♦♦♦ A Peek Inside ‘The Claiming Words’ by Tricia Drammeh ♦♦♦
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Let’s get started with some delicious excerpts!
“Rachel, I’m not turning this car around just because you forgot something. What could possibly be so important?” My mother’s clipped, irritable tone would normally make me back down instantly, but I couldn’t afford to lose this particular argument.
“I need to…” I trailed off as I watched the figure draw closer to our car. I could feel his eyes on me and the pull at my magic as it came closer. My heart beat wildly and sweat began to gather on my upper lip. The Alexanders warned me about Hunters, but I’d never really believed them—not until now.
“If you need something, you’ll buy it here, or you won’t have it. Understood?” She opened the car door and grabbed her purse. I wondered if a Hunter would dare attack me in the crowded Wal-Mart parking lot. Prickles of fear shot up my spine, and I decided I didn’t want to find out how persistent a Hunter could be.
“Wait!” I shouted, grabbing the strap of her purse and nearly causing it to break. “I…” The Hunter was so close now; I could make out the ragged outline of his tattered clothing. He slipped in between parked cars and crept closer. I cursed myself for having left my necklace at home. I knew my request to drive twenty miles back home seemed absurd to my mother, but I couldn’t afford to travel all the way to Atlanta without it. If the Hunters could find me here, they could find me anywhere.
My mother’s furious gaze settled on me, and in times past, I would have stammered an apology. Opening and closing my mouth in helpless desperation, I glanced behind me; the creature was so close, I could see his glowing red eyes. Clutching at my mother’s arm, I vowed that if I escaped my present danger unscathed, I would never doubt Jerica’s warnings again. Panic emboldened me, and I met my mother’s angry stare.
I delved into her mind, felt our connection click into place, and overrode her will with minimal effort. “We must return home. You left the iron on,” I lied. Her eyes widened as the implanted notion took root.
She gasped. “Oh, my goodness! Rachel, I think I left the iron on. We’ll have to go back home. Call your brother and tell him we’ll be a little later than we expected,” she urged as she slammed the car door shut. Another mental nudge from my mind had her peeling out of the parking spot, nearly hitting the Hunter as we passed him.
I trembled from head to toe during our drive back home and my shallow breathing made me feel light-headed. Scanning my surroundings, I flew into the house, grabbed my necklace, and fumbled with the clasp as I placed it around my neck. In an instant, my panic subsided, and I took a deep breath.
“Was I right? Did I leave the iron on?” Mama asked as I climbed into the passenger seat.
“Yes. It’s a good thing you remembered,” I said.
“It certainly was a blessing we decided to stop off at Wal-Mart, wasn’t it?” she asked. I nodded in agreement. It was a blessing. Had we made it to Atlanta without my necklace, I’d have been a Hunter magnet for a week. And, had one caught up with me, I never would have made it back to Oaktree. At least not alive.
The temperatures during the second week of school reached record highs, and the walk home was beyond miserable. I’d been too apathetic to take my driver’s test; consequently, I was practically the only junior in my high-school forced to either take the bus or hoof it. I cut through a field behind the school to get home faster. The hot sun beat down on my short, dark hair, and I felt a line of sweat slither down my back.
I noticed two figures just ahead of me, and nearly turned back. Most of my fellow classmates despised me, and since the feeling was mutual, I tried to avoid contact with them whenever possible. When I recognized Jace, I cursed the fact that I had no social skills to speak of. He seemed different from the people I’d grown up with, and might have stopped to speak to me. He’d managed to resist Becky, after all.
Jace wasn’t the only person who’d resisted my cousin; I could only hope he would be able to hold out longer than the last guy. Back in middle school, Becky and I both liked the same boy, but when he expressed interest in me instead of her, my popular cousin retaliated by spreading vicious rumors about me. Too shy to fight back, I remained silent while the whole school turned against me. Long after the boy moved away, long after Becky fell in love with someone else, the repercussions of that ill-fated crush continued to haunt me.
I thought about Jace and how I might be willing to go through the whole love-triangle drama all over again on the off-chance that he might return my interest. Walking slowly through the field, a vague fantasy began to form inside my head: Jace asking me out, our whirlwind courtship, eventual proposal, and elopement to Vegas.
I squinted and peered into the distance, but couldn’t identify the person who stood just a few feet away from Jace. Oaktree, Georgia was a small town and I knew almost everyone, but I didn’t recognize this guy. They circled each other, and at first, I thought the two guys were messing around. Cautiously, I drew closer and realized I’d misinterpreted the situation. Jace leapt to the side as the large man lunged at him. I let out a startled shriek.
Jace looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Don’t come any closer!” I staggered back a step and almost tripped over my own feet.
The attacker took advantage of Jace’s brief distraction. He flew toward my classmate and pinned him to the ground, clenching one hand around Jace’s throat. Jace struggled for about a minute, and then stopped. I found it odd the attacker paid absolutely no attention to me. Generally, psychos went for defenseless females, or so I’d thought.
I briefly considered calling 911; the attacker didn’t seem to care what I did. Jace, however, seemed to need more immediate help. Without considering the consequences of my actions, I sprinted forward and swung my heavy book bag at the man’s face. I hit him dead on, and he turned his attention to me for a second or two. His blood-red eyes bore into mine, and I recoiled in horror.
Apparently, I’d distracted the red-eyed man enough to cause him to release his death grip on my classmate. Jace scrambled away from his attacker, and leapt to his feet. They faced off once again. Jace, face screwed up in concentration, crouched low and sprang toward his enemy in a crouching roll. The attacker bared his teeth and leapt out of the way effortlessly. Red-eyes certainly seemed to have the advantage in the battle. In fear and disbelief, I watched as he formed a ball of fire in the palm of his hand and hurled it at Jace. My classmate put his hands up, palms facing outward, and the fireball sizzled into nothing.
Jace disappeared and abruptly reappeared in a spot behind the attacker. With supernatural speed, he jumped at the man and hooked his arm around his neck. He wrenched the man’s head to the side, and Red-eyes slumped to the ground. Jace wiped at the sweat on his face with the back of his hand, and then kicked the man viciously in the ribs. He reared back to kick again, but stopped when he saw me.
We stared at each other for a moment. Jace walked over to me and asked, “Are you okay?” I nodded. “We need to get out of here in case there are more of them,” he said, gesturing toward the lifeless body on the ground a few feet away from us. I flinched. Jace walked back and forth through the tall grass, scrutinizing the area closely. He bent down and picked up a textbook.
I contemplated running back toward the school and screaming for help, but I couldn’t seem to propel myself forward. I stood rooted to the spot, my legs trembling, as I fought back a bout of nausea.
“Let’s go,” Jace said in my direction. When I didn’t move, he walked over to me and took my hand. I pulled it away. “Come on, Alisa. You’re safe with me. I promise. Let’s go back to my house, and I’ll explain everything to you when we get there.” Through my haze of shock, I felt a brief sense of elation that he even knew my name. He lifted my book bag from the ground and began walking away.
Staring at my book bag dangling from his shoulder, I irrationally wondered whether or not it was a crime weapon and if my limited participation made me an accomplice to a murder. I questioned the wisdom of not having called the police.
“Should I call 911?” I asked stupidly. “I’m sure you won’t be in trouble. He attacked you first. I’m a witness.”
He turned back to look at me. “Alisa, that thing back there isn’t dead. You can’t kill a Hunter that easily. He’s just stunned. There could be more of them, so we should really get out of here.” My choice was follow Jace, this guy I didn’t really know, or stay in the field with the dangerous red-eyed man. I followed Jace.
I sat alone at the back of the lunchroom and picked at the unrecognizable food on my lunch tray. A sudden wind lifted the wisps of hair at the nape of my neck, and in an instant, the hottest guy in our school pulled up a chair to sit next to me.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted, gaping at Jace.
“Do you mind if I sit next to you?” he asked, gesturing at the four empty chairs grouped around the table where we sat.
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“That’s good to know. What is this crap?” The fact that he couldn’t identify the food before him didn’t seem to dampen his appetite. He shoved forkfuls into his mouth, and I cringed as he devoured the mystery meat. Jace chatted in between bites as if it were perfectly normal to be sitting there with me. I felt like I should tell him he was off the hook—that he didn’t have to pretend to like me just because he thought I’d saved his life.
“Hey, aren’t you eating?” he asked. I shook my head, and he attacked my food with gusto. “My brother and I will pick you up for dinner tonight.”
I shivered as I recalled Bryce’s penetrating, cold stare. “I can walk. I like walking.”
“Yeah, but still. It may not be safe,” he insisted, glancing around the cafeteria to make sure no one was watching. They were. Everyone was staring. Jace leaned in closer, and I shivered. “You need protection.”
“Your brother said I’m not the one they’re looking for. What does that mean?” I asked, shocking myself. Ordinarily, I let others ask the questions, but my curiosity couldn’t be contained.
“Shhh. We’ll talk about it later. So, do you want to come over right after school?”
“I don’t know if I can. I mean, I didn’t ask…” I stammered. “My mom’s picking me up today…”
“Just make sure she lets you come over tonight.” His smile stole my breath away and I nodded in agreement. “Let me know if you need help convincing her, because I can be very persuasive,” he claimed. I blushed and glanced away. I imagined he could persuade me to do nearly anything.
Jace continued eating and talking to me as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He didn’t act martyred or uncomfortable. I briefly entertained the idea that perhaps Jace actually saw me as a real person. I’d barely said a word to him, and yet he continued an almost one-sided conversation until the bell rang.
As I scurried nervously from the lunchroom, Jace finished up the last couple of morsels of food on my tray. “Hey, Alisa,” Jace practically shouted across the still full lunchroom. “I’ll see you tonight.”
I nodded to indicate I’d heard him, and then made my hasty retreat. I was painfully aware that half the school was watching me as I rushed to my next class. If he continued to associate with me, he’d better be prepared to join me in the cesspool of Cooper High gossip. I hoped he wouldn’t choose his budding popularity over our newly established friendship. I was tired of being alone.
Scrumptious, no? If liked these excerpts, but sure to check out the book in full! I’ve personally read and enjoyed this book, and it’s on my favorite book shelf at home. You won’t be disappointed! (And be sure to look out for the new and improved cover, too!)
The Claiming Words
by Tricia Drammeh
Available at these online retailers!