Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3) by Brenda Drake

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Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3)
Brenda Drake
Published by: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

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I didn’t want to kill the girl, so I hesitated to throw another globe at her. Squaring my shoulders, I got ready for her attack. When the girl got close enough, I threw a kick to her gut and slammed my fist against her jaw. She stumbled back against the frozen railing. It broke free, and she fell over the side, landing on a table below. Her body was half on and half off the table, her neck bent at an odd angle and the bones underneath pushed against her skin.

Is she dead?

A shimmery light left the girl’s body and flew to me, smacking my chest. I took a step back, expecting to turn into a human Popsicle, but nothing happened, only a chill that rushed across my skin and quickly ended.

“You killed her,” Veronique yelled as she stepped up on a chair and onto a table. She charged the length of it, heading for me.

I dropped to my knees and flipped through the pages of the gateway book. My heart galloped like a thousand racehorses on steroids. I needed to escape.

Where do I go? I can’t lead her to the others. I stopped on the photograph of the Boston Athenæum. Home? To Nana. Afton. No. Veronique knew where Nana Kearns lived. I couldn’t risk going there. I tossed over more pages.

Just then, Veronique pulled herself up onto the balcony and let loose another fire globe. The flames licked the air and smoke trailed it like a comet. The fire grazed my cheek, pulling a sharp gasp from my chest.

Her breaths were loud—panting. The sound of a siren drew nearer. We’d have company soon.

A feral look on her face, Veronique plucked a dagger from her shoulder sheath. A velvet bag, weighed down by something heavy inside, was tied around her waist.

The other Chiavi? I had to get them. I grasped the strap of my messenger bag.

“You can’t win, Gia. You’re weak. Unskilled. A sniveling child.”

“I beat your ass, and I took care of your friends.” Meaning the three Sentinels lying dead on the floor below us. I forced my eyes to stay on hers, acting brave, though their deaths were like an overweight barbell on my conscience.

Her step forward caused me to step back. “That was dumb luck,” she said. “This will take skill.”

She ran for me. I drew my sword and swung at her. She ducked, the blade barely missing her. Before I could get another swing in, she tackled me, our bodies smacking into the bookcase, my sword knocked from my hand.

A satisfied look crossed Veronique’s face right before she stabbed my upper arm with her dagger, her blade cutting across my cheek. A horrified scream rattled my throat. My knees buckled and thudded against the floor.

“Shit!” The pain shocked me. I wanted to roll into a ball on the floor, to have this end.

She’s going to kill me. I’m going to die.

Fear gripped me.

Then anger.

Fight, Gia! The voice in my head was strong and forceful. It pushed me. Pushed me to my feet.

Pushed me to take action.

Author Bio:

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Indiscretions of a God by Sunniva Dee

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Isn’t it insane that I can’t get her out of my head?

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Title: Indiscretions of a God
Series: Porn Star Boyfriends #3
Author: Sunniva Dee
Release Date: January 16, 2018

Blurb

I’m not a saint. That’s not why I left the mafia.
I left because I’m god, because I need no one, and fail at nothing.

I’m Isaias Di Nascimbeni, owner of Lucid, the biggest adult entertainment studio in L.A. Son of Il Lince and second generation Italian in the U.S, I’m dirty rich and adored by highlife as well as lowlife.

Whatever I focus on turns to gold.
On the Richter’s scale of eye candy, I’m a twenty.
I’m a hunter who tests limits.
A warrior who goes shady when the law becomes dreary.

While conducting business at the St. Tatiana,
the most stunning woman I’ve ever seen enters my radar.
Isn’t it interesting that her name is Tatiana?
Isn’t it bizarre that she’s a nun?
Isn’t it wild that she’s unimpressed by me?

Isn’t it insane that I can’t get her out of my head?

She doesn’t acknowledge me when I return to her church.
It’s unprecedented. Unheard of. Not happening.
But the hunt is my fetish.
Novice or not, she’s only postponing the inevitable.
Beautiful Tatiana asked for this.
By the time I’m done, she’ll worship me, because now it’s game on.

A no-cliffhanger, standalone book #3 in the Porn Star Boyfriend series.

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Excerpt

“Isaias.” Tatiana’s fingers brush down my temple and my cheek to my mouth. “I need to leave for about an hour. I didn’t want you to worry.”

I blink off my sleep. I’m on the couch in the living room, waiting for my phone to ring with news about Gabriela.

“I can’t let you leave, baby.” I arch my head backward, following the sound of her voice. Her pretty face hovers over me from behind. I reach up, pull her down to me. She sinks to her knees and cradles my face with her hands.

Tatiana allows me to devour her mouth. My tongue delves in, swiping and suckling her into a moan. It’s heart-battering. I breathe faster, and then her exhales become shallow too. I love that sound.

“It’s not safe out there for you.” I lace my fingers into her hair, extending it around our faces. We’re in a tent of silk and warm sugar. “I’d never hold you back if it weren’t for your safety. Because you need to live on. On and on and on with that crazy beauty you are.”

She puffs a quiet laugh against me. “Weirdo.”

“I want you,” I sigh out.

“Tonight, darling. I just need to do this, okay?”

I still her face over me. Nudge it away enough to stare into her eyes. “I’ll come with you.”

“You can’t. It’s nun business.”

“You still think of nuns?”

“My business with the sisterhood doesn’t simply disappear because of an explosion in a church,” she whispers to me.

“Let me at least drive you there.”

I shut my eyes while her soft fingers draw trails down my cheeks. In my adult life, I’ve been touched often and in many ways, but Tatiana’s caresses remain on my skin long after they’re gone.

“Isaias, I’m twenty-seven years old. I’ve been fending for myself for a long time. I’ll be fine, okay?”

I scrunch my eyes shut, knowing I won’t be forcing myself on this stubborn, beautiful, independent woman tonight.

“I’ll be honest with you. I can’t bear the thought of you and Gabriela both out there without my protection.” I pull her down so I can kiss the infinitely soft skin of her throat. “Just let me drive you there. I won’t come in. I’ll, you know, play with my phone and listen to music like some dopy-ass high-school boyfriend until you come out.”

BALAS

I grew up surrounded by women. I grew up surrounded by macho men too, but they all knew when to yield to their women. It’s why my father’s heart still beats for my mother. It’s why hers stutters every time he’s in danger.

So I let Tatiana go. I stand there on the gravel, hands fisted in my pockets like a douche. At least she accepted my offer of taking the Escalade with the bulletproof windows. She better get used to that, because she’s with Isaias di Nascimbeni. From now on, I’ll make damn sure she never drives anything that can’t repel the bullets of my father’s enemies.

“Fritz,” I shout as soon as she rolls toward the highway. “Get in.”

“Uhm?”

I walk up to him and point toward another loaner. It’s a joke of a car. Small and grey, it’s unassuming enough to blend in anywhere. I chuck him the key.

“I hold you personally responsible for Tatiana’s wellbeing until she’s back in my arms. Understood?”

“Absolutely, sir. It’s an honor.”

I pitch him my Glock too, and I don’t fucking care how unprecedented that is. He grabs it on reflex, gaze humbled as it meets mine. “Mr. Nascimbeni. I’ve got it. I have my sub.”

I stare him down, willing him to tell me it’ll be enough. Because is it? His stare dims with determination. Then he tosses my gun back. I watch it swirl in the air and find my palm in seconds.

“You’re sure?” My voice doesn’t sound right.

“I am.”

I squint, forcing liquid away from my eyes.

“I will get your woman back to you.”

Ah.

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Author Bio

Sunniva Dee is a reader, a lover of everything beautifully written no matter the genre. As an author, she pens flawed characters and seeks the flip side where the soul hides. Once there, she wants to be pulled out of her comfort zone by stories taking on a life of their own.

Sunniva has written paranormal and young adult. She’s committed contemporary romance verging on erotica, and she’s dabbled in supernatural mystery. But her heart is rooted in new adult of the true kind: young adult all grown up, with conflicts and passions that are familiar to college-aged readers and readers who remember those days like they happened last night.

Author Links

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Twin Savage by Sunniva Dee

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WHAT KIND OF TWISTED REALITY IS THIS?

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Title: Twin Savage
Author: Sunniva Dee
Release Date: October 16, 2017

BLURB

Grief comes in many forms.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve… Right?
Except, what if you douse that grief with sex
in ways so culturally unacceptable
you leave it to a veritable male harem
led by the porn-star brother of your fiancé
to decide if you’ll emerge
from the jungle intact?

Twin Savage is standalone book #2 in the Porn Star Boyfriend series.

✨✨✨✨✨

It wasn’t a problem to be the only girl in a house full of guys.
Until my fiancé died and his identical twin took over the roost.

Sweet, easygoing Julian passed, while loathsome, bossy Luka, who pays his way through med school by getting his dick wet on film, is still alive.

What kind of twisted reality is this?

Now, Luka’s on a mission to fix both of our grief.
Like I’d ever accept anything from him.
He doesn’t understand that gorgeous and sexy mean nothing if you’re a promiscuous jerk.

If only the nights didn’t destroy me.
They’re painful and long and empty,
until, on a Monday night, my insomnia attracts Diego.
That Tuesday, it attracts Lenny.
Next, it’s Marlon, James, Nathaniel,
and on Saturday, it’s Connor.

By Sunday night, I get the picture.
This is Luka doing what Luka does: solve problems with sex.
His remote-controlled comfort leaves me in our roommates’ arms six of seven nights.
On Sunday, there’s only one man left in the house.

There’s no way in hell I’m opening my door—or my heart—to a porn star.

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EXCERPT

BED TALK

“I wish he didn’t do that,” I tell Lenny as I relax, cheek on his chest, drawing small circles around his nipple. “Luka thinks he’s the king of this place, in charge of everything that goes on here.”

“He kind of is.” Lenny’s voice is lazy. By now, I know he slides into a euphoric coma after he ejaculates. It’s adorable and a tad hot.

“No, he isn’t. Only about the rent and the utilities.”

“And about you.”

I lift my head and squint at him. “Luka is not in charge of me.”

Lenny narrows his eyes too, an easy feat. I ignore how beautiful he is beneath me. “No, but he’s who came up with our solution.”

“What are you talking about?”

He studies me, eyes widening more than usual after against-the-wall sex. “Hmm, you look like you’re working yourself up.”

“What does it matter? Just give me the lowdown.”

“Well, if you’re gonna go witch-nutty on me, I don’t know if I should.”

I lower my voice. “Witch-nutty? What does that even mean?”

“You know. All…” He lifts his hands in the air and waves them lazily while half-rolling his eyes. Not impressive.

“What solution, Lenny, or your sex life has to fend for itself from now on.”

“As if it doesn’t six days out of the week.”

“What did Luka come up with?”

“We had a house meeting.”

“Without me?”

“It was about you, so yeah. We saw how you were struggling to keep it together after Julian passed away, and Luka came up with what we’re doing now.”

“As in invading my bedroom every night? Taking turns with me?”

“I guess?” He looks at me as if he just realizes how bad it sounds.

“That’s some crazy shit. Only a pervert like Luka could’ve come up with it.”

Lenny’s brows tick in a furrow. “Well, I figured it was too obvious to work on you, but Luka insisted, we gave it a try, and hey, you went along with it. You seem better too.”

My stomach churns. “Who does he think he is? He has no right to set up some get-’er-done plan for me. I’m in charge of my own life, my own future, and…” I sigh. “Luka’s a pig.”

I mean it. Even though I’m disgruntled, I twist my arms around Lenny’s middle needing his nearness. I’m not exactly backing myself up, here, but Lenny doesn’t hold it against me. Instead he wraps me closer and nuzzles against my hair. Murmurs, “Shh, you’re okay, babe.”

“What about the days? Did he assign them too?”

Lenny nods, rocking us with his chin. “Yeah, which made sense.”

“Why, because you didn’t want to deal with me more than once a week?”

He chuckles. “It was more so that we’d all have our turns consoling you.”

Sleeping with me, you mean,” I say, feeling slutty and berating myself for it in the same thought.

“I’m not gonna lie and say it’s not a pleasure to comfort you.”

I arch an eyebrow. “So I shouldn’t feel bad for you guys?”

“You should.”

I let out a huh?

“Did you see Marlon earlier?”

I bite my lip. “Yes?”

“That’s how most of us feel the rest of the week. Tuesdays are the shit.”

“Even when I go all witch-nutty on you?”

His grin gleams white. “Have you heard me complain? Sparks are the shit too.”

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AUTHOR BIO

Sunniva Dee is a reader, a lover of everything beautifully written no matter the genre. As an author, she pens flawed characters and seeks the flip side where the soul hides. Once there, she wants to be pulled out of her comfort zone by stories taking on a life of their own.

Sunniva has written paranormal and young adult. She’s committed contemporary romance verging on erotica, and she’s dabbled in supernatural mystery. But her heart
is rooted in new adult of the true kind: young adult all grown up, with conflicts and passions that are familiar to college-aged readers and readers who remember those days like they happened last night.

AUTHOR LINKS

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM | TSU.CO

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Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)

Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)

by

Jadah McCoy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

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Jadah McCoy’s ORGANIC, pitched as Bladerunner meets Pitch Black, in which 18-year-old Syl has barely survived the genetic splicing that plagued her human body. After discovering the androids’ plot to wipe out human and Cull alike, Syl must return to Elite to warn the other survivors. However, with the realization that her group of survivors isn’t the only one, also comes the realization that some humans are just as bad as androids. Bastion and Syl grow closer, however, their relationship suffers under the weight of her past ghosts and a growing threat that endangers human and android alike.
Excerpt:

 

CHAPTER ONE

Syl

Breathing is a habit. The oxygen filters into my system, fizzles through my circuits then dissipates to nothingness. This new body is alien; it feels like my own, but I know it’s not. My eyes fall on the hole in front of me―the giant chunk of concrete ripped from the ground where the entrance to the Sanctuary used to be.

The music in my ear stutters to a stop, and the gun in my hand hangs limp.

We’re too late.

Bastion kneels beside me, leaning against his weapon as he studies the torn roots and claw marks that score the earth. His coattails catch in the dry dirt beneath him. He looks up, blue eyes lit with mechanical brightness. “I take it this isn’t the work of the Cull you’re used to?”

I step closer, peering into the hole. It’s probably fifteen feet in diameter. Gashes scar the walls all the way down until the tunnel opens up at the sewers. No sound comes from within―no sign that anyone inside might still be alive.

A frown pulls my lips down. “No.”

“Syl.” Bastion stands, prepared to stop me.

Ignoring him, I step off the uneven ledge. My body falls through the air, landing with a small splash in the sewers below. A fall at that height would have broken my human body’s legs, but the metal frame absorbs the impact and then some. I take off, running full speed in the direction of the Sanctuary. These muscles, they never grow weak, or tired, or burn with exhaustion. Bastion catches up quickly, his footsteps shadowing mine. Darkness isn’t an obstacle for us; we can see through it as if it were daylight.

The metal bars, the same ones I slipped through so long ago to escape this place, are bent open. I step over one that now lies placidly in the mildewed water. The others look like an old man’s teeth―jagged, uneven, broken.

But beyond the destroyed entrance…

I freeze, my body refusing to move any farther. Chicken feathers litter the area, dingy and bloodstained. Beneath them lie the bodies of people I grew up with. People I know. People I care about. Static fills my ears like a thick layer of cotton.

Symbols hover over a corpse, simulated by my brain―cortex―whatever it is. They shimmer and flicker before translating into letters: deceased. The word populates again and again, a dozen times, once for each body, and I choke.

 

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Jadah McCoy currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a paralegal. In her spare time she can be found traveling the world, reading, or (surprise, surprise) writing. The last book in the Kepler Chronicles trilogy is due for publication in 2018.

 

Traitor by Alyson Santos

Traitor
Alyson Santos
Publication date: June 6th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

They may be refugees but Andie Sorenson never chose to flee when government forces abduct her to the “safety” of a military-operated compound. Caught in an ugly civil war no one understands, she’s now a number, a uniform, her future reduced to three stale meals a day with the strangers who share her fate. She’s nothing, no one—until a random act of compassion and an electric smile turn her prison into a refuge.

It’s his eyes, his heart, his beautiful soul drowning in an ocean of secrets. Lance Corporal Kaleb Novelli is an enigma, but with each plunge through another layer, Andie finds herself captured in a way she never imagined. She knows they have no future. They can’t even have a present, but that doesn’t stop her heart from committing to a man she can never have. The only one she trusts in this battle of lies and manipulation.

But they’ve found their paradise in hell, and she can’t shake the feeling that Kaleb Novelli is not just a player. He’s the game.

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EXCERPT:

His teasing smile plunges through me, settling low, hot and pulsating. It’s a dangerous offer, because soon, I’m on his lap, grasping his hair, claiming his mouth before he can change his mind. Our kiss intensifies, and my brain surrenders to instinct. It wants more, weeks of imagination straining for release. I want to own the smile that melts me, the eyes that haunt me, the compassion that transforms me.

He braces his hands on my back, and I gasp at the flames ripping through my veins. My groan leaks out when he hardens beneath me, and my body instinctively tries to pull him in. God, he feels so good, tastes so good. He’s infinite. There is no enough of this man. There are too many layers, and each one leaves me aching for the next.

I grip the collar of his shirt as he tugs at my hem. Fabric can be damn frustrating, and I’m desperate to fight through it. I want it all: mind, body, and soul, but he pulls back. Eyes clenched, captivating in that moment—overwhelming—I can’t bear the pain of the separation about to come. I’m already suffering the chill of the space between us. I breathe in my own recovery while he hauls himself together, but I don’t object. I care about him too much to make his battle unbearable with a direct assault on his will. I know his struggle against feelings he’s not supposed to have. A relationship he’s not allowed to have. I already broke my promise and won’t cause more agony for the man I’m terrified I’m coming to love.
It takes all my strength to distance myself when he can’t break us apart this time. His expression mirrors my heart, anguish and relief, as I round the corner of his desk to lean on a safer side. Our eyes lock through the gap, both of us aware of what happened, and all the reasons why it shouldn’t have.


Author Bio:

I’m a writer, musician, and cat lover. I also have an alternative music obsession. Seriously, it’s a real problem.

I write what needs to come out, whether it’s pain, tears, or laughter. I write people and relationships, about the beauty and horror of what we do to ourselves and each other. I write Love. Vengeance. Compassion. Cruelty. Trust. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Darkness, and the incredible way humans destroy and heal each other.

I like to eradicate barriers, refusing to be confined by the laws of physics or limitations of reality. I will befriend a vast population of possibilities and introduce them in ways that might surprise you.

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Artificial by Jadah McCoy!

Curiosity Quills is excited to announce the release of Artificial (The Kepler Chronicles, 1), by debut author, Jadah McCoy. Artificial is a new adult Science Fiction.

Artificial

She struggles to feel human.

In 2256, the only remnants of civilization on Earth’s first colonized planet, Kepler, are the plant-covered buildings and the nocturnal, genetically spliced bug-people nesting within them: the Cull. During the day, Syl leaves her home in the sewers beneath Elite City to scavenge for food, but at night the Cull come looking for a meal of their own. Syl thought gene splicing died with the Android War a century ago. She thought the bugs could be exterminated, Elite city rebuilt, and the population replenished. She’s wrong.

Whoever engineered the Cull isn’t done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments which result in her own DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person responsible before every remaining man, woman, and child on Kepler is transformed into the abomination they fear.

He struggles not to.

For Bastion, being an android in the sex industry isn’t so bad. Clubbing beneath the streets of New Elite by day and seducing the rich by night isn’t an altogether undesirable occupation. But every day a new android cadaver appears in the slum gutters, and each caved in metal skull and heap of mangled wires whittles away at him.

Glitches—androids with empathy—are being murdered, their models discontinued and strung up as a warning. Show emotion, you die. Good thing Bastion can keep a secret, or he would be the next body lining the street.

He can almost live with hiding his emotions. That is, until a girl shows up in the slums—a human girl, who claims she was an experiment. And in New Elite, being a human is even worse than being a Glitch. Now Bastion must help the girl escape before he becomes victim to his too-human emotions, one way or another.

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About the Author

JadahMcCoy

[Website] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Goodreads]

Jadah currently lives in Nashville, TN and works as a legal coordinator. When not babysitting attorneys, she can be found juicing her brain for creative ideas or fantasizing about her next trip out of the country (or about Tom Hiddleston as Loki – it’s always a toss up when she fantasizes).

She grew up in rural Arkansas, yet can still write good and sometimes even wears shoes! She did date her first cousin for a while but they decided against marriage for the sake of the gene pool.

Her true loves are elephants, cursing, and sangria – in that order. If you find an elephant that curses like a sailor whilst drinking sangria, you’re dangerously close to becoming her next romantic victim – er, partner.

She cut her writing teeth on badly written, hormone-driven fanfiction (be glad that’s out of her system), and her one true dream is to have wildly erotic fanfiction with dubious grammar written about her own novels. Please make her dreams come true.

Energy Reborn Release!

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Untold Press is proud to release Energy Reborn, the fourth and FINAL book of Lynn Vroman’s Energy Series. To learn more about Untold Press and our books, visit us at http://www.untoldpress.com

A Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy Series

Energy Reborn


The Energy Series, book 4
By

Lynn Vroman

Energy Reborn

Final book of The Energy Series

After the trauma from their final battle with Exemplar, Tarek is certain Lena is better off without him. She deserves a life without the baggage he carries. She deserves someone…real. As he fights alongside Oren in Exemplar, one thought keeps him sane: He didn’t let Lena go. He gave her an out.

Lena has spent the last eight months trying to move forward. She can’t think about Tarek; she has to raise fifteen-year-old Peter, who suffers from the same ghosts as her love. All she wants is to make Peter happy. But then Peter runs away to fight in Exemplar—again. This time is different. This time, Peter doesn’t come back.

Desperate, Lena reaches out to the one person able to help her, the person who needs saved, too.

Tarek.

For Lena, the only answer to saving those she loves is to finish what they started—end the Synod’s reign over Exemplar for good. She’ll not let Tarek or Peter hide behind a war anymore, even if it kills her.

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The entire Energy Series in sequence below. Click on image to purchase!

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About The Author

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Lynn Vroman
Born in Pennsylvania, Lynn spent most of her childhood, especially during math class, daydreaming. The main result that came from honing her imagination skills was brilliantly failing algebra. Today, she still spends an obscene amount of time in her head, only now she writes down all the cool stuff.

With a degree in English Literature, Lynn used college as an excuse to read for four years straight. She lives in the Pocono Mountains with her husband, raising the four most incredible human beings on the planet. She writes young adult novels, both fantasy and contemporary.

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Energy Reborn Excerpt

Crying didn’t bother him anymore.

Muffled sobs used to feel like weevils burrowing into his brain. He had wanted the cries to disappear, find a way to silence them so he’d have peace while killing. He hated it, yet understood where the despair came from. He didn’t take the truth that well either.

This world, his world, was full of people who weren’t real people.

That revelation caused a collective shock to infiltrate every home, every secret corner. Memories of families were manufactured lies. Parents had never existed for most. Childhood thoughts were a farce before the age of six, the median age for bodies the Creation Lab produced before implanting energy pilfered from other worlds. Most would never be able to have children. They were all biobots, synthetic carriers for strong souls.

Tarek learned how to tune out the grief a while ago, and the truth. Issues he only dwelled on when alone–when killing didn’t save him from his mind.

He adjusted his scope.

Yes, he could ignore the crying now. A perfect shot had that power.

Tarek lay on his stomach. Rooftop debris–broken syringes and jagged edges of crushed alcohol containers–dug through his sweatshirt. Sweat dribbled off his forehead to sting his eyes.

He ignored his discomfort as easily as the crying and flipped off the safety. Lights, never-ending strobes, bounced off buildings. Staring too long at the changing colors coming from billboard holograms and storefronts threatened a headache, but he managed to keep the jackasses in his sights.

Synod authority harassed a group of men on the street, demanding signed pardons most wouldn’t have. The elders considered everyone a traitor.

They were right.

People in this sector were guilty of blowing up the capital building and crashing the satellite feeds. Heterodox citizens fought when Oren asked eight months ago, with a promise of truth. Truth, most had come to realize, wasn’t such a great prize. Ignorance really was a gift.

Tarek had warned Oren not to tell them, not to reveal the true nature of how most citizens came to be. No Exemplian he had ever met wanted to find out their whole existence was a lie. But Oren believed differently. The man’s belief cost them an army. Stupid to tell a mass of people who already dreaded life–beaten down by having too many lives–that what they struggled with wasn’t even real.

Get it together.

None of that mattered. What mattered was getting a clear shot between the eyes. His finger hovered over the trigger, the sniper rifle firm in his grip. Zander’s rifle. His aim wasn’t as precise as Zander’s, but he did all right. Tarek had adopted the gun seven months ago when the Guide decided to go back to Earth.

No, don’t go there.

He couldn’t handle that part of his life–the part who went to Earth with Zander.

Lena.

No.

He peered into the scope.

The second an authority Protector pulled out his gallium cuffs, about to cinch them around the wrists of a man begging on his knees, Tarek shot. Before the other Protector could pull out his weapon, Tarek took him out too.

The deaths didn’t create a frenzy, not even when two energy orbs released from the Protectors’ bodies and sailed to the sky, ultimately finding their way into the apartment building where Tarek hid. The would-be victims dragged the useless bodies into the shadows, to the garbage incinerators hidden there. Exemplians in this sector had their turmoil to deal with, and what was left of the Synod against them. They weren’t cowards, though.

They refused to fight outright since the initial attack on the Creation Lab. But no one had ever complained when a mysterious bullet punctured the skull of an authority Protector. His shots seemed to wake up some of the citizens from a stupor, bringing them to action for a few minutes to get rid of the bodies. Tarek would take that; it’d be enough.

He refused to move from his spot. Where there were two, there were ten more. He searched the crowd through his scope, sweat turning his hoodie to soggy cotton against his back. There, right below the blank screens, were three more Protectors picking through the crowd to inspect the source of the commotion.

They plowed through braver citizens willing to stand in their path, tasing them. People dropped to the dirty pavement, their bodies spasming from the high voltages.

Tarek remained steady.

Three…

Two…

One…

Pop! Pop! Pop!

The crowd swallowed up the bodies as the Protectors’ energies raced into the building. For once, the noise quieted. All that echoed up to his spot was the distant hum of the incinerators, gobbling up bone and blood and flesh. Tarek squinted into his scope, his even breathing rhythmic, relaxing. No other authority assholes rushed the crowd.

A minute passed by.

Fifteen more followed.

No more targets were willing to meet his bullets.

Shame.

Five dead authority Protectors wasn’t even a dent in the grand scheme of things.

Plus side, those he’d killed wouldn’t be coming back for another go at life.

Their little army made sure of it eight months ago.

Tarek gave one more cursory search of the crowd in case any Protectors stepped from the shadows to scout the rooftops.
Nothing.
As he lowered his gun, a familiar dark blond mop coming toward this building caught his eye. He looked through his scope one more time.

Sonofabitch.

Not again.

Groaning, so he wouldn’t give in and shoot the boy in the leg for being a pain in the ass, Tarek pushed to his feet and stalked to the rusted metal door. Eight flights of stairs separated him from the boy who refused to keep his scrawny butt on Earth, where it was safe.

Peter. Dumb boy.

Dumb, brave, anger-filled boy.

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