Book two in the Guardians of the Portal series, The Girl Between Worlds picks up where The Portal and the Panther leaves off. Don’t read any more of this synopsis unless you’ve already read book one!
Cue Spoiler Alert Below…
What happened after Jon allowed himself to be captured by the intruders? Was Kristin able to break free from her bonds? Well, Kristin sure doesn’t remember. In fact, she believes that her whole, nightmarish evening with the intruders was just that — a bad dream. She remembers nothing about that night except for what comes to her in her dreams. Because of the Code, Jon can’t tell her that her dreams are actually memories.
So Kristin goes about her normal life without any knowledge of the intruders; she parties, she fights with her boyfriend Rob, she daydreams of what life might be like if she could be with the boy she really wants. As the weeks wear on, though, her nightmares get more insistent. She starts blacking out, having seizures, and every seizure throws her back into one of her nightmares. One evening as strangers approach her in the dark, she has a black-out that turns into something more. Kristin becomes a girl caught between worlds, but her dilemma might be exactly what the Shifters need to stop the intruders from dominating the portal.
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5-Star Reviews from Amazon:
“Kristin is a train wreck. You feel like you should look a way, but you can’t… You are drawn into an action packed thriller fraught with all the drama that a teenage girl brings to the table. I warn you that once the action starts, you will not be able to put it down until the end.” – Julie Angel
The tall one’s hitting Jon. He keeps asking Jon about the keys, the wolf, the others, but Jon doesn’t know, so he hits him. I want the tall man to stop but I know he won’t. Mom and JJ are both screaming. Daddy’s out cold. I’m moving the duct tape around my wrists up and down against the nail on the back of the chair. Up and down, up and down. I can feel it tearing, one millimeter at a time.
I have to be slow, though. Their backs are to me, and the tall one is preoccupied with Jon right now, but if I move too quickly or think about what I’m doing, he’ll know. I’ll be careful. Careful and slow. I don’t think even Jon knows what I’m doing.
I know what to do when I break free. I’ll run for the stairs. Daddy has a gun in a box under his bed. It used to be locked, but Rob broke the lock on it two weeks ago and I still haven’t fixed it yet. I’ve been worrying about it for two weeks, but now I’m glad I keep forgetting to fix it.
Wait — did they see me? No, the magician-men are all watching Jon and the tall man. The tall man is so tall that he almost brushes his head against the light hanging from the ceiling fan every time he stands up. Almost, but not quite.
I pull at the duct tape. I hear it rip just a little. I freeze. But the magician-men don’t turn around. I pull a little harder, popping the tape apart fiber by fiber.
I do sneaky really well. I don’t know whether to be proud of that or ashamed, but it’s the truth.
I’ll get out of the chair without a problem — they only bound my wrists because I cooperated, unlike JJ and Daddy, who are both bound around the ankles. Daddy is even bound across his thighs with duct tape. I didn’t put up a fight. I was already thinking one step ahead. And since I didn’t put up a fight, I only have tape around my wrists, which means once my hands are free, I’ll be ready to run.
The last part of the tape pops free. My arms bounce apart. I push my wrists back together right away. If they’d been facing me, they would have seen that.
“You’re wasting my time, Jonathan Parker,” says the tall man, leaning down. “You have said nothing about the keys.”
“Really?” Jon says, and his voice is sarcastic. “Did I forget to mention that part?” I see the tall man pull his hand back and I squeeze my eyes shut. I can’t bear to see him hit Jon again.
A voice inside of me tells me it’s time. My heart’s beating so hard that it’s a caged animal clawing at its bars. I ignore it. I dive behind the love seat at the exact moment when the back of the tall man’s hand connects with Jon’s face again. I hate the sound. I hate the sound of Jon’s low groan even more, but it masks the sound of my two quick steps against the hardwood floor.
I crouch low behind the love seat. The gun. I have to get upstairs, into the master bedroom, underneath the bed, and find the gun. I have to be fast, but there’s an open space between the foot of the stairs and the corner where the love seat, sofa, and end table meet. I’ll be exposed. They’ll see me.
It doesn’t matter. I have to try. I have to help Jon. I have to help JJ. I will not die this way, at the hands of these strange men with their strange green eyes.
I close my eyes and open them again. Only a few seconds have passed. It’s now or never. I can do this.
I sprint for the stairs, not even trying to be quiet now. Now it’s just a matter of who’s faster — me or the magicians.
I hear shouts in an unintelligible language that sounds vaguely Asian. They’ve seen me. I grab the railing of the stairs and sling myself up the first three steps to the wide, square landing. A blast of wind hits me, but I expected that. I have the railing in my left hand and I hang on for dear life even as the wind picks me up off my feet.
“Kristin, no!” Jon shouts, sounding truly scared. He hasn’t sounded scared this whole time, not even as the tall man pummeled him again and again, but now he sounds horrified.
The man with red hair, the one who makes fire appear from nowhere, races towards me. I force my feet back down onto the stairs and start climbing. The man with red hair grabs hold of my ankle. I kick out at him with my other foot, but I miss. I kick out again and again. Jon continues to shout my name, and I can see some sort of commotion happening over there out of the corner of my eye.
Then fire arcs towards me, coming from the palm of the man with red hair. I don’t mean to, but I scream. And I keep screaming.
I woke up with my heart pounding, sheets twisted around me like a net, my hair tangled and damp against my forehead and temples. Another one of those horrible nightmares. I never had nightmares, but I’d been having variations of that one over and over again for the past month.
A car door slammed below me. I sat up, looking out the window just in time to see Daddy pulling out of the driveway.
That meant it was six-thirty. My father was more reliable than an alarm clock.
Shaking my hair out of my face with a grunt of annoyance, I gathered my towel and my robe and headed down the hallway towards the bathroom. I paused outside JJ’s room, listening. He usually woke up when Daddy did, but most mornings he was content to play in his room until I came to get him. My mother wouldn’t be up for a few more hours, and nothing that JJ or I did would stand any risk of waking her.
I showered and blow-dried my hair, then padded downstairs. I poured tomato juice into a glass and headed back up to my room, locking it behind me. Better safe than sorry. Pulling the chair out from behind my desk, I dragged it to the closet and reached up behind the rows of dusty old cheerleading trophies. I groped around until I found what I was looking for. I tipped the vodka bottle into the tomato juice, then poured a shot or two into my empty water bottle.
I smiled and returned the half-empty bottle of vodka to the closet. Hmm. I’d be needing a new bottle pretty soon. I made a mental note to tell Kevin I needed more.
I’d fill the rest of the water bottle with water, like I always did, and nurse it throughout the day, like I always did. There wasn’t enough inside to get drunk; it just took the edge off things. I only drank enough to get tipsy (or occasionally drunk, though my tolerance seemed to have gotten fairly high) on the weekends. That was my rule for myself: No getting drunk on a school night.
My phone buzzed with an incoming text while I was putting on my mascara, making my hand jump. The applicator jammed against my forehead. I muttered a curse word under my breath and reached for the iPhone.
I saw that I missed a text from Rob the night before. We’d been fighting a lot recently, and his message was a half-hearted apology that ended with, but I still think you’re as much to blame as I am this time. I rolled my eyes and scrolled down to the new text.
It was from Kevin, Rob’s older brother. Are you awake? it read. I’m going back to Fayetteville but wanted to talk w you before I left.
What was this all about? I’m here, I wrote. Call me. I hesitated, then added a little heart at the end of the message. It was probably a good idea to make him feel like I doted on him, the way a high school girl should when she’s seeing a college-aged guy.
The phone buzzed with his reply a second later. No, it said, I need to see you in person. I can be at the deer stand in 15 min.
I sighed. I hoped this wasn’t about fulfilling his manly “needs” at seven o’clock on a Monday morning. I was seriously not in the mood for that kind of game.
Ok. I’ll see you there in 15.
I finished my make-up in a hurry and dressed, pulling on the new dress I’d bought over the weekend when Chrissy and I went to the mall in Fort Smith. It would be too cold to wear it today, but it was March and I was ready to pretend spring had arrived. I pulled on a long, cream-colored sweater over the dress, hoping it would make up for the crisp morning air.
Hair up or down? Up. Kevin seemed to have a thing for my bare neck.
On the other hand, if he was here for a little early morning action before his drive back to Fayetteville, I’d end up having to re-do my hair before school, and I was already running out of time for that as it was. Maybe I’d wear it down.
No, screw it. Chrissy said I looked taller when my hair was up. I pulled it into a quick bun, grabbed the navy blue wool coat from the back of my door, and headed towards the deer stand.
I liked walking through the woods in early spring; the swath of woods behind our backyard held three or four dogwood trees, and they were just beginning to bud. I paused on my way to admire one, squeezing the tender green bud between my fingertips.
Unnaturally green eyes flashed through my mind, the eyes of the tall man from my nightmare this morning. I shook it out of my head and walked on.
I reached the deer stand a few minutes later. Kevin was already there, watching me approach, his hands stuffed into his faded old letterman jacket and his breath misting in the morning air. The sun rose behind him, making his wavy, dark blond hair shine with golden highlights. His brow was furrowed, though, and his blue eyes looked anything but warm and welcoming as I approached.
Kevin was taller than his brother, thinner and a little gawkier. Unlike Rob, who had inherited their father’s broad build and dark brown hair, Kevin had his mother’s wavy blonde hair and blue eyes. Of the two brothers, Rob was definitely the better-looking one, but Kevin was the one with the fake ID.
I walked up to him with a flirty smile, putting my arms around him and pulling myself up onto my tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. He stood there stiffly, not even taking his hands out of his pockets to return my embrace.
I stepped back and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“You know what’s wrong,” he said. “This is wrong. We are wrong.”
“We’re wrong?” I asked, hoping that I sounded genuinely confused.
“Don’t play dumb, Kristin,” he said, his voice sharp. “You haven’t said anything about us to Rob. You told me you were going break it off with him last weekend, and you didn’t. Then you said you’d break it off with him this weekend, and you still didn’t.” He shook his head and looked down, closing his eyes. “I can’t do this anymore. He’s my brother.”
“Kevin,” I said softly, slipping my hands into his jacket pockets and pulling out his hands. They were cold, like two blocks of ice. I tugged him towards me, wrapping his hands behind my back, pressing the front of my body against his. “Just stop this. You know I don’t want to hurt Rob. I don’t love him anymore,” I added, reminding him of what I’d said the last time we’d had this conversation. I reached up and stroked his face. “But I don’t want to break it off with him too suddenly. It would crush him. You know that.”
He caught my hand against his face and held it there for a moment, then brought my hand to his lips, kissing my fingertips one by one.
“I want to believe you,” he said.
“You can believe me, Kev.”
He squeezed my hand — a little too tightly — and pushed me away.
“But I don’t.” His voice had hardened again. “Sometimes, Kristin, I think you’re just using me.”
“Using you?” I asked, all fake surprise.
“Yeah, using me.” His voice cracked and his eyes looked wet. “Using me for sex, using me for booze. Maybe using me to hurt Rob, too.”
I hesitated a moment too long while I searched for a response.
“Kevin, no,” I said, shaking my head. “That’s not true. You’re being insecure. You know I care about you.”
“Care about me?” he repeated, the volume of his voice rising. “Care about me? When we were… together… last weekend, Kristin, I told you I loved you. And I meant it. But you know what you said?”
He waited for me to respond. I didn’t answer but looked past him, over his shoulder and into the green field bathed in dew and sunlight beyond the deer stand.
He gave a low, bitter laugh. “Yeah. That’s exactly what you said — you said nothing. Nothing. Not even, ‘I care about you.'”
“Come on, stop it.” I reached for his hand, but he stepped out of reach. “I already told you, I drank too much that night. I wasn’t myself.”
“No. That’s exactly who you are, Kristin. You’ve always had too much to drink. And I’m not going to be a part of it anymore. I’m done.”
“Kevin — that’s not — no. Let’s just calm down and talk about this.”
He shook his head. “I never should have let you draw me in like this.” He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and then raked his fingers back through his hair. “I can’t believe what I’ve done to Rob.” He looked at me. “You have to tell him. I’m telling him tonight, after my last class is over. You can tell him before I do, or you can wait until after, but I’m telling him. And then I’m going to beg for his forgiveness.”
Hearing his words, his resolve, I made a quick decision to salvage what I could. I’d lose one brother, but maybe I could still keep the other.
“You won’t tell him,” I said, dropping the sweetness from my tone. “He’ll go ballistic. He’ll never forgive you — he’s your brother, you know how he is. If you want this to end, then fine, we’ll end it. But if you really care about Rob — if you still want a brother after this — you can’t tell him.”
“I have to tell him the truth,” said Kevin stubbornly. “And he will get over it. We’ve been through worse.”
“When?” I asked, my temper rising. “When have you and Rob ever been through anything difficult? He’s idolized you since we were little kids. You tell him this and he might hate you for the rest of his life.”
Kevin didn’t answer. I sensed an opening.
“And Kevin, if you really do love me, you won’t do this to me. If you tell Rob about us…” I chose my next words carefully. I’d provoked Rob plenty of times before, sometimes to the very brink of his tolerance, but he’d never hit me. Not yet. But I was sure he had it in him. It wasn’t just a line I was feeding to Kevin; I honestly didn’t know what Rob was capable of doing if I finally did push him over the edge. I didn’t want to find out.
“If you tell Rob,” I said, letting my voice get small, “he could hurt me. You know he could.”
Kevin tilted his head up, studying the clouds that were melting away under the force of the morning sun.
“Fine,” he said at last. “I won’t say anything to Rob. But this, Kristin,” he said, gesturing back and forth between us, “this thing we’ve been doing? It’s over. Find someone else to bring you your booze.”
He turned and stalked away, following the fence along the field back towards the main road. I watched him go.
I was surprised to feel tears stinging my eyes. I wiped them away quickly and carefully, hoping I wouldn’t have to re-do my make-up. At least I could leave my hair the way it was.