BY: GLORIA ANN
Living in a self-imposed prison is not easy for a teenager, and the chance to escape has never been so seductive—or more dangerous…
On a rare night out, shy, seventeen-year-old, Laura Stanton uncharacteristically throws caution to the wind and lands herself in an embarrassing predicament. Fate brings her a rescuer in the form of enigmatic, yet alluring, seventeen year-old, Tristan McLellan. Then for her senior year of high school, Laura is awarded a coveted scholarship and attends the prestigious Danvers Preparatory School where she comes face to face with Tristan. Here, in an unfamiliar world of perfection and ancient secrets, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and forbidden love, only to learn that not everything is as it seems.
Caught between two feuding Elders, these two twin flames must put their love to the test and change an age old prophecy or be separated forever. Their relationship becomes the catalyst in a chain reaction of unexpected passions, friendships, and a heinous betrayal with life-altering consequences.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Twin Flames: Midnight Awakening by Gloria Ann, seventeen-year-old Laura Stanton is a witch, but she doesn’t know it. However when she gains a prestigious scholarship to a private school for her senior year, she discovers that nothing in her life is as it seems. Not only is she a witch, many the people at her new school, including her new love, Tristan, are witches as well.
In addition to the problems caused by being a witch, Laura must also deal with a jealous rival and find a way to escape the people trying to use her for their own agenda to fulfill an ancient prophecy. The ending implies the story will continue in a sequel. All I can say is that I will be very disappointed if it doesn’t. I highly recommend Twin Flames: Midnight Awakening to anyone who’s after a great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Twin Flames: Midnight Awakening by Gloria Ann is supposedly a YA/paranormal romantic thriller. It is definitely a paranormal romantic thriller, but I wasn’t too sure about the YA part of the genre. If it is YA, it is very sophisticated. And a little dark. But hey, I’m not complaining. I happen to like dark and sophisticated. I am just not sure how many YA will like it. Of course, it is entirely possible that the YA of today are more dark and sophisticated than I was at that age, so I may be talking out my hat.
At any rate, I thought the writing was superb; the plot strong, complicated, and intriguing; and the characters realistic, well developed, and enchanting. Ann has done an amazing job for a debut author. The ending bothered just a bit as it left me hanging, but I assume that a second book will be coming out soon. At least I certainly hope so. The story is fast-paced and the plot has a number of unpredictable twists and turns. Once I got into the story, I had a darn hard time putting the book down for anything.
Five figures knelt at each point of the large pentacle carved deeply into the old, cobblestone floor. They all remained silent and still with their heads bowed and their palms pressed together at their chests as if in prayer. The undulated dips and swells of their heavy, black woolen, hooded cloaks pooled around them like ripples in a murky brook.
Directly in the star’s wide center stood a man draped in a flowing robe of red velvet, looking as though he’d been bathed in blood. One hand held a gold goblet, the other, a ritual dagger with a bone hilt and a long, wickedly curved blade, its honed razor edge glinting sharply in the soft candlelight.
The circle was complete.
The man abruptly threw up his arms and held his tools high above his head. “I, Isaiah Cahill, as Head Elder, shall bear witness to the oaths made upon this momentous night,” he declared, his voice emanating power. “Who joins me?” His expectant gaze swept over the black sea of cloaks convened upon rows and rows of timeworn oak benches.
“We do!” the congregation erupted, their deafening roars resounding off the smooth, stone walls of the ancient, subterranean, ceremonial chamber.
Isaiah lowered his arms then asked, “Who among you shall swear a blood oath to bequeath your powers unto your brothers and sisters upon your death?”
“We do,” the kneeling figures answered, before raising their heads and throwing back the hoods of their cloaks to reveal the faces of five teenage boys.
Isaiah moved to stand before the first boy who knelt at the top point of the star then held out the goblet for his offering.
The young man placed his hand, palm up, over the goblet. “I, Tristan McLellan, vow to bestow my powers unto my brothers and my sisters upon my death. I swear this with my blood.”
The dank, heavily incensed air crackled with anticipation as Isaiah pressed the tip of the blade against the base of Tristan’s thumb and, with one quick, sweeping stroke, sliced the blade across his meaty flesh. Thick red beads welled up from the slash. Tristan turned his hand so the drops fell into the waiting vessel.
Isaiah slowly continued around the circle, expertly wielding his dagger and collecting blood oaths from each. Then upon returning to Tristan once again, he dipped his thumb into the goblet and painted the sign of the pentacle on the boy’s forehead. He gripped Tristan’s arm and guided him to stand then, bending at the waist, he kissed the back of Tristan’s bleeding hand.
Isaiah repeated this with each young man. After all wore the sacred symbol drawn by their mingled blood, he returned to the center of the circle, and held the goblet and crimson-smeared blade out at his sides.
“Your oaths are now bound by the powers of the four classical elements.” Isaiah positioned his body to face north and, beginning there, he pivoted clockwise naming the corresponding element of each of the four cardinal directions as he summoned them. “Earth. Air. Fire. Water.” He then turned to the silent congregation and shaped each element until perfectly molded. Rich, fertile earth; crisp white, swirling wisps of air; radiant orange licks of fire; and cool aquamarine water. All appeared trapped within delicate crystal globes, spinning and spiraling around him. “We, your brothers and sisters, thank you for your loyalty.”
“We are now, and will always be, loyal to our brothers and sisters,” the five chanted.
The four large spheres rose above Isaiah’s head, spinning faster and faster as they slowly ascended. When they were only inches away from the high ceiling, they rushed toward the center and collided with a flash of blinding light. A heavy shower of glittering, iridescent sparks rained down on the pentacle in a stunning, fiery display.
The black-cloaked assembly rose from their seats with thunderous acclamation.
Laura slipped off her shoes, tossed them aside, and smooshed her toes into the soft, warm sand. Hearing boisterous male laughter in the near distance, she looked up from the small, crackling fire to find twin sheepish smiles aimed in her direction. “You promised it’d only be the three of us tonight.”
“They just wanted to say good-bye,” Ashley argued.
“And we all wanted you to have a little fun to remember us by,” Cassidy added.
Laura observed the rowdy group fast approaching and frowned. “Half of the football team is not my idea of fun.”
“Laura, we’ve been friends since the second grade and you know I love you. But I can honestly say that you wouldn’t recognize fun if it hit you in the face. It’s the first day of summer break and your last night with us. Can’t you be a normal teenager just for once? Please, Laura, for me?” Ashley pleaded with big eyes.
She stared back at the dark-haired beauty. Ashley made a valid point. From her peers’ standpoint, she was far from “normal,” passing on numerous outings, missing school dances, opting instead for studying in the solitary confines of her bedroom. And where had it gotten her?
Laura had dreamt of the sole, senior-year scholarship extended by the very prestigious Danvers Preparatory School as far back as she could remember. She had prepared for it long before entering her first year at Endecott High, with numerous hours of studying, painstaking work on assignments, and the sacrifices she’d made, condemned to a self-made prison and therefore missing out on the majority of her teenage years. Supposedly the best years of her life.
She’d become arrogant in the process, so certain she would receive it, so certain her hard work would pay off.
Then came that wretched day. She could still taste the bitterness on her tongue.
Her rival, Tyler Reeves, had beaten her on the entrance exam by one heart-shattering mark and was chosen to attend Danvers, crumbling all Laura’s hopes, dreams, and certainties. It had taken her several months to get over it, beating herself up in the process.
She sighed. “I’ll try.”
“Really?” Ashley asked wide-eyed, both perfectly arched brows raised so high, they almost disappeared into her hairline.
Laura smiled at her friend’s enthusiasm. “Yes.”
“The party has arrived,” a deep, male voice informed them.
Laura recognized the voice at once and cringed. It belonged to Nick Michaels, the blond-haired, brown-eyed star player of their high school’s varsity football team. Though he was a notorious flirt, she’d dated him once, against her better judgment. He’d seemed so sincere when he asked her out, but his constant attempts at groping and his wet sloppy kisses had proven otherwise. After bringing their date to a hasty conclusion, she’d told him in no uncertain terms that she was simply not interested. Later, she realized, to her utter dismay, that he wasn’t going to have any of it. He’d pursued her relentlessly for the remainder of the school year, but his efforts proved futile.
Nick effortlessly swung a large cooler off his broad shoulder and dropped it on the sand. Immediately flipping the lid off, he handed out beers to his friends as they passed by on their way to flock around the girls lounging on a huge, brown blanket. In one synchronized move, the popping of tabs sounded in the night air.
He grabbed four cans, easily holding two in each bulky hand. He stretched his arm out to Ashley and Cassidy, who enthusiastically relieved him of the offered beers. He smiled at Laura before lowering himself down next to her and presenting her with a can.
“No thanks, Nick,” Laura said, holding up a palm.
“Come on, Laura. One won’t kill you,” he insisted, thrusting the beer into her hand.
She tossed it into his lap. “You know I don’t drink.”
Nick shrugged his shoulders, lifted both tabs, and eagerly swallowed the entire contents of one can, then the other. He crushed the empty cans then placed them on the sand in front of him, as if starting a tally. “Hey Chris, throw me a couple.” He lifted his hands to catch the beers instantly flying toward him then turned to Laura, smiling lazily. “Ahhh…nice buzz. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Nor do I care to.”
Giving Laura another dismissive roll of his shoulders, he looked to the small gathering. “Let’s get this party started.”
Ashley smiled impishly. “What do you have in mind?”
“How about a little skinny dipping?” Chris suggested.
“In your dreams,” Ashley taunted.
“Ya chicken?” Chris asked, hiking up one corner of his mouth.
“No. I just think it’s too early.”
“It’s midnight?Oh, I get it.” Chris chuckled and, after dipping into the cooler, he handed out a second round. “Will this help?”
Ashley shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe.”
“How about a couple of scary stories to get you girls in the mood?”
Cassidy snorted. “Like that’s going to happen.”
Chris smiled slyly and waggled his eyebrows. “I’ve got one that’s so messed up, it’ll scare the pants right off you girls.”
“You wish!” the two girls chorused.
Chris curled his legs beneath him and stared into the fire. The flickering flames reflected eerily on his handsome face, while he sat quiet and unmoving as if preparing for a trance. The group stilled, all eyes fixed on him.
After a long moment, he spoke, low and deep. “Not long ago, a couple from Endecott High drove up to Sunset Point. It was a hot and muggy night, just like tonight. There were no stars in the sky and the moon was completely covered by clouds. The night was as black as tar—” He paused dramatically and slowly pivoted his head looking at each engrossed face. “It was midnight, the witching hour, when the door to the supernatural realm opens, and the eternally damned, tortured, evil souls, are free to roam among the living. A dense white fog rolled in from the bay completely surrounding their car, but the couple, busy making out, didn’t notice it until—bam!”
Startled, both Ashley and Cassidy squealed. The group erupted into laughter.
“Chris, if this is the story about the bloody pirate’s hook caught in the car’s door handle, then you’re not very imaginative,” Laura said with a laugh. “That story’s older than our parents, and it happened in another town.”
Chris frowned. “You’ve heard that one before?”
“Everyone has, you dick! It’s a famous urban legend.” Nick shook his head in disgust. “I don’t know why any of us have to make shit up. We’ve got creepy stuff going on right here in town. Talk about that for a bit, and the girls will be handing us their pants.” Nick opened another can, and after greedily guzzling its entire contents, he crushed it and added it to his tally before opening another.
“What’re you talking about, Nick?”
“Come on, Laura. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard about Conant Landing, the home of the rich and beautiful. They’re freaks! A stinking bunch of Satan worshipers who made some kind of pact with the devil centuries ago. That’s why they’re all so perfect, and I don’t mean just in looks. Danvers Prep has a perfect sports record. No one can remember the last time they lost in anything, and they’re all too smart—the highest grade point average of any school in the entire country.”
“You’re drunk,” Laura accused, dismissing his ridiculous notions.
“I may be drunk, but that doesn’t change what I know.” He downed his beer, crushing the empty can before tossing it alongside the others, then opened another. “Haven’t any of you wondered why they don’t leave their part of the town? Why none of us can go there? They stay away from us to keep fools like you oblivious, and we steer clear of those freaks to keep from being sacrificed in one of their sick rituals.”
“That’s a bunch of poop,” Laura scoffed.
“No, Laura, the correct term is ‘shit,’ and Nick, you’re full of it.” Ashley fixed her narrowed glare on him. “The girls and I were in Conant Landing just last month, shopping for decent bathing suits, and clearly we all survived. In fact, everyone was really nice. The best shops and restaurants are there, so they’ve no reason to come to our side of the town. And the only reason we rarely go there is because it’s too damn expensive. But that doesn’t mean we can’t. Get a grip, Nick. You’re just jealous because their football team beat your asses last fall.”
“Besides, if what you say is true, then why do you have your ass parked here? This part of the beach belongs to Conant Landing,” Cassidy added with a frosty glint in her eyes.
“’Cause I’m itching for a good fight, and there’d be nothing better than kicking the shit out of some freaks,” Nick snapped, then chugged the remainder of his beer.
“Hey, slow down, Nick,” Chris pleaded. “We’re running out.”
“Shut up and pass me a couple. I’ve got more in the car,” he grumbled, catching the cans immediately flung at him. He cracked them both open and guzzled one down, then angrily flailed his arm at the group. “You’re all blind. Everyone in Conant Landing’s a freak!” He took another deep swill of beer and looked at Laura, almost with tenderness, as he reached out to cup her cheek in his callused palm. “I’m glad you lost out on that scholarship to Danvers. You would’ve turned into one of them, and I couldn’t have that happen to my girl.”
Laura jerked her face away. “I’m not your girl.”
“Nice one, Nick. Thanks,” Ashley hissed, her glare narrowed and icy.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, Ash. Even if I’d received the scholarship, my dad’s work relocation would’ve prevented me from attending Danvers,” Laura pointed out dismally.
“Enough.” Cassidy scrambled to her feet. “I say we go for a swim.”
“Great idea, Cass!” Ashley rose from the blanket to join her. A wicked glint in her eye, she added, “Wonder how serious the guys were about skinny dipping.”
With their male audience wide-eyed and gaping, the two girls began peeling off the clothes they wore over their swimsuits.
Watching Ashley, it suddenly struck Laura how her friend had changed over the past year. Her big, gray eyes were still her predominant feature, still filled with mischief, but now they held a hint of secrecy behind their sparkle. Her apple cheeks had melted away, revealing the perfect bone structure of her beautiful heart-shaped face, and her full lips seemed set in a permanent attractive little pout. Her once long, unruly hair now hung smooth and sleek in a dramatic shoulder length, blunt cut.
Ashley’s sense of style had also altered. She now opted for barely-there bikinis, pairings of clinging tops and snug bottoms, instead of her previous baggy and comfortable attire. But Laura had to agree. They were the perfect choices to show off her new womanly figure.
Ashley hadn’t garnered her reputation as a heartbreaker for no reason. She’d broken many a heart throughout her younger years, but now, with her new look, she’d transformed into a classic femme fatale. The guys didn’t stand a chance.
“Come on, Laura. It’ll make you forget about things for a little while,” she coaxed.
“Go on ahead. I’ll catch up with you in a few minutes.”
Ashley arched a dubious brow. “Promise?”
“I’ll be right there,” Laura assured her.
Ashley took hold of Cassidy’s hand, and both girls ran toward the shoreline.
The group of boys immediately jumped to their feet and chased after the girls, hollering whoops behind them. Shirts and pants flew into the air as the boys shed their clothes, leaving behind a scattered, crumpled trail.
As Laura watched, her fingers forming curving lines in the sand, her mind drifted to her prom dress now hanging uselessly in her closet. All of Laura’s dreams and planning of graduation, senior year, and prom had been erased by three seemingly inconsequential words.
We are moving.
And with that, her life went spiraling out of control, like an angry cyclone leaving chaos in its wake, which she was powerless to stop.
Now, her senior year, along with her brother’s, was going to consist of home schooling via correspondence courses her principal, Mr. McCarthy, had drafted out. But Laura and her brother, Neil had made a pact. They’d never reveal how unhappy this arrangement made them. They both knew all too well it would break their parents’ hearts.
Laura looked over at the dark shapes invading the bay, among them her two closest friends. Yet they suddenly seemed alien to her. She felt herself on the outside looking in as a sense of loneliness gripped her, and it occurred to her this wasn’t the first time.
The sounds of the group’s frolicking laughter surrounded her like a swarm of frenzied locusts, brushing their wings angrily against her skin, abrading her, intensifying her loneliness. Rage and resentment flared to the surface, covering her with a blanket of despair until she felt she’d suffocate from it.
Laura abruptly stood up. She scooped a can of beer from the cooler then traveled briskly along the shore, headed as far away from the group as her feet would carry her. The seemingly endless beach that stretched out before her, scattered with softly sloping dunes, large pieces of weathered driftwood and wide clusters of tall, dry grass became an inky blur. She blinked rapidly, allowing the tears to fall freely, clearing her vision as she marched on.
Laura’s quick pace brought her to the end of the beach where it butted up against a massive cliff of solid rock jutting out into the calm, black waters.
The sounds of playful screams and cheerful laughter had long since faded away. Completely alone, she gazed at the partially obscured moon, casting its dim light across the sea.
The air was hot and thick with moisture, gluing thick clumps of her hair to the back of her neck. She lifted a hand and wiped the beads of perspiration away from her nape as she looked out at the ocean, envying its untamed and unpredictable nature.
She was tired. Tired of being the responsible one, the sensible one, the serious one, of painstakingly mapping out her future and chaining herself to it, never once deviating from her plans. Everything in her life, she’d kept tightly controlled.
She felt the waves break across her bare feet, turning and rolling, then pulling back, teasing and enticing, the roar summoning her, offering her sweet liberation.
The temptation of losing her self-control was too close. It scared her.
She took several steps back to the safety of dry sand and closed her eyes, attempting to block it all out.
The crash of the waves roared in her ears. The waters became relentless, churning wildly, twisting and foaming, calling to her louder and louder—commanding her to enter.
Rebellion surged up from deep within her. Just this once she wanted to do something, anything, on the spur of the moment. She didn’t want to be perfect Laura anymore.
Opening her eyes, she lifted the tab then tilted the beer can against her lips. The strong, bitter flavor assaulted her tongue and burned her throat. She fought the gagging, forcing herself to swallow every drop. When she finished it, she wiped the trickles from her chin with the edge of her hand, and allowed the empty can to fall freely from her fingers.
The alcohol’s effect was instant. She felt a light tingling sensation grow from the skin on her scalp to the tips of her fingers and toes. A loud burp suddenly erupted from her throat, and an uncharacteristic giggle followed, effortlessly gliding across her lips.
Gripped by a sudden reckless daring, her eyes wide in excited anticipation, Laura shed her clothes and ran into the dark, beckoning sea. Smooth, salty swells rose up in greeting, stroking her playfully and carrying her farther into their pulsating depths. The despair she’d fallen into slowly ebbed, all her sorrow and pain carried away on gentle, rolling waves. For as long as she could remember, she’d never felt this free, as free as the very sea she swam in.
Laura stood, her feet planted on the smooth ocean floor, the calm currents washing gently across her shoulders, as she looked out to the horizon. The clouds lazily parted, revealing a huge white moon. Its soft silvery beams danced freely across the swells, creating a sea of milky pearls, gems cast from the heavens as though meant especially for her.
She caught sight of a gray form poking up through the water and quickly swam to it. The large flat rock created the perfect platform to jump from, and she eagerly climbed on top of it.
© 2013 Gloria Ann