Here is the Amazon link for the Ebook FlameMaker
You can also read the first six Chapters on Wattpad for FREE - my author name is Rainey70
You can also read the first six Chapters on Wattpad for FREE - my author name is Rainey70
A year ago, a fiery car crash took the life of Ember Riley’s parents, leaving her without a scratch on her body, no memory of the accident and alone. Now fostered, tormented, and fearful, Ember hardly recognizes the person she once was.
To make matters worse, a strange fiery heat is building inside her, causing her to question her sanity. Metal objects liquify at her touch. Boiling water has no effect on her skin, and whenever River Fulton, the enigmatic new guy, is near her, it reaches volcanic proportions. His strange, hypnotic effect over her is calming, exciting and Ember realises not everyone is out to take what they want from her.
BUT … Fire is coming.
Ember must dig into her past, re-live painful memories of who she is and who she must become if she is to save the world from Ra-Mon, a menacing immortal who wants to recreate the earth in his own image.
If she can’t, there’s no hope for mankind.
Water levels rise, eyes filling to its limits, lashes not yet wet. A misty veil is all that separates me from two black, marble headstones.
I try to walk and stumble. I concentrate harder this time, more conscious of slower, deliberate steps, knees shaking, hands trembling, breath unsteady, heart barely keeping me in this world.
This is my first visit to their graveside.
I know I should’ve come sooner, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
The dam breaks, spilling onto my cheeks, trying to blind me.
Too much pain, I’d told myself. Too many memories of what I’d had and will never have again. Too many sleepless nights, reliving the worst moment of my short life.
I can say it now. Aloud, and for everyone to hear. I was scared to come.
I’m still scared.
Scared of what my life might look like without them. Scared of remembering them too much and forgetting them a bit more. Scared of shattering the flimsy, make-believe world I’m trying to exist in, and realising that no amount of wishing or praying is going to bring them back.
I read their names over and over, struggling to process it’s been a whole year since they were killed.
1 drawn-out, devasting year they haven’t watched me grow.
12 agonising months without love.
52 weeks of gut-wrenching loneliness.
365 days of no warm hugs or a kiss on the cheek to welcome in the day.
8760 hours wondering how this happened to my life.
525,600 minutes of sleeplessness and nightmares of fire.
31,536,000 seconds since I last saw their faces.
The thought of my parents being so close, and yet so far away, is life’s meanest trick. Their coffins are empty – “No remains recovered” they’d said to me afterwards at the hospital. Erased … like they’d never existed.
Glass everywhere … in my eyes, scratching out tears, in my throat, slicing away words I never got to say to them.
I swallow hard.
Air disappears from my lungs.
My legs no longer want to hold me.
I drop. I fall.
The dewy grass that once tickled my feet all those seconds ago seeps through the knees of my jeans.
‘WHY!’ I scream out. ‘Whyyyy? Why didn’t you take me with you? Why did you leave me here? WHY!’
Bitterness rises. I want an answer!
I deserve an answer.
Anger empties into my almost perfect life. ‘It’s not fair,’ I sob to an urn that’s never seen flowers. I didn’t think to bring any. Up until fifteen minutes ago, I didn’t think I would be here myself.
I drop my head, hands covering my face. ‘How do I go on?’ I want to stay here forever. I want to leave here and never come back. A trickle of sweat follows the line of my hair to my ear. I reach up to sweep it away, only to discover my palms collecting little puddles of their own.
Instinctively, I wipe my hands down my jeans.
It does nothing.
I seem to have sprung a leak. The puddles return, quicker and in greater quantities. I rub harder, the course denim chafing my skin. My palms, now red, hold more heat than is humanly possible. My stomach squirms, registering unnerving panic.
I look around.
The late August sun isn’t even a consideration before 9am, not in England anyway, especially Gloucester, regardless of what Good Morning Britain’s latest prognosticator says. But heat is coming from somewhere … and at a fierce rate. I draw my eyes from the tombstones to see if someone nearby is lending their body heat to me.
Apart from a bird, its feathers the colour of soot, watching me from the graveyard gate, I am alone.
Heat begins to gather all around me, wrapping me in a thick, suffocating duvet, with hot water bottles dangling off me and radiators sewn into the lining.
Wait a minute.
Not around me.
My temperature skyrockets. The stream of water down my back has nowhere else to go but the waistband of my jeans. The soft polyester sticks to my skin as a cool breeze tugs at my shirt. I fan my face with my hand and blow out a breath, trying to cool myself. What’s happening?
Heat stroke … not likely. Menopause … definitely not!
My body is a sauna, my blood the steam, organs impersonating smouldering hot coals. Something inside me screams out “spontaneous human combustion”.
Panic grips me.
The real kind of panic when your heart is beating too fast for its own good and nothing in this world is going to stop it except a logical answer, or unconsciousness.
I look around in search of help. The solitary crow flaps its wings and takes off. Great! Thanks! I reach for the coldest thing I can see, the marble headstone. Both hands desperately seize the black wedge, to help steady myself, to cool myself, to hold onto something that’s real. Before my eyes, I watch my fingers cut through the marble like a knife through soft cheese.
I withdraw them sharply, heart thumping in my throat.
Two perfectly carved handprints have been chiselled into the smooth stonework.
I check out my palms, turn them over, turn them back, turn them over again, inspecting them for clues. A fine layer of black dust is all that’s left.
What’s happening? I can’t believe what I’ve just seen, what I’ve done. That’s impossible, I tell myself.
Flesh cannot disintegrate marble!
I pinch myself hard. And then harder still until I squeak my discomfort. I am not dreaming. I am not dreaming. Realty kicks in.
I’m a freak. I’m a walking, talking freak.
Which means I have another secret to keep. No one can know. No-one.
And then nothing.
As quickly as the heat starts, it slithers away, returning my temperature to normal, and my hands to their customary dry state with my standard ten icy fingertips that never seem to thaw.
I know The Creeper is coming for me before I hear his heavy footsteps on the landing. Call it an aura, if you will. My mother used to say she could feel a migraine coming an hour before it struck. Is this her gift to me, because if so, I don’t want it. It’s more like a curse.
Floorboards groan. His feet shuffle closer.
I hold my breath and squeeze my eyes tight.
Please, please, I’ll do anything.
Tears, as useless as rubbish, wet my face, wet my pillow. I brush them away.
I hear a footstep. Then another.
Heavier footsteps drum inside my ears, blood trying to escape. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Heart racing, bursting, desperate for a rest.
The footsteps stop but the pounding in my head doesn’t quite drown out the sound of the door handle turning.
I feel sick.
I’m one breath closer to terror, one squeaky floorboard away from losing my innocence.
‘Please, don’t let it be him. Please! I’ll do anything you want … anything.’ The words turn to steam in my pillow.
Take a breath.
I need to remind my lungs what to do. It seems they have forgotten. No air. No air. No air means death. I don’t want to die.
The doorknob clicks.
Then nothing. Feel everything … and nothing. Numbness where sensitivity should dwell. Death where life should exist.
My fingers twist into the duvet, knot tightly at my neck. No easy entry in. Not even air.
The doorknob rattles.
Each breath in now hurts, each breath out, quivers against my tongue. Copper strands slides across my face, hiding the panic only a camera can capture.
I hear voices.
His soft and gentle voice says he’s hungry and wants his Frostie Flakes in his special tiger bowl.
My heart soars.
From outside my door, I hear the whispered, guttural growl of The Creeper. ‘I said, back to bed, boy, before I slap you this side of Tuesday.’
Aaron’s soft footsteps pad back along the landing until they fade to nothing. That dreaded nothing again.
Aaron’s door clicks shut, sealing my fate.
My door opens. And closes without a sound. The Creeper’s presence fills the room. The residual smell of camel cigarettes. The faint aroma of Blue Stratos aftershave.
I don’t want to look at him.
I hate looking at him.
I hold my breath to punish those damn heightened senses for meticulously journaling the entire event. Why can’t they be numb like the rest of me?
A breath in is the only clue he’s closer, stench stronger. My hands grip tighter. My throat burns, teeth clench, jaw fighting to relax. I struggle one measly swallow. Eyes stinging, tears ready for the second round, waiting for the permission that will never come.
He’s standing behind me. My time for begging has run out.
‘Close your eyes,’ he hums into my ear.
They’re already closed but I force them tighter, lids aching, eyelashes flickering, squeezing like I never want to open them again.
He sits too close, the top sheet pulling tightly around my body, becoming my prison.
My bed is a coffin, my body … a corpse.
It all started a few months ago when I woke in the middle of the night to find him standing over me, twirling a strand of my hair. It’s got worse since then.
Please, please, I’m scared. Can’t you see that? I don’t want you near me.
I gasp as his fat, moist fingers snake their way across my cheek and through my hair. Every cell, every molecule, every atom in my body tries to crawl into the spaces furthest away from his touch … to the tips of my fingers and the edges of my toes. Desperate to move away. Desperate to escape.
The first touch is always the worst, and he draws back the covers and crawls in behind me.
The bed, barely big enough for one, leaves me balancing on the edge of the mattress. His stubby, round belly, all sweaty and hairy, presses into the small of my back as he wriggles in closer.
I bite down hard into my lip.
An old wound opens. Rusty blood seeps into my mouth.
‘Ems,’ he coos. ‘Turn over and face me.’
I do as he says. It makes him angry if I don’t.
One stroke of my face and my body goes stiff. I know what’s coming next. I swallow the urge to dry reach as he kisses me, his moustache scratching across my lips like razor-wire.
And here is where I check out.
I say check out, because I can’t be here to listen to the putrid things he says or to be conscious of the places his hands venture to. So, I shut out everything. Everything becomes stillness and white. Numbness climbs inside my skin and becomes my best friend. It comforts me and fills in all the gaps where pain resides, and emotions leak out.
Life ceases to exist when I check out.
Celeste storms into the kitchen that morning and kicks at the leg of my chair.
‘Where did you put my hairbrush, you thieving bitch? I know you have it.’
Celeste is a year older than me and loves to remind me of that crucial fact. According to her, this makes her more beautiful, more intelligent, and more knowledgeable about boys than me. Maybe she does know more about boys. She’s certainly dated a heap of them.
I glance up from my breakfast bowl. ‘I haven’t seen your brush,’ I mutter into my spoon. My comb is tangled around her not-so-natural, honey-blond hair.
Her eyes bulge. ‘You’re a frigging liar, Ember Riley. Ever since you came here, you’ve been nothing but a thief and a dirty little liar. Look at her face, Mum? Are you going to allow this kind of thing in our home?’
The net-curtain, hanging over the kitchen window, is hardly anything to be enthralled by, and yet Rose Burberry simply skols the last of her cold tea and continues to stare out of it.
‘MUM,’ screams Celeste again, her lips now tighter than her school shirt. ‘The bitch has got my brush and won’t give it back. Make her … NOW.’
Without warning, Celeste cuffs him around the back of the head, sending her g-zillion bangles into a melody of jingles. ‘And you, you little snot. I don’t care if you’re hungry. Get your own breakfast.’
From under my lashes, I send a pleading look in Rose Burberry’s direction.
‘Leave him be,’ Rose murmurs in her usual aloof manner. She lights a cigarette and sits down next to Aaron, exhaling lethargically. Smoke hangs over his head and begins to drift all around him as though he’s hitched a ride to heaven on a cloud.
Celeste stomps her foot hard and backhands Aaron’s plastic bowl off the table. I risk another glimpse at Rose Burberry, who is now staring vacantly at her son as milk trickles from the corner of his cheeky smile.
Celeste scowls. ‘Well …aren’t you going to search her room or something?’
Rose Burberry draws deeply and longingly on her cigarette and says nothing. Her dark brown hair flickers with silver streaks when it’s washed. Today, it trails untidily down her back in oily threads.
‘God! I can’t believe this bullshit,’ huffs Celeste. ‘You wait till daddy gets up.’
The air suddenly seems lighter, somehow easier to breathe, the second she leaves.
I force down the last of my cereal, rinse my bowl and spoon, and place them on the drainer to dry.
‘You’d better get a wriggle on, Aaron.’ I say, picking up a wet cloth. The splash of milk and soggy Frosties are still sliding down the cupboard door.
A grateful smile breaks through the emptiness on Rose Burberry’s face for a full second, before returning to its normal, expressionless state. I want Aaron to hurry for my own reasons. I want to be out before The Creeper is up.
‘I’ll pick him up today, if you want?’ I add. I catch myself staring at her back, her thin cotton t-shirt tracing the outline of ribs that need more meat.
Rose Burberry turns and nods. Her lips look like they want to smile again, yet the effort seems far beyond her reach.
From under my hair, I glance at the clock and clap my hands softly behind Aaron to get him moving. ‘Hurry up, T-Rex, or we’re gonna be late.’ He’s the little brother I didn’t have.
Aaron’s pointy, freckled nose scrunches as he grins. ‘I’m a Triceratops today,’ he informs me and lets out a fierce growl. He slips down from the table and disappears around the door.
The Creeper’s voice severs the breath from my lungs in mid-inhale. Instinctively, I wedge myself up against the corner of the chipped, laminate cupboards.
‘Morning,’ he says chirpily. I hate his jovial moods.
I steady my breathing, lace my fingers behind my back, search out the cupboard door handle, and when the round, wooden knob nestles perfectly into my palm, I tighten my grip and squeeze the life out of it. The tremble in my legs eases just a little.
As though he’s read my mind, The Creeper leans in closer and inhales deeply, his nose almost brushing the collar of my shirt. I slide sideways along the cupboards away from him, snagging my skirt pocket on the handle I’d seized only moments ago. It restrains me, holding me prisoner as though the two of them have a secret pact. The Creeper rests his hand on the fake stone worktop, blocking my only exit. His index finger inches towards me, mimicking a lonely caterpillar, and I draw my hand away and hold it to my chest. Some kind of disgusting snicker comes out of his mouth as he reaches up to pluck a mug from the rack behind me. The quiver moves from my legs to my stomach. I fight back the urge to pee.
Rose Burberry hasn’t moved either since he came in and The Creeper backs away slowly and plops himself down into the chair with a groan and a huff.
I unhook my skirt.
‘I’m going to be late tonight, cupcake,’ The Creeper says, addressing his wife and patting down the wide comb marks running down the length of his thinning hair. He unbuttons the jacket of his pinstripe navy suit, exposing his usual white shirt and dark blue tie and even though I can’t see under the table, I know his bulbous stomach is resting heavily on his thighs.
‘It’s Phil Caruthers’ retirement party. You remember me telling you about him, darling, don’t you?’ He gives his wife no chance to answer and carries on stirring his coffee with avid interest. ‘The party’s tonight and knowing Phil, and the kind of parties he’s used to …’ he pauses to give me two quick winks, ‘anything goes.’ His fat head rotates on his equally fat neck to face his wife before pivoting back to me, jowls swaying above his tightly collared shirt.
‘Can you leave the key under the milk crate, petal? I’ll be back late.’ He gives me another wink.
Beats a few times.
Stops. And then flat out chases my pulse around my body as though it’s the last race it will ever run.
Hurry up, Aaron, I silently pray as another gallon of crude oil empties into my body, slithers beneath my skin, claws wrapped around my throat, panicking the blood inside my veins. Fear has found another way in.
Aaron returns, boisterously swinging his school bag over his shoulder. ‘Can I have some dinner money please, Dad?’ His hand stretched out, his fingers wiggling. Aaron’s tie is crooked and his shirt untucked. I will see to it before he enters the school gates and ensure he has his jumper.
The Creeper extend his leg and reaches deep into his trouser pocket. ‘There … now quit bugging me, boy.’ He dumps a handful of silver on to the table, and Aaron sifts through the coins and slides the money into his pocket. No smiles or hugs. No “have a great day at school”. Nor are there enough words in the English language to describe how much I hate The Creeper.
I feel him staring at me. ‘Ems, do you need some money, love?’ I cringe, keeping my eyes on the mosaic-patterned lino. I hate the name Ems.
In seventeen years, nobody has ever called me Ems, except him. I grind my teeth until my jaw aches knowing it’s a memory that won’t purge.
‘No, thank you, Mr Burberry,’ I mutter, my fake smile straining against gravity. I raise my head, allowing my eyes to devour the hob that hasn’t seen a clean cloth in a month. ‘I’ve already made my lunch.’
He chuckles again, sending his baggy pelican throat into a ripple of jiggles. ‘I should think after a year, Ems, you could refer to me as Darryl. Don’t you think, dear?’
Nothing in this world will ever make me say his first name. To me, he is … him or The Creeper. His leering stares with no blinks, midnight stalking’s and the seductive lick of his lips when he thinks no-one is watching have turned my days into a succession of stand-alone anxious moments and bone-chilling nightmares.
This time Rose Burberry does look up and offers a hum of acknowledgement. Dark crescent moons shadow beneath her eyes.
‘Well. I think it’s time,’ he says, running the tip of his middle finger along the length of his moustache. He smiles at me, slow blink by slow blink, removing my clothes, layer by firmly tucked in layer.
Aaron bounds over and threads his fingers into my hand. He pulls me towards the kitchen door. ‘C’mon, Ember, we’re gonna be late.’
I am thankful, if for nothing else this morning, for the swift exit and the opportunity not to respond.