies. And I normally don’t play at undercover agent. Well...until today.
Sunlight trickles through the windows, dancing over the tables and the tacky orange chairs of Haven High’s cafeteria. The nauseating odor of greasy pizza wafts from the kitchen area, and the hiss of a soda can opening resonate throughout the crowded space.
I glance at Viola. She reaches a long, slender arm out to nab a French fry.
“Seriously? How are you supermodel thin when you eat stuff like that?” I groan and glance at her slim figure clad in a body-hugging black dress with spiked heels, and her heavy Goth makeup. A silver eyebrow ring glints in the dull light. “I could eat only yogurt for the rest of my life and I’d still be your chubby sidekick.”
She scoffs. “You’re not chubby, Sloane. You’re extra curvy.”
Whatevs. Guess that’s just what people say when you’re a foodie like me.
As two girls pass our table, one squeals and punches her friend in the arm. Ouch!
To me, the lunchroom is more than just a place to chow down on industrial-grade food. It reminds me of a prison scene, with its hostile mingling and violent chaos, like inmates at mealtime. This is where I discover the most newsworthy stories. It’s the perfect spot to catch up on romantic gossip, observe the clique wars, and witness any mean girl activity. Saying the cafeteria is only for eating is like saying an underground lair is only for plotting world domination. If you can survive a high school lunchroom, than you can survive anything, well, with the exception of a zombie apocalypse.
As my gaze scans over the other students, I notice the yuppie dressed in-crowd clusters in one corner, as if they would rather not to socialize with the peasants. Overachievers study instead of eating. Kids-most-likely-to-drop-out take their food and trudge outside. The social rejects are scattered throughout. And my table—a mix of geeks, emos, and Goths—mostly assembled in the back of the room. You could say I’m queen of the geekdom, and I wear my invisible crown with honor.
Then there’s Zach and Hayden Lancaster’s table.
The brothers are both gorgeous in a way that should totally be illegal, but look nothing alike. Zach is a cocky, dark-haired, all-round jock. And Hayden is the tall, rockstar-sexy, drummer-type. He’s one of those guys who prefer to function in his own little world.
Not sure which social group they fit into...the misunderstood-brooding-supercute-guys club?
Flipping open my Hello Kitty spiral-bound notebook, I write that down. Check.
Wait. Why am I thinking about how über hot they are? Seriously not important.
Viola’s flicks a page of her book and asks, “So what’s this new article on?”
“Actually, I’m investigating the Lancaster brothers.”
“Should be interesting.” One brown eye peeks over the edge of the paperback. “Because of that hacker rumor?”
“Oh, yeah. The gossip this morning was off the hook. Supposedly, Hayden hacked into the school’s computer system to change all of his grades.”
As a reporter for our online newspaper the Haven Gazette, a hacker scandal is way huge. In fact, I have my own column—Fright Night Babble—where I mainly review scary movies, but since my college resume is in dire need of some padding, this assignment is just too juicy to pass up.
Working on the newspaper turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. At first, I envisioned a team of extra-credit nerds doing articles on food fights and cheesy school dances, but the students who contribute are actually wicked cool and write about some pretty serious issues, like online bullying and teen suicide.
Viola clucks her tongue disapprovingly. “Hayden’s getting a serious rep.”
“True,” I say. “Everyone either wants to be Hayden’s best friend, or they think he’s a psycho.”
To me he’s only a news story. Not that I’m crushing on him. Really.
And like any great journalist, I must note every detail, so I jot down: Hayden: hacker and computer geek. Check.
“But the hacking isn’t the weird part...” I lean closer and lower my voice. “It appears he walked away with only a slap on the wrist. No expulsion or suspension, not even Saturday detention. Who gets away with stuff like that?”
She rolls her eyes. “He does, apparently.”
“But why? How?”
These are things I need to know.
Viola shrugs, and then goes back to reading, and I go back to stalking.
Even from several tables away, I can tell by Hayden’s jerky head movements that the brothers are engrossed in a heated discussion. Hayden’s angular features and flawless skin redden, and Zach’s square jaw clenches.
Mid-rant, Hayden’s cell phone chimes and he scoots his chair back, the metal legs squeaking on the linoleum floor. He slides it out of his pocket and reads the screen. Then he scratches the stubble on his cheek with a worried frown.
Zach tries to grab the phone, but Hayden shoves it back into his pocket. Glancing up, Hayden catches me staring. His nostrils flare and his eyes flash with anger.
My palms sweat and my skin instantly warms. The unexpectedness of his glare takes my breath away. I turn away and doodle in my notebook.
Then an odd spark of panic hits hard. Is my hair tangled? My pencil skirt unzipped? Lip-gloss on my teeth? I grip the hem of my black tee under my leather jacket, the silver studded leather cuff on my wrist digging into my stomach, and yank it down. Much better.
I sip my juice box and covertly scrutinize Hayden. He’s back to arguing with his younger brother. Hayden’s six feet tall, lean, yet muscular. The times we’ve passed each other in the halls, his eyes are usually twinkling as if he knows an intriguing secret. Today, Hayden’s wearing a blue short-sleeved, button-up shirt with faded skinny jeans, a studded belt, and scuffed Etnies. On one arm, he has several black rubber bracelets. Nothing too unusual about him.
Except for one very odd feature.
He has two different colored eyes. His light brown fauxhawk falls over his forehead in a messy yet somehow deliberate way, and lands over his one strikingly blue eye. The other one is light green. Besides the rare heterochromia iridis, that’s it.
I add to my notes: Weird eye color and member of the Amazing Hair Club. Check.
Viola lowers her book a fraction. “You’re totally staring at the Lancasters.”
“I’m not staring.”
“Oh, right, you’re observing.” She tilts her head. “Most girls can’t resist guys like them. They have that...”
Incredibly sexy quality?
“Dangerous vibe going,” Viola finishes.
“Yeah, I guess.”
Maybe I should write it down. I scribble: Sexy bad-boys. Check.
“Did you know that Zach and Hayden don’t date any of the girls around here?” Viola says. “As if they think they’re too good for us.”
I slam my juice box on the table, red liquid shooting out of the straw. “Maybe that’s because everyone’s so damn cliquey at this stupid school. It’s just wrong, the way the other kids treat them,” I say. “Did you hear? Someone jacked up Hayden’s locker again with spray paint.” I’m beyond disgusted by some of my classmates’ Neanderthal moves.
“Then maybe you should investigate who keeps screwing with the Lancasters instead. Seriously, Hayden and Zach can’t help being sexy and brilliant.” Viola is an advocate for social justice in high school, and totally reading my mind. “Besides, if Hayden got away with the alleged hacking incident, there’s no real story.”
“Are you kidding me?” I pull out a bag of celery from my lunchbox. “Of course there is!”
“If you say so.” Viola points at my food. “Your mom on that health kick thing again?”
I pick up a stalk of celery and drop it. “Yup.”
She sticks a bookmark in her novel and leans forward. “Whaddya got on Hayden and Zach so far?”
I push my hair—originally blond, and now dyed a bright purple—out my eyes and scan my notes. “Oh, well, not much. Just that the Lancasters moved to Winter Haven six months ago. Hayden’s a senior and antisocial, and Zach’s a junior and on the varsity basketball team. But I did hear that Hayden was booted from his last school in Castro Valley and he did a stint in juvie. Not that there’s a whole lot of trouble to get into around here.”
“Agreed. We seem to be short on our quota of cute psychos,” Viola jokes.
We both grew up in Winter Haven, California, an island within the San Francisco Bay Area, which can be a bit Stepford-ish, so we’ve dubbed it Dullsville. The island has these really nice parks, lots of cool bike trails, and a ton of Victorian and waterfront homes. To get back to what some might call the “real world,” you have to cross one of two bridges into Oakland. And we have one of the largest coastal oak forests in the state. But nothing much happens here. Ever.
“Doing anything fun this weekend?” Viola asks.
I shake my head. “Nope. I’m on babysitting duty.”
“Again? That blows. Your dad still out of town?” She grabs a fry off her plate, and sticks it into her mouth.
“Yup.” I sigh. “My mom will be hiding in her studio—”
“Sloane! Sloane Masterson!”
I groan and look over my shoulder at Devin Greenspan, my geeky admirer. He’s also editor of the school paper, which kind of makes him my boss. He plops onto a chair and dumps his sack lunch on the table, the contents spilling out. I stop a rolling apple and push it back toward him. Devin takes a slurp of his chocolate milk, his Adam’s apple bobbing above the V-neck of his sweatshirt.
“You start working on the Lancaster editorial yet?” Devin asks, a liquid moustache sticking to his lips.
“Yup. I’m all over it, boss,” I say.
I catch Devin’s gaze lingering on my breasts. Correction: my embarrassing mega-boobs. He gawks at them a lot. Shifting uncomfortably, I zip my jacket and slouch in my seat, but my massive chest just hits the edge of the table.
Boys have been ogling my goodies since that mortifying day in sixth grade—before I was even aware of the effect that breasts had on hormonal boys—when I’d worn this thin white tee with an even thinner sports bra and got sprayed with water. The memory still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
“You want anything, Sloane?” Devin asks, gesturing to the snack machine. “Viola?”
I shake my head. “No thanks.”
“I’m good,” Viola says.
Devin gets up and meanders over to the vending machines lining the far wall. Good. Now I can go back to observing the Lancaster boys.
I chew on the end of my pen and glance over at their table. Zach’s eyes narrow to slits and his face darkens, clashing with his white T-shirt. Hayden’s tightly clutching a stainless steel fork in his left hand while quarreling with his brother. He blows out a frustrated breath. A bowl of potato salad sits uneaten on the table in front of him.
I quickly scribble in my notebook: Hayden’s a lefty and brings his lunch to school. Check.
When I glance up, my eyes widen. Hayden’s ears have turned bright red and his whole body tenses, as if he wants to punch his smartass sibling. Then the metal fork clenched in his fist folds in half like as if made out of pliable, soft plastic.
Pause. Rewind. What the hell?
My jaw practically hits the table. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Did that fork really flop over like a warm Hershey bar? My body twitches with the urge to snatch up the utensil for closer inspection. I blink and look again. Everything inside me screams to deny it, but really, how can I? The twisted stainless steel proof is right in front of me. The bent fork still clenched tightly in his hand is like a beacon of unreality.
Goodbye, Dullsville. Hello, Bizarro Land.
Hayden—Sexy-Lone-Wolf—suddenly went from boring recluse to interesting hottie.
Frantically, I draw a bent fork in my notebook and write: It seems that Hayden can bend metal objects with his mind. Check.
My empty stomach churns. This is way too bizarre, even for me. Maybe I’ve been sucked into some freaky SyFy original movie. Because this kind of epic weirdness usually only happens in horror films, not in real life.
I glance at Viola. She’s still absorbed with her book. Didn’t anyone else notice the fork bend in half?
“Did you see that?” I bump Viola with my shoulder.
She doesn’t look up from her book, but a few strands of glossy black hair tickle the pages. “No. What?”
With a trembling hand, I reach out and touch Viola’s arm, desperate for an anchor in the midst of such improbability. It’s as if a door has suddenly been opened to some strange new world.
Viola lowers the paperback. “Sloane, what’s wrong? You look paler than usual.”
What can I say that won’t sound batshit crazy? That I saw Hayden doing—what? Using magic? Some mystical-type mojo?
Before I utter a word, Hayden drops the fork onto the table with a clatter and stiffly crosses his arms. Zach grabs it and tosses the warped utensil behind him in the trash. They continue to argue in low tones.
Now the evidence is gone, and if I try to explain, my best friend might accuse me of rocking the crazy pants. And probably not a good idea to make a scene in front of the whole school. This can wait.
“Never mind. I’m fine,” I mumble, sketching a growly monster on my notebook.
“Whoa.” Viola points her novel in the Lancasters direction. “I wonder what Hayden and Zach are arguing about.”
Shrugging, I pretend to search through my fuzzy purse for something. As I do, I glance out the corner of my eye. Hayden pushes away from the table and storms out of the cafeteria. I scoot back my chair and speed-walk to the windows. He marches over to the closest tree and slams his fist into the bark.
Oh. My. Zombies.
My mouth drops open, then snaps shut.
Unless I go digging through the trash for the fork, I will need additional proof that something is off about Hayden Lancaster. It seems the hacking is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now that I think about it harder, Hayden and Zach look like typical teens, but they’re different. Too attractive. Very athletic. And super smart. Now, the fork bending.
Too freakin’ weird to ignore.
“What are you doing?” Viola asks, leaning over my shoulder.
“I’m keeping a list.”
She frowns. “Huh?”
“Notes on Hayden for a scandalous article. Might even need to call in Wes Craven.”
“Lemme see that.” She snatches the notebook from my hands and flips through the pages like a cop checking notes. “I think the salad your mom is forcing you to eat is warping your brain.”
“Get serious,” I say.
When Viola finishes, she hands the notes back to me and says indifferently, “I’d say vampire, but he can go out in daylight. A relative of Superman?”
My pulse races at the very thought of him being something otherworldly. “Huh. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe he is a fledgling superhero…” I start to jot that into my notebook, and then vehemently cross it out. “Nah. Hayden’s a hacker. Doubt he’d make much of a crusader.”
Viola dips a limp fry into her ketchup. “Then he’s a villain.” She sticks the fry into her mouth and goes back to reading her book.
Criminal mastermind. Check.
But the thought makes the bottom fall out of my stomach. Who the heck is this guy? Am I crazy? Or is something seriously wrong here? And what if his whole scowly bad-boy act isn’t an act?
Leaning back, I resolve to do what any good journalist would do, I’ll go stalking for answers. The pen in my hand slightly trembles as I write: Proceed with caution. Check.
If you're as excited as I am about this thrilling new SyFy romance, please leave me a comment!