Like your fairy tales on the dark side? Then Red by author Kait Nolan is the book for you! Seriously, if you love young adult paranormal fiction and you haven’t picked this one up yet, then you’re missing out on a really great book.
Here’s the setup: Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs is to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?
Like it? Then here’s an except that’s sure to whet your book-lovin’ appetite. Read it and then when you’re hooked, follow the links to get your own copy.
Dad was gonna kill me. If he hadn’t called out search parties already. The sky was fading from a wash of red and orange to the purpling of night. Which meant it was really freaking late. No trail guide would still be at work this late. And that meant he was bound to have called the park looking for me. My cover was gonna be blown, all because I’d stayed late to help secure the station for the night because it was the first chance I’d had to see Sawyer since the incident at Hansen’s this morning. God, I was a moron.
I took one last glance at the research station before climbing into my car. For all I knew it was the last time I’d see Sawyer. Dad might put me under house arrest when I got home. Sawyer was still in there with his dad working on the map and the plan for tomorrow’s work. We’d both been kept busy today. Separately. Maybe it was nothing and Dr. McGrath just wanted us to work on different things, but I couldn’t help but feel like he wholly disapproved of the idea of Sawyer taking more than a friendly interest in me. I mean he’d been nothing but kind and professional all day. Nothing had really changed in how he acted toward me. But his manner with Sawyer was different. Gruffer. Shorter. I wondered why. Did he think Sawyer was somehow bad for me?
My car sputtered a bit when I cranked it, but she caught and purred to life. Okay perhaps purred was euphemistic. Whimpered maybe. I really needed Dad to get under the hood and tinker. After he was done flaying me alive for lying to him.
I wasn’t used to being out this late. Even before Rich and Molly’s kidnapping, standard operating procedure in our household meant that I was in before sunset, period. Not like the chances of me wolfing out were greater after dark, but Dad was a single parent of a teenage daughter and, curse aside, it was a reasonable precaution.
Shadows of trees and boulders stretched long across the road into deeper pools of blackness. My headlights cut through them, a narrow swath of light leading me home. There wasn’t anybody else on the road. Which wasn’t a shock. There wasn’t much on this road other than park access, and everybody was gone for the day.
My heart jolted as something jerked in the beams. I jammed my foot down on the brakes, tires screeching as I slid to a stop. But it was only a deer, wheeling away from the road and back into the trees.
The breath whooshed out of me in relief.
Then the car died.
I patted the dash, as if it was an animal that needed soothing from the encounter. “It’s okay, baby. It was just a deer. It wasn’t hurt. I didn’t wreck. You weren’t hurt. This is not a problem.”
I turned the key. The engine sputtered and coughed. Nothing. I cranked it again. Cough. Sputter. Wheeze. Die. It occurred to me the fourth time I tried that I might be flooding the engine. Could you do that with an automatic? It didn’t matter, really. Either way, the car apparently wasn’t going to start.
I turned on my emergency flashers.
I was halfway home. I could chance walking back to the lab, but Sawyer and his dad would probably be finished and gone by the time I got there. Probably the best thing to do would be to head for home. At least it would give me a valid excuse for being late. And if I was lucky, somebody I knew would drive by and could maybe give me a lift.
This was one of those occasions I really thought Dad should rethink his no cell phone policy. I’d never fought it before because, really, who would I call? It’s not like I had friends. But the prospect of hiking home in the dark was so not thrilling me. Maybe I’d start a campaign for one of those pre-paid burner phones.
I climbed out of the car, grabbed my day pack, and locked the door.
For about two seconds I considered hiking cross country. I could shave off a mile probably. But though I knew practically every inch of the park in the daylight, I wasn’t comfortable trekking through at night. I hadn’t forgotten our encounter with the bear, and predators aside, even an almost werewolf was subject to sprained ankles or broken bones as a result of a fall. So road it was.
I hugged the left shoulder, keeping as much out of the road as possible. I’d see and hear any oncoming traffic well enough in advance to get out of the way. To the right there was no shoulder for the most part, just sheer walls of rock of varying heights where the mountain had been blasted to make way for the roadbed.
Now that the sun was down, the oppressive heat of the day had waned. It was actually almost pleasant to be outside under the stars. Except for the mosquitoes. Tipping my head back, I peered up at the swatch of sky visible through the trees where the road cut through. Now that I’d walked far enough that my headlights had disappeared, I could see hundreds of pinpricks of light in the black. It’s one of my favorite things about living in a podunk town. No city lights to drown out the night sky.
Dad and I used to have a telescope when I was younger, and we made stargazing a big thing. He taught me all the constellations, let me stay up late for those rare astronomical events. Since we’d come here, the telescope had stayed packed in its crate and the only star related stuff we’d done was navigational. I could find my way around without a map or compass. In theory.
My dad. Always about the practical.
It hadn’t seemed worth the hurt to mention the fact that getting lost hadn’t been why Mom died.
A distant rumble separated itself from the noisy song of crickets and buzz of cicadas. An engine. I tipped my head, listening. Was it coming this way? Hard to tell. The new super sensitive hearing seemed to be coming and going, and I really had no idea of the range. I could be hearing a car on another road entirely.
I stopped walking to listen again, turning around to face the direction I’d come from. It occurred to me that the mobility of canine ears would be much more convenient for locating the direction of sounds. Not that I really wanted to sprout a pair, but I could just see the utility of that particular trait.
The vehicle was definitely getting closer. I could hear the rise and fall of sound as it rounded the switchbacks coming down the mountain. Great. Maybe it would be someone I knew or at least someone Dad knew. Maybe it would even be Sawyer or his dad. They had to come this way to get home.
I thought of Rich and Molly as I turned back toward home and started walking again. What if whoever kidnapped them had been someone who they knew? They hadn’t seen his face, but it might’ve been. It was coming from behind me, from the direction of the park. There were a few other things on this road than the park, but I found myself picking up the pace. A prickle of unease skated up my spine. Okay maybe I wouldn’t take a ride from anybody. It was only about a mile and a half to Hansen’s and from there another mile and a half home. Me and the mosquitoes would be fine that far.
I passed into one of the long, stone corridors with rock rising up on either side. It made me feel hemmed in. Trapped. I didn’t like closed spaces of any kind, so I broke into a jog. The sooner I came out the other side, the better. Maybe the driver of the approaching vehicle would think I was just out for a run and drive on by. Yeah, just out for a little nighttime exercise. With a backpack. On a random, dark, mountain road. Well, if they stopped to ask if I needed help, I’d just say I was fine. I kept my pace steady and unconcerned. Just jogging here.
Headlights cut through the dark as the car entered the pass, and as soon as they struck me, I froze like some kind of moronic deer, then turned around. Stupid, stupid! My night vision was blown. The car got closer. Surely the driver had seen me. Just in case, I edged over well into the oncoming lane, out of the way so the vehicle could pass.
I lifted a hand to shield my eyes from the glare, but I couldn’t see squat except that it was some kind of truck or SUV. And it wasn’t slowing. In fact, the engine revved. What the hell? It wasn’t that much of a straight away. What lunatic would be speeding up on a mountain road at night? When a pedestrian was in the road? Was he drunk?
The car switched lanes and started to barrel toward me.
Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!
I started to run, my pack bouncing against my back as my legs pumped, propelling me down the road. Needed speed. Needed distance. Needed to get to the end of the pass so I could dive off the road and into the trees.
Behind me the engine revved again, a rising whine as the driver pushed the truck even faster, eating up the meager distance between us even as my lungs burned and screamed for air. Thirty feet. Twenty. Fifteen. I tried to push faster, harder, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t gonna make it.
In a moment of startling clarity, I was grateful I wouldn’t have to pull the trigger myself, that the curse would be ended with me, and that my death wouldn’t be tainted by the stain of suicide.
Then it hit me, and I was flying through the air, pain a bright blossoming in my ribs. The impact didn’t come from the expected direction. I had just enough time to register that fact before I crashed back to the ground, rolling, sliding in sticks and leaves and rocks, until I slammed, back first, into a tree. Everything exploded into a burst of white.