The fairies have a secret they’re just dying to protect…
Emma knows breaking the rules can get you into trouble; it nearly got her sister killed. That’s why Emma’s stuck in backwater Nowra, Australia, under temporary witness protection with no friends—and no life.
So when Emma has to break the rules to retrieve the runaway family dog, she decides the fairy she sees is clearly a guilt-induced hallucination. Problem is, hallucinations don’t usually send you invites to Fairyland—and shadows don’t usually chase you home.
It would be easy to ignore the invite.
It would be sensible to avoid the shadows.
But when Emma’s only new friend is snatched by the shadows in the middle of the night, Emma knows she has a decision to make: stick to the rules and leave her friend and dog to die, or risk her own life to save them.
THE DOORBELL RANG. That doesn’t sound exciting in and of itself, but let me assure you: it was the most heart-pounding thing to happen all week. It was my birthday, I was home alone, and because of the stupid witness protection business, I’d been stuck in the house all summer. I hadn’t even been allowed out to see friends, because we’d arrived in town at the end of last year with only three school weeks to go—so I didn’t have any friends.
Well. I had friends, but they were back in Melbourne, and I wasn’t allowed to contact them for fear someone would track down our new location. Lucky me.
Anyway, it was my birthday, I was alone because Mum and Dad had gone to do something regarding birthday surprises and Anna had inexplicably chosen to go with them, and the doorbell had just rung. I stared at the closed door, heart pounding, while our chocolate Labrador Veve tried to chew it down. Was I going to open it?
Of course I was going to open it. The chances of it being a mobster here to kill me were slim to none; for starters, a mobster wouldn’t have rung the bell.
I opened it.
“Miss Tanning?” The deliveryman raised a questioning eyebrow and cocked a digital pen at me.
I nodded, heart flip-flopping, and scrawled a fair impersonation of my signature on the electronic pad.
He handed over a small, brown-paper parcel with a handwritten address, and departed.
I closed the door behind him, throat dry, and stared down at Veve. On the one hand, yay birthday present. On the other, holy crap, someone had our address. That was not a good thing.
It became even less of a good thing when I noticed that the parcel was indeed addressed to a Miss Tanning: a Miss Anna Tanning, as in my sister, not me, Emma Tanning.
Anger bubbled up in my chest, hot and tight, and the parcel protested in my grip.
Veve whined softly.
“How could she do this?” I whispered to Veve.
I turned the parcel over. It was from Kade, Anna’s frogging ex-boyfriend. Who apparently wasn’t an ex after all. Urgh. I ground my teeth. “You know what?” I said.
Veve looked up at me with her liquid brown eyes, tongue lolling as she smiled.
“Screw it. If Anna can get interstate mail from people who aren’t even supposed to know we exist anymore, you and I can go for a walk on my birthday. What do you think?”
They say dogs don’t speak English, but Veve sure as heck knew the word ‘walk’—though I think in her vocabulary it was something closer to ‘Magical Trip To Disneyland’ and less like ‘Comparatively Bland Meander Through Trees’. She tucked her tail right under her butt and shot down the hall, whirling in frantic circles a few times at the end before pelting back as I retrieved her lead from the drawer in the front cabinet.
I rolled my eyes as I clipped her lead onto her collar. For my troubles, I got slimed right up the nostrils. “You’re disgusting, you know that?” I wiped off the worst of the dog slobber on the shoulder of my shirt. She just grinned.
Out on the street, she leapt and twisted madly. “Hair-brain,” I told her, snapping the lead to get her attention. “It’s just a walk.”
She just snorted—and stiffened. I followed her gaze to where a flock of corellas pecked their way through the dry grass at the end of the street.
My shout was in vain: the lead burned through my fingers and Veve shot down the road, a chocolate bullet howling death and destruction for all things feathered. I cursed her to the lower circles of doggie hell. Which probably involved, I don’t know, a world devoid of birds, cats, people, sunshine, and walks, if Veve was anything to go by. “Veve!” If the sight of the mad Lab-rat barrelling towards them hadn’t scared the birds off, my shouts would have. “Come back here now!”
Predictably, she ignored me, pounding down the slope, through the fringe of gum trees, and down the narrow stairs between giant granite boulders that led to the river.
“Stupid frogging brainless beast of a stupid frogging dog,” I muttered as I followed. “If Mum gets home before we do and freaks out, I swear, I’ll pluck your tail hairs out.” Empty threats, obviously, but Mum’s freak-out wouldn’t be. Her thoughts would go straight to the day Anna nearly died—and I wouldn’t blame her. I should have left a note.