Been a very busy week in Poseyland and with my day job. I just wanted to send out a friendly reminder that this is the last week to enter Gliterary Girl Media Group’s giveaway to win one of the three signed copies for E.R. Arroyo’s new book, SOVEREIGN. Enter NOW by clicking here.
The Gliterary Girl Media Group and E.R. Arroyo have provided us an excerpt from SOVEREIGN for your reading pleasure. Thank you E.R. and Gliterary Girl!
At lunch, the room is somber, but normal and orderly. Kids file by the buffet and sit quietly with their trays. I sit with Alyssa, wishing it were Dylan instead. She’s dear to me, but our friendship is shallow. She doesn’t know me like he does, and I don’t trust her as much. I catch Dylan’s gaze several times and wish he would relax. Our friendship has always managed to offset the best and worst of each other’s moments—though I have more bad moments than anyone here—but right now I need him strong because I’m on the brink of falling apart.
I can’t imagine what the death of Cornelius means other than Nathan is now the number one. He has total control, complete authority. His rule will be sovereign.
A commotion draws my attention away from my bowl of muck, and I see him standing in the doorway, Nathan. I’ve rarely seen him set foot in this building. Usually government and military dine in their own underground facilities. Only civilians live topside.
He’s messing with me, I think, scared but a little pissed off, too.
When he strides over and sits beside me, all I can think is that I should have sat with a random today and not Alyssa. I hear her spoon shaking against her bowl and I shoot her a quick look. She rights herself and pulls the spoon from the bowl.
Nathan takes a long, deep breath and exhales so slowly it irritates me. I just watch him, transfixed, not sure what to do.
“Good afternoon, 1206. Nice to see you again,” he says.
“Hello,” is all I can manage.
“A bowl for me, please,” he shouts across the room, which has been dead silent since he entered. A moment later, Dottie comes through the kitchen door with a fresh, steaming bowl of slush. She sets it softly before him then hands him a spoon, careful not to make eye contact.
Nathan stirs the slush gently and scoops out a little. As he blows on the spoon to cool the food, I glance over my shoulder and notice two guards by the door.
Nathan takes a small bite, considers the food, moving it around in his mouth. It seems to take forever before he finally swallows and says, “It’s horrible but it contains the necessary nutrients. It keeps us alive. Sometimes the things we need come in packages we don’t enjoy.” He seems to be talking to no one in particular, but I know it’s directed at me.
I can feel Dylan staring, but I don’t chance looking back and Nathan following my eyes to him. I’ve already put Alyssa at risk by sitting with her. Can’t put Dylan in danger, too.
All of a sudden, Nathan perks up and drops his spoon in the bowl. He stands and addresses the whole room. “The funeral for my father will be held at 1800. Your caretakers will make sure you have something proper to wear. All minors must be present for an announcement immediately following the service.”
Many citizens have died, but none have earned a funeral, so this is new.
When I meet Nathan’s eyes, he whispers, “You should ice your cheek.” Then he winks. Winks! And I can’t shake the feeling that something awful is coming. For a moment, a brief moment, I wish he would go ahead and put me out of my misery. If he wants me dead, I’d be easy to kill, what with all the soldiers and weapons at his disposal.
When he leaves, I wait about two minutes then bolt for the door. Alyssa calls after me, but I have to get out of here. I can’t breathe, and I need to think. I need to process.
After I bust through my bedroom door, I slam it then sink to the floor. When I draw my hand to my face, I realize for the first time that it’s sore. I poke around to figure out how big the mark must be. Most of my cheek hurts, as well as both sides of my jaw. I guess he gripped me harder than I’d realized before he hit me.
I close my eyes remembering his cold fingers on my skin. I shudder and can’t help the tears that overwhelm me. Two days ago, I was in control and untouchable. Today I’m nothing. I’m a vapor. A little girl who cries when someone puts on a little pressure. Savagely wiping my tears away, I drag myself out of my pity party. How am I going to face the dangerous world on the outside if I can’t even hold it together in here?
No more tears, Cori, I tell myself.
A light tap on the door startles me, and I jump to my feet as the knob turns. Dylan slides through the door. Although I’m relieved it’s only him, I can’t believe he’s on the girls’ floor. He shouldn’t be here.
“What are you doing?” I hug my chest, gripping my waist, and I feel myself blush. I doubt it shows, though, since my face is probably already red.
“Everybody is still eating,” he whispers.
“How did you get up in here?” I glance at the door, thinking of the guard at the end of the hall.
“Bathroom break.” I’m glad he’s being cautious. He should be. “What happened to your face? Are you okay?” Holding his hand awkwardly in the space between us, I can tell he wants to touch my wounded face, but refrains. I’m thankful he’s so respectful of me. Alyssa is a lot less considerate. She often throws an arm around my shoulder, giving me a good squeeze before I can squirm free.
I try to sound okay, casual even. “Oh, you know. Just another night in the slammer.”
His nostrils flare and his eyes widen. “Who hit you?” There’s an edge to his voice now. Less tender. I can’t place it, but from the fists at his side, it might be protective.