Protected was officially released Tuesday, June 25th. If you haven’t bought it yet, take a look at some of the teasers below to spark your interest. If you have bought it, take a look back at some teaser-rific moments in Protected!
“I’m gonna run to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” I got up to head out to the concourse. The restrooms were off to the side from where the students sat, a bit out of the way, so I headed towards the doors.
I was finishing up, washing my hands, when I thought I saw a shadow cross the mirror. I glanced up but didn’t see anything strange. The lights must still be warming up, I thought to myself as I glanced up at them flickering. They had been switched off for the entire summer, after all.
I grabbed the door handle to leave when someone’s arm shot out, slamming the door shut in front of me. Before I could even turn around, I was shoved up against the wall with a strong, rather large hand grasping my throat. I almost couldn’t breathe. When I opened my eyes to see I was staring straight into the face of Devon. I clawed at his hand around my throat, trying to gasp in what little air was able to get through my windpipe.
“Not so protected now, are we?” Devon growled.
His eyes were glowing like they had been the night of Ashley’s party, when I’d caught them behind her building. His voice was harsh and his arm muscles were bulging. I thought to myself that there was no way it was humanly possible for him to be holding me up like this.
“Listen carefully, Ariya. You are going to do exactly what I say, or you are going to regret it.”
He lowered me and released his hand from my throat, then shoved both of my shoulders hard against the wall again. It knocked the wind out of me as I felt my head hit the solid concrete wall behind me hard. He was strong, painfully strong.
My vision started blurring from the impact. It felt almost unbearable to have that kind of strength pushing into my shoulders. I tried catching my breath, gasping as much as possible to regain some of the air that had been pushed out of my lungs so roughly.
“What are you doing?” My voice was raspy and my throat was almost numb from the pain of having been strangled. The throbbing in my head was getting worse. How hard had I hit it? Sharp pain was causing even my eyes to hurt.
“Shut up and listen to me. I’m tired of waiting for you.”
There was something seriously wrong with this guy. He leaned into me, sniffing my hair, and I thought I was going to gag. How had I ever thought he was attractive?
“You’re so beautiful.”
He brought his lips close to mine. I wanted to back away, but he had me pinned against the wall. Pulling on lessons learned in my self-defense class, I made a sudden movement to try to bring my leg to hit him in the balls. He was too fast, though, and he grabbed my leg.
“Shame on you, Ariya.”
I started to scream, but he brought his hand up to cover my mouth.
“Now, now. I’m not going to really hurt you. At least, not yet.”
He punched me in the gut swiftly, pushing all the breath I had managed to get back a moment ago out of me again. My mouth was open, trying desperately to gulp in air. My legs wanted to bend, but Devon shoved my shoulders back again, keeping me from falling.
“You are going to ditch Caroline, Nick, and especially James. You are going to come with me alone. Do you…”
He was cut off from the rest of his threat when the restroom door flew open. It was Caroline. I tried to call her name to tell her to leave but had no voice to do so. Instead of being able to warn her and have her safe, I was trapped. She was going to be hurt if I didn’t speak. I tried again to say her name, but could only cough.
Caroline was standing in the doorway, and I thought I could see Nick behind her as well. She ran through the door and rushed at Devon. “Let her go, you wretched animal!”
She slammed into him harder than I would have ever thought possible. Devon roughly let go of me when Caroline ran into him. I crumpled down onto the floor. I looked up to try to warn Caroline and to tell her that Devon was really strong. Nothing would come out of my mouth, though, no matter how hard I tried.
My mouth throbbed. My whole back began to ache from being slammed twice into the cement wall. My stomach felt like its insides were moved around in places they shouldn’t have been. How was Caroline keeping Devon backed against the wall so easily? Was this actually happening?
Devon started grinning widely and opened his mouth. He lunged at Caroline like he was going to bite her. I saw a whirl of dark color, which turned out to be Nick. I could finally see more clearly since things had stopped blurring for a minute.
Nick had moved Devon from the wall and was now holding him back away from Caroline. He had pulled Devon away from Caroline so quickly that none of it seemed real. It was like watching parts of a movie in fast forward. It looked strangely familiar, these blurs of color. I tried to focus on Caroline’s face to see if she was okay, but my vision was going in and out. From what I could see, she looked like she wasn’t fazed or scared at all. Was she smiling? Impossible. I brought my hands to my head to see if I could regain some balance.
“That’s enough,” Nick growled in Devon’s ear.
I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. It felt like my mind was not able to correctly process what was happening.
“You’ve got your royal here to save her if she dies. Why not see if the rumors are true?”
Devon must have said something horrible in that sentence to Nick because Nick reached down and there was a loud snap and a crunching sound. Devon screamed. My vision was so hazy at this point that I couldn’t see anything. My eyes were heavy and my body slumped again.
Devon was done screaming and I could hear him say, “You’re going to be so sorry.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. My throat was still hurting and my body was shaking. I was nauseous and dizzy. I didn’t even care that I was on a filthy bathroom floor. My body, my brain, nothing seemed to be working right. I fell forward onto the floor and straight into a black hole.
I was drifting. Things were fuzzy. It was almost as if there was a black light pulsing somewhere, creating the flickering shadows I was seeing. I hurt. My back felt bruised. I could hear voices every so often. They were pieces of sentences that barely made sense.
“She needs blood … heal her … make her forget … protect her.”
I tried to get the voices to come closer. What were they talking about? Who needs blood? Me? When I tried to focus to speak more and ask my questions, pain came. A shadow approached.
Darkness enveloped me again.
“Ariya! I’ve been looking for you. I wanted you to meet a friend of mine, James Rymer. He just joined the hockey team, and I told him he had to meet our cheerleaders.”
I made a face at him for the cheerleader comment before turning to see whom I was being introduced to. If Caroline and Ashley had handsome men on their arms, there wasn’t even a word to describe James. His light brown hair fell in his face ever so slightly, and beautiful, light blue eyes with darker spots scattered throughout them looked back at me. I’d never seen eyes like his before. His skin was flawless and his jaw defined. He was taller than me by a good bit. I am five-feet, eight inches, but had to tilt my head back slightly to see all of him. He had to be well over six feet tall.
James was wearing a black shirt that hugged his chest. I could tell he wasn’t overly buff, but he was defined, broad shouldered, and solid. My breath caught for a minute and I tried to recover swiftly.
I reached out my hand, “Ariya Adams.”
He smiled with one side of his mouth, and just said, “James.”
His voice was low and strong, like the kind of voice the guy off the cover of a romance novel should have. I tried to think of something clever to say, but my brain fogged. What’s wrong with me? I’d never acted like this around a guy.
“Wow,” Caroline said. “I mean, you must think he’s something else, right?” As I turned towards her, she continued, “If there was ever a time for you to break your I-hate-boys phase, it’s now.”
“I love that you knew that’s what I wanted to talk about.”
“I haven’t seen you act that way around a guy in…well, ever, actually. Come on, you think he’s attractive, right?” She nudged my arm.
“I’m in an ‘I-hate-boys’ phase, Care. I’m not blind.”
“So, that’s a yes! I gotta say this is a nice change. For once you have a crush that I don’t have to convince you to like! Let’s get back in there and have some fun, shall we?” She held up her arm playfully. I hesitated, though.
“You think I should go for it? Ashley might decide she wants an upgrade from Devon and pounce,” I said, rather bitterly.
I wasn’t unattractive, and I had enough self-esteem to get me through most days as a confident woman. However, when it came to guys, I felt I couldn’t really compete with Miss Southern Belle 2012.
That was my one weak point. I could speak in front of large groups of people. I loved volunteering, and being involved in sports. I hopped right into everything and typically didn’t miss a beat. When it came to flirting and guys, I’d like to think I was decent at it, but my track record in the dating department proved otherwise. So many negative experiences can really mess with a girl’s head.
“Oh, shut it with the self-doubt crap. You’re ten times the woman Ashley is! Be yourself. He’s probably as stubborn as you are when it comes to the opposite sex.” She looked amused at her comment, and I frowned.
“Nothing.” Her face continued to look like she was laughing to herself about something, which boggled me.
“All right, keep your secrets. Let’s go.”
“Ariya,” he whispered as he brought his head down to mine.
I closed my eyes. What were we doing? He didn’t want to be with me, but now here, like this, I didn’t want to stop him.
“Please,” I said back. It was hard even for me to tell if I meant please stop or please don’t stop, but he took it to mean the latter.
He brought his lips to mine and fire burst from deep within me. What was he doing to me? How was it possible to have these feelings for someone? I parted my lips slightly, and it was encouragement for him. He pressed his tongue into my mouth, and I exploded all over again.
We were moving, and suddenly my back was up against a tree. We were off the path at this point. His hand tugged at my ponytail, breaking the band that had been holding it, and he buried his fingers into my hair. This was heaven.
James’ hand ran up my leg, jerking it around him as he shifted his body underneath me. He held me there, pinned to the tree. I obeyed the movement of his hands and wrapped my legs around his waist, locking them behind his back. His whole body pressed in to mine as his mouth relentlessly ravished mine.
I had to pull back. I would drown in my feelings for him, especially if this wasn’t going to continue towards anything. I pulled my mouth away. The break in our connection felt painful but necessary. I couldn’t keep going in the direction this was headed right now.
“I’m stealing your date for a minute.” He smiled over at James, who just nodded. “Ariya, you have to stop looking so good all the time. You really make it hard on a guy.”
He winked at me. His bad mood from earlier today seemed to have vanished completely, for which I was grateful. Caroline was right. It must have been stress from getting everything for the party together.
“How much have you had to drink already, Bullwinkle?” I shoved out of his arms.
“Can’t I give you a compliment without you thinking I’m drunk?”
“No,” I laughed. “I have to get back to my date, you know, the one you actually approve of.”
“I don’t know if I approve of breaking and entering. He’d better be careful with you.”
He stopped and took my chin in his hand, as if inspecting me. Then he turned my cheek, while still holding my chin, and gave me a peck. Whoa, stomach drop. What on earth was that about, and what was wrong with me to react like that?
Hope you enjoyed!!