Gods walk among us—all you have to do is See.
High school senior Rhiannon Lynne couldn’t get noticed even if she walked stark naked into the cafeteria and started playing the ukulele. While tap dancing. As if that weren’t strange enough, Rhi has synesthesia—she feels in color. It takes being almost drowned by a Celtic river goddess for her to discover she’s been bound by a spell that has hidden her from the world and her own mysterious heritage.
As Rhi starts to see that her colors belong to magic, she finds herself at the center of a conflict between gods, humans, and the lost world of Avalon. She’ll need to figure things out fast if she wants to be a player in the coming conflict and not a pawn. Each side has a claim on her loyalty, but each one could decide she’s the real threat.
Hopelessly attracted to a god of thunder; deeply connected to a boy with no memory of his past; irresistibly drawn to a creature with a taste for flesh—Rhi’s choices could decide the fate of worlds, but their choices could decide hers.
Maybe not being seen wasn’t so bad after all.
A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
―William Butler Yeats
Fear is white and thickly veined with sea-blue.
I reached over the bed rail and touched Mom’s cheek. The industrial clock on the wall ticked once, loudly. Jerking my hand back, I rubbed the tips of my fingers against my jeans.
She was cold.
I reminded myself that her skin was always cool. Except for her black hair, everything about Mom was cool and pale, even her eyes.
They were cloudy now and staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t make myself close them the way people always do in movies. I couldn’t touch her again.
I gripped the sides of my chair as the color of fear washed over me. When it passed and I could see again, I was ashamed and lines of moldy blue wiggled across my vision like worms.
The only thing Mom was ever afraid of was a man with silver hair. I saw him once when I was little, across a busy street. We were driving, but Mom stopped the car and pulled me down to the floor. As she held me close, the sound of her heart was a wave crashing against rocks.
Rhiannon, listen to me. We cannot be seen. Hide in the shadows and be still and silent.
As I listened to her, I imagined a blue shadow covering me, protecting me from whatever it was that she was afraid of. My own fear broke apart like ice on a churning ocean and the colors of all my emotions erupted out of me for the first time, dashing themselves against the blue like they were trying to break free. I wrapped the shadow closer and my colors calmed and dissipated. I wasn’t sure how much of that was a real memory, but the man didn’t see us.
I’d been seeing colors ever since.
I once tried to tell Mom about the colors I felt, but she just smiled and looked away. I didn’t try again. It would have been nice to talk with someone about it. I’m sure my colors would be a nice break for some psychiatrist bored with the usual budding Unabombers.
But fear is white and cold and veined in a wet and moldy blue that echoes the color of the hospital walls.
A sudden vibration made me jump and startled pink sparkled across my vision. Fumbling in my pocket, I nearly dropped my phone as I pulled it out. My fingers were as numb as if I’d pressed them against ice.
“How is she?”
It was Peter. I stared at the screen a moment before shoving the phone away. I couldn’t answer him. If I did, it would make the nightmare true.
The chair made a vicious scraping noise against the floor as I stood and I froze, heart pounding, imagining the corpse popping up like they do in bad horror movies. Of course, it didn’t move.
Mom didn’t move.
I backed away to the door to look for someone to come and tell me what I was supposed to do. The nurse on duty had left to give me time to say goodbye, but there wasn’t anything here to say goodbye to.
A woman walked past me into the room and strode up to the bed. She wasn’t young, maybe mid-thirties, but she was the most stunning person I’d ever seen. With a mass of dreadlocked, white-blonde hair, and wearing a skirt that looked like a cascade of expensive rags, she was Goth Barbie’s slutty older sister. Touching a black-lacquered finger to Mom’s forehead, the woman whispered, “Viviane, you stupid fool.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say after that. Don’t call my dead Mommy stupid?
A strange impulse to laugh bubbled up inside me, but I shoved it back down and only a strangled squeak escaped.
Good thing. Laughing over the body of my dead mother will probably buy me a one way ticket to a psych eval.
The woman turned at the sound and seemed surprised to see me standing there. “You must be Rhiannon. We have never met, but my name is Morgan.” I stared at her and she gestured to the bed. “Viviane was my sister.”
I shook my head. “Mom didn’t have a sister.” The woman didn’t respond and a flash of violet impatience made me blink. “If you’re her sister, how come you didn’t come when she got sick? Why didn’t Mom even tell me about you?” Crackles of red across the violet surprised me—surprised me at how angry I was that I’d been forced to endure all this alone. A long-lost aunt would be a relief, but how could it be possible?
I glanced out the door to see if I could catch one of the nurses’ attention, but they seemed to be busy with some emergency down the hall.
The woman was still staring at me. Despite the eccentric clothing, she held herself straight and rigid with her chin lifted slightly and her arms held a little away from her sides like a ballerina.
Just like Mom.
“Why didn’t you come?” I whispered, hating the weakness in my voice.
The woman sighed and looked down at the bed. With a graceful motion, she brushed her fingers across Mom’s arm. “Viviane made her own choices—choices I knew would be her undoing. I saw no reason to force my witness upon them. Still, for the sake of the common cause that once bound us, and for the love I bear her still, I would have come if she had asked it of me. She never did. Any emotion felt for my sister was always a one-sided thing, and she was ever of her own mind.”
Morgan talked funny—strangely formal like Mom did—but this refugee from a heavy metal music video couldn’t be my aunt.
Because that would mean Mom lied to me.
Anger was coming in red streaks now and I walked over to the bedside table and reached for the emergency call button. In one swift movement, the woman was in front of me, grasping my hands hard enough for me to know that she could stop me if she wanted to.
“Do not be afraid. I mean you no harm.”
I pulled back and after a brief resistance, she let go. “I don’t know you,” I muttered.
Morgan raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “Viviane and I have walked different paths for so long that we could no longer meet in the space between them, but I felt her passing. I would have taken her to rest where she belonged, in the free air under the moon. She shouldn’t have been here, hidden away from the sky.”
There was an accusation in her voice and my cheeks went hot. As we stared at each other, I saw that her eyes were pale—so pale you might think you were looking at a blind woman. I’d never seen anyone with eyes like that before.
I slumped down into the chair by the bed. I’d been up all night waiting for the end. I didn’t have enough energy left to be suspicious.
After a few uneasy seconds of silence, the woman spoke and her voice was gentler. “What did they say was the cause?”
I shrugged. “Lupus. Maybe. The doctors weren’t sure. Some auto-immune thing that made her organs shut down one by one. They didn’t know how to stop it.”
“The doctors of this world are fools.”
I didn’t disagree. I rubbed my eyes, but they were dry and gritty, as if all the tears in them had turned to sand.
Morgan stiffened and made a hissing sound between her teeth. “Be still. Others are coming.” And then she walked up to me and poked me hard between the eyes.
“Hey!” I yelped. “What the hell?”
Morgan leaned in close. “Stay still. Be quiet. Do not move.” Familiar commands I couldn’t help but obey. Her fingernails dug into my shoulder as she pushed me down into the chair as if somehow she could make me sit more deeply and decidedly than I was already sitting.
Auntie Morgan is crazy.
And then the stream of truly crazy filed into the room.
A young woman sporting a red mohawk who shopped at the same stores Morgan did, but in the blisteringly neon department.
An older woman with a long braid of white hair wrapped around her waist like a belt.
A huge, dark-skinned man with a lip ring connected to a gold chain threaded through a piercing in his ear.
There were more, all as strange as the first three. A curious nurse peered into the room with wide eyes, but a glare from Morgan sent her away.
I was abandoned to the freak show.
Some of them touched Mom’s forehead with gentle fingers. A few whispered soft words to Morgan. I just sat there as they ignored me—as good as invisible—while the numbness spread from my fingers up into my body and the white of my fear went black and dirty on the edges like snow on the side of the street.
“Hello, Morgana,” an amused voice drawled. A good-looking guy leaned in the doorway and smiled at Morgan. Longish hair with a hint of ginger poked out from under a red baseball cap and he had the kind of five o’clock shadow that’s grown on purpose.
She didn’t smile back. “I prefer to be called Morgan now, as you well know, Thomas Redcap.” She made his name an insult.
The man’s smile widened. “Ah yes, you’re all modern and casual now. I’d heard. Love the outfit by the way. Did you join a band?” He sounded Irish or something. Miming a tip of his cap, he sauntered into the room and leaned forward as if to kiss her on the cheek.
“Don’t. You. Dare.”
He gave her a mocking bow. “Well you can’t blame a lad for trying, Morgana the Fair and Perilous.” As he approached the bed and didn’t even glance in my direction, orange irritation crackled along the edges of my vision. It faded to grey shame when he closed Mom’s eyelids with gentle fingers.
“Poor Viviane,” he murmured. When he looked back at Morgan, his face was serious. “Do I have your leave to continue?”
She grimaced. “Get on with it.”
Redcap nodded and then quickly—so quickly I almost couldn’t understand what I was seeing—his hand shot out and a sharp fingernail dragged down Mom’s arm, peeling flesh from it in one long curl like the skin off an apple.