Today we are delighted to host an exclusive excerpt reveal! The book is called The Nightmare Dilemma, the second book in the Arkwell Academy series by Mindee Arnett, author of YA fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
The Nightmare Dilemma will be available on March 4, 2014 from Tor Teen.
Eli Booker didn’t know he was dreaming.
In fact, he might never have realized it if the girl with the red hair hadn’t appeared in the graveyard. At first she was just an odd flash of color out of the corner of his eye, something he would’ve ignored if his senses weren’t already so keyed up from the presence of a murder victim not ten feet from where he stood.
He turned his head, his jaw slackening as he realized it was a girl, just a teenager wearing all black like some kind of ninja-wannabe assassin. A ping of recognition struck him, but he couldn’t quite bring a name to match the face. She was pretty, even though her goth-girl-gone-funeral wardrobe made her fair skin look washed out. But there was something off about her, too, the way she moved, as if she wasn’t quite present. A ghost maybe.
No, that couldn’t be right. Ghosts weren’t real.
Eli blinked, shaking off his confusion. Then he fixed a glare at her. What’s she doing at a crime scene?
He paused as a new and alarming thought occurred to him: What am I doing at a crime scene?
Eli pulled his gaze away from the girl, a sensation of vertigo sweeping over him, as if the ground had tipped forward. He thrust his hands in front of his body, bracing against air. The feeling passed a moment later, and when it did, he realized the redhead wasn’t the only one sporting a strange outfit. What the hell? Why was he wearing one of his dad’s suits? The hideous orange and blue necktie brought an automatic gag to his throat. He grabbed it, about to rip it off, but froze as the redhead began to move. She glided forward in that ghost-like way until she reached the body of the dead girl splayed among the crumbling, ancient headstones.
As she knelt beside the body, Eli opened his mouth to tell her to stop. She would destroy the evidence. Only, why did he care? He wasn’t a cop. His father was. Then why am I wearing his clothes?
The answer came at once like a blast of wind on a cold day: I’m dreaming.
Once he realized it, all the wrongness of the scene struck him. The half dozen police officers standing nearby were wearing outdated uniforms; his dad’s department had replaced the pale blue shirts with black ones months ago. And one of the officers was Bernie Mahanoy, only he’d transferred to another department last year.
Even stranger, Eli had no recollection of how he’d gotten here or even where here was. The cemetery was like something out of a gothic horror movie, the giant, ivy-covered mausoleums of the sort that might house a dozen zombies, easily.
Thank goodness I’m armed. One headshot should…
Eli shook his head. That was the wrong thought. A dream thought. He was dreaming. He glanced back at the redhead. If this was his dream, then what was she doing here? And why did she feel so wrong? Almost … like an intruder.
Tension spread though his body as he walked nearer to the redhead. The shift in position brought the dead body into partial view. The victim was another teenage girl, this one blonde and completely unfamiliar to Eli. Puffy, dark strangulation marks rimmed the girl’s throat, and her right hand had been cut off at the wrist, the hand itself missing. Taken like a trophy. This time the thought didn’t feel wrong at all. Just the opposite. Somehow that bothered him even more than the rest of it.
The redhead at last stood up and turned around, moving so quickly that for a second, Eli thought she might break into a run. A stricken expression marred her face, her full, pink lips drawn into a tight line, and her pale eyes hooded.
That was until her gaze landed on him, and her mouth expanded into a horrified “O.” She stumbled to the right, swerving to avoid him. Eli gaped, surprised and more than a little offended by her response—pretty girls normally didn’t react that way to him. Did he have horns growing out of his head or something? Volcanic-worthy pimples on his face?
Before he could check, she was walking past him fast enough to stir the air between them. On impulse, he reached out and grabbed her arm.
She jerked to a stop, and as her head turned toward him, her expression even more horrified than before, Eli felt the ground pitch forward again, this time giving way completely. His vision went black, and his body dropped into sudden freefall.
He woke with a start, his heart in his throat and his lungs seizing as he struggled to draw a breath. That was one helluva night…
The thought died inside his brain as he realized the reason he couldn’t breathe had nothing at all to do with fear, and everything to do with the girl sitting on his chest. He had the feeling she’d been touching his forehead a moment before, but now she had her fingers pressed against her temples as if to still her pounding head.
At the sight of her, Eli didn’t think, just reacted—placing his hands on her arms and shoving. She toppled backward right off the bed, letting out a pathetic little yelp as she hit the floor.
Eli winced. Stupid. What had he been thinking, hitting a girl?
Yeah, but she broke into your house, and was sitting on top of you! a voice argued in his head.
Ignoring it, Eli swung back the covers and stood up, barely aware that he was wearing only red boxers. Cool air from the open second-story window across the way licked at his chest. He bent over the girl who was struggling to catch her breath. He grasped her by the arms, picked her up, and set her on her feet. He had half a foot on her easily, and she seemed to weigh hardly anything at all.
Before he had even let go of her, she pointed a hand at him and said, “Aphairein!”
Something invisible bumped against his ribcage. It didn’t hurt, but he sensed the thing rebound and slam into the girl as hard as a lineman on the football field. As she stumbled backward, Eli tightened his grip on her shoulders, meaning to keep her upright, but the force of it was so strong he lost his balance and they both fell. His hard, large body was squashed against her much softer—and very feminine—one.
A flush heated his skin. He must’ve fantasized about some hot girl breaking into his bedroom in the middle night a hundred times, but somehow, he never imagined it going quite like this.
“Get off,” she said, pushing against him. Then she spoke that strange, nonsensical word again and that invisible something bumped against him once more.
Eli rolled off her and stood up, his bewilderment and embarrassment provoking his temper. He pointed down at her, finding his voice at last. “Who the hell are you?”
The girl, whose hair he now realized was a bright shade of red, leaped to her feet, the movement bringing her closer to the window and in full display of the moonlight.
Eli sucked in a breath, half choking, as recognition struck him. It was the girl from his dream. Dusty Everhart, the name finally came to him. She’d gone to his school up until last year. He’d heard she transferred to that shady, private school, Arkwell Academy. He’d seen her dozens of times over the years—mostly because she was the kind of girl you couldn’t help but see—but it was always at a distance. Their paths had never crossed before until tonight.
“I know you,” he said. “What are you doing here? And what’s wrong with your eyes? They’re…glowing?” A thrill, half of fear, half of wonderment, slid over his spine, making his muscles tense. Her eyes looked as bright as lamplights or two pieces of shining crystal. “What kind of freak are you?”
Dusty flinched, and Eli realized too late that he’d spoken that last part aloud—you idiot.
The panicked expression on her face flashed to anger. “At least I’m not the freak dreaming about dead girls.”
He gaped. “How do you know that?”
She blinked, and then her gaze flashed to his bedroom door just as he heard the distinctive pound of footsteps beyond it. Great, his dad was coming, and he had a girl in his room. Won’t that be fun to explain.
But as he looked back, Dusty jumped up onto the window ledge and climbed out, disappearing. Alarmed, Eli charged over and leaned out the second story window. Below, he watched as Dusty reached the ground then stepped away from the drainpipe she’d used as an escape ladder. She peered up at him.
And stuck out her tongue.
Eli almost laughed. The gesture was somehow both feisty and adorable—maybe even a little sexy, too. Only nothing in the last five minutes had made any sense whatsoever, and all he could do was stare after her as she raced down the sidewalk, disappearing around the nearest corner.
He heard the door to his bedroom swing open a second later.
“What’s going on?” his father shouted. “Was there somebody in here?”
Eli turned around, his eyebrows raising at the sight of his dad in his blue bathrobe, Marvin the Martian boxer shorts, and .40 S&W, police-standard handgun in the ready position. “Uh…” Eli sputtered as his brain tried to form a coherent thought.
His dad ignored him and strode over to the window, peering out. “Did somebody break in?”
Eli opened his mouth to finally answer, but froze at the sound of the doorbell.
His dad, looking more than a little crazy with his black, silver streaked hair standing up in weird places and a scowl on his face, brushed past him toward the door. “Stay here,” he said over his shoulder.
“The hell I will,” Eli muttered, taking off after him. He paused just long enough to slip on the pair of jeans he’d left discarded on the floor when he’d gone to bed hours before.
But by the time Eli climbed down the stairs and reached the front door, his father had already opened it to the sight of four large men wearing dark suits. FBI, was Eli’s immediate thought, and when the nearest man reached inside his jacket and withdrew a badge, he believed he was right. Except…
“What is that supposed to be?” his dad said, gesturing at the badge. “A prop for your Halloween costume?”
The man made a noise that sounded strangely close to a growl. “Like I said. We are the magickind police, investigating a disturbance at this house. We need you and your son to come with us for a debriefing.”
Magickind? The image of Dusty pointing at him and speaking those strange, nonsensical words flashed in Eli’s mind. Magic? Had that been…had that…?
No. That’s crazy.
Even if it wasn’t, how could these policemen have gotten here so fast?
Simple, more magic.
Shaking his head at the thought, Eli turned and headed up the stairs.
“Where are you going, son?” the man said, that same growl in his voice.
Eli looked over his shoulder at him. “Back to bed. I’m pretty sure I’m still dreaming.”
Only he wasn’t dreaming, as he found out a short while later. Dusty, the dead girl in the graveyard, the magickind policemen. All of it was real. And the life he knew, the world that had once made sense, vanished forever.
Just like a dream upon waking.
About the Book:
The second in a thrilling new fantastical mystery series
Dusty Everhart might be able to predict the future through the dreams of her crush, Eli Booker, but that doesn’t make her life even remotely easy. When one of her mermaid friends is viciously assaulted and left for dead, and the school’s jokester, Lance Rathbone, is accused of the crime, Dusty’s as shocked as everybody else. Lance needs Dusty to prove his innocence by finding the real attacker, but that’s easier asked than done. Eli’s dreams are no help, more nightmares than prophecies.
To make matters worse, Dusty’s ex-boyfriend has just been acquitted of conspiracy and is now back at school, reminding Dusty of why she fell for him in the first place. The Magi Senate needs Dusty to get close to him, to discover his real motives. But this order infuriates Eli, who has started his own campaign for Dusty’s heart.
As Dusty takes on both cases, she begins to suspect they’re connected to something bigger. And there’s something very wrong with Eli’s dreams, signs that point to a darker plot than they could have ever imagined.
About the Author:
Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares.
In order to get you in the spirit for book 2, we’ve got a copy of book 1, The Nightmare Affair, up for grabs! The giveaway is open to all and will run until Sunday, November 24 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. GOOD LUCK!