With only a few days left until the release of BURNED, A Donovan Circus Novel, I wanted to give you guys a taste of what’s to come. Newsletter subscribers received this a few weeks ago as a special sneak peek (be sure to sign up for more exclusive content, news, and freebies) and now it’s your turn. Without further ado, before even its release on Amazon, I give you Chapter 1 of BURNED.
Burned, A Donovan Circus Novel
“Welcome back for the second act of the Donovan Circus!” Ringmaster Sheffield Donovan shouted into his microphone. “Look high in the sky and prepare yourselves for our amazing acrobats!”
Children and adults yelled their praises, clapped their hands as they waited for the performers to come out and entertain them. I watched as their faces turned up at Sheffield’s command, towards the heavens where six beautiful acrobats defied gravity as they twisted and flipped in midair. The crowd gasped in delight at each turn, hoping against hope that no one would plummet to the dirt floor so many feet below. Unbeknownst to the crowd, there was no chance of that happening, not when several of those acrobats were Levitators who could float themselves off the ground.
After flawless execution from the acrobats, the next several acts proceeded as usual. I saw my friend Bianca go out to the center ring with her dog Henry. Even though I’d seen their tricks at least thirty times now, the tiny Jack Russell jumping through hoops and dancing for Bianca never failed to make me smile. When it came time for the fiery motorcycle ball, however, my smile faded. Keegan and Nikolas, two other Firestarters, rolled their bikes in; my heart constricted at the sight of dark-haired, green-eyed Keegan, his handsome features focused on his performance.
I raised my hand at him in greeting, but he never looked in my direction. In fact, no one would look at me. I walked around and tried to speak to people but they ignored me. None of my friends would look over, not even my roommate Delia. Everyone stood still, looking straight ahead into the center ring.
Sheffield turned around to look at me. “What’s the matter, kid?”
His voice thundered through the microphone but the audience paid no attention, still enthralled by the performers. Sheffield’s familiar blond coif and handlebar mustache began to change. I opened my mouth to respond but paused as he shimmered, flames creeping up his limbs. He looked down at the orange and red that spread across his body, gave me a puzzled glance. The fire overtook him, so bright I had to look away for a second. When they died out, another person stood in his place, a small man with graying hair and wire-rimmed glasses.
“No.” My voice shook. “I-I killed you.”
“I’m disappointed in you, Lucy,” Dr. Felix J. Hardy hissed at me. “I thought you’d get to the bottom of things, learn the truth about your father and this show. Instead you hide. Don’t you burn to know?”
I cast a desperate look around for help, but no one stepped up. They stood in silence, unaffected by the exchange between me and the mad scientist I’d killed three weeks ago in self-defense.
Felix stepped towards me and a small flame erupted in his palm. The fire looked exactly like the one that had killed him, with a blue base that belonged to only the most powerful Firestarters, ones like me and my father.
“That’s impossible,” I whispered, rooted to my spot. “You weren’t a real Firestarter.”
“Something’s coming for the Donovan Circus, girl. Everything changed when you killed me.”
A shadow moved behind him, caught in the Big Top’s lights. Whatever the shadow belonged to dashed into the bleachers. I moved to warn the crowd, but they continued to watch the show in the center ring, ignorant to the hulking shape at their backs.
I turned to Felix. “What’s coming?”
“You’ll know soon enough.” The corner of his mouth quirked upward.
“Luce,” someone behind me called.
The knot in my stomach tightened at the voice; I turned to see Gabriel, beautiful, blond Gabriel with his deep blue eyes and muscled physique. He and Keegan stood next to one another, both with serious looks.
“You can’t avoid us forever,” they said.
“Try me,” I muttered.
“We’re perfect for each other,” Keegan said.
“I’m in love with you,” Gabriel added.
“Be ready, Firestarter,” Felix crowed behind me. I looked over my shoulder, back to the murderer I’d protected us all from.
Felix threw a fireball and the flames engulfed me. Between the colors, I saw the shadow leave the bleachers and creep near, a giant, four-footed creature that stalked towards me as I burned. I heard it licks its chops when my skin sizzled. Pain spread through me. Felix’s laughter echoed in my ears as everything went black.
My eyes snapped open as I jolted upright in bed, hands moving to put out the imaginary flames. My sweat-soaked clothes clung to my skin, my red hair plastered to my head. A groan escaped me as I flopped back down, trying to will the nightmare away.
I looked over at Delia, asleep in her bed. She hadn’t so much as twitched at my outburst. I envied her; she was the heaviest sleeper I’d ever met. Perhaps her conscience was simply lighter than mine.
Felix’s whisper rang in my ears. Something is coming. I shivered as the beastly shadow came into the forefront of the memory. This wasn’t the first nightmare I’d had since that night I’d killed the scientist. Not a day went by where memories didn’t remind me of the sins I’d committed in order to protect our gifted family. Felix’s burnt body still haunted my dreams and tonight his appearance reminded me of how dangerous this world had become. I was no psychic, but I didn’t doubt my nightmare hinted at a grain of truth.
Despite the small circus grounds, I’d done a hell of a job avoiding people for the last three weeks. Somehow I’d managed to dodge two boys – both on the same mission – and lots of questions from troupe members. Sheffield, however, seemed to be evading me to the same extent. While he’d needed to heal before we sat down to discuss my family history, he should be perfectly healthy now, yet hadn’t tracked me down. The last two times I’d gone to his camper, he hadn’t answered the door and I’d definitely heard a rustle of movement the second time.
The Donovan Circus was halfway into its schedule in a new city. Between packing up from our last location and now settling into the new one, I’d become a professional at avoiding two specific conversations. Keegan, the perfect-on-paper nice guy, and Gabriel, the bad boy turned reluctant hero, had both confessed they wanted to pursue more with me. As I’d never let my emotions become a factor in my life before now, this ridiculous love triangle had me in a snit. Was it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
I was not the girl that got caught up in these kinds of things. A lot had happened to me since my return to this world almost two months ago. With my current job occupation, recently acquired friends, and a gift I’d had forever, that was putting it mildly.
The cherry on top was the flood of emotions that now constantly buzzed on the surface. Before coming back, I’d never had any problems shoving back my feelings. After Gabriel gave me an emotional jumpstart to defeat Felix, however, I was always on the verge of catching fire. The guilt I had over taking a man’s life threatened to consume me anytime someone so much as mentioned him. The smallest things would set my hands ablaze, things that I used to be able to handle. I couldn’t get my emotions under control and that made me a risk to everyone.
Lying there in bed, my brain screamed at me to get my priorities in order. If something was coming for us, how could we be ready?