ebook

Breathless: The Elemental Series #2.5

Brigid Kemmerer

ISBN 9780758285539
Publish Date 4/30/2013
Format ePub
Categories Young Adult, E-only, E-Shortz

“The series that YA fans have been waiting for.” —Nocturne Reads

Too many secrets. Not enough time.

Nick Merrick is supposed to be the level-headed one. The peacemaker. Since it’s just him and his three hotheaded brothers against the world, that’s a survival tactic.

But now he’s got problems even his brothers can’t help him survive.

His so-called girlfriend, Quinn, is going quick as mercury from daring to crazy. Meanwhile, Quinn’s dancer friend Adam is throwing Nick off balance, forcing him to recognize a truth he’d rather shove back into the dark.

He can feel it—the atmosphere is sizzling. Danger is on the way. But whatever happens next, Nick is starting to find out—sometimes nothing you do can keep the peace.

Praise for Brigid Kemmerer and The Elemental Series

“Magic, suspense, and enough twists to keep you reading until sunrise. An incredible start to the series!” —Award winning author Erica O’Rourke

“A refreshingly human paranormal romance… Read fast and keep that heart rate up.” —Kirkus Reviews on Storm

About Brigid Kemmerer:

Brigid Kemmerer was born in Omaha, Nebraska, though her parents quickly moved her all over the United States, from the desert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the lakeside in Cleveland, Ohio, and several stops in between, eventually settling near Annapolis, Maryland. Brigid started writing in high school, and her first real “novel” was about four vampire brothers causing a ruckus in the suburbs. Those four brothers are the same boys living in the pages of The Elemental Series, so Brigid likes to say she’s had four teenage boys taking up space in her head for the last seventeen years.

While writing STORM, which focuses on the brother who has the power to control water, Brigid’s personal life ironically was plagued by water problems: Flooded basement. Leaking roof. Broken faucet causing water to spray under kitchen cabinets. One bay window was so damaged by water it almost fell off the side of the house. Considering SPARK, book 2 in the series, is about the brother who controls fire, Brigid is currently making sure all the smoke detectors in her house have batteries!



Chapter One

Nick Merrick sat on his bed and ran his thumb along the

edge of the sealed envelope.

He didn’t want to open it.

He probably didn’t need to. It was thin, and thin letters from universities typically meant one thing: rejection.

It wasn’t his first-choice school anyway. He’d applied at University of Maryland because they had a solid physics program and it was an in-state school. If they rejected him, he didn’t really care.

Much.

He’d thought applying early at a few local schools would be a safe bet, just to get himself into the rhythm of it, seeing what kind of feedback he’d get.

Apparently it meant he’d get used to rejection right off the bat.

The worst part was the twinge of guilt in his stomach.

Not because he might have to go out of state.

The guilt was because he wanted to. Sort of.

A new town would mean anonymity. No one would know about his powers.

No one would know him as Gabriel Merrick’s twin brother, half of a unit.

A new town meant he could just be Nick.

Whatever that meant. Sometimes he worried that he’d get his wish, that he’d end up in some strange town, surrounded by new people, and he’d realize that there was nothing there, that his entire being was based on his brothers’ expectations of him.

Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t have options. A local school would have meant he could still stay home and help Michael with the business. If he couldn’t go to Maryland, he could go to the community college down the road. Nothing wrong with that.

Except...he didn’t want to go to the community college.

The colored balls in the Galileo thermometer on his desk started to shift, and Nick glanced up. He was changing the temperature. His blinds rattled against the window frame, too, as a gusty breeze tore through his room.

This was stupid. He should just open the envelope.

If only his powers gave him X-ray vision.

Not like he really needed it. He could imagine how the letter would begin.

Dear Nicholas, We regret to inform you that you’re a selfish bastard—

Yeah, right. Nick swore and shoved the letter between two textbooks on the desk. He could read it later.

Michael had asked him to reconcile a stack of invoices anyway. Better to let numbers steal his attention, especially since his oldest brother would be pissed if he got home and found a stack of paperwork still waiting for him.

The kitchen was empty, but he’d passed his youngest brother in the living room, along with his girlfriend. Chris and Becca were watching a movie, but from the glimpse Nick had gotten, there wasn’t a whole lot of watching going on.

Not like Nick needed a glimpse: the air was more than happy to whisper about their activities.

Gabriel was out, doing something with Layne, and Michael would be on a job for another hour, at least.

Quiet.

Nick tore into a foil package of Pop-Tarts and fired up the laptop. With a toaster pastry between his teeth, he began to sort through the pile of carbon credit card slips, invoices, and canceled checks.

Michael was great about documenting what he was doing and how much it cost.

He wasn’t so great about making sure he was actually paid for it.

Nick had been doing most of the bookkeeping since he was thirteen. Now he could do it in his sleep.

His brain kept drifting to that letter, sandwiched between those textbooks on his desk.

At least he’d been the one to get the mail today, so no one else knew. God, that would have been a disaster. Hell, Gabriel probably would have put him in a headlock until he tore the envelope open.

Aw. Poor Nicky. They don’t want you.

Gabriel wouldn’t be upset. He didn’t want his twin to go.

That was another big part of the guilt.

He caught himself entering line items twice, and he pulled his hands off the keys to rub at his eyes. School was closed this week, thanks to the recent fire in the library, but he should probably be using the extra time to study. There was no money for college, so grades were everything right now.

His cell phone buzzed against the table, making him jump. The air had turned sharp and cold while he’d been going through these invoices, and he tried to make himself relax, knowing the air would do the same if he could mentally get himself to a better place.

He ran a thumb along the screen to wake it. A text message.

Quinn. His girlfriend.

Sort of.

Really, his relationship with Quinn was just one more thing that belonged on a list of all that made him feel insecure, uncertain, and guilty.

Any way you can pick me up at the Y?

Nick glanced at the clock. Gabriel had the car and Michael had the truck. Michael would be home first, but not for another twenty minutes. He typed back quickly.

Not for a while. You OK?

Fought with Mom again.

Nick winced. He texted back.

I can get you. 30 mins OK?

Sure. I’ll be in studio.

The studio was really just a room at the back of the Y, with half a mirrored wall and a barre bolted awkwardly into the patches of drywall. But Quinn’s parents wouldn’t pay for dance lessons, and Quinn had been kicked off the school dance team.

Unlike Nick, she knew exactly who, what, and where she wanted to be.

She just couldn’t get there.

He hadn’t met her parents yet, but apparently her mother had been put on this earth with the sole purpose of torturing Quinn, and her dad had nothing better to do than stare at the television—when he wasn’t running his mouth about how amazing Quinn’s older brother was. Quinn had a younger brother, too. He stayed out of the line of fire by hiding behind headphones and video game controllers.

Tensions had been running high in Quinn’s house before a fire had burned the place down—part of a string of arson attacks started by another Elemental in town. But now her family was living in temporary housing, a cramped three- bedroom condo closer to Annapolis.

And Nick thought he had problems.

He didn’t hear the front door open, but the air told him when Michael was home.

It also told him that Chris and Becca were struggling to right themselves in the living room.

Nick smiled and entered the last invoice into the computer, then set aside the three where payments were missing.

Michael looked beat when he walked into the kitchen, and Nick was glad he’d gotten the paperwork done.

His brother grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and dropped into a chair. “Thanks for taking care of that.”

Nick always did, but he shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

“You think you could help me with a job tomorrow, since school is out?”

Nick had been planning to spend the day doing more college applications, tweaking entrance essays, and taking a few more SAT practice tests.

But Michael looked exhausted, and Nick could put that stuff off for a few hours. “Sure,” he said. Then he paused, thinking of Quinn. “You think you could let me borrow the truck for an hour?”

Michael had to be tired, because he took another drink of water, then tossed the keys on the table.

Nick’s eyebrows went up.

Michael shrugged, then shoved out of the chair, heading for the doorway. “I know you won’t do anything irresponsible.”

Nick never did.

And sometimes he wondered if that was part of the problem.

Quinn Briscoe stretched her left leg against the barre in the empty room, then folded her upper body as low as she could. She didn’t do ballet, not really, but she’d taken enough classes as a kid that she always started and finished with a classical warm-up—just because that was the most thorough routine she knew, and it hadn’t let her down yet.

Her thighs were screaming, and she told them to go to hell.

Really, she wished she’d worn sweatpants instead of these stretchy booty shorts. Then she wouldn’t have to look at how massive her legs were.

Besides, it was probably cold outside.

The shorts hadn’t been her choice. They were part of the cheerleading uniform at Old Mill, and she’d had her first practice this afternoon. Apparently athletes didn’t get the week off from school, just a modified schedule.

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