Jennifer Armentrout: Cursed

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Jennifer Armentrout Cursed
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Dying sucks ...and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows. Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he's a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she's more than interested. There's just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden's adopted father, a man she's sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she's willing to do anything to hold her sister's hand again. And hell, she'd also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn't? But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not've been an accident at all, she's not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.

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Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer L. Armentrout Sale of the paperback edition of this book without its cover is unauthorized.

Spencer Hill Press This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. Contact: Spencer Hill Press, PO Box

247, Contoocook, NH 03229, USA Please visit our website at First Edition: September 2012.

Armentrout, Jennifer L. 1980 Cursed : a novel / by Jennifer L. Armentrout – 1st ed. p. cm.

Summary: High school senior Ember McWilliams died in a car crash, but came back – and now everything she touches dies. When a group of people with special gifts tracks her down, she has to decide if they mean to help her – or destroy her.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this fiction: Barbie, Discovery Channel, Doritos, Ford Taurus, Google/Google Maps, Happy Meal, Infiniti, Jedi, Jeep, Kryptonite, Lexus, Little Orphan Annie, McDonald’s, Mr. Potato Head, NASCAR, Oreos, Pepto-Bismol/“Pepto,” Play-Doh, Porsche, Prada, Sharpie, Toyota Camry, Wikipedia, Wrong Turn, X-Men Cover design by K. Kaynak ISBN 978-0-9831572-7-4 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-937053-12-3 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-937053-13-0 (e-book) Printed in the United States of America Cursed Jennifer L. Armentrout


Also by Je nnife r L. Arme ntrout

The Covenant Series

 Daimon (novella)



 Deity (November 2012)

Elixir (novella)

Apollyon (April 2013)

Sentinel (Fall 2013)

Chapter 1

Something soft and warm—definitely hand-sized—settled on my chest, and then moved to the right, headed uphill. I wasn’t sure why I expected to be looking into the baby blues of some hot guy when I opened my eyes. Maybe it was because I’d just had the best dream of my life. But I certainly didn’t expect to be staring into washed-out, ghostly blue eyes.

There was a hamster perched on my chest, its white-and-brown fur covered in grime. Specks of dirt covered my nightshirt, and bits of gravel clung to my bedspread.

I screamed.

Startled, the hamster scurried off my chest and disappeared under the covers. I jumped off the bed, almost face-planting into the worn-out carpet in the process. I ran from the room, wanting to scream again.

My heart was still thumping when I slowed outside my little sister’s bedroom. Her door hung cracked open, and my gaze fell first to her bed. Finding it empty, I scanned the room. Early morning light spilled into the bedroom, casting shadows over Olivia’s slight frame.

With her back to the door and head bowed, Olivia sat on the floor. Crimson curls curtained her face.

Stepping into the room, I tripped over one of her baby dolls. I forgot about the hamster as I stared down at the doll. One of her arms had been twisted off. Olivia had taken a Sharpie to the doll’s face, marking out the eyes. Then, in the ultimate act of weirdness, she’d scribbled the word “SEE” across the doll’s forehead.

My palms felt sweaty. “Olivia…”

She stiffened. “Ember? I did something bad this morning. You’re gonna be so mad.”

Dreaded words from a five-year-old, but I already knew what she’d done. I moved around the bed even though I wanted to turn and run. There were times Olivia scared the crap out of me. “What did I tell you, Olivia?”

She tilted her head and stared up at me. Her green eyes were wet with tears, shining like glittering emeralds. “I’m sorry.” Her lip trembled. “Squeaky got scared when I brought him back in the house. He ran off before I could stop him.”

Somehow I managed a smile as my eyes fell over her nightgown. Brown flakes of soil spotted the crisp cotton, and dirt sprinkled her little arms and chubby fingers. The shoebox in her lap was covered in filth.

The very same shoebox I’d used to bury Squeaky in the backyard last night.

I squeezed my eyes shut, mentally stringing together as many cuss words I could think of. I should’ve known she’d do this. A violent shiver went through me.

Olivia just couldn’t let dead things be.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But Squeaky loves me and he needed me.”

I skirted around her and dropped to my knees. “Squeaky didn’t need you! Olivia, you can’t do this every time one of your pets dies. It isn’t right. It’s unnatural.” Like it hadn’t been natural to bring back the dead pigeon she’d found in the driveway the other day. Or Smokey, the cat she’d discovered alongside the road.

“But… I did it to you,” Olivia insisted.

I opened my mouth, but what could I say? Olivia had done it to me two years ago, and I was just as unnatural as Squeaky. Even more so… “I know, and trust me, I appreciate that. But you can’t keep doing this.”

She flinched back. “Don’t.”

I glanced at my hands, unaware I had reached for her. Frustrated, I let them drop to my lap. “When things die, it means it’s their time to go. You know this.”

Olivia jerked to her feet. “You’re gonna take Squeaky away from me.”

The scent of death clung to the shoebox, invading my senses. Horrified, I wondered if I smelled like that. The urge to sniff myself seemed too strong to pass up.

“Please don’t take Squeaky,” she went on, getting ready for an Olivia-sized breakdown. “I promise not to do it again. Just let me keep Squeaky! Please!”

I stared.

Olivia stopped moving, but her nightgown still swung around her knees. “Ember, are you mad at me?

Please don’t be mad at me.”

“No.” I sighed. “I’m not mad, but you have to promise me you won’t do this again. And mean it this time.”

She bobbed her head eagerly. “I won’t! So you’ll let me keep Squeaky?”

“Yes. Just go get the stupid hamster.” I stood, sighing. “He was under my blankets.”

A bright, beautiful smile broke across her face as she whirled around and took off toward my bedroom. I trailed behind her, my skin crawling as I glanced at the twisted doll. The door to my bedroom hung haphazardly on its remaining hinge.

This house was old, like Civil-War-era old. Everything sagged or slanted at crooked angles. Paint peeled off the walls in sheets like snakeskin. Nothing stood straight. The air smelled of death and decay.

Almost like the house had died two years ago.

Turned out that Squeaky was still under my covers, doing God knows what. Olivia held the squirming ball of fur close to her face. “I get to keep you!”

I clasped my hands together to keep them from shaking. “Put Squeaky in his cage and get ready for school, Olivia. We’ll… pretend this didn’t happen, okay? And go brush your teeth.” I paused. “And don’t even think about wearing your princess dress to school today.”

She stopped in my doorway. “But I am a princess.”

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