Uncovering Cobbogoth (Cobbogoth #1)
Release Date: 05/13/14
Norah Lukens needs to uncover the truth about the fabled lost city of Cobbogoth. After her archaeologist uncle’s murder, Norah is asked to translate his old research journal for evidence and discovers that his murder was a cover-up for something far more sinister.
When she turns to neighbor and only friend James Riley for help, she realizes that not only is their bitter-sweet past haunting her every step, but James is keeping dangerous secrets. Can Norah discover what they are before its too late to share her own.
“Norah Lukens,” said a voice close behind me.
I froze, closing my eyes. It had been nine months, but I’d have recognized his voice anywhere. I slowly turned around. “James? “My voice came out in a strangled sort of whisper.
He grinned shyly at me from the pavilion door.
All I could do was stare. It was like I was seeing him for the first time. I noticed the delicate crow’s-feet that still creased when he smiled, his slightly crooked bottom teeth, the way his chocolate-brown curls peeked out of his backward baseball cap, fringing his tanned forehead. Those kind, deep-blue eyes. He was virtually unchanged, except for the scruff from a couple of days dusting his dimpled chin and upper lip—just the way I’d seen him so many times during my runs over the last nine months. Only this was less disturbing because he was actually here. He was real.
In and out, Nor. In and out. I struggled to get my bearings as my heart hammered against my rib cage. The strange pull I hadn’t felt since last summer was already taking hold of me.
James offered me his hand. “Welcome home, Nor.” He had the subtlest hint of a Bostonian accent; he always sounded so laid back—cool—even when he was angry. And he was the only person who’d ever called me “Nor.”
“Right. Thanks,” I mumbled. Our hands met, and I was shocked by the heat. He was uncharacteristically warm. Then that familiar sense of home spread through my fingers, heading straight to my heart. The flush I always got in his presence crept to my cheeks.
When our eyes locked, James smiled easily. “Geez, what’d they do? Starve you over there?” He held my arm up and out in order to look at me. “You’re skin and bones.”
I lowered my eyes. I was kidding myself if I really thought he wouldn’t notice. I’d dropped twenty pounds at Dunstan before the hallucinations stopped. Why did Uncle Jack ever think this was a good idea?
James cleared his throat and shocked me by squeezing my hand.
I looked up at him—his eyes were intent on my face.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Um . . . yeah, sure.” It wasn’t until he cleared his throat again, then shifted slightly, that I realized I was still gripping his hand. “Oh! Sorry.” I quickly dropped it.
Get a grip, Nor! Cool and distant—that was the plan. I dropped my eyes and passed him to gather my things.
James got there first. “These all your bags?”
“Yeah, but I can—”
He snatched up the suitcase and backpack in one hand, the duffle in the other, leaving me nothing to carry.
“Thanks,” I mumbled and followed him back to the car.
James went straight to work packing up the trunk while I slid into the passenger seat. Once I’d buckled myself in, I scanned my brain for any “safe” topics of conversation—topics that didn’t include anything even mildly hinting at last summer. By the time James was sitting beside me, I decided my best chance at not tearing open old wounds was to close my eyes and pretend to be tired from my trip. That way neither of us would feel obligated to speak.
It seemed that this was exactly what James was hoping for. I felt him glance over and let out the faintest sigh. Then, without a word, we pulled away from the curb.
Thank goodness this was going to be a short ride. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the first of many memories from rushing in, shattering the fragile barrier I’d been building up to protect myself all year.
“You ready?” James asked.
We stood side by side in the driveway of his house. There was a car parked there. It belonged to the hospice nurse who came last summer, Tuesday through Thursday, to help Gram. James wanted to care for his grandmother by himself, but Gram insisted on hiring help to give him a few nights off each week.
James motioned for me to go ahead of him up the winding drive to my own house. I was wearing my hair long and straight that night—something I’d started doing since James mentioned he liked it that way. Subconsciously—or perhaps consciously—I hoped he’d find a chance to run his fingers through it like he had once before.
James stayed behind me for the first leg of the path. I was still in the beginning stages of discovering my feelings for him and consequently felt shy.
From the side, I saw a pensive smile hitch up the corners of his mouth, exposing my favorite dimple.
We were by the hydrangeas, on the way up to my porch when I felt something tug at my head. I turned. James was there, holding up a strand of my hair. He shrugged. “You got snagged on some flowers.”
My face felt hot, and I fumbled for something to say. “Y-you know, you didn’t need to walk me home,” I said. “I’m sure there’re a million things you’d like to do tonight.” We were just reaching the top of the stairs leading to the porch.
“A million things? Like what?”
“I don’t know. Hang out with your friends, go see a Sox game, go play a game . . . ,” I offered.
James just shrugged, fiddling with his baseball cap; we were at my door now. “I could do all of those things, sure, but I’d rather be with you.”
“Y-you would?” I was facing the door, my hands trembling to get the key in the lock. But I could see the reflection of his face above mine in the window. He was still smiling. Why hadn’t I noticed the effect he had on me until recently?
James reached up and placed his hand on my shoulder, turning me to face him. I was so terrified, yet excited at the same time. None of it made sense to me.
“Didn’t you know that, Nor?”
I shook my head. His hand was still on my shoulder, and he took a step closer to me.
“How could I not, when you’re the only person who’s ever made me feel this way?”
I gripped the doorknob. “Um, what—what way’s that?”
James chuckled, completely bewildered. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever liked and not known what to do about it.”
I leaned back against the door. “Don’t know what to do? What do you mean?”
He took another step closer, letting his hand slide down my arm till it gripped my hand. “I know what I want to do, but I’m not sure if I should.”
I swallowed. “Oh?”
“And yet . . .” James leaned forward.
But then the door gave way.
I stumbled back, my only anchor being James, who tightened his grip on my hand. Then I spun around.
Uncle Jack stood in the doorway, a smile that didn’t reach his eyes plastered on his face.
“Nilla. James.” He let his gaze slide from one of us to the other until it lingered on our joined hands.
Mortified, I quickly dropped James’s hand and moved past Uncle Jack into the house. “I’ll see you later, James,” I called just before darting up the stairs.
That night was the first of several sleepless and confused nights concerning James Riley.
I shook the memory away. It was one of many I’d tortured myself with the last nine months, trying to understand how I could have misinterpreted his actions. I truly believed he cared about me . . . as a friend, at least. No matter how many times I replayed the events of last summer, I couldn’t convince myself that he didn’t.
Hannah L. Clark is the author of the YA fantasy-adventure “Uncovering Cobbogoth.” It is the first book in a planned 7 book series. It will be released by Cedar Fort Publishing on May 13, 2014.
Hannah lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with her husband and son.
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