The Not-So Dead
(The Dead Series, #1)
Publication date: January 21st 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult
All Faye wants is another chance at being normal: hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading the latest Manga… As a wraith, her craving for a normal existence seems forever out of reach. When she makes the move to the small town of Hueman, Texas with her not-so dead nomadic family, she prays this fresh start will be the one that sticks.
Until… one of her kind is murdered by a mysterious man in a black mask.
With only Carter, an unlucky human witness, by her side, Faye must find a way to prevent the body count from rising and protect her family’s secret identity. As the man in the black mask lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again, her choice becomes a matter of life and death.
In the face of true evil, being normal is overrated.
As far as Faye knew, explorers explored, but she didn’t tell Maddy that. She probably would have stayed there waiting for Dusk to come back, but another person shakily emerged from inside the club. It was the guy from before, the one she had fed on. He swayed, and his legs shook heavily as he turned toward her and made eye contact. That was when she decided to leave. She grabbed her backpack from the ground, stuffed her gaming device back into it, and jogged off after Maddy.
“Hey! Wait!” She heard the man shouting after her.
She caught up to Maddy and dared not to look back. The man chased after her, and when he caught up with them, he grabbed Faye’s arm and forced her around. His eyes drooped. “What did you do to me?” he mumbled.
Faye didn’t know what to do. She drew closer to Maddy, even reaching out to take her arm. Then he was gone.
There was a brief eddy of wind as Maddy moved faster than a human eye could follow. She took hold of the situation and forced the weirdo to release his grip before she tossed him into an alley. His body slammed against the wall, and she stood over him a second later.
The veins underneath her skin pulsated red, and with both hands on his face, she fed.
Then it was over. He crumpled to the ground, and she dragged him behind a dumpster. None of the passersby noticed what had happened.
“That’s how you take care of drunken idiots.” She wiped her hands and strolled down the street.
“Did you kill him?”
Maddy shot her an evil glare. “I should have, but no, he’ll wake up in a few hours.”
“Th-thank you,” Faye mumbled.
Maddy sneered. “Don’t thank me. Next time, stand up for yourself, Dora. You could have done that just as easily as I did.”
She turned and continued moving down the street, away from the center of town. Faye followed. They walked for a while in silence. Maddy was right; she could have handled the guy as easily as she had. So why had she been so scared?
“I’m Asian,” Faye muttered.
“What?” Maddy asked.
“I’m not Hispanic.”
Maddy stopped and whirled on her. “What?”
“Dora isn’t Asian.” Faye avoided her eyes.
Maddy threw her hands up. “I don’t call you Dora because I think you’re Hispanic, dumb ass. It’s ’cause you carry that stupid backpack everywhere.”
“I carry my games.”
“You carry kid toys, like your games,” she said. “You know, Dora, you could use those to lure stupid nerds like that boy, but you don’t.”
“Whatever the boy’s name is. I mean, why hang out with that if you aren’t going to at least try him?”
“I didn’t want to leech off him.”
“My God, you’re just annoying as all hell, aren’t you?” Maddy turned down a side street. “After two years, you’d think you would’ve grown into this by now, but no. You still get all depressed when it’s time to eat.”
“How long did it take you to get used to it?”
Maddy slowed her steps. “As soon as it happened. I had no regrets. Actually”—she faced Faye—“I was happy it happened. I felt special because the wraith who did this to me chose me. He could’ve killed me after he took what he wanted, but he didn’t.” She jabbed her finger in Faye’s chest. “Instead he took it all and he made me into what I am now. He understood that taking only a little doesn’t stop the hunger.”
“We take just a little so they won’t end up like us. That’s what Dusk says.”
“If you always do that, you start to rot and smell like death. Eventually you need to take it all.” She rolled her eyes. “Maybe you want that to happen to you again? You want the death splotch.”
Faye remembered the moment vividly. First it had started with a small blemish on the skin. Then it spread all over her body, leaving a putrid stench that even her acute sense of smell couldn’t take. “But I don’t want to kill anyone.”
“It’s a little too late to be the pacifist,” she growled. “We all do it, even Dusk. How do you think he was able to survive after all these years? We have to eat, Faye. If we don’t, we die.”
Faye started to follow her but stopped. As she thought it over, she realized Maddy was right. Sucking away the essence from unsuspecting people was part of her new life, a life she hadn’t asked for. It wasn’t easy to accept and fit in with the rest of them. How could they expect her to only after two years? They were much older and had more experience. They had time to adjust while she was just learning how to work with her newfound abilities. And what kind of wraith didn’t enjoy leeching, knowing full well they had to in order to survive? She hated it and the stereotypes that came with being what she was.
“You already did it once. You took too much and the guy became one of us,” Maddy added. “And it felt damn good, didn’t it?”
“So, stop fighting your stupid emotions and do it again.”
“Well, why didn’t you want to kill that boy back at our old home?” Faye asked.
Maddy stopped abruptly. “That was different.”
Faye walked around Maddy and faced her. “Was it because you liked him?”
She folded her arms. “Dusk told you that, didn’t he? As usual, he likes to keep out the important details, make himself look like our leader who can do no wrong. You think he’s squeaky clean, don’t you? You think he has all the answers, but he doesn’t. He’s just as dark and evil as any wraith. We all are.”
Faye felt something sharp jab into her shoulder, followed by a burning sensation. She hadn’t felt that much pain since she’d been turned. She screamed before Maddy took hold of her and whisked her down the street.
They stopped and hid behind a parked car. Faye reached up and gripped her shoulder, finding a wooden stake embedded in her skin. Cold, thick blood oozed from a puncture wound. “What did you do that for?” Her blood was as dark as hematite. Wraith blood usually was.
“Shhh.” Maddy’s eyes revealed confusion and fear. “That wasn’t me, you idiot.”
A tall figure loomed across the street, wearing olive cargo shorts and a black tank top that exposed pale, muscled arms underneath. A belt wrapped around his waist held sharpened stakes of varying sizes, and he held a machete in his left hand and a crossbow in the other. However, it was the oval-shaped black mask covering his face that made Faye melt with slight fear. With narrow, vertical slits across a long slit in place of their mouth, the individual looked more beast than man. She also saw a weird mark, the Roman numeral three etched just between the eyes.
“Hold still.” Maddy grabbed the stake and yanked it from Faye’s shoulder.
The pain was excruciating, but immediately dissipated.
“Who is he?” she whispered to Maddy.
“Whoever he is, he’ll be sorry for attacking us.” She stood from behind the parked car. “Stay here. I’ll take care of this idiot.”
“But why would he throw a stake at—” Faye didn’t get the chance to finish her question as Maddy rushed across the street. Faye immediately thought back to what Carter had said about vampires and vampire hunters, but they didn’t exist. Even if they did, they didn’t hunt wraiths.
She stumbled to her feet and watched as Maddy’s fist whipped at incredible speed at the man. He ducked under her arm, and with the machete, he sliced at her right arm.
She screamed as it fell useless at her side. She leapt backward when the man kicked her in the stomach and sent her backward onto the pavement. He aimed the crossbow at her chest and pulled the trigger.
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