Monster Mash Countdown Blitz; When the Stars Come Out by Scarlett St. Clair
Scarlett St. Clair lives in Oklahoma with her husband. She has a Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Studies and spends a lot of time researching reincarnation, unsolved murders and Greek mythology–all of which made it into her debut novel, When Stars Come Out (Oct 2018).
Anora Silby can see the dead and turn spirits into gold coins, two things she would prefer to keep secret as she tries to lead a normal life at her new school. After all, she didn’t change her identity for nothing.
As it turns out, hiding her weirdness is just one of many challenges. By the end of her first day, she’s claimed the soul of a dead girl on campus and lost the coin. Turns out, the coin gives others the ability to steal souls, and when a classmate ends up dead, there’s no mistaking the murder weapon.
Navigating the loss of her Poppa, her mother’s mistrust, and Roundtable, an anonymous student gossip app threatening to expose her, are hard enough. Now she must find the person who stole her coin before more lives are lost, but that means making herself a target for the Order, an organization that governs the dead on Earth--and they want Anora and her powers for themselves.
Glass breaks somewhere in the distance and something heavy knocks into me. I hit the ground hard, landing on my back with Natalie over me, hands holding down my arms, her legs clamped tight against mine. I recognize this control. She’s trying to incapacitate me.
“Get off me or I swear—”
“What? You’ll kill me, too?”
For a moment, I go completely still and glare at her, then I realize something’s off about her appearance—most notably, the large black wings sprouting from her back. That’s when I lose it.
“Get off of me! Get away from me!” I thrash, trying to loosen her hold on me. The thread ignites between us and Natalie springs away. I scramble to my feet and get a good look at her. She’s Natalie alright, but different. She’s leaner, but maybe I never noticed before because she doesn’t wear skin-tight black suits to school. Her hair is slick and straight, falling over her shoulders in a sheet. Then there are the wings—huge sweeping black-metallic things that surround her like a halo.
“Get her out of here!” I freeze—I’d know that voice anywhere.
I twist to find him, but he doesn’t look like the Shy I know—his blond hair is silver and falls to his shoulders and black wings spout from his back. He takes my place in front of the thing that looked like my poppa moments earlier, two long blades clasped in his hands.
What is going on?
“Go!” Natalie pushes me forward, and someone grabs my wrist. I try to pull away but recognize the voice.
“It’s me,” Thane says. “Do what they say!”
What the actual hell? Did he just tell me to do what they say? Shouldn’t he be freaking out?
Thane drags me toward the door, but the creature of shadow screams and tentacles explode from it, stretching out and knocking us to the ground. Something flies past me—another one of the bird-creatures. I scramble to my feet and find the three poised before the creature, blades exposed in the pale light filtering through the thin windows above.
They cut and stab at the creature, but their blades only make it angry, and the angrier it gets, the more damage it does, knocking into shelves and the concrete columns. Jars crash to the ground, choking the air with formaldehyde and dust.
“This isn’t working, Shy!” Natalie says and my stomach knots painfully, but I don’t have time to comprehend what’s happening here, because the creature’s tentacles flail, and I have to duck to keep from being flung across the room. Thane’s in front of me again, pulling my arm.
“We have to get out of here!”
“Look out!” I push him forward and fall with him, landing as one of the creature’s tentacles rush over us and crashes into a column. There’s a cracking sound as it comes loose from its place and falls toward us. Thane and I scramble to our feet and away, finding ourselves closer to the fight than we wanted to be.
“Jacobi!” Shy’s voice is harsh as Jacobi propels from his position on the floor, scythe in hand, he cuts a blow across the creature’s tooth-filled face. Its scream grows louder and one of its tentacles lifts, smacking into Jacobi and sending him flying against the wall. Shy twists, searching, until his eyes meet mine.
And something in my chest pulls so tight I lose my ability to breathe.
I know him.
And not in the way I’ve gotten to know him the last few weeks. This is different, deeper. It goes beyond his skin and blood and bones.
I know his soul.
The knowledge shivers through me and my mind strains to place him. Where have I seen him before? I chase tendrils of memories, but they slip from my grasp, teasing, playful, brutal—and they smell like smoke and jasmine.
What did that witch do to me?
Shy’s harsh voice brings me back to the present. “Get her out of here! She’s making it stronger!”
“Shy!” Natalie warns, but it’s too late. He goes flying, his body flipping unnaturally as he lands in a pile of his own feathers. I don’t go to him and I don’t run away. I stand, rooted to the spot. Anger, white and hot, washes over me, burning my eyes and skin. I want to smash this thing to pieces for giving me hope, for lifting me from darkness just to crush me.
I want to kill it.
And the thread responds, rising to fit my palm like the hilt of a blade. I don’t know what it does to soulless creatures, but I unleash it anyway. It twirls through the air, lancing the creature, looping throughout its limbs. It writhes, jerking and hissing, it’s body splitting so that light pours through cracks in its shadow-skin.
I see it all in slow motion: how the thread twists and tightens, moving methodically through each arm and then diving down into a mouth of teeth, only to burst from its stomach, spewing black oil, but it happens in an instant. The creature groans and falls into a puddle and my thread reels back in coating my hand in sticky, black tar.
As I stand there, catching my breath, the anger melts, replaced with something far more urgent.
Oh God. What have I done?