When Autumn Blackwood shows up at Windhaven Academy for the Witching Stick Orientation, she hopes to find out what dormant powers she could possibly possess to have been accepted to the elite supernatural school. Instead, the academy is in chaos as everyone frantically hunts for two missing girls.
But as school begins with Autumn no closer to figuring out her powers, strange occurrences start to follow her everywhere. Even at home, Blackwood Manor keeps many secrets, and Autumn can’t escape its haunting past.
New friends urge her to learn more about her family’s history in order to unlock her powers and make sense of what’s happening at Blackwood Manor, but Autumn’s not so sure. Once an accident brings Autumn face-to-face with death, however, she realizes her gifts are tied to a legacy that can either save or doom them all…
Turns out being the town’s only necromancer could pose some problems when the dead won’t stay dead.
Being haunted by ghosts isn’t unusual for Autumn, but this time it’s someone she didn’t think was dead.
CHARACTER’S NAME: Kaine Martin
- Who are you? (Give a brief description of yourself)
Hello, my name is Kaine, and I’m an anthropologist. Rarely people notice me, mostly because I don’t like to be in the spotlight.
I’m very shy, and I’m never confident about whether people might like me or not. This side of my character leads me generally to be mistaken for a person who gets above himself, as it happened with Nora, one of my colleagues.
- Who are your companions?
Well, first of all, there is Mark. He’s the other side of my sky, the man I love with all my strengths.
He’s completely different from me, self-confident, charming, and sexy as hell. The typical guy who’s always in the spotlight.
We complete each other, and I believe we were just meant to be together.
Then, there is Jason Murdock. He is an anthropologist who was trying to track an elusive and mysterious tribe in Africa. Eight years ago, he was considered missing, until one day, I received an email from him. That message changed my life forever, giving me a precious lead to continue his research and be the one to bring the tribe to the spotlight.
- Do you have a mentor? Tell us about them.
From the time I reached Jason to Africa, my life reached a sudden turn, and with so many things going the wrong way, I ended up into a curse.
Yes, I know it sounds crazy, and sometimes I find it also hard to believe it myself, but it’s true.
The most important mentor has been also my tormentor, the high priestess Akuna-Ra.
She helped me to release my inner power to communicate with the entities of the underworld, and opened my eyes to a brand-new vision of the Universe.
You won’t believe its complexity, not at least until you start to see the reality from a completely different perspective.
- If you could live your life again would you make the same choices?
Absolutely, because even the wrong one, the one that cursed me, turned out to be a blessing.
- What is the hardest choice you’ve had to make in the course of your adventures? What was the easiest?
The hardest choice was perhaps leaving for an undefined period to search the tribe in Africa.
I just started my relationship with Mark, and I was afraid this long period away from each other could undermine our future together.
The easiest choice was choosing to remain in Africa, and propose Mark to move there with me.
If you are going to read about my adventure, I’m sure you will also be tempted to leave everything behind.
- Would you die for those you love? Would you kill for them?
I don’t believe in violence, and I don’t believe that dying for someone I love would make things easy. They will mourn my absence and the pain would be unbearable.
I would rather try to solve every situation in a less dramatic way.
The same is for killing; there must be a better way than to kill or be killed by someone.
Maybe I might summon the forces of the underworld.
- Have you ever loved/been loved?
Yes, I love, and also I am loved.
I fell in love with many guys before, but only Mark made me feel special.
You know, when everybody started to believe I was dead, he ran to Africa even to bring back my corpse. He’d never accept my death without having the certainty.
- Tell us about your family.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to be said.
I was raised by my mother alone, and I don’t have any siblings.
My father died shortly after I was born, and I have no memory of him. Many times, I fantasize about how it would have been to have him close to me.
I wonder about what kind of person he was and whether he’d been proud of me like my mother was.
Mom has been for me more than just family, she supported me, and even after her death, she returned as a ghost to help me make the right decision, guiding me to the right path. She also tried to guide Mark when he didn’t know where to search for me.
- Do you believe in magic?
Of course, I do! My whole life revolves between this world and the underworld. Without magic, I could never keep the balance between them, and believe me, it’s a hard job!
- Why should we read about your adventure?
Because it’s so crazy that sometimes I also feel impossible that things like that could happen, particularly to me.
Before this adventure started, I never considered magic being something real.
It was just mumbo-jumbo, something that shamans used because they didn’t have scientific knowledge. Only now, I understand how wrong I was, and I thank Akuna-Ra for introducing me to magic and release those dormant powers in me.
Therefore, if you think magic doesn’t exist, this is a book to open your eyes and entertain you with a fascinating new point of view.
If you, instead, believe in magic, this is going to be a compelling read to find out something more about it.
Together with this, you will discover the powerful beauty of the African Rainforest and the amazing people living around it.
So, what are you waiting for? Come to find me there, I’ll be waiting between one spell and another, trying to stay alive.
Mandatory info (author):
Paula J. Mann lives a double life. She is a geologist by day and a novelist by night. She’s best known for writing psychological thrillers and dramas, like ‘A Tale of a Rough Diamond.’
She also writes historical fiction, like the Amazon.co.uk best-selling Aquila et Noctua, and paranormal suspense.
She loves traveling and shares her experiences on her blog:
Author’s name: P. J. Mann
Link to book or books where this character appears:
*Optional – short piece on why you chose to showcase this character and what draws you to him/her/it/them. Is there a basis in reality for this character – for example.
I chose this character and this particular book because there’s a lot about the places I visited, and for which I fell in love.
Africa is a very diverse continent, and every country has its peculiar beauties that draw me there. Kaine is a bit like me, shy and introverted, although I don’t have any special mediumistic power, I’m attracted by everything belonging to magic rites and supernatural forces.
Author name: Joslyn Chase
How did you become involved in book bundles? Would you recommend it?
I first learned about book bundling when I attended a Business Master class at WMG Publishing and met Chuck Heintzelman, the founder of BundleRabbit. I also met some excellent editors there who shared their experiences with book bundles.
I find the idea very exciting and innovative. The potential for cross-promotion and cooperation is awesome. I’ve been in three or four bundles, and I’ve edited and produced a collaborative project, And Then There Were Nine, nine thrilling stories from nine masters of suspense.
I hope to be more heavily involved in bundling with other authors in the future. I believe it’s a great way to have fun and profit.
What other bundles are you involved with?
My first bundle was a Halloween Horror bundle that has since been discontinued. But I’m proud to be a part of Steve Vernon’s Cat Tales bundle and A.L. Butcher’s Blood On The Cobbles. I was also fortunate enough to be included in a Story Bundle Historical Mystery bundle, and that was a lot of fun.
Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?
I am definitely a plotter. That’s what works best with my temperament and writing style. I leave a lot of room for organic growth, the way I do it. For my outline, I basically define the goal for each scene, but I generally have no idea how the characters will get from Point A to Point B until I start writing. And, of course, as the story progresses, things change and that’s fine. But I like starting out with some clearly defined goalposts to aim for.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?
Enjoy your time as an unpublished author. Appreciate those moments when the world is wide open and all the possibilities are in the future where anything can happen. It’s exciting and creatively nourishing to dream like that. After publication, so much happens. It’s still a creative process, of course, but business matters come into it, too, and there are so many demands on your time and attention. Some of the innocence is lost. It’s like moving from childhood to adult life. Hang on to the child.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at?
I adore the research part of writing a book. There’s so much to learn and so many fascinating topics—I spend a lot of time gathering information and getting a feel for the background before I begin writing.
Perhaps the wildest subject I studied while preparing to write my thriller, Nocturne In Ashes, was volcanoes. Mt. Rainier, in particular. It’s a pretty scary topic, especially when you live in the shadow of the mountain and you realize it’s not a question of “if” the volcano will blow, but “when.”
How influential is storytelling to our culture?
Storytelling is everything. It comes into nearly every aspect of societal life and relationships. We communicate by story, relate to each other by story, learn best through concepts put into story form. I write a blog on the subject of Story Power on my website, joslynchase.com.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing?
Every word of a story comes through a character. Ground the reader inside your viewpoint character’s head and make sure they’re the one telling the story, so readers see what they see, feel what they feel, and are able to experience the story through the senses, opinion, and emotion of the viewpoint character. In other words, get out of your own way and let the characters speak.
Tell us about your latest piece?
In April 2020, I published a collection of short stories titled No Rest: 14 Tales of Chilling Suspense. I’m pretty excited about it, and some of my personal favorites are in this volume.
What’s your next writing adventure?
Last October, I started planning a six-book series of thrillers based on my protagonist’s experience in the EIS—Epidemic Intelligence Service, the disease detectives of the CDC. I’m excited about the project, but also a little bowled over now, with the Covid crisis that I didn’t see coming.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but I feel like it must have altered things dramatically within the CDC and now I don’t know how much of the research and preparation I’ve put into it remains valid. Or how readers will respond to books on the subject. To be honest, I’ve had some doubts about moving ahead with the project and I put the brakes on for a few weeks, but now I’m re-energized and moving ahead. I’m planning a release date for the first book in November.
What was the last book you’ve read?
I just finished reading Ann Cleeve’s third Vera Stanhope novel, Hidden Depths. I’m very much enjoying the series, and the television program, as well.
Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this?
I think in large part, yes—readers are wary of books produced by indie authors. The indie movement, which I think is a wonderful thing, has moved the role of gatekeeper from the publishing companies to the readers, themselves. It’s a responsibility many readers are not used to having and may not be comfortable with, at first.
In today’s marketplace, we all rely on social proof—the all-important consumer review. But someone’s got to be the first to leave one. Investing time and money in an untried author and a book with no reviews is a risk many readers aren’t willing to take, and understandably so. That’s why there are so many free books on the market—they are the no-risk samples readers can try before sinking their cash into a new author.
I think this can be a very healthy revolution for both writers and readers, but so much depends on the review. I hope readers will take the time to leave an honest review after reading, a courtesy for other readers and a crucial element for writers.
Is there a message in your books?
There is a message in my books, though I usually don’t know what it is until I’m finished writing. And sometimes, not even then. This is the sort of thing that typically comes through the subconscious mind, though I might start out with a hint of what I want to say to the reader.
How important is writing to you?
Writing is supremely important to me. I’ve waited my whole life to get to this season where I could have a writing career. I know myself well enough to recognize that I couldn’t embark on a writer’s life until my kids were grown. It’s all-engrossing, takes up all my time, attention, and affection. Well, almost all. I try to save out a bit to spend on family and friends J
Joslyn Chase is a prize-winning author of mysteries and thrillers. Any day where she can send readers to the edge of their seats, chewing their fingernails to the nub and prickling with suspense, is a good day in her book.
Joslyn’s love for travel has led her to ride camels through the Nubian desert, fend off monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar, and hike the Bavarian Alps. But she still believes that sometimes the best adventures come in getting the words on the page and in the thrill of reading a great story.
Joslyn believes in the power of story, and writes a blog on the subject which you can find at joslynchase.com. Join the growing group of readers who’ve discovered the thrill of Chase when you sign up, and get access to updates and bonuses.
Blood on the Cobbles Bundle
From legends of murder, and undead killers walking, to missing girls, deadly diseases, suspense and gore aplenty; from sleuths and detectives, murder and vengeance enter into a world of crime, clues and mayhem.
12 authors weave tales both long and short of crime and suspense.
A collection of short stories and novels.
Blood on the Cobbles Bundle
From legends of murder, and undead killers walking, to missing girls, deadly diseases, suspense and gore aplenty; from sleuths and detectives, murder and vengeance enter into a world of crime, clues and mayhem.
12 authors weave tales both long and short of crime and suspense.
A collection of short stories and novels.
Courageous – Russ Crossley
Who Unkilled Johnny Murder? – Robert Jeschonek
What Leads A Man to Murder? – Joslyn Chase
Nice Man Jack – Baby Ice Dog Press
By Dawn’s Bloody Light – DeAnna Knippling
Expressway Thru the Skull – M.E. Purfield
Six Crime Stories – Robert Jeschonek
Double Edged – Jessie Kwak
The Disappearance of Wicked – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Body Language – Harvey Stanbrough
Tales of Twisted Crime – Russ Crossley
Crime du Jour – Diane R. Thompson
Justice Served – Russ Crossley
The Economic Hitman – Eugene Lloyd MacRae
The Sound of Murder – Kari Kilgore
I cannot clearly say how I had entered
the wood; I was so full of sleep just at
the point where I abandoned the true path.
–Dante Alighieri, Inferno 1. 11-12
Puerto Rico, 1973
Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss embraced us from both sides, but not enough to shield us from the prison that would be my home for the next seven months. The high stone walls and neo-Gothic bell tower loomed over us as my stepfather drove his Mercedes through the spiked iron gates and into the sloping, curving driveway.
A spider of dread crawled up my back. Prison indeed.
I couldn’t believe it had come to this. The way things had blown out of proportion. I’d only wanted to contact my dead father. Ask his forgiveness.
My mother reached for my hand from the front seat without turning around to look at me. I stared at her perfectly polished red nails and the glittery square cut emerald on her ring finger. Her fingers flicked, silently pleading for my attention, but I was frozen inside. Her hand retreated.
I stared at the convent, my eyes studying the dark arched windows, the worn, age-blackened stones. The place looked haunted. Perfect for my state of mind. What was my mother thinking?
Something moved behind one of the windows. A face. For an instant my pulse raced at the sheer paleness of it, at the two dark holes that made up its eyes.
“What are you looking at?” Sara, my six-year-old half sister, asked.
I pointed. “A girl.”
She followed my line of vision. “Where?”
“There. High up. In the window.”
She dipped her head so she could have a better look. “I don’t see anything.”
I felt a shiver, but not from the cold. It’s white. It’s watching us.
Then the car moved too close to the building, and the face vanished from view.
“Is this your new school, Paloma?” Sara asked.
I nodded. Sara was the child, female version of my stepfather. Her bottomless dark eyes, framed by velvety lashes, stared at me with misery. “I don’t like it,” she whispered, grabbing my hand.
“It’ll be okay,” I whispered back, and gave her hand a little squeeze.
“Well, here we are,” Domenico said in his strong Castilian accent, stopping the car in front of the entrance. He climbed out and opened the door for my mother. Then he proceeded to take out my suitcases from the trunk.
My mother was silent. She stepped out like a wooden mannequin, her eyes shimmery with unshed tears.
I climbed out, followed by Sara, the gravel crunching under our shoes. The early morning air was cool and a blanket of mist still lingered—not surprising, since the convent was on the outskirts of El Yunque, the island’s rain forest. More Spanish moss hung from the oak trees and rippled in the breeze like long, shivering memories. I could smell the dew on the leaves and the rich perfume of moist earth, redolent of open graves.
I glanced at the ominous clouds. “Beautiful morning.”
An ongoing distant hum resonated all around us. One, two beats passed, before it struck me: Waterfall.
Something within me shut down—or exploded, I couldn’t be sure.
I shut my eyes for a second, wiping out memories of chilled water searing my lungs.
I repeated the eighth multiplication table in my head.
“After you,” Domenico said, interrupting my thoughts.
I wanted to loathe him. Tried to, anyway. I could see what my mother saw in him: a powerfully charismatic, handsome man with the infinite skill to make people do his bidding. My mother, with her small delicate features and petite frame, looked invisible beside him. A mere spectre. But that was just a façade. I knew better.
The big oak door opened and a nun clad in black habit and a wimple came down the steps to greet us.
Sara wrapped her arms around my waist. Her gesture both comforted me and heightened my anxiety. Nuns in habit made me think of great black birds.
“Bienvenidos,” the nun said. Like my stepfather, she also had a Castilian accent. “I’m Madre Estela and I’m second in charge to Madre Superiora. You must be Señor and Señora de Aznar.”
They exchanged small talk. Madre Estela sounded polite enough, but she didn’t offer to shake hands with my parents, which I found strange. Maybe nuns weren’t allowed to shake hands. I wouldn’t be surprised. I noticed the wedding band on her ring finger. Married to God. Absurd.
“You must be Paloma,” she said tonelessly.
“Yes,” I said. Wasn’t it obvious? I didn’t know what else to say.
The cross on her chest caught my attention. It had a crucified Christ on it and I noticed the thorns cutting Christ’s forehead, the little drops of blood glistening on His fragile body.
“Welcome to our school, Paloma.” Her critical gaze scrutinized my makeup, my tight jeans. “I’ve heard much about you.”
I didn’t miss the hint of cold disapproval in her voice. I wasn’t sure how much my parents had complained about my behavior, but considering I had been kicked out—well, actually, kindly asked to leave—my previous school in the middle of October, it couldn’t be good.
“Are you ready to resume your senior year of high school?” Stress on resume.
“I can’t wait,” I said. There was no point in being nice—or pretending to be. That just wasn’t me. I felt miserable and couldn’t hide it. Besides, I could tell from our short exchange that she’d made up her mind not to like me long before meeting me, and I had the sinking feeling that no matter what I said or did, her opinion wouldn’t change. I had already been stamped in her Inquisition book, tagged a criminal.
Madre Estela’s stony eyes moved to Sara. My little sister’s arms clutched my waist even tighter. From the nun’s expression, I could tell she was wondering if I had infected Sara with whatever plague ailed me. She dismissed us and turned back to my mother and stepfather. “Madre Superiora is expecting you in her office. Let’s not keep her waiting, shall we not? Don’t concern yourselves with the suitcases. Someone will come for them shortly.”
They thanked her and followed her up the steps.
“I don’t want to go in,” Sara said.
“It’ll be okay,” I said. I glanced at the window. I wanted to see the pale face again. But there was nothing.
A drop of rain hit my cheek and I wiped it off. Then I held Sara’s hand and together we walked up the steps and through the arched doorway.
I felt my throat closing up.
Seven months wasn’t that long, was it? Besides, Thanksgiving break was just around the corner. Six weeks, to be exact. I had already marked my calendar. I couldn’t wait. I would go through the motions, no need to make friends that I’d never see again. When you get close to people, you end up getting hurt.
Excerpt 2 (from Chapter 9):
Madre Estela remained standing by the door. “Get a bucket and fill it with water.”
Her hypercritical eyes sliced through my self-worth as I grabbed one of the metal buckets, lifted it into the sink, and turned on the faucet. I watched, transfixed, as the water gushed like a torrent spurting from an open artery. The cold spray raised goosebumps on my arms.
Madre Estela snapped her fingers. “Move.”
As I hauled the bucket to the door, some of the water slushed over the edge and splattered to the floor.
“Add the detergent,” she said stiffly, irritated by my clumsiness.
I chose a green bottle, twisted the cap, and poured. The acrid pine smell stung my nostrils.
“Get a sponge and a brush from there. Get going. We don’t have all evening—unless you want to work in the dark.”
I gritted my teeth, but pretended not to be bothered. I suspected that the one thing that this nun couldn’t stand was indifference.
Outside, it was almost dusk. In spite of the intense screeching of the coquíes, the drum of the waterfall hit my ears. It was louder now than the last time I’d been here. How was that possible?
I felt a drop of rain. Great.
Madre Estela put one hand out, palm up. “My, my. What’s this?” She looked chagrined, and I suddenly realized why. If it rained, I would have to go inside, ruining her plans. “What are you standing there for? Start scrubbing.”
I was tempted to throw the bucket of greenish water at her face. Instead, I prayed for rain as I walked across the rose garden. Once at the gate, I glanced back at her.
“You’ll work until I come for you, understood?” she said, hands on hips in her usual stance. She pointed to one of the second-floor windows. “I’ll be watching from there.”
And that was it. She was gone.
For a moment I just stood there. If only my friends could see me now. They would never believe it.
I opened the gate and walked into the graveyard. The statue of Gabriel greeted me, its face fiercer in the dusk. The temperature must have been in the low seventies. I was glad I had my cardigan.
Suddenly, the garden lamp post lit up. I turned, startled. I wasn’t sure if it had automatically switched on or if someone, maybe Madre Estela, had done it from indoors. I glanced up at the second-floor window, expecting to find her face. I had the chilling sensation of being watched. There was nothing. The windows glowed with yellow light, a multitude of feral eyes keeping guard.
However, behind one of the ground-floor windows on the right, a figure appeared. Tall, blurred. Madre Superiora? I was sure that was her office. Yet, something about the shape of the head and the shoulders made me think of…Rubia. What was she doing in Madre Superiora’s office?
Just as abruptly as it’d appeared, the figure vanished from view.
The incident left me strangely unsettled.
I splashed some of the water on one of the tombstones and got to work. The sound of hard bristles against stone blocked the hum of the waterfall. Almost.
Go away, damn it.
As I crouched to work on a second tombstone, doing my best not to get wet in the process, something shifted at the edge of my vision. I jumped to my feet, my heart thudding. Gabriel. Its wings had rippled with movement.
Dear God…what’s happening to me?
I rubbed my forehead and grimaced, my fingers shaking.
I felt another drop of rain. If it was going to rain, why didn’t it? The sky was playing with me, too. Mocking me.
I cursed the clouds and started scrubbing again.
I had another sensation of being watched and this time, yes, it was Madre Estela behind the window. I pretended I hadn’t seen her and tried to keep focused on the task at hand. The water had turned blackish with grime.
I don’t know how long I scrubbed. I lost track of time. But it was dark. My back and shoulders were sore and my hands stung from the harsh detergent.
Madre Estela was long gone from the window.
Half panting, I sat down on the edge of the tombstone and tossed the brush aside in disgust. I looked at the statue again, but it was motionless. I turned to the windows again, my eyes slowly moving from one to the other.
From one to the other.
Expecting to see the face. Wanting to see it.
Yet, that weird sensation of being watched, again.
My gaze shifted to the woods, to the exact place where the cemetery ended and the forest started. There was a path there. Narrow, obscured by the trees. For a long moment I sat, mesmerized. Then I stood up and began to approach it. The breeze picked up as I got closer, carrying with it the cool, slightly pungent smell of the waterfall.
I stopped at the very edge, the darkness enveloping me, the dampness seeping through my clothes.
The wind sighed, rustling the leaves and fluttering my hair.
Icy breath, on the back of my neck.
I’m in here… a voice whispered from the shadows.
I spun around in terror.
Then I hit something hard.
Excerpt 3 (from Chapter 11):
The foliage swallowed me. Sodden leaves gave under my shoes. Twisted limbs and giant ferns reached out to scratch my arms, my legs.
“Adelita!” I called, hastening my pace.
Flash of white ahead.
“Adelita!” No response. “Damn it. It’s getting freaking dark!”
Voices? I halted, panting.
Then broke into a run again. The mist, carried by the waterfall, clung to my lashes, my cheeks, my lips. I tasted its bitterness on my tongue.
“I’m here!” Adelita called.
I slowed my pace. Toward the end of the path, fibrous vines hung from branches like a curtain of snakes. I pushed them aside and staggered forward. Slowly, I looked up.
Against the blackening sky, the monster roared, cradled by twisted, stunted trunks and wisps of fog, looming over me in all its brutal magnificence. Its crystalline waters gushed ferociously, cascading into a murky, swirling pool that spiraled into a descending rock-studded stream gurgling with white iridescent foam.
A cloud of spray enveloped me, cold and impersonal like the wings of some giant bat. Had it not been for one of the vines, I would have fallen to my knees.
Cold water, sucking me down, searing my throat, my eyes. Can’t see, can’t breathe; his hands grab me; blackness, like tar, steals its way down my lungs, spreading its web and filling every corner, every crevice; utter agony before oblivion settles—
The sight of Adelita, standing at the edge of the pool, shook me out of my trance. She was very still, her skirt puffing from the thundering falls.
“Step back!” I shouted.
Slowly, Adelita lifted her arm and pointed to the center of the waterfall. “She’s in there.”
“Who?” When she didn’t answer, I answered for her. “The ghost? Your invisible friend?”
Adelita lowered her arm. She seemed to have fallen into one of her sudden spells.
“Is that who you were speaking to?” I said urgently.
She was silent.
“Adelita,” I coaxed. She was about ten yards from me. I took one step toward her, my toes curling. “Please… step back.”
“She wants to speak to us,” Adelita said, moving closer to the edge.
“What’s wrong with you? Stop!”
She turned her head to look at me. When she smiled, her teeth looked unnaturally white, as if the iridescence of the foamy water reflected on them.
I edged a little closer and extended my hand. “Please.” I clenched my teeth. “I can’t come any closer,” I said, stressing each word. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing reality to go away, willing it all to be a nightmare. But when I opened my eyes, Adelita’s toes stood just over the edge. For an instant, as if suspended, she seemed to sway, before she opened her wings like an angel about to take flight.
“No!” I sprang forward and seized her arm. She twisted, lost her balance and clutched at my gold chain—“No!”—The gold snapped. I grabbed her shirt and jerked her toward me. We staggered in a drunken embrace before stumbling to the ground. My hand groped wildly around my neck, but my pendant, the most precious object I possessed, was gone. I searched for it on my hands and knees, my flesh sinking into the cold, wet earth.
Then I stood and stared hard at her.
Smudged with dirt, she sagged against a moss-covered boulder. “It’s in there,” she said, her gaze lowered, pointing to the water.
“How do you know?”
“I saw it fall,” she said.
A jolt of nausea hit me and I held my stomach. “That can’t be.”
I stared at the swirling pool and thought I saw it twinkling in the depths. I squeezed my eyes shut—for an eternity, it seemed—before I spun and grabbed Adelita and shook her violently. “You’re lying! That’s what you do. You lie.” I kept shaking her. I wanted to hurt her, hurt her. That was the only way to ease my pain.
She started whimpering, in a manner not unlike my sister Sara. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she kept saying.
I shoved her away and reeled backwards. I felt breathless, delirious.
I glanced one more time at the swirling pool, before I grasped her muddy hand and we headed back. She didn’t resist, an obedient, repentant little child.
By the time we got back to the graveyard, it was already dark. The lamp post cast an iridescent glow on the white roses and tombstones.
To my dismay, Madre Estela had just stepped out of the garden gate and was marching in our direction. With the light behind her, her face was a black mask. But her chin was high and her stride purposeful.
As if out of habit, she went for Adelita first. “What are you doing here? You haven’t done any of your chores.”
I stepped forward and shielded Adelita with my arm. “This isn’t her fault,” I said quickly. “I told her to come and help me.”
She bared her teeth. “Help do what?” she said, her eyes sweeping over our dirt-covered hair and clothes.
“We heard voices coming from there,” I said, gesturing. “We thought one of the girls had gotten lost, so we decided to take a look.”
This made her pause, but only for an instant—before her hand came down, hard and brutal. I staggered backwards, more from shock than pain. No one had ever slapped me before. I touched my burning cheek and just stared at her.
“Voices here, voices there,” she said, disgusted, as if she couldn’t stand to hear more of it. “There are no voices, do you understand? No voices,” she repeated, as if she were trying to convince herself of the fact. “You should know better than listen to Adelita’s lies.”
Adelita didn’t even flinch when Madre Estela twisted her ear. I thought she was going to wrench it off her head right in front of my eyes.
“Pick up the things and go change immediately, both of you,” she ordered, “before you catch pneumonia.”
Before we went inside, I glanced back at Madre Estela. The vegetation rose up behind her, dark and menacing. Her eyes seemed strangely unfocused. She was clutching her wooden cross and murmuring a prayer. A gust of wind rattled the branches.
Out Now—Stateless (Stateless Series, Book 1) by Meli Raine (@meliraineauthor) #romanticsuspense #romance #suspense #newrelease
Release date: October 15, 2019
Genre: Romantic Suspense
When you’re born without a trace, no one knows you’re a weapon.
I lie for her.
I hunt for her.
I kill for her.
And above all, I betray my mission for her.
She doesn’t know why. She doesn’t care why.
Treason comes in many forms.
Love is one of them.
Our training taught me to be a sociopath. A machine. A pawn. Nothing more than a tool for a larger goal, without attachments or feelings.
Our teachers forgot one important detail:
Pawns shouldn’t have hearts.
Yet we do.
It turns out our emotions are our greatest weapon.
And I know exactly where mine are aimed.
The Stateless Series also includes:
Traceless (releasing 11.19.19)
Fateless (release date TBA)
Amazon (everywhere): https://geni.us/statelessAMZ
Apple Books: https://geni.us/statelessApple
Google Play: https://geni.us/statelessgoogle
Audiobook narrated by Joe Arden and Andi Arndt!
Audible (preorder now!): https://geni.us/statelessAudible
Amazon audio (preorder now!): https://geni.us/statelessAMZaud
Excerpts & Teasers (PLEASE CHOOSE ONLY ONE TO USE WITH YOUR POST)
I do not sleep.
Kina does, though, and that matters more.
Sleep is a luxury when we are in Woods. She knows it. I know I should catch an hour or two, especially with my five-night punishment and determination to go for six, but I can’t.
What did I just say?
What did I just do?
Kina has the dreams. I have the dreams. I’ve never told anyone else anything that wasn’t one hundred percent part of The Mission.
To confess emotion, to confess my own dreams that do not fit The Mission, could be punished by death.
Or worse. What if I really am so weak? Emotion is shameful. It’s disgusting.
We fail every time we feel.
She knows this. I know this.
And yet we both spoke. Shared.
What does this mean?
With her sleeping beside me, I let my mind wander, giving in to the luxury of imagination. For years, the dream has been the same.
A burning wood fire.
A screaming boy.
A woman with long hair being shot.
A man with a shaved head and blue eyes like mine beaten by another man with a log.
And me with my bow and arrow. My hands are tiny, the skin around the knuckles dimpled. I’ve worked with the four-year-olds here at the compound. I know what young hands look like.
Why would I dream like that?
Meli Raine writes romantic suspense with hot bikers, intense undercover DEA agents, bad boys turned good, and Special Ops heroes — and the women who love them. Meli rode her first motorcycle when she was five years old, but she played in the ocean long before that. She lives in New England with her family.
Social Media Links:
Reviews and Endorsements for Meli Raine Books:
“The first book in the False trilogy is a psychological thriller worthy of Hitchcock, keeping you guessing until the very end.” — Apple Books Editors
“…intrigue and dark humor on display in this thriller…”
While the immediate—and more compelling—tension in Raine’s (A Shameless Little Bet, 2018, etc.) heart-pumping series opener comes from Lily’s constant proximity to her would-be killer, the action takes place against a backdrop of secret government scandals. The “screwed-up D.C.-insider scandal,” as it is clumsily summarized early on, is pleasingly twisty…
Fortunately, Lily’s voice is captivating, wry, and tough enough to sell this thriller. The novel ends with a cliffhanger that startles, if only because readers will have become so attached to Lily.
— Kirkus Reviews
“Fresh, riveting, and thrumming with emotion and romantic suspense, False Memory is absolutely unputdownable. You need this book!” – New York Times bestselling author Meghan March
“I accidentally lost a day to this trilogy! It is unputdownable. Apparently I’m on a dark-and-twisty binge, and this book is addictive.” – USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen (review for Harmless series)
Release blitz organized by Writer Marketing Services.