Here is the long-awaited, much-requested teaser chapter for Awoken!
(under the cut ;p)
Though I barely slept at all, I spent the rest of the weekend in bed. I saw no point in getting up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything but my own thoughts, and I could just as easily do that lying down.
My mom came barging in every couple of hours, asking questions and looking at me as though I were dying. I must have said, “I’m fine, Mom,” a dozen times. Of course, I wasn’t fine, but she didn’t need to know that. There was nothing she could have done to help me, except leave me alone with my thoughts. Again and again, I went over the events of the past week, trying to make sense of it all, but it was like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces.
Riley had made Travis lose his mind. I was sure of it.
But how? And, more importantly, why?
I thought about Thursday in the parking lot at Henrietta’s, when he’d vanished into thin air. The way he talked, like he was from another era. The fact that he’d appeared in my dreams before I’d met him in real life. The conclusion was as obvious as it was terrifying.
Riley Bay wasn’t human.
But if he wasn’t human, then what was he? An alien, sent to Earth to learn about humanity in preparation for an invasion? Riley was certainly weird enough to be an alien, but I didn’t see why the mother ship would send him to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in the guise of a high schooler. Surely, he would learn more by infiltrating our government or something, right?
If he wasn’t from outer space, then he had to be from Earth. But if any native of Earth could do the things he did, then the world was a much stranger place than I’d been led to believe.
In my head, I made a list of every mythical beast I could think of, but Riley Bay didn’t resemble any of them. He went out during the day, so he couldn’t be a vampire. He was in school during the full moon, so he wasn’t a werewolf. He didn’t have wings, so I could cross both faery and angel off the list. What did that leave? Leprechauns? I snorted at the very idea.
And what was his motive? What interest could such a creature have in me, the most ordinary girl in the world? Why did he despise me so? And why punish Travis for taunting me? If anything, he should have reveled in seeing me humiliated like that. The more I learned about Riley Bay, the less he made sense.
A big part of me wanted to pretend the whole thing had never happened, but that was impossible. Even if my mind had let me forget, my classmates wouldn’t have. On Monday, everyone was talking about Travis’s unexpected mental break.
“They’re saying it was drugs,” Vik informed us at lunch.
“He didn’t seem high to me,” said Bree. “I mean, until he started screaming about tentacles.”
“I guess whatever he took needed time to kick in,” said Vik, shrugging.
“What did he take?” Bree asked. “LSD? Bath salts? Mushrooms?”
“I’ve heard conflicting things,” said Vik. “But whatever it was, he must have way overdone it. They’re saying his brain is permanently fried.”
No one said a word about Riley. Apparently, I was the only one who’d noticed the look on his face as Travis went insane. That made sense when I thought about it. No one else had any reason to be looking at Riley at that moment. Even if they happened to glance in his direction, they probably wouldn’t recognize the significance of his expression. Only I had reason to be wary of him already.
By the time the 3:35 p.m. bell rang, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to confront him.
Cornering Riley wasn’t hard since, as usual, he had chosen the desk directly behind mine. I waited just outside the classroom door, gesturing wordlessly for Vik and Bree to go on without me. Then, when Riley came out, I ambushed him.
“We need to talk,” I said bluntly.
Surprise flicked across Riley’s face, but a second later, he’d regained his composure.
“Yes?” he asked coolly.
I looked around. The hallway was swarming with students, but Mr. Price was still in his classroom, as most of the teachers would be. In the end, I pulled Riley into a nearby janitor’s closet. It seemed faintly ridiculous, discussing such fantastic events surrounded by mops, brooms and various other humble objects, but it was better than the hallway. It was going to be awkward enough without an audience.
“I want to know how you did what you did to Travis, and why,” I said.
He looked at me the way you’d look at a poodle that suddenly started reciting Hamlet.
“I… I know not what you mean,” he said.
“Don’t lie to me!” I snapped. “I saw the way you were looking at him.”
Riley’s lip curled. “That’s your damning evidence?” he sneered. “That I looked at him?”
My cheeks flushed. Now that I’d said it aloud, it sounded ridiculous. But my gut was still telling me Riley was to blame.
“It had to be you,” I protested weakly. “Who else could have done something like that?”
“I think you’ll find the question is not who, but what. The boy foolishly ingested a most potent drug, or so believe the authorities.”
I shook my head. “That doesn’t add up. There were a hundred people at that party, and none of them saw Travis take drugs.”
“Perhaps he did so while hiding in the lavatory.”
“Or perhaps he didn’t take anything at all,” I said mockingly.
Riley only smiled patronizingly at me.
“I suggest you leave the detective work to the police, Miss Slate. You clearly have no aptitude for it.”
He started to walk out of the room. Furious, I called after him, “That’s not all I’ve seen you do!”
He froze, his hand on the doorknob.
The next instant, I found myself pushed up against the closet wall. Riley was gripping me by the shoulders, his face so close to mine that I could practically count the eyelashes framing his unearthly eyes.
“What do you mean?” he demanded, his hot breath warming my cheeks. I was seriously freaked out, but there was no turning back now.
“Last week, in the parking lot at Henrietta’s,” I said. “You just vanished. I only took my eyes off of you for a second. No normal person could have run away that fast.”
For the first time, Riley Bay was at a loss for words. I would have smiled triumphantly if I wasn’t so scared of what he might do next.
“And that’s not even taking into account the weird way you talk, or the fact that your past is a complete mystery, or—” I stopped short. I didn’t want to tell Riley that I’d seen him in my dreams. That seemed too… intimate. He might get the wrong idea.
“You… you noticed these things?”
“Of course. I’m not blind.”
He shook his head. “But you’re just a girl. One utterly insignificant girl. How could you…?”
Riley trailed off. He was looking at me in a completely different way then: with wonder and—was it possible?—a touch of fear.
“Perhaps the prophecy is true, after all,” he murmured, more to himself than to me.
“What prophecy?” I asked, baffled.
Riley just stared at me some more. The gears in his head were clearly turning a mile a minute, but I couldn’t guess what they were producing. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision.
“They’ll never believe you,” he said. “They’ll think you’ve been ingesting drugs as well.”
I opened my mouth, then closed it again. He was right. If I was really the only person who’d noticed all of the strange things about Riley Bay, then trying to tell people would be pointless. They’d find it much easier to believe that I’d gone insane than that I’d actually witnessed any of it.
Riley finally released his viselike grip on my shoulders.
“Go home, little girl,” he said. “Enjoy your mundane little life while you still can.”
And with that, he was gone.