Book Blitz & Excerpt: Illusions in Paint + Giveaway

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Illusions in Paint by Ann M. Miller

Word Count: 65,807
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 248

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
FANTASY
ROMANCE
YOUNG ADULT
YOUNGER READERS

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Book Description

 

When art and illusion collide, no one is safe.

Eight months ago, Julia Parsons learned to control her strongest emotions—the ones that created doorways into paintings. With her Vista magic now in check, she has stopped looking for the descendant of the witch rumoured to have the power to remove her abilities. But when her magic goes haywire and paintings begin calling to her, she can barely resist opening portals into any works of art she encounters.

Then Julia runs into Luke Mercer, who offers to help her find the descendant, a teen named Marisa. When Julia’s boyfriend Nick joins the search, they locate the girl—in an art gallery, of all places. Before Julia can ask Marisa to remove her magic, the call of so many paintings overwhelms her, and she opens multiple portals at once. Marisa is sucked into one, and Julia and the boys are forced to enter works of art to get her back.

As Julia’s connection to the art intensifies, so does the danger lurking in the deep corners of the paintings they move through. In order to save Marisa and her friends, Julia will have to separate reality from illusion…and fully embrace the magic that runs through her veins, once and for all.

Publisher’s Note: This book is best read as the sequel to Captured in Paint.

Excerpt

The smudge of purple on my skin was my first clue that I’d done the unthinkable. The acrylic paint set on the table was my second.

I stood in the kitchen doorway, looking from the lavender-coloured smear on my thumb to the paint set that was sitting open next to the napkin holder. I had first noticed the spot on my skin a minute earlier in the bathroom, when I’d held my hands underneath the tap to wash them. The Beatles song I’d been humming had died in my throat, and I’d stumbled down the stairs, willing it to be a hallucination. But when I’d caught sight of the paint set, its case glinting in a pool of early morning sun, I’s known the truth. I’d done the one thing I swore I’d never do again—I’d painted.

My limbs were frozen, my only movement a twitching of the thumb marked with the telltale speck of paint. The paint set had been stowed away in the basement. I hadn’t touched it in eight months—hadn’t so much as looked at a paintbrush. So how did—?

My heart accelerated as I spotted the corner of white paper peeking out from under a placemat. My paralysis broken, I reached up to the hollow of my throat. The heart-shaped pendant still rested there, effectively dampening my strongest emotions. Thank God. If there was a painting under the placemat, I wouldn’t be in any danger of bringing it to life. And I didn’t mean figuratively. Without the charmed necklace, my Vista power was released—a power that not only opened doorways into works of art but pulled people inside, trapping them.

Yeah, it sucks to be me.

Taking a deep breath, I pushed off the doorframe and shuffled to the table. I ran my hand over the tubes of acrylic paint nestled in one side of the case. Every tube was accounted for, although the lavender lay crooked in its slot. As I straightened it, my fingertips pulsed with the memory of blending colours with my brush, dabbing and sweeping in an imitation of my favourite painter, Bob Ross. God, I’d missed that feeling. Eight months was a long time to go without creating, but it wasn’t worth the risk.

I snatched my hand back from the tube, focusing on the other side of the case, which housed my paintbrushes. My filbert was missing. I quickly scanned the table, but there was no sign of it. I’d look for it later. Right now, I needed to gauge the full extent of what I’d done.

With my hand shaking just a tad, I peeled back the placemat to reveal the entire piece of paper. My heart slowed to normal speed. No picture there, but a streak of paint shimmered on the bottom right-hand corner of the page. It was a streak that was an exact match to the colour on my thumb, which meant that sometime during the night I’d—

My ears pricked up at the sound of Aunt Karen’s SUV pulling into the driveway. Crap. Instinctively, I crumpled the page into a ball and pitched it into the garbage under the sink. Then I snapped the paint set closed and hightailed it down to the basement. I slid the case back onto the dusty shelf where it belonged and bounded back up the stairs just as my aunt’s footsteps sounded in the front hall. I took big, gulping breaths of air and turned to greet her when she entered the kitchen.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she said, dropping her bag onto a chair. She brushed back the wisps of auburn hair that had escaped from her bun and massaged the back of her neck. Her face was imprinted with lines of exhaustion, and her cheeks had almost zero colour. I knew she enjoyed her work as a general surgeon, but the overnight shifts took a lot out of her.

“Hey, Aunt Karen. How was your night?”

“Oh, you know, the usual. Back-to-back surgeries and…” She trailed off with a frown. “Why are you out of breath?”

I scrambled for an excuse. “Oh, I was dancing to my Beatles playlist.” I did a stupid little twirl.

My aunt glanced around. “I don’t see your phone.”

I groaned inwardly. Even when she was practically dead on her feet, she was perceptive. She knew I always listened to my music on my iPhone with my earbuds in. “I was doing it upstairs. Just came down.” I pretended to pick some lint off my pajama top so I wouldn’t have to make eye contact.

She didn’t need to know what had happened—not that anything had happened. I’d discovered a smudge of paint on my thumb and one on a piece of paper. It wasn’t like I’d created another world that could be opened up, not like my mural. But to make sure I didn’t, I’d burn my paint set or haul it to a dumpster or something—anything to get it away from here, which was why there was no point in freaking out my aunt. I’d take care of this—whatever this was—the first chance I got.

Aunt Karen crossed to me and tipped my chin up so I had no choice but to look at her straight on. She fixed her green eyes on mine. They were tired but sharp. “Talk to me, Julia.”

“About what?” I quickly tucked my thumb under my fingers to hide the evidence. “My crappy cooking skills? Because we can get something out for breakfast today.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.” Her gaze softened. “You’re worried, aren’t you? That’s why you’re wearing this again.” She touched her fingertip to the pendant hanging around my neck.

I nodded and briefly shut my eyes, all too happy to let her think my emotional management was my major issue right now. “Yeah. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slide this week.”

She gathered me in a hug. “It is a big week. I can’t believe you’re graduating and going out into the big world.” She tightened her arms around me. She smelled like chamomile and the strong soap she used for surgical scrubs. “I’m going to miss you.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going very far.” After discovering I was a Vista witch, my plans to study at the Art Institute of Chicago had changed. I’d been accepted to the University of Western Ontario, where I planned to do a Bachelor of Arts degree while I figured out what I wanted to major in. The campus was only a few hours away from St. Peter’s. The best part was that my boyfriend, Nick, and my best friend, Roxy, were going to UWO, too.

Aunt Karen let me go with a smile. “I’m proud of you, you know? For keeping your grades up, even after everything you’ve been through, and for controlling your magic… I know it’s been no small feat.”

It had been my decision not to wear the necklace that stifled my strongest emotions, the ones that opened paintings, before I could get control of them. I’d wanted to live my life without dulling my feelings, so I’d worked at tempering them using the techniques Mom had taught me when she had been alive. While I’d gotten pretty good at checking the emotions that threatened to overwhelm me, I’d strapped on my charmed armour—aka the necklace—at the beginning of the week, just to be on the safe side with so much going on. It had gotten me through final exams and my eighteenth birthday the day before. Now I trusted it to get me through the big party tonight and the graduation ceremony tomorrow.

Of course, the necklace hadn’t stopped me from hauling out my acrylics and smearing paint on paper.

I shook off the thought and tucked my hands in my pockets. “I’m not taking any chances these next couple of days, Aunt Karen. I’ll Krazy Glue this sucker to my neck if I have to.”

She smiled again. “I don’t think you’ll have to go that far. Just check the clasp every so often.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice. Last fall I’d lost the necklace when the clasp had broken, and the chain had fallen off. Then Luke Mercer had found it and kept it from me for his own warped reasons.

Not for the first time, I wondered where he’d gone after getting access to his trust fund. I mean, it wasn’t as if I cared. I wasn’t looking for payback or closure, even though I hadn’t completely forgiven him for the part he’d played in Mom’s death. Still, I couldn’t help being curious about where he’d ended up.

“So,” I said, “how about that breakfast?”

“Oh honey, I’m exhausted. I’m going to go right to bed.” She pulled a couple of bills from her wallet. “Here. You go treat yourself to something.”

I took the money and grinned. “Don’t mind if I do. Thanks, Aunt Karen. Can I take the car?”

She slung her bag over her shoulder. “Be my guest. I’ll be out of commission for at least a few hours. But I’ll need the car tonight for my next shift.”

“No worries. Nick’s picking me up for the bonfire.”

“One last hurrah before the big ceremony, huh?”

I laughed. “Something like that.”

While she disappeared into her bedroom, I took a quick shower. Once I was dressed, I lingered outside her bedroom door, listening for the sound of her snoring, something I could always count on. As soon as it came, loud as a chainsaw, I hurried back down to the basement, grabbed the paint set and flew out to the SUV.

I glanced up and down the street as I slid the case in the trunk, feeling like I was on a clandestine mission. And I was, in a way. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing and why. I could imagine how the conversation would go if I told the truth. Oh, you know. Just going to dump my acrylics because apparently I can now paint while I’m asleep. Either that, or something drove me to paint last night, and the incident was wiped from my memory.

Yeah, that didn’t sound crazy at all.

Ten minutes later I pulled into the mall parking lot, not stopping until I reached the far corner, where a Salvation Army donation bin sat. I got out of the car, looked around to make sure no one was nearby and grabbed the handle of the case. Instead of tossing it right in, though, I hesitated—kind of like I had when I’d touched the paints right before discovering the smear on the sheet of paper. A heaviness settled in my stomach, and I swallowed hard.

I’d known this would be tough, but now that I was on the verge of giving away my most prized possession, it all seemed so…final. Once I did it, there was no going back. There’d be no painting for me, ever again, because there was no way I’d ever buy new acrylics. It would be the last nail in the coffin of my relationship with paint.

I curled my fingers around the pendant and squeezed. Without its power, I would have burst into tears by now, but it was keeping my emotions from overflowing. It was the reason I found the strength to pick up the case and hoist it into the bin. As the door of the box clanged shut, my heart gave a little jump, then stilled.

This was the way it had to be. No paints and brushes meant no risk of making art, which meant no risk of magic.

But just in case, I wasn’t going to take my necklace off, not even for a second.

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About the Author

Ann M. Miller

Ann Miller writes young adult novels about first loves, family secrets, and magic. She grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the local bookmobile fed her diet of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High books, and Stephen King horror. After graduating from the University of King’s College, she moved to Newfoundland, an island that makes up for its unforgiving climate with beautiful coastlines and majestic icebergs.

When she’s not reading or writing, Ann can be found spending time with her husband and son, or binge watching Netflix while curled up with the two four-legged members of her family.

Captured in Paint is her first novel, and she has several more in the works. Take a look at Ann’s website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Adorned in Blood + Giveaway

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Adorned in Blood by L.S. Barron

Word Count: 52,184
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 201

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
GLBTQI
SWEET ROMANCE
TRANSGENDER
VAMPIRES
YOUNG ADULT
YOUNGER READERS

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Book Description

Once Jenna, now Michael…soaked in blood but cleansed by love. I sink my teeth into the pulsating artery. Crimson red blood sprays across the misty fog.

Michael is a transgender teenager who is well on his way with his gender transition and finding a life path that better suits him. And as if that weren’t enough of a freak-out for the teen, he’s been turned into a vampire…a Nosferatu!

Luckily, Michael has a group of good friends to help him through his struggles, and who would think that this would be when he’d find love for the first time?

But just to keep his already-interesting life in a wee bit more turmoil, a murder leads to a discovery that could change not only his life but the lives of everyone he knows…and loves.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder, the death of a parent, attempted suicide, and bullying.

Excerpt

The golden rays from the alleyway streetlamp glimmered through the mist and fog. The drizzly rain fell lightly upon my eyelashes. I felt the coldness as it wreaked an ill chill through my body. Somehow, the thirst had taken over once again. Everything else in my mind had been put aside.

The back door of the diner opened. It was a shabby place—hardly even a rat dared linger there, except the rat that ran the place. There in the mist was the man himself, throwing out the night’s garbage into the already rank alleyway. He was a savage of a being. He was mean to my kind, mean to all kinds.

“Hey, kid, what are you doing back here?” the crotchety man asked.

I wiped the rain from my eyes. The saliva ran down the side of my mouth. Attack!

It was soon over. I so liked the color blue and how it looked on me. I thought it brought out more of the blue in my hazel eyes. Almost all my shirts were some shade of blue. Dang, I shouldn’t have worn my favorite.

The blue T-shirt had streams of crimson red blood running down it, like it was a newly designed pattern, meant to be that way.

The savage lay at my feet, lifeless. No more will he be unkind to me…or to anyone, for that matter. I pushed the man’s side with my sneaker to make sure he was now lifeless. There was no movement, no breath. Dead.

I wiped the blood from my face on my arm. I looked up into the drizzly rain, letting it rinse my face clean, erasing my sinful act. I admired the rays of light from the streetlamp. I felt pure, rejuvenated. I was not mournful for the beast of a man. There was no regret. I felt renewed and fell into a deep, restful sleep.

My alarm clock sounded. Morning had quickly arrived, with the memories of the night only a fleeting moment in my mind. The school day ahead was not what I was worried about. I combed my now short blondish-brown hair as I stood in front of my bedside mirror. I glanced down at one of my old swimming trophies. ‘High Point Award, 9–10 girls, Jenna Holliday’. Jenna Michelle Holliday, hmm… I chuckled. Yes, that once had been my name. Now, however, it is simply Michael Holliday.

I repeated that in the mirror out loud. “Michael Holliday.”

The name flowed so much better off my tongue. It felt right. It felt comfortable, fitting.

When did I know that I was Michael and not that lost girl Jenna? Probably before I even had memories. My mom told me that by the time I was two, I had already started showing preferences toward the other gender. She told me that I would just drag my doll around by its hair like I hated the thing. Then I would fight the neighbor boy for his Matchbox trucks.

In my memory, I’d known by kindergarten at least. I’d known for sure dresses were out. All I’d wanted to wear were jeans and a T-shirt so that I could play roughhousing games with the boys any chance I got. I’d loved to fight, play football and wrestle. I’d wanted everything in a boy’s life. I’d found no use for my girlie body and didn’t feel like it belonged to me. I’d kept it at a distance, almost, like looking into the mirror and not seeing my real self.

Things have changed now. I was F2M post-op, at least the top half of my body, which I now loved. I was going to leave the lower stuff alone for now. Mom and Dad had been super supportive, so that was pretty cool, not like some kids who I’ve seen struggling. I’m on the T—testosterone injections. I was starting to finally show some facial scruff. That was pretty sick. I could do without the excessive underarm odor, but that was what Axe was for, I guessed. I have noticed of late that my shoulders are getting broader, but I also work out in the gym pretty hard.

However, right now, besides all this, I have this new thing to deal with. It’s not like being sixteen brings enough problems already. Now I’m cursed with this bloodthirst too. I can’t even remember who did this to me, but I’ll find out. I’m going to have my revenge!

I had my suspects. Number one on my list? Mr. Drakon Branikov, my high school’s history teacher. I think he’s from Bulgaria—or maybe Hungary. I’m not sure, but he’s definitely not from around here.

Mr. Branikov has long hair that he keeps pulled back in a ponytail and dark brown eyes, almost black. I feel like he could stare into my soul, though the girls seem to gaze at him in adoration. He dresses strangely, almost old-style, yet he seems young. That brought another question to my mind. Why does he always seem to look the same age? Other teachers had gotten older over the years. Not Mr. Branikov. I had lived in this town all my life. I had paid attention. This teacher was not what he seemed.

I had permission that night to go out with friends after the high-school football game. My plan, though, was something completely different. I would follow my suspect.

There had been criminals missing around town. There had been missing girls, not schoolgirls but ladies of the night, the skanky kind. I had done my research at the library. It seemed that the local papers showed that there had been several unsolved deaths and missing persons in recent years. Guess what? All since Mr. Branikov and his family had moved into town.

It seemed the cops didn’t care much. Why would they? The town was becoming a safer and nicer place to live.

It had been a while since anyone had been missing or killed. I figured, if Mr. Branikov was like me, it was time to rejuvenate. I knew I could go a month or so, but not much longer. I didn’t know about Mr. Branikov. Is he an old Nosferatu? Did he draw the blood from my body first? Did he cause my thirst? Why?

This notion that one should be moral and only live on animals? Yeah, that didn’t work. I’d tried. No, only the pulsating blood of a human would suffice. So, I’d choose the most immoral beings that I could find—at least I’d try.

This would be a good night to feed. Town would be busy. Lowlifes would be crawling about, looking for trouble. If my suspicions were right, Mr. Branikov would feed and I would be there!

Mr. Branikov departed the stadium from the back entrance. It was dark and quiet, leading down the back alleyway of the high school. I followed at a distance. I thought we were alone.

“Hey, Michael…or is it Michelle? No wait! Wasn’t it Jenna?” I heard from behind me, along with sudden laughter.

I turned. It was James Day and his pack, some of the popular boys who I found to be very irritating.

“Come on, James. It doesn’t even know what it is,” another boy said, as they all laughed again.

The pack walked closer to me. James looked at me and shook his head. “Well, it got rid of its boobs. Maybe we should see if it has any balls.”

My anger rose and I saw the vein in James’ neck pulsate. He was a jerk. I was losing my thoughts. Everything was starting to spin. Attack!

In the blur of the moment, out of the darkness, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Not now. It’s okay,” a calming voice whispered in my ear.

I turned to find Mr. Branikov behind me. I heard the pack of boys scatter. Mr. Branikov was standing there. He smiled, pushed the hair away from my eyes and gently said, “Walk with me.”

I learned that night that Mr. Branikov was who I’d thought him to be. However, he had not doomed me to this life but had saved me. I learned that while I had still been Jenna, before I had come forward about my true self, I had been very unhappy. Mr. Branikov told me that he’d found me below the old town bridge with hardly a breath left. He’d chosen to save me.

I didn’t remember any of this. It was after this moment that I had gone forward in my life. I’d found my new self. I found new meaning. I’m a new creature—actually two new creatures—although I think I’ve always been the one. I’ve found happiness at last.

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About the Author

L.S. Barron

Laurie enjoys taking advantage of the warm desert air in the winters and roams the mountains of Colorado in the summers. She is a retired fire captain and is now taking advantage of her time to develop her writing skills. On many occasions you can find her at the local coffee shop working on her next story.

Laurie likes to point out that her six grandchildren contribute many of the ideas for her stories and she often uses their creative thoughts in her books. Their language skills come in handy when working on any middle-grade or young-adult book. “Bro, that is so lit!”

Find out more about Laurie at her website.

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L.S. Barron Adorned in Blood Giveaway

L.S. BARRON IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 6TH April 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

 

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Captured in Paint + Giveaway

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Captured in Paint

by Ann M. Miller

Word Count: 63,815
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 234
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, FANTASY, ROMANCE, YOUNG ADULT, YOUNGER READERS

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Paintings can stir emotions, but for Julia, emotions bring paintings to life…literally.

Ice Princess.

That’s what the kids at St Peter’s High call seventeen-year-old Julia Parsons, the girl who doesn’t show emotion. But that all changes when Julia loses the protection of her late mother’s charmed necklace, and the emotions that have been locked deep inside her are unleashed. Now, after years of priding herself on being calm, cool and collected, Julia is forced to accept two life-altering revelations—she can feel just as deeply as any other teen and her emotions can make paintings come alive.

As Julia struggles to control her ability, she discovers that her boyfriend, Nick, is trapped inside a mural that she herself created. She enters the wintry world to save him before it’s painted over but quickly realises that a mysterious force is keeping Nick tethered to the work of art.

Unless Julia can learn how to harness the power of her new and unfamiliar emotions, they won’t make it out of the painting alive.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of underage characters drinking and using strong language, as well as a brief reference to smoking.

Excerpt

Luke Mercer’s eyes latched onto mine as he strode into history class. I looked down quickly, but I could still feel his gaze. It wasn’t like the sympathetic and curious looks my other classmates gave me. At least they had the decency to seem embarrassed when I caught them glancing my way. Luke had been watching me with cool disdain, his blue eyes never wavering.

He paused as he passed by my desk. I kept my eyes on my notebook, willing him to sit down.

“Please take your seat, Luke,” Ms. Davis said.

He uttered a low, sarcastic laugh and slid into a desk in the next row over.

Luke had transferred from Westdale Collegiate to St. Peter’s High for grade twelve, but it was mid-September and he’d only started attending classes two days earlier. People were saying it was because he’d just gotten out of juvie.

I hunched over my notebook, intent on ignoring him. As I doodled with my right hand, the fingers of my left automatically lifted to touch the silver chain that always hung around my neck. My fingertips only grazed bare skin.

Letting out a sharp gasp, I fumbled with my collar, but I still couldn’t feel the chain. I dropped my pen and frantically ran both hands over the front of my shirt, hoping my locket had just fallen off and got snagged in the material. It hadn’t.

I bent over and searched my backpack. It wasn’t there, either.

Somewhere between home and school, I’d lost the locket. How could I not have noticed? It was one of the few things I had left that tied me to my mother, and now it was gone—maybe forever, just like her. As the thought crossed my mind, my chest tightened in a way it never had before, squeezing until I felt like I was going to explode. A lump rose in my throat, and I was struck by the overwhelming urge to cry.

I never cried. I’d always been good at keeping my emotions in check. Even in the days and weeks following the fire, I hadn’t shed a tear. It was like this wall of numbness surrounded me, keeping me from really feeling.

Now, with the discovery of the missing locket, that wall had come crashing down.

With my heart thumping wildly against my ribcage, I barely noticed when Principal Tobin came on the PA. For a couple of minutes, his voice sounded far away as he read through a list of announcements. But then his tone changed, taking on a sombre note that made me sit up a little straighter. “And now I have a very important piece of news to cap off today’s announcements. As you all know, we lost one of our students this past summer. Nicholas Allen was a bright, motivated young man who was honoured with a Young Humanitarian Award for his fundraising campaign for victims of the Alberta floods. He also…”

No! I screamed in my head. Don’t talk about him.

But, of course, Mr. Tobin couldn’t hear my silent plea. He kept talking about my dead boyfriend, listing his achievements like a proud father.

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Something was lodged in my windpipe, cutting off all my air.

“And now,” the principal continued, “Nicholas’ parents are collaborating with the Red Cross to set up a scholarship fund in his memory. If you would like more information, you can contact…”

I’d known about the scholarship because Mrs. Allen had called to tell me about it before school had started. But I had not been expecting to hear about it over the PA today. Hadn’t been expecting Nick’s name to be boomed out across the school just as I was trying to keep it together in the wake of losing my locket. Talk about a double whammy.

I needed the wall again, needed to build it back up and use it as a buffer against the flood of emotions. But the pieces of that wall lay at my feet, and I didn’t know how to put them back together.

I couldn’t ignore the images of Nick that popped into my head—tall, lean, handsome Nick with the crooked smile and caramel-brown eyes that could send butterflies skittering through my stomach, even after two years of dating. But I would never see that smile again. He was gone, just like my mother. Just like the locket.

Stop it, I commanded myself, desperate to put an end to the chain of despondent thoughts. You can beat this.

My mother had taught me some techniques to use if my emotions started to run rampant—simple things like taking slow, deep breaths, counting to ten or recalling a happy memory…affirmations. I’d never had to use any of them…until now.

I took a series of deep breaths and hoped that I would find my equilibrium.

But the deep sadness and regret only grew, pouring over me in waves as Nick’s face floated in my mind’s eye.

My face grew warm. The walls of the classroom were closing in on me. I desperately wished I was somewhere else, somewhere I could be alone, where I could breathe in lungfuls of fresh air.

An image of a field of poppies began to take shape in my mind. I didn’t have time to wonder where it had come from because a wave of dizziness struck me.

Black spots flitted across my vision, and the classroom began to spin.

I closed my eyes.

“Are you all right, Julia?”

The concerned voice of my history teacher reached me through the dizziness. When I opened my eyes, the spinning sensation stopped as suddenly as it had begun. My racing heart started to slow as I fixed my eyes on Ms. Davis. I took another deep breath, and this time I was able to push back the grief that had nearly consumed me.

“I’m fine, Ms. Davis,” I said. My voice was loud and clear, but my hands were shaking. I wasn’t sure what was worse—the fact that the layer of numbness had been peeled back, exposing my emotions…or feeling like I was going to faint. What was wrong with me today?

The eyes of my classmates burned into the back of my head. Whispers swirled around me. They were gossiping about the fire, of course, wanting to know more, wondering how I was.

They could wonder all they wanted, though. I wasn’t talking about it.

“Quiet, please,” Ms. Davis said.

She waited for the whispers to die down then cleared her throat. “Today we’re going to start by talking about the St. Peter’s Mining Disaster of 1938. Does anyone know what happened?”

“It was a methane gas explosion, right?” Tina Myers answered. “It killed most of the miners.”

“That’s right. And what was the significance of the disaster?”

“Uh, a lot of people died?” piped up Ron Freeman, the school’s track-and-field star. He was swift on the track but not so much in the classroom.

Laughter rang through the room. Ms. Davis sighed. “Other than that, Mr. Freeman. What was the significance of the event in terms of a historical context?”

Emily Saunders shot her hand up.

“Yes, Emily.”

“It meant the end of the iron ore industry in St. Peter’s.”

“Exactly. After that—”

“Actually,” Scott Reese cut in, “I think the real significance is that the survivors went nuts.”

There was a collective groan from the class.

“Come on, you guys. You all know the stories. They saw some pretty crazy things as they ran out of the mine.”

Emily tossed her red hair. “They were probably delusional.”

Ron scratched his head thoughtfully. “They were all delusional? I don’t know, Em. I kinda think the stories might be true.”

“Yeah,” Scott said with a smirk. “Stories about miners disappearing in a cloud of dust—and not because of the explosion.”

“Stories about someone using freaky magic down in the mines!” someone else chimed in.

Ms. Davis held up a hand. “All right, that’s enough. Let’s stick with the facts, please.”

I listened to the exchange without participating. It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to say about the mining disaster. After all, my own grandfather—who’d died before I was born—had survived the explosion. And according to Mom, he’d always insisted the rumours about unexplained phenomena were just that—rumours. I could have contributed this information, but the last thing I wanted to do was prolong a debate about death and tragedy. I was dealing with enough of that in my own life.

Still feeling a bit unsteady, I shifted in my seat. As I did so, my elbow struck my pen and knocked it to the floor.

I twisted in my seat to retrieve it, but the girl who sat in the desk behind me had already scooped it up. She handed it to me with a sympathetic smile. I murmured my thanks and was about to turn around.

That’s when I noticed Luke watching me from the next row, three desks down. His ice-blue eyes locked onto mine again. Hi, Julia, he mouthed.

I frowned at him. He smiled, but his eyes remained cool. I faced forward, anger bubbling in my chest as I focused on my notebook again. Soon the page in front of me was covered with the same line, written over and over in small, neat letters.

Stay in control.

The bell rang, signalling the end of class. I stood, stuffed my notebook in my backpack and hurried from the classroom. In the hallway, I pushed through a throng of students, anxious to get to my locker.

“Jules!” My best friend, Roxy Butler, hurried up and threw her arms around me.

“Hey, Rox.” As she gave me a squeeze, some of my tension fell away.

“A bunch of us are going to Tony’s for lunch. Please say you’ll come with.”

I shook my head, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “I can’t. I’ve got some stuff to do.”

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About the Author

Ann M. Miller

Ann Miller writes young adult novels about first loves, family secrets, and magic. She grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the local bookmobile fed her diet of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High books, and Stephen King horror. After graduating from the University of King’s College, she moved to Newfoundland, an island that makes up for its unforgiving climate with beautiful coastlines and majestic icebergs.

When she’s not reading or writing, Ann can be found spending time with her husband and son, or binge watching Netflix while curled up with the two four-legged members of her family.

Captured in Paint is her first novel, and she has several more in the works. Take a look at Ann’s website.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous Goody Bag and a $5.00 First For Romance Gift Code!

Ann M. Miller’s Captured in Paint

ANN M. MILLER IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GOODIE BAG AND A $5.00 FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CODE! Notice: This competition ends on 20th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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