Authors: Sarah Wynde
Someone wants her dead. But why?
When a gorgeous stranger tries to murder 21-year-old Fen, she’s rescued by a teenage boy, Luke, and his sexy older brother, Kaio. But escape might not be so easy. A killer is after her and she’s got no place to run. Or does she?
The brothers offer her a safe haven, whisking her off to a glamorous Caribbean island, but the island’s atmosphere simmers with unnerving undercurrents. The brothers have secrets and Fen has questions. Who are they? How did they know she was in trouble? And what aren’t they telling her?
When Luke takes her to a magical underwater city, she discovers answers more enchanting than she could have imagined. But the enchantment has dark edges. Fen finds herself caught in the tides of romance, mystery, and political intrigue with her life on the line. If she hopes to stay afloat, she'll have to find courage she never knew she had.
A Lonely Magic
is a young adult fantasy, suitable for readers of
The Hunger Games
, and the later books in the
series. There are no explicit sexual scenes or graphic violence, but Fen’s not shy about swearing when she’s under stress.
A Lonely Magic
A Lonely Magic
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is coincidental.
Published by Rozelle Press
independent publisher of unexpected fiction
Copyright © 2014 Wendy Sharp
All rights reserved.
Fourth Edition: November 2015
To my wonderful friends, Suzanne and Greg Stafford, who dragged me to Belize and reminded me that life holds unexpected adventures and beauty.
“Your choice.” The man stepped closer, into the glow cast by the light over the back door to the bookstore. In one hand, he held a pill bottle. In the other, he held a gun, pointed at her.
What kind of mugger demanded you decide how you wanted to die?
“You’re insane,” Fen said. Her breathless voice caught on the cold night air, words barely carrying. Hand hidden behind her back, she fumbled for the doorknob. She’d closed the door behind her before the man stepped out of the alley’s darkness. It should have locked automatically, but maybe this once…
She found the knob. It didn’t turn.
She’d dropped her keys when she saw the gun. Could she scoop them off the ground before he attacked? Her legs felt weak, her knees made of water, her chest heavy.
“Your choice,” the man repeated.
She’d imagined getting murdered on her way home from work before, but not like this. A desperate junkie, strung-out on meth, a knife in his shaking hand, okay. Maybe a skinny teenager with empty eyes going through a gang initiation rite. But this guy wore a suit. A nice suit! His hair was neatly cut, his teeth white and straight. Perfect nose, perfect mouth, perfect cheekbones. He even had good eyelashes, dark and lush around his green eyes.
And he looked familiar, like she’d seen him before. “Do I know you?”
His lips tightened, but he ignored the question. “I have no interest in hurting you. You can take the pills or I can shoot you. It’s more efficient for me if you take the pills, but choose or I’ll choose for you.”
“Efficient? You want to murder me efficiently?” A trickle of anger broke through Fen’s fear.
“This is just a job, miss,” he said. The barrel of the gun lifted.
Fen's voice was stronger as she said, “You’re making a mistake. I don’t have anything worth stealing.”
She stuffed her shaking hands into her jacket pockets, wishing desperately that she had a gun of her own, something, anything that could damage the asshole, make him a little less perfect before he murdered her. Her hand closed around her lucky crystal. Too bad it didn’t have jagged edges. The small rounded stone would barely leave a bruise if she threw it at him.
“I don’t intend to steal from you. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Fen thought. “Are you talking about the other night at Zach’s place?” she asked, hating the tremor in her voice.
He didn’t answer.
“Zach would never agree to this,” she said, hand tightening into a fist. She and her downstairs neighbor were friends. Okay, maybe not exactly friends, more like flirtatious. Zach was a bike messenger, the kind of guy with classic bad boy appeal. His dark eyes and shaggy hair said that he lived life close to the bone, took a few too many risks, while his charming grin invited her to ride along.
Maybe for him she had good-girl appeal—the neat and proper bookstore clerk, working nine-to-five, studying six-to-twelve. Or maybe he’d seen hints of the bad girl she’d once been under the surface. Maybe he’d caught a glimpse of her tattoos. The one on her shoulder blade sometimes peeked out of her shirt collars and in summer the ivy pattern twining up the back of her leg was easy to spot.
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” The man turned the pill bottle in his hand, as if about to put it away. “Last chance.”
“Wait!” Fen said, despair near the surface. “I won’t tell anyone. I didn’t see anything. And I don’t care. So he’s dealing drugs, so what? It’s none of my business. I’m not going to the police.”
The thug blinked at her. Did he look surprised? She couldn’t tell. But he frowned, and his voice was dry as he said, “I’m doing a job. I don’t negotiate with the target. Pills or pain, your decision.”
Fen swallowed hard.
Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.
That was just a really sucky choice.
Help me, please help me
, she thought, closing her eyes. She didn’t know who she was begging, but she wasn’t going to beg her assailant.
Hating him with a passion colder than the Chicago wind, she stepped forward and extended her hand. “Pills.”
“Good choice.” He tossed the bottle to her in an underhanded throw that landed in the center of her palm. Her fingers closed around it.
“What are these?”
“Take them all,” he said. “I’ll wait.”
She wanted to point out that that wasn’t an answer to her question, but she drew herself up, back straight, chin held high and said, as regally as she could, “Water?”
A hint of a grin crossed his face and he dipped his head as he said, “Sorry, miss. They’re not large.”
Asshole. Slimeball. Cretin. Moronic, idiotic, bastard, pretty boy. Total creeper psychopath.
Her mental diatribe wasn’t helping her feel any better as she forced the lid of the bottle down and swiveled to open it. She dropped the cap on the ground and let the first few pills spill out into her hand. The bottle was nearly full, at least thirty or forty pills in it.
Was she really going to take all of them, knowing each one would bring her closer to death?
She wasn’t ready to die.
Five years ago, she might not have cared. She might have been grateful. This goon could have done the deed she hadn’t quite managed to do herself. But today—today she was getting her life together. Okay, so she was way behind the curve, still studying for her GED when kids her age were graduating college. But she was getting there, even if it was an inch at a time.
Twenty-one was too damn young to die.
“How fast will it be?” she asked, keeping her voice steady with an effort.
“Pretty quick if you’ll get on with it.” He lowered his gun.
“Can I—are you going to make it look like a suicide?”
“Accident, I was thinking.”
“Oh, come off it,” she said. “Nobody takes this many pills by mistake.”
He inclined his head to her in reluctant acknowledgement. “True.” He raised his gun again. “But I don’t need any melodrama about this, all right? Believe it or not, I’m being nice.”
“A suicide note would make it more convincing.” She put the first pill in her mouth, grimacing as she swallowed.
“Yeah.” He sounded wary.
“I’d like to say good-bye to Theresa.” She gestured behind her. “She gave me a chance when not too many people would have. I owe her.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Fen shifted so the messenger bag strapped across her body was more obvious. “I’ve got paper in here. A pen. Can I write her a note?”
The pause while he considered her question felt like it lasted forever. Fen took another pill. She didn’t feel the effects yet, but it couldn’t be long. “You’ll be able to read it. It’s not like I can make up some great coded message incriminating you in my death.”
He didn’t say anything.
Fen sighed. It had been worth a try. Carefully, she picked another pill out from the few in her hand and swallowed it. She blinked back the tears. Not many people would notice or care that she was gone, but Theresa would mind. It would matter to her.
Fen hoped her boss didn’t spend too long mourning. Maybe Theresa would find another lost sheep to shelter. God, it would suck if Fen's death did to Theresa what Fen’s mom’s death had done to her. For a moment Fen felt doubtful. Maybe she should fight instead. Would it be better to struggle? To get shot?
“Toss me the bag,” he said, breaking her reverie. Maybe he’d read her mind. Could murderers do that?
Fen popped the last pill in her hand into her mouth and slung the bag off her shoulder, swinging it in his direction. She giggled when it landed on the ground. “Oops.”
The pills were already affecting her.
But whatever. If you were going to die, surely it was better to die happy? With numb lips, she said, “Better hurry. Not sure I’m gonna be in shape to write much longer.”
The gorgeous thug snorted, crouching over her bag. “Lightweight.”
Fen looked down at herself and then over at him. “Um, yeah?”
Talk about stating the obvious. She’d always wanted to be taller and definitely curvier. Breasts would have been nice. Instead she had the build of a 4th grade girl, short, skinny, flat-chested.
His lips tightened, but he didn’t comment. He pulled a notepad and a pen out of her bag and shoved them toward her feet.
Fen looked down. What did she want those for? Oh, right… she was going to write a note. Swaying slightly, she leaned down to pick them up, dropping the pill bottle. Pills spilled out onto the asphalt.
“Oh, shit,” she muttered.
She crouched, righting the bottle and setting it on the notepad.
“What happens here?”
The voice was male, but young. Was that a boy?
Fen turned her head in the direction of the voice, past the dumpsters, out of the alley, toward the street. She should tell him to run.
Guy with gun, don’t come in here.
Yep, that’s what she should say.
But first she needed to do something. What was it? God, it was so hard to think through the fuzziness in her head. She put a knee down on the ground to steady herself and looked up.
A boy, barely dressed, his hair wet, was confronting the thug in the suit. His hands were up, not as if he feared the weapon, but as if he were ordering the thug to back off. The thug yelped and dropped the gun to the ground, backing away, out of the alley.