Warm, thick air filled Evaine’s lungs; it was going to rain. She gazed up at the clouds rolling in. They blanketed the sky like waves of dirty cotton. Stormy weather, her favorite, but she didn’t want to get caught in the rain today. The Laundromat was a luxury she could not afford right now.
Picking up her pace she headed toward the office of Mac, her fine arts adviser. The wind picked up as she crossed the quad, and the first droplet of water hit her cheek. She pulled down the long sleeves of her worn-out shirt. The thin hoodie was about as good at keeping out the chill as paper would be keeping out a charging bull.
Evaine’s mind began to drift as she fought through students rushing to get out of the drizzle. Without permission, her brain turned to her overdue bills. Trying to live on meager grants and student loans was harder than she would have thought, considering how she’d grown up. Her rent had been due a week ago, and she wondered why her pit bull of a landlord hadn’t been banging down her door like the last million times her rent had been twenty minutes late. Not that the very small studio—hole—was worth what she paid. Maybe she would be better living on the street. She needed to come up with some cash, fast.
The voice of her mother, Phyllis, chimed in. Life would be easier if you’d let Tristan help out.
Sigh…Tristan. She absently rubbed her finger where the huge diamond ring he had gotten her rarely sat. She refused to wear it for the sheer size, not to mention that she didn’t want to let anyone know she was engaged at the age of twenty. Some people would think she was marrying Tristan Atwater for his money. Her mother had tried to teach her for years how to use her body to catch a man of means. But Evaine couldn’t stand for anyone to find out she shared even one shred of DNA with the woman who had birthed her. Phyllis had used every man she’d ever known. No way was Evaine going to take a penny of Tristan’s money to pay for anything until they married; and she didn’t think she would ever get used to it, really. She’d always prided herself for being able to stand on her own.
She refused to rush into marriage. Not in her second year of college, not even to a guy as wonderful as Tristan. The only man she’d ever loved; the only good thing to ever happen to her. He was her security blanket. The only person she had ever relied on and trusted. But she’d never let his money be her security. Between his trust fund and the money he made at his job he could more than pay for five penthouse apartments on Park Avenue. She may have been a foster system reject brought up in a trailer park, but that didn’t mean she had to act like one.
Couldn’t hurt to ask for a few dollars. Phyllis’s voice was again in her head.
The wind whipped her hair into her face as she lifted her head. “Hey, Jeff.”
“Where you off to?” He fell into step beside her.
“I need to see Mac.” She continued toward Mac’s office building.
Jeff was a sweet guy, not bad looking either, in a sort of geeky way. He had kind eyes and shaggy, curly surfer blond hair. His tall, lean frame had a nice build. For the second time since getting engaged she was reminded that she’d never even dated another man beside Tristan.
Last year when they’d done a rendition of Taming of the Shrew together, Jeff had been especially nice to her. He’d asked her out a couple of times. Every time she’d made up excuses about schoolwork or her job—anything. She hadn’t been sure what to say. No one knew about Tristan, and she wanted to keep it that way. She wasn’t ashamed of Tristan, by any means. She just didn’t like all the attention that came from dating him.
Most girls would brag about a rich VP of marketing boyfriend and a gigantic, five-carat diamond ring. But she was still wondering what Tristan had been thinking when he’d bought that lighthouse beacon for her to wear on her hand.
“So you goin’ out for the lead this time?” Jeff broke through her reverie.
She hadn’t been listening. “Sorry. What?”
“You know, the auditions this week…for Chicago?”
“Oh! Well…I hope to, but…I need to earn some money so I’m thinking that I might need to get a part-time job.”
“I know the feeling.” He nodded. “They’d pay you for being in the play though.”
“But it’s not a sure thing.”
“Oh.” He sounded a bit disappointed. “Well, I’m going out for the part of Billy Flynn, and I’d hoped to work with you.”
“You would make a great Billy.” Jeff smiled again. They’d reached Mac’s office. “Well, this is me.”
“OK, cool! I’ll see ya.” Jeff leaned over and gave her a quick hug. She reached up and gave him a lame one-armed hug back, always amazed at how affectionate theater people were with each other. She turned away from Jeff and knocked.
A voice called from the other side. “I didn’t do it!”
She smiled and pushed the stiff door open. “Hey, Mac.”
Mac glanced up from his pile of papers. “Hey, Evaine.” A smile took root on his pudgy face. “Have a seat.”
Evaine tried to locate a place to sit. Every surface of his closet-sized office was covered. Scripts and other papers enveloped his desk and many shelves. A wardrobe, wedged into the corner, sagged under the weight of costumes and props. Theatrical makeup concealed a small mirrored vanity shoved next to his desk. Mac may have been a fine arts counselor, but he was partial to the theater. It took her a minute to realize that an especially high stack of papers was actually a chair in disguise. He was the favorite counselor at the school, and Evaine wondered who Mac had pissed off to have gotten such a tiny office.
She managed to find a chair and sat down.
“Wath up?” He had a pencil clenched between his teeth.
“I need some advice on my schedule for next semester. I’m not sure if I can fit in the whole load of classes I had planned to take.” She plopped her bag onto the ground and searched for her planner.
“Too bad. What’s the problem? Work too much for you this semester?”
“No, schoolwork’s fine, but I think I am going to have to get a job. I don’t think that I’ll be able to afford to take a full load.”
“Well, that’s too bad. Does that mean that you won’t be going out for any of the plays? Your major is in acting, if I remember right. You might have to change that to directing or something else if you can’t be in the performances.”
She hadn’t thought of that before. She didn’t want to direct; she wanted to act.
“Don’t you have anyone who can help you out with school expenses? Family, friends, boyfriend?”
Evaine glanced up sharply. Had he heard something? Did he know about Tristan? She searched his face, but saw no sign of deception. “Nope, just me.”
“Really? No rich Sugar Daddy waitin’ to help out a pretty young thing like you? I bet they are lined up around your block.”
She had never had anyone be so blatant about her looks before—or how she should use them—except for Phyllis. She cleared her throat and glanced away. “Nope. None.”
“Come on. I’ve seen the way the guys look at you, and heaven knows I’ve heard them talk on campus. You’re telling me that there’s no special guy out there?”
The hair on her neck started to prickle. Somehow the conversation had gone from joking to a more serious prying. Mac’s face had gotten very intense. His voice was light, but his eyes gave him away. She’d dealt with enough social workers to understand when someone was asking a question, while prodding for something deeper. “No,” she managed to stammer. “No one.”
His eyes lit up, and she got the funny feeling she should have told him the truth about Tristan.
“You know, I think I remember getting some sort of flyer about a research trial or something…let me see…” Mac rifled through the papers on his desk, looked around, scratched his head, and then looked somewhere else. He sat and thought for a minute.
“Oh, that’s OK. I don’t think—”
He snapped his fingers. “Got it!” Spinning in his chair he moved toward a shelf and pulled a piece of paper out of a stack. “Ah, here we go!” He held up a bright green flyer. “It’s research testing for something. The money’s supposed to be pretty good. I wanted to do it, but they wouldn’t take me. I’m too old.”
“Aren’t you a grad student here?”
“Yeah, but I’m twenty-nine and the cutoff is twenty-five.” He laughed. “I’m an old man.”
She snickered in spite of herself.
“Anyway, check it out. It couldn’t hurt. If it doesn’t work out, come see me and we can discuss the schedule, OK?”
“Yeah, OK.” She noticed again that his eyes had taken on an uncomfortable intensity. She cleared her throat. “Well, I better run.”
“Sure. Tell me how it goes.”
“Thanks.” She stood and made her way to the door.
In the hallway she glanced down at the green flyer in her hand. She thought about the money she needed. She’d sold her plasma before to get her by for a week, but a drug trial was so much more. She folded the flyer in half and looked around for a trashcan to toss it in. Not seeing one she shoved the paper into her bag before heading out into the rain. As the first tiny drops landed on her, she shivered.
Living on the verge of poverty, yet refusing assistance from her affluent fiancé, New York drama student Evaine Michaels must make some money fast if she wants to keep eating and pay her rent. When she’s given a flyer by her adviser asking for volunteers to take part in a clinical trial for a new drug, she realizes it’s her only option. But when she wakes up with no memory of who she is or where she was, it’s only the beginning of some very strange events that have already begun to change her life forever.
The white-skinned men who swoop in to rescue her are the most gorgeous men Evaine’s ever laid eyes on. She’s immediately drawn to Luca, but he’s so intent on stopping the doctors who’ve reanimated them all, he has no time for the feelings she re-awakens within him. Luca, second in command under Nate at Haven House, hasn’t allowed himself to feel since he was rebirthed and lost the woman he loved. He lives now as a Deader, a zombie who’s chosen to forsake the eating of human flesh, except under rare and certain circumstances. Unlike the Feeders who brazenly murder and feed on humans, Deaders live on animal entrails and a drink called Isis.
Back at Haven House, Evaine is introduced to The Family and learns the drug trials have turned her into a Deader. Her black hair has gone white. Her skin is as pale as a white China plate, and her brown eyes are now a startling blue that turns orange when she rages or becomes aroused.
Weeks later as Evaine and Luca struggle with their mutual attraction, Evaine begins to remember who she is and that she’s engaged. Her fiancé Tristan is still looking for her. Torn between her warm feelings for her first love and her raging new desire for Luca, Evaine must not only face who she is now, but she must choose between the two men she loves before one of them dies at the hands of the other. Add in a rogue faction of Feeders who want to chop Evaine up and eat her to acquire her telekinetic powers, and everyone must band together to keep her safe. Or has she grown so powerful she can protect herself and everyone else as well?
I read as many zombie books as I can get my hands on, but Dead Awakenings by Rebekah Ganiere is the first one I’ve read where the zombies, at least some of them, are the heroes. It’s a novel new approach, one I wasn’t sure I’d like—I wasn’t certain I could ever accept zombies in such a different light—but from the minute I started reading, I was hauled into this story so fast it nearly took my breath away. This story is very well written, with a seamless plot and characters you get to know on a seriously intimate level. I loved watching Evaine grow from an introverted girl who was happy with her comfortable, lukewarm relationship with Tristan into a woman who doesn’t need Tristan to defend her, much less to lean on.
The action is virtually non-stop but doesn’t overshadow the love story, despite the fact there’s really only one full-fledged sex scene in the entire book. That would have been fine had it been in balance with the intense build-up of sexual tension between Evaine and Luca, but unfortunately it’s rather tepid, which is my only problem with the story.
Dead Awakenings gives the zombie theme a tweak and twist that comes out as something refreshingly new, that is, as long as you’re upwind of any Feeders in the area. Good book!
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