New Releases

Book Blitz: The Honest Liar by Leslie Georgeson @lesliegeorgeson @Shalini_G26

Honestliar
The Honest Liar
by Leslie Georgeson
(The Pact #2)
Genre:  Adult, Romance
Publication:  May 18, 2020

Two friends. One pact. A dangerous plan with an elaborate deception. In a world where they must rely on each other to survive, how far will each of them go to honor the pact?  

Nobody likes a liar.

Yet sometimes lies are essential.

In my world, the truth can kill.

For years I tried to escape the cartel.

But will I ever be free of its pull?

I have a Big Plan, and no one is getting in my way.

Not even a stubborn, sexy cop who won’t keep her nose out of my business.

Jamie Sanderson is determined to end me.

But she doesn’t know how powerful I am.

Even so, some things are beyond my control.

Now she’s in danger.

I will do whatever is necessary to keep her safe.

I don’t want to hurt Jamie, but I’m already buried so deep in the lies that neither one of us will emerge unscathed.

Is losing her really worth seeing my plan to fruition?

Excerpt

The front door of the business opened and people spilled out of the building. All men. All toting the “thug” look. Shifty eyes. Mean expressions. Most under thirty and dressed in low-slung jeans and Tees. They strode to their cars, and the parking lot emptied out.

There was no sign of Rafael Ortiz.

Keith cleared his throat. “Are you sure he’s here?”

“Well, this is his car…” I trailed off as the door opened again, and Rafael emerged from the building.

“Shit,” Keith whispered, his mouth gaping open.

Yeah, shit was right.

Rafael moved slowly, limping as he headed toward us. His face sported numerous cuts and rapidly forming bruises, his left eye was puffy and swollen shut, and bloody tissues plugged his nostrils. He looked hideous. Like he’d taken one hell of a serious beating. I flinched in sympathy. Oh, what a shame to see that beautiful face marred like that.

His open right eye focused on me as he halted before us.

“What the hell happened to you?” I blurted.

His cut lip twitched in a smirk. “Thank you for asking, Detective. Here I thought you didn’t care about me, except to find reasons to arrest me.”

Keith snickered.

“That’s not true.” My face heated. Was I really that rude to him?

He glanced at Keith. “How did you get dragged into her persecution of me? I thought you were my friend.”

Keith reddened. “I simply offered to be her backup since her partner is out sick today. That’s all.”

“I’m not persecuting you,” I denied. “I was just following a lead. I know you’re up to something. All those men who just left here are associated with a cartel.”

Rafael grunted, his right eye centering on me again. “So, once again, I’m guilty by association? This is a gym, Detective. People come here to work out all the time. To fight. To smooth out their issues.”

I huffed. “Well, you obviously just got your ass kicked. Did you get your issues worked out? You look like shit.”

He chuckled softly, wincing in pain. “Oh, you got it all wrong, Detective. I didn’t get my ass kicked. I won.”

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Author Bio

web-18 - Copy

Leslie Georgeson writes romance and suspense, sometimes with a dash of sci-fi or paranormal tossed in to make things more interesting. She is the author of the popular military romantic suspense series, THE DREGS, which was nominated for the 2018 TopShelf Indie Book Awards. Her other titles include the UNLIKELY HEROES series, the UNDERNEATH series, the standalone romantic mystery, NO SON OF MINE, and the newly released romantic suspense duet, THE PACT. Book one, The Mocking Man, is now available on Amazon and book two, The Honest Liar, is scheduled for an early June 2020 release. Leslie lives with her husband and daughter on a quiet country acreage in Idaho.

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New Releases

Book Blitz: Steel Hand, Cold Heart by Rachel Menard @MissusM @RRBookTours1 #Goodreads #RRBookTours #Fantasy

I’m so excited to announce an amazing giveaway event in honor of Steel Hand, Cold Heart by Rachel Menard! Read on for book details, an excerpt and a link to the event!

Steel Hand, Cold Heart by Rachel Menard
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Adventure/ Vikings
Publication Date: July 2019
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On the island of Helvar, women rule. Sixteen-year-old Carina has trained for most of her life to belong to the coveted Daughters of Hel, the steel-handed Viking warriors who provide souls to the Death Goddess in exchange for the prosperity of their island. Gaining her place hasn’t been easy. She was not borne of the island, but another spoil from another raid, raised by the island Chieftain. There are many who would see her fail, and on her first raid, she does. She doesn’t kill a priestess she should have.

Carina needs to prove her worth or risk losing her place. Before she can, her arch-nemesis drugs her wine and sends her off the isle as a captive of three foreign boys. But what is Carina’s greatest misfortune may turn out to be her greatest gift. The young men are taking her to the jewel of the Southern Isles – Fortis Venitis, a place no other Daughter of Hel can venture. Carina can place Hel’s claims on the Southern isle and return to Helvar with the spoils, a victor.

However there are many obstacles to pass before she reaches her goal. Like her rune stone that everyone keeps trying to steal, the mismatched pirates from a country that no longer exists, and the priest with his poison that melts flesh from bones. But the most dangerous obstacle of all are the odd feelings she’s developing for her victims, especially the knife-thieving captain Nik. That could make it difficult for her to kill him in the end.

Chapter 1

They called me Carina the Unstoppable. No, the name did not render men to terror like Merciless Merle, nor did it inspire awe like Dagna the Destroyer, or command attention like Odda Ironfist. But the moniker was mine. I earned it for the many times I had been knocked flat on the training grounds or limped on bleeding limbs to finish a fight. It was how I earned my place as one of Hel’s Daughters, the Hand of Death Herself.

I leaned over the rails of our longboat, Jörmungandr, aptly named because the figurehead was carved in the image of the giant sea serpent, wriggling its way through the water east toward Frisia. A strong wind held our mainsail, and we bobbed back and forth on gentle waves. These smooth waters were a blessing from the sea giant, Aegir. He approved of our quest, speeding us along our last raid of the season, the last offering to Hel before the long winter.

This was the Daughters’ last raid of the season but my first. I could hardly contain my excitement. I wanted to be there already, to see the villagers’ faces when we arrived on their shore in droves. When we offered their blood to the Goddess Hel.

I curled my steel fingers into a fist. On the eve of my initiation, Thora warned me attaching my steel hand would hurt. Her exact words were, “It feels like cutting your fingers off one by one and pissing in the wound.” Vidar warmed the steel gauntlet in the coals until it glowed sunset red, and I grit my teeth as he slid the molten metal over my fingers. The steel hand burned through flesh and muscle until the metal touched bone. My eyes had watered. A violent scream had gathered in my chest.

I held it back. I didn’t have the luxury of showing weakness, and once the hand was seared to my fingers, I belonged to Hel. She who bears the steel hand has the Goddess’s blessing to take life. That was three months ago. It took that long for my hand to heal, to become useful again.

Goodreads Giveaway

Set sail for adventure, romance and cross-dressing on an epic Viking-inspired journey!

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 50 digital Kindle copes of STEEL HAND, COLD HEART, Grand Prize Winner of the 7th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards! Winners will be selected at random, and their prize will be sent directly to their Kindle device. Giveaway is open from May 15, 2020 through June 14, 2020.

Rachel Menard earned her degree in marketing from ASU, during which time her work was featured in the university paper and her own, self-published punk zine, Chelsea. Her short fiction has been featured in the New England Speculative Writers’ Anthology, The Final Summons and on Cast of Wonders. Most recently, her self-published YA fantasy novel won the Grand Prize in the 7th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book awards. For more of her writings and ramblings, visit www.rachelmenard.com.

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May 25th
Book Dragons Not Worms – https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1
Paige Cloud – https://www.instagram.com/turnthe.paige.394/
The Faerie Review – http://www.thefaeriereview.com
Reads & Reels – http://readsandreels.com

May 26th
Jennifer Mitchel, Bibliolater – https://www.jennifermitchellbooks.com
Balancing Books and Coffee – https://www.instagram.com/balancingbooksandcoffee
Misty’s Book Space – http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

May 27th
Tsarina Press – https://www.tsarinapress.com
Breakeven Books – https://breakevenbooks.com
Sophril Reads – https://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

May 28th
I Smell Sheep – http://www.ismellsheep.com/
Jessica Belmont – https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

May 29th
The Magic of Wor(l)ds – http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Rambling Mads – http://ramblingmads.com

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New Releases

Book Blitz: Haunted End: Whispering Lilly by Elizabeth Price @chaosonpaper @btwnthelinespub @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Books #Paranormal #Mystery

Happy release day to author, Elizabeth Price! Check out her latest book, Whispering Lilly, a Haunted Ends novel!

Haunted End: Whispering Lilly
by Elizabeth Price
Mystery/ Paranormal
Publication Day: May 26th, 2020
Publisher: Between the Lines
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The Dead Inns paranormal investigations team is back in action with an all-new television show, Haunted Ends. With the help of their new ghostly member, Sam, the show’s popularity has grown far beyond San Francisco. Rocky, the show’s paranormal psychic, along with Sam, agrees to investigate the murder of a young college girl, Lilly Rosenberg. While doing so, the two are reunited with old friends as well as meeting new interesting ones… bodies optional. Their spooky adventure leads the crew of Haunted Ends into peril, fighting for their lives in the middle of the Mojave desert against the ghost of a long-dead serial killer, Irving Keegan.

Rocky lifted his eyes from his straining fingers. The sun hovered above the horizon, casting a golden glow over his pale skin. A fat speckled pigeon landed on the weather-worn bricks onto which his cramping fingers desperately held. Inches above him stood an open window, taunting him with a sheer white curtain that blew like a billowing cloud in the cool San Francisco breeze. The curtain reached down and tickled the tips of his spiky bleached-white hair. He knew if he reached out to grab the curtain, the rod would snap under his weight and he would plunge six stories, straight into oncoming traffic, causing quite a red splat on the asphalt below.

He glanced between his dangling legs to the busy street filled with spectators and anxious commuters. His eyes widened to the size of spotlights as all breath left his lungs. His fingers shifted, grasping tighter to the crimson brick wall. Why did he look down? He knew better. Yet, it wasn’t every day a person found themselves dangling vicariously outside a six-story window.

The headlights of passing cars and the flashing red lights of several emergency vehicles below resembled a swarm of fireflies. He hated fireflies. They reminded him of a time when he was eleven and had been forced to go to summer camp. The boys in his tent group held him down and forced him to eat fireflies to see if his stomach would glow. The fireflies didn’t stay with him long enough to find out.

“What the hell, Rocky?” Rose called from the open window.

Rocky jumped, his foot losing his hold for only a moment. He regained his footing, breathing out a gasping sigh. “Geez, Rose!” Rocky turned his attention to the window. “Hey, a little warning next time.”

“There’s going to be a next time? You’re anticipating doing this… whatever this is you’re doing again,” she said as she hung her head out the window.

“Gawd, I hope not,” he grumbled.

Rose crossed her arms over her chest, the sleeves of her gray suit pulling slightly at the elbows. “So, I have to ask, how’s it hangin’?” she asked as she leaned further out the window. Rocky replied with a drop-dead glare. “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”

“Just once, I…” Rocky started, realizing only after a few words how hard it was to speak while hanging off a ledge, “…wish you’d learn.”

Elizabeth grew up in Redlands, California as an only child. The lack of siblings, cousins, or even kids in her neighborhood to play with sparked her imagination to life. She spent most days entertaining herself with elaborate stories, even doing so when her attention should have been elsewhere—like on her schoolwork.

As a teen, Elizabeth dove headfirst into the geeky culture of Star Trek and other science fiction and fantasy novels. She became so consumed that she spent all her free time and allowance on new books—eagerly anticipating their arrival. When she felt hindered by her limited allowance and the inevitable waiting period between new releases, it dawned on Elizabeth to revisit the creation of her own stories. This is where she was truly born as an author, pouring her imagination into multiple genres.

In 2009, Elizabeth graduated from California State University Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in Communications, emphasizing Entertainment Studies. She has taken numerous writing classes to hone her craft—everything from script writing to copywriting, story writing and more.

Elizabeth has been happily married to her supportive husband since 2001. He greatly encourages her in her writing endeavors and accompanies her on trips to haunted locations—her favorite pastime. She currently lives with her husband in Corona, California.

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New Releases

Book Blitz: Return Addresses by Michael A. McLellan @McLellanBooks @RRBookTours #ReturnAddresses #RRBookTours #BlogTour #Giveaway

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Michael A. McLellan has a new book out in the world! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a fantastic giveaway — A $20 Amazon gift card, and a copy of Return Addresses!

Psst, bloggers and book reviewers! There is also going to be a blog tour June 10th to the 26th, if you’re interested! Visit R&R Book Tours for more info!

New Final FINAL 4
Return Addresses
by Michael A. McLellan
Publication Date: April 13, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Mountain Press

“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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Excerpt

He saw the tents and the plastic tarp lean-tos too late. He was already underneath the highway overpass. The waning daylight barely penetrated the area, and the makeshift shelters were tucked back away from the road, in the shadows. If he’d seen them, he would have stopped and backtracked to the frontage road he’d passed a few hundred yards back. Breathing heavily, he slowed to a walk and kept his eyes forward.

“Hey, dude, what are you running for?” Came a voice from his left.

He turned toward the voice. Two men were walking toward him from the group of haphazardly placed shelters about twenty feet from the sidewalk. Gauging that he was less than halfway through, he turned around and started back the way he’d come. The men picked up their pace to a jog and cut him off. They stood on the sidewalk in his path. Sean stopped short of them and they casually walked forward, closing the distance. He was more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. His legs were shaking and he felt sick to his stomach. One of the men was old and had long, matted gray hair that hung to his chest in clumps. His clothes were tattered and filthy. The other was younger, maybe thirty. He was wearing a red hoodie and gray sweat pants that were so dirty they’d turned black in places. He had the hood up and masses of brown dreadlocks spilled out of the sides. The smell of the two men reminded Sean of spoiled food and urine.

“What are you running for, kid?” the older man repeated.

Sean took a step back. “I…I must have gone the wrong way.”

“The wrong way? Ha! You got that right. This is the wrongest way you could go.” The man turned and glanced in the direction Sean had came from. “You got anyone with you?”

Now Available on Amazon!

Author Bio

Mike Author 1

Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.

Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.

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Giveaway: 1st prize is a $20 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of Return Addresses. 2nd prize is a digital copy of the book! The giveaway will run from today to May 21st! Click the link below to enter!

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New Releases

Book Blitz: Queen to Ashes by Mallory McCartney @MalMcCartney @RRBookTours1 #QueentoAshes #BlackDawn #Fantasy #YABooks #RRBookTours

QueentoAshes

Congratulations to author Mallory McCartney on the exciting new release of Queen to Ashes, the next installment in the Black Dawn series!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win signed copies of Heir of Lies and Queen to Ashes!

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Queen to Ashes
by Mallory McCartney
(Black Dawn #2)
Publication Date: April 21st, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy

“You lived your entire life feeling like half of you was missing. Fight for the missing part. Fight for this.”

Emory Fae has abandoned everything she thought she knew about her previous life on Earth. Stepping up to her role as Queen of Kiero she makes a startling sacrifice- feigning her allegiances to Adair Stratton, the man who murdered her parents and casted Kiero into ruin. Emory’s memories slowly piece together, and she soon realizes the Mad King may not be all he seems— and the man who was once best friend, maybe fighting beneath the surface.

With the King’s attention on her, can she buy Black Dawn Rebellion enough time to recuperate their forces? And when the times comes, will she be able to kill Adair, ending his tyranny and rising herself as the rightful Queen? Fighting to hide her secret, Emory navigates the brutal trials of the Mad King, trying not to lose herself in the process.

Sequel to Heir of Lies, now a bestselling series, the sparks are ignited, as Emory learns the cost of freedom, and her heritage. Will the rebels unite in time? A sinister force has spread across the land, stripping everyone bare- their betrayals, their secrets, their intentions. But above all, what will their decisions cost? By refusing to give in to the darkness, will Emory rise as Queen?

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Excerpt

The darkness kissed her, embraced her. Squinting, Emory tried to make sense of where she was but was met with a black, dense wall. Sweat pooled at the base of her neck, warmth flaring through her body. Fear choked her then as she gulped down stale air. She knew she wasn’t alone because she felt them before they said anything. “Emory, you need to wake up.” Memphis’s voice, just barely a whisper, caressed her. Right beside her left ear, another voice sounded. “Em, wake up.” Brokk’s rough voice was harsh and clear, but she felt her body still being pulled, pulled down into the black abyss. A third voice then sounded; one she could only recognize from her dreams. “Emory, darling, wake up.” Her mother. Her voice danced all around her, and she clawed blindly, trying to connect with her lost friends and family. Trying to find them. Silence landed heavy, and a putrid smell enveloped her senses. It smelled of rotting meat. Bile rose in her throat as a she felt a slimy, boney hand wrap hard around her wrists, pulling her toward it. She couldn’t scream; she couldn’t move. Sweat drenched every inch of her body as the creature she couldn’t make out leaned closer, whispering right in front of her, “Emory, I have found you.” Swivelling around, she was met with darkness until the monster pulled her closer, its breath tickling her ear. “And you belong to me.” The knife slid in between her ribs, pain blossoming, and cackles spun around her. Then, she was dragged down into the darkness.

Screams tore from her chest as she shot up. Drenched in a cold sweat, it took her several minutes to register where she was and the guard standing at the foot of her bed, arms crossed and eyebrows raised. She screamed again, pulling her blankets around her, her nightdress clinging to her curves. “Who gave you permission to be in here?” she demanded. Smirking arrogantly, he said, “I did.” Blinking, she recognized the man as the same one that guarded her down in the cells. Rubbing her eyes, she tried to shake the feeling of that damp death-like hold of the creature in her dream. She pointed to the door. “Get the hell out.” He scoffed, rolling his eyes. “It’s time to start your day. The king awaits.” Throwing a bundle at the bottom of her bed, he turned his back, briskly stating, “You have five minutes to get ready. I’ll wait outside.” Shutting the door, he left her in stark silence. It was time. Panic clutched her heart, squeezing it, threatening to break it. She couldn’t breathe. The walls seemed stretched too thin.

She could do this—she had to do this. Emory would grant the rebels the time they needed, the time she needed. Dying wasn’t an option. Besides, she was already dead to the people who had believed in her. Leaning forward with shaking hands, she opened the parcel. Several stacks of light black clothes spilled out, including shirts, pants, and undergarments. A blood red sash sat atop them all. Lovely. Sitting on top all of this, though, was a light, sheer, gold chest plate. Squinting, she leaned closer to inspect it. Markings she didn’t recognize adorned all the edges, and its sheerness was unearthly. She was so close, her breath was fogging it, her reflection lost. Strong leather buckles joined at the shoulders; its back plate just as impressive. She shimmied out of bed, quickly dropping the armor. Emory went through the motions of getting dressed numbly. Braiding her long ebony hair back, she looked in the mirror behind her. She didn’t recognize the woman standing before her, the stark cheekbones, emptiness in her eyes, bruised skin underneath them. Tying her sash tightly, she set her resolve. Emory Fae of Earth was dead. Everything had led up to this moment. Her parents shaped their world, defying the paths they were told to go down: A warrior from the Shattered Isles and a Prince of Kiero were never supposed to break away and build a refuge— The Academy—for peace. In her heart, Emory knew they had made mistakes, but their life’s dream was to fight and to ensure everyone, no matter their ability, would have a place to call home. Emory loosened a breath. She would not let her parents’ dream die. If Adair wanted a challenge, he would get one. She would make him pay. For her family. Her friends. For herself.

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Author Bio

updated headshot

 

Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

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Book Blitz: Aroha by L.C. Conn @ConnLoraine @btwnthelinespub @rrbooktours1 #Aroha #Books #Fantasy #RRBookTours

Aroha

Huge congratulations to author, L.C. Conn on the release of her epic conclusion to the One True Child Series, Aroha! To celebrate, the entire One True Child series is on sale!

Read on for more details and a sneak peek at chapter one!

Aroha ebook


Aroha
by L.C. Conn
(One True Child Series)
Publication Date: April 27th, 2020
Genre: Fantasy

Aroha, born of the Universe, needs her godmother’s help. Danger is once more swirling around Claire and her family as Chaos seeks domination over the world. The continuing quest to protect them all will take them on a journey around the world, discovering things about themselves of which they had no prior knowledge. But will it be enough to finally defeat Chaos in the battle that will decide all?

Now Available!

Excerpt

Chapter One

As she stared out of the kitchen window drinking her coffee, Claire Drummond was feeling a little pensive. There was something happening up at the stones that sat on the hill behind the cottage, hidden away in a valley in the highlands of Scotland, her adoptive home. For days now she had felt the changes slowly emerging and spreading out to encompass its surroundings, including the old house in which she now stood. If she were asked how to describe it, Claire honestly did not think she could give a coherent answer that anyone would be able to understand. It was just a feeling.

Claire and her husband, Matt, now lived in the house that had been the home of his mother and grandmother. They split their time between Glasgow ‒ where they both worked at the university ‒ and the small hidden valley. But the cottage always felt more like home to her. Having been born and raised in New Zealand ‒ which Claire still loved fondly ‒ Scotland was where she felt she belonged and needed to be. There was a connection to the land, especially the valley, that she had never felt anywhere else.

Reflecting back over her life, she was in awe at how much it had changed since she had discovered the beginnings of her Abilities at the age of seventeen. The many Talents that were once buried deep inside had grown from the initial two: Hide and Flight. Claire had been born into a very special group of people; so too her husband and their children. Her studies in the library in the outbuildings of the farm had revealed a rich history and insight into this group, more than she could ever have hoped.

Claire and her family were descended from an ancient race of people, the first to live in these lands, and created by the Coimheadair. These people had openly used their Abilities until it was necessary to hide them away, as the rest of the world came to their shores. Claire had read with fascination the references to the Coimheadair, the Guardians of the lands, the creators of this world and, now, a new name she had discovered: Ancient Ones. She had just finished reading an account of an old creation story that had fascinated her and was still wondering if it were true or just some fanciful way of explaining how things had come to be. The Coimheadair were real – of that she was certain; she had seen and spoken to them herself.

Claire had emerged from the library with new wonder and, as always, she looked up to where the two hills joined behind the house. The large upthrust of rock was clearly visible and standing guard as it hid the stones, marking where the brook started with the spring at the top and tumbling down the rocks into the length of the valley.

She placed the empty mug down on the bench and looked at the brook once more. It sparkled under the weak winter sun that had managed to push its way through the clouds. According to the story it had been opened up by an Ancient One to give water and life to the family of people who would guard the stones. Before she knew what she was doing, Claire was out of the house and flying through the air, finding herself already halfway up the hill. She rose up and landed carefully beside the spring. It burbled and bubbled up from the depths under the hill, tumbling down the first few rocks and disappearing over the edge.

Kneeling down she plunged her hand under the cold water and lifted it to her lips. It tasted sweet and crisp. Claire stood and slowly, almost hesitantly, made her way around the guarding rock. They stood as they had done since the beginning of time, tall and straight; they were dark pillars, with only the clinging lichen giving any hint as to how old they really were. The standing stones still called strongly to her; she could feel their vibrations and the anticipation of her touch. She felt the energy swirling around and inside them as they reached out for her, pulling her closer. They had always healed and calmed Claire in her times of need.

Now she reached out her hands that seemed to have aged since the first time she had touched the stones. The energy immediately raced through her fingers and into her body; it filled her up and she felt revitalised. The energy surged and Claire felt the stones searching, seeking more of her. The feeling frightened her. With great effort she pulled her hands away from the dark stone. Always she was wary of touching them for too long, afraid of being lost to them. She walked around the large stones on the outside, touching each one briefly as she went.

This time as she walked it was different. The peace she normally felt was interrupted by voices. Faintly the murmuring came to her as if carried on a breeze from far away, and she frowned as she tried to hear them, only for it to slip away each time, just as she thought she could make out what they were saying. Reaching the entrance stones, she stopped in the gap. Very rarely did she step inside the circle. The last time had been with her family when Aroha, her niece, had been given the blessing of the Coimheadair of the north and south. It was also when Claire had pulled evil from Aroha that had lain hidden away in the depths of her soul, something she had inherited from her great-grandfather.

Stepping through the entrance Claire made her way to the centre of the circle. She stood and looked around her. The change she had felt grew and increased in intensity. It was urgent now. She wanted to turn and leave, it was expectant and weighed heavily on her, holding her in place.

From around the rocks a procession came, seven beings in all, dressed in dark hooded cloaks that covered them from head to toe. Their faces, hands and feet were concealed under the heavy robes. They entered the circle in single file and arranged themselves around her, standing in the gaps between the large stones. Claire did not fear them; she knew they were the Coimheadair.

“Greetings to the One True Child,” they called in unison.

“My greetings to the Guardians of these lands,” she replied.

“Carling,” One of the figures stepped forward, greeting her with the name she had been told was hers. “You once asked that we give you an explanation of what has happened to you.”

“I remember. It was shortly before I disposed of Marcus’s remains,” Claire said, nodding.

“It is now time that you knew everything, Carling. That you were made aware of who and what you truly are. The many lives you have lived down the ages have been hidden from you, your actions and deeds only hinted at and drawn on when those skills were needed. You are so much more than just a wife, mother and scholar. You are the Protector, the Staff and Sword of Order. Your spirit born from two who stand here and sent out into the world to guard against the darkness.”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean, ‘born from two who stand here’? I knew my parents. Is part of them still with me in my mind?”

“We know, we helped them be there to guide you and love you,” the figure said gently. “The time for your education to begin is now, Carling. It is time for you to come into your full potential in order for you to act as Guide and Protector to the Ultimate One, to help her achieve her goal. It has been written in the Book of Destiny and cannot be erased.”

“The Ultimate One is Aroha, our god-daughter?” Claire asked, seeking confirmation to what she already suspected about her niece.

“Yes, it is she that the world has been waiting for. The Universe has sent her daughter to us.”

“What is the task that lies ahead of her?” Claire asked, feeling anxious for her niece.

“That will be part of your education,” another cloaked figure said in a deep male voice.

Claire looked at each Coimheadair that was present; they all stood upright, taller than her. Never once had she glimpsed what was hidden in the depths of those cowls.

“When does my education start?” she asked them.

“When Galen arrives.” A third figure stepped forward, referring to Matt’s true first name. “He will need to be with you. You need to draw on his strength and his love as it has always been between you. That is the reason my son was born.”

“That is tonight,” Claire said quietly, biting her lip a little.

“It is the reason we called you up to the stones. There is so much you must learn, so much you must understand and not one piece can you doubt or reject. The writings in the library are all true, Carling. They were made so that you could read them now, to prepare for tonight. We cannot lie; it will be hard on you, and maybe a little painful. But the time is coming when you need to use everything you have learned over all of your lives to survive and protect Aroha.” Yet another figure spoke now, in a woman’s voice this time.

“You have told me in the past that you are the Coimheadair, the Guardians. But you are so much more, aren’t you?” she asked them.

“We are, Carling, and so are you,” the first figure said. “We must leave now and will meet you here tonight. You will know when it is time. Galen is not far away.”

Slowly the host of beings began to file out of the entrance to the stones and Claire was left in the middle as she watched them disappear around the rocks. All she could hear was the wind as it wound around the stones and the lonely, haunting cry of an eagle on the wing, high up in the cloud-strewn sky above.

Claire made her way back down the hill, taking her time as she pondered on the Guardians’ mysterious words. The texts she had been deciphering came to mind and she flicked through the pages in her mind. It was part of the Abilities she had acquired – understanding their ancient language. It was knowledge that she had shared with her father-in-law and with his help she had made great inroads into the myriad volumes in the family library.

Walking around the house to the front she saw a car making its way up over the rise in the track that led to the ford and the main road. She waited by the door of the cottage for it to arrive and smiled broadly as her husband got out of the car. Claire ran to him and flung her arms around his neck. Matt Drummond was tall; his dark hair now showing traces of grey and the beard he had grown was now almost completely white. He was still the most handsome man to her, still so full of life and love for her. Claire clung to him.

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked, pulling away. He placed his hands on the side of her face, leaned down and kissed her gently. He could always tell when something had happened.

“Just when I thought I was free to live my life, they called me back,” she told him.

“They said… They told you that you were free.”

She could see the agitation growing in him. His hands dropped from her face and he stepped back from her embrace.

“We have to be at the stones tonight. Apparently, I have to finish my education and I get to learn who I am.”

“But we know who you are. They told you that your tasks were done!” Matt said, a little forcefully.

He reached out and took her hand. They walked together into the house and headed to the kitchen, which always felt warm and comforting. The traces of Matt’s grandmother were still there, and Claire had never tried to erase them.

“They want me to guide and protect Aroha as she faces her own task,” Claire informed him.

“This is not fair, Claire,” Matt growled. “You have already done so much for them. You have done everything they asked of you, and it almost destroyed you. They ask too much!”

The deaths of Jack and his father Marcus had affected her greatly, as had the ordeals that Marcus had put Claire and their family through. They were things that they had not spoken of for years; the memories were still too painful, and they had actively sought to suppress them.

She leaned up against the bench and looked out of the window up to the hill. Matt came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, his lips seeking the spot between her neck and shoulder.

“They want so much from you,” he whispered to her. “I fear they want your life, that you will leave me behind. I can’t live without you, Claire. I love you.”

Claire turned in his arms and wrapped her own around him. “I love you, too. I couldn’t have done what I did back then without you, without knowing how much you love me and feeling it within my heart. I still feel the rose that you created for me; it still surrounds my heart and protects me. It fills me with love and hope every day.”

“That is not just my love, but everyone’s.”

“But the rose and dewdrop from your tear is from you. It is the source of my strength and my love.”

“I guess we must go, then, and find out what they want,” Matt said, seeming resigned to the fact. “I’m pleased that they want me there too. In the past they have kept me in the dark and I’ve been floundering around trying to help you.”

“I know they have. I will make sure they include you in this; you have every right to know. Our lives are shared, we are one,” she told him and kissed him again.

They stood in the centre and waited. Inside the circle it felt warm; the wind and rain that blustered in the darkness beyond the stones did not affect them. Matt clasped her hand in his and was growing impatient. Claire turned to face him, her arms going about his waist as she drew him into her. He looked down at his wife and smiled, his bright blue eyes sparkling in the fleeting moonlight and showing the love he felt for her. He reached up and pushed her blond hair away her face and kissed her.

There was no need for words, they had been together for twenty-eight years and they knew each other too well. The connection between them ran deep inside their minds and was unbreakable. Claire rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes, taking comfort from his arms and his presence. Memories of their times at the stones came floating up and she smiled at the ones that meant the most to her.

“Claire,” Matt said, softly bringing her out of her memories.

Pulling away from the warmth of his body reluctantly, she watched the Coimheadair enter the circle. Each figure took their place once more in the gaps between the large stones and faced the couple. With increasing nervousness Claire waited for the Guardians to begin.

“Greetings to the One True Child, daughter and sister of the Sentinels, Staff and Sword of Order, Guardian of the Stones and wife of Galen the Protector,” one of the hosts proclaimed, as he stepped forward from his place.

“My greetings to the Guardians of the lands,” Claire said.

“Greetings to Galen of the Boar, Protector and husband of the One True Child,” another said, moving forward.

“Greetings to the Guardians of these lands,” Matt said.

“That is a lot of titles and some I have never heard before,” Claire spoke to the first.

“The time for all knowledge is now. What once was hidden and kept from you, will now be laid out and revealed to you, Carling,” he replied

“Before we begin, there is something I must ask,” Claire said, her hand still clasping that of Matt’s.

“If it is within our Abilities to grant it to you, Carling, then we shall,” the first Guardian told her.

“I ask that the knowledge is also passed on to Galen,” she requested, using her husband’s real name. “He has a right to know what I do, we share everything, and we are one.”

“My son shall know what you do as far as your joined history together. But there is still knowledge that my son will not be able to comprehend or understand. I do not intend to insult you, Galen, but some of the knowledge is specific for Carling to do with her Abilities,” the second Guardian replied.

“I understand, Guardian,” Matt inclined his head.

“I thank you, Guardians.” Claire bowed her head to them.

“Carling and Galen, it may pay that you sit. I fear that the knowledge will be weighty and hard for you.” Yet another figure spoke with a gentle feminine voice.

The couple sat facing each other, legs crossed, and hands held together. Their knees were touching, and Claire couldn’t tell if it were her hands that were shaking or Matt’s. She gave him a small smile of encouragement and closed her eyes.

The Guardians’ chanting started slowly and quietly, rising in tempo and volume. Some the words Claire understood and recognised as a blessing. The words then formed a request from a higher being than the host gathered, to grant knowledge to the couple. The pressure inside her mind increased as she saw her beginnings here in the stones. Claire witnessed her birth from a great being clothed in sunshine yellow, surrounded by others in multiple hues. Lights under their skin swirled as a storm raged overhead and around the stones. The scene shifted before her, showing Carling as a child with golden hair, her small hand clasped in that of a tall boy with bright blue eyes. Claire recognised the spirit of her husband. They had been destined for each other from the moment of her conception.

Deeds played out before her, travels and people. Marveling as she recognised the spirits of so many, linking them with those she knew in this life. They had followed her down through the ages to be at her side, to support and love her. So many were there her mind began to rebel at the enormity of it and a flash of pain seared through her.

“Peace, Carling. Accept it,” a gentle voice called to her. It was familiar and she relaxed under its smooth tones.

The imprisonment of Chaos was before her. The crystal cave and its bright light she understood. Order was still standing guard over its brother, who was bound to two large pillars of pure clear crystal that pushed their way up through the floor of the cave.

The scene changed quickly. She saw the lives of her children and that of her husband, the love she felt for her ultimate parents, and the Guardians. She saw them once more transform into the seven great trees to stand guard around the sacred lands.

Another life rose to meet Claire. Another called Carling. The same in every single way. The house which sat over the water, flames leaping from the thatched roof and the roar that frightened the small child, the fire that claimed her family. The scene changed and once again she saw the spear as it pierced her grandmother, the blood and the sound of her cries. The man who had taken her and who wanted to possess her. The hazel eyes, the face the same as the Marcus Claire had known, only younger. She saw the evil begin in him.

She saw the great fire she had caused at the Roman fort and the final battle. Galen killing the man, the first Marcus, as he cried out for him to do so. The darkness had not fully possessed his soul; there was a part that was still human and capable of love. Claire also understood where that love had come from: the Guardians.

The aftermath of the great fire and the life as she lived it with Galen with their children on the side of the mountain. The broch she recognised, the little village she knew, and had helped to rediscover, where she had dug the stones from the earth with her own hands. The pendant Matt had found, with the image of a boar, the one she had once worn at her throat, the work of her husband Galen. It all came to her and she smiled at the memories.

Other lives she had lived: in the area around Loch Tay; some later on, further afield in America. She saw the lines of her children. Galen and her offspring spread far and wide across the world, so many now. One she recognised and she stood before its spirit – that of Maddison, her brother Tony’s first wife.

She saw her own home. The small settlement in the valley in New Zealand. The stones as they had once stood at the head of the gully, green stones from the ground, polished and gleaming in the southern sun. She felt the Sentinels of the south as they gathered there, joining their energy to that of the north as they imparted all their knowledge to her.

With the memories finished, it was now time for the truth. In the darkness of her mind, in a small corner, where the glow from the crystal that was the facilitator for her Abilities could not reach, she found herself. It was there that Claire tried to centre herself and accept the new memories.

From the shadows of that corner came another to stand in front of her. Identical to herself in every way except for golden points of light which danced and swirled under her skin. Her hair was the same, her eyes the same shade of blue. Dressed like one of the Sentinels she smiled at Claire.

“We are one,” she said.

“I take it you are the one I call Crystal?”

“I am. It was necessary for the Sentinel side of us to manifest itself in such a way. It was too early for us to understand and accept it. Our first life showed us that the human side would take a little convincing.”

“This is what the Sentinels look like?”

“It is. They were born of the light of Order, although for ourselves we were born from the bodies of Yellow and Blue.”

“This is a lot for us to take on, Carling,” Claire said to her twin.

“It is, Claire. There is more – the Abilities that we used in our first life must now be released. It will be painful as our mind grows to accept them all. To do this, Claire, we must wake from here and open ourselves up to the Stones. Do not be afraid of losing ourselves to them, they will not absorb us. The energy we have felt inside the stones is that which has been stored for us, to draw on at this moment.”

“We shall trust in the knowledge that is stored in your side of our spirit.” Claire told the glittering being.

“Are we ready?”

“We are ready,” Claire nodded and opened her eyes.

Matt was sitting watching her, still clasping her hands in his own. His bright blue eyes widened as he came to terms with his own history and that of his wife.

“The time is now, Carling,” one of the male Sentinels intoned. “Open yourself to the stones and take the knowledge that is yours. Use it well and protect the world and the Ultimate One. The task is yours to take on and once more we ask you to be the Staff and Sword of Order.”

“I accept the task,” she told them and turned to Matt. “I must do this, Galen, it is the reason I was created and born.”

“I understand, Claire. And where you go, so do I, as your support, love and protector.”

“We cannot touch you, Carling, while you are communing with the Stones. This task is for Galen to support you. You must hold her onto the stones, my son, and do not let her release until it is time.”

“I understand, my Ancestor,” he nodded to the Sentinel.

“I’m ready, Galen,” Claire told him, and he walked with her to the largest of the stones.

Standing in front of it and feeling very small in comparison, Claire could sense the knowledge already reaching out to her. She raised her hands and placed them on the flat hard surface and found it warm to the touch. It vibrated with energy as it started to impart knowledge, releasing all the Abilities and so much more. In her mind a bell began to toll, it was a sound she had heard before at the stones and the understanding of where it came from washed over her. The Universe herself was giving Claire her blessing.

When Claire was first granted access to some of her Abilities, she had trouble controlling the influx of information. It was the same feeling she was now experiencing. Everything around her was blocked out, including the feeling of Matt holding her.

“Let it in and do not try to control it. Accept it,” the calming voice told her.

“We are trying to,” Claire replied gritting her teeth and she forced herself to relax, and the pressure eased some.

Beads of sweat appeared on her brow as she concentrated on the knowledge. Her body shook with the force and weight of it. Matt held his wife tightly and was amazed at the capacity she had. He noticed small points of lights flickering to life just under the skin of her hands. They spun and swirled as they made their way slowly up her arms. Looking around at the Sentinels who stood guard over them, he was concerned and sought their guidance.

“The side that has been hidden from her, she is now accepting, my son. Keep her there, the time is not right to release her,” the Guardian reassured him.

“What are they?”

“They are the lights of the Universe. When Order created us, he took the light from his own body, the light that was created from the explosion of the old world and split it into its many facets. We are those facets. A rainbow of colours to stand guard over this world and protect it from the darkness. Carling’s light is purer than ours, her light is greater. It burns brighter and the Abilities she has been granted by our Mother Universe far exceeds our own. She is a gift from the Universe to help bring back balance. Chaos was never meant to be only darkness, the Universe created Order from Chaos’s destruction to bring balance. But unfortunately, it never came to pass. The great plan of Carling was only the beginning. She was always meant to be a tool to be honed and used to prepare and protect the Ultimate One. Aroha is meant to replace Chaos and Order. The balance shall be returned when she has banished them.”

“And what is to become of Claire when it is over?” Matt asked with a great fear beginning to grow inside him.

“It will be decided on the day of the banishment. We cannot see the outcome. Carling, when she does pass, will join us and take her rightful place with the Sentinels, at our side to continue our work. This has been seen.”

“So, I will lose her…?” He looked at Claire. The love he had for her was written clearly on his face, and the pain of knowing they would be separated from one another.

“We cannot see that,” another spoke gently.

“But you said…”

“Yes, it is written in the Book of Destiny, but we cannot see what becomes of either of you,” she told him.

The lights that had started underneath the skin on Claire’s hands were now spreading faster up her arms. They pushed their way with a surging force, advancing and then retreating a little until Matt saw them reach under the pushed-up sleeves of her jacket. They emerged at her throat and he could see them seeking out the rest of her body. The moment they reached her face she grimaced in pain and he almost pulled her off the stone.

“A little longer, my son.” A thin, bony hand was raised over Claire’s head and a spark of light jumped from the hand to Claire, like a little piece of golden lightening. The Guardian pulled back and held the hand under its robe.

The others stood their ground, waiting for the moment when all knowledge had been passed onto Claire. Matt could feel her tremble under the pressure, and she began to weaken. He held onto her, holding her in place. The weight of her body slightly pushing him off balance as he tried to adjust. The lights were now rushing through her body, streaking and pulsating like a meteor shower in the heavens. Under his hands he could feel her racing heartbeat as she absorbed all that she should be, and it became a part of her.

“Now, Galen.” One of the gathered hosts placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pulled him back.

Claire’s hands released their hold on the stone, and she collapsed into his arms. Matt gently lowered her to the ground and cradled her, smoothing the damp hair from her face. Claire’s eyes flickered opened and the lights had even invaded the soft blue of her iris. They flashed for a moment before disappearing and she focused on his face.

“Claire,” he said softly to her.

“Galen, my Galen. So long have we loved,” she said in wonder as her golden laced hand reached up to his face.

“And we shall continue forever more,” he promised as he bent and kissed her lips.

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Author Bio

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L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.

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Mallory McCartney is getting ready to release book #2 in her epic Black Dawn series, but she wants to give you guys a chance to read the book that started it all first, Heir of Lies!

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Heir of Lies
Heir of Lies
by Mallory McCartney
(Black Dawn #1)
Release Date: April 20th, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy/ New Adult Fantasy

“Hope was a dangerous thing. It could consume every dream and make them take flight, becoming wild daydreams in one’s heart and mind. Or hope could incinerate everything you thought you knew, burning you down to your core, leaving you raw and exposed for the world.”

Emory Fae has only known one thing—life at The Academy, a school for those who have special abilities. Following in her parents’ footsteps, the pressure to uphold their dream falls on her and one of her best friends—Adair Stratton. An outcast and feared by most, Adair longs to break away from the expectations dictating his future. With whispers of dark magic spreading across Kiero, Adair starts to doubt The Academy is all it seems.

An unexpected visit ignites new tensions as the roguish king from across the Black Sea, Tadeas Maher of the Shattered Isles, and his heir, Marquis Maher, sail to Kiero. Notorious for their pirating and wrath, for the first time in years, they demand the Faes listen to their proposition for a new treaty. Caught in the middle of politics, Adair and Emory, with the help of their best friends Brokk and Memphis, search for the one thing that matters the most—the truth.

Their world is tipped upside down as unlikely alliances are made, and war ravages Kiero. Through the throes of betrayal, lies, hidden magic, and love, Adair is faced with a life changing decision. Will he fight or bow to the darkness within?  But, Adair’s decision will change the course of Kiero forever, setting in motion irreversible destinies for everyone at The Academy as Emory Fae rises as heir.

Heir of Lies is the first book in the bestselling Black Dawn series.

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Excerpt

“It was as if her body had been ripped into a thousand different pieces. Her lungs burned, begging for relief. Emory heard the soft crackle of fire. Her head was a spinning mass; it was its own continent. Squinting, she tried to focus. Blinking slowly, her surroundings came into view. Her pulse picked up. She wasn’t in her room. She wasn’t in her home. The metal world around her seemed to have one purpose. To keep people in. To keep her in. The last twenty-four hours rushed over her in a flurry of confusing memories. Him… Memphis. The name rolled around in her mind, familiar yet unfamiliar all at once. Her eyes flashed open, her heart thrumming with adrenaline. Heavily, Emory sat up, trying to pull her thoughts together. For now, the room was empty, her captors gone. Now. This is your chance to escape. The thought clambered through her wildly, and she acted. Standing from the bed, Emory stumbled, her legs weak, her clothes dirtied. Breathing heavily, Emory ran to the door, pushing the handle down as it opened. Containing her surprise, she slipped into the hallway. What kind of criminals would keep their prisoner in an unlocked room? Walking fast, Emory pushed the thought down, keeping her head down as she tried to locate how to get out of this place. The hallway was quiet, and Emory didn’t pass anyone else. It had to be late into the night, and she sent up a thank you to whoever was granting her such luck. Trying not to run, she turned left, passing more shut unmarked doors, but slowly, the hallway slanted up. Heart pounding, her palms slicked with sweat as she tried to stick to the shadows, walking faster now. Ahead of her, doors loomed, and panic bloomed in her chest. Running now, Emory tried to hold back the tears burning in her eyes. She reached the massive doors, pulling them open, and the night air slammed into her. Gasping, she sprinted, rushing out into the rolling field. The air was brisk, a sweet aroma hanging on the wind, the crescent moon tucked in the midnight blue clouds. Ahead, a massive forest loomed, and she frantically looked for any sign of modern civilization where she could find help. There was nothing. A stitch laced through her side, and her converses lost footing. Emory slammed into the damp earth. Rocks sliced through her palms as she tried to break her fall, blood welling in the cuts. Tears slid down her cheeks as she got up, whispering, “Keep moving. C’mon.” Looking back, she expected to see the place she had been taken to, but dread pooled in her stomach as all she saw was open field—no sign of any building whatsoever. “What the hell?” Emory whispered, fear making her thought process choppy. Sprinting again, she pushed toward the woods.”

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Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

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