Saturday Excerpt: What Doesn’t Kill Her by Christina Dodd
The next installment of Christina Dodd’s Cape Charade series hits shelves on January 29. If you’ve been waiting for the return of Kellen Adams since Dead Girl Running, you’re in luck. We have a sneak peek here just for you!
About What Doesn’t Kill Her:
One secret, one nightmare, one lie. You guess which is which.
1. I have the scar of a gunshot wound on my forehead.
2. I have willfully misrepresented my identity to the US military.
3. I’m the new mother of a seven-year-old girl.
Kellen Adams suffers from a yearlong gap in her memory. A bullet to the brain will cause that. But she’s discovering the truth, and what she learns changes her life, her confidence and her very self. She finds herself in the wilderness, on the run, unprepared, her enemies unknown—and she is carrying a priceless burden she must protect at all costs. The consequences of failure would break her. And Kellen Adams does not break.
What doesn’t kill her…had better start running.
Sleeping Beauty was such a sucker.
You can say stuff in her defense. She was young and unwary. She didn’t know much about wicked men and cruel women. No one warned her not to touch sharp objects. But ultimately, everything that happened—the kingdom taking a hundred-year nap, her prince having to hack back thorns and fight a dragon, him having to run up a gazillion stairs, wheezing and gasping, to revive her with true love’s kiss—that was all her fault. Everything melts down around her and all she does is lie there, snoozing away.
As I said, a sucker.
Why am I bringing up corny, politically incorrect, completely unfeminist Sleeping Beauty?
Because I am that sucker/loser/fool.
When I was eighteen, I was Cecilia Adams. I met and married the handsome wealthy prince of my dreams, Gregory Lykke, a charming guy twice my age with buckets of money.
You guessed it—he was a wicked man, a monster. When after two years he tried to perform the classic husband/wife murder/suicide, he instead killed himself and my successful, brave and loving cousin.
Her name was Kellen Adams. Remember that.
Did I do the right thing, admit what had happened, start a campaign to raise social awareness about dragons and abusive husbands?
Nooo. Like the coward I was, I stole my cousin’s identity and ran away to the big city. I called myself Kellen Adams, but I was still gullible little Ceecee, easily wounded, unprepared to face the world, falling into homelessness, helplessness and fear. One day, as I wandered through Philadelphia smelling like garbage and reeking of paranoia, I saw a wicked man dragging a terrified little girl toward his car.
Points to me for recognizing wicked. Getting smarter is a great thing.
Points to me for having all my terror transformed into rage. I saw myself in that helpless child. I attacked the man, helped Annabella Di Luca escape and won the eternal gratitude of the little girl’s family.
The Di Lucas were an Italian-American clan, successful, close and loving. Maximilian Di Luca was the girl’s uncle. He liked me, despite the garbage smell. He didn’t know about the Sleeping Beauty dumb stuff or the cowardice or that I was impersonating my dead cousin. I told him my name was Ceecee, no last name. He apparently saw something in me that he admired, because he didn’t ask questions, and he courted me.
Turns out, I really liked him. I slept with him. I loved him. I dreamed that somehow this romance would be different than my marriage, with some happily-ever-afters and no thorns or dragons. For a few months, it seemed as if I would have my heart’s desire.
But lies and omissions have a way of catching up with a person.
I still had Kellen’s papers. Without telling me, Max looked through them. He thought I was Kellen Adams, with all her degrees and her credentials. I guess I don’t blame him, but when I found out, I panicked and ran away. The wicked man who had tried to kidnap Annabella took his revenge; he tracked me down and shot me in the head.
Here comes the real Sleeping Beauty part. I didn’t die. Instead, I lay in a coma.
The seasons passed. I didn’t know. The world changed. I didn’t know.
None of that was important. What mattered was, I didn’t realize the changes my body was going through.
Pay attention. That’s significant.
After thirteen months, I woke in a hospital. I didn’t know where I was or why, and I didn’t remember anything about the Di Luca family or Max. I only knew I was afraid. I rose from my bed and f led.
Using Kellen’s papers, I joined the US Army.
In the military, in war and peace, I changed from the timid, fragile young woman I had been. I became strong, competent and fierce, a warrior for good.
Six years later, I was given a medical discharge.
Pay attention again. That’s significant, too. The Army liked me, my degrees, my efficiency. They didn’t want to discharge me, and I didn’t want to go. But the news they gave me wasn’t good, so I was out of the service and in need of employment.
I got a job at a Di Luca resort and met Max once more.
He might have been true love’s prince, but I didn’t remember him. I didn’t remember anything about that year when I was lost in the coma’s gray fog.
But Max could not let me go, for he knew more about me than I did…
And neither of us knew all the truths.
Hello. I’m Sleeping Beauty.
Not really, though.