Friday, October 20, 2017

"Never Apart" by Romily Bernard

Never Apart
by Romily Bernard

Never Apart by Romily Bernard

Never Apart by Romily Bernard is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

How many times would you die for love?
What if you had to relive the same five days over and over?
And what if at the end of it, your boyfriend is killed ...
And you have to watch. Every time.
You don’t know why you’re stuck in this nightmare.
But you do know that these are the rules you now live by:
Wake Up.
Now, the only way to escape this loop is to attempt something crazy. Something dangerous. Something completely unexpected. This time ... you’re not going to run.
Combining heart-pounding romance and a thrilling mystery Never Apart is a stunning story you won’t soon forget.

Chapter 1
I'm going to die again.
Ander's hand tightens around mine like he can hear my thoughts. Or maybe it's just because he can hear my breathing: too fast, too ragged. We're running and running, and I can't go much farther. My lungs are burning. My knees are buckling.
"C'mon!" Ander tugs me closer and I slip, lose my shoe in a puddle. The rain's coming harder now, the grass turning to mud, but we don't stop. We can't.
Finn is drawing closer.
"Don't look back," Ander says.
I do. I can't help it. I can hear him.
Finn's breathing's gone ragged, too. He sounds like a dragon in the dark. He's driving us into the swamp, hunting us.
I'm going to die again.
Low tree branches whip my face, rip hair from my head. Ander grunts and staggers sideways, rights himself. I squeeze his hand, pump my shaking knees harder. He matches me stride for stride. We splash through a pocket of swamp water, and Ander shoves me left, toward a tangle of dead cypresses.
One ... two ... three ... four ...
Finn splashes in four seconds behind us and Ander twists sideways, hauls me to the ground. Mud, thick and rotten-smelling, cushions our fall. Ander rolls left, tucks us close to a thicket of overgrown briars. It's a hot summer night, but the swamp water's cold. I can't stop shivering. I clutch Ander's arm with one hand, my knife with the other, and for the first time I'm glad there's no moonlight. Finn will never see my blade coming.
Ander crouches over me as Finn draws closer ... closer ...
Away from us.
Finn slogs deeper into the water and stops, listening. Ander holds me tighter, and I crush my mouth against his T-shirt.
He's going to hear you. He's going to hear you.
Finn turns right, splashes farther into the swamp. His footsteps drift right and then left and then right again, and I swallow a sob, taste the rain running down my face. He's looking for our hiding spot.
I'm going to die again.
"Don't be afraid," Ander whispers. "If we Fall again, I will find you."
This is what Ander always says: I will find you.
This is what Ander never says: so will Finn.
Because Finn always finds us. Always. It's in my head like a mantra, like there are rules — and there are no rules or, at least, there aren't any rules that I know beyond this: It's always the three of us.
We always find each other.
Ander and I can run, but Finn always follows, and we always die.
"Not this time," I whisper, which means this time I can't miss. This time I have to kill Finn first. I lean forward even as Ander tries to press me back. He's afraid for me. He should be afraid of me. When did I become capable of murder? When Finn killed Ander the tenth time? The twentieth?
He always finds us — and he'll find us soon, even if we stay hidden. He knows we're here.
Another sob wobbles in my throat, and I chew it down, fingers tightening around the wet knife handle. I place my free hand against Ander's chest. For a heartbeat, he resists.
"You promised," I breathe, and somewhere in the dark, Finn stops. He hears us. "You promised," I repeat, lifting my voice a little louder because it will bring Finn closer and force Ander to keep his word.
In every lifetime, he has died and I have watched. In every lifetime, he has fought Finn and we have lost. This time? This time I will fight and Ander will watch and maybe the pattern will finally break.
And maybe we will live.
My heart swings like a pendant on a string. We will live.
Finn sloshes closer, and I force myself to stand. He's a shadow against the trees, liquid dark churning through the shallow water. I manage three steps sideways and then three more, drawing Finn away from Ander. He follows until I pause.
I fight like total crap, but I'm good at being Finn's lure. He's given me lots of practice. I wait and wait and he studies me and studies me and then —
"Grace," Finn breathes.
And I charge. I hit him low, ramming my shoulder into his chest as his fingernails dig into my arms. Finn plows me into the mud, and I jam the knife in deep. Deeper. Finn swears. I stagger.
My hand slips. I lose the knife as Finn tips sideways. He seizes my wrist and I kick him, grabbing for the blade handle and missing.
No, I didn't miss. I can't find it.
We're grappling in the mud, then hands dig under my arms, yank me to my feet.
"Run!" Ander drags me forward and I stagger, feel Finn's fingers snatch at my bare leg, hear him hiss my name.
"Go!" Ander shoves us deeper into the swamp. We push past thicker trees and into colder water. This far in, it's even darker and the mud is deeper and Finn is cursing. He's to our right? Our left? I twist and trip, crash against a tree coated in wet moss.
"I can't," I gasp, and Ander doesn't argue. He presses his face into my neck and breathes me in like I'm not covered in sweat and tears and mud, like we're on a date and I am what he's always wanted. "You know how this ends," he whispers into my rain-soaked skin.
I don't answer. I can't. Won't.
My eyes search the shadows as my hands search for Ander. I find his fingers and knot them in mine.
"It's like he didn't even feel it! Maybe I missed? How could I have missed?"
"Because we always miss and Finn never does. Grace" — Ander gives me the tiniest shake — "you know how this ends."
I dig my fingers into his T-shirt, and tears leak down my cheeks. They're even warmer than the rain.
There's a splash to our right, and a shadow moves closer. Finn.
"When I jump him," Ander whispers, "I want you to run. Do you understand?"
Of course I do. We've done this over forty times. I understand how it works, how it ends, how much I love the boy I'm about to watch die.
"I love you," he whispers.
"I love you, too."
Ander pushes away from me in one smooth, silent movement. We've gotten good at that, but Finn still tenses. He heard us. He's gotten good at this, too.
I shrink against a rotting tree trunk, taste mud when I swallow. Once upon a time, we were all friends and now ... now ...
"Go, Grace," Ander says as Finn swings around. "Don't look back. Go."
Ander rushes him. One stride. Two strides. Connect. They go down with a splash and I'm ready to run, but running would mean leaving Ander to die, and I can't. I can't do it anymore. I can't watch this anymore.
Ander spins Finn around and there's the horrible smack of flesh on flesh. Finn staggers and I'm moving before I even realize it. I smash my fist into Finn's face and he tilts sideways, stumbles.
Ander lunges. Finn twists. The knife lifts.
Ander drops.
His knees hit the water. His head rolls back. I cannot catch him as he falls.
"Ander —"
Finn grabs for me and I stumble away, my bare foot plunging into a hole. Pain spikes up my leg. I yank sideways. More pain. I falter, color spraying behind my eyes, and when I open them again, I'm on my knees.
Get up! Get —
I feel him.
His chest under my palm. His T-shirt twisted in my fingers. I struggle to turn, shivering from the cold mud and the colder water, as Finn limps toward me. It makes tiny waves lap at my forearms and thighs. I shove up and we look at each other — really look at each other.
I see a boy barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on his shirt. Again.
He sees a girl barely past seventeen with Ander's blood on her hands. Again.
I'm coated with mud and drenched with rain. I look like I crawled from a grave, and it's so damn fitting I want to laugh.
"Please," I force through cracked lips. "Please don't do this."
"So many lifetimes," Finn says, drawing closer. "So many Graces and yet you all cause so much damage. How is that possible?"
I don't understand. I swallow, swallow again. All I taste is blood and all I smell is rot. "Please," I try again. "I don't understand! We used to be friends! Why does this keep happening? Why do you keep doing this?"
Finn shakes his head like he hates it when I lie, only I'm not lying.
"I don't understand," I whisper.
Finn lifts my dirty knife. "We all have to pay for what we did."
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Thrilling, romantic, and full of surprises, Never Apart kept me on the edge of my seat, desperate to uncover what was happening to Grace - and whether she’d ever find a way to stop it. A journey of love and loss, heartbreak and hope, this is a haunting story that sticks with you long after you turn the final page." ~ Megan Miranda, NYT Bestselling author of All the Missing Girls
"Utterly captivating. This book had me under a spell from the first page. A beautifully written story of love, loss, and the fragile threads that bind us to one another." ~ Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later
"Impossible to put down ... An infinitely readable story that twists and turns in all the right places, then hurtles toward a shocking conclusion. I fell in love with Bernard's complex characters, her exquisite imagery, and her masterfully-timed reveals." ~ Elle Cosimano, award-winning author of Nearly Gone and Nearly Found
"All I can say is: WOW!" ~ Pintip Dunn, NYT Bestselling author of Forget Tomorrow
"I just can't express enough how in love I am with this book. It dealt with so many problems so well and the story just kept me reading me until the the end." ~ Emily Fiaretti, Emily's Book Life

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Grace and Ander are stuck in a never-ending loop of alternate realities in which they run from Finn, Grace watches Ander die, and all three once again Fall. Now, in her forty-second Fall, things are very much like Grace's own life. Her twin brother Jem is there, as is her dog Visa. But she's popular (not her usual shy self), Finn is her friend, and this Ander is not her Ander - he doesn't know about what's been happening to them. Grace decides she's had enough, and it's time to change the course of events.
The story begins at a cracking pace and never lets up. Grace's current day accounts of her Falls are interspersed with glimpses of her original life. We see how every decision she has made impacts her life and the lives of those around her. The tension builds, as we slowly piece together what happened in the past to put all of their futures on hold.
Absolutely riveting.
Warnings: underage drinking, violence.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"If we Fall again, I will find you."
"She didn’t sound like my mom. The words were rusted, like she resurrected them from some part of her I didn’t even know existed."
"He was my second heartbeat."
"... the past wants to be heard and sometimes you have to wait until it’s done with you."
"We have a word for losing parents: orphan. We have a word for losing spouses: widow. There is no word for losing a twin."
"It was hard being lonely. It was harder saying good-bye."
"It’s better to be born and live a little than to never exist at all, right?"
"They are real. Haven’t you ever met a character who’s more real than someone standing next to you?"
"Finn’s eyes are so sad it makes that slow smile look accidental—a rainbow in spilled gasoline."
"I didn’t have me without him."
"Underneath my skin, I was a landslide. No matter how hard I smiled, I could still feel the cracking."
"The moon is a yellow smile in the distance, dribbling pale light through the leaves."
"You can be with someone for a year and feel nothing. You can be with someone for a week and feel everything. Time is not an accurate measurement for love."
"The sky was everywhere, a vaulted ceiling of stars."

About the Author
Romily Bernard
Romily Bernard graduated from Georgia State University with a literature degree. Since then, she's worked as a riding instructor, cell-phone salesperson, personal assistant, horse groomer and exercise rider, accounting assistant, and, during a very dark time, customer service representative. She's also, of course, now a YA novelist. So don't let anyone tell you a BA degree will keep you unemployed. Romily currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her debut novel, Find Me, won the Golden Heart Award for YA Romance from the Romance Writers of America in 2012.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Never Apart by Romily Bernard (US only).