Title: Empath (The Empath Trilogy)
Author: HK Savage
Genre: Mature YA
Publisher: Staccato Publishing Reveal Host: Lady Amber's Tours
Book Description from Empath:
All she wanted was to disappear… Claire Martin is an empath. She’s lived her entire life as a slave to a constant barrage of emotions that weren't hers. Off to college she hopes simply to blend with the crowd where she can best hide her curse. Within her first few weeks at school Claire meets Stephen Andrews, a small, fragile looking boy who changes her life forever. Stephen, a boy with a secret of his own, instantly recognizes Claire for what she is. It is through Stephen's aid that Claire meets James, a vampire with a talent of his own. As soon as they touch, their abilities connect in a way that has not occurred in over three hundred years forming a bond that cannot be broken.
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HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box. Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman she uses for therapy dog work and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working or whatever else. In addition to editing for the past ten years in advertising, HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years; her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her skills are being focused on clients in the writing world. Paranormal is her favorite genre and science fiction because both address the possibilities we have not yet realized and the darker things we have. Her favorite premise: “what if?”
James stood and put his right hand into the air separating our bodies. I looked at it and snapped back up in alarm. “What do you want me to do with that?” My heart started to race. We couldn’t touch. What if he could sense how he affected me? He could do whatever he wanted then and he could just tell Troy and Stephen I’d gone willingly to the slaughter. It would be easy to get me to mirror his thirst.
“I will shield you myself and take it down a little at a time as you learn to pick it up your own. But I will need to know how your ability functions to better work with it. I sense
people’s talents, but need to touch you in order to do so. Each person’s is different. I cannot help you to contain or manipulate yours if I don’t know the peculiarities of it.” He held his hand out palm up and wiggled his fingers playfully at me, a grin crept back into his eyes. “You will have to trust me.”
89I stood too, wiping my now sweating palms on my pants, glad I had picked the jeans. They hid the marks so much better than khakis. I raised my right hand and held it palm down a few inches from his. Our bodies were little over a foot apart and my heart started hammering in my chest. My stomach was fluttering and I felt the sweat beading on my back and under my arms. I thought I was having an anxiety attack.
His face was calmly watching mine like this was the most normal thing. “You must learn to settle yourself, we haven’t even tried our first experiment yet.”
“Give me a moment.” I closed my eyes so that I couldn’t see him, then I concentrated on my breathing. With all of my issues I had spent a good amount of time practicing deep breathing and meditation. Taking this moment to “find my breath” as my books had instructed, I found my heart rate coming down and my body responding to my wishes. I reopened my eyes, my body firmly back under control.
James stood exactly as before with a pleased expression. “That was good, Claire. Are you ready to begin then?”
Too frightened to speak, I merely nodded and licked my suddenly dry lips.
Much like my earlier confession, I watched his hand moving toward my own except I felt like it was someone else’s. Mine was some stranger’s body and I was standing beside her, seeing this from the outside. When our palms were about an inch apart, I felt the hum begin, lower and quieter than I was used to. He was different than a human.
My eyes sought his. They quickly became my gyroscope, helping me balance here in this strangest of situations. He saw my surprised reaction to his feel.
“I will be easier to work with because I am not human. My emotions are much more fleeting and almost feel...” Here he became uncertain for the first time since I had met him. “I guess you would say that my body has been dead for so long that my human emotions have dulled. They are in my head, but do not affect my body as your kind’s do.”
Hmm, that was curious. I felt it building, the unstoppable urge to touch him. He’d said no harm would come and that he would help shield me, plus I had to put my hands on his. Again I felt that inexplicable pull toward him, but now it was total. The tug was in my head, in my stomach. I could feel it even in my very skin.
Dropping my resistance, I brought my hand down onto his, lightly then more firmly. I knew instantly that it was too much too soon. His feelings rushed up to me. They were so fast and fleeting that it was hard to focus on what I was getting as they flooded into me. With an incredible sense of relief I also found that with them shifting so quickly they were easy to block. It was like I had a box of his emotional “thoughts” and they were wrapped up with enough cotton that I could choose which one I wanted to grab and analyze once I got used to the pace.
I caught glimpses of faces and places from different times go flashing past me. Fascinating. Would I be able to do this when my training was complete?
Almost as rapidly as I had begun to read him, James pulled his hand back and put it in his pocket. He was breathing hard and his eyes were dark again.
“I don’t understand. That was great! I was able to separate each emotive thought you had and if I had more time, I could have read them.” It was hard to contain my exuberance. This was more than I had ever hoped I would be able to do. It was like mind reading, but more than words, I could feel flashes of what he felt about each person and place though
too complex to understand in the glimpses I’d been exposed to. Realization struck me then and I felt the guilt over what I’d done.
“James, I am sorry, that was intrusive, wasn’t it? I should have warned you. You said you’d shield and I figured I would just go for it. Like ripping off a band-aid.” I couldn’t meet his eyes out of embarrassment.
Just then, the teakettle whistled making both of us jump to our feet. Carefully, so that we didn’t touch again, James carefully stepped around me before turning to go to the kitchen. “Have a seat, I’ll be right back with your tea.”
“I’ll help.” I wanted something to do with myself to help dissipate the awkwardness.
“No,” he said too harshly and too quickly, holding up his hand to me.
The rejection and humiliation burned hot. He offered to help me and when I wasn’t offending him, I bowled him over like an overeager Labrador. I worried this time I’d pushed him too far and now he would take me home.
He seemed to understand how I was feeling. His voice was meant to soothe as he broke into my thoughts. “Claire, you have a stronger ability than I was ready for. It took me by surprise is all. I will be better able to help you if I eat before we continue.”
Instantly, I felt the color drain from my face. My heart leapt into my throat. He was going to eat? Me? No, Stephen said he didn’t do that.
“Relax,” he assured with a small grin. “My supply is in my refrigerator. If you would have a seat and give me just a few moments, I will take care of my needs and return with your tea.”
“Oh, okay. That’s, um, thoughtful.” Well, that was arguably the weirdest conversation I’d ever had. Feeling better about a lot of things, confused about others, I sat down on the couch and pulled my legs up underneath me to wait while James went about his business. Left to my own nosiness, I took the time to look around. What had seemed so clean and streamlined about the house initially I now saw as sterile.
Most people have pictures around their house showing hints of who they are. Pictures of their hobbies, people they know and love, places they’ve been. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but figured out in the lack of what I was seeking that I was hoping to learn more about my handsome tutor. He spoke formally at times, so I thought he was from at least the turn of the century when English got more mixed and slang became more acceptable. Or, maybe he wasn’t American initially and had learned it later. The foreign exchange students I had met in high school had learned what we called “British English” which was way more formal than our own American version. Of course I was also looking for evidence of a girlfriend. She would have to be pretty amazing to get this guy and, I assumed, she would have to be a vampire too, or it wouldn’t be fair because she would be too scared to break up with him.
I had put the cashmere throw on my lap while I was deep in thought about the hottie in the other room who was quickly becoming an incredibly fascinating person. Uh oh, double trouble. Great to look at, better to talk to.
Switching gears for my own safety, I looked around me. This was a comfortable house, I was tired and it was safe here. Relax, I thought as I closed my eyes for just a minute. I could return myself to a steadier place while I waited, thinking we could work that much better when he returned.
It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes that I had been asleep when I awoke to his voice in my ear. “Claire, I should bring you home.”
I sat up with a start, nearly smashing into his face in the process. He must have been right in my ear. Good thing he moved so fast or we’d both have serious goose eggs on our foreheads; well, I would anyway. “No, I’m alright. Please, I’ll be fine after I have some caffeine.”
He didn’t look convinced, but I wanted a chance to prove myself after the earlier debacle. We couldn’t end our session like this or it would be our last. “Are you certain? I warned you these practices can be draining. If you are already tired, I don’t want you to pass out on me.” He grinned teasingly and I felt my stomach flip. His color was closer to human, feeding must give him color as well as warmth, which explained the difference I saw in his pallor earlier as well.
“Let me have a cup of tea and I’ll be among the living again.” I froze and shot a look at him unable to read his reaction. Not sure if I had done damage or not, I concentrated on my tea.
After a few sips I put the cup down, pushed the blanket aside and stood up. “Okay, let’s try this again. I’m ready.”
He stood as well, so gracefully it was inconceivable, mesmerizing even. “Yes,” he agreed cautiously. “But this time, you hold still and I will come to you.”
We both put our palms out again but this time, obediently, I held perfectly still. When we touched, it was not like before. He was completely shielded and I had my first feeling of just someone’s hand. This was just touch. I felt the solidness of his palm, the coolness of his skin. I felt him. I was unprepared for what it would do to me. Before I realized it, I was weeping; uncontrollably weeping.
James instantly pulled his hand back and I heard the confusion in his voice. “I was shielded, you shouldn’t feel anything.”
That just made me cry harder. I couldn’t look at him. Through my sobs, I tried to speak. “I don’t. That’s it; I’ve never felt...nothing before.”
He understood that and closed the last step between us. As I saw his arms coming up, I jerked my face up to his and he saw my panic.
“Trust me. You’ll be safe.” James put his arms around me, letting his shields block out everything and give me peace. I finally felt what it was like to be comforted by an embrace. I wept for everything I’d never had, for the fear that made me cringe from a hug instead of lean into one. I felt him lift me up with one arm, sweeping my legs up with his other and without the slightest indication of exertion, he sat on the couch pulling me up into his lap. I tried to tell myself he’d seen it all before working with people like me and then cast that aside, preferring to think this first embrace was special for more than just me.