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Outcasts

eXtasy Books

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 68,641
Available Formats
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Mobi
ePub

Mitch Kessler, teenage high school dropout, jobless and mostly friendless, lives a life of solitude, but not by choice. Endowed with the ability to bring wings out of his body as well as claws, and transform himself into a fierce creature of the night, he’s picked up a nickname from the general public that he hates: gargoyle.

However, that’s the least of his worries. His girlfriend, Callie, can’t keep her genders straight, his best friend is a spinning top, and his other acquaintance is made of rock. It’s obviously a government plot, but Mitch doesn’t know who’s behind it or why. Worse, various and sundry creations have now appeared out of the woodwork and are out to kill him.

Aided by his friends, the four outcasts attempt to find out who’s running the show. They’re out to stop the forces of evil before they can do more damage. That is, if they survive.

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Excerpt

One year ago, summertime, June 18th, Independence, Oregon

At seventeen, life was like a river. Simply drift along and enjoy the ride. It was simple, predictable, almost boring, but hey, boring wasn’t bad. Here we were, just me and my best friend, Joe Chambers, tossing a football around at our school’s empty football field. It was the middle of summer vacation, a hot, sunny day, and no one was in the area but us.

Ten feet away, Joe was already dancing on the balls of his feet. An anxious plea came from him. “Throw it already, will you?”

As he waited anxiously for the signal to start running, I reflected on the passage of time. We’d been best friends since elementary school. Sports and movies, we had the same tastes, and he totally rocked as my best bud.

On the small side, just over five-seven, blond, wiry and quick of movement, he barely sat still for a moment. Teachers said he had ADHD. No, he simply couldn’t stay in one place for too long. It had never stopped him from getting top marks in science and calculus, and there wasn’t any computer program he couldn’t master.

Then there was me, six feet, a lean and rangy one-seventy, pale, dark-haired, and very average in terms of looks and scholastics. Put me in a crowd, and you wouldn’t be able to spot me from the next person. Anonymity sucked.

However, sports made the public sit up and take notice, and I wanted people to notice me in the worst way. With a good, accurate arm to rely on, this would be my year. Team tryouts took place in early September, so first-string quarterback position, you’re mine... or so I thought.

“C’mon, Mitch,” Joe urged, nervously wriggling his foot in the hard earth. “Time to practice.”

Imagining the defense was homing in on me, I took a few steps back and got ready. “Go long!”

Rearing back, though, things went south as my back suddenly spasmed and the ball dropped from my hands. Bending over at the waist, my breath came in short, rapid spurts. Joe turned around and called out, “What’s wrong, man?”

“I got a cramp in my back.”

Cramp wasn’t really the right word. Something had begun to twist around inside. Pulled muscles, maybe. But this was weird, a straining from deep down, almost like something wanted to come out. Aliens all over again—no thanks. First time for me to have this feeling, and it scared me. Young people didn’t get hurt. If they did, it wasn’t for long.

After moving my shoulders around, the pain lessened somewhat. I straightened up, shook my arm out, and picked up the ball. “Okay, ready, go long!” Then I let fly.

So much for being accurate. As soon as I tossed it, I knew I’d made a mistake and thrown it too hard. It went way beyond where I’d intended and smashed through a neighboring house’s window. Aw... crap.

Joe had been tearing along the field, but then it was his turn to stumble. He hit the ground, wriggling like a fish tossed onto land. What, first me and now him? It looked that way with him practically convulsing, and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Upon reaching his position, he looked up, eyes clouded with confusion. “Joe, are you okay?”

“I... I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt, but something’s—it’s just weird, man.”

The shaking continued. Frightened by what was happening, I helped him up, calling out for help. A shout alerted me to one of the neighbors’ arrival. It was the person whose window I’d broken. Face red and temper through the proverbial roof, he grabbed me by the collar. “Who are you, kid?”

“Mitch, Mitch Kessler.”

It failed to make an impression on him. He twisted my collar, cutting off my air, with snorts coming from his mouth like an enraged bull. “Stupid kids, chucking balls around. Don’t you care about who lives here? Who’s paying for my damn window?”

A surge of fear ran through me. This man was around forty, big and powerfully built. From the narrowed eyes and specks of foam at the corner of his mouth along with his clenched fists, it looked as though he wanted to deal out an ass-kicking. My initial fear, though, soon gave way to anger. “Hey, back off. My friend needs help!”

In an abrupt turn of events, fear flooded the man’s face. He let go, saying, “Whatever you want, kid,” before spinning around on his heel and taking off.

By now, Joe had stopped shaking and stared at me. Whether it was from awe or terror, I couldn’t tell. “What is it?” I finally asked. “Are you okay?”

Voice small, he raised a trembling forefinger. “Yeah, fine. It’s not me, Mitch, it’s your face.”

“What about my face?”

“When that dude grabbed you, you changed. You... I don’t know. You didn’t look like you.”

Now it was my turn to feel confused. “What did I look like then?”

“I—”

“Just tell me!”

“Some kind of monster.”

Holy crap. Walking over to a nearby house, I nervously stole a look at my reflection in the window, and then breathed a sigh of relief. Still me, but Joe’s words—he wasn’t a liar.

Screw getting the football back. We trudged on home. Joe lived ten minutes away from me, very convenient for hanging out with each other. Fact was, we visited each other’s houses on an almost daily occurrence, either playing sports after school or fooling around with video games.

Our parents—that is, my mother and his father—worked in Portland, about an hour away by car. Joe’s father worked as an accountant at a chemical plant, while my mother worked for a shipping company.

Along the way, Joe said, “Man, I’ve never been so freaked out. What’s going on with us?”

Ten feet away, Joe was already dancing on the balls of his feet. An anxious plea came from him. “Throw it already, will you?”

As he waited anxiously for the signal to start running, I reflected on the passage of time. We’d been best friends since elementary school. Sports and movies, we had the same tastes, and he totally rocked as my best bud.

On the small side, just over five-seven, blond, wiry and quick of movement, he barely sat still for a moment. Teachers said he had ADHD. No, he simply couldn’t stay in one place for too long. It had never stopped him from getting top marks in science and calculus, and there wasn’t any computer program he couldn’t master.

Then there was me, six feet, a lean and rangy one-seventy, pale, dark-haired, and very average in terms of looks and scholastics. Put me in a crowd, and you wouldn’t be able to spot me from the next person. Anonymity sucked.

However, sports made the public sit up and take notice, and I wanted people to notice me in the worst way. With a good, accurate arm to rely on, this would be my year. Team tryouts took place in early September, so first-string quarterback position, you’re mine…or so I thought.

“C’mon, Mitch,” Joe urged, nervously wriggling his foot in the hard earth. “Time to practice.”

Imagining the defense was homing in on me, I took a few steps back and got ready. “Go long!”

Rearing back, though, things went south as my back suddenly spasmed and the ball dropped from my hands. Bending over at the waist, my breath came in short, rapid spurts. Joe turned around and called out, “What’s wrong, man?”

“I got a cramp in my back.”

Cramp wasn’t really the right word. Something had begun to twist around inside. Pulled muscles, maybe. But this was weird, a straining from deep down, almost like something wanted to come out. Aliens all over again—no thanks. First time for me to have this feeling, and it scared me. Young people didn’t get hurt. If they did, it wasn’t for long.

After moving my shoulders around, the pain lessened somewhat. I straightened up, shook my arm out, and picked up the ball. “Okay, ready, go long!” Then I let fly.

So much for being accurate. As soon as I tossed it, I knew I’d made a mistake and thrown it too hard. It went way beyond where I’d intended and smashed through a neighboring house’s window. Aw…crap.

Joe had been tearing along the field, but then it was his turn to stumble. He hit the ground, wriggling like a fish tossed onto land. What, first me and now him? It looked that way with him practically convulsing, and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Upon reaching his position, he looked up, eyes clouded with confusion. “Joe, are you okay?”

“I…I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt, but something’s—it’s just weird, man.”

The shaking continued. Frightened by what was happening, I helped him up, calling out for help. A shout alerted me to one of the neighbors’ arrival. It was the person whose window I’d broken. Face red and temper through the proverbial roof, he grabbed me by the collar. “Who are you, kid?”

“Mitch, Mitch Kessler.”

It failed to make an impression on him. He twisted my collar, cutting off my air, with snorts coming from his mouth like an enraged bull. “Stupid kids, chucking balls around. Don’t you care about who lives here? Who’s paying for my damn window?”

A surge of fear ran through me. This man was around forty, big and powerfully built. From the narrowed eyes and specks of foam at the corner of his mouth along with his clenched fists, it looked as though he wanted to deal out an ass-kicking. My initial fear, though, soon gave way to anger. “Hey, back off. My friend needs help!”

In an abrupt turn of events, fear flooded the man’s face. He let go, saying, “Whatever you want, kid,” before spinning around on his heel and taking off.

By now, Joe had stopped shaking and stared at me. Whether it was from awe or terror, I couldn’t tell. “What is it?” I finally asked. “Are you okay?”

Voice small, he raised a trembling forefinger. “Yeah, fine. It’s not me, Mitch, it’s your face.”

“What about my face?”

“When that dude grabbed you, you changed. You…I don’t know. You didn’t look like you.”

Now it was my turn to feel confused. “What did I look like then?”

“I—”

“Just tell me!”

“Some kind of monster.”

Holy crap. Walking over to a nearby house, I nervously stole a look at my reflection in the window, and then breathed a sigh of relief. Still me, but Joe’s words—he wasn’t a liar.

Screw getting the football back. We trudged on home. Joe lived ten minutes away from me, very convenient for hanging out with each other. Fact was, we visited each other’s houses on an almost daily occurrence, either playing sports after school or fooling around with video games.

Our parents—that is, my mother and his father—worked in Portland, about an hour away by car. Joe’s father worked as an accountant at a chemical plant, while my mother worked for a shipping company.

Along the way, Joe said, “Man, I’ve never been so freaked out. What’s going on with us?”

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