Melody Burning (Christy Ottaviano Books)

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9780805093278: Melody Burning (Christy Ottaviano Books)
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Beresford doesn't remember much about his past or how he came to live in the chutes and crawl spaces of the posh high-rise that shares his name. But when rock star and teen sensation Melody McGrath moves to an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he knows he has to be near her. Although she doesn't realize it, Melody is threatened by more dangerous forces than her manipulative stage mom and the pressures of life in the spotlight. The owner of the glamorous building has been hiding a fatal secret within its walls, and Beresford puts all his plans at risk. Will Beresford and Melody be able to escape with their lives (and love) intact?

Bestselling author Whitley Strieber makes his young adult debut with this pulsing romantic thriller.

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About the Author:

Whitley Strieber is one of the great names in science fiction. He has written many bestsellers, including Communion, The Wolfen, The Hunger, The Day after Tomorrow, Critical Mass, and The Omega Point. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1
 
 
I hear you, I know I do.
Who are you?
Who are you?
Don’t scare me, don’t hurt me,
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go....
This is a really beautiful building and all, but something is wrong here. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s starting to kind of piss me off. Maybe it should scare me, I don’t know. Right now I’m in my bedroom on the fiftieth floor, and it sounds like somebody’s in the stairwell behind my wall.
There are three doors to this apartment—the kitchen door, the front door, and the den door. The den is here at the end of the apartment, next to my room. Through its door is the back stairwell for movers and things.
Could it be somebody working back there? No, not at this hour.
A stalker?
Oh, man, these guys, there are so many of them.
Last night, I got Mom in here to listen. The verdict? The wind making the building sway. Tonight there is no wind, and I’m once again hearing this, so, hello? Except I know I can’t prove it to her, not unless I actually catch somebody. She’s going to come down on me again about a shrink, and I don’t want that because prescriptions will follow, and that is a road that only goes down.
Mom thinks teens should be messy and chaotic, and I’m anything but, so her theory is that I’m too tense. She’s the one who’s too tense, and her part of our world is complete bedlam.
Anyway, with this life I’m living, I’m totally tired all the time, so maybe it’s just my wild imagination. But how do you sleep with paranoia?
My concert’s coming up, and half the songs aren’t even written. Plus, I’m behind memorizing my lines for Swingles. Plus, Sandy Green assigned me over a hundred pages of Middlemarch for our English class. Thank you so much. (You think it would be cool to be a showbiz kid with a tutor and no formal classes? Believe me, it’s not cool. You can cut classes, but try cutting your tutor. Ain’t gonna happen.)
I’m at the point in my career where it’s either going up or going down, so I have to be awesome in every episode of Swingles, no matter how tired I am, and I absolutely must fill the Greek Theatre to capacity when my concert happens. I mean, that old outdoor theater in Griffith Park is part of LA music history. Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Elton John performed there, among many others. Getting a gig at the Greek really, really matters.
So I don’t exactly need distractions. I pick up my guitar, start hunting for a melody. But what if this person is sitting out there listening? Can he hear me? I don’t want him to hear me.
Mom moved us here because the Beresford is ultimate glitz, and right now I need high-profile everything. Paparazzi don’t do dinky condos in Calabasas.
Anyway, it’s okay because downtown LA is good. There are clubs like M&M where I can just walk in despite being underage, and nobody cares. The line claps when I get out of my car. Mike and Mikey, who own the place, are jaw-to-the-floor over me. I think they’d pay me to chill there all the time.
I don’t have a boyfriend because when you turn into a celebrity as fast as I have, dating gets complicated. I dance by myself, and usually when I stop, I’m alone in the middle of a sea of cell phone cameras. I don’t care. My own heart is my best dancing partner anyway.
I have Julius, my bodyguard. Julius wears a suit to remind everybody that he is with me on a professional basis. If I want a guy to keep hitting on me, I have to give Julius a little three-fingered wave. Otherwise, the guy is swept away. Zoom. Gone. Then later you see him looking sheepish at the bar or whatever.
Stuff like this is probably why I really enjoy being alone, like right now when I’m in my room with the city out there sparkling in the night.
Except, am I alone?
I haven’t heard the sound for a while, so maybe it is really nothing. The wind making the building sway.
I fool around with my guitar. My guitar is my most private place. And yet, it’s also my link to my fans and to the world.
I find a melody, it’s sweet, it has a catch in it. Nice. So I sing, “I hear you, I know I do. Who are you? Who are you?”
I’m not gonna call Julius, and I’m not gonna wake up Mom, but I need to get past feeling there is someone watching me.
I press my ear against the wall.
Nothing. So am I alone or not?
I put on the new billowy robe Mom gave me. I get the black and red can of Mace out of the drawer in my bedside table. Julius has taught me how to use it. I put my finger through the ring.
If there is some guy out there, I’m going to spray him like the roach that he is. Then I’ll tell Mom. Then I will call Julius. Nobody is gonna tell me it’s the damn wind.
Okay, I open my door. I step out into the hall. The apartment is really quiet—but not completely dark. As I look down the hall and across the living room, I see a faint line of light under Mom’s door on the far side. She’s awake. Also, I hear music. Frank Sinatra. So I know who’s in there with her: Dapper Dan. At least, that’s what I call him. She’s dating two guys, Dapper D, who wears sports jackets and takes her to hear cabaret, and the Wolverine. He looks like an Egyptian mummy trying to be an Elvis impersonator and likes to go clubbing. Faint music drifts through the apartment.
Furious as she makes me, my heart hurts for my mom. Bottom line, my dad ditched her for a bimbo. We fight all the time, but I’ll never leave her or stop loving her. It breaks my heart to see how hard she tries to find her way out of the loneliness of her life. But she’s a pistol.
I turn. Now I’m facing the window at the far end of this hall. To my left is the door into the den. I enter it.
This is where all my books are. My poetry book that Daddy read to me when I was little. “The old canoe by the shadowy shore...” I would sit cuddled in his arms. We had a nice life, I thought. Guess nobody was happy except me.
Okay, the door is right over there. All I have to do is unlock it and step out into the stairwell. Oh, God, I am so scared. Mom’s room is far away. I could scream but she’d never believe me. And Mace? What if it doesn’t work, or I spray myself? What if he has a gun?
I put a hand on the bolt and, as silently as possible, I turn it. There is the faintest of scrapes.
My song echoes in my mind. “I hear you, I know I do, I know I do...”
Vampire?
Don’t go there, girl. Anyway, they don’t exist.
Ghost?
I lean against the door. The silence from the other side is total.
So maybe it is a ghost.
And then I feel the door move. As in, somebody just leaned against it from the other side. Pushing.
The second I turn the knob, they’re going to burst in on me.
Very slowly, very quietly, I turn the bolt back ... only it won’t go back—it’s stuck. Because he’s out there pushing so hard the door is warping.
He must be incredibly strong. He must be huge.
And he knows I’m here, and he’s just an inch away.
I twist the bolt harder ... and finally it clicks in.
The whole door creaks. Then it sort of lets go. Has he moved away? Was he even there?
I am about to be sick. I want to say “I have a gun,” but I can’t make my throat work.
I run back into my room, lock my door, and dive into bed. I clutch the Mace like it’s a lifeline.
And now, another sound against the wall. I hate this! I can’t stand this! Am I losing my mind for real?
I look at the phone. If I pick it up and call Julius, he’ll be up here in five minutes with ten cops trailing behind. Except I just wish I could prove there really is a guy out there and it’s not all in my head. Because it could be. I fear that.
I get out of bed and pick up my guitar.
I hear you, I know I do.
Who are you?
Who are you?
Don’t scare me, don’t hurt me,
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go....
Am I completely insane to even sing that? Except it’s got flow. It does. I click on Voice Memo on my iPad and do it again. Let the songs come.
Real songs come out of hurt and loss and longing. If they also come out of fear, then this is a winner.
I close my eyes, imagining who I used to be. Melanie Cholworth. Melody McGrath is much better—I have to admit Mom is right about that. Nowadays, I have to actually pretend that I’m the real me. I guess Melody took over.
I get back into bed and close my eyes. But sleep doesn’t come; sleep is far away. Even though it’s quiet now, I can’t stop listening. I imagine claws coming through the wall.
On the day we moved in and I arrived with my gaggle of snapping paparazzi, I looked up at the soaring facade and I had this gut reaction that made me go, “Ohmygosh.”
In my mind’s eye, I saw people tumbling off the balconies.... They were all girls about my age, and they all had my hair and my complexion and my clothes on, and they were all falling just like I think I would probably fall, with their arms spread wide, trying to say “I am flying, Mother dear—look at me!”
Fly and fly and fly and fly.... There’s a song there, girl, remember that. Songs live in my nooks and crannies. I have to hunt for them like a miner looking for diamonds or whatever, I guess.
Shit! I hear it again.
No way am I staying in my room, but also no way am I going to Mom’s room when she and Dapper D might be getting cozy.
So I drag the mattress, which turns out to be really heavy, until it’s all the way across the room.
I look at my wall. How thick is it? Coul...

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