by E. Ardell
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Fantasy
Release Date: July 8th 2016
Summary from Goodreads:
Admitting what you are will end everything you know. Embracing who you are will start a war...
Life is great when you’re good-looking and popular…so long as no one knows you’re a vulatto. Being half-alien gets you labeled “loser” quicker than being a full vader. So it’s a good thing Devon, Lyle, and Lawrence can easily pass for human—until the night of the party. Nothing kills a good time faster than three brothers sharing a psychic vision of a fourth brother who’s off-world and going to die unless they do something. But when your brother’s emergency happens off-planet, calling 9-1-1 really isn’t an option.
In their attempt to save a brother they barely remember, Devon, Lyle and Lawrence expose themselves to mortal danger and inherit a destiny that killed the last four guys cursed with it. In 2022, there are humans and aliens, heroes and monsters, choices and prophecies—and four brothers with the power to choose what’s left when the gods decide they’re through playing games.
Book I in the Order's Last Play series
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THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S QUIET AT SIX in the morning.
The only people out are joggers and folks walking
their dogs. I nod to them as they pass by panting and
sweating, earbuds secure. I love early morning people;
they don’t talk much. We all have a purpose: workout.
We got no time for keeping up appearances. Mrs. Garner,
a lady who’s always in pumps and nylons at the
damn grocery store, runs in a ratty old sweat suit. Mr.
Taylor, three-piece Armani man, runs in biker shorts and
a tank. I love being alone and not having to slow down
to keep pace with teammates.
I’m miles from my house, running through the suburban
maze known as the Better Side of Town. Houston’s
so big there’s no telling how many suburbs are out
there claiming to be H-Town’s ‘Best Part.’ One day, the
Greater Houston Area is gonna take up half the state.
Every five minutes some new little town gets annexed.
Just last month, the city reigned in another million dollar
neighborhood—though a lot of people protested because
it’s full of aliens.
I still remember the insanity when aliens first started
buying houses in the area. All the humans moved out,
saying the Visitors were bringing down the property value.
But, you know, one thing I can say about Visitors is
that they keep stuff clean. Since the regulars moved out,
that whole place friggin’ sparkles. I like running by it
every now and again.
My sneakers pound the pavement, pat, pat, pat. I
love that sound more than listening to my iPlay. The
sports watch on my wrist tells me I’ve gone ten miles in
forty-nine minutes. My skin’s dry and I’m not breathing
hard; my heart beats slow and steady.
The sun’s not up until seven, so the sky’s dark and
streetlights are still on. A few cars are in the street, and
the red glow from their taillights wash over my tan skin.
The woman staring at me through a bay window makes
me wonder what I look like bathed in red light.
I slow my pace, waving at the woman as she stands
behind open blinds, curtains drawn, holding a mug and
watching. A little smirk crosses her lips and pride flushes
through me. I know that smirk. I grin and make a show
of rolling my T-shirt up over my abs and fanning myself
with it. I pass her window, but I know that cougar’s probably
ogling my ass. A lot of PTA moms do.
I run through the subdivision’s gate. The entry is a
stone playhouse made to look like a miniature version of
the houses in the neighborhood. It’s about six feet tall.
I look around—no cars, no people—and leap onto the
roof of the thing, breathing in deep. Mornings around
here smell like pinecones and flowers from the manicured
trees and gardens winding around the brick fences
that surround various subdivisions. The gardens stop an
inch before the sign announcing the city limits, and wild
grass and weeds take over.
I jump off the roof. My feet hit the grass with a
thump and I run towards the edge of the city. I jog into
the parking lot of a shopping strip with a grocery store,
pawn shop, Chinese restaurant, and a Mom and Pop
donut place. The lights are on inside Silva’s Donuts.
Through the glass door and big windows, I see Monica
sitting on a stool behind the counter, head tilted up, probably
watching the TV mounted on the far wall.
The store’s empty aside from Monica, and the only
vehicle in the lot is her Kawasaki. I’m completely into
college chicks with motorcycles; too bad she treats me
like jailbait. I’m seventeen, the age of consent woman,
come on. The gravel of the parking lot is crispy under
my shoes as I sprint toward Silva’s. A bell over the door
rings as I let myself into the store and a waft of hot sugar
and roasting coffee beans makes my stomach growl.
Monica barely glances at me, but gives me the
“hello” nod. Silva’s isn’t fancy, but it’s clean. The walls
are Peep yellow and the tables are small and round with
white tablecloths. A glass case up front displays donuts,
kolaches, and cheese danishes. I make my way to the bar
and hop up on a stool.
Planting my elbows on the bar’s surface, I grin at
“Hn.” She slips off her stool and goes to the donut
display, pulling out two sausage and cheese kolaches
and dropping them on a paper plate in front of me. After
a beat, a bottle of chocolate milk appears too. “There’s
your breakfast, Champ. How far did you run today?”
I glance at the pedometer. “Fifteen miles.”
“You’re slacking,” Monica says. Her voice is kinda
deep for a girl’s, but it’s nice. Not as sexy as Keelie’s, but
still hot. “How’d your party go?”
I bite into a kolache. “It was okay,” I mumble,
“Must not have gone well if that’s all you got to
say,” Monica says, passing me a napkin.
She sits back down on her stool and I stare at her.
She’s in a tight T-shirt that makes her boobs pop and
low-rise jeans that fit her like a second skin. She’s probably
got on cowboy boots too. Monica doesn’t care how
hot it is; she’s always got on jeans and boots, always
ready to ride.
I set the napkin on the counter and lick sticky cheese
off my lips, thinking about what I want to say to Monica
about the party. Hmm. So, it’s like this, Monica. The party
was going great until I had a seizure and ripped apart
a chair. Oh, and I can’t leave out the part where Lawrie
I grind my teeth. I almost killed that idiot when he
wasn’t dead. I thought for sure when I got down there
and saw him stretched out on the ground that he was a
goner. But then he sat up and clung to Lyle, and the both
of them looked at me like I was as useless as the rest
of the losers standing around watching. And from that
spazz look in Lyle’s eyes, I know he and Lawrie were
probably doing that mind-to-mind telepathy crap.
I didn’t ask Lyle about it because I was afraid I’d
hit him, but if he used his powers to send me that vision,
I would have—God, I don’t know. We aren’t close like
we used to be when we were kids, but he’s still my twin.
“Devon? Devon?” Monica waves her hand in my
“Huh?” I blink and stare at her.
She’s got great eyes, so brown they look black
with thick lashes around them. She doesn’t wear all that
makeup high school girls do and she keeps her black hair
long and straight with red streaks dyed under the bottom.
“Your party?” Monica presses. She pulls the top off
my chocolate milk and takes a swig.
“Oh, had to break it up. Somebody called the police,”
I say, reaching out to take my chocolate milk back.
I make sure I brush her wrist before snatching the bottle.
I chug milk, then wipe my mouth with the back of my
“You’re lying,” Monica says and takes my milk
back when I set it on the table. “Your mouth does this
thing when you lie. It kinda twitches at the corner, like
you’re trying not to smirk.”
“What?” I scowl. “You’re making that up!”
“No, I’m not.” Monica grins. Her fingers head for
my mouth and I freeze as a strawberry jelly scented index
finger traces the right corner of my mouth. “Here.
I’m ready to suck that finger, but she’d probably
throw the rest of the chocolate milk in my face. God,
does she want me or not? I swear she’s flirting with me.
“You’re such a baby,” she says with a laugh and
pulls her hand away.
“All right. So, I’m lying. I broke up my own party
because my little bro’s an idiot and I wasn’t in the mood
to deal with too many people afterward.” I touch the tip
of my tongue to where her finger had been. Tastes like
“Let me guess, you’re talking about the nutcase,”
Monica says, shaking her head. “You know, there’s medication
he can take for that.”
“My parents made him go to a behavioral therapist.
Something she said must’ve really pissed Dad off, because
he told her where to stick it.”
“Mm...spouses telling people where to stick it isn’t
good for the public image,” Monica says. “I’ve seen
your mom’s campaign posters up in some front lawns.
She’s hot. She’s got my vote.”
I snort. I’m used to people saying my mom’s hot.
All my teammates call her a MILF. Nasty.
“I hope she loses.” I don’t want any extra attention,
especially not after last night.
Uneasiness seeps into my flesh. From the corners of
my eyes, I see the green glow from that rock and I almost
feel the warm water on my skin as I sink into a pool. I
shake my head and reach for the milk at the same time
Monica does. My clumsy hand hits the bottle and she
catches it before it spills.
“Whoa, careful,” Monica says and tilts her head.
“You look sick.”
“M’fine,” I mumble. “How are summer classes?”
“You wanna talk about school?” Monica drinks
more milk and starts eating what’s left of my kolaches,
eyes still on my face. I like when girls look at me,
but Monica’s doing a laser beam thing. In a minute, I’m
gonna get a complete psychoanalysis. “Well, if you must
know, I didn’t go to class yesterday,” Monica says. She
finishes off the kolache and bends over to open a cabinet
under the counter. Her T-shirt rides up and I get a good
view of the panda tattoo on the small of her back. After
a minute, she comes up with a Mac Notebook. “Move
I push the plate away and she puts her laptop down.
“So, I skipped class to go to a Stop the Hate Texas
meeting. You seen this? Happened yesterday.” Monica
clicks a few buttons and YouTube Underground loads
I sit back and watch a bunch of assholes beat the
snot out of an alien kid. Poor guy doesn’t stand a chance.
Some of the jerks hold him while the others punch him.
Then one pulls out a knife.
“Jesus.” I close the laptop.
Anger and fear pulse in my chest. I can’t stand
watching helpless people get picked on. Nobody tried
to help the kid, and he didn’t even try to fight. But at the
same time, what if he did try to fight? What if he had
some kind of power? All he’d do is make people freak
out because he’d prove aliens are dangerous to humans.
Things would get worse. I mean, that guy...he could be
me, or Lyle. If word got out we have power, it’d be awful.
Toilet paper in the yard, broken windows, threats,
might even get chased out of our neighborhood into the
annex all the aliens live in. School would be a nightmare.
We had one Visitor kid come to our junior high once. She
got locked in the janitor’s closet on her first day, had her
clothes stolen out of the girls’ locker room the next. She
transferred on the third day.
“You know, Stop the Hate meets at seven tonight at
the Student Center on campus,” Monica says. “You wanna
come with me? It’s cool. We just talk about ways we
can make things better, get people to see Visitors are all
right. It’s been almost five years since they set up embassies.
And twenty to thirty years ago, before people knew
what was going on, we had folks settling and mixing.
Who knows who’s mixed with what now, right?”
Monica’s looking at me with those laser beams
again and my flesh twitches. I want to meet her outside
of her job at a place where talking to me isn’t just good
customer service. And hell, she wants to take me to one
of her college things like I’m adult enough to hang out
with her and her crowd. I’m in, right? Wrong.
I can’t go to a meeting about Visitor and vulatto
rights. U of H is a big commuter school. I know too
many people who go there.
“Well, you wanna come with me to the meeting or
not?” Monica taps the counter with her short nails. She’s
got on red polish with black tips.
“Uh.” What do I say? I can’t tell her something
lame, but she must see the need to lie on my face, because
her laser beams shut off and her expression closes
She picks up her laptop and narrows her eyes at me.
“Really, Devon? You’re one of those guys? I knew you
were shallow, but I thought you were growing up. Guess
that’s what I get for taking a high school kid seriously.”
Taking me seriously? She.... “What?”
Monica leans forward, putting her face in my space.
I can almost taste the chocolate milk on her breath. “I
talk to you because you’re different, Devon,” she says.
“I pay attention to people. I want to know more people
like me. We have similar backgrounds. Your parents do
well for themselves. But way back when, before they got
all high and mighty, one of them had themselves a little
fun with a Visiting stranger and here we are. Our parents
tell us ‘be good and hide it,’ but I’m too old for that now.
Not with the world like this.”
My eyes are wide, drinking in this beautiful woman
who’s telling me, “Are you a...?”
“Vulatto?” Monica sneers, not pulling away from
me. “Would it matter?”
I swallow. She’s perfect. There’s nothing inhuman
about her, but there’s nothing inhuman about the way I
look either. “And you think I’m one too? Why?”
“I’ve seen you at your peak. Normal kids don’t run
twenty miles in an hour. You don’t pay attention when
you’re really into what you’re doing.”
I gape. If she’s been watching me and noticed
that…I think I’m gonna puke right here on the floor. I
swallow a few times.
“Relax,” she says, finally sitting back and I can
breathe again. “You live in the right place to go unnoticed.
People in this part of town have their heads stuck
so far up their own asses they don’t see anything.”
She touches my wrist, putting her fingers against
my throbbing pulse. “Your heart’s gonna explode. What
are you so scared of?”
“I don’t know if I’m a vulatto,” I blurt out and want
to clamp my hand over my mouth. Why the hell did I say
that to her?
“How do you not know if you’re half alien?” Monica
quirks a brow at me.
“I’m missing a parent,” I say, “and I’m not gonna
assume he’s anything weird until—”
“Weird? Is that what you call it?” Monica asks.
“Listen, my parents were both born here, but my mom’s
dad, he wasn’t. Grandpa’s from one of those planets
where everybody can make themselves look human, so
it was easy for him to hide. But he got tired of hiding
and left. I only just now started talking to him. My mom
didn’t want me to. He’s a cool guy, Dev, not weird at all.
I wanna go out and meet him. He says he’ll pay.”
I feel like I swallowed a load of wet bath towels.
My stomach’s full of damp polyester. If I burp, fluff’ll
come out. I sit like a stuffed penguin, waddling from side
to side on my stool, staring at Monica Trevino, a vulatto.
“You want people to throw trash at you and call you
names?” I ask.
“I’m ready to be who I am,” Monica says. “I don’t
care who knows it. Dev, Stop the Hate is awesome. There
are more people like us in it, Earthborns, and there are a
few Visitors, and regular humans. We just talk. And God,
Dev, you need to hear Visitors talk about their lives off
I look over my shoulder. The shop bell hasn’t rung,
so I know nobody’s here besides us, but still. You can’t
talk about this kinda stuff in public. When I look back
at Monica, she’s watching me and tapping her fingers
“You’re not ready,” she finally says. Disappointment
flickers in her gaze.
Dammit, how did I let this go bad? Why does this
have to be the reason she’s interested in me?
I open my mouth. “I can’t. I’m not even sure, and
I just want to be normal. Normal’s easy and safe.
Not being normal gets you hurt. Why put yourself out
there when you don’t have to? Images of Lyle come into
my head. Him answering my questions before I asked
them. Him breaking dishes without touching them, because
I pissed him off when I told him I didn’t want to
hear any more about his psychic junk. Lyle and Lawrie,
last night, doing that mind-to-mind crap. They can embrace that
alien stuff, not me.
“Maybe some other time.” I slide off the bar stool.
My muscles itch to move again. I think I’ll take the
long way home.
“Yeah, sure,” Monica says.
I know she’s watching me walk to the door; I feel
“You have a good heart. You’re gonna be somebody
one day, I know you are. You just gotta break that high
school mentality you got going on. The adult world is a
lot different, and man, you got people who’ll help you if
you come out.”
Come out? Admitting you’re a vulatto is like coming
out of the closet? Well, people live their whole lives
in the closet and they’re fine, happy, because life is cake.
I like cake.
“Yeah. Sure,” I echo her earlier tone. “See ya
I push through the glass door and sprint through the
parking lot. I can’t get away from Monica fast enough. I
should stick to high school girls.
But I really like her.