December 12, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: POSERS by Fantasy Novelist L.M. Davis

Today’s teaser is from a book by a wonderful YA author I had the chance to meet at UtopYACon 2012 just a couple of weeks ago. A fellow fantasy buff, L.M. Davis likes to write “on the dark side.” I managed to convince her to participate in two posts, so please tune in again tomorrow to learn more about this lovely lady and her work!

I’m also very excited to mention that L.M. is offering to give away three–yes, THREE–copies of her latest book Posers: A Shifters Novel in e-book format. To enter for your chance to win, just comment on today’s blog and/or tomorrow’s blog, and/or follow L.M. on Twitter, like her page on Facebook, and/or friend her on Goodreads and let her know you’d like to win. The more of these options you do, the greater your chance to win!

If you’re still not sure, just read on for an enticing excerpt from Posers. I know you’ll be convinced!

Posers Book Blurb

After the strangest summer of their lives, Nate and Larissa prepare to face their biggest challenge yet: High school.

With jocks that seem intent on making Nate’s life miserable, the reappearance of the mysterious green-haired shifter (now with new and improved blue hair), and Charlie, the new girl, who affects Nate in the weirdest way, it’s shaping up to be a doozy!

Greendale High isn’t the only place in turmoil; Panteria is dying and only the Pantera twins can save it. Will Nate  return to the world that he has sworn to hate before it’s too late?

Excerpt from Posers: A Shifters Novel by L.M. Davis

Noob!

Nate studied the slip of paper in his hand.  It was the first day of classes and he was trying to figure out where to go next.  His schedule, as far as he could figure, had been designed by some sort of torture expert.  Each time the bell rang, he would dash across the building to his next class, which seemed to be the furthest possible point from the room he just left.  Already that morning he had crossed the building three times.

Early World History was no exception.  From where he was in E-Wing, he had to make it all the way over to W-Wing and then down a flight of stars.  All in four minutes.  He had already been late once, and he had already been warned that tardiness could result in detention.

Gritting his teeth, Nate hoisted his bag onto his shoulder.  There was no time to stop at his locker between periods like all the kids with normal schedules.  So he had to lug all of his books for his morning classes around for one more period before lunch.  He had so much stuff, that he had to carry some of it in his hands.  Sighing, he pushed the breezeway door open, entered the main building, and came to a standstill.

Before him was a surging crowd of kids, all of whom were using the break to scurry to lockers, chatter with friends, and then hurry on to the next period.  The crowd thinned and swelled in unending waves, and for a moment he felt as isolated as a tiny island in the midst of a vast and battering ocean.

The clock that hung above the door at the far end of the hall read 10:33.  He had two minutes until the bell.  Two minutes to get through the unmoving ocean of people that stood between him and the breezeway doors at the other end of the hall.  There was no way he was getting to class on time.

Sighing with resolve, he ducked his head down and started to wind his way through the sea of bodies.  Every few feet, he muttered “excuse me” as he slipped through gaps in the crowd.  Not that his politeness mattered.  No one even looked in his direction.  He glanced again at the clock.  Still 10:33 and he was almost half way there.  Maybe he would make it after all.

Before he could take another two steps, he smacked right into a wall.  At least, it felt like a wall.  As he stumbled backward, his binder flew out of his hand and into the air.  For a second, all Nate saw were notebooks, folders, papers, and pens flying in all different directions, as though in slow motion, before finally clattering to the floor.

Immediately, he dropped to the ground and began to collect his stuff.  The crowd surged around him, giving him a wide berth but never ceasing its steady flow; though many upperclassmen snickered as they passed and one even paused long enough to call out “Nice move noob!”  The hall erupted in laughter and Nate’s ears burned.  He continued to collect the items, moving perhaps a smidge faster than was wise or humanly possible, wanting only to get away from the laughter of the people who passed.

Finally, when he had collected everything, he rose.  He looked around, trying to figure out what he had hit.  In front of him was a massive baby blue structure, emblazoned with the image of the school’s mascot—a bucking bronco.  It was then that he realized that the wall was moving.  Nate recoiled, confused.  After a moment, he recognized that it was not a wall, but a massively huge boy.  He wore a letterman jacket.  Above the picture of the mascot, a nickname—appropriately “The Wall”— was scrawled in a cursive script.

“My fault,” Nate apologized.  He smiled sheepishly at the boy, who must have been at least six and a half feet tall and at least a third as wide.  He had a huge, broad head with closely cropped wavy hair that was the almost exactly the same dark chocolate shade as his brown skin.  When the larger boy grinned in return, Nate readjusted his bag and started to walk forward.

But rather than let him pass, the boy slid over—incredibly agilely for someone his size—and held up his hands in a gesture that was at once neutral and threatening.  His grin widened, becoming less friendly and more mocking.  “What’s your hurry, Noob?”

“The Wall’s” voice filled the hall, and his question was accompanied by a few snickers as the guys that he had been goofing around with turned to examine Nate.  There were six of them in all.  All of them were athletes, if the crimson and light blue letterman jacks, which they wore with obnoxious pride despite the eighty degree temperatures, were any indication.  Which sport wasn’t clear, but Nate guessed football given the size of the kid he had just smashed in to.  Abruptly, the eyes of half of the students in the hallway were on him.  He was suddenly the center of attention, which was the absolute last place that he wanted to be on the first day of school.

Nate eyed the group.  Though they had not moved from slouching against their lockers, they seemed suddenly more menacing.  There was a mischievous gleam in their eyes that veered towards malevolence.

His shifter senses went into overdrive.  His nostrils flared and he could smell their excitement.  It was acrid and bitter, searing his nostrils as he inhaled.  They were on the hunt.  The boys fidgeted restlessly, looking back and forth at each other and then at “The Wall.”  They were waiting for his signal; ready to pounce.

Their breathing changed, becoming slightly more rapid as they were swept up in expectation of the looming clash.  The air around them was heavy with the invisible fog of that anticipation, which thickened with each passing moment.  And it was spreading.  Nate could feel the growing excitement of the other kids, who suddenly crowded more closely.  Even as they reacted to the shift in the atmosphere, Nate knew the humans were oblivious to these changes.

He knew he should have been scared, but he was not.  They were only human.  Still, he was wary.  There was a predatory glint in their eyes, and, if he wasn’t careful, he would end up their prey for the rest of the year.  All of the possibilities flashed through his mind.  Turn and run…too cowardly.  Snarky comment…too suicidal.  Instead, he settled on the happy medium.

“Just trying to get to class, guys.”  He ducked his head, in a gesture that he hoped would not be read as meek, because that was almost as bad as seeming overly cocky.  Then he tried again to go around the kid.

Before he could take a step, a hand shot out and stopped him.  This time, “The Wall” actually grabbed his shoulder, and Nate realized that he had miscalculated.  As far as this boy was concerned, he was fresh meat.  Too tempting to pass up.   There was no neat way out of this situation.

Just then, the bell rang.  The corridor quickly cleared as kids rushed to their classes.  A few lingered, curious enough about the outcome of the altercation to risk detention.

“And who said you could use my hallway…to get to class?”  “The Wall’s” voice became high-pitched and mocking as he mimicked Nate for his friends.  The others chuckled at the imitation, shaking their heads at Nate and clucking their tongues at his grave error in judgment.

All around him, the laughter grew louder and louder, even though “The Wall’s” joke was not that funny.  Nate ears burned from embarrassment and anger.  Already, these guys had made him late for class, for the second time, and they showed no indication that they were going to allow him to get there anytime soon.  Not only that, they had also managed to turn him into a laughingstock.  All in the space of sixty seconds.  That, plus the fact that he seemed to have encountered the Greendale High version of a bad eighties movie jock—the kind that seem to think they ran the school—made his blood boil.  It was the last straw.

“Your hallway,” Nate retorted, both incredulous and derisive.  He looked around curiously, as though searching for something.

“My bad,” he shrugged with nonchalance.  When he met “The Wall’s” eyes this time, all semblance of meekness was gone.  He took another exaggerated glance around the hall.  “I didn’t know this was your hallway.  I guess I must have missed your name.  Wait.  Don’t tell me.  It was on the other side of the door.”

The comment drew a couple of chuckles from the onlookers.  At the sound, “The Wall’s” face turned an unhealthy shade of purple.  Clearly, he did not appreciate being taunted by the fresh meat.

“You want me to show you where my name is,” he growled, clenching his fists, which remained by his sides for the time being.  His face morphed into a mask of rage that must have served him well on the field, and Nate wondered for a second whether it would have been wiser to bite his tongue.  Even more so when “The Wall’s” buddies pushed away from the lockers they had been leaning against, shedding any pretense of disinterest.

Nate’s regret was fleeting though.  He was pretty much past the point of caring about what these kids thought that they could do to him.  Rather, he was irritated, and growing more so by the moment.  Big as they were, none of them would have been a match for him.  Of course, he could not really use his shifter powers.  His conversation with Larissa had made that clear.  He had to maintain the image of a gangly human, barely five and a half feet tall, which meant that he could not possibly have the strength or the speed that it would take to handle even one of these guys.

Slowly, the boys flanked their leader, forming a human chain between Nate, the doors at the end of the hall, and Early World History.  None of them were anywhere near as big as “The Wall,” but they were all pretty massive in their own right.  Tall and bulky, they created one intimidating obstacle.  Gone was any hint of mischief.  All that was left was the predatory gleam that promised punishment to the kid that had dared to mock one of their own.

All at once, in his mind’s eye, he saw his panther.  The creature stalked back and forth in his mind, excited by the scent of the fight in the air.  Its tail swished impatiently and it pressed insistently against the invisible veil that kept his human mind distinct from the animal that dwelled within him.  The creature battered that divide trying to force its way through.  It was just the thing that he did not need.

Instantly, his entire body was engulfed by the tell-tale pinpricks that signaled the beginning of the shift.  Feverish heat coursed up his body, and his face felt like it was on fire.  He could almost hear the creature growling inside of him; it begged to be freed to deal with the predators that now threatened.  Swallowing hard, he pressed the panther back.  He had to get out of this mess, but he could not use his panther to do it.  After another deep breath, he spoke.

“Look guys,” he said, hating the false pleading note that he forced into his voice in an effort to appease them. “I need to get to class.” He held up his hands in a gesture of peace.

“What’s the rush, Noob?” This came from another one of the guys.  Shorter, with spiky blond hair and blue eyes, he was doing his best impression of his leader.  “I am pretty sure you are about to learn a valuable lesson right here.”

The other boys laughed.  There was no mirth in the sound; it was biting, clawing, and contained more than a small threat.  They began to circle him, and, to Nate’s surprise, the other students just stood there.  He could see the excitement in their eyes, and he wondered if it were possible that they would stand there and watch these kids beat him up.  When none of them moved, he came to the conclusion that they would.

The boys kept close as they circled him.  He watched for an opening, but they stood shoulder to shoulder, as though they knew exactly what he was doing.  As careful as they were, Nate knew that his moment would come.  He tensed, scanning the spaces between the boys.  Suddenly, he saw it.  A gap, just wide enough to squeeze through, between the two on the end.

He launched himself towards it, hunching his shoulders and squeezing between them.  He slipped through the space, thanking his lucky stars that his book-laden backpack did not get caught.  Suddenly, the boys grabbed at him.  Someone tugged his shirt.  Another grabbed one of the straps from his bag.

He stumbled as they tried to yank him back into the confines of the circle.  Without thinking, he dashed forward with a speed that was definitely just on the other side of humanly possible.  He heard a gasp, but he kept going. Then he was on the other side, at the end of the hall.  Only then did he glance back.

The boys all stood in the same place.  One of them, the shorter, stocky boy, wore a look that was somewhere between shock and confusion.  He peered at Nate as though trying to figure out how he had gotten so far away, so quickly.  The others seemed less fazed.  They grinned and pointed at him, taunting him for running and laughing far too loudly at their own jokes.

Nate burned with embarrassment as the other students joined in.  This time, though, he bit his tongue as he opened the door.

“Don’t let me catch you in my hall again, Noob,” “The Wall” called, having recovered his affability.  His friends guffawed loudly.

The door swung shut behind him and he ran towards class.  Not the best way to begin the new year.

§          §          §

Two minutes later, he turned the knob on the door to his history class.  Through the window on the upper half of the entrance, he could see the teacher talking to a roomful of silent students that included Ray.

He slid the door open, but before he could set a foot inside, the teacher stopped him.  She placed the textbook, which she had been lecturing from, down on the desk and picked up a piece of paper that he presumed was the roll.

“You must be Nathanial Pantera,” she said slowly, in a voice that was deeper than any he had ever heard on a woman.  The paper fluttered to the desk top as she faced him.  There was anger in her eyes that completely threw Nate for a loop.  He was, after all, only three minutes late.   Beneath the anger, though, there was a hint of something else.  Curiosity.

“Yes,” he began, “I’m sorry I’m late but….”

“I’m not really interested in your tale of woe, Mr. Pantera,” she said sternly, cutting him off.  She bent over the desk and wrote something on a pad.  Nate looked over at Ray, who looked slightly aghast.  The whole room, in fact, was shrouded in a tense silence.  He raised an eyebrow at the boy, who just shrugged his shoulders.  Suddenly, the teacher stood and walked over to the door, holding out a yellow slip of paper.  Nate took the paper, looking down at it with confusion.

“It’s for in-school detention,” she informed him in clipped tones, and he heard the collective gasp of shock from the students in the classroom.  The teacher did not miss a beat.  “You are to report there for the remainder of the period.  You can come and pick up your book after school.”

“But Ms….”  Nate trailed off, realizing all of the sudden that he could not remember her name.

“No buts, Mr. Pantera,” the woman said.  She leaned towards him, and Nate took an involuntary step backward.  A smirk bloomed on her face as she reached past him to grab the doorknob.  He had no choice but to move when she began to pull it shut.  “You are the only student that couldn’t manage to make it here on time.  Perhaps tomorrow you will try a little bit harder.”

With those words, she closed the door in his face, and he was left in the hallway staring down at the yellow slip in his hand.

It was official.  High school sucked.

Go on…enter to win. You know you want to!