Into the Hollow: First Chapter!

CHAPTER 1

Free

 a + b = c

In Theory, Anyway

 

The last present Daddy gave me was a gun.

Not a minute after I unwrapped the used .22, he took me out back to shoot rusted targets lined on the woodpile. After missing the first shot, I hit every can. Even though misery clouded his eyes then, Daddy beamed and set up more so I could do it again. And I did, the cans falling to the snow-covered ground with every blast of the gun. Ain’t you a natural, Free?

That was my eleventh birthday, almost seven years ago, but the memory of my father’s words gave me confidence, especially now. They played in my mind as I peered into the scope, not moving. This shot had to count; we couldn’t spare the ammo for a second one. A natural, a natural, a natural…

“Shoot him, Sissy.”

“Quiet,” I whispered. We lay prone atop a bed of rotting vegetation, probably covered with ticks I’d have to pick off both of us at home.

Deep breath.

His neck stayed in my sights, the shotgun barrel propped on a fallen hickory branch, my cheek against the cold stock.

Steady.

Stop shaking, dammit!

I prayed for luck and pulled the trigger. Boom! Heavy wings flapped, kicking up dirt as gobbling echoed through the morning fog.

“You got him!” My brother ran to our kill, the rest of the flock escaping into the thicket.

I grinned when he tried to lift the gobbler by its legs, and looped the shotgun strap on my shoulder. “You doubting me, Little?”

“Never,” he said, the early chill turning his breath to smoke. He attempted to pick up the bird again, failing. It probably weighed more than he did.

“Good thing.” I stood and brushed off my jeans before collecting our supper from Little’s struggling hands. “C’mon. We’ll get Daddy to cook him up while we’re gone.”

“Can we shoot another one tomorrow?”

“Sorry, buddy. This here’s probably the last hunt. Not much ammo left.”

“Oh.” He hurried after me as I led us out of the woods. “Can we have potatoes, too?”

“None left.”

“Darn.”

I loved how he spoke. He didn’t have the sharp twang like Daddy and me. Little’s clean voice brought Needles, California, to Poplar Branch, West Virginia—America’s dirty secret. At least that’s how I saw our hiding spot in Middle of Nowhere, Appalachia.

I pointed to some rocks before he tripped over them. “Hey, remember the ginseng around here? That root we told you about?” At his nod, I continued, “Well, Daddy got himself a nice haul last night. If all goes the way I expect, food won’t be a concern for a while.”

His footfalls were loud, sounding more like a full-grown man than a skinny five-year-old boy. “Will we get our lights on, too?”

“No electric here. Already told you.”

A pause. “When are we going to stop camping, Sissy?”

“Soon.” I guided Little down the steep ravine toward the road.

Camping. What Daddy and I had told him four months ago when we arrived at the shack we lived in now. Every time he asked when we’d be going home, I’d tell him the same thing.

Soon.

The only lie that fell from my lips and hit his ears.

Once we made it to the narrow road, Little pulled out the blue calculator I bought him before we left California. As he typed, the burn scar running along his left palm by his thumb flashed, and I had to hide my wince behind a smile.

“Okay, what’s six thousand two hundred and twenty-seven times one hundred and forty-two?” he asked, concentrating on the calculator with his brow scrunched.

I thought for a minute as we shuffled along the road, moving aside when a line of fracking trucks rumbled past. “You make it too easy. Eight hundred eighty-four thousand, two hundred thirty-four.”

He squealed, skipping a few steps ahead. “That’s right! That’s right!”

“Of course it is.” I laughed as he tapped more numbers, giving another problem I answered just as fast. My passion had amounted to nothing except a fun trick to amuse Little, but I’d be a human calculator if it made him happy. I’d be anything.

“All right, enough for now.” I pulled his hood up when a gust of wind blew it down. “You know what? As soon as I get the sang cashed in, I’m taking you out for pizza.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Can we have soda, too?” he asked, stuffing his calculator back into his coat pocket.

Soda, not pop, and something we never wasted money on. But there were always exceptions. “Pizza wouldn’t taste good without it.”

A smile lit up his face.

I lived for his smile. I swear I’d die for it, too.

He clasped my hand. “You’re my favorite.”

“Right back at you.”

He said that instead of “I love you.” I had no idea why he said it, but I enjoyed being his favorite. He was mine too, after all.

“Now, we—” I glanced up as we neared our house, and the warmth his happiness gave disappeared when a newer pickup truck pulled into the driveway behind our beat-up Buick.

“What, Sissy? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” I crouched in front of Little when we reached the yard and tweaked his nose as the truck’s engine revved beside us. “Go on in and wash up with the pot of water on the stove. Careful not to get burned, you hear?”

His blue eyes finally left the shiny red truck and met mine. “Who are they?”

“Nobody you need to worry about.” I stood on legs begging to give. “Get to it. And save some water for me. I don’t feel like going to the well again this morning.”

“Should I get Dad?”

I shook my head. “Let me see what they want first.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay.” He eyed the truck once more and ran to the porch, jumping over piles of scrap metal and old toys.

I hated that he couldn’t lock himself inside. Dry rot had claimed this place probably before I was born, and a good kick had enough power to send the door—and the walls—flying into the living room.

After Little made it inside, I dropped the bird away from any garbage and shrugged the shotgun strap off my shoulder. Took a deep breath. Then went to the truck.

They won’t know it’s not loaded, Free. Don’t panic.

Tinted windows hid the occupant, but that wouldn’t intimidate me—on the outside. Inside, vomit begged to splatter the door panel. I tapped the window with the tip of my gun, and when it rolled down, I aimed at the bulbous nose of an older man. “Can I help you with something?”

He smirked, showing off a nice set of dentures. “Well, I hope so. You know who I am?”

“Can’t say I do.” I inched the barrel closer until it almost touched the man’s face.

“Put your gun down, girl. I just want to talk to you.”

“I’ll keep it where it is if you don’t mind. What do you want?”

He turned away long enough to grab something from his passenger seat. “You recognize this?” He tossed a floppy gray hat out his window, the thing landing at my feet.

I refused to give it my attention. “No. Why?” Please leave, please leave, please leave…

The man’s watery eyes turned to stone. “You tell your daddy if he wants to steal from me, he better be ready to pay the price.” He shifted into reverse. “You make sure to give him the message, let him know you and I had a conversation.”

He backed out, his fancy truck not bothered by the ruts in the driveway. When he disappeared down the road, I sank to my knees.

Not good.

What the hell had he gone and done this time?

I stuffed the hat in my back pocket and stayed there, my eyes shut against the gray and fog and cold, wet filth seeping through my jeans.

My mind went to work:

Eight hundred ninety-two divided by sixty-eight…

Times twenty-five…

Minus two hundred point forty-three…

One hundred twenty-seven point fifty-one.

Keep. Calm.

I opened my eyes and stared at our shack—a home that wasn’t any kind of home. If Daddy had done something to jeopardize—

The ginseng. Goddamn ginseng.

The turkey went in one hand, shotgun in the other. Every step toward the porch ignited my anger, making it hard to see past it. But Little wouldn’t witness the rage. He’d been through enough without me losing it in front of him.

“Who was it?” The door hadn’t closed before Little tugged on my wrist. His face, naturally pale and full of freckles, whitened more, making his orange hair appear fluorescent. My little carrot. He had belonged to me since the day his mama gave birth to him.

“Someone Daddy knows.” I set the gun down on the way to my knees. “Don’t go outside for a while without Daddy or me, okay?”

“Why?” His eyes were older than they had a right to be.

“Just listen to me.” I cupped his cheek. “You know I’d do anything for you, right?”

“I’d do anything for you, too, even hurt bad guys.”

Don’t cry.

“I don’t need you to hurt bad guys. I need you to get ready.” I stood, clenching the turkey until its leg bones dug into my skin and added, “Remember, Little, wherever you go, I’m right behind you. No matter what.” My promise to him.

“And I’ll hold out my hand so you never get lost.” His promise to me.

“I’m counting on it. Now, you go on and get dressed. Check yourself for ticks. I’m letting Daddy know we’re leaving soon.”

“What should I wear?”

“Your black pants and my gray sweatshirt.”

“But those pants have holes in them.”

All three pairs of pants he owned had holes. “Only in the knee. Hurry, can’t be late.”

As soon as our bedroom door shut, I stormed through the living room, furnished with three old lawn chairs arranged near the wood stove and a couch with no discernible color, to the bedroom beyond it. No need to knock. He slept sounder than a corpse.

I stared at him, sprawled out on the stained mattress. His shaggy beard and filthy clothes made him look vulnerable. Even the grime caked under his fingernails, evidence of his digging, hit me in the heart. But dammit!

He knew better.

The turkey landed square on his chest, feathers and blood flying above him.

“Hey!” Daddy shot up, and the bird fell to the floor as he swiped at his chest. “What the hell you doing, baby?”

I pulled his hat from my back pocket and flung it at him, saying nothing.

I didn’t need to.

“Damn.” He reached for it and sat on the edge of the bed. “He come here?”

“Who is he?” I wouldn’t crack. I wouldn’t.

“Duffy Sloan. Owns a stretch of land up a piece.” Daddy met my scowl, his brown eyes, so much like mine, full of contrition. “Byron works for the guy on and off, told me about a few honey holes.”

“Why you listen to that jackass is beyond me.” I sat next to him, the squeaky springs protesting the extra weight. “And why the hell you leave your hat there?”

“Heard dogs and got spooked. The thing flew off on the way out the woods.”

I shook my head. “This Sloan guy probably has trail cams all over the place, and… Byron, Daddy? He’d turn in his own kid for ten dollars.”

“Byron let us stay here, didn’t he? And what choice do we got? Your check barely covers food.” He took my hand and squeezed. “If I could find a good hole, a patch that would give enough sang…”

He used to have a great job in the mines near Bluefield, an hour from here and where we used to live. But he gave it up to start over in California two weeks after my eleventh birthday. Exactly thirteen days after Mama died. He couldn’t risk it, though, going back to his old boss to gain real employment. Not now.

So, ginseng—Daddy’s answer for money.

“You can’t be stealing. If he goes to the cops…”

“He ain’t going to no cops. These boys handle their own up here.” He held our joined hands against his heart. “What should we do? Use them smarts God gave you and help me out.”

“Would he let you slide if you gave back the sang?”

He chuckled and said, “Not likely.”

“Can he prove it was you without the hat?”

“I didn’t see no trail cams, Free. I’m thinking all he’s got is Byron’s word.”

“Which isn’t worth a thing around here.”

“True.”

I took a minute to think, but the answer was obvious. Sometimes the line between right and wrong became so thin it disappeared.

“I’ll take it into Dillinger’s before work. Get rid of it,” I said, finding him grinning. “You think you dug a pound?”

“A tad under, maybe.”

That would give us a good amount of cash, and I’d risk this Duffy fellow’s threat for it. Once. “Don’t do it again.”

“I swear.”

Little ran into the room, his smile on full volume. “Guess what, Dad? Sissy’s taking me to eat pizza and soda!”

“That’s great, little man.” Daddy released my hand and caught Little in his arms, kissing the top of his head. “What would we do without our Freedom?” He sighed and said to me, “We gotta stay here for a while longer.”

I nodded, rubbing Little’s back. “Wish we could go back to Needles.”

Silence. Then: “You know we can’t.”

***

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Coming November 6, 2018!

Add Into the Hollow on GOODREADS

The hollow was the perfect place to hide.

Or so Free’s dad thought. His plan: flee California with Free’s five-year-old brother illegally in tow, hide out in the mountains of West Virginia, make fast cash during ginseng season, then escape to a nicer place where the law can’t find them. Free isn’t thrilled about living in a holler alongside drug dealers and thieves, but she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. Unfortunately, with their father disappearing into the woods with increasing frequency, Free and her brother exist largely alone. Until their neighbor Cole appears with lots of questions.

Cole’s spent his entire life in the holler—and his entire life working out a way to leave his druggie mother and incarcerated brother. As the editor of the school newspaper, he’s an expert at getting to the bottom of a story, and he’s determined to crack Free—who seems un-crack-able.

When the family she was desperate to protect is ripped apart, Free turns to Cole for help, the only person willing. But while her plan escalates, Free can’t deny the pull she feels toward the boy with too many questions—and who holds just as many secrets. As they become closer, she finds that Cole might need her help as much as she needs his.

 

Excerpt!

The last present Daddy gave me was a gun.

Not a minute after I unwrapped the used .22, he took me out back to shoot rusted targets lined on the woodpile. After missing the first shot, I hit every can. Even though misery clouded his eyes then, Daddy beamed and set up more so I could do it again. And I did, the cans falling to the snow-covered ground with every blast of the gun. Ain’t you a natural, Free?

That was my eleventh birthday, almost seven years ago, but the memory of my father’s words gave me confidence, especially now. They played in my mind as I peered into the scope, not moving. This shot had to count; we couldn’t spare the ammo for a second one. A natural, a natural, a natural…

“Shoot him, Sissy.”

“Quiet,” I whispered. We lay prone atop a bed of rotting vegetation, probably covered with ticks I’d have to pick off both of us at home.

Deep breath.

His neck stayed in my sights, the shotgun barrel propped on a fallen hickory branch, my cheek against the cold stock.

Steady.

Stop shaking, dammit!

I prayed for luck and pulled the trigger.

 

Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)

Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)

by

Jadah McCoy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Goodreads

Amazon

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.

Goodreads / Amazon

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.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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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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Fractured Energy Release Blitz!

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Fractured Energy is the exciting third installment of Lynn Vroman’s YA/Science Fiction Energy Series! Fractured Energy is published with Untold Press, along with the other thrilling books in this series.

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About Fractured Energy:

When Cassondra took Wilma’s energy, Lena’s mission changed. Only revenge matters now.

For the past year, Lena and her small army have tried to finish what they started, beginning with Earth: close the lines between worlds and end Exemplar’s hold on humanity. Unfortunately, the task is daunting. But unlike before, Lena has no problem pulling the trigger. As soon as her army takes care of threats in Earth, Lena goes back to Arcus—only to find out where the next war will be.

Tarek will do anything to mend Lena’s heart, even while she pushes him away. Only death for a death seems to ease the pain tearing her apart. But as much as he desires to heal the woman he loves, Tarek has to make sure Arcus stays safe from extermination.

After an attack, refugees Tarek has sworn to protect are terrified Exemplian authority will destroy their new home. Not able to defeat Exemplar’s direct assault, only one solution remains—a solution that will more than likely end in catastrophe: take the war to Exemplar and shut down their power source.

Lena doesn’t see disaster for her army—she sees victory and demands to go, refusing to miss a chance to kill more Exemplians.

While Lena hopes to save Wilma’s energy during the impossible mission, Tarek fears Lena will lose more than the war.

If she fails, Lena may lose herself completely.

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Excerpt

They thought hiding in plain sight a brilliant idea. Set up camp in large cities where thousands of unassuming witnesses kept them safe from open attacks. Perfect, right? Surely, the rogue army wouldn’t think to involve innocent people.

Their first mistake.

No matter how big the city or how many people saw us, we had no problem killing Exemplians.

Why?

We had Winston, the mind-scrubbing champion.

Cheveyo, Earth’s Warden, believed this was the last nest. We hoped the Exemplian pricks would give up after tonight and move on to another world, another world my small army would follow them to.
But this last trip to Earth… I wanted to make sure they remembered me. I looked toward the sky before opening the café door and turning off my contego suit so the glow wouldn’t show through my sweatshirt. Exemplian satellites no doubt pointed in my direction. Whatever. Wouldn’t want them to miss the show, anyway.

I tugged my hood lower to cover more of my face and walked in. After stomping snow from my boots, I trudged between tables, dodging internet addicts hunched over their computers. For show, really. The three Guides, a middle-aged man, woman, and a muscle head, sitting by the window knew what I was as soon as the tinkling bell announced my presence, probably before then.

I felt them, too. Their static crinkled in my head so loud, I had to grit my teeth and force myself to walk to the counter. From the mirrored wall behind the clerk, I watched them scrutinizing me over their TracFones and café au laits.

“Puis-je vous aider?” The clerk snapped his fingers in my face and asked a second time when I ignored him to keep staring in the mirror.

“Oh, um…café noir, s’il vous plait.”

“Oui.”

With any luck, the barista wouldn’t ask me anything else. Winston only gave me the “Black coffee, please” line to memorize. While waiting for my order, I pretended to admire the pastries in the glass encasement under the counter.

We’d been tracking them in Quebec for the better part of two months. These nesters were craftier, moving from spot to spot, but still easy to find. That it took us under a couple months to get their schedules down made the Exemplian authority look sloppy.

When the guy handed over the coffee, I gave him a coin. He shook his head, saying a few more things I didn’t understand. I shrugged, getting the gist when he wagged the money in my face, speaking much slower. Funny. No matter how drawn out his words were, I wouldn’t get it.

I handed him a couple more coins then turned from the register, giving the Guide trio a nervous glance. The idiots were already on their phones–more than likely letting their Protectors know they were on the move–and collecting their stuff to follow. Exemplians thought anyone not born on their world a moron. More than likely, they probably figured I was some clueless recycled Guide, living another life, right here in freezing-as-fuck Quebec.

Their second mistake.

The trio had followed me all morning until I gave them the slip fifteen minutes ago. How fortunate were they that I happened to waltz into the very café they were in?

Seriously, total dumbasses.

My heart hurt. Dumbass. Every time I even thought about the word, Wilma’s face flashed in my mind. Her little pet name for me when I pissed her off. God, I missed her.

I walked down the busy street at a decent clip, brushing tears away. This wasn’t the time. Now, I’d make every single person who followed me pay a little more for her death.

Make them pay over and over…

I turned the corner, off Rue Saint-Jean, away from the crowd shopping for Christmas. Slush soaked through my boots, numbing my toes. The late evening drizzle infiltrated my thick hoodie, too, drenching me from hair to skin. I ignored it, used to physical discomfort, and stopped to take a few sips of my steaming drink, giving the Guides a chance to catch up. Gross. The rest of the coffee landed in a snowbank. Still hated it.

When the fuzz returned, I got moving. Cheery sounds of shoppers and holiday music wafted after me as I strode farther, careful not to go too fast, lest they lose me again.

The streetlamps broken by yours truly a few hours before helped keep them confused, giving me the edge I’d need. Cell phone lights glowed behind me, though not putting much of a dent in the black. Unfortunately, complete darkness didn’t hide the fuzz getting stronger in my head, something I had grown to hate yet tolerate. Hopefully their Protectors were close so we could end this soon.

Arrogance happened to be the main weakness all Synod Exemplians had. No matter how many nests we’d destroyed, every single idiot we encountered believed they were smart enough to take us on–once they figured out who we were.

That would be their third mistake.

Exemplians were a quick study, always predictable. After a while, their stupidity bore me. But killing them never got old. Ever.

I stumbled when I turned around, making sure they noticed. Their chins lifted, and they were close enough for me to see smiles on their faces. I loved this part. When they believed their nervous prey finally figured out people stalked her.

Loved it.

I moved faster toward the one unbroken streetlight in front of an alley crammed with industrial-sized garbage cans. The smell coming from the frozen trash was way more pleasant than the fuzz clogging my head. I pretended to talk on my phone, adding a lot of scared flavor to my voice. Stupid Guides ate it up, my fear giving them the courage to come closer.

As soon as they were a few feet in front of me, I slid back my hood and gave them a smile of my own.

“Oh, no.” One sputtered that a few times, stopping while the two others, though not smiling anymore, kept coming at me.

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Don’t Forget the first two books: Tainted Energy and Lost Energy

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Be sure to check out other books by Lynn Vroman

Summer Confessions

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Beneath the Cape—The Superhero Anthology

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About Lynn Vroman:

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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.

Author Links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page

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Fractured Energy Excerpt

FE#150

 

If he caught me staring, he didn’t say. He was lost inside his head, lost deep, unreachable.

“How old are you?” The question blurted from my mouth. All this time, I’d never wondered. His face and body were a lie, a defiant snub at aging.

He never opened eyes, his mouth pursed, still in deep thought. I figured he’d ignore me, whatever played in the forefront of his mind more important. But he did answer. “I don’t know. This cycle? I think…eighty-three, give or take a few years.”

I gasped. Eighty-three? Without thinking it through, I moved to slide a finger down his smooth cheek, a few days’ beard soft and scratchy against my fingertips. “My beautiful old man.”

He said nothing, motionless as stone.

Not mine anymore.

Not mine, but I’d change that. I would. If only I knew how…

His rejection charred my skin. I pulled my fingers away from his face, my attention on his profile. “Ask another question?”

“Do I have a choice?’

“No.”

“Well, then…” His eyes remained closed, jaw tight, and dimples a memory.

“When you came looking for me, if I were an eight-three-year-old woman, with wrinkles and a cane, would you have still fallen in love…you know…with me?” I pulled the blanket up to my chin, hating the heat, craving the shield.

“I’ve seen you at eighty-three years old.” He opened his eyes and glanced down at his lap. “I’ve seen you at a hundred fifty years old.”

“Yes, but I can almost guarantee that age looks a hell of a lot better on Exemplar, nothing like the old ladies back home.” The blanket stayed clenched in my hands, like a grip on a dagger hilt, hoping it’d save me. “But…if you hadn’t found me until later, like Oren did Grace, would you have loved me?”

An eternity passed, a lifetime. Finally, he turned to me. His eyes were alive, melting my heart, my blanket dagger useless. He slid closer and pulled the blanket down until his palm pressed against my heart. As he did all those years ago, when I demanded he answer another accusation: I’m not her. The thrumming echoed from my chest to his palm, breathing no longer necessary.

Those gray eyes stayed on his hand, the bridge between my body and his. “Your face…to me, the most beautiful creation, whether smooth with youth or lined with wisdom. But…your heart…you…both fill and empty me. I’d love you however you are, whoever you are.” His warm fingers kneaded my skin, branding me, burning. “Because in here is my life, my everything.”