Airborne

Airborne, Book one in The Airborne Saga
Out Now
            
           
Avery knew she had a knack for attracting trouble, but even she is shocked when a six-foot-something harpie shows up on her doorstep. Coping with the existence of a mythological race? Okay. Unwittingly finding herself in the middle of a vicious harpie conflict? A little less okay. Having to rely on an arrogant harpie boy who gets under her skin? Now that is something Avery isn’t sure she can handle.


ISBN 13: 9781461049432
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Below is a glimpse inside the pages of Airborne. The first chapter is as follow:


One

She fled, tearing into the dark forest with only the dim moonlight as her guide. She burst through the first layer of trees and her sprint died. The icy air of October had frosted over the huge treacherous roots that covered the forest floor and each step farther, the path grew darker. The terrain from there was too dangerous to keep running and Avery reluctantly slowed to an agonizing crawl. She held out her hands to map out her surroundings before she took another careful step. Her fingers met rough bark and she lifted her boots over another root.
Maneuvering carefully, she cast a hurried glance backwards. Beyond the forest itself, she could see the hint of artificial fluorescents lit up on the hill. The faint smell of rich redwood smoke from the huffing chimneys even reached her. Her home at the top of the hill now seemed so far away as compared to the bitter cold and dry air in the forest in which she stood now. She never got the chance to become absorbed in the nostalgic image. The sharp crack of a twig breaking nearby sent her back on edge. She was supposed to have more time than this. She was supposed to have a head start.
Heart clenching, she kept moving, delving farther into the woods until the canopy took away the moonlight and she had been swallowed by complete darkness. Only her firm grip on a nearby branch gave her any sense of placement. The vertigo was actually welcomed. If she couldn’t even find herself, no one else could either.
Suddenly an explosion of noise ripped through the woods. Branches snapped and trees cried out as something slammed into them. The canopy parted and just for a second let in a splash of blue moonlight. The movement caught her eye and she saw a flicker of white crash down a quarter mile away from her position. Avery didn’t hesitate. She ran for it, leaping over the tangles of roots and dodging branches before her moonlight faded away.
The image waiting in the newly formed clearing made her slide to an abrupt stop. Laying limp over muddy snares of weeds and chipped branches was a man. Brown hair covered his glassy green eyes and scratches marred his porcelain smooth skin. Massive white wings, strewn to either side of him, rested crookedly under a fresh layer of falling snow.
“Mason!” Avery dove to her knees beside him, careful not to make contact while he looked so fragile. “Are you okay?”
His entire tan shirt was splotched red with blood. Eyes darting over him, she sought the origin of his most grievous injuries. The lack of light made it difficult, but gently tracing her hand over his limp wing, she found the source of the hot liquid near the wing base. He’d been sliced badly and the wound hadn’t even remotely healed. Crimson blood continued to steadily soak his white feathers. She swallowed before any bile threatened to rise in the back of her throat.
 “What do I do?” She asked desperately.
Mason shifted to life and unexpectedly jerked forward. Lashing an arm out, he dragged her down to his hard chest. Long fingers clasping over her mouth, he forced her silent. Mason didn’t need to say anything. The distinctive flapping of wings sounded overhead. She shut her mouth, pressed her cheek to his chest, and stayed quiet. The flapping continued, forming circles in the sky above the clearing with some persistence.
Anxious, she wanted to move right then and there but knowing she couldn’t lift Mason, she was forced into a silent submission while waiting for the danger to pass. Her mind spun, only landing on the same repetitive question: how exactly did she end up here?
She remembered it now.
She had clasped her hands together tightly as the car’s tires lumbered over another thicket of rocks and twigs. The paved roadway had ended long before the school’s entranceway had begun and the taxi’s low clearance wasn’t up to take the terrain’s beating. Avery waved the driver to just stop there. She could already see enough of the gothic brick spires belonging to Mayweather Academy to know that she’d arrived.
She slid out of the cab just hearing the gruff annoyed mutter of the driver before the door swung shut. Even though she’d tipped him well, she couldn’t exactly blame him. While the boarding school sat within Seward city borders, the trip here brought them through a desolate road after it seemed that all civilization had long since ended. Tucked into mountains and hidden by hundred year old trees, no one would find the Academy by accident. The taxi driver had sworn she was just getting them lost until they reached the only sign a mile back.
The cab then took off in an explosion of dirt. Eyes burning, Avery dredged forward through the heavy wrought iron gates and to the stairs that led up the hill side. She’d barely made it halfway up the staircase when she heard a howl that made her stop short.
“Avieee!”  Avery turned to spot the source at the top of the stairs.
Her one and only friend at the school, an auburn haired girl small enough to disappear into her hoodie, sprinted down the stairs at light speed. Before she even cleared the final step between herself and Avery, she opened her arms and leapt forward. The combination of extra weight and radical sideways movement almost knocked Avery off her feet. The girl then closed her into a tight hug.
“Hi Leela.” Avery lightly squeezed the girl back and then happily broke away after a minute.
 “Welcome back to Alaska. I was convinced you’d like California too much and not come back!”
“I was certainly considering it.”
“You know you like this place more than that.” Leela had to tease, knowing full well they looked forward to senior year as one step closer to freedom.
“Because everyone just lovessss high school.” Avery said. Half smiling, she looked back toward the man hesitating by the stairs. He’d walked with Leela only a moment ago but now waited cautiously in the distance. He wore a parka from his neck to his knees that managed to block out any details of his person. The weather wasn’t cold enough to warrant it. The odd scene irking her, Avery found herself staring.
 “Who’s your friend?” Avery asked while glancing back toward the Leela.
“Friend?”
“That guy with you.” Avery indicated but looking back, the man had gone. “Uh…never mind.”  Avery amended, and she shook off the bad feeling as quickly as she could.
“Okay, stop distracting me and tell me how your summer was. I’m still jealous you got out of Alaska.” Leela changed the topic.
“Yea, staying at my brother’s was pretty awesome.” She didn’t want to sound like she was bragging but it had to come out that way. Everything that busy urbanized California was, their small section in the woods of Alaska wasn’t. She then filled Leela in, adding a few things about the surfing, heat, and traffic as they worked their way back up the stairs and through the heart of campus.
They finally reached their destination, a circular brick courtyard in the middle of the school, and the distractions came quickly.  Today the courtyard was home to an array of wooden booths, sorted by last names, to hand out class schedules and room assignments. Freshman panicked and raced back and forth while seniors in her class floated around to socialize, making the courtyard painfully packed. She nearly lost Leela in the tall body of students, but they both already knew where they were heading. They made for the booth for “Z” names in the back.
“Hi Avery. Leela.”  Ms. Morrison, the staff member at the table, greeted them personally. “How was your summer?”
Avery gave the same great review she’d given to Leela.
 “Avery’s rooming with me this year.” Leela piped as Morrison began shuffling through her blue index cards for Avery’s senior year assignment.
“Oh. I see you’ve already picked up your card.” Morrison had finished the stack and leaned back.
Avery shook her head. Leela had an assignment card that listed Avery as her designated roommate so she knew already her room, but Avery always was supposed to be given a card too. Morrison thumbed through the entire stack of blue index cards a second time around. Brows pinched, she looked over the papers on her clipboard.
“I’m not sure why but I don’t have you here. You’re registered as a student…” She flipped through a few more papers before giving up. “And you’re certain no one else picked it up for you?”
Avery nodded. Short of Leela, her friends at this school were nonexistent. Not that she wasn’t popular… she was just in more of the outcast crowd.
Frowning, Morrison finally said, “I suppose it could have gotten mixed up courtesy of first day chaos. I’d say you should check the other tables.”
Avery didn’t even take one look backwards.
“Can I just pick it up tomorrow? I know where I’m staying already.” Avery gestured toward Leela as proof.
 “Of course. I’ll get to it tonight and personally deliver it to your dorm room. I’m sorry for the mix up.”
Without another word, Avery slid free of the crowd and followed Leela up the nearest grass hill. Seniors were placed in the oldest and coincidentally the best dorm. Crepuscule Hall had been built next to the river. Immersed in woods at every other side, it sat the farthest back from the center of the campus. Almost like its own entity, the brick building had gated doors and its own kitchens. Outside was a long balcony that was home for crazy parties. Also, this hall was the only one on campus that could be coed.
They descended the last set of stairs that led to the main gate. Students congregated just outside by the concrete picnic tables. More uncomfortable by the second, Avery began to wring her hands. Leela glanced her way and the girl noticed something.
“What happened to your hand?” Leela asked abruptly, successfully reminding Avery of something she had nearly forgotten.
Avery flexed her right hand that had been bandaged in ace wrap from fingers to wrist. The wrapping already loose, Avery unraveled it to show her palm in the light.
“I went looking for seashells on the beach and picked up glass or something.” She showed Leela the purple and black bruising. There was no visible cut and the nurse at the walk in clinic had shrugged off Avery’s worries.
“You probably picked up a crab or something.” Leela said, dismissing it too.
Her attention soon drifted to the congregation of students nearby. Avery scanned the crowd over for anyone familiar. She’d gone to school with all of these students for years but she wasn’t exactly friends with any of them. Then, out of the mass of colorful faces, a familiar person surfaced. Avery groaned when she recognized it. Nathanial walked out, slicking back his black hair greaser style and wearing a sideways smirk. Nathanial, resident slacker, acted as the campus pretty boy. Dressed to crisp perfection with big price tags, he flaunted his parents’ money more than not.
“Isn’t it my favorite girl?” Nathanial maneuvered by Avery and right up to Leela’s side.
On par, Avery’s friend lit up pink and fidgeted on her feet.
“Be nice.” Leela admonished with no real force behind her words.
“Sweetheart, I’m always nice.” Smirk growing, he pressed open palms against his chest as a sign of innocence.
Sensing the situation grow awkward fast, Avery backed to the very edge of the sidewalk. Nathanial absorbed the extra space in seconds and posted himself between the girls. His eyes never once left Leela even though he spoke more than loud enough for both of them to hear. Avery didn’t know which bothered her more, Nathanial’s interest in her friend or his point to make a show of it. She twitched in spot, mind rolling over potential ideas to force Leela out of the situation. The only one she could come up with would involve dragging, kicking, and screaming.
“So you excited about the party tonight?” Nathanial suddenly asked.
Leela opened her mouth to respond but Avery beat her to it.
“Party? What party?”
“Sorry, select invites only.” Nathanial finally acknowledged Avery’s existence only to give her a cool glare through pretty boy long lashes.
Avery ignored him and whirled to face Leela straight on.
“It’s nothing big.” Leela defended herself immediately.
“Don’t buy into her fit just because she’s not invited.” Nathanial piped in from behind them.
Avery didn’t even grace it with a response. She focused on Leela even though Leela seemed more focused on the floor.
“It’s not the party. It’s the fact that you’d even go with him.” Avery whispered harshly.
Leela shrugged.
“Don’t worry about it, okay.”
Face heating, Avery clenched her fists before she could overreact. Turning back to the man behind her, she gave a stiff glare.
“I’ll see you tonight Leela.” He said.
Avery rolled a few choice words around in her mouth but ended up swallowing them. She nodded as politely as her tight muscles allowed. Without another word, Nate turned on his heels and headed back for the gaggle of congregating students. Shifting the heavy duffle bag over her tense shoulders, Avery turned her attention back to the dormitory.
“Forget about it.” She told Leela grudgingly while knowing full well this was a battle just beginning.
Her friend rejoined her side and then together they walked through the last gate into Crepuscule Hall and began the year that’d change her life.
© Constance Sharper 2012




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