eBook Details

The Stone Guardian

By: Theresa McClinton | Other books by Theresa McClinton
Published By: Etopia Press
Published: Dec 14, 2012
ISBN # 9781939194398
Word Count: 83,170
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Available in: Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat

Categories: Romance>Fantasy Romance>Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy

Description
When myth becomes reality, reality becomes a nightmare.

Like any other teenager in America, Ashley just wants a normal life. But growing up in an orphanage for the insane is anything but normal. After endless therapy and increasing medication, her nightmares have only gotten worse.

Probably because they’re not nightmares.

When Ashley’s mysteriously abducted, she finds a reality even less normal than the orphanage. And she discovers something else—she’s no ordinary orphan. Faced with enemies thought to only exist in fairy tales, Ashley discovers she possesses a powerful Maya bloodline. She’s the daughter of an ancient Maya Guardian, whose duty is to protect the Stone of Muuk’ich, an enchanted relic blessed by the gods. But first she must get it back from Sarian, a power-hungry demigod who slaughtered the last guardian—Ashley’s mother. Without the stone, all will be lost.

When she meets Arwan, a hot Belizean time bender, his delicious olive skin and dark eyes make her feel a little less alone. But his gentle whispers and reassuring touch might not be all they seem. How can she balance love and duty when it’s up to her to prevent the rising of the underworld? Especially when the guy she loves might be its crown prince…
 
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Excerpt:
Chapter One



“All right, let’s get the formalities over with before we begin.” Dean Nelson shifted through the paperwork scattered across the table. “Patient identification number A692. Age, seventeen. Mother, unknown. Father, unknown. No living relatives.” He rubbed his bearded chin. “Hmm, that’s unfortunate. Name, Ashley—” He flipped back through the case file. “No last name.”

Ashley watched everything from her special spot—center stage of the nearly vacant evaluation room in the single wooden chair.

“Now that that’s over with, let’s continue. Nice to meet you, Ashley. I’m Dean Nelson.” He smiled, though the deepening creases in his forehead made it seem painful. “How are you feeling today?”

She glanced at him between the layers of chestnut brown hair draping her high-set cheekbones. The lights hurt her eyes. She blinked, then stared at the floor. “I’m OK.”

“Just OK?”

She shrugged. Why the hell was he acting like he cared, anyway? He was just one in the long line of deans. The stress of working with a school full of insane teenagers every day ran most of them off pretty quick. This one had that eager zeal—all too happy to pick her brain, and she knew he wouldn’t last long either.

Ashley drew in a deep breath, trying to calm her rattled nerves. The last thing she needed was to give him an opening into her mind.

Dean Nelson set down the papers. “I know I’m new here, but in order to conduct your evaluation, you need to answer my questions.”

Ashley watched the other board members flanking him. Her breath sped up. Damn it. If she didn’t want to be sedated again, she’d have to keep the panic attack at bay.

She shut her eyes and listened for the notes from her memory to soothe her mind. Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concert in D major, Op. 61—Larghetto. That piece always slowed her heart rate. She imagined the sounds pouring out of her violin as she sat there, drawing in deep breaths. The music played in her head as her fingers caressed imaginary strings.

Dean Nelson cleared his throat, jarring her out of the melody. Annoyance tugged at her, but at least she could breathe again.

She shifted in her seat. “I’m fine, thanks.”

He nodded. “How are you managing the panic attacks? Have you had any recently?”

“Yeah. I had one last night…and the night before.”

“They’re becoming more frequent?”

If he had bothered to actually read her case file instead of just skimming through it, he’d already know the answer. “Not really. Pretty much the same.”

“And how are you sleeping?”

“Like usual.”

“It says in your case file that you suffer from night terrors. Are you still experiencing them?”

Ashley nodded. Being honest wouldn’t get her anywhere. It never had before. This time, she attended her evaluation with her own agenda.

Her psychologist, Dr. Whitley, folded together her long, delicate fingers and rested them on the table in front of her. “Are the sleeping medications I prescribed working for you?”

Dr. Whitley’s soft voice had a way of making her feel more at ease.

Ashley curbed her sarcasm. “They’re not really working. I mean, I sleep, but they don’t help.”

“Let’s talk a little about the man. Is he still hurting you?”

The mention of him made the hairs on Ashley’s arms twitch. She pulled her sleeve over the blue and yellow bruise that encompassed her wrist. The team of board-certified, renowned medical professionals didn’t know the first thing about what was found in her dreams.

“Ashley,” Dean Nelson prompted in an administrative tone.

Severe anxiety and night terrors is what they claimed she suffered from. They had no idea. The knots in her stomach tightened. She balled her fists, but stayed quiet.

After all, what would she say? If she told them the man in her dreams hurt her almost every night, they would still think she was delusional. If she lied and told them she hurt herself, it would only confirm their misdiagnosis. She supposed she would just tell the truth and prove both theories correct.

“He’s always in my dreams,” she whispered, her gaze cast to the floor. Flashes from her nightmares reeled through her mind. “He’s always waiting for me.”

Dean Nelson frowned. “But you do understand that a dream cannot hurt you. Dreams are simply images, feelings, and sensations that collect and pool involuntarily in your mind during sleep. They can seem very real, but once you wake up, they’re gone. A simple figment of your imagination.” He watched Ashley fidget nervously with the sleeve of her uniform, twisting a seam that had come undone. “And dreams certainly don’t leave bruises or any of the other alarming wounds Nurse Faber has found on you over the years.” He flashed photos taken during Ashley’s countless visits to the hospice.

“I guess.” She tucked her hair behind her ear, forgetting about the fresh gash on the back of her hand—evidence of last night’s brawl with a demon of some sort.

Nurse Faber leaned forward in her seat and peered at the swollen wound. “Where did you get that cut? I haven’t seen that, and it needs to be treated—maybe with stitches.”

Ashley kept her focus glued to the shiny white tiles. “There’s no point in telling you about it.”

“No point?” Dr. Whitley pressed her palms to the tabletop. “You know we’re here to help. You can tell us anything. There’s no judgment here.”

Ashley scoffed. There was only one person who never judged, and Dr. Whitley sure as hell wasn’t the freckle-faced, red-haired girl who’d slept in the bed beside her. Tara was the only one who knew everything about her and loved her anyway. Ashley pictured the warmth of her friend’s hazel eyes, and the spark in them that never died, even after being here for so long.

Without that spark of life, Ashley worried she might lose herself to this place. To the long, empty walls. The daily urine tests. The methodical routine of five o’clock mornings, an array of medications for breakfast, and the mental haze that carried them throughout the day. If it weren’t for her hiding the pills under her tongue, she wouldn’t even have the ability to spoon food into her mouth without drooling on herself.

“Whatever makes you sleep better at night.” She glared up at the board members, all of them scribbling notes. It was those notes that would keep her there, with Tara, for another year.

The writing suddenly stopped and the room fell silent. Dean Nelson slid the case file in front of Dr. Whitley, whose eyes beamed with delight. She rapidly clicked the end of a ballpoint pen, a nervous habit she had when she was overly excited. “We have some very good news for you.”

Ashley’s chest tightened. Good news? Her evaluation had gone terribly, just as she’d planned.

“There’s a family who is interested in fostering you for the next eighteen months.”

Ashley gasped and pushed out of her chair. “What? Who are they? When did this happen?”

“I knew you would be excited. We were very lucky to find them. Gary and Jean Barnes from Washington state—”

“Washington?” Ashley’s shout bounced off the empty cement walls.

Dr. Whitley frowned. “What’s the matter? This is good news. They know about your issues and are still willing to foster you. You’ll be eighteen soon, Ashley. It will be good to have some real-world experience before you are released.”

“Can they foster Tara too?” Desperation cracked her voice.

“Who?”

“Patient C819, Tara Weeble.” Ashley rushed the name out before they could drop any more horrible news. Their body language sent a streak of terror up her spine.

Dr. Whitley’s eyebrows drooped downward, as did the corners of her mouth. “No, Ashley. This isn’t about Miss Weeble. This is about you. You need to get better, and the Barnes are a highly desirable foster family.”

Ashley’s mind reeled with options while she chewed her bottom lip. Her brain couldn’t compute it. Separated from Tara? It was like someone telling her she’d lose her eyesight. There had to be something to say to rectify the situation and change their minds. “What if I show improvement? What if I start getting better?” She’d fake it if she had to.

Dr. Whitley closed the case file and spent a moment in silent contemplation. She locked eyes with Ashley. “We only have a fourteen-day window with this foster family. Before the fourteen days are up, the law requires us to give a definitive response to the Barnes’ application. If we pass up this opportunity, I believe it would be a mistake.”

Ashley shook her head. This couldn’t be happening. Her legs suddenly felt like mush. It took every ounce of strength to keep from falling back into her seat. “I know I can get better.”

Dr. Whitley held up her hand. “You’ve been with us all of your life. I’ve been your doctor for the last seven years. You need to trust me when I say that fourteen days won’t make a difference in your progress.”

“That’s not true. I can get better. I will. Just don’t make me leave,” she pleaded, shaking her head. “I can’t… I…” Ashley’s eyes filled with tears. “Not without Tara.” The sentence squeaked out in a whisper. She wasn’t sure if they even heard her.

Dr. Whitley quietly consulted with the board. Her hand shielding her lips from Ashley’s view, she whispered to Dean Nelson, then to the nurse on the far end of the table. After several moments of deliberation, the psychologist flashed Ashley an apologetic frown. With the same warm voice she always used, Dr. Whitley delivered her verdict. “It is my opinion as the director of mental health for the Ohio Orphanage for Psychologically Afflicted Youth, that patient A692 remain under treatment and observation for a duration of fourteen days, then be released into foster care until the date of her emancipation.”

“No!” Ashley screamed, her ribs aching from her stomping heart. She rubbed her chest with her fist.

Dean Nelson signaled to the attendants, who stepped toward her. “Please, sit down.”

Damn it. Guess she wasn’t going to avoid sedation today after all.

She quickly analyzed the guards. Their crisply ironed, stark-white uniforms brought back memories of dark nights in the isolation room. “You can’t make me go. I won’t. I’ll…I’ll run away.”

The board members froze, and the room fell deathly silent.

Dean Nelson signaled again, and the attendants paused. “Run away? Perhaps your attachment to this patient is having an unhealthy affect on your judgment. You need to concentrate on your wellness, Ashley. Your friend is in good care.” The dean tapped the end of his pen on the table. He leaned in close to Dr. Whitley. “Perhaps creating some distance between the two patients before her transfer would do some good.” He spoke in a soft voice, but Ashley heard him, and her pounding heart raced even faster. “Is there room in one of the other sleeping quarters for this other patient?”

Tara needed her, and Ashley was the only one who knew the things she wouldn’t tell her therapist. They had both lost so much already.

She tried to play a symphony in her mind, but the notes were screechy and off-key. Static slowly drowned the cacophony. Allowing Tara to be taken away was out of the question. She had to deescalate things fast.

“I’m sorry, I was just upset. You don’t need to move anyone, and I won’t run away. I was just…” She swallowed. “Surprised.”

Dean Nelson sat back in his chair. His fingers played across the edge of the table in front of him. “Of course you were. That’s to be expected.” He nodded. “Good. So we’re all on the same page, then?”

Ashley forced her head up and down, tears stinging her eyes. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of watching her break down.

“I’ll fill out and file the paperwork this week,” Dr. Whitley said. Her warm voice did little to comfort Ashley this time. “I suspect it won’t take more than a week for everything to be processed. You’ll be with your new family in no time.” She smiled widely. “Congratulations, Ashley.”

The Stone Guardian

By: Theresa McClinton
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