About The Book
Title: The Dawn of Dae
Series: Dae Portals Book 1
Author: Trillian Anderson
Publisher: Bright Day Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Format: eBook / ePub / PDF - 222 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
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The chance to attend college is just what Alexa Daegberht needs to break out the mold of her caste. If she can become a Bach, she can escape the poverty she’s endured ever since her parents died when she was five. Only through education can she rise above her birth caste–and she knows it.
All of her plans fall to dust when she opens a portal within her refrigerator, turning her macaroni and cheese casserole into a sentient being. By dawn the next day, the mysterious dae have come to Earth to stay. Hundreds of thousands of people vanish into thin air, and as the days pass, the total of the missing number in the millions. Some say it’s the rapture of the Christian faith.
Alexa knows better: their dae ate them, leaving behind nothing more than dust as evidence of their hunger.
As one of the unawakened, she doesn’t have a dae, nor can she manifest any forms of magical powers. She’s lacking the innate knowledge of what the dae are and what they mean for the world. Now more than ever, she is an outsider. Her survival hinges on her ability to adapt to a world she no longer understands.
Unfortunately, one of the dae has taken notice of her, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her. Alexa’s problems pile up as she’s forced to pick her allegiances. Will she submit to the new ways of the world? Will she become some monster’s pawn? Or, against all odds, can she forge her own path and prove normal humans can thrive among those gifted with powers once the domain of fantasies and nightmares?
My first real memory of my parents was also my last.
It was the refrigerator’s fault I remembered. I should’ve known better than to expect new appliances in my new apartment; I was lucky to have appliances at all. I sure as hell couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
The refrigerator, however, was a problem. Every time I looked at it, I remembered—and my first memory of my parents was how I, Alexa Zoe Daegberht, had killed them with a wish.
It was the same refrigerator, right down to its smoke-stained, pebbled surface and its loose handle. The years hadn’t done the damned thing any favors, and I wondered if the door would fall off its hinges when I opened it. Then again, they had built things better when I had been a child.
It was too bad I hadn’t been built a bit better. A lot of things would have been different. It wasn’t my father’s fault no one could touch me without irritating my sensitive skin. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t kiss my cheek like other fathers could with their daughters.
It was his fault he had forgotten; if he hadn’t, my face wouldn’t have been itching and burning. If he hadn’t forgotten, I wouldn’t have run to the fridge, using it as a shield against his touch. If he hadn’t forgotten, I wouldn’t have parroted what he too often said while fighting with my mother:
If you walk out that door, don’t you ever come back.
Because I had believed it, had wanted it, and had prayed for it, wishing on a shooting star that night, I had gotten exactly what I wanted. My parents had walked out the door and left me behind, never to return.
The ocean didn’t like giving up its dead, and planes smacking into the water didn’t leave a whole lot to salvage.
I dropped my bags on the kitchen floor, spat curses, and kicked the refrigerator.
It won; beneath the plastic was metal, and it refused to bend. All I did was crunch my toes, and howling, I hopped around on one foot. Through tear-blurred eyes, I glared at the offensive appliance.
“I’ll end you,” I swore.
Maybe I could spray paint the damned thing pink; it’d be at least four years before I earned my degree and rank as a Bach, and until then, I was stuck with it. Once I became a Bach, I’d be elevated to a better caste—a caste with a future, and a bright one at that. Once I was a Bach, I could afford to buy my own appliances, and I’d never have to see that make or model of refrigerator ever again. If I scored well enough on the exit exams, I had the slim chance of being accepted for Master training.
I had my entire life ahead of me, and it would be a good one. There was no way I’d let a stupid refrigerator take that from me.
I kept telling myself that, but I didn’t believe it.
I gave up and went for my last ditch resort; if macaroni and cheese couldn’t make things better, nothing could.
I left my apartment to explore my new neighborhood and find work, leaving behind the devil-spawned refrigerator with a week’s worth of macaroni and cheese casserole cooling inside. If any of the other students found out I was surviving on pasta flavored with neon-orange powder, I’d be the laughing stock of the college.
I wanted to create the illusion of having come from somewhere other than the poorest district in the city, and to do that, I needed money. Merit-based students like me paid off tuition and housing in labor; I was doomed to at least four years serving as some professor’s slave. At least I had ranked high enough to have an apartment instead of a closet in the shared dorms, but unlike on-campus students, I was on my own for the basics.
There was one place I knew I could find a job in a hurry: the Inner Harbor. If I had come from any other district, if I had belonged to any other caste, I wouldn’t have needed to turn to Kenneth Smith for work. But Kenneth took in those others wouldn’t and made them do his dirty work.
Unfortunately for me, I was good at doing his dirty work. Sighing, I ducked my head, adopted a brisk stride, and headed towards the water.
Baltimore was a big place, and it took me an hour to navigate my way through the city’s heart, skirting around the fringe I had once called home. On the surface, it was a clean, quiet place with carefully trimmed lawns, neatly pruned trees, and flowers contained in concrete planters.
The scars of rebellion pockmarked the brick buildings, a reminder of the violence Kenneth Smith and his cohorts had stamped out years ago, turning a slum into the elite’s paradise.
Once upon a time, the Inner Harbor had been the entertainment district of Baltimore, a place prone to rioting, a place everyone, no matter what caste, could go and gamble away their money or find other pursuits, many of them illegal. Sporting events were popular—if you could afford the entry fee.
I couldn’t, and Kenneth Smith counted on that. He didn’t want me as a client, anyway.
He wanted me as one of his hounds, a dog of his endless drug war, hunting down his non-paying clients, sniffing out dirt on them, and either luring them into one of his little traps or otherwise acquiring his money. The method didn’t matter; the money did, and that was that.
I hated the Inner Harbor; if I had a pack of matches, I wouldn’t have hesitated to light one up in the hope of burning the whole place to the ground. My temper soured the closer I got to the little townhouse located where the fringe began and the elite’s playground ended.
No one in their right mind would have believed, not even for a moment, that Baltimore’s charming, ruthless, and despicable criminal mastermind lived in such a dingy place, and that was exactly the way Kenneth Smith liked it.
I knocked four times, paused, and because I was in a bad mood, I gave the dark-painted door a solid kick, jamming my already aching toes. I didn’t hop around as I had in my apartment.
One of Smith’s bitches didn’t do something so undignified, not in public.
The pain I wanted; it served to focus my attention and remind me of the misery my boss would inflict if I screwed up. Clenching my teeth to keep quiet, I waited. I heard the thump of someone coming down the stairs, and several moments later, the lock clicked. The door opened, and Smith’s favorite dog answered, glaring at me through narrowed eyes.
I smiled at Lily because I knew it would piss her off. “What do you know? It is! Astonishing. Can I come in, or are we going to put on a show for everyone in the neighborhood? I didn’t dress the part. I left my lacy panties at home.”
I didn’t own any lacy panties, but all things considered, I was going to die a virgin anyway. A kiss on the cheek was enough to give me hives. What would happen if someone tried to kiss me on the mouth—or do something far more interesting with me?
I’d probably die.
Lily snarled something incomprehensible under her breath, stepping back to let me in. “Prissy bitch.”
Blond-haired, blue-eyed, pasty-skinned Lily belonged in a doll shop, but instead of telling her to go back to selling herself on the street like I wanted, I asked, “Where’s the boss?”
“Down in the den. He’s with a guest. Wait in the parlor. He’ll come for you himself, I’m sure.” Lily glared at me, slammed the door, and stomped her way up the staircase to the second floor, leaving me to mind my own business in the entry.
I waited by the door.
The parlor always reeked of drugs, but I had kicked my various habits years ago. As always, the parlor made me want a hit so I could forget everything, right down to who I was and what I had done to get by.
I had changed. I wasn’t going to let anyone forget it, myself included.
When the boss came upstairs from the basement alone, I worried. Waiting the hour for him to finish wasn’t unusual, but the fact he hadn’t brought his client along meant one of two things: the client had either left through the tunnels, a conceit of the elite, or I was about to be introduced to them.
Nothing good happened when my boss introduced me to his clients. Nothing good came out of meeting with Kenneth right after an audience with one of the elite.
His fellow elite had a way of pissing him off, especially when they thought themselves above paying back their debts.
I examined the shining hardwood, wondering if Kenneth made Lily get on her hands and knees to polish it to perfection. I doubted it; if he had, neither one of them would have gotten any real work done, and that would hurt his bottom line.
“It’s not like you to come around here without a summons,” my boss said, and his soft-spoken words warned me of trouble.
Kenneth was a lot of things, and passionate was one of them. If he was moderating his voice, it was because he had graduated from annoyed to murderous, and he didn’t feel like killing me today.
I should’ve been grateful for that.
“You always need another nose to the ground, sir,” I murmured, keeping still despite my desire to fidget.
Lily really had done a stellar job with the floors. While I couldn’t make out the details, the wood reflected my dark hair and bronzed skin. My heritage remained a mystery, dying along with my parents.
Some folks said German because of my last name, but none of the German-descents I knew had such bronzed skin. I rivaled an Italian, but no self-respecting Italian I knew had a last name like mine.
I decided it was a good thing I wasn’t all that pretty. I didn’t want to end up just like Lily, serving the boss to keep him from killing the rest of us when he had a bad day. I had too many scars, and not all of them marked my skin.
If he found out about my inability to handle human contact, he’d probably enjoy knowing he could hurt me with his touch alone. When I left, I’d have to thank Lily and offer to run errands for her. It was wise to pay back debts, in advance whenever possible.
The silence stretched on. I gave into my restlessness, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. My toes still throbbed from their introduction to his door and the devil-spawned refrigerator in my apartment.
“Fine. Come on, then,” he snapped, pivoting on a heel to head back in the direction of the basement stairwell.
I followed him, keeping my gaze fixed on his black oxfords, which had been polished almost as shiny as his prized floors. He took the stairs two at a time while I took the more cautious approach. With my luck, I’d snap my neck tumbling down the steps.
“Sit,” he ordered as soon as I crossed over the threshold into his den.
His den was larger than my apartment, although that wasn’t much of a feat. Someone had been smoking something recently, and the fumes were strong enough to make my nose sting. I took a cautious sniff.
At least my standing at college wouldn’t be risked by inhaling residue from one of Kenneth’s cocktails. If they ever found out I was one of his associates, though, I was screwed. I relaxed and, without looking up from his floor, made my way around the couch closest to the door and plopped down on it. I heard him sit on his armchair, which squeaked as he leaned back.
“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit tonight, my little collie.” My boss lit up, and the stench of his cigar choked off my breath. I knew better than to cough, though. All I’d do was piss him off even more.
I chose to ignore the fact he was calling me by a dog breed instead of my name and nodded my agreement. At least he hadn’t called me Lassie.
If I followed the rules, I’d be okay. I’d leave his house just fine—and Lily wouldn’t have any extra reasons to hate me. Speaking only when spoken to, nodding when appropriate, and always, always addressing him by sir would get me through the meeting.
If the boss had a job for me and paid up, maybe I’d buy Lily a pair of lace panties—in silk. I could get them now, as long as I had the cash for them. All I had to do was survive the meeting with Kenneth and do one last job for him.
“You’re a freshman now, aren’t you?”
Kenneth’s voice was still soft, quiet, and utterly devoid of emotion, so I drew a deep breath, nodded my head obediently, and whispered, “Yes, sir.”
“Full-merit,” he commented, and his tone took on a rueful edge.
“Now how the hell did a little mutt like you get into Bach studies on full-merit?” he demanded, thumping his fist on the arm of his chair. He smacked it several more times before sighing gustily. “You’re something else, that’s what you are. I obviously wasn’t keeping you busy enough. I am to blame.”
Whoever had been meeting with him before I had arrived had left Kenneth in a bad mood, and his ire was directed at me. Any other day, I would have told him to go cry a river and fill the Chesapeake. I wanted to tell him to stuff it, but I needed the work, and he needed me.
I could go to the places he couldn’t, and he knew it.
“I studied, sir.”
“You studied. No shit, Collie. What I want to know is how you got through the application process right under my nose without me knowing a thing until Lily went out earlier to summon you. Your pad’s already been taken over, if you weren’t aware.”
The vultures had likely swooped in the minute I had left, but I kept my mouth shut. If I said a word, it would be something I’d regret. Granted, I likely wouldn’t regret it for long, but that was a different matter entirely.
I nodded and resumed studying the floor. Lily had missed a spot, and I’d been around Kenneth Smith long enough to recognize dried blood when I saw it.
At least it wasn’t fresh.
“Cat’s got your tongue? Fine. Maybe for the better. You’d open your mouth and make me want to shoot you. You’re right. I want your nose. Son of a bitch elite backed out on his debt. He’s in Bach studies just like you. Sniff the bastard out for me. He’s got a taste for crystals and a head for scents. He also seems to believe he can back out on his debts to me. Get close to him, learn his haunts, and report to me. I want to know who or what can be used against him, where he lives, and any significant people in his life—preferably women. Better yet, make yourself a significant woman to him. You need to relax.”
I risked lifting my head and stared at Kenneth Smith.
It amazed me I didn’t break out in a rash just from looking at him. In so many ways, he was an average man; not too tall, not too short, not too anything, which conspired to make him right in all the wrong ways. My brown eyes were too dark for any sort of warmth, while his were melted chocolate, tempting and sensual.
Despite the annoyance of his tone, the corners of his mouth quirked up in a smile.
I hated Kenneth Smith. Every time I saw him, I wondered what it would be like to kiss someone. It was his damned mouth, which could flatten to a line or curve into a ripe smile, shifting with his mood. I could always tell his mood from the movements of his lips.
His voice said angry, but his mouth promised all of those interesting things I couldn’t do and Lily could—and would, probably as soon as I left the house.
“What’s his name?” I asked, reminding myself Kenneth was a dangerous, foul man. A smart girl didn’t deal with the devil or take him to her bedroom.
I’d already struck out once in the smart department. I’d probably punch my own ticket if I tried anything with him. If I didn’t die from an allergic reaction to him, he wouldn’t appreciate me throwing up on him.
Men had that effect on me.
Kenneth sighed, and I echoed him.
I wondered if he realized we were probably sighing for the same reason. He had already slept with all of his other bitches, leaving me as the one who always got away.
If he found out about my allergy, I’d never live it down.
Silence wasn’t like Kenneth. He chomped on his cigar, grunting his acknowledgment of my question. I waited, lowering my gaze to the floor to stare at the brown splotch marring the hardwood.
“Terry Moore. His father runs the stadium. He got hooked six months back, paid for three months worth of supplies, and decided he was above paying the rest of the balance.”
I did some mental math, clucking my tongue as I ran through the various costs of crystals and scents. Crystals appealed to those who enjoyed tasting their drugs, slowly dissolving on the tongue, while scents came as either incenses or other forms of inhaled narcotics. Big league players often spend thousands a week for the good stuff.
The elite settled for nothing less.
If Terry was studying for his Bach like me, he had friends—elite friends. Buying friendships through drugs wasn’t uncommon, especially among those who were supposed to be too good for the trade.
“A hundred and fifty thou,” I said, straightening my back and lifting my chin, defying my boss with my glare. “Small change for you. There’s gotta be more to it than that. You don’t move against the elite for pennies.” I paused, sucked in a breath as I remembered I wasn’t supposed to piss him off, and added, “Sir.”
Kenneth’s smile widened to a grin. “Can’t let anything slip by you, can I? You’re right. It is small change. Under normal circumstances, I’d let it get up to at least half a mil. But, he made off with some of my new stuff, and I want it back.”
Reaching down beside his chair, he lifted up a metal cage containing a variety of test tubes. They were filled with a red liquid with the same viscosity as blood. He lifted one out, sloshing it around. “Little Bachs don’t want to get caught on the tests, so he wanted something for school-year use. This baby doesn’t register on any of the current tests. You can dry it into a powder. You can inject it, and you can even drink it if you want. It’s mellow enough, long-lasting, gives one hell of a nice high, and doesn’t impair function too much. Best of all, it doesn’t seem to cause much damage when it wears off.”
If he was speaking the truth, he had likely found the Holy Grail of the drug world.
“How many uses in one of those vials?”
“A few,” he evaded.
I narrowed my eyes, considered the few clues he had given me, and shrugged. “How many vials did he make off with?”
“And you haven’t killed him yet?” I blurted.
Kenneth arched a brow at me. “He can’t pay me if he’s dead. After he’s paid, I’ll think about it.”
I grimaced. One day I would learn to keep my mouth shut. “Get the info and retrieve the drugs if possible. Anything else, sir?”
“I wouldn’t say no to you bringing me my money along with the info and the drugs.”
Somehow, I kept from saying even one of the hundreds of snarky, sarcastic comments flitting through my head. Any one of them would piss him off even more, and there was only so far I could push him before he decided to go for his gun. “I don’t think I can carry that much cash, sir, and I really doubt he’ll give me his bank account details.”
“You could always sniff them out for me. You’re good at sneaking off to places you shouldn’t go—like college.”
I scowled. “I said I would sniff, not bite, sir. Biting is Lily’s job.”
“One of these days, Collie, you’re going to piss me off.”
I widened my eyes, raising my hand to cover my mouth. “You mean I haven’t already?”
“Every day. Get out of here, bitch. I don’t want to see your face at my house until you have his info and my drugs. And don’t you even think about forgetting my money.”
I escaped while I could and risked taking the steps two at a time.
About The Author
Opener of Portals. Urban Fantasy Author. Mistress of Giggles. Warped Sense of Humor.
Trillian Anderson is, like so many of us, a figment of someone's imagination. She was born somewhere in the United States, loves to travel, and has no scruples about moving to new and interesting places around the world. She loves fantasy fiction of all types, but holds a special fondness for urban fantasies, epic fantasies, and stories capable of capturing her imagine.
Most of all, she enjoys grabbing a flashlight, hiding under the blankets, and pretending she's asleep when she's, in actuality, reading a beloved book.
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