Nic Promises

Book Description:

Nic PromisesAfter being separated by distance for three years, childhood friends Nic and Hanna finally reunite. But Nic can tell that Hanna is hiding something. She’s not the same girl who left two weeks before they were supposed to start high school together, and she’s very good at closing herself off from the world. When Nic finally learns Hanna’s secret, he decides that he will do anything to protect her– even if it means hurting the ones he loves most.


***Content Warning***

This book contains mentions of child abuse

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The breeze picked up and swept through the treehouse, sending Hanna’s hair flying into her face. She instinctively reached to pull her hair back, then reconsidered and quickly threw herself on top of the deck of cards that she and Dominic had been playing with instead.

“I think there’s something on your face,” Dominic said, leaning forward to brush a strand of Hanna’s golden hair out of her lip balm. Hanna laughed and pulled away, straightening up the deck of cards as the wind settled.

“Your hands are dirty,” she shrieked. “Don’t touch my face!”

Dominic picked Hanna’s left hand up off the deck of cards and pointed to her dirt-smudged fingers. The treehouse had always been a little dusty, but the recent late-July winds had swept more dirt onto the wooden floor than usual.

“What about your hands?” he teased. He looked up at Hanna for an answer and saw that she was staring wide-eyed at their hands. “What?”

Hanna’s expression softened a little, replaced with a nervous smile.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said quietly. “It’s just…”

She laced her fingers into Dominic’s shyly.

Dominic’s heart quickened its pace. He looked down at their hands and then back up to Hanna’s eyes, sunlight streaming in and bringing out the honey color just around her pupil.

Before he could talk himself out of it, Dominic leaned in. Hanna had always smelled a little like flowers and secondhand smoke, and the familiar smell made Dominic dizzy in an unfamiliar way. Just as he was about to touch his lips to Hanna’s, a voice called up to them.

“Hanna, are you up there?” Dominic’s mom called up. The two moved apart quickly, the moment lost. “Hanna, there’s someone here to see you.”

Hanna peeked out the window of the treehouse. Standing next to Dominic’s mother was Hanna’s aunt Charlene.

‘“Who’s that?” Dominic whispered, his hand brushing against the sliver of exposed skin on Hanna’s hip as he leaned to look out the window too. They both shivered.

“I’ll be down in a minute!” she called, her voice strained. She sunk down against the wall, staring at her feet. “Dominic, I need to tell you something. Please don’t be mad at me.”

“What’s up?” Dominic asked, sitting down next to her. He bumped her knee with his and quickly scooted away.

“I’m moving,” Hanna said, looking up with tears in her eyes. “I’m going to Southern California to live with my Aunt Charlene for a little while. Maybe forever, I’m not really sure.”

“Oh,” Dominic replied, shocked. “When did you find out?”

“Right after school got out,” Hanna said, shifting awkwardly.

“I just didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to be mad. Please don’t be mad at me. I really did want to tell you, I guess. But I just sort of hoped it would go away.”

There was an edge of panic in her voice.

“I’m not mad,” Dominic said, standing up and dusting off his shorts. He put a hand out to help Hanna up, and before she had even gained her balance, he pulled her into a tight, awkward hug. “Please don’t leave.”

Hanna hugged him back stiffly and pulled away.

“I have to,” she said, rubbing her eye. Dirt streaked across her face. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Dominic pleaded. “Why do you have to leave?”

Hanna was silent.

“Hanna, please, you can tell me anything,” Dominic said, staring at the freckles on her nose instead of into her eyes. He was afraid to really look at her. He couldn’t stand to see her so upset.

“Actually, this is something I can’t tell you,” she said, turning away and opening trap door that led out to the ladder.

They climbed down from the treehouse silently. At the bottom of the ladder, Charlene stood holding Hanna’s overnight bag in one hand and a backpack in the other.

“You ready to go, kiddo?” she dropped the backpack to wrap Hanna in a one-armed hug. “Did you say your goodbyes?”

Hanna nodded, tears streaking the dirt on her cheeks.

Dominic walked Hanna to the car, unable to speak. He had been so caught off guard that, even though he know this was the time he really needed to speak up, he could not think of a single thing to say. It wasn’t until Hanna started to get into the backseat of her aunt’s Honda that Dominic spoke up.

“Wait!” he said, shutting the door before Hanna could climb in. He pulled her into a hug again, and this time she returned the hug with full force. She was just barely shorter than him, so he rested his head on her shoulder and breathed in her lilac shampoo. When Hanna finally pulled away, she was crying again, heavy sobs racking her body.

“You’ll call me?” Dominic asked, opening the door for Hanna. It made him feel like a gentleman.

Hanna shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll get a cell phone while I’m there.”

“So you’ll write, then?” Dominic asked. “Or email?”

“I’ll write,” Hanna said, buckling her seatbelt. “Or I’ll finally make a Facebook. I promise.”

Dominic shut the door and watched them pull away, his best friend peering out the back window at him. He didn’t turn away until long after they’d rounded the corner and were no longer in sight.


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Star Surfer by Lizz Lund

Star SurferBook Description:

Daydreaming is dangerous.

Especially if you’re Thaddeus McPhee—his fantasies not only doom him to summer school (complete with repeat bullies) they also land him in hostile territory: think alien wars. Seriously.

As for high school: he’s got a weird family birthmark on his forehead that’s hard to hide, he’s flunking out, and everyone else has a special talent except him—unless snoozing in class counts. Especially his friend Nick: he’s an ace student and super focused on being a famous chef. This comparison—which his parents constantly remind him about—only highlight Tad’s under-achiever skills.

That is, until Tad discovers his own secret powers.

Can he use them to save South Embhali? How will he neutralize Gharewl? And what about the butterfly Princess?

Then again, what about his parents’ ‘gifts’? When were they going to tell him about those? Does this mean they won’t get divorced?

And will the senior jocks ever stop terrorizing him in the gym locker room?

From Glen Rock, New Jersey to the planet of Embhali, travel with Tad as he battles bullies, surfs the stars, and saves the day!

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Twilight. South Embhali, Height of the Harvest—during the Full Suns of Tydes

Gharewl cackled as he slurped at the blood pooling beneath the consort’s concussed skull. The poor man lay unconscious beneath his suckered bug foot—one of several. The massive insect had lay waste poor Chebbyrs, who now lay in a heap in the corner: moments ago he’d attempted to defend the Princess and shot his blaster at the monster but clearly to no avail. He must have had his weapon set to stun, Tad reckoned, due to the supposed diplomatic meeting. Gharewl’s violent tossing of Chebbyrs’ torso against the stone wall had set the guardian’s current state to silent: he lay crumpled on the floor like a rag doll.
Gharewl stood over the unconscious man, pincers clacking, and was within moments of slashing open his chest with the bug weapons. Suddenly, the Princess hurled herself at the murderous insect, one arm wrapped around his “neck” while the other pummeled away at his skull with a tightly clenched fist wrapped around her only available weapon: her shoe.
Tad watched in horror as the ghastly creature grabbed her arms and flipped her across his head with no more effort than it would take to toss a towel. He scuttled over to where her body lay, leering at her, then began lapping away at the Princess’ ebbing life blood which flowed freely from the gash on her forehead.
Tad knew he had to act quickly, or risk the certain death of the Princess, as well as Chebbyrs. And possibly Prince Narvos—there was no telling where he had wound up, with the sudden confusion from this unexpected conflict. Also, Tad had heard Gharewl’s final orders to his bug henchmen moments before he clobbered Chebbyrs. “Secure the flood gates! Soon all of South Embhali will be ours!” Tad knew the Prince had to learn this, immediately. The diplomatic meeting had obviously been a ruse.
He shook his head in consternation at the bug king’s despicable treachery. Long ago, Gharewl had launched a hard and long campaign, begging the Princess for permission to immigrate to her planet. He maintained his own world had been destroyed, and his kind had cast about the universe for decades in search of safe haven. Their ship’s supplies coming to an end, the Princess granted the bugs mercy and graciously allowed their settlement on a portion of South Embhali. The permission had been granted not just because of the Princess’ kind heart but in part to her naiveté; she was just a small child at the time and had been newly coroneted.
The years sped forward, with the bug kingdom frequently breaking its propagation treaty to not over-populate its settlements. The bugs now outnumbered the Embhalis easily by a hundred-to-one and the planet’s finite resources of food and water were becoming a sore issue. Along with the limited confines of the current bug settlements, which Gharewl systematically expanded—without authorization.
Which was why the Princess had agreed to meet with Gharewl to discuss these problems diplomatically, at the insistence of Prime Minister Vlek. Tad glanced about the room again and realized Vlek was nowhere to be seen, either. He hoped Vlek had seen the Prince to safety—and would rapidly return with troops and weapons.
In the meantime, there was no one to save the Princess from Gharewl’s massive jaw other than Tad. And while he remembered visiting South Embhali many times before—and assisting with numerous conflicts—he had never engaged in physical combat himself. As best he knew, he could not. To Tad, these events appeared as a dream.
You see, Tad was not an actual being on South Embhali: he appeared to the inhabitants much like an apparition—a spirit. In fact, he could not even shake someone’s hand properly in this galaxy—the startled person’s fingers passed through his palm like beams through a fog.
But, he was visible. And, he had this ‘spirit’ portion of himself to a great advantage on this planet: he could flit from place to place in less than a blink of an eye. Which was how he often helped the Princess and her army.
The giant bug shoved the Princess onto her back. Tad noticed that her eyes did not even flutter; she appeared to be dead. Gharewl leaned over her, his ear-wig like pincers clacking back and forth with evil glee, as he raised his sharp claw and prepared to slit her throat—presumably to drink her blood.
Tad rebelled at the giant pest’s insolence, and yelled with all his might. “Not so fast, beetle breath. Did you forget about me?”
Gharewl spun away from the Princess, as Tad hoped. “Argh! You again! I will dispatch with you now, and feed upon your friends, you… parasite!”
“Parasite? Look who’s talking you over-ripe maggot!”
Gharewl banged against the hard shell of his giant chest with four of his horrible insect limbs. The noise echoed across the chamber like a drum. “Maggot? We feed on these. As you will learn, once I munch on you, you soft-skinned slug. Prepare to die, once and for all!” The horrific creature charged toward Tad, sharpened claw snapping on one limb, the others raised and pincers clacking. Gharewl charged him.
Tad backed up slowly against the wall. The bug galloped, shouting wildly at his presumed success of killing the boy. Tad took a big breathe, waiting until the last possible second as the bug came dangerously upon him. As Gharewl hurtled closer, Tad swore that if the creature had teeth, he could have examined his molars, as he was forced to gaze down that awful cavernous mouth until the last second.
The bug raced at him full throttle. Just as the giant pincers reached out to slash Tad’s neck, Tad blinked.
Tad now stood on the opposite end of the room, next to the body of the Princess.
A look of anger, then horror spread across bug’s mask of a face. The gargantuan beetle realized his miscalculation—too late. Gharewl skidded and crashed head first into the thick, stone wall with a gigantic thud, followed by a sickening squish sound.
His bug body lay silently on the floor.
Tad grinned for a moment at his success. But just as quickly, he frowned at the dire straits of his South Embhali friends: the Princess and Chebbrys still lay prone. Tad ran from one to the other, leaning in close: they both appeared to be breathing, but barely.
He blinked back to the bug’s body: Gharewl was out cold. But surely, this would not last. He did the only thing possible: he concentrated long and hard on the Prince—hoping his thoughts would land him near his objective.
“Tad, you are safe!” the Prince’s hushed voice fell right next to Tad’s ear.
Tad looked around him, and realized he was only in the outside hall, just past the chamber where his friends lay quiet.
“I’m fine. But the Princess, and Chebbrys! They’re in there!” Tad pointed to the thick, wooden door.
“Once again, I’m in your debt. It would have taken us a week to search this place room by room.”
“And our lives, your Highness,” General Falcomb, the Prince’s highest ranking military commander added.
“Agreed. I cannot fathom why my sister granted Prime Minister Vlek’s appeal to meet with Gharewl on his turf, rather than the sanctuary of a military base, as you counseled.”
Tad flapped his arms in frustration. “You can argue with your sister about that later—that is, if she’s not bug juice soon! Gharewl’s in there, with her and Chebbyrs!”
The Prince drew his blaster. “Are they near the door?” he whispered.
Tad shook his head. “No. They’re all out cold.”
“What about Gharewl?” the General asked.
“Him too. I got him to charge me, to try to eat me.”
The Prince looked at him aghast. “But you are not harmed?”
Tad shook his head. “Nope. He ate the wall, instead. But he may not be unconscious for long. He’s got a pretty hard head.”
The General pointed his blaster at the door. “Stand back!” And with that, the door shivered and shook and crumbled into a billion bits of dust.
The Prince ran quickly to his sister, the Princess, as the General rushed to point his blaster at the murderous bug.
The Princess coughed, struggling to sit up, pointing her arm to the General. “Do not… kill.”
“Your Highness!”
“It is my… command.” And with that, she fell back against her brother’s outstretched arms.
“Sire!” the General hissed.
The bug stirred.
The Prince frowned. “We cannot disobey a direct command—as much as we’d like to, especially at this opportune moment.”
Gharewl’s pincers began to move, slowly.
“That said—were you to blast him at the highest setting possible, that would not cause death—but might result in it, given his presumed state of injury…”
“Done.” And with that, the General quickly reset his blaster and stunned the malevolent creature back into unconsciousness. He quickly tapped the communicator button on his shoulder and barked out his orders. “Code Alpha. Fasten on my coordinates. Dispatch Teams Blue and Green to secure our exit. Guide the medics—two injured.”
Outside in the hallway, they could hear the approach of the troops—along with some nearby encounters with Gharewl’s security guards as they clashed in momentary skirmishes.
Four strong medical officers raced in bearing stretchers, and quickly dispatched the Princess and Chebbrys. Other troops rushed before and behind them to secure their escape.
The Prince and the General stood over the body of Gharewl, considering the obvious. Which was when they heard the distant battle cry of the bugs approaching them, the general population now finally aware of the failed diplomatic meeting.
The Prince patted the General’s shoulder. “We will return to fight another day. Come.”
The General sighed. “Yes. But a little insurance, to make sure that day is not tomorrow… and he cannot…” and with that, he re-zapped the now befuddled bug. Gharewl slumped back further.
The Prince grinned, and tipped his chin to Tad. “Again—we are in your debt. But quickly we must leave. As must you. Are you ready?”

Friday afternoon.

“Are you ready? Thaddeus McPhee! Are you ready?”
Mr. Law yelled so loudly, he knocked Tad off his chair–literally. The rest of the class laughed and pointed at Tad. Mike Flemming and Carl Blevins, the two jerks who sat in the row right behind him, gave each other fist bumps, laughing and snorting.
“Nice going, loser.”
“What’s a matter? You need another nappie?”
Mr. Law strode across the classroom–which was really a trailer–in less than a nano-second.
“Did you say something, Mr. Flemming?”
“Pardon, Mr. Flemming?”
Tad actually heard Mike gulp. “No, sir.”
Mr. Law had a hint of a Southern accent, because he grew up in Texas.
Consequently, this often made his voice sound like an iron fist inside a velvet glove. Tad figured it was just another old fashioned-thing about the guy; he also insisted on calling everyone as “Mr.” or “Miss”–he said it was his way of teaching his students respect. And he was handing out a large, healthy dose of that to Mike and Carl. Which might–or might not–inflict a recriminating payback upon poor Tad once they broke loose from the trailer.
“And you, Mr. Blevins?”
“No! Not a thing!”
“What did you say, Mr. Blevins?”
“Umm…no, sir! No, sir!”
“You got that right. Mr. McPhee, please get up and get back on your chair.”
Tad looked around at the now silent classroom, feeling eighteen pairs of eyes focused on him. If they stared any harder, their gazes would bore laser beams through him. In a way, he wished they could–he’d never been more humiliated. Well, at least not lately.
The beginning of eighth grade began with a rocky start—Flemming and Blevins constantly made fun of his size as Tad quickly found out that he was the shortest boy in his class. PE became a prison sentence, even though he was good at sports. Especially since his personal tormentors convinced some varsity seniors that teasing “shorty” was a terrific past-time—the locker room soon became his weekly nightmare.

About the Author: Lizz Lund loves Lancaster. Since 1999, she’s been having a terrific time here and thinks everyone else should, too. She is a newlywed and head-over-heels about her chef husband; she made him move from New Jersey, too. Star Surfer is the first in the Thaddeus McPhee series. Lizz grew up in Glen Rock, New Jersey and still hasn’t recovered. She holds a BA in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University, but has never learned to waitress.

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