Parallel Spirits

Book One in the Carrier Spirits new adult paranormal romance series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

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After more than three centuries as a carrier spirit, Mara has finally found a willing host in eighteen-year-old Belinda. As a reward for Belinda’s compliance, Mara sets out to help brokenhearted Belinda find love. With the promise of a new body, Mara dares to hope her plan may work–until Mara and Belinda both fall for sweet and charming Conor. But Mara’s feelings for Conor aren’t her only obstacle.

A spirit with whom Mara shares a dark past is possessing Conor. Now a war is waging inside and outside Belinda’s body and she quickly discovers what Mara has known for centuries: Falling in love is just as dangerous as battling evil spirits.

Chapter 1

Payne Bay, California, Present Day

A PowerPoint Presentation on colon cancer? Can my life be any more excruciating? I won’t even get into the irony that I live in Payne Bay.

“Belinda, you’re up,” Mr. Frock calls to me with a nod toward the wooden podium at the head of the class.

My heartbeat pounds inside my skull as I trudge toward the head of the class with my USB flash drive in hand. Some students have their heads down, absorbed in text message conversations, some are watching me, and a few are asleep. No one’s laughing yet, but that’s only because they’ve all forgotten the topic of my presentation—and I’ve yet to open my mouth.

How did I get stuck with colon cancer?

Oh, yeah, now I remember. Helen Neubauer begged me to switch with her. The same Helen Neubauer who pushed me down and called me a “smurf” in second grade when I asked if I could play tetherball with her. I guess we’ve all come a long way in the past ten years. Well, at least I have. I’m no longer the shortest kid in the class and I’ve given up trying to play with the big girls.

Scooting in behind the podium, I hand Mr. Frock my flash drive. He jams it into his laptop and the contents of my flash drive are projected onto the screen. A brief moment of panic subsides as I realize I actually remembered to erase the contents of the flash drive before class. During our last PowerPoint presentation, I forgot to delete some old pictures of me at a water park with my mom. Pictures of flat-chested twelve-year-old me sporting a bathing suit and a mouthful of metal were splashed across the screen as Mr. Frock searched for my presentation. Surprisingly, this wasn’t my most embarrassing moment.

“No girls gone wild pics today?” Jared Wilkins yells from the back of the class.

My face heats up as I stare at the index cards in my hands.

“This is your first and only warning, Jared,” Mr. Frock says as he clicks his mouse to start the presentation. “Go ahead, Belinda.”

I clear my throat and take the first step down Colon Lane. “Colon cancer is one of the top five most common and deadly cancers in America—”

They’re already laughing at me.

“Don’t laugh at him. He’s constipated!” Jared shouts.

I glance at the screen behind me as the class explodes into laugher. The old man in the photo I placed on the introduction slide does actually look constipated.

Mr. Frock holds up one finger for everyone to quiet down. “Jared, see me after sixth period for detention,” he says, before he turns to me. “Go on.”

My hands are numb with humiliation. I wriggle my fingers and my index cards spill over the top of the podium. I gather them up and try to put them back in order as my hands tremble. A muffled chuckle from somewhere on my left falls with a dull thud in my ears, but I don’t look up. If my best friend Frankie were here, he’d tell me to imagine everyone naked, but somehow I don’t think this is the best strategy when giving a presentation on bowel health.

Taking a deep breath, I start over. I make it through most of the presentation with minimal giggles from the class. When the second-to-last slide appears on the screen the entire class bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Under the heading “Detecting Colon Cancer” I’ve placed a picture of the inside of a healthy colon taken during a colonoscopy. I didn’t realize everyone would find this image so hilarious.

“All right, all right, that’s enough,” Mr. Frock calls out over the laughter. “Settle down and let her finish the presentation.”

When the torture session is over, I trudge back to my desk, two rows behind Jared. As I pass him, he smirks at me. My foot catches on something and I trip spectacularly, coming down right next to my desk.

My body aches with mortification as I glance behind me and see I’ve tripped over the strap of Helen’s backpack.

Jared is crying with laughter as he asks, “Did you break your colon?”

Helen Neubauer and Jesse Nova turn away from me so they can snicker in private.

Just when I think I might actually die of embarrassment, the cold speckled linoleum I’m staring at disappears.