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(Let's try this a final time. I have the except and info here and pulled the off-site link out so it should show properly).
It's taken forever to get this out, but the 4th John Taylor book is final and ready to go.
Chapters will start posting here a week from tomorrow on Sat. Nov 23rd, and will post once a week like my other stories (the whole thing will post up).
For those interested in reading the whole thing early, all details are up on my twitter tstarnes_author or on my author site (which is linked through my profile here).
Here's an except from the first chapter:
"This isn't yours," Loretta Whitaker said, her voice rising in frustration more than anger.
"I just wanted to be seeing what it looked like. You can keep it. It is ugly color, anyway."
"That's not the ... " Whitaker started to reply before being cut off by a slamming door.
Taylor leaned his head back, squeezing his eyes shut, knowing what was going to happen next.
"You need to do something," Whitaker said in an annoyed, but no longer yelling, tone.
"I'll talk to her."
"This needs to stop. I know she's been through a lot, but she needs to start learning to respect other people's property."
Taylor sighed and stood up. It had been six months since Kara had come to live with them and this was a somewhat regular occurrence by now. Taylor couldn't blame Whitaker for her frustration. The first two months had been very rough. Kara was prone to outbreaks of screaming, a complete defiance of any kind of structure or order, and was constantly trying to pick fights.
Things had started getting better, even Whitaker would admit to that, some of the time at least.
Kara still had quirks. She did not want to be touched, ever. No hugs, no handshakes, no contact at all if she could avoid it. She still woke up with pretty violent nightmares. Still, a lot of the anger had started to recede. They'd even recently been able to shift from three times a week therapy to just once a week, her shrink saying she was making excellent progress.
Even though the fights were down to just once or twice a week it was still tough on Whitaker, who was almost always the target. She'd been amazingly patient, not holding a grudge against the teenager and not staying mad for that long after each fight ended. It was putting a strain on their relationship.
"I'm not mad," she said, letting out a long breath. "Just try and get her to stay out of our room. Okay?"
Taylor stopped in front of her, his arms snaking around her middle.
"I'm sorry this has been so tough on you," he said for the hundredth time.
"I know, and it's getting better. I just ... I'm trying not to take it personally, because of everything she ..."
"She doesn't hate you, you know that, right? She just doesn't have all the tools you or I have for dealing with conflict."
"I see you talked to her doctor again," Whitaker said with a smile, knowing that wasn't a phrase Taylor would normally have used.
"She reminded me of something."
"What was that?"
"That not every outburst is about her past trauma. She reminded me that, besides everything else, we also took in a teenage girl. She said we should expect some push back, that it was healthy."
"God," Whitaker said, pulling out of Taylor's embrace, putting her hands on her hips, and looking at the ceiling. "If I was even a tenth this bad, I really feel for my parents. I should call my mom and apologize."
"I'd say 'I'm sure you weren't,' but we both know that would be a lie," Taylor said with a smile.
Whitaker rolled her eyes and headed towards their room, "Just go talk to her and do your thing. Otherwise, you get to live with two pissed off women."
He heard a snort come from Whitaker's direction as he headed to the other bedroom in their apartment, glad to see she at least had her sense of humor intact.
"Kara," Taylor said, knocking on her door. "Can I come in?"
There was a pause, then the door opened, the girl's red hair flapping as she turned and stomped back to sit on her bed.
"She sent you to yell at me, yes?"
"It's not like that and you know it."
"Mne prishlos' imet' delo," Kara started to say before Taylor put up a hand.
"In English, please. Your tutor asked us to keep you using it at home as much as possible, for practice."
"Fine," she said, her lower lip going out in a pout. "I deal with bitches before, blaming anything that went missing ..."
"I thought you admitted to taking it?"
"How are you being blamed for something going missing if you admitted to taking it?"
"Whatever," she said, the pout becoming more pronounced.
"Early on, you demanded we stay out of your room unless invited."
"So, we've done that, right?"
"Don't you think if we've agreed to stay out of your stuff, and out of your room, that you should do the same thing for us?"
"I just wanted to find different color lipstick. I didn't like any I have."
"Did you try asking her if you could look through and borrow something?"
There was a long pause.
Taylor let out a sigh. His personality wasn't really cut out for being the calm, rational one. If anything Whitaker should be the one to do this, she was much better suited for calm, dispassionate reasoning. He'd always been the shoot first and ask questions later kind of person. And yet, he was the only one, aside from Kara's shrink and Mary Jane, the girl who'd been held captive with her the previous winter, that Kara could deal with on any kind of rational basis.
They'd already gone through three tutors because of it. Thank goodness Suzette Caldwell, Mary Jane's still very thankful and very rich mother had felt the need to pay for both the tutors and the psychiatrists for Kara, in return for Kara's help in freeing her daughter.
"Then why are you mad? Because she got mad or because she called you out?"
"I don't... I don't want lecture."
"I get that. You've been on your own for a long time, and you don't need anyone telling you what you should or shouldn't be doing, right?"
"Right," she said, her face taking on a determined expression.
"So, what lecture did she give you? Was it the 'You need to be more responsible' one? Or maybe the 'You should respect other people's property' one? Just let me know which lecture she gave you, and I'll go talk to her and make sure she understands what to avoid. Ok?"
"Umm, I ..."
"Problem?" Taylor asked, raising an eyebrow.
"She didn't say things like that."
"So what did she say? I can't go and talk to Loretta and fix this if I don't know what happened."
"She said she didn't want me taking her things."
"Huh. Ok. I mean, I've heard you say that before, like that time you misplaced one of your books and thought she took it. That's a lecture?"
"It wasn't words she said, it was how she say it."
"She screamed at you?"
"She said it really mean?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what," Taylor said innocently. "I'm just trying to understand what happened."
"You know what you're doing," Kara said, dropping back into Russian. "You're trying to get me all confused. You know exactly what I mean and why I'm pissed."
"I do," Taylor said in the same language. "However, I think why you think you're angry isn't why you're actually angry."
"Okay smart man, why am I angry?"
"Because you want to establish dominance, and she's a tough nut to crack. It's what you learned, dealing with the other girls ... before. You didn't have control of your life, so the parts you could control, you each wanted to be on top. It's what you know, and you haven't convinced yourself yet that you don't have to do that here. Also, let's go back to English, please."
She made a Phfff sound and said in English, "Shows what you know."
"Ok, maybe I don't. I'm not a shrink, hell, that was all BS anyways. Maybe it's something you should think about though. I want you to consider something."
"She's welcomed you into our home. Not just welcomed, but she's really tried to let you make it feel like your home. When you wanted to paint this room, she got it ok'd by the landlord, right?"
"When you said you missed food from home, she learned to make several dishes you said you liked, right?"
"They weren't great, but yeah."
"She's trying. You can see that, right?"
"So maybe cut her some slack. This hasn't been easy for her, either. Maybe it's not as big of a change as you've had to deal with, and maybe she doesn't have as much baggage to deal with, but it's still been tough on her, too. But she's trying, 'cause she wants all the things you want for yourself."
"She never says anything to me."
"Have you told her that you actually like her, too?"
"No ... I don't ..."
"Come on, I've seen you doing little things around here to help out when you think no one's looking. I've seen you around her, when you're not angry. You like her, a little bit."
"She's ok," Kara said but didn't make eye contact.
"And have you told her you think she's ok. That you like living here with us?"
"You know, you two are more alike than you think. Maybe that's why you're butting heads with her so much. You're both very proud, and don't want anyone to think you can't do everything all by yourself."
"And you're not too proud?"
"Hell no. I'm constantly asking people for help getting out of my screw-ups."
A small burble of laughter escaped Kara's throat in spite of herself, belying the angry exterior she'd been trying to maintain.
"You have that right. You are mess."
"You better believe it. So, are we done with all the yelling and slamming doors?"
Kara let out an exaggerated sigh and said, "Yes, I'm done."
"Great. I was about to talk Loretta into sitting down and streaming a movie. Wanna join us?"
"Fine, but I don't want to watch any of her silly crying girl movies," she said, brushing past Taylor.
'Great,' Taylor thought, 'something else they can fight about.'
He headed out of Kara's room, closing the door behind him and crossed to the room he shared with Whitaker, knocking softly on it as he opened the door.
"Hey babe, we ..."
Taylor stopped abruptly as Whitaker held a finger up to her lips, the other hand cradling her cell phone against her ear.
"Got it. Give us thirty minutes."
She snapped the phone closed and turned to Taylor.
"Problems?" he asked at her expression.
"Yeah, Joe wants us to come up to a meeting at his office that's going on right now."
Joe was Joe Solomon, Whitaker's boss and a man that had very little use or patience for Taylor, who he saw as some kind of amateur interloper who regularly stuck his nose into bureau cases.
"Yes, us. He was very specific he actually needed you in the meeting."
"Joe's calling *me* in on a job?" Taylor asked, his tone rising in disbelief.
"I don't know if it's a job, he just said something was going down, and he wanted to see you in his office ASAP."
"Shit. What'd I do to piss him off now?"
"I don't know if you did anything, but it sounded serious. We need to get going."
"Fine. Man, I just got Kara off her rampage, now I gotta tell her movie night's off."
The last 2 chapters of The Wrong Girl post up today. I hope everyone enjoyed the story.
Next up will be the next part of the Destiny Saga, but there will be a break in my posting while I finish writing it. About half way done so hopefully you'll be able to see it soon.
The first chapter of the next John Taylor book starts posting today (usually 8am-10am US Eastern time, but it depends on when Mods push through submissions).
As I said, the entire book is finished, and you are guaranteed a chapter a week, every Wed, come rain or shine. This book ended up about 30k words longer than the last two in the series, which is good. I'm super happy with the way this turned out, and I hope you will enjoy it.
Here we go. The next Taylor book starts posting next Wed. As usually, it is complete and I will load everything up in the system so you are guaranteed to get it all if you're patient. (New Chapters ever Wed.)
If you're not patient, you can pre-order it here (and buy it after the 11th, it goes on sale the same day chapter 1 posts here.
Here is a preview of what you'll see:
His breathing filled the otherwise silent room, the sound flooding her ears as she huddled against the wall, knees pulled tight against her chest. She knew he was standing in front of her, watching. Just like she'd done with the monsters she once thought lived under her bed, she kept her eyes pressed closed, hoping he'd go away. She knew it was absurd, of course. He would still be there when she opened her eyes. But it was human nature to hope for the absurd, when all real options were gone.
And Samantha Thompson knew her options were gone.
Just five days before, she'd been a normal, happy kid. More than halfway through the fifth grade, fresh from winter break, Samantha had been in a great mood. Even her mom being late for pick up after soccer practice and not answering her cell phone hadn't ruined Samantha's day. So, when a teacher asked if she needed a ride, she only hesitated for a moment before agreeing.
Sure, she'd been given lectures about never accepting rides from strangers, but this wasn't a stranger. It wasn't even just any teacher. Mr. Brown was her favorite teacher. He'd always been nice to her, always cheered her on when she'd tried her best on an assignment, and her mom always had good things to say about him to other parents.
So, Samantha decided it was safe to get a ride home from him.
For five days, she had thought of little else but that decision. Samantha knew, in her heart, it had been the decision that was going to cost her life. She'd spent most of the last week in the dark, silent room terrified, with nothing to occupy her except dwelling on the choices she'd made. Samantha couldn't remember everything that had happened over the past week. A lot of it was a blur, as her mind protected her from the worst moments, blocking out the traumatic memories or shutting down when things got too bad. The parts she could remember, however, she wished she couldn't.
She trembled as the breathing came closer, squeezing her eyes closed tighter, holding her breath.
"Open your eyes, Sam," Mr. Brown said.
Samantha hated how he knew she liked to be called Sam. The intimate way he used her nickname made her skin crawl.
She shook her head, refusing to look at him. She knew if she looked, he'd look like the teacher she remembered. His voice, however, had changed completely. Gone was the familiar baritone that greeted her in the morning for class. This voice had no trace of friendliness, no hint of caring. This voice was cold and heartless. Samantha was certain this was what the Devil sounded like. Each time he spoke, it sent shivers down her spine.
"Open them," he said, his raised voice becoming an angry growl.
She felt something sharp and metallic pressing against her throat. Her eyes snapped open. His hair was different, blond instead of the brown it'd been, and he wore glasses now. Samantha thought that was strange, yesterday he had looked the same as before.
A tear made its way down her cheek, bouncing off the blade of the knife.
"Don't worry," he said, using an almost mocking imitation of the voice she'd once looked forward to hearing. "It's going to be over very soon. Shhh . . . don't cry."
Samantha looked into his eyes and could see it. She knew this was the end.
A sudden, thunderous crash made both of them jump, the knife pulling away from her throat as Mr. Brown twisted to look at the door to the small bedroom; or rather, what had once been a door. The frame was splintered and cracked along its length, showing the light brown of wood that hid under the sterile white paint, as the door itself swung in the other direction and banged against the wall before the top hinge shattered, leaving it hanging at an angle.
In the now open doorway stood a man, his foot following through the opening after smashing through the obstruction. He wore a leather jacket, blue jeans, a plain T-shirt, and his face was covered in dark brown stubble. Samantha took all that in as she watched him enter the room. The things she couldn't keep her eyes off, though, were his hands.
He was holding a large, black gun steady in front of him, pointed in their direction. If she'd thought the sound of the door caving in was loud, the next sound was deafening. She watched as fire leaped from the end of the gun, and the entire room filled with its report.
Mr. Brown let out a howl of pain and fell away from her, clutching his shoulder as the knife went skittering across the room. Samantha tried to scrunch closer against the wall, if that was even possible, as the man strode the handful of steps between them and stood over Mr. Brown, who now lay on the floor next to her. Pointing the large gun at her former teacher, the stranger looked at him with a cold hatred.
His face was as scary as anything she'd seen from her abductor. Even a child could read the rage in his expression, as he aimed the weapon.
Mr. Brown was crying now. Not just crying, blubbering. He begged for his life. Samantha could smell an ammonia stink as the front of the tan slacks Mr. Brown wore darkened. She couldn't tear her eyes off the stranger as he glared at Mr. Brown.
She wasn't sure what noise she made, maybe a squeak, and she didn't even remember making it. But the man turned, still pointing the gun at Mr. Brown, and looked at her. The rage on his face remained but changed slightly as they made eye contact. The anger softened, and his brow furrowed. He turned his head to look at Mr. Brown then back to look at Samantha again.
He did this twice more before letting out a deep sigh and sliding the weapon into a holster at his belt, behind his back. Reaching into a pocket, the stranger pulled out several black zip ties. Kneeling, he rolled Mr. Brown over on his stomach while keeping a tight hold on the injured arm.
Mr. Brown screamed in pain then grunted as the man put his knee in her former teacher's back and pressed. Grabbing one hand then the other, the stranger wrenched Mr. Brown's arms behind his back, which brought another round of screaming. Although Mr. Brown alternated between howling in pain and a ragged form of crying, he didn't fight the stranger. In moments the zip ties were locked tight, pressing Mr. Brown's hands together.
Standing, the stranger put his foot on the now bound hands of the sobbing Mr. Brown and pulled out a phone, dialing a number.
"Hey, I found her," he said into the phone.
His voice was gruff, but not mean.
He listened to something from the other end and swiveled his head to look down at Samantha.
"She looks fine. Physically I mean. You can guess at . . . yeah, probably."
He paused again as the person on the other end spoke some more then said, "Six-one-five Cherry Blossom . . . Yeah, still alive. He probably needs an ambulance. Make sure they know to check on the girl first, this asshole can wait."
The stranger pressed his foot harder, smashing Mr. Brown's fingers into his back, eliciting renewed cries of pain.
"Tell them we're in the back. And make sure they know not to go all 'Rambo' through the door, and shoot me . . . alright, thanks."
Putting the phone back in his pocket, the stranger crouched next to Samantha, his arms resting on his knees with his weight on the balls of his feet. Looking into her eyes, the stranger directly acknowledged her for the first time. His eyes were nothing like those of Mr. Brown's. Gone was the rage she'd seen before, when he was standing over the teacher. That had been replaced by dark brown pools radiating warmth and sympathy.
"Sam, my name's John. Your parents sent me to find you."
Last 2 chapters of False Signs are up. There will be a 2 week break and then the new Taylor story will start posting. More info on that coming next week.
I hope everyone has enjoyed this installment in the Taylor series.
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