Today we are getting a sneak peek at Pawn by Sophie Davis.
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
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; the creature's skin was rubbery and my nails couldn't find grip it. 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.
When I came to, I remembered how Devon was wealth of useless knowledge. She had once told me that drowning was an excruciating way to die. 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 for dad. 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 as 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.
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'd 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. And judging by the way he was inspecting his hands, I surmised 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.
"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.
To Celebrate the release of Pawn, Sophie is giving away $100 worth of giftcards to your choice of Amazon, B&N, or iTunes. To enter, visit her website at www.SophieDavisBooks.com.