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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.
The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over 70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.
Check out this young adult fantasy novel from Katie O’Sullivan, Son of a Mermaid. The sequel is coming this May!
Shea MacNamara’s life just got complicated.
After a freak tornado devastates his Oklahoma farm, the fifteen-year-old orphan is whisked away to Cape Cod. Struggling to make sense of his new surroundings, he’s trying hard to deal with feelings of abandonment… and the emotions stirred by a girl he meets along the shore.
Kae belongs to an undersea world hidden from drylanders. The daughter of royal servants, she knows the planned marriage of her Princess to the foreign King should put an end to the war between the clans. But two things stand in the way of lasting peace: the ambitions of the foreign King’s regent, and rumors of the Princess’s bastard child.
Sparks fly when she meets Shea, but could the cute drylander really be the Son of a Mermaid?
The blue-green coolness swirled around him as his body tumbled down through the water, arms and legs flailing as he struggled to hold his breath. Millions of tiny bubbles of precious air traced the path of his descent, escaping from his clothing and through his nose.
Eyes wide even as the water rushed past, he watched a huge school of shimmering minnows part down the middle as they swam around him, surrounding him like a silvery box. Turning his face upward to the surface, he could see the blue sky receding further and further as he sank deeper into the water’s depths.
His throat and lungs burned from the effort of holding his breath. Darkness pressed hard against his eyes, and swirls of strange colors danced in front of him as his whole body strained against the lack of oxygen.
I need to breathe, he thought wildly, his whole body feeling like it was on fire. I can’t hold out much longer. His feet finally hit the mucky bottom with a thud, coming to a stop as the mud swirled around his legs.
There, hovering before him in the water, swam a beautiful woman with flowing golden hair…and a green fish tail that sparkled with golden flecks among the scales.
Her big green eyes looked so familiar, like the ones he saw in the mirror every morning. She smiled at him, reaching out to take his hand. His head pounded as searing pain ripped through his throat, as if his entire body would tear apart any second from the effort of holding his breath.
The mermaid squeezed his hand and nodded. The pain receded as Shea stared into her eyes, lost in their green depths. As she nodded to him again, he opened his mouth to exhale the stale air that pounded like a jackhammer in his lungs. Large bubbles rushed to the surface as he struggled to breathe, but there was no air to be had. Only salty ocean water rushing in to fill his mouth, his lungs, his body…
Shea woke with a start, clawing at the sheets and disoriented for a full minute before remembering where he was. At the Hansen’s house. Because his own home – the farm where he’d lived and worked all his life – was gone, swept away and crushed by the freak tornado.
Today I’m excited to share an excerpt from Shadow Blues, the first novelette in The Darkling Chronicles from Tricia Zoeller.
At the age of four, Patrick Benjamin Solomon becomes Anka Rehmling’s human charge. By eight, he can SEE her. At thirteen, he breaks her heart, and by eighteen, she finds herself fighting for his life.
As a darkling shadowcaster, Anka casts shadows in the human world, harnessing some of the earth’s UV light to bring back to Montenai—a world full of darklings, nymphs, satyrs, phantoms, and dragon lords. Her job is crucial to preserving the vitality and balance in her town of Shadowland. However, Anka has trouble following the strict rules set by the Shadowland Council, a ruling body comprised of three dragon lords.
The lords’ decree states all shadowcasters will abide by the rules or face the penalty of harsh punishment, banishment, or death. Torn between her world and his, Anka must choose to defy the Council or turn her back on love.
Nana stopped the cart by the side of the Wishing Tree. A nonshadowcaster stood as a door attendant in front of the double doors. He wore a uniform of dark pants, boots, and a red jacket with the dragon lords’ symbol on the pocket.
The same symbol hung above the two doors. The gold shield showed a dragon looking down at his shadow. Pops said it reminded us that we were a team, dragon lords and shadowcasters. We’d been a team for a hundred years.
The attendant opened the doors to the Wishing Tree, and Bianca gasped as a black cloud of bats launched into the air from the upper branches, making a chorus of chirpy squeaks. She leaned against the darkling, as if she wanted him to save her. He held Bianca’s shoulder to steady her.
His face changed then. “This one is strong.”
Nana nodded to him before shooing us through the doorway.
Bianca slipped her sweaty hand into mine and squeezed. Nana walked behind us, a hand at each of our backs.
My shoes pinched my toes. A smell I remembered from when I was four hit me suddenly. The dragon lords smelled like…cedar, pine, cinnamon, burnt apple cider, and smoke.
It was hard to see, at first. Fancy lights hung on the walls, but still it was so much darker than the bright, sunny day outside.
We heard deep voices coming closer. Then eyes glowed in the air, gold, blue, and green from the dark tunnel below. Nana clutched the back of our dresses. I didn’t dare tell her she’d pinched some of my skin.
Lord Akton appeared before us. “I told you. Not in the Rotunda. We’ll talk to them in the Council Room.”
Bianca and I stood with our heads tilted back and our mouths wide open. I felt like screaming.
“Coooool,” Bianca said. Then, “Yipe.” I was pretty sure Nana had pinched her.
One golden eye stared at us. Where there should have been another eye, Lord Akton instead had several wrinkled lines through darkling skin mixed with red scales.
My heart beat so fast, I thought I might just die.
“Hello, Rehmlings. Thank you for bringing them here, Violet.”
“Of course, Lord Akton.”
Inside the Council Room, they told us to sit at a large marble table. I remembered tracing the squiggles in the marble of the Rotunda floor when I was four. Now, I did not want to touch the marble. I wanted to disappear from the room, play invisible girl.
Nana sat next to the youngest dragon lord across from Bianca and me. We faced the doorway where Lord Akton stood on one side and Leasith on the other. Were they guarding the door?
Bianca kept staring at the red-scaled lord across the room. Nana kept whispering for her to stop. I couldn’t take my eyes off Lord Bulosk. His blue scales were the prettiest color I’d ever seen. I’d never seen that kind of blue in my life.
“Hello, little shadowcasters. I’m Bulosk. I’ll be your tour guide for today.”
Bianca giggled. Nana hushed her.
“What? He’s funny,” Bianca said.
Lord Akton growled. It vibrated my chair and tickled my whole body. Lord Bulosk rolled his green eyes up into his head, like, “don’t mind my grumpy brother.”
My breathing got faster, and, suddenly, I hiccupped loudly. Nana’s lips mashed together, and she gave me her mean look.
“Sorry,” I whispered.
The Lord opened a leather case and pulled out some paper. He set a piece in front of Nana, Bianca, and me. “You are all aware of shadowcaster rules. I’m placing them in front of you in a contractual form. This is standard procedure when a human discovers you as an Imaginary Friend. Please review.”
I followed along as he read aloud. I understood most of the words:
By Decree of the Shadowland Council: Lords Akton, Leasith, & Bulosk
Each shadowcaster under the dominion of the Council will abide by the following rules as they pertain to the human world or face the penalty of harsh punishment, banishment, or death.
1. Always cast true to form.
2. Never talk to the human.
3. Never give the human your name.
4. Never touch the human other than to use him/her as a portal.
Exceptions and Addendums as it pertains to Imaginary Friendships
1. If a human child shall see you as an imaginary friend, you may play with him/her, but never converse. Please do not encourage the child. Touching is allowed as it pertains to playing games, but keep affection to a minimum.
2. Imaginary friendship shall be terminated by the age of thirteen. This is the maximum age and is extended as a courtesy to shadowcasters who may have charges who have special needs or are terminally ill. There are no exceptions to this age limit.
When he finished, he tapped a claw on the paper. He hadn’t had a claw out before. “Now, we just need your blood bond there on the “X” then my handsome brother will give you a short history lesson and you can be on your way.”
I watched Nana’s mouth fall into a frown, and her eyebrows drew together. She pushed back from the table and turned on the biggest lord. “Standard procedure, you say? I’ve never heard of this.”
Lord Akton left the wall. “I assure you, it is required of certain shadowcasters, if they’ve broken rules.”
“She is just a baby.”
“Well, if you don’t have them sign the decree, we can think of other ways for them to make amends for little Anka’s mistakes.”
Nana gasped. “Don’t work your hocus-pocus on me.” She spun around and sat back down at the table. She sat with her body so rigid, I thought she’d get a spasm. Her blond hair flowed in the air a bit. It only did that when she was angry.
“It will be okay.” Lord Bulosk smiled at Nana then us. He stood up and went to Bianca’s side. Suddenly, I saw a flash of all the claws on his right hand.
My assignment tonight is cuter than most. He’s asleep at his desk, his cheek stuck to the open page of a textbook. Strands of sun-bleached hair lie across his forehead, and his lips—which I may or may not have been admiring for the past half hour—are parted.
I slide off the window seat and creep across the room. It’s bigger than I first thought, and with couches and a television arranged to form a separate sitting area, it’s more like a hotel suite than a regular bedroom.
Great. More places for things to hide.
I shrink into a shadowed corner and wait. For what, exactly, I’m not sure—the Seers never See more than a glimpse of what may happen. The boy’s steady breathing fills the room. A breeze lifts the curtain, and I catch the flicker of a streetlight on Draven Avenue.
There she is! With a hiss, the serpent woman streaks across the room, lamplight reflecting off her scaly skin. I stretch my arms into position and feel the prickly warmth of the bow and arrow as they materialize in my hands. I pull back and let go. The arrow flies across the room in a shower of orange-gold sparks, finding its mark in the reptiscilla’s shoulder.
She cries out, stumbles, and twists in my direction. Her black eyes bore into mine. “It’s happening already,” she whispers.
She rips the arrow from her shoulder—a move that must have really hurt—and lunges for the boy. I toss my bow aside and dive toward him too, knocking his sleeping form to the floor. He’s awake now, which isn’t ideal, but at least he can’t see us.
I roll off him and spring to my feet, just in time for the reptiscilla to throw herself at me. We’re on the floor. She buries her fangs in my arm, but I barely register the stinging pain. I hear Tora’s voice in my head: Bend your knees, arch your back, thrust your opponent right off.
I hurl my body over and pin the reptiscilla down by her throat, my free hand already reaching into the air for another arrow. I bring it down swiftly, straight toward her heart.
But she’s gone.
Thankfully. I hate it when I have to kill them. With a heavy breath I collapse against the nearest wall, still gripping the arrow. The cord that held my hair back has come undone, and tangles of purple and black fall in my face. I push them away, and begin to feel the tingling ache of the reptiscilla’s bite.
“What . . . the hell . . . was that?”
I raise my eyes. The boy is looking at me.
Twenty-year-old Julia Wade, a young woman tragically widowed, is in the middle of a bizarre bid between two mythical species who are vying for the unique properties she offers; her blood. The vampires need her to balance the food load of the human species and give them their coveted “Lightwalkers.” The Were wish to be moonless changers; a Rare One can make that a reality.
Julia wants to belong to herself.
Can she free herself and begin a new life?
The vampire moved as a unit, talons extended, fangs sprung free of their houses of flesh.
They came to where the delectable smell of fresh blood was released. A quality without compare. It was as if a thousand year old bottle of wine lay breathing.
On a cold stone floor mere paces away from consumption.
William leaped in front of the Julia just as the first vampire would have been upon her.
Julia looked up and saw a monster, fangs the size of her pinky fingers, dripping a clear fluid tinged with red, talons as long as her forearms standing at deadly attention.
And then like small swords they began to slice whoever drew near.
Their motion in a blur of darkness, too fast for her to follow, Julia became aware of moisture falling on her bare skin like rain.
She opened her eyes and a head fell beside her shoulder with a meaty thump. The dead eyes, once gray, turned into a collapsing wall of flesh and bone. As she looked on in horror, it began to disintegrate into a mass of ash.
It was the eyes she’d never forget.
Or the creature William had become, fighting the vampires that would have killed her.
They came, one after another, as blood drenched her gown and she lay helplessly at his feet.
William slashed and stabbed as injuries were rained down on him and then five overcame him. Julia whimpered, having never envisioned herself dying this way.
At that moment, Julia realized she wanted to live.
Had always wanted to live.
Her eyes met Williams, pleading.
She knew she didn’t deserve his help.
But she was sorry. In that moment she didn’t want this life, this existence.
Nevertheless, he was dying to defend her.
William was overcome. He had dispatched fifteen, losing all hope of the guards helping him through the crowd of rabid vampire overrun with blood lust.
The higher functioning of their cerebral cortex was gone.
When the five overcame him, he saw Julia torn from beneath his feet by two fanged brethren, one held her as the other prepared to strike, losing his grip twice, her body slick with the blood of the massacred.
She was weak as a kitten, any fool could see, her wound not closing up. The blood clotting properties of the vampire saliva was not working.
Of course, Edna would have not used hers willingly. Julia was bleeding out.
William struggled against the vampire, beyond reason and rationale when he heard her soft whimper like a plea.
Her eyes met his again, the blood bond reverberating in his body, pressing him to take action beyond his capabilities.
William did, smashing two of the vampires’ heads together hard enough for their brains to splatter against the inside of their skulls and leak out their ears. He threw himself on his feet and launched to Julia’s side in a fluid gymnastic movement, his fist punching out as he did.
The vampire who had fangs a millimeter away from her throat, lost them from the impact of William’s fist even as his talons swung to take the head of the one that restrained her.
Julia saw William come. A shaky exhale escaped as she lay in the arms of one vampire while the other prepared to chew her throat out.
The one that held her dumped her head on the floor so hard she saw lights twinkle above her.
And then William was there.
Their heads fell on either side of her body and heat suffused her. Julia knew she would pass out and had but moments to express herself.
William crouched above her protectively and she raised her arm, weakly. She clutched onto his clothing.
He glanced at her then away, prepared for the next onslaught.
She tugged again.
“Julia, lay still. You have lost much blood.”
“Thank you,” she whispered on her final breath. Her vision dimmed to a pinpoint.
The last coherent image was William.
A face she didn’t hate anymore.
His mouth moved but she couldn’t hear him, an enveloping softness encased her as she floated away.
Like dandelion seed on the wind.
Julia slept in a pool of her own blood.
And that of others.
Daniella Madison’s existence teeters on a wobbly tightrope, and at any moment the wire could snap. Each time she travels to The Basement, she knows she’s risking her life, but the reward is worth it, to be a slayer in the purest sense. With the help of her partner, Eli, she is on a mission to find her next target, but Daniella’s efforts come to a startling halt, when the darkness of underground finds its way into the sun.
When Alec, the only other day-walker she’s ever met, walks into her high school, Dani feels as though the rope was cut beneath her feet, and she’ll quickly plummet to her death. Alec claims he wants to protect her from the highest order of their kind, but Dani is not so sure and questions his intentions, trying to understand his sudden presence in her human life. Against all logic Dani finds herself inexplicably drawn into his alluring gaze, but she knows he can’t be trusted and struggles to keep her secrets safe. Dani leads a double life that was never meant to intertwine. The real question is, can she trust herself to stay strong as her two worlds collide, spinning her life out of control, and the lives of the people she cares for most, completely out of her hands.
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A few silent minutes later, we pulled into the school parking lot, and Alec hopped out, running around to open Kate’s door. I was so surprised, I sat there stupidly for a minute, and he managed to get my door too, before I could object. I stepped, out eyeing him suspiciously, and wondering what his game was today.
“Thank you, Alec. It’s so nice to finally have a gentleman at our school.” Kate praised him, swooning at his little gesture, and I clenched my jaw, not pleased by how easily he was accepted into our group. At least, Evan was still on my side. She waved goodbye and said she’d see me in AP History, as she ran off to her class on the other side of campus.
“What was that about? If you even think about working your so-called charms on my best friend as some sort of twisted play to get into my head, I swear I will snap your neck when you least expect it,” I threatened, stepping into him, and pushing an accusatory finger into his chest. He tilted his head down until his smoldering eyes locked onto mine, not at all intimidated by my words. He grabbed my hand from his chest and wrapped it behind his neck, picking me up until we were eye-to-eye, in one startling swoop.
“Who says Kate is the one I’m trying to so-call charm?” He asked with a hint of a smile as he spun us in a slow circle, with my feet dangling off the ground. As we turned, his eyes became even more torrid with something. I didn’t get it. I’d swear he was trying to Trance me with a Gifted form of hypnosis that somehow affected vampires, but all I could see were the students who stopped walking into school in order to stare at us before pulling out their phones. I shook my head in annoyance that this little show would soon be on record, and wiggled out of his embrace to land my feet on the ground.
“You work for the 7th Circle, so you should know the rules. And I thought we already talked about this flirty crap yesterday. Do you really think I’m that naïve?” This was getting offensive, as if his phony, flirtatious games could sway my opinion toward wanting him here. I began to walk away, but he caught my wrist, spinning me around to face him.
“Like you said, Dani. This isn’t The Basement; this is high school. So as far as I’m concerned, all the rules have changed. And if I recall, you seemed very inviting toward me yesterday at the dugout,” he mused, and I nodded in sarcastic agreement.
“Yeah, remind me again, was that before or after I kicked your ass?” I said with an inquisitive tilt of my head.
“That’s not exactly how I remember it. I think you’re just lashing out because I wasn’t stupid enough to fall for your anti-vamp blood,” he countered, and I stumbled back a few steps with my mouth hanging open in shock, and Alec kept his hold my wrist matching my steps to keep me from falling.
“Who are you?” I asked through a quiet breath.
“I told you, Dani, the sooner you trust me the better.” He leaned into my ear and his hand holding my wrist glided down until our fingers wove together.
“You don’t have to hide with me,” he whispered and strangely, our hands seemed to reluctantly untangle when he stepped past me and started moving through the parking lot. I stood there frozen, watching him walk into my school, right into my life, and my stomach clenched with uninvited butterflies. How could he know all my secrets?
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Loving Jean-Louis for eternity doesn’t mean that Maxie Gwenoch will let him turn her. Jean-Louis is a vampire, is gorgeous, is the second-in-command of the Kandesky Family of Hungarian vampires, and is her boss at SNAP, the multinational, multimedia celeb gossip empire where she is the VP for International Planning. She moves to Kiev to build a home with Jean-Louis and finds her future under a cloud from Leonid, a rival from the Huszar family, now living in a bolthole in the ruins of Chernobyl. Will Maxie find safety by giving up her days and joining Jean-Louis in the vampire nights?
Had I forgotten Leonid? Oh no, I’d never forget him.
He’d captured me, held me hostage for Jean-Louis, beat and raped me, let his toady Jules rape me. Much of the immediate horror of that time was pushed so far back in my mind that it took an effort of will to bring it out, but the fact that it happened never left me.
And I hadn’t forgotten that Leonid got away after the murder verdict and execution of Matthias, the head of the Huszar family.
“You said he couldn’t be found. You said there were only some tales of people and animals going missing in Romania and Belarus.”
His glimmer dimmed then flared back again, a sure sign he was going to try to convince me of something. “It’s true, we believed he was disappearing back in to the countryside. He had no contacts, no money and only a few followers. We didn’t think he’d try and head for Ukraine, but he did. He still had a small nucleus of followers here in Kiev.”
There was no oxygen in the room. I couldn’t breathe. My heart pounded. I knew Jean-Louis saw that. He may not have hunted and killed humans for food for more than 500 years, but his instincts were still there. I tried to keep myself calm around the Kandeskys, hoping they’d forget I was a regular. Fat chance.
On occasions like this, with blind panic and fear running along my nerves and affecting my circulatory system, the vampire’s internal hunting responses started to kick in.
He looked at me. “This is not something I wanted to tell you and I certainly didn’t want to tell you until we had a chance to decipher the information coming in. I had a very different ‘Welcome to Kiev’ planned.”
OK, I knew he’d explain things. But, wow, I didn’t even think that Leonid would be part of the explanation. He watched my eyes fill with remembered terror and reached over to hold me, but I pushed him away.
“And when were you planning to tell me this?”
He sighed. “Nik and I planned an evening with you. We’d tell you about Leonid then go over all that we knew and all that we’re planning to neutralize him. I, we, never want him coming within miles of you ever again.”
I flashed back to my first glimpse of him, standing on the steps of Nik’s mansion so coldly angry that the air around him looked crystalline. “I hope your anger wasn’t part of the plan.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “You ninny! Even teasing me, you do entertain. No, of course not. Now you’ll have to wait. Nik’s already gone up to his room.”
Rooms! Ah ha, an opening. “Speaking of rooms…”
He looked at me, gazed around the room and looked back. “What’s the matter, you don’t like the accommodations?”
I threw my reader at him and followed it up with a pillow. He was fast, batting the pillow back hard enough to knock a gasp out of me. I found a breath. “No, I wasn’t expecting to be put up in an economy hotel. And where’s the help?”
“We were going to hash all of this over with you until you forced a change of plans. You’re going to have to wait for this, too. I will say that we had other ideas about accommodations, but we’re having to use a fall-back position. And until yesterday, we didn’t have one.”
He was up, pacing, a movement I knew well. His mind worked more creatively and clearly when he was on the move. Then his pacing stopped as he threw himself down on the bed next to me, turned my face to his and kissed me, so hard, so long and so deep I melted from the heat that rose to engulf me.
“My love, my love.” He was murmuring into my hair. “I’m desolate without you. If you’re not around when I expect you to be, I panic. I know I react badly, in what looks like anger, but it’s fear…fear of losing you.”
His hands were stroking my hair and moving down my back, then he started pulling my shirt up.
“What do you have on? Where’s all your lingerie? Didn’t you pack it?”
I all but giggled. There were times when I even slept in one of his old shirts, so that I had his scent with me, but tonight I’d been too upset to want anything of him around. And sexy lingerie to sleep alone! No way.
“No thanks to you, but yes, Elise and I packed some things. Of course I don’t have anyone here to help me…”
I stopped. He was helping me. Sort of. He managed to pull the tee over my head, which trapped my arms, and began kissing and slowly licking my breasts, working his way down my body. The bed shifted and I heard sounds of clothing coming off, the soft snick of buttons and the hiss of a zipper. As tangled as I was in the tee, I hadn’t managed to get an arm free before I felt the length of his naked body against mine.
Now I truly melted and lived for the sensations he brought to me.
As I came back to consciousness, I was aware of movement in the room. I opened my eyes to the faintest glimmer of dawn and saw him silhouetted against the window as he pulled the heavy drapes shut.
He turned to me. “It’s six, true dawn is still half an hour away. I’m leaving now. We’re planning dinner and a long conversation tonight. No matter what, remember that I love you for eternity.”
I slept, my body remembering his touch and my mind drifting in an ocean of caring.
Without Elise to wake me, I jerked upright from a deep sleep, disoriented. Where was I? What time was it? The room was dark. I groped around on the bedside table, found a lamp and flipped it on. Memory came washing back. Last night, the wretched fight, Nik’s guest room, Jean-Louis…ah, Jean-Louis. I lay back on the pillows remembering the last look of him closing the curtains…oh, crap! What time was it? I was supposed to meet Jean-Louis and Nik for dinner and a discussion.
I rolled back over and checked. Four in the afternoon. Enough time to shower and get ready, even without help.
The tap on the door came as I was putting the final pins in a wrapped updo. He came in and I stood. I’d chosen a short, layered dress the colors of autumn leaves and strappy two-inch Via Spigas and felt confident enough to hear what the two had to say.
Jean-Louis looked me over and smiled. “I knew when we offered you the job that we’d chosen well. A woman who can overcome adversity, a few little bumps along the road, and still come up looking good enough to eat!”
This time I picked up a pot of blush to throw but decided I didn’t want to waste perfectly good Lazlo on him. He knew I hated those stupid vampire cracks, made them only to push my buttons. I gave him the evil eye as I sailed out the door.
Something was wrong. Something was missing. I looked around as Jean-Louis joined me and took my arm. Bam, that was it. No demons!
Even after the execution, I had demon guards outside the door to my suite in the Baron’s castle. Though the Huszars may have been scattered or co-opted, their centuries-old headquarters was only a few miles away and Stefan Kandesky and Jean-Louis didn’t believe in taking chances.
Here in Kiev it was pleasant being able to come and go without a trailing demon, as fond of them as I’d become.
Under the freedom of not having a guard, though, there was a twinge of nervousness.
Leonid was alive.
How do you live with the gut clenching truth that the one you love will die if you meet them? Twenty year old sorcerer Scott Tabors is learning how. After seeing seventeen year old Olivia Whitehead outside of a coffee shop, his heart will never be the same. He longs for her, he wants her, and he knows she will be his. They are heart mates. …but due to a curse on his family, he can’t meet her. Not yet. So for now, he visits her in her dreams. Her dreams where he can tell her everything but his name.
Olivia Whitehead is a typical junior in high school. She and her best friend are having the time of their lives, but she can’t help but notice the changes happening to her. Especially the changes in her heart after she begins dreaming about a mysterious dark haired young man. But what will happen when the school heartthrob decides he wants Olivia? Will she realize the dream man is real or will she move on?
The wind is blowing just enough to ruffle my hair. “Hello?” I call timidly. Nothing. It’s completely silent out, not even birds are chirping. I glance around and walk forward. My arms are wrapped around the front of me, not for warmth, but for comfort. I know I’m dreaming, but this is still kind of weird. I see a deer to my left, just watching me. She’s beautiful and majestic. She starts to come towards me the moment I wish I could pet her. My hand slowly reaches out and touches her course coat. Huge brown eyes look into mine, there’s no fear.
“You’re beautiful,” I whisper.
“So are you,” a deep voice says from behind me.
I turn violently, scaring the deer off into the trees. Mr. Sexy is standing five feet in front of me. Jeans and a fitted white t-shirt clothe his fit body.
“Of course I am, where else would I be?”
“I thought…well I wasn’t sure if this was our dream or just mine.”
“It’s ours Livvie, it’s ours. Always ours.”
Two Seattle 16-year-olds, Jatred and Jasmira, are not your typical star-crossed lovers. They are not even your typical Shape Shifters. Sure, they try to live an ordinary life. At least, as ordinary as the Prince and the Princess of the rivaling ancient Races–the Winter wolves and the Summer leopards–can live. But eventually they learn that not much about their existence can be normal. Especially when the Races’ two commanding Goddesses are involved.One of the Goddesses is on a quest to tilt the scale of power to her side. The other will never let it happen, even if it means kicking Jatred and Jasmira’s love to the curb. Nothing is off limits, including removing Jatred’s memories of Jasmira.
To complicate things even more, there are the Universe’s powers to consider. They are trapped in an ancient Amulet in order to protect the stability of the world. But the Universe has a mind of its own, and when the powers are unleashed, the forces of nature are disturbed; earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions shake the Earth. All Shifters of both Races are summoned by their respective Goddesses to fight in the name of, or against, the normalcy of the world.
“We are in the Summer Realm? How the hell did you get me here? I’m a Winter Shifter.” Jatred shot up to his feet.
“Relax. It’s only an illusion, remember? The Amulet did this.” Jasmira looked at him, dazed.
“No, no and no! This is not happening. Get me back to the Human World, J. Now! I’m serious. Get me out!” His eyes flicked around. “Get me out before Crystal finds out. Don’t you understand?” he shouted, frantic. His heart raced, and his blood pounded in his ears.
Jasmira felt like someone just dumped icy water over her. She was confused, but fought to stay focused. She had never seen Jatred panic before, and this sobered her. “Okay,” she whispered. Her mouth was trembling. “But I don’t know if I can. The Amulet… the Goddess.”
She squeezed her eyes. Her breath was shaky and shallow. Her body shimmered in and out, taking on an ethereal appearance then becoming physical again.
“J, what are you doing?” Jatred whispered, frightened. “Look.” His eyes slid to the Amulet dangling down from her fist. The blue stone shone, lit from the inside by a pulsing source of light.
Jatred gripped Jasmira’s hand. This time his fingers didn’t go through like they did before, when she appeared as an illusion. Her body was solid again. She held onto the chain halfway between the jewel and the clasp. The clasp flew open. One side of the chain encircled his wrist. The other part snaked around Jasmira’s wrist. Unexpectedly, it bound them in a vice-like grip. The metal felt as cold as a sheet of ice. They both yelled and tried to pull free, but it wouldn’t budge.
A spiraled script became visible on the jewel’s edge, the symbols shone like liquid gold. The teens frantically tried again to yank their hands away. The runes kept crawling around the gem, barely touching its surface.
“What’s going on? What is this?” Jatred growled. A sudden gust of wind tousled his hair.
“I don’t know. What does it say?” Jasmira shrieked. A storm broke around them. The wind became so strong, it made them stagger. They struggled to stay on their feet, turning their faces away from the wind to breathe.
“The letters look almost Arabic, but that’s not it.” Jatred tugged on the chain once more, this time with both hands.
Jasmira momentarily lost her balance, but regained it quickly. She shouted over the storm, “Stop pulling. It’s not working. Concentrate on getting back to the Human World!”
“Just do it!” Her features twisted with horror. Sweat trickled down her back, and she shook with panic.
They tore their eyes from the lazily spiraling runes and looked at each other. Jatred saw the Summer Goddess in his peripheral vision and turned his head. But she wasn’t there. A cold fear crept on his sweat-covered skin. He swore and squeezed his eyes. His uncle’s smiling face came to his mind. Jatred whispered hastily, “Imagine someone from the Human World.”
Jasmira concentrated on Penelope’s features, and felt a rush of hot air over her face and body. She heard Jatred grunt in pain, and everything went still.
Crystal stood motionless, looking like a glittery ice statue. Her eyes rested on Jatred’s frozen form covered by mounds of snow. She was deep in thought, and her face mirrored the turmoil inside her. Two huge ravens—the first Royal couple, Freki and Geri—sat in one of the trees on the edge of the clearing. The Goddess turned her head to look at them. They made a series of clicking noises, then cawed loudly, and sailed down to circle above her head, still croaking. She made an impatient gesture. “You’re annoying.” Her voice sounded clear in the frosty air, although her mouth didn’t move.
The ravens plummeted toward the ground, shifting in mid-air into two huge wolves. The animals landed on their paws. A low growl rumbled in the back of their throats. They walked slowly around Jatred’s frozen shape, their lips curled back.
Crystal watched them in silence for a while. Finally, she said, “I should listen to you and simply eliminate him to remove the danger of the ten-thousand-year mark. The Shifters could choose a new King or a Queen, and the world would be safe again. At least for a while. But I’m getting soft in my old age. ”
One of the wolves, Geri, quietly growled and snapped his jaws dangerously close to Jatred. Freki snarled much louder. Her muzzle wrinkled as she exposed her sharp canines. The Goddess shook her head. Reluctantly, the two animals moved away from Jatred. They walked toward the woods and disappeared between the snow-covered trees.
The Goddess closed her eyes and raised her arms to the sides. Her palms were up, and there was a luminescent moon shape on each of them.
“Jatred, my child,” she said with her mind.
Something in him started to awaken, as if from a deep sleep. Various images began a sluggish parade through his mind.
“Rise.” Crystal moved her arms up.
She became completely visible, looking like a regular young woman—a stunning young woman. Her dark hair glistened in the sun. Small, almost heart-shaped lips stayed motionless. The Amulet around her neck reflected sunrays, sending hundreds of tiny blue specks to dance on her half-covered breasts, bare shoulders, and neck.
She wore a white, knee-length sleeveless cotton dress. The hem was embroidered with tiny, glittering snowflakes, reminiscent of those coming down from a cloudless sky. The top of her white boots’ shafts were turned out, revealing thick silver-white fur. The shafts were embellished with white decorative inlays and stitching.
A thick pillow of snow, covering Jatred’s body, cracked and large chunks started to slide off. Like an ancient warrior, he rose in a slow but determined motion, uncurling his arms and lifting his head. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked at Crystal. Jatred tilted his head back and shook his hair, then knelt on one knee.
“My Goddess,” Jatred said in a raspy voice. “Did you summon me?”
Crystal smiled and touched the Amulet. “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s the Amulet.”
“Do you remember you are the one to keep and protect it with your own life?” Crystal continued her investigation.
Jatred’s brows drew together, forcing his smooth forehead to crease. “Yes, I remember. Our Race has it in their possession right now, before it must pass back to the Summer.”
“Do you remember fighting one of my Garhanans?” Crystal’s smile disappeared.
“A Garhanan?” Jatred said the name slowly, shocked. “No. Did I do something wrong?”
“Yes, my child. But you are forgiven.” She looked at him sharply. “Actually, I want you to forget that Garhanan for now.” She slowly moved her hand in front of his face.
Jatred felt as if something cold stabbed at his brain. He winced and squeezed his eyes, staggering to the side.
Crystal seized his wrist and touched her other hand to Jatred’s cheek, making his icy pain subside. She smiled and took his hand in hers. “Now I will send you back to the Human World.”
They walked together, not leaving any tracks in a deep undisturbed snow. From behind, next to the tall broad-shouldered Jatred, the Goddess looked like a slender teenage girl. Soon their bodies started to shimmer and dissolve in the cold, winter air.
Fifteen-year-old April Somerfield is a shy, self-loathing misfit who would blend in with the wallpaper, if only the wallpaper were a little less attractive. In a family line of gorgeous, successful women, April’s a fluke. At Prescott High School, she’s a walking punch line.
A school project sends April on the hunt for her mother’s mysteriously missing yearbooks, and upon finding them she uncovers a big secret. It turns out that being “hit with an ugly stick” is a surprisingly literal occurrence in April’s family tree—a curse has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. But when April sees a chance to finally ditch the family curse, she must decide if becoming beautiful on the outside is worth giving up the person she is meant to be.
We watched from the living room as Mom’s car rolled out of the driveway. Ani wrestled with her typical curiosity for about four seconds before bursting out, “So what’s with your mom and yearbooks?”
“I know, right?” I said, throwing up my hands and dropping onto the couch. “The weirdest part is, when I talked to Grandma, I specifically asked her about Mom’s yearbooks, and she swore Mom has them.”
“What?” Ani said with a gasp. “Your mom lied? Your mom doesn’t lie.”
“I know,” I said, “so I’m kind of freaking out right now.”
Ani sat down next to me. “Have you ever seen a picture of your mom in high school?”
I thought, and suddenly it dawned on me. “I’ve never seen a picture of her from before I was born,” I said slowly. The picture of Mom holding me at three days old, which sat on the shelf a-bove my dresser, between my baby rattle and my old teddy bear, was the earliest picture of Mom that I had ever laid eyes on.
“Not even a wedding picture?” Ani exclaimed.
“No, their photographer forgot to take off the lens cap… oh, snap, do you think that was a lie, too?”
My head was spinning. One little white lie about the whereabouts of Mom’s yearbooks was bad enough, but the thought of her systematically lying to me for most of my life? It made me dizzy.
“Why wouldn’t there be any pictures of her?” Ani mused. “Ooh! Could your parents have been spies or something? Or may-be you’re all in the witness protection program, and you don’t even know it!”
“But my dad puts his picture everywhere for work,” I pointed out. “His name and office phone are on every ‘for sale’ sign he puts out.”
“Have you seen any younger pictures of him?” Ani asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “he’s got a few pictures on his desk of him and his dad on fishing trips and stuff from when he was little.”
“So, what is it about your mom, Apes?” Ani questioned. She laughed suddenly.
“What?” I said.
“I was just thinking it’s funny,” she explained, “that this seems like a mystery your mom might read for work… only it’s about her.”
“Huh. Yeah.” I wrinkled my nose. What would one of Mom’s detectives do? Either look for clues or interview witnesses, I sup-posed. Interviewing anyone was out of the question; Mom wouldn’t talk, and neither would Dad or my grandparents, I expected. That left looking for clues.
I glanced at Ani, who must have been reading my mind. “Attic?” she asked me.
“I’ll grab flashlights,” I said, jumping up and sprinting to the laundry room. We ran up the stairs, through the office, and into the large closet that hid the stairway to the attic.
I only went up there twice a year, to help with Christmas decorating and de-decorating. Our attic was unfinished and cob-webby, with exposed beams and puffy pink insulation poking out here and there. Ani shifted her weight uncomfortably. She was petrified of spiders.
“Where should we start?” I asked, eyeing the stacks of cardboard boxes and plastic bins. “We’ve got an hour, tops.”
Ani and I surveyed the massive hodgepodge doubtfully. “Well, let’s ignore anything marked ‘Christmas,’” I decided aloud, “and focus on things that look like they haven’t been disturbed in a while.”
I felt proud of my limited detective skills. I started pawing through a pile of dust-covered boxes in one corner while Ani gin-gerly worked her way across a metal shelf.
After several minutes of hard labor, I spotted a large, ex-tremely dusty trunk in the corner, behind some of the boxes I had moved. “That looks like it hasn’t been moved in forever… do you think?”
Ani and I approached the trunk, which had a combination lock with four digits slipped through the brass latch on the top. “What should I try?” I whispered. For some reason being hushed seemed necessary.
“Maybe your mom’s birthday?” Ani suggested. I dialed 1-1-2-6. Nothing.
“I’ll try my parents’ anniversary,” I said. I turned the digits to 0-5-3-0. Nothing again.
“Your birthday? Grandparents’ anniversary?” Ani said. I tried my birthday, both 0-2-0-8 and 2-8-9-8, with no result. “Maybe we need to invert the numbers European-style,” she muttered.
If we tried that, we would be spinning dials for hours. I turned the digits to 0-8-0-9, Grandma Jo and Grandpa Frank’s anniversary. It produced a satisfying click, and the lock fell open.
“I can’t believe that worked.” I whispered. I lifted the lid with shaky hands.
What was sitting patiently right on top? None other than an old Nor’easter, upon dozens of books and photo frames.
“Busted!” Ani breathed.
I glanced at the year; Mom must have been a junior then. We ignored the rest of the trunk for the moment and flipped through the pages together.
“K… M… P,” I browsed quickly, looking for the page of juniors that contained my mother’s name. I perused the page line by line for “Pinckley, Diane,” and found it. She should have been the third picture in the row, after “Pilsner, Thomas,” and “Pin-kett, Laura.”
“They made a mistake,” Ani said with a shocked laugh. “That’s not your mother!”
She jabbed her finger at the third face, which, other than being a white female, could not possibly have looked less like my mother. Where there should have been a heart-shaped face, a model’s smile, and a perfect nose between big eyes, there were a heavy jaw, braces, and a beaky nose crowned by enormous glass-es. I had to sit down on the grimy floor, because I suddenly felt faint. This girl looked so much like me and nothing like my mother.
“I don’t think it’s a mistake,” I said weakly. That incredibly unattractive face in the yearbook belonged to my mother, just like I did.
From the moment Lucia steps into Bayside Art Academy, she is fed a steady stream of lies, but it’s not until she meets William that she begins to question the people she trusts. Unraveling fact from fabrication seems impossible until Lucia finds her first painting, and discovers the dead do not lie–at least not to her.
A dozen lifetimes ago, Lucia started a war. Not a war with armies or guns, but a bloody war nonetheless. The path leading Lucia to the truth is hidden within lovely art that spans the ages. In this life, however, Lucia doesn’t know where to look. Lost, she turns to the one thing she knows with certainty–she is in love with Leo, and has been before
She opened her mouth to speak to him just as one of the swans gave a loud honk. Lucia watched as it pulled itself effortlessly into the starry sky of the painting and she gasped, throwing her hands up to her mouth.
At first, she was convinced she had caused the boy to ruin his beautiful painting. Only with odd control, and a loud sigh, he raised his arm and sliced a large midnight blue line across the whole of the canvas, stilling the birds with one stroke.
“It’s not nice to stare,” he said without turning around.
His voice sounded cold, but it was pleasant, and it hinted at how nice it would sound if he weren’t furious.
In Lucia’s mind a nice apology was forming, but those were not the words she wanted to say.
“How did you do that?” she asked, because how could she not?
The blue diagonal line that had ended the dance of the swans dripped from the weight of the thick paint. He did not answer.
“I thought,” he finally said. “That this was an advanced art school. Clearly, you should be familiar with how one paints.”
He was antagonizing her, and it made self-doubt creep up through the floor and back into her heart. Of course she knew how to paint, but as far as she was concerned, what he had been doing was impossible and she huffed. A burst of hot hair shot out from her wet lips, and the boy chuckled before turning around.
He stared at her, with his light blue eyes just like the reflective bits on the pond he had just painted, and for the briefest moment Lucia thought they had widened in surprise. There was something so familiar about this odd occurrence, just like there had been with the other boy. Had she dreamed this whole thing before?
“No,” Lucia breathed. “How did you make them move?”