Dec 14, 2015

Chapter 1 Reveal: RIDERS by Veronica Rossi

I am so freaking excited to share with you Chapter 1 of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi. This book is one of my top 2016 books to be read. If the rest of the book is anything like chapter 1, then I'm going to love it!

By: Veronica Rossi
Published by: Tor Teen
To Be Released on: February 16th, 2016
Series: Riders #1
Add it to Goodreads

For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can't remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen--Conquest, Famine, and Death--are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now--bound, bloodied, and drugged--Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he's fallen for--not to mention all of humankind--he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Chapter   1

When I open my eyes, all I see is darkness.
Cant move . . . cant speak . . . cant think through this jaw-grinding headache. I hold still, waiting for some clar- ity on where I am or how long I’ve been out, but nothing comes. What I know for sure: I’m tied to a chair, gagged, and my head is covered with a hood that reeks of sweat and vomit.
Not what I expected from a rescue.
My neck creaks like a rusty hinge as I straighten, and the darkness comes loose and starts to spin. It spins and spins and my stomach throws in the towel, and its spinning, too. Hot spit floods into my mouth. I know whats coming next, so I pull deep breaths, in and out, until the urge passes and I’m okay again. Just sitting here sweating bullets in this chair and this hood.
I cant believe this. They drugged me. Gave me some kind of sedative, because I am way too calm right now. Probably painkillers, too. I cant feel my shoulder and that cut was deep. My deltoid looked like raw steak. Even I should still feel a gash that bad.
Nice. Well done, US government. The whole world is going to hell, pretty much. I’m one of the few people who can help— and this is what they do?
I turn my focus to listening. Every so often I hear feet shuf- fling or a throat clearing. I pay attention to the sounds, trying to figure out how many men are guarding me. Two is my guess.
A radiator clicks on behind me and keeps clicking, like someones tapping a wrench against metal. Heat builds on my back like sunshine. Strange in all this darkness. After a few minutes it shuts off and the quiet stretches out. My back is

just starting to cool when a door whines open. Footsteps come toward me and stop. Then a chair scrapes across the floor.
Its game time. Answer time.
Take off his hood, says a female voice.
Theres a tug, then a rush of cool air against my face, and my eyes slam shut against the brightness. I’m not expecting it when the gag goes next, tearing out a few layers of my tongue with it.
Take your time, says the woman.
Like I have a choice. For a few seconds, all I can do is try to get some moisture back in my mouth. I pull against my arm restraints, riding out the urge to rub my stinging eyes. It takes forever for the figure in front of me to come into focus.
A woman—in her forties, I think—sits behind a small wooden desk. She has olive skin and dark hair, eyes as black and shiny as wine bottles. Her navy-blue suit looks expensive and she has a PhD kind of vibe, like she knows everything about something. And wrote a book about it. A civilian. I’d bet anything.
“Hello, Gideon. I’m Natalie Cordero, she says. “I’m going to be asking you some questions.
She folds her hands in front of her and pauses, letting me know shes in control, that she talks to guys like me every day, but I know for a fact thats impossible. No one else in the world is like me. No one.
A whiff of her perfume reaches mea floral-citrus-musk- meatlovers combo thats strong, a scent bullhorn, but better than the stench from the hood.
Two men stand behind her. The guy wearing a Texas Rang- ers baseball cap is massive, the size of the door hes guarding. The other guys more compact, has a dark complexion and wrestler ear. He rests a hand on the Beretta in his belt hol- ster and gives me a look like, Just give me an excuse to use this.

Both have full beards, wind-chapped faces, and are dressed in jeans, hiking boots, and Patagonia jackets, but they’re spe- cial ops. Delta or SEALs. You dont get that kind of stance, relaxed but totally alert, without earning it.
I recognize them. They were part of the unit that busted me out of Norway today. Or yesterday . . . or whenever that happened.
Natalie Cordero assesses my shirt and cargos, the dried blood, the burnt patches, the crusted mud, the top layer of fine ash. I’ve looked better, I’ll admit. Then I follow her eyes to my shoulder. Through a tear in my shirt I see that my captors— who are supposed to be my allies—put a compression bandage on my cut. That was cool of them.
Water?” Cordero asks.
It takes a couple of tries but I manage to scrape out some words in reply. Yes. Yes, please.
The bigger guard in the Rangers cap brings over a plastic bottle with a flexible straw. His face is ruddy and square, brick- ish. Graying beard, blue eyes. Hes the guy who knocked me out in Jotunheimen. But I didnt really give him an option. I lost it when Daryn stayed behind. I didnt expect her to do that. Never saw it coming and totally lost it. That cant hap- pen again. I cant lose control of this situation, so I focus on getting my bearings as I suck down water, replenishing my dehydrated body.
I’m in a small room with pine walls and floorboards. Even the trim is pine, so. Either I was eaten by a tree or I’m in a cabin. Theres a window to my left with checkered blue cur- tains. No light or sounds bleed through, so either its night- time or the windows been blacked out. I’m going to go with both. The only illumination in the room comes from an iron lamp in the corner with no shade, just a bare bulb thats either a trillion watts or my eyes are extra sensitive from the drugs.
A cool draft seeps through the two-inch gap beneath the

door. Its not easy smelling anything beyond Corderos perfume but I catch stale carpet smell and woodsmoke. As prison cells go, its pretty cozy.
“I should’ve asked before, Cordero says when my water break is over, “would you prefer that I call you Gideon or Mr. Blake?”
I was right. Shes not military or she’d have called me “Pri- vate Blake.
I swallow again, my throat feeling better. “Ma’am, I’d pre- fer you untied me and told me where I am.” I instantly want to punch myself for the ma’am thing. Shes detaining me. Screw manners.
She doesnt answer, so I try another question. Are we still in Norway?” Nothing again. I look to the guys at the door. Are we back in the States?”
I cant give you that information at this time, Gideon, Cordero says, deciding for herself what to call me. I’m eigh- teen, probably half her age, so I can see why she didnt go with “Mr. Blake.
“Why cant I know where I am? Why all this? I nod to my- self. “I’m not going to run. I called you guys, remember? For help? How about cutting me free?”
“When I’m done questioning you, you’ll be released. “Released? Its so messed up, I have to laugh. I havent
done anything wrong.
“No? She leans forward, her gaze narrowing. You in- flicted millions of dollars of damage on Jotunheimen National Park. You dont think thats wrong? American taxpayers are paying for that damage. The American public paid to bail you and your friends out of that mess. You’re lucky the me- dia hasnt caught on yet. You almost caused an international incident. You do realize that? Until I know exactly what you were doing in Norway and why you chose to destroy acres of

pristine parkland, you arent leaving this room. I mean that, Gideon. You might as well get comfortable.
You think this is about damaged land? About money?” “If I thought that was all this was, you wouldnt be here.
I’m not sitting here and playing this game. You really want to know what this is about? I’ll tell you. Pure evil is out there. We’re in trouble—and I dont mean American tax- payers. I mean humanity. I mean everyone. And you’re look- ing at one of the only people who can do anything about it. So what do you say you untie me?”
“Not happening, Gideon, she says, disregarding everything I just said. And before you become belligerent again, let me tell you. Losing your temper wont help anything.
This is a huge waste of time. I need to get out of here. Find the guys. Get the key back. “Wheres Colonel Nellis?” I trust my commanding officer. I want to talk to him, not a stranger. “This incident has gone above the jurisdiction of the US
Army, she says.
“Who are you with? The Defense Department? CIA?” “Let me spell this out for you. I ask questions, you answer
them. Thats how this works.
There actually wasnt any spelling in that, but whatever. I’m done with this. Time to bring the wrath.
I reach for my anger, for my sword, for Riot.
I get nothing. I’m powerless. The drugs have neutralized everything. I’m completely zeroed.
It makes no sense, none, so I start yelling. Shes making a huge mistake. I’m one of the good guys. She has no idea who shes talking to. Everything I say sounds scripted and insane but its true. Its the truth.
Cordero checks her watch. “Seems its about that time again. She looks over her shoulder at the guy with the Beretta. “Get him under control.

Beretta slides a small black pouch from a cargo pocket. He pulls on latex gloves and takes out a hypodermic needle as I keep yelling and thrashing against the bindings, getting abso- lutely nowhere.
The bigger guy, Texas, comes around my chair and puts me in a rear chokehold. “Relax, he says. “Relax.
Which is the last thing I’m going to do, but then stars flicker against the pine walls and the room dims, then I dim. I’m not yelling anymore, I’m passing out.
Beretta sticks the needle into my forearm and depresses the plunger. A slow burn spreads through me. My face goes numb. My muscles relax. I relax.
I dont want to relax, but I relax.
Texas releases me and I suck in air. Gulp it down. Oxygen is the best damn thing ever created.
Beretta shines a penlight into my eyes.
Bright  light. Doesnt feel good. Close eyes.
I’m vaguely aware that I reacted too slowly. Reactions shouldnt happen in steps. Unless its only one step. A single, self-contained step.
Yeah . . . that seems right.
“The kids cooked, Beretta says as he peels off the gloves. He and Texas step back, posting up by the door again.
Keeping my head up becomes my new goal. Its not easy. Reminds me of balancing a basketball on my finger. While try- ing to process information through it. Except my head isnt actually a basketball, it just feels like one.
Yep. The kids cooked.
Cordero unfolds her hands. She drums her fingers on the table, watching me. “Ready to talk now?”
You have no idea how big this is . . . whats happening. You have no idea who I am.

It takes me a second to realize that the words hanging in the room are mine.
Not good.
Corderos fingers stop drumming. “Why dont you tell me?” I come so close to blurting it out, blurting everything out, I almost feel like I did it. Somethings not right. A prison break is happening in my mind. All my thoughts want out. My story wants out. Images of the past few weeks crash around in my head demanding freedom. Holding them backs a full-body ef- fort. I’m tied to a chair but my hearts doing a triathlon. My face goes hot and the back of my throat starts to burn. What
the hell did they just give me?
Cordero waits. “Okay, Gideon. We’ll try again in half an hour. She pauses at the door. I can do this all day. Can you?”
After she leaves, I let my head fall forward where it wants to be.
Breathe, Blake. Breathe.
I could’ve handled that better. But was I supposed to tell a stranger whats going on? Who I am? What I am?
No way. Cordero would’ve panicked. She’d have lost her mind. But the words are still on my tongue. They’re right there.
I’m War, I want to say.
I am War.


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