Indie-Credible Author Event with Review & Giveaway – Sophie Davis

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I was selected to feature Sophie Davis as my Indie-Credible Author.  I had Sophie’s books on my TBR for forever and I was glad to finally get the chance to read them!  One of the books that I read was Talented, which is FREE on Amazon. The other one that I read to get ready for this event is Pawn.  Both of these books were really awesome and I have included a review of both of them in this post.  The first thing I decided to do was to interview some of the characters from these 2 books.  So, let’s get started.

Thank you for joining me today for a Q & A session with Talia and Erik from the Talented Series and Endora and Kannon from the Nightmares Trilogy.

How well would you say that Sophie is doing capturing your story? Are there any areas that aren’t being explored or is it already too personal?

Talia:  I’d say my story is very personal.  By the end of the Saga pretty much all of my private life is out there for the readers.

Erik:  My life since meeting Talia is pretty well covered, but Sophie doesn’t talk too much about my past.  That’s okay, though, since it’s not nearly as interesting as what’s happened in the last few years.

Endora:  I’m the opposite!  Sophie hasn’t even scratched the surface of my life just yet.  I have quite a few secrets that will be revealed in books two and three.

Kannon:  I agree with Endora.  Sophie hasn’t said much about my past except how I became an Egrgoroi.  In the second and third books things will get a lot more personal, maybe a little too personal…

Are there any plans for books from your perspectives Erik & Kannon?  

Erik:  Not for me.  I do get a little page time of my own in Created, though.

Kannon:  I’ve heard that I might be getting my own (short) book, but nothing is in the works right now.

Why do you think you were chosen by Sophie to have your stories told? 

Talia:  Sophie and I have been friends for a while and really clicked. I’ve telling her my story for about six years so I’m not surprised that she decided to write it down.

Endora:  I think Sophie decided to tell my story because she found my electrical problems interesting.  She found me through an internet posting board and offered to work with me to get my story out there. 

Name 5 things about Sophie that no one knows

Let’s see…

1.  Sophie microwaves her ice cream before eating it

2.  Sophie wears men’s deoderant – Old Spice

3.  Sophie brushes her teeth with hot water

4.  Sophie’s first actor crusth was Will Smith

5.  Sophie loves bad horror movies.  The cheesier the better!

What are some misconceptions that people have about your abilities?

Talia:  That I am a mind reader.  While I can read minds, I cannot read them until I’ve established a connection with the person.  So I can’t go around just listening in on other’s thoughts or anything.

Erik:  Most people think my abilities are “cool.”   Being Talented can be fun at times, but I could do without it.  Since I’m a Mimic, I don’t have my own Talent the way Talia does.  Basically, I borrow other people’s Talents for a while – makes me feel like a mooch.

Endora:  Hmmm, I’d say the biggest misconception is that I understand how my abilities work!  They’re so sporadic and I never know when they’re going to kick in.  I don’t have the dreams every night, and not all electrical devices that I touch die on contact – most do, though 🙂

Kannon:  Probably that I shock every other Egrgoroi that I meet.  I always have a reaction to others like me, but there is a reason that I shock Endora whenever I touch her…you’ll have to wait until book two to find that out, though!

If you didn’t have your ability and were “normal,” what would you hope to be doing? 

Talia:  I think I’d teach self-defense.  Traditional classes were never really my thing, but I enjoy physical activity and I think I’d really like helping others learn how to defend themselves.

Erik:  I’d probably travel around the world, working odd jobs to get by.  I’ve never been outside the country, and there are so many places I want to go.  Maybe try skiing in Switzerland and surfing in Hawaii?  Go zip-lining in Costa Rica. 

Endora:  I’d definitely go to college.  That had been my plan until I found out I wasn’t normal.  Hopefully I’d even be able to play lacrosse for a small school, but just having the opportunity to go would be great!

Kannon:  Ditto for me.  I’d study sports medicine so that I could be a trainer for a college sports team.

Is there any news that you would like to share with us? 

Talia:  Erik and I have some pretty big news…but I don’t want to ruin Created for everyone.  I happen to know that one of my friend’s from the Talented Saga recently sat down with Sophie and started telling her story, so in 2014 you guys should keep an eye out for the first installment!

Erik:  Yeah, Talia and I are both embarking on a new adventure soon…that’s all I’ll say for now.

Endora:  The next installment in our story will be coming out in Spring of 2014, but I think Sophie will be releasing some teasers between now and then.  Be on the lookout for Devon’s story (my best friend).  Sophie interviewed her about what happened after Kannon and I left Westwood.

Kannon:  Endora and I are putting my trust fund to good use right now, attempting to follow her father’s research trail to figure out what happened to him.  We’re also trying to figure out who her biological father is…Sacrifice will have a lot about that.

Thank you for joining me and I cannot wait to see what is in store for you in the books to come.

talented

Synopsis

When Talia Lyons was just a child, her parents were murdered before her eyes. Unable to accept their fate, Talia trains to become one of the country’s deadliest assassins in order to kill the man responsible. Luckily, she was born with a gift – the ability to read and influence the minds of others. At sixteen, Talia’s poised to graduate from a school for the Talented, where she learned to control her abilities. Now there is only one obstacle standing between her and the retribution she craves… the feelings and distractions of a normal teenage girl.

If Sookie and 007 had a love child with a yearning for vengeance, her story would be TALENTED.

Excerpt

Chapter One

An earsplitting wail punctured the silent night, shattering the illusions of my dream world and bringing me back to reality. My eyes popped open. I became instantly alert as the sound reverberated through the dark cabin again. I bolted upright in my bed. Terror seized me. I knew that noise. In school, I had done monthly drills in response to that noise. Emphasis on drills. I’d never heard the sirens for real. I’d hoped that I never would either. Even now, as the warning bells blared through the speakers in the clearing outside of my cabin, I prayed that it was just a test.

I could only see the parts of my room illuminated by the ribbons of artificial lights streaming through the slits of the wooden blinds covering the windows. In the short time I’d been awake, my swollen eyes had adjusted to the darkness. Hastily, I threw back the blanket as my trained eyes darted around the cabin. The other two beds were empty. Crap. Henri and Erik, my cabinmates, must have heard the invasion sirens and run out immediately. How had I slept through that? Why didn’t they wake me up? Assholes.

I didn’t waste time putting on real clothes, or even shoes. I flung the cabin door open with my mind before I was fully out of my bed. I ran into the night: pajamas, bare feet and all. I sprinted straight into the center of the Hunters’ Village. I stopped abruptly; for all of the training drills I’d taken part in at school, there had yet to be a single drill since my arrival at Elite Headquarters two weeks ago. I had no idea where I was supposed to go, or what I was supposed to do. Breathe, Talia, I reminded myself. Just breathe.

The night air was unseasonably warm for late September, but a chill ran through my body, all the way to my bones, as panic gripped and twisted my insides. The sirens sounded again. We were under attack. Elite Headquarters was being attacked. Calm down, you need to breathe, I ordered myself. I forcibly inhaled the warm air through my nose and then blew it out, unsteadily, through clenched teeth.

Slowly, I turned, pivoting in a full three-hundred-and-sixty-degree-circle. Chaos was the only way to describe the scene surrounding me. Pledges streamed from the cabins around the Hunters’ Village. Panicked screams pierced the silence between siren blasts. I dug my nails, sharply, into my palm to prevent my own fear-driven yelps from escaping. Clear your mind. Focus. Concentrate your energy, I coached myself. Trying to obey my own commands, I closed my eyes and forced my mind to go blank.

My hyper-sensitive ears immediately registered a faint whizzing sound from above. I tilted my head back as I opened my eyes. The night sky looked like it was falling, one star at a time. It took several seconds for my mind to process what my eyes were seeing; stars weren’t falling out of the night sky, but bombs were. Swallowing over the lump in my throat, I forced the unpleasantness clawing its way to my mouth back down. The people who panic in a crisis are the people who die, I reminded myself.

The bombs exploded, expelling bright neon liquid when they made contact with the ground. One landed several feet in front of where I stood. Fear got the better of me and I screamed as the bomb burst and several drops of the glowing liquid hit my bare skin. I wiped at my calves, frantically, smearing the fluid with my palms. I rubbed my hands on my thin t-shirt, and it instantly began to glow. I waited for pain that never came. I stared, wide-eyed, as bomb after bomb detonated on the ground, leaving neon puddles in their wake. Pledges ran with hands over their heads in an attempt to protect their faces.

I needed to do something, anything, besides standing here waiting for another bomb to hit me. I concentrated all of my considerable mental energy on the falling explosives, and focused on slowing their descent. After several seconds, the bombs froze in mid-air. I let out a breath that I wasn’t aware I had been holding, as I strained with the effort of holding them in place.

Upon opening my mind, I felt a flood of mixed emotions. The panic radiating from the other Pledges’ brains mirrored my own. Strangely, I also felt enjoyment – laughter even – mingled with the fear and anxiety. Confusion engulfed my other emotions.

What was going on? Donavon, I thought. I needed to find Donavon, he would know what was going on. I pulled some of my mental focus away from holding the bombs and sought out Donavon’s mind. It took me only seconds to find him, but once I did, I was even more perplexed.

Donavon was laughing. I could feel his glee as he watched the scene I was currently starring in from a different vantage point. I honed in on his exact location; and he was close. Concentrating harder, I slipped deeper in to his head. Finally, I saw Hunter’s Village through his eyes. I knew exactly where he was standing – on a small hill that overlooked the Village.

Donavon?” I mentally called out to him.

Welcome to the Hunters, Tal,” he laughed.

WHAT?!?” my mental voice screamed at him. Was he joking?? This was an initiation ritual?? Irritation quickly replaced my fear and confusion.

I narrowed my eyes in his general direction; I had a feeling that he could see me from his perch, even though I couldn’t see him. I was so annoyed at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night that I let my mental hold on the “bombs” slip, causing one that had been hovering not far over my head to hit me square in the face. I opened my mouth to scream and the neon liquid nearly choked me. Accidentally swallowing a huge gulp, I began to gag. I fell to my knees, retching, and willed myself to throw up the unknown substance.

Donavon’s laughter filled my head again, “It’s just colored water, Tal.”

He clearly found the situation to be hysterical and himself clever. Anger washed over me. The last two weeks had been the most physically demanding of my life, and now I was being roused from bed in the middle of the night to have faux bombs launched at me??? So not funny.

I concentrated on what I now knew to be water balloons – I picked that detail out of Donavon’s mind – and refocused my energy to again freeze them in mid-fall. I honed in on Donavon’s mind and forced the balloons back through the air to their origin, to Donavon and his group of cohorts. Not waiting for his reaction, I turned on my heel and walked back into my cabin, slamming the door, and crawled back into bed, not caring that I still looked radioactive.

I had the covers pulled over my head when I heard the door open, accompanied by loud laughter.

“Talia,” Erik called. “Come out and play.”

“Leave me alone, you ass,” I snapped. Three distinct sets of laughter chorused in response. I felt the covers being yanked back. I clung to the soft fabric of my white comforter, but I was no match for the three boys. I kicked and punched as Donavon leaned over me. His dark blonde hair was soaked with the neon liquid, making me feel a little better.

“Don’t be a spoil sport, Tal,” he laughed. “This is your formal welcome into Hunters Pledging.”

He wanted to see a spoil sport? I would show him a spoil sport. I kicked him in the stomach, hard, and he grunted. I flashed him a wicked smile. Erik pinned my legs down, giving Donavon the opportunity to scoop me up off my bed. I continued to squirm as he carried me across the cabin and back out into the night. He had over a foot and close to a hundred pounds on me, so my efforts were in vain.

“Come on Talia, it’s almost over,” Erik whispered as he walked next to us. I craned my neck to face him, and gave him a nasty look. He just laughed; I was hardly a threat at the moment.

Donavon carried me over to where a group of other Pledges had already begun to congregate. He placed me on my bare feet in the wet grass, but kept his hands firmly on my upper arms. Mentally I sent him a string of angry expletives. I didn’t have to see his face to know he was smiling; he was enjoying my discomfort way too much.

“For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Henri Reich,” an extremely tall, lean boy said, quieting all of the side conversations taking place among those gathered. “This is a little something we at the Hunters like to do as a welcome to the new Pledges. I know that you guys have all been working really hard these past two weeks. Making it this far means you’ve passed the initial phase of training, and are well on your way to graduating and becoming full-fledged Hunters. Congratulations.”

When Henri stopped talking, Donavon released my arms. He stepped back so quickly I stumbled, nearly falling over. Donavon was not the only one who had retreated, all of the older Hunters had moved away from us, leaving me and the other Pledges standing in the center of a new circle. More balloons rained down on the small group of us before I could register what was happening. These balloons were filled with a thick gooey liquid in varying colors – paint. I used my hands to shield my head, but it didn’t really help.

When the color assault finally ended, I removed my hands and looked around at the older Hunters. Some were doubled over, they were laughing so hard. Even the most serious of the group were shaking with silent laughter. I scowled, hoping that this was the only welcoming gesture they’d planned for us.

Donavon appeared behind and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Are you mad at me?” he whispered in to my ear. I reached my paint-covered hands up to his face and smeared squiggles down his cheeks. Then I ran my fingers through his damp, blonde hair, leaving most of the paint behind.

“Not at all,” I smiled sweetly.

“Enough, enough. I can’t take all the cuteness,” Erik joked, coming over to us. “Congrats Tal, you made it through your first round of training and now you are officially a member of the most awesome Hunting team ever: mine,” he said, smiling broadly. Erik had smears of turquoise paint, the same color as his eyes, across each of his high cheekbones; the color complemented his tan skin nicely. He leaned down to hug me, and I noticed flecks of purple and red paint decorating his thick black hair. I gave him a half-hearted hug in return.

“Talia, I’m glad to have you as part of our team,” Henri said as he wrapped one of his long arms around my shoulders.

“Thank you,” I said sincerely. “I’m really glad to be here.” I was. This was what I’d been working towards since I’d started attending the McDonough School for the Talented, seven years ago.

****

At the end of their junior year, students selected the top three divisions of the Agency in which they wanted to work after graduation. Then a Placement Committee – consisting of each Division head, the Director of the Agency and McDonough’s headmistress – reviewed each student’s test scores, their Talent and their Talent ranking, and assigned them to a division. Students spent their senior year, or Pledge year as the Agency termed it, working and training with their designated department. Not every student scored high enough to be rewarded with one of his top three choices – those students were randomly doled out to the less desirable divisions. The Hunters had been my top choice; my only choice. I knew I wanted – needed – to be a Hunter from my very first day.

For most it’s an easy decision; they go with other Talents of their kind.  Others, like me, want to do something different, or their particular ability does not have a niche.  It’s not unheard of for Talents besides Morphers, Light Manipulators or Telekinetics to become Hunters, but I am one of the few who actually did.  Most non-morphing Hunters aren’t assigned to a team, but serve as “floaters” instead.  Floaters are Hunters that join individual Hunting teams on a short-term basis, usually for just one Hunting mission, to lend their individual specialty when it’s needed.

****

“The food and drinks are on the way out, so please take advantage.  As a special treat, curfew for the night has been lifted.  And there will no training until after lunchtime tomorrow, so enjoy yourselves,” Henri called to the entire group.

Upon arriving at Elite Headquarters to start our Pledge year, each Pledge was assigned to a Hunting team with a vacancy.  Hunting team has three members, but when one member leaves – for whatever reason – the Agency replaces him, or her, with a Pledge.  Part of what made the Hunters such a competitive division was the fact that they only took as many Pledges as there were vacant Hunting Positions.  This year only fifteen of us were accepted, much less than most years.

I’d been assigned to Henri Reich and Erik Kelley’s Hunting team.  Henri was the oldest, and the leader of our trio.  He stood almost two feet taller than me and was all lean muscle.  His eyes were warm, light brown, and he wore just a little longer than most Hunters would.  Henri had been kind and patient in my short time working with him.   

Erik was his polar opposite.  He was only a couple of years younger than Henri, but was much more immature. It had amazed me to learn that they were such good friends, regularly hanging out in their free time.  Erik was shorter – somewhere right in middle of Henri’s height and mine – and more muscular than Henri, but by no means bulky.  His thick, dark hair naturally fell to one side, and was long enough that he used a bandana to keep it out of his face when we practiced.  He had extraordinary turquoise eyes; peculiar eye colors were a byproduct of the same nuclear spill that had caused our Talents. My own unnatural purplish-blue eyes were a result of the same catastrophe. 

Several more Hunters came over to welcome me and offer their congratulations.  Graciously I thanked them.  After a short, squat boy with dark brown hair; whose name might have been Lenyx; had extended his felicitations, Donavon grabbed my hand and led me away from the group. 

“Thanks,” I mentally sent him. 

I wasn’t exactly what you would call social.  For most of my life I’ve had only one friend; Donavon.  When I was young my family traveled a lot, and I rarely had the opportunity to spend time with other children.  My parents had hired private tutors for me since we never stayed in one place long enough for me to go to school.  Donavon was a social butterfly, but he knew that large groups of people make me uncomfortable.

“I figured you might want to get away.”

“What makes you think I want to get away with you?” I teased him.  He pulled me close, wrapping one arm around my waist, and lifted me off of my feet until our lips met.  I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him back; I could never stay mad at him for very long.

“Told you that you wanted to get away with me,” he whispered in my ear, setting me back on my bare feet.  His breath tickled my ear, and I giggled in spite of myself.

He took my hand and led me behind the semi-circle of cabins, known at Headquarters as the Hunters’ Village, and into the woods.    We followed a short, dirt path through the trees, and into another small clearing. There was a small fire already blazing in the center of the clearing, and blankets and pillows were spread out next to it. 

“It’s been so long since we spent time alone together.  I thought that since you don’t have a curfew tonight maybe we could sleep under the stars.” His mental voice sounded tentative.  I could tell he was afraid that I’d say no.

We hadn’t spent much time, just the two of us, in nearly a year.  Since I was younger than Donavon, I still had to complete my time at school when he’d come here, to Headquarters.  The time apart had been hard on both of us.  I’d seen him on holidays and the occasional weekend he’d been allowed to leave, and we’d talked daily, but it had been a huge change from seeing each other in classes and at mealtimes.  One of the things I’d been looking forward to the most was being around him again. 

I strode confidently towards the blankets and sat down.  I patted a spot on the fabric next to me.  Donavon gave me a huge smile and took a seat, folding his long legs underneath him. 

“Donavon . . .,” I mentally began, looking at my hands uncomfortably.  Idid want to spend the night with him out here, under the stars, but I also didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.

He lifted my chin, forcing me to meet his clear blue eyes. 

“I know, Tal.  No pressure, I just want to spend time with you.” His mental voice was soft.

 “Thank you,” I said out loud, giving him an appreciative half-grin.  Donavon was only a year older than me, but that year seemed to make all the difference when it came to taking the next step in our relationship. 

We both lay down with our heads on the pillows, facing each other.  Donavon draped one arm over my small waist, and extended the other one under my head.  We stayed like that for the rest of the night.  Nobody walking by would have been able to overhear our conversation, even though we talked until just before sun rise.  Our entire exchange took place mentally.  We rarely spoke “normally” – not since that first summer when we met. 

Donavon pulled me in closer, and I buried my face in his broad chest feeling comfortable, and relaxed for the first time since arriving at Elite Headquarters.

I drifted off to sleep as the sky turned from the dark of night to the pink of morning. 

Review

I got Talented because it was being offered for free on Amazon and it sounded really good.  We are introduced to Talia at her training facility working on becoming an Agent in the Hunters group.  The Hunters are in charge of finding information and people that are against the government and Talents.  They work for an organization called TOXIC, the Talented Organization of Exceptionally Interesting Citizens. There is a man named Ian Crane who is the President of the Coalition of rebels against Talents & TOXIC.  Talia has a beef with him and she has decided that she is going to make it her top priority to do what she can to bring him down.

I really, really liked this book.  I have not read books 2 or 3 or the novella, but I plan on it really soon.  I love the premise of this book and it is completely original from anything else that I have read.  The world ending as we know it is not a new premise, but how it ends and what happens to the citizens is.  There is contamination from nuclear waste that devastates the world and kills millions of people.  Some of the people that were born after the event were born with “talents,” meaning that they are born with an ability like shape-shifting, telepathy and manipulations.  They are shunned by some of society and are forced to go to separate schools.  A lot of them end up working for TOXIC in some capacity or another.

This book is very well written and the characters are well developed. I really connected with Talia and her plight as someone who didn’t grow up in a traditional sense with parents.  She isn’t normal, she doesn’t have a lot of friends and she’s trying to become a Hunter, not something that a lot of females pursue.  This story is not too fast paced but doesn’t bog down either.  It has a lot of action, drama and teenage angst.  Even though this is a young adult book, it is a great read for any age.  I am not ashamed to have read it.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  This book gets 5 books!

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 Get the book for FREE on Amazon

pawn

Synopsis

Dreams and Nightmares,
Screams and Sighs,
Fate Wakes the Girl,
And Says she Dies…

When the Boy Gets in the Way,
Then the Nightmares Come to Play…

For her eighteenth birthday, Endora Lee Andrews receives the gift of dreams. Nighttime slumber brings her visions of the future, a preview of things to come. Endora’s unsettling new ability is seemingly harmless, until her dreams turn to nightmares.

When she meets the mysterious and swoon-worthy Kannon, he knows things about her that he can’t possibly know, and seems to be the key to uncovering the source of her ominous prophecies. But Kannon has many secrets, some the essential difference between life and death for Endora.

Can she discover the origins of her nightmares and how to prevent destiny, before the harbingers of death come for her?

Woven with love, mystery and mythology, PAWN is the story of a girl who was once brought back from death, only to face it again. Because Fate may give you a second chance at life, but that doesn’t mean it’s yours to keep.

 Excerpt

Chapter One

I peered over the edge of the cliffs, squinting to glimpse the water below. The full moon cast just enough light that the lake shimmered, the surface smooth as glass and black as tar. Leaping off the rocky cliff and plummeting fifty feet before plunging into icy water held no appeal to me right now. I’d done it before, dozens of times even. Caswall Lake was a regular summer hangout for my friends and me. But tonight the lake felt unfamiliar, foreign even. While I couldn’t see the branches and roots protruding from the rock face, I knew they were there. Not to mention the ghost stories and urban legends associated with the lake, the ones about dead bodies trapped below the murky surface. In the light of day it was easy to ignore the tales, but in the darkness images of pale corpses haunted my thoughts.

“Stop stalling, Eel!” Devon Holloway, my best friend, prompted, before taking a swig from her beer. She winked one blue eye over the top of the can.

Devon’s boyfriend, Rick Hanes, chimed in next. “What’s wrong, Eel? You scared? I thought nothing fazed the great Endora Lee Andrews.”

Rick was one of my least favorite people, so his unwelcome teasing irked me more than it should have.

“I’m not scared,” I retorted defensively, turning away from the edge to glare at Rick.

Devon’s jerk boyfriend downed the rest of his PBR, crushed the can, and belched loudly. “Then what are you waiting for?”

I silently cursed Devon and the two others ― Elizabeth Bowers and Mandy Cowen ― for planning this surprise birthday celebration. First the trio burst into my bedroom, then blindfolded me, dragged me to the backseat of Devon’s ancient Chevy, and finally brought me here to Caswall Lake. A group of our friends were waiting in the woods with a roaring bonfire and plenty of cheap beer and fruity wine coolers.

Thankfully, Devon had thought at least to grab my bathing suit while Elizabeth and Mandy hauled me from beneath my comforter and stole the tub of mint chocolate chip that I’d been enjoying. So at least I wasn’t standing in front of thirty of my close friends wearing unmentionables ― that would have been humiliating.

Elizabeth stepped forward, stumbling drunkenly as she made her way to where I stood shivering in the green two-piece. “You only live once, Eel,” she slurred, wrapping a thin arm around my waist. Her long blonde ponytail smacked me in the face when she whipped her head around to look at me. “If it makes you feel better, we can jump together.”

As nice as the offer was, I doubted Elizabeth’s inebriated state would provide her with the wherewithal to jump out far enough to clear the obstacles on the way down.

“You should probably stay here, Liz,” I told my friend kindly.

“We didn’t climb all the way up here to watch you stand on that ledge,” Cooper Byrd, a good-looking junior called. He came to stand with Liz and me, slinging his arm around Liz’s shoulders to support her. She was unsteady and close to sending both of us tumbling over the edge. “Besides, you’re an adult now ― man up!”

Unlike Rick, Cooper’s teasing was good-natured; the soccer player didn’t have a mean bone in his lean body. And he was right. My friends had gone to the trouble of planning this celebration. Of course, diving off of a cliff hadn’t been on the original itinerary. Booze, music, watching the guys spit high-proof liquor into the bonfire, maybe a little swimming ― that had been the plan. At least until some guy I didn’t even know got it in his head that making the leap was somehow equivalent to declaring my independence. His brilliant idea spread like wildfire, and now here I was about to take the icy plunge.

“Jump, jump, jump,” Cooper began chanting. Someone else started a slow clap that made me feel as though I was about to take the game-winning foul shot in a feel-good sports movie.

“You don’t have to do this if you do want to, Eel,” Mandy spoke up tentatively, her words barely audible over the others.

I gave my friend a small smile, silently thanking her for her support. For Mandy, defying our peers was a big step. She usually tried to go with the flow, never disturbing the status quo.

“Jump! Jump! Jump!” The refrain picked up speed, growing more insistent until the words blended together in an indecipherable jumble.

I sighed, resigned to my fate. Now or never, I told myself. To the expectant crowd, I called, “Okay guys, back up so I can get a running start!”

My proclamation was met with whoops and cheers from my friends and I laughed despite my growing trepidation. I walked ten feet back from the ledge, stomach queasy and head spinning.

Calm down, this is no big deal, I lectured myself. The worst things down there are probably lost bikini tops and stray sneakers.

“EEL! EEL! EEL!” The crowd chanted my nickname over and over again.

With one last deep breath, I went for it. Pebbles and dirt clung to my bare feet and my heart hammered against my ribcage as I ran towards the edge. When only six inches separated solid ground from empty air, I leapt, pushing off with all the strength I could muster. The free fall was exhilarating, like the Tower of Doom at the Westwood County Carnival. Wind whipped my auburn hair across my face, an involuntary scream of thrill and fear tore from my throat. I bicycle-kicked my legs, anticipating the moment they would break the water’s surface. My friends’ cheers were drowned out by the air whooshing in my ears as my body dropped like a rock.

Much too soon the ride was over. First my feet hit the cold water, followed by my legs and stomach before my head finally dipped below the surface, abruptly cutting off the scream still coming from my lips. Water washed over my taste buds, a disgusting flavor of copper and fish, and I gagged reflexively. A slimy vine slid over my right foot as I kicked for the surface. Not a dead body, not a dead body, I chanted inside my head.

I kicked harder, suddenly desperate to get out of the water. The vine traveled up to my ankle and wrapped around my lower leg. It felt like fingers were digging into my flesh as it squeezed my calf muscle.

I started to panic. Air, I need air. Surface, must get to the surface, I thought. Fear made me irrational and I struggled against the hindrance that not only prevented me from swimming upwards, but was now actively pulling me down.

Think, Endora, I ordered myself. Don’t lose it now.

I dove down and clawed at the impediment encircling my leg. The vine was silky, smooth, and impossible to tear. The pressure on my calf increased at the same time a second vine coiled around my other leg. In the next instant, something that felt like long, bony fingers intertwined with mine in a perverse imitation of lovers holding hands. I twisted my wrists, trying to wrench my hands free. Blood roared in my ears as my heartbeat kicked into overdrive.

It’s your imagination, I told myself.

I opened my eyes, praying I’d find myself tangled in a fisherman’s net or something equally benign. Cold water stung my eyeballs, immediately making me regret the decision. The water was dark, murky with limited visibility. Lack of oxygen must have made me hallucinate, because I swore that eyes, shiny and black like polished pebbles, stared directly into mine. The eyes were set deep in a face so white that it emitted an ethereal glow, illuminating the mass of blue-black braids sprouting from the creature’s head. Those braids flowed all around me with a life of their own, slithering through the water to coil around my legs and arms.

The scream I let loose came out garbled, air bubbles floated in the space between my face and the hideously beautiful creature. More of that awful tasting water filled my mouth.

No, no, no, this can’t be happening, I thought with increasing terror. This is not real. I closed my eyes, started counting to ten, and prayed the imaginary attacker would be gone when I opened them. Three. I was on three when those slimy fingers released mine, moved to my throat and began to squeeze my windpipe.

My chest burned and my head was fuzzy. The little air that remained in my lungs was quickly running out, but now that the creature was actively squeezing the life out of me, it hardly mattered. I tried to dig my nails into the fingers around my throat but the creature’s skin was rubbery and my nails couldn’t grasp hold. My attempts were feeble at best.

Terrified by the hallucination and frustrated by my inability to save my own life, I began to thrash about wildly. A sharp pain in the sole of my left foot temporarily cleared the cobwebs in my head and I doubled my efforts to break free. My chest ached with the need for air, and my limbs were heavy, as if the blood had turned to lead in my veins.

I threw my head back, craning my neck in a last ditch attempt to sever my attacker’s hold. A sharp point pierced the base of my skull. Stars exploded behind my closed lids. A melodic male voice whispered in my ear, “Welcome back.” Then blackness consumed me and I felt nothing.

Devon once told me that drowning was an excruciating way to die ― she’s a wealth of useless knowledge. It wasn’t, though. Floating, weightlessness. That was what drowning felt like.

Tingling started around my midsection and the back of my knees. At first, the sensation was pleasant. But as feeling and awareness returned, it felt like barbed wire was wrapped around my stomach and legs, each barb pricking my skin over and over again. A strange buzzing noise, like the hum of an old radiator, filled my ears.

I struggled weakly, and the wires tightened.

“You’re safe,” a voice assured me.

All concepts of space and time ceased to exist. One minute the pins-and-needles feeling was all consuming. The next it was gone, replaced by a coldness that seemed to seep through my pores and settle in my bones. I trembled uncontrollably. The shaking was so violent that my teeth clanged together. I tried to speak, but my lips were too numb to form words.

“This should help,” the voice said.

Soft fabric was draped over me, forming a protective barrier between the chilly air and my exposed skin. The scent of Old Spice filled my nostrils, triggering memories of my father, who used to wear that brand of aftershave. Tears prickled behind my eyes. My father, I hadn’t talked to him today. I always talked to him on my birthday.

“Shh, you are going to be okay, Endora,” the voice soothed.

Strong arms lifted me, one under my shoulders and one under my knees. My cheek pressed against something hard and wet and the piney Old Spice smell intensified. I inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent and thinking about how my father used to carry me to bed after I’d fallen asleep on the living room couch.

The sudden influx of air was too much for my oxygen deprived organs. I began to cough, my stomach roiled, and my mouth began to water in that way it does right before you throw up.

“I’m gonna be sick,” I croaked through chattering teeth.

Hastily, the person holding me set me down on my side. Cold fingers brushed my skin as they gathered clumps of wet hair clinging to my face while lake water spewed from my mouth. Some part of me thought I should be embarrassed, but that part was overshadowed by the jolt of pain that shot through my right cheek. In the next instant, the fingers released my hair, and their owner emitted an audible gasp.

“Sorry,” the voice mumbled. Tentatively the person once again pulled the hair back from my face, this time careful to avoid skin-to-skin contact.

Even after all the water was out, my stomach continued to cramp uncomfortably and I continued to dry heave. Despite the cold, sweat beaded along my hairline and under my arms. The grass was cool and wet and I pressed my cheek against the blades, relishing in the refreshing feel of it. Pounding started at the base of my skull; it felt like someone was hammering my head from the inside. I moaned, immediately wishing I hadn’t when the pounding became louder and harder.

“You’re safe now, we just need to get you some dry clothes,” my savior said.

The situation was becoming clear. This person holding my hair, promising me that I was safe, had pulled me from the water. He’d saved my life. I hadn’t drowned at all.

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and then rolled onto my back to glimpse the person I was forever indebted to. Opening my eyelids felt like ripping off a scab. The ordinary act was extraordinarily painful, and I only managed small slits as I peered up into the most beautiful face I’d ever seen. Two blurry, green irises returned my gaze. I blinked several more times to bring them into focus. The eyes were gorgeous, brilliant emerald lights in the darkness.

“Do you know your name?”

I nodded, too embarrassed to speak. My rescuer, who’d just witnessed me emptying the contents of my stomach on the grass, was a boy about my own age. Not even my mother had seen me this vulnerable, not since I was old enough to use the bathroom by myself, anyhow.

“What is it?” he prompted, refusing to let me off that easy.

“Eel,” I whispered. My throat was raw, swollen and the single word was painful on my vocal chords. The creature in the water that tried to drown me, tried to strangle me, came flooding back in one sharp burst of memory. I shuddered. The experience felt so real. In my mind’s eye, I could see the dark eyes staring into mine, feel the bony fingers around my throat.

“Eel?” The boy said my name like a question, like maybe he hadn’t heard me correctly. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I snapped, edgy from the memory of the lake monster. “Eel’s a nickname, though,” I explained in a softer tone.

As a baby, my father had christened me Eel ― like electric eel ― after the mobile that hung above my crib mysteriously stopped working every night. Each morning, without fail, he replaced the battery. He joked that I singlehandedly kept Energizer in business. The nickname stuck around, even though my father had not.

I tried to sit up, but the effort was painful and I slumped back to the grass, defeated. The boy wrapped the blanket tighter around my body before placing one hand on the small of my back and the other on my arm, helping me to a sitting position.

“Short for Endora Lee,” he muttered, more to himself than me.

I stared at him curiously. How did he know that? Then I realized it wasn’t the first time he had said my name. He’d called me Endora when he first covered me with the blanket.

“How did you know my name? Have we met?” I asked, an ominous feeling creeping up my spine. I had the sudden urge to get away from him, very far away from him.

“You aren’t bleeding, so that’s a good sign,” he replied, dodging my question as he carefully examined the base of my skull.

He parted wet clumps of my hair until his fingers brushed the swollen goose egg protruding from my head. A crackle of electricity sparked in the air, sending a jolt of pain ricocheting through my body.

“Owwwww!” I exclaimed, as I pulled away from him.

“Sorry,” he muttered, averting his eyes from my face to stare at his hand. “Did that hurt?”

Of course touching the welt hurt, but that wasn’t why I’d pulled away. The literal shock of his skin on my mine, the current of electricity that flowed from his fingertips to my head, had come as a very painful surprise. Judging by the way he was inspecting his hands, he hadn’t expected it either.

We sat in silence, both of us looking everywhere but at each other. Water lapped the grassy bank, tree branches cracked in the distance, crickets chirped all around us. The longer we were alone, the more uncomfortable I felt. The boy gave me the creeps. When I finally did look at him, I couldn’t tear my gaze away. I admired the perfect slope of his straight nose, his golden brown hair dripping water, his full lips, and those intense green eyes. He was a magnet, a beautiful magnet, drawing me to him.

“Endora Lee?” His face was so close to mine that his breath fanned my cheeks, warming the skin.

“Yes?”

“What happened in the water?”

“What?” I stuttered, surprised by his question. I rubbed the spot on my neck where the creature had wrapped its slimy hands. The skin radiated heat, a sharp contrast to the cold, clammy skin surrounding it.

“What happened in the water?” he repeated evenly.

Uneasy laughter bubbled up in my throat. There was no way I was discussing my hallucinations in the lake. He would think I was nuts.

“EEL?”

“EEL?”

“EEL?”

At least three separate people called my name. The sound of breaking braches and crunching pebbles was growing closer. Devon was among the searchers, I recognized her voice. The other voices were harder to place, but I was pretty sure I heard Elizabeth and Mandy as well.

“Over here,” I called back.

My voice was hoarse and low and I doubted Devon and the others heard me. The boy and I continued to stare at each other, weigh each other, pass judgment on one another. I was torn. On the one hand I was unusually drawn to him, not romantically attracted so much as physically pulled to him. Even though we were practically touching, I wanted, needed to be closer. At the same time these feelings made me lean towards him, fear made me draw back. Something about him put me on edge, and considering that I had nearly drowned and he’d been the one to save me, it made no sense.

“How do you feel?” he asked, breaking the awkward silence.

“I’ve been better,” I mumbled, “but I’ll live.”

“Yes, you will.” The words were innocuous, the exact response that I would have expected had I given it much thought, but they gave me chills. It was like there was a hidden meaning behind them, one he thought I should be able to infer.

In the distance, Devon and my other friends still called my name, their urgency increasing.

“Endora Lee Andrews!” Devon’s voice was louder, more insistent, than the others.

I thought again about how this boy knew my name. Had we met? I studied his face, searching my memory for one that matched. Nothing. Not even the slightest spark of recognition.

“I’m over here,” I repeated, louder this time. I searched my surroundings for a landmark, since “over here” was pretty vague. All I saw were water and trees.

“By the water, Dev,” I shouted unhelpfully.

I returned my attention to the guy. He was staring at me with such intensity that I felt the need to recoil. But I didn’t. I returned his gaze, losing myself in the depths of his dilated pupils. My fight-or-flight instinct was a nagging voice in the back of my mind demanding that I choose flight. A different, stronger instinct won out ― the desire to be close to him.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Our faces were so close that if either one of us leaned forward we’d bump noses. My breathing was shallow while his was ragged, chest rising and falling in rapid succession.

The footsteps drew closer. “I’ve got her!” Devon shouted.

More trampling of leaves, cracking of branches, and low voices, but I didn’t acknowledge my friends.

“I should go,” the guy said, but he made no move to leave.

“Wait,” I reached for his hand, “you didn’t tell me your name.”

The guy drew his hand back as if the thought of my touch repulsed him. He said nothing and continued to stare into my eyes as if trying to see my soul. We stayed like that, gazes locked, ignoring my friends and the world around us, for what felt like forever. Despite the growing unease in the pit of my stomach, I didn’t want him to leave. I was intrigued, mesmerized, oddly transfixed, and didn’t want the moment to end.

“Eel?” Devon asked tentatively.

I barely heard her, but the sound of my name broke the trance. He quickly stood and backed away from me. Devon rushed forward, followed by Mandy and Elizabeth.

“Are you okay? Oh my god, I was so scared. You didn’t come up right away, and then you didn’t come up at all. But we couldn’t see well, so Rick thought maybe you had and we just missed it.” Devon wrapped her arms around me, hugging me against her chest. I was about to protest since I was soaking wet, but the comfort of a familiar person was too nice to turn down. I returned her hug, clinging to my best friend.

Over her shoulder, I watched my rescuer disappear into the woods. I wondered whether I’d ever see him again.

“Guess I overreacted, huh?” Devon muttered.

“What?” I asked, only half-listening to Devon.

“We thought you’d drowned,” Mandy said. Even in the darkness, I could make out the relief in her hazel eyes.

“No, I didn’t. That kid, the one who was sitting here with me when you showed up, he saved me.”

Devon pulled back and stared at me with confused blue eyes. “Really?” she asked skeptically. “Who is he?” She turned and looked into the dark woods, searching for the boy.

I followed her gaze, but he was gone. “I’m not sure,” I mumbled.

“Have you ever seen him before?” Devon asked.

Even as I shook my head no, I wondered if I had. He clearly knew who I was.

“Was he alone? What’s he doing out here?” Mandy interjected.

Again, I shook my head, unable to come up with an articulate answer.

“Probably the same thing we were doing before Eel ―” Rick started to say, but Cooper silenced him with an elbow to the ribs.

“It doesn’t matter right now,” Devon said. She returned her attention to me, accessing my face for signs of damage. “Are you hurt?”

“I hit my head, but I’m okay.”

Devon looked unconvinced.

“Really, Dev,” I added. “Let’s just get out of here. Where are my clothes?”

“I’ve got them,” Elizabeth supplied. She extended a pair of jeans, a tee shirt, and sneakers in my direction. Apparently, thinking that I’d drowned had a very sobering effect because she was much steadier on her feet than when I’d last seen her.

Devon helped me stand, aided by Rick and Cooper who both hurried to grab my arms when I stumbled. Mandy hung off to the side, nervously twisting a lock of short brown hair around one finger.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, embarrassed by the way everyone was fawning over me.

I took my clothes from Elizabeth, handing her the blanket in return. Between the headache from hell and the audience, I decided it was best to just put on my jeans and tee shirt over the wet bathing suit.

“What do you guys say we take this party back to my house?” Cooper suggested jovially.

After nearly drowning and being rescued by a mysterious stranger, I had no desire to celebrate my birthday any longer. Elizabeth spoke up before I was forced to make up some lame excuse for going home.

“Actually, we need to go back to my house,” she said. “Eel, your mom called.” Elizabeth produced a cell phone from her jeans pocket and waved the lit up display.

Great, I thought, overprotective mother to the rescue. Normally I begrudged her incessant phone calls and text messages, but tonight I was thankful. Since my mother, the Westwood County State’s Attorney, frowned upon breaking into private property, underage drinking and cheap thrills, I had told her that I was going to Elizabeth’s for a quiet night of movies and junk food with the girls. She had still been at the office preparing for a big trial that started the following Monday and hadn’t questioned the lie too closely.

“She said if you don’t call her from my house within the next hour, she will call the cops,” Elizabeth continued. Then, to my dismay, she added, “Anyone interested in late night hot-tubbing is welcome.”

“Party at the Bowers!” Cynthia Zeleski exclaimed in her high-pitched voice that was an assault to the ears on a normal day, but was particularly grating tonight.

Cynthia started into the woods, followed by the majority of the others. Only Devon, Rick, Elizabeth, Cooper, and Mandy remained.

I shoved my hand in the back pocket of my jeans, searching for the jewelry I’d put there for safekeeping. The new watch Devon’s parents gave me for my birthday was still there. But the necklace, the one my father had given me five years earlier, was missing.

“Liz? Where is my necklace?” I asked, trying to keep my tone even.

“Huh?” Now that she knew I hadn’t met a watery death she was back to her bubbly self, laughing loudly at something Cooper was saying.

“My necklace, where is my necklace?”

“Oh, Eel, I’m so sorry. Is it not there? I didn’t feel it drop, but…” Elizabeth’s voice trailed off and all the laughter faded from her expression.

I checked my pockets, all four of them. Nothing. I took a deep, calming breathe. The necklace was probably up on the cliff. All I had to do was take a flashlight and a couple of volunteers and go look for it.

“Let’s go check up there.” I pointed across the lake at the dark mound rising from the water on the far bank.

“Eel, you’re soaked and shivering. You really need to get some dry clothes,” Devon said.

“But ―” I started to protest but she cut me off with a wave of her hand.

“Rick and I will go look. You go to Elizabeth’s and call your mom.”

The necklace was important to me, it was all I had from my father and Devon knew that. She was right though; I was freezing, and needed to call my mother before she sent a search party.

“Go,” Devon insisted. She turned to Mandy and tossed her a set of keys. “Take my car. Don’t wreck it.”

Review

This book!! O.M.G this book!! I am so glad that I finally got a chance to read this, but at the same time I’m upset because I have to wait until next year for the next one.  I am not going into a whole lot of detail because the less you know about this book I think the better it will be for you. This book was so creepy, but amazing at the same time.  I couldn’t stop reading it.  I didn’t want it to end and I am still in a book funk over it because I can’t stop thinking about Endora and Kannon.  You know that when reading this book that there is more to Kannon than he is letting Endora know, but you don’t know if it’s good or bad.  You also get frustrated because Endora will have a dream (or nightmare) and you know what is going to happen, but she doesn’t seem to.  So, you are reading intently and practically screaming at her the entire time, like when you are watching a horror movie and you know the killer is in the next room.  It’s great!!  I am hoping and wishing that I get a chance to beta read the next one or get an ARC or something.  I don’t know if I can wait until it’s released!!  This book of course gets 5 books!! I would give it more if I could.

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About the Author

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Sophie moved to Washington, D.C. after graduating from Penn State University to pursue a career in the Sciences. After deciding to actually write down one of the stories she makes up in her head, Sophie began the long journey towards her first full-length novel, Talented. There are three sequels to Talented; Caged and Hunted are available now and Created will be available Summer of 2013. There is also a novella, Captivated, about Erik and Talia that was just released. Her second series begins with See You in My Nightmares, coming Spring 2013. When Sophie isn’t hunched over her computer, she can be found shopping in Georgetown, running in Rock Creek Park, or at the local dive bars in her Columbia Heights Neighborhood.

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