SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW by PATTY BLOUNT BOOK REVIEW @PattyBlount

Someone I Used to Know

by Patty Blount

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

 

 

“Blount has written a heartrending but much-needed view on this subject. This book provides a nuanced look at the toxicity of rape culture and the long-lasting and harming aftermath of sexual assault.”— School Library Journal

 

 

From the award-winning author of Some Boys comes an unflinching examination of rape culture that delves into a family torn apart by sexual assault.

It’s been two years since the night that changed Ashley’s life. Two years since she was raped by her brother’s teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.

It’s been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister’s life.

When it all comes to head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.

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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW by PATTY BLOUNT for the purpose of an honest review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS FIRE and NETGALLEY for the advance copy.

Ms. Blount tackles the brutal subject of rape by a student athlete head on in this riveting novel which steers us through Ashley’s life leading up to her heart-wrenching rape, and the aftermath of her attack.

Ms. Blount illustrates how a rape rips through a family, a school, and a community in SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW. The effects are felt far beyond the moments of the actual rape and reach deep in to the hearts and souls of Ashely’s family and friends and are felt keenly for several years following the attack.

Ms. Blount shows a very realistic view of the mental anguish a rape victim lives with, often for many years following the actual rape, and how justice from the victim’s view, rarely is just.

I very much enjoy Ms. Blount’s style of writing and her character development was exceptional! This is the first novel of Ms. Blount’s I’ve read, but it won’t be my last!

I wish this book could become required reading for all junior and high school teachers and school staff, as well as incoming freshman boys and girls! I believe it would be a true eye opener for all of them!

I highly recommend SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW by PATTY BLOUNT and give it five steaming hot cups of coffee!

©JUNE 6, 2018

 

 

Powered by way too much chocolate, award-winning author Patty Blount loves to write and has written everything from technical manuals to poetry. A 2015 CLMP Firecracker Award winner as well as Rita finalist, Patty writes issue-driven novels for teens and is currently working on a romantic thriller. Her editor claims she writes her best work when she’s mad, so if you happen to upset Patty and don’t have any chocolate on hand to throw at her, prepare to be a subject of an upcoming novel. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that sadly doesn’t have anywhere near enough bookshelves…or chocolate.

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2 Copies of Someone I Used to Know

Runs August 7th -31st

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1

Ashley

Your Honor, thank you for letting me address this court. The first thing I want to say is that I couldn’t wait to start high school. I liked the defendant. I really liked him. And I thought he liked me back. But now I know he never saw me as a person. I was nothing more than an opportunity for him. So now I can’t wait until I’m done with high school.

—Ashley E. Lawrence, victim impact statement

Now

Bellford, Ohio

The mirror is my enemy.

So is the closet.

There’s literally nothing to wear. Clothes litter my room. Several pairs of jeans are balled up on my bed because they hug my butt too tightly. T-shirts lie in piles on the floor because they’re too clingy. Shorts and skirts? No. They reveal too much leg. I throw them over my shoulder. Dr. Joyce, my therapist, claims it’s normal to have trouble getting dressed after what happened.

I always tell her I don’t care what’s normal after what happened; I just want normal—without qualifiers. I want to open my closet, pull on any old outfit, and not obsess about people thinking I’m asking for it.

“Ashley?”

I glance up and find Mom in my doorway, looking me over. I’m wearing a robe even though it’s about ninety degrees outside.

“You okay?”

“Fine,” I lie and dive back into my closet, mopping sweat from the back of my neck. We’d agreed that I’d go to school on my own today. It’s time.

“Ashley, look at me.”

I pull my head out of my closet and meet her eyes.

“Honey, I know you’re upset. We all are, but I promise you, it’s going to be okay.”

At those words, I clench my jaw and shoot up a hand. Then I just turn away because, honestly, I don’t know which part pisses me off more…the colossal understatement implied by a wimpy word like upset or the addition of the pronoun we, suggesting everybody else in this family knows exactly how I feel when they don’t have the slightest clue.

She sighs but nods and then steps over to the closet, rehanging the discarded clothes I dumped on my bed. “We haven’t looked west yet. California is truly beautiful. You know I’ve never been there?”

I roll my eyes. We haven’t looked anywhere. All we’ve done is talk about it, so I say the same thing I always say when this comes up. “Mom, I don’t want to move away.”

“But it could be a fresh new start for all of us, Ashley. No one would even have to know you were—”

“Mom.” I cut her off, forcefully this time. “I really have to get dressed.”

Her blue eyes, the eyes both of my brothers inherited, fill with the look that’s become way too common over the last two years. It’s disappointment. Is it directed at me or what happened to me? I don’t know anymore, and I don’t think it even matters. All I know is it’s so acute, I can’t bear to see it and have to look away. Once again, I return my attention to the closet to find something to wear.

“Okay. Have a great first day. Call if…if you need me.” She turns and heads downstairs.

I don’t answer because great days are yet another myth I’ve discovered in a long series of them, starting with the concept of justice. I roll my eyes. California. Like it would be no problem to just shut down Dad’s auto repair shop and move a family of five across the country where there are no grandparents, no aunts, no uncles or cousins.

As the front door closes and the engine starts in the driveway, my phone buzzes. It hardly ever does that anymore. I glance at the display, annoyed when some stupid tiny seed of hope blooms because there’s a text message from Derek.

Derek: Good luck today.

Rage ignites inside me like a match held to dry leaves. Cursing, I kick over my hamper, swipe every last book and paper off my desk, and come perilously close to hurling my cell phone at the wall. Good luck. Could he be this clueless?

As this is my brother, yes. He could be and often is this clueless…and worse.

Ashley: Yeah. Sure. Luck. That’ll help.

The phone buzzes again.

Derek: I’m sorry. I swear I am.

Sorry? I almost laugh. Derek doesn’t do apologies.

“Derek, tell Ashley you’re sorry,” Mom would order him after he’d made me cry for some thing or another.

And he’d say, “Sorry, Ash.” Mom would walk away or turn her back, and he’d stick out his tongue or roll his eyes and smile that Derek smile, and I’d know. I’d know he wasn’t really sorry. He was only saying it to make Mom happy. Apologies happen when you own up to having been wrong, and Derek has never been wrong in his life.

I stare at the words I’d have given anything to hear my brother say two years ago, but they’re too little, too late, and knowing Derek as I do, false.

I toss the phone to my bed and go back to pawing through every drawer in my dresser and every hanger in my closet for something to wear and finally spy something. It’s this old maxi dress Mom bought for me years ago. The tags are still on it. I grab it and hold it up. It probably doesn’t fit. I think I was twelve or thirteen when she bought it.

There’s a little pang in my chest. Twelve or thirteen.

Before everything changed.

I swallow hard, trying to hold on to the pain because if it gets loose—

Deep breath. Hold it in. Okay. Dress. Right.

I hold the dress up to my body, considering it. Yeah, it might work. I slip it on, smooth it out. It’s actually a bit big. And ugly. Shades of dull beige and brown in a paisley print that hangs all the way to my ankles. I grab a sweater to hide my shoulders revealed by this outfit and smooth down a cowlick in my hair, which has finally reached shoulder length again.

Above the shelf on my wall, there’s a mirror Mom bought so I could get ready for the new school year. I’d smashed the old mirror in another fit of rage not long after I’d hacked off my long hair. Yeah, this outfit does work. It hides pretty much everything.

I grab my phone and try to visualize the day ahead. Tara, my best friend, will meet me at school. She always has my back. The rest of the school is a different story.

Derek’s words rattle around inside my head like some kind of curse. Good luck, Ash Tray. You’ll need it.

Deep breaths. Breathe in, hold for one…two…three…four, breathe out. In, hold, out. In, hold, out. I hate doing these breathing exercises because I feel like a total loser. I mean, who has to concentrate on breathing?

Traumatized people like me, that’s who.

Two years. It’s been two years. I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. I roll my eyes because that’s another thing I must do. Tell myself complete and total lies. It’s supposed to help me believe them, turning them into what my therapist claims are self-fulfilling prophecies. I get it. The power of positive thinking and all that crap. But the truth is, I’m still waiting to feel fulfilled, yet I keep doing the same stupid breathing exercise, and I keep repeating the same stupid lies until finally my heart stops trying to beat out of my chest.

This is it—the first day of school. Junior year. I can do this. I can. I will do this.

I do something else…something my therapist never told me about. I visualize. I imagine building a dam…a little beaver dam of logs and twigs and dried mud to keep all of the triggers and memories and rage and…pain from leaking out into my life. I spend some time shoring up my dam, and with one last deep breath, I head downstairs, pretending the dread that’s still climbing up my rib cage is anticipation for the first day of my junior year.

I see two coffee cups in the sink and dishes from my parents’ breakfast. It’s normal and typical, and it gives me something to hang on to while I wrestle all that dread back behind the dam.

I glance at the clock to make sure I have time and discover it’s after 8:00 a.m.

No, that can’t be right. I woke up extra early.

My shoulders sag while I stare at the clock blinking on the microwave over the stove and then pull the phone from my pocket. It shows the same time. How? How is this possible? They’re wrong. They’re both wrong. They have to be. I run to the family room, but the cable box is blinking the same time.

I’ve not only missed the bus, but I’ve missed the start of first period.

I shoulder my bag and start walking.

I thought I was past this. I thought the days when I’d lost huge chunks of time doing nothing except breathing were behind me.

***

School is terminally irritating.

I missed first period entirely, and by the time the old bat in the front office gives me my pass, I’ve missed half of second, too.

“Ashley. Hey,” Tara whispers when I finally take my seat in lit class, her face split in a huge smile. “What took you so long?” And then she looks at my outfit. “What are you wearing?”

I shake my head. “Don’t even.”

She puts up both hands in apology—or maybe surrender—and turns back to her notebook. Mrs. Kaplan is reading us the class rules and information about homework, exams, and class participation. I know this drill so I zone out. I take a look around the class, see who’s here, who’s not, and spot Sebastian Valenti over by the window at the same second he jerks his eyes away from me.

They’re really amazing eyes. Hazel. I used to think hazel was a color but found out it actually means eyes that change colors. Sebastian’s eyes look green sometimes, and other times, they look brown, and I’ve even seen them look practically yellow. Sebastian’s a good guy. The best. He saved me when my stupid brother didn’t. Wouldn’t. He keeps asking how I’m doing, and I keep saying fine. And that’s about as deep as our conversations ever get, so I just don’t bother anymore. I haven’t talked to him all summer. But he’s still a really good guy.

“May I have your attention please?”

The PA system cracks into life, and Mrs. Kaplan takes a seat at her desk while the principal welcomes us back to the new school year and tells us about some after-school clubs. And then, right after an announcement about several new teachers, Principal McCloskey ruins what’s left of my life.

“We’d like to welcome our new calculus teacher, Mr. Davidson, to Bellford High. In addition to teaching calculus, Mr. Davidson has agreed to help us start a new and improved football program. Tryouts for this year’s Bengals team will be held after school.”

A cheer goes up around the classroom.

I sit in my seat, frozen. I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. I lie to myself, but my brain knows better, and I can feel that old pressure spinning inside my chest.

A hand squeezes mine, and I jolt like I’ve been struck by lightning. I look up into the concerned eyes of Tara. That’s when I discover everybody in the entire class has swiveled around to see how I’m taking this news. Most people look concerned, like Tara. But others are triumphant, like Andre, sitting at the front of the classroom, and Bruce, over by the windows next to Sebastian. I can’t stand it, can’t deal with it. Suddenly, I’m on my feet, running for the door. “Ashley! Ashley, come back here!” Mrs. Kaplan shouts after me.

I dart across the hall into the girls’ bathroom and lock myself into a stall. I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine.

I repeat the words over and over so fast, they morph into percussion that syncs to the pounding of my heart. It’s bad enough seeing everybody stare at me. Everybody blames me for canceling football.

Derek blames me.

My brother blames me for what happened two years ago. I can never forget that…or forgive it.

It doesn’t matter how many lies I tell myself or how deep I bury those memories, how strong the dam is. Those memories—the pain they cause—they keep finding ways to break out, and I’m just not strong enough to hold them back.

I don’t think I ever will be.

Two Years Ago

Bellford, Ohio

It’s raining, but I don’t care. I love the way the air smells when it rains. Earthy. Clean and fresh and—so alive. I’m totally psyched to start high school and don’t care if there’s a hurricane. Armed with my bright pink umbrella, I’m ready to head to the bus stop, but Mom says Derek could have the car if he drives both of us to school. I squeal and clap. I love riding shotgun with Derek…when he lets me, that is.

Derek’s been treating me like crap for ages. We’re only a year and a half apart, so we shared a stroller, took baths together, went to gymnastics and soccer together. We were on different teams, though. That always bugged me. I wanted to play on his team. We’re a unit, a combo special, a team. Justin, our brother, is a lot older. He has his own separate life. But Derek and I are best friends. Nobody knows it but me, but Derek wants to make video games when we grow up. He has a ton of cool ideas, too.

At least, he used to. He never talks about that kind of stuff with me anymore. Now he’s all about football and girls and driving and avoids me as much as he can. I annoy him. I don’t see how that’s even possible. I try to do all the things he always liked doing with me like movie nights and epic game battles. Now he just rolls his eyes and says I should get a life.

But this is my first day of high school. So that means we can hang out again. I’m older and not so annoying. Derek doesn’t argue with Mom about driving me to school, so I kind of assume that means he’s finally outgrown his problems with me. Mom said he would…eventually. I also kind of assume that driving us to school also means driving us home. He has other ideas.

“Take the bus home. I’m hanging with my friends later.”

“Oh,” I say, smile fading. “Yeah. Sure.”

My first day of high school is awesome in every possible way. I have lunch with Donna Jennings, a girl I know from middle school, who got her hair cut in this really cool undershaved style and got a boyfriend over the summer. She showed everybody the gold heart necklace he’d given her, and my heart sighed. It had stopped raining by the afternoon, so I take my time heading to the parking lot to ride home with Derek, but the space where he’d parked Mom’s car is empty.

Darn. I was supposed to take the bus home. I totally forgot.

“You look lost.” A boy with messy hair and blue eyes says. He is seriously cute and standing with three other boys against a blue car.

“Must be a freshman,” another says.

“Just looking for my brother.”

“Who is he?”

“Um. Derek Lawrence.”

They exchange glances and laugh. “Oh, you’re Ash Tray. Sorry, you just missed him.”

“Cut it out,” the cute one says. “I’m Vic. Victor Patton.” He smiles at me. Dimples. Wow.

“Hey, that’s what Derek calls her.” The boy laughs.

Oh my God. Derek told them that? My face bursts into flames, and I turn away.

“Leave her alone.” Vic straightens up and walks toward me. He’s tall, taller than Derek. “Derek left. He might be back. Why don’t you call him?”

Yeah. Good idea. I pull out my phone and hit his name. It rings, but he never picks up. Next, I try texting him. Meanwhile, the boys pile into the blue car and take off, splashing water all over me.

I brush muddy splotches from my clothes, choking back tears, and call Mom’s cell phone, but it goes straight to voicemail. I try calling Dad too. Same thing.

What am I supposed to do? I head back to the main entrance, sink down on one of the steps, and drop my chin into my hands. I sit there, quietly crying, until the steel doors burst open and a bunch of laughing girls jog past me. Quickly, I fluff my waist-long hair in front of my face to hide the tears. All but one of the five girls wear warm-up suits bearing the word Fusion in bright red letters down one leg.

One crouches down to get a look at me. “Hey. You okay?”

I nod vigorously. “Yeah. Fine.”

“You’re crying. Can I help?” She takes a step closer, and I scrub at my face with the back of my hand, like that has even a remote chance at erasing my complete embarrassment.

“Not unless you have a magic potion that works on stupid brothers,” I blurt. Oh my God! I slap a hand over my mouth. I need to die. Right now. Where’s a lightning bolt when you need one?

“Oh, a stupid brother. I have one of those.” She smiles. She’s so pretty. Long, dark, and lean, she looks like one of the models in my Teen Vogue magazines.

I’m suddenly interested in hearing her story. “Older or younger?”

“Younger. Takes annoying to whole new levels, like it’s some kind of vow he took. Do you know he actually put my retainer in the toilet? My mother nearly burst a blood vessel after that.” She giggles. “Oh! I’m Candace Ladd.”

“Hey.” This time, my smile is bigger. “Ashley. Ashley Lawrence.”

“You must be a freshman.”

I wince, face burning all over again. “Does it show?”

She laughs, revealing perfectly straight, bright white teeth that somehow remained impervious to her little brother ruining her retainer. “Nah. I’ve just never seen you before, and I know pretty much everybody. I’m a junior.” She studies me, her head angled to one side. “Lawrence, huh?” And then her dark eyes open wide. “Oh my God. Is that stupid brother you mentioned Derek Lawrence?”

“You know him?”

She nods. “Yeah, we’re in the same homeroom. Oh, wow. Brittany is gonna hate hearing he’s a jerk. She’s really into him.” Candace points to the field on the other side of the small parking lot. The pretty blond with the great smile is doing ballet pliés.

I stare and swallow hard. Brittany is everything I’m not. Beautiful. Skinny. She even looks like Derek with perfect blond hair and blue eyes. They could be Ken and Barbie. I have dark hair and dark eyes. “Maybe he’ll be nicer to her.”

“Come on.” Candace Ladd grabs my hand, tugging me off the step where I’d been sitting, crying. “You know what’s great for getting over the stupid stuff brothers do?”

I have no idea, but I follow her anyway, making my way across the lot to the field that’s empty except for these girls.

“Dancing.”

I plant my feet in the grass at that. I love dancing. I’d taken dance classes for years when I was little. But I stopped about two years ago and now have a roll of fat bulging from the top of my jeans. I’d stick out like one of those old Sesame Street games—one of these things is so not like the others.

“Everybody, this is Ashley Lawrence. She’s Derek’s sister.”

The really pretty blond snaps her head up at that. Her smooth hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and her blue eyes are so blue, I wonder if she wears contacts. “I’m Brittany,” she says with a smile. “And this is Tara, Marlena, and Deanne.”

“Hi,” I manage to squeak out while the girls each smile and greet me.

Oh God, they’re all so beautiful. Next to them, I feel like a freak.

I am a freak.

“Ashley’s gonna dance with us today. She’s got some brother crap to work out of her system,” Candace explains to her friends, and Tara’s face instantly breaks into an expression of total understanding.

“Oh, honey. I got two of them. Is Derek what caused all this?” She waves a hand with pink-striped fingernails at my new back-to-school outfit, currently splattered in mud thanks to the boys in the blue car.

“Um, indirectly,” I admit.

“Jerk.”

“What an asshole!”

One by one, they all give their opinion of Derek while adjusting hairstyles, retying shoes, and stretching leg muscles. I’m entranced.

“You a freshman?” Marlena asks, and my face heats up again.

I nod, expecting her to make a disgusted face, but she just says, “I’m a sophomore. Candace and Brittany are juniors. And Tara’s a freshman, like you.”

I perk up at this news. Finally, somebody my own age.

Brittany pulls a small wireless speaker from her backpack, turns it on, and sets it on a bench at the edge of the athletic field. “It’s nice having the field to ourselves for once.”

“Hey, let’s teach her the routine,” Deanne suggests. “Then she can try out for Ms. Pasmore.”

Wait, what? Try out?

Holy crap, I can’t. But the rest of the girls agree. Candace crosses her arms and studies me. “Can you do basic moves like pirouettes and leaps?”

I shake my head. “I haven’t done those in a long time.”

“But you know how?” Candace prods. I can only shrug. “Oh, come on. Just try.” She urges me with a smile.

“Come on, Ashley. It would be great if we both make it on to the team,” Tara adds.

Tara’s words shoot straight into my heart and sort of plant roots. Suddenly, I want this. I want to dance and be on the team and have friends who understand all of my Derek problems.

“It’s okay, Ashley. You can do this,” Tara says, and that spot inside my heart warms up again.

I swallow hard, rub my damp palms down my legs, and get into fourth position…or is it fifth? I perform a slow, shaky pirouette. The girls applaud, and my face feels hot.

“That’s seriously not bad for someone who hasn’t danced in a couple of years.” Candace lifts her palm for a high five that I happily give her.

Derek would freak out if I do this.

So I should totally do it.

“That’s really great, Ashley. Okay, now strut!” She calls out, and the girls line up with me, everybody moving left, pumping their arms. I follow along, astounded by my efforts. “Other way. That’s good, Ashley! Now make it bigger.”

We strut back and march in place, and then Brittany takes over, leading us in a series of big, bold movements—kicks, leaps, shoulder shimmies, and pirouettes. They were right. This is fun. We dance for over an hour. The girls teach me their entire routine, and I do it all and have no time to be mad about Derek.

When we finally stop, Brittany angles her head, studying me.

“You know, you should cut some of that. It’s way too long for you.” She waves a hand over my hair.

My hair reaches my waist. “I, um, don’t look good with short hair. I mean, no offense,” I quickly say to Tara, whose jaw-length bob looks totally awesome.

“No, not that short,” Brittany says. “Maybe about here.” She indicates the middle of my back with her hand. “Take some of it off. I think it’ll have more volume.”

“Yeah,” Candace agrees. “When you do those snap turns, you won’t whip us in the face.”

Deanne hands me some forms. “Here. After you try out, you’ll need to order these.”

I stare down the sheet of papers, see the various items, each bearing the team name, Fusion.

“What do you say, Ashley? Are you in?” Candace grins, those bright white teeth gleaming at me.

I scan the group of them, all of them perfect and pretty and good at dancing. “Aren’t you worried I’ll make you look bad? I don’t…look like you all.”

“Oh, honey,” Tara says, putting an arm around me. “All you need is some practice to build up your confidence.” She looks around the group for verification.

“Hell, yeah. In freshman year, I had braces on my teeth, a terrible haircut, and I was six inches shorter than I am now. I could barely talk to anyone,” Brittany admits. “But you have something I didn’t have in freshman year.”

I did? “What’s that?”

“Boobs.” The other girls crack up as my face bursts into flames. “The boys won’t see anything else. Trust me.”

Brittany and Candace hop into a car and are gone after a honk and a wave. Deanne and Marlena stand with me until a minivan pulls up, and then it’s just me and Tara. We start walking toward the school’s main exit.

“So how are you getting home?” I ask her, and she shrugs.

“Walk. I live pretty much next door.” She points down the road.

“Handy.”

“Well, see you tomorrow. It was nice meeting you.”

“You too,” I call back.

I start walking toward town, where my dad’s garage is, wishing I had a bottle of water with me. My legs are like noodles after all that dancing, and a two-mile walk does not appeal to me. Like a wish granted, a horn honks, and a shiny black Chevy slows down beside me.

“Hey, Derek’s sister! Need a ride?”

Oh. Em. Gee.

It’s him. The boy with the cute smile and the dimples.

My voice gets stuck in my throat, so I only nod.

“What’s your name? Your real name, I mean,” he asks through the open passenger side window, smiling and making my wobbly legs even weaker. He isn’t going to call me Ash Tray? Swoon.

“Um. Ashley.” My voice is all squeaky.

“I’m Vic.”

“Yeah, I remember.” Vic. What a cool name. The coolest name in the world. I want to name a baby Vic.

He laughs. “Good. So where are you heading?”

“Oh, um. To my dad’s garage. Over on Blaine.”

“Right, right. I know where it is. Hop in,” he invites with a jerk of his head. “I’ll give you a lift.”

It never occurs to me to say no. He has such a great smile. His hair is somewhere between blond and brown and so messy I itch to touch it and smooth it. He’s really tall but lean. And his eyes are so blue, they look like pools you never want to get out of. But it’s that smile, the one with the dimple at the corner, that makes me forget my name.

“So, Ashley. You’re what? A freshman?”

Is there a sign hanging over my head or something? Wincing, I nod. “It must show.”

“Just a little.” He looks over and winks. “I’m a senior.”

A senior is driving me home. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

“Did you join a club or something?”

I nod, and suddenly remember I am probably in urgent need of a shower or a can of deodorant or a wet wipe, and I try to shrivel up against the passenger door and hope he doesn’t get close enough to sniff me. “Yeah. The dance team.”

“Fusion? That’s awesome! The dance team performs at all the Bengals games. I’ll probably see you at practice. Our coach had a meeting today, otherwise we’d have been on the field.” He slows down for a traffic light.

Can he hear my heart pounding?

“How do you like Bellford High?”

“I like the girls on the dance team. And I like my science teacher.”

“Who did you get?”

“Mr. Wilder.”

“Oh, yeah, he’s great. I had him. He likes to give pop quizzes every week, so be ready.”

“Oh. Yeah. I will.”

“Nothing terrible. Just read ahead and you’ll be fine.”

Read ahead. I can do totally do that.

Vic puts on his turn signal and waits for a left turn. “So your brother’s kind of a jerk to you, huh?”

My heart sinks, and I slide a little lower in my seat.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll say something to him tomorrow.”

Suddenly, I’m grinning like a maniac. There’s probably a circle of cartoon birds and butterflies flying around the heart that just floated out of my body. Vic laughs and shakes his head as he pulls to the curb.

“We’re here. It was nice to meet you, Ashley Lawrence.” Vic hands me my bag as I pretty much fall out of the car on legs I can no longer feel. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Tomorrow.”

He honks and waves as he pulls away. I’m halfway in love.

“Ashley? Who was that?” Dad asks. He just stepped out of one of the garage bay doors.

“Hmm?”

“Ashley!”

I turn and see Mom in the entrance to Dad’s garage. “Mom! Can we get my hair cut? Please? I’m gonna try out for the dance team, and my hair is too long, and it’s in the way, and I met a senior named Vic, and I need to buy these if I make the team.” I finally pause for air, and Mom takes the Fusion gear order form I have clutched in my hand.

“A haircut. And a uniform. Well, okay. But a senior? No. I don’t know about that.”

“I’m with you on that,” Dad says, grabbing Mom in a hug and tickling her until she squeal

The Siege Release Day

The Siege

By Mark Alpert

 

The Siege

 

Release Date: July 5, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

 

What Others Are Saying

“Adam is an unusual hero—and he faces a frightening question: Computers can’t kill— CAN they? I’m still shaken by the answer. Will the near-future really be this terrifying?” – R.L. Stine, bestselling author of the Fear Street series on The Six

“This is serious YA sci-fi, full of big ideas, big questions, real science, and things that will make you think and wonder and lie awake late at night. And it’s all wrapped up in a wonderfully exciting action story chock full of characters you’ll love.” – Michael Grant, bestselling author of the Gone series on The Six

“Alpert’s exploration of neuromorphic electronics raises interesting questions about ethics, technology, and human nature…a haunting ending scene will leave readers pondering the line between progress and loss. A thought-provoking clash between humanity and machinery.” – Kirkus on The Six

“A well-researched, hardcore science-fiction joyride, great for fans of first-person shooter video games like Halo and Destiny. Highly recommended.” – School Library Journal on The Six

“The Six are introduced as terminally-ill teens, but there’s plenty of high-speed action in which they engage. Their physical disabilities and limitations through disease are forgotten as the teens’ hearts, minds, and personalities shine through, even though their bodies are now steel data containers…questions of principle, power, and possibility keep this look at our modern, hardwired existence fresh and fascinating.” – Booklist STARRED review on The Six

“Alpert’s innovative science fiction novel explores questions such as what makes people “human,” when life ends, and what people owe each other. Alpert pays Crichton-esque attention to the power of technology in human existence.” – VOYA Magazine, Perfect Ten on The Six

 

About the Book

Mission: Sabotage.

Adam gave up everything for a new chance at life. Now with a cutting-edge digital mind, he is smarter, faster, better than a normal teen. Except Adam is anything but invincible. He’s indebted to the government program that gave him this ability—and freedom comes at a price.

Adam and his teammates, the six Pioneers, swore to defend humanity against Sigma, the most ruthless artificial intelligence program ever designed. The Pioneers are all that stand between the AI and world domination. But Sigma has an advantage. It has learned about human weakness, and its new weapon? Betrayal.

In this war between good and evil, the battle lines have been drawn…but someone is about to switch sides.

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Excerpt

My girlfriend is mad at me, and this is the worst possible time to have an argument. It’s midnight, and Shannon and I are crawling through the grass outside a military base in North Korea.

“Slow down, Adam! You’re going too fast!”

There’s an urgency to her words, though she doesn’t raise her voice. In fact, we’re not even talking. We’re sending messages back and forth on a short-range radio channel. The antennas are embedded in the armor of the robotic crawlers we’re occupying for this mission. Shannon’s words leap from her antenna to mine, then ricochet inside my circuits. It takes me less than a millionth of a second to analyze her message and determine she’s angry, but I have no idea why. Even with all the computing power in my electronics, I can’t figure her out.

I send a radio signal back to her. “We’re okay. No one can see us under all these weeds and—”

“No, this isn’t safe. We’re supposed to go slow and be cautious. Just follow orders for once, okay?”

Instead of arguing, I adjust the motors inside my crawler and reduce its speed. Shannon and I are on a reconnaissance mission, so we’ve transferred ourselves to machines that are designed to be stealth. My robot is shaped like a snake, like one of the big rat snakes that are pretty common in this part of the Korean Peninsula. All its motors and sensors and electronics are packed into a five-foot-long flexible tube that’s four inches thick in the middle and tapered at the ends. At the core of the tube are special neuromorphic circuits that hold all my data: my memories, my personality traits, the millions of gigabytes of information that define who I am and how I think. Shannon’s robot is smaller, only one foot long, but it has the same kind of advanced circuits inside, and they pulse with her own gigabytes of memories.

These are special-purpose machines, used only for spying. Our usual robots, the ones we occupy when we’re back at our headquarters in New Mexico, are larger and more humanlike. Shannon and I can download our data to any kind of machine — infinitesimal, gigantic — as long as it has a neuromorphic control unit. Better yet, we can use radio antennas to wirelessly transfer ourselves from one machine to another, streaking through the air like digital ghosts. We can do all these things because we’re not really human, not anymore. Our bodies died before we reached the age of eighteen. But just before we died, my father — a computer-science researcher working for the U.S. Army — turned our souls into software. We are Pioneers.

The official Army name for my spy robot is ATSU, the All-Terrain Surveillance Unit, but I call it the Snakebot. Its motors bend and twist the robot’s flexible armor, propelling it through the grass in a wavy pattern that looks just like the motion of a snake. At the Snakebot’s front end is an infrared camera that allows me to navigate in the dark by showing the heat signatures of all the nearby objects: the warm grass and weeds appear to glow brightly above the cool, dark dirt. Thirty yards ahead is the military base’s chain-link fence — chilled by the cold October night air — and beyond the fence is a guard tower with two North Korean soldiers standing sentry at the top. One of the soldiers holds an assault rifle, and the other is gazing through a pair of sleek, high-tech binoculars.

“I have a bad feeling about this, Adam. Those are infrared-vision binoculars. The soldiers can see in the dark, just like us.”

I would shake my head, but I don’t have one. Instead, I wag the front end of my Snakebot back and forth. “Snakes are cold-blooded, and our armor’s cold too. Even if they spot us with those infrared binocs, we’ll look like reptiles.”

“I have news for you. Most people don’t like snakes. The guy with the rifle still might take a shot at us.”

It’s a good point. Shannon’s excellent at spotting dangers during our missions, which is one of the reasons why she’s the leader of the Pioneers. Besides her and me, there are three others in the Pioneer Project: Zia, Marshall, and DeShawn. All of us were terminally ill teenagers, with just a few months left to live, when my father figured out how to digitally preserve our minds and transfer the data to combat-ready robots. A sixth volunteer also made the transition, a seventeen-year-old named Jenny, but she’s no longer with us. I know Shannon blames herself for Jenny’s loss, which explains why she’s so cautious now.

But it doesn’t explain why Shannon’s acting so cold to me tonight. The radio messages she’s sending are so much harsher than her usual easygoing tone. A girl wouldn’t say that kind of thing to her boyfriend unless she was upset. But what’s bothering her? What did I do wrong?

My circuits ponder the question for an unusually long time, almost a hundredth of a second. Then I shunt it aside. I need to focus on our mission. Shannon and I have to get past that chain-link fence so we can see what’s inside the base.

“You’re right, we can’t stay here. It’s time to go underground.” I point my Snakebot’s front end downward, jabbing it into the moist dirt. Then I turn on the drill. “Stay close. This might get a little rough.”

The drill extends from the front of the Snakebot and spirals into the ground. It turns slowly at first, because the upper layer of soil is soft and easy to dig through, but after a few seconds I burrow down to the hard-packed dirt and the drill spins faster, so I can go deeper. I wriggle the Snakebot into the hole I’m digging, and Shannon follows me underground, her smaller robot slipping easily into the narrow shaft. Once I get six feet below the surface I change direction, turning the drill horizontal. I head for the military base, tunneling under the fence.

I can’t see much through the infrared camera now, but the Snakebot is equipped with other sensors to help me stay on course. I have a sonar device that sends sound waves through the dirt, and by analyzing the echoes I can detect the objects in front of me. There are thousands of thick roots threading down from the weeds on the surface, so many that they form a maze of tendrils. Between the roots are millions of worms and bugs and grubs, either creeping through the soil or lying motionless in hibernation. I have to admit, the underground world is pretty amazing. The Snakebot is showing me things that most people never get a chance to see. For a moment I’m thrilled to be a Pioneer.

But the feeling doesn’t last long, less than a thousandth of a second. And it doesn’t make up for all the things I’ve lost.

After two minutes of digging, I wriggle past the fence, which extends only three feet underground. As soon as Shannon and I tunnel safely under it, I review a series of photographs stored in my memory. A U.S. spy satellite took the photos a few days ago; they show an enormous factory complex that was constructed in a matter of weeks at this remote military base in the North Korean wilderness. The Pentagon’s spy chiefs thought the new factories looked suspicious, so they shared the pictures with General Hawke, the Army commander who started the Pioneer Project. The photos alarmed Hawke, so less than twenty-four hours after he received that communication, all of us Pioneers were loaded into a B-2 Stealth bomber that took off from our airfield near Las Cruces. Hawk didn’t brief us about the recon mission until we were flying across the Pacific — but by then all five of us already suspected what was going on. It had to be Sigma.

Now I use my sonar to get my bearings. The sound waves echo against the concrete foundation of the newly built factory. It’s a hundred yards ahead.

“I’ve located the biggest factory,” I radio Shannon. “And my sensors are picking up loud noises coming from the building. They’re definitely mechanical.”

“The factory’s in operation? At this hour?”

“That’s what it sounds like. They’re working the night shift. Whatever they’re manufacturing, they’re going full throttle.”

Shannon doesn’t answer right away. She takes a few milliseconds to analyze our options. “Can we get into the building from underneath? Drill upward through the foundation and slip into the basement?”

“Yeah, that might work. Judging from the acoustics, I’m guessing the concrete’s pretty thin. We can probably break through it.”

“Probably? You’re gonna have to do better than that, Adam. I don’t like guesses.”

There it is again, that harshness. I wish I could ask Shannon what’s wrong. We were friends even before we became Pioneers, and she helped me a lot in those terrible days right after our transformation, when we had to adjust to our new lives inside hulking robots and while training for our first battle against Sigma. She helped me after that too, when we were all devastated over losing Jenny. A few weeks later I asked Shannon to be my girlfriend, even though I knew it was a little ridiculous. I mean, the Pioneers don’t have human bodies anymore, so how can we be boyfriend and girlfriend? That kind of relationship isn’t quite the same for us. But Shannon said yes anyway, and for the past six months the other Pioneers have treated us like a couple. Marshall started calling us the Dynamic Duo, and after a while Zia and DeShawn started using that name too. It made me feel good to know there was something special between Shannon and me. And I feel stupendously horrible that whatever we had seems to be slipping away.

But I can’t talk about this with Shannon, at least not till after the mission. “Okay, you want the details?” I say, “There’s a ninety-two percent chance that the concrete is less than thirty centimeters thick. Is that precise enough for you?”

My message is deliberately testy, echoing Shannon’s attitude. She pauses again before answering.

“Proceed to the target. But be ready to retreat if they detect us.”

Her tone is neutral, emotionless. I shouldn’t get so upset. Like I said, we’re not human anymore. But somehow that makes it even more painful.

Before I move forward, I use my sonar to send a seismic ping through the soil. In less than two seconds, the sound wave will travel three miles back to the small communications device I embedded in the dirt near the Hochon River. That’s where Shannon and I landed two hours ago after parachuting out of the B-2 bomber. When the ping hits the device, it’ll send a radio signal to the bomber, which is still circling the area, five miles overhead. Marshall, who’s in charge of communications for the Pioneers, will then share my message with Zia and DeShawn. One ping means Shannon and I are okay. Two pings means we’re not.

After sending the message, I wait five seconds until I receive Marshall’s signal that we’re good to go. I wriggle the Snakebot forward and plunge my drill into the hard-packed dirt.

 

Other Books in the Series

The Six

 

The Six B N

 

About the Book

Exchanging their bodies for machines, these teens will defy expectations, brave danger, and defend civilization. They are The Six.

Adam’s muscular dystrophy has stolen his mobility, his friends, and in less than a year it will take his life. Virtual reality games are Adam’s only escape from his wheelchair. In his alternate world, he can defeat anyone. Running, jumping, scoring touchdowns: Adam is always the hero.

Then an artificial intelligence program hacks into Adam’s game. Created by Adam’s computer-genius father, Sigma has gone rogue, threatening to kill Adam—and the entire human race. Their one chance to stop Sigma is using the technology Adam’s dad developed to digitally preserve the mind of his dying son.

Along with a select group of other terminally ill teens, Adam becomes one of the Six who have forfeited their failing bodies to inhabit weaponized robots. But with time running short, the Six must learn to manipulate their new mechanical forms and work together to train for epic combat…before Sigma destroys humanity.

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Meet the Author

Mark Alpert
Mark Alpert

Mark Alpert is a contributing editor at Scientific American and the author of several science-oriented adult thrillers: Final Theory, The Omega Theory, Extinction, and The Furies. This is his first young adult novel. He lives with his family in New York. Visit Mark online at markalpert.com.

Connect With the Author

Website: http://www.markalpert.com/author.php

Twitter: @AlpertMark

 

Giveaway

Two Copies of The Siege

Runs July 1-July 30 (US and Canada only):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Defending Taylor Release Tour @MirandaKennealy @SourcebooksFire

Defending Taylor

By Miranda Kenneally

 

DefendingTaylor-SocialMedia-506x253

 

Release Date: July 5, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

 

Praise for Defending Taylor

“I can’t quite put my finger on what is so enthralling about Kenneally’s newest novel, but it totally sucked me in. I loved that Kenneally didn’t go with an easy, traditional happy-go-lucky ending. I also enjoyed the flawed nature of the characters, which made them feel more relatable. This is a great summer read and my favorite novel by Kenneally so far!” –RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

 

About the Book

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

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(The Defending Taylor e-book includes an exclusive bonus story with Jordan and Henry from Catching Jordan!)

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9781492630081-PR

 

Defending Taylor Pre-Order Sweepstakes

Defending Taylor Pre-Order Prizes

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ikUCnAd1VHV_f3YdFo3d4EHZMuzEdDYS6e1OG4d0xEM/viewform

 

Excerpt

I now understand culture shock: it’s me experiencing Hundred Oaks High for the first time.

A lot of kids go here. Five hundred? A thousand? There are so many I can’t tell. At St. Andrew’s, there were only forty kids in my entire class. We lived on a calm, sprawling, green campus. Walking down the halls of Hundred Oaks feels like last-­minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.

Two guys wearing football jerseys are throwing a ball back and forth. It whizzes by my ear. A suspender-­clad male teacher is hanging a poster for the science fair, while a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm. If they move another inch, they’ll set off the sprinklers. At St. Andrew’s, kissing in the hall was an über no-­no. We snuck under the staircase or went out into the woods. Ben and I did that all the time.

Thinking of him makes me stop moving. I shut my eyes. Dating Ben was stupid. Going into the woods with him was stupid. Thinking about what happened makes me so mad, I want to rip that newly hung science fair poster off the wall and tear it apart.

A boy shoves past me, slamming my arm with his backpack. That’s what I get for loitering in the middle of the hallway with my eyes closed. He looks me up and down. “You coming to Rutledge Falls this afternoon?”

“What?”

“Paul Simmons challenged Nolan Chase to a fight. Rutledge Falls. Three o’clock. Don’t tell the cops.”

A fight? Where the hell am I? Westeros?

A girl bumps into my side. “Watch it!” Flashing me a dirty look, she disappears into a classroom with a group of friends, chattering away.

Seeing those girls together reminds me of my best friends, Steph and Madison. Right now, they’re probably gossiping before trig starts. I miss Steph’s cool British accent and Madison’s cheerful laugh.

I take a deep, rattled breath. And then another. I feel trapped, like the time I got locked in my grandpa’s garage and no one found me for an hour and I banged on the windows until my fists turned purple from bruises.

I can’t believe I had to leave my school. My home.

All because I made one stupid decision.

I check my schedule. My first class is calculus 1, the most advanced math course Hundred Oaks offers. Just a week ago, I was taking an advanced calculus quiz at the University of the South. St. Andrew’s is one of the best prep schools in the country, and they offer seniors the opportunity to take courses at the university, which is up the road. Even though I was still in high school, the professors treated me just like a college kid. I was only in the course for two weeks, but still. It was insanely difficult. The truth is, unlike everybody else in my family, I hate math. I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.

But if I didn’t take college calc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. I need to go to a top-tier school because that’s what people in my family do. My father attended Yale, and my sister Jenna is there now. According to Dad, my brother Oliver—­Jenna’s twin—­is a traitor for going to Princeton, but I think Dad respects him for having the balls to make his own decision.

Me?

When Dad called me into his home office last night, he barely looked at me as he pored over my new schedule. The silence was killing me.

“I don’t know how Yale will still consider me if I’m not taking all AP courses,” I said. “Hundred Oaks only offers AP chemistry.”

Dad sighed, took off his glasses, and set down my schedule. “I’m incredibly disappointed in you, Taylor.”

I looked him straight in the eyes. His quiet restraint worried me. I’d never seen him so upset.

But I was upset too. He rarely had time to call me when I was away at school, but he could spare a few minutes to comment on my one screwup? After how hard I’ve always worked?

Over the years, I’ve done hours of homework every night. I had a 4.2 GPA at St. Andrew’s. A 1520 SAT score. I was on track to be valedictorian. I was captain of the soccer team and on the debate team. I did everything I could to show Yale that I worked hard. That I am a unique individual. Because that’s what Yale wants.

But my one misstep has muddied my glowing record.

Dad ended our conversation with a death knell.

“Tee, I gave you all the tools you needed to succeed,” he said. “I’ve paid for your private school education since first grade, and you squandered it by getting kicked out.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, my face burning. “I’m going to keep working hard at Hundred Oaks though.”

“You’re damn right you will.”

My father had me so flustered, I wasn’t thinking straight when I said, “Maybe Yale will still take me because of who I am.”

“You mean because of who I am.” Dad rubbed his eyes. “I’ve always taught you kids the importance of integrity, and the minute you got into trouble, instead of owning it, you called me to bail you out. And now you’re doing it again. Using my name to try to get ahead.”

I hung my head. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“I love you more than anything, but you have to take responsibility for what you did. You’ll have to figure college out on your own.”

“What does that mean?” I asked slowly.

“It means I’m not lifting a finger. I won’t be calling the alumni association or the school president to put in a good word for you.”

“But didn’t you do that for Jenna and Oliver?” I blurted.

He put his glasses back on. “You need to own up, Tee.”

So here I am, glancing around the unfamiliar halls of Hundred Oaks. The school is neat and orderly, but it doesn’t look completely clean, like no matter how hard you scrub, it still looks old. At least it’s not juvie.

I step into my math class, which is already filled with kids. I choose an empty seat at a wobbly wooden desk and stare out the window at the sunny, seventy-­degree September day. I bet at St. Andrew’s, my world politics teacher is telling my friends, “Gather your books. It’s a beautiful day out. Let’s have class in one of the gardens.”

I check out the problem set on the whiteboard. I could do this level of math years ago…

My former guidance counselor told me that colleges look for trends in our GPA and activities over four years of high school. So that means when colleges see my application, they will see:

I’m taking easier classes;

I’m no longer doing debate;

I’ve lost my soccer captainship this year; and

I was expelled.

I have never simply given up when calculus got a lot tougher or an opponent ran faster than me on the soccer field. So I refuse to believe my entire future is over because of one mistake.

I just need to figure out how to move forward.

 

Meet the Author

Miranda Kenneally_12.30.13_cred. Rebekah J. MurrayGrowing up in Tennessee, MIRANDA KENNEALLY dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband. Visit mirandakenneally.com

Social Media Links:

Website ~~ Twitter ~~ Instagram

 

Giveaway

2 Copies of Defending Taylor

Runs July 1 – July 30, 2016 (US & Canada only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

SBFire

Frayed Book Tour @kara_terzis @SourcebooksFire

Frayed

By Kara Terzis

 

9781492631736-PR

 

Release Date: June 7, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

 

About the Book

Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Every time I see her, she asks whether I’ve started, and every session I tell her it’s a stupid idea.

But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. I tried saying it’s morbid, but that ran dry when she said it could be therapeutic. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper.

I pondered over where I should start the letter. Where, after all, did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died? I chose the latter, thinking that at least the letter would be done quicker that way.

Starting this letter is one of the hardest things I’ve done, Kesley. There are so many places I could start, but I chose this place. So here goes nothing, Kesley, because it began, and ended, with you.

And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town.

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought …

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The unhealthy growl of a car pulled me from my thoughts. I fixed a smile onto my face as my best friend, Lia Zhang, pulled up to the curb.

The window slid down with a hum and she poked her head out the opening. Her long curtain of glossy black hair looked sleek and model-like, achieving a quality that all those hair product ads promised. Lia’s half-Filipino, half-Chinese heritage showed through in the flawlessness of her skin, too.

“Get in,” she said. “You must be freezing your ass out there.”

I shivered at her words, only just then noticing the way that the cold seemed to bite at my skin, but I ignored the foreboding feeling that crept up on me. I walked around to the passenger seat and slid in, the warmth from the heater engulfing me. Oddly enough, I didn’t find it comforting at all.

Music pumped from the car speakers, but on seeing my gaze flicker toward it, she rolled her eyes and turned it down. She knew I hated music.

“You were ten minutes late,” I said. “Why?”

She pressed her lips together before she laughed. “Yeah, I know. Such a rebel, right? ‘Cause, like, I have a record of being so punctual anyway.” Lia was always known for being late. Fashionably, but still——late was late. Time was precious. It could seep past you without you even knowing.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it could vanish.

I tilted my head in her direction. I knew Lia like I knew the back of my hand. Better, probably. And by the way her eyes were too focused on the road ahead, I knew that something was wrong. Just like it always did, her facade cracked.

“Just don’t be angry at me, okay?” she whispered.

“You know I won’t,” I said, and despite the thick cloud of depression that still covered me, I managed a small smile. Or a replica of what used to be my smile, anyway. Most people didn’t look deep enough to see the difference.

Lia shot me a skeptical look, but answered. “I ran into someone this morning, at the café.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Rafe Lawrence.”

My mind went blank for a moment as I stared out the window. I was distantly aware of the thumping coming from my chest, getting louder and louder as the seconds ticked passed. Breathe, Ava, breathe.

“Yeah,” said Lia. “I know, right? He leaves, and suddenly, a few months after Kesley dies—” She broke off with a stiff glance in my direction. “Anyway,” she continued, “he’s back now. He told me that he wants to talk to you.” I swallowed, but my throat was dry. It felt like I was swallowing parchment. My tongue felt too thick in my mouth and I couldn’t seem to form any words.

“Right,” I managed.

“You’re not going to go, right?” she said.

I hesitated. Was I?

“Don’t be insane, Ava. You know the boy has issues. I never understood what Kesley even saw in him, anyway.” Her jaw tightened for a fraction of a second.

“They weren’t together like that,” I said, cutting her off swiftly. An instant defensiveness had sprung up inside me of me.

“If you say so,” Lia muttered, eyeing the marked road that stretched ahead of us. I sighed and glanced out the window once more. Lia and I were both stubborn; we both thought that we were always right. That was where we clashed. Continually. But she was also the best and only friend that I had, so I clung on tight to her.

She and Jackson were the only ones I had left

But I also knew Lia had seen Rafe as more than just a friend of Kesley’s, something she’d deny profusely, as he’d rejected her on multiple occasions.

I’d always wondered just how bitter she felt toward Kesley about that.

The pine trees were a blur of green and brown as we sped past, heading in the general direction of the one school that Circling Pines had. Winter was drawing closer by the second, though the thought didn’t bother me. At least it would give me an excuse to stay indoors all day.

“What exactly did Rafe tell you?” I asked Lia as we passed the only shopping strip: a collection of café’s and overpriced clothes shops.

“Not much,” Lia admitted. “Only that he wanted to meet you for coffee this afternoon to talk.” There was a pause, a very deliberate, prolonged pause. “I also told him that you wouldn’t go.”

“Lia…”

“I know! I’m sorry! But you can’t actually be considering this.”

I folded my arms over my chest and glared at the pine trees. My hands shook, and I resisted the urge to ball them into fists. “Until you give me a good reason why, then I’m going,” I said in a surprisingly calm voice.

Lia tapped the steering wheel in a melodic sort of way, though I knew it was more of a nervous habit than a conscious thought. It looked like she was fighting against something she wanted to say, as if she was worried it might get me upset. I’d seen that look plenty of times in the past weeks.

“What’s bothering you?” I said.

“What do you really know about Rafe?” she blurted out.

“Um. He was a year younger than my sister, spent way too much time in juvenile detention, my foster mother never liked him much—”

“Okay, okay,” interrupted Lia. “But I mean, what do you know about Rafe and your sister?”

“I don’t know, she never told me much about him, all right? Can we just leave it at that?” The school gates were coming into view, iron-wrought and impressive looking, with ivy that clung to the metal like a winter coat.

“Fine,” said Lia. She angled the car into a free parking space near the back of the almost full parking lot and killed the engine. The lot was deserted. Everyone must have been in class already, meaning that Lia and I were horribly late. Lia pulled the car keys out of the ignition and stuffed them into her jacket pocket with a brief glance in my direction. “All I’m saying is that your sister was murdered, and there’s a killer on the loose.”

Her words sent a chill through me more than the bitterly cold air outside.

 

Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Frayed by Kera Terzis for the purpose of an honest review.

Reading Frayed by Kera Terzis was quite an experience. Frayed was a book that bound my attention from the beginning.

It’s written in first person, and at times through the letter Ava is writing to her sister, Kelsey. I did have a difficult time upon occasion differentiating what was the letter and what was the story being told.

The characters, other than Ava, were written relatively vaguely and I would have enjoyed knowing more of their stories, unless Ms. Terzis is planning on giving each of them a book of their own.

Ms. Terzis is a good writer. The plot wasn’t difficult to follow. I was kept guessing throughout but the “Wow” at the end was a fantastic way to finish up Frayed.

I do recommend Frayed by Kera Terzis and give it four steaming cups of Room With Books coffee.

 

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©June 10, 2016

Patricia, Room With Books

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Meet the Author

Kara Terzis was twelve when she wrote her first novel, and has not stopped writing since. Later she started publishing her work on Wattpad where in 2013 she won Sourcebooks Story Development Prize. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia. You can visit her online at http://www.diaryofateenwriter.wordpress.com/

Connect With the Author

Website: https://diaryofateenwriter.wordpress.com/

Tumblr: http://karaterzis.tumblr.com/

Twitter: @kara_terzis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kara-Terzis/

 

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The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek @JeffStrand @SourcebooksFire

 

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever

Author: Jeff Strand

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Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Jeff Strand gives readers a sneak peek at his latest novel The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, and shares his five favorite zombie movies:

Jeff Strand’s Five Favorite Zombie Movies

My five favorite zombie movies are very similar to many other people’s five favorite zombie movies. I could’ve gone the condescending click-bait route and written about “The Five Best Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen!” but, no, I’m going with my five real favorites….

#5: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004 version). I was one of the many people bellowing, “You can’t remake DAWN OF THE DEAD! This is blasphemy! Blasphemy!!!” But somehow this remake to a sequel (but not a sequel to the remake) turned out to be awesome. Not quite as good as the original (SPOILER ALERT: That’s #3 on this list) but one of my all-time favorites.

#4: RE-ANIMATOR. I’ve now seen plenty of movies that are more over-the-top insane than RE-ANIMATOR, but this was the first movie where I simply couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was hard to believe that a movie so dark and gruesome could be so funny.

#3: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978 version). Shameful confession: When I first saw this in high school I thought it was stupid and boring. Fortunately, I matured and accepted that it’s one of the high points of zombie cinema. It’s the reason I know to duck before walking toward spinning helicopter blades.

#2: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Fast zombies long before 28 DAYS LATER! The first time zombies ate brains! It doesn’t often get the credit it deserves, but this is one of the most influential zombie movies ever.

#1: SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The greatest zombie comedy ever. The greatest zombie movie ever. The greatest MOVIE ever.

 

 

About THE GREATEST ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER:

After producing three horror movies that went mostly ignored on YouTube, Justin and his filmmaking buddies decide it’s time they create something noteworthy, something epic. They’re going to film the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. They may not have money or a script, but they have passion. And, after a rash text message, they also have the beautiful Alicia Howtz—Justin’s crush—as the lead.

With only one month to complete their movie, a script that can’t possibly get worse, and the hopes and dreams of Alicia on the line, Justin is feeling the pressure. Add to that a cast of uncooperative extras and incompetent production assistants, and Justin must face the sad, sad truth. He may actually be producing The Worst Zombie Movie Ever…

 

 

About Jeff Strand:

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books, and is a four-time nominee (and four-time non-winner) of the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his young adult novels, A Bad Day For Voodoo and I Have A Bad Feeling About This, were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Tampa, Florida.

Website – @JeffStrand

 

Excerpt from The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever:

The vampire, whose fangs were too big for his mouth, turned to the camera and hissed.

“Don’t look at the camera,” said Justin Hollow, the director.

“I keep poking my lip on these things,” said Harold, spitting the plastic fangs out onto the ground. He hadn’t been a very frightening example of the undead before, and he was even less scary with no fangs and a thick line of drool running down his chin.

“Cut!” shouted Justin, loud enough to be sure that the command was heard by his production crew of two. “C’mon, Harold. Stay in character. We’re three hours behind schedule.”

“I don’t care. I hate this. You promised that I’d get all the girls I wanted. So where are all of the girls I want?”

Justin let out his thirty-ninth exasperated sigh of the night. “The movie has to come out first.”

“It’s not even a real movie.”

Justin bristled. It was a full body bristle, head to toe, which he hadn’t even realized was physically possible. Bobby, who handled sound recording, and Gabe, who handled everything else, both stepped back a couple of feet. Neither of them truly believed that they were about to witness a murder, but they wanted to get out of the splash zone, just in case.

Had this been one of Justin’s movies, he would have very slowly lowered his camera, stared directly into Harold’s eyes with a steel gaze, and then after an extremely dramatic pause asked “What…did…you…just…say?”

His actual response, delivered in a squeakier voice than he would have allowed from his actors, was: “Huh?”

“I said it’s not a real movie.” Harold started to wipe the fake blood off his mouth. It didn’t come off, and probably wouldn’t for several days. Justin had planned to feel guilty about this later, but now he wouldn’t bother. “Nobody’s ever going to see it. You probably won’t even finish it.”

“I finished my last three movies!” Justin insisted. “I got hundreds of hits on YouTube!”

That statement was technically accurate, though it was the lowest possible number of hits you could get and still use “hundred” in its plural form. The only comment anybody posted about his latest film had been “This twelve year-old filmmaker sort of shows promise,” which really frustrated Justin since he was fifteen.

Harold shrugged. “This is a waste of time. I’ve got better things to do on a Friday night.”

“Nobody ever said this was going to be easy,” said Justin, who had indeed said that it was going to be easy when luring Harold into the role. “You can quit now, but what are you going to think about your decisionten years from now?”

“I’m going to think, wow, it sure is nice to be such a well-paid dentist.”

Harold walked off the set. It wasn’t an actual set, but rather a small park near Justin’s home, where they were filming without a permit. Justin knew he should shout something after his ex-actor. Something vicious. Something devastating. He thought about shouting “You’ll never work in this town again!” but, no, it had to be something that Harold would consider a bad thing.

“Fine!” Justin shouted. “But when we record the audio commentary track for the Blu-Ray, I’m going to talk about how you abandoned us, and how much happier everybody was with the new actor who took your role, and how we all agreed that he should have been cast in the first place, and how he had so many girlfriends that he couldn’t even keep track of them, and how they all found out about each other and had a great big awesome catfight in his front yard! And I’ll pronounce your name wrong!”

Harold continued walking, apparently not heartbroken.

 

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DON’T GET CAUGHT Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

Don’t Get Caught

Author: Kurt Dinan

 

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Release Date: April 1, 2015

Publishers: Sourcebooks Fire

 

Debut author Kurt Dinan reveals the cover of Don’t Get Caught, and gives readers a first-time sneak peek.

Describe your book in 140 characters or less?

A high school nobody recruits a crew of misfits for heists and pranks to get revenge on the mysterious Chaos Club. #DontGetCaught

How did you come up with the idea for Don’t Get Caught?

Look, who hasn’t wanted to rob a bank?  Or at least hasn’t thought about it? I can’t be the only one, right? Right? So, I suppose Don’t Get Caught is my way of robbing a bank without risking actual jail time because, let me make this clear, I would not do well in prison. I love capers, heists, and schemes, and while the crew in this novel aren’t robbing banks, they are satisfying my criminal thoughts by doing the teenage equivalent of bank robbery–wrecking havoc in their high school.

Tell us about the main character.

Max is a high school nobody, a kid who’s smart enough and nice enough to get by, but who doesn’t really fit in anywhere. So basically, he’s me at sixteen. But what Max has that I certainly didn’t have is a genius-level ability to scheme and a newly discovered gift for leading misfits. He’s underestimated by everyone, a fact that works to his advantage when he decides it’s time to write his name in the wet cement of the universe by destroying a forty-year-old secret society.

Did your class in high school pull any memorable pranks? Or is there one you wish you had pulled?

My prank life didn’t begin until college when I helped mastermind a promotion for a fake campus concert that almost led to my arrest. But in my final year of high school, the six-hundred members of my senior class were crowded onto bleachers for an all-class picture. I look at that picture now and see an opportunity for chaos. I mean, how much would it have cost to hire an airplane to drop a hundred gallons of water at the precise moment the picture was taken? Or to organize a group of kids to all wear neon shirts and arrange themselves into something profane within the crowd? It’s missed opportunities like this that keep me up at night.

What books formed your thinking or reflected who you were as a child and teen reader?

I read a lot of early Stephen King probably before I was old enough, and then through high school it was mostly comic books and classics. I do specifically remember reading Helter Skelter during my junior year, dragging that non-fiction monster around with me for a month or so. Looking back on it now, that’s probably all of the evidence needed to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school.

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About Don’t Get Caught:

17-year-old Max Cobb is sick of being “Just Max”—the kind of guy whose resume boasts a measly 2.5 GPA and a deep love of heist films. So when an invitation appears in his locker to join the anonymous, untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, Max jumps at the opportunity to leave “Just Max” in the dust.

Except that the invite is really a set-up, and Max—plus the 4 other kids who received similar invitations—are apprehended by school security for defacing the water tower. This time, Max has had enough. Time for Heist Rule #6:

Always Get Payback.

Let the prank war begin…

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About Kurt Dinan:

Kurt Dinan is a high school English teacher. He’s had several short stories published, including one in 2010’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, three young sons, and baby girl. Don’t Get Caught is his first novel.

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Excerpt from Don’t Get Caught:

I may not be a fan of heights, but I especially hate ladders. I always think the rung I’m on is going to break away and send me plummeting. So climbing the water tower ladder in the dark, the rungs sticky for some reason, only worries me more. But despite that, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how awesome this was. The higher I climb, the harder my heart pounds from the adrenaline. I feel like a jewel thief scaling a skyscraper at midnight on his way to stealing the Hope Diamond.

Up ahead in the darkness, Wheeler goes into a mock newscaster’s voice announcing, “Five Asheville High School students fell to their deaths last evening when—”

“Shut up,” Malone says.

The climb takes only two minutes but feels like an hour when the ladder ends at the base of a metal grating no more than four feet wide. If a strong wind blows, a waist-high railing is all that’s there to keep me from hurtling to my death.

“Wow, this is higher than I thought,” Ellie says, looking out over the lights of the town.

Malone, recording everything with her phone, says, “I wish I had my climbing gear. I’d love to repel off this.”

“What was it Jesus said, Ellie?” Wheeler says. “‘I think I can see my house from up here’?”

And me, I want down. And not just down, but to roll in the grass and kiss the earth. Then, as I’m about to wuss out, Ellie’s hand is in mine and she’s leading me along the platform.

“Come on,” she says. “Let’s look for the next clue.”

Her hand is soft and warm, and if the platform gives away right now, I can die a happy man.

“You get to open the next envelope if there is one,” Ellie says. “Or maybe it’ll be like in the movies, and there’ll be a cell phone that rings and—”

My foot kicks something metal sending it clanking and skittering across the platform before dropping into the night.

From the other side of the tower Malone says, “What was that?”

I look down at my feet and see four more of what I’ve just booted—spray paint cans.

And in one horrifying moment, I realize why the rungs were sticky when we climbed.

Red paint covers my hands.

Oh shit.

I lean back for a better view of the water tower to see what’s been spray-painted there. The wet paint trails down from certain letters like red teardrops.

Double shit.

Heist Rule #5: When in doubt, run.

But we don’t get that chance.

Suddenly, the water tower lights blaze to life illuminating the newly painted message for the entire town to see.

Assville High School, Home of the Golden Showers.

Both Malone and Wheeler say, “Shit.”

Ellie says, “Wow.”

Adleta says nothing.

And then a voice booms from a bullhorn below where red-and-blue lights flash in the parking lot.

“This is the police. Come down immediately.”

So much for Don’t get caught.

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Wild Sky Spotlight Tour

Title: Wild Sky

Authors: Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

 

Wild Sky

 

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal)

 

About the Book

Skylar is a girl with extraordinary power. A girl with a mission to use her Greater-Than gifts to stop the makers of Destiny from getting people hooked on their deadly drug. But Sky is still mastering her new abilities, and her first mission to destroy a Destiny lab leaves her best friend addicted to the drug. For a few days Cal will be able to walk again – until it kills him. Time is running out for Sky to save the world without sacrificing her friends, to become truly Greater-Than…

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Available for Pre-Order

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Message From The Authors

Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

Mel: Wild Sky is a paranormal story, set in Florida, approximately fifty years in the future. In this world, a small percentage of people, mostly girls and young women, are born with a chemical in their blood that gives them superpowers like telekinesis or extraordinary strength.

Suz: Nicknamed “Greater-Thans” or “G-Ts,” these girls have been targeted for kidnapping by bad guys who harvest their blood and use it to manufacture a drug called “Destiny.” Destiny is extremely expensive, highly addictive, and ultimately fatal, but before the user dies from it, the drug reverses the aging process, heals illness and injury, and gives the addict super powers, too.

Mel: It’s pretty scary stuff! Oh, and just an FYI: Although Wild Sky is the sequel to Night Sky, you don’t have to read Night Sky for Wild Sky to make sense!

Suz: All you really need to know is that in Night Sky sixteen-year-old Skylar Reid discovers that she’s a Greater-Than with some serious superpowers.

Mel: And that Sky and her best friend Calvin–a really upbeat kid who’s spent most of his life in a wheelchair–have some dangerous adventures with another tough-girl G-T named Dana, and Dana’s extremely (ahem) attractive sidekick Milo.

Suz: Sky and Milo really hit it off, so in Wild Sky, they’re a bit of an item.

Mel: A bit! In Wild Sky, Sky and her friends get into more trouble as they search for Dana’s sister, Lacey, who disappeared years ago and has been presumed dead.

Suz: But now Sky’s got reason to believe Lacey’s being held captive in a Destiny “farm.” And of course, high jinx ensue, and our beloved character Calvin is put into extreme danger–although throughout most of it, he holds onto his crazy sense of humor!

Mel: We both love Calvin very much!

Suz: And Sky does, too! When we developed the Night Sky series, we wanted to center it around a main character we could easily relate to. And even though we grew up in very different circumstances –

Mel: Mom has an older sister, I have a younger brother. My dad was a lawyer, my mom a writer. My mom’s parents were both teachers.

Suz: I grew up listening to the Beatles –

Mel: Christina Aguilera.

Suz: Watching Star Trek.

Mel: Full House.

Suz: Paul Newman!

Mel: Bradley Cooper!

Suz: But despite all of those superficial differences, Mel and I shared experiences far too common to teenage girls. Waves of self-doubt, with occasionally soul-crushing periods of insecurity.

Mel: Yet even at our lowest moments, we knew that there were things we were really good at.

Suz: And that’s where Sky came from. A young woman whose primary goal is to fit in with her peers, but whose G-T status makes that virtually impossible. Or so she believes.

Mel: Of course, her friends recognize Sky for who she really is – a funny, loyal young woman with a huge heart — whose superpowers only add to her awesomeness. But for Skylar, nothing comes easy. Everything seems to be on shaky ground – her budding romantic relationship with Milo, her ability to help Dana find Lacey, even her friendship with Calvin.

Suz: It’s that very human mix of vulnerabilities and strengths that make Skylar so special.

Mel: We hope readers see Wild Sky as not just a really exciting, action-packed adventure, but a story about Skylar’s quest – and really every teenage girl’s quest — to own her awesome.

Suz: Because we truly believe that everyone is born with abilities that – no matter how seemingly small or insignificant — should be recognized and celebrated! It is our differences that make us Greater-Than.

 

Excerpt

I wish I could say I’d never witnessed a windshield shatter before, but I’d been in a terrible car accident a few years back, so I knew exactly what it looked and sounded like.

There’s a weird silence that happens immediately after something like that, in which everything seemed to occur in slo-mo. I forced my mouth to move.

“Gunshot!” I shouted, because I could see both Cal and Garrett looking wildly around, trying to process exactly what that noise was and what had just happened. “Bullet to car window! Over to the right.”

The broken windshield belonged to a beat-up sedan parked two slots down from us in the Sav’A’Buck lot. Someone had fired a gun, just once, probably from somewhere near the grocery store’s front doors, judging from that broken front wind. Shards of glass made tinkling sounds as they careened off the front of the car and onto the pavement.

“Gunman at the store door, get down, get down, get down!” Calvin shouted, and I stupidly turned to look instead of diving onto the floor of his car, and he grabbed me by the shirt and yanked me down just as the shooter must’ve flipped the switch from one shot to massacre, and the gun began going off, popping bullets though the air.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! POP! BOOM!

I braced for them to hit Cal’s car, covering my head as I prepared for a rain of glass, but the man with the giant gun must’ve been pointing it in a different direction, because I heard the ping of punctured metal and breaking glass, but it wasn’t fro out car.

I could hear someone screaming—high-pitched and frantic—even as Garrett yelled, “Calvin, drive!”

“Don’t,” I told Cal as I closed my eyes and focused on that glimpse I’d seen before he’d pulled me to relative safety.

Single gunman. Carrying…

A big gun. And something else…?

I focused on calling up the image, and yes, he was carrying something under his left arm, some kind of brightly colored sack, with his assault rifle tucked into his right elbow—this tall, broad man, maybe twenty years old, buzz cut, scar above his eyebrow.

That screaming—it had been a child’s voice. She was silent now, but I realized with a flash that I hadn’t seen a colorful bag but instead the cheerfully patterned clothing of a little girl. That man with the gun was abducting a little girl. And I bet I knew why.

“Gimme! I said and reached back to grab one of the water guns from beside Garrett.

“Sky!” Cal exclaimed. “Don’t—”

I didn’t wait to hear what he thought I shouldn’t do. I’d yanked my hood up over my head, hiding my red hair and as much of my face as I could, and I was already out of the car and on the asphalt, heading toward the man who was still firing that gun. He was using it not to kill, thank goodness, but to keep the little girl’s family from following him. I could see with just one glance that she was unconscious, as he tossed her none too carefully into the passenger seat of his shiny black Beemer. He had a nice car. And I was pretty sure I knew how he’d paid for it-by kidnapping little girls like this one, like Sasha, too, and selling them to the Destiny makers.

Mother. Effer.

Hey!” I belted out. But my voice was buried beneath the cacophony of his weapon. I had to move fast, or he was going to get in to his snazzy car and that little girl would be gone.

I took a deep breath and concentrated. Water versus bullets? Not normally much of a contest there.

But I could do this. Couldn’t I?

Suddenly, I heard Dana’s voice in my head, shouting Fail! Fail! What are you doing, Bubble Gum? You have no backup, you have no plan!

What was I doing? This was insane.

Still thoughts. I closed my eyes and pictured Milo. I breathed him, I felt him, I heard him. Still thoughts, Sky. Just let it go…

And in that moment in which I was specifically not thinking about what I was about to do or what the consequences would be if I failed, I felt and then saw my enormous pile of plastic water pistols—there were sixteen of them total—shoot out from the backseat of Calvin’s car and through the passenger side window that I’d left open. They streamed toward me like metal particles toward a magnet.

Then, just as quickly, all but one—a little green one—swooped in from of me before lining up and hovering in midair.

The little green plastic water gun zoomed over to the man with the real gun and smacked him in the face.

“What the hell…?” He fumbled his weapon as he turned to see me standing there—me and that collection of water guns—and his eyes widened.

“Holy shit, Sky!” With the noise from the assault weapon silenced, I could hear Garrett shouting, and I winced inwardly because he’d used my name.

But whatever he said next was muffled, and Cal’s voice rang out instead. “Hoshitski, look out!”

It was an intentional misdirect, and I tried to stand like a Hoshitski might, no doubt surly from years of being teased. I pitched my voice lower and ordered, “Drop it! Now!”

The gunman’s wide eyes narrowed, and we both knew he wasn’t going to drop his weapon, so before he could turn and kill me, I let lose my TK and blasted him. All of those plastic guns shot water from their barrels with the intensity of sixteen narrow but powerful fire hoses, and it sent the man down onto the ground so hard that I heard his head as it smacked against the pavement.

The gun he’d been holding clattered to the ground.

All of my weapons ceased water-fire and dropped onto the pavement in from of the unconscious shooter.

The silence that followed was eerie. I felt a little dazed, standing there with a single, silly-looking pink water gun still in my hand, staring at the downed man and his big real gun, and then over at the bullet-riddled storefront of the Sav’A’Buck.

 

About the Authors

SuzanneMelanieBrockmann

Suzanne Brockman, a New York Times and  USA Today bestselling romance author, has won 2 RITA awards, numerous RT Reviewers’ Choice, and RWA’s #1 Favorite Book of the Year three years running. She has written over 50 books, and is widely recognized as a “superstar of romantic suspense” (USA Today). Suzanne and her daughter, Melanie Brockmann, have been creative partners, on and off, for many years. Their first project was an impromptu musical duet, when then-six-month-old Melanie surprised and delighted Suz by matching her pitch and singing back to her. Suzanne splits her time between Florida and Massachusetts while Mel lives in Sarasota, Florida. NIGHT SKY is Mel’s debut and Suzanne’s 55th book. Visit Suzanne at www.SuzanneBrockmann.com.

 

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