ONCE Excerpt

Time is dwindling down! There's just one month left until ONCE hits shelves on July 3rd. I used to think nothing could rival the first book coming out, but I'm even more excited to share this sequel with you. You'll learn so much about Eve's world, about the City of Sand and her connection to the King, about her relationship with Caleb and a future that always seems to elude them. There are some painful truths Eve must come to terms with. Truths about who she is, what she wants, and the restraints placed on her in this new society. It's hard to say anything about the second book without revealing something, but I did find one choice excerpt that doesn't reveal TOO much...  

This takes place about half way through the book. Eve has seen Caleb inside the City of Sand, and sneaks out of the Palace one night to meet him. Hope this morsel tides you over for the next month!


When I reached the seventh floor a bag sat waiting for me, as Caleb had promised. Inside was a Palace uniform. I changed quickly, pulling the cap over my eyes, and continued down the staircase. The stairs opened into a wide hallway, metal doors on either side. From one of the small windows I could see the Palace mall. The ceilings were painted blue, white spongy clouds stretching out across them. The shops were all closed, one reading TIME & AGAIN JEWELRY in fat letters, another GUCCI RESTORED. A soldier paced the length of the stores, his back to me. Two others stood watch at the revolving doors.

I moved down the wide hallway to the EXIT sign. The knob gave easily. Outside, the air was cooler, the wind covering everything with a fine layer of sand. The route Caleb had marked was just in front of me. Troops were stationed at the Palace's front entrance and along it's back. I could see them through the narrow trees, five soldiers huddled together, only occasionally glancing behind them. I took off, ducking behind the fountain, half covered by the high wall of shrubs.

I turned back every now and then to make sure the troops weren't following me. My insides were twisted and tense. I felt like someone was choking me. Clara had seen me. At this very moment, she could be waking the Palace from the top down, alerting the soldiers stationed on each floor. I kept my head low, calmed by each steady step. I was out, moving through the City, already on my way to Caleb. It was too late. What was done was done.

The streets were dark, the high buildings casting an eerie glow on the pavement. I heard the Jeeps patrolling the other end of the City center. High above me, windows were dotted with light. I crossed the overpass as the map showed, keeping close to the buildings on the other side. Dried-out palm trees lined the narrow street. A few of the buildings still hadn't been restored. A restaurant sat abandoned, tables and chairs gray with dust.

Every time I heard a Jeep on the street beside me, the map would show a turn, and I would head in the opposite direction, the noise of the engine fading into the background. The building Caleb had marked was nearly a mile east of the monorail, the entrance in an alleyway behind a theater. As I neared it my steps were lighter, my body floating along, every ince of me awake and alive.

The alley was empty, the air thick with the smells of rotting garbage. I entered through a door marked on the map. Inside it was pitch black. I felt my way along the wall and down a narrow set of stairs, into the building's underbelly. Smoke lingered in the hall. Somewhere, someone was singing. The murmurs of faraway voices swirled around me. I crept along, Stumbling over the last few steps, until I was at the bottom of the staircase, in front of another door.

A woman was on stage, clad in a silver-sequined gown, a three-person band behind her. She sang into a microphone like the one the King had used at the parade. A sad, slow song drifted to the back of the room. A man on a saxophone leaned forward, adding a few low notes. Couples spun around on a cramped dance floor, a woman nuzzling her face into a man's neck as he shifted his weight back and forth, his hips sway in time with the music. Others huddled in cozy booths, laughing over half-empty glasses.

The walls were covered with painted canvases. One showed the City's buildings dotted with blood red lights, making each skyscraper look sinister. A massive painting hung behind the bar. Rows of children Were shown in crisp white shirts and blue shorts just like the ones the Golden Generation wore, but their faces were flat and featureless, each one interchangeable with the next. I scanned every person in the room, looking for Caleb at the bar, or in the pack of men huddled by the door. In the back, to the right of the stage, a figure sat alone in a booth. His face was hidden under the brim of his cap. He was twisting something between his fingers, lost in quiet concentration.

The song ended. The woman in the sequined dress introduced some of the band members and made a joke. A few people behind me laughed. I stood rooted in place, watching him play with the paper napkin, How he bit down hard on his bottom lip. Suddenly, as if sensing me there, he looked up, his gaze meeting mine. He stared at me for a moment, his face brightening in a smile.

Then he was up, closing the space between us. As the woman started singing again, he reached me, pressing his face into my neck. He wrapped his arms tightly around my shoulders, pulling me so close my feet lifted off the ground. We stayed there as the music swelled around us, our bodies fitting together perfectly, as though they were never meant to be apart.