Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Magic Quest Books
Number of pages: 225
Word Count: 78,750
Formats available: Kindle
Cover Artist: Jennifer Zemanek/Seedlings LLC
Tagline: What would you do to find your magic?
She must save a strange world if she hopes to ever return to the one she left.
Alex Benton is an exile at Gray Cliffs Academy. Sent there for her senior year, where she knows absolutely nobody, all because of a little, uh, incident with her stupid “gift.” Some gift. Inherited from her mother, who died before she could give Alex a clue on how to deal with this water thing hanging over her like … yeah, go ahead, say it. Like a dark cloud.
Until the day ten students are called to the Gray Cliffs headmaster’s office and then, boom! she awakens in a scorched landscape and discovers she’s in a place called Togwotee.
That information is courtesy of her rescuers, a guy named Kel and a girl named Ria, who call themselves Nines. Very reluctant rescuer when it comes to Ria. In fact, Ria accuses her of being a spy for the enemy Tens. But Kel is not reluctant, not at all.
As Alex fights to survive (suspected of being an enemy spy, remember?) this odd world, she must learn her own magic to try to save the Nines, and especially Kel. But will she ever get home? Because the key to that is thorny Ria.
Lots and lots and lots of serious sun. And not a drop of sunscreen. The dermatologist and her mom would not approve.
She had more immediate problems.
Starting with no phone.
When she was told to report to the headmaster’s office, she was in the library. Making sure she wasn’t observed, she dropped her backpack behind a row of books on Tudor England, then nudged the spines straight.
It seemed a good move. No backpack meant no journal Headmaster Auster or Headmistress Lalane could demand to see. The journal where she’d written her thoughts, including not so complimentary thoughts about Gray Cliffs Academy.
Not such a good move now, huh. No backpack, no phone, no power bars, no bottled water, no sunglasses.
She peeled off her navy Gray Cliffs Academy blazer. Using it like the most awkward visor ever, she held it over her head to shield her eyes and see something, anything other than the sun.
In front of her stretched horizontal slabs of rock, here and there broken by rock eruptions frozen into erratic shapes. One eruption had a void in its center. A bull’s-eye. Around it, rocks rose like stubby pillars.
Irregular grooves cut into the horizontal rocks, like water erosion caused. But no water had been here lately. The area framed by her blazer visor showed brown or gray skeletons of plants scattered among the rocks. Nothing living.
Alone. No water. No. food. No way to get help.
Dad and her younger brother Ethan would probably do great here. Not her. She was not Survival Girl.
Don’t panic. It’s a waste of energy.
She could hear her dad’s voice.
She would not panic. She would not. Take stock. Assess the situation. Assess your surroundings. Assess the possibilities. Only then do you act.
How many times had Dad said that on yet another camping trip after he and Ethan overruled her and Mom on how they’d spend vacation? Heck, he said it when they couldn’t find the van at the mall.
Continuing to slowly pivot, she saw more of the same. Then, not far from her, a ridge of rock looked as if it gave way to a dropoff.
Another pivot and—
“Holy crap.” She dropped the blazer visor. The blinding glare returned. She grabbed at the blazer, turning it mostly upside down before dragging it back into place to be sure what she thought she saw was what she really saw.
Huge, sharp, abrupt mountains, rising and rising, and then rolling off forever.
She wished they were the mountains near GCA. She’d know where she was then. Sort of, anyway.
She’d only been at the school this year. A senior outsider who didn’t fit in any better at GCA than in her hometown.
She liked the views around GCA, though, with the mountains and the stretches of water. Not at all like Iowa.
These mountains gave off the water vibes of streams, rivers, lakes. Not of oceans, sounds, bays like the mountains at Gray Cliffs.
She ducked her head. Stupid. Mountains giving off water vibes? Right. Be practical. Be normal.
She concentrated on the mountains again.
“The Rockies.” The name came out between parched lips. She licked them. They instantly redried, making them even drier. She needed water. And lip gloss.
Knowing these were the Rockies didn’t do her any good anyway, since they were really, really far from GCA.
Plus, it didn’t help with why was she here? It would be good to know how she’d gotten here, too.
And none of those were as big as how to get out of here. To get back.
A swell of something shimmered through her. She needed to get back. She had to get to Gray Cliffs. She didn’t know why — she wasn’t exactly Ms. School Spirit — but the necessity of it overwhelmed her.
If there wasn’t a distraction right then, the pressure in her eyes would have turned into another episode of her personal plague — tears.
But there was a distraction.
A faint sound, like something sliding, was the only warning.
Then a shape began to rise over the ridge to her left. A glimpse of something light-colored and sort of rounded.
It dropped back out of sight, rose again, retreated, then rose higher, all in a peculiar rhythm. The light-colored something appeared to be cloth. And the rounded shape… Cloth covering a head? Was this a person? But how tall would the person have to be for its head to be that high off the ground? Assuming it was a head.
Another of her dad’s sayings.
Considering the strange things she’d encountered today, assuming anything about anything was a real leap.
She squinted. It was a head. A face peered out of the small aperture of what appeared to be an old-fashioned sun bonnet covered by folds of cloth worn like Lawrence of Arabia.
As if that thought conjured it up, a new head showed above the ridge. An animal. Not a horse. It had short, rounded, furry ears. Fuzzy beige color. In the same rhythm as the first head, it appeared, disappeared, then appeared higher. It was climbing, carrying the first head — please, let there be more than just a head. And then the rest of the animal’s head came into view.
Alex sucked in more hot air and stepped back.
That had to mean those mountains weren’t the Rockies.
She would remember if there were camels when they visited Yellowstone Park three years ago. Her father and brother read aloud every single factoid on every single kind of wildlife in the whole place. She forgot most of it, but she’d remember camels ...wouldn’t she?
“Halt. Or I will shoot.” The first head had a voice. A threatening voice. A girl’s threatening voice.
The camel came fully into view, hump and all, topped by the girl-voiced figure wrapped in sheets the same color as the camel. The animal’s color was thanks to genetics, the sheets’ from dirt, judging by the streaks marking them.
“What are you doing here?” the threatening girl asked. From the little Alex could see, and from the voice, she guessed the girl was somewhere around her own age—eighteen.
The harsh demand rubbed at Alex. That’s my question, Camel Girl. Right after, Where the hell is “here”?
She forced herself to calm.
“I, uh, I need help. Please, can you take me to the nearest town?” Silence met that request. She lowered her aim. “A phone. Anyplace with a phone would be great. And some water? I’d really like some water. Maybe a shower.” Fresh clothes wouldn’t hurt, either. But she wouldn’t push.
Gray Cliff’s uniform was not cut out for fire and rocks. Of course, she had to wear the stupid skirt today. If she had the pants on, her phone in would be in her pocket. Instead, she’d gotten ink on the pants yesterday, so she put on the skirt and stashed her phone in her backpack.
“No town. No water.”
Alex took a step. “A phone—”
A point showed in the folds of the sheets. “I’ll shoot. Stay back.”
The girl threatened her if she backed up, threatened her if she stepped forward. Was she allowed to breathe? Something unfamiliar bubbled up in Alex.
“Shoot with what? Your finger?” She never mouthed off. Ever. Think it, yeah. Say it out loud, no. Yet, here she was telling Camel Girl, “You think I don’t know that’s just your finger? Besides, if you had a gun, you wouldn’t shoot it through your clothes.”
The sheets shifted and between them emerged the tip of an arrow, followed by what looked like a miniature crossbow.
“Not through my clothes. Through yours. Through you.”
Beneath the brim of the bonnet, under the swaths of cloth, the girl’s eyes were hard and direct.
“Why? Why?” It was a familiar question. The one she so often wanted to howl at the universe when the empty ache that made no sense welled up inside her, when the gift she didn’t want or understand pulled another crappy trick on her, when frustration at…everything ... rose up so strong, she couldn’t breathe. That happened on ordinary days.
Today wasn’t ordinary.
“Why?” Alex practically shouted.
Clearly unmoved, the girl said, “I don’t know you.”
“That’s easy. What’s your name? Mine’s—”
“I don’t want to know you.”
Frustration, fear, encircled by darkness, hurtling through lightning, landing on fire, it all boiled over. “Well, then go, just leave me here to die, Camel Girl.”
The reins on the camel tugged sharply to turn it around. The animal seemed to resist, but Camel Girl pulled harder, until the camel’s head was nearly back to its shoulder. The camel turned, and in three steps camel and girl were back over the ridge and out of sight.
She was alone again.
About the Author:
Blair Drake believes in magic, especially the magic of stories with fantasy, adventures, romance, action, and surprises. She has loved writing and living in the stories of the Finding Magic series and is so excited to share the quests of the Gray Cliffs Academy students with her readers.
When she’s not writing about magic, she’s reading about it. Her influences are Cassandra Claire, Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, Garth Nix, and many more.
In the mortal plane, following the lure of magic has drawn Blair into strange and wonderful adventures from Australia to New York City, with many stops in between. She currently lives near Denver. Her very favorite spot is a red loveseat in her office, frequently shared with two cats, an outnumbered Dalmation, and occasionally her bewitched husband.
She might have gone to a school similar to Gray Cliffs Academy and would love to go through a magic portal. In the meantime, she’s creating her own in more books of magic.