Worlds Between

Worlds Between

After the Kreon pillaged our planet, they gave us two choices: Join the academies, to be brainwashed into submission, or work the mines for the Kreon. To resist is death. To love is treason. Falling for the enemy is illegal… but it might just save the planet. When I find the one thing the invaders want most – a lost artifact from a dying princess – I must marry an alien prince or watch everyone I love die.

I

wake to a deep thrumming sound. My hand reaches for the knife under my pillow as I pull the threadbare quilt off. I step toward the door, avoiding the creakiest floorboards and taking deep breaths to calm my racing heart. There’s enough morning light filtering in through the small window to see my little brother, still asleep on his mat.

I whisper a prayer as I open the door slowly, lifting it up so its normal grating doesn’t betray me. I hear the large drone overhead again and slip outside to follow, barefoot on the cool grass. Our valley is still half-shrouded in mist. I keep to the shadows of the forest as I scan the early morning sky, trying to sniff out the smell of engine oil over the strong scent of pine and damp earth.

Just when I think I’ve lost it, the drone whizzes above me, a few feet over the tree line. I hold my breath as I watch it zoom toward our cabin. But then it wobbles and changes direction. Downward. I take a deep breath and start running. As I close in on where the drone is dropping rapidly into the forest, I slow my pace so I don’t trigger any of my own traps.

I hear the instant the battery in the drone gives out, then its rotors go silent. I wait behind a large tree until the metallic beast hits the forest floor, but peek around to see it flailing in a small clearing. Thin legs slide out of its main body and reach toward the ground. It crawls eastward like a giant black spider, trying to head back to the Kreon base.

Electricity flows through me as I sprint toward the machine and drive my knife into its center. It makes a loud metallic screech before going silent again. I crouch over it, listening to the surrounding forest. I don’t like being this exposed. I hold my breath until finally I hear the birds start their chirping again, then quickly disable the cameras by sawing through the wires with the tip of my knife. Once its dead, I take a deep breath and grab the machine in both arms, pulling it tightly to my chest and risking a rare smile. This one weighs a lot. Which means more parts to sell.

I take a while to make it back to the cabin; the weight of the machine keeps me from moving too quickly. My chest tightens as I listen for anyone following me who might have heard the death of the drone. Although well into the harvest months, I shiver only slightly in my thin nightclothes. My blood is still warm with adrenaline, and the winters are fairly mild in our valley anyway. This makes hunting easier since the game doesn’t head for warmer climates like up north. My father chose it well. Almost like he knew what was coming.

I bump open the door of the cabin with my shoulder and use a foot to kick it shut again. Jamie is standing in the middle of the room glaring at me.

“I didn’t have time to wake you.” It’s the only thing I can think of to say. I’m tired of apologizing to him for the things I have to do to keep us fed and safe.

I cross the room and heave the drone onto the sturdy workbench. It used to be our family dinner table, back when our parents were here and we were an actual family.

I turn back toward my little brother. Although his brown hair is mussed with sleep, the serious expression he’s giving me makes him look just like our father. I swallow the bile rising in my throat as I remember the last day we saw our him, almost a year ago. It’s his fault Jamie is afraid every time I leave the cabin without him. He thinks I’ll disappear too, and he’ll be all alone.

“Fine, I’m sorry, Jamie. How about I let you work on this one, instead of parting it out? It’s one of the biggest we’ve caught.” I tilt my head as I watch Jamie’s expression soften. His curiosity has always been his weakness. A weakness we both share. My stomach clenches as the bribe seems to work. Although this will appease him for now, I know Jamie won’t stop bugging me to go out beyond the woods. And I can’t keep him confined to our little valley forever.

I look back at the large drone. The excitement of finding it drains and leaves my body feeling weak again. This hunk of Kreon metal would’ve gotten us almost a month of supplies in trade. But keeping Jamie safe and happy was more important.

I’ll just have to find another way to get food this week.

As Jamie looks over the drone and pulls out our stash of tools from under a floorboard, I go outside to get breakfast. Underneath thick rosehip bushes I pull up a wooden hatch covering our cache of foodstuffs. Lying on my belly on the cool morning grass I look down into the hole. My heart sinks as I pull out my small flashlight. Our only flashlight. It flickers but finally illuminates the near empty box at the bottom of the dirt-chilled hole. I reach down and grab the last chunk of cheese and a bag of dried meat.

I’ll have to go to the trading camp soon. Dread burns in the pit of my stomach as I turn off the flashlight and tuck it into my waistband. I close the makeshift cellar and stand up. Back inside I slice the meat and cheese thinly with my knife. Jamie and I sit on the edges of our sleeping mats and eat in silence.

“We’ll need to sell this drone, won’t we?” Jamie asks as he wipes his mouth with his sleeve. He gazes at the worn floorboards in front of him.

“No way, this one’s yours. I promised you the next drone. I’ll show you how to take this one apart and fix it.” I force a smile. “It seems different from the others, so it should be an interesting one.” I used to be able to lure smaller drones out of the sky with a mirror and then disable them quickly, but that trick stopped working, and it had been nearly two months since my last catch. The truth is, this larger model worried me. What was it doing here?

Jamie looks up at me, his deep brown eyes showing a maturity well beyond his eight years. “But we need the food.”

I nod. “I’ll figure something else out.” I reach over and his hair. He pulls back growling. I laugh. “Don’t I always figure it out? We haven’t starved yet, and we’re still living free.”

Jamie gets up and stomps over to the drone. “Yes, I know you will, Rya. You always have.” He holds up one of the drone’s broken rotors. “But I’ve learned all you can teach me about fixing and repairing drones, comms, and generators. There’s nothing else to do out here, in the middle of nowhere, and you still won’t let me go hunting with you.” He pouts as he unscrews one of the drone’s emergency legs.

I stand up and lean against the wall next to the workbench. “I know you’re getting bored, but it’s dangerous out there and we need to be careful. You’ll get to go hunting with me soon.”

“You’ve been saying that for years,” he grumbles.

I lean over and pop out the brain chip out of the drone with my knife and hold up the gleaming silver square. “And besides, even though you think you know everything about machines, you still haven’t learned hacking.” I wink at him and place the chip with others in a wooden box I keep high on a shelf.

“What’s the use of learning all that if I’m hungry all the time?” Jamie slams the tools and the drone leg onto the bench and storms out of the cabin.

I sigh and rub my temple. His dark moods are getting worse, and I have no idea what to do about it. I look over at the faded picture on the shelf of my brother and I standing in front of our smiling parents. It’s the only picture we have of our former life. Mom was angry when Dad came home with the polaroid camera, she said it was a wasted trade. I’m glad he insisted. Without this photograph, I’m afraid Jamie will forget them. At night, in the dark, I try to picture their faces from memory, but I feel them slipping away from me as well.

Anger wells up inside me as Jamie’s dark mood spreads. It feels like a physical presence in the cabin, thinning the air and making it hard to breathe. Why did they have to abandon us? I want to grab the frame and smash it on the ground, but I slam my fist onto the workbench instead, sending tools scattering across its surface.

I shake my head at myself as I rub my hand. Jamie is right, we’re barely living as it is. Our small cabin consists of one room with two thin mats, a workbench, and a shelf of books. I walk over and drag my finger over the worn spines. Almost all the books are Earth history, from ancient times up until the first invasion thirty years ago. If I were found with these, the Kreon wouldn’t hesitate to put me to death. But these books were my dad’s hobby and I can’t part with them. He said the history and stories in them would be important to us one day. I flip through the pages, letting the musty smell and the feel of the leather bindings calm me down.

I can’t let myself think too much, so I quickly put my day clothes on and sheath my knife into the leather holster around my waist. I grab my backpack and head out to look for Jamie. It doesn’t take me long to find him. Although he complains all the time about not going hunting or scavenging with me, he’s also afraid to go too far from our cabin. Instead, he goes up. I blink against the brightness of the blue sky, scanning the treeline surrounding the valley. I find him in one of his favorite tall pine trees. Securing my pack around my shoulders, I climb up after him.

I sit on a thick branch across from him and look out at the little valley we live in. “You can almost see past the ship today,” I say, nodding towards the horizon.

Across the valley, a gleaming alien leg rises from the trees like a metal serpent and continues up through the haze created by the refineries. It ends where it attaches to one of the city-sized Kreon ships. Below it lie the remains of a sprawling human city, now abandoned except for the refineries, and darkly shadowed by the hovering space craft.

“Yeah, the smoke isn’t as bad,” Jamie grumbles under his breath.

I smile.

“Why don’t you come down and get your chores done. I’ll check only the closest traps today and wait until tomorrow to go to the traders. That way we can work on that drone together tonight.” I bump his foot with mine. “What do you say?”

He frowns but looks over at me. “All right. But before it gets dark, I want to show you how much my aim has improved.”

I narrow my eyes. “Agreed. But you still can’t go with me tomorrow. I know you’re getting good with your bow, but there’s more to hunting than just the actual shooting part.”

He starts to climb down the tree. “Like what? I know how to avoid the drones and watch for human and Kreon traps.”

I close my eyes for a second before heading down after him. “Yes, and you’re getting fantastic at those things. But knowing isn’t the same as doing. It takes practice, and we need to start nearby first.” Especially if the Kreon are getting more active in our section, I think, remembering the large drone. “I’ll take you soon, Jamie. I promise.”

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Selfie (Device Kids 1)

Selfie (Device Kids 1)

When Brianna discovers her little sister has cancer, she’s willing to try anything to save her: even if it means getting her science fair group to hack a new medical technology that involves microscopic robots. After creating an underground app that lets students alter their appearance, they suddenly find themselves in a bidding war between tech companies and at the mercy of the government, which sees them as criminals. Then a few of their “mods” go haywire and give them permanent abilities that border on the supernatural. As society crumbles around them–disintegrating into an age war between adult and the teens–they go on the run in a quickly shifting reality, where all things are possible, but nothing is certain.

“Wake up, Honey,” my dead mother’s voice whispered in my ear. “Wake up.”

I groaned, rubbing my eyes and blinking them open. I felt a sinking sensation in my chest when I realized I was alone. I fell asleep with my earbuds in again. Mom’s gone, I reminded myself, then quickly pushed the thought to the back of my mind. I was done going to school with puffy eyes from crying. People had almost stopped looking at me with pity.

Music,” I said to my phone. It was on my desk resting on its wireless charger. “Upbeat.”

I pressed my thumb and ring finger together so the phone knows I’m talking to it. It took me years of groveling to convince my parents to let me get the implant. The procedure was almost painless; just a quick prick on the thumb. A few days later, my parents told me mom’s cancer. She did three months later. Now it was a permanent reminder that I’d been too self-absorbed to notice my mom’s weary eyes and frail movements.

A fast tempo song starts playing through the nearly invisible wireless earbuds that I keep in almost all the time.

Schedule?” I asked out loud.

“Another wonderful day of school,” mom’s voice said into my ears. “Don’t forget the social studies paper that’s due in 3rd period.”

It took me a month to crack my aPhone’s built in AI, Gloria. Then I hacked into the firmware and patched over it with my mother’s voice. I spent months in my room, watching old family videos and creating the vocal databases. I built an app that could listen to hundreds of videos at once, and match sound bits to corresponding words. But I still watched them all. Mom teaching me to ride a bike. Mom at Megan’s 6th birthday, helping her blow out the candles. Mom reading us a story when we were little, with long blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes.

“You also have several emails from students wanting help for tech class, some offering the usual rate and some a little higher. Also, Jens wants to know whether you have time for some WOL after school.”

Shit, I thought. I forgot about the paper. I grabbed my phone and ran a program to search for a pre-2000 high school level social studies paper stored in offline data caches and skimmed through the results. I found a Word doc about familial structures in Ethiopia, downloaded it to my phone and changed the name and date.

Brianna Harmond. 10th Grade.

Then I sent it to the printer in Dad’s office. I picked it up on my way to the kitchen to grab breakfast.

“Morning Bree.” Dad was already sitting at the table with toast and a glass of juice, reading the morning paper. Megan was there too, eating cereal. I closed the magnetic loop between my thumb and finger again and ordered breakfast. “Coffee. Toast.”

I grabbed a slice of toast and put it in the machine just as the lever went down, and put a mug under the coffee machine spout.

Megan rolled her eyes. Dad peeked over the top of his paper.

“Would it really be that hard to press the button?” he said.

“What good is technology if we don’t use it?” I said. “Besides, if it saves me a few seconds here or there, and that adds up to some serious study time.”

“As if you ever study,” Megan said. I shot her a look that shut her up. Her hair was a mess, so I braided it before scarfing down my breakfast. My sister still went to the middle school down the street, which started an hour later than the high school. I was going to be late again. Mom would have made sure I was up, but dad rarely remembered. I kissed Megan on the top of her head, and gave Dad a tight hug. Then I went out through the garage and grabbed my skateboard.

“Bye!” I yelled behind me. I lifted the skateboard to my lips, whispering the secret password. I’d programmed it to respond only to an ASMR version of my voice, which included not just the sound, but the subtle physical vibrations as well. Last year I’d bought a device a classmate had made in his garage that powered the wheels and a self-guided navigation system.

“School,” I said, pressing my fingers together. Gloria communicated with the device on the skateboard, and also tapped into the traffic cams and signals. It wasn’t foolproof, but the system would usually get me to school in one piece while I stood there listening to music and reading novels on my phone.

I usually wore dark blue or black jeans because they hid the oil or ink better—I had a habit of wiping my dirty hands on my clothes, and clean laundry was far from assured with mom gone. I did it when I was desperate enough, or my room started stinking from all the clothes on the floor. Megan did it most of the time. Converse sneakers, a leather jacket and a navy scarf completed the outfit. The jacket had hidden pockets, and the scarf still smelled like Mom. It was my armor, and I wore it proudly, even if it was a weird ensemble.

School was a joke. We had instant access to all of the world’s wisdom—the history of mankind’s greatest achievements—and our phones can use the information better than we will ever be able to. Why struggle trying to figure out geometry or algebra, doing the sums and adding up things in our minds, when our phone can solve the same problems in a nanosecond? Why even learn to hold a pencil or write by hand? Who does that anymore?

They were still teaching us stuff they thought we needed to learn twenty years ago to have a successful future, but it was already completely irrelevant. Sometimes I risked detention to contradict the teacher or question the standard answers in our textbooks. What we should be learning is how to do more. How to solve real problems. How to think creatively and use our devices to actually improve the world. At least that’s what most of my friends thoughts.

So we cheated out way through classes to keep our teachers and parents of our backs, but saved our brains for the real challenges. The interesting stuff happened between periods or after school. We were inventing or trading technology that was more advanced than anything you could get on the market.

I kicked up my skateboard and stuffed it through the loops of my backpack, just as my best friend Amy ambushed me from the side and put an arm around my neck.

“What’s shakin’, Bacon?”

“That doesn’t even rhyme,” I said, but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.

“Are you sure? Remind me what you got in English again, B-?”

“B+. Gloria,” I tapped my fingers together, “What rhymes with Bacon?”

Gloria began listing off rhyming words, shaken, taken, kraken, as well as near matches.

“It almost rhymes, if you say it right. The robot will never understand.”

Amy wasn’t quite as into tech as I was; she focused on the things only humans could do, like creative writing or art. I knew it wouldn’t be long before AI could handle those tasks decently as well, although robots that could simulate human facial features and movements were still a long way off.

“Finish your paper?” Amy asked.

“In a manner of speaking,” I grinned.

“Asshole! I spent three hours on mine.”

“Three hours you could have been writing a novel, or something actually useful.”

“So you keep saying. I don’t mind the work; keeps my brain sharp. Someday the power will go out, and you’ll all be screwed.”

“I don’t think being able to write a high-school social studies paper qualifies as a life-saving survival skill,” I laughed.

We had science class in first period. Mr. Leister was organizing his papers in the front of the class, when I heard the 3D printer at the back of the room warming up. I looked back to see the beginning of what I was pretty sure would turn out to be a life-size, anatomically correct plastic dildo. We were supposed to get a code from the teacher to use the printer, but I saw Brad sniggering with his friends. He must have hacked it and uploaded the design. I rolled my eyes at him and he blew a kiss back to me. Yuck. Sure, somewhere in the dark nether regions of my brain I had to admit that he was mildly attractive, but he was just such an immature asshole.

Brad grabbed the dildo when it was finished printing, then looked around the room to see what kind of mischief he could get into. I saw the twinkle in his eye when he spotted David, sitting quietly and studying, like the perfect nerd he was. I’d known David since 2nd grade, and we had what you might call an awkward history. We’d sort of been friends for a couple of years when we were younger. I even went to his house once for a parent-supervised play date. Then one day he asked me out, but instead of having the balls to do it himself in private, he sat at my lunch table and passed a message down through five of my friends. How’s a girl supposed to react to something like that? I tried letting him down easy, relaying the message backwards through my peers, but he continued passing the message, as if it wasn’t meant for him. He finally got up and left the cafeteria with red cheeks and wet eyes. We haven’t spoken since, though sometimes we say hi when we pass each other in the halls. I’m pretty sure we both do that so we don’t feel like we are bad people. At least that’s why I do it.

Brad went over to David and started waving the plastic dick in his face. I felt a protective sort of urge rising in me, but I squashed it down. We were seniors in high school. He didn’t need anybody to stand up for him.

“Hi I’m David, I love my books so much I get a hard-on every time I crack one open. Sometimes when I’m alone I even use them to jerk off, like this.” Brad picked up David’s book and folded it around the dildo, moving it up and down and making moaning noises. I felt bad for David, but Brad did this kind of stuff all the time. It wasn’t my problem.

“That’s enough,” said a voice calmly. I thought it was Mr. Leister at first but he was still ignoring us. I looked around and realized it was Greg Masters. My Greg. Although of course he wasn’t really mine, he’d been dating Melissa Riley, the queen of our high school’s popularity chart, since Freshman year. And they were a perfect match; even though she was a total bitch and Greg deserved someone better. Melissa was unquestionably the hottest girl in school, and Greg was the gorgeous captain of the basketball team. Neither of them had as much as looked at me in almost four years. I’d never seen Greg stand up to a bully like Brad before. Not for someone like David. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t remember anybody standing up for someone like David before, which I guess explained the stupefied look on Brad’s face.

Brad hesitated and I saw him calculating his options. Even though he had a reputation as a badass, with his ripped jeans, black T-shirt, messy dark hair and eyebrow piercing, and even though Greg was pretty much the nicest guy on earth, he was still built like an athlete. Plus he had that sense of invincibility that kids from money always carried around with them. The whole class was watching now, and I realized I was holding my breath with them.

I wanted to start chanting, “Fight, Fight, Fight!” like they do in the movies. There are very rarely real fights in our school. But the glint in Brad’s eye told me he was in a daring—or self-destructive—mood.

“Oh, sorry Greg, I had no idea that David here was your secret lover. He must be if you’re going to defend his honor.”

“I’m just sick of listening to your voice,” Greg said, standing up. “It’s getting on my nerves.”

“What are you going to do, get all your basketball buddies to gang up on me?”

Greg sized him up with a smirk, slowly rolling up his sleeves to his elbows. Even his forearms were sexy.

“I don’t think I’m going to need any help with this,” he said.

“Guys, this is stupid,” David said, standing up also. “It’s no big deal. Let’s just sit down.”

Suddenly Brad tossed the dildo at the front of the room, where it just missed Mr. Leister’s head and smacked against the chalkboard. Then he sat down quickly, so when Mr. Leister turned around he only saw David and Greg.

“So this is where the taxpayer’s money is going,” Mr. Leister said, picking up the dildo. “Does this belong to one of you?”

“It was Brad,” I said, before I could stop myself. Greg and David nodded.

“That’s ridiculous!” Brad shouted. “It was totally David. You know how clever he is with coding and stuff. Bree is just protecting her boyfriend Greg, because she’s so into him.”

My cheeks burned red. Was my crush that obvious? I was mortified, but I covered my embarrassment with anger. I kicked Brad’s desk as hard as I could. He flinched when it hit him in the knee with a satisfying thud.

“Only my friends call me Bree,” I said. “You can call me Brianna.”

“Are you asking me to call you?” Brad said. “Sorry, you’re not my type.”

At this point I was ready to murder him, but Mr. Leister clapped his hands and yelled, “Everybody, sit down. Now.

I sat and crossed my arms together, frowning. Amy shot me an are you crazy  look and I shrugged back. Mr. Leister liked me anyway—science was the only class where I got straight A’s, mostly because Mr. Leister valued practical application and demonstration projects. So instead of just taking a test, I could build something or make something work.

“I was just thinking about how to divide you up into teams for this year’s science fair,” Mr. Leister said, adjusting his glasses. “I appreciate you making it easy for me. Brianna, David, Brad and Greg—you’ll be on one team.”

Wait, what? My blood was already pumping with adrenaline from the incident, and now a deep panic was settling into my bones. The science fair was months away, and teams would have to cooperate with each other on a project. I would have taken any other punishment, but the science fair was something I actually cared about. It was an opportunity to get noticed early, maybe even a get out of jail free card if you got an early entry into some internship or college program. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet, but I sure as hell didn’t want my project jeopardized by shit-for-brains Brad. Plus, unlike Greg, my family didn’t have the money to send me to some fancy school.

Amy raised her hand but didn’t wait to get called on. “Excuse me, Mr. Leister, but Bree and I need to be on a team together. We’ve already got a project in mind we’ve started working on.”

I was grateful for her quick lie, but my face fell when I saw Mr. Leister clench his jaw. We’d pushed him too far this morning, and he wasn’t going to be forgiving.

“In that case, Amy, you can join Brianna’s team. I’m sure they can use all the help they can get. And remember, your science fair project is mandatory and will account for 30% of your final grade. I want to see creative, forward thinking projects: but big ideas aren’t enough. You need to have a working prototype in time for the fair.”

I gripped the edge of my desk as the rest of the class divided themselves up into teams. I was still in shock. At the time, I was just worried about my future. I didn’t realize then that our little team would soon topple governments and kill nearly everyone in our high school. But that came later. First came the announcement.

 

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The Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet

Book three in the Scarlet Thread series is now available! It’s set in Egypt and based on real historical and alchemical literature surrounding the “emerald tablet” – supposedly written by the hand of Thoth. Get it now on Amazon!

Summary

I’ve met Zeus, and made him bleed. But the war is just beginning. A tangled knot of forbidden romance binds my actions; Zeus is using my feelings for Sitri against me. Somehow I need to kill one and save the other. We search Egypt for answers, and nearly destroy Cairo. I’m getting stronger, but the gods are taking off their gloves. This fight could end us all.

First Page

I could feel the broken bones in my arm scrape together under my skin, like wooden blocks covered in sandpaper. Puriel lifted me up from the pile of rubble that used to be my childhood home and carried me to the black sports car. It was so quiet, I thought my ears must have been damaged, but then I could hear Puriel’s voice. He was asking me something, something about how to drive the car. I shrugged and rolled my head. I’d been in JDRI since I was nine, and driving lessons were never on the curriculum. I looked around for Sitri, why wasn’t he driving? Then I saw him, or at least the dark furry shape he’d become. The impossibly large, wolf-like creature. He was waiting for us in the middle of the road. Howling at us to hurry.

Puriel finally grasped the mechanics of the vehicle, and the car screeched out of the suburban cul-de-sac. I could hear sirens getting louder, and we passed several police cars and an ambulance. I blinked against the harsh flashing lights as they sped by. Puriel kept checking the skies through the windshield. I looked up as well, expecting a helicopter, but instead I saw a flash of wings and a glimmer of silver shapes, illuminated by the early light. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so I only saw silhouettes against the dark sky, but I knew what they were. Hunters. Dozens of them.

“Why aren’t they attacking us?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Puriel said. “But Zeus isn’t going to want us to reach Nevah. Not with the shears.”

The Golden Shears. 

I looked down, and sure enough, my pale fingers were still clenched around the golden metal, almost like they’d melded with my fist. My arm looked like a spiked hammer. The shears radiated power, and I could feel a pulsing – a throbbing through my whole body. I didn’t know if it was my own heartbeat, or the shears.

My hands felt sticky, and I realized they were covered with bright blue goo, that shimmered when I turned my arm. Zeus’s blood. Pure divinity, straight from the source. I shuddered, resisting the urge to wipe it against my clothes.

“Do we have a towel or something?” I asked.

Puriel looked physically pained, and his eyes were coal black, with unusually wide pupils. He stared at my hands with more than just concern. It was hunger, I realized. This much energy, right here, it was taking all his strength to restrain himself.

“You… want this?” I asked, holding my wrists out.

Hunger took over his face, and for a moment I thought he was going to lose control and bite my hand off. Instead he reached for my hand and held it up to his mouth. He gently kissed my fingertips, and I felt his tongue flick over my skin. It should have been erotic, but it wasn’t. I knew this disgusted him as much as it disgusted me. But after what we’d been through, he needed strength. It must have taken a tremendous amount of willpower to resist Zeus, and Puriel had refused him. He’d given me the shears, and I’d stabbed Zeus in the thigh. Nobody could question his loyalty now. He’d had his shot at redemption, and he’d chosen us.

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Reviews

This book is imaginative, spellbinding and fulfilling. I continue to be amazed with Mr. Murphy’s ability to describe and create such visual imagery. This story has so much to offer and I look forward to the next installment to see where this story leads. ★★★★★

I fell in love with this series after reading the first book. There is a great range in characters, from the ones you love, to the ones you love to hate. And this book along with the other in the series, sucks you right in so that you can’t put it down until the last page. ★★★★★

I flew through this trilogy in 3 days unable to put it down. The dedication to the plot, even through the weight of research, gives you such abundant insight into the characters and deities that litter the series. You’re caught up in such a whirlwind of passion, humor, and adventure that when you finish the 3rd book and realize the Author isn’t finished with this tale you mourn the months/years that it will take for him to discover and reveal the end. A must read for any young adult or adult that is young at heart. ★★★★★

This has to be one my favorite Derek Murphy series. I LOVE this alternate universe with Gods, humans, and hybrids, and how it branches out into Egyptian mythology as well. Given that this is the third book in the series, the characters have already been established. Due to this, I feel like the book moves at a much faster pace, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Derek Murphy has created such a rich universe in his books, that I feel like I am completely immersed in it when I am reading his books. Other than that, I cannot WAIT for the next one. ★★★★★

 

Mood Board

Gods of music and madness book one (Orpheum)

Gods of music and madness book one (Orpheum)

Yesterday I finished Orpheum. Part one was published previously and ends on a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, even though people like it, I’ve been getting some negative reviews about how frustrating it is to wait for more.

I worked on this book through the winter, and we spent another month in Bulgaria doing research and visiting some of the geographical and historical locations in the book. I continued working on the book in Edinburgh over New Year’s… and was stuck on the last chapter for two weeks as we moved to Taipei.

But finally, I got to THE END and it’s pretty great. The full book also ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. I may leave it as it is, or I may add in an epilogue for at least a partial sense of completion, since it will probably be awhile until there’s another book in this series (I think it’s good – but I also have better projects mapped out and I want to be working on my best ideas, not the ideas I started years ago).

The original cover looked like this:

If you haven’t read part one yet, you can get the first several chapters for free in my starter library.

I like to update covers when I significantly change a book, so I’ve been working on a new cover, which will look something like this:

In a day or two, I’ll have a limited number of ARC copies to give out, so make sure you’re on my email list if you want one (these advanced copies are for fans who don’t mind helping me spot the inevitable handful of typos, and who can also post a review of the finished book on Amazon – if you’d prefer waiting for a clean copy, the full thing will be on Amazon next week).

Here’s an excerpt:

The world was my weapon, and I felt more powerful than I ever had before. Blood dripped from my fingertips, as the recent scabs reopened against the sharp strings of my violin. My eyes blackened as music filled my body, a rushing song, the voice of a god pumping in my veins. I hear his voice and I am destruction.

Here are a couple videos I made about the book… the second one is on-location in Bulgaria.

GIVEAWAY FOR MUSIC LOVERS!

I’m also running a giveaway where you can WIN a paperback version of the full book, and one of these cool miniature violin pendants with a working case.

>CLICK HERE TO ENTER<<

 

 

 

Europe was great, but we’ve just flown back to Taiwan for Chinese New Year and will be in Asia for the next several months. Here’s a picture of our street. I’m working on TASTE next and I can’t wait to share the full book!

 

I’m working on TASTE for the rest of this month – my vampire dystopia – you can still get the free sample on Amazon for a limited time here:

Get the first 5 chapters now.

The best books for teens – YA releases for summer 2017

The best books for teens – YA releases for summer 2017

If you’ve been following me, you’ll know I’ve been giving away three books a week all summer! I’m setting up the last giveaway of young adult books for the summer – so sign up to win 6 new scifi and fantasy releases.

>>Click here to enter the giveaway<<

 

Make sure you scroll down to see ALL the new releases I’m excited about!

 

DIVIDING EDEN (DIVIDING EDEN #1) BY JOELLE CHARBONNEAU

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure. But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom. As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family. With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

Release date: June 6th, 2017

BARREN BY J. THORN

When a sudden storm slams Katy’s boat into the shore, she’s forced to enter the lawless wasteland she’d avoided since the world ended. The horror she discovers amongst the ruins is far worse than she could have imagined. The masked warriors of the Venganza clan chase Katy through the post-apocalyptic landscape, forcing her to decide between her past or the survivors’ future — a decision that could determine the fate of the human race.
Release Date: June 6th, 2017

THE MARKED GIRL BY LINDSEY KLINGELE

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day LA via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task.
Release date: June 7th, 2016

ROAR (ROAR #1) BY CORA CARMACK

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. She’s the sole heir of Pavan, and has been groomed since childhood to be the perfect queen. Aurora is intelligent, brave, and honorable – but she has yet to show any trace of magic she’ll need to protect her people. To keep her secret, her mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. It seems to be the perfect solution to all her problems – her spot as the next queen is guaranteed, and he will be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in storm magic, and the people who are selling it are storm hunters and not Stormlings. Now Aurora realizes that there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She just has to be brave enough to steal it.
Release date: June 13th, 2017

THE NEXT TOGETHER BY LAUREN JAMES

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time they are total strangers thrust together under unusual circumstances. Each time their presence changes history for the better. And each time they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. Why does fate keep bringing them together to save the world, and what must they achieve before they can finally be left to love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different. . . .
Release date: June 13th, 2017

OUR DARK DUET (MONSTERS OF VERITY #2) BY VICTORIA SCHWAB

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human. No matter how much he once yearned for it. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost. Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

 

Release date: June 13th, 2017

THE FALL OF SHANNARA BY TERRY BROOKS

Across the Four Lands, peace has reigned for generations. But now, in the far north, an unknown enemy is massing. More troubling than the carnage is the strange and wondrous power wielded by the attackers—a breed of magic unfamiliar even to the Druid order. Fearing the worst, the High Druid dispatches a diplomatic party under the protection of the order’s sworn guardian, Dar Leah, to confront the mysterious, encroaching force and discover its purpose. But another crucial journey is being undertaken. Exiled onetime High Druid Drisker Arc has been living in quiet seclusion, far from the politics and power struggles of his former life, until two brutal attacks by would-be assassins force him to seek out an infamous murder-for-hire guild—and find the hidden enemy who has marked him for death. At his side is Tarsha Kaynin, a young woman gifted with the wishsong and eager to be schooled in its formidable power by a master. She, too, is pursuing a mission: to locate her wayward brother, whose own magic has driven him to deadly madness and kindled his rage for vengeance . . . against his sister.
Release date: June 13th, 2017

ABSOLUTION BY GEORGE S. MAHAFFREY JR. AND JUSTIN SLOAN

Absolution: A system of law in which young men and women, “Runners,” are paid bounties, or blood money, to become suspects in crimes committed by the wealthy. The way they are proven innocent? Evade, escape, and survive their hunters. At nineteen, Marisol never thought she would be a tracker of humans. In this post-apocalyptic world where justice is determined by a system of Absolution, Marisol steps up to do her duty. She hates everything that Absolution stands for, but there’s nothing she can do about it. Nothing, that is, until one of her Runners turns out to be the key to uncovering a vast conspiracy that threatens to topple the dictator of New Chicago and change their lives forever.
Release date: June 24th, 2017

 FATES AND FURIES BY RAYE WAGNER

Hope escaped the Underworld with her life, but her memories are as blank as the Book of the Fates she brought back. Still determined to break the curse, she and Xan take an offering to the Olympian temple to solicit the goddess Artemis for aid. But the petition has disastrous results, and now the gods are hunting her. Athan sacrificed everything for Hope, but she’s leaving him behind to travel with Xan to Mount Olympus. But the closer they get, the more Athan’s mortality becomes a liability. Forced to seek refuge in mists and darkness, Athan tangles with deities that weave the very threads of fate. But these goddesses also wield the immortal blades that lay ruin to destinies. With everyone she loves damaged or destroyed by the blood of Olympus, Hope must face the power of the past to change the fate of her future.
Release date: June 27th, 2017

NOW I RISE (THE CONQUERORS SAGA #2) BY KIERSTEN WHITE

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her. What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him? As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
Release date: June 27th, 2017

MIDNIGHT JEWEL (THE GLITTERING COURT #1) BY RICHELLE MEAD

Mira is not like the other Glittering Court girls. She is a war refugee, cast out of her home country and thrust into another, where she has learned to fight against the many injustices around her. For some, the Glittering Court offers a chance at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. But for Mira, it’s simply a means to an end. In the new world, she plans to earn off her marriage contract price, and finally be free.  Mira pitches herself as an asset to one of the passengers on board the ship: the sardonic and aloof Grant Elliot, whom she’s discovered is a spy for the prestigious McGraw Agency—and her ticket to buying her freedom. His cover blown, Grant has little choice but to take her on. Mira applies herself by day, learning the etiquette and customs that will help to earn her anonymity. By night, she dons a mask and slips into the city, fighting injustice and corruption on her own terms—and impressing Grant with her extraordinary abilities and insights into a brewing rebellion. But the rebellion isn’t all they’re fighting… Neither of them can ignore the attraction burning between them—an attraction so powerful, it threatens to unravel everything Mira’s worked so hard for. With freedom finally within her grasp, can Mira risk it all for love?
Release date: June 27th, 2017

THE SURGE BY MELISSA WEST

Sixteen-year-old alien Val Stone was born for one mission—to kill teenage Randolf “Rolf” Cartier before he fulfills an age-old prophecy, becomes the future American president, and murderers thousands of her kind. Val is ready to sacrifice herself for the good of her people. She knows every aspect of Rolf’s life and is prepared to strike. But what she doesn’t know is that Rolf’s been watching her, too. Waiting for her. Ready to defeat her and save himself. Only when the day arrives, doubt overcomes purpose, and they discover the prophecy was all a hoax. Oh, and they can’t seem to stop thinking about each other. Now they’re running against the clock, desperate to reveal who created the fake prophecy before tensions erupt and there’s nothing left but the memory of a species called human.

Release date: July 3rd, 2017

DRAGONS OF NOVA BY ELISE KOVA

Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust — hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything — and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh. While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills — and quick-shooting accuracy — makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.
Release date: July 11th, 2017

ASH AND QUILL BY RACHEL CAINE

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny…. Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule. Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library….
Release date: July 11th, 2017

IN OTHER LANDS BY SARAH REES BRENNAN

Sometimes it’s not the kid you expect who falls through to magicland, sometimes it’s . . . Elliott. He’s grumpy, nerdy, and appalled by both the dearth of technology and the levels of fitness involved in swinging swords around. He’s a little enchanted by the elves and mermaids. Despite his aversion to war, work, and most people (human or otherwise) he finds that two unlikely ideas, friendship and world peace, may actually be possible.
Release date: July 17th, 2017

THE LAST MAGICIAN BY LISA MAXWELL

In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
Release date: July 18th, 2017

THE FIFTH DOLL BY CHARLIE N. HOLMBERG

Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She’s diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life. Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls—one for every villager. Fascinated, she can’t resist the urge to open the doll with her father’s face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava’s dolls are much more than they seem. When he learns what she’s done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls—whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava’s creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.

Release date: July 25th, 2017

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY BY AMANDA FOODY

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show. But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca. Their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear.

Release date: August 1st, 2017

SPARKS OF LIGHT BY JANET B. TAYLOR

For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
Release date: August 1st, 2017

COPPER CHAIN BY JAMES MAXWELL

Dion, now king of Xanthos, is finally in command of the naval fleet he’s always dreamed of. But his hopes for peace are jeopardized when King Palemon, in dire need of ships to rescue his starving people from the frozen wastelands of the north, invades the Salesian city of Malakai. Too weak to confront Dion directly, Palemon turns to magic: mysterious copper chains from the lost civilization of Aleuthea, which have the potential to control dragons…and Dion. With the people he loves in danger, and his own freedom at risk, Dion’s only hope is Chloe and the power she struggles to tame.

Release date: August 3rd, 2017

DOMINION RISING

With 23 all-original Science Fiction and Epic Fantasy novels, Dominion Rising is the boxed set of the year! The collection features nearly 8,000 pages and over a million words in total – bringing you sharp, suspenseful, and thought-provoking novels of dark forces and light, of magic and adventure, of enchanted swords and galactic empires.
Release date: August 8th, 2017

REUNITED BY COLLEEN HOUCK

After surviving her otherworldly adventure, Lily wakes up on her nana’s farm having forgotten everything. Her sun prince, her travels to Egypt, and her journey to the Afterlife are all distant memories. But Lily is not the girl she once was. Her body is now part human, part lion, and part fairy. And if that isn’t bad enough, she must harness this power of three and become Wasret: a goddess destined to defeat the evil god Seth once and for all. With the help of her old friend Dr. Hassan, Lily departs on her final voyage through the cosmos and across the plains of Egypt. On the journey, she will transform into the being she is destined to become.
Release date: August 8th, 2017

EPIC CRUSH BY F.C. YEE

 
The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered. Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s bodacious transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn. This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.
Release date: August 8th, 2017
 

CROWN’S SHIELD BY FROST KAY

 
Despite her resolve to cut ties with the rebellion, Sage Blackwell is forced to turn to her old allies…But when the ultimate betrayal puts her in an impossible position, she has to make a life changing decision: freedom or peace?
From the moment he meets Sage, Crown Prince Tehl Ramses finds himself confronted with one surprise after another- and he hates being the fool. Ensnared in the rebellion’s intricate web of trickery and blackmail, Tehl is forced to take desperate measures: war or compromise?Both Tehl and Sage will do whatever’s necessary to avoid the pending war, even if it means becoming reluctant allies. Tempers rise, myths are unveiled, and assassins abound. Can they put aside their prejudices to protect their people? Or will they tear Aermia and each other apart?

Release date: August 22nd, 2017

He has no voice or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…Sixteen-year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her fellow campers can only stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless, but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…

Release date: August 29th, 2017

THIRTEEN RISING BY ROMINA RUSSELL

The master has been unmasked. Rho’s world has been turned upside down. With her loved ones in peril and all the stars set against her, can the young Guardian from House Cancer muster the strength to keep fighting? Or has she finally found her match in a master whose ambition to rule knows no limits?

Release date: August 29th, 2017

 

 Which of these have you read? What are you excited to read next?
Golden Shears – Bonus Chapter

Golden Shears – Bonus Chapter

I had one surprise twist saved for the end of book 2, but after much deliberation, I’ve decided it belongs at the front of book 3 instead. I’m adding it here, so you can read it now – the rest of the story continues in book 3 of the series… The Emerald Tablet.

17

I could feel the broken bones in my arm scrape together under my skin, like wooden blocks covered in sandpaper. Puriel lifted me up from the pile of rubble that used to be my childhood home and carried me to the black sports car. It was so quiet, I thought my ears must have been damaged, but then I could hear Puriel’s voice. He was asking me something, something about how to drive the car. I shrugged and rolled my head. I’d been in JDRI since I was nine, and driving lessons were never on the curriculum. I looked around for Sitri, why wasn’t he driving? Then I saw him, or at least the dark furry shape he’d become. The impossibly large, wolf-like creature. He was waiting for us in the middle of the road. Howling at us. Puriel finally figured out the mechanics and the car screeched out of the suburban coldesac. I could hear sirens getting louder, and we passed several police cars and an ambulance. I blinked against the harsh flashing lights. Puriel kept checking the skies. I looked up as well, expecting a helicopter, but instead I saw a flash of wings and a glimmer of silver shapes, illuminated by the early light. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so I only saw silhouettes against the dark sky, but I knew what they were. Hunters. Dozens of them.

“Why aren’t they attacking us?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Puriel said. “But Zeus isn’t going to want us to reach Nevah. Not with the shears.

The Golden Shears. 

I looked down, and sure enough, my pale fingers were still clenched around the golden metal, almost like they’d melded with my fist. My arm looked like a spiked hammer. The shears radiated power, and I could feel a pulsing. A throbbing through my whole body. I didn’t know if it was my own heartbeat, or the shears.

My hands felt sticky, and I realized they were covered with bright blue goo, that shimmered when I moved them. Pure divinity. Zeus’s blood. I shuddered, resisting the urge to wipe it against my clothes.

“Do we have a towel or something?” I asked.

Puriel looked physically pained, and his eyes were coal black, with unusually wide pupils. He stared at my hands with more than just concern. It was hunger. This much energy, right here, it was taking all his strength to restrain himself.

“You… want this?” I asked.

Hunger took over his face, and for a moment I worried he was going to lose control and bite my hand off. Instead he reached for my hand and held it up to his mouth. He gently kissed my fingertips, and I felt his tongue flick over my skin. It should have been erotic, but it wasn’t. I knew this disgusted him as much as it disgusted me. But after what we’d been through, he needed strength. It must have taken a tremendous amount of willpower to resist Zeus, and Puriel had refused him. He’d given me the shears, and I’d stabbed Zeus in the thigh. Nobody could question his loyalty now. He’d had his shot at redemption, and he’d chosen us.

Tall fir trees tore past us. I looked behind us and saw Sitri keeping up, running impossibly fast. We were going nearly over 100 miles per hour. Puriel was hugging the curves tightly, his white knuckles gripping the wheel with singular focus. I couldn’t believe he’d never driven before.

The Olympic forest expanded before us, inviting us in—a hundred miles of virgin territory, as far as anyone else knew anyway. But up ahead, I could see the a small road that cut through the forest to Nevah; Able’s private sanctuary for heirs, roots and magical creatures.

But something looked different this time. Something was blocking the road, some kind of wall. Puriel slammed on the brakes when we got close enough to see clearly. The wall was actually a tight lattice of hunters, their golden armor glistening, swords glowing with divine power. There were at least thirty, and streaks of light overhead told me more were arriving every second. They spread their wings in uniform, and it was like drawing the drapes closed. Puriel slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a stop. I heard a growl as Sitri launched himself into the wall of hunters, barreling through the middle. He tossed one hunter up in the air with a flick of his jaw, and pinned another to the ground, tearing at its neck with bloody jowls.

“Stay here!” Puriel shouted. He tore the door off and held it with one hand like a shield, then he grabbed his sword and darted towards the fray. His sword didn’t glow like the hunters, who were connected with Zeus’s energy, but after feeding straight from the source, he was much stronger. He cleaved hunters in half with raw strength, slicing through their metal armor. He cut through them like a lawnmower, tossing up bits and pieces.

Someone’s head bounced off the windshield. I hit the wipers, and watched them spread the glowing, silver blood across the glass. A tiny stream of soap shot out, and the wipers worked furiously until I could see again.

I gripped the door weakly and tried to push it open with my shoulder, but pain radiated down my arm. Hunters materialized by the door. One of them ripped the side door off and tossed it aside. He grabbed me by my clothes and threw me to the ground outside. I didn’t think they’d kill me. I was far too valuable, and too dangerous. Unless, now that I had the shears, Zeus didn’t want to take the risk.

The shears. I rolled to my knees and held them up, feeling their power. Zeus was afraid of me. I’d hurt him. The look of surprise on his face filled me with courage. I took a deep breath, and focused on the slender threads of the hunter’s lifespans. They shone like siler glowsticks in the early light. But when I tried to reach for them, a numbing, icy pain shot through my elbow. With my arm broken, I couldn’t lift my hand high enough, which meant I couldn’t grip the threads and also cut them with the shears, not with one hand anyway. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t do any damage. I tucked the shears into my pocket, then lashed out and flicked the thread with my bare fingertips, and watched the nearest hunter crumple and writhe on the ground. The other two froze and exchanged a look. I got to my feet and dusted off my jeans, then looked up at them with a smirk. I curled my fingers like talons, just before one of them swung a fist at me. I ducked and hooked his thread, winding it around my finger before pulling sharply. He dropped like a stone. Two others grabbed my arms and held them in a vice-like grip. A third grabbed the shears, attempting to rip them out of my pocket. An arrow appeared in his neck, and he slumped to the side. I looked up to see Mist flying towards us, loosing arrows nimbly. Dion and Tori were right behind her. Dion charged through the hunters like a bull, skewering them with his double scimitars.

The hunters kept coming, like flies to meat, swarming around us. But then the sky darkened. Able and Stephanie, holding hands, descended in dark splendor, with some kind of dark lattice of energy between them. They sucked out the light, causing temporary blindness, except for the small portal under their arms.

We passed through, with Stephanie chanting, and the gateway closed behind us. The sealed passage swallowed up the sounds of battle. We’d made it back to Nevah safely. My knees buckled and my face hit the dirt, for the third time this morning.

 

 

I’m going to be adding a final bonus chapter here soon – sorry it isn’t ready yet! If you want to sign up to my list, I’ll let you know when you can get it!

Don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway too!

 

 

Thanks for your patience! If you have a minute, please post a review on the book on Amazon.

 

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