(The Essential Elements, #2)
Publication date: July 24th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Valerie Moore is an Elemental, a person who commands one of the classical elements of wind, water, fire, or earth. She’s special, though. She controls two—fire and water—though sometimes it seems like they control her.
After the accidental exposure of Elementals to humanity, Valerie finds herself—and all of her kind—struggling to attain equality. Three different groups fight to secure leadership, and with all of their hidden agendas, she doesn’t know which side to choose. The balance between peaceful cohabitation and all-out war is precarious, at best.
When a chance meeting brings Val and earth Elemental Cade Landston back together, everything changes. She realizes what she knew in the beginning—that he’s the one she wants. Her desire to win him over draws her closer to him, and his vengeful mission to hunt down her murderous grandfather brings them both closer to trouble.
From mysterious doppelgangers to reckless rescue missions, scapegoat bombings, and evolving Elemental powers, Valerie strains to keep up.
All she knows is she must stop her grandfather at all costs. To do so, she has to figure out the truth, but how can she do so when almost everyone she knows has been telling lies?
Jay pulled over outside an old cinderblock building at the edge of town. A few windows were smashed out, but no light shone from beyond the jagged glass. Boards were nailed across the front door, as was a Do Not Enter sign. Weeds surrounded the place like a moat, and the tarmac drive was crumbling away from years of Pennsylvania weather.
Hand on the steering wheel, Jay nodded at the decrepit sight. “This used to be a cheese factory.”
“Cheese?” I asked doubtfully from the backseat. I’d never heard of any local cheese distributors—I got my cheese from the supercenter like most people did.
He chuckled. “Yes, cheese, but now it’s nothing…except after dark.”
Jay pulled his truck around back and aimed the headlights at what looked like an abandoned mine shaft. As the wheels rolled us closer to the cavern, unease began spreading through my veins like ice—actual ice. I could feel the temperature in the cab dropping as the glimmering frost crystals slowly spread up my arm. Quickly, I reined it in, but not quickly enough to go unnoticed.
“You all right, Val?” Jay asked knowingly, our eyes meeting in the rearview mirror. “We’re just gonna park in here so nobody sees the truck, then we’ll walk back over to the old factory. The club is underneath.”
I nodded. “I’m fine.”
Embarrassment and irritation crept up my neck in a heated wave. How could I have let that happen again? I’d pulled myself together faster than the last time, but still. Jay knew I could do better—he’d trained me to do better. I refused to make eye contact with him again.
The night was a solid sheet of black, and I could just barely make out the silhouette of the factory as we approached. The wind was quiet—Sienna must’ve finally calmed herself down—and snow was falling peacefully to the ground in thick chunks—Jay’s doing, not mine.
He pushed open the rotten back door, white paint now gray and chipping, and ushered us inside. It was equally dark in there, if not more so, and eerily quiet. How he found the stairs to the cellar in all that blackness was anyone’s guess, but we followed him down to a big metal door and waited. There was a dim bulb screwed into a cinderblock wall, casting just enough light to illuminate a rectangular slat at eye level. It slid open, and we were met with a steely pair of eyes, probably brown, but appearing ebony in the dim light.
“What do you want?” he asked us gruffly.
Jay smiled, a stark contrast against the cold greeting.
“To come in, of course.”
“What are your names?” the guard asked.
“Walsh, Moore, and Aeris.”
The eyes narrowed at us. “Wait here.” Then the slat slammed shut.
I exhaled a nervous breath just before Sienna said, “Well, he seemed…nice.”
“Are you sure we have the right place?” I asked.
This didn’t seem like the sort of establishment three young adults would venture into. I was expecting lasers and flashing lights, overly loud music, bouncers with sunglasses—not some shady dude guarding the cellar of an abandoned cheese factory. What the hell was Jay thinking?
He nodded. “This is the place.”
The rest of the fifteen-minute wait was suffered in silence, with me seriously contemplating leaving at least every other second. Then the slat snapped back open and a different set of eyes appeared—pale green, surrounded by lush black lashes and crowned with perfectly trimmed brows.
“Jay? Is that you?” the woman asked from the other side. She sounded foreign, Middle Eastern, maybe?
His smile deepened. “It is.”
Her eyes slid to the right and the door unlatched with a heavy groan. In its place stood a gorgeous woman in sexy business attire. Shimmering black hair swirled up into an elegant French twist and burgundy lips pressed into a seductive pout. Her skin tone was the perfect shade of olive. The white blouse she wore had its sleeves rolled up to the elbows and was gaping open by at least three buttons. Heather gray pants clung to her slim legs down to the ankle, where a set of stunning black stilettos added a good five inches to her height.
I eyed my cork wedges with mild indifference. I needed to get a pair of those stilettos.
“Jay Walsh,” she practically purred, batting her lashes. “It has been too long.”
“It certainly has.”
She slipped her arm through his, leading us into a dingy, musty, concrete hallway.
“Welcome to my club, The After Dark.”
Elle Middaugh lives in the Allegheny Mountains outside of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, with her wonderful husband and three beautiful children. Most of her time is spent raising kids, writing stories, playing video games, reading, and attempting to keep a clean house.
She’s a proud Navy wife, a frazzle-brained mother, a fan of health and fitness, a lover of hot tea and iced tea, and a believer in happily ever afters.