My young adult time travel romance book THE OCULUS LINK: INTERSECT will be out in the fall, but here’s the first chapter, exclusively for my enewsletter fans. Read the description of the full book here.
The Oculus Link: Intersect
By FA Michaels
Time has never been my friend.
Two-forty-seven. Rehearsal’s in thirteen minutes, and if these people don’t drive faster, there’s no way I’m going to be there on time. Come on, people. The accelerator’s the pedal on the right.
This wouldn’t be a problem in the city. Only in this snoozeville town do people drive like a stoned snail and think it’s perfectly fine to stop in the middle of the road to talk to someone on the sidewalk. I love that Texans are friendly, but come on. I hit my beeper. You can wave me past all you want, Mister, but there’s not enough room to go around. Sheesh.
Of course, none of this would have mattered if Mom hadn’t guilted me into taking Charlie to the library before rehearsal today. Whoever came up with the idea that as soon as you get a driver’s license, you’re crowned Errand Girl should be shot. Okay, maybe not shot. But silenced, in some sort of permanent way.
It’s fine for Charlie. Look at him sitting back there with his nose in one of his Hardy Boys books. Ugh, he’s pulled the seatbelt around his back again. Guess he doesn’t mind hearing Dad’s car safety lecture. If I have to sit through how his firehouse will have to use the jaws of life on us one more time, I’ll—
I hit the brakes and glare at Charlie in the rearview mirror. “I see it.” For a ten-year-old, he’s a terrible backseat driver. “Hell, it’s not like I could miss it crawling along the road like this.”
“You said hell.” Charlie lifts up his book like it’s a shield, but I can see his grin peeking out the side.
“I’ll say worse if these people don’t move their ass. You sure you want to go to the library, Butterbean? You can come with me to band practice. It’s the big day. We’re shooting the video. Exciting, huh?”
“No. And don’t call me that.”
“It can be my birthday present. You’re supposed to get me something really good for eighteen.”
“Your birthday’s not for two weeks.”
“Come on, Bu—”
He shakes his head, his eyes widening like I’m stealing his last piece of candy. “No, Mati.”
“Okay.” I grit my teeth. “The library it is.”
Ooh, the light’s green. Thank God. Hello? The light’s green. You’d think this guy was driving a horse and buggy. “Go!” Finally.
Two-forty-nine. Eleven minutes and I’m still miles away. I’m going to have to race after I’ve dropped Charlie off. If I turn down Maple, maybe I can get ahead of this guy. Good, a clear road. I speed down, cut across on Oak and zoom onto Main Street. I hit the accelerator and whip into the other lane to overtake the woman who seems to think it’s okay to talk on the phone behind the wheel as long as you go ten miles under the speed limit. Ugh.
Seriously? Uh uh. I shake my head and hit the accelerator, sailing under it. “That’s yellow, Charlie. Didn’t you learn colors when you were like two?”
His eyebrows dig deeper and his pout gets longer. I can’t suppress a smile. He’s cute when he’s worried.
“I’ve got this, Butterbean. Go back to your book.”
But he’s not looking at his book anymore. He’s staring wide-eyed out the windshield. His fingers grip the seatbelt across his lap. My heart tugs. I don’t want him to be scared. Fine. I purse my lips and ease my foot off the accelerator. Maybe I can take his mind off the road.
“What’s Mrs… What’s the librarian’s name again?”
He glances at me then stares back at the road, his frown deepening. “Miss Casteñada.”
I nod. “That’s right. So what’s Miss Castenettas making you do today?”
He turns to me again. “Casteñ-a-d-a. And I’m helping her sort the books. People never leave them in the right places. They just put them on a table or on the floor. And when they do put them back on a shelf, they stick them wherever…”
I press down on the accelerator again.
Rehearsal’s in nine minutes now, but I’ve only got one more straight then one turn and I can drop Charlie off. If I drive batshit crazy on the way back to school, I should only be a few minutes late.
The light turns yellow. I press down harder on the pedal and the car lurches forward. It’s only a few yards. Plenty of time.
The yellow light grows bigger. Bigger. Bigger. Like a bright sun beckoning us on.
I glance at the backseat again, my patience running thin. “It’s yellow, Charlie. We’re fine.”
Ugh! “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to—”
The noise is the first thing I notice. My ears wake long before my eyes or even my brain. Noise, everywhere. So much of it. And it’s so loud. It started small. Just a buzzing. Then it got bigger and bigger, until it was like an orchestra, but not an orchestra playing a nice, soothing melody, in tune and harmonizing. It’s a room full of untuned instruments being manhandled by people who don’t know how to play them. Worse than a freshman band rehearsal, and that’s pretty terrible.
Crashing, clanking, squeaking, screaming. It all builds into a crescendo. Then I open my eyes.
Someone’s staring at me, their face so close I wonder if I’m having a dream about one of Mom’s romance novels. But it’s not the face of the hunky man on the cover of Tractors and Tears. It’s a woman with eyebrows that haven’t been plucked for a while. A long while. And I thought I didn’t care much about my appearance. She’s screaming something and pointing a pen at me. No, it’s a light, shining in my eyes.
“Get off me.”
I push up, but hands come out from nowhere and hold me down. If this is a dream, I want to wake up. Now!
“Let me go.” My voice sounds muffled, like my ears are stuffed with cotton balls.
The woman looks me in the eyes, her bushy brows forming a concerned V above her nose. Her mouth’s moving, but her voice sounds like it’s far away, pushing through a tube to get to my ears. Something about “okay” … “stay still” … “accident” … “hospital.”
The loud squealing in the background stops and I hear metal crunching.
The woman looks up, says some words over my head then leaves.
Okay. Stay still. Accident. Hospital.
I struggle to get up again, but the hands are still holding me down. And this time I understand why. Pain rips through my body, making my muscles tense and my teeth gnash together. But I can’t let it stop me.
My voice is getting louder now, but still hoarse.
Another face leans over me, upside down. A man’s face. His dark brown eyes kind, and his dark skin smooth and clean shaven. He spends more time in front of the mirror.
“The boy’s still in the car. They’re getting him out now.”
“He’s my brother.” The words choke out of my throat. “His name is Charlie.”
The man flashes too white teeth. How does he get them so bright and straight?
“Charlie’s a good name.”
I nod, but the pain races down my back, making me wince.
“Don’t move.” The man’s voice is like a salve, soothing the burning sensation around my body. “We don’t know how bad your injuries are yet. You have to be cautious.” He smiles again. But I have to know about Charlie.
I move my lips to tell him, but he looks away, then comes back to me with a grin. “They’ve got your brother out. They’re loading him into the ambulance. We’ll get you in next, and we’ll be at the hospital soon.”
“Is he all right?”
Something flickers in the man’s eyes, but his white teeth still sparkle. “We’ll be at the hospital soon.”