This week, I have some awesome news: I signed the publisher's contract for the third and final novel of the series The NADIA Project. (...and there was much rejoicing...ya-a-a-a-ay...). So now the series is almost complete. The only detail left is a little project I call Lies and Paine, and I'll have more on that later.
But back to the latest project, which is titled Critical Mass, and Brings Nadia Velasquez's story to its close. Man, I'm dying to tell you all about it, but I need to be a good boy and not paste the entire thing here on the blog, 'cause, like, that would be totally wrong.
Anyway, if you liked Becoming NADIA and Unalive, I'm confident you'll like this one. So without any further hullabaloo, may I introduce the first excerpt from Critical Mass:
* * * *
Sofi came out of the woods, following the game trail that ran past the back door. It wasn't that she was sneaking in, hoping to avoid a confrontation altogether. She knew that wasn't going to happen. The girl just wanted to put it off as long as possible, especially after having such a good afternoon with her only friend. Besides, there was no way she could sneak in the screen door. The spring made this nasty stretching, pinging noise every time it opened. She hadn't figured out a way past it yet. She'd tried unhooking it on the way out, but Mom always found it and hooked it back up again.
So Mom was going to hear her coming in the back door, and she would probably be waiting there with the note. Again.
Sofi entered the garage via the small door and climbed the concrete step to the back door, sighing in resignation.
She just started to move the door when she heard Mom's voice. “Come in here, young lady.” Yep, just what I thought. So much for delaying the inevitable.
Sofi opened the door and entered the kitchen.
Nadia sat at the table, her hands steepled in front of her face, as if in prayer. “Sofi, is there something you want to tell me?”
“Why would I want to say anything? You might as well just ground me now, and save us both the time wasted on discussing it.”
Nadia dropped her hands to the table, and the note lying there. “Because I want to understand why you're behaving this way. You're failing classes when we both know how smart you are. You're skipping class, starting fights—”
Sofi remained standing just inside the kitchen door. “Why do you even care?”
“Who took the first punch?”
“Does it matter?”
Nadia rose to her feet. “Of course it matters. If you were just defending yourself, it's different—”
“And what if I was just pissed?”
“Watch your mouth, young lady—”
Sofi's hands balled into fists. “Or what, you'll ground me? Oh, now I've done it—”
Nadia's voice rose in anger. “We can't afford to stand out; haven't you figured that out by now? Do you want them to find us? What do you think will happen when they do, invite us to tea? They want to kill us, Sofi!”
“Anything's better than sitting here just hiding! I'd rather be dead than keep sitting around waiting for it to happen!”
Nadia stormed around the table. Before Sofi could back away, Nadia grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. A strange, harsh light was in the woman's eyes. Her hands trembled even as her fingers dug in. “Don't you ever say that! Don't you know what it's like to lose—?”
“Yes!” Sofi screamed, “Yes! I watched them shoot my mother!”
Nadia's mouth worked fruitlessly as her hands dropped. The sudden release of pressure on Sofi's shoulders was almost as painful as the grip the older woman had on her. Nadia's face went slack, like some colossal idea just occurred to her, but then she just went blank. “M-mother…” Nadia staggered back, a distant, hollow look in her eyes. “Mother baby d-deer…”
The anger seeped out of Sofi, replaced by confusion. “Mom, what—?”
Nadia fell to the floor, her chest heaving. She opened her mouth and a strangled cry lurched from between her lips. Her head fell back, neck muscles tensed, and her limbs began to thrash. She kicked the metal and formica table across the kitchen. It crashed against the counter and fell over. Nadia's head slammed into the floor again as her back arched.
“Oh, my God, Mom!” Sofi rushed to Nadia's side, knelt, and held her head steady so it wouldn't bang anymore. But she couldn't do anything more to stop everything else.
The thrashing continued for several more heart-jarring seconds before Nadia's body finally relaxed. She lay still, sucking breath after breath in a moaning delirium.
Sofi's hands shook. She couldn't stop the tears that welled up from her soul as the fear took hold. “Mom? Talk to me, please.” She lifted one of Nadia's eyelids. The eye beneath wandered, uncomprehending of its surroundings. “Mom, say something.”
The words were slurred, barely legible. “Deena? Deena, baby—”
Sofi stroked a sweat-soaked strand of hair from Nadia's eyes and felt her forehead. She's so hot; what do I do? “No, Mom, it's me.”
Nadia's eyes opened. “S-Sofi—” she muttered. “Sofi, honey…”
“I'm here, Mom, it's me, I—” Sofi's breath caught in her throat. Nadia had bitten her lip during the seizure, and now—Oh, my God, the blood. The blood's white—