Dead by Morning: Rituals of the Night Book One
This is the first book in my Rituals of the Night Series, and my debut novel.
Obsession is deadly.
No one learns that better than Luna Ketz, a pessimistic high school senior. Caught between the intentions of her Muslim father and business-minded mother, boys are the last thing on Luna’s mind, but this fact doesn’t detour the mysterious Chance Welfrey from trying to gain her affection.
Luna doesn’t think twice about him until girls at their high school begin to disappear. Girls who tended to hurt her. Girls she wished would disappear. When she receives a call from a long-lost friend, normalcy goes out the window as she’s plunged into the paranormal. There’s a world beneath the surface of the unconscious mind, and the killer knows how to navigate it. Luna is in danger and although she can avoid the killer in reality, she cannot avoid him in her dreams.
*Rated for mature adult themes and depictions of violence*
Chance stayed where he was, studying the nearby people. At the sight of him alone, a couple girls ran up to him and Luna guessed they were asking him for a dance. She smiled a bit to herself…maybe if he got distracted with the other girls he would forget she was there. As she watched, he shooed the girls away with a simple movement of his arm, and Luna’s hope turned to disappointment. He walked over to her, searching her eyes with his.
“What’s wrong? Don’t like the paparazzi?” He laughed.
“You should dance with those other girls.”
“Why?” he asked, scrunching up his face.
“Because I want to go home.”
He shook his head. “No way, you’re not going home without at least giving me one dance.”
Luna slumped her shoulders. “Do we really have to?”
“Do I have to tell David that you didn’t follow his orders?” he asked, tipping his head to the side.
Luna closed her eyes for a long moment to hold back the building anger. He’d keep his promise. “Fine, you win.”
He smiled and held out his hand to her. “Of course I did.”
Reluctantly, she set her hand in his. His skin felt clammy beneath her fingers, like he had been sweating. Luna wanted to pull her hand back, but she forced herself to keep it there. He closed his fingers around hers and pulled her onto the dance floor. The music turned to a slow, sappy song, forcing them to slow dance. He forced her arms up onto his shoulders and set his hands on her waist.
As he stepped to the music, she searched his expression for any sign of compassion. “Why do you do this to me?”
“Make me go to things like this. I mean, I know you don’t like me. What could you possibly want from me?”
He looked back at her, and for a minute, he didn’t speak, as if he had been caught off-guard by her question. “I can’t tell you.”
“You can blackmail me into going on dates with you, and you can have your friends kidnap me, but you can’t tell me why you do it?” she asked in disbelief.
“Look, you’ll find out eventually, and you won’t like it, I know. I try hard to get you to feel something toward me so that when you find that out, you won’t fight me,” he whispered in her ear.
“Find what out? What could be so bad? Do Susan and Kate and all of them know what it is?” She pulled back to watch his face carefully.
“No, they don’t. No one does. Just keep quiet, okay?”
“Does this have to do with the thing you hide in your pocket?” Luna asked him a bit louder. “Do you have it on you now?” She reached her hand forward to try to touch the side of his pants.
A couple people around them turned to look as she raised her voice to him. Chance caught her wrist easily in his hand, returned their stares, and smiled nervously before looking back at Luna. He had to resist the urge to shake her into silence as he let go of her arm.
“I don’t hide anything in my pocket okay?” he snarled. “That’s all just your imagination, Luna. Now drop it.”
Part of her was frightened by his sudden anger. He was hiding something from her…and from everyone else as well.
“Okay, we’re setting up to play,” a voice called from the stage. “We need a volunteer singer to help us out.”
“How about Chance does it?” Luna heard a nearby girl suggest.
The anger dissolved from Chance’s face as he turned to the girl who had spoken. Luna realized all of his rage had been solely directed at her, and she felt oddly cold at the thought.
“Yeah, I’ll do it. Why not?” she barely heard him say.
He let go of her and moved through the cheering crowd toward the stage. The band took its place, and Chance stood at the microphone. He looked completely comfortable up there, normal, as if he weren’t the center of attention. The band began to play “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and Luna studied Chance. He began to sing the words gently, and his voice surprised her.
It sounded beautiful.
As Luna watched him, she knew he looked like any other teenage boy. The girls around Luna cheered him on, but she stayed silent. His eyes flicked to her as he reached the chorus of the song, flashing in the lights. There was something bad about him. Something that separated him from all the other teenage boys and made him a danger to the people who called him ‘friend.’
Friends with Violet, Max, and Amy. Hates Chance.
Luna is a pessimistic high school senior who prefers to stick to herself or her handful of friends than to socialize. She’s an academic, striving to do the best with her studies that she can manage. Very logical and down-to-Earth. Also very easily annoyed.
Unhealthy obsession with Luna. Friends with Sarah and Susan. Hates Max.
Suave and collected, Chance can melt the hearts of just about anyone that he meets. He’s intelligent though he doesn’t make a show of it. He’s also a deadly psychopath who can manipulate anyone to make sure things go the way he wants.
He also has his own Twitter: https://twitter.com/YesTHATChance
Friends with Luna and Max. Enamored with Chance.
Naive and straightforward, Violet is the opposite of Luna in every single way. Her want for the school’s King sets Luna on her troublesome path.
Friends with Luna. Acquaintances of Violet and Amy. Hates Chance.
Knowledgeable but secretive, Max is Luna’s right-hand man. Although he lives a good deal away from her, he makes sure to make his presence known when things go south though he’s sure to keep a lid on his odd past.
Friends with Luna.
Shy and quiet, she keeps to herself most of the time. She likes to draw and comes alive once she’s off the boundary of the school limits. Dependable, Luna can count on her to be there when she’s needed.
Friends with Chance. Sister of Sarah.
The rowdier of the Cross sisters. Idealizes makeup and appearances. Has a crush on Chance and wishes for him to notice her. She’s a cheerleader but much nicer than the other ones on her squad.
Sister of Susan.
Although she is considered part of the “in” crowd, she’s quiet and doesn’t care for Chance. She follows her sister’s orders and has a love for Shakespeare and drama.