Thursday, September 20, 2012

Excerpt: Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating--Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they're directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they're playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?

Debut author Jeanne Ryan delivers an un-putdownable suspense thriller. 

(From chapter one, Vee and her boy-of-interest.)
I’m the girl behind the curtain. Literally. But after I open the grand drape for Act Two, I’ll have forty minutes to kill, no more costume changes or makeup to coordinate unless an actor needs a quick repair. I take a deep breath. For opening night, things have gone smoothly, which worries me. Something always goes wrong the first show. It’s tradition.

I debate between heading to the girls’ dressing room, where the talk will be about guys, or staying out in the hallway, where I might actually run into one, well, one in particular. Since the guy in question has a cue in ten minutes, I choose the hallway and pull out my phone, even though Ms. Santana, our drama coach, has us under threat of death to keep them off during all performances.

Nothing new on my ThisIsMe page. Not surprising, since most of my friends are in the play or the audience. I broadcast a message:

Still a few tix left for the next two shows, so buy one if your butt isn’t already here!

There, I’ve done my civic duty.

Along with the message, I upload a picture I took before the show of my best friend, Sydney, star of the play, and myself. The photo’s like something out of those contrast books from preschool, she, the golden Hollywood Barbie hovering next to me, the retro Blythe doll, with pale skin, dark brown hair, and eyes a little too big for my face. But at least the metallic shadow I borrowed from the cast’s makeup kit makes them look bluer than usual.

An ad for Custom Clothz pops up on my phone, promising to demonstrate how great I’d look in their latest sundresses. Summer clothes are wishful thinking in Seattle, especially in April, but a lavender one with a full skirt is too cute to resist, so I upload a photo and fill in my height: five four and weight: one-oh-something. As I’m debating what further measurements to enter, a familiar laugh booms out of the guys’ dressing room, followed by its owner, Matthew, who sidles up next to me so our shoulders are touching, well, my shoulder to his football-team-honed biceps.

He leans so his mouth is inches from my ear, “Thirty-four B, right?”

Ack, how did he read my phone so fast? I shift it out of his vision. “None of your business.” More like 32A, anyway, especially tonight with my filmy bra that doesn’t claim to perform miracles.

He laughs. “You were about to share it with total strangers, why not me?”

I flick off the display. “It’s just for this dumb ad, not a real person.”

He flips around so we’re face-to-face, with his forearms pressed to the wall on each side of my head, and then says in his silky voice that always sounds like he’s letting you in on a secret, “C’mon, I really want to see you in that dress.”

I tuck my arm behind my back. “Really?” My own voice is squeaky vinyl compared to his. Lovely.

He reaches around me and slips the phone from my fingers. “Or maybe something, you know, more comfortable.” Sliding back into position beside me, he pecks at the phone and holds up a picture of my face superimposed on a body wearing white lingerie. The bust appears larger than life size, well into the D range.

A burning creeps up my neck. “Funny. How about we do one of you now?”

He starts to unbutton his shirt. “I’ll model in person, if you like.”

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