When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything.
The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.
Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect—Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist.
As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer . . . or Alicia is real.
"[An] original, riveting thriller." -- Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Made for You
"Delicious and deceptive, The Third Twin is a twisty-turny thrill ride! I couldn't flip the pages fast enough!" --Kimberly Derting, author of the Body Finder series and The Taking
"A classic whodunit."--Kirkus Reviews
CJ OMOLOLU is the author of the ALA-YALSA Quick Pick Dirty Little Secrets and several other YA novels. She loved to read but never thought to write until she discovered that the voices in her head often have interesting things to say. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two sons.
In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.
When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.
Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?
Praise for the Book
“This book is original, cleverly written and most of all a great read.”
“This novel is very suspenseful and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.”
“I really, really liked the story line, it is fresh take in the high fantasy/magic genre.”
Pulling her blond locks away from her face, Lilika headed outside her cozy house to do her morning chores. When she hit the doorway, she stopped and lifted her face skyward, soaking in the sun’s beams. She reveled in the heat beating down on her and the feeling of warmth that bathed her skin.
She walked to the garden and sat down. Lilika pulled the weeds with the sun shining on her. Her fingers ran across something smooth.
“What is this?” she muttered to herself, digging quickly to try to see just what was in there. She exposed something gleaming from underneath the brown soil.
What could be under the dirt here? She pulled out a gold heart locket from the garden bed. It glittered in an almost magical way, like nothing she’d ever seen before.
“Lilika!” Jet yelled through the open kitchen window. “It’s almost time for school.”
She shoved the locket in her pocket. “Okay! I’m coming.” Her little brother could be such a nuisance sometimes. She would have to wait until later to inspect her find up-close.
“Hello,” a female voice came from behind her.
“Hello?” She jumped up and turned around, shielding her eyes from the sun.
It was so bright, all she saw was a figure blocking out the light, a black silhouette outlined by the sun’s rays. As her eyes adjusted to the change in light, the figure became clearer and clearer: A beautiful, golden-hued woman stood before Lilika.
“Lilika,” the woman said.
How does she know my name?
“Lil! It’s time to go,” her brother yelled again.
She whipped her head around. “Okay, I’m coming.” By the time she turned back, the golden woman was gone.
She stood, walked to the side of the house, and peered around the corner, but the golden woman wasn’t there. She swiveled her head to each side, but didn’t see her. Could this all have just been a figment of her imagination? Maybe sitting in the sun was affecting her. Butterflies danced in her stomach at the thought of the locket she’d found, and she hurried into the house to get ready for school.
The mile-long walk to school was a quiet one except for Jet humming to himself. Children said goodbye to their parents and walked out of their rural homes surrounded by lush green grass and foliage, through the center of Spring Bloom. Boys in button down shirts and long pants and girls in light colored, pastel dresses lined the walkways when Lilika and Jet got closer and closer to their destination. Lilika walked along with a solemn expression on her face.
She couldn’t help but think about the golden woman, whether she’d simply imagined her or if their conversation had really happened. What did it mean? She couldn’t tell Jet or their mother or father. They wouldn’t believe her. Something was actually happening to her for a change.
The sun cast bright light over all the individual stone cottages and gardens.
“Good morning, Lilika!” Mr. Woodland waved from his garden.
“Good morning.” Lilika hurried toward school.
“Lil! Slow down,” Jet said.
“Come on,” she said with pursed lips, “we’re going to be late.”
More and more residents filtered out of their houses, tending to their gardens, trimming their bushes, and cleaning windows of their homes. With every stone cottage Lilika passed, the people smiled and waved. She greeted everyone with a wave and picked up her pace once she reached the hill.
Standing in front of the school, she paused and caught her breath before opening the classroom door.
“So, do you want to do something after school? Maybe we can go for a walk or something.” Bryony stopped her just outside the door. Lilika had been friends with her for as long as she could remember.
“Oh, I can’t.” Lilika sighed. “I have to do my chores right away when I get home since I didn’t have time to do all of them this morning.”
“Well, I found something I thought you might be interested in.” Bryony pulled out a big book from her backpack and wiped the dust off of it.
Lilika whipped her head around. “What? What is that?”
“It’s called The History of Winter in the Soul.” Bryony moved her fingers along the raised gold title on the front. “It’s all about Wits.” Bryony opened it and read from the book. “It was a cold that could only manifest out of the coldness in the soul. That is how Wits got to be known as the Winter in the Soul.”
“What are you doing?” Violet butted in. Great, she was always putting her nose where it didn’t belong.
“Nothing. Keep your voice down.” Lilika glanced toward the window to make sure no one was looking. Leave it to Violet to try and join in with them when they were trying not to bring attention to themselves.
“What do you have there, Bryony?” Violet put her hand on Bryony’s shoulder to get a glimpse.
“Nothing.” Lilika shook her head.
“Well, what is it? What’s so interesting?” Violet leaned in closer.
“Oh, please,” Lilika whispered, “just stop. Someone’s going to see, and then we’ll all be in trouble. Just mind your own business and leave us alone. Go, go on.” Lilika waved her hand at Violet.
“Fine.” Violet rolled her eyes and stormed off.
“Bryony, you really shouldn’t have that book. Where did you get it anyway?”
“I found it under my parent’s bed. Aren’t you curious about Wits?”
“I am, but…”
The golden locket popped into Lilika’s head. Who was she to tell Bryony not to ask questions about Wits? She had questions of her own.
“Nothing, come on, we’d better get inside. We’re going to be late.”
Bryony shoved the book back inside her backpack and followed Lilika into school.
Author Jennifer Novotney
Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in North Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelors degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a masters degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.
Jayson lives among the shadows of Hestoria, his sole purpose for staying alive – to protect his half of the Seer’s crystal. Exiled from his homeland for loving the king’s daughter, Ivanore, Jayson is now pursued by two opposing factions: the Vatéz (League of Magicians) who intend to use the crystal for their own selfish gain, and the Guilde, the ancient guardians of the crystal.
Meanwhile, Ivanore flees from her father to Hestoria in search of Jayson. As the Seer, she is plagued with visions of him being tortured and is determined to rescue him. When the Vatéz capture her, however, she unwittingly jeopardizes everything Jayson has vowed to protect. He must now make a terrible choice: Should he save Ivanore or save the crystal?
The Crystal Keeper trilogy is available in print or digital formats.
Ivanore hunched over the parchment, the tip of her quill flicking above her hand like a trapped bird desperate to escape. The tallow candle cast a cramped circle of light across the table, hardly enough to see by. If only the night would last a little longer. Perhaps then she would have enough time to write everything she needed to. But alas, time was one thing she had too little of—that and light.
An older man with long, gray-streaked hair and piercing gray eyes waited beside her. The stone bungalow, their most recent of many hiding places, boasted the barest of furnishings: the table, stool, cot—and a plain wooden chest, its key held tightly in Zyll’s fist.
A sudden thump sounded at the door, startling them both. A strand of Ivanore’s hair, gold as the candlelight, fell across the page. She quickly tucked it back into place and wrote faster.
Zyll laid a hand on Ivanore’s shoulder. “They are here,” he whispered.
Ivanore finished the document and handed it to Zyll unbound. Turning to the chest, he carefully laid the pages inside.
“Wait,” said Ivanore. “Will you keep this as well?” A flat circle of pale green crystal lay in her open palm.
“But you will need it. I mustn’t—”
“Please,” she insisted, pressing it into his hand. “I can’t risk losing this one.”
Zyll reluctantly folded his fingers around the cool stone. “Of course, milady,” he said. Then, adding the crystal to the parchment, he laid a plate of thin wood atop them both, sealing the chest’s false bottom. He closed the lid and locked it.
The pounding at the door grew more insistent. Whoever stood outside was using their full weight against it in an effort to break through.
“We must hurry,” said Zyll.
Ivanore allowed herself a quick glance at the chest, offering the briefest of prayers that the gods would keep it safe until her return. Then, taking her by the arm, Zyll led her through the low archway dividing the bungalow’s front room from the back.
A loud crash of splintering wood resounded through the bungalow. Their visitors had finally broken in.
“Find her now!” a deep voice bellowed.
Grateful for the trousers she now wore instead of her usual cumbersome skirts, Ivanore clambered onto a stool and through a narrow window, lowering herself as quietly as possible to the ground outside. Once Zyll had done the same, they stole away across the rocky field. Though the sky was black as ink, their path was illuminated by the amber glow of volcanic fissures scoring the area for miles around.
“There she is!” a man’s voice shouted behind them. The words sent spasms of fear through Ivanore. She glanced behind her and saw three soldiers emerge from the bungalow, wearing the gold and red cross of her father’s crest. They had tracked her even here, to the remotest corner of Imaness. Would Fredric ever let her be?
Ivanore stopped running. She looked at Zyll, her trusted guardian and ally these past months since she had fled Dokur, and knew her time with him had come to an end.
“You’ll watch over them until I return?” she asked, out of breath. “Keep them safe. Don’t let my father find them.”
“You have my vow,” Zyll whispered, his voice tight with emotion.
Ivanore’s eyes welled with tears as she pressed her lips against the calloused skin of Zyll’s hand.
“Go,” said Zyll. “Go now before it’s too late.”
Ivanore released Zyll’s hand and sprinted forward alone. As she ran, she cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a loud, sharp call, much like that of a hawk or an eagle. She risked another glance over her shoulder and watched as Zyll turned to face their pursuers. As the soldiers neared, their swords glinting in the fire glow, Zyll held up his hands. A horizontal bolt of cerulean lightning shot out from his palms, striking the oncoming soldiers. The men recoiled, their bodies instantly singed and bloody.
Ivanore ran on. In desperation, she repeated her call, and this time another voice called back. A dark form appeared on the horizon, silhouetted against the light of the volcanic fractures and growing larger as it approached with tremendous speed. As it neared, the creature’s massive feathered wings moved the air around Ivanore in warm, powerful gusts. Ivanore saw clearly its eagle’s head with a beak large enough to break a man in two, paired with the muscular, furred body of a lion. As she ran toward it, the gryphon lowered its head, waiting.
Behind her, the soldiers reeled in pain, but they did not forget their duty. One man struggled to his knees, grunting from the effort. Reaching over his shoulder, he slid a short bow and arrow from his pack and swiftly took aim.
Ivanore reached the gryphon and in one smooth motion hoisted herself onto its back, twisting her arms deep into the feathers on the creature’s neck. In that same moment, a single arrow found its mark in Ivanore’s shoulder. She cried out before her body slumped forward and her mind went dark. The gryphon took flight then, and in less time than it took to draw another arrow—or a breath—they had vanished into the night.
Author Laurisa White Reyes
After spending more than a decade as a newspaper editorialist, magazine staff writer, and book editor, Laurisa finally started living her dream of being an author. She is the author of three novels for younger readers, the editor-in-chief of Middle Shelf Magazine, and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press. She lives in Southern California with her husband and five children.