I can’t believe I never posted this!
Bad Kim. I’m so glad that I’m updating all these books pages because one – I never would’ve seen that I didn’t post this. Two – many of these pages look a mess. Not professional.
If there was always one thing that has been important to me – it’s been to put in my best effort and act as a professional. To have the same quality of work. Just because a person works at home, just because someone is in business for themselves, it doesn’t give license to slack, which is why I work so hard to put in the effort on my work, and improving my craft. So here is Chapter One for Under Empty Stars. I’ll release chapter two as well for my error, and as a free gift. Watch for it immediately after this one. Too long to post together.
Ellie stared at the nondescript ceiling of her father’s formerly ice cold office, images of her mother Haley flying through her mind. Am I dying?
The unbearable pain along the back of her head, spine, legs, and heels from hitting the ground was nothing to the realization that her father had disappeared. That she let him get away. It frustrated her to no end. He was right there.
And then figuring out that the men in her life used her for their own benefit. Not one of the men in her world wanted her for her. They all had personal goals to accomplish and hoped to use her for their own gain, nothing more, which broke her heart.
An intense heat came from beside her, but the desk shielded her, not that she couldn’t feel it warming. Flames leapt up the side of Claude’s office to her left, which was also the side of the building. Her father’s desk was made of a thick metal in case he ever lost control of his heat, but he never lost control, did he? He was always in control. A harsh reality to face was coming to terms with how powerful Claude really was.
He’d hidden it all this time, and hoped to use her for something . . . what, she still didn’t know. An answer she still didn’t have. And one she wanted.
She was careful not to touch the metal as she lay there. Though she was dying so did it really matter? Never in her life had she felt as much pain as she did then. The heartbreak hurt almost as much as the never-ending spasms coursing down her spine, the shadows fading in and out as she fought to stay conscious.
The fire from her father had struck her back and she could feel the effects of the heat against her skin. The torturous boiling sensation she was sure meant her flesh was boiling off. Tears pricked her eyes.
Let me die. Stop this pain.
She fought back a sob forming in her throat. Her heart boom, boom, boomed, her pulse a tidal wave in her ears drowning out all sound. It felt like time was stuck in a distant eternal loop, though it likely wasn’t long at all. Maybe she could stay in the waves, drifting, spinning. Let the world go. Stars moved in the corners of her vision before it occurred to her that they were shapes.
Her heart stopped. They were going to kill her. Finish what they started. What they wanted all along. To be done with her.
Slowly, light crackling gradually came through her haze. Then a whisper from Jack that gradually built in volume until it hit her – he was shouting, “Ellie!”
Then he was beside her. Rough hands wrapped around her face on either side, turning her face toward him. She was partially aware of Stone’s form at her feet. More so just a feeling at first. His short black hair came into view, then the scar that started on the left side of his forehead and went all the way down his side. His jaw was clenched.
It’s like watching death approach me. You’re mad I let him get away. Always my fault with the two of you, isn’t it?
The room blurred in and out, in and out. The acrid smoke coming from the flames slid into her nose, then seeped inside her throat. Jack’s eyes sharpened in her vision. He too was angry about her losing her father. Ellie coughed. Gagged. The choking fit began.
Jack slipped a strong arm under her back to help ease her to a sitting position. “Speak to me, Ellie.”
Ellie hunched over and coughed again as the cloying smoke clung to her lungs, refusing to leave, making it a struggle to swallow. Jack patted her back. Surprisingly gentle for the likes of him. At long last she became fully alert, focusing on Stone who cocked his head. His attention moved outside.
Her eyes narrowed. What do you hear?
Jack turned his face toward the door, still holding her as she sat on the ground. Being weirdly gentle. “You don’t think?” She knew that look. Concern. But why?
Stone’s attention returned. Then to her. His face flashed with fury. His right hand was clenched in a fist by his side. “So kill me and get on with it,” she muttered between coughs.
Stone’s face cleared. “What?” he asked, clearly confused. Always confused. He never understood her.
Ellie raised her eyebrows. “You’re pissed I let him get away.”
She coughed again. Cleared her throat. Jack rubbed her back, but it made her feel uneasy and creeped her out further. Since when did they do anything like that? She shoved away from him and stumbled against the desk as she struggled to her feet. The metal was warm, but not to the point she couldn’t touch it.
The fire behind the desk and along the wall had dissipated and somehow tapered off though smoke still filled the room. Not as bad as it could’ve been. All thanks to her father’s auto filtration system which kicked into high to suck out most of the smoke. A failsafe in case he lost his temper.
Around the desk she went, dropping into her father’s chair with a loud sigh. She was so tired of all this. All her life. Everything had to be such a battle. She’d been fighting to hide from this planet. Who she was. And what for? To end up here. She should’ve died. Then Eli’ane would finally accept her.
As a corpse.
She winced when the pain along her body hit the chair, but already it seemed better. Maybe she hadn’t been burnt as bad as she thought. Raising her arm, she found it red, but not blistered. And the flesh was on its way to healing.
The wall beside Stone was solid black rock. She stared at it. For some reason it seemed familiar. Black rock . . . where had she seen that before. Black. Rock. Walls of it. Seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place it.
Stone interrupted her thoughts, “Ellie, I’m not—”
She cut him off, not interested in what he had to say, or caring if she angered him. “Does that rock look familiar?” She pointed a soot covered finger at the wall.
Ellie’s focus shot toward Stone. “What?”
“The cave. It looks like the cave,” he said it so simply. Not condescendingly. Almost . . . filled with respect? He couldn’t honestly be shocked by her noticing that. Maybe it had more to do with her remembering.
Ellie eased her body out of the chair, then shuffled toward the wall. She went to place a hand against it. Stone caught her wrist, “You’ll burn yourself.”
She snapped her wrist out of his grip. “Don’t. Touch. Me,” she spat. “You don’t care whether I do or don’t.” Her skin burned where he’d gripped it.
Stone’s eyes darkened. “You would—”
Jack cut him off, appearing next to him. “Stone.”
Stone’s focus eased slow as ever toward Jack, no doubt wanting to punch the man for interfering. Another look passed through Stone’s face Ellie hadn’t seen before. Stone released her wrist and moved to the window. He wasn’t casually studying the landscape. He was searching for something. She rubbed her wrist while trying to see, but she was too far from the window and too small.
Ellie ignored the two men and went to touch the wall again. She could swear she noticed a line in the rock. A tiny gap. Odd. Where did it go?
The door opened behind her. Lee strode in—he apparently had a meeting scheduled with her father—and shut the door. He froze. It dawned on him that Claude wasn’t there. He spun to rush out of the room. Stone was between him and the door before he moved. Ellie’s hand fell to her side.
“What is that?” Stone ground out. The building practically shook with his anger. What on earth do you hear?
Lee’s attention jerked here and there, hoping to find safety. Finally he relented. “Fail safe.”
Stone’s grip was on his throat in a blink. He rose the man from the ground. “Tell me.” Ellie shivered against her will, though she wasn’t the one who faced Stone.
Lee gagged. He raised a hand behind him. There could be no mistaking who he indicated. “A sound that attracts them.” Meaning they were coming for Ellie.
Stone heaved Lee across the room. Directly at Ellie. Ellie stumbled away from the wall with a squawk. She hit the desk and grunted. Lee crashed against the rock. Bits of the black stuff fell to the ground, one by one, revealing parts of the shelf unit where her father had the injection for Ellie moments ago.
She watched in silence as Stone came forward. Lee tripped and stumbled to his feet to meet Stone. The gap Ellie had noticed in the wall had grown. Without thinking about doing it, she muttered, “Stone—”
He cut her off this time, not looking at her; instead, his focus remained on Lee. “He hoped to cover his tracks.”
Ellie’s hands came up, completely and utterly confused. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand.”
Lee frantically checked for a way out from the brute coming his way. Jack moved to the window to stare down at the entrance.
“Trouble,” Jack informed them.
Stone snatched Lee by the throat again. He turned Lee as he reached for the wall. Ellie stood dumbfounded as Stone took hold of the edge she’d seen. She wasn’t the first to notice it after all. It surprised her, but then she mentally smacked herself. Stone, the person who noticed everything? Shouldn’t be surprising.
Stone held Lee so he could see the wall. Then dragged the former bookcase open. Ellie sucked in a breath. A corridor stood there filled with smoke, lava, and burning ground. The entire hallway beyond burned with her father’s scourge. Her father left the entire place burning behind him so nobody could follow.
“The building will burn,” Ellie sucked in a breath and rushed for the door. Jack caught her arm.
Ellie attempted to pull free, but Jack gave her a shake of the head. He wouldn’t relent the arm he held.
“What is it?” Stone ground out.
Being close to the door, Ellie heard it. Incredibly faint, but it was there. Like a long drawn out woohoo. Oddest thing in the world. It wasn’t coming from inside the building . . . but outside? She eased closer to the door.
“Alarm,” Jack said. He pointed to the front where he’d been standing. “Company is coming.” Otherbeings were drawn in by the sound. Things that hunted fast, intelligently, and would eat her in a second.
Ellie’s eyes widened. “Why are we just standing here?” What is wrong with you both! The barest of smirks touched Jack’s lips which scared her far worse. She tried to pry his fingers off her arm. He simply stood there, focused on Stone. Ellie grabbed one finger and attempted to loosen it from her flesh. Damn you!
Lee scrambled to answer, hoping it would save his life. He tilted his chin at Ellie. “The noise will start a frenzy. Aimed at her.” And he sounded glad. Excited even. Gross.
Ellie’s bone almost snapped with how fast her attention shot over to Lee. “What?”
Stone’s grip tightened so much on Lee’s throat he couldn’t speak. His face began to turn red. Ellie’s fingers attempting to loosen Jack’s grip from her arm, froze. Lee’s face . . . was turning red. Stone cut off his breath. Her head tilted to the side. Breathe. He . . . didn’t breathe . . . did he?
“You’re breathing!” She gaped.
Stone pointed out, “He has for a while, haven’t you?” His thick fingers loosened enough for Lee to sputter and spit.
“Yes. Please. I can show you where he went. You’ll never make it out of here without me.” Stone glanced at Ellie. Are you asking for my permission? She shook her head as she scrunched her forehead. “What?”
Continue to Chapter Two here – https://kimberlysueiverson.com/2020/01/19/under-empty-stars-chapter-two/
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Under Empty Stars is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Kim Iverson
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, contact the publisher at the website.
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