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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.
“It all comes down to one simple fact – the Children of the GEM are perfect. We are the ugly and imperfect. We are the Blemished.” In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child. Mina keeps a dangerous secret which she never thought she could share until she meets Angela on her first day at St Jude’s School. But their friendship is soon complicated by Angela’s adoptive brother Daniel. Mina finds herself drawn to his mysterious powers and impulsive nature. Then there is the gorgeous clone Sebastian who Mina is forbidden from even speaking to… The Blemished is a frightening take on a fractured future where the Genetic Enhancement Ministry have taken control of Britain. It will take you on a ride filled with adventure, romance and rebellion. A beautiful world comes at a price…
I entered the classroom. It felt wrong. The chairs were arranged differently – pushed together into a circle. The rest of the Blemished girls stood around unsure of where to sit and why the strange arrangement. In the centre of the circle was a single chair as though one of us would be the focus.
“Everyone take a seat except Miss Hart.” Mrs Murgatroyd’s voice made me jump. There was a hard edge to it, even colder than usual. I shivered. “Miss Hart, I believe there is a place for you in the middle of the circle.”
With shaking legs I stepped through a gap between two chairs and made my way to the centre. I turned and eyed each of my classmates in desperation while Mrs Murgatroyd looked down at me with a strangely tense smirk on her face. It was as though she was mentally battling with an inner conflict. It made her look frightened and cruel in equal measure. With my chest feeling tight and my breathing coming out in rasps I took my seat in the circle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Angela’s concerned face.
“For today’s lesson I needed an example, which is why you see Miss Hart at the centre,” said Mrs Murgatroyd as she slowly walked around the outside of the circle. “Today’s lesson is about boys. You see, there are some among you who seem to have had some experience in this area. Isn’t that right, Miss Hart?”
“I… I… suppose,” I stuttered.
I tried to rein in my emotions, to concentrate and be in control. I couldn’t use my gift in front of all these people. It would be too obvious. I glanced down at my hands hoping that she wasn’t going to beat me in front of the class. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Billie shaking her head and remembered what she had said in the garden.
“Yes, Miss,” Angela replied with a shaky voice.
“Tell the class how a good Blemished girl should behave around members of the opposite sex,” Mrs Murgatroyd instructed.
“Not to look at them directly. Modestly,” Angela recited.
“That’s correct.” Mrs Murgatroyd never stopped her laps of the chairs with slow paces and her hands folded behind her back, the picture of control. “And why is that?”
“Um, we don’t want to give them the wrong idea,” Angela replied quietly.
“That’s correct,” said Mrs Murgatroyd. “You are not here to mate. Your genes have been proven unworthy. You are here as servants to the GEMs, which is your rightful place. And if you are lucky and behave appropriately for a Blemished then you may even get a job. Now Angela, could you tell me one more thing? How should a Blemished girl behave in the company of a male GEM?”
“W… we shouldn’t talk to them. Or look at them. Unless we are spoken to,” she answered quietly.
“Excellent,” Mrs Murgatroyd said. “Now, class. I would like you to answer together. Should you talk to a GEM boy?”
“No,” said the class in unison.
“Should you reveal your hair to a GEM boy?”
I didn’t join in the chant. At this point the tears began to roll slowly down my cheeks and my lips trembled so badly I couldn’t open them.
“Should you let a GEM boy touch you?”
“And how about you, Miss Hart? Should you let any of these things happen?” Mrs Murgatroyd moved into the centre of the circle and bent low to speak to me. I felt her hot breath on my cheek.
I shook my head feebly in answer.
“Yet you did. Didn’t you?” She yanked at my headscarf and began to unwrap my hair. Her pointed nails scraped on the back of my neck and her rough fingers pulled my head back and forth. “Do you think you are better than everyone else in this room?”
“No,” I said hoarsely. I could barely see through my tears now. I shut my eyes against the stares of my peers.
“Then why do you act like it?” she said cruelly. She grabbed my hair and pulled my head back. “You bring everything on yourself, Miss Hart. When will you learn your place?”
On the last word she yanked my head back even further and pulled a pair of scissors out of her jacket pocket. The rest of the class gasped. I stared at them – wide-eyed. For a horrible moment I thought she might stab me, but then she did something almost as awful. With a ghastly smile on her face Mrs Murgatroyd cut chunks out of my hair; big, uneven, ugly chunks. I watched in horror as the long strands fell to the floor.
Few people even know that the Scion School exists. Tucked away on a private Caribbean island, the school is host to thirty-six exceptionally gifted students, all orphans. They train and study every day to prepare themselves for an immense responsibility, to lead humankind back from the brink of extinction.
At least, that’s what they’ve been told.
Among the thirty-six is Jacey, 17, one of four Scions in the Eagle class. She is the favorite of the 93-year-old headmaster, Dr. Carlhagen. But when Jacey overhears a conversation between a strange visitor and one of the school’s first graduates, she learns a stunning fact about her future. One that Dr. Carlhagen has kept from all the Scions.
Following the cryptic clues given to her by the school’s AI professor, Jacey races to untangle the truth of who the Scions are, and what the headmaster really means when he says they are bound for a great destiny.
The girl waved for Jacey to stop, which was very strange. Belle had done so much to avoid Jacey that something had to be wrong if she was waving Jacey down. Maybe she had sprained an ankle or something.
Jacey almost kept going. But if Belle was truly injured . . .
She left the path, picking her way through the jagged rock and Turk’s Head cacti. “What’s wrong?”
Belle faced her, hands on her hips. The glove tucked in her waistband caught Jacey’s attention. And where was the glass object she’d been carrying?
Belle pointed at Jacey. “You’re what’s wrong.”
Jacey sagged. “Did you really wave me over just to insult me?”
Belle looked past Jacey.
She turned to find two boys from Vaughan’s Nine standing behind her. Horace, a tall, rail-thin boy who rarely spoke, and Kirk, his exact opposite, short, squat and thickly muscled.
They took position to block her way back to the main path.
“What’s going on?” Jacey demanded. The menace in Kirk’s eyes sent a chill over her skin.
Belle clasped her hands before her and strolled forward. “You asked Sensei the other day when you were going to be punished. And I know you were denied your virginity examination. At least I don’t think Wanda lied about that. I’d like to help you with at least one of these problems.”
Jacey’s blood froze and she backed away. The boys took hold of her arms.
“I figure we have a few options,” Belle said, stepping closer. She smiled, showing an even row of perfectly white teeth. Jacey had never seen Belle smile before, and it sent another shiver over her skin.
Belle stepped even closer, so that her shadow fell over Jacey. “Kirk could deliver the punishment. Blow for blow, the exact punishment Vaughan received.” She tapped Jacey’s ribs and the side of her head to show the spots the kicks would land.
“But no. That would break your ribs and skull. You might even end up in a coma.” She caressed Jacey’s forehead, face full of mock concern.
Belle’s fingers slid from Jacey’s temple down to the waistband of her running shorts. She pulled it down an inch on one side. “The virginity test . . . I’m afraid that’s not my area of expertise. Though I’m sure Kirk here might be willing to try.”
Jacey acted without thought. She may never have learned kung fu or muay thai, but she had studied ballet for years. She kicked, wildly. Belle threw up her arms, which absorbed most of Jacey’s attack. But the strike drove her back.
The boys still held Jacey in their steely grips. Horace swept her feet from under her, slamming her flat on her back. Jagged rocks bit into her flesh, forcing a cry from her lips.
Kirk swung a leg over her and in a second wrapped her in a jiu-jitsu submission hold. Jacey struggled to breathe. The blue sky overhead started to blacken.
“Don’t knock her out,” Belle said in a singsong voice that reminded Jacey of Mother Tyeesha. An evil version of Mother Tyeesha. “Without pain there is no punishment. Isn’t that right, Jacey?”
Belle held a jar. She brought it close so Jacey could see what was inside.
A shaddle spider. The tan arachnid was two inches long from the back legs to the probing front ones. Yellow markings, like slashes, crisscrossed its back.
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In a world where parasites create new human races, Elei leads a peaceful life – until a mysterious attack on his boss sends him fleeing with a bullet in his side. Pursued for a secret he does not possess and with the fleet at his heels, he has but one thought: to stay alive. His pursuers aren’t inclined to sit down and talk, although that’s not the end of Elei’s troubles. The two powerful parasites inhabiting his body, at a balance until now, choose this moment to bring him down, leaving Elei with no choice but to trust in people he hardly knows. It won’t be long before he realizes he must find out this deadly secret – a secret that might change the fate of his world and everything he has ever known – or die trying.
Winner of position #6 on the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll in the category of Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels published in 2011.
Warning: Some profanity and violence.
Blood seeped between Elei’s fingers.
The small wound was above his left hipbone. He pressed down harder to staunch the bleeding and gritted his teeth. His pulse leaped under his palm as he sat shivering on a hard, cold bench. He rested his other hand on the grip of his holstered gun. In his blurry eyes, everything had a shimmering edge, suspended between reality and dream.
Then the world tilted.
Elei jerked and sharp pain erupted in his side. Hissing, he drew his gun and waited. His possessed eye throbbed; cronion, the strongest of his resident parasites, hated surprises. The world lit up in bright colors. Be ready. His heart pounded in his chest, sent bruising beats against his ribs. He swallowed past a dry throat and gripped his gun until his knuckles creaked.
Nothing moved. Oblong objects around him pulsed in cool hues of green and blue. Safe. Nothing living. He relaxed a little. For a while he simply sat, left hand pressing against the wound, the cold metal barrel of the gun held against his right thigh.
“Hey, you,” a man’s voice said from behind.
Clamping his jaw, Elei lifted the gun and turned to point in the general direction of the voice. Cold wind blew his jacket hood back, allowing him a wider view. The man appeared at the right periphery of Elei’s tainted vision — a splash of red. He went still when Elei cocked the hammer. The click rang too loud in the quiet.
“Calm down, will you,” the man said, raising his hands. “Just checking on you. You’re bleeding all over my boat.”
The boatman. Elei let out a breath and lowered the gun, but didn’t click the safety back on, just in case. The cold breeze ruffled his short hair and water splashed and murmured. The low hum of an engine set his teeth on edge. What was he doing in a boat out at sea? He prodded his memories, but came up blank.Cronion beat at the back of his eyeball like a hammer. He forced his tense muscles to relax and rubbed his eye with his thumb until the dull ache eased. This time, when he blinked, he saw the surface of things, his unfamiliar surroundings — the wet prow, moonlight glinting on metal benches like the one he sat on, yellow lifesavers underneath them. The boatman stood by the rail, dressed in shabby trousers and a pale yellow shirt, watching him from under his dark cap. The light from a lamp set on a bench pooled around him. The sky stretched naked above, night-black and starry.
The boat rocked and listed. His legs slid. He was falling.
He threw his hands to the sides, to find a handhold, the gun screeching against metal. His fingers caught the edge of the bench. He clutched it, the deep, sharp pain in his side squeezing the air from his lungs, and he bent over, panting.
Broken pieces of memories rushed back with a deafening roar. Shots fired. Running through the streets. The docks of Ost.
He was crossing the straits between the great islands.
Shivers crawled up his spine. He lifted his hand and stared at the blood on his fingers. He’d been shot, but couldn’t remember who’d done it.
Elei groaned to himself. He laid his gun — an antique, semi-automatic Rasmus — on his lap and wrapped his arms around himself, tucking his icy hands under his armpits; hoping fervently this was nothing but a dream, and knowing he just wasn’t that lucky.
“Hey.” The boatman approached him, stepping over the benches with his long, spindly legs. Red color flashed over his heart, pulsing with each beat.
Elei straightened with a wince and raised his gun. It seemed to have grown heavier; he could barely lift it. “What do you want now?”
“We’re almost there.” The boatman’s voice resonated with a hidden growl. When he raised the dakron lamp, its light revealed a leathery, deeply lined face and bright blue eyes. “Better get ready to jump, do you hear?”
“I heard you.” Elei kept the gun leveled, his arm muscles straining. Where in the hells are we? Cold sweat sluiced down his back. His nostrils flared and his body tensed with the urge to run. Run where? He was in a boat, for all the gods’ sakes, and yet he knew that even here, in the openness of the sea, he couldn’t afford to let down his guard.
Holstering the gun, he struggled to rise but his damn legs cramped and resisted. Shivers danced down his spine and adrenaline made his blood pump faster, so it trickled down his side, scalding his chilled flesh.
“Hurry up, boy,” muttered the boatman and his hand closed around Elei’s arm like a band of steel. “We can’t linger here.” He hauled him up as if he weighed nothing, the movement sending sharp claws of pain deep into Elei’s side.
Hells. Elei gritted his teeth and refused to make any sound as the boatman dragged him to the rail and left him there, the boat rocking with the movement. Muttering, the man went back to his steering wheel and navigated the boat through the dark waters.
In the distance, squat buildings, old warehouses, rose from the white mist of night. Starlight reflected off polished gray walls. The vacant pier jutted out into the sea like an arm of stone. The boat swerved toward it, then slowed down and bumped to a stop, thumping gently against the square blocks.
Elei inhaled the humid air and tried to get his bearings, to remember something, anything. In the end, he had to admit defeat. “Which island is this? Is it Kukno?”
“Are you saying I tricked you?” The boatman’s voice was dry. “We’re right where you told me to take you. Dakru.”
Centuries ago something catastrophic happened. Historians claim it was an accident that spilled the clouds out of the sky, leaving humanity under a relentless veil of gray.
For young Declan and Sammi, all they’ve ever known is a world of gray skies and dense fog. Now, at odds about the past and uncertain of their future, they’re of age, and it’s time to build their lives together.
Yet the coming of the End of Gray Skies has been declared. For a world shrouded in the mysterious fog, the promise to fix a centuries-old accident brings new hope that they might one day see and feel the warmth of the sun on their faces.
But questions begin to surface. Questions of whether there ever was an accident. Questions asking what really happened that changed the Earth and what will happen if their world once again sits under the sun.
Gray Skies is a 38k word short novel, and is Book 1 of the Gray Skies series. Don’t forget to check out the other books in the Gray Skies series, available and coming soon on Amazon:
Find more from Brian Spangler on his website.