Preview #2 of my first fantasy novel, Nine Circles: In Which Liz Is Introduced

19 Mar

For those of you just tuning in, the first three pages of Nine Circles can be found here.

In the following snippet, we meet Liz for the first time. Rated PG-13 for sauciness.

Northanger Abbey (2007 TV drama)

Northanger Abbey (2007 TV drama) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nine Circles, Chapter One

Bryan’s chosen table was towards the back, where he was much less likely to be carded. He slid his father’s old brown leather jacket off, feeling overheated in the warm air. He again noticed the dark stain on the right sleeve, and made sure the seat was clean before setting it down. He wondered what could make a mark like that. With his father, you never knew—he’d been in the chemistry lab night and day, mixing all sorts of reagents. Science wasn’t exactly Bryan’s strong suit, but it seemed to come easily to Liz.

Smarter than me, he thought to himself. Yet another reason for being nervous about asking her out. Not just a pansy. Just a normal guy coming to the very rational conclusion that I don’t stand a chance with her and will probably die alone while reading my mother’s copy of Northanger Abbey.

He hadn’t seen her at the bar, but she might have been hidden by the crowd. Or she might still be working on her organic chemistry midterm. He didn’t dare tempt Fate by wandering the place looking for her.

He wondered again how turning eighteen could make twenty-one seem so very far away.

He sneaked another glance at the bar and saw a familiar larger blonde girl, who filled out a strapless black corset nearly to overflowing. She was sipping a drink and picking at a bowl of peanuts.

Bryan started to get up to go say hi, and saw her snap her head around toward a couple of guys. One had a popped collar, the other was wearing way too much hair gel. They were looking at her and laughing. Popped Collar seemed to mutter something.

“Did you have something to say?” Her blue eyes flashed, and Bryan could hear her sharp tone all the way across the bar. Conversation in her general area quieted slightly in response.

“Oh, we were just wondering where you got that shirt,” said Hair Gel. “I didn’t think stores made sizes big enough for two people to share.”

Popped Collar guffawed.

“Yeah, maybe she’s not really here alone after all—she had a boyfriend, she just ate him.”

Bryan stood up angrily and took a step towards the bar.

“You know, it’s too bad for you that you think that,” said Liz in the same sharp tone. Bryan paused halfway to the bar. A few other people from different places in the establishment were now looking at her as she got to her feet.

Bryan had a sudden vision of throwing himself on the stupid frat boys. He could crack Popped Collar’s head against the sharp corner of the bar before he knew what hit him, and he could probably take Hair Gel in a fair fight. Who’d be the pansy then?

Probably not the violent nut-job contemplating beating up two total strangers. Bryan shuddered. What was wrong with him?

He thought back to six months ago, when he was still in high school. He saw himself lunging at a guy who had insulted his father’s memory, and hitting him in the face. Knocking him down, kicking him in the stomach, in the balls, in the head, over and over and over again. Blood from his mouth staining the pavement. Yelling all around him, and Bryan unable to stop.

He shook himself. It was just a daydream. So why couldn’t he stop reliving it?

“It’s a really shallow way to see other people,” Liz was saying, “judging them by their looks, and trying to put people down when they don’t measure up to your superficial standards.”

Now the line of people sitting at the bar was looking at her, and even the bartender had paused in fixing drinks. Bryan still wanted to go and defend her, but she seemed to be doing fine on her own. Hair Gel and Popped Collar still had stupid grins on their faces, but now they glanced at each other nervously.

“Live your life that way, and you’ll never know what people are like, under the surface,” she continued. “Never see the deeper intelligence, sensitivity and kindness that makes someone really worth getting to know. You’ll just never experience that, and it’s your loss.”

Liz paused to glance at Bryan, with a twinkle in her eye, then turned back to the two boys.

“Me, for example,” she said, “I give amazing head.” She took a placid sip of her drink before continuing. “And now that door is closed to you forever.”

The bartender snickered loudly and went back to mixing drinks. A couple other girls at the bar gasped and giggled. Hair Gel and Popped Collar looked slightly worried, and Bryan decided it was time to step in.

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