Book & Author Details:
Rook by J.C. Andrijeski
(Bridge & Sword: Awakenings #1)
Publication date: April 22nd 2017
Genres: Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Science Fiction
From USA TODAY bestselling author, a psychic warfare alternative history set in a gritty version of Earth. Contains strong romantic elements – a book in the Bridge & Sword World. Apocalyptic. Psychic Romance.
“You are the Bridge…”
Allie Taylor lives in a world populated by seers, a second race discovered on Earth at the beginning of the 20th Century. Psychic, hyper-sexual and enslaved by governments, corporations and wealthy humans, seers are an exotic fascination to Allie, but one she knows she’ll likely never encounter, given how rich you have to be to get near one.
Then a strange man shows up at her work –– then another –– and pretty soon Allie finds herself on the run from the law, labeled a terrorist and in the middle of a race war she didn’t even know existed. Yanked out of her life by the mysterious and uncommunicative Revik, Allie discovers her blood may not be as “human” as she always thought, and the world of seers might not be quite as distant as she always imagined.
When Revik tells her she’s the Bridge, a mystical being meant to usher in the evolution of humanity––or possibly its extinction––Allie must choose between the race that raised her and the one where she might truly belong.
The new man was handsome, startlingly so.
Auburn hair fell on either side of perfect bone structure, large eyes of pale amber, dark brows, a well-formed jaw, and full, beautifully-shaped lips quirked in a faint smirk. His eyes never left the man holding the gun to my head.
The smirk definitely seemed aimed at him.
“Now, now, Revi’,” the auburn-haired man said. “Let’s not get overexcited.”
Mr. Monochrome jammed the gun tighter to my head. “You can’t possibly think I won’t do it.” The German-accented voice was cold as ice. “Turn around. Leave. Now, Terry. Or this ends here.”
My jaw loosened. I looked at my brother, Jon, who was staring between the man holding a gun to my head and the one he’d called “Terry.”
I began to feel like I’d walked into the middle of a movie set. Jon and I felt almost superfluous to whatever was unfolding. I could tell Jon was struggling to make sense of that same thing, of how he’d been shunted aside even as things escalated. Even so, Jon recovered faster than I did. After a bare breath, held up a hand to Mr. Monochrome.
“Put the gun down, man,” he said, his voice shaken. “Please. Don’t hurt her.”
Mr. Monochrome’s eyes never left the auburn-haired man.
“Leave, Terry,” he growled. “Right now. My orders are fucking clear. I will kill her.”
“No, you won’t.”
The man holding me gripped me tighter, his hand on my shoulder now, his fingers digging into muscle, practically holding me by my collar bone.
“The fuck I won’t. Walk out of here. Now.”
Jon turned, staring at the auburn-haired man without lowering the hand he held up towards Mr. Monochrome. “Are you a cop?” he snapped. “What the fuck are you doing, man? Leave! Don’t you see he means it?”
The auburn-haired man didn’t glance at Jon, either.
“This is so childish, Revi’,” he said, clicking his tongue in an oddly expressive way as he shook his head. “We both know you will not kill her.”
“The police are already on their way, my friend.” The auburn-haired man smiled. He shook his head, that smile still playing around his full lips. “So is SCARB. Are you really so willing to wear a collar again? Do you miss Asia so much, you’d be happy to return there to live on a work camp?” Clicking his tongue again, he sighed, holding out his hand. “Give me the gun, Revi’. Give it to me, and release her. I will let you leave before they get here.”
When he took a step towards us, Mr. Monochrome stepped back.
Gripping me tighter, Mr. Monochrome angled himself behind me, still holding the gun to my temple. He began moving us in a circle, taking a sideways step in the direction of the door, as if he meant to angle us around Jon and the auburn-haired man. Jon turned with us, his hand still up. He was pale now, and I saw his eyes dart towards the door, then back to the gun still pressed hard to my temple. He glanced at the auburn-haired man, without taking his eyes off the gun for more than a millisecond.
“You a cop?” Jon said again.
The auburn-haired man smiled, his eyes still following the man who held me. “In a manner of speaking. Yes.”
“He’s not a fucking cop,” the man holding me said. His voice was hard as metal, still tinged with that German accent. “Jon, you don’t want her to go with him. Trust me.”
Jon gave him a hard look, then looked back at the auburn-haired man.
For some reason, I found myself thinking that Jon actually believed him.
I believed him, too.
It was entirely irrational, but I would rather leave there with Mr. Monochrome than with the handsome man who said he was a cop.
Mr. Monochrome continued to maneuver us towards the door.
The auburn-haired man took a step towards us. Then another. He walked cautiously, his eyes on the man holding me, as if he was approaching a tiger.
“Revi’,” he said. “Be reasonable.”
Like Jon, he held up a hand, as if to calm a wild animal–-one that was cornered, snarling at him. His voice turned soothing, matter-of-fact. “You’ve lost this round, old friend. You waited too long. Let her go. If your people want to negotiate getting her back––”
The man holding me let out a humorless laugh.
“Go fuck yourself, Terry,” he growled.
The man with the auburn hair smiled faintly, then shifted his gaze until he was looking solely at me. His eyes and expression grew solemn as he studied my face.
I found I couldn’t look away from those amber, light-filled irises. They seemed to glow with their own internal light as he watched me seriously.
“Has he told you, little sister?” he said. “Has he told you who you are?”
When I just stared at him blankly, the man broke out in a disarming smile.
“Of course he didn’t,” he mused. “Classic Dehgoies. Why would he tell you anything when it’s easier to simply club you over the head and drag you with him by force?” Clucking his tongue lightly in amusement, the man shook his head, still focusing on me. “We have been looking for you longer than you’ve been alive, Alyson dear––”
“Shut up,” the man holding me growled. “Quit with the fucking head-games, Terry.”
The man ignored him, looking only at me. “Do you have any idea how important you are, Alyson?” he said gently. “How the elders managed to hide you here, after all this time, allowing you to play human… well. Let’s just say, it’s upped my respect for their abilities a fair bit. I would never have guessed they’d be capable of such a thing.”
The auburn-haired man held up a hand. “You are the Bridge, Alyson May Taylor. Do you know what that means?” His smile turned faintly predatory, conspiratorial. “Do you?”
I didn’t answer, swallowing as I glanced sideways at the man holding the gun to my head. It occurred to me again that somehow I was less afraid of him than I was of the man with the auburn hair. The thought made no sense. It was borderline nuts, like the fastest form of Stockholm Syndrome imaginable, but somehow the feeling persisted.
The auburn-haired man seemed to take my silence as an answer.
“The Bridge is sent here to save us, Alyson,” he said, his voice lulling, seductive. “You’re going to save us all. You’re going to return your people to their rightful place––burning the human world, and all of its cruel, empty, child-like bullshit to the ground. You’re going to set us free. You’re going to force them to evolve, Bridge Alyson.”
I stared at him, unable to respond.
Somehow, I could feel he meant what he said.
I saw it in him, like one can see the fervor of a religious fanatic. It reminded me of that sheen in the eyes of people who’d knocked on my front door, there to sell me on their God, prophets and churches. He believed his words. He pinned hope on that belief. Some part of him maybe even lived for it, in a sense.
He truly believed he’d been waiting for me.
I found myself concentrating on him harder.
Silver lights flickered at me, out of time, out of joint. Above him, I glimpsed a pyramid made of light, rotating in the darkness over his head. Something about that vision brought a spike of pain to my temples. It was white-hot, blinding.
I gasped, leaning against the man holding me.
He clutched me tighter. Concern bled through his fingers, a near longing. For the barest instant, I really felt him behind me, like a beating heart. The feeling was familiar––so familiar it brought a rush of something akin to relief. He breathed with me, holding the gun to my head, but we felt almost like a single being, a single heart and set of lungs. Pain twisted through me at the thought, but not like the pain that struck my temples.
Truthfully, it wasn’t like any pain I’d ever felt before. Longing wound into that pain, too, along with another rush of that familiarity.
The man holding me turned his head, looking at me.
I felt that pain on him, too. I felt it intensify––
––when the man with the auburn hair lunged at us both. He leapt towards me, moving without a sound, the instant the man holding me turned his head.
He moved fast––so fast I barely saw the shift.
I saw his attack unfold in the abstract, a blurred motion of aggression and animal-like violence. It was coming straight at me, so fast my heart leapt to my throat. It was too fast for thought, too fast for my mind to make sense of the exact threat.
I just knew I was under attack.
It terrified me more than the threat of the gun. More than the man holding me.
This man coming at me was danger. That’s all my mind fully understood.
Maybe that’s why it happened.
Time slowed to a standstill. I felt every inch of expanding heat as adrenaline shot through my veins, every millimeter of those iron-like fingers gripping my shoulder, my heart hammering, the man holding me breathing hard enough I could feel each breath as it vibrated my body. I saw my brother’s face as he watched, terrified, from a few feet away, his hand still up as he stared at me, his expression full of fear.
I don’t really know how to explain what happened after that.
Something in me just… let go.
That’s how it felt.
It was as if a fist I’d held clenched, somewhere in the middle of my chest, suddenly loosened. Whatever it was, I’d held it for so long, I hadn’t known I held it at all. It was just how it was, to be clenched in that part of me.
When I let go of that tightness I’d carried since birth, it started a chain reaction in some distant part of me. A folding sensation, like a telescope being collapsed in segments, only lightning fast, a ticking film in the background of my mind with an oddly mechanical, almost beautiful precision.
A rush of power hit me somewhere in the middle of the chest.
That time, it didn’t come from outside of me.
I breathed it out, and it was as natural as… well, breathing.
That force slammed out of me like a hard exhale, like if I held it in, even a second longer, it might burn me apart from the inside.
Then it was gone.
It left me. I watched it go, fascinated, in that space of no-time. A slow-motion millisecond unfolded with the same precision as that part of my mind that had collapsed, folding within itself just a fraction of that same second before.
It hit the man who’d lunged for me first.
Jon was blown back after him, around the same time the first man’s feet left the ground, as he’d begun to fly backwards through the air, reaching the place where Jon was.
Then Jon’s feet left the ground, too.
I watched in that moment of timeless silence, seeing their bodies fly through the air, going in the opposite direction from where I stood. I saw that same force that came from my chest, only now it looked like a pale green light in the darkened spaces behind my eyes.
My own eyes were light––only light.
Somehow, I saw through that light anyway, for those few seconds at least.
Even though the force hit Jon second, he slammed into something first.
I watched him fly partway over a tabletop where two college-aged kids were eating pie and drinking coffee. They’d been watching the exchange between the four of us, I realized––everyone in the diner had been staring, riveted, the instant Jon showed up at the door, demanding Mr. Monochrome let me go.
Now I saw the two college kids’ faces alter in slow-motion, eyes widening as they saw my brother heading straight for them and their table.
His back slid over their pie and coffee, only an inch or two above the surface. His legs and tennis shoes hit the edge of the chrome tabletop, knocking their plates and glasses sideways and back, causing the girl sitting there to throw up her arms, also in slow-motion. Jon kept going, not stopping until he landed on a second table behind them, which had a tray covered in dirty soda glasses and coffee cups that the other waiter, Corey, must have left there when he went on his smoke break.
Those glasses and coffee cups flew towards the floor even as Jon’s tennis shoes scraped over the edge of the first tabletop, then he was heading for the floor.
The auburn-haired man flew further, since no table stood directly behind him from the direction of that onslaught of pale green light.
My attention shifted to him somewhere in that fraction of a second.
I watched him fly through the air, his amber eyes wide, the handsome face contorted in disbelief even as his arms pinwheeled, his hands and fingers actively looking for purchase. One of his hands was looking for something else, too. It dug into his jacket, reaching for the gun there, fighting to get it free of the holster he wore under the suit. I watched him struggle with it as he flew all the way to the wall.
Then, both struggles abruptly ended. He crashed into a row of glass shelves covered in fifties knick-knacks––an old radio, metal lunch boxes, Elvis Presley records, a letterman’s jacket.
It wasn’t until he hit into all of that, smashing the shelves with his shoulders, head and arms, that the sound seemed to come back in the diner.
Screams were the first thing that penetrated my awareness.
I flinched, violently, sure I was dead.
Something whizzed by me. I felt it pass, but didn’t move.
Then the man holding me grunted, half of his body jerking back, to both of our right.
More gunshots broke the quiet. That time, it was the man holding me who was firing. For the first time, it hit me that he was left-handed.
He wasn’t firing at me.
Instead, when I looked up in shock, I saw the end of his gun smoking. He’d aimed it past me, over my shoulder, at the man with the auburn hair.
I gaped from the gun back to the wall.
The man there held a gun as well. He’d somehow managed to unholster it while he’d been flying through the air. He’d been the one shooting at us, at least until the man holding me ended him. He’d shot the auburn-haired man right in the middle of the forehead. The shot was so precise it shocked me.
My vision slanted out.
Light took its place. That light blocked my view of the surrounding room.
Gasping in panic at my sudden blindness, I found myself acutely aware of everything else happening around us.
I heard people scrambling to their feet, knocking over chairs, moving tables. Screams followed. I felt fear––of the guns, yes, but not only the guns. Some of that fear felt aimed at me. Loud speech and frightened gasps confused me. I felt their panic like a physical force. It made me wince, then grimace from the pain of it––but I couldn’t see them, or anything else.
My eyes wouldn’t work. Everything was light––just light.
Green light, like what my mind conjured around that force in my chest, just before Jon and that other man flew across the room. I blinked, panicking at my seeming blindness.
I blinked, over and over, but the light wouldn’t dim.
Then the fingers holding me tightened so much I let out a gasp.
“Jurekil’a u’hatre davos!” The man was breathing hard, almost as hard as the people panicking around us. He gasped, speaking right near my ear. I couldn’t see him through the light, but his own panic slammed into me, making me nauseous. Was he afraid of me? “Gaos… di’lanlente a’guete… you’re a fucking manipulator! Gaos! Gaos!”
I couldn’t make sense of anything he said.
All I knew was, he sounded afraid. Shocked to the point of paralysis.
I kept blinking, fighting to see.
I felt dizzy, light-headed. Truthfully, I felt like I might be sick.
I leaned against the man where he held me against him, not thinking about the gun anymore, only wanting to see, to know what happened, where I was, why everyone was screaming. Did I really see this man shoot another man in the head?
Then, another thought brought panic back to my throat.
Had I hurt Jon? What happened to Jon?
Terror hit me, along with a surge of dread that nearly overwhelmed me.
“Where’s Jon?” I managed, my words blurred, groggy. “Where is he? Is he all right?
Something in my words seemed to snap the man holding me out of his stupor.
The fingers released me, but for barely a second.
An arm wrapped roughly around my waist, wrenching me against a hard, muscular body. I gripped that arm in my hands, still fighting to see, to think, to move my mind beyond that nausea and dread. I couldn’t budge the arm off me.
Truthfully, I could barely make myself try.
I couldn’t remember ever being so drained, scared or exhausted.
Before I could wrap my head around what he was doing, the feelings coming off him, he was carrying me. Half-carrying me, at least, dragging me with him.
I couldn’t see, but I knew we were heading towards the door.
That’s when I first heard the sirens.
JC Andrijeski is a USA TODAY bestselling author who writes paranormal mysteries and apocalyptic fiction, often with a sexy, romantic and metaphysical bent. JC has a background in journalism, history and politics, and loves martial arts, yoga, meditation, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, painting… and of course reading and writing. She grew up in the Bay Area of California, but travels extensively and has lived abroad in Europe, Australia and Asia, and from coast to coast in the continental United States. She currently lives and writes full-time in Bangkok, Thailand.
To learn more about JC and her writing, please visit jcandrijeski.com.
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