Entry Nickname: Best(iary) Western
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
By day, fifteen-year-old Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. By night, she plays a grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel, checking supernatural Others in and out and making sure they have live food, fresh blood, or a safe place to spin a web.
Keeping the Other world safe and secret is the only life Iris has ever known. She’s handy with dart guns and convenient lies. It was just safer when her dad didn’t spend so much time as a human smoothie - his curse makes him liquefy then pupate back to his normal shape. Dad’s metamorphosis used to happen on a schedule. Now it comes without warning, leaving Iris to hold everything together.
Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father won’t admit that something’s changed in his curse, or where her mother went. Deeply angry at her father’s silence, Iris turns to her guests for human contact. Consoling a vampire’s fading blood moll, soothing the self-hate of werewolves, and helping a handsome insect learn to fly, Iris finds her role as listener and solace. As Iris works through her anger, the Other world begins to change. The deeply buried magic that fuels it is coming close to the surface, bringing with it nameless creatures banished a millennia ago, creatures without the “humanity” that makes Others worth protecting.
Forced to bear witness to this change, Iris finally learns her father’s secret. Now she has to decide whether she wants to become the next Innkeeper and face this new danger, or leave the Other world behind.
A man staggers in through our automatic doors. Glad for some action, I slide last month’s National Geographic under the counter so I can focus on my customer. Nothing special about him, anyone else would see a regional salesman coming in after driving all night. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.
But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks weave. This guy lurches forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.
Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours.
“Can I help you, Sir?”
“Have you got a room, Miss?”
The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself. His well-groomed fingernails point toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.
“What are you looking for exactly, Sir?” I prompt.
You have to say it or you can’t come in!
There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember. He grips so hard that his nail beds turn whitish gray.
“Rest and feed,” he answers finally, fishing the words out of some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them out heavily on the counter.
Although the words before the knocks would have been better. Doing it backwards means he’s starving. Keeping a watchful eye on my guest, I check our availability.
“Have you stayed with us before?”