Monday, November 25, 2013

...Dare To Love Book Review...

Dare To Love,  Book Review (Published 2013)
By Carly Phillips

LP's Rating : 5/5 Stars

Genre: Romance/Erotica

Basic Overview:
Since finding out his father had another family on the side, Ian Dare swore to be the upstanding, responsible man his cheating parent had never been. When it comes to his relatives, he gives his all but in relationships he offers the bare minimum. But one glimpse of sensual Riley Taylor arouses his dominant and protective instincts and Ian is entranced. He will do anything to possess her … and does. But any future with Riley must include him extending an olive branch to the half-brother who is a constant reminder of the pain he’d rather forget.

Independent and always in control, Riley Taylor makes no apologies for choosing men carefully. Relationships have never been a priority and she believes herself hardened to domineering men – until she meets charismatic Ian Dare. He manages to turn a simple kiss into an all out assault on her senses and when he takes control in the bedroom, she’s stunned to discover she likes it. As their affair heats up, they soon realize they complete each other in ways neither imagined. But Riley’s past is closer than she cares to remember, and her struggles with Ian’s dominance might just cost her everything.

My Review.
This to me was one of Carly's best novels. I wasn't convinced I'd fall in love with Ian and Riley, but I did. Let me explain. I initially got hooked on Carly's books when I picked up one of The Hot Zone series books. I LOVED IT and demolished the series in a matter of days. As I continued reading more of her books and different series, I liked them, but they didn't leave me with any lasting impressions. HOWEVER...Dare To Love is a book I won't soon forget. It's one of those rare romances that has a little bit of everything I love in a book. 

What I liked.
The Characters. Ian and Riley are real to me. Their dynamic is clever and complex and beautifully written. Their tormented and haunted pasts come to life for me because they're believable. These characters are realistic and relateable, and they're...human.  
Riley. She's what you like to see in a female lead. She's compassionate, emotional, hard working, driven, both strong and vulnerable...everything that makes for an endearing leading lady. There were of course times when I wanted to smack her upside the head and tell her to swallow her pride and think with her head, but of course the more involved you want to get, the better and more riveting the story.
Ian. He's a man's man and he's not ashamed of it. He's a perfect match for Riley, even though he doesn't know it because they're both scarred, they're both scared, and they're both as vulnerable as they are strong. Their compatibility and lack of awareness that they're perfect for one another is what makes them so interesting to read. 

The Romance. This book's got the romance (oh boy does it have some romance, more than I was expecting even). Even though I was initially taken aback by the amount and explicitness, it worked for Ian and Riley, and I got sucked in. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy an erotica story just like most romance readers, but I was just surprised by how raw and gritty their story way. Pleasantly surprised, I'll add.  

What I didn't like.
If there was anything that rubbed me the wrong way (aside from the amount of explicit sex that was a surprise to me), none of it bothered me enough to recall or mention.

My Recommendation.
If you love Carly Phillips and enjoy a lot of sex in your contemporary romances, this is the book for you. If you like complexity and intricate story arcs, then you'll love this. If you don't appreciate erotica and romance novels are borderline too much for you, this is NOT the book for you. However, I personally have a great feeling about her new Dare series and can't wait to see which characters Carly allows us to follow and how different her writing is going to be now that she's gone Indie. It's SOOOO exciting! Welcome to the "dark" side, Carly. We're so lucky to have you!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

...Buy Into The Fire Today...

Into The Fire, the sequel to After The Ending, is now available!

The book can be purchased from:
In celebration of the release of Into The Fire, we're running a month-long sale of After The Ending, the first installment of The Ending Series. You can find the ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords for only $ .99! Sale ends December 24.

We're also running a release day blog blitz giveaway for a $15 Amazon gift card that ends tomorrow. Enter below!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

...Mama Movie Review...

Mama Movie Review (2013)
By Lindsey Pogue

Rating: PG-13/ 100 minutes

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

DirectorAndrés Muschietti
Producer: Guillermo del Toro

LP’s Rating: 5/5 stars


Basic Overview:  This is a story about two young girls who's father loses his mind, takes them out into the woods and attempts to kill them. Only the two girls are saved by "Mama" who becomes the very word. She feeds them, protects them, and plays with them all the while their uncle is searching for them, hoping that they're still alive...somewhere. Well, he gets his wish. After a handful of years he finds the girls, wild and living in an abandoned house in the woods. Little does he know that the two girls are not all he brings back into his home. He and his girlfriend get more than they bargain for when they try to civilize the girls, begin to love them, and are faced with the horrors that accompany life with the two girls. As the girls begin to see that Mama is dangerous and a threat to the family, the girls must choose between the spirit that raised them and their real family.

My Review. 
I really enjoyed this movie. In fact, this is the first "horror" movie I felt as if I was rooting for the monster as much as the protagonists. I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish and found it to be an overall satisfying and compelling horror movie, which I don't typically find. I went from not wanting to watch it to not being able to look away.

Why did I like it?
It's different. I've never seen a horror movie in which I'm torn as to who I should be cheering for. Although there is a definite "bad guy" or "monster" I almost see Mama as more of a "gray" character that's in between and compelling in her own way. Yes, she was a psycho in her past life, but she's also the one who saved the girls and took care of them for so long. She's reacting toward the family as any mother would when feeling threatened.

It's compelling. The relationship between the uncles girlfriend, Annabel, and the two nieces, Lilly and Victoria is very complex and feels real. I like that Annabel went into the situation not because she truly wanted to, but because it meant the everything to the love of her life. She gave up her band, her that she could try to play house with these two wild children and in the end, she was more of a mother to them than she could ever have predicted. I was rooting for her the ENTIRE time.

The ending. It wasn't a bad ending, in fact it was just more surprising than anything. It wasn't how you'd think a horror story should typically end--either everyone lives happily ever after or everyone dies. It was satisfying because it seemed to have a little bit of both. While one girl decides she wants to be with her family, the other decides Mama is her true home and she and Mama parish in happy ignorance at the end.

What I didn't like.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what I didn't like about this movie, nothing comes to mind  other than it was just so different than any other horror movies I've seen, but in a good way. There were of course instances when I was screaming, "Turn around you idiot!" or something like that, but that's a good sign, right?

My recommendation. If you like compelling, different horror movies, you probably like this. If you're more of an Exorcist fan or like Paranormal Activity, probably no so much. If you enjoy Guillermo del Toro movies, this is probably one you'll want to see and if you like to be conflicted as to who you should be rooting for, again, this might be a movie for you. Personally, I LOVE Jessica Chastain and as always, she didn't disappoint!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

...Chapter Reveal...

As promised to our loyal fans, here's Chapter One of Into The Fire, told from Zoe's perspective.  Enjoy! Release day is this Friday!!!!

some adult language and themes beyond this point.***

March 14, 1AE

No! No! This can’t be happening!

“Dani!” My voice carried throughout the eerily quiet field as I sprinted along the pasture fence, away from the barn and toward Dani’s bone-chilling scream. Jake was right behind me, the light from his flashlight dancing around my bare feet. Each breath was so loud, so raspy, it was like I could hear nothing else.

My mind started to feel odd, momentarily distracting me as I ran, but I ignored the feeling along with the frigid air biting at my skin and the jagged rocks poking the bottoms of my feet. My eyes blurred with unshed tears, and I stumbled over something, barely catching myself before colliding with the unyielding ground. I shook my head, trying to dispel the disorienting fog that was steadily creeping into my mind.

In the darkness a few yards ahead, I could see Jason’s shadowy form. His flashlight and gun were pointed in front of him as he swept into the forest with Jack, Dani’s German shepherd, leading the way.

I slowed, hesitating at the edge of the forest. Seeing Jason’s pistol raised scared the shit out of me. Did he find something? Who’s in there? What’s in there?
“D!” I cried out.

In an instant, a strong hand wrapped around my arm. I whipped my head around to face Jake. “What—”

“We have to be quiet, Zoe.” His voice was low and severe. He pointed into the woods, and I realized all I could hear was the sound of flapping wings and a hoot from an owl off in the distance. Jason wasn’t calling out for Dani; there were no voices.
I nodded, feeling stupid, but I still wanted to call for her. I needed her to know that we were nearby…that we would find her. Why is this happening to us? Why can’t we catch a goddamn break!

Turning back to the woods, I concentrated on controlling my breath and regaining some clarity. Why can’t I focus? Sanchez, Harper, Chris, and Carlos passed me, bouncing flashlight beams lighting their way into the dense forest. I vaguely noticed Biggs, Ben, and Ky following them, Biggs muttering curses under his breath. My head started to throb under the massive influx of foreign emotions. I shuttered myself against the onslaught and rushed into the woods, hardly feeling the scraggly branches poking and scratching me.

“What was she even doing out here?” I rasped. I stopped inside the tree line, wishing I had been levelheaded enough to grab a flashlight and a pair of boots like everyone else.

Jake stopped beside me, but Cooper trotted passed us, his nose skimming the ground for a scent. He locked on to a trail and began to follow it. I heard a barrage of whispers around me before everyone broke off into groups, but I focused on the dogs; they were following two different scent trails.

After what felt like an hour of following, searching, and waiting for Jack or Cooper to find some sign of Dani, both dogs’ trails converged at a narrow, jagged tree stump. Jack whined, and Cooper sniffed the pine needles around the base of the stump. The dogs had found something. Instinctively, my gut balled into a knot.

Ben, who was helping to keep his brother upright, began to say something. “I think—”

“Here,” Harper said, aiming his flashlight at the exposed roots of the stump. Crouching, he shifted a fist-sized stone and picked something up.

Chris stepped up behind him and peered over his shoulder. “Jason,” she said ominously, glancing at my brother.

He moved to her side, and hesitantly, I followed. I stopped almost instantly. Jason’s dread washed over me, a wave of nausea making my insides lurch, and I had to close my mouth and hold my breath to avoid vomiting. Every hair on my body stood on end at the thought of what they’d found. “What is it?” I croaked. Please don’t say a body part…

Stiffly, Jason squatted beside Harper, taking whatever Harper had found from his hand. A yellow piece of fabric?

“It’s just like the ones we saw back at Lewis-McChord,” Chris said quietly. Rising from his seated position next to Jason, Jack stretched out his neck to sniff the cloth and whined.

Chris glanced around at our confused faces and explained, “It’s an armband, or at least part of one. Some of the personnel were wearing these when they put our base on lock-down.” She shook her head. “We stole a few; it was the only way we could get off the base. The people wearing these”—she snatched the armband out of Jason’s hand and clenched it in her fist—“had something to do with the Virus.”

“I’ve seen those before too, on people from the Colony,” Jake said. He’d been trying to convince us that the supposed safe haven was dangerous since we first met up with him at Fort Knox. “It must’ve been them…”

An image of his sister’s dark hair and violet eyes flashed through my mind. He was remembering her. He was remembering the men who’d promised to help her, the men who had frightened her enough that she’d taken her own life before they could.

Everyone looked at Jake, including my dangerously quiet brother. “Why would they take Dani?” Jason asked as he rose and took a menacing step toward Jake. “How would they even know we’re here?”

I didn’t like Jason’s accusing tone, but Jake didn’t seem to notice. Never taking his eyes off the yellow armband, he answered, “I don’t know how they knew we were here, but if they wanted her bad enough to kidnap her…their resources are—were…” He paused. “It wouldn’t have been difficult for them to take her.” The images of his sister’s final breath played through his head…through mine. A gut-wrenching feeling of loss took root in the pit of my stomach.

“You seem to know a lot about them,” Jason probed, taking another step toward Jake. “Maybe you know more than you’re letting on. Maybe you—”

“You think I’d save Zoe’s life back at Fort Knox just to put her in danger again? You really are a piece of—” Jake inhaled and then emitted no further sounds, like he’d decided holding his breath for a while was the safer option. He was probably right.

He met Jason’s challenging stare a moment longer before turning his angry gaze on me. “I warned you not to come here.” His words stung with truth.

“Then how the fuck did they find us?” Jason’s voice was damning, his glare focused solely on Jake. I didn’t like it and felt a sudden desire to punch my brother in the face.

“How the hell should I know?” Jake snapped. “We’ve been here over a month and nothing. You get here and now they know where we are.”

Jason made a noise that was part exhale, part growl. “How exactly do you know so much about them?”

“Because they tried to take my sister, and now she’s dead,” Jake replied hotly.

The two men were standing less than two feet apart, Jason’s rage barely contained. He didn’t lose control often, but when he did…I shuddered, recalling the worst of the fights between him and our dad. Jason cracked his knuckles, an ominous sign I was all too familiar with, and I feared my brother wouldn’t be able to rein in his temper.

I stepped between them. “It’s not Jake’s fault, Jason, so back off!”

My brother ignored me, instead turning his aggression on Chris. “Stay the fuck out of my head,” he ordered, obviously feeling her cerebral fingers trying to manipulate his mental state into something more stable.

Jake and Jason weren’t the only ones on edge. Biggs was worrying about Sarah and their unborn baby, and Ky was in pain, practically folding under the weight of our collective panic. Ky’s Ability to feel volatility—to sense and internalize everyone’s destructive emotions—was physically debilitating him. He reached for the flask in his pocket without a second thought. Abandoning Jason, Chris ran to Ky’s side.

The weight and amount of negativity Ky was picking up on frightened me; it was as if he wasn’t just sensing our group, but all of the fear and hostility surrounding us. From Cañon City? From the Colony? Like Ky, I was pulled in all directions by the mounting unease and fear of everyone around us, as though I were being emotionally drawn and quartered. I wanted to scream.

The looming fog seemed to thicken in my brain, tangling with the barrage of emotions. What the hell’s going on? I searched my convoluted mind for something I could grasp on to—something other than anger and fear and resentment. I’d been so fucking naïve to think everything would be okay once we found each other. Keep it together, Zoe, Dani needs you.

Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of the forest—the sharp smell of pine needles, damp soil, and wood. The fog continued to spread its tendrils through my mind in a horrifyingly familiar way. I felt trapped in my own head, unable to escape the encroaching numbness. The only other time I’d felt such an overwhelming loss of mental control was when my mind had been invaded by Crazies in the hospital back at Fort Knox. What if we’re wrong? What if it isn’t the Colony?

Feeling a sudden jolt of panic, I opened my eyes. I could see the lichen coating the tree trunks in the dim moonlight, like spots on a leopard. But there were no snarls or howls or voices beyond our group. There were no fiendish sounds of Crazies cackling in the distance. There were no signs giving me cause to think anyone was there at all.

But someone took Dani.

A bolt of anger shot through me, jostling me from my statue-like state. I took a step toward my brother. “What the hell was she doing out here, Jason?” He’d always been big, bad, protective Jason—so why had he let Dani go outside, alone, in the middle of the night?

In the faint moonlight dappling his face, I could barely make out the hard set of his features. “Peeing,” he answered lamely.

“Peeing? Alone? In the woods?” My anger flared, fury consuming my disbelief and fear. “I can’t believe you, Jason! I just got her back, and now you—”

“Fuck you!” He pointed at me in warning, his eyes glinting silver in the darkness. “She was just peeing,” he muttered.

“I can’t believe someone was just standing here,” Biggs said and began pacing. “Were they just waiting for us this whole time? Sarah…the baby…” He looked up at Sanchez abruptly. “We need to get out of here,” he said evenly. “It’s not safe here anymore. We’ve—”

“Do what you want,” Jason growled. “I’m going after Dani.”

“You think you can just walk into the Colony and get her? We need a plan first,” Jake said, facing Chris and Sanchez. “We need—”

“Need to what? To wait for them to hurt her? To do worse?” Jason’s tone was scathing as, once again, he took a step closer to Jake.

“Calm down, Jason.” I placed myself between them again. “We need to come up with a plan first. I mean, what if it’s Crazies and has nothing to do with the—”

“It’s not Crazies,” Jake and Jason said at the same time. They exchanged an irritated glance.

I rolled my eyes. “If it is the Colony, they’ll outnumber us and—”

“Then you stay here and plan,” Jason said with a smirk. “I’ll go find Dani.”

“Get over yourself already!” I seethed. “You think I’m not worried about her? Like I haven’t been waiting to see Dani for months? Like I haven’t been worrying about her since all this bullshit started? Like suddenly I don’t care about her anymore because you’re in the picture? She’s my best friend, remember? Or did you forget that, since everything’s always about you?” My voice was riddled with bitterness and jealousy, and my words were laden with twenty-six years’ worth of resentment.

To my surprise, Jason remained silent.

Sanchez cleared her throat. “Look,” she said deliberately. “If we want to find your friend, we need to be rational. So grow the fuck up and stop arguing, and then we can come up with a plan that won’t get us all killed.”

“We can’t do much else in the dark,” Harper said, his voice breaking through the tension. “The sun’ll be up in an hour or so, then we can continue searching for signs of what happened.”

“I’m not finished looking for her,” Jason muttered and turned toward his tent.

“I wasn’t implying that any of us were finished looking for her,” Harper clarified, but Jason continued stalking away. The rest of us dispersed, some making their way back to camp, but Jake, Harper, and I stopped at the edge of the forest, watching…thinking.

“Look how close they were to us,” I said with a shaky breath. I gauged the distance between where we stood and the barn. Although far away, I could see the dim embers of the night’s fire and the outline of the hay bales and chairs surrounding it. I watched the dark figures of my companions as they moved around the camp. “We never even heard them.”

Suddenly, as if my skin had become animated, creeping over my bones and muscles, I shivered. The thought of never seeing Dani alive again after everything we’d been through—journeying across the country, surviving homicide attempts and Crazies—caused a rogue tear to roll down my cheek. Determination, Zoe, I told myself. I hurriedly wiped the tear away.

With my brother out of earshot, I turned to Harper. I recalled the fleeting look of unease that had flashed over his dark, handsome features when Dani had arrived the day before. Whatever he’d seen was startling enough to have made his green eyes flare with apprehension.

“You had a vision earlier…yesterday, when you were hugging Dani, didn’t you?” I knew I wasn’t going to like his reply the moment he closed his eyes in…regret?

Harper didn’t look at me when he spoke. “I saw her in darkness,” he said quietly. “I don’t know if she was sleeping or—”

“Unconscious,” I finished for him, refusing to hear him utter the word “dead.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We're so excited to share the next part of Dani and Zoe's journey with you! :) As a "10 days till" bonus, we're releasing two short excerpts tonight, one from Zoe's POV, and one from Dani's.

Here's the Dani excerpt:
After several long, silent minutes, Gabe stood, strode over to the sink, and pulled a lighter out of a nearby drawer. He held the piece of paper over the sink, and with a flick of the lighter, set it aflame. 
“What are you doing?” I screeched, jumping up as I watched the paper shrivel into an ashy ball. 
Gabe dropped it before the tiny flames burned his fingers, and shook his head.

And, here's the Zoe excerpt (ooh-la-la!):
Everything about him was lust and desire, and the acuteness of what he was feeling devastated my composure, making me feel nothing but need—his need and mine. I needed his hands and lips on every inch of my body. I needed him to take me until I had nothing left to give. I could barely breathe…I didn’t want to breathe…I just wanted him.

Only 10 days until you'll be able to get the whole book, and only 3 days until we release the first chapter, which picks up Zoe's side of the story right where After The Ending left off. Squeeeeeeeeellll! :)

Sign up for our Goodreads giveaway!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

....Goodreads GiVeAwAy!....

Enter to win a paperback version of Into The Fire, much anticipated book two of The Ending Series! Enter to win now! Visit the blog! Giveaway ends soon...

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Into The Fire by Lindsey Fairleigh

Into The Fire

by Lindsey Fairleigh

Giveaway ends November 22, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, November 3, 2013

...The Night Circus Review...

The Night Circus Book Review (Published 2011)
By Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Fiction, Magic, Book club

LP's Rating: 3/5 stars

Basic Overview:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

My Review. Overall this book was a good read. It was full of mystery and enchantment and a love story I could really cheer for. There were characters I wanted to smack and others I wanted to squeeze for being so sweet, and I like that because I get more involved that way. Going back and forth between timelines was mostly confusing for me toward the end, when the two timelines were finally meshing. There were tons of questions throughout the book that kept me reading, which is good, and while I didn't find some of the resolutions super exciting, the ending was satisfying. There were also a lot of characters to keep track of, and I found myself getting confused as to who was who, so pay attention to the names!

What I liked.
It was creative. I would love to see this book turned into a film with vivid colors, defying feats, and amazing costumes. I read this for book club and the story has given us so much to discuss from how we interpreted what was going on, the role each character would inevitably play, and so on. It was really interesting to hear other people's hypothesis halfway through the book and it helped me to go into the second half with other people's observations in mind. It was a great choice to read with the group.

Prose. It was beautifully written and easy enough to follow, as long as your imagination is WIDE OPEN and you allow for the impossible to become a reality in this story. The author write eloquently and purposefully, which helps with the flow and to pull the reader in.

Description. I felt like I could really see what was going on, that I could smell the candy, feel the fire, see Celia's dress changing color. The author did a great job of bringing the reader into her mind, showing us what she see, feeling what she's feeling for her characters, and that's not an easy task.

What I didn't like.
Too much description. Although I loved how vivid the circus was in my mind, I truly felt like there was so much description I was skimming through a lot of it from the middle of the book on. I don't like doing that because I know I risk missing something important, but there's just so much going on, so many questions I wanted answered, that reading four paragraphs describing a new tent or something to that nature was hard to justify.

The Ending. I'm torn because part of me wanted answers, and I got them, but I also feel like it wasn't very moving or satisfying. This books is filled with so much mystery, I really thought I would be like, "Holy Crap!" but I didn't get that as all the pieces came together.

My recommendation.
Book clubs should read this for sure. If you like magic and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the circus, you'll probably enjoy this. If you love imagery and vivid description, this a book for you. If you're reading it for the romance, there's not very much so this probably wouldn't be the book for you. I gave this book a 3/5 stars because as much as I enjoyed it, I also didn't feel super fulfilled at the end and since that's the lasting impression, I'm a tad torn on how to rate it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

...Into The Fire Prologue...

It's officially three weeks until the release of Into The Fire!!!

As we've already announced (a while back), there's a third, supporting character POV included in Into The Fire in addition to Dani and Zoe. His name is Mase, and he's very different from our MCs, offering some interesting and unique insights to the world after The Ending. And for those of you who are worried Mase will steal page time from Dani and Zoe, have no fear, he only has the prologue and 3 chapters throughout the body of the book, and in all but the prologue, one of our MCs is present.

We'll be releasing the first chapter, which is from Zoe's perspective, closer to the release date (Nov. 22).

But in the meantime...scroll down to read the entire prologue of Into The Fire!

***content warning: some profanity beyond this point***



“I’m just sayin’ the General freaks me the fuck out, Mase, and…” Carter stopped talking—for once—as he shifted the beam of his flashlight to shine down the next aisle. “D’you hear that?”

Carter could be dense, but if he thought he heard something, there was something to be heard. Thanks to the Virus, the guy had the ears of a dog.

Mase lifted his left arm and made a fist, and the other two members of his fireteam froze behind him. Ahead, Carter stood, head cocked to the side. As one, they listened. Mase barely caught it—whimpering. After giving Carter a curt nod, he signaled for all three men to follow him, raised his M4, and crept closer to the noise.

Patrolling the supply warehouses had been their duty for over a month, ever since the Virus had wiped out almost everyone, and they’d yet to find an intruder. General Herodson’s standing order was that only select personnel could enter the warehouses to guard, inspect, and distribute food and other supplies. Unless Mase was grossly mistaken, they were the only patrol on duty at Warehouse F until the shift change at midnight, which was still hours away.

It looked like they’d found their first intruder.

As they crept down the aisle between two towering metal shelving units stuffed with pallets of shrink-wrapped supplies—paper towels, toilet paper, plastic cups—they swept each side with the lights attached to their rifles. Halfway down the aisle, huddled on the cold cement floor, was the intruder. The girl was hugging her knees and hiding her face like she was trying to disappear. Mase scowled.

Slowly, the girl raised her head, and when Mase saw her dirt-smudged face, his breath hitched. It couldn’t be her…not in the Colony. Her long, dark hair was ratted and clumped, tear tracks trailed down her cheeks, and confusion filled her eyes. Mase knew they were hazel from memory, even if he couldn’t see their color in the darkness.

“Stand down,” Mase said to the other soldiers before turning his attention to the young woman. “Camille? What are you doing here? Are you hurt?” His voice was always deep, gravelly, but concern or maybe fear made it even harsher. Hesitantly, he took a step closer to her.

Camille flinched, becoming an even tighter ball of folded limbs and tangled hair on the dirty cement floor.

For the first time in his two years as a Ranger, Mase regretted spending so much time lifting weights. She was afraid of him. But he knew her. He had to help her.

Clearing his throat, he put on what he hoped was a comforting smile and took another step closer.

“We won’t hurt you,” he told the teenage girl as he knelt down in front of her. “I promise.” When he touched Camille’s arm, she flinched again. “I promise we won’t hurt you,” he repeated. Intruders were to be taken straight to headquarters—to General Herodson—but he couldn’t do that. They tended to disappear after that. Of course, if the bastard found out Mase had disobeyed his orders, Mase would disappear himself . . . but it was Camille.

When she finally peered up at him, Mase did his best to look less intimidating by hunching his shoulders, hanging his head, not scowling. She watched him carefully, blank curiosity filling her face.

“What are you doing here, Camille?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. She tried again. “Who—who is Camille?”

Surprised, Mase sat back on his heels and studied her. It is her, isn’t it? She was older—more a woman than a child, unlike the last time he’d seen her. Camille was a few years younger than him, so now she had to be at least seventeen. She still looked like a perfect little doll, though. There was no question in Mase’s mind that he was staring at the young woman he’d lived next door to nearly his entire life.

“You,” he said. “You’re Camille. And I’m Mase.” He remembered the day her parents brought her home from the hospital…the afternoon she fell off her bike and chipped her tooth on the sidewalk…the Valentine’s Day she gave him a card made out of pink and purple construction paper…the day he taught her how to coast on his skateboard without falling…the night she ran away crying after meeting one of his girlfriends. But if Camille could remember any of that, she was hiding it well. She just stared, not responding, and began to shiver.

Mase heard his men whispering and shuffling around behind him. He ignored them. “It’s okay, Camille,” he said, doing his best to soften his voice. “We’re friends. We were neighbors, remember? Back in Minneapolis? I used to look after you when your parents—”

The other men chuckled, Carter bursting into open laughter. Mase flipped them the bird over his shoulder. They only laughed harder.

“You…” Carter couldn’t stop laughing. “You…you used to babysit?”

Rising, Mase spun and pointed threateningly at Carter. “Shut the fuck up.” He glared at each of the men, warning clear in his eyes, until they quieted. “Nobody touches her. Nobody says a fucking word about this. Forget you ever saw her.”

Their amusement vanished, and they stared back at him with identical expressions—fear mixed with pity and regret. They knew what had to be done.

“Mase,” the nearest said. “We have to turn her in. The General’s standing orders are to—”

“I know the orders,” Mase snapped. “Fuck them. She’s not going anywhere near Herodson. Forget. You. Ever. Saw. Her.”

After a brief hesitation, all three men nodded.

Letting out a relieved breath, Mase turned back to Camille. She was watching him with eyes widened in interest, not fear. He knelt in front of her and explained, “It’s not safe for you here. You’re going to have to hide until I can get you registered as a Colonist.”

Surprising him, Camille reached out and touched the side of his face with her fingertips, frowning when he flinched. “Where am I?” she whispered.

Mase glanced back at his men, silently warning them to keep their mouths shut. If Camille didn’t have any memory of the Virus—of nearly everyone dying—he didn’t want to be the one to tell her. At least not yet. “You’re in the Colony. It used to be a military base. You’ll be safe here as soon as I get you registered.” He hesitated for a moment. “You have no idea how you got here?”

Quietly, Camille said, “No. I have no idea.” She studied him with eerily calm eyes.

A metallic bang stole Mase’s attention, and then the overhead lights flared to life. Someone else was in the warehouse. While the others stood nearby, rifles raised, Mase helped Camille hide between two pallets of paper towels. She was barely out of sight when the newcomers rounded the far end of the aisle. Mase’s stomach dropped when he saw him.

“Atwell! How is your patrol going this evening?” asked the man leading a dozen soldiers. Dressed in his usual officer finery, General Herodson strolled down the aisle toward Mase…toward Camille.

“Nothing unusual, Sir,” Mase reported, stepping away from Camille’s hiding place before the General was close enough to see her in the shadows.

General Herodson inspected Mase and his fireteam closely. “So it seems,” he said, giving Mase an instant feeling of holy-fucking-shit. Casually, the General glanced around, his gaze lingering near Camille’s hiding spot.

“How are the Ability transfers going?” Mase asked, hoping to distract him.

The General looked at him with cold, gray eyes.

Mase returned the man’s stare, refusing to look away. “Have there been any new developments? I know some of the men would like to get outfitted with regeneration or telekinesis.”

General Herodson bared his teeth in a smile. “Not yet, no. However, we have had an interesting breakthrough on another project. We’re calling them ‘Re-gens’—they’re reanimated corpses, more or less. They even retain their Abilities, though they’re altered somewhat from what they were during their first lives.” He paused, glancing up at the lights thoughtfully. “But the process wipes their minds completely clean, making them very easy to influence.” He rubbed his hands together briskly. “No need to deal with pesky memories or morals.”

Reanimated corpses. It took effort for Mase to keep his expression blank.

Abruptly, General Herodson said, “As you were,” and turned to leave.

Mase watched him walk away, reluctant to move. Why had the General told him about the Re-gens? Why had he come into the warehouse in the first place? Something wasn’t right.

As they neared the end of the aisle, General Herodson and his guards halted. “CL-one,” the General called out as he turned to face Mase again. “Come here, CL-one.”

Shocking the shit out of Mase, Camille wriggled out from her hiding spot and hurried to General Herodson’s side.

Mase clenched his jaw, realizing he’d just signed his own death warrant.

“CL-one is a particularly amazing Re-gen, don’t you agree, Atwell? We just finished her the other day.” General Herodson watched Mase like he was gauging every minute change in his expression. Mase kept his face hard and cold, like the General’s. “Take their weapons, my dear,” Herodson said to Camille.

Even at a distance, Mase could see the confusion on Camille’s face. “Why, Father?” she asked softly.

The General stiffened. “Because I told you to, my dear,” he said with strained affection. “These men must be arrested and put on trial. They broke the law. My law.”

“Oh,” Camille said, sounding sad, or maybe confused. “What will happen to them after the trial?”

It seemed to take a conscious effort for General Herodson to suppress his simmering anger. The man hated being questioned. “The other three will be banished from the Colony,” he said through gritted teeth. “Atwell will be executed and turned into a Re-gen.”

“Okay,” she said, smiling contentedly. She took a deep breath, then shut her eyes. Her mouth thinned to a flat line.

As Mase looked from her to General Herodson, hatred flooded his veins, quickly followed by adrenaline. His muscles vibrated with the unnatural strength that had increased steadily over the past two years. He was the strongest, fastest person he’d ever heard of—not that it would help him now. The General knew about his Ability. Mase figured that was probably the only reason he wanted to bring him back as a Re-gen: to be used…owned. Mase ground his teeth together and tried to think of a way out of this clusterfuck.

Suddenly, his M4 tugged out of his hands and floated upward. He tried to yank it back down, but it continued to float higher. Moving quickly, he untangled his arm from the rifle’s strap before it forced him up onto his toes. From the sounds of his men cursing behind him, he knew they were being remotely disarmed as well. Mase watched as their weapons glided into the hands of the General’s guards. His attention was drawn to Camille, who was still concentrating. She was doing it.

She opened her eyes and left the General’s side, a coy smile curving her mouth. Mase watched her approach him, frozen in remorse at what he’d caused. His men wouldn’t be “tossed out of the Colony”—they would be executed, regardless of what the General had claimed.

It felt like minutes, but finally Camille reached Mase. She caught his gaze, a spark of sharp intelligence lighting eyes that had once been hazel but were now gray. Almost inaudibly, she whispered, “Do not be afraid, Mase. I will take care of you, just like you used to take care of me. And with my friends, we will take care of Father.”

Mase barely registered her robotic intonation. He couldn’t believe what was about to happen. Soon, he would die, only to be brought back as something else. As someone else.

The reanimated young woman stood on tiptoes and lightly touched her lips to Mase’s cheek. “My friends really do not like Father.”

Stay tuned for chapter one!