This high-stakes sequel to Velvet proves that when you’re the only human caught in a paranormal war, high school can get a little tricky. With Adrian’s brother trapped in hell, the Praetorian Guard has made Stony Creek their base of operations, but Caitlin has a bad feeling they’re more interested in her than in finding Lucian. Caught in a sea of conspiracies and lies, Caitlin and Adrian perform a risky magical procedure in an attempt to protect Caitlin from compulsion.
Relieved that her nightmares have ended, Caitlin is disturbed to find that something even stranger has taken their place. Determined to get on with her life, even amid a crazy paranormal manhunt, she applies for a competitive summer fashion internship in New York. Searching desperately for answers about what Caitlin might be, how Adrian’s father is involved, and where Lucian has been taken, Caitlin and Adrian must rely on each other to survive. But when the truth finally comes to light, the consequences are unimaginable.
And the question still haunts them both: even if they survive, how will they deal with the fact that Adrian is immortal and Caitlin is not?
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By Temple West
Independent Book Publishers AssociationCopyright © 2017 Temple West
All rights reserved.
Tommie was staring right at me.
He was alive, no gaping wound in his neck from where I'd stabbed him, no bubbling flesh from Adrian burning him. Across the clearing, another version of me sat hunched over Adrian's lifeless body, sobbing silently in the bloody snow. There was no sound in this place, no heat or cold, no smell. While Other Me tried to revive Adrian, Tommie continued to stare at me, the real me, with a puzzled look on his face.
I advanced carefully on him, my feet making no dent in the unblemished snow. He tilted his head slightly, watching me approach. Waiting.
"Why are you here?" I asked. I knew how this went by now, but I always asked. My voice echoed slowly, like I was in a cathedral.
He blinked, and looked over at Other Me, frowning.
"I don't want you here anymore," I told him.
Immediately, he disappeared.
I turned in circles, scanning the edge of the forest to see if he'd simply jumped to a new location, but as usual he appeared to be totally gone.
I looked back over at Other Me. She'd given up and was lying on Adrian's ice-cold chest, asleep. I didn't really want to see that again, either.
No sooner had I thought this than they, too, slipped away.
I came awake slowly, sunlight filtering through the wooden slats of my blinds, casting prison bar shadows across my room. My phone buzzed on my dresser. It was Adrian.
I texted him the same thing I texted him every morning: Same dream.
* * *
Adrian's eyes flared into silver, the molten irises swirling slowly around his pupils. "In five seconds, walk towards me," he commanded.
He walked off twenty feet and stopped, turning to face me. Five seconds went by.
My leg twitched. My toes curled in my boots. My heart raced.
But I stayed in place.
"That's good," Adrian called from the opposite side of the parking lot a full minute later. "You're improving."
We walked toward each other and met in the middle as the first of the teachers began to pull up to the school. They were used to seeing us out here by now, earlier than them. They always looked at us like we were crazy, but they were used to us.
"It's not good enough," I told him, massaging my temples, shaking off the remnants of his compulsion. "I can only resist when I know you're about to do it, and only barely. If a bird so much as chirps, it breaks my concentration."
"It's going to take time."
I snorted. "That's exactly what you said about algebra and I'm still getting a D."
He wrapped his arms around my waist and smiled. "Yeah, but you're slightly less motivated when it comes to algebra. And you are improving. I'm not just saying that because I think you're hot."
I snorted again. Adrian kissed the top of my head and let me go, but I grabbed his jacket. "Whoa there, fella, my face would like some of that."
He grinned, wrapped me back up in his arms, and planted an intentionally sloppy kiss halfway on my mouth and half on my chin.
I was about to pull him in for a real kiss when I saw a familiar truck pull into the parking lot — as far away from us as possible. Seeing who it was, Adrian pulled away from me respectfully, though he wound his fingers through mine.
It had been three months since the fight with Tommie, since the night Lucian disappeared. I'd gone back to school the following Monday to find that Trish was no longer speaking to me. Why, exactly, I wasn't sure, because she hadn't said more than two words to me since, but I was pretty sure it had something to do with Adrian. I wouldn't have pegged her for being a Silent Treatment type, but it turns out she was a pro.
Trish didn't even glance at us as she made her way to Mr. Warren's class.
Adrian squeezed my hand. I smiled up at him halfheartedly.
"It'll get better," he promised.
I wasn't so sure. Adrian didn't know girls. Girls could be mad for a lifetime. And I had no idea how to talk to Trish. I had no idea how to make things right because I couldn't tell her the truth.
"Maybe," I said, more to change the subject than anything else. "We going to your place today?"
"Yeah. Told Dominic I'm helping you study for a test."
He kissed my cheek tenderly, scanned the parking lot — something he'd taken to doing whenever he left me alone — and headed off to class.
At lunch, Stephanie braved my little outcast half of the picnic table and set her lunch bag next to mine. Trish wasn't exactly forbidding the other girls to talk to me, but she had always been the head of our group and they followed her lead. Meghan had instantly sided with Trish, even though she didn't really know why we were fighting. Laura didn't care and Jenny had taken to eating by herself, uncomfortable with the tension that had sprung up between all of us. Stephanie was the only one who felt bad enough for me to risk Trish's displeasure.
I wasn't exactly the most popular person with the other grades, either, as least as far as the girls were concerned. It had somehow gotten around school that I had been the one to break up with Adrian after Winter Formal, an offense that was to be held against me for the foreseeable future. The more unforgivable crime, however, was getting back together with him a week later.
"You excited for summer?" Stephanie asked.
I glanced across the table at Trish, feeling that slimy adrenaline coiling restlessly in my stomach. "Yeah. It'll be nice to get away from the whispers for a while. Are you guys still going shopping this weekend?"
She blushed. "Yeah. But I could go again with you, if you want?"
I waved my granola bar at her. "I'm making my dress anyway. It's all right."
She looked relieved.
"Y'know, I think ..." Stephanie glanced around, then leaned in close. "I think Trish really misses you. I hope you guys can make up soon."
I smiled tightly at her. "I hope so, too."
I glanced at Trish, only to accidentally catch her eye as she turned to talk to Laura. She didn't glare at me, didn't even frown, just met my gaze for a moment, then moved on with her conversation as if I wasn't even there.
* * *
"Got anything?" Adrian called from twenty feet below me.
"Lotta stuff in dead languages," I called back, my harness starting to bite into my hips from perching in one position for so long. I had both bare feet planted on the bookshelf ledge while I leaned back, pulling out leather-bound tomes one by one to see if they were in English, and therefore readable.
We were in the de la Mara's massive library, cinched into the free-rolling magnetic harnesses, searching for answers. We had an excuse prepared: Adrian was demonstrating the theoretical role of tachyon particles for my final physics presentation. So far, Mariana and Dominic had pretty much left us alone, though, so we hadn't had to test the alibi.
"I should really teach you Latin sometime," he muttered to himself, eyes rapidly scanning the massive leather-bound book he was holding.
"Yeah, in all that spare time we have," I muttered back. "I'll just cover the one-point-eight-million English books in this stupid library, how about that?"
He glanced up at me, saw the dour look on my face, then hopped up the shelves, the lines of the harness receding every time he climbed higher. He came to a stop next to me, waiting quietly, knowing I'd eventually spit out what was wrong. I stubbornly stared at the book I was holding, then gave up.
"It's been three months." I shook my head, frustrated, and slammed the book back in its place on the shelf. "We've been looking for three months. School will be over soon, and we don't know if the Council will let you stay as my bodyguard. We don't know if I'll be allowed to come here anymore. This is the only way I can help, and I don't have enough time. I can't read Latin, I can't read French, I can't read German or Slavic or even freaking Spanish. I'm just pulling out books for you to check. And the ones I can read I don't understand. You've got thousands of years of history I have no context for. Names and dates and places and vampires I've never heard of, all referenced like it's common knowledge. I'm not picking it up, I'm not catching on, I'm not helping. And he's still out there, somewhere. And it's my fault."
Adrian grabbed my harness cables, turning me toward him. "We've been over this, Cait."
"Just because you say something doesn't mean I agree with it," I muttered. I was staring at the shelf, avoiding eye contact.
He let out a long breath and rubbed his forehead. "Believe me, I know it's tempting," he admitted. "It makes it seem like you're doing something just by feeling guilty. But you're hurting Lucian when you blame yourself. He's waiting for us to find him. So we have to find him. That's it."
He looked at me until I finally looked back at him. He was right, damn it. I nodded at him, slumping in my harness. He pulled me into a hug and I buried my face in the crook of his neck, his hair tickling my cheek. I was tired, angry, holding too many secrets from too many people. Adrian and I had become friends a long time ago, but since Lucian had disappeared, we'd become partners, too. The main Council had sent a War Council the day after our fight with Tommie. After interrogating me and Adrian and searching the grounds for the next three days, they'd been downgraded to a Praetorian Guard, as both Lucian and his father seemed to have completely disappeared from the area and the threat was no longer as severe. They'd been gone almost as long as Lucian was, following leads about where they thought he might be.
At least, that's what Mariana told us. For all we knew, they were in Cancun drinking Mai Tais and getting beach-side massages.
Adrian had been reinstated as my day-time bodyguard, but since my nightmares had stopped, he no longer came over to the house to sleep.
Which was a huge bummer.
Life had, in a weird way, returned almost to normal. Except for the fact that Lucian was missing.
We'd long ago assumed that we were the only ones looking for Adrian's brother. Even Julian had gone back to his regular life in New York, seemingly unconcerned with Lucian's disappearance.
So every day we could manage it, Adrian and I came here to the library to look for clues. He searched for archaic references to why he'd been able to melt the flesh off his father's body, and I searched for references to demons, trying to get some clue as to why he would attack me, but take Lucian. Why he waited so long, only to fail at getting me pregnant. Why he told us the Council wanted me dead. We had pieces from what felt like different puzzles, and none of them seemed to fit together. After three months, it was starting to feel pointless.
I pulled out of the hug and wiped at my eyes. "I'm sorry," I murmured. "I'm just tired."
Adrian kissed my forehead tenderly. "I am, too," he admitted. "But —"
Just then, we heard the sound of the far doors opening. Though well-oiled, they were massive enough that they couldn't help but make a distinctive sound every time they opened, even from the opposite side of the enormous room.
Adrian and I glanced at each other, then pulled apart and rappelled to the floor just as Dominic walked in with none other than Farrar.
My heart just about stopped in my chest.
"Ah, Caitlin," Dominic said, his sandy-blonde hair perfect as always. He was wearing khakis and a sweater and loafers, like some Calvin Klein version of a young, trendy dad. "You remember Farrar?"
I almost snorted. Of course I remembered. He'd interrogated me for almost five straight hours back in February. What he was doing here now, though, I had no idea.
He glanced at our harnesses. "Are we interrupting?"
"We were almost finished," Adrian said smoothly.
Farrar was frowning ever so slightly and it made me nervous. "Our final projects are to study and analyze theoretical physics from science fiction. I'm a, uh, visual learner," I added, trying to keep my heart from racing. Farrar was a big dude. Tall, barrel-chested, with dark eyes, shoulder-length black hair, and an old-school aura of nobility. He had a slight accent I couldn't place, and every time I saw him, the hair on the back of my neck went up.
He glanced between us again, then seemed to accept our explanation.
"You're back. Does that mean that you've found something?" Adrian asked, trying to hide his tension.
They'd been gone three months. We hadn't expected to see them unless they had news, good or bad.
"Not as such," Farrar murmured. "But I was hoping to speak to Caitlin. If you would?"
Adrian went very still. I glanced between him, Dominic, and Farrar. After a moment, he relaxed, then smiled, unclipping the carabiners from the overhead cables. "Of course," Adrian said politely. He nodded at me. "Caitlin."
He walked off as if he couldn't care less about whatever Farrar was about to ask me.
"Thank you, Dominic," Farrar said, clearly dismissing the other vampire.
"I'll assign everyone rooms," Dominic replied. "Mariana says dinner is at six."
They both nodded at each other, and Dominic left.
"The others?" I asked.
"The entire Guard has returned," he explained. "Please, have a seat." He gestured at the nearby trio of plush, white couches facing the enormous twelve-foot fireplace.
I sat, cautiously.
"How have you been feeling?" he asked, seating himself opposite me.
I frowned, not knowing where he was going with this. "Exams are coming up; I've been a little stressed out."
"And your nightmares?"
I froze. How much to say?
"They, uh, pretty much went away. I have bad dreams now and again, but nothing like they were before."
That was the understatement of the century.
His face remained blank, unreadable. "And nothing unusual has happened since we last spoke?"
My frown deepened. "One of the horses got sick, but it's better now. Meghan's dad got a DUI. That's all I can think of. Small town, not much happens here."
I knew that's not what he was asking, but truth be told, nothing unusual had happened on the supernatural front either.
He nodded, as if expecting my answer. "And Lucian has not attempted to contact you?"
The surprise on my face was genuine. "No. But I assume that you think he's still alive?"
Some small emotion passed over his face briefly but it was gone before I could tell what it was. "It seems probable," he said softly. "We'll be having a meeting tomorrow with the full Guard. I would appreciate it if you could be here."
"Of course," I replied. "Anything to help."
He looked at me another long moment, then stood. "I will let you get back to your project."
I nodded an awkward thanks, then made my way out of the library and into the kitchen, passing by an office where the rest of the Praetorian Guard seemed to be loading in bags and suitcases.
When I got to the kitchen, someone grabbed my arm and I yelped.
"It's just me," Julian said, looking irritated.
"Vampire —" I hissed, pointing at him. "Human," I said, gesturing at myself. "Gotta make more noise, man. You're gonna give me a heart attack. And when did you get back?
"Farrar pulled me from New York when the Praetorians got called back. I came in with them. Where's Adrian?"
"I don't know. We were in the library studying when Farrar asked to speak to me alone."
Julian stopped dead and grabbed my shoulders, peering into my eyes frantically.
"What?" I asked, weirded out.
But he didn't elaborate. Finally, he pulled back. "Come on, we don't have much time."
He whipped out his phone and sent off a text, pulling me into the white marble foyer. A moment later, Adrian appeared on the third story landing and descended, meeting us. "What's going on?"
"You know that option I told you about?" Julian asked, face tight.
Adrian nodded. "I told you I wasn't doing it."
Julian grabbed my coat and helmet from the hall rack. "You need to strongly reconsider."
He shoved the coat and helmet at me, looking at Adrian the whole time. "And I mean now."
They held eye contact for another moment before Adrian nodded. Julian glanced at me, then walked back down the hall into the kitchen.
"What was that all about?"
"Let's get you home," Adrian said, dodging my question.
With a house full of well-hearing vampires, I knew better than to question him further. I zipped up the coat and followed him out to the Harley.
Instead of turning left to go the mile or so back to the ranch, he turned right, zipping up the mountain. We came to the scenic pull-off area on the side of the mountain, the same place he'd taken me my first week in Stony Creek, before I knew about vampires and demons and portals to hell.
He stopped, killing the engine, and we got off and walked to the guard rail. After a moment, he sat, and I followed him.
But he didn't say anything.
I touched his knee gently. "You want to tell me what's going on?"
"Not really." He frowned, and kicked at a rock. "I was just hoping it wouldn't come to this."
"Does it have something to do with the Guard coming back?"
Adrian nodded. "What did Farrar ask you?"
I shrugged. "If I was having nightmares still. If anything unusual was happening. I told him no."
He thought about that for a long moment, then turned to me. "What do you remember about when Farrar was here last time?"
I blinked, thinking. "He asked a lot of questions. He was scary, but polite. I was tired; I don't remember everything."
Excerpted from Cashmere by Temple West. Copyright © 2017 Temple West. Excerpted by permission of Independent Book Publishers Association.
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.
Table of Contents
PART ONE Prologue,
PART TWO Paired Compulsion,
PART THREE Spirit Week,
PART FOUR Cliffhanger,
PART FIVE Idiots in Love,
PART SIX Ivy League Boyfriend,
PART SEVEN Prom-a-long-a-ding-dong,
PART EIGHT Matchmaker,
PART NINE Graduation,
PART TEN It's Your Party, But Please Don't Eat the Guests,
PART ELEVEN Is That a Roll of Quarters in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me?,
PART TWELVE Enjoy the Hug,
PART THIRTEEN Between Worlds,
PART FOURTEEN We'll Always Have Stony Creek,
PART FIFTEEN The Devil Wears Prada,
PART SIXTEEN Vampire Vogue,
PART SEVENTEEN Bright Pink Bitch,
PART EIGHTEEN Dream Ghost Coast-to-Coast,
PART NINETEEN Caitlin Holte Designs,
PART TWENTY Second Chances,
PART TWENTY-ONE Sleeping Beauties,
PART TWENTY-TWO Cascade Effect,
PART TWENTY-THREE Let's Talk About Sexy, Baby,
PART TWENTY-FOUR Sabotage,
PART TWENTY-FIVE Mystic,
PART TWENTY-SIX All Hells Breaks Loose,
PART TWENTY-SEVEN Epilogue,