Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Domino desperately wants a home with four solid walls to call her own, a truly safe place. Facing an impossible situation in Detroit, she agrees to go with a mysterious woman to work as an artist, hoping to earn the cash she needs to survive. Domino ends up in an ever-worsening situation in rural Texas, indentured to a mentally unstable madam and terrified that her own dark secret will be revealed. At the house, girls are divided into a caste system of Flowers, earning mere pennies on the dollars spent by those seeking entertainment. Initially girls amuse guests with their art: singing, drawing, and dancing. But as they move up in rank, the stakes get higher and the game more vicious. Dependent on the madam for everything bought via credit, girls never see their money. While savvy readers will see the predatory "opportunity" presented to Domino for what it is, a life of near slavery with no escape, the mystery of Domino's dark secret and those of her fellow Flowers will keep teens in suspense, rocketing toward an intense and surprising conclusion. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and child abuse are all tackled in this powerful story. The protagonist's struggles feel authentic and raw, despite the somewhat hasty and too-tidy conclusion. VERDICT An intriguing purchase for libraries where mysteries and books on trauma are in demand.—Kristen Rademacher, Marist High School, IL
Her name is Domino Ray.
But the voice inside her head has a different name.
When the mysterious Ms. Karina finds Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position at her girls’ home in secluded West Texas. With no alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the woman’s approval…and falling for Cain, the mysterious boy living in the basement.
But the home has horrible secrets. So do the girls living there. So does Cain.
Escaping is harder than Domino expects, though, because Ms. Karina doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, she doesn’t know about the danger living inside Domino’s mind.
She doesn’t know about Wilson.
A homeless girl with a dark secret is taken into a "Home for Burgeoning Entertainers."After white teenager Domino loses her closest friend to the cops, she desperately needs money to spring him from jail. In steps Ms. Karina, a white woman offering Domino employment at an establishment for promising girls. Soon Domino travels with her new employer from Detroit to Texas and the large, secluded farmhouse where Karina—Madam Karina—runs her establishment. But also along for the ride is Wilson—possibly an alternate personality created by Domino's past traumas, possibly something more. Wilson likes violence. A lot. The home is a brothel where girls are billed for everything and must entertain their way up the ranks (from "Carnation" through "Daisy" to "Tulip") before offering sexual services sans intercourse at "Lily" and finally reaching "Violet." Each rank garners a larger cut of earnings, but the hazing is tough and progression depends on the manipulative desires of the unhinged Madam Karina, who never wants her girls to abandon her. While uncovering dangerous secrets, present-tense narrator Domino befriends sweet, white Poppet and brown-skinned Cain, a mysterious male servant who's rumored to have a violent past. But his past has nothing on Domino's, which is long alluded to and teased out; but when it—and the delightful Wilson—strikes, it's a doozy. Domino's trenchant, colloquial voice makes a great, grounding foil for Wilson's threat. A dark, twisted stand-alone. (Thriller. 14-adult)
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
By Victoria Scott, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Victoria Scott
All rights reserved.
People say blondes have more fun.
I snatch the wig off my head and toss it toward Greg. He catches it like a fly ball, his eyes never leaving my face. Leaning over in the chair, I dig through the pile of wigs he's brought me.
My fingers land on hot pink tresses that fall in long, sexy waves. Bingo, my friend, bingo. I slide the wig over my head, pull the straps until it's snug, and flip my head up like I'm a starlet in a soft-core porn. "Well?"
Greg claps his hands slowly, as if he's got all the time in the world. Judging by the lines around his eyes, I'm not sure that's true. "Fantastic."
"I'll take it." My thighs create a sucking sound against the leather chair as I stand. I like the sound, I decide. It makes it seem as if I have a little meat on my bones like a real woman. But a quick glance in the mirror tells me I'm still the shapeless girl I woke up as.
Greg fidgets as I stare at myself. Finally, in an attempt to make me feel better, he says, "Looks like you've put on some weight."
I smile at the lie and click toward the checkout counter in my super-duper high heels, the ones that make me look a hand taller than the five feet I stand. The second I think about my height, I hear Dizzy's taunting in my head: five feet, my ass.
"I am five feet," I grumble.
"What?" the counter girl asks.
I look up at her. She must be Greg's new girl. "Nothing," I answer. "How much?"
She clicks a few buttons on the register with shiny purple nails. I'm pleased that she chose a fun shade instead of the typical pink or red or — dare I speak it — a French manicure.
"Twenty-one dollars and forty-four cents," she announces. I glance at Greg, who's busy replacing the wigs onto creepy mannequin heads. I clear my throat. When he doesn't hear me, or pretends not to hear me, I decide to pay the full amount. He usually hooks me up with a discount, which he should, considering I'm here every week. I dig into my pocket for the cash, knowing Dizzy would give me hell for paying at all.
When I glance up at the cashier, she's looking at the underside of my left forearm, at the crisscrossed scars that nestle there. I instinctually pull it against my side. The girl straightens, realizing I've caught her staring. I think we're done with this awkward moment, but the girl isn't going to let this slide.
"What happened to your arm?" she whispers, as if that helps.
I shake my head, hoping that'll deter her from asking anything else. No such luck.
"It looks like you got in an accident or something."
I meet her eyes, my blood boiling, wanting so badly to shut her up. Instead, I slap the money on the counter and grab my pink wig. The bell chimes as I push open the glass door. "I'll be by next week."
On the streets of Detroit, the heat comes in waves. The pink faux hair dampens from my sweaty palm, and I silently curse the sun. It's so hot in the dead of summer that people are practically immobile. They sit on chairs outside their homes, and on benches near stores, and on the cracked sidewalks. And. They. Don't. Move.
Except, that is, to gawk as I pass by.
They ogle the blue wig falling past my shoulders and down my back, the one I'll replace tonight with the gem in my hand. They stare at my tattoo, the way it slithers down my exposed side. And they narrow their eyes at my pierced lip and wonder where else I may be pierced. What else I'm hiding.
They come to a conclusion: I am a freak.
And they are right.
I head down the sidewalk toward our home, the place where Dizzy and I live. The house doesn't really belong to us, but in this part of town it doesn't matter. No one cares. Certainly not the police. They have bigger problems to worry about than teenage kids squatting in an abandoned house.
Nearing our block, I notice a parked sedan. A guy leans against the side, smoking a cigarette. When he notices me, he nods. I put my head down and walk faster. If Dizzy were here, I'd lift my chin and lock eyes with the man. But he's not, so I don't.
I hear a whistle, and my head jerks back in the man's direction. He's smiling at me. It's not a terrible smile. He's got a mouthful of teeth. That's something. He turns so his body faces mine, and watches as I walk past. The man looks to be in his mid-twenties. He's wearing dark jeans and a proud white shirt, and even from here I can tell his nose is too big for his face. His cigarette dangles between his fingertips as he raises his arm and waves.
I wave back.
His eyes narrow when he sees the underside of my arm. I rip my hand down and walk faster. I don't want to see his reaction, but I can't help looking up one last time.
The lazy smile is gone from his face. A look of satisfaction has taken its place. He pulls a phone from his back pocket and makes a call, eyeing every step I take.
If I didn't know better, I'd think he just found something he'd been searching for.
I rush toward the end of the street, glancing at a nonexistent watch on my wrist like I have somewhere important to be. Behind me, I can feel the guy watching. I don't know why he looked at me the way he did, but I don't like it. Dizzy and I work hard to ensure no one notices us. The tattoos, the piercings, the loud clothing — you'd think it's to attract attention, but it has the opposite effect. It shows the world we're abnormal, and the world looks away.
Twice I look over my shoulder to check if I'm being followed. There's no one there either time, and I begin to feel like an idiot.
No one wants to follow you, Domino.
No one except a particularly determined social worker who's approached me more than once. This neighborhood is part of her territory, and underage strays are her passion.
Just thinking about the woman sends shivers down my spine. Her frizzy blond hair, the way her arms seem too long for her body like she wants nothing more than to snare me in them. Twice now she's followed me as I made my way home, speaking softly in her tweed business suit and scuffed black heels. I could hear what she was saying, but I didn't want to hear it. She's a paper pusher. Someone who pretends to care. In the end, I'd be another tick mark in her body count. Another dog off the streets, shoved into a kennel.
That's when they'd find out who I really am. What I am.
And then the badness would come.
Standing outside our house, I feel relief. Gray paint peels in frenzied curls, and the front light is broken. The grass is dead and half the windows are covered with boards. But the bones are strong. The house stands three stories tall and is an old Victorian build. This part of Detroit used to be glamorous, where all the rich people lived. But they built too close to the ghetto, hoping against hope that this section of the city would turn around. The opposite happened. The slums grew arms and legs and crawled toward their shiny homes and manicured lawns, and then swallowed them whole without remorse.
And now Dizzy and I have a home that used to be beautiful.
"What are you doing?" someone calls from the upstairs window.
I raise a hand to shade my eyes from the sun. When I see Dizzy's face, I have to stop myself from smiling. Instead, I shake my head as if I'm disappointed to be home and head toward the door.
"It's Friday, Buttercup, you know what that means." Somewhere above me, I hear Dizzy howl long and energetic like a prideful wolf.
I want to tell him not to call me Buttercup, that my name is Domino. But I don't. I just curl my hands into tight fists. I open my mouth wide.
And I howl right back.CHAPTER 2
SEE DIZZY FLY
Dizzy throws open the door and rushes toward me.
"Stop," I yell, holding my arms out.
The street-lamp-of-a-guy flips me over his shoulder and barrels into the house. I laugh when he tosses me onto a couch that may or may not harbor the Ebola virus. He places one long, skinny finger on my nose. "Where have we wanted to go for the last two months?"
I slap his hand away. "I don't know. Where?"
He taps his temple and bobs his head, dark curls bouncing against brown skin. "Think, Buttercup. Think."
So I do. My brain goes tick, tick, tick. And then my face pulls together and I crane my neck to the side. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
Dizzy jumps onto the makeshift coffee table we constructed and pretends to pound the surface with a king's staff. "Here ye, hear ye. I pronounce tonight the night we wreak Havoc."
"Havoc?" I say quietly. "No one gets in that club."
He nods and his curls kiss his long lashes. "I met someone who knows someone who said he could do something for someone like me."
"We're going to Havoc," I say again, because saying it again makes it real.
Dizzy raises his arms into the air, and I know that's my cue to react. I stand up and spring onto the couch. Then I jump up and down and he grabs my hands. He leaps onto the crusty couch beside me and we go up and down screaming that we're going to Havoc. That we're going to party like beasts, because we are beasts. I throw my arms around him before I remember that we don't do that. I hate being close to people and he hates being confined and this isn't okay.
"Gross. Get off me," he yells. "I can't breathe. I can't breathe!"
I let go, gladly, and Dizzy leaps back onto the floor. He looks like a spider doing it, all arms and legs. He's certainly as thin as one.
His brown eyes spark beneath thick, caterpillar eyebrows. "Get ready," he orders. Then he dashes up the stairs, each step burping from the weight.
I step down from the couch. Going to Havoc isn't that big of a deal for most people. I get that. But this is my life now, has been for the last year. Sometimes going somewhere new — somewhere that'll let people like Dizzy and me in — is everything. It's a shiny penny fresh off the press, a black swan among white. It's nothing groundbreaking. But it is.
I wash my hair and body as best I can using the bottles of water and bar of soap Dizzy stole from the gas station. The drain slurps it down and sighs as I massage my scalp. Next to me on a rusted towel hook, my pink wig waves hello. She's ready to go, she tells me. She can't wait to be worn like the crown she is.
I tell her to hold her damn horses because I'm washing my hair in a sink.
Wrapping a towel that's seen better days around my head, I step out of the bathroom and into what's been my room for the last ten months. Ten months. I've lived with Dizzy for nearly a year, and I could count the things I know about him on my pencil-thin fingers.
When he was sixteen, his mom put him and his older brother on a plane from Iran bound for America. The pair landed in Philadelphia, and eventually Dizzy ended up here. He never talks about his brother, and I don't ask. I know he enjoys Twizzlers and blue ballpoint pens and crisp, white shoelaces. I know because he steals those things most often.
I've never seen anyone steal something the way Dizzy does. Once before, when I was at a department store, I spotted a pair of kids working together to pinch a yellow Nike hoodie. One kid distracted the associate, asking for help to get something down off the wall, while the other slipped the hoodie inside his leather jacket. They got away with it. I remember wanting to follow them. See what they did next.
Dizzy doesn't work that way. He doesn't distract or scheme. He just slips by what he wants like a ghost, and it's gone. Anything he wants, gone. Dizzy never takes more than he needs, but he needs a lot.
I met him at an arcade. I was playing Pac-Man when I saw him across the room. He was almost as thin as I was, and his nails told me everything I needed to know. He was like me — homeless. I've met homeless people who try to scrub away the streets. It never works. The human body has too many crevices, too many places for grime to settle. You can see it in the small lines of their faces and in their palms and elbows. And you can see it in their nails.
Dizzy's nails were atrocious. He didn't try to scrub away the street. He embraced it. I needed someone like that. As I watched, the long-legged, dark-skinned man-boy swiped a red can of soda from the bar. The soda was there. The soda was gone. If I hadn't been watching closely, I might have believed he was made of magic — Dracula strikes Detroit.
That day in the arcade, Dizzy met my stare with a boldness I admired. I eyed the place where the soda had been, and he smiled. Then he turned and swept out the door. With the rang-tanging of arcade games behind me, I followed him. I followed him then, and I follow him now. He's my person. Not that I need one.
I startle when I spot my person standing in the bedroom doorway.
His eyes widen as if he just remembered I'm a girl. Tugging the towel around my body tighter, I avert my gaze. "What are you looking at?"
"I forget sometimes," he says softly. "What you look like."
He means without my makeup. Without my rainbow wigs and chains and piercings. He means me as I am right now: Domino, in the nude. "Stop staring at me, perv."
"I know you hate it when I —"
"Stop," I say. "Just don't."
He holds up his hands in defeat. "I'm ready to go when you are."
I move to my closet — a pile of clothes on the floor that Dizzy stole for me — and bend to dig through it. Behind me, I hear him turn to leave.
"You are so beautiful," he says under his breath before he's gone.
I almost charge after him. I almost beat his chest and scratch his face with my dirtied nails. Anything to make him regret what he said. But I just tighten my hands into fists and I count — one, two, three ... ten.
Now my blood is even Steven, and everything's going to be okay. It's just Dizzy. His words are easy enough to forget. I smile like I mean it and lay a hand against the wall. It's solid, real. If this wall is treated right, it'll stand straight as the stars long after I'm dead. This particular wall is white with blotches of gray from God knows what.
But my wall, the one in my future house, will be blue.
I walk back into my bathroom, the one uglied by water stains and years of neglect, and pull on a black skirt and tee, lace-up heels, and green-and-black-striped tights like I'm the Wicked Witch of the West. Then I hook in my piercings — lip, ears, eyebrow, tongue — and swipe on enough eyeliner and shadow to cause anyone's mama to shiver. Finally ... hello, darling ... I slip on my pink wig.
My armor is complete. But then I catch my reflection in the cracked mirror. My jaw tightens as I take in what Dizzy saw. The face of an angel, isn't that what they always said?
I see the same inventory Dizzy does: large blue eyes, soft skin, blond hair kept hidden beneath a wig. But there's more than meets the proverbial eye here. There's something else that he doesn't know about. That no one knows about. There's a darkness living inside me. A blackness that sleeps in my belly like a coiled snake.
His name is Wilson.CHAPTER 3
It takes us twenty minutes of walking through the sticky night to get to Havoc. Dizzy leads me to the side of a white brick building and into an alley that reeks of spoiled food.
"What's going on, creeper?" I ask him. "Why aren't we going in?"
"We are." He glances around, searching for something. "There." Dizzy half jogs down the alley and then approaches a window. "VIP access."
"We're going through the window?" I ask, wondering why I'm surprised.
"It's packed every night. They can pick who they want to let in."
And that isn't us. That's what he's saying. If bouncers are allowed to pick, they won't pick us. I stumble toward Dizzy, sure my feet are bleeding from the long walk in my ridiculous heels, and stop when something catches my eye. There's a man sitting behind the green Dumpster. He's homeless. A toddler would know this.
His face is mangled in a way that makes my stomach lurch. One of his eyes is missing, a single slash across the space where it should be. His other eye is oozing something yellow. And along his neck is an angry rash that's slowly climbing its way onto his cheeks.
He attempts a smile. "Evening."
His voice is gentle, and I try to return the gesture as Dizzy calls my name.
"Have a good time," the man says sincerely, nodding toward Dizzy.
Before I can talk myself out of it, I dig into my pocket and pull out what little cash I have. I hand it to the man.
"Domino." Dizzy's voice holds a warning.
I move away from the man and toward Dizzy. "Let's go."
"Why did you give that guy our money? Dude looks like a monster."
I eye the man over my shoulder. "I've seen monsters before," I say. "They don't look like him."
Excerpted from Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2017 Victoria Scott. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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