Okay so earlier this week, I said that if I got a certain number of likes, I would post a sneak preview of my third Unveiled book – I Hold the Tide – which is due out on 20th October 2017. So here you go, this is an excerpt from Chapter Two, which doesn’t give too much away. Amy and Emlynn are staying at a guesthouse in Cornwall and there’s strange doings afoot. Enjoy 😉
My eyes snapped open. I was curled up on the broad windowsill, the first golden fingers of morning stroking my face. I felt vile. As if I’d been out drinking all night. My head ached, my eyes were scratchy-hot and my upper left arm near the shoulder throbbed. Pain deep in the bone. I groaned and sat upright, fingers seeking for the small hole left by a lead ball in my upper arm. They met only smooth unblemished flash. No injury. Nothing there. No reason to think there would be – except that I knew I’d been dreaming some long dead person’s memories.
I didn’t want any of this again. I wanted to be left alone. But a deeper part of me still craved the excitement and mystery. Craved danger? Never had a dream where what I experienced as somebody else left me in physical pain, though. I tried to close my left hand, but I couldn’t get all my fingers to meet. As soon as I bent my thumb inwards pain screeched up my arm into my shoulder socket. I bit back a cry. Could you accidentally break your own arm in your sleep? Ridiculous, but the pain was real even if the cause wasn’t. Eyes watering, I rubbed my upper arm. Gradually the pain faded, lingering only in a slight numbness of my left hand. Eventually that disappeared too.
When I tried to make a fist again, my fingers obeyed with only a slight stiffness. I swung my shoulder in a full circle. No phantom pain. Which left me with only one question. What the hell was going on?
Are you alright, Em?
That’s what Amy should be saying about now. It was a weird thought to have but Amy’s version of the Touch nearly always meant she knew when something was wrong. Which meant she turned up. Was she okay? In sudden panic, I stumbled to the connecting door and threw it open.
Amy was sitting cross-legged on her bed, typing away on her laptop with her headphones firmly plugged into her ears. I stopped, deflated. Whatever Amy was doing, it was engaging enough that she’d been able to ignore the Touch. I tried to smother the little voice that said Amy had moved on. That I mattered less. I tried to drown it with logic. Amy’s gift worked differently. It was less strong – and less of an affliction – than mine, so I couldn’t expect her to react to every bad night I had.
Yes but I was shot.
No, the person you were in the dream was shot. Get a grip. Amy probably didn’t even know anything was wrong. Were you going to tell her anyway?
But nothing. It was a dream not the end of the world.
No, it’s just meant that pretty much every time in the past so far…
Do you want your little sister always on call in case you decide to let her in on your paranormal shenanigans? Do you? Doesn’t Amy get to have her own life, her own friends?
Her own boyfriend?
The guilt was hot, acidic and immediate. Everything I kept expecting to feel when I thought about what had happened to Rhys, but that had never come. I felt it now. And I’d named the evil. Amy has a boyfriend. Why should that feel like the world was dropping out from beneath my feet?
“Em? Are you coming in or is there something magical about the doorway?” Amy pulled out one earbud and cocked her head to the side. She looked impatient. The sinking feeling in my gut grew worse. I relaxed my grip on the doorframe.
“Yeah,” I said illogically. I meant ‘I’m coming in’ but I didn’t feel welcome and the word turned to ash in my throat.
“Could you whack the kettle on then?” Amy turned back to her laptop. She left the ear bud out but it was clear she wasn’t paying attention to me.
I mechanically went through the motions of filling the kettle and laying out the complimentary tea and coffee. A tight band of pain circled my head. A sidelong glance showed Amy reading something on her screen, her mouth curving in a smile so unconsciously tender, I felt as if I was spying on her. She looked up when I shoved a cup of tea under her nose, her smile more open and less intimate now it was aimed at me. I couldn’t help noticing that she rested one hand on the lid of her laptop, ready to slam it shut the moment I tried to take a peek. If Amy was aware of the cords of tension strung across the room she gave no sign of it. Feeling childish but unable to stop myself, I ostentatiously stirred sugar into my own tea. It was stupid, attention seeking behaviour. But Amy knew I only took sugar when I was particularly shaken after a bad psychic storm. If she was going to notice anything…
Amy typed one further sentence, then started shutting the computer down. She was oblivious to both my battle to keep my mouth shut and my shakiness. I sipped the sweetened tea, torn between wanting to know what Amy was up to and a thin, constricting pride that tightened around me, forcing the words back in my throat. If she wasn’t going to notice that there was a problem, I wasn’t going to tell her.
“Good job we’re at the top of this house,” Amy remarked. “The wifi is dreadful. I bet you can’t get any signal at all on street level.”
“Y-yeah well that’s C-Cornwall for you,” I muttered, still trying not to sulk. But Amy had given me an opening. “What were you up to anyway? You c-can’t have sk-school work already.” My attempt at teasing came out flat. Amy gave me a sharp look but didn’t comment on my tone.
“Just chatting to someone,” she said lightly.
“Muh-must have been some chat.” It was there again. The coldness in my voice. I couldn’t stop myself.
“You know how I get when I start talking ‘science nerd’,” Amy said but there was an edge to her tone. Leave it alone, the edge said. I couldn’t.
“D-don’t think you’ve t-told me anything about Geneva.”
“Really.” Amy’s expression shut me out.
I hated it. I hated this distancing. Was this a new thing? How had I not noticed? Anxious frustration laced even more tightly around me.
“Are y-you actually g-going t-t-to?” I demanded. The tenser I became, the worse my stutter grew. I didn’t mean to sound like I was interrogating her but something had snapped inside me. I was desperately trying to claw down the walls between us that I’d only just realised were there.
Amy shot me a look that was so cold and disappointed, I sucked in a breath. For a moment she wasn’t my little sister but a formidable woman I didn’t even know. “For your information I’ve told you pretty much everything about Geneva. If I’ve kept anything back it’s because it’s private. Can’t I have anything that’s mine? Or do you have to approve all my friends and everyone I talk to?”
“I haven’t finished,” Amy said. “You of all people know how horrible it is to be talked over!”
I stared at her, mortified. If anything she was only getting angrier, which meant this had been building for a while. I shook my head but not in denial.
“Have you told me everything? Or even anything? No. You’ve been stuck in your own little world like always.” Amy’s frostiness cracked. A pleading note crept into her tone. “What happened in Dorset, Em? Why won’t you talk about it?”
“Nuh-nothing happened! I t-told you everything.” Everything I can tell you anyway.
Amy’s face was closed and cold. “No,” she said very calmly. “No you didn’t. There’s something going on with you. Why won’t you let me in?”
“There’s nuh-nothing going on!”
“Oh really,” she flared. “Then what happened with Ciarán? What’s going on there? He came back and you’ve spent the last two weeks acting like you wish he hadn’t!”
“That’s n-not f-fair!” I said, stung. “And h-how is that your b-business anyway?” My own temper was rising now, molten lava through the ice.
“It’s my business because I like Ciarán. And I hate watching you hurt him by dangling him and stringing him along when you’re supposed to be together. I don’t know what happened with that Lucas bloke, but he’s not someone you ditch Ciarán for.”
“H-how is th-this about my love life?” I snarled. “I’m n-not with either of them. Wh-when d-d-d-did you become the kind of girl wh-who thinks someone is f-f-failing unless they’ve got a sodding b-boyfriend?” How dare she say I was dangling him! I had reasons – good reasons – for not getting involved with Ciarán again. I don’t deserve him… I squashed the thought under a layer of fury. Who did Amy think she was? After everything I’d been through, I was selfish?
“H-has it occurred to you that m-maybe there’s m-more to it? That we’re n-not supposed to be t-together? Or were you so b-busy with your great n-new life you n-never th-thought?!” I snapped in a tone I would never in a million years have thought I’d ever use on Amy.
Instead of recoiling, Amy leaned into blast. “I know that you’re frigging everything up for some stupid reason you won’t explain! I know you’re so busy playing the martyr you don’t care you’re hurting anyone else!”
“Shut. Up.” The words whipped out of me on an electrical charge that left a burnt taste in my mouth. I saw them hit my sister. I saw them work. Her scowl went from anger – and a certain reckless enjoyment that we were airing the things that bothered her at last – to surprise and consternation when she opened her mouth and no words came out. Amy shook her head as if to clear it and tried again. Mouth open. Mouth closed. No words. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so awful.
Two weeks ago, I’d told someone else not to speak and they never had again. Admittedly Rhys had died soon after. Maybe it would have worn off. But what if I’d robbed Amy of her voice forever?
Amy looked up at me, mouth still working. Her anger had collapsed and she seemed to be trying to laugh but there was a hint of panic in her eyes.
“Amy? Oh shit. Amy sp-speak to me,” I half-reached for her and then let my hands drop. “Speak.” The word sizzled on my tongue. I closed my eyes in shame.
“Okay. That was weird,” Amy said, sounding freaked out.
“Um…” Relief mingled with the horror in my twisting gut.
“You know when you have something you want to say on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t get the words out?” Amy said, disturbingly calm.
I raised an eyebrow at her, feeling sick. My hands were shaking.
“Of course you do,” Amy went on conversationally. “Well that was nothing like that.”
I forced myself to meet her gaze. “W-what do you m-mean?”
“I mean it was like someone was actively stopping me from talking.” She gave me an odd look and I wilted under her scrutiny.
Now. Tell her. Now is the time. Explain about Rhys and his ability which is now yours. Tell her what you did and why you can never be with Ciarán. Make her understand…
“Wuh-weird,” I murmured.
Amy looked disappointed for a moment, then set her shoulders as if steeling herself. “Did you… you didn’t…do that? …did you?”
“What?” I vacillated between coming clean, explaining about the unwanted extra ability – that using it had been an accident – and saying nothing because I wanted Amy’s good opinion. I was horrified at the evidence of Rhys’ evil ability within me. But there was something else stopping me. That same stiff pride that quelled my horror, which told me I had made my decisions and did not need to explain myself to anyone. That I knew what was best and since I was the one who had to live with everything I’d done, it was my business, no one else’s.
Amy’s composure was being overtaken by bewilderment. I was sure she knew it was my fault, but she couldn’t see how it could be and doubted herself. Before she could reason her way through it, I leapt on that doubt. Encouraged it.
“S-sometimes I g-get so angry I l-l-literally can’t speak,” I offered. Maybe that’s what happened to you.
“Yeah but…” She shook her head again. We both heard the unspoken words. Yeah but you have speech problems.
“I’m suh-sorry,” I said miserably. Sorry I can’t tell you. Sorry about Ciarán. Sorry I just silenced you. Sorry I was angry and scared and possessive. Let her take it anyway she liked.
“Me too. I’m sorry I yelled at you. If you want to tell me anything…” She shrugged. “I’m here, is what I’m saying. When you’re ready.”
“Th-thanks.” I tried not to sound sour. “Th-think I’m going to go for a walk. Clear my h-head. It’s hurting today.” Maybe if I made it sound like one of the headaches I got on a fairly regular basis, Amy would put my bad mood and the resulting argument down to that.
“Do you want me to come?” Amy said.
“I’m n-not good company r-right now.”
Amy looked at me properly for the first time. “You’re mega pale, Em. And your eyes… Did you sleep alright? You don’t look well. Are you sure you should be going anywhere?”
“M’fine,” I murmured. “R-really. J-just need some fr-fresh air.”
“O-kay,” Amy said doubtfully but I was already returning to my room.