by Tonya Kuper
Release Date: 11/25/14Entangled Teen
Summary from Goodreads:
Reality is only an illusion.
Except for those who can control it…
Worst. Birthday. Ever.
My first boyfriend dumped me – happy birthday, Josie!- my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening…
Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it.
When hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead
I approached the mat. I’d never done any extensive sparring, but I wasn’t a total newb when it came to self-defense. The tae kwon do I’d practiced for years with Eli had to count for something. I hoped.
A heavy footfall pulled my attention back to Reid.
An arm came at me from the side. Without thinking, I ducked, punched under the incoming arm, and swung my shin at the ankles in my sights. Reid’s legs swept out from under him, and his hands shot out to catch himself. He landed on all fours.
I gasped for a breath of air, my chest heaving. Evidently I held my breath whenever I was attacked. Reid’s eyes locked on mine. Finally some eye contact. And then he gave me a shitty smile.
“What the hell?” I snapped. Reid stood and didn’t stop moving until he was in my face. I didn’t let myself flinch. “Just because you’re pissed at me, did you really need to try and take me out? I know you think insta-immersion works best, but maybe it doesn’t for me. Maybe, just maybe—”
“Will you shut up?”
I hitched my hands on my hips. “So rude.”
“Five days, Josie.”
That shut me up in a heartbeat. What the hell was wrong with me? I hadn’t lost sight of the goal. The awards ceremony was—I glanced at the wall clock in the living room—125 hours and fourteen minutes away. Reid shouldn’t take it easy on me. He couldn’t afford to.
“I’m sorry,” I began.
“Stop.” Reid didn’t budge, but he crossed his arms, too. “I was going to give you a compliment, but you won’t stop thinking or talking long enough for me to get a word in edgewise.”
Oh, oops. “Proceed.”
He shook his head, closing his clear eyes for a moment. “You are a piece of work.”
“That doesn’t sound like a compliment.”
Reid barked a short laugh. “Because it wasn’t. I was going to tell you that you did a good job earlier, you know, with the whole Pushing Pictionary thing. And this?” He pointed behind him, where I’d taken him down. “How did you know what to do?”
“My parents made us take tae kwon do. Like, for years and years. I guess it just kind of comes naturally.” A hint of pride fluttered through my muscles. And with that pride, just a smidgen of hope. Like maybe I could do this. Maybe I could actually pull this off.
Reid stood so close that I had to angle my head up to him. My shirt was already sticking to my sweaty stomach. And he still didn’t have a shirt on. I had to make a conscious effort not to look at his body. I could barely focus on what he’d said.
In no way, shape, or form had I lost sight—no pun intended—of the big picture. I remained focused on the end goal. Reid was just, well, a wee bit distracting, that’s all. And perhaps that was a good thing. Yes. If I could focus around Reid, then that would only better serve me in a real-world environment, when I faced other distractions.
Yep, that was my story. And I was sticking to it.
“Let’s work more on hand-to-hand combat. See what comes not-so-naturally, natural.”
Giving him a nod, I pivoted toward the mats. Feeling his presence behind me and hearing the swish of his jeans as he moved, I stopped short. I twisted, throwing a punch toward his lower jaw. He shifted out of the way, grabbed my wrist in midair, and twisted it around my back. Thank the moon of Endor I was pretty flexible.
He yanked my arm farther up my back. His opposite arm wrapped around my waist and tugged me into him, his bare chest pressing into my back.
Pain and exhilaration shot into my nervous system. I was stuck. My heart beat wildly, but I wasn’t scared. It had to be the rush of adrenaline into my bloodstream and the fact that a half-naked guy held me in a death grip.
Reid’s exhale tickled the back of my neck as he steadied his breath. “Nice try.” His voice came out in a rough whisper. His arm tightened around my waist again, his fingertips singeing my skin through my tank as they dug through the material, drawing me in to his body.
“What’s the matter, Josie? Can’t move?”
A chill danced down my spine when he pulled in a deep breath and his chest expanded against my back. I should’ve been shrugging out of his hold, but I didn’t. My body had locked up in response to his presence. And it pissed me off, because even though he could be an underwear model, I would’ve rather made out with a Romulan. Similar personalities.
Another bell rang. I spun wildly, searching for the source, and my foot slipped out from under me. My left foot joined my right, sliding down a rocky surface.
A scream tore past my lips.
My brain fought to figure out what was happening as my hands gripped for something—anything—because I was falling. My head swiveled.
I couldn’t comprehend the giant, gaping crack I’d fallen into. A fissure in the ground at least eight feet wide. My fingers sunk into the cracked concrete, barely holding on. Sliding.
Then I looked down.
No end in sight. An abyss.
Everything around me blurred, and all I could see was black. And in that blackness was the one thing I was terrified of: death. My stomach pitched and my chest heaved, but no air moved in or out of my lungs. I was suffocating.
Ripping my eyes away from the darkness, I focused on my hands, still grasping at the gravely terrain crumbling beneath them. My right foot slipped, and my fingers dug deeper into the ground. It was a mixture of rock, and mud, and I didn’t know what. It felt like glass shards were being shoved under my fingernails.
I dug in with my toes, using the muscles in my legs to slow my descent. I slid to a halt, but the rocks and substrate continued to crumble beneath me. I searched blindly for a sturdy foothold. My foot found a rocky lip, but as soon as I thought it was safe, it gave way. My right silver flip-flop plummeted into the darkness so eager to swallow me.
Attempting to force my gaze upward, I focused on the contrast of the dark surrounding me and the bright light above, the line where they met. Technically, I’d die in broad daylight.
“Think, Josie.” The voice was strong, demanding. It took a second for it to register. “Josie, look at me.”
Reid. Reid was here. That’s where I was. I was at Reid’s place. I’d come here to train. I’m an Oculi. It all became clear as I broke free from the terror.
I wrenched my head toward his voice, my gaze meeting his. He crouched above me at the surface, his eyes my lifeline because he didn’t offer a hand. He wasn’t about to coddle me. That wasn’t his style. He said, “Breathe. Think.”
Dragging in an uneven breath, looking into his clear eyes, something clicked in the far reaches of my mind.
I Pushed with no effort. No headache, no nausea. I blinked, and stairs carved themselves into the side of the chasm, jutted out as if they’d always been there. With great hesitancy, I climbed the stairs on all fours, close to the wall. I could see the surface, right within my reach.
The stairs were gone.
I felt myself tumbling, falling. Flailing along the wall of the abyss with nothing to stop my descent.
I focused on the surface, on the light growing dimmer the farther I skidded. Earth. Ground beneath my feet. I Pushed. And Pushed.
Pain. Nausea. Dizziness.
Thunder sounded below, like the darkness of the chasm was rising up to swallow me whole. Something hit my feet so hard that it tossed me in the air.
Up. Up. Into the light.
My thoughts didn’t coalesce clearly, but I felt myself rising. The pain behind my eyes made my vision waver. I shot to the warehouse floor. Reid reached for me as I collapsed.
My lungs rebelled, and tears burned trails down my cheeks. Dirt covered my hands and caked beneath my fingertips. One fingernail had broken to the quick. It bled sullenly. I wasn’t about to look weak in front of him, though, so I held out my arm to ward off his offer of help. I stood tall on trembling legs.
Reid closed the gap between us, his arms extended like he would embrace me. “Josie—”
The light streaming through the warehouse windows dimmed and flickered. Darkness edged my periphery. I balled my trembling fist and slammed my knuckles into his cheek. White heat shot through my hand before everything went black.
Cut Scene from ANOMALY by Tonya Kuper-told from Reid’s POV-
I walked a few feet to the studio, Josie followed and stood in the doorway. She looked totally drained. “Really?”
“Yup.” I sat and patted the floor next to me, which earned me an eye roll.
She plopped down, not making eye contact. “Where’s Hannah?” I whispered.
Still not looking at me, she carefully placed her water and towel in their exact places, and checked her phone. “She’s not gonna make it tonight.”
“Mmmm. Lucky you then.” I pointed to the sign on the door. “It’s partner night.”
Josie’s face swung to mine, her eyebrows arched high. I gave her a “suck it” smile.
The class started with slow stretching, working our way up to sun salutations. It was hard for me to concentrate. I watched Josie lower herself to the floor with control and strength, hover just above the mat then thrust her hips forward into upward dog, pushing her back into a beautiful arch.
The instructor turned the music down with the remote control and said, “Find your partner for the night, the one who will help you identify if we are engaging your core.” She switched the music to a contemporary song with a heavy beat, far from our usual flute and steel drums yoga tunes.
Josie, still avoiding my gaze, got into Warrior I position, her front knee bent and arms reaching for the ceiling. The yoga teacher instructed us to first check the position as a whole before moving onto the abs. Partners, all women, stood behind the other placing their hands on the others hip bones, making sure they pointed forward. Moving behind Josie, I straddled her extended leg, watching her back expand and contract as she breathed. Easing closer, I slid my hands around to the front of her hips. Josie dragged in a rugged breath as I leaned into her. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to stop the dizziness initiated by her gardenia perfume and surge of energy rushing through my veins. The very essence and proximity of Josie gave me a natural high. Opening my eyes, I was surprised to find Josie’s irises locked on mine, almost daring me.
The instructor weaved through the yogi pairs. “Let’s check to make sure those ribs aren’t popping out. We want the abdominals fully engaged, not letting the torso arch or break.” She illustrated on a student and expected us to the do same to our partners.
Josie focused on the front of the room as my right hand skimmed over her tank, just under her chest. My fingers drifted over her ribs to her stomach, my lips close to her ear. “You’re connected,” I whispered.
Her intense gaze hung on mine in the mirror as my hand hesitated over her navel, my chest pushed against her back. For a moment, my heart and breath stopped. Time seemed to slow and the world around slipped away. It was in her eyes – questions and confusion, but also a longing, a burning, a desperation. She felt the electricity between us, the intangible, undefinable something that drew us to each other. Every nerve ending in my body burned.
“Switch,” the instructor yelled.
Josie’s body flinched under me and her cheeks darkened, a sliver of smile playing on her lips. She cleared her throat and turned her head toward my face so my nose, lips, and chin brushed her cheek. Then she stepped out of her stance, away from me.
Facing me, she smiled. “You’re turn, pretty boy.”
I settled into the position. Josie’s warm hands swept over my shoulders and pulled down. I was not prepared for her hands to be anywhere besides my stomach. “Relax,” she whispered behind me. “Pull down your latissimi dorsi muscles, it’ll create more space between your shoulders and ears.” Two fingers skated down my lats on each side, making my spine straighten more and the air in my lungs rush out in surprise.
Her unabashed hands wrapped around my hips, her fingers searching for the edge of the hip bones. Once she literally held my hips in her hands, she twisted them to the front of the room in one quick, rough motion. My blood was sure to boil and cook me from the inside out.
Her hot hand shot over my ribs, her fingers spread wide then crept down my shirt to my lower abs. She popped up to her tip toes and whispered, “Your ribs aren’t popping. It feels engaged. Do you feel the connection?”
Keeping my body directed to the mirror in front of us, I watched her. “You have no. I. Dea.” I turned my head over my shoulder and she was right there, our noses almost touching. I could feel her chest expanding faster against my back as her lips parted ever so slightly. Her always serious, calculating face waivered for a second, like when it was her turn. I wasn’t sure what I’d caught a glimpse of, but I liked it.
The rest of class continued, Josie avoiding more contact at all costs. I now had a new goal in addition to everything else: Make whatever flashed across Josie’s face appear more often.
Tonya Kuper's debut, ANOMALY, the first in the Schrodinger's Consortium young adult scifi trilogy, releases November 2014 by Entangled Teen. She lives in Omaha, NE with her two rad boys and husband, is a music junkie, and a chocolate addict. Star Wars & Sherlock fan.
Random Facts About Tonya Kuper
Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m excited to be here! I thought instead of me answering the usual author question, readers may enjoy some absolute randomness. So here is a list of random facts about me:
- I taught yoga for over three years. I haven’t practiced, let alone taught, in years.
- I once partied with Keith Urban’s band and road crew until four in the morning. Keith was in his room but his bald guitar player said I had the sexiest hair he’d ever seen. So that was…coo/interesting/weird.
- My kids have life threatening food allergies. My oldest son went into anaphylaxis when he was just over a year old and was gray by the time we got the ER. It seemed as if people came from the walls, appearing out of nowhere to save his life. Scariest day of my life.
- I have a reaction to a stomach medication that makes my brain think I have Parkinson’s Disease. Yeah, I found that out the hard way. My speech is slurred, my tongue presses to the roof of my mouth, my bottom jaw slides to the side. It’s pretty crazy.
- There was a movie, a biographical drama, in 2000 called The Perfect Storm, staring George Clooney and Mark Walberg and nominated for two Academy Awards. I sat next to the friend of the crew members lost at sea that served as one of the consultants for the film on the sailing/fishing elements. It was the most interesting plane ride!
- Anyone watch 24 starring Keifer Sutherland? Well, my friend and I were in NYC in 2011 and ended up at the same bar as him and Jason Patrick (his co-star in a play and Lost Boys, the vampire movie from the 80’s). And Keifer mooned us. Like, ten feet from us.
- I’m obsessed with accents. Southern drawl, East coast, Canadian, English, Irish, Scottish, whatever. So…cute men + accents = automatic points from me. It’s probably because I grew in rural Illinois then moved to Omaha, Nebraska after college, which is the call center of America because we have such a flat accent, basically no accent. It’s very…generic American.
- My family, between all four of us, is allergic to almost every mammal on Earth, therefore we have no hairy pets. We literally can’t be enclosed with most mammal dander. It’s so bad, we can’t even have the “hypo-allergenic” dogs. We had fish. They died. And they were boring. My boys wanted to interact with something – so we got a leopard gecko, a desert dweller. I had no idea they were so cute and have such personalities! I post pics and videos of Mo (short for Mo’o, the Hawaiin word for lizard/gecko) on my Instagram account every once in while.
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