Cara MIA

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A very special thanks to Lisa, Linda and Cindy for their expertise and guidance. To my colleagues with the North Columbus Sci Fi and Fantasy Writers for their insight as I develop this series. To my son Donovan IV who listened to me read this book aloud, over and over, until I got it to sound right. To my lovely nieces, Maria and Jazz who are my biggest cheerleaders, and Daniel, the best pal a girl could have, who always makes me laugh when I’m discouraged. Lastly, to all my supportive extended family, especially my parents, who always told me to go for it, whatever it was. Dad, caro mio, I wish you were here to see this!

DEDICATION

* * * *

For my wonderful husband of twenty years, Donovan Johnson, who always urges me to reach for the stars.

PROLOGUE

* * * *

Manhattan 1986

Pain. My head and ribs ache. I taste blood. My lip is cracked and bleeding. God, it hurts. Where am I? It’s the alley behind Ethan’s house. How the hell did I end up out here?

Now I remember. He finally did it. He brought home another woman, Leisha. When I expressed my displeasure, he beat me and threw me out with the other trash.

The bare light bulb above my head bathes drifts of dirty snow in sulfur. Icicles gleam like bones of ancient creatures. Electrical wires form a network of blackened veins over a brownstone wall. Rats squeal and squabble over scraps of food from the garbage cans. Desolation.

This time he nearly finished me. What stopped him?

Come on let’s go! Get up! Stamp the feet and wiggle the toes to get the blood flowing. Blood… My head is throbbing. There’s only one way to stop it now. I need blood. Get moving girl.

Maybe this new woman will be smarter and get out quick. Where did it all go wrong? Or was it doomed from the beginning? Once it had been different. Once it was enchantment. It quickly became a nightmare. The bruises will fade fast enough. This body heals rapidly, but the soul? That’s a longer and far more excruciating process. The demons refuse to rest.

The wind is really starting to kick up. My head won’t stop pounding. I have to move on.

Brush the hair out of your eyes and fix your sights ahead, Mia.

How he hated the short haircut. This little act of rebellion riled him pretty good, but that was nothing compared to the words I hissed at him tonight.

“Does she know what you are?”

Gee thanks for the encouragement, now here I am, dumped along with the other refuse. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore… Where have I heard that before? Oh, it’s that poem by Emma Lazarus about the Statue of Liberty. Liberty. Freedom. Freedom!

My future is uncertain. Barren. Bleak. But freedom beckons. Still, the pulse in my head echoes my fear. Go. Go on. NO. YES! Pain! We’ve known pain before. Fight it! Move on.

Where? I have no friends here, no family anymore, no cash, no plastic, not even a lousy subway token. I must find shelter soon. That’s vital. I’ll go back and pound on the door! Demand to be let in. I’ll beg him if I have to.

Don’t you dare! To hell with him! Find a way. Freedom!

Look at the icicles everywhere. They could kill someone if they fell. Stake them right through the heart maybe. Ice? It’s a girl’s best friend, so they say. But I can’t pawn his first gift to me, this beautiful butterfly, with the dazzling blue and white stones set in its wings. Screw him, he bought you