My third book released yesterday from Astraea Press!
Can two people forge a future when their secret pasts collide?
New school. New friends. New reputation. High school sophomore Ainslie Avalon-Bennett works hard to hide her Crazy Girl past. But as long as her best friend’s disappearance remains unsolved, she can’t shake the depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that once landed her in a mental ward.
Ainslie’s tenuous control over her life shatters when her warring parents ditch her at Christmas. While they take a cruise to “work things out,” Ainslie must spend the holiday in Palm Springs with her aunt and uncle, owners of a struggling Mystery School and occult store. Plunged into the world of fire fortunes, dragons, entity eaters, and an ailing spell book, Ainslie is well beyond her comfort zone. Then she meets a boy who spikes her pulse and calms her OCD. But will she lose him once he discovers her past? Or will his deadly secret, hidden in plain view, be their undoing?
I found a patch of sunlight where I could sit with my back against the wall and pulled out The Scarlet Letter. I kept my head down while Uncle Esmun arrived and took his seat. Years before Sophia’s disappearance and my descent into the rabbit hole, I had sat in on a few of Dad’s business meetings. I knew the protocol. Be quiet and inconspicuous. Don’t interrupt the adults; they have important business matters to discuss. Only these adults were discussing the tarot cards they had drawn from a deck in the center of the table.
I tried to concentrate on Hawthorne’s book, on Hester’s vengeful husband who’d practiced medicine under an assumed name. But Hazel was telling the rest of the group she had just returned from Cornwall, England and had brought each of them a gift. I wondered what it could be. Seashells? Photos of quaint cottages?
ʺI have a pixie for each of you.ʺ
Right. Like you could get those past customs.
ʺHow nice of you, Hazel,ʺ Aunt Terra said.
I thought back to what I knew about pixies. Weren’t they supposed to be a) extremely troublesome and b) not real?
Hazel sashayed up to each Board member, starting with Cerelia, and acted like she was putting a pixie in their hands or on their shoulder. As she progressed around the table, some members oohed and aahed as if she was a three-year-old showing off a crayon drawing. When she approached Evie’s grandmother, the tote vibrated, rattling the glass table. Hazel faltered, her expression uncertain. She dropped back, and the rattling stopped. Brimstone smells hissed through the closed zipper. Cerelia shrank back.
Evie’s grandmother pointed a warning finger at the tote. ʺStop it. Don’t be rude.ʺ
My jaw dropped. Thor glanced at me, then flicked his gaze back to the tote. It stopped emitting smoke.
Uncle Esmun rubbed his nose. Hazelʹs head wobbled as if she were figuring out her next course of action. She still cupped her hand as if she carried an invisible pixie.
Hello! Did you not notice the real magical object in the room?
Seemingly unable to drop the pretense, Hazel advanced toward the alientologist. He ignored her and scribbled in his little notebook. Thor politely rebuffed her. Both rose at least twenty degrees on my Guy Approval Meter.
I checked my watch. The meeting had started forty minutes ago. Nothing had been accomplished. No one had addressed the tote situation. My face warmed again. I shifted position. Instead of sitting against the wall with my legs straight in front of me, I sat cross‑legged and hunched over my book. A tugging sensation rippled between my shoulder blades.
Thor glanced my way.
The more I thought about how much Aunt Terra and Uncle Esmun must need every cent the store and mystery school could generate, the more energy swelled behind me. Warmth radiated from my face. My whole body felt as if it was glowing. I tried to distract myself by flitting back to my book and my lengthy homework assignment list.
I couldn’t concentrate.
Hazel had reached Aunt Terra and delivered what I hoped was the last pixie. She pivoted and spied me. The energy behind me compacted. It crackled with huge warrior/ninja/dragon chi — alert and ready to strike. The thought of straightening up and backing into it set the fine hairs on my forearms and nape on end.
Thor’s eyes met mine. Our gazes locked, and I swear he did a Zen mind meld. Soothing waves of chi — energy — flowed through me. The brimstone stink evaporated, replaced by the calming scent of lavender and sage.
Hazel’s gaze swiveled from me to Thor, then back to me. Looking buffeted by an unseen wind, she silently returned to her seat.
The corners of Thor’s full lips curved upward. Two urges warred within me — the desire to leap across the room and kiss him, and the urge to arch my neck and breathe fire.
Thor’s smile widened.
Ariella Moon writes about magic, friendship, secrets, and love in her Young Adult novels, Spell Check, Spell Struck, and Spell Fire, Books 1, 2, & 3 in The Teen Wytche Saga. Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred Ariella’s teen years. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. An author and shaman, she now lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, shamelessly spoiled dog, and an enormous dragon.
Connect with Ariella Moon
- Astraea Press Book Club Chooses Spell Check for October (authorariellamoon.wordpress.com)
- Writing for the YA Market (authorariellamoon.wordpress.com)