Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.
After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.
As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.
Home, Sweet Home
A wall of warm air hit us when we walked into the foyer. My chest tightened thinking about mold. The dampness lingered, wrapping around my skin as if we had entered a gym locker room. Total darkness. Total silence. But after sixteen years of hearing the pendulum swings of the old grandfather clock, an impression of the sound was burned in my mind. The phantom ticks became louder in my head as we crept into the living room. I flicked the light switch just to be certain. Nothing. We both reached for our phones. That feeling of peculiarity versus familiarity crept over me once again.
My father walked ahead of me with his makeshift flashlight thrust forward and his right arm extended over me in a protective stance. There’d been countless reports of people breaking into homes and squatting in the less flooded neighborhoods.
By the glow of our phones, nothing appeared to be out of place— not that either of us could remember exactly how we had left it.
No signs of water or mold. My father exhaled loudly.
“I’m going to get the hurricane box,” I said.
But I was already halfway through the dormant dining room, the thick, old walls muffling his protest.
Despite the long journey, I felt incredibly alert. My eyes darted back and forth like an animal’s as I surveyed each room. Alone in the dark silence, I suddenly became very aware of the beating of my own heart.
The deeper I moved into the house, the harder it thumped.
Everything seemed okay . . . but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
I stood still in the kitchen. Listening. My hair lifted from my shoulders, sending a wave of shivers down my back. A delicate touch brushed my bare neck, causing me to twist around. “Who’s there?”
A slow creak answered.
I spun toward the noise, dropping my phone. I grabbed it from the floor, and when I rose, my head collided with something soft but solid.
“What the—?” My hair yanked backward.
“Don’t touch me!” I yelled, jerking my head.
A sharp hook pierced the skin at the base of my neck. I screamed as the claw ripped all the way up my cheekbone.
Wings flapped frantically in my face, and high-pitched squawks assaulted my ears. Blood smeared from my neck to my face as I tried to keep my ears covered while thrashing wildly in the dark. “Get away!”
“Dad! Kitchen!” My head jerked backward again as my hair became entangled with the bird’s talons, ripping from my scalp, and my arms got scratched up shielding my face. “Dad!”
Each touch of feathers to my skin sent a wave of shudders down my spine. I fell to my knees, ripping the last of my tangled hair free from the bird’s claws.
Tears poured down as I caught my breath.
“Adele! Where are you?”
Glassware fell from the counter, smashing onto the tile floor around me.
“Down here!” I called, crouching into a ball next to a cabinet.
“What the hell?” my father yelled over the ruckus, sliding onto the floor. “Are you okay?” He pulled me close.
His phone illuminated a giant black crow frantically opening and closing its wings, breaking everything it came into contact with.
He helped me up, then swiftly grabbed a broom from behind the refrigerator and shooed the trespasser out the kitchen door. I jumped up and slammed the door behind it.
“Are you hurt?” He held his phone up to my face. My arm covered the wound, but still, his eyes bulged, causing me to look down. Red covered most of my right shoulder.
“It looks worse than it is,” I lied, my throat raw from screaming. My face throbbed, but I kept it covered so he’d calm down. “All of this over a bird?” I tried to joke, fighting the tears.
He still had the broom clutched in one hand and his lit phone in the other. I didn’t know if it was the anxiety, the weariness, or just how ridiculous we both must have looked, but I started laughing, and soon he did too.
He put the broom down and wrapped his arms around me. “Home, sweet home.”
“Never a dull moment.” My voice was muffled by his shoulder. I squirmed, trying not to get blood on his shirt. “Wait a second.” I raised my head. “That door was open.”
“The kitchen door . . . I never opened it for the crow to fly out.”
He held his phone up to the old brass doorknob. Someone had smashed the lock. He tapped the keypad on his phone three times and brought it to his ear.
“Dammit! No service.”
They warned everyone not to come home yet . . .
He gave up on the call, went to the pantry, and lifted out a large cardboard box, putting it on the kitchen counter. I didn’t need any light to know it was appropriately labeled “Hurricane Box” in my six-yearold scribble. On the side, written in a range of green Crayola to metallic silver Sharpie, was a list of every hurricane it had been used in, along with the date. We were pretty diligent about keeping it fully stocked because we weren’t the type who evacuated every time bad weather brewed in the Atlantic.
He pulled out a robust first aid kit.
I nervously removed my sticky fingers from the wound.
“I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“Dad, there aren’t any hospitals.”
“Jesus . . .” He hesitated for a second before he managed his manlydad poker face.
“Dad!” The tears began to well again.
“I’m sorry, baby, it’s not that bad.” He lied this time. “It’s just a lot of blood.” He pressed the gauze against my face. “Damn bird.”
When the bleeding subsided, he spun the lid off the bottle of rubbing alcohol. My nose scrunched at the chemical smell. “It’s gonna burn,” he said gently and poured a generous stream of the clear liquid down my face and neck.
My limbs twisted together. I tried not to yelp as the solvent spidered into the wound. He pressed my hand over a fresh piece of gauze.
“Stay here, and I’ll check out the rest of the house.”
“No, I want to see!” I yelled. But really I didn’t want to be left alone.
“Okay, but stay put for two minutes. Keep applying pressure. I’ll be right back. I promise.”
Something about his exit made me suspicious. I attached the gauze to my skin with some medical tape and dug through the remaining contents of the supply box: a transistor radio, an assortment of nonperishable food items, various kinds of batteries. Voilà. Two flashlights. I flicked them on and off to test the batteries.
When he returned, the beams of light revealed a small black object in his hand. I did a double take. “What is that?” I exclaimed in a loud whisper. “You own a gun? Do you even know how to use that thing?”
“Calm down, sweetheart. It was Grandpa’s, and it’s always been locked up in the safe.” He seemed oddly at ease holding the weapon, as if it was something he used on a daily basis. Who is this guy?
I placed the second flashlight into his free hand and filed behind him down the hall to his bedroom. He waved his light around to check out the state of his things, while I continued to the back. His bedroom was an old double parlor, separated by sliding wooden doors. The rear room, which led to the courtyard, was his studio. I unlatched the hook and slid open the pocket doors a couple feet.
My brain refused to register what I saw in front of me as I hastily moved my flashlight from one thing to the next.
“I’m so sorry, Dad.” I stood frozen, unable to think of anything else to say.
He rushed over, slid the wooden doors completely open, and stepped into the work space.
Most of my father’s lifework was in total disarray, strewn about the large, open room. I focused my light on the rear wall and gasped. My flashlight was shining straight into the back courtyard—a humongous
Greek Revival–style column from a neighboring house had smashed through our exterior brick wall and created a gaping hole at least ten feet tall and seven feet wide. Wind, rain, and Lord knows what else had poured in. I thought of the crow as I slowly approached the hole and wondered if there were any other creatures lurking in the house.
“Adele, stay back! There might be serious structural damage.”
Backing away, I picked up two unstretched canvases and tried to separate them, but they had fused together upon drying. I put them down to avoid further wrecking my father’s art.
Why couldn’t that column have fallen into any other room in the house? Even my own bedroom would have been better. I wondered if any of his paintings or charcoals had survived. A sinking feeling told me, unlikely. At least his main medium was metal . . . Anxiety rushed through my veins, thinking about my own bedroom.
“Come on, Dad, there isn’t much we can do tonight.” My hand rested on his shoulder as I pulled him away from the acetylene tank he was examining. “We’ll get a better look in the morning.”
We did a quick run-through of the rest of the house and ended up back in the kitchen. To our relief, everything else appeared unscathed.
Including my stuff.
“No squatters or pools of standing water,” said my father.
“Just crows and gaping holes.”
Dodging broken glass on the floor, he tossed me a bottle of water. “Don’t even brush your teeth with water from the sink until the boil-water advisory is lifted.” He jammed a kitchen chair under the broken knob, securing the door. “Can you get through the night without electricity?”
“Definitely.” I nodded with a jet lag–induced yawn then pulled out my phone, hoping a quick text to Brooke would go through.
Adele 8:57 p.m. Made it home. Able to sleep in the house. Full report tomorrow. xo.
About the author and where to find her:
Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans, French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since. She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy-colored. One dreary day in London, while dreaming of running away with the circus, she started writing The Casquette Girls. Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before being acquired by Skyscape in a two book deal. Rep’d by ICM.