The Dark Lines Book 2: When Darkness Falls by Jo Ramsey
urban fantasy young adult novel
Cover art by Winterheart Design
Fourteen-year-old Blake Walker is the “weird kid” at school. As an adopted foster child, he has never forgotten what his birth mother put him through because of his psychic abilities. Because of that, he’s determined not to let anyone get close enough to him to discover what he can do.
But keeping his distance from Faith Carlisle isn’t easy. A new girl at school, Faith doesn’t seem to care what people say. She persists in trying to get to know him. When he gives in and becomes her friend, Blake discovers that Faith has abilities as well. And she’s not the only one; Eli Tyler, one of the popular jocks, is gifted, too.
With his surprising new friends, Blake discovers a threat: a dark presence occupying an abandoned house in town. Through a website he finds Topher James and Callie Monroe, two older teens who have fought this darkness before. With their guidance, Blake must defeat the dark entity before he and Faith are lost forever.
From the kitchen, voices filtered through my bedroom door. Same old, same old. My mother and her husband debating about money again. Or, more specifically, about how much I cost.
“How am I supposed to pay for this?” my stepfather demanded. “If that counselor thinks Blake needs more help, let him pay for it.”
Trying to block the sound of Mom and Step’s argument, I pulled my pillow over my ears. Of course, it didn’t work. My bedroom was next to the kitchen, so any time Mom and Step talked in there, I heard them. Especially when they raised their voices. Even if they hadn’t been so loud, I would have been able to hear their thoughts. No pillow could silence them, and this early in the morning I was too tired to block.
At least when I opened my mind enough to hear what they were thinking, Step’s thoughts told me he didn’t hold the cost of my counseling against me. He believed I needed it, and he was pretty smug about having taken on his wife’s “problem child.” Somewhere inside, he did actually care about me. He just didn’t like to let on when I might notice. If I needed additional counseling sessions, he’d make it happen. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how, and that ticked him off.
I really wished I couldn’t hear other people’s thoughts. I tried not to, but sometimes I was too curious to block them. Even when I tried to keep them out, occasionally thoughts leaked through. I didn’t like my mother’s new husband, Roger, much. I called him “Step” for that reason. Honestly, it would have been easier to completely hate him if I’d judged him by just his words. Those usually made it sound like he didn’t like me either. I figured he just plain didn’t know how to deal with me, so it was easier for him to complain and yell than to try and figure it out. Even if his thoughts said he loved my mom and cared about me.
“It isn’t that Blake needs more help,” Mom said. She went silent for a moment. She didn’t seem to know how to finish her sentence. I could have told her. It wasn’t that I needed more help, it was that my counselor, Perry, considered me beyond help. Only the money my parents gave him kept him from giving up on me completely.
“Then what is it?” Step demanded. “This is getting ridiculous, Laura. It’s been nine years since you adopted the kid. Why does he still need counseling anyway? They took him away from his mother when he was what, five? By now he should be over whatever she did to him. Did they tell you back then that he was a nutcase?”
“Roger!” Mom said angrily. “He’ll hear you. Watch what you say.”
I knew, because Mom had told me before she’d married Step two years earlier, that if it ever came to a choice between him and me she would choose me. To her, I was the most important person in the world, which made me feel pretty good when I let it. I never wondered whether she really loved me, because since the day she’d taken me in as a foster kid, she’d made sure I’d known. She didn’t mind his arguing with her, because she could handle whatever he said. She just wanted to protect me from hearing it.
Apparently Step knew where he stood with her, too. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, speaking in a much quieter tone. “Blake isn’t a nutcase, and I shouldn’t have said that. But his counseling is expensive, Laura, and the insurance company isn’t happy. Pretty soon we’ll have to start paying out of pocket, and that counselor of his is expensive. Hell, you are a counselor. You know what it costs.”
“Yes, and I’ll take on more clients if I have to,” Mom snapped. “The money isn’t important, Roger. Neither is the insurance. I just want what’s best for Blake.”
“I want what’s best for him, too. When I married you, I said I’d take care of both of you.” He paused. “But we also have to think about what’s best for our bank account. I’ll talk to the insurance people today. They called yesterday and said we’re almost out of mental health benefits. I’ll try to persuade them to keep covering Blake’s sessions, but I can guarantee they aren’t going to authorize more coverage, and we can’t afford it if they don’t.”
“We’ll find a way.” A moment after Mom spoke, I heard the refrigerator door slam, signaling the end of the discussion.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Mom and Step got along all right most of the time. I’d never seen any sign that he might hurt her, either physically or with words. Even so, every time they raised their voices, the little five-year-old me whose so-called mother had beaten the crap out of him cringed and tried to run and hide. I didn’t think Step would do anything to Mom or to me, but that didn’t mean I trusted him.
It was almost time to get up for school, so I grabbed a clean pair of jeans and a black T-shirt with the emblem of some rock band on it, my usual school uniform, and headed for the shower. When I came out of my room, Step jumped, like he’d forgotten I was there, and widened his brown eyes under the heavy brows that always made him look ticked off even when he was happy. I didn’t buy his pretend surprise. He knew I’d overheard, and I sensed it pleased him for some reason. I stared at him just long enough to make him uncomfortable, which was also long enough for me to sense something not quite right about him. Something had changed in him since the night before.
Something’s gone dark in him. The thought made no sense, but it sounded totally accurate.