Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are eight contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM--but there is also a red team, an orange team, a gold team, a green team, a teal team, a blue team, a purple team, and a pink team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!
If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the purple team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by APRIL 9, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Today, I am hosting KAT STILES on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! She's a YA author originally from Jersey, now living in sunny Texas. Kat is into super heroes, horror, comedy, and relentless positivity. :)
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here!
Strange things are happening in Cannondale... High school is hard enough, Em knows. Her freshman year introduced her to all the cliques, annoying teachers, and tough homework assignments. But discovering you have super powers and not knowing how to control them is a whole new level of complicated.
Here’s a sneak peek into Connected 2, tentatively named Imminence. I’m working hard for a July 2017 release date! In the meantime, stay up-to-date on Connected news by signing up for my newsletter on my author website: katstiles.com. Happy reading :)
“No, this can’t be real,” I whispered. The phone slipped from my hands and fell with a thud to the carpet.
“Was that…your father?” Tommy asked.
I buried my face into his chest. If I could only replay the last five minutes…not answer the phone…
His strong arms encompassed me, rocking me gently. “It’s going to be all right, beautiful.”
I believed that, at least I did before. In the time between the police arresting the psycho doctor and the phone call, I thought it was true.
You could say the last couple of months were pretty intense: finding out about my power to heal, discovering my best friend Roz could see the future, meeting Tommy and learning about his heightened senses. Then Roz’s visions of the murders, tracking down the killer, and nearly getting killed in the process – all in all it’s been a difficult start to the new school year.
But as trying as all that had been, it was merely a test compared to what I would face now. My greatest fear, my personal demon, wasn’t dead. My father is still alive.
A visible chill ran through my body. Tommy squeezed me tighter.
“Come on, let’s sit you down,” he said. He walked me over to the couch, situating me on the end. I held onto him again, as soon as he sat down, resting my head against his neck. His brown hair draped over my head like a blanket, making me feel safer somehow. I couldn’t control the flow of tears that streamed from my eyes, embarrassed though I was. He stroked the visible length of my dirty blonde hair.
“You’re safe, Em,” he whispered.
I wished I could believe him, I so wanted that to be true. But my nightmare just got real.
I don’t even know how long I stayed in Tommy’s embrace, crying like a frightened child. It was only when I heard the harsh voice of my sister that I realized we weren’t alone.
“What is he doing here?” Lauren asked. There was a reason I called her the ice queen. The pixie cut she sported made her dark hair seem more pronounced, almost angry, as if her hair style matched her general demeanor. “What’s wrong with you?”
But I didn’t have the energy to answer her.
“Her father called. He said he’s coming home,” Tommy explained.
It didn’t surprise me that he knew the entire phone conversation, with his hearing. I finally lifted my head and withdrew from him, wiping the tears from my eyes. Lauren’s gaze was critical, as always.
“What are you talking about?” she said. “He’s dead.”
“No, he’s not,” I said, my voice shaky. “And he’s coming back for me.”
She folded her arms. “Em, you’re not making any sense. Where’s Mom?”
“She’s lying down, resting.”
“Resting?” Her eyes bore through me, and I could feel her mounting frustration. The power to heal brought with it the unusual ability of empathy, allowing me to feel other people’s emotions. “Tell me what happened already!”
I sighed, knowing how difficult the conversation would be. But I knew she wouldn’t just let it drop. “My doctor… he came here and tried to hurt us. He knocked Mom out.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s no use lying to me. I’m going to find out the truth anyway.”
“She’s telling the truth,” Tommy said. “He almost killed us both.”
Lauren seemed to consider it, but only for a second. She narrowed her eyes at Tommy. “What are you doing here, anyway? I thought—”
“He saved me. Twice, actually.” I smiled at him. “Mom saw. She said I could see him again.”
A smug grin formed on Lauren’s face. “Oh really? And if I were to go ask Mom right now, she would concur with this little fantasy of yours?”
“Look, the doctor hit her pretty hard,” I said. “She could use the rest. But if you want to disturb her just because you don’t believe me, go right ahead.”
She snickered, a sound almost as insufferable as her attitude. “I find it difficult to believe that she would just let you see him again—”
“Hold on a sec,” Tommy interrupted. “Her shrink tried to kill her, her dead father calls to tell her he’s coming back, and you find that difficult to believe?”
Lauren shot him a death stare. The look made me uneasy, but Tommy simply laughed at her.
“You’re a piece of work, Lauren,” he said. “What happened to you anyway? How the hell did you get so…broken?”
In a surprisingly composed manner she replied, “I think you should leave, Tommy.”
“No!” I wrapped my arms back around him.
“Maybe you should leave,” Tommy said to her. “Em’s already upset enough—”
“I’m going to go find out what really happened,” Lauren said, her gaze switching from me to Tommy. “Don’t get too comfortable.”
“I can’t believe she’s going to bother her,” I muttered.
“She’ll find out the truth,” Tommy said.
I was beyond exhausted, not only from the events of the day but also the dread that lingered from that phone call. As if Tommy could read my mind, he began to rub my back. The sensation managed to fire up the heat within me, a condition that inherently came along with being a healer. Without any hesitation at all, I kissed him. We continued to kiss, as the heat burned hotter. And then he tensed up, pulling back from me.
“Someone’s at the door,” he said.
My stomach dropped. He can’t be here already.
Tommy got up from the couch. “Wait here,” he said.
My father was dangerous. I didn’t know exactly what happened when I was kidnapped, but I knew the condition he left both my mother and Lauren in. I wasn’t about to let that happen to Tommy. Following behind him, I went to see who it was.
Tommy looked out the peephole and then breathed a sigh of relief. He opened the door to let his brother Demetri in.
“I was worried about all of you. Sorry I couldn’t get back sooner. Had to get Mom and Dad to cover for me,” he said.
“It’s okay, we’re all right,” Tommy said.
“What happened?” Demetri asked.
“It’s a long story,” Tommy began, but then turned his head to the side, as if he heard something. Demetri was about to talk, when Tommy stopped him. I knew at once what caught his attention when I heard the panicked voice of my mother.
“He called?” Her eye was swollen worse, and the bruise underneath had turned a darker shade of purple. How I wished I could’ve healed it. But no matter how hard I tried, my touch didn’t seem to affect her. “Emily, what happened?”
“Nothing. It was probably just a crank call.”
Lauren followed in after her. “That’s not what you said before.”
“I had some time to think about it. With everything that’s happened, I think I just got confused.” I glared at Lauren. I couldn’t believe she mentioned the phone call to our mother. After what she’d been through today…
“I knew it. I knew he wasn’t dead.” Her gaze drifted to the side, like she was in her own world.
“No, Mom. It’s okay. It wasn’t him,” I said, but the words didn’t seem to get through. She walked off towards the kitchen.
“What are you doing here?” Lauren asked Demetri, her usual scowl resurfacing.
“You know, I don’t think we’ve ever formally met. I’m Demetri, Tommy’s older, buffer, and better-looking brother.” He took off the worn baseball cap he always wore and ran his fingers through his light brown hair, as if to accentuate his hotness.
“Forgot humble…” Tommy muttered.
Demetri simply grinned by way of a response.
“Yeah, hi,” she said. “Lauren.”
“Oh, I know who you are. By reputation only, you understand.”
She gave him a dirty look, before repeating her question. “Why are you here?”
At first he seemed a little taken aback, possibly at the thought of being unwelcome anywhere. Then he explained, “I was checking up on them. When I dropped them off after school, they all acted a little shaken up.”
Lauren tilted her head. “So you’re in on it, too?”
“Jesus, Lauren, you woke Mom up,” I said. “Are you telling me you didn’t interrogate her?”
“She corroborated some of your story, but she was out of it. I’m not sure I can trust her.”
“I can’t believe you told her about the phone call. She’s already screwed up from the doctor, and now this…” I shook my head.
“I thought she was here for that,” Lauren said, her tone apologetic. “I figured she could tell me the truth.”
“What truth?” Demetri asked. “What’s going on here?”
Lauren’s brow furrowed. “Why are you still here?”
“A better question is why are you still here?” Tommy asked. “You’re upsetting Em.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his protectiveness. And the fact that he wasn’t afraid of her.
“This is personal,” she said, her icy tone returning. “It doesn’t concern you.”
The situation was clearly beginning to escalate out of control. Before Tommy could say something we would both regret, I interjected. “No, that’s fine, they’ll leave. But I’m going with them.”
“No you’re not. Not after everything that’s happened.” Lauren folded her arms against her chest, as if she had the final word on the matter.
“I told you, I was wrong. It wasn’t him. Like I could remember his voice after all these years.” I tried to come off as flaky, in an attempt to dissuade her from the truth. Lauren didn’t really believe me before, so I didn’t think it would be too difficult to convince her. It was my mother I was more worried about.
“Still, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to leave,” Lauren said. For a second, I thought I recognized concern in her voice. But then I shook my head, positive I imagined it.
“It’s not your call anyway,” I said, and then turned to Tommy. “I’ll be right back.”
I left to find my mother, followed closely by Lauren.
“Em, I don’t really understand what happened here today, but…” she trailed, right as we arrived at the kitchen. My mother held on to a clear drink with both hands, sipping it slowly. At first I thought it was water, until she spoke and I could smell the alcohol.
“It’ll be okay,” she began. “We’ll sell the house, move to a different part of the country, change our names. We’ll… we’ll disappear. He won’t find us.”
My jaw dropped. “Mom, it wasn’t him. Lauren was confused when she said that.”
She smiled for a moment, before she carefully placed her tall glass of vodka down. With fingers that quivered, she brushed away remnants of tears from my eyes. “Then why are you crying so much?”
“I thought you died.” I looked to the floor, trying hard to get my tears to resurface, to make it look convincing. After all the times I broke down when I didn’t want to, the one time I needed to cry, I had trouble. It figures.
She held me in a suffocating embrace. “I’ll never leave you, honey.” It felt like several minutes before her arms finally released me. “It’ll be all right.”
Lauren gave my mother a hug. “I’m sorry about before, Mom. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s okay, sweetie. I love you both so much.”
I could hear her voice was already beginning to slur, which made me wonder how much she downed before we got there. “Mom, can I go out with Tommy tonight?”
Her lips upturned into a strange, sleepy kind of smile. “Yes. Just be home early tonight. Nine o’clock, okay? And stay with him at all times. Don’t go off alone.”
I was disappointed that she didn’t believe my lie about the phone call, but at least she felt comfortable with Tommy. “Okay I won’t. Thanks.”
Lauren sighed. “Fine. But if you’re back a minute after nine, I’m going over there myself to pick you up.”
“Whatever,” I said and walked away. I was hoping she would do something else, anything else, but of course she followed me. I motioned to Tommy that we were leaving.
“Remember, nine o’clock.” Lauren said.
I rolled my eyes at her. “I’ll be here. Don’t worry about it.”
“It was nice to meet you, Lauren,” Demetri said.
“Yeah, sure,” she muttered, as she shut the door after us.
“She’s so pleasant,” Demetri commented. “No wonder you always want to visit Tommy at our house.”
I smiled. “Uh, yeah.”
Demetri gave us a ride to their home in Manchez, and Tommy explained everything that happened on the way there. Demetri already knew all about our abilities, so we felt comfortable in discussing the details with him.
“So why couldn’t you heal your mother? That was some shiner she had,” Demetri said.
“I don’t know. I tried, several times. She was cold,” I said.
“What happened with the phone call?” Demetri asked.
I had hoped he wasn’t paying that close attention when we were at the house. The call from my father was the one detail Tommy left out of his recollection, for my sake I’m sure.
“I don’t think she wants to talk about it,” Tommy said, and grabbed hold of my hand.
“Guess I’m going to have to get used to talking about him now, anyway,” I said. “It was my father…he kidnapped me when I was five. The woman who returned me told me he was dead.”
Once we got to the house, Tommy and I settled on the loveseat, while Demetri sprawled himself out on the larger couch.
“Do you know why he kidnapped you?” Tommy asked.
“My mother kicked him out. He was very affectionate with me. Not so much with Lauren, and my mother thought the worst. I guess he just wanted me back.”
Tommy looked down, as he quietly asked, “Did he…”
When he trailed off, I knew what he was thinking. “No. Not at all.”
He exhaled deeply. “Thank God.”
“Yeah. I’d be even more screwed up than I am now,” I said, half-smiling.
“Oh, you’re not screwed up, Em,” Demetri said. “Maybe a little over-sexed, but…”
“Only in your demented imagination.”
Demetri grinned, and although he was teasing me again, it was nice to feel something familiar that wasn’t dread or fear.
“So why is he coming back?” Demetri asked.
“That’s a good question,” I said. “After all this time, I can’t imagine what he wants.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Tommy said, taking my hand into his and squeezing it. “We won’t let him anywhere near you.”
I sighed and rested my head on his shoulder. “Sounds good to me.”
Demetri turned on the TV, and for the rest of the night, the three of us vegged out watching glorious B-horror on cable.
The next day, I filled Roz in on the phone call while we waited for the bus to arrive. She couldn’t believe my father was still alive.
“So how is your mother taking it?” she asked.
“Not sure yet. She flipped out a little yesterday, but I don’t know if that was left over from getting beat up by the doctor. We both had a pretty rough day yesterday.”
“That’s an understatement.” Roz smiled, which had the effect of accentuating her flawless honey brown skin. Along with her perfect black curls and gorgeous light brown eyes, she was easily the prettiest girl at school. I know, crazy that she was my best friend, but I always chalked that up to the geographic luck of living across the street from her. “I’m still so overjoyed that you’re alive!”
I laughed. Over the past few days, Roz’s overly affectionate behavior bordered on the bizarre, and it was all because she foresaw what looked like my death. The fact that she didn’t start the day by hugging me was certainly a step in the right direction. The bus pulled up and we boarded.
I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time getting ready that morning, not like the day before when I wore my cutest top and totally made myself up. But as I walked to my seat, I sensed a restlessness from the opposite sex, the kind normally reserved only for Roz. Though the energy was noticeably turned up around me, it still came as a complete surprise when a boy sitting in front of us turned around and addressed me.
“Hi, Em. You, uh…you still dating the new kid?”
The boy was not unattractive, though by no means was he with the in-crowd, either. I guess he would best be described much like me, somewhere in the middle.
Roz looked as shocked as I, with her mouth gaped open.
It took a moment for the question to sink in. I turned over his exact words in my mind and came to the conclusion that he must have intentionally spoken to me, however unlikely it seemed. “Yes,” I finally answered.
“Oh.” He turned back around, but only for a moment. “If you ever break up, call me.” He handed me a torn off sheet of paper with his name and number. Then he flashed me a smile and faced front.
“Am I in the Twilight Zone?” I muttered.
Normally, Roz was the one being propositioned for a date. In fact, it was an everyday occurrence for her. But not me. Before Tommy, not even a single boy glanced in my direction, let alone asked me out.
Roz was still speechless.
I passed my hand in front of her eyes. “Are you all right?”
“Did that really just happen?” A mischievous smile formed on her lips, and before I could stop her, she snatched the note from my hand. “I’ll bet Tommy’ll be interested in this!”
“I don’t think he’s his type,” I said nonchalantly. Then I whispered, “But you can keep it. You’re still single, right?”
She laughed. “Single but not actively looking. Guess I’m just waiting for the right one to come along you know?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I smiled to myself, thinking of Tommy. His emotions were so clear: a simple, perfect affection for me. Being empathic did have its perks. I shook off the romantic dreamy daze that always surfaced when I thought of Tommy. “So what makes a guy the “right one” for you?” I asked Roz.
“Hmm.” She pondered the question. “I think he’d have to be my friend first.”
Tommy greeted me at my locker, wrapping his arms around my waist from behind me. He buried his nose in my hair and took a deep breath in.
“Good morning to you, too,” I said, smiling. He always sniffed me in the morning, to take in my scent. I never really understood it – I didn’t think I smelled like anything. But it was flattering, to feel so desired.
“Is your mother feeling any better?”
“Well… her eye still looks pretty bad. She called in sick today.” I sighed. “I don’t think she bought my lie about the phone call. I’m worried about her.”
“I don’t have to work tonight. Do you want me to come over?”
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
“I’ll get my car after school and then I’ll be there. Is the ice queen going to be home?”
I laughed at his use of my pet name for Lauren. “Probably. I don’t know what her schedule’s like. But she always seems to be around when you’re there.”
He smiled. “Yeah. Just want to be prepared, come up with some good zingers for her.”
“That oughta make it interesting,” I said, with only a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
“Of course. Why should you have all the fun?” His smile widened into a grin.
I couldn’t help but smile in response.
In English class, I noticed a general buzz in the room. I tried not to listen to the symphony of gossip, knowing it was most likely about Tommy, or perhaps even Tommy and I being a couple. But a few words came through.
“…happened to Angel?”
“She fell taking a selfie…” said a girl who I thought was one of her groupies.
“No, she was impaled,” someone else whispered.
I sat down and observed the empty seat in front of me. Something happened to Angel?
Yes, she was my arch-nemesis for forever, at least socially. Yes, she was the coldest person on the planet, next to my sister. Yes, she recently pushed me over the edge and I did threaten her. But in truth, I didn’t actually want any harm to come to her. I glanced back at Tommy, who sat a few rows behind me, and pointed to her seat with a quizzical expression.
He shrugged but then chuckled.
Did he really find it humorous? I shot him a reprimanding look.
He shook his head. “Tell you later,” he mouthed.
Mr. Dominic began his lesson. All the caffeine in the world couldn’t keep me awake – it was the perfect combination of boring material and lack of sleep.
“Is that you, baby girl?” The words my father spoke only a day earlier, no less horrifying now. I listened, afraid to breathe.
He’s dead, it can’t be…
“I’m coming home.”
My father’s arms closed around me, and I let out a bizarre mix of gasp and scream. You’d think after watching Halloween two hundred times I could scream like a pro.
It jolted me awake. The other students around me laughed, but Mr. Dominic did not.
“Really, Emily?” His raised eyebrow made me painfully aware no sympathy was forthcoming. “Sleep on your own time, not in my class.”
I felt my face turn red in embarrassment.
“Em are you okay?” Tommy said, from his seat.
“Fine,” I whispered, knowing he would hear. I didn’t want to press my luck with Mr. Dominic.
At lunch, Roz was bursting at the seams to talk to Tommy about the bus ride that morning. After she relayed what happened, she was disappointed at his reaction of a simple smile.
“I’m just surprised I haven’t had to fight them off sooner,” he said.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “I’m sure he was confused. Or desperate.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Em,” Roz said. “You’ve been getting a lot of looks lately.”
“Yeah, right.” I focused on my sandwich, blushing slightly.
“Take a look around,” Roz said. “They’re not all looking at me anymore.”
I carefully glanced up, and then panned side-to-side. I made eye contact with a few boys, who then smiled.
Why is this happening? I didn’t dress up or even style my hair that morning. The unexpected attention made me feel uncomfortable. “How do you deal with it?” I asked Roz.
She laughed. “You’ll get used to it.”
“And here I thought I was done fighting,” Tommy muttered.
“Don’t even talk like that,” I said. “That was painful enough the first time.” As a healer, I felt a sort of connection to those I’ve healed, feeling their pain as they experienced it. The last time Tommy was in a fight, I felt every strike.
“I’ll try not to.” He reached across the table to hold my hands. “So you know, In English class I wasn’t laughing at Angel’s accident. Just all the rumors about it.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“Karma,” he answered, without hesitation.
“That’s not funny,” I said, though I couldn’t deny the possibility. If karma were real, she did have it coming.
“Did you hear anything plausible?” Roz asked. “Everyone’s been talking about it.”
“Out of all the outrageous stories I’ve heard, three elements are consistent,” Tommy said. “A fall, a selfie, and the mall.”
“Wow,” was all I could manage.
“I wonder what really happened,” Roz said. “While we’re talking about weirdness, I had the strangest dream last night.”
“Was it a… vision?” I whispered. It was through her dreams at night that she was able to see the future, what our school nurse Judy termed ‘visions.’ Judy knew all about them, being a psychic and a healer herself.
“I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. I fell asleep watching some old sci-fi show with my father. It was probably from that.”
“What did you see?” Tommy asked.
“I saw this man standing behind a homeless dude. Then it was like he hugged him from behind, and the homeless guy slumped over. Like he was squeezed to death or something. I don’t know, it was pretty unclear.”
“That is weird,” I agreed. “I hope it’s not a vision.”
“Yeah, me too. I could really use a break,” she said. “They were getting painful for awhile there.” She referred to the intensity of her visions, how she could feel the victim’s pain at the end.
I hoped she was right that it was just a dream, but I secretly wondered. That phone call from my father made it clear I wasn’t getting a break. It was only a matter of time before I had to face the fact that he was returning to Cannondale, most likely to get to me. But what does he want?
And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Kat Stiles, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 26. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the purple team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
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