Published by Midpoint Trade Books on May 1st 2015
Nadette Lawson knows when you're lying.Every night for the past two years, the Balasura have visited her dreams, enticing her to enter their world. And every night she's seen through their lies. Now, they're tired of playing in the shadows and they begin to stalk her in the waking world. It's no longer just an invitation; if Nadette doesn't join them, they'll take her family. Forever. She needs help, and the haven she's seeking may be just out of reach.Julian Teagan is a master of deception.To survive, he has to convince the world his mother isn't useless, that everything's fine, otherwise he'll lose what little he has left in this life. He knows the lying won't be enough to keep him and his mother in the shadows, but it's all he knows. The only light of truth is Orane, a Balasura who sees past Julian's facade and challenges him to face the darkness.Then Orane is killed, and Julian learns his mentor was far from innocent. The Balasura have hunted children like him for centuries, and their next target, Nadette is his one chance at finally being a part of something real. If Julian can just convince her to trust him…
The cell phone Uncle Frank got me last year beeps with a reminder as I’m walking home from the bus after convincing the secretary to let me sign out early from school—Mariella Teagan’s 18th Birthday. I haven’t seen my cousin in years, but the reminder still makes me grin. Quickly dismissing the note, I pull up Frank’s number and call.
“Heya, kiddo!” He sounds happy. Happier than I’ve heard him in a long time. “How’s it going? Everything okay?”
I open my mouth to sugar-coat everything like I always have (the three hours of screaming this morning, the fight I got into with a friend at school today because I didn’t lie when he asked me what I thought about the girl he has a massive crush on, the fact that I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to pay two months of electric bills) but then I glance down at the shimmering bracelet on my wrist. Honesty. Orane wanted honesty. But I don’t have to lay all of that on Uncle Frank, do I?
“Uhm, it’s not why I called, but we could use some help with the electric bill.”
Uncle Frank sighs. “Is she still dating…um, Fred?”
“Ed,” I correct. “Fred was last year.” He was the one with the habit of “accidentally” walking off with Lynnie’s wallet.
There’s a noise over the line that sounds like it was almost a word. Whatever Frank had wanted to say gets cut off, though. There’s only a slight hesitation before he says, “Email me the bill and I’ll take care of it, okay?”
I swallow and close my eyes, embarrassment making my chest burn. He doesn’t want to send his sister the money because he doesn’t trust her to use it for the bill. And he’s right, especially while she still owes money to Harry. I hate that he’s right. This feeling is why I started hiding the truth from Frank in the first place. God, how could two people raised by the same parents turn out to be such opposites?
“Yeah, that’ll work. Thanks, Uncle Frank.”
“Anytime, Julian. You know that. All you have to do is ask.” He’s quiet for a beat, like he’s waiting for me to say something—or maybe ask something—but a second before the silence gets awkward, he breaks it. “So, if the electric bill isn’t why you called, to what do I owe the honor?”
My smile comes back a little. “It’s Mari’s birthday. I was just calling so you could pass along our birthday wishes.”
“Sure thing,” he says. “I’ll tell her when I see her tonight.”
“You guys have something special planned?” I doubt they do. From what Frank has told me over the past few years, Mariella has practically shut herself off from the whole world. Family included.
“Actually, yes.” It’s hard to tell without seeing his face, but Frank sounds as though he isn’t quite sure what he’s saying is true. Like it’s too good to be real. “Her friend K.T.—do you remember K.T.? I think you met her years ago. Well, she and Mari’s, um, I guess you can call Hudson her boyfriend? They planned a day for her.”
Whoa. That alone makes me blink. She doesn’t talk, but she’s got a boyfriend? How does that one work? Although I do talk and I’ve never had a girlfriend, so I guess talking shouldn’t preclude dating if talking doesn’t guarantee dating either.
“Hudson is taking her to the art museum up in Ottawa and we’re meeting them later for dinner and a concert and, I don’t know, Julian.” He pauses and takes a breath that almost rattles over the phone line. “Mari still isn’t talking, but I think she might actually have fun this year.”
“That’s good, Uncle Frank. Seriously. I’m glad she’s happy. Definitely tell her we said happy birthday, okay?”
“Well, I’ll tell her that you said happy birthday. I’d be shocked if Lynnie remembers. It wouldn’t surprise me if she forgets your birthday sometimes.”
I snort before I can stop myself. “She does.” Oh, crud. I shouldn’t have said that. Why did I say that?
Frank sucks in a breath. “Jesus, Julian. I wasn’t seri— I mean, does she really?”
Orane’s bracelet catches my eye again. Honesty. Right. I sigh. Orane did say I could lie if it was to hide the truth about Lynnie, but there’s no helping it now. I opened the door to this particular conversation. “She did last year.”
“I’m sorry. Why didn’t you say anything to me?”
“I didn’t want you to worry. You know how she is.”
I bite back a groan. This is why I never tell him how bad it is with her. It just makes him feel guilty when, really, what is he going to do from a couple thousand miles away unless he plans on stepping in and claiming custody? “Uncle Frank, it doesn’t matter. You always remember my birthday, and it’s not like I can’t take care of myself.”
He sighs as I round the Stratosphere and come into view of the apartment building. I scan the small parking lot, but Ed’s beat-up black Ford pickup isn’t there. Thank Frank Sinatra’s ghost.
“Julian, promise me you’ll call if you need anything.”
I hesitate for a second, trying to figure out how to word my response without lying. “If there’s anything I think you can do, I promise I’ll let you know.”
Frank snorts. “Kiddo, I think you’re a born politician. That was one of the best side-step answers I’ve heard in a while.”
“I worked on it,” I tell him, smiling a little.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to take what I can get.”
“Everything will be fine, Uncle Frank. Go get ready for the birthday shindig you’re throwing for Mari.”
He only wavers for a second. “All right. I’m glad you called, Julian. Don’t forget to email me that bill.”
“Trust me, I won’t. Vegas in the summer without air conditioning? Not something I enjoy.”
We say goodbye and I hang up as I unlock the front door and step inside the empty, quiet apartment. Collapsing on my bed, I flick the bead on my bracelet, enjoying the thwap when it smacks against the braided leather. I got through an honest conversation with Uncle Frank and nothing exploded. He agreed to pay the electric bill, and social services isn’t about to break down the door to take me away. Maybe Orane was right, and lying became a habit. It probably won’t go this smoothly every time (just the argument today at school was enough proof of that), but maybe I can follow through with the promise I made.
I hope I can, anyway.
The alternative isn’t worth considering.
After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University and began pursuing a career as an author.Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, ex-Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.
Her debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, released March 2014 and it was the first volume of The Dream War Saga. In May 2015, Erica and her co-author Lani Woodland launched the Laguna Tides series with Taken by Chance.