Today’s snippet is from CAPTIVATED – when Hannah is just back from being rescued by Vincenz and she meets Julian for the first time
Phantom Corps: CAPTIVATED by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2012, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
Releasing in trade paper and digital formats May 1
Fear jolted her awake. She stayed still as she swam to full consciousness. Old habits that had kept her alive. She remembered the day before. The lab. Vincenz. The portal station where theyâ€™d pulled at her, drugged her.
Anger washed through her as she slowly opened her eyes. Where was this place? A hospital? No.
She sat up, fighting the nausea. The needle in her hand attached to the drip brought consternation. Were they still drugging her? She pulled it out, biting back the whimper her body wanted to give up.
â€śYouâ€™re awake.â€ť Vincenz came in slowly, carefully. He tipped his chin toward the IV. â€śYou should have left it in. Youâ€™re dehydrated. I just gave you a new bag about two hours ago.â€ť
Remaining silent, she watched him through wary eyes.
â€śThereâ€™s no need to be afraid. This is my home and a headquarters of sorts for my . . . group. Itâ€™s well defended. No one can get to you here.â€ť
She studied him. He was beautiful. The kind of man people would look at because how could they not? But heâ€™d helped them drug her. She squeezed her hands into fists a few times, wincing.
He was there, at her side in a breath. â€śShh. Donâ€™t do that. The doctor cleaned them up again when we brought you in last night. You got some abrasions from the straps of my pack. Iâ€™m sorry. I . . . say something, Hannah.â€ť
He looked so worried she forgot her anger for a moment. And then remembered it. â€śNever.â€ť She paused to clear her throat and to grasp the words she needed. â€śNever again.â€ť
He blinked. â€śYouâ€™re never speaking again?â€ť
She shook her head, frustrated that her words were fine in her head, but she couldnâ€™t manage to always put them into coherent sentences. â€śThey drugged me.â€ť
He sat on the very edge of her bed. â€śI didnâ€™t. I know you didnâ€™t see everything and you were scared, but I didnâ€™t drug you. And they didnâ€™t do it the way the Imperialists did either. You were panicked; they were concerned youâ€™d hurt yourself.â€ť
â€śI make choices now.â€ť It was important he understand that. She was no oneâ€™s test subject anymore.
He took her hand gently. â€śOf course. Are you hungry? Julian?he lives here with me?is making breakfast. Heâ€™s a great cook. Youâ€™re underweight. The doctor was worried.â€ť
First she needed to clean up a little. â€śBathroom?â€ť
He blushed and she found herself charmed. And then wondering how long it had been since sheâ€™d been charmed by anything or anyone. He stood, holding an arm out and allowed her to get out of bed on her own steam. Still, she took his arm gratefully.
Because she needed it on shaky legs and because she needed to be touching someone. Needed to be touched. When he touched her, the confusion quieted and she felt a little less like tearing her skin off.
He took it slow. â€śYouâ€™re welcome to keep the room you have or move to another. We have several empty ones right now. Thereâ€™s a bathing suite right here and one attached to our room too.â€ť
Our? He paused at the door and she made herself go in and close the door behind her and go do her business like a real person.
He spoke to her through the door, which helped. â€śThereâ€™s a clean toothbrush there. Clothes that will probably fit you better too. Give me a moment and Iâ€™ll go get them.â€ť
She looked at herself in the mirror for the first time in a very, very long time. Alone again she could hear the rushing of her blood and the beat of her heart. Panic began to rise as she forced herself to wash her face and brush her teeth. A nearby brush enabled her to take care of her hair, braiding it back away from her face.
â€śMy name is Hannah Black. My parents are Shelby and Bertram Black. My name day is midsummer with the grain high above my head.â€ť She said it over and over until the ritual of it calmed and soothed. She jumped when he tapped on the door again.
She opened it, and he looked into her face and smiled as he handed over a bundle of clothes. â€śI like your hair like that. Here. These will fit you better. You and Piper should be roughly the same size. Iâ€™ll wait right here for you to change.â€ť
Everything was so . . . much. Too bright. Too loud though there was no one else in the room. Her muscles trembled but not so much from fatigue as fear.
â€śNeed to . . . I need to sit down.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry. Of course. I didnâ€™t even think of that.â€ť
He moved closer and bent, she knew, to pick her up. Though sheâ€™d have liked that very much, she needed to do it on her own. Or as much as she could manage anyway.
â€śCan walk.â€ť It was hard to remember to say things aloud.
â€śYes, you can.â€ť He put an arm around her waist and she leaned into him as they made their way across to her room. Her room with windows. And a mirror and dresser. Thatâ€™s when the other oneâ€”Julian, she remembered from something Vincenz had mentioned earlierâ€”came out and saw them.
He moved to them confidently, fitting against her other side. â€śAre you well?â€ť Something about that calm confidence settled the jittery things inside her, pushed the panic back.
â€śSheâ€™s just a little shaky.â€ť Vincenz looked at Julian and Hannah knew who the other person in the â€śourâ€ť comment was. These two had something deep and electric.
â€śSit here.â€ť Julian turned them neatly and sat next to her. â€śIâ€™m Julian.â€ť He took her hand, her hand that had been so injured yesterday, and kissed it in a gentlemanly fashion. â€śWhat do you need from us right now?â€ť
That was the question, wasnâ€™t it? She swallowed and searched for all her words. She put her hands in her hair, letting it down so it brushed against her cheeks again. But she didnâ€™t rock and that was a victory. â€śI can get dressed.â€ť
He looked at her carefully and then over to Vincenz. â€śItâ€™s not shameful to ask for help. If you need it, weâ€™ll give it to you.â€ť
She jutted her chin out. â€śI can dress.â€ť
He grinned and his face transformed. She smiled in response, even without planning to. â€śI bet you can, Hannah. Vin and I will be right here. Weâ€™ll turn our backs, but weâ€™ll be right here in case you need anything.â€ť
Be Sure to Visit Today’s Other Snippeters!
Megan Hart:Read in bed!
Mandy M Roth
Today’s prize is a copy of CAPTIVATED. Winners will be chosen from the comments to this post and announced Monday, April 30 in the Winners’ post.