By Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef
Published: March 23rd, 2015
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Genre: YA, Native American, Fantasy
Juliet Wildfire Stone hears voices and sees visions, but she can’t make out what they mean. Her eccentric grandfather tells her stories about the Great Wind Spirit and Coyote, but he might as well be speaking another language. None of it makes any sense.
When she stumbles upon a series of murders she can’t help but worry her grandfather might be involved. To discover the truth, Juliet must choose between her new life at an elite private school and her Native American heritage. Once she uncovers an ancient secret society formed over two hundred years ago to keep her safe, she starts to wonder whether there’s some truth to those old stories her grandfather has been telling her.
All she wants is to be an average sixteen-year-old girl, but she has never been average—could never be average.
Betrayed by those she loves, she must decide whether to run or risk everything by fulfilling her destiny as the Chosen.
Everything about me is a lie.
My entire life is a leaning tower of lies that threatens to collapse at any moment and bury me so deep I may never climb out from under the rubble.
I slam the bathroom door and my hand trembles as the old-fashioned steel bolt slides into place.
The locked door offers no real safety. Locked doors can be broken, but it does give me a moment of privacy and a chance to breathe. So much has happened over the past few days. It’s like I’ve become a totally different person, someone unrecognizable.
The adrenaline that had been pumping through my veins has completely melted away now as I lean against the wooden door. My breath comes fast and ragged. My body feels heavy and weary and my legs weaken. Gravity pulls me down. Too tired to resist, I slide down the length of the door until the white marble floor rushes up to meet me.
I work hard to steady my breath and focus on taking in fresh air, expelling the old. It’s a simple process, yet it takes all of my concentration. When air starts to flow, my eyes close. Time slows and drifts by erratically.
Images flash through my mind—an eclectic group of memories: childhood birthdays, second place in a spelling bee, hanging out with Troy, rock climbing with Sicheii. Most are happy, but they’re all tainted now. The lies spoil them. They were never true. They were just part of a story, one that’s changed forever.
My weary mind reaches for sleep, but I resist. Too much time would be wasted. There’s too much for me to do. Too many loose ends need to be tied, so I open moist eyes and wipe away tears I don’t recall crying.
When my vision clears, crimson-streaked fingers flutter near my face as if directed by someone else. I thought blood looked like ketchup, but it’s darker and thicker than you would think. My hands spin in tight circles. Each finger is stained with thick, mud-colored smears.
Whose blood is on them?
A cold sweat coats my back and my chest tightens. This blood must be scrubbed away immediately. It starts to burn as if it’s alive, as if possessed by dark spirits, spirits that want to harm me. It freaks me out. I have got to wash them clean now, this second, immediately, before….
I turn the faucet and hot water tumbles over my skin. I frantically rub my fingers together and hope friction and water alone will make the blood disappear. The water in the sink turns red and then pink, but traces of blood stubbornly stay behind. A bar of soap rests on the edge of the porcelain sink. Lather squishes between my fingers—twisting and turning, scrubbing and rinsing. My skin turns raw from the rubbing, and when the water has lost all its warmth, I turn the faucet off.
Hard to find specks of blood cling to my flesh, but I still see them and feel them.
Will they ever wipe clean? I don’t think so.
A silent scream builds deep within me, which so desperately wants to be released it practically hurts, but no sound slips past my lips. I’m too tired to scream.
A square mirror hangs over the sink, but it’s an enemy. I don’t want to see who I’ve become, so my gaze stays fixed down toward the sink. Unfortunately, the blood-smeared faucet is shiny, stainless, and reflects back an image of myself anyway. I glare deep into my eyes, leaning close to the faucet to study them. They look familiar, but as I pierce them more deeply, a hollowness appears that has never been there before. It scares me.
People change. Sometimes they change over the course of a lifetime, and other times change happens swiftly because of a single momentous event. I’m not the same person I was just a few days ago. Too much has happened, too many lies revealed. Truths, solid and real, have crumbled away before me and left behind falsehoods, shadows, and a future as uncertain as a prisoner on death row waiting for a pardon.
The pendant Sicheii gave me flops out from underneath my shirt. It was supposed to protect me. I grip it until my knuckles turn white.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
“Juliet, we’ve got to talk, Love. We need to come up with a story for the police.”
Just a few days ago, I was an average teenaged girl who looked forward to her sixteenth birthday, hoping for a little freedom and a chance to get a driver’s license.
Being average is a joke. I will never be average. I was never average….
Jeff Altabef lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of “telling stories,” he thought he would make it official.
He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres. Fourteenth Colony, a political thriller from Tate Publishing, was his debut novel. Evolved Publishing released his second novel, the thriller Shatter Point, in 2014, and will release his young adult fantasy series Chosen, co-written with his daughter Erynn, starting in the spring of 2015.
Jeff has a column on The Examiner focused on writing, and a blog designed to encourage writing by those that like telling stories. You can find his blog, The Accidental Writers’ Workshop, on The Chappaqua-MountKisco Patch, via the link under the “Contact” tab above. You’ll also find under that tab ways to join with Jeff in various social media venues.
Some of her favorite authors are Veronica Roth, Joelle Charbonneau, and her dad! (That would be Jeff Altabef.)
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Wind Catcher Book Tour