Are you ready to begin the adventure? Or have you never encountered the Traveling Story before, and are now wondering how it works? Either way, read on …
What is the Traveling Story?
5 Authors. 5 Days. 1 Story.
Each season of The Traveling Story will feature 5 well-known authors collaborating on one original, kick-ass story, with each author writing one of five episodes.
Follow the story as it’s revealed on each author’s blog over the course of a week!
How Does it Work?
There are only three rules for The Traveling Story:
1) No brainstorming, outlining, or discussion of plot ahead of time. The first author writes the first episode of ANY kind of story they want and the next author takes the story WHEREVER they want to go! The last author ends the story however they see fit!
2) An author cannot make changes to any previous episode. Each author has total creative control over their OWN episode only, but it has to continue where the last episode leaves off.
3) HAVE FUN! The Traveling Story is meant to be fun for the writers but especially for the readers!
Season 2 Authors:
Yes, I got picked to take the pole position this season, so I am hugely excited. Here’s how it begins, guys — let me know what you think!
Episode 1 by Claudia Gray
I got to the train station about half an hour early. Mom’s always so neurotic about me running late, even though I only failed to get through airport security on time once. (Even that was only because the TSA somehow decided my glitter nail polish was a danger to national security.) Feeling vindicated, I texted her, I’m at the station. So relax.
Her reply came instantly. Do you have absolutely everything you need?
Some people had helicopter moms. Mine? A one-woman helicopter squadron.
But it was easier to double-check and triple-check than it was to talk Mom down from her neurosis. With a sigh, I shrugged my heavy backpack off my shoulders and sat down next to it to go through all my stuff. Commuters wound their way around me, a blur of briefcases and shoes and long coats, all paying more attention to their train’s departure or the nearby Cinnabon than they were to the girl at their feet. Miraculously, I didn’t get stepped on.
“Ticket,” I muttered, tucking the paper sleeve into its own pocket of my backpack. (I pointed out to Mom a while back that she wouldn’t have to worry about me losing paper tickets if she’d just move to e-ticketing like everyone else, but she freaks out about the NSA reading all our email. So, ticket.) “Bottle of water. Change of clothes. ID. Fake ID. Kindle – ”
I heard the footsteps before I saw anything; they were faster and louder than any of the others around me. Probably someone was late for a train, I thought – just as the guy tripped over my backpack and went flying.
And yes, I mean flying. For a second there, he was airborne, nothing but a blur of jeans and boots. But only for a second, which is about how long I stared in horror, and exactly how long it took him to land on the tile floor, hard.
“Oh no!” I snatched my stuff and went to his side. “I’m so sorry!”
“It’s – it’s okay.” The fall had knocked the breath out of him, but already he was struggling to get back to his feet. I hooked one of my arms under his to help him up –
Sandy blond hair, a little long for a guy, but, trust me, not too long. Green eyes. Jeans, gray T-shirt. Lean and lanky build, but not skinny. Just – just right.
For a long second, I could only stare. He stared back.
Then he said, “Listen – this is going to sound crazy – but would you mind pretending to, uh, to know me? To be with me?”
“They’re searching for one guy on his own.”
I froze. According to everything my mom ever taught me, I should have pulled away from him that instant …
… but I didn’t. I couldn’t.
“Please,” he whispered, glancing over his shoulder into the crowd around us. “I swear to you, I haven’t done anything wrong. And I would never, ever hurt you.”
I believed him.
He continued, “If you would just walk with me, and act like my friend or girlfriend – pretend we’re together, until I get on the train to Philadelphia – “
The words seemed to come out of my mouth against my will. “I’m going to Philadelphia too.”
“Okay.” A fleeting smile passed over his face, but already he was bouncing on his heels, restless and wary. “So this isn’t even a big favor. Just a little favor. Plus I busted my ass because you left your backpack in the middle of the corridor, so you owe me one.”
“Look where you’re going next time. But – ” Stupid, stupid, so stupid—I knew that, but I said it anyway: “Okay. I’ll walk with you.”
“Thank you,” he breathed, like I’d just saved his life.
I zipped up my bag and shrugged it back onto one shoulder. He took my free hand and started pulling me through the rush-hour mob, but I quickly tugged back. “Take it easy,” I said. “Running isn’t going to do any good.”
“What do you mean?”
“… I just mean, it makes people stare. You don’t want people staring, right?”
Obviously it cost him a lot of effort to slow down and act casual, but he did it. Together we fell into step, side by side, our hands clutched together. His palm was sweaty, but somehow it wasn’t gross. Not even a little bit. All I could think about was how warm his skin felt.
“What’s your name?” he said.
“I’m Logan. Thanks again for doing this.”
“Well, like I said, turns out we’re headed in the same direction. You don’t have to thank me.”
“You trusted me,” Logan said. He spoke quietly, but his tone was so intense it sent chills along my skin. “Not many people would trust a guy in a situation like this. Even fewer would stick their neck out to help a stranger.”
How far out does he think I just stuck my neck? I wondered. But the moment was too charged for me to find much humor in it.
What did Logan see, when he looked at me? I didn’t dress to stand out; I dressed to fit in – no, let’s be honest, to hide. He couldn’t have looked at me and seen anything much out of the ordinary, from the cords to the black boots to the baggy coat I wore. I hadn’t said three dozen words to him yet. All I had done was start walking with him, and let him hold my hand, and he was gazing at me like I was a fireworks display on the Fourth of July.
I realized in that instant that Logan had been on his own for too long. Nobody had his back; maybe nobody ever had. He was in the worst trouble of his life, and he had to face it alone.
The glowing screen hanging overhead lit up with the platform number for the next train to Philly. Instantly mobs of commuters all turned in that direction – seriously, how could they all be going to Philadelphia? – but it made Logan smile in relief.
“All we have to do is go along with the tide,” he said, pulling me along with him.
“Right. The best place to hide is in plain sight.”
Logan gave me a look. “Where did you learn that?”
“… Edgar Allan Poe.” We read “The Purloined Letter” in school last year.
“You haven’t asked me what this was about.”
“Would you tell me, if I did?”
Logan grinned. “No.”
We began walking down the steps to the train platform, a long concrete hallway filled with echoes, shadows and crowds. The train sat on the track, already waiting, the steel carriages shining dully under the dim lights.
“Now we just have to –” Logan’s voice trailed off as he looked upward. His face went white.
I followed his gaze to see a security camera pointed down at us.
“That’s nothing,” I said. “There are zillions of those all over Grand Central.”
“They could’ve … hacked them, found a way to tap into the signal. They could be watching us right this second.”
“Oh, come on, seriously? I doubt it,” I scoffed. “Come on. Let’s just get on the train.”
But then he turned to me, his broad hands closing around my shoulders. “You shouldn’t go to Philadelphia.”
“What are you talking about? I already told you, this is where I’m headed anyway.”
“But if you could wait another day – even another couple of hours, you know another train’s going to be along soon – ”
“I have a ticket for this one.”
“Don’t you get it?” Logan grimaced; he looked angry, though I realized that was only with himself. “I put you in danger. I thought – in the train station, probably, nothing was going to happen – but I didn’t ask myself about afterwards. If they believe you know me, that you understand any of this, they won’t just be after me, Francesca. They’ll be after you, too.”
What could I say to that? Probably I should have been freaking out, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much he seemed to want to protect me – even when he was in so much danger himself.
He continued, “You’re a good person. You deserve better than to get dragged into this.” With one hand, he brushed my hair back from my face.
Why was that what pushed me over the edge? I don’t know. But that was the moment when I couldn’t take it one second longer. I took hold of his wrist to pull his hand away. “Logan, don’t.”
“Please just …”
Logan seemed to run out of words. To run out of breath. He kept staring at me, but his expression was different now. I realized he was staring at my wrist.
Specifically, at the small tattoo there, the one Mom gave me eighteen months ago when I joined the family business.
And too late, I remember the final thing I was supposed to look for in my backpack: gloves. I really should have been wearing gloves. If I had been, then Logan wouldn’t have seen the tattoo. He wouldn’t have recognized it, and guessed the truth.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
But by now he knew I was the one who’d been sent after him – the one he’d been running from all along.
**end chapter one**
Duhn duhn DUUUUHHHHHNNNN. Where does the story go from here? That’s up to Ann Aguirre, and you’ll find out tomorrow …
FOLLOW THE STORY AS IT TRAVELS:
Episode 1 – October 14 – Claudia Gray
Episode 2 – October 15 – Ann Aguirre
Episode 3 – October 16 – Victoria Scott
Episode 4 – October 17 – Morgan Matson
Episode 5 – October 18 – Jessica Brody
Until then, though, why not try to win some books? One grand-prize winner will get a signed copy of ALL of our latest books – that’s one from all five of the contributing authors! — through our rafflecopter. And if you comment on this post letting me know what YOU think happens next, you’ll be entered to win a signed paperback of my book AFTERLIFE. (Yes, I’ll ship internationally! Just make certain your comment gives me a way to contact you.)
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