Welcome to The Cover Contessa's stop on the Perfected blog tour!
Release Date: 07/01/14
Summary from Goodreads:
Summary from Goodreads:
Perfection comes at a price.
As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.
Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.
But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.
For fans of Keira Cass’s Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.
Praise for Perfected:
“Compelling, imaginative, and unique. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!”
— Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls
Buy Links: * * Kobo Books
Outside Penn’s garden, the music and the lights brought me back into the real world. At the top of the hill we both paused and stared at the gleaming tent.
Neither of us noticed his mother, but all of a sudden there she was, standing next to us.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Penn’s reaction was immediate. His hand flew from the spot where it rested at the base of my spine and he stepped away from me. “Oh, hey Mom. How’s the party going?”
She dismissed his question with a wave of her hand. “Your father has been looking for both of you and I’m not sure I can hold him off much longer. I told him you were introducing Ella to the Dibellas, but there’s not very much longer—” She stopped talking midsentence and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, composing herself. “Hello, dear,” she said, smiling as the congressman walked up behind us.
He took a long sip from his glass and let his gaze travel over us. “The Dargers and Mortensons are here with their kids. I thought you’d be entertaining them,” he said to Penn. “When I saw them a minute ago, they were actually looking bored.” He stopped talking, his gaze darting between the three of us. “What are you doing out here anyway?”
When none of us responded, he nudged Penn in the direction of the tent. “You certainly don’t need to be out here keeping Ella company.”
Penn glowered, but he let his mother lead him toward a group of people his age who were sipping drinks and laughing near the buffet table.
After they were gone he turned his attention to me. “I hope you’re enjoying yourself,” he said. “I’ve got some friends who are dying to meet you.”
He took me by the elbow, leading me in the direction of the tent, but before we entered, he pulled me close, leaning down to speak in my ear. “Try not to distract Penn anymore tonight, all right? There are plenty of other people here who’d enjoy your company.”
The congressman’s colleagues were all packed together on the far end of the tent, laughing loudly and puffing on thick brown cigars. The air was thick with smoke, but none of them seemed to mind.
“Not to worry. I found her!” he announced, patting a few of the men on the back as we wove through the crowd.
There was an empty seat at a table in the corner and the congressman sank down into it, smiling.
I stood uncomfortably at his side.
“So you weren’t lying,” a tall man with a mustache said. He placed his hand on my shoulder and twisted me around so that he could get a better look. “And this one’s even prettier than the last.”
“What did I tell you?” The congressman grinned and took another sip of his drink. “Come on, Charlie,” he called across the table to a man with blond hair. “You’ve got to admit that you’re curious. This doesn’t make you change your mind about the funding?”
The man gave a consolatory smile. “You always have to be right, don’t you, John? How do you expect a man to argue with a face like that? It’s unfair.”
The congressman threw his head back and laughed, clearly enjoying himself.
“Come here, love,” he said, pulling me down onto his lap. His breath was hot against my neck, pungent with the smell of his drink. I wanted to turn my head away, but I couldn’t. I took shallow breaths and forced a serene smile onto my face. They didn’t need to know the level of concentration it took to look this way, to keep myself looking pleasant instead of puckering with disgust.
It was a skill to silent my body. If I hadn’t been trained by Miss Gellner, I never could have sat perched on the congressman’s knee without squirming. And oh, how I wanted to. I wanted to peel his hand from my waist. I wanted to scoot forward so I couldn’t feel the way his belly pressed against me with each breath that he took.
I’d always been told that a pet was meant to be a showpiece, but this wasn’t what I’d imagined. I always assumed that I’d be admired, displayed even, but not handled like an object, like a toy.
By the time the congressman was done showing me off, the dewy turquoise sky had turned black, dotted with an abundance of stars. And still the band played and the people laughed and ate and drank. I watched Penn from where I sat on the low stonewall that ran behind the party tent. He didn’t seem to have any trouble entertaining the large group of friends clustered around him. I would have loved to know what they were talking about, but even though I could see their lips move and their heads tip back with laughter, I couldn’t make out their words.
After a while I stood and made my way back up to the lounge chairs by the pool. They were familiar and comfortable, the place I spent so much time lately, and I settled down on one. I wrapped my arms tightly around my body. Already, I missed the heat of Penn’s body so close to mine.
“Do you mind if I sit?”
I jumped a little, surprised to see one of the young men Penn had been talking to earlier standing next to the foot of my chair. He smiled broadly, bringing two deep dimples to his cheeks. He was dressed in the same sort of black tuxedo Penn was wearing.
“Please.” I gestured to the chair next to me.
“Thanks.” Ignoring my gesture, he brushed my feet to the side and sat down near my legs. “I’ve been looking at you all night. Have you not noticed?”
I shook my head.
“I’m Collin,” he said, sticking out his hand for me to shake. I took it lightly, surprised when he brought it up to his lips.
“I’m Ella.” I didn’t know how much Penn had told him about me, but I didn’t want to make the congressman’s wife angry by saying too much.
“It was kind of rude of Penn not to bring you over to meet us,” he said, resting his hand on the cushion near my leg.
I was suddenly very aware of how short this dress was compared to the other gowns I was used to wearing and I tugged at the bottom of it, trying to get it to cover my knees.
“But I can see how he’d like to keep you to himself,” Collin went on, scooting a little closer. “So, is it true what they say about pets?”
I fumbled to pick up my drink, which still sat on the small table by my chair, and took a small sip, but with the bubbles gone it didn’t taste good at all. I swallowed. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Sure you do,” Collin said, reaching out to put a hand on my thigh. “I’ve always wondered what they taught you at those kennels. It can’t just be how to sit there and look pretty.”
“I…well…there’s etiquette…” I stumbled.
“Not that I have a problem with you just sitting there looking pretty,” he said. “Has anyone told you how gorgeous you look?”
“That’s very kind of you.” I swung my legs over the side of the chaise lounge to give myself some distance. I needed to get out of here, somewhere where I wouldn’t be such a distraction. I was afraid this was exactly what the congressman’s wife had been talking about. “I’m sorry, but if you’ll excuse me.”
“Wait,” he said, tightening the grip on my leg. “We were just getting to know each other.”
My stomach knotted and I tried to scoot farther away from his grasp. “It really has been a pleasure meeting you, but I think Mrs. Kimball is expecting me.”
Collin laughed softly. “No, she’s not. Come on, we both know she’s trying to hide you. I mean, look at this dress.” He rubbed the fabric between his fingers. “When has a pet ever worn anything like this?”
I shook my head, trying to find my voice. “I don’t…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s all right,” he said, stretching his hand more fully across my thigh.
I swallowed back the embarrassment that burned the back of my throat. “I…I shouldn’t be talking to you. Mrs. Kimball asked me to keep my distance from the guests.”
“How about we keep our distance from the other guests together?” He nodded his head at the dark house. “I bet it’s nice and private in there.”
My gaze traveled up the shadowed brick to Penn’s room on the second floor. My heart stuttered, imagining how different it would feel if he had been the one to invite me inside. I remembered the way he’d kissed me. Is that what this boy wanted to do? I didn’t want to kiss him.
“That sounds lovely,” I said, pushing down the fear in my voice. “I just need a minute to freshen up. If you want to head inside, I’ll meet you in the conservatory in just a few minutes.”
Collin grinned. “Don’t keep me waiting.” He traced a finger along the collar of my dress. “I’ve been imagining what’s under here all night. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.”
“I won’t,” I choked out. As soon as he closed the door behind him, I slid out past the pool house and onto the cool lawn. A swarm of tiny bugs hovered in front of me like a cloud and I batted them away.
Never. I would never let him touch me.
My legs wobbled as I broke into a run. A dark undercurrent surged beneath the congressman’s picture-perfect world, threatening to pull me down and it frightened me…almost as much as what waited for me at the kennel if I was to make a mistake.About the Author: