by: Dawn Husted
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Releases: June 13, 2017
For Mia Hieskety, surviving high school meant focusing on exams and attending the occasional party. After breaking up with her boyfriend, who she didn’t even like, dating was off the agenda. That is, until Thanatos came along.
Mia finds herself lured by the mysterious new student with two-toned eyes. Determined to find out who Thanatos is, what he is, and why he seems so interested in her, she accompanies him to his home where a sinister world awaits.
Discovering the truth, a supernatural connection that intertwines with her past, Mia’s life is at risk—and she doesn’t know who to trust.
THE COMPULSION TO FIND HIM made me slightly crazy.
My knees shook, vibrating my full-size bed; my headboard tapped the wall like Morse code. Restlessness overtook my feet. I wished my parents would leave already.
The same moment I tossed another knife, a knock jolted the door. “Mia, we’re going. Sure you don’t want to come? Fresh air,” my mom urged in her counselor voice, an unfortunate result from all the years as adviser at my little brother’s school.
I flung my third knife, whipping it next to the others. Knife throwing calmed my nerves, and mine were buzzing like phones during study hall. Adding to my angst, the anniversary of my kidnapping loomed around the corner.
I slid off the bed, and breathed in a steady breath before opening the door. She flashed a toothy grin, trying to hide the meaning behind her inquiry. I knew what she wasn’t saying: not accompanying them to the county fair was out of character. “Are you feeling okay? Is this about Trip?”
Trip and I broke up last week, but I wasn’t thinking about him in the slightest.
“Mom, really. I’ve a ton of homework … a chemistry test, never mind the essay.” Only eight months left of my junior year. I’d filled out Berkeley’s mandatory questionnaire last week, but the essay portion remained unfinished.
I avoided her eyes. She was good at telling when I was lying. I needed to move, not look her in the face. I stepped from view and plucked the scarlet handles out of the bullseye, one by one. I didn’t want her to think I was up to something. My unusual talent had left a few painted-over scars in the door.
Mom slipped her face further around the side, and squinted as if trying to read my thoughts. Thick dark-brown strands of hair slid over her bronze shoulder. My hair was cursed with no thickness whatsoever, but had instead acquired my dad’s double cowlick. “All right. Love you, Mia,” she replied, then gave me a kiss on the forehead, probably hoping I would change my mind, and left.
I heaved a sigh of relief.
If I went with my family to the fair and ran into him again, my mom would surely be
watching over my shoulder, making the interaction doubly weird. She had this uncanny ability to wiggle herself into my measly social life whenever possible.
A little voice in the back of my head—not an actual voice, but something—like a mental itch I couldn’t scratch—compelled me to find Eye Guy. And what better place than at the fair, the same place I first ran into him two days ago? The day I’d smashed a basket of nachos all over his shirt by accident. Did I know him somehow?
Eye Guy wasn’t from my school; I would’ve seen him in the halls. Who was he? He had two different-colored eyes—heterochromia iridium—which was why I dubbed him, Eye Guy.
I snatched my backpack off the round chair in the corner of my room, stuffed my chem book inside, plus the binoculars and the camera Uncle Shawn had given me.
My eyes slid shut and I listened for the sound of the front door closing.
Scurrying over to my window, I watched the three of them walk toward the street. My eight-year-old brother, Bennie, yanked back-and-forth on my parents’ hands toward a waiting car. They were catching a ride with neighbors.
With a lightness in my chest, my pulse raced. It was now or never.
I rushed down the stairs two at a time. The aroma of popcorn wafted past my nose, as I swung off the mahogany banister and darted into the kitchen for a little to-go snack, and then out into the garage to grab my bike.
Old boxes of memories lined the edges of the bay, allowing just enough space for our only vehicle. I inched in between the hood of the old van, squishing a box with my butt, me popping out the other end. The bike was important; I needed a faster mode of transportation so I could hustle home before my parents returned.
I glided down Ponderosa, the uneven pavement vibrating from my seat all the way up to my neck, and turned left onto Birmingham—a roundabout way to bypass my parents. Beneath an old bridge, homeless huddled in the dark corners; a few stragglers glared at the lights and sounds singing in the distance, blocks away.
The top of the water tower dotted the sky, beyond the overgrown trees and shingled roofs. The sun clung to life in the clouds, streams of lavender highlighting the horizon.
I peddled faster.
Ten minutes later, I arrived at the water tower. A white sign with red letters warned KEEP OUT along the fence. I looped my fingers through the chain-links and whipped my head side-to-side. People weren’t allowed on government property. But being that I was only seventeen, obtaining a mark on my record for breaking and entering wasn’t as big of a deal.
The weight of my bike became heavier the higher I lifted; the aluminum frame fumbled from my grasp, slamming the wheels to the ground on the other side.
Now it was my turn.
I stood at the bottom, gazing up. A shoulder-width ladder looped from the concrete to a narrow balcony that rounded the center of the bulbous top. The water tower looked like an upside-down ear syringe. The red bold letters painted around the tank had begun to fade, but I could still make out the city name: Gaige, Texas.
I halted mid-step. The feeling of a hundred butterflies fluttering down my chest gathered in the pit of my stomach. I lurched forward, gripping the metal ladder for support. The butterflies metamorphosed into thundering dragonflies, their wings beating against my insides.
I squeezed the ladder, my nails digging into my palms. Why had the sudden pain erupted? I wanted it to stop!
The little voice in the back of my head told me to climb. Logically, it didn’t make sense, but somehow, I knew Eye Guy couldn’t be too far away. The right side of my brain advised me of the odds of spotting some random stranger in the chaotic mass of the fair. But I had to try.
I climbed through the pain, finding it hard to breathe.
At the top, I fell over onto the balcony.
The dragonflies in my stomach fluttered away. What was happening?
Breathing in, I shucked off my backpack and grabbed the binoculars. Immediately, I began searching the enormous, far-off crowd. Drums thundered from the streets filled with thousands, and voices clamored into the distance. Triangular tangelo flags waved. Flashes of blue lights glimmered sporadically above the sea of heads. A band’s music boomed from the stage, and the whine of guitars faded in the background.
I reached for the popcorn, remaining fixated on the hordes of people. I stuffed a handful in my mouth without looking away.
A magnetic-like pull, stronger than before, honed my focus to the outer edge of the fair.
Ten heartbeats later, I spotted him; for the first time luck was on my side.
Near the outside, behind the Pig Race tent and in front of the Mirror of Mazes, Eye Guy walked slowly through a group of girls sporting short shorts and spaghetti strap shirts. I watched him in reverence as he squeezed through. He wore a long-sleeve plaid shirt and black gloves, just like two days ago.
Why would he dress so warmly? It was September.
But, I had to admit, he pulled it off. My eyes locked on his back as he meandered through the mass. I tossed another handful of popcorn in my mouth then dropped the binoculars and snapped a few photos. My hands shook, making it hard for the camera to focus. Calm down Mia.
I grabbed the binoculars again and zeroed in. The range of vision was as if I was standing right next to him.
He halted mid-step to chat with a tall blond in a red leathery outfit, a girl as unique and pretty as him but with a body much curvier than mine. Her heels matched her flashy wardrobe, and the dark eyeliner that mapped the outside of her eyes resembled that of a rabid raccoon. My toes wiggled against my rubbery flip-flops.
It was apparent Eye Guy and she knew one another by the way they stood inches apart—he with his arms crossed. I narrowed my eyes. The girl’s hand remained poised on her hip as she scanned the crowd; her serious expression left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Then his eyes narrowed in midst of their conversation. He unfolded his arms as a group of scrawny kids my brother’s age bounced into a trashcan, toppling it over, spilling rotten contents out next to his boots.
His attention turned back to the girl. Her lips moved too fast for me to make a measly attempt at trying to read them—especially since I lacked skills in that department. But the manner in which his lips pressed together as his square chin jutted downward, one word stood out: Mia.
Unless he said ‘me’ and not ‘Mia.’
The binoculars thudded against my chest, and I froze. Had I seen that correctly? Did he really say my name?
“Of course not.” Many words could appear to look like my name: many, milli, mile, melon if the-lon was left off. Maybe they were simply discussing dinner plans, or whatever other hundred things that I hadn’t thought about. I bet he didn’t have a clue who I was. How would he?
I raised the binoculars back up slowly.
The second I found him again, his face snapped upward—up into the shadows where I was hiding; I jerked back, my hands lost grip and the binoculars slipped from my grasp, whacking the railing.
Was I seeing things?
I grabbed the binoculars and looked again, but he was gone. The girl too. I swam over every head, every face, but he was gone.
And just like that, the magnetic pull faded.
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Dawn Husted is the author of Scythe of Darkness, a YA urban fantasy novel. She graduated with a BS from Texas A&M University. When not writing, she’s either camping or dreaming about camping. She’s a member of SCBWI, and lives in southern Texas with her husband and two kids.
Her romanticism of the supernatural is well-crafted in Scythe of Darkness. This gripping YA weaves fate and destiny in a new unsuspecting way.
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