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Authors: Artist Arthur

Mystify

BOOK: Mystify
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MYSTIFY

A Mystyx Novel

MYSTIFY

A Mystyx Novel

ARTIST ARTHUR

To Amaya. Always my princess.

Acknowledgments

Thank you, Lord, for the gift.

A very special thank-you to all the bloggers who’ve
done interviews, guest blog spots and reviews. You’re the best!

To Kicheko Driggins and Lisa Roe
for your tireless work in the publicity department.

To the Kimani team—Evette Porter (editor extraordinaire),
Glenda Howard, Brie Edmonds-Ashton and Shara Alexander
for believing in the Mystyx and working so diligently
to make sure the series had a grand debut.

To Christine Witthohn for listening to me,
for giving me that kick in the butt when I needed it
and for generally being the best at what you do.

To the readers who have welcomed the Mystyx into your lives
with open arms, many, many thank-yous.

And to my family for always being
exactly what I need, when I need it.

Dear Reader,

Krystal Bentley introduced you to the Mystyx in
Manifest.
Now it’s Sasha Carrington’s turn to pull you completely into their world.

Sasha’s life is a little out of control right now—her parents are finally paying attention to her but not in a way she wants, and she’s crushing on this boy she should probably leave alone. The Darkness is also back, haunting the Mystyx and bringing with it more drama.

This second installment in the Mystyx series was fun to write, because I had the chance to do more research into a subject that has intrigued me for years—Greek mythology. There are many facets to this series, many things that you might have predicted, but even more that will come as a complete surprise. I’m enjoying the journey and hope you will, too!

Artist

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.

—Buddha

one

I
don’t want to like him.

I really don’t.

But I keep thinking about him—dreaming about him. It’s like I’m obsessed with him. And I want to know everything about him, which isn’t much, because I try not to talk to him more than I have to. That’s been working out pretty well since we helped find his brother Ricky’s killer. Of course it helped Ricky’s spirit find peace and cross over after his death.

Me and my friends, Krystal and Jake—well, I should say my fellow Mystyx—we did that. That night was such a rush. When I remember it now, I get goose bumps. And sometimes I get scared all over again. There was something evil and dark living inside Mr. Lyle, the biology teacher, something that Jake, Krystal and I believe might still be here in Lincoln.

Lincoln, Connecticut, which is where we live, is probably one of the most boring towns there is. Nothing even remotely exciting happens here. The fact that Mr. Lyle was running an underage porn ring was the most shocking thing around here in a long time.

Now the only thing that’s on people’s minds is the weather. It snowed twenty-seven inches the first week of May. Then, as if Mother Nature wanted to apologize, seven days after the first snowfall, it got so hot the temperature went up to ninety-eight degrees with sixty percent humidity. (I know
this because Krystal’s boyfriend, Franklin—his father is the local weatherman. Franklin gives her weather updates all the time, and she tells me and Jake.)

Today the snow is just about gone. The sun’s still shining, and it’s really warm outside. But there are lots of puddles because of the melting snow.

But that’s getting off track. I was thinking about the boy I don’t like, or rather trying not to think about him, because I don’t like him.

I breathe out heavily, making the hair in my face flutter. It doesn’t change reality though. And the reality is that I
do
like Antoine Watson, even though I know I shouldn’t.

It’s not just the class differences that, for the record, are a big deal here in Lincoln. There’re other reasons why me and Antoine don’t make such a good couple.

He’s into music and clothes and hangs with a hip-hop crowd. While I like—more like love—clothes and I’m not into cliques. That’s why I avoid Alyssa Turner and her minions like the plague. Alyssa’s fifteen, just like me. She lives in a huge house on the lake, just like all the other well-to-do families, known as the Richies in Lincoln. She has the best of everything and makes sure nobody ever forgets it. There’s nothing more important in Alyssa’s world than Alyssa. Get my drift?

I don’t like anybody telling me who to hang with or why. Antoine doesn’t seem like that. But the day I went to talk to him, two of the boys—who he later told me were named, of all things, Fats and Trigga—were rude and insulting, just because my parents have money. I didn’t care enough to find out their real names because the ones Antoine used were so ridiculous I couldn’t comprehend anything else. I just wanted them all to get a life. That’s what Antoine calls being
stuck-up
. He’s told me that a time or two. Funny how that always seems
to roll off his tongue right after I turn him down for a date or refuse to give him my phone number.

See, I think Antoine’s a little confused himself. At the dance—before I had to rush off with the other Mystyx—he talked differently. We actually had a decent conversation, and he danced okay until he started grinding up against me like we were in a rap video. I didn’t like that at all and was relieved when Krystal pulled me away.

That said, there’s no reason I should still be thinking about him. But here I am on a Friday night, lying across my bed thinking about where Antoine could be. Who he’s with? What he’s doing?

It’s so weird.

Which is another thing, I should be getting used to being weird. I’m half South American and half—what would you call it—North American? My mother is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and that’s where she had me. She married my dad who’s white and is originally from Houston, Texas, but moved to the east coast years ago.

We moved to Lincoln right after I was born and in this small town I’m probably the only Latina teenager. Krystal, who has been my friend for going on two months now, is part Native American and African-American. So I suppose we have something in common, even if it’s only being weird and being mixed.

Krystal and I share something else. The
M
shaped birthmark that sits just above my right hip and the one Krystal has on the back of her neck. Jake, he’s a Tracker—someone with less money who lives on the other side of the old railroad tracks—he has the same mark on his arm. We figured out that the
M
stands for Mystyx so that’s what we call ourselves. We each have a supernatural ability that we think has something to do with atmospheric events that happened around the time we
were conceived. That’s why we listen to the weather reports Krystal gets from Franklin.

Like I said, it’s weird.

To help make sense of it all, about an hour ago I sent an email to a woman who I think can help us figure out the nature of our powers. Or at least I hope she can.

Now I’m lying here waiting for my PC to beep with the sound of an incoming email, or rather, trying not to think of Antoine and the feelings I have for him.

 

I’m not asleep although my body feels kind of heavy like it’s sinking into the mattress. My eyes are closed because I was tired of looking at the ceiling, waiting and trying not to think too much.

It really doesn’t matter. The more I try not to think about him, the more his mocha complexion and smiling face appear in my mind. He is really cute, which right there is enough to make any girl like him. His dark hair is always close cropped and precisely cut like he has a barbershop in his house. His clothes, of course, are stylish, baggy jeans, oversize shirts—either button-downs or T-shirts—and black or brown boots. Most of the other guys in his crowd tend to wear too much jewelry, but Antoine only wears a chain with a cross hanging from it. His left ear is pierced and he always smells good. Antoine always wears cologne. I don’t know what it’s called, but I like it. I can smell it now, here in my bedroom. If I inhale deeply, the scent fills my nose, and when I exhale I want to see him even more.

I want to see him and talk to him, maybe try to figure out what this thing between us is. I figure it’s probably not going to go away, and I don’t know how else to deal with it.

I wonder if he likes me. I think he does because he keeps asking me out, and lately he always seems to be where I am.
I wonder what he’s doing tonight, if he’s home in his room thinking about me. I wonder…

Am I floating on something?

Wait a minute, I’m dizzy. It’s cold in here. Did Casietta turn on the air-conditioning already?

My eyes are fluttering, trying to open. But when they finally do, I can’t really believe what I’m seeing.

It’s dark, really, really dark. Like pitch darkness—not like sometimes when you wake up in the middle of the night and can kind of see where things are so you don’t walk into walls when you’re trying to get to the bathroom. No, this is pitch blackness and it’s cold, and I’m moving, going someplace.

Then as quickly as it becomes dark, it turns loud, noisy and filled with music. I jump. I mean my body jerks forward like I’ve just been scared awake, and I look around trying to figure out why my bedroom has changed into what looks like a nightclub.

two

The
first thing I do is pinch myself. Ow! Okay, that hurt.

Next I close my eyes, take a deep breath, then open them again.

I’m still here, still standing against the wall at a club. From the gold-and-black lettering on the wall across the room, behind and just above the DJ booth, I see that I’m in Trends. It’s a nightclub for the eighteen to twenty-five crowd that’s only open on Wednesday and Thursday nights. On Friday it’s free for all before midnight. I look down at my watch and notice that it’s a few minutes until then. I’m not eighteen, so I definitely don’t want to be caught in here.

My parents would flip if that happened. Not that they pay much attention to me. But I’m thinking that something like this might turn their heads and not in a good way.

It hasn’t escaped me that a few minutes ago I was lying on my bed, in my room, on the other side of town. No, I realize that something has just happened, something most likely related to my ability to move my body with my mind. One thing I know for certain is that our Mystyx powers will grow. It’s just that we don’t know in what way. Something tells me I’m getting a preview of mine right now.

But why here? Why now?

Two seconds later I have the answer.

“You sure are fine, Sasha, even if you’re out of your element here.”

He walked up to me just like he knew I was going to be here, like I was waiting for him, which is so totally not true. Or is it?

“What are you doing here, Antoine?”

He laughs, his lips spreading with the smile. He’s wearing exactly what I’d pictured him in, jeans, T-shirt and boots. The diamond stud—I don’t know if it’s real or not—in his ear sparkling with the flashing lights in the club.

“I was about to ask you the same thing.” He moved fast, pushing his body right up against mine like I’d asked him to dance.

But I didn’t ask him to dance, so I back up, but the wall stops my retreat. And Antoine, he just moves right along with me so that he’s still up in my face.

“You look pretty tonight,” he says, smiling as he looks me up and down.

It’s irritating the way his eyes rake over me. Then again it’s kind of flattering. I guess. I’m not wearing anything special so I don’t really know why he says I look pretty. It’s just jeans and a fitted T-shirt—similar to what he’s wearing except my shirt is yellow and his is white. Anyway, like I said, I’m not wearing anything special because I didn’t plan on being here.

“Thank you,” I finally say, remembering my manners. “Ah, how long have you been here?”

What I really want to know is how exactly I came to be here, and more to the point, how long will I be able to stay?

“Since around nine, like I told you I would be. I didn’t think you’d show,” he says.

“What?”

“You know, I asked you at school the other day if we could go out tonight—if you wanted to hang at the club with me.
But as usual you shot me down cold. Now here you are.” He shrugs like he’s happy about the outcome.

Antoine’s like that. No matter how many times I turn him down, he just keeps asking me out. You could call him a glutton for punishment, but I have a feeling he’s something else entirely.

Still, I had forgotten all about him asking me out. I’m so used to turning him down. But it couldn’t be his simple request that brought me here. I have a sinking suspicion it’s much more.

“So you wanna dance, or you just wanna chill?”

My legs are starting to feel shaky. Images of my room flash before my eyes like a movie trailer. What’s going on? I’ve been asking myself that question for years, ever since the first time I disappeared from one side of a room and reappeared on the other.

I shake my head at Antoine. I don’t want to dance or chill. I want to figure out what’s going on with me. “Actually, I should probably get going.”

“You just got here,” he replies.

Something about the way he says it nags at me, maybe because I hear the tiniest hint of disappointment in his voice. “I guess we could dance just once,” I hear myself saying.

Unbelievable, I know. I have no clue how I got here from my bedroom. I’ve never traveled psychokinetically—that’s a complicated way of saying I use my mind to move things, like my body—this far before. Yet here I am. And here is Antoine, taking my hand and pulling me to the middle of the dance floor. I notice some of the other hip-hop crowd, but try to look in the opposite direction. The music is fast with a lot of bass, some track with T-Pain because I can hear the Auto-Tune lyrics. I’m a little nervous about dancing with Antoine, again
because of the last time when he was trying to go all the way with me on the dance floor.

But this time is different. Antoine starts to dance, but he isn’t rubbing all up on me.

“C’mon, show me what you got, pretty girl.”

He’s moving in precise rhythm with the thumping bass. I can dance, a little. I mean, I don’t look like I’m hearing another song inside my head than the one that’s being played. I’m no video backup dancer, but I can hold my own. I know I should be thinking about how I got here right now, but instead I’m focusing on how nice Antoine looks moving to the beat.

So I begin to move and keep right on watching him. He moves closer to me only to back up again, like a choreographed dance move. I’m feeling the music and starting to feel Antoine, so the next time he dances up on me I shake my hips a little harder with my hands in the air and follow his lead. We must have looked good, like we’d practiced these moves before, because people actually back up, giving us a lot of space on the dance floor as they watch.

Normally I’m not one to make a spectacle of myself, but I feel different here with Antoine. Is it because I’m in a real club for the first time in my life? Or because I’m with Antoine? I don’t really want to know the answer, not right now.

By the time the song finally ends I’m winded and laughing. Antoine’s smiling and putting an arm around my waist, leading me back toward the side of the club we’d come from.

“Okay, okay, you got skills on the dance floor. I’ll give you that.”

He’s talking like he’s surprised, and I try not to be offended. It hasn’t totally escaped me that I’m probably the only non-black person in this entire club. “You’re not bad yourself,” I respond.

“We must have looked good together. You see all the people staring at us?”

I nod, feeling a rush of something I’ve never felt before. “Yeah, I saw them.”

“So what do you want to do now?”

I want to go home and figure out what’s going on.

I want to dance with Antoine again.

But what I really want is not to like him because we’re just
too
different. I don’t know why this keeps coming up, but it does.

And yet, when he uses a finger to push back some of my hair, touching the skin of my cheek softly, I shiver, then feel my body warm.

“I should probably go home.”

“When are you gonna stop runnin’ from me?” he asks, all serious like.

I frown. “I’m not running from you. I’m not. That’s just silly. I’m here, aren’t I?”
Even though I still don’t know how that came to be.
Suddenly, now that I’m standing still and not swaying to the beat with Antoine, my knees are feeling a little shaky again. I’m looking at Antoine, but I’m seeing the yellow walls of my room. And in the distance I can hear my mother calling my name.

This is not good. Even though I don’t know what’s going on, I know these images and voices are not in sync with standing in this club with Antoine.

“You know what? I have to go to the bathroom.”

Antoine nods like he knows what I’m saying is a lie. Right about now I don’t care. My mother’s voice is growing louder in my head, and joining her is Casietta, our housekeeper, who practically raised me. They’re calling me like they can’t find me or I won’t answer, one or the other, or maybe both.

The weakness in my legs is getting worse, so I pull away
from Antoine’s grasp, quickly pushing through the crowd. All I can think of is getting into the bathroom in time. Something tells me I need to hurry before whatever is going on becomes public.

Pushing frantically through the bathroom door, I walk down the narrow walkway bending over to see if I can find an empty stall, my heart pounding. Bingo! The handicapped stall is empty. Just like in school, nobody ever goes into the bigger stall. Tonight, however, I think this is probably just the place for me.

Slamming the door and clicking the latch to lock it, I lean against the wall. My breath is coming quicker, like I’ve been running for miles. Closing my eyes and trying to steady my breathing, I can see more of my room—my white desk, the yellow-and-white satin valance at my window.

Then I’m in the dark. In the cool again, floating. I’m moving fast, a breeze tickling my cheeks. I can’t see a thing, but I know I’m somewhere else, somewhere in between.

I jerk, my body shaking abruptly. I sit up, then fall right back down onto the softness.

 

“Sasha? Sasha?”

That’s my mom’s voice.

“Son usted bien, la princesa?”

Casietta is asking if I’m all right in Spanish and calling me by the nickname she always uses. She says I was born the princess of the Carrington household. When I was younger I used to love to pretend I was just that—
la princesa
. I pretended to live in a castle and had lots of pretty things. But I’ve long since grown out of the name, long since gotten over all the pretty things in my big, pretty house. I don’t have the heart to tell Casietta that.

Slowly my eyes open again, although I’m not sure if I’m
gonna see the club and Antoine’s smiling face again or that eerie darkness. It’s blurry at first. Then I see two faces and almost scream. Not because of the faces—no. Casietta has the same olive-toned skin with raven black hair tinged with gray pulled back into a neat bun. My mom’s face is the same too. Her skin is just a shade lighter than Casietta’s—probably because of her makeup—with her long, dark, shiny hair that hangs past her shoulders. She’s wearing her diamond studs. The Ladies Auxiliary, that’s where she has been. She always wears her diamond stud earrings to the meetings.

I want to scream because I’m right back in my room. Just two minutes ago I was dancing at Trends with Antoine.

“When did you two come in?” is the first thing that comes out of my mouth.

Lidia Carrington and Casietta exchange curious looks. Then Casietta, with her hand already plastered across my forehead, asks, “Are you feeling okay?”

“She looks a little pale,” my mom adds.

“No fever,” Casietta says as I move out of her reach.

“I’m not sick,” I say, sitting up straight in the bed. The movement makes the room shift right in front of me, and I feel like I just stepped off a Ferris wheel. I’m rethinking my declaration of not being sick because my stomach does feel a bit queasy.

“Was I lying here when you came in?” I’m more comfort able talking to Casietta than I am to my own mother, so my question is directed to her.

“Of course you were,
princesa
. What is wrong with you? You sleep like the dead.”

Closing my eyes, my throat clenches as I try to swallow her words. Sleeping like the dead, that’s what she’d said. That meant I hadn’t left this room. But I had been in the club.

Maybe I was sick or sleeping so soundly that I really dreamt the whole scene at Trends.

Yeah, that makes sense.

“Well, get up and get yourself together,” my mother says, already moving from my side and smoothing out the knee-length linen skirt she’s wearing. “Your father’s waiting for us in the den.”

“Us?” I’m asking because my father, Marvin Carrington, never waits for me. He’s up every morning before I get up for school and doesn’t usually come home at night until I’m in bed. Weekends are no different. I don’t see him at breakfast or dinner or anything in between. I know his comings and goings only because his black Jaguar is either in the garage or not. My mother isn’t much better. As a member of one of Lincoln’s wealthiest families, she has important stuff to do during the day. Not like a paying job—that would be so beneath her. No, Lidia holds the position of either chairperson or cochair of every social club in town. If it’s a high-class or high-minded cause, Lidia is on it. From the Ladies Auxiliary to the Women’s Society, even to the despicable Mothers of Debutantes Committee, Lidia’s a key member. All these causes and committees keep her away from the house and me, her only child, more often than not.

“Yes, dear—us. Now, get up and wash your face. And what are you wearing?”

Casietta is already helping me out of the bed, biting her tongue as she often does when my mother is around. Sometimes I get the feeling Casietta doesn’t approve of the things my mother does or doesn’t do. But she’s never spoken a bad word about her, probably because my mother brought Casietta with her from Buenos Aires when she left. I guess that means Casietta owes my mother some kind of debt. But I assume that raising her daughter and managing the Carrington household
staff for the last sixteen years should be payment enough. I could be wrong though.

“I’m wearing clothes, Mom,” I say, knowing it sounds like I’ve got attitude, but I don’t care.

Nothing I do is ever good enough for my mother. I mean, on the rare occasion that she remembers I’m alive and still living in this house, she usually doles out more criticism than compliments.

“I don’t know why you insist on wearing those jeans all the time. You’re a young lady, you should dress like one.”

“I’m a teenager. Jeans and a T-shirt are the staple of my daily wardrobe,” I quip, standing on wobbly legs but nodding Casietta away.

I still think something weird is going on. But I want to check my laptop to see if I’ve gotten an email. Halfway across the room, my mother interrupts me by clearing her throat loudly.

“The bathroom is that way, Sasha.”

I feel like shouting I know where the bathroom is, but Casietta doesn’t stand for backtalk, so I try to keep it to a minimum—when I can.

“I just need to check my email real quick.”

“No. We don’t have a lot of time. I didn’t think we’d have to spend so much time trying to wake you. We’ve kept your father waiting long enough. Now I’m going down. I expect to see you in five minutes.”

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