Below is the first scene from my new book, Urban Legends, the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy! Urban Legends will be available on Amazon and other online booksellers early next week (July 10), and I will have copies to sell by July 17! I will post links to online buying options when they are live. This is my first mystery (but of course still contains the usual relationship drama too)! I’m so excited! See below for the sneak peek! 😀
First scene from Urban Legends:
Jansen Montgomery first got into a bar on her fourteenth birthday.
It was a dive bar in the East Village called Red Sulfur. She and her friends hadn’t planned on going to a bar. They had been wandering aimlessly away from the West Village, looking for anything to do that sparked their interest in the moment. The East Village appealed to them because it lacked glamour and had a reputation as a more dangerous area.
It was almost completely dark when Jansen, Hersh, Jason, and Clint looked across the street and saw the black awning with the words RED SULFUR shining through in an orangish-red print similar to the color of blood. It reminded Jansen of someplace out of a low-budget horror movie.
“Hey, I bet we can get in that place,” Clint said. The four of them exchanged excited, mischievous grins and knew they had to try.
The doorman, an old, friendly man whose work shirt bore a cursive inscription reading Claudio, gave them only a brief look-over before letting them in.
Jansen held hands with Hersh, whose real name was Corbin Hershey but whom all his friends had called Hersh since they could talk, flashed a flirtatious smile at Claudio, and walked down eight steps into the smoke-filled room. She briefly raised her right hand, the one not in Hersh’s, and grinned at the huge sapphire-look-alike ring on her middle finger.
A forty-something female bartender with short red and purple hair came to their table as soon as they sat down. “Whadda y’all want?” she asked with a bright smile.
Jansen liked her immediately. She embodied everything Jansen loved about the East Village. She seemed rebellious, and she was a far cry from anybody Jansen’s parents would hang out with, even though she was probably about their age.
“It’s her birthday,” Hersh said, locking his arm around Jansen.
“I won’t ask how old you are,” the bartender said. “So whaddaya want?”
Jansen, Jason, and Clint darted looks at each other, but Hersh totally kept his cool.
“We’ll have shots of Patrón,” he said. “And then Jack to wash it down.”
“Coming up,” the bartender said and spun away.
Jansen looked around. Even though the air was potent with smoke, there weren’t really that many people. Only four other booths were occupied. The room was long and narrow. The booths lined the wall opposite the bar, and there were a few tables in back. The floor was a dark shade of wood and uneven in places. The walls were also a dark wood, and the whole room was lit only by two dim bulbs hanging from the ceiling at either end of the bar. Jansen somehow felt protected and safe here, even though it was so grungy. She wasn’t sure why, but she thought it had something to do with how they’d come down steps right inside the door, and now they were underground.
“Happy birthday, honey,” the bartender said when she brought their drinks. She plunked the round tray in the middle of the table. There were limes to go with the tequila. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Hersh,” Hersh added, reaching out his hand to shake the bartender’s.
She shook his hand and looked to Jason and Clint.
“Oh, I’m Jason.”
“I’m Lydia,” the bartender said as she turned to go. “Let me know if y’all need anything else.”
“Sure thing,” Hersh said as he lifted his shot of Patrón from the tray.
They hit their shot glasses together and tipped their heads back. Jansen made a slight face as hers went down. She grabbed her lime to suck on. “This isn’t what we had at your birthday party,” she said to Jason. That had been in his parents’ Park Avenue penthouse last fall, the first time she’d tried tequila.
“No,” Jason said, shaking his head and making a face too.
They smoked and drank their whiskeys and ordered more. When they were on their third, Hersh said to Jason and Clint, “So I have coke.”
“No fuckin’ way!” Clint cried. “I’ve been wanting to try that for so long!”
Jansen laughed a little. She thought Clint tried too hard to act like Hersh sometimes. She figured it would suck to have your best friend mature physically and athletically a lot sooner than you though. And Clint hadn’t had a girlfriend yet either.
“Dude, cool,” Jason said.
Jansen smiled again, studying Jason while he waited for Hersh to get out the coke. Jason had medium brown hair, which he wore kind of long, almost to his eyes, and tousled. Her favorite part about him was his eyes. They were really dark blue-green and really unique. He was the only person she’d ever seen with that eye color. Her favorite non-physical thing about him was how he never tried to be anything or anyone but himself. He didn’t feel a need to please other people or try to impress them. He was the most real person she knew. Hersh was real too, but sometimes Jansen thought he tried pretty hard to look cool to the older guys at his school. He cared more about his reputation than Jason did.
Hersh looked around to see if any workers were close, then pulled the bag out of his pocket. Lydia had left the drink tray on the table, and he emptied a little onto it, dividing it into four lines with a broken, hollowed-out piece of a pen. Then he put the bag away, looked around again, and offered the pen in the direction of Jason and Clint.
Jason took it. He leaned forward with total confidence, put his head down, balanced the pen between the tray and his nose, and snorted one of the lines. He sniffed as he raised his head, then grinned at them. “That was badass.” He held the pen out to Jansen questioningly.
“I just did some. In the park. I can still feel it. I did some at Hersh’s after school too.” Jansen smiled to herself, thinking back to Hersh’s bedroom in his West Village townhouse a few hours ago. He had done a line first, demonstrating for Jansen, and then she had done one. She’d liked the way her nose felt afterward, and she’d liked the immediate rush. The aftertaste in the back of her throat had been unpleasant but overlookable.
“Oh,” Jason said, raising his eyebrows, excited for her. He handed Clint the pen.
Jansen thought Clint looked nervous, but he did it without hesitation.
“Yeah, that was awesome,” he agreed, nodding.
“I can feel it already,” Jason said.
Hersh grinned at both of them, then leaned down to do a line himself. After he did, he looked up at Jansen. “You sure?” he asked, motioning to the one he’d prepared for her.
“I’m sure,” Jansen said. She felt wide awake and excited, like she had since her first line at Hersh’s.
“Have you done it before tonight?” Jason asked her.
“No. Hersh surprised me for my birthday.”
“So you like your present?” Hersh asked her now.
“Oh yeah.” Jansen felt the ring between her fingers. “I like it a lot. Hey, will you put some more in my ring?” She held out her hand.
“Why, you gonna do some later by yourself?” Hersh asked.
“It goes in your ring?” Jason asked, leaning forward curiously.
“Yeah, look, the top twists off!” Jansen spun the dark blue stone off and held out her hand to Jason to show him. “See? Hersh got me this too.”
“Sweet ass,” Jason said.
“Jewelry?” Clint asked sarcastically. “What are you guys, like engaged?”
“I saw it in a shop on Broadway like a month ago and said I liked it,” Jansen snapped defensively. “He remembered and went back and got it for me.”
Hersh took her hand and funneled some more coke from the bag into the ring. “There you go, baby.”
“Thanks.” Jansen spun the blue stone back on, then squeezed her fingers around the band again as she put her hand under the table. She didn’t even know if she would use the coke in the ring, but she liked having it there. It made her feel daring and reckless.
“Are you guys bored?” Hersh asked.
Jansen looked at him in surprise.
“No, I’m having fun,” Jason said.
“No,” Hersh said. “I mean like, in life. I feel like we need to shake things up. We just do the same stuff all the time.”
Jansen frowned. They were doing something new right now. A couple new things, actually. This night was huge for her, in a really good way. Hersh’s comment made her uneasy. What else could he possibly want?
“Shake things up how?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know. Like something to fuck with our school friends. A practical joke or something.”
Now Jansen smiled as relief washed over her. “Oooohh, I like that.”
“What kind of joke?” Clint asked.
“Something they’d never see coming.”
“You could pretend you and Jansen broke up and she was back with Jason,” Clint said.
Jansen glared at him. He was so annoying sometimes.
Hersh quickly shook his head, blowing off the idea. “No. Something better than that. Not just like, a joke that’ll blow over in a day. Like, a project.”
“I love it,” Jansen said, picturing the four of them spending hours here at Red Sulfur, leaning together across the table, laughing hysterically as they schemed up something genius to blow the minds of all their school friends. It was her idea of heaven.
“I have an idea,” Jason said, and all eyes turned to him.
“What?” Hersh asked after a moment of dead silence.
“A secret society.”