Her voice is enchanting; his soul is black…
Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer – then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison’s nightmares are not. Despite her fears, when Madison’s brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her. Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton’s home only to discover that he’s vanished. Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she’s not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott’s are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.
Excerpt from Madison’s Song:
Madison clutched her cell phone as, for the dozenth time in less than a week, her call went to voicemail. Her younger brother’s too-cheerful voice started to ask her to leave a message, but she hit “end” before it finished.
“Where are you, Clinton?” Madison wondered out loud. It had been a month. An entire month since the last time they’d spoken on the phone. Sure, he was in college, young and having fun, but he had never been irresponsible. He had never gone this long without at least sending her an e-mail. And while he wasn’t a Facebook regular, he would normally have posted something about the end of finals. That, more than anything, had led to the frantic flurry of phone calls this week.
The school year was over for Madison as well. She had brought her fifth graders to tears when she had sung them a final good-bye that afternoon. There hadn’t been a dry eye in the room, not even on the stonier faces of the tough boys. She hadn’t meant to do it. She was normally very conscious of the power her songbird voice had to evoke emotions in those who heard it, but she had been distracted. Not thinking clearly. The prospect of a lonely summer loomed ahead, her fifth graders would move on to middle school where she would never teach them again, and worst of all, her anxiety over Clinton grew stronger as each new day passed without a word.
Clinton was, after all, the only family she had left. The only one who had never hurt or betrayed her. If anything happened to him …
Her mind started sorting through possibilities once again, but nothing made sense. She was Clinton’s “in case of emergency” contact at school, at work, and on his phone. If he had gotten into an accident, she would know. Which left what, exactly? That a straight-A student had suddenly dropped out of school and joined a rock band?
It was probably nothing. He had probably been busy. They didn’t hang out in the same circles, she wasn’t his mother, and for all she knew he could have dropped his phone in a toilet. Weeks had passed between calls before – rarely.
But she had nightmares. These days, she almost always had nightmares. Madison knew better than most what sorts of dangers lurked in the night, but Clinton had always been separate from all of that. On the outside. He, unlike her, was the product of two normal people having a normal child.
She dialed again, this time calling Clinton’s housemate, who had always struck her as being irresponsible. She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer her call, nor that he hadn’t responded to the three messages she had left for him. She did not leave another.
Now what? The sun had set, but the moon had not yet risen. It wouldn’t be full tonight, but it was close enough to make her shudder with remembered fear.
There was one final call she could make, one she had been putting off making for days. She had not spoken to her adoptive father, Phillip Carter, since the day he had betrayed her – selling the identity of her biological father to that man’s enemies for the bargain-basement price of $10,000. In the end, that was how much she’d meant to him.
But she and Phillip (she sometimes still thought of him as Dad, but she was getting better) had one thing left in common: Clinton.
She did not have Phillip’s number programmed into her phone, but she dialed it from memory, her fingers automatically jumping from digit to digit. Those fingers stayed curiously still and calm as she waited through four rings. Then she heard the familiar gravelly voice for the first time in over a year.
“What?” he demanded without preamble.
Her breath caught, something got lodged in her throat, and it was a moment before she managed a “Hi.” Stupid girl. Why do you still care?
“What do you want, Madison?” Phillip asked in the clipped, distant tone he’d always used when she misbehaved.
“I haven’t heard from Clinton in almost a month. I was wondering if you have.”
“No.” There was a pause. “I’m worried.” He probably was. Clinton, he cared about. Clinton was really his son. Clinton had never even accidentally brushed up against the world of sorcery.
Madison might have felt jealous, but Phillip didn’t know how to show affection to anyone, not even his son. Which was why Clinton often agreed with Madison that they were all the family each other had.
“I’m going to drive to Springfield tomorrow to look for him.” She hadn’t made the decision until she’d said it, but now she knew it was her only choice. Maybe she was overreacting, but if that was the case then so be it.
“Have him call me when you find him.” That was it. Phillip didn’t want to hear from her, only from his real son. Otherwise, she could turn right back around and go to the devil, where she’d been heading.
Well, what had she expected? A sudden change of heart? A declaration of love?
“I will. Bye, Da–” Madison just stopped herself. Old habits. “Bye.”
Phillip ended the call without saying another word.
Madison tried to push thoughts of Phillip from her mind as she prepared for bed. She called Clinton one last time, not because she thought he would suddenly pick up the phone but because she wanted to leave one last voicemail telling him she’d be making the two-hour drive from Eagle Rock, Missouri to Springfield in the morning. Then she set her phone on the nightstand and started humming to herself.
The tune was a familiar one, a song she’d been working on for years. She had the melody right, but she still had not found the words to go with it. The song needed words full of hope and love, but nothing in her life had inspired that kind of poetry lately.
Not for the first time, Madison wished her songbird gift would work on herself – that she could sing a joyful song and draw that song’s happiness into herself. But that was not how it worked. In fact, she didn’t make people feel the song’s emotions as much as she made them feel her own. The melody and lyrics helped set a tone she could embrace, but she had once managed to make someone cry singing, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Today was that kind of day. Music was her refuge, but tonight worry followed her within its sheltering embrace. She gave up by nine o’clock, thinking she should at least try to get a good night’s sleep before setting off in the morning. She only prayed that her nightmares would give her respite.
About the author and where to find her:
Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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