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First pages

Chapter 1

I’m going to die. Not even kidding. The stench of sun-softened ahi is all around me, melding into every breath I take, and I’m convinced if this sweltering humidity doesn’t kill me, the reeking fumes will. Glamorous, right? It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to plant myself next to the fishmonger’s stall, but this is the densest area of the street market and ergo the best outpost. To my great misfortune.

I shield my nose and search the sea of faces that bob around me—ah, there’s a good one. I lunge onto the street and follow him. He’s walking so fast he doesn’t even notice who’s behind him. Me, short enough to be under his direct line of sight, skin that blends against the backdrop of tan wooden stalls.

I count thirty-five paces as I weave through the crowd and not once does he look back. I don’t expect him to. He’s an absent target, someone whose attention is focused elsewhere. As for me, my attention cannot be absent.

The bulky man is completely focused on getting to his destination, which is good for me. He’s completely oblivious when I slide against him. When I loosen the pocket of his cargo shorts. Remove the contents inside. The throng of people, promenading around the busy food stalls, helps of course.

Four seconds is all it takes. Four seconds, it’s all I ever need.

I duck behind a motorcyclist then turn the corner toward a row of souvenir vendors. To my right, a few tourists browse a stand—which is ready to close for the night. An oily-faced man, who I recognize as the stall merchant, stands over a small kid with bushy eyebrows.

Alarmed, I slow my pace. Of all the districts in Honolulu, this is the one where kids don’t belong after sunset. I spot his parents, who are busy looking at personalized key chains and floral Hawaii magnets. Their resort should have warned them not to come here with children after dinnertime. It won’t be long until the whole place is filled with the after-hours crowd—a crowd no normal person would want to cross.

The parents are too preoccupied to notice the merchant holding a bag of colorful rock sugar candy out of their little boy’s reach. The kid jumps and jumps. The man holds it higher, snickering all the while.

I shouldn’t linger, but I can’t help it. The teasing isn’t good-natured or funny. It’s uncouth. He’s enjoying bullying the kid. Something I’m all too familiar with.

Rage boils within me.

Infuriated, I pull a delicate taro leaf from my bag. One of three I have left. I crush it and whisper my wish into the air.

Within seconds, a seagull flies overhead, droppings falling in its wake, splattering on the merchant’s nose. He drops the bag of candy as he puts his hand to his face. When he realizes what hit him, his cheeks turn a startling shade of purple.

He shouts something indecipherable. Everyone turns.

The commotion is enough to finally move the boy’s parents along. I shuffle past the scene, noticing the kid has found the forgotten rock sugar. He wears the happiest smile I’ve ever seen, as though completely unaffected.

A perfect use of a charm, I’d say.

I don’t always wish disgusting things on others, but I don’t have much tolerance for bullying. And of what little tolerance I do have, I can’t afford to give it to sleazy old men who should know better. Some people think me jaded, but I wasn’t always this way. I guess that’s what happens when your parents die and leave you alone in the world—when you become property of the city.

I haven’t always been familiar with magic. Not until I came to the streets two years ago. Before that I lived with families. Poor girl, the social worker had said before he threw me into the foster system. The kids weren’t always nice and never feeling accepted has a way of shattering your self-esteem. So, for my fourteenth birthday, I gave myself the one gift every kid wants: independence and freedom. I bolted the first chance I got and haven’t looked back since. And I won’t. A good con always looks ahead, and ahead of me is my next haul.

The lady I snatch from—yelling into her phone about a missed deadline—makes six for the day. Six’s good enough for me. Time to count my earnings.

The sun is falling into the horizon as I trot along the busy street. Bits of magic flit around me like moths to a lamp post. Using that charm has conjured the atmosphere, and now it’s teeming, following me. The locals like to tell stories about nightfall breeding adventure and mischief. I don’t doubt it. In this part of town nighttime definitely brings on a certain type of hunger.

Gaggles of young partygoers have hit the streets, mixing with veracious locals who are looking for new faces and good times. I step off the sidewalk to dodge them. Ahead, a showman laden in a black trench coat stands at the entrance of Chinatown doing sleight of hand tricks. The crowd of onlookers cackle like hyenas when he fools them with his illusion.

I walk south, to the end of Chinatown’s bustling market, a hot spot for runaways like myself. There’s a good nook at the bottom of the road which is usually quiet. I lean against the corner of a brick building and begin the process of emptying the wallets. I’m only on the fifth and already I’ve got over two hundred in cash, plenty of money to cover tonight’s job. The last wallet is made of soft black leather. I find an ID in the first sleeve, the bulky man—the absent target.

A deep voice draws my head up. “You little crook.”

A big man looks down at me. His face is contorted into an angry grimace. Then I realize, in front of me, is the real live version of the person in the picture.

“Oh! Aloha sir. I think you dropped this,” I say, sweet as haupia pudding.

“Drop it?” He shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

I glance at either side of him. There’s no one on the street except us. It’s not good for a girl to be on her own with a man twice her size. He’s caught me off guard, I’m backed into a corner, and I can’t run. I’ll have to play it off.

“I promise you did. I tried to shout for you but you didn’t hear me. Then I lost you in the crowd. I was trying to find a number so I could call you to return it,” I say.

“There’s no way that wallet would fall out of these pockets.” He pulls them inside out, showing how deep they are.

“Are you sure? They look small to me. Could of have easily fallen out.”

His glare tells me he’s not buying any of this. I extend the wallet for him to take, smiling with dimples. He snatches it, gripping it tightly with his thick fingers—like Portagee sausages—and holds it right in front of my face. “Oh yeah? What about the business woman you pick-pocketed?”

“What?” I ask, feigning innocence.

“When I realized my wallet was gone, I started looking around. Then I saw you dig your greedy little hand into some lady’s bag.”

My smile disappears. I shrink back, pulling myself into the wall, thinking of a what to do next. Time for a different tactic. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. Only, well my mama is very sick with liver cirrhosis. She can’t get out of bed. I’ve got five brothers and sisters. Someone’s got to feed them.”

“Stop with the story!” The man’s dark wavy hair flops into a disheveled mess, and all the sudden he seems sinister and creepy. I step back, further into the corner, putting space between us. “I heard the commotion back there,” He points over his shoulder toward the souvenir stalls, where I just wreaked havoc for that innocent boy. “And now I’ve caught you red-handed. I’m calling the cops.” He whips a cell phone from his front pocket. His angry fingers smash the keys as he dials into it.

Hana lepo. Maybe the merchant wasn’t such a good use of a charm after all. But I’ve got two left and now seems a very necessary time to use one.

I nonchalantly reach into my bag, fingering one of my last remaining taro leaves. I crush it between my thumb and forefinger. I speak the wish aloud. “You will not call the police. You’ll walk away and forget this ever happened.”

All movement stops immediately, like he’s frozen in the moment. His hand hangs midair and a look of confusion sweeps over him. He blinks several times. His face goes blank. Then, with a little shake of his head, his features go back to normal.

The man’s countenance has shifted from anger to curiosity. His lips purse. He’s clearly thinking hard about something. I nod my head, urging him to walk away.

“So you like to play with magic?” he asks, his gaze distinctly clear and sharp.

My eyes bulge in shock. “Excuse me?” I ask with trepidation. This has never happened before. No target has ever withstood a taro leaf charm.

“Listen missy, you stole from the wrong guy.”

“Obviously.” My heart rate perks. So, he knows I was trying to pull one over on him.

“Charms don’t work on me. I know better than to go around unprotected.”

Protection from charms—he’s clued in. I want to kick myself, I can usually tell the difference between tourists and locals. Must be involved with charmers, or some other group. I wonder what he’s using to protect himself, and where he got it from. “Thought I was some idiot you could rip off?” he asks.

“Well. Yeah. No offense,” I answer.

I should bolt. Scream for help. Pretend he’s attacking me. Possibilities race through my mind.

“Well, you’re wrong. What’s your name, kid?”

“Alice.” It’s the fake name I always give, and it comes out automatically.

“You don’t look like an Alice,” he says, unconvinced.

“What does it matter?”

“You’re one of the Alley kids, aren’t you? Do you do this a lot?”

The way he is asking is more inquisitive than angry. I don’t get it. The Alley is the black market of the runaways and if he knows about it, and the kinds of things we do, then he should be following through on his threat to call the cops.

“What’s it to you?” I retort.

I expect him to be hostile at my resistance, but instead he laughs. His downturned eyes squint tight, making him look like a jolly Buddha. He must be unhinged. Anyone else would be wringing my neck right now.

“Listen, Alice. The fact that you know about magic changes things.” I catch a hint of warning in his tone. “I’m not gonna sell you out. As long as you do what I say.”

I cock my head to the side. My ears get hot at his threat and I can’t keep my hands from making fists. I lean onto my back leg, ready to push him away and make a break for it. He notices and realizes he’s made a wrong turn.

“Alright, alright! No games,” he says. Every ounce of fury has lifted from his tone. He shifts on his feet and suddenly he’s looking at me like we’re good friends. “You’re something special. A tiny thing like you with a quick hand. I think I could use your services.”

It’s not at all what I was expecting to hear.

I do a stock check, flicking my eyes up and down his large frame. His arms hang at his sides, head slightly cocked to the left. Open body language. Non-threatening. He’s engaging me, like an equal. He hasn’t called the cops and all pretense has left his face. This is not at all what I’d expected when I took his wallet. Maybe it’s worth hearing him out.

“Have you ever heard of Haumakua?” he asks.

It’s a drastic change of conversation. Where’s he going with this? I hesitate—then curiosity gets the best of me. I sigh, trying to hold my impatience at bay. “Sure. Ancestral spirits that take possession of the living.”

His eyes turn to the taro leaf in my hand. “Did you know the ancestor’s magic is where taro leaf charms originated?”

A long time ago people used to believe in the spirits of our ancestors and the magic they possessed. There’s legends about the ancestors coming back from the dead and inhibiting living things, like animals and trees, and giving them magical properties, hence the taro leaves. But even with all the magic we use, no one believes the old stories nowadays. Everyone knows once you’re dead, that’s it.

I tap my foot, hoping he’ll get to the point. “And?”

“Have you ever used any other magic for your scams?”

“Of course.”

“What do you know about Malum?” he asks. I don’t know him, but I probably know someone who does.

“Is he a friend of yours?” I ask.

Another laugh. A big, gaiety one. When he looks at me, his eyes are practically twinkling. “I think you’re the girl for the job.”

“What job?”

“To lift something of great value. My brother Roj and I have been looking for someone who has a talent for theft. You’ve proven you can go unnoticed.”

“But you caught me.”

“You forget who you’re talking to. I can do a little magic myself. You only got caught because I’ve put locator charms on all of my belongings,” he says, indicating the wallet. Despite his charismatic smile, hesitation niggles at me.

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Trust me, you do. It’s a much bigger pay off than what you’d get from pick-pocketing. You wouldn’t have to work scams anymore. You could do whatever you want. Here’s my card.” He removes a black business card from his wallet and hands it over. I stand, unmoving, unsure. “Go on. Take it. It won’t hurt you to at least think it over.”

I accept the card reluctantly. At the top, in silver cursive The Kilani Brothers, with Bic and Roj Kilani underneath. “I’m Bic. My brother and I operate a little consultancy business. We network with all kinds of clients within the Hawaiian Islands, both ordinary and fascinary.”

It’s only the second time I’ve ever heard anyone use the word fascinary, meaning having to do with things that fascinate. Magic and charms, and all things enchanted. Fascinary clients. He must be referring to the Underground. I was right; he’s in with the charmers.

“The job I’d like your help with expires tomorrow. Think about it. If you want to know more, call the number.”

He leaves me standing in the corner, staring down at the black card in my hand.

I’ve done hundreds of lifts, and this is the first time I’ve been thrown off course by a target. Bic must be involved in some pretty deep magic, deeper than the simple taro leaves I’m used to. If I could get my hands on some of that, there’s no telling what Dex and I could pull off. I stuff the card in my bag and make a run for the bus station.

For the whole ride, I mull over his offer. I’ll admit, the thought of a big payday is enticing, but I’ve already got a job, and right now it needs my attention.

Chapter 2

The work I do varies, depending on what’s needed. Right now, I need an invocation.

Seriously.

If only there was some kind of sorcery that could make Brom go quicker. But there isn’t. A blue ruin, for sure. Patience isn’t really my thing, but timing is essential in this line of work. So, I wait.

I trace circles in the dirt with the tip of my boot. Twenty-three circles of all different sizes.

A red-feathered hawk rounds the tree nearest where I sit, landing on the branch above me. It perches there, bathing in the first gleam of the evening’s moonlight. “I was here first,” I warn. She replies by emitting a series of startling squawks. “Oh, relax.” The bleating noise is nearly enough to distract me from the snapping of twigs to my left.

Brom’s obtrusive form shifts between two thorny bushes. As he steps out of the foliage, his baggy pants catch and he stumbles. He tries to right himself, but he is broad on top and the extra weight is enough to make him plunge face first. I begin to think he might have knocked himself unconscious, which would be very inconvenient. But then he presses his hands against the ground and pushes himself up.

The man’s never been good at being covert, and he looks as rough as sandpaper. Typical Brom. When he is near enough, I complain in a hushed voice, “You’re late.”

The first rule of a good con is punctuality. Patience might not be my favorite flavor, but if there is one thing I have absolutely no taste for, it’s being late.

“Sorry, Reis. You’re the one who wanted to meet under this shoddy bridge.” Brom throws his coat on the concrete slab and sits on top of it, the way a dainty woman wearing an expensive dress would do. He’s so prissy for a grumpy old man.

“Everywhere else is compromised. You know that.” I glance behind me for the fourth time, searching the thick blanket of trees which glow under the bright fluorescent light of the street lamps high above us. No sensible person would follow a guy as scruffy-looking as Brom under the Honolulu Freeway, but people aren’t always sensible. And you can never be too careful. “So did you get it?”

“Hold yer horses, little lady. You first.” He rubs his fingers together greedily. If it were anyone else, he would have gotten the sharp end of my steel-toe, but Brom’s all right. He deals around the Alley on occasion, and he’s always worth his weight.

I reach in my bag, pull out my notebook and open to the middle. He leans forward, so close that I can smell the stale coffee on his breath, and plucks the coin from its resting place, holding up the little treasure for careful inspection. “It’s authentic?” he asks through squinted eyes.

“Course it is, Brom. What do you take me for?” Inadvertent accusations, one of my many talents. “You know I don’t have time to mess around.” I huff for dramatic effect. He seems satisfied. He grasps the coin between two dirty fingers and gently puts it away like it’s his firstborn child.

If I’m honest, I have never understood his whole obsession with collecting coins. A man as magical and resourceful as him shouldn’t want old metal money but if that’s what gets his golly, I’m not complaining.

What I’m getting from him won’t get me much money in a barter, but what I plan to do with it will. In fact, it’s a crucial piece of tonight’s plan and I’m not the only one depending on Brom to keep his side of the deal.

“Now it’s your turn,” I say.

“You’re really getting the short end of the stick here,” Brom says as he fishes a bag out of the front pocket of his coat. Inside are five golden heart shaped lockets.

The great thing about knowing people like Brom is how they can widen the scope of your access. He is a diamond in the rough. Or at least a cragged gemstone.

“Where’d you get them?” I ask.

“Have my ways.” Brom’s eye twitches.

I lift my eyebrows at him and he sighs. “I know a gal who specializes in casting jewelry.”

Brom has pretty much given up on withholding information from me. When I first met him, he tried to be slick about what he knew. And, truth be told, at first I found him disconcerting, but after a few meet ups I realized he’s sincere with our kind. The runaways. Maybe it’s because he feels like one of us. Or maybe it’s because we’re the only ones who will do cordial business with him. I don’t know. But I no longer worry about him messing me around. And there are plenty of types who will mess you around.

He removes ones of the lockets from the bag and hands it over. It’s a dinky metal thing, but it gleams almost unnaturally and I’m immediately drawn to it. The request was for five enchanted lockets. This one fits the bill perfectly.

Once again, Brom pulls through. Here’s the thing I’ve learned about him, he’s different. He’s like me in the sense that he sticks to the streets. But in another sense, he is something else entirely—a charmer.

While us street kids can only dabble in the fascinary, charmers are magical by nature. And they make up a portion of the Underground’s economy. But even for a charmer, Brom’s unusually strange. The more time I spend with him, the more I think I know what it is: otherworldly. He’s got this thing about him, like if he wants something out of you, he can get it. And that’s not all. Brom has a powerful psychic ability. I can think of ten different times when he’s showed up to the Alley with the exact thing I was needing. That’s why they call him the mystic man.

“May I, madam?” He asks, putting on the accent of a proper gentlemen. Then he takes the ends of the chain and gracefully proceeds to clasp the locket around my neck. “Ya know, I might need a change of careers. Could make a good actor,” he says, smiling ear to ear.

Maybe it’s the way he looks with his big toothless grin or how preposterous it sounds, the idea of him performing as an actor, but I let out a belly-laugh. Brom seems pleased with himself.

“Now there’s a pretty smile. Tell me Reis, how does a nice girl like you get into a business like this?”

“I’m no nice girl.” I say, shrugging my shoulders. “But I appreciate you saying so.” I stand up, signaling the end of our illicit meeting. “Look, I don’t want you getting involved any more than you already are. Probably best to head to the city. You could go to the pawn shop and get some cash for your coin.”

“Nah, not yet. I think I want to hold onto it for a bit. Feels nice to have something valuable.” That brings another smile out of me. He reciprocates. I haven’t been at this lifestyle nearly as long as Brom, but I know deeply what he means—to cherish it when you have at least one possession of value. Material objects come and go so often with us, it’s hard to develop a sense of ownership over anything. The only thing I’ve ever felt was truly mine is my mother’s ring—it’s a diamond band my father gave her on their fifth anniversary, which I guard with my life. Everything else is like sand. No matter how tight you squeeze, it slips from your grasp.

“See ya, Brom,” I say. He picks up his coat and dusts it off, then disappears into the brush that hides us from plain view.

One job done. Now off to the next. I make my way to the road and wait at the bus stop. Five stops to my next destination.

The bus drops me off at the Hawaii Kai Carnival. The night is still young and the place is crawling with people. The smell of fresh popcorn and warm cotton candy lure me inside.

It only takes a minute to spot Dex. He’s waiting by the Taco hut and wearing a fitted black t-shirt that matches his dark, cropped hair, which is currently all over the place. He looks good. Dex is the kind of guy who can pull off the messy look with ease. He smiles when he sees me approach. “I was starting to think something happened to you.”

“Brom was late, which isn’t surprising. He’s been wearing the same broken watch for five years,” I say.

“Did he give you the supplies?”

I pull the necklace out from behind my shirt so Dex can see. “Charmed lockets, check.”

“That’s my girl,” he says with a snap of his fingers. A sign of relief. He’s glad because he doesn’t have to worry about me being a liability. And of course he doesn’t. I’m the best out there, and Dex knows it. Which is why he offers me two Baja tacos.

We sit on the ledge of the sidewalk, far away from the hustle and bustle of the street. I add three packets of hot sauce to the tacos and stash the rest away. I never wanted to be one of the hoarding types, but after spending so much time living on the streets, it’s a habit I couldn’t help but pick up.

You pick up a lot of habits after two years as a runaway. Like being reluctant to throw anything away. Or having a hard time sticking around a place for any great length of time. And distrusting practically everyone you meet.

“So, I had an interesting run-in this morning.” I say casually.

“What do you mean?”

“I was doing my usual rounds. One of the targets figured out I stole from him. He was all angry at first, which I can’t blame him for. I tried to charm him away and turns out, he’s in with the Underground. Told me about a job. Said it would pay a lot.”

“How much?” Dex asks.

“A lot more than what we get from picking pockets. He gave me his card and told me to call if I wanted to know more.”

“Show me,” Dex says. I rummage my bag, presenting the card to him.

He looks it over with a suggestion, “How about I call Jay? He’ll know about these people. He can tell us if we should drop it.” It’s not a bad idea. Everybody knows Jay’s the guy you call when you need information. He’s in the loop with everything and everyone having to do with the Alley. “Well, should we start the plot?” Dex asks.

“Yeah, and after we can go on the Cyclone.”

His brows furrow. Dex is the only con I know who is afraid of heights. “No way. You know I don’t like going on those rides.”

“You’re taking me,” I say with absolute insistence, crossing my arms when I say it. I know he’ll give in. He always does.

He hands me a lilac sweater and a ribbon to tie around my long, wavy dark hair. I begrudgingly put them on. I hate the whole sweet girl act, but he’s convinced I’m the best one to pull it off. With my dark round eyes, hinted with shades of violet, and pouty mouth, he says I look just like a Hawaiian doll.

“How about them?” He motions to the couple sitting on the bench. They must be in their early twenties. College students I would guess. The perfect targets. They’ve got the moral capacity of a shoelace, always looking for a way to make a quick buck.

“Here.” He gives me a temporary phone, which will get ditched by the end of the night. I hand the necklace to Dex for safekeeping, then walk up to them, making sure to appear upset, yet friendly. Friendly is important.

“Hi, sorry to bother you. You didn’t happen to find a gold necklace here? It’s a locket with an old-time photo of a couple inside—it belonged to my grandma, and I lost it right around here,” I say, pointing under the bench.

“No, we haven’t seen one. Sorry,” the guy replies.

He answered too quickly. He’s already turned back to the pretty girl and wrapped his arm around her. I didn’t even get to finish.

“Excuse me?” I ask, girly and soft. He turns again, irritated, ready for me to be gone.

I take out the wad of cash and flash it to them. “I’m offering an eight-hundred-dollar reward to whoever finds it.” His eyes grow big at the sight of all the bills in my hand. “It means a lot to me and I really want it back. If you happen to come across it, would you mind giving me a call?”

“Sure. We’d love to help if we can,” he says, this time with a different tone.

“How about I send you a text so you have my number?”

He rambles off his phone number in a loud, clear voice and I enter it into the temporary phone. I send the text right then: Hi, this is Alice. If you find my necklace, I’ll be forever grateful.

We do this con a lot. It’s so simple that a five-year-old could pull it off. Not long from now a young girl, who happens to be our friend Lizzy, will approach them saying, “I saw you earlier sitting by the bench. I found this necklace and I heard there was a reward for bringing it back to you.” She’ll present our target with the locket. They always take it. Whether because of the charm put on it or because they’ve realized the opportunity to make a quick return, I’m not sure. When they accept the locket, they’ll pretend to be so thankful and give the reward—a slightly lower reward than what I quote. Most people offer half of the amount I suggested, knowing they’ll make double on their investment. Something to do with psychology—that’s all your usual compelling charm boils down to anyhow: a trick of the mind. And when they call the fake number for the original reward, we are long gone with their “reward” money. So today, we’ll potentially make almost two thousand dollars. Not too shabby for a day’s work.

I walk off and go to find Dex.

He’s waiting by the Ferris Wheel. I link my arm with his, dragging him in the direction of the Cyclone. “One ride. And then we can hit the next couple,” I plead.

“Okay Reis. One ride—but you can’t tell anyone I gave in, or the others will think I’m weak,” he jests. He’s referring to the West Coast crew, our crew. They’re a motley bunch of outcasts, but they’re cool. We stick together and look after each other. Community is a good thing, right?

“My lips are sealed.” I smile in triumph and let Dex pay for our ride. I notice some girls nearby goggling him. I don’t blame them. He’s kind of cute if you like that smoldering, bad boy kind of guy. But to his credit, he’s not that way at all. Quite the opposite actually. If I had to pin it down, I’d say all those years of being overlooked as a child has made him considerate and caring. Instead of becoming hard, he developed a big-brother quality. A good heart. It’s more than I can say for me.

We take our spots on the ride and wait for it to fill up. Dex adjusts my straps for me and then does his own. “I think we should call about this job of yours,” he says.

“Hmm, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean I don’t know? This could be our chance for a big score! We should at least check it out.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Rookie,” he teases. “I thought you’d be up for a challenge.”

He’s grabbed my weak spot and yanked. Every time Dex wants me to do something, he turns it into a dare. Last time he did this it was lifting a box of donuts from the police station. I ended up with a citation and Dex got a big laugh out of it. He’s trying the same tactic because he knows I’m too prideful to back down.

I roll my eyes. “You’re not playing fair . . .”

The look on his face says he’s dying to do it. And he and I both know this isn’t the kind of thing I would let him do alone. But he’s trying to get me on board anyway. Always the way with Dex.

The ride begins moving. Slowly at first, then picking up speed.

“Uh. Why’d I agree to do this?” He sounds pained. But he’ll get no sympathy from me. It’s not that bad.

“Because it’s fun,” I say.

The Cyclone is rotating quickly now. Our bodies fling back and forth with force. We extend over the pavement for a moment before being flung in the opposite direction. The gravity of the ride pulls Dex and I toward one another. Our bodies press together and I give into him.

There has always been a strong pull between us. Since the first day we laid eyes on each other . . .

It was the day I ran away from my foster family that I met him. I was sitting at the station and the Red Line was running late—from a distance Dex spotted me; a scrawny girl with a bruised lip. I stood out like a punk rocker at the opera. Never mind that I got the scrape from a squabble with my foster brother, it didn’t seem right on a kid like me. With my small stature and big, violet eyes, I came across too gentle back then and would have passed for easy prey. At first, I thought that’s why Dex was approaching me.

But he surprised me. Dex wasn’t after that. He knew all too well what my tattered, oversized clothes meant—he guessed in an instant where I’d come from. He told me about a shelter and explained how to find it. Then he gave me a Mickie D’s gift card and said if I needed anything I could call him.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

AJ Miah calls both England and Kentucky home. She writes YA contemporary and historical fantasy.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I lived in Belize for a stint and loved the island life. Hidden beaches and underwater caverns serve as the backdrop for TheTaro Wish.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
I can get stuck in any book by Leigh Bardugo, Stacey Lee, and Jenny Han.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
This book brings to life Hawaiian mythology. Each book in the series will focus on a different Hawaiian God, and the hidden imprints they have left behind.

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Teen & Young Adult
Nikki Saturn and The Rogue...
What would make you face your worst fear?
The True Archer
What could cause an assassin to doubt?
ASSessment
Don't push a fifteen-year-old too far.