The Sandman Book seven in the Reveler series

The world Darkside is in turmoil when Chimera Marshal Steve Coll, bloody and beaten, makes it back to Maze City and into Maisie’s arms. He bears a terrible message—The Sandman, the god of the world of dreams, is rising, and he’s bringing devastation to the waking world. Steve must embrace his dual nature to save those he’s sworn to protect. And yet, how can he fight a being who destroys everything in his path?

Even awake, no one is safe.

After the fall of the black market, Maisie Lane’s city is overrun with criminals who want her dreamscape for their own. She’s always envisioned Maze City populated, but not with people like these. Nevertheless, she must relinquish some of her control not only to save the man she loves, but to protect and defend her precious city. While friends and family face danger and betrayal, another enemy is lurking in the shadows.

As time runs out, Maisie and Steve must fight with everything they have, or lose it all, including each other. And even if they somehow prevail, nothing will ever be the same.

The Sandman is the seventh installment in the Reveler serial, a hot paranormal romance set in a world where shared dreaming is a new pop culture phenomenon that allows people to indulge their wildest fantasies. But there are also unknown dangers Darkside; nightmares are slowly infiltrating not only dreams, but the waking world as well.

Revel with me.

Purchase The Sandman

Information

  • The Sandman is book seven in the Reveler series
  • Release Date: 5/2015

Excerpt from The Sandman

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Maisie.” Rook leaned down to touch her shoulder.

The pink-haired wild child sat on a dark street in Maze City, hunched over Steve Coll, his head in her lap, the rest of his naked, battered body twitching. Harlen Fawkes—who was also a beat-up, bloody mess—stood a few paces away, forcing the surrounding crowd back to give Coll breathing room. Sera, splattered with black blood, flanked Harlen.

Hundreds of reveler survivors from the fall of the black market stood in the shadows of the tall, gray brick buildings. Some shuddered silently. Some whimpered about what they’d endured. And still others bitterly murmured about the nightmare freak who had collapsed in their midst.

Yeah, the irises of Coll’s eyes were too big and his pupils too gray to be human. Thank God he’d closed his eyes again. His body used to look normal—though Rook had never seen him out of his trademark suit, so he didn’t really know—but now he was bald all over and his ears and the tips of his elbows were…worn away by Scrape wind? Damn.

“Maisie,” Rook said again, looking up at the press of people, his gaze flicking from angry face to angry face in the crowd—revelers who’d marched across the Scrape, beset by attacks from nightmares on all sides. They’d have no pity for a human-nightmare hybrid like Coll.

Rook cut a glance to Harlen. As the head of the new Darkside Division, aka the Dream Police, he was another target of violence. Fawkes’s features were now pulled back in a snarl. He already had a warning hand up and was holding off some wannabe troublemakers intent on getting to Coll.

“Kill it! Why don’t you kill it?!” The scumbag—Roy something—ran a memory scam inside the black market, or at least he had a couple of hours ago. He was out of business now.

Rook had handled worse than him before, but not hundreds of fear-loaded people at once. The crowd was already agitated from what they’d endured in the Scrape. It wouldn’t take much for them to become violent.

Rook leaned down to Maisie’s ear again. “We’ve got to get Steve out of here.”

She drew her arms even tighter around Coll. “This is my dreamscape. They can suck it.”

Maisie thought she was invincible, and he’d hate for her to learn the hard way that she was wrong. So he tried logic. “Coll—Steve—needs to wake up so he can start recovering.”

They had put his sleeping body in a private reveler care center to get the fluids and treatment he needed to survive Darkside for extended periods of time. Wanted for the attempted murder of Didier Lambert, Maisie had had to leave him behind and hope for the best. Too long in the waters and a person—even a hybrid like Coll—could get very sick. He looked like shit already with his broken nose and bloody, black chin. Rook hoped he was faring better in the waking world.

Maisie nodded but didn’t look up. “Then I’m going to wake, too, and get to him as fast as I can.”

For chrissake. “You know you can’t,” Rook told her. If she woke, she’d take her dreamscape with her, and everyone in the city would be cast out into the Scrape again, easy prey for the nightmares that were most likely gathering at its borders by now. He’d have to think of a way to get all these black market refugees back to their own dreamscapes so they could wake. But that could wait for the moment.

The murmurs in the crowd were now punctuated by harsh shouts. “Why don’t you just kill it?”

Maisie didn’t seem to hear them. “Well, he can’t wake alone. Not if he’s totally vulnerable like this. He won’t be able to protect himself. And he has information we need.”

The Sandman is rising.

It’d been the only thing Coll had said before delirium had taken him again.

The Sandman. Rising.

Rook’s heart ticked a little faster as he thought of Jordan. On the one hand, he was glad she hadn’t come with them to the black market; on the other, he was crazy worried that the Agora had fallen, too. If anything happened to her… Well, if anything happened to her, then fuck it. Fuck everything.

“String the bugger up!” The shout came from the other side of the street.

“Pop its balls!”

“Bleed it,” came a more studied rumble of a voice.

No time for bullshit. Rook reached down past Maisie and lifted Coll by his shoulders. “We can argue later. Let’s just get him off the street.”

Maisie swatted at Rook. “I can carry him.”

In the dreamwaters, Maisie probably could, but Rook didn’t feel good about that last voice. “You can cover us until we get to the safe house.”

Rook braced one of Coll’s arms over his shoulder and straightened up. Coll’s head bobbed forward, black, oily blood dripping from his face onto the street. His chest and belly were likewise blackened with gore. His skin had broken open over a couple of ribs, and gold sand stuck to the blood like toxic glitter.

“You should let us finish the job,” that low, smooth voice said. “See what it’s made of.”

Rook scanned the nearest group of revelers for the source, but it seemed Maisie had found him first. A dark flash and a crack, and the man was sprawled on his back, her foot on his neck. “You piss me off again, and I swear I will personally deliver you to the storm.”

Rook looked over at Fawkes again. His teeth were still clenched, his mouth set in a deep frown. Fawkes had been proxying Sera—literally using her as a vehicle to hide within so that he could infiltrate the black market and see for himself how the nightmares had been congregating. The proxy alone had left him weakened, but then the black market had fallen and he’d had to fight to survive, all while protecting the revelers cast out into the Scrape.

“I’m fine,” Fawkes said, preempting any observations about his state.

It wasn’t quite a lie, didn’t feel like it in the dreamwaters, at least. It was more an expression of willpower.

“We’ll be back in a minute,” Rook told him. They had to deliver Coll to the safe house, and then they could figure out what to do. Rook wanted to check on Jordan first, but shit, no, he couldn’t just leave the other survivors out in the Scrape like that. As a tracker, he had the best shot to find them. Thousands stranded, attacked by nightmares to feed their hunger.

“Don’t stop for coffee, eh?” Sera said to him, half smiling in spite of the black claw marks striping her right cheek. Her hands were blackened from fighting, and yet, at the moment, she was the only one in any kind of shape to force cooperation out of the most volatile survivors.

“Need something stronger than coffee.” Rook winked and won a weary bob of a laugh from her.

“Come on,” Maisie said, backing away from the crowd.

Rook tightened his grip—Coll’s weight was no problem, but Rook’s hold was unbalanced, and Coll’s skin was slick with blood—and turned to follow her. The heat of many gazes burned his back as he started down the street after Maisie. She took an early turn, deviating from the pattern and number of blocks necessary to lead them to the room with the big chairs and sofas where they’d been meeting for the past few weeks. In Maze City, it was the journey—the way a reveler traveled to a location—not the address itself that mattered.

A new place, then. He’d been meaning to explore the city to see if his tracker senses could overcome the maze underlying its construction.

He memorized the blocks and turns as they progressed up a concrete staircase to a small empty apartment with a balcony. The place was shrouded in grays as if inside a black-and-white television. They arrived at another street through a closet door—getting Coll around the hanging clothing was a pain in the ass. It was a quiet avenue, haunted by silence, the buildings elegantly aged. Maisie turned into the third building on the right. They crossed the foyer, all silvered marble and brass, and Maisie punched a button for the elevator.

The elevator dinged, and Rook shuffled inside with Coll, sighing. He had a feeling that he’d missed an important part of the route. And with this elevator? No, he didn’t think he could find his way back without help. Even his tracker senses were confounded. For now, at least.

When the elevator doors opened, he hesitated before stepping out, mostly because there was no floor. A star-and-nebula-filled universe comprised the space. Colors burst into plumes of indigo and violet, pure creation on a background of hot diamonds. The vibrancy shocked him after the relentless chiaroscuro of the rest of Maisie’s dreamscape. There were a couple of Planetarium Rêves in the Agora that were awe-inspiring, but the sense of vastness here rivaled only the Scrape. Maisie’s talent Darkside was formidable, and she did like to show it off.

Maisie stepped out and moved as if there were gravity. “Are you coming or what?”

Rook nodded and hefted Steve with him. “You should consider counseling.”

“For what?”

“Your God complex.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re just echoing Sera. If I were God, even just here in my dreamscape, I could make my own people for my city. But my people won’t think or talk or move without me puppetting them.”

She’s making people now? “Seriously. Get counseling.” He paused a beat. “Where do you want Coll?”

“Just let him go. He’ll float.”

So there were different physical laws for different nebula visitors. Okay…

Rook released him slowly, and sure enough, Coll levitated. One of his eyelids cracked, and Rook felt his gratitude. No words necessary.

“No problem, man,” Rook returned.

There was nothing more to do for him, not even clean him up. Coll needed to wake as soon as possible. Injuries didn’t necessarily translate to the waking world, but they did manifest. The way Coll had been worn away by the wind Darkside didn’t bode well. They needed him, needed what he knew, and they needed his talents if they had any chance of surviving the rise of the Sandman.

“Do you know when or how the Sandman is coming?” Rook had to ask.

Coll shook his head slightly, pain and exhaustion coloring the dreamwaters around him, and his mouth made the shape of a word. No sound escaped his lips, but Rook heard him say, “Soon,” in his head. Seemed Steve was telepathic, too.

Apparently, they’d have to be ready for anything.

Maisie’s chin puckered with resentment. “So are you going to wake up to go be with him, then?”

“It should be Fawkes,” Rook said. “After the proxy, he needs to wake, too. He’s nearly as bad off as Coll is.”

She shook her head. “No. No way. Harlen is public enemy number one right now. Mr. Dream Police.”

“He has the authority to get into the care center to see Steve.”

“Ha. The Oneiros just burned down Harlen’s parents’ house and killed his boss. No way. You have to go.”

“Sera,” he suggested. “What about her?”

Maisie scoffed. “That wannabe?”

“That wannabe fought and killed a mercenary in Maze City last night.”

Maisie’s brows came together. “She brought a mercenary here? Served her right, then.”

“The merc was here already, waiting for Vince and Mirren. He tried to get Sera to tell him the secret of the maze, even used a jump on her. And she still beat his ass and then trooped back across the Scrape to go to work in the waking world.”

Maisie shrugged. “Maybe she got lucky.”

“And out of all of us, Sera isn’t wanted by the police for stabbing anyone—” he gave Maisie a pointed look “—nor is she directly associated with Chimera. The Oneiros don’t know about her yet. She could get close to Steve.” Rook had even convinced himself. “She’s the one who should go.”

Sera was their best bet, and that was the truth. Maisie had to feel his sincerity in the waters. He could sure feel her misery.

“It’s just…I can’t do this anymore without him,” Maisie said. “I’ll lose it. I know I will.”

“I get it. Really, I do,” he told her. For a second, he debated whether or not to tell her about her sister. It might make Maisie that much more uncooperative, but he figured she deserved to know. “Jordan is supposed to be in the Agora right now. Who knows if it’s still standing…”

Her eyes widened. “What do you mean she’s in the Agora?”

“I mean she went to the Agora.” He took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “She got a lead from the Revelations’ band site and went to their concert to check it out.”

Maisie’s jaw flexed. Anger comingled with her misery in the water. “I can’t believe you’re not going after her. You should be going after her. If you don’t, I—”

She looked to Steve again, obviously torn over whom to save: her sister or Steve.

Neither, sweetheart, thought Rook.

“You can’t go out there,” he said, “and I have to search for more survivors. We have to trust that the Agora still stands”—please, God, let it stand—“and that Jordan can take care of herself. She managed to finish raising you, so she should be able to contend with anything.”

Maisie smiled, her heart in her eyes. “I hate this. I hate this so bad.”

“We all do. But we have to stick together. Work together.”

She looked to the constellations overhead, but he caught the flash of tears. “Fine. Sera can go be with Steve.”

“Thanks for letting her,” he said. “When we get back, maybe you should ask her to walk into danger. Nicely.”

“Ask her nicely,” Maisie mimicked back at him, but he felt the burn of her fear in the waters. She was just covering her worry, trying to keep it together.

Rook looked over at the mess that was Steve Coll again. The man now had a smile twitching on one side of his battered mouth. “Coll, Sera is coming to get you.” He glanced at Maisie. “Probably coming, that is.”

“Probably coming,” mimicked Maisie.

Rook wanted to hug her. Poor girl, pulled in so many directions. “Wait for her, bro. Oneiros are everywhere.”

Thank you, Steve said in his mind. Keep Maisie safe. This city cannot fall.

“Will do, man,” Rook answered. “Don’t waste your strength on me. We’ve got this.”

Maisie touched Coll lightly near his temple, as if she didn’t want to cause him any more pain, and kissed his shoulder where it appeared comparatively unharmed. “Please hold on. I need you.”

***

Ask nicely, Maisie muttered to herself. They’d brought a legion of talented criminals into her city, and she was supposed to ask nicely. Yeah, right. Some asshole had wanted to bleed Steve. String him up even. And her sister might now be fighting in the Scrape?

No one could blame her if she was running a little low on the sugar and spice and everything nice. She hadn’t been born with the standard quota in the first place.

“Hey, freak!” Rook called behind her.

She picked up her pace. The sooner she got back to the others, the sooner Sera could be on her way. Rook was no kind of tracker if he couldn’t keep up. Ask nicely. As if he’d ever asked nicely for anything.

A vision of those black market thugs kicking Steve’s prone body flashed before her eyes. A wave of horror and nausea hit her. Steve. She stretched her stride to go faster. What if he succumbed to his injuries? No. She wouldn’t think about that. Couldn’t.

I’ll be okay, Steve said in her head.

You’d better, Steve-o, she threatened back. He was definitely not okay at the moment.

Made it back to you, didn’t I?

Maisie’s throat closed. Yes, he had. I’m greedy, she told him. I want all of you.

I want all of you, too, he said. Need you, too.

She could feel his weakness. How close he’d come to not making it. The knowledge made the wild part within her burn.

She wanted these black market revelers out of her city as quickly as possible, though she knew it would take some time—days even—before they could all leave for their own dreamscapes. And she knew, just knew, they’d make trouble while they were here. She’d never actually been to the black market, but she’d once delivered their packages.

Which just made her angrier.

You didn’t know what was in those packages, Steve said.

She damn well should’ve. Quit talking to me, she said. This is my rant. Get your own.

He needed to save his energy. And she needed to expend some.

A tingle of awareness told her that someone was hiding in the deep doorway of the tall, gray brick building ahead. Some intrepid black market survivor venturing out to explore. No surprise there. But hide from her? In her city?

Well, he’d chosen a bad neighborhood. This whole part of the city had been built after her first job for Graeme when she’d been broke and depressed. All the floors in these buildings went down, not up. And under her city? That’s where she’d hid the scarier things her imagination conceived. Stuffed them deep down and paved right over the top.

She snorted at the absurdity of the reveler in the shadows and waved a hand toward him, bricking up the entrance and trapping him inside.

You didn’t know, Steve said again.

Yeah, well, she’d known delivering packages wasn’t legal. Didn’t take much of a mental leap that there had to be a reason.

Love you.

Tell me in the waking world, she shot back. She certainly wasn’t going to say it now, when it sounded too much like goodbye.

I feel it in the waters anyway, he said.

Yeah, well, I can’t help it. She didn’t want to help it, either. Mr. Suit. Steve-o. Never in a million-billion years would she have thought she’d fall for him.

I’m a monster, too.

My monster, she clarified. Now shut up and float. Some of us still have work to do.

Seriously, you couldn’t get anything out of the man at the best of times, and now that he was pulp, he got chatty. Go figure.

“Maisie, hold on!” Rook called again.

She finally slowed, but only because the closer she got to where the black market people had gathered, the more revelers had drifted from the crowd to explore. One sucker had trapped himself in the avenging angel fountain—inspired by her favorite band’s album cover. Whoops. Others wandered down the main street, shadows in the distance, which gave the city the strange sense of being occupied.

What would that be like? She’d been trying for so long.

Didn’t matter. Not important anymore.

“I have an idea,” Rook said, coming up beside her. He, too, was momentarily distracted by the dude in the fountain. “Uh…?”

“What?” she asked.

“Right. I have this friend,” he said. “You can trust her. She’s got a ruthless reputation in the black market. She’ll get and keep the others’ attention. Manage them.”

“What exactly do you want me to trust her with?”

“Your city. To help you organize the survivors while Fawkes and I go back out into the Scrape.”

“I was thinking of Eleanor, Harlen’s mom. I like her,” Maisie said. Now she was one tough broad.

“Eleanor will need to be waking soon, and she doesn’t have experience Darkside like my friend does.”

Rounding a corner, the crowd came into view ahead. Among them, she sensed a familiar wildness. Thank God. The cavalry. She grinned. “Besides, I don’t think Harlen needs to go back out.”

Vince Blackman, aka Mr. Blandman until he’d turned madman, was punching someone in the face. The violence may or may not have been warranted, but since Harlen stood at his side, hands on his hips and slowly shaking his head, she figured Vince had cause. This time. Mirren, on Vince’s other side, was actually laughing.

“Never thought I’d be happy to see them,” Rook said.

Since Maisie had been traveling with them in the waking world, she’d grown to really dig them. Case in point, their presence solved everything. She wasn’t going to have to rely on Sera after all. “Get one of them to wake and go for Steve.”

“There’s no way Mirren is going to leave her kid again,” Rook said. “And Vince is iffy at the best of times.”

She winced as the man he’d been pounding collapsed to the street.

And yeah, David, Mirren’s son, was probably in the city now, too. Just tucked away in the playground Maisie had built for him. Now that was a cool piece of work.

“Besides,” Rook continued, “they’re wanted for killing Senator Fleight’s daughter, and it was the senator who sent that mercenary to Maze City to find them. Sera is still the best one to go to Steve, Maisie. Deal with it.”

Ugh. It was just that Sera hated shared dreaming, while the dreamwaters were where Maisie was at her best. They just couldn’t relate. Never would.

The vision of Steve’s head recoiling back after being kicked in the face assaulted her again. A cry ached in Maisie’s throat. She could do such amazing things, but she couldn’t help the man she…the man who…

“Deal with it?” she muttered through clenched teeth. “Send a freaking cook to save Steve Coll. It’s so stupid.”

And there Sera was, talking to Eleanor and some ritzy lady in pearls.

“She’s a chef,” Rook said. “Almost filleted the last person who made that mistake.”

“Whatever.” But Maisie walked directly over to her.

“—must be Lambert,” the pearl-wearing woman was saying.

“Lambert is dead,” Sera said.

Harlen’s mom, Eleanor, had her arms folded, her face lined with worry. Her gaze flicked to Maisie, eyes full of understanding even though Eleanor didn’t know her at all. Her compassion made Maisie’s eyes prickle.

She would not cry. She would not cry. Bitch, yes. But not cry. Not until Steve was okay and holding on to her. And then she’d bitch at him, too, for worrying her like this.

Lady Pearls put a hand to her chest. “I heard Lambert was in reveler care. Did he pass away?”

Maisie wanted to interrupt, but she was working on the lump in her throat.

Sera shook her head. “Not yet, but he’s never waking up, either. The Sandman did something to him. Turned him into dust. It was witnessed by his daughter, Mirren.”

And Steve, Maisie mentally added. Steve had been there, too.

Lady Pearls’s gaze flicked up to the buildings on the left. “Then who owns this Rêve?”

“It’s not for me to say,” Sera said.

Damn right it wasn’t.

“Sera, I have a favor to ask you.” Maisie made her voice hard in case it trembled. She remembered what Rook had said—ask nicely—and for Steve, she added, “Please.”

“Yes, of course.” Sera’s eyes were wary.

“It might be a big favor. A dangerous one.” An important one.

Sera nodded. “I think I can guess what it is.”

“You can?”

“I’m the only one nobody is looking for, right?”

Okay, maybe it was time to start giving Sera some credit. “Yes. That’s it exactly.”

“I’ll go just as soon as we figure out the next step.”

The recoil of Steve’s head flashed in Maisie’s mind again. “How about now, instead?”

“Then I won’t know what to tell Steve about what’s going on, will I?” Sera reached out and gently touched Maisie’s arm. “As soon as I know the plan, I’ll go.”

Maisie gritted her teeth. Steve needed help now.

Lady Pearls extended her hand. “I’m Vivienne Kennedy. Malcolm and I work together.”

“Nice to meet you,” Maisie mumbled but left her hand hanging to turn back to the guys. “Hey! If we don’t decide shit this minute, I swear I will wake up and leave you all for the nightmares.”

Why were they chatting without her, anyway? This was her city, so the plan was her call. They seemed to decide something, and then they finally came over.

The dreamwaters near Harlen seeped with his pain.

“You should wake up now,” Sera said to him. “We’ve got this.”

Rook shook his head. “Harlen is going to stay in the city and help keep order. Mirren will help him. I’m going to go back out into the Scrape with Vince to look for more survivors.” He looked at Maisie. “I see you’ve met Viv. She’s the one I was telling you about. She’ll know how to handle the survivors from the black market.”

Maisie looked over at Vivienne again. She was Rook’s boss?

The woman extended her hand again. “Do you own this Rêve then?”

Maisie took her fingers. “It’s not a Rêve. It’s my dreamscape.” Then, to Sera, “They made a plan. Can you go now? Or do I have to beg?”

“If you see Jordan,” Rook said to Sera, “tell her to stay out of the waters.”

“God, yes!” Maisie said. “Jordan can go with you to help Steve.” The perfect solution—the two people she cared about most, together.

“If she’s awake,” Sera said, “I’ll take her with me.”

Eleanor wasted even more time giving Sera a hug. “Please let Gary know what’s happened and that I need to be Darkside longer than we’d planned while I help out. I’ll wake as soon as I can, and then he can come down. He needs to see all this, too.”

“In the meantime,” Harlen added, “have him check for any warning bulletins on the Agora website. See if they’ve closed it down, and if not, scan the news to see if word is out about the black market’s fall.”

Enough. Maisie fisted her hands in fury, and the pavement cracked with the force of lightning, huge jagged streaks splitting the streets in all directions. Shrill screams rose from among the crowd of survivors, but the group immediately surrounding her merely wavered for balance, accusing glares suddenly pinned her way.

She’d tried to be calm, really she had.

Sera’s eyebrows had winged way up. “I guess I’d better go.”