Awakened by Stacy R. Collins is on its way! Why wait until the 21st of February for your first glimpse? Read the first chapter now.
“I HEAR WE’VE GOT A transfer student starting today.” My best friend, Sadie, takes her seat next to me. Her blond curls bounce as she situates herself at her desk, and the fluorescent lights make her hair shine like golden ribbons caught in a summer breeze. Instinctively, I reach up and tighten my boring, lifeless ponytail, a streak of envy coming over me. What I wouldn’t give to have her hair, her bow-shaped lips, her picture-perfect body, or even an ounce of her self-esteem.
“I hope it’s a guy and that he’s super-hot and totally single,” Sadie says, making me forget my envious thoughts. “This school is seriously lacking in hot single guys, and some new eye candy is just what I need.”
Taylor Skidmore, the guy sitting in front of Sadie, turns abruptly and glares at us. “What, I’m not good enough for ya?”
Sadie laughs out loud at his expression as I fight to hold back my own chuckle but it’s pointless. He can’t be serious! “Aww. I’m sorry, Taylor. You know I love to ogle you and daydream about your sexy face, but we all know Samantha has you wrapped around her little finger, so what good would it do to fawn over someone I know I can’t have?” Sadie pokes out her full lower lip and bats her mascara-coated lashes at him.
“Yep. Sorry girls, but this stud is taken.” Taylor flips his greasy brown hair back from his pimply forehead, as if that move would make us swoon, when honestly, he just makes me want to barf.
The urge to upchuck my breakfast increases as I look on at his and Sadie’s exchange. Taylor, sexy? Ha! That boy has more craters than the moon, and his yellow teeth stand out like an ear of corn. He should buy a toothbrush and some toothpaste instead of wasting his money on cigarettes. I can only imagine what his teeth are going to look like ten years from now. I roll my eyes at Sadie, who, at this moment, is batting her eyes at crater-face Taylor and twisting a strand of her golden hair around her index finger. A shudder shoots over my skin at the thought of anyone finding Taylor even remotely appealing.
Sadie turns her attention away from Taylor to interact with one of the better-looking guys in class—Michael Thomas. Now, he is sexy. Deep, rich brown eyes—like the coffee beans they use at the Brew-N-Go—and shaggy brown hair that lies perfectly across his acne-free forehead. His tan skin and ripped biceps complete the irresistible package. He is definitely a guy worth fawning over. But I would never have a chance with a guy like Michael. Nope, not me. No guys are interested in me. Not boring Devyn.
If it weren’t for Sadie, I wouldn’t even have any friends. I’d just be the weird loner girl who keeps her nose stuffed in her books all the time, the girl who would rather spend all day in baggy sweats and over worn T-shirts with a makeup-free face instead of spending hours trying to look perfect. Nope, no one would even know I existed.
The only reason anyone at Thompson Dames High School knows my name is because I’m friends with the ever-popular Sadie Mason, which comes as a surprise to everyone here, myself included.
I watch Sadie flirt her way through the boys in class, turning her head and latching her lustful eyes on them, while I sit here and resist the urge to roll my eyes again. I love Sadie to death, but she really needs to get her priorities straight. She needs to focus more on pulling up her C average instead of worrying about boys all the time, but you can’t convince her of that. She can’t wait to be finished with her mundane teenage requirements—going to school, graduating, and trying to be the “good girl” her father insist she be—so she can be rid of this place and start working toward her true goal: finding herself an older, attractive, wealthy man who will support and spoil her. A “sugar daddy.” He’ll send her out on shopping sprees with his platinum card while he’s busy running his business and building up his empire. He’ll take her on exotic vacations, and she’ll never have to work a day in her life. And kids—ha!—there’s no way she would ever imagine getting pregnant and ruining her model perfect body. She thinks babies are disgusting, anyway. I actually remember her referring to her neighbor’s newborn baby as a germy poop-filled piñata just waiting to explode.
Sadie, finished boosting up the egos of the boys in class and getting her fill of attention, digs through her purse and starts filing her already flawlessly-shaped nails.
Sometimes I wonder why Sadie is even friends with me. We couldn’t be more different if we tried. She’s all about boys, shopping, and the latest fashion trends, whereas I’m more focused on doing well in school and making sure I get into a good college, so I can get out of this lame town. But, despite our obvious differences, we are best friends. We weren’t always, though. I actually didn’t even know Sadie’s name until our sophomore year, when that jerk, Troy Conastee, started spreading some totally unbelievable rumors about me. But, just like every high school in America, gossip spread like an uncontained oil spill, and my classmates ate it up. For the longest time, I was known as Devyn, the witchy girl. The girl who hung out in cemeteries and performed séances. Apparently, I was trying to raise some dead guy so I could make him my boyfriend because none of the guys at school would give me the time of day. How stupid can people be? I mean, they actually believed that crap.
And even if I did spend my extra time in a cemetery, who’s to say I didn’t have a legitimate reason, like visiting lost loved ones, or paying my respects to the dead. Hell, I could have been doing research for a school paper.
Okay, I admit it, I do spend a lot of time there, but not so I could make out with some undead dude in hopes of making him my boyfriend! God, I hate Troy!
I used to think Sadie was just another spoiled, stuck-up girly-girl that thought she was better than everyone else, but I was totally wrong. She was the only one who stood up for me and helped quash the rumors, despite the fact that she didn’t even know who I was. Apparently, Troy had done the same thing to her in middle school, except she wasn’t trying to date a zombie; she was learning how to kiss by making out with her toy poodle. She understood exactly what I was going through and how I felt. So, here we are, two years later, still total opposites, but completely inseparable.
I pull my psychology book and binder out of my bag, forcing the thought of stupid Troy out of my mind, and drop them onto my desk. I start scanning over my work from the day before, just in case Mr. Hammond decides to surprise us with a pop quiz—something he is notorious for doing. These notes make absolutely no sense. What was it we went over yesterday? I know it was something about Freud and how a person’s mind could be compared to an iceberg. What in the world does a person’s mind have to do with an iceberg? We’re not on the freaking Titanic, so why were we talking about icebergs? What was I thinking when I wrote this stuff down?
Oh yeah, I remember. I was thinking about how good Michael looked in his green polo shirt and how it made his brown eyes sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight. God, please don’t let Mr. Hammond give us a quiz today! Unless, of course, it’s on Michael’s choice of wardrobe this week. I would ace that bad boy.
Over the muttering of voices in class, I hear Sadie gasp, “Oh, my God!” Several other girls inhale loudly and oohs and ahhs fill the air, along with some snide remarks from the boys.
Curious, I look up from my nonsense notes, follow the line of Sadie’s gaze, and my mouth drops open in a silent gasp as I see what has everyone’s attention. My stomach does a weird little flutter at the same time my heart speeds up. It’s a very weird sensation.
“Who is that?” Sadie whispers, just loud enough for me to hear. She lifts her hand and fans herself dramatically. She should forget about finding a sugar daddy and consider a career in acting. With her flair for the dramatics, she would be a perfect fit in Hollywood. She could snag any movie star she wanted with her looks and charm.
I try to respond, but can’t seem to make my mouth form the words. My brain freezes, devoid of any coherent thought as I gaze upon this Adonis before me. I wonder if this is what Freud meant when he compared minds to an iceberg, because my brain definitely needs some thawing right now.
This man is the epitome of gorgeous, the definition of HOT. Tall, dark, and mysterious. The type of man you only read about in books or see on TV. Definitely not someone you would expect to see here, in the small, boring town of Bunting, Massachusetts.
I sit, unmoving, at my desk, mouth gaping, eyes glued on this man, this god that has so graciously blessed us with his presence. Forcing my mouth closed with a snap, my eyes remain fixed, unblinking. I take in every inch of him, memorizing, savoring every detail. Long, lean legs wrapped tightly in black trousers. Lucky pants, I think. My eyes slowly move up, coming to rest on his sculpted abs, the contours of his muscles visible under his tight-fitting white shirt.
A shudder runs over my body. My gaze rises, lingering for a few seconds on his broad, hulky chest. I imagine running my hands over it, feeling his hard muscles constrict under my fingers, trailing them along each crevice. I swallow loudly, my eyes roaming farther up. I stop, taking a moment to savor the look of his perfect, plump, pink lips, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth, one side lifting just a smidge higher than the other. I imagine the feel of his lips on mine, warm, wet, electrifying.
What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I even thinking this stuff? Stop it!
But I can’t. I can’t look away and I can’t stop the rampant thoughts that are scurrying through my mind. Chills race over my skin, and I run my tongue over my tingling lips. I can’t help staring at his strong, dimpled chin covered in a sprinkling of stubble, or his strong, angular jaw. My lungs expand with my deep breath as I force my stare away from his mouth, and I take in his most dominant feature: his eyes. Glistening like emerald ice, sharp and piercing, they lock with mine and hypnotize me.
I feel myself being pulled toward him, like two magnets automatically drawn to one another. I try to look away, but can’t, and if I’m being honest, I really don’t want to. His eyes stay glued to mine, and they hold me hostage in his trap. My legs tingle, tiny little pinpricks skirting up my thighs and traveling to my head.
Go to him, a voice resonates in my mind, sending electric jolts coursing through my body. Vital energy pulses in my veins, pushing me to go to him. I close my eyes and focus on the voice that seems to swirl around inside my head, obliterating all other thoughts. It’s soothing, peaceful, and angelic. Music to my ears.
He looks away suddenly, and the desire to go to him lessens, while the voice in my mind quiets. I blink a few times and shake my head to clear my foggy brain.
I glance over at Sadie, but she appears to be in the same hypnotic state I was. Her eyes are trained straight ahead, on the mysterious man. I turn to look at my other classmates. The girls sit stock still at their desks, eyes locked on the man at the front of the class, their chests rising and falling with their quick breaths. The guys sit at their desks, unmoving, a look of dazed stupidity plastered on their faces, although for most, that’s just their normal expression.
He speaks. “Good morning, class.” His strong, seductive voice caresses my ears and slides over my body, demanding attention. “I’m Mr. Sloan, and I’ll be your substitute teacher until Mr. Hammond is well enough to return.”
His smooth, masculine voice draws me in, and I can feel his power as it pours over his lips and fills the classroom. It washes over me, wrapping around my body like a warm blanket, and fills me with desire—hot, needy, burning desire.
“I’m sorry to be the one to inform you, but Mr. Hammond encountered a very unfortunate accident.” He clears his throat before continuing, a slight smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. “But, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine without him.”
What’s with his smile? He shouldn’t be smiling while talking about our teacher being injured in an accident. The thought runs through my mind, but I can’t seem to hold onto it. I’m too busy drooling over and fantasizing about the new teacher to think of anything else. I can’t make myself look away. I watch, as he saunters across the floor, the muscles in his legs straining against the fabric of his pants. I scoot toward the edge of my chair, needing to get closer to him. A low murmuring of voices fills my ears, and I can just make out a few words.
“Not that good-looking…”
“So hot, can’t look away.”
“I could take him…”
My eyes lock with his again, the urge to go to Mr. Sloan intensifying with each passing second that our eyes remain fixed on each other, my body yearning to be closer to him, to feel him pressed against me. His eyes burn into me, and my body heats up as if there were a wildfire raging uncontrollably inside me. The force of his stare knocks the breath out of me. He calls to my soul, beckoning me to him. My heart beats out a frantic and spastic rhythm, and my breathing speeds up, coming out in short, rapid bursts.
He looks away and I suck in a deep, relieved breath. What the hell is happening to me?
I cut my eyes over at Sadie, who is slowly rising from her desk. Her eyes burn with passion and her mouth is parted slightly. She sticks her tongue out and licks her lips as she stands, her eyes locked on Mr. Sloan.
Suddenly, she stops and drops back down into her seat, her eyes displaying her confusion. “What the hell was that?” I hear her whisper to herself.
My eyes rake across the room and stop at the back, on the boy whose name I still don’t know, even after three years of school together. He stands from his seat and makes his way to the front, stopping in front of Mr. Sloan.
The no-name boy is probably about a foot shorter than the substitute teacher. He cranes his neck to look up, and Mr. Sloan returns his stare. No-name turns swiftly and exits the classroom, leaving his books behind. Mr. Sloan then shifts his gaze over to Mackensie, the annoyingly perky redhead sitting in the middle row. She sucks in a breath before bending down to retrieve her purse and books from the floor. She stands and quickly exits the classroom, joining No-name.
I turn to face Sadie, I’m sure my confusion is written all over my face. “What is going on?” I ask her.
She looks at me, her eyes wide as saucers. “I…uh…I’m not sure.” She rubs at her temples as if fighting off a headache.
Suddenly, Sadie, as well as the remaining kids in the classroom, drop their heads to their desk. The sound of their skulls hitting the wood resonates off the walls, and I cringe. I swing around, stupefied. My heart gallops in my chest as I look upon the roomful of unconscious students.
I turn back to the front of the class and am met by Mr. Sloan’s icy glare. Startled, I lean back in my desk. The heat from his stare melts into my bones and a chill scurries up my spine. Against my will, I feel myself rise from my seat. I must go to him, I need to go to him, I want to go to him….
He looks away, the hypnotic connection broken. I ease back down into my chair, a headache building at my temples. What the hell was that?
Sadie’s head pops up, along with all the others’. “I hope Mr. Hammond never returns,” Sadie says in an unfamiliar monotone voice. Her eyes automatically go to the front of the class, where she watches Mr. Sloan’s every move. Her hands tremble on top of her desk, but she seems unaware.
What did just happen? I rub my temples, the headache increasing, pulsating, throbbing against my skull, like a jackhammer slamming violently inside my head.
Mr. Sloan pivots, his back now to the class, and I hear the intake of several breaths join my own sigh of relief as I am released from his trance. I continue to rub my head, the paralyzing pain spreading to my eyes. I let out a moan as an icepick stabs repeatedly at my brain.
“Hey, you okay?” Sadie leans over, placing her freezing-cold hand on my arm.
I jerk back from her icy touch, but continue to rub small circles on my aching temples. “Yeah, this headache just came on out of nowhere.”
“Yeah, I had one for a second, but it’s gone now. It was weird.” Sadie looks as though she remembers nothing. None of the weirdness that we’d all just witnessed, none of the strange reactions that took place between Mr. Sloan and the students, myself and Sadie included. Did I just imagine all of it? I haven’t been sleeping too well lately. Maybe I’m just sleep-deprived and my mind is playing tricks on me.
I wonder what Freud’s explanation would be?
“Anyway, I think I have some Tylenol.” Sadie starts digging through her purse, if that’s what you would even call it. It’s more like Mary Poppins’ overnight bag, and God only knows what she has in that thing. “Where is it?” she mumbles, the objects inside her purse rattling. A used, wadded-up tissue falls out and lands on her desk as she continues her search. “Here it is.” Sadie passes the pill bottle to me along with a bottle of water. I look over at her, my eyebrows drawn together.
“What?” she asks, obviously seeing my surprised expression. “Yes, I bring my own water. You seriously can’t expect me to drink out of those nasty, germ-infested fountains. Do you have any idea how many mouths have touched those things? Thousands! You can contract all kinds of diseases from them.” She shivers, clearly grossed out.
I roll my eyes at her, uncapping the Tylenol as a burning sensation shoots across the back of my neck, setting it on fire. A million tiny branding needles race across my neck, pricking their way across my skin and leaving behind a scorching pain. I let out a yelp, dropping the bottle, and tiny white pills scatter across the floor. I grasp my neck, rubbing, clawing, willing the inferno of suffering to stop.
“What the hell, Devyn?” Sadie snaps, cutting her eyes at me. “What’s your problem?” She bends down to scoop up the pills.
“What is all the commotion?” Sloan’s booming voice grabs my attention, the burning on my neck forgotten.
“Sorry, Mr. Sloan,” Sadie apologizes, quickly tossing the pills into her bag before he sees.
I look up at the sound of his captivating voice. Mr. Sloan’s eyes seem to glow under the fluorescent lights buzzing overhead, a sparkling red hue shining in them like two lit torches. The vein in his neck pulses wildly, and I can see his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“Excuse me, Mr. Sloan,” Principle Arrowood calls from the door.
As if someone had flipped a switch, the red blazes in Mr. Sloan’s eyes disappear, and return to their beautiful, sparkling emerald color. His entire demeanor reverts to a normal, relaxed and casual state.
“We have a new student starting with us today,” Principle Arrowood continues. “Louis, this is Mr. Sloan. He is filling in for Mr. Hammond, but I’m sure he and the other students will be more than happy to help you get acquainted.”
“Oh, of course,” Mr. Sloan replies, gliding on long legs toward the door to welcome the newcomer.
All of a sudden, Mr. Sloan stops, taking a step back, his eyes widening in surprise.
“Hello. I’m Louis Foreman,” the transfer student says.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see the new kid step forward, but I ignore him. I’m too caught up watching Mr. Sloan. He takes another step back, balling his hands into fists at his sides, his knuckles turning white from the pressure. His chest rises and falls with his quick breaths, the muscle in his jaw ticking.
Mr. Sloan clears his throat before speaking, apparently struggling with this new student’s arrival, but why? “Welcome, Louis. Please, take a seat.” His words come out strong and confident, despite the anger and confusion that seems to dance around on his face.
Please, tell me someone else sees this. I turn in my chair and look around the room, but no one seems to notice anything out of the ordinary.
I glance over at Sadie, but she, just like all the other girls, is too busy ogling the new kid to have noticed Mr. Sloan’s odd behavior, and the boys are too busy staring down their competition as he makes his way into the room.
Maybe I just imagined it; maybe my mind is turning into an iceberg, like Freud said. Each brain cell is slowly freezing over, crystalizing, until the only thing that will be left is a huge clump of ice sitting where my fully-functioning brain used to be.
Hoping against hope, I flip my gaze back to Mr. Sloan, only to see him glaring with fiery red hatred at the new kid’s back. I gulp, loudly, and Mr. Sloan whirls around at the noise, his eyes piercing my soul like a thousand stinging bees.
He blinks, and when his eyes reopen, they’re as green as an Irish meadow.
What the hell is going on here? And who the hell is this man?
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