Category Archives: Past Book Tours

Romantic Fantasy Book: Snow Wars by N.S. Grimm


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Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Gay and Lesbian Fantasy, Young Adult (18 + over)


snow wars

General Note: there are graphic battle scenes, soft sexual content, drinking, and some gay and lesbian characters (in books 2&3) in this series.

~~In a world covered by snow, where deadly predators are everywhere, resources scarce, and love even more elusive, two young women hold the key to the mysterious death and destruction surrounding their cave dwelling people. One side wants to keep these women alive and the other side wants to see them dead, but how can these young women tell the difference between the two sides? And what is the dark secret in their past that holds the key to the threats of today?

The sole survivor of a bloody genocide attempt, Iana runs for her life, but is there anywhere safe to run? Daniel swore to his dying brother that he would protect the small woman and her sister, but how can he help a girl who continually puts her life in danger? As Daniel binds Iana closer to himself, and his own dark secret life, Iana finds herself drawn to him in more than one way.

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Excerpt:

“Hang on, Nathanial. I’m coming to get you,” Iana said.

The Raven Dog above her seemed reinvigorated at this new movement from its trapped prey. The mad dog danced on the edge above her with snapping jaws and bloody teeth. Every move the creature made sent rock and dirt cascading over Iana’s head. Her grip was already precarious and weak on the rocky cliff she was scaling. Any amount of falling debris was dangerous and could dislodge her handholds, causing her to fall.

“Iana, what are you doing? Don’t do it; stay where you are.”

“Still trying to tell me what to do Nathanial?” Iana tossed back to him, trying to keep both their spirits up. “Haven’t you learned yet?”

“Don’t risk this, Iana. I’m not worth it.”

“Yes you are!” she countered and continued to creep slowly over toward him. Her hands were shaking so hard she was scared they would shake off the rocky ledge. Maybe she should have taken off her gloves, but then she would just have the cold to deal with.

“Iana, go back. It’s too dangerous. There is snow all over that cliff; you will slip and fall.”

Iana looked over to the bush where the wind was blowing against him. He was very pale in the dusty pink light of the setting sun. He was too white Iana thought.

“Keep talking to me, Nathanial, okay?” she yelled at him.

A frigid gust of wind blew up, tossing Iana’s hair wildly. The snow swirled about, blinding her temporarily. Iana clung closer to the rough cliff wall with her eyes squeezed tight, waiting till it died down. Her lips were quivering now, but she didn’t know if it was from the cold or fear. What had made her think she could climb across to him like this?

“Hey, Easterner,” Nathanial called to her, “never seen a mouse so bad at climbing before; maybe you should have stayed behind?” he teased.

Iana opened her eyes and shot him a look that could kill. Rising to the challenge, she said, “Don’t worry, mice are very good at improvising when it comes to survival.”

Iana was frozen with fear. She could feel the tears of anger and despair start to well up in her eyes and she fought hard to push them away. She hadn’t been climbing long when Nathanial decided to continue his harassment.

“You really aren’t very good at that you know,” he said.

Iana screamed back in mock frustration, “Training for rock climbing isn’t till the next lunar!”

Nathanial kept the banter up in a lighthearted voice, but when Iana looked his way she could see his eyes were closed against the cold and he was shaking as he tried to hang on.

“I’m just saying…that you might want to work on that when we get back if you want to be a Rambler,” he continued teasing her in a trembling voice.

“I’m beginning to rethink that occupational choice at the moment,” Iana confessed, only half joking.

Nathanial laughed into the wind this time. “Aha! I knew you didn’t really want to make this run today,” he joked.

“Haven’t you bled to death yet?” Iana countered, and Nathanial laughed out loud again.

It was good to hear him laugh. Nathanial was quiet for a long moment. When he spoke next, it was in a low and serious voice. “You know I didn’t mean all that mean stuff I said to you back there at the start ribbon.”

“I know,” Iana said, forgiving him.

She paused a moment and leaned her head against the rock wall to catch her breath. It was then that Iana noticed the absence of the Raven dog from overhead. She held her breath and waited for it to return. Shadows passed over and Iana sniffed hard against her runny nose. The longer she waited, the more her nerves set on edge. Suddenly a head appeared over the edge—a human head. It was Daniel reaching his hand down to her.


About the Author:

NS Grimm is a new and upcoming American writer with self-published works in multiple genres. Works always focus on strong female characters with a passion for life and love. Her international experience finds its way into all her books in one way or another. Raised in Texas, GRIMM is the last child of three. Hobbies include: kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, gardening, house flipping, sewing, singing, ballet, scuba and visiting museums of any type.

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Historical Fiction Book: Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts @ShaunaRoberts5


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Historical Fiction, Romance


ClaimedbytheEnemy SR's Kindle

Crown Princess Nindalla knows the terrifying power of Sargon of Akkad’s army: Ten years ago, it destroyed her home city and killed her parents. Now the nightmare is happening again. The Akkadians conquer her new home, Susa; make her a widow; and strip her of her rank. Nindalla vows to protect her children from her enemies by any means necessary, including marrying whoever can shield them best. With plots swirling around her, can she trust her instincts to tell friends from foes?

Farm boy Ur-sag-enki was forced to become a soldier in the Akkadian army ten years ago after it destroyed his home and left him with nothing. When the Akkadians conquer Susa, he is awarded its governorship. He looks forward to settling down to the normal family life he craves. First, though, he must keep control of Susa despite enemies who exploit his inexperience, and he must gain legitimacy by persuading beautiful former princess Nindalla to marry him. But can he win her heart when it was his hand that struck down her husband?

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Excerpt:

Ur-sag-enki forced his thoughts to cold, heartless strategy. General Qisim had sent him to find Crown Princess Nindalla for a reason. To hold the city, he would her child alive and healthy and in his possession. The boy was the last of the royal line of Susa. Marrying Nindalla would legitimize Ur-sag-enki’s governorship.

His liver twinged, rebelling at the governor’s orders. Demons could take the man and his cold plotting! Ur-sag-enki would marry Nindalla because she was his destiny. The gods had decreed it at his birth. The shiny black hair he yearned to touch, the beautiful eyes he longed to look into, the rare smile he wanted to coax out—he had known they would be his since the day of the New Year’s Festival. He had never loved another woman, never expected to.

He had been waiting for her.

His skin tingled from his feet to his scalp. He had looked for her in every conquered city, his heart pounding each time he caught a glance of long, heavy hair or a certain arrogant tilt of the head. He had been disappointed too many times to count.

Now his restless body long to jump around or dance. He grinned widely. I must look like a fool. But he didn’t care. At last the gods had brought him to her! I will protect her and keep her safe always. I will let no one, not General Qisim, not even King Sargon himself, harm her or her baby.

He untied the amulet from his neck. It was a baked-clay figurine of a goat, an animal sacred to the god Enki. He wound the leather thong around it and tucked it inside the baby’s bindings.

Nindalla looked up and smiled. “You have done well, soldier. Find Prince Humba. Learn what name I should give his son and successor. Then bring my daughters here.”

He squeezed his eyelids shut as his body suffered the pain hers know to feel. The woman had daughters in the palace, a palace overrun by soldiers drunk on blood and beer and victory.

“My lady—” He stopped. He couldn’t tell her, not yet. She deserved a time of happiness with her baby first.


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About the Author:

Shauna Roberts writes fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and romance. She currently lives in Southern California. She was a copyeditor and an award-winning freelance medical and science writer for 21 years before retiring to write fiction. A graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, she now serves on the Clarion Foundation Board of Directors. In 2011 she won the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Older Writers’ Grant.

 

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Historical Romance Feature: An Irresistible Shadow by Kirsten S. Blacketer @KirBlacketer


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Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance


an irresistible shadow

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Lady Evelyn Montgomery, only daughter of the Baron of Rayne, detests the thought of marriage. She will never allow a man to control her. Crushed by the constraints of propriety, she steals away from the safety of the keep and stumbles onto a plot designed to stir up trouble between England and Scotland. When a mysterious hooded man saves her, she fights her attraction to him as they join forces to hunt down a traitor and save her father. But can she save her heart?

Gabriel is a Shadow Guardian. Hiding beneath his black cowl and blending into the night, he is sworn to protect the Baron’s daughter. The spirited Lady Evelyn is far from the delicate flower he anticipated. She makes herself crystal clear, no man will possess her. Can he prove to her that love can be more than just possession? Or will the traitor they seek tear them apart forever?

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Excerpt:

“What is it you want from me?”

“I am a shadow guardian.” He leaned toward her. “My purpose is to protect you from harm, even if it means protecting you from yourself.” His voice was velvet soft.

“Who holds your allegiance?”

“You, princess,” he responded.

“You can address me with my proper title, Lady Evelyn,” she admonished, throwing the ruined flower to the floor to grind it beneath her slipper.

“You aren’t angry.” He took a step closer. It was a statement, not a question.

“Aye, but I am,” she said, setting her jaw and boldly glaring at him. “I do not need you to watch over me like a child. I can take care of myself.” Her heart whispered a plea to accept him, trust him. Her pride fought back, sending her heart to a dark place deep inside. Her spine straightened. She refused to like this man.

“Forgive my intrusion,” he bowed stiffly. “Good evening, my lady.” A chill embraced her as he stepped away. Her heart cried out, begging to give him a chance.

“And if I should require your assistance?” she murmured just above a whisper.

His hand hovered on the balcony door handle. “I’ll be close by, hiding in the shadows.” His reply was soft, as if to soothe her pride.

“Do you have a name, shadow guardian?” The question spilled from her lips before she could stop it.

His head turned towards her, face hidden deep in the hood, but the smile in his voice was clear.

“Gabriel.”

With two swift strides, he disappeared over the balcony and into the waiting darkness.


About the Author:

kirsten blacketer

Kirsten S. Blacketer is a stay at home mother of two energetic children and a Brittany Spaniel. A proud U.S. Air Force Wife, she spends a majority of her time with her family, going where the military sends them. She is an avid romance reader. The countless stories floating around her head fill notebooks stashed in her bookcase next to books of her handwritten poetry.  Drawn to male beauty, nothing entices or entrances her like horses and handsome men in cravats (or a uniform).  When she’s not lost in a universe of words, Kirsten enjoys photography, horseback riding, gardening, and rollercoasters. Her husband is her daily inspiration and constant support.

Her passion for writing sparked in eighth grade English, thanks to Mr. Mushrush. Then it caught fire in high school, in Mr. West’s sophomore English class. But it was her father’s encouragement that made her push to become the writer she is today. She surrounds herself with likeminded writers who foster her love for writing and help her continually improve her craft.

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Romance Book Spotlight: Under The Moonlight: A Mermaid’s Tale by Ashley Nemer


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Romance, Mythology, Fantasy (Mermaid Story)


under the moonlight

Zara’s fate had been decided thousands of years before her birth. She is now fighting against time and family to reclaim the decisions that will ultimately shape her destiny.

Sentenced to live an existence in the Underworld, mated to a man she despises, Zara must find a way to overcome the Gods and their curses, with love as her only guide.

Can James, a handsome and rugged sailor, help Zara break the bonds of magical spells or will she end up mated to Xander, the Son of Satan?

Take a dive Under the Moonlight to see where love can take you.

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Excerpt:

Zara couldn’t help staring at the vessels that passed by her cove. Each one contained a different story and a different set of sailors. Her father had warned her that interacting with the humans, or even simply studying them, was an addiction, one she would soon have to learn to overcome. Each mermaid was presented with the same challenge on their twenty-second birthday. They each had to make a choice to stay in the waters and live with their families, or to give up everything they had always known, for love, and join the human race.

For thousands of years, the merpeople had joined the two-legged humans’ culture, going undetected. And it wasn’t as if mermaids could never go into the waters again afterwards. Each full moon they had the opportunity to dive into the salty water of the ocean and join their fellow merpeople under the moonlight. However, each full moon that passed made that transition harder and harder for the mermaid to accomplish. The longer they were out of the ocean and away from their mer-form, the harder it was on their body to shift back to their original form.

She knew that her decision was about to be due. She hadn’t told anyone what she was thinking about choosing; she didn’t want the added pressure from King Triton, her father, and his brother, Poseidon, her uncle. Humans always got the lineage wrong in their stories. So many of the gods were intertwined that they all ended up being related to one another in some way or another, but the rules for joining the human race were strict. A merperson could only marry once, and it could only be for love. Any other reason wouldn’t be approved. You had to have King Triton’s blessing in order to make the final conversion into the human world.

“What are you looking at, Zara?”

Her head whipped around to the side to look at Sadie, her mother, who was swimming in the lagoon. “That ship out there. It comes by here every day around this time, like they are just waiting.”

“They are predators. Always remember that.” Her mother’s tone was adamant.

“You only say that because you don’t know them yet. Everyone is a shark to you,” Zara retorted.

“Men are men, Zara. They will kill to get what they want.”

“Is that what you tell Daddy?” Zara valued her mother and knew that she would always be there to support her, but she worried that her mother was constantly trying to sway her against all human men and make her change her mind about the choices she had spinning around in her head.

“Your father is different. Gods know how to treat their women,” she said flatly.

“No, they don’t, Mother. You are just blinded by love.” She watched the curve of her mother’s lips come up and form a smile. It was the truth. Her mother and father were very much in love, even after all these years and hundreds of children. Humans talked about having large families with nine or ten siblings. They should try having two hundred and fifty nine sisters and twice as many brothers.

“And what a blindness to have. You should be so lucky, young lady.”

“One day, Mother, maybe I will be.”


About the Author:

Ashley is married and lives in Houston with her husband Tony. They have two dogs named Toto and Doogie. They have been together for over 10 years and he brings her more joy than she could ever imagine as a child. She loves to read and has been hooked on the romance genre ever since her life long best friend gave her “Ashes to Ashes’ by Tami Hoag to read when they were younger.

Ashley finds her strength through her family, especially her parents. They always support her in life, they push her to strive for greatness. There once was a motto that Ashley heard in her youth through her Taekwondo life ‘Reach for the Stars’ and that is what Ashley has always done. It was through her upbringing that the values Ashley has and display’s came from. With her Parents always cheering her on in life she was able to grow up having faith in herself and her ability to conquer the world.

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Christmas Horror Book: KRENGEL & THE KRAMPUSZ by M.C. Norris @mcnorrisauthor


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Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Supernatural Fantasy, Horror


kreng

The epic origin of a beloved holiday icon unfolds, as nine-year-old Klaas Krengel flees plague-ravaged Germania on a swashbuckling adventure across Medieval Europe to the remote ends of the earth, where he finds himself pitted against a gruesome host of adversaries, all resurrected from old Austrian lore. A bit of a spoiled brat, Krengel’s only friend is an insidious counterpart called the Krampusz, a blue-furred monster who suffers from a pronounced hoarding disorder.

Vexed by his half-brother’s lifelong privilege and pampering, the Krampusz enjoys nothing more than imperiling the boy through calculated misdirection, ultimately trapping him in the bottomless depths of the enchanted “Sack of Shadows.” Therein, a fantastic realm of weird and warring races demands a showdown between Krengel and its tyrannical ruler, a horrendous witch who alone holds a key to the connection between Krengel and the Krampusz.

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Excerpt:

Every bell in Bari had a unique tone and timing. Each was synchronized to the timing of a specific, daily event. The toll of a bell would prompt a skyward glance from anyone within earshot, to make a quick check of the sun’s position. The bells were so intimately linked to the passage of time that on the rare occasions when every bell in the city tolled at once, the experience rattled a Baresi to his very soul, stilled him in his tracks, for time itself unraveled and was strewn to confetti. The joyous crash of sound reverberated through the seaport’s writhing arteries to flush pigeons in dappled flocks that flashed in the sky like schools of minnows.

At midday on May ninth, the first day of the annual Festival of the Translation of the Holy Relics, Bari came alive with clanging bells. Starlings gushed from the clerestory windows around the pealing bell tower at Basilica di San Nicola, the final resting place of Bari’s patron saint. It was an imposing fortification, a somber hulk of ancient masonry that loomed darkly over the peninsula with its back to the Adriatic Sea. With its cruciform mass shouldered between Romanesque towers, it better resembled an English castle than an ordinary place of worship. And at times, it had served as such.

Across the bustling piazza from the seaward dormitories, a hooded figure emerged from the basilica’s Lion’s Portal. The brown fabric of his Dominican robes flapped in the briny wind, throwing back his hood as he skulked beneath the engraved names of those famous sailors who rescued Saint Nicholas from Myra, five hundred years ago. He jerked the hood back over his naked head and turned to face the wall. Head bowed as though in prayer, he reached into the sleeve of his tunic, and withdrew a steely dagger.

Cast upon the spike of shimmering steel, was a leering distortion of his broad face and blazing eyes. He lowered and tilted his chin, trailing his fingertips over his newly shaved scalp. It was another of the Krampusz’s bright ideas. Krengel smiled. He looked funny bald, a bit like Friar Otto.

In five months, he’d grown in height and width. Though they might’ve starved a passive child with their severe Dominican diet of broth and rye, what were Krengel’s lifelong failings, but symptoms of his indomitable will to have while others around him had not. Greed ran strong in both sides of his family. And it was no small irony that Krengel, now a custodian of the relics of a saint canonized for profound acts of generosity, had honed his naturally greedy edge to a perfect tool for survival. Since Christmas Eve in Rome, he’d grown meaner, stronger, and more formidable. Daily acts of theft and trickery against the hardened peasants of a foreign land had honed Krengel, right beneath the noses of his Dominican handlers, into perhaps the most dogged urchin in all of Bari.

Krengel lifted his tunic, glanced around the crowded piazza, and then sheathed the dagger back into a tight fold in his braies. He hitched up his secret contraption. The rope was itchy about his waist, and the weight of the invention had begun to chaff his flesh. The dangling wood blocks clonked between his knees. Should’ve wrapped them in cloth to quiet their knocking. Too late for any of that, now. This was the big day. Around front of the basilica, cartwheels rumbled against the pavers as guests and dignitaries continued to arrive.

He’d not yet spotted Cardinal Moretti, rumored still unfit to attend this evening’s festivities, deathly ill as he’d been. Moretti posed him little threat in his weakened condition, but he was indeed the one person in all of Italy who could possibly spoil everything by summoning for him at the critical hour. Thus, the first phase of Krengel’s plan for May ninth was simply to avoid Moretti at all costs, to meld into the visiting crowds and simply lay low until sundown.

“What in Heaven do you think you’re doing, back here?”

Krengel spun to find the rector glowering out at him through the Lion’s Portal. He seized Krengel by an ear and marched him along the wall toward the main entrance of the basilica. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you! Your benefactor has arrived!” The rector lifted him by his ear and flipped back his hood. “You’ve shaved your head. What is this?”

“I had lice?”

“Shush it!”

The rector harried him to the main portal, where Cardinal Moretti was being lifted from his wagon in a sort of birthing position by a host of able-bodied Dominicans. The friars set him gently upon his unstable feet. He swayed weightlessly in the bullying wind, as though might at any moment be sucked off the earth and flung through the heavens. He lolled back his head and peered at the ecclesiastical assembly from beneath his fallen eyelids. The purplish growth in his lower jaw had swelled to the size of an onion, forcing his tongue to protrude like a newly hatched chick. He attempted to speak, but his lips produced only bubbles.

Krengel’s survival for five months in the favored hunting grounds of this predator was owed mostly to a bout of poor health that robbed Moretti of all but an infant’s strength, slackening the musculature of his face, not a day after Miso del Gallo. As a result, Krengel hadn’t suffered sight of the awful man since Christmas Eve, which was fortunate, but rumor held that Moretti’s health was steadily improving. So said the Dominicans anyway, who’d just this morning doted over Moretti’s latest accomplishment of peeling and devouring a boiled egg all by himself.

A breeze kicked up and snatched the mitre right off Moretti’s head, tumbling and spinning it down the street. But the friars supporting the feeble body of their guest could only look on in despair as they goaded him forward, one cautious step at a time. A silvery thread of slobber whipped from Moretti’s lip and bowed like a harp in the wind. Snowy wisps of hair all writhing on scabrous pedestals, Moretti looked for all the earth to be some deranged and ancient warlock, routed from his alpine rookery.

As the trio approached, Krengel bent his knees until he felt those wood blocks beneath his tunic touch the ground. He then stepped atop them and rose, oh so slowly, to his tiptoes, causing the special knot from which they were suspended to unwind. Through the fabric of his robe, he gathered the reigns of his makeshift stilts. Those milling around him were so transfixed by the precarious transfer of Cardinal Moretti that none seemed to notice that Klaas Krengel had suddenly sprouted a foot in height, looking quite enough like an adult friar, with his broad shoulders and shaved head, to pass before the myopic eyes of the monster.

Moretti made some unintelligible grunt as they led him past Krengel, swinging his disheveled head. Yellowed fingernails splayed as he reached for the boy, but groped naught but thin air. Those rattling claws sliced past his face without touching, only to rasp against the doorpost as they pulled Moretti inside.

Safe. Just as the Krampusz had promised.

So many friars were about for the Festival of the Translation of the Holy Relics, tending to all the dignitaries being housed in the monastic dormitories that a hooded man-boy on stilts could walk freely through the piazza, disturbing only a few pigeons. The first phase of his great caper was complete. Krengel grinned at the dull impact of his clopping stilts upon the pavers. By nightfall, he’d be comfortably seated aboard a ship destined for the Habsburg Netherlands, his mother’s homeland, where not even the Holy Roman Empire could touch him. But first, he needed a hostage. And not just any would do. His hostage was to be a man more celebrated in Bari than both Christ and Pope Alexander VI combined, a man with the power to lift an orphan right out of Bari.


About the Author:

headshot

M.C. Norris is an Active HWA member, whose first four novels, all published by Severed Press, are slated for release in fall of 2014: Deep Devotion (09/01/14), Krengel & the Krampusz (11/01/14), The Dread Owba Coo-Coo (11/15/14), and Nod (TBA).  His nineteen short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines and e-zines, including: Withersin, Wrong World DVD, Brainharvest Magazine, Pseudopod, Malicious Deviance, and Dead Bait.  M.C. Norris also won 5th in Chizine/Leisure Books 13th Annual Short Story Contest.

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Thriller Book Spotlight: His First His Second by A.D. Davies @authoraddavies


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Mystery, Thriller, Crime


his first his second a d davies

Meet Detective Sergeant Alicia Friend. She’s nice. Too nice to be a police officer, if she’s honest.

She is also one of the most respected criminal analysts in the country, and finds herself in a cold northern town assigned to Donald Murphy’s team, investigating the kidnap-murders of two young women—both strikingly similar in appearance. Now a third has been taken, and they have less than a week to chip away the secrets of a high-society family, and uncover the killer’s objective.

But Richard—the father of the latest victim—believes the police are not moving quickly enough, so launches a parallel investigation, utilising skills honed in a dark past that is about to catch up with him.

As Richard’s secret actions hinder the police, Alicia remains in contact with him, and even starts to fall for his charms, forcing her into choices that will impact the rest of her life.

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Excerpt:

Prologue

Katie Hague knew she was swimming. She just didn’t know why. She wasn’t a strong swimmer, even though she’d spend hours in the pool on holidays, sometimes even brave enough to dip in the sea. Always with her parents watching, though.

She’d been thirteen on her last family holiday, a self-catering deal to Turkey, not that her dad couldn’t afford somewhere more exotic. Turkey was Katie’s choice. Gobble gobble, she’d said, again and again until the day of departure; then all through the flight, her mother fighting the urge to strangle her only child, her dad smiling quietly.

Now, eight years later, Katie swam alone. Somewhere she didn’t recognise. Somewhere black.

She trod water for a moment, something she always found hard. With her feet unable to touch the bottom, or anything solid, she looked around. She was never out of her depth, not without her dad nearby, or, more recently, unless Brian was with her. And where was Brian now?

Katie remembered them arguing, then him sloping off with his mates. It had not been loud, just testy, in a late bar somewhere. She was hungry, had suggested a curry, but Brian wanted to go on, just for one more, babe, please? A taxi. That was Katie’s last thought, the last she remembered, here, now, in this pool.

Now something happened nearby, a movement she did not see because of the dark. She felt a sweeping cold, embracing her head and shoulders like an undercurrent flowing in from deeper water. But that wasn’t quite right either. All her body below the surface was numb, unfeeling, and now all above felt chilled. She hadn’t seen the event, that something, but she knew:

A shadow had fallen over her.

“Who’s there?” she said.

No echo. Nothing whatsoever. The dark ate her voice right up. She expected her words to reverberate around the walls of a municipal pool, or a private home in the middle of the country. No echo, no sound coming back at her. This meant there were no walls. So she was swimming outside. But even outside there were buildings, trees, rocks. She was treading water, outdoors, with nothing around, no lights, no people.

So why did she get the impression she was not absolutely alone? Other than the invisible shadow, she had no reason to think there was someone watching her, not here.

Whatever ‘here’ actually meant.

Outside? No light? No buildings? Was she in the middle of a lake?

Her breathing began to grate in her throat.

No, of course not. There would be light. There’s always light. The darkest of freezing British waters still drew moonlight and stars; even when hiding, their light still penetrates. There is no absolute dark.

Each breath now hurt. She needed her inhaler. Her throat was swelling within. She kicked her numb legs to no avail, and when she flapped her arms, no splashes whipped up. This can’t be, she told herself. Alone; swimming; out of her depth; an asthma attack.

Something wedged in her mouth, something hard, plastic. She gagged, tried to spit it out but it was too big, lodging itself between her teeth. A hiss. Then light. A pinprick, not in front of her but inside her head. Her shoulders grew cold now, as if she were gliding upwards, out of the … lake? The sea? The pool?

That thing, still stuck in her mouth, gave another hiss.

And Katie breathed.

The object hissed a third time and the cold spread to her chest, her back, down her stomach. Her hips. The light inside her expanded, enveloping her in cold. She wanted to use her arms to wrap around herself for warmth, but found them stuck behind her. Looking down now, struggling to free herself, she saw her thighs raised, the clothes she was wearing when she’d argued with Brian still on her, strangely dry. The odour of sweat and booze and a faint whiff of cigarette smoke made her want to undress and shower, but her hands remained bound tight. She couldn’t see behind her, could not turn at all.

Then, like a spotlight growing, her vision improved: a white-tiled floor, her bare feet bound by handcuffs, stockinged legs moving up into the little skirt that barely covered her underwear. She could not see past her chest, other than to confirm her clothing remained intact. She was sitting on a hard wooden chair.

“Hello, Katie.”

A deep voice from outside the spotlight; calm, polite even.

“Please stop struggling, Katie, I don’t want to hurt you.”

From swimming in blackness to being tied to a chair. Nothing. Nothing could explain this. She tried her voice. “Who are you?”

It hurt to speak. Now her head throbbed also. Like a hangover. She was about to be sick.

A bucket came into view within the spotlight, a glimpse of a foot which kicked it closer.

“Please use this if you need to vomit. I won’t be angry if you miss. Only if you don’t try.”

The foot peeking out of the dark into Katie’s halo of light meant something. A clear fact, a truth that really should not be.

“The spotlight’s real,” Katie said aloud.

“Of course it’s real,” came the man’s voice. “What a strange thing to say.”

“Why am I here?”

“You are my second.”

“Your… what?”

“Please don’t make me repeat myself, Katie. It annoys me. You are my second. This…”

Another spotlight cracked to life. It illuminated a girl about five feet from Katie, dressed similarly to Katie, like she was going clubbing, with long dark hair like Katie’s, about Katie’s age.

And then it all fell away from her. The swimming, the light, the dark, this disembodied voice from the blackness all around. But the girl frightened Katie the most. This girl, bound to a chair, gagged, blindfolded, looking so much like Katie they might have been sisters.

“This is your new roommate,” the man said, now behind Katie, hands on her shoulders, his breath on her neck. “She is my first. You will be my second.”

And, doing her very best to aim for the bucket, Katie vomited. She was pleased that a lot of it missed.

“Hmm,” the man said. Then footsteps. An arm flashed into the light and tossed Katie’s inhaler onto her lap. The footsteps receded. “Goodnight.”

And both lights went out, leaving nothing but pitch black.


About the Author:

A. D. Davies grew up in Leeds, West Yorkshire. In high school his ambition was to be a writer of horror novels, although in adult life he became an avid fan of crime fiction. After a long stint in an unsatisfying job, he attended the University of Leeds where he attained a degree in creative writing. Shortly after graduation, he moved to the Midlands to marry the love of his life.

He is well-travelled, his favourite destinations being New Zealand and Vietnam, which has influenced his writing immensely (as yet unreleased). For now, however, globe-trotting is taking a back-seat to raising his two children and writing, although he hopes to one day combine all three.

He now resides in Staffordshire, UK, with his wife and two children.

 

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