Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway:Withering Rose (Once Upon a Curse #2) by Kaitlyn Davis

Today is a special day for me! See what I found on my Google page.


It is my birthday! And I am really happy to start this day with one of my favourite authors (Midnight fire kept me awake for quite a while and I fell for  her bad-boy character).
So, my fellow book lovers, join me as I get distracted by Kaitlyn Davies and her Withering Rose!



Withering Rose (Once Upon a Curse #2)


Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
Release Date: May 17th 2016


Summary: 

 **A USA Today Recommended Series!**

What if Beauty was cursed, and the Beast was the only one who could save her? Don't miss WITHERING ROSE, a dystopian romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Beauty & The Beast. This is the second book in Once Upon A Curse, a series of interconnected stand-alone novels all set in the same fantasy universe.

"As the heat finally disappeared, I felt the bloom blossom in the very core of my soul, a rose just like my name—a ticking clock hidden behind a façade of beauty. From that moment on, my life would become a countdown, and all I could do was wait and watch as the petals of time slowly started to fall."

Omorose Bouchene has a secret—magic. There's only one problem. At the age of seven, an earthquake struck, catapulting her into a new world. A land made of skyscrapers and cell phones. Fast cars and fluorescent lights. A land where magic isn't supposed to exist and anyone who wields it is the enemy.

But after ten years of hiding, she's desperate to find a place where she can be free. Because all magic comes with a curse, and her curse is time—every ounce of power she uses strips days off of her life. The clock is winding down, and the only option left is to escape to the realm ruled by a man known only as the Beast. But the king of monsters isn’t what he seems. And the more Omorose opens her heart, the more she comes to realize that the only person she may need to fear is herself. 


Buy Links:


Gathering Frost Buy Links:

RAVE REVIEWS for Gathering Frost!

"My favorite thing about this book is the action. Jade isn't a sleeping princess. She's the best fighter and so fierce in her "empty" state. I felt like this was an urban fantasy with all the steam of a romance, and it was almost perfect for me." - Jessie Potts, USA TODAY Happy Ever After Blog

"Davis writes with confidence and poise, and the story's many twists and turns stave off predictability and allow readers to become immersed in a starkly magical world filled with last hopes." - Publisher's Weekly

"Gathering Frost is just awesome in every wayBeautiful prose, lots of heart-wrenching emotion, action and romance, a great, unstoppable villain, and a smart, tough heroine who will fight for what she wants." - Geeks in High School

"The writing is flawless as always and I must say, way to take a classic and make such a creative and wonderful twist to it...It's well thought out and it unbelievably magnificent. I seriously couldn't put it down. Wait I never actually put it down. I started and finished in one sitting because it's just that good. This one is a MUST READ." - Happy Tails and Tales Blog



About the Author

Bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. 

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she's not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found indulging in some puppy videos, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her--about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general--you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

To stay up-to-date with all of Kaitlyn's new releases, sign up for her new release newsletter here: TinyLetter.com/KaitlynDavisBooks
Author Links:


Kaitlyn wrote the following post especially for Urania's Distractions!

Inspiration Boards – Freedom Fighter Base Setting

One of my favorite things to do when working on a new book is to create an inspiration board on Pinterest! First, because I'm obsessed with photography and art, so I love incorporating that passion into my writing process. And second, because it's a great initial way to outline the mood I want throughout the story, the characters I hope to portray, and the settings I'm trying to visualize.

So, of course, Withering Rose got its own inspiration board! The first few guest posts of my blog tour are diving into the different images that inspired my story, and right now we're taking a closer look at one of the two main settings—the freedom fighter base where Omorose lives.

Freedom Fighter Base

The world of Once Upon A Curse is sort of a crazy blend of a fantasy world and a post-apocalyptic one. Imagine two parallel universes, the world we live in today and a fairy tale world full of magic. Got it? Okay, now imagine them colliding, causing a crazy, intense earthquake that fuses the two worlds together, creating an entirely new patchwork landscape. That’s the world of this series!

In the first book, Gathering Frost, we got to take a closer look at how a huge city like New York fell to complete ruin. But in Withering Rose, the story is out in the open fields and the mountains. The freedom fighter base is still underground and out of sight, controlled by military officials. But the rules are a little more relaxed because the landscape is not nearly as dangerous. And in the beginning of the novel, this freedom fighter base is where Omorose lives. 




If you'd like to see my full inspiration board or see the original source of any of these images, just click this pinterest link: https://www.pinterest.com/kdavisbooks/withering-rose-inspiration-board/




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Blog Tour Organized by:





Keep being distracted by reading,


Urania




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Tour Giveaway:The Awakening (Emerge #1),by Melissa A. Craven



The Awakening (Emerge #1)


by Melissa A. Craven


Release Date: April 1st 2015







2015 Dante Rossetti Awards Finalist

2015 International Book Awards Finalist

2015 USA Best Book Award Finalist



Summary from Goodreads:

Allie Carmichael has always believed life is simple. You’re born. You live. You die.She has no cause to believe that equation works differently for her, but there has to be a reason the world treats her like a pariah.When an unexpected move to Kelleys Island brings Aidan McBrien crashing into her life, Allie is thrown by his reaction. He doesn’t shrink from her touch. He doesn’t stutter or make a quick exit. He smiles and welcomes her into his circle of friends, who aren’t exactly comfortable with Allie, but they seem to get her in a way most people don’t.Finally, Allie has a real shot at normal and rides that high right up to her sixteenth birthday when she wakes in agony—an experience Aidan insists they have all faced. She struggles in ignorance, uncertain of what is real and what isn’t. When she emerges, Allie is different. She has always been different, but even among her extraordinary friends, she and Aidan are special. As Allie struggles to maintain her tenuous grasp on the power that threatens to overwhelm her, she worries she will lose herself in this strange new world. A dangerous world where she will have to fight tooth and nail to defend the power and freedom that is her birthright. …only Allie hates to fight. 


Emerge: The Awakening is on sale for $1.99 during the tour!

Emerge: The Edge is on sale for $0.99 during the tour!


About the Author
Melissa A. Craven (the "A" stands for Ann—in case you were wondering) was born near Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of seventeen. She still thinks of Cleveland as home, so it was only natural for Emerge to take place there.
Today, she is back in Atlanta—for some reason she can't seem to stay away from the ungodly heat that makes her long for things like "lake effect snow" and wind that will knock you flat.
Melissa decided a long time ago that the “life checklist” everyone else was clutching so tightly in their fists, just wasn’t for her. She does everything backwards because she is weird like that, but then, she is an artist and artists are notoriously "unique" and "quirky."
She is an avid student of art and design, and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of West Georgia in 2009. She worked as an interior designer for several years, but she's always thought she might like to be a writer when she grows up.
In her spare time, if she has any, she enjoys shopping for derelict furniture she refinishes to exercise the interior design part of her brain.

Author Links:


Excerpt from Chapter Two
Allie’s feet pounded against the hard packed dirt as she ran along the secluded trail, the sound of Saint Saeën’s Aquarium loud in her ears. It was still the middle of the night for most people, but she didn’t sleep much these days. She liked her new home on Kelleys Island, but the whole move to Cleveland, Ohio reeked of unanswered questions. Questions she knew not to ask.
Today was her first day at the prestigious Cliffton Academy, and she wasn’t looking forward to it. She’d changed schools often enough to know what to expect, and she hadn’t suffered from new school nerves in years. She just didn’t know if she had it in her to start over again.
Gavin would want me to try. She’d picked up the phone a dozen times over the weekend, but never finished dialing before she chickened out. She didn’t know what to say to him. In her mind, that door was closed. He was in the past, and as much as she missed him, she knew they both needed to move on. Calling him would only prolong their misery.
As the song changed to Pavane, Allie heard heavy footsteps echoing behind her. She had company. Another runner following at a discrete distance. He was curious and incredibly annoyed with her—if her instincts were right—which they almost always were.
She continued along the path, increasing her pace, but the footsteps grew louder as he left the trail to crash through the woods.
So much for my nice quiet morning.
She felt dizzy. Her head swam and her ears filled with a rush of white noise.
Should’ve had breakfast before I left.
Allie ran faster, hoping to push through the nausea. She looked over her shoulder expecting to catch a glimpse of him, but she crashed into something hard instead. She toppled to the ground in a tangle of tattooed limbs.
“Dammit! Watch where you’re going!” a gruff voice sounded in her ear.
“Sorry!”
“Your knee is crushing my spine, sweetheart.”
“Crap! Sorry!” She scrambled to her feet and reached to help him up.
His hand was warm and his grip, firm and confident. Allie waited for him to pull away with the flustered reaction she’d come to expect, but it never happened. She was completely thrown by his lack of response to her touch.
She met his steely gaze and her breath hitched in her throat. He towered over her—but almost everyone did. He was angry, but only one thought came to her mind.

Friend. 

My review

Melissa Graven’s story “Emerge, the Awakening” is a story that will more than satisfy the fans of YA genre.
An original story that includes just about everything you look for in a book: action, an original and intricate plot, romance and young adult heartache, fantasy and character development.
The reader follows Allie as she evolves from the ignorant, lonely girl to a bas-ass heroine in a way that captures imagination page by page.
What I liked the most in this book: the perfect installments of flash-back snapshots, where the reader follows the heroes in a surprising mix of time-travel and fantasy.
What would make this book perfect for me: I’d love to find more action/bad-ass heroine scenes throughout the book.
My favorite hero: Aidan (of course!)
My favorite scene: The fire scene
My favorite quote: “If living in complete denial makes you happy, go for it.” Aidan
 My rating:






Giveaway!!!






Blog Tour Organized by:
YA Bound Book Tours

Keep being distracted by reading,
Urania

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway:Desire in Frost, by Alicia Rades

Lots of goodies to distract you today!
Find out about the Desire in Frost story, by Alicia Rades,
Watch the trailer, read the excerpt and the characters' interview, take part in the giveaway...



Crystal Frost just recently discovered she can see ghosts and predict the future, yet the mystery of Hope Ross's abduction still haunts her dreams. While traveling to Florida for Thanksgiving, Crystal's visions of Hope only grow stronger. She enlists the help of her soon-to-be step-cousin Robin, a decision that complicates the entire picture—and her feelings. Can she figure out what happened to Hope and learn why Robin is so guarded, or will her newfound abilities fail her?


Buy Links:
Amazon





About the Author
By day, Alicia Rades is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor. When inspiration strikes, she is also an author. Alicia has been captivated by the YA paranormal and supernatural genre since reading The Seer series by Linda Joy Singleton when she was 12 years old, and most of her stories are born out of the love for the genre. In college, Alicia majored in professional writing. Alicia lives in Wisconsin with her husband and too many fish to count.

Don't miss a thing related to Alicia's books. Sign up for her newsletter at
http://www.aliciaradesauthor.com/news...

Author Links:


GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Desire in Frost Excerpt
I used the sounds of the waves coming in my window as an anchor so I’d have something to focus on besides my racing thoughts. The minutes ticked by, and after a long time, colors began swirling in the ball. They became the center of my focus as I fell deeper into the unknown. A faint figure formed in the crystal ball. I almost thought I saw Hope’s face, but then the image washed away as a chill settled over the room.
“Help!” A voice startled me. My eyes jerked up to find a young girl standing in the room.
My head began spinning. I was glad I was sitting down so I didn’t have to find an extra support to keep myself upright. I was starting to understand this feeling all too well.
The girl had long dark hair and big beautiful eyes. For a second, I almost thought she was Hope. My heart sank at the thought that I’d failed her, but the girl standing in front of me was a lot older than Hope, just a few years younger than me.
I wanted to smile at her, to let her know that I wasn’t a threat, that I could help her even. I didn’t when I saw that the ghostly girl had an expression of urgency fixed to her face. My expression transformed to mirror hers when I realized that someone was likely in danger. I couldn’t think of any other excuse for why this ghostly girl would show herself to me.
“You have to help her,” she said. “She’s been scared for so long. I just want to see her happy.”
Now I knew for sure someone was in danger. Calm down, I told myself, but that was always difficult when a ghost was asking for help.
“Who?” I asked, a little bit louder than I intended. “Who do you need me to help?”
The girl looked around the room as if trying to take in her surroundings, and then her eyes fell back on me.

“My sister.”

Crystal Frost Character Interview

Robin: Crystal, our readers have some questions about Desire in Frost. Think you can spare a minute or two to answer them?
Crystal: Oh, sure! I love answering readers’ questions.
Robin: Okay. The first one is easy. What is Desire in Frost about?
Crystal: Well, it’s the story about our trip to Florida. I had just found out I was psychic a few weeks back, and I had been seeing this little girl in my mind. Her name is Hope. I wasn’t making any progress on what had happened to her, and we already had the vacation planned, so of course, I had to make the trip. Turns out it was a good idea. The story is all about how I rescued her from her abductor while we were on vacation.
Robin: Well, I won’t ever forget that vacation. Onto the next question. Some people want to know about the series. This is part of a series, correct?
Crystal: Yes, it is! This is the second in the Crystal Frost series after Fire in Frost.
Robin: Do people have to read Fire in Frost first before Desire in Frost?
Crystal: Not necessarily. The two books work as standalones, but I’d recommend reading Fire in Frost first to get a better idea of my psychic abilities and the history about my mom not telling me about them.
Robin: I’m glad you mentioned that because it leads us into our next question. Why didn’t your mom tell you about your abilities?
Crystal: She didn’t think I had them, and she wanted me to live a normal life. She owns a Halloween-themed shop in town called Divination, but I always thought it was just for fun. I had no idea the paranormal was real, and she just wanted me to be normal.
Robin: What’s it like now that you know you’re not?
Crystal: Not normal? Well, it’s a lot better than thinking I’m crazy! It’s still really confusing for me, to be honest. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.
Robin: I’m sure you’ll figure it out. So, we mentioned Desire in Frost is part of a series. Will there be more books?
Crystal: Yes. The third one, Inspired by Frost, will be out sometime this summer. I’m still working with Alicia on the fourth, and we’re not sure when that will release, but it may not be for a while.
Robin: Well, at least they won’t have to wait long for the third book. But people who haven’t read the books are wondering, who would you recommend the books to?
Crystal: Anyone who likes young adult paranormal. I’m only 15, so it’s good for that age group. I think kids 12 and up would really like it, but a lot of adults enjoy the books, too.
Robin: If they decide they want to read the books, where can they buy them?
Crystal: They’re available on Amazon in Kindle and print format. Fire in Frost is also available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, but Desire in Frost is only on Amazon at the moment.
Robin: That’s all the questions for now. Thanks for answering them.
Crystal: No problem! If readers want to stay updated on my stories, they can follow Alicia on Facebook or subscribe to her newsletter at aliciaradesauthor.com. I hope they enjoy my second book!

Book Trailer:  


Blog Tour Organized by:
YA Bound Book Tours

Book Blast Giveaway:Eli’s Coming byDarcia Helle


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Title:    Eli’s Coming
Series:   Chasing the Night, Book 1
Author:  Darcia Helle
Published:  May 11th, 2015
Genre:  Supernatural Suspense
Content Warning:   Moderate violence and adult language

Synopsis:  Eli’s dark legacy holds murder as his rite of passage. They say his ability is a gift. He calls it a curse. A life of violence and heartache leaves him with nothing left to fight for.
Or so he thinks.

Amanda steals his heart, but love makes him vulnerable. He must give her up or accept who he is and fight.

Will he risk stepping into the darkness that could consume him?






Excerpt from Eli’s Coming by Darcia Helle:

The allure of the night is its ability to pull you into its depths, to keep you hidden in its crevices. The darkness wraps around you. Nothing reaches you there.
And you reach nothing.
Have you ever wanted to melt into the darkness? Dissolve into the shadows?
You can lose yourself in the black emptiness. But while you may lose yourself, the night always knows where you are.
Eli Hayes stood alone in the darkness. The night sky was clear, lit by the stars and a perfect quarter moon. Shadows fell across the ground, casting a thick and almost tangible black film. He was aware of the tension in his shoulders and the ache in his jaw. Closing his eyes, he breathed in slow and deep. He stayed that way, quietly meditating, until the pain melted away.
When he opened his eyes again, the shadows followed the path of the gravestones. He squatted in front of a square chunk of marble. He read the name and date slowly, committing it to memory as if he’d later be quizzed on the information. As if it wasn’t already etched in his mind, a permanent fixture there.

He reached out. The stone felt cold against his fingertips. He traced the letters. Deep grooves in cold rock. All that was left at the end of existence.





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About the Author:

Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.

Suspense, random blood spatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia’s days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else’s mind.






Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • Faith & Inspiration Sterling Silver Two-Toned Angel Pendant Necklace (US)
  • $20 Amazon Gift Card (INT)

Giveaway Ends March 8th at 11:59 PM ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway: In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey



Get ready to be distracted by Julie Anne Lindsey  and Mercy's story In Place of Never. Take a look at the awesome cover, learn all about the author, read an excerpt and take part in the giveaway!

Enjoy!

In Place of Never
by 
Julie Anne Lindsey
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Lyrical Press

Summary from Goodreads:


Can the truth set her free?… 

A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder.  Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger…

Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for….

Buy Links:

About the Author
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus, most days you'll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book. Julie started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world.
Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook



 Chapter 1

The Sideshow

Faith is dead.

The words had formed my first thought every day for three years. Strangely, on the anniversary of her death, my mind was blank.

My bedroom door stood open, courtesy of my little sister, Prudence, no doubt. This was her way of nudging me into motion. Muted shades of gray light filtered through rain-washed windows, barely enough to illuminate dust motes floating overhead. Time to face the worst day of the year.

Sounds and scents of breakfast climbed two flights of stairs and settled into my thoughts with an eerie echo. I pulled clothes from the pile and brushed my teeth and hair. These were the things I’d only begun to appreciate before everything changed.

Far too soon, my toes curled over the top step outside my room. I pulled in a deep breath and braced my palms against cool stairwell walls, dragging my fingertips over the grooves and planes in the wood paneling as I inched downstairs.

From the quiet hallway outside our kitchen, life looked surreal, like the setting for a play with actors in motion but no audience or script. Dad’s clothes were as neat as a pin, and his hair fell in the same schoolboy style he’d outgrown thirty years ago. The morning paper lay open in front of him, beside a full cup of coffee that had lost its steam. Pru stood at the stove shoveling eggs from a pan onto a plate. She, too, appeared ready for the day, if I ignored the tremor in her hand and the strain in her brow. She nearly dropped the plate when she turned from the stove.

“Mercy.” She pressed a hand to her heart and stumbled to the table with the eggs. “Why are you just standing there?”

Dad turned blank eyes on me, unspeaking.

I moved to the counter and filled Mom’s favorite travel mug with coffee, ignoring the palpable tension. In sixty seconds, I’d be out the door with my free, portable caffeine.

Pru untied the apron from her waist and folded it on the counter. She stared at me. “Aren’t you eating?”
I sealed the mug. “No.” I needed to be anywhere but here.

Dad tensed. The paper crumbled around his tightened grip, but he wouldn’t get involved, especially not today. Today we’d pretend we were still a family. Three months from now, we’d do it again.

Pru bit her trembling lip. “Mercy.” The word was barely audible, even in the quietest house on Earth.

Something tore inside me, and I wavered, slowly sipping coffee until the bitter taste Mom had loved turned my stomach.

Dad pressed the paper against our ancient Formica tabletop and lifted cold coffee to his lips.

I settled onto a chair and tapped my nails over tiny flecks of gold and silver embedded in the table’s white surface. He and Mom had received the kitchen set as a wedding present from her parents. A grooved metal wrap curled around the table’s perimeter. My sisters and I had done homework at that table. Birthday cakes and Thanksgiving dinners were served there. When our family was whole, we’d played cards and board games together every Friday night. Family night. Lately, we were a family of ghosts, figurative and literal.

The legs of Dad’s chair scraped over worn linoleum. He poured his coffee into the sink and freed his jacket from the chair back where he’d sat. He threaded his arms though too-large holes. “I’ll be home late.”

Pru flopped her arms against her sides. “But you didn’t eat.”

He scooped his Bible and keys off the counter and pulled the front door closed behind him.

Pru collapsed into the seat across from me. Bony elbows slid across the tabletop. “Please eat something.”

“No thank you.”

Her frown deepened. “No one eats around here. It isn’t healthy.”

“We don’t sleep or talk either. At least we’re consistent.” A deep cringe pinched my heart. I’d promised myself not to provoke Pru. She was only a kid. The least I could do was use restraint and good manners. “Sorry.”

I stared into her wide blue eyes, wanting to say a million things I couldn’t. “You didn’t need to make breakfast. It’s not your responsibility.” The word lodged in my throat, filling the space until air struggled past.

“Sorry.”

Hurt welled in Pru’s eyes. “Whose responsibility is it then? Yours?” She stood in a burst of energy I couldn’t fathom, rocking her chair onto two legs before it settled with a thump. “I’m fifteen, not five.” Pru whirled through the room, dumping eggs in the trash and shoving dishes into the sink. Defeated by her loved ones before nine AM. It wasn’t fair.

She turned on her heels and glared at me. “You’re leaving in six weeks. Then what?” She bit her bottom lip and scrubbed a plate hard. “You could at least pretend you don’t want to go. Even if it’s a lie.”

“I’m not leaving. I’m going to college like everyone does.”

Her weary eyes drooped at the corners. “Not everyone.”

“Not Faith.” As if I needed the reminder. As if I didn’t think of that every day.

She dried her hands and pursed her lips. “What are you doing today?”

Thunder rocked the house. “I’m going out.”

“Out where? There’s a storm. Besides, my friends are coming over for movies and popcorn. Why don’t you stay? Company could take your mind off…stuff.”

Stuff. Right.

“Me, Prudence, and the color guard?” I flipped a handful of sandy curls off Pru’s shoulder. “I’m not sure that’d be fun for anyone.”

“Please.”

“Can’t. I’m going to go see Mom and Faith. I’ll be home later.” Her doe-eyed expression stopped me short. Since when was Pru so needy? She’d certainly never needed me. Had she? Even if she had, what was I supposed to do about it? “If you want, you can come up to my room when your friends leave. We’ll eat cold pizza and drink warm soda after Dad falls asleep.” My throat constricted further with each word. Faith and I had spent many nights that way when Pru was small and sound asleep in her room next door.

She paled. “Maybe.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Maybe?” That was the best invitation I’d ever offered and she’d turned me down. Something was up. “Why? Do you have plans after Dad falls asleep?”

“Maybe.”

I sucked air. “You can’t go out after curfew.”

She crossed thin arms over her chest. “I said maybe. Anyways, since when do you care? Is this a joke? You think you’re in charge?”

My gut wrenched. Was I? Everyone ahead of me on the chain of command had either died or otherwise checked out. “You can’t stay out all night.”

She clenched her jaw.

I grabbed my bag off the coat tree and secured it cross body before she lashed out. “I can’t do this right now. I’ll be home soon. I won’t interrupt your movie day, but I will look for you tonight.”

Pru scoffed as I edged past her and out the door where Dad had disappeared minutes before.

My muddy Chucks waited on the rack against the railing.

Pru glared at me through the window.

I couldn’t stay. I had to visit Mom and Faith before the storm washed the roads away.

I gathered my hair into a knot as I sloshed through the rain toward the edge of town. Puddles splashed warm water onto my ankles. Raindrops swiveled patterns over my forehead into my eyes, blurring my vision and masking a hot tear of frustration on one cheek. The streets were empty of pedestrians. Cars with wipers on warp speed settled at stoplights or outside shops, collecting women in rain gear and children wielding umbrellas shaped like storybook characters.

Dad’s car sat alone in the church lot. He dreamed of inspiring the town and he prayed fervently for a healing of our broken community. The concept was nice if you weren’t one of his forgotten daughters.
I ducked my head and moved faster, dashing through the lot and across the intersection at Main Street. Soggy, wind-battered flyers waved from light posts on every corner. The annual River Festival returned this month, assuming St. Mary’s didn’t wash off the map before then. I tugged my hood over my ears and sloshed onto the sidewalk. American flags lined store windows. Support our Troops shirts and Uncle Sam bobbleheads monopolized every retail display in town. The Fourth of July fun was right on schedule, only a few days until the big parade and concert in the park. My family didn’t celebrate this weekend anymore.

Several yards away, two guys took shelter under the awning outside our local honky-tonk. Their laughter broke through the drumming of rain on rooftops and pounding of truck tires through puddles. Both were tall, dark, and out of place in my town. Instead of jeans and boots, like cowboys or country singers, or the shorts and gym shoes of locals and tourists, this pair wore black pants and dress shoes. Their matching V-neck shirts were equally out of place in St. Mary’s, West Virginia.

The broader one noticed me first. His smile vanished and his posture stiffened. He locked his wrists behind his back and nodded. The short sleeves of his shirt nipped his biceps. The ridiculous breadth of his chest
tested the limits of the thin black material. His clothes probably hid the grotesquely oversculpted figure of a body builder.

My feet slowed instinctively, weighing the merits of crossing the street to avoid them. Crossing meant moving away from my destination, staying meant eventually sharing a three-foot patch of cement with two guys already filling every spare inch.

The leaner, younger-looking one turned his face toward me. Black ink crawled up his neck from the collar of his shirt to his earlobe. A scar pierced one eyebrow and a thin silver hoop graced the corner of his mouth.

Dad wouldn’t approve.

I rounded my shoulders, withdrawing into my hoodie and averting my eyes.

The broad one whipped a hand out as I stepped onto their patch of cement. “Miss.”

I jumped back, wrapping my fingertips around the strap of my bag.

His enormous arm blocked my path. He clenched a mass of silk flowers in his fist. “For the lady.”

“Uh.” I pulled in a shallow breath. “No thank you.”

The younger one’s eyebrows dove together. “I think you’re scaring her.” His dark eyes settled on mine. His voice was deep and low. “Is he scaring you?”

The big guy handed the flowers to his friend and stepped back, palms up.

The younger one offered them to me, extending his arm slowly as if being careful not to frighten a wild animal. “I’m Cross. This is Anton. Anton thinks he’s a magician.”

I glanced over one shoulder at the church behind me before accepting the strange offer. A lifetime of forced manners pushed my name from my mouth. “Mercy.”

Cross’s lips twitched. “He’s a lot to take in, but he’s a marshmallow.”

I bit back an awkward smile as Anton protested the remark with a shove. “Mercy’s my name. It wasn’t an exclamation.”

Cross relaxed his posture. “Good to know.” He shoved his fingers into his pockets. “Do you live here?”

“Yeah.” A measure of unexplained confidence wound through me. “Not you, though.” I scrutinized their strange ensembles again. Their clothes were almost like costumes, or what I imagined a mortician would wear in the nineteen hundreds. “What are you doing here?” I sidestepped them, exchanging my view of the distant willows for a view of the church.

The low tenor of their voices collided as Cross said, “Visiting,” and Anton said, “Performing.”

Cross narrowed his eyes at Anton.

Interesting. A sign tucked into the corner of the honky-tonk’s window announced another round of live bands. Cash prizes and a guaranteed Nashville record executive in the audience meant lots of newcomers to St. Mary’s. Maybe these two were country singers. “Performing what?”

Again with the twin speak, Cross answered, “Nothing.”

Anton answered, “Everything.”

I frowned. “Well, that’s cleared up.” I waved the bouquet. “Thanks for the flowers.”

“You’re welcome,” they answered.

Dad’s face appeared in the church window, and I darted into the rain. “I have to go.”

I stuffed the flowers into my bag as I jogged away from the street of shops, closing the space between the willows and me. Thunder cracked in the distance. The storm was passing for now. I stepped into the pavilion outside St. Mary’s Cemetery with a sigh of relief. Willow trees lined our small town along the river’s west edge. Their craggy branches swept the earth with every gust of wind. The town cemetery stretched fingers of marble graves into the distance, marking lives lost in the mid-eighteen hundreds beside others lost in my lifetime. Two of those graves marked the lives of Porter women, Faith and Mary Porter. My older sister and my mother.

When the drops thinned to sprinkles, I made my way up muddy paths to their grave sites, sliding down as often as I moved forward. Dad said he’d chosen the spots at the top of the hill so Faith and Mom could look over our town. If they truly had a view, theirs was perfect.

The sopping earth squished under my weight as I left the path. A week of relentless rain had ruined the dirt roads and flooded the lowlands mercilessly.

I knelt before the headstones. “Hi. I bet you didn’t think I’d come in the storm.” Tears burned my eyes. I’d come selfishly. “You’re the only one I can talk to.”

I rubbed my wrist over each eye. “I am so amazingly sorry.”

Wind beat against the trees, shaking limbs and freeing wads of green leaves from their branches. “The storm’s gathering again.”

I wiped pine needles and dirt off Faith’s name. Wind tossed sticks and tiny American flags across the thick green grass. A batch of grave flowers rolled down the hill toward the river, reminding me of the ones in my bag.

“I have something today.” I unlatched my bag and pulled out the silk flowers. “Some very weird guys outside Red’s gave these to me. I think you should have them, Faith. I don’t bring you flowers enough. Maybe that’s why I ran into those two. You needed flowers.” I stabbed their plastic stems into the mushy ground and pressed the grass tight around them, anchoring them the best I could.

“I miss you. I wish you knew how much. Dad’s still trying to save the town. Pru’s still pretending she’s like everyone else. The color guard’s coming over for popcorn and movies.” I rolled my eyes. “I think she’s planning to sneak out tonight, and I don’t even know if it’s the first time.”

I settled in the wet grass and tilted my face to the sky. “I’ve never minded our summer storms. Remember when we used to dance in the rain until Dad begged us all inside? He’d laugh and say,” I mocked Dad’s deeper voice, “‘I guess the rumors are true. My girls don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.’”

A sound in the distance caught my attention. A rhythm. “Do you hear that?” Wind whipped through the trees, but the eerie sound of tinny pipes and organs floated to my ears. I rubbed my palms over gooseflesh-covered arms and an icy shiver slid down my spine.

I stood on wobbly knees and moved to the hill’s edge.

A line of black vehicles crawled along the river toward the campground. Each truck was marked with the symbol that once haunted my dreams. A fancy letter L, circled in curlicue lines and tiny words from another language. “The Lovell Traveling Sideshow came back?”

After three years, it was back.

I turned to my sister. “I bet they came for the River Festival. What should I do?”

I sensed her presence and felt her voice in the wind, obscured by the ringing in my ears. My weary conscience screamed, “Leave it alone,” but my every curious fiber disagreed.

I’d researched, cyberstalked, and obsessed over the Lovells off and on for two years before I backed off. I squinted at the caravan of trucks below. If one of them knew what happened to Faith, I needed to hear it. Maybe someone at their campsite could help me.

Dad refused me the courtesy of knowing what happened to my sister. When I’d followed him through our home begging, he’d said I was too young. Faith was too young. I should pray for peace. I’d scoured the local paper and Internet for information. Three years later, the only things I knew for sure were Faith was dead and Dad blamed the Lovells. I’d heard him and Mom after Faith’s funeral. He hated them, but it didn’t make any sense. Faith drowned. Dad believed the Lovells contributed to Faith’s death somehow, despite the coroner’s accidental drowning conclusion.

I looked over one shoulder at Faith’s headstone. “I’ve got to go. I’ll be back.” I rubbed wet palms against my jeans. My feet stumbled through the grass on autopilot. This was my chance.


I sprinted toward home, formulating a plan. First, I needed a shower and change of clothes. Next, I needed a picture of Faith from that summer. The Lovells probably saw thousands of new faces every year and three years had already passed. Expecting them to remember one girl from a town as unremarkable as ours was asking the impossible.

I slowed my pace on Main Street. Outside the honky-tonk, a fresh banner hung from the awning, a photo advertisement for the Lovell Traveling Sideshow. My mouth dropped open as my gaze swept over the ad. I missed the curb and planted one foot in ankle-deep runoff racing for the gutter. “Gross.” My palms hit the sidewalk, stopping me from a complete fall. The open flap of my bag dripped against my pant leg when I stood. I buckled the bag without looking, unable to drag my focus away from the banner. A woman covered in tattoos posed with a set of acrobats front and center. A shirtless strongman with a mask and endless muscles stood behind her. I tried to match Anton and his flowers to the masked man in the photograph. Was it possible?

A man in tuxedo tails pulled fire from his hat and a woman in a ball gown swallowed swords. Animals in black tutus and studded collars pranced at her feet. Behind the others stood a brown-eyed guy with neck ink, a guitar, and a frown. Cross was a performer all right. He was one of them. A Lovell.



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