Sometimes the only way to find yourself is to go missing…
Shy, eighteen-year-old albino, Ansel, thought that letting the runaway girl with the injured ankle sleep in his parents’ shed was a good idea. That was before she passed out in his shower, woke up in a panic and accidentally attacked him. Any average guy would have called the cops but average isn’t Ansel’s style.
When she refuses to tell him her real name, Ansel nicknames the girl Catskin, after one of his favorite fairytale characters, and begins the dubious task of earning her trust. It’s not an easy thing to do, but a few awkward conversations later, one thing is clear: Catskin doesn’t want to be the way she is, she just doesn’t think she can change. Ansel knows from his own experiences that seeing the world around you differently doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, something he intends to teach Catskin.
While the details of her past remain elusive, Catskin creates a new place for herself with Ansel and his family, and develops her own brand of normalcy. Then a terrible accident leaves her hovering near death, and Ansel is forced to contact her estranged parents. But there are secrets hidden in the life Catskin left behind. Dark secrets that chased her all the way to Healy, Alaska and Ansel’s actions unknowingly provoke a shocking confrontation between the wealthy world Catskin was born into, and the starkly average one she now shares with Ansel.
Refusing to give up the imperfect girl who fits perfectly inside his heart, Ansel prepares to go to war with Catskin’s father. But in the end, Catskin might be the only one who can save herself.
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Excerpt #1 (Ansel and his husky-dog Zombie have just convinced Catskin–who has yet to be nicknamed–back to the shed where she slept so she can eat the breakfast Ansel made for her.)
Fighting off another blush, I stood and turned back for her. Ethan would have swept her onto her feet. But I wasn’t Ethan, and I didn’t have the gonads. All I could manage was to hold out a hand. She ignored me and got to her feet alone, finding her balance. She favored the injured ankle but it held when she put weight on it. My fingers itched with a sudden desire to support her, to help her bear her own meager weight.
Who was I kidding? This entire help-the-crazy-waif idea had disaster written all over it in letters ten feet high. But somehow, knowing it was a bad idea made me like the idea. For some reason, doing what didn’t make sense just felt like the sensible thing to do. She needed help, and I wanted to give it to her. Instead of wanting to avoid the girl, like I did everyone else, I had an absurd desire to throw myself in front of her like Superman stopping a train before it crashed.
The eggs were stone cold by the time we got to the book shed. The girl didn’t care. She snatched up the plate and sat on the floor using her fingers, rather than the fork, to shovel food into her mouth. Zombie made like he intended to share breakfast with her, forcing his head between her elbow and side. He had second thoughts when she grumbled at him in a wordless growl. I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t know where to start. Well, besides the obvious.
“My name’s Ansel,” I said.
By then I didn’t expect her to respond. I didn’t expect her to be interested in whatever I said, either. So when she looked up from her food with those hollow eyes I was stupefied for a moment.
Finally, I managed to say, “My brother, Ethan, calls me Ans.”
She cut her gaze around, wary and untrusting.
“He’s not here,” I assured her. “No one comes to the book shed but me, usually. Pipe Dream, the bookstore my parents own, is a hundred yards that way.” I pointed to one wall, shivering when she fixed her eyes on me again instead of looking where I was pointing. I felt my skin turn the color of hot sauce and gritted my teeth.
“I live above it most of the time, since I finished with school. My family’s house is a couple of miles outside Healy. Ethan’s there with our younger brother, Ellis. My parents are up north visiting family for a few weeks.”
Just go on and babble, Ansel. Throw out your whole life story in the first five minutes.
She released me from her penetrating gaze and let Zombie pre-rinse the breakfast plate. You’d think I’d have figured out not to gawk at her by then, but my eyes kept getting stuck. More scars transected her hands and fingers. Most were almost flat. Just ghostly silver lines. But some were newer. Bright pink. Maybe the same age as the messy one on her neck. The ones on her neck. I could see, now, there were really two of them. One ran straight down to her collarbone and one branched off, curving under her jaw.
Something—or someone—had cut her throat.
About the Author:
Artemis Grey was raised on fairytales and the folklore of Appalachia. She’s been devouring books and regurgitating her daydreams into written words since childhood. She can most often be found writing by a crackling fire or rambling barefooted through the woods and mountains, napping (yes, napping) on horseback, searching the depths of random wardrobes and wriggling into hollow tree trunks. In her downtime, she herds cats, which is just as entertaining as it sounds. She hopes to make her readers look at the world they’ve always seen, and see the world they’ve always envisioned.
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