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Authors: Lani Woodland

Intrinsical

BOOK: Intrinsical
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Intrinsical

Lani Woodland

INTRINSICAL

Lani Woodland

Pendrell Publishing

Published by 
Pendrell Publishing 
Hollywood CA

For information regarding permission, write to: Pendrell Publishing, Attention Permissions Department, P.O. Box 344 

Hollywood, CA 90078

Text copyright © 2010 
Michele Tolley

Cover Photography © 2010 

Sweet Expressions 
Photography

''Can't Stop Dreaming Of You'' was written by E. Joseph Tolley for exclusive use in Intrinsical

All rights Reserved

Library of Congress Control Number: 2010911650

ISBN-13: 9780982729717

 

 

For Mom and Dad

Who taught me that anything was possible if you have enough hope and work hard enough for it.

 

 

Prologue

My shadow stretched out in front of me, making my small build and slight frame seem almost tall—willowy even. It had an air of grace about it that I envied, and made me feel more elegant than the boarding school uniform-wearing sixteen year old I was.

The humid summer swelter had not yet surrendered to the much more bearable temperatures of fall. A gust of wind momentarily stirred the air, giving me a respite from the suffocating heat as my shirt billowed out around me. I could feel the sturdy beads of my necklace warm against my skin, reflecting the bright sunlight onto the wall of the campus library in a shower of amber sparkles.

I decided to seek solace from the heat in the shade of a tall tree. Dropping to the well-manicured grass at its base, I slouched against the scratchy bark that pricked my scalp and snared my mocha-colored hair. A lone white cloud hung in the sky, thin and shredded around the edges, losing a battle against the summer’s unyielding heat.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something slide past me. Curious, I turned to find something shimmering in the air, almost like a fine mist—but it was unlike any mist I had ever seen. Instead of a transparent white, it was a deep charcoal gray, almost black. It brought to mind a dark rain cloud, one that promised a terrible storm. The mist radiated coldness. “Cold” wasn’t the right word though. It was . . . chilling, and not the good air-conditioned kind. Its chill ran down my spine and the warm sweat that had beaded on my skin now turned icy.

The fog hung in the air for a moment, its whirling tendrils frothing, churning, and folding in on themselves. I shuddered as the writhing patch of darkness glided a few feet off the ground. It seemed to move with purpose as it swirled around the students who were loitering around campus.


What
is
that?” I asked myself, speaking aloud. I blinked and rubbed my eyes, sure I was imagining it. But I wasn’t; it was still there.

My stomach sunk as I watched the fog. It couldn’t be a ghost. Could it? My grandmother’s descriptions of some of the ghosts she had encountered trickled through my mind. But I was different than other women in my family; I couldn’t see them. Had genetics caught up to me at long last?

The mist wound around one student, then another, releasing each before moving on, still searching. Then, abruptly, it paused, circling tightly around a boy with sable brown hair.

His friends surrounded him but no one seemed to notice the blanket of vapor that now enveloped him. Someone must have told a joke, because he threw his head back in a laugh, a sound that rang through the air like a velvety melody. With the speed of a whip slicing through the air, a tendril of darkness slid inside his open mouth. My own mouth went suddenly dry. I felt sick, as if I had swallowed it myself.

The boy’s eyes instantly went wide and his hands went reflexively to his neck. He leaned forward, gasping for air as if the darkness were squeezing his airway shut.

I jumped to my feet and felt myself take a step forward.

Eyes bulging wide, he kept one hand clasped at his throat while his other hand waved desperately in the air, signaling for somebody to step in and help him. “Brent? Brent!” I heard one of his friends shout.

I didn’t even realize my feet were running toward him, pushing authoritatively through the immobile, gaping crowd. One friend pounded him on the back before I shoved him out of the way.

I kneeled in front of a complete stranger, as if somehow I had the power to save him. I knew the basics of CPR, and although I had never done it, I now steeled myself to try, fumbling for the information I had once learned. Tears streamed down my face and I took his hand in mine. “Hey!” I shouted. His brown eyes met my hazel ones and I could see he knew what was happening, knew he was moments from death. He stared back at me, and in his expression I could see he was pleading desperately for help. I was sure that the horror I saw in his eyes was mirrored in my own.

Dropping his hand and rising to my feet I circled behind him and wrapped my arms around his body. Leaning in close to his ear I promised, “You are going to be okay!” My shaking hands clasped together as they found the correct placement. I repeated again, “You will be okay.” It was a promise to myself as much as to him.

Leaning forward, my hair, tears, and necklace fell in a silky puddle across his cheek. I could feel the warmth from his skin on my face, and my heart started beating faster at what I was about to do. The air around me shifted as I thrust my hands under his ribs. With a violent blast, the intruder that had entered his body withdrew. The freezing vapor encircled us both before vanishing with an anguished scream. Brent instantly took a deep, painful-sounding breath, and began coughing as soon as the fresh air filled his starved lungs. He turned toward me and his eyes locked with mine.


Breathe with me,” I instructed, trying to help his ragged breathing normalize. Slowly, the panicked look in his eyes quieted but his hand clutched mine as if it alone were tethering him to life.

I knew there were people around me, that someone was recording the whole thing on their phone. I was even aware of some of them trying to get our attention, but I couldn’t make out anything they said. I didn’t care about any of it; all that mattered was that he was alive.

A pair of hands grabbed me forcefully from behind, moving me out of the way. The movement broke our eye contact and I lost my grip on Brent’s hand. The world tumbled back to life around me, and now I could make out the conversations that were happening in the crowd. I could see the larger group of onlookers frantically rehashing what they had just seen.

I didn’t care. None of it mattered.

He was still watching me, but the nurse slid between us, checking his pulse and making sure he was okay. The crowd began to thin as everyone realized the action was over and lost interest. His friends stood off to the side waiting for him, shuffling around nervously. I dug my shoe into the grass, trying to fade into the background, unsure if I should stay. Shaking my head, I tried to clear away the intensity of the moment.


I need you to come to my office, just to be sure,” I heard the nurse instruct him as he stood with a slight balance check. Looking up, I watched him nod, but he wasn’t looking at her, he was looking at me. When he turned to walk toward the infirmary, I followed for a few steps before I stopped myself.
What was I doing?
He didn’t need me anymore. Instead, I headed towards my dorm.

I had only taken perhaps three steps when someone caught my wrist. I knew it was him before I even turned around. I looked back, blinking stupidly, wondering if this was even real. I could feel the strong pulse from his fingers that slid down to my hand.

Boldly, he lifted my hand and placed it on his chest over the steady thumping of his heart. I stifled a gasp as I felt my own heart shift to beat in rhythm with his.


You saved my life,” he stated in a raspy voice. “I’m in your debt.” Despite the twinkle in his eye, there was a weight to his words that made me shiver. He opened his mouth to say more, but the nurse, a formidable woman, caught hold of his elbow and steered him towards her office.

I stared after him until the reality of what had happened hit me and my whole body began to tremble. His near death hadn’t been an accident; something— a ghost? —had tried to kill him, and only I had been able to see it. Panic spiraled through me. I spun on my heel and dashed toward my room, grateful every step for the heat of the day.

 

 

Chapter 1

The next afternoon by the pool, I angled my lounge chair to give me the best view of Brent. He was taking a lifeguard training course, treading water while holding what looked like a smooth, black brick above his head. I bit my lip as he sank lower in the water.

Cherie, my best friend, sitting beside me nudged me with her elbow. “Yara, he isn’t going to die just because you take your eyes off him.”


I know that.” I sighed, shifting my gaze toward her.


You’re going to have a permanent image of him burned into your retinas if you keep staring at him so hard.”

I laughed. “Not a bad way to go blind.”

She shook her head. “You’ve got it bad.”

I nodded, glad the heat had already flushed my cheeks so no one could see my blush. “I know.” My eyes slid back toward Brent.


You’re hopeless.” There was no judgment, only amusement in her voice.

My book— well, my celebrity magazine carefully folded inside an SAT prep manual— was propped on my stomach so it looked like I was reading and not staring at Brent. I wasn’t sure how long I had been watching him when Cherie left to go swim with Steve, Brent’s best friend and potentially Cherie’s next boyfriend.

Clearing my thoughts of Brent, I put on my sunglasses and admired our new boarding school’s beautiful glass pool house. An enormous clock hung on the largest wall, a focal point that drew the eye toward its iron hands. Though beautiful and elegant, it wasn’t enough to keep my attention for more than a couple of seconds. My eyes kept flitting back to the largest of the two swimming pools where Brent and the other trainees were swimming laps.

I still had a hard time believing that Cherie and I were really students at Pendrell, the elite and— until yesterday—all-boys prep school. Classes hadn’t started yet. We were on campus doing the whole “Welcome to your new school thing” and getting settled into our dorm room before the school year began.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed feeling the sun on my skin. There was a slight breeze courtesy of the open retractable roof. I inhaled the warm end-of-summer air, relaxing and feeling all my worries float away. The school seemed so peaceful, and I had a hard time believing Brent had almost been killed in front of my eyes the day before. I tried to swallow down the image of what had tried to hurt him. I didn’t want it to be real. I wanted nothing to do with ghosts and spirits, especially ones that appeared as sinister patches of storm clouds, trying to kill people. They belonged in the world I had rejected.

I heard Cherie’s familiar laugh and looked up to watch as she playfully splashed Steve. She had met him last night at our first dinner in the cafeteria where he had accompanied Brent over to meet me officially. Cherie had tossed her blonde hair, batted her eyelashes and convinced Steve and Brent to eat dinner with us. In the course of that meal, Steve and Cherie realized they were into each other.

With the two of them controlling most of the conversation, Brent and I had barely spoken last night— although, whenever I had glanced in his direction, I caught him watching me too. I was hoping that seeing me today would help him realize that he desperately wanted to ask me to the dance tonight. Now that there was a gorgeous guy I was interested in, it was the part of the school’s orientation I was most looking forward to.

On the stone table beside my chair sat an open package of my favorite candy. I fished out a handful and sorted out the greens into my discard pile before popping the rest into my mouth. My older brother Kevin used to eat the greens, but he wasn’t around to do that anymore, so now they’d just end up in the trash.

I turned my attention back to Brent, who stood on the side of the pool shaking the excess water out of his dark brown hair. His slow stretch emphasized his cut chest and caused a group of girls to fan themselves and call out to him. My eyes narrowed at his admirers when he rewarded them with a smile, starting a chorus of flirty giggles.

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