Born in Flames (Born in Flames Trilogy #1) by Candace Knoebel
Published: September 2012
Red mirrored scales race up my arms as the haze of pain blurs my vision. My bones crack, breaking to realign. I scream. It is then that the realization of my unavoidable fate sinks in; I am of a dying race. I am dragon.
Aurora Megalos, orphaned and teetering on the edge of adulthood, thought finding her past would curb the sting of being an outcast. Having no memories of the time before she awoke on her foster mother’s doorstep, she yearns for the emptiness inside her to be filled. With her fellow orphaned best friend, Fenn, by her side, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. But something powerful stirred within her that she couldn’t explain. Something wanted out.
In the dark of night, a crazed Seer, dubbed Mr.Creepy, erases everything she’s ever known with an impending prophecy. She now faces two paths. Return to her true home to protect a dying race against a growing evil, or stay hidden in the safety of our realm with a shot at a true love. With a vengeful Arch Enemy stopping at nothing to see her dead, she’s running out of time; a decision must be made. What would you choose?
Excerpt - From Chapter 2
It beat walking.
We reached the bus stop underneath the clear morning sky and I slumped into the far end of the bench, trying to ignore the fidgety man waiting next to me. He clutched an old faded denim backpack to his chest in a death grip. Sheesh, I thought. I pulled my tattered baseball cap out of my purse and pushed my hair inside it. I liked to keep my hair tucked away when I was in the general public since it was ruby red and stood out against my pale skin. It helped lessen the curious stares.
I noticed the man next to me, side-eyeing me through my peripheral vision. He had blotchy skin, and smelled of rubbing alcohol. A tuft of milky-white hair sat atop his head and swayed in the breeze. I wondered if the breeze picked up, would the feathery tuft float away like the seeds of a dandelion?
Fenn looked back at the two of us. He shook his head, suppressing a chuckle as he watched the fidgety man squirm next to me. Strange things always seemed to occur around me. This creep was proof of that.
The guy cleared his throat and straightened his back, tightening his grip on the pack, knuckles paling from skin stretched thin. There must be something important inside there.
Fenn casually backed up a couple of steps to be closer to me, whistling and keeping his hands in his pocket, ever the silent protector. It was a job he had always done well. Living on this island, the locals found it hard to adjust to the trouble I unintentionally brought.
I’ve kind of been responsible for a few accidental fires (started by my thoughts though I never told anyone except Fenn). The fires have only started when I felt angry, but things have definitely exploded into flames around me—things like a bookshelf in a library that took a while to douse out.
Now the town simply looked at me as a freak of sorts, some religious people even crossing themselves because they believed I could actually hurt them.
So yeah, Fenn was always there to defend me. Just in case.
I glanced at my watch, thinking the bus should be here any minute and that I’d be glad to get away from this freak next to me. His constant squirming didn’t sit well with me.
Then I heard the awful screeching of the brakes as the bus came barreling into view a few seconds later. The front wheel plowed over the curb before it came to a thud on the street. The exhaust made a wheezy sound, probably fatigued from the driver’s mistreatment, and the hinges squealed as the old doors swung open, inviting us in.
I have told the driver many times that he should probably get the brakes changed, but he always just looked at me and laughed in an idiotic way. Sort of a mix between a cackling witch and a hyena. Visions of sticking my foot in his mouth always came to mind. If only I could set this bus on fire, but then I guess I’d be out of transportation.
"Hit any tourists today?" I asked casually as I stepped onto the bus. His usual smirk instantly pointed south. I kept moving, not giving him a chance to respond, as I pulled my hat down as low as it could go and took my seat near the back. The creepy guy from the bench took a seat directly across from me, continuing to side-eye me.
"Great," I mumbled.
Fenn slid in next to me, and the doors swung shut. The driver pulled out, never checking traffic to ensure the road was clear. All I can say is that we haven’t been in an accident yet… and I stress the yet.
We rode in silence for a while as the powerful hum of the engine sang a poor man’s lullaby. I could still feel the creepy guy’s burning gaze on the side of my face. What is with this guy, I thought. I was tempted to say something, but a large pothole stopped me.
Everything went flying, including Fenn’s coffee. Of course it decided to find a dry place to land on, like my shirt. Agitated chatter began as everyone reached for the items that had flown from their laps into the aisle.
"Dang it," I groaned, trying to blot the lukewarm wetness off my white shirt now stained coffee brown. I’d have to change into a new shirt when I got to work. Another small dent in my paycheck.
"Sorry," Fenn said, picking his music player up off the floor. "He’s such a douche. When you gonna learn to stop egging him on? You know he did that on purpose." The bus driver’s demonic smile peered at me through the rear view mirror. I exhaled sharply, glaring back at him.
A sparkle caught the corner of my eye. In the aisle sat a pendant, right next to the creepy guy’s bookbag. He was rubbing his head, probably from smacking it against the window, not paying attention. I leaned over to grab it, arousing his awareness.
Our heads collided on the way down, but my hands were the quickest of the pair. As my fingers touched the pendant, an instantaneous flash of a clearing under an unusually large full moon ran through my mind along with a haunting pair of glowing blue eyes. Then a rush of power, tingling like electricity, spiked up my arm, throwing me backwards and into Fenn’s lap with a blast of light. The pendant was seared into my grip, the energy still coursing up my arm and throughout my body.
"Rory, are you okay?" Fenn asked immediately, his worried hands running all over me, checking for any sign of damage.
I looked up at him and said, "Fenn, I’m fi–," but was cut off by the frightened look upon his face. "What?" I asked hesitantly.
"Your eyes, Rory…wait…is that blood?" he asked, panicked. His thumbs pulled at my lower lids as his eyes widened in horror.
"Wha-what?" I stammered, feeling my own panic rise as I pulled my phone out of my pocket and held it up to my face to see my reflection.
My irises were ruby red like my hair. They glistened as they caught the sun’s light. I moved to touch them but felt a foreign hand on my shoulder stop me.
"The pendant, girl, give me the pendant," said the creepy man, loud enough for only me to hear.
A low growl built deep within, the pendant warming in my hand as if awakening something in me that had always been there.
"Why do YOU have this?" I gritted through clenched teeth. Something foreign stirred inside me, overtaking my reasoning. Something powerful that longed to break free.
He yanked the pendant from my hand and then placed his hand and face mere inches from my own, a white glow radiating from his palm.
"Silly girl, the bus is no place for your change," he said in a whisper as the blinding glow encompassed my face. I felt the heat kiss my eyes and then it all disappeared.
"Stop it," Fenn commanded, pulling me into him as he shoved the creepy guy off. I shook my head, dizzy from the cloudiness that instantly fogged my brain. Fenn squeezed my shoulder.
"Your eyes…they’re, they’re normal, but how?" Fenn’s concerned face made me turn towards the man who was still staring directly at me, etching this weird moment deep inside my brain. "What did he just do?" whispered Fenn.
My cheeks ran red as I held my gaze with the creep, ignoring the onlookers and their curious stares, and asked, "What did you mean by ‘change’?"
The answer never came. He continued to stare a minute more until the screeching brakes told us we had made it to the next stop. Still staring at me, he grabbed his bag and shoved the pendant inside it, once again clutching it to his chest. He headed off the bus, the white glow on his hand touching each of the passengers as he walked by. Their heads slumped over as the white glow enshrouded them, and then they each shook their heads, dazed, as if trying to remember where they were.
"Did that really just happen?" Fenn asked, muddled.
I blinked, my mind going blank. I wish I could have answered him, but I had no idea what had just happened. My head was still foggy and aching.
"Maybe it was just another strange occurrence?" I suggested, skeptical. I faced him with a forced smile.
"What’d he whisper to you?" His hands were still bracing my shoulders.
"Something about a change…I don’t know…it was hard to make out because he was talking so low. Weird, right?"
"Weird is definitely right." His eyebrows knit together, forming a perfect V. "I should follow him and demand an answer." Anger flashed in his eyes. I felt him move like he was about to follow through with that plan so I placed my hand on his chest.
"No, it won’t do any good now. He’ll be long gone. Let’s just forget it, okay? Pretend it never happened and focus on finding my parents." I searched his eyes, waiting for his usual give.
He sighed heavily. "Yeah, you’re right. I’m just glad you’re okay," he replied, putting his earphones back in and then after a brief smile, turning back to the window.
We still had three more stops to go. Three more chances for me to get a grip on myself before I had to face a restaurant full of curious faces. I sighed and leaned back, putting in my own earphones. I closed my eyes and tried to let what just happened slip away. No use trying to decipher it, I would get nowhere like always. I just knew that finding my birth parents would resolve so many questions. Unfortunately, the beginning of that search was still paychecks away from happening.
Author Bio - Candace Knoebel
Candace Knoebel had dreamed of being a dancer ever since she could remember. With a love of all things art, she saw herself moving to New York and pursuing her passion as an artist. But all that changed on October 10th, 2002 when she met the love of her life. Her dreams diverged and after marrying her high school sweetheart and having two beautiful children, she realized she missed her creative side.
Growing up alongside the Harry Potter series, Candace found herself missing the epicosity of a story that pulls you in and won’t let you go. In 2009, she began dreaming up characters that would mold her first novel. Through lunch breaks and late nights, after putting her kids to bed, she built a world where she could escape the ever-pressing days of an eight to five Purgatory. She found her calling in life and knew this was more than dancing could’ve ever meant to her.
Once complete in 2010, she began the grueling process of finding a publisher. With relentless determination, she was finally able to realize her dream in December of 2011 when 48fourteen offered her a publishing contract. With a HUGE yes and a happy dance, she now continues her Trilogy.
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