Monday, February 10, 2014

The ENTIRE first chapter of LOCKED! Plus a giveaway - win free copies of LOCKED!

LOCKED is officially out in the world. :)


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When eighteen-year-old Irene Adler meets her new neighbor, the gorgeous, brilliant, and arrogant Sherlock Holmes, she never expects him to be the one to make her feel like life is worth living again. Ever since her sister's death, she's been addicted to risk-taking as a way to deal with her depression, and Sherlock quickly becomes the biggest risk she's ever taken. 

Locked is the story of a broken girl and the genius who gives her life back to her. It's the story of a witty asshole who's never known love, and the girl who shows him what love means. It's the story of an unexpected connection, two people who save each other, and the importance of seeing the goodness underneath. 

**Based on the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle.


To celebrate the release day, I'm posting the full first chapter of LOCKED right here on the blog.

Don't forget - if you post a review of LOCKED on Amazon before April 10th, 2014, you'll be entered to win a free Kindle Fire!


The shooter is by the door. Sherlock and I are against the wall. Too far for me to reach the shooter before he could fire. Too close for a shot to be anything but fatal.

I’m whispering. “Please, don’t. Please, please don’t.”

“I thought you said you didn’t care about him.” He’s so cold. The hand holding the gun is unwavering.

“I don’t. Listen to me. I don’t.” I’m crying now. I’m shaking apart, the tears dripping down my cheeks. “Please, don’t do this. Just—just…wait…”

“Irene,” Sherlock says quietly. “There’s something I want to tell you.”

I look at him. There’s no fear in his expression. Only acceptance. Only kindness. There’s so much kindness in him as he smiles at me. It burns apart the memory of every scowl, every smirk.

He’s beautiful.

“Hey,” I say to the shooter, through the tears. “It’s my birthday.”

“I know.” He cocks the gun. “And this is my present.”

I move just as the noise explodes out of thin air.

It’s so loud.

It shatters everything.



"You were supposed to be boring."


The casserole is burning.

The casserole is burning and the last moving truck is putt-putting away down the road. The new neighbors are probably just beginning to open the tops of boxes, surveying the bathroom and deciding what colors to repaint the walls, and then the bell will ring and I’ll be there with my casserole because that’s the normal thing for a person to do when someone moves in next door.

Except it’s burning.

I rip open the oven, scorching my finger. The casserole’s not too bad. Just a few curls of smoke and a blackened top. I close my eyes. Five minutes later and flames might have engulfed the house. Might have burned me worse than the casserole. If only. Dead people don’t have to play normal with the new neighbors. Or get up in the morning.

I let it cool and then, through the kitchen window aimed directly at the kitchen window of the house across the road, I see someone too lithe to be old and too tall to be younger than me.

A boy.

A boy my age.

There are no bigger detectors of bullshit than eighteen-year-old boys, and whenever I open my mouth it’s nine hundred percent bullshit. Which is fine. Bullshit is better than the real me.

“Irene?” calls Mom from downstairs. Calls, not yells. To her, I’m still one raised voice away from broken glass. “Did you bring the casserole over yet?”

“Going now!” I shout back and then I’m out the door because the things I can’t face are both inside and outside the house. It doesn’t matter which comes first.

It’s a big house, lots of windows, lots of yard space. Towers over the tiny square thing belonging to Mom and I. That house had been empty for ten years. Old owner priced way above market value. Rich neighbors, then, but they’d only had one moving truck.

I ring the doorbell, pick off burnt flakes of cheese, and rehearse. Want me to show you around the neighborhood? You should come over for dinner some night. Hopefully they’ll say no to everything. Not enough people say no.

The door opens and my new neighbor is a vampire.

He’s nearly a foot taller than me. Unruly ink-black hair, and a face made of knife angles. If I were obnoxious, I might use the term shockingly attractive. Or terrifyingly handsome. Holy mother of balls would also be an option. His eyes are crystalized, glittering, and they get even more diamondlike when he sees the casserole.

“Yes,” he hisses.

I swallow. “I’m glad you like casserole so much…”

“What? No. No.” He waves at me distractedly and yells into the house, “Casserole, Mycroft! Not potato salad!”

There’s an echoed “damn” from the living room.

“Knew it the moment I saw the garden gnome,” says the vampire to the universe at large before directing his voice back to the living room. “That means I get the upstairs bedroom.”

“Um…sorry.” I always apologize to people when I have no idea what to say. Safest thing to do.

“Apology accepted.”

He has a British accent. The girls at Aspen High will lose their minds.

“Wait, no,” I say. “I mean, I wasn’t actually apologizing for anything.”

“I assumed you were apologizing in advance for boring me with the standard introductions, which I would actually prefer to get over with, so: I’m Sherlock Holmes, you’re someone whose last name is Adler, going by the surname on your mailbox. No, I don’t find it a particularly lovely neighborhood. No, you’re not invited inside for tea. Goodbye.”

And the door slams.

I check myself to see whether or not I’ve been hit by a truck, because that’s what it feels like. No truck. Nobody tasing me, either, which was my next guess. I shuffle the casserole to my left arm and buzz the doorbell two more times.

The vampire answers it again. No, not vampire. Sherlock. He’s pale like one, though. It makes his eyes even more alarming.

“We’re not big fans of Girl Scout cookies,” he says and tries to shut the door again, but I stick my foot in the way.

“What the hell is your problem?”

Sometimes my anger outpaces my anxiety and later I’ll regret it, but not yet.

The person with easily the weirdest name I’ve ever heard raises an eyebrow. “Did you really want the tea that badly?”

"No, it’s just—we made this for you. Take it.” If I return without the casserole, there will be questions. Mom needs to think I got along with the neighbor. Mom needs to think I get along with everyone. “And you could say thanks.”

“Thanks,” Sherlock says like he’s never heard of the word before and takes the casserole, sniffing it like he’s never heard of a casserole either.

“It’s not laced with arsenic or anything.”

“If it were, that would make you much more interesting than I believe you are.” His eyes flick up, and I might as well have just slid through an MRI machine.

I should be nice. Sherlock is reading very low on the social skills meter. Someone like him probably doesn’t get a lot of nice. “Okay. So…you’re my age, looks like. My first name is Irene, by the way. Not on the mailbox. You’re transferring to Aspen High, right?”

He does this pained twitch. “I’ll save both of us some time. I don’t do this.” He gestures.

“What, talking?”

“Not about things that don’t matter, no. We’re not going to be friends, I’m not going to come round your house after school to do homework, if you ask to borrow sugar I won’t give you any. Now goodbye.”

The door bounces off my foot again. At this rate I’ll need crutches. “Yeah, no, I don’t want your sugar. I just thought it would be nice, since we’re neighbors, to get to know each other a little. But obviously—”

“I already know as much about you as I’ll ever need to,” Sherlock cuts in.

I laugh. “You know my name.”

“And I know that you suffer from insomnia, likely a side effect of the fact that you’re clinically depressed, also likely a side effect of the fact that your elder sister died in a car crash nearly a year ago and you were in the right back seat. No—” He tilts his head to the side. “Left back seat.”

I hunt through my mind for the part that keeps my lungs working. My stomach wrenches and I will myself not to throw up, like I did when the car finally settled on its back and I unhooked himself from the seat belt and got a good look at—no, stop, don’t go there.

Sherlock’s face changes. Just a little.

“Nice trick. Been talking to my mom? Looked us up online?” The words fall from me like rocks. “You got one thing wrong. It’s not insomnia.”

“Damn.” His face ices over again. “In that case, what keeps you awake at night? I assume you’re not crying over your sister. You two didn’t get on. You were always the favorite. She must have resented that. People do. And you, let’s see…you were ashamed of—”

One moment, Sherlock is loosely holding the casserole. I move and then it’s slathered down his front, clumps of it splattering on the porch, the flakes of burnt cheese dotted across his collarbone. The dish clatters to the ground.

“Oh my God.” The pain is sliding farther and farther back, the scene in front of me getting crisper. “Oh God, I’m sorry—”

There’s surprise in his expression. An expression that’s been so flat that any hint of emotion stands out like white on black. There’s a tiny bit of hurt there too, almost unnoticeable. I want to yell well what did you expect, but instead I turn and run.

When I get back to the house, my heart is beating so fast it hurts. I scream into my elbow without making a sound.

“What were they like?” my mom calls from upstairs.

“Very…” I manage. “Nice.”

Dear new neighbor,

I wanted to say I’m very sorry for throwing the casserole at you. Except it probably was for the best, since it’s the first thing I’ve tried to cook in months and it might have been poisonous anyway, even without the arsenic

Dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

I am expressly sorry for dumping the casserole on your shirt. It was rude. Although it’s probably nicer to get a casserole thrown at you instead of your dead sister and I don’t know where you get off looking all sad like that afterwards

Dear vampire,

I should not have chucked a casserole at you. You probably prefer blood. I’ll remember that next time. Unless you’re an alien (also a possibility) in which case I’ll try to synthesize some space goo or whatever it is you eat because you’re obviously not human

Dear Sherlock,

I am so sorry for what I did. It was immature and I don’t know what came over me. I hope you can forgive me. Welcome to the neighborhood.

I crumple all but the last one, sticking it in my pocket. It’s one minute past midnight. Mom’s asleep by now. I’m good to go.

I take a different note out from under my binder. This one I didn't write.


someone’s breaking into my house every night. no idea who it is. they don’t take anything. they only stay for a couple minutes. I thought I was imagining it, but last night I saw their shadow. my dad sleeps through it and I don’t want to tell him because I had a run in with the police at a party last august and if he calls them and they recognize me, well, yeah. the person usually comes around 12:30. could you find out who it is? maybe take a picture? I’m worried it’s one of my friends playing a prank and I don’t want to call the cops on them. my address is 18 rottleby road. thanks!! you really are amazing.

18 Rottleby Road. A twenty-minute walk. I put on black pants, black shirt, a black beanie and by the time I’m outside in the night air, the chill just beginning to cut the leftover warmth from the sun, I’m awake.

I’m only awake at night.

I’m only awake when I’m distracted.

I walk quickly, circumventing the pools of light cast by streetlamps, but before long I’m thinking about the new neighbor and that ruins everything.

How the hell did he know?

Did he research my family before he moved in? He knew about the depression. He knew about everything.

So what does that make him? A stalker? A psychic?

Monday will be interesting. The guys will hate Sherlock, no doubt about it, if he talks to them the same way he talked to me. Will his looks—the Austrian-model cheekbones, the scary-beautiful eyes, the British accent, dear God—outweigh his weirdness? They won’t, not for long. I know my school. Sherlock will start alone, end alone, and be alone in the middle.

But I can’t pity him. Not after what he said.

If it had been Carol, she wouldn’t have thrown a casserole. She would have thrown a punch. But Carol’s dead and I’m awake, waking up more as I get closer to my destination, and I won’t think about Sherlock. I won’t think about anything except my night.

Then my phone rings.

How could I have forgot to put it on silent? It rings, it shrieks. A dog starts barking and a porch light switches on and if Mom realizes I’ve been sneaking out—

I dive behind a rosebush, scratching my cheek, and hiss “Hello?” into the screen blinking BLOCKED NUMBER at me.

“Hello, Irene Adler.” A slow, mysterious, British-accented drawl.

I peek over the rosebush. The street’s still late-night empty, but the dog won’t shut up. Why do people get dogs? “I’m a bit busy and it’s also midnight, so if whoever this is could call back later—”

“I’m afraid this is urgent, Irene.”


“An urgent apology.”

“What kind of apology is urgent past midnight?”

“The kind that not many people get,” comes the voice. “My name is Mycroft Holmes. I believe you met my younger brother today.”

I draw my knees up to my chest and touch my scratched cheek. Blood. Something else to explain to Mom in the morning. “Sort of. I mean, yeah.”

“And I understand you delivered to him a casserole in a very intimate manner.”

I wince. This Mycroft Holmes—seriously, what baby names book had their parents been using—isn’t really apologizing. He wants me to apologize. “I know. It was an accident…well, no, it wasn’t. I wrote an apology letter. I was going to bring it over tomorrow.”

He laughs. A laugh like a villain in a spy movie. “No, no, no. The casserole was one of the better reactions people have had to my brother. And it did look delicious. Such a waste. My palate is much more distinguished than that of Sherlock’s shirt.”

Crazy. They’re both crazy.

“What I’m trying to communicate to you, dear neighbor, is that you have no reason to apologize at all. Very much the opposite. I would like to apologize on my brother’s behalf. In fact I had him write an apology letter, which he will be bringing by tomorrow morning.”

“He doesn’t seem like the apology letter type.” The bush is poking me in the arm. At least the dog has stopped yapping.

“He’s not. Pray forgive him. He’s been cooped up in the car for two days and he’s gone quite mad. Which isn’t to say he’s not always quite mad, because he is. I do hope you’ll get used to it.”

“I wasn’t planning on spending enough time around him to get used to it.”

“But neighbors must be friends.” I can practically hear shark’s teeth on the other end.

“Right…sorry, but why are you calling me at midnight?”

“Just out of curiosity. My brother got the insomnia wrong.” There’s a brief silence. “I can hear that you’re outside. Your cat got out, perhaps?”

I hang up automatically. My heart’s beating in a way that I’m quickly associating with the Holmes family. The Holmes tachycardia. Scourge of hospitals everywhere.

Why is Sherlock’s brother dealing with this and not his parents?

I get up, plucking thorns from my palms, and quietly vow to myself that I will have as little as possible to do with Sherlock Holmes.

It’s twenty-three minutes past midnight when I reach 18 Rottleby Road. The building is one of those picket fence houses, the number huge next to the door to distinguish itself from its twins to either side of it. I pick my way across a dew-dusted lawn in need of a mow. There’s a wooden trellis on the back wall of the house, looped with dying tomato vines, and I’m light enough to climb it—I’ve lost weight since the accident. The roof is slanted, and I have to wedge myself behind the chimney to keep from slipping. Not a real chimney. Just for appearances. Appearances are so important.

They hide what you really are.

I don’t know how the Ares thing started. It just did. The locker in the science wing, the beat-up one that nobody uses, is where people leave the notes. The notes asking for help with their problems, their mysteries. And I’m the one who helps them. It helps me.

The sky is full of stars.

But then Sherlock darts back into my mind, Carol accompanying him—and Carol always brings the dull pain, so dull it dampens everything, blurs all the colors, puts me to sleep. The only way I can wake myself back up is risk. I edge out from behind the chimney, fighting gravity, wedging my heels against the roof tiles so I’m about to fall, but not quite.

Much better.

There’s a muted scratching sound from the other side of the roof and then I’m really awake. Of course. The burglar’s trying to get in through the skylight. I have to see who it is before they see me, but it’s dark, and the burglar who doesn’t take anything has also chosen to wear black.

I duck back behind the chimney. The burglar’s still on the other side of the roof. But getting closer. The scratching, louder. I hold my breath, savoring the fear and the thrill, the rough tiles beneath my palms. We could struggle. Fall off the roof. The intruder could have a gun. He could shoot me in the head.

The noises stop right on the other side of the chimney. Then there’s only the sound of someone else breathing in the night.

And a voice.

“Stargazing, then. Not insomnia. Rather cliché. Though doing it on someone else’s roof, that’s a bit less so.”

A deep, dark, accented voice.

“Sherlock?” I gasp.

“You remembered my name. I’m flattered. Most people need a minimum of three reminders before they bother storing relevant information.”

“It’s kind of a memorable name,” I whisper before catching myself. I glance over my shoulder. The silhouette is too tall to not be him. He’s on the roof with me. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Following you,” comes the voice from behind the chimney. “I got the insomnia wrong. I’m never wrong. Had to find out what it really was. Mycroft thought secret boyfriend, but you’re obviously not seeing anyone. Two days since your last shower, at least. I thought stargazing. Typical teen cliché. Everyone thinks staring at the echoes of light from balls of gas makes them an intellectual.”

“You followed me?” I hiss into the darkness. “Because I told you I don’t have insomnia?”

“And to acknowledge that my intelligence occasionally gets the better of me and I may have been too…blunt.”

“What intelligence? You looked all that stuff up.” We’re speaking in whispers, back to back. I’m not sure which is weirder—this conversation, or the fact that we’re having it in the middle of the night, on someone else’s roof.

“As if I’d waste my time cataloging trivia like that.” Sherlock slips out from behind the chimney, facing me. Moonlight casts little shadows beneath every angle of his face. Under the stars, he looks like an alien. A really attractive alien. “I deduced it.”

I fight the urge to grab him. He’s balancing on his heels on the slanted rooftop like gravity is the least of his concerns. Maybe it is. Maybe he really is an alien and he has an anti-gravity belt. And he failed Human Conversations 101 in Alien School. “Deduced?”

“Circles under your eyes. Not sleeping. Your hair, your unwashed face, and the prescription in your back pocket all told me about your depression.”

Somewhere behind us, there’s a noise. “Sherlock.”

“You’re wearing a ring around your neck. Class ring, too large for your finger, but a woman’s. Class of 2010—too young for a mother, bit old for a girlfriend, most likely sister. She wouldn’t have given it to you, strange gift, she’d have bought you a normal necklace. You inherited it. Chain’s not scratched or discolored. Less than a year old.”


“There’s a scar on your left temple where you hit the window, white enough that’s it recent but not so recent it isn’t healed. You part your hair to hide it, you don’t want to see it in the mirror. It’s connected to a traumatic event. You also alternate between unconsciously rubbing that area of your forehead and your neck when you’re upset—muscles tense from anxiety, neck aches, leftover from whiplash. Car accident.”


“Oh, let me finish, I’m nearly there anyway. Bumper sticker on your mother’s car. Saw it when we pulled in. My youngest is an honors student.Youngest. She made a point of being prouder of you than of her. Her bedroom in your house is on the bottom floor, can tell because the shades are drawn, bit strange, it’s the middle of the day. The room is exactly as it was when she died and your mother doesn’t outsiders to see. Cartoon stickers on the window, faded. The bedroom of a child who’d grown up. Not you, you wouldn’t put stickers on your window, you’re habitually neat with your possessions—clothes unflattering but clean, they’ve been folded. Cigarette butts under the window too. Old ones. She was a smoker. Your mother hated it. Every mother does.”

Jesus Christ.

“Sherlock, that was incredible, but—”

“It was, wasn’t it?”

“But.” I separate my brain into two halves: the one reverberating with shock at Sherlock’s bizarre brand of magic, and the one paying attention to the figure creeping over the back fence. “They’re here.”

Sherlock whips around, eyes following the burglar, who hops the fence and moves toward the back of the house.

“Interesting,” he says.

I fumble with my phone—need a picture—as the burglar begins to scale the same wooden trellis that I’d used to get on the roof. It creaks under all the weight.

“Not stargazing, then.”


The burglar gets close enough so that I can see it’s a man, though his face is still in shadow—a man balancing with his arms out. He’s heading for the skylight, so focused he hasn’t noticed us. The skylight is just above the chimney, moonlight glinting off the glass. I hold my finger above my phone’s camera button.

And then it rings.

This time, it doesn’t shriek. It screams. How could I have not muted it, how how how—but it’s too late. BLOCKED NUMBER flashes across the screen just before the burglar freezes, spots us, and scuttles back toward the trellis.

“You were waiting for him,” notes Sherlock.

I wish I could say I do it because I want to help whoever wrote me that letter. I wish I could say I do it for the right reasons. But I don’t. I do it because I want to be awake.

I dive out from behind the chimney, ignoring gravity, and leap toward the burglar, making a swipe for his sleeve. I miss by miles. My balance is gone. I crash to the tiles, bruising my elbow, skidding, rolling right off the edge of the roof, getting a last-minute grip on the gutter.

Still holding on today, then.

A hand closes on my wrist. “This roof isn’t high enough for you to break your neck. Twenty feet at most. If that was some sort of suicide attempt, the best you can hope for is a sprained wrist or broken elbow.”

Then Sherlock pulls. I didn’t realize how strong he was. The litheness hides muscle. He hooks his foot on the gutter to keep from sliding and drags me back up onto the roof without making a sound.

I twist to look for the burglar, but he’s gone. Light bleeds out behind us. Someone’s turned on the kitchen light.

This time, I’m the one who grabs Sherlock’s hand, yanking him toward the trellis. Together we scramble down, racing across the lawn and hurtling over the fence just as the front door opens.

Once on the street, I run. I’m half-laughing, half-panting, sprinting with sweat blinding me. These are the only moments that matter. When my blood is fire and memories of Carol are so far away.

Eventually, when I’m sure we’ve turned enough corners that the cops won’t find us even if they come, I glance beside me. Sherlock is standing there, as cool and unruffled as if he’d just woken up from a nap.

My chest is burning. I bend over, panting. “Sorry. That was supposed to have gone better.”

“Things can’t always go the way we expect.” He smiles for the first time. It changes his whole face. “You were supposed to be boring.”

1 comment:

  1. Excuse me, Ms Morgan, but can you tell us if you are planning to release Book 2 anytime soon?? Please say yes, please say yes...