Could the timing be more perfect?
S is for Spies, and there are tons of them in the YA book by J.A.Cipriano “May Contain Spies”
I’ve posted my review few weeks ago already, today it is time to find out some more about the author, the book, and I`m inviting you to read a chapter from it!
About the Author:
When J. A. Cipriano was in second, grade his teacher gave everyone in class a journal to write down whatever they wanted. Their first subject was to write about something they didn’t like. J. A. chose to write about why he didn’t like writing. His reasoning was simple. He had bad handwriting. Even then he was destined to be an engineer due to his messy scrawl.
Unfortunately, he found through the course of this little adventure that he actually liked writing. That year was sort of the high point for his writing career because he won a writing contest for the state. He got to go to a big dinner and his teacher was all dressed up.
He kept writing little stories, year after year, and in sixth grade, won another contest. In seventh grade he broke his arm and got the cast signed by both Dean Koontz and Stan Lee. It is, by far, the coolest cast he’s owned. That was about the time he found video games and anime. His writing turned mostly toward fanfiction until about ninth grade where he wrote his first novel, a small book about twenty thousand words called Revelations. In sophomore year, he wrote two more books to complete the trilogy because he saw Star Wars that year and learned trilogies were the cool thing to do.
Since then, he’s written six more novels, four of which are in the Lillim Callina Series, and one in the Abby Banks series. The other is stuck in a drawer for time undetermined. He’s writing his next book now which is about werewolves fighting mummies in Ancient Egypt. After that, he will move onto Abby Banks 2. The Spy Within will come out in June or July.
J.A. also has three chinchillas. Two of them are grey and because of this, they are named Slate and Cadmium. The third is named Jet because he’s black, and Jet is old English for black. See, creative. He also has a cat named Turtle. This does pose problems for his two-year-old from time to time.
Excerpt – Chapter 7
The metal chair flew across the room and slammed into the wall next to us with a metallic clang that made my teeth chatter. A squeak of surprise escaped my throat moments before Stephen tackled me to the ground, covering my body with his and blocking most of the room from view.
“You pull something like this again, and I’ll clip your wings, Praying Mantis or not,” the man in the center of the room snarled. His voice was ragged and tired sounding, and if he hadn’t flung his chair at us the moment we’d entered the room, I’d have assumed we’d woken him from a long overdue nap.
“Marco,” Chloe rasped as she put one hand out toward us as if signaling for us to let her handle this. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? Is that supposed to make up for the fact that you don’t call, that you don’t write?” There was a crash a few feet away and Stephen shifted on top of me.
“Can you stop throwing things for one damn—” A loud bang cut off Chloe in mid-sentence as what sounded like a trashcan smacked into the spot she’d been occupying just a moment before. Empty soda cans spilled into my field of vision, clattering across the floor.
“Chloe…” Stephen said and his voice had that “you better do something right now” tone to it. I was in agreement. If Stephen kept shielding me with his body, I was going to lose circulation in my legs. Already those weird little pinpricks that meant your foot was falling asleep were starting to nip at me. Besides wasn’t Marco a good guy? I was assuming he was since Chloe hadn’t shot him, so why was he throwing things at us?
“If you throw one more thing I am going to shoot you,” Chloe said, and her voice was empty and emotionless. I swallowed. I didn’t want anyone using that voice on me. It made me think of a tornado ripping apart homes and not giving a damn about it. Not at all.
“Fine,” the man I presumed was Marco said. “But if you shoot me, I won’t be able to help you with whatever it is you want.”
“What I want is to get out of here with the package intact. There’s an entire army trying to get in here right now. I need you to do something to ensure they—” Chloe’s voice was suddenly drowned out by the sound of an explosion.
It was so loud that it left my ears ringing. The room shook, walls swaying as bits of plaster fell from the ceiling. Stephen tensed before throwing himself further on top of me in an attempt to better shield me from whatever was coming.
“That should buy us a few minutes,” Marco said.
“Did you really just blow up the store?” Chloe asked.
“You what?” I yelled, pushing Stephen off of me with both hands. He glanced at me before very slowly moving off of me and helping me to my feet.
“The delightful Ms. Devereux said we were being invaded by an army. There’s only one army in town, and they are after a young girl. You are a young girl. Ipso facto, I blew up the store.” Marco glanced at me in a way that said ‘deal with it’ and crossed his arms over his sky-blue sweater.
“Do you have a way out of here?” Stephen asked, glancing at the only door in the room. We had come straight down a hallway that led only to this room. If Marco had really blown up the store, there was no way we could go back the way we came. Even if there wasn’t an army of mercenaries out there waiting to gut me like a trout.
“Do I have a way out?” Marco exclaimed, flinging his arms out in front of himself in exasperation. “Do I have a way out of my own super-secret bunker when there’s only one obvious entrance inside? When I just blew up that entrance?” Marco narrowed his dark brown eyes at Stephen and raised his left hand to point at him. “Where did they find you? Did you just fall off the turnip truck? Of course, I have a way out.”
Marco turned toward the large stainless steel desk behind him and snatched the laptop off its surface. He spun back around, holding the laptop in one hand and gesturing at its screen with his other hand. “You see this red dot. That’s the package,” he pointed at me, then back at the screen. “These two blue dots are Chloe and you,” he added, spitting the last word out like a piece of sour candy. “See anything else interesting?”
The screen itself was an overview that reminded me of those maps you see at the mall. There was a small rectangle in the center with two blue dots, a red dot, and a green dot. But, from the looks of the screen, there was another passageway directly behind Marco.
“So there’s a trap door behind you?” I blurted out.
Marco glanced at me once more before narrowing his eyes at Stephen. “Which one of you is the secret agent? Because it sure seems like the package is the brains of the operation.” He threw his hands up in the air, flinging the laptop back on the desk as he did so. “Why that idiot son of mine sent you to protect the package is beyond me.”
“Wait… are you saying what I think you’re saying?” I asked, looking over at Stephen.
“Yeah, he is,” Stephen said through clenched teeth. “That’s Donovan’s dad.”
“I’ll thank you to not compare me to my son,” Marco said as he punched a command into his keyboard. “If you’re the kind of person he sends to thwart Gabriella de la Mancha, then I never should have gotten him that job as handler.”
“Look, sir. You don’t have to like me, but I’m very good at what I do. I’ve never failed a case before,” Stephen said, moving just a little closer to Marco.
“You’re, like, twelve. You’ve had all of one other case. You couldn’t even save one girl without falling in love, and after months of therapy, my idiot son decides your first case back should be to guard another young girl.” Marco pounded his fist on the keyboard, and a door opened up in front of him with a whoosh.
Stephen turned bright red and a tremor ran down his spine, visibly shaking him. If I hadn’t been staring at him, I probably wouldn’t have seen it. That meant it was probably true. Not only had Stephen only had one case before, but he’d fallen in love with the girl. Wasn’t that one of those cardinal rules of spy club? Don’t fall in love with the girl?
Oh my god. I was the rebound girl.
“I’m sure he’ll do fine Marco,” Chloe said, and her voice made me jump. I’d totally forgotten she was there.
“Of course he will,” Marco snarled, shoving us through the door. “Because you’re going with him.”
“This was not how I expected my day to be going,” Chloe said as I followed along behind her in the dimly lit underground passageway. Red lights lit up the sections as we moved so that about ten feet on either side of us was illuminated and the rest of it was dark. It made me glad that Stephen was behind me. If something came to kill us, it’d either get him or Chloe first, which, I suspected, was why I was sandwiched in the middle.
“You didn’t expect the store to get blown up? Shocking,” Stephen mumbled under his breath.
Chloe wheeled on him, fixing him with a gaze that made my blood run cold, and it wasn’t even directed at me. Stephen stopped, his left foot moving slightly in front of him so he was poised on his feet. His hands moved just a fraction of an inch, edging upward into some kind of fighting position.
“No. I hadn’t expected that either,” Chloe spat, her eyes running up and down his body. Taking the entirety of him in. “But I, especially, hadn’t expected to be carting around you and her,” she jerked a thumb at me, “through a sewer all day.”
“Sorry,” I said with a nervous glance back down the corridor. I wasn’t sure how far we’d come or where we were exactly, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t far enough away from the bad guys. “Maybe we should keep walking anyway though.”
“Don’t tell me what to do, package!” Chloe snarled, her eyes narrowing into slits.
“Fine,” I said, putting my hands up in front of me in a conciliatory gesture. “What do you suggest we do?”
Chloe sighed and hung her head before turning back down the corridor. “We keep going,” she droned. She trudged forward, shoes scraping on the rough concrete of the tunnel.
“Maybe we could play a game?” I offered, unsure of what to do. Chloe’s attitude was getting me a little upset. I mean, she was supposed to be protecting me so she was doing her job. But, I mean, I don’t know, wasn’t this supposed to be fun? Everything I knew about spies told me that their jobs were fun. At least they seemed fun in the books I’d read.
“Like what?” Stephen asked from behind me. “It’s not like we can play I Spy.”
“I spy with my little eye, something red,” I said with a smirk.
“Is it a light?” Stephen asked.
“It is. Your turn,” I said.
“Oh. My. God. Will the two of you just shut the hell up?” Chloe screamed, putting her hands on her temples and rubbing. “Always yapping and talking. Just shut up before I tear out your skulls with my bare hands and leave your bodies in a dumpster.”
“That’s against protocol,” Stephen said.
“I’m going to ‘against protocol’ your face if you don’t shut the hell up!” Chloe yelled so loudly the sound echoed in the tiny tunnel.
“Uh… guys?” I asked cautiously.
“What?” Chloe whirled around to look at me with narrowed eyes, her pink lips twisted in rage.
“What are those?” I pointed at the ceiling behind us where a gaggle of dark creatures scurried toward us.
“Run!” Stephen screamed, grabbing my hand and taking off down the tunnel like a bat out of hell.
That was pretty much when the explosions started. Fire leapt down the tunnel behind us, superheating the air and making it impossible to breathe. Stephen glanced over his shoulder, face stricken in fear, and swept me into his arms. He pressed my body close to his, and I felt the heat of the blaze rush through me as he sprinted past Chloe.
She was facing us, a peculiar device in her hand that sort of reminded me of a remote control only it had one large green button in the center. She was pressing it as hard as she could, and I wondered if it was like a video game controller. You know, the ones when you press the buttons harder, they do more damage to the enemy?
Every single time she hit the button, a piece of the tunnel would explode in a flurry of flame and rock. Unfortunately, the black creatures dodged nimbly by the explosions. If this kept up, booby-trapped tunnel or not, we were going to get overrun.
“Chloe, do we have a way out of here?” Stephen yelled over the din, and I could barely hear him over the ringing in my ears.
“What, do I have to think of everything?” she screamed back at him, now hot on his heels. “Aren’t you some kind of secret agent? Do something.”
“It’s your tunnel,” he said as he flung me over his shoulder, and the breath whooshed out of me. He grabbed something out of his pocket with his now free hand. It was all shiny and silver with lots of flashing lights.
He flung the thing in front of us as far as he could. It sailed through the air, landing several feet away. Stephen dove to the floor, and my breath exploded out of me in a rush as he pulled his body on top of mine. “Down!” he screamed.
Chloe hit the floor in front of us and rolled into a ball with her hands covering her head and neck like one of those duck and cover drills.
The device began to flash with angry red light and started chirping in an angry machine sort of way. Stephen’s hand covered my face, shielding my eyes as he started counting softly. When he reached six, it felt like the world ended. I’d never really given much thought as to what I’d do if the world actually ended, but the wave of heat and smoke that exploded through the tunnel when he counted ‘six’ made me wish I had a backpack full of MREs and an underground bunker in the woods.
A sharp ringing filled my ears making it impossible to think as Stephen pulled me to my feet and dragged me toward the wreckage. I opened my eyes. Through the haze of smoke and rubble, I saw sunlight. Real, live, honest to god sunlight filtered through the hole in the tunnel ceiling.
“I tell you to do something so you blow a hole in the tunnel? Because that’s not going to attract anyone,” Chloe snarled as she scampered over the debris like she was some kind of goat.
“Catch!” Stephen called and flung me bodily upward to Chloe who caught me by the wrist. Pain tore through my shoulder as I hung there for a moment as Chloe fell on her butt and tried to pull me up out of the tunnel. Stephen climbed up the rock next to me.
He reached the top in the space it took for my shoulder to feel like it’d torn from the socket and helped Chloe haul me out into the sunlight.
Toppled cars and blown out store windows greeted me on the surface. High above the buildings, helicopters circled like a bunch of angry hornets after someone kicked their nest. Only they weren’t news or police helicopters. No, these were those army helicopters you see in movies with musclebound actors pointing machine guns out of the side while biting down on huge cigars. Except… I was pretty sure they weren’t actors this time.
People were running and screaming. A fire hydrant was spraying water up into the air like a macabre fountain. I swallowed. Had we hurt anyone trying to escape? I mean, Stephen had just blown up a city street in what looked like downtown Chicago. Someone had to have been hurt by the blast, or worse… had someone been inadvertently killed because they were trying to save me, Abby Banks? That was crazy, right?
Chloe grabbed me by the wrist and yanked me to the side as something smacked into the ground where I’d been standing with a wet thunk. I turned toward the small green object, about the size of a softball, with blinking green lights that cycled to red in the space of time it took for Chloe to throw me to the ground and shield me beneath her body. An explosion ripped out of the device, throwing us across the ground in a wave of heat that tore a scream from my lips.
I hit the ground hard and stars shot past my eyes moments before Chloe, and a million tons of rubble, landed on top of me. And then the world went dark.
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