by Casey Hays
YA Paranormal Romance

326 pages

Jude Gallagher thought she was crazy.

It all started when the boy next door made her hear music—inside her head. All the time.

It was torture.

She didn’t think things could get worse. But then one hot summer, her
best friend Kane O’Reilly decides to tell her how he really feels
about her. Music inside her head? That’s nothing compared what happens next.

Things only turn stranger when she and her lab partner Frankie Melmack begin
a project to prove the existence of the Vatra u Krvi—a race of
people tied to the mythical Phoenix. Add in a neglectful mother and a
magic ring, and the insanity that defines Jude’s life is pretty well complete.

Heat surges across the Nevada desert, and the best and worst parts of Jude
Gallagher’s life collide as myth meets reality. In the middle of
the chaos, she begins to hear more than just music. And she has to wonder…

Maybe... just maybe… she really is crazy after all.

from Chapter Two
“The Phoenix is a great fire spirit in Greek mythology, you know?” She sets one slice of
pie on a plate, then pauses to slide a large encyclopedia across the table until it’s situated in front
of me. It’s bookmarked, and she flips it open to the description of the Phoenix. “It’s a sacred
firebird that represents immortality, rebirth, and renewal. It can live from five hundred to a
thousand years according to legend. At the end of its life cycle, it builds a nest, climbs inside,
and bursts into flames.”
“So…” She sits, placing my pie next to the encyclopedia. I move the book aside and take
up my fork. “The Phoenix is one of the only living creatures that is self-reproducing, because
from those ashes…” She cuts off the pointed end of her pie piece and raises her fork along with
her brows, which peek at me over the top of her glasses. “…a brand new baby Phoenix is born.”
I shake my head. “Where are we going with this?”
“Think about it. Its aspects are magical. Otherworldly. A race of people with its blood
running through their veins would be extraordinary.”
“The Phoenix is a myth,” I remind her.
“You could be a little open-minded.”
I plunge a piece of pie into my mouth and speak around it. “Okay. So this reborn bird…
is it a new Phoenix or the same one?”
She shrugs. “That’s debatable.”
“And is there more than one Phoenix?”
“Hard to say.”
I shake my head. “Give me something here, Frankie.”
“Well, it’s rare to see one at all, so… it’s hard to say.”
It’s rare to see one because they don’t exist. I squint, testing her further.
“Male or female?”
“I suppose that would depend on the answer to the first two questions, wouldn’t it?” She
picks off a piece of pie crust and nibbles on the end. I scoop up another full bite.
“Okay, look.” I focus on her pointedly. “And I’m only saying this so we don’t have to
scrape our embarrassed butts up off the floor later, but we can’t do this. It’s nonsensical, and—”
Before the rest of my sentence leaves my mouth, she produces another picture from her
accordion file. This one takes me by surprise. A photograph. I pick it up, holding it out for a
better look.
It's a man—no, maybe just a boy. He's handsome. Jet black hair. Violet eyes. His bare
chest ripples with muscles, and spread out behind him is the most brilliant pair of black wings,
fluttering with an iridescent glow. They're sleek and beautiful. I blink once, and I swear they
“This is a Vatra u Krvi,” Frankie says.
A tiny catch in my chest makes it hard to breathe. I’m dead serious. Every one of my five
senses is held captive by the beauty of this image.
“Translated, the phrase means ‘fire in the blood.’” Frankie cocks her head to the side, just
like a bird herself. “In English, the common term is Firebloods.”
“He looks like an angel.” I breathe out the words.
She smiles. “I know.”
I tear my eyes away and glance up at her, suspicion moving in. Because this can’t be real.
It can’t.
“Where did you find this?”
Her eyes flit past me to ensure the door is closed. “In my father’s office.”
I lean back in my chair examining the image. It stares up at me from some vast realm of
someone’s artistic imagination.
“This isn't real.” I glance at Frankie. “It’s all fascinating from a fantasy standpoint, but it
isn’t a viable subject.”
“I think we can prove his existence.” She nods at the image, adamant. “In fact, I know we
She lowers her voice to a whisper and motions me to lean in closer.
“My dad has a crate full of information on the Firebloods. Not just documents. Artifacts.”
She taps her fingers against the table.
I stare at her, incredulous. Is she seriously contemplating basing our hypothesis statement
on a mythical creature? I suddenly feel ill. My chances at winning a scholarship are riding on
whatever it is we decide to do this summer. I need this. And this is all she’s got? A flying boy? I
sigh and toss the picture onto the table, frustrated.
“Frankie, this could just be your dad’s hobby. Maybe he collects memorabilia on a
favorite, fictional character in a book.”
“I don’t think so, Jude. You didn’t see what was in that crate.” She habitually pushes her
glasses up the bridge of her nose, her mouth poised and very serious. “I asked my dad about it a
couple of months ago when I found it. He shut me down. Fast. He told me to focus on my studies
and keep my head out of the clouds.”
“See?” I hold my palms face up, agreeing with that reasoning.
“The crate disappeared after my conversation with him. I found it again last week. In the
basement. With a padlock intact. He’s hiding the truth about this.”
I stop when she shuffles to her feet and yanks open a cabinet door to retrieve a couple of
glasses. Water streams from the refrigerator dispenser. She sets a full glass in front of me.
“Will you just listen to what I have to say?”
I straighten, scraping up the last bit of my pie with a shrug. “I’m just being honest when I
say I don’t have much faith in this idea.”
“I gathered.” She leans a hip against the counter. “I’m only asking that you not
immediately discredit it. Not until we’ve had a chance to research it further.” I purse my lips; she
keeps talking. “Jude, we could blow the judges away with our findings. It could be a
monumental discovery, right up there with extra-terrestrial life. Don’t you see?”
I focus on the photograph of the angel-boy. He looks so realistic. His eyes, poignantly
vibrant, seem to reach right into my very soul. I shudder and look away.
“This is risky,” I point out.
“I know. But it’s worth the risk. It’s why we could win.”
“I don’t think we should waste much of our time on it.” Doubt flutters across my face,
and she sees every bit of it in the wrinkled folds of my brows. “I mean, anybody can doctor up a
photo. Take Bigfoot. Prime example.”
Frankie lifts her chin, indignant. “I have it on good authority that Bigfoot is most indeed
real. You are such a pessimist, Jude Gallagher.”
“Pessimist? This is myth, Frankie. One of us has to be reasonable.”
“Wrong. If scientists were reasonable, nothing would have ever been discovered or
invented. Or founded. Take Newton or Einstein, for instance. Do you think they accomplished
anything by being reasonable? No. They defied norms to prove their theories. People thought
they were off in the heads, but those men proved in the end that they were brilliant. We have that
opportunity here.”
I simply stare at her. What can I say to that?

Casey Hays developed a love for young adult fiction while teaching high school English literature. 
She writes fantasy sci-fi and dystopian--all with a twist of romance. 
She is best known for The Arrow’s Flight Series (Breeder, The Archer, Master),
a YA Christian dystopian, which includes
The Scent of Lilac,
an Arrow’s Flight Novella nominated for a RONE award for Best Novella of 2016, 

and A Heart of Flesh (the first NA in the series). 
Her short story "Edge of a Promise" is featured in the collaborative anthology PREP FOR DOOM.
Currently, she is working on two more novellas for Arrow's Flight as well as the
series based on the legend of the Phoenix. Look for book 2,
Scorch Song, this spring.

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