Welcome to the Sunday Street Team!!! I am pleased to have Erica Cameron as one of July’s featured authors.
Friday morning, Mom knocks softly on the door and pokes her head in with a tired smile.
“How are you, sweetheart?”
I bite my lip and shrug. As soon as I see her, guilt and fear make my stomach roll, my chest ache, and my hands start to shake. Can I really leave her and Dad? And Linus and Sophia? And Jake? He’s always been on my side. No matter what. God, if they ever find me, Jake is going to be so pissed at me for running.
I can’t tell her I’m fine, because I’m not. Lying to someone else is as impossible as someone lying to me; as soon as I even think the lie, the bells clang louder than ever. Obnoxious to the point of pain. To everyone else, it looks like I’m choking on thin air.
“I hate to leave you alone, but your father had to head up to Palm Beach for a meeting, Jake supposed to be here, but he’s running late, and I have to leave now to make it down to Miami in time for my appointment.” She strokes my hair with a gentle, sure touch. She’s shifting her weight, though, and there are too many lines around her eyes. “I can…I should wait. I’ll just call them and tell them I’m running late.”
I see my window. All I have to do is jump before it closes. “Is this an important client?”
Mom bites her lip and nods, her green eyes—only a few shades brighter than mine—troubled.
“Will being late cause problems for your firm?”
“Nothing that will be too bad. Plus, Linus—”
The bells in my head start ringing. I raise an eyebrow at her, loving her a little for that particular lie. So many of my friends’ parents put their careers over their kids. No matter what. Not my mom.
“All right, fine.” She sighs and runs a hand over her red hair. “It would cause problems.”
“Then go. Really.” I pull her down into a hug. I can’t smile. I can’t pretend to be happy when my heart feels like it’s been replaced by a marble replica. My nerves are all so numb I can barely feel her in my arms. “I love you.”
“Oh, sweetheart. I love you too.”
Though she stalls for as long as she can, it’s only a few minutes before Mom is calling goodbye. Her car hasn’t even pulled out of the driveway before I have my packed bags out from under my bed. Then I’m stuffing every single gemstone I own into one of my brothers’ old camping backpacks. I leave a letter I wrote last night for Mom under my pillow. She won’t find it right away, but she will eventually. I just hope she can forgive me eventually, too.
Across the hall from my bedroom door is a large family picture surrounded by a wide black frame. It was taken a few years ago—before I’d ever heard of the dreamworld. It’s one of the only pictures that includes all twelve of us—ten kids and two parents. It’s a sea of blondes and redheads with dancing blue or green eyes. By walking out the door today I’ll be hurting every single one of them. Plus my grandpa Horace, my aunts and uncles, my cousins…
Throat tight, I close my eyes and head for the stairs with my head down. I don’t want to see anything else that will drive a knife into my chest like that.
I hear something—almost like a voice saying my name—but the sound is distant and warped. When I look up, I realize why. Directly in front of me, where the rest of the stairs should be, an arch ringed in orange light threatens to lead me into velvet-black darkness and Syver’s waiting arms.
“Going somewhere?” His smile is grim. He reaches out, his hand almost leaving the confines of the archway.
Heart pounding, I turn to run up the stairs, throwing my arms out to keep my balance. My backpack thuds against something solid. Someone screams. It’s not me. The doorway collapses.
I have a split second of frozen time to see what’s about to happen.
Linus is there with wide eyes and his mouth open. He’s wearing pajama pants and a T-shirt from our high school’s football team, his hands clutching a box of tissues, a plate with a sandwich, and a bottle of water.
My stomach flips and bile rises up my throat. I reach for him, desperate to make contact. Time restarts. He slips through my fingers.
I watch my brother tumble backward down the stairs.
Each thudding, cracking impact resonates through my body like I’m feeling the blows with him. Linus slides the last three steps until he’s lying dazed on the hardwood floor. His left arm is bent at an angle that makes my stomach turn. Blood oozes from a gash on his head. The bright red spill against the white marble floor shocks me out of my paralysis. I drop my duffle bags on the landing and run, barely catching myself in time to keep from barreling straight through the orange gateway bursting open in front of me.
Tendrils of orange light grab for me, trying to drag me the last few inches into the other world. My collection of stones bursts to life, their light blooming around me like a force field. Syver stands there and laughs. Like I’m putting on a fucking slapstick show for his entertainment.
He leans closer, his face nearly pressed against the invisible line dividing his world from mine. “Keep fighting and you will hurt them all. One by one, you will bring pain to your friends. Your family. You will destroy everything you love with your own hands until you stand in a ruin of your own making. Run and I will do it for you. Surrender, pet, and save them so much pain.”
After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University and began pursuing a career as an author.
Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, ex-Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.
Her debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, released March 2014 and it was the first volume of The Dream War Saga. In May 2015, Erica and her co-author Lani Woodland launched the Laguna Tides series with Taken by Chance.
And of course, Erica has been kind enough to offer an awesome giveaway for ONE winner!