<>

Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

is a whole different struggle... Blinded (Bound #2 by Jennifer Dean

A risk that leads down a dangerous path once Emma begins to discover a secret about him that no human should ever know. 
... is a whole different struggle, and when tensions finally reach a breaking point between the siblings, looming enemies take advantage of the distraction.

Description:

Blinded (#2) 

Despite the attack that almost took her life, Emma Morgan has accepted the risk that comes from being in love with an immortal like Liam Alexander.

But continuing to seek the approval of her older brother is a whole different struggle, and when tensions finally reach a breaking point between the siblings, looming enemies take advantage of the distraction.

EXCERPT

Once the bell rang, Erika turned back to me freely as we both gathered our books.

“Have you thought of where you’re going to be applying for next year?”

Ugh. There it was again. The future. Thrown into my face.

“I haven’t, but I know I should be. What about you?” I asked.

“I know what you mean. I’m filling out the application for UNC today. My parents are probably going to have to take out some loans because the chance of a scholarship isn’t likely.”

I didn’t agree with her on that but sometimes throwing out a compliment only made the person want to deflect it. So instead I thought it was as good a time as any to input the lie. “That’s where Sean’s going.”

It stung a little to say his name.

“Oh, really? I thought with his GPA he would go for Duke.”

“No, he’s always been a Tar Heel fan since we were kids. I also think he wants to piss my dad off by going to the rival school too.” Erika chuckled along with me. Even with the amusement of the joke, in my mind, I was beginning to map out which universities lay in the eastern part of North Carolina. The Alexander’s permanent territory thanks to my brother. My stomach pulled as the mental map in my head realized the two schools I had even considered as a kid were west of that territory.

“Boys will be boys.” Erika brought me out of my reverie. “Speaking of Sean, is it awkward for him to know you are still dating his ex-girlfriend’s brother?”

Many thoughts surfaced through my head but I only managed, “No. He’s too occupied with his new life to worry much about Liam and me.”

“At least Sean’s finally out of Heather’s gaze,” Erika said.

“Is anyone really ever out of it?” I said.

We looked at each other before suddenly breaking into laughter as we both in unison said, “No.”

My smile remained as we walked through the door and saw Liam up against the wall to the right of the doorway. At sight of him Erika’s grin widened. “Hi, Liam.”

“Hello, Erika.” She winked at me with a smile, causing me to roll my eyes.

“See you at lunch, Emma.”

She turned with her smile, heading off to her locker. Shaking my head, I turned to Liam, but as I looked upon his face to see the friendly demeanor replaced with tension. He was staring at me with controlled eagerness.

“What—” I began, but only got the first word out.

“Are you feeling sick this afternoon?” Liam said.

My eyebrows rose at the interruption before my eyes narrowed in confusion.

“No, why?”

“I need you to be sick. I need to take you home for the day.” Now I wasn’t just confused, but concerned at the growing eagerness behind the glow of his eyes.

“What is this about?”

I knew without a doubt that something had been wrong with the phone call. And now it was to the point that he needed me to cut school because of it. I felt a twist within my stomach.

“I can be sick.” I shot out the words obediently. “But what’s wrong? Why do I need to be sick?”

“There is no time to explain here. Go to the bathroom, wet a few strands of hair and come out looking drained.”

I turned around, beginning a fast paced walk toward the bathroom without any further instruction. I turned the sharp corner in a hurry, almost knocking a freshman to the ground. Normally, I would have stopped to apologize but right now I was on a mission.

Once I pushed the door open, I headed for the sink. Ivy Spedler, a blonde junior, was at the other sink washing her hands. She turned her neck to give me a wide eyed look of concern before walking out. When the door shut behind her I swiftly turned the water on, splashing my forehead along with a few pieces of hair in the front. I closed my eyes, leaning forward as I held each side of the sink as I began to channel a worn expression. I exhaled, opening my eyes as my head rose to look into the mirror.

That was when Erika walked into the bathroom. I had not been expecting to see her again until lunch.

“Emma?”

Her lips frowned as she took in my worn and wet face. Erika had been just as surprised to see me before lunch as I was to see her. She moved her head backward in surprise to my state.

“Are you alright?”

It was time to practice my voice. It sounded a little played up but still effective.

“I just threw up,” I said.

“You seemed alright in class,” Erika said.

“I could feel something, but I was trying to ignore it. But after you left I told Liam I needed to go to bathroom.”

“Well, don’t take this the wrong way Emma, but you look kinda pale.”

“I know.” I tried not to take offense, as the insult was what I needed. Because if I could convince my friend with this fake and uneasy illness then I could certainly fool others. But part of me was somewhat surprised at the believable response. How bad had I made myself look?

“Whatever you have came fast… like some kind of stomach virus,” Erika said.

“That’s what it feels like,” I said.

“I hope it’s not like last time, when you were sick for three days. You should go to the nurse instead of lunch.”

“I think you’re right,” I said heading for the door. “Good luck tonight on the game.”

“Thanks. I hope you feel better before Thursday.”

“Me too,” I said.

I kept my voice almost groggy like a bad night’s sleep.

“Feel better,” Erika said.

She still looked concerned as I open the bathroom door. I exhaled in relief as I exited. Liam was waiting for me. His face was half impressed with my acting while still half concerned with whatever news he was withholding from me.

We were close, not touching as we walked down the hall until Liam stopped just before we were at the office door.

“Time to earn that Oscar,” Liam said. He winked before moving to place his right arm around my lower back while lifting my left to wrap around his neck. “Ready?”

“Yes,” I said.

As we began to move I kept my neck leaned slightly forward as if I was too tired to hold it up anymore. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the school receptionist, Mrs. Byrd open the glass door to the front office.

“Let me get the door while you help her, Liam.”

She walked ahead of us, heading for the two green doors at the front of the school. She continued walking through the door in order to hold it open from the outside. It seemed Liam had already set up the story while I was in the bathroom and here was the acting to see it through. I wasn’t sure what he said but it wasn’t relevant. Once we had made our way out the door I heard Mrs. Byrd again.

“Feel better Emma.”

We continued our pace straight down the sidewalk toward Liam’s BMW that had already been pulled up the curved drive of the school.

“You got the car and went to the office?” I said.

“Yes,” Liam said.

My eyebrows lifted slightly as Liam leaned down to open the passenger door for me. He helped me into the car before shutting the door and walking to his side at a human pace. Mrs. Byrd must have still been watching to make sure we got off okay.

Once Liam pulled out of the school lot and on to Slatestone Road we looked at each other before seeming to burst into accomplished laughter with the stunt we had just pulled off together.

“I think I at least deserve a nomination for that,” I said.

I bit my bottom lip, smiling as Liam moved to rest his right hand atop of my left.

“You have my vote.”

But our fun was short lived as I remembered the need to escape in the first place. The reason for faking this illness. I placed my other hand on top of Liam’s, feeling him squeeze my fingers in hopes of easing my anxiety. Something was wrong. I could feel the uneasy twist in my stomach again. I didn’t need to fake that.

Bound (#1) 

When fate leads Emma Morgan back to her small hometown of Washington, she learns that the life she knew three years ago has changed once she meets the charmingly, mysterious Liam Alexander. But when her brother Sean, voices his disapproval, Emma finds her loyalty in the way of her newfound curiosity of the youngest Alexander. Only the more she tries to avoid Liam the more she finds him in her constant company.

A risk that leads down a dangerous path once Emma begins to discover a secret about the Alexanders that no human should ever know. 

EXCERPT

I had woken early Saturday morning with a panic plaguing my mind. I must have checked the Daily Washington News five times, front to back. I even watched two early morning news editions before my dad had even gotten out of bed. It felt excessive and I realized it must have looked that way too as the corner of my eye caught sight of my mother’s many worried glances. But I was almost certain I would find one of the horrid reports that had haunted my dreams most of the night before. Teenage Boy Found Dead or Local Boy Presumed Missing. But nothing stood out among the articles of birth announcements, city budget cuts, and girls’ basketball playoffs. Not even in the obituaries. It was the same on Sunday too.

By Monday I felt nauseous from the tightened nerves of my stomach. My mind was utterly useless in my first five periods. Luckily, for my sanity, as I entered the cafeteria for lunch I caught sight of both Ross and Nick almost instantly at a corner table. The tension in my shoulders dropped. Even though I knew I would never see them the same, it was comforting to know they would live another day. At least this way they would have a chance at redemption.

Wait, I thought. My eyes shifted back to notice something strange about the two boys. They weren’t in their usual seats, which was always on either side of Sean at the left corner table, in the back of the cafeteria. In fact, they weren’t even near his table at all. They sat in the front left corner of the room as if they had been shunned from popularity.

What was worse was catching Ross’s remorseful gaze as I walked toward the lunch line. I couldn’t stand the uncomfortable melancholy that his slumped body held. Nick, on the other hand, couldn’t even find enough courage to look up from his thumbs. Had they shunned themselves from guilt?

I forced my eyes away so that I could grab some tea. My stomach was settling but still against the idea of food. I pursed my lips at the cause of my loss of appetite. The sight of them only brought back memories I hoped to soon forget, and hopefully that would be sooner rather than later.

But if I had felt the nerves at lunch, it was nothing compared to the way the anxiety of walking into English made them jump around. Once I had spotted Liam in his assigned seat I felt a dizzy spin from my stomach. I sat looking at my books, suddenly dissatisfied with the placement of my seat. Why did I have to be next to him?

I looked up at the overhead slides and back at my paper with determination when class began. It was a blessing that today’s notes gave my hands and mind something to do.

I was so anxious to leave when the bell sounded that I elbowed my pens right off my desk with annoyance. Just as my body swiveled, I found myself face to face with Liam. My eyes froze on his as I inhaled with the awareness of the increased pace of my heart. I felt the slight gulp from my throat as a shiver traveled down my arms and into my fingers. Just like the memories of Ross and Nick, seeing Liam had flashed the images of what he had done to them. When I woke this morning I knew how foolish I was to dismiss, or deny, it all, especially after the weekend had left me with nothing but time to relive the night. But maybe it was easier that way. At least until I saw his face to remind me that I was merely lying to myself.

“What are you?”

I was still, watching as he leaned his neck closer. I wasn’t sure where my courage had come from to ask. I certainly had none Friday night.

“A high school student,” he said.

I narrowed my eyes, forgetting that I was even slightly terrified of him. As if I hadn’t been plagued with nightmares over the weekend. As if the slightest unfamiliar sound didn’t make me jump, leaving a trail of goosebumps behind as proof. As if I hadn’t asked Sean, like a child, to come over Saturday and Sunday night. No, right now I was only led by my curiosity.

“I wasn’t under the impression that most high-schoolers could move things with their minds.”

“I didn’t,” he said.

My eyes squinted as I leaned in closer with my whisper. “I saw him floating. It was like magic or something.”

“Did you actually see me doing that?” Liam asked.

“Yes. Well….” I scrunched my lips as I took a minute to remember. He was right. I had never actually seen him lift Nick because I was too shocked to look away.

Liam’s lips were straight as he stood. I followed his movement. “Okay, no I didn’t see you doing it.” He nodded, making it clear that was his point. “But you did move me away from getting hit by the truck. I know that.”

He opened his mouth, ready to speak, but said nothing. In his eyes, I thought I could see, the conflict, the same I had seen before. I didn’t like to see him that way. Finally, he closed his mouth and gathered his books before turning his back to me.

“Thank you,” I said.

It was impulsive but needed.

“For what?” Liam said. His back was still facing me but his neck had turned at my words.

The shock of being so frightened by Liam had overshadowed my gratefulness for his presence Friday night. I watched as he turned back to face me.

“I realized that I never thanked you for what you did. I don’t know what would have happened if you had not been there.”

I looked down with the lie, or maybe it was a realization. It was pretty clear what would have happened if he hadn’t been there. The shame of what felt like stupidity led my eyes to rest on the ground because of this. When I finally let myself look back up at him, I noticed he had moved back to stand at his desk. It was good to know a few students were occupying Mrs. Anderson, keeping her from awkwardly watching our encounter.

Liam leaned in with the gaze of his bright eyes. “If fate were to rewind us to the same moment, I wouldn’t hesitate to be there again.”

My eyes bounced back with his, like a tennis match. Suddenly the fright of what he was had begun to melt. In its place was a warmth of safety. Uh-oh.

I grinned involuntarily. “Can I ask you something?” He nodded with an approved patience.

“I know what I saw can’t be normal. I mean, I’ve never heard of such a thing in a human.”

“I don’t believe that sentence was a question.”

I tried to resist the roll of my eyes as I walked past the desks, parallel with him. He seemed to keep more with my pace than I did with his as we exited the classroom.

“All right, what are you?” I asked again. He gazed at me like I was an intruder inside a security vault. “I’m not going to tell anyone. I didn’t even tell my brother about what happened, and I tell him everything.”

Really it was more oddly like I couldn’t tell Sean. Part of me was protective of what I had seen. I still didn’t understand that. All I knew was every time I tried, I remained silent. When we stopped at my locker, I watched as Liam’s chin lifted with surprise. He leaned his lips a few inches away from my ear. “I wish that I could say.”
“Can’t you?” I asked.

He leaned back to see my lifted brow. “I wish for so many things.”

I squinted with confusion, watching him shake his head once before turning to walk down the hall. I was almost certain there was a small grin on his lips. I didn’t know what person would be able to resist the need to solve the mystery of it. He had just silently confessed that what I saw Friday night was true. How was I supposed to ignore that?

I was smiling almost too much, when Sean walked around the corner. He had a narrowed gaze that wasn’t happy but not quite upset either.

“I know,” he said.

My eyebrows lifted with guilt. Had he watched secretly as Liam once again walked me to my locker? I looked toward the ground.

“Why didn’t you tell me about what they did?”

They did? Suddenly my eyes flashed up to meet his gaze. He wasn’t talking about just now, how I had technically broken my own promise to stay away from Liam—a task I thought would be so easy. No, that wasn’t it.

My mouth felt dry as my eyes darted away from him. The image of Ross over me had filtered through my mind again. I was sure that Sean could see my small grimace.

“Tell you what?” I said innocently.

“Emma, please, I can see it written in your eyes as much as I could that night.” It wasn’t an easy thing to relive, and now more than ever I was grateful for Liam. “Em?”

I finally moved my eyes back to meet the patient gaze of his own. I gulped. “How did you even know?”

“They confessed to me this morning.” I cocked my head back in surprise. 

“Why?”

He narrowed his eyes to question my inquiry.

I shook my head in defense. “I just mean I didn’t think that would be something to confess to you of all people.”

“I wouldn’t say they were exactly willing,” he said. “It was almost like they were overcome by some pint up guilt.”

“Then what made them?”

“Liam Alexander.”

So he did know about Liam, or at least that he had been there. “Really?”

“Well not physically. All he did was walk by us before Nick sudden spit out…”

Sean exhaled with anger with the small shake of his head. It seemed as if he couldn’t even finish the thought of what had happened. I waited for more anxiously but nothing. So it appeared that Sean didn’t know everything about Friday night, just that Liam had been there to rescue me. He knew nothing of how he rescued me.

“So, that’s why they weren’t sitting with you at lunch?”

It all made sense now. They hadn’t shunned themselves because of the guilt. They had been shunned. I was actually grateful I wasn’t around when they told Sean. They were lucky they were still able to be in the cafeteria at all.

“They won’t ever be sitting at any table that I’m at again.”

I felt guilty about him losing the friendship that had been ongoing for fifteen years. Because of me it had abruptly and permanently ended. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not.” Though his voice was stern, I could see in his now angered eyes that he was lying. Ross and Nick had grown up with him, and now that bond was broken with betrayal. It would be like Lauren or Erika hatching a plan to kidnap and kill Sean. Though I held a bond with my friends, their act would naturally sever any care I previously held for them. I didn’t want to think about it. “I’m just sorry that I wasn’t there to protect you,” Sean said.

“And that Liam was.” I paused, unsure whether I was saying this as a serious or sarcastic thing. Sean’s gaze had previously been halfway between me and the space in front of him, but I had his full attention now.

“I can’t say that I’m ungrateful, but it doesn’t change how I feel about him. I question why he was even there.”

“Does it matter?” I said.

Sean only glared to my question. His golden honey eyes almost brightening, with each new second that passed.

“Has your promise changed?”

I sighed. “No.” I wasn’t sure how much I meant that.

On the way home, I was terribly grateful that Sean hadn’t asked for details, details like why, if Liam had saved me, did I come home willing to stay away from him.

Funny how I asked myself the same question as I hopped into bed that night. A question I was made to contemplate once my head hit the pillow and my eyes shut.

Instantly, I found myself surrounded by a forest of trees in a cloud of darkness, but I could see that I wasn’t alone. Liam Alexander stood beside me, looking toward the space directly in front of us.

There I caught sight of Ross and Nick, charging at me with an angered vengeance. It wasn’t lust but anger in their eyes. I was to blame for their ending friendship and they were going to make me pay for that. I instinctively readied my arms to swing, when both of Liam’s hands rose forward, flinging both boys backward and out of sight, without a single touch. The swift control of their speed was like a stunt man being pulled back on a harness.

“Thanks,” I said.

He nodded before looking behind me. I followed the gaze over my right shoulder to find Sean. He was furious and running right at us like an enraged bull. But as he got closer I could tell it wasn’t me he targeted, it was Liam. I tried to stand in between, but Liam gently pushed me behind him protectively. Sean had his fist out, ready to swipe at Liam as he ran with hatred in his eyes.

“Stop!” I yelled.

But my voice was drowned out with Sean’s continued charge. No amount of sound that came from me would catch his attention. I was left to watch helplessly as Liam’s hand instinctively moved in front of him to force Sean’s body to fly back and out of sight, just as he had minutes before with the other two boys. I turned back to see Liam’s eyes glowing with a bright emerald green of unnatural beauty.

Suddenly my eyes flashed open and my torso flung upward. I looked around my dark room, laying my hand across my chest, feeling the increased beating of my heart. I only had one thought that crossed my mind now that I was awake.

Just what the hell was Liam Alexander?

About the author:
I was never that child you found in the corner reading. In fact, I loathed the idea of picking up a book. The activity seemed more of a chore than a past time. 

All that changed when my brother began talking to me about the newest novel he was reading.Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Before I knew it, my curiosity got the better of me, luring me to try the series. It didn't take long for my mindset of reading to turn on its head. 

But even with my new hobby discovered it wasn't until my junior year of college that I developed a hidden desire for writing stories. And when I found myself writing scenes instead of paying attention to my professors, I knew becoming a writer was the career path I was meant to follow. 

Author's Giveaway

No comments: