Danielle Vega The Merciless

ISBN 13: 9781595147226

The Merciless

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9781595147226: The Merciless

"The Merciless is chilling. Think Mean Girls meets The Exorcist."—MTV.com 

Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page of this thrilling debut novel. Fans of Asylum by Madeleine Roux and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will devour this terrifying series. 

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls...unless she wants to be next.
 
By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

“Pretty Little Liars fans, get a sneak peek at your new favorite book The Merciless...a nail biting thriller.”Seventeen Magazine

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About the Author:

Danielle Vega spent her childhood hiding under the covers while her mother retold tales from the pages of Stephen King novels. As an adult, she can count on one hand the number of times in her life she's been truly afraid. Danielle has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction, including a 2009 Pushcart Prize nomination for her short story "Drive." She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @dvegabooks

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

 Copyright © 2014 Alloy Entertainment

 

C H A P T E R  S I X

 

“I still don’t understand why it would bleed so much.” Mom wraps up the chicken we just had for dinner in tinfoil while I fill the sink with soapy water and start the dishes. I shrug, staring at a folded dishtowel next to the sink. It’s red and white with a picture of a rooster on it. “It was a really big zit,” I say. I cleaned the blood from my face and covered the piercing with a Band-Aid before my mom saw it, but I’ve had to change the Band-Aid twice since she’s been home. Already the new one is red with blood.

Mom puts the chicken in the fridge, frowning as she closes the door. Our phone rings, and Mom leans over the counter and picks it up. “Flores residence,” she answers. A tinny-sounding voice echoes from the other end of the receiver, and Mom smiles. “One moment. It’s your friend Riley,” she says, handing me the phone. “She says she has a homework question. Just don’t take too long.”

I slip out the back door with the phone and curl up in the wooden chair on our patio. Our backyard stretches forever, without any streetlights or nearby houses to break it up. It’s unnerving, like being walled in on all sides with empty space. Insects buzz restlessly, like white noise. I tuck my legs beneath me.

“Riley?” I say into the phone.

“Sof? I saw you with Brooklyn!” My stomach twists, but Riley continues talking before I can worry about whether she changed her mind about the spying. “Why didn’t you tell me? What did you find out?”

“Nothing, really. She took me with her to get a tattoo.” I run a finger along the edge of the bandage on my forehead but decide to keep the details of my piercing to myself.

“That’s it?” Riley sounds disappointed. I lower my hand, quiet for a second as I try to work out what I want to say.

“What did you expect me to find?” My voice comes out sharper than I intend, but I don’t apologize for it. Riley said she was trying to help Brooklyn, but it sounds like she just wanted her to screw up.

“She skinned a cat and left it outside our school.” Riley’s voice has an edge to it. “Or did you forget?”

I press my lips together to keep myself from arguing. Riley thinks Brooklyn skinned that cat. Tattoos and cigarettes aren’t in the same league as animal mutilation.

Riley clears her throat.

“Are you okay, Sof? She didn’t hurt you, did she? Or manipulate you in some way?” The concern in Riley’s voice is real, and suddenly I feel terrible. Riley’s been a real friend to me since I got here, not Brooklyn. I exhale and shake my head, pulling at a piece of loose skin near my fingernail.

“No, it was nothing like that. She was . . .” Cool. The word pops into my head uninvited. “She was weird,” I finish instead.

As the word leaves my mouth I realize it’s just as true. Brooklyn was cool, but I get what Riley means— something about her did feel off. I think of her slender fingers on Santos’s needles, her wolfish grin, and how she persuaded me so effortlessly to get a piercing. She made it too easy to be bad.

“Maybe I’ll find something better tomorrow,” I mumble. There’s a beat of silence. I clear my throat. “How are things between you and Josh?”

“Oh, didn’t you hear? We’re all better now,” Riley says. “He sent flowers to my class third period. Roses.”

“Wow. That’s great.”

“Listen,” Riley says before I can continue. “I just want to say I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable when I asked you to hang out with Brooklyn.”

“Riley, you didn’t,” I insist. “Really.”

“It’s just that I think she really needs help. I have this feeling like she’s standing on the edge of a cliff and she’s about to go over. Like she’ll fall if we don’t help her.”

I run my thumb over a cuticle in slow circles. I try to picture Brooklyn at the edge of a cliff, her combat boots sending rocks off the edge, but it just doesn’t fit with the girl I hung out with this afternoon. Brooklyn was having fun, not crying out for help. “You really think it’s that bad?”

“I really do. Did she tell you she’s having a party tomorrow?”

“She didn’t mention it.”

“Well, I heard some kids talking about it at school. It’s supposed to be intense. You should go.”

I run my tongue over my lips, which are dry now from the cold creeping over the yard. The last party I went to was in a house in the woods, next to the train tracks that ran through town. A bunch of football players stood just inside the door, loudly rating every girl who walked past, and every time a train rolled through, the whole house shook and everyone took a shot.

When I don’t answer right away, Riley starts to plead. “Come on, Sofia! There’s a reason I picked you for this. Some people have evil inside them, but that’s what God is for, to fix them when they can’t fix themselves. We can still fix Brooklyn.”

The insects in the yard have gone still, but wind sweeps over the grass and pounds against the windows. I shiver and pull my arms around my chest. Grandmother used to pray for people in her neighborhood when she thought they needed strength. This isn’t any different, I guess. Riley’s just a little more active with her faith. Grams would probably like her.

“Sof? Are you still there?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll do it. Promise.”

* * *

I shiver as I make my way to Brooklyn’s for the party the next night. An owl hoots in a nearby tree. I pull my sweatshirt tighter around my shoulders and lower my face. Wind sweeps through the tree branches, rattling them like bones. A man with a sagging gut and pock-marked face winks at me.

“How you doing, cutie?” he mumbles. His breath smells like whiskey and beef jerky. I hurry past him as he stumbles toward a dimly lit bar.

Brooklyn lives on the first floor of a cheap apartment complex. It’s set up to look like a motel. All the apartment doors face an open-air hallway protected only by the cheap, painted aluminum guardrail. Just beyond the edge of the property, I can see the service road that leads to the tattoo parlor.

A sound like a gunshot echoes down the dark alley near her street. I freeze, every muscle in my body tensing to run. Then a car engine sputters on, and an old Buick pulls away from the curb. Not a gunshot—a car backfiring. I exhale and keep moving. The sooner I make it to Brooklyn’s place, the better.

Even if she hadn’t slipped me the address in English lit class, I wouldn’t have trouble finding Brooklyn’s party. The music’s so loud it vibrates through the parking lot, and the apartment door hangs open. Girls in short skirts and pierced, tattooed guys lounge against the wall, drinking from red Solo cups and smoking cigarettes that smell like pine needles. Green paint bubbles up around where they stubbed the butts out on the walls. Either they’re all over twenty-one, or this isn’t the kind of neighborhood that calls the cops for underage drinking.

“Hey, little girl!” someone calls, startling me. I turn just as a large bald guy approaches. He towers above me, and he has to weigh at least two hundred pounds. He wears all black, and a white-and-black skull tattoo covers his face and bald head. It looks like he doesn’t have any skin.

I start to turn back around, hoping he’s not talking to me. He grabs my arm.

“Don’t be like that. I’m talking to you,” he says. Deep black lines shadow his eyes, and tattoos of teeth stretch down over his lips. “I’ve got a question.”

“Shoot,” I say, struggling to keep my voice steady. The man’s lips part, but I can’t tell if he’s smiling at me or grimacing.

“My friends and I are taking a poll.” He nods to a group of people standing by the apartment door. They’re all pierced and tattooed, but next to Skull Guy they look like members of a church group. “If you could choose how you were going to die, would you rather be beaten to death with a shovel or have your face eaten off?”

I swallow, trying to keep my nerves from showing on my face. The guy might be freaky looking, but he just wants to get a reaction out of me. It’s all just part of his game.

“I’d go for the face,” I say, meeting his gaze. “I’d want to look my killer in the eye.”

This time I’m sure Skull Guy smiles at me. The white-and-black cheekbone tattoos stretch across his face when his lips part. “Solid,” he says, bumping my fist.

I nod at a couple more people as I walk past, trying to look like I belong. The music pounds around me, an insistent bomp bomp bomp. Once inside, I push my sweatshirt hood back and glance around the room. It’s smoky and dark. Bodies crowd around me, packed so tightly I can’t move without bumping someone’s arm or back. The floor is sticky, littered with empty beer cans.

I can’t believe I worried this would be anything like my last party. It’s a completely different world. I’ve never heard the music before, and I don’t think any of the people here actually go to our school. A girl with long, white-blond hair and glassy eyes passes a tiny bag of powder to another girl in a leather jacket, then walks away without glancing at her. I weave through the crowd to a table covered in booze and beer. I grab the single can of off-brand soda sitting next to a case of PBR, just so I have something to do with my hands.

A voice rises above the music, startling me. “Sofia!”

I turn and, through the sea of people pushing in on me, spot Charlie waving his hands above his head like he’s signaling planes. If I were a cartoon character, my mouth would drop to the floor and exclamation points would shoot out of my eyes—that’s how excited I am to see him standing there, wearing a worn T-shirt with some faded sports logo on it and a dark gray zip-up sweatshirt. He moves around a crowd of guys to stand in front of me and says something I can’t hear over the noise. I smile so wide the corners of my mouth threaten to split.

“What?” I shout.

He grins back at me, and even in the dark I notice the dimple in his cheek. Pushing the hair from my neck, he leans in close enough that his breath warms my skin.

“It’s loud,” he says. “Wanna go outside?”

“Sure.”

Charlie takes my hand, and we head for the back of the apartment to a smudged sliding glass door. I crack open my soda as Charlie pushes through the door and we slip outside. Cold air rushes to greet me, and I shiver, almost glad the can is warm, even if the soda tastes terrible.

“You seem to be the only other person here not trying to get completely hammered,” Charlie says once we’ve left the pounding music behind.

“I’m not a big drinker,” I say. Charlie nods.

“Me neither.” He smiles at me again, that dimple appearing in his cheek. My stomach flips.

“I’m glad you’re here. I don’t really know anyone else.” Charlie glances around at the kids sprawled on lawn chairs and hovering near the apartment door. At first I don’t recognize any of them, either, but then I spot Tom wearing a backward baseball cap. He leans forward, passing his cigarette to a cute girl with black dreadlocks and thick glasses. The girl giggles at something he says, then leans in to kiss him. I cringe. Grace would be devastated.

Charlie sees him, too. “I know Tom, I guess. But he’s been preoccupied. Josh said he was coming, but I haven’t seen him. And now I know you.”

“Josh is coming to this party?” I didn’t think this was Josh’s scene—he seems so preppy, like Riley. Charlie shrugs.

I glance around at the patchy grass and dirty white lawn chairs. Beyond them, I see the outlines of a slide, a swing set, and what I assume is a pool surrounded by high wooden fencing. Despite the cold weather, I hear giggling and splashing.

A smile creeps across my face. I pull on Charlie’s sleeve. “Come on. I have a plan.”

“Are we going swimming?” Charlie asks when I start to lead him toward the pool.

“It’s, like, fifty degrees out!” I pull my sweatshirt tighter around my shoulders. “Besides, I don’t have a suit.”

”Why should that stop you?”

I groan and push him toward the slide instead. The playground equipment is made of that old steel that isn’t used at schools anymore, because people are afraid kids will impale themselves on the sharp metal while playing. I approach the slide hesitantly and test the bottom ladder rung to make sure it’ll hold my weight.

“Are you serious?” Charlie says. I raise an eyebrow in challenge.

“It’s either the slide with me, or you go back to the party to hang out with people who don’t even remember their names. Your choice.”

Charlie purses his lips, pretending to think this over. “Which people, exactly?”

I pick up a rock and threaten to throw it at him, and he raises his hands in surrender, laughing. “Kidding, kidding.” He jogs to the bottom of the slide and crouches down. “Okay, go. I’ll catch you.”

“I don’t need you to catch me,” I say. I set my soda down on the ground and climb up the ladder, perching on top of the slide. Charlie grins.

“Of course you do.” He grabs the sides of the slide with both hands and shakes, causing the entire thing to rattle. “This thing is a death trap.”

Despite the coolness of the night, the metal is warm beneath my hands. I push myself down, and as I start to gather speed, I shriek. Charlie grabs my shoulders before I hit the dirt and holds me steady.

“You okay?” he asks. He actually looks concerned. “I can’t believe they let kids on that thing.”

“Your turn,” I say, pushing myself back to my feet.

Charlie grins and races around to the ladder. The entire slide rocks as he climbs, the metal creaking so badly I’m convinced it’s about to fall apart.

“Shit,” Charlie says as he settles at the top. “Now I have so much more respect for you for going first.”

“Well, I’m a rebel.”

“Here goes nothing.” Charlie pushes off and shoots down the slide. Somewhere along the way he goes into warp speed, and then he’s not sliding anymore— he’s flying—and I can’t move out of the way before he tumbles into me. We both roll backward, hitting the dirt in a tangle of limbs.

“I’m so sorry,” he says, pushing himself onto an elbow. He doesn’t roll off me right away. “Did I break you?”

“No.” I keep my arms still because I don’t trust myself not to grab his sweatshirt and pull him even closer. I clear my throat. “You’re . . . fine.”

Charlie tilts his head, and I wonder if he can tell what I’m thinking. “I’m really glad you’re here, Sofia,” he says.

“Yeah, well, I did break your fall,” I say. He still doesn’t move away from me. He brushes a curl off my forehead and shakes his head like I’m missing something.

“It’s not just that. I’m glad to see you.”

The night instantly grows ten degrees warmer. “Why?”

“You’re joking, right?” Charlie eyes lose focus. He’s about to kiss me. I inhale, hoping the warm soda hasn’t made my mouth taste gross. But he just runs his thumb along my jaw, tracing from my ear to my chin, like he’s memorizing my face.

“I like you, okay? You’re different from girls around here.” He leans toward me again, his eyes closing. This time he hesitates an inch away from me.

“Is this okay?” he asks.

“Yeah.” I’ve barely spoken when he presses his mouth to mine—tentati...

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Descripción RAZORBILL, United States, 2014. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Merciless is chilling. Think Mean Girls meets The Exorcist. Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page of this thrilling debut novel. Fans of Asylum by Madeleine Roux and Miss Peregrine s Home for Peculiar Children will devour this terrifying series. Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she s here. No one can hear her scream. Sofia Flores knows she shouldn t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed. Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn--but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can t go against the other girls.unless she wants to be next. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us? Pretty Little Liars fans, get a sneak peek at your new favorite book The Merciless.a nail biting thriller. --Seventeen Magazine. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9781595147226

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Descripción RAZORBILL, United States, 2014. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Merciless is chilling. Think Mean Girls meets The Exorcist. Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page of this thrilling debut novel. Fans of Asylum by Madeleine Roux and Miss Peregrine s Home for Peculiar Children will devour this terrifying series. Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she s here. No one can hear her scream. Sofia Flores knows she shouldn t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed. Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn--but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can t go against the other girls.unless she wants to be next. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us? Pretty Little Liars fans, get a sneak peek at your new favorite book The Merciless.a nail biting thriller. --Seventeen Magazine. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9781595147226

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