I'm going to step out of my Resident Reader role again for another Eek! Criteek! post. As you may recall, I posted the first chapter of my YA dual-narrative sci-fi-ish WIP, Revealed, back in November. Today I'm sharing chapter two.
Here's the blurb I posted last time:
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?
Without further ado, here's my chapter two (hey, that rhymes!).
“Come in,” my father’s rough voice called through the thick wood of his office door before I even had a chance to drop my fist. My heart hammered and my hand shook ever so slightly when I twisted the cold metal knob. The door closed behind me and my father, Salem Towle, looked up. “Ah, Jaycen,” he smiled. “Take a seat.” He motioned toward the padded chairs across from his mahogany desk, but continued skimming through the stack of papers in front of him. It would be an eventful summer at the bed and breakfast we used as a cover for the Order’s headquarters, so I wasn’t surprised to find him in his office at this late hour. It bothered me when he did that, though. I needed his undivided attention.
I spoke while standing, too nervous to sit. “There’s this girl at school,” I blurted out.
He finally looked up with a smirk, a glint to the same blue eyes I saw in the mirror every morning. “Are we due for another one of those talks?” he asked. I wasn’t in the mood. In fact, his untimely joke rubbed me the wrong way and, however briefly the thought flashed, I almost backed out of the office. My awkwardness must have been pretty obvious because his face cleared and he simply waited. The clock above his head ticked away the empty seconds. When I didn’t start again, he impatiently asked, “Well, who is she?”
“Her name is Cara Wallace.” Just saying her name sent chills up my spine.
He shook his head. “The name doesn’t ring a bell. What’s her Talent?”
I reached up to rub the back of my neck nervously. Just spit it out, I urged myself. “Well, that’s the thing. You don’t know her. She’s, um…well, she’s not in the Order.” As soon as the words were out, relief washed over me at finally confiding in someone. After all, I had been observing her for the better part of a year now. But at the sharp look on my father’s face and the wrinkles that lined his forehead, I wanted to suck them back in.
“Jaycen, there are rules against that,” he said, solemnly. Here I was telling him about my first crush and instead of clapping me on the back, he was crushing me with rules of the secret organization he held so dearly.
I started to say, “But dad, it’s different with her. She’s different--” before he cut me off with a movement of his hand that brushed aside my words.
His sigh was made louder by the quiet room. “Is this really worth discussing? I can’t change the rules, even for you.” While he managed the Order’s headquarters, he was right. He was not a Superior- the leaders and enforcers of our organization. And since Cara hadn’t been born into our exclusive society the way everyone was...
“Dad, I really think there’s something there.” I paused to consider my words. “I mean, it’s weird. She doesn’t even watch where she’s going. I swear, it’s like she can tell where people are around her, but it’s only with people. She walked right into a door one day.” The memory caused a smile to tug at the corners of my lips, but I cleared my expression to mirror my father’s. He had to take me seriously with this.
“That doesn’t mean anything, son.” He continued shuffling papers around his desk, again making me feel like I was interrupting him, even with the late time. “Maybe she’s really looking under her lashes or something.”
My eyes rolled. “What about her facial expressions then?” He looked up, but only for a moment. “The looks she gives people…” I sighed, exasperated. How could I make him understand if I wasn’t even sure I understood myself? “Her face contorts like someone insulted her, but no one addresses her at all. She always has this look of…panicked concentration.” I hesitated. “I gave her a ride home tonight.” He didn’t need to know the context in which that ride was offered.
My father’s head jerked up to study my face before he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. His attention was on me now. There was no turning back, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“And?” he prompted. His graying eyebrows hovered toward his hairline.
I slipped into one of the padded chairs in front of his desk, scooting to the edge with anxiousness. “Her parents are dead. I don’t know the details, but she’s adopted. Isn’t it possible that she doesn’t know anything about the Order?” His eyes widened while mine narrowed in response. “Well, is it possible?”
I watched as my father took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, but it did nothing to release his tension. His body held rigid and his appearance took on his actual mid-fifties age. When he leaned forward and clasped his hands on his desk, I realized I was about to fall out of the chair, hanging onto what he might say. I wanted him to tell me it was possible. I wanted him to say there was a chance I could get to know Cara.
Finally, my father spoke, slicing the silence like a knife through butter. “Jaycen, why wouldn’t she know about the Order, if in fact she has a Talent?” His question dimmed the light inside me, but I wouldn’t let it extinguish entirely. My father continued on without a beat, knowing I wouldn’t have an answer. “And even if that was a possibility, how would you approach such a topic without revealing what you are?” Part of me wanted to see the curiosity in his eyes, but his tone said otherwise. If only he knew I’d already crossed that bridge.
I sighed in exasperation and hung my head with my fists balled against the seat. This wasn’t what I had hoped to get out of our conversation. Saying nothing at all would have been more inspiring. And I needed some inspiration. At least something to get me thinking about anything other than how to talk to her.
My father took my silence as an invitation to lecture me. “Son, you know the rule. And you know why that rule is in place. ‘Good order is the foundation of all great things.’ We need to protect those great things, which is why it is vital for us to blend in. You’re not going to blend in so well if you’re spending your time chasing after a girl you may very well never have a chance with. Not to mention you’re bound to secrecy. Could you really keep that secret in a relationship with a Norm? The Order won’t allow it and I stand by that.”
I didn’t have to look up at him to see his expression. His eyes would be hard, his eyebrows straight lines above them, with lips pressed together in solidarity. I had seen it before- when I had asked to join one of the school’s clubs, try out for a sport, or get a job working for someone who wasn’t in the Order. It was ridiculous how controlled my life was by the Order when, in fact, the Order was supposed to be the one place I was free to be my true, Talented self. “That great thing is my prison,” I mumbled.
His blue eyes narrowed, but he pretended not to hear my remark. “Son, I'm warning you. Do not get involved with her.” My eyes shot up and locked on his. He put his hands up, palms out, to silence my protest. “If you cannot be trusted to do that, I will not be able to stop the consequences. If she had confessed an ability to you, now that would be an entirely different story. But you cannot take any chance of exposing us for some little crush you’ve developed.” His gaze held mine for a moment to seal his words before returning to his paperwork. That was my dismissal.
I almost growled as I stormed out of his office, letting the door slam behind me as I went. I had barely made it down the hallway when a voice broke the silence.
“That was a nice trick you played,” Brian barked. Of course he was pissed at me. Using my Talent on him wasn’t something I did. Another rule I broke tonight. I should have been defending him, not working against him.
“Don’t take it personally,” I replied, not meeting his harsh glare. I had other things--other people--on my mind and the last thing I wanted to do was listen to Brian lecture me after my dad had already done that. And if that’s the only reason he was at Headquarters this late, he was wasting his time.
Brian laughed and took a step closer to block my way toward the door I needed. “You know the rule. Do you have any idea what you’ve done tonight?”
My eyes rolled away from him as I tried to step around him. He shifted to stop me again and I finally met the gray daggers of his eyes. “Like I said before, it wasn’t your place. Just like it’s not your place to lecture me about it.” This time I slipped around him and our shoulders rubbed as I passed.
His words slammed into my back. “Do you really think the Order’s going to let you go through with this?” My jaw clenched. “I heard your dad tell you to stay away from her. It doesn’t matter what you think you’ve seen in her. All the Order is going to hear is that she’s a liability, a loose end that needs to be taken care of.” My back absorbed the heat of his words. “And I will be ready to take care of it when you can’t.”
Every muscle in my body braced for a fight. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to whip around and crush his nose, friend or not. But I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of sending me over the edge. Before he could act on the Order’s behalf, he’d have to tell a Superior. And he wasn’t going to risk having to explain what we were doing in the alley in the first place, not to his grandfather. Without even a backward glance, I forced my feet, one step at a time, to carry me through the door and down the stairs to my room.