10 Jun 2012

Stained by Ella James - Chapter one

Stained book one.
After a fire destroys seventeen-year-old Julia's home and kills her foster parents, she chases the half-demon responsible across the country and back, determined to avenge her family and discover why a host of celestial baddies want her dead. With Julia is enigmatic hottie Cayne, who has his own score to settle with the half-demon, and who might be just as dangerous as the creature he and Julia hunt.
Listed as one of the Top 10 Books of 2011, Cayne voted one of 2011's Top 10 Book Boyfriends. Recipient of the Flamingnet Top Choice Award.

Chapter 1

The monster clawed the dark sky, hissing and spitting and belching ash. Its fat orange talons twisted the little house until it cracked, until the walls caved and the roof collapsed.  

Neighbors sprang from their quiet homes and stumbled to the yard, drunk from the light, shouting for help. And for nothing. No one inside was alive.

Julia knew this.

She watched the fire as it swelled, as it swallowed glass and gulped brick. She watched while her clothes and books and, oh God, the bodies of her parents, stoked the beast.

The wet Memphis wind whipped smoke through her hair as the remains of the little house on Galloway Avenue rained over the street.

Sirens wailed—God why were there sirens, hurrying drivers running red lights, when no one was alive?—and as Julia stood there, statue still, something in the smoke plume caught her eye. It looked like…wings. She squinted and the smoke cloud formed a torso, arms, and legs. The wind beat against the cloud and made him corporeal: a huge, dark-skinned, black-winged man with a sick grin and sharp red eyes.

He turned a slow circle, the Angel of Death looking for someone else to claim—but she was tucked into the shadows of the lawn.

Julia would not die this night.

The sirens grew louder and she staggered into the small pine grove behind her house. A straw path led to Dirk and Dwight’s, through two tidy yards and down three doors.

She shook her head, squeezed her eyes shut. It hadn’t been late. Not that late. Dirk had Ms. Botch for pre-cal. Ms. Bitch. He couldn’t do math, and Dwight just plain couldn’t do school, so Julia had laced up her new pink All-Stars, slipped her notes into her pocket, and sneaked out the window. She hadn’t bothered peeking into her parents’ room. They were snorers, so she knew they were asleep.

She had sat on the boys’ front porch and explained trigonometric functions, her cereal-box watch reading 12:40 a.m. when she arrived. Now it read 1:08. Twenty-eight minutes. Twenty-eight minutes and this.

The neighbors stayed near the crumbling curb, bobbing heads together, palms pressed over eager mouths. Soon they would be talking. That foster girl and that poor, sweet couple. Such a shame.

Julia searched for a cue in their script, but she couldn’t find her lines. Because she didn’t have any. Because she would be gone.

She couldn’t go back to the state, not after five years of paradise. Harry and Suzanne had been her parents since she was twelve, and she would follow them into the annals of the neighborhood’s folklore.

As red and white and orange light jumped across cotton gowns and tragic faces, and the sirens out-whined the noise of the inferno, Julia walked away.


It was the water that startled her out of it—startled her awake. Somehow, she’d gone to sleep standing, and when Julia came to, she was a long way from home. The girl who could barely do two miles for PhysEd had walked—well…her brain didn’t seem capable of guesstimation, but it was a stretch. From Overton all the way to the muddy Mississippi.

She was a gunshot from downtown, her bare feet bunched over the short grass that fringed the river. She took a few wobbly steps back, almost into Riverside Drive, and someone’s import horn reminded her of her place.

Heart pounding, Julia crossed the street. She followed the sidewalk past a steep hill bearing a row of river-view homes, until the neighborhood folded into itself and the pretty painted houses became old gas stations, abandoned buildings, and squalid apartment complexes.

She sank her nails into her palms as she passed a patch of deserted warehouses. One, a white brick ruin with a faded pecan mural, caught her eye. She ripped three weathered boards off a window and shimmied inside.

Suzanne had always bought a giant bag of roasted pecans for Christmas, and that’s what the place smelled like: Christmas. And mildew.

It looked like a nightmare. Crates and boxes and overturned chairs littered the floor. Thick cobwebs covered the corners, and every surface sported a layer of grime.

For just a second, she glanced back at the window, where sickly blueish light from a battered street lamp filtered in. Her stomach flip-flopped. Did she really want to do this? She swayed under a wave of nausea that started with the memory of her favorite Modcloth sweater and ended with thoughts too horrible to think.

Her breaths came loud and hard, and before she knew it, her body was shaking like a seizure. She turned a wobbly circle, trying to get away from herself. Failing. She saw a snapshot image of Suzanne padding to bed in her favorite blue fleece nightgown. And randomly, their toothbrushes: Harry’s green, Suzanne’s purple; always Oral-B. Julia had a hot pink one in her own little cup. She pictured it crumpling in the heat. There had been water in the sink and the rug had been worn-out and Harry’s Bible by his bed, had the pages of the Bible burned surely the Bible wouldn’t burn, what had happened to the water, did the water in the pipes just sizzle dry?

She put a hand to her stomach and heard a wretched keeling cry that didn’t sound quite human.  

“Omigod. OMIGOD!” She stumbled toward the blueish light, tripping on a crate, dry-heaving on the floor. 

She crawled the rest of the way to the window, shoved her boneless body between the nail-riddled boards; one gashed her upper arm and she wiped numbly at the blood.

The ground was damp. As her eyes slid shut, she thought: what about the Angel of Death? He had claimed Suzanne and Harry but not her. Luck or fate, she wondered as she hugged herself.

Sometime much later, Julia opened her eyes and found herself face-to-face with the skinny trunk of a young maple tree. To her shock, she was curled in the fetal position, mere inches from a graffiti’d sidewalk in the old warehouse district. She looked up at the tree then glanced down the narrow, foggy street. It was empty, and it would probably stay that way; no one drove here. It was a miracle she’d made it through the night.

And then it hit her.

Oh God. Oh God,” she exhaled, remembering. She looked down at herself, at her purple t-shirt stamped with Janis Joplin’s face. It smelled like smoke. She stuck out her legs—skinny jeans Suzanne had bought for her from Abercrombie. It was bad enough that they hadn’t helped her win any new friends at school—she just wore them feeling like they made her butt look pretty decent, walking around like a ghost because not many people knew her and no one was looking at her butt. Now her butt was nonexistent.

She was nonexistent.

Fear sluiced through her. The familiar dread of having no one. Group home, smelling of detergent and apple juice. Her lonely little bed. Writing letters for the web site.

My name is Julia. I have brown hair and brown eyes. I don’t have a Mommy and a Daddy but I want to…

She dropped her head into her hands and let horror wash through her like an ocean wave. She’d seen the ocean for the very first time last year. She thought about its pretty blue-green waters—stretching on and on. She inhaled, exhaled till she didn’t feel like she was going to lose her shit anymore, and then she made herself stand up.

Julia thought about the twins as she rubbed her neck. If it went right, the cops would think she was dead, so she couldn’t see Dirk and Dwight again. Not even at school, which she suddenly realized she would never again have to attend. Suzanne and Harry would have knocked her a good one for dropping out, but she didn’t care. School was a non-issue. She’d always been smart.

She was smart enough not to get jumped on the way to a gas station, and to get a good five-finger discount on two Kit-Kat bars, a can of Grapico, and some scissors. Back in the warehouse, she chopped her signature hip-length tresses to her shoulder blades and frowned at the cloudy mirror.

The girl frowning back was a stranger. Without the thick ebony curtain distracting from her face, her smallish mouth and unremarkable nose stood out. Her big brown eyes looked even bigger. She could see too much of her high cheekbones and ivory-white-girl skin.

All she could think was that it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how she looked. She could let her teeth rot out. Who would know?

The thought made her feel oh so very, very tired.

She found a ratty old tarp draped over a pile of crates and dragged it into the cleanest corner of the warehouse, where she curled into a little ball and tried to pretend the floor wasn’t digging into her shoulder until she counted her way to sleep.

The sleep was beautiful and dreamless. The next thing she stole was a bottle of NyQuil, and she spent an entire day sleeping.

She might have slept forever, but a loud thud woke her sometime late that third night. Julia jerked up, heart pounding, senses alight.

There it was again: a series of thuds on the warehouse roof. She pulled the tarp to her chin as clouds of dust rained over her. The banging continued for probably half a minute before it stopped. Half a minute in which she hoped her death would be a fast one. Julia counted to ten before she opened her eyes, and several more seconds passed before she dared to breathe.

“What the—”

Julia covered her head as wood beams and chunks of concrete crashed down around her. She crouched with her back against the wall, paralyzed with fear until suddenly everything was quiet. When the dust cleared, she peeked over a pile of rubble and gasped.

Dozens of glossy charcoal feathers settled around a hole in the floor at least half a foot deep. A guy was inside. She swiftly registered broad shoulders, hard muscle, and dark hair.

A hot guy. Very hot. He had, too literally, fallen at her feet. 

Author biography
Ella James is the author of Stained and Stolen, books one and two in the Stained Series; HERE, book one in an unusual sci-fi romance trilogy; and Before You Go, a one-shot YA romance beach read that tells the first meeting of Logan and Margo, who will be featured in her upcoming adult release, Over The Moon. She has a YA paranormal romance release scheduled for almost every month of 2012, including Chosen (Stained Book Three) in June and the second HERE book in July. Ella is inviting readers to help her write an adult romance shapeshifter novel, which is plotted via polls and questions on her blog and her Facebook page. Ella lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her wonderful husband, opinionated baby, and mopey dog. You can visit her blog, or friend her on Facebook. For a list of her award-winning YA romances, visit her Amazon page.

Check out more by Ella James:

STOLEN (Stained Book 2):
With Cayne's fate in the hands of his enemies and Julia spirited away to the covert Stained compound, the two are separated by impenetrable walls and a gulf of unanswered questions. Soon Julia learns the truth about the Stained and the plans they have for her, the compound is attacked, and a new group is running from an unwanted destiny, searching the globe in pursuit of the knowledge that just might save them all.

CHOSEN (Stained Book 3):
Julia has been chosen. While at the Stained compound, she was tapped as The one to win the war against the Nephilim and leashed with an illness that worsens each day she is away from The Three. Determined not to return to the frightening Chosen leaders and desperate to learn the fate of The One, Julia and Co. trek to the Swiss Alps, home of a rogue Chosen clan. In this snowy haven, all Hell breaks loose. Someone is a traitor… Someone changes sides… Someone is dragged to Hades… A new romance blossoms. An old romance is damned. And The Three will stop at nothing to recover the weapon that will help them regain power.

HERE (Here Trilogy Book 1):
Milo Mitchell's life used to be charmed, but that was before her family dissolved, she went a little crazy, and her best friends started acting more like strangers. Spending Saturday morning in a treehouse with a stun gun for company and a herd of deer for friends is the only exciting thing in her life...until she shoots a fawn and finds her dart stuck in a guy.

Her gorgeous victim is dressed in a Brioni tux and armed with a hanky. He has no idea who or where he is. Afraid her dart caused his amnesia, Milo takes him in, names him Nick, and vows to help him solve his mystery. Soon the pair find Nick's face in a newspaper obituary, and Nick begins to have strange, ethereal memories of Milo--who is sure she's never met him. Suddenly Nick knows things he shouldn't know and is doing things he shouldn't do. When the Department of Defense shows up, Nick and Milo run--toward a shocking conclusion that could destroy both their worlds.

Margo Ford just became an heiress. Not the Paris Hilton kind. Her billions came after her father died and her insanely wealthy, insanely absent mother officially claimed her. Unfortunately, some terrorists noticed, and they hatched a plot to kidnap her. After a news report goes awry, reporting that Margo *has* been kidnapped, and her mother offers the humiliating sum of $500,000 for her return, Margo doesn't want anything to do with her *#$!@ of an egg donor. Then she is sentenced to a summer of "protection" on her mother's private island. Not the Oprah Winfrey kind. This one has an astronomical observatory filled with scientists, including Logan Greer, a super hot, super infuriating planet-hunter. Hiding out from kidnappers has never been so boring... until suddenly it isn't anymore.

1 comment:

  1. I got this book the other day :D looking forward to it :D


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