By Ariella Moon
New school. New friends. New reputation. High school sophomore Ainslie Avalon-Bennett works hard to hide her Crazy Girl past. But as long as her best friend’s disappearance remains unsolved, she can’t shake the depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that once landed her in a mental ward.
Ainslie’s tenuous control over her life shatters when her warring parents ditch her at Christmas. While they take a cruise to “work things out,” Ainslie must spend the holiday in Palm Springs with her aunt and uncle, owners of a struggling Mystery School and occult store. Plunged into the world of fire fortunes, dragons, entity eaters, and an ailing spell book, Ainslie is well beyond her comfort zone. Then she meets a boy who spikes her pulse and calms her OCD. But will she lose him once he discovers her past? Or will his deadly secret, hidden in plain view, be their undoing?
Ariella Moon writes about magic, friendship, secrets, and love in her Young Adult novels, Spell Check, Spell Struck, and Spell Fire, Books 1, 2, & 3 in The Teen Wytche Saga. Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred Ariella’s teen years. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. An author and shaman, she now lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, shamelessly spoiled dog, and an enormous dragon.
My body elongated, and I swore I grew six inches. Inside the cafe, there was no line. Another miracle. I paused beneath the fern‑painted ceiling fan and scanned the wall menu. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but a weird craving fueled my search.
The dragon exerted pressure between my shoulder blades, prompting me. “A Scorpion’s Nest smoothie.”
Morningstar leaned over the high counter and gave me a once‐over. “You feeling okay?”
I licked my lips. “Absolutely.” I had never tasted an orange juice, vanilla ice cream, and peanut butter combo, but I slapped the countertop and said, “I’m fine. Hit me.”
Morningstar tilted her head to one side and studied me.
Oh — crap. Maybe I’m dragon drunk.
I wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth stood straighter. I could do this. I could act normal and in control. Behind me, the dragon blew on my hair. I clawed back the stray locks. “Strong ceiling fan.”
Morningstar glanced up. I held my gaze steady on her face and tried to remember if the fan was actually on. I couldn’t hear the whir of its motor or feel the stir of cool air. I can’t feel anything. I went for distraction and slipped a ten across the counter.
Morningstar leveled her gaze, then handed me my change. “I’ll bring the smoothie to your table.”
“Cool.” My eyes crossed. I pivoted and fell out of my right flip‐‑flop. Fortunately, the place was almost empty, and I didn’t think anyone saw me stumble. Still, my face heated as I chose a table with plenty of space behind it for the dragon and my invisible wings.
“Mind if I join you for a minute?” Morningstar asked when she brought my drink.
“Please.” I giggled, giddy with dragon energy. I was a bright, beneficent angel among earthlings. I was — as crazy as my parents feared.
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