Book 1 of the Liminals series by Maree Anderson
Now you see me, now you don’t!
My name’s Wren, and I’m a liminal who can phase in and out of the real world.
Sounds like an awesome trick, right? Yeah. Like everything that’s supposed to be cool, it’s complicated.
I’m caught between two warring factions who’d kill to get a piece of me. Someone’s blocked my energy flows so if I phase I’ll get trapped in a ghostlike plane called Between… and die. And to top it all off, I’m totally crushing on my only ally, mysterious bad boy Kade. Sad thing is he’s keeping secrets from me, just like everyone else. My life’s spinning out of control. I don’t know who to trust anymore. And what I find lurking Between is the biggest shock of all.
Winner, Editor’s Choice Division:
Romance Writers of New Zealand Strictly Single contest
Second place, Published Authors Division:
From the Heart Romance Writers Golden Gateway contest
Apple iBooks AUS/NZL Best Books of August:
“Self-published Kiwi author Maree Anderson has already established a loyal following with her Crystal Warriors series. In this novel, she embarks on a new storyline featuring Wren, a sassy 16-year-old who finds she’s starting to disappear from her life–literally! She teams up with mysterious bad boy Kade and learns a thing or two about living between worlds. This is great young-adult fun for fans of paranormal fiction.”
|Length:||Novel, approx 79,350 words|
|Price:||US $4.99 (or US$ equivalent)|
|Release date:||23 July 2013|
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“I found myself getting lost in Wren’s world in the first few pages of this book. Wren is an typical, innocent teenager who’s life starts to spiral out of control. It was gut-wrenching reading her struggling with what was happening to her. Slowly disappearing from the world she knows. Then in walks Kade – and who wouldn’t fall for this beautiful, sweet, hunk of a young man. I fell for him instantly – and could not wait to see what transpired between him and Wren. The whirl wind that Wren and Kade endures – with Wren finding her birth family and fighting to steer clear of the bad guys – left me wanting to not put the book down. ” ~ Read the full review by Erin at The Reading Cafe
“[…] There were some absolutely heart breaking moments between Wren and her family. I really felt for her, some of the things that happened were just gut wrenching. The poor girl literally has nowhere to go and no-one to turn to – well no-one that remembers her anyway! I really like Wren. I think she is a great main character, she had some awful stuff happen which she has to figure out how to deal with but she doesn’t cry about it all the time! Then she meets Kade. I really fell for Kade. Sexy leather pants, check! Sexy motorbike, check! Sexy sarcastic persona, double check! Wren and Kade have some great banter, and the tension between them is quite fun to read. […] A really great, and different YA read. 4 stars” ~ Read the full review by BookChatterCath on Amazon
Cover design by Rob Anderson
(Click on the image to see the full-size cover.)
Read an excerpt from LIMINAL
By Maree Anderson
(Author’s Note: If you’re curious about “LPD” it stands for Leather Pants Dude. But as Wren eventually finds out, his real name is Kade. Enjoy!)
I might have been able to convince myself the whole encounter with LPD had been a dream but for the fact I woke curled across his lap. His jacket was unzipped. My cheek nestled against his chest and I could hear the steady ka-thud of his heartbeat through the soft cotton of his t-shirt. When he brushed a tangle of hair back from my face and his fingertips lingered on my cheek I shivered, and forced open my eyelids.
The grin he greeted me with did nothing for my peace of mind. It was knowing—too knowing. I quickly lowered my gaze. There’s nothing worse than being at the mercy of a guy who’s fully aware of his devastating effect on your rampant teenage hormones. It leaves you scrambling to tip the balance of power back in your favor.
“Hello there. Figured you’d be waking soon.” He crooned the words, drawing out each syllable.
My stomach did a little “OMG, he’s sooo hot!” somersault and I swear even my earlobes blushed. I refused to look at him. The rows of perfectly spaced trees whizzing past the window were safer.
Hang on, where—?
Oookay. We were in the rear of a moving vehicle—a taxi. I noticed the driver shooting glances at me in his rearview mirror. Obviously I was visible again. And if I had to guess, I’d say the driver was the tiniest bit concerned about me and my current circumstances. The man had good instincts. I was worried about me, too.
My pulse tripped. Unease churned my stomach. Didn’t matter how freaking good-looking LPD happened to be, this wasn’t my idea of getting to know each other better.
Calm down, Wren. Being in a taxi is a good thing. A whack-job wouldn’t abduct a girl via taxi. Right?
Right. So if I felt threatened I’d ask the driver for help. Simple. I held the power here, not this guy who’d been messing with my head, and who’d somehow gotten me off the school grounds and poured me into a taxi while I was out cold. I made a concerted effort to relax the tension from my muscles.
“Poor thing,” LPD said, his tone dripping fake concern. “These migraines knock my little cousin ’round something wicked. Hope she doesn’t upchuck her lunch.” He directed these comments at the nosy driver… who promptly planted his foot.
The sudden acceleration plastered me against LPD’s chest and I got even more up close and personal with the heat radiating from his body, his clean male scent mingling with warmed cotton and old leather and something astringent and spicy. Too close. Too intimate. Too much. But when I tried to squirm from his lap his arms caged me.
He bent forward to whisper in my ear. “Better sit still, luv. I’m not a saint, you know.”
As the meaning of his words registered I stilled. Something I didn’t dare analyze flowered in the pit of my stomach and on cue, my face flamed.
“Relax,” he murmured, his lips tickling my ear making me all shivery again for reasons I didn’t want to think about too closely. “If you’re all uptight I might not be able to keep you in phase—it’s hard enough already. And if you vanish into thin air, what’ll I tell our friendly cabbie?”
“How about you tell him I jumped out of the car rather than put up with a bunch of BS from my so-called cousin?” I hissed the words low so the driver wouldn’t overhear.
The warm huff of LPD’s laughter tickled my ear. “You’d rather jump from a moving vehicle than cuddle with me? Gutted.”
I squashed a little-girl-out-of-her-depth-and-needing-comfort thought that cuddling with him was nice. Okay, a lot more than nice. I told myself it meant nothing. A girl needs hugs. And when she doesn’t get them from her family any longer, is it any surprise she feels a little needy? It was merely lack of hugs overall making me feel this way, not him.
“You bet I’d rather jump,” I said, snapping the words to cover my growing embarrassment. And this time my voice was loud enough for the driver to hear and throw us another frown in his rearview mirror.
“Harsh,” LPD said. “Just as well we’re here then, eh?”
“Home, of course. She’s still a bit spacey from the meds the school nurse gave her,” he said to the driver. “Lucky she’s got me to look out for her. I’d hate to think what might happen to her wandering around alone in this state.”
As the taxi slowed to pull up to the curb, LPD leaned forward slightly to rifle in the back pocket of his battered leather pants—no mean feat, considering they hugged him like a second skin. And if I’d had my wits about me, I’d have dived for the door without a second thought while he had one hand stuck down his pocket. Instead I hesitated. And he must have guessed my thoughts, or read my mind, or something, because he anchored me closer to his chest with his free hand.
“I’m warning you,” he murmured, “don’t try anything stupid or you will be very, very sorry. Just roll with it, and I promise I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” He tossed a couple of bank notes at the driver, and gave me no chance to scramble from his lap as he opened the car door, eased out of the vehicle, and straightened with me held tightly in his arms.
I opened my mouth to protest and let him know I wasn’t some helpless girly-girl content to let the big strong guy with all the muscles take control, but he jiggled me until I flung my arms around his neck.
“I mean it,” he said. “Hush.”
As tempting as it was to test him, the ground was a long way down. Kissing the concrete from this height was going to hurt. Big-time. Not to mention an injury could seriously impede my chances of taking off the instant he put me down. Well, maybe not the instant he put me down, but just as soon as he answered a couple of questions about this— What had he called it again? This liminal stuff.
“Sorry ’bout the door,” LPD called to the driver. “I’d shut it for you but I’ve kinda got my hands full.” He grinned down at me again. “Lucky me.”
The look he was giving me—one eyebrow quirked, a crooked smile teasing his lips—seemed to dare me to retaliate. Saying something cutting would be excellent right about now. Typically, I had nothing. His grin got wider, and then he swung into motion and my attention was caught by the house.
“Home” did not fit LPD’s bad boy image one bit. It was a large, two-level brick house with a pitched tile roof and a garage at the side. It looked similar to all the other houses in the street. Neat gardens, freshly mowed lawns. It wasn’t a cheap neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination. His parents were doing more than all right.
“Reckon you can stay upright for a bit?” he asked.
“Yes.” Hopefully. Maybe.
“Good.” He set me down on the front stoop, keeping one arm around my waist.
A previously forgotten parental lecture about not getting into cars with strange boys, and definitely not going home with them, warred with my craving to hear what this strange boy had to say. And now I’d had a chance to think about it, I didn’t like the sound of his veiled threats, either. You’ll be very, very sorry. Um, yeah. Way to make a girl shut up and do what you want—not.
I decided I wasn’t taking any chances. LPD had already found me once—twice if you counted the bus stop pseudo-encounter. He could find me again. But next time, I’d be prepared. Next time, I’d make darn sure I called all the shots.
I registered a car door slamming. I glanced back to see the taxi driver heading around to the driver’s side and getting back into his vehicle. The engine revved and then the taxi zoomed off down the street.
My sluggish brain finally revved into full-on self-preservation mode. Darn. So should have come up with some excuse for the driver to wait around. There went my easiest escape option.
LPD fished a key from his pants’ pocket. The contortions that simple act required would have been highly amusing, and well worth appreciating, if I hadn’t been so anxious. When he bent to fit his key in the lock, and his attention was momentarily diverted from me, I snatched my opportunity. Bracing my right fist in the palm of my other hand, I rose up on tiptoes and slammed him between the shoulder blades with my elbow. Hard.
His breath whooshed out and he sank to his knees.
It worked! Go Wren! I darted across the lawn, heading for the street. But I’d taken no more than a dozen steps from the stoop when something smacked into me. I stumbled, regained my balance, and found I could no longer coordinate my muscles enough to move. I had no other choice but to stand there, doing a statue imitation. Not that I cared what I might look like to a passerby. I was too busy counting each well of warmth that had begun to expand in a straight line from my forehead to my lower belly. There were seven of them, and whoa, they felt awesome. I felt awesome! All warm and tingly, and vibrantly alive.
Abruptly, as if to punish me for being so terribly naïve, the pools of warmth exploded into something not so awesome. Currents of energy pulsed through my veins, making them buzz and throb. Minute tremors rolled over me, and through me…. Vibrations. I was vibrating like a tuning fork. And it wasn’t a harmonious series of vibrations. They were “off”. They jarred, as though I desperately needed a tune-up. It felt like I was going to shake myself apart.
LPD shouted something incomprehensible in a voice that was hoarse, pain-racked.
My nerve-endings flared like exploding mini firecrackers. I couldn’t control my twitching limbs, or any part of my body. Even my eyelids were flickering uncontrollably. I had time to think, Oh, so this is what he meant by me being very, very sorry, before the energy burst from me in a heated rush… leaving behind a cold dark well of utter emptiness.
All my muscles went noodle-limp. The last thing I registered was the neatly paved path rearing up to meet me.
A groan. Mine. I peeled open my eyelids and hauled myself upright. Uhhh. Bad idea. The room spun and the soggy washcloth someone had thoughtfully folded and draped over my forehead plopped into my lap, soaking through my jeans. I flopped back against the pillows, and replaced the washcloth over my face, letting the coolness of it seep into my heated skin while I waited for the room to slow down… and hopefully get around to remaining in one place real soon.
“Don’t ever do that to me again.”
I lifted up the corner of the cloth and cut my fuzzy gaze to the right.
The blur resolved into LPD. He was sprawled in a recliner with one leather-clad thigh draped over the arm, nursing a beer. “Gawd. Feel like I’ve been run over by a bloody truck.”
He noticed me eyeing the bottle in his hand. “Want one?”
Mmmm. Although I’d only tasted beer once, and hated it, my mouth watered. I could almost taste the malty bitter-sweetness on my tongue, feel the cool liquid slipping down my throat. I stared at the bottle, watching the beads of condensation dripping down the sides, watching him lift it to his mouth to take another swallow….
A slow blink. And another. And one more before I realized I’d been mesmerized.
I sucked in a sharp breath that sandpapered the lining of my über-dry throat and made my head spin. Calm down, Wren. Focus. He was only offering you a beer. “Don’t ever do what again?” I asked, proud that my voice didn’t shake.
“Toss me out of a sync. Not only is it rude as hell when I’m trying to help you, the kickback is a bitch. Peeling you off the path and lugging you inside just about killed me. Not to mention the big-arse bruise I can feel forming thanks to your sharp little elbow.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Kind of. Maybe more so if I had a clue what he was going on about.
“You copped some bumps and scrapes,” he said, “but nothing too major. Could have a concussion, though. Should probably have a doctor check you out.”
Hmmm. He didn’t sound particularly thrilled by the prospect of dragging me off to the nearest ER. In fact, going by the tight line of his lips and the way he dropped his gaze to his suddenly fascinating beer bottle, I’d say he was freaked by the thought of it. Interesting.
“I don’t need a doctor,” I said. Truth. Because what I needed was information.
“How’s your head?”
I gave up hiding behind the washcloth and folded it into a rectangle again. With careful fingers I probed the egg-shaped lump on my temple. It was wince-worthy, sure, but lately I’d developed a high tolerance for pain. I slapped the washcloth over the lump and ignored it. “I’m not lying. This bump on the head is nothing compared to the killer migraines I get.”
His lazy gaze sharpened. “How often do you get them?”
I ignored the question. If anyone was going to be asking the questions it’d be me. “Where are we?”
A pause for another swallow of beer. “My place.”
“I mean what suburb?”
He quirked an eyebrow. “That really what you want to ask me after everything that’s gone down?”
Good point. “Fine. How did you get me off the school grounds without being caught? Or did you give some BS excuse that’ll come back to bite me come Monday?”
He swigged his beer again and I tried my darnedest to ignore the fact that he was heart-thumpingly rock star hot. And I was in his bedroom, lying on his bed. And we were alone. And did I mention he was a hottie?
“You didn’t make it easy,” he said. “First I had to use a handy dandy electronic device that emits a nasty subliminal whine.”
“Like a dog whistle?”
“More or less.” He gestured expansively with his beer bottle before setting it on the floor beside the chair. “It’s a nifty little thing. Designed it myself.”
If he was waiting for me to be impressed and ask for more details he’d be doomed to disappointment.
There was a glint in his eyes that hinted he might be clued into my attempts to play it cool despite all the questions bubbling in my brain. I hoped not. Sure didn’t want him thinking he held all the cards.
“It encouraged everyone to avoid the locker area for a few minutes,” he said. “The plan being I rocked on up and convinced you to go somewhere for a private talk. But you screwed up aforementioned brilliant plan by phasing out when you did the dying swan act. I could hardly toss you over my manly shoulder and stroll off after you pulled that one on me.”
Manly shoulder. Oh please. He was laying it on real thick. “How come?”
“When you phase you’re pure energy. You haven’t got a physical body, per se. I might as well have tried to wrestle with air. Make sense?”
I nodded. It did make sense. Kind of.
“I had to do the old lock, link and sync.” At my blank look he elaborated. “Lock on to your energy signature, establish a link, and sync with you, so I could pig-a-back you along with me when I phased, and get you off the school grounds ASAP. Pity I couldn’t have phased us both all the way out and zipped straight back home, but I couldn’t risk it.”
Oookay then. I figured I’d gloss over all the bizarre stuff I didn’t have the faintest clue about and settle for asking the obvious. “Why not?”
“Didn’t want to lose you. Once we were in the clear, I went liminal and pulled you back into phase with me. Again, you didn’t make it easy. Even out for the count you put up quite a fight for such an itty bitty little thing.” His tone was admiring enough that I had to clamp down on a bizarre desire to preen. And then he ruined the moment by waggling his eyebrows and saying, “But I had my wicked way with you in the end.”
I refused to respond to his baiting tone. Dad says the best way to learn stuff is to shut up and let the other guy fill in the silences. So I put on my best neutral face, figuring Dad was right: while LPD was trying to impress me with his cleverness he was more likely to slip up and reveal more important stuff to do with my “problem”.
He cocked an eyebrow and smirked.
Ah crap. He knew exactly what game I was playing. But he obliged me anyway. “Once you stabilized, I scooped you up and hauled arse to the nearest cab rack. Would have preferred my motorbike, but hey, beggars toting unconscious girlies can’t be choosers. None of your teachers spotted us. Your reputation is safe. For now, anyway.” This time he grinned openly at me, leaving no doubt he expected me to be impressed.
And I was impressed. He’d hauled me half a block to the taxi rack. Those muscles I’d noticed definitely weren’t just for show. But no way was I going to inflate his already high opinion of himself by acknowledging that—or anything else, for that matter. No way. Not even if the memory of being in his arms and held so tightly against his chest did make my breath catch in my throat.
“A-and if you hadn’t been able to, uh, do whatever it was you said to, uh, phase me back in?”
“Sync with you?”
“Yeah. That.” Whatever that was.
He shrugged. “I’d have thought of something. I always do.”
I got the distinct feeling that wasn’t an idle boast. I inched back up the mattress until I could prop my back against the padded headrest. It wasn’t exactly comfortable so I shoved a pillow beneath the small of my back. Ah. Bliss. And right now, it would be even more blissful to close my eyes and shut out the world for a few hours. I couldn’t get my head around what had happened, let alone process his explanations. I couldn’t even imagine the extent of the fuss if someone from school reported me missing to my parents. Provided anyone remembered I was supposed to be at school without me to remind them. Hah. Fat chance of—
Hey. That taxi driver had been able to see me. So, what if LPD doing that… that… sync thingie to… to… phase me back in, had fixed me—even temporarily? How long would it last?
Maybe I should play nice and try to convince this guy to stick around so I could have a chance at a normal life. Or at the very least, graduating high school. I had some savings—Christmas and birthday money I’d added to my allowance. How much would it cost me to convince him to, say, pretend to be my boyfriend and become my shadow?
I eyed him from beneath my lashes as he snatched up his beer again and took a long swig. If I had a preference for any kind of guy at all, he’d be right up there. And the accent was a definite plus. Majorly yum. Sure wouldn’t be a hardship having him dogging my footsteps. Or, it wouldn’t be if he didn’t have a knack for saying things that embarrassed the heck out of me.
As if sensing my thoughts his gaze licked me from head to toe. He took his time about it, too. I fought not to squirm. And when he finally spoke I could hear the amusement infecting his tone. “So, if you’re not concussed, are you planning on getting your cute little behind off my bed? Or is this your way of hinting I should join you? I gotta say, most girls wouldn’t be so coy. They’d just come right out and say it.”
Huh? Way to confuse me with a complete change of subject. “Say what, exactly?”
“That you think I’m hot.”
Oh. Oh, crap. I opened my mouth, swallowed, shut it again with a snap. No way could I let him know what I’d been thinking about him. No freaking way. So I snorted, and hoped it was convincing enough to put him off. “You’re hardly my type.”
“Reckon I’m exactly your type, luv. Lucky me.”
I hit him with my best you-are-so-far-off-base-I’m-embarrassed-for-you glare. “In. Your. Dreams.” There. That had sounded pretty darned convincing.
“Uh uh,” he said, his lips curving into that infuriating smug grin again. “In yours. You talk in your sleep, Wren. Did you know that?”
My cheeks scorched with damning heat. Oh no. Not good. Sooo not good. And about the only thing that could salvage this disaster was a bluff. I blotted my face with the washcloth, desperately trying for nonchalance. “Really. What did I say about you?”
“Oh, a bunch of stuff about how my sexy-as English accent makes your heart flutter, and how you’d lurve to jump my bones and do wicked things to my body. It was all very flattering.”
“You’re making that up.”
“Where’d be the fun in that?”
I hoped the pause while I struggled for something cutting to say didn’t lance the sting from whatever retort finally popped into my head. Okay. Here goes. “Wow.” I batted my eyelashes at him. “You’re so full of yourself. There’re so many hot boys at my school I could have been talking about anyone. My boyfriend, for instance.” Ex-boyfriend, but he didn’t have to know that.
“Pathetic. You’ll have to try harder than that, luv.” He laughed at me—made no effort to hide it, either.
I lobbed the washcloth at him but he batted it away.
Jerk. A really hot jerk, but a jerk just the same. I clambered off the bed and headed for the nearest door.
“Ensuite bathroom,” he said.
I pivoted to change direction and stalked past him into the next room, which turned out to be a living room dominated by a big-screen TV, a surround-sound system, and a couple of gaming consoles. Dan would be drooling with envy right about now.
LPD followed me. Of course. No surprises there.
“You can’t leave, luv,” he said.
Hah. We’d see about that. “Sure I can. Watch me walk out the door.”
“Have it your way. Been nice knowing you, Wren. I’ll be sure and come to your funeral.”
Liminal by Maree Anderson
© Copyright 2013, Maree Anderson