Whoo! I’m posting! It is the preview of Nocturna like I said it would be, but I decided to spoil all of you and give you two chapters instead of just one! If you’re curious, you can read the first version here, which I highly recommend since it changed a lot. I am currently halfway through rewriting the book and I intend to finish it before Thanksgiving. I’ll still have to go back and edit it before I can publish it, but I’m thinking of releasing it in September next year as a gift for subscribing to my website. Then I’ll publish it on the 5th year anniversary of Nocturna‘s published date in November.
Enjoy the first two new chapters!
Terror spiked in Valon’s veins as arms wrapped around him, caging him, stopping him from escaping. A large cloth-covered hand clamped over his mouth, muffling his screams. Then he was dragged backwards into the shadows of an alley. The man who held him shifted his grip, allowing Valon to see his face. His narrowed eyes burned amber and a wicked grin distorted his scarred lips.
“Sweet dreams,” his kidnapper chuckled, his voice low and gravelly as Valon finally slumped back into his chest. A few weak shoves did nothing but make him laugh. Valon’s heart beat loudly in his chest, echoing in his ears. No one would save him. By the time anyone realized he was gone, it would be too late. The surrounding noises began to slip away and Valon’s jaw dropped open in one last desperate attempt.
“Help me,” he choked out, his raspy voice barely audible even to himself.
“No one can save you now,” his kidnapper murmured in his ear before hoisting his body over his shoulder. Valon dangled off of him, limp and boneless as a rag doll. The world spun as he carried him out of the alley then faded to black as his kidnapper reached his car, opening the trunk with a click of his car keys.
~ * ~
Valon stopped the timer, breathing heavily as he looked down at the bright numbers on the dark screen. “Eleven minutes, twelve seconds! Twenty seconds better than yesterday!” he cheered, pushing his round glasses up the bridge of his nose. He took a swig of his water, skimming over the time on his phone and almost choking on his mouthful. Shit! His mom wanted him to stop at home for lunch before he went over to Sara’s. She hated that he spent his whole fall break preparing for his school’s track and field team instead of spending time with his family, especially since the season wouldn’t begin until spring.
It was his last year at Adalyn Hall, the private secondary school located in their hometown, and if he wanted to get a scholarship to Yale—his dad’s alma mater—track and field needed to be a priority. At least he was still enjoying his break. He was hanging out with a group of friends later at the mall, one last get-together before school resumed. Since Adalyn Hall was ranked number one in the country for its rigorous studies, the students didn’t get much free time to relax, so Valon planned to enjoy his last day off as much as possible.
He jogged down the street, grabbing a quick pick-me-up at the nearby gas station, and then walked back to their modest two-story home. His mom preferred to live a quiet lifestyle in Upstate New York instead of where his dad worked as the state governor. It forced his dad to commute to and from his office in Albany back to Larissa every day, but it worked for him.
Valon grinned when he spotted his mom as he walked in the kitchen side door. He held up the made-to-order sandwich he grabbed from the shop when she opened her mouth. “Grabbed something on the way back,” he told her, walking by and pressing a kiss to her cheek.
She sighed, shaking her head with a fond grin as she turned back to the sink to clean off her brushes. She still wore her rumpled apron over her sweatpants and tank top. Once again, her apron was covered with paint. “Well, welcome home, Valon,” she said instead, wiping her hands on a dishcloth.
“Ah, honey, you have paint on your cheek again,” his dad said, standing up from the kitchen table where he worked on his laptop and walking over to her. He grinned, wiping off the blotch of blue with his thumb, and Valon’s mom giggled like a schoolgirl, a bright red blush brightening her cheeks that his dad leaned in to kiss.
Valon rolled his eyes, gagging at his little sister, Kylie, who was rooting through the pantry. She snickered then turned back to her task. With three long strides, Valon captured her in his arms, laughing as she squirmed in his grip before he pinned down her arms and gave her a noogie.
“Stop! You’re ruining my hair!” the thirteen-year-old complained, trying to smooth down her chestnut curls. They had both inherited it from their mother, along with her bright green eyes. His dad, on the other hand, had blue eyes behind glasses like Valon’s and straight blond hair that was streaked silver from stress, but it was only noticeable if someone looked hard enough.
Valon grinned unapologetically and Kylie huffed, elbowing him in the stomach and making him grunt and curl in on himself. That gave her more than enough time to snatch the bag of sugar out of the pantry and dance away from his grip before he recovered.
“Valon, Kylie, no fighting,” their mom said, not even turning to look at them as she stirred a bowl of batter.
“Here’s the sugar, Mom,” Kylie said sweetly, offering it up to her. With difficulty, Valon was able to turn his scoff into a cough but Kylie still glared at him. “Quiet, shorty,” she snapped and Valon scowled back.
“Kylie,” their mom admonished as Valon spun back to the cupboard. He tossed some other snacks and a water bottle into his backpack for the walk to Sara’s house. She volunteered to drive him to the mall since they lived only a few blocks away from each other, but the mall was in the opposite direction from her house. He had bargained that he would just walk over to hers instead of her bothering to drive to his house just to head back.
“Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad! Bye, brat!” Valon raised his voice to get their attention as he stood in the doorway, running through a mental checklist to make sure he had everything—keys, phone, wallet, food. Yep, all set.
“Hey!” Kylie shouted indignantly, making them laugh.
“You’re not going to change into pants? It’s chilly out,” his mom said, glancing down at his gym shorts with pursed, disapproving lips.
“I’ll be fine, Mom. It’s not that cold out,” he replied, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose again before stuffing his hands into his sweatshirt pockets.
“Alright then, if you’re sure. Bye, honey. Don’t stay out too late. You’re coming home after you get that video game you wanted, right?” she asked, looking away from the cookie dough for a moment. His dad swiped some of the dough while her back was turned and Valon chuckled under his breath.
“Yeah, though we might go to a few other stores too,” Valon shrugged.
“Don’t have too much fun with your girlfriend!” his dad said sternly, though his eyes lit up with amusement. Valon hid his cringe by scratching his cheek, letting a nervous chuckle slip through.
“No problem there,” he muttered lowly. “Okay, bye!” he said again then hurried out the door without looking back.
He walked along the sidewalk, smiling at old Mrs. Winters and her corgi as they sat on the porch of her house. Her very attractive grandson had come to visit her over break and Valon had gotten his first eyeful the night before when he mowed the lawn, shirtless. Too bad he wasn’t single, or gay. Valon smiled to himself, gave her a wave, then jogged past before he could get lost in fantasies.
About a block later, he slowed, eyeing a navy car that was parked across the empty, narrow street. He froze mid-step as he caught the gaze of the man sitting inside, his eyes boring into Valon’s. A flick of his hand turned off the engine and Valon shrunk away at the sudden, deafening silence, but he didn’t dare look away. He watched warily as the stranger stepped out of his vehicle and crossed the road.
The man was handsome, Valon had to admit. He had golden blond hair that fell to his chin, partially hiding his sharp, amber eyes. He had a nice build, muscular and tall, but his smile was weird. Though it was a pleasant smile overall, it didn’t seem natural. He bared his pointed eyeteeth in a way that came off menacing instead of kind, and Valon noticed claw-like scars that raked down his cheek to his upper lip when he got closer.
“I’m sorry for holding you up, but can you help me find 1016 Revane Street?” he asked. Words froze in Valon’s throat so he just shook his head, giving him a shrug. “Really? Well, thanks anyway,” he said, going back to his car and driving away without a single look back.
Valon watched confused then sighed, the tension slipping from his shoulders. He was too paranoid. Not everyone was out to get him. He had to stop listening to his dad’s stupid horror stories.
Valon’s eyes shot open and he lurched upwards, bashing his head against something metal. He swore under his breath, clutching at the throbbing spot as he looked around. Darkness surrounded him. Hesitantly, he reached out and felt the area around him. Small, compact. Almost like…the trunk of a car. He clenched his jaw as he recalled what happened to him. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes but he forced them back, taking a few long, deep breaths to keep himself calm. Okay, think. What did those kidnapping movies always say to do? No, what did his old self-defense teacher say?
He shifted, searching inside his pockets and around him. His phone and his bag were gone. He ran his hand around the car next, even ripping up the floor mat to feel for some kind of latch or cord. Nothing. He nearly tumbled over as he was jostled by a bump in the road and heard a loud car horn from outside. He braced himself against the back seat, hoping his kidnapper wouldn’t hear him over the rumble of the engine and the loud pop music, then kicked at the tail light, wincing when his foot hit it at an angle. It cracked slightly. He tried again, shoving all his strength into the kick, and it shattered, leaving his foot in the open air.
Valon gasped, yanking his foot back in, then peered through the hole. He saw a straight expanse of road. No cars were in sight. No buildings were around, just rows upon rows of evergreens. He could see a few turnoffs in the distance. He heard a rumbling on asphalt before he saw it. A car came into his sight, its wheels bouncing on the uneven road as it gained on the vehicle he was trapped in, moving to pass it. He shoved his hand through the tail light hole, waving frantically. He cried out in despair when the car passed, not even slowing down.
More cars filled the road soon after the first and Valon waved again, praying someone would see him. Nothing. What felt like hours passed and he bit his lip, switching to his other hand when the first got tired. Shouldn’t have someone seen him by now? Would cops come? What would happen to him if he wasn’t found? Tears slipped down his cheeks when the sky turned dark and he reluctantly pulled his hand back into the trunk. He curled his arms around himself, trying to hold himself together as he silently cried.
The driver made a sudden sharp turn and Valon’s head smacked against the trunk’s side. He bit his lip harshly to keep from crying out, instead causing his lip to bleed. Valon braced himself as the car screeched to a stop and he peered out the busted tail light as he heard a door slam, but he wasn’t able to see much in the darkness. One dim light flickered on and off every couple of seconds, illuminating the rusted gas pump beside the car.
“Finally! This is my time of night!” his kidnapper exclaimed, standing off to the side of the trunk. “Did you bring the money?”
Valon paled. No way. Human trafficking?
“Of course I did,” a lower voice replied. “Did you get the right one?”
“What do you take me for? Valon Wess. Age nineteen. Located in Larissa, New York,” his kidnapper rattled off. “I’ve been trailing ‘im for weeks! I should know who he is by now!” he shouted.
“All right, Parker. You got him; I get it. Now shut up,” the new man spat. Footsteps came closer to the car and Valon pulled away from the hole as the man chuckled. “Looks like we’ve got a fighter.”
“What?” Parker asked, confused, then groaned. “Not my car! I just got it the other day! It’s a classic!”
“Well, here’s a lesson: don’t use a new car next time.” Next time? So Valon wasn’t the only person that creep had kidnapped and sold? “If you didn’t have that spell on your car, I’m sure the police would have found him immediately.”
“Damn kid,” Parker cursed. Valon straightened up when the trunk sprung open, shuffling to the back. Parker and another man peered inside and Valon scowled at them to hide his terror. The new man wore a black pinstripe suit and a dark blue tie. He had raven-colored, slicked-back hair. Thick sunglasses covered his eyes even though it was nighttime.
“I guess you did get it right. I’m surprised. They don’t usually entrust your level with such an important job,” the new man commented, sounding almost disappointed. “You could have been issued a more recent picture, though.” He tossed the photo he held into the trunk carelessly but his covered gaze followed its path, ready to catch it if it fell out.
Valon’s breath hitched. It was a picture of his first day of middle school at Adalyn Hall. His parents stood behind him with broad smiles on their faces, mirroring his own white, straight one thanks to the braces he had removed before the picture was taken. He was dressed in his uniform. He remembered how his mom had fussed over his tie. The photographer had snapped the photo while Valon had been in the middle of rolling his eyes because his mom had dramatically slumped over his shoulders while his dad was laughing at them.
“Shut the hell up, you cold-blooded bastard. You couldn’t do what I just did. You’re too afraid to get your hands dirty,” Parker accused, clenching his fists.
The stranger with the sunglasses scoffed and reached into the trunk to grab Valon. The teen smacked his hand away with a glare, snatching up the picture and shoving it into his pocket as he took another glance around. He had to escape. Somehow. The man looked almost amused but he gripped Valon’s wrist and yanked him into his arms, making Valon yelp. Two burly men in suits stood a bit further back, just out of reach of the dim light. Maybe if he ran in the opposite direction…
“Of course not. I have an image to maintain. You’re just the delivery boy,” the man finally replied to Parker, shooting him a smug smirk. Valon struggled against him, but his grip was as hard as stone.
“Damn you, Marc,” Parker growled. Valon froze, his jaw dropping when he noticed the enlarged canine teeth poking out of his kidnapper’s mouth. How did they get like that? What was going on? Parker suddenly smirked at Valon, leaning in and sniffing him. Valon cringed back from the creep. “He does smell delicious though. A virgin, too. Boss will like that.” Valon’s stomach twisted at the implication and his cheeks burned as he stared up at the man in horror. How the hell did he know that? “Not many of the older humans we take are like that anymore.”
Marc chuckled and spun around, his grip loosening. This was his chance! He shoved away from his captor, landing crouched then sprinting away. Halfway across the deserted gas station, Valon chanced a glance back. Marc hadn’t called his goons after him but Valon’s steps faltered when he saw Marc just standing there, grinning at him. He faced forwards and pushed himself harder, hoping to reach the street. Valon let out a strangled gasp as he ran into a hard body and he fell back onto the asphalt.
“Are you finished?” Marc asked, bending down and clutching Valon’s shoulder in an unyielding grip as he dragged him to his feet.
“Let go of me, you son of a bitch! My father is the governor. Do you even know what you’re getting into? If it’s money you want, he can pay you, I swear,” Valon rambled, still trying to get away as he was pulled back towards the small entourage. With each tug, Marc’s grip only got tighter.
“Pay him,” Marc ordered the men in suits, nodding to Parker. The two goons came forward and Valon peered around Marc’s shoulder as one opened a large briefcase. It was filled to the brim with stacks of bills. Parker nearly salivated, ripping it out of the man’s arms, and Valon hunched in on himself. Well, he certainly didn’t need him for money. “Do you understand now?” Marc asked, turning to Valon. His lips twitched upwards in amusement as the teen began to tremble.
Valon clenched his fists, straightened his back, and looked him square in the eyes. Sure, he might almost be pissing himself with fear, but he wasn’t going to show this smug asshole that.
“Hmm. You’re a curious one. Kali,” Marc said sharply, turning around without releasing his captive. Valon followed his gaze, seeing a young, timid-looking man sitting beside a hulking mass of metal. A black van. Marc must have brought it with him, Valon thought with a gulp as he stared at the ominous vehicle. There were no windows in the back; only small barred slits near the roof of it to keep air circulating. It almost reminded Valon of the SWAT vans he saw on TV shows.
The small man, Kali, hopped up and gave Marc a quick, low bow, then he unlatched the back double doors. Valon’s eyes widened, seeing three girls slouched on benches inside the van. Their clothes and hair were caked with dirt and their cheeks and stomach were caved in. The oldest of the trio, a young woman, fixed a cold expression on her face, raising her head high, but her mask faltered when she spotted Valon.
Suddenly, the poor, shaking man was backhanded across the face, the blow knocking him to the ground. Valon gasped and the girls watched in stunned silence as Marc stood over him.
“Did I tell you to open the doors, Kali?” Marc asked, glaring at the cowering man.
“N-no, M-My Lord,” Kali stuttered, keeping his gaze on the ground and his head ducked submissively as he stood.
“This man is to become His Majesty’s concubine. He is not to be held with lower slaves such as them,” Marc said, sneering at the girls. Valon stared at Marc, shocked. What did he mean by that? A concubine? To a king? He did realize that he was a guy, right? It was kind of hard to miss.
Kali blanched and his body rattled with terror. “Forgive me, My Lord! I didn’t know!”
“Useless human,” Marc muttered and Kali flinched. Parker drove by, saluting Marc and grinning wickedly at Valon. The teen shivered, disgusted. Marc tugged Valon past the back of the van and Kali began to close the doors, making Valon shout out without thinking.
“No! I want to stay with them!” He struggled in Marc’s grip as the words fell out of his mouth. Kali paused with the doors still partly open, waiting for Marc’s order, and Valon spotted one of the girls frantically shake her head.
“You will sit up front with me,” Marc stated, his voice firm. Valon struggled harder, aiming a kick at Marc’s shin. He missed.
“No, I won’t! Let me go!” Valon yelled, pulling back hard despite the pain in his wrist. With a dark chuckle, Marc let him fall back onto the ground. Valon winced as he scratched his palms on the pavement when he caught himself.
“Fine. Let the spoiled brat learn how we treat ordinary slaves,” Marc told Kali with a smirk before looking down at Valon. “No take-backs,” he said with a tilted head and a broad grin, his voice mockingly childish. Valon glared back at him though dread squeezed his heart.
Kali helped Valon off the ground as Marc walked past without a care. The timid man helped the teen up into the back of the van and then, biting his lip, hesitantly closed the doors behind him.
Valon blinked rapidly to adjust to the sudden darkness. Only one dim light came from the roof of the van, casting eerie shadows across the girls’ haggard faces. They looked at each other and Valon shifted nervously. He stumbled as the car lurched forwards and the eldest girl caught him, sliding over on the wooden bench-like seat to make room. The makeshift seat was bolted into the ground, barely keeping it from falling to pieces.
The young woman handed him the end of a leather strap. “For buckling yourself in,” she explained quietly when he looked at her confused. He nodded and hurriedly strapped it around him, wincing as it dug into his skin when the driver made a sharp turn. “Looks like we’re in for a long night,” she spoke again, scrutinizing him. She glanced at the two girls across from them who were nodding off and sighed. “You might as well get some sleep. You’re going to need it. I’ll introduce you tomorrow,” she promised.
Valon nodded hesitantly, shifting around to hopefully find a more comfortable place against the cold, metal wall. She soon fell asleep as well, leaving Valon to his thoughts.
What was he going to do now?
Please leave a comment on which version you liked better! I’m curious to hear your opinions.
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