THE KEEP comes out in two weeks!! TWO weeks!!! Before all the promos and extras start, I wanted to post one more extra from THE CONVERGENCE. This is Chapter One from Blake’s perspective. Enjoy! Next week the countdown will start (at least officially…I’ve been counting down for months 🙂 ).
THE CONVERGENCE – Chapter One (Blake’s POV)
She’s a probability.
For too many mind-numbing months, I’ve been watching and waiting. More than likely the person I’m looking for has already moved on.
Unless it’s her—Desiree Morgan.
Crammed beside me in the truck, her body is far too tense for simple discomfort. Something has her on edge. She shifts away from me. I surreptitiously crowd closer.
The truck crashes over a ditch. This Kyle-guy at the wheel is definitely not chauffer material. Hearing the cab creak beneath us, I’m grateful Nichole convinced me to leave my truck at the turn-off. So far, that fully-loaded dream is the only good thing about this assignment.
At some random complaint from Nichole, we shoot forward. Watching Nichole sink her claws into Desiree’s thigh, I hide a smirk. Kyle has problems. And I’m pretty sure they’re focused around the girls in the car.
Taking pity on Nichole’s justifiable terror, I lean across Desiree—who’s wound so tight she’s bound to implode. “I heard you got accepted to Arizona State, Nichole.” As she gives in to my distraction, I note the reactions in Desiree: a quick escape from Nichole’s clutches, a nervous glance at the driver, and then a slow, steady evaluation of me. I wonder what she sees. A threat?
As the truck swerves around a rock only to crash through a sagebrush, Nichole mutters, “Phenom save us all.”
This perky, blonde is growing on me. Seriously, can she make it any easier? “Phenom?” I ask with perfect evenness, pretending I don’t know the whole story—that this isn’t why I’m sitting in this truck, playing this charade, studying a girl I wouldn’t normally look twice at.
As Nichole tells the story in her over-excited way, I consider the girl next to me. It was her brother that first snatched my attention—no ordinary high-schooler has that kind of wit. But, the Phenom was a girl. So the obvious answer is that he was trained to be so smartly sarcastic. Desiree’s arm brushes against mine. Trained by his sister.
She looks normal. But exceptionally normal—her fitness and awareness a sign there’s more behind her dark hair, casual dress, and feigned nonchalance. Her ordinary veneer could definitely be hiding an extraordinary ability. “You’ll probably hear her mentioned throughout the night.” Desiree voices her thoughts on the Phenom and Nichole answers defensively.
“What do you have against this Phenom, Desiree?” I ask. I didn’t think it was possible, but she tenses even more. It’s hard to hide my amusement.
“I just find it all a little hard to swallow.” She lies.
“Really?” I push. “I think it’s not only possible, but probable.” She shrugs off my words, but I know a strike when I throw one.
The truck launches out of another rut, forcing Nicole and Desiree’s heads to the roof. Kyle apologizes insincerely. Since we’re getting closer to our destination, I ignore Mr. Chip-on-his-shoulder and get back to my friendly interrogation. “So, Desiree Morgan, what are your plans?” Her eyes dart to mine and then away. She doesn’t like me using her name—it makes our conversation more personal. So I’ll address her by her name as much as possible…and maybe throw in a nickname or two.
She debates her answer, eyes darting to Kyle and Nichole. So that’s the source of the strain here—Desiree’s future plans. I’m disappointed it’s not something more dramatic. Kyle slams his foot on the brakes, cranking the wheel. Spinning sideways, the truck slides jerkily across the sandy ground. A getaway driver—now, there’s his calling. Before we’re even stopped he shifts into park and, clenching the wheel says, “It’s pointless and excessive.” Strong words for a small mind. He levels a glare at an unflinching Desiree. “But what we think won’t make a difference. She’s decided.”
“Difficult girl, huh?” I sympathize. I can practically feel her ire transfer to me. Oh, but she is a little spitfire. All it will take is a little bit of provocation to snap her from her tight control, but I’ll have to tread the line. Too much and she’ll lock down.
Nichole breaks the awkwardness and we unload. Moving to the back of the truck, I start up a light conversation with Nichole. Following it easily with half my mind, I watch Kyle with the other. After witnessing his driving, I figure he might have a death wish, but when he latches on to Desiree’s arm, I know without a doubt. That boy is so totally whipped he can’t see he’s fighting for something he never had. I watch Desiree’s face. She has him so firmly pocketed in the friend zone, I wouldn’t even consider it denial but refusal—refusal to think anyone could be that close.
The little fighter’s fists flex, itching. Then he walks away and she just shakes it off. It’s more control than I expected—I was counting on her to blast him. She’s forcing respect from me, it’s unusual for me to misjudge a person—even in something that small.
She unceremoniously tosses herself onto the tailgate beside Nichole. Her attempt to hide her inherent grace falls pitifully flat—you just can’t bury that fluidity of movement.
Her face softens as she stares past the fire into the dark desert beyond. It’s like she’s remembering a trusted, old friend. Nichole interrupts her self-quieting thoughts with some words of comfort. Now that the silence is broken, I rotate my hip on the tailgate. I leisurely reexamine her before asking, “So what’re you bailing on them for?”
“Dezi is going to travel. A lot.” Nichole answers for her.
I focus on Desiree, ignoring the fire behind me. “Where?”
“Anywhere and everywhere until my money runs out.” Trying to keep our interaction short and light, she doesn’t meet my eyes.
“It’s the spontaneity some people have a hard time accepting.” Nichole, aka staunch supporter, chimes in again. “But it’ll be awesome. She’ll come back with tons of life experience. Takes more guts than I have.”
“Or less brains,” Desiree says.
Self-demeaning humor? Again she’s caught me by surprise. But in retrospect, this shouldn’t. She’s only cold and guarded with me. She’s angry with Kyle, but controlled and even accepting of his need to vent. She’s kind to Nichole, thriving on her loyalty. Clearly she’s complex, complicated—everything I expected.
The shadows of the fire dance across her face as her features grow more interesting with each passing second. I wait for her reaction to my now obvious perusal. For the first time, she meets and holds my gaze. I suck in a breath. There’s something amazing there. Something I haven’t seen in a long time.
I grin and pick up the thread of our conversation. “Sounds pretty great, but why? Why not do the normal thing? Go to college, get a job, become a responsible adult.”
Her eyes harden, the green darkening. “Guess we just have different definitions of responsible and, most likely, normal.”
Like a frightened deer, Nichole flits away. Her quick exit tells me I almost have Desiree right where I want her: slightly provoked and uncontrolled. I lean closer and drop my voice. “Our definitions are probably a lot closer than you think, Dez.”
Her banked passion pushes her toward me. Like a moth to a flame. “You know, Thomas. I don’t think I like you.”
I laugh at her use of my last name. Vocally she’s pushing me away, but physically she’s tilting ever closer. “I know,” I say. “But you will.”
“See that’s why.” She finally notices how close she’s gotten. Pulling back she finishes, “You’re cocky.”
The fire flares at my back. “I call it confidence.”
“An unhealthy amount of confidence,” she fires back. Actually fires. Her words are fast, decisive. Despite herself, she’s reveling in our conversation.
I smile at her unrealized enjoyment. “Well, I think the real reason for your aversion is that I’m like you.”
“Really, how so?” She takes the bait, her oversized curiosity sucking her in.
I take my time answering. Unlike every other teenager I’ve met she’s secretive. She’ll never open up to me, but she just might give herself away. If she is a converter there are some obvious qualities she’ll have. I start there. “Well, we’re generally likable, confident—maybe even cocky—intelligent, entertaining, obstinate…” My thrown in high-end vocabulary word doesn’t even faze her. I keep going. “Good-looking, commanding, open—most of the time, but fiercely protective of the secrets we do have.” She shifts and I can’t help but add: “Perceptive, powerful.” I glance at her small form outlined in the firelight. “Shall I continue?”
Her actions don’t give anything away, but her eyes—those honest eyes give her away. She’s good, but she can’t hide anything with eyes that open and betraying. “Your list is interesting,” she says, her voice steady. “But wrong.”
She’s fantastic. Without the worry in her gaze I would have never known I got to her. “Well, maybe you could help me out with that.”
“Don’t see much of a reason to,” she says quickly. I’m losing her.
“It’ll be mutually beneficial.” I grab her attention back. “I’ll get some insight into you and you can, in turn, try to figure me out.” I sigh and meet her questioning eyes. “That’s why Nichole invited me tonight. See, I want to learn more about horses and work on my riding and I heard you gave lessons. I’ll make it worth your time—fifty dollars a lesson.” I name a price that’s too high for her to pass up.
Her answer doesn’t come. I watch emotions play, not across her face, but through her eyes. Rationality, justification, suspicion. She’s going to say no. “Quite a bit of hesitation there, Desiree. You don’t have to answer right now, think about it some if you want.” I need her to say yes. She’s my last and only possibility. As boring as the whole high-school charade is, I’m not ready to go back. I watch her dark hair shimmering in the shifting light and realize it’s not just need, but want. I want her to say yes.
“I’ll do it.” Her words burst into my reflections. “If only in the hope of seeing you humbled and ignorant. How about after school starting next week?”
I pick up the challenge laced through her acceptance. “Next week sounds good. Until then I’ll work on decreasing my pride and intelligence.”
“You do that,” she says, clinging to her dislike for me. I give her a smoldering grin. Her lips twitch.
“Of course, and don’t worry. I’m good for it—and many other things—though you may find it hard to believe.” I wink.
“I do.” In order to keep a straight face, she’s mocking me.
My work here is done.
I push from the tailgate. “This is going to be enlightening.” I give her deep green eyes one last, penetrating look. “Very, very enlightening.”
Walking away, the stark truth of my words settles in. I twitch under a sense of foreboding: this just might be life-changing—for us both.