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.

 

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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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Gypsy Love Release Day!

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Gypsy Love EB2

Gypsy Love

Angela McPherson

Lynn Vroman

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Two centuries ago, Adrian vowed to seek revenge against the Gypsy woman who bound his spirit for eternity. Despite how far under the dirt Miryah Kotorara’s bones lay, he won’t stop tormenting the Kotorara bloodline. The person doesn’t matter, only the name.

Until her.

Dr. Mia Kotorara has spent the last ten years trying to forget her Gypsy heritage. Ostracized by her family and emotionally damaged, Mia throws herself into her work to fill the void. She forgets everything from her past—except for the man who solely exists in her dreams.

When reality and dreams collide, Adrian and Mia find something they never expected. Love.

Magic will bring them together, but it may not be enough to mend Mia’s broken heart and Adrian’s lust for revenge.

The Kotorara curse is never satisfied.

As the curse threatens everything they have overcome, Adrian and Mia must fight to save what matters most—each other.

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Excerpt:

Their routine never changed. Smack the alarm clock for fifteen more minutes of grunting, snoring sleep. Grumble when the contraption bleeped its nauseating music again. Shower, wake the children in the next room, eat some sugary swill, and leave for a day of school or work. Day, after day, after day.

If I hadn’t already hated these rotting people, their boring lives would’ve put me over the edge.

Unfortunately, my life, or lack thereof, mirrored theirs. An apparition only had so much to do to fill the time. My routine never changed, either, not for over two hundred years. Yes, the families would turn into other families as generations progressed—I lost count of how many had passed—but they were all from the same insane bitch of an ancestor. I wasn’t too particular. All they required was the right name.

The little things kept my sanity. Push the clock out of reach. Adjust the water until it grew frigid or scalding, depending on my mood. If I were really on point, I dumped that slop they shoveled into their mouths every morning onto the floor for the mangy dog. So what if these specific Gypsies hadn’t cursed me. A curse, I might add, undeserved. Two hundred years built enough anger to spread vengeance without prejudice.

Pathetic, but those little things were all I had. Not much else to occupy my time, and as any good haunt would do, I followed the man, Luca, to the city after he dropped his children off at school–every day.

I wouldn’t have been a decent ghost if I hadn’t at least tried to heave him into oncoming traffic as he scurried to his custodian job. I’d been practicing that trick for years, coming so close a few times. Once I perfected it, the push would probably be at the back of the wanker’s grandson. Hell, great-grandson. Unlike them, I had eternity on my side. But one day, a few of the sodding Gypsies would decorate the windshield of a city bus.

Not today, though. Luca weaved around the crowd while I slinked through it, body after body. The beastly man tended to hurry, always late due to his nightly drinking binges, and I enjoyed tripping him up in his rush, a skill I had mastered. A millisecond of physical contact might not get anyone smacked with a speeding car, but stumbling in a hurry irritated even the most patient person, which Luca wasn’t.

“Christ!” He grabbed a lamppost in time to save his face from the pavement. “Knock your shit off. I ain’t got time for it today.”

To an outsider, the bloated man appeared as if he spoke to himself. But I knew better.

“Well, good thing for you I’ve plenty of time for us both,” I answered him. Even though he couldn’t hear me, we’d had plenty of conversations over the years, as I had with his father, and his father before him. I used to rage, scream until my voice grew hoarse. Not a blooming soul ever gave any indication they knew I existed. To answer now became habit, needing to speak to him as if I had a voice left in the world.

Unfortunately, I’d become as much a part of this heathen family as every other bastard whelped by the likes of a Gypsy bitch. My story became an heirloom, passed from generation to generation. The angry ghost of Miryah Kotorara’s curse. No one had the ability to see me, much less hear a damn word I had to say. Bad luck, a faulty alarm clock, a stumble on nothing, all of it blamed on something none of them really believed in. Me.

In truth, no one believed in me except for maybe Luca, probably the reason I chose him to annoy instead of his brother this generation. What good were all my efforts if the person I haunted thought me a fantasy? I was a curse to a god who didn’t exist for the rest of the family. My attempt to scare, kill, or maim them in some way ended up being part irritation, part fun story to repeat at dinner parties.

Even vapor had pride, and the Kotorara clan stomped on it any chance they had.

Luca straightened his jacket and mumbled curses as the crosswalk light blinked to proceed. Oh, to have the power to push his fat, greasy body into a lorry. I swiped at his back, my hand disappearing through his skin and blubber.

One day, you tosser.

As soon as we hit the curb, Luca stopped. If I were matter, I’d have rammed into his back. Instead, I whooshed through his body. Times like these, I was grateful for the lack of senses, not particularly fond of body odor, sweat, and soft man flesh.

“Well, come on, then. Move your bloody arse.”

Even if he could hear, I doubt he would have listened. Luca directed his attention to a sleek building in front of us, a scowl twisting his lips.

I followed his gaze, frustrated as if I were the one late for work. “What has your attention, fat man?” My eyes landed on a woman who focused on the building, her hair so dark it almost shined blue. Her slim shoulders stiffened before she turned—and saw me.

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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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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.

Follow Lynn Vroman’s Social Media Venues

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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.”

Teaser Tuesday! Lost Energy: Excerpt #1

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Fear cured most things. Hunger, thirst…hope. It filled me up until it ate my insides, burrowing deep into my psyche to remind me I was a piece of shit.

A failure.

I left them there, killed a mother and her child because I wasn’t strong enough.

My eyelids, heavy and thick, refused to lift, forcing me to see their faces–Cara and her precious baby girl screaming for us, needing us. And we just left them. My mind replayed the same image of those lights swallowing them up, disintegrating them to ash.

Wake up!

My eyes shot open and pain lanced my brain. The static was gone, but the memories of it a dull, throbbing reminder. I tried to breathe, but panic forming in my throat made it difficult to do properly. Hyperventilating created clouds of dizziness. I tried to get up, but slammed back onto a floating surface as soft as velvet. When my movement made the swaying worse, I rolled to the edge of a bed and released all the dried apricots and fish from my stomach.

A bucket scooted under the vomit stream, the heaves so violent I almost fell to the floor. Warm hands held me up and pulled back my hair as I emptied the last of my stomach’s contents, leaving a hole so big I wanted to disappear in it, escape everything.

Sobs filled the room, distant at first, but then blaring right inside my head, almost as loud as the Guides’ attack. Moisture coated my face, coming from my eyes, my nose…my mouth. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t.

“Shhh…I’m here, you’re safe.”

Familiar safety of soft arms held tighter, the smell of vanilla pushing past the pain.

Wilma.

I clung to her, not opening my eyes again, not wanting to face reality. Ever. She didn’t force me and held on until the very last sob escaped. Until nothing was left.

I wanted to go home, forget everything.

I killed them.

My head stayed nestled in the crook of her arm. She rocked me, stroked my hair. Said words I didn’t bother to try to comprehend. I cleaved to her voice. Too much. All of it had become too much. I couldn’t deal anymore.

Take me home!

Oblivion rescued me again. This time, blackness gave me peace.