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High school doesn’t get any easier after you come back from the dead.
Seventeen-year-old Jess Flowers has come back to life after being brutally murdered. She’s saved her friends and her one true love from a vengeful killer. She’s ready to start over, move on and leave the horror behind her. But happily ever after? Not even close.
The viper-tongued prom queen is hell-bent on making Jess pay for every life Salt Creek has lost. The freaky new kid seeks his own sweet, secret revenge. The bloody, violent murder of innocent people hasn’t stopped. Another killer is stalking Salt Creek, and it’s up to Jess to solve the mystery. She sees clues, in dreams and visions, that others don’t. Jess is a theikos, a race of people who have been endowed with extraordinary powers. She’s also the guardian, sworn by fate and oath to protect the town—if she can survive senior year.
This is a ya paranormal romance series for fans of Beautiful Creatures, X-Men, Twilight, and Vampire Diaries.
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BONUS CONTENT FOR THIS BOOK:
This ebook contains four extended scenes from Jess, Resurrected: Guardians of Salt Creek Book 2. These scenes were significantly altered or deleted in revision. Sneak a peek at the intimate moments between Billy and Jess that didn’t make it into the book! Rated PG.
Click the cover or here to get the scenes free via BookFunnel, which will put them directly on the e-reader device of your choice.
Excerpt of this book
SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now if you haven’t read Jess, Rising: Guardians of Salt Creek 1.
Chapter 1 — The End
The paramedics unzipped the body bag and lifted Andy out. His eyes were milky white and stuck open. He reeked of urine and wet pennies, the smell of blood and death. The stink of him saturated the humid night air. My stomach knotted and saliva ran in rivers in my mouth. I tried not to throw up. I tried not to cry.
Dr. Martin started Andy’s van and let it idle. The paramedics buckled his limp body into the driver’s seat and wrapped Andy’s hands around the steering wheel.
“You ready?” The paramedic, all crew cut and muscle, shouted back to me.
Sheriff Franks loped over. “You’re up, kid. Aim for the security light at the dip in the road just like we talked about.”
He pointed to the lone circle of bright white light in the darkness below. I nodded.
“Okay everybody,” Sheriff announced. “Stand back. Give her room.”
My friends backed away from me. Vic retreated into the fold of Adam’s arms. Billy stepped in front of Ava and Katie, as if to shield them from what was to come.
The paramedic popped the van into neutral and jumped clear. It began to roll down Savage Hill, a steep, crumbling road with a well-earned name. It rolled faster faster faster as the land dropped underneath it. The tires screeched across the stubbled asphalt. The van slid and skidded, careening closer to the bottom. I felt the hot rubber tires, Andy’s cold stiff fingers, the hard plastic steering wheel as real in my mind as if I had my own hands on them. Turn the wheel. The van swerved, still on track, straight toward the pole. This had to be a head on collision. It had to be an epic crash. A closed-casket crash. It was the only way.
“Lift it, Jess. Do it now!” Sheriff Franks yelled. “Now!”
Breathe. I’d never moved anything this big before. Breathe. I closed my eyes. Breathe. I pictured the van lifting off the ground. I imagined the grill hitting the lanky length of the silvery light pole. I felt the steel, the rubber, the glass. Fly, van. Come on. Fly!
Zig-zag pain stabbed the inside of my skull. I dropped to my knees.
“Jess! Are you all right?” Billy screamed over the screeeeeee screeeeeee of metal grinding against metal.
Tink tink tink. Glass shattered. I opened my eyes. The van, all the way to the back of the sliding door, was chewed up like cheap bubblegum. The hood was wrapped around the pole like a bun around a hot dog. The tires jutted out at odd angles.
Sheriff let out a sigh that sounded like a deflating balloon. “Okay. Okay,” he whispered. “It’s done.”
So that’s it then. Tonight, the last Saturday in September, the night of the homecoming dance, I murdered a boy. Wimpy, overlooked Andy turned out to be a telekinetic killer. He killed me, so I killed him. But I got a second chance. I came back to life. Andy didn’t, and I’d just staged a massive car accident to cover all that up.
I wasn’t alone. I had help. The sheriff and the nine-two-two paramedics, a secret emergency unit dedicated to helping people with special powers, were in on it. So was Dr. Martin, the ER doctor at the county medical center who could heal the sick with her touch.
“Are you all right, Jess? You look a little green.” Dr. Martin knelt down beside me. Her blue scrubs were streaked with brown. Dried blood.
I nodded. I lied. I would never be okay. I was too disgusted with myself, with Andy, to even form words.
“This is horrible, no doubt about it,” she patted my arm. “But, we have to cover it up when one of our own goes rogue. Andy used his powers to kill and hurt people. If we told the truth. If we told the public that people like us exist, they’d think we were crazy. And if they did believe us, well, none of us would be safe. We lose either way. This is for the best. It doesn’t feel like it now, but trust me. You’ll see.”
Sheriff planted himself in front of me. “You did real good tonight, Jess, but I have more to ask of you. Actually, I have to ask this of all of you.”
He went down the line, looking each of us in the eye.“Listen close. You can’t tell anyone what really happened tonight. The town has to believe Andy’s death was an accident. They have to believe Steve died of natural causes,” he said. “Salt Creek’s secret needs to stay a secret, do you understand? This isn’t going to be easy for any of you, but it’s the only way to keep your kind safe. You need to take the truth to the grave. Are we clear?”
We stared at our feet or shrugged, resigned to our role in the cover up. We were no strangers to secrets. We were theikos, a special kind of human with extraordinary gifts. Katie could run as fast as a car. Vic could heal herself. Billy could make lightning on command. Dr. Martin could heal other people. Ava had intensified senses of hearing and smell, Adam was unusually smart. Andy was telekinetic. I was aphthiton, which meant I acquired the gifts of others through skin-to-skin contact. I possessed most of my friends’ powers. Because of their gifts, we’d survived. Because of their gifts, I had come back from the dead tonight. Because of their gifts, I was able to kill Andy before he killed all of us.
“Now clear out,” Sheriff said. “All of this is for nothing if someone drives by and sees you all standing here.”
Sheriff Franks huddled up with Dr. Martin next to the ambulance. They whispered, but I heard them as clear as if they were screaming. Sheriff would head back to the station and wait for some innocent, well-meaning rube to drive by and report the accident. Then he’d come back with the paramedics, take statements, pack up Andy’s body, and call Dr. Martin for the death certificate. It would appear, on the outside, to be a real car accident. Thinking about it made me dizzy.
Vic grabbed my arm and began to whimper. “This can’t be happening. I’ve known Andy all my life. How did he turn so… so…evil?”
She nervously wiped mud off of her pale blue homecoming dress. It wouldn’t help. The dress, and her dyed auburn hair, were caked with it.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Are you?” she sniffled.
“Tomorrow is a new day, Vic,” I put on my most reassuring face, hoping it would fool both of us. “We’re going to put this behind us and move on with our lives like it never happened. I promise. You’ll see.”
Her lips moved, but her voice sounded far away, like it came from the other end of a tube. Suddenly, a burning heat rose up inside me, and a strange taste, like metal, filled my mouth.
I woke up on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. Wait. What?
“Jess, you had a seizure.” Billy ran his fingers through my hair. He sat next to me in the antiseptic white cabin. “You were shaking a lot. You fell down. It was pretty scary.”
“A seizure? But…” I’d never had one before. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered. “I’ll get Dr. Martin. Hold on.”
He pecked me on the cheek and left through the back door. A moment later, Dr. Martin appeared.
“Hey. I’m glad you’re awake,” she said.
“Where are we?”
“Downtown, behind the Sheriff’s station. We couldn’t go to the hospital. It might raise red flags. We can’t have you linked with Andy’s accident at all. For you, this has to look like any other night,” she said. “Now, about this seizure. Billy told me about your injuries. They were pretty severe. This will probably pass once you heal completely. Give yourself time. Try not to worry about it, but if it happens again, come see me, okay?”
“Good. I’ll send Billy back in.”
She left, and she did.
He snuggled up next to me on the stretcher. A light line of bruises still ringed his neck.
“I thought Dr. Martin healed you,” I said.
“She couldn’t fix it all. Katie and I were pretty bad off. She did as much as she could, but she ran out of juice. She’s coming over tomorrow morning to fix the rest. We have to look normal right away, like tonight never happened. We can’t let any outsiders see us injured.”
I reached out and touched a bruise, but not gently enough. Billy flinched and sucked in a hard breath. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I only wanted to try to heal you.”
“Stop,” he said. “Worry about you. I’ll be fine.”
“No. I…” This could never be fine. So much hurt, so many injuries. There wasn’t enough healing power in the world to fix tonight. I owed him this small favor.“Billy, I…I’m so sorry.”
Tears came. My stubbornness nearly got him and all of my friends killed. This mess tonight could have been avoided if I’d trusted him. If I believed him when he’d said he was innocent. I loved him, and I’d hurt him, and we all nearly died as a result. There wasn’t a big enough sorry in the world to fix that. “I shouldn’t have —”
“Don’t Jess. You saved us. You saved me. Because of you, this nightmare is over,” Billy said. “Andy can’t kill anyone else. He can’t hurt me, and he can’t hurt you.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
“Why would you? I should have told you everything the first time you asked. Sheriff and his stupid promises.” He held onto me tighter. “I was so worried about keeping my promise to Sheriff Franks, I forgot keep my promises to you. I swear I won’t make that mistake again. Tonight, we start fresh. We move on. Life is good. We’re all safe now.”
Chapter 2 —The Funeral
Even the sky wept for Steve Kennedy. Rain poured down on the Hollygrove Cemetery in sheets, saturating the sea of mourners huddled around his polished black casket.
Only a handful of people at this funeral knew Steve was murdered. The rest thought his heart just stopped. They were told he’d had a congenital malformation, an undetected ticking time bomb in his chest. I knew the truth, and it killed me a little more each day that I woke up alive and he didn’t. Andy killed him because Steve intervened when Andy abducted me. Andy made Steve’s heart explode. He died trying to protect me.
Steve was Salt Creek High School’s golden boy, and his death was my fault. If I hadn’t asked him to the homecoming dance. If I hadn’t gone outside alone. If I hadn’t been so blind to the murderer hiding right in front of me, he’d be alive right now.
I ran my fingers over the last patch of sore pink skin over my heart. It’d been five days since the fight at the ravine. My cuts and broken bones had all healed, except for a burn on my chest, a raw pink brand in the shape of the guardian’s sun. When I jolted back to life, the metal of Gramma’s sun necklace had burned it into my skin. I didn’t know why it had left a permanent mark. All of my other injuries disappeared, leaving no trace. I suspected it wasn’t a mistake. The universe had marked me, so I could never forget I died and came back to life. If I was marked, I could never forget the two kids who were dead in the ground because of me.
We had buried Andy on the other side of this cemetery yesterday. His funeral was sunny, warm. He had just as many mourners. In fact, he was the most popular kid in school now that he was dead. Everyone who’d overlooked him when he was alive showed up to cry over his casket.
“As we make ready our brother’s resting place, look also with favor on those who mourn and comfort them in their loss.” The minister made a cross in the air. His black shirt and pants were visible through his wet white funeral robes.
Those who mourn. Most of the high school plus half the town huddled around Steve’s grave. Some had umbrellas, the rest let the relentless rain pour down over them. Vic pressed her face against her boyfriend Brad’s chest as she cried. Brad, eyes tinged pink and bottom lip quivering, fought back his tears.
Steve’s dad stood stick straight, lips taut and tears leaking, as Steve’s mother leaned on him, bent under the weight of her lost son. She held tight to her daughter, Steve’s little sister. I didn’t even know he had one. She was maybe ten years old. She cleaved to her mother, sobbing, her white blonde hair sticking to her wet cheeks.
I couldn’t bear to look at her. Instead, I looked up at the churning black clouds. I wondered if Salt Creek would ever see the sun again. Would I? What do you do with your life after you’ve died and come back? What do you do after you’ve killed someone you thought was your friend? What do you do when an innocent person dies because of you? Can you make that right?
“Amen.” The minister declared the funeral over.
The crowd shifted. The elderly ladies descended on Steve’s family. They would perch like black crows in the Kennedy house today, just as they had at mine when Dad and Gramps died.
“Jess,” Billy squeezed my hand. “We should go.”
His eyes were pink at the edges. He was hurting, too. Steve was his best friend once, even if there’d been bad blood between them recently.
“I need a minute,” I said. “I’ll meet you at the car.”
He nodded and let go, and the crowd swallowed him up.
When no one was looking, I put my hand on Steve’s coffin, leaned in close and whispered. “Listen. Sybil said you’re okay. She said you don’t regret it, but I want you to know that I do. I’m sorry.”
He’d hear me. He had to. Dad said he was by my side every time I thought of him. Steve had to be here, too, drawn by all of these people. “You deserved more time. I wish you were alive. I wish it hadn’t ended like this.”
Just then, someone pushed me hard, knocking me onto my butt in the wet grass. “Drop the act. Pretending to care? Spare me.”
Sonya, Steve’s ex-girlfriend, loomed over me. She had a red golf umbrella to shield her from the downpour, but her tears had carried her eyeliner down her cheeks. “What’s your deal, huh? You let everyone see you cry before you run off to cuddle up with lover boy? Well, sorry sweetheart. You don’t get to pretend. This is your fault. You hurt Steve. He died alone in a parking lot because you ran off with Billy. You’re gonna pay for what you did.”
I didn’t know what to say. She was partly right. It was my fault, and I deserved whatever venom she spit at me.
“Is there a problem here, ladies?” Sheriff Franks inserted himself between us.
“No,” Sonya hissed. “We both know the deal.”
She sneered at me then turned on her heel and stomped off.
“You all right?” Sheriff Franks pulled me up.
“Yeah. Fine.” I peeled a few green flecks of wet grass off my dress. “Seventeen-year-old girls aren’t exactly known for empathy and kindness.”
“Look. Jess.” Sheriff’s eyes darted around, making sure no one else was close enough to hear. “I should have been more up front about how hard this is going to be. No matter what happens or who’s giving you a hard time, you’ve got to keep the secret. They have to believe the lie. It’s not fair to Steve, and it’s not fair to you, but it’ll keep people safe. Can I count on you?”
I nodded. Of course, I’d keep my mouth shut. I was an accidental murderer, plus I’d died and come back to life. No one wanted that on the evening news.
“Well, okay then. If you need anything, you can always come to me for help,” he said. “And I hope I can call on you, too.”
Sheriff tipped his hat at me like some Wild West cowboy, but I grabbed his arm before he walked off. “Sheriff, wait.”
“What is it?”
“I forgot to tell you something about that night in the ravine. Andy made a video.”
“Of what?” His voice shook.
“He taped Billy shooting me. Maybe more. Maybe the rest.” Like the part where Andy split my skull in half, then I came back to life and thrashed his head against a rock so hard I killed him.
“Jess, we already cleared the crime scene.”
“Did you find it? I don’t remember if it was a phone or a camera, but he propped it up on a rock.”
“No. We didn’t,” he said. “I’ll check again. If someone else finds it first, it doesn’t matter how good we all are at keeping secrets.”