Between Wild and Ruin
Jennifer G. Edelson
Publication date: September 28th 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Truth, like love, isn’t always obvious.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby Brooks has never had a boyfriend. After moving to small-town La Luna, New Mexico following her mother’s untimely death, boys aren’t even on her radar. Ruby just wants to forget the last horrible year and blend in. But when she discovers an ancient pueblo ruin hidden in the forest behind her house, and meets Ezra, a bitter recluse whose once-perfect face was destroyed in an accident he won’t talk about; Angel, the town’s handsome sheriff’s deputy, and Leo, a stranger who only appears in the forest, Ruby finds herself caught between love, mystery, and other worlds. What happened to Ezra’s face? And why is she so attracted to the one boy in town everyone despises? As Ruby unravels her own powerful connections to both Ezra and the pueblo ruin, she’ll learn surfaces are deceiving. Especially in the heart of New Mexico, where ghosts and legends aren’t always just campfire stories.
After walking through dense stands of pine trees, I follow the remnants of what may have been a trail toward the top of the mountain. Higher up, the pines and junipers dappling the mountainside grow taller, but there aren’t as many. As they thin, small gusts of wind whistle through the forest, echoing through the trees. Otherwise, the forest is completely silent.
Closer to the top of the mountain, the rocky ground levels off and the land spreads across a plateau below the mountain’s peak. Unlike the forest, the plateau is more like a jungle, marked by thick hanging moss and clusters of tall, unidentifiable conifers. Trees stand like sentries several rows deep. Beyond them, fallen logs lie scattered among overgrown shrubs and boulders in circular bands like rings on a tree. I walk through it all, making my way past thick brush into a clearing.
Fresh sap and damp earth assault my nose. Under bright sunlight, large, rough-cut slabs of glittery rock blanket the otherwise bare field. Some lie stacked on top of each other like the crumbling remains of a building. Awestruck, I circle the structure, running my fingers over what looks like a ruin.
“Incredible, isn’t it?”
A voice behind me sends my heart racing toward my throat. I jump, whipping around to find a young man leaning casually against a pine near the clearing’s perimeter, looking off to his left as though listening for something.
Even in the shade, his face glows. He smiles, showing off teeth that gleam like snowflakes between perfect lips. Hair as dark as Liddy’s French roast coffee falls around his face in unruly waves. His features are angular but refined, and his high, rounded cheeks soften the striking juxtaposition.
I blink, then blink again. Ruby. I rub my eyes. You’re hallucinating. But he’s still there, staring at me.
While I gawk, he pushes himself off the tree. “Not many people make it up here.” He smiles broadly.
A soft, purple-hued halo circles his golden irises, catching fire in the sunlight. They settle on me, and my heart stops, completely paralyzed by his faultless storybook features.
I exhale, trying to swallow inconspicuously. “It’s definitely a hike.”
“Who are you?”
“Who am I?” I sputter. “Who are you?”
“Leo.” He grins.
“Ruby.” My name rolls off his tongue with a smooth “R” and a musical lilt. Somehow, he even manages to make it sound appealing. “First time up?”
“Yes. We just moved to La Luna.”
“La Luna,” he repeats. “Welcome.”
“Thanks,” I mumble. Earth to Ruby, I mentally smack myself. Since when has any boy made you senseless?
“You okay?” He smiles like he knows I’m not. Like he knows whyI’m not. “Do you want to sit down? The altitude can be a bitch if you’re not used to it.”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m fine. No, I don’t want to sit down. You just really startled me. You should announce yourself next time.”
“Next time you sneak up on somebody.”
Leo raises a perfect dark eyebrow. “But then it wouldn’t be sneaking, would it?”
My cheeks flush, and I suddenly want to drop through a hole in the ground. I choke out, “Ummm,” and something incoherent and then stare at my toes like they hold the keys to my future.
Jennifer G. Edelson is a writer, trained artist, former attorney, pizza lover, and hard-core Bollywood fan. She has a BFA in Sculpture and a J.D. in law, and has taught both creative writing and legal research and writing at several fine institutions, including the University of Minnesota. Originally a California native, she currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, kids, and dog, Hubble after surviving twenty-plus years in the Minnesota tundra (but still considers Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Santa Fe all home). Other than writing, Jennifer loves hiking, traveling, Albert Camus, Dr. Seuss, dark chocolate, drinking copious amounts of coffee, exploring mysterious places, and meeting new people–if you’re human (or otherwise), odds are she’ll probably love you.