Welcome to the book blitz for GIFTED (Awakening), a young adult scifi/paranormal novel by John R. Sankovich. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on his giveaway.
About the Book
Title: GIFTED: Awakening
Author: John R. Sankovich
Release Date: April 20, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
The supernaturally-gifted Followers will kill anyone unwilling to use their powers to find their leader. The self-righteous Trinity, led by a man named Ulysses, won’t stop until all supernaturally-gifted people are dead. Sixteen year old telekinetic Rebecca Stevens is stuck in the middle of their war.
When her mother dies in a Follower attack and her father mysteriously disappears, Rebecca is left with only the guilt that, had she known how to safely use her swelling telekinetic ability, she might have saved them. Staying hidden is impossible once her brother, who hides his power, pledges his loyalty to Trinity. With both sides knowing of her power, she must navigate the battlefield between the two groups. As Ulysses’ power expands, The Follower’s numbers grow, and violent clashes threaten to tear apart the city. Rebecca’s only hope to stop them both is to master her ability before it’s too late to save anyone.
Rebecca Stevens stared at the crate twenty yards away; the breeze blew her hair across her eyes. The weight of the railroad spike hovering nearby rested on her mind. The sensation of a foreign object inside her head quickened her pulse like always. At her command the spike spun. Her skill had improved over the past months, during her very limited practice time, but one thing remained constant; if she didn’t manage her emotions she lost any sort of accuracy. Perfect concentration was required, and she hardly ever achieved that.
With her energy focused, sweat ran down her back and neck. A stiff wind chilled her cheek and rattled the nearby trees. A twig snapped and she glanced toward the sound. A dog stood in the clearing, its brown eyes studying her. At least he wouldn’t give away her secret.
A tingle intensified in her fingertips to the point of triggering an adrenaline rush, and she flung the spike toward the target. With a whoosh, the spike nailed the target a bit to the left. The wood box splintered, the crack of the wood echoed, and birds scattered from the nearby trees and the dog barked once before his escape. The spike drove into the ground, out of sight, behind a puff of dirt, as the force propelled it deep. Someone shouted in the distance, and she bolted toward the cover of the trees. She hid in the shadows of the trees like a criminal. Her body shook from the telekinetic exertion and with someone hearing the sound, they would come investigate. She needed to get out of here.
Her hands quivered and she knelt on the hard soil to calm her twitchy nerves. She hated the weakness in her stomach after every use of her power, but her instincts nagged her to practice. The control would get easier. It had to.
She dug into her backpack slung over a tree branch, and pulled out her cell phone. She had two text messages from her dad, both telling her to get home for dinner. She replied she was at the library and hurried through the forest as the sun set behind her. Her dad, they mayor of Peakside, would never understand what she was doing. He had been under constant pressure to do something about the growing voice of the public about people with powers. Her father kept to himself, but she knew he felt the burden. She hoped he would do the right thing; whatever that was. Maybe someday she would trust someone with her secret, but so far she couldn’t. The world wouldn’t allow her to.
At the edge of the woods, she scanned the adjacent street. Night crept in as the sun fell behind the horizon. Shadows reached forward like prying fingers as gloom surrounded her. A familiar loneliness fell upon her. A few porch lights dotted the neighborhood. In the distance, a dog howled. She hiked up her backpack and ran. Darkness scared her; she didn’t know why, but every time she was alone in the dark her nerves twisted into knots.
A pair of young men sat in a dark car near the forest. Smoke billowed up from the driver’s side when one of them opened his door. Did she see a flicker of fire on his arm? She looked away.
“Hey, girlie, you seen my dog?” the man called out. His voice had a raspy sound to it like he suffered from smokers’ cough. “It’s a small puppy.”
Rebecca glanced back at him, but didn’t offer an answer. In the pocket of her sweatshirt, she clenched her fists; a faint energy pulsed in her arms.
“You too good to answer me?” the man yelled.
The car door slammed and the engine revved. They were after her. Fear shot through her veins, and she didn’t have time to give it a second thought. With them already in the car, she didn’t want to risk her life to stop them. She didn’t even know if she could stop them if she tried. She knew she could move small objects like her laptop and the railroad spike, but the heaviest thing she had moved with her mind was the washing machine, but a car, she couldn’t fathom doing that while she escaped.
Rebecca bolted toward the corner and hooked around. She hoped to put some distance between them. Her sneakers slapped against the pavement, still three blocks away from her house. Tired from her telekinetic training session, her body revolted–cramps hit her legs and she almost collapsed. She couldn’t outrun them, so she frantically searched the neighborhood for a place to hide. The first fence she came to, she scrambled over, and landed next to a tree. Her throat burned. Her chest heaved.
Rebecca peered through the thin slats in the fence, but no one came by. Maybe she’d overreacted. She lowered her sweaty head. The cool night sent a chill down her back. Her telekinesis curled around her like a scarf and she closed her eyes, comforted.
Her breath caught, at the squeak of a door. Behind her, a man stood on the porch in a white tank top. A cigarette dangled from his lip, the embers illuminated his face in orange shadows. She clenched the edge of the fence, ready to bolt again.
The porch light came alive. “Rebecca, what are you doing in my yard? Is everything okay?”
Relief swelled in her. Her science teacher, Mr. Randolph, greeted her with a smile. He was a nice guy who always joked with the class and one of the few people who had chosen neutrality in the whole gifted person versus civilian debate.
“I thought some guys were after me, but I think I’ve lost them.” Rebecca fought back a tremble.
“Really?” His plump face squished with concern. He scanned the street beyond his fence. “Come inside. We’ll call your parents.”
“Thank you.” She brushed away some of the twigs caught between the strands of her hair.
Mr. Randolph smashed his cigarette under his foot. “Sorry, bad habit.”
She followed him inside and stole a quick glance back into the street beyond his fence and didn’t see any sign of her pursuers. The warmth of the house soaked into her bones and the fear vanished. She trusted the teacher as much as she could trust anyone. Luck was on her side tonight.
“The phone’s on the counter.” He locked the door behind him.
She dialed her house. Her father picked up right away. “Dad, I’m sorry.”
“Rebecca, where the hell are you? I thought I told you to be home before dark,” her father said.
She knew this was coming. “I’m three blocks down the street. I thought someone was chasing me.”
“Chasing you? Are you okay? What happened? I’ll call Patrick.”
“No I’m fine, and I’m not sure I could tell Patrick much as it’s dark and I couldn’t see them that well. I’m at Mr. Randolph’s house, you know, my science teacher you met him last semester.”
“Let me talk to Mr. Randolph.”
“He wants to talk to you,” Rebecca said. She mouthed her apology and Mr. Randolph smiled.
She handed the phone to Mr. Randolph, who finished pouring himself a cup of coffee before taking the receiver. She slumped against the doorway and examined her ragged nails.
“Yes, she’s fine. I found her in my yard.” Mr. Randolph took a sip. A smile creased his lips. “I understand. Would you like me to bring her home?” He nodded. “No, of course. She won’t leave here until he arrives. You have my word.” Mr. Randolph hung up the phone. “Someone will be here soon.”
“Sorry about that.”
“No problem. He’s concerned you were hurt. I was the same way with my daughter when she was your age. Make yourself comfortable while you’re here.”
She didn’t recall him mentioning his daughter ever before. She strolled into the living room and examined the pictures hung along the walls. His daughter sat on a younger Mr. Randolph’s lap in a family portrait. The living room furniture seemed old, but still in good shape. The lack of a television surprised her.
He carried a satchel into the room and tossed it on the coffee table. It slapped against the wood and she jumped. Rubbing her hands up and down her arms seemed to help calm her frayed nerves a little. “You’re father seems like a good man.”
“Yeah, he has his moments,” she said.
He took another sip from his mug before he unsnapped the satchel. “You can have a seat while you wait. I’m just grading some papers.”
A car horn honked and she headed for the door. “That’s him. Thank you again. I don’t know what I would’ve done if they’d caught me.”
He flashed a genuine smile. “You’re a smart girl. You would’ve thought of something.”
He stood to let her out, but she’d already opened the door. “I’ll see you Tuesday. Enjoy the three day weekend.”
She hurried to the car and stopped at the sight of her father’s head of security, Eric. He frowned at her. “We need to talk.”
“I’m sorry.” She slid onto the passenger seat. “I lost track of time.”
“I thought we made a deal that you would call me to pick you up when you were ready,” he said and backed out of the driveway. Eric had worked for her father for over a decade—he was family.
“I thought I’d make it before dark.” She slumped down in the seat.
“Let’s not do this again. You know since the kid with those water powers was murdered, things have gotten a bit crazy around here. Your father needs to know you’re safe.”
She cringed and shook her head; she loved her father and felt bad because of her secret. With the way she heard him talk to the other politicians, things were going to get worse for gifted people. She feared the idea she’d overheard; they were trying to figure out a way to track people with powers. She imagined a barcode or something embedded in her skin. The thought made her squirm.
“I promise I’ll never do it again.” A promise she didn’t intend to keep, but if Eric told her father that, it would make him feel better, which put her mind at ease a little bit.
“There was another attack tonight. The rumor is it’s the group of people who follow the Collector guy again,” he said. “Twelve people dead. Nine of them kids.” This wasn’t a scare tactic. He wanted her to know what sort of situation her father dealt with tonight.
Eric always kept Rebecca updated on current happenings. The knowledge made her feel better, even though it was primarily violent news.
Rebecca lowered her head to hide her frustration. Things were worse for people like her, all because of some fruitcake who lead a bunch of gifted people on a crime spree. Her telekinesis tingled in her stomach at the change of her mood. She swallowed the anger and gazed out the window. She didn’t have anyone to talk to because everyone in her family was normal, unless her father’s way to deal with stress was a super power. Despite how dire things had gotten, he always remained calm and collected, except when it came to her. That was a surefire way for him to lose it. She didn’t enjoy the special attention when it came to her. Alex, her brother, got away with everything. Suppressing her guilt, she let out a shaky groan.
As Eric pulled into the driveway, Tony, her father’s other security guard, awaited them in front of the two story Victorian house. News vans lined the street outside and as they pulled up, the reporters mobbed the car. Their words blurred into one large rumble. Over the years she grew accustomed to ignore their inquiries, but lately, their questions about people with powers were hard to avoid. Each one stung like a dagger of accusation.
“Sorry about this,” Eric didn’t have to apologize; she knew it came with the territory of the mayor’s daughter, after all. She’d been around it for the past five years.
Tony, a monster of a man, shoved his way through to the passenger door and opened it for her. Tony pulled Rebecca inside the house where the reporter’s questions were snipped off by the stark slam of the door.
Inside the foyer, her father sat in his overstuffed chair, a large pile of papers stacked on his lap. Natilee, his personal assistant, came from the back room. Her black pants suit was well pressed and her brown hair was tied up in a tight bun that made the throbbing veins at her temple more visible. She didn’t handle stress nearly as well as her father. Rebecca learned quickly how to tell what sort of mood Natilee was in by a glance at her temple. If it fluttered like a hummingbird, keep your conversation short; if it was steady then she was approachable. She smiled at Rebecca and then turned back to her father.
“I’m sorry, Dad.” She swallowed and focused on remaining calm. She needed to keep the blaze of emotions in check, so no surprises with her gift would happen.
“These are signed.” Her father handed the papers to Natilee and she hurried toward the back of the house. He made his intentions clear, time with his family was more important than work and Natilee’s respect for the rule allowed her to keep her job longer than any of the other assistants.
“Becca, come here.” Her father removed his glasses and leaned forward in his chair. His brow creased as he rubbed his temples. “It’s okay. I’m sorry I flipped out. Things are a bit out of control as you can see.” Her father waved his hand toward the window absentmindedly.
Her mother rushed into the living room. “Honey, are you all right? Your dad said you were chased.” She pulled Rebecca into an embrace. Having her close was comforting. She gave her mother a quick squeeze back and pulled away. The scent of strawberries filled her head and she smiled.
Eric, who had escorted Rebecca’s mother in from the kitchen, went to his post by the front door.
“I’ve called Patrick. He’ll stop by after dinner. You don’t need to worry. He understands,” her mother said. A buzzer went off from the kitchen and her mother hesitated. She frowned. “Dinner’s in the oven.” She zipped off without another word.
Rebecca set her backpack on the couch and sat next to it. She leaned forward on the plush couch positioned directly across from her father. The idea of revealing her ability to him crossed her mind, but she sighed instead. There was no way he would understand. The oak table sat between them, and the reflection of the few red embers in the fireplace glowed with occasional pops of life. She fidgeted with the strings of her sweatshirt as his brown-eyed glare bore into her until she finally met his stare. Her mother was always there for her, but her father was the one she respected.
“Where were you?” His voice remained calm and inviting, which was never a good sign. Always under control, the tone of his voice made it clear that he meant business. The world could collapse around him and he would keep everyone else composed. She admired his ability to remain calm, while she felt like insects crawled around inside her at the first sign of chaos.
“At the library, studying.” She kept her eyes up. No backing down from his gaze, it would only give him a reason to think she lied.
“No, you weren’t. I checked there when the attack at the after school center happened. Want to try again?” He searched her face.
“Um…” She cracked and he noticed. His eyebrows rose briefly. She should have never tried to get one over on him. Too late to backtrack now, she needed to keep up her facade.
“I’m going to love you no matter where you were, so tell me, where were you?” He moved from the chair and sat next to her. He rested his hand on top of her fidgeting hands and they came to a stop. His warmth spread through her like a storm front and she blinked back the anguish. She wanted to tell him everything, but her mouth refused to spit out the words.
“I went for a walk through the forest. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but…“ Rebecca stopped. He held her hands tight as she twitched to break free.
“It’s okay. You’re sixteen, and going through a lot of teenage stuff. Please don’t lie to me. I can’t protect you if you do.” He pulled her closer and kissed her forehead. “I love you.”
The stubble on his chin scratched her nose. “I love you too, Dad.”
“Now get upstairs and wash up for dinner.” He stood. “Natilee?”
Natilee appeared from another room a moment later, a cell phone in one hand and another pile of paperwork under her other arm. Rebecca stood to leave.
“The press wants a statement.” Natilee said, as Rebecca brushed by. The vein at her temple was calm, finally, and her hazel eyes glimmered a bit like she had recently been crying. Had she heard their conversation? Why would she care?
Her father glanced out the window. “I’ll tell them what I know, which isn’t much.”
“Yes, dear?” He faced Rebecca and for the first time, he seemed to be beaten down by the way things were going.
“Upstairs, probably on the phone with Yasmine.” He turned back to the window. Natilee handed him the phone.
“It’s the national media.” Natilee’s eyes glimmered for a moment, which stopped Rebecca short, but then she told herself what she had seen was nothing more than the reflection of the fire.
About the Author
Even as a young child I was always conjuring up stories and filling them with colorful characters, sharing them with anyone and everyone who would listen. Since then, I’ve progressed quite a bit to formulating longer and more complex stories and sharing them with much larger audiences.
When I’m not writing, I’m an avid Carolina Panther fan, video game player, and a Walking Dead aficionado.
I wouldn’t be able to do this with the support of my family, wife, two daughters, and son. Along with our zoo at home with 3 dogs, 3 frogs, a turtle, leopard gecko, sugar glider, a cat, and numerous fish. You might be surprised that with all these possible distractions, I still manage to write on a daily basis..
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