Survival comes at a steep cost…when you’re being chased down a magical staircase by mythological creatures that want to kill you.
Critically acclaimed author Jodi Baker’s breathtakingly unique brand of storytelling weaves magical mysticism, forbidden romance, and shocking plot twists into this electrifying second installment of the Between Lions Series.
Will the answers Anna is searching for get her killed, or set her free?
Only TRUTH will tell...
Read on for a sneak peek of
TRUTH: Book 2 in the Between Lions Series:
A blast of wind rushed through the subway tunnel, strong enough to lift the hair off my neck and forehead. I took a cautious step backwards as the waiting passengers stepped forwards – a stupid thing for them to do. An over-zealous person could accidentally push them onto the tracks beneath the approaching train.
Brakes screeched as it came to a halt. Mechanical pings and beeps sounded as an indecipherable garbled recording spat out the location of the stop. Glass and metal doors cracked themselves open and I watched the people wrestle their way in and out of the cramped trains, all anxious elbows and jutting heads. The train exited in another shriek of metal against metal; another gush of stale, artificial, stinky wind.
I was weaving my way through the new crowd of exiting passengers as they pushed towards opposite direction, which is why I was the only person facing the service door down on the train tracks when it opened and then closed. As the last car vanished through the tunnel’s archway, I was the only one who saw a young man hop over the tracks and pull himself up on the tiled waiting area. It was obvious from the ripped up clothing, to say nothing of the unkempt black beard and hair, that he was not a subway worker.
The guy was graceful upon the rails, but as soon as he was on the platform, I watched him stumble. It was as if that act took everything he had, and now, there was nothing left. He collapsed against the wall, curling into a fetal position on the floor, halfway beneath the wooden bench.
She had been right so many times before. I pushed all my anxieties down deep, away from my heart, past my belly, below the soles of my shoes, further than the ugly, tiled floor, beyond the subway tracks beneath the bus station, all the way to the rocks and dirt that made up the very island of Manhattan itself, and then walked over to the bum.
The closer I got, the more obvious it was that this guy was really, really sick. His body was in complete spasm. I considered calling for the police officers, but they, along with the homeless kids, had disappeared.
The platform was almost empty. A few people were exiting through the turnstiles, leaving me alone with him. My New Yorker defenses prickled like porcupine quills.
This is not smart.
HE JUST NEEDS A DRINK.
I think that’s the last thing this guy needs, Inanna, I told her sarcastically, even as I held out the water bottle to him.
“Sir, would you like some water? Can I-”
My voice died as his head twisted on that skinny neck, revealing two golden-as-the-sun eyes. I leapt back, scrambling to get away.
DO NOT RUN! Inanna ordered.
My body froze.
Can’t move- oh Gods, have to run!
TRUST! THE CREATURE IS DYING! IT IS NOT A THREAT. YOU MUST ALLOW!
Allow what! I thought-screeched at her in panic.
ALLOW ME TO MOVE YOU.
The hand that was holding the water bottle - my hand - lifted - without me telling it to - and I gasped.
Oh, hell no! I screamed at the voice in my head, fighting her.
My arm stopped, but the muscles were shaking with exertion as she somehow, inexplicably, was pushing against me.
ALLOW. TRUST IN ME AS I TRUST IN YOU. I HAVE PROVEN THAT I WILL ALWAYS PROTECT YOU. TRUST. TRUST. TRUST…
With a frustrated cry, I released control of my muscles. Instead of flopping to the side, my hand shot forwards, gently touching the germ-encrusted fingers of the Guardian’s, forcing the water bottle into his grip.
My lips shifted into a smile that felt wicked and terribly foreign. In that moment, my face no longer belonged to me.
I was wearing the expression of a completely different person.
How in the name of the Gods can you take over my body, I tried to ask.
But that wasn’t at all what came out.
My mouth was moving: words were exiting from it, but my tongue was hissing out sounds in yet another language I didn’t know I knew.
“WAZZ EEEZ SAT SATRAY.”
In disbelief, both the Guardian and I watched as the water, in the ever so ordinary plastic bottle Cax had given me that morning, turned yellow.
Not just yellow, but thick, golden ocher: the color of Guardian eyes and the texture of actual Guardian blood.
My brain reconnected with my body and I dropped the bottle, as well as all contact with the homeless thing, faster than if it were a scorching hot potato.
The Guardian greedily gulped it down. As he drank, color seeped into his face. The short hair elongated, reaching past his neck. The scraggly beard receded back into his cheeks. He shook the arm that was not holding the bottle and muscles abruptly bulged beneath the ripped arms of his sweater.
As I backed away, he rose halfway up off the floor and bent before me on one knee. His eyes were glowing more iridescently than a thousand suns, starring at me in joy-filled wonder.
“I am ever your servant,” I heard him swear.
What happened next blew my mind even more than the water changing color in the bottle.
He lifted up both arms as though he were going to embrace me. When I stepped back, the Guardian promptly burst apart. I watched his body shatter into pieces of black darkness.
I killed a Guardian, I thought, miserably and excitedly, closing my eyes against all that would imply.
There was a breeze then, against my face.
Next, a whooshing sound.
And then, there was a terrible and terrifying fluttering.
Against my better judgment, I obeyed.
A murder of crows stood at my feet.
All with intense, yellow, Guardian eyes.
THIS IS GREAT.
But before I could spout my opinions on the matter, the crows lifted up into the air and began flying around one another in an odd, cone-shaped pattern. Around and around and around they swirled, churning the air all together, faster and faster, until it was a black mess of feathers and caws and blisteringly hot energy, almost impossible to tell one crow from the other, and then, in an instant, one crow screamed louder than the rest and broke free. It flew to the ceiling and then sped off into the tunnel. The rest followed, single file, kamikaze-ing themselves away.
From the opposite direction, a gust of wind came. I turned my head to see about thirty people staring at the tunnel the crows flew through in wonder. I looked at them all, but not one of them seemed to see me.
A moment later, the next train screeched to a halt. The group seemed to wake from the dream it believed it had just experienced, and collectively decided to move back to their personal realities by boarding the subway train and forgetting what just happened.
I can’t do that. This is my reality.
WHAT HAPPENS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING.
What did you do to me, Inanna? I screamed in my head. What in the name of the Gods is happening to me?
You can Pre-Order your ebook
or paperback copy of
TRUTH: Book Two
in the Between Lions Series today from
BARNES & NOBLE.