Dreamscape is the first book in the Netherworld series by Christie Rich!
Here's the blurb:
Every night before Amelia falls asleep she makes a wish to dream of him – the man who calls her to their beautiful private oasis, her sanctuary where she is free of her greedy landlord’s threats. But tonight, he will not call Amelia to him. Tonight, another man will step into her world to claim her. Tonight, Amelia’s shattering reality will crumble - and disappear into the Dreamscape…along with her freedom.
When Amelia dreams tonight, her nightmare becomes her new world where Seth is her captor and anything is possible…except escape. Seth needs Amelia to break the curse that binds him to the Dreamscape. He must convince her that she was made to free him, that she was made to join him.
For if he fails, he will never escape his prison, and he will lose Earth to the Netherworld where the evil Erobos wait to consume the human realm and everything in it. If he fails, Seth will lose the one thing that matters to him: Amelia.
How about an excerpt?
Varner’s voice cuts through the front door just before three juddering bangs reach me. “I know you’re in there, Amelia. If you’re not gone by eight, I’m coming in.” His voice lowers, probably to avoid wandering ears. My spine stiffens more with each word. “You’d better be ready for me if you decide to stay.”
I’ve already packed my stuff. Pitiful as it is, one beat-up suitcase sits by the door.
I turn up the volume on my MP3 player until it won’t go any higher, clutching Justine’s picture to my chest. “Yeah!” I yell, my voice tight with anger. Hot tears cut a path down my cheeks. I scrub them away before they can slide any farther. To take my mind off the pit in my stomach, I grit my teeth until my jaw hurts. I need more time, but I’m not about to give Varner what he wants for it. “I got it. Go! Away!” I pull one bud out of my ear to make sure he’s leaving.
He says something about not signing leases with old ladies before his voice fades into nothing. The lecher thinks he’s got me.
Ha. No one has me, especially not him. And to think I used to consider him cute.
When I told Varner ‘no’ earlier, he didn’t exactly take me at my word, until I landed a good hit to his jugular. He shoved me down, and I let him go. On his way out he made no pretense about eyeing what’s left of Justine’s china doll collection. The minute he was through the door, I smashed the majority of them rather than have him get his hands on them. I really don’t have room, but I couldn’t destroy her favorite. She said it looked just like me.
I sold everything else to make last month’s rent, but I ran out of time with the dolls. I was hoping for a collector.
It doesn’t matter now.
Even though I’ve tried to pick up extra shifts at the diner, tips have been awful. I have two hundred bucks in my account, which Varner is not getting a penny of. I need everything I have to find a place to live. The reality of the moment sets in. This is my final night in Justine’s apartment.
The shabby place shouldn’t mean anything to me, but it still smells like her. She had this sweet perfume that she liked to slather on. I got used to it after a while. She wasn’t exactly old, either. Varner’s just too strung out to know the difference. He doesn’t even own the place, but he’s way better to deal with than his psychotic uncle, who likes to call me his chipmunk when nobody else is looking. One way or another, I’ll be out of here by six.
Justine used to say, “Stay sharp, kid. No one knows when their time’s up.” Well, she sure didn’t. Justine was my grandma. She died last month at only fifty-eight. She didn’t even get a lousy funeral. They stuck her in a furnace and handed me her remains. I took her up Provo canyon to Sundance and watched her float away on the wind. The cremation was expensive enough that I couldn’t afford a separate plot for her. I couldn’t have brought myself to visit the cemetery anyway. Besides, we all crumble to dust one way or another. She is better off flying.
No matter what my life becomes, Justine saved me from tumbling around the foster system. I had a few years of stable, and I’ll never forget what she did for me. She helped me to see there are other ways of living. Although we didn’t have much to live on, we were never short on love.
I miss her fiercely. If she were here, she’d tell me to get over it, so I’m trying.
Thank my lucky stars she waited until I got my diploma to ditch me; although, I’m not quite sure how it’ll help me now. I’m alone in this world.
My mom only made it to twenty-one before she overdosed on crack. My dad lasted to a ripe old age of thirty. He got killed in some weird accident when I was twelve. I never saw him anyway, so my life hasn’t been much different since he bit it. As far as I know, he was short on family too. If he does have family stashed somewhere on this planet, I probably wouldn’t want to know them. He never did a thing for me, so why would they?
Justine was my ticket to normal, and she left me with no money, no prospects—unless you count the hazy offer I got from Roberto.
I hang out with him when I have nothing else to do. When I told him the news he graciously asked me to share his pad under the viaduct. I gave him a swift ‘no thank you’ even though I should have told him not even if I weren’t half his age and he had most of his teeth. I couldn’t hurt his feelings like that. One day, once I’m settled and he’s still around, I’m going to do something to help him.
If I hadn’t just turned eighteen I might have found somewhere to camp in the foster system for a while. As horrible of a thought as it is, being homeless is probably better than wading through families until one stuck or I got kicked out again.
With nothing else to do, I try to sleep. Try is the operative word. Ever since my grandma went, I can’t seem to stay in slumberland. It doesn’t help that I haven’t seen Jason, either.
Although Jason is a figment of my imagination, he’s helped me through some rough times. I’ve dreamt of him every night for nearly four years now, at least I used to. I haven’t had that particular dream in two weeks, and as stupid as it is, I miss him. After Justine died, he held me on the grass while I cried, listening to the beat of his heart and the thrum of the waterfall behind us. I’ve wished him alive or that I could join him in that place for good so many times. I cry every time I wake up without him.
Maybe it’s for the best that he’s gone. Dreams aren’t real, and a dream boyfriend can’t help me find a new place to live.
I shift onto my side, adjusting my pillow, trying not to think about the dingy beige carpet under my arms. It prickles my skin, but everything else is gone. Even if I hadn’t already packed the one I kept, it’s too hot for a blanket.
Focusing on the beat of the music, I sway, Justine’s picture lying beside me, and will myself to sleep. Somewhere between my thoughts about tomorrow and dawn I drift away.
My dreams shift and whirl until my mind rests in the familiar oasis I’ve sought out for years. Finally.
The afternoon sun warms my moistened skin as I take in the jagged cliffs in front of me and the thick jungle that surrounds the pool, trying to locate him. The breeze brings an intoxicating aroma of tropical blooms. Every time I come here, I’m wet, yet I don’t know how I got that way. “Jason?” I call.
Where is he?
My teeth clamp onto the inside of my upper lip. I’ve never been away from the water, but I need to find him. He has to be here.
If nothing else, I’d like to tell him goodbye…thank you. I have no idea if I’ll see him again, and his absence presses in on me. This world is not right without him.
The cool grass bends under my bare feet while a breeze blows wet tendrils into my eyes. I glance up at the falls. Last time I was here, Jason dared me to dive from the top of the waterfall. Here, I can do anything. Fear is meaningless, or is it? Strangely, tension prickles my spine.
A foreign tremor rushes along my skin, leaving a trail of goose bumps in its wake. I scan every inch of the landscape until my eyes meet someone else’s gaze.
It is not Jason.
The man is tall with dark hair like Jason, but everything else about him is wrong. He’s standing twenty feet away from me at the edge of the jungle. The wind picks up, blowing his brown locks around his chiseled features.
As he steps closer, I glance behind me to the pool, judging the distance. I should be able to get away from him if I need to.
When I face him again, he’s standing directly in front of me. My heart explodes and my body coils to run.
He doesn’t move to touch me, but his eyes hold a warning his lips confirm. “We have no time. He’s coming for you. Learn all you can then find me. Prepare yourself!”
I jolt upright, my fingers digging into the carpet. I’m breathing so hard I have to wait a minute to stand up. What the hell kind of dream was that?
Somehow, I always thought the oasis was mine and Jason’s, as if no one else existed but us. That guy violated our sanctuary. A gusty laugh comes out of me from the thought. A dream man violated my dream. His warning still echoes in my throbbing veins.
A bit unsteady, I make my way into the kitchen. My fingers fumble for the light switch, but nothing happens when I flip it. Yeah, I forgot. The power was shut off yesterday. At least the water still works.
Clutching my cup, I fiddle with the sink until I finally get the knob to twist. The tepid water eases my dry throat, but it does nothing for my nerves, or my belly. It groans at me again. I’m going to have to eat soon, even if I have to check the dumpsters behind Fred’s Bakery. There’s no point in checking the fridge. I found the final remnants of food the day before last. For not the first time, I wonder what I’m going to do when tomorrow comes. Two hundred dollars aren’t enough for anything. Even if I use it only for food, it will disappear before I get paid again, and that’s assuming I don’t get canned for not having a mailing address.
Even though it’s three AM, I’m gonna head out. I have a lot to do today, and since I can’t sleep, I might as well get started. When I find the faucet again and shut it off, my ears prickle with an unwelcome noise.
A door creeks open and I stiffen where I stand.
All I’ve got to defend myself are my fists, my feet and my plastic cup. My knife is in my bag. Light from the living room filters through the doorway. He probably thinks he’s gonna blind me with his flashlight so he can get his greedy hands on me. Not in this lifetime.
I inch my way to the doorway and peek around it. What meets my gaze doesn’t make any sense.
A man stands opposite me, framed by the closet. His big body could never be mistaken for that of Varner Walsh.
The light behind him comes from a roaring fire that somehow spans forever. Orange flames dance and flicker, casting his face in shadow while haloing him in gold.
I’m dreaming. I have to be.
I’ve had some weird ones lately, but nothing has been as real as this. When I dig my nails into my palms, the dream theory disintegrates with the pain.
Maybe he’s a fireman, but where’s the smoke? Why aren’t the flames burning anything? Where’s his gear? He’s wearing a suit for hell’s sake.
His face turns as if he’s scanning the room, so I take the opportunity to scurry to the opposite wall.
My pulse pounds in my ears and sweat drips down my back. From here, the front door is four, maybe five lunges away. If he goes into the bedroom, I might be able to—
“Amelia?” he calls, his deep voice somehow familiar.
That’s impossible. I don’t know him, but even if I did I wouldn’t stick around. Who told this guy I was here? He can’t be with Child Protective Services. I no longer qualify. My mind flits back to the weird fire. I’m not sticking around to figure out his magic act.
I make my move, jetting through the near-empty living room. My fingers fumble with the bolt before I move for the lock on the knob. I’m taking too long. He’s going to—
Arms clamp around me, hauling me up against a wall of muscle. The shock nearly makes me pee myself. My mouth opens on a scream, but he whirls me around and tosses me over his shoulder, cutting off my air.
I kick and punch and bite into cloth. He twists around, making my head spin on delirium.
I scream for help, but my throat thickens immediately. I struggle to breathe. I can’t think.
He bends until my face is right over his rear end, but he stands up before I can sink my teeth into anything substantial. As if he’s getting comfortable, he jostles me around. My pulse quickens while my head hurts from the rush of blood and fear. When he moves toward the closet, I find my voice.
“Help!” I scream, kicking and punching against his hard muscles.
No one answers as he plunges us into the flames.
I expect death, but what I get is deposited on my rear end in a spacious room with a wall of fire at my back. My eyes sweep the perimeter of what looks like an upscale apartment with a bed tucked in one corner and a living area in front of me. The dark paneled walls lend an old world feel that is only mirrored by the heavy furnishings. There are rich velvets and leather. Even the air is different. Instead of Justine’s sweet scent, a dark musk fills the space.
How is this possible? We were just in my hall closet.
The man steps away from me. His chest lifts with each sharp breath he takes.
The flames should have fried me, but I’m here. I have to be dreaming. The only thing is, I don’t quite think I am. It’s absurd to think that, but the heat from the fire wall has intensified now that the guy is standing away from me. Sweat drips down my scalp and my shirt clings to my back. I’m going to have to move soon.
The only thing is I don’t know what this guy will do. I turn my head and look through the flames, but all I see is a huge pendulum, like from a clock, swinging back and forth.
All of the sudden the flames disappear and all that remains is a crevice that runs the length of what should be a wall. The pendulum is easier to see now, at least the lower half. The upper part of it is cut off by the ceiling. Only darkness lies beyond the fire pit, like it opens into a cavern.
This has got to be the strangest place I’ve ever seen.
“I know you must be frightened,” says the man. “I’m sorry about that. I have much to explain to you. Would you please join me on the sofa?”
“As if,” I tell him. Even though I’m still thinking this has to be a dream, I ask, “Who are you? What is this place? Why am I here?”
His voice comes out low, guttural. “You don’t remember me?”
“I’ve never seen you in my life.”
Intense blue eyes latch onto mine. “Things are not always what they appear, Amelia.”
This is a dream. He’s a figment of my imagination.
A smile stretches on his full lips. “In time, all will be revealed.”
He takes a step toward me and I jump to my feet. I move back and back until my feet are near the pit. Even this close, I can’t see what’s beyond it.
“Stay away from me,” I tell him.
He spreads his hands, but his eyes are wild. Veins on his forearms bulge as he puts his hands in his pockets. “Please. Let me explain.”
I nod, taking a seat on the floor again. There is no way I’m getting anywhere near him, dream or not.
About the Author
I grew up daydreaming about fairytales, and my love for discovering new worlds has never died. I am not one of those writers who always knew I would write. I thought that was what other people did until one day a few years ago, I took a challenge from a friend and typed my first words. My journey has been wonderful, and I cannot imagine a day where I would ever give up writing. My love for reading is what fueled my imagination in the first place and still does. When I am not writing or reading, I am enjoying family time with my husband and two children. My family and I live in a quiet community in Northern Utah, and I am so thankful for the rich life I have been blessed with.