Touched (Sense Thieves Series #1)by Corrine Jackson
Time may not heal all wounds--but she can.
You'd think being able to heal people with a touch would be a blessing. But to 17-year-old Remy O'Malley, it's more like a curse.
Every injury Remy heals becomes her own. She lives in fear of the day she's forced to mend a wound from which she can't recover--and she's desperate to keep her amazing ability a secret/b>… See more details below
Time may not heal all wounds--but she can.
You'd think being able to heal people with a touch would be a blessing. But to 17-year-old Remy O'Malley, it's more like a curse.
Every injury Remy heals becomes her own. She lives in fear of the day she's forced to mend a wound from which she can't recover--and she's desperate to keep her amazing ability a secret.
Enter Asher Blackwell, a scarred eighteen-year-old with dangerous powers of his own. Asher seems to know more about Remy's abilities than she does--and maybe more than he's letting on. If she opens up to him, she might find out what it truly means to be a Healer. But she'll also expose herself to capture by an old and very determined enemy. And if they catch her, they won't just injure her.
They'll kill her.
Corrine Jackson is a San Francisco transplant, having lived on both coasts from Southern California to New York City. For the last seven years, she has sharpened her marketing talents at Alcone Marketing, where she has won several industry awards. She has bachelor's and master's degrees in English, and is in her third year of Spalding University's MFA program. A recipient of a West Chester Poetry Conference scholarship, she is also the former Editor-in-Chief of two literary magazines, including Statement (CSU, Los Angeles) and Dash (CSU, Fullerton).
Meet the Author
Corrine Jackson lives in San Francisco, where she works at a top marketing agency, managing campaigns for several Fortune 500 clients. She has bachelor and master degrees in English, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Visit her at CorrineJackson.com or on Twitter at @Cory_Jackson.
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By Corrine Jackson
KTEEN BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Corrine Jackson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOkay. This is going to hurt like hell.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the room, my movements piercing the alcoholic haze insulating Dean. He straightened to his full six-foot-three when he noticed me, his eye twitching when I stared back unblinking. Maybe he suspected I was a freak and it scared him. Maybe he was scared of himself, of what he wanted from me. I figured that's why he mostly hit my mother when I wasn't around.
Unknotting my hands from white knuckled fists, I hoped to defuse the tension before it exploded.
"You're home early," he said, his heavy-lidded stare straying over me without meeting my eyes.
Tall and plain, I was skinny with no curves, but that didn't matter. My skin crawled when his pale blue eyes tracked me through a room. I went out of my way to stay away when he was alone in the apartment, but sometimes he managed to corner me in the shadows of our dim hallway. Sick in ways I couldn't cure, he'd crowd me with his hulking body and laugh when I'd lurch away to avoid his touch.
The funny thing was that Dean looked like the grown version of that charming, innocent boy all the girls crushed on in high school. He had soft, blond curls and a friendly, open face that charmed the unaware. Perhaps that's what had attracted Anna to him in the first place.
"Maybe I should call ahead next time?" I mused. "That way you could plan to finish beating my mother by 9:05, I can arrange to have the ambulance here by 9:10, and we can all be in bed by midnight."
My flat voice held no sarcasm, only bitter resignation. Dean's hands tightened into fists that could feel like steel. I'd stayed too long, trying to protect my mother, but Anna loved Dean more than anything. More than me. Dean loved how my father's child support checks kept him drinking down to the worm at the bottom of his tequila bottles.
He stepped closer. "Gonna stop me, princess?"
My indifferent act never fooled him. After seeing Anna's unconscious body on the floor, I wished I could kill him. I shuddered in anticipation of the brutality to come and the moment I would touch Anna. Never taking my eyes from him, I slid sideways to keep the threadbare couch and scarred coffee table between us. Anna moaned, and Dean's gaze flicked to her, his lip curled in disgust.
"You think you're a man because you beat up women?" I taunted to distract him.
His smile raised the hair on my arms. It was a smile of warning—a smile to predict the weather by because hell was sure to rain down on its recipient. "You think you're better than me, kid, but you're gonna respect me." He whipped his belt from the loops of his dirty jeans. The buckle glinted in the light when he wrapped the black leather around his fist—a bright, shiny weapon.
Hate speared through me, along with paralyzing fear. Better to make him angry, I decided. Then, maybe, it would end faster. I sneered while sidling closer to Anna.
"Respect you? You're barely human. A pathetic coward. You want to hit me, don't you, Dean? Go ahead."
I'd never ridiculed him before and, within two feet of Anna's limp body, my courage faltered. Stupid. Stupid. He'll kill us both. At least the ghoulish waiting game would be over. He'd come close enough to touch me when I whispered, "I dare you to try."
He charged and pulled back his arm to hit me as I stepped in front of Anna. His fist landed in my stomach, and I tripped over her. My head bounced off the wall with a dull thud. Dean's hand clamped around my throat, stalling my fall to the ground as he pinned me, and I inhaled the stale mix of sweat and tobacco wafting from him. Cutting off my breath, he smiled and squeezed his fingers until the pain weakened my knees.
Anna rolled at my feet and screamed, "No!" She jumped on Dean, trying to drag him off me, her red fingernails biting into his forearm. Desperate for air, I clamped one hand on his arm and clutched my mother with the other.
My eyes squeezed shut. I'm dying, I thought. Then my ability to think fractured. The mental wall barricading my power collapsed and, without the defense, Anna's pain thundered through me, allowing me to see inside her body. I noted two broken ribs, a concussion, black eye, and bruises scattered all over her body. Dots of color popped against my closed lids in a spectacular fireworks show. My lungs constricted, and I embraced Anna's aches, healing them and grafting her pain to my own.
Dean's grip loosened as he stumbled beneath Anna's attack, and he yanked her hair to toss her away. She sobbed, and the storm inside me doubled and tripled in size. I had failed to protect her. Filled with rage, I imagined all my pain striking Dean down like fiery lightning.
Violent red light sizzled between my hand and his arm. His face froze in horror as his body jerked and convulsed. A loud crack splintered the air—his ribs breaking or mine—and I passed out.
* * *
I woke to a soft hand brushing the hair from my face and the scent of musky perfume. Anna. Fear cut through the hazy edges of sleep, and I sat up too fast. Ignoring my aching stomach muscles, I searched for Dean, but only Anna sat with me. Weak sunlight shone through the single window, and the scratchy sheets screamed hospital. So I didn't die.
My throat burned as I tamped down tears.
Anna watched me, and I assessed her injuries. There'd been no time to finish healing her with Dean's hand wrapped around my neck, and she would have hidden her injuries from the doctors. I seized her arm, ignoring her attempt to pull away in undisguised revulsion. My internal body scan revealed some older wounds she'd hidden since I'd healed her a few weeks ago. A sharp pinch of regret stung me, and then my emotions flew away as I opened my mind to absorb her injuries.
Anna winced, but I ignored this, too, helping her deeper bruises to heal. Her broken ribs I'd taken on already, but I couldn't heal her concussion. Head wounds did the most damage to me and were the most difficult for me to heal. My mother would have a pounding headache, but she'd survive to be beaten down another day. Finished, I sighed in relief. Soft, familiar blue sparks trailed from my fingertips down her arm as I released her.
She shrank back and started to cry. Frigid cold replaced the heat of energy that went hand in hand with the healing, and I shivered. She knew what I could do. How could she not know with the number of times I'd healed her since I'd discovered my ability at twelve? She hated my power and pretended it didn't exist, even while bruises sprouted on my skin, twins of those disappearing from hers.
"Where's Dean?" The rasp of my voice startled me, and I wondered if the damage caused by strangulation could be permanent.
"He's here, too. He ... he was hurt ... when he fell. His ribs are broken. The doctor says he'll be okay."
Her tone said she'd already convinced herself that the impossible had not happened. She touched my hand in a rare gesture. "Listen, baby. The cops ... They have a lot of questions about what happened. I told them it was all a misunderstanding."
That explained why she sat with me instead of Dean. She'd wanted to ensure I'd lie for her. I rolled away so I wouldn't have to look at her, and she brushed a tentative hand through my hair. She would tell me I shouldn't anger Dean. If I would just behave .. I'd heard this all a thousand times before. It was never Dean's fault when his fist cuffed her in the head. It was her fault for not getting him his beer fast enough. It couldn't be his fault he ground his lit cigarette into my arm. I should have handed over my paycheck from the video store.
Sure enough, she started talking about how things would be different when we got home. We had to try harder to be a family. Her words sickened me, and I covered my ears with a pillow, shouting Shut up! Shut up! in my head.
I must have slept after she left because the room had darkened, and my father had arrived.
Ben O'Malley had been MIA most of my life. Once, years ago, I'd called him, thinking he would come riding in like a knight in shining armor to save me. His secretary had told me he'd been too busy to come to the phone and promised to give him a message. He'd never called back. After that, I refused to talk to him when he made the obligatory birthday and holiday calls, until eventually, he'd stopped calling altogether.
Ben noticed I'd awakened and stood over me. "Remy? How do you feel?"
My eyes raked his tall frame, studying him for the first time in years. Any stranger could see I was his daughter. I had his height and wavy, thick hair that walked the border between curls and frizz, though his was a peppered black to my dirty blond.
"What are you doing here?"
My father filled a cup with water from a pink pitcher sitting on the bedside table. Dropping a straw in the cup, he tilted it toward me. I wanted nothing more than to refuse that sip of water, but my throat burned. After drawing on the straw for a moment, I leaned back, and it occurred to me that my injuries should have healed by now. Whatever had happened with Dean had short-circuited my ability to heal myself, though I'd healed Anna without a problem.
My father's voice cut into my thoughts, and I frowned.
"The police called to notify me that my daughter had been admitted to the hospital," Ben said. "They suspected her mother's husband was responsible for her injuries, although Anna denied that."
The cops hadn't believed her lies. "So?" I croaked.
Ben's black brows drew together over navy eyes like mine. "What do you mean 'so'?"
"I mean, so what are you doing here?"
"I told you. They said you were hurt," he repeated, confused.
My rusty laugh sounded like an ancient engine turning over. "Where were you the last eight times this happened?"
His shock sliced deeply because he hadn't cared enough to know what happened to me. Ben sucked in a breath, his tan face ashen, and his voice tight with anger. "Why didn't you tell me? I would've helped you. Remy, I would've ..."
Shaking my head, I laughed again. He blamed me. "Right. You would've. Why don't you go back to your wife and your perfect family? You can remind yourself what a good father you are when you sign your next child support check."
I shut him out by closing my eyes, like I had with Anna. It was too much. My father's appearance, my mother and Dean, my erratic ability ... And the gnawing fear about how Dean would punish me for hurting him.
Then my father said, "You're coming to live with me."
Two days later, the March wind cut through my thin coat and whipped my hair out of its band as I sneaked out of my father's house. I headed for the deserted beach near the marina at the end of the street. Melting snow mingled with the sand and dirt to create puddles of watery mud. Rocks and broken clamshells littered the beach, and I picked my way over to a weathered log to sink down and watch a lone sailboat fly across the water. The water didn't work itself up to waves, but lapped the shore like a lazy tongue.
The forest with its naked ladies shivering without their autumn dresses, the blue water of the harbor, and the immense morning sky soothed my anger. My father had grown a conscience. Anna had cried when Ben told her he was taking me and to hell with the custody agreement. He did not ask if I wanted to go, but threw his weight around until I found myself on a plane to Nowhere-Frickin'-Maine.
Nobody cared what I wanted. It had been so long since I'd thought beyond surviving Dean, I wasn't sure how I would have answered. Three options lay before me. I could give up and let Dean win. Let him convince me I was worth nothing. Or I could run and try to make it on my own. My savings would get me a week of freedom in a cheap motel, but that was about it. Last option, I could accept my father's help. Maybe I could convince Ben to sign emancipation papers.
I'd have to keep my freak ability a secret if I stayed. That meant leaving my injuries alone because people would notice if the bruises disappeared from one moment to the next. Yet, I needed to know if my power to heal myself had returned. Crowds could kill if the stranger next to me carried a disease or illness I couldn't cure. Sometimes, their pain could reach out and grab me, no matter how hard I concentrated on blocking them.
To safeguard my secret, I'd have to pick a hidden injury, one of my taped broken ribs. Like I'd done a dozen times before, I pictured the broken bone and imagined it mending. A sharp stab speared my side as the bone fused, and I gasped even as the pain faded and my breathing flowed easier. I tipped my face to the sun in relief.
In the distance, a camera shutter clicked.
A boy about my age stood some yards away holding one of those large professional-looking cameras with all the mysterious attachments. My heart skittered as my attention shifted from object to boy.
Striking. If I'd had to pick one word to describe him, that would have been it. Tall and lean, he moved with ease, at home in his skin and sure of his footing. He'd tower over me, I noted with odd pleasure. Deep-chocolate brown hair fell in long waves to his neck. Sharp planes and angles defined his tanned face. Full, sensual lips and a square, shadowed jaw completed the rugged picture marred by a two-inch white scar that slashed through one eyebrow to the top of one high cheekbone.
And his eyes. I sucked in a breath. Even from twenty feet away, their dark green color reminded me of the woods that hugged the marina. The intent expression in those deep-set eyes held a trace of surprise as if he hadn't expected company on the beach. An all too recognizable air of resigned loneliness hung about him, prompting a
One of his thick brows rose, and I realized I'd been returning his stare for some time.
Sudden, wild embarrassment sent my gaze flicking back to the view of the harbor. Stupid, Remy. He was probably taking pictures of the scenery. I wondered if he would try to talk to me. Perhaps he'd say, "Do I know you?" Except it would not be a pickup line. Gangly and boyishly slim, I wasn't the kind of girl boys hit on. I was the girl who went to a high school for two years and managed not to have a single friend.
It didn't matter, anyway. He walked toward the water with long strides. At the edge of the shore he twisted from the view of the bay as if to determine his next shot of the backdrop of sky and forest behind me.
I peeked over at him, only to look away when I found him staring back. My heart stuttered until the meaning of that raised eyebrow penetrated. It's the bruises, I realized. This morning, the bathroom mirror had revealed a black eye and a grisly necklace ringing my throat, the mottled blend of purple and indigo betraying the impression of five fingers. My battered face had sparked the stranger's curiosity. Feeling like an idiot, I returned his stare with open defiance.
He didn't pretend he'd been watching anything other than me. As he gripped his camera in both hands, his stare traveled over my face and unkempt hair, and I tried to ignore him by studying the view.
Soon, the town yawned and began to wake, and the odd intimacy of the isolated beach faded as cars and people created a buzz of activity. A restaurant at the marina must have opened for business. The smell of brewing coffee and greasy diner food nearly doubled me over. My last meal had been a packet of peanuts on the plane the night before. My joints had stiffened in the brisk air, and it hurt to stand as I braced myself for the walk to Ben's home.
A shutter clicked for the second time, and I turned to see the boy aiming his camera at me. Pictures snapped in quick succession, and I was his subject. Not a person, but an object to be studied and captured on film.
Perhaps the boy thought I'd be flattered. I felt violated.
I moved without premeditation. He continued shooting pictures at my approach, adjusting the lens as I stalked closer. Maybe he was taller and more muscular, but the outrage vibrating through me evened the odds. An arm's length away, I stretched up to grab the camera. The boy shifted away and gave a surprised laugh.
Furious, I tried to grab it again, careful not to touch him. When he sidestepped me again, I slipped on the stones and landed on my back in the snow and mud. My body ached with the jolt, and I focused on the act of breathing.
I expected him to laugh again, but he crouched down on his heels at my side. "Are you okay?"
The anger disappeared, replaced by mortification when he leaned close, his worried eyes capturing mine. My thoughts splintered. I'd been wrong about the scar. It wasn't an imperfection. Every one of his features had been chosen with care by a master.
"I didn't mean to make you fall. I was protecting my camera."
Excerpted from Touched by Corrine Jackson Copyright © 2012 by Corrine Jackson. Excerpted by permission of KTEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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