My Book Rating System

My book rating system is based on 5 stars. The book must be rated at least 3 stars for a review.

3 Stars: Good story, good plot, good writing.

4 Stars: I was wowed, but something about the story fell short of perfection.

5 Stars: I was either drooling, on the edge of my seat, or falling in love.

If you would like me to review your book, please contact me at

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Well, my pretties, I'm a little late today, because I went to see an early showing of Harry Potter this morning, but I'm here now, and bringing you back to the world of Eyidora.

We left off after Haley had been freed from the dryads, and she and Tuggin are hiking down a mountain in the rain...Haley tripped and fell over the edge. Will Tuggin leave her to her fate, or save her? Read on and find out!

“Tuggin!” I screamed.

I slid down, scraping my chest, arms, and face. By sheer freaking luck my arm looped around a dwarf tree. I gripped the slippery bark. Rocks pelted my head.

“Ow, freaking shit. Ow!”

When I looked up Tuggin’s hooded face peered down then disappeared.

He’d better not leave me or I’d kill him, whether in this life or the next, I’d hunt him down and kill him. The tree bent and I slid further down its trunk. The bark tore at my skin and my arms ached. I groaned, squeezing my numb fingers tighter. It wasn’t hard; I pretended the tree was Tuggin’s neck. 

A rope swung in front me. Fear glued my hands to the tree…I had no idea how far I’d fall if I missed it, and I stared at the rope as if it were a million miles out of reach.

“Seize the rope!”

A gust of wind blew in my face, its cold breath slapping life back into me. I supported my weight against the cliff with my feet. I shoved myself higher and let go of the tree with one hand and snatched the rope, winding it around my wrist. I counted to three, and then grabbed the rope with both hands. My cheek scraped against the rock when I dropped a few feet.

I prayed the rope wouldn’t slip from my hands. Or Tuggin’s. 

I lurched upward. I tried to help by walking up the cliff, but my feet slipped, and my knees rammed into the mountainside, followed by a sudden drop. I held still, my hands and wrists burning and my shoulders throbbing. After an eternity, Tuggin grabbed me by the arms, hugged me to his chest, and leaned back. His muscles were rock-hard, and his warm breath brushed my cold lips.

“Oh,” I whispered.

Tuggin’s body tensed, and his arms tightened. Something flashed across his face, a sudden brightening of the eyes that just as quickly faded. Everything spun, and I wondered if maybe we’d slipped off the path into a free fall.

“Haley.”  His voice was low, smooth.

His skin felt fevered against mine. I wanted to lean down and suck the heat from his mouth.

“Are we falling?” I sank deeper into a dreamy pit of warmth.

He moved his hands to my shoulders and nudged me. I blinked rain out of my eyes. Tuggin’s gaze shifted to the drop, then back to my face. He nudged me again.

“Oh!” I rolled off him and crawled to the side of the path. I wanted to hide. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to click my heels three times and go the freak home.

Tuggin checked out the rope burns in his hands then coiled the rope and put it in his pack. “You are inept.”

I studied my broken fingernails, the Ruby Red polish that I’d painted on especially for my birthday chipped and gouged. I guessed he hadn’t felt what I’d just felt. What I shouldn’t have felt because he was a kidnapper.

I said, “Excuse me, but in case you’ve forgotten, I didn’t choose to be here. You forced me.”

Tuggin opened his mouth, but whether to agree with me or insult me again, I didn’t know because he shut it without saying anything.

“You got something to say, just say it.”

“You had strength to hold on.” He shrugged. “This surprises me.”


“You are Earth-kin.” His mouth twisted over the word Earth-kin.

I poked my tongue in my cheek. “You know, guys usually act like tools when they’re insecure, or afraid.”

He rose. “What would I fear?”

“I don’t know, but I’d say by the way you’re acting that you’re scared of me.”

“That is absurd.” Tuggin shrugged his backpack onto his shoulders.

I cringed when he glared at me, the fire in his eyes melting my courage.

“I care not what you think, and I certainly do not fear you. You are weak.”

My mouth dropped open. “Then what do you want from me?”

“You?” he sneered. “I want nothing from you. You burden me.”

“Oh, nice. Then why don’t you just let me go? Why’d you just save my life?”

“I am responsible for you.” He said it in the same tone of voice he might have used had he told me we were eating worms for dinner.

I shot back, “The only thing you’re responsible for is kidnapping me!”

Tuggin re-crossed his arms. “You should not be here.”

“You’re the one who told me I’m from Eyidora.”

“You do not act so. Your interlude on Earth has erased your instincts.” Tuggin thumped his chest with a fist. “I have a mission of great importance. I do not have time to care-take a…jahme!” Stopping, he ran his hand through his dripping hair, slicking it back against his head. Then the stone curtain drew over his face again. “We would continue.”

He pointed to the path, and I started hiking. The rain drizzled to a stop and the clouds started to clear out, and the moon helped light the path. It was still a full moon, same as the day I’d tripped through the gateway, but that was like, ages ago, though it looked like it was higher in the sky than before.

My gaze drifted down to a red light burning the horizon. “Is something on fire?”

“Net,” Tuggin said after glancing at the sky. “It is the second truhaan phase.”

“What’s that?”

“Truhaan are the harvest planets.”

“That’s not a moon?”

“Net.” He pointed to a much smaller spot in the sky.

The white planet was so huge that I’d assumed it was the moon. Whatever. I pressed my frozen lips together, clenching my teeth to keep them from chattering. As we hiked farther down, the path widened and I could have walked next to Tuggin, if I’d wanted.

The path led us behind a waterfall to a mega-big door lit by torches. Tuggin threw his weight against it and it swung open. We stepped into a room the size of a school gym, lit by hundreds of candles. I thought the stink of burning wax would melt my nose hair.

Bright rugs covered the stone floor. Stone pillars reached up to the ceiling, and a stone staircase climbed one end of the room. I made tracks for the giant fireplace just as a woman walked toward us. She wore a deep blue dress with a gold belt, its folds dancing behind her. Long, dark hair caressed her waist.

 “Tuggin,” she said. “You were to arrive sooner.”

“We lost the sleipnir.”

She checked me out, never blinking during her once-over. I shifted from one foot to the other, glancing at Tuggin who acted as though I’d ceased to exist.

“Greetings. Welcome to Given Hall. I am Enja,” she said after a long pause.

“I’m Haley…Allaire.”

Enja tilted her head. “You have traveled a great distance to be here, yes?”

I nodded.

“And why is it you have come to be here now, during the rise of the storm?”

I licked my lips. Well, duh, I didn’t control the weather. “Not a clue.”

Enja took Tuggin’s arm and led him through the hall. “You have arrived just in time. The Mavens will be here tomorrow, yes?”

Following, I felt small and dirty. I looked back at the tracks I left on the floor and tried to pat my soggy hair in place. A girl followed with a rag, wiping up the mud.

“You will join us for raha, yes?”

“Of course,” Tuggin agreed, stopping at the bottom of the stairs.

“You wish to change from your travels. You will be shown to your rooms.” She nodded again, turned, and swept away as two girls skipped down the stairs.

“What’s a raha?” I asked.

Without answering, Tuggin followed the giggling girls up the stairs.

I glared at him. Couldn’t he explain where we were? Who Enja was? And what this raha thing was about? He was the one kidnapping me; he could at least try to be nice.
None of them seemed to care that I held back. They were labeling me as an outcast, just like the hall gods and goddesses had done on Earth, always making me feel like I didn’t belong. Perhaps I didn’t belong anywhere. Certainly not here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

Welcome back to the world of Eyidora! We left Haley who has found a magic herb, and had a crazy-ass dream about one of the nature gods. Oh, and she had a chance to escape Tuggin, but was too tired and sick to make a run for it.


I woke to whispering silence.

Dead leaves murmured hidden secrets. Trees hissed in the chill air, whirling ghostly vapors across my face. I thought about the old man and how I’d gotten scared and made the dumb-ass decision not to escape when I had the chance, and anxiety danced along my spine. The lone, haunting wail of a mourning dove caught my funky mood.

My stomach churned and my head felt woozy. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with a cold, or maybe there was a weird plant or tree that I was allergic to.

I sat up and checked the woods, just to make sure that crazy man wasn’t watching me. Tuggin was nowhere to be seen. Perfect. I’d just grab my stuff and jet. I moved to get up, and was jerked to a halt by the rope. I stared at it. Damn, did I only dream that I’d gotten free? It had seemed so real.

My mouth was still hanging open when Tuggin appeared from the trees and untied me. I rubbed my wrist and gaped between the rope and the woods then gasped when he traced my cheek with his finger.

“What has occurred here?” he asked.

I touched the welt on my cheek. “Must have rolled against the tree in my sleep.”

It had been a dream, but my face was scratched from that branch, as if it had happened, but that was numb nuts crazy. Tuggin squinted, so I widened my eyes to look innocent.

Tuggin stiffened then leaned close to stare into my eyes. My heart fluttered like a butterfly trying to escape a net, and my legs came close to buckling. I hate the kidnapper, I told myself. I do, I do.

“What have you done?”

I had no clue what he meant, but knowing Tuggin, I’d probably done something to piss him off. Like breathe. “Um, nothing?”

“Your eyes are dilated.” He searched me in that way that made me feel as though I was naked, and warmth trickled down my legs. “What have you ingested?”

I glared at him. “I don’t do drugs.”

“Then why?”

I shrugged.

“And they are ringed with brown specs.”

“Are you color blind? They’re gray.”

“They have changed.”

I laugh-snorted. “Yeah, right.”

His gaze traveled my body, and then he turned away with a shrug. “You are odd.”

Jerk, jerk, jerk! He was the loose cannon with the knife and dorky clothes, and he called me a freak? I had to get away from him before he got all huffy and slit my throat for no good reason other than me telling him he was color blind.

Still squinting, he handed me one of those leathery things he called food. I bent the piece of meat and watched it spring straight when I let go. Oh joy. Dog collars for everyone.

What were the chances that Tuggin had some chocolate stashed in his backpack? Maybe Eyidora didn’t have chocolate. Hadn’t I been punished enough? My sigh turned into a coughing fit.

“What is wrong?”

“It’s hard to breathe this clammy air.” I rubbed my grainy eyes.

Tuggin’s gaze swept over the trees. “The air is pure.”

“Yeah, purely suffocating.”

“We should not tarry long.”

The wary concern in his voice got my heart all fluttery, and it dipped in my chest. Trying to get some kind of control over myself, I blurted, “Have you ever heard of global warming?”


“Yeah, like the weather getting warmer and warmer over the whole world.” Sort of like the skin getting warmer and warmer over my whole face while I watched his lips.

“An apt description,” he said.

I could almost smell the niceness in the air. Feeling encouraged, I said, “On Earth people are worried about global warming…”

Tuggin snorted.


“Earth-kin are ignorant.”

“Not all Earth-kin.”

Tuggin snorted again.


“Earth-kin care not for their globe.”

“I do.”

“And what have you done to care for your globe?”

I didn’t want to admit that other than recycling cans and plastic, I hadn’t paid too much attention, so I ignored the question. “Anyway, on Eyidora you got someone who wants to turn Eyidora into a desert, sort of like the whole global warming thing. Do you think that’s a coincidence?”

Tuggin slowly rose. “How have you come by this knowledge?”

One hand clenched, the other settled on his knife handle. I’d thought his emotions were limited to boredom and contempt. Not anymore. I dropped my dog collar and stepped back.

“Speak!” Tuggin demanded.

“I don’t know.”

“Who are you, Haley Allaire of Sabina?” Tuggin whispered, stepping closer.

His gaze was relentless. His lips were no longer moving, but his words drilled into my brain, softly, seductively, warming the inside of my head until all I wanted to do was to answer his question: Who are you?

Reeling from the dizziness, I stumbled back, my heel catching a tree root.

“Gah!” I fell and bit my lip, then scooted back against the tree. Good news: the spinning in my head had stopped. Bad news: Tuggin looked pissed.

“Jahme.” The word slid out of his mouth on a breath of air. “I forbid you to speak of this again.”

My mouth shut with a clap. “You’re not the boss of me.”

“I have no time for Earth-kin ignorance.” He started packing.

Pushing myself to my feet, I flung my canteen into my pack while anger grew ulcer-like in my chest. He’d officially launched me back into my I-hate-the-kidnapper mode.

For once, Tuggin took off ahead of me. I hesitated then glanced behind me, but I felt so lightheaded I knew I couldn’t outrun him. Coughing, I shouldered my pack and followed. The mist saturated my lungs. It was hard enough breathing the stuff, God only knew what it was doing to my hair.

Tuggin seemed to be walking faster than usual while I panted after him. I wanted to yell at him to slow down, but it seemed I couldn’t talk, walk, and breathe at the same time.

I dropped to my knees and bent over with my hands resting on my thighs. The herb pinched my skin, so I pulled it out of my bra. The air stunk like rotting leaves, and something moved in the branches. It was an effort to lift my head to check it out.

“Look, girls,” crooned a soft voice. “A stranger.”

“Shall we take her?” asked another.

“I don’t know, she doesn’t seem very strong to me.”

While I knelt in the dirt, dark faces appeared in the trees. Brown hair floated as if being tugged by a breeze. Then a bunch of tall ladies circled me, dressed in chestnut colored robes.

Was I dreaming again? What were they? Witches? Fairies? The closer they came, the heavier the air felt. That rotten smell filled my head. I tried to get back to my feet, run away, but I couldn’t move. I needed Tuggin.

“She’s tall.”

“Not tall enough.”

“And she’s thin.”

“Too thin, and too weak. Our trees need strength.”

“What shall we do with her then? Surely we cannot let her go.”

“No, not now that she has seen us. It would never do.”

I tried to swing my head to follow the voices, but my neck had frozen like petrified wood.

“She’s like a willow. Can she be a willow?”

“Yes, yes. A nice, tall, slender willow.”

No way was I morphing into a tree. I struggled against the invisible roots holding me to the ground, but I couldn’t even twitch my finger. I wanted to yell at them, but my voice wouldn’t work either.

“Look how she kneels before us.”

“I believe she is quite frozen with fear.”

Their laughter grated like rattling branches. The creatures were mean, like the mean hall goddesses from my high school. Flashes of anger seared my chest. The herb pressed into my palm and my fingers tingled. I took a deep breath and pushed as hard as I could. “Not weak.”

My heartbeat thrummed like a base drum in my ears. I swung my gaze across the tree creatures’ faces, all staring at me with open mouths. Then they all started shouting.

“She understands us?”

“And she speaks!”

“How can this be?”

One creature said, “Child, what is your name?”

The thick air was suffocating. I didn’t have the energy to fight it, or to talk; I wanted to sleep. They could do whatever the hell they wanted, I didn’t care anymore.

“Speak, child!”

Startled by both the shout and the herb jabbing hot jolts of pain through my fingers, I croaked, “Haley Ro…Allaire.”

“Allaire…Allaire,” the tall one murmured. “A strong name, indeed.”

“She does not look well-built to me,” interrupted one of the others.

I knelt like some kind of tree-worshipper. My necklace dangled away from my chest, slipped out of my shirt, and swung free.

“What have you there?”

A thin arm reached for my necklace. No! I couldn’t let them steal it, but I couldn’t move to stop them. I panted shuddering breaths and glared. There was a scratchy noise when they backed away.

“She has a stone!”

“Where have you come by that, child?” the tall one barked. “Speak!”

“Mom.” I fought the over-powering urge to sleep, even with the herb stinging my fingers. I wondered why I was fighting. It was easier to give in.

“She is a thief.”

“Am not,” I whispered. 

My thoughts became heavy, wooden. I wished they’d leave me alone so I could sleep.

The tall creature spoke. “Your voice is strong among the trees, Haley Allaire.”

Big whoop. My lids slid closed, and I surrendered to a shadowy sea of leaves. A distant voice said, “The Sisters have reached a consensus. The Sisters release you.”


I knelt in the dirt, gripping the herb so tightly the woody stem dug into my palm. Tuggin sat against a tree, his head in his hands. I stayed still for a minute, watching my necklace swinging back and forth. When I was sure I could get my legs to function without doing a major face-plant, I hobbled to my feet.

Tuggin jumped up. “Haley.”

Relief inflated his voice. Not a caring kind of relief because he liked me, but the kind of relief a babysitter would feel because the kid he’s watching didn’t drop dead.

“What happened? The air was heavy, and I couldn’t breathe. Did I pass out?”

“Net. You watched the trees.”

“Did you see those bitchy women?”

His gaze swept the treetops, coming to rest on my face. “Dryads, guardians of the forests, are female spirits. I am male and have no place in their domain.” He cocked his head. “Once they claim you, there is no return, yet here you stand before me. Why?”

I flexed my fingers, opening my palm.

“Tell me,” Tuggin said, staring at the herb, “of what significance is this twig?”

“I told you. I don’t know.”

“Explain what has occurred,” he ordered. “Now.”

“I can’t.”

“Did they speak?”

He leveled that hard-eyed glare at me again. My thoughts scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind. “Well…maybe. I don’t know.”

Tuggin sneered. “Are all Earth-kin so ignorant?”

I tried to stop the pout, but wasn’t quick enough. Why did a look from Tuggin turn me into some kind of boobless bimbo? He didn’t know about the herb’s power, and I didn’t trust him not to steal it.

“Maybe they wanted to punish me by making me put up with you,” I said.

“It would appear the dryads have left me to my burden.” Tuggin shouldered his pack, ordering, “Follow me.”


It was almost dark by the time we broke out of the forest and tramped across a field of tall grass. Thunder echoed close by, and the ground shook. On the horizon gray clouds clung to the darkening sky. I groaned when it started raining. My wet clothes stuck to my skin, my shoes belched with every step, and my backpack felt like a satellite dish on my back.

Tuggin halted, and I stopped next to him. Blinking against the rain, I could just see the toes of my shoes near the edge of a drop off. I took a quick step back; even though I couldn’t see how high we were, I could feel it. A river tumbling to my right raced over the edge and crashed into the darkness below.

Tuggin pointed to a narrow path snaking downward. A few scrubby dwarf trees rooted along the edge, leaning as though tempted to take the suicidal plunge.

“No way,” I said.

“You will walk down this path, or I will tie you and carry you.”

I squeezed my lips together. Tuggin’s cheek did the twitchy thing as he strode toward me.

“Fine,” I said.

Squaring my shoulders, I started down, pressing my hand against the rock wall for support. God, it was raining hard; I couldn’t see a freaking thing. I hit something, a rock maybe. My feet shot out from under me and I landed on my knees. Swearing at Tuggin, I grabbed my knees and rolled to my side.

             The ground disappeared beneath me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Words from a witless lackey: Bloodsucking Ghostly Summer Giveaway!

Words from a witless lackey: Bloodsucking Ghostly Summer Giveaway!: "I’m having a Celebratory Giveaway! I’ve had a lot of good news lately, and a lot of good reviews and the latest was enough to just put me o..."

Book Review: Summer's Crossing, by Julie Kagawa

Summer's Crossing
An Iron Fey Novella
by Julie Kagawa

Robin Goodfellow, a prankster from the Summer Court, teams up with Prince Ash of the Winter Court to pull off yet another prank. Sort of. Robin and Ash have some bad blood between them, over a girl, and Ash has to pull off a caper which involves him entering the Summer Court. He can't get into the Summer Court without Robin's help and, you know, Robin's still kind of pissed over the whole 'you stole my girl' thing. The question is: Will Robin betray Ash to the Summer Queen out of revenge?

I don't tend to read novellas for the simple reason that when I'm immersed in a story, especially a fantasy, I kind of want to spend a lot of time there, and novellas tend to rip me out of my fantasy a little too soon. Despite that, I liked this one, and it gave me a taste of Julie's writing (great) and the world of the fey that she created (awesome). The relationship between Robin and Ash is tense, yet there's a part of you that likes both these characters and makes you want them to put all that bad blood behind them and work together. Fey are fickle and not all that nice (especially to mortals), yet this story shows a side to the fey that is more uplifting and just makes you like these characters all the more. This is the first book I've read of Julie's, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I definitely plan to go to book one of the Iron Fey series and read them all.

Book Review: The Exorsistah: X Restored

The Exorsistah: X Restored
by Claudia Mair Burney

Emme, or X, is battle weary and a little out of sorts with her fiance, Francis, when they travel to New Orleans to see Emme's mother, whom Emme hasn't seen in 3 years. When they arrive in New Orleans, a ghost pops into Emme's view at the most unopportune times; she meets her mom's new man; and she's 'haunted' by a tasty guy, Jean-Paul, who anchors himself between Emme and Francis. It's enough to make Emme's head spin, and the battle isn't only between good and evil...the battle is also within Emme herself as she sorts out who she is and what she wants.

The writing is smooth and fluid, the dialogue is excellent, and the story fairly gripping once you hit the halfway point. I'm not a huge fan of reading scripture in my fiction, but that's a personal preference on my part and in no way detracts from the story. X Restored is the sequel to The Exorsistah, and I could pick up most of the backstory through seamless references throughout even though I haven't read the first title.

This story is more character driven than plot driven. It's about Emme healing and finding herself. Though she is an exorsist, there is only one exorsism, and that one not very exciting. The plot itself is rather loose: it's pretty apparent early on who the bad guy is, the hauntings are not very scary, and the reader is left questioning what happened to the ghost at the end, which is never explained. Overall, not much really happens in this story and the Grip-O-Meter is relatively flat, so if you are looking for an exciting read that'll keep you on the edge of your seat, this isn't the book you for you. If you are looking for a nice read with uplifting and motivational spiritual references, this is a must-read.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

I picked dried leaves from the ground, and then frowned at the tree. The lowest branch was at least two feet over my head. If I wanted that magic herb, I’d have to climb the monster towering in front of me, and I hadn’t climbed a tree since I’d fallen out of one when I was seven years old and cracked my head. I’d needed fourteen stitches. Cramming the leaves into my shirt, I stretched on my toes and grabbed the nearest branch.

My hands slipped, and I fell back onto my butt with a grunt. I glared at the tree as if it had chucked me to the ground on purpose.

The bird sat on a branch. “I haven’t got all day.”

I grabbed the branch again. Bracing my legs against the trunk I walked up the side. Hooking one leg over the branch I swung myself upward. Leaves leaked from my top and drifted to the ground. Crap, I hoped I’d have enough now.

My arms trembled while I hauled myself up. Panting, I hugged the branch and leaned my cheek against the bark.

The bird perched next to my face. “If you’re afraid, just say so and I’ll be on my way.”

“I’m not scared.” I tightened my legs and reached for the next branch. The scaly bark scraped my skin, and a nail bent back when I grabbed it. “Ow.” I stuck the finger in my mouth and tried to suck out the sting.

“Are you quitting?” the bird asked.

“Shut the hell up.”

A breeze stroked my forehead. I tilted my head back and squinted. 

“Score.” Straddling the branch and clasping my feet together in case I keeled over, I pulled leaves from my shirt and shoved them into the hole.

Tuggin’s voice shot from below. “What is this foolishness?”

I started and one butt cheek slid off the branch. I hugged the tree when I looked down…I hadn’t realized I’d climbed so high.

“You got eyes, don’t you? I’m stuffing this woodpecker hole with leaves.” My sarcasm might have had more impact if I didn’t have my face flattened against the trunk.

“Come down. Now.”

I wanted to, but my muscles had frozen. “Give me a minute.”

I unglued my arms from the trunk and grabbed the branch above me. I moved downward, one branch at a time, testing each one with my foot, trying not to look down…looking down was bad, going down was bad, but falling down would be worse.


Tuggin’s voice slid into my thoughts, like a tongue gliding over lips. My focus slipped, then my control, then my grip. I scrambled to catch a branch, bonked my head, and toppled backwards. My back slammed into the ground, the impact forcing a loud hoof out of my lungs.

Tuggin dropped to the ground next to me. “Are you injured?”

I tried grabbing a breath. Failed. “No. Just. Wind. Knocked out…of me.”

He leaned over me. “Are you certain?”

Boy was I certain, certain that I was going to pass out. Not pass out because I’d konked my head; I was going to pass out because Tuggin’s breath skimmed my face and I lay in a state of whiffing hyperventilation because he smelled so damn good, like a warm beach. My nerves tingled, my stomach muscles squeezed. Gasping, I pushed him away and struggled into a sitting position.

Rubbing the back of my head, I mumbled, “I’m fine.”

“Why would you do something so absurd?”

“The bird told me to.” I got to my feet and picked at a sliver in my hand.

“That is absurd.” Tuggin crossed his arms over his chest. “Where is this bird?”

I pointed. “He’s right over…” I searched the empty tree, my arm dropping to my side. “He was right there, and he told me to fill the nest with leaves and he’d bring me something.”

“That is absurd,” Tuggin repeated, with a smirky twist to his lips. “Birds do not speak.”

On retrospect, it did seem kind of absurd. The dumb bird had lied to me, and now I looked psycho. “Could this day get any worse?” I muttered, just as something warm splat against my head. “Oh!”

Tuggin stared.

Heat spread across my face. “A bird just pooped on my head, didn’t it?”


“Really freaking great.” Plucking a wide leaf off the tree, I used it to clean my hair.

A shriek pulled Tuggin’s gaze away from me. The plumed bird swooped down, carrying something in its beak, and I stretched out my free hand.

“Told you,” I said, feeling vindicated.

“Show me,” Tuggin demanded.

I opened my fingers and revealed a twig covered with small, five-pointed green leaves.

“It is but a twig. Of what significance is this?”

“It’s some kind of ma…” I stopped. He was probably a thief as well as a kidnapper. This magic twig might be the key to escaping him and getting back to Earth. I finished lamely, “Herb.”

Tuggin grunted then turned to stuff the canteens into his pack. I tossed the poopy leaf and searched my shirt. The stupid clothes didn’t have any pockets, so I jammed the herb into my bra. Without a word Tuggin pointed to my pack. I slipped it on and limped into the woods.


The next morning, I was awake before Tuggin. He looked cute when he slept—you’d never know he was a knife-wielding kidnapper. Not to mention that he’d tied me to a tree, again. The rope around my wrist burned, but I held still, not liking numb fingers.

Tuggin rose from his bed, his hair tussled in a sexy-gotta-be-kissed way. He ambled into the woods then casually returned, as if I wasn’t there, as if I wasn’t tied to a tree, and as if I wasn’t getting more freaking annoyed by the nano-second.

I refused to let him think he was getting to me. I said in a sing-song voice, “About time you woke up, Sleepy Head.”

Something flashed across his face. I thought it was surprise, but the look vanished so fast I wasn’t positive. He untied me, and I stretched. At least the perv didn’t watch me when I went to the bathroom.

“Why do you not wear your shoes?” he asked when I returned. This time the look on his face was pretty easy to read: disapproval.

The night before, when I’d taken off my shoes, I’d discovered that the blisters had popped. Shoes weren’t an option. “I’ve never been a big fan of shoes.”

Shaking his head, he dug into his backpack and gave me bread and cheese. After we ate our breakfast, I rubbed my teeth with some mint leaves from my pack, and then rinsed my face with water from my canteen. Then I slowly packed.

Tuggin waited with his arms crossed. Finally, knowing I couldn’t stall any longer, I nudged one foot into my shoe. I tried to hold back the wince, but it slipped out.

“What is wrong?”

“Nothing.” I hadn’t meant to snap, but I’d just pulled on the other shoe and it stung like hell. I slipped on my backpack and shuffled forward.

“Sit,” Tuggin ordered.


Tuggin grabbed my arm.

“Let g…” His face, just inches away, stole my breath and my heart went numb-nuts crazy pounding. I gaped at him, trying to remember what I’d been about to say.

He pushed me onto a fallen tree. Kneeling, he slid my shoes off my feet. I tried to ignore the tingle that ran from my toes to my belly when his fingers touched my skin. I had to remind myself that despite his hall god looks, he was a knife-wielding kidnapper.

His lips tightened. “Why did you not speak of this?”

“Like you’d care.”

His hands were surprisingly gentle while his gaze swiveled between my feet and the shoes, his brows knit together.

“Too big,” I said.

“Jahme.” Tuggin yanked something out of his backpack.

“Hey, is that your shirt?” I asked.

Instead of answering, he used his teeth to tear it into strips. He tied cloth around my heels, then folded two pieces and shoved them into the toes of my shoes. He worked quickly, efficiently, and without looking at me. When he finished, he sat back on his heels while I tested a couple of steps.

“These shoes are really comfortable now that they fit.”

He rose.

“What are they made of?” I asked.


He jerked his chin toward the woods, and I moved off with a much lighter step.


We kept up a silent routine of walking, stopping for breaks, more walking, and camping at night with me tied to one of the ever-present trees. I followed the routine like a robot, and actually welcomed the wicked tiring hikes because I was too tired at night to put any energy into crying—marathon hikes, no bed, no shower. I was in Hell.

Tuggin was a master at the silent treatment, which gave me plenty of time to think about Ian and Elana hooking up, which meant my stomach had plenty of time to churn and my teeth to clench.

I did have one distraction from those thoughts, mainly how dirty I felt. We always camped near streams, but I only washed my face and hands—I refused to bathe because Tuggin always watched like a perv. I’d changed into my spare clothes two days ago then tried to stay downwind of Tuggin as much as possible. I was guiltily conscious of the fact that I was wearing his extra shirt around my feet.

“We shall stop for the day.”

I kicked off my shoes and unwrapped the shirt-bandages; the blisters had healed. Wind whipped my hair around my face. I pinched my collar around my neck at the sudden chill, and then chased the bandages across the clearing.

Stuffing the bandages in my pack, I wondered what had happened to Mom when I’d been kidnapped. Who, besides Tuggin, had been at our house that night? Had she been kidnapped, too? If she had, had she been brought to Eyidora, too? Tuggin interrupted my thoughts by pushing a brown, leathery strip at me.

“What’s this?” I wobbled it back and forth.


“It looks more like a used dog collar.” I wrinkled my nose. “Are you trying to poison me?”

Tuggin pressed his lips together. “It is nourishment, tenya.”

“Why do you keep calling me that? My name’s Haley.”

“I call you little girl.”

“Am not.”

“Then do not behave as one.”

Thinking of an expression or two I’d like to use on him, I nibbled the questionable meat in silence. I couldn’t help shuddering at the taste. A gust of wind had me pulling hair out of my face, and I started at a loud crack. A booming thwomp followed, and my heart lurched in my chest.

“You are frightened,” Tuggin said.

“Am not.”

“You are not?” I knew by the sound of his voice he didn’t believe me.

I pursed my lips. “Not scared, startled. Big difference.”

Tuggin went back to eating, but not before giving me a you-are-such-a-loser look. The guy really wasn’t doing much for my self-esteem.

I gnawed on my dog collar. After clearing my throat for the hundredth time, I asked, “If no one’s around to hear a tree fall in the woods, do you think it makes any noise?”

Tuggin’s lip curled in a sneer. “That is an absurd question. Does the answer matter?”

“No. It’s like, a philosophical question that’s supposed to make you think.”

“I have not the time for Earth-kin nonsense.” Tuggin watched the woods.

Finishing the last of my so called dinner with a shudder, I held out my wrist and Tuggin did his usual thing with the rope. I snuggled under my blankets and tucked my face behind the stiff cloth. Maybe if I wasn’t so hungry and uncomfortable and achy, I might care what he thought.

The herb, resting inside my bra, poked my chest. I hadn’t seen or felt any power. I had no idea why the dumb bird had lied to me. It obviously didn’t have the power to free me. It certainly didn’t have the power to make Tuggin like me.

What was I thinking? Tuggin was an ass. I was so done with this whole situation. Surely whatever “power” had brought me here didn’t do it just so Tuggin could torment me like a school-yard bully. No god could be so mean. But, as my mind sunk into darkness, I knew that life was, in fact, quite mean, no matter what the gods did.


I bolted upright. I felt strange, as though cold fingers had brushed the inside of my head. Shivering, I peered through the cool dampness swirling around me like an invisible fog, the edges of the trees blurring where they melted into the night.

I lay back down. I’d missed a pine cone in my bed, and now it poked my back. Unable to get comfortable, I flopped onto my side, and my nose pressed against the tree.

“I don’t freaking believe this.”

Now I had to pee. I tossed aside my blanket, flicked my wrist, and the rope fell off. I stared at it for a long moment, and then at Tuggin. The glow of the campfire caressed his sleeping face, and I gazed at the soft lines of his profile. Shaking my head as if waking from a dream, I packed and hurried into the woods, debating whether he ever showed that soft side to anyone. Not that I cared, of course.

I stumbled in the dark, not realizing how inky black the woods were away from the glowing campfire. An animal screeched, disturbing the quiet. I stopped, my heart beat going up a notch.

It screeched again, closer. What was that? The panic rose in my chest, it tightened around my heart, squeezing my lungs so that I had trouble breathing. I searched the dark trees. Something rustle-snuffled behind me.

I whipped around. “Oh!”

An old guy stood behind me with a lantern at his feet oozing orange-yellow light. He wore a rust-colored shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, brown pants with a leather belt squeezing his waist, and shoes that looked like they were made out of wood.

He glared at me with his arms folded across his chest, and a long, gray beard waggled when he barked in a deep voice, “What took ya s’long, girlie?”

I stumbled back. “Excuse me?”

“What took ya s'long? Been followin’ ya fer three days now, trampin’ through da woods, callin’ ya every night. But would ya answer me? No! An’ now I’m further from home than I aim ta be, and me missus is goin’ to be cursin’ me when I git back. Hrmph!”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…I mean, I didn’t hear…” I glanced around, wondering if this guy was more dangerous than Tuggin. He didn’t look like he had any weapons, unless he chucked one of those hard shoes at my head.

“Oh, ferget it,” he said, picking up his lantern. “C’mon.” He stomped off.

“Yeah, I don’t think so.”

He marched back to me. “I already told ya I bin waitin’ three days. How long ya goin’ ta make me wait, girlie?” He stamped his foot.

Before I could open my mouth to argue the ground shook. I clung to the nearest tree, but the man didn’t seem scared at all. He laughed.

“Oh, toddle rot. Sorry. Los’ me temper fer a minute. I won’ do that again. Don’ worry, the ground’s stable.”

I relaxed my arms but didn’t let go of the tree. I scowled. “Did you do that?”

He cackled, the sound grating against my ears. Two gold front teeth gleamed in the lantern light.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Oh, pardon me,” he said, bowing. I thought he did so a little sarcastically, holding one hand against his stomach, and sweeping the other over the ground. “Me name’s Nomer, at yer service. Now, c’mon.” He strode off.

I stood my ground—until the lantern’s light wobbled off into the trees and it got really dark. Dark wasn’t so hot when you were lost. “Wait,” I called.

Nomer didn’t look back at me, but he called over his shoulder, “Come on, girlie. Git movin’.”

I chewed my lip. The animal screeched from the treetops, maybe waiting to drop down on top of me and snap my neck or bite my throat. I ran to catch up to Nomer, who ducked inside an enormous tree. I hesitated a moment, then stooped to follow him.

He hung his lantern on a wooden knob, and then climbed onto a shaky stool. He waved me to a stool near him. I perched on the edge of the seat, hugged my backpack, and waited.

“So, Haley, ya finally showed up, eh?”

I shifted butt cheeks. He’d already been pretty clear on that point; I hoped he wasn’t going to start yelling at me again.

“Hmm, fifteen years now since ya bin sent away. Tisn’t enough time…yer too young, I’d say, but yer back now, eh?”

Oh. He meant back on Eyidora. Nodding, I gazed around the curious room. The cool, damp air stank like mold and mushrooms. Rows of knobby shelves lined the walls, crammed with tiny animal statues.

“Hey! Ya listenin’ ta me?”


He grinned. “Ya likes me baubles, eh?” He pulled one off the shelf and handed it to me. Winking, he said, “Made it meself, ya know. Hee, hee, hee!”

I studied the beautifully carved butterfly. The dark wood had been polished so smooth it shone. I gasped when its wings fluttered.

“Me inventions,” Nomer said, looking around the room. “Keep meself busy, makin’ me inventions. Did ya get me gift? ‘Course, I had to give ya a little test first, eh? Hee, hee, hee!”

“This rude bird gave me a twig thingy, after it pooped on my head.”

Nomer cackled. “Yep! That’s the one.”

If poop was part of his gift giving process, Nomer could keep his presents. “Why would you give me an herb that has some kind of power?”

“Step carefully around power.” Nomer blinked. “Power can do crazy things to a mind. Even the most noble-minded can have his head turned by power.”

“What’s that twig do anyway?” The butterfly stretched its wings.

“Les’ say it’s jes a little somethin’ ta help ya on yer way.”

“Will it keep Tuggin from finding me? He’s a tool.” I remembered his touch when he’d bandaged my feet, and a warm flush invaded my cheeks. “Most of the time.”

He slapped his knee. “Hee, hee, hee! I say he’s got a right bee in his bonnet, but no, it won’t help ya there.”

The butterfly lifted from my hand, hovered a moment, then soared back to its spot on the shelf. Nomer sat on his stool, still as a gnome statue in a garden, studying me.

“Keep yer stone safe.”

“What stone?”

“That thing ‘round yer neck.” He cackled again and tugged on his beard. “Never let anyone take it from ya.”

“Well, hello, of course I’m keeping it. It was a present from my mom.”

“Hmpf. Ya know ‘bout the Eyids, eh?”

“They’re gods around here, right?”

“Yep. There’s four of us: Land, Water, Air and Fire.”


“Of course, us. Who’d ya think yer yappin’ to? Anyways, we was always around before we was killed off.”

“Wait a minute. Eyids can die? I thought they…you…were…are…gods.”

“Eyids don’ die, but fer thousands of years we were as physical bodied as you.” He rubbed his belly and looked into the distance, as if fondling a long-forgotten memory. “We walked the globes, same as regular folk. Tis our physical forms that died. We reside in Yamoora now.” At my quizzical look he added, “Heaven, ta ya.”

“Oh, well, that’s nice.” I cringed. That didn’t come out right.

“Now the land tis dry, burnin’. Tis shameful, it is.” Nomer’s face drooped.

“You mean, Eyidora’s got global warming, like Earth?”

Nomer heaved a sigh. “Tis Eyidora that started global warming. Earth’s just blowin’ apart the hole in the atmosphere that was started when we Eyids started fightin’. Earth’s gonna burn and die, ain’t no doubt about it.”

My heart started break dancing in my chest. “It can be stopped, right? I mean, there’s got to be a way to stop it from getting worse.”

“I keep fergittin’. Ya don’t know ‘bout the stones of power.” He pointed at my chest. “Ya got one right there.”

I started, grabbing onto the stool when I almost tipped over. “My necklace is a power stone?”

“Yep. The Eyids liked the idea of being human, liked food and having mates and children.” He thumped his chest. “And we lusted like humans, felt their dark longing for power, and we started fighting. When Sylpha’s mate died she got so angry she killed all our mates.” He paused for a long moment. “We had to stop fighting before we destroyed not only each other but the globe as well. We each put our power in a stone, left the stones with our descendants to guard, and then retired to Yamoora.”

“Well, wow,” I said stupidly.

“Then the stones were stolen. Ya got ta git them back or there won’t ever be harmony on Eyidora.”


“Yep. An Eyid’s descendant wants ta turn Eyidora inta desert, he does, an’ when he does, Earth an’ all the other globes in the chain will burn up with it.” He stuck his pointy nose into my face. “Now, ya listen ta me, girlie. Listen close. He’s looking for the stones, and he’s right shifty.”

Dread slithered in my stomach like a cold, slimy slug. “Who is?”

He ignored my question. “Yer mum’s dead because of the descendants’ plot to steal the stones and wield the power. It can’t happen again.”

I made an awkward little hic-cupping noise. “How do you know Mom’s dead? Can you see Earth?”

“Not her.” Nomer’s eyes gleamed with lantern light. “Yer Eyidoran mum. Yer pop got caught in the plot, too.”

I licked my lips. Was the room spinning, or was it just me?

“It was war. People dyin’, the land dyin’, the globes dyin’. You hafta stop ‘im. You hafta find the stones.”

My stomach rolled, my mouth watered, dizziness attacked my head with the dark stealthiness of a ninja. I held my head between my hands. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Ah, toddle rot. Me time’s up.” Nomer slid off his stool. “Me missus is goin’ ta be waitin’ with a nice hot toddy fer me if I don’ git back too late. If I don’ git goin’ now, she’ll be waitin’ with a fryin’ pan.”

He snapped his fingers and vanished. His cackle followed him into the shadows.

I took a deep breath, another, and another. The sick feeling faded, but my legs felt shaky when I stumbled outside. Without the light from Nomer’s lantern, darkness spread around me like a black stain. Fear circled me, tightening its grip on my chest.

“Nomer!” I yelled.

I ran. Trees grabbed me, yanking my hair, tearing my clothes. I cried out when a branch sliced my cheek. I stopped, panting. Pushing the hair out of my eyes, my knees almost buckled with relief when I saw Tuggin’s campfire, the glow beckoning like a safety net.

When I saw Tuggin, sleeping soundly, my relief was replaced by an urge to kick him. Instead, I dropped to my bed with a grunt. I would probably regret coming back to him, but now I was too tired and shaky and sick to care about anything except feeling safe. I was sure I’d have another chance to escape.
           Right now, I just needed to sleep. I sank into the dark.