Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to share the first chapter of Momentum, the sequel to Connection! Find out about the first book here.
1. danser (to dance)
I should have known this whole prom thing was going to get out of hand. Sam and her mom ordering a limo should have tipped me off. Or how Sam talked her cheerleading friend Jessie into going with the rest of us. Or maybe, just maybe, when Aaron and I decided to go together.
I mean, seriously. How were we going to get through a dance without ruining something?
We had a lot more control over our powers than a couple months ago, yes, but we were also getting more powerful. We’d nearly fried the circuits in the old house with our blast of voltage while practicing last week. Kissing was out of the question, much to our chagrin.
Sam’s horn outside interrupted my thoughts. I looked at Kaylie, who was one of my best friends. “Ready?”
She turned off my TV and grinned at me. “Anna, I was born ready.”
We turned to our dresses hanging up on the back of the living room closet. “You were born ready for prom? Ready for pretty dresses and dancing?” I asked.
“No! I was born ready for danger and adventure. In other words, anything. Bring it on!” She pumped the air with her fist. “Jessie can do her worst!”
I laughed. “I don’t think you will have to worry at all.”
She put an arm around my shoulders. “If you have to worry, I have to worry.”
I smiled. That was Kaylie. We’d been friends since elementary school, and she was the only one who had stuck with me through my disaster of a sophomore year. She was the best.
My mom and my sister Ginger helped us take all our stuff out to Sam’s car—dresses, shoes, overnight bags. Sam jumped out of her dad’s SUV, squealing in excitement. “Hey!” She opened the back for us. “This is going to be so cool. Kaylie, I cannot believe you never told me your aunt has her own salon!”
Mom pulled me into a hug, patting my hair down. “Be careful.” She met my eyes with a meaningful look. My mom knew about mine and Aaron’s powers over electricity. I couldn’t keep anything from her. Well, mostly. “Take lots of pictures.”
“Have fun!” Ginger said as we got in the car. She was going to be a freshman this fall, and she was already looking forward to prom, pep rallies, and spirit week. She’d be another Sam. I wished there was a way to keep everyone from knowing we were sisters, because I worried everyone would make things difficult for her. But it wasn’t easy when there were only a few black families in all of El Dorado Hills, California. I could probably count them on one hand.
At Kaylie’s aunt’s saoln, we looked through magazines and catalogs of hairstyles, trying to figure out what would look best on each of us.
Sam got her dirty blonde hair curled and put in a fancy updo. She looked so pretty, so perfect. When I first met Sam at the beginning of the school year, she was already on the cheerleading team and hanging out with the girls who’d made my life hell sophomore year. I didn’t think we could ever be friends, but Sam didn’t care for drama, gossip, or cliques. She hung out with who she liked and had fun doing it. It was one of the reasons I loved her, one of the reasons she hung out more with me and Kaylie than the rest of Jessie and Vickie’s crew.
Kaylie’s brown hair couldn’t hold a curl for more than an hour, so we went with a fancy braid with rhinestones. I was on the chair the longest, simply because Kaylie’s aunt wasn’t quite sure how to work with my hair. It wasn’t as coarse as my mom’s since my dad was white, but the stylist struggled with the extensive curls, the roughness. Finally, though, we had it up in an awesome updo with just a few curls hanging down from the sides, framing my face.
When we got to Sam’s house, Jessie’s Lexus was already in the driveway. She was already inside, hanging out with Sam’s mom like they were best friends. I tried not to cringe as Jessie jumped up and accosted Sam with a hug.
Jessie had been Carmen’s friend. Carmen had nearly ruined my sophomore year with her bullying when she started dating Jordan, my ex-boyfriend. Together they formed a malicious duo whose only purpose seemed to be making my sophmore year a living hell. Tenth grade had not been a fun experience, but my junior year had gone much better. I credited it to Kaylie’s loyalty, Carmen’s move to Washington last summer, a new friend in Sam, and me and Aaron becoming friends again.
“You know Anna and Kaylie, right?” Sam asked Jessie.
Jessie flashed a tight smile at us with rosy, full lips that accentuated her tan skin and glossy brown hair. Next to Sam, she towered in height, even though by the looks of it, she was maybe a hundred pounds. At the most. She grabbed her dress bag from the dining room table. “Come on, let’s go to your room.”
Upstairs, Jessie hung up her dress bag on the back of Sam’s bathroom door. Sam lived in a huge house, and her room was nearly as big as the master bedroom. She always gloated about having her own bathroom when she stayed over at my place.
“You’re Jordan’s ex, right?” Jessie asked me.
I made a face. “Unfortunately.”
Kaylie giggled. “Unfortunate that you’re no longer together?”
“Ugh, no!” I said. “It’s unfortunate we ever went out.”
Jessie sniffed, her lip curling in disgust, and she turned to Sam. “Sam, look at this,” she said, pulling her over to her dress. “Satin. Doesn’t it feel amazing?”
Sam gasped. “Yes, and it’s so gorgeous!”
Jessie grinned. “It feels like I’m wearing nothing. It looks great.”
“Yeah, that’s what happens when you look like a model.” Sam shook her head. “I hate you.”
Jessie brushed her hair off her shoulder and soaked up the compliment.
Sam clapped her hands. “All right, it’s already five o’clock!” She studied Jessie’s straight hair. “Are you wearing your hair like that?”
“No!” Jessie grabbed Sam’s wrist and tugged her into the bathroom, and I heard them start talking about hairstyles.
Kaylie turned to me and shrugged. “Let’s do our make-up.”
While the others were in the bathroom, we did our make-up in front of Sam’s vanity. I thought about the night ahead with Aaron. My one-shoulder-strap dress completely bared my arms and part of my back. . .maybe I should have gotten a different dress. Aaron wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off me, virtually ensuring a power outage would ruin everyone’s night.
“Are you okay?” Kaylie asked quietly.
“What? Yeah, I’m fine. Why?” I asked.
“You just seem. . .nervous. You and Aaron have been going out, for what, a month now?”
I did some calculations in my head. We’d officially gotten together at Chandler’s party which had been the second week of April. “Yeah, almost five weeks. It’s just. . .I don’t know. . .” I trailed off and glanced back at the bathroom. I could blame it on Jessie, right? It wasn’t like I could tell Kaylie we were afraid of attracting the attention of some mysterious agency with our power to control electrical currents. Kaylie and I were best friends, but some things, I just knew, I couldn’t tell her.
Kaylie rubbed my arm. “Don’t worry. You guys will have fun.”
I carefully applied mascara to my lashes. “Even if he can’t dance.”
She laughed. “You’d think since he was a musician, he’d be able to.”
I giggled, shaking my head. “I know, right?”
“Wait, are you talking about Aaron Bender?”
I looked over my shoulder. Jessie sat on the edge of her bed while Sam curled her hair. “Yeah,” I replied, “he’s my boyfriend.” I still got a thrill from saying that.
Jessie groaned. “Sam, you didn’t tell me he was going to come!”
“Who did you think I meant when I said, ‘Aaron’?” Sam rolled her eyes at Kaylie and me.
“I can see you in the mirror!” Jessie glared at her. “And you didn’t mention him at all! He’s a jerk. He totally broke Vickie’s sister’s heart.”
My stomach twisted in guilt as I looked back at my make-up.
Jessie turned to me. “How long did he wait until he asked you out?”
I wasn’t going to answer that. Only about twenty minutes had passed before he was telling me he loved me. I loved replaying his words from that night over in my head, but I did feel bad for Wendy. Aaron had said, ‘Poor girl never even had a chance.’ He told me he wasn’t sure why he went out with Wendy at all when he’d had such a thing for me. It probably had to do with the fact I’d had a boyfriend. Poor Steven. He never had a chance, either.
When I didn’t answer Jessie, Sam snickered. “Like you’re any better, Jessie.”
Jessie gasped. “Shut up, Sam!”
Sam grinned at me, winking.
“Hell-oo!” Jessie said in a sing-song voice. “I can still see you!”
“Then you know how much I enjoy making fun of you.”
Jessie huffed. After a moment of silence, she said in a casual voice, “Well, I guess you’re the right girl for him, Anna.”
My shoulders tensed, and I looked at her reflection. “Oh, why’s that?” I tried to ask coolly.
“You both get around,” Jessie said.
“Nuh-uh, no,” Sam said, dropping Jessie’s curl and hopping off the bed. She stood between her vanity and her bed and stared Jessie down. “I am not having any of this drama tonight. Don’t think I won’t kick you out of this house.”
Jessie gasped and put her hand on her chest. “I didn’t even say anything!”
“Sam, it’s—” I began to say. I was used to catty comments, but Sam held her hand up to me.
“You know how I feel about this,” she told Jessie. “Leave Anna alone so we can have a good time.”
Jessie rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms. “Fine. Can you please finish my hair?”
“We only have two proms ever.” Sam crawled back onto the bed. “And I want to spend my first one with all of you, so stop pissing me off.”
Kaylie held up her right hand. “I’ll be on my best behavior. Scout’s honor.”
“Were you a boy scout when you were little?” I asked with a grin.
“Girl scouts do that, too!” Kaylie paused. “Don’t they?”
The next hour passed without incident. Sam’s mom fluttered in and out, taking pictures, chatting with us about the night. Kaylie and I were ready before the others, and when Sam’s mom announced that a few of our dates had showed up, I knew Aaron wasn’t down there. I would have felt him down the block. It was just another perk, courtesy of our connection: I could feel his presence, feel his emotions, sometimes even hear specific thoughts. We had shared it ever since we met when we were eight years old, and we’d have it until one of us died. I’d spent a lot of time fighting it, but now I accepted that it was a part of who I was. Probably more than just our connection, though. It was Aaron who was part of me.
I kept fidgeting with my dress. The midnight blue fabric bunched up over my chest, which made my boobs look great, but not too big. A belt of rhinestones ran under my bust, and the knee length skirt hugged my hips. It even made me look a little taller and more slender, yet somehow enhanced my curves. I couldn’t wait to see Aaron’s face when he saw me. But it didn’t keep me from worrying about dancing with him and touching him and hugging him and trying not to kiss him. . .I shook my head and bit my lip, looking over the other girls to get my mind off of him.
Jessie really did look like a model: her curls fell down her tan shoulders, and the dress made her look even taller and thinner than she was. The gold satin caught the light whenever she moved, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she held every guy’s eyes tonight.
We had found Kaylie’s knee-length dress on sale: it was lavender colored with a v-neck and flowing fabric. When we first bought it, she spun around and I took pictures of her with the skirt up in the air. We had fun posting them online and putting photo filters on them. Sam’s purple spaghetti strap dress went a little past her knees and made her look like a fairy princess.
“Ladies, we look amazing,” I said, putting my hands on my hips. “Those guys are going to flip when they see us.”
Kaylie nudged me. “Especially you, gorgeous! Aaron won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”
Didn’t I know it. But he’d have to if we wanted to keep the power on at Prom.
* * * *
A couple months ago, going to prom with Anna would have been a weird dream, a totally unrealistic fantasy. Now, I had a corsage, a matching tux and everything. I was so ready for this. I knew Anna was freaked out about our powers, but we could handle it. Hell, we could handle anything.
My mom drove me to Sam’s house. I tried to get her to let me take myself, but she wanted to take pictures. Plus, she was so excited Anna and I were still dating that I couldn’t put my heart into protesting. It was more the obligatory “Oh, my god, you’re ruining my life” teenager comments.
I fiddled with the corsage I’d gotten Anna as we got closer. Sam lived on the really wealthy side of town. It was just her and her parents in this huge house. I’d gone out with Sam at the beginning of the year, so I’d been there a few times. This could definitely get awkward. But I’d be fine as long as Sam didn’t make a big deal out of it. She’d pretty much accepted me and Anna; she’d only made a few weird comments the last month since we’d gotten together.
We were still a couple blocks away when I could feel Anna. I smiled and let out a relieved breath. When I got close to her and our minds connected, it felt like coming home after a long day.
When we got to Sam’s house, the other guys and a few parents were hanging out in the high-ceiling living room. Two of the guys we were going with were jocks, guys I didn’t really know or care to know. Once Kaylie’s date showed up, though, I could hang out with him. Anna hooked up Kaylie and Michael, another sax player in Band, for Prom. A couple weeks ago, I thought my friend Chandler was going to ask Kaylie, but then he got back together with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Stacey. I smirked. It wouldn’t be long before they were off-again.
Upstairs, Anna seemed nervous, annoyed, and amused all at once. That happened a lot, actually.
Sam’s mom came over and hugged me, then reintroduced herself to my mom. I think they met once, but neither of them said anything about me going out with Sam or going to Prom with one of her best friends. This night was a romantic comedy waiting to happen.
Sam’s mom beamed at me. “You look great, Aaron.”
“Thanks.” I passed the corsage back and forth in my hands. I nodded to the staircase. They’d totally set it up so the girls could walk down and show off in the chandelier light. “Are they making us wait on purpose?”
“Actually, Kaylie and I have been ready for more than half an hour.”
I looked up toward the sound of Anna’s voice. She stood at the balcony, and she and Kaylie moved to walk down the steps. My mouth dropped open a bit as I took her in. Her big eyes were accentuated with make-up—how did girls do that?—and her hair was pulled back, only a few stray curls hanging down. Her dress was. . .wow. Dark blue, it hugged her in all the right places, that was for sure. She smiled shyly, like she just accidentally woke up looking like this. I could just picture her thoughts: Oh, my, I didn’t even know this dress would make me look so hot! Right, no, she definitely knew her body was amazing. She usually did what she could to downplay it. Not tonight, though.
I grinned at her as she reached the bottom of the steps. “You look beautiful,” I said. How did I get so lucky?
She smiled, clasping her hands in front of her. “Thank you.”
We moved aside as the other girls walked down the steps. I held up the box that hadAnna’s corsage, and her smile widened. A soft pink rose was surrounded by baby’s breath and attached to the stretchy bracelet I slipped onto her wrist. My skin brushed against hers, and the electrons in the air around us went nuts. No matter how much we practiced, that feeling still invigorated me. She met my eyes, and I wanted to kiss her right then in front of all of them. My mom could even catch it on the camera.
“It’s beautiful, thank you,” Anna said, looking at her corsage. She gasped and threw her hand up. “Oh, I left your boutonnière upstairs! Sorry, let me go grab it.”
I got a great view of her rear as she went upstairs, and she shot me a look over her shoulder, glaring, even though I knew, she liked it. If other guys checked her out, though, I’d have to do something. I glanced around at the others, but they were all absorbed in their dates. Except for Kaylie. She stood there in her dress biting her nails.
I walked up to her. “Michael’s late, huh?”
She shrugged. “Yeah. He texted and said he had to get a ride.”
“Well, he’ll be here, for sure. We got suits together.”
She nodded, giving me a grateful smile. Anna came back downstairs and pinned the boutonnière on my jacket, my mother’s camera going crazy the whole time.
Michael finally showed up. When Sam’s mom opened the door, he was pulling his tux jacket on. His hair was sticking up like he’d just gotten out of bed, but that was just his hair. After a year or two in Band with the guy, I knew that head of hair didn’t succumb to any brush or comb. He came in and smiled at Kaylie. His smile vanished, and he hit his forehead with his hand. “Oh, shit, I forgot the corsage.”
Kaylie laughed. “It’s okay. I’m just glad you showed up.”
“Yeah, of course,” he said, fiddling with his jacket. “I could see if my dad’s still here—”
“No, it’s okay,” Kaylie said quickly. “Don’t worry about it.”
Michael chuckled. “Sorry. I, uh, I’ll get you something else. At dinner.”
Smooth, Michael, I snorted under my breath and exchanged a glance with Anna. She shook her head, but she was smiling. She sat in front of the saxophones in Band, and she knew Michael. Neither of us expected a lot out of him.
Sam’s mom clapped her hands. “All right, let’s go outside and get group pictures!”
A group of eight was pretty big to handle, and we spent the next half hour taking pictures. I couldn’t tell who was worse: the girls or the parents. The parents wanted every imaginable pose and mixture of people, and the girls wanted to see the pictures after they were taken. Jessie made us retake several because she didn’t like how she looked.
I nudged Michael with my elbow. “Can you imagine how they’ll be at senior prom? And graduation?”
“If this is anything like next year, I’m not going to senior prom,” Michael said as he shot Sam’s mom a look.
I laughed and glanced at Kaylie. “You guys’ll have fun.”
“Yeah, as soon as we get this show on the road.”
When the limo showed up, they took a dozen more pictures. No, probably three dozen. The limo driver was a cocky kid only a few years older than us who started flirting with all the moms. Especially mine. I kept glaring at him, but he didn’t pay attention to anything without breasts.
“Okay,” Sam finally said, “our dinner reservation is at eight, Mom! We need to go.”
“Oh, sweet mother in heaven, yes!” Michael said.
“All right!” The limo driver clapped his hands. “I’ll be your driver today, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Louie. You can call me Louie or Driver or L-Man, whatever floats your boat.”
Anna mentally rolled her eyes, and I bumped my shoulder into her. She stumbled on her heel and nearly fell into Justin, Sam’s date. I caught her and steadied her, but neither of us could help laughing.
Douchebag driver or not, the limo was awesome. It was huge on the inside, the eight of us fitting with room to spare. The driver turned on the radio, and Sam and Jessie cheered about how this was ‘their song.’ I wrapped an arm around Anna as we took off. My hand on her shoulder started a current, and she met my eyes. She quietly asked in French, “Do you think we’ll get through tonight?”
I smiled and stroked the skin of her shoulder. It felt as smooth as it looked, even with the electrons going crazy around us. “Of course I do.”
Sam smacked my arm, startling me. “Wait, Aaron, you know French, too?”
“What does that mean?”
“A little.” In actuality, I only knew French when Anna was around. The benefits of having a bilingual Partner. “Anna’s teaching me.”
“That is so cool. Anna, you have to teach me!” Sam leaned toward her. “How do you say. . .” She paused, tapping her chin. “‘This is my song’?”
I chuckled as Anna taught her how to say the phrase, sounding out words. I started to help with her pronunciation, then realized I was only supposed to be learning. Oops.
Prom started at nine at the country club, and we showed up at nine-thirty, after dinner at an Italian restaurant. Fashionably late, Sam pronounced. Once inside, our group broke up. I thanked the Lord Almighty because Jessie’s catty comments were driving me crazy.
Anna and I spent most of the night with Kaylie and Michael, though Sam kept popping in unexpectedly. I wasn’t so sure about dancing at first, but Anna said I wouldn’t get another date with her if I didn’t dance at her Junior Prom.
Slow dances were easy. I could handle those.
It was the whole hip-hop thing, which was ninety percent of what DJs hired by Oak Ridge High played. I remembered Homecoming with Sam; she did all kinds of things she was currently doing with her date, things she probably wouldn’t do in front of her parents. Anna and I did some of that, but we were both self-conscious. I was sure I was doing something wrong, sure she’d turn around and slap me if my hands wandered too far, sure there were way too many people watching us.
But I liked it after a while, which made no sense because I hated hip-hop. But then again, it made a lot of sense because Anna looked amazing, and her perfume was filling my head. The room was dim and foggy, and every now and then, there was hardly anything between our bodies. Plus, I could tell she was feeling it, too, that she liked the feel of my body against hers, my hot breath in her ear, the smell of my cologne, my hands on her hips.
We’d made it a rule early on: the only place we touched—and especially kissed—was the abandoned house where we first started practicing our powers. We had this little spot in the backyard, hidden in the bushes on one of my blankets from home, and we could spend hours there, seeing how far we could push ourselves before we lost control of the electrical current. But here, in this mass of people, our skin kept brushing, the electrons alive around us.
She suddenly grabbed my arm and tugged me away from the middle of the dance floor. I followed obediently even though I wasn’t sure where we were going. I didn’t think she just had to make-out with me or she’d fall apart—though I wouldn’t have minded at all. She led us to the side door that led to the patio.
Fresh, cool air washed over us, and I took a deep breath. “What are we doing out here?” I asked now that I could hear myself without the bumping music.
She let go of me and walked toward a bench at the end of the patio. I followed her and sat next to her. There was an open lawn behind us, probably for golf or something.
“Sorry,” she said, panting. “I just needed some fresh air.”
I could hardly see anything out here. We were far enough from the patio lights that her face was just dark blue in the moonlight. I leaned toward her. “I’m going to kiss you.”
“Aaron,” she whispered, turning toward me.
Our lips met, and the electrons in the air sparked to life. I touched the side of her face, caressing the line of her jaw. I pulled away quickly, knowing we couldn’t push it here.
Anna let out a small puff of air I felt on my chin. “I hate this.”
“I know,” I said. “We’ll get it soon, though.” Word on the street was this period—where where you could only use your power when you touched, and you struggled to keep control of it when touching—only lasted about a year. We were a few months into it already. Soon, we’d be able to control electrical currents without touching, and we’d be able to kiss without worrying.
She touched my knee, silent. I wanted to kiss her again. The music from the gym had faded into the background, but I knew inside, hundreds of our classmates were dancing and enjoying themselves.
“Did you send in your application?” Anna asked.
We were trying to get jobs at a camp this summer. Actually, Anna already had the job—she’d been going to camp since she was young, and this was the first summer she could work. Once she told me about it and the fact the camp was close to Joseph and Amelia, another Pair like us, I knew I wanted to work there too. Besides, I couldn’t imagine being away from her all summer, not when we’d been spending nearly every day together the last month.
“I’m going to mail it out on Monday,” I replied.
“Good. You’re going to love it, I promise.”
We sat there for a few minutes. I wanted to kiss her again, but instead I asked if she was thirsty. “I’ll go get us some punch.” I smiled at her and walked back inside to get us drinks. It seriously sucked that I had to take breaks from the girl I was head over heels for.
Inside, everyone was having a blast: dancing, taking pictures, laughing. I got why Prom was such a big deal. When you had the right people to spend it with, it was pretty awesome. Even with the hassle of trying not to touch that special person.
I glanced around at the crowd as I waited in line for punch. I didn’t see Jordan. We’d avoided him so far tonight, so I hoped we could get through all night without seeing the douchebag.
* * * *
Aaron and Anna have fallen in love, despite an ex that threatened to tear them apart. When they start zapping evil cheerleaders with their powers over electricity, they’re forced to break off their relationship to avoid attention from the Agency. A part of the Department of Defense that studies Pairs like Aaron and Anna, the Agency is searching for the source of the Pairs’ powers and doesn’t care who gets in the way.
Anna tries to blend in at the camp where she and Aaron start working for the summer, but it’s not easy when touching your not-boyfriend invites lightning storms. Only weeks pass before a dark secret and an attack from the Agency tear apart their temporary place of refuge. If the camp isn’t safe, where is?