asked, raising my brows. “Hardcore, Linds.”
The Dead List
Jennifer L. Armentrout
I love my readers. I really do. Without you guys, I wouldn’t be able to live my dream of writing and using that income from writing to pay the bills. You spend your money on my work. I would like to somehow return that favor to you instead give you all a bunch of awkward hugs.
So remember when I randomly created a Wattpad account last Fall and started randomly adding bonus material? Well, there was a plan behind that. I needed to establish an account there.
Because starting today, you can begin reading The Dead List for free.
You can begin reading a never seen before, unpublished, novel The Dead List.
The Dead List is a full standalone novel, coming in at roughly 93,000 words.
It’s a Young Adult Romantic Suspense
Yes. Lots of Romance.
Sort of like Don’t Look Back, but a throwback to movies like Scream and the sort of campy fun ones. Think I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Scream. But with more romance. That’s all I’m going to say about the book. I think a blind read is something different. A little fun.
There are no plans at this time to sell it or put it in print soon. I probably will one day, but the point of this is that it’s free for you guys.
The Dead List is a raw novel, meaning it hasn’t been through copy editing. You’ll going to see typos and some strange things. You’re actually going to see what a book of mine looks like before copy editors get their hands on it. Hopefully there are no random ‘shits’ where there is supposed to be ‘shirts’
I will be posting a chapter or a couple of chapters at a time, as one does on Wattpad.
Chapters will be added every Wednesday, Friday and then Sunday as long as I’m not traveling or, you know, acts of God clause.
If you enjoy romance with an element of suspense/thriller, check out Don’t Look Back by going here:
And if you want to read more of my works, check out all the books I have, ranging from YA Contemporary to aliens in high school to Greek gods and gargoyles to Adult Contemporary and more:
I hope you guys enjoy!
Penn Deaton looked three years younger than thirteen. With his small arms and legs, he was the tiniest out of the four of us, and always picked last, if picked at all, during gym class. He was more into watching birds with the telescope his grandfather had given him for Christmas two years ago than he was when it came to chasing a ball around.
I didn’t really get the whole bird thing and couldn’t pick out a northern mockingbird to save my life, but I sat with him in the tree house nestled deep in the wooden area behind his house, my backpack forgotten in the corner. My legs dangled over the edge. One of my flip-flops had fallen to the ground below. The other hung precariously from my toes. The drop was steep, scary high. Falling off it probably would result in more than just a few broken bones. I was always surprised that Penn would come up here since he was afraid of heights, but I guessed he was into birds more than he was scared.
There were other things I could be doing instead of sitting her waiting for Penn to see whatever he wanted to see before we made our way over to Gavin’s. Running for starters. I loved doing that. The feeling of my muscles tensing and releasing, my lungs burnings as my sneakers thumped off the pavement provided a rush. When I got to high school, I was going to join the cross county team and the track team.
I could’ve already gone to Gavin’s house. He wasn’t allowed out after school, because the bottle rockets he’d found in his parents’ garage and had set off last weekend meant he was still grounded for another billion years. But he’d gotten that new game system that hadn’t been taken away from him and we were still allowed to visit. Jensen was probably already over there, waiting on Penn and me. He didn’t have the patience required to sit quietly in a tree house and watch for birds. Jensen was always picked first in gym class and if a game controller wasn’t in his hands, he’d rather be chasing a ball around.
None of our parents ever tried to keep the four of us apart, even if we were in major trouble. Since elementary school, we had always found a way to be together. We were peas to each other’s pods, as my Grammy would say, and I though that was kind of weird saying, but we were our own little group and we were best friends.
Things… things were starting to change though, and I really didn’t understand why.
Gavin didn’t like spending time in the tree house anymore and sometimes he’d blushed and acted weird. Everyone wanted to be around Jensen at school and afterwards, especially the girls.
I bit down on my lip as my stomach tumbled like my flip-flop had.
My mom said Jensen was growing like a weed, and he was, towering over the three of us. I wasn’t growing at all. Glancing down at tee shirt, I sighed. I was the same as I was last year and the year before and the year before that. Still incredibly flat chested. Still mistaken for a boy if I had my hair up under a hat. I was convinced I’d never grow boobs like the other girls in my class, which meant Jensen would probably never think of me as anything other than the girl who was often mistaken for ‘one of the boys’ he hung out with.
I don’t even know why I cared if he woke up tomorrow and realized I was a girl. It was stupid, I decided as I picked at my nail instead of chewing on it, something my mom was trying to break me of. It didn’t matter if I never changed, because neither had Penn even though with each passing month school was getting harder and harder for him. He was still the same old Penn, and I sort of loved him more for that.
“There!” Penn whispered excitedly.
Looking up, I frowned as I squinted at the tree he was point at. It took me a few seconds to find that he had spotted a bird with black and white wings, with a splash of red across its breast.
I shuddered as the bird hopped to the branch below it, shaking the leaves. “I don’t like those kids.”
Penn glanced down at me, clutching the silvery shaft near the eyepiece lens. His dark brown eyes glimmered with excitement. “Why? They’re beautiful.”
“I don’t know.” I pulled my foot up as the bird took flight, disappearing further into the tree, where it found a leafy hidey-hole. I took off my one, lonely flip-flop. “It looks like its throat was slit and it bled all over itself.”
His mouth dropped open. “That’s… that’s sick.”
I giggled. “It’s true.”
“Never looked at it that way. Huh.” He dipped his head back to the eyepiece, and I swallowed a sigh. We weren’t heading to Gavin’s anytime soon. “They’re my favorite birds species.”
I hadn’t forgotten that. Cardinals were Penn’s favorite.
Stars blanketed the sky like tiny tiki torches casting pin prinks of light on the dark field that butted up to the edge of an obsessively manicured backyard. I scratched at the label on the bottle I held and tipped my chin up, closing my eyes as the warm, end of summer breeze washed over my face. The dry, rough grass scratched at my bare legs and I was probably sitting on or near a fire-ant hill and was about to be devoured alive, but I didn’t care.
In less than forty-eight hours, I’d be starting my senior year and this time next year, instead of staring up at stars, I’d be gazing at the twinkling city lights outside of the University of Maryland.
“Ella, what in the hell are you doing?”
I jerked at the sound of Lindsey Roach’s voice and twisted at the waist. She stood behind me, holding two bottles of beer in her hands.
“Double fisting tonight?” I
She laughed as she dropped down beside me, curling long dark legs under her. Handing one of the bottles to me, she wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, no. I’m not going to be one of those girls who gets drunk at Brock’s party, takes off their clothes, and jumps in his pool, among other things.”
I opened my mouth.
Linds held up a hand, silencing me. “You know what’s going to go down. It happens every year. One of those dumb, giggling chicks back there is going to strip down and show the world, God and baby Jesus her goodies.”
My lips twitched. Linds and I had been best friends since freshman year, when we’d been paired together to work on a social sciences fair project. She’d always been a hell of lot more opinionated than me and vocal. She really couldn’t be called pretty. Not with her curly black hair that looked perfect whether it was pulled back tight at the crown or cascading down her back. Pretty wasn’t a word I’d use for her near flawless coco colored skin, or lips made for a makeup ad, and sloe-slanted eyes.
Nope. Linds was the kind of beautiful that made you want to kick her in the lady bits when she donned a two-piece bikini. She was gorgeous.
“Remember last year?” Linds took a drink and rested the bottle on the hem of her denim shorts. “Vee Bartol took off her clothes and danced on the diving board? Like dropped low on the diving board and then twerked?”
I winced, easily recalling that incident. Not because Vee got up and did that, but because of the fallout that had occurred afterward. But it happened every year since we were sophomores. The parties Brock Cochran threw the weekend before school started had become a religion to the student body. They were notorious. His parents were always on the absentee list Saturday night, and his older brother supplied the alcohol in various forms. And someone always did something they’d spend the upcoming school year regretting on an epic level.
My smile faded away like the last days of summer as I stretched out my legs. I glanced over at Linds, and in the silvery moonlight, I could see that she was no longer smiling.
She bit down on her plump lower lip. “I heard that the police still think she ran away.”
Wiggling my toes, I cast my gaze to the sky again. Everyone wanted to believe that Vee ran away. I did. The only other options were horrifying and ugly, but when she went missing two weeks ago, her family had appeared on the local TV stations, tearfully begging for her return. It was well known, as all things were in small towns, that none of her personal belongings had disappeared.
Who ran away without money, an ID, or extra clothes?
Or even her cellphone?
Linds tipped back her beer, and I forced my thoughts away from Vee. I’d never been close to her, but her situation, whatever it was, was still difficult to really comprehend.
The silence between us was full of the soft chirps from an army of crickets probably about to descend on us. I hated bugs. All kinds of bugs. Except ladybugs. They were kosher in my book. There was also probably a stinkbug in my hair. I’d heard one a few moments before and nothing made me spaz out quicker than one of those archaic looking monsters, and they were everywhere, having invaded West Virginia like we were its own personal version of D-Day and they had made our town their bug bitch. Bugs were useless. I didn’t care about cross-pollination. They could go cross-pollinate my ass and—
“Can you believe it?” Linds said, pulling me away from my bug obsession before I jumped from the grass and ran screaming into the nearest shelter. “We’re going to start our senior year. Freaking finally.”
My smile returned and a ridiculous flutter began in the pit of my stomach. Senior year was a big deal. Besides the fact I could just coast through classes, I was so ready to be out of this town. University of Maryland wasn’t as far as I could go, but it would work. For now. But my stomach twisted around the beer. Part of me was happy and the other part felt like a balloon that had been let go and was unexpectedly floating up to the sky.
I made a face at that thought as I looked at the two beers I was holding. God, I needed to drink more. Or less. Probably less.
Linds rested her cheek on my shoulder and I leaned into her. Her cool bottle ended up resting against my leg. “But you suck. You’re not going to WVU. What am I going to do without you?”
“Run your mouth more than you do already?” I laughed as she jerked away from me and gaped, feigning shock. “You’ll be fine. And we’re going to visit each other every other weekend, remember? And we have breaks where both of us will be home.”
“I know. And you know what I also know? You will find a new guy and you won’t even remember Gavin’s name. You’re going to be like Gavin who? Who is that lame, piece of poo poo on a poo poo platter?”
“Poo poo platter?” A laugh bubbled up and broke free. “Are you drunk?”
“Nope.” She knocked her shoulder against mine. “You know, I’m kind of surprised he isn’t here.”
“He’s still at the beach with his parents. He’s not getting back until tomorrow.”
Her lips turned down at the corners. “Are you still talking to him?”
Contrary to what Linds believed, when Gavin and I broke up at the end of May, it was mutual… for the most part. He wanted to take our relationship further than I wanted to go with him. He hadn’t been a dick about it. Frankly, he seemed kind of relieved that I wasn’t as into him as I’d been telling myself I was. We’d known each other since elementary school and had been best friends since forever. We’d been dating for almost two years, and it had been fun… and easy. But it got to the point that doing anything of the naughty fun kind began to feel like I was making out with my brother and that was just really disgusting.
And I didn’t even have a brother.
“Gavin and I are still friends, Linds. You know that.” I took a sip out of my old bottle and nearly threw up as warm beer sloshed down my throat. Gross. “And I really don’t want to date anyone. What’s the point? I’ll be leaving for UM.”
Linds glanced up at the stars, scrunching up her face. “Do you know who else I heard was going to UM?”
I raised a brow and waited. Everyone and their sister and brother and Mary, Mother of God, was going to WVU or Shepherd. When she didn’t respond, I nudged her with my elbow with a sigh. “Who?”
“Jensen Carver is. Apparently, he’s going to UM. You could totally get with him.”
Staring at her, I blinked a couple of times. “Jensen? I don’t think I’ve spoken more than an entire sentence to Jensen in, like, almost four years, Linds. So I don’t see how him going to the same college is really relevant.”
“No time like now to take that one sentence to two sentences and turn it into some bow-chick-a-yum-yum.” She giggled as I gaped at her. “What?”
“What? He’ a stuck up asshole!”
“Shh,” she said, laughing as she glanced over her shoulder. Talking bad about hot boys—and Jensen was hot with an extra T and a side of Linds’ yum-yum sauce— was apparently the only thing she wasn’t vocal about. We were far enough away from the pool anyway. “I still don’t understand your problem with him.”
I cocked my head, shooting her a death glare. “Uh, yes, you do.”
“That was, like, a long time ago, Ella.” Her eyes rolled. “Anyway, I don’t think he’s stuck up.”
“He doesn’t really talk to people outside of his inner group of boys or whoever he’s dating this month. I don’t even know how he’s as popular as he is.” That was a lie. I did know. Even though Jensen didn’t hail from a super-rich family like Brock and he’d spent his freshman through most of his junior year in a different state, he was attractive and he was athletic—first string quarterback. Throw in asshole and you had the “A” trifecta of popularity.
Attractive. Athletic. Asshole.
Politics of high school at its best.
I took a long gulp of my newest beer.
“Maybe he’s just quiet?” she protested.