Nothing ever happens in Dawson, Colorado.
Until high school senior Cassidy Roekiem’s mom checks into a “wellness center,” but nothing is wrong with her.
Then people start seeing lights in the sky and missing chunks of time, but the town insists nothing is going on.
Suddenly, “nothing” is starting to feel a whole lot like something. And everything leads back to Hayden. The boy she’s starting to fall for. The boy with too many dark secrets for his kind heart. The boy she’s pretty sure isn’t human…
And now Hayden, the new boy at school who keeps to himself and is more than a little mysterious, starts to notice her like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
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My hero in UNDER THE MILKY WAY is fiercely guarded and secretive. Call it a survival mechanism. In this excerpt, Cassidy pierces his armor a little to find out what makes him tick.
Hayden’s room is pretty much like the rest of the house. Cream walls. Polished hardwood floor. Sparse, but lived-in. The top half of his PJs is neatly folded over a chair, like he made a deliberate choice to sleep sans shirt. A pair of striped socks lie near the bed, perhaps discarded during the night. There are no sports trophies, no posters of heroes, no instruments. But there are books—lots of them—jammed into shelves that span an entire wall.
I run my fingers over the spines, most of them creased and worn. Fiction-wise, there’s a thoughtful assortment. Everything from Allende to Zusak. And on the non-fiction shelves he’s got worn copies of all the -ologies—anthropology, sociology, psychology, et cetera.
Hayden McGraw really is the perfect, well-rounded-in-all-the-right-places human being.
“Wow, your collection is amazing.” I take out a book about Mars exploration.
“It’s pure escapism. Like this one.” He tilts his head at a Star Wars novel.
I move to another section of the bookcase and find a self-help book. “This looks like a fun read. How to Behave Yourself. You haven’t read it, obviously.”
With an embarrassed smile, he quickly puts himself between me and the shelves. “Okay, that’s enough browsing.”
“Right,” I say, spying Mom’s laptop on his uncluttered desk.
Shaking my head, I open the lid to wake it up. The familiar desktop image pops up. It’s a selfie with Mom, Dad, and me in our backyard. I remember the day it was taken—just before I started my sophomore year. Our smiles are wide, faces relaxed and happy, despite spending the day painting the tiny guest house in the blazing August heat. Who knew the three of us would be blown apart just over a year later?
“I can’t believe you got this working. It’s like magic. How did you do it?”
Hayden shrugs. “Magicians never reveal their secrets.”
“I’m going to search your library for your magic handbook.” I wink and turn to the laptop. It prompts me for a password. I try a combo of family names and birthdates, but none open the virtual door. “Do you have the password in your bag of tricks?”
“I’m afraid not,” he says, rocking back and forth on his bare feet.
“It’s okay. You’ve raised the laptop from the dead. That’s more than enough. How can I ever repay you?” My arms encircle his waist.
“I can think of one way.” He angles his lips against mine and the rest of me turns into mush. His hands tangle through my hair, unbinding the ponytail.
I tilt my head and he runs a trail of kisses along my jaw, right to the delicate little spot below my earlobe. Knees buckling, I lean into the bookcase for support. And he follows. Closes up the space between us. The heat from his body sears into me. I feel the ba-bomp, ba-bomp of his heart. For a few excruciating seconds, he arrests me with an intense stare that almost makes me forget my own name. My brain has been erased. In a good way this time.
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Australian Vanessa Barneveld lives in a 19th-century house in inner-city Sydney with a 21st-century husband, two eccentric cats and one ghost—all of whom provide inspiration for her spirited novels. In addition to her writing career, she’s part of a crack team that produces closed captions for deaf TV viewers and audio descriptions for the blind. An avid traveler, she enjoys the journeys almost as much as the destinations. She freely admits to being food motivated and will stop at nothing to find the perfect hot chips wherever she roams around the world.
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