Exclusive Excerpt — and Giveaway! Lea Nolan's Illusion

Sure, the weekend's over, but we've got the perfect way to get over those Monday blues — with an exclusive excerpt to Lea Nolan's YA trilogy ender, RT Top Pick! Illusion, out today! At the end of the post, we also have an awesome giveaway. We know

Forced to give up her true love to keep him from harm's way, Emma Guthrie must battle enemies, both human and spectral, while guarding her own soul from the darkest magic she's ever seen. Let's check it out …

“You can’t sleep, either.” Cooper’s voice is hushed and deep and yanks me from my solitude. He’s standing right above me, looming over my shoulder in the dimness.

I gasp and clutch my chest. “You scared the crap out me.”

“Sorry. I thought you heard me come downstairs. Or when I called your name as I came into the room.” He sits down next to me. In the faint light, I can make out the hard edge of his square jaw and broad shoulders.

“I guess I got lost in my sketch.”

He leans over to look at the turbulent image I’ve drawn then glances at the tranquil scene beyond the great room window. “Not exactly a match. I guess you’re still pretty upset.”

And that’s just one of the reasons I love Cooper Beaumont, even though I’m trying not to. He always knows what’s going on with me, even when it’s not this obvious.

“I can’t believe my father thinks we could be friends with Taneea. Or that she’s not the most heinous person on this island. Well, except for Claude Corbeau.”

Cooper nods. “Your father means well, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There’s no chance I’m going to be nice to Taneea. The best I’ll do is keep my distance.”

It feels so good to talk with him. He gets it. There’s no need for me to explain why, for the first time ever, I need to go against my father’s wishes. Because at least in this case, turning my back on Taneea, my worst human enemy, is the best and most charitable thing I can do.

“So what do we do?”

His brows pinch together. “First, I’m going to make sure she doesn’t threaten you again.”

“I can take care of myself.” I reach over and nudge his thick bicep.

He smiles and leans toward me. “You can, but why do it alone when you can have help?” He nudges me back and rests his elbow on my bent knee.

His touch is so casual and comfortable, almost like coming home from a long, tiring trip. I’d love to sink into this sensation, nuzzle up against him, and lay my head on his chest.

Except I’m not supposed to encourage this kind of closeness. But for this moment, I forget all the should bes and have tos, because for the first time in weeks, I feel good. Safe. Happy. Even my headache is lifting. And while it could be from the painkillers I gulped down, I prefer to believe it’s because I’m sitting here in the dark with the one guy in the world who makes my heart skip, dance, and leap all at once.

“I mean it, Emmaline. We’ve always been great when we do things together. This is no different.” His arm slips so his hand rests on my knee, sending a shiver through my body.

Distracting myself from the warmth of his touch and the welling urge to reach over and kiss him, I try to keep things light. “So what are you going to do? Hang out in the girls’ bathroom and jump out whenever Taneea starts something?”

“No.” He looks at me like I’m crazy.

I laugh. “I was joking.”

“I know.” His gaze bores into mine. “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I’ll figure it out when I need to. For now, can’t we just change the subject? I’m sick of thinking about her.”

“Like what?” I pull back slightly, wary of where this is headed.

“Oh, I don’t know.” He looks out the window. “The moon?”

“What about it?”

“It’s huge. And beautiful. It reminds me of that night in the cemetery when you contacted my mom.”

That’s funny, because it reminds me of the moon that hung over our first date on the beach just a few hundred yards from here. That night was perfect. It seems like a thousand years ago, before my spectral nemesis, Sabina threatened everyone I love.

Shoving that depressing thought aside, I focus instead on the moment he’s talking about, when I summoned his mother’s spirit for her help in destroying the Beaumont curse.

“That was a crazy night.” I chuckle.

“We’ve had a lot of crazy nights. I owe you my life. You know I’d do anything for you.”

I look away, unable to withstand the weight of his gaze and all that his words convey. Because along with Sabina’s threat to destroy everyone I love, there’s also the looming prophecy that Cooper and I will get married. Or something like that. To be honest, I don’t understand it myself. All I know is that Sabina mentioned some prophecy, and the boo hag kept saying I’d have no choice but to be with Cooper after it possessed his body.

At almost fifteen years old, that’s way too much for me to handle. Actually, it’s more than I can handle for the next decade.

Which is why I shouldn’t be talking to him, alone in the dark. I should be sticking with my plan and squelching these head-swooning, belly-tingling feelings before they make me do something stupid that gets him killed. The smart side of my brain screams that I should come up with an excuse to leave, bolt to my room, and go back to flip-flopping around in my bed. But the stupid, hopelessly love-struck half refuses to give in. Being around him feels too good, and for once, I want to be selfish.

“You know, you’re still my best friend,” I whisper, the words heavy as they cross my lips. I wish I could say so much more, but I know if I do, he’ll think this distance is dumb, or worse, unnecessary, and switch into warrior mode, insisting that he help me get rid of her. I might as well serve him up to her on a silver platter.

He smiles. “I do. You’re my…best friend, too.” He smiles that deadly half grin that caves my heart every time. My pulse kicks into overdrive. He reaches and flips the cover of my sketchbook closed.

“What are you doing?” My voice rises as he leans over to place it on the coffee table.

“Just getting these out of the way.” He grins again, making me light-headed as he reaches for the tray of pastels and sets it on top of the sketchbook.

“Out of the way for what?” I ask, breathless.

“For this.” He twists me slightly to the side so my legs are facing forward, then lifts me up in his strong embrace, wrapping his arms around my back.

“Cooper,” I protest, afraid of where this is likely to lead. Not that I’d mind a major make-out session, but I’m sure I’d regret it in the morning.

“Shh,” he soothes. “I know we’re not together anymore. But we can still hug as friends, right?”

Well, when he puts it that way, why not?

I wrap my arms around him and give in to my heart’s desire. The scent of his spicy deodorant, fabric softener–infused T-shirt, and warm, sea-salt skin combine, overloading my brain with memories of the countless hours we’ve spent together.

Cooper’s arms clutch tighter, drawing me closer, and his hands stroke my back. “I’ve missed you, Emmaline.”

I sigh. “I’ve missed you, too.” Then sink into him like a marshmallow in a vat of melted chocolate.

To celebrate Illusion's release, we've got a great giveaway for you! One lucky winner will receive a Hoodoo Apprentice tote featuring the trilogy’s brand new, gorgeous covers, plus signed paperbacks of the first two books in the series, Conjure and Allure!Enter below! U.S. residents only, please.

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Illusion is available today! Buy a copy: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance. You can also find more great stories on our Everything YA page.