Title: Dragons Walk among Us
Author: Dan Rice
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Shutterbug Allison Lee is trying to survive high school while suffering the popular girl's abuse. Her life is often abysmal, but at least her green hair is savage. Her talent for photography is recognized by the school paper and the judges of a photo contest.
While visiting her friend Joe, a homeless vet, Allison's life irrevocably changes after an attack leaves her blind. All her dreams as a photojournalist are dashed as she realizes she'll never see again. Despair sets in until she is offered an experimental procedure to restore her vision. But there are side effects, or are they hallucinations? She now sees dragons accompanying some of the people she meets. Can she trust her eyes, or has the procedure affected her more than she can see?
I look overhead, scanning the gloomy surroundings. In a corner, I spot a camera. I bite my lower lip, wondering if I’m being recorded. We all know and discussed the risks. If we’re caught trespassing or whatever, at least we’re underage. I reach my hand for the door and grasp the cold metal handle. I pull, half expecting to find the door locked. It slides open with a loud squeal that sets my pulse racing. I pause in the doorway, taking a deep breath to help calm my nerves. Despite the warm air rushing out, I’m as chilled as a shrimp on ice.
I enter and pull the door shut behind me that closes with a loud click. My friends will follow after one minute now that I’m inside in case the entrance is being watched. I start to count down from sixty. I won’t enter the reading room until I reach zero.
I look around the interior of the library. The entrance hall is dark, only illuminated by the faint light of the moon streaming in from high windows and the green glow of an exit sign. To my right are the dark stacks. To the left across a marble floor is the doorway to the cathedral-like reading room.
I tread toward the reading room.
“Ten,” I whisper.
I stop about fifteen feet from the doorway, staring into the interior. On the far side of the room are rustic shelving and colorful books. Without my prosthetics, I’d probably have to strain to see them. With my prosthetics, the reading room appears more of a twilight than nearly pitch black.
I take a handful of steps, coming within ten feet of the entrance.
My mouth is dry.
My heart thunders in my chest so hard I imagine it makes audible thuds.
I stride forward and stop just outside the high vaulted chamber.
I step into the doorway.
My hands are clammy. I look around the room, my view cut off by the doorframe. I swear I see a faint golden glimmer on the floor. I gasp and blink, and the light is gone.
My breathing is fast like I just ran up a flight of stairs.
Biting my lower lip, I cross the threshold into the room. To my left, I see the glittering scales of a gargantuan golden dragon with its leathery green wings pressed tight against its sides. The beast shimmers and fades in and out of existence. One second the serpentine neck looms overhead to nearly touch the vaulted ceiling and in the next second fades away. The same is true for the rest of the serpent’s body.
There is a click, and a desk lamp flares to life. I breathe in sharply and hop in place. Sitting in a chair at the table, bathed in the lamplight, is Dr. Radcliffe. His elbows are propped up on the table, and his hands are steepled.
“Ah, Allison Lee,” Dr. Radcliffe says and checks a golden wristwatch. “You, young lady, have an impeccable sense of time, so unlike most of your generation.”
I gulp, only barely registering what he just said to me. I gawp at his draconic companion.
“Well, Allison, you want to talk to me. Here I am.”
“Why...why is there a translucent dragon looming over you?” I stutter and fumble with my sling bag’s zipper.
“Hmmm,” he says and, placing his fingertips against the table, stands. “A fascinating question. Do I take that to mean that you do not know what I am?”
“How would I know what you are?”
I get hold of the zipper and start opening the bag.
Dr. Radcliffe, lips forming a hard, grim line, marches around from behind the table and approaches me. The dragon that almost seems to project from him follows, a forefoot that should crush the table passing through the wood as though insubstantial.
My hand wraps around the barrel of my camera lens. I hear a door slam from outside in the atrium. Good. My friends have arrived. Even if I can’t get a shot off, they will. Dr. Radcliffe stops in front of me and places a hand that feels very human against my hand that holds the camera lens.
“Now, now, Allison. I think it is best if you come with me, my dear. Your friends in the hall. They will come also.” He sniffs me, like a predator scenting prey. “Odd. I do not recognize your scent.”
“You’re sniffing me? You sicko! I’m not going anywhere with you.”
I pull away, but he clenches my wrist. His grip is shockingly strong for a spindly old man.
“Let go of me!” I scream and thrash.
“Please, please, my dear. It would be a shame to break your camera. Ah, your friends.”
“Let go of her,” Dalia says.
I look over my shoulder. Dalia rushes across the room toward us with her gaze fixed on me. In the doorway, Haji takes images with his phone. I realize by where they focus their attention that they don’t see the dragon.
“Run,” I yell. “Run. Call the police. It’s the dragon.”
“Dragon?” Dalia says. “It’s just that creepy old prof. Let go of her, you freak!”
Dr. Radcliffe tuts like a scolding schoolmarm.
“Calm down, children. I will hurt you if I must. Do not bother making phone calls. Cell signals are so easy to block.”
Another voice, one I don’t recognize, rings through the chamber. “No one move. You’re all trespassing.”
Dalia stops midstride and spins toward the voice. Standing inside the doorway behind Haji is a woman wearing a police uniform. He faces the officer and retreats from her. A shimmering silver dragon, half inside the room and half-hidden in the wall, looms above the police officer.
Dr. Radcliffe releases my wrist. “As I said, my dear, you and your friends are coming.”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
· Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0951NLKCK
· BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/dan-rice
What’s your favorite activity to shake off the winter doldrums?
If there’s snow outside, my boys are hitting the nearby hill with their sleds. I’m snapping photos of their fun and monitoring for dangerous shenanigans. Simply put, I’m too busy to be suffering from doldrums of any kind!
Why is your featured book a cure for the winter blues?
Allison Lee goes on a fantastic coming of age adventure. She faces down monsters in scenes that will set your pulse thrumming. The story’s conclusion will warm your heart and leave you eager to read Allison’s future escapades. Tween and teen readers will find Allison’s tale especially compelling.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs March 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on April 1.
Dan Rice writes the young adult urban fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles in the wee hours of the morning. The series kicks off with his award-winning debut, Dragons Walk Among Us, which Kirkus Review calls, “An inspirational and socially relevant fantasy.”
While not pulling down the 9 to 5 or chauffeuring his soccer fanatic sons to practices and games, Dan enjoys photography and hiking through the wilderness.
Social Media Links:
· Website: https://www.danscifi.com
· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanSciFi
· Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanRiceWrites
· BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/dan-rice
· Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danricewrites/
· Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@danricewrites