Excerpt – Chapter One, DAZZLE

Delaney

I watch in horror as the car veers off the bridge, plunging toward the lake. Cursing myself for arriving too late, I slam on my brakes and screech to a halt. A sickening splash below makes my blood run cold. With trembling fingers, I pick up my cell, wondering why Micah isn’t returning my texts. His car is nowhere in sight. Where is he? There’s no time to wait. This time I’m on my own. At least until the police arrive. Unbuckling my seat belt, I tear out of the car, leaving my purse and cell behind.

I scale the embankment, stopping to steady myself several times as my feet slip on the dirt and rocks. At the bottom, I gulp in the warm night air and dive into the icy water. It’s so frigid that it nearly knocks the wind out of me. My throat burns, and my body numbs. The water is so dark that I can’t make out anything. Fear grips me. I’m not sure I can do this without Micah.

Breaking the surface, I gasp for air. I listen for sirens but don’t hear them yet.  A splash nearby catches my attention. I turn to see Micah’s black dreadlocks skimming the top of the water. Relief washes over me. His head pops up. “Delaney. Where is she?”

I shake my head. “Not sure. I can’t find her.”

He throws me a concerned look before diving back down. I lose sight of him in the black water.

Squinting, I scan the area. I finally spot the car sinking just feet away, its tail end sticking out like a shark’s fin. Determined, I inhale one last time and dive back down. I swim hard, pushing and pulling with my arms, kicking with my legs.  I’m grateful for my years of training.

A skinny, teenage girl is the sole person in the vehicle. By the time I get to her, Micah is dragging the girl’s body out of the open window. She looks about our age, but I’ve never seen her before. Her jeans and black tank top are so tight that they look like they’ve been painted on. They cling to her body even in the water. My own shirt floats around me, as if I’ve sprouted wings. I’m relieved when my eyes catch sight of the familiar markings covering her arms to prove that she is a follower of Zerach like us.  Since she doesn’t go to our school, I’m assuming she lives on the other side of the river.

Micah circles his arms around the girl’s waist and swims toward the surface at lightning speed. As always, I’m completely impressed with Micah’s superhuman strength. My gift is pretty cool but sometimes I wish Micah and I could trade gifts. But that will never happen. Even though we were born with the same calling – even the same weakness – our gifts vary. It’s the way it has to be.

The air leaves me and I feel dizzy, so I kick my way to the top.

When I get to the surface, I suck in the air with desperation. Micah drags the girl to the beach. He sprawls her in the dirt and starts administering CPR. My arms and legs tire and I struggle to catch my breath. With lazy strokes, I swim to shore, where I hear coughing and sputtering.

It’s a beautiful sound. It means the girl is alive.

“Delaney.” Micah’s voice is stern. “C’mere, you’ve got to see this.” The seriousness of his tone worries me. I scuttle onto the sand, push myself up and race toward him. His dark body glistens and water drips from him. The pictures circling his muscular arms are even more vivid and colorful when slick with moisture. Drenched and freezing, I wrap my arms around my wet body. My clothes stick to my skin and my jeans chafe my thighs. My shoes squeak as I walk, kicking up mud.

Micah bends over the girl, his dreadlocks hanging down to almost touch her. She is bent over, coughing into the sand. Wordlessly, he points and I see the familiar tattoo on the back of her neck. My gaze takes in the circular image. I know that under my long, wet hair is the same one.

“She’s one of us,” I whisper, nodding to Micah who is running his fingers along his neck, no doubt thinking of his own markings. Micah and I know there are others – ten of us, to be exact. However, this is the first one we’ve found one. When I return my eyes to her, my breath hitches in my throat. “Why is her hair so short?” Bending down, I finger the jagged edges of her platinum blonde hair cut crudely above her ears. She flinches and turns to face me. Her large, blue eyes are full of fear, causing terror to snake around my heart

“Someone knows.” Micah’s eyes darken.

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