If you follow my works on Wattpad, you might see that my most read novel (at over 1 million reads) is called 'Beneath: A Slayer Chronicle'. It's a story I began when I was sixteen (over a decade ago) after a particularly vivid dream, fuelled with an obsession for Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My first draft of this story was average, as expected of a new writer. My second draft, and the one available on Wattpad, is better, though not entirely polished. Readers fell in love with it. I think I did too, in a new and exciting way. Maybe that's why I pumped out four more books in the series.
In any case, the draft I have recently completed (after a series of Beta reads and many many years of re-reads/re-writes, I think - and hope - will be the one submitted to publishers. I haven't tried yet, but I will. Because I think this story slides nicely into the YA fantasy genre. It comes with a never-before-seen fictional world I created entirely on my own. It has mythological and made-up monsters, slow-burn romance, adventure, wit and of course high-stakes. It will also be one that my Wattpad fans will buy in paperback, I'm sure of it. So, without further ado, here is the revised Chapter 1 of 'Beneath'.
Tequila shots are awful. Godawful.
I’m full of regret over the last thirty minutes spent pitched against the liquor table on the back porch of Chloe Stone’s Edwardian mansion, choking down pitiful mouthfuls of the worst alcoholic substance there is. My best friend Ally has abandoned me to go flirt with some guy who isn’t her boyfriend, and I don’t care enough about ninety percent of the people here to strike up a conversation with them. Tequila seemed a fool-proof method in order to get this night over with in a hurry. It now feels as though the shots will see me passed out in a perfectly-clipped hedge by the time midnight strikes.
Translucent shot glass pinched between my fingers, I swallow the nausea building in my stomach.
Someone wraps a bony arm around my shoulder and scares me half to death. The shot glass is bumped from my hand and rolls across the walkway, plopping into the pool.
“Ally—what are you doing?!”
“Oops. Sorry!” Ally releases me with a chuckle, stumbling a little. “Skye, I just met the absolute cutest guy. I mean I love Dylan but … goddamn, he was gorgeous. Like dangerously gorgeous.”
My stomach churns. I press my palm over it uncertainly. “I don’t feel well.”
Ally inspects a bottle of sinfully dark liquor with a distasteful grimace. The charm bracelet her grandmother handed down to her jingles upon her wrist. “That’ll be the tequila, my friend. You need something with a little less crackle and a little more pop.”
“I’m either too drunk to understand what that means,” I say, “or not drunk enough.”
Upon the dance floor, teenagers drift back and forth to the heavy music as if submerged underwater. Chloe Stone’s mansion is bordered by one of the national parks; a thicket of spooky beech trees and tall, overbearing oaks. It’s the perfect cover for Westwood High’s legendary back-to-school party. A party I’d have preferred to avoid at all costs.
Having found her drink of choice—Sambuca, I think—Ally cleans two more glasses with the hem of her punk-rock shirt and pours us each a shot. “I’m going to go with not drunk enough,” she says pointedly. “And don’t you dare say what I think you’re about to say.”
“That I want to call Dad and have him pick me up so I can go home, take off my bra and read a good book?”
“Yes. And no, you can’t. This is our senior year, Skye! I know you think everyone here is embarrassing themselves, but these memories will get you through college and the next forty years of your working life! You’ll look back on these ratchet parties and say “remember when we used to be fun?” It’s a time to be silly, to get drunk and hook up with boys with cold lips and bad acne.”
I grimace. “Or—” Flashing a manic grin, I drop my shot glass back on the table. “You and I both go home and make memories of our own in the comfort of my bedroom?”
She snorts a laugh. “Thanks, but I’m taken.”
Some people don’t seem to think so.
Her gaze fixates upon mine, eyes like burnt toffee glistening with the kind of sympathy that is both melancholy and fed up. “Let’s be real for a second. You’re cranky because of tomorrow, aren’t you? Because of Brett’s anniversary?”
I turn my gaze to the fluorescent-blue surface of the pool, contemplating jumping in.
It will never get easier, thinking about the day my older brother disappeared. A year after it happened, I thought I’d moved on. I went to school cheerful and ready for the stereotypical dramas of Sophomore year. The day turned out to be as dull as I’d hoped, until I came home from school and Mom announced that she and Dad were getting a divorce. So no matter what I do, the first day of school will always feel like the end of the world. Fortunately, this is the last time I’ll endure it.
“Something like that,” I murmur.
“Well. On that note.” Ally hands me back my shot, clinks her glass with mine and we drink. Licorice slithers down my throat, the slow, sweet burn far easier to stomach than tequila. “This will definitely help you forget about tomorrow.” She squeezes my hand, forever optimistic. “And so will dancing with wasted, post-pubescent men. Ohmigod there he is, that’s him! That’s the hot guy I was talking to before!”
I follow Ally’s awe-struck gaze to a handsome stranger weaving around the pool. He glances at me with eyes darker than obsidian stone and my breath catches in my throat. He has to be in college, perhaps even older than that. There’s a certain timeless shadow about him.
“You were talking to him?”
She scoffs. “Don’t sound so surprised, I’m attractive.”
“He was looking for Chloe, wasn’t he?”
She slumps. “Yeah.”
I resist the urge to laugh.
“Alright.” Ally refills our shot glasses. “Let’s cheers to our senior year, to making memories, aaaaand … finding you a boyfriend.”
I cheers her, even though hell will freeze over before I find any of the guys in the mundane town of Westwood even remotely interesting or worth my energy.
“Do you wanna dance?” Ally sways to the music, her short copper hair bobbing on sharp shoulders.
“No, I think I’m gonna take a walk.”
Her eyes widen knowingly. “Oh, I get it; you want to go and find that delicious guy, don’t you?” Before I can answer, she slaps me on the ass. “Off you go! I should probably see if Dylan has ghosted already…”
The giant outdoor pool would have rippled from the pounding of the heavy base, had it not been occupied by splashing teens in barely any clothing, ditching empty bottles at each other and laughing at their own daring. I look halfheartedly for the tall stranger, but truthfully, I’m not a chaser. I don’t scour parties for potentials just so I can have a bed to sleep in at the end of the night. In fact, I barely go to parties to begin with.
Setting off across the lawn, I slip into the clearing of trees. As I make my way down a dark, forgotten path, the music becomes distant. I relish in the peace, the solitude. This is more my style; a dark forest close enough to people but just far enough to teeter on the edge of danger. I’m comfortable and clear-minded, until the temporary high of our shots wears off and I start to imagine that I’m the stupid minor character at the beginning of a horror movie, with blonde hair and big boobs, doomed to be killed off before the main title appears. Except that right now, my hair is flat and greasy and I don’t have half as much boob required for the role.
A twig snaps. I freeze. The whisper of the woods is a phantom chuckle that creeps under my skin. And I swear—swear—that something small and green like a gremlin just skittered through the trees. Trees that are now glowing with thumping arteries. What the hell was in that Sambuca?
Shaking away the wild thoughts brimming in the forefront of my mind, I sit down upon a fallen oak in a shrouded clearing and wrap my arms around my chest. A bright moon glimmers high above and the sounds of the forest seem to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The chirping of crickets. The rustling of nesting birds. The nervous flutter of my heart.
“ARGH!” I scream and whirl around.
The tall, dark and impossibly handsome guy from the pool steps out of a withering tree trunk’s shadow. His hands are shoved in his pockets, perfect face cut in half by the darkness of the woods and a ribbon of moonlight. The night has a rare chill for August, but in his presence, I become impossibly warm.
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He recedes into the fog behind him.
“Wait!” I urge. “Don’t go, I was just ... I needed to get away from the ... loud music, and fl ... menger—” I shut my mouth the second I stop making sense. That’s the last time I mix tequila with Sambuca.
His chuckle tickles the hair upon the back of my neck. “Yes, I find these sorts of soirees equally dull. May I join you?” He gestures to the log.
I scoot aside, just as taken aback by his interest in keeping me company as I am by the old-fashioned way in which he talks; with the ghost of a British lilt.
“Serene, isn’t it?” He gazes up toward the heavens. “The stars are magnificent. I haven’t had but a moment to appreciate stars like this in…” He trails off, lost in his own world. I can’t seem to figure out if he’s beautiful because I’m tipsy, or if he simply has an excellent skincare routine.
“It’s better now that I have company,” I say. “Before you came, I was scared a big, ugly monster was going to come out of those trees and—” hiccup, “—eat me.”
His pleasant smile fades. “You shouldn’t be frightened of those monsters, Skye.”
That’s weird, he knows my name. “Why, because I’m too old for that?”
“No. Because monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Often the most dangerous are those that don’t look like monsters at all.”
I purse my lips and peer at him, wondering if he’s being ironic. I’m too swept away to care. Skin as white and clear as the moon above shines in contrast to his dark, omnipresent eyes. The sharp points of his perpendicular cheekbones meet like the tip of an iceberg. His lips are poison-apple red, swooning me into temptation as the song of the sea draws willing sailors into its depths. Yet despite his physical allure, I hear his own words in the back of my mind. The echo is shattering.
Often the most dangerous are those that don’t look like monsters at all.
“Is something the matter?” he asks.
“I’m sorry.” I shake my head in embarrassment. His slender fingers slide against one another in his lap, pale and delicate as white ash. “You were saying you haven’t seen stars in a while?”
“Yes, I … I hope to again, soon.”
“Are you allergic to the night or something?”
I look up from his hands to find his face a mere inch from mine. I forget to breathe.
“Quite the opposite,” he purrs darkly, his voice a trap I fall willingly into. A paper-white hand cups my cheek.
I don’t ask questions like I should or pull away like my conscience orders me to. I merely close my eyes and hold my breath, because I want this to happen, desperately, as if he is the air I need to live. His lips touch mine and I wonder what in the world could be better than kissing this dark, seductive, dangerously beautiful monster when suddenly—
“Ow!” I pull away, tasting blood.
Even in the darkness, it’s impossible not to see his blazing, crimson eyes. I choke. Bile surges up my throat. My entire body freezes and I become hypnotized by the monstrosity of his demonic face. Sunken, gray and hollow, like a plastic Halloween mask.
“I knew it,” he purrs with malicious thirst. White fangs dipped in blood slither over his bottom lip. “Different. Don’t move. Don’t speak. Remain calm.”
My eyes are wide with shock as his head dips, bending down to my neck. My hair flicks lightly off my shoulders. I close my throat to hold back a scream.
The vampire’s bite is like a shard of ice and a river of white-hot fire, all at once. It darkens my world and sends me spinning into frightening oblivion. For a moment, it feels as if death might appear to take me for his own. Then, color begins to form and the ice replenishes me. The fire breathes warmth into my body. I find that I don’t care if he is a monster, or that I might not live through this. I don’t care for anything.
Let it drown me in an ocean of flames and snow.
I like it.
(for a bit of visual content, see my Pinterest Page for 'BENEATH')