Don’t miss today’s Teaser Tuesday from Nexis by A.L. Davroe, book #1 in the Tricksters Series, which is available for pre-order now!
He clears his throat, the deep rumble of it sliding up my spine and drawing my attention back to the map. “You’re going to want to go…” He zooms out and then traces a zigzag across the map, blazing a bright yellow dotted path toward a larger open space on the other side of town. “Here. This is the market. You can trade in your Mod chips and get a weapon there.”
I frown at him. “Again about my Mod chips?” I’d forgotten about them in the sudden onslaught of his presence, but here he is, drawing attention to them again. “I don’t have Mod chips.”
He frowns back at me. “You don’t?”
Cocking his head, he stares at me for a long period of time in which I begin to feel hot and squirmy. Not many people have looked at me in the open, appraising way this boy is currently doing. If he finds something particularly garish about what he’s seeing, he’s hiding it well. “You can’t have used them.”
I knit my brows, my stomach suddenly sinking. He doesn’t think I’m pretty enough to have used a Mod chip. “What makes you think I haven’t? You have no idea what I look like in Real World.”
He reaches out and touches my forehead, making my eyes go wide.
“W-What are you…?” I stammer, my words liquid and ungraspable under his touch.
He runs his finger over a long thin scar that I got in the accident with Dad. I’d almost forgotten it was there. I don’t bother trying to look in the mirror anymore; I can’tsee over the counter without my legs. “The world outside has a nasty habit of seeping in here. A newbie girl never arrives with a blemish. It’s unsightly.”
I feel my cheeks flare hot under his touch. Putting my hand to my forehead to hide the scar, I pull away, ashamed. “Pardon my unsightliness,” I mutter.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” he growls back, his voice suddenly defensive. “I was being sarcastic.”
Glaring sideways at him, I try to find the truth in his words, but all I feel is hurt. Hurt that even here, in a world meant to be an escape from judgment, I am still found lacking; hurt that while I gave his Natural body the benefit of the doubt and found positive things about it, he won’t do the same for me.
He rolls his eyes again, frustrated. “Look, I just meant that when given a chance to Modify themselves, most girls choose to do so, because that’s how they are programmed to think in Real World. They use Nexis to be what they can’t be in real life.”
Forcing my hand away from my face, I cross my arms, wanting to prove myself strong enough to deal with my blemishes but also wanting to cut myself off from this boy because he speaks the truth, and I find myself not liking that I’m so easily pegged. I came here to have the legs I don’t have in real life, to be closer to a father who I can no longer see or ask questions of. “Yeah, well, maybe I just want to be myself. There’s nothing wrong with being different. Or for being how nature intended you to be. Natural things are wonderful. I mean, just look at the trees,” I reason, trying to argue this to myself as much as him.
He leans forward and places his elbows on his knees. I can feel his eyes on my face, staring at my scar. How can someone stare for so long at someone else?
Nervous, I glance at him again. “What?”
Smirking so that a deep dimple appears on his lean cheek, he gives me an endearing sort of expression. “Personally, I think the scar adds something. It makes you look very mysterious.”
Again with that spine-tingling purr talk. I look away, embarrassed, and clear away the hot lump in my throat. “So, um, yeah, where were we?” I fumble with my wrist, trying to call up the map that dissolved at some point during the discussion.
He chuckles to himself as he waits for me to figure out my patch, and his chuckle just makes me even more scattered.
In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.
Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.
But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.
And it’s been waiting for Ella.