BY: SCOTT ABEL
Eighteen-year old Parker Austin, big brother and high school quarterback, dreams of glory on the football field. But a tragic shooting shatters Parker world. In a chilling span of sixty seconds, a mass tragedy wreaks havoc upon his life, family, and community. Although hailed a hero, Parker is horror-struck to discover that an incident from his past was the motive for the killings and he was the intended target. When someone threatens to get the one that got away, Parker finds himself hunted.
Help comes from an unexpected source—an angel named Marie. A spunky, impulsive guardian, Marie is dedicated to saving Parker at all costs, but will her love be enough to save him when the darkness comes for him? When Marie is confronted by a sinister nemesis who covets Parker’s soul, a desperate struggle is waged over Parker’s fate. With time running out, she must face her growing, but secret, affections for Parker that she can no longer ignore, affections that will force her to make the ultimate decision—sacrifice herself and all that she believes, or lose him to the darkness forever.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Sunrise by Scott J. Abel, Parker Austin is a high-school quarterback at the center of the war between good and evil. The devil’s minions want his soul, but his guardian, Marie is determined not to let them have it. When a mass shooting at a high-school football game kills Abby, Parker’s disabled younger sister, the rage and guilt consume him and have him teetering on the edge of darkness. Devastated, his faith all but gone, Parker quits the football team—in the middle of a game, no less—breaks up with his girlfriend of three years, and informs his parents that he intends to graduate in December and leave for college as soon as possible. He has to get out of the town, where he will always be an outsider, and away from the memory of how his own actions caused the death of his little sister. The demons celebrate, sure that Parker is now theirs.
This is a marvelous coming-of-age story about a young man who thinks running away will solve all his problems. The characters are realistic and charming. You can’t help but feel Parker’s pain as he struggles to deal with events beyond his control. A wonderful read that will appeal to people of all ages.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Sunrise by Scott J. Abel is the story of a young man whose soul is in mortal jeopardy. Our eighteen-year-old hero, Riley Parker Austin, is the star quarterback of his football team, the older—and very protective—brother of his disabled ten-year-old sister, and an all-around good kid. Parker’s sister Abby has mild cerebral palsy and has to use a walker. When two boys from another town assault her and knock her down, Parker retaliates by beating the two boys bloody. He knows that is the only way to let all bullies know that Abby is off limits. But Parker’s actions lead to a tragic mass shooting at a high-school football game. Riddled with guilt, Parker loses his faith and turns to the dark side, to the delight of the demons after his soul. But Parker’s guardian angel Marie is determined to save him and willing to sacrifice everything to prevent the demons from claiming him. But will her love and dedication be enough? The demons don’t think so and make Parker the focal point of the war between Heaven and Hell.
Sunrise is the story of love, courage, and tragic loss. It echoes the cry of innocent victims everywhere: “Why does God let such bad things happen to good people?” Filled with endearing characters, vivid descriptions, and tense fast-paced action, Sunrise is a chilling and exciting read for YA and adults alike.
Polly Prater died when no one was looking. Sitting in her favorite rocking chair on her back porch, watching the sunrise while sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea with a touch of honey. Her husband had returned to the kitchen to cook her breakfast. Though largely devoid of culinary skill, scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast smeared with homemade raspberry preserves was just this side of doable for him. Besides, it was the least he could do to honor fifty years of marriage.
When he returned with a plate of food, Polly’s rocker sat still. Tea dripped from the cup dangling from her lifeless, bony fingers. A look of peaceful serenity adorned her face.
That’s how she’d gone. Peacefully. Quietly. Without regrets.
Seth’s stomach churned at the memory. How long had it been now? Seventy years? Eighty? With the setting sun nearly below the horizon, the looming twilight didn’t make it easy to read Polly’s tombstone. He squinted. The year of her death was still discernable, chiseled into the pink granite: 1937.
Seth’s colleagues loitered nearby. He draped his black leather jacket over his shoulder and strolled down the row of gravestones through the partially withered grass, recalling the manner of death of each person. Natural causes. Pneumonia. Stroke. Heart attack. Lung cancer–though Mr. Johnston Pettigrew was well into his seventies before a lifetime of smoking finally caught up to him.
Each fatality was a testament to the common, simplistic life of the residents of Briar Ridge. A town where nothing changed–not even diets or opinions. A community of folks who clung with fierce tenacity to words like “tradition” and “family values.” A place so removed from the reaches of the world that it reveled in a cocoon of isolation, far from the maddening and corrupt ways of the modern, fast-paced world. One side of his mouth curled up. That was all an illusion. What the residents of Briar Ridge did not know was that they weren’t as untouchable as they thought. They could be forever affected by events–especially by those in their own backyard.
Seth stopped and looked toward the gates of the cemetery, past his companions whose long shadows were now swallowed up by the arrival of darkness. Sure, there had been minor successes over the years as the theory was tested. But the small town in Connecticut proved what could happen if things were well-planned and executed–and brought to the very doorstep of unsuspecting and ill-prepared souls.
The twinkling lights of the innocent town danced in the distance. Time to open a new battlefront in the war. Time to remind the enemy what it was like to hurt.
“Seth, we might have a problem.”
Trajan’s comment just over his shoulder jarred Seth from his thoughts. He turned and studied his colleague as if to ask: What problem could there possibly be?
Trajan nodded his head in the opposite direction. Three figures loomed in the darkness, weaving their way past the silent graves. The figure in front was not one of the crew, as the shoving and prodding of the other two clearly indicated.
Seth brought down his jacket and draped it over his arm. The lead figure was thrown down in front of Seth and landed with a thud and muffled groan, bound hands preventing any chance of the prisoner breaking his own fall.
“They found him in town,” Trajan said with a trace of nervousness not usually present in his voice. “Maybe there are others. Maybe they know?”
Curious, Seth squatted next to the man, though careful not to let his jacket touch the ground, and helped him sit up against a marble grave. He slid his fingers under the captive’s chin and gently raised his head so they were face to face. “Hello, Yaris.”
Yaris’s eyes widened in recognition and his shoulders sagged as though his body deflated from a sudden loss of air.
A smile was hard to resist, and Seth fought it only for a moment. Grinning, he said, “It’s been a long time. Let’s see…when did Constantinople fall?”
Yaris looked away. Though the duct tape prevented him from speaking, he really didn’t have to–the look in his eyes and his slack face said it all. Defeat.
Struggling to break free made no difference. Seth studied the gold halo firmly fixed to the top of Yaris’s head and relished the irony. A device once used to capture and expel Seth and the others from paradise could also be used on its own kind. The beauty of the halo was that it also worked when they were in human form, confining the captive to the primitive, earthly body and depriving the celestial being of the ability to return home.
“That’s okay, Yaris. I know you don’t feel like reminiscing. Even when you pretended to be my friend, we never did see eye-to-eye on much, did we?” The rhetorical question stirred up the past and sent a clear message that nothing had been forgotten no matter how many millennia had elapsed.
“They found this on him,” Trajan blurted out, clearly alarmed.
Seth twisted in his direction, slightly curious but more annoyed at the interruption.
Trajan withdrew an object from the zipper pocket in his vest and handed it to him.
Six inches in length and pointed on one end, to any human the gold device appeared like a shiny letter opener. But to an angelic being, it was a weapon.
Seth stood and squeezed the handle in the palm of his hand. The pointed end shot forward several feet, covered in a luminous fire that dripped from its blade.
“An angel sword, huh? Expecting close combat, are we?” He brought the blade forward until it hung in front of Yaris, the small flames illuminating his face. A drop of fire fell from the blade and landed on the captive’s leg.
Yaris twitched and jerked from the burn and screamed through the duct tape as a small trail of smoke drifted upward from the wound.
“Oops,” Seth offered. “How clumsy of me.” A few snickers slid out of some of the nearby onlookers.
“Reductum,” he said, and the fire-laden blade withdrew, the object resuming its original benign appearance. “I won’t rub your capture in your face and make fun of your hopeless situation. All I ask is that you answer me honestly. Do that and I’ll let you go. Understand?”
Yaris turned and cast a leery expression, dripping with doubt and defiance.
Seth leaned forward and slowly caressed Yaris’s cheek with his index finger. “Make no mistake. You will leave scarred.” A soft red glow emanated from Seth’s finger, scorching Yaris’s flesh with intense heat.
The prisoner threw his head back against the tombstone amidst a muffled scream. The odor of burning skin wafted between them. Tears of pain dripped from Yaris’s eyes.
“I don’t like hurting you. But I promise, you will live and still get to roam Creation if you cooperate and tell me the truth. Otherwise, I may have to turn you over to some of my more aggressive colleagues who are not as considerate and delicate as I am. Deal?”
Yaris’s chest heaved in search of breath, and Seth waited for him to collect himself. After a moment, a pair of sad, forlorn eyes closed as Yaris nodded in agreement.
Seth ripped off the duct tape with a quick tug, causing the prisoner to shut his eyes and recoil. “Now, do any guardians know I’m here?”
Yaris lifted his bound hands and massaged the skin around his mouth. “No.”
“Are any guardians alerted to our presence?”
“So, if I send my colleagues into town, they won’t run into any surprises. Will they?”
Yaris shook his head.
“No, all right? No other guardians are out. Why would they be? I mean, what are you thugs doing here anyway?” Yaris cast a nervous look at the large group forming around Seth.
“You’ll see soon enough.” Seth slid a hand under Yaris’s arm and helped him to his feet. He guided him to a seat on the tombstone behind him. “Trajan, Zyro. Sweep the town. See if there are any guardians waiting for us or anything at all that looks like we’re heading into a trap. I’ve spent the past three years working for this, and I’m not about to have it spoiled at the last second.”
The two lieutenants nodded and disappeared into the darkness.
A cold gust of wind swept through the cemetery, stirring up the few autumn leaves that littered the dry ground. Seth put on his leather jacket and lit a cigarette. Though bitter cold was a permanent condition, inhaling the warm, toxic fumes provided a feeble but temporary respite.
“You never asked me what I was doing here,” Yaris muttered, his head bowed. “You’re getting rusty in your old age.” His tone carried a slight edge, like I-know-something-you-don’t-know.
Seth flicked ash from the butt of his cigarette. “What else is there to ask? You’re a guardian. You’re in this backwater town to protect your charge.”
Yaris slowly raised his head and his lips twisted into a slight grin. “Wrong.”
Seth inhaled deeply from his cigarette, the tiny ember glowing just inches from his fingers. He pondered the possibility that Yaris had been up to something, but soon dismissed it. “Stop trying to be deceptive,” he said, smoke billowing out with his breath. “We both know you haven’t got it in you.”
He nodded to a colleague who replaced the duct tape over Yaris’s mouth.
After an hour had passed and Seth had smoked nearly half a pack of cigarettes, the two scouts returned.
“We’ve walked the streets of Briar Ridge, Seth. No guardians are out. None.”
“Have our two heroes made it into town?”
“And they’re with the pill popper?”
“As we speak.”
So Yaris had told the truth, as expected. Seth couldn’t suppress his grin. Three years of work was about to pay off. And even though that small amount of time hardly qualified as a blink of an eye, it still took great effort to manipulate lives and get all the pieces into place, especially while under constant scrutiny from the guardians. But if they hadn’t caught on to what was happening yet, there was no way they could stop what was coming.
There was only one thing left to do. He stood in front of Yaris, still perched on the edge of the marbled tombstone. “Thank you for telling me the truth. Like I said, if you were honest with me, I’ll let you go.” He moved closer to Yaris until no more than a foot separated them. “The only problem is–I lied.” With a sudden thrust of both hands, he struck Yaris with jets of red light in the chest. He tumbled backward off the grave and fell to the ground, muffled screams emanating through the duct tape.
Seth walked around the marble slab and threw bolt after bolt of hot light into Yaris until the writhing, screaming guardian caught fire from head to toe. The flames cast an ominous flicker of light around the crowd that closed in to watch. Smoke danced upward into the cold night air, carrying with it the stench of burning flesh.
Seth’s henchmen watched the burning of Yaris’s corpse in silent enjoyment until Trajan finally stepped forward. “What are your orders?”
It was time. Seth stepped away from the small fire and observed, with quiet satisfaction, the unsuspecting town one last time. Its last night of ignorance, its last night of living and believing in the illusion.
“Let it begin.”
© 2015 by Scott J. Abel
Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team:
This is a wonderful story about a boy who has had to face very hard obstacles and who feels running away is the answer. Parker is a wonderful character, and the author does an amazing job of making you feel his pain. This is definitely not a book that makes you smile. It is a book of courage and finding faith. Marie is willing to give up everything to save her charge, Parker, but can she? The ending leaves you knowing there is more to come and I look forward to it. Although this is rated YA it is a book for any age. ~ Linda Tonis READ FULL REVIEW