Hello, Writers and Readers!
Here is an excerpt from the YA paranormal romance, Lured by Him.
I desperately search the dark, lonely road with just my eyes. I’m on the ground, unable to move, and I feel a helplessness within me that fills me with dread. I need to move. I need to find Derek. He could be anywhere.
I struggle to listen, but the night is deathly quiet. I can only hear the hum of the highway, much too far away for me to call for help. My eyes search the growing darkness around me.
Then I see them.
Dark eyes, looking right at me.
Derek emerges from the shadows, pale, throat rasping for air. He hobbles to me slowly, carefully. His body blurs as my head throbs in pain, but I can still see him, coming to me ever so slowly.
I struggle to move.
Derek spots the movement and lunges my way. He kneels so hard next to me I can hear his jeans scraping the asphalt. He leans over me, looking ghostly pale. Looking sickly.
Looking like he needs to feed.
He inhales over me, taking in my scent, smelling my blood.
“D- Derek?” I whimper. He’s looking at me so intensely, it’s like he can’t hear me. I can’t look away from his mouth. From his flat teeth. He said they would hurt.
And I did say I would give him my blood.
He leans down closer to me. I already hurt all over, and yet I still fear those teeth.
Lured by Him
I wish life had background music—like maybe a dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun when something is about to go wrong, or a frilly little tune when things are going just right. Right now, I need a sign—something, anything—to tell me whether things are going right or wrong. Whether I’m heading in the right direction or not. Because, to be honest, it feels like the dun-dun, dun-dun of a shark in the water should be playing, faster and faster, right about now.
“Wynter, are you planning to eat your straw?”
My friend, Kaylee asks. She sits across from me and I pull the straw out of my mouth. It is mangled and a bit twisted.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” I say. “But I just might, if I don’t get my grade back soon.”
We’re in the school cafeteria. In here, it always smells like mac and cheese, like marinara sauce and fried food. The room is big, a sea of scattered tables and chairs. There’s a constant buzz of people talking, laughing, chatting.
“I’m sure you did fine,” Kaylee says dismissively.
She says it because I always do fine. But at any moment, I can make a mistake, get an answer wrong, and there goes my perfect GPA. Especially when it comes to pre-calculus. Keeping an A in pre-calc is a high-wire balancing act, one that I’m not particularly great at. My GPA hinges on that one stupid class, and my entire future hinges on my GPA.
I look away and try not to think about it. Thinking about life after high school feels like free-falling, and I don’t know where I’ll land.
“Hey, ladies,” Gavin Pierce says. He takes the seat next to mine. He smells of a beachy, ocean spray cologne.
With Gavin sitting close, all my thoughts disappear in a puff of smoke. I forget what pre-calculus even means. My tongue ties in a knot and butterflies awaken within my stomach. I hold back a smile that comes up every time Gavin is around me. I try to act cool around him, though it’s a struggle. My mind goes bonkers whenever the guy is near.
Gavin is a good friend… and kind of my crush.
Okay, totally my crush.
“Hi,” I say and glance at him.
He has short, naturally spiky hair, the color a nearly-white blonde. It matches his pale skin and grey eyes. He’s a monochrome of light, faded colors. It gives him an angelic aura.
“Hey,” he greets me. “Try not to eat your straw,” he smirks.
I chuckle and pull the straw from between my teeth. I’ve been friends with Gavin since my freshman year, and over time I’ve come to like his innocent sense of humor, his kind smile, his long conversations about movies. It’s hard to explain, but whenever I’m around him, I feel light and carefree and airy. My GPA and pre-calc and all my troubles fade away when Gavin is near me. It has always been this way. He has always been my friend.
Somewhere along the line, between my freshman and my junior year, I’ve become drawn to him in a deeper way. I’ve started getting butterflies in my belly around him. I’ve started thinking a lot about him, in ways I’ve never thought about him—or anyone—before. Ways that often make me blush…
Kaylee looks at me and grins from across the table. Like she knows something I don’t. But we both know I’m crazy about Gavin, and that’s exactly the reason she’s giving me that silly look.
I secretly shake my head at her, as if to say stop it.
“So, let’s forget about grades for a moment,” Kaylee says. “Let’s talk about the dance.”
Another of our friends, Maria, sits down at our table.
“Me and Maria already have dates.” Kaylee motions to Maria, who smiles excitedly. “What about you, Wynter? Are you going with anyone?” Kaylee asks pointedly at me. She puts her elbows on the table and leans forward, her chin on her fists. Her eyes flip from Gavin to me.
“Well, I think I might—”
A loud ruckus cuts me off. Pushing and shoving into the cafeteria is a group of guys that we all know as the bad boys of the school. The future drop-outs. There’s three of them, and they’re all juniors, even though they’re older. They wear denim jackets with all kinds of patches and buttons on them, stuff that says anarchy or bite me or whatever offensive thing they can get away with. It’s all tacky, really.
Well, except for the one guy. The one that stands out.
Derek is not like the others. His style is sophisticated, like something out of a GQ fashion magazine. He wears a matte-black leather jacket over a white tee. He wears faded jeans, ripped at the knees. He’s tall. Lean. Muscular. He seems more serious, more mature than the other two. He has an aura about him that’s both alluring and intimidating. Mostly intimidating.
He shoves one of the guys back and walks ahead, an easy, confident gait. The other two guys give him space, an obvious sign of respect. Derek seems annoyed by the two, and I wonder why he hangs around them. He seems so much different from them.
The guys get in the pizza line, slightly more quiet now.
“Anyway, about the dance,” I continue, looking away from the bad boy Derek Brosnick. “I think I’m going to see if Alisha wants to do a girls’ night thing.”
“What? Nooo,” Maria complains. I can see her eyes flick to Gavin, just briefly. “We’re all going with dates. Even Alisha wants to find a date.”
Gavin fidgets with his burger wrapper next to me, the crinkly noise making my scalp tingle. I turn my head slightly to him and see that he’s not listening. I get the feeling he’s avoiding our conversation on purpose.
So… what am I supposed to say?
I say nothing. I’m left sitting there awkwardly, chewing on my straw, and I can feel Gavin next to me. It’s as if his aura is a bubble of energy that pushes and pushes closer to my personal space, though he’s not actually moving closer to me.
When it comes to the dance, I know what my friends want. And I know what I want. But… what does Gavin want?
“Shoot, I forgot to grab a drink,” Gavin says and stands. “I’ll be right back.”
With Gavin gone, the girls take that opportunity to pounce on me.
“Girl, ask him!” Kaylee hisses in a whisper, swiping her red bangs from her forehead. “He’ll say yes.”
“Yeah, girl. Do it,” Maria adds. Her curly hair is just as bouncy as her attitude.
“Are you both crazy??” I hiss back. I make sure Gavin isn’t nearby, then I turn back to them. “I’m not asking a guy to the dance. That’s so… weird.”
“It’s the twenty-first century, Wynter,” Kaylee says, rolling her green eyes. “You can ask the guy out. Who cares?”
“I do. I care.”
“But you guys look so cute together,” Maria mumbles, making a sad pitiful face. “Y’all have to go together.”
I sit back. I run my fingers through my shoulder-length brown hair and think. “Okay. I do want to go with him. But I’m not going to ask him.”
The girls begin to whine.
“However,” I add. “I will say yes if he asks me. But only if he asks me. I’m serious.”
I don’t care about any gender roles. About who-asks-who. What I do care about is not being rejected. I don’t want to ask Gavin to the dance, only to fall flat on my face when he has to find a nice way to say no.
Because people don’t just say no. That would be cool and direct. Instead, they make this scrunchy, cringey face. They wince. They start with an oof and end with a pitiful Yeah… I’m sorry… And that is just the worst.
“Trust me, if he asks me—” I can’t finish my sentence again.
There’s an explosion of laughter coming from the pizza line. We all turn our heads.
Our friend Alisha is standing in line, glaring up at Derek Brosnick. Her face is serious, an angry scowl, and her jaw is set.
Derek just stands there, a foot taller than my friend. He looks down at her with a smug smile on his face. The two guys with him are guffawing and laughing in this really loud and stupid way that teen boys laugh in, like they can’t find a way to laugh normally, like humans.
Alisha turns quickly, her braids swishing against her back, and grabs her lunch. We all stare as she rushes to our table, tray in hand.
“Hey, are you alright?” I ask as she takes a seat. Her eyes are glistening with tears.
“No, I’m not alright,” she says. “They’re being stupid. They’re all like ‘we’re going to ask losers to the dance, then dump them.’ And I glance back and that Derek guy asks me. Like I’m a loser!”
“Don’t worry about them, Alisha,” I tell her. Alisha is the only one in our group that has to wear both braces and glasses, and she’s really self-conscious about it.
“You were just in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” Kaylee adds, rubbing her back. “They would’ve done that to anybody.”
“Did he ask you for real, though?” Maria can’t help but lean in and ask.
“What? I’m just saying. The guy’s a hottie.”
And she’s right. Though Derek is a jerk and a future drop-out, he certainly has the looks of a rock star. With wavy, dark brown hair styled medium-length at the top and close-cropped at the sides. With tanned olive skin. With that sharp jaw and clean-shaven, clear skin…
“Yep. I sure am a hottie!” Gavin jokes and sits back down.
And with that, the tension leaves the table, and we’re back to another normal day, having lunch together.
As the time passes, nothing more is mentioned about the dance—Gavin doesn’t bring it up, and he certainly doesn’t ask me to be his date. Disappointed sighs escape my lips secretly. I really do want to go with him…
The bell rings, and we all pack up to go. Maybe it’s not meant to be with me and Gavin.
“Hey, Wynter,” Gavin says, touching my arm. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
His hand feels cold against my naked arm, but I welcome the touch. When he pulls away, a tingling chill is left behind. I like it.
“Yeah, sure.” I slip a lock of hair behind my ear.
When our friends are out of hearing range, he says, “Do you think, maybe… you’d want to go to the dance with me?”
I smile. I can’t hold it back. Gavin is looking at me with those cool grey eyes, a shyness coloring his ears red. I look down, my eyes falling to his broad chest, and I notice he’s taking these tiny little shallow breaths.
“Yeah, of course,” I say timidly. I’ve known Gavin since ninth grade, but this sudden turn in our friendship is making me shy and nervous too.
“Okay then,” he says. He smiles. “I’ll pick you up at eight.”
“Okay then,” I repeat lamely, because my tongue is tied, and I don’t know what else to say. “I’ll see you then.”
Gavin blushes and begins to walk away. “A bit before then,” he says back to me. “It’s only Thursday. I’ll see you before then.” He grins back at me, then walks away.
He leaves, and I feel like I’m floating, my Converse sneakers stepping on air as I gather my notebooks, put my tray away, leave the cafeteria. I adjust my notebooks against the crook of my arm as I walk. The hallways are emptying out quickly, and I wonder just how long Gavin and I stood there, gazing at each other, the rest of the world fading into a blurry background.
“Watch out, little gal.”
I jump back. I look up and realize that I’ve almost ran into somebody. Somebody who leans back against the wall.
Somebody wearing a matte-black leather jacket.
“Where you going in such a hurry?” Derek Brosnick asks. He has a toothpick between his lips. He tongues it playfully.
“Class,” I say.
I immediately feel stupid when he laughs.
“Oh, that’s right,” he says, as if just now realizing he’s at school. He looks around, then back at me. “There’s a dance on Saturday. Go with me.”
It’s not a question. It’s a command.
I feel a heat deep in my chest. I want to tell him off for making Alisha cry. I want to tell him that I’m on to his games. That I already have a date—someone intelligent, nice… with a good future, unlike him. I want to tell him that, although everybody else is, I am not afraid of him.
But the second bell rings, and I’m going to be late.
“No,” I say and walk around him.
“No?” Derek asks, and I can hear his footsteps behind me, following me. “Did you just say ‘no’?”
“I said no,” I call over my shoulder. I walk faster.
The steps of his heavy combat boots sound like horses galloping, and suddenly he’s in front of me. I stop. I hug my notebooks to my chest.
He’s a head taller than me, so my eyes fall on his collarbone. There’s a brown freckle right by his Adam’s apple. It’s small and cute. It’s something I’ve never noticed before, because I’ve never been this close to him.
Slowly, I raise my eyes up to his face, to meet his brown eyes. The brown is the brown of coffee beans, a swirling pattern of dark and light.
“Nobody says no to me,” he whispers, leaning down close to my face. His breath is minty. His shadow seems to engulf me. Being so close to him… I never realized just how tall he is, how broad his shoulders are… how dangerous he actually feels.
“Well, I- I just did,” I hate that my voice is shaky, but I say it anyway. I back up and quickly walk around him again. I hurry down the empty hall and I don’t hear him behind me. I don’t want to, but I can’t help it…
I look back. He’s staring right at me, his jaw muscles tensing and clenching as he chews on the toothpick.
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