Monthly Archives: February 2016

M9B Friday Reveal: NOBODY’S LADY Cover and Chapter 1 by @McNultyAmy @Month9Books

 

Today Amy McNulty and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for NOBODY’S LADY! Book 2 in the Never
Veil Series which releases April 12, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and
enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
On to the reveal!
 
 
Title: NOBODY’S LADY
Author: Amy McNulty
Pub. Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback and eBook
Find it: Amazon | Goodreads
 
For the first time in a thousand years,
the men in Noll’s village possess the freedom to love whom they will. In order
to give each man the chance to fully explore his feelings, the lord of the
village decrees all marriages null and void until both spouses declare their
love for one another and their desire to wed again. What many women think will
be a simple matter becomes a source of village-wide tension as most men decide
to leave their families and responsibilities behind.
 


Rejected by the lord and ashamed of her
part in the village’s history, Noll withdraws from her family and lives life as
an independent woodcarver. This changes when her sister accuses her of hiding
her former husband Jurij from her—and when Jurij eventually does ask to move
in. Determined not to make the same mistakes, Noll decides to support her male
friends through their new emotional experiences, but she’s soon caught up in a
darker plot than she ever dared imagine possible from the men she thought she
knew so well. And the lord for whom she still has feelings may be hiding the
most frightening truth of them all.


 
Excerpt


Chapter One



When I thought I understood real friendship, I was a long-lost queen. When I discovered there was so much more to my life than love and hate, that those around me were just pawns in a game whose rules I’d unwittingly put in place, I discovered I was a long-forgotten goddess. But goddess or not, powerless or powerful, my feet were taking me someplace I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. What did I hope to find? Did I truly believe I could hear him call me—that he’d want to call me? Yes, I did. I wanted to see him again. I wanted to hope, even if I wasn’t sure I was allowed. If I deserved to. I headed down the familiar dirt path beneath the lattice of trees overhead, pausing beside the bush with a partially snapped stem that jutted outward like a broken limb. The one that pointed to the secret cavern.



Only, it’s not much of a secret anymore, is it?



My feet picked themselves up. Glowing pools would never again tempt me.



I reached the black, towering fortress that had for so long shaken and screamed at the power of my glance.



For the first time in this lifetime, I stared up at it, and nothing moved. My legs, unused to such steady footing while in the sight of the lord’s castle, twitched in anticipation of a fall that never came.



There was no need. My feet dragged me forward.



At the grand wooden door, I raised a fist to knock.



But I stopped. I felt like if I touched it, the entire castle might crumble. It had done so once before. Not at my touch exactly. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was responsible for whatever destruction I’d find in this place. But that was presumptuous of me. He was strong-willed, and he wouldn’t crumble at the prospect of freedom. If anything, he’d be triumphant over it.



You can’t stop now. I pulled my sleeves over my wrists and propped both elbows against the door, pushing until it gave way.



The darkness inside the foyer tried to deceive me into thinking night had fallen. The stream of light that trickled from the familiar crack in the garden door called the darkness a liar.



I gripped the small iron handles, the material of my sleeves guarding the cold metal from my touch, and pulled.



My touch had come to the garden before me.



The rose bushes that surrounded the enclosed circular area were torn, ripped, trodden, and plucked. The blooms lay withered, scattered and turned to dust, their once-white petals a sickly shade of yellowish brown, smooth blooms turned coarse and wrinkled.



The fountain at the center no longer trickled with water. Its shallow pool was stagnant, piles of brown festering in mildewing green liquid. Dotted amongst the brown was pallid stone rubble. The tears of the weeping elf child statue, which belonged at the top of the fountain, had ceased at last. But the gash across its face told me the child’s tears had not been staunched by joy. I wondered if Ailill had had it carved to represent the pain I’d inflicted on him as a child. And I wondered if now he could no longer bear to remind himself of what I’d done.



I hadn’t done this. But I felt as if I had. If Ailill had gone on a rampage after he came back to the castle, it was because of what I’d done to him. Everything I touched turned sour. I yanked and pulled, trying to draw my hands further into my sleeves, but there wasn’t enough material to cover them entirely.



“Well, what a surprise.”
I gazed into the shadow beside the doorway. How could I have not seen? The stone table was occupied. The place where I’d sat alone for hours, days, and months was littered with crumpled and decaying leaves, branches, and petals, obscuring the scars left by a dagger or knife striking time and time again across its surface. The matching bench that once nestled on the opposite side was toppled over, leaving only dark imprints in the dirt.



“A pity you could not make yourself at home here when you were welcome.”



My breath caught in my throat.



The man at the table was clad entirely in black, as I knew he would be. The full-length jacket had been swapped for a jerkin, but I could see the embossing of roses hadn’t been discarded in the exchange. He wore dark leather gloves, the fingers of which were crossed like the wings of a bird in flight. His pale elbows rested on the table amongst the leaves and branches and thorns. He wore the hat I was used to seeing him wear, a dark, pointed top resting on a wide brim. Its black metal band caught a ray of the sunlight almost imperceptibly. But I noticed. I always did.



His face was entirely uncovered. Those large and dark eyes, locked on me, demanded my attention. They were the same eyes of the boy I’d left alone to face my curse—not so long ago from my point of view. He was more frightened then, but there was no mistaking the hurt in those eyes both then and now.



“You are not welcome here, Olivière.”



His words sliced daggers through my stomach.



“I … I thought I heard you call me.”



He cocked his head to the side, his brown eyes moving askance. “You heard me call you?”



“Yes … ” I realized how foolish it sounded. I was a fool to come. Why had I let myself fall for that sound again, for my name whispered on the wind? Why was I so certain it was he who’d said my name?



He smiled, not kindly. “And where, pray tell, have you been lurking? Under a rose bush? Behind the garden door? Or do those rounded female ears possess a far greater sense of hearing than my jagged male ones?”



I brushed the tips of my ears self-consciously. Elric had been so fascinated by them, by what he saw as a mutilation. This lord—Ailill—wasn’t like that. He’d touched them once, as a child. He’d tried to heal them, thinking they were meant to be pointed.



The boy with a heart was the man sitting there before me. Even after all we’d been through, he’d still done me a kindness by healing my mother. “No, I just thought—”



“No, you did not think, or you would not have come.”



I clenched my jaw. My tongue was threatening to spew the vile anger that had gotten us into this mess to begin with.



He sighed and crossed his arms across his chest. “I gave explicit instructions that I not be disturbed.” He leaned back against the wall behind him, his chin jutting outward slightly.



I wiped my sweaty fingertips on my skirt. I wouldn’t let the rest of my hands out from the insides of my sleeves. The sweat had already soaked through them. “I needed to thank you.”



He scoffed. “Thank me for what? For your prolonged captivity, or for not murdering both your mother and your lover when I had the chance?”



So you admit you took Jurij to punish me? You admit they were both in danger in your “care”? Quickly, I had to clench my jaw to keep down the words that threatened to spill over. He’s not who I thought he was. He wouldn’t have harmed them.



I loosened the muscles in my jaw one hair’s breadth at a time.



“For healing me when you were a child. For accepting me into your castle instead of putting me to death for trespassing in it. For … For forgiving me for cursing you, even though you were innocent.” My voice was quiet, but I was determined to make it grow louder. “For saving my mother’s life.”



He waved one hand lazily in the air. “Unfinished projects irk me.”



“But you didn’t have to.”



A shrug. “The magic was nearly entirely spent on the churl anyway.”



“I beg your pardon?”



He leaned forward and placed both palms across the rotted forest remnants on the table. “My apologies,” he said, his lips curled into a sneer. “I simply meant that I wasted years and years and let the magic wither from my body to save a person of no consequence. You may thank me for that if you like. I would rather not be reminded of it.”



How odd it was to see the face I’d imagined come to life. The mocking, the condescending—it was all there. I just hadn’t known the canvas before.



And what a strange and beautiful canvas it was. That creamy peach skin, the brownish tint of his shoulder-length tresses. He was so much paler than any person I had ever seen. Save for the specters.



Despite the paleness, part of me felt I wasn’t wrong to have mistaken one brother for another. Elric had been dark-skinned, but they seemed almost like reflections of the same person; they shared the same brows, the same lips, and even eyes of a similar shape if not color. Perhaps the face before me was a bit gaunter, the nose a bit longer. It was easier to focus on the differences. Thinking of the similarities made me want to punch the face in front of me all the more—and that would undermine everything I had set out to do when I made my way to him. I wanted to see if you were really restored to life. Say it. I wanted to know if you really forgave me. Say it. I wanted to know why I … Why I feel this way about you, why I keep thinking about you, when I used to be unable to stand the sight of you. Say it, Noll! I dug my nails into my palm and shook the thoughts from my head. He’d called my mother a “churl.” I couldn’t just tell him everything I was thinking. “Have you no sense of empathy?”



“What a coincidence that you should mention that. I am sending Ailill to the village with an edict. He can escort


you there.”“Ailill?” But aren’t you him? Could I have been mistaken? Oh, goddess, help me, why do I do this to myself? Why do I think I know everything?


He waved his hand, and one of the specters appeared beside me from the foyer.



The specters. There were about a hundred of them in the castle. Pale as snow in skin and hair with red, burning eyes. Mute servants who seemed to anticipate the lord’s every command. Only now I knew who they really were.



Oh. “You call him by your own name?” I asked.



He raised an eyebrow. “I call them all by my name. They are me, remember?”



His icy stare sent another invisible dagger through my stomach. “Yes, but—”



“A shame you never cared to ask my name when you were my guest,” he said. “I have a feeling things might have turned out much differently—for all of us.”



“You knew what would happen! Why didn’t you warn me?” I had to squeeze my fists and teeth together to stop myself from screaming. This wasn’t going at all like I had hoped. But what had I hoped? What could I have possibly expected? I thought I’d be forgiven. I thought that Ailill and I might start over, that we could be friends, perhaps even … What a fool I’ve been.



Ailill turned slightly, his attention suddenly absorbed in a single white petal that remained on a half-trodden bush beside him. “I was not entirely in control of my emotions,” he said, “as you may well know.”



“I tried to give you a way out!” My jaw wouldn’t stay shut.



Ailill laughed and reached over to pluck the petal from its thorns. “Remind me exactly when that was? Perhaps between condemning me to an eternal life of solitude and wretchedness and providing yourself with a way to feel less guilty about the whole affair? And then you just popped right back to the present, I suppose, skipping over those endless years in a matter of moments.” He crushed the petal in his hand.



“A way to let myself feel less guilty?” He wasn’t entirely wrong. But it wasn’t as if he had done nothing wrong.



Ailill bolted upright, slamming the fist that gripped the petal against the twigs and grass on the table. “Your last words to me were entirely for your own benefit, as well you know!”



If, after your own Returning, you can find it in your heart to forgive me, the last of the men whose blood runs with his own power will free all men bound by my curse.



“How is wishing to break the curse on the village for my benefit?”



“Perhaps because the curse was your doing? Perhaps because you only wanted the curse broken to free your lover from it in the first place?”



“Stop calling Jurij my ‘lover.’ He’s not—”



“And you did free him with those words. You knew I would forgive you.”



“How could I have known? I didn’t think it possible you’d forgive me, not after all we’ve been through.”



“You knew because you knew I wanted to be free myself. That I would do anything—even forgive you for half a moment—to earn that freedom.” His voice grew quieter. “You never wanted anything from me, not really. I was just a pawn in your game, a way to free the other men in your village, a way to punish the men from mine.”



I fought back what I couldn’t believe was threatening to spring to my eyes. No tears, not in front of him.



“The men of the old village deserved everything they got,” I spat at last, knowing full well that wasn’t the whole story.



Ailill scoffed and put both hands on his hips, his arms akimbo. Oh, how I tired of that pose. The crushed petal remained on the table. Its bright white added a bit of life to the decay.



“There were plenty of young boys not yet corrupted,” he said. “And some that might have never been.” He took a deep breath. “But, of course, you are not entirely to blame. I blame myself every day for ever taking a childish interest in you. That should not have counted as love.”



I swallowed. Of course. Before the curse of the village had broken, a woman had absolute power over the one man who loved or yearned for her. When I visited the past through the pool in the secret cavern, I discovered a horde of lusty men who knew nothing of love but were overcome with desire. Since so many had lusted for any female who walked before them, and I had carried the power from my own version of the village with me, it had been child’s play to control the men. But why had that power extended to Ailill? He had only been a boy then, broken, near silent—and kindhearted. He couldn’t have regarded me with more than a simple crush on an older sisterly figure, but it had been enough.



“But you did forgive me.” Why couldn’t I stop the words from flowing?



Ailill shook his head and let a weary smile spread across his features. “Forgive you? I could never forgive you. No more than I could forgive myself for daring to think, if just for a moment, that I … ” He stopped.



I shook my head. “The curse wouldn’t have been broken. The men in the village wouldn’t now be walking around without masks. Nor you without your veil. If you hadn’t forgiven me.”



Ailill tilted his head slightly. His dark eyes searched mine, perhaps for some answer he thought could be found there. “I would still need the veil even now?” he asked, his voice quiet. “Are you certain?”



Removing the veil before the curse was broken would have required the Returning, a ritual in which I freely and earnestly bestowed my heart and affection to him. It would have never happened, not with the man I knew at the time to be mine. So yes, he would still need the veil to survive the gaze of women. I was sure of it. He’d been arrogant, erratic, and even cruel. Perhaps not so much as Elric, Ailill’s even more volatile older brother, the one who wound up with a mob of angry, murderous women in his castle and a gouge through his heart. But even so.



It was my turn to cross my arms and sneer. “I said you could break the curse after your own Returning, and I specified that you didn’t need my affection to have a Returning. All you needed to do was crawl out of whatever abyss I’d sent you to.” I shifted uncomfortably in place. “And I suppose I should be grateful—for my mother’s sake—that you did.”



Ailill waved a hand at the specter beside me and brushed aside a pile of clippings on the table to reveal a hand-written letter. It was yellowed and a tad soggy. “Yes, well, the endless droning that made up your curse gets a bit foggy in my mind—assuming it even made sense in your mind to begin with. I am afraid I lack the ability to retain exact memories of an event that took place a hundred lifetimes ago when I was but a scarred child terrified of the monster before him.” He looked up to face me as the specter retrieved the letter from his extended hand. “But I suppose it was not all that long ago for the monster, was it?” He turned again to the table, shuffling brush about aimlessly. “Take her with you to the market,” he said.



The specter made to grab my arm as he passed. I slipped out of his reach only to back into another specter who had appeared quick as lightning from the foyer. He grabbed one arm, and the first specter seized the other.



“Let go of me!” I shouted as they began to drag me away.



The specters didn’t pause, as they once would have.



“Stop!” called Ailill from behind me. The specters did as they were told.



Ailill spoke. “I forgot to inform you that my retainers lost all desire to follow your orders when I did.” He waved his fingers in the air. “Carry on.”



I struggled against the grip the specters had on my arms. Again. He has me under his thumb again. “I can walk by myself!” I screamed as my toes slid awkwardly against the dark foyer floor. “I don’t need to go to the market!”



A black carriage awaited us outside the castle doorway. A third specter opened the carriage door, and my captors heaved me up into the seat like a sack of grain. The one with the letter slid in and took the seat across from me. He stared vacantly at the top of the seat behind me.



I leaned forward, whipping my hand out to stop the carriage door as one of the specters moved to close it. I didn’t care what I touched in the castle anymore. Let the whole thing crumble.



A black-gloved hand covered mine. I jumped back. Ailill stuck his head inside the carriage. His face stopped right before mine, the brim of his hat practically shading me under it. The sight of his face so close to mine, unveiled and painted with disdain, caused a thunderous racing of my heart. It was as if I’d just run the length of the entire village.



“You kept your hair short,” he said. He reached his free hand toward it, then pulled back.



I’d once let the bushy mess of black hair grow as long as it wanted, but once I cropped it closely to my scalp, I found it easier to deal with. “There hasn’t been enough time for it to grow, anyway. Not for me.”



He snorted. “Of course. But it makes me remember you as you were, long ago. When you cursed me and every man whether he deserved it or not.” He leaned back a bit, putting more space between our faces. “I think you will be most interested in going with my servants to the market,” he said. “But there will be no need to thank me in person afterward. I would rather not see you again.” His eyes drifted upwards, thoughtfully. “In fact, remind the villagers that I am closed to all audiences. My servants will be out there to see that my edict is obeyed.”



Before I could speak, he leaned back and let my hand fall from his. He reached around the door to close it.



“Wait—”



And slammed it in my face.


 
 
About Amy: 
 
Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and
editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published
in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high
school and currently writes professionally about everything from business
marketing to anime. In her down time, you can find her crafting stories with
dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings. Visit
her website at amymcnulty.com.

 


 
Giveaway Details:


 
1 winner will receive an eBook of NOBODY’S
GODDESS and an eGalley of NOBODY’S LADY. International.

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Trailer Reveal and Giveaway of FACSIMILE by @VickiLWeavil

 

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal! But wait it’s a Thursday you’re probably asking yourself! Yes it is but we have a super special reveal for you today and we will have a reveal tomorrow as well!

This week, we are revealing the trailer for
Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil
an upcoming Month9Books Title!
 

 

facsimile ebook final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: FACSIMILE

Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
For a ticket to Earth, seventeen-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is willing to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Especially since all she’s required to do is escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann‘s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants.

 

Ann’s willing to sacrifice friendship and love for a new life on Earth. But when an entire species is placed in jeopardy by her actions, she must make a choice – fulfill the dream that’s always sustained her, or save the planet she’s never considered home.

Now here’s the trailer!

 

 

Vicki Weavil 11
Vicki L. Weavil is represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Her Young Adult Fantasy, CROWN OF ICE — a dark YA retelling of H.C. Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” — is published by Month9Books. Two companion books to CROWN OF ICE — SCEPTER OF FIRE and ORB OF LIGHT — will be published in 2016 and 2017.
Her YA SciFi — FACSIMILE — will be published by Month9Books in 2016, with a sequel, DERIVATION, to follow.
A new YA Fantasy, THE DIAMOND THIMBLE, will be published by Month9Books in 2018.
She also writes adult SciFi.

 

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.
Title will be sent upon its release.

 

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Cover and Chapter 1 Reveal: Giveaway of THE LINGERING GRACE by Jessica Arnold

 

Today Jessica Arnold and Month9Books are revealing the cover and
first chapter for THE LINGERING GRACE, which releases March 15, 2016!
Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers
to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

In The Lingering Grace, Alice is glad to find her life returning to normal
after a near-death experience. When a young girl drowns in a freak accident
similar to the one that nearly killed her, she suspects that something deeper
might be going on. This incredible cover is a reference both to the drowning
girl at the heart of the story, and to Alice—who is also in over her head. It’s
hard to tell whether the girl under water is sinking deeper or rising to the
surface. This story centers on Alice making that very choice.
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THE LINGERING GRACE
Author: Jessica Arnold
Pub. Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Pages: 320
Find it: Amazon | Goodreads
All magic comes with a price.
The new school year brings with it a welcome return to normalcy after Alice’s
narrow escape from a cursed hotel while on summer vacation.
But when a young girl drowns in a freak accident that seems eerily similar to her own
near-death experience, Alice suspects there might be something going on that not even
the police can uncover.
The girl’s older sister, Eva attends
Alice’s school, and Alice immediately befriends her. But things change when
when Alice learns that Eva is determined to use magic to bring her sister back.
She must decide whether to help Eva work the highly dangerous magic or stop her
at all costs. After all, no one knows better than Alice the true price of
magic.
 
 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE“I’m so sorry.”

Tony turned on his left blinker. “Didn’t your dad say something about getting you a car soon?”

Alice gave a single, grating laugh. “He’s been saying that ever since I got a license.” Tony knew this as well as she did; if he was teasing, she wasn’t in the mood. She slouched down in the passenger seat as they pulled into the library parking lot. It was almost empty; the library was closing in twenty-five minutes. She rapped her fingers against the car door, gripping a notebook and a pen tightly in her other hand.

“Hey.” Tony parked. He grabbed her arm before she could jump out of the car. “Everyone forgets an assignment sometimes.”

She tried to smile, but her mouth ended up in a lopsided grimace. “You’re right. I’ve just been so . . . you know.”

Concern flashed across Tony’s face, and his grip on her arm tightened for a second before he let go. Alice clicked her pen as they hurried into the library. She’d had this assignment for weeks—how could she have left it until now? This wasn’t like her. Tony grabbed her hand as they walked and she looked down at their entwined fingers, glad that this at least was surviving, despite her half-present brain.

It wasn’t sudden, this relationship, so it baffled her why it still felt fragile—why she was still relieved every time he wanted to spend time with her. They’d been officially dating for two months now, and they’d known each other for three. She was certain she had gotten the better end of the deal; Tony had been helping her keep her head above water ever since last summer. Meeting him had been one of the only good things to come out of that vacation from hell. He’d helped save her life when she had nearly died, the victim of a witch’s curse on a creepy old hotel.

Physically, her recovery had only taken a few weeks. But everything else … well, it was still an uphill battle. Daily life was mundane and mind-numbingly routine—more meaningless than it had ever seemed before. Alice zoned out on a regular basis. The world would fall away and she would stare into space, not thinking anything, not feeling anything but the empty space inside her where everything was quiet. That empty space had never been there before, and it was only with Tony that she felt it close up for a few precious hours at a time. Only with Tony was she herself again.

Tony noticed her looking at him and smiled.

“We’ll find something here. I know it.”

“We’d better.”

It was hard to be hopeful after spending three hours driving around to all the libraries in the area with no luck at all, courtesy of this supremely dumb assignment. They’d been talking about primary and secondary sources in English class and Mr. Segal was requiring them to find one primary source (not on the Internet either—at the library) to include in their research paper. Alice knew she shouldn’t have put it off. She just hadn’t known it would be this hard. Now, with the paper due tomorrow, she had absolutely nothing to show but a blank computer screen and mounting panic.

“I think I chose the wrong topic,” she said as they walked by the front desk. A librarian looked up and scowled at them.

“We’re closing in twenty minutes,” she said. Her expression made it clear that if they made her stay a moment later, they would regret it.

Alice squeezed Tony’s hand and spoke through clenched teeth. “I’m gonna fail this project. And the class. And I’ll become a high school dropout. And I’ll never get into college. Will you still like me when I’m living under an overpass?”

“Yes. But you’re not going to fail. And I wouldn’t let you be homeless.”

“My hero,” she grumbled and he laughed.

They hurried through the nonfiction sections, passing row after row of packed shelves. The farther into the library they went, the more overwhelming the smell of old paper became. Alice wasn’t sure if the musty library air was thanks to rotting books or the persistent mold problem that had shut the library down for months a while back. The city said everything was under control; Alice’s nose told her otherwise.

“Ugh, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to come here.” She ran her fingers along the book spines as they hurried down a row. “This place creeps me out.”

Tony looked up at the dim rectangles of fluorescent lights scattered across the ceiling. “Not exactly cozy, is it?”

Alice shook her head and then stopped, squinting at the books to her left. “804 . . . 804.01 . . . here we go.”

She traced the call numbers with her fingers. Tony knelt down next to her, scanning books as he spoke.

“Excellent. Let’s hope Mr. Librarian Number Two was right.”

They’d been hunting down a copy of Literary Criticism of the 1800s for three hours now. Alice had discovered it while digging through the online library catalog—it was the only thing she could find that fulfilled the “contemporary criticism” requirement for her paper. The only problem was that the full text wasn’t online and, thanks to an interlibrary loan snafu, the only copy had slipped under the radar almost completely. The librarian at the last library they’d visited had been ninety-nine percent sure it was at the downtown branch, and so they had braved the rush-hour traffic and hurried over.

“What a nightmare,” she groaned. “I don’t see it.”

Tony grabbed her notebook and squinted at the call number she’d written. “Are you sure that’s a four? Looks like it could be a nine to me.”

“Let’s hope it’s a nine, then.” She jumped to her feet and grabbed his hand, pulling him up as well. They hurried to the next aisle.

He squeezed her hand. “Hey—we’ll find it. Don’t worry.”

She squeezed back but said nothing. Don’t worry. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, her blank moments didn’t bring Zen into the rest of her life. They were more like blackouts than meditations—moments when fatigue got the better of her. The rest of the time, she was sprinting to keep up with the mindless churn of to-do lists that filled her days. How did people live like this? Every day stuffed with pointless urgency. It was exhausting. Sometimes Alice found herself longing for just a taste of magic again. Magic was a glimmer of something beyond logic and reason and sunrise and sunset. Without it, life melted into a meaningless churn of waking and sleeping.

Tony was patient with her—in more ways than one. She wasn’t sure how he managed to put up with her frequent mental lapses and her total lack of girlfriend know-how. Frankly, she was mortified by her own awkwardness. In her more positive moments, she told herself it wasn’t her fault. He was her first boyfriend. No one had warned her about these things.

If only someone had warned her about these things. Holding hands, kissing, it all looked so easy when other people did it. At first, for her, it had been a humiliating disaster. She didn’t know what to do with her body, how to move. She would press her lips into Tony’s without aim or direction, as haphazardly as she kissed her dad’s cheek. For Tony, on the other hand, finesse seemed to come naturally. His kisses were caresses. He was artistic. When they held hands, while her arm went stiff as a board, he would stroke the back of her hand with his thumb, making little circles—or hearts. She liked to think of them as hearts.

Her heart was pounding from half-jogging to the end of a row.

“Do you see it?” Alice asked, trying to read the call numbers on both sides of the row simultaneously.

Tony shook his head. “Not yet.”

“I don’t believe this,” Alice grumbled, sinking to her knees. “It’s got to be here. I can’t rewrite this whole paper—I don’t have time!” She ran her hands across the books on the bottom shelf, vainly hoping that the right one would just jump out and grab her by the throat. Tony scratched his forehead. Alice was starting to recognize these things he did. She knew now that when he scratched his chin, he was thinking deeply; when he scratched right below his hairline, he was worried.

“Maybe it was just shelved wrong,” he suggested. He turned around and started scanning the bookshelf behind him.

Though Alice worried it was useless, she re-scanned the spines on the shelf in front of her. Maybe Tony was right—maybe they had missed something. But she had that sinking feeling in her gut and her eyes were burning; she was frustrated almost to tears. Her sight grew blurry as she stared at book after book.

“The library will be closing in five minutes,” said a voice over the intercom.

Five minutes.

She blinked very quickly, trying to clear her vision. Her eyes stopped on a particularly tattered old book without a visible call number, and she reached out to grab it, glancing behind her at Tony, who still had his back to her.

Her fingers touched the binding and she gasped. It was the strangest feeling—a tingling in her fingers, a warmth that traveled up her arm and into her shoulder. Alice pulled the book from the shelf and felt as if all the hair on her body were standing on end. She shivered and stroked the cover, which was brown leather and plain. It was blind-stamped with three concentric circles, like a rounded eye.

Peeling the cover back, she scanned through a few pages at random and knew immediately what she was holding. There was a sharp tug in her abdomen, and she almost put the book back then and there. It wasn’t the first spellbook she had seen. She had discovered several while fighting for her life in the hotel last summer. They’d belonged to the witch who set the curse. One of them had been covered in scrawls and notes—an inconsistent, impossible mess.

This little volume was an entirely different story. It was printed; the old monospaced type left odd gaps between letters. Someone had carefully underlined a few sentences throughout, but overall, it looked nearly untouched. If it hadn’t been for the yellowed pages and the smell of rotting paper, she might have called it pristine.

Each page was laid out in the same way: a heading in large, capitalized type followed by an ingredient list and several paragraphs of instructions. To the left of each title were one to three small triangles. Some were colored in with solid black ink while others were empty. They were presented without explanation, but Alice felt sure they must be a scale of sorts: a rating to indicate how long a particular spell took to prepare or its difficulty or something like that. There were small sketches throughout. On one page, a tiny flower was drawn to the right of the ingredient list. On the bottom of another, a tiny frog, splayed out, cut open, its ink-drawn limbs hanging limply at its sides.

Her stomach turned; quickly, she shut the book. A shiver tickled her spine—the familiar sensation of being watched. Was it a coincidence that she had come across this book? Or could it be that the curse had left a magical stamp on her, a kind of otherworldly magnetism? Had she found the book, or had the book found her?

“I don’t believe it.”

Alice jumped, clutching the book to her.

“Hey—I found it!”

Tony was holding the book out for her to see, smiling widely. She took it from him with one hand; with the other, she slipped the leather book behind her back. The movement was instinctual. All she knew was that she didn’t want to return the book and leave so many questions unanswered. Nor did she want to explain to Tony why she had to know more.

“Thank God,” she said, grinning back. “You are a hero!” Maybe she could pass the book off as another ancient volume of literary criticism? Not a chance. Tony was too curious; he would want to look at it himself.

“See?” He helped her up and put his arm around her shoulders. “Told you it would be okay.”

“I guess you were right.”

He took the book back from her and examined it. Alice’s grip on the spellbook tightened. No, she definitely could not let Tony near this book if she didn’t want him to panic and light it on fire or something. “It’s kind of like finding buried treasure.”

“Except the treasure is a book and the only thing it was buried in was the library’s glitchy loan system.”

“Still—it feels good.”

“The library is closing. Please check out all books at the front desk,” the intercom blared.

Alice and Tony jogged past row after row of dimly lit bookshelves. As they did, Alice slipped the leather-bound book into her bag before she could talk herself out of it. It wasn’t stealing, she told herself. Not really. She would take it home, glance through it, and return it to the shelf within a few days. It was just a quick investigation—albeit a secret one. But really, it had to be secret. Ever since the hotel, Tony couldn’t even watch a card trick without freaking out. If she told him a spellbook might have found her … maybe magically … well, she was doing him a favor by not mentioning it.

She was just being responsible. Really.

***

Tony dropped her off at home half an hour later. Still immensely pleased with his book-finding success, he’d suggested a celebratory dinner, but Alice insisted that she really did need to work on her paper. This was true.

She didn’t mention that she was far more anxious to crack open the book she hadn’t checked out than read the one she had.

The house was so quiet when she walked in that for a second she thought she was the only one home. Usually, the ruckus of her brother’s video games in the living room would be drowned out by the drone of her dad listening to NPR in his office. But the living room was empty and her dad must have stayed late at work because the doors to his office were open and the room was dark. Just the light in the kitchen was on, and it was only on second glance that Alice saw her mother sitting on a barstool, staring blankly at the faucet. Someone hadn’t turned it off completely and water was leaking out one drop at a time.

“Mom?”

Her mom jumped up.

“Oh, hi, honey. I didn’t hear you come in.” She walked around the counter and turned off the faucet. “Were you with Tony tonight?”

“Yeah, we were at the library.”

“Good … that’s good … ” she said absently before lapsing into silence again.

“Um … how was your doctor’s appointment?” Alice asked to alleviate the uncomfortable quiet.

Her mother’s lips twitched upward, then tightened. She abruptly turned her back to Alice and opened the fridge.

“Fine, fine … ” she said, her voice drowned out by the crinkling of plastic bags.

Alice’s worries about her paper were immediately replaced by deeper, more insistent fears. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.

“I can’t hear you, sweetie.”

“What happened?” she repeated. “Is something wrong?”

Her mom emerged from the fridge, holding some celery sticks and a jar of almond butter—her “guilty” snack. Normally she wouldn’t have had the almond butter. (She liked to remind Alice that too many nuts would make a person chub up like a squirrel before hibernation.) Her eyes briefly met Alice’s as she turned to the sink and started to rinse off the celery.

“Oh, just a sad story in the news today.”

Alice’s heart immediately slowed. “See, this is why I never read the news.”

Her mom scrubbed the hollow of the celery stalk with one thin finger. “A single mom just moved into a new house with her two young girls. The girls went swimming unsupervised. The six-year-old drowned.”

Alice’s chest constricted, but she tried to brush it off. “They didn’t know how to swim? Why did they get in the pool?”

“Really, Alice.” Her mom’s voice went snappish. “You of all people should know—these things can happen to anyone.” She grabbed the celery stalks and the jar of almond butter and walked out of the room without another word. Alice heard the bedroom door close.

Alice sat still on the bar stool for a moment. A weak trickle of water was leaking from the faucet; she got up and turned it off.

You of all people.

A final drop of water hit the sink like the tiniest of hammers. Last summer, at the cursed hotel, she had nearly drowned in a swimming pool. Tony had pulled her out just in time.

She could remember all too clearly the press of water in her lungs. Not everyone knew the craving for air—the feeling that your head was being squeezed and squeezed until finally, in the last moments, when you thought you were going to explode … an arm around your waist pulling you up. A hand clapping you on the back, a voice telling you the coughing was okay, telling you to breathe when that was all you wanted to do until the end of time … just breathe.

Tony had saved her life. But the little girl would have felt the tightness, the void in her chest that nothing could fill, until the darkness came slowly in—not a stranger knocking down the door, but a cool-headed thief waiting for the window to fall open. Rushing into the opening, filling the lungs with cold black water … and then darker and darker until there was nothing—no space left.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.” Alice refused to turn into her mother, having panic attacks every time she heard a bit of disturbing news. She took a deep breath, shook her head, and walked slowly up the stairs to her room, pretending she was empty as a balloon floating higher and higher … out of her body, out of everything.

 
 
 
 
 
About Jessica:

 

Jessica Arnold lives (in an apartment) and works
(in a cubicle) in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a master‘s
degree in publishing and writing from Emerson College.
Where you can find Jessica: Website | Twitter
| Facebook
Goodreads

 
 
 
 
 
 
Giveaway Details:

 

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE
LOOKING GLASS & an eGalley of THE LINGERING GRACE. International.

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Two for Thursday with givaway: THE REAPER’S RITE SERIES @DorothyDreyer @Month9Books #T4T

 

Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles! You just might find your next read!
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post! 
This week, #T4T presents to you:
 
Title: My Sister’s Reaper (Reapers Rite #1)
Author: Dorothy Dreyer
Pub. Date: May 29, 2013
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 275
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring
her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.
When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister
Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even
sure she’s completely human, and to top it off, a Reaper is determined to
collect Mara’s soul no matter what. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her
sister’s Reaper, or let Mara die … this time for good
My Tethered Soul (Reaper's Rite #2)
Title: My Tethered Soul (Reaper’s Rite #2)
Author: Dorothy Dreyer
Pub. Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 250
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Months have passed since Zadie faced her sister’s Reaper,
during which time she’s been under her mentor’s magical protection. But now
that she’s turning 17, that protection is about to run out. When dark forces
lure Zadie to wander at night, she’s manipulated into committing unspeakable
acts. With her friends and family at risk, Zadie must try to use her powers to
break free from the Reaper’s grasp, or surrender to the Reaper’s Rite, which
can only lead to death.
 
WHAT READER’S ARE SAYING ABOUT BOTH BOOKS:

“Man, this book… SO AWESOME! The magic, the myths, the romance… I loved it all! I
highly recommend this book, especially if you’re wanting something different in
a supernatural read that also has a splash of romance.” ~ Lili Lost in A Book
“This was a really original and zany novel that was a really fun read. The writing was well
done, and it had a great flow and fast pace that had me flying through the
pages. I highly recommend it to those who love YA paranormal fiction with a
weird and funny twist on things.” ~ A Dream Within A Dream
 
“The story moves fast, and the character development was great. The author had a way of
giving you information about reapers without an overload. I am looking forward
to reading the second book.” ~
Fantasy/Paranormal Books
 
“I highly recommend these books for those of you who enjoy young adult paranormal books.
They are exciting and definitely worth adding to your TBR lists!” ~ Christy’s Cozy Corners

 

Dorothy Dreyer has always believed in magic. Born in Angeles
City, Philippines, to a Filipino mother and American Father, Dorothy grew up a
military brat, living in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Guam, New Jersey, and New
York. She now lives in Frankfurt, Germany, with her husband, two teens, and two
Siberian huskies. Dorothy not only writes books with some element of magic in
them, but has a fondness for reading those kinds of books as well. She also
enjoys movies, chocolate, take-out, and spending time with family and friends.
She’s known to make a pretty sweet cupcake when she has the time. She also
tends to sing sometimes, so keep her away from your Karaoke bars.
Find Dorothy: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
Giveaway Details:

 

3 winners will receive an eBook of MY SISTER’S REAPER &
MY TETHERED SOUL. International!

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Cover Reveal for: Trees of Life: A Coloring Experience By Jenna Lyn Field (+ Giveaway)

Have you seen the newest coloring book by Jenna Lyn Field? It’s so gorgeous, this one might be my favorite!!!

G. Jacks Writes (About Everything)

Trees of Life full spread cover US

Today is the cover reveal for Trees of Life: A Coloring Experience by Jenna Lyn Field. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Trees of Life US cover

Trees of Life: A Coloring Experience

By Jenna Lyn Field

Genre: Coloring book/ non-fiction

Age category: for all ages

Blurb:

Trees of Life is a wonderful coloring experience that will relax your mind and bring peace to your soul. Inspired by life itself and what it means to others, each and every image is an original artwork just begging to be filled with color.

So, since I started coloring in The Time Chamberback in November, I kind of became obsessed with these adult coloring books. I’ve found so many different themes that it kind of feels like a sensory overload. These books are great for relaxing and thinking when it comes to project ideas and they are great to flip through when listening…

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#WO2016 Valentine’s Blog Hop: Q&A with Bethany Morrow & Giveaway

Have you seen this Valentine giveaway yet?

The Candid Cover

Wo2016

Welcome to the second day of #WO2016!  #WO2016 stands for ‘Waiting on 2016.’ This group provides a safe space for writers to chat about their anxieties, share little successes and offer/advice and encouragement to each other as they journey down the publishing road! The group is comprised primarily of YA and NA authors, about 70% of whom are debuts. Yesterday, Vicki Weavil stopped by the blog and today, I am featuring Bethany Morrow! Tomorrow, watch for a special Valentine’s post with Melanie McFarlane! There is also an amazing giveaway at the end of this post, so read on!

Bethany Morrow:

Bethany C MorrowA former expat now living in the American Northeast (with one foot still firmly planted in Quebec), Bethany C Morrow writes speculative literary fiction, drinks Pepsi and loves her boys – one man, one boy and two dogs.

Her debut, The Last Life of Avrilis, is a lyrical YA sci-fi set in a…

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M9B Friday Reveal: TRIUMPH OF CHAOS Cover and Chapter 1 by @Jen_McConnel

 

Whoo hoo! I’m so exited because pub sister Jen McConnel and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for TRIUMPH OF CHAOS the final book in
the Red Magic Series, which releases March 8, 2016! Check out the gorgeous
cover, and don’t forget to enter to win the complete eBook series on the link at the end of the post!!



A quick note from the author:

I can’t tell you how bittersweet it is to see the cover for Triumph of Chaos.
In a few weeks, the Red Magic series will be entirely in your hands, and while
it’s hard to let these characters go, I’m thrilled that you’ll be able to
follow Darlena as her journey culminates in Triumph. The cover is a perfect way
to wrap up this trilogy, and I hope you love it (and the story!) as much as I
do. Red Magic has been a part of my life for five years, and of all the
characters I’ve created, Darlena feels the most familiar, the most real to me.
I can’t wait for the last installment of her story to be out in the world!
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: TRIUMPH OF CHAOS
Author: Jen McConnel
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N| Goodreads
After the disaster in Europe, Darlena’s
starting to get desperate. She knows the only way to defeat Hecate and the
other crazy Red Gods is by banding together with other Witches, but is it any
wonder she has a hard time trusting them?
With Izzy’s support, Darlena begins
making fragile strides toward repairing the mess she made, but she just can’t
catch a break. As chaos runs rampant around her, Darlena begins to think that
things would be better if she’d never become a Red Witch in the first place.
But there’s no way to change the past…is there?

 

The final book in the Red Magic series brings Darlena face to face with impossible odds, and a terrifying choice.

 

Exclusive Excerpt

Chapter one

For months, I thought I’d killed my best friend.

Now I sort of wish I had.

What kind of person does that make me?
Justin had once told me that I’d go crazy if I tried to decide who should live or die, but I kept thinking that if I’d been able to make that kind of choice in the first place, none of this would have happened. If Rochelle had really died on that rooftop last fall, then the world wouldn’t be falling apart, and I wouldn’t be to blame.

Sometimes, it sucks to be a Witch.

I used to scoff at people who preached about the end of the world, but ever since Marcus, I hadn’t been able to laugh off the sandwich-board crazies popping up everywhere. Maybe it would have been funny if I didn’t know the truth.

The world was ending. Or at least it would be if I couldn’t stop it.

Sulking, I followed my parents into our favorite breakfast place. They didn’t seem to notice the group of people standing on the corner holding signs that promised the end was nigh.

“Phew,” Mom said, pulling off her light-blue cardigan. “Summer will be here before we know it!”

A waitress bustled over, handing out menus and smiling at us. “Feels to me like summer’s already started!”

“Weather like this is exactly why people need to pay attention to global warming. I’ll have a sweet tea, and the breakfast special,” my dad added, settling back into his chair without glancing at the menu.

The waitress scribbled on a notepad. “I don’t know about all that, but eighty degrees in March is odd, even for North Carolina!”

Mom nodded, shooting a look in my direction. “We just have to stay cool and try not to think about what July will be like.”

After the waitress had taken our orders and moved on, I leaned forward. “You don’t think this heat has anything to do with … ” I gestured helplessly.

Mom shook her head. “Not something we should talk about here.”

Dad snorted, and I heard him mutter, “Not something we should talk about, period.”

My stomach clenched, and I stared at my hands, trying to pretend I hadn’t heard him. Ever since I got back from Scotland in January, my parents had kept me at arm’s length. Well, not Mom as much, but even she was more reserved than usual. My father seemed to want to pretend that I didn’t exist.

I had thought I’d only been away for a month, but the trip had actually taken over a year. I’d ended up in the Celtic Underworld, and time runs differently in Underworlds; I should have remembered that. While I’d been there, Rochelle had glamoured herself and pretended to be me. My parents said they believed I was who I said I was, but there was an edge to our relationship that hadn’t been there before.

It probably didn’t help that I had participated in what had become the biggest nuclear disaster in the history of the world.

Mom and Dad are both Green Witches, hippie-dippie earth-loving types, and they seemed to take it personally that their daughter had so thoughtlessly damaged the earth. To be fair, I had thought what Marcus and I did could be fixed, but that’s beside the point. My parents seemed to think the fact that I had messed with nuclear power at all was an intentional act of rebellion. It made talking to them nearly impossible, but I kept trying. Whether they liked it or not, I needed their help to fix the mess I’d made of things.

“So,” I began, forcing myself to sound cheerful, “what are you guys going to do this weekend?”

Dad muttered something about saving the world, but Mom shot him a dark look. “I might work in the garden.” She hesitated. “Did you want to help?”

Before I could answer, Dad butted in. “Lena doesn’t exactly have a green thumb.”

His words stung, but he was right—my gift seemed to be destruction, not growth. I tried to shrug it off. “I can help, if you want.”

Mom smiled, and for a moment, I could almost forget about everything that had happened, but by the time the food came, the familiar knot was back in my stomach, and I picked at my pancakes without enthusiasm. It had been hard for me to eat ever since Marcus died.

Marcus had been another Red Witch, like me. He was a little older than me and hard as granite. He’d been trained by his patron, the goddess Cerridwyn, and she had shown him how to use his magic by subjecting him to countless battles and acts of brutality. I’d never known anyone as powerful or frightening, and I had killed him.

Well, not directly. I released this crazy god of chaos, Loki, and Loki was the one who instigated Marcus’s death. But it still felt like the guilt rested solely on my shoulders: if I hadn’t listened to any of the Red gods, maybe Marcus would still be alive, and then I could figure out if I hated him or was in love with him. Yeah, I’m not messed up at all, I thought sourly.

“How’s breakfast?” Mom interrupted my thoughts, staring pointedly at my plate.

I looked down, surprised. I had eaten everything in front of me, and it even looked like I’d licked the plate clean. I didn’t remember taking a single bite. “Um. Good,” I lied. “What about you?”

She shrugged. “The toast was a bit dry, but the omelet was good.”

I nodded, struggling to make small talk. Before I could think of anything else to say, someone cranked up the volume on the TV suspended over the doorway.

“Europe is still in a state of chaos as leaders scramble to secure the countryside of France. Meanwhile, the president is preparing for a visit to Germany to discuss nuclear energy. It is assumed that he will push for stricter safety regulations.” The reporter read the teleprompter with no emotion, clearly unaware of the effect his words were having on my family.

Dad slurped his sweet tea loudly. “I thought you said you were working on it.”

I shrugged, but I felt my hands starting to shake. “I’m trying. There’s not a lot I can do, remember? It’s not my territory.” If I didn’t get a grip on myself, I knew I’d light up like a sparkler in a minute.

“You should have thought of that before.”

“Richard.” My mom’s voice was low with warning. “This is not the place.”

He glared at me. “Fine. But she needs to think about the consequences of her actions.”

I met his gaze, furious. “Believe me. That’s all I’ve been doing lately.” A burst of Red energy crackled on my skin, and I gritted my teeth, pulling the power back inside.

Dad snorted, oblivious, and Mom flagged down the waitress for the bill. When my arms stopped sparking, I stood up and headed for the door. Neither of them asked where I was going, but I didn’t care.

I marched up to the apocalyptic group, still chanting on the corner. “Give me one,” I said, sticking my hand out for a flier.

An older man with gray hair and a sagging chin frowned at me. “There isn’t much time left.” He handed me a flier solemnly. “Repent now, before it’s too late.”

“It’s already too late.” I pretended not to notice the fearful look he shot me as I sat down on the curb, skimming the paper. It was the same old religious drivel, talking about Armageddon and God. According to this group, the only way to escape the coming end times was to give up worldly goods and join them in their quest to spread the truth.

I crumpled the flier in disgust. It had been foolish of me to expect Nons to have a solution, but I couldn’t stop hoping that they might know more than they let on. Evidently, that group didn’t. What am I going to do? Resisting the urge to bury my head in my hands and sob, I slapped the hot pavement underneath me instead. Cracks shot through the sidewalk, like ice, and someone in the little group on the corner shrieked. Good. You should be afraid. I glared at them, and one by one they picked up their signs and crossed the street.

When my parents finally walked by me, I stood without a word and followed them to our Subaru parked at the curb. The seatbelt buckle burned my fingers, but I barely noticed. The heat was miserable, but something about it made me feel powerful, too. I almost laughed at that thought. Powerful and destructive. Red magic was linked to fire, something I’d learned firsthand after meeting Loki. It’s no wonder the hot weather is winding me up. I glanced up at the front seat, wondering if I should tell my parents how close to exploding I’d come that morning, but then I shook my head.

We drove home in silence, even though I knew the storm would have to break sometime.

A few blocks from our house, my phone buzzed insistently in my pocket, and I looked at the screen. My throat clenched. Justin. My ex had been trying to get me to sit down and talk with him ever since I came back, but I hadn’t felt up to it. I didn’t know what to say to him about Loki and Rochelle, and I couldn’t even imagine telling him about Marcus. So, yeah, I met the other Red Witch, and we sort of made out, but now he’s dead, so we can get back to normal, right? Still, talking to him would be a break from not talking to my parents. Anything was better than that.

“Mom,” I leaned forward, tapping her on the shoulder, “could you drop me off at Justin’s house?”

She hesitated, glancing at Dad, but he didn’t act like he’d heard my question. Finally, Mom nodded. “I suppose. But be home in time for dinner.” Her eyes flicked quickly to the rearview mirror, and I heard her unspoken thought: sooner or later, we’d have to deal with all this.

“Thanks.” I hopped out of the car as soon as we pulled up in front of Justin’s house. He only lived a few blocks away from us; I could have just walked over once we got home. But for some reason, now that I’d decided to see him, I couldn’t wait a minute longer.

He was sitting on the sidewalk in front of his house. His shoulders looked a little wider, and maybe his hair was shorter than I remembered, but nothing else about Justin had really changed. He was still the first boy I’d ever loved, and the poor guy had been the recipient of my disastrous attempts at love magic twice. And he’d spent a year with the fake me. My stomach clenched.

I had no idea what had happened between him and Rochelle while I was gone, but I had a feeling whatever it was would be more than I could handle. That was only one of the reasons I had been avoiding him: the whole Marcus situation had been holding me back, too. I tried to push the other Red Witch out of my head when I saw Justin.

He stood up and smiled his heart-melting smile, and just like that, it was like I’d never been gone. Without thinking, I threw my arms around his neck. He embraced me, and it felt good to just stand there, safe in his familiar arms. Tingles raced up my spine, and I shivered in pleasure. It wasn’t the same electric shock I’d gotten whenever I touched Marcus, but I still leaned into his body, enjoying the sensation.

“That’s quite a hello.” He chuckled, letting me go, and I tugged on the bottom of my T-shirt, not meeting his eyes. Maybe I still wasn’t ready to be around him.

I cleared my throat, preparing to tell him everything. “I’ve been gone a long time.”

He nodded. “I know.”

Startled by his serious tone, I looked at him closely. “What do you know?”

Instead of answering, he silently opened the front door. He led me up to his bedroom, and then warded the door behind us. “I know that you were gone for over a year.”

If I had been sitting down, I would have fallen off the chair. Instead, I lowered myself shakily to perch on the corner of his desk. “How long have you known?”

“Lena, come on. Do you really think I can’t tell the difference between the real you and a glamour?”

I blushed, thinking about the glamour Aphrodite had taught me to weave. Justin had been fooled by that for a few days, but there was no way I was going to bring that up. “My parents didn’t know.”

He shrugged. “They probably expect you to be different all the time. We’re teenagers, right?”

I laughed weakly. “So you knew this whole time. But I thought—” I broke off, remembering something Mom had said over the phone while I’d been gone.

“I kept hanging out with her. I mean you. I didn’t know who it was, and I didn’t want to do anything to make your parents suspicious. But nothing happened.” He spread his palms wide. “I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”

So you got back together with the fake me, but you didn’t do anything? I looked at him, wanting desperately to believe what he said. “It was Rochelle.”

He stared at me as if I’d slapped him. “I thought she was dead.”

“So did I. But I didn’t kill her, I guess, and she glamoured herself to look like me to take revenge.” I forced a laugh, trying not to imagine Rochelle making out with Justin. “I’m actually surprised she didn’t hurt you. She’s always hated you, you know.”

His brown eyes were full of concern. “How did you get rid of her?”

“My friend Izzy helped me.” I kept my words short, hoping he wouldn’t ask me any questions about Izzy. Talking about her would lead to talking about Marcus, and I wasn’t sure I could do that yet.

Justin closed his eyes, pressing his fingertips to his forehead in concentration. “How has she gained so much power? Black magic is strong, but this is ridiculous.”

I took a deep a breath. We’d gotten there quicker than I’d hoped, but I couldn’t lie to him. I could never lie to Justin, but that didn’t mean I had to tell him everything. I measured my words carefully. “Another Red died, and Rochelle took his place.”

Justin opened his mouth, and I shook my head.

“It’s complicated. But Rochelle is a Red Witch now.” I took a deep breath. “And it’s even worse than that. While I was gone, I found out what Hecate wants.”

I told Justin what I could, haltingly, doing my best to leave out Marcus while telling him about Hecate’s plan to remake the world. Finally, with shaking hands, I told him about Loki.

“So now the worst of the Red gods is free again, and between him and Hecate, the world could end at any time.” I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to sound matter-of-fact. “Rochelle controls a third of the world, and if you’ve been watching the news, this hasn’t been a good few months for Europe.” I held up my hands helplessly. “I just don’t know how to stop any of it.”

Justin didn’t say anything for a minute. I watched him nervously, waiting for the cold glances and accusations that I’d gotten used to from my parents, but he didn’t tell me I was a monster. He studied me, and then he sat down on his desk chair and reached for my hands. Smoothly, he pulled me into his lap, one arm circling me firmly for support, and I leaned against him, surprised at how easy it was to be so close. “You said your friend Izzy helped you stop Rochelle. So maybe it’s a question of working together.”

I nodded, relieved that he wasn’t asking any questions yet, and I tried to think straight. It wasn’t easy with his breath tickling my ear. “Did you know that there are six types of magic?”

He looked at me as if I’d grown wings. “There’s White, Black, and Green. And of course, Red.” He squeezed me gently when he said that, and my heart began to speed up.

I shook my head, trying to focus. “For some reason, when magic came to America, part of it was left behind. There’s also Blue and Yellow; my friend Izzy is a Blue Witch.”

Justin paused for a moment, digesting what I’d said. “Why wouldn’t they teach us that?” He rested his chin on my shoulder, and I shivered at the contact.

“I don’t know.” I wanted to lose myself in the simple sensation of being pressed against Justin, but finally I leaned away from him, still perched on his knees. “I have a lot of questions, and I don’t know where to start. But the important thing is the six magics. Together, they’re balanced. Green is earth magic, Blue controls water, Yellow is for air, and Red is for fire. And White and Black are the balance of spirit.” I twisted around, watching his face. “If we can balance the paths, maybe all six together is more powerful than any Red Witch.”

“Or the Red gods.” Justin spoke without inflection, and I watched him nervously.

“If we could form a group, a Coven—”

He stood up abruptly, dropping me onto the chair. “What kind of crap did you get into over there?”

I hopped out of the chair, clenching my fists. “It isn’t crap! I met a Coven there, and Izzy and I think that might be our only option.” I could feel the swirl of Red energy pulsing through my hands, but I struggled to control it.

His lips parted in surprise. “Covens are things in horror movies, Darlena! And besides, how could Witches of such different paths work together? It would all turn into chaos.”

“No,” I said tightly. “This is our only chance to stop chaos.”

He shook his head. “Look, I want to help you. You know that.” His eyes searched mine. “But you’ve changed since you came back. I can’t,” he paused, taking a deep breath, “I can’t tell what it is, but it’s as if you’re somebody else.” He stared at me for a long moment. “Maybe I just got used to the way Rochelle felt.”

I reeled as if he’d slapped me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He held up his hands quickly. “You were gone for over a year. I knew that she wasn’t you, but I still spent a lot of time with her. I got used to the way her energy felt. Yours feels—well, it isn’t the way I remember it.”

I glared at him, fighting the urge to kiss him and show him I was exactly the girl he remembered. Instead, I gritted my teeth. “People change. That’s part of life.”

Justin shook his head. “But are you sure you’ve changed for the good?”

 






About Jen:

 

Jen McConnel first began writing poetryas a child.
Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and
journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the
people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).
She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA),
and a proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.
A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina.
She’s a graduate of Western Michigan University, and she also earned her MS in Library Science
at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
When she isn’t crafting worlds offiction, she teaches writing composition at a
community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher,
 a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.
Follow Jen on Twitter @Jen_McConnel, and
visit www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.
Author
Links:  
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


 

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