Sneak Peek: The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare by MG Buehrlen + Giveaway (US Only)

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Hi, YABCers!

Today we’re super excited to present a sneak peek from MG Buehrlen’s THE UNTIMELY DEATHS OF ALEX WAYFARE, which released April 26, 2016 from Diversion Books. Check out information about the book below, the sneak peek, and a giveaway!

 

THE UNTIMELY DEATHS OF ALEX WAYFARE

by MG Buehrlen
Release date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Diversion Books
ISBN: 978-1682300589
 
About the Book
Time travel, adventure, and romance come together in the highly anticipated sequel to THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE.

Alex Wayfare is back in Base Life. Her 57th life. She’s in Chicago searching for Blue, who travels with her whenever she goes back in time. She’s never met him in Base Life, but she’s hoping he’ll remember her in the present, and that he’ll want to be with her like he does in the past.

Their romance is put on hold when she’s attacked by henchmen working for Durham Gesh, who wants to harness her abilities for his own ugly purposes. But that threat seems insignificant when she returns home to face her younger sister’s deteriorating health. Researching every possible remedy, from ancient herbs to forgotten medical advancements, Alex seeks a cure for her sister’s cancer in the past.

The journeys are never simple. From the countryside of eighteenth-century China to a top-secret research lab in 1970s Michigan, Alex is plagued by enemy Descenders who seem to anticipate her every move, and realizes she may have a traitor in her small band of allies.

A traitor who might bring Gesh straight to Alex’s front door.

The only person Alex feels she can trust is Blue. But there are secrets Alex doesn’t know―secrets about Blue, about her team, and about herself. And the biggest secret of all will change her life, or her lives, forever.

Ready to read?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!

Here’s the sneak peek!

Another Disclaimer

Some stories are about a boy. A second glance, a teasing smile, the promise of a kiss before you turn the last page. Love pursued and gained, the peaks and valleys and never-ending tension that lead two people from First Sight to Ever After.

Some stories are like that.

Not this story.

This story is about death. Two kinds. The tiny deaths, like finding out all the bright, diamond-cut things you thought you knew about your life were a lie. The light they used to shine on your path has gone dark, leaving you lost. And the big death, the one that looks like a polished, gleaming gun barrel pointed between your eyes. The one that says: You don’t have much time left.

I don’t know when the gun will fire, or when Death will take my hand. I don’t know how many days I have left to make everything right again. All I know is that I have to do something good while I still have breath. Something that makes a difference. Something that makes my fifty-seventh life worthwhile.

So even though some of this story is about a boy, his glances, his smiles, his arms around me and a dance beneath stardust, it doesn’t end with him. It doesn’t end with a happily-ever-after kiss on his lips. No forever and always. No happy ending.

And I thought it would.

Oh, how I thought it would. 

Chapter 1

Up in the Air

I’m standing at the edge of the world.

The last time I was in Chicago, staring out across Lake Michigan, Blue had his arm around me, and I was struck by the vastness of the water. We stood on a concrete pier, the waves lapping beneath our feet, the glittering lights of the Roaring Twenties at our backs.

This time it’s not as magical. This time, I’m standing at the edge of the world and there’s no one beside me.

Well, no one with blue-green eyes that haunt my dreams at night.

The Signature Room is a posh restaurant on the ninety-fifth floor of the John Hancock building, the kind where a burger costs thirty bucks and comes with snobby-sounding ingredients like brioche and aioli and chipotle. But the room is gorgeous, so maybe you’re paying for the atmosphere. Floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows surround the entire restaurant, overlooking the lake on one side and the city on the other. If you stand close enough to the windows, so close your breath fogs the pane, you can trick yourself into believing you’re hovering over the city, and one step forward could send you tumbling down, down to the busy, snowy streets below.

I’m not looking down, though. I’m looking out, where sky meets water. Right now it’s midday. The waves are ruffling lazily toward the shore. The pale blue of the sky, of the water, makes it almost impossible to look away. On the horizon, the faintest pink mingles between them. No wonder Monet spent his life trying to capture the way light glints off water. How it plays with color and shadow, so pale yet so vivid at the same time. You feel like you could walk across, clear to the horizon.

It’s too bright, though, too cheery, for how I’m feeling at the moment.

It’s been three days since I landed at Chicago’s Midway airport with Porter waiting for me at the baggage claim. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be here now, on New Year’s Eve, so close to finding Blue in Base Life. If it weren’t for Porter, I wouldn’t have known about the 3D bioprinting workshop offered at AIDA’s Chicago branch for students interested in biomedical engineering. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten selected to attend, since my application was submitted way after the deadline, and I certainly wouldn’t have received a full scholarship for the travel and hotel expenses. That was all Porter’s doing. I’m not exactly sure how he did it. I’m not exactly sure I want to know.

I learned seconds after meeting him that Porter makes things happen. He weaves reality to suit his needs. He plays by rules I don’t completely understand. And somewhere along the line, I realized I didn’t need to know the gritty details. I’m good with blindly reaping the rewards, especially this one, this trip to Chicago so we can find Blue.

For the past three days I’ve been up to my ears in biomedical geekery, sitting in on lectures and exploring labs, poking a finger into the fleshy, 3D-bioprinted human tissue created by some of AIDA’s top engineers, surrounded by a group of awkward, nerdy kids like me who plan on making a difference in the world. I must admit, it feels good being immersed in normalcy for once. Discussing college plans like I’m any other kid headed off to school with grand, and probably foolish, ideas in my head.

Of course, none of the other kids realize I’m not going to college, not really, that I’ve seen too many things, know too many secrets, to ever walk down a normal college-to-career path. I’m a Descender, a protector of the past, present, and future. That’s my job, now and forever. College used to be my own Monet painting, a pale yet vivid smudge of color on my horizon, back before I met Porter and he upended my world, pulling the shade down on that shining future and turning my eyes in the opposite direction. Showing me how to navigate the Black instead of the Light.

I used to spend hours lying on my bed longing for my future college days, flipping through brochures and picturing myself on those bright, happy campuses with fellow bright, happy students, hoping by the time I graduated I’d have my life figured out. I’d have my visions fixed and I could focus on real, everyday life. But that never happened. My visions, which I once believed were a burden, became my lifeblood. The reason I get up in the morning. They’ve given me a different purpose. And I’m OK with it. Because I get to travel back in time. Because I get to see things no one else gets to see, touch them, taste them, feel them brush against my bare skin. Because I get to see Blue. Because I’m going to bring Gesh to his knees and make him pay for all the atrocities he’s committed against this unsuspecting world.

All those he’s committed against me.

And even though this student workshop won’t amount to anything on my nonexistent college applications, I’m learning a lot. I have renewed faith in humanity and all the ways we dedicate our lives to healing the sick. I’ve had an amazing time, and all I have to do is try not to screw it up for the other students. Make sure I don’t create any more Variants, so their futures remain bright and golden and they can eventually touch those dreams waiting for them out there, on their own horizons.

This morning was the last lecture of the workshop. Then our hosts brought us here, to the Signature Room, for lunch. After this, they’re taking us on a tour of the city and later tonight, we’re all watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks from Buckingham Fountain. Another one of Porter’s arrangements, I’m sure. Placing me right where I need to be, at the exact right moment.

It’s all too perfect.

Which means something’s bound to go wrong. Isn’t that the way of it?

One of the workshop hosts steps up to me beside the window. “You OK, Alex? You haven’t touched your lunch.”

Her name is Dr. Micki Shah, and she seems pretty cool so far. She told us her family is from Dubai, but she was born and raised in Detroit, and she studied at Johns Hopkins, where I wanted to go, once upon a time. She’s the youngest—and by far the least stuffy—of our hosts, and I like her, I think, although I haven’t quite figured her out. While the other workshop hosts wear boring clothes in bland colors and sensible shoes, and don’t seem to care that their hair is going gray (or receding), Micki wears heels, always heels. Clop, clop, clop. God, her feet must hurt. She wears her black hair in a sleek ponytail. Her eyes are smoky and dark, her lips and fingernails painted bright red. She dresses in trendy styles and leather jackets. She looks like she belongs at a swanky club, not a biomedical lab, even with a white lab coat draped over her chambray shirt and black skinny jeans. She looks so out of place that it’s hard not to pay attention to her. And I can’t figure out if that’s her game, if she wants to be noticed, or if that’s just who she is and I’m simply in awe, like I’ve discovered a rare species in the wild. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who’s passionate about the latest fashions and engineering. I’ve just never met one in real life.

I kind of admire her for it.

“Not that hungry,” I say with a shrug. Which is true. How can I eat when my stomach is tangled and twisted in knots? When I can’t concentrate on anything or anyone other than Blue? Anything other than our fountain, and our cold hands kept warm with entwined fingers. “I’ve felt kind of out of it all day.”

“Sick?” She cocks her head to the side, and I can see her mind whirring as she tries to diagnose me with her dark eyes. “Want to go back to the hotel for the night?”

“No,” I say, almost too quickly, too loudly. “I feel fine. I want to stay with you guys.”

Dr. Shah quirks a sharply tweezed eyebrow at me. “You tell me if you think you’re gonna barf, OK?”

I laugh. “You’ll be the first to know. Promise.”

The Fountain

Hours later, deep into the evening, I’m standing at the edge of Grant Park, my fellow workshop mates around me, the bus we took to get here pulling away from the curb. I turn and watch it go with my hands in the pockets of my army-green parka, swallowed in a gust of exhaust. The last time I was here it was 1927, and Blue stood in the exact same spot, hands in his own pockets, watching me drive away in a yellow cab. I have no idea what happened to him after that, not until I pulled him from his home in Base Life (wherever that may be) to Cincinnati in 1961, then to Missouri in 1876, and then to AIDA Headquarters in our most recent past lives. I have no idea what he’s been doing since he died in my arms outside Washington, DC, my last words begging him to meet me here.

Now.

Under a clear, frigid sky, beneath clear, frigid stars.

I square my shoulders toward the fountain and the lakeshore, biting my bottom lip, and scan the park for any sign of him. Buckingham Fountain is cold and dry, shut off for the season but covered in elegant strands of glittering holiday lights. More lights are strung up around the plaza, bathing the park in an orange glow. A crowd has gathered for the fireworks, even though they won’t start for another hour.

With a deep breath, I make my way to the fountain. The rest of my group follows aimlessly, then disperses, blending in with the crowd. My winter boots crunch across pink gravel and pull me to the spot where Blue and I first kissed. Where he gave me a penny and told me to make a wish. Where he took my face in his hands and stole my breath away.

Everything looks the same.

Everything looks different.

The fountain seems larger than I remember, but it still looks like a fat wedding cake. The strands of twinkling lights are draped on each layer like icing. It doesn’t feel as magical without the water shooting toward the clouds. The massive, gleaming copper seahorses stationed at the four corners have turned green from oxidization since the last time I saw them, but the wide, smooth pool stretching out at my feet remains the same. I wonder if our wishes still lie at the bottom.

Blue wished for a kiss. I wished to see him again. Both of our wishes came true.

I pull a penny from my pocket, one I brought along for this occasion. A 1927 Lincoln wheat penny I found by sifting through Pops’s penny jug. It took me an hour to find the right year. I wasn’t about to use any old penny. Not for this.

I close my eyes, make the same wish I made back then, and press the coin to my lips. It arcs through the air and slips beneath the icy water, sealing my fate for the evening.

I hope.

My heart warms as I run my gloved fingers along the railing Blue and I climbed over. After I make a complete turn around the fountain, the crowd in the plaza has doubled in size, full of red noses and thick with winter coats. People pose for photos in front of the fountain. The twinkle lights reflect off the glassy pool. The more crowded it gets, the more I wonder how Blue and I will find each other. Maybe meeting on New Year’s Eve in a huge city wasn’t the smartest of plans.

I move through the winter coats, locking eyes with each person. I bounce on the balls of my feet. I breathe warm air into cupped hands. I nestle my chin down into the warmth of Gran’s scarf bundled around my neck.

Waiting.

“Coffee?” Dr. Shah stands behind me, holding two paper cups in her leather-gloved hands. The twinkle lights glitter in her dark eyes. “I spied you sipping some yesterday, so I know you’re a fellow coffee-holic.”

I grin and take one of the cups. “Definitely. Thank you, Dr. Shah.”

“Oh, please. We’re done with workshops now. Call me Micki.”

“OK. Micki.”

“Why are you hanging out over here all alone? Haven’t you made friends with anyone in the group?”

I shrug and take a sip, let the heat warm me from the inside out. “I’m not very good at making friends.”

“I’m not an expert, but talking to them usually helps.”

I glance over at a few of the kids from the workshop. The boys are laughing and horsing around, running and sliding in the gravel. The girls are watching, huddled together and giggling.

It’s just not my scene. “I’m good by myself.”

“Riiiiight.” She hunches her shoulders against the cold. “I’ll be over there on that bench if you need me.”

I nod, then turn back to cataloging the faces around me. The later it gets, the more anxious I become. I sip my coffee with trembling hands, too nervous to gulp, even though gulping would help warm my bones. My stomach turns and turns, and every guy who walks by resembling Blue’s familiar shape has it turning yet again. I look for his gait. The slope of his shoulders beneath a wool coat.

And I wait.

What will he look like this time? If he even shows at all? Tall, handsome, and fit like in 1927? Will he wear his dark hair short, with no hat to ward off the cold? Or will he be tan and lean, with hair down to his jaw like in 1876? With a hat casting a shadow over his eyes?

Will I still find him attractive?

Would that even matter?

Will he recognize me in this body? My long, straight, dusky blond hair parted in the middle and spilling over my shoulders? My gray eyes behind the fake black-rimmed glasses Porter gave me? My button nose? My freckles? Blue’s never seen me like this. Will he like what he sees? Will he still want to kiss me?

As the clock ticks closer to midnight with no sign of him, doubts roll in my chest. They tumble against my ribcage—thump, thump. He doesn’t remember you. Why would he remember you? No one remembers you.

It’s the usual reel of self-fueled vitriol I have running on repeat in the back of my mind, but a text from Dad helps silence it for a moment. He asks if I’m having fun and sends me a photo of the corned beef and cabbage Pops makes every New Year’s, a tradition from his childhood in Ireland. Then Dad sends a photo of the whole family gathered around the table. Gran’s arm is around Mom and they’re both laughing so hard that their eyes are closed. Pops is piling a mound of mashed potatoes on my youngest sister Claire’s plate, and Afton, our tiny black cat, is curled on her lap. My other sister, Audrey, isn’t in the shot, which means she must not be feeling strong enough to join in with the festivities. A pretty common occurrence, unfortunately. I reply by shooting Dad a picture of the fountain and its glittering lights. We wish each other a happy new year. I tell him I’m having fun and really liked the workshop this morning.

All truth, which is a rarity. My replies to him usually contain plenty of lies sprinkled throughout. My whole life is made up of lies now. I wear them like scarves and hats and little flowers in my hair.

But then again, doesn’t everyone?

I shoot a text to Audrey with the same photo. She usually responds right away, but this time she doesn’t. Not even the quick NPILT (Not Participating in Life Today) she uses when she’s too sick to chat but wants me to know she’s OK. For a split second I imagine my worst fear coming true, that she’s at the hospital, that the damn cancer finally had the last word, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I immediately start hating myself for coming to see Blue when I should be spending time with her.

Before it’s too late.

But then I realize Dad wouldn’t be texting me photos of himself chowing down on corned beef and cabbage if Audrey were in trouble. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

My phone buzzes again, but it’s not from Audrey. It’s a text from Jensen. Ever since he insisted we were friends a few months back, a day hasn’t gone by without a text from him.

hws yr trip?

I smile to myself at his relentless use of text speak and send him a picture of my coffee in my gloved hand. It’s goin. But it’s soooo coooold. Good coffee tho. 🙂

whr u at?

I turn around and take a photo of myself making a silly face with Buckingham Fountain in the background.

hawt! 😀

I laugh to myself and send, No! Coooooold. brrrrrrr

We text back and forth for a while, and for the first time today, the minutes seem to fly by. No tumbles and rolls in my chest and stomach. But as soon as Jensen says goodbye for the night, heading to a party with his basketball buddies, the nerves are back.

I round the fountain for the fifth time, obsessed with finding the right red nose in the right winter coat. I weave in and out, the crowd growing as thick as brambles in the woods behind Gran and Pops’s old barn. I push my way through the coats now. I bounce from one side of the fountain to the other, always thinking I’ve spotted Blue, but when I get closer the red nose is never his.

Just before midnight, the crowd is almost too thick to move through. Everyone is a shadow in the deep darkness. I pull my hood up and tie it tight under my chin. It muffles the sounds of the crowd, the laughter, the shouting, the squealing, the general excitement of being out under the stars to kiss the one you love as the clock strikes twelve. I stake out a spot beside the railing where Blue and I climbed over and stay there, hoping he’ll remember which side we were on.

Music begins to play over loudspeakers across the park. The crowd cheers. A man beside me grabs his partner, and they sway and dance. The twinkle lights on the fountain shiver in the wind. Camera flashes ripple across the crowd every few seconds. The atmosphere is electric, just like it was in 1927.

But I still can’t find Blue.

A few minutes before the countdown, colored spotlights flood the fountain. The crowd cheers again as fireworks shoot from the top tier in time with the music, whooshing into the sky right in front of me. Pinwheels of sparks ignite all around the perimeter, and the camera flashes come in droves.

Everyone’s clapping. Everyone’s cheering. Everyone’s oohing and ahhing.

I use the strobing lights to scan the crowd one more time. My eyes dart from face to face, nose to nose, until at last I see him.

Blue.

Chapter 2

Assholes and Saviors

Blue is standing by the railing, about thirty feet away, his face lifted toward the sky, watching the fireworks.

At first I can’t move. My boots are rooted to gravel. My palms are sweaty, and I’m shivering, but not because of the cold. The crowd starts chanting, counting down from ten, and I burst forward. I push my way along the railing, elbowing bodies out of my way. I have to get to him before midnight.

Six.

Five.

Four.

There’s a stroller in my way, and I swerve around it. Just a few more steps and I’ll be at his side. Just a few more winter coats to push through.

Three.

Two.

I can still see him, the light from the fireworks flashing on his face. Why isn’t he looking around for me?

One.

Happy New Year!

The crowd closes in tighter as everyone embraces, and for a moment I’m stuck between couples. More fireworks explode like machine gun fire, filling the sky over Lake Michigan with blasts of color. Noisemakers erupt all around me. The cheering is deafening.

When two people in front of me stop making out long enough to come up for air, I shove my way between them and reach for Blue’s arm. “Blue.” I snag his sleeve, a black hoodie with a red stripe down the arm. He turns to face me, surprised.

Within seconds all that elation, all that relief, all that longing to be in his arms dissolves. This boy isn’t Blue. He has the same build, the same profile, but it isn’t him.

I let go of his arm, embarrassed for snatching onto a complete stranger. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I thought you were someone else.”

I turn to push my way back through the kissing couple, but the boy grabs my elbow. “Alex?” he says.

I whirl around at the sound of my name.

“It’s me.” He smiles and takes both my elbows in his hands, gripping them tight. “It’s Blue.”

For a moment I believe him. Who else would know to meet me here? Who else would know my name? But one look in his eyes gives the truth away. He’s not Blue. He can’t be. I feel no connection to him. No attraction between our souls at all. No tug at the edges of my memory.

“No,” I say, trying to pull away from him. “You’re not.”

But he doesn’t let go. His grip tightens. A man bumps into me from behind, flattening me against the boy’s chest. I’m stuck between the two bodies. They’re crushing me, and I can’t move.

“This her?” the man behind me says. At least I think he does. The adrenaline pumping in my ears makes it hard to hear anything at all.

“Definitely,” says the boy. “She called me Blue.”

Once I realize that they’re pinning me on purpose and they’re not going to let go, I shout for help, but I can barely hear my own voice over the percussion of the fireworks, the music from the speakers, the noisemakers, the cheer of the crowd. No one is going to hear me. Not Micki, not the other chaperones, not the other students.

Something sharp presses into my ribs, and I suck in a breath.

A gun.

“No more of that yelling now, sweet stuff,” the man behind me says.

Fear slicks my spine. The only person to ever call me sweet stuff was the Descender I met in 1876. The one who tore holes through my flesh and painted a cliffside with my blood. I bite my tongue, forcing myself to stay quiet. If it’s the same Descender I battled in 1876, then I know he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Not with a hundred fireworks blasting above to muffle the sound.

How did they find me? How did they know I’d be here?

The boy, the decoy who pretended to be Blue, pushes my head down and shoves me through the crowd. The two of them cling to each side of me as we make our way through the throng. The gun bites into my side. I keep my face down, watching shoes shuffle out of our way. The fireworks light up the pink gravel beneath our feet.

The crowd thins, and soon we’re no longer on gravel but on cold, frosty grass. We’ve passed through the evergreen hedges that surround the plaza, and we’re hidden in the dark within a grove of trees. Bare branches are woven overhead like fingers laced in prayer. The Descender pushes me to my knees. The barrel of his gun kisses my temple.

No one will hear me if I cry out. We’re too far away from the crowd. No one will hear the gunshots over the blasts of fireworks.

I slip my hand into my pocket and fumble for my cell phone, but Decoy Boy seizes my wrist and rips the phone from my hand. The Descender makes me link my hands behind my head, elbows out, and Decoy Boy walks off with my phone. I hear him crush it against a tree trunk a few seconds later.

“You survived,” I say to the Descender, still looking down. The frost beneath my knees melts and soaks into my jeans. A cold shiver works its way up my skin.

“What was that?” he asks, bending down.

I dare to look up at him, to see his face, but he pushes my head down again. It’s too dark and I can’t get a good look. “I crushed you in Limbo,” I say. “I crushed your soul. Your little smoke monster friends had to come rescue you.”

The Descender sniffs like he’s amused.

“Where are your friends now?” I say. “Who’s here to save you this time?”

He stoops down further to whisper in my ear. “Who’s here to save you?” He laughs, and Decoy Boy laughs too, as he walks back to us.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know of at least two ways I can knock the gun out of the Descender’s hand. Call it a residual from my past life as Shooter Delaney, the sharpest shooter west of the Mississippi. If it were just me and the Descender one-on-one, I could kick his ass, gun or no gun. But Decoy Boy keeps getting in my way. He rips off my hood, scarf, and coat, leaving me cold in my thin plaid collared shirt. He kneels in front of me and pats me down, paying extra attention to my chest. His hands rake and paw over me.

I glare at him, anger pulsing through me. “Why don’t you rip my shirt off, asshole? Get the full experience?”

He pauses and looks at me with a snarl-like grin. His face is too elongated, too sharply featured to be Blue. And he’s older, too. I can see it now. I’m such an idiot.

“Plenty of time for that after we throw you in the van,” he says, lip curled.

That’s when I take my chance. I spit in his eye, and his hands fly to his face, giving me time to act. I grab the Descender’s gun with both hands, twisting it away from my face to break it free from his grip. The Descender stumbles back, but he’s still clinging to the gun, so I use the momentum of his stumble to pull myself to my feet. I slam a boot into his groin, and he doubles over. We both clutch the gun as I try to keep the barrel pointed away. Decoy Boy tackles me from behind, and all three of us collapse into a heap. The gun fires twice into the treetops beside my left ear. Sharp ringing pierces my skull. I sink my teeth into the Descender’s hand, his blood coating my tongue, and he writhes beneath me, yelling out, but doesn’t let go of the gun. Neither do I, until Decoy Boy drives an elbow against the side of my head, splitting my ear. Warm blood seeps down my neck and into my collar.

Everything becomes a blur.

From behind, Decoy Boy yanks me off of the Descender. I grapple for the gun, but the Descender’s hand is too slippery, too dark and slick with blood. I scrape at his skin but can’t hold on.

Two more gunshots shatter the air. Decoy Boy slumps on top of me. My arms give out and my face smacks into the hard, frosty ground. My fake glasses snap into two jagged pieces, digging into my cheek.

The Descender scoops me up under my arms and drags me to my feet. I can barely stand without his help. The gun returns to my ribs. My head feels swollen and hot; my broken glasses hang from my ears. I have sticky blood all over my mouth, all down the side of my neck. Decoy Boy is lying facedown on the ground, unmoving.

“Not another step,” the Descender says, but he’s not talking to me. He’s talking to someone else, someone in the darkness. Someone I can’t see.

“Drop the girl,” a voice says from the shadows, “or I’ll drop you.”

I recognize the voice. Female, dark and smoky. But I don’t understand.

“My orders are dead or alive,” the Descender says. “I’ll put her down if I have to. Don’t think I won’t.” The gun digs deeper into my ribs, and I let out a yelp.

Two shots. One. Two.

I squeeze my eyes shut, wincing, prepared to feel the bullets tear through my side. I remember how it feels, to have a hole torn into your body. It’s not something you forget.

But I feel nothing.

At first. Then the Descender releases his hold on me and sinks to his knees. He sways for a moment, a gurgling sound in his throat, eyes wide, then collapses nose-first into the grass.

My hands find their way to my mouth, and I stumble backwards, fingers shaking. My broken glasses fall to the ground, but I don’t reach for them. I want to scream, but I don’t remember how.

Not even when Micki steps from the shadows, calmly, a gun in her leather-gloved hand.

“You all right?” she asks me, stepping up to the Descender and giving him a nudge with the toe of her high-heeled boot. The kind, concerned chaperone is long gone, like a disguise she left back at the fountain, dropped in the pink gravel like a candy wrapper. Now she’s all business, with a serious frown and purpose-driven brow.

“You killed them.” It’s all I can say. Both bodies lie flat in the dirt, souls snatched right out of them, ascending to Limbo. To Afterlife.

“They were going to kill you.” She squats over the Descender and pats at his pockets. “Either that or hand you over to Gesh. I’m not sure which is worse. And I couldn’t risk letting them go. They saw your face.”

“Who are you?” I’m shivering more now. How could she know about Gesh? How could she know about me? My head swims. From confusion, from being elbowed in the head, from my busted ear and the blood oozing down my neck.

From everything.

“I’m Micki. I told you that. Or do you want my call number? That would be MCI.” With one swift, fluid movement, she flips the dead Descender over onto his back, so easily and casually she must have done it a hundred times before. The Descender’s eyes are open and vacant. Dirt and blood are smeared on his cheeks. Micki pats him down like she’s rifling through a duffle bag. Like her hands aren’t slipping into the pockets of the dead.

I’ve never watched someone die before. Not unless you count Gesh shooting Blue in our most recent past life, but that was different. I ascended to Limbo before Blue took his last breath. This feels like part of my soul was snatched out of me, too, right along with theirs. Even though both of them were vile dickheads of the highest order, working for Gesh, they were still human. They had breath and a beating heart.

Now they don’t.

“Who do you work for?” I manage to ask.

Micki picks up the Descender’s gun, pops it open, and checks the bullets. So casual about everything. She doesn’t seem worried about anyone finding her kneeling over two dead bodies with a gun in her hand.

She looks up at me, her eyes dark, black in the shadows. “Number Four.”

My muscles tense. Number Four, IV, was my name, my call number, in my most recent past life, when I worked for Gesh and Porter. Porter and Levi gave me the nickname Ivy. Gesh was the only one who called me Number Four. He spoke it in Danish, Nummer Fire, but still. Hearing Micki say those words brought back a host of nasty memories from when I met Gesh face-to-face, when I went back in time and rescued Blue. It made me feel like Gesh was here, standing in front of me. Barking at me, ordering me around, having his henchman hold me down so he could run his hands over me, his property, his creation.

I take a step back from her, my fingers curling into fists. I want to run from her, get the hell out of here, but my head’s too swimmy and I don’t think I could make it two feet. “Why would you call me that?”

“You asked who I work for. I work for Number Four.” She stands up, both guns in her hands now. “I work for you.”

I try to reply but my body won’t let me. My knees wobble, then I slump to the frosty grass. Micki dives to catch me before I smack my head. She eases me to the ground.

“Shit,” she says. “Your ear.” She smooths my hair from the side of my face, dabs at the blood with her sleeve.

My eyelids flutter. I can’t hold on to consciousness. It’s slipping away.

“Hang on, Four. We’ll get you out of here. They’ll be here any minute.”

I want to ask who, but I can’t form the words.

Sleep. I just want to sleep.

The next thing I know I’m lifted by strong arms. Hauled through the dark trees. Slid into the backseat of a car. Leather squeaks beneath me. Streetlights shine through the rear window. I smell pipe tobacco and something earthy, like tea. Doors slam shut and the car takes off, the gears shifting, faster, faster.

“She’s delirious,” a man’s voice says over me, deep and gentle. Two large, warm hands cup my face, turning it back and forth. Two fingers press against the hollow of my neck, checking my pulse.

“A concussion, I think,” says Micki.

Nausea comes, up, up, and I sit bolt upright. “Heyyy, Micki,” I say, my voice slurred, my eyes still squeezed shut. If I open them, see the city rushing past outside the car windows, I know I’ll puke. “You said to let you know if I had to barf. Well, the time has come.” And then I laugh, a sputtered, tiny thing, as I slump back into the man’s arms.

“What did she say?” A second man’s voice, this one from the front of the vehicle. It sounds fatherly. Familiar.

“Porter?” I say, too softly for him to hear.

“Shit,” says the man holding me. “I think she got hit.”

“You shot her?” That’s Porter. I know it is.

“Of course not,” says Micki.

The man holding me unbuttons my shirt. Spreads it wide, pats my ribs, my stomach. “There’s blood all over her.” Panic and concern. It’s a voice I swear I recognize, like I recognize Porter’s.

I try to say I’m OK, that I didn’t get shot, it’s not my blood, but my throat is raw.

“Alex, can you hear me?” the man says.

My eyes flutter open, but they can’t focus on the face looming over me. I close my eyes again, my head cradled in his palms.

“Are you hurt?” he asks.

It finally clicks, where I’ve heard his voice before. The last time I saw him he was in the backseat of a car like this, racing away from AIDA Headquarters an entire lifetime ago. The air was tinted red with blood then, too.

“Levi?” I force myself to say, all raspy and breathless.

“It’s me,” he says.

I manage a smile, small and weak. “We really have to stop meeting like this.”

And then I pass out.

About the Author

M.G. Buehrlen is the author of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare and The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare. For 12 years, M.G. was a web developer and social media director, and she co-developed YABooksCentral.com, the largest social network for YA Book lovers. When not writing or web-developing, M.G. is a hipster-foodie-history-buff who, some say, is way too picky about the quality of her coffee. Visit her online at www.mgbuehrlen.com.
 

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Giveaway Details

Three winners will receive a copy of THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE.

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8 thoughts on “Sneak Peek: The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare by MG Buehrlen + Giveaway (US Only)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I met the author at the YA Lit fest in Kentucky last November. She was very sweet :0) I love the premise of these books, and I’m so glad there’s a second one! If you like this I’d also recommend the 39 Deaths of Adam Strand. Not the same exactly, but still a neat story.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare sounds fantastic ♡ looking forward to reading this book. Thank you

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am digging it — thanks so much for giving me the chance to discover this great new book! I don’t know how much I’d be missing without my trusty book bloggers! Many thanks, Kara S:

  4. Anonymous says:

    That was so good I am frustrated I can’t find out what happens when she comes to! That was exciting and interesting! I love a good book, and am glad to learn of this talented author.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s a really suspenseful story right from the start, isn’t it?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Chilling, I love the imagery and Buehrlen’s writing style. Thanks for the sneak peek!

  7. Anonymous says:

    It made me want more!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I love the first person POV. This book is amust red for me!

Comments are closed.