Trapped in a dark cult, sixteen-year-old Naomi Aren has lived a quiet, albeit unhappy, life nestled deep in the hills of the Ozarks. With uncut hair, denim skirts, and only roses for friends, Naomi seldom questions why her life is different from other kids at school. Until the day her abusive father, who is also the cult’s leader, announces her wedding. Naomi must marry Dwayne Yerdin, a bully who reeks of sweat and manure and is the only one person who scares her worse than her father.
Then she meets Kai, the mysterious boy who brings her exotic new roses and stolen midnight kisses. Kisses that bring her a supernatural strength she never knew she had. As the big day approaches, Naomi unearths more secrets about her father’s cult. She learns she has power of her own and while Kai may have awakened that power, Naomi must find a way to use it to escape Dwayne and her father—without destroying herself.
Birthdays are supposed to be special. Like my Kaiser Wilhelm rosebushes. They bloom once a year, huge violet and crimson cups full to bursting with petals. When I part the petals with my nose and inhale, I go weak in the knees from the fruity perfume. But my birthdays are more like the daisies that grow alongside the roses. Ignored.
The sink looked odd next to our front door. My mother had it installed after I kept tracking in dirt and fertilizer. I washed the soil off my hands with the warm water and used a file to clear the dirt out from under my nails. Then I exchanged one dirty pair of ugly tennis shoes for a pair of clean ugly tennis shoes and made my way into the kitchen.
Paint on the cabinets peeled away in white curls. A single light bulb gave enough light to cook but not enough to read a recipe. My mother stood by the tiny window, her bottle blonde hair twisted in a bun on the back of her head. She wiped her hands on her apron. And then smoothed a stray hair from my braid. I knelt down to tie my shoes, anything to avoid her touch.
“Wash your face. We have guests for dinner.” My stomach knotted. I tied and untied my shoes three times, buying time to think of how to respond. Years ago my father had closed our home to visitors. No one crossed our threshold.