On a chilly December night in Savannah, Georgia, seventeen-year-old Addie Smith dreams of an alluring young man, too mysteriously handsome to be real. When spring semester commences the following week, at Maple Creek High, a new student, named Tom Sutton, arrives, bearing a striking resemblance to the beautiful stranger from AddieÂ’s dream. Addie feels inextricably drawn to Tom, and his rare, unwavering resiliency, as the enchanting nature of first love takes hold. But when a cold-blooded criminal returns to Savannah, in pursuit of a long-forgotten possession, Addie must confront the darkest secrets of an elusive, hidden past that threaten to destroy her future.
I love the chance to feature the first chapter of a book! Its like a sneak peek. Â I think this one really sets the tone for this book. I sure want to know what happens next! This one should pique your interest and make you wish for more.
I stepped out into the cold, dark night, searching for a familiar face in the parking lot. With a crumpled fold of white chiffon in my hand, I gently shut the car door, wondering why Eric was nowhere to be found. Locking my silver Volkswagen Beetle with the push of a button, I glided across the black pavement. The incessant clicking of my heels against the ground made me even more aware of my presence in a formal white gown.
The Winter Ball had never been my idea, but Eric had insisted, since his antiquated high school did not host dances. Maple Creek High, on the other hand, had no problem renting a Hilton hotel ballroom for the evening. With the rate of tuition increasing every year, the PTA felt no remorse in demanding what they wanted.
Inside the ballroom, a cluster of students migrated towards the center of the dance floor. Teenage boys jostled into each other, too distracted by the cleavage-baring dresses worn by their teasing girlfriends. Junior quarterback, Ricky Travis, danced at the front of the crowd with his very own Barbie doll, Nicki Caldwell.
Nicki wore an ocean blue dress with aquamarine jewels scattered along the neckline, though she looked more like a mermaid than a princess. Her white blonde curls were stacked atop her head, clasped together with a lavender seashell clip, while a string of pearls clung to either of her small, bony wrists. Even in December, Nicki was ready for the beach.
To achieve her picture-perfect appearance, Nicki frequented salons on a weekly basis, where she allowed beauticians to bleach her hair, burn her skin, and coat her nails with a new shade of candy-colored polish. Once the tanning process was complete, Nicki laid down ample amounts of cold, hard cash, so that a professional could wax the places on her body where she had rather not have hair. And yet, Ricky pressed his body against hers, wrapping his arms around her stomach, as if she had woken up like this.
I could not help but roll my eyes.
Ricky Travis had spent the past two years tugging at my hair in math class. Somehow, every semester, at least one teacherÂ’s seating chart always indicated that Ricky would be sitting in the seat directly behind mine. If I ever turned around, Ricky would let go of my hair, holding his hands in the air as if he were an innocent man. Â“I didnÂ’t do anything,Â” he would smugly remark, his thin lips held apart.
The truth is, I had developed a crush on Ricky at the start of freshman year, when we all began taking classes at Maple Creek High. He was tall, dark, handsome, and athletic. But it only took two weeks for me to discover his wicked ways.
I sauntered around the edge of the dance floor and removed the cream-colored coat from my shoulders. No one stood at the punch table, so I poured myself a drink. The cherry flavored liquid felt pungent on my tongue, as I shriveled my face in disgust. When I looked up, a young girl approached, who could have been no older than fifteen.
Â“Ricky poisoned it,Â” the girl said. Her black bob slightly bounced as she spoke.
Â“What?Â” I set the plastic cup down on the table, carefully looking her over.
Â“I mean with alcohol.Â” She shrugged her shoulders, then turned towards the dance floor to look at Ricky. Â“HeÂ’s my brother.Â”
Â“Oh.Â” I raised my eyebrows, then placed a hand at my waist. Â“My condolences.Â”
The girl laughed at my snide remark, drawing attention to her doll-like figure. Â“IÂ’m Jeanine.Â” She stuck her small hand forward, shaking mine. Â“And youÂ’re Addie Smith.Â”
Â“Yes.Â” I nodded. Â“How do you know my name?Â”
Â“Ricky.Â” She pointed over her shoulder, while her older brother gyrated against NickiÂ’s tight-skirted bottom. Â“He talks about you all the time.Â”
Â“Really?Â” I caught RickyÂ’s eye across the dance floor. He froze in place, then passed Nicki off to another football player, as the next techno-pop song began.
Â“I better go.Â” Jeanine grew stoic and frightened. Her red lips looked as though they were quivering. Â“DonÂ’t tell him what I told you.Â”
Â“All right.Â” I watched her scamper away, not understanding our brief, yet telling conversation. When Ricky approached, I turned my back to him, studying the punch bowl before me.
Â“Hello Addie,Â” Ricky murmured. I could feel his breath at the back of my neck.
I turned to face him. Â“What do you want?Â” I pressed my palm into his chest, pushing him away. Ricky leaned against the punch table, reclining on his elbows.
Â“Just to tell you how beautiful you look tonight.Â” Ricky pulled at my hair. I slapped his hand away, sighing in frustration. Nicki walked up to me, the hatred evident in her eyes.
I looked at Ricky, then grabbed the folds of my white gown. Â“YouÂ’re ridiculous.Â” I stormed off, in search of the bathroom, leaving Nicki to contemplate the behavior of her boyfriend.
On my way down a long corridor, I heard the sound of someone crying. Jeanine sat in the hallway, with her back against the wall. Her bright red party dress fell in ruffled folds, just above the knee.
Â“Jeanine, whatÂ’s wrong?Â” I knelt down beside her, not minding that I might stain my white dress.
Â“Can you drive me home? Please! I donÂ’t want to go home with Ricky.Â” Heavy tears streamed down her face, pulling streaks of black mascara with them.
Â“All right,Â” I succumbed, resting my hand on her shoulder. Â“YouÂ’re a freshman arenÂ’t you?Â”
Â“Yes.Â” She nodded.
Â“And we had a class together?Â” I squinted my eyes in a questioning manner.
Â“Study hall,Â” she whimpered, unable to look me in the eye.
I took a deep breath, blowing hot air through my teeth. Â“Wait here, IÂ’ll find the back door to this place.Â” I rose, slipping back into my winter coat.
Â“Addie, thank you,Â” she whispered, choking on her own tears. Â“And IÂ’m sorry I ruined your night.Â”
Â“ItÂ’s all right, honey. My date didnÂ’t show anyway.Â” I patted her on the shoulder before walking off.
I turned at the end of the hallway, noticing a red EXIT sign above a door. I pushed the door open and climbed three flights of stairs, before reaching an old wooden door at the top. Turning the tarnished metal knob, I crossed the threshold and found a dark, empty room.
Â“Hello,Â” I called out, stepping forward. But as I let go of the heavy door, it swung back into the door frame, slamming in place. I twisted the doorknob, frowning at its immobility. The door was locked.
Â“Hello.Â” I banged my fist against the door, yelling for help. Â“Jeanine!Â” But she wasnÂ’t going to hear me. I had left her in the hallway three floors below.
After fifteen minutes of hollering, I set my purse down and removed the thick warm coat that hung over my gown. The room smelled of dust and sweat. I wondered why the hotel had yet to remodel it, as renovations had been completed on the rest of the building just before the Winter Ball date had been set.
All was dark in the room, except for a small, square window that revealed a sliver of moonlight, which shone down on the floor below. I stepped into the pale white light and watched the half-moon hang in the black sky. A translucent layer of dense fog surrounded the moon, drawing further attention to its true silvery radiance.
Â“Addie,Â” a strange voice said. I felt a cool hand touch the bare skin of my shoulder. My heart thumped loudly inside of my chest as I swallowed, too terrified to turn around. Lifting my eyes to the window, I spotted his reflection in the glass. His black, neatly cropped hair looked like RickyÂ’s, though not exactly. Unable to resist my fear any longer, I turned around. The man who stood before me was not Ricky.
Â“Hello.Â” He smiled, standing much closer than I would have liked. A pair of straight white teeth glimmered in the moonlight as I recoiled, pressing my body into the window. Privy to my fear, he held his hands up in innocence and backed away from me.
Breathing heavily, I closed my eyes, and then opened them again, only to find him staring at the stretch of wall beside me. He kept still, letting his arms hang down at his sides, as I took a step towards him. Once I followed his gaze, I realized that he was not staring at the wall, but at the painting that hung there.
It was a portrait of a young woman, no more than eighteen. She sat still in the moonlight, gently holding her palms together, over her lap. Long thick locks of golden blonde hair framed her face and fell to the middle of her back. The hair was silky, wavy, and looked as though it had been fashioned from an angelÂ’s wings.
The womanÂ’s frame appeared thin, fragile even, yet her complexion was less fair than one would have imagined, presumably from hours spent beneath the summer sun.
Though of all her soft, gentle features, the most remarkable was the magic, liquid luster of her emerald green eyes. She was beautiful.
Â“You remind me so much of her,Â” he whispered in the darkness.
A white satin gown was draped over her shoulders, flowing around the rest of her slim body. I looked down at my own dress, unable to deny the similarities. The hair. The eyes. The skin. It was all the same. If not for the emerald stone around her neck, I would have thought I was looking in a mirror.
Â“Who is she?Â” I extended my hand, moving close enough to touch the portrait. But before my finger could trace the stone, all of it disappeared.
I woke in the darkness, lying on a bed of white sheets. Recognizing my bedroom, I turned to the lamp on my nightstand and switched it on. The clock by my bed indicated that it was three oÂ’clock in the morning. I pulled the sheet back, sank my feet into the carpet, and lost my balance. Stumbling to the wooden chair near the window, I found my white formal gown and winter coat that lay draped over the seat. For the life of me, I could not remember putting them there.
I thought about the strange dream. The boy seemed familiar to me, somehow. He had jet black hair and a tall, muscular build, like Ricky. Yet, there was something different about the two of them. Both had brown eyes, but they were not quite the same. RickyÂ’s eyes had always been a strange mixture of red and brown, like the color of a maple leaf. But the boy, the stranger, his eyes were golden brown, almost the shade of honey, with flecks of yellow sprinkled throughout.
I spent the next several nights sketching the boyÂ’s eyes. I started with a thin gray pencil to outline the shape of them. Then, I filled the pupils with black before coloring the irises with a blend of orange, yellow, and brown. By the time I was finished, the eyes reminded me of autumn, when all the leaves begin to change in color and hue.
I looked out at the tree that stood before my bedroom window. All of the leaves were gone.
Also available on iBooks