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In This Moment

By´╝ÜAutumn Doughton

PROLOGUE


“Don’t think, just do.”

The wind sliced up through the air teasing the thin strap of my tank and whipping my hair up around my face. I gathered it in a messy bundle at the nape of my neck and squinted down. A long way down.

“It’ll be quick,” she assured me, gripping my wrist and tugging me closer to the edge. I let go of the railing and tipped forward. The blue waves that tossed against the cement piers stirred up a swell of unease deep in my belly.

“You should go if you want to, but I don’t know…” My voice trailed off like a draft of thin smoke. I pictured myself plunging feet first into the fast-moving water, the shock of it hitting my nostrils and closing in over my head.

Her gaze was level, drawing me in as easily as a moth to the light. I knew that she’d use the familiar words before they were out of her mouth. “I will if you will.”

I moaned and rolled my eyes in protest. “That’s not fair.”

She laughed triumphantly and pulled me so close that I could feel the heat of her body and the rumble of breath moving in and out of her chest. “It’s the code of any good friendship.”

“Or blackmail.”

She ignored me and began counting the numbers out slowly. “One… Two… Three…”

A flutter of wings lifted behind my ribs as I squeezed her hand and jumped into the void.





CHAPTER ONE





Aimee



I had forgotten what it was like. That first moment—the one that cracks me open like I’m nothing more than a flimsy piece of brittle, dried-out plastic and spills my guts all over the ground.

I had forgotten the way it slams me hard, the impact vibrating against my skull, rattling my teeth. One second I’m breathing oxygen and the next, my windpipe seals off and I’m thrown sideways in my own body—gasping and choking on my swollen tongue as I sink below the surface of her reflection.

It shouldn’t seem so foreign to have the warm tones of her voice inside my head, or to see the golden brown hue of her eyes, or to think about the pattern of her laughter and the silky feel of our feet entangling as we kick through the water, but it is.

For the briefest instant, I can’t translate what’s happening, and then I get it…

I’ve forgotten to remember.

I swallow back the bile building in my throat, clench my fingers into my sweaty palms and focus on each thud of my heart. One. Two. Three. I feel queasy but I refuse to have a panic attack or throw up on my shoes. Not here. Not today.

I’m okay. I’m okay.

The words rush through me—settling in my chest and weaving themselves through my ribs. One. Two. Three.

I’m okay.

I just need to get my bearings and shake off this fog. Squinting my eyes against the glare of the sun, I step off the sidewalk and hang on to the hope that with the mess of students pushing past, my face will remain lost in the gauzy shadows.

My right foot hits something solid and I tumble backward, my arms flailing in front of my body for balance, a flurry of dark hair catching in my lips, and—

The tsunami whooshing around inside me seems to stop all at once as a firm band wraps round my waist effectively stopping my descent.

“Oh,” I huff. “I-I—”

I realize that there’s a set of wide-fingered hands on my stomach and that there’s something digging into my back. Just perfect. It’s a knee.

“Are you okay?” A deep voice hums in my ear.

Self-consciously, I uncurl my fingers and dare to peek to my left. Strange deep green eyes—like leaves submerged in water—are blinking back at me. With a jolt, I realize that those green eyes are attached to a face—an absurdly attractive face.

Oh my God.

I glance down quickly to confirm what I already know. Yep. I’m limply sprawled out in this guy’s arms like some kind of storybook damsel in distress.

“Hi,” he says as a slow, knowing smile transforms his full lips.

Horrified by the way that my heart bucks and spasms, I jump from his grasp—fumbling for my fallen bag as I try to get my feet under me. “Wow. I’m s-so sorry. Thanks, I—uhh… ”

“Walk much?” The acidic question bites off my apology.

Still half in the guy’s arms and half on the grass, I crane my neck around and see a beautiful girl sitting on the ground with an open notebook in her lap and her lunch spread out in front of her. I note with dismay that a few students have stopped on the sidewalk and are watching the entire exchange with open curiosity.

Great. In my play to remain invisible, I’ve become the most conspicuous person on campus by tripping over this hot guy and literally falling head over heels (or flip-flops) into the middle of his romantic picnic. Score one for Aimee.

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