Imagine being the only un-magical kid at Hogwarts. That’s how sixteen-year-old orphan Jaden Raines feels as he enters Azunya High. He struggles to fit in, but he’s really a fish out of water.
The magical isle of Azunya, where paranormal policing agency B.O.O. is headquartered, is shocking to Jaden after having lived his entire life in the American Midwest. Back there, his classmates were freaks, geeks and gangstas. Here, his classmates are genies, witches, healers… A whole pantheon of beings and monsters.
And worse yet, he’ll have to read The Old Man and the Sea. Again.
Jaden might be the new kid in town, but he’s still a teen. It’s love at first sight with handsome skater-boy Stiltz. They have three things in common: neither is able to use magic, they’re both petrified of water, and, lucky for Jaden, they’re both gay. They should bond, but their relationship’s stormy from the start.
To try to fit in, Jaden hides his powerless state, accidentally creating the myth that he’s the most powerful being of them all.
But when the entire school demands a demonstration, what’s Jaden to do?
New lies and cruel deceptions leave Jaden and Stiltz stranded at sea in the middle of a deadly tropical storm.
In order to survive, the boys must spill their secrets. It’s sink or swim for our heroes.
Only the truth can set them free. And keep them alive.
MYSTERICAL: A young adult, gay, contemporary paranormal adventure romance
Full-length novel, coming soon.
Jaden kicked off his flip-flops. “Ow! Ow!” He hopped from one foot to the other on the hot sand as he struggled to yank the sweat-stuck T-shirt over his head. He tossed the thin cotton shirt onto a nearby stand of pampas grass. It swayed and dipped before the t-shirt dropped onto the dune. Damn. With a dismissive shrug, he turned away, figuring it couldn’t get any more sandy just lying there. He had more important things on his mind than a sweaty T-shirt even if it was the one he’d planned to wear to school today.
He drew a deep breath, preparing himself. The pattern of his surfer shorts grabbed his attention. They were made of some wet-to-dry miracle fabric so they served as both bathing suit and regular, if blindingly bright, shorts. He was about to test drive their bathing suit capacity for the first time.
He’d stared too long, stalling. His eyes burned and watered. The cartoony palm trees and waves appeared to move as if fanned by an imagined breeze. He scrunched his eyes shut. The images and colors continued to swirl on the backs of his eyelids.
Swallowing hard, he opened his eyes again, forcing himself to gaze out at the real thing. The bright morning sunlight danced on the breakers. He squinted at the horizon. The ocean went on and on and on until it fell off the edge of the world.
But he was nothing if not determined. He gritted his teeth, ordering himself to take the first step across the sand toward the water.
Now or never.
Sink or swim.
He would conquer his fear of water if it killed him.
He’d just started a new life, a new home, a new family. He’d turned sixteen a few days ago. It was time to put away childish things. Today was the first day of the rest of his life. Blah-blah-blah and all that inspirational jazz.
It’s just water, for God’s sake. Everybody else thinks it’s fun. Why don’t I?
He scratched his neck so hard it hurt, like he was punishing himself for being weak. For not fitting in.
Okay, Jaden. You got this.
He raised his head and headed towards the sea.
One step. Two. Another. He forced his rubbery legs onward, stumbling awkwardly on the soft sand.
Then it wasn’t soft. It was firm, wet and dark where the tide washed in. He stopped, almost there, sighing as his burning feet cooled. He gasped when a wave rushed up, touching his feet. Touching him. Springing back, he nearly sprawling on the beach.
“Jerk-face. It’s too early for anybody to see you make and ass of yourself.” He clenched his hands and his teeth and stepped forward again. The water licked at his feet with foamy white tongues. It felt soothing and terrifying at the same time.
Another step and he was up to his ankles. Another and it lapped at his calves. The sand beneath his soles melted away with each wave. In and out. In and out. Just like breathing. Something, he reminded himself, that he really should be doing.
Another step and he was up to his knees. Each breath so loud it was almost a gasp.
When the water reached his thighs, he stopped. Far enough for the first time, he decided.
“This isn’t so bad,” he said aloud, trying not to puke. But the truth was, it was really, really bad. He trembled and swayed, his neck itched and his legs stiffened, tingling and numb at the same time.
Then something grabbed him!
Something inhumanly strong wrapped around his legs, clamping them together, ankle to thigh.
“Nooo!” Jaden yelled, toppling into the cold surf. He struggled, gasping for air. Salt and sand stung his eyes. He flailed in the waves, grasping useless handholds of sand and grit.
He was going down. Oh, God. He was going to drown.
With a yell, he kicked out at his attacker, No good. His legs were tightly bound.
Buffeted by whitecaps, he gasped, inhaling seawater, choking. Panicking. He shoved hard at whatever clamped his legs together, putting all his strength into his trembling arms.
His fingers met a strange, alien surface. Slippery, yet warm and sleek. Scales. Jeeze. Had some giant sea snake swallowed his legs? Panic tore through him. A glimpse through the foam. Glossy black scales and a slick, menacing fin.
A sea monster? In the ocean surrounding Azunya! Why had no one warned him? No one cared enough to warn him.
No one had ever cared.
Then from behind, another attacker. Rough hands grabbed his arm, fingers like claws digging in hard.
He swallowed more salt water, sputtering. His thudding heart shook his entire body. A second pair of hands grabbed him under his other arm, dragging him roughly up and out of the ocean.
Coarse volcanic granules sandpapered his bare back as he was hauled up the shore, away from the waves and their terrifying inhabitants. Turned out his fear of water wasn’t so irrational. He quickly added fear of land to his list.
Once up on the shore, the hands eased their iron grip, but stayed. Warm. Supporting him. Keeping him from collapsing back onto the sand.
Jaden coughed, spewing water, inhaling precious air along with a last few choking droplets.
“Turn him on his side. Recovery position.”
The words were clear, but made no sense to Jaden. He kicked at his new captors, his legs now free. He forced his burning eyes open. Slammed them shut again, blinded by the sun. He scrambled up the wet beach like a startled crab, falling back into dry powdery sand when his legs scuttled faster than his arms.
“Jaden! Jaden! It’s okay. It’s okay. We got you.”
The words made more sense this time. The voice familiar. A voice he was used to obeying, although it wasn’t telling him to pass the ball now. “Coach? Coach Wright?” Jaden gasped, gagging as the last of the inhaled seawater flooded his throat, tasting foul and poisonous. His eyes streamed as he blinked hard, trying to see through salt, sand and tears. “What… What happened?”
“That, my brand new brother, is what we need you to tell us.”