Click here to read Chapter 1: Magic, or here to read Chapter 2: Manifestation. Here you can read the third sample chapter of my debut novel, Manifestation, an urban fantasy adventure that explores the revival of magic and mystery in a world that is unprepared for the changes arcane powers will bring. Available in paperback and ebook.
Chapter 3: Distraction
“Where are you going?”
Tock barely glanced back at Frankie Palladino as she pulled her pants back on. “I gots work ta do,” she told him. She ignored the hurt pout he gave her. She was too busy to worry about coddling some fool boy’s feelings.
“Oh,” he replied, his tone steeped with disappointment. He watched her dress, then said, “I just . . . I thought maybe you’d stay . . .”
Tock snorted as she pulled her shirt on. She scanned the floor one more time for her underwear, but she had no idea where it had been tossed to. She grabbed her backpack off the ground and slung it over her shoulder. She would have thought most boys would be grateful for a girl who didn’t want to hang around and cuddle. “More important things ta do, mate,” she told him. “It were fun though, aye? Maybe we does it again sometime.” It was still early in the morning. Tock had pulled an all-nighter, working on her engineering project until well after dawn. Around breakfast time she’d decided that a morning romp with Frankie was exactly the distraction she needed to clear her head. The engineering lab was still open, however, and now that the deed was done she intended to get right back to work.
“A-all right,” Frankie said, lying half-propped up on the bed, naked except for the sheet across his lap. The sight of him was almost enough to make her change her mind and stick around for another go. Frankie was the definition of tall, dark, and handsome, with an athletic figure that looked quite nice when he didn’t have any clothes on. She didn’t normally get all hot and bothered over jocks, but this one sure had pushed her buttons.
Tock shook off the distracting thoughts and turned to leave, but the boy leapt up in a flash, still naked, and intercepted her before she could get out the door. He pulled her into a deep kiss, which she allowed because he tasted so damn nice, but it didn’t touch her on any deeper level. As he pulled back, she caught a look in his eyes that showed her it had meant more to him than it had to her. Not my problem, she thought. They didn’t know each other that well. They were flunking the same history class together, had shared lunch in the student center a few times, and that was about it.
Frankie took one of her hands in both of his. “When can I see you again?” he asked, his voice soft and eager.
Tired of being delayed, Tock turned towards the door. “Whenever, mate,” she said. “I’s see ya ’round, aye?”
Frankie held her hand, his face scrunched up as if he were searching for some excuse to keep her around a little bit longer. Tock sighed and got ready to explain to the boy that it had just been a good time, but she was interrupted by a loud ringtone sounding from somewhere in the dorm room.
Frankie ignored the ringing and held Tock’s gaze. Her face reddened. The ringtone sounded again. “Ya gonna git that?” she asked him.
He sighed and released her hand. “Yeah,” he said. He started searching for the phone, but it was nowhere in sight.
Tock looked around while Frankie dug through the clothes on the floor searching for his phone. She spotted the jeans she’d pulled off him a short while ago and picked them up, then dug the phone out of the pocket and tossed it to Frankie. He gave her an awkward smile and swiped his thumb across the screen to answer the call.
“Mom?” he said. He paused and listened, then a frown crossed his face. “Wait, what? Gabby or Adrianna?”
Tock frowned and stepped towards the door. She didn’t know who either Gabby or Adrianna was, though she remembered Frankie mentioning he had a couple of sisters. One of them had just had a baby. Frankie had come back to the dorms late last night after the little tyke was born and bumped into Tock. He’d asked her to dinner, but she’d been too busy with her engineering project to spare him the time. As far as Tock knew, both of Frankie’s sisters had been perfectly fine when he returned to the dorms last night. “Oy, mate,” she whispered, jerking her thumb towards the door. “I’m gonna bounce, aye?”
He looked up at her, still listening to whatever his mom was telling him over the phone. His expression darkened and he broke out in a sweat. “Is she okay?” he asked.
Tock fidgeted, one hand still on the doorknob. Frankie turned away, focused on the phone call. If the boy’s got family troubles, Tock thought, I should leave ‘im to ‘em. She hesitated, chewing on her lip. She watched Frankie for some sign of whether he wanted her to go or to stay.
“Okay,” he said into the phone. “Okay. I’ll be right there.” He jabbed his thumb at the screen and ended the call. Tock waited. Frankie stood there, trembling. His eyes were unfocused and he stared into the corner.
“Everythin’ awright, mate?” Tock asked. She bit her lip and chided herself for such a dumb question, but she hadn’t known what else to say.
“I don’t know,” he said. “My sister. She’s in the hospital. I need to go.”
He stepped towards the door, then stopped and looked down at himself. He was still naked. Tock handed him his pants and he pulled them on, then grabbed a shirt off the floor.
“Well, I ‘ope she’s okay,” Tock said. She turned the doorknob, but hesitated. “You gonna be awright?”
Frankie took a deep breath and nodded. He sat down on the bed to pull on his shoes. “Yeah,” he said in a strained voice. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Tock nodded. She wasn’t sure whether to hug the boy or leave him be. “Awright then,” she said, opening the door. “Go on. Take care o’ yer sis. I’ll see ya ‘round.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Thanks.”
Tock hurried out the door and down the hall. She felt bad for leaving like that, but she had her own problems to worry about. She had an engineering project to complete and a history test she wasn’t going to bother studying for. She didn’t have time to get involved with Frankie’s family. She hadn’t even met the Palladinos, nor did she plan to. Still, as she headed to the engineering lab to get some work done, she kept wondering about Frankie’s sister and hoping she was okay.
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