Monday, August 22, 2011

The Debut of Chapter One

Here it is! The long awaited (ok, maybe only by me) debut of the first chapter of Awake: A Sleeping Beauty Story.

If you need a quick refresher on what my novel is about, click on over here to read the synopsis. Otherwise, without further ado, here is the first chapter:

Awake: A Sleeping Beauty Story

Chapter One

The last place Alexandra Martin expected to see Luke Reed was at orientation for summer interns at the Museum Guild of Los Angeles.

Quite honestly, Alex hadn’t expected to see Luke anywhere after graduation, except maybe in the occasional news report about minor league baseball and eventually the majors. Rumor had it he’d already signed a contract with a major league team and was going to be playing in their minor league farm system starting that summer. Not that Alex paid any attention to rumors about Luke Reed.

And yet there he was, slouching in one of the museum’s ancient folding chairs, arms crossed behind his head as he gazed soulfully up at the ceiling. What he found so fascinating about the yellowing acoustic tiles Alex couldn’t even begin to fathom. A group of girls seated a row behind him, obviously destined for a summer of interning at the art museum if their black clothing and red lips were any indication, ogled him blatantly. It was entirely possible that he studied the tiles more to avoid their predatory gazes than from any real interest in the ceiling.

Alex lingered in the doorway and wondered for a single heartbeat if she could escape unnoticed. Maybe she could tell the receptionist she wasn’t feeling well and see if she could be excused from orientation. It was, after all, her fourth summer interning at the Gem and Mineral Museum; she was already fully oriented.

But that would be cowardly.

And he’d already lowered his gaze from his contemplation of the ceiling and spotted her.

“Hey Lex, saved you a seat,” Luke flashed her his trademark killer grin - a grin that caused most females of the species to swoon and giggle like they’d suddenly dropped twenty IQ points, but the only feeling it aroused in Alex was minor irritation.

Alex eyed the seat next to him. She supposed it would be horribly rude to sit anywhere else, seeing as he had just announced to the entire room that he had saved it for her. Alex had never been horribly rude to anyone in her life. She doubted she could even pull off horribly rude if she wanted to.

“Luke,” she acknowledged as she stepped over his long legs to reach the folding chair next to him, ignoring the incredulous, mildly jealous, stares from the gaggle of art interns. Alex sat, hugging her backpack in her lap in front of her and resting her chin on the top of it as she stared at the empty podium at the front of the meeting room.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m doing here?” Luke teased her after a few moments of awkward silence.

Without looking over at him she answered, “I would think it was pretty obvious, as it’s summer intern orientation, that you’re here because you’re interning at one of the museums.”

“Hmm, yes, logic always has been your strong suit,” he replied. “You’re at the GeMMLA too, right?” He laughed as Alex’s head snapped towards him, her eyes widening at his use of the word “too.” “Of course you are, you’ve always had a thing for rocks.”

Alex stared at him, her brain refusing to wrap itself around the concept that Luke Reed of all people was going to be spending the entire summer at the Gem and Mineral Museum of Los Angeles.

“Luke,” she finally asked in bewilderment, “what in God’s name are you doing here?”

He flashed her another lethal grin, but Alex was already too off balance to feel her normal irritation.

“I’m spending the next nine weeks doing all sorts of geeky rock stuff with you, short stuff.”

Alex winced at the old term of endearment. “Luke, you and I haven’t been friends since the seventh grade,” she pointed out. When everyone began to notice how talented he was on the baseball field, he had started getting popular, while Alex, who’d possessed no discernible talent other than for schoolwork and being slightly awkward, had remained as unpopular as ever. It wasn’t that Alex had been a social outcast, that would have required her peers taking enough notice of her to cast her out. She just sort of quietly was, whereas Luke’s good looks, charm, and athletic talent had rocketed him into the popularity stratosphere. “We’ve barely even spoken to each other since middle school.”

“Lex, I asked you to the junior formal last year. Doesn’t exactly qualify as not talking to each other.”

“Your mother made you ask me.”

Luke laughed. “Is that why you said no? Because you think my mom made me ask you?”

Alex glared at him, silently daring him to lie to her. “Okay,” he conceded, “she may have mentioned that your mom told her you didn’t have a date to the dance, although I already knew that because you never go to dances . . .”

“There is no sense,” Alex interrupted irritably, “in a person like me ever attempting to go to a dance. That aside,” she continued when it looked as if he might argue with her, “I am sure there is an actual valid reason you’re planning on wasting your summer doing ‘geeky rock stuff.’”


“Yup, what?” Alex asked, exasperated.

“Yup, I do have a valid reason,” Luke answered.

Alex glared at him for a moment, but he didn’t seem inclined to elaborate. “Well, there you go,” she said sarcastically.

She glanced up at the clock, hoping orientation would start soon. The museums had staggered closed days. The only two days all six were open at the same time were Wednesdays and Saturdays. Even the organizers of the summer internship program realized the cruelty of asking teenagers to sit through an orientation on a Saturday in July. So here they all were, every teen within a thirty mile radius who had even thought of setting foot in a museum during the summer, about twenty-five of them, spending their Wednesday morning waiting to get sorted out and dispersed amongst the main museums.

The six museums were grouped together in a hodgepodge circle surrounding a large open grassy area referred to, quite creatively, as “the lawn.” Other than the occasional errand between museums, the lawn was the only place interns from different museums would ever run into each other. This usually happened during lunch breaks since most of the restaurants around the museum guild were priced out of the average high school student’s budget.

The Gem and Mineral Museum was definitely not the most glamorous museum in the Guild, and therefore it garnered the least amount of interest. Becca Ward, who had volunteered with Alex the last three summers, had waved exuberantly at Alex as she came into the room a few moments earlier. Becca had noticed mid-wave that Alex wasn’t sitting alone. She’d raised her eyebrows almost comically high at Alex as she walked by them and took a seat in the back corner with a group of interns from the Science Museum. Alex tried to flash her a “save me” look, but she was pretty sure Becca hadn’t seen it, or she’d just decided to abandon Alex to her fate.

Alex had figured this year, just like last, it would only be herself and Becca, who would end up at GeMMLA. But now, of course, there was Luke.

The clock slowly ticked down the last few moments to ten when the orientation was scheduled to start. Luke, wisely reading her last comment as signaling the end of the conversation, had resumed his perusal of the ceiling tiles. Alex wondered idly who would be doing this year’s presentation. It was pretty much the same material every year, an overview of the program, usually dryly presented by someone from the Art Museum, as they got the most interns, or occasionally by someone from Science. It was too much to hope it might be someone from GeMMLA, and definitely too much to hope that it might be him. As evidenced by the fact that she was sitting next to Luke Reed and therefore already feeling out of sorts and slightly inadequate, she was just not that lucky today.

Exactly one minute before ten, the door swung open and he walked in, a stack of stapled handouts tucked under one arm. Alex’s mouth went dry and her cheeks flushed as he caught sight of her and gave her a smile and a wave. She could hear the gaggle of art interns whispering furiously amongst themselves. Alex figured they must be wondering how she rated a saved seat from the hot blond athlete and a smile and a wave from the handsome dark-haired advisor. She had to consciously stop the almost frantic giggle that rose up in her throat, because she totally agreed with them.

Luke had also noticed the smile and wave, as well as Alex’s reaction to it. He gave her a little smile, different than his usually casual grin, and Alex had no idea what to make of it.

“Hey everyone, my name is Nicholas Grey, and I am the intern advisor for the Gem and Mineral Museum.” Nicholas dropped his stack of papers on the podium with an audible thud, then leaned against it, ankles crossed with one arm casually draped across the top. In his dark jeans and sports coat over a t-shirt featuring the logo of a classic rock band, he was the epitome of academic chic. Alex could almost hear the art interns rethinking their museum choice.

“I’m also working on my doctoral thesis,” Nicholas continued, “so I’m a student just like you guys.”

Alex was pretty sure Nicholas could not honestly be compared to any of the high school students or soon-to-be-college students in the room. With the possible exception of Luke, no one else here was as comfortable in their own skin. Unlike Luke’s innate athletic grace, Nicholas radiated a sort of calm energy that came from maturity and experience.

“The information we are going to go over this morning is pretty basic and general, just a bit about the program and the six different museums that make up the Guild. You’ll get more detailed info from your respective intern advisors. I’ve got a list of all your names, so I’ll read it off and make sure everyone is here.”

He paused to pull out a pair of horn-rimmed glasses from his coat pocket and slipped them on. It was really unfair, Alex reflected, that Nicholas’s glasses managed to make him look even hotter, while hers just managed to obscure her eyes and highlight the too-small bridge of her nose by slipping down continuously.

“Alexandra, would you mind passing out these handouts while I take attendance?” Nicholas shot Alex another smile.

Alex set her backpack on the floor and wiped her suddenly damp palms on the front of her jeans before she stood up, almost tripping over her discarded backpack. Before she could even react to the fact that she was tipping over, Luke’s arm shot out to the side and he snagged a finger through the back belt loop of her jeans, stopping her forward momentum. Three thoughts flashed simultaneously through Alex’s mind. The first was that she was glad her jeans, as well worn as they were, didn’t rip. The second was relief that Luke had been so quick that he had effectively prevented her from making a total fool of herself and had done it in such a way that only those sitting behind her could even tell there was a problem. Nicholas, standing as he was in front and to the left of her, couldn’t even see Luke’s arm steadying her or his hand gripping her waistband.

The third was that Luke was really, really strong.

“Easy, short stuff,” Luke said under his breath. “Make him guess at least a little.” Alex turned and glared at him with what she hoped was enough force to kill. He just chuckled under his breath and tugged on her belt loop once before letting her go.

Alex concentrated on taking careful, measured steps on her way to the podium and accepted the stack of handouts from Nicholas without fully meeting his eye. As she passed them out, she ignored the snide sideways glances from the art interns, who, being seated behind her, had unfortunately had a great view of her near mishap and the heroic save by Luke. She sat back in her chair and resumed her clock watching, this time counting down the seconds until the orientation was over and she could escape to the calming environs of GeMMLA. She made the mistake of glancing over at Luke once, and when he gave her a broad wink, she realized with a small sinking feeling that her sanctuary, the one place she felt relatively normal, was about to be invaded by the person in whose presence she tended to appear the most unspecial and inadequate. And this invasion was going to happen in front of the one person that she desperately wanted to see her as special and adequate.


  1. Wow!! Way to go, Jess! I love the bits you've added about the museums--that really helps someone not from LA to picture it. And you know how much I love Luke...

    Can't wait to read some more!

  2. LOve the first chapter. Can't wait for more!

  3. Nancy- actually the museum guild is just something I made up, the gem & mineral stuff is actually in the natural history museum, but I wanted it to be smaller/more intimate. There is a "museum row" which is kind of where I got the idea for a guild / all the museums together.

    LTV & CRN - thanks! :D

  4. Oh goodness, I need more! GREAT first chapter. I think I may be in love with Luke already, and just for the belt loop thing. :)

    Thanks for posting chapter one! I'll be looking forward to the release.

  5. This is off to a great start, Jessica! I may have to take up reading YA - yours at least.

  6. Love. This. So. Much. When do I get to read the rest?!

  7. Love this chapter! Luke sure seems like a hottie! I am looking forward to reading more! :)

  8. What an intriguing first chapter! I'm looking forward to reading more.

  9. Loved it!

    This is my favorite line so far: “Easy, short stuff,” Luke said under his breath. “Make him guess at least a little.”

    I like that he reads her so well. Goods stuff!

  10. Brilliant stuff! Definitely want to read more. Makes me miss my youth! D.S.

  11. Please sir, may I have some more?

    I can't wait to read the rest! This seems like a book I would recommend to my teen reading group!

  12. Nice start! Can't wait for me. :)

  13. Well, you sucked me in! Can't wait to read more :)

  14. Really enjoyed it, want to read more... and hey! I like Luke. (;


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