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Authors: Julie Cross

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“Oh, no,” Dad moaned. “Oh, no, Jackson … is it too late?”

“No,” the redheaded woman said firmly. “Blake … go … get help!”

Blake? The ponytail kid?

“Mason, go with him,” Dad shouted.

The world was already fading before me … losing all of its clarity. The redheaded
lady’s hair and face blurred and blended with Dad’s. Courtney was right beside him,
panic written all over her face, but all I could see was the recognition. Just like
I had known, when she had slipped away from me so many years ago, I knew she felt
this. The pain faded, and in this case I knew that wasn’t a good sign. But I welcomed
it, so much.
Just let it be quick … let me close my eyes and just sleep …

The sound of Courtney sobbing gave me a brief, five-second electric shock to the heart.
I felt the pain again for several seconds and then it drifted. As I focused all my
attention on Courtney’s face, I wondered if this was what she had fought, this exhausting
battle to hold on, when letting go was so much easier. Would she fight it all over
again? Would she feel the emptiness that I had felt when she died? I wished I had
told Dad or Adam or my Holly what had happened to me … I knew it was real … it had
to be.

I had written a poem … in 2009 … not intentionally, more like subconscious thoughts
that had vomited themselves onto my computer and then into the hands of an overly
dramatic teacher. Voices echoed around me, from a distant tunnel, as I recalled those
words I wrote about Courtney in another life … as another person,

I shared a womb with someone … does that mean we shared a soul?

Maybe half my soul is buried, deep under the ground, and I’ll never get it back.

I’m cold when it isn’t. I hear storms that aren’t there. There’s space in me I can’t
fill.

Empty. Cold. Storms. And then I smell the carpet, hear deep breaths that aren’t mine.

When I open my eyes, she’s still gone.

But I didn’t feel like that anymore … I was whole again. Because of Holly. And now
she was here with me. Somehow, she had managed to pull my arm out of my sweatshirt
and had the sleeve pressed against my ear, trying to stop the bleeding. Was I sitting
up or lying down?

Sitting … sort of
. I felt my body swaying, falling into her, our foreheads crashing together as she
attempted to hold me up. Images flashed through my head at high speed, but I saw each
and every one of them: Courtney and me in the snow on Christmas Eve … me, standing
over Courtney’s casket, squeezing my eyes shut, not letting myself see her for more
than half a second … me and Dad tipping the sailboat on purpose, splashing Courtney
with ocean water … and Holly, kissing me that first time …
the very first time
 … I could taste her, smell her, feel her arms around me still. Holly asleep in my
bed, the two of us breathing in rhythm. Different but always in sync.

I shook my head, zooming in on her face, the one right in front of me and not the
one etched in my memories. This was the last image I wanted to see. Not the grief
and panic on Dad’s, Courtney’s, and Emily’s faces. Holly …
just Holly
.

“We have to get him inside!” someone shouted.

“If his brain was bleeding he’d be screaming from the pressure.” Another voice, one
I didn’t know.

“Let him go,” someone said, leaning over Holly.

I felt my hand lifting up to touch her face, or at least that was what I wanted it
to do. My forehead still rested against hers.
This is it … this is all I get
. Her eyes were closed now and it made me feel the world around me again. I didn’t
want that pain. Not ever.

“Hol?” I whispered, not sure if any sound had actually come out. “Look at me.”

She opened her eyes and I started seeing two of her, but relief washed over me in
an instant. My head slumped over, leaning against her shoulder. I couldn’t hold it
up … only a few more seconds and I’d fall over completely. My face made contact with
the side of her neck as I succeeded in turning my head. “Hol?”

“What?” she whispered back, as if I were about to tell her some great escape plan
before dying.

“Don’t give up … It’s worth it, I swear. You’re worth it, Holly. I was wrong before …
so wrong.”

And finally, I let my eyes close. The hot, wet tears that splashed the side of my
neck were the last sensation I felt.

Holly’s tears
. Maybe she was just overwhelmed by the moment, or maybe she truly felt my words …
heard the truth behind them and knew that she
had
someone. She wasn’t alone.

Someone was prying us apart and the desperate fight for life sprang up again. My fingers
curled around the back of her neck and I whispered, as loud as I possibly could, “I
love you.”

Then my back hit the grass and I stared up at the clouds, my body relaxing,
shutting down.
I struggled against the darkness, trying to sit up and being pushed back down. I
opened my mouth, but no sound came out.

The echoing voices turned to silence … and I was being sucked into a black tunnel …
maybe forever …

 

Stay tuned for the next book in the Tempest series, available in early 2014 wherever
books are sold.

 

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

I have to keep this much,
much
shorter than the
Tempest
acknowledgments. I won’t get away with another five pages of thanking people.

Tempest
Launch Event on January 21, 2012

First off, I want to thank all my family and friends, my community—the super-awesome
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois—for following my journey from the beginning and being there
for the release of
Tempest
. Also, Betsy Su and the Champaign Public Library for hosting my launch event and
making it such an amazing day. Suzie Townsend, for being there. My editor, Brendan
Deneen, for wishing he could be there.

Also Beth Revis, Megan Miranda, Maureen Lipinski, and Carrie Ryan for joining me on
January 17, 2012—the official
Tempest
release day—at Books of Wonder in New York City.

St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books/Macmillan Folks

Those with big offices make big dreams come true—Tom Dunne, Matthew Shear, Anne Marie
Tallberg, and Pete Wolverton.

Two amazing ladies who have worked hard to get
Tempest
out in the world and are so fun to hang out with—Brittney Kleinfelter and Eileen
Rothschild.

The guy I pester almost daily for marketing and social media advice and who answers
all my questions with patience and humor—Joe Goldschein. It’s been so fun to work
with you!

Nicole Sohl—for all your behind-the-scenes work.

Also publicity folks—Rachel Ekstrom and Jessica Preeg.

And last, but not least, the guy behind the curtain who sees all my writing way, way
before the final version and still believes in me—my editor, Brendan Deneen—someone
I can tell just about anything to and know that he won’t lose faith in my ability
to finish this trilogy, and make it the awesome series he and I both envisioned way
back in April 2010.

Other Equally Important People in Smaller Groups

The amazing UK folks at Macmillan Children’s—Sally Opiant and Ruth Kristin Nelson
and the amazing Nelson Literary Agency crew.Alltimes.

Writer friends and inspiring authors—Roni Loren, Kari Olson, John Green, Veronica
Roth, Courtney Summer, Ally Carter, Erika O’Rourke, Kody Keplinger.

Vortex
cover models—Mark Perini and Scarlett Benchley, thanks for bringing Jackson and Holly
to life.

The Perfect 10, my amazing teen panel, teamTEENauthor, all the book bloggers.

Librarians everywhere, YALSA, and ALA—amazing organizations that get books into people’s
hands for the sole purpose of helping others fall in love with reading.

And superspecial thanks to Every. Single. Fan for your support, reviews, and honest
thoughtful words. You are the ones who have truly kept my butt in the writing chair
and made words continue to appear on the page. I hope this sequel is everything you
wanted it to be. I have thought of every one of you as I poured my energy into creating
this story.

ALSO BY JULIE CROSS

Tempest

 

A
BOUT THE
A
UTHOR

 

 

JULIE CROSS lives in central Illinois with her husband and three children. She never
considered writing professionally until May of 2009. Since then, she hasn’t gone a
day without writing.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed
in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS.

An imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

VORTEX.
Copyright © 2012 by Julie Cross. All rights reserved. For information, address St.
Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.thomasdunnebooks.com

www.stmartins.com

Cover photograph of people © Herman Estevez

ISBN 978-0-312-56890-0 (hardcover)

ISBN 9781250020727 (e-book)

First Edition: January 2013

BOOK: Vortex
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