• The Sapling

THE SAMPLING: Fire's Caress


Lani Wendt Young is back with a new title, Fire's Caress - the second in her Telesa World series for teens. Enjoy this excerpt from pages 32–35 of the book, describing antagonist Marc Gold's villain origin story...



Marc awoke from the most vivid nightmare he’d ever had.


An urgent knocking at the door. “Sir? Are you all right?”


His shouts had been heard by hotel staff. Marc was disoriented and there was a throbbing ache in his chest. It took him a few minutes to reply.


“I’m fine,” he snapped. Then added, “Thank you.”


Silence from outside the door, then hesitant footsteps as the night staff member walked away. Marc looked around him, dazed.


The sheets were drenched. At first he thought it was sweat, but when he flicked on the bedside lamp, horror gripped him. It was blood. Thick and coagulating. Dark and dirty on the white sheets and all over his upper body.


Frantically, his hands searched all over, feeling, where was he wounded? Where had the blood come from? Finding nothing, he stood and stumbled to the en suite, sickened by the sight that greeted him in the mirror. Blood-splattered and pale, he looked like a serial killer after a particularly hard day at work. Yet still he could find no sign of a source for all the blood. Grimacing, he showered, sluicing away sticky redness in the hot water until he was clean.


A deep sigh of relief as he dried himself off under the harsh glare of the fluorescent lighting. That’s when he saw it.


What the hell?!


Blood-splattered and pale, he looked like a serial killer after a particularly hard day at work.

On the contoured rise of his chest, right over the racing thrum of his heartbeat – there was a scar where there hadn’t been one before. Not a fresh raw wound with red pinched skin. No. A line of long-healed, rippled skin that spoke of a very deep, very incisive cut, almost like a surgeon’s scalpel. And around it, issuing from it, black tendrils, as if his capillaries and veins were filled with pulsing black ink. Dark and virulent, the vine-like pattern splayed out from the scar like a black flower about the size of his hand that stood out against the gold tan of his chest. He brought his hand up to feel the markings. There was no pain and the scar felt smooth and cool to the touch. But the black tendrils were slightly raised so one could trace them clearly with their fingers. They pulsed and emanated blackness. He didn’t know what they were or where they’d come from.


A muttered curse under his breath as he exited the en suite. He’d need to see a doctor and he wasn’t happy about it. It would be time taken away from his work and would mean subjecting his body to the scrutiny of local medical staff that he didn’t have much faith in.


He’d forgotten about the blood-soaked bed, and the sight stopped him in his tracks. Need to get rid of that.


He stripped the bed with quick efficiency. The blood hadn’t gone through the mattress protector so that was something. He stuffed the incriminating evidence into a large duffel bag. He would dispose of it later, and the missing sheets would be added to his bill. He didn’t care. He had other things on his mind. Namely, what were the markings on his chest? And how did they get there?


Dark and virulent, the vine-like pattern splayed out from the scar like a black flower about the size of his hand that stood out against the gold tan of his chest.

Dimly, he recalled the hazy details of his startling dream. The woman with her leering taunts, the way she had bound him with some unseen force, her attack with the boar tusk. Something about blood in the wind.


No, it made no sense. Marc’s rational, logical assertion over time, space and order had no room for such wildly illogical and fanciful imaginings. For that was all they were.


He’d been through a lot in the last few days. The stress of it all was getting to him. He needed rest. He would shake off such nonsense. He took another look at the markings on his chest. It was probably a skin infection of some kind. A tropical bacteria. Easily cleared up with antibiotics. And quickly too, because he didn’t want to be infected with some nasty bug.


He put on a shirt and buttoned it up, covering the markings. He would see a doctor first thing in the morning.


Nothing would stop him from proceeding with this resort. Nothing would get in the way of this dream project.


Nothing.


Marc’s rational, logical assertion over time, space and order had no room for such wildly illogical and fanciful imaginings.

Marc was driven, ambitious, and ruthless when he needed to be. His wealthy family legacy, enhanced by a Harvard business degree, made him a powerful addition to the Gold Resort chain. His disappearance in the island bush was an embarrassing temporary glitch in the plan, one he would rather forget.


Over the next few days, he threw himself into his work, setting up a base to facilitate the swift development of the newest gem in the Gold holdings. His capable assistant got him a course of antibiotics and he told himself that would be enough. The scar on his chest, laced with its filigree of black, was an anomaly that he didn’t need to explain to anybody. That he could successfully block from his mind. That he could ignore.


Until he couldn’t.


Until it started spreading.


And then the Hunger started.



Extracted with permission from Fire's Caress (Telesa World) by Lani Wendt Young, published by OneTree House.

Fire's Caress (Telesa World)

by Lani Wendt Young

Published by Onetree House

$29.00

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