by Kimberly Loth
Release Date: May 1st, 2014
Trapped in a dark cult, sixteen-year-old Naomi Aren has lived a quiet, albeit unhappy, life nestled deep in the hills of the Ozarks. With uncut hair, denim skirts, and only roses for friends, Naomi seldom questions why her life is different from other kids at school. Until the day her abusive father, who is also the cult’s leader, announces her wedding. Naomi must marry Dwayne Yerdin, a bully who reeks of sweat and manure and is the only one person who scares her worse than her father.
Then she meets Kai, the mysterious boy who brings her exotic new roses and stolen midnight kisses. Kisses that bring her a supernatural strength she never knew she had. As the big day approaches, Naomi unearths more secrets of about her father’s cult. She learns she has power of her own and while Kai may have awakened that power, Naomi must find a way to use it to escape Dwayne and her father—without destroying herself.
Most roses run the color wheel from yellow to red. Occasionally a white one pops up. Some of my favorite roses are flowers that have an unusual color. Like purple. The American Rose Society doesn’t even consider purple to be a rose color. They call it mauve. But purple roses do exist. And the most beautiful purple rose is the Vol de Nuit, or the Night Flight.
Andrea didn’t hang out long. She didn’t even come inside the house. When her car disappeared down the road, I fought back tears. I was as good as dead. At least to the outside world.
I followed Mr. Yerdin inside, tugging my suitcase behind me. The stench reached me before I crossed the threshold. A mixture of rotting garbage and feces. I gagged but moved inside anyway.
Boxes piled upon boxes filled the main room. A path through them was visible, but the floor was covered with papers and food. A cockroach scurried across my toe.
“Your room is this way. Don’t knock anything over with your suitcase.” I squeezed down the path, careful not to touch the towers on either side of me. The hallway contained no boxes, but the floor was still not visible. In places, I literally had to climb over trash bags filled with who knows what.
He opened the door to a small room. “We cleared the bed off for you. It will only be for tonight. Tomorrow you’ll be married so you’ll share a room with Dwayne.”
“Will that be after we go to Fayetteville?”
He snorted. “Honey, you’ve seen the last of those social workers. In fact the only people you’ll see from now on are Dwayne and me. He won’t be home until late. His buddies took him out for a bachelor party. If he comes to you though, don’t upset him, he’s a mean drunk and I don’t want that pretty face ruined for the wedding.”
I nodded and waited for him to leave. Then I shoved the door closed and sat on the bed. No way would I stay here. I crawled across the bed to the wide window. I tried to open it. It budged only a little bit. Silently, I pulled up on it. Eventually, it slid open with a loud screech. I froze, but no one came to check on me. In the dark it would be much easier to escape. If Dwayne wasn’t to come home until late, I figured I had four or five hours after it turned dark to make my break. I wanted to wait until Mr.Yerdin went to bed.
I checked out my suitcase. It would only hinder me. I’d have to run with nothing. The only things in my suitcase were clothes. I’d do with what I had. If only my parents had allowed me to wear pants. All of my clothes were impractical for running. They would not be missed.
If my mind served me right, I could take Oak Valley down toMartinville where I could find the Wal-Mart and a bus stop. With any luck I’d be on my way to Vegas by midday.
Darkness fell, but Mr. Yerdin still tromped around the house. I watched under my door for the lights to go out. Just as I decided that perhaps I’d better make a run for it anyway before Dwayne got home, all the lights in the house went out.
I shimmied out the window and landed hard on the ground, jarring my teeth and nearly twisting my ankle. The moonless night made it hard to see anything. I started for the road, figuring that would be the safest route. Before I walked more than a few feet, a car roared down the driveway, its headlights lighting the whole yard. I froze.
Dwayne tumbled out of the passenger door, howling. Then he saw me.
“Naomi, you waited outside for me like a good little bitch.” He lurched toward me.
He grabbed me around the waist and pulled me close to him. The alcohol had improved his breath. His buddies hooted from the car then spun in a tight circle and disappeared down the driveway. Dwayne swayed next to me and leaned heavily on my shoulder.
“Come on,” he slurred. “Let’s go have a honeymoon.”
“We won’t be married until tomorrow.”
“Techni--” He paused, appearing to think. “Technimal....”
I took advantage of his lapse in thought and moved away from him. He stumbled and fell over, landing hard on his butt. “Come here,” he commanded.
I stayed where I was and then edged further away. Hopefully from his position he wouldn’t be able to tell. He propped himself up on all fours and made it back to his feet. He took a winding path toward me and grabbed me by the arm. The flies buzzed in my ears again and I felt like I needed to vomit.
His nostrils flared, his face contorting with anger. My arm began to ache. His eyes closed and he shook his head. After a moment he fell over, unconscious. Without thinking I ran. Down the driveway and out onto the dirt road. Onto the main road I continued to run, for once grateful for the ugly tennis shoes.
Once I hit the highway I had to slow down. I didn’t feel comfortable running on the pavement. It felt too exposed so I kept to the ditch and made slow progress. Every once in a while a car would come through and I would duck to avoid friendly strangers. Eventually, the road leveled out where there was no shelter. On either side of the road hay fields stretched on for miles. My feet ached, but I kept moving.
A slow moving car came up behind me. It stopped, illuminating me with its lights. I didn’t hesitate, I ran.
“Naomi, wait,” a voice called. It wasn’t Dwayne or Mr. Yerdin, but I wasn’t waiting around to see who it was. There was no place to hide. Freshly mowed, the fields left no protection. Sharp stalks of hay scratched at my legs. I ran, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to outrun the stranger.
It didn’t take long before footsteps overcame me. Strong arms wrapped around me and pinned my arms to my side. I thrashed, trying to get away. “Naomi, stop.” My nose twitched. A familiar smell, like clove. He spun me around. “Look at me.”
And then kissed Kai full on the lips.
About the Author:
Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina. She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. Currently, she lives in Cairo, Egypt with her husband and two kids.
She is a high school math teacher by day (please don’t hold that against her) and YA author by night. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures. Kissed is her first novel.
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