Authors: Michelle Rowen
Tags: #teen, #young adult, #love, #vampires, #horror, #vampire, #paranormal, #romance, #fantasy, #friendship, #michelle rowan, #michelle rowen
Copyright 2014 Michelle Rowen
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form. This ebook may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
SHE’S KNOWN HIM FOREVER.
BUT WHO IS HE?
Ethan Cole would be much easier to ignore if he stopped saving Olivia Hawthorn’s life. She’s known him since they were kids, but Ethan has always been painfully shy and has kept to himself. Suddenly, he’s emerged from the shadows to protect Olivia from a malevolent, supernatural presence—something that thirsts for her blood.
Olivia craves answers and the only one who seems to have them is Ethan himself. He doesn’t want to talk about what’s happening, but she refuses to accept defeat. Who is Ethan? And what secret is he keeping behind those hypnotic, copper-colored eyes?
Thank you to Andrea Long and Casey Harris-Parks for your eagle eyes and your generosity of time. Thank you to Debi Murray for your copyediting skillz. Much appreciated!
Many thanks to my lovely and loyal readers. There are more adventures to come from the Rowenverse in the future, I promise.
(But in the meantime, check out my Morgan Rhodes books, why doncha?!)
A frequently asked question I get for pretty much everything I’ve ever written is: “When’s the next book coming out?” I can tell you up front that ECHOES is a standalone YA novel with no planned sequels.
Isn’t it (sometimes) nice to read a book and know there’s not a series attached that one must commit oneself to in order to learn how everything turns out? THIS is that book, dear readers. Unless, you know, it sells a million copies, at which time I will totally reconsider this decision. ;)
August 25, 2014
When I was six years old I got hit by a truck.
I don’t remember the accident at all, but I have the ugly scars to prove it really happened. My right thigh still looks like it was mangled from the front tire running over me. It’s patchy-colored, with shiny scar tissue where most of the skin was ripped off.
Now I only wear short skirts if I have opaque tights on and I never, ever wear a bathing suit. I don’t even own one.
Whenever I get depressed about my leg, my dad reminds me I’m lucky I can walk. Since my bones were still developing when it happened, my thigh bone was crushed instead of it shattering. This helped when it came to healing up. If I’d been the age I am now, seventeen, I would have lost the leg completely.
Dad says I was also lucky the truck hadn’t killed me. My heart stopped completely for a few minutes until I was revived by paramedics. So, really, all I had to show for my close brush with death as a kid was a scarred leg. I was healthy. I was alive.
But sometimes I just wanted to wear a bikini like my best friend Helen and sit out at the back of her house, poolside, and suntan like a normal person. Instead, I usually wore jeans and a tank top and sweated my butt off.
Tonight was Helen’s birthday party—a pool party, of course. It was May twenty-fourth and as hot as mid-summer outside. Monday night—we’d already been at school all day long, but when your birthday was on a Monday, you celebrated on a Monday.
The strong scent of chlorine and bug spray hung in the air. A couple dozen kids were crammed into her backyard including friends from school and a bunch of people she knew from her swim team. Helen loved to swim and had medals I envied. Due to my major aversion to bathing suits, I’d never learned how to swim.
Flood lights and tiki torches lit up the backyard. Colorful helium balloons attached by ribbons to the plastic chairs encircled the kidney shaped pool. Half of the kids were currently in the pool laughing and shouting loud enough to give anyone a headache.
I sat on a deck chair facing the pool, trying to avoid any direct contact with the water. To my right, Jake and Eddie, a couple of guys I’d known for years had grabbed a red balloon printed with “Happy Birthday Helen!” and were taking turns inhaling the helium.
Hilarious. If we were ten years old.
“Hey, Olivia,” Eddie said in his temporarily high-pitched voice. “Woo hoo!”
He jumped backward into the pool, creating a huge splash.
I rolled my eyes and gave him a thumbs up.
Helen approached along the deck carrying two drinks, sidestepping the small tidal wave that splashed onto the tile. Her bare toes were tipped in bright blue polish. She had long, straight dark hair almost exactly like mine, although hers now had red highlights she got yesterday as an early birthday present from her mom. She was five-eight to my five-seven and thin like me, although Helen had been blessed in ways that filled out the top of her orange and fuchsia bikini better than I could fill out my own.
Her hair was in a high ponytail to keep it out of her eyes when she dove into the pool, which I’d watched her do flawlessly at least a dozen times tonight.
The chair next to me squeaked as she sat down. She handed me one of the pink-colored drinks in the clear plastic cups. “Taste this.”
I took the cup from her. “Is that an order, ma’am?”
“Uh-huh. What does it taste like to you?”
I took a sip of the strawberry-based punch and raised my eyebrows. “Vodka?”
“Did you spike the punch?”
She snorted. “Right. Because I want to be grounded for the entire summer after promising my parents this party was going to be booze-free. It wasn’t me.”
Somebody cranked up the music. Helen’s neighbors had been warned there was going to be a party tonight so I didn’t think anyone would call to complain for at least a few more hours.
“So who did it?” I asked, taking another sip. It wasn’t too strong, but the alcohol content was impossible to ignore.
“Who do you think?”
She turned to give the mock evil eye to my boyfriend, Peter Klassen, who was battling someone on the diving board with a yellow pool noodle. He managed to push the loser into the water and then raised his arms in the air. His blue swim trunks hung low on his hips.
“Victory!” he shouted.
Peter spiked the punch, of course. It wouldn’t be the first time or the last. He was a troublemaker and proud of it.
“Well, what can you do? Some things just aren’t worth fighting against.” I held the glass up. “Happy birthday, Helen.”
She grinned. “Cheers.”
We clinked glasses and both downed the rest of the fruity drinks in a single gulp. I winced as the vodka burned my throat since most of it had settled at the bottom.
Oh well. One glass wouldn’t kill me.
Peter did a cannonball off the diving board, spraying water everywhere as he landed. Everyone shouted their approval as he came to the surface. Since we officially started seeing each other last month I’d come to realize Peter loved being the center of attention.
Helen scanned her guests before glancing at me again. “If you change your mind, I have a spare bathing suit you can borrow.”
I tensed. “Helen...”
“It’s my party. I want my best friend to have as much fun as everyone else. What can I say? I’m a control freak.”
“I am having fun.”
She sighed and adjusted her bikini strap so it lay flat against her tanned shoulder. “So that’s a definite no to the bathing suit? Yet again?”
I tried to smile. “It’s a no thank you, actually.”
I remembered clearly—
clearly—being at another pool party a few years ago, agreeing to borrow one of Helen’s extra bathing suits, and then being mocked mercilessly for my scar.
“Fine. Be that way.” Helen squeezed the excess water out of her ponytail with one hand before standing up. “I’m going swimming.”
In three steps she was at the edge of the pool. She did a smooth dive into the clear blue water and then backstroked across to the other side.
I stood up to stretch my legs and a pair of dripping wet arms closed around my waist.
“Hey, beautiful,” Peter murmured into my hair. “Having fun?”
“So much I can barely control myself,” I replied dryly.
“Do you know what a hot chick like you needs?”
“A boyfriend who doesn’t use terms like
He laughed and turned me around so I could look up into his blue eyes. “No. A hot chick needs to cool off every now and then.”
I froze. “Wait...Peter, don’t even think about—”
His grip tightened and he jumped into the deep end of the pool, taking me with him. The cold water crashed over me. My first reaction was to struggle against the hold he had on me, raking my fingernails down his arms until he finally let go.
I broke the surface, thrashing and gasping for breath. “You know I can’t swim!”
“I won’t let you drown.” His amused expression turned sour. “What’s wrong with you tonight?”
Peter always did his own thing, whatever he thought was “fun.” He rarely cared about anyone’s reaction—especially not mine.
I’d gotten his attention this time. There was blood on his arms from where I’d clawed at him. I liked to admire water from a distance, not be pushed into it against my will.
Then Helen was there, swimming to my side like a lifeguard. She helped me to the ladder so I could drag myself out of the pool, dripping wet. My jeans felt like they weighed about twenty pounds.
She glared at Peter. “You’re a complete jerk sometimes, you know that?”
“You both need to lighten up,” he snapped back. “This is a party, remember?”
Peter might like attention like this, but I sure didn’t. Now everyone was laughing. It must have been hilarious to see me get dunked, fully clothed. Helen tossed me a dry towel.
“You okay?” she asked.
I managed to compose myself enough to speak. “Do me a favor and save me a piece of cake. I want to go home.”
She opened her mouth as if to argue with me, but then closed it and nodded. “Sure, no problem.”
“Thanks.” I grabbed my sandals—the only things that weren’t soaked—and put them back on.
She followed me around the side of her house to the front. “Maybe you should break up with him.”
I let out a shaky laugh. “This
the first time he’s ever thrown me in a swimming pool. No reason to completely freak out about it.”
“Still. He’s a self-involved idiot who doesn’t deserve you. You could do way better.”
Peter was really hot and lots of girls wanted to date him, so I did feel lucky he’d asked me out. If it had been anyone but me he’d taken for a plunge, I might have laughed right along with the rest of them.
“I’ll think about it.”
Helen shook her head. “You won’t dump him. You never get rid of things, even when they’re broken. That’s the way you are. You just wait patiently for them to fix themselves, like what happened with your mom.”
I ignored the flash of pain that went through me. “Right.”
She cringed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound so harsh.”
My mother left me and my dad almost a year ago when she ran off with another guy—a guy she’d met at the supermarket one day who was five years younger than her.
She left in the middle of the night, leaving a note behind to explain. That was it. A stupid note that essentially said she was sorry, but she craved freedom and she had to put her own needs first for a change.
My father was a rock, trying to help me cope with the loss, even though I knew he was hurting just as bad as I was. It honestly felt as if she’d died. I mean, one day she was there and everything seemed normal, and the next she was gone with only a piece of paper with 176 words on it explained why she’d left us. I’d counted them.
Once I began to get my head together again, I mostly felt bad because I hadn’t seen the signs that she was so unhappy with us. There must have been signs. Were we really that horrible to live with?
Anyway, ever since she left, Dad and I had tried to rebuild our family the best we could with just the two of us. It was working. There were days I didn’t think about my mother at all. Those were the good days.
And then, two weeks ago she came crawling back, in tears, begging my father to take her back after she’d left her boyfriend; that leaving us had been a horrible mistake that she bitterly regretted. That she’d never wanted to hurt us.
I wanted my father to say no to her and tell her to go back to Hawaii, or wherever, but he didn’t. He’d missed her desperately—even more than he’d let on—and was willing to try forgiveness and see what happened. I couldn’t believe he was okay with all of this. It honestly made me sick to my stomach.
So now she was living with us again and it felt totally bizarre. She said she’d changed, that she was sorry.
Yeah, right. I wasn’t quite as willing as my father was to forgive and forget.
I forced a smile that I hoped looked natural. “Don’t worry about me, Helen. I’m fine. Happy birthday. Eat lots of cake.”
She hugged me. “Thanks, Liv. Call me later, okay?”
I nodded before I started down the sidewalk toward my house. When I turned my head to look back for a second I bumped into someone going the opposite way.
“Sorry,” he mumbled without glancing in my direction.
It was a boy in my class, Ethan Cole. We’d known each other since third grade, but we weren’t exactly what you’d call friends. He was quiet, a total loner, and had been for as long as I’d known him.
I kept walking and tried to put what happened with Peter and what Helen had said out of my mind.
She was wrong, anyway. I didn’t wait for things to fix themselves when they were obviously broken. I just shifted the pieces to the side and ignored them as they piled up, hoping they’d eventually disappear completely.
I’d taken this route literally hundreds of times, Helen’s house to my house, fifteen minutes by foot from Point A to Point B. I usually took my bike to make it even quicker. Tonight I’d gotten a ride from Peter, but since I’d escaped early, I had to walk.
Ravenridge was my hometown and I had yet to live anywhere else. Two hundred miles west of New York City, it wasn’t all that impressive as towns went, but I guess it was okay.
My big dream was to move to Manhattan after graduation next year and go to a university there, although I still had no idea what I wanted to take. It cost a ton of money to live in the city if you wanted an apartment bigger than a shoebox and you didn’t want a million roommates. Not sure how I was going to make that happen. My father would help me out a bit, but he didn’t have loads of extra money. Next year was senior year. Time was ticking away so loudly that it thundered in my ears.
The shops downtown had closed up for the day and it felt lonely down here at going on ten o’clock. My shadow stretched out long in front of me, lit by the lamp at my back as I crossed the street.
But mine wasn’t the only shadow. There were two more that I tried to ignore until it became obvious they were following me. I turned to check who was there and saw an old man with gray hair and wrinkles on his weathered face and a woman with dark hair.
“Hi there,” the woman said with a smile. “Can you help us?”
I stopped walking and turned to face her. “With what?”
“I think we’re lost.” She glanced over her shoulder. “We parked back on Sycamore Street. We’re looking for a restaurant around here. Davinci’s?”
I shook my head. “Sorry, must be a new one. Never heard of it.”
A single car drove past us, lighting up the woman’s pale face with its headlights for a split second. She was pretty and wore red lipstick and a black dress with skinny straps. The old man clung to her arm. He looked pale and weak.
“Hey, is he okay?” I asked.
She placed a hand on his shoulder. “My father is just fine.” She smiled and looked at him. “Remember when you took me to that other Italian place when I was just a kid—I ate the hot chili pepper and it was too much for me and I downed about four glasses of water?”