By- M.A. George
Genre- YA Paranormal
Publication Date- April 16th, 2014
Meet Layla McKelland:
Novelist (unpublished, but cut her some slack…seventeen is a bit early to despair),
Slightly neurotic introvert (Alright, let’s be honest…there’s no “slightly” about it),
International Woman of Mystery, and…
Okay, just scratch the bio.
The only real “mystery” in Layla’s life is why her father has never been on the scene. Or why her mother drags Layla to a new coastal home every year.
Nothing about the latest hometown seems too newsworthy…until a routine day at the beach leaves Layla questioning whether she’s read one too many paranormal fantasy novels. The plot thickens when a random guy claims to know things about her father—a bizarre claim he backs up with an equally impossible stunt. And Layla soon finds herself on the wrong side of a mysterious attempted drowning…on her own kitchen floor.
When all is done, Layla will attest that fact is far stranger than fiction. And nothing in real life is ever as transparent as it seems…Not even water.
Especially not water.
You Heart Books- http://youheartbooks.com/downloads/aqua/
by M.A. George
Layla is a very music-savvy character, so it makes sense that the soundtrack to Aqua would come from her playlist. She has pretty varied taste (meaning she’ll listen to anything, provided it’s awesome). Here are some of the songs she references in Aqua (along with a couple thrown in by me, because I just can’t resist):
“Black”, Pearl Jam – Okay, so Layla doesn’t actually mention the specific song—just the glory that is Pearl Jam—but I have it on good authority that “Black” is the track Layla cranked up as she revved her Volkswagen Rabbit for the long drive to Texas. She may have hit the repeat button a time or two. Or four.
“Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Def Leppard – This is one of the songs Layla sings inside her head on one of her ritual ocean swims. It’s got a good beat for freestyling through the waves, particularly when you’re trying to shake some bizarre recent events from your brain.
“Kashmir”, Led Zeppelin – It’s Led Zeppelin, people. Layla says this one needs no explanation
“Pumped Up Kicks”, Foster The People – When the ocean proves too fraught with danger and peculiarity, Layla reluctantly abandons swimming. She finds a reasonable substitute in jogging (with the ability to carry along an MP3 player being a huge bonus). This track is perfect for a pleasant jog. Too bad she has to take off in a fleeing sprint somewhere mid-song…
“Skin”, Zola Jesus – You won’t find this one referenced in the book, but I got approval from Layla to include it. This song was a frequent flyer on my own playlist while writing Aqua, because it’s just a cool song. Every time I hear it, I see slow motion clips of Layla, Tristan, Pyke, and Zría navigating the ocean depths. Plus, watery explosions are always cooler in slow motion.
Excerpt – From Chapter 6
“Layla…Can you hear me? Try to open your eyes, Layla.”
I recognize that voice—echoing from some faraway land—yet I can’t quite place it. I’m fairly certain that it usually isn’t marked by an anxious quiver, one it’s seemingly trying to suppress. I know it’s not Mom or Cora. For one, Mom wouldn’t be making any effort to hide her maternal hysterics. And though Aunt Cora can be a tad on the masculine side sometimes, she doesn’t actually sound like a guy.
“Layla…Please try to open your eyes.” Definitely a guy…and since I don’t really know many of those, that narrows the list down pretty quickly.
A garbled groan oozes from my throat, as my head rolls to one side to cough out a gurgling breath. I hear the scatter of dusty grit puffing away in the gust from my lungs, and I wrench my lids open to a heap of washed-up seaweed on a bed of sand. I roll onto my back again, squinting against the glaring daylight. A head moves in to eclipse the sun, its backlit face obscured by shadow. The halo of short curls dances and sways in the breeze, a pleasant greeting filtering through the air in that familiar voice.
“Hey there…You sure can give a guy a heart attack, you know that?” I can only respond with another groan, pressing my palms into the sand in an attempt to sit up. “Whoa, whoa, whoa…Take it easy there. Get your bearings first.” Tristan’s hand gently presses my shoulder back down, and I flop backward like a ragdoll upon the sandy dune.
“Wh-what happened?” I stammer, clenching my eyes closed again, as the vivid remembrance of suffocation charges like a bull through my brain. “How’d you get me out of the water?”
“You took care of that yourself,” he puffs out a relieved chuckle. “We found you washed up face-down on the sand. You must’ve pulled yourself to shore before you passed out. I should’ve warned you to watch out for rip currents.”
“Yeah,” I cough out a sarcastic snort with a mumble under my breath. “Rip currents.” My gut reaction is to tell him I know what the hell a rip current is…and they don’t have elbows or hairy heads. But then my thoughts flash to the spinning whirlpool that sucked me under, and along to the insanity that’s been polluting my brain lately. Maybe yet another screw has come loose from my unhinged mind. Best I just keep my mouth shut.
But wait a minute…
“We?” I fight against Tristan’s cautioning advice and rise up to sitting. “What do you mean ‘we’ found you washed up on the beach? Who’re we?”
“She’s not one for expressing gratitude, is she?” A shiver of goose bumps crawls over my skin at the taint of madness in that high-pitched snicker.
“You just get the hell away from me.” Suddenly I’m scrambling to my knees, scurrying around behind Tristan and practically jumping piggy-back onto him, my pruny fingers digging into his bare shoulders. I said I’m no coward; but apparently, I stand corrected. I fish for more words but come up empty. All I’ve got is the icy glare I’m aiming past Tristan’s shoulder, squaring Pyke’s face in my sights.
A knowing smirk contorts his bearded lips, and it strikes me that his grungy hair is as dry as the day we met. He’s once again stark-dry from head to toe; and logic would lead one to conclude he had no possible hand in my near-drowning. Too bad logic has forsaken me, ever since Pyke came barging into my life.
“Get far, far, far away from me…and then take a few extra steps, just for good measure.” My eyes narrow a bit further as I struggle to rally the hard-edged conviction in my voice. “Start. Walking. Now.”
He just crosses his arms defiantly with a swaggering tilt to his head, as another bray of laughter shakes his chest. He lists a little closer, a taunting leer shadowed beneath his dark brow. “And here I thought you were starting to warm up to me.” I hadn’t noticed from a distance just how deep purple those circles under his eyes are…perhaps because they weren’t there until I jammed my thumb into his eye sockets.
I fix him in my searing glare with a low snarl. “I’d sooner warm up to Satan.”
“Well, of course…” A wicked smile lights his eyes. “He has Hellfire and whatnot at his disposal.”
“Enough, Pyke,” Tristan shuts him down with a sharp reprimand. “She’s not exactly having the best day…Now’s not the time for games.”
I silently thank Tristan with a subtle squeeze of his shoulder, his sun-baked skin a stark contrast to my clammy hands. All this talk about warming up to people, and in fact I’m chilled to the core. There’s an unnerving quiet while Pyke debates how much my torment is worth to him. I realize I’ve been holding my breath when he turns with a shrug to head for the water. A shudder rolls through me as I draw in a lungful through chattering teeth.
“You’re shaking,” Tristan’s brow furrows as he turns to look over his shoulder. “Are you cold?”
“No,” I absently shake my head, pulling my trembling fingers from his back. “At least I don’t think so.” The truth is, sheer terror and bone-chilling cold bring on a remarkably similar shiver. Judging from the fact that it’s at least a hundred degrees out today, I’m fairly certain it’s mainly terror behind my quivering limbs.
“We should get you to the hospital,” he turns and puts his arm around my waist for support. “Just to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine,” I shake my head. “I just want to go home.”
“Are you sure?” He raises a questioning eyebrow, and I give an insistent nod. “Well, you’re not driving,” he contends. “We’ll go in my car.” Funny how his voice really deepens when he’s being especially serious.
I reluctantly concede with a nod. Truth be told, I’m far from fit for driving right now. Physically, I’m pretty sure I’m coming around and will be fine. My state of mind is another story. And as if I haven’t had enough mental torment for the week, I make the mistake of looking back over my shoulder. I can’t seem to stop myself from checking for Pyke. Knowing he’s somewhere behind me just gives me that hair-raising feeling of being followed. Only he’s definitely not tailing us…He’s wading out into the waves, glancing all around as though he’s searching for something. He seems to catch sight of whatever it is he’s seeking; and he springs from the seabed, arching forward into a dive with arms in a point overhead.
But of course, nothing with Pyke can end that simply.
Just before he enters the water—his pointed hands not quite yet touching the surface—he becomes water, his tattooed arms liquefying to a transparent spray. The transformation to a flowing crystal-clear stream spreads in a swift cascade from his head to his toes. What was formerly his diving body is suddenly an arcing wave, splashing into the sea to join up with the ripples dancing across the surface.
By this point, I don’t think there’s any color left to drain out of my face.
I look to Tristan with saucer eyes, my arm still looped over his shoulder as he guides me back toward the parking area. I only see the back of his turned head…He’s been looking back too. As his face slowly rotates back toward me, I search for any signs of shock, dismay, or an impending freakout in his eyes. But I find nothing of the sort. He flashes a polished smile, that crooked tooth practically mocking me with its complete lack of alarm. It’s no use asking if he saw anything strange…Whatever he saw, he clearly isn’t rattled by it (most likely because—like the rest of the sane world—he saw nothing out of the ordinary).
“You think you can make it the whole way?” His voice knocks me out of my stupor. “Maybe I should run ahead and bring the car back this way.” I come to the awkward realization that he’s practically lugging me like a sack of potatoes, with absolutely no help from the dangling pair of useless rubber bands I call my legs.
“I can make it,” I straighten up, willing the jelly in my bones to support my weight. I’m not about to let him walk off and leave me here, with his psycho-murderer-slash-shapeshifter buddy still skulking somewhere out there in the waves. I set my sights on the Jeep Cherokee in the distance, focusing on making one footprint in the sand after another. Those prickly lights make an appearance in my fading peripheral vision again, my ears popping with a muffled hum beginning to drown out the seagulls. I try to be as casual as possible, muttering a garbled suggestion, “Maybe I should go ahead and give you directions to my house now…Just in case I pass out again.”
At that, Tristan scoops me up off my feet, ignoring my grumbling objections. I’m ashamed to say he was slowed down more by my pitiful attempt at walking than by the full weight of my body in his arms. “If you pass out again, I won’t need any directions…I’m remarkably familiar with the route to the nearest emergency room.”
I’d believe his claim outright (there are only so many streets in this town to begin with), but I have the feeling he’s more familiar with the local emergency room than your average citizen. I’d never really noticed the jagged scar trailing down the side of his scalp beneath the curls—curving behind his left ear and ending about halfway down the back of his neck—probably because I haven’t been quite this up-close-and-personal before. It’s way too crooked to be a surgical scar, and it makes the one above his eyebrow look like a paper cut. I imagine there’s probably a captivatingly grisly story to go with it; but frankly I couldn’t have less interest in asking about it right now.
I’ve had all the excitement I can handle for one day.
About the Author-
M. A. George is part proud mother of two adorable children, part super top secret agent…Oops, probably just lost that job.
Writing is what keeps her up into the wee hours of the night. Fortunately, she has a lot of energy (Read: caffeine is her friend). She has a bit of an obsession with music (It does a fantastic job of tuning out rambunctious children while she attempts to focus).
She sincerely hopes people out there enjoy reading her work as much as she enjoys writing it. And if anyone hears of work for a super top secret agent, she’s now available (Discretion guaranteed…).
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