Title: Seeds of Eden
Author: A.P. Watson
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Regina Wamba
Model: Christine Klein
Editors: Tamara Beard and Beth Williams
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Visions of decapitated corpses, pools of blood, and a masked executioner have haunted Eveyâs dreams for as long as she can remember. Torn between life in the waking world and dreams of the dead, she discovers her normal existence is nothing more than an illusion. As time passes, she is led to question the confines of her own sanity. What sins could she possibly have committed to warrant such a curse?
The answers Evey has longed for surface with the sudden arrival of a familiar stranger. Conradâs mystifying appearances in her nightmares only seems to draw her closer to him, and the attraction she feels for him is undeniable.
But when he confesses that their fates have been intertwined for centuries and the secrets of her past are revealed, Evey realizes that answers sometimes only lead to more complicated questions. Did one bite of forbidden fruit precipitate the Fall of Man? Or was a much more sinister force at work? Either way, the choices made in the Garden of Eden wonât go unpunished. If Evey and Conrad are to keep history from repeating itself, then the two of them must outrun a great darkness before it can claim their lives again.
A.P. Watson is a contemporary and paranormal romance author who discovered her love for reading at a very young age due to her rural upbringing. She enjoys a variety of genres and authors, from Jane Austen to Charlaine Harris. When she isnât reading or writing, she loves to dance. A.P. has been an avid pole dancer for several years and thoroughly enjoys the challenging nature of the sport and the thrill of performing onstage. Professionally, she has worked as a registered nurse for several years, and she graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing in 2019. Her goal is to combine her love for aesthetics and skincare by utilizing her Family Nurse Practitioner certification in the field of dermatology. A.P. currently resides in Johnson City, Tennessee, with her adorable rescue pup, Elle.
Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/914065365413127/
Chapter One: Awakening
âNo! Please donât,â I sobbed. Collapsing to my knees, I stole a glance at the man kneeling to my left. The sight of him, bound in chains, was agonizing, and my need to save him intensified with each passing moment. âIâm begging you to spare his life.â My heart felt as if it were being torn asunder. An enormous axe blocked the prisonerâs face from my view, its harsh blade stained with red.
âWho are you to beg anything from me?â A voice sneered at me from the shadows, mocking my very presence.The sound came from the direction of a grand throne looming in front of me, but his face was drenched in darkness.
âThere was a time when you would do anything I asked of you,â I answered, my voice shaking.
A shrill laugh echoed off every surface of the great hall. I could see his hands clench the arms of the throne as his nails gouged the gleaming wood. âUnfortunately for you, that time has come to an end.â He lifted his hand and beckoned the masked executioner to proceed.
âNo!â I buckled forward, bracing myself with trembling hands. The stone was frigid, shocking. Breath caught in my throatâI was suffocating. The tips of my fingers clawed against the floor as I began scrambling toward the prisoner. If my pleas couldn't free him, my hands would.
âHold her still!â the man from the shadows bellowed. Someone grabbed my arms from behind. I thrashed wildly, desperately trying to free myself, but the grip was too firm. âAnd pry her eyes open if you have to. I want her to see this.â His words oozed with triumph and satisfaction. Dread settled in the pit of my stomach, gnawing at my insides. The man kneeling next to me was about to die, his life snuffed out as easily as a candle, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. There was nothing I could do to save him.
âPlease, no!â Panic coursed through every inch of me, causing my muscles to convulse violently with the need to act. I couldnât help but focus on the axe. It lifted, and the manâs face became visible. Brown locks of hair offset the brightest blue eyes Iâd ever seen. I wanted nothing more than to stare into those eyes until the end of time, but even as I had the thought, the axe sliced through the air with a whoosh, severing the manâs head from his neck. âNo!â I screamed with all the power I could muster, but my plea rang hollow with the finality of the scene in front of me.
I woke up clutching my hand to my chest, fingernails dug into my skin, dotting the area over my heart with tiny crescent moons. Sweat trickled down my arms and neck. âA dream,â I said to myself. âIt was just a dream.â I glanced at the clock next to my bed. The bright red numbers glared at me. 6:07 a.m. It was almost time to get ready for school. I collapsed on my pillow in defeat. My dreams had gotten steadily worse over the summer. Every night, they became more detailed. Colors sharpened, smells grew more potent, and the nightmares began to feel more like reality than fantasy. An unrelenting sense of terror riddled my body. I couldn't shake it, couldn't explain it. What was happening to me? I was a normal girl. I should be picking out prom dresses and visiting colleges, not holding myself accountable for the imaginary execution of a mystery man.
Electric blue monarch butterflies fluttered in circles above my head. I exhaled deeply, causing the mobile to pick up speed. As it spun, it morphed into a blurry halo. The jarring sound of my phoneâs ringtone cut through the silence of my room. I jumped, answering it quickly and pressed the phone to my ear.
âHey Caroline,â I whispered.
âMorning! Did I wake you up? You sound out of breath.â
âNo,â I answered with a yawn. âI woke up like a minute or two before you called.â I wanted to talk to Caroline about my dream, but I couldnât let these nightmares dictate my entire existence. At the end of last school year, I let them get the better of me. I started hanging out with my other friends less and less. Caroline stuck with me; she was the only one who knew about the things I saw when I closed my eyes at night. While I knew she was cool with just the two of us hanging out after work every night, I couldnât make her forgo every social event. Senior year would be different, and I was going to make sure of it. Caroline was going to have enough exciting and amazing pictures to fill up her Instagram account for five years by the time we graduated. âThe ridiculous ringtone you programmed into my phone for your contact disrupted the serenity of my room. It nearly gave me a heart attack.â
âDisrupted the serenity of your room?â she asked with a laugh. âI love how you always sound like an SAT prep book when you talk. Seriously, Dr. Sawyer cried when she announced your perfect score on the state writing exam last year.â
âI almost forgot about that!â
âShe was so proud,â she replied. âAnd she practically hugged me when I confessed to her that Iâd added a thesaurus app on my phone just so I could look up some of the words you use. Itâs like she knew you were a good influence on me.â
âI guess Iâm just weird.â
âI like it! Remember the note you wrote me in third grade asking if I wanted to be your friend? In that note, you told me you appreciated my sassy disposition. We were nine then! You have a better vocabulary than most of the English teachers weâve had. Itâs just who you are.â
âThat was a killer note,â I agreed. Caroline and I had been best friends since my fateful note in the third grade. From then on, we'd been pretty much joined at the hip. Being an only child could get lonely at times, and she was the closest thing I had to a sister.âSo, Iâm guessing you called because you want to know what Iâm going to wear to school today, huh?â
âItâs the first day of our senior year of high school. Honestly, would you expect anything less from me?â
âNot really, especially since youâve called me every morning for the last four years to discuss clothes.â
âWardrobe can make you or break you in high school, Evey!â
âBut we don't care what people think,â I countered. I heaved myself out of bed and headed to the opposite side of my room. I needed to stare at my dream board for a minute. Looking at it always made me feel better, especially after having a nightmare. It was covered with pictures of Caroline and me among print-outs of famous monuments. Caroline and I dreamed of traveling the world. One day, weâd see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Colosseum. I added a picture of the famous Las Vegas sign to the collage. This small town wouldnât be able to hold us for much longer.
âOf course we donât.â
âSo the point is to look fabulous while not caring?â
âMy thoughts exactly,â she replied. âAnd what can I say? Iâm a creature of habit.â
I shook my head and laughed. I walked away from my desk to stand in front of my closet. Any day now, it was sure to bust and spit out a mountain of clothes. Why was it that I could never bring myself to throw anything away? âIâd be a liar if I said I hadnât noticed. I think Iâm going to wear some jeans and that new loose-fitting tank top I got at the mall last week with a pink cardigan.â
âOh, that sounds cute! Iâm going to wear jeans, too, but I think my green button-up shirt will look good with some sandals . . . I'm so excited! Iâve been waiting for senior year for so long,â she said.
âJust think, one more year and we'll be in college! Co-ed dorms, here we come!â
âSomehow I don't see my dad moving me into a co-ed dorm. The thought of us living ten feet away from college boys will probably make him have an aneurysm,â I said with a laugh. âWhen will you be here to pick me up?â
âSeven thirty. I want to get to school a little early since itâs the first day, and we'll have the dreaded opening assembly.â
âUgh,â I groaned. âDonât remind me!â
âI know. Every time Principal Louden goes into his âAim for the Starsâ speech, I have to fight the urge to hurl.â
âTell me about it,â I replied. âLast year, I thought about performing a makeshift lobotomy on myself with a pen.â
âLetâs not rule that out this year. If the speech goes from awful to agonizing, it might be our only option,â Caroline added, her tone the epitome of seriousness.
âIâll have my pens at the ready.â
âOkay, Iâll see you soon!â
I trudged from my closet to the bathroom, dragging my hand along the lavender-colored walls. Once I was by the shower, I turned the knob to hot and waited to step in until steam started to rise over the curtain. Warm drops pelted my neck, easing the tension away. As I soaked my hair, I replayed the execution again in my mind. The overwhelming sense of despair permeated my soul and tainted my every thought. I wanted to know the prisoner, wanted to know why he was being killed. His blood was on my hands. The king wanted me to suffer, and the manâs death was my punishment. No matter how many times I had this dream, there was always one thing that stood out in my mind: how utterly real it felt.
But it wasnât real, I reminded myself. Maybe I had an overactive imagination, or maybe I was mentally insane. Regardless, there had to be a logical explanation for my nightmares. I wanted answers, wanted to know why I saw such things. But at the same time, the unknown held a certain advantage. How could I ever recover if I found out I was crazy? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. Making it through my last year of high school was more important. I needed to focus on that before I could even start thinking about anything else. Except I did need to put some energy into dating. Caroline was always nagging me to give some of the guys at school a chance. I was definitely overdue for some kind of distraction.
Once my hair was dry and curled to perfection, I started on my makeup. As I finished getting ready, I began to feel more relaxed. Today was the first day of my senior year, and I couldn't let one nightmare ruin it. I was determined to stay optimistic. Throwing on my clothes, I ran my fingers through my tousled curls and headed down the hall for a quick bite to eat.
My feet made their regular route past the living room, curving around the corner into the kitchen. I walked over to mom and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. âMorning.â
âGood morning! How does it feel to officially be a senior?â She turned from the kitchen counter to pull me into a quick hug.
âSame as last year.â I shrugged. I stuck my head into the dining room and saw my dad sitting at the antique mahogany table reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in his hand. âMorning, Daddy,â I said, sitting in the chair beside him. His dark brown eyes looked at me over the square rims of his reading glasses. His black hair and beard were peppered with gray, while soft lines fanned out from the corners of his eyes. Just as I finished pouring myself a bowl of cereal, my mom handed me a piping cup of coffee.
âGood morning,â he said and smiled.
âWhatâs going on in the news today?â Dad read our townâs newspaper religiously, though Estill Springs didnât register as more than a speck on a map of Tennessee. Even the dictionary made for a more fascinating read than the Springs Sentinel.
âA couple of kids spray-painted some stuff at the city park, but thatâs about it,â he said with a shrug.
âWhy do you even bother reading that? It's not like anything ever happens here.â Grabbing the sugar, I poured a teaspoon into my coffee mug.
âAnd I like it that way,â he replied, smiling over his drink.
âOh, Guy, can you believe it? After this year, sheâll be graduating and then she'll be leaving us to go to college.â My mother had her light brown hair pinned on the top of her head, and I could see her gold locket hanging around her neck. It had been a gift from my father when they first started dating. I knew it was her favorite piece of jewelry because she never took it off. Her light green eyes sparkled, and I could just make out the faint lingering of tears in them.
âIt seems like just yesterday I was carrying you around on my shoulders.â
âBoth of you act as if I just grew up overnight,â I said, shaking my head at them.
âWell, for us, it feels that way,â she answered.
âThe schools I'm looking at are still within driving distance. It's not like I'll be moving across the country after I graduate.â
âWouldn't you rather go to Murfreesboro?â she asked.
âYeah,â my father added. âYou can stay here and go to school.â
âIf I didn't know any better, I'd think the two of you were plotting against me.â I laughed. I loved my parents. They'd always been there for me and always would be. I knew a lot of people at school who either hated or barely talked to their parents, but that wasn't the way it was in my family. That thought made me ponder Caroline's suggestion from a few weeks ago. Lately, sheâd been encouraging me to talk to my parents about my dreams. At first, I didnât want to involve them in my drama-filled nightmares. But Caroline and I were at a loss for what was happening to me, and they may have more insight as to why I thought of such horrible things. Besides, didnât they deserve to know if something was wrong with me?
I could feel my confession forming with each breath I took, but as soon as the courage to tell them surfaced, I stopped myself. What if they blamed themselves for my condition? I could handle nightmares of executions and people being tortured, but I couldnât bear the thought of causing my parents pain. âWe wouldn't dream of it,â he replied with a wink. âAre you working after school today?â
âYeah, Caroline and I have our regular school shift at Pat's. I should be back by ten though.â
âIs Caroline going to join us for breakfast this morning?â
âNot today,â I replied, answering momâs question. âWe have an assembly this morning so she wants to get there early.â
âWell, you wouldnât want to miss that.â
I smiled at her, unable to rid myself of the thought that missing the assembly would be a blessing. âNot at all.â Breakfasts like this were what I needed. A few minutes ago, Iâd been so close to confessing everything to my parents, Iâd almost forgotten the promise Iâd made to myself. I was determined to have a carefree senior year, and if ignoring my dreams would help me attain my goal, then thatâs exactly what Iâd do.
Before we could continue our conversation, two honks sounded from the driveway. That was my signal that Caroline was ready to go. I headed for the kitchen to gather my things.
âHere you go, Evey.â Mom's arm was extended, holding my leather messenger bag. The brown exterior was faded from years of use. It had been my mom's, and like most of my other possessions, it was an antique. âDo you need money for lunch?â
âNo, I have some. Love you!â I called to both of them over my shoulder and rushed out the door.
I waved to Caroline as I approached her car. A Chanel compact was perfectly poised in her hand as she applied a layer of lip gloss. Flashing me a grin, she flung the car door open. She drove a beat-up Nissan Sentra, but you couldnât tell her that. She was one of those people who felt an emotional connection to her car, even if the majority of the white paint was peeling from the hood. Her motto was the car chooses the driver, though she'd inherited this pile of junk when her cousin got a new one for college. I plopped down in the seat, wedging my messenger bag in between my feet.
âHey, you look so cute!â I told her.
âThanks, you do too!â
âCan you believe this is our last year at Tulson? I've been freaking out all morning.â
âI couldn't be more excited! We're going to have so much fun in college.â
âI know! I can't wait!â
âThis is such a good song. Letâs turn it up!â I reached forward and turned the volume dial on her radio as she backed her car out of my driveway.
âSenior year, here we come!â she shouted. We continued singing along to the radio throughout the drive and, ten minutes later, found ourselves pulling into an empty space in the parking lot. When we got out, there was already a multitude of cars around us. It seemed that, like us, everyone else was ready to start the new school year.
Walking through the side entrance, we filed in line with a mass of other students. Posters decorated the brick walls, advertising afternoon meetings for the French and Spanish clubs. Weaving through the sea of bodies, we headed to the assembly.
A crowd of nervous freshmen hovered at the entrance to the gymnasium, and we squeezed through to find two open seats. The room was buzzing with conversation. Everyone was running around, saying hellos and giving out hugs to all the people they hadnât seen during the summer. Kristen stood as we approached the bleachers, waving her arms at us. Caroline and I returned her wave, scanning for two empty seats, but every empty slot around her was filled.
âFind us after the assembly!â I shouted to her.
âOkay! I will!â she called out.
We made our way up to the only empty space, which was at the top of the bleachers, and sat with our backs against the gym wall.
As Principal Louden walked to the center of the gym, Caroline and I pulled out our schedules to see which classes we had together. English IV, Economics, World History, and then Physics.
âWe have every class together.â I nudged her shoulder.
âI canât believe it! Which guidance aide did you sweet talk into doing that?â she asked me, looking both pleased and incredulous.
âWho me?â I asked as innocently as possible.
âYes, now spill.â
âIf I told you, Iâd have to kill you,â I replied with a smile.
âI love it when youâre diabolical!â
âGood morning, students!â Principal Louden bellowed from behind a small podium in the center of the basketball court. âHow are all of you this morning?â He cupped his hand around his ear, gesturing his eagerness to hear our replies. His shining cheeks mirrored the majority of his head, which was almost entirely bald. âI'm so excited for the start of another school year here at Tulson High! I know we have the best students in the world, and all of you have the potential to do something great with your lives,â Principal Louden continued. âBut you have to learn in order to earn that potential. You have to search for success within yourselves!â
âIt's like watching a wreck; it's so terrible and yet I can't look away,â Caroline said.
âI guess we can count out getting nominated for âmost school spiritedâ in the senior superlatives,â I replied. When Principal Louden entered the fifth minute of his speech, I couldnât take any more. âCan I talk to you about something?â
âWhatâs up?â Caroline asked, leaning in so we could whisper.
âI just wanted to say thanks for sticking with me after all the craziness last year. I know all my drama caused you to kinda stop hanging with our old group and I feel bad about it.â
âYou donât have to apologize for that! Weâre besties, itâs what we do for each other.â
âRegardless, I wanted to say thanks and make you a promise that this year will be different. Weâre gonna have an awesome senior year!â
âReally?â she asked. I nodded in answer to her question. âA year filled with hot boys and maybe an appearance or two at one of my cousinâs college parties?â
âWhatever you want, Iâm down!â
She squealed with delight, wrapping her arms around my neck. âThis is gonna be the best year ever, Evey!â
âOnly if we can get the hell out of this assembly.â
When Principal Louden finally dismissed the student body to go to their first period classes, everyone jumped out of their seats, rushing toward the gym doors in a mass exodus. âI guess this means we're free to go to English. Thank God!â Caroline shouted.
âCome on, let's go before Louden starts preaching again,â I added, laughing.
âHey, Evey! Hey, Caroline!â
I turned in the direction of the voice. Kristen stood on the gymnasium floor, waving wildly. âHey!â I called to her. âWait for us!â We jumped down the remaining bleachers, catching up with her quickly.
âDid yâall have a good summer?â she asked.
âIt was pretty good. We had a few interesting customers in the diner,â I answered. âWe missed you!â
âI missed yâall too!â
âWhat about you?â Caroline asked.
âI know summer was only a couple months, but I felt like I spent an eternity in Maine. My grandmother insisted I spend my entire vacation with her,â Kristen groaned.
âThat sucks,â I said.
âTell me about it! Do either of you have Advanced French first period?â
âNope, weâve both got English,â Caroline replied.
âBoo.â Kristen pouted.
âWeâll walk with you to class though!â Caroline added.
As Kristen moved to loop her arm through mine, she hit the strap of my messenger bag, jerking it from my shoulder. The bag crashed against the floor, spitting out my belongings in every direction. Lip gloss, paper clips, hairpins, and a pack of mints scattered around me. âYâall go on without me. Iâll catch up in a minute,â I said, dropping to my knees.
âYou sure? I can stay and help,â Caroline replied.
âNah, you go on. Iâll see you in a minute. Besides, arenât you always telling me I carry around too much crap?â
âTrue.â She grabbed Kristenâs arm. âSee you in a bit.â
I scrambled, frantically trying to gather my stuff as quickly as possible. Scooping up a final bobby pin, I was suddenly struck with the strange feeling that I was being watched. By now, I had to be the only soul left in the gym, but when I looked up, there was a stranger leaning against the far wall. His arms were crossed over his chest nonchalantly. My gaze slid upward, halting as his stare met mine. He had the most beautiful blue eyes Iâd ever seen. Blood coursed through my veins, causing my heart to pound. The prisoner from my nightmares stood before me, mere feet separating us. He seemed too real to be a wild hallucination. My hands grabbed my bag, swinging it over my shoulder so forcefully that I lost my balance. Turning around, I quickly regained a stable footing, but when I glanced back to where heâd been standing, he had disappeared. Sprinting into the hallway, I searched in both directions, but the man from my dreams wasnât there. He was gone.