I am prey.
This is not pity talking, this is an acknowledgment of a fact.
I am small and weak; I am an Omega. I am a prize that men war over.
For a year, I have hidden in the distant corner of the Empire.
But I am running out of food, and I am running out of options.
That I must leave soon is not a decision for today, though, but a decision for tomorrow.
Only tomorrow's choices never come.
For tonight brings strangers who remind me that I am prey.
Publisher's Note: Prey is a fantasy reverse harem omegaverse with three stern Alphas, an Alpha wolf-shifter, and a stubborn Omega prey. It includes smoking hot sexual situations, spankings, and domestic discipline.
I'm roused from wishful considerations by a thumping on the door.
I freeze; a sweeping current of energy rushes up my spine. My ears strain, but all I can hear is the gentle patter of rain hitting the roof and the gust of wind. I rack my brains for an explanation, something coming loose in the wind perhaps, and yet that sound was distinct…deliberate.
Shep, my dog, is outside. Maybe he’s trying to get in?
The heavy thud sounds again, and this time I know someone or something far bigger than Shep is at my door.
“Members of the Imperium Guard seeking shelter for the night,” a gruff voice calls from beyond the door.
I jump out of bed and stare around the darkened room in mindless terror. I need to run or hide, but I don’t do either of those things.
“Please leave! There is no one here!” This is possibly the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever made in my entire life. In one short speech, I’ve proclaimed myself as both female and alone. Further, that I’m either stupid or have been made so by my fear! “I have the pox!”
“Bollocks, she has the pox,” another voice says, muffled behind the door. This one sounds younger. “I know that scent. There’s an Omega in there.”
Those words tip ice into my veins and finally rouse my wits. I shove my feet into my boots. A muffled thud and grunt comes from beyond the door—goddess help me they are fighting now! It pokes my flight mode with a great big stick, and without a backward glance or consideration, I’m prying open the window at the back of the house and making my escape
Atom Ulvan, Left Fist of the Emperor, lived a life of power until a rival family destroyed the Meriwether Clan. Now, on the run across the galaxy, Atom must flee the death behind him and use his unique skill-set to survive.
Intent on hunting down his enemies, his two-year-old daughter Margo might be the only one to stop him. Without her, nothing exists to keep Atom from an all-out war on his betrayers.
Genesis is a space-western odyssey across the galaxy that forces a gun-slinging rogue to balance his life between trying to stay alive and coping with fatherhood on the fly. Hop aboard the One Way Ticket with Atom and Margo as they fly the black in search of redemption, revenge, and a little peace and quiet.
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“I never buried her,” Atom whispered to the ghosts as he sat on the metal stairs, his head in his hands.
He sat in silence, listening to the atmo recycling.
“It’ll pass, girl,” he said without lifting his eyes. Margo cooed in reply. “We just need to find our course. We’ve got a ship and some open skies to get lost in. The Walkers will keep after us, but they won’t ever catch us. I won’t let them.”
Atom lifted his head to look at Margo, and she smiled with childish innocence from where she sat in the middle of the empty cargo hold.
“Admiral of the Cheturian Empire, and all I can salvage is one lousy merch,” he thrust himself to his feet and paced the hold. “I’ve commanded fleets of battleships and carriers, marine armies have dropped on planets at my word. But all that’s gone now, and I’ve commandeered this pile of junk.
“One Way Ticket seems a solid name, though.” His sad laugh echoed through the hold. “I’ll keep it on the books, but I gave her a new brain. I even named that AI Kozue. You’ll understand when you get older.”
Margo toddled over to Atom, and he picked her up. Greedily, he hugged her to his chest, breathing in the scent of her soft, dark ringlets. “You look just like your mother, minus the curl in your hair.
“That you get from me,” he lifted her above his head and smiled, but sorrow lined his eyes. He dropped her to his hip and headed for the stairs.
“I’d say it’s time we plot a course for nowhere. Wanderers we’ll be, just you and me, and the ship makes three,” he sang as he mounted the stairs and danced in folk fashion to the empty bridge. “One little astral family.
“Let’s see if we can’t find ourselves something to keep this crate flying.”
* * *
The stars winked in a lonesome kaleidoscope of pinpricked light. Only the nearest systems moved in the darkness as the One Way Ticket sailed through the void with minimum engine output.
Atom reclined in the pilot’s seat, embracing the silence.
“Where to, Go?” he locked his hands behind his head and smiled down at his daughter/copilot as she sat, with a chubby hand pressed against the plasteel laced canopy, at the nose of the bridge. She looked up and studied his face with a solemn air.
Atom cocked a scruffy eyebrow. “Oh, Fiver, you have so much to learn. I’m not sure how I’m going to raise you proper without your mother.
“The ship will have to be your mother.” He dropped his propped feet from the console and stood. “It’s a poor substitute, but it’ll do. I can’t replace her in my heart, and honest, I don’t feel the need to.
“As long as we stay a step ahead of the knives and pick them off as we find them, I’ll be content.” He scooped Margo up in his arms and held her close. “Not happy, mind you, but content. Happy died with your mother. I’m bound to her memory, and that’s locked in this ship, so I’m married to this ship now.
“We’ll raise you.” He held her back and studied the innocence of her eyes. “Live or die, we’re bound to her memory and the honor of our family. We may be wanderers now, but it’s our duty to carry on the Ulvan name for as long as we have breath to do so.”
Keeping his eyes locked on his daughter, he swept from the bridge. “Kozue, keep us on course, and let me know if anything pops the scans.”
“I’ll do that, Atom,” the ship’s AI replied in a soft feminine voice.
Atom paused in the hatch. The voice belonged to his wife, and while it tugged at his heart, the familiar kept his mind focused. His first order, after initiating a hard burn from his home system, entailed loading every scrap of his wife’s digital footprint into the AI. While it proved a mimicry, the ship’s core absorbed a surprising level of his wife’s consciousness.
“Keep our child safe.” He reached out with his off hand and caressed the wall.
“That I will, dear. And protect yourself as well.”
“Go first, Kozue.” Atom looked down at his daughter as she nuzzled into his chest. “Always protect her first.”
* * *
A red light blipped on the dim bridge.
“Atom,” Kozue murmured, rousing him from a light slumber. Across the room, Margo slept in a cocoon-like hammock.
“What is it?” Atom rubbed sleep from his eyes, sat up, and tossed his blanket back.
“I’m detecting a ship flying in our wake.”
“She’s broadcasting a merchant code, but the vessel is still too far out for scanners to get a good read.”
“I hope she’s just a merch,” Atom muttered as he dressed and hurried to the bridge. “Keep ears on Go for me.”
“I always have ears and eyes on her, Atom.”
Atom jogged through the hallway. Miraculously, the ship gave the illusion of space, despite the structural constraints of every space-faring vessel. Dimly lit, the hallway somehow appeared pleasant rather than cold.
Only a few days out from Greenholm, Atom found himself falling in love with the ship. More than just a memory, she offered a future, a wandering future, but a future nonetheless. The ship offered freedom. She offered a slim chance, a chance to survive, but also a chance to carry on. Admiral of nothing, Atom dictated his own future. No longer beholden to the dictates and mandates of the Cheturian Emperor, he wandered after his own will, free but masterless.
“The ship is closing,” Kozue stated. “Long range scans support the ID tag of a merch, but something in their approach seems off.”
“What do you mean?” Atom dropped into the pilot’s chair and began pulling up information on his two holo-consoles.
“Their pursuit is too precise.”
“That it is.” Atom’s fingers flew through the air even as he scowled at the images hovering before him. “It’s a sloppy disguise. They’re trawling, and so the question sits, are they after me, or just after a ship?”
“They’re looking for a prize. A merch never travels directly in another’s wake, unless in a planetary holding pattern. Even then, most captains worth their air will vary the line by a degree or two.”
“True, I believe this to be a result of erratic waste disposal of merchant ships,” Kozue said, and Atom wondered if he detected a hint of his wife’s wry humor.
“That it is, love. But to these trackers, space is too big to have somebody in my wake accidentally. Talk to their core. Find me a hint of their intent.”
“I imagine they mean to board us.”
“My guess too, but do they mean to capture us or kill us? And if they mean to kill us, why not just drop a torp from a distance and be done with it?”
“My estimation is they want it to look like a pirate raid. A torpedo leaves wreckage floating in the trade lanes that might raise some questions among the royal families.” Kozue brought up schematics and a correspondence log with the pursuing ship. “A derelict with a couple corpses points to pirates, especially if it’s stripped. I believe I have been able to discourse with the Green Anne discretely enough that her crew is unaware of my intentions.”
“What did you find?” Atom rubbed a hand through his ruddy-blond curls and scowled at the information flowing by.
“Six crew. None of them have records in the core. In fact, I can find no record of these people anywhere. I believe we are pursued by ghosts. They may be mercenary, but more likely military. I don’t believe I have ever heard of a merc ship with no record whatsoever.
“Either way, probably indicates they are coming for the kill.”
* * *
Margo sat in the center of the empty hold, alone and playing with a rough metal doll Atom had cobbled together. With concentration, she banged the doll on the rubber flooring and made the doll take impressive leaps into the silence of the hold.
A hiss of equalizing pressure escaped as the outer hold door slid open. Muffled by the inner door, the thumping of the intruders sounded distant. With military proficiency, they overrode the locking mechanism and popped the seal on the inner door. A waft of foreign ship, sweat, and oil slid into the hold as the first pair of invaders crouched just inside the cover of the blast doors with their blaster rifles covering the room.
Margo looked up at the intrusion, curiosity lined her eyes.
Another pair, male and female, stepped beyond the first line in a low crouch. Their weapons swept the empty hold. All four paused to study the lone child sitting in the center of the hold, clutching her makeshift doll protectively.
“This is creepy, Cap.” The first soldier flipped on the personal shield hanging from his belt. “Somethin’ ain’t right.”
“I smell you.” The leader motioned for the rest of his soldiers to activate shields as he slid over to Margo. His eyes and rifle scanned the room in a constant state of motion. As he knelt beside the girl he counted the five hatches, including their point of access, two side hatches, a sealed blast door at the rear, and a final door at the top of a set of metal stairs above the blast door. “Venson, Crede, cover the flank hatches.”
Without a word, the second pair of soldiers drifted over to inspect the floor-level doorways away from the others.
The captain scowled at the shadowy, upper door, even as he knelt beside the girl. His rifle never wavered from the dim recesses beyond, but his eyes flicked to the child.
“What are you doing here, little one?” He scanned the girl and determined no threat. He reached for the girl.
A shot rang out.
Archaic and loud, the gun drew a squeak from Margo as she turned to locate the source. Surprise lit the captain’s face as blood seeped from a hole in his chest. With a grunt he collapsed to the floor, staring in wonder at Margo as his eyes lost focus.
Blaster fire erupted from the five soldiers, focusing on the hatch above. Disregarding the colorful display of death, Atom stepped through the door with a long-barreled pistol in each hand. The energy from the attacking rifle bolts slammed into his shield, swirling with light before absorbing into the shield batteries. Atom squeezed off a careful shot, and another attacker fell before the four remaining soldiers took cover in their doorways.
“You’re bleedin’ nutso, mate,” one of the cringing soldiers yelled from a side hatch. “If you miss, you punch a hole,and then we’re all space dust.”
As the man spoke, Atom made his way down the stairs, pistols at the ready.
“Then I shouldn’t miss,” Atom replied as he fired another shot, and the third soldier dropped.
Breaking into a sprint, he dove through the airlock hatch, and before the soldiers could react, he put a bullet in each of them. The first died with the side of his head painting the airlock wall, but the second lingered a moment with a sucking chest wound. Atom stood over his fallen foe and administered a merciful end before stepping back into the hold.
“Another step, and she dies,” the last soldier yelled as he clutched Margo to his chest with his short assault blaster jammed to her side. Sweat beaded at his forehead. “We’re here for you. I can drop her at the nearest planet and let her live, or I can drop her right here. Your choice.”
Atom eyed the man with disdain.
“She’s ready,” Atom growled. “As am I.”
Fusing childlike innocence and guile beyond her years, Margo reached down and tugged at the rifle muzzle. For an instant, the man’s eyes dropped to the girl. Atom took the opening with a sweeping shot, and the soldier lost his eye.
As graceful as a dancer, Atom stepped forward and lifted Margo from the man’s arms. Then the soldier sank to the ground.
“That proved impressive,” Kozue said.
“I trained my whole life as the Lord High Admiral,” Atom replied, looking over the corpses littering his hold. “It was my place to protect the emperor, and take his head if the time ever came. I never failed.”
“I know this, but that doesn’t alter the impressiveness of what I witnessed firsthand.”
Atom grunted in thanks.
An abusive childhood and an accident in his teens left stallion-shifter, Malcolm Patterson, with a distrust for his father and a lot of holes in his memory. When his dad passes away, Malcolm returns to Horse Mountain to fulfill his obligation to settle his old man’s affairs but finds the shifter community’s near hero-worship of the late doctor disquieting. He’s further shaken to meet a curvy beauty at the funeral who makes his heart gallop and his primal instincts take over.
Suki Marks has been in love with handsome and noble Malcolm Patterson ever since he saved her from bullies who called her an abomination when she was ten. He was the first person to be straight with her about the reasons some people shunned her family and was quick to debunk those prejudices as the ignorant folktales and stupid superstitions they were. Even after Malcolm graduated high school and left town, she couldn’t forget him, but becoming Doctor Patterson’s live-in nurse in his last year of life was a coincidence. She never expected to be named in the wealthy physician’s will.
Malcolm assumed he’d be disinherited, but even from the after-life, his father continues to turn the knife, using his will to set up an elaborate scheme to taint Malcolm's feelings for the woman who might be his fated mate. To make matters worse, a dangerous shifter-purist movement is brewing among a small segment of the Horse Mountain Clan, and they’re determined to prevent Suki from passing on her genes to a new generation. Will Malcolm be able to work through his past in time to secure his and Suki’s future?
Warning: Saving Suki is a smoking hot romance with graphic, put-you-in-the-moment love scenes. If you're offended by sexual language, you might want to consider another book. The book can stand alone without reading the others in the series.
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A sorrowful expression crossed her face and he knew he’d already said too much about his unusual upbringing. As he contemplated a way to lighten the mood again, she found the answer without saying a word, reaching up to her shoulder and placing her hand over his. A squeezing sensation in his chest complimented the haze rolling over his rationality. So many mixed emotions vexed him since his return, especially the anger and regret he’d tried his best to lock away. Her tiny gesture and light touch sent all the pain scurrying. Warmth bloomed over his knuckles and radiated up his arm, gaining intensity and burning the hottest across his torso.
“You’re putting on a brave face, but how are you really holding up?”
Her words pricked at his brain as he breathed in her sumptuous fragrance. “Umm…honestly, if I try to think about my father being gone forever, I feel a bit numb.” As his own words hung in the air, an odd, sour sensation stirred in his stomach. Why the hell did I tell her that?
He hated thinking about his dad. Imagining how things could have been if they’d reconciled seemed useless since he'd never admitted he’d always wanted the old buzzard’s love. He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about his contradictory emotions on the subject, but even still he could hear his stupid mouth dropping more of his secrets like a huge drain sending washed-away filth out of the shower.
“Things were never good between us and during the entire funeral, I felt like a fraud.”
“The parent-child relationship is often a complicated one.” She rested her head on his shoulder while tucking herself in closer to his side, another comforting gesture that somehow had him ready to spill his guts to this woman he barely knew.
“No kidding. I know I’m supposed to be devastated…I can’t seem to muster up much feeling on his passing at all.” Why, why, why! Why can’t I keep my big trap shut around her? She’s going to think I’m a fucking sociopath.
“Perhaps you will when the shock wears off a little,” she replied.
“Maybe, but I doubt it. I know it sounds bad, but my dad wasn’t the man that all those people today thought he was. If they knew half of what he was really like…Shit, I must sound like a huge asshole. I’m sorry. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this stuff.”
She patted his knee. “Because you need to talk to someone and I’m here.”
Wrong! Wrong! If I wanted to dredge up all this bullshit until I choke on it, I’d be talking to Dash and Mama Carol; they know the real deal. Part of him wanted to call it a night if only to end the uncomfortable conversation, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. His heart raced as he swallowed the lump in his throat. Normally, the horse inside him would have been ready to bolt, but at this moment, the damn thing was more like a mule, digging its hooves in and refusing to budge.
“It’s not like I’m happy he’s gone. It’s more like I can’t force myself to feel sad about it.”
In a dark vision of the near future, Los Angeles has become a desolate wasteland after a multi-pronged biological, nuclear, and EMP attack that paralyzed Southern California on a day that the rest of the nation celebrated independence. For the unlucky "New Angelinos," there is only one way out: gain entry into the New United States through The Raffle.
When raffler Ramsey Arami wins The Raffle after ten years of trying, he believes he will finally reunite with his wife and daughter in the New United States. But only if he follows the rules of the New United States.
Climaxing in Area 51, Randy Smith delivers a fast-paced geopolitical thriller that is equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, science and technology in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.
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May 19, 2027
“You have three hours and fifty-nine minutes before the Raffle,” the blond haired, blue-eyed female guard said at the end of the narrow hallway we had been walking. She pressed her hand against a pad next to a door and it opened. A sign above the door said “Raffler #1”. As she stared into my eyes to see my reaction, she said, “Please enter your waiting room, Raffler #1.”
I nodded and surveyed the room. It was small, about one-hundred-fifty square feet with a single cot covered with white linen sheets and a pillow. Folded blue coveralls lay at the end of the cot. Perched halfway between the cot and the ceiling was what appeared to be a white, plastic-covered square speaker. Next to the speaker was a black-paneled clock with red-colored digits displaying the current time: 8:01.
A small white desk stood against the left-side wall with a white swivel chair. The desk and chair reminded me of a smaller version of a desk my wife and I had in our home office almost eleven years ago. Positioned in the center of the desk were a new notepad and two sharpened pencils, also things I hadn’t seen in almost eleven years.
Noticing that I was staring at the desk and the pad of paper, the guard said, “We encourage Rafflers having progressed this far to write.”
“Write what?” I asked cautiously.
“Anything they desire. A prayer, their thoughts, or a letter to individuals they knew before July 2016 that may live now in the New United States.”
“And why do you encourage writing?”
“Because writing is a skill New Angelinos have not used regularly in many years.”
She watched my reaction before continuing. “If your Raffle ticket gets picked tonight, you will be Re-Patriated to the New United States. Our Re-Partition Laws require Re-Patriated New Angelinos to have a job within two weeks of re-entry. And not all jobs available to Re-Patriots are the manual labor jobs that New Angelinos have been doing for the past ten years.”
“And who will read what I write?”
“That is entirely up to you. At 11:59 tonight, you will hear over the speaker above the number of the Raffle winner. If you are the winner and choose not to submit a letter for delivery, you may take your writings with you and nobody will ever read them or ask them of you. Your writings are yours to keep as a last physical memento of your time in New Angeles.”
“Am I supposed to believe no one will read the writings if I am picked tonight?”
“The ability to trust and show you are trustworthy are important skills to possess. By allowing you to participate in the Raffle we trust you no longer show the effects of M-V-16 Virus. Those showing effects of the Virus fail to advance as far as you have today.”
She paused and made direct eye contact with me, presumably to make sure I understood before continuing.
“And being able to trust in the New United States is also important for Re-Patriation eligibility. So, if you are told your writings will not be read if you choose not to submit them, then you should trust us.”
I realized believing, or at least pretending I believed, that my writings would not be read was another stage of the Raffle. Having never been so close to having my number drawn, I agreed to buy what she was selling, but I was still confused.
“Why would I choose to submit what I write to you?”
“On the other side of this wall you will find two slots, one marked destruction and the other marked distribution.”
She looked back in my eyes and said, “The destruction slot leads to an incinerator beneath us, and you may deposit your writings into the destruction slot at any time and they will not be read.” She paused again, presumably for effect.
“If you deposit a letter with sufficient delivery details to someone you believe lives in the New United States and the letter is submitted by 11:49 tonight, then we will deliver it per your instructions. Of course, that means we will thoroughly read your letter to ensure the best possible chance of delivery.”
I nodded and said, “Thank you for the explanation.”
While stepping forward I made a slight asking bow to her with a head nod towards my room, “May I enter?”
She squinted her eyes, making a mental note of my moves. I realized I passed another test by asking permission before entering the room.
“One more matter you should know that occurs at exactly 11:49 tonight. You must decide whether you will increase your chances tenfold by pledging your next ten Raffle entries. We call it ‘Pledging Your Ten’”.
“‘Pledging Your Ten’?” I said with surprise. “The Proclamation never mentioned ‘Pledging Your Ten’.” I reached into my yellow jumpsuit to retrieve my obligatory copy of The Proclamation.
“We completed the Settlement over ten years ago, Raffler #1. You are ignorant of many adjustments the New United States has made to the Raffle. If you are willing to maximize your chances tonight, we will document the pledging of your next ten Raffle tickets. If you fail to win tonight, you will not be allowed to participate in the Raffle for the next ten years.”
“Am I required to pledge my ten Raffle tickets?”
“No, you are not required to Pledge Your Ten, though, in making your decision, you should consider what the seven other Rafflers will do tonight.”
I nodded and looked away into the room. “Can I pledge less than ten?”
“No, Raffler #1. You may choose to Pledge Your Ten or take your chances with your single Raffle ticket tonight.”
I nodded. “Thank you, ma’am. Anything else I should be aware of before I enter?” I asked respectfully.
“You may enter, Raffler #1. Please remove your jumpsuit once the door is closed behind you. We have fresh coveralls for you on the cot.”
As I stepped into the room, I looked at the clock, which said 8:04 pm. I then heard the door whoosh closed behind me and lock itself. I realized I spent precious minutes learning about my choices before the Raffle tonight. My mind ruminated about the length of my questions: Was that another part of the test? Did I take too long? Was I too short?
The rumination lasted a precious minute: once the clock hit 8:05, my mind began to race. I stared at the clock, then closed my eyes, and breathed slowly until I was in complete control of my nerves. I continued to breathe until I had full control of my thoughts and mind through my brief standing meditation and opened my eyes to see it was now 8:07: Three hours and fifty-two minutes until the Raffle. I nodded to myself while staring back and forth at the desk and the cot, and asked myself, “Sleep or write? What will I do?”
Using the buttons on the side I stripped off and folded my mandatory yellow jumpsuit and placed it under the cot. I also removed my obligatory copy of the Proclamation and my Raffle ticket. I put on the coveralls and placed the Proclamation and the ticket in the front left pocket.
Trying to relax, I sat on the cot and placed my head in my hands. My racing mind felt like it was thumping, but I realized the thumping was just my heart. I was so close to leaving New Angeles, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. Only eight Rafflers remained. And how many of us would “Pledge Your Ten”? Maybe the others will think if they advanced this far this year then they will again next year and choose not to pledge their next ten Raffles. But, logic told me everyone would pledge their next ten Raffle tickets to increase their chances of being picked tonight. And if everyone else was maximizing their chances, then I should as well.
After breathing in deeply and exhaling, I looked at the clock. It was now 8:10. I thought about my wife and daughter. I had not seen or communicated with them in almost eleven years. The last time I saw them was when I dropped them off at LAX on July 3, 2016 for their trip to visit my wife’s parents near Boston. Although I wasn’t sure they were still alive, in my heart I believed they were and my belief kept me alive these years. It fueled my instinct to survive and continue every time I wanted to quit. I hoped every day to see them again. And now if the security guard told the truth, I had the chance to at least write them a letter. Other than documenting New United States fuel shipments to the Asian Quadrant I had written little in the past 11 years so my writing skills were poor. Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity: I decided to write a letter to my wife and daughter.
She wanted to find her place in the universe. She never imagined it might not be on Earth.
When Emily Murphy over slept the morning of her college entrance exam, she thought missing her test was the worst thing that could happen. She never expected she would wind up lost halfway across the galaxy, battling aliens with laser guns and mages hurling lightning.
Like most seventeen year olds, Emily's main concern had been navigating the perils of high school, not surviving shootouts and sorcery. That changed when her school was attacked and a student was kidnapped. While everyone else smartly fled from danger, she recklessly ran toward it mounting an impossible rescue that would lead her on a journey unlike anything she could have imagined.
Dropped into a strange world teeming with merciless criminals and ruthless aristocrats, surrounded by violence and betrayal, Emily must untangle a web of intrigue and deceit to solve the mystery behind the abduction, save her classmate, and discover the destiny which awaits her.
It is either that, or die trying...
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World peace came with rules. We’ve just broken them.
In the year 2055, millions of humans were wiped out by a deadly virus known as EMB-II, a bioweapon strain of Ebola that could not be stopped. The need to get off the planet and into space was never stronger. Before the ships could be launched, First Contact was made. A dozen spaceships arrived, carrying twelve Criterion Advocates – peacekeepers of the universe – and thousands of Criterion soldiers, aides, workers, and engineers. To stop the virus getting into space, Earth was placed under quarantine and work begun to save the planet and humanity. Through tough control measures, world peace was achieved.
The year is now 2355. The virus is gone. Humanity is eager to get into space. Yet the Earth is still under quarantine. The Criterion are lying to us. What they don’t know is that we’re lying to them.
Kethryn Miller is an award-winning actress, but nothing will prepare her for the role she’ll take on when a strange woman who shouldn’t be alive turns up in the city, threatening to expose the lies that have kept peace on Earth for 200 years.
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Damn world peace. It wasn’t worth her happiness.
Kethryn Miller drained the last of her wine before turning her scornful gaze to the shimmering lights below. City Prime was beautiful at night, yet the millions of lights, in every imaginable color, did little to stop the loneliness settling in.
Far below, lights blinked like neon lovers communicating in code. At least until midnight. After midnight, the power conserves came into effect, and buildings disappeared from the skyline as holo-advertisements and electricity mains shut down. Complete darkness lasted no more than the blink of a neon light; like children afraid of the dark, buildings flickered into life as insomniacs reclaimed the night.
As Kethryn watched over the world from the balcony of the forty-second floor, she wondered what kept her fellow insomniacs awake. She would swap her troubles for theirs any day.
A Criterion ship popped into view. Reflexively, Kethryn took a step back. The Divinity was gold and elliptical with sensor arrays that resembled incandescent roots reaching for the ground. One of a hundred border patrol ships, one for each Earth state, this alien hawk followed a pre-plotted course around the ten cities of State Seven. A citizen could tell time by the patrols. Each noon and midnight, the Divinity floated over City Prime. Each night when it hovered by, Kethryn sensed the co-operatives inside – humans who worked security detail for the Criterions – watching her watching them.
She reached for the bottle of wine on the table and the movement activated the Visual Imaging Device – VID – pulling her attention to the image projected onto the screen. It showed an invitation for the presidential inauguration in two weeks, one she couldn’t avoid since this was her inauguration. Spending her adult life dodging the inevitable now seemed like a waste.
She shifted her gaze from the lights to the full moon that sat to the right of the border ship. Long ago that moon had lured man to reach it. And they had. They lived in permanent habitats in self-imposed seclusion for three months at a time. It granted them little contact with family or friends, and when they returned to Earth they complained of the noise and begged to go back. Their bodies slowly decayed from constantly applying aluminum gel as protection against radiation. Their flesh festered from bedsores that never healed because of the implanted mood-gauging sensors that monitored their vital signs and mental stability. Mooners were a weird lot, and yet she envied them.
She took a sip of wine. Too sweet. It belied her current mood. The quarantine of Earth, placed by the Criterion three centuries ago, should have been lifted by now and the technology to launch a spaceship beyond the end of the Solar System granted. And yet it hadn’t. Why were humans still on Earth? Why had the Criterion not gone home after ridding the planet of the deadly virus? Why did nobody care that mankind’s peace and freedom came with chains?
These were questions to ask a Criterion advocate, and a wry smile tugged at her cheeks that she’d get her chance in two weeks.
*New and Lengthened 2018 Edition*
How well do you know yourself?
Sixteen-year-old Elle thinks she's got life in Shady Oaks all under control until new boy Asher comes to town. Elle can't explain it, but she can't deny the connection she feels to him. Things with Asher are going great until they're out one night and nearly attacked by a large wolf. Before she knows it, Elle's life is spiraling out of control: Maddox is in love with her, she and Asher are in danger…
and she learns she's a shifter!
If that wasn't bad enough, she finds herself in the middle of an ages-old war between shifters and hunters.
What else can she do but join the cause?
Will Elle stay with Asher or break-up with him to be with Maddox? What does it mean to be a shifter? Who will emerge victorious in the battle?
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As if on cue, a wild and ferocious animal broke through the brush and leaped through the air, landing only inches from where Asher and I were standing. It was a wolf, gray and brown with golden yellow eyes and a muscular frame.
Blood dripped from the predator's sharp fangs. I couldn't help but stare in wild fascination as the animal sauntered toward us. Its grin seemed to grow with each deliberate step, as though the beast was mocking us. My heart began to race, and my breath faltered as I took in the beast gnashing its teeth in front of us. I could see its wild hairs as they moved in the wind as it stared at us, standing there, frozen with fear.
I slowly turned my head to look at Asher, hoping he'd be able to offer me something to help calm my growing fear. Instead of seeing nervousness like I'd expected, I saw a fuming mad Asher staring daggers into the eyes of the wild animal across from us. I moved toward the animal and saw a similar heated and irritated glare staring back at Asher. It was as though the two were in a standoff, both equally livid and irritated by the presence of the other.
My eyes found their way to the beast, and I couldn't help but linger on its shape, size, and color. One small glimpse into its golden eyes and I had no choice but to observe its every move. I watched its massive and muscular chest rise with rough breaths. I should have been stricken with fear. I should have been crying and begging the animal not to tear open my throat and eat me for a snack, but I wasn't. Instead, I regarded the animal with fascination. There was something about the creature that had lured me into its presence.
Without thinking, I took a step forward, gaining the creature's interest. It tore its snarling gaze from Asher and seemed to calm as the golden eyes drank me in.
"Elle, stop," Asher whispered. He reached out and grabbed my arm.
With his movement, the creature growled and let out an ear-piercing and heart-stopping howl. I swear, it was as though Asher's grabbing me had enraged the animal. I knew that sounded wildly insane, but something was off about our encounter, and I couldn't stop myself from being drawn to its existence.
"Watch out," Asher yelled again, pulling me protectively behind him.
He stood tall in front of me, using his body as a shield, trying to form a wall between the beast and myself.
BOOK 3 OF THE SERIES COMING SEPTEMBER 13TH
Synopsis: For Elle, she thought the day she learned she was a Shifter was the most frustrating day of her life. Well, that was until she found herself in the middle of a war between her best friend and boyfriend. Now, everything is about to change for this trio as a known Witch in Shady Oaks has decided to wage a war against the Shifters and Otherworldly Creatures. This time, Elle may find herself battling with new powers and without her trusted best friend, Maddox. Discover how hearts are broken and mended in this exciting third installment of the Shifter Chronicles, Everlight
Book Title: Evernight
Release Date: September 13th, 2018
Publisher: Kingston Publishing
About the Author: Michelle Areaux is a wife, mother, educator, and young adult author. Her love for coffee helps drive her to create magical, fantasy stories.
Purchase Links: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DYJKBRZ?pf_rd_p=d1f45e03-8b73-4c9a-9beb-4819111bef9a&pf_rd_r=KEC0BPYKMT52XYRPD0HQ
Social Media Links:
It all started with a haunted Ouija board in Nashville and the cold case murder of Sophie Mathews. Then, Henry Meyer did not commit suicide in his tobacco barn in Columbia and the case went cold. When Olivia Honeycutt takes on the case of Eloise Venable Freeman, she must accept her paranormal proclivities. Eloise and her infant daughter, Andrea, allegedly died in a horrific fire thirty years ago. Her husband, David, is not satisfied with ashes. David wants answers. Olivia travels to Shelbyville, Tennessee, and the world of the Walking Horses to solve her most challenging mystery to date.
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Sixteen-year-old Brieze is the apprentice and adopted daughter of a powerful wizard. She never met her biological father, a merchantman from the faraway Eastern Kingdoms who had a brief romance with her mother, then disappeared. When Brieze discovers her mother is still secretly, crazily in love with this man, even after seventeen years, she decides to find him, confront him, and get some answers from him for her mother's sake.
In her small airship the Devious, she makes the long and dangerous journey to the Eastern Kingdoms. Along the way, she confronts pirates and the nocturnal ship-crushing beast known as the Nagmor. She survives a harrowing trip through the legendary Wind's Teeth. She discovers why her father disappeared, and in the process she learns the true version of her own story.
When Brieze's boyfriend, Tak, receives word she's in danger, he sets out on his own journey east to help her. Will he be able to rescue her, or will she end up having to rescue him?
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Brieze’s mother was acting strange. She’d been moping and sighing around the wizard’s house all day, doing dumb things. She’d left her hairbrush on the stairs of all places, where Brieze had nearly tripped over it and broken her neck, and she’d forgotten to feed the wizard’s exotic birds, which squawked hungrily from their cages in the parlor. Brieze was pretty sure her mother’s state of mind had something to do with Tobias the handyman. The two had stopped talking to each other, and Tobias was moping around the house too.
Her mother had wandered outside to the wide front lawn that stretched to the edge of the wizard’s floating island. Brieze kept an eye on her from an upstairs window as she played chess with the wizard. The wizard took a long time making his moves, and she went to the window and watched while she waited.
Now her mother was doing more dumb things. She wasn’t wearing a cloak, even though the fall chill outside hinted strongly of the winter to come, and she was standing much too close to the island’s edge, especially for such a windy day. And it was hard for Brieze to tell at this distance, but she didn’t seem to be wearing a parachute pack, which was not just dumb but dangerous.
With the late afternoon sun low in the sky and the island positioned near the Highspire Mountains, the view was spectacular. From horizon to horizon, silvery gray clouds blanketed the surface of Etherium, as they always did. To the east, the mountains rose tall and craggy and green out these clouds, reaching for the sky. The mountain range stretched northward and southward in lazy zigs and zags, the farthest mountains fading off into the distance. The sky was a pretty shade of pinkish-purple. Banks of cumulus clouds piled high on the horizon like echoes of the mountains.
The nearest mountain was so close that, if her mother were looking at the view, she could have made out the terraced fields and orchards on its lower flanks. She could have glimpsed the tiny specks of ox- and donkey-drawn carts making their way along the roads that spiraled or switchbacked up the mountainside. Further up the mountain, she could have seen the city of Selestria in all its sunlit splendor, the brightly-colored pennants flying from the roofs of the stone houses, the airships swarming about the city like busy bees—constantly touching down and taking off—their silvery sails glinting when they caught the sun. At the mountain’s crown, she could have admired Castle Selestria, which seemed as much a part of the sky as part of the earth, its tallest towers and turrets lost in the clouds.
But Brieze’s mother wasn’t looking at any of this. She hadn’t gone outside for the view. She stood with her head down, shoulders hunched, and her hands thrust deep into her pockets, muttering to herself. She didn’t notice the gusts of wind tugging at her skirt. The knotted bun of her hair had come undone—it whipped around her face in a frenzy.
Brieze unclipped a brand-new spyglass from the belt of her black flightsuit. It had been a gift from the wizard for her sixteenth birthday. She studied her mother through it. The house’s rafters groaned in the wind.
“Ah ha!” the wizard said, and advanced one of his pawns with a satisfied little clink. “Your move.”
“She’s not wearing a parachute,” Brieze said, peering through the spyglass.
“Hmmmm…?” the wizard looked up from the chessboard, his blue eyes blinking beneath bushy white brows.
“It’s windy out there and she forgot to grab a chute from the porch.”
The wizard came to the window. He frowned at the distant figure of Patentia Crofter standing near the island’s edge with her shoulders hunched against the wind, her hands in her pockets, her hair flying. “That is exceedingly dangerous,” he said, his brow furrowing and his eyebrows squinching closer together.
And, as if to prove him right, a huge gust of wind ballooned Patentia’s skirt, lifted her off her feet, and carried her tumbling end-over-end off the island’s edge.
What would you do if you were the monarch of a
perfect, tropical paradise without a care in the
world? Well, King Norr would like to leave, and
"Where else but Nibb?" his subjects would contend.
Venturing away from Nibb was only inviting misery
Nevertheless, the King was intent to experience
the world beyond and this is the story of the
adventures that found him during that pursuit.
Telling too much would ruin the surprises in store,
but some of the mysteries include --
Who was the curious, little girl who would not speak?
Had Doctor Hinkus fallen prey to marauding drumbkins?
Whose prank set the Palace afloat?
What's a spudcake?
Do pirates bathe?
Did Uncle Fenwad roll out of the Palace?
What's a Sober Tooth Tiger?
Do Nibbian pigs have a future in aviation?
These questions and more arise just as Norr may
have found what he had always wanted. Never
mind his world had become perfectly chaotic. It
was also chaotically perfect, and nothing that
couldn't be remedied with an additional nap.
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R E V I E W S --
Marigold Deidre Dicer @ Versus Blurb -- Brisbane, Australia
Maxine @ Parakeet Book Reviews -- California
Deborah Gafford -- writer & book blogger -- Texas
Bethanie Armstrong @ Bethanie's Books -- Alabama
Laura W @ Blue Eye Books
Trang @ Bookidote -- Montréal, Québec
Saradia Chatterjee @ The Page-Hungry Bookworm
AUTHOR'S BIO --
The Gift of the Quoxxel is Richard's debut novel. His life
experience includes visual arts, freelance graphic design and
illustration, truck driving, verb conjugating, military service,
and mastery of an adequate meatloaf.
A Michigan native and parochial school survivor, Richard resides
with wife Marina close to, but far enough from New York City.