Join the magical Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic in A CHARM AND A CURSE excerpt!
Emmaline is a fortuneteller for Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, the most prestigious traveling circus around. But there’s a secret to the circus, its vibrant performers, its sparkling reputation, and lack of injury or incident: It’s held together by a centuries-old charm that requires one member of the Carnival Fantastic to be cursed… and that one person is Em.
Tricked into the circus’ clutches by the mysterious “boy in the box” before her, Em’s curse is what keeps for her new companions flourishing, including the adorable mechanic she’s reluctantly crushing on, Ben.
Breaking the curse would destroy everyone in the cirus, but there’s another out for Em: She can pass it along to someone else, just as it was passed along to her, with a simple kiss. She’d be free to leave Le Grand Carnival Fantastic forever, but she’d be dooming someone else to her current life.
In an exclusive from Jaime Questell‘s By A Charm And A Curse, Em mans her booth after a quick run-in with Ben, attempting to find the perfect person to pass the curse along to. When that person comes along, will she be able to trade their life for hers?
“Hey,” he says, his voice as bright as the new bulbs he just installed in the booth. His shirt has shifted, showing off the line marking his golden tan and the lighter, actual color of his skin. It takes me longer than I’m proud of to drag my gaze away. “Made a few tweaks, cleaned the thing up. The drawer on the inside was sticking, so I oiled the tracks, but let me know if it gives you trouble, okay?”
I nod, racking my brain for something clever to say, but it seems as though the curse has petrified the witty part of my brain, too. I may spend a little more time than is polite watching his slightly too-small T-shirt move over the muscles in his back as he walks away.
When I get into the booth, I can see the small touches he’s put into place. The quarters make it seem like other people have already found me interesting enough to take a chance on a fortune. I think he’s upped the wattage on the lightbulbs, because the inside of the box is warmer than before, and my twitching is just a little bit less than it had been the other night. When your world is all about being stuck in the cold, you notice things like that.
The crowds trickle in. I’m between a booth selling sodas and a row of Skee-Ball machines, so there are far more people around than last time. The quarters in my bowl multiply, but not a one of their donors seems like a good candidate to take over my position. I don’t have the nerve to ask Sidney why he chose me—I know what he’ll say and I don’t think my delicate ego can take it. I was alone and I was gullible as hell. In a word—perfect. None of the patrons so far fit that description. There are too many bright and shining stars that would be missed if I forced them into this life.
Until the boy shows up.
He’s alone, and that’s a good start. His eyes are as dark as his hair, which seems like it might be curly if he grew it out. He wanders up with a vague curiosity, reading the swirling gold promises of futures told that decorate the glass. When he isn’t looking, I put on the most charming smile I have in my arsenal.
A stab of guilt hits me in the gut when I think about taking this boy out of his life. But then a spasm knocks my leg into the side of the booth hard enough to make the boy look around, and I think about feeling warm again. About breathing and a breeze tickling my skin.
I can do this.
The boy digs into his pocket and finds a quarter, a bright and shiny thing in the dark, and he slips it into the slot. As it plinks on top of the others that fill the bowl, I start my act. I remember Sidney, and what he had done. The boy watches my every move, the way I gaze at him from under my lashes, how I tap my chin thoughtfully as I pretend to contemplate. There is a split second where I could change my mind, where I could offer him some banal fortune and send him on his way. But when I drop the card into the tray, I know what it will say.
You will soon take a fall.
His lips move as he reads the card, then pick up in a small grin. He rereads the words on his card, and I can see the flush climb up his cheeks, the pulse thumping in his neck. He is vibrantly alive. I can’t do it. I can’t. While his gaze flits over the words on the card yet again, I swish the curtain shut and dim the lights, dropping down to the floor of the booth.
As I sit there in the dark, my knees literally knocking, my chest vibrating with panic, the clumsy teenage boy steps circles around my booth, looking for me, or maybe a handle to get in to confront me. I am so, so glad for the hidden latch that opens the back door. The boy lets out a feeble, “What the hell?” before his steps recede into the sounds of other patrons, games, and rides.
I almost did it. I mean, I had no idea if the boy would have gone along with it or if he would have run off, but for a few seconds, I was going to trick that boy and steal him away from his family. To become a monster of the same brand as Sidney, callous and cold, willing to bring a kid to death’s door for my own freedom.
A great hiccupping shudder runs through my body and I burrow my head into my arms, wishing for something more than the all-encompassing darkness surrounding me. Because maybe it’s not even a matter of becoming a monster like Sidney. I had been willing to trick the boy, hadn’t I? Ready to pass on this horrible curse even though he thought he was just out for a fun night at a regular old carnival.
Maybe I already am a monster.
By A Charm And A Curse hits bookshelves on February 6, 2018. Preorder it now via…
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled Publishing
ABOUT THE BOOK
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.
Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.
Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.