Today, I get to do two wonderful things: promote a book and promote a friend’s work–all at once. I have the honor of being the first stop on author Adrian J. Smith’s virtual book tour. If you like what you read, please follow the links at the end of the post to follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads or to order the book from various sellers.
I had the good fortune to be assigned to read a chapter of Adrian’s previously published book, Forever Burn, through Project Team Beta, a beta-reading web site for which I volunteer. I loved her work from the word “go.” Since then, we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve worked with her on several other projects, including Dying Embers. I hope you enjoy her writing as much as I do.
From Dying Embers
She thought she was on the right path, but life keeps tugging Addison back to her past and her gift.
Addison Lee struggles to make a new life in Norwich, one where she can be the Battalion Chief of Fire Station Seven and live life as she sees fit. She wants a life without the complications of an ex-fiancé and a job that put her life on the line for little more than a gift she was born with. Learning the ropes of a new job can always be tough, and being a Battalion Chief means she has a great responsibility to her crew and to the city. Nervous about her first day already, Addison realizes that adding in a one-night stand with a future employee has left her on rocky ground.
Plagued by visions of a dying woman, Addison continues to cope with difficulties at her new job. She has no idea who the dying woman is, where she is, or even, when she is—and no means to find out. Addison is distracted from the dying woman and her new job when called to Wyoming on an emergency, where she discovers it’s not as easy to leave her past behind as she hoped.
She needed to pry her eyes open, which required more effort than she thought she could muster. She worked mucus covered lids apart and felt the pleasant pop of her lashes separating. She looked around, and blinking rapidly, moistened her eyes. Mentally, she knew she was looking around as she felt her eyeballs pivoting in their respective sockets. Yet, everything looked the same. Dark. Black. Nothing.
No memory. No hints. No clue of her location. She panicked. Her heart pounded. Bam, bam, bam. She tried to slow the beats: beat, beatbeat, beat. She took a breath; the air sucking into her lungs nauseated her.
She choked and coughed as she squeezed her fingernails into her palm. Her body stopped rocking from the force of hacking, but she needed oxygen and air. She craved it. Her lips parted, and her head was thrown back into the dirt—a strand of hair clung to her cheek. She didn’t dare raise a hand to brush it aside.
Her heartbeat eased, but she remained on her back. She knew she should probably take stock of everything; mentally run through her body from her head to her toes, thinking about how each part of her anatomy felt—she needed to do this. She didn’t. Her eyes remained open and on the ceiling, or at least, she assumed she stared at the ceiling. Her eyes hurt. The muscles in the backs of her sockets ached, and she had a hard time keeping her lids open. She had to remind herself that she needed to keep looking up above her at all costs. To close her eyes would be a death sentence.
Air flew through her nose and down to her lungs, causing particles of dirt to lodge on the sides of her throat. They clung, staying inside her body until swallowing felt like drinking sand. She started to hack again. Her diaphragm violently surged upward, her chest thrust forward, and air came out in short bursts. She was floored by how long it lasted. She couldn’t stop, and her head started to spin. She couldn’t figure out where her feet were. She floated.
A stream of fiery pain licked up from her toes. The agony grasped hold of her ankle and consumed inch by simmering inch. She squirmed, trying to get away. But she couldn’t. She needed to move—she had no other choice. Pain tried to grab her as her insides tried to crawl away. Her guts felt as though they left her form behind. Her body cringed from the anguish—a hollow shell of what she had been was the only thing left.
She lost feeling. Her limbs numbed, and the blackness before could not compare to the darkness that began to consume her. Little hexagonal shapes took over her vision in mass quantity; more and more came, tearing through her vision and ripping it apart at the seams. Where did they come from? Ants—they looked like ants crawling all over, and she couldn’t shake them, couldn’t make them go away.
A short breath before a long one. She was off her rhythm. Her balance was gone. She felt like she rolled as if on a ship out in a hurricane; her body would not stop moving, yet she knew she lay in stillness in the dark caverns of the room. The ship rolled her around, shoulder over shoulder, from one end to the next before the movement sent her back to her original position—eyes blazing into the pitch black. The point came where she couldn’t figure out which way was up. She didn’t know where the ground was, and she didn’t know what direction she faced. No grasp on reality, no idea of where she lay, and no idea of who she was. She started to give up. Nothing mattered.
Confused, head spinning with dizzy circles: her mind refused to focus. She couldn’t think long enough to figure anything out. She needed to start to unravel her predicament, but her breathing increased. There was no way to win. Her nails dug into the dirt below as her mind rose higher and higher: the click, click, click of the track as it pulled her up, up, up with the pinnacle in sight. The point where she would go down, down, down, and there would be nothing to help her. Nothing that would be able to stop her.
Holding her breath, she waited. The dizziness became greater, the rolling more violent, and the air in her chest stopped moving.
Then, she fell.
Adrian J. Smith, or “AJ” as she is often called, is a part-time writer with an epic imagination, sharp wit, and kind heart that gets her into a bit of trouble when it comes to taking in all the neighborhood stray cats. Being obsessed with science fiction, Smith often goes off on tangents about the space-time continuum. She is also a part-time lunatic with a secretive past. It’s been rumored that she was once a spy for the government, but anyone who has gotten close enough to know the truth has never lived to tell the tale. When traveling around the world on various classified tasks, Smith requires the following be provided: buffalo jerky, mimosas, and eighty-six pennies. This is all we know about the reclusive woman.
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