by Shelley R. Pickens
Genre: YA paranormal
Publisher: Fire and Ice
Date of Publication: July 24th, 2014
Number of pages:171 pages
Word Count: 60,643
Cover Artist: Caroline Andrus
Are some secrets worth dying for?
Sixteen-year-old Aimee doesn't like to touch people. One touch and she sees their past. One graze over her skin and she can see all the good and bad deeds a person has ever done. It isn't until a bomb explodes during lunch that she realizes exactly how many dirty secrets the students in her school harbor-or exactly how far one of them would go to keep his secrets safe.
In the aftermath of that fateful day of the bombing Aimee is brushed by a fellow student as they are caught in the mob running for their lives. Images of tortured and murdered young girls rise up to choke her. The problem is, Aimee doesn't know who touched her. Somewhere in this school a fellow student is a killer, and Aimee is the only one that can find him before he murders again.
With the help of her friends Aimee must sift through her stolen memories to determine clues. The quest to find a killer unravels the very fabric of her carefully woven life. He won't stop until he silences her- for only she knows all his secrets.
She will have to summon all of her inner strength to decide what she must do: hunt or be hunted.
Are some secrets worth dying for?
What is the name of the character being interviewed? Aimee Richardson
What is the main book you'll be talking about in the interview? The Haunting of Secrets
What genre is the book? YA Paranormal Mystery
What is your name? Aimee Richardson
Why were you given that name? My mother I’ve never known gave it to me
Is there a nickname you’re known by? Do you prefer it? Aim, cause that’s what Logan calls me
When were you born? 1998
Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings? What do they mean to you? Yes, I have a nose ring.
Do you have a personal scent (perfume or cologne)? If yes, what? Yes, Moonlight Path from Bath and Body works
Do you have any siblings? If so, what are their names and ages? I’m an orphan so if I do I don’t know them
Who has been your greatest influence (parent, friend, idol)? Why? Mary. Because she’s one of the few people whose memories are not sinister and who accepts me despite the evil that follows me.
Where do you currently live (town, neighborhood, locale)? Do you like it? I currently live in Bartow, GA
What sort of a home is it (castle, apartment, cardboard box)? I live in a small house with my adopted mother Mary
With whom do you live? How do you feel about that person / people? I live with my adopted mother Mary who loves me despite my curse.
How do you think your colleagues would describe you? As a Goth girl who likes to be alone
Who is your best friend? Describe them briefly. Dejana – she’s popular, pretty and a great artist
Who is your biggest rival / enemy? Describe them briefly. Everyone. One touch and I know their every secret; hold their every memory. So my greatest enemy is anyone and everyone.
How would you spend an unexpected day off? Alone reading a book in my room
What makes you blush? Logan, his smile is intoxicating.
Have you undergone any dramatic physical transformations in your life? I dye my hair black to go with my Goth exterior I show to the world. But my hair is really blonde.
How do you feel, generally, about the opposite sex? I try not to feel anything because I can’t touch them anyway. Would you want to know your boyfriend’s every thought? What if he thought those pants made you look fat?
How do you feel about children? Do you have or want to have your own? I don’t’ feel comfortable around people so children would be out of the question. And it is also a possibility that they could inherit my curse which I would never do to a kid.
What do you dislike most about your life? What is missing? The same thing actually – the Simple touch of another human being. Something I both fear and crave
The outside world sees me as Goth. They see a quiet young girl; her bleach blonde hair dyed black, sporting a nose ring and no makeup; covered head to toe in clothing. I am never without gloves on my hands. They whisper behind my back, thinking up all kinds of crazy mysterious illnesses that could have possibly ravished my body. Everyone has a theory as to why I choose every day to wear clothes that cover ninety percent of my body, no matter what the temperature. The gossip dies down in the winter but refreshes itself come spring, when all the other girls are wearing cute, revealing shorts and I am still in my baggy jeans. Well, let them talk. Nothing they do or say will make me want to tell them the truth. No one would believe the truth anyway. Besides, I have had enough truth to last me a lifetime.
So, I embrace a life of isolation. I shun human contact, afraid to let anyone close. The other kids tease me relentlessly and call me a freak behind my back, but I don’t care. If they only knew exactly what kind of freak I am, they would run the other way and never look back. Since I arrived at this school, I have encouraged their jeers, happy to do anything to keep them away from me. I endured the leering looks, the laughs that followed me in the halls, the ever constant yet not so funny twitter posts saying I should just go ahead and disappear already. The pity stares I see on my teachers’ faces. Don’t get me wrong, deep inside it all hurts. But I was happy in my isolation, comfortable with my one friend that seemed to not only embrace my persnickety ways, but to revel in them. For me, that kind of life is normal. It’s not a matter of fear; it’s all about survival. It wasn’t until that fateful day at lunch, when my world exploded, that I realized exactly how many dirty secrets the students in my school harbored, or exactly how far one of them would go to keep those secrets safe.
~ A Killer Among Us ~
Everyone in this school is his minion, his puppet to do with as he pleases. None of them are as intelligent or cunning as he is. They pass through these halls in this school every day, completely oblivious to everything important around them. All they care about is that the football team wins the championship. Or who is dating whom this week. Soon, he will be the most revered and respected student at school. Everyone will want to be near him; or at least claim they have some relationship with him, even if it is as noncommittal as sitting next to him in Spanish class. None can see past his façade. No one knows who he really is. But what does he care? Their oblivion serves him well. Without it, he couldn’t do what he really wanted. He couldn’t pursue his darkest fantasy. This was the perfect life. The life that he always longed to live and he would do anything to keep it that way.
~ Everyone That Says School is Hell Isn’t Kidding ~
It’s a normal Wednesday in October when the world around me is thrown into chaos. Homecoming posters litter the halls of the school. Outside, leaves scatter and fly about the campus, blanketing everything in a sheet of crispy brown. There is nothing unusual in the air. Inside, students fill the halls, chatting with friends and making their way to their classes. As usual, I am off by myself, sitting in the corner of a hall studying for a chemistry exam, invisible to everyone else. Well, almost everyone else.
“Can you please explain to me why I need to learn what a mole is, when I know it has absolutely nothing to do with my dream of becoming Zac Efron’s wife?” asked a tall, dark haired, brown eyed girl from above me, her figure blocking the light.
Looking up at her, I sigh. I want to feel annoyed by the intrusion, but I just don’t have it in me to get mad at the only friend I have in my life; the friend who not only knows my secret but, for some unfathomable reason, doesn’t seem to care. “Well, Dejana, if you actually understood how a mole works, then you would be able to see how the molecules interact to make Zac Efron so incredibly hot that it renders him unattainable for the normal teenage girl. Conversely, that same molecular reasoning would not allow good old Zac to give you the time of day.”
“Posh,” spit out Dejana, ignoring every word I just said. “That is simply a piece of science I am more than willing to overcome.”
I shake my head at her, yet say nothing, since I truly do wish her dreams would come true for her. Everyone should have a dream, no matter how unattainable it may be. Dreams are what keep us moving forward; what gives us hope for the future, no matter how silly or impractical those dreams may be. I envy Dejana. At least she has dreams. I have never been able to afford that luxury. I spend way too much time in the past.
Shaking off the impending melancholy, I turn my blue eyes to Dejana and say, “Isn’t he dating someone right now?”
Dejana’s silence tells me everything I need to know.
“Well, if anyone can turn him on, it would be you Dejana. And if you need help, I can take care of Zac for ya, kidnap him even and keep him busy so that he doesn’t go anywhere. I can tie him up, if that’s what it takes. I would do that for you, my friend. It would be a hardship, but I’d do it.”
“That’s my girl,” says Dejana with a smile. “Now quit sulking and let’s go to math. If we’re late, Mr. Herring will have our heads.” As usual, Dejana is right.
After enduring a very long morning of math and chemistry, I am extremely grateful that it’s finally time for lunch. After grabbing my lunch bag out of my locker, I make my way down to the cafeteria. I’m late as usual, but I do this on purpose and for a very good reason. Slowly, I make my way to the doubly long rectangular table by the attendance office in the corner of the large common area. The cafeteria is filled with the usual lunch crowd doing their usual things, which involves more talking and texting rather than eating. No one had any inkling that their lives were about to change. Or even worse, about to end. There were no signs of impending doom, no masked man walking around with a detonator. It is just a normal day with kids eating their lunch. And just like in the movies, it happens in an instant.
One minute I am quietly eating my pizza and breadsticks, when suddenly a loud roar fills my ears and an invisible hand lifts me up out of my seat and flings me into the air. It is disorienting, but not really scary at first. It feels like I am floating, looking down upon the wreckage as if experiencing it second hand. I am confused at first, thinking maybe this was some kind of joke; that some mean kid had picked up my seat and hurled me across the cafeteria. They tended to do that to me, since I never fight back; never dare to get within ten feet of them. They think it is out of cowardice. I know better.
The whole world around me is moving in slow motion. It isn’t until I am hit in the face with a bloody hand wrenched completely off at the wrist that I realize the roar I had heard was a bomb. I begin my descent to the hard floor; my body constantly hitting pieces of table, metal mixed with plastic from chairs, and chunks of things stained red that I don’t even want to know where they came from. I hit the ground on my right side and the contact sends a painful jolt through my shoulder that travels the length of my body. My gloved hands cover my face to ward off the feet trampling all around me. The images of body parts flying through the air and blood spattering on the walls and floor are seared into my brain. In another life, it could have been art, a pretty mosaic depicting the tragedies of life. My first instinct is to avoid, at all possible costs, the touches of the hordes of people that come my way in a desperate attempt to flee the carnage. I have no idea where I am in the cafeteria anymore. All I know is that I have to get out, get away from all those people and from all of their secrets.
I manage to push myself up with my hands into a crouching position. For the first time, I get a real picture of what happened those few precious seconds ago. The large, box-like cafeteria, once filled with students laughing, talking, texting, and eating, is no more. All my shocked vision sees is rubble tainted crimson and the striking blue sky above me where a ceiling once reigned. Students covered in dirt and blood are either running for their lives or aimlessly walking in no particular direction. Shock is a good thing. Those poor souls won’t know what hit them until later. Then all hell will break loose.
I manage to get myself up onto my shaky legs and follow the nearest running zombie to what looks like a door. Nothing is as it should be anymore. The minute the bomb exploded, the cafeteria became a war zone with no recognizable entry or exit. Meandering through the rubble with something between a walk and a run, I head for the hole that resembles a door, avoiding as many people as possible as I fight for freedom from the nightmare. It is nearly impossible. There are bodies everywhere that I have to sidestep. I’m constantly drawn to the horrific sights as I pass pieces of bodies hanging from all sorts of places in completely unnatural positions. Briefly, I wonder what would happen if I touched one of them, but quickly wipe the notion from my mind. The dead would also have entirely too many secrets.
Suddenly, a scream erupts from somewhere behind me and a fresh surge of panic envelops the few remaining students lost in the rubble. They emerge from every possible corner and begin running toward any source of light they can find, desperate for a way out. I no longer aim for the exit. My only goal now is to avoid the stream of people coming toward me. One touch and I’m done for. One graze and the small slice of peace I managed to find at this school since arriving two years ago will be lost. Two people are coming straight at me, running full tilt with every intention of running through me or over me. Neither looks sane enough to care. Quickly, I throw myself left to avoid them, doing my best not to land on the body of a guy that looks an awful lot like Daniel. There’s no time to think. It is essential that I get out of the way.
My ploy works as I fly over Daniel’s chopped up mess of a body and curl myself into a ball. I roll under a split cafeteria table and hit my back hard on a chunk of concrete. The pain in my back surges, but is bearable now that I am out of range of my companions. Still, people keep coming. Screams surround the air as the blessed peace of shock wears off and the students realize they are missing limbs, chunks of precious flesh, or simply coming to terms with the fact that there may be no way out.
Slowly, I get up for a second time and panic as I realize my left glove is missing and the thick black shirt I wore this morning is ripped to shreds, exposing over half of my arm. Panicked, I push my arm as far as I can under my shirt, but it’s easy to see that it won’t be enough. A great deal of my arm is still vulnerable. I panic some more before I shake myself mentally. Yes, this is a problem, but right now, I need to focus.
The only way to be safe is to get out of here. For the first time I realize the precariousness of my position. The survivors are still in danger. The cafeteria as we knew it: whole, sound, strong, is no longer. The ceiling, a third of which was blown off with the bomb, could fall in at any time. All exits are blocked but one, located at the complete opposite side of the cafeteria. I can almost feel the pillars that surround me quake, the stress of holding up an imperfect structure too much for their fragile hands. The desperate pull of survival tugs at me and overrides the dominant fear of being touched. Finding new strength, I jump up and take flight, my arm still folded within my shirt and protected as much as possible. As much as I hate it, I have to follow the crowd.
Behind me, I hear a deep rumble and I push on faster in my haze, thinking it is another bomb. But somewhere deep within my mind, I know that rumble. I have heard it before. That is the sound of compromised concrete giving us a final warning. No longer able to care about my exposed hand, I give one final push toward the light up ahead, using my covered shoulders to push others out of my way. We are all desperate now to leave this horror. We are all determined to survive.
One final large boulder blocks our way. We are merely a pile of bodies as we try to climb it, desperate to simply make it to the light, desperate to breathe clean air again and escape the smell of iron and scorched flesh. The boulder rolls beneath us and we all go down together. There must be five, six of us grasping at air, desperate to find something to break our fall. Without thinking, I reach out my ungloved hand to grab the wall next to me on the left and push off of the chunk of concrete with my feet. My goal is the far wall, away from the others crowded around me on the falling, doomed boulder. I don’t want them to touch me, but I’d also rather not be squished. In my haste to save myself, I failed to notice who was beside me and what the others were doing. To my horror, a hand grabs my bare arm and holds on for dear life.
Past images flood my brain, sixteen years’ worth of images to be exact. I am momentarily blinded by the onslaught of the person’s memories. Everything he has ever done flows into my brain, completely without a care that I don’t welcome it. The images are actually happy ones at first. Images of getting his favorite DS for Christmas, the first time he hit a home run at the ballpark, the first time he kissed a girl. The images are hazy and from the point of view of the person so I only see what they see, feel what they feel, as if I am them.
Quickly, as they always seem to do, the images turn ugly. Rage replaces happiness; images of knives dominate his senses. He caresses them, becomes a part of the knife as the horrific images bombard my brain. I almost throw up when I feel the excitement of his first kill. I witness the process of tying up the young girl, maybe thirteen, and slicing her as she screams. Image after evil image floods unwillingly into my mind despite my consciousness screaming for it to stop.
Finally, the images recede as his touch leaves my skin. I am so lost in the two worlds that I no longer know which one is real...the blood or the rubble, both an undesired hell. Slowly, I find my way back to the real world. I see the wall I so desperately reached for and lift myself up off the cold hard floor. The other survivors are gone; smartly, they fled without a second thought to the girl lying on the floor. Ignoring the grotesque memories running through my brain, I run to the light, fly through the hole where a door used to be, and take in the blessed sun and fresh air.
As I walk in a daze, with people running amuck all around me, the light I so desperately sought with the others has brought momentary safety. I bask in the feeling for a bit, since it is so rare in my life. I breathe in deep the clean air, thankful that I’m alive. I try not to think of all the students who did not make it out, who would never make it out. With some effort, I try to push back the memories so viciously thrown at me by another’s touch, but they stubbornly come back. They always do.
I can’t stay in this bubble of safety for long. The aftermath of the bomb will have consequences. The real question is - for whom? Who in the world would plant a bomb to go off during lunch in a crowded cafeteria? Are all the people in this world insane? If you asked me, I would say yes. And it would be the truth, born out of thousands of real memories each containing secrets. Secrets that were never meant to be shared. Granted, that’s why they’re secret, or supposed to be anyway. Personally, I hate secrets. I could go the rest of my life never knowing another juicy bit of gossip. But they always seem to find me. It is my curse. I wish upon star after star that I could see the future, not the past, or even nothing at all. But all of my wishes go unanswered. It would be so much cooler to see the future. There is no pleasure in seeing someone’s past, of seeing things that others try so desperately to hide. Believe me when I say that some secrets should never see the light of day.
I’ve spent my life running from the evil that I have seen others commit through their memories. The ones that touch me know. It seems they can feel their memories rolling off them in waves. With my help, they relive the horrors that once dominated their lives. There is no benefit to reliving the past, no positive, except perhaps if one learns from it. Which, I’m sad to say, few ever do. In my experience, most people simply want to forget. I can never forget. Seeing the past has only ever given me enemies. Now, I must add one more to my ever-growing list, thanks to an asshole with an unhealthy attachment to knives and an affinity for causing pain.
About the Author:
Shelley Pickens is a Spanish teacher by day and a novelist by night. She’s been in love with everything paranormal since she can remember. After years of teaching high school students, she decided to take her firsthand knowledge of young adults and apply it to her passion for creative writing and fantasy.
When not teaching or writing, Shelley likes to spend time with her husband and two beautiful children in Atlanta, Ga.
Her escape from reality is her love of complex thriller and science fiction TV series like Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow. In her spare time she is an avid watcher of little league baseball.
THE HAUNTING OF SECRETS is her debut novel.a Rafflecopter giveaway