Read Senshi (A Katana Novel) Online
Authors: Cole Gibsen
Tags: #teen fiction, #teen, #young adult, #youth fiction, #warrior, #reincarnation, #fiction, #samurai, #supernatrual, #young adult fiction, #kunoichi, #ninja, #Japan, #senior year
© 2013 by Cole Gibsen.
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First e-book edition © 2013
E-book ISBN: 9780738733265
Book design by Bob Gaul
Cover design by Adrienne Zimiga
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Editing by Rhiannon Nelson
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To Bub, no matter how many books I write,
you will always be my greatest accomplishment.
You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it takes an entire Death Star filled with Storm Troopers to make a book. So I want to give a quick shout out to my fellow dark-side compatriots.
First of all, a huge thank you to Brian Farrey-Latz, Rhiannon Nelson, Kathy Schneider, Marissa Pederson, Steven Pomije, Mallory Hayes, and all the amazing people at Flux.
A big thank you goes to Chris Richman for his eternal optimism and his never-surrender attitude.
To my crit partners Brad Cook, T.W. Fendley, Sarah Bromley, and Michelle McLean, thank you for never being afraid to dice my work with shuriken. And to my therapists, Sarah Bromley, Amanda Bonilla, Windy Aphayrath, Shawntelle Madison, Shaun Hutchinson, and Butch Wilson, you are all worth your weight in Xanax.
As always, a special thank you goes out to Pat and the rest of the SUCers over at Query Tracker. I never would have made it this far if not for you guys.
To my Southern Illinois Bookends, thank you for all the cheerleading. A girl can never have enough pom-poms in her life.
To the wonderfully supportive and awesome group that is the Apocalypsies, I am so very blessed to count myself as a member of such an amazingly supportive group.
A huge thank you goes to St. Louis writing superstars Heather Brewer and Antony John. Thank you for taking me under your wings and teaching me how to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of the publishing world.
Heartfelt thanks go out to Alison Donelly, librarian extraordinaire, who single-handedly planned the world’s greatest book launch party for me. Thanks also to the indies Afterwords, Main Street Books, and 6th North for your support of local authors. It means so much to have you behind me.
And to the beautiful, gracious, and always delightful Hasume-san and Umeka-san. One does not come across many kindred spirits in their lifetime, but I knew we were the second I met you.
Last but not least, thank you to my husband, daughter, and family for understanding why the dog hair is rolling across the floor and we’re eating takeout again. You’re the best family a girl could hope to have and I’m so lucky to have you all in my life.
grime-covered alley was not exactly the romantic date atmosphere I had in mind.
My boyfriend Kim pulled his silver Trans Am next to a graffiti-covered Dumpster and cut the engine.
The smell of rotten food wafted through the car. Covering my nose with my hand, I turned to Kim. “Um, when you promised me a night out, just the two of us, I was thinking along the lines of a nice dinner and maybe a movie. But this … is really something. What’s the occasion? Did I forget our anniversary?” Something scurried in the shadows. A rat? I shuddered. “Where are we, anyway?”
“An art gallery.” He didn’t look at me but continued to stare down the alley.
I twisted in my seat so I could study the street behind us. A single streetlight illuminated two beer bottles and an empty potato chip bag floating on a puddle in an otherwise deserted road. “Yeah, I think they’re closed.”
I dropped my hand from my nose. Something stank worse than the Dumpster. “What aren’t you telling me?”
He turned to me, his eyes pleading. “Please don’t be mad. The Network called right before I picked you up. I promise this will not take long.” Each word held the slightest pause, the only giveaway that English was not his first language.
” I flopped back against the seat with a sigh. The Network was a government agency that kept an eye out for reincarnated souls. They had us running missions practically every night—which was kind of annoying when you were trying to have a relationship. Kim and I shared a past life where we lived together, fought together, and slept tangled in each other’s arms. But in this life, we’d only been reunited for several months, and it wasn’t easy finding a starting place—especially when we hardly had a minute to ourselves. “But you said tonight was going to be about
His shoulders slumped. “You’re mad.”
“No, Kim, not at all. Prowling around an alley that stinks like ass, breaking and entering, and looking for bad guys is every girl’s dream date.” I narrowed my eyes but knew my glare didn’t hold any heat. It was impossible for me to stay mad at Kim—he’d saved my life too many times. Still, I could pretend. “I just thought that, after spending 500 years apart, we deserved, at the very least, a movie. And maybe some popcorn. Heck, I’d settle for just the popcorn—provided there’s extra butter. But there’s not going to be any extra butter, is there, Kim?”
He sighed and ran a hand through his black hair. As soon as his fingers left his scalp, his layered locks fell back into jagged strips around his face. “You think I don’t feel the same way? I want to take you on a normal date. But the problem is we’re not a normal couple. We’re samurai. We have obligations.”
I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t like I asked to be a samurai. In fact, only a couple of months ago I’d been a normal teenage girl who only worried about perfecting my ollie for skateboarding tournaments and keeping my grades high enough to get into a decent college. (This was before I’d transcended—a fancy way of saying I smooshed my past life with my present life, threw the whole mess in a blender, and put it on frappé until smooth. The end result was an ex-samurai skateboarding Rileigh-Senshi smoothie with just a hint of raspberries.) Now I had so much more on my plate. Enemy attacks, past-life memories, and my growing ki powers were only the tip of the iceberg. And, while I felt a sense of rightness about joining up with my samurai brethren, part of me longed for the normalcy I had before. Was one interruption-free date night with my boyfriend really too much to ask for?
“Rileigh.” Kim reached for my hand, his voice soft. “The rest of the team should be here any minute. We just have to do a quick sweep of the building.” He leaned into me and whispered the last part against my neck. “Afterwards, we can pick up exactly where we left off.”
It was as if a thousand hummingbirds fluttered inside my body. I shivered happily. “Promise?”
He sat back and smiled. “Promise. This shouldn’t take long at all. The gallery was broken into last night, but it doesn’t look like anything was stolen. The cops have come and gone, but just in case, the Network wants us to check it out. You know when it comes to artifacts, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
I nodded. Especially because antiques and artifacts were the key to transcending. They stored the energy of every person to come in contact with them. It was this energy that had power to awaken the past-life memories.
Kim shrugged. “It was probably a bunch of wannabe-thugs screwing around. If that’s the case, with all the attention they’ve drawn, I highly doubt they’ll come back.”
Someone rapped a hand against Kim’s window, and we turned to find Braden waving at us, a crooked grin on his face. Michelle and Drew stood behind him. “Hi, guys! Are you ready to get down to business?” He paused. “Why are you two dressed so nice?”
I opened the car door and stepped out into the alley. The stink from the Dumpster was stronger here, a tangible wall of sickly sweet smells that almost forced me back to the car. “Oh, you know. I always like to look my best when I go traipsing through alley sludge.”
“Huh.” The smile fell from Braden’s face. “That’s not really a good idea. You could ruin your clothes doing that.”
Michelle sighed. “
we should get this over with. My mom thinks I’m studying at the library. I have to be back before my curfew at eleven.”
“And I’ve got Sunday brunch with my grandma in the morning,” Braden added.
Drew leaned over, his long blond braid falling over his shoulder. “Yeah, and there’s a Star Trek marathon on tonight—the good series—with Captain Picard.”
Kim shook his head. “What a scary bunch of warriors we’ve become. Our enemies are sure to tremble with fear.” He gestured to the door. “Shall we?”
I was about to answer him when my phone rang. I pulled it from my pocket and glanced at the screen. My mother. I shook my head. “It’s Debbie. Looks like you’re going to have to start without me.”
“Go on.” I shooed him with my hand. “I’ll just be a minute.”
He nodded and turned to Michelle, who was already at work picking the lock on the art gallery’s rusty side door. I climbed back inside the car to muffle the sounds of the breaking and entering taking place a few feet away. “Hello?”
“Rileigh.” My mother’s voice was breathless and tinged with a hint of excitement. I’d heard it enough to know it was her money-making voice. She didn’t wait for me to respond. “Look. I need your help. Remember that blonde boy you went on a date with a couple of months ago? The one with the really great cheekbones?”
She was talking about Whitley. Of course I remembered him. When a boy drugs your food, sets your house on fire, and tries to ritually sacrifice you to claim your soul, it kind of leaves an impression.
“Yeah?” I braced myself for whatever came next.
“I need his phone number,” she said. “Abercrombie needs a male model for their next shoot, and this guy would be perfect. We’re talking huge numbers here.”
I should have known that my mother, the talent agent, would only call if there was a major deal at stake. Too bad for her I’d left Whitley pinned to the wall in my bedroom while the house burned down. I sincerely doubted that a fistful of ashes would sell clothes as well as a set of greased- up abs. “I wish I could help you, Mom. But he moved.”
“I don’t care,” she answered. “This could be a seven-figure deal. Get his number. I’ll track him down.”
“You can’t.” My mind raced for a answer that didn’t involve his burning to death in our old house. “He moved to … Lithuania. He joined a monastery.”
“What?” There was no disguising her irritation. “Rileigh, if you’re—”
I cut her off. “And there are no phones there. Not that it would matter. He’s devoted to God now. Not underwear. Sorry.” I clicked off the phone before she could argue with me further—a move I was sure to pay for later.
I shoved the phone in my pocket and glanced around the empty alley. Time to get down to business. But as I reached for the car door, the metal clink of a soda can skittered across the alley behind the car. I froze and peered into the rearview mirror just in time to see a guy with shoulder-length blond hair run past the building. It was too dark for me to be sure, but from where I sat, it kinda looked like Whitley.
Awesome. Now, thanks to my mother, I was seeing ghosts. I continued to stare into the mirror waiting for, I wasn’t really sure. Did I expect the guy to come back and tell me he wasn’t the ghost of the boy burned alive? Yeah, because that was going to happen. But still I remained frozen in the passenger seat, my eyes glued to the mirror.
The alley remained quiet.
Get a grip, Rileigh.
I chuckled under my breath. I survived a couple murder attempts and now every shadow was out to get me? Embarrassing. The more likely explanation was the guy I’d seen had been a night jogger. It was dark and, because of my mom’s phone call, Whitley was at the front of my thoughts. That’s the only reason the jogger had resembled him. It made perfect sense.
Again I reached for the door handle, but again I stopped when invisible ice-crusted fingers curled around my throat, forcing me to gasp.
“Son of hibachi.” I ducked down. My heart beat so frantically it felt like it might burst through my rib cage. Not a fun feeling. It’d been 500 years since I had it last, but I knew exactly what it meant.
Climbing onto my knees, I twisted on the seat so I could have a better view of the alley. Nothing moved. But that didn’t mean they weren’t there. Watching me.
I wanted to laugh at the craziness of it all. How did they find us? In this century? In this alley? But I knew better than to doubt myself. When it came to danger premonitions, I’d never been wrong in this life. Or the last. And this particular feeling only meant one thing.