Next Thursday, June 18, Of Starlight hits shelves! For those of you who haven’t heard of my newest YA series, Of Starlight is book two in the Translucent series. For more on Translucent, click here!
Today I wanted to share the second teaser from Of Starlight. Without further ado, here it is:
“Tell me what happened,” said Emory, when I slid into his convertible ten minutes later—top up, thank God.
“Drive . . . just drive,” I said, peeling off the last of the dark matter from my bare feet and scraping it into the contact lens case.
He watched me, but said nothing.
I’d thrown on a loose tank top and shorts, so I was immensely grateful for the heat in his car. My core was still ice cold.
He put the car in gear and gunned it up the street. Only when I counted four blocks between me and my house did I let myself relax. But I wasn’t about to tell him what had happened. Telling him would only make him worry and want to help me, which was the last thing I wanted. If Megan was right, I was still his sister’s murderer.
I was the reason this creature had possessed her body.
To have him save me from her, given the circumstances, would be the deepest shame. I would rather die.
“You going to tell me what happened?” he said.
“Can I just be with you right now?” I said.
“Never gotten a straight answer from you before,” he said, rolling down his window to spit out a piece of gum, filling the car with chilly gusts. “Don’t know why I thought I’d get one now.”
“Don’t be an ass,” I said, breaking into shivers all over again. “By the way, thanks for coming to get me. I just . . . I can’t be in my house right now.”
“So what am I going to do with you?” he said, leaning forward to read street names. “It’s three in the morning on a Friday, and I know your parents don’t know you’re out with me.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” I said, cradling my head in my hands. “Nothing matters anymore.”
“Not going to argue with that,” he said, scowling.
“I hate life, Emory.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I’m so sick of this,” I said. “I’m so sick of everything.”
“Except me, apparently.”
I peered sideways at him. “Why do you tolerate me? I’m depressing, and morbid, and I hate myself, and you’re cool and gorgeous and . . . and I’ve seen you when you’re happy and it’s amazing, and you light up everyone’s life . . .” I turned away, tears blurring my eyes, “but you’re not happy, and it’s my fault. It’s all my fault.”
His eyes squinted as he considered this. “You’re right, you’re not happy,” he said. “You are depressed, and you do hate yourself—and a lot of other people do too, apparently. But you’re real, Leona.” He pulled up to a stop sign, and his eyes flicked to mine. “I look at everyone else, and I see this shiny exterior and this fake smile, but that’s it. There’s nothing in here.” He made a fist and thumped his chest. “But you . . . you don’t smile, and I like that. Because all that’s been stripped away. When you look at me, it’s just raw . . . and it’s powerful—and yeah, it’s really sad sometimes—but you’re the only person who looks at me like that. And when you do, I can’t look away from you.”
His words left me in a fog. I had nothing to say.
“And you’re gorgeous too, FYI.”
“Uh . . . okay.” My breath quivered in my lungs, and I felt weightless for the tiniest instant before I plunged back down into my abyss. I blushed and faced forward, my heart throbbing painfully. A whisper of envy unfurled in me. I wanted to be that girl—tortured, but beautiful. Forlorn, but loveable. But I wasn’t. I was unforgiveable.
By him, most of all.
“I want to know what it was,” he said softly. “I want to know what did this to you. I remember noticing you in the halls last year, you with your sophomore clique. I remember writing you off as a shallow airhead. You’re not that girl anymore.”
“I wish I still was,” I murmured.
“I don’t,” he said.
We lapsed into silence, and only then did I notice he was taking me up a steep windy road into the hills, downshifting around the curves. His wrists gleamed under the passing streetlights, hard planes like carved marble. My gaze climbed to his forearm, where the rolled-up sleeves of his collared shirt were stretched tight around knotted, sinewy muscle—his throwing arm. I wanted to touch his skin . . . feel if he was real. Or a temptation meant to drive me insane.
He caught me staring at him and raised an eyebrow, and I jerked my head forward and tucked my hair behind my ear, instantly self-conscious.
Santa Barbara flashed below us, all glittery and lit up, before vanishing behind a switchback.
“Where are we going?” I said.
“Somewhere that’s not your house.”
Okay, but where were we going?
More importantly, what were we doing? Together. Driving into the hills at three in the morning?
“Are we, like . . . dating?” I said, fearing the answer even as a giddy flutter passed through me.
He shrugged. “I don’t really like to put a label on things.”
“No, no, no . . . nooooo,” I said, suddenly tensing up. “We can’t be dating.”
“Like I said, no labels.”
“Because if we were . . .” I warned.
“You would know. Just chill. You’re overthinking. You said you just wanted to just be with me, so let’s just be, alright?”
“Yeah, but not like that.”
He slowed the car down. “You want to go home?”
“You want me to keep going?”
“Alright. We’re going to stop in the middle of the road.” He stopped in the middle of the road. “And we’re just going to sit here.”
We sat there.
“Okay, you proved your point,” I said. “I’m a mess and I have no idea what I want. Are you happy? Now can we go?”
He smirked and we started up again. I rested my head against the glass and let my hair shield me from view, feeling dizzy and sick.
My sanity dangled over a precipice, and he was the only thing keeping me up. If he left, I would fall. I could already feel myself slipping. At the same time, every second I spent with him twisted the knife a little deeper.
I killed his sister.
I still hadn’t told him.
I couldn’t tell him.
Emory pulled onto a dirt road, and the car bounced over potholes, the tires crunched on dirt and pebbles. He veered into the chaparral, and dry stalks blazed in his headlight before his bumper whacked them to the side. A cliff loomed ahead, and all at once the chaparral fell away, replaced by a panoramic view of the city lights.
His car pulled right up to the edge—and for a moment, I thought we would pitch over—before he shut off the engine. “It’s just a place we can talk,” he said, opening his door.
I climbed out too and stood next to him at the cliff edge, but the city’s beauty was lost on me. It might have dazzled another girl living another life, but not me. Not right now. The tall grass rustled nearby, and a dusty breeze lifted my hair and set me shivering.
“Can we get back in the car?” I said. “I can’t look at this right now.”
“Then close your eyes,” he said.
“No, it’s not.”
“And I’m scared.”
“Of what? Field mice?”
I bristled at his comment. “I’m cold,” I said.
“Fine. Come on.” He put his hand on my lower back and guided me into the backseat of his convertible, then slid in after me, pulling the door shut behind him. As I shifted on the rear bench seat, my bare thighs stuck to the cold, cracked leather. His legs pressed against mine, and all at once, he was way too close, with nothing separating us. My heart gave a nervous thump, as if I’d never been with a boy before. But I didn’t pull away. Suddenly, all I wanted was to be close to him. Nothing else mattered.
I bit my lip and pushed back against him, letting my thigh slide against his. I felt his arm fall around my shoulder, and he kissed the top of my head, his lips brushing my scalp and lingering on my hair, drawing a shiver of pleasure down my spine. The heated spice of his cologne made me tipsy, and I looked up at him, breathing him in.
Lit up by the city lights, his hair glowed around him like a halo. I touched his jaw, mesmerized, and trailed my fingers along its length as I pulled him into a kiss. The smoky, minty taste of his mouth enveloped me like a drug high, his lips demanding my single-minded focus. Bit by bit, everything else fell away. Before I knew it, he had scooped my legs up by the knees and pulled them over his lap, leaning into me to deepen the kiss. My fist tightened instinctively around his shirt, dragging him closer.
I ignored the tiny nagging at the back of my mind that this was wrong. Right now, I didn’t care.
He pulled away from me before I was ready, leaving my lips feeling lonely and cold as a sharp ache spread through my chest. I clung to his shirt, afraid to let go.
He pushed his hand through his hair, his gaze tortured. “This . . . this feels irresponsible.”
“Why?” I breathed, hating the desperation in my voice.
“Because I need to know you’re okay. I need to know I’m not making this worse for you. But I am. I know I am.”
“Nuh-uh,” I said, shaking my head. “You’re not allowed to feel guilty. You’re perfect.”
He chuckled darkly. “Then you don’t know me.”
“Oh, really? Do you have a dark secret, Emory?” I teased. “Did you cheat on a spelling test in third grade? Did you accidentally step on a spider once when you were twelve? Please, you’re like the most pure, worthy person I know. I doubt you could hurt a fly without feeling remorse.”
His eyes flashed to mine. “What’s your dark secret, Leona?”
The question caught me off guard, and a shameful heat bloomed in my cheeks. I averted my eyes before he saw it, both needing and hating the reassurance of his arm around my back.
“Leona . . .” he said gently.
“You can have me,” I murmured. “All of me.”
I felt him peering down at me. “Be careful what you offer,” he said. “Because I will take it.”
I nodded, my throat dry. Too late for that.
Peeking at him, I glimpsed only concern in his gaze, zero judgment. Curled up in his arms, I felt safe for the first time. Maybe he would forgive me, after all. As he watched me, I kissed him again, shyly, just a peck on the lips. When he kissed me back—hesitantly at first, but then harder—an electric giddiness unfurled in my stomach, leaving my heart racing. I broke off and rested my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, craving everything about him. Then it just bubbled out.
“I love you,” I whispered.
The confession jolted my heart, and I clamped my mouth shut as my nerves became hyperalert to every uncomfortable shift of his body beneath mine.
“Yeah . . . that’s what I was afraid of,” he said.
My body tensed up, and I squeezed my eyes shut, mortified. “I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes, you did,” he said.
If you enjoyed reading that, please make sure to check Of Starlight out on Amazon! You can do so here. I’ll be giving away an Amazon gift card exclusively to readers who pre-order the novel, so make sure to grab a copy!