A teenage orphan. A draconian academy. Harrowing truths. Can she stop the director’s evil plan before her friends become victims, too?
Fifteen-year-old Marris Sheffield is clear about one thing: she is stuck within the confines of the orphanage’s heavily fortified grounds for another three years. But after a mysterious illness sweeps across the academy and multiple deaths occur, Marris’ fate is sealed forever. Because… she’s dead.
But Marris knows her illness and death were no accident. And she’s hellbent on revenge. The trouble is, as she begins to learn the chilling truth about the place she has called home for seven years, she realizes the complexity of the academy’s evil plan.
Now she will be forced to choose between seeking revenge and saving her friends. With her moral dilemma looming overhead, the chance at either may just slip from her grasp.
Will Marris save her friends before the flames erase all the evidence? Or will her revenge grant her an eternity of wandering the academy’s blackened halls?
Don’t miss Shattered, the first of The Hexon Code Series by Jody Calkins. If you like Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike, and Madeleine Roux, then this young adult thriller will have you turning the pages! Start reading it today!
WHEN YOU DIE, you don’t learn everything. You don’t always get to learn why you were told your parents died in a car accident that left you in an orphanage when you were eight years old. Or what happened to the family dog. Was he shoved inside a small cage and forced to live out his miserable existence in the pound? Or was he dropped off at the local kill shelter and given a death sentence upon his arrival?
I liked to think Roger managed to escape. That he had a better fighting chance than I did. That he wasn’t broadsided by my parents’ death like I was. I hoped he had found a safe place. For me, I wasn’t safe until I died.
I should have seen it coming. But back then, I wanted to believe that there were still good people in the world. That my life had meaning. That I would one day turn eighteen and be turned out on my own, ready to face the world as an adult where I’d attend medical school and become someone important. Someone who could make a difference. Someone who could heal sick kids. Who could find a cure for cancer and make the hurting stop.
It’s almost laughable how utterly naïve I was. But when you’re a kid desperate to be loved, you’ll believe anything. Even when it’s the farthest thing from the truth.
THE RIVERBROOK ACADEMY for Unwanted Children sprawled across seventy acres of heavily wooded national forest land. Razor wire topped twelve-foot chain-link fences surrounding the entire property, and security cameras covered every inch of the perimeter. Strict instructions were given to every child who set foot inside the academy’s intricately carved wooden doors.
Children must not attempt to go outside the fence.
Children must not damage property surrounding the fence.
Children must behave at all times.
Misbehavior will not be tolerated.
All misbehavior will result in strict punishment.
The severity of the punishment per level of misbehavior was never explicitly explained. Twelve years ago, in the year 2068, the year the academy opened to house its two hundred unwanted children, an unfortunate few learned the hard way. They had never fully recovered. Since then, no one else had done anything so stupid.
I leaned my head back against the bark and stared up at the fence. Just as I had done every summer since I arrived seven years ago. In three more years, I’d be able to set foot outside the fence. To go off on my own and discover everything the world had to offer. No more invasion of my privacy. No more being stuck in one place.
Unwanted children were never allowed outside the fence. Not even for field trips that I had read about in books. The only field trips I could take were the ones to the woods or imaginary ones while I was sitting in bed, too sick to even walk the halls.
Somehow, I had to get through the next few years. But they seemed lightyears away. Unreachable. Desperation didn’t even seem to be enough.
I closed my eyes and listened to the crickets and cicadas chirping all around. A warm light breeze brushed against my face. I felt Cullen reach for my hand and squeeze it, interlacing his fingers with mine. Rolling my head against the tree trunk, I lifted my eyelids to meet his deep blue eyes.
“You’re beautiful, Marris,” he said softly.
I gave him a weak smile. I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt sick to my stomach like I was going to hurl at any minute.
“When your hair brushes away from your face in the breeze and your long dark lashes gather in small arcs, you’re an angel who takes my breath away.”
“Stop,” I said with a small laugh. “You’ve been reading too much poetry.”
“You inspire me. You really do.” He brought my hand to his lips and kissed my knuckles. His soft lips on my bare skin sent warm flutters through my insides. With a sigh, he said, “I used to think coming here was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. But I know now, it was so I could be here with you.”
I caressed his hand with my thumb and felt the corners of my mouth turn up slightly as I willed my stomach and everything I had eaten for breakfast to stay put. “I’m glad you’re here.”
I’m really sorry about your parents was one of the most commonly used responses whenever a new kid showed up. But for those of us who had been living inside the orphanage for more than two years, it became so contrite that we lost interest. It didn’t matter what happened to the parents or how the kid ended up at the orphanage. They were stuck there. That was their life and there was nothing they could do about it. So, when Cullen arrived a little over a year ago, it was the newbies who swarmed him and told him how sorry they were about his parents. Why else would he be dumped off at an orphanage, right? After all, weren’t all of our parents dead?
That day, as I sat curled up in a stuffed chair by a window overlooking the courtyard, I peered over my paperback and listened to him thank the kids. But there was something in his tone that sounded off.
Later, I ran into him in the hall on the way to the bathroom and asked, “So, what really happened to your parents?”
Unfortunately, my timing wasn’t always the best. He turned around and walked off while I stared after him.
As we sat under the tree, I glanced over at him again. “What happens when you leave in a year and I’m stuck here? How will you live without me?”
His eyes shifted away toward the fence. With a faraway look, he said, “We could run away together.”
I rolled my head slowly from side to side. “We can’t leave. You know that. Not until we turn eighteen.”
“You could come with me.”
“I’ll still be a ward of the state.”
Cullen sighed and turned back to face me. “There has to be a way.”
“We have a year to figure it out,” I said, sounding hopeful.
“I wish it could happen sooner. Maybe they would make an exception if we got married.”
I rolled my eyes at his problem-solving skills. But I had to give him credit for trying. What good were rules if they didn’t come with a short list of exceptions, right? That was his philosophy. I stifled a yawn with my hand.
Cullen brushed a tendril of hair behind my ear. He frowned, looking concerned, and then pressed his wrist to my forehead. “You’re burning up.”
Grab your copy today to read more!