Betrayed and left for dead, her soul divided into three pieces in an occult lottery, Lexie Carpenter is resurrected by a young sorcerer, How ironic that he is a monster as well and may want to kill her himself.
Trailing behind her father's Gucci luggage, American teenager Lexie Carpenter comes to Tokyo in another move by the globe-trotting super executive. Isolated and lonely, she finds an online ad for an international friendship club. The Club. Welcoming, beautiful, sophisticated young people.
Lexie's life fills up with A-list parties and Italian-accented romance. It's all good, in fact, it's great – until it isn't. Her friends are monsters and they want her soul.
Julian Lake brings Lexie back to life in an occult ritual of dark magic. The silver-haired, emerald-eyed, is one of the Soul Eaters, possibly the most powerful the group has ever seen. Too bad they killed his lover trying to teach him a lesson. Now all he wants is revenge against his former comrades in crime. Lexie's only value is how much she can help him with this unholy vendetta.
A body cannot live without its soul. Once the link between body and soul is completely broken, the body turns to dust. Lexie will turn to dust. Even with Julian's help, death has only been postponed.
Lexie is running out of time to find the pieces of her soul and put this broken girl back together -- provided Julian doesn't kill her first.
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Read an excerpt
Preview, Fear Club: Tokyo Masquerade
by Eden Crowne
Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Prologue: After Burn
I woke up on a mattress in a shabby apartment in bed with a beautiful boy, his arms wrapped tightly around me.
What the hell?
How did I get here? And where precisely was “here” anyway? I tried to pull the memories up from the black hole in my head but my brain seemed to have slipped its leash, run away, and gotten lost. For a moment nothing seemed to register. All I could remember was a blur of beautiful faces and dark, shining eyes. I tried to focus my own eyes and see.
Okay. Paint cracked and peeling on the ceiling above my head.
Four walls of a, what? A studio apartment, maybe? Twisting my head I saw a tiny kitchen, cupboard doors askew. A single lamp bulb hanging on a dusty cord.
With me in it.
Me and a boy.
Was I naked? Wriggling a little I felt sheets on bare skin, then the slight pressure of bra and panties. Thank heavens.
Was he naked?
I wriggled a little more. There was a hard, muscular body pressing into my back, skin to skin, the 98.5 degree warmth radiating off it. Beyond that I couldn't tell. I didn't know what a naked guy felt like.
Was it Savan, maybe? My jaw-dropping Italian boyfriend with a profile like Michaelangelo's David and marble cut muscles to match.
Think, Lexie, think.
The birthday party. I was at the party, my party. My seventeenth. Though everyone there thought I was turning eighteen. It was just a little lie, wasn't it? We were at a weird 70s bar in Tokyo's red light district of Shinjuku. All the Club members were there. My gorgeous, sophisticated new friends. Laughing and toasting the day with champagne. Savan said, “Would you...?” what were his words? Surrender! That's what he said, “Would you surrender to me?” or something like that. I said “Yes,” right before his eyes turned black behind the snarling wolf's mask.
No, that can't have happened.
Eyes don't turn black. And the mask couldn't be snarling. They were just masks, that's all. Carnival masks, like the ones in Venice. Savan had explained the Club's love of masquerade, of ritual. Bright colorful masks fluttering with ribbons. And blood. And pointy teeth.
'No!' I yelled at myself mentally to stop. Too much champagne, that's all it was. Way too much. Or maybe the snake's blood. Shuddering, I remembered the bartender twisting off the snake's head, the body writhing in its death spasms as the blood drained into the fluted glass. Unfortunately that memory was far too clear. More ritual. The Club's initiation drink for new members. Disgusting as it seemed, I was determined to go through with it. I would do anything for my friends.
Savan held the glass to my lips and somehow, I managed to swallow. Then he asked me to make love to him. At least I think that's what he was asking. Did I? Everything seemed as fuzzy as the inside of my mouth.
I stared at the arms clasped around me. Focus, damn it! What I saw was a trio of long, jagged white scars snaking down a muscular forearm. Savan did not have scars like that. I ran everything through my head again. Scars. Possibly naked boy. Nearly naked Lexie. Unknown room.
Horrified, I scrambled out of his arms, practically leaping off the bed, only to stumble, falling to my knees, dizzy and sick, the world spinning.
The boy sat up. I stared, recognizing him instantly. Fierce and beautiful, fine nose and high cheekbones, his hair the color of polished silver, eyes green and hard as emeralds. The one who warned me to get away from the Club. Run from my clever, wonderful new friends. A warning I'd dismissed.
He moved in one fluid motion from the bed to the floor. Kneeling down, I thought he was going to help me. Instead, he grabbed my shoulders as I crouched, sick and dizzy. His eyes were fierce and hungry. I drew back, afraid of the stare that shot through me like a cross-bow bolt.
“I told you Alexandra, I warned you!” He shook me so hard I saw stars. “Why didn’t you listen, you stupid, stupid girl?” He spoke in a clipped British accent. Each word as sharp as flint.
It was all too much. I sagged and would have sunk to the floor but for his rough grip. Letting go with one hand, he tugged the blanket off the bed and pushed me back so I was leaning against the frame. He pulled it up around my shoulders as I sat there shaking and confused, not sure what to say.
We stared at each other.
More to himself than to me it seemed, he muttered, “Now it is too late. Too late for both of us.”
There was an energy emanating off him, a heat. Anger, maybe. I wasn't sure of anything except that he was dangerous. I felt it instinctively. Whether he was dangerous to me remained to be seen.
He turned away, pulling on a pair of faded jeans that lay crumpled on the floor by the bed. He was naked, I could see now. Perhaps I should have looked away. At that moment I didn't have the energy. He was tall and lean-muscled, broad shoulders and narrow hips – like a track and field athlete. His skin was so white, it was almost translucent. Criss-crossing his taut, lithe body were raised scars, pink and red. Though I was no expert, the ones on his back looked pretty recent. The new skin stood out in sharp relief against the white, and I couldn't help wondering what could make that sort of injury. They were long and terrible, like claw marks. Two intricate rows of black tattooing in symbols I couldn't recognize slithered up and down his spine. Part of the new scars sliced right through the middle of the ink. Buttoning the jeans, he walked a few short steps to the dreary little kitchen taking up one wall of the small room. Filling a battered tea kettle, he set it on a gas burner that hissed and sputtered. He busied himself making tea in a little ceramic pot.
“You've been through a ceremony. A very terrible one.”
His words snapped me back to the here and now. Though honestly, they didn't really register. Nothing this strange, silver-haired boy said made any sense. I ignored his comment, trying to focus my bleary thoughts.
“What time is it?”
“Bloody hell," he sighed, "I don't know.” He pointed at the frosted glass window above the little metal sink. “'Not dark yet' is my closest estimate at the moment.”
“How did I get here?”
“I found you, not in time to stop them. Just enough of the mark left on your throat in the end to locate the place.”
My hand automatically went to my throat to brush at the little red stain, all that was left of the strange five-pointed star that appeared there the night I first saw him.
He seemed to have eyes in the back of his head because he said, “I put that on you in the techno club in Shibuya that night. To track you. The others knew what it was. They kept throwing out wards to blur your location.” He gave a shrug with one bare shoulder, “Got to you in the end. Brought you here, kept you anchored to this world as best I could.”
“Anchored to this world? What does that even mean?”
“The Club, your little gang of rich, pretty young pals, have stolen your soul. Because of that, you will die.”
I just stared.
The kettle gave a piercing whistle, the water boiling, and my heart skipped a beat in surprise.
He poured the hot water in the pot. He still hadn't faced me. “I said the Club has stolen your soul.”
“I heard you. There is no such thing as a tangible 'soul'. It’s not something you can steal. That’s just nuts.”
“For your sake I wish that was so.” Turning, he set down two mugs of tea on a tiny scratched wooden table of bleached wood only a few inches off the ground, tugging it closer to where I sat huddled beneath my blanket. “Soul, or whatever you want to call it. People have an amazing amount of energy, so much their physical bodies can barely contain it. You’ve felt it, haven’t you? That electrical current running and jumping along your nervous system? So alive, you feel as though you could leap out of your physical body, all energy and light.”
I glanced at his face, his emerald eyes were glowing, his expression animated, excited.
“The power of that energy is real. More real than you ever imagined. The Club, they harness it.” He put both hands up as though to ward off the counter arguments on the tip of my tongue, “There is no logical explanation. There is no logic to any of this. You have fallen head first into the realm of darkness and this place,” he laughed bitterly. “This place has its own rules; its own physics.”
“Who are you?” I put the full force of my confusion and fear into those three words.
“My name is Julian Lake and I am going to save your soul.”
When Dad dragged me across the world from my friends at the International School in Paris to Tokyo, I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse.
How stupid can one girl be?
Looking back on that first day at school and all the events that came after, it could only have been fate. I mean, honestly.
It was February. It was freezing. Trailing along behind Dad's Gucci luggage, I'd come to Tokyo on his newest assignment. My dad, making the world safe for greed. Today's latest entry in the long line of “Lexie's new schools” sat directly opposite a massive Japanese graveyard that appeared to stretch to the horizon. The Tokyo American School – go, Cougars, go! The large split-level building looked very new. Once you got past the parking lot, it rambled over a wide area landscaped with bushes and flowers along covered and open walkways. Roof, walls, staircases, inside and out, were painted in cascading shades of pale blue and gray. The soft color scheme providing a perfectly neutral backdrop for the bright plumage of the local wildlife: the student body. Sliding out my little digital camera, I slyly snapped a few pictures. I liked taking pictures. The lens put a distance between me and life. I found that comforting somehow.
I had on a plain navy hoodie, skinny jeans, and a pair of scuffed light yellow Tod's driving loafers. I usually put my hair in a ponytail at school. Today, I let it hang down over my shoulders in untidy brown waves, hiding my expression, watching the other students from under my bangs. It felt very odd to be in street clothes. For years now it had been strictly uniforms at one private girls school or another around the world: plaid skirts, white blouses, navy blue sweaters. I loved uniforms. Even though you were new, it only took a day or so to fit in. Short sleeves or long? Sweaters or blazer? Socks to the knee? Or scrunched down at the ankles? Skirt rolled up one waistband tuck or two? A little reconnaissance in the lunch room and you were set. Free dress? It was like picking out clothes in a field of cluster bombs. Every choice said way too much about who you were, who you had been, or who you wanted to be.
A group of boys strolled by, baggy jeans slung low, Abercrombie T-shirts untucked. They must be freezing in this cold. But they had to show off those shotguns no matter what the weather. I sighed, those bodies were locked and loaded and I got a quick shot of them walking away. That was one for the album! Co-ed added a radically dangerous element to the minefield. All that testosterone on the loose. An academic career in girl's schools didn't exactly help me with the boy thing. Not that I didn't like them. Oh my gosh I liked guys. Just not exactly sure what to say to them once you get beyond, “Hey, how's it going?”
I was in Cougar Country a mere three hours when it happened. In the cafeteria. Three hours! That had to be a record. Ground zero for my own personal nuclear holocaust. A girl, the girl, walked right into me. Actually “rammed” might describe it better. Full speed. Her cafeteria tray hit me in the chest, tossing her salad down my shirt and spilling a bright red drink all over my yellow Tod's. My shoes instantly turned the same pale pink as the bag hanging off her arm. In the way you do sometimes, at a moment like that, I took in everything about her: the red-gold mane of hair, baby blue T-shirt and matching velour hoodie, designer jeans – the top stitching unmistakable – and the pink Dior bag that had to cost at least two thousand dollars. On the tray, the drink bottle rolling on it's side read: “Cranberry Juice.”
I bought the shoes with my best friend Isobel. In Paris. When life was good. No, not good. Wonderful.
For that one glorious Parisian year I was supremely happy. I met Isobel the very first day at school. Isobel, who could speak five languages and generally did all at once. She walked up to me after homeroom, tiny and blonde, a perfect little sylph of a girl, saying, “At last you are here. I have been waiting and waiting!” Then she pointed a finger at the Tiffany silver heart I always wore and said, “You do know they are no longer owned by the Tiffany family? They were,” she dropped her voice dramatically, “incorporated.”
The necklace and I had been all over the world together since I was nine, the last present from my mom before she walked out on Dad and me without a backward glance. There were so many memories tied up in that little twist of silver, I explained, that had nothing to do with the Tiffany trademark.
“You do not care for designer products?”
“Not for this,” I fingered the necklace, cool against my skin. “But,” I considered, “I never met a Gucci I didn't like.” I added wistfully, “at least from afar.”
Shouting at me in a language I thought was Portuguese, she pulled me over to a tall girl waiting just outside the door with skin the color of fresh milk and a wild mane of red hair barely contained by a forest of barrettes.
“This is Brianna. I am Isobel. Look, Brianna! She is here! Just as I dreamed. C'est tres jolie! Oui?”
The girl gave me a smile that reached right up to her eyes, “C'est vrai! She is very pretty, just as you predicted.” She nodded towards Isobel, “My dear friend is psychic, she has been predicting your arrival everyday for more than a week now.”
“This is true. I am clairvoyant. My eyes are not like those of other people! This one, she has a good heart, we will all be friends. I know this for a fact, I have seen it.” Isobel held my eyes with a twinkly blue, but serious stare. “Is gut, ya?” She suddenly switched to German, then added in French, “Bon?”
Laughing, and completely charmed, I agreed, “Good. Ya, is gut, bon!”
And that was that.
A week ago we were all together.
Now they were gone. Like all good things in my life.
I did not think the girl with the Dior bag and I were going to become best friends. No. Today was not going to be like Paris. The anger simmering since being dragged out of France by my dad reached boiling point.
“Are you blind? How could you not see me here?” I may have actually pushed her, she seemed to rock back and forth on her little open-toed heels. And again, in that momentary clarity, I thought, 'What ridiculous shoes to be wearing in this weather'. Brushing at the bits of purple cabbage and lettuce clinging to my hoodie, I tossed a slice of red onion at her. “If my Tod's are ruined, you're paying for them.”
Suddenly, two girls materialized at her side. Dressed very similarly, though just a few degrees less lovely. Satellites to her sun. One took the tray. The girl with the red-gold hair opened the Dior bag to pull out a wad of Japanese ten thousand yen bills, each worth more than a hundred dollars on the current exchange rate. That's the kind of stuff you know when your dad works in finance.
The tone of her voice, her eyes looking somewhere over my shoulder, already bored with the exchange...well, that did it for me and I said something I came to regret again and again.
“If you have so much money, I'd think you could afford to go to a doctor and get your bladder infection treated properly instead of drinking cranberry juice.” There, that was it. That's what I said. One catty sentence that set so many things in motion.
It was as if something about this girl messed with my mind, causing all the sensible signals my brain was trying to send me to go haywire. I never yelled at people. Look up the word “passive aggressive” in the dictionary and you'll find my picture!
Her face flushed nearly as pink as my shoes.
Turning on my soggy heel, I squelched out of the cafeteria.
Of course before the double-wide doors swung shut behind me, I was already regretting my words. What caused me to act like that? Making someone else feel as awful as I felt? Me and my wet, cranberry-infused Tod's would go back in and apologize immediately. In public. I'd actually turned around to do so when I came face-to-face with the girl and her attendants. The word “angry” did not do justice to her expression.
Before I could open my mouth, she hissed, actually hissed, like a cat, “You're going to regret that Tod's Shoes. You're going to regret that very much.” And she stalked away, stiff legged, with her pretty girls circling in a concerned orbit.
A straggler burst through the doors a few steps behind. She had an enormous blond afro and cornflower-blue eyes. Seeing me, she stopped and said very coldly, “It's not a bladder infection. It's a urinary tract inflammation and very painful.” And with a sniff in my general direction, turned and ran after the others.