Withhold by Andrea Pearson
(Mosaic Chronicles #9)
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
With the lives of everyone she holds dear at stake, will Nicole be able to do what it takes to stop the evil surrounding her?
In the ultimate battle between good and evil, Nicole is in a race to stop Keitus before he achieves his plans. If he succeeds, he will crush everyone who has opposed him and enslave Earth and countless other planets. Unfortunately, he is only minutes away from his goal.
With so much at stake, Nicole and her friends must approach Helen, a volatile and dangerous spirit who will probably destroy them regardless of whether she gives them what they want. And the chances of her helping them are slim.
Fast-paced and epic magical fights, exciting plot twists, and non-stop action and adventure await. So sit down, buckle up, and hold on for the explosive, much-anticipated conclusion to the award-winning and bestselling Mosaic Chronicles.
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Excerpt from Discern (Book 1):
Nicole and Lizzie arrived at the building for their next class and entered the double doors, making their way to the correct room. It was a small auditorium with enough seating for fifty people. They sat on the second row and watched as a man with dark hair and thick, bushy eyebrows entered the room. The classroom got quiet as everyone realized this was their teacher.
Nicole knew his name was Professor Coolidge, that he was a world-renowned specialist in magical items. He spent half his time teaching at Katon University and the other half traveling, doing whatever things important people did. He was supposed to be one of the most powerful Aretes in the world.
Coolidge grabbed a dry-erase marker and wrote his name on the board. His handwriting was big, bold. He used all uppercase letters. While he was writing, the students started talking again, and several more shuffled inside. Coolidge sat on his desk and waited for everyone to settle in.
Once the buzz of whispering had died down, he grabbed a cardboard box from under the desk and set it on top of the desk before looking out over his students. “Since this is a freshman course, the following question will be relevant. How many of you have had your Arete powers manifest already?”
Nicole couldn’t see anyone whose hand didn’t go up.
Coolidge sat on the desk next to the box. “How many of you had your powers manifest before eighteen?”
Around two-thirds of the class raised their hands, including Lizzie. Apparently, that one day before her birthday really meant a lot to her.
“Six months early?” He watched as about ten students raised their hands.
Professor Coolidge paused. “I need two students to help with a demonstration, so keep your hands up.” He pointed to a girl with really dark hair—obviously an Earth Arete. Then he inspected the others. “You,” he said, pointing to a guy, also dark-headed.
“Why didn’t he pick someone with a different hair color?” Lizzie asked. Her eyes widened as she stared at the guy. “Wowzers, he’s hot.”
Nicole couldn’t help but stare too. The guy had a five o’clock shadow, emphasizing his strong jawline. He held his broad shoulders back and walked with a confidence she’d never seen in high school. His eyes were as dark as his hair and they glanced across the students, landing on her for more than a second before moving to the board, where they stayed.
Nicole felt her cheeks flush at his attention and hoped no one noticed, especially Lizzie.
“Definitely up your alley,” Lizzie whispered.
Nicole hushed her, wanting to see why Coolidge needed volunteers, but she blushed even more at what Lizzie had said. Would a guy like that really go for her?
“What’s your name?” Professor Coolidge asked the girl.
She sniffed, flipped her hair back, and folded her arms. “Judith Ann Jackson.”
She said it so quietly, Nicole wondered about her body language. She acted stuck-up and pretentious. Usually, people like that were loud-spoken.
Professor Coolidge waved to the guy. “And you?”
“Austin.” His eyes didn’t leave the board.
Coolidge got off the desk. “Time for a demonstration. Both of you, out in the hall. Judith, I’ll have—”
“It’s Judith Ann.”
Professor Coolidge looked like he wanted to roll his eyes. “Fine. Judith Ann. I’ll have you come in first. Both of you, please leave the classroom.”
As soon as the door shut behind them, Professor Coolidge started pulling objects out of the box and setting them on the desktop.
Several students got to their feet, wanting to see. Nicole and Lizzie were close enough that they didn’t have to stand, but they leaned forward.
The items didn’t appear to be anything special at first. A cup. A mousetrap. A necklace. Two skeleton keys. A fraying green beanie that looked like it was someone’s first crochet project. Then Coolidge pulled out a leather book. A slight glow around it caught Nicole’s eye, and she stared at it. It was definitely powerful—even she could sense its magic.
Suddenly, an intense feeling nearly overcame her. She wanted to jump over the row of chairs in front of her and steal the book from the professor. To protect it from him. She shook herself, pushing the desire away. What was wrong with her?
Coolidge fingered the leather cover for a moment and glanced at Nicole. Her cheeks burned and she dropped her eyes to her purse in her lap. Why was he looking at her? Could he sense her feelings? Impossible—no Arete could read minds or emotions.
Coolidge dropped the book on the desk, and Nicole looked up in time to see him motion to a girl near the doors.
“Have Judith Ann come in, please,” he said.
The girl did so, and Judith Ann strode inside. Coolidge waited for the doors to shut behind her before speaking.
“Arrange these objects according to their magical strength or importance.”
Judith Ann nodded, tucked a strand of dark hair behind an ear, and approached the desk. She started by waving her hands over the items one at a time, then picking them up and inspecting them. She turned the beanie inside out and righted it. She played with the cup and held the mousetrap for several seconds, an intense expression on her face. A minute passed. Two minutes. Five. She arranged the items, then rearranged them.
Students began to whisper, probably growing bored. But a look from Coolidge silenced them.
Finally, Judith Ann turned around, resting her hands on the desk behind her. “That was hard. Too hard. Should you really be testing freshmen like this?”
She seemed oblivious to everyone watching her. Professor Coolidge raised a bushy eyebrow. “It’s my class.”
He approached the desk and looked at what she’d done. He turned. “This was a good attempt, but incorrect. And that’s fine. No student gets it right the first try. When did your Arete powers manifest?”
She smiled. “Four months after my seventeenth birthday.” Her expression left no doubt in Nicole’s mind—the girl was very impressed with herself for her early accomplishment, even though she had absolutely no control over when it happened. No one did.
Coolidge didn’t seem very impressed, though. “Have you found your focus for Channeling?”
Lizzie snickered. “Like a kid.”
Nicole didn’t respond but definitely agreed with Lizzie. What an embarrassing focus.
Coolidge put the objects in a pile and glanced at Judith Ann. “Go ahead and return to your seat. Let Austin in on your way.”
Once Austin had entered the room, Coolidge gave him the instructions and sat back to watch.
The first thing Austin did was toss the mousetrap on the floor.
Then he spent less than ten seconds—literally, less than ten—putting the objects in order. He didn’t inspect them, hold them, or stare at them. He simply put them where he thought they should go.
When he finished, he returned to his seat and pulled out his phone.
Coolidge stared at the items, an expression of disbelief on his face. He cleared his throat. “Austin . . . you are completely correct. The mousetrap is ordinary—not magical.” He listed the order Austin had placed everything else in. “Cup, necklace, beanie, book . . . and this is definitely a first.” He stepped away from the desk and motioned to it. “Students, see what he’s done with the Keys of Kilenya and Ayunli?”
Nicole stared, still on the edge of her seat. Austin had put one key above the other.
Professor Coolidge looked at Austin. “Why did you do this, when you placed the others left to right?”
Austin didn’t look up. “Because the keys are the exact same in magical powers. Neither is better than the other.”
Coolidge raised his eyebrows. “That is correct.” He folded his arms, examining Austin, who still didn’t look up. “You’re the first student to sense this. Not even I can tell that they’re exactly the same, and I’m the foremost authority on magical items in the country. My knowledge of their history is how I know they’re the same in power.” He looked at the objects and back to Austin. “When did your magical powers manifest themselves?”
“Two months before my sixteenth birthday.”
Murmurs flowed through the auditorium and Coolidge dropped his arms, looking just as shocked as everyone seemed to feel.
Lizzie glanced at Nicole. “Any chance he’s lying?”
Nicole shrugged. How could she know?
Professor Coolidge didn’t say anything for several seconds, then whispered, “That’s nearly unheard of.”
“But not completely so,” Austin said.
“And how long did it take to find your focus?”
“I’ve never needed one.”
This time there were audible gasps. Nicole and Lizzie looked at each other again.
“Is that possible?” Lizzie asked.
“It must be,” Nicole said, though she couldn’t fathom not having a way to Channel. How did he grasp the magic that flowed around them? The slight pulsings that she’d grown accustomed to but which had always avoided her control?
Coolidge’s face was straight as he studied Austin. “Any family history of Aretes?”
Austin hesitated before responding. “My parents. And before you ask, yes, they were also fifteen when they Restarted. And no, neither of them used a focus.”
“A fourth child born to parents who are also Fourths? Rare, very rare.”
Austin glowered. Nicole knew that Aretes frequently married each other, but even they almost never had three, let alone four children.
“What’s he so angry about?” Lizzie asked.
“I don’t think he likes the attention,” Nicole said.
“So why’d he go along with the test thing?”
Nicole shrugged. “Coolidge didn’t give him much of a choice, did he?”
Professor Coolidge finally turned to the rest of the students. “Well, this object lesson leads us to the point of class today.”
Andrea Pearson is an avid reader and outdoor enthusiast who plays several instruments, not including the banjo, and loves putting together musical arrangements. Her favorite sports are basketball and football, though several knee surgeries and incurably awful coordination prevent her from playing them.
Andrea graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor of science degree in Communications Disorders. She is the author of many full-length novels (the Kilenya Series and Mosaic Chronicles) and several novellas. Writing is the chocolate of her life – it is, in fact, the only thing she ever craves. Being with her family and close friends is where she’s happiest, and she loves thunderstorms, the ocean, hiking, public speaking, painting, and traveling.