All posts by willowwritesandreads

My name is Nicole. I'm from Georgia. I really love reading! I've been reading all my life. I didn't always love it. My mom used to have a rule that I couldn't watch the movie before reading the book first. I hated it at first, but I'm glad she made that rule now!

Buy Yourself The Fucking Lilies Book Review

About: Tara Shuster gives some tips on things that worked for her to help her condition her life and give herself a healthier mindset. She calls it reparenting herself. She also gives many examples and recommendations.

Narration: Shuster herself narrated the book. Her narration was heavenly. I loved it!!!

Recommend: I very much recommend this book. I plan on going back and reading it and taking notes. I also plan on attempting quite a few of the habits she recommends. Journal writing, letters to my past loves, etc.


It’s exhausting—and, it turns out, impossible—to try to manage other people’s judgments.

No one cares. No one is watching you.

It turns out you can’t command the perceptions of others, and the more you try, the more you risk losing your own sense of self-worth and alienating people. It took decades of running myself ragged trying to gain acceptance from others for me to learn a fundamental truth I would now like to share with you: No one cares. No one is watching you. No one is tallying the total of your decisions, judging you from afar. They are not doing this because they are too worried about themselves. They are making all kinds of judgments about their own lives and worries, and I love you very much, but they are just not thinking about you right now.

For you, I see something grander: I see a life that you consciously live. That you curate and cultivate and create for yourself, a life in which you are self-aware AF, grateful for the luck that you are here at all, a life in which you love and also let yourself be loved. I see you engaged to your life, holding it firmly yet tenderly by the hand like it’s your soulmate, bringing it in for the deepest of make-out seshes. I see you feeling up your life in the most passionate of embraces. That is what I see for you.

Life Is Short, Death Is Forever Book Review

About: The author writes about his interpretation of life and many other philosophies. The book is also filled with many silly jokes that go with each chapter.

Narration: I think the narrator did a fantastic job. I personally feel like the author would have been best suited to narrate this book though.

Recommend: I would definitely recommend this book. In fact, I’m going to be rereading it as soon as I can.


Treat each healthy day as a gift.

The sergeant-major growls at a young soldier, “I didn’t see you at camouflage training this morning.” The soldier replies, “Thank you very much, sir.”

Found Blog Tour

Found (House of Night Other World #4)
by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: July 7th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


Fog rolls into Tulsa, and with it comes Darkness. Zoey knows something is up, and that the something involves Neferet, but Neferet can’t possibly be freed, right?

Other Neferet and her companion, Lynette, arrive in Woodward Park to set this world’s Neferet free from her grotto prison, and discover there may be those who sympathize with their cause. Meanwhile, Other Kevin and Other Stark are hot on their trail, but how can the new friends travel to this world without invoking Old Magick and paying a costly, perhaps deadly, price?

In ‘FOUND’, the culmination of the House of Night Other World series, a surprisingly talented fledgling, an immortal, and the unlikeliest of allies will band together with Zoey and the Nerd Herd. Will they be powerful enough to defeat her old nemesis, or will two worlds be destroyed and claimed by Darkness? Find out in the thrilling conclusion to the House of Night Other World series!

Google Books:

PC was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses. House of Night Other World, book 1, LOVED, releases July 11th. SUN WARRIOR, book 2 in the Tales of a New World series releases October 17th.

Kristin Cast is a #1 NY Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author who teamed with her mother to write the wildly successful HOUSE OF NIGHT series. She has editorial credits, a thriving t-shirt line, and a passion for all things paranormal.
When away from her writing desk, Kristin loves going on adventures with her friends, family, and significant other, playing with her French Bulldogs (Grace Kelly and Sir Laurence Olivier), and discovering new hobbies. This year she’ll work on handstands, gardening, and taking her new puppy (Baloo) to puppy classes.



2020 Reading Rush TBR!!!!

I’m not sure if any of you watch a lot of Booktube, but every year they do a ReadingRush. It used to be known as BookTubeAThon. The point behind it is to spend an entire week reading as much as you can. They have seven challenges to try to complete during the week. I’ve been participating for a few years now. I can’t remember what year I started. I love it.

The Reading Rush

The 2020 Challenges


I would love to see your TBR pile for the Reading Rush if you’re participating!!!!

Gavin’s Nightmare

This came to me randomly awhile ago. I haven’t worked much on it since, but I may go back and work on it.

Gavin woke with a start. He couldn’t figure out what had woken him up so suddenly. Looking at the clock he realized it was 4 in the morning. He hadn’t even been asleep an hour. His thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a small sound.


Gavin looked around trying to figure out where it was coming from. He looked around frantically with the sound repeating every few seconds.

On your nightstand, you asshole!

Shocked at the words, he instinctively looked towards the nightstand to find a small blue ladybug. He was puzzled. It took him a moment to realize it was the being speaking in his head.

What or who are you?

It’s me, Patrick!

What the hell happened to you?

I pissed Lanie off.

And just how did you do that?

Is that really important?

Umm… being that you’re a ladybug, I’m going with yes.

Okay. FINEEE. So she was being her usual snotty self and I mocked her a little bit and she told me I was an ass.


And I rolled my eyes. She didn’t like that and so she huffed at me.

That’s it?

There might be more.

Out with it!

So she told me to stop making fun of her.

Oh no.

And I said “What are you gonna do about it? Turn me into a bug?”

Patrick, you know she’s the most advanced witch here.

I may have forgotten that point.

Viper’s Revenge Release Blitz

☠🔥☠  NEW RELEASE  ☠🔥☠
Viper’s Revenge: Blurred Lines by Abigail Lee Justice
Series: Demons Den Motorcycle Club Book 1
President of the Demon’s Den MC. It’s a title I’ve earned.
It’s my job to lead my brothers into a war against the Bears MC-retaliation for the brutal death of my former VP, Dexter Shelly. Dexter’s daughter, Reagan, is a different battle, one I’ll never stop fighting. I never stopped loving her. When she traded in the patch that raised her up for a police badge, I did nothing. She needed her own vengeance for her father’s death and I loved her enough to let her do it her way.
Now the Cartel is knocking on our back door. By coming home, Baby Blue is making herself a target. If there’s one thing she never wavered on, it’s her belief that family comes first. It’s time for her to put the past in the past where it belongs, because her future is with me. 

I’m Not Okay, But I’m Getting There Featuring Upcoming Plans

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Hope everybody is doing well. I’m not fully better, but I’m getting there. I’ve come up with some routines and to do lists to help me get everything taken care of. My reading slump seemed to have came back, but I think I have finally tackled it down.

I’m starting a slightly new blog routine. I’ll officially start it next week. The rest of this week will be focused on the promotional blogs I have scheduled already. Since I don’t have anything planned for Friday and Saturday, I thought I would try my hand at some writing prompts for both of those days. I sincerely hope you enjoy them.

My Upcoming Blog Routine (All times listed in EST):


12 AM: Weekly Reading And Blog Schedule
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: Murderous Mondays: Murderous Mondays
Hosted by: Macsbooks
Description: Let’s face it, Mondays are Murder! Seriously, I love murder: Crime thrillers, suspense, historical murders, sci-fi murders, cli-fi murders, cosy, paranormal, I’ll take them any way you serve them up. I find that no matter how many other genres I read, I always come back to…. Murder. join me each Monday as we follow along with our favorite culprits and their captors on Murderous Mondays.


12 AM: Writing Prompts
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by: That Artsy Reader Girl
Description: Starting January 16, 2018, the TTT meme has moved to a new host blog. Each Tuesday, a topic is assigned. Create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list, or feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.


12 AM: TikTok Review Videos
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: WWW Wednesday: WWW Wednesdays
Hosted by: Taking on a World of Words(formerly hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading)
Description: WWW Wednesday is a weekly event where you share (1) What you’re currently reading, (2) What you recently finished reading, and (3) What you think you’ll read next.


12 AM: Writing Prompts
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: Thursday Quoteables: Thursday Quotables
Hosted by: Bookshelf Fantasies
Description: Share a favorite quote, line, or passage from your reading each week! (Note: Taking a break from weekly posts at the moment, but feel free to go ahead without me! Thursday Quotables is on a spontaneous/whenever schedule right now.)


12 AM: Weekly Book And Personal Chatter: Will be just anything I feel like talking about that particular week.
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: The Friday 56: The Friday 56
Hosted by: Freda’s Voice
Description: Grab a book, any book. Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. And share your link. It’s that simple.


12 AM: Writing Prompts
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: Saturday Stars: Saturday Stars
Hosted by: Nomadic Worlds
Description: A weekly meme featuring one of your favorite characters and why you like them. Where they are the super star. To participate in this meme, link back to the host, and answer the three questions pertaining to the character. Questions: 1 – Saturday Star (Name the Character you want to feature.) 2 – Which book or series does the character live in? 3 – Why is this character among your favorites?


12 AM: Book Photo Sunday: I loved the meme, but I really enjoyed the spin I took on it. So I’ll keep doing this, but in my own way.
10 AM: Promotional Blogs (If Scheduled)
4 PM: Sundays In Bed With: Sundays In Bed With…
Hosted by: Midnight Book Girl
Description: “The meme that dares to ask, what book has been in your bed this morning? Come share what book you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed, or which book you wish you had time to read today!”

I haven’t forgotten about book reviews. I’ve just had extreme anxiety every time I even think about reviewing books that I’ve recently finished. I’m putting consideration into writing a couple sentences for the books on Goodreads and then posting a video review on TikTok/Youtube. I can share that video here as well. I haven’t decided for sure yet.

Twisted Time Release Blitz

´¨)¸.•´¸.• ´¨) ¸.• ‘¨)
(¸.•´ (¸. NEW RELEASE
Author Candi Fox
Series: The Killing Chronicles
Genre: PNR/TimeTravel/Old West
❥☆❥ ORDER NOW ❥☆❥
Available on #KindleUnlimited
Purchase Link:
Her lover lies in a magickally induced coma after being brutally attacked by an unknown creature.
Emma convinced the only way to save him is to somehow travel back in time to 1875 to prevent the creation of the creature, places her trust in a woman who turns out to be an enemy in more ways than one.
Nora has ulterior motives when she offers to help. She wants Cord for her own purposes. Both women want the same man. One will save him; one will doom us all. Which will he choose? Are Cord and Emma doomed before they start? Can they stop hell from being unleashed upon the world?
About the Author:
From the time that she was 2 years old, Candi Fox has had a deep connection to the paranormal.
It was at that young age that Fox saw her first apparition. From then on, the paranormal seemed to follow her, leaving her wondering if she was drawing the spirits to herself.
She is a student of the occult, magick and voodoo, and has studied with the world’s top psychics. She has her Mastery of Reiki, as well. Outside of the paranormal, she is passionate about horseback riding and horse rescue and rehabilitation.
In addition to hosting her radio show, Fox is a writer, and uses her experience with the paranormal, along with her own life traumas, to write about difficult subjects from a grounded and realistic perspective 

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases For Second Half Of 2020

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Thanks Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl for creating this meme.

This Week’s Topic: Most Anticipated Releases For Second Half Of 2020

One To Watch
Cinderella Is Dead

The Do-Over
Midnight Sun
The Night Swim

Paris Never Leaves You
Love After Love
We Are Not Free

The Only Good Indians

What Unbreakable Looks Like Blog Tour

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

Early Praise:

“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13
“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

Buy Link:

Social link:

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.


Chapter One

Clean sheets. That’s what I’m dreaming about when some- thing wakes me up. I groan, swearing. Sleep is the only time I have to myself—the only time I’m free from the motel and the other girls in it. The sound grows louder, people coming up the stairs outside the room.

I force my eyes open. It’s still dark, but there’s always a sliver of light that comes through the window—neon blue from the vacancy sign, and yellow floodlights. Shadows pass, strobing the light. It’s too late for business. If Mitch let us go to bed, it has to be not much before dawn. We’re his nighttime girls.

I took some pills earlier, after the last john left, so maybe I’m imagining things. Mitch came by and gave us all a little “treat.” I’d been greedy. I’m always greedy when it comes to my medicine, and Mitch spoils me. I’m his favorite—he told me.

There are six of us on the second floor of the motel. The manager gave Mitch a deal on the rooms for a cut of his

take—and a piece of each of us. I wonder if that’s what this is, the slimy piece of shit coming to get a little somethin’ somethin’ before work.

There’s a crash, followed by a scream. I sit up, head swimming. Fear takes hold, sobering me. I crawl out of bed, stagger to the other one. Ivy is out cold. I shake her shoulder—it’s bony. Too bony. “Wake up. Ivy, wake the fuck up.” How can she sleep with all the screaming?

“Poppy?” She clutches at my hand. “What’s going on?” “I don’t know, but you need to get up and put some clothes on.” She’s naked. I’m in a tank top and my under- wear. I stumble to the dresser we share and pull out a pair of jeans that should have been washed days ago. I tug them on, fastening them low on my hips. I grab a sweater and shove my feet into a pair of sneakers. Behind me, I hear Ivy getting out of bed, the sheets rasping against each


More screams. I run—lurch—to the door and try to open it, but the manager locks us in after the johns leave. Most of us have nowhere to go even if we were straight enough to run, but every once in a while a girl tries to take off. They never get far before they turn around and come back on their own. Mitch has that effect on us.

“What is it?” Ivy asks as she stumbles into a pair of jeans.

Her voice is slurred, her eyelids barely open.

“I think it’s the cops,” I say. Either that, or it’s a rival of Mitch’s. I don’t want to think about what’s going to happen to us if that’s the case.

The door to our room flies open. I jump backward, put- ting myself between whoever it is and Ivy. The cops. We stand there watching them like cornered dogs, beaten and meek. We know the drill. Don’t say nothin’.

“Are you girls okay?” a woman cop asks. She’s tall with long, curly hair and dark skin. Beyoncé wishes she were this beautiful.

“We ain’t done nothing wrong,” I tell her. “You can’t arrest us.”

She gives me a funny look. “Honey, we’re not here to arrest you. We’re here to get you out of here.”

“Yeah? Where you gonna take us?” “The hospital, then home, if we can.”  I snort. Home. Yeah right.

She holds out her hand. “Come on. You can’t stay here.” Ivy clings to me as we inch toward the door. As soon  as I cross the threshold, I start to run. Ivy’s feet tangle with mine and we go down, hitting the cement walkway


Ivy grunts. There’s blood on her lips. A male cop hauls her up, carries her away.

“Hey!” I cry.

“Da fuck?” someone yells. I smile at the sound of Dai- sy’s voice. She’s gonna fuck somebody up. “Get off the floor, you stupid bitch.”

I push up onto my hands. The female cop takes my arm and pulls me up.

“Ow!” My left ankle doesn’t want me to stand on it. “Lean on me,” the cop says, putting her arm around me.

Her hand is on my ribs. I wait for it to creep higher, but it doesn’t.

My foot really hurts. I should have grabbed my pills.

What am I going to do when these wear off?

“What’s your name?” the woman asks as we begin walking. She’s taking a lot of my weight, but she doesn’t seem bothered by it.


She smiles a little. “Your real name, sweetie. So we can let your parents know you’re okay.”

I’m not sure my mother would even care. “Alexa,” I tell her. “Alexa Marie.” It doesn’t feel like mine anymore—it belongs to someone else.

“You’re safe now, Alexa. You’re going to be okay.”

I laugh. Who does she think she’s talking to? She don’t know shit. “Bitch,” I say. “We ain’t never going to be okay. Never.”

They say I’m safe. I don’t feel safe. My skin itches and twitches like bugs are crawling underneath it. I’ve left fin- gernail scratches on my arms from trying to get to them— long, raw furrows in my skin that felt so good at the time, but burn like hell.

I’m in the hospital. Why doesn’t Mitch rescue me? Why doesn’t he come take me home? He’s a bad guy, they tell me. I know, but he’s my bad guy. He’s all I got.

“How long have I been here?” I ask the nurse, but she

doesn’t seem to hear me, because she doesn’t answer. It has to have been a while. I don’t feel right. I need my medicine. My clothes are gone. I’m wearing a thin cotton gown that smells weird. I’ve been photographed, poked, and prodded. They swabbed my mouth and got me into stir- rups so they could swab down there too. They said they were going to check me for STIs, and would I consent to a pregnancy test? Sure. If I am pregnant, I want it out of me.

So many tests. So many questions. “You okay, baby?” the nurse asks.

I want to ask her if I fucking look okay. “No,” I say in- stead, scratching.

Her lips form a thin line and she nods, like she under- stands. “I’ll see what we can do to take the edge off.” She leaves the room, but she’s back in a few minutes. She gives me a cup of water and a little paper cup with pills in it. I don’t even ask what they are, I just flush them down my throat and start counting the seconds.

“Give me your arm, honey,” she commands. She has a tube of lotion that she rubs into the scratches and dry patches. It feels good, takes away the sting and itch.

“You’re pale as milk,” she comments. “Skin that delicate needs to be protected.”

I don’t know what to say, so I stay quiet.

“I’ll be back later to put some more on, okay?”

She smiles at me, and tears burn in my eyes. I blink— hard. No one is going to see me weak.

I’m watching cartoons on TV a little while later when another woman comes in. This one’s wearing pants and a blouse and carrying a bag big enough to hold a small child. She has curly blond hair and blue eyes.

“Hello, Alexa,” she says. “My name is Jill. I’m with DCF. Do you know what that is?”

“Yeah,” I reply. They came by to talk to Mom once when I went to school wearing the same clothes three days in a row and didn’t have lunch.

“Good. I work specifically with cases involving human trafficking. Are you aware of what that is?”

Does she think I’m a fucking idiot? Brain damaged, maybe? “It’s when you’re forced into being a ho.”

She inclines her head. “That’s part of it. I’m here

because you’ve been identified as a victim of human trafficking.”

I stare at her. She doesn’t seem bothered by my silence.

She walks over and sits in the chair by my bed. I push myself farther up on the pillows.

“Would you be okay if we talk about what happened to you?” she asks me.

“Ain’t nothin’ happened to me,” I respond.

“Mitch Anderson didn’t force you to have sex with strangers for money?”

“I didn’t charge anyone money.” “No. Mitch did that, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mitch is my boyfriend.”

“That’s what the other girls from the motel called him as well. You don’t mind sharing your boyfriend with them?” I’m silent. I want to tell her I’m his favorite, but I’ve already said too much. I forgot how much trouble Mitch

could be in for having sex with young girls.

“Your mother’s boyfriend, Frank, is a friend of Mitch’s, isn’t he?”

“I don’t want to talk about him.” What I want is my pills.

I don’t like the things I’m starting to feel. To think.

Jill gives me a sympathetic look. “Alexa—” “Poppy,” I correct her. “My name is Poppy.”

“Do you really want to be called that?” she asks me.

Yes, but I give her the answer she wants to hear. “No.” I’ll tell her whatever she wants if it makes her go the fuck away. I have to get out of here, but how far will I get in a hos- pital gown with my bare ass sticking out? I want to scream, but when I tried last night, nothing came out. Jill’s still

watching me. I want to punch her in the face.

“I want to see Ivy,” I say.

Jill nods. “I’ll see if we can make that happen.”

“You don’t have to see shit. She right down the damn hall.” To prove it, I yell her name at the top of my lungs. “Ivy! Ivy!”

“Poppy!” comes the answering shout. “Pop-py!” I grin, so fucking happy to hear her voice.

There’s a knock on the open door. I turn my head and see the woman cop who found me at the motel.

“Detective Willis,” Jill says, giving her a look I recognize from adults I’ve known my whole life. It brands me as “dif- ficult,” an asshole.

The cop smiles at me. A small real one that tells me she’s known too many girls like me.

She ain’t known anyone like me. “Can I come in?” she asks.

Like I can stop her. I nod. I can’t help but stare at her. She’s probably one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. And she’s got this attitude—like she knows how to kill somebody with only two fingers, y’know? She’s strong.

I hate her for it.

She stands beside my bed, watching me like she thinks I might bite—and she’s prepared to take the risk. “How are you feeling?” she asks.

“Like a junkie,” I rasp. I hold up my hand; it trembles.

Detective Willis looks sympathetic, but I wonder if she’s ever felt like this before. “We’re going to get you into a re- hab program for girls who have been trafficked.”

I startle. “I’m not going home?” I don’t care if I see my mother, or Frank, but Mitch won’t know where to find me if I don’t go home.

She looks at Jill, who shakes her head.


“What the fuck are y’all not tellin’ me?” I demand. “I’m right fucking here.”

Jill sighs. “Alexa, your mother has given up her parental rights. You can’t go home.”

I look from her to Detective Willis. “She doesn’t want me?”

The cop tries to take my hand. I pull it away. “She knows home is not a good environment for you.”

“Bullshit,” I say. “She just doesn’t want her fucked-up kid back.”

I am not going to cry.

“So, I’m going to be sent to prison, then, huh?” I ask. I won’t be eighteen for almost a year. That makes me a ward of the state. “Where all unwanted kids go?”

“No,” Jill says. “We found someone who very much wants to take you.”

“Who?” I demand.

“Your aunt Krys,” she replies.

I remember Krys—vaguely. We used to spend a lot of time with her when my grandmother was alive, back when I was little and Mom’s drinking wasn’t so bad. I liked her.

I frown.

“She’d like to visit with you, and if you want, you could maybe live with her and her husband in Middletown when you get out of the program.”

“What does she want in return?” I ask. “She get paid to take me?”

Detective Willis doesn’t look surprised at the question. “She doesn’t want anything.”

I snort.

“She told me your mother wouldn’t let her see you when they broke ties. She says she’s missed you.”

My throat is tight. I swallow hard. I’m not the kid Krys

knew. I’m not a kid at all. “She’s not going to want me when she sees what a mess I am.”

“Maybe you should let me decide that,” comes a voice from the door. My head whips around so fast, it hurts.

Standing just inside the room is a woman who looks like a younger, sober version of my mother. Softer. She’s tall and slim with bright red hair and blue eyes. She’s wearing a long sweater over leggings with tall boots. She looks like she stepped out of a catalog.

“Aunt Krys?” My voice sounds thin, stupid.

She’s pale, her mouth tight and eyes watery as she nods. “Hi, Lexi-bug.”

I burst into tears.

“Wake up.”

Something pokes me in the face. I groan and push at it, grabbing a skinny finger. My eyes open, blinking against the corridor light shining into my otherwise darkened room.

A familiar face looms over mine. “What time is it?” I ask.

“Time for you to get a Altoid or somethin’,” Ivy replies. “Girl, whadafuck died in your mouth?”

I laugh. “You don’t like my breath, get your face out of it,” I tell her. “What are you doing up? It’s late.”

“Somethin’s goin’ on. The nurses ain’t watching the station. Let’s go.”

Suddenly, I’m wide awake, throwing back the covers. They took my IV out earlier, so I’m not connected to any- thing anymore. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m better than I was, and I’m ready to get the fuck out of this place.