Posted in #magic, Adventure, Cover design, Cover Reveal, New, New Release, Sci Fi, Young Adult

Bandits

Title: Wasteland Series
Author: LM Preston
Genre: YA / Scifi / Fantasy
Publisher: Phenomenal One Press
Editor: Cindy Davis
Cover Designer: We’ve Got You Covered

https://giphy.com/embed/l0IyhVFaovgoq6X4I

Blurb:
Daniel’s father has gotten himself killed and left another mess for Daniel to clean up. To save his world from destruction, he must fight off his father’s killers while discovering a way to save his world. He wants to go it alone, but his cousin and his best friend’s sister, Jade insists on tagging along. Jade is off limits to him, but she insists on changing his mind. He hasn’t decided if loving her is worth the beating he’ll get from her brother in order to have her. Retrieving the treasure is his only choice. But in order to get it, Daniel must choose to either walk in his father’s footsteps or to re-invent himself into the one to save his world.

Blurb:
There’s nothing left for Daniel to fight for, except his father’s honor, on the brutal prison planet which holds his brother. This time, he’s going to do things right. He’ll turn his training as a famed Zukar thief into something his father will be proud of. The only thing holding him back is the loss of Jade’s love, the only girl who had the guts to put him in his place. And just one prison Warden who believes he has the power to keep Daniel away.
LM. Preston was born in Washington, DC.  She loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl.  A Techie and Educator for over sixteen years, she started writing science fiction under the encouragement of her husband who was a Sci-Fi buff and her four kids.  She has an obsessive desire to write and create stories of young people who overcome unbelievable odds.  She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing. In addition to being an author, she’s also a Moderator for Yalitchat in 2011, 2012 Vice President of Mid Atlantic Book Association and 2012 co-chair for the Maryland Writer’s Conference.
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https://giphy.com/embed/3oKIPxPbkuzHfm0RCU

Daniel turned his angry gaze on his younger brother. Nickel’s gray eyes filled with concern on his rounded face as he shook his head at his brother’s stupidity. He gestured in their coded sign language. “No, too many.”
Daniel’s mouth thinned. He raised his free hand to motion for his brother to stay put, and crept slowly along the wall leading to the front room. Whispered arguments had elevated into shouting. More laser fire went off, and a smoke bomb followed, filling the long hallway with thick smoke before Daniel could make his way down. Daniel held his breath and fought his way through. His eyes burned, and his lungs fought to breathe. He narrowed his eyes and felt around in front of him. With his gun at the ready, he frantically searched for his father in the dull, smoke-filled room.
“Humph! The bastards ran.”
Coughs sounded behind him. Daniel knew his brother and cousin were not far behind. The roar of an engine lit the night. He ran toward the front door to pursue the men who fled, but he tripped forward, stumbling over a firm body. He used his free hand to brace himself before falling face first on the floor. The smoke started to dissipate out of the opened door and Daniel didn’t have to look at the body to see whose it was. The punch of dread hit him dead in his chest when he pushed himself back off the slightly rounded stomach of his father’s large form.
Daniel held back a sob and swallowed. “Keep Nickel back! Keep ‘em back,” he yelled. He sat back on his knees and forced his angry eyes to land on his father.
“No!  Damn! Who-did-this?” His lips formed a scowl. Tears from the smoke and his grief fell slowly. Balling his fist, he punched down on his bent knees as grief and desolation caved in on him. Anger at his father – even dislike -didn’t take away the fact that he loved the old man and wanted him there with them. “Arghhhhhh!” His fist tightened, “I never wanted this. I’ll kill them. Why didn’t you just yell for help? I would’ve saved you,” his voice cracked. He raised his fists and pushed them against his eyes to stop his tears.

  

Posted in Dystopian, New, New Release, Series, Young Adult

Rogue

Title: Rogue
Author: Jaci Wheeler
Genre: YA Dystopian
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
I’ve spent my whole life training to be in the Elite Squad, and I left it all behind without a second thought. I don’t fail. My father made sure that it wasn’t in my D.N.A. to fail. So, I will take him down. I will make him pay for his lies and deceit…but first I will get my son back, or die trying.

“Will I be able to expose Edward and the Academy? Will I be able to turn to the one person I’ve always trusted or after working in the darkness so long, is Van just as twisted as my father?
This is book two and conclusion to the Academy Series.
I have been married to my very supportive husband for 8 years and we have two amazing Autistic kids!I always dreamed of being a writer, but life got in the way. Going through my kids different therapies and special schools and one meeting after the next I needed a way to get away from it all and find my perfect Utopia! This is how the United Series was born. Writing has always been cathartic to me. Who wouldn’t want to leave their world for a while and step into a new one? I have so many stories and characters just waiting to find a place on your shelf! I’m hoping to come out with a few more Trilogies very soon. For Updates and information please go to my webpage at www.jaciwheeler.com

Author Links:
Buy Links:
Operation Child Soldier: http://amzn.to/2t3t2Wh

Posted in Mystery, New, New Release, Romance, Young Adult

Sunder

Title: Sunder
Author: Tara Brown
Genre: YA Romance
Blurb:
Every town has its secrets. Secrets that hold it, and the people who live there, together.
When Liv Daniels moves to Wolfville, Maine with her father, she discovers the small town has more than its fair share.
But the quaint, coastal townsfolk aren’t the only ones with secrets.
Liv has one too.
Hers is buried deep inside of her, where even she doesn’t know it exists.
But someone does, and he’s not going to give up until he breaks it free from her.
But how do you free someone from a secret they don’t know they have?
What do you do when the person you’re supposed to destroy becomes the one thing you can’t live without?
Don’t miss this suspenseful standalone YA romance!
I believe growing up in a really small town gives a person a little advantage when it comes to the imagination. You need one or you go mad.
Needless to say, mine saved me. After it got me into trouble first, that is. That’s the problem with a vivid imagination, all the lies you tell.
I am happily married with two daughters.
I have two giant dogs, two savage cats, and a penchant for a glass of red.
Also, I drag my bread through the sauce. I can’t help myself, bread is life.
According to my age, I am meant to be a responsible adult, but it isn’t going well at all. I would still head off to Hogwarts tomorrow and I suspect there isn’t a single wardrobe I haven’t crept into, hoping to find the door to Narnia. And don’t even get me started on the King’s Road, I get lost.
Fortunately, I am an international bestseller so I have wormed my way into a quirky or eccentric category.
Thank God for that.
I am represented by Natalie Lakosil from the Bradford Literary Agency and am published traditionally with Montlake Romance.
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Posted in Coloring Book, Fantasy, Young Adult

The Crossroads Coloring Book

Title: Crossroads Saga
Author: Mary Ting
Genre: YA Fantasy
Illustrated by: Arnild C. Aldepolla
Blurb:
* * * READERS FAVORITE GOLD AWARD WINNER 2012–YOUNG ADULT * * *
***Based on a dream the author had in high school-chapter 1 & 2***
Protecting her from the Fallen was his duty. Falling in love was never part of his plan. Loving her was forbidden. Being with her was all that mattered, even if it meant he would be exiled for all eternity. Claudia Emerson’s life is about to change when her good friend, who coincidentally shares the same first and last name, dies in a tragic accident. Distraught at the loss of her friend, Claudia’s dreams become tumultuous, and through them she mysteriously travels to another world called Crossroads. There, she unexpectedly meets Michael, a nephilim–half angel, half human. Now that she’s been there, Fallen and demons are after her, suspecting she must be special, and it is up to Michael and the other nephilim to protect her. Her dream becomes a nightmare as more secrets are revealed about who she really is, and the true identities of the people she loves most. Between (Book 2) Beyond (Book 3) Eternity (Book 4) Halo City (Novella Michael’s Journey) Spin-off The Angel Knights (Prequel) The Chosen Knights (Book 1) The Blessed Knights (Book 2) The Sacred Knights (Book 3) Other YA books. From Gods From Deities From Origins From Titans
Mary Ting resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/2uAldba


Posted in Dystopian, New, Thriller, Young Adult

Ultraxenopia


Title: Ultraxenopia
Author: M.A. Phipps
Genre: YA Dystopian Thriller
Cover Designer: Nathalia Suellen
Editor: Catherine Stovall (CLS Editing)
Expected Release Date: Aug. 1st, 2017

Blurb:
Don’t stand out. Blend in. Remain invisible. Those are the rules I lived by—the rules I thought would keep me alive.

I was wrong.

Wynter Reeves is a law-abiding citizen of the State, a willing conformist whose daily life is haunted by terrorism and oppression. With the constant threat of death hanging over her like a shadow, she forces herself to live by a strict set of rules, all in the hope of ensuring she is never noticed. However, on her twenty-first birthday, as she prepares to take the placement exam that will determine her future within society, she begins to show symptoms of a rare and debilitating illness—ultimately attracting the attention of the State. Taken into the custody of the feared research facility known as the DSD, her worst nightmare becomes reality.

Ripped away from the life she knew, Wynter is forced to become the test subject of the mysterious Dr. Richter. Through him, she learns the true and terrifying nature of her condition: a disease called Ultraxenopia.

Release Party:

M. A. PHIPPS is an American author who resides near the ocean in picturesque Cornwall with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction. When she isn’t writing, you can find her counting down the days until the new season of Game of Thrones.




 
Author Links:

 

 

 

“This isn’t how it looks,” I stammer.
A sarcastic laugh explodes from his lungs, echoing through the otherwise soundless bar.
“Really? Because, from where I’m standing, it looks like you’re one of them.”
“I’m not.” The words sound weak and unconvincing.
He pushes the barrel of the gun against my temple, and our faces are so close now that I can feel his heated breath against my lips.
“Why should I believe you?” he growls.
I tense my jaw, spitting my next words through clenched teeth. “If I was one of them, they would already be here,” I hiss back.
The State doesn’t play games. He must know that better than anyone. They wouldn’t waste time sending in a single person when they could more efficiently get the job done by sending a whole team. If I was one of them, the Enforcers would already be here. The State wouldn’t bother with this game of charades.
His expression doesn’t change, but I can see his true reaction in his gaze—the doubt that appears there. He seems to grasp that what I’ve said makes sense, but at the same time, can’t wrap his head around any other reason why I’d be here.
He wavers, and I can feel his uncertainty in the way the point of his gun wobbles against my skin. His eyes remain fixed on mine, making my heart race even faster. I only glance away when I notice a movement to my right. Looking up, I see another man now standing beside us.
“We can’t take any chances,” the man grumbles before spitting on the floor in front of me. “We should kill her to be sure.”
A deep-rooted panic washes over me, the fear like a smoldering and inextinguishable ember. Despite everything I’ve seen, I still have my doubts as to what’s really happening, and I can’t help worrying that this won’t end well. How can it? I won’t even be given the chance to defend myself.
He presses the gun even harder against my forehead, causing me to suck in a sharp breath. Our eyes lock once again.
“How do you know my name?”
I stare at him, trying to figure out the best way to answer his question. His hazel eyes are probing, but I find myself losing focus on his expression. His face has gone hazy, the bar even darker. The nausea from before returns with a vengeance, consuming my entire body and pressing down on me with a force that threatens to pin me to the floor.
I sway, lightheaded.
A strange trickling resonates around us, the sound deafening in the hushed bar. At first, I think I’m imagining it, but then I see the alarming change in his face.
His eyebrows pull together as he looks down, and suddenly, he’s taking a reflexive step back. I follow his gaze once more, my own vision doubling as I take in the tremendous pool of red that seems to surround me.
I watch the blood as it drips from my open wrist, the bandage soaked through and unravelling from its hiding place in the no longer white sleeve.
His eyes snap back to mine, and my every movement feels delayed as I glance up to meet them. The moment I do, the images from my vision flash through my thoughts, reminding me why I’m here.
I see his face. His hazel eyes.
I see his tears.
“I’m sorry, Wynter.”
Any and all light that the bar possessed vanishes in an instant, and the pain I had managed to forget hits me all at once. I gaze at him, concentrating on his face as much as my increasing blood loss will allow. Focusing on his eyes, which continue to stare back at me.
My lips pull into a smile as the darkness rushes to overcome me.
“I saw you,” I breathe.

 









 

Posted in Horror, New, New Release, Young Adult

HER

Title: HER
Genre: YA Horror, Short Story
Publisher: OfTomes Publishing
Cover Art by:  Gwenn Danae
Cover Text by: Eight Little Pages
Expected Release Date: Sept. 19th, 2017

Blurb: 
Kemper Academy is over a hundred years old, but it has only recently reopened after a series of murders and stories of hauntings shut it down. Avlynn, a new student, refuses to let the rumors scare her, chalking them up to a bit of friendly freshman hazing. But when night falls and screams draw her from her room, she finds the truth is much more horrifying than any ghost story. 
Danielle Rose holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. Currently residing in the Midwest, where she spends her days dreaming of warmer temperatures, when she’s not writing, she enjoys pretending she lives in California, spending an embarrassing amount of time at Hobby Lobby, and binge-watching Netflix. Visit Danielle on the Web: www.Danielle-Rose.com.

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Posted in Dystopian, New, Romance, Young Adult

Rogue

Title: Rogue
Author: Jaci Wheeler
Genre: YA Dystopian
Expected Release Date: July 23rd, 2017

Blurb:
I’ve spent my whole life training to be in the Elite Squad, and I left it all behind without a second thought. I don’t fail. My father made sure that it wasn’t in my D.N.A. to fail. So, I will take him down. I will make him pay for his lies and deceit…but first I will get my son back, or die trying.

“Will I be able to expose Edward and the Academy? Will I be able to turn to the one person I’ve always trusted or after working in the darkness so long, is Van just as twisted as my father?
This is book two and conclusion to the Academy Series.
I have been married to my very supportive husband for 8 years and we have two amazing Autistic kids!I always dreamed of being a writer, but life got in the way. Going through my kids different therapies and special schools and one meeting after the next I needed a way to get away from it all and find my perfect Utopia! This is how the United Series was born. Writing has always been cathartic to me. Who wouldn’t want to leave their world for a while and step into a new one? I have so many stories and characters just waiting to find a place on your shelf! I’m hoping to come out with a few more Trilogies very soon. For Updates and information please go to my webpage at www.jaciwheeler.com

Author Links:
Buy Links:
Operation Child Soldier: http://amzn.to/2t3t2Wh
Rogue (Pre-Order): http://amzn.to/2rZBjuA

 

Posted in Book Covers, Cover design, Cover Reveal, Dystopian, New, Young Adult

Cover Reveal – Rogue

Title: Rogue
Author: Jaci Wheeler
Genre: YA Dystopian
Expected Release Date: July 23rd, 2017
Blurb:
I’ve spent my whole life training to be in the Elite Squad, and I left it all behind without a second thought. I don’t fail. My father made sure that it wasn’t in my D.N.A. to fail. So, I will take him down. I will make him pay for his lies and deceit…but first I will get my son back, or die trying.
“Will I be able to expose Edward and the Academy? Will I be able to turn to the one person I’ve always trusted or after working in the darkness so long, is Van just as twisted as my father?
This is book two and conclusion to the Academy Series.
I have been married to my very supportive husband for 8 years and we have two amazing Autistic kids!I always dreamed of being a writer, but life got in the way. Going through my kids different therapies and special schools and one meeting after the next I needed a way to get away from it all and find my perfect Utopia! This is how the United Series was born. Writing has always been cathartic to me. Who wouldn’t want to leave their world for a while and step into a new one? I have so many stories and characters just waiting to find a place on your shelf! I’m hoping to come out with a few more Trilogies very soon. For Updates and information please go to my webpage at www.jaciwheeler.com

Author Links:
Buy Links:
Operation Child Soldier: http://amzn.to/2t3t2Wh
Rogue (Pre-Order): http://amzn.to/2rZBjuA

Posted in Fairytale, Fantasy, Folklore, New, New Release, Young Adult

Rise of the Sea Witch

Title: Rise of the Sea Witch
Author: Stacey Rourke
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Fairy Tale and Folklore
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Blurb: 
Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege.  
Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people.   
When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.
Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips–Triton.
Release Party:
RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013 
Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Adapted for Film. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. 
Visit her at www.staceyrourke.com
or on Twitter or instagram at Rourkewrites.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1OJcVNO

Buy Link:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2th8hTW
Prologue
I admit that in the past I was a princess. They weren’t kidding when they called me … well, a spoiled twit.” Tentacles rolling and churning beneath me, I turn to the newest member of my little garden with effortless grace. Arms thrown out wide, I grant the shriveled polyp a beguiling smile. Those around him tremble in fear, pulling as far away from him as their roots deep within the ocean floor will allow. “Through rather unfortunate circumstances it became mandatory I mend my ways. And, yes, some of the techniques I employed earned me the title of villain.”
“Never, my Queen,” Floteson murmurs. Coiling around my upper arm, he drapes himself across my shoulder.
Jetteson’s oily scales lovingly brush my cheek. “Every one of them was deserving of your wrath.”
Shoulders curling in, I pucker my lips which are freshly glossed by a crimson sea-flower and tenderly scratch each of them under their chins. “How horrible can I be to be so adored by such sweet babies?”
“She shows us nothing but love,” my darling zebra sharks chorus.
Their unwavering dedication soothes me, allowing me to expel a calming breath that bubbles in a wreath around my face.
“I am not the horrible beast many think me to be. Yet I feel it is your own misconceptions that brought you here, and led to … well, you know.” Floating passed my ornate vanity mirror, which seems out of place in the dreary cave I call home, I suck in my cheeks. Turning my head one way and then the other, I inspect my reflection. A smug smile curls the corners of my lips. The woman staring back at me is positively voluptuous with power, mayhem swirling within her clay-gray eyes. “Undoubtedly, you’ve heard rumors of my banishment.”
Hitching one eyebrow at my newly planted polyp, I watch him squirm under the weight of my attention.
“Do you even know my true given name, I wonder? Before hateful whisperings from the farthest reaches of the Seven Seas dubbed me The Sea Witch, I went by another name: Princess Vanessa of Atlantica. I harbored dreams of bringing peace and happiness to the kingdom … as their noble queen.”
Jabbing my hands on to my ample hips, I turn in a swirl of black and purple. “I’m not sure if that pitiful pout is caused by your deep longing to hear more, or if you’re mourning the loss of your shriveled limbs. But,” with a theatrical roll of my wrist, I snap my fingers—my cauldron sparks to life, an ethereal green glow simmering from within, “I choose to think the former because it’s about me … and all of my favorite things are.
“It would be predictable for me to say it all began with the death of my mother. Predictable and false.”
Water rushes beneath me with one mighty flap of all my tentacles. The power of the act propels me over to my alchemy shelves, where my fingers flick over the exposed vials. Some days I seek to terrorize my captives, calling out each ingredient or dangling it over their heads before tossing it into my brew.
Tongue of porpoise.
Eye of cuttlefish.
Shell of sea turtle.
I won’t lie and say watching their complexions green and bug eyes bulge isn’t a guilty pleasure of mine. For the moment, however, a wave of generosity—brought on by the mention of my mother—prompts me to toss them in without my usual theatrics. Each is received into the cauldron’s wide-mouth drum with a puff of smoke and spray of sparks.
“As much as I loved my mother, losing her didn’t drive me to madness as some would have you believe.” Hearing the melancholy in my tone, I bristle. “Far from it, in fact. I would have subjected myself to an abysmal existence of the mundane in honor of her memory. No, it was after the black flags of mourning had been strung through the kingdom, after the spectacle of her funeral procession had passed, that my descent began.”
Throwing one final ingredient into the cauldron, a veil of greasy smoke wafts from its rim. Images begin to form within the haze: the king’s regal quarters, and a formidable frame seated in a high-backed chair behind a massive stone desk.
Crouching down, I position myself eye level with the miniscule scene unfolding. My tentacles coil into tight knots beneath me. “This was the night … the night when I was touched by magic for the very first time … and loathed it to my very core.”
Within the ghostly image, the curtain to the king’s quarters is pushed open. A heavy set nursemaid with stripes of gray in the messy twist of her bun swims in. On one hip she balances a cherub-faced baby that’s only two months shy of his second birthday. Blond ringlets halo his head. Both his eyes and cheeks are ruddy from crying. The frazzled servant’s other hand clings to that of a raven-haired princess who rubs at her tired, violet eyes with a chubby, toddler fist.
“If you aren’t following along yet, that princess is me,” I explain to my captive audience. “The maid softly shushing my younger self is Loriana. Oh, how dear she was to me. She was a servant in the castle, tasked with tending to my brother and I. That little sunset orange tail poking out from behind her belongs to her son, Alastor. He was Triton’s best friend and would become much more than that to me …”
“Sire,” respectfully bowing her head, Loriana readjusted her hold on Prince Triton, “I hate to interrupt.”
My father, King Poseidon, pushed his chair back from the desk in a swirl of water and sand, and rose in greeting. To the rest of the kingdom, he was known as simply the supreme ruler of Atlantica. To me, and my juvenile ignorance, he was the God of the Sea who towered over us all. I envisioned all of his enemies, and anyone that ever wished me harm, falling to their knees and trembling before his commanding presence. His hair and thick beard were the red of Precious Coral. Muscle rippled over every inch of his exposed torso. His narrow waist tapered into an emerald green tail that perfectly matched the shining jewels of his eyes. Countless times I had examined the lines of his face in search of some similarity between the two of us. None could be found. Triton had his smile, and later—when adolescence hit—he would inherit his strong chin. Me? Every inch of me was a lackluster shadow of my mother’s regal beauty. Where her eyes and tail sparkled like freshly polished amethyst, mine seemed dull by comparison. Or, perhaps the lighting from the pedestal I’d built for her in my mind shone for her with a more flattering shimmer.
“The hour is late. I welcome the interruption.” Poseidon set his fish bone quill onto the desk top, and positioned its stone cradle on top of it. “How can I be of service, Loriana?”
 “It’s the children, Your Highness.” Her face a mask of maternal sorrow, Loriana gave my hand a quick pulse of comfort. “This is the first night they have ever tried to go to sleep without a lullaby from their dear mother. I’m afraid I can’t seem to calm their troubled little hearts.”
Poseidon’s broad chest expanded with a deep inhalation, and tipping his head he exhaled a flurry of rushing water and bubbles. “This is a troubling time for us all,” he agreed. Crossing the room with one stroke of his tail, he extended his hands to receive Triton. My brother waved his arms in eager delight, wriggling into the security of Father’s strong embrace. Inching forward, I blinked up at the mighty king. He floated past without so much as ruffling my hair. “I’m afraid I don’t have your mother’s gift of song, but perhaps we could sit a spell and find peace in our togetherness.”
Honoring her position outside of the room, Loriana gave me a gentle push forward to follow my father. Casting a tentative glance over my shoulder, I did just that. Poseidon swirled Triton around, eliciting a giggle that crinkled the corners of his ocean blue eyes, before the king collapsed on the sea sponge sofa with his darling son on his lap. I perched on the very edge of the far cushion, uninvited and unnoticed.
Before that moment our father had been more of a … hmm, how to put this delicately? A figurehead in our lives. We knew of him and regarded him fondly, but unfortunately his kingly duties allowed our primary interactions to be those staged for political potency. Our mother, the lovely Queen Titonis, spent her days caring for my brother and I with only Loriana to aid her. Now, Poseidon had no choice but to pick up the yolk. For Triton this transition seemed to be going swimmingly. I, however, was getting as much attention as the Orca-bone end table.
Hands under the little prince’s pits, Poseidon turned Triton to face him. “I was so proud of how you behaved during the processional today,” he gushed. “You honored not only me, but your mother’s memory when you clasped your tiny fist over your heart and held your head high as her carriage passed.”
“Follow Nessa.” Triton looked to me with love, his tailfin a muted clap when connecting with Father’s lap.
“Your sister has two whole years of further training and experience than you, my boy.” Poseidon’s shoulders raised, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “You exhibited the poise of a true leader.”
My lips clamped shut to stifle a sob, his words stinging like a slap. I had just as much right to the throne as Triton, but this was the first moment I became painfully aware of who he longed to see succeed him. It would not be the last … or the most painful.
“She held her curtsy so long, merfolk threw flowers!” Alastor, a year and a half older and far more eloquent than Triton, darted into the room to brazenly interject. Mahogany waves curled over his earlobes, adding dimension to his round little face that resembled a bubble. The boldness of his gesture quickly shriveled under Father’s menacing glare.
“The son of a servant entering the king’s quarters?” Father boomed, one eyebrow raising in question. “One might question your upbringing, lad.”
“A thousand apologies, Your Majesty!” Loriana blushed from her neck clear up to her earlobes and snapped her fingers at her wandering boy. “Alastor, come here at once!”
Shoulders sagging like a stone cast to the depths, Alastor returned to his rightful place in the hall. The heat of his topaz stare bore into me as he paddled along, searching for even the slightest acknowledgement of his noble deed.
I had none to offer.
My own gaze had drawn away from my brother, laughing while Father tickled his cheeks with his beard, to scan the items neatly arranged on father’s desk. Inanimate objects which earned his attentions daily just by being. On the right side, closest to his scrawling hand, sat the quill. Its fat little ink pot was perfectly positioned perpendicular beside it. In the center of the desk, weighted by stones carved with the royal crest, rested a stack of scrolls awaiting the king’s notice. On the left-hand corner, Poseidon’s late night snacking needs were met by a plate of rolled and seasoned seaweed puffs.
The ink pot lured my attention back as if calling to me.
I had never had to work for attention in any capacity. My mother had always given it freely, and in limitless supply. Since she had been taken from me, I had unquenched needs: hugs, stories, and all of that … drivel. So, yes, I thought about acting out. I toyed with the idea of knocking over that little clay pot and letting the ink flow to ruin the staged perfection of father’s space. More than that, I wanted to. I wanted to hear him shout out my name in his menacing vibrato, because at least then he would have to acknowledge me. While my hands stayed folded neatly in my lap, as the good little mergirl I was, something within me I had never felt before reached out. Palpable energy, only I seemed privy to, crackled through the water to cradle the pot in its hold. I could feel it, poised and ready, awaiting my command. Biting my lower lip to fend off a threatening grin, my essence gave barely a nudge and the ink pot tumbled. A thick black cloud exploded over my father’s desk, staining the scrolls and ruining the once delectable wraps.
“Vanessa!” thundered my father, rocketing off the sofa. “Look what you’ve done!”
I turned toward him with feigned remorse … and screamed. The howl of terror tore from my chest until my gills ached and my throat was raw.
There was a buzz of activity: Poseidon calling to the nursemaid, Loriana swimming in as fast as her fins could carry her, Triton wailing in fear, Alastor trying to shush his friend from the doorway to which he’d been banished. I neither saw nor heard any of this.
Floating in the center of the room, bobbing with the current, was my mother.
Not the serene vision of loveliness I had known her to be that was full of life and love. Heck, I even would’ve happily settled for the slumbering beauty she appeared to be during her funeral. In vast contrast, the entity hovering before me had chunks of flesh gnawed away by assorted sea beasts. Cracked, ashen lips curled into a snarl. Black ooze bubbled through her teeth, dripping from her chin and clouding the water. My scream reached a fevered pitch, spots dancing before my eyes. The ghoul, who in life sang me to sleep, reached for me with one hand that had been gnawed to bone.
You see, by using magic I opened a door and allowed the darkness in. The cost being more than I could bear, I vowed to myself—as my consciousness waned—never, ever to dabble with such things again.
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves …