SONG OF THE FIREFLIES (February 4, 2014; Forever E-Book; $3.99)
THE TRUTH WILL SET THEM FREE
Brayelle Bates has always been a force of nature. Even as a child, Bray's wild and carefree spirit intimidated everyone around her. The only person who's ever truly understood her is her best friend, Elias Kline. Though every fiber of her being wants to stay with Elias forever, Bray can't bear the thought of him discovering her agonizing history. She's done everything she can to keep him at arm's length, including moving away. But their undying bond was too strong a pull to deny, and Bray couldn't survive without him. Now she's back home with Elias, and things have never felt more right-until one night changes everything.
Elias vowed never to be separated from Bray again. So when she decides to flee in a desperate attempt to escape her fate, Elias knows he must go with her. As the two try to make the most of their circumstance, taking up with a reckless group of new friends, Elias soon realizes there's a darkness driving Bray he can't ignore. Now in order to save her, he'll have to convince Bray to accept the consequences of their reality-even if it means losing her.
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SONG OF THE FIREFLIES Excerpt
Bray and I spent the whole night in the field chasing the fireflies and laying on the grass, staring up at the stars. She told me all about her sister, Rian, and how she was a snob and was always mean to Bray. I told her about my parents, because I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. She said I was lucky. We talked forever, it seemed. We may have been young, but we connected deeply on that night. I knew we would be great friends, even better friends than Mitchell and I had been, and I had known him since first grade, when he had tried to con me out of my peach cup at lunch.
And before the night was over, we made a pact with each other that would later prove to see us through some very troubled times.
“Promise we’ll always be best friends,” Bray said, lying next to me. “No matter what. Even if you grow up ugly and I grow up mean.”
I laughed. “You’re already mean!”
She elbowed me.
“And you’re already ugly,” she said with a blush in her cheeks.
I gave in, though really I needed no convincing. “OK, I promise.”
We gazed back up at the stars; her fingers were interlaced and her hands rested on her belly.
I had no idea what I was getting into with Brayelle Bates. I didn’t know about such things when I was nine. I didn’t know. But I would never regret a moment with her. Never.
Bray and I were found early the following morning, fast asleep in the grass. We were awoken by three cops; Mr. Parson, who owned the land; and my frantic mother, who thought I had been kidnapped from my room, stuffed in a suitcase, and thrown on the side of a highway somewhere.
“Elias! Oh dear God, I thought you were gone!” She scooped me into her arms and squeezed me so tight I thought my eyeballs were going to burst out of the sockets. She pulled away, kissed me on the forehead, embarrassing the crap out of me, and then squeezed me again.
Bray’s mom and dad were there, too.
“Have you been out here all night with him?” Bray’s dad asked with a sharp edge in his voice.
My mom immediately went into defensive mode. She stood up the rest of the way with me and wrapped one arm around the front of me, pressing my head against her stomach.
“That daughter of yours,” my mom said, and already I was flinching before she finished, “she has a mouth on her. My son would never have snuck out unless he was influenced.”
I sighed and threw my head back against her.
“Are you blaming this on my daughter?” Bray’s mother said, stepping up front and center.
“As a matter of fact, I am,” my mom said boldly.
Bray started to shrink behind her dad and every second that passed I felt even worse about her being blamed.
Before this got too out of hand, I broke away from my mom’s arms. “Dammit, Mom—!” Her eyes grew wide and fierce, and I stopped midsentence.
“Watch your mouth, Elias!” Then she looked at Bray’s mom again and added,
“See, Elias never uses language like that.”
“Stop it! Please! I snuck out on my own, so leave Bray out of it!”
I hated shouting. I hated that I had to put my mom in her place like that, but I spoke what I felt in my heart, and that was something my mom always taught me to do. Take up for the bullied, Elias. Never stand back and watch someone take advantage of someone else, Elias. Always do and say what you know in your heart to be right, no matter what, Elias.
I hoped she would remember those things when we were back at home.
My mom sighed deeply and I watched the anger deflate with her breath. “I apologize,” she said to Bray’s parents. “Really, I am sorry. I was just so scared something had happened to him.”
Bray’s mom nodded, accepting my mom’s apology with sincerity. “I understand. I’m sorry, too. I’m just glad they’re safe.”
Bray’s dad said nothing. I got the feeling he wasn’t as forgiving as her mom had been.
I was grounded for the rest of the summer for that stunt I pulled. And yes, I met the fly swatter that day, after which I vowed never to sneak out of the house again. But whenever it came to Bray, from that time up until we graduated high school, I did sneak out. A lot. But I never got caught again after that first time.
I know you must be wondering why after so many years of being best friends, attending the same school, working together at the local Dairy Queen, even often sharing a bed, why we never became something more to each other.
Well, the truth is that we did.
J.A. Redmerski, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with her three children, two cats and a Maltese. She is a lover of television and books that push boundaries and is a huge fan of AMC's The Walking Dead.