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Dear Ava Excerpt...

Clarity and realization take over the cloudy memories, cutting like a sharp knife. I don’t remember details, most of it totally blank, but a monster was with me in these woods.  

I hear Piper’s voice in my head. Don’t trust them, Ava. You might be a cheerleader today, but no one gets inside their group.

But…I’d just wanted to be close enough to be with Chance.

I wanted to live in his world.

Where is he now?

I drift, and I don’t know how long I sit in the grass, grappling with what happened one second then wailing again the next as the reality of it settles around me.

Clinging to the tree, I try to stand but slide back to the ground.

Long minutes pass, and I’m aware of the moon as it moves through the trees. Just a little more time and I can walk.

I can.

I have to.

Someone needs me out there. I brush my fingers over the cheap, gold-plated locket around my neck, touching the flimsy chain. He’s small and tiny and if he doesn’t have me and if I don’t get up, what will happen then?

I can never desert him…

And that gives me strength, just enough to crawl away from the trees and across the open meadow. Past that meadow is that old road and beyond that is a real highway where I can flag someone down—

I hear the soft rumble of a vehicle, and headlights flash in front of me, a car swinging into the field. A brief elation rises in me, then crashes and burns.

What if it’s him?

My anxiety ratchets up, panic beating at me, and my muscles burn as I attempt to crawl back the way I came.

Wait til morning. My head’s not right, but I can wait it out.

I’m good at hiding.

Always have been.

The bright glow of the lights blinds me, and my head swings wildly around, looking for somewhere to go.

Run, run, run…

Shuffling sounds break the stillness, a car door slamming, a voice calling out.

Fear courses over me and I cover my face, ashamed to be so defenseless. Me. ME.

Broad shoulders stand over me, and he speaks, and I blink up. I can’t see him, the beams of light from his car blinding me. More talk from him. I can’t respond. I retch instead.

He walks to me. Bends down. Strong arms come down and sweep me up. Shifting around in his embrace, I try to fight, but it’s nothing but a flinch, no struggle, no girl from the inner city who knows how to fight. I’m empty, my body unable to resist him putting me in his car, snapping the seat belt around me. He speaks, maybe my name, asking me questions, but I can’t think straight. I can’t do…anything.

He pulls away from the field, the car moving fast, so fast, and my head lolls to the side on the seat, staring at my captor.

Who is he?

Do I know him? I squint, catching a glint of chiseled jawline and furrowed brow. His head turns and his steely gaze locks with mine. I think I see anger—and just when I think I know him, just when it’s on the tip of my tongue, there’s nothing but darkness as I slip away and sink back into oblivion.


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