Years ago, witch hunters came to Carolina and devoured the Willows. Sixteen-year-old Collette, a powerful empath, was one of them. A part of a long line of witches that stretches back as far as the slave auctions of Charleston, she was especially gifted.
Decades later, a series of strange kidnappings prompts a member of her secret coven to make a plea for help and Collette is chosen to answer the call. But things have changed. Angels have come out of the divine closet and everyone is on the lookout for the supernatural.
Snatched from the Void, she has to choose between a normal life and following the warrior path of the Willows, a coven she didn't know she belonged to. Soon, problems pile sky-high as she struggles to keep the boy who could blow her cover at arm’s length and her sanity as family secrets come to light in the midst of a serial killer.
In the end it all comes down to destiny, death and the grey places between good and evil. But then again, when you’re Willow Born death can be just the beginning.
|Publisher:||Rochelle and Reed Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
Read an Excerpt
By Shanna Miles
Rochelle and Reed Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Rochelle and Reed Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
I died. I am sure of this. There was a fire. I can still feel life, my soul, slipping away like a large fish in my too small hands.
How long has it been?
Blood rushes past my ears to the beat of my racing heart and the urge to breathe grips me. I connect brain to lungs, lungs to mouth and open it only to swallow a mouthful of water. I try again and get another gush of water, ice cold and dirty. My brain makes the final connections from arms to toes and I am thrashing. I am drowning.
Electricity rages inside my chest and licks at my throat to scrape at my brain. I fight harder and will myself to see. My arms reach in every direction and with the farthest tip of my right hand I graze the surface of the water.
The air blows in cool gusts across my face and the water smells of earth and sand and growing things.
Echoes of people ride on the wind along with music playing and lots of laughter. It tinkles like jingle bells across the water still warm from the summer sun. If it were a food it would be powdered sugar, landing like snowflakes on my eyelids, on my tongue and in my ears. God, I'm hungry.
In my exhaustion I can't even attempt to put my shields up. Even if I did I'd still be able to see the swirling cloud of pink and sunset orange emotions hovering over the lake house on the faraway shore, like a selective storm atop the gates of Oz. I can see this because I'm an empath. All my life I've been able to see emotions. I can also feel them, so much so that if I'm not careful they overwhelm me, make me do things I don't want to do. Say things I don't want to say. The sight of that roiling tempest of joy and anxiety is the last thing I want to swim into.
I won't make it anyway. I'm going to run out of time, my burning muscles are telling me so. Soon my puppy paddle crumples into little more than a sad half-dead dog splashing.
About the time when my arms decide to give up I feel a pang of nervousness pull at my stomach and then knot. Someone is close.
It's a man's voice, but I can't tell where it's coming from. I'm tired. Really tired and I need to keep paddling.
The far away sound of splashing paddles fills my ears and then closer, right before a life preserver knocks me in the face. Hard.
"Ah, man. I'm sorry. Grab the doughnut and I'll pull you in!"
My lip is bleeding, but all I can think about is how grateful I am to stop paddling. The doughnut is sweet relief. The blood, icing.
* * *
"You think she's an angel?" whispers the other boy, excitedly.
"What? That is literally the dumbest thing you've ever said to me. I think angels can save themselves from drowning. Besides, she doesn't have wings," he says flatly. "She must've been at the party," the familiar voice speculates.
"Naw, I would've noticed her. And you don't know that they all have wings. They can look just like us," he hisses. "You think she's one of the missing girls?"
I can only catch snippets of their conversation. It's taking me awhile to wake up and the anxiety in the room is pressing down on me as heavy as a boulder. A sickly yellow pallor appears behind my eyes.
Someone pulls the blanket tighter around my middle and picks something prickly off my face. The brush of skin is electrified ice, so cold it burns and radiates so that even my shoulders know I've been touched. He is gentle though, as if he doesn't want to wake me.
"What are you gonna do with her?" the voice spits. Anger, long simmering and oddly powerful scratches at my mind like a wool sweater, prickly and cloying, I cut it off quickly with my shield, but I'm only able to shut one of them down. I'm still getting soft waves of concern from Mr. Familiar. It sits lightly on my skin and sinks down. It's calming and I'm better for it. Otherwise, I might be a nervous wreck.
If I had sense, I would be a nervous wreck. I shouldn't be here, right? This is dangerous, isn't it?
As I come to, I can feel Mr. Familiar's emotions move from concern to anger and frustration and it rolls over me in a multi-colored fog behind my eyelids, all with that unfamiliar electricity tickling my spine. It's too much too soon. I try to shield myself, but it's not working with him.
"She's opening her eyes," says Mr. Familiar softly.
I sit up slowly, pressing my body firmly into the cushions of a white leather couch, creating as much distance as I can muster between me and this stranger.
He's handsome, almost too handsome and the first thing I notice is honey. Dark, wildflower honey colored skin, thick sandy-brown hair shaved to an odd curly peak, and hazel eyes that sparkle like amber. Shocks of blonde shoot through curls and look so yellow as to be fake, but the calluses on his hand tell me he'd never waste time on such a thing. That and the jaw so sharp it could chop wood.
I've been quiet too long. I never know what to say at the best of times. My tongue doesn't tie it just sits like a dead fish. Now is no different. Amber eyes rest on me and brim with a relief that seems too personal for a stranger. Tiny dew-like beads of charcoal-colored worry collect on my boat captain's upper lip. He hands me a mug from the coffee table behind him.
"Hey. Drink this," he says softly.
It is full of something sweet and warm. Black Tea with lemon. I blink hard and try to seem grateful even though I don't have the words. The muscles in my face twitch and I hope I'm smiling sweetly.
I inadvertently graze his arm when I try to tip the mug back and a shock of electricity shoots through my arm. I yelp and a bit of the tea spills on his shirt. Twice. That feeling. This has never happened before.
He winces. "It's cool. It's alright. I got it."
He stands up to his full height and slips off his tank top. He's not short, but not really what I would call tall, but good Lord, he is muscular. He looks like a jungle cat when he goes to pick up a replacement from a hamper nearby. He's still wearing the damp khaki shorts he must have carried me in. Dark water spots color the space where thigh meets hip. Sculpted boy hips. I should stop staring.
He has to nudge past the other boy who has been staring from the stairwell the entire time.
"Get out and do what I told you to do," he says firmly, but lowly to the other boy.
The other boy, the white boy, looks to be too big and too old to let someone push him around. His eyes are red, the same as his cheeks and his short brown hair has been mussed a bit. He's 280 if he is a pound, but from the way he walks I can tell he doesn't have much heart. He's weak; the kind of guy who walks away from a good fight and lies about it. Without a word he trudges up the stairs quickly, never really meeting my eyes. If it's his house why would he let him talk to him like that.
"You can't talk to him like that." I murmur hoarsely as familiar boy makes his way over and fixes me with a brotherly stare. I'm the little sister who's gotten the flu.
"Oh, I can't? Why's that?" he asks, not unkindly.
"It's his house. H-he could call the law," I stammer nervously.
"Well if he does I'm sure they'd be confused, because this is my house," he answers. "Why did you think it was his?"
"I-I just ... well, he's w-white." As soon as I say it, the words sound stupid, old and ridiculous, in my mouth. I don't know why.
He chuckles softly. "Wow, you must have hit your head pretty hard."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to offend. I'm s-s-orry," I stutter.
"Don't worry about it. I'm Matt." He presents his hand for me to shake. I cough into my free hand as a cover and nod my head instead. I never touch people. Ever. Emotions are the most powerful when passed skin-to-skin.
"I'm Colette. Th-thank you for helping me."
"Thanks for letting me see you naked. Most girls don't really let me get that far on the first date."
I gasp, drawing in each molecule of breath as I quickly look under my blanket and flames erupt in my cheeks.
Sweet Jesus, where are my panties?
He's dressed me in a wrinkled cotton shirt and some flannel pajama bottoms that are three or four-sizes too big.
"S-sorry. Just kidding. I say stupid things when I'm nervous. I mean, full disclosure, I did look, but I knew you'd be embarrassed so I dressed you."
I want to be mad and if my shields were working I would be, but he is so calm that I can't fight it. I feel what he's feeling. His calming breath calms me. That irritating mosquito bite on his leg, irritates me. But that burning, why is it getting stronger. Why aren't my shields working?
I was nearly eight years old before I learned how to create a mental block that shielded me from people's emotions. Avoidance is the best defense. At least that's what Mama used to say. I don't think she anticipated situations like this.
"You okay? You passed out earlier," he says, concerned. I do feel a bit woozy and my head is swimming. I feel a knot on my head and my fingertips snag on burs in my hair. Not only do I feel horrible, but now I know I look it.
He notices the change in my face. "It's not so bad," he murmurs affectionately. "You just need a shower ... and your own clothes and ... a comb." And then he bursts out laughing. Again, I want to be angry. I actually try, but my shields are useless, so I start laughing too.
Just then I hear a door open and slam abruptly so that the pictures on the wall jangle. Chairs slide against the floor and the sound of the screeching assaults us. Matt springs up, staring into nothing as he listens. I listen too.
His brow is furrowed and soon I see the ghost of a decision being made flit across his face. He walks quickly to the dresser pressed against the wall. As he opens it I realize it's the gun closet. He loads quickly.
"Stay here," he whispers. "No matter what you hear, don't come up stairs. Might be Thumpers."
I don't have time to nod before he flicks the switch on the wall, covering me in darkness.
A minute passes and I think about slipping out of the glass patio door. I could disappear into the darkness and escape. But I don't know where I am. How will I find my way home? I've never even been to the post office by myself.
Indecision and fear bloom at the base of my neck, making my ears feel clogged. A few minutes go by and Matt doesn't return. Finally, I decide.
I'm going to run.
I fling off my blanket and tip toe to the sliding door. The door handle is ice in my grip. I glance back at the stairwell and listen intently. Still, nothing. I unlock the door and take a deep breath. I give myself until the count of three.
One. Two. I pull the door open with a strong jerk and a high pitched beeping fills the room. A woman's voice calls out from nowhere, "Basement door open. Basement door open."
I slam the door back and the beeping stops. I look around for the woman quickly, but hear footsteps slowly descending down the stairs. I'm still searching when the light flicks on and I hear a familiar voice in my head.
Dear One!CHAPTER 2
Tell the boy you have a cousin. It is only a half-lie, so it is a half-truth.
Light spills into the room as Matt flicks on the light.
"I think I almost shot your cousin," he says as he sets the shotgun down on the right side of the stairs, but his movements are jerky and his words come out slow, like he's got cotton in his mouth.
Raphael's voice, as clear as it has always been, rings familiarly inside my head. Telepathy or insanity, I don't know. I am sure that Matt hears nothing as Raphael appears behind him on the stairs.
"You can see him?" I ask cautiously. In human form Raphael has chosen to look about 5'5' with a jet-black Bob dyed electric blue at the ends. Most of the time he appears to me as a shifty-eyed tabby cat. All of the time I'm the only one who can see him.
"Him?" Matt asks, crinkling his brow.
"Hi!" Raphael says out loud and perkily through super shiny glossed lips. "You must just be all tore up, girl. Daddy knows you were in his special liquor cabinet after bible study."
His t-shirt reads "Flirt" and he looks like the kind of girl I was raised to never be. Matt is clearly confused ... as he should be. I am confused.
Raphael is my imaginary friend. At least I thought he was imaginary.
At first Matt keeps looking from me to Raphael. His head rocks from me to him like he's watching a tennis match, but soon his motions slow to a crawl. He stares out into the room with an unfocused glare, his eyes seeing nothing. Jaw slack, his eyes glaze over.
I wave a hand in front of his face. It's like he's in a trance or maybe time has stopped. Maybe this is some weird version of purgatory or Hell. I don't think I've done anything so bad as to go to Hell.
"Is he going to be all right?" I ask and take a long hard disbelieving look at Raphael. "He can see you."
"He'll be fine. As an added bonus I'll even let him remember you were here," he says in the flirty girl voice he's affected.
He walks over to me, side stepping red plastic cups on the way, and gives me a big hug. He smells of sugar and bread flour.
"I've missed you," he says in his regular voice. "Good to have you back."
He picks up a coil of my ratty hair and clucks his tongue.
I'm stunned for a second and then recover. "Are we really going to talk about my hair?"
"Of course not, clearly you must know what it looks like. If it feels half as bad as it looks then, well, you know."
"What am I doing here Raphael? What's happened to me?"
If I ever had a grip on reality it's unraveling. I died I know this and yet I'm standing in this basement dressed in a strange boys clothes. I'm dreaming. That's what this is.
He shakes his head as if I've asked a question that irritates him and bounds up the stairs. We've left Matt staring into the darkness. My feet hesitate in mid-air for the slightest of seconds. He did help me. He didn't have to. My hesitation doesn't last long. I follow like a good girl. I always do as I'm bid.
"Let's go," Raphael says brightly as we burst into a room covered in stuffed ducks, deer and other woodland animals.
"Where?" I ask.
"You are going to your new home," he chirps. We quickly make our way upstairs and past more slack-jawed teenagers. I don't see the boy from earlier, though I could have missed him, we're moving so fast. We walk out of the house and into the night air.
A boy is sitting on the porch with a cup in his hand, frozen, but not asleep. Raphael whispers into his ear and he moves. Raphael follows so I follow too, all the way to the boy's car where we strap ourselves in. Another whispered instruction and we're on our way.
"I'm dreaming aren't I?" I ask.
"No, Dear one," he replies.
"But I died."
"You did," he replies matter-of-factly. The boy drives on like a servant, blinking slowly every few seconds.
"You're imaginary," I remind him. I say it as if by saying it, all of this will fall away and I'll wake up, like telling yourself you're dreaming inside the dream cancels out the crazy.
Raphael leans over the front seat and looks at me with his teenage girl's face. "Oh, Darling."
Doesn't he know that bass timbre out of that glossy mouth is frightening?
"You are going to your new home. Your mother is dead. She has been dead for a very long time. It is my job to help you get settled again."
My breath catches in my throat and I clench my fists, digging my nails into my palms as the tears quickly fall. I knew this. I don't know how I knew. But I knew as soon as I took my first breath in the lake. The air smelled different, wrong somehow.
I am not dead, but my mother is. I am not going back to my old life. These are facts. I need to keep track of what is real.
"What are you?" I ask calmly, ready to accept whatever may spill from his mouth.
"I've always been. Some call me a familiar, but your Mama just called me friend," he replies.
I sit for a long time and think about that. Mama never chastised me for playing with Raphael, even when I got far too old for an imaginary friend.
"Am I immortal?" I ask. I stare into Raphael's foreign eyes and wait to fall apart when he answers. I want to be strong, but I'm tired.
"No," he says seriously.
"What's wrong with me then?"
You have been apart from the body for some time. One with the universal consciousness. Here and not here. There will be things you know, but have no memory of learning and others that will be completely new to you. Your mother's death is not news to you. In a way, you mourned her long ago.
"What on earth are you talking about?" I snap. You're a cat! Universal consciousness? I'm sure I'm dreaming. I just need to figure out how to wake up.
"Mortals," he hisses as he rolls his teenage eyes and turns to the hypnotized boy. "I don't know why I even try."
We come to a stop at a grand house on a quiet street with brick walkways, rippled and broken by roots from the ancient magnolia trees that line the street. The closed shutters make the house look like its sleeping with peeling paint for eyelashes.
"Here," he replies.
We get out of the car, leaving the boy drooling and staring in the front seat as we walk through the filigreed wrought iron fence. There's a bird fashioned at the top of it that looks like it was frozen in place just before it was to fly away. It squeaks when I swing it open. The sound stops my momentum but Raphael nudges me. Dry leaves crunch under my bare feet and acorns dig into the arches. I pause again. I'm noticing too much. Dread is here, lurking behind the twin crepe myrtle trees in the yard. This is not a dream.
Excerpted from Willow Born by Shanna Miles. Copyright © 2017 Rochelle and Reed Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Rochelle and Reed Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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