Genre: YA fantasy
Word count: 66,000
Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. Unfortunately, they all die afterward.
It’s a miserable life, but being a poison damsel is what she was created to do. Marinda’s parents sold her at birth to group of handlers who had only one goal: to make her the kingdom’s most lethal assassin. As a baby they dosed her with small bits of poison until she was immune to its effects—but they needed the snakes to make her kisses deadly. Now Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.
The only thing normal about Marinda’s life is her job at the bookshop. There she meets Deven—the first boy to see beyond her carefully cultivated façade. When she receives orders to kiss him, she knows he doesn’t deserve to die, and the order makes her question who she’s really working for. But refusing to comply isn’t an option because it’s not only Marinda’s life on the line. Her small brother is gravely ill and the medicine her handlers provide is the only thing keeping him alive.
Now Marinda must make a choice between killing a boy she could love and saving a boy she already does.
I’m not a bad person.
At least that’s what I tell myself over and over as I wend my way through the marketplace, past the vendors selling spiced meats and bright fabric, incense and rare birds. Not a bad person. Not a bad person. It’s a mantra I’m hoping will loosen the knot of dread that has been twisting in my stomach all afternoon.
It’s not working.
I lift my hair off the back of my neck and yearn for a breeze that fails to materialize. It’s hot today, far too hot for my waist-length mane, but Gopal took one look at my hair this morning coiled in a tight knot at the back of my skull and groaned. “No, Marinda,” he said. “The boy will favor the hair down.” His sudden concern about the preferences of any boy—especially this boy— struck me as laughably ironic, but I didn’t argue. I just took out the pins and let my hair tumble around my shoulders. “Better, rajakumari,” he said. “Much better.”
The meeting is supposed to happen near the fruit vendor on the other side of the market, so I have to weave through the crowd past nearly every stall to get there. The streets are thick with people—women balancing baskets of laundry atop their heads, men pulling heavy carts loaded with bags of rice and tea, children chasing each other between vendors.
I feel a tug on my skirt and whirl around. A fortune-teller sits on a bright blue carpet surrounded by cards.