Friday, November 21, 2014

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of "The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl" by Leigh Statham and Giveaway (3 Winners) #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
The Perilous Journey
Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. However, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend, Claude, a common smithie in the family’s steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. But the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.
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Title: THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF
THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Leigh Statham
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl
Leigh Statham
Chapter One
Marguerite held the brass cricket gingerly in her hands. She kept it tucked under the table while she turned it over, her fingers blindly memorizing every feature. She knew it was childish for a sixteen-year-old to have a favorite toy, but she couldn’t help it. The design fascinated her. Occasionally she would trip the mechanism and the cricket literally sprang to life, launching itself against the underside of the table with a loud knock.
“What was that?” Madame Pomphart cried.
Marguerite caught the little metal bug with one hand and tucked it into the folds of her skirts. “Nothing,” she lied.
“I heard a noise.” The sour-faced governess slapped the desk with her pointer and stepped closer. “What are you hiding?”
Marguerite didn’t flinch. “You must be hearing things again. You are getting rather old.”
Madame Pomphart swung her pointer, making sound contact with Marguerite's shoulder.
“Ah!” Marguerite grabbed her shoulder and jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. She quite forgot about the little toy cricket which launched right at the governess’s face.
“What? Oh!” Madame Pomphart batted the air and stumbled backward, dropping her stick as the cricket ricocheted off her nose and landed at Marguerite’s feet. “How dare you bring vermin into my classroom? Your father will hear about this. Lord Vadnay will not be pleased!”
Marguerite scooped up her prize and ran for the door, grateful for the chance to escape.
“Get back here or you’ll receive double lashings!”
It was too late. Marguerite ran much faster than her teacher and was already halfway down the wide corridor. Lined with portraits of long-dead relatives and her father’s collection of modern weaponry, each display tempted her with thoughts of challenging the governess to a duel. She could easily scoop up one of the automated cat-o-nine-tails and turn back to the classroom. She rather fancied the idea, actually. But it wasn't the right time or the right way to handle her heavy-handed caretaker, and honestly, she wasn't quite brave enough to do more than talk back—not yet.
Her fear began to lift as she lightly descended the grand curving stairway to the ballroom, sprinting over the marble tiles and through the large doors to the gardens. The French summer sun blinded her. Marguerite blinked as she continued to run around the fountain filled with automated koi. A servant perched on the edge of the large pool, brass fish in hand. Its tail clicked furiously back and forth as he tried to oil it. The late-summer roses bloomed bright with color all around her. Butterflies seemed to flit merrily on every blossom, cheering her on. Human and automaton servants worked side by side grooming the large hedges … They jumped out of her way and bowed. None of them seemed surprised to see the young lady of the house running out of doors and they all knew where she was headed.
She tried to slip away to the cool shelter of the small glen beyond the lavender fields every chance she could, but since her father came up with the idea that she needed to be a “real lady,” it had become more difficult to sneak away.
At this point, she could have stopped. Pomphart wouldn’t follow her now, but it felt so good to move quickly after being at a table all morning. Her heart beat like an auto-hammer in her chest by the time she reached the work fields. More automatons and human servants stopped and bowed to the master’s daughter. Marguerite paid them no attention.
Finally reaching the small grove of trees, she flopped merrily on the soft grass and took a deep breath, then giggled to herself. She was safe, for now. The wind picked up and tousled the leaves overhead, sending bits of sunlight swimming wildly around her. The grass outside the glen rustled under the heavy thud of work boots: Claude.
“Hullo!” His voice sounded merry as he peered through the low branches that poked and tickled at the earth, surprised to see her there so early. “How’d you manage to beat me?” His wavy, light brown hair was just shaggy enough to soften his strong jaw and angular nose. His cheek was smeared with gear oil, right up to the corner of his smiling blue eyes. He was too tall for his work trousers and his chest had grown too broad for his cotton shirt. The buttons tugged a bit, but he wasn’t the type to care about his clothes. He pulled his welding goggles off of his head and wiped the sweat on his brow with the arm of his shirt.
“I ran.” She smiled wickedly.
Claude flopped down in the grass beside her. “That’s not very ladylike, and Pomphart doesn’t usually let you out till half past.”
“I had to run after this marvelous toy you made for me attacked her.” She held up the cricket like a prize gem freshly plucked from the earth.
“Marguerite!” he cried. “I asked you to keep it safe, not use it to get yourself tossed out of ladyhood!”
“It was an accident. I swear. The lessons are just so boring. I needed something to do, so I had it under the table. She’s such a brute. You should have seen how she hit me with her blasted pointer.”
“She struck you again?” his face turned dark.
“Yes, but it's nothing, just a welt on the shoulder.” The last thing she wanted was to be the damsel in distress.
“Still.” Claude's brow furrowed. “It's not right. Ladies don't strike other ladies. Please keep good care of that little bug. It took me a long time to build and I didn’t record the plans. I may need to borrow it back someday.”
“All right.” Disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for her naughtiness, she carried on. “But you should have seen her face! If only I could have a portrait made of that. I’d hang it over my bed and have a miniature made to keep by my heart.”
A nasally voice attached to a pointy-faced, pale girl in bright pink skirts burst through the cool glen. “Whose miniature are you keeping by your heart? You haven’t even had your ball yet.”
“Hello, Vivienne.” Marguerite sighed without enthusiasm.
“Marguerite has just sealed her doom,” Claude chimed in. “She threw the cricket I made her at Pomphart’s face today, so there may not be a ball.”
“That’s rubbish! I did no such thing. It just got away from me and bounced right off her nose.” Marguerite laughed again while recalling the image, but Claude’s words made her a bit nervous.
“Oh dear,” cried Vivienne. “What are you going to do?”
Of course Vivienne would make a big deal out of it, Marguerite didn’t expect anything less from her childish neighbor.
“I’m not sure. That’s why I came straight here.” She turned pointedly to Claude. “I thought you’d want to celebrate my freedom and take the rest of the day off.”
Claude was quick to reply, “I’m afraid I can’t. Lots to be finished at the forge and I am on stall-mucking duty with the bots.”
“What do you possibly have to finish at the forge that’s so important?”
Claude raised his eyebrows at her. “A certain girl’s father has requested automatic serving dishes made of twenty-four-karat gold for her introduction to society.”
“Oh my!” Vivienne drew a dramatic breath. “How elegant. I so wish I were old enough to come.”
“Don’t worry,” Marguerite patted the girl’s knee, “I’m sure you can borrow them for your own ball.”
“Marguerite … ” Claude hissed at her.
It wasn’t a very kind thing to say, but Marguerite had never been very fond of Vivienne. She mostly endured her company because she was the only girl within a hundred miles that was close to the same age and station as Marguerite. That, and Claude had insisted she be kind to her.
“You’re right, Claude.” Marguerite smiled in repentance. “I’m sure your father will have loads of wonderful things for the guests to marvel at when your time comes, Vivienne. Still, it would be nice to have both of you there. I suppose I will be forced to talk to strangers.”
“I can’t believe you’re not excited!” Vivienne chattered. “New dresses! Handsome suitors!”
“I am excited,” Marguerite cut her off, “to have it over and done with! Dressing up might be fun, but dressing up to catch a man is not my idea of a good time.”
“Don’t be vulgar.” Vivienne blushed. “It’s not like that at all.”
Claude cut in, “I’d love to stay and discuss this matter with you girls, but I do have a few chafing dishes waiting for their motors in the shop.”
Marguerite tensed at the thought of not only being left alone with Vivienne, but also being without Claude’s protection should Pomphart come looking for her. “Do you think I could come help you at the forge today?”
“Not if you want me to get anything done.” Claude smiled merrily.
“Stop it! You know I’m a whiz with gear-work.”
“When you are actually interested in the work, yes, but I’m afraid that auto-spoons and brass tureens would bore you to death.”
Marguerite tried to make her eyes look large and beseeching, but she knew it was no use.
“No. But you can walk me there. I forgot my lunch anyway,” Claude said as he reached to help Marguerite up.
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab a snack as I fled the dungeons,” Marguerite quipped.
“Oh! I know!” Vivienne was bursting. “Let’s have lunch in town today. You’re not going back to your lessons are you? And Claude is busy with work. It will be such fun girl time!”
Marguerite sighed, but Vivienne was right. There was no way for her to return to the estate house without being trapped by Pomphart, and she had nothing to do if Claude insisted on finishing his chores. Still, she was uneasy about the idea of being on her own with Pomphart’s wrath hovering around an unknown corner waiting to pounce. The woman was ruthless when no one of importance was watching. She had a way of getting Marguerite off on her own and exacting whatever form of punishment she felt was suitable for the crime. Marguerite tried to complain to her father, but he wouldn’t listen, he thought Marguerite just didn’t want lessons anymore.
Claude knew all of this and sensed her fears in her quiet gaze.
“Come with me, both of you. I have someone I want you to meet.” Claude smiled.
Marguerite jumped up at his tug, tossed her wavy brown hair, and set her skirts aright, glad someone was helping her make up her mind. “Very well.”
“Hooray! Oh, I know just the place,” Vivienne said. “There is a new little patisserie I saw the other day I’ve been aching to try.” She skipped up the hill ahead of the other two, babbling on about buns and cakes and half sandwiches.
Claude reached for Marguerite’s arm and squeezed a bit. He used this gesture when he was about to chastise her, but she didn’t think she’d been that rude to Vivienne. The girl got on her nerves with every word, but her intentions were good and Marguerite wasn’t cruel by nature, just impatient.
“What?” she hissed.
“I have some news, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh?” Relieved not to be in trouble, but also perplexed, Marguerite wished more now than ever that Vivienne would just skip into oblivion with her bouncy blonde curls and scattered thoughts.
“Yes. You know how we spoke a few weeks ago about my plans?”
“Did you find a position in Paris?” Marguerite could scarcely contain herself. Her friend was so talented, and she knew better than anyone that he was wasted working as a bondservant on her father’s estate. If he could secure an apprenticeship in Paris he could come back to La Rochelle as a master tradesman. Plus she could visit him there. Still, apprenticeships were hard to come by.
“No, I think it’s better than that.”
“What could be better than Paris?” In her mind, crowds of well-dressed ladies paraded down glittering avenues while the latest autocarts passed by in a blur of technology and innovation. Paris was the hub of all things Marguerite admired.
“I’ve signed into His Majesty’s service. As of next week, I’ll be an official member of the Royal Corp of Engineers.”
“You what?” She was stunned. It took her a moment to sort out her emotions. How could he have made this type of decision without consulting her? They had shared everything since they discovered each other as bored children on the estate a decade ago.
“I knew you’d be angry with me for not telling you beforehand, but an opportunity just presented itself and I knew it was right—I had to take it.”
“No, I’m not angry at all. Just shocked. You know how my father feels about the military.”
“But you see, that’s just it. I won’t have to worry about your father anymore, I won’t owe him anything. My first assignment is to New France.”
“Are you two coming or not? I’m starved!” Vivienne had doubled back when she realized she was talking to herself.
Marguerite wasn’t sure she could eat or talk at that moment. She wasn’t sure she could even take another step.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
L. Statham
Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked as a waitress, maid, artist, math teacher, nurse, web designer, art director, thirty-foot inflatable pig and mule wrangler before she settled down in the semi-quiet role of wife, mother and writer. She resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens and two suspected serial killer cats. If the air is cool and the sun is just coming up over the horizon, you can find her running the streets of her small town, plotting her next novel with the sort of intensity that will one day get her hit by a car.
Connect with the Author: Website |Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the title's release.


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Cover Reveal: Grit of Berth and Stone, by Lisa Dunn




Grit of Berth and Stone, by Lisa Dunn
Surge, Anaiah Press

Blurb:

Banished for a foolish mistake, sixteen-year-old Grit of Berth and Stone scorns the loss of her home, her honor, and her only ally. Only the weak worry about such things.

But war is brewing all across Chasmaria, and as a group of rebels pull Grit into their ranks, she begins to question what strength, courage, and honor really look like. When faced with a horrible truth about herself, Grit must either fight her way back to Thresh or live with the blood of the innocent on her hands.

Release Date:
March 17, 2015

Book Links:


Author Bio:

As a child, Lisa Dunn fell asleep to her father’s fanciful bedtime tales and played with her own story ideas during the daylight hours. She now resides in a small southern town with her husband, four children, and an ever-changing assortment of pets. Local librarians habitually thank her for their job security. 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorlisadunn
Twitter: @ScouterWife
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/21086727-lisa-dunn



Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Rogue Alliance," by Michelle Bellon: Free eBook on Amazon on November 21, 2014!

RA free day

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Rogue Alliance is free on Amazon - November 21, 2014 ONLY


While still a child in Redding, California, Shyla Ericson killed her father to end years of abuse. She’d left town shortly thereafter, changed her name, and started a new life, eventually becoming a highly decorated DEA agent.

But some history doesn’t stay buried.

When Shyla goes undercover to bring down drug kingpin Victor Champlain, the case takes her back to a town that hasn't forgotten her, and to a past she thought she’d left behind.

Then, she meets Brennan Miles, a genetically altered kidnap victim, who has been turned into a weaponized super-human. Victor helped Brennan escape from a hidden genetics research facility known only as The Institute, where he'd been held and experimented on for years. In return for his freedom, Brennan now works for Victor as his bodyguard.

Shyla is drawn to Brennan's strength, and to his humanity. Even after she discovers his secret — he must have human blood to survive. Shyla knows she can’t take down Champlain by going through Brennan — he’s too strong — and he’s loyal to Victor.

Buy on Kindle FREE today only




Michelle Bellon

About the author:
Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four beautiful children. She drinks ungodly amounts of coffee and has an addiction to Chapstick.

She works at a surgery center as a registered nurse and writes novels in her spare time. She writes in the genres of romance suspense, young adult, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. She has won three literary awards.

Website | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | LinkedIn


Monday, November 17, 2014

Damsel NOT Book Tour: Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, Signed Book and Other Gifts

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Damsel Not
In the days of old, one knight fought to save the maiden he loved – a battle that ended in a bloody promise for the future.

In the days of the 21st Century, Izz doesn’t believe in prophecies. A recent widow, she struggles to find the passion that once fueled her life – a passion that is reignited the day a knight in disguise cuts into her life in a flash of swordplay and seductive grins.

Izz doesn’t want to love him. The guilt of moving on nearly crushes her, yet she finds herself unable to resist the touch, the feel, the scent of the man who leaves her breathless with just one look. But each day Izz finds herself drawn to Cade, the more danger she finds herself in, for someone believes Izz to be at the center of an ages-old prophecy – and will do anything to stop it.

When threatening messages turn even more dangerous, Izz must rediscover a part of herself she’s never known before and fight to save her knight in shining armor. With only a sword passed down throughout the generations to guide her, Izz must prove to her adversary that unlike maidens of old, she will never be a damsel in distress.

Kristina Circelli's first contemporary romance with a slight touch of fantasy, for readers 18+


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Meet the author:
kristina-2
Night owl, Dorito lover, and quiet eccentric, Kristina Circelli is the author of several fiction novels, including The Helping Hands series, The Whisper Legacy, The Never, and The Sour Orange Derby.

Her latest series, The Whisper Legacy, features Beyond the Western Sun. This book is what all fantasy adventures must strive to be: a complex, intricate examination of human emotion set within the context of worlds known only in our imagination. Melding fantasy and legend in an epic quest, this series signals the arrival of Kristina Circelli as a master storyteller and an important voice in Native American literature.

A descendant of the Cherokee nation and niece of a Cherokee elder, Circelli holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of North Florida, where she teaches creative writing. She also heads Red Road Editing, a full-service editing company for independent authors and commercial clients.

She currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband, Seth, and cats, Lord Finnegin the Fierce and Mr. Malachi the Mighty.

Follow Kristina on

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Literary Addicts | GoodReads


Enter to win a prize pack from the author. Fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter. Open to US residents 18+


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Disclaimer: Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for Rafflecopter content or prize fulfillment.

Audiobook Giveaway: The Snow Queen, by Michael Cunningham

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snowqueenaudio
A darkly luminous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours

Michael Cunningham’s luminous novel begins with a vision. It’s November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen.

At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, a struggling musician, is trying—and failing—to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.

Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.

Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.

The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.

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One lucky winner will receive an audiobook copy of The Snow Queen, by Michael Cunningham. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Must be 18+ and have a US mailing address.

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Disclaimer: Susan Heim on Writing is not responsible for Rafflecopter content or prize fulfillment.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Gratitude Giveaways Hop 2014: Enter to Win "Thankful" by Shelley Shepard Gray

5th Annual Gratitude Giveaways Hop
November 15th to 30th

Welcome to the 5th Annual Gratitude Giveaways Hop! Every participating blogger is giving away a book or book-related prize worth $10 or more. And, to show our gratitude to our readers, we’re not making you go through a bunch of steps to enter the giveaway. It’s one entry per person so you’ll have plenty of time to enter all of the giveaways.

For my prize, I thought it was appropriate for a Gratitude hop to give away a book called Thankful!

Thankful
By Shelley Shepard Gray
New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray captures the beauty, devotion, and warmth of Amish life in this engaging tale of family, commitment, trust, and love set in the beloved community of Sugarcreek.

Christina Kempf has always known that God chose Aden Reese to be her husband. As children, he was there to save her when she fell through the ice, and he's been by her side ever since. After his parents died in a car accident ten years ago, the Kempfs raised Aden as one of their own, and everyone sees Aden and Christina as brother and sister. But Christina has never given up hope that Aden will one day ask her to be his wife.

Aden always planned to court Christina. But losing his mother and father changed everything -- except his love for her. Her parents generously welcomed him into their home and treated him like a son. He can't betray their kindness by admitting his feelings for the girl who is like a sister ... yet so much more.

Pressured by her parents to court, Christina begins to accept the attentions of Sugarcreek's young men, and now Aden must make a choice. Will he stand by and watch the love of his life slip away? Or will he risk losing the love and trust of the family he holds dear to tell Christina how he truly feels?

Read my review HERE.

One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of Thankful, by Shelley Shepard Gray. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on November 30, 2014.

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Now hop around to the other blogs participating in this hop for the chance to win more great prizes!



Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I am donating for this giveaway.

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Fingers In The Mist
Sixteen-year-old Caitlyn Foster never believed in the legend of the Redeemers. That was before the trees started to whisper her name. Before a murder of crows attacked the town. Before she and her family came home to find a bloody handprint on their front door, marking one of them as a sacrifice. As Caitlyn’s friends are ripped from their homes, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the Redeemers come for her. Caitlyn has the power to stop the terror, but she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves.
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Title: FINGERS IN THE MIST
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: O’Dell Hutchison
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

FINGERS IN THE MIST
O’Dell Hutchison

Chapter One
Welcome to Highland Falls, Idaho, population: 353.
The sign taunts me, threatening me with its simple tagline: “Raising families in God's name since 1823.” I hate this place. I shouldn't be here. No sixteen-year-old should have to live in a town where the number of residents is less than the number of her Facebook friends.
The headlights of my father's Dodge sweep across the bridge as he navigates through the water flowing across the road. The rain falls in ferocious sheets, hammering the truck, filling the already too-full river with water it can't hold.
“We're almost home, Cait.” He reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. This is one of six sentences he's spoken since we left the bus station two hours ago. He still hasn't told me why he missed Mom's funeral.
I sigh in response. I want to beg him to turn around and take me back to the bus station. Visiting every summer was one thing, but I can never call this place home.
Thunder rolls and a bolt of lightning cuts across the sky like the flash of a camera. The trees light up, and in the distance I notice a muddy figure with dark hair standing at the side of the road. My heart stutters and my breath comes in shallow bursts. I'm seeing things. I squeeze my eyes shut, blotting out the image of my ex-boyfriend standing on the front porch, my mother's blood stuck to his hands like gloves. It's just my imagination. It's not Jonah.
When I open my eyes, the figure is still there. He steps onto the road, and I scream when I realize my father hasn't seen him. Dad slams on the brakes and the Dodge hydroplanes, fishtailing to a stop mere inches from the boy.
My father’s green eyes widen with recognition at the stumbling figure before him. “Oh my God. It's the Perkins boy.”
“Trevor?” My stomach drops. “What happened to him?”
“Trevor's fine. It's Mason. He's alive.” He opens the door and steps out into the rain before I can ask any more questions.
Why wouldn't Mason be alive? More important, why is he wandering around in a rainstorm five miles outside of town covered in mud?
Dad approaches Mason with an outstretched hand. I see his lips move, but can't hear what he says over the thrumming of the rain on the roof of the truck. Oblivious of my father's presence, Mason stumbles along the road, his gait slow and ragged. His jeans, caked in mud, hang loosely from his bony hips. He's barefoot and doesn't wear a shirt. Deep scratches cover his chest and arms. It looks like he just clawed his way out of the ground.
Mason paces in small circles, bloodied hands twitching at his sides. My father walks up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder. Mason turns on him, swinging his fists. One of them connects with my dad's face, and I gasp when I see all six-foot-two of him stumble. He slips and falls, disappearing beneath the hood of the truck.
I throw open my door and tumble into the cold October air, my boots slipping against the wet pavement. The rain immediately engulfs me. A gust of wind, thick with the scent of cedar and pine, picks up damp pieces of my dark hair, flinging them into my face like small tentacles.
“Are you okay?” I kneel in front of my dad as he runs a calloused hand over his jaw.
“I'm fine,” he says, struggling to his feet. “He just caught me off guard. I slipped.”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Mason slaps at his head like he's trying to knock something loose. Globs of mud fall to the ground. He throws his head back and screams in pain, tearing at his hair.
“What's wrong with him?” I take a step back, leaning against the front of the truck.
“I don't know. He went camping a week ago with some friends up near the falls. They woke up and Mason wasn't there. We thought he was dead.”
Before I can respond, a loud hacking comes from Mason. He drops to his knees, his hands pressed to his stomach. His entire body convulses. The sounds coming out of him are enough to make me want to hurl.
“We need to get him into town. We'll take him by Doc’s,” my dad says.
Mason wretches again, and this time a dark stream pours from his mouth. It looks like mud—like he's throwing up mud. I place a hand over my mouth and turn my back to him. That was seriously nasty.
“I need you to help me get him into the truck.”
I wave a hand in my father's direction, afraid to open my mouth to speak—afraid of what might come up.
“Cait! I need some help here.”
I turn to see Mason lying on the ground, his entire body wracked with convulsions. His back arches until the top of his head sits on the road. His hands hover above the ground, shaking as if he'd been electrocuted. All at once, his body goes flaccid, collapsing into silence. His blue eyes stare at the sky, unblinking against the huge drops of rain that spatter them. Black gunk seeps from the corner of his mouth and blood streams from his nose.
Dad stoops down and lays a hand on Mason's chest.
“Is he dead?” I place a hand over my mouth, fighting back the tears. He looks so peaceful. Just like my mother did. I'll never get that vision out of my head. Her still body lying in the foyer, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. Her dark hair floated on a crimson pool of blood, her full lips slightly parted as if she might speak at any moment and tell me everything would be okay. The bullet hole in her forehead told me otherwise.
“Help me load him into the truck,” Dad says, grabbing Mason under his shoulders. “Grab his legs.”
I do as I'm told, hoping Mason won’t come to and nail me in the face with one of his size twelves. I wince when I see the cuts covering his feet.
We struggle to get Mason into the back seat. Despite his thin frame, he's surprisingly heavy. Once he's inside, I remove my thick wool coat and place it over his shivering body. I close the door, careful not to smack his head.
Another bolt of lightning cuts across the sky. A flash of deep red from just inside the thick copse of cedar trees along the road catches my attention. Three more bolts of lightning hit in rapid succession, cracking across the mountaintop. They hit so close to us the ground shudders. I need to get back into the truck, but I can't move. I can't take my eyes off the person watching us.
“Caitlyn.”
My name, barely a whisper, hangs in the air, tossed around by the wind.
“Caitlyn.”
I take a step toward the figure in red. Rain falls in sheets around me, piercing my face like bullets. My hands are so cold and numb I can't feel my fingers. My pendant gives another shudder and I instinctively grab hold of it.
“It will keep you safe,” my mother told me the day she gave it to me. “Wear it always.”
“Cait, get in the truck.” My father's voice is barely audible over the thumping of thick raindrops. The only thing I'm fully aware of is the whisper of my name syncopated with the rhythm of the rain splashing around me. My entire body hums with energy. It's a familiar feeling—one that never ends in anything good.
Thunder roars overhead, and I jump when a thick hand comes down on my shoulder.
“What are you doing? We need to get Mason into town,” my dad says, his voice tinged with annoyance. “We can't stay out here with all this lightning. It's not safe.”
“There’s someone in the woods.” I turn and point in the direction of the figure, but they're gone.
He takes a step toward the trees, shielding his eyes from the rain with his hand. “There’s no one out there. Come on. We need to go.”
Once we’re inside, the cold settles in and my body begins to tremble. I reach over and crank up the heat. The warm air hits me in the face, painting goose bumps across my skin. Mason moans from the back as the truck bounces over uneven pavement. We reach the top of the last hill, and the small town of Highland Falls appears below us. The only indication that there's actually a town swaddled within the dark valley below are the tiny pinpricks of light dotting the landscape, laid out like rows of fireflies.
Dad navigates the Dodge down Main Street toward the town square and past the church before hanging a left in the direction of Doc Robertson's ranch. He's the closest thing to an actual doctor in this town. I never did understand how a veterinarian could also act as a people doctor, but no one around here seems to mind.
The headlights cut across the front of the old, white ranch house, announcing our arrival. Dad stops the truck inches from the porch and hops out without a word, leaving me alone with Mason. I turn to look at him over the back of the seat. He's so still. Too still. I reach out a hand and place it on top of my coat, sighing in relief when I feel his chest rise.
I run a hand over my tangled mess of hair, pulling away a few pine needles that had found refuge there. I could really use a brush right now. I pull down the visor and shriek when I look in the mirror. It’s not the reflection of the totally whacked out girl who startles me. Mason sits behind me, back rigid, eyes wide, staring directly at me.
“Hello, Caitlyn. So good to see you.” The pitch of the voice is definitely Mason’s, but it’s not the slow drawl I’m used to. The words are too clipped, too perfectly pronounced to actually belong to him. “I’m glad you made it.” A sick smile spreads across his face, and an electric pulse covers my skin. It’s not a friendly smile. It’s more like the type of grin the Big Bad Wolf offered Little Red Riding Hood before he tried to eat her.
My head jerks back and slams into the seat. The back of my head stings and I wince as he gives my hair another forceful tug.
“You can’t stop us.” His words are low and threatening, hot against my cheek. His rancid breath clings to the air, and I have to hold my breath to keep from vomiting.
“Mason, let go of my hair.” I try to mask the fear poking at the edge of my voice. This isn’t the Mason I’ve known the last eight years. That Mason was gentle and polite—a hulking boy with a quiet demeanor and a slight stutter.
He grabs my face with a large, bony hand and my skin immediately begins to hum. “We know what you did, Cait. We know what you are.”
I grab his wrist, and the moment I do, he screams in pain, flailing against the seat. I fumble with the door, and tumble out of the truck into the soft, mushy earth. The screen door slams, and my father rushes down the steps in my direction. I struggle to stand, slipping in the mud, certain that at any moment Mason will leap from the truck and try to kill me.
“What happened?” My dad grabs me under my arms to steady me, helping me stand.
I pull away from him and stumble up the porch steps, grasping the railing until I’m under the awning, out of the rain. “Mason attacked me.”
The screen door slams against the side of the house, revealing Doc Robertson. He’s dressed in a white T-shirt pulled tight over a protruding gut and a pair of plaid, flannel pajama bottoms tucked into the top of his old cowboy boots. He throws on a bright yellow rain slicker as he clomps past me toward the truck. A light shuffling comes from behind me, and I instinctively recoil when a small hand touches my shoulder.
“Caitlyn, honey, you must be freezing.” Mrs. Robertson wears an old floral bathrobe, her gray hair in curlers. Everything about her says “cliché farm wife.”
“Come inside where it’s warm.” She places a comforting arm around my shoulders and turns me toward the front door.
“I’m covered in mud. I don’t want to mess up your house.”
“Have you seen who I live with? This is nothing compared to what he drags in most days.” She guides me inside the house, the screen door slamming behind us. “Take off your boots and I’ll go get some towels. Wait here.”
I pull off my boots, curling my nose in disgust when my hand sinks into the mud caking them. A deep gash runs along one of the toes, cutting into the soft brown leather. Five hundred bucks down the drain. Could things possibly get any worse?
The screen door swings open. I step out of the way as Dad and Doc Robertson stumble through the door, Mason’s limp body propped up between them. I can’t help noticing the deep red mark on Mason’s wrist where I grabbed him. It looks like he stuck his hand into a pot of boiling water. I’ve hurt people before, but not like this—not with my touch.
“Here you go, honey,” Mrs. Robertson says as she hands me a couple towels. “Wipe that mud off with these. The bathroom is down there if you want to clean up.” She points down the hall toward the living room. Doc calls for her and she goes to him, leaving me to clean myself up.
I’m surprised to find that most of the mud is on my hands and knees. I bundle up the muddy towel and use the clean one to soak up some of the water from my hair as I walk down the hall, searching for the restroom.
“Call his mama and tell her we found him,” Doc says to Mrs. Robertson. “I’m going to go grab some bandages and other supplies from the clinic out back.”
Doc walks to the back of the house, followed by my father, leaving me alone with Mason. His pale skin practically glows against the bright floral pattern of the sofa they placed him on. Now that there’s light, I can see his wounds more clearly. A deep gash runs across his forehead and two more cuts make an “X” on his chest. I tiptoe past the sofa, afraid he may wake up and attack me again.
“Trevor? Hi, it’s Thelma Robertson. How are you, dear?”
I freeze when I hear her say Trevor’s name. Shit. Please don’t let him get here before we leave. I can’t see him now. I need a couple of days.
“I think you should get your mother and come down to our place. We found your brother. Mason’s alive.”
“Help. H-help u-us. You have t-to h-help us.” Mason’s voice is barely a whisper. He stares at me, eyes wide with fear, a hand outstretched in my direction. “Th-th-they’re c-c-oming.”
When I look at him, I see the old Mason, the gentle boy who used to take me horseback riding and hunting for frogs when I was younger.
“Help! Help me!” His screams are loud and desperate. I want to help him, but I don’t know what he needs. He writhes in pain, his hands clamped to his head. He sits up too quickly, tumbling off the sofa and into the coffee table, knocking a small glass figurine to the ground.
Mrs. Robertson rushes in and crouches next to him, her small frame no match for his flailing arms. “Cait, can you help me?”
I move toward her, afraid to touch him, afraid I may hurt him again. The back door opens and Doc and my father rush into the room. They wrestle with Mason, my dad holding him while Doc sticks a needle into his arm. In a matter of seconds, Mason grows still, his cries for help trailing off into silence.
I back toward the bathroom, my breath coming in short gasps. I don’t realize how bad I’m shaking until I fumble with the lock on the bathroom door. What is going on here? What happened to him? I close my eyes, willing my pulse to slow. I could really use a Klonopin right now. I haven’t felt the need this bad since they threw me in rehab.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see that I look about as bad as the battered boy in the living room. Mascara rings my eyes, making me look like a green-eyed raccoon. My dark hair, so perfectly done earlier this morning, hangs in thick clumps plastered to my face.
I run my fingers through my hair, doing my best to make it look at least halfway presentable. I wipe the smeared makeup from my eyes and dig all the mud and gunk from beneath my fingernails. This is about as good as it’s going to get for now. I open the door, and step into the hallway.
“Now? It’s too soon. It’s not time.” Mrs. Robertson stops speaking when I walk into the room, a look of worry and confusion on her face. My father and Doc turn and stare in my direction. A look passes between them. Why do I feel as though I’ve interrupted something?
“You ready to go?” my father asks.
I nod, looking over at Mason. A bandage covers the gash on his forehead. Most of the mud has been washed off, and a crocheted blanket covers him. He looks so peaceful. The same as he did before he tried to rip my hair out of my head.
“Thank you for the towels, Mrs. Robertson,” I say, remembering my manners, “and for the use of your restroom.”
I follow my father, stopping to put on my boots, when footsteps come at us from the other side of the door. Mrs. Perkins flies into the house, a mess of disheveled hair and dark-ringed eyes.
“Where is he? Is he alive? Where did you find him?” she asks, her eyes darting about the room.
“He’s asleep.” Dad walks with her into the living room, recounting how we found Mason wandering along the road in the mountains outside town.
I pull on my last boot, suddenly aware of a presence behind me. I know who it is before I turn around. My body begins to shake and my stomach burns. I can’t do this now. I busy myself with my boot, rubbing a thumb over the scratched leather to avoid looking at him.
“Cait?” The sound of his voice sends a jolt through me. I slowly stand and turn to face him, a strained smile pulling at my lips. As soon as I see him, my heart aches and two years of deep regret wash over me. He looks damn good in his boots and worn Wranglers—the standard gear for every man in Highland Falls. His wet, black T-shirt clings to him. I can’t help but smile when I notice he wears the Boise State cap I sent him for his birthday three years ago. It’s ragged and dirty, just like his memories of me.
“Hey, Trevor.” So casual. Too casual? “How are you?”
He removes his cap and nods, but doesn’t speak. His worried eyes meet mine for a moment before focusing on the floor. “Where did you find him?”
I lean against the doorjamb, my arms crossed over my chest. “He was wandering along the road just past the bridge.”
“Is he … ?” He chokes back the rest of the sentence, glancing at me again, but refusing to meet my eyes.
“I think he’s going to be okay. He’s in the living room.” I want to reach out to him. Hug him. Wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him on the cheek. Something.
He pushes a strand of shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous blue eyes, then busies himself with his cap. He looks so good, even better than he did two years ago when hurricane Caitlyn paid a visit. The summer I caused a rift between two of my best friends. The summer Trevor offered me his heart and I tossed it at his feet. How could I have been so stupid?
He takes a hesitant step in the direction of his mother’s soft sobs coming from the living room, stopping when my father steps in front of him.
“Thank you, Mr. Foster,” Trevor says, shaking Dad’s hand. “Thanks for bringing him home.”
“We were just in the right place at the right time. You call me if you or your mama need anything, okay?”
Trevor nods and smiles. I’ve missed that smile. He puts his hands back in his pockets and walks into the living room without so much as a glance in my direction. My heart drops a little. I didn’t exactly expect a joyous reunion filled with balloons and kisses. In fact, I was ready for him to rip me a new one. I would have much preferred that to his cold indifference.
I step outside to wait on the porch. The rain still comes in heavy sheets, and lightning flashes in rapid succession, illuminating the mountains that surround us. If this keeps up, the entire town will be under water before the night is through.
Caitlyn.
My name swoops through the air in an ominous whisper, and my skin begins to tingle again. An intense pain fills my head and my vision blurs. I drop to my knees and my father’s hands catch me under my armpits before I hit the ground. Just as quickly as it hit, the pain is gone.
“Are you all right?” Dad places a steadying arm around my shoulder.
“Just a little dizzy. I haven’t eaten today.” It’s a lie, but he seems to buy it.
“Let’s get you home.”
I follow him to the truck, my eyes searching the property for the mysterious whisperer, but all I see is rain and darkness.

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
O’Dell Hutchison
O’Dell was born in a small rural town in Idaho. There were no Redeemers living there (that he knows of). After attending college in the Pacific Northwest, he found his way to the Houston area. By day, he is a Business Systems Analyst and at night you can either find him sitting at home, dreaming of random super powers he wishes he had, or directing plays and musicals at various theaters around Houston.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
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