Today on Geek Notes, I’m happy to host an excerpt from the first chapter of a new YA novel by my fellow author Jayme Beddinfield, titled The Highly Capable. Read on for more about this new book, and check out the end for a Rafflecopter giveaway! -Michael
What would you do if you could control objects with your mind?
Would you be able to choose between right and wrong?
Eighteen-year-old Ruby Dawson was born with the powers to move things with her mind. She thought she was the only one of her kind until she met Tristan-a self-destructive drug addict and a crew of super-powered thieves. Working in the shadows, the crew follows their fire conjuring leader, Madison, as they descend further and further into the world of organized crime.
Ruby finds herself in a whirlwind of wrong decisions, lies, murder, and realizations she isn’t ready to face. As Ruby watches Tristan disappear further into his drug addiction and her team fight for more money and territory, she struggles with who she has become. Can Ruby walk away from the closest thing she has to a family and be the hero she is actually meant to be?
The Highly Capable – Volume One of the Ruby Dawson Saga, an urban fantasy, is a tormenting and emotional tale of self-discovery.
LIFE MASTERS THE ELEMENT of surprise. Everything goes on just the way it always does until something unexpected turns the world on its head. Change isn’t something to plan for; it is an event to embrace when it presents itself, because it always will. I walk quiet and slow down an unfamiliar hallway with a sour feeling in my stomach. Something just isn’t right tonight.
“Ruby, let’s check in here. It looks like the master bedroom,” Brody whispers as he ducks into a room at the end of the long, dark hallway.
“It’s crazy how some people carry on such lavish existences,” I whisper back. My toes will touch his heels if I’m not careful. Getting through this night quickly is best. This house is enormous and decorated to the nines—probably like most houses on top of Queen Anne.
Tonight has a strange odor. I couldn’t smell it while I was eating my cheeseburger on the boat, and I couldn’t smell it when my phone rang—but I smelled it the second Tristan and Tolkien didn’t show up. Now that Madison, Julian, Brody, and I are rummaging around in an empty house, I can’t escape the weight of it.
We shouldn’t run jobs without the whole group. All our talents play important parts. I don’t like that Tristan and Tolkien aren’t here. Our current tasks have the advantage, over us—not something I’m used to feeling. The others probably got high and forgot we were meeting here instead of at Brody and Julian’s. I almost forgot, too. Madison changes protocol on us daily.
I’m usually pretty confident when we’re robbing houses. Being telekinetic takes a lot of hassle out of theft—that’s why we’re here. Our abilities make it easy. However, tonight, I don’t feel confident. The smell of something not quite right is now in my bones. It’s hard to pinpoint what the cause is just yet.
Brody is in his zone as he picks through the dresser drawers. His messy, green hair hangs over his eyes.
My mind swirls around the handle on the nightstand drawer. My fingers point, then fold toward me. The drawer pulls open. Weight is lifted from my mind; my thoughts belong to only me. A leather journal and book-light are revealed—nothing worth taking.
A smirk plays with the corners of his mouth. Brody removes a safe the size of a child’s shoebox from the top dresser drawer. I should know how I feel about Brody. We are messing up fooling around together. I should know where I stand. Restlessness can be dangerous.
“We can bring this back and crack it open,” Brody says as he walks toward the king-sized bed dressed in an overstuffed, gray comforter. He places the safe on the bed and sits beside it. “Come here.”
“We’re working,” I say, walking toward him. His hazel eyes glisten in the low-lit room. My heart beats faster.
“T never showed up, so he can’t walk in.” Brody’s voice is low and raspy.
“Other people can.”
Brody’s hands grab my waist. I rest my forehead on his. I didn’t want to feel lonely or lost anymore.
“This is true.” Brody smiles. “You look good tonight.” It doesn’t help that Brody is so cute.
I laugh. “Thanks.” He pulls me onto him as he lies back. Our mouths stay a few inches apart.
“Can you imagine living in a house like this?” Brody asks. He pulls in his bottom lip.
I bite mine. “I stopped thinking like that a while ago. Daydreaming can be dangerous. At least you live in a house. I’m in a boat, which, granted, is better than the street.”
“You picked the guy with the floating home.” Brody chuckles in frustration. Now that we are together, he’s told me he’s had feelings for me right from the beginning. This may be true. All I could see then was Tristan. Tristan was my light after all the darkness. As far as I was concerned, he held all my answers—my future.
“It wasn’t like that.” My focus is on the doorway instead of his eyes. More and more often, our moments together are too intense for me. This was supposed to be a distraction.
“I know. We were just friends then.” Brody’s voice comes out cautious. He can tell I’m getting antsy.
“We’re still friends.” My eyes are back on him. His hair was a sprawled-out, over-waxed mess. His squinted eyes align with the grin on his stubbled face.
“More than friends, though.” His lips press into mine.
My eyes close. Now we are definitely more. My mind sighs as my lips move with Brody’s.
The smell of burning hair rushes to my nose. “Madison’s coming,” I say, climbing off Brody.
Brody and I stand up. He grabs the safe. Madison walks into the room. Her eyes are dark. She’s clearly frustrated. She extinguishes the fire in her hand. Being near her causes my spine to tense up.
“What is taking you two so long?” Madison’s voice is tight.
“We’re done up here. Found a jewelry safe and what looks like emergency cash—eyeballed around three thousand,” Brody says, keeping his voice low.
Madison’s eyebrows form an angry point. “That’s it?”
“That’s it,” Brody and I say in unison.
“I thought hitting these houses would reap more rewards.” Madison’s long arms cross in front of her frail torso. “Julian and I didn’t do much better downstairs. Let’s get out of here and head back to the house. Brody, walk Julian and Ruby out the back and lock the door, then phase through. No visible signs of break in gives us a couple of days’ head start with pawning items. You and Julian head back to the house with the van. Ruby, walk the long way to your car. I have something to check on and then I’ll be there.”
“Got it, boss,” Brody says with his usual sarcasm. I nod. Madison’s eyes dart from me to Brody in quick succession. It’s better I don’t say anything. Everything I’ve been doing has been pissing her off. I can feel her contemplating my death. It’s like she can sense my boredom. I’m not the lifer she was hoping I’d be. I’m defiantly not the lifer she is. If my powers weren’t as useful as they are to her, I’d already be dead. I could probably get a mental hold on her before she could send a fireball my way. I just really hope it never comes to that.
She locks eyes with me. She can sense fear like a wolf. She turns on a dime and walks out.
“Shall we?” Brody asks. I nod again, starting to feel fatigued. I’m more than ready to check on Tristan—and start drinking.
Julian and I step onto the small deck in the backyard and wait for Brody to phase through the locked door. The night is damp and cool. It’s not actively raining, but judging by the moistness of the ground, it was not too long ago. The postage stamp property backs into a large alley where people leave their garbage to be picked up.
Julian’s gelled, black hair and overworked muscles disgust me. It all comes across as greasy. He has moments when I’m okay he’s around, but they’re rare. I don’t know how Brody lives with him. His beady, brown eyes watch the door. Not all powerhouses are built like Julian. His super strength has little to do with his muscles. He works on his body for the same reason I chain-smoke—a method of coping. We all have at least one. His other method of coping might be buying black T-shirts.
My arms are intertwined and locked. Brody materializes slowly as he steps through the door. Being able to phase through solid objects certainly makes it easier to rob houses. Locks mean very little to people like me and Brody.
“Madison took off,” Brody whispers. “We’re next.” Brody casts a quick glance around us. He shrugs and pulls open the back of Julian’s black van. A television, two laptops, an iPod, a stereo system, and the jewelry safe Brody found sit at my feet. Madison already pocketed the cash. This isn’t the worst haul we’ve ever had by a long shot. I don’t know what Madison was pissed about.
Julian scoops up the television set and struts to the back of the van. My thoughts tangle around the two laptops. A coolness flows through my body. My mind eases the laptops off the deck and glides them through the air. Julian steps to the side allowing the computers to sail into the van undisturbed. My thoughts come back to me.
There. I did my part.
Brody pockets the iPod. I smile. He sees this and smiles back. The van doors slam close.
“Ready?” Julian asks Brody.
Brody looks at me. “Are you good?”
“Yeah. I’m fine, Brody. I’ll meet you back at your house.” Brody steps forward to kiss me. He quickly stops, nods, then turns toward the van. I don’t know if Julian noticed anything. He either knows and pretends he doesn’t—which is likeliest—or he is completely oblivious. Julian isn’t the sharpest tool, but he does live with Brody.
My stomach twists. The alley fills with harsh growling from the van’s exhaust system. Brody climbs inside and slams the door. The van speeds off toward the street. Julian could use his brain and not make so much noise. Madison would burn a hole through his arm if she saw him acting that careless. I’ve seen her kill crew members for much less.
The van disappears in the distance. A rustle pulls my attention to a garage door. A young guy with wide eyes stands there holding plastic bags filled with newspapers. Brown curls stick out from his plaid fedora. A nervous smile settles between his two dimples. From his Converse sneakers to his skinny jeans to his tight T-shirt, he looks like something out of a Seattle-based sitcom. What did he see? How long was he there? Shit. Being sloppy like this is gonna get me killed.
I ready my hands in front of me. The guy sees this. He takes a step back. Judging by the fearful expression on his face, he was there long enough to see me use my powers. Shit. This means he also saw us robbing the house. He’s got to go. I straighten my fingers as I wrap him in my thoughts. My mind tightens around his throat. Our eyes lock. His are bright blue.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” I say without much thought. My grasp tightens. A gasp escapes from between his thin lips. Static hums in my ears. What’s that about? Trying to shake it off, I focus on my attack. I need to wrap this up. If I take too long to get back to the house, Madison will be suspicious.
His face turns red. A cry breaks through me. Powers. She has powers. That isn’t me. My heart beats faster. The wideness of his eyes suggests that he’s scared, but I can feel something more there. Feel? I don’t want to die. Am I hearing him? Feeling what he feels? My stomach knots up. I let go. My thoughts come back to me. We stand there, staring at each other.
“Were you talking to me?” I ask. My voice cracks as the words come out.
“I couldn’t talk.” His voice is hoarse. “You were choking me …from over there.” Our eyes stayed locked.
“I heard you saying something.” I shake my head. When my thoughts latched onto him, something happened. I could hear his thoughts and feel his fear. Nothing like that has ever happened before.
“Don’t kill me. I won’t tell anyone. I didn’t see a thing.” The guy’s voice is slightly less hoarse now. He puts his hands out, surrendering.
The ache in my stomach is forming an army. Madison can’t find out someone saw us—and that I let them live. I ready my hands again. My thoughts twist around him, beginning at his feet. His eyes widen. Can he feel me?
Static fills my head. I really won’t tell anyone. I’m not ready to die. Don’t kill me.
Guilt and dread wash over me. My mind lets go. My hands drop to my sides. “We never met. Forget tonight,” I whisper.
I run down the alleyway in the opposite direction that Julian and Brody went just moments ago. Not even ten minutes ago, my life was a lot less complicated than it is now, which is really saying something because everything was pretty damn complicated already. Silence swells in the spaces behind me. I really, really hope this doesn’t blow up in my face.
What was that? I could feel him and hear his thoughts. Is my power growing? Does he have some kind of ability that can tamper with mine? What if he follows me?
I need to make up for a few minutes. The rooftops should do the trick. They’ll be faster, too. I jump onto a closed dumpster, reach for a rusted ladder, and yank on it. Nothing happens. It’s stuck. I think one person seeing me use my talent is enough for the night. I grab the ladder again. This time, I suck in a deep breath and pull myself up.