Genre: YA Magical Realism
16-year-old Elisabeth Bell Pierce is stuck in a castle that's frozen in the past. But when she finds the Lost Prince of England bewitched deep beneath the castle walls, a love-is-blind romance ignites in the enchanted darkness. Now, she's determined to bring the past into the present, to build a future together -- but not everything that's lost wants to be found.
I could smell hot metal and the tang of blood. My labored breath sounded harsh in the crushed space. In. Out. In. Out. I focused on the rhythm against the too-still dark. A small sound joined in; something was dripping somewhere. Plink. Plink. Plink. In-Plink-Out-Plink. I pushed the wet tangle of hair from my face and pressed a shaking hand to my forehead, where a crazy pressure was mounting. I twisted, but couldn't right myself: I was upside-down. I craned my head to the right, a slow motion trip to hell. My breath caught in my throat; the comforting rhythm died. I licked my lips, tried to find my voice, but found my hand first instead. I pushed at the quiet form next to me, my seatbelt catching and straining to keep me still.
"Momma," I croaked out in the barest whisper, the night shattering into pieces around me. She didn't answer. I found her hand and held it in mine. I thought it twitched a bit. Just a bit, but it did. A tear rolled to the tip of my nose and clung on for dear life. And then, her eyes opened -- the grey-brown irises wide against pain and darkness. Her lips moved soundlessly. A thin beam of moonlight broke through the window and lit her haunted face, and a dull roar started in my head, the scream of blood and fear. I looked into my mother's fading eyes and wished to be somewhere, anywhere but here.
And then I was gone. I was little again, so little, snuggled down into the blanket my mom had made me, watching the moonlight that peeked through my pale curtains, the window glass foggy against the cold blue night. The wind whistled, ghosts of the winter season screaming for entry to our cozy home. My mom gently stroked my cheek, her soothing British alto warming the night around me.
"One more story, Elisabeth, and that's all, love. It's time for sleep," she crooned.
She played with a stray strand of my hair and stared out into nightfall, where a thousand million stars burned, then began as she always did. I snuggled in closer, spooked already.
"On a cold, cold night -- much like this one -- a small girl hunched against the inky-black darkness. A low and menacing sound drew closer, ever closer, echoing from deep within the ancient stone walls that surrounded her. The girl trembled under her bedclothes, searching the darkness for the thing that drew near. She breathed in the smallest breaths, trying not to make a noise, hoping it would pass her by. But it scraped and scrabbled through the walls, its skittering echo filling the room. It was coming for her. And when it found her, the little girl knew the thing would claim her, and she would be lost forever…"
Sleep tugged at my little eyes and the words blurred and chased me into dreams of a far-away castle shrouded in dread, where a small voice called me to come into the dark, to rescue what had been lost.