Authors: Accardo, Jus
Tags: #Romance, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #teen, #young adult, #denazen, #Speculative Fiction, #ya, #Paranormal, #touch, #toxic, #jus accardo, #tremble
A Denazen Novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Jus Accardo. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Edited by Erica M. Chapman and Liz Pelletier
Cover design by Danielle Barclay
Print ISBN 978-1-62061-018-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62061-019-0
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition May 2013
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Jell-O,
The Twilight Zone
, Coke, Chippendales, Reese’s, Nike, Band-Aids, Bruce Wayne, Nerf, Chevy, Volkswagen, Gmail, Energizer Bunny, Sunoco, Barbie,
, Advil, Leatherman, Starbucks, Showtime, Netflix,
The Walking Dead
, Frisbee, Batcave,
, Disney, Taser, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,”
West Side Story
, Snoopy, Six Flags Great Adventure, Sponge Bob, Powerman 500, Cheshire Cat.
I’ve always got your back
There were too many people and I had nowhere to run. My heart pounded, and I swallowed back the thick lump of worry caught in my throat. I didn’t need this. Not now. Not tonight.
He moved across the room slowly but with determination. I’d tried to duck out of sight when he came through the door, stepping into the middle of a larger crowd and stooping low to avoid detection, but it’d been pointless. Like radar, he locked onto me immediately.
I took a deep breath and braced myself, convinced this could only end one way—in disaster. I’d had a feeling about coming here tonight. You’d think after all the crazy crap I’d seen over the last few months, I’d pay more attention to stuff like that.
For a brief moment, I thought about mimicking. Using my Six ability to become someone else and slink away unnoticed. He couldn’t possibly follow if he didn’t know who I was, right? Unfortunately, there were a few problems with that scenario. First off, there were too many people here. It would be impossible to mimic without being seen. Maybe if it were later in the night and people were a little drunker… You’d be surprised the things you could explain away when Jell-O shots and schnapps were involved.
Next, I wasn’t willing to mimic a dude. I’d done it twice and it wasn’t something I wanted to do again.
. Extra body parts and things dangling in places they shouldn’t? No way. And mimicking another girl would be useless.
I stepped out from behind a large guy with a beer in each hand and forced a smile. “Curd. ’Sup?”
“Cookies, babe. Just cookies.”
Curd was intent on creating his own language. The sick part was, a week from now everyone would be saying it. I had no idea how he did it, but the guy was like a verbal infectious disease. I scanned the room for help. The bastards who’d dragged me here against my will were, of course, nowhere in sight. “Here alone?”
Curd winked. “I won’t be as soon as I find my Love Goddess. She’s with you tonight, right?”
“Of course,” I mumbled. He was talking about Jade, my epic-rival-turned-reluctant-guard-dog. He’d seen her at a Halloween party in October and had been obsessed ever since. She’d gone as Venus, the goddess of love—Curd had gone as the devil. Unfortunately for him, the attraction only went one way. She preferred her guys a little taller with a side of ninja. I knew because she’d tried to snag Kale from me. Tried—and failed. “But I’m pretty sure she’d disagree with the
your Love Goddess
“All in time, baby. All in time. So what about you? You stag tonight?”
“She’s here with me,” Alex said from behind. Sure.
he showed up. I made a mental note to kick him in the balls as soon as we got outside. You don’t drag a girl to a party, then slink off and leave her to drown. There were social rules to follow, dammit.
Curd looked from Alex to me, right eyebrow rising slightly. “That’s the third time in two weeks I’ve seen you two partying together. What’s the deal? Be honest—you back together? ’Cause I was starting to like the weird dude. Plus, I think he owes me a pair of shoes…”
At the mention of Kale, it felt like someone dropped a house on my chest. If I were being honest—something I didn’t do often these days—I would have admitted I had no desire to be here. This was just a lame, half-assed attempt at going through the motions in hopes of finding something real. A spark of the old me. The one who used to exist on shallow, pointless things like parties and cheap thrills.
And what had I gotten out of it? A big fat nothing. All I felt was the same empty blackness that had settled in my soul the moment Kale walked away with Marshal Cross—AKA my dad. The kind that comes complete with an über helping of pain and an unhealthy dose of irrational guilt.
The kind you know will crush you someday.
“We’re just hanging,” Alex said. He turned, eyes affixed to mine. “Kale had to go out of town for a while, but
he’ll be back
He’ll be back
I turned away, trying hard not to laugh. It’d been months and we hadn’t found any sign of him, Dad, or Denazen. It was like they’d left planet Earth entirely—which was weird. Denazen, a company looking to control the Six population, wasn’t usually known for duck and cover
Ginger, Kale’s biological grandmother and head of the Underground, had assured me she had people working on it around the clock. The Underground, a small group dedicated to seeing Denazen dismantled and in ruin, had their ear to the door. So far, the bad guys hadn’t made a sound. The more time that passed, the less hopeful I became that we’d ever find them.
In the weeks following Kale’s return to Denazen, I’d gone back to the town where we’d found my half sister, Kiernan, and torn apart her house. Of course, I hadn’t uncovered anything worthwhile. The place was in exactly the same shape we’d left it the day we’d gone to get her. She’d never been back. I spent the entire day there, going through her drawers and papers, sifting through closets and tearing apart boxes in the garage. I hoped for an address or picture. Something—anything—I could use to find out where they might be. I would have even settled for something on Supremacy—the Denazen science project I was an unwilling part of.
Denazen had taken a group of regular Sixes and given them a drug to enhance their abilities. It’d been a failure. All they’d gotten, instead of the powerful army they wanted, was a handful of crazy and death spanning across several decades. Word on the street was that there was a cure, but we’d yet to dig anything up. Finding something at Kiernan’s place would have made sense, since she was, after all, the only one who’d been given it.
All I found was jack crap.
Alex and Jade—with her stupid promise to Kale to
watch out for me
—had made it their mission to shove me back into my old life whether I liked it or not. This was the third Nix—people without a Six ability—rave they’d dragged me to in a month, and I
feeling the love.
“Jade was over by the bar last time I saw her.” Alex’s lips lifted with a truly evil smile.
mission in life had become making hers miserable. The two were like oil and water. “She was actually looking for you,” he added.
Curd’s eyes grew wide and he swaggered off, chest puffed, without another word.
“That’s not gonna earn you a good-night kiss,” I said, leaning back against the wall. While I had no desire to be out and about, the one thing that made it even remotely bearable was watching Jade and Alex take verbal swings at each other. I had a bet going with Mom’s boyfriend, Dax, on who would take down who first. My money—surprisingly enough—was on Jade. She was kind of ruthless. If I didn’t hate her so much, I could have totally seen us hanging. “Are you pretty much ready to go? This whole scene is lame.”
Alex frowned. “Already? We just got here.”
I shrugged but didn’t answer. Technically we’d gotten here more than two hours ago, but there was no point arguing with him. He’d dubbed himself the designated driver and conveniently had the car keys stashed out of reach.
Resigned to my fate, I skimmed the crowd for something to focus on. It was nothing but the same scene I’d lived a thousand times before. It felt almost shallow to be here. Knowing there was something like Denazen out there made everything about my old life seem really small. It made the things I used to love feel insignificant and pointless.
I angled myself toward the door, about to tell Alex I needed some air with the intention of sneaking back to the cabin—I’d start walking if I had to—but a girl across the room caught my eye. She reminded me of the way I’d looked at the beginning of summer. Tight low-riders, a red bustier, and killer black boots. Her hair was even similar to mine—blond with the ends dyed black. She moved to the music, grinding suggestively against the guy she danced with. At least I thought he was a guy. There were too many people in the way. One of her arms was slung across his shoulder, the other wrapped possessively around his waist.
A few months ago that had been me—only I was a better dancer.
As the ending beats of one song seamlessly melded into the opening of the next, her date disengaged himself to head toward the bar, and the girl turned in the direction of the stairs. I couldn’t see her face at first, but something about her kept me riveted, overshadowing my escape plans. There was something vaguely familiar about the way she moved… Her determined stride and the almost stiff set of her shoulders.
She waded through the crowd, swallowed by the sea of people for several moments before emerging on the other end of the room. Yeah. Definitely something familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and it was driving me nuts. She obviously knew people, laughing and chatting as she went, but I couldn’t place her. Then, just before she rounded the corner of the stairs, her head tilted sideways and I saw her face. “Sonofa—”
Even over the loud music, I heard Alex’s surprised cry when I shoved him aside and bolted across the room without warning. A couple drifted into my path. They were focused so intently on each other and never saw me coming. I elbowed them apart and cut through the middle without apology, determined to keep up.
There was a flash of blond as I rounded the corner. Someone behind me called out, but I ignored it and kept going because losing her
Casually, she ducked into a room at the end of the hall as I made it to the top of the steps. The door was just about to click shut when I reached it, wedging the toe of my shoe between it and the frame. Kicking out, I sent it flying into a bathroom. It bounced twice before hitting the tile wall with a noise that reverberated, sending an annoying rattle echoing through the small room.
The girl whirled around, surprised, and stumbled sideways as I burst in. “What the—”
Fist balled tight, my hand shot out and cracked her in the side of the head before she could finish. There was only one thing I wanted to hear coming from her mouth. Answers. “Where is he?”
She let out a howl and clutched her head. Tripping backward, she caught the edge of the sink and toppled over, yanking the role of paper towels and a small container of hand soap down with her. They clattered to the floor, the plastic top on the soap cracking in half and spilling soft pink liquid across the tacky blue tile.
Brown eyes rose defiantly to meet mine and, knowing what I knew now, I couldn’t figure out how I’d missed it before. They were the same color as the ones I saw in the mirror each day. The same shape. They even held that same mischievous spark. She had a slightly narrower, heart-shaped face, with a chin that came to more of a dramatic point like Dad’s. I remembered her once joking that she could cut glass with it. The resemblance was there, though. We even had a similar personality. Overly confident, sarcastic, and just a little bit crazy.
“Where is he, Kiernan?”
Eyes narrow, she pulled herself upright using the edge of the tub and folded both arms in defiance. With an attitude I’d grown to love—
she went dark side—she said, “Screw me sideways, bitch.”
I knew it wouldn’t be that easy, and that was fine. Better than fine, in fact. It meant I got to hit her again. And I did. I’d had dreams that started like this. Me getting the opportunity to kick the crap out of the girl who’d been the catalyst for the destruction of my life. The problem was, the dreams never ended well—for me.
As soon as she went down, I grabbed her wrist and dragged her back to her feet. There was a comb on the sink beside me. Picking it up, I concentrated on one of Mom’s kitchen knives.
A shudder rippled through my body, along with the tiniest twinge at the base of my temple. A tickle and nothing more. The physical cost of mimicking—which was what I called my Six ability—had, for the most part, become a joke. Bigger things still took a lot out of me. Mimicking an entire person knocked me for a loop, but the days of debilitating pain and gut-wrenching agony had passed and left me with one hell of an advantage.
One I was eager to test out on Kiernan.
The plastic handle of the comb grew cold and smooth as its weight changed. Now, instead of feeling flimsy, it was solid and heavy. The whole process used to fill me with a sense of dread. Now I found it oddly comforting.
Kiernan snickered and shrugged, not the least bit worried. She’d always been the cocky kind. It’d gotten us in trouble on more than one occasion. “You don’t have the guts.”
I pressed the blade against the back of her forearm and moved it a slip. A thin line of red appeared a moment later. “Wanna put it to the test? I think you might be surprised what I have the guts to do now.” I straightened. “You should be proud, actually. You drove me to it.”
She laughed. “Me? It’s the other way around,
A part of me wanted to know what the hell she was talking about—I’d never been anything but friendly to her—but it was a small part. The rest only wanted to know one thing.
“Tell me where he is.” A small voice inside my head goaded me to make another cut—this time deeper. Kiernan had provoked me by lying and, worst of all, helping Dad recapture Kale. She’d posed as my friend, infiltrated the Underground, then not only fed Dad important information but gave him an all-access pass to the Sanctuary hotel that ended with its destruction and the death of Rosie, one of our own. Did I have the guts to hurt her?
She laughed, unfazed by either the knife or my threats. “Oh, Dez. Dez, Dez, Dez. You sure you really want him back? He’s not the guy you thought he was, trust me.” She leaned closer and blew me an exaggerated kiss. “He’s a screamer, did you know?”
I have the guts?
Oh, hell yes. Yes I did.
I jerked the knife away, dragging it hard against her skin. This time, she let out a hiss and tried to yank away from my grip, but I held tight. For a moment, neither of us said anything. A stare-down of epic proportions.
I’d been working with Mom to learn how to fight, but I had a long way to go. Maybe force wasn’t the right tact. Maybe appealing to something deeper would get me the information I was so desperate for. Kiernan was Dad’s lapdog, but she was also my sister, and that had to mean something.