Excerpt & Behind the Scenes of Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Today I am pleased to welcome Holly Cupala to the blog to share an excerpt of her upcoming novel, Don't Breathe a Word, as well as some behind the scenes information with us!

Excerpt from Don’t Breathe a Word, Chapter 3—Joy, a sheltered girl with life-threatening asthma, goes to a zoo fundraiser with her dad and is walking around by herself in the silent auction tent when everything changes…

I skimmed along past the manicure packages, the clay elephant sculpture, dinner for two at Coastal Kitchen. If I had someone to take there, I might have bid. It was still well under a hundred dollars for a night of regional food and mystique. The Cranium games caught my attention. Jesse and I would play Hoopla before he took off for Western, and I could play Hullabaloo with Jonah, who was about to turn four. I put my number down, 235, and wished I wasn’t lost in the three or the five for just one moment.

I sensed a warm presence, and not from the space heater I passed. More like heat mixed with a chill.

His eyes were the first thing that hit me: intense and pale grey, watching me. A dangerous power crackled around him, the force of it nearly burning my skin.

He was trim and rough somehow, though impeccably dressed in a button-down shirt and light pants. His eyes skimmed my body down to the hem of the sari, silky and red around my legs, and I felt the chill again. His hand rested on the Nirvana T-shirt like he already owned it. Then he slipped back into the stream of bodies jostling for space in the tent.

I moved to the other side of the table, feeling those eyes follow me as I went. I stopped at a bracelet with hand-painted saints and looked up. The boy was across the table at the Cranium package, writing down his number. He looked up at me—not quite smile, not quite smirk. I wrote my number down on the saints bracelet. Take that.

Moving on to the next row, I couldn’t help but peek back. There he was, at the saints bracelet. Memorizing my number? Trying to steal my bid? Well, I wasn’t about to lose. I looked around wildly while his back was turned and hit upon—an evening of drinks and music at The Cloud Room. No matter if it was twenty-one and over, somehow I would sneak in with Neeta and a couple of others, and we’d have a wild night on top of the Camlin Hotel. 235.

If I was going to lose the Cranium package, I would have to find something for Jonah. A party at Bouncing Castles. Of course. 235. The boy gave me a dark look while everyone else seemed to be blurring around us.

My knees were shivery where the silk touched them. Every thread seemed to cup my body in the strangest cool-hot way. He wrote his number after mine in a move both infuriating…and totally sexy. 101. One him and one me.

Finally, I bid on a set of handmade tea cozies. That would be the test to separate coincidence from stalker. Worst case scenario, I would present them to my mom as a gift for coming to the zoo party in her place. The question now: Would he bid?

I turned the corner on the last row of tables. More art. More dinners. More jewelry than could be worn by a tentful of zoo ladies. He was moving toward the tea cozies, glancing at me and then coolly looking over his shoulder at the hoi polloi, eating, drinking, and being merry. My dress was sticking to me in places where silk should never stick. He reached the tea cozies and squinted at them.

He mulled them over. Flowered. Hand-sewn. Flattering for even the fattest tea pot. Machine washable. Really, the ideal gift. He looked up at me, reading the question on my face. By choosing the tea cozies, was he choosing me?

And then, it was over. He dropped the pen. Wrote nothing at the tea cozy stop. He turned and strode out of the tent without a word. I stood alone, only a few feet away from the heater. But I didn’t seem to need it anymore as I burned with wonder and humiliation. Was it the tea cozies? Did I make a bad choice? Was I just imagining him following me and maybe even flirting with me? Did I offend him?

I took a gulp of my inhaler.

Someone on a loudspeaker announced the upcoming animal encounter tours, and I broke out of my cocoon of rejection. Dad would be waiting for me, and the only thing I’d managed to place a bid on was a trio of tea cozies. He would not only question my taste, but also my sanity.

Our group gathered around the zoo woman holding up a GIRAFFE sign. Each of the wives had a Yellow Bird drink in hand, and they giggled like they may have already had two or three. If my mom were here, I couldn’t imagine her joining in. When she wasn’t obsessed with the minutiae of meds and refills, she managed accounts for some of the biggest funds in Seattle—she couldn’t afford to giggle. I set my Yellow Bird on one of the empty tables.

We were about to head off when he appeared—crisp in his white shirt and linen pants but still looking somehow dark, like these clothes weren’t the real him any more than my silky red sari was the real me. He spoke to the zoo woman: Could he join our group?

“Asher. Oh, yes. Of course.”

Asher. A fitting name. He stood close to me, like we were together. I could smell the faint scent of cigarettes on him. He was giving me that intense look again—palpable, as if his eyes were somehow capable of sending waves of adrenaline through my body. Fight. Flight. Melt, right there on the zoo path. My dad looked up.

“Asher,” he said brightly. “You know my daughter, Joy?”

My dad knew him?

“Actually, yes. We met in the tent a few minutes ago, but I wanted to continue our conversation.”

I didn’t realize we’d been having one.


Want to know a few behind-the-scenes secrets? Here are just a few about this excerpt:
  • I went to that zoo party! A friend got a table and invited us to join, and there really was a “For the Birds” party. All other events are entirely made up… 
  • That scene came as a bit of a surprise—I was just getting to know the mysterious Asher, so it was like I met him at the same time Joy did. 
  • Asher is the kind of guy who likes to control—his environment, his relationships, his effect on people. I once had a guy give me a similar treatment, and it was both intimidating and alluring. I think that was the idea (it certainly was with Asher). I wrote about that relationship in Dear Bully. 
  • My friend Martha Brockenbrough (her debut YA novel, 10 Commandments for the Dead, is coming soon!) wrote the questions for the Cranium Hoopla game, so that’s a secret wave to her. 
  • Earlier in that scene she sees “A spice collection from CafĂ© Shiraz,” which is the restaurant Kamran’s parents own in Tell Me a Secret. And I happened to be married to an adorable guy named Shiraz. :) 

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me to your blog, and I hope you all enjoy Don’t Breathe a Word!
Thanks, Holly, for stopping by today and sharing an excerpt and some behind the scenes tidbits with us!

You can find Don't Breathe a Word on: Website | Amazon | Goodreads
You can find Holly on: Website | Twitter

Thanks to The {Teen} Book Scene for hosting the tour. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more fun & info, as well as more chances to win.

If you would like to win your own copy of Don't Breathe a Word, then fill out the form:
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  • Everyone gets one automatic entry. You may fill out the form again to get extra entries for commenting on DBAW tour blog posts as well as sharing the giveaway through social media or on your blog. See form for details.


  1. Thanks for the great excerpt. I loved finding out the secrets! Definitely made of awesome :)

  2. Fantastic excerpt. I definitely want to read this book!

  3. Thank you so much for another great sneak peek at a piece of the book! I'm just dying to get my hands on it! *Shiver*

    Happy New Year!

    Gena Robertson

  4. I can't wait to read this book! Thanks for posting!

  5. Jenny, thank you so much for hosting me, and thanks to readers for all of the nice comments! I hope you enjoy the book. :)

    1. Thank you for sharing this stuff with us! Loved the book.

  6. if only Joy's mom hadn't been sick and would have been able to go to the zoo party, maybe Joy haven't had to meet Asher...

    but then she wouldn't have met Creed either...

    :/ oh, life.

  7. I like the excerpt, but I tried to skim it since I'm always afraid of spoiling my first experience with a book.

  8. Wow! What an intense excerpt! Definitely can't wait to know more. Thanks for sharing with us!:)



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