Inara Scott is the author of a YA series, but she isn’t sure what to call it anymore. See, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates was released in August 2010, from Disney-Hyperion. It was a lovely little book, and book 2 in the series, Delcroix Academy: The Watchers, was all ready to be released a year later. They made a cover. They printed ARCs.
But then The Mouse decided Inara’s little book deserved NEW covers and NEW titles to celebrate its fabulousness. (Seriously, I think she believes that!) And nothing works quickly in publishing so this pushed out the release date for the paperback of The Candidates (which is now The Talents, coming March 2012) and The Watchers (which is now The Marked, coming April 2012).
Confused yet? Yeah, right, okay, whatever. Anyway, forget all that. Book Two in Dancia’s story will be released someday. You can preorder it here and by all means, please mark it TBR so The Mouse knows how much you love and adore Inara (You do, right? Seriously, did you get that thing she sent in the mail for you? Really, it’s not a bribe. Well, maybe a little one. But don’t tell anyone, okay?).
In the meantime, Inara will be giving away all sorts of ARCs and releasing additional content on her website, Facebook page and if you’re not careful, Twitter. And the fun begins TODAY with the answer to the question you’ve all been asking:
WHAT HAPPENED TO JACK?
Yeah, yeah, we know the story’s about Dancia, and she’s smart and tough and has wicked cool powers. But what readers really want to know is what happened to Jack?! So, here’s that exclusive content. For one day only, a prequel to The Marked (The Watchers, whatever!!!), that occurs days after the end of The Candidates (The Talents – WHATEVER!!)…
I was used to running—and hiding. I’d been practicing since I was a kid, when it was my mom and me running, and the one we were hiding from was my dad. But this was different. These people knew how to track. Every time I thought I’d lost them, a new, suited figure would appear, casually scanning the street. Or there would be a woman sitting at the edge of a park, pretending to be reading a book, but never glancing down at her hands.
A teenager studying the crowd at the mall.
An older man, his hand resting at his hip.
Watching. Waiting for me to slip up, make a mistake.
With no way to earn any money and no one to ask for help, I resorted to robbing convenience stores. I hated doing that, though not because I had any compunction about breaking the law. Let me tell you, I lost that a long time ago. No, I hated stealing because it drew attention. Even those idiots at the 7-11 had some kind of direct line to the local TV news. And they had cameras. There were always cameras.
Eventually, I decided to head down I-5 to Portland. I thought I’d try hitching, but that made me feel too exposed, so I got off the highway and stole a car from a motel. That worked better but then I had to watch out for the cops and the Delcroix thugs. I ditched the car a few miles outside of Portland, and walked the rest of the way into town. At least once I was there I figured I could get some help. My old gang wasn’t pretty, but they knew how to hide someone.
I refused to use my freak-power. I don’t know how they tracked it, but it seemed the moment I flexed my mental muscles, their snipers popped up all around me.
I ended up in Portland on a hot, sunny day. I knew most of the gang would be downtown or by one of the bridges, but those spaces were too public, especially when the weather was nice. Instead, I walked down the paved path that ran along the east side of the Willamette River. When I was several miles from downtown, I followed a footpath into the wooded area between the path and the river. It was quiet there, with only the whir of bike tires on the path and the distant sound of a boat on the river breaking the silence. I walked past the remnants of an old campfire, and skirted a pile of garbage. Homeless camp.
Been there done that.
When I got closer to the water, I found an overturned log and sat on top of it. I wished I had brought a water bottle, or some food. My stomach rumbled and my head spun a little. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a full meal.
Now that I’d stopped moving, the hopelessness of my situation finally hit. What was I going to do next? Rob a bank? Head for Mexico? Their snoops could find me there. They could find me anywhere.
For a moment, the image of a girl with curly blonde hair and piercing blue eyes filled my mind. I wondered what she was doing. I wondered if she missed me.
I wondered if she was with him.
Without realizing, I’d made my hand into a fist. I released it and told myself to forget about her.
“You alone down there?” a voice called out behind me.
I jumped, so startled by the intrusion that I almost fell off the tree. The guy approaching me was beefy, with thick biceps that strained the edges of his faded red t-shirt. His face was round and soft, and in another setting I might have guessed he was friendly. Maybe even kind. But then I saw the intensity radiating from his eyes.
Nothing friendly about that.
I forced myself not to react visibly, but every muscle in my body tensed.
“Yeah,” I said. “What’s it to you?”
He ambled over and extended a large, meaty hand. “I’m Thaddeus.”
He gave me a firm shake, but I had the feeling if he wanted, he could have swung me around in the air like a toy. He dropped my hand and turned to the river. A thick layer of brush, blackberry brambles, and cottonwood trees blocked our view, but the sun reflecting off the water sparkled through holes in the foliage.
“Bet you’re hungry,” he said.
I stared at his broad back. “What makes you think that?” My heart started to pound. Was he one of them? Without moving, I began to draw in energy from the world around me, feeling it crackle in my chest.
“I wouldn’t,” he said. “The others are right behind me. They won’t appreciate it if you try something.”
Did he know what I was doing, or was that simply a really good guess? I supposed it didn’t matter; I redoubled my efforts, and then imagined the coil of air looping around his neck.
“What could I do against you?” I scoffed. “You’re like, ten times bigger than me.”
Adrenaline and fear mixed together. After weeks of running, I was ready for a fight.
“Let’s not play games, Jack,” Thaddeus said. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the trunk of a tree. With an exhalation of breath, he squatted slightly and then stood, pulling the tree from the ground like picking a daisy. I heard cracking from somewhere at our feet, and a small collection of branches fell from the sky. Then he rotated the trunk in either direction, turning left and right, snapping and ripping whatever roots were holding the tree into place.
He was one of them. But why all this fuss? Why spend time proving his power? Why not simply kill me and be done with it?
“I won’t be watched,” I said flatly, coming to my feet. “I’d rather be dead.”
Thad nodded and tossed the tree to the side. It crashed through the underbrush, landing with an enormous thud. Then he turned back to me. He wiped his hands together and smiled. “I agree. I’ve come to give you a different alternative.”
And now that you’ve read the excerpt, you can enter to win a copy of The Marked. Details for the contest can be found here: http://inarascott.tumblr.com/.