I can’t concentrate on whatever the hell the teacher is saying because of Kendal. Again.
Not that this is something new. Seriously, not something new at all! My mind has been completely preoccupied with Kendal at all times since…well, since we were six. Since we were paired. Every day she’s in my thoughts; I stare at her through classes, I torture myself at night thinking maybe I should grow a pair and just call her! But I never do. And I know that I never will. And I am beyond certain that she will never, ever call me. So if she were anyone else in the world, I might give up, but she’s not anyone else, she’s Kendal, so I think about her all the time, and the madness begins again.
This spiraling insanity is pretty common for me at this point. It’s as familiar of an emotion as any that I know, just more aggravating, like picking at wounds that don’t even get a chance to scar before they’re made fresh again.
It seems that Kendal is in a constantly circling mindset about me too, but while my thoughts continually revolve around every aspect of her, I’m pretty sure that in her mind, she kind of knows that I exist, then she purposely forgets me until she accidentally catches sight of me in the hall or scoffs at my voice in class, then she begins her own cycle as well.
I’ve easily missed half of the lesson today in History because of her. Usually I keep up pretty well in school, despite being obsessed with the way her hair lays, or the impossibly cute way she shifts her puckered lips to the left when she’s thinking. Regardless of my eyes always darting to her, I can keep my mind on task. But it has been getting harder lately, especially with Graduation coming soon. Still, not until today did she get my mind entirely off everything in class and leave me seriously fuming at her.
I’ve been mad at her before, and it’s always meant that I just struggle in my own private hell, but now she’s pushing limits I didn’t know I had. I mean, ignoring me was something I didn’t like but could accept. Dating other, more clearly alpha-male type guys than I am was maddening, but she’s allowed that right, even though it kills me. But this…good! GOD! This time she’s made me so pissed that I feel embers in my cheeks burning from anger and jealousy and maybe humiliation. I don’t know all the reasons, I just know I can’t calm down, so I’m sitting behind her, red in the face, and silently furious at what I see poking out from the corner of her messenger bag.
I tried telling myself that I could be wrong about what that little colored paper corner might be. Maybe it was a careers brochure she’d picked up from the Guidance Office, or information on advanced placement training for post-secondary people.
But I’ve seen those particular colors before, and I recognize the logo that’s partially exposed. Everyone would recognize it even from just a small sampling of its corner, and unfortunately, I know what it means. It means that Kendal, who’s supposedly the smartest girl in our year, is really the dumbest girl in the last five years! Because that stupid brochure means she’s considering him…well, not just him, but there too!
That little corner tells me all the stories about the future I’ve always dreamed of with her will never become reality. That corner means she’s considering turning against me, against the mandated pairing assignment, and against her entire civilization for a guy who’s a bigger pain in the ass than hemorrhoids.
God! I’ve been mad at her before, but for the first time in my life, I wonder if I might be starting to hate her now.
Almost instantly I feel myself ease up on my spite towards her when I think that maybe I’m starting to hate her. I know that’s not true. I don’t think I could ever really hate her, but it kind of feels like hate. It’s hot and intense and insane.
And it hurts.
And all because of that little brochure corner that’s peeking from her bag just enough to show the cobalt blue edge of the embossed letter “X”.
Kendal is seriously considering doing something that no one in the last five years has done, and for good reason. Whether it’s because of me, or him or some reason I can’t begin to understand, Kendal is thinking about choosing X Isle.
“Braden,” Mr. Kolmer’s voice snaps me from my thoughts, “are you alright?”
Mr. Kolmer doesn’t ask this as if he actually cares for my well-being. He asks it in an almost challenging tone because he dislikes boys. Everyone knows it. He dotes on the girls in class, and finds every reason possible to punish the guys. So I do what I’ve always done in these situations, which makes me look and feel sheepish.
“I’m, um, I’m sorry, Mr. Kolmer. I wasn’t listening.”
“Again?” He asks me as he folds his arms across his piggish belly. “And what’s the reason this time?” He still doesn’t care, he just wants me to give him something to use as a weapon against me.
“No reason, sir.”
Almost mockingly he asks, “Am I…boring you?” There’s the challenge. I open my eyes in surprise, as if this was the furthest thing from my mind, when in truth, yes, the fat sack does bore me.
“What?! No! Not at all! I just, well-“ I don’t even finish, just shake my head and look down pathetically as if admitting that I’m too dim to pay attention to him. There’s a long silence, and when I look up at him, his eyes are on Kendal, then dart back to me almost maliciously. He grins a knowing, devious smile before speaking again.
“Pretty sure I know what you’re thinking about. No matter,” he says airily, waving his hand to show he’s dismissed the whole situation from his mind, “but, since you’re back with us, let’s move on.” And he does, seamlessly going right back into whatever he was lecturing on.
And my eyes go right back to where they were, focusing on Kendal’s bag and the brochure she’s carrying around with all the reasons she should walk away from her promised life with me and into a life that I wouldn’t wish on even her total crap boyfriend, Kyle.
And again, here come the feelings of fury.
I could feel Braden’s eyes on me through our entire History class. If he’d been wearing laser goggles, there would be giant holes in the back of my shirt and my bag.
Braden thinks I don’t notice any of it – the way his gaze follows me around the room anytime we’re in the same space, the way he seems to almost anticipate my every movement, but I do notice, of course I do.
I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t acutely aware of Braden, of where he is in a room, what he’s doing, the way he’s watching me. He’s like true north on the compass of my senses; every instinct I have always points straight back to him.
Mady says that’s just the way things are supposed to be with your Partner; that’s how you know the pairing is a good one. She says she feels the same way about Kyle.
I don’t think it is how she feels about Kyle, though, because the way she acts around him is totally different than the way I act around Braden. She’s not just aware of him, she actively seeks him out, as if he were a research project. If I asked her right now, she’d probably be able to tell me what he ate for dinner last night.
Are you looking to discover some new fantasy authors and pick up some cheap reads? Stop by the one day Dark Side of the Sun Event happening on Facebook this Friday, June 27!
All of the authors will be dropping by to chat and to offer some fun giveaways, and all of the books (including Canes of Divergence) will be on sale for just 99 cents!
We’re offering a fun giveaway starting now, too! Be sure to enter below.
As you may have heard, I am currently in the process of writing a new installment in the Dusk Gate Chronicles.
Leaves of Revolution is expected to arrive sometime in early 2014.
In the meantime, let me know what you think of the cover, designed by the amazing Mallory Rock! And enjoy a special excerpt from the first draft below!
As the procession began moving forward, the small, warm bundle in Quinn’s arms wiggled, and the baby inside opened his eyes.
“Well, hello,” she said, lifting him close so she could kiss his forehead. He scrunched his little eyebrows and sneezed.
William chuckled beside her. “I thought maybe you’d sleep through your whole Naming Ceremony little one.” He leaned in close as she settled the baby back into her lap, laying his hand over the gold-embroidered symbol on their son’s long green velvet gown.
In response, the infant yawned so fiercely that his whole little body shuddered, making both of them laugh. When he finished he blinked up at them, his gray eyes wide, and the sides of his tiny mouth edging almost into a… “Is he smiling?” she whispered.
William nodded. “You are, aren’t you, mister? You know what today is.” He slipped one arm behind her back, reaching for the baby’s fingers with his other hand. “Today’s the day we celebrate you.”
She shifted so she was even closer to William, relishing the warmth of both his body and his words, although she was mindful of the fact that as soon as their carriage drove through the castle gate and into the city, hundreds of eyes would be on her.
As they grew closer to the crowd, he kept his hand right at the small of her back, gentle and reassuring in a way that made her feel strength flowing through his fingers and into her.
She heard them before she saw them, the throngs of people – her people – lining the streets of the city, cheering as the carriages came through, rising to a roar as Quinn and William appeared.
Despite her worst fears, the baby didn’t cry at the noise, or even when a flower came through the open window, landing on her lap right near him.
Instead, when she held him up near her cheek where the crowd could see him, he flashed the grin he’d just been practicing.
“Little Show-Off,” she cooed. “Six weeks old and already you’re better at winning over your kingdom than I am.”
“What about Thomas?” Was it possible for a brain to explode?
“I … we … don’t know where he is. Or at least nobody did when I left Eirentheos on Sunday night.”
“What do you mean?” She had never seen William like this, never heard him so upset he couldn’t speak clearly.
“I mean … When he didn’t come to meet me in Cloud Valley, I just figured that he’d had something else to do, or that he was still mad at me over the way I’d been treating you. Without the birds, there’s really no way to send a message…” he paused, trying to catch his breath. Her heart sank into her stomach as she realized that there might be a completely different reason for his behavior this week.
“And then I got back, and everyone was asking me where he was, why he hadn’t come back with me, and then we realized. Nobody had seen him or heard from him for eight days. Then Nathaniel went, and he came back here on Tuesday night. Thomas still had not returned. Nathaniel went back again last night. I’ve been going out of my mind.”
She did the math quickly in her head, her heart speeding in fear. “He still hasn’t come back from Philotheum?”
“No, that’s what I’m telling you … wait. What did you just say?” His face had gone from bone-white to dusky gray.
“Um,” she tried to speak, her voice suddenly small. “Just before I left, literally right before I went through the gate, Thomas told me he was going to Philotheum to try and find your cousin Lily.”
She really hoped he wasn’t going to pass out, because if he did, she had no idea who was going to pick up either of them. Mrs. Williams was tiny.
“He went to Philotheum? By himself? Without telling anybody?”
“He told me.”
“And you didn’t stop him?”
Her jaw dropped. “How was I supposed to stop him, William? What was I supposed to do? He waited to tell me until the gate was open, and then he kissed me and rode off into the sunset. Literally.” Guilt tugged at her insides, though. She could feel panic setting in. She was suddenly overpowered by a familiar feeling – the exact same feeling she’d been having in her dreams every single night. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He looked stricken.
“When was I supposed to? I’ve been trying to talk to you all week, but you keep blowing me off.” The feeling was growing, like a large, heavy balloon slowly filling her chest, making it difficult to breathe.
“What are you talking about? I’ve barely seen you, and on the rare occasion I do, you’re not alone. Or did you want me to let Zander Cunningham in on the secret?”
There wasn’t time to argue about this now. Along with the heavy balloon was a sense of urgency. They had to leave now. They had to do something. She glanced up at the sky; it was nearly dusk. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter right now. We need to go. Right now. We have time to make the gate if we run.”
He didn’t question her, just followed as she took off at a sprint, his pace matching hers. They wouldn’t have to run far; the library was just off the main highway that ran parallel to the river. In a few hundred yards, they would be able to turn onto one of the many hiking trails that intersected each other, and follow one down to the riverbank.
She was so focused on where she was going, what she was doing, that she didn’t even register the quick glimpse she caught of a black truck turning left into the parking lot as she and William ran out of it.
In honor of the upcoming ALL NEW book in The Dusk Gate Chronicles (yes, that’s the special news!), ALL of the book covers in the series have gotten a minor facelift, courtesy of the amazing Mallory Rock!
Check them out and be sure to let me know what you think. Which one is your favorite?
And stay tuned for more details about the new book … cover and title reveal and release date to come soon!
Seeds of Discovery has been available as an audiobook since June, but now you can also listen to Roots of Insight, the second book in the Dusk Gate Chronicles. Roots of Insight features a special twist — the narration was done by me! So if you’ve always wanted to know exactly how I pronounce the kingdoms, or hear how I’d read the scene in the basement between William and Quinn, go ahead and pick it up. The audiobook is available at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.
If you’ve never used Audible before, you can pick up Roots of Insight for FREE by signing up for a 30-day trial of Audible (which won’t cost you anything.)
Not sure? Listen to a sample!Read More
Yay for audiobooks!
Seeds of Discovery, the first book in the highly acclaimed romantic young adult adventure series, the Dusk Gate Chronicles, is now available as an audiobook, thorough Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes!
To celebrate, I’m giving away three copies to lucky winners!
If you’d like a copy of the Seeds of Discovery audiobook from Audible.com (valued at approx. $19.95), just enter below!