It’s here. The cover for INSTINCT: A Breed Novel is here! I’m so excited to share the next adventure in Kyle and Ichiro’s journey with you. Check out the cover:
Isn’t it gorgeous? I love it so much. Jay Aheer is an amazing artist and I’m so grateful she’s done the designs of all my covers.
Instinct follow Kyle and Ichiro as they discover what the world is like after the destruction of the comet.
Kyle Singer knew she’d survive the comet with Ichiro, but the knowledge hadn’t prepared her for the guilt that came with surviving while the rest of her family had not. After arriving at the school, she discovers that Hartmann had kept track of the families before the comet hit—including Ichiro’s missing relatives.
Keeping the family’s whereabouts a secret, Kyle is determined to find Andy and use their sixth senses to bring her brother back to the school. To safety. When Ichiro finds out that his family is alive, he goes after them, sending Kyle out on her own. No one knows what they will find venturing out into a world ruined by the comet. Or if they’ll be able to return to the school before a second ice age hits.
And guess what!? I have the first chapter available for you right now! Check it out below. Don’t know what’s been happening with Kyle, Ichiro, and the end of the world as we know it? Check out BREED available now in print and e-book.
“Run,” the voice crackles over the walkie-talkie bouncing against my hip.
Lights flicker above me with a hum. Walls painted a deep blue or slate gray, I can’t tell in the low lighting, stretch up to the matching ceiling, trapping me like a mouse in a maze. There are no windows here, no doors along the walls. A dusty old smell fills the space. No way out. Panic grips my chest and I take deep breaths in an attempt to steady myself. The walls are too close. The ceiling presses down on me.
I pick up the walkie-talkie and depress the button along the side. My hands tremble and I fumble with the button. I breathe through my nose, trying to hide the panic bubbling in my chest. He doesn’t need to know. If he does, he’ll try to fix it. To help me. To save me. Is that what I want? Is that what I need? “What do you see?”
“Nothing, Kyle,” Ichiro says with a grumble. He’s not happy about something, but I don’t know what, can’t see what, and I can’t focus on it. I’m trapped. I need to get out. I’m overwhelmed by my own anxiety. It’s crippling. Debilitating, if I let it overpower me. “I can only see your dot on the map. I need to get you out.”
I try again, realizing I hadn’t been specific. He wasn’t paying enough attention to read between the lines. “What do you feel?” Because I can’t feel anything right now with my own fears overwhelming me. I need to calm down, but I don’t have my music with me. Don’t have Ichiro’s calming presence nearby to keep me focused and steady. I need Ichiro to walk me through this.
He doesn’t respond right away. I run down the hall and around a corner into another stretch of hallway that looks the same as the rest. Get out. Get out. I halt my movements and place my hands on my knees, bending over to breathe. I need to calm down. To think. Ignore the twisting knot growing in my stomach. When Ms. Hartmann brought me down to the lower floors of the school, I’d thought I would be doing more computer work like I had before the comet hit. Before the world ended and the Internet crashed. Before technology died. When she locked me in this room without a word, I realized she wasn’t trying to test me on my hacking skills. She was never testing my hacking skills. They weren’t a needed skill before the comet hit. I know that now. She’s testing my intuition. The bond I have with Ichiro. She needs this information the way she had when she’d tested my skills with a computer. I just don’t know why. Yet.
I stop trying to think my way through the maze. I’ve always been good at solving mazes on paper, but there is no map of this place for me to see my way through. To trace my finger along the tracks or to follow as I move along the corridors. The way I had when I was a child waiting for food at a restaurant. All I know is what I see ahead of me and what’s passed behind me. I am blind.
“Kyle, you need to calm down and think,” Ichiro says, his voice softening to soothe me. “Breathe.”
A shudder runs down my back. I take another deep breath in through my nose and release it through my mouth. My heart pounds in my chest. Blood thrums in my veins. I have to get out of here. Find the exit. Get out. Ichiro continues to murmur into the walkie-talkie. Every fiber of my being focuses on him. Getting back to him.
My intuition warns me to move slowly. To stop running. Another thrill of panic runs through me and I shudder. Hartmann is capable of so many things. She could have all sorts of traps hidden along the walls and the floors. Government money put to good use, I suppose.
“I can’t see anything, Kyle. Move slowly,” Ichiro says, and I can tell he’s worried because his accent is thicker, more of the South Korean than the formal British.
I swallow and place my hand against the wall to my right. Feeling the smooth surface of the metal. The small gaps and cracks where the panels fit together. And then there is air on my fingertips. I stop moving, my left foot dangling above the floor mid-step. There is a gap in the wall that isn’t from the panels being placed together. Rather, in the middle of the panel. A hollow space behind the panel letting breaths of cool air whisper against my fingertips. A way out? Or just a hollow space?
“Ichiro,” I say, my voice a thin whisper. I don’t know why I’m whispering. It’s not like there is anything on this floor that can hear me. Is there? “Can you see anything in this room?”
The walkie-talkie crackles and then there is silence. A musty smell like old wet dirt fills the space. This place has been here for a while, perhaps the entire time Hartmann had been building the school. Like she’d planned on having someone with my skill set enroll. Like she knew she’d need to test their talents. The idea sends a shiver through my spine. What type of research had she done that led her to this point? To conning a bunch of teenagers to a school under the pretense of saving the world when really she’d intended them to become a breeding factory for after the comet hit? To bringing those of us who seemed to have a sixth sense together to raise the world up again? If the others truly had a type of sixth sense like Ichiro and I did.
I shift my weight backward and plant my foot on the floor beside my right. Safety, as far as I can tell. I drop to my knees and crawl to the small gap in the wall. I can barely see the line where the panel is split, the gap almost invisible. Chewing on my upper lip, I crawl over to the other side and feel along the wall. It contains the same gap. Not a way out. A trap.
“There’s a hollow space in the wall on both sides,” Ichiro says, the walkie-talkie crackling back to life, and I jump, falling back onto my rump.
I squeeze my eyes shut and let a puff of air out of my mouth. “I figured.”
“There’s something round inside both sides, but I can’t tell what from the imaging.” He growls. “I’m not good at this computer stuff. I can’t toggle between infrared, x-ray, or anything else I might need. It should be you guiding me, not the other way around.”
“You can do this,” I say, standing and brushing dust off my hands and jeans. I’m glad I can’t see what lives on the floors and walls of this space. If there was rat feces or something—I shudder at the thought. “I need you to do this. Do you see any sort of trigger?”
“No,” he grunts.
In the low fluorescent lighting, I can see very little. I can’t tell if there are triggers in the floor or the wall. I need him to be my eyes. To figure out this room with me.
“Indiana Jones,” Ichiro says, and I hear a sound like the snapping of fingers.
I blink slowly, trying to keep myself from rolling my eyes though he can’t see me. Not me as a person. I’m a small dot on a computer screen wherever Hartmann has him set up watching me. “This really isn’t the time for movie trivia.”
“No. Maybe she modeled this place after Indiana Jones. The tiles are triggers.”
“You mean like pressure plates on the floor?”
“Is this a guess or fact?” I ask, looking over the tiles in the low lighting. I can’t tell if one is different from another by sight alone. Everything on this floor looks exactly the same.
“Instinct,” he says and a small burst of warmth blossoms in my chest. His instinct is kicking in. Are we so out of practice that we have forgotten how the give and take of our abilities works? The idea makes me cringe. I am the reason for that block.
“You want me to guess?”
The walkie-talkie crackles. “What do you feel?”
Nothing. I feel nothing but fear and the worry that the ceiling may start to slide down the length of the wall and crush me. But I don’t want to tell him that. To sound utterly hopeless. Before the comet hit, I didn’t worry that Hartmann might kill us. We had parents, people to return home to. Who expected to hear from us. Except for Ichiro, whose parents died when Asia sank. Now that the comet had hit and wiped out everything as far as we could tell, she has no reason to keep us alive if she doesn’t want to. And I am not living up to my end of the bargain because I won’t sleep with Ichiro.
I close my eyes. Try to hear that still small voice deep inside of me. The voice that I had neglected when the world fell apart. When I lost my brother to the comet that slammed into the earth. And she knew where they were. She could have saved them, but she didn’t. I didn’t. I’d wanted to escape my parents so badly, I left my little brother to die.
“Don’t feed the guilt,” Ichiro says, his voice cracking. I wonder how far away he is that his voice cracks through the device. “It isn’t your fault.”
I shove the thoughts of Brandon back down into the black hole deep within me and close my eyes again. Ichiro starts to ramble. I don’t know what he’s talking about. He just talks to keep me focused on him. On us. I search for that voice again. The voice that led me to Ichiro our first day at the school. That gave me my companion and friend in this place. My new family. The world falls away a little bit at a time, the black void swallowed by him. By us.
I take a tentative step onto the tile in front of me with my left foot then my right.
I shuffle my right foot onto the next tile and then my left. The tiles are small, barely enough room for both of my feet. One wrong move. One tip in the wrong direction. Whatever lives beneath these walls will do whatever they’ve been built to do. Destroy, frighten, or both.
Another tentative slide of my feet.
“Kyle!” Ichiro shouts.
I don’t question the words that burn through my entire body. The panic that surges into every limb. I drop to the ground with a hard thump, hitting my chin against the tile. My teeth clack together. Something whines behind the walls, followed by the release of a gear or a spring. Discs whir out from the slots in the walls, shooting into the opposite side. The panels scream and screech as metal hits metal. I cover my head with my hands and press myself into the tile like I’m trying to become the ground itself. Sparks fly.
“Kyle? Answer me,” Ichiro demands.
My hands tremble. I drop them from my head and look up at the walls. The discs are half-dug into their hollow panels. Teeth, jagged and sharp, stick out from the metal wheels. Large saw blades that belong in a mill somewhere. My hand slides down my side to the walkie-talkie.
“I’m fine,” I say, breathless.
“Fine? You’re fine? What were those things? What happened?” he asks, and there is a growl behind his words. Something feral that hadn’t been there when we’d first met. Something that started appearing whenever Hartman put me in danger. Because it was never him that she tested and tried. Not physically, anyway.
“Saw blades,” I say, cringing. I stand and brush myself off, feeling the fine layer of dirt and dust on the ground clinging to the sticky sweat along my entire body.
“I’ll kill her,” Ichiro swears, his voice the thick growl of a feral wolf. “Wrap my fingers around her neck and squeeze until—”
“Can you do that after I get out of here?” I ask, rubbing my chin. The metallic taste of blood fills my mouth and I realize I’ve bitten my tongue. For all his posturing, I know that Ichiro would never hurt anyone. It isn’t in his nature. Isn’t in the way he is built. I wonder if I have it in me to kill someone. The way Andy had murdered Angel.
Ichiro clears his throat. “You’re fine?”
I spit some of the blood onto the ground. Let her clean it up. “I’m fine.”
He lets out a breath. “There should be a door not far from where you are.”
“There is?” I glance up and take in the matching walls, ceiling, and floor. I don’t have to worry about springing the trap now that the blades have already shot free of their holds. Without waiting for his answer, I head down the hallway toward freedom. Toward him.