Kmart Book Club Pick June 2011: Everlasting by #1 NY Times Bestselling Author Alyson Noel (Free Chapters!)
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Their epic love story has captured the hearts of millions and enchanted readers across the world. In this beautiful finale, their journey draws to a spectacular conclusion – where all will be revealed.
Their darkest enemies now defeated, Damen and Ever are free to embark upon their final quest – to free Damen from the poison lingering in his body. If they can just find the antidote, they’ll finally be able to feel each other’s touch – and experience the passionate night they’ve been longing for. But their fight to be together will lead them into the most formidable terrain yet – into the dark heart of Summerland.
Here in a land of scorched earth and endless rain, Ever and Damen will discover their relationship’s hidden origins, expose a secret history they never imagined, and come face to face with the true reason fate keeps tearing them apart. Only then, when the final mystery is unraveled and the last secret revealed, Ever and Damen’s future will hinge on one ultimate decision that will put everything at stake – even eternity.
About Alyson Noel
Alyson Noel is the #1 New York Times best selling, award-winning, author of FAKING19, ARTGEEKS AND PROM QUEENS, LAGUNA COVE, FLY ME TO THE MOON, KISS & BLOG, SAVING ZOE, CRUEL SUMMER, FIRST KISS (THEN TELL) - an anthology, CRUEL SUMMER, KISSES FROM HELL - an anthology, DEAR BULLY - an anthology (Fall 2011), and the Immortals series including: EVERMORE,BLUE MOON, SHADOWLAND, DARK FLAME, NIGHT STAR, and a 6th & final book,EVERLASTING, as well as the Immortals spin-off series including RADIANCE,SHIMMER, DREAMLAND (09.13.11), & WHISPER (Spring 2012), as well as a newYA series, SOUL SEEKERS, set to debut in Summer 2012.
With over 5 million copies in print, her books have been published in 36 countries, have hit the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, NCIBA, and Walmart bestsellers lists, and won many awards such as: theNational Reader’s Choice Award, NYLA Book of Winter Award, NYPL Stuff for the Teenage, TeenReads Best Books of 2007, Reviewer’s Choice 2007 Top Ten, chosen for the CBS Early Show’s “Give the Gift of Reading” segment, and selected forSeventeen Magazine’s “Hot List” and Beach Book Club Pick.
She lives in Orange County, CA where she is working on her next book.
Bonus! Chapter One and Chapter Two of Everlasting
“Ever – wait!”
Damen reaches toward me, grasping my shoulder, hoping to slow me, to bring me back to him, but I keep moving forward, can’t afford the delay. Not when we’re so close, almost there.
The worry streaming off him like rain from a windshield, not dimming in the least when he picks up the pace, matches my stride, and laces his fingers with mine.
“We should head back. This can’t be the place. Nothing about it looks remotely the same.” His gaze travels the distance from the disturbing landscape to my face.
“You’re right. Nothing about it is remotely the same.” I hover at the perimeter, my breath coming too quick, my heart beginning to race. Taking a moment to survey my surroundings before I hazard a step forward again. One small stride followed by another, until my feet sink so deep into the mud-laden earth, the tops of them vanish completely. “I knew it,” I whisper, the words barely audible, though I don’t need to speak for Damen to hear me, it’s just as easy to communicate telepathically. “It’s exactly like the dream. It’s . . .”
He looks at me. Waiting.
“Well, it’s just as I expected.” I glance to the side, my blue eyes meeting his dark ones, holding the look, wanting him to see what I see. “All of this, everything you see here, it’s like . . . it’s like it’s all changed because of me.”
He kneels beside me, fingers splayed on my back, running his palm in slow circles up and down the path of my spine. Wanting to soothe, to refute everything I just said, but choosing to swallow the words instead. No matter what he says – no matter how good and solid an argument he may wage – he knows better. Knows all too well that I will not be swayed.
I heard the old woman. He heard her too. Saw the way her finger pointed, the way her eyes stared accusingly – listened to the haunting tune of her creepy song with its cryptic lyrics and lingering melody.
The warning intended solely for me.
And now this.
I sigh as I gaze upon it – Haven’s grave – so to speak. The spot where just a few weeks before I dug deep into the earth to bury her belongings – all that was left of her – the clothes she wore when I sent her soul into the Shadowland. A spot I held sacred, hallowed – now transmuted, transformed. The once rich earth turned to a wet, soggy mush with no sign of the fl owers I’d manifested, no life of any kind. The air no longer shimmering, no longer glistening, virtually indistinguishable from the dark part of Summerland I’d stumbled upon earlier. So bleak, so foreboding in both its feel and appearance, Damen and I are the only creatures willing to venture anywhere near it.
The birds keeping to the perimeter – the carpet of nearby grass shrinking back on itself – providing all the evidence I need to know it’s changed because of me.
Like fertilizer sprinkled onto a small patch of weeds – each immortal soul I’ve sent to the Shadowland has tainted and infected the Summerland. Creating its opposite, its shadow-self – an unwelcome yin to Summerland’s yang. A place so dark, so dreary, and so contrary, magick and manifesting cannot exist.
“I don’t like this.” Damen’s voice is edgy, as his eyes dart, eager to leave.
And while I don’t like it either, while I’m just as ready to turn around and never look back, it’s not quite as simple as that.
It’s only been a few days since my last visit, and despite knowing that I did what I had to, that I was left with no choice but to kill Haven, my former best friend, I can’t seem to keep myself from returning, from asking forgiveness – forgiveness for my actions as well as hers. And that short amount of time is all it took to go from light to dark – to grow murky, muddy, and barren – which means it’s up to me to do something to stop it from spreading even further.
From getting any worse.
“What exactly did you see in the dream?” Damen’s voice softens as his eyes pore over me.
I take a deep breath and sink my heels deeper, the pockets of my old worn jeans dipping into the mud, but not really caring. I can manifest a clean, new pair just as soon as we’re out of here. My clothes are the least of my concerns in the face of all this.
“It’s not a new dream.” I turn and meet his gaze, seeing the flash of surprise that crosses his face. “I’ve had it before. A long time ago. Just before you decided to leave me on my own, so I could decide between you and Jude.” He swallows hard, fl inches ever so slightly at the unpleasant memory, which makes me feel bad, it wasn’t the point I was trying to make. “Back then, I was sure Riley had sent it. I mean, she appeared in it, and she seemed so vibrant and . . . alive.” I shake my head. “And, well, maybe it was her, maybe it was just wishful thinking, a result of my missing her. But, just after she’d gotten my attention, I realized it was you she wanted me to see. You were the point of the dream.”
His eyes widen. “And . . .” he prompts, jaw tightening, poised for the worst.
“And . . . it’s like you were trapped in this tall, glass, rectangular prison, and you were fighting like hell to escape. But no mater how hard you fought, you couldn’t break free. Even though I tried to help, tried to get your attention so we could work together, it’s like . . . like you couldn’t see me. I was right there on the other side, with only the glass between us, and yet, I may as well have been invisible to you – you had no sense of my presence. Couldn’t see what was right there in front of you . . .”
He nods. Nods in a way that tells me his logical side, the side that likes tidy explanations and easy solutions, is raring to take over. “Classic dreamscape scenario,” he says, brow slanted with relief. “Seriously. Sounds to me like you think I’m not paying you enough attention – that I don’t really listen – or maybe even – ”
But before he can go any further, I cut it right there. “Trust me, it wasn’t the kind of dream that can be found in some Dream Interpretation One-oh-one book. In to night’s dream, just like the dream I had before, when you realized you couldn’t fight it, when you realized you were trapped forever, well, you gave up. You just dropped your fists, closed your eyes, and slipped away. Slipped into the Shadowland.”
He swallows hard, tries to take it in stride, but it’s no use. He’s clearly as shaken as I was when I dreamed it.
“And then, just after that, everything disappeared. And by everything I mean you, the glass prison, the stage - all of it. The only thing left was this gloomy, damp patch of earth, a lot like the one we’re in now.” I rub my lips together, seeing the scene so clearly in my head it’s as though I’m immersed in it. “But that last part was new. I mean, it wasn’t in the original dream. Still, the second I woke I knew that not only were the two dreams connected, but that they were connected to this place as well. I knew I had to come here. Had to see for myself. See if I was right. I’m just sorry I dragged you along for the ride.”
My eyes graze over him, taking in his bed-ruffl ed hair, the soft, wrinkled T-shirt, the worn- in jeans – clothes gathered in a hurry, in haste, just seconds before I manifested the golden veil of light that led us both here. Feeling his strong, capable arms sliding around me, the warmth of them reminding me of just a few hours earlier when we slid between the sheets, tucked our bodies tightly together, and settled in for the night.
Back when our only immediate concern was that of Sabine and how she would handle the second week in a row that I’d failed to go home.
How she’d handle the fact that I took her at her word when she warned me not to come back until I sought the kind of help she’s convinced that I need.
And while I’ve no doubt I need help, especially in light of all that’s before me, unfortunately it’s not the kind of help Sabine meant. It’s not the kind of help that can be found in a prescription, a psychiatrist’s couch, or even the latest self-help book.
It requires something much greater than that.
We linger, the two of us gazing upon Haven’s grave. Damen’s thoughts carefully melding with mine, reminding me that no matter the consequences, no matter what lies ahead, he’s there for me. I had no choice but to do what I did.
By killing Haven, I saved Miles. Saved myself. She couldn’t handle the power, pushed every last limit. My making her immortal brought out a whole new side of her – one that we didn’t expect.
But that’s where Damen and I differ. I’m more inclined to believe what Miles said just shortly after I’d spared him from her. That there was nothing new or surprising about Haven’s dark side, it’d always been there, she exhibited signs all along. But, as her friends, we fought to ignore it – chose to look past it, to see only the light. And when I looked into her eyes that night, saw the way they gleamed with victory when she tossed Roman’s shirt – my last remaining hope of getting the antidote that will allow Damen and me to be together – into the fl ames, well, there was no doubt in my mind that her dark side had completely extinguished the better part of her.
And as far as Drina’s death is concerned, well, it was either kill or be killed. It’s as simple as that. Roman’s the unfortunate one – but still an accident pure and simple. A misunderstanding of the most tragic kind, I’m sure of that now. I know in my heart that Jude’s disastrous interference was an act he committed solely in my best interest. His intentions were good.
I saw it unfold in his head.
We rise to our feet, slowly, solemnly, all too aware that the answers we seek won’t be found here, that our best bet is to start at the Great Halls of Learning and see where that leads. And we’re just about to go there, when we hear it. The tune that causes us to freeze:
From the mud it shall rise Lifting upward toward vast dreamy skies Just as you – you – you shall rise too . . .
Damen grasps my hand tighter, pulls me closer, as we turn to face her together. Taking in the long wisps of hair that, having escaped the confines of the braid that trails down her back, fl oat freely around her crumpled, ancient face, making for an eerie silvery halo effect, while her rheumy, cataract-clumped eyes settle on mine.
From the deep and dark depths It struggles toward the light Desiring only one thing The truth! The truth of its being But will you let it? Will you let it rise and blossom and grow? Or will you damn it to the depths? Will you banish its worn and weary soul?
She repeats the tune, emphasizing the end of each verse. Her voice rising as she sings, “Rise – skies – too – depths – light – thing – truth – being – it – grow – depth – soul – soul – soul – ” repeating the last part again and again, her eyes moving over me, analyzing, observing, even though they appear to be sightless, as her gnarled, bumpy old hands lift before her – cupping, rising – her fingers slowly unfolding as a spray of ash spews forth from her palms.
Damen’s grip tightens, flashing her a harsh meaningful glare as he warns, “Stay back.” Maneuvering in front of me, when he adds, “Stop right there. Don’t come any closer.” His voice level, sure, containing an underlying threat that’s impossible to miss.
But if she heard, she pays him no notice. Her feet keep moving, shuffling forward, while her eyes keep staring and her lips continue to utter the tune. Stopping just shy of us, poised right at the very edge of the perimeter – the place where the grass ends and the mud begins – her voice suddenly changing, lowering, when she says, “We’ve been waiting for you.” She bows low before me, bending with a surprising amount of agility and grace for someone so aged, so . . . antiquated.
“So you’ve said,” I reply, much to Damen’s dismay.
Don’t engage her! he mentally warns. Just follow my lead. I’ll get us out of here.
Words I’m sure she overheard when her gaze switches to him. The sun- bleached blue of her clumpy old irises practically rolling in their sockets when she says, “Damen.”
The sound of it causing him to stiffen, as he mentally and physically prepares for just about anything – anything except what comes next.
“Damen. Augustus. Notte. Esposito. You’re the reason.” Her wispy hair lifts and twirls in a manifested breeze that swirls all around. “And Adelina, the cure.” She presses her palms together as her gaze pleads with mine.
I glance between them, unable to decide which is more disturbing: the fact that she knows his name – his full name, including one I’ve never heard before, along with one pronounced in a way I’ve never heard before, or the way Damen’s face blanched and his body stilled the moment she blamed him.
Not to mention, who the heck is Adelina?
But the replies that swirl through his mind die long before they can reach his lips, halted by the lilt of her voice, saying, “Eight. Eight. Thirteen. Oh. Eight. It’s the key. The key that you need.”
I glance between the two of them, noting the way his eyes narrow, his jaw grinds, muttering a string of undecipherable words under his breath as he grips my hand tighter and attempts to heave us both out of the mud, away from her.
But despite his warning me not to look back, I do anyway. Glancing over my shoulder and staring right into those rheumy old eyes, her skin so fragile, so translucent, it appears to be lit from within, her lips softly yielding as she sings, “Eight – eight – thirteen – oh – eight. That’s the beginning. The beginning of the end. Only you can unlock it. Only you – you – you - Adelina . . .”
The words lingering, haunting, taunting – chasing us all the way out of Summerland.
All the way back to the earth plane.
“We can’t just ignore it.” I turn, peering right at him, knowing I’m right just as sure as I know he won’t see it that way.
“Sure we can. In fact, I already am.” His words coming much gruffer than he intended, prompting the apology that soon blooms in his hand – a single red tulip with a curving green stem.
He offers it to me and I’m quick to receive it, bringing it to my nose, allowing its soft petals to brush against my lips as I inhale the barely perceptible scent he placed there for me. Watching as he paces the wide space between the bed and the window, his bare feet traversing the stone floors, to the plush rug, to the stone floors, and back. Aware of the conflict that plays in his head, knowing I need to make my case quickly before he has a chance to build one of his own.
“You can’t just turn your back on something because it’s weird, or foreign, or, in this case, grossly unpleasant. Damen, seriously, trust me when I say that I’m just as creeped out by her as you are. And yet, I refuse to believe that her finding us over and over again is some meaningless, random event. There’s no such thing as coincidence and you know it. She’s been trying to tell me something for weeks. What with the song, and the pointing, and the . . .” My body twitches in an involuntary shudder I’d prefer he not see, prompting me to sink onto the bed and rub my hands over my arms, chasing the goose bumps away. “Anyway, it’s clear that she’s trying to tell us something, give us a clue of some kind. And, well, I think we should at least try to determine what that might be – don’t you?” I pause, giving him a chance to respond, but all I get is the stubborn slant of his shoulders, the firm tilt of his head, and a long, lingering silence as he stares out the window with his back turned to me. The sight of it practically begging me to add, “I mean, what could it hurt to try to figure it out? If she turns out to be as old and crazy and senile as you think, then, fine. Whatever. No harm done. It’s like, why bother worrying about a few days of wasted time when we’re staring down an eternity? Then again, if it turns out she’s not crazy, well – ”
Not getting a chance to finish before he turns, his face wearing an expression so dark and stormy I can’t help but flinch. “What could it hurt?” His mouth goes grim as his eyes fix on mine. “After all that we’ve been through – did you really mean to ask that?”
I kick my toe against the rug, feeling far more serious than he realizes, far more serious than I’m prepared to let on. Instinctively knowing deep down inside that the scene we just witnessed bore way more meaning than he’d care to admit. The universe is not at all random. There’s a definite reason for everything. And I’ve no doubt in my heart, in my soul, that that seemingly crazy, blind old lady is offering a clue to something I really need to know.
Though I have no idea how to convince Damen of that.
“Is this really how you want to spend our winter break? Sleuthing after some demented old woman’s riddle? Trying to track down a deeper meaning that, in my humble opinion, does not exist?”
Better than the alternative, I think, though I restrict the words to my head. Remembering Sabine’s face the night after I’d fi nally returned home in the wee hours of the morning – just hours after sending my former best friend to the Shadowland and the impromptu memorial that followed in Summerland. The way she looked at me, her robe cinched tightly around her, her lips colorless and grim. But her eyes were the worst – the normally bright blue irises eclipsed by the deep lavender circles that spread just beneath. Staring at me with a horrible combination of anger and fear, her voice harsh, the words measured, well rehearsed, when she gave me the choice between getting the help she’s convinced that I need or finding another place to live. Sure I was just being obstinate when I nodded, circled back, and made my way out the door.
Made my way over to Damen’s where I’ve been ever since.
I clear the thought from my head, tucking it away to a place I’ll later revisit. Knowing that at some point I’ll have to deal with our issues head-on, but for now, this situation with the dark side of Summerland clearly takes pre ce dence.
I can’t allow for distractions, not when I still have one more good point to make. Something I know he’d hoped would go unmentioned the moment I notice the flash of trouble that crosses his face.
“She knew your name,” I say, dismayed by the way he casually lifts his shoulders, tries to wave it away.
“She hangs out in Summerland, a place where knowledge is plentiful. There for the taking.” He quirks a brow as his mouth tugs up at the side. “I’m sure it’s all there in the Great Halls of Learning for just about anyone to find.”
“Not just anyone,” I state. “Only the worthy.” Having experienced its opposite firsthand, remembering the not-so-long-ago time when I was counted among the unworthy, when the Great Halls of Learning barred me from entering until I pulled myself together, and got my good mojo - as Jude would say – back on track again. A terrible time I hope to never revisit.
Damen looks at me, and while it’s clear he has no immediate plans to surrender, it’s also clear he’s all for finding a compromise. This sort of defensiveness and evasiveness is getting us nowhere. We need action. We need to form a plan.
“She knew you were called Esposito.” I eyeball him carefully, wondering how he’ll try to squirm out of that. “Your orphan name,” I add, referring to the name that was imposed on him back when he was mortal, just after his parents were murdered and he, left alone with no one to care for him, became a ward of the church.
And though he’s quick to reply, saying, “Again, more information that’s available to anyone who seeks it. Amounting to no more than an unhappy memory of a long-ago past I prefer not to dwell on,” he chases it with a sigh, a sure sign that the fight’s seeping out of him along with his breath.
“She also called you by another name. Notte?” I look at him, my gaze making it clear that while he may prefer to brush it off and move on to other subjects, I’m not quite through with this one. I need answers. Real and solid answers. A shrug and quirked eyebrow don’t begin to qualify.
He turns away, but only for a moment, before he’s back to facing me. And the way his shoulders slope, the way his hands sink deep into his pockets, the way his jaw softens in silent resignation – well, it makes me feel bad for pushing it like this. Though the feeling doesn’t last long, it’s soon overruled by curiosity, as I cross all my limbs and wait for his reply.
“Notte.” He nods, giving the name a beautiful, Italian twist I couldn’t manage if I’d tried. “One of my names. One of the many, many surnames I went by.”
I look at him, not allowing myself to blink, not wanting to miss a thing.
Watching the path of his long lean body as he swallows, rubs his chin, crosses his legs at the ankle, and settles back against the window ledge. Taking a moment to mess with the shutters, gaze out at the pool, the moonlit ocean beyond, before snapping it shut and turning to me. “She called me Augustus too, which was my second name – my middle name. My mother insisted on one, though they weren’t so common at the time. And, since you and I first met in August, on August eight to be exact, well, I later adopted it as a last name, changing it a bit to match the month, thinking there was some kind of deeper meaning behind it. That it somehow connected me to you.”
I swallow hard, my fingers fiddling with the crystal horseshoe bracelet he gave me that day at the track, a little overwhelmed by a sentiment I didn’t expect.
“But, you have to understand, Ever, I’ve been around for a very long time. I had no choice but to change my identity every now and again. I couldn’t afford for anyone to catch on to my abnormally long life span, as well as the truth of . . . what I am.”
I nod, everything he’s said so far makes perfect sense, but there’s more, much more, and he knows it. “So how far back does the name Notte go, anyway?” I ask.
He shutters his eyes, rubs the lids. Keeping them closed when he says, “All the way back. Back to the very beginning. It’s my family name. My true surname.”
I steady my breath, determined not to overreact. My mind swimming with so many questions, the most prominent being: How the hell did the old lady know that? Soon followed by: How the hell did the old lady know that when I didn’t even know that?
“There was no reason to mention it.” He addresses the thought in my mind. “The past is just that - past. Over. There’s no reason to revisit. I much prefer to concentrate on the present, right now, this moment in time.” His face lifts a little, as his dark eyes light upon mine. Glinting with the promise of a brand new idea, he makes a move in my direction, hoping I’ll agree to the distraction.
His progress soon halted when I say, “You don’t seem to mind revisiting the past when we go to the pavilion.” And when I see the way he flinches, I chide myself for not being fair.
The pavilion, the beautiful gift he manifested for my seventeenth birthday, is the only place where we can truly be together – well, keeping within the confines of the events of the time. But still, it’s the only place where we can truly enjoy skin-on-skin contact, free of the fear of him dying, free of any worries of invoking the DNA curse that keeps us separated here on the earth plane. We just choose a scene from one of our past lives, merge into it, and enjoy getting swept away by the lush, romantic moment. And I fully admit to loving it every bit as much as he does.
“I’m sorry,” I start. “I didn’t mean – ”
But he just waves it away. Having reclaimed his position at the windowsill when he says, “So what is it you’d have me do, Ever?” His gaze making up in kindness what the words seemed to lack. “Just where would you have me take it from here? I’m willing to tell you anything you want to know about my past. I’ll gladly draw up a timeline of every name I was ever known by, including the reason I chose it. We don’t need some crazy old lady for that. It’s not my intention to hide anything from you, or deceive you in any way. The only reason we haven’t gone over it before is because it just seemed so unnecessary. I much prefer to look forward than back.”
The silence that follows has him rubbing his eyes and stifling a yawn, and a quick peek at his bedside clock reveals why – it’s still deep into the middle of the night. I’ve kept him from sleep.
I reach out, offering my hand as I pull him close to me, toward the bed. Smiling at the way his eyes light up for the first time since he awoke to me thrashing and kicking my way out of a horrible nightmare. Quickly overcome by the swarm of his warmth, the tingle and heat only he can provide. His arms sliding around me as he pushes me back – back onto the blankets, the rumpled pillows and sheets, his lips sweeping the ridge of my collarbone before dusting my neck.
Mine at his ear, nipping, tugging the lobe, voice barely a whisper, I say, “You’re right. This can wait until morning. For now, I just want to be here.”
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