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About the author:
Find out more at http://www.BeccaJCampbell.com.
What inspired you to write your book?
With Jade formed in my mind, I explored the idea of what she might encounter upon entering the “real world” for the first time. There were so many varieties of bad that could happen to someone with such a flaw. What if she was around someone who was suicidal? What would happen in crowds of people where the emotions were conflicting? What if someone fell in love with her—would she be forced to reciprocate those emotions, even if they weren’t her own? What if a psychopathic killer captured her and she had to internalize his feelings? Those questions led as I plunged into the life of an empath and wrote Jade’s story.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Stay cool. Stay calm.
Jade Edwards repeated the mantra in her head as she trudged across the open lawn, hands shoved into pockets, eyes on the ground.
I can do this.
She snuck a peek at her surroundings, squinting against the bright, all-too-optimistic sun. Far across campus, a lone student hurried off to a distant building.
Fear pricked her mind. Her pounding heart echoed in her ears. She tried to take comfort in the thudding since the fear was her own. All too soon she wouldn’t even have that.
Now or never.
She sucked in a deep breath, wrenched the door open, and entered a hall of classrooms. Faint traces of foreign feelings wafted past like mental smog, and Jade considered running back to her car. But she’d chickened out yesterday, and she couldn’t skip class again. After checking the plates next to the doors, she entered philosophy class.
A barrage of emotional chaos surged at Jade, crushing the air from her lungs. Her eyes darted around the room, and she fought the haze at the edges of her vision, looking for a place to hide. But there was none. She slid into the nearest empty chair. The other students milled about the room finding their own seats, oblivious to her.
Gripping the sides of her chair, she squeezed her eyes shut. She inhaled and forced the air out slowly, controlling it. Breathing was key.
Stay cool. Stay calm. Her heart raced. She was anything but calm.
She’d known this was a risk when she’d first decided to enroll in an actual class, but she hadn’t been prepared. Of course she’d be surrounded by people. Of course she’d have to face her biggest struggle head-on. The phone conversation with her advisor had confirmed her worst fears when he’d told her the class wasn’t available online. It wouldn’t have been a problem for any normal college student, but Jade was far from normal.
I can do this.
When she heard the teacher enter and begin talking, Jade’s eyes flicked back open. She sat up and gripped her pen with a shaking hand.
A wave of irritation hit her like a slap in the face, jerking her away from the professor’s words. Her shoulders hunched and she dug her toes into the floor as she fought the compulsion to kick someone. The pen in her tightly clenched fist gouged into the table’s surface. She dropped it and clamped her hands together in her lap, scanning the classroom. Where was the source of this anger pounding through her skull and flooding her veins? There—a guy on the end of the third row scowled, shaking his head at the professor.
Without warning, excitement replaced the agitation. Jade straightened in her chair and fought the urge to bounce in her seat, though she couldn’t keep the dumb smile off her face. Farther down her row, one girl whispered something about a vacation to the Bahamas and another girl nodded enthusiastically.
She was gulping quick and irregular breaths, telling herself to regain control, when a surge of intense attraction hit her, knocking the wind from her lungs. Her heart beat faster and a hot blush crept over her face. She was acutely aware of every male in the room. Forcing herself to stop ogling the guy in front of her with the armpit stains, she distracted herself by searching for the culprit. Her gaze froze on a girl who was gazing at a guy two rows up. Oblivious, he seemed to be one of the few faithfully taking notes on the current topic: modern rationalism and the theories of Descartes.
Jade dropped her head into her hands and pressed on her temples, wishing for the hundredth time that she could turn off her empathic sense. She squeezed her eyes shut again and tried to focus on only her breathing. She had to escape.
As always, she couldn’t shake the invading feelings. Listening to the teacher ramble about philosophy was pointless because none of it was sinking in. Finally the instructor dismissed the class for a break. The tension in the room lifted. Students relaxed and started chatting with each other.
Finally, a reprieve. Hunched and scurrying out of the room to grab a moment of peace, Jade passed two students who were discussing a news article on a laptop. Their anxiety pulled at her before she could leave.
“It says they found her body covered in hundreds of rattlesnake bites from nine different species!”
“The waitress in Vegas?”
“Yeah. No trace of the snakes was found. They think it’s murder ’cause she had marks around her wrists and ankles where she’d been bound. But the killer must have waited around for her to die, because the shackles were gone, too.”
“Aren’t rattlesnakes venomous?”
“Yeah. Can you imagine how painful it must be to die slowly from that kind of torture?”
Jade shivered and clutched her middle. The image of a writhing woman, covered in snakes, being bitten to death, surged through her mind. She was that woman. She could feel the snakes slithering over her body. Jade doubled over on the threshold of the doorway as visions of being captured by a demented killer overtook her. Of being alone with him. She began to hyperventilate. But then the terror pulled away. The girls’ conversation had changed topic. Forcing her legs to move, Jade dashed out of the classroom and down the hall to the water fountain.
She tried to regulate her breathing and focused on the cool drink until a voice from behind startled her.
When she turned around, a sinister feeling crept over her. A short, tanned guy from her class strode up to her, his crooked grin unable to conceal his darker intentions. His curly, black hair and piercing dark eyes could have been considered mildly attractive had she not felt the overwhelming sense of possessiveness emanating from him.
“Hey there. How’s it going?” His voice was casual but his eyes roved over her.
A flood of malicious desires she’d never imagined, let alone experienced, engulfed her. She glanced down the hall. They were alone. For the moment this man’s emotions were the only ones invading her. And she was drowning in them.
“What are you doing after class?” He edged forward until his body was only inches away. A rush of sexual desire coursed from him and through her. But with it was another, unfamiliar feeling. She gulped when she realized it was a craving for domination. This realization, coupled with the memory of her earlier terror, was too much to bear.
Jade dashed around him and back to the classroom. She crammed books into her bag, fled the room, and made a beeline for her car. Even on her brisk walk across campus, she was swayed by the feelings of every passerby. She was like a magnet, pulled to every piece of metal in its vicinity. Her hand shook while she tried to maneuver her key into the ignition. Maybe she was running away, but it was too much.
She ignored the turn-off to her apartment. She needed real solitude. Being alone in her small unit wasn’t enough—she needed complete isolation. She needed someplace without the slightest chance of running into another human.
As she sped away from Colorado Springs, the road grew steeper. Aspens popped up on either side, and rolling hills turned into mountains. After winding through the mountains for a while, she discovered a small gravel path and decided to try it. The narrow lane twisted through the trees and came to an abrupt stop. Her shoulders relaxed when she saw the dead end. She parked her car and climbed out. A long-deserted trail beckoned her through a gap in the trees. Her shoes She crunched across the forest floor over the litter of pine needles and leaves.
Peace and quiet.
She breathed deeply, filling her lungs with cold mountain air, letting the sense of true freedom revive her. Late May in Colorado was a gorgeous time of year, still cool, but not too chilly. The hooded sweatshirt over her short-sleeved top was enough to keep her comfortable as she trudged through the woods.
Complete seclusion was something Jade rarely experienced due to her handicap. Even alone in her apartment, the emotions of her neighbors haunted her mind. They were more subtle than when she was in a crowded room, but still came against her will, violating her.
Here she was alone and could tune in to her own emotions. She embraced the calm and welcomed her own feelings as if becoming reacquainted with a loved one.
A soft tremor shook her at the memory of the sleazy guy who had come on to her. It was worse than feeling his sickening desire to possess and control. It was the intimacy she experienced with anyone whose mood she shared. It wasn’t a relationship of consent, but one forced upon her, invading like a parasite. It was like rape of her heart rather than her body.
Why? She wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. She believed in God, and that he’d created her different than most. How many times had she asked him why? Why had he given her this flaw? Never had he answered.
After wandering in the forest for a while, a gnawing hunger robbed her newfound sense of peace. She wished she hadn’t skipped breakfast.
Realizing she’d somehow lost track of the small path leading into the woods, she searched for a clue of which way to go. She would’ve turned and walked back the opposite direction, but she was pretty sure her hike hadn’t been a straight path.
After a few minutes of exploring, she found a small gap in the trees. Nothing looked familiar, but soft light streaked through the foliage, drawing her toward the opening. Tree limbs swiped her face as she fought to escape the woods. She flinched away and nearly stumbled into the lip of a huge stone ledge that blocked the path. On the other side of the knee-high expanse of rock, the ground fell away sharply, exposing a wide view of the valley below. Jade gaped at the sight. Across the wide canyon, the mountains stood proudly, covered by a carpet of green trees. Huge fragments of rock jutted out in some places. At the foot of the valley where the ranges met, a river snaked through, cutting into the land in tight curves.
Wanting to take in the view for a few minutes, she climbed onto the large rock. The boulder was solid and cold under her skin. Warmed from the heat of the sun and the effort of the hike, she unzipped her hoodie and threw it beside her. She sat with her feet planted in front and leaned back on her hands, turning her face toward the sun.
The peace vanished, and her insides turned to ice. She wasn’t alone.