Here’s an excerpt from A QUESTION OF WILL, the first novel in the Aliomenti Saga. The novel is available now from Amazon.com. Please click on the book image to the right to download!
Will Stark ran toward his home as fast as he could, despondent at the likelihood that his wife and son would already be dead when he got there. And it would all be his fault. He ran, not for enjoyment or accomplishment, but in a desperate attempt, no matter how futile, to prevent his wife and son from being brutally murdered.
He had turned thirty-five years old today, an age at which running just over a mile should be simple. He’d focused on his business and his family, though, and his fitness levels had suffered as a result. The lack of exercise and resulting bit of flab around his midsection weren’t the only physical symptoms that might make one think him older. Wire-rimmed glasses that enhanced his green eyes perched dangerously on the bridge of his nose, the sweat of exertion and terror threatening to jar them from his face and leave him blinded in his pursuit of his target. Noticeable patches of gray mixed in with his normally pitch-black hair. The stressful events of this day were unlikely to keep his hair from growing whiter.
The sharp pains wracking his body weren’t entirely due to physical neglect. He’d needed to break in to his own highly-secure gated community, climbing over a building and dropping to the ground. He’d twisted his ankle upon hitting the ground, but he’d pressed on. There would be time to deal with that type of pain later. He had to get to his house. The lives of Hope and Josh hung in the balance.
You’re already too late, a voice whispered in his head. The killer had too much of a head start. Visions of their lifeless faces floated before his eyes, causing him to slow momentarily. No, he thought. I will not quit on them. Ever. He pushed on, ignoring the stitch growing in his side, and the screaming ankle that wanted rest and ice, not the pounding of an all-out sprint. He tried to distract himself by finding humor in the fact that he was running at full speed in suit, tie, and overcoat; his shoes were highly polished gems meant for business, not racing. It wasn’t ideal.
None of this was ideal.
Desperate times made people do crazy things, to be sure. There had been numerous attempts to abduct him off busy public streets in broad daylight. His car had been shot at on many occasions. People in the press seemed to forget that he was human, and that he had no more interest in losing his freedom or his life than anyone else. The press enjoyed highlighting his “extravagant expenditures” like the cars with armor-plating and bullet-proof glass, the fortress-style walls surrounding his community, the security system to his neighborhood that seemed more extensive than many military bases. They opined that such vast sums of money could have been better spent on other things, implying that the desire of the young multi-billionaire to protect his family from harm was driven by pure selfishness.
He wondered what such people would write about the next day, if his fears became realized.
He knew what he’d write. That he’d failed. He had vowed to keep his family safe, no matter the expense. He’d consulted every security expert he could find, hired the best construction crew, paid for double- and triple-redundancies in every person and system charged with the security of those he loved most. It hadn’t been enough. A killer had gotten inside his sanctuary and was traveling an unguarded driveway to his house. Will’s wife and son were at risk due to his failure.
He ran faster than he’d ever run before, his feet in misery from the brick-like shoes covering them, as he slammed them repeatedly to the ground. His ankle finally gave out, and he was forced to cover ground in a limping hop that tried desperately to resemble a sprint.
You should have let them meet you at the restaurant. They would not be home to be attacked. The inner voice gnawed away at his determination, seeking to replace it with guilt and self-loathing, and it was succeeding. He refocused, and refused to listen. There could be only one way to mitigate those feelings, and that required getting to his house. Quickly.
He rounded the final bend, his home visible in the fading sunlight. It was a large structure, to be sure, though probably smaller than most might suspect from one so wealthy. The brick and stone exterior of the home continued his theme of security, giving the sense of a castle inside the giant walls surrounding it. He looked inside, through the expansive bay window and into the living room. On most days, he’d see his son Josh standing there, waiting for him, silent as always. On others, he’d see Hope, a chair pulled up by the window while she waited for him, reading.
Today, he saw something that made his stomach spasm.
A man stood in his house, his back to Will. He was dressed in black, his head clean-shaven, the skin marked by dozens of long scars. Will experienced a powerful sensation of hopelessness and dread, as if the mere presence of this man was sufficient to eliminate the will to live of anyone who came near him. On closer examination, he noticed something even more terrifying: the short sword held in the man’s right hand, the steel glinting from the lights in the house, and the blood dripping from the blade.
At the sight of the blood, Will passed through the denial stage of grief and went straight to anger. His pain was forgotten as a surge of adrenaline erased his pains, and his whole body cooperated in moving him towards the house. He would kill that man, the man who had ended the lives of his wife and son.
A bright light burst from the window, blinding him, slowing him down as he twisted away. He blinked his eyes rapidly, forcing them to refocus.
He heard and felt the explosion a few seconds later. The glass exploded from the front windows and lacerated his skin, the damage lessened by the thick overcoat he wore against the late winter chill, and the force of the blast knocked him to the ground, hurling him back several yards and knocking his glasses from his face. He felt the heat before he could turn around, felt his skin burning. He realized that his coat had caught fire, and he pulled it off, hissing in pain as shards of glass were pulled from his skin in the process, and he let the coat fall to the ground. His hands felt the frozen earth, seeking his glasses, needing to restore his sight. He found them, put them on, and turned, still on his knees.
He could not see his house, even with his glasses on. The walls of flame leaped out of the windows and doorways, somehow hot enough to ignite even the brick and stone of the exterior.
He lowered his head to the ground, weeping. Then he screamed out the names of his dead wife and child in a tone of pure, agonizing mourning.
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Copyright (c) 2012 by Alex Albrinck. All Rights Reserved.