Read an Excerpt
By Alyson Noël
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2013 Alyson Noël
All rights reserved.
It's been months since I last had the dream.
Months since I was trapped in its unyielding grip.
And though I try to resist, try to force my way back to the safety of consciousness, I continue to slip.
I'm aware but not lucid.
The dream is not mine to control.
As always, it begins in the forest. A forest that exists in the Lowerworld — that unseen dimension yawning beneath this world, the Middleworld, with the Upperworld sprawling above.
It's a place I've visited many times, in both waking and dream states. A place that consists primarily of compassion, love, and light.
But not entirely.
Or at least not tonight.
It's Raven who leads me. Soaring above an unchanging landscape of crisp cool air and wide verdant lawns with lush bouncy blades that spring underfoot. His purple eyes glimmer, rushing me past a tall grove of trees cloaked with leaves so thick, only the faintest trace of light filters in.
Raven's driven by purpose.
I'm driven by need.
Along with an irrepressible longing to reunite with the boy who awaits me.
A boy who is no longer a stranger. No longer faceless and nameless.
Now that we've watched each other die, now that we've been intimate, there are no secrets between us.
In the dream, Dace bears the same glossy dark hair and gleaming brown skin he does in real life. The same astonishing icy-blue eyes banded by gold that reflect my image thousands of times.
He's my fated one, as surely as I am his.
And yet, with so many answers secured, the question remains:
In this particular dream — which one of us will die?
Raven lures me through a valley of boulders — past a swiftly moving stream teeming with vivid, blue fish — only to vanish the moment we've reached the clearing. Leaving me to stand on my own, running an anxious hand over the front of my dress. A dress that once seemed inexplicable, but that I now recognize as the one I wore on my return from the Upperworld.
Finally, the pieces of this strange, surreal puzzle begin to fall into place.
Though how this will end is anyone's guess.
He speaks my name from a place just behind me, and for one sweet moment, I shutter my eyes and inhale his deep, earthy sent. Stretching time for as long as I can, knowing all too well how brief this moment will be.
He places a hand on my shoulder and turns me to face him. And although I've played this role countless times, there's no suppressing the sharp intake of breath when my gaze meets the immaculate angles and curves of his face. The strong, smooth brow that can signal anger, amusement, or desire with only the slightest shift — the high, elegant cheekbones — the square chin and strong jaw — the sure, straight nose — the enticing, full lips. He stands before me in offering, his torso lean and bare. Displaying wide, strong shoulders, and finely drawn abs that narrow into slinky, trim hips where a pair of faded, old jeans dip precariously low.
He reaches toward me, lifts a hand to my face. Brushing his fingers around the curve of my jaw, he bestows on me a look that's meant to assure me that he's in on it too. Wise to the potential for danger ahead but determined to enjoy this scene until another one shifts into its place, we head for the other side of the forest and wade into the misty, swirling waters of the Enchanted Spring. Both of us all too aware this is where the dream takes a turn, yet, pawns that we are, we merge toward each other, unable to veer from the script.
Dace's fingers glide over my flesh, leaving ripples of warmth in their path, as his lips press urgently against mine. His kiss so bewitching, it renders me breathless, drunk with his touch, yearning for more.
He works the slim straps of my dress, pushing the fabric down past my shoulders, my waist, until I stand bared before him. Then he dips his head low and brings his mouth to my breasts. The feel of his tongue teasing my flesh, causing my legs to grow weak, my spine to yield. The two of us caught in the grips of the sweet, glorious pleasure of being together, until he lifts his chin and says, "It is time." His eyes are burning, deep, and fixed right on mine.
Quick to agree, I nod in reply. Sensing the truth behind the words, though I've no idea what they mean.
"There is no going back. You are meant to be mine."
Why would I want to do that?
I was born to find him — of that I am sure.
I move past my thoughts and pull him back to me. My lips swelling, pressing, only to find Dace is no longer before me — someone else has taken his place.
Someone who bears the same strong, lean body — the same sculpted face. And while the eyes share the same color, flecked by brilliant bands of gold, the similarity ends there.
These eyes are cold.
And instead of reflecting, they absorb like the void I sense them to be.
My sworn enemy.
Dace's identical twin.
The one I was born to kill.
If he doesn't get to me first.
I yank hard at my dress in a desperate bid to cover myself, as I shove a hand to his chest and struggle to push him away. But he's unfeasibly strong and remains right in place.
"Where'd he go? What'd you do?" My gaze darts all around.
My question met with a tilt of his head, a quirk of his brow, and an absurdly muttered, "Who?"
"Dace! Where is he? What have you done?" The words ring high-pitched and shrieky, though they're no match for the frantic pounding of blood rushing my ears, my heart pummeling my rib cage.
"I am Dace." He smiles. "And Dace is me. We are one and the same. I thought you knew that by now?" He grins, and I watch in horror as his face morphs to resemble Dace's before returning to his own sinister visage. Transmuting back and forth, over and over as I slam a fist against his shoulder, fight to break free.
This is not how the dream goes.
I don't like this new ending.
"The light and the dark. The yin and the yang. The negative and the positive. We are connected, bound in mystical ways. One cannot exist without the other. As you already know."
"You may be connected, but you're not the same. Dace is nothing like you! You're a demon — a trickster — a —" His face morphs back to Cade, and I finally break free. Desperate to find my way to dry land, only to discover the landscape has changed.
The Enchanted Spring has morphed into a steep, narrow mesa jutting out of the earth.
Before me lies an endless abyss.
Behind me stands Cade.
Preferring to die on my own terms, my own way, I inch forward until my toes clear the edge.
"Daire, please. No more games. No more running away," he pleads.
I gather my dress in my hands, only to find it changed too. No longer the white gown I wore in the Upperworld, this gown is a deep, sunset red, with swirling skirts, an open back, and a deeply plunging neckline.
Without hesitation, I lift my arms to either side and teeter precariously. Allowing the wind to catch me, render me floaty and weightless as I drift through the ether as light as a Raven feather.
A glorious sensation I desperately try to prolong — though the effect is short lived when Cade grasps the back of my gown and hauls me back to him.
Circling an arm at my waist, he clutches me tightly, and says, "Stop fighting me. Like it or not, this is your destiny. It's time we finally do this."
I try to respond, but my voice is on mute.
Try to shirk from his touch, but I'm frozen in place.
Caught in the endless abyss of his gaze, I am helpless, his to command.
Watching as he lifts my hand before me and slides a brilliant blue tourmaline ring onto my finger.CHAPTER 2
I wake to the sound of screaming.
The sound of screaming and someone pounding hard on my chest.
I bolt upright, flip on the bedside lamp, and catch Daire by the wrist before she can wale on me again.
"Daire —" I whisper her name, fight to still her body, her breath. Ease her away from the darkness of nightmares and back to the light of consciousness again.
Her lids snap open, and when she sees me, she starts swinging with renewed ferocity.
"Daire — it's me! Stop. Stop it — you're safe — you're okay."
She rears back, yanks her hands from mine, and flicks on her lamp. Her breath hectic, pulse racing, she pulls her knees to her chin and watches me with a deep wary gaze.
I remain on my side. Try to give her some space. Time to wrestle her way out of whatever twisted dream has left her in such a scared state.
"How can I know for sure it's you with your hair like that?" She glares, pulls a grim face, causing me to run a self-conscious hand through my newly shorn locks. "How can I be sure you're not Cade?"
"You serious?" I flinch at her words. Scold myself not to feel hurt. It's a mistake a lot of people have made since I got my new look. Still, I never expected that from her. Right from the start, she was able to determine what only few could see — it's the eyes that define the real difference between Cade and me.
I inch toward her slowly, taking great pains not to alarm her. I angle my face toward the light so she can better see my face, my eyes. Allowing a few beats to pass before she heaves a deep sigh and relaxes her stance.
"Care to talk about it?" I risk a quick glance at the clock and stifle a yawn. Noting the small hand on the two, the big on the five. No wonder it's still dark out.
"No." She slips down the mattress, props her head on a pillow, and sprawls her bare legs before her. "I mean, maybe. Yeah." She sneaks a look at me. "You sure you're not too tired?"
I shake my head, rub a hand over my chin in place of the white lie I choose not to verbalize.
"Well, in a nutshell, I had the dream." Her shoulders sink when she says it, as though releasing a very great burden.
I nod, having figured as much. No stranger to the dream, I know firsthand how disturbing it is to watch my brother kill Daire while I helplessly look on. That dreadful image has a way of lingering well into the waking state — haunting me for days.
Only in Daire's dream, she watches me die at Cade's hand.
Though from everything she's told me, the effect is the same.
Either way, there's no denying the overall message screams loud and clear:
Daire and I may be fated — but we're fated to end.
Still, no matter how insistent, I refuse to believe it.
Refuse to give it any real weight.
Whether it's some kind of prophecy — or Cade's twisted machinations invading our sleep — I can't say for sure.
What I do know is that the things we most fiercely believe in have a way of coming true.
And so I choose to believe in us.
Believe in a future that is ours for the making.
After losing my soul, and nearly losing Daire as well, just six months earlier, I know how empty my world is without her. Never again will I allow myself to doubt the rightness of the two of us together.
I will do anything to be with this girl.
I rest a hand on her shoulder, gather a lock of her soft, silky hair between two of my fingers. Quick to remind her that we already lived the dream last Christmas Eve when we watched it play out in real time. Cade killed her, and having discovered that Cade and I are connected — that if he goes, I go — if he lives, I live — I slammed the athame into my gut in an attempt to set things right once again.
Only it didn't quite go as planned ...
"But this dream had a new ending." She averts her gaze, pulls her shoulders in, causing my hand to drop to my side as I brace for what's next. "He ..." She makes a face, licks her lips, and starts again. "His face switched between yours and his, and then, when it settled on his, he forced a ring onto my finger."
I flinch, unsure what to say. So I stare at the peeling, bubbled paint on the far wall and opt for silence instead.
But when she huffs under her breath, when her gaze bores into my cheek, I know she's waiting for me to respond. To say something reassuring. Convince her it's not as bad as she thinks.
Being a guy who works better with details and facts, I blurt out the first thing that springs into my head. "Are you saying he proposed? Like — down on his knees asking for your hand?" Instantly aware that I said the wrong thing when I see the look that she shoots me.
Her jaw set, arms crossed in defiance over her chest, she tilts her chin and says, "No knees. Just a ring. A big, shiny, blue tourmaline practically the size of a boulder." She lifts her hand, glares hard at her ring finger, as though half-expecting to find the ring still there.
"So he wanted to marry you or claim your soul?"
"Where Cade's concerned, I'm sure it's one and the same."
I nod. Allowing a few beats to pass before I say, "Okay, so where do I fit in?"
She slews her gaze toward me.
"Well, from the way you've pretty much staked your claim on your side of the bed, I'm guessing the dream version of me did something bad. And, well, whatever it was, I apologize. Had I actually been there, I would've reacted differently, I assure you."
She shakes her head, pushes her hair from her eyes. "It's just — well, first you and I were kissing, you know, like the dream goes ... but then, the next thing I knew, Cade had taken your place, and —"
"Sounds like the usual script to me," I cut in, but again I've said the wrong thing.
"Hardly." She mumbles a few unintelligible words under her breath. And while she doesn't quite roll her eyes, by the way her cheeks tense, I know that she wants to. "Anyway —" She sighs, forces herself to move on. "When I asked what happened to you — he said you were one and the same. That there was no distinction, no difference, no divide. That you are bound — couldn't exist apart from each other —"
I lean against the pillows, go back to staring at the ugly far wall. Trying to keep the edge from my voice but coming nowhere close to succeeding. "And since no one's seen Cade since the Rabbit Hole blew up six months ago on New Year's Eve — and since not long after that climactic event I decided to chop off my hair, which is still much longer than his, but hey, a minor detail we shouldn't get caught up in, you actually think I might be Cade pretending to be me." I shake my head but, like Daire, stop short of rolling my eyes.
My brother is despicable.
My brother is solely responsible for killing her grandmother.
And yet she's confusing me with him?
"You honestly think I got some crazy, mirrored contact lenses so my eyes would reflect in the way you've come to expect? You honestly can't tell that when I say I love you I am speaking from the very deepest part of me? You honestly can't tell by the way I touch you, look at you, that you are absolutely everything to me?"
"Dace —" She rolls toward me, places her hand over mine, and looks at me with those astonishing emerald-green eyes. "I'm sorry I said it. Truly, I am. It was stupid, and paranoid, and completely nonsensical, and pretty much the opposite of how a good, responsible Seeker is supposed to react in times of great stress. It's just that ..." She swallows, lifts her shoulders, and goes on to add, "Sometimes, I can't help but think that I'm missing something. Some terribly obvious clue that's staring right at me. And then, when I had the dream and I woke up next to you ... well, for that split second I thought —"
"You thought I might be the clue. You thought you were sleeping with the enemy." The moment I take in her face, the fight seeps right out of me. She's scared. Uncertain. Her burdens are great. And ever since Paloma passed, she's felt alone in the world. It's my job to love and support her. It's my job to provide strength when she needs it. I wrap my arms around her, encouraging her to inch closer as she closes her eyes and buries her face in my chest. "You haven't missed anything." I whisper the words into her soft silky hair. Drop a long string of kisses along the top of her head.
Excerpted from Horizon by Alyson Noël. Copyright © 2013 Alyson Noël. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.