I posted this picture months ago on my blog, but with the release of Rising Book 1: Resistance, it's a lot more relevant now. This is artwork that was done by Holly Robbins, my cover artist, of
Lachlan and Brenna—two of the secondary characters in Resistance.
These were two characters that hadn't been planned for when I started the book; they both swept in for different purposes. As I came to the end of writing Rising Book 1, I realized that Lachlan and Brenna's story needed to be told too, and they became my narrators for Rising Book 2.
For any of you who have read Rising Book 1, you might understand when I tell you that the idea of telling their story terrified me. For those of you who haven't read it, I'll just say that these two characters have been through a lot, and their story is the most intense I've ever written. I'm actually telling their back story in scenes that take place between each chapter. I'd debated for a while about whether or not I should do that, but in the end, their history was way too complex and relevant to the story to tell it any other way.
The reason I mention all of this is because I'm going to share one of these flashback scenes from Rising Book 2 on my blog today. It was really hard to find one that wouldn't spoil certain things in the first book for anyone who hasn't read it, but I think I managed it.
So under the "read more" cut below, here's a flashback scene from Rising Book 2. It takes place around nine years before the start of Rising Book 1. (And it's still a work in progress--I'm not done writing the first draft of Book 2 yet.)
"Overnight. I've already talked to Tegan and she says she'll put Alanna to work babysitting the twins, and I told Alanna we had some training to do. She'll be fine, Brenna."
A sense of apprehension settled down on Brenna. "If this is about me and water, I'll figure out how to deal with it."
"I'm sure eventually you will,"
Lachlan replied. "Would it kill you to just let me try to help?"
"No excuses. If you fall over dead, Tegan's given me resuscitation training."
Brenna rolled her eyes. "Fine. I'll go with you. Let me talk to Alanna first."
After ensuring that Alanna knew for certain Brenna was leaving, Brenna changed, cleaned her teeth, and followed Lachlan down to the tunnels where he had loaded up a hover vehicle with a couple of bags. Brenna propped her legs up in the passenger seat while
It was a long drive—they had to eat breakfast and lunch on the way. Mid-afternoon,
Lachlan left the main paths and went through a dark, narrow tunnel, one of the exits used for leaving the mountains. They soon emerged into the bright afternoon sunshine. Brenna tilted her head up and closed her eyes, welcoming the sunlight on her face.
It was mid-afternoon when
Lachlan said, "Here we are," and took them through a crevice. They came out at the top of a sort of valley surrounded by the towering mountains on all sides. A stretch of land spread out before them. Most of it was taken up by a sparkling lake, which had a few trees dotting its rocky banks.
"I scouted it out a few days ago,"
Lachlan said. "I heard about it from someone at work. The ocean feeds it. It's crystal clear—you can see all of the fish and plants at the bottom." He drove over to the bank of the lake and stopped. The HV settled onto the ground, and Lachlan hopped out of it.
Brenna stayed where she was and gazed out across the water. It sent unpleasant chills down her spine just looking at it.
She didn't want to. She didn't want to go, didn't want to admit that she couldn't do this on her own…but she didn't want to pass up the chance that maybe this could help her.
Well, if she was going to look like an idiot, at least only
Lachlan was there to see it.
Brenna went with him to the water's edge. It was the clearest lake she had ever seen, as clear as bathwater. With the sun shimmering down on the water and the brilliant blue sky overhead, it was more open than any tub, more than any pool inside the mountains could have been.
"I don't need a caretaker," she said, tugging at her hand.
They stayed on the edge of the lake for several minutes, while Brenna simply stared at the water and prepared herself mentally for the idea of going into it. Deeper, and deeper, and putting her face in the water, and…
Gritting her teeth, she let go of
Lachlan and took off her shoes. Her skirt and shirt came off next, leaving her standing in her underwear and crisscrossing breast wrap.
It was never the wading she had trouble with, though.
Step by step, they went deeper. A school of neon blue fish darted past, brushing one of Brenna's fingers.
"Here." Brenna stopped when the water was up to her hips. She didn't look at
Lachlan, didn't look at anything except her bare feet at the bottom of the lake. The sun shone warmly on her back and neck, and her face got closer and closer to the water as she bent down near it. Her heart pounded in her chest and her breathing sped up.
Her nose brushed the water. The wetness on her face set off something inside of her, something dark and deep and primal, and she found herself flailing backwards, trying to get away from it, trying to not be wet. It was only
Lachlan's hold on her hand that pulled her back and shook her out of the haze of panic enveloping her.
"I'm right here. You're okay, Brenna. You're okay."
Lachlan took her other hand, too, and squeezed them both tightly. "Look at me. I'm right here."
Brenna tore her gaze off of the water and met his eyes, breathing deeply until her racing heart slowed back down slightly.
She tried again to put her face near the water. Twice more. The last time, she almost passed out as the blackness clawed at her, as the familiar memories of not being able to breathe, of being held down, of sucking water into her lungs, flooded over her.
"Why this?" she shouted in frustration, squeezing Lachlan's hands so hard he probably started to lose circulation to his fingers. She had been through far worse than this in prison. She wasn't scared of knives. She wasn't scared of things cutting her, or of men touching her, or of loud noises, or of the dark, or of little spaces. Most everything that had happened to her, she had used as fuel to overcome, to get stronger, to protect herself, to gain control. Why was water the one thing that she couldn't handle?
"It doesn't make you weak, Brenna."
"What if, instead of facing it headfirst, you try lying back on the water? I'll hold you up to make sure you don't go under."
Lachlan turned so she was sideways to him. He let go of her hand and put one arm around her back and one on her hip, waiting. Waiting for her. Waiting for her to lie backward…the same way that the people at the prison had lowered her into the water. Tied down, on her back, sinking, sinking…
Not in all of her fifteen years had she been so tempted to yell that she couldn't do it and just leave. But she had to do it. If she couldn't get over a fear of water, what did that say for her? What if someday she had to swim in an ocean or a lake or something? What if Alanna fell into a river? Unlikely—Alanna never went near water if she could avoid it—but what if Brenna had to save her and couldn't?
Lachlan said firmly. "Brenna!"
When she focused on his face again, he said, "I won't let you fall. I promise. I've got you, love."
She thought back over her few years with
Lachlan. Going way up north to train with Master Zildan, racing and climbing, laughing and talking, arguing with and making up again—he had never hurt her, had never not been there when she needed him. Trust wasn't something she really had much of anymore, but there were a few precious people that she could say probably wouldn't harm her, and Lachlan was one of them.
"Don't you dare let me go," Brenna gasped, and she laid herself backward in his arms. He caught her and held her up, and lowered her toward the lake. It touched her back and soaked into her shirt. The back of her scalp touched the water and she panicked. She flailed and kicked and if
Lachlan hadn't spent years training with her, she probably would have kicked him in the face and knocked herself out of his arms and straight into the lake.
Holding her against him,
Lachlan lowered himself into the water, so she went down with him. She clenched her teeth, her fingers pressing harder into Lachlan's back, her whole body stiff, as her scalp touched the surface again. Darkness swam in her vision. She was only half-aware of where she was, so sure that her face was about to go under and that she wouldn't be able to breathe, that she would be swallowed up and only come out when she was almost dead.
But she stayed where she was, with the back of her head and her ears under the water and her face out of it. She slowly became aware again of
Lachlan's arms holding her tightly and his solid presence right against her. He was pressing gentle kisses against her temple, as if she were one of his baby nieces in need of comforting.
Little by little, she began breathe, to loosen her fingers on
Lachlan's back and unclench her muscles.
It took a long time—and several almost-panic attacks whenever Lachlan loosened his hold on her—before she could float on her back with his arms under her, without holding on to him like a scared little kid. The water held her up when she let it, supporting her and filling her ears and soaking her hair.
The sun was going down, casting a red-gold light across the lake, when she turned over in
Lachlan's arms, trusting that he would keep her up, and stared down into the water. A crab scuttled across the bottom. She was trembling, but not nearly as she had before, when she lowered her nose to the surface. A deep breath, and she plunged her face into the lake. Quick in, quick out, and she gasped for breath and clutched the arm that Lachlan had under her chest, but she had done it. She stood on shaking legs and pushed her hair out of her face, licking salt water off her lips.
"You did it, Brenna!"
Lachlan whooped and lifted her off her feet, spinning her around in a circle. "You did it!"
"Yeah," she said weakly. "I think I'll go get dry now."
She nodded. "Dinner."
He took her hand and they walked toward the bank of the lake. There were deep gouge marks in his back from where her fingernails had cut into him. They were already scabbing, but he pulled his shirt on over them without a word of complaint.
After dinner, they lay on the thin mats
Lachlan had brought. They stared up at the vast expanse of stars and the moon hanging low over the mountains. A cool, gentle breeze danced over Brenna. She and Lachlan talked for a little while, and long after he fell asleep, Brenna lay near him, her eyes trailing between the night sky, the reflection of it on the lake, and Lachlan, curled on his side.
In the morning, she would put her face in the water again. And again, and again, until she could swim without fear. She would go back to Crucus District freer than ever, and she knew that
Lachlan wouldn't speak of the reasons for this trip to anyone.
Maybe she needed to be able to conquer most things by herself. But maybe
Lachlan had a point that in some things, accepting help could make her stronger and not weaker.
Rising characters and excerpts © Laura Josephsen
Art © Holly Robbins