Monday, February 9, 2015

Already Seen- First Chapter

My latest book is available here: Already Seen.

Already Seen is English for Deja Vu. Here's the synopsis and first chapter, all for free. If you like it, I hope you'll check it out on amazon.com, and leave a review.

It isn’t every day your wife dies in a car accident, twice. For Nathan Summers, discovering he can reset time, and change the future by focusing on a moment in the past, is easily the best thing to happen to him...this week. Okay, ever. 

He can’t wait to use his ability to get one-up on his perfect, cocky, and successful brother-in-law, Wade, who’s the kind of son his mother always wished she had. Only, Wade knows all about resetting time, and he warns Nathan that they aren’t the only ones who can do it. 

Alice, is a mysterious woman who will do anything to gain power while eliminating the competition. She learns that Nathan shares her talent for twisting time. Now she's kidnapped Nathan's wife, and framed him for a horrendous crime. 

With time for Nathan’s wife running out, Alice offers an exchange. Nathan’s wife for his reset point, and his life.


First Chapter:


The first time I killed my wife, I made a horrid spectacle of myself. I’m glad she couldn’t see me crying.
The only thing worse than watching her die was apologizing afterward. No. I take that back. It was a close second. Watching Cassandra die was absolutely the worst. Here’s how it happened the first time:
“Slow down. We’re not that late.”
“Yeah? Ten minutes to go fifteen miles isn’t late?” I veered into the right lane to pass a semi-truck. “It’s your sister’s barbecue.”
“Please don’t sulk all night about Wade’s promotion.” She reached across the console and squeezed my leg. “Be careful.”
“I promise. No tickets.”
A two car-length space opened up to my left. I accelerated and swerved into the middle lane to avoid another truck as the gap narrowed. The steep mountain slope kept them from driving fast enough for my tastes. I hated this interstate.
“What about wrecking? I don’t want to die, Nathan.”
“Sorry. You know the rules. One promise per customer.”
My cell buzzed with a text message, and no, that’s not where this story is going. Some people are sensible enough not to text and drive. Not me, but something else caused the wreck.
“Don’t read that in this traffic,” Cassandra said.
“Here. You check it.”
A cold chill ran down my spine, and not because I handed Cassandra the phone.  “It’s from your mom,” she said. Ahead, the road curved to the left. A space opened up in the far lane. I signaled and checked my mirrors. See? Safety first.
Unfortunately, the lane turned out to be occupied by a minivan in my blind spot. The van’s bumper collided with our car’s rear wheel. We spun into the concrete medium. The front bumper ricocheted off it, and the car flipped, tossing us around like a dog’s chew toy.
Cassandra screamed. I probably did too. Something crunched. With a flash of light, everything stopped.
The car somehow landed upright, turned against the traffic. The windshield, intact but shattered in a spiderweb pattern, obscured my view. Two other cars lay piled up behind us. Given our orientation, I suppose they lay in front.
Sharp pain throbbed in my temples. It felt like a troll was pounding its way out of my head. Musty smoke from the deployed airbag made me cough. “Cassandra?” I said, my voice barely audible.
She didn’t answer.
I couldn’t turn my neck to the right, so I shifted my torso. Her airbag wasn’t  undeployed. Her head had cracked the passenger window. She slumped against it.
“Cassandra!”  I reached a hand to her cheek. It came back wet. Could have been her blood or mine. “No,” I whispered.
I shook her arm, calling her name, begging her to wake up.
A roar erupted from my throat. My body ached with anguish.
Okay, wait. Hold on. You know what? Wallowing in grief accomplishes nothing. Given what happened next, I’m being melodramatic. She died, that’s all. But like I said, that’s not the interesting bit. This is:
I replayed the events in my head, not accepting the finality of my wife’s death. The moment before the accident stood there like a palpable object. It tasted like white lightning, cold and arctic. The moment wanted out.
I’d have given anything to step back into that instant. And that’s exactly what I did.
The chill from before ran up my spine in reverse. It warmed me from the inside out, like I’d swallowed a sunset or something.
And just like that, I handed Cassandra the phone.
“It’s from your mom,” she said. The road ahead curved to the left as a space opened up in the far left lane.
Everyone—at some point—has wanted a second chance to fix mistakes. The universe took pity on me and allowed another go. It surprised me so much, I jerked the wheel and wrecked the car again.
First day in my life I’d ever killed anyone, and here I’d done it twice. To the same person.
This time, I thought I’d lost my mind. I sputtered and rambled on, stream-of-consciousness style. “You’re alive it’s from Mom you said that again I heard you so you’re alive so say it again tell me anything I’ll listen okay?”
And Cassandra says we don’t communicate enough. She certainly didn’t hold up her side of this particular conversation.
Sirens wailed outside. My mind wrestled with reality, but reality had a huge weight advantage on me. “I’m traveling through time . . .” I said. “I think. That, or I’m having the strongest sense of deja vu ever. Do you remember wrecking, Cassandra?” She still didn’t answer. She just stared at me, blankly. That’s also a familiar sensation.
Memory is kind of like a muscle. I never thought that before, but all of a sudden the recent past was a tangible thing I could focus on. I flexed the point in time just before the crash. The instant sat there frozen, waiting to thaw out. Maybe, if I could just settle my thoughts into the memory—
Heat radiated out of me. Again.
I handed Cassandra the phone.
“It’s from your mom.” The road ahead curved to the left as a space opened up. The steering wheel shook from my trembling hands, but I didn’t attempt to merge. My knuckles turned white, holding the steering wheel so tightly.
“She says ‘you shouldn’t waste time on stupid parties when you have a mother that needs you.’ What is it with your family? Seriously, they all—Nathan? Why are you exiting? Where are you going?”
I shook my head. Violently. It felt good to have the full range of motion in my neck again.
“Nathan, say something. You’re scaring me. Are you okay?”
“Wait,” I managed to say.
At the end of the exit, I steered the car into a gas station. I didn’t trust myself to say anything just yet. After turning off the car, I pulled Cassandra into a hug.
And I sobbed. Not my finest moment, but you know what? I didn’t care. My Cassandra Rose was alive.

~ oOo ~
           
Cassandra didn’t let me drive to Ginger’s house after that. We arrived all the later for it. She told me, “Panic attacks are serious, Nathan.” Despite my protests, that’s all she’d hear on the subject.
The truth was, I didn’t fully trust myself to drive either. Two questions circled my thoughts. Am I crazy? Can I control this?
We pulled into my sister-in-law’s driveway. Ginger met us at the fence and gave us both warm hugs. “We were getting worried about you two.”
Cassandra glanced at me. I gave an almost imperceptible head shake. “We ran into some traffic,” she said. “Hope you didn’t wait for us to eat.”
“Wade’s in the back, still grilling. I’m afraid the neighbors couldn’t make it.”
Cassandra sat her contribution of potato salad on the picnic table. Wade Armstrong, her increasingly perfect brother-in-law, pulled her into a warm embrace.
“Just in time,” he said. “Everyone grab a plate and dig in.” I let my wife go ahead, while I strolled through the backyard, lost in my thoughts. My mind richoteched off them. I kept seeing Cassandra, bleeding in the wreckage. The memory was so vivid, I didn’t notice Ginger until I nearly bumped into her.
“Something happened on the way here, didn’t it?” she asked.
“Oh, hey. Sorry. I didn’t notice you. No, nothing worth mentioning.”
Both hands went to her hips. “Nathan, you never could lie to me.” She’s wrong. I’d been doing it since the two of us dated, and she asked me if I liked her sister. I just never get away with it.
“Tell you later,” I muttered.
Ginger ran her hands through her long red hair, a sure sign of annoyance. She and Cassandra are so much alike it’s no wonder I’m attracted to them both. Was attracted, I mean.
I piled a plate with food—two drumsticks, baked beans, and coleslaw. As much as I hate to admit it, Wade’s barbeque chicken is the world’s best.
The wreck still hovered over my thoughts.
Wade sat across from us. “Cassandra says you had a panic attack on the way over, buddy. Everything okay?”
I grabbed my hair. “She said what?”
“Don’t sweat it. Everyone’s concerned, Nathan.”
“Really?” I mouthed to Cassandra.
Wade said, “Hey, working on commission is stressful. Believe me, I know a thing or three about stress.” Yep. He’s even perfectly patronizing. Anger flared up under my skin.
“Congratulations on your promotion, Wade. I’ll be inside.” I picked up my plate and averted my eyes from the condescending stares.

~ oOo ~

I leaned on Wade’s black marble countertop, the one he bought in Europe. Everything in the dining room—from the Impressionist painting of a fox on the wall, to the crystal salt shakers—it all served as a reminder of his success.
This isn’t hatred speaking. I cared deeply for both Wade and Ginger. Honest. Just once though, I wished I could be the one that came out on top. Failing that, would it have killed Cassandra to keep my so-called panic attack a secret on Wade’s triumphant day?
I cringed. She’d already died once. Make that twice already.
“And I saved her,” I said to nobody.
The sun of success that was Wade shined brighter than anything I managed. It was always two steps forward for him, and one step back for me. But I rewrote time. Maybe that could ensure some success of my own.
I focused on the present. As before, cold shivers shot through my body. My head felt like I’d scarfed down a carton of ice cream, without the fun of actually eating it. In the living room, Ginger’s grandfather clock chimed twice.
The new moment settled into my head. A save point. I reached back again with something akin to muscle memory. The moment before, when I’d killed Cassandra, no longer existed. Good riddance. In its place, a new one tingled in my thoughts. I settled into that save point.
Ginger’s grandfather clock chimed twice. I grinned.
My unfinished food lay on the counter. I hurled it against the painting. The plate clattered against the floor and baked beans hung from the fox’s face.
After counting to three, I jumped back to the save point.
Ginger’s grandfather clock chimed twice. I whooped with delight.
Ginger slid the sliding glass door open and came inside. “I heard you yell?” She made it sound like a question as much as a statement.
“I’m fine.”
“Panic attacks are nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to act all macho.”
“Can’t tell you how happy I am Cassandra told you guys that.”
“She’s just trying to help, you know.”
I moved away from the counter, making my way toward the door. Outside, Cassandra laughed at something Wade said.
“That’s why you’re in here and she isn’t?”
“She sent me to check on you, since you’re mad at her.”
“I was.” But not anymore. Well, I was annoyed. But, whatever this gift was now occupied my thoughts instead. The things I could get away with.
Hmm. That gave me a wicked idea. With a small bit of concentration, I locked in a new save point. The already familiar trickle of ice shot up my spine. Funny, how something so cold worked as a security blanket. It made me bold enough to try things I’d never imagine otherwise.
That’s not true. But I would have stopped at imagining them.
Ginger placed her hand on my shoulder. She’d always shown she cared through touch.
Understand, I’m ashamed of what happened next.
I leaned forward and kissed her. She smelled like strawberries.
Ginger shoved me backward. Her eyes, full of warmth a moment ago, dripped venom instead.
“I’m sorry, Ginger,” I said and meant it. “Trust me, this never happened.” I reached back to the save point and let myself fall into the moment.
Nothing happened.
Actually, that’s disingenuous. Time moved forward, like usual. Ginger wiped her mouth off with the back of her hand and stormed out the open sliding glass door.
The cold headache doubled in intensity. My vision blurred, and I stumbled through the door.
Ginger raced to the picnic table. She said something to Cassandra who started gathering her things. Panicked, I thought back through the sequence of events again. Could I still step back and fix this?
Probably, I could have. I know now, that had I waited long enough and tried again, I could have erased the entire incident from Ginger's memory. Unfortunately, I also wondered if I could create another save point, which is exactly what I ended up doing. Oops.
Nothing like a man that keeps his head in a crisis.
My spine tingled just as Cassandra slid open the glass door and announced, “We’re going home.” The sensation could have been from the new save point, or the chill in her words.