Unraveling, p.1

Unraveling, page 1

 

Unraveling
 



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Unraveling


  PRAISE FOR SARA ELLA

  “Unblemished may have set the stage, but Unraveling will forever bind you to this story like a Kiss of Accord. Sara Ella’s exquisite writing left me gasping at new revelations and re-reading whole chapters just because. Unraveling is a sequel that outshines its already brilliant predecessor. Read it. Now. Then come fangirl with me.”

  —NADINE BRANDES, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE OUT OF TIME TRILOGY

  “With plenty of YA crossover appeal, this engaging and suspenseful debut urban fantasy features superb world building and a tightly paced story line. Reading groups will find plenty to discuss concerning self-image, the nature of good vs. evil, and the power of the marginalized to change the world.”

  —LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED REVIEW FOR UNBLEMISHED

  “Sara Ella’s debut novel is a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections. Intricately plotted, the story is complex, but not difficult to follow. Eliyana is a strong heroine, yet also has a vulnerable side that readers will definitely identify with. The other characters are also well-developed and have many hidden secrets revealed throughout the course of the tale . . . It will be fascinating to see where the author takes the characters next.”

  —RT BOOK REVIEWS, 4½ STARS, TOP PICK! FOR UNBLEMISHED

  “Ella has created a captivating, relatable protagonist and never hesitates as she keeps things moving briskly through the many twists and turns.”

  —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY FOR UNBLEMISHED

  “A breathtaking fantasy set in an extraordinary fairy-tale world, with deceptive twists and an addictively adorable cast who are illusory to the end. Just when I thought I’d figured each out, Sara Ella sent me for another ride. A wholly original story, Unblemished begins as a sweet melody and quickly becomes an anthem of the heart. And I’m singing my soul out. Fans of Once upon a Time and Julie Kagawa, brace yourselves.”

  —MARY WEBER, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE STORM SIREN TRILOGY

  “Lyrically written and achingly romantic—Unblemished will tug your heartstrings!”

  —MELISSA LANDERS, AUTHOR OF ALIENATED, INVADED, AND STARFLIGHT

  “Self-worth and destiny collide in this twisty-turny fantasy full of surprise and heart. Propelled into a world she knows nothing about, Eliyana learns that the birthmark she despises is not quite the superficial curse she thought it was—it’s worse, and the mark comes with a heavy responsibility. Can she face her reflection long enough to be the hero her new friends need? With charm and wit, author Sara Ella delivers Unblemished, a magical story with a compelling message and a unique take on the perils of Central Park.”

  —SHANNON DITTEMORE, AUTHOR OF THE ANGEL EYES TRILOGY

  “Unblemished is an enchanting, beautifully written adventure with a pitch-perfect blend of fantasy, realism, and romance. Move this one to the top of your TBR pile and clear your schedule—you won’t want to put it down!”

  —LORIE LANGDON, AUTHOR OF THE AMAZON BESTSELLING DOON SERIES

  “Unblemished had me from the first chapter—mystery, romance, and mind-blowing twists and turns that I so did not see coming! The worlds Sara Ella builds are complex and seamless; the characters she creates are beautifully flawed. Readers are sure to love this book and finish it, as I did, begging for more!”

  —KRISTA McGEE, AUTHOR OF THE ANOMALY TRILOGY

  Unraveling

  © 2017 by Sara E. Larson

  All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.

  Special thanks to Jim Hart of Hartline Literary.

  Maps by Matthew Covington.

  Thomas Nelson titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fundraising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets @ThomasNelson.com.

  Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Ella, Sara, author.

  Title: Unraveling / by Sara Ella.

  Description: Nashville, Tennessee : Thomas Nelson, [2017] | Series:

  Unblemished ; book 2 | Summary: Eliyana continues her journey towards the throne while she tries to figure out her relationship with Ky and how it might be connected to the powerful magical gifts known as the Callings.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017002678 | ISBN 9780718081034 (hardback)

  Epub Edition May 2017 ISBN 9780718081041

  Subjects: | CYAC: Fantasy. | Love--Fiction. | Kings, queens, rulers, etc.--Fiction.

  Classification: LCC PZ7.1.E435 Ur 2017 | DDC [Fic]--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017002678

  Printed in the United States of America

  17 18 19 20 21 LSC 5 4 3 2 1

  For my editor, Becky Monds—Because when this story was unraveling, you helped me make it whole.

  Whence I fell, he left me there.

  Lost, nay abandoned; what did he care?

  I needed him; away he flew.

  I loved him so; he ne’er knew.

  When I revealed my soul, my heart,

  He turned away; I watched him part.

  Without him now, darkness descends.

  Where it begins, my light does end.

  —“THE SCRIB’S FATE,” ONCE UPON A REFLECTION, VOLUME I

  CONTENTS

  Praise for Sara Ella

  Prelude

  Act I: What Once Was Mine One: Gleam and Glow

  Two: Your Power

  Three: What Has Been Lost

  Four: Joshua

  Five: Shine

  Aside: KY

  Six: Make the Clock Reverse

  Seven: Joshua

  Eight: Bring Back

  Nine: What Has Been Hurt

  Ten: Joshua

  Aside: KY

  Eleven: Change

  Twelve: Fate’s Design

  Thirteen: Mine

  Act II: Poor Unfor tunate Souls Fourteen: Joshua

  Fifteen: Turn

  Sixteen: Joshua

  Seventeen: Made a Switch

  Eighteen: Joshua

  Nineteen: Longing

  Twenty: Body Language

  Twenty-One: Joshua

  Twenty-Two: Not to Say a Word

  Aside: KY

  Twenty-Three: A Lady Who’s Withdrawn

  Twenty-Four: She Who Holds Her Tongue

  Twenty-Five: Joshua

  Twenty-Six: No One Else

  Twenty-Seven: Joshua

  Twenty-Eight: A Talent That I Always Have Possessed

  Twenty-Nine: Joshua

  Thirty: Sisters Again

  Thirty-One: Cross the Bridge

  Act III: Cross the Bridge Thirty-Two: The Fog Has Lifted

  Thirty-Three: Living in a Blur

  Thirty-Four: How Blind I’ve Been

  Thirty-Five: Joshua

  Thirty-Six: All at Once

  Thirty-Seven: All So Clear

  Thirty-Eight: Joshua

  Thirty-Nine: Everything Looks Different

  Aside: KY

  Forty: Joshua

  Act IV: Her Voice Forty-One: Upon the Water

  Forty-Two: Joshua

  Forty-Three: Meant for Me

  Forty-Four: Joshua

  Forty-Five: Calling to Me

  Forty-Six: Josh
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  Aside: KY

  Forty-Seven: Dusk Is Falling

  Forty-Eight: Josh

  Aside: Joshua

  Forty-Nine: Set Me Free

  Coda: KY

  Acknowledgments—A.K.A. Blessings of 2016

  Discussion Questions

  About the Author

  Prelude

  I’m not ready for this.

  My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

  He shouts, “Hold on!”

  But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

  I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

  His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

  The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

  I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

  His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

  So my fingers splay.

  I let go.

  ACT I

  What Once Was Mine

  ONE

  Gleam and Glow

  Gasp. Ugh. Crud. Drat. Blerg. “Crowe!”

  The Second Reflection curse spews from my mouth as I spring from the cushy armchair in the most deserted corner of the castle library. Books and journals fall from my lap and crash to the hardwood floor. My insides cringe. Mom would have a fit if she knew I abandoned a pile of precious tomes lying open-faced and underfoot. But the clock on the wall behind me warns I’m beyond late.

  Of all the days to fall asleep studying. What a way to begin the first day of the rest of my life.

  I hop on one foot and then the other in my classic dance to get my Converse on. I almost—but don’t quite—trip over the book mound. Then I’m lifting the skirt of my now-wrinkled taffeta gown and sprinting from the library. No time to run to my suite and exchange my footwear for something more appropriate. At least I’m in my dress already. Thank the Verity it’s too late to change into the shoes Mom selected. High heels, I’m convinced, are a creation of the Void and intended only to torture my poor unfortunate soles.

  The white-walled halls are abandoned and my muted steps amp my anxiety. Is this what getting cold feet feels like? My face burns and then freezes. My ears ring and my chest just might explode. I need to get out more. All these late nights perusing tomes older than Beethoven’s Fifth may be getting me closer to my goal, but the downside is I’m totally out of shape. The farther I run, the louder my heart pounds because—oh crud—everyone is already in the throne room.

  Everyone except the guest of honor.

  Everyone except me.

  Why did the library have to be in a completely opposite wing?

  One corner, then another, a long hall and two short ones. I pass frosted window after frosted window. When I veer closer to the panes, the faintest image of me stares back, the crimson mirrormark climbing up the right side of my face in vines of song and melody. My fingertips trace the notes, admiring the seal of my Calling I once found so repulsive. Then I peer past it, see through the glass to the Reflection beyond.

  Something inside longs to escape these walls and bask in the freedom of snowball fights and sleigh rides. But not here, in this all-too-quiet place. No, the place I yearn for bustles with cab horns and— Wait. Did I make a wrong turn?

  Ugh, some queen I’ll turn out to be. I can’t even focus long enough to navigate my way through my own castle. I miss the simplicity of my brownstone. Of New York’s structured grid. Impossible to get lost. Familiar. Home.

  And then I hear it. The low murmur that accompanies a crowd. A crowd waiting for me.

  Stop. Deep breath. Straighten shoulders. Blink. Gulp. Act like the eighteen-year-old queen they expect and not the terrified little girl trembling within.

  When I round the next corner at the hall’s end, I’m there. The scent of roasted chestnuts draws me in. A few feet ahead, one of five tiers of balconies awaits. I’m on the lowest tier so I don’t have far to go. I walk with as much regality as I can muster, all at once feeling like a fraud with my non-updoed hair and secret sneakers.

  Once atop the grand staircase I pause. This is the part where everyone is supposed to gasp in awe at the beautiful Cinder girl about to descend the steps. And indeed, the guests do cease their chatter. Everyone stares. A chill that has nothing to do with the season wraps me. I twist the white gold engagement ring Joshua gave me around my finger as a jumble of doubts flurries through my brain.

  Disappointment.

  Phony.

  Imposter.

  But then a stirring takes residence inside me, like a warm blanket encompassing my entire being. In an instant I recognize it as the Verity. An unfathomable confidence that is beyond out of character. I lift my fingertips, grazing the purple ends of my mocha hair—a tassel to show I stand with the Verity. I lower my hand, smile, and descend the staircase with all the poise of a prom queen.

  Toe, heel, toe, heel.

  Chin up.

  Shoulders back.

  Green has overtaken every arch and pillar, the space transformed into an enchanted wood. Fresh pine garlands deck the railings, and hundreds of tea lights gleam and glow on sills and ledges. All eyes attend me, but mine lock on two.

  Even from across the throne room the sight of him sends my stomach butterflies into a frenzy. His strong jaw works, lifting his stubble-surrounded lips into a crooked smile. Barely twenty-one, but he holds so much wisdom behind his cerulean gaze. He combs his fingers through his dark hair, then folds his hands in front of him. Waiting for the only one in the entire room I know he sees.

  The acoustic quartet to my left plays a Celtic waltz, and I find myself striding in time to the tempo. The familiar sound is oxygen to my soul. Tables crafted from tree stumps sprout beneath the high arched windows on either side of the throne room. Wreaths and moss encircle tea light–filled jars at the table centers. Pine boughs twist around the marble columns supporting the five tiers of balconies above. White globe lights blink at me from the balcony railings, perfectly in sync with the music’s elegant tempo. Paper lanterns dangle in a zigzag fashion between tiers, their hearts beating with the light of the Maple Mine Fairies.

  The Second Reflection residents watch as I glide toward the dais. Toward him. I tilt my head back and a gasp escapes. Even the artwork on the painted dome ceiling has been freshened, the broad strokes and swirling colors more vibrant than ever. The four-tiered chandelier sends beads of colored light in every direction. I think of my favorite line from Annie as I glide across the cherrywood floor, all polished and Chrysler Building shiny. Miss Hannigan would be so proud.

  The scents of cinnamon and pinewood welcome me in, and I suddenly find myself aching for a cup of hot cider. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Regina Reeves. She is in charge of the kitchen staff, after all. She’s known Mom since she was a girl, and she acted as midwife when Mom was in labor, so Reggie (and I’m the only one who calls her that) has a soft spot for me. Though she bears no Calling, she refers to herself as my “fairy godmother” and insists my desire is her command. Even if cider isn’t being served, she’ll bring some if I ask.

  When I reach the bottom dais step, Joshua David extends a hand. This is it. The moment I’ve waited for since I took on the Verity two months ago. I’m ready, but I’m also not. What if I can’t do this? What if I can’t— ?

  But then Joshua’s broad hand covers my smallish one. And like the soothing of the Verity, his touch assures me everything is going to be just fine. His gaze holds mine as he lifts my hand and caresses my knuckles with
his lips, brushing more than my skin with his not-so-innocent touch. The dark stubble on his upper lip scratches, but I don’t mind. For an instant I forget everything but this. Each heartstring pluck, pluck, plucks. “More,” they seem to sing.

  More.

  This is right. This is real. I can do this.

  Joshua winks and I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

  The quartet ceases as he guides me in a wide arc just as we rehearsed yesterday. The toe of my sneaker catches my dress hem. My eyes close and I prepare for the rrrriiiipppp that’s sure to follow. But, as always, Joshua is one step ahead. Steadying me. Saving me from a royal faux pas.

  When we’re both facing forward, he releases my hand and I let it fall to my side. It takes everything in me to keep from clenching my sweaty palms into anxious fists. I think of what Mom always told me when I’d get nervous in a school play.

  “Find me. Even if everyone in the audience is frowning, I’ll give you the smile to keep you going.”

  It takes me all of two seconds to spot her, off to one side, Makai Archer’s arms wrapped loosely around her growing belly. His gray-streaked charcoal hair is now long enough to gather into a ponytail. I shake my head, and a smile creeps to my cheeks. As a pair their contrast is undeniable. He’s Bogart to her Bergman. An unlikely match, yet it’s impossible to picture one without the other anymore.

  Mom’s brown eyes twinkle and the creases around her smile deepen. She offers an encouraging nod and I return the gesture. Inhale. Face the people once more.

  “People of the Second,” Joshua’s voice booms. “On this, the twenty-fifth day of the First Month, I, Joshua David Henry, being of sound mind and valiant heart, do relinquish this here crown and bestow it upon the rightful ruler of the Second.” Joshua removes the mirrorglass circlet at his temples. The same crown his father, King Aidan, wore before Jasyn Crowe took over. A diadem, I’m told, that would’ve weakened Jasyn had he tried to wear it. The reverse effect of mirrorglass would’ve counteracted the darkness within him. Put a cap on the Void’s power like the Confine on an under-eighteen soul.

 
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