Title: Of Sun & Moon
Author: Bryna Butler
Series: Book #1 of Midnight Guardian
Genre: YA (Paranormal & Romance)
Synopsis. Teens are disappearing in a small river town in southern Ohio as Keira Ryan begins her freshman year. Kidnappings aside, her worries mount as she crushes on an older guy, her best friend starts dating a spoiled cheerleader, and the parents that abandoned her at birth arrive at her doorstep. And, oh yeah, she’s a tooth fairy destined to kick some butt and bring about the end of a royal line of vicious, blood-sucking tyrants. Over the years, humans have pieced together sightings and assumptions to create the myth of the tooth fairy. As it turns out, they were pretty much wrong.
View on Goodreads
Hello, happy readers! I’m thrilled to be part of Indie Author Month. THANK YOU to all of you who support indie writers. You are truly wonderful.
As a thank you, please accept this exclusive excerpt from my book, Of Sun & Moon, the first book of the Midnight Guardian series. This specific excerpt is also our first look at the shadow creatures from my newest novel, Shadows Rising, book 4 in the series.
On this warm summer evening, friends share scary stories around the campfire. It is now time for the last one.
Everyone was seated in a circle around the campfire. The flames of the fire highlighted Ann’s red hair giving her a powerful presence. Her words came slowly and deliberately, drawing out each thought in a perfect, suspenseful pace. She could really tell a story, probably the reason why she wanted so desperately to be a journalist.
For hundreds of years, these dark woods have held a secret. Every living part of it knows the secret, from the top-most leaf on the tallest oak to the tiniest earthworm needling through the earth below. They see them. They hear them. They feel them. They fear them. They are forced to watch, with no way to stop them, no way to scream out.
“Who?” asked Theo, the youngest of the campers. His long bangs hung over his wide, puppy dog eyes. He was already sitting so far on the edge of a log that it looked as if he would tumble to the ground at any moment.
Not who, what. As the sun sets, the creatures of the forest see them creeping across the ground. The trees aren’t swaying in the breeze; they’re shuddering at the creatures’ touch as they crawl slowly up their trunks. These things are dark; darker than the moonless night. And they are everywhere. They not only infect the woods where we are camping tonight, but many other forests across the entire globe. To humans, they look like normal , everyday shadows, yet the denizens of the woods know them as more. They know their true mission. They know what the creatures are looking for.
Ann shifted in her seat, providing an excuse for a dramatic pause. She sat back to see if her story was gaining traction with the boys. It was. They were all ears and eager for more. Not one of them stirred as the campfire crackled. They waited anxiously for her to continue.
Oh, I see, you want to know what they’re looking for. That’s easy. They only want one thing. They’re looking for blood, human blood. The shadows latch onto their victims. They roll over the victims face, covering their mouth and nose. It’s no use to fight or to gasp for breath. They will continue to hold until their victim loses consciousness. Then, this poor person is dragged across the woodland floor to a hiding place where the shadows leave them to find their next victim. If a victim should regain consciousness while the shadows are away, the unfortunate soul would still find himself lost in the shadows’ hiding place deep in the woods, soon to be re-captured by the creatures. There is no hope.
I know this seems like a terrible fate, but you must understand we’ve only just begun this cautionary tale. For you see, the shadows are just errand boys. It’s their master that is the real monster of the story. The shadows only attack during the full moon. The moon’s glow gives them form. The shadows hunt and take victim after victim. Once they
have collected enough bodies; they call their master, a beast that they have named Emperor. He is a monster that is very different from the shadows. He feeds off the blood from the humans that the lowly shadows have captured. In fact, when the shadows call their master, there’s a celebration. Well, more like a wild party, where helpless folks are paraded before the Emperor.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This Emperor is not a vampire. He doesn’t consume blood to survive. He does it because he wants to. He enjoys it. He loves it. He craves it like chocolate. And he, like others of his kind, is especially fond of the blood of leaders and important people; their blood is like a lip smacking delicacy.
Do you remember that I said that once you’re in the clutches of a shadow, there’s no hope? Well, there was an exception. It’s a story about a girl who got away. It happened before we were even born. She was a teenager from Huntington.
Young Theo gulped, realizing that the city of Huntington, West Virginia, was just less than an hour from where they were now.
She was smart and beautiful. She was a born leader. You know the type; cheer captain and honor roll regular. In other words, she made the perfect dessert for the Emperor. She was camping in these very woods with her parents during the 4th of July weekend. She was a typical teenage girl, not too keen about sleeping in the dirt and bugs. So, her parents decided to sleep under the stars and the full moon, allowing her to have the entire tent to herself. They were already fast asleep when she turned on her book light and began flipping through the pages of the most current bestseller. She was so focused on the novel that she didn’t even notice the shadows growing around her until it was too late.
She woke up in the middle of a great party. There were sounds of laughter, music, and talking. She could tell that she was in a clearing at the top of a hill. A hollowed tree, towering more than twenty feet, burned in the center of a giant bonfire. The light that it emitted was so bright, that it took a long time for her eyes to adjust. But, once they did, she wished that she was still blinded. She didn’t want to see that the guests to this party were not human.
These dark figures looked like mythical demons. She looked again and could see something large a few feet away. It was blocking her view. What is that, she wondered, as her eyes adjusted to the light provided by the overwhelming flames of the bonfire. Is it a log or a boulder? But no, she was horrified to realize that it was a grown man, awake but paralyzed, lying in a pool of his own blood. The only thing he could do was scream; which only thrilled the shadows more. Unable to look at the sinister celebration, the girl tried to move, but found that her ankles were bound. She looked up to see a man dressed in a black cloak seated in a chair. I’m saved she thought, until she realized that the legs of his chair straddled her legs, essentially penning her to the ground. He appeared to be cheering the creatures on only stopping to jokingly warn them to not play with his food.
Too distracted by the scene before him, he hadn’t yet noticed that she was conscious. She gathered her fear and put it aside. She pulled her knees to her chest and with everything she had in her, kicked her captor’s chair. It went tumbling toward the bonfire with the cloaked man landing squarely on his head. She bobbled to her feet. They were still bound together tightly at the ankles so she began to hop. She hopped like she was in a sack race for her life. She could hear the creatures screeching behind her. If she could make it to the slope, she could roll down and away. It was too steep for the monsters to follow. It was probably too steep for her to survive, but it was her only chance. There was hope just a few hops away.
The cloaked man jumped in front of her. His eyes glowed. He snarled at her and with inhuman speed and strength, spun her around. Holding her back to his chest with one arm, he lifted his other hand. As his wide sleeve fell, she could see his long, sharp fingernails. With the precision of a surgeon, he sliced into her upper arm and began to drink of her blood. He was delighted by her sweet taste, almost to the point of giddiness. He was so engrossed in savoring every drop of her blood, that he didn’t notice that she had wriggled free from the bindings on her ankles. She jumped straight up and braced both feet on his thighs. Startled, he quit drinking and grabbed her arms. She mustered all her remaining strength and pushed off with her legs. The two toppled over, off balance, hitting the ground hard. He let go with the impact, just as she had prayed he would. As soon as she touched grass, she tucked her arms and began to roll. She hit the edge of the meadow and down the hill’s treacherous slope. She rolled over downed branches and sharp rocks, until she reached the bottom and could no longer hear the Emperor’s mad shrieking.
Let me just say that you should be thankful for the dark sky tonight. The shadows won’t be hunting, but they’ll be back soon, to stalk their prey under the light of the full moon.
When she finished, it was completely silent. Later, Jumper described it by saying that even the crickets were choked with fear. Then, everyone burst into hoots and applause. “100 watts will light up every inch of my little tent. I get it now,” Colby chuckled to himself.
Deciding that there was no way to top it, the campers separated to retire to their sleeping bags. Jumper’s Dad gave him permission to walk her back to the park office where she was meeting her parents. The path was not long, but there were no lamp posts. The quarter moon shone brightly above, creating an eerie, shimmering effect on the grass. Jumper grabbed his flashlight and the two started off hand-in-hand.
“That was some story, babe,” Jumper remarked.
“Thanks Jump. I’m just so happy that I got to come tonight and see you.”
“Yeah, about that, how did you talk your parents into driving you all this way just to spend a few hours with me? Did they have another reason to come all this way?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Trust me. Hey, I have to go to the little girls’ room, so I’m gonna head into the park office. If my folks aren’t in the parking lot when I’m done; I’ll just wait inside with the rangers. Why don’t you go ahead and start back?”
Jumper could see a couple of park rangers inside the office. “If you’re sure?”
“Well, okay.” He gently brushed her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ears. “It really did mean a lot to me that you showed up tonight. I love it that you scared the guys. You’re a really cool chick.” He kissed her goodnight and headed back up the trail.
She stood there thinking, a satisfied smile spread across her face. Who would have ever thought that Jumper Johnson could be so sweet? Maybe this would work. Maybe it wouldn’t be a total disaster if he knew the truth. Once he was out of sight, she turned on her heel and her body began to fade out of sight. A sonic boom echoed through the woods. She was gone.
About the Author