Sunday, 28 September 2014

Project X - Bonus !!!

Project X was released by Wayward Ink Press on 23 September. It's available for purchase from

Wayward Ink Press

To give you a taste of what you'll find inside the covers, I've written a prologue, introducing the two main characters, This scene is mentioned in the book, but only briefly, from one POV. I think this might give you a little more insight into what's going on, on the inside.

This is an exclusive preview, so enjoy

“For God’s sake, keep your eyes on the road.”
“But have you seen those spires. Look at the windows! Shit, Matthew, we’re going under an arch.”
“We go under an arch to get to the supermarket, Cory.”
“That’s a railway bridge, it doesn’t count.”
“It’s still an architectural masterpiece.”
“If you like that kind of thing. Oh my God look at that! It looks even more like Hogwarts than in the pictures.”
I had to groan at that. Cory’s been on about Hogwarts for weeks. If I’d known he would get so Harry Potter™ fangirl on me, I’d have chosen an ultra-modern university – all chrome and glass. I’d actually chosen one, despite having taken the Oxford / Cambridge entrance exam. Even though they’re the two best and most prestigious universities in the UK, I wasn’t keen on going. I’m a working class boy through and through and brushing shoulders with the upper echelons of society, with their cut glass accents and inbred arrogance, didn’t appeal at all.
Cory told me over and over that it wasn’t like that anymore, and anyway my prejudices about the upper classes were irrational and foundless. Just because someone spoke with a posh accent and was heir to a fortune, didn’t mean they were a bad person. I listened to what he had to say, shook my head and went back to grumbling about being made to feel inferior. It didn’t help that Cory infuriatingly pointed out that any feelings of inadequacy and inferiority would be down to me, not them, and I should at least give it a chance.
Unfortunately we’d both passed the exam, and Cory was so crestfallen when I tried to talk him out of going, I’d finally given in. I always do.
Cory was my very best buddy. We’d been friends forever, although we were an unlikely couple, I have to say. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, ‘couple’ means ‘pair of friends’. We were mistaken for boyfriends often enough but, although Cory’s gay – and I always said if I ever took a walk on the gay side it would be with him – I’m straight as they come.
I’d like to say I was a one woman man, and had a steady girlfriend since junior school. That’s definitely what I wanted – a steady relationship, leading to marriage, a nice house, a couple of children and a dog. Unfortunately, it had never quite worked out that way, and the longest relationship I’d had that far was six months. I thought that one was going to last, until I got the ‘long distance relationships don’t work, and university changes people’, talk the week before. Ah well, there’s a lot to be said for starting over with a clean slate. So there I was, young free and single and about to launch on the greatest adventure of my life.
It didn’t really start right then, though because we’re only there to look around and make the final decision about whether we wanted to come here. If there had ever been a chance we wouldn’t, it evaporated the instant Cory caught sight of the elegant gothic buildings, and had long gone by the time we passed under the arch and followed the signs for the visitors’ car park.
It was a mistake to let Cory drive. His eyes were everywhere but on the road, and how we managed to get to the car park without swerving onto the immaculate lawns, or hitting something, I’ll never know. Fortunately, the car park was almost empty. We were early, of course. Cory wanted to leave at some ridiculous time, like five am, but I managed to contain him for a couple of hours.
The car rattled and hissed, as we chugged to a highly relieving halt. I think it was furthest my poor old banger had ever gone, and she was as glad to arrive as we were. Bless her, she was a bit of a wreck even then, but she was reliable, and even if she wasn’t pretty, she was all mine. Well, mine and Cory’s. We’d saved up together and paid half each. Not that it would have mattered. We were so close we tended to treat just about everything we owned as joint property. Except the computers.
Cory’s a computer genius. He’s seriously amazing with anything to do with computers, from building them, to writing his own code and designing websites and games. Most of our friends, as well as pretty much everyone in both families, has a website or blog designed and set up by Cory. They’re not all well maintained or even used, but they’re there. It’s a testament to his persuasive techniques that even my great-grandmother has a blog, on which she posts recipes and embarrassing photographs of the family; present and past. She might be the only eighty year old in the country to know her way around the internet so well. She’s researching our family tree, and has more friends on facebook™ than I do.
The crazy thing is, that Cory’s genius doesn’t stop there. He’s also freakishly talented at science, especially biochemistry. He actually worked in a real lab in the last year of ‘A’ levels and did some kind of advanced course instead of the bog standard syllabus. I’m totally convinced that one day he’s going to build a cyborg, and I’m not the only one. Characteristically, Cory’s coy about his talents and had no confidence in his ability to be the first person to crack the whole ‘organic/mechanical fusion’ thing.
One of the reasons he was so keen to go to that particular university, was because they’d created a personalized syllabus, so he could study both his passions together. I bet the professors were creaming their pants over him. Not literally, I hope. The last thing I needed was to get involved in a professor/student scandal, and Cory was more than capable of getting into trouble without ever seeing it coming. It’s not just his eyes that are short-sighted.
“Come on, Matthew, let’s have a look around. Maybe we can find the science labs. Oh.” He paused and peered at me, his startlingly blue eyes round behind thick lenses. “The Law Department as well, of course, and the library.”
“That’s what the tour’s for,” I said, laughing at his expression which was a mixture of eagerness and frustration. He was like a kid in a candy store, and had no idea where to go, or what to look for first. I knew what was going on inside that head of his. His mind was racing in about a million directions at the same time, and he was having a hard time remembering I was even there, and that my interests lay elsewhere.
As we stood, procrastinating, a loud screech startled us both, and we looked up, as one, to see sleek, black car heading our way. It skidded on the gravel and threw up a spray that spattered our lower legs with dust as it came to a stop, hardly more than an arm’s length away. Why, with a whole car park to choose from, did it have to land next to us?
For a moment, the car crouched, purring and seeming to watch us with its blacked out eyes that twinkled and flashed in the morning sunshine. Then the engine cut. The air continued to pulse with its sound for a few moments, before true silence fell and we could hear laughter from somewhere in the distance.
The silence stretched until it became oppressive. Who was in the car, and why didn’t they come out?
“Why doesn’t anyone get out?” Cory whispered and, as if he’d summoned something, the doors opened and four people spilled out, laughing and talking in loud voices. How had we not heard them from inside?
My attention was caught by the two girls, who had been in the back seat. They were the epitome of everything I’d dreaded about attending that university. They were loud, brash, and beautiful with shrill, cut-glass accents and short skirts. Everything about then, from their flashy shoes, to the careless swish of their hair and the sunglasses perched artfully on their heads, screamed ‘designer’, and careless chic. They wore their wealth and privilege like badges, emblazoned on everything they did.
Beside me, Cory gasped and my attention immediately transferred to the driver of the car, who had emerged silently, slightly later than the rest. My curious gaze met cool green eyes that stole my breath. I had, and have, never seen anyone so perfect in all my life. The girls were clones, typical specimens of the ‘in crowd’, but him…
Long black hair hung to below his shoulders in a sleek waterfall of silk, broken by an inch wide streak of brilliant blue at the right front. The stunning hair framed a face that could have graced the cover of Vogue™ or gazed down from a catwalk. He was breathtakingly beautiful, with slanting emerald eyes and flawless, china-pale skin.
The boy’s emerald green eyes caught and pinned me so that I could do nothing but gape, unable for some reason to look away. Cory nudged me, but I ignored him. I was afraid that if I broke the gaze, even to blink, the boy would be gone. I didn’t know why I cared, but I did.
Finally. I had to give in to Cory’s insistence, and I glanced at him with a frown on my face. “What?”
“You’re catching flies.”
I growled at him and turned back to the boy.
“Do come on, Morgan,” someone called. “I’m getting dirt all over my Vuittons. They’ll be ruined. And I’m parched, darling. We really must find somewhere decent to get a drink soon, or I’m sure I’ll die.”
Was I mistaken or did a flash of anger cross his face? If it had, it was quickly replaced by something else. I took it as arrogance and distain, although I wondered about that later. Right then it made me angry. How dare he? How dare they? Was I so far beneath them they wouldn’t even deign to acknowledge our presence?
“Nice to meet you, too,” I called after them as they walked away. No one so much as glanced in our direction.
“Wow,” Cory said when the little group had disappeared.
“Yeah. See why I didn’t want to come here? This place is going to be crawling with people like that. Are they really the sort of people you want to spend the next three years with?”
“I’m sure they’re not all that bad,” Cory said, but he sounded shaken and the certainty had leaked from his voice.
“Come on,” I said, even angrier that the rude arrogance of those plastic people, had upset my friend. “Let’s find someone who can point us in the right direction.”
Cory tore his eyes from the place where the group had disappeared, and gave me a weak smile. “Can we look for the labs first?”
“We can spend all day in the labs if you want. It’s not as if it makes much difference to me what the lecture rooms in the Law Department look like.”
Cory brightened immediately, and in moments was babbling again, as he dragged me across the car park to what looked like a main entrance.

The mindless chatter was driving me insane, not to mention the laugh. Oh God, the laugh! I have no idea what I was thinking, going out with Sarah Blythe-Carter. She was a nightmare, especially on long car journeys. With hindsight, I should have insisted we stay at mine the night before, but Sarah’s friend was having a party in the City, so we crashed there. Driving for over an hour, with a hangover is bad enough, without that irritating bray from the back seat sounding like a klaxon in my ear every five minutes.
I don’t even know why I took her on the visit. It’s not as if she was going to be attending the university – or any university. Her intelligence wasn’t her outstanding feature. In fact, she didn’t have many outstanding features, other than that her family was rich enough, and prestigious enough for her not to be intimidated by mine.
Of course, I’d dated…less well connected girls – boys too – but their tendency to get overawed and over-impressed was irritating and frustrating. Better to stick with my own class, as Father continually reminded me. Not that I cared what Father said, or thought, but I got enough shit from him as it was. It just wasn’t worth it. He did too good a job driving away interesting prospects, and it was embarrassing.
The problem was, I got bored. None of them was a challenge anymore, and they were all the same. The whole scene was a hot-bed of politics and in-jokes. It seemed as if everyone constantly had knives drawn ready to plunge into someone’s back; often their best friend, at least former best friend. I can’t, be bothered with it all: never could.
It was better when my mother was alive. We used to go to parties together, and we’d conspire to circumvent Father’s radar with ‘unsuitable’ dates. Of course, I was only a kid then, and it was all for laughs, not because I was seriously looking for someone. I had a lot of fun with a lot of people – innocent, of course.
After she died everything changed. A big part of that was in me. She died in a car accident, and I blamed myself. Of course, I knew deep down I wasn’t to blame, not really, but Father never missed an opportunity to reinforce the ides I was. It sucked the joy out of my life and I’d searched for it ever since.
I certainly wasn’t going to find it with Sarah. I’d got to the point where if she’d mentioned her bloody Louis Vuitton shoes again I might have killed her.
My head was pounding when I turned into the university and I almost missed the sign for the car park. The tyres screeched as I took the turn too tightly and I skidded on the gravel. I almost didn’t see the other car until I stopped in a cloud of dust, right next to it.
I sat with my head on the top of the steering wheel, getting the pounding under control. My head pulsed with the racing of my heart. In normal circumstances the thrill would have excited me, but that day it made me nauseous, and it set the harpie off again.
“What the hell were you doing, Morgan? You almost killed us. If you wanted to get my attention you could just have called. Or were you hoping I’d end up in your lap?”
I raised my face in time to catch her leering in the mirror, and shuddered. A break up was looming in the very near future. I couldn’t stand another day with let – let alone a night. To say last night had been a let-down was being more than kind to the girl. Insipid was a word that sprang to mind.
Wanting nothing more than to get away from her, I got out of the car, vaguely aware she was bitching about her shoes again – then I saw him.
There were two of them, standing next to most battered wreck of a car I’d ever seen. I barely registered the blonde one, but the other….
He was tall, like me, with shaggy, honey brown hair and the most amazing blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I thought, at first they were contacts, but I found out later they weren’t.
I can’t put my finger on what exactly it was about this boy that fascinated me so much, but I just couldn’t look away. He was dressed casually in jeans and a sweater and there was absolutely nothing about him that stood out…except that there was. There was something. Maybe it was the startled expression in his eyes that nevertheless suggested he’d never be intimidated by anything. Maybe it was the way he carried himself, or the way his full lips quirked, and later compressed in a disapproving line. Maybe that’s what did it. He disapproved of me. I love it when someone disapproves of me.
Everything about the boy shouted ‘challenge’ and that was something I hadn’t had in a long time.
If it hadn’t been for the sun, slanting off the many windows surrounding us, I might have stood there longer, and maybe even worked out what it was about the boy that had struck such a chord in me. As it was, the sunlight hurt and I had to put my sunglasses on. That small action was enough to break the connection and it was as if a curtain fell.
It’s strange but it was almost like we’d been in a bubble. Everything around me had faded – except the bloody sun, thank you very much – and now it all crashed in on me again. Sarah’s complaining cut through my head like a knife and the boy flicked her a glance, turning away toward his friend.
There was something about the way they looked at each other than made me think they were more than friends, and the realization cut me deeper than Sarah’s bleating. Oh well. I knew he was a challenge, and I’d never let being in a relationship deter me from trying – whether it was them or me who was already with someone.
I have to admit, though, as I turned away, I couldn’t help being envious of the way they looked at each other, and casually touched. It was as if it was the most natural thing in the world, which of course it was, rather than carefully calculated and socially acceptable. They didn’t even seem aware they were doing it. It must be nice to have a friend like that I thought as I reluctantly followed Sarah in search of something to quench my thirst. Of course, it could only quench one kind of thirst. I was going to have to work on the rest.

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