Featuring the fantastic work of Nathan Hainline and Cassady Rose, and a cover by James Price at Aep book covers. Fortune’s Kiss is the next installment of the #MeetCute collaboration I’ve been working on. Releases January 31st, preorder now!
When London was fifteen, a fortune teller told her she would meet her soul mate on June 23rd. The only problem is, which June 23rd? The woman wasn’t specific and only called him her dreamer. Desperate to find her mystery man eleven years later, London sets out to search for him but is waylaid by a mugger instead.
Elliot has had his eye on the woman who jogs past the park where he coaches his nephew’s baseball team for the past month. When he’s the first responder for a mugging victim on June 23rd, she’s barely conscious. She’s the woman tattooed on his chest. He’s seen her in his dreams and has been drawing her for years.
They’ll both sound crazy if they reveal their secrets, but they can’t stay away from each other. Elliot has priorities, promises made to his late sister. London’s trying to live a more intentional existence instead of waiting for everything to fall in her lap.
Can they fulfill the destiny predicted by the fortune teller? Or will fate be undone?
London had always thought carnivals were magical places, even when she didn’t get to go. But tonight, on her fifteenth birthday, the flashing lights and sounds of the midway were enough to make her think anything was possible. Smiling people were everywhere, lending credence to her thoughts of the place fulfilling wishes.
A lone tent sat at the end of the games, on the periphery, just beyond the balloon and dart game.
“What’s that?” Tanner asked as she tugged on his hand to where the darkened tent stood, lit only by a lone, purple bulb outside.
“I don’t know, but I’m just nosy enough to want to find out,” she proclaimed.
The enchanted atmosphere of the fair had gotten under her skin like the odor of popcorn and cotton candy, but Tanner sighed, an exasperated sound she London was well familiar with. He went along with most everything she said, even when he thought it was a bad idea.
“Great,” he muttered under his breath. “Two teens disappeared at the carnival last Thursday. Witnesses say they were last seen entering a creepy tent.”
“Oh, lighten up.” As they grew closer to the tent, a fission of energy stole up London’s spine, as if the air crackled with electricity. She could feel it spread through her body like a tingle, and the hair on her arms stood up. “Can you feel it?”
“Feel what? That chili dog after the slingshot? Yup. I feel like I could hurl.”
She rolled her eyes and tugged him toward the tent. A pair of eyes surrounded by more hair than London had ever seen peered out at them from the shadowed doorway.
“The birthday girl has come to have her fortune read,” the woman stated simply, her voice older than time.
Tanner froze, gripping her hand tightly, while a flush stole through London’s insides. The magic was palpable here, even if she didn’t have the confirmation from the woman’s words. She couldn’t figure out how the woman had known it was her birthday, unless there were spies planted around the carnival who’d overheard something Tanner had said.
“Come inside, and let me tell your future.” The tiny woman seemed to grow as she spread the tent opening wide for London to enter, but she stopped Tanner with a wrinkled hand to his chest. “Not you.”
He looked at London with pleading, wide eyes, silently begging her not to go in by herself. Tanner reached out and fingered the feather in her ears, the pair of earrings he had given her. “She shouldn’t know that.” His voice was filled with doom and gloom, but London wouldn’t be cowed by his attitude. She only giggled and shook her head.
“I’ll be right out. Don’t be a chicken. What’s she going to do to me?”
“I don’t know. Eat you?” Tanner muttered under his breath as he shoved his hands in his pockets and took a step back.
Inside, the tent was warmer than the November chill outside, but London couldn’t see a space heater and didn’t think it would be safe anyway. Every conceivable surface was covered with colorful scarves. She couldn’t figure out where the dim light was coming from, either. The air was thick with something, though. London could feel it. A sort of presence, or cloud, but it wasn’t oppressive. It was comforting, so she followed the lady deeper into the tent, which suddenly seemed huge.
Her wide eyes couldn’t take in everything; it was an overload of textures and colors. The air seemed to ripple, and London blinked, trying to clear her vision. As the woman led her to a chair, she tried in vain to see what was happening. Even as magical as everything seemed, she was looking for mirrors, a latch to something, or even a giant magnet, but nothing was visible besides the brightly-colored fabrics everywhere.
Sitting at a small, round table, London watched intently as the woman glided over to a tall table and lit something smelly, wafting it around the room. It was incense, London guessed, but not a scent she knew. London couldn’t tell how old the woman was, not with all the makeup she wore. Her dark, curly hair went down to her waist in a puffy cloud. She made a tinkling noise when she moved, as if she wore bells on her ankles and wrists, and London looked down to see she was barefoot, with no adornments she could see.
“Since it’s your birthday, I won’t charge you for your fortune.” The woman smiled, her eyes glittering in the darkness.
“How do you know it’s my birthday?” London couldn’t help but ask the question, but the woman didn’t answer. Instead, her hand snatched out and grabbed at London’s necklace, a platinum heart her parents had given her that morning. It had a small diamond in it, and London knew she would treasure this small token.
“Close to your parents? The luck runs out of you in rivulets,” the woman mused as she fondled the necklace. London was frozen, not wanting to move and break it. She really liked this necklace for its simplicity. It represented something to London, but she couldn’t figure out exactly what, just that it was important and she didn’t want it broken on the first day she’d gotten it. “You lead a charmed life.”
When the fortune-teller detached herself from London’s necklace and sat across from her, London breathed in deeply, waiting for more. She just knew this was going to be great. Her lips tugged up at the corners, and she wasn’t sure if it was nerves or excitement.
A crystal ball sat in the middle of the table, and she stifled the giggle bubbling up as the woman caressed it lovingly, almost dramatically. London didn’t want to offend the woman, but this was a show, and she was eating it up. London knew this woman wouldn’t tell her anything life-changing because that’s not how this game was played. She would tell London something that would make her gush to her friend, who would come in and pay to have her tell his fortune, and she’d charge him twice as much. London may be a kid, but she wasn’t stupid.
In spite of her thoughts, London felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise to attention while the woman lost her focus inside the crystal ball as if she were actually seeing something in there, but it was far away at the same time. Her eyes glazed over, like a cloud had fallen. It was fascinating to watch, and the butterflies in London’s belly took flight, swarming around.
“You’re a good girl, but your destiny will be hard to reach.” The fortune-teller’s voice changed as she spoke while looking at the ball. London studied it but didn’t see anything—no lights or clouds of smoke swirling around. It was just a glass globe. Still, her scalp crackled with goose bumps. “You will have many good friends. Like I said, you are lucky. And you will meet your dreamer on June twenty-third. He is your destiny, my child. Your life will change.” As she spoke, her voice seemed far away, almost child-like, and London’s skin felt a stroke of warmth, as if someone were touching her. “Be careful with him, though. He’s a runner.” She sat back in her chair. “A beautiful runner,” she mused. “You are a very lucky girl, indeed. Success, fortune, it’s all in here.” She tapped the ball as she looked at London, her voice returning to normal. “You just have to catch it.”
With that, she rose and walked to the tent flap, opening it without a word. London sat there, stupefied. It wasn’t like the woman had told her anything spectacular, but the energy in the tent was unmistakable. Something had just happened, and London couldn’t process it.
Her legs shaky, London stood and walked to the opening of the tent, the air outside cooling her skin. Tanner stood there, a strange look on his face as he turned toward where she exited.
“Well? Are you in for a ton of money?”
London’s voice got caught in her throat, and as she turned, she knew what she would see. The goose bumps were gone, the tingly feelings had stopped, the energy dissipated. She just knew.
The woman was gone, the tent dark, as if nothing was there.
“No,” she managed to choke out. “Let’s go ride the Ferris Wheel.” Desperate to change the subject, she tugged Tanner along. She didn’t want to tell him. It seemed like a secret, sort of like a birthday wish. If she told, it wouldn’t come true.
That night, she marked her calendar for June twenty-third with a giant star so she’d know to be looking for her dreamer.
The next morning, she took up running, just in case.