This week we're celebrating the launch of Tricia Drammeh's new YA novel, The Claiming Words, a paranormal romance. Yesterday we talked with the author about her book. Today we have an excerpt from the book.
The main characters are high school students, and Tricia has given them personalities we all know and love...and some we hate. In this excerpt, Alisa, the shy, quiet, unpopular type, is befriended by the new guy--a very handsome and very popular new guy named Jace...
The Claiming Words
By the time school rolled around the next day, I’d nearly convinced myself I’d dreamt everything from the walk home until I woke up in the morning. When I arrived in first period, I staked out my usual spot in the back of the classroom and tried to finish my homework.
Jace entered the classroom alone and took a seat beside me. “How are you today? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. How are you, though?” I asked softly.
“Great. I’m looking forward to dinner tonight. You’re still coming, right?” He smiled at me, and I fell even more deeply in love with him.
“Absolutely,” I said, returning his smile.
“You should give me your phone number,” he said. I scribbled my number on a sheet of notebook paper. He hadn’t accepted Becky’s number when she offered; I wondered why.
Jace spoke to me for a couple of minutes and I struggled to think of witty, semi-coherent replies. I wasn’t a very skilled conversationalist, so I was somewhat relieved when he moved to his seat at the front of the room. He probably felt obligated to talk to me, I thought. I decided I wouldn’t embarrass myself by trailing after him like a lovesick puppy.
I expected our early morning conversation to be the extent of our interaction at school, but I was wrong. 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.
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