Shifted by Tricia Barr, Angel Leya, Jesse Booth, Alessandra Jay, & Joanna Reeder is a YA Paranormal story of rules, mermaids, vampires, and shape shifters!
“Rule #1: Never go out after dark.
Rule #2: Never go into large bodies of water.
Rule #3: Stay off of social media.
Myreen always knew her mom held some deep dark secret; the rules, the moving, the years of unanswered questions. But she didn’t think breaking one rule, just once, would lead to the death of her mother. And she never expected to find out that she was a mermaid shifter, or that her mother was killed by vampires.
Whisked away in the middle of the night for her own safety, Myreen finds herself in a secret school for shifters. But starting over in a new school in the middle of the year–even if it is for the millionth time–is never easy. With rumors swirling, mean girls circling, and two incredibly attractive guys tugging her in separate directions, Myreen just wants to get through the school year without having a meltdown in front of everyone.
She’s learning so much, but for every question answered, a new one bubbles up. Myreen will need to untangle the web of secrets surrounding her if she ever wants to find out why her mother was murdered. As she dives deeper into the mystery, she discovers a truth about herself that no one saw coming, and it will change the fate of the shifter world forever.”
Published: 7 January 2019
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Chapter 1 Myreen
“Rule #1: Never go out after dark. Rule #2: Never go into large bodies of water. Rule #3: Stay off of social media. “So, how strict is that rule?” Kenzie asked, tossing a french fry in her mouth. They were sitting at a picnic table outside the school cafeteria, making the most of their half hour lunch break. Myreen’s previously comfortable posture stiffened at the question, and she put down the burger she’d been about to bite into. “Rule number one? Pretty unbreakable,” she replied with a sigh. “Why?”
These were the rules Myreen had lived by her entire life, rules put in place by her eccentric mother. If a friend ever threw a birthday party after five in the afternoon, Myreen wasn’t allowed to go. When all of her friends were enjoying dips in the lake for summer time fun, Myreen wasn’t allowed to go. And when everyone started getting smart phones and chatting on Facebook or Twitter, Myreen couldn’t join them. Myreen was allowed a phone, but one that could only make and receive calls and text messages.
These rules made it difficult for Myreen to make friends. Not that it mattered much, as she was hardly ever in one place long enough to get to know anyone. Her mother moved them every few months, leaving one small town to start a new life in another small town. Myreen hated it growing up. She would finally make one good friend, and then her mom would spring a move on her and she’d have to abandon them to start over somewhere else. And with the no social media rule, keeping in touch was damn near impossible. Myreen would send letters, but nobody participated in snail mail anymore. Myreen was stuck in the Stone Age while the rest of the world passed her by.
For the last three months, they’d been living in Short Grove, a tiny town in Illinois. The town was so small, it had one school, no mall of any sort, and was pretty much invisible on any map of the state. Luckily, it was only an hour’s drive from Chicago, so Myreen was able to experience city life when she could manage to get away on weekends—with a strict curfew, of course.
Myreen had the sneaking suspicion that another move was looming around the corner, for she had made one good friend, Kenzie; it was always right around the time she got to truly like someone that she had to say goodbye. Kenzie was great. She had approached Myreen on her first day at the new school, and the two had become fast friends. They did everything together: homework, weekend trips to the city, gossiping on Myreen’s couch all hours of the night. Kenzie was aware of the no-going-out-after-dark rule, and rather than prying, she was content to stay at Myreen’s house to hang out once the sun set.
Or, at least, she was before today.
Kenzie flipped her wavy brown hair over her shoulder. “There’s a party tonight. I think we should go.” Her fingers tapped an excited beat, betraying her casual tone.
“Someone in this town is actually throwing a party?” Myreen asked, raising her brows in surprise.
Kenzie leaned forward, a fire burning in her hazel eyes. “And it’s at Michael Guido’s house.” She raised a brow, but when Myreen didn’t spark with recognition, she added, “He’s a football player. Family’s got big money, at least for this small town. So you know it’s going to be epic.”
Myreen dropped her shoulders and shook her head. “Kenzie, as much as I would love to go, you know I can’t.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.” Kenzie’s nose crinkled, and she jammed a fry into her plate. “Nothing fun ever happens in Shallow Grave,” Kenzie said, using her nickname for their sleepy town. She leveled her gaze at Myreen, an unspoken challenge there. “Until now. You’re a teenager, Myreen. When was the last time you ever did something you weren’t supposed to?”
Myreen snorted. “Um, never.”
“Exactly.” Kenzie pointed her mashed fry at Myreen’s chest. “A little rebellion is healthy—no, necessary. I refuse to let you skip this important rite of teenage-hood.”
Myreen imagined it, telling her mom that she wanted to go to the party and then the deathly stern look and lecture she’d receive in return. She’d heard that lecture so many times, she had the dang thing memorized by now.
She opened her mouth to object, but Kenzie cut her off. “Bobby Fletcher’ll be there.” Kenzie raised her brow and smirked. She was using Myreen’s pseudo crush as a bribe, and it was kinda working.
“Bobby doesn’t know I exist,” Myreen said, rolling her eyes.
“So you get to be Cinderella. Wiggle that perfect little body of yours into any even smaller dress. Before you know it, you’ll be sweeping him off his feet.”
“Aren’t guys supposed to do the sweeping?” Myreen asked with a smirk. “This is the twenty-first century,” Kenzie said. “Where’s your sense of empowerment?” “Stuck in the twentieth century, with my dumb phone,” Myreen said, holding up her flip phone. “You’re mom’s weird,” Kenzie said. “No offense,” she added quickly. “None taken,” Myreen said with a shrug. “You don’t even know the half of it.” “I guess I can kinda understand the no-social-media thing,” Kenzie said, dipping another fry into her mound of ketchup with one hand as she tapped the screen of her phone with the other. “Kids our age really shouldn’t be on social media.”
“You’re literally on it right now,” Myreen pointed out.
“That’s my point,” Kenzie said, stuffing her phone into her pocket. “It’s addictive and it takes away from learning actual social skills. Why do you think I’m so unpopular?” She leaned back in her chair, throwing her half-eaten fry onto her plate.
“You’re not unpopular,” Myreen said in Kenzie’s defense. “You’re just…very honest, and not everyone appreciates your brand of honesty.”
In appearance, there was no reason Kenzie shouldn’t be popular. Though she was a tad on the thicker side, she had a curvy figure with nice, wide hips. Her hair had a natural rockstar wave and required little maintenance, and her face was pretty enough on its own that she never needed makeup, which was more than half the girls of the cheerleading squad could say. If popularity was just a beauty contest, Kenzie would definitely be in the running.
But this was a small town, and everyone in their school had known each other their whole lives. Kenzie spoke her mind, and unlike most teenage girls, stood up for herself and didn’t take crap from anyone. Because of that, the “popular” kids didn’t like her very much. She wasn’t some lemming they could push around, or some bee looking to follow a queen.
“Whatever,” she said with a shrug. “But we’re talking about you and your rules right now. I might even get the after-dark rule. Maybe your mom’s afraid you’ll get abducted or something. Or,” she said, dragging out the word.. “Your mom’s a spy. No, a superhero. That’s it. All her enemies are out to get her and she’s afraid they’ll snatch you for ransom or something. You said you guys move every few months, right?”
“I have considered every scenario you can think of,” Myreen said. “But my mom is too clumsy to be a spy, and not nearly strong enough to be a superhero. I have entertained the notion that she might be in the Witness Protection Program, but why she would keep that from me, I don’t know.”
“So you have no idea why you guys move around so much?” Kenzie pried, and Myreen thought she saw her eyes flash for a moment. A trick of the sunlight, or something.
“Nope,” Myreen sighed. “I stopped asking years ago because she would never give me a straight answer. For all I know, it’s something stupid, like she owes someone money. She does have loads of it even though she never works.”
“Really?” Kenzie asked, hazel eyes sparking, a faint smile on her lips.
Myreen had never told a friend this much about her personal life, and she felt a sort of guilt for betraying her mom’s trust in such a way. But there was something about Kenzie that made Myreen trust her. And it was refreshingly uplifting to be able to confide these sordid details of her life to someone she considered a true friend.
As if sensing Myreen’s discomfort on the topic, Kenzie changed the subject. “She could be something else. Like a werewolf. Or a vampire.”
Myreen laughed. “Seriously?” “Right. You all don’t go out after night. Werewolf it is.” “Yep, that must be it.” Myreen shook her head. “So, tonight. You’re going.” Kenzie could be relentless. Myreen frowned. It wasn’t at all that she didn’t want to go. She had never been to a party, not since she was in elementary school and everyone had their birthday parties at lunch time. A real high school party sounded like the event of a lifetime! Her chest burned with the yearning to go. But her mom would never, ever, in a million years, let her leave the house after dark.
“I really do want to,” Myreen prefaced with a sigh.
“I know there’s a ‘but’ coming, so save it,” Kenzie said. “If your mom won’t let you go, then I say you should sneak out.”
“Sneak out?” Myreen parroted as if the words were a foreign language to her.
“Yeah, you know, climb out your window while your mom is busy making dinner or something,” Kenzie said. “If you tell her you’re sick, she never even has to know. Besides, you deserve a reward for being a perfect daughter. Until now, that is.”
“So my reward for good behavior is deviance?” Myreen asked.
“Teenage rebellion. Remember?” Kenzie flipped her hair over her shoulder again, turning sideways so she could drape her arm over the table.
The more she thought about it, the more Myreen wanted to make this party happen. But how? She didn’t like the idea of sneaking out. Maybe she could reason with her mom. Myreen wasn’t a child anymore, she was sixteen. In two years, she would be considered an adult. She had felt for some time now that she deserved a little taste of freedom, and if there was any real reason for the crazy rules, she was old enough to hear it. A little bit of truth was long overdue.
“Okay,” Myreen decided. “I’ll find a way to go. Meet me at my house at seven.” “Make it eight,” Kenzie said. “Only losers go to a party on time. Or so I’ve heard.” “Eight it is,” Myreen said, a bubble of excitement bouncing in her belly, followed by a stab of doubt threatening to pop it.
*** “Dinner’s ready,” her mom called from the kitchen.
Myreen had been pacing in her room, putting together just the right words to make her case to her mom. It had been years since Myreen had pushed for any kind of lenience on the rules, accepting them as just a way of life. For the most part, she had never really minded. She was content to stay in with her mom every night and watch movies or play cards and board games. She was content not to be addicted to a device as most teens were these days. She was even okay with the fact that she had never really been swimming before.
But this party was a chance to have some real fun, to be normal for a change. Until Kenzie had brought it up, Myreen hadn’t admitted to herself how desperately she wanted to be a normal kid. Moving around all the time was exhausting. Her mom owed her this one small exception to the rules.
Myreen took one deep breath in front of her mirror, fixing her hair just right as if preparing for a speech in front of a large audience. Her shiny, thick black hair flowed down past her shoulders in wayward waves, currents of dark blue peaking out here and there—Kenzie’s doing. Her sky blue eyes stared back at her with uncertainty, shadowed by thick black eyelashes that never needed mascara.
You can do this, she told herself, then turned away from her reflection and headed for the kitchen.
Her mother was setting the table and turned to smile at her when she entered. Her long pale blond hair always seemed to waft around her, as if unbound by the laws of gravity, forever floating in a sea of its own imagination. Myreen had no idea where she’d gotten her black-as-midnight hair, but she undoubtedly got her eyes from her mom, whose were bright with happiness this evening; Myreen felt an extra twinge of guilt knowing that she was about to snuff out their light.
“I made your favorite,” her mom said, placing a full plate on the table. “Pesto grilled salmon and fettuccine alfredo.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Myreen said, ignoring the lump in her throat. She sat at the table and looked down at her plate, the delicious smell taunting her.
“How was school today?” her mom asked, sitting across from her and poking a fork into her food.
“It was alright,” Myreen answered, wondering when was the best time to bring up this overdue conversation.
She looked out the window. The last bit of daylight was clinging lazily to the horizon, slowly dragging its glow across the late spring sky.
“Just alright?” her mom asked before popping a bite of herb covered fish into her mouth.
The clock would be striking seven soon. Now is as good a time as any.
“Actually, something kinda cool did happen today,” Myreen began, poking at her food nervously. “One of the football players is throwing a party tonight, and I was hoping I could go.”
Her mother’s jaw froze mid-chew, and the light immediately vanished from her eyes.
“Kenzie will be there,” Myreen added quickly. “We won’t stay long, just one hour would be enough for me. And I promise not to drink any—”
“Not tonight,” her mom cut her off.
Myreen had expected this answer, but it wasn’t going to be enough for her this time. She needed a real explanation, and she wasn’t going to settle for anything less.
“Mom, I never get to go to any social functions,” Myreen argued. “I’m not asking for something outrageous here. Just one party, at which I promise to be on my best behavior.” “There will be other parties,” her mom said, a casual tone masking a dark and heavy secret. “Parties that you still won’t let me go to,” Myreen said, unable to keep a bit of sass out of her voice. “I don’t get it. Every girl my age gets to go out after school. Everyone gets to hang out with friends and do things at night.”
“But those girls aren’t my daughters,” her mom said.
“I never ask for anything,” Myreen said, her big speech rushing out, skipping over words she had prepared. “I never complain when we have to pack all our things and rush out all of a sudden. I never ask for fancy clothes or gadgets or anything like that. I get almost all A’s in school and have never gotten in trouble. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a really good kid. And all I’m asking for, just this once, is one tiny hour of freedom, to have some fun with kids my own age.”
Her mom looked down at her food, stoic for a moment. “I’m sorry, honey. The answer is no.”
Anger was bubbling up under the surface, an anger Myreen was so used to bottling up. Despite the fact that her mother was her best friend, she was a very secretive person, and Myreen didn’t like to pry. But she deserved an explanation.
“Then I need a reason,” Myreen said, trying to sound like an adult deserving of the respect she was asking for, and not like the indignant teenager she felt bristling on the inside. “Why don’t you ever let me even go into the backyard after sunset? What is scary about the darkness?”
“We’re not having this conversation right now,” her mom said flatly, continuing to eat her food as if their talk was over.
“Then when?” Myreen asked. “I’m sixteen years old. I’m not just some child you can cart around with you anymore. I’m almost an adult, and I need to know why. Why do you hop around from place to place? Why can’t we do anything online? And what’s the deal with water? What are you so afraid of?”
“That’s enough, Myreen!” her mom snapped.
The silence that ensued made Myreen realize how loud her voice had been, and made her feel very young and naïve now. She hated feeling so small, so helpless to control anything in her life. She wasn’t willing to just go with the flow anymore. It was time to take a stand.
“Unless you can give me an explanation for your rules, I will no longer abide by them,” Myreen declared in a low but strong voice.
A spark of panic lit her mom’s blue eyes, and Myreen saw a fear behind them that part of her believed had always been there, hiding.
“Did it ever occur to you that those rules exist to protect you?” her mom said, a note of desperation raising her pitch.
“Protect me from what?” Myreen asked, hiding her own desperation. She had always suspected her mom was running from something. That something bad had happened to her that related to night and water. Myreen couldn’t imagine what that could be, but she needed to know.
Her mom stayed silent, looking at her with pleading eyes.
“If you have something to tell me, now would be the time,” Myreen said. “Whatever it is, I’m ready to listen.”
Her mom’s eyes fell to the floor, darting back and forth in deliberation. Anticipation sizzled in Myreen’s belly like pop rocks in soda. Was she actually going to get to hear about her mother’s mysterious past? Myreen knew nothing about her mom’s history. Nothing about grandparents or extended family. Myreen didn’t even know who her father was. Every time she had asked, her mother had always skillfully changed the subject. But it seemed she might finally get some clue, some missing piece of this almost empty puzzle.
Then her mom’s eyes stopping their pacing, and when they returned to meet Myreen’s gaze, she knew her mom had decided to continue the secrecy.
Myreen pushed away from the table and stood up. “Then I’m going.” “No, you can’t.” Her mom jumped out of her chair. “I’ll be back before midnight,” Myreen said firmly, pushing her chair into the table and heading for the door. “Myreen Lee Fairchild, you are not leaving this house,” her mom yelled in her well- practiced maternal tone. Some young, skittish side of Myreen wanted to do as her mother said, to please her and avoid repercussion. But her determination to make a stand was behind the wheel, and she had no intention of turning around. Maybe this one act of mutiny would finally get her mother to confess something, anything.
She strode for the door, but her mom ran ahead of her and gripped the knob. “Let me out,” Myreen insisted with narrowed eyes. “I can’t do that,” her mom said. “Let me out!” Myreen yelled, her voice sounding strangely musical, not her own. Her mother gasped and dropped her hand. Myreen was startled by her own shout,
ashamed that she had talked back so brazenly to her mom, enough to make her mom jump. But she had gone too far to give up now. Her mom had released the door knob. Myreen had to take her chance before the opportunity closed.
She grabbed the knob, pulled the door open and rushed out, slamming the door behind her and running down the street. Her pulse was racing, her hands shaking as she pulled out her phone to dial Kenzie’s number and put the phone to her ear.
“Hey, Kenz, things didn’t go so well, can I come over before the party?” Myreen asked into her phone.
“Of course, come on over,” Kenzie’s worried voice replied. “Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know,” Myreen said honestly. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She hung up the phone and stuck her hands in her pockets as she walked with purpose to Kenzie’s house down the street.
She hated what happened back there, but she knew that it needed to happen, one way or another, and had needed to for some time. She’d had enough of secrets and changed
subjects, enough of complying aimlessly to ridiculous requests. Things were never going to be the same after tonight, and that both excited and terrified her.”
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