When Katherine accidentally stumbles upon one of the former ruling families of a secret nation living in the woods, she seeks shelter in their home and soon becomes infatuated with their lifestyle. She falls right into rank in the household, occupying the empty top floor of their home. As they open up to her, she learns of the Siege that drove them out of their city and how desperate they are to get back. But she doesn't know just how desperate some of them might be.
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The Republic: Book One
By Abbie Guard
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Abbie Guard
All rights reserved.
It doesn't help that things used to be different for me — and us. Thinking about how he used to act doesn't change the present. I wish it did. There are still nights when I wake up and think he's there lying beside me and all I have to do is roll over and he'll be sleeping with his easy expression on his face. Then when I turn my head, I know he is still sound asleep ... across the hallway. He's distanced himself from me as much as he can lately. It's almost an escape from the memories of what happened when we are apart. Almost, I think.
And it's almost okay until I remember that we're married and supposed to help each other through things like this. But I can't blame him really. Not everyone suffers from the kind of detachment I do.
Numbly and mechanically, I turn from staring at his empty space beside me, a habit I formed back when he would be there lying beside me and I could watch the gentle rise and fall of his chest and be filled with peace knowing at least one thing was steady in my life. Instead I haul myself out of bed and face the mirror that, unlike my bed, isn't empty, but it might as well be.
I usually try to keep myself from looking like a complete mess most days. There are times when I need to call someone to come help me, and I frankly don't want to be in my pajamas when someone picks me up. I have a few old pairs of sweatpants and T-shirts that have become my entire wardrobe lately. I don't want to worry about ripping or staining my nice clothes around Michael. I only wear those at work. I still put on makeup and let my reddish brown hair hang out on my shoulders, but it's not like Michael notices those things. I wear socks around the house now so I don't make a sound when I walk. I don't want to bother him on mornings when he's recovering from a migraine.
As I make his morning coffee, I reminisce about the days he'd make coffee, and place a few aspirin beside the mug. When the pot is full, I fill the mug for him and place it on the saucer by the couch. He's still in bed, so I go to wake him before the coffee has a chance to cool.
I never turn on the light in his room. I walk to the side of the bed he sleeps on and push him onto his stomach. He weighs less than I do, making it easier to roll him over, but it's hard to believe considering how little I weigh. He rolls over, and though he usually blinks a few times and stretches his arms, he doesn't usually pull open the blackout curtains on the windows, allowing light to pour across his face.
"Michael?" I ask tentatively, unsure how to respond to finding such a radically different man in my husband's bed.
His eyes are closed, but he's still in full sunlight. "Kat," he says, using the nickname he knows bothers me out of habit, "can we go somewhere?"
His response takes me aback. "Right now? You just woke up."
"I'm aware of that. I need to get out of this house. I haven't gone outside in days," he says with all of the mannerisms I've been missing for a while now.
"Weeks actually," I say, half-finishing my own silent musings and half-correcting him.
He smiles. "You never answered my question."
I naturally think of every possible reason why I shouldn't take him outside, much less in public. Then another thought strikes me. "Did you drink yesterday?"
He beams like a little kid. "Not as much as the day before," he groans a little at the memories. That was a rough morning. "I was hoping we could go out today."
I'm almost proud of him for drifting far enough into consciousness to think ahead. "Where do you want to go?"
"Do you know that park we went to once? I can't remember what it's called —"
He lights up, still not opening his eyes. "That's the one."
"Do you want me to shut the curtains?"
He sighs. "If you would be so kind."
I laugh and pull them shut so he could open his eyes and roll out of bed. As he does, I notice he changed into sleeping clothes before he went to bed as he pulls open a drawer of clothes.
He notices me watching him. "I know. I actually changed into sleeping clothes last night," he says, mocking the name I call what he calls "pajamas."
I roll my eyes at him, enjoying the longest conversation we've had in a while. He changes and grabs his sunglasses off the bedside table before beginning to search for his bottle of aspirin.
"It's in the kitchen, remember?"
"It's by your coffee."
"Coffee sounds good."
"Pour it in a to-go cup and meet me in the car," I say as we part ways in the hallway.
I grab my keys and my phone and head back to the kitchen. He's putting the lid on the to-go cup, or at least attempting to. His hands are shaking. Even after all that's happened between us, I know things are not doomed by the simple fact that the sight of his shaking hands causes both of our eyes to dampen. I blink rapidly as I pull down the edge of the lid over the rim of the cup, and he half-smiles. The door to the garage is just past the kitchen, and I follow him through it.
As we drive, I think back to other days when I felt hope like this, optimism that felt great but filled me with nervousness at the same time. Somewhere in my head a memory plays.
* * *
"Did you make this?" The question comes from a familiar face, the man someone had pointed out to me as the "Other Lawyer. He's noticed the large canvas filled with paint on the wall opposite my desk.
"Yes, I did. Why?" I'm a little surprised at the fact that I find him attractive. Red hair and overwhelming freckles usually turn me away.
The Other Lawyer smiles. "It's beautiful. Have you painted anything else?"
"Lots. What about you? You seem to be more interested in my painting than any of the twenty other people who have come to welcome me to the firm."
"I'm a fellow artist is all. I've only done a few paintings myself. Although I never could get the hang of watercolor." He runs his fingertips along the brush strokes with a certain degree of awe.
I laugh. "You act like it's a painting worthy of praise."
He looks at me. There's something in his eyes that I can't place. "It is. I've never seen someone so talented at watercolor."
"It's my only talent unfortunately."
"That's obviously not true. How many other twenty-year-olds have partnerships in law firms? Let alone such prestigious ones as this."
I try not to blush. "Well, you're only twenty-two. Perhaps they just hire young here."
* * *
The way I'm pulled out of my musings is quite unfair, a way that nobody should have to be interrupted in. Michael's head falls into my lap as I pull onto the shoulder before I can have a panic attack. His black sunglasses look ridiculous as they fall off his head in two pieces. The object that pulled me out of my thoughts has bisected the bridge.
The bullet thathas pierced his forehead. I stare at the hole emptily for a second and remember thinking about how the hope I felt filled me with nervousness. Now I know why. And it's not because I had some supernatural intuition of the scrap metal that was to shatter my windshield and my world. It's because of how fragile hope is.
I'm prone to panic attacks, which means I'm probably the least qualified person to deal with this, but things don't seem to work that way. As usual I'm thankful I know someone who isn't prone to any kind of panic.
He answers on the first ring.
"Katherine? Are you all right?"
I know I have failed at keeping the hysteria in my voice from rising. "No. Can you come here?"
"Of course. Hang on. I'll be there in a second."
I hear him hang up and wait for him to show up.
He doesn't take long. As he opens the door of his car, I roll down my window so he can see the blood and blooming panic attack, the shaking and the hyperventilating.
I want to tell him not to use the nickname Michael used to taunt me with when he was drunk, but I know he would have said my full name had his voice not cracked at the sight of the cracked sunglasses. And I can't say anything else because my jaw is clenched, trying to keep away the shaking. I draw my eyebrows together as the water overflows my lower lashes.
He rushes forward, apparently in slow motion, and pulls open my door. I fall when my support is gone, and Greyson lifts me up. I wish I were more helpful in stressful situations. I notice Greyson's eyes are wet as he lifts Michael into a sitting position. I gasp when his glasses fall.
"Look away," Greyson tells me, like a preschool teacher instructs a student to sit still during story time.
I do, but I don't stop seeing the image. The red doesn't change his hair much, but his green eyes glow against their new background.
Greyson unbuckles my seat belt and tucks an arm under my knees so he can carry me to his passenger seat. He calls the cops, who come to ask me questions. I don't answer, but it's not as if they expected me to. I don't know who you call to come pick up a body, and I don't find out because I keep my eyes closed as the panic rolls through. I think Greyson or the police officers ask me more questions, but I don't really hear them.
Greyson stays with me, sitting in the driver's seat with his arm around my shoulders, until the attack is over. When I open my eyes, the road is empty except for Greyson, his car, and me.
He looks relieved to see my face calm again. "Do you want me to drive you home?"
I shake my head. "I can't go back there." There were reasons Michael and I suffered there, and those just multiplied.
"How about we just go back to my place?" he asks softly.
He parks outside his apartment building and stares me down for a moment before I ask, "What?"
"You really don't have anything to say?" He looks surprised and surprisingly upset.
I shake my head. He gives up and carries me to his apartment when I try to get up and fail.
I lay on his couch, curling up in a ball and staring out the window for hours after he sets me there. He has lots of windows in his apartment, and he always keeps the curtains open. I could watch the cars go by for hours, and I do.
Greyson leaves at some point and returns with groceries. I don't pay attention until he sets a plate in front of me. I look up at him doubtfully.
He smiles. "Come on, Katherine! BLTs are your favorite."
I shake my head. They might be, but then I think of something ... someone ... I used to associate the word "favorite" with.
And I push away the plate.CHAPTER 2
I stay with Greyson. Too soon my inevitable detachment kicks in, and I find myself thinking less and less of Michael and the life I left behind. I've developed my own lifestyle here, living on Greyson's couch.
Greyson walks up. "I have a proposition."
"And what might that be?"
He smiles. "A road trip. Get us both out of the house."
I nod slowly. "To where?"
"I know this city deeper in the mountains. I haven't been there in a while, and I think you'd like it."
"When would we leave?"
"Are you kidding? You haven't given me time to pack!" I say jokingly.
"You get five minutes. Go!"
He starts laughing as I pretend to race to the hall closet where I keep my few belongings. Even he knows it wouldn't take more than a minute to pack everything I own into a bag.
"We can buy you anything you don't have on the way!" he calls after me.
I grab my meager assortment of clothes, which I conveniently keep in the hall closet where Greyson stores his suitcases. I grab the smallest one I can find and fill less than half of it with clothes. It's quite a pathetic sight, considering I once had a walk-in closet filled with all kinds of clothes.
Five minutes later, we're pulling out of his driveway and flying toward the interstate. I turn around, and my eyes linger on the sign as we pull away: "Welcome to Twin Falls." Something tells me I won't see that sign again for a while.
"What is this city called?" I ask after we are far away from Twin Falls and Idaho.
"You mean the one we're driving to?"
"It's been so long that I don't remember. Although I do remember one thing. It's not so much a city as three cities fused together. It's almost as if it's its own little country."
"What else do you remember?"
"Well this giant river runs by the city, and dams make it into this raised circular waterway that surrounds the three cities."
I laugh. "You mean it has a moat? Like a castle?"
His face changes, and then he laughs. "You know, I never thought of it like that, but I guess it is kind of like a moat."
He shakes his head.
"When did you go there?"
"I lived there with my parents before I met you." His tone is cautious, as of someone testing the ice when crossing a frozen pond.
I guess I'm the frozen pond and my emotional stability is the ice? Greyson and I were found together on the side of the road when we were ten. I don't remember anything from before that, and I have always known that he does. But I've never heard anything about it before, mainly because it feels like bragging to him.
He shakes his head. "No clue. One day I was living there with my parents. The next thing I know, I'm sitting next to you on the side of the road."
I don't know if I believe him, but I'm not going to drag out anything more. If he wanted me to know, if he thought I should know, he would tell me.
A thought pops up in my head. "So your parents could still be alive?"
He looks hopeful. "I guess. So could yours."
"I don't think so."
"I thought you didn't remember anything from before."
I eye him curiously. "I don't."
"Then how do you know if they're alive or not?"
"I just have a feeling. It just seems like they would have come looking for me or something."
Greyson contemplates this for a minute. "Maybe they did and just never found you."
"But am I really that hard to find?"
Greyson laughs a little, but not as lightly as usual. These topics weigh on both of us.
"Well you never looked for them, did you?"
"No, but that's different. They know me; I don't know them. For all I know, I could have lived in a different country. Maybe I'm Canadian."
This time Greyson laughs for real. "It's a long way from Canada to southern Idaho, Katherine."
"Then maybe I was born in Europe and my parents were on vacation when I got lost or something." It's a little farfetched, but I really have no idea what happened or where I came from.
Greyson has always felt guilty about knowing more about himself than I ever will. "But you knew English already, so you were probably born in the US."
I nod. That's usually what we decide on. "And I'm pale, so I was probably never exposed to the sun as a kid, which makes me think that I'm from the Northwest."
He nods and smiles a little. "Now thatthat's settled again, can we please —"
But I never found out what he was going to say. He swerves to miss the family of deer running across the forest-bordered road, missing the deer but also missing the guardrail.
I don't feel anything as we roll, but I watch as the trees swirl in my vision. At some point my vision goes black, but then it returns as the rolling slows. It comes back just in time for me to see the road we're rolling toward and the truck speeding down it. Naturally rolling down the hill isn't enough for fate, and we hit the driver's side of a pickup truck.
I just stay tucked in my seat belt in our sideways SUV. Someone opens the door to the passenger side and approaches the car. He's wearing black shorts. He peers in at me with wide blue eyes and surprisingly long lashes.
"Are you awake?"
His question bothers me. "No, I slept through that." I roll my eyes.
He laughs but doesn't lose the concerned look. "I meant, are you conscious or not? But I'm gonna guess that you are."
I feel like laughing, but I don't. Something tells me it would hurt. "Yeah. Who are you?" I'm trying not to be blunt and failing.
"Eric," he replies. "Are you okay?"
"I'm perfect." I look up. "Sorry. I'm just in a really bad mood."
"I don't blame you. Why are you in the passenger's seat? Who was driving?"
I open my mouth to say "Greyson" when I realize he's not in the car. The driver's door is gone. I try not to picture his body in one of the trees we rolled by.
Excerpted from Red by Abbie Guard. Copyright © 2015 Abbie Guard. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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