Read Girl on a Wire Online

Authors: Gwenda Bond

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Performing Arts, #Circus

Girl on a Wire

Praise for
Gwenda Bond

“Offbeat and imaginative,
Blackwood
mingles past and present, dark forces with a hint of pulp SF, along with many kinds of drama—from Shakespearean revenge to an amphitheater show where the island’s legend is just an entertainment for passing tourists. Whether viewed as young adult, genre mix, or a first novel, it belongs with the year’s best.”


Locus Magazine

“It’s definitely a wistful sort of novel about being different and dealing with scary stuff like losing your family and falling in love, as much as it is about ancient evils and terrible curses and supernatural menaces. It’s nice to see a gentler, more personal sort of coming-of-age-and-battling-evil novel.”

—Charlie Jane Anders,
io9.com
,
on
Blackwood

“Unique, fast-paced, and rife with tension,
The Woken Gods
brilliantly pits loyalty against survival, trust against inevitability, and love against fear.”

—Carrie Ryan,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Forest of Hands and Teeth

“The concept had me hooked from the start—I love mythology, and the idea of the gods ‘waking up’ and returning to the world makes for a great premise. If you like mythology and fast-moving YA novels with decisive and strong female protagonists,
The Woken Gods 
might just be for you.”


Tor.com

“With whip-smart, instantly likable characters and a gothic small-town setting, Bond weaves a dark and gorgeous tapestry from America’s oldest mystery.”


Scott Westerfeld,
New York Times
bestselling author of the
Leviathan
series, on
Blackwood

“Bond takes some reliably great elements—a family curse, the mark of Cain, the old and endlessly fascinating mystery of the Roanoke Colony—and makes them into something delightfully, surprisingly new. How does she do that? I suspect witchcraft.”

—Karen Joy Fowler,
New York Times
bestselling author of
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
, on
Blackwood

“Bond provides readers with a rousing drama that is firmly grounded in a classic coming-of-age story with her mash-up of myths and secret societies,
The Woken Gods
. But the fun here is all the twists and turns and lies and revelations, and careful world building and nonstop action (with bonus romance) that will make anyone looking for a bunch of smart, tough characters to hang out with very, very happy.”


Bookslut

ALSO BY GWENDA BOND

Blackwood

The Woken Gods

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2014 Gwenda Bond

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Skyscape, New York

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781477847824 (hardcover)

ISBN-10: 1477847820 (hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781477847916 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 147784791X (paperback)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013922670

Book design by Neil Swaab

For Jenn, ringmaster of my career and friend, and for everyone who dares to dream big.

prologue

I planted my feet on the wire that ran parallel to the rafters. My new act involved a series of ballet-inspired moves, building to a trio of slow but tricky pirouettes, and the barn was the best place to practice. If I mastered these moves today, I’d be showing them off at the next show our traveling family circus offered—Fridays and Saturdays, entry for twelve bucks.

Before taking my first step, I peered thirty feet down at Sam, who was only just getting around to the stall-mucking. As far as I was concerned, it was the most important of his duties as caretaker of my mom’s coterie of enormous white horses.

“Sam, hurry up,” I called down, wrinkling my nose at the strong, musky smell of manure, hay, and horse sweat in the barn. “Please. It reeks in here.”

“You’re supposed to be rehearsing,” he said, and brushed overgrown sandy hair out of his eyes with his forearm. “But if it’s that bad, take a break and come back later.”

Sam had come to live with us the year before. I’d gotten so used to having him around that he felt like my brother instead of my cousin. I’d even gotten used to his annoying habit of being right all the time.

Late-afternoon sunlight streamed through the open back doors, a sadly natural spotlight to go with the unwelcome odor.

“I bet the Cirque American doesn’t smell like this,” I said.

“We’ll never know,” Sam said. “But I promise you that horse manure smells the same everywhere.”

To that, I said nothing.

The Cirque American. Pronounced
Americ-ah-n
, even its pronunciation was glamorous, with the
ah
sound promising a classy continental vibe. Its financial backing also had a pedigree, since the owner, Thurston Meyer, was an actual billionaire. The Cirque was a brand-new touring production aimed at adults, not kids—no sad elephants or angry big cats, just old-style glamour and logic-defying feats under a big top tent. Lots of the most famous family names in the business had joined up already. Despite the fact that my father happened to be the best wire walker in the world, we’d never gotten an offer to work on any show this size. Until now.

And Dad had turned the unbelievably great offer down flat.

Our tiny circus was already in serious danger of dying. Even the presence of the Amazing Emil, as my father was known onstage, wasn’t enough anymore. Traveling a circuit takes money, and these days it was obvious we weren’t making enough. Mom had wanted to join the Cirque, but didn’t challenge Dad when he refused to budge. My grandmother Nan, whose brilliant career as a trapeze flyer and expert tarot reader had become a quiet retirement of tutoring Sam and me, took his side. Sam hadn’t bothered to vote.

Our family had finally been given a chance. And nobody but me was willing to fight for it.

After the family meeting at which my father had delivered his decree, Nan insisted on consulting her tarot deck. She’d immediately started in on some mumbo jumbo about “bad blood” and “old threats.”

“There’s no need to discuss it further,” my father had said, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “We Amazing Maronis will never accept any job that includes working alongside the Flying Garcias.”

I stared at both of them, mystified. I didn’t even know the reason this crazy old rivalry existed. The Flying Garcias were a Latino family of trapeze artists, as legendarily gifted as us, but far more successful. Our paths hadn’t crossed in decades, and as far as I knew Nan had never performed anywhere near them. But every so often the Garcia name would come up, and I’d be reminded anew that we were all supposed to cling to this ancient feud, no questions asked.

Well, that made zero sense with the way things stood. Soon enough, we’d be stuck in the middle of Indiana year-round, out of cash and off the circuit, with no way to remake the Maroni name. Dad would probably end up working a factory job, and Mom would land behind some desk, answering phones instead of being the Amazing Vonia and controlling her magnificent white horses with only her voice and a few hand gestures—while wearing a costume that made her look like an equestrienne superhero. I had no idea what would happen to me.

Just thinking about it made me feel queasy, never good this high up in the air.

I’d been mulling how to change the course of things. With the start of the Cirque’s inaugural season and the expiration of Meyer’s offer coming up fast, I couldn’t wait any longer. I whirled on the wire and traipsed easily over to the ladder nailed to the wall. There was no net to dive into. Dad never took a bad step. I didn’t either if I wanted to live.

Descending the rungs, I called
over to Sam. “Mom and Dad went to buy feed, right? And Nan went with them to shop?”

Sam didn’t pause in his busy mucking away at the other end of the barn. “Yep.”

That was a two-hour errand, minimum. Perfect.

I’d stashed a pair of jeans and a few other things in a navy hard-shell overnight case that used to be Nan’s. I pulled the pants on over my practice tights, swapped out my walking slippers for my favorite pair of red sequin ones, and shut the case with a satisfying click.

“See you later,” I said, picking it up. I gulped in the fresh, clean air as I slipped out the open barn doors into the brisk early evening. This was it.

I had to hike past our neighbors’ cornfields to get to the highway. The road met my two requirements: a decent amount of traffic and enough trees to hide behind while I waited for a ride that looked safe. I wasn’t going to hop into the first semi or pickup that blew past. Being bold and being stupid aren’t the same. They’re as different as falling and flying.

Tucked behind a wide tree trunk, I watched traffic fly past and prayed that my overnight case wouldn’t be needed. Living in an RV during peak season was a familiar way of life. Camping wasn’t. Finally a blue hatchback hit the horizon going not a mile per hour over the speed limit. There was enough light left to make out the shape of a woman’s bouffant hair on the driver’s side.

I grabbed the overnight bag, left my hiding spot, and leapt over the ditch to the roadside. Then I raised my free hand and dropped an invisible racing flag.

The brake lights flashed as the car stopped.

I zipped over to open the passenger door. “Thank you, thank you,” I said, checking out the woman to confirm that she wasn’t a serial killer. Early thirties, with masses of curled hair around a kind, tired face I expected to see more makeup on. She looked as harmless as a friendly crowd. Tossing my bag in the back seat, I climbed in.

“Your hair is extraordinary,” I told her.

The woman couldn’t keep from smiling, but her eyebrows lifted. “How old are you?”

Sixteen.
“Do you really want to know?”

She said nothing.

“Eighteen.” What she wanted to hear. “My name is Jules.”

She ticked her finger on the steering wheel, frowning like she’d decided that picking up a hitchhiker—even a blonde one in shiny red slippers like me—hadn’t been the best idea. “I don’t see a car anywhere. Did you have trouble?”

“Not really. I just need a ride.” I had to get to the truck stop before my parents noticed I was gone or my plan wouldn’t work. “We should probably get going.”

She put the car in drive. “Where can I drop you?”

“The Flying J off Exit 85?” I suggested. It was a good forty minutes’ drive.

A long moment of consideration. “That’s out of my way, but all right.”

I high-beamed my brightest smile. She cringed. Okay, maybe an audience needed that smile and one person didn’t. I adjusted it to normal wattage.

“What are you doing out here anyway?” she asked.

No reason to lie. “Running away to join the circus.”

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