EXCERPT from THE WILD IN HER EYES a Novel by Karina Giörtz

 

Chapter One

WRONGS TO BE RIGHTED

The damp earth gave way under her feet and her palms landed in the brush and dirt to catch her. Rather than stop to find her footing, she dug in her fingers and clawed herself forward until her feet found the ground again beneath her. She stumbled breathless through the dark and willed her eyes to adjust to the black of night but feared what they might find there.

Nothing ahead could be worse than what I left behind, she thought. She held tight to this naïve thought. All her seventeen years may have been sheltered and filled with lavish luxuries like those only her father’s kind of wealth could provide, but she’d seen the chasm between the world her parents had created and the one beyond their fancy colonial home, built on a hill overlooking the heart of her hometown, or the extravagant parties and her exceptional schooling. She’d always been grateful to live life on her side of the divide, free of financial strain and societal struggles, far removed from the filth and unsavory sort that roamed the streets at night, begging for a handout they’d only have squandered away again come morning. Always, until tonight. There would be no going back. Her survival depended on traveling deeper into this dark night, uprooting herself from all that she knew was the only way to stay alive. Beyond that, nothing was certain anymore.

As the heels of her boots stuck in the mud and her dress dragged along the ground, catching on brambles and ripping to shreds, whispers of nightmares still ahead hissed in her ears. She clutched at the branches that scraped her skin and she pulled herself onward. She was sure that by now he most certainly knew she was gone. There was no telling how quickly he would discover how she’d successfully escaped.

She pulled the worn wool coat tighter around her to insulate against the cold chill sweeping through the forest. A thick woven belt replaced most of the coat’s buttons, lost from years of use. She wrapped the sides of the long, rough material so it overlapped across her stomach and then retied the belt tighter without slowing down. She kept moving forward, but her thoughts drifted back to the woman who’d wrapped her in this coat. She and the woman, her housekeeper, had exchanged every article of clothing they both wore that night. She’d shed her gown of rose-colored satin and hand-stitched details, along with her polished white boots, and put on an olive day dress and shoes with hole-riddled soles and frayed black laces, one thicker than the other. She might have been stripped of her past tonight, but it was the other woman who’d paid the greatest price. She had sacrificed her future.

The wind burned her skin raw as tears smeared her cheeks. She hardly noticed the painful friction her hands caused as she swiped at her face. Somewhere in the distance she heard the howl of dogs. Her breath caught in her throat at the sound of the hounds, as bloodthirsty as their owner. She knew they were tracking her. She had prepared for this moment. Her shaky hands moved for the pocket sewn into the side of the dress as she silently begged her thundering heart to quiet, certain the dogs could hear the panic pounding in her chest. Her fingers searched the linen pouch until they closed over the cold, slick, raw beef and flung it far out to the right of her. She didn’t wait to hear it land. A cold sweat rushed down the crease of her back as her eyes stayed locked on the night sky and her legs kept running over the uneven terrain. Follow the North Star, she remembered. It would lead her to the water.

The creek was small and shallow enough to wade across, but the current was strong enough to cut the scent of her trail. It was a better way to outsmart the hounds than the meat she’d used to distract them. It would buy her time, but not much of it.

Her own panting rushed in her ears as she struggled for breath. Her lungs cinched from the icy air. Adrenaline pumped through her in almost unbearable surges of energy, making it difficult to control her body’s movements. The sounds of water lapping over the rocks along the shore went unheard until she held her breath to listen for the dogs again. Relief tingled through her in waves as she parted the brush with her arms and turned her slender body sideways to pass through. She was almost there now. Almost free. Just a few more feet and she’d be in the creek, washing away her trail and making herself invisible to the night and the monsters hiding within it—those on this side of the water, at least.

The sandy bank of the small river was softer than she’d expected and so she stumbled. Her hands landed under her and shards of small rocks dug deep into her palms, slicing her soft skin. She swallowed the pain and let it land in the pit of her stomach with all the rest of her accumulated hurt. The whole of it twisted in her gut like knives through her abdomen. Teeth gritted, she locked her jaw and forced down all that threatened to overtake her, until the numbness spread and she could feel nothing—nothing except the cold of the water rushing alongside her calves, then moving up around her thighs, until she passed the deepest point of the creek and waded through the dark, waist-high water. It silently coaxed her body to sync with the current and disappear forever in the flow of the creek. She was tempted to surrender and be free of this night and all the terrors that would live inside her mind forever after. Her eyes closed. She let her ankle give way to the current’s force. Until she heard

it. Her housekeeper’s voice rang in her ears, an echo of words lingering inside her. “You make this right. Whatever wrong comes of this night, you go out there, and you live, and you make it right.”

The sole of her boot kicked hard into the rocky ground beneath her, sending a dull ache through her heel. It felt good. It felt alive. In that pain she knew there would be no giving in to the current tonight. Not ever. Not when the cost of her freedom had been paid by another. She owed it to her housekeeper, to her father, and to herself to stay alive, to keep moving, to make things right, no matter how long it took.

The water began to sway around her, gliding past the curve of her body as if it understood somehow that it would not claim her. Her passage grew easier with every inch that moved her closer to the opposite shore. The cold slipped down her hips and past her knees until it pooled only around her ankles. She felt the squish of water inside her boots as they found dry land. She’d imagined herself collapsing from exhaustion as a false sense of security settled over her after crossing the creek, but she felt neither tired nor weak as she placed one foot in front of the other on the bank, with her shoulders straight, chest out, and head high. There would be no trace left for the dogs to find. There would be no trace left of her at all.

CONTINUE TO READ HERE

 

Repeating History: Why Writing About the Past Matters

Cold

natalia-y-504860-unsplash Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

Historical fiction writers are in a deep funk. Sales are down in this great genre and most agents aren’t even looking to take on hist-fic novelists unless they’re somehow the type who can can get their stories folded into other genres like thriller or fantasy.

The success of novels steeped in history – ones like Outlander – are apparently not having the rub-off effect historical fiction authors have hoped for either. You’d think they would – readers and TV audiences alike have demonstrated that they’re just mad about Scottish guys of yore; ones in skirts with terrible hygiene and hard luck stories to boot. Why not medieval monks, Spanish conquistadors, American frontiersmen or Victorian era adventurers?

And you can’t blame the lull in historical fiction on readers and watchers who might be turned off by complex narratives that require (God forbid) a little work…

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My Name Is Rose by Alexa Kingaard

Excerpt – Chapter 11

We strolled together down the corridor, acclimating ourselves to the environs of dorm living. It would be loud, for sure. Freshmen, sophomores, a few juniors arrived in all shapes and sizes. Most of the girls looked fresh out of high school, and they probably felt as lost as we did. Some had already situated themselves in front of the TV set in the common area. Others took advantage of their last weekend of summer, checking out the activity board and bolting for the front door.

I marveled at the momentum and excitement that permeated the air and took a deep breath to still my thoughts. Had I been too hasty with my decision to leave the commune? Did my school girl fantasy of trying to come to grips with my parentage propel me into an environment where I didn’t belong?

I shrugged it off. I knew I had made the right decision.

Cecily and I continued to investigate our surroundings.

Almost in passing, more of a question to myself than to Cecily, I asked,” What do you think I would look like with short hair?”

I pulled at the uncombed ends, a head of hair that hadn’t been trimmed in a decade and had absolutely no style. It was just hair, lots of it, lackluster, drab, and long, in need of something different to coincide with my long-awaited sense of freedom…a more mature, post-high school appearance.

“I think you would look adorable. Open your face. People could see your eyes. They’re really pretty, Rose…so dark…very unusual.”

I startled. Nice of her to say.

I tried to imagine myself with hair that didn’t go past my waist. A short pixie – no, too drastic. Maybe a perm – not even my most rebellious self could justify a move that extreme.

The next morning I found a hairdresser close to campus, a wise choice I thought, since there was a line out the door by the time I arrived without an appointment. She convinced me that a blunt cut, shoulder length, feathered bangs, a slight undercut to create movement was what my perfect oval face needed.

I reluctantly followed her advice. I winced when she pulled all my hair away from my face, tied it loosely with a rubber band, and with one motion of her razor-sharp scissors, sheared off the entire mass of hair three inches below the knot. I could hear it sever every strand, like slicing bread, and watched it fall at my feet in a dull brown heap, ready to be swept up and thrown in the trash. Almost two decades of my identity, in five seconds, gone.

My face registered my shock and horror. I felt the chair slowly turn around, my back to the mirror, as the stylist prepared herself to take on the challenge. After what felt like hours, she finally removed the black cape, shook off the pieces of uneven, chopped waves and tendrils that clung to the plastic, and gently rotated the seat to reveal my image. Pleased with herself and waiting for my reaction, I squeezed my eyes shut. I was unsure if I might cry at the end result, a vision so unfamiliar, I was positive I would hate it. I regretted taking the plunge, and before I peered out from my new, shagged bangs brushed to the side just below my eyebrows, I held my breath and reassured myself that it was just hair. If I didn’t like it, even if I detested it or was embarrassed by it, it would always grow back. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.

I followed my reflection in every store window all the way home. A few boys, ready to pursue conquests and casual victories, cast second glances in my direction. A totally new experience for me. I put my head down and walked quickly past, too fearful to engage in conversation or to stop to get acquainted, but by the time I reached my room, my confidence had soared.

“So cute!” shrieked Cecily when I flung open the door and presented myself to the only person who had seen both the before and after version of me.

My Name Is Rose
Alexa Kingaard
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: March 15th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rose is unsettled, curious, and bored. Life in a hippie commune is her parent’s dream come true, not hers. She doesn’t share their passion for living off the land, nor does she enjoy the isolation that is thrust upon her. When she convinces them to send her to public school in the nearby town, a new world opens up to her.

As she pursues her education, Rose chooses a different path, leaving her parents heartbroken at her insistence they are hiding something from her. She’s convinced her father isn’t the man her mother married.

Although she finds love far away from her roots and upbringing, her wounds only deepen as she keeps her family at arm’s length. What she loses during those years can only be retrieved with her understanding that “a Rose by any other name is still a Rose.”

Goodreads / Amazon

Author Bio:

Alexa Kingaard was born in San Diego, CA and has lived most of her life in the area. She currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of an adult son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders. A realtor for fifteen years, she remains involved with her profession and praises her brokers and clients for giving her the nod to be creative.

She gives all the credit for completing her debut novel, KEEP FOREVER, to her inspiration and late ex-husband, Jeff, who battled the residual effects of the Vietnam War for decades after his return.

Her second novel, MY NAME IS ROSE, will be released through Acorn Publishing March 15, 2019.

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The Circle: Taken by Sage Sask

The Circle: Taken

by Sage Sask

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

Release Date: February 2019

Summary:

Abandoned at eleven with no memory of her family, Alexia yearns to learn her true identity. She embarks on a dangerous quest for the truth of her past. In the resulting battle between life and death, Alexia learns that sacrifice and revealing the gift she fought to keep hidden may be her only chance for survival.

A secret unearthed, a shocking betrayal, and a moment when lives hang in the balance leaves Alexia with only one choice. Will the decision determine her destiny or end her life?

ONE

I pound the pavement, feet in perfect rhythm. With every step, I yearn to outrun the hazy memories, but they hug my heels. Sweat glues my half-ripped shirt to my body. After searching for a belt, I have settled for a string to wrap around my waist in the hope of keeping the oversized shorts from falling. I remember one of the boys wearing the shorts years ago. He must have left them behind when he departed the orphanage at eighteen. With a quick flick of my fingers, I push chocolate-brown wisps of hair off my face and back over my ponytail.

As I run, my eyes automatically examine the face of every woman I pass. Searching and hoping are my ritual. At night, after everyone in the orphanage is asleep, I lie atop the mattress on the floor and daydream of finding my mother. Discovering her will mean that I will finally learn who I am.

A woman catches my stare. Her hair is the same color as mine, and her height matches mine. Excitement starts in my belly as my eyes widen and my pace automatically slows. The silver ring on my second toe suddenly feels heavier. I moved it there years ago after my fingers outgrew its size.

“Do you know me?” I whisper, glancing cautiously at the safety patrol officer nearby.

She continues to stare at me, her face shifting into awareness. I reach out to touch her bare hand with mine. With one touch, I am sure I will have my answer. She glances at my approaching hand then steps back.

“You need to leave this area,” she murmurs. “Now.”

“What?” I stop moving toward her, sure I have misheard.

“Get out of here,” she orders me quietly. “It’s not safe for you.” She glances furtively at an approaching safety patrol officer. “Excuse me.” She hurries away before I can make contact. I stare after her, anxious and wondering.

“What happened?” The safety patrol officer silently slides his hand over his gun as he watches the woman scurry away.

“Nothing,” I murmur quickly, trying and failing to make sense of our interaction. My mother would know me, not run away. “I thought I recognized her.”

His gaze searches mine. I stand completely still, ordering myself to breathe. Seeming to come to a conclusion, he jerks his head. “Keep moving. Curfew in an hour.”

I run past him. Unsure of the woman’s order, I nonetheless turn into the old downtown of the city. I quicken my pace past an abandoned building. Deserted, it stands next to a heap of burnt rubble. Where a rooftop once was is now a gaping hole. The door, hanging off its hinges, creaks with the gust of wind. A half-starved rat scurries across the empty shelves.

Pushing my legs to move faster, I take the first turn and enter what looks like a completely different city. The buildings, built after the war, glisten with bombproof material. I maneuver through small parked cars laden with dust. With limited fuel available, it is rare to see cars on the road.

I pass a balding man walking his dog. Like everyone else’s, his glance strays to my green patch. His expression hardens but I refuse to react.

My green patch arrived the day after my sixteenth birthday. It was hand delivered by a messenger who waited for me to open the package and then finger swipe a tablet that assured the powers that be that I had received mine. Along with the patch was the date of my test.

Four times a year, the government sets up centers in each town to test newly minted sixteen year olds for their disposition to harm others. With the results, the government decides whether you live or die. Tomorrow I learn my fate. Until then, I am guilty until proven innocent.

I pass a bakery where the smell of fresh bread wafts through the door. On cue, my mouth waters and my stomach growls from incessant hunger. I slow down, unable to stop staring at the baskets of fresh bread on the white linen tablecloths.

Only when I spot another safety patrol officer do I move faster. They patrol twenty-four hours a day. I have seen even small infractions lead to an arrest or public berating. I drop my head as I move past him. I take the first turn into an alley. Only when I am sure he is no longer in my vicinity do I release my held breath.

Bright lights greet me. Sitting atop the metal posts, they glare at me in the darkened alley. Nestled inside the bulbs are hidden cameras that watch my movements like a wandering eye.

I flinch against the glare as I maneuver between stacks of water-stained crates littering the narrow passage. A stray Siamese cat halts its search of torn garbage bags to eye me warily. Barely sparing the animal a glance, I head toward the broken chain-link fence swaying in the wind.

“You want some?”

Surprised, I nearly trip over myself. Halting, I stare at a young man crouched beneath the awning. His dirty-blond hair spills over his chiseled face. His shoes are more expensive than any pair I have ever seen. A green patch flutters against his expensive clothes.

“What?” I ask.

He lifts a rolled leaf to his pressed lips and inhales. “Help ease the pain of tomorrow.”

“No, thanks.” Afraid of being caught, I take two steps back. I steal a quick glance around to make sure there are no witnesses.

He inhales again before running his eyes over me. His gaze lingers over the tear in my clothes, but he barely blinks at the green patch.

“You live in the orphanage?” he asks.

Unsure who he is, I stay quiet.

He shrugs, seemingly unbothered by my silence. He drops the leaf and stomps it out. From his backpack he pulls out a bag of dark chocolates and tears it open to pop one in his mouth. “You ready for tomorrow?”

Famished, I stare at the bag. Though it has been years since I have had a piece, I can still taste the chocolate as it melted on my tongue. With barely enough money to afford food, luxuries like chocolate are unheard of in the orphanage.

“Here.” Noticing my stare, he pulls out another full bag and tosses it to me. I catch it with one hand.

“Why?” I grip the bag, fighting the urge to rip into it. Wary of the unexpected gift, I stare at him.

He smiles as if I have told the best joke. “Have a drawer full at home.” He glances at the smashed leaf. “Chances are I may not be around anyway.”

“You sure you’re going to fail?” I ask, wondering how he knows.

“Are you sure you’re not?”

The question settles over me like a blanket of death. Tomorrow the government may learn my secret. If they do, they will kill me. My chest suddenly heavy, I fight for the breath I was holding only moments before. If I die, it will be without ever having found my mother. I will never have learned her true identity, or mine. From the day they found me on the beach years ago, I have been searching. But with no memory of who I am or where I came from, I have remained lost.

“Right.” My mouth dry, I hold up the chocolate bag. “Thank you for this.”

I slip the bag into my pocket for safekeeping. Without a goodbye I resume my run. Curious, I glance back once. He’s staring at me. Unsure what to say, I turn away and start to disappear into the night when a loud blast shakes the ground.

The boy jumps up and we both run to the edge of the alley. The bakery I just ran by is on fire, obliterated by an explosion. Everyone runs screaming from the blast. I scan the area, searching, but the woman who warned me to leave is nowhere in sight.

“The Resistance,” the boy says, disgusted. “It has to be them.”

“How do you know?” They are the government’s worst enemy – a large network of people who evade capture at every turn.

He shakes his head in disgust. “Because they want to kill everyone.”

Then why did a woman I have never met before just save my life?

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About the Author
Sage Sask is a team consisting of a Washington Post, USA Today and Amazon charts bestselling author and a group of young adult writers.
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The Last Wingman Daisy Prescott


(Wingmen #6)

Publication date: March 7th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Last Wingman is a standalone enemies to lovers romance.

Jonah Kingston is the last wingman standing.

June Moxee doesn’t care if he’s the last man on earth.

I haven’t exactly avoided relationships, but love has never been a priority. Solitude doesn’t bother me and being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Until she moved to the island and I had to reconsider everything.

June seems content running her yarn shop, knitting with the local church ladies, and avoiding me. She’s a temptress in a hand-knit sweater. And for some reason, she’s not a fan of mine. It might be the tattoos. Or the beard. Or the fact that we’re polar opposites.

A woman has finally caught my attention. Too bad she thinks she hates me. Good thing I’m stubborn enough to try to change her mind.

Goodreads / Amazon

Now on Kindle Unlimited!

EXCERPT:

An old-fashioned brass bell jingles when I open the door to June’s store. The narrow space is made even tighter by the floor-to-ceiling cubbies that line the two long walls. In the back of the store, a picture window frames a view of Saratoga Passage like a painting.

Tucked in the corner near the window is a comfy-looking wingback chair, and next to it, an oversized basket filled with balls of yarn. The shop is cozy and feminine, comfortable like a sweet grandmother’s house.

A grandmother who listens to “Sex and Candy” on low volume.

Not what I was expecting.

“Hello?” I call from my spot near the door. There’s no sign of June or anyone else inside. Double-checking the door for a Be back soon note and not seeing one, I step farther into the space. “Hello?”

A soft thump followed by more thumps comes from the desk area. Metallic pings and something heavy hitting the floor precedes a feminine voice yelping “Ouch” and “Fuck!”

June doesn’t seem like the type to drop f-bombs. Maybe she’s hired a ’90s-music-loving teenager with a foul mouth.

“Everything okay?” I follow the noise to the partially open door near the register.

“Fine. Fine! Nothing to see here! I’ll be with you in a second. Thanks for your patience.” What sounds like rapid-fire beanbags hitting a cornhole board contradicts her words.

As I see it, I have two options. I can ignore whatever is going on inside the closet and wait, or I can ignore her lie and step in to help.

I go with the second choice.

Swinging the door open, I’m greeted with a scene of colorful chaos. A box balances on its side on the edge of a high shelf, most of its contents now on the floor around June’s feet. She’s keeping the box aloft with both hands, but doesn’t have the height to shove it back into position.

“Here, let me help you.” I step into the small space behind her and reach above her head to stabilize the cardboard container before she ends up concussed.

“I don’t need your help.” Reluctantly, she releases her grip.

“Okay.” Disappointed and a little hurt by her obvious annoyance at my presence, I give the corner a final shove to guarantee we’re out of danger. “You’re welcome.”

“I said I was fine.” Continuing to face the shelves, she doesn’t turn her head to speak to me. In fact, she sounds downright angry.

“Got it. Well, I’ll get out of your way.” Resigned, I decide to abandon my mission and retreat to the safety of my own business, both literally and figuratively.

What happens next is more her fault than mine. Had she used a step stool and not tipped the box over, there wouldn’t be balls of yarn strewn across the floor, creating a minefield. Easily-tripped-over round objects that cause me to lose my balance and reach for the closest available thing to stop myself from landing on my ass.

Unfortunately, I grab June by the waist, surprising her. She’s not prepared to act as my anchor. Unstable, we both stumble backward.

Lucky for June, I break her fall. Unlucky for me, she lands on top of me.

We’ve never even hugged before this moment. I think we might have shaken hands once when Dan introduced us, but the memory isn’t clear. There wasn’t an electric shock when we first touched or met eyes, no love-at-first-sight zings upon initial contact—unlike now when my body is on high alert that we’re not only touching but lying flush against each other.

“I’m so sorry!” June wiggles, her movement drawing my attention to her clothes. How did I not notice she’s wearing a full skirt made of thin material? My imagination easily erases its existence altogether.

“Don’t apologize. This was completely my fault.” My words come out a grunt as I try to catch my breath.

My hands still grip her waist, making this position more awkward by the second. Unbidden, my fingers flex against her softness. Bad idea. Feeling my dick thicken, I tell myself not to move, not to even breathe. Oxygen is overrated.

Shifting on top of me, she bends her knees and gets her feet under her enough to stand up in a single, ninja-quick movement. Instead of waiting for me to stand or extending a hand to help me, she exits through the door and closes it behind her.

I’m left sprawled out on the floor, balls of yarn and possibly a needle poking me in the back. “No good deed goes unpunished,” I mutter to myself as I scramble to my feet. “Don’t worry, I’m fine.”

 

Author Bio:

USA Today Bestselling Author Daisy Prescott writes romantic comedies about real love.

Love with Altitude, Daisy’s new series of standalone Rom Coms, is set in the mountains of Colorado. The Wingmen books star regular guys who often have beards, drive trucks, and love deeply once they fall. Modern Love Stories feature characters in their thirties and forties finding and rediscovering love in unexpected and humorous ways.

Born and raised in San Diego, Daisy currently lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with her husband, their rescue dog, Mulder, and an imaginary house goat. When not writing about herself in the third person, Daisy can be found traveling, gardening, baking, or lost in a good book.

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Mimic C.L. Denault (The Prodigy Chronicles #2)

Mimic
C.L. Denault
(The Prodigy Chronicles #2)
Publication date: March 22nd 2019
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

In 2012, one cycle of an ancient calendar system came to a close. Humanity predicted its downfall, but it wasn’t the end of their evolutionary climb. It was the beginning.

Willow Kent is discovering that life as a second-phase prodigy comes at a price. Trapped in the London Core, her choices are limited, made difficult by her forbidden romance with Reece and the presence of a new commanding officer who establishes harsh rules. With unpredictable skills and a growing distrust in her birth parents, she is struggling to play the Core’s game. But when opportunity arises in the form of a mysterious shapeshifter, Willow realizes there’s more to her own evolution than meets the eye. She soon learns that keeping secrets is a key move, and the more dangerous they are, the greater her need to evolve into the powerful prodigy nature intended her to become.

But those closest to her have their own secrets, and her status has made her an easy target for betrayal. Who will she turn to, when nothing is as it seems?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Sequel to:

EXCERPT:

The blow shouldn’t have stunned me. I’d grown up in a tavern, defending myself, and had spent plenty of time training with Kane and Tem. I knew how to take a hit.

This was more than a hit. Kristoffe’s swing was fast and brutal, with a force behind it that rivaled my own—enough to knock me off my feet and send me flying down the hall.

Sensations took over. There was the feel of backward motion. Loss of control as my body hit the floor. More motion from sliding, and the hot sting of my flesh scraping tile. Ceiling lights blurred into white lines. Pain throbbed in my cheek.

But it was the tightness in my throat that hurt most. The tiger clawed like mad as we slid. Her screams pierced the fog in my brain, parting it, carving out a path. If I didn’t stop her, she would use it to climb up and take control.

Let me in!

I managed to shake my head.

You need me!

“No,” I whimpered, bumping into the limp body of an elevator guard. One of his arms stopped me, and I sat up quickly, recoiling. He was spread-eagled, face down among his comrades, his fingers wrapped around a retinal scanner. I cringed. Was he dead? Had the tiger killed them all? Then my eyes fell on the laser resting at his hip.

Take it.

I couldn’t. I’d never fired one before.

He’ll kill us!

Not sure who she meant, I jerked my head around. The man with the sabre was still gone. But Kristoffe and his patrol were marching in my direction, dragging Toby with them. He struggled violently until one of them drove a fist into his stomach. A savage tug tore through my belly. Gasping, I leaned over, fumbling for the guard’s laser.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Kristoffe signaled for his men to stop, but continued walking toward me. He didn’t waver, not even when I grasped the laser in both hands and aimed it at him.

“That’s far enough,” I said.

He kept coming.

“I’ll shoot.” My finger instinctively hugged the trigger. “I mean it.”

Spreading his arms, Kristoffe made a target out of his broad chest. His smile was icy. “Go ahead, then. Shoot.”

Was he bluffing? I couldn’t tell. He might have a defensive shield. On the other hand, he might go down with one shot. There was no way to know. But somehow, he’d survived the tiger. This laser was my only hope.

Do it, the tiger spat.

My pulse spiked. “I will shoot.”

He kept coming.

Shoot him!

“Stop,” I cried, my hands shaking.

But he didn’t stop, and the closer he came, the harder I choked on the tiger’s fury. Her strength was more than I could handle. He was only a few feet away when her hissing cry forced me to pull the trigger. A matching cry left my lips. The laser clicked, shuddered—

—and died.


Author Bio:

C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. A former systems analyst, she gave up her nerdy code-writing skills to care for her family (including a son with special needs), and currently lives among the vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois.

Writing and working out are her biggest passions, along with drinking coffee and watching sci-fi. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and kids, she can usually be found at a library or tucked away in the shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse. She’s also been glimpsed sneaking into her garage, late at night, to work on her time machine.

She enjoys connecting with people—especially those from other planets, nearby dimensions, and the future. To find her, just visit her website or social media pages. Or use a Stargate. Whichever is easiest.

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