I’m rambling on about first chapters over on Killer Chicks today, so I thought I’d share the rough draft of the opening of my current WIP.
Be warned…it has not seen any red ink yet!!!!
Kassius snapped his fingers and a wisp of smoke appeared. It danced upward, holding its snake-like form for only a moment before dissipating into nothingness, leaving behind the faintest scent of charred flesh.
For a thousand years he’d possessed the power of Fire, having the ability to incinerate forests and reduce cities to ash, with no more than a flick of his wrist. And now, all he was capable of producing was a hint of smoke.
His impotence raged in his gut as it had for twelve years. It was all that kept him warm. It was a miracle he’d survived this long without his power and even more amazing that no other Eternal had discovered his weakness. For a dozen years he’d maintained his control over other Purists because they were afraid of the atrocities he’d committed in the past, but he knew it was only a matter of time before someone younger and brasher, would challenge his authority.
That would be a fight he would lose.
Unless he regained his Fire.
He’d spent the past ten years figuring out how to do exactly that and more. If his plan worked, he’d not only recover what he’d lost, but he’d become the most powerful Eternal the planet had known for many millennium.
The time of syzygy was almost here.
He’d make Rose Omana pay for what she’d done to him.
And then all of Earth.
Chapter One –
“Breathe dammit! Don’t you die on me!”
The small boy, no more than eight, dressed in Spider Man pajamas, his face covered in soot, was preternaturally still.
“C’mon kid.” Inhaling as deeply as her tired lungs would allow, Rose pinched the child’s little nose shut. Covering his mouth with her own, safety precautions and regulations be damned, she exhaled forcefully, watching out of the corner of her eye as his chest rose. It fell again as the air left his lungs. She held her breath, waiting, praying for him to take a breath.
It was her job to breathe life into his little body. She had dutifully worked on the boy, fueled by the adrenaline of hope; hope that once again she could help an innocent soul win the battle between life and death. Now, seven minutes after he’d been laid on her stretcher, her hope had seeped away along with any chance the boy had of breathing on his own.
He did die on her. Chances were that he’d already been long dead when the firefighter had carried his limp body out of the burning house. It had been too late for even Rose, known to her fellow volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians, as the Miracle Worker, to save him.
“Rose! Rose, status?” She barely heard her partner Raoul over the crackling fire and gushing water.
His voice broke through the singular focus she’d had on the boy. Turning in the direction of his voice, she once again became aware of the chaos surrounding her.
The night sky was unnaturally lit up by the lights of the fire trucks, ambulances and police cars that had converged on the scene, and of course by the fire itself. Firefighters were scrambling to fight the blaze, police were ushering shocked neighbors away, and the rescue squads were helping the fire victims. She didn’t see any investigators on site. Yet. They’d be here as soon as the flames had been drenched into submission. They’d find evidence of arson, she just knew it. Everything about this inferno felt wrong. It felt deliberate. She knew it had been set. Scanning the crowd, wanting to punish whoever was responsible, she looked for the tell-tale signs of guilt in their faces. She saw none.
“Rose, status?” A few yards away Raoul administered oxygen to a pair of firefighters, but his attention was on Rose.
Unable to meet his eyes, she shook her head, a tight, pained movement. “Lost him.”
Raoul nodded, as though that made sense, but how could the death of an innocent child ever make sense? “See if Murphy needs anything.”
Rose bent down so that she could whisper in the boy’s ear. “I’m sorry.” She pressed a light kiss to his still-warm cheek before standing and covering him and his bear with the stretcher’s blanket. The fact that there were no family members hovering over her, begging for her not to give up on the boy, probably meant that they’d cherished in the blaze too. What a waste. She swallowed the lump of grief which rose in her throat as she wondered whether there was anyone left to mourn the loss of the child.
A mixture of despair and impotent rage churning her gut, she picked her way through the maze of fire hoses and puddles that littered the street, heading over toward Murphy’s rig. She knew from the grim expressions of the firemen she passed that they were losing the battle. The three-family house that the boy had been taken from was engulfed in flames. Now the firefighters were trying to prevent the fire from consuming the nearby homes, but a steady breeze hampered their best efforts.
Pulling a stick of gum from a pocket on her EMT uniform, Rose spared a quick glance back at Raoul. He looked exhausted already, beaten. They’d only been on site for fifteen minutes. Rose shoved the gum into her mouth and chewed ferociously, trying to chase away the smoke that had settled on her tongue, but the minty flavor was no match for the taste of death and destruction.
“You need me Murphy?” she shouted as she approached the other EMT’s bus.
“Saline!” her white-haired superior barked.
“You got it!” Spinning around to return to her ambulance to get the saline, she immediately slammed into a firefighter outfitted in thirty pounds of protective gear. She would have bounced right off of him,and fallen on her butt if he hadn’t reached out grabbing her arms to steady her. “Sorry,” she muttered, embarrassed by her klutziness. She wasn’t in the habit of screwing up on emergency calls, but the fire had rattled her. Fires always did.
Like a cowboy tipping his hat, the firefighter raised his visor so that she could see his face. She recognized those dancing eyes. Bobby Donahue. She’d been out on a couple of casual dates with Bobby a few years earlier, before he’d reconnected with his high school sweetheart Maggie. Now he was married with two kids, twin boys.
“You okay Rose?” Bobby was a certified EMT as well as a firefighter. He and Rose had done their fair share of shifts in a bus together. He knew how much she hated responding to calls where a fire was involved.
She offered him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “I’d be better if you’d get out of my way, you big lug.”
“Pushy broad aren’t you?” he teased with a wink. “Stay safe.” Snapping his visor shut, he lumbered off towards Murphy’s ambulance.
Rose headed back towards hers. She had only taken half dozen steps when the chill hit her, stopping her dead in her tracks. Something was wrong. Her body tingled with the knowledge even though her mind couldn’t name what it was. She spun around in a slow circle, desperately searching the scene, trying to find out what was causing the icy dread to congeal in her blood. Unable to shake off the feeling that something was terribly wrong, she spun around again, faster this time. Desperate.
Nothing appeared to be out of place in the midst of the controlled chaos. Emergency personnel were doing their jobs, rescue vehicles were parked in the appropriate locations, and the crowd which had gathered to watch the five-alarmer, were corralled at a safe distance. Nothing and no one was out of place.
Then she saw him. Kyle.
Her former foster brother was standing on the fringe of the crowd. He stood, stock-still, in his black jeans and sweatshirt with the hood pulled up so that little but his eyes could be seen, like the specter of death, hidden among the teeming crowd of life. While every other face in the crowd was iced over in horror, his eyes burned with devilish delight.
The icy dread that had frozen Rose in place was dissolved by a wave of white-hot anger. She knew without a doubt that Kyle had set this fire. He was the one responsible for the death of the innocent little boy, just like he’d been responsible for the blaze that had claimed their foster parents.
She hadn’t been overly fond of the Millers. After all, the day she’d aged out of the system seven years ago, they’d unceremoniously kicked her out of the place she’d called “home” for three years. They’d died the next night, victims of a suspicious house fire.
She’d seen Kyle sporadically over these past years, running into him at a local diner or supermarket, other times she’d caught him watching her from across an intersection, and then there had been those occasions she’d felt as though she was being watched, but hadn’t been able to spot him.
Six months earlier she’d told her friend Zachariah that she was worried she was being stalked and Zach had volunteered to have “a talk” with Kyle. She hadn’t seen her former foster brother since. Not until tonight.
Knowing that he had her attention, Kyle pointed at Murphy’s ambulance and waved bye-bye, before turning to walk away. Even before he’d disappeared into the crowd of onlookers, Rose was scrambling desperately, slipping on the wet pavement, towards the other rig.
“Get away! Get away from the truck!” she screamed, but her words were drowned out by the roaring flames consuming the building. She had to get to her co-workers and warn them about the danger.
She was too late.
The blast that obliterated the ambulance lifted her off her feet, catapulting her through the air and slamming her against a parked car. As she slid, like a limp rag doll down to the pavement, she saw the angry orange flames leap skyward into the night sky. Instinctively she rolled beneath the car to escape the debris which had blown skyward tumble back to earth.
She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t do anything but succumb to the searing pain that wracked her battered body. She was dimly aware of the smoke and screams that filled the air. A fireman’s helmet hit the ground near her and rolled under the car.
She knew that not just the boy had died.
Damn you to hell, Kyle was her last thought before she drifted into the darkness.