Starting today, February 1st until February 8th, these writers are being presented on M. E. Lorde’s Fantastical Reading Event.
The author being sponsored today is Elise Stokes, author of three young adult superhero series, Cassidy Jones. I’ve read all three of her novels, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, and Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and can’t wait for the fourth one to be released this year, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous. Although listed as young adult, any age reader would enjoy the antics Cassidy and her genius best friend Emery get into. Reading these books will deepen your smile and worry lines. There are some very tender scenes that’ll make you want to give Cassidy a hug. I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do.
Below is her bio, an excerpt from book one, and some reviews.>
Cassidy Jones Series
Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, and Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant are the first three books in the series. Book Four, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous, will be released in 2014.
Description– Cassidy Jones and The Secret Formula
One Girl. One Accident. One Incredible Superhero.
Cassidy Jones is your typical fourteen-year-old– that is, until a seemingly harmless accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist turns her world upside down.
Discovering incredible strength, speed, and enhanced physical senses that defy logic, Cassidy embarks on an action-packed adventure that has her fighting for answers…and for her very life.
Chapter Nine: A New Friend
Summary: Cassidy takes Emery into her confidence.
We sat on opposite benches, our knees a foot apart. Emery watched me curiously while I considered how to start. I resorted to small talk.
“Uh, Emery, so where do you live?”
“We rent a condo near Wallingford,” he answered patiently, making no attempt to elaborate.
“Oh.” I touched my forehead. “Were you born in Seattle?”
“No, Washington, D.C.” Placing his forearms on his knees, he leaned forward. “How did you hurt your forehead?”
I dropped my hand. “Funny. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
Intently looking at my face, he waited for me to continue.
I touched my nose. “Before yesterday, I had freckles. They were light, but they were there.”
Narrowing his eyes on my nose, he attempted to decipher.
Taking a deep breath, I continued, “Sorry, that didn’t make any sense. Let me put it this way—I had freckles when I went to your mom’s lab with my dad.”
His expression became so intense, frightening almost, that I hesitated. My feelings about him were conﬂicted. He made me uneasy. Everything about him was so foreign.
Emery’s voice took on a soothing tone. “I understand that you injured your head in my mom’s lab. Please, tell me how. You can trust me. I want to help you.”
I searched his eyes. It was difﬁcult to penetrate through the blackness, adding to my unease. “I don’t think you can.”
Impulsively, or maybe intentionally, he grabbed my hand, holding it between his. “Please, tell me,” he repeated.
I took another deep, tortured breath. “Your mom had something cooking in beakers on that Bunsen burner near the coffeemaker. While Dad interviewed her, I sat on a stool next to them. The stool collapsed and I fell, knocking everything over onto the table. When the liquids ran together, they formed this white cloud, and I breathed it in. It’s difﬁcult to explain exactly what happened. My whole body felt like it was on ﬁre, melting from the inside, and then everything went black. I guess I passed out or something. Afterward, I was…changed.”
“What do you mean by ‘changed’?” he asked, slowly and calmly, squeezing my hand.
Pulling my hand from his grip, I lifted it to my fore-head. “When I passed out, I hit my head on the edge of the counter. My forehead split, or at least, that’s what Dad and Ben said, and with all the blood, I don’t think they were wrong.” My ﬁngers trembled against the gauze. “The doctor at the ER said it was only a surface wound. He thought Dad and Ben had been fooled by the blood, thinking it was worse than it really was. Heput a bandage over it and this gauze.”
Emery’s gaze ﬁxed on my unsteady ﬁngers, watching as I pinched the surgical tape and hesitantly pulled the gauze away, exposing my forehead. His eyes ﬁlled with disbelief.
“How did this happen, Emery?”
Shaking his head, his gaze dropped to his hands in his lap.
Quiet minutes ticked by. With each passing one, I sank deeper into despair. When I couldn’t take the silence anymore, I pleaded, “Please, Emery, say something.”
“Be patient. I’m thinking.”
“Well, think out loud.”
Smiling slightly cock-eyed, he said, “Trust me, you don’t want me to do that.”
Does he think this is a joke? Furious, I slapped the gauze on my forehead. “Trust you? Apparently that was a mistake.” Abruptly, I stood up, causing the swing to sway.
Emery commanded calmly.
Glaring, I sat. I had nowhere else to go.
“Trusting me is the right thing to do. Aside from my mom, I’m the only other person who understands anything of depth about Formula 10X.”
“Formula 10X?” I said with hope. “That’s what was in the beakers?”
“Yes, or at least, a variation of it. I don’t know for certain, because she kept her latest experimentation with the formula undisclosed.”
“Why would she keep it a secret from you?” I asked, truly interested.
He smiled to himself. “That’s the way she is. I assume she wanted to prove out her new theories before bringing me back in.”
Strange, I thought. He says this like he didn’t ask her about it. Why wouldn’t he ask? “Well, she did it. It works. I’m living proof she succeeded.”
“No, I don’t think she did,” he disagreed, sounding regretful. “How the formula has affected you would not have been her intention.” Pausing, he looked thoughtful. “However, it’s premature for me to come to that conclusion until I know precisely how you’ve been affected, or changed, as you put it. Tell me everything.”
“Everything” poured out at once. I ended my twenty-seven-hour saga with this: “At the police station, I thought you’d ﬁgured it all out. The way you looked at me all intense, it seemed like you guessed everything that was going on.”
Shaking his head, Emery smiled. “Though I admit I did ﬁnd your behavior odd, I wouldn’t have guessed this in a million years.”
Despite the situation, I laughed. He found my behavior odd? I also thought the “million years” was an exaggeration. I had a feeling Emery wasn’t in the dark about anything for long. “Okay, now you know everything. What do you think?” Silence was his only response as he studied my face. His scrutiny reminded me of his mother’s—clinical, detached—like he observed me under a microscope. This was disturbing, to say the least.
My brow furrowed. “Stop staring at me like that. I know I’m a freak.”
“Cassidy, you are not a freak,” he contradicted, his expression softening. “Don’t ever say or think that. I certainly don’t view you that way. I’m only astounded by how you’ve been affected. From a scientiﬁc perspective, it’s impossible.”
“It can’t be.” My eyes welled. “Look at me.”
Alert to the coming despair, Emery placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t ﬁnd a solution. I promise you, we will.”
Emery spoke with such earnest conﬁdence that I couldn’t help but believe him. Nodding agreement, I dabbed my wet eyes with my sleeve.
It a human recipient by choosing genes that represent different strengths of the nonhuman and infusing those genes into the weakened cells and tissues of the human. For example, a human who is crippled would perhaps be infused with puma genes, since they are known for their agility and strength. The goal is not to make the human like the puma, but to restore the human’s function and health within a normal range.”
“Well, why am I like a puma, then?”
“I don’t know exactly. Obviously, by your intense physical reaction when initially exposed, something in the formula overloaded your nervous system. Maybe 10X affected you so extremely because you’re a young, healthy girl who received the formula in its entirety. What I mean is, you would have never been a 10X candidate, since you suffer none of the disabilities and ailments an appropriate candidate would. Also, the recipient would have been administered the formula in small doses, tailored to their needs. Your exposure was radical, and now you’re experiencing the full potent affects of 10X. Do you understand?”
I nodded. “I think so. It’s like a glass half ﬁlled with water, slowly having more added until it reaches the rim. I was already a full glass, and 10X was an entire pitcher poured into me at once.” Dread brewed inside me as I continued. “And now that the water has spilled, there’s no way to tell where it will go or what will happen to it.”
“That’s one way to look at it,” Emery said, dismally looking at the woods. For several seconds he didn’t speak, lost in thought.
During those quiet seconds, I stared at the ground, not thinking, only waiting. When I felt his eyes on my face, I looked up. His expression was determined.
“None of this makes sense, but obviously, it isn’t impossible. As you pointed out, you’re living proof. Since it isn’t impossible, there is an answer and solution. Tell me again, in detail, what you experienced when the liquids converged.”
Quickly, I explained again. Finishing the account, I held my breath expectantly.
Smiling slightly, he shrugged. “I have nothing.”
My breath rushed out in an offended gust. “What? Do you think this is a game or something?”
“No,” he quickly clariﬁed. “I’m sorry, Cassidy, that came across as glib. I truly have nothing, and it frustrates me. I understand the compounds turned to a gas, but I have no idea why. And I have no idea what they formed or why your nervous system reacted so violently when you inhaled the gas. There has to be an unknown, a catalyst that pushed everything over the edge. What that catalyst is, again, I haven’t a clue…Cassidy, are you listening to me?”
Actually, I wasn’t. A black cat near the path leading to the woods had caught my eye. Low to the ground, it focused intensely on something in the tall grass. I recognized what it was doing because I had done it myself. The cat was hunting, stalking its prey. After commando-crawling toward its victim, it sank low in the grass, anticipating the kill. Opportunity arrived. Black fur gracefully glided through the air. The cat easily landed on the unfortunate victim: a brown ﬁeld mouse.
I watched the cat excitedly toss the mouse in the air, remorselessly tormenting its victim. Dread slid through my stomach. “Emery, you mentioned pumas. Do you think there was cat DNA in that stuff I sucked in?”
Turning back to him, I saw that he had been watching the cat, too. He replied, “She experimented with feline DNA.”
I took this as a yes. Oh, geez.
“There is another thing I’ve noticed different about me,” I began hesitantly. Emery looked back at me, and I could feel my cheeks warm under his gaze. I really didn’t want to bring this up, but thought I should after what he witnessed at the sports ﬁeld. “I don’t usually have meltdowns. I’m not one of those emotional girls… at least, I wasn’t…I have no idea why I started bawling like that.”
His response wasn’t hesitant at all. “The changes you’ve experienced are not only physical, but chemical, so it stands to reason you will be more prone to mood swings and extreme reactions. And it will be more difﬁcult—how should I say it?—to shove feelings down.”
I stared at him in surprise. He had pegged me. I was the queen of shoving down unwanted feelings. “If you’re right, Emery, poor me—poor everyone.”
To this, he only smiled, and then said, “It’s about time you showed me what you can do.” Glancing across the sprawling lawn, his eyes settled on a couple lying together on the grass. They were far enough away that their facial features were indistinguishable. “Tell me about them.”
Rising to the challenge, I adjusted the couple until they appeared a few feet away. On their stomachs, they turned their heads in so they were nose to nose.
“Okay, the guy has shoulder-length, brown—”
Emery interrupted, squinting his eyes. “You’ll have to do better than that. Even I can see his hair.”
“Well, can you see he has a silver hoop through the right side of his bushy, black unibrow? And there’s a mole smack in the middle of his left cheek.” I grimaced. “Geez, he should have that removed. Okay, his girlfriend has multiple piercings. She looks like a pincushion. There are three small hoops through her left eyebrow. One. Two. Three. No, four diamond studs on the left side of her nose. Gross. A gold hoop hanging between her nostrils—”
With a look of distaste, Emery cut in. “You’ve convinced me with vision. All right, they appear to be talking. Can you hear what they’re saying?”
“No prob.” I smiled conﬁdently, weeding through surrounding noise. After a moment, I tuned into the man’s husky whispers. “Okay, got them. He’s saying—” My jaw dropped. Immediately, I severed the connection, but not before turning bright red.
Emery laughed hysterically.
Still blushing, I watched him sternly. Every time he looked at me, he laughed harder. Child prodigy or not, ultimately, boys will be boys.
Taking a deep breath, he suddenly composed himself. “Sorry, Cassidy, but your expression was hysterical. You’ve convinced me that you heard them.” He grinned.
In response, I scowled.
“Again, I apologize,” he repeated with an amused grin. “All right, let’s move on to another test.” Scanning the park, his gaze settled behind me. “Don’t turn around. Behind you, that toddler is now eating something.”
Closing my eyes, I sniffed the air. There were so many competing scents. “Is it sweet?” I asked.
“Yes, it is.”
Nodding, I took in a deep breath. Distinguishing scents, I pinpointed a sweet, edible one close by. Opening my eyes, I grinned. “My, you’re tricky, Emery. First of all, that isn’t called eating. That’s called drinking, and he’s drinking apple juice.”
Emery gave me an impressed look. “I can’t see the juice box from here, so I’ll take your word for it.” Grabbing my hands, he stood up, pulling me to my feet. “Now, let’s test strength.”
“Are you asking me to toss you off here or break your ﬁngers?” I teased, slightly squeezing them.
Grinning, he pulled his hands away. “Deﬁnitely not the ﬁngers, and I think tossing me from this swing is too public, though I admit it would be a good show.” He nodded to the woods. “We’ll ﬁnd something more discreet in there.”
While following the path through the woods, Emery’s eyes roamed for that something discreet. About a hundred feet in, he suggested, “Let’s get off this main path. Over there.” He pointed to a thinly trodden trail cutting through thick growth.
Following Emery, we pushed our way through the growth. Obviously, no one had come down this overgrown trail in a while. I got the brunt of the overgrowth as the branches Emery pushed forward sprung back at me. After getting slapped in the face with one, I was prepared to demand that I lead, when Emery said, “Yes, this will work.”
Stepping into a clearing, he pointed to a fallen tree twenty feet ahead.
Smiling, I decided to show him leaping before strength. “Stand back,” I warned, pushing him aside. Then, running forward, I leaped for the target. Leading with my right foot, my body glided easily through the air. The exhilaration I had felt while speeding around the school track returned, and that strange, pent-up feeling released. For whatever reason, this very unnatural thing felt as natural as walking to me, and incredibly freeing, as if I had been meant for this.
My right foot touched the top of the massive trunk,and my left pulled in next to it. The landing had been perfect, steady and strong, without even a hint of balance loss. Pivoting on the trunk to face Emery, I smiled smugly.
Walking toward me, he exclaimed, “That was incredible. You move like a cat.”
His praise wiped the smile off my face. “Cat,” I grumbled to myself. “What’s up with the cat theme?” With a sigh, I hopped down next to him. “I suppose you want me to move this.” I patted the thick tree trunk.
Emery examined the area around the tree. “It appears safe. I don’t see any danger if you disturb it. First, make sure there isn’t anyone nearby.”
My ears quickly searched. “All clear,” I announced, moving up to the trunk.
Emery stepped back, his face shining with anticipation.
Resting my palms against the trunk, I prepared to move the giant tree. Pulling in a breath, I pushed. The tree was heavy, but with exertion, the giant’s resistance gave way. I rolled the trunk up out of the indented ground. From underneath, something scurried up the trunk near my left hand. Squealing, I jumped back. The thick trunk rolled back into its resting place.
Emery grinned. “It was only a lizard.”
“I hate lizards.” I shuddered. “The nasty thing almost ran over my hand.”
“Ironic. You can push ﬁfteen hundred pounds, and you’re scared of a little lizard.”
I gasped. “One thousand ﬁve hundred pounds?”
Surveying the tree, he nodded thoughtfully. “At least.”
The information stunned me. “Okay, then. What do you want me to do next?”
For the next couple of hours, Emery sought out all kinds of challenges, from moving boulders and leaping into trees, to distinguishing sounds and scents. He even had me describe in detail what tree bark looked like microscopically.
Something else took place during this time. My unease around Emery disappeared. In fact, it amazed me just how comfortable I felt around him. Though he was my age, he had none of the uncertainties we teens are usually plagued with. For the most part, I walked on eggshells around girls my age. Saying or doing the wrong thing could trigger an instant “girl war.” Even though my friends weren’t petty, instinctively, I was careful. The boys weren’t as sensitive but were every bit as gossipy. So in general, I watched my back, never letting my guard down. It was exhausting. With Emery, I believed I could be myself, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and he wouldn’t hold it against me. He really was a breath of fresh air.
After testing senses, strength, and agility, Emery announced, “It’s time for speed. Let’s see how fast you can go through these woods.”
Back at the main path, we parted ways. The plan was for Emery to go to one entrance and me to the other. After listening to be sure the coast was clear, I would tune in to him where he would be looping a countdown out loud. From my end of the path, I tuned in to the woods. All I heard was Emery’s looping countdown. Positioning myself to run, I listened.
“. . . Three, two, one—”
I took off at a mind-boggling speed. Within seconds, I stood before Emery. Wide-eyed, he stared at me like he’d seen a ghost.
“Unbelievable,” he uttered above a whisper.
His reaction made me edgy. “How fast do you think I ran?” I asked, attempting to sound casual.
“My guess would be forty miles per hour. Imagine how fast you would be on a solid, straight surface. I’ve never witnessed anything like this.” His mouth pulled down in the corners.
With an anxious feeling in my gut, I studied him. His face held no expression, as if he wore a mask to hide real emotions. The more I looked at him, the more I believed the emotion he hid was fear. If he’s terriﬁed of me, everyone will be, I anguished.
“What do you want me to do now?” I said sheepishly.
“Nothing,” he answered, distracted. “Let’s head out.” He motioned for me to walk ahead.
With Emery following silently behind, I walked in a daze. I assumed he had me walk ahead to keep an eye on me.I am the most dangerous thing out here ,I bitterly told myself. I’d make me walk ahead, too, and—
Something scratchy brushed my cheek, interrupting the thought. Reﬂex kicked in, and before a second passed, I was crouched on a tree branch, looking down at Emery. Smirking, he waved a dry tree branch in his hand.
“What’s the big deal?” I snapped, hopping down.
Tossing the branch, he stated, untroubled, “I assumed you would react that way when startled. We’ll have to work on those involuntary reﬂexes.” With a grin, he added, “We can’t have you jumping up in trees in public.”
Glaring hard, I grumbled, “Nice. Real nice.” With my shoulder, I shoved past him, stomping down the path.
“I couldn’t have taken you off-guard if I warned you beforehand,” he called after me. “For your protection, I needed to know how you would handle it.”
I spun around. “For my protection? Don’t you mean for yours or for the innocent public’s?”
He grinned with understanding. “Oh, you think I’m afraid.” Walking toward me, he continued, “Cassidy, I’m fascinated, hardly afraid. Not of you, at least. I am concerned about you being exposed, though.” He stopped in front of me.
Glancing up at him, I asked, “So you think I should keep this a secret?”
Alarm washed over his face. Abruptly, he grabbed my upper arms. “Cassidy, you can tell no one about this. Absolutely no one.” Bending close to me, he searched my eyes. “Do you understand? No one can know. Not your parents, not anyone. Keeping this a secret is not only for your safety, it’s for your family’s safety, too.”
My eyes widened. “Why would my family be in danger?”
“Think, Cassidy. Whoever has my mom will want you. You are Formula 10X, and they would view you as a nonentity, something to be acquired. Your personal value and rights would mean absolutely nothing to them. You would become a lab rat. Imagine what they would do to you.”
I tried not to.
“If they become aware of your existence, they’ll do anything to get you. People like this have no boundaries. Everyone and everything becomes free game for them to get what they want. That includes Nate, Chazz—”
“Stop,” I interrupted, shaking my head to dislodge the terrifying images. “I get it. I won’t tell anyone.”
After quick scrutiny, Emery released my arms. Calm replaced the alarm on his face. I believed this expression was his standard mask. For a moment, I studied the mask that showed no signs of strain or worry. As far as facades go, it was a solid one, but I wasn’t fooled. I knew the turmoil that had to be going on underneath.
“Emery, I’m sorry about your mom,” I said for the ﬁrst time.
Tightening his lips, he nodded acknowledgment.
“Do you know who has her?”
He stared off into the woods. “No, but I know she’s alive.”
“Please forgive me, Emery.” The words wanted to stick in my throat. It was wrong to ask, but I had to. “But how do you know?”
Looking back at me, he stated matter-of-factly, “She’s too valuable to kill. They abducted her because she has something they want. The fact that I’m here talking with you means she must be cooperating to some degree. It’s unfortunate.”
It took me a moment to decode his meaning. “You don’t want her to cooperate, even if it means she’s protecting you? What is it they want from her?”
His smile was a mix of sadness and resentment. “I’ve already told you. They want you. Formula 10X. It is incredibly lucrative, and yes, I want her not to cooperate, no matter the sacriﬁce. In the wrong hands, 10X is detrimental to the world. Visualize an army of you.”
“But they don’t know about me.”
“And I plan to keep them ignorant.”
Staring up at him, I let his words sink in.He plans to protect me. I’m not alone. With this realization, I threw my arms around his neck, like he was a life preserver. “Thank you,” I said in one grateful breath, tightening my arms.
Grabbing my biceps, he attempted to loosen the hold. “A little tight,” he choked.
“Oh.” Blushing, I released him.
Rubbing his neck, he smiled with ease. “You have quite a grip.” Noting that my cheek shade deepened, he continued, “Please, don’t feel embarrassed. I understand how scared you are. I promise you, though, everything will be all right. You will be all right.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, believing every word.
As he continued to smile, a curious glint appeared in his black eyes. “My mom will shed light on the situation when we get her back,” he said in a casual tone.
Knitting my brow, I rewound his previous statements to ﬁgure out what I had missed.
Reading my expression, his smile broadened. “Oh, I didn’t I tell you, did I? You and I are going to ﬁnd her.”
“Brimful of danger, secrets, a bit of romance and fun, this debut author’s entertaining plot and well-drawn characters not only is all it promises to be, but will leave readers looking for more..” — Gail Welborn, Examiner
“Elise Stokes ranks up there with other YA masterminds!” — Kitty Bullard, Great Minds Think Aloud
“Can I vote now for a movie on this series? With the adventure, the mystery and Cassidy’s super powers, Elise Stokes has delivered everything that a young reader could hope for.” –Stephanie Laymon, Five Alarm Book Reviews
Amazon geo links-
Cassidy Jones and The Secret Formula – http://ow.ly/sDyhv
Cassidy Jones Vulcan’s Gift – http://ow.ly/sDy9K
Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant – http://ow.ly/sDyqI