Author: Danielle Ellison
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press, 368 Pages (October 21st, 2014)
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Synopsis: The truth won't always set you free.
Less than a year ago, Neely Ambrose’s biggest worry was having the freedom to follow a path that wasn't chosen for her.
Less than a year ago, she believed she could trust the Elders who said they had everyone’s best interest at heart and who said they were keeping them safe from the outside.
Sixty days ago, she discovered what they had planned for everyone she loved—and that all of it centered around her.
Now she’s on the run through a dangerous wasteland full of killing machines, secret organizations, and people who want to sell her back to the Elders for their own safety. The whole world outside the Compound is living proof that everything in Neely’s life was a lie manufactured by the Elders, which may even include the boy she loves.
All Neely wants is the truth, but each new piece of it drives her further from what she thought she knew. With only forty days until everyone she loves falls under the Elders’ mind control, Neely must decipher who to trust, what questions to ask, and how to get one step ahead of the Elders, who will do anything to keep their secrets buried.
62 Days Before Escape
There’s an echo as I move down the stairs and into the dark depths of Xenith’s quarters. Mint lingers around me as if he’s painted the walls with his familiar scent. In all my life, I’ve never stepped into his quarters. I know that being here means something more than I ever expected to give in this fight. There’s no turning back after this. But I can still hear Thorne’s screams in my ears, feel his pain again and again. I’m doing this for him, for my father, and for all the people the Elders have ever hurt. I have to stop them.
Xenith is hunched over a table, his blond hair falling in his face. His hand moves fiercely on the paper spread across the table. I can’t help but stare at him. He isn’t Thorne, whose beauty is simple and holistic, olive and dark, but Xenith is undeniably attractive. He has a strong chin, a sharp jawline, and blue eyes, dark and vast like the ocean. They always seemed much older than eighteen, wiser maybe, undeniable. I’ve always liked his eyes, ever since we were kids. The truth was always swirling in them, even when I didn’t want to see it.
“Neely,” he says without looking up from whatever he’s working on. “Are you lost?”
Xenith moves the paper over to a different stack and continues writing. The pencil in his hand moves quickly and I try to see what the words are, but they aren’t in English.
“I’m here because—”
He holds up a hand to me, and I bite my lip, waiting. His hand moves across the paper on his table, never pausing and never faltering. He doesn’t look up, so I wander around the room. To my left is a shelf full of trinkets. One is a small, round glass object with faint white lines etched into it. I reach out a hand, but Xenith says my name as a warning without even looking up. I step away from it like I’ve been scolded and feel childish. Alone and lost in a big world. I move toward another shelf, this one filled with books. My fingers graze one of the spines as I wait for him to stop me. He doesn’t.
I watch him as he brushes his hair out of his eyes, leaning over the counter and writing like a madman on sheets of paper. Maybe he is a madman. A crazy, dangerous, genius of a madman. For someone who’s only eighteen, sometimes I feel like he’s so much more than I can ever be. As if he knows more than I can begin to understand.
I shouldn’t be here with him. If Thorne or my father found out, then I’ll be in more trouble. I can find another way. I step back toward the stairs and hear him slam his hand on the table. When I turn around, he has a smile on his face.
“Sorry. I was in the middle. Some things you have to finish before you can start others,” he says. He moves toward me and raises an eyebrow. “Leaving so soon?”
I shake my head. “I need to talk to you.”
He laughs. “I figured, since you’ve never set foot in my quarters before.”
Xenith nods his head at me and points at the far side of the room toward a beat-up leather couch. I lead theway, and we sit, me on the couch and him in a chair next to it. My heart dances in my chest, trying to escape or make too much noise and tell on me. I shouldn’t be here. Thorne wouldn’t like me trusting Xenith. He never has.
“Do you want a drink?”
I shake my head. “I’d rather get this over with.” My mouth is cotton, but I’m more scared of accepting anything more from him than I am about to.
“What can I do for you, Neely?”
His voice is smooth, confident. I know he’s been expecting me. Xenith has a way of knowing things that others don’t—especially with me. I inhale so a deep breath fills my lungs and calms me down, then clears my head. I’m here because I have to be.
“I need to leave the Compound,” I say. “As soon as possible.”
About the Author:
Danielle Ellison spent of her childhood reading instead of learning math. It's probably the reason she can't divide without a calculator and has spent her life seeking the next adventure. It's also probably the reason she's had so many different zip codes and jobs.
When she’s not writing, Danielle is usually drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. Danielle is also the author of SALT and STORM, a series about a snarky witch without magic. She has settled in Northern Virginia, for now, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.
Find Danielle Online:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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