The Essence (The Pledge #2)
By Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Purchased/Itching for Books Blog Tours
At the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness.
Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two.
As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.
Summer had given way to the harvest season, but the nighttime temperatures rarely dipped lower than the daytime ones. It was unseasonably warm for this time of year, but neither Max nor I complained as we lay stretched out on our backs, staring up at the spectral clouds – apparitions suspended in the black sky above us, allowing the moon only the briefest glimpse of the earth below.
Even though the light from my skin was fading, my encounter with Angelina the night before made me the brightest thing out here.
But at least in the garden I could hide myself. The space within the hedged walls was quite possibly the most peaceful place in the world, and the two of us found ourselves existing among the shrubbery and flowers and fountains and pathways more often than not, whispering secrets of what was and what would be, and of all the things we wished for. Yet more and more often, I found my mind wandering to other things, even when – like now – I watched Max’s lips moving.
Things like Sabara, and what she wanted from me.
Max stopped talking and shifted onto his side, propping up on one elbow as he stared down at me. His eyes were nearly as dark as the midnight sky and just as cloudy. “Did you hear anything I just said, Charlie?”
I turned my attention to him, shaking away thoughts of the dead queen as I rolled in the soft grass beneath us and leaned up so we were eye to eye. My mouth curved devilishly, yet I shrugged as guilelessly as I could manage. I knew exactly what I was doing. “No, but I’m sure it was eloquent and well thought-out. Bordering on brilliant, I’d wager.”
The corner of his mouth ticked up, ever so slightly. “I don’t suppose it would do any good to repeat myself, would it?”
“Probably not.” I looked away from him, staring up at the sky once more. The clouds had shifted, parting to create a vaporous tunnel through which the full moon shone, throwing dazzling threads of light along the clouds’ edges.
“You can’t avoid the topic forever, Charlie. You’ll tire before I do,” he argued. A point he’d tried to make a thousand times before. One I had no problem rebuking.
“Of course I can. I’ll just keep pretending I didn’t hear you.”
Silver splinters flickered in Max’s charcoal eyes, similar to the silver of his brother’s eyes. His hand shot out to brace the back of my neck and his teeth flashed white in the pale light of the moon as he leaned closer. I could feel his breath before I realized his lips were brushing mine. Not kissing, just feathering over them. Reminding my body – and everyone with eyes – what Max was capable of doing to me.
Beneath my skin, light exploded. Tiny bursts that fragmented the darkness around us, igniting like lighting storms. Inside, the same things were happening to me, only no one could see those detonations, the ones that curled my toes and made my breath catch in the back of my throat.
“Eventually you’ll hear me,” Max whispered against my mouth, in answer to my intentional snub. “And eventually you’ll agree to be my wife.”
Kimberly is the author of the BODY FINDER series (HarperCollins) and THE PLEDGE trilogy (Simon & Schuster). She lives in the Pacific Northwest, the ideal place to write anything dark or creepy…a gloomy day can set the perfect mood. She lives with her husband and their three beautiful (and often mouthy) children who provide an endless source of inspiration.
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