I know I'm one of the resident readers here at Across the Board, but I also write and asked to be added into the rotation for the Eek! segment Jonathan started.
I have been playing around with Revealed, my dual-narrative YA sci-fi-ish WIP, for the better part of five years and I finally feel like I'm getting closer to where I want it to be. Here's a blurb:
A secret society of special abilities, the Order, becomes unbalanced when Jaycen Towle acts on his desire to use the gift he was born with to become a superhero. Cara Wallace, a gifted outsider, is sucked into Jaycen’s world when she discovers his secret and believes the Order may have answers about the parents she barely knew. But are the Order’s answers really worth the shattering they cause both Cara and Jaycen?
Now that you know what you're getting yourself into, here's the first chapter for you to help me make better.
Trevor’s attempted screams were muffled by the gag in his mouth, but I still cringed at the sound. I hated this game of harvesting a gift. I hated Brian for dragging me into this--to cover his own indiscretions, of course--and Trevor for agreeing to spill his blood in the first place, even if he would heal quickly. The blood would be flowing and soon it would be over.
To distract myself I racked my brain for a way to reach out to Cara, to get her to reveal herself to me so I could reciprocate. There was nothing I could do until she made the first move unless I wanted to break the rules. The brick walls that lined the narrow way were like a reminder of their constraint on my life.
As if in reaction to my thoughts, there was movement at the opening of the dark alley. I wasn’t worried--I was shielding to keep us from being detected--but my shield faltered with the adrenaline rush when I recognized those auburn curls. What were the odds that Cara Wallace, the one person I couldn’t stop thinking about, would happen down the same alley I was to be guarding?
Crap. It was obvious from her look that she spotted us. Brian appeared by my side and muttered something as the lightbulb affixed to the side of the building went out with a pop. In the span of those few pitch black seconds, instead of fortifying our protection, I made a rash decision, one I would pay for later. I took the first step. This was the revelation. I was inviting her into my world.
The light in the alley was out, bringing about the eerie realization that I had turned too soon. That somehow made the pounding of my heart seem much louder in my ears. I felt them just before I saw them. The spike of anxiousness, surprise, irritation, and pain ambushed me simultaneously. These weren’t just the feelings of one person. No, the gruesome image revealed four people, all staring at me with mixed expressions of anger and mischief. I threw my hand over my mouth to stifle a gasp and noted the new location of my stomach in my throat. One of them bled from where his arm used to be and I had no idea how he was still standing. Oh, please let him still be standing.
Before I could process what sort of trick my brain was playing on me, a buzzing crack relit the light in the alley. The four guys, who I recognized from our small town school, had moved closer in the dark to where I stood frozen, though one hung back cautiously. My wide eyes darted between their defensive stances and I counted appendages. All arms were correctly placed, but there was a visible puddle glinting in the dim light of the dead end alley. My throat tightened. I didn’t want to think about what that was.
I took an automatic step backwards toward the sound of cars back on the street I should still be on. My heart tried to beat out of my chest and for the first time, I was so overwhelmed by my own emotions that I couldn’t pick up on anyone else’s. The raven-haired guy in the middle flinched before taking a step towards me.
“You look lost,” he said. Brian James. That was his name. I might have been mistaken, but I thought he had a faint grin on his face. I focused on him and his irritation washed over me, even though his sharp features remained relaxed.
I cleared my throat, swallowing the scream that wanted so badly to escape. “You’re right. I think I got too wrapped up in my book and took the wrong turn.” I waved my e-reader like a white flag. Another step backwards followed by another step forward by Brian. He glanced at Trevor Quade and Marcus Sandusky standing to his right, who nodded in response before stepping towards me as well. The fourth guy held back. I tried to catch his eye in a weak plea for help, but a shadow masked his face.
“Don’t leave yet,” Brian called. “We want to talk to you for a minute.” Yes, he definitely had a Cheshire Cat grin on his face.
I took a deep breath to steady myself. “Look, I didn’t see anything. I’ll be on my way. This never happened.” I held my gloved hands up in a shaky gesture, nearly dropping my device.
The guys stopped marching forward, so I started to turn. A hand grasped my left arm and I wheeled around to see who had a hold on me. I couldn’t decide whether or not I was thankful for the thick sweater creating a barrier against Brian’s thoughts as he towered over me. At this proximity, though, I felt him as if I were experiencing his emotions first hand. There was a devious air about him.
“I said we need to talk.” He pronounced each syllable fully as he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and turned me to walk back the way we came. The sounds behind me faded and the alley suddenly represented one of those caves people disappeared into and never came back.
My heart pounded.
The fourth guy, whose face I could see once we were closer, was still standing where he had stopped. Jaycen Towle kept silent, but I could feel his contemplative state. Fierce blue eyes met mine and he held my gaze. Please don’t let them hurt me, please don’t let them hurt me, I thought over and over again, willing him to hear me.
“It will be OK,” Jaycen said, still several feet away. The guys around me didn’t seem to hear this. I glanced at them nervously and then back at Jaycen in time to catch his wink. “Brian, let her go,” he said firmly. Brian stood straighter and Trevor and Marcus glanced between them, obviously hearing him this time.
“No way. We have to handle this, Jay.” Brian’s hold on me tightened and a whimper rushed out of my mouth.
Jaycen took a step forward. “That isn’t your job and you know it.” He looked at me briefly. When he looked back at Brian and friends, his pale brows were furrowed in concentration. All of a sudden, Brian yelped. He released me, placing his hands out in front of himself to swat the empty air. The other two followed suit, stumbling as if they were blind, while I stared, confused, at the scene before me.
Jaycen grabbed my gloved hand and pulled me away. “Come on,” he said. We took off in an awkward run with him dragging me. When we reached the mouth of the alley, he pulled me left and guided me towards a dirt-colored truck at the curb. Without asking where we were going, I climbed inside and slammed the door behind me, shoving the lock down with a shaky hand. Relief washed over me as Jaycen’s door closed and he thrust the keys into the ignition. He threw the truck into drive and pulled away from the curb just as his friends appeared in my side view mirror.
His truck bumped along the road in silence. My mind raced, dodging the things I wasn’t ready to think about and dancing around the things I was. So many questions slapped me in the face at once. I wasn’t even sure where to start, but I was overwhelmed with the tense emotional atmosphere and couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “I live on Oak Street,” I mumbled. He maneuvered the truck accordingly.
“You didn’t have to do that, you know.” I wanted to make it very clear that it was his choice to step in. I didn’t want to feel like I owed him anything, though I couldn’t help but feel like I did. “Stand up to your friends, I mean.”
He sighed, not a happy sound at all. “I know,” he said with furrowed brows, as if realizing this for the first time. His emotions shocked me. He was so conflicted. “Trust me, I’ll pay the price for it.” I stared at him for a moment, not sure how to respond. He looked over at me with a quick shift of his ice blue eyes. “Don’t worry about it, okay? I’ll be fine.” His voice was reassuring, but I was still hesitant.
I cocked my head to the side out of curiosity. “Is this...um, whatever you were doing…why you keep to yourself? I mean, to your group?” I thought about all the times I had seen him at school with his friends. And trust me, I had seen him. They seemed to operate as a small diverse community, not allowing new people into their loop and never kicking anyone out.
He chuckled and the sound sent something fluttering inside me. “Could be.” He seemed happier as he looked in my direction again. “So what’s your secret then?”
He caught me off guard, so I looked away. “I don’t have a secret. Why would you assume I have a secret?” I fumbled my hands in my lap.
“Well, you’re not exactly a party animal, are you? I mean, any time I see you, you’re reading on that thing.”
I blushed as I stroked the e-reader where I clutched it in my lap and he smiled. He was starting to relax, which made things more comfortable for me. “It’s a good distraction…” I muttered. His curiosity was piqued and I looked out the window with relief as we turned onto my street. “It’s that one with the red door.” I pointed out the windshield.
Jaycen put the truck in park at the curb and turned to look at me. His apprehension radiated at me, which made me feel nervous too. His blue eyes sizzled and I was lost in them for a moment waiting for him to speak. “Are your parents home?”
“Yes. I mean no. My parents are dead.” How did that spill out? “Nana’s home. I’m, uh, adopted.”
His eyebrows rose into his sandy hair, accompanied by a weird jolt of excitement, but he didn’t say anything else.
Clearing my throat, I mumbled, “Thanks for the ride and...stuff.”
He nodded and as I reached for the door handle, the same anxious spike I had felt from him earlier filled the truck now. But all he said was, “I’ll see you around. Be careful.”
I scrambled to exit the truck and jogged to my front door, ready to dismiss this whole weird evening. Listening for the truck to pull away, I fiddled with the keys, but it idled there. I turned to wave as the lock clicked and then stepped inside. Once the door was closed, his truck rumbled away, and I leaned against the door for a moment to catch my breath.
“Is that you?” Nana called from her craft room down the hall. I breathed in the familiar scent of home and safety, relaxing at the sound of her voice.
“Yes, Nana. Sorry I’m late. I got caught up on my way home from the bookstore.” I shuddered at this truth.
She chuckled, a comforting sound on a night like this. “I should have known when you missed dinner. I set a plate aside in the microwave for you. Should still be warm.”
The air buzzed the further down the hall I walked. “Thanks. I’m just going to take it up to my room. Homework, you know.” I could hear her sewing machine and knew I was safe to slip away without further elaboration.
When I got upstairs I set my plate of garlic lemon chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes on my nightstand and collapsed onto my neatly made bed. Squeezing my eyes shut, I let the evening play out against my eyelids. It was obvious I had witnessed something I wasn’t supposed to, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that was. Sighing, I opened my eyes and sat up to eat before my chicken was completely cold. But as I cut my first piece and lifted the fork to my mouth, my stomach clenched against the food I was about to offer it. My appetite was gone, just like any chance of sleep after such a crazy evening.