When Blood Reigns by Barbara Custer

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When Blood Reigns
Barbara Custer
Publication date: December 5th 2016
Genres: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction

Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Teodon pointed toward Laurel and held a finger to his lip.

“Do not speak out loud. I will understand the answers you think.”

Okay, Yeron’s badly hurt and so am I. I can’t move him without making his injuries worse.

“All right, then I will levitate him. I know how and I will not see him die. Go ahead of us and lead me to Quyeba’s laboratory. You must forget your injuries and pain. It may seem impossible, but Yeron needs your help. I cannot carry two injured people safely, and if you stay, Laurel will come after you again.”

I understand. Alexis struggled onto her hands and knees.

Harsh chewing and slurping sounds issued from Laurel. Despite the pain wracking her body, Alexis crawled toward the door.

She had to find her way back to the lab. Yeron was moaning, and his cries were growing weaker. Teodon lifted him. He depended on her to lead the way. Any second, Laurel would tire of Woehar and come after her.

Never mind the pain. Find help.

Gritting her teeth, Alexis began her Bataan Death Crawl. Her incisions telegraphed bolts of stabbing pain with each movement. It doesn’t matter; Yeron’s life is on the line. She mind-opened the panel and led Yeron and Teodon through the exit.

Once in the hallway, Teodon hesitated.

“Left or right?”

Woehar had made a sharp right to enter the killing field, Alexis remembered. Left.

She edged along the long stretch of hall. The throbbing from her incision and back brought to mind the pain she’d felt from the rheumatoid arthritis during her job as a respiratory therapist. Her chest tightened at the prospect of navigating that long corridor the way it used to when she faced a heavy shift. No painkillers were forthcoming. She kept going.

It was simple. Woehar had guided right from the laboratory, and then a long stretch of hallway, past two sets of doors, before making her right into the death camp. So Alexis retraced Woehar’s steps and looked for steel doors on her left leading to the lab. Adrenaline would carry her. She’d once read a tale about a mother whose adrenaline rush allowed her to lift a car off her child’s injured body.

Agony bled into her incision with every shift of her knees. The pain was worse in her lower back, where Laurel had kicked her. Sweat rolled down her forehead, dripping on the grid floor. She was leaving bloody handprints and a ribbon of blood. None of that mattered. She strained her ears, listening for familiar voices.

Seconds later, she did hear Quyeba and Zoltar. A few paces further, ungodly spasms tore through her back. The black dots returned. She called for help. She last saw Teodon kneel over Yeron, placing something on his wounded shoulder. Behind them, Laurel emerged from the corridor, growling, her mouth opened wide. The dots swelled and the screams died in Alexis’s throat as the darkness took her.

 

Author Bio:

Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.

Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer, City of Brotherly Death, Infinite Sight, and Steel Rose; also novellas Close Liaisons and Life Raft: Earth. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Unbreakable Seal by Summer Lane

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Unbreakable Seal
Summer Lane
Publication date: December 9th 2016
Genres: Adult, Thriller

Chris Young has it all.

Elite training, undercover missions, and a life of adventure. As one of the best Navy SEALs in the world, he finds himself in the thick of some of the most violent situations on planet earth.

He’s a warrior.

But when his wife is murdered by terrorist assassins, everything he thinks he knows changes. For Chris Young, everything is about revenge, and finding the people who killed his wife.

He will assemble a team. He will come up with a plan.

He will make them pay.

From the #1 bestselling author of the Collapse Series, Bravo Saga and Zero Trilogy, comes this thrilling adventure novel about one man’s quest to avenge the person he loves most.

Goodreads / Amazon

SNEAK PEEK:

Chris leaned on the counter. He looked down at his hands, calloused and dirty. They were strong hands. Killing hands. The tools of his trade, and he was feeling strangely detached from life in Afghanistan today. His head still echoed with the sound of bullets and the screams of horses. He could still smell the blood and the death.

It was inside him—part of him. Like a physical thing, the blood and carnage of this place had wrapped itself inside his chest and hardened there, making it impossible to sleep at night or to walk from the barracks to the chow hall without resting his hand on his gun, waiting for the attack to come.

 

Author Bio:

Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 15 novels, including the books of The Collapse Series, The Zero Trilogy, The Bravo Saga, Collapse: The Illustrated Guide and the newly released Unbreakable SEAL. She owns WB Publishing, Writing Belle, and is an experienced creative writing teacher and journalist.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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PNR & UF Giveaway Party

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Welcome to the #PNR and #UF Giveaway Party!

Who’s ready for a giveaway you can get your hands on? A bunch of authors
got together to bring your this Big Box of Paperbacks Giveaway! One
lucky winner is going to win SIXTY-TWO (62) Paperback Books!
How’s that for an epic Book-Lover’s Prize?! If you are a fan of Urban
Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction, or Paranormal/SciFi Romance, you’re going to
want to get in on this! The best part is that even if you don’t win,
you’ll be subscribed to the sponsoring authors newsletters for a chance
to grab some freebies, snag some special offers, and enter more
giveaways!

 

Here are a couple of sneak peeks!

 

Excerpt from Foxblood: A Brush with the Moon by Raquel Lyon

The funeral was a typically sombre affair, alive with soggy tissues and streaky make-up. I stood at the back, letting the vicar’s voice wash over me, and spent the whole time staring at the flower-laden coffin, wondering if the lid would suddenly flip up and a fanged monster would escape to reap its vengeance on the congregation.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen, and as the mourners dispersed in the direction of the pub, I quietly snuck off home. I wasn’t in the mood for crowds and needed time to think, time to try to make sense of at least something, but as I turned to close the door, it was obstructed by a perfectly polished black shoe that belonged to…

“Sebastian?”

“Seb, please,” he said, easing his way through. “Only my father calls me Sebastian.” He checked down the backstreet and closed the door securely. His eyes scanned the flat. “Nice place.”

“I like it.”

“It doesn’t bother you? Living over a funeral parlour?” he asked.

“Why would it? The neighbours are quiet.”

He didn’t laugh at my joke; neither did he comment. He simply stood silently, staring. It was very unnerving and made my legs go all wobbly. Perhaps if I turned away from him, he’d disappear again? It was worth a shot. I forced my jelly legs over to the front window and stared out at nothing in particular. The light was subdued, and the sky had darkened to an air force grey. A low mist was beginning to carpet the distant fields, and I wondered if snow had been forecast.

I knew my little experiment hadn’t worked. He was still there. I could feel his presence and smell his scent, a musky, inviting aroma that filled my senses and sent my head into a whirl, and it was getting stronger.

“Your friends interrupted us the other day. Can we talk now?” he whispered softly into my neck, and his fingertips traced a fiery trail down my spine.

“What’s the point? There’s nothing to say. I wish you’d just leave me alone,” I said, lowering my head in time to see Lara leaving the newsagents. She glanced up with a look of fury contorting her face as Sebastian’s hands reached around either side of me and grabbed the window frame.

“I can’t do that. I’m not that strong,” he said.

I studied the arms now imprisoning me, with their perfectly formed muscles straining against the rolled-up sleeves of his white shirt, and seriously doubted his statement. His stance was predatory and made me feel uncomfortable. I ducked under his elbow to escape, but he caught me around the waist and pulled me against him. Our bodies moulded together perfectly, and the strength of his grip made me feel like a china doll that he’d be able to crush in an instant. He was almost a full head taller than I was, and the warmth of his breath caressed my forehead. How easy it would be to reach up and taste those lips. I imagined the feel of them, and my own parted in an involuntary invitation.

The full Foxblood series can be seen here: http://foxifae.wixsite.com/raquellyon

 

Autumn Winters, Realm Watchers Book 1  by J. S. Malcom 
The rain has stopped, but fog crept in while I sat in Rory’s. I walk through that fog now, the streetlights casting cones of luminescence that capture swirling mist. I should go straight home, but I really want a bottle of wine. J.J.’s Market is only two blocks off and I walk toward neon signs advertising beer and cigarettes, drawn like a moth.  Not long ago, I was newly married, looking forward to finishing my MFA in Design with the hope of someday starting my own business. I barely drank and rarely got drunk. Now, I’m wandering around out here at night trying to avoid ghosts and unwilling to go home without alcohol because I’m afraid I won’t sleep. My eyes start to prickle and I wipe the back of my hand across my face.
And, no, I’m not alone. I can’t hear her behind me—her steps will never make sound again. All the same, I feel her there and soon she walks beside me. 
“Hello?” she says. 
I keep walking. God, it breaks my heart but I don’t want her next to me. 
“Can you hear me?” 
Yes, I can hear you. I say nothing. 
One block to go and maybe I’ll just uncork that bottle right in the store.  With any luck, she’ll veer off and find some other lucky person to latch onto.  
“I really need your help.” Her breath hitches as her voice rises in pitch.  She’s also crying and I just can’t ignore her—it’s not about me anymore. 
I slow down, then stop. I wipe my eyes, realizing that she’s not the only one crying. 
“Are you okay?” she says. 
Seriously? Things have gotten that bad? 
I take a deep breath to calm down. “I’m fine. Okay, I’m lying but I can deal with that later. What’s going on with you?” 
“I’m not dead,” she says.  
I turn to look at her. No, she doesn’t look dead but many of them don’t.  Not to me, anyway. Some are more translucent while others appear  basically the same as you and me, give or take the glow around them.  That’s not guaranteed either. People are all different, whether dead or alive. One of my new theories is that we all start out as “dead” before becoming “alive” again. Like a lightbulb switching on and off again here in this realm. I think it’s a circular system. It seems an efficient use of energy. In this theory, ghosts are glitches.  But this girl next to me isn’t interested in hearing about my theories, which change daily anyway. She just wants to know what’s going on. 
I really don’t want to go there right now but I’m stuck in this situation. I look at her young, beautiful face. Trusting eyes stare back at me. 
“I’m really sorry,” I say. “Did it happen fast? Was it a car crash or something?” 
She shakes her head. “That’s not what happened.” 
I don’t want to take it to the next level but, evidently, I have no choice. “Did you commit suicide?” 
That happens a lot too, I’ve come to learn. Suicide is a big one for getting you grounded. You cause that kind of pain and you just can’t move on.  
She shakes her head again. “No. Please, that isn’t what happened.” 
I think for a moment, hesitating because I hate the dark stuff. I really don’t want to know if she was murdered.  
“I’m not dead,” she says. “I swear. They took my body!” 

 


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Discord (Echoes of Earth #1) by Katy Haye

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Discord

by Katy Haye

Genre: Young Adult

Release Date: December 8th 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

Beth forgot her past. What if there’s nothing to remember?

Seventeen-year-old Beth has brain damage. That’s why she lives in a hospital in the middle of the English countryside filled with therapeutic music and medical tests. Some days she feels well enough to go home, but other days – the days filled with shadows and ghosts, and a strong sense of déjà vu – she fears she’ll never get better.

Toby’s arrival signals a turning point. Beth faces her fears instead of hiding from them. But even with Toby’s help, is she strong enough to face a truth that is stranger than anything Beth could imagine?


 


On sale for only $0.99
from 12/8-12/10! Buy at Amazon  

Book Trailer:



About the Author
Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling.
When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (admittedly, this would not help if the entire country flooded…).
Author Links:
 

 

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Cover Reveal: Revelations by T. Marie Alexander

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Revelations
by T. Marie Alexander
Release Date: January 27th 2017

Summary from Goodreads:

Have you ever craved something so badly that all reason was just an excuse getting in your way?

Have you needed something so desperately that you didn’t care how you got it or who you hurt in the process?

I have—and not that long ago.

Acceptance.

Acceptance… from family and friends…

Acceptance of the person I am inside and not outright rejection.

It didn’t come easily for me, and now I believe the world needs to know just how ruthless life can be. How that overwhelming yearning for acceptance can mold you into someone you don’t recognize when you look in the mirror. I’m through hiding behind one façade after another—it’s time for the world to meet the real me.

~Antoinette Justice

 

Pre-Order Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

 
About the Author
Hi! I’m La’Teaikia, and I write YA Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Romance. I’ve been an avid reader since ninth grade when I first discovered Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. I know, I know. Most people think sparkly vampires are just wrong. I am NOT one of those people.
Even though I’ve only been reading for a short time, unlike most authors, I’ve been writing since I was seven. And before you ask, that was fifteen years ago.
To me, everything have to be perfect, which is why it has taken me so long to publish my debut novel, Zola Flash. I tend to plan out and list everything. My husband think it’s excessive.
So with that being said, here are a few things you should know about me, other than what I’ve already said.
I live in the lonely state of Arkansas. I plan to move as soon as I complete my graduate degree, preferably someplace where Taylor Swift tours.
If you didn’t get the hint from my first point, I’m a HUGE Taylor Swift fan.
When I’m not reading or writing, I’m designing clothes and handbags and watching Doctor Who.
I’m a kid at heart. I love Barbie Movies. I love watching Disney Channel. However, them thinking that every movie they come out with needs to be a musical is a bit much.
Chocolate is my life. I’ll eat anything with chocolate . . . well, maybe not anything.

 

Author Links:
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Malaise Falchion (The Spade Case Files) by Paul Barrett

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32902890Malaise Falchion

Paul Barrett

Science Fiction

November 15, 2016

Disgraced during the Demon War, Dwarf investigator Snazdaggin Kundarik (Spade to his friends) wants nothing more than a desk to sleep on, a bottle of grog to drink, and the occasional easy case for quick pay.

Then a mysterious female Elf from the posh side of town shows up and offers him exoneration for his past sins and lots of gold. All he has to do is follow her brother and report his activities. Simple, right?

He should have known better. The simple job soon spirals out of control. Spade finds himself sucked into intrigue, powerful magic, and the hunt for a weapon powerful enough to end the world. Ill-prepared, Spade forges on with the aid of his hapless sidekick and a reluctant female warrior.

Will he survive long enough to save the world and get his grog?

Fiery Seas Publishing

About the Author:

Paul has lived a varied life full of excitement and adventure. Not really, but it sounds good as an opening line.

Paul’s multiple careers have included: rock and roll roadie, children’s theater stage manager, television camera operator, mortgage banker, and support specialist for Microsoft Excel.

This eclectic mix prepared him to go into his true love: motion picture production. He has produced two motion pictures and two documentaries: His film Night Feeders released on DVD in 2007, and Cold Storage was released by Lionsgate in 2010

Amidst all this, Paul has worked on his writing, starting with his first short story, about Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, at age 8. Paul has written and produced numerous commercial and industrial video scripts in his tenure with his forcreative agency, Indievision. He has two published short stories (As You Sow and Double Cross) and one self-published novel (Godchild). He lives with his filmmaker/graphic artist partner and their three cats.

Twitter / Goodreads

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Prince of Honor (House of Terriot #1) by Nancy Gideon

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32727046Prince of Honor

House of Terriot Book One

Nancy Gideon

The hunter becomes the prey, a prisoner to his own desire . . .

Turow . . .

Strong, silent man of integrity content to serve his new king as a prince in the turbulent shape-shifter House of Terriot. A tracker and relentless hunter, he’s used to running trails alone until charged with returning a traitor to their mountain top home to face the unforgiving judgment of their clan.  On the run with the bad girl he’s loved forever, the choice between duty and desire has never been more difficult        . . . or deadly.

Could the bargain made to save their lives become reality?

Sylvia . . .

Manipulative schemer or victim caught between a mother’s ambition and a rogue prince’s lust for power? Trust is almost as foreign as the idea of love, but to save herself from certain death, she must risk both on the good man who deserves them . . . from someone worthy. Trapped by the only one who believes in her goodness, will she betray him and run for her life . . . or stay and destroy him with a long hidden truth?

Book Trailer https://youtu.be/g9qdy5RmkJg

Amazon     Nook     Kobo     ARe    iBooks

 

Excerpt –Book 1 in the “BY Moonlight” spin-off series.

Meet shape-shifter prince Turow from the House of Terriot

PRINCE OF HONOR

The hunter becomes the prey, a prisoner to his own desire . . .

It was early. Faint daylight crept in through cracks in the curtains, but the room was still quite dark.

Turow couldn’t move. Couldn’t manage more than a quiet moan. His body wouldn’t respond, his mind refusing to engage. A huge weight of sated bliss layered over him, making simple actions impossible. Every breath he took reminded him why.

The covers tossed over his naked body held her unique smell. His tongue still tasted her. But it was what he didn’t feel that finally goaded him into awareness.

Her heat didn’t rest beside him. In fact, the sheet was cold.

Empty.

He tried to sit up but something jerked him down. That something a metal bracelet about his wrist, shackling him to the bed frame. His hazy mind recoiled in surprise. How could she have gotten to the key where it lay a room away in the pocket of his coat?

Alert and now wary, Turow let his senses sharpen before opening his eyes to a sight that scarred him, heart and soul.

Sylvia stood on the other side of their shabby room, dressed in her castoff clothes, her lovely, kiss-bruised lips narrowed, her expression carefully masked. She met his gaze directly, hers betraying nothing.

Because they were not alone.

“The Terriot Princes . . . Holy Hotness. There is so much deliciousness between all them it’s hard not to drool!” – Sara Kate, Goodreads

Tour Giveaway: $10 Amazon Gift Card

282919
Nancy Gideon is the award-winning, bestselling author of over 60 romances ranging from historical, regency and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal, with a couple of horror screenplays tossed into the mix, and is currently testing the “Hybrid Author” waters of self-publishing.  When not at the keyboard, this Central Michigan writer feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin and fowl. She also has written under the pen names Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West and Lauren Giddings.

Website: http://nancygideon.com

Blog: http://nancygideon.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/nancygideon

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NancyGideon

Pintrest: http://www.Pintrest.com/nancygideon/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/282919.Nancy_Gideon

Goodreads Group “NancyGideonbyMoonlight”: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/109994-nancy-gideon-by-moonlight

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Gideon/e/B001H9PV8E/

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Friday Reveal: Summoner Rising by Melanie McFarlane

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Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for SUMMONER RISING, which releases March 28, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:
After writing my YA debut, There Once Were Stars, I never imagined that another full story idea would come to me so quick. But sure enough, in Spring of 2015 I finished playing a round of Final Fantasy (old school) and the thought came to me of creating a character
who could summon demons, like the characters in FF can do in battles. From there I created my main character, an indie-outcast kind of girl, who listened to bands like Nirvana and Small Brown Bike (like I did in college), and always want to fit in but never really felt like part of the gang. I made her broken and dark, not naive and protected like Natalia from There Once Were Stars to ensure they were nothing alike and so they would face different challenges.
From here, Dacie was born – a complicated girl who wants to be normal but doesn’t want to conform. A girl with ghosts in her closet, demons under her bed, and an inner power so strong she’s going to have to learn to control it or suffer the consequences. Dacie is a combination of who I was and who I wanted to be when I was a teenager. And we all have to deal with our demons at some point.

On to the reveal!

 
Title: SUMMONER RISING
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | B&N | TBD
Excerpt from, The Book of Summoning:
Law One: A summoner is responsible for all creatures it lets through from the netherworld.
Dacie Cantar wishes someone had explained the Laws of Summoning to her before she watched a shadowy creature crawl out of a painting at the local arcade. At least it explains the strange things she’s witnessed since moving in with her great-aunt, after her mother’s untimely death. But who wants to be followed by shadows the rest of their life?  Add that to being stalked by a strange boy at school, who just might be her Tovaros (aka soulmate), it’s about all Dacie can handle in her new life.
As she nears her seventeenth birthday, will she be ready for her new responsibilities, or will the shadows that stalked her mother until her death, finally consume Dacie, too? And then there’s Law Two…

 

Excerpt


Chapter OneBroken. That’s how I feel inside. It’s as if something ripped out part of me and won’t give it back. That’s what death does to you when it touches those you love; it’s not rocket science, but it’s definitely not what I thought it would be like. In movies it is cold, pale, and filled with sadness and longing, or sometimes so predictable and eye roll worthy with its Hollywood special effects. But the death I’ve experienced has been more horrifyingly real; filled with personal loss, haunting dreams, and shadows that run around in the night.

The therapist they assigned me back in California said I needed to move forward. Keep on, keeping on. As clichéd as it was, I agreed. I’d spent most my life fighting to thrive, practically raising myself. Now wasn’t the time to give up. Death was inevitable; if I let the fear of it hold me back, I might as well roll over and die right now. Survival meant I had to push those feelings deep down inside and forget they were there.

“Daciana!”

Great Aunt Katya’s voice calls from the hallway while I stand in front of the bathroom mirror, playing with concealer to cover the dark circles under my eyes. Sleep doesn’t come easy when you’re trying to be someone new.

She appears behind me in the mirror, her long white hair a contrast to my dark locks. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?” Her thick accent is still a novelty to me.

Katya has spent the entire summer trying to convince me that I’d be better off stuck here with her, getting homeschooled like everyone else does in our family, back in Romania. I’m not against it; I’d just like to try to fit in first.

I shake my head and mimic a cheer. “Go Greystone High!” My knotted bracelets slip from my wrist, bumping against the rolled up sleeve of my plaid button-up shirt, and my chipped black nail polish is the opposite of anything bright and cheery. I’m not about to give up my first chance to have a different life.

Katya throws her head back, letting her multi-hooped earrings clink against each other, mingling in the air along with her laugh. She dresses like a bohemian, but flashes way too much cleavage. She wears more bracelets than I do, and a lot more rings. All her jewelry looks like it was forged by hand in one way or another, and I’m sure if I ask there’s a story behind it all. She looks back down and shakes her head at me with a smirk across her burgundy painted lips. She looks amazing for sixty-five.

“Don’t be late your first day.” She pats my shoulder before leaving. In her reflection I see a shadow chasing after her, along the cracks of the old wooden floor. My heart jumps and I spin around, but both of them are gone. I run to the door and peek around the corner, but Katya is alone as she disappears down the creaky old stairs.

I sigh and return to the bathroom to grab my backpack, glancing in the mirror one last time. My dark brown eyes stare back at me; when will they stop playing tricks on me? This isn’t the first shadow I’ve seen dashing about, but every time I try to chase after them, there’s nothing there. I’m obviously losing my mind.

Downstairs, I pop a waffle in the toaster and stare out the patio doors at the trees that line the back of our yard; but I’m not really watching the trees; I’m trying to convince my nerves that this school will be like every other new school I’ve attended my entire life. Only this time I don’t have my mother to send me off in the morning.

I snap out of my thoughts as the toaster pops.

Outside, my little four door hatchback sits in wait. Katya found it for sale at the side of the road and bought it for me my first day here. Its navy blue paint is peeling, and there’s a bumper sticker that says My Kid is a Greystone Grad, but now that I’m going to be a student there I may as well leave it. Plus I’ve never had my own car before; the freedom is exhilarating.

As I pull up to Greystone High I realize the concept of being normal is harder to carry out in person. The stone exterior of the school is as old as the rest of this coastal town; its interior was modern twenty years ago with its classic cement block walls and color themed lockers. The students are familiar with one another, as if they all grew up here in Greystone, Maine.

Most of them turn their heads as I walk down the hall, not even hiding their curiosity. As soon as I find my locker I duck my head inside and finally breathe. I expected things to be different. I should’ve known a new location wouldn’t change anything; being different is always the same, no matter where you go.

“You’re new,” a boy’s voice comes from the locker next to mine.

I take a deep breath and grab my sketchbook with trembling hands, from my bag. “Sure am,” I say turning, and walking away.

I hear his footsteps run after me. “Hey, I’m Brennan. Where’d you move from?”

“Hey,” I mimic him. “That’s pretty personal when you don’t even know my name.”

His eyes grow wide and a twinge of guilt pokes me in the gut. “I—,” Brennan stammers.

“California.”

He looks confused. “That’s your name?”

“You asked where I moved from. It’s California. I’m Dacie.”

A smile jumps across his face showing small dimples on either side of his mouth. He’s kind of cute with his short brown hair and sparkly blue eyes, that match his jersey with the Greystone High logo; that is if you like that sort of jock look. It’s never been my thing, not like I’m an expert or anything. I’ve never dated anyone before. Not a hand held, first kiss, or grope. But hey, nothing screams normal like Mr. Football standing in front of me.

“Why would you move here?” he asks, still flashing that all-American smile.

There’s a question I’m not ready to answer. “Sorry, I-uh, have to go. I’m going to be late for Art class.”

“Come find me and my friends at lunch!” Brennan calls out as he backs into a group of girls who start squealing and hitting him with their books. I can’t help but smile.

I turn toward my classroom, but I’m just as clumsy as Brennan. As I turn around I run smack into someone. My sketchbook falls to the floor, scattering my drawings everywhere. I look up and see I’m leaning against the chest of a tall boy.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

He kneels down to pick up my papers and I drop to the floor, grabbing them away from him. One of my bracelets falls off on the floor and he picks it up.

“It was my fault,” I say, stuffing them back in my book.

We both stand up at the same time, only inches apart, and so close I can see his chest move with every breath. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much contact with a boy before.

“No harm done.” He gives me a crooked smile and, is that an accent I hear? What is it? European? He holds the bracelet out to me, rousing me from my thoughts.

I stare at him for a moment. His hair is a little longer than I like, but it suits him as it falls into his eyes. What are they: green with flecks of brown and yellow like a starburst from his pupil? His jaw line has a slight shade of stubble on top of his tanned skin. He’s practically poetic; I finally exhale and can feel my face warm up from thinking about him.

“Thanks.” I grab the bracelet diverting all attention from my face.

“Shall we enter class?” Shall? Who says shall?

“Yes, please,” I say raising an eyebrow. The green hues in his eyes flicker for a moment with a hint of amusement. Is he laughing at me?

I put my head down and scoot past him, brushing my arm against his. My body tingles at the sensation of his skin. Enough, Dacie! I hurry to the first empty desk I see, which is close to the back; usually I chose a seat in the front row but right now my face is so flushed I need to hide.

But the boy follows and takes a seat behind me. I shift in my plastic seat and focus on the front of the room, but the hair on my neck raises, as if someone’s watching me.

My teacher is an older woman with curls so tight they create the impression of dreads around her freckled face. Her clothes are an odd assembly of ballet flats with gaucho slacks, topped with a frilly apron splattered in paint. She gives us a short lecture then has us begin working on pointillism. I check out some Escher and decide to sketch my hand. It’s not copying if I draw my own, right?

I struggle to make my fingers look real. They come out more sausage-like than human, which makes me frown. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get it right, and I’m not about to reference my Escher print again or I might as well just copy it. Half way through class I give up and look around; everyone else is working diligently on their pictures.

I peek over my shoulder to see what the boy is doing. I should have asked him his name. He’s sitting against the back of his chair with his arms crossed, staring at me. I spin back around, reaching for my pencil in an attempt to look busy and knock it off my desk. I scramble to grab it before it falls, but it hits the floor and rolls to the back of the class.

I turn my head after the pencil, and hang half way out of my desk to catch it. My fingers brush against the floor and a dark black boot stops it in the middle of the aisle. I follow the boot all the way up to the boy’s face. He lets a small smirk spread across his mouth. Wow, he’s fast.

I force a smile. “Thank you.” I sit up straight in my desk and spin around.

He leans over and grabs the pencil. “Anytime.” He sweeps his hair from his eyes and holds it out to me.

I get out of my desk and walk over to him. “Are you already done the project?” He nods. I look down at his drawing. What the—he’s drawn a picture of me as I was drawing. Even worse, it’s good, really good. My cheeks flash hot with irritation; I’m not sure if it’s from the invasion of privacy or pure jealousy. I manage to twist my face from a glower to a frown: “We were supposed to do pointillism.”

He keeps staring at me. “I saw something I liked more.”

A sharp pain stabs my gut and my face feels even hotter than it did a second ago. “Whatever,” I say as I grab my pencil and hurry to my desk.

Thankfully he does not attempt to talk to me the rest of class. When the bell rings he pauses at my desk still holding the drawing in his hand. I grab my things and leave as quickly as I can. I’m not interested in any explanations. Who does he think he is?

My next class is History, where I get a long-winded account of the colonization of Maine starting back in the 1600s. Lucky me, we’re going to move through the centuries. After that it’s Math and then finally lunch.

I throw my books in my locker and head for the cafeteria. I manage to find a sandwich and an apple that look edible but when I turn to look for a seat, I see Brennan standing up waving at me. I force a smile and wave back; pretending to be normal can’t be that hard, right? He’s sitting with another boy and two girls. The boy smiles at me and the girls just stare.

“Hey everyone, this is Dacie,” Brennan says.

I meet Zack, Sophie, and Chantal. Everyone has their perfectly normal names and is coupled up, in the order they are seated. They all wear smiles except for Chantal, who stares me down. I’m pretty sure she’s interested in Brennan, the way she keeps her eyes glued to him, but he seems oblivious as he sits next to her.

“Dacie moved here from California,” Brennan says, flashing me another one of his full face smiles.

Sophie flicks her long blond hair over her shoulder and laughs. “Ewww, why would you move here? It’s always so cloudy.”

“Long story,” I say, taking a bite of my sandwich.

Chantal rolls her eyes. “It’s so boring here, but you’re too new to know.”

I swallow my ham and cheese and shrug. “I’ve been here all summer.”

Brennan’s eyes light up. “Really? Where’ve you been hiding?”

“I live with my aunt up at the end of Marlborough Lane.”

“Oh my god,” Chantal says. Her mouth hangs open with a smile playing at the edge. “You’re her.”

Sophie shoots her a dirty look. “Shhh.” Chantal stares down at her lunch.

I raise an eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘her’?”

Sophie’s cheeks turn red. “We heard, you know, about your mom.”

My throat is suddenly dry and I have to force down my next swallow. “So everyone knows?”

“It is a small town,” Chantal says, staring at me.

“Okay, hold on everyone. Dacie, we just mean we didn’t know you’ve been here all this time. I would have come by to meet you.” He flashes me one of his full face smiles.

Right. Come meet the freak. I put my half eaten sandwich down on my tray and stand up. My chair scrapes against the floor, echoing in the cafeteria. It seems everyone around us has gone silent to listen in on our conversation.

“Don’t go,” Brennan says. The rest of the table looks away, except for Chantal.

“Sorry.” She doesn’t seem sincere.

“It’s fine. I just need some air.”

I take my tray and deposit it near the exit as I leave the cafeteria. As I go to push the doors open a black streak flies out of the corner of my eye. I know better, but still run after it. Nothing is there—argh!

The double doors to the cafeteria bang closed behind me as my frustration builds. I walk to a quiet corner and lean my back against the wall as I exhale. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath, again. Some girls giggle as they pass by. This normal thing sucks.

I close my eyes and think about my mom. Six months wasn’t long enough to numb the pain. The mention of her, and the fact everyone knows the story, stings like it did when I left the west coast. Now I want nothing more than to go back there. What’s the point of being here now if I can’t escape the past?

“You alright?” a familiar, accented voice comes from next to me.

I startle, opening my eyes and see the boy from art class. “I’m fine.”

I push myself from the wall and continue down the hallway to the doors outside. As I reach the exit, I turn and see him staring at me as I walk away. My body shivers from the cool fall air.

When the bell rings, I go back inside, making a b-line for my locker. A slip of white paper hangs halfway out of it. I pull it out and right away recognize it: it’s the picture of me from art class, but the boy who drew it is gone.

I stomp through the hallway, determined to find him but he’s nowhere to be seen. Brennan sees me and waves, but lowers his hand when I shoot him a glare. I ignore him and continue down the hallway. The second bell rings for classes and the hallway empties but I am too worked up to stay. I crumple up the paper and throw it in my backpack. Again I catch a black streak in the corner of my eye. I really need to get more sleep.

 

 
Melanie McFarlane is a passionate writer of other-wordly adventures, a little excitable, and a little quirky. Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, she jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Though she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her YA debut There Once Were Stars, and her YA urban fantasy Summoner Rising.
She lives with her husband and two daughters in the Land of Living Skies.

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The Billionaire Escape Plan (Friends with Benefits) by Ember Casey

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The Billionaire Escape Plan
Ember Casey
(Friends with Benefits)
Publication date: June 17th 2016
Genres: Comedy, New Adult, Romance

A sweet & spicy standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Ember Casey.

Most girls dream of marrying a billionaire.

Me? I’d rather make fun of one. Especially if the billionaire in question is Alexander Grant.

Excuse me–Xander Grant. That’s right–the mega-hot entrepreneur who seems to top every magazine’s “Rich Eligible Bachelors” list these days.

To me, he’ll always be Alex–my childhood best friend. The guy who joined me on all sorts of wild teenage misadventures. The only person in our small town who understood me.

It’s been four years since I’ve seen Alex. But suddenly he’s back in our town at the exact same time my life is imploding around me.

We’ve both changed so much–I mean, the guy used to live in ripped jeans, and now he wears nothing but designer suits–but when I need it most, he offers me exactly the escape I need. A chance to run away from my life, if only for a few days.

I only hope my heart is prepared.

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EXCERPT:

Alex steps toward me.

“You’re asking me to be your rebound guy?” he says. He stops just short of me, not touching but close enough that I can feel the heat radiating off his bare chest.

“Not a rebound,” I say quickly. “As I’ve told you, that thing with Wes was over long ago. Just…”

“Just sex.”

I nod. “Just sex. Unless…unless you think our friendship couldn’t survive it.”

“Do you believe our friendship couldn’t survive it?”

Now it’s my turn to hesitate before answering. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it. I was more concerned with his opinion on the matter than my own.

“Maybe,” I say. “Or maybe not. But our friendship has certainly survived a lot up to now. I mean, we haven’t lived in the same place for years and years. And you’ve seen me at my drunkest and stupidest—”

“And you’ve seen me at mine.”

“Exactly. And we survived a kiss, and now I’ve seen you naked, and…and…feel free to stop me at any point, because if I keep talking I’m probably only going to make this more embarrassing for both of us.” I raise my chin, looking up at him. “Have I scared you yet?”

“No,” he says. “But I’m still wondering if you’ve really thought this through.”

No, of course not. But again, it’s too late to unsay all of the things I’ve just said.

“You can tell me if you think it’s a terrible idea,” I say. “Or if you don’t want to. I swear I won’t get upset.” It’ll just be me and my ice and my fingers alone together forever and ever. I’m going to die alone with a bunch of cats.

He’s still far too close to me. I can see his chest rising and falling with his breaths, smell the scent of his soap on his skin.

“I’m not entirely sure two people can have sex without things getting complicated,” he says.

“Plenty of people seem to think that men and women can’t be friends either, and somehow we’ve managed it,” I point out. What are you doing, Mae? The more you argue for this, the more desperate you sound.

But Alex doesn’t seem to notice. “I suppose that’s true.”

I press my toes against the cool tiles of the floor. When am I allowed to escape to my room again? If he hasn’t said yes yet, he’s not going to—and him dragging this conversation out to spare my feelings is only making things weirder between us.

“I propose this,” he says slowly, softly. “We go over to that couch, and the moment you tell me to stop, we stop.”

I frown. “I don’t understand. Are you agreeing?”

“I’m merely suggesting that we don’t jump into anything too quickly. And that you stop me the moment you change your mind.”

And if I don’t change my mind? I want to ask. But I don’t. I’m not entirely sure what he means to do, but I want to find out.

He drops his hand from my face and instead takes my fingers in his. He leads me across the dark room toward the couch while I’m still trying to understand what his intentions are.

“Are you just humoring me?” I ask him. “If you don’t want to do this, Alex, you can just tell me. I know you have plenty of supermodels—”

“Maybe I’m just as curious as you are,” he says in that low rumble of his.

“Curious?”

“About whether or not this would ruin our friendship. I suppose there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?”

 

Author Bio:

Ember Casey is a USA Today bestselling author who lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a den of iniquity (or so she likes to tell people). She writes contemporary romances about sexy alpha billionaires, smokin’ hot Hollywood hunks, and adventurous bad boys.

When she’s not writing steamy romances, you can find her whipping up baked goods (usually of the chocolate variety), traveling (her bucket list is infinite), or generally causing trouble (because somebody has to do it).

Want to make sure you never miss a release (and get some awesome extras)? Join her mailing list here > embercasey.com/newsletter

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Alterations by Stephanie Scott

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Alterations

by Stephanie Scott

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Release Date: December 6th 2016

Bloomsbury Spark

Summary from Goodreads:

If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they’d think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn’t know that all the plans she’s made for them are just dreams, and that she’s the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.

When Amelia’s abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can’t imagine leaving Miami–and Ethan–for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan’s awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The “new and improved” Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she’d have to make.

About the Author
Hello! I write Young Adult stories about teens who put their passions first. I’m an active member of Romance Writers of America and its online YA chapter YARWA, and I mentor writers in online pitch contests. I love dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving me broke. I live outside of Chicago with my tech-of-all-trades husband. You can find me most often online on twitter and Instagram at @StephScottYA. My debut ALTERATIONS about a fashion-obsessed loner who reinvents herself releases 12/6/16 from Bloomsbury Spark, and I’m a contributor to the young adult short story anthology WELCOME HOME out in spring 2017.

 
 
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