Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you cannot see.
Sophia Perez-Hidalgo’s survival depends upon her mastering magic and the supernatural before her lawless parents and their vengeful boss catch up to her. How far must she flee to escape them? Sophia runs until she’s out of stolen money, then…Fate delivers her into the arms of Louisiana teen Shiloh Breaux Martine, and his grand-mère, a voodoo priestess living deep in the bayou.
Breaux knows Sophia is trouble — but he’ll travel through time, battle zombies, and risk his bright future to protect her. While Ainslie, best friend extraordinaire, will jeopardize her sanity to find and aid Sophia. When friendship, magic, and love are not enough, Sophia will have to save herself. But first, she must believe she’s worth saving.
Two-and-a-half years ago
I'd thought escaping would uncoil the fear and worry squeezing my heart. I figured I'd stop looking over my shoulder once I crossed the California state line, or Arizona's, or New Mexico's, or the border between Texas and Louisiana. But I hadn't. Terror and hunger dogged me. I reeked of desperation. My head throbbed from all the bad decisions I had made since I'd found my bio-parents.
I could still pull out of this; save Christmas. Call Ainslie, the voice inside my head urged. I bet he'll loan you his phone. My gaze zeroed in on the leader of a ragtag group playing basketball on the schoolyard. His short black curls had been coaxed away from his face, revealing warm nutmeg-colored skin and kind, dark eyes. Fifteen years old? I wondered.
He handed the basketball to a young white girl, then glanced my way. His head-to-toe sweep took in my gaunt face, long inky hair, grungy jacket and jeans, scuffed ankle boots, and the school backpack at my feet. He glanced protectively at the little kids who shouted at the girl to pass the ball. Then his gaze migrated back to me. His mouth twisted to one side. I could hear the word tolling inside his head. Trouble.
I hunkered against the side of the school building and tugged my gray knit cap low over my forehead.
"Who's she?" A little kid with Christmas bows stuck on her wooly ponytails wrapped herself around the teen's leg. Her fearful stare gutted me. I'm pretty sure I had worn the same expression the first time I'd entered foster care.
Kick it. I pushed away from the wall. My vision blurred. My hollow stomach whirled and the schoolyard spun like a carousel ride. I braced myself against the cool bricks until the dizziness passed. Pull it together. It will be dark soon. I needed to find a restaurant or fast food joint — any place open on Christmas where I could dumpster dive for food scraps.
I lowered my eyelids and tried to picture the route I had walked from the train station. I hadn't planned on wandering through a lush Louisiana neighborhood. The children's shouts and laughter had lured me to the brick school and its asphalt playground. School had been my favorite place, before…
My thoughts torpedoed back to the barren southern California desert. Some developer had gone bust, and all that remained of his planned subdivision was a paved road dead-ending in sand. "Hide in plain sight," Mamá had said as Papá parked their pink-and-white vintage camper. The vehicle stood out among the sagebrush and creosote like a slash of bubblegum paint.
Hide what? I had wondered. I soon had my answer: a methamphetamine lab.
I rubbed my arms, creating an X over my chest. Embarrassment heated my cheeks. How stupid and naïve I had been. My parents hadn't gone legit. They were trying to evade the local cops and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They had planned to flee northern California without phoning my caseworker or me. If I had waited just one more day to contact them…
"See, the cops would be looking for a couple, not a family," I later overheard Papá boast to his boss.
"Weren't you worried they'd issue an Amber Alert?" one of the boss's henchmen asked, casting a sideways look at me.
"For a foster teen?" Papá scoffed. "They run away all the time."
Buy Links for the Teen Wytche Saga
Ariella Moon is a shaman and the author of the Teen Wytche Saga, a series of sweet Young Adult paranormal romances. She writes about magic, friendship, time travel, high school, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, Spell Fire, and Spell For Sophia from Astraea Press.
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 her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She lives a nearly normal life doting on her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and an enormous dragon.
Connect with Ariella Moon