BENEATH SCARLETT VALLEY
Publisher: Ink City Books (owned by Kerr-Ann Dempster)
Date of Publication: August 2014
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Cover Designed by DAMONZA.COM
Death or Immortality ... Cassidy chose death.
Cassidy Daniels hates being a Furor. First, there is the hellish rage that storms through her veins, urging her to kill. Then there is the gnawing guilt, the nightmares, and the pretense. Unfortunately, her sister wants to be immortal. To do so, she needs Cassidy's help to find the Source, an ancient pool hidden beneath Scarlett Valley. When they arrive in Scarlett, Cassidy intends to find the Source and get out, but then she meets Sebastian. Everything about him makes her rethink her choice. There is just one problem. The choice between death and immortality is no longer Cassidy's to make. There are pretenders everywhere, with dark pasts and even darker plans.
• Interviewed by Jaideep of Pebbles in the Still Water
• Date: August 24, 2014
Q: What four things do you take care of while writing a book?
A: 1) Planning: I cannot stress this enough. Before writing, it is crucial to plan. I plan every scene and dialogue. Plans change of course, but understanding every element of my story allows for better writing.
2) Character development: I like to know everything about my character, even things that have nothing to do with the novel itself. It allows for more rounded and unique characters.
3) Pacing: Pace can make or break your novel. You have to maintain a certain rhythm that excites and engages your audience.
4) Research: It is impossible to know everything about everything, so getting the facts is important. It only takes one reader to point out that you’re wrong, to make others lose confidence in you.
[ Chapter One ]
SWOLLEN GRAY CLOUDS hung low over Ashland, shrouding everything in an icy mist. Inside, the only evidence of my sister’s presence was a soft glow beneath the kitchen door. I would have preferred solitude, but I pushed the door open.
Harper sat at the breakfast bar, staring down at the peach in her hands as though she had no idea why it was there. When I dropped into the chair next to her, she looked up at me in surprise.
“Why are you back from your date already?” she asked.
“It was horrible,” I said. “He spent half the night trying to kiss me, and the other half, staring at his reflection.”
“He’s an angel,” Harper said with a shrug. “What did you expect?”
“That you would set me up with a decent guy, not a narcissistic octopus.”
Harper grinned. “I’ll do better next time,” she said. “I know this Aramithian Hunter who would be perfect for you.”
I rolled my eyes and kicked off my boots. “No thank you. I’d rather sit at home and pig out in front of the TV.”
“Oh, I forgot.” Harper jumped to her feet. She hurried to the oven and removed a large pizza with her bare hands. “It’s mushroom pizza, with onions and peppers.”
I wrinkled my nose at the greasy smell as she placed it on the breakfast bar. Harper and I had been eating human food for two decades now, but our taste buds were still in shock. For some reason, everything we ate tasted like cardboard.
“What are those brown slimy things,” I asked.
“Mushrooms,” she said and pointed to a charred fleck. “I think that’s a pepper.”
“Are you sure?”
“Nope.” She picked up a slice. “Ten bucks it’ll taste like cardboard.”
“What if we put ketchup on it?” I asked. “I hear it makes everything taste better.”
Harper sniffed the pizza and then tossed it back in the box. “I’m willing to try anything. I haven’t eaten in two days.”
I hurried to the pantry and grabbed an unopened bottle of ketchup that had been sitting there for months. I squirted some on top of the pizza, and then picked up a slice.
It smelled good, but when I took a bite, it tasted like cardboard covered in cloyingly sweet goo.
“Cardboard?” Harper asked.
“Yeah, but the sweetness makes it easier to swal-low.”
She picked up a slice and took a bite, grimacing as she chewed. “So tell me about your date.”
I was in no mood to rehash the night’s events, but I did as she asked. The chatter and laughter made it easier to forget the horrible taste in my mouth.
When I finished my story, Harper tossed the leftover pizza into the trash and sighed. “So, I’ve been thinking—”
“I’m not going back to Scarlett Valley,” I said. “Quit asking.”
“I already enrolled you in SVH. You start on Monday.”
I stiffened against a shudder. “SVH better be health club.”
“It’s Scarlett Valley High,” Harper said in a harsh voice. “And you’re going.”
I got to my feet and marched out of the room. “We’re running out of time,” she yelled as the door closed behind me.
I hurried down the hall to my bedroom. Before I could turn the lock, she barged into the room.
“I’m not going to Scarlett,” I said. “Find the Source on your own.”
“Cass, you promised to help. If our bodies stop healing themselves, I might never find it.”
“Then accept that it’s over,” I said. “We saw and experienced everything there is. Dying is what comes next.”
“Correction. I saw. I experienced. You spent the last century with your head in the sand playing dead.”
I clenched my fists, hating the polluted blood in my veins. Thanks to our father’s foolish mistake, Harper and I were Half-Furors. He had unwittingly drunk from the Source of Immortality, not knowing what it was, or that it would turn him into an immortal rage-filled creature.
Thankfully, our mother had given birth whilst human, so Harper and I were mortals. Unless we drank from the Source ourselves, we would both die.
“How can you want an eternity of this?”
Harper rubbed her temples with her fists. “We can talk about your views on life and death after we find the Source.”
I sighed and sat down on the bed. It groaned beneath me as though it too felt the weight of Harper’s request.
“You don’t even know if it’s still there,” I said. “The Source has disappeared—”
“It’s there,” Harper said. “Dad promised it wouldn’t disappear again.”
“Dad promised a lot of things.”
Harper sat down beside me with a sigh. I held my breath and looked at her. It was just the two of us now. Since our parents Faded defending Scarlett from a rogue Furor, Harper had sheltered me from every storm. She claimed we were halves of a whole, but I knew better. Harper was steel. I was glass.
“Fine,” I muttered. “I’ll go to Scarlett.”
Harper jumped to her feet and pumped both fists in the air. “Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, thank you.”
“On one condition,” I said. “No preaching to me about drinking from the Source.”
Harper’s pleased-puss smile disappeared. “How can you choose death over immortality?”
Because an eternity like this terrifies me. “Promise me, Harp. No preaching.”
She stared at me for a long minute, but there was no anger in her gaze, only sadness. “I promise, no preaching.”
“And we leave as soon as you drink. No dilly-dallying so you can fool around with the locals.”
“I promise. We find the Source and get out.”
“I’m serious,” I said.
“Okay, okay, a promise for a promise.”
“Fine then, what’s our story?”
“I’ll be right back,” she said with a smile.
She hurried across the hall to her bedroom and re-turned with a large white envelope. She removed two smaller envelopes and handed me one. Inside were a new driver’s license, social security card, and passport.
“We are the Daniel sisters from Ashland, California,” Harper said. “Our parents died in a car crash last May. They left us a boatload of money, so we’re moving to Scarlett to start a new life.”
I tossed my envelope aside without inspecting the documents. I had bigger problems. I hadn’t attended high school since the eighties, but I was sure it was still the epitome of social hell. Teens were viciously aware of those who did not belong and made sure they knew it. Then there were the classes. It would be more sufferable to teach History, than to feign interest in it.
“Can’t we just say I’m homeschooled?” I asked.
Harper’s face soured at the question. “We have to keep a low profile or those busy bodies from the School Board will come knocking.”
I knew she was right, but I still hated the idea. “Why don’t you go? You’re much better at this stuff.”
“What stuff, books?”
“People stuff. You’re a better liar.”
“I’m not a liar.”
“You lie all the time.”
“Whatever. I signed up for classes at the community college. That’s the only way to get access to the restricted section of the library without going through a bunch of red tapes. Of course, I could just break in…”
I shook my head at once. “The last time we broke the law, two police officers died. No stealing, no breaking-and-entering, no breaking the law.”
“Hey, I told you to keep them busy. I never said to break their necks.”
My skin warmed at the reminder. “Let’s just go with plan A. It’s time you read a book cover to cover.”
“I’ve read plenty of books.”
“TV guides and car manuals don’t count.”
Harper grinned and got to her feet. “We should pack. I want to leave first thing in the morning. We’ll search the area north of the high school first.”
“Conjecture,” she said with a shrug. “I can’t stop myself from coming up with a thousand possibilities for where the Source is.”
“And if it isn’t there? What then?”
“It will be there,” Harper said in an exasperated voice. “Dad promised.”
I swallowed the protest on my tongue. Pointing out the obvious would get me nowhere. Rage wasn’t the only thing Harper had inherited from my father. She was as equally stubborn and secretive as he had been. In the end, his stubbornness had cost us everything.
The memory caused my veins to hiss. I backed away from the memory and got to my feet. “I’m going for a drive.”
Harper looked down at her watch. “It’s almost midnight, shouldn’t you start packing.”
“I need fresh air,” I said through clenched teeth. “I’ll pack when I get back.”
Harper gave me a knowing look. “Okay, well pick up your school supplies on the way back.”
I gave her a withering stare and went to the kitchen to grab my boots. As I put them on, Harper walked in.
“Be careful,” she whispered.
I nodded and left. I took deep breaths as I drove away. It did nothing to cool my fevered skin. The fire hammered out a vicious rhythm in my veins, as fervent and relentless as a moth’s wing. It caused my fingertips to twitch until driving became impossible. I turned down a side alley and turned off the car.
“Just keep breathing,” I whispered through rattling teeth. “You’re not a monster, just keep breathing.”
I said the words over, and over, the way my mother had taught me to do. It took an hour, but finally the fire retreated. As I started the car, I noticed a twenty-four-hour Family Mart three blocks away with a flashing sign that said, Back to School Sale. I took a deep breath and drove to it.
(C) Ink City Books
About the Author:
Kerr-Ann Dempster lives in Michigan where she is often found with her nose in a book, her toes in the sand or snow, and online fan-girling over fictional characters and fellow authors. She is a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. After working in Visual Communications and as a Flight Attendant, Kerr-Ann decided that life was best spent being happy. With that in mind, she published her first novel, Beneath Scarlett Valley, in August 2014. She then published her second novel, The Reluctant Sacrifice, in August 2015.
Kerr-Ann Dempster is an independent author, and is currently un-agented. She represents herself in all inquires and negotiations, and publishes through Ink City Books and under her own name.