Here it is, the first excerpt from Ria’s Web of Lies, out June 11 at virtually every ebook retailer under the sun:
“You’re joining science club!” Will exclaims. “Are you insane?”
I scowl as I follow Will and Ariana down the hilly road that leads to Inwood Park. I agreed to go with them after class, and I might have let Birch’s offer slip. Seriously regretting that now.
“Why is everyone so worried about my social life?” I say. “And anyway, I didn’t say I was doing it, I said Birch offered it to me.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Ariana says. “I was in science club last year and it was great. Ms. Birch makes it a lot of fun.”
“Yeah, and look at you now,” Will shoots back. “I’m practically your only cool friend.”
Ariana joins me in scowling at Will when he sweeps his hands forward grandly. “We’ve arrived.”
Inwood Park sits at the end of the last street in Manhattan, just past some apartments and a rinky dink little college football stadium. It’s pretty big, with a large lawn that’s bordered by the top of what I guess is the Hudson River. There’s a bridge in the background, but I’ve got no clue which one. Beyond the lawn is what looks like a forest. In Manhattan. I’m not kidding. This place is like some kind of fantasy land.
“It’s beautiful,” I marvel.
“Bet they don’t have this in Brooklyn,” Will says.
“They do, but the water is green.”
“This way,” Ariana says, leading to the woods. “There’s a lookout point at the top where you can see for miles.”
They lead me to the edge of the woods, which begins with another freaking hill. “You’re kidding,” I exclaim.
“It’s not that bad,” Ariana says. Easy for her to say, she didn’t have to kill a revenant last night.
“Whatever, just don’t expect me to rush to the top.”
We begin the climb, and I’m dying after ten minutes. Sweat is dripping down my eyes and my shirt is damp. “I thought you said it wasn’t bad,” I wheeze.
“Oh come on now,” Will says, “don’t tell me this little hill is killing you?”
“Let’s just reach the bridge,” Ariana offers. “It’s just ahead and you can rest there.”
“The bridge?!” I point to the span in the distance. “That thing? We’re walking to the goddamn George Washington?”
“That’s the Henry Hudson,” Will corrects me. “The George Washington Bridge is south of here.”
“That’s not the point!”
“And that’s not where we’re going,” Ariana says, stepping in before I pull Will’s tongue out of his throat. “There’s a pedestrian bridge that crosses a stream up ahead. That’s where we’re headed.” She slaps Will on the arm. “Stop fucking with her!”
“Geez, fine. Sorry,” Will says, rubbing his arm. “We’re really almost there. It’s not much longer.”
We keep moving up the hill and, finally, the bridge comes into view. It’s a small, wooden span that was painted white a long time ago. A small stream runs underneath it, the kind that you could hop across if you really needed to.
Will and Ariana head to the top, but something catches my eye from under the bridge. Still wheezing, I bend over with my hands on my knees and squint into the darkness under the bridge. There’s something there, and I think it’s alive.
“What are you doing?” Ariana’s voice sounds from above.
“Nothing, just give me a moment.”
My curiosity gets the better of me, and I move closer. That’s when I see what’s hiding under the bridge, and I can’t stop the groan that escapes my lips.
It’s a little yellow troll.
It’s a goddamn troll.
Under a bridge.
You have got to be kidding me.
“Dammit,” I wheeze as I reach down and pull the stake out from my shoe and drop my bag. I don’t know how long this asshole has been here, but I can’t just ignore it. Who knows how many kids come up here to make out. Any one of them could become troll chow if I don’t act.
The troll finally takes notice of me and bares its teeth. I’m really wishing I’d brought my knife with me. This is going to be so much harder with just a stake.
The troll charges at me, I duck and jam the stake into its arm. It screams and tries to claw at my face, but I pull back and kick it onto its ass.
“Ria, what the hell are you doing?” Will asks as I step out from under the bridge and wave.
“Nothing,” I say as I tuck a few loose strands of hair back behind my ear. “Just resting.”
“Well, are you ready to go?”
“Why don’t you two go ahead? I promise I’ll catch up.”
Will’s head disappears back over the edge of the bridge and I turn my attention back to the troll. It’s yanked the stake out of its arm and is holding it toward me threateningly.
“Oh really, asshole? You’re going to try to use my own weapon against me?”
The troll slashes at me. It’s fast, and I’m tired, and the stake slides across my arm. Thankfully, trolls are dumb as rocks and can’t tell the difference between a knife and a stake. I’m not cut, but it still hurts like a mutha.
He slashes out again, but this time I grab his arm and toss him overhead. He lands on his back with a thud, and the stake goes skittering across the grass. I’m already running for it when the troll gets up, and before he can snarl I catch him in the heart. The troll screams as he dies and his body begins to liquefy. I take a step back.
Will and Ariana arrive a moment later to find me staring at a dirty gray puddle. “Are you okay? We heard you scream.” Ariana says.
I point to the puddle, which is thankfully not at all troll-shaped. “I just stepped in that stuff and it stinks.”
Will waves his hand in front of his nose as he takes a step closer. “God, what is it?”
“Who knows?” I say as I grab his arm and pull him and Ariana back toward the path. “I’ve got my second wind. Let’s go see the George Washington.”
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