October 28, 2014
Calling all Willamette Stone groupies! We’ve just released four song clips from the #IfIStay band. NOTE your favorite track. After Friday the winning track will be released!
Listen to I WANT WHAT YOU HAVE: http://bit.ly/IWantWhatYouHave
Listen to NEVER COMING DOWN: http://bit.ly/NeverComingDown
Listen to MIND: http://bit.ly/WillametteStoneMind
Listen to HEARTLIKEYOURS: http://bit.ly/HeartLikeYours
Already obsessed! Which song will get your vote?
The Scarring (Spirit Warriors #2)
by D.E.L. Connor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: July 21, 2014
Length: 244 pages
“One of us would finally end what had been started by the machayiwiw so many years ago. I would have to kill him. It was just that simple. I never thought I would want to kill anybody or anything, but maybe I never had anything worth killing for before.”
-Emmeline Rima Belrose, The Scarring (Spirit Warriors, Book 2)
In the majestic beauty of a Montana summer, Emme and her friends celebrate her near-drowning survival and their defeat of the powerful evil spirit, the machayiwiw. But even as they rejoice, things are amiss. Emme watches helplessly as her family divides, and her friends struggle to hold their relationship together. Worse yet, the love-of-her life, Charlie, announces that he will move back to the reservation, without Emme. Different nightmares take over and Emme realizes she must fight and kill—or watch those she loves be killed. Friends from the reservation reach out to Emme and show her what evil can steal from her. Emme believes that evil can never break her bond with the Spirit Warriors or the love she shares with Charlie. Or can it?
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Although this is the second book in the Spirit Warriors series, it can be read as a stand alone novel.
Ron looked over at me. I stared back at him. “Do you understand what I have told you, child?” Ron asked me.
I nodded. “Charlie is a spirit mover.”
Ron nodded. “Among other things.”
Ron went on, “Charlie is having more and more speaking times with the warriors. There is a sense of urgency now that Charlie learns how to shift spirit warriors into human bodies. He has been practicing with Ryan and Hawke. He is making some progress, but it is taking a long time. Charlie is weakening with the increasing talking times. He does not know when they will come and he has been injured many times. Our people now make sure he is never alone. We cannot risk his injuring himself, or the machayiwiw finding him undefended. He has much to learn. You have much to learn. You must learn hand-to-hand combat. Hawke is our best warrior, both with a knife and a spear. He can cut the wings off a fly in flight with his knife. He will be training you.” Ron looked at me.
“NO, I don’t think so.” I told Ron. “First, Hawke doesn’t like me and I can’t see him training me. Second, I’m not sure I could kill someone, even if it was the machayiwiw. In anger, I think I can, but I’m not sure.”
Ron looked at me. “What if that person was trying to kill Charlie, or your friends, or Eros your bird?”
I shook my head. “I just don’t think I can do this.”
Ron lowered his gaze. “If you don’t, you will die, along with Charlie, your friends, your animals, and your family. I will die, as will our people. He will finally destroy the one person who stands against him. The one person who has the power to destroy him. There will never be another you. Our people have waited many, many years for you. Golden Flower has waited many years for you.”
“I don’t want the responsibility!” I yelled at Ron as I stood up. “I might fail!” I jumped up and ran down the side of the creek. I ran as fast as I could and the sharp prairie grass cut my legs. I didn’t feel it. I felt angry and sad at the same time. “Why me? Why not someone else?” I thought to myself. I rounded a bend of the river and I ran right into Hawke. The force of our collision knocked us both to the ground. I lay on the ground with the wind knocked out of me. Hawke stood up and looked down at me.
I stood up and brushed off my shirt. Hawke stared at me. I looked at him and asked, “Why do you hate me?”
Hawke glared at me. “Charlie is my cousin and my best friend. You have brought him nothing but heartache and loss. I suspect you will do something stupid and Charlie will be killed because of you. I really don’t care anything about you and I’m sure as hell not sold on your ‘savior’ complex. I think you are full of shit and if something happens to Charlie, I will hunt you down and kill you myself.”
I was horrified. “I didn’t want this! I just want to be with Charlie. No matter what you think, I love him. I have always loved him and I will never stop loving him.” Hawke stands with his arms crossed. “We’ll see about that.” Hawke brushed past me and walked back up the creek towards Ron and Charlie.
I walked back to the jeep. I climbed in the back with Charlie and it was quiet as Ron drove us back to the cluster of buildings. When we pulled up, Irene came running up to the jeep. “Come on, Emme, we are getting ready to eat.” Irene grabbed my hand and pulled me in the building. Ollie and Jack were with Ryan. Jack motioned us over. Charlie brought me a plate of food. Irene squeezed her small body between Charlie and me. Charlie looked down at her. “Hey, Squirt, why don’t you sit on the other side of Emme?”
Irene looked at me. “Are you in love with Charlie?”
I glanced at her small face as she slid her arm through my arm. “Yes,” I whispered to her. Irene wrinkled up her face.
“YUCK! Boys are messy and yucky and stinky! Even Charlie.” We all laughed as Charlie grabbed her and rolled her on the ground and tickled her until Irene begged for mercy.
After lunch, Charlie and I walked hand in hand down to the creek. We sat on the bank and stared at the water. I leaned over and put my head on Charlie’s shoulder. Charlie wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close to him. We sat there quietly. I looked across the creek and saw Hawke staring at us. He had his arms folded across his chest. I looked at Charlie. “Can’t we even be alone? Does he have to watch us?”
Charlie nodded. “He is just protecting me.”
“From me?” I say sarcastically. Charlie shook his head. “No, not from you.”
Hawke stared at me. I stood up and stared back at him. He reached in his waistband and pulled out his knife. I stared him down as he prepared to throw his knife in my direction. I was not scared of him. Something deep inside of me assured me that he would not kill me with his knife. I stood perfectly still as he pulled back his arm. In slow motion I saw the knife hurling through the air, handle over blade as Charlie screamed my name. I felt the knife come right by my head and I felt a sharp pain by my ear and the drip of blood on my neck. My face never changed as I stared back at Hawke. My friend, that red hot feeling that meant I could be something stronger than I was, overcame me and I felt myself soaring above the creek.
I heard Charlie calling my name. I looked around as I called out, determining where every living thing was around me. I felt the rattlesnake’s presence before I saw them. I singled them out and waved my hands. Within minutes they were hissing in a circle around Hawke. Hawke was trying to back away, but he was backing into another snake. Charlie was screaming at Hawke to stand still. Charlie was yelling at me. “Emme, NO, stop it! Hurting him would only hurt me. Do you really want to hurt me?” My attention wavered from the snakes and I focused on Charlie. Instantly I was back in my body and looking at Charlie.
Charlie had me by the arm. “Stay here, Em, I’ll be right back.” Charlie waded into the water and ran to Hawke. The snakes were gone. Hawke was sitting in the dirt by the bank with his head in his hands. Hawke was visibly shaking as Charlie helped him up. I stood up and glared at Hawke. They waded back across the bank.
Charlie walked up to me. “Hawke is here to protect me and by protecting me, he is protecting you. Hawke has the skills to help you, to teach you what you need.” Charlie looked over at Hawke. “Emme is not the enemy. Do you finally see what she is? Do you see the gifts she has? She is our people’s last hope. She belongs with us.”
Hawke nodded and walked over to me. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a piece of cloth. He reached up and wiped the blood off of my neck. “I’m sorry,” he told me.
I grabbed his hands and held them between mine. “Me too.” Hawke turned on his heel and walked back the path to the main building.
Charlie looked at me. “What the hell did you just do?”
I looked back at him. “I finally figured out that Golden Flower gifted me with the ability to talk to and control animals.” I smiled questioningly at Charlie.
Charlie didn’t smile back. “What else have you done?” I told Charlie about Ollie and the church and the birds. Charlie paced around me. “This is not good. The machayiwiw will notice a display like the one you did in town. You must not ever do it again in a public place where others can see you. Do you understand me?” I nodded with my head down. Charlie leaned forward and grabbed my face between his warm hands. “I have to admit that it was an awesome thing to do for Ollie, but we have to be more careful.”
I laid my hands over his by my face. I leaned into this chest as he slowly lowered us to the ground. We laid on the ground facing each other. I stared into his eyes lost in his world. Charlie stared back at me and as the beautiful empty world and the warm wind eavesdropped on us, we talked. I told him about Bets, and Mom and Ben, and how hurt Ollie was at the church. I told him about Jack and the preserve and Rose and the baby. We talked laying down and facing each other with our fingers intertwined until the sun started its slow climb to the edge of darkness. The sky was an incredible shade of deep purple with shades of violet blue. Even in the beauty of the sunset, I felt the desperation creep over me. I started to shake. I didn’t want to leave Charlie. I never wanted to leave Charlie. Charlie leaned closer. I could feel his breath on my cheek. He laid his gentle brown hands on my cheeks. I closed my eyes. “Let me take the pain away,” he whispered. We stood up.
Charlie closed his eyes and he chanted in a low voice. I listened to his voice. I closed my eyes and leaned into Charlie. I laid my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. I felt the desperation leave me and I was filled with a sense of peace and serenity. My breathing slowed, and my mind was filled with the beautiful times that Charlie and I had shared. We were like one in my mind, our thoughts joined and our spirits connected. It was the most incredible intense feeling. It was what I imagined making love would be like. I felt dizzy and my body felt it was on fire from the inside out. My legs gave way and I dropped to my knees. Charlie grabbed me and slowly lowered me down to the ground. “What did you do?” I asked Charlie. He stared back at me. “I showed you our love. I showed you what is worth fighting and dying for.”
As Charlie stood up, he staggered. I reached out and held his arm. “Are you okay?” Charlie put his hand over mine that rested on his arm. “Just tired. You wear me out.” He grinned broadly as I swatted his arm. “Poor me,” I told him. We held hands as we headed back to the main buildings.
Ollie and Jack were standing outside of the meeting room talking to Ryan and Hawke. Ryan looked up as we approached. “Hey, Em, can you come back next week? I want to run in the hills with you, and Hawke needs to start working with you on knife and lance throwing.” “Sure thing,” I told him. Hawke looked at Charlie and then at me. Charlie was leaning on the car while he talked to Jack. Charlie’s face was pale. Hawke walked the short distance to me and whispered in my ear. “Every time Charlie carries your pain, he gets weaker. Every time you feel better in Charlie’s presence, he pays the price for it. Is that what you want for him?” I shook my head “No.” I looked at my feet as Hawke said, “Don’t come back here. Walk away. His burden is too big to carry.” I shook my head. “I’m sorry I can’t do that. I just can’t. I love him too much.” Hawke shook his head and walked away.
We all walked to the car. I held Charlie’s hand as long as I could. I climbed in the back seat and Jack and Ollie sat down in the Mustang. As we drove off, I turned around and stared back at Charlie. He stood there watching us drive off.
About the Author
Della was born in South Dakota and raised in the vastness and beauty of Montana on a farm. When she longed for the big city life, she moved to Texas where she attended college and received a PhD in nursing. When not nursing people back to health you can find Della huddled over her Mac writing the stories that have occupied her mind for so many years, or traveling with her best friends, the NOLA’s, riding bikes across the Golden Gate bridge or exploring botanical gardens. She is the proud mother of a champion triathlete, two aging dogs and 1 grand-cat. Della has admittedly confessed to her coffee addiction and swears that her two hour coffee crawl while on vacation in Seattle –was the best two hours of her life!
Facebook Release Day Party - July 21st at 7pm - 9pm CST
The Orion Circle #1
By Amazon Bestselling Author
Kimber Leigh Wheaton
YA Paranormal Romance
Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option
Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.
When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.
But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.
Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.
“Tortured Souls was a wonderful YA read. It was light and enjoyable all the way through. From the romance, to the thrills, this book was fantastic. YA lovers, this is definitely a book you’ll want to check out.” ~ Farrah at Imagine a World
“Tortured souls by Kimber Wheaton…….. omg!! Great book!!!! This is one you don’t want to miss out on.” ~ Paranormal Romance & Authors That Rock
“The plot is wonderfully spooky with just the right amount of suspense and mystery to keep the pages turning.” ~ James Luby– Amazon Reviewer
Even with the ghosts and a creepy innkeeper, I think this is the best night of my life. ~Kacie
“You’re not alone anymore, Kacie. You can talk to me whenever you want, even two in the morning if needed.” ~Logan
“I am Lucas Yardley,” the man yells as he sprays the area with bullets. “I am the son of our God Lucifer—the new Anti-Christ! Your tiny bullets cannot harm me!” Those are the crazed man’s last words before a bullet pierces his forehead, forever silencing him.
“Can bagels really cancel out a ghostly homicidal maniac?” I ask, glancing up at him with a grin.
“You’re right,” Logan says with a groan. “Should’ve got doughnuts.”
About the Author
Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestselling YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs, four cats, and lots of dragons. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) She currently lives in San Antonio, TX but has been somewhat a rolling stone in life, having resided in several different cities and states.
Excerpt from Chapter One ~ Something Wicked
Deafening music shakes the walls, vibrates the floor, and pounds a rhythmic beat in my skull. Gyrating bodies turn every bit of space into a dance floor. Sweat breaks out on my forehead, and my heart races. Strobe lights flash, teens dance with wild abandon. Shrieking laughter bubbles around me.
“Gotta take a leak!” my dance partner shouts over the music.
He races off, weaving through the thick wall of bodies. Mike or Mick or something—I didn’t catch the name he yelled when he asked me to dance. Doesn’t matter, he wasn’t my type at all. I mean, the guy guzzled beer while dancing. After grabbing a diet soda from a nearby cooler, I’m about to search for my friends when a dark feeling washes over me. My feet refuse to move, and I stand rooted in place.
The once loud music is now hollow in my ears. I gasp for breath, choking on the lack of air around me. Tiny hairs on the nape of my neck rise to attention. Something wicked is behind me. I know I’m the only one here who feels a difference in air pressure. An oppressive weight presses against my skin, making me feel as though I’m underwater. I blink a few times, watching the people around me continue their manic dancing—oblivious to the bogeyman that just entered the room.
Afraid to turn around, I stand my ground, sipping my soda. I pretend I’m unaware of the shuffling noises behind me, sounds I shouldn’t be able to hear over the blaring music. Swaying my hips, I hum along with the music, trying to ignore the ominous presence crushing me.
Whatever it is, I can’t let it know I sense it. Evil pours off it in waves, blanketing the entire room. I close my eyes, willing the creature to go away, return to whatever mausoleum or grave it calls home. Malevolent spirits feed on fear. I must control mine at all costs.
When I open my eyes, I’m gazing into the face of an angel. Not literally, but he may as well be in my book. Logan glances behind me, and I know he sees the spirit. He doesn’t gasp or scream or faint dead away. His golden eyes narrow as though he’s in a staring contest with the specter.
“You’re not welcome here,” Logan says to the presence behind me. He meets my gaze again. “You know it’s there.”
It’s not a question but a statement. I nod, a weak bob of my head, unsure whether this intimate moment with my dream guy is a good thing or not. Meeting over a nasty phantom is not my idea of romantic. And yet I can’t stop staring at the way his blue t-shirt hugs his broad shoulders and chest—how his light brown hair curls around his earlobes. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. For six weeks I’ve wanted out of the friendship box with Logan, but I was hoping for girlfriend, not crazy girl.
“Kassandra,” a voice rasps behind me.
Excerpt from Chapter Four ~ Not Your Average School Day
“Are you ready?” Logan asks in a soft murmur.
Closing my locker, I nod and smile at him, trying to hide my anxiety. Why did I agree to go to this club meeting? What if they sacrifice goats to some pagan god or something? Laughter wells up within at the absurd image of an animal sacrifice occurring on the third floor of the Sciences building. Besides, it couldn’t be a goat—it would have to be a cat or a fetal pig since that’s what the AP biology class is dissecting this year. I guess it could be a crawfish or an earthworm since the regular biology classes dissect those.
My laughter finally bubbles out when I picture figures in black robes sacrificing an earthworm to their pagan god. I feel Logan’s eyes on me. When I glance at him, he has a strange, indecipherable look on his face.
“Are you alright?” he asks, concern clouding his features.
“Yeah, just a little nervous,” I reply, fighting another blush that threatens to form.
He walks down the hall, navigating through the maze of students, checking back every so often to make sure I’m still following. When we pass through the doors leading out into the damp autumn air, he surprises me by heading over to a bench rather than continuing to the Sciences building.
He sits down and motions for me to join him, so I lower myself to the gray stone bench. The stone soaked up the chilled rain today, and the cold passes through my jeans up into my body. I’ve always enjoyed cool weather, probably a tribute to my Norse ancestry. Though I shiver a bit, I feel exhilarated as a slight breeze ruffles my hair, making it dance around my head.
“I’m gonna break the rules and give you a heads up about us,” Logan says in a very low voice.
My eyes fly to his in surprise. He moves closer to me on the bench so our legs are touching.
“We are a paranormal research group. Hunters you might say, hence the name Orion. I know you’re already aware there’s more out there than meets the eye, but you’ll be surprised by just how much more there really is.”
He’s speaking in a very low voice, obviously not wanting to be overheard. I use this as an excuse to lean a little closer to him.
“So you investigate hauntings?” I murmur, intrigued by the idea.
“Not just hauntings, anything supernatural,” he replies. I wait for him to elaborate, but he doesn’t. “I can’t go into more detail until you’re a member. But don’t worry, Kacie. I’ll be right beside you today, and by tonight you’ll be a member, then we can talk.”
He stands and extends his hand to me. Taking his hand, I allow him to pull me from the bench. There’s no spark or jolt this time, just pleasant warmth that permeates me.
“It appears our powers are adjusting to each other,” he comments, a smile lighting his face.
“There is no shortage of action in this sprawling sequel, and nearly every chapter brings a wrinkle to the tale. The storytelling is lively and energetic, and Diana remains an appealing heroine even as her life becomes ever more extraordinary. A delightful wrap-up to the trilogy.”
Title: THE BOOK OF LIFE
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Adult
Pub. Date: July 15, 2014
THE BOOK OF LIFE
picks up right where Shadow of Night
left off. After traveling through time, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, otherwise known as the Book of Life.
At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from
A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception—ready to face old enemies. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the Book of Life and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s
final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and forbidden passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne
to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.
THE BOOK OF LIFE is a thought provoking page-turner. Readers will love the romance and adventure that Harkness skillfully weaves throughout the tale. The dynamic between Matthew and Diana is beautiful and heartwarming. Readers will be thrilled with the slew of surprises that Harkness has for them in THE BOOK OF LIFE. Deborah Harkness presents her readers with a stunning conclusion that is perfectly blends history and fantasy while questioning gender roles and raising thought provoking questions.
I can’t stop watching this! » Harry Potter vs Twilight Dance Battle
Endless List of Favorite Books: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
I’m still here, and I’m crazy in love with you. Please stay.
Title: REBEL NATION
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Publisher: Berkeley Trade
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Sixteen years ago, a plague wiped out nearly all of humanity. The Company’s vaccine stopped the virus’s spread, but society was irrevocably changed. Those remaining live behind impenetrable city walls, taking daily doses of virus suppressant and relying on The Company for continued protection. They don’t realize that everything they’ve been told is a lie…
Clover Donovan didn’t set out to start a revolution—quiet, autistic, and brilliant, she’s always followed the rules. But that was before they forced her into service for the Time Mariners. Before they condemned her brother to death, compelling him to flee the city to survive. Before she discovered terrifying secrets about The Company.
Clover and the Freaks, her ragtag resistance group, are doing their best to spread the rebellion and stay under The Company’s radar. But when their hideout is discovered, they are forced, once again, to run. Only this time, The Company has special plans for Clover, plans that could risk her life and stop the uprising in its tracks…
Shaunta Grimes’ Rebel Nation picks up where the first book left off and expands on the fantastic world that the readers were introduced to in the first novel. Grimes’ heroine, Clover, truly shines in this novel; Grimes’ shows through Clover that autism does not define a person. And of course, Rebel Nation is not short on twists, turns, and heart pounding revelations that are bound to keep the reader enthralled by the story and its characters. Rebel Nation is a perfect reader for lovers of YA and Dystopian Fiction.
About the Author:
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.
How to Connect with Shaunta:
5 finished copies of Rebel Nation International.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had. Except … her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.
Release Date: 07/01/14
Summary from Goodreads:
Perfection comes at a price.
As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.
Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.
But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.
For fans of Keira Cass’s Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.
Praise for Perfected:
“Compelling, imaginative, and unique. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!”
— Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls
The inside of Penn’s room didn’t look a thing like the rest of the house. Maybe at one point his mother had had a hand in decorating it, but it was hard to tell because of the lengths he must have gone to cover it up. The bones of the room were strong and masculine: solid, wooden furniture stained a dark, deep cherry. But besides the furniture, the rest of the room appeared to be one giant battle against any influence of his mother.
The walls, which had once been painted a soft shade of green, were plastered over with posters of people and old, rusty road signs. The far wall above his bed was almost entirely covered with instruments. I didn’t recognize most of them, but there were a few of them that I could name: a couple of guitars, a mandolin.
“Do you play those?” I asked, pointing to the wall.
“Yeah, most of them… at least a little,” Penn said, glancing up from his speakers. “But I’m only really good at a few. Mostly I play the guitar.”
I looked around for a place to sit, but most of the surfaces were covered in discarded clothes and towels. Apparently Rosa didn’t pick up the laundry in his room the way she did for everyone else.
I stood awkwardly amidst the mess, glancing at the photographs that covered the mirror above the gigantic set of dresser drawers. There were pictures of Penn at the beach, and of him playing the guitar in front of a roaring bonfire. There were pictures of him clustered amid groups of his friends. I searched their faces, trying to recognize the girl from the swimming pool, but none of them seemed familiar.
“Okay,” he finally said, “I’m starting you out with Amos Lee since you liked Ray LaMontagne so much.”
He hit a button and music started playing, sounding as if it was coming from all four corners of his room.
I closed my eyes to the soft sound of the piano, both familiar yet totally new. It was always enchanting to hear a new composition after hearing the same ones year after year, and this one was no exception. The notes were lonely, full of melancholy that reminded me a bit of one of Beethoven’s sonatas. But I wasn’t prepared for the ache I would feel once the singing started. I took a shuddering breath.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded, afraid that if I opened my mouth I wouldn’t be able to speak. I closed my eyes again and let myself drift into the music. It wasn’t until the song faded out and I opened my eyes again that I realized Penn was sitting next to me. He was staring at me again, that same puzzled expression on his face.
“That was beautiful,” I choked out, before he could ask me again if I was all right.
“Yeah.” He smiled. “It’s one of my favorites. Who would have guessed I’d have the same taste in music as a pet from Greenwich Kennels?” It was the first time he’d mentioned my past without sounding angry.
“You can play me something else if you want.”
Penn put on another song and flopped down on the bed next to me, pushing a notebook and a pair of pants onto the floor.
“Sorry about the mess,” he said. “Here, you can scoot over if you want.”
I scooted closer to him, settling into the music. Both of us sat perfectly still and listened to the strum of the guitar and the beat of the drums that played underneath like a heartbeat. Next to me, I could feel the heat of Penn’s leg seeping through the fabric of my dress, making my thigh burn.
He leaned in. This close I could see the bursts of gold inside his eyes, but all I could think about was that kiss, the way his lips had felt against mine. So soft. So warm. I wanted to feel that again. I closed my eyes.
There was a knock at the door and Penn scooted away from me, but not fast enough. His father threw the door open.
“Thank God,” he said, striding over to us. “I looked all over the house for you, Ella. Didn’t you hear me calling?”
“With the music playing, I must not have heard you,” I said, “I’m terribly sorry, Master.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Penn cringe. I should have remembered that I wasn’t to use that word, but I was so nervous, and the Congressman’s face was flushed and red, distracting me. I couldn’t think straight.
The Congressman turned on Penn. “What were you thinking, taking her up here?”
“I was just playing her some music. It’s not like I—”
“Your music is the last thing I want you to introduce her to. If I remember correctly, you need to be focusing on catching up on your school work, not wasting time listening to songs.”
“Dad, I—” Penn started to say, but the Congressman didn’t seem at all interested.
“Not now. I’ve got two campaign donors waiting in the conservatory to meet Ella. I’ve wasted ten minutes looking for her, so I really don’t have time for your excuses right now.”
As the Congressman took me by the elbow and led me from the room, I chanced one last glance back at Penn.
He had already turned away.
About the Author:
Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. To learn more visit www.katejarvikbirch.com
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