This week's bite is brought to you by teenage cyborgs!
DSDU: Can you in five words or less describe your book Freaks in the City?
Maree: Not without a serious brain transplant! Um.... Secrets-of-the-kind-that-come-back-to-bite-you-in-the-bum, ex-girlfriend-from-hell, meglomaniac-baddie-who-gets-his-comeuppance, teenage cyborgs....
Yikes. I really really suck at this. At its heart of Freaks in the City is a romance, with Jay and Tyler struggling to get to know each other and cope with what Jay is, and what that means for them both. So maybe: "True love isn't a cake-walk when your girlfriend's a cyborg!"
DSDU: What inspired you to write it?
Maree: I had fans begging me to write another story about teen cyborg Jay and her love-interest Tyler -- they were dying to know whether Jay and Tyler's Happy For Now morphed into a Happy Ever After. Having actual fans begging for another story? Awesome!!! I feel so blessed that readers wanted more so I had an excuse to revisit Jay's world again.
While I was finishing another project, I had a few ideas percolating in my brain about
(BTW, if you're wondering whether Jay and Tyler get their happy ever after by the end of Freaks in the City, all I can say without letting the cat out of the bag is "it's complicated!" *g*)
DSDU: And here's the excerpt:
Mike Davidson slanted a quick gaze at his wife, noting her tightly pursed lips and ominous frown before he turned his attention to the road again. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. Just because he’s staying over at Jaime’s doesn’t mean he’s moved in with her.”
Marissa’s snort told him exactly what she thought of that line of reasoning. “I knew he was hiding something,” she said.
Mike winced at her acerbic tone. Now he was even less convinced surprising Tyler and his mysterious girlfriend with an unexpected visit was a great idea. But they hadn’t seen their son in months, so Mike had given in to Marissa’s wishes—as he always seemed to these days. And after driving all this way the “surprise” had gone awry because Tyler hadn’t been home. They’d had to beg his girlfriend’s address from one of his roommates.
Mike tightened his hands on the steering wheel. Might be a good time for a father-son chat. Especially given the situation he and Marissa now found themselves in. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.
He turned into Parkway and couldn’t help a stab of envy. Jaime’s folks obviously had money. And as if to rub salt into the wound, as he headed down the street the split unit brownstones segued to even more envy-inducing singles. Sure would explain Tyler’s evasiveness whenever they’d asked after Jaime. He was probably embarrassed as heck over dating a trust fund baby.
Mike slowed his speed to a crawl and pointed out Number 64 to Marissa. “That’s the one.”
Marissa twisted in her seat to peer back at the house. “Nice.” She didn’t volunteer anything more as they pulled into a parking space, but Mike knew from the way her gaze had lingered that she was impressed.
She linked her arm in his as they strolled up the street. Out front of Number 64 she paused on the sidewalk to smooth her hair and tweak the hem of the smart top she wore over her jeans. “Wonder what she’s like,” Mike heard her mutter.
“Knowing Tyler, she’ll be a sweet kid.”
Marissa gave him “You gotta be kidding me” eyes and Mike threw her a wry grin. She had a point. Tyler’s first serious girlfriend, Nessa, had been a disaster what with the lies she’d spread about Tyler, and that shocking business over her dealing drugs. Marissa had confessed to being relieved as all heck when Nessa dumped Tyler for another boy she could lead around by her too-short shorts. And as for Jay….
There’d been nothing remotely amusing about Jay. Tyler had been a mess for months afterward. And although Mike felt like the crappiest human being on the planet for even thinking this after everything Jay had sacrificed, it was probably just as well she’d died. There’d been no possible way her relationship with Tyler could have ended well.
“Here’s hoping the third girlfriend’s the charm,” Marissa said, obviously thinking along the same lines.
They both pasted smiles on their faces as they walked up the neat cobble-stoned path to the front door. To the left of the entrance alcove was a discreet security pad and speaker. Mike buzzed and waited for a response.
A voice demanded, “Who is it, please?”
The hairs on the back of Mike’s neck rose.
He sneaked a look at his wife. Marissa was impatiently shifting her weight from foot to foot, grimacing, and probably wishing she’d worn more comfortable shoes. He wondered whether he should forewarn her, but before he could think of what to say, or how to say it, Marissa leaned over and spoke into the speaker. “Jaime? It’s Tyler’s mom and dad. Is he there?”
“One moment, please.”
Mike squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, hoping he was wrong.
When the door opened and he heard Marissa’s shocked hiss, he knew he hadn’t been mistaken. He slowly opened his eyes to stare into the inhumanly blue gaze of Jay Smith, the girl who’d turned their lives upside down, given Mike back his life and his family, and stolen his son’s heart.
Jay Smith. Jaime Smythson. Obvious now he thought about it. He should have known Jay hadn’t died in the explosion. She was a cyborg, after all. And as Mike well knew, cyborgs were very hard to kill.
Jay had warned Tyler of the high probability his parents would take matters into their own hands if he continued to be so evasive about “Jaime”. She could have claimed Tyler wasn’t at home and made some excuse for not introducing herself to his parents at this particular time. But such prevarications would have only delayed the inevitable. Far better to get it over with fast and quick to minimize the pain—just like the human analogy of ripping off a Band-Aid.
“Well,” she said to her not-so-unexpected visitors. “This is awkward.”
Marissa opened her mouth but any words she’d been about to say appeared to be locked tight in her throat. Michael puffed out a sharp breath that wasn’t quite a laugh. “You can say that again,” he said.
Not so long ago, Jay might have stated that she was indeed capable of repeating herself. Word for word. With the exact same intonation and inflection, in fact. Now she knew better than to take such statements literally. She stood aside and said, “Would you like to come in?”
When Marissa hesitated, Jay followed up with a gentle verbal nudge. “After driving all this way, it seems a shame to turn around and leave.” She graciously pretended not to notice when Michael made the decision for his wife by means of a firm hand to the small of Marissa’s back.
She closed the door behind her guests and ushered them through into the living room. The staccato taps of Marissa’s boot-heels on the polished wooden floorboards sounded angry—rather like Marissa’s expression now she’d gotten over the initial shock of realizing that “Jaime” was in fact Jay.… And realized that Tyler had effectively been lying by omission all this time. Not a small lie, either. This was big.
Jay nibbled her lower lip—a gesture she’d picked up from Tyler’s twin sister, Caro, that seemed to suit this current situation admirably. She’d been foolish to merely age herself two years to keep in step with Tyler’s natural human aging process. It would have been prudent—safer—to have made more drastic alterations to her appearance to ensure she could not be recognized by his family. But all logic had been overshadowed by her need for Tyler to instantly recognize her again.
He had that effect on her. He always had—from the very first time she’d encountered him in his junior year at Greenfield High.
“Please sit down.” She indicated the leather couches and two matching recliners grouped in a pleasing arrangement around an old mahogany coffee table. Jay had restored the table herself, and then burnished its pitted and scarred wood to a high sheen. She’d even go so far as to state she was proud of it. At least she presumed the warm glow she felt whenever she stroked a palm over its surface was pride.
Michael chose one of the couches. He appeared relaxed—on the surface anyway. Marissa perched next to him, hands clasped in her lap. Her gaze darted around the room, lingering every now and then on furnishings or pieces of artwork. Jay suspected Marissa’s interest was more an excuse not to look her son’s girlfriend in the eye than any real interest in Jay’s taste in interior design.
She stifled a sigh. Given his parents’ reaction, she wasn’t looking forward to confessing the truth to Tyler’s sister. Friends didn’t fake their own deaths and then conceal their identities. Caro was going to be hurt and angry when she found out. And now her parents knew the truth, Jay guessed it would not be long before Caro became privy to the information. She wouldn’t blame Caro for never speaking to her again.
“Can I offer you refreshments?”
“I’d kill for a beer,” Mike said.
“I don’t keep alcohol on the premises,” Jay told him. “Tyler’s underage and alcohol has little effect on me.” Although she could appreciate a fine wine as much as any avid connoisseur.
“Oh. Right. Of course.”
“Where is Tyler?” Marissa’s question came at the exact time as Michael said, “Your hair is different.”
“Yes. I’m told the color is chestnut.” She’d grown in the new color gradually, subtly threading the new shade through the black. The entire change had taken six weeks. She’d also adjusted the melanin levels of her dermis to better suit her new hair color. Her lips curved upward, recalling Tyler telling her she looked “sun-kissed”… and following up with a real kiss that had left her as breathless as it was possible for a cyborg to be.
“Suits you,” Michael said. “I like it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Davidson. Tyler likes it, too.”
Because it would be impolite not to respond, Jay addressed Marissa’s question. “I estimate Tyler will make an appearance in approximately eight minutes.” She added the “approximately” because although she could extrapolate the time he would take based on previous data, habitual human behaviors were not immutable. Today Tyler might decide on a whim to change his habits.
To cover the awkward silence that had fallen she headed for the fridge to grab three sodas. She offered Michael a cola and Marissa a cream soda, before taking the kitty-corner easy chair and popping the lid on her own cola.
Tyler’s mother glanced at the canned drink. “How do you know I like—?” She pressed her lips together and then after a pause muttered, “Never mind.”
Michael read the ingredients list on his soda can.
Marissa twisted her wedding ring around and around on her finger.
Jay took another sip of her cola.
Freaks in the City is available at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and All Romance eBooks. For buy links, excerpts, reviews, more information about Freaks in the City and/or Maree please visit:
Freaks in the City mini website