…and that’s the kind of thing we dig around here. The first book in the series, Watcher, was recently re-released with a fresh editing pass and a snazzy new cover. If you missed this series the first time around, it’s now “new and improved.” 😉
We have an exclusive excerpt from Watcher, so read on to find out if this series is for you!
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM WATCHER BY ROH MORGON
I watch my daughter, the sunlight dancing across her long dark hair, cradle her swollen belly as she kneels to place the flowers on my empty grave. Pink carnations this time . . . last year was red roses; the year before, golden mums.
Her shoulders quake with her sobs and, swallowing, I fight to stifle my own. Her lips move as she whispers to the flower-strewn ground, but I’m too far away to hear her precious words. Throat tight, I struggle to remain still, hidden by the large eucalyptus at the other end of the cemetery.
She caresses my name etched into the grey granite, tracing the letters one by one before wiping the tears from her cheeks. Her fingers touch her lips, then the top of the cold, hard stone.
My own fingers clamp against my mouth and smother the impulse to cry out to her.
She looks so much like me—the me I used to be. Tall, willowy, she’s become a woman since I disappeared five years ago and soon, to my surprise, will become a mother. The inferno of emotions ignited by her pregnancy threatens to devour me and I do not think I can remain quiet much longer. For once, I hope she will end her visit soon and leave.
She stands and turns toward her car. A breath of summer wind lifts a few dark strands of her hair and they float for a moment, waving goodbye.
Her scent reaches out to me and triggers memories of our brief life together. Seventeen years was not enough—not enough time to share with her, to hold her and teach her and tell her how much I love her. In a flash of anger, I curse the evil creature that stole me away, leaving my daughter to finish growing up alone, and leaving me . . . leaving me no longer human.
My chest heaving, I watch her drive away, then step between the markers and cross the lawn to my grave. Once again, I read the inscription on my headstone:
Beloved Mother and Best Friend
October 10, 1969 –
Trembling, I rest my fingers where hers last touched, press them softly against my lips, and whisper, “I love you, Andrea.”
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you . . .”
Wincing, I try to block out the song from the back room of the bar and reach down into the cooler for three bottles of Bud. I twist them open, set the beer on Sally’s tray, and collect the money from her.
“Thanks, Sunny!” Sally grins, her blond curls bouncing as she turns and walks away. My thoughts drift while I wait for Lenny to finish with the cash register.
I hate them. My daughter’s twenty-second was yesterday, and I couldn’t be there to share it with her, any more than she can share mine with me.
It’s pretty hard to celebrate birthdays with a dead person.
A filthy comment and raucous laughter rise above the club din and my pity party evaporates. I look up in time to see which foul mouth is spewing obscenities and realize its target once again is Sally.
Oh, hell no. Apparently their earlier warning wasn’t strong enough.
The buzz of voices and clink of ice in glasses fade as I move out from behind the bar and step to the table where Sally is standing, her mouth and eyes wide.
I glare down at the jerks sitting at the table.
“You need to leave.” I wait, but they make no movement. “Now.”
The spike-haired punk, pale eyes shining with an unnatural glint, tips back his chair and makes a show of drinking his beer. His two buddies glance at him and guzzle the last of theirs.
An empty bottle slams down on the table.
Conversations die and a shroud of silence descends over the room. The chair legs thud against the wooden floor as the punk rocks forward. He wipes his mouth with a tattooed hand, then springs to his feet, knocking the chair over. Pierced lip curled into a sneer, he steps toward me and tenses as though he’s going to swing.
I lean forward, nails ready and low at my side, and stare him directly in the eye. As the pink haze drops over my vision, a growl slips out, just loud enough that only he can hear.
His blue eyes widen as he looks into the faint red of mine and, blanching, he freezes and slowly lowers his fists. He drops his gaze, shifts back, and lets out his breath. As he glances around at the watching crowd, he scowls and curses, then shoots me an ugly look. But he avoids meeting my eyes. One look at the beast peering out of them must have been enough.
Lenny trips and swears as he comes out from behind his end of the counter. The punk straightens his jacket as he stares past me at the approaching bartender.
“Let’s bounce. This dump is killin’ my buzz.” He leans sideways and spits on the floor.
Chairs scraping, his buddies stand, then follow him as he saunters out the door.
A collective sigh weaves through the room once the doors swing shut. I close my eyes and try to breathe calmness back into my body as the crazed beast within me rages in frustration.
“Sunny girl, I thought he was gonna hit ya,” says Lenny, a few feet behind me.
“It’s a good thing he didn’t.” Relief crawls in as I raise my eyes to cleared vision.
Because if he had tried, it would have been all over. Everything I’ve built here. The stable life, the friendships—all gone in an explosion of red violence.
Shaken, I head back to the bar. Sally stops me as I step behind the counter.
“Thanks, Sunny. I’d had enough of those creeps.” The perky little waitress smiles up at me, her soft brown eyes bright with unshed tears. Her first week here hasn’t been easy.
“You’re welcome. You don’t need to put up with that crap.” I glance at her, flash a quick smile, and force the beast to quiet down and myself to relax. Apparently Sally, who was closest to the table, hadn’t noticed the scarlet that briefly flamed in my eyes, so hopefully neither did anyone else.
Except, of course, the spike-haired punk. A chuckle escapes my lips.
“All right, folks. Show’s over,” Lenny announces from his end of the bar.
The nightclub resumes its normal clamor as people talk and laugh about the little standoff. Someone feeds the jukebox and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” floats through the air.
“Good job handling those a-holes, Sunny.” Walking past me, Lenny grabs a bottle from the back shelf.
“No problem.” It could’ve been, though. A big one.
“But I shoulda handled it. You might’ve been hurt.” He stops. I can feel his gaze on me.
“I can take care of myself. You don’t need to worry about me.” Emptying the red slush of a strawberry daiquiri into a wide-mouthed glass, I grit my teeth and shake my head.
The only thing he should worry about is me losing it and tearing up his bar.
The fresh, sea-laced air is a welcome relief from the stale smell of alcohol and humans. I take another deep breath as the bar door closes and step into the night. Glancing around at the Santa Cruz fog settling in, I head for the little black BMW at the far end of the parking lot.
Though the rest of the evening was quiet, I haven’t been able to shake the tension that began vibrating through me the moment those jerks walked into the bar, nor completely calm the beast they triggered with their abuse of Sally. It’s still restless, and is now joined by its partner, the cold hunter. Together they prowl inside me, anxious for the hunt.
The rasp of an ignition echoes through the fog.
My body flinches and I take a sharp breath, then laugh and shake my head.
Damn, I’m jittery tonight.
From the other end of the near-empty parking lot an engine rumbles, accompanied by the crunch of tires on asphalt. A casual look over my shoulder reveals a green Ford pickup cruising in my direction. With three guys in the cab.
The three guys I threw out of the bar.
The agitated beast growls. I shove it down and walk faster. The hunter snaps to attention.
The truck races past me and screeches to a halt behind my car, blocking it in.
Oh crap. This can’t be happening.
Struggling to maintain control, I stop and look out to the deserted street. I could run, but they’d probably trash my car. I can’t let that happen—my survival depends on that car.
So that leaves only one other option.
Damn it. Damn them. I don’t want to do this.
As the driver’s door opens, my anger blossoms and both the beast and hunter strain against their bonds. Control over them begins to fail and I focus on the demented beast, trying to tighten its leash. The calculating hunter slips free.
The spike-haired punk steps out of the open door. Walking to the rear of the truck, he leans against the side and takes a cigarette from his jacket pocket. The other two join him at the tailgate, passing a half-empty bottle of whiskey between them. The bald one with the three-pronged goatee is pretty good sized, but even through his faded army coat it’s obvious his muscle has gone mostly to fat. The other guy peers out at me from beneath a six-inch green mohawk as he zips his black leather jacket. His slight build might lend itself to some degree of agility, but I dismiss him along with his buddy and look back at Spike.
He smiles. It doesn’t reach his eyes, though, which do their best to avoid looking at mine. I go still and wait for one of the punks to make the first move.
Tension ripples through the damp air as the fog swirls around us.
A nervous cough from the tailgate tells me they were expecting me to do something else, like cry or plead or run. Spike takes a hit from his cigarette, his gaze darting to the street.
“Well, c’mon, dude. Thought you said we’re gonna teach her a lesson, teach her some respect. What’re ya waitin’ for?” The guy with the goatee looks at Spike, then takes a step away from the truck toward me.
The beast screams in rage and slams itself around in my head. My hold on it weakens.
“Here, gimme that. She’s just a stupid whore.” Mohawk pushes off from the truck, grabs the bottle from Goatee and downs several swallows, then shoves the bottle back at him.
“Call them off,” I growl. “Before someone gets hurt.”
I stare at Spike through a red veil.
Spike shifts and looks away. He glances at his buddies, then back at me. A sadistic gleam brightens his eyes and he smiles and looks at the other two again.
“Go for it. Show that bitch she don’t call the shots around here.”
The two at the tailgate snicker and pass the bottle back and forth again.
“Oh yeah. Wonder what she’d look like without that pretty dark hair. Think she’d be as beautiful as me?” Goatee laughs, rubbing his shaved head.
“We’re gonna go for a little ride, bitch. And then when we get somewhere quiet—” Mohawk snickers. “We’re gonna make you scream.” He wipes his mouth, cracks his knuckles, and steps in my direction.
“You don’t want to do this,” I rumble through gritted teeth, dropping my bag.
The beast and the hunter take over and I feel myself lower into a crouch. A guttural snarl rips from my throat in a final warning, but the fools are too drunk and arrogant to understand.
Mohawk sneers and advances, while Goatee sets down the bottle and starts after him, chuckling. As I focus on the green-haired one in the lead, Goatee stumbles.
The sudden movement triggers the beast. With a roar I launch and, landing inches from Mohawk, grab him by the front of the jacket. I pick him up, yank him to me, and stare into his terror-filled eyes through the red tinting of mine.
“Uhh-uhh-uhh!” His feet hammer my shins. His impotent attempts to loosen my grip only excite the killers inside me.
I heave him at the back of the truck. He hits the tailgate and collapses into a heap.
Goatee’s still coming at me, a knife in his hand. I move in and slash him across the chest with my nails. The fabric of his jacket splits and blood soaks the front of him. He looks down and shrieks.
The beast flies into a frenzy at the sight of the flowering red. I wrench my eyes away from the blood to see Spike picking up the whiskey bottle.
He cracks it against the bumper and amber liquid splashes as the glass shatters. Half crouched, holding the jagged bottleneck, he backs slowly along the side of the pickup.
I snarl and his eyes widen and he runs for the door. But the hunter is faster. Spike’s face smashes into the window as I slam him against the truck. He screams. The scent of his blood just inches away fills me, draws me in. Overpowers me.
My eyes fix on his neck. My hand grabs him by the hair, pulls his head back. Exposes his throat. His throat.
An image of my daughter flares to life, a visual barrier to the insanity consuming me. It brings me enough awareness to realize what I’m doing—what I’m about to do. With a cry I throw myself off him, landing hard on my ass. I watch as the punk sags, then slumps to the asphalt.
Oh crap. What have I done?
Looking at the three guys lying on the ground, I focus on breathing through my mouth—to keep from smelling the blood—and try to regain rational thought. The psychotic beast and the ferocious hunter whirl around in my head, threatening to tear control away from me yet again.
I’ve got to get out of here.
With a last deep breath through my teeth, I leap up, run and grab my bag, then dash back to the truck. As I step over Spike’s groaning body and reach for the door handle, an alarm goes off in my head.
I fish my gloves out of the bag and slip them on, yank open the door and climb into the truck. It coughs, starts, and I pull forward enough to clear the way for my car, then exit through the passenger door. The BMW purrs to life and I back out. Mohawk, green hair askew, climbs to his feet and staggers over to Goatee who’s holding his chest as he tries to get up.
Good. Didn’t kill any of them.
But oh, so close. Too close.
Fear and guilt war with the anger coursing through my veins. Gritting my teeth, I hit the gas and screech out of the parking lot.
Way too close.
ABOUT ROH MORGON
Roh Morgon discovered the magic in stories at an early age, both in books and the ones she made up in her head. As a child growing up in a remote Southern California canyon, she explored the wild hills barefoot with her brothers and rode her horse bareback at top speed. A wicked youth spent hitchhiking across the West and perched on the backs of Harleys eventually gave way to soccer mom duties and full-time college studies—at the same time. In her spare moments, she learned how to herd cattle, swordfight, and plant an arrow or a knife in a target—not necessarily at the same time.
Her years spent in the lofty mountains of Colorado and the stark plains of Wyoming, the red canyons of central Arizona and the rolling hills of California, provide some of the diverse stages upon which her characters re-enact their lives.
She’s best known for her vampire series which includes Watcher: Book I of The Chosen, the 1840s historical horror novella, The Last Trace, and The Games Monsters Play. Her next novel, Runner: Book II of The Chosen, will be released in late 2017.
Roh currently shares her home in the Sierra Nevada foothills with three mustang horses, two crazy herding dogs, and a very patient husband who reminds her of the need to eat and sleep. She writes fantasy and urban fantasy for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers.