Authors: Lanie Bross
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2015 by Paper Lantern Lit, LLC
Jacket art copyright © 2015 by Mariesol Fumy/Trevillion Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Chaos / Lanie Bross. – First edition.
Summary: “Lucas must team up with a bank of Free Radicals to chip away at the plans of the Unseen Ones, attempting to unravel time and save Corinthe. New intrigue develops around Jasmine, as well as a compelling cast of Free Radicals”—Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-385-74284-9 (hc : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-375-99080-9 (glb: alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-307-97736-6 (ebook) [1. Fate and fatalism—Fiction. 2. Love—Fiction. 3. Supernatural—Fiction.] I. Title.
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To my boys, who inspire and amaze me every day
“Close your eyes. Tell me what you see.”
Luc scowled and crossed his arms. “How can we see anything with our eyes closed?”
Jasmine slipped her hand into her mother’s and squeezed her eyes shut dutifully. It wasn’t often that Mom took them out of the house anymore, and the trip to the Botanical Garden had been so spur-of-the-moment, so unexpected, that Mom had even forgotten to put Jasmine’s shoes on. Jasmine was halfway to the car in socks before Luc had run after her, holding a pair of sneakers.
“Good girl.” A soft hand rested on top of Jasmine’s head, and fingers stroked her long dark hair. “Now take a deep breath. What do you see?”
Jasmine inhaled a breath as big as her lungs would
allow. A color came to her. Yellow. “Lemon?” she asked hesitantly.
“Yes. And what else?”
Luc snorted but Jasmine ignored him. He was going to ruin it. It felt so good to have Mom close, to feel her delicate fingers running through her hair again. She wanted to make her happy more than anything in the world.
“Strawberry,” she said. “I see a strawberry.”
Mom crouched down beside her. “That’s good. What else?”
Jasmine took another deep breath and concentrated with every ounce of her being. She squeezed her eyes so tight, she saw little bursts of color. Bursts like fat fists. Fat fists like bright blooms. The heady aroma wrapped around Jasmine, filling her lungs, her veins with the throbbing scent.
“What do you see, Jas?” her mother prompted.
“I see … the flowers Daddy brought you for your birthday, only … brighter.”
Her mother’s delighted laughter sounded like music. “You can open your eyes now.”
She did, feeling a rush of triumph. She had done it. She had made her mom laugh.
But when she opened her eyes, her mom was gone. Luc was gone. She was alone in a lush forest where the trees seemed to be whispering to each other. If she listened hard enough, she could make out what they said, except for an annoying whine coming from overhead.
“Mom?” The sharp bite of panic put an edge in her voice.
An ache started in her stomach, like she hadn’t eaten for a week, and she doubled over from the pain.
Blood pounded in her ears, drowning out all other sounds.
Then a voice called to her out of the fog. Luc? She tried calling out, but her mouth wouldn’t form words.
The whining returned, louder and filled with rage. It filled her head, pushed to get out until she thought her body would explode. In a moment of clarity, she knew what was happening.
She was dying.
“Jas, I’m coming.…” It was Luc.
But before he reached her, she fell.
Jasmine jolted awake, gasping for air. It took her a second to recognize that she was in her own bed, her own room. The heavy perfume that had haunted her dream clung to her sheets and her hair.
Outside her window, the sun had begun to rise, and the sky was alight with streaks of red and orange. Cracks in the plaster ceiling revealed intricate patterns, spidering outward into a twisted mass, like tree limbs in winter. Someone had made coffee and the aroma made her feel nauseated.
Jasmine sat up slowly, waiting for the usual fuzzy-headedness that followed getting high, but there was none. In fact, things were sharper than they’d ever been.
Except for her memory. Her memory was a blank. Had she partied too hard?
Carefully, she pushed the blanket aside and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her muscles ached as she
stretched her arms overhead. Jas waited for the room to tilt, for the bile to rise in her throat. But it didn’t happen. She scanned her desk for her phone, but it was nowhere in sight. The clock on her nightstand read 8:42 a.m.
What the hell had happened? How had she ended up back in bed? What had she taken last night? She was hangover-free, at least. She felt clear, alert.
So why couldn’t she remember?
Jasmine slipped on a pair of jeans that were slung over the chair. She looked at herself in the mirror on the back of her closet door. Her hair was a wild dark mess splayed out in a million directions, but her skin looked oddly glowing, as though she were standing in a patch of sunlight.
She shook her head. It was as if a curtain had been pulled over her memory. She could catch only glimpses, snippets of images, when the curtain fluttered.
She was meeting him at the marina, but why?
Jasmine grabbed her favorite threadbare black sweater on her way out of the room. It was June in San Francisco and she was freezing. Maybe she’d been sick. Fever or flu or something. It would explain the whacked-out dreams she’d had.
Jasmine walked into the kitchen and found Luc sitting at their tiny table, absently looking out the window. There was an untouched piece of toast in front of him. Coffee was brewing, but it barely masked the scent of stale cigarette smoke.
“Hey,” she said. He looked up, relief evident on his face.
“How are you feeling?” He pulled out the chair next to him and motioned for her to sit.
Uh-oh. Luc was in
. His eyes were bloodshot and there were dark circles beneath them. It reminded her too much of when she’d woken up in the hospital after her overdose.
Oh God, had it happened again? Why couldn’t she remember anything? Everything was a haze, and her last clear recollection was of Friday night. She’d gone to meet T.J. to break it off with him.
“Am I in trouble?” Her voice was hoarse, like it hadn’t been used in awhile.
“What? No. Not at all.” He shifted in the cracked plastic chair and looked at her. “I’m just … glad you’re okay.”
“What happened last night? I went to the marina, but after that …”
Luc shook his head. It put her on edge when he was quiet like this—like there was bad news he was trying to break to her. Like when he had to explain to her that their mom had died.
Wait. Had someone died?
Jasmine looked around the apartment. Dad wasn’t on the couch, where he could usually be found sleeping off a hangover. Dread pooled in her stomach.
“Dad?” The word squeezed out through her tight throat. “Did something happen to Dad?”
“No, he’s okay,” Luc said. “He checked into some residential detox program.”
“He decided he wanted to get sober,” Luc said, poking at the toast. “After you came home he said he wanted to get sober for us.”
Jas couldn’t understand how casually her brother was treating the news. Their dad was not the kind of man who asked for help, who admitted to an addiction.
“Which hospital? I need to see this for myself.” She stood up and immediately felt dizzy, like the floor was dropping out from under her. She placed a hand on the table to steady herself.
“Whoa,” Luc said, standing to ease her back into the chair. “We’re not going anywhere. Not yet, at least. The roads are still a mess and you’ve been gone for two days—”
“Two days? It’s
,” she interrupted. “What are you talking about? And why are the roads a mess?”
“Jas, it’s Sunday,” Luc said. “And there was an earthquake …”
“That’s impossible,” she insisted. Nothing felt familiar. The single bulb over their heads flickered; she felt a sting of pain as if the light shot straight through her brain. This was worse than a hangover, she was sure. She rubbed her throbbing temple and tried to focus.
Why couldn’t she remember what had happened after the marina? If she went to see T.J., it was possible she took something—but she hadn’t
to take anything after the overdose. Not ever again.
“What happened to me, Luc? It wasn’t drugs again, was it?” She had to be sure.
“No.” He scrubbed his fingers through his hair, exhaled deeply. “I found you at the rotunda. There was this woman, Miranda …” He cut himself off. “You know what? It’s not really important. The important thing is that you’re home and that you’re careful from now on.”
“How can I be careful if I don’t know what happened?”
“Jas, so much has happened in the last couple of days.” He closed his eyes and took a ragged breath in. “Can we talk about this later?”
The last thing she wanted to do was talk about it later. He was keeping something from her and she wanted answers—now. But she could tell that Luc was upset. He’d done so much for her over the years, taken care of her when their dad hadn’t. If he needed time, she would give it to him.
“Fine,” she said as she leaned back in the chair. “But I need to get out of this apartment.”
Luc had been more overprotective than ever, and it had taken a whole lot of convincing for him to stay home. He looked exhausted anyway, and Jasmine needed to be alone to think. She walked to the end of the street, where a large dump truck sat rumbling. Jasmine could smell the diesel in the air as men in yellow hardhats moved around the street, patching gaps in the sidewalk. A lamppost sagged close to the ground, and the fence of a parking lot bowed out toward the street.
California Pacific Medical Center was in walking distance, but she moved slowly, still recovering from the headache. She wondered about her dad’s sudden change of heart. Why check himself into a program now? She could barely remember that warm, caring father—the one who threw her up in the air and called her his princess. Maybe deep down, she had always hoped he’d come back.
Jasmine passed a small café and could almost smell the roasted beans and buttery pastries. Her stomach churned, but she couldn’t be sure if it was the smell of food or her own nerves. What if her dad wasn’t really there? Or worse, what if he was sicker than Luc had suggested?