What if you had to relive the same five days over and over?
And what if at the end of it, your boyfriend is killed…
And you have to watch. Every time.
You don’t know why you’re stuck in this nightmare.
But you do know that these are the rules you now live by:
Now, the only way to escape this loop is to attempt something crazy. Something dangerous. Something completely unexpected. This time…you’re not going to run.
Combining heart-pounding romance and a thrilling mystery, Never Apart is a stunning story you won’t soon forget.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||14 Years|
About the Author
Romily Bernard graduated from Georgia State University with a literature degree. Since then, she's worked as a riding instructor, cell-phone salesperson, personal assistant, horse groomer and exercise rider, accounting assistant, and, during a very dark time, customer service representative. . . . She's also, of course, now a YA novelist.
So don't let anyone tell you a BA degree will keep you unemployed.
Romily currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her debut novel, Find Me, won the Golden Heart Award for YA Romance from the Romance Writers of America in 2012.
Read an Excerpt
I'm going to die again.
Ander's hand tightens around mine like he can hear my thoughts. Or maybe it's just because he can hear my breathing: too fast, too ragged. We're running and running, and I can't go much farther. My lungs are burning. My knees are buckling.
"C'mon!" Ander tugs me closer and I slip, lose my shoe in a puddle. The rain's coming harder now, the grass turning to mud, but we don't stop. We can't.
Finn is drawing closer.
"Don't look back," Ander says.
I do. I can't help it. I can hear him.
Finn's breathing's gone ragged, too. He sounds like a dragon in the dark. He's driving us into the swamp, hunting us.
I'm going to die again.
Low tree branches whip my face, rip hair from my head. Ander grunts and staggers sideways, rights himself. I squeeze his hand, pump my shaking knees harder. He matches me stride for stride. We splash through a pocket of swamp water, and Ander shoves me left, toward a tangle of dead cypresses.
One ... two ... three ... four ...
Finn splashes in four seconds behind us and Ander twists sideways, hauls me to the ground. Mud, thick and rotten-smelling, cushions our fall. Ander rolls left, tucks us close to a thicket of overgrown briars. It's a hot summer night, but the swamp water's cold. I can't stop shivering. I clutch Ander's arm with one hand, my knife with the other, and for the first time I'm glad there's no moonlight. Finn will never see my blade coming.
Ander crouches over me as Finn draws closer ... closer ...
Away from us.
Finn slogs deeper into the water and stops, listening. Ander holds me tighter, and I crush my mouth against his T-shirt.
He's going to hear you. He's going to hear you.
Finn turns right, splashes farther into the swamp. His footsteps drift right and then left and then right again, and I swallow a sob, taste the rain running down my face. He's looking for our hiding spot.
I'm going to die again.
"Don't be afraid," Ander whispers. "If we Fall again, I will find you."
This is what Ander always says: I will find you.
This is what Ander never says: so will Finn.
Because Finn always finds us. Always. It's in my head like a mantra, like there are rules — and there are no rules or, at least, there aren't any rules that I know beyond this: It's always the three of us.
We always find each other.
Ander and I can run, but Finn always follows, and we always die.
"Not this time," I whisper, which means this time I can't miss. This time I have to kill Finn first. I lean forward even as Ander tries to press me back. He's afraid for me. He should be afraid of me. When did I become capable of murder? When Finn killed Ander the tenth time? The twentieth?
He always finds us — and he'll find us soon, even if we stay hidden. He knows we're here.
Another sob wobbles in my throat, and I chew it down, fingers tightening around the wet knife handle. I place my free hand against Ander's chest. For a heartbeat, he resists.
"You promised," I breathe, and somewhere in the dark, Finn stops. He hears us. "You promised," I repeat, lifting my voice a little louder because it will bring Finn closer and force Ander to keep his word.
In every lifetime, he has died and I have watched. In every lifetime, he has fought Finn and we have lost. This time? This time I will fight and Ander will watch and maybe the pattern will finally break.
And maybe we will live.
My heart swings like a pendant on a string. We will live.
Finn sloshes closer, and I force myself to stand. He's a shadow against the trees, liquid dark churning through the shallow water. I manage three steps sideways and then three more, drawing Finn away from Ander. He follows until I pause.
I fight like total crap, but I'm good at being Finn's lure. He's given me lots of practice. I wait and wait and he studies me and studies me and then —
"Grace," Finn breathes.
And I charge. I hit him low, ramming my shoulder into his chest as his fingernails dig into my arms. Finn plows me into the mud, and I jam the knife in deep. Deeper. Finn swears. I stagger.
My hand slips. I lose the knife as Finn tips sideways. He seizes my wrist and I kick him, grabbing for the blade handle and missing.
No, I didn't miss. I can't find it.
We're grappling in the mud, then hands dig under my arms, yank me to my feet.
"Run!" Ander drags me forward and I stagger, feel Finn's fingers snatch at my bare leg, hear him hiss my name.
"Go!" Ander shoves us deeper into the swamp. We push past thicker trees and into colder water. This far in, it's even darker and the mud is deeper and Finn is cursing. He's to our right? Our left? I twist and trip, crash against a tree coated in wet moss.
"I can't," I gasp, and Ander doesn't argue. He presses his face into my neck and breathes me in like I'm not covered in sweat and tears and mud, like we're on a date and I am what he's always wanted. "You know how this ends," he whispers into my rain-soaked skin.
I don't answer. I can't. Won't.
My eyes search the shadows as my hands search for Ander. I find his fingers and knot them in mine.
"It's like he didn't even feel it! Maybe I missed? How could I have missed?"
"Because we always miss and Finn never does. Grace" — Ander gives me the tiniest shake — "you know how this ends."
I dig my fingers into his T-shirt, and tears leak down my cheeks. They're even warmer than the rain.
There's a splash to our right, and a shadow moves closer. Finn.
"When I jump him," Ander whispers, "I want you to run. Do you understand?"
Of course I do. We've done this over forty times. I understand how it works, how it ends, how much I love the boy I'm about to watch die.
"I love you," he whispers.
"I love you, too."
Ander pushes away from me in one smooth, silent movement. We've gotten good at that, but Finn still tenses. He heard us. He's gotten good at this, too.
I shrink against a rotting tree trunk, taste mud when I swallow. Once upon a time, we were all friends and now ... now ...
"Go, Grace," Ander says as Finn swings around. "Don't look back. Go."
Ander rushes him. One stride. Two strides. Connect. They go down with a splash and I'm ready to run, but running would mean leaving Ander to die, and I can't. I can't do it anymore. I can't watch this anymore.
Ander spins Finn around and there's the horrible smack of flesh on flesh. Finn staggers and I'm moving before I even realize it. I smash my fist into Finn's face and he tilts sideways, stumbles.
Ander lunges. Finn twists. The knife lifts.
His knees hit the water. His head rolls back. I cannot catch him as he falls.
Finn grabs for me and I stumble away, my bare foot plunging into a hole. Pain spikes up my leg. I yank sideways. More pain. I falter, color spraying behind my eyes, and when I open them again, I'm on my knees.
Get up! Get —
I feel him.
His chest under my palm. His T-shirt twisted in my fingers. I struggle to turn, shivering from the cold mud and the colder water, as Finn limps toward me. It makes tiny waves lap at my forearms and thighs. I shove up and we look at each other — really look at each other.
I see a boy barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on his shirt. Again.
He sees a girl barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on her hands. Again.
I'm coated with mud and drenched with rain. I look like I crawled from a grave, and it's so damn fitting I want to laugh.
"Please," I force through cracked lips. "Please don't do this."
"So many lifetimes," Finn says, drawing closer. "So many Graces and yet you all cause so much damage. How is that possible?"
I don't understand. I swallow, swallow again. All I taste is blood and all I smell is rot. "Please," I try again. "I don't understand! We used to be friends! Why does this keep happening? Why do you keep doing this?"
Finn shakes his head like he hates it when I lie, only I'm not lying.
"I don't understand," I whisper.
Finn lifts my dirty knife. "We all have to pay for what we did."
I wake up screaming in a voice that isn't mine, grabbing for a knife that's no longer there. I blink, blink again. Something's beeping, and I can't tell where it's coming from. My vision won't clear. I shake my head hard. A mistake. My stomach threatens to heave into my mouth.
I open my eyes to white tiles under my knees ... white towels above me ... white — oh. I'm in a bathroom. I Fell.
I'm going to die again.
If only it would work.
I slide a trembling hand under me and push myself up. There's club music thumping hard enough to vibrate the floor, and outside the door, someone's calling someone else an asshole.
Oh, wait. The guy's calling me an asshole.
"Hurry up!" he bellows.
"Out" — I cough — "out in a minute."
The guy grabs the door handle, rattles it. He thumps his weight against the wood, and I freeze because for a terrible moment I think it isn't just some random person out there. It's Finn, and he's here to kill me again. The handle rattles and rattles and I can't drag my eyes from it.
He's never found me this fast before. We've always had five days. He's never been this quick.
The door handle jerks once more, stops. I suck in a breath, blow it out, suck in another. In, out, no pause — even though I should because I'm already light-headed. I'm always light-headed after I Fall, but this feels different. It feels ... off, way worse than usual. I try to stand and topple to my knees.
This isn't the Fall. I'm drunk. Or, rather, this Grace is drunk. I lurch up again and have to grab the sink edge for support. My legs are numb.
How long was the other me on the floor?
I crank the faucets as high as they'll go and splash my face with water. Still dripping, I grope for a hand towel and press it to my skin. Better. I feel better. I still press the towel a little tighter though, because I know what comes next.
Just do it already. C'mon. You've done it — I squint against the rough terry cloth — forty-two times now. Just look at yourself.
I snap up my head and flinch. The face in the mirror is mine, but the details are never right, and maybe by the time I get to Fall 142 I'll be used to it.
My fingers wrap around the sink's edge as I lean in. This Grace has my brown eyes and my pointed chin, but she wears her eyebrows heavier and her hair curlier.
"My name is Grace," I whisper. My voice is raspy, vibrating inside my head like a stranger.
Which I guess is fitting, since this Grace kind of is.
"My name is Grace," I repeat, forcing my voice to lift because I could go on. I could say I've died forty-one times and now woken up forty-two times and every time I wake up, I'm me — only I'm a different me in a different timeline.
I take another breath, smelling vomit and perfume — roses? Whatever. Doesn't matter. I'm stalling, and I know the drill. These are the other rules Ander and I know: get your stuff, get oriented, get going because we only have five days until Finn finds us again.
My stomach rolls, and I hold my breath until the nausea passes.
Bam! Bam! "Hey!"
"One second!" I toss the hand towel in the laundry basket by the tub and smooth down my dress, spotting a heavy brown purse sprawled on the floor by the door.
Get your stuff. Considering the huge purse is on the bathroom floor, it's probably mine. I paw through the contents, fingers brushing something plastic. Phone. I check the screen. It's Saturday night, almost eleven, and the battery's dying. The beep I heard earlier now sounds more like a bleat.
Saturday night means you have until Wednesday. I toss the cell back in my purse and consider myself in the mirror again.
Get oriented. Where are you?
Clearly, I'm in someone's bathroom — I don't think it's mine, though. For some reason, it feels like this is someone else's house. This Grace is at a party, a big one from the sounds of it. Is she happy about being at the party? Too soon to tell.
I look down, noticing my clothes again: silky purple sundress whispering against my full hips, white platform sandals with a neon green grass stain on the right toe, a tangle of mismatched gold necklaces. I touch one nail-chewed fingertip to a tiny pendant shaped like a coin.
Get going. You can handle this.
Except when I readjust my purse strap, I wobble again. I press one hand to the glossy white wall. Is it the beer or the shock?
"Get a grip," I whisper and then almost laugh when I realize that should be another rule. I tug the door once and it flies open, nearly smashing me in the face.
"What the —"
"Sorry!" I shove past the boy on the other side, gagging again because he reeks of sweat and pot.
The hallway's crowded, and the music is even louder. I have no idea which way to go. To my left, a bunch of people. To my right, a bunch more people. So much for getting oriented. A brunette with a fraying braid and a pine-green dress staggers into me. I shrink against the wall.
I pivot, searching for the voice. Eyes meet mine, but no one holds my gaze.
"Grace!" A blond girl bounces to my side, ponytail swinging. She's smiling at me like we're best friends.
Maybe we are?
"Where've you been?" she yells. "We've been looking for you everywhere."
"Bathroom," I yell. She links her arm through mine and I'm grateful. I'm nowhere near steady. I have to concentrate on every step even though my new friend weaves us easily through the crowd.
Or maybe it's just that the crowd parts for her. The blonde's like Moses in a miniskirt; people just skitter out of the way.
The hallway widens into a massive white living room. The couches are white. The walls are white. The cavernous ceiling above is white except for the far corners, which are dusky with shadows. Two girls are dancing on a coffee table, and at least four guys are watching. Someone's strung white lights across the rafters. They dribble down the columns and into twinkling pools by people's feet.
Never seen a party this big.
Only as soon as I think it, I realize I'm wrong. The night of my first Fall, I was at a party like this. In fact, the house almost feels familiar — like Ander should be kneeling in the bathroom to my left and Finn should be waiting for me by the door on my right, like we're back in our real lives again.
Even though Finn isn't there, my heart still lurches. My blond friend squeezes us between a beer pong game and a couple making out against the wall.
"Becca!" A guy in a baseball cap grins at her and she — Becca — marches straight past him. His smile crumples and unease curls through me. I know what it feels like to be blown off.
"Sorry," I mouth, and his face slackens. He's surprised. Why is he surprised?
I look at my feet and concentrate on the grass stain smudge. Get oriented: he's surprised because this Grace doesn't apologize.
Becca tugs my hand hard. "How much have you had to drink?" she shouts.
"Um ..." I can't find an answer. Everywhere I look, people are watching us, and chills creep across my skin. It's not my imagination. Almost everyone is sliding sideways glances in our direction. They look ... nervous, maybe even a little scared. They watch us, but they don't come any closer. It's like they're in awe.
Becca tugs me again and I stumble. Are these girls popular? Am I popular? The idea is like bubbles on my brain. I've never been popular before. I wonder if I'll like it.
"Who're you looking for?" Becca asks.
Ander. Finn. "Nobody."
I follow her through smudged glass doors, and humid summer air hits me like a wall. I smell freshly mowed grass and honeysuckle and water and ... Blood.
I'm going to die again. I suddenly can't breathe, and I have to shake myself. Stop it.
Becca releases my hand and joins a long-legged brunette lounging on a porch swing. "Found her," Becca says, taking a blue Solo cup from the other girl.
"God, Grace." The brunette plays with the tips of her hair as she studies me. "Did you get lost or what?"
"Sorry," I say, shifting from foot to foot. No matter what lifetime I am ever in, girls like these make me nervous. They keep staring, and I try not to wince.
"Is it your asthma again?" the brunette asks.
I shake my head hard, curls bouncing. "Guess these parties aren't my thing."
Only as soon as I say it, I know these parties are my thing. This Grace, the Grace I'm supposed to be now, loves these parties, and that's partly why everyone's here. They look at me like I've lost my mind, and I look everywhere else.
The wraparound porch sits above a wide sweep of manicured lawn. The grass slopes down, down, down to a hard edge of shadows. Trees.
Excerpted from "Never Apart"
Copyright © 2017 Romily Bernard.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.