Willow Harbor launches in just a few weeks! I can't wait to share Shifter's Fate with everyone, but until then here's the first chapter. :)
Alyssa Rose Ivy
*Copyright 2017 Alyssa Rose Ivy*
The sea churned in front of me, the waves slamming against the shore as the storm worsened above. I heard the voice again calling my name, urging me to step closer to the water.
Logic told me to stay away, but logic didn’t rule in Willow Harbor. Fate did.
I stepped into the water, clutching the book against my chest, and giving myself over wholly and fully to fate.
At least it would be warmer than New York. I rationalized my decision in any way I could. It wasn’t as if I had a plethora of job opportunities, but willingly moving to a small town in South Carolina was crazy—even for me.
The pay was decent, especially since it included a rent-free apartment. The town was tiny, so I wouldn’t spend much on gas. There were lots of positives.
Who was I kidding? I was moving to the boonies to work a crappy job. There was no other way to spin it. My parents were right, going to grad school for library science had been a mistake. But then again so had taking out over a hundred grand in student loans for my undergrad. Mistakes weren’t something new for me. I’d been making them over and over my entire life; the difference is the older I got, the worse they seemed to be.
There was no reason to beat myself up about it now. At least I’d found a job. That was better than the situation I had been in four days earlier. Yes, four days. I had accepted a position four days ago, and now I was getting ready to move to a place I had never been before. At least Willow Harbor was coastal; I did love the ocean. Still, maybe crazy was too tame of a word.
I was lucky to have a job. End of story. Job offers were scarce with a downturned market and my inability to use my current employer as a reference. That was hard to do when he hated you for refusing to have sex with him.
I again went over the multitude of positives surrounding the move while I drove the last few hours of the more than twelve-hour trip. I followed my new employer’s advice, typing Charleston into my GPS and then turning it off once I got there. For one reason or another Willow Harbor didn’t show up on any virtual maps. I had heard of streets going missing from the GPS before, but never an entire town. Maybe that’s how you knew a town was really, really, small. Unfortunately, I was addicted to GPS. I didn’t know what to do when all I was left with was a set of directions I’d scribbled down while on the phone. If I made it to the town alive, I would be lucky. A sense of direction was something I wasn’t born with, and now that the sun had set I was really in trouble. Driving at night was another of my weaknesses.
I tried to read the paper while also watching the dark road. There was a turn coming up I was sure of it, or had I missed it? What was the name of the highway? I sighed. This was why my mom urged me to always carry an atlas with me. I’d had one in my car for years until I’d cleaned it out. Who needed paper maps anymore? Evidently I did. To be fair I’d only tossed it after a friend dropped an entire container of sweet and sour chicken on it last spring.
I needed to pull over, but pulling onto the side of the road in the dark in the middle of nowhere seemed like a really bad idea. The kind of bad idea girls always got in horror movies right before they died a horrible death. I had no interest in dying.
If I kept driving, maybe I’d get lucky and find the right road. A few more miles down the dark road I accepted the truth. I was in trouble, and I had no one to call. I knew no one anywhere in this whole state, let alone nearby. I drove until I saw a sign for a gas station and took the next exit. The street lights lining the exit ramp were out, and I temporarily turned on my brights to make sure I didn’t run over anything—or anyone. Yet another thing that seemed to happen a disproportionate amount in scary movies. For someone who hated horror films, I had seen my share of them. It was almost as if I liked to torture myself by sitting through the films just to give myself nightmares. I was sure my college roommate, turned psychologist, would have quite a bit to say on the subject. But she wasn’t here now. No one was. I had to handle this situation on my own.
I switched off my brights once I reached the two-lane road. The street lights worked here at least. I drove about a half-mile down the road until I saw a gas station that shared a parking lot with a run-down looking restaurant.
I put my car in park and tried the GPS in my phone again. Maybe it worked when you were closer. No such luck. It kept pulling up a Willow Harbor tavern in Texas. Like that was going to help me?
I eyed the diner. The neon sign was turned off as were most of the lights, but there were still a few cars parked in the lot. Barging in on a closed restaurant in the middle of nowhere didn’t sound appealing, but I was out of options. If there was any chance of getting some directions, it was worth trying.
I grabbed my purse and headed toward the wooden and metal building that looked more like a train car than a restaurant, wishing I hadn’t been wearing my NYU sweatshirt. I had learned the hard way that New Yorkers weren’t always welcome in small towns.
I pushed on the door, it opened swiftly, and I ended up stumbling inside. Not exactly the entrance I was hoping for.
“We’re closed,” a male voice barked out.
I straightened, noting the oddly low ceilings before I managed to make eye contact with a huge man wearing a neon yellow baseball cap.
“Sorry. I know. Well, I assumed. I’m not here to eat,” I spit out an unintelligible series of words.
I heard some snickering and looked around. There were a few lights on in the front section of the restaurant with several booths taken. No one jumped out as particularly noteworthy except a guy maybe a year or so older than me with jet black hair and the coolest set of grey eyes I’d ever seen.
Ogling some guy wasn’t going to help my situation, so I turned back toward the man with the bright baseball cap when he spoke again. “Then why are you here?” He spoke a little bit softer this time. He was in his sixties maybe, but I found guessing ages to be hard.
“I’m lost. I need directions.” I studied the worn linoleum floor.
“Where do you need directions to?” He asked with a hint of amusement.
I wasn’t sure what could possibly be amusing about my needing directions, but I kept that to myself. “To Willow Harbor. I know it can’t be too far off, but I can’t read the directions I scribbled down.”
There was more light laughter, and I traced it to the table with grey eyes. I refused to look to see if it was him specifically. I didn’t want to further confirm my hypothesis that all attractive guys were jerks.
“Why do you want to go to Willow Harbor?” Grey eyes stood up from the booth he’d been seated in and walked toward me. His black hair was tousled, as if he hadn’t even been bothered to fix it before leaving the house. I could relate to him there. My hair spent most of its time in a bun on the top of my head.
“Does the why matter?” I eyed the guy warily. Attractive or not, he was a little too interested in where I was headed.
“No, it doesn’t matter, honey.” A woman walked out of the kitchen. She was wearing a white and blue stripped apron. “You are real close. You need to take the highway until it dead ends at Ullman road. Take a right, and you will see the gates. You can’t miss it.”
“The gates?” I asked for clarification. The library director had not mentioned gates in the set of directions she gave me.
“I will ask again. Why are you going to Willow Harbor?” Grey eyes scowled.
I stepped back. Yes my hypothesis was right. Oh well. Maybe there was an exception somewhere in the world. “Not that it is any of your business, but I am going for a job. I start a new position tomorrow, so I need to find it tonight. Will I be able to get through the gates?”
“Oh yeah. The gates are open.” The women smiled. “Don’t worry.”
“Great. Ok, so take the highway to Ullman road and take a right?” I wasn’t taking a chance of messing this up. I doubted I’d find anywhere else to stop any time soon.
“Yes, but stay alert so you don’t miss it.” She put her hands in the pocket of her apron.
“How can I miss it if the road dead ends?” Was there something obvious I wasn’t getting? It wouldn’t be the first time. I had a habit of missing what other people found obvious. Which is how I had been taken completely unaware by my boss’s proposition. My co-worker had seen it coming months before I did.
“Stranger things have happened.” The woman disappeared back into the kitchen.
“Thanks,” I called after her. I nodded to the guy behind the counter and pushed open the door.
The chill in the air hit me as soon as I stepped outside, and I kept my head down as I hurried away from the diner.
“Wait a second,” a male voice called when I was halfway to my car.
I turned around cautiously, not at all surprised when I came face to face with grey eyes. “Yes?”
“What job did you take in Willow Harbor?” His arms were crossed over his chest, and his eyes seemed eerie in the faint glow of the single light pole illuminating the parking lot.
“Why do you care?” He was asking way too many questions.
“Because we don’t get too many new people in town. I’m surprised a girl like you would take a job there.”
“We? You live in Willow Harbor?” Then the rest of what he said caught up with me. “And what do you mean a girl like me?” I knew an insult when I felt it.
He pointed to my sweatshirt. “We don’t get too many New Yorkers.”
“Well, this New Yorker is going to be your new librarian.” I straightened up to make myself taller. I wasn’t short, more like average by most people’s estimates. “That okay with you?”
He smiled ever so slightly. “Follow me.”
“Why would I do that?” I struggled to sound calm. I was getting more nervous by the second.
“Because I’m heading home, and like Loretta says, you have to really pay attention on your way there.”
“You promise you aren’t trying to run me off?” I wasn’t sure why I was asking. He could lie just as easily as he could tell the truth, but I had to ask.
“You think I’m trying to run the librarian off before she gets to town? That’s not going to go well for me.”
“Why not?” Last I heard people weren’t up in arms over the loss of librarians. Most libraries were cutting staff not filling vacant positions.
“Because your new boss is my mother.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t seen that coming. Maybe I needed to try harder to be polite. I didn’t want to do something to upset my boss before I started. I needed to keep the job at least long enough to get a reference. Then I could head back up north.
“Oh is right.” He smirked. “Ready to follow?”
I thought over my options. Making sure I didn’t get lost was high on my list. So was avoiding a potentially uncomfortable situation with the new boss. “Sure. Lead the way.”