Monday, 17 December 2012
Book Spotlight: Moonshadows by Claude Dancourt
by Claude Dancourt
When Mira was turned into a werecat, she panicked. She ran away from her life and her boyfriend without a goodbye.
One year later, she’s on the verge of emotional and physical collapse, and answers are nowhere to be found. When the man she left behind shows up unexpectedly, Mira is so desperate to feel human again that she welcomes him back into her life despite her best resolves.
Erik has some questions of his own,and he won’t take no for an answer. He doesn’t believe in Supernatural, or in ancestral creatures. He wants a real explanation for her abandon. But when the new moon reveals the black panther inside Mira, he has no choice but to face the truth.
While the pair struggle to work out their issues, a killer lurks in the shadows. And its restraint is thinning…
Read an extract from the book after the jump:
Copyright by Claude Dancourt
The last ray of sunshine slid through the blinds, across the arm she had spread over her stomach. The gentle caress warmed her, nibbling at the last crumbs of sleepiness. Its bite on her skin became more aggressive, just a little too hot and disturbing.
Mira turned to lie on her side, away from the light. Even after a year, her internal clock refused to let her sleep through the day. Every night, she waited for dawn to go to bed, until she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. Every day, she woke in the afternoon, too late to fall back asleep again, yet too early to start her ‘night’.
Her tired eyes burned behind her lids. She dreaded the second she’d have to open them. She was accustomed to the darkness now. The light had become her enemy. Mira rolled on her back once more, and rubbed her eyes with her fists, trying to chase nonexistent sand from them. The gesture only increased the itching and she gave up. She needed a shower. Showers always helped.
She untangled herself from the sheets that were wrapped around her legs and pushed herself to her feet. Her vision blurred instantly. Black and white flakes danced in front of her. Mira gripped the bed for balance. Keeping her eyes open was next to impossible. When she closed them, the floor started to reel dangerously. Or was it only her head spinning? For an infinite second, she felt herself teeter forward. Saliva ran down her throat like fire when she tried to swallow. At the same time, flames rose from the pit of her stomach, which stretched, collapsed, and pulled out again, clenching horribly. She feared she was going to vomit again. Mira grasped the wood frame harder, her eyes burning when no tears came forth to soothe the delicate organs.
Finally, the vertigo receded. Mira took a tentative step, then another. Reassured that her wobbly legs were not going to give way under her, she tottered to the bathroom. At least now she remained conscious. The first few times, she had woken up on the floor, ill and disoriented, with no memory of having fallen. If only her stomach could accept something more solid than light soup, her vertigos would not be that bad.
Nausea weakened her knees again when she bent to splash her face. The pulse in her head was barely quieter than her heartbeat. She sipped from the running water and regretted it at once.
It tasted like cinder and rasped against her throat.
Mira forced herself to look in the mirror. Feverish eyes detailed the high cheekbones. Her stare slipped along her fine nose to her lips. She didn’t like her mouth. It was too large, full and red even without lipstick. Her chin was small, almost bony, just like the rest of her body. Fully dressed, she could hide the weight she had lost, but the tank top and masculine shorts she used as pajamas emphasized her slimness. Her collarbone spiked above her breasts and the tendons stood out when she swallowed.
Her stomach protested again, though this time the hurtful signal was different, almost reassuring. She felt hungry. She had to eat something, even if it meant gulping down a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. They put enough chemicals in their junk that she could hope to keep it down. The idea of meat made her salivate. First a shower, then food. Her shift at the Black Rose didn’t start until 11 p.m. If she hurried, she would have time to go to the library.
Erik stopped and took off his helmet, straightening up on his saddle. He was early. The shutters were still closed. At first, he had watched the small house day and night, walking along the beach or pretending to pass by, until he knew her schedule. She slept through the day and came out after dark. She always left on foot and walked to the train station, though there was a bus stop only yards from her front door. The Mira he remembered would have used the closest transportation.
He muffled a yawn and stretched, rolling his shoulders backward. The movement attracted the attention of a redhead clad in a flashy bikini top and shorts. He turned away. It had taken him nearly a year to track Mira down; he would not allow himself to be distracted before he knew why she had left like a thief.
He pulled his tee-shirt out of his dark blue jeans, sighing when the air touched the skin of his back. His clothes clung to his body, revealing a muscular chest and shoulders. His mop of dark hair and clear eyes misled people into thinking he was easy-going. Those who looked a little closer noticed the strength in his jaw and saw that his smile didn’t always reach his eyes.
Weariness tingled on his skin, urging him to move, to actually do something, rather than waiting for her to appear. He longed to act after days of watching her comings and goings from afar. He was tired of waiting. He wanted to talk to her: to ask, no, to demand information. To take her by the shoulders and shake her until her ears rang and she begged for mercy. The idea made him smile. Mira always had her own way of surrendering. She plied him with coy smiles and watery eyes. The display drowned his temper and left him feeling guilty, every single time.
Had she changed in one year? He had, a little. If anything, he was more patient; her getaway had taught him that. Erik waited, seated on his bike, and imagined her face when he asked if she had any idea how distraught their friends were, or if she could even fathom how furious and hurt he had been when he had come home to find her gone. A bitter smile brushed his lips. She would probably figure that one out quickly enough when he’d confronted her.
Erik inhaled carefully to regain some control over the mix of angst and fury rising deep inside him. He had to keep a tight rein on his emotions. Mira had never been a silly girl; passionate, yes, but seldom impulsive. Surely she had her reasons to leave as she did, without an explanation or even a goodbye. He was not ready to face her just yet, not without more weapons to oppose her than a bruised ego and a broken heart. He had to find out more. Tonight.
The shutters squealed when she pushed them open to let in the night air. The salty raw scent made her smile. She had always wanted to live by the sea; its immensity calmed her. She stepped on the wood deck outside her bedroom to take in the peaceful sight. The halfcrescent poured moonlight on the shivering surface, making it sparkled like millions of diamonds on dark velvet. Except for the occasional gull’s cry or the far-off roar of an engine, quiet had spread its cloak on the bay.
Perhaps she would indulge herself and dive into the waves later, when even the last of her kind would have fallen asleep. When the world belonged only to her, she would enter the ocean, and let the tide cradle her into oblivion.
She stepped back inside and dressed quickly. Her low-neck tee-shirt fitted her like a glove; her porcelain skin glowed against the dark jersey. Her jeans were a little loose on her hips. The week before, they were form fitting. She really needed that burger. Mira gave up the idea of applying make-up, deciding instead to simply puff a light cloud of cologne on her throat. Her fingers brushed the small scar behind her ear and she froze. The mark was barely visible, hidden by her curls. The skin had healed, yet it was sensitive. Hot. Throbbing.
The feeling had her wanting to run to the window again and check on the already waning crescent. She fought the urge, barely. How long until the new moon? Did she have several nights? Just a few? A single one? The new moon wasn’t due until Sunday, but what if she was mistaken and it came sooner? Eyes closed, Mira pressed her forehead against the cool surface of the mirror. Time was passing by too quickly; it was so soon, too soon…
When she opened her eyes again, the bedside clock showed 9:30 p.m. She had plenty of time to go to the library; no need to stop by for a snack. Anyway, she was not hungry any more. Mira grabbed her keys and quickly pulled the shutters together before she climbed down the stairs and exited the house. Another flight of steps took her to the sidewalk along the beach. She cast a quick glance over her shoulder at the bike parked near a palm tree. Its owner was crouched near the rear tire, paying no attention to her. A familiar scent tickled her nose. She breathed in sandal wood and bergamot, partly covered by the stinging fresh smell from the seashore. On this side of the house, the wind also brought the heavy odor from the coastline swamps, earthy and vaguely rotten. Mira turned away and started toward the train station.
Erik waited until he was sure her long strides had taken her to a safe distance before he stood up. Tonight he was not following her. Her whereabouts were the same night after night. She would get off the train downtown, and enter the library. Sometimes she walked down the rows of books, and sometimes she searched the extensive database from one of the stations. Most of the time, she settled at a table to read and scratched in a notebook. He wondered what she was looking for. He had followed her inside a couple of times, but he had never stayed long or asked questions. Each time, it had been only the two of them, and the local guarding the front desk. Inquiring would have raised her suspicions. And if she became suspicious, she was most likely to flee again…
He climbed the stairs and tried the knob. Locked.
After the library, she generally took another train, or maybe a cab if she was running late, and joined a darker side of the city, always before 11 p.m. Her destination was a bar named ‘The Black Rose’. She stayed inside all night until she exited around 4 a.m., and then went home. He had not dared to go inside yet. .
Abandoning the door, Erik climbed down the stairs to circle the house. The first floor windows were completely blind. Impossible to get in that way. His intel’ was right. She had to be working in this bar. No one went to the same place every night of the week using the back door otherwise. He forced his hand to relax as his mind formed despicable images: sleazy looks roaming over her; greedy hands touching or grabbing; inebriated men tipping in hope of more than patient smiles. His stomach squeezed viciously. Erik breathed in slowly to ease the jealous knot twisting his insides. The pieces he had of her new life made no
sense. He had to calm down and look at the bigger picture.
A gust of wind shattered the blinds above him. Erik instantly lifted his head and nodded to himself. He peeked around, making sure he was alone, before he grabbed the rail. The iron fence protested under his weight when he shoved himself up. He strode over it quickly and checked the neighborhood again, bent over the rail as if he had been invited here to admire the view.
After a full minute, sure the random night owls walking the beach were oblivious to his trespassing, he turned his back to the sea and pushed the venetian blinds open. They resisted for a second, then revealed the windows were wide open behind the screen. Erik stepped inside.
END of extract.
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