Sixteen-year-old Lillim Callina is good at two things: running away and magic.
Now, Lillim’s half-demon ex-boyfriend is contacting her for help, she has somehow gotten herself mixed up in a kidnapping, and her long-dead rival has risen from the grave.
So when a dragon plotting to take over the world offers her a choice- work for him or else-
Lillim Callina is going to choose else.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I read the Dresden books back in 2007 and was like I could totally write about a supernatural detective.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I just start writing, and they kind of do their things.
What kind of a tip do you give someone you’ve just blown up? That’s the thought that ran through my mind as I frantically rummaged through my pockets for something, anything to give the delivery boy I’d just blasted into the brick wall outside my tiny apartment.
It wasn’t my fault, I swear. It’s not like my day planner reads: brush teeth, shower, get dressed, blow up delivery boys. No, if anyone was at fault, it was him. When something that looks and smells like a rotting corpse lumbers out of the bushes beside my apartment, I freak.
It was reaching toward me with one translucent hand, splattering bits of gelatinous goo that smelled like rotten eggs. Those are not the normal actions of delivery personnel. Besides, I’ve never seen a UPS guy with an enormous, milky eye in the center of his chest before.
So what had I done? I’d taken a deep breath, forced my heart to stop trying to beat its way out of my chest, and made up a new rule of thumb. When in doubt, poke the thing in the eye. I hadn’t even waited a split second before I jabbed it in the chest-eye with my finger.
“Boom,” I’d whispered.
This wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most people, especially coming from a five foot nothing teenage girl in a gray cardigan and black skirt. Unfortunately for Mr. Tall, Green, and Disgusting, I’m Lillim Callina, and I know magic.
Yeah, that’s right, I said magic. Some people might call it different things, but I’m a simple girl. So I’ll stick to the M-word, even if it gets me horrified glances from old people feeding pigeons in the park.
That’s pretty much when the arc of electricity exploded from my fingertip. Time seemed to stop for a moment as the delivery boy turned his head to regard me curiously, as though he couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I suppose, in retrospect, he had a right to be confused as he was flung backward into the brick wall outside my apartment building with a horrifyingly wet squelch.
“And if you think that’s bad, you should see my next trick,” I’d muttered as the backlash of the spell whipped around me, threatening to make me pass out. Like always, firing magical energy off willy nilly had felt like an elf had hacked into my brain with an axe. I’d shut my eyes and taken a deep breath, trying to will the world to stop spinning.
The smell of its burned flesh, like over-cooked fish, had filled my nose and stung my eyes. Thick curls of steam rose from the creature’s body as it had hoisted itself onto its feet, anger evident in its milky chest-eye, and had spoken the words that changed everything.
“Lillim Callina! I was told to bring you a message, and this is how you treat me?” The creature’s grating speech rubbed on my nerves, so much so, that it took me nearly a full ten seconds before I realized what it had actually said.
That’s when I’d noticed the small package and a messy clipboard with a big sticker that said “sign here” on the ground next to me. I stared at the objects for a long time as various scenarios ran through my mind.
“Sorry.” I knew I was turning several shades of crimson because I could feel my cheeks burning. “I wasn’t expecting a supernatural delivery guy to leap out of my bushes.”
I sighed, wondered once more what kind of a tip you give someone you’ve just blown up, and decided the bits of lint lining my pockets weren’t going to do the job. I picked up the clipboard and signed on the line without thinking about it. This wasn’t going to be my day. I mean it was what, eight in the morning and I’d already accosted an innocent, albeit disgusting, monster.
“That’s the last time I deliver anything for Joshua Landers!” The slime-covered delivery creature snatched the form from my hand and vanished into nothingness. I was still grumbling as I stared forlornly at my goo-covered porch when I realized what the thing had said.
Joshua Landers. He’d said Joshua Landers. That meant, both obviously and unfortunately, my ex-boyfriend had found me. Somehow, someway he had tracked me to this apartment in Southern California. I tried to gulp, but my mouth had gone dry. This was not good. Not good at all. A tremor ran through me as I turned toward my front door and hastily unlocked it.
I’d known this day was coming since I’d run away. I had known, deep down, that no matter how far I ran, they would find me… but I’d had to try. You always have to try, right?
I slammed the door behind me and bolted all six of the locks in quick succession. I fought the urge to slump to the ground in defeat, and tried to ignore my growling stomach as I glanced around my sparsely furnished studio apartment. Beneath my tattered, threadbare desk chair, my heart-patterned blanket lay bunched up into a ball. The far wall was largely obscured by a patchy yellow and white dresser. The top drawer was so stained and misshapen that it looked almost black.
Heaped upon the dresser itself was a pile of clothing that hadn’t quite found its way inside. A doll lay lopsided against the nest of clothing as though sunning itself beneath the bright pink lamp that stood mere inches away.
Sure it was tiny, but I’d liked to refer to it as cozy. Either way, it had worked as a great hiding place until now, even if I never picked up the books that lay strewn about the floor.
My stomach rumbled again, so loud that I was sure the neighbors could hear it. I didn’t eat much, but when I did, it was usually because I was nervous. Still, I tried to tell myself that the spell made me hungrier than I’d thought. That was it… just the spell. My sudden need to chew the wallpaper off the walls had nothing to do with Joshua.
My pint-sized hedgehog, Georgie, stared at me as I walked over to the desk wedged between the front door and my messy futon. I set the package down next to his cage. My breath was starting to come out in quick, ragged little bursts. I swallowed and glanced out the blinds of the only window in my apartment. I didn’t see anyone outside. Yet.
Georgie yawned and ignored me as I turned back to the package and ripped it open. The object inside was as thick as my thumb and about as long. Even beneath its translucent wrapper, the silver candy sparkled with a mischievous sort of brilliance. A solid gold stamp in the center was emblazoned with the letters H. H. This was a candy swizzle.
Candy swizzles were probably the most addictive substance on the planet. They were like injecting concentrated yummy into your veins. That’s really saying something when all we’re talking about is vending machine candy, albeit, a magically enchanted vending machine candy.
Unfortunately, the real reason those things were so addictive wasn’t because they happened to taste exactly like the thing you wanted most. It was because emotional messages could be sent through them. Imagine biting into pure love… or something much darker, like blinding hatred, and you get the idea. Joshua had sent me trouble in a candy-coated shell. Awesome.
“Stop being such a baby and eat the damn thing already.” The voice behind me spoke in a soft, almost melodious way that reminded me of the way you’d think fairy princesses would sound if you didn’t already know they sounded like a bunch of squawking bats.
“Quiet, Matto.” I swatted his ghostly form and shivered.
My heart was already beating just a little faster than normal. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m terrified of ghosts… really, I’m not. But I certainly didn’t like them. They were icky and see through and all-around spooky. I’d never, not in a million years, not even for all the gold in Fort Knox, have asked to have a ghost soul-bound to me. I had not been given that choice. Like it or not, Hisen Mattoc was attached firmly to my soul.
“Don’t even think about it, Lil’. Just put on your big girl pants and…”
“There you go with that talking again.” I glared at him in his black sunglasses and black leather and had the sudden urge to smack the smug look off his face.
“Joshua probably needs your help with something important, or else he wouldn’t come to you, of all people. I know I wouldn’t.” Mattoc crossed his arms over his leather-clad chest and smiled.
“That’s what worries me. A guy who spews toxic gas from his wounds needs my help?” I turned away from my desk and moved into my cramped kitchenette. My stomach rumbled as I opened my fridge and found an empty pickle jar and a can of off-brand soda.
“Maybe he’s just mad that you started dyeing your hair again,” Mattoc sneered, lowering his dark glasses to give me full view of his pale gray eyes.
Joshua hated when I dyed my hair. I had soft lavender hair. It was so pale that it was nearly white. I’d taken to dyeing it black to cut down on the stares from random people. I had to do this pretty often, because, for whatever reason, my hair would start to lighten after a couple days.
I walked back to my desk, grabbed the swizzle, and even though just touching it sent shivers marching down my spine like a parade of ice cold ants, shoved it in my mouth. Flashes of flavor kicked me in the mouth. That wasn’t even the scary thing. The real kicker was the images that came with them. They were so jumbled and frantic that they nearly drowned out the flavors. Imagine biting into a lemon and being so distracted that you didn’t even taste the lemon. It was like that… times a billion.
Pain exploded behind my eyes as all of Joshua’s anguish flooded into me. I reached out, blindly searching for something to grab onto as all his torment and sadness spilled into me, dragging me down into a sea of sorrow like a boat anchor. Without thinking, I spit the offending snack onto the floor where it shattered into a zillion goo-covered pieces.
I latched onto the corner of my desk, sucking in air as quickly as I could. My legs were trembling so badly that I was pretty sure I’d topple to the ground if I let go. Even though the worst of the experience had passed the moment I’d spit the swizzle out, Joshua’s pain clung to my skin like a grimy film.
“To clarify, whatever that is… I want no part of it,” I gasped, attempting to catch my breath.
Mattoc was by my side in an instant, one ghostly hand on my shoulder, the other moving as though he wanted to comfort me. I was looking right at him, and I could see his mouth moving but I couldn’t make out the words. I shook my head and looked at the floor.
Something was wrong with Joshua. That stupid, dumb moron was in trouble. I didn’t know what was wrong. The candy hadn’t made that clear, but something clearly was not all puppies and roses in Joshua land. I was going to have to help him. That almost made it worse. He had asked the girl who had blasted him point blank with a shotgun for help.
“You know, if Joshua wanted to talk to you, he’d have done so before now.” Mattoc’s voice made me jump, and I briefly wondered how long I’d been tuning him out. I looked up at him and was surprised to see concern in his eyes. Hadn’t he just been encouraging me to eat the doom candy?
“So you think this is a bad idea, too?” I asked.
“Without further investigation, it is. You don’t know what’s going on in the supernatural world. You’ve been hiding for the last year.” Mattoc ran a hand through his black hair and pushed it out of his face. “You really need to think about it if you’re going to get involved.”
I swallowed, shoving down the dread welling up like a geyser in my stomach. “If you’re right—” was all I managed to say before my front door exploded in a shower of wooden fragments and bits of metal. Supernatural beings can’t enter a person’s home without permission. Men with machine guns do not have this problem.
J. A. Cipriano is an indie YA author who revels in the spunky, supernatural world of teenagers, werewolves, vampires, and magic.
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