The blog tour for Aussie author Vanessa Garden’s début is stopping by today, and I have an awesome excerpt to share with you! Captivate will be available in the new year at all great bookstores:Captivate by Vanessa Garden
Published: January 1st 2014 by HarlequinTeen
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
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In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems...
For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.
Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko...the King of this underwater civilisation.
Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets...
Excerpt from Captivate
My eyelids felt heavy, as though cemented shut, and when I finally managed to crack them open I saw a strange hazy vision. Little shiny things, like stars, twinkled above me. After I blinked and looked again they all began to spin around my head.
It made me nauseous so I closed my eyes, but not before catching sight of several faces looking down at me. The faces were carved in wood, but they seemed real somehow, fluid, swirling around me just like the stars.
The second time I came to, it was like being woken up with a twenty tonne punch to the head, slamming home recollections of Lauren, the water, and the man.
My eyes popped open and my body jolted, my head jerking about while I grasped my surroundings.
High stone walls and a stone ceiling formed a large rectangular room around me. I was in a king-sized, fourposter bed and the wooden faces that had swirled about my head earlier were carvings of fishes, mermaids and mermen all twisting and spiralling around the bed posts as if being pulled upwards by a current. My eyes followed them right up to the roof of the bed, where gleaming pearls encrusted in smooth wooden panels winked at me through strips of white silk.
Although my body was damp with sweat, I shivered convulsively. Nothing made sense—this room, this fairytale bed. I needed to find Lauren. I needed to get back to the shack. Slowly, I inched myself into sitting position, the act making my head thump.
Somebody across the room cleared their throat.
It was a guy, seated in a wooden chair a few metres away, his features shadowed by the dim lighting. He yawned and rubbed at his face, his hands making a scratchy sound against his jaw. Then he raised his head to glance in my direction and sprung from the chair, as if somebody had tipped a bucket of cold water down his back.
‘Who are you? Where’s Lauren?’ I asked, hot blood pounding in my ears. My hands instinctively formed fists, which I kept at my chest, ready.
‘You’re okay,’ he said breathlessly, and with relief, as he rushed to my side.
The stranger was tall, had wavy, light-brown hair and the sort of face that made me want to trust him. But something about his overall appearance wasn’t right. Although he seemed healthy enough—his chest was broad and I could see the outline of huge biceps below his shirt sleeves—his skin was abnormally chalk-white, as though he hadn’t seen the sun in a long time. Like, never.
Goosebumps prickled my skin.
When he leaned over me, I caught the stinging scent of sea salt.
‘I’m just going to have a look at you.’ His voice, although deep, had a gentle undertone. But it did little to put me at ease.
‘Who are you? Where am I?’
‘This will only take a minute,’ he said, ignoring my questions, before peeling back the covers to expose my bather-clad body.
I gasped and shrank back into the pillow, my hands fumbling to shield as much as they could.
His dark-brown eyes, the pupils dilated in the dimness of the room, swept from the tips of my toes up to my face in an almost doctor-like manner, not even bothering to linger on the parts most boys would spend an extra second or two on. But when he met my eyes, he held his breath and stared into them for what seemed an eternity before he exhaled softly and drew back.
I clawed at the bedcovers until they were up to my neck again.
‘Where’s my sister? Who are you?’
‘Just one more thing left to do, then I’ll leave you to rest.’
He grimaced apologetically, rubbing his hands together.
‘Sorry, my hands are cold.’
‘Don’t touch me!’ I scurried backwards, bedcovers clutched to my chest, until my spine hit the wooden headboard. ‘I don’t need rest. I need to get back to my sister and my grandparents. Right now!’
The mattress groaned beneath his weight as he sat on the edge of the bed and slowly inched forward. ‘This will be quick, I promise.’
By now my back had almost fused with the headboard. I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath, but gasped when warm fingers pressed firmly against the pulse in my neck. My eyes snapped open.
His lips were moving. He was counting.
‘Your pulse is fine,’ he said after a pause, sighing as though genuinely relieved. ‘You’re perfectly healthy.’
I slapped his hand away. The stranger’s eyes widened but he said nothing. He seemed nervous and unsure of what he was doing, or what he planned to do next. After an agonisingly long half a minute or so of silence, he brushed his palms against his thighs and leapt to his feet.
‘Would you like some water to drink?’
Though the inside of my mouth felt like carpet, I didn’t respond—I was too busy leafing through what little selfdefence I knew. Just because he hadn’t harmed me yet didn’t mean he wasn’t going to. ‘You’ve slept for a long time. The drugs should wear off soon, if not already.’
At the mention of drugs, my stomach clenched. I’d heard the horror stories about girls having roofies slipped into their drinks, and knew exactly what went on while those poor girls were passed out. I reached down and groped my bare flesh for any kind of bruising, but my arms, the insides of my legs and stomach felt okay as far as I could tell.
The guy paced the floors for a few minutes before he stopped at the foot of the bed and rested an arm against one of the ornately carved posts.
He drew in a deep breath and studied the wooden mermaids, somewhat reluctantly resting his eyes on me, the corners of his mouth twitching in a possible attempt at smiling as he exhaled.
‘So, what’s your name?’ His low voice came out an octave or two higher, as though he was trying to sound pleasant and unthreatening. But I remained silent and didn’t move a muscle, not even to breathe. The only conversation I wanted to have was of the get-me-the-hell-out-of-here variety.
He bowed his head and swore to himself, retreating into the shadowy corner of the room where he’d sat earlier.
I watched him, my eyes travelling down his broad back and following the length of his denim-clad legs right down to the long black boots he wore—boots with daggers strapped to them. Although he seemed roughly the same age as me, give or take a year, he outdid me in height and weaponry.
Despite my resolve to remain silent, a question burst from my lips.
‘How long have I been here?’
Captivate is published in Australia by Harlequin, and will be available from January 2014 in all good bookstores and online. My thanks to Vanessa Garden for providing an excerpt, and to Harlequin AU for organising an amazing blog tour! Check out the rest of the tour stops here.