(The Essential Elements, #1)
by Elle Middaugh
Publication date: February 27th 2016
Valerie Moore was a beautiful, headstrong girl with below-average social skills and above-average anxiety (including a flair for over-analyzing).With her mother long deceased, and her father recently deployed, she ends up being sent to live with her eccentric aunt in a tiny town nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania. But, being a Navy brat had made her into a bit of a loner, and making friends certainly wasn’t her strongest suit. As if the life of a typical teen wasn’t hard enough.But Valerie soon discovers she’s not a typical teenager. Not by a long shot.
SECRETS are revealed…
…About her family, about her newfound friends and relationships, and about her whole world… Things that have been kept from her for her entire life…
But the biggest secret of all is revealed when Valerie discovers that she has Elemental powers, and a chain of inexplicable and irrevocable events unleashes throughout the little town…
I stepped out, splashing my way toward that winding, battered road through the woods. Right away, a gentle peace slipped over me. All of my worries dissipated and not thinking kicked in on autopilot. I smiled wide and relished the showers that soaked me to the core.
It didn’t take long for the last quarter of the students to clear out.
The student lot was empty before I even lost sight of the school, and all the other walkers had trudged off in the opposite direction of where I was headed. Aunt Marge, and apparently the Landstons, lived in the West Woods, but the other ninety-nine percent of the population lived east, in town.
I hadn’t gotten more than a couple hundred yards from the school, though, when a rogue vehicle approached. I could hear the tires as they kicked up mist from the swampy road, and they were decelerating. A truck, I determined as I glanced discreetly behind. Adrenaline surged instinctually as panic flowed into my system.
It pulled up right beside me, midnight black and menacing, keeping my pace. When the passenger side window rolled down, my fight or flight instincts were a millisecond from kicking in.
But then he spoke. “You look like you need a ride.” All the fear flitted away, carried on the backs of a hundred tiny moths. His voice was like a haven for my weatherworn soul. I smiled on the inside as I glanced at him.
“Why ever would you think such a thing?”
He grinned and his emerald eyes sparkled. “Lucky guess?”
I clicked my tongue behind a smirk and stopped walking. The truck stopped, too. When I faced him fully, hands resting playfully on my hips, the smile dropped right off his face. Confused, I searched myself and my surroundings, but found nothing.
“You’re bleeding…” He threw the truck into park right in the middle of the road and rushed over to me. “Did this happen during the quake?” I realized the rain must’ve undammed the scab on my lip. Damn.
Cade’s fingers brushed my face softly as he searched for more damage. The feeling of his skin on my skin was more wonderful than I could’ve hoped. A kaleidoscope of delight burst through my veins and rained down in blissful anticipation. I shivered and turned away, but he followed my eyes. “Valerie! Did. This. Happen. During the quake?” The anger and apprehension in his voice were barely covered by a thin cloak of control, hardly noticeable through my lacy veil of elation. He gently trailed a thumb along my bruised cheekbone and slowly tucked a few flyaway strands of hair behind my ear.
I felt like we were standing at a ledge, teetering on the blustery edge of indecision, faltering in the face of the biggest ultimatum life had ever thrown at us. “Jump, or don’t jump,” life would snarkily say. “Either way, you might regret your choice, but you’ll never walk the path you didn’t take.” Because life was caustic and cryptic like that, I was certain.
I didn’t want to back away, to not jump, but I wasn’t ready to take the leap either. What I really wanted was to crawl over to the ledge and slowly ease down, feet first, preferably with a rope secured to my waist and a clear view of the hopefully shallow bottom.
I immediately thought of my parents, how they’d met and married within the span of a few short months. How in love they’d stayed until the day she died, and beyond. They were clearly unafraid of heights, and risks.
“No,” I said quietly. “It didn’t happen during the quake.”
“Oh thank god,” he whispered breathlessly as he dropped his hands from my face.
Confusion jerked my features into an immediate frown. “What were you hoping it was from?”
His hands curled through his now-sopping blond hair and he turned away, exhaling loudly. “I don’t know, Valerie. I was just…so afraid. So afraid that you had been hurt during…all of that.” He slowly disentangled his hands from his hair and stared at them, terrified. “I would have never forgiven myself.”
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Reading has been a favorite past time since Elementary School and choose-your-own-adventure books. Writing has been her dream since Middle School when she first began penning her own material. Being published is the most awesome achievement in her writing career so far, but she hopes for more exciting landmarks and stepping stones in the future!
She’s a proud Navy wife; a frazzle-brained mother; a homebody who dislikes cleaning; a fan of tennis, and fitness in general; a lover of hot tea, mountain dew, and all things fiction; and she’s a bigger My Little Pony fan than her children.