Shark River

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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.


This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.


The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over  70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.

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August 21, 2014

The Shadow Ryana by C.R. Daems and J.R. Tomlin

The Shadow Ryana CoverThe Shadow Ryana by C.R. Daems and  J.R. Tomlin  [@JRTomlinAuthor] is the first book in The Shadow Sisters Series.

You can download The Shadow Ryana from Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Ryana, a worthless girl-child, is sold to a mysterious woman who takes her to the home of the Shadow Sisters who are prized for their abilities as spies and assassins. She survives years of training in spite of being unconventional: adopting poisonous bats as familiars–something no one else would dare to do; choosing the blow dart as her weapon of choice–a weapon the Sisters don’t teach; and relying on intuition rather than logic.

As she completes her training, the Shadow Sisters are under attack. The senior Sister selects Ryana to find out who is killing Sisters and why–because her intuitive approach has proved effective, even though her youth and inexperience makes it unlikely she will survive.

As she travels through the kingdom as a member of a gypsy clan, she finds the only way she can protect the Sisters and hope to discover the underlying plot is through ever more violence and killing. As she proceeds through the provinces, her secret enemies come to call her the Sister of Death and become desperate to find and kill her. But in her desperate fight to protect the Sisterhood, the gypsies she’s come to love, and the kingdom, Ryana fears that she has destroyed herself and the only life she ever wanted.

Download The Shadow Ryana from AmazonGoodreads and Barnes & Noble



Dunn Pass – Dazel Province

I crouched on the gray, rock-laden ground, chickens squawking and my head throbbing with pain. My father stared down at me, his face twisted in anger, fist clenched inches from my face and nostrils flared as he sucked air to yell again. He was a small, thin man with leathery skin from long days in the sun, brown, scraggly hair, and a haggard face.

In my short life, he had taught me terror. It infested every fiber of my puny body. I wanted to run but lacked the strength. Besides, where would I run? No one in the village would help me. My father was an elder.

The area around Dunn Pass was rocky and the soil poor. The land fought the crops and barely supported the village goats. They would protect the goats but not me.

“Curse you, Ryana. That food’s for the chickens, not to be wasted on a girl-child. We can’t eat you. Work and you can have the scraps; otherwise leave.” His chest expanded as he sucked in air to yell again. I tried to scramble backward to avoid another blow but collapsed after a few feet – tired, hungry, and weak. As he turned and stalked away, mumbling, the chickens returned to me. I could feel their hunger.

No one cared what I did so long as I took care of my chores. My father and brother were gone all day, tending the village herd of goats. In the mornings I swept the floors clean of yesterday’s dirt and droppings, fetched water from the village well, fed our few chickens, and collected their eggs. Afterward, I was free until my mother began preparing the evening meal.

I carefully made my way around the village to a rocky area of shrubs and small trees, nourished by a shallow stream that appeared after a rain, and settled down near a clump of shrubs so I couldn’t be seen. I had just sat when I sensed a rabbit near and felt its hunger. I picked a few small leaves from above my head and mentally coaxed it to me.

It came willingly and nibbled the leaves, grateful for even this small meal. If I had been my brother, I would have killed the rabbit for the dinner table. My father thought him a good son. He thought me worthless. If he knew I hadn’t tried to catch the rabbit, he would have beaten me bloody. I was starving, but I couldn’t kill an animal that had done nothing to me.

A shadow crept over me. Whoever it was had approached as silently as a feather on the wind. The rabbit ran. I shut my eyes and sat trembling, arms around my thin legs and head down, awaiting the first blow.

“What’s your name, child?” a woman’s soft voice asked.

Terrified, I squeezed my eyes partially open and looked up. A scream stuck in my throat. Her head and face were covered in black so that only her gray-green eyes were visible. They pinned me to the ground. A tall and thin woman, compared to the village women, she was dressed in black.

A dead ancestor had come to punish me for not thinking of my family.

I tried to scramble backward but a bush stopped me. Its thorns dug into my back and neck. Although it felt like a thousand needles had pierced my skin through the thin rags I wore, I made no sound. She didn’t move.

“Can you call the rabbit back to you?”

I could but wouldn’t. No matter what she did to me, I wouldn’t hurt it. Feeling no anger from her, I breathed a small sigh of relief. She turned to her horse and got something out of a saddlebag. Reaching down, she handed me a piece of bread.

“I’ll not hurt you or the rabbit. The food’s for you to share. A reward for humoring me. The rabbit’s very hungry.”

Looking at the bread, my mouth watered. I broke off a piece for the rabbit and held the other piece toward her, unsure how much she would let me have. I was hungry, too.

“Yes,” she said. Her voice gentle, but her eyes sad. I mentally searched for the rabbit. When I found it, I coaxed it to me with the promise of food. Trusting me, it came and nibbled the bread from my hand.

“Eat, child,” she said. I stuffed my mouth full and gulped the bread down.

The woman reached down, pulled me to my feet, and, hand in hand, walked me back to the village. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I was in trouble. It seemed to be my destiny. For the thousandth time, I wished I had been born a boy-child.  As we entered the village, the people scrambled away or disappeared into their huts.

They were afraid!

“Which is your house?”

I pointed to my father’s small mud and stone house. To my amazement, the men had left the herd and were returning to the village. They maintained a cautious distance from her.

They were afraid of a woman!

“Who owns this girl-child?” Her voice rang loud and clear. She showed no fear.


To read the rest, download The Shadow Ryana from AmazonGoodreads and Barnes & Noble

August 12, 2014

The Children of Ankh: Sweet Sleep by Kim Cormack

Sweet Sleep by Kim CormackThe result of a nightmare, Sweet Sleep is Kim Cormack’s first book in her YA Paranormal Fantasy series, The Children of Ankh.


In every lifetime, there is a moment. A moment so clear, so profoundly unique that it stands out against billions of other moments. When you find a moment such as this one, you pay extra close attention to it. It will usually contain something that defines you in the future.


You can download Sweet Sleep  from Amazon and GoodReads

What if….

the things that go bump in the night that you thought were simply a figment of your
wild imagination are in fact very real.
Would you live your life differently if you knew that you were going to be corrected…..
erased from this world sometime around your sixteenth birthday.
You and your twin sister were never meant to be born….
There will be no place to run….
No place to hide….
You won’t even know they’re coming.
Do you have what it takes to survive your Correction?
Do you have what it takes to leave your humanity behind?
If your answer is yes, then hold on tight…


“Are you certain she’s the one?” Lily whispered.

Frost replied softly, “Pretty sure, she even looks a little like Freja. How old do you think she is? Four… maybe five years old?”

From the playground, came something remarkable. A little duplicate of the child lying in the grass. The other little angel plopped herself ungracefully onto the grassy bed next to her sister. They were mirror images of each other.

Grey said, “This is quite the unexpected little glitch… isn’t it? What does this mean? How is this even possible?”

Frost replied, “It’s not possible.”

Lily glanced at Frost and said, “It definitely complicates things.”

One of the freckled little girls noticed the three Ankh watching. She sprang to her feet and raced over to the fence and stood on her tippy toes. With a giant grin, she stuck her chubby little fingers through the rungs of the fence.

“Do you want to come in and play?” She squeaked.

Lily whispered, “Aren’t you the most adorable little thing in the whole wide world.”

“What’s your name? You delightful little creature,” Grey said with his thick Aussie accent.

“I’m not a thing or a creature. I’m a kid. My name is Kayn, that’s my sister Chloe,” she pointed a little finger adorned with messy sparkle nail polish at her sister.

The little girl had sand on her lovely white frilly dress and grass in her hair. She had a sticker of a frog on her cheek, and she radiated joy. Chloe sat up. She was now glaring at them. Chloe was clearly not going to be the one out of the two abducted by a random stranger.

Frost appeared to be so captivated by the scrappy child that stood in front of them. He couldn’t even manage to speak. He just stood there beaming like a fool.

“You guys look like movie stars.” Kayn gushed, and then turned her attention to her own hand, “I have nail polish on, see?” she said, her beautiful eyes gleamed with pride as she displayed her wiggling fingers for the rest to see.

“Very lovely,” Lily appraised. Just as a little boy with a mess of dark curls came running up to the fence and grabbed Kayn’s arm.

He glared at the group, then leaned over and whispered in her ear assertively, “Chloe says you’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”

The little girl stated,” Chloe’s not the boss of me.”She then grasped the fence firmly and stuck her face right against it with her little upturned nose sticking right through to the other side.

Frost, quite obviously blown away by the feisty spirited child touched one of the little girls dainty fingers through the fence. He met her gaze, marveling at the innocence and vibrant intensity that shone back through the chain link barrier.

His expression changed briefly as he whispered to her under his breath. “It’s very important that you become strong.” He touched the tip of her nose with his finger gently.

You can download Sweet Sleep from Amazon and GoodReads


Chapter 1

The Moments Before She Sleeps

 The humming of Kayn’s blood as it coursed through her veins seemed to sing along to the steady, almost tribal, beat of her feet as they pounded rhythmically into the dirt. A veil of earth flowed behind her; she resembled a flaxen haired angel attempting to outrun a cloud. The cloud of dust seemed to follow her for a moment or two longer than it should, with not one whisper of wind in the afternoon air. The smile that spread over Kayn’s lips while she trained showed that her heart was overflowing with so much joy that it could not be contained beneath a serious competitive demeanor. Watching Kayn run was a beautiful thing to behold and people would stop by the track after school simply to watch her before beginning their long walk home.

Kayn noticed in the moment of clarity that Kevin was not yet sitting in the grass to watch her run. She could picture Kevin as he rushed to his locker, and fumbled with the lock in an attempt to keep the facade going. She wasn’t stupid. She didn’t actually believe that he enjoyed watching her run in circles around a track. She knew here was a method to his madness. Her best friend was madly in love with her twin sister. He had been addicted to the mere sight of her since kindergarten. To anyone else this would make no sense, but Kayn understood. She was Kevins friend, and Chloe was his fantasy.

She could picture him shoving his way past a herd of students and prying his body through the single doorway that lead the gym. In her vision of why he was late for their daily routine. He was shoved up against the wall and his books fell out of his backpack. She found herself laughing aloud as she ran for thoughts of him always brought a smile to her face. His organizational skills had always left something to be desired. After taking a moment to collect his papers, he would zip up his bag and continue on his quest for his moment in the presence of her twin sister. The unattainable Chloe Brighton.

She noticed him out of the corner of her eye. He ran up the hill and unceremoniously plopped himself down in the grass beside her school bag and things were as they should be. She rounded the corner and kicked up dust like a champ. She saw him fiddling with his cell phone. He was going to time her next lap. She flashed by her best friend in a cloud of dust. Kevin smiled at her through the haze.

Her body, lean and freckled from exposure to the sun, glinted with sparkles in the sun’s rays. Kayn loved coconut sparkle tanning spray. She could see it on her clenched fists each time they flashed by her line of sight. She was a girl with a list of strange little rituals on her daily to do list. At the beginning of her run, she imagined that she did look magical, glittering in the sun, but not by the end of her run. By the end of her training, the glitter tanning spray would cause the track’s dust to stick to her whole body in a comical way. She would end up looking as though she had spent her whole afternoon rolling in it, not running on it.

As Kayn took off her blinders, allowing herself to appreciate the sun’s rays gently whispering across her skin. She experienced a feeling of pure joy that was transcendent. Kayn kicked up another cloud to outrun as she rounded the corner. Then came that pleasurable jolt of electricity that surged through her brain, ignited her soul, and set her afire with insurmountable joy. This moment in her run had always left Kayn with the sense that she had been given a gift or anointment of physical power. Her adrenaline rippled a winding path of pleasure underneath her skin.

Kayn hit the straight stretch feeling such unimaginable, euphoric, physical ecstasy that she felt baptized by the sweat trickling down her forehead to the sides of her face. Kayn Brighton was alive in that moment in a way only a runner could comprehend. Kayn was thankful for that moment, and every single time the experience had overwhelmed her as it had today; her soul felt stronger.

Every nerve ending was humming, “Faster, Kayn, go faster.” Kayn was an athlete born to push the limits of her body, programmed to be a powerhouse. Runners were a breed of their own; they had their incredible days and their horrible days in competition. Every day on the track, trail, or wherever a runner chose to run. The act itself was always a followed by a feeling of spiritual completion.

“Don’t Call Me Baby,” by Madison Avenue was cranked in Kayn’s ears. She kept pace to the beat, feeling powerful and strong. Kayn grinned and made eye contact as she ran past her best friend Kevin, signaling her acknowledgement of his presence.

Kevin sat listening to his music, plucking the long, green strands of grass out of the ground by their roots. Kevin glanced up from his grass picking duties the next time he saw Kayn approach and waved at her. He displayed a giant charming toothy grin. It was a funny thing that he had done since kindergarten. It never failed to induce laughter. She acknowledged that she had seen him sitting there being a goof by shaking her head and smiling with her eyes.


Kayn started walking to cool down her overheated body. Her heart began to thump and pound in her chest like an act of defiance to her now walking feet. Kayn licked the sweat from her upper lip, tasting its salty, pleasurable reward. She took her track dust covered hand and wiped her forehead to keep the stinging sweat from her eyes. Kayn wiped the sweat on her shorts noticing the streaks of dirt mixed with sweat and wondered if she had a streak of dust across her forehead.

Kayn turned in one fluid movement to greet Kevin, whose grassy scent signaled his arrival by her side. His giant grin told her that her face was most certainly covered in dirt, but he didn’t mention it to her. He always cheered for her as if she had just won the Olympics or something equally spectacular. Kayn yanked the earbud from one of her ears.

“Holy crap,” Kevin yelled. “That’s your best time this year. You are going to kick serious butt at the finals next month.”

“You know my earbuds are out, Kevin; I can hear you.” Kayn spoke quietly.

“Oh, you think you’re pretty cool because you’re fast. Well, young lady, plenty of people are fast, but how many people can do this?” Kevin retorted. He did a peculiar dance that involved a twirl and some kind of running man move as he laughed at her mortification.

“Please, stop,” Kayn said as she surveyed the track and surrounding area for witnesses.

Kayn Brighton was a pretty girl, but she really had no clue how beautiful she could be. Her naturally curly, wheat colored hair was damp with perspiration and always in a messy ponytail. Kevin often had told her with her face speckled with freckles and her cute nose streaked with mud, that she resembled an Amazonian sized forest nymph.

Kevin jogged beside Kayn now in order to keep up with her and was struggling because she walked with long, model length strides. He used to be the most adorable little boy on the planet, but there was a point where he stopped feeling adorable. That was when she had surpassed him in height. It was around the end of seventh grade. As a joke, their mothers had been plotting their nuptials since the second grade, so that was a complication that they had not anticipated.

Kevin had been in a painfully awkward, acne covered stage for at least three years now. He was still adorable, although possibly only to Kayn. However, she did notice that Kevin’s skin was looking pretty clear today. Kayn smiled at him as he valiantly attempted to run as fast as she was walking. Kayn affliction was very different. Kayn was invisible. To her this was a good thing. It was her preference to blend into the crowd.

“You are awesome. I mean that, and I’m totally not saying that to butter you up so you’ll put a good word in with your sister,” Kevin said with a grin that spread from ear to ear.

She loved him to death, but she had been letting him down easy for ten years now. She gave him a pat on the shoulder and then flung her arm around him.

She slowed down to a casual stroll and sweetly said, “There’s just this one problem, muffin. My sister is way too advanced for you.”

“Right… That’s what you say to all the guys stalking your twin sister,” he countered with a grin at the cleverly creative way of calling her sister slutty.

Kayn choked on a laugh and said, “Yes, as a matter of fact it is exactly what I say to every single one of them. I was forced to come up with one token line that I use with everyone. It just saves time, darling.”

Kevin’s face crinkled into a dimpled grin and he shook his head feigning his distaste. He responded in a flirtatious voice, “I can’t believe that after all these years, I am merely a number to you.”

She displayed a giant smile at his attempt at innuendo. Maybe she would have even been a little flattered if the conversation had been directed towards her.

Kayn gave Kevin a friendly pat on the shoulder and said, “Just do yourself a favor; take a hint. She is not the right girl for you.” Kayn slapped him on the butt. She teased, “At least have the decency to warn me if you ever find yourself wanting to wear my sister as a skin coat. I can try to get you some help.” Kevin let out a small yelp, and he jumped from the sting of her hand. He shot a dirty look back in her direction.

Kayn took on a fake serious tone and said, “How hard can it be to arrange an intervention or a creepy exorcism or something in your honor. I would hate to have to visit my best friend in a padded cell somewhere.” She sent him a sweet, innocent look and waited for his inevitable comeback.

“You’re really very clever, Candy Kayn. You should have a comedy show or something,” he shot back at her.

“It would be hilarious if it wasn’t the truth,” Kayn challenged.

Kayn’s twin sister, Chloe Brighton, was the perfected version of her. She was stylish and always the picture of popularity and perfection. Her twin was described with words like captivating, stunning, and provocative. Kayn, on the other hand, was blandly described as cute, funny, and a good runner. It didn’t seem very fair; however, she loved her sister with blind acceptance. They had always been extremely close but definitely did not hang out in the same crowd. To be honest, Kayn had no crowd at all; it was really just her and Kevin.

The only boys who ever had shown an interest in Kayn were usually after her sister Chloe. Kayn, being less sophisticated, would always fall for their games. She would think, maybe this time the guy liked her. She would talk to them on the phone for a while, and then inevitably they would ask to come over to hang out or maybe do some homework together. Kayn would invite them over and right when her heart would begin to flutter with the romantic possibilities of a goodnight kiss or how incredible it would be to have an actual boyfriend, it would happen. They would make their intentions obvious by saying something like, “Because we are such good friends could you introduce me to your sister Chloe?”

Friends… an uncomplicated word, it was also a word that Kayn had begun to hate at a very young age because of her sister Chloe. That one single word had felt like the wind from a breath that would blow out every single candle she had kept lit inside of her heart her whole young life to date.

Kayn would be blatantly lying if she said that the constantly repeating scenario didn’t breed some resentment toward her sister. Still, she would never let it show. Not once had she ever freaked out at her sister for stealing her imaginary boyfriends or simply for being completely morally bankrupt.

Kayn had learned at a very young age that Chloe didn’t follow the same ethical or moral codes that most people followed. Kayn had this thing called a conscience which included guilt and a little voice in her ear that repeated until she chose to listen to it, “Don’t do it, Kayn.” She was pretty sure the voice talking to Chloe said, “Do it,” every single time and there was really no need for sentiment or morality in Chloe’s universe.

The giant self-contained universe that seemed to revolve completely around Chloe was simply amazing. One could stand with mouth agape for hours listening to the stories of horrific events that Chloe had caused during a 24-hour period of time. It was as though her sister were protected in her own little snow globe completely by herself and life surrounded her. Once in a while someone stirred up her water, but it simply revolved around her like everything else did, never really touching her or swirling her around to lose a second of her control. Chloe was completely unaffected by the world around her and stood unwavering through life’s currents.

Kayn couldn’t get really get mad at the boys who fell for Chloe because she truly believed her sister had the mythical powers of a siren. Chloe was alluring, enticing, and seemed to have catnip for men on her somewhere. Kayn often had felt like patting her down and checking her pockets. She wondered how all of this game had ended up in one of the babies and not the other. They were in the same womb after all, and it didn’t really seem fair.

Kevin was one person whose opinion she valued. She could vent to him, and he understood. He understood the power that her sister held. They would joke about it on a regular basis, but as soon as Chloe was in a ten-foot radius of him, he wasn’t able to tell you his own name. It infuriated her to no end.

She stopped walking, and she looked behind her. The track was empty, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched. She shivered as a gust of wind seemed to run a trail down the track behind her stirring the dust up into the air. I need a rest. I overworked myself today, she thought. She shook her head as she looked up at the trees that surrounded the span of the track. They were completely still. It was smoking hot outside. She knew a random cold spot in the middle of a sweltering hot track was more than a little bit strange. Kayn turned her attention back to her friend in an attempt to hush the nagging voice in the back of her mind that was repeating the words Something’s wrong.

“Did someone walk over your grave?” Kevin whispered in Kayn’s ear, breaking the silence between them. She smiled at his quote from Grandma Winnie. One of the token things Kevin’s grandmother always said if someone shivered in her presence. Kevin’s granny always said a sneeze was a ghost walking through you. If you shivered, she would say that someone had walked over your grave. The retort was always, “But I’m not dead, Granny.” Granny would answer with, “If only you knew how irrelevant the word dead actually is in the grande scheme of things.”

Kevin’s grandmother seemed to have a direct line to the spirit world. Nearly All of her random thoughts were more than a wee bit creepy. Sometimes his grandmother would spend hours just chatting with Kayn about her dreams. Granny Winnie was a quirky, warm, witty woman that had treasured her from day one. Kayn was a faithful member of Team Granny because she unlike the rest of the planet seemed to despise her sister Chloe. Granny Winnie couldn’t even breathe when Chloe was in the same room. Granny would pretend to gasp for oxygen or make some kind of foul stench related declaration referring to Chloe. She was believable enough to cause a “perfect in her own mind” Chloe to smell her own armpits. Chloe, being completely void of respect for her elders or pretty much anybody else, would refer to her as a crazy old bat or a witch. Often Granny Winnie would call Chloe out on an evil deed or two as if she could read her mind.

Strange weather we’ve been having lately, Kayn thought as she watched the clear blue sky change in a matter of moments from completely cloudless to a powder of fluffy white clouds. She could smell the scent of the fresh cut grass; it was almost overpowering to her senses. It was so potent that it was a little strange that she hadn’t noticed it until right this second.

The pair walked quietly for a second more when Kayn looked down at her feet; as she shuffled through the grass the sounds seemed to amplify. She could hear the grass rustling under her feet; it crackled loudly and whispered softly in her steps. Something feels off today. Kevin’s feet came into her line of sight. She raised her eyebrows at him and pointed to his untied shoelaces. Kevin bent over in front of her to tie up his shoes.

Kayn began to speak as if she were reading his obituary. “I can see the paper now; it would read something like this: Kevin Smith was a wonderful boy, so smart and good looking but a little clumsy. Had he only tied his shoes he wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs and found himself impaled on a janitor’s broom. Remember kids—tie your shoes—safety first.”

“Have I told you that you’re an asshole yet today?” Kevin stated when she finished her latest version of his obituary. Kayn didn’t have a comeback. She glanced behind her and then from side to side. She couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling that something was coming. There was a hollow ache in her chest. A strange feeling that lingered each time she swallowed.

Kevin leaned in to Kayn’s ear and whispered, “You sure you’re okay because you’re starting to creep me out a bit with this cagey behavior.”

Kevin’s warm breath in her ear made Kayn shiver again. Everything seemed heightened. She had the strangest urge to lean over and kiss him square on the lips. She was obviously going a little bit crazy today. Low blood sugar or something.

She replied, “No… just over tired I guess.”

“The way you’re swinging your head around, young lady, is frankly a little creepy,” Kevin said, raising his eyebrows in her direction in a moderately concerned fashion.

He twirled around in a circle and added, “Nobody is coming, I swear.”

“I know,” Kayn answered, “I’m feeling a little off. Maybe I’m coming down with something?”

“We should be more worried about your cagey behavior today causing a nasty case of whiplash.”

Kevin flung his arm around her shoulder and gave her a buddy-like squeeze. “You go have a shower, muffin; you’re kind of sweaty and nasty. What do you do? Do you cover yourself in bloody honey before you go for a run?”

Kevin chuckled as he smelled his hands and groaned, “Ewww, that’s not honey.”

Kayn sparred, “There you go talking all dirty again, literally; it’s kind of hot, all this talk of toxins and waste.”

“What was your boyfriends’ name again, Kayn?” Kevin asked innocently.

They were walking together, and she gave him a solid shove in jest.

“You should call up your invisible girlfriend and ask her what her name is love monkey,” she said and winked.

“I have a girlfriend. Her name is Chloe. She just doesn’t know it yet,” he teased.

He couldn’t help himself. She knew this. He was well aware that constant talk of her sister irritated her to no end. It was his easy smack down in a comedy standoff.

“Do you know what the difference between you and a stalker is?” she responded sweetly.

“Do tell, oh wise and mighty stalking connoisseur,” he sighed.

“It’s whether or not you’re wearing my sister’s stolen thong underwear right now,” she said.

She attempted to wrestle with Kevin a bit in order to catch a stealth look down the back of his shorts.

“Hey, hey, simmer down. I swear I will yell rape. I’m going commando. Pulling my shorts off is not a great idea,” he laughed as he fended her off.

“Like you could handle me,” She chuckled.

She cringed with pain as she shifted her bag to her other shoulder. It always had twenty pounds of books in it. She could never memorize her locker combination. She was utterly horrible with numbers. That was her excuse. The real reason probably being that she would be obliged to speak to the vapid girls that hung out around her locker. She liked to be left alone in her own little world. Kevin grabbed her heavy bag off of her without saying a word.

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I have been going commando since my first wedgie in fifth grade. Once they grab for underwear and don’t find any, they get very afraid and back right off,”He chuckled.

Kayn doubled over into a fit of giggles. She chuckled, “I honestly don’t doubt that for a second.”

“You learn lots of little things that help you maneuver through geekdom unscathed if you’re crafty, you know,” he said as they started walking again.

Kevin was carrying both of their bags. She knew he was being tough, but she knew how heavy her bag was. She smiled and took her bag back. It was in these sweet little moments that she wondered, Could they be something more? Would he ever make a move on her? She wasn’t sure if her friend Kevin knew any moves. If he ever had a second where he had allowed the thought to cross his mind, she had probably reacted as she had a bit earlier. She would have assumed it was some kind of joke. He caught her staring and knit his brow. This was stupid. What was she even thinking? She was hormonal or something today. He was her friend.

Kayn was beginning to grow tired of the fact that more and more of their conversations had become centered around her sister.

She shot a somewhat disapproving glance at Kevin and said pleasantly, “Let’s stop talking about Chloe all of the time. Frankly, I’m sick of it.”

“Shush,” he said as he put one finger directly over her pursed lips. “You know not to speak of her voodoo powers.”

The phrase “Chloe has a boyfriend” was easily compared to cursing out loud in the Brighton household. Her sister would find herself running like she was on fire from every boy she had ever attempted to date. Seemingly normal boys would gradually lose their marbles. It was as if the pressure of being close to her would make their sanity unfold like a reversal of an origami swan. It would start with a vehicle outside of the house in the middle of the night, and rapidly escalate. Once Chloe grew bored or annoyed by their obsessive behavior. She inevitably dumped them cold.

On occasion, random guys would break into their house and steal objects that belonged to her. In the beginning, the police thought Chloe must be doing something to bring this on herself, but after she went in for a couple interviews at the police station and full grown men couldn’t help but fawn all over her sister. They all understood what Kayn had always known.

“We shouldn’t even be joking about this stuff. The breakups with the last three or four of her boyfriends turned out to be pretty damn scary situations,” she said in a hushed tone. The last thing Kayn needed was to be caught talking about it by one of her sisters minions.

Kevin turned and gave her a strange look that said, think about what you just said for a second, and they both broke into a fit of giggles.

A giant stinging slap followed on her spandex running short covered butt. There stood Chloe. Kayns infamous, and moderately evil twin. A living breathing cover girl commercial gracing us with her badass presence. Chloe smiled at her, and gave a slight glance acknowledging Kevins presence. He turned ten shades of red as though she had whispered something dirty in his ear. He’s completely pathetic, Kayn thought, shaking her head.

Chloe threw an arm around her, then jumped away saying, “Ewww, yuck, gross, you’re all sweaty and nasty. Listen, you backstabbing witch with a B, I’m not feeling that hot today. I’m on my way home. Do you need a ride?” She said.

Chloe always donned a giant, gorgeous, show stopping smile. It was like every moment of her life was one strange, endless, beauty pageant.

She had a sarcastic sense of humor that Kayn never took seriously. “I’m not going home. I’m going to go have a shower, and then go to Kevin’s house for dinner,” Kayn replied.

Chloe leaned over and kissed her sister’s sweaty cheek, quietly whispering, “Yes, go have that shower.”

Chloe sighed, “I’m grounded again for no good reason. I will see you later Sis.”

“Shocking,” Kevin murmured as they walked away.

Kayn suspected that her sister Chloe got herself grounded on purpose. Just to have a forced break from her social responsibilities. If there were medals in the Olympic games doled out for groundings achieved in a three-year period of time. Her sister Chloe had the equivalent of a gold medal.

“Bye, Kevy.” Chloe yelled behind her as she flounced off.

“Yup, voodoo powers,” Kevin whispered to Kayn.

“I heard that Kevin. You’re a little stinker,” she yelled back.

Kayn smiled at Kevin, casually adding, “I bet when you thought of sexy nicknames she would call you in your fantasies, little stinker wasn’t one of them.”

She couldn’t help herself; he’d left it wide open, and she was on a roll. Kevin turned around and socked her in the arm.

She stopped, turned around, and said, “Seriously, you hit me. I can’t believe you would do that.” She glared at him and feigning pain rubbed her arm looking genuinely upset.

“I was just kidding. I didn’t actually hurt you, did I?” Kevin whispered.

He knew he had been had when Kayn’s serious look crumbled into a grin, and she said, “Woman abuse,” she smoked him on the arm twice as hard.

“What woman? I don’t see a woman anywhere around here. Oh, you mean you?” he countered as he rubbed his still throbbing arm. Kevin pretended to be looking around for a moment.

“I will butt you out like a cigarette, little man!” She made a fist for a joke duel.

Kevin glared at her. Oh, no—the expression. Game over. Whoops…She had gone too far. It was all fun and games until she made one too many short jokes with Kevin.

“I am not little,” he said. Kevin stomped towards the covered entrance to the facility.

“Okay, how about vertically challenged,” Kayn said innocently.

She was digging her own grave, and she knew it. Kevin could argue for hours. He could debate something forever and wear anyone out.

“I might look short to an Amazonian like you,” he countered.

“Touché,” she said smiling. She did know better than to push it anymore because if he kept it up, the laughter she had been trying to suppress would escape.

“I am still growing,” he said as his voice cracked a little. Kayn doubled over laughing. She couldn’t help it with the well-timed voice crack.

“Can you please be done laughing now,” Kevin said as they walked into the fitness center.

“I’ll see you outside in fifteen minutes, you sexy stud,” she whispered, sultry as a porn star. Kayn was still grinning as she pushed through the door to the girls’ changing room.

“Quit mocking me, Amazonian woman,” he yelled dramatically from behind her.

As she entered the changing room, Kevin’s last joking retort bounced off the marvelous acoustics of the concrete and tile room. Her feet were still throbbing from her well worn shoes. The tiles on the floor were icy and soothed her aching feet. In a matter of months, she had already worn her shoes out from running. She knew they didn’t have the money to replace her running shoes every five minutes. Both of her parents had jobs, but she knew that they were barely making ends meet. She decided she would wait awhile before telling her mom. She dropped her shoes. The sound as they landed on the tiles echoed. It repeated a few times as if someone had dropped more than one pair of shoes.

Kayn was just dying to sing in the shower but was afraid that someone would walk in on her. She pulled her tank top and bra off and looked into the mirror. With a clear view of the room around her, she could see that nobody else was there. She was alone. She thought of Kevin waiting. Then she remembered that there was a coffee machine in the lobby by the pool. Kevin was probably having a coffee and ogling the girls swim team; he was fine.

Kayn stripped down and stood naked in front of the mirror for a second. She pulled her hair out of her ponytail, and it fell in damp loose ringlets across her bare shoulders. She tilted her head to one side and posed seductively with a smile as she surveyed her reflection.

Kayn Brighton was not hard to look at, and she knew that she was a pretty girl. Maybe I should start wearing makeup to school, she thought. It frustrated her a little, being the funny kind of dorky twin. Her face was freckled and tanned from hours upon hours of training in the hot sun. In the winter time, all of her freckles went away, and her skin was porcelain white. I could look just like Chloe if I wanted to, Kayn thought, sucking in her cheeks and then plastering a giant pageant style smile across her face.

Kayn walked toward the shower stalls. She stopped and glanced over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror. The conversation with her sister flashed through her memory. Chloe was feeling sick today; that’s what was going on then. Kayn quite often had sympathy illness whenever her twin wasn’t feeling one hundred percent.

Kayn turned around, pulled the plastic curtain to the shower, and leaned in to turn on the water. It began to tap dance against the bottom of the stall, and when it was just the right temperature she stepped inside. She smiled as the water beat against her weary muscles. She began to lather herself up with the nice scented pump soap. Today was her lucky day; a fresh full dispenser of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. She didn’t even have to reach down and find her own in the bottom of her gym bag.

With her favorite running song still going through her mind, she started humming a few bars and then began to sing the words. Just then she heard the door open, and she became silent. She hurried through, rinsing herself off, and towel dried her hair. She ran her brush through her hair and put it back in a ponytail. As she passed by the mirror again, she wondered if Chloe ever wanted to be more like her. She quickly blew off that completely nutty idea.

Kayn was five minutes younger than her sister Chloe, but her twin acted five years older. Kayn had no voodoo powers with men; she was awkward and definitely possessed no game at all. She wondered if she asked Chloe how she did it if she would she teach her something…anything. It would be nice to have someone ask her on a date before she was eighty years old.

Kayn had to admit it bugged her that Kevin obsessed about Chloe, not that she seriously liked him or anything because that was most definitely not a good move friendship-wise; there was that ominous word again…friends.

Kayn towel dried her back again, feeling trickles of water from her still damp hair trail down her back. She stepped into her underwear and wondered why her mind kept travelling the road back to questioning her feelings for Kevin today. Kayn shook the thought out of her head and whipped her clothes back on. She grabbed her bag and hurried out the door, hoping he wasn’t too frustrated waiting for her. She forced open the door with an over-exaggerated grunting sound.

Kevin was sitting on the railing waiting patiently and looking up at the sky with his mouth agape in a totally comical way.

Kayn walked up beside him and teased, “Trying to catch flies?”

“Always,” Kevin sparred with a dimpled grin and quick wit.

“What are we looking at?” Kayn said as she stared up toward the heavens and made the same open-mouth face of awe.

“Come with me, and I’ll show you,” Kevin laughed. He grabbed her hand, and they started to walk toward the field.

Kayn had lived this moment a thousand times. Kevin lay down in the grass, and she lay beside him.

“Oh, wow I get it; look at how fast the clouds are moving. I noticed that earlier; it’s almost creepy. I wonder if there’s a storm coming or something?” Kayn whispered.

As Kayn lay peacefully in the grass, suddenly a sharp pain seared through her core. She grabbed her stomach, sucked a deep breath in and gasped, “What the hell was that?”

“You okay, Brighton?” He sat up and touched her arm.

Kayn winced again and doubled over, her insides afire with another strange penetrating pain. Kevin placed his hand on her stomach, watching her face calm. The pain disappeared again as quickly as it had begun.

He looked at her and stated, “You probably need a big glass of water, maybe some dinner?”

She stood up, trying to shake off a sense of impending danger that had been replaying in her mind. With the pain suddenly gone, she said, “Yeah, that’s probably it.”

“Did you skip lunch again?” he scolded with a disapproving look on his face.

“I do believe that I did not eat lunch today.”

There was a very simple explanation for the sharp undefined pain that she had experienced. Kayn was often practicing at lunchtime and would forget to eat. She felt the urge to look behind her again. She looked around in every direction trying to shake off the uncomfortable feeling that had been plaguing her all afternoon. Something in her mind was still whispering, Be careful, Kayn.

She shook off the anxious feeling, remembering that the last horror movie that she had watched with Kevin only days earlier had taken place at a lake. There they stood by the turn off to Lakeshore Drive. It’s all in my mind, Kayn thought. She started to laugh a little at her seriously overactive imagination. Kevin had looked a little concerned earlier, but he now had obviously recalled the hillbilly cannibal movie that they had watched the week before. He kneeled in the grass and picked up a handful of it and he smelled it.

“Just what I thought,” he said looking seriously concerned now.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s hillbilly urine; we had better get our tasty selves home before they come to eat us,” Kevin said, pointing toward home proving if there was ever any doubt that he had no acting ability at all.

“Let’s get out of here, you geek,” Kayn said shaking her head at him and smiling.

“Okay, let’s go to my house. It’s got to be like five by now; dinner’s probably on the table,” Kevin said and smiled again.

They looked at each other and smiled and started running through the field before the trails. This was the ritual race home they’d had since they had first been allowed out of their yards alone as children. Kevin had always been sneaky. He knew using fair play there was no possible way to beat Kayn in a race. He shoved her over per usual, and she fell with a gentle thud into the grass.

“Cheater,” she yelled, out of breath as he kept running away from her. She lay sprawled dramatically in the grass laughing. Kevin was laughing hysterically as he covered a good twenty feet.

“Cheater,” she yelled again and slowly rose to her feet spitting out the freshly mown grass from her mouth.

She would let him win; it was good for him to win sometimes. Kayn could take one for the team today, especially to see him this happy.

Kevin let out an obnoxiously loud cheer as he vaulted over the fence to his yard. He raised his arms in a silent fake fanfare and took a bow. He had never once won graciously in the whole ten years of their friendship.

Sure enough, they walked inside Kevin’s house to the amazing smells of his mother’s cooking. Her stomach began to grumble loudly the second that they walked into the house. The delicious aroma of Kevins mothers cooking filled her senses.

Kevin’s mom greeted her with a giant bear hug and said, “Hello there, beautiful. Go wash your hands and I’m not going to ask you why you are both just covered in grass.”

His mom raised her eyebrows curiously and added, “We are at the table ready to eat so hurry up, you two.”

She glanced into the mirror and pulled the grass out of her hair letting a little smile escape as she washed her hands in the bathroom sink. She started giggling as she thought about how wrong it looked when two teenagers of the opposite sex showed up covered in grass. Well, anyone else—with them platonic wrestling would be completely normal. Kayn was sure that if her dad walked in and they were wrestling on her bed. He wouldn’t even flinch.

Kayn sat at her usual spot at the table with his family. Kevins family mirrored her own. They were always cracking jokes, and talking loudly about their day.

She loved everything about the Smith house, from the mismatched frames filled with family photos in the dining room to the extremely outdated green shag carpet in the living room. The living room was completed with a mismatched, yet cozy, couch set with two fluffy lounging felines that could always be easily seen from the dining room table. Kayn swore they had not moved an inch in years.

Kevin’s granny sat at the end of the table, her wispy white hair wildly untamed. Kayn could envision Kevin’s grandmother as a beautiful younger woman. There was a black and white picture in the hallway. Beautiful didn’t quite encompass Granny in her youth, for she had been enchanting. She had rich crimson curls and exquisitely structured high cheek bones. There was obvious power, and immeasurable strength of spirit in her innocent wide doe eyes. Physically she looked as thin and frail as a newborn fawn. She had untold stories in her eyes. She was a girl with many secrets. The chapters were written in the creases of her smile. She was not the picture of pin up perfection, but she had an unexplainable quality that made you curious. You wanted to know more about her with one look into her eyes. Granny had worn the same shade of dark blood burgundy lipstick even then. She always wore lipstick ten shades too dark, and her teeth were worn, yellowed from age, always seeming to have something stuck in them. If she got some false teeth it would make her look ten years younger, but she didn’t seem to care in the least. She stared at Kayn the whole meal without speaking a single word to her. It was very unusual.

Kayn couldn’t help herself; she said, “Is there something wrong?”

“You know something is amiss, don’t you?” Granny whispered. It was as if she were afraid of the words that might slip from her lips.

“Kayn had some stomach pain earlier; she’s probably coming down with the flu or something,” Kevin answered for her.

“Perhaps,” Granny Winnie replied.

She glanced back down at her plate. Granny looked a little bit ill herself today. It looked as though she had more to say, but for once remained silent.

She looked directly into Kayn’s eyes with unmasked sadness and said, “Always listen to your instincts, child. They are never wrong.”

As Kayn was preparing to leave, Granny stood up and made her way over to Kayn, hugging her so tightly that she had to squirm away in order to breath.

Granny leaned in and whispered something in Kayn’s ear, “You survive. You fight hard.”

Granny Winnie always said very strange, random, and sometimes ominous things. Kayn knew that there would be a three-hour long conversation about spiritual things if she asked her what she meant.

Kayn excused herself to go to the bathroom. She attempted to call home on her cell. It went straight to voicemail. Chloe was probably on the phone; heaven forbid she ever had some kind of crisis and needed to talk to her own parents.

Chloe had a cell phone, too, but was always grounded from it; yet they still let her talk on the landline which meant nobody else could get through; heaven forbid, someone spend two dollars on an extra line or call waiting.

She sat on the toilet trying her mom’s cell; she was obviously going to be a few minutes late tonight. Then she put her phone down after leaving a message and sneaked down the hall to Kevin’s room for a quick prank or two before she went home.

Kevin’s mom gave her a bag with some fresh eggs in it for her mom. It was starting to get dark, so Kevin’s dad offered to drop her off at home. She thanked him with a huge hug as she got out of the car. The air smelled amazing, like cherry blossoms in full bloom. It must have been raining while they were eating dinner.

Kayn stepped out of the car, into a puddle, and twisted her ankle. Of course, she thought. Soaked foot, eggs and school bag in hand, she limped up the steep driveway toward the front door. The door was partially open which was not normal. However it was a little windy out and quite normal for the door to be unlocked, so maybe it was left ajar, flung open by the wind?

She turned around to see that Kevin’s dad had driven away. Kayn felt off, apprehensive as she walked toward the door that seemed to have a life of its own. The door shifted from cracked open then almost shut again with the wind. She looked at her cell phone. It was a quarter after eight. This was obviously a prank. They had left the front door open, and entrance lights off to freak her out. Chloe was probably hiding around the corner. Practical jokes were an almost daily occurrence in the Brighton household.

It was almost dark outside. She stopped again for a second time, feeling uneasy for some reason as she walked up the long gravel driveway. Her heart felt tight, and her chest felt hollow as she paused again. The surrounding giant trees made it extra dark in her yard. The slivers of light flashed through the trees as they moved in the wind.

They lived in a beautiful area but very isolated. Kayn shoved her cell back in her pocket, and pocket dialed Kevin by accident. She stepped toward the darkened doorway’s threshold and paused for a moment again before pushing the doorway completely open

“I’m home,” Kayn yelled as she walked in the door, kicking off her shoes and dropping her school bag.

She tried clicking on the front hall light; it was burned out or something. Kayn had seen lights on upstairs as she walked up the driveway, so she knew the power wasn’t out. It’s just a burned out light bulb, she thought.

As Kayn tried to pull off her wet socks, she tried to balance on one leg, but a small stab of pain from her freshly twisted ankle caused her to put her hand against the wall in order to balance herself. Her hand slid off the wall, and she struggled to pull her second soaking wet sock off.

She massaged her ankle for a second and noticing it was swollen, said aloud, “Great, there goes the track meet.”

“Kevin’s mom gave us eggs,” she said, speaking in almost a whisper, suddenly aware that she seemed to be alone in the house. Where would they have gone this late? Her mind began to sort through the possible scenarios.

“Mom…Dad?” she called out from the front doorway.

Kayn was answered by silence, and then touching the wall, she felt the stickiness on her hand. She held her hand up to the faint sliver of light streaming through the trees that made it to the doorway. The palm of her hand was covered in blood. Ripples of adrenaline coursed through her body. She felt as if thousands of spiders had run across the surface her skin. Kayn froze for a split second, paralyzed with fear, shivers of terror crawling across her flesh. She started to gingerly step backwards out the door. She saw movement in the form of a dark figure in the hallway.

She heard her sister’s voice scream, “Run, Kayn.” It was raw, primal, and shrill.

She turned and ran, bringing the eggs in her hand with her. She knew that someone was behind her. She could sense them there. She knew there was no time to look behind her. Kayn ran with no rhyme or reason in the direction that she was pointed in. She slipped in the wet grass, turned around somehow, and then she saw the opening to the trails in the distance. It seemed to beckon her toward its mouth.

The neighbor behind them was closer than the neighbors on either side of them, making the trails a somehow logical yet illogical split second decision. Kayn wasn’t able to think or breathe, and her basic animalistic instinct for survival was guiding her.

She had let go of the bag of eggs halfway across the back lawn, throwing them behind her, hoping to slow her attacker. Kayn sprinted toward the trail’s opening, its entrance overgrown with foliage. She burst through the branches which had partially hidden the familiar pathway. The branches of the prickle filled blackberry bush tore at her flesh as she pushed through. The pain heightened her survival instinct which now possessed her. It was only that which drove her forward.

Kayn barreled into the overgrown trail, forcing her way through where she instinctually remembered the trail had been. She had played in these trails as a child. She had found a place to hide a thousand times, but there was no time for strategy or thought. The crunching of leaves and twigs in the pathway behind her told her he was close; far too close to do anything but react.

Kayn slipped in the mud again, skidding yet not falling. She ignored the stinging of her knees, thrusting her body with a violent jolt as if starting a run on the track. Kayn had now lost that precious half a second lead; it had allowed her hunter to close the space between them.

Her heart pounded in her chest threatening to burst right through her skin as her tired legs propelled her body through the winding bike trail. The rocks and clay mud cut her bare feet. The sharp reaching twigs and branches slashed at her legs, and the prickle bushes sliced at her flesh.

“You have to run faster, Kayn, run faster,” her sister’s voice mind screeched inside of Kayn’s terror driven mind.

Kayn heard the branches crunching behind her; the dark figure’s rhythm, as steady as the rhythm of her running. He was so close behind her that she could feel his breath on her hair and neck as he panted. He was almost touching her. He was so fast, inhumanly fast; she needed a rush of adrenaline to edge her ahead.

Kayn could see lights from someone’s house peeking through the trees. She was going to make it, she thought as her bare feet pounded over the rocks and twigs slashing at her ankles and legs; she was almost there. She drove herself forward knowing she had only a half second lead from the hunter that pursued her. She was almost to safety…just over the creek. Her bare feet hit the small wooden bridge…she was almost there.

Kayn felt the elation of victory as she was about to burst through the bushes when she felt heat plunge into her back. Her eyes widened in terror as the knife plunged into her again; its blade seared a molten trail of excruciating pain through her body. A sweaty hand muffled her gasp of shock as she sunk to her knees in disbelief.

Her captor’s arms were slick with perspiration; like a python, they constricted around her neck crushing her larynx. Screaming and pleading for her life was now impossible. He continuously brought her to the brink of strangulation and then shook her awake, harshly reviving her.

Kayn tried to close her eyes; maybe he would believe her to be gone. He would leave her in the trails to bleed alone, allow her to slip peacefully away, becoming one with the forest floor around her. Instead every time her eyes slipped shut she felt the slicing, searing pain of his knife again and again in her stomach and chest until her eyes opened wide with terror. The next pain stole Kayn’s breath causing blood to sputter from her mouth. She gazed ahead of her and through the trees which were glimmering in flashing flickering light; she saw a figure in the distance.

Help me, oh, God, please help me; see me, please, I’m right here, Kayn’s mind screamed. She could see his shadow on his patio through the trees in the luminescence of his porch lights; he was so close. A man was on the back porch having a cigarette.

He punched her stomach or cut her…she was unable to distinguish one kind of brutality from another…only that something was searing a hot excruciating fire through her stomach. He’s killing me…please, her soul pleaded as her vision blurred from her tears. Kayn couldn’t speak; she tried to scream; her throat crushed, the only sound she could make was a gurgling as she choked and sputtered out her own blood.

Why, why are you doing this to me? Her mind cried to the stranger who breathed quickly with joyous excitement and stimulation in her ear. She felt the competing rhythms of their pounding hearts, her back against his chest. She saw the twigs and rocks on the forest floor around her. Kayn could smell damp moss and the scent of tree sap and the sweet metallic taste of her own blood.

On her hands, she could feel the warm stickiness that she bled out into the dirt, trickling down her arms as it escaped from her body. Her clothing was heavily soaked in her essence that moistened the earth around her. He let her go for a second; she landed on all fours and tried to crawl away, but she couldn’t will her body to move forward. She couldn’t breathe. Now on her knees, her breath came in short labored attempts. She tried to grasp ahold of the ground with her fingertips. His hot repulsive breath and quiet laughter echoed in her ear again and then he began whispering things that Kayn couldn’t understand. His hot sweaty body was behind her pressing against her back. She felt her stomach churning, revulsion mixed with blinding pain.

She tried one last struggling movement to get away from his grasp, and then suddenly felt some horribly blinding pain across her head and face. The lights flickered and then went out.

In the woods lay a bleeding angel in all her glory. Her arms posed gracefully above her head, and her hair soaked in the mud, blood, and feces in which she lay. Dying, fading into the other realm, her form was christened by the rain as though the trees had begun to weep upon her for the brutality she had endured.

There was someone waiting in the trails; a dark presence lingered nearby waiting for her to regain consciousness.

Kayn awoke in frigid darkness. The pain that pulsated through her seemed to recycle in waves until it began to slowly dull and became a tolerable numbness. She struggled to open and focus her eyes. She could smell a familiar scent; it smelled overpoweringly sweet but somehow like metal. Kayn could taste the sweet repulsive flavor of it in her mouth; it made her want to vomit.

She was lying in mud, and she felt hot stickiness behind her. She suddenly remembered what that taste had been. It was her own blood that she could taste inside of her mouth. Kayn could not manage a single breath. Shuddering, she began to relive the brutality that she had experienced. Her mind began feeding her slivers, flashes of inhuman savagery. Her mind numb and disoriented from blood loss clicked through scattered memories from her childhood.

Help me, please, her mind pleaded into the forest through the tapping sounds of the rain tapping the branches above where she lay. They seemed to be shielding her, and as her vision came into focus she imagined the lush green branches above as giant arms. They protected her, covering her from the elements allowing her one last peaceful moment. They are beautiful, she thought. Her mind wandered through mystical visions of the majestic cedar trees alive and somehow capable of offering her protection. The calm smile on her face that had been contorted with anguish signaled his essence back to her.

Her vision came into focus and once again the trees came to life. They cackled and mocked her.” You’re going to die, you silly bitch,” they chanted.

They waved their branches, howling as the wind whistled through the trails which had suddenly become icy cold. Kayn’s consciousness snapped back to reality; she had lost a lot of blood…none of this was real.

A man stood by that same tree whose imaginary arms had shielded her from the rain, still waiting, veiled in mist. The change in temperature had caused the forest floor to come alive with a dancing mist that seemed to add a thickness to the tapping sound of the rain drops.

Writhing in the mud, Kayn willed her body to move; her fingers clawed at the ground around her until she was spent. She lay in stillness for a moment, feeling like a half dead animal waiting to be finished off by its hunter. She concentrated on each breath…in and out…a little air. She was alive. It felt like she was breathing through a straw and somebody had pinched the end.

The streams of light from the moon that had been dancing through the dark stormy clouds had now vanished, leaving only a cold dark night with no final visions of beauty. Kayn longed for some light but was left with only the flickering of blurry dark images. She couldn’t see anything in the absence of light and began to panic again, for she could feel her grasp on her life being absorbed into the mist. I’m so scared; I don’t want to die; please help me, her soul sobbed. The only answer was the crackling quiet sound of the rain.

Kayn couldn’t see anything at all now with her vision clouded with tears, so she had to stop herself from crying. Her head pounded with the blinding pain that had abruptly returned. She could sense that he was still nearby watching her. His dark shadow loomed in the distance as it had in the hallway of her house.

Please, please, no more, Kayn begged in her mind as he came closer to her, standing a few feet away from her now, watching with his head tilted to one side. Her heart was begging, please don’t hurt me anymore.

Kayn was trying to wriggle, but no movement came from her now. She willed herself to grasp at the moist cold earth with her fingers. She was unable to move at all; now her body was nothing more than a broken shell. How cruel for her mind to still see; to still desire life at this point. Kayn looked into his eyes. In them, one easily read desperate plea, why are you doing this to me?

She was so cold her body gave an involuntary shudder. Kayn realized then that she was naked, completely exposed to the elements. Why was she naked? Her eyes were full of tears again; she felt instant, almost overwhelming shame. Kayn could still feel the sticky heat behind her as her blood drained from her body, soaking into the dirt. The pain in her head began to numb as the lights through the trees began to flicker again.

The dark mass of her violator suddenly appeared beside her, leaning in so close that she could smell his putrid breath, moist over her face. Every hair on her body was standing on end. The electrical power between Kayn and the man in the dark was like a charge.

He ran a finger over her exposed breast and said, “You were never to be born; this situation had to be corrected.”

Kayn saw his knife glint in the light from the moon. It was raised above her chest. Yes, she thought, let it be over now. She shut her eyes as the knife sliced into her chest. Kayn opened her eyes again with acceptance; she felt no more pain. She stared deeply into his eyes as hers filled with tears.

He tried to regain his composure and with a voice thick with emotion he said, “To this life unto the next.”

He slowly began to cut some kind of symbol on the skin on Kayn’s chest above her heart. She lay limp in his arms, still conscious of what was happening, yet free from the pain and fear now. He pulled her close to cradle her naked body in his arms like a baby, rocking her broken, violated flesh in his arms, stroking her blood soaked hair. He began to sob as if he were repentant in some way for how he had tortured her.

As her vision flickered one last time, the man was gone; it was her mother looking into her eyes. Her mother’s eyes were filled with so much love that it seemed to release her from her pain and fear as it had when she was a small child. Her mother cradled her as a baby, rocking her back and forth. She was safe now in her mother’s arms. She was at peace. Mommy, her heart sang, you’re here to save me.

The warmth of her mother’s love enveloped her tortured soul. She looked into her mother’s eyes. She touched Kayn’s face and started to sing a song that she had sung to her every night when she was very small.

Sleep, sweet sleep till the morning

Just dream away and close your eyes

My love you’ll be safe until the morning

Sleeping in my heart, all through the night

Although bad dreams come to scare you

My love will scare them all away

My heart…

The lights flickered, the pain went away, and her mother was holding her, singing: “Sleep, sweet sleep.”


The Beginning


To read the rest, download Sweet Sleep now from Amazon and GoodReads 



June 27, 2014

Dark Before Dawn by Stacy Juba

Dark-Before-DawnDark Before Dawn is filled with psychic chills and thrills in a deserted Maine beach town from the author of Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, Sink or Swim, and Face-Off.

When teen psychic Dawn Christian gets involved with a fortuneteller mentor and two girls who share her mysterious talents, she finally belongs after years of being a misfit. When she learns her new friends may be tied to freak “accidents” in town, Dawn has an important choice to make – continue developing the talent that makes her special or challenge the only people who have ever accepted her.


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Dawn Christian curled under the covers, shivering in her nightshirt. Goosebumps popped up on her bare arms. She breathed in and out, trying to calm herself. Even the safety of darkness couldn’t hide it.

Something was wrong.

She knew it the same way she had known it would rain despite the weather report. Now gray clouds blistered outside the window.

I can’t go, I can’t go, I can’t go, something bad’s going to happen. Dawn rubbed between her eyebrows, the message flying around inside her brain like a loose pinball.

The red numbers of her alarm clock flickered to 6:29. Dawn rolled onto her other side and faced the wall. In an hour, she’d be starting her junior year at a lame new high school. She missed Boston and taking the T, the city’s subway system, wherever she wanted to go. Dawn used to hang out at museums, watch the college kids in Harvard Square and read books at the Common. Sometimes, she and her mother caught Saturday matinees in the theater district.

Not anymore. Ever since the wedding in July, Dawn had been stuck in Covington, Maine, a beach town overflowing with rinky dink carnival rides, cheesy souvenir stores and bad vibrations.

“Dawn?” She turned to find her mother framed in the dimly lit doorway, fully dressed. “Are you coming down for breakfast?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Nervous about school?”

Gulping, Dawn huddled under the blankets. No way could she discuss her feeling with her mom. Her mother wanted a normal daughter who was on the basketball team or school newspaper, had friends and didn’t live in fear. “Kind of.”

Her mother lowered herself onto the bed and squeezed Dawn’s hand. Her manicured pink nails shone against Dawn’s pale skin. Since meeting Jeff eight months ago, Dawn’s mother had been letting her curly hair hang loose and wearing makeup.

She smoothed back a tangle of Dawn’s chestnut waves. “You don’t look like yourself. Do you feel all right?”

“I’m fine.” Dawn shoved her stuffed monkey, Buddy, further under the blankets. Her father gave her Buddy shortly before he died, and holding it was like hugging a piece of her dad. Still, sleeping with a toy monkey was kiddish and Dawn didn’t do it often. Her mother would get suspicious if she noticed.

Darn it. Her mother drew out Buddy by his slender tail and patted his furry brown head. “Calling in the reinforcements, huh? What’s on your mind, honey? Maybe I can help.”

Dawn sat up and clasped her knees. Her mother never understood about Dawn’s hunches. “I don’t think you really want to know, Mom.”

“Of course I do.”

Yeah, right. But Dawn didn’t have the stamina for lying today. “I’m getting one of my premonitions. Something’s wrong. I think it has to do with school.”

She waited and sure enough, her mother got the frightened look she’d worn too many times before. Dawn remembered the look that terrible night with Mrs. Frazier … but she didn’t want to think about that.

Her mother dropped Buddy onto the mattress and squirmed as if fighting off a chill. “I’m sure it’s just regular old nerves,” she said in an overly cheerful voice. “It’s hard enough adjusting to a new home and a new family without throwing a new school into the picture. Who wouldn’t feel edgy?”

“That’s not it, Mom.”

“Just be normal. Don’t worry about your premonitions. You shouldn’t have to live your life afraid.”

“Get real, Mom. I’ll never be normal and fit in.”

“If you paid more attention to talking with the other kids, and less to these visions and feelings, things would be so much easier for you.”

How many times had she heard her mother say that? Dawn rolled her eyes. “This is why I didn’t want to talk about it.I can’t help that I ‘know’ things, Mom. The only way I can keep that stuff secret is by never opening my mouth. Then the other kids think I’m a snob.”

“Being different is no reason to separate yourself. You’ve been through a lot already, honey, and I want you to be happy here. We have a fresh start. If you pushed your feelings to the back of your mind and stopped working yourself up over them, maybe they’ll stop coming.” Her mother offered a brittle smile.

That was like asking Dawn to walk around blindfolded, or to stuff earplugs in her ears, giving up one of her senses. She couldn’t just shut off her feelings. They were too overpowering, demanding attention.

“You made me promise to hide my abilities around Ken and Jeff,” Dawn said. “Okay, I want them to like me, but I shouldn’t have to hide things around you. Why can’t you just help me?”

Her mother slipped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m trying to help you, honey. You need to tell yourself that your imagination is running wild and you’ve got normal jitters. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Dawn’s jaw tensed. Her mother deserved an Oscar. She had an amazing knack for pretending Dawn suffered normal teenage angst, acting as if they were on some TV drama when the truth was closer to the Stephen King movie Carrie.

To read the rest, download Dark Before Dawn from:  AmazonBarnes & NobleiBookstoreKoboAudible and iTunes



Stacy Juba loves to write stories about Characters at a Crossroads: individuals who are finding themselves and getting on the right life path after overcoming obstacles. Her goals are to entertain readers of all ages as well as inspire them. She has made numerous bestseller lists including GalleyCat’s Barnes & Noble Bestsellers and GalleyCat’s Mystery and Thriller Bestsellers. Stacy has written about reality TV contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer investigating a cold case, teen psychics who control minds, twin high school hockey stars battling on the ice, and teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag. She has had a book ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. Browse her website for more information on her mystery, romance, and contemporary fiction books for adults, teens, and children, guest author features and resources on how to build your own “character,” and for her book/product reviews and advocacy relating to Type 1 Diabetes.



June 20, 2014

The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain

Sleeping WarriorSit back and enjoy The Sleeping Warrior. Set in London and Scotland, it is a crime thriller with a subtle fantasy element.

 LONDON solicitor Libby Butler’s life is in a self-inflicted mess. Her affair with her boss is going nowhere as is her position in the prestigious city law firm where she works. A narrow escape from the knife of south London’s elusive serial murderer, The Vampire Killer, has challenged her outward bravado and left her nerves and personal life in tatters. When duty calls Libby to a metropolitan police station in the middle of the night, she meets the enigmatic Gabriel Radley. Dressed like an ancient warrior in studded leather armour, Gabriel has a habit of disappearing from police custody and danger appears to dog him. Gabriel is searching for a ‘stone’ he has lost, its value ‘beyond human imagination’, that will help bring a ‘monster’ to justice. When Libby agrees to help him, she unwittingly plunges her life into a series of disasters and neither she nor any of her friends are safe. A cult who call themselves The Awakened, a gangland thug and his henchman, a female assassin, a detective chief inspector from Scotland Yard, and even the serial killer, all become inadvertently embroiled in the chase for the stone and the pivotal force of Gabriel. As the death toll rises, Libby is forced to face herself, learn the true value of life, and the potent significance of the Sleeping Warrior within.

Download The Sleeping Warrior from Amazon


The hall was deserted, save for an abandoned upright piano in the far corner and the sharp rays of morning criss-crossing the filthy oak boards. Only the dust stirred and it whirled and eddied in the bright shards of daylight, like miniscule angels trapped inside brilliant linear prisons, spilling across the lofty room.

A shadow entered from a door on the right. The dull thuds of cardboard blocks against wood stirred the silence. She lifted one black satin toe and then another, grinding the pointes into the rosin box: her stance haughty and strong, her hands and fingers soft as if pulling through warm water. She breathed in and then out and, with each breath, her arms moved obediently to the silent rhythm. She waited for the moment, her eyes closed in concentration, her lithe body yielding to the discipline of years.

As if an orchestra had struck the first notes of a rowdy overture, the arabesque came swiftly and with the power of an earthquake. Her leg reached out behind her and her heel kissed the back of her head, while her left foot formed a perfect arch, balancing her weight on the tip of one pointe. She unfurled her arms to either side, the softness of her fingers betraying the masculine tautness of her muscles as she flapped them lightly. There was no bend in her chest to suggest unnatural exertion — her legs formed a smooth, straight line behind her — a linear sculpture. It was a perfect, motionless pose: a faultless snap-shot of gravity and balance and a celebration of one of the most beautiful art forms known to man.

Her audience of one could have been an audience of thousands. This would always be her very best performance. She kept her movements purposeful and controlled as she opened to the rhythm of her memories.

The fluttering in her heart as the curtains came up. Her dance began with soft adagio in the shadows of the hall. A series of unfolding movements of smoothness and serenity, each arabesque and attitude was a still-life study in monochrome. Her dark pony-tail trailed submissively behind her every move in faultless synchronicity, like a shimmering shadow on a hot summer’s eve.

The hot glare of the lights and the vibrant colours of the stage. Pas de bourée into a bright shard of sunlight, her feet barely seemed to move, and she paused in bras bas, her feet in first position, her head turned down towards the floor. Like an alabaster carving, swathed in black silk, the light tumbling around her, she stood motionless under the spotlight in calm neutrality.

The orchestra of blasting brass, rumbling drums and weeping strings. A series of complex turns struck like lightning, spinning her diagonally across the hall. Running, now, she thundered into an enormous leap, her legs parting in mid air with near-impossible elevation; into another —sissonne ouverte at 90 degrees straight into a grand jeté en avant. Chaîné up, chaîné down and an almighty bound in open second. Her ghostly blur shattered the shards of daylight as she soared above the boards, flickering from shadow to light, the dust crackling in the turbulent air.

The spell-bound faces shining from the dark amphitheatre. Her audience could barely contain his awe as he gasped and sighed at the powerful performance before him.

Standing with his back against the far wall beneath a dilapidated balcony, he could hear the music as if he sat directly above the orchestra pit and could see the colourful splendour of the stage; he could feel the silk of the swirling costumes and sense the vibrant life-force in this divine prima ballerina. He put his hands together in rapturous applause.

The hailstorm of flowers and the thunderous ovation at the end of the performance. Her expression remained inscrutable as she halted in mid-turn, her arms and legs splayed out in opposite directions to leave her body wide open. She had seen him. A perfect double pirouette en dehors, then another, then another en dedan. Fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, over and over again — a hazy silhouette of vigorous perpetual motion. Her dark form was a smudge as she spun on her toe, faster and faster towards him… flicker …flicker …flicker … flick … flick … flick.

‘Beautiful, truly beautiful!’ her appreciative audience shouted his delight and clapped his hands together until his palms stung. He couldn’t hide the star-struck admiration in his expression as she stood before him and narrowed her pale green eyes. She was a good head shorter than him and so slim that she looked almost fragile. ‘How do you do that with your legs? You’d make a great pole dancer.’

The assault came suddenly and he was pinned against the wall by his neck, her knee bent at her right ear, the black pointe pressing the air from his windpipe, crushing the sensitive cartilage into his spine.

Slowly choking to death, he was powerless to defend himself and couldn’t even muster up the energy to grab the foot from his throat. His eyes began to bulge, his face was on fire, but the pain slowly began to recede as unconsciousness beckoned. As quickly as it had attacked, the pointe withdrew and he slumped to the ground gargling.

‘Lars has sent you?’

He could only nod as he held one hand to his throat and the other in the air, his fingers splayed in a gesture of supplication. Her Russian accent didn’t surprise him as his senses slowly returned.

‘Do you have a pen?’

It was an odd question in the circumstances but, having lost the ability to speak, he nodded again and fumbled inside his jacket. Still sprawled on the ground on his hands and knees, he drew out a black ballpoint and thrust it towards her.

‘If Lars has sent you, then that means money.’ The nod of assent was all she needed. She grabbed him by the thinning clumps of hair scattered across the top of his head and scribbled something on the bald patch, digging the point into the skin. ‘Tell him to call me.’ Her kick sent him spinning onto his back.

She took five wide backward steps into the middle of the floor and saluted him with a graceful, elegant curtsy to mark the dramatic finale of her best performance. She spun on her heels and marched across the room, leaving the hall empty save for an upright piano in the far corner; an injured man choking on the ground; and the faintest sniff of rosin in the settling dust.

To read the rest, download The Sleeping Warrior from Amazon

To find more from Sara, visit her Website, GoodreadsFacebook and Twitter.

June 9, 2014

Scenes from a Life by Richard Abbott

ScenesFromALifeToday I’m mixing things up with an excerpt from historical fiction novel Scenes from a Life by Richard Abbott.

What journey would you make to encounter the meaning of a dream? 

Makty-Rasut is a scribe in New Kingdom Egypt, fashioning tombs for the elite. He lives a comfortable but restless life, moving every few years further upstream along the river Nile. He is content to exercise his talent without examining his origins.

Then a series of vivid dreams, interpreted with the help of a senior priest, disrupts this pattern. To solve the riddle, he must go on a journey that will take him outside the Beloved Land and away from the life that he knows. His travels take him into the neighbouring province of Canaan, to a hill-country village called Kephrath, and to a way of life he has never considered.

Download Scenes from a Life from Amazon.


Makty-Rasut bundled the headscarf that he had needed in the cool of the morning behind his head, closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, rough but solid and secure behind him. Perhaps he would think better like that. But in fact he must have fallen asleep, because all at once the dream came to him.

It was a familiar dream. He had had similar ones several times before, each time with minor variations.

He was inside a darkened boat, somewhere below decks where the light of moon and stars would not reach. He was rocking in little waves, as though the boat was crossing gentle ripples as it drifted downstream. It was warm, and his body was cradled in a nest of soft fabric, dark and red all around him. The boat had eyes on the prow that watched out ahead, he knew, though he could not see them just now. The boat contained ample nourishment to satisfy him, though just now he did not need it. The boat had a wide beam that made her stable in the water. It was all deeply pleasant.

He looked down, still in the dream. He was wearing a pair of startlingly white sandals. The sandals were of a style and an extravagance that he would never think to wear in waking life, but here it was fine. More than fine: just right, in fact.

But then all at once the boat and the warmth, the eyes and the provisions were gone, and he was plunged in the cold water, tumbling in one of the River’s turbulent places. The current pushed him away. He could not reach the banks of the River, could not see them in the windy mist that clung to him. He felt coldness everywhere, coldness throughout his body, clinging at him, and his mouth was filling up with water. He was still wearing the sandals, and they made it just about possible to remain at the surface.

He woke all in a rush, pushing away the scarf that had now tangled itself around him. He sat there for a while to allow his racing heart to return to a normal beat, trying to root himself back in this world. His oil lamp had long since gone out. Finally he got up, felt for his bag of tools, and walked slowly along the corridor from memory with his left hand trailing along the wall to guide him. Looking out from the courtyard, east towards the River, he found that the sky was starting to fill with stars, like jewels adorning the clothing of night. There was a sharp scent of a nearby herb, clinging to a crevice in the rock. No-one else was anywhere near him.

How long had he been asleep? The air breathing down the hillside from his right, down from Meretseger’s peak, was cool against his skin. He held on to the upright timber of the doorframe and steadied himself. Eventually he walked home, offered a pinch of incense and a brief prayer at the little shrine to Seshat that he kept, pulled at some bread and dried fish without really tasting either, and finally settled himself on top of his bedroll, tossing his unwanted clothes into a corner. He lay there for a while alone in the dark, feeling dislocated, and finally fell asleep again.


To read the rest, download Scenes from a Life from Amazon.

To find more from Richard, visit his website, Facebook and Twitter.

June 6, 2014

Collide: A Riverbend Novel (Book #1) by J.L. Hackett and Sara Daniell

new fontCheck out the first novel in the Riverbend series, Collide.

Reese Johnson lost her mother when she was a child. She was pulled from Riverbend Elementary and home-schooled from then on. Mayor Johnson had to protect her and in order to protect her, he had to hide her from the world. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house. Ever. But when her father goes missing, she’s thrown into a foster home and into Riverbend High where she’s treated horribly by the other students. They don’t get her. In fact, they are scared of her. The town holds her responsible for her mother’s death and her father’s disappearance. What other reason could there be that she was left untouched and unharmed? She had to be the one responsible, right?

She is thrown into the home of the Satterly’s. She’s overwhelmed by the love and compassion Johanna and Rick Satterly show her, but is confused by the cold shoulder their son Havock gives her. Their other son Garrett, however, is kind and welcoming. Too welcoming. Forming a relationship with this family isn’t easy for her, but this very family will be the one who saves her from the darkness that threatens her.

Download Collide for only 99 cents on Amazon!


Fallout Boy. That’s whose voice was blaring through my earbuds as the bad omen stepped out of the back of her driver’s black shiny piece of plastic that probably cost more than my parents house. I tried not to stare as she self-consciously tucked a few strands of her long dark curls behind her ears, but I couldn’t help my stupid self. It’s a shame something so fine was kept in hiding for so long. The skirt she was wearing showed enough of her legs to make my imagination run wild. If only it were a tad shorter. . . I felt an elbow plow into my side. I pulled my earbuds from my ears and frowned.

“Damn, Havock. You’re gonna bite a hole in your lip. What has your attent-” Jude stopped mid-sentence when his eyes landed on her ass. He inclined his head just enough to get a better view. He smiled in appreciation. “That my friend is the definition of perfection.”

“Or insanity.” The bell rang and we grudgingly headed towards the school building. “She’s like something expensive on display. So shiny you can’t help but stare, but if you touch it your mom will beat your ass. She’s bad news, man.”

“Ah, you don’t believe all that shit do you?”

“No, but I plan on staying as far away as possible. That girl is nothing but trouble. Talk about family drama…” I opened my locker, got the few books I needed, then looked at Jude who had a neighboring locker. I started to say something to Jude but low and behold there she stood in front of us, apparently lost.

She whispered below her breath to herself.

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Talking to yourself won’t help your already shattered rep in this town,” I said before reminding myself that I’d made a promise to myself earlier in the year to do better about filtering the things that came out of my mouth.

A tear fell down her cheek as she clutched her books tightly against her chest causing her cleavage to show a little more from her v-neck shirt. Of course the universe would put something so perfect on this Earth that was too crazy to get close to. It was punishment to men everywhere. She only made eye contact with me long enough to make me feel like a total dick then started down the hall.

“She’ll never survive in this school,” Jude said as he shook his head. “They’ll chew her up and spit her out before the week is over.”

“Before the day is over,” I concluded.

To read the rest of the story, download Collide for only 99 cents on Amazon!

Find more from Sarah on her blog, Twitter and Facebook. Find more from J.L. on her blog and Facebook.

June 4, 2014

Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy by Nathan Hawke

91Ft+TYV3AL._SL1500_Discover the heroic fantasy world of Nathan Hawke’s Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy.

I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me, then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

Collected here are the first three Gallow novels, along with a collection of framing short stories. THE FATEGUARD TRILOGY tells of the years when Gallow discovered that a man as notorious as he was cannot live a quiet life, and in the end must choose a side, even if that means betraying his own people.

And when you betray a king, you accept that there will be a reckoning. The Fateguard are coming…

Download Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy from Amazon and Amazon UK.


Addic stopped. He blew on his hands and rubbed them together and took a moment to look at the mountains behind him. Hard to decide which he liked better: the ice-bitter clear skies of today or the blizzards that had come before. Wind and snow kept a man holed up in his hut with little to do but hope he could dig himself out again when it stopped. A clear day like this meant working, a chance to gather wood and maybe even hunt, but Modris it was cold! He stamped his feet and blew on his fingers again. It wasn’t helping. They’d gone numb a while back. His feet would follow before much longer. Cursed cold. He looked back the way he’d come, and it felt as though he’d been walking for hours but he could still see the little jagged spur that overlooked the hut where he’d been hiding these last few days.

Up on the shoulder of the mountain beyond the spur a bright flash caught his eye, a momentary glimmer in the sun. He squinted and peered but it vanished as quickly as it had come and he couldn’t make anything out. The snow, most likely, not that snow glinted like that; but what else could it be so deep in the pass?

Snow. Yes. Still, he kept looking now and then as he walked, until a wisp of cloud crossed the mountain and hid the shoulder where the old Aulian Way once ran from Varyxhun through the mountains and out the other side. The Aulians had fallen long before Addic was born, but that didn’t mean that nothing ever came over the mountains any more. The winter cold was a killer, but shadewalkers were already dead and so they came anyway.

He quickened his pace. The high road was carved into the mountainside over the knife-cut gorge of the Isset. It was hardly used at the best of times, even in summer when the snow briefly melted. No one had come through since the blizzards, and so he was left to wade thigh-deep through the snow on a narrow road he couldn’t see along a slope that would happily pitch him over a cliff if he took a wrong step. It was hard work, deadly tiring, but he didn’t have much choice now and at least the effort was keeping him warm. If he stopped to rest, he’d freeze. And it probably hadn’t been another shadewalker high up in the mountains, but if it was then he certainly didn’t want to be the first living thing it found.

By the time he ran into the forkbeards, hours later, he’d forgotten the shadewalker. By then he was so tired that his mind was wandering freely. He kept thinking how, somewhere ahead of him, one of the black lifeless trees that clung tenaciously to the gentler slopes above would have come down and blocked the road completely and he’d have to turn back, and he simply didn’t have the strength to go all the way back to his safe little hole where the forkbeards would never find him.

And there they were: four of them, forkbeards armed to the elbows and riding hardy mountain ponies along the Aulian Way where they had no possible reason to be unless they’d finally caught wind of where he was hiding; and the first thing he felt was an overwhelming relief that someone else had come this far and ploughed a path through the snow so that he wouldn’t have to, and how that was going to make his walking so much quicker and easier for the rest of the way. Took a few moments more for some sense to kick in, to realise that this far out from Varyxhun the forkbeards had come to hunt him down, winkle him out of wherever he was hiding and kill him. He might even have been flattered if he’d been carrying anything sharper than a big pile of animal pelts over his shoulder.

The crushing weight of failure hit him then, the futility of even trying to escape; and then a backhand of despair for good measure, since if the forkbeards had learned where he was hiding then someone must have told them, and there weren’t too many people that could be. Jonnic, perhaps. Brawlic, although it was hard to imagine. Achista? Little sister Achista?

His shoulders sagged. He tried to tell himself that no, she was too careful to be caught by any forkbeard, but the thought settled on him like a skin of heavy stone. He set the pelts carefully down and bowed in the snow. The forkbeards seemed bored and irritable, looking for trouble. ‘My lords!’ They were about as far from lords as Addic could imagine, but he called them that anyway in case it made a difference. Maybe they were out here on some other errand. He tried to imagine what that might be.

‘Addic.’ The forkbeard at the front beamed with pleasure, neatly murdering that little glimmer of hope. ‘Very kind of you to save us some bother.’ He swung himself down from his pony, keeping a cautious distance. It crossed Addic’s mind then that although the forkbeards had horses, they were hardly going to take the High Road at a gallop in the middle of winter when it was covered in snow, nor even at a fast trot unless they were unusually desperate to go over the edge and into the freezing Isset a hundred feet below. And if they knew him, then there was only one reason for them to be out here. He turned and ran, or tried his best to, floundering away through the snow, not straight back down the road because that would make it too easy for them but angling up among the trees. The snow shifted and slid under his feet, deep and soft. As he tried to catch his breath a spear whispered past his face.

‘Back here, Marroc. Take it like a man,’ bawled one of the forkbeards. Addic had no idea who they were. Just another band of Cithjan’s thugs out from Varyxhun. They probably looked pretty stupid, all of them and him too, not that that was much comfort. Struggling and hauling themselves up through the steep slopes and the drifted snow, slipping and sliding and almost falling with every other step, catching themselves now and then on the odd stunted tree that had somehow found a way to grow in this forsaken waste. The forkbeards were right behind him. Every lurch forward was a gamble, a test of balance and luck, waiting to see what lay under the snow, whether it would hold or shift. Sooner or later one of them would fall and wouldn’t catch himself, and then he’d be off straight down the slope, a quick bounce as he reached the road maybe and then over the edge, tumbling away among the rock and ice to the foaming waters of the Isset. Which for Addic was no worse than being caught, but for the forkbeards it was probably a worse fate than letting him get away. Perhaps desperation gave him an advantage?

But no, of course it was him that slipped and felt his legs go out from under him. He rolled onto his back, sliding faster and faster through the snow, trying to dig in his feet and achieving nothing. He could see the road below – with two more forkbeards standing on it right in his path – and then the great yawning abyss of the gorge. He threw out his arms and clawed at the slope but the snow only laughed at him, coming away in great chunks to tumble around him, past him. He caught a glimpse of the forkbeards on the road looking up. Laughing, probably, or maybe they were disappointed that the Isset and the mountainside were going to do their work for them. Maybe he could steer himself to hit them and they could all go over the edge together?

Two forkbeards on the road? He wondered for a moment where they’d come from, but then he caught a rock which sent him spinning and flipped him onto his front so he couldn’t see where he was going any more. A tree flew past, bashing him on the hip; he snatched and got half a hand to it but his fingers wouldn’t hold. Then he hit the road. One foot plunged deep into the snow and wrenched loose again with an ugly pain. His flailing hand caught hold of something and tried to cling on. The forkbeards, maybe? Again a moment of wonder, because he could have sworn he’d only seen four forkbeards with their ponies and they’d all been chasing him, so these had to have come the other way, but that couldn’t be right . . .

A hand grabbed him, and then another. He spun round, tipped over onto his back again, felt his legs go over the edge of the gorge and into the nothing, but the rest of him stopped. The forkbeards had caught him, and for one fleeting second he felt a surge of relief, though it quickly died: the forkbeards would have something far worse in mind than a quick death in the freezing waters of the Isset.

A cloud of snow blew over him. When it passed he brushed his face clear so he could see. He was right on the edge of the gorge, the Isset grinning back up at him from far below. Two men stood over him. They’d let go and they weren’t hitting him yet and so his first instinct was to get up and run, but getting back to his feet and avoiding slipping over the edge took long enough for his eyes to see who’d saved him. He had no idea who they were or what they were doing out here on the Aulian Way in the middle of winter, but they weren’t forkbeards after all.

The bigger of the two men held out a hand to steady him. They weren’t Marroc either. The big one, well, if you looked past the poorly shaven chin, everything about him said that he was a forkbeard. Big strong arms, wide shoulders, tall and muscular with those pitiless glacier eyes. The other one though . . . Holy Modris, was he an Aulian, a real live one? He was short and wiry, wasted and thin and utterly exhausted, but his skin was darker than any Marroc and his eyes were such a deep brown they were almost black. He was also bald. Their clothes didn’t say much at all except that they were dressed for the mountains.

The four forkbeards were picking their way down from the slopes above, slow and cautious now. The two men who’d saved his life looked at him blankly. They were half dead. The Aulian’s eyes were glassy, his hands limp and his breathing ragged. The big one wasn’t much better, swaying from side to side. Addic thought of the flash he’d seen from the mountain shoulder hours ago and for a moment wonder got the better of fear. ‘You crossed the Aulian Way? In winter?’

The forkbeards were almost down now and they had their shields off their backs. The first one slid onto the road in pile of snow about ten paces from where Addic was standing. He pulled out his axe but didn’t come forward, not yet. He watched warily. ‘Hand over the Marroc.’

The big man stood a little straighter. ‘Why? What’s he done?’ He was breathing hard and his shoulders quickly slumped again. He looked ready to collapse. An ally, maybe? But against four forkbeards? Addic glanced down the road, back the way he’d come.

‘Pissed me off,’ said the forkbeard with the axe. ‘Like you’re doing now.’

The stranger growled. The Aulian put a hand on his arm but the big man shook it off. ‘Three years,’ he snarled. ‘Three years I’m away and I come back to this.’ The other forkbeards were on the road now, the four of them grouping together, ready to advance. The stranger drew his sword and for a moment Addic forgot about running and stared at the blade. It was long, too long to be a Marroc edge – or a forkbeard one either – and in the winter sun it was tinged a deep red like dried blood. ‘Three years.’ The big man bared his teeth and advanced. ‘Now tell me how far it is to Varyxhun and get out of my way!’

‘Three days,’ said Addic weakly, bemused by the idea of anyone telling four angry forkbeards to get out of my way. ‘Maybe four.’ The forkbeards were peering at the stranger’s shield, an old battered round thing, painted red once before half the paint flaked off. It had seen a lot of use, that was obvious.

‘Move!’ The stranger walked straight at them.

‘Piss off!’

Addic didn’t see quite what happened next. One of the forkbeards must have tried something, or else the stranger just liked picking fights when he was outnumbered and exhausted. There was a shout, a red blur and a scream and then one of the forkbeards dropped his shield and bright blood sprayed across the snow. It took Addic a moment to realise that the shield lying on the road still had a hand and half an arm holding it.

‘Nioingr!’ The other three piled into the stranger. Addic wished he had a blade of his own, and if he had might have stayed. But he didn’t, and there wasn’t anything he could do, and so he turned to flee and ran straight into the Aulian.


‘Out the way.’ He pushed past. The darkskin had a knife out but obviously didn’t know what to do with it. ‘If I were you, I’d run!’

The Aulian ignored him and took a step toward the fight. ‘Gallow!’

Addic heard the name as he fled. It stuck with him as he ran. He’d heard it somewhere before.


To read the rest, download Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy from Amazon and Amazon UK.

Find more from Nathan on his website.

June 2, 2014

Blind Sight by Nicole Storey

Blind Sight Blog jpegEnter the world of The Celadon Circle with the first book, Blind Sight.

Jordan has visions of monsters, demons, and death. Seventeen, orphaned, and born into the family business, she doesn’t have friends, she doesn’t have choices. Her uncle, older brothers, and a few annoying angels dominate her life, demanding she tow their lines – and the punishment is severe when those lines are crossed.

When Jordan is ordered to help hunt down a monster, she’s not sure which she dreads more: the elusive, blood-thirsty creature or spending time in a cramped backwoods cabin with a brother who despises her. To make matters worse, a demon shows up and warns Jordan that she could be her family’s next assignment.

In a game between Good and Evil where God seems to have tapped out early, lines are blurred and not everything is as it seems. Jordan learns a little too late that the real monster is closer than she thinks.

Download Blind Sight from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboApple and Smashwords.

BlindSight Excerpt 1.jpg

Download Blind Sight from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords.

Find more from Nicole on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.


May 29, 2014

Silver Hollow by Jennifer Silverwood

Silver Hollow.v3.1

Check out Jennifer Silverwood’s new adult fantasy, Silver Hollow.

Amie Wentworth writes paranormal romances, not because she is looking for a degree in ectoplasm, but because she’s got bills to pay. Ever since her parents’ car crash, she has trusted books more than people. Not even a letter from her long-lost uncle, begging her to visit, gives Amie incentive for anything other than ire – until she is stabbed in an alley and brought back to life by a mysterious stranger. Being a believer in the corporeal, she is determined to root out the logic behind the unexplained. Never mind the possibility she might be a part of it, or the fact her dearly departed dad left her with an inheritance she can’t return. To make matters worse, the man who saved her life keeps turning up and her would-be-murderer is still at large. Soon Amie is dragged into the very sort of tale she is used to selling. Silver Hollow is a place of ancient traditions and supernatural dangers, where everything is the opposite of what it seems and few escape sane. When she comes face to face with the ugly truth, will she too be sucked into her father’s madness? Or will she discover that madness is just another name for honesty?

Silver Hollow is available for Kindle and paperback from Amazon.


The hour before dawn found Amie pulling her car round the back alley. Through the gloom and decades-buried waste behind Pat’s Delights was a narrow strip leading to the back staircase leading up to her flat.

The stranger’s face came unbidden to her as she gathered her things and moved her weary legs. Black eyes set deeply in a shadow-drenched face haunted her, eyes which seemed to accuse and praise, sift and wonder. Now that she knew, she realized she must have seen him before today, maybe even in the past she had tried to forget.

The faded yellowing parchment marked with heavy black ink, with words too absurd to be true, flashed in her mind. Clutching the key hidden in her jeans pockets while digging through her purse for her keys, she remembered Uncle Henry’s letter. Mulling over the words, she once again recalled how angry she had been ten years ago after reading his first note. So what the cops were uncertain how the accident had happened. So what her father had known some powerful people. Amie had been primped and pushed into the upper-class social sphere through her teens and knew how to handle that sort. She could take care of herself just like she always had. She would tear up the letters and the tickets tonight. The twins and James were her family now.

As she placed her shoe upon the first rickety metal step, two thick and powerful hands grabbed her in the same moment.

It happened so quickly she forgot to scream. Dropping her purse she struggled, kicked and bucked against the crazy person lifting her and pulling her deeper into the shadows of the alley. And the harder she struggled the tighter his choking embrace became against her chest.

She thought at last to cry out, only to feel her face being smashed against a brick wall. She gasped as the figure suddenly pushed her aside, out of his embrace. Amie stumbled back and nearly tripping over a metal pipe. She righted herself only to come face-to-face with the black-masked figure. His brilliant blue eyes blazed into hers, now filled with unmistakable purpose. Too late she realized his intentions as a sickeningly cool object was plunged into her chest and pulled quickly out again.

Her vision swam, then blurred as she slumped against the trash-littered concrete. Her mind began to fade into an ever-deepening sleep though her eyes watched on. The black-garbed man was fighting someone else. Unmasked, this guy was taller, broader in the shoulders than her murderer and wrought by fury.

Pain…she had not known the meaning of the word before now and even this too was fading into the deep sleep. The further she fell the less sense the scene before her made. Her mind didn’t believe that the tall man had really tossed her attacker five feet into the air over his shoulder and into the brick, or a strange light and energy crackled in the suddenly luminous alley.

She was too afraid to hope when a pair of warm hands cradled her in a firm embrace. He pulled her from the muck and fixed his dark eyes on her. Obsidian-cut eyes, familiar eyes, pierced through her gaze and reached deeper. His face, once so indiscernible it could be called plain, was now twisted as though in agony. Even though she was slipping, falling into a calm quiet darkness, he refused to let her go. His hand moved from her neck to her cheek with the faintest touch. He pushed past and clasped hold of something tearing deep inside of her then. The black of his irises gave way to a strange mix of blue and green flecks gleaming in their depths. She saw…

Fields of brilliant emerald grass and a sun filled with more colors than she knew to name.

Darkness and a dirty cell, where heavy fists punctuated his pain.

Time beyond counting became a lifetime lost.

A green-eyed dark-haired beauty bathed in sunlight stretched out her hand to him.

Someone was screaming. Amie frowned as the woman’s cries grew louder. Pain spiked up in her chest as her lungs constricted and her heart was ripped apart then reformed. The woman’s screams died when she took a breath and realized the voice was hers.

She blinked.

And then she was lying within the narrow strip between two brick buildings, alone.


To read the rest of the story, buy Silver Hollow from Amazon.

Find more from Jennifer on her website, blogFacebook, and Twitter.

May 23, 2014

My Immortal Playlist by Julius St. Clair

If you like paranormal romance, check out My Immortal Playlist from Julius St. Clair. MyImmortalPlaylist

Alexandra Cain is cursed.

She’s unpopular, a little lonely, and all of her boyfriends have this nasty habit of dying and then coming back to haunt her in unimaginable ways.

It’s not easy being a Siren in high school. A femme fatale whose first instinct is to enchant a man and have him for dinner, instead of being asked out to it. Burdened by her nature, it doesn’t seem like she’ll ever find the romance and passion she’s been looking for.

Until Lucas Hawthorne arrives.

He’s gorgeous. He’s mysterious. And he’s so dangerous that even she knows she should stay away.

But there’s something about him that keeps her digging deeper into his past, and following him into situations that keep getting worse and worse. She just can’t break his hold over her, and soon she has no choice but to ask herself a terrifying question: Who cast the spell over whom?

Download My Immortal Playlist from Amazon.


“I should’ve stayed home,” I sighed under my breath.

“You didn’t put up much of a fight,” she said, her blue mascara strangely accenting her vibrant green eyes. What was with this new fad of mixing strange colors together?

“Yeah,” I said. “But that’s only because someone told me this movie was different. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all.”

“Okay, and what were you expecting? A horror movie?”

“Exactly. I mean c’mon, the movie is called Zombie Kisses. How do zombies kiss?”

“Like everyone else.”

“Well, it didn’t look appealing.”

“You’re not supposed to like horror movies anyways,” she huffed.

“And why is that?” I scoffed, sitting up in my seat quickly. Margaret flashed an award winning smile and made her voice all cutesy.

“Because you’re a woman,” she said. “You’re not supposed to like horror movies.”

“Ugh,” I groaned again, closing my eyes and turning around to see our fellow moviegoers leave in frustration and disappointment.

“I’m serious. If we’re ever going to graduate high school and snag a husband, we can’t give off the image that we’re into blood and gore and all those unattractive things.”

“Not like horror movies…snag a husband…what is this? The 50’s? Seriously, Margaret, you’re being unrealistic. And a little bit of a hypocrite. Do you seriously think that just because this movie is classified as a romance, it means you’re not into the supernatural? Think about it. A girl gets tired of her marriage with a vampire and decides to fall for a zombie! Who, I might add, tries to eat her shoulder when they’re making out! Listen, I don’t care if Malcolm Maximus looked nothing like a zombie. Yes, he was as gorgeous as always, but the concept is still gross and creepy.”

“This is completely different and you know it! There was no gore or violence whatsoever!”

“Yeah, but it’s a girl and a zombie…”

“Which if you ask me, didn’t look so bad.”

Silence filled the theater and I realized her face was not giving off its usual amused glow.

“You’re serious,” I said.

“Dead serious.”

“Okay, that’s not funny…I think I’m going to be sick.”

“What do you want to me say, Alexandra? I love these types of movies, but I still think it’s improper to engage in viewing gory flicks like that stupid torture one that’s making all the headlines these days.”

“Oh, you mean Screwdriver VIII.”

“Yes. Absolutely disgusting.”

“It’s classic horror. A carpenter teams up with a mechanic on this one. Double the screwdrivers. Double the terror. Double the fun.” I really wasn’t fond of horror movies, but I was willing to say anything to get under Margaret’s skin.

“Are you like doing a commercial for them or something? You sound way too excited.”

“Um,” a voice interrupted our conversation from below. We looked down to see a pimply faced, red-haired attendant brushing some nachos under a chair in row six. “The movie’s over. I gotta clean up the aisles before the next showing starts.”

“Sorry about that!” I called down as we awkwardly retrieved our purses and jackets in one swoop.

“So…he was cute, wasn’t he?”

“Not really,” I muttered, trying to attempt damage control. “His face was so greasy I could see myself in his forehead.”

“Isn’t that your type?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to drown out my annoyance by taking loud footsteps on the parking lot asphalt.

“Well, you went out with that Elliot kid, and that was after he changed over the summer, I might add.”

“Well,” I muttered, unsure of what to say. I kept my head down in shame as we walked, but then I miraculously remembered that we drove separately. I didn’t actually have to suffer through the whole conversation today. Maybe if I got to my car in time, I could change the subject. Make a comment about how rusty and old it was before Margaret had any follow up questions. But of course, it was Three Dollar Tuesday at the movies, which meant every high schooler with a half-beaten go-kart was in attendance, and my car suddenly blended in like a toenail in a bag of rice…don’t ask.

“He was so dreamy before,” she continued on. “I mean, I almost broke my own dating rule and asked him out, but you know, a lady has to have standards. After his…um, makeover…he didn’t appeal to me as much.”

“You wouldn’t have liked him,” I muttered, before I realized what I was saying. I was such an idiot sometimes. Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut?

“Oh? And why is that? Did you two…”

“Ew. No,” I shuddered, “and I’m surprised a woman of your class would ask such a thing.”

“Some things transcend class.”

“Apparently,” I said, fumbling with my car keys. Why couldn’t it have one of those convenient beepers that let you know where your car was located? I would be spamming it like an elevator button.

“So tell me about you two. I know you went out for at least a month last summer. What was it about him that attracted you?”

“To be honest? He was a little obsessive. Kept hounding me for a date.”

“Oh? Do tell!” Margaret said excitedly as she grabbed my arm and made me face her. I guess the search for the missing rust bucket was at a halt for now.

“All he wanted to do was touch me…or grab me,” I said, smiling like a maniac. “And he liked the taste of my flesh.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Margaret backed away, wrinkling her face. “Why do you have to put it like that?”

“It’s true though, and it started getting crazier too. He would chase me around the neighborhood, roaring away as he picked at his face, peeling off dead skin like he had gotten the worst sunburn imaginable, yelling how he wanted to lick my sweat…”

“Stop! Just stop!” Margaret shrieked, stamping her feet to the pavement. “That’s just disgusting! And you know how I can’t stand it when you’re being gross! Just…just see me at lunch tomorrow!”

And with that, my best and only human friend ran away like I had been infected with a plague. I didn’t get why she was so upset. I thought she liked zombies.

Oh well, people just liked dreaming. They never thought about how unromantic it was in reality. Deep down, they didn’t really want to be a part of that paranormal world…

And I would know.

After all, I was living in it.



To read the rest of My Immortal Playlist, download it from Amazon.

To find more from Julius, visit his blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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