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The Dragon Kings
The Alpha Dragon Shifter marked me and dropped everything to only pursue me.
He was the new guy at school and was arrogant and cocky and had all the girls falling at his feet.
He always acted differently around me but I couldn't figure out why.
Until one night I ended up alone with him in the movie room at his massive house because my BFF liked his friend.
Out of no where he asked to see the tattoo on my ankle. I had always hid it very well and never let anyone see it.
He gently slid onto the floor and pulled my foot into his lap.
He slowly traced the words with his finger and whispered under his breath. Shivers ran up my spine.
My first instinct is to pull my foot away, but I enjoyed it as much as it tortured me.
I bite my lip and wait for him let go. Instead, he adjusted so that he can see me better, and continued to hold my foot in his lap.
“When did you get this?” he asks.
“Um, about a month ago. But it’s not really a tattoo.”
"What do you mean you know?" I asked, staring deep into those ocean blue eyes.
"Because, I'm the one who gave you the mark. You are mine."
Circus of the Dead
I moved all the way across the country to the Louisiana bayou to join the circus and help my uncle for the summer.
Except there is something not quite right on this swampy cursed island, and after having my fortune told, I can’t leave.
I try to escape, but Benny, an all too charming ghost gangster tries to kill me by feeding me to a tiger.
Thankfully I’m rescued by Samuel, the incredibly hot ringmaster who can’t be a day over twenty. Can he?
In addition to avoiding the human scorpion, staying away from the big cats, and having trouble figuring out who’s dead and who’s alive, I have to find a way to escape this horror show. Will I get out of the circus alive or will I join their army of ghosts and become a murderer myself?
Stella and Sol
A prince from the dark side shows up at my doorstep with one question.
Will I be his bride?
I have many, many reasons to say no.
The prince comes from a land of barbarians.
I will never again see the sun.
It is a certain death sentence.
At first, it seems that I have a choice.
But I discover that if I say no,
Thousands will die.
All of those lives hang on my answer to that one simple question.
Will I say yes or will I say no?
The Thorn Chronicles
I’ve never tried to run away…
Because now, my father wants me to get married.
The deadly cult that had kept me trapped for all these years just got a hundred times worse. I see no way out until one dark night when the impossible happens.
That night, an angel sneaks into me room, kisses me and opens my eyes to a whole new, supernatural power.
Using my newfound power, I fight back and discover that I’m not the only one with a secret….
Sons of the Sand
My brother's last bff was a vampire, and before that it was a warlock, and I have no idea what this guy is, but I want him out of my room...
He looks me up and down, gave me an infuriating smirk, rips off his own shirt....
And tosses it to me.
First Chapter: The Dragon Kings
First Chapter: The Dragon Kings
The sea’s salty air reached
into the hideout and woke Obsidian. Not ready to get up, he stretched his wing,
feeling for Skye. Instead of finding her warmth, he met the grimy cave floor. A
shot of panic zipped from his horns to his tail.
She always woke him before
she got up. Opening his eyes, he searched for her. She sat near the entrance to
the cave, staring over the ocean, the early morning sunlight reflecting off her
She swiveled her neck and
narrowed her eyes. Tears flowed down her ice-blue snout and over her smooth
underbelly, forming a pool between her feet. She unfurled her great wings and
shook her head, splattering teardrops on the walls.
Skye never cried, at least
not in the hundred and sixty-two years they’d been together. Her occasional
tantrums caused entire forests to disappear and caves to collapse, but her
silver eyes always remained dry. Obsidian moved forward to comfort her, longing
to understand why she wept.
Stop, she shrieked in his mind.
Her sorrow became his.
Obsidian took three deep breaths and tried to identify her emotions. He wanted
the easy free flow of feelings they often shared, but he could barely keep his mind
straight with the turmoil.
As royal dragons, they could
feel the emotions of those around them, a gift Obsidian usually appreciated.
Except in situations like this. Now he wished for the gift of the canyon
dragons, who could probe minds.
He forced her feelings away, focusing on peace
and quiet. When he pushed out all her sadness, he continued toward her,
convinced if he were near her, she would calm down.
Silvery blue flames erupted
from her jaw. Obsidian ducked to avoid being singed, his mental block
faltering, and a wave of desolation flooded his body. He shook, and his eyes
watered. He squeezed them shut, fighting again to regain control of his
emotions. He had to put a stop to this.
What’s wrong? he asked and crept closer.
Folding her wings, she moved
her body toward the front of the cave. Her head struck the ceiling, stripping
off the stalactites. Obsidian winced for her. The light disappeared as her body
filled the opening, and smoke engulfed the enclosed space.
Are you upset about last night? Obsidian asked. They’d
argued about the future, a future she thought was in jeopardy.
She didn’t answer. He took
advantage of the darkness and moved to her, running the side of his jaw along
her neck, something that always pleased her. She jerked, and he recoiled, her
Back off. I can’t be near you. Her voice, normally sweet in
his head, was now icy and cold.
Skye, he whispered, trying to understand.
I mean it, Obsidian. Leave me alone.
The distance she created was
unnerving. Curse the rules he had to follow. Once again he wished he had been
born into one of the different dragon races or at a different time. If that had
been the case, their future would be sure. But he’d been born a royal dragon, a
possible heir to the throne, and so far, his life was dictated for him.
We could run away. Find the mountains in South Africa where
the council could never find us. In a few years, the new king will be crowned,
and we’ll come back. Obsidian knew that as soon as the king was chosen, he was
off the hook.
She shook, her wings
rustling and her tail swishing. That
won’t work. Not now. Two days ago we could’ve done that, but not today. You
should go and present yourself to the council.
Becoming human is not urgent. I’ll wait. I can’t stand to see
you like this.
You can’t wait! she roared.
Skye collapsed and heaved
with sobs. Obsidian draped his neck across her, hating the rules he was bound
to. Royal dragons had to go through the human experience before their five
hundredth birthday. He put it off because he treasured the time with Skye.
Plus, he hated his human form. They had to take it on occasionally in their
lessons, but he’d never gone out among the real humans.
You’re going to leave me. We’ll never be bonded, she whimpered.
Obsidian sighed. This was
absurd. I only have to be human for ten
years. Maybe less if I finish everything early. We’ll be bonded as soon as I’m
done. You know this.
She pulled out from
underneath him and spun around. Don’t
make promises you can’t keep, Your Majesty. She spat out the words and
leapt from the ledge of the cave, soaring over the sea. Her silver wings
shimmered in the sunlight, her body still heaving as she flew south.
Obsidian’s entire body tensed. He dug
his claws into the cave floor. He’d never been called Your Majesty. He was a
royal dragon, but he wasn’t the king. He closed his eyes and hurtled into the
biting wind, heading north.
Birds twittered. An airplane passed
high above, and the waves of the ocean crashed below. Obsidian turned inland, heading
for a quieter setting, drifting through the air and landing at the edge of a
The sharp scent of pine stung his
nostrils. He cracked his eyelids a sliver, searching for his reflection. When
he found it, his insides turned cold. His body, a glittering gold for four
centuries, was now a deep coal black.
Obsidian sat on the bank staring at
his new self, disgusted. In the sunlight he could still see some gold, but
mostly he was darker than the night sky. He hated what it meant for him. Skye
left because she understood that in spite of all the plans they made, the
inevitable had come to pass. They would never be together again.
Obsidian’s heart ached. His mate
would now be chosen for him, and Skye would never qualify. He sniffed and watched
the black smoke float above him. His smoke used to be gold. He was glad he
never sealed himself to her because then they both would’ve been killed as soon
as he turned black.
They’d had their silly little
fantasies of what life would be like after he fulfilled his duties. Once one of
his brothers was chosen, most likely Prometheus, he would have finally allowed
himself to be sealed to her. Their children raised by the sea. Now Skye would
never become his mate, because he had
Dragons came in many colors—silver,
gold, red, blue, orange, yellow, brown, and purple. But only one dragon was black.
First Chapter: The Circus of the Dead
First Chapter: The Circus of the Dead
“Can you tell me where I can find Luke Legrange?” I ask.
The girl pops her elbow out. She’s wearing a sports bra and yoga pants, and her body is completely ripped. She looks about my age or maybe a few years older. “Who’s asking?” She has a thick southern accent but speaks much more intelligently than the ferryman on the way over.
“My name is Callie Spruce. He’s my uncle.” I look around at the run-down circus in the middle of a Louisiana swamp island. It’s the last place I wanted to be for the summer. And it looks like the so-called circus is dying a slow death. Which is appropriate, I guess, since it’s called Circus of the Dead.
The girl sizes me up. “I’m Shelley. Follow me. Is he expecting you?”
“Yes. My mom said he wanted me to come help him.”
“Don’t know what Luke would possibly need help with, but come on.” My wet flip-flops squish on the damp earth. I watch my toes, not wanting to run into any more creepy crawlies. On the way over to the island, in a boat I thought for sure would sink to the bottom of the forsaken swamp, a snake fell out of a tree and right onto my head.
An arguing couple goes silent as we pass, glaring at Shelley. As soon as we are out of earshot, she speaks.
“They don’t like me.”
“Because I’m an acrobat. They are clowns.”
Not very good clowns unless their mission in life is to make everyone else as grumpy as they are.
We pass a few more people, all who look tired or crabby. A few say hi to Shelley, but she doesn’t introduce me. Shelley seems close to my age, but all the rest of the people seem much older.
We wind down another muddy path away from the circus and into the swamp. The island seems bigger than I initially thought, and I scan the thick leafy trees for falling snakes. Shelley doesn’t seem bothered by the trees. Maybe she’s not scared of snakes.
We take another turn at a fork in the path, and soon the dirt ends at some wooden planks.
“Be careful,” she says. “Don’t step off the boards, or you’ll fall right in.”
Sure enough, the damp earth on either side of the path has turned to water. A few of the boards are missing, and she deftly skips from one to another. Good thing I have decent balance. I look down and hope I don’t see an alligator. Something stares up at me, but it looks almost human. I shiver and concentrate on my feet. My imagination is running wild.
“Maybe Luke will take one look at me and insist I go back to California.”
“He probably will. Luke don’t like anyone.”
Then why on earth did Mom send me to stay with him? When she put me on a plane this morning, I begged her to reconsider, but she didn’t. “When family needs help, you go, and Uncle Luke needs help.”
I should’ve known that things were about to get worse. I left my phone in the Uber, and the creepy ferryman dropped my backpack—with my laptop—into the swamp. So here I am, on an island in the middle of nowhere, no phone, no laptop, no way to contact anyone back home.
“Believe it or not, that’s the best-case scenario.” Once I meet Luke, and he tells me this is a mistake, I will call Mom or Dad from his phone. I have their numbers memorized since I’ve lost my phone at least three times, either in the water or on the beach. This isn’t my first time having to borrow a phone. Then, they’ll buy me another plane ticket and let me come home and spend the summer surfing the waves with Maddie—my little sister by eleven months and BFF.
“If you say so.”
The trees thin, and several houseboats come into view, all tied tightly to the dock. Shelley stops at a white houseboat at the end with the paint peeling off, and she pounds on the door.
“Luke,” she yells, “you got a visitor.” Shelley gives me a tight smile and takes off back down the docks. I want to yell after her not to leave me here after what she said about Luke, but my voice catches in my throat.
I stand on his rickety front porch. He opens the door, wearing a dirty wife-beater, and has a cigarette hanging off lips that are covered with a dark mustache. He blinks at me.
I swallow my fear. “No, she’s back in California. She told me I had to come and help you. I’m her daughter Callie.”
He tromps across the deck, his dark beady eyes never leaving mine. “You can’t stay here.”
I cover my nose. He smells of sweat and meat, and I can practically taste the rottenness.
“Mom said I had to stay with you for the summer. That you wanted me to come work with you or whatever.” Obviously, Mom didn’t inform Luke I was coming. But that’s crazy. She wouldn’t have done anything like this without discussing it with him first.
He blinks slowly, not saying a word.
I take a step back. “So…do you think…”
He grips my arm and drags me away from the boat. My flip-flops catch on the decking.
“Ow, let go!”
His fingers pinch my biceps, and I stumble along in his wake, my duffle banging against my knees. I jerk my arm out of his grip and stop dead. “I will not be handled like this.”
He drops his cigarette and puts it out with a toe, his furious eyes still staring at me. “We have to get you out of here. Now.”
Luke clenches his jaw and grabs my arm again, pulling me around his boat. Oh heavens, he’s going to make me leave. I get to spend the summer with Maddie on the waves after all.
He glances up at the rapidly setting sun and grunts, but he doesn’t respond. This is impossible. I can’t believe Mom would send me out here without talking to him. But maybe he’s just crazy and forgot that I was coming. Who knows.
Luke yanks on my arm and drags me to a dinghy behind his houseboat.
“Ow, you’re hurting me.” I bump against him, hoping I can break his grip, but he’s holding too tight, and I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. The water sloshes up around the dock, and a pair of shoes floats by. It looks like the legs are still attached, but my eyes must be playing tricks on me.
He shoves me into the dinghy and crawls in after me.
“Sit,” he commands.
The dinghy smells like cat piss, and everything looks wet. I cover my nose, bile rising to my throat, but I don’t say anything. Maybe he’s taking me home. Or at least back to the mainland where I can find a phone and call Mom and ask if she knew her brother was nuts.
My uncle cranks the motor on and rushes through the water. I fall, my knees and hands scraping along the floor. I rock back on my heels, my hands stinging.
“Luke, stop!” I shriek. My life flashes before my eyes for the third time that day. Between the snakes, the gators, and my uncle, I’ll not survive even a day here.
He yanks the boat to the left, and I fly into the side, knocking my head on a metal edge causing stars to flash behind my eyes. The motor makes a weird beeping sound, like a heart machine.
He stops suddenly, and I shoot forward, landing hard on my side.
“Dammit!” Luke yells, pounding the boat. “Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.”
I lay there, scared to move. My shoulder aches, and I touch my forehead, feeling for a bump.
Luke spins the boat around and flies back the other direction. The boat stops abruptly once again and nudges the dock. I’m still lying on the boat floor, not sure what to do. Luke hovers over me, his face promising murder.
He offers his hand. “Get up.”
I take it because I’m terrified of what he’ll do if I don’t, and he pulls me up and drags me onto the front porch of his houseboat. He opens the door and shoves me inside.
“Stay here,” he commands.
I blink at him, utterly confused.
“I mean it. Stay here. You cannot leave this boat. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I lie. What else am I gonna say?
He slams the door shut, and the lock clicks. I brush off my shorts. Both my knees are pink, but overall, I’m okay. I pull my shirt up over my nose and breathe in Mom’s laundry soap because the stench in here is unbearable. Almost like rotten eggs and dog pee. I take a quick glance around. It’s like a hoarder’s house with boxes everywhere and dirty dishes piled high on the counters.
I feel numb. Nothing makes sense.
Luke is obviously off his rocker, and Mom had no idea.
Luke is Mom’s brother, but this place is so far from Mom it’s not even funny. Sure, she is into some hippy dippy stuff, but she is always put together and not a slob at all. Appearances are everything to her. It’s why she put me in dance as a child. I was clumsy as all get out, and Mom couldn’t stand it. I’m grateful now, of course, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to learn to surf. Ballet taught me balance, but at the time, I hated it.
I sink down onto a dirty couch and look around. I have the urge to search out rubber gloves and Clorox.
The bed is tightly made up. It’s the only clean thing in the entire room, but it still probably smells like Luke.
What would Maddie do? She’d make up some story about me being an FBI agent on the hunt for a murder weapon and how I got trapped, but because I’m smart, I can figure out how to get out.
She’s right. I can escape on my own, but I have to wait until I’m certain he is gone or he’ll just throw me back inside. I swallow. The possibility that I am good and truly stuck is all too real.
I close my eyes and count to a hundred. Then, I step over moldy boxes and filthy clothes. I have to get out of here. I’ve read more than one story of what creepy old uncles do to their pretty nieces. I yank on the front door, but it won’t budge, and I can’t find anything that remotely looks like a lock. Crap. He trapped me in here.
I jiggle a few windows, but none of them open except the one my body won’t fit through.
The back of the boat has a wide glass slider. It’s probably locked, too, but I try it anyway. It opens a fraction of an inch. I pull harder, but it won’t slide farther.
A fly buzzes in my face, and I swat at it. It lands on a stick of wood holding the door closed.
I pop out the wood, wrench the door open, and step outside onto a wide porch, immediately assaulted by the heavy, wet air. The boat wobbles a little, and I try not to look down. All I see is open water, and I need to get back onto land. I could climb over the top of the boat. I search for a ladder but settle for a chair. I hoist myself up on the roof and gingerly crawl across it, hoping I don’t fall off and into the gator infested swamp. The front of the roof comes into view, and I give a yelp of victory. I scramble off the edge, down the dock, and head to the dark planked path. I have no flashlight, and I’m certain I’m going to step on something awful, but I keep moving. I have to get out of here.
I come to the fork in the path and take a deep breath. I take the one that looks slightly lighter. As I make my way, the lights get brighter. I’ve taken the right path. A sign with “Circus” on it points down another path. Phew. I head down it, reach the end, and step out of the trees.
Then, I freeze.
The entire circus has transformed.
First Chapter: Stella and Sol
First Chapter: Stella and Sol
High Prince Leo of Stella sat down at the large circular table. It was rare for them to eat breakfast in the dining hall of the castle, but the rest of his twelve siblings arrived last night at the behest of his sister, Candace, who had an announcement. Of course, he knew what the announcement would be, they all did, but he played dumb anyway. This would be the first grandchild for his father, and so it warranted a special breakfast.
Bright yellow lights hung from the ceiling, and the floor glowed white. Light flowed from nearly every surface, as the darkness could be suffocating. Thank the stars for magic. Leo looked around the noisy table. Over the last few years, the number of people around the table had grown. When they were children, there were only twelve of them, plus his father and his father’s wife. Now, couples were starting to emerge. Three of his older siblings were married, and others had steady relationships. At seventeen, Leo had had a relationship or two, but at the moment he was free. Which was a lonely place to be when his favorite sister was about to announce that she was pregnant. Where in the depths were Ari and Sage? They would keep him entertained. But they were always late.
Candace caught his eye, and he smiled at her. She practically glowed. She wore her deep black hair swept up in a twist. He hadn’t seen her wear it down since she got married.
He missed having her around. They were the only two siblings who shared the same mother, and that created a special bond between them. But now Candace was a lower queen and had too many responsibilities to come home often.
A hand thumped him on the shoulder, and his eldest brother, Ari, collapsed into the armchair to Leo’s right. He sat with his leg flung over the armrest, his blue hair hanging in his eyes. To Leo’s left, his sister Sage sat down, flicking her rainbow-colored hair over her shoulder. She had deep purple bloodshot eyes. She yawned and put her head on the table.
“Late night?” Leo asked.
Sage nodded into her arms. “Has she announced that she’s been knocked up yet?”
Ari straightened in his chair and poured himself a glass of juice. “She can’t be knocked up if she’s married.”
“She’s only been married for a month. My guess is she’s a few months along. That’s knocked up,” Sage said, sitting up and rubbing her forehead. “Remind me to never drink again.”
Ari laughed. “You say that every time we go out. The last time I reminded you, you punched me.” He turned his attention to Leo. “How come you didn’t come out with us last night? I sent you a few messages.”
“I turned off my disc. I wanted to spend some time with Candace. She won’t be here long.”
“Right,” said Sage. “You just don’t like to party. Maybe you should go live in Sol.”
Leo snorted into his glass of orange juice. “If I have to live in Sol, you two are coming with me.”
“They’d kick us out so fast. Ugh, what did I do to my hair?” Sage asked, examining the multi-colored locks. She squeezed her eyes shut, and it returned to the brilliant violet she usually rocked. She dug into her pocket, took out a small bottle, and downed it.
Before Leo could ask what it was, Candace stood, and the whole table fell silent, except for Sage, who was giggling. Candace glared at Sage, and Leo squeezed her knee. She covered her mouth and tried to stifle the giggles. The small bottle clinked next to her plate, and he picked it up. The label said “Giggle.”
“That’s not nice,” Leo hissed at her. “Taking this potion right now. You’re going to ruin the announcement.” As the tenth child, Sage got away with more than the rest of them, but sometimes she took things too far. This wasn’t fair to Candace.
“Sorry.” She giggled. “I thought it was Sober. My head is killing me. For what it’s worth, the giggling isn’t helping.”
Candace cleared her throat as the door creaked opened. Every head in the room turned.
An old woman hobbled in. She was large with a pale weather-beaten face, and she wore a bulging tattered coat. An earthy odor emanated from her. She crept slowly to the table and then plucked an apple from a bowl. She took a bite and spit it out, revealing gray teeth.
“Blech, those taste much better in Sol. I need to remember to eat before I come next time.” She looked around the table. Her blue eyes pierced Leo’s, and he shivered.
The entire table sat in shocked silence. No one moved. Leo had heard the stories about the Old Mother who gave horrible prophecies that required someone to make a great sacrifice. He didn’t know anyone who had actually met her. He assumed the rumors were simply scary stories kids told each other.
The old woman cackled and pointed to Candace. Leo’s stomach clenched. Not now. Not her. He pushed his chair back, ready to help Candace if she needed it. He crept around the table and made his way toward her.
“A prophecy I have for you. The vipers grow restless. They long for the blood you deny, and they are changing. If the kingdoms of Stella and Sol are not joined by that child’s first birthday, then he will die,” said the Old Mother.
She stared at each of them in turn, making eye contact. “And he will not be the last. The union must be strong. You must prove to the earth that Stella and Sol will be forever joined, or the vipers will eat you all.”
With a poof and a cloud of dust, she disappeared from their midst. Not a sound was heard in the room except Sage’s giggling.
First Chapter: The Thorn Chronicles
First Chapter: The Thorn Chronicles
The sink propped next to our front door didn’t belong. My mother had it installed after I kept tracking in dirt and fertilizer from my greenhouse. I washed the soil off my hands with the warm water and used a file to clear the dirt out from under my nails. Then I exchanged one filthy pair of ugly tennis shoes for a pair of clean ugly tennis shoes and made my way into the kitchen. Mother didn’t allow a speck of soil from my greenhouse to dirty her home.
Paint on the cabinets peeled in white curls. A single light bulb gave enough light to cook but not enough to read a recipe. My mother stood by the tiny window, her bottle-blonde hair twisted in a bun on the back of her head. She wiped her hands on her apron, then smoothed a stray hair from my braid. I knelt down to tie my shoes, anything to avoid her touch. Physical touch burned, even something as little as a finger brushing my forehead. Mother knew it too.
“Wash your face. We have guests coming for dinner.”
My stomach knotted. I tied and untied my shoes three times, wondering how to respond. Years ago, my father closed our home to visitors. No one crossed our threshold. I was allowed to leave only to go to school and church—well, if you want to call it that. In school, I watched movies, and while I went to the Baptist church until I was eight, our new church was hardly a church.
“Why?” I asked and waited for the slap and a lecture. I’d been slapped so many times that I was all but immune to the pain. My curiosity overrode my memory of the last question I asked. Grandma died, and I wanted to know why I couldn’t go to the funeral.
Mother smiled like she was hiding something important. This was not good at all.
“For your birthday. They’re friends of your father’s from church. We have a big surprise for you.”
Of course. Friends of my father. Nothing happened in our house unless he was the center of attention, even on my birthday. At least they remembered. The surprise concerned me though, as the last surprise was a drastic lifestyle change complete with long denim skirts and strict obedience. Oh, and no more birthdays. For eight years, I was only able to mark the passing year by checking the calendar.
Until now, apparently. Maybe the surprise would be that my father finally found his sanity. That would be an amazing birthday present, but I doubted I’d get that lucky.
Dinner took place in the dining room. The cheap chandelier struggled to fill the room with light, as two of the bulbs were out, and nobody bothered to replace them. Our mysterious dinner guests turned out to be familiar. And not the good kind of familiar, either.
Dwayne Yerdin sat at the table. He was a senior but ended up in quite a few of my classes even though he was two years older. I probably shouldn’t judge him. But with his heavy-lidded, half-closed eyes, buzzed head, and classic bully laugh, I disliked him the moment I met him three years ago. Seated next to him was a pudgy man in a suit. He wore a tie, but his neck was too thick to fasten the top button. He had the same heavy-lidded eyes as Dwayne.
My father nodded to me as I waited in the doorway.
“Naomi, it’s about time. Come and meet Dwayne and his father. They go to church with us. Here, sit.”
My father indicated the chair next to Dwayne, but I sat across from him instead. My head hummed with the act of disobedience, and the air smelled faintly of wisteria. I almost smiled. Irritation passed over my father’s face, but he didn’t say anything. Next to my father, the pudgy man stared at me with piercing gray eyes. My father ran a hand through his thick blonde hair and introduced me to our guests. I dropped my eyes and murmured, “hello.”
My mother served us pot roast and baked potatoes. She piled every plate high but hers and mine. Hunger kept me humble. And skinny. I focused on my food most of the dinner, not wanting to meet Mr. Yerdin’s gaze. Or Dwayne’s. His eyes shifted rapidly around the room as if searching for the nearest exit. His eyes met mine, and he smirked, like he knew something I didn’t.
My father and Mr. Yerdin talked of politics and religion, not once acknowledging that anyone else sat at the table. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised since more than one sermon had been preached about the place of women and children. We were inferior and didn’t deserve an opinion that differed from our husbands’ or fathers’, so it was best we didn’t say anything at all.
As the conversation shifted to the complicated surgery Father had to perform on a dog that was dumped in our yard—he was a veterinarian—I tried to think of what I would get if I crossed an Iceberg rose with a Sunsprite. A nice pale yellow and only a few thorns. Could be interesting. If Grandma were still alive, she’d appreciate it.
A quick glance at the clock told me they’d only been here forty-five minutes, but it felt like days. After another excruciating hour, Mother presented the cake. The carrot cake—my father’s favorite—had sixteen candles on it. I had not had a cake with candles since my eighth birthday. On that day, the cake was chocolate, my favorite.
I missed those days, the ones before my father went crazy. When he would come home and take me canoeing and fishing. When we would wake up early on Saturdays and go to breakfast at Sheila’s Café. I blinked back tears.
After the cake, I moved to help my mother clean up, but Father put a hand on my wrist. The skin burned where he touched it.
“See,” my father said, “she’s obedient.”
Mr. Yerdin grinned. “Yes, of course she is. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Dr. Aren. Dwayne, what do you think?”
Dwayne shrugged and shifted his eyes. I kept my mouth shut and listened.
Mr. Yerdin eyed me up and down. “Well, she certainly has the required blonde hair and pale skin.”
“And she’s a virgin.” My father spoke this a little too loudly, and I flinched. My mother paused before picking up Mr. Yerdin’s plate. She met my father’s eyes and nodded. Then the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly.
My chest tightened at the thought of what my birthday surprise would be. Although part of me wanted to escape back into the quiet world of flowers and dirt, another part of me needed to know what my future would hold, why being a virgin was important.
I cleared my throat. Dwayne smiled a wide, toothy smile, and my father glowered like I’d done something wrong. Which I had, but it would be worth the punishment if I got the answers I needed.
“Could someone please explain?” There. I asked the question, so out of character for me, and yet, satisfying in a strange way. I bit my bottom lip and tasted butterscotch, which was weird because the cake we ate contained nothing of the sort.
I took a sip of my water. Asking questions was not an act of disobedience, but I recognized the power in asking. I was taking control, even if that control was small.
Father hesitated for a moment and then frowned. He glanced up and saw my mother standing in the kitchen, her eyes boring into his. He answered me, his eyes never leaving hers.
“You’ll be marrying Dwayne.”
First Chapter: Sons of the Sand
First Chapter: Sons of the Sand
Ty was going to die. I would see to it. This was my last day in Egypt, and I still hadn’t bought a single souvenir. In fact, we spent most of spring break on a boat or at the beach. Not that there was anything wrong with the beach. The Red Sea was gorgeous, but I was in freaking Egypt, and we’d spent only one day checking out the pyramids. One. And now Ty was MIA with a note that told me to catch a cab to the market and buy my junk. His word, not mine.
I flopped onto the very hard mattress. This was so unlike Ty. He rarely left me to my own devices. Certainly not in a foreign country that had scored number one in sexual harassment rates. And pepper spray was illegal.
Where on earth did he go?
I shouldn’t be upset that he wanted to go out on his own. It’s bad enough that my twenty-two year-old brother had to take care of me when he should be in college having the time of his life. He became my caretaker when my parents were murdered and we were sent to live with Gran.
It wasn’t fair to him. I’d tried to tell him I could take care of myself, but he said sixteen was too young. I had Gran, but he said that didn’t count because she couldn’t really take care of me. Maybe he’d have to come up with a different argument when I turned seventeen. Lots of seventeen-year-olds take care of themselves, right?
I rolled over onto my side. Somehow, living alone with Gran scared me less than being alone in Egypt. Bravery wasn’t my strong suit. Well, I could be brave, but only when I had help. Going out by myself wasn’t something I did. Ever.
I always had my wing-woman, Nora, with me. Or Kole. Or Penny and Scarlett. I never had to be alone.
Knowing Ty, he was probably at a business meeting of some kind. He took his job very seriously. As serious as a diving videographer could. Regardless, he had meetings all the stinking time. I snuck into one once. What a snoozer. They talked about figures and percentages. It was altogether too much math for me.
I opened the curtains and stepped onto the dusty balcony. Below me, cars wove in and out of one another like a school of fish, and the drivers laid on the horns. A lone man in a long gray dress, or galabaya as they call them here, strolled through the chaos. I held my breath for him. He was unsteady on his feet, and the cars brushed by him. He stumbled as a truck piled high with mattresses passed him. He got to the other side and I let out a breath.
I might head to the market today, but there was no way in hades I was about to cross a street. Part of me loved the craziness of Egypt, but I also longed for the logic and calm of my home in Michigan. Well, most of the time anyway. Logic went out the window during the Coast Guard Festival.
I watched the man for a little bit longer. His reward on the other side of the street was a cart with hundreds of oranges. He poked and prodded them and finally plucked out one that fit perfectly in his hand. He glanced over to the woman who ran the fruit stand. She was arguing with another man. I had no idea what was being said, but it involved a lot of hand gestures.
The man who crossed the road tucked the orange into a pocket and waddled on down the street. I smirked. That man had a death wish as the woman who ran the fruit stand was now beating the other man with a reed.
I strolled back inside and steeled myself. I could go out on my own. Be brave.
I couldn’t do this. After a death-defying cab ride to Khan el-Khalili, the market, the swarm of people terrified me. I spoke no Arabic and was a lone girl. One of the only ones without my head covered. This was going to be a disaster.
I imagined what I would do if my BFF Nora were here with me. We’d get back into the cab and go home. Scratch that. Maybe Scarlett. She’d take one look at the group of people and order her driver to haul her to the nearest mall. Maybe not Scarlett. Penny then. Scarlett’s twin. She’d grab my hand and plunge right into the crowd, and she usually had good judgment. She wouldn’t let this intimidate her. Okay, channeling Penny.
I took two steps forward, falling in with the crowd. So far so good. The cars behind me still honked, and the crowd around me buzzed with various Arabic phrases. Body odor hung heavy in the air, but it disappeared when I hit the spice market, and my fear dissipated.
The crowd had dispersed some, and the air was rich with spices. I hurried down the alley, excited for the first time since I woke up and discovered Ty was gone.
I felt like I’d stepped back in time a thousand years. Men and women wore traditional dress, and the spices lay piled into cones on top of large barrels. Colorful lamps hung from the cloth ceilings. Small alleys opened to more small alleys. Every kind of merchandise could be found—from brightly colored cloth to cell phones.
I drained nearly my entire spending allowance, mostly buying magnets and other trinkets. I had no clue where I was in the market, but I didn’t care. As unsafe as I had felt this morning, I was fine now. I still wished Nora had been with me. She would’ve loved it. I took a few pictures and sent them to her.
Some boys at the coffee shop catcalled me, but I couldn’t understand a word they said, so it didn’t feel as ominous as it probably should have. Bravery felt good. I should do this more often. As I wandered the shops, I wondered where else I should channel Penny and take the plunge. Maybe I should stand up to my boyfriend more often or do things that prove to Ty I was responsible.
I ducked into a small shop with ancient trinkets and was drawn to the back to shelves that held hundreds of glass bottles of every shape and size. I crouched down to the bottom shelf to examine what looked like perfume bottles. They might be good for my friends.
I picked up a pretty green one and held it up to the light. A smoke-like substance swirled within, giving an almost magical appearance. It would be perfect for Nora. I could probably get some for Scarlett and Penny too.
“How much?” I asked the wizened old shop keeper in a faded blue galabaya.
“For you, beautiful lady. Five pounds.” Fifty cents? How many were there? I could sell them in our booth back home where Gran and I sold stained glass window ornaments. These bottles were worth far more than fifty cents each.
I could only find ten bottles total. They were all different colors. My favorite was a midnight blue one with a sparkling fog. It was as if someone bottled the night sky. I wanted to open one, just to see what would happen, but I was afraid the man would get mad at me.
Loaded down with my purchases, I wove my way through the throngs of people and flagged down a cab.
I’d done it.
But I was still going to kill Ty for leaving me alone.
Books Included in the Bundle:
- The Dragon Kings Books (5 Books)
- The Dragon Kings Chronicles (25 Books)
- Circus of the Dead (4 Books)
- Circus of the Dead Chronicles (10 Books)
- Stella and Sol (4 Books)
- The Thorn Chronicles (4 Books)
- Sons of the Sand (4 Books)