Friday, April 12, 2013

24 Bones Book Tour & Giveaway!



24 Bones
Michael F. Stewart

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller

Publisher: Non Sequitur Press

ASIN: B00BGCQGNG

Number of pages: 305
Word Count:  85,000

Cover Artist: Martin Stiff of Amazing15

Amazon     Smashwords  

Book Description:

Every five hundred years the phoenix dies.

Samiya, born-into-shadow, is soon to battle her born-into-light brother. Abandoned by their parents, neither wishes to play the preordained role of beast and hero. When their loved ones are taken hostage, they are forced to follow the path laid out in myth, culminating in a battle first fought six thousand years ago in ancient Cairo. A mythic clash where one defeats the other and both become gods.

To break free from their fates, Samiya and her brother must unravel a mystery twisted by cults, greed, and magic. But myth is a powerful force and failure to live up to it may not only destroy their lives but the lives of the ones they love most.

When the phoenix dies, the only certainty is flames.

“Terrific! A successful blend of genres, complex and fascinating characters, and loads of suspense make 24 Bones a must-read.” Nate Kenyon, bestselling author of The Reach, Prime, Bloodstone, and The Bone Factory.

“'24 Bones' is a winning debut. It's well-written and well-plotted, studded with drama, action, history and mythology. There's even a little romance. The conclusion is thrilling with the final outcome of the battle between good and evil held over until the very end...leaving you guessing until that very last page.” SF Crowsnest.

 




24 Bones Excerpt
Present day—Coptic Cairo, Egypt

“I want the tablet, Tara.” Sam pointed at her mother, the accusing finger tipped with a razor-sharp nail. Her other hand gripped a hound’s leash, and she heeled the dog to her hip when it threatened to lunge.

On the bed, a second hairless dog straddled her mother and slavered drool across Tara’s cheek and lips. She twisted her head away from the hound’s hot panting.

Sam knew her jackal mask and assumed accent did not conceal her identity. She trembled at the look etched on her mother’s face. With most of their forces deployed elsewhere, Pharaoh, the leader of the Shemsu Seth, had honored Sam with the task of retrieving the Tablet of Destiny—her first important mission in which she was the commander. Sam thumbed the heavy gold ring on her finger, reminding herself of her goal. Her sentiment was a barrier to her mission’s success. She coiled her rage inward.

“Where’s the damned tablet!”

Tara flinched, then kicked the hound as she jumped upright. With a yelp, the dog slipped from the bed and curled underneath.

Sam’s canine headdress obscured her peripheral vision, but it also prevented her mother from seeing her face, the sweat on her brow, the strain about her green eyes. Sam’s emotions, like the veins criss-crossing her dark neck and cheeks, ran too near the surface.

The window framed Tara’s age-thickened body, the street light shining through her thin cotton nightgown. Outside, riotous cheers clamored. A procession wound through the alleys of Coptic Cairo.
The hound under the bed barked. Tara tossed back the mattress and snatched the dagger laying on the bed’s wire frame. She stabbed between the wires until the hound’s howls died.

Sam knew she should kill Tara—set the other dog onto her back and cut her throat. Sam’s knuckles were bone white. Her mother turned. Blood from her blade dripped onto the scorpion hilt and her fist. She blinked away angry tears and glared.

“Get out, Samiya.” Her lips barely moved. “The tablet isn’t here.”

“Where,” Sam insisted and let the dog take a foot of leash. Its front paws scratched at the air as the black iron collar dug into its scruff.

Tara waggled the dagger in the direction of the hound like a master readying to toss a stick. Sam had expected repentance, that age would have stripped her mother of stature. Sam shook her head and whistled to the men she led.

“Bring him in,” Sam called, watching her mother carefully from beneath the mask. The old woman’s eyes flicked from Sam to the door and back.

Two figures entered the room, each wrapped in black robes with deep cowls. From beneath the hoods poked the masks of a falcon’s beak and a baboon’s muzzle. Between them, they dragged Tariq, his silver-haired head bowed. The masked men dropped him to the floor. He groaned when he landed.
A squat dwarf followed the men and took the leash of Sam’s dog. He restrained another red-eyed hound that slunk ahead of him into the room. The dog rose to the dwarf’s broad shoulder, its eyes glowing with a whisper of Void and its hide rippling with muscle. The dwarf’s smile, nearly buried by his beard, vanished when calls for his third hound failed to bring him to heel. Whistle-like hisses shot from his lips. The two remaining dogs settled to sniff at the prostrate man’s buttocks.

“I ask once more. Where’s the tablet?” Sam repeated, her threat made potent by the quietness of her speech.

Tara looked from the dogs to Sam’s jackal mask and gritted her teeth. Sam spun and kicked Tariq. Ribs cracked. He cried out, rolling onto his back.

Tara flung the blade. Sam’s forearm deflected it to the stone wall. The dagger clanged to the floor. Sam smiled at her mother’s reaction. She did feel emotion, just not love for her daughter. That made Sam’s next task easier.

She concentrated, gripping the copper wire Tariq once showed her long ago like one holds the root of a tree when descending a riverbank, and then she reached into the chaotic energy of the Void. The primal well brimmed with dark energy, so near, so easily drawn. Filled with the Void’s rage, she raised her arms above her head. Tendrils of blue-black lightning crackled between outstretched fingertips.

Her mother stumbled backward, falling onto the bed frame. Mouth agape, her eyes reflected the snaking Void. Sam’s hands lowered as she bent toward Tariq.

“Stop!” Tara screamed.

The plea crashed upon the dispassionate Void. Worms of energy arced across Tariq’s back. Sam shook, her teeth clacking together with each shock. The old man convulsed. The room stank of ozone.

“How could you?” Her mother’s chest heaved, and her lips trembled.

Sam released the Void.

Stooping to retrieve the dagger, Sam drew a deep breath. “The tablet.”

Her mother remained silent. Sam loomed above Tariq and placed her foot on his neck.

Tara’s eyes shut. “I don’t have it.” Her tone appealed. Tariq gurgled as Sam applied pressure.
He signed with his hands and fingers. Say nothing, Tara. This is no longer your daughter.

I will kill him. Sam gestured in reply. She had not forgotten the language; she’d practiced it for years in secret, in the dark, in wait for her mother to return for her. But she never came. No one ever came.
Sam leaned farther on to Tariq’s neck. His fingers clawed with pain.

Tara’s hand slashed. Stop! Creases radiated from her tear-filled eyes. “It’s gone, but we have a copy,” she gasped.

Sam didn’t smile. Her mission was unsuccessful, and she had lost a hound. Its death required blood sacrifice. Tara indicated a rectangular box, lying on a dresser. On the box lid were a series of squares, some of which were marked with hieroglyphs, while others were blank. It was the game Senet, an ancient Egyptian precursor to backgammon. Sam had a dim recollection of playing it. Her good memories were all dim.

She snatched the box from the dresser and snapped back the lid. She found not white and black chips, but a sheaf of parchment. The scroll crackled as it unfurled. A poor rubbing from the original, the hieroglyphs were distorted. She rolled the paper and banged the box shut with her fist.

“Where is the gold?”

For the dog’s death, the dwarf expected a sacrifice, and his pale eyes glinted. Sam looked from Tariq to Tara. Once more, her mother was expressionless.

Sam bent back over Tariq, who wheezed where he sat on the floor, clutching his side. With the hilt of the dagger Sam struck him on the temple, and he thumped to the stone. Tara lunged, but the masked men caught her and held her by her armpits. The dwarf grinned.

Sam opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it. Signing three quick movements, she accented them sharply. Forgive me, I must.

The tip of the blade traced across Tariq’s chest and hovered over his heart. Sam’s vision blurred with tears. Tara writhed in the grip of the men.

“May Seth, god of chaos, accept this sacrifice,” Sam said.

She drove the blade downward until it scored rock.

Tara choked for air as Tariq shook in spasm.

They both fell limp.

Sam knelt beside the corpse. Energy coursed from her fingertips to her spine. Tariq’s murder expanded her access to the Void. The charge raced, permeating each cell of her bones, muscles, and blood, arcing ageless and gnarled. Each caress of the Void changed something, took something, replaced something.
Tara sobbed.

Sam motioned for the men to drag her mother from the room. As she passed, Sam struck Tara’s head against the wall to ensure no surprises as they made their escape. Sam stopped her tears, embarrassed by the show of weakness. She stood and took a deep breath before she, too, strode from the bedroom.
“Place her in the bier,” Sam ordered the men. Two long handles protruded from each end of the white-draped, rectangular litter squatting in the centre of the living room. The men turned up its curtain and revealed a bed of gold and silver stitched pillows.

Sam couldn’t know if the tablet rubbing was authentic, but she could take her mother and keep their link to the tablet intact. It was the only excuse Sam could find not to kill her.

Sam studied the surroundings. The living room had not changed in a quarter-century: pale green couches draped in embroidered fabric, books, everywhere books, candles, and blown-glass vases. Unconscious, Tara slipped from the litter’s plush confines, and her head hit the floor. Sam winced.
Tucked into the corner of a shelf was a small case made of leather with brass clasps, covered with stickers of flowers and fish. She squinted at it, then jerked it from the shelf. When she opened the case, a strangled moan escaped her lips. It was the bag she had packed before her delivery to the Shemsu Seth.

The lid snapped shut on the dolls and dresses of her childhood. One of her doll’s legs, a ragged favorite, stuck out of the suitcase seam. Her mother had been right; Sam had needed none of it.
Sam backed away and then spied a computer tower wedged between two bookcases. She tossed it in with her mother. Its files would be scoured for the tablet’s translation and potential location. Sam’s hands left red sticky fingerprints on the casing. Her stomach rolled at the sight of Tariq’s blood. The tiny kitchen, complete with miniature stove and fridge, held no tablet, nor did Tariq’s closet-sized room. Sam whistled to the sentry.

Another robed man entered and stood at one corner of the bier. After lifting the body of the dead hound inside, the dwarf dashed aboard with his dogs.

“No,” Sam demanded, her voice cracking. “Leave one dog here.” The dwarf whistled, and a hound jumped from the bier, crouching when it landed, ready to leap again.

With the curtains of the bier drawn, Sam and the men each hefted a corner and shuffled out into the courtyard.

No moonlight filtered through the sycamore branches. A carving of Saint George mounted on an Arabian horse and spearing a dragon hung above the yard’s iron-studded door. They exited onto the streets and caught the tail of the procession. At this late hour, the parade had slowed but remained festive still, in celebration of some saint Sam could not recall.

She whooped as they joined the end of the train that snaked its way past the Babylon Fortress and the Convent of St. George. The Coptic revelers took up her cheer. Sam stumbled, awkward on the uneven cobblestone as they jostled amongst the partygoers, threading through the streets until they breached the walls. The procession continued into the next neighborhood, but Sam’s entourage slipped from the rear and turned toward the tombs.

As they entered the City of the Dead, she nodded to a man who lurked in the shadow of the gates. The bier’s handle chafed, and she switched shoulders for the tenth time.

They turned down a thoroughfare lined with windowless mausoleums. Family names rather than street numbers were inscribed on marble, granite, and limestone façades. Eyes stared from the safety of their sanctuaries. A propane lamp’s hiss was silenced. The Shemsu Seth ruled these people by fear and myth. Sam struggled to her full height, her chin high.

When they stopped in front of a large marble mastaba, they lowered the bier.

The dwarf and his dog scrambled out and clambered around the side wall, disappearing into another sandstone crypt, one of the many entrances to an underworld that stretched from the City of the Dead to the suburb of Heliopolis and the pyramids of Giza. Other dwarfs would return to take care of the hound corpse.

The baboon and hawk-masked men slipped Tara’s arms around their necks. She seemed smaller, but Sam felt no satisfaction in the change. She was glad she had been given this task; any other Shemsu Seth would have killed Tara. But as they entered the arched entry of the crypt, unease twisted Sam’s stomach. Death might have been a mercy.

She watched Tara—her mother—descend ahead of her into darkness.





About the Author:

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.










Thursday, April 11, 2013

Valley of the Glamorgan Tour & Excerpt!



Valley Of Glamorgan
Valley Of Glamorgan trilogy book 1
Julie Wall

Genre: paranormal romance

ASIN: B00BGVJQDY

Number of pages: 122
Word Count:  49,580

Cover Artist: Zack Eads



Download a copy Free today (4/11) at Amazon


Book Description:

As if assisting in burying two bodies wasn’t enough! Carmina learns that her life is anything but ordinary, and it is too late to turn back. She is forced to leave everything she has ever known behind and follow a stranger on an unforgettable journey to a world that is just too surreal!  She learns of a life she didn’t even know that she had and meets people who would give their lives for her that she doesn’t even remember!

As she is thrown into this new life she learns that her destiny is much greater than she had ever thought it to be, as if she could focus on her new life or destiny when she meets a handsome charming blue-eyed distraction who quickly turns her life upside down even more than it already was!

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/zFpeCdxY_xk   


 

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure.
But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.
Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer. - Shunryu Suzuki

Chapter 1:
 The Truth
   I fought the urge to scream. I quickly clamped my icy, cold hand against my frozen lips. The van had been parked with the engine off for at least an hour. We were hoping to conserve the battery for when we got out of here. That was if we ever got out of here. Obviously, without the engine, the heater had been rendered useless. With all the technology these days, you would think they would have come up with a way to fix that. My thoughts were jumbled.  I searched for the most useless information. I was hoping to keep my mind preoccupied. I tried my hardest to keep my eyes off of the strange form, which had leaped in front of my mother’s grey minivan.
     I wondered if what I was seeing was even possible. I began searching my mind for rational explanations. I questioned if maybe my contacts were messing with my eyes.  Although as I looked to my parents and the horrified expressions that lay across their time-stricken features. I could tell that there indeed was an abnormally tall man, who was standing about two feet from where my father had slammed on his brakes. He was just standing there, staring at my parents and me.
    I wanted to scream and tell my dad to just push his foot down on the damn gas pedal!  If the man had any sense in him, he would jump out of the way. Although, something unsettling in my stomach told me that he wouldn’t let us leave, even if we had tried.  He had a look of   determination spread across his exotic features. He made me wonder if we were going to live through this night. I swallowed the lump of tears that were building. I took in a deep breath. If I was going to die tonight, I wasn’t going to die a coward. I would do whatever I could to save my parents.  I knew they would do the same for me. I just hoped that I made them proud.  If we did have to die tonight by the hands of this strange man; I decided that I wouldn’t want to die next to anyone else in this world, other than my loving adoring parents who had given me life.
  I looked from my mother’s wrinkled features to my father’s hardened expression. I wanted to hug them both tight. I hoped for the chance to tell them thank you for everything they had done for me. If we didn’t die or freeze to death, I knew that I would have a new appreciation for them.
  It felt like hours had gone by, when it truly had only been a few minutes.  Suddenly the man started to approach the van.  My father unbuckled his seat belt, which to my surprise he still had on. He reached for the door handle. I jumped with all my might and lunged on his back. I started pulling his hand away from the door, “No dad! I exclaimed. “You can’t go out there!” My father turned to me and with a stern emotionless expression. He told me to “Sit back and to stay” as if I was nothing more than the family pet. I was shocked; my father had never spoken to me that way before. Although I felt hurt, I did as he told me. I sat back against the cold leather seat, which at this point had felt like ice had taken it over.  As I tried to fight back the chattering of my teeth, I looked to my mother and was surprised at how she calmly watched as my father walked towards the man.
    I felt like I was in an episode of the twilight zone. My parents had become people I didn’t recognize. Maybe the man had put a spell on them or something? I questioned as I shook my head and chuckled at myself. What an idiot, leave it to me to take a moment like this and turn in in to a syfy channel special.
  I stared wide-eyed out of the window. I watched helplessly as my father finally reached paths with the man. They both were talking in hushed tones. The man looked at me and pointed his finger directly at me.  My father looked back at me and then to the man. He shook his hand and it might have been the hypothermia setting in, but I saw my father laugh! It wasn’t a gut wrenching laugh that he used when someone made a joke. It was a sinister laugh. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears I would never have guessed that sound had come from him.
   I thought to myself, “Great he has gone delusional!” Then, the most unexpected thing happened. My father grabbed the man by the arm and knocked him down to the ground. He used such a surprising force that I was flabbergasted. My father was a thin and short man; he was maybe 5’9 at the most. This man towered over him with at least a good five inches. Somehow my father had knocked him to the ground. He had thrown him so hard that he was now several feet from where they had been standing. The impact was so forceful that the man was still grounded. I looked to my mother and when I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer, I screamed “what the hell just happened?” She turned to me with a smile on her face and told me that everything was alright. She said that they would explain everything once the man was disposed of.  As she said, that she pointed her index finger at the man and chuckled. In that moment I didn’t know who to fear more.  The people who raised me my whole life, or the man who jumped out in front of our van in the middle of the night.
    I assumed that at this point his actions were premeditated. Looking back at my parents reactions and seeing that my parents hadn’t been as surprised as I was. How could they have expected this strange man to appear out of nowhere in the dead of night? Before I could speculate what was going on, my thoughts were pulled from me when the man stood up and walked towards my father. I held my breath anticipating his next move.
    He was screaming loudly, I could hear him perfectly clear. His voice echoed off the barren trees and endless roads. He roared, “You need to tell her the truth!” My father stood silent for a moment and then when he finally spoke he yelled back “I have no clue what you’re talking about. I suggest you leave us alone”.  My head started to spin, what was happening to me? Just yesterday I was playing scrabble with my parents at our kitchen table. I remembered distinctly making fun of my father, because he always tried to get away with using random letters and claiming that they were words.  Those same people were right before me and I felt as if I knew the man standing in the road better than my own parents. The man spoke again.” Jack you have to tell her the truth or I will “.He was projecting his voice. His voice sliced through the frigid night air like a knife through butter.  It sent unwelcomed chills throughout my body. He sounded like he could have been a radio host, or one of those men who do advertisements for upcoming movie premieres. I slapped myself! Snap out of it Mina. I told myself this is really happening.
        My thoughts were cut off by my father, “You will not take her Knoll. I won’t allow it.” My mother got out of the car and was by my father side in moments. The man looked at her in disgust, and in a condescending voice, he said “I am happy you decided to join us Stephanie.” She just stared at him with a look of dismay and rolled her eyes.  That is when I made my mind up, I had had enough.  I too got out of the car, ignoring my parents commands to go back. I stood next to my mother and exclaimed, “Well now that you have all had your reunion, will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on?”  I didn’t care much for cursing but honestly it seemed like the only thing I could say that would fit the situation.
    The man snickered, I mean he actually laughed. I couldn’t help through all the confusion I was experiencing; I allowed a smiled to break free. The man stepped forward, “Hello Mina. I offer my apologies for all the inconvenience and trouble I have caused tonight.  I am Knoll.”  He reached his large hand out for me to shake it.  I thought what the hell this night couldn’t get any weirder, so I shook his hand. This apparently made my parents angry .They both looked back at me and growled! I mean they actually growled.  Like my dog Banksey does when someone tries to take his bone away.  I involuntarily took a step away from my parents. I didn’t feel any safer standing beside them than the man who had just introduced himself as Knoll. I would have to address the strangeness of his name later.
When my father finally spoke again, he turned to me. He commanded, Mina-Bear, go back to the van! Allow us grownups to have a talk. Then we will be on our way to your grandmas again, sweetie. I looked at them with utter amazement.  Before I could even stop myself, I looked at him and spoke, “I am not going anywhere with anyone! I don’t know what is going on. Who is that man dad? And how did you throw him to the ground so hard? And forth and foremost why did you and mom just growl at me?” I rambled all of these questions out so quickly.
   I wondered if anyone had understood the jumbled mess. I felt a warm tear stream down my frozen face.  Which I didn’t bother to hide, I was confused and scared. So much for not being a coward, I thought to myself.  As everyone looked at me in silence, my mother walked towards me.  I took several steps back, “no mom, don’t I warned. I don’t want you to be close to me right now!” She stopped in her tracks, “Mina Bear let me explain.” I looked at her with a peevish look on my face and said, “I am listening.” She pointed at Knoll and said this man is trying to take you away from us”. I stood with my arms crossed, letting her get it all out before I responded. She continued, “He believes that you are meant to do some things with your life that we do not. I thought to myself, Way to be vague mom. She continued again, “We are protecting you Mina-Bear. I am sorry if we frightened you. You know that your father and I love you, and would do anything to protect you.”
       I finally spoke, “No mom, I don’t know that, not anymore. You let me sit in that van scared to death. I actually thought this could have been our last night together. Maybe even our last night on this earth! Now we are sitting here having a pow-wow with this strange man who wants to take me away.” I thought back to when I heard Knoll tell my father that he needed to tell someone the truth.  So I looked at him and pointed my finger in his direction, startling him by saying, “And you! Jumping in front of the car scaring me to death!  What is wrong with you?” He just stood there in bewilderment, letting me go on with my tangent.  I continued, “What do you mean by he needed to tell her the truth?  Were you talking about me?”
   Knoll stepped forward, walking slowly towards me like I was a fragile animal. He apparently didn’t want to scare me away. “Yes Mina I was talking about you”, he responded calmly. “Stephanie was right, in a sense, but they are not telling you the whole truth.” My father stepped in between Knoll and myself. He shouted, “I am warning you Knoll that is enough! One more word and I will kill you!” That is when I did something I never thought I would do. I stepped in front of Knoll and told my dad to step down. One way or another I wanted the truth tonight, even though that meant making my parents angry at me.  Knoll turned to me, “I am here to take you home.” I don’t understand my home is about three hours that way”. I proclaimed as I pointed at the barren road behind us.
    Knoll said, “I am trying to be delicate in the way I tell you this Mina.  Although I fear that we are running out of time” My body began to shake uncontrollably. What was he talking about? We were running out of time for what? I began to ask, but he continued again, cutting me off mid- sentence. “Jack and Stephanie are not your real parents.” They both had fear spread across their faces.  As the saying goes, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. I searched my mind for a logical explanation, maybe this man had me mixed up with someone else, and it was the only one I could come up with. I looked at “my parents” and couldn’t help but to question their love for me. They had growled at me and treated me like I was nothing to them. No matter how hard it was to ask Knoll to continue, I had to. I had to know the truth even if it would hurt me. I looked at Knoll, who was standing perfectly still between my parents and I, as if he was shielding me away from their lies he claimed they were telling. I finally got up the courage and looked Knoll directly in his eyes and asked, “What happened?” He responded as he stepped closer to me, “Mina you were kidnapped when you were three years old. I am your guardian; I have come to take you home to your real family.” I couldn’t help but to flinch at his last words as if they physically struck me. There was a truth in his eyes that frightened me. I tried to shallow down the fear and disgust. I looked to my so-called parents with surprise. I was heartbroken. How could this be? I would have questioned what he was telling me, although the look on Jack and Stephanie’s faces was all the truth I needed. I was so angry! I wanted to just turn around and run until my feet wouldn’t carry me anymore.  I knew that I needed to figure this out. All that my stricken, weather-worn lips could muster was, “Why?” Stephanie looked at me, “Oh hell, Mina-Bear, we had no choice. We had to protect you from those people.” She said the last word with disgust, like she had a bad taste in her mouth. Knoll stepped forward with anger radiating off of him. He shouted, “Stop that is enough lies, I will not stand her while you torture and confuse her anymore.”
    Knoll looked at me once more and continued to talk but he spoke much quicker this time. “Mina the truth is they are a part of an organization that takes royalties from our kind. They raise them as humans so they cannot rule. If we do not have an air for the throne then there leader steps in place. They were keeping you hidden from your own people, so that their leader, Ezra, could take over.” I stood there feeling like I was a part of some sick joke. I waited for someone to jump out and yell, “Gotcha!” or something, but I knew that, in all reality, that was a long shot. I couldn’t fight the tears anymore. I sat down on the frozen ground, immediately feeling the wetness of the snow seep through my jeans. I buried my face in my hands and let out shuttering sobs. I had been living a lie, and I didn’t know what to believe anymore. The impossible had become my reality within about an hours’ time.
     Knoll walked to me and sat down across from me. He laid his jacket over my shoulders.  I wanted to refuse it, but in all honesty, I was so cold. I was thankful for any warmth I could get. He leaned into me and whispered, “I am so sorry Mina. I have been searching for you for the last thirteen years. I should have found you sooner. I know that this is a lot to take in but I have something else to tell you. That is much harder to swallow than what I just told you. They will not let us leave here alive. It is their assignment to raise you as their own, but if you figure out the truth then they have to kill you.” I looked up at him with horror spread across my face. I stammered, “No! They couldn’t hurt me. I know they lied but they have to love me. They raised me as their own. They have to love me. Don’t they?”
     Before he could answer, he was thrown back by Stephanie. She snarled at me and commanded me to stand up and come to her. I got to my feet and tried to make her think that I was going to oblige.  I then did the only thing I could think to do; I turned and ran for the van. The keys were still in the ignition.  I knew that it was my best chance to get away.  Before I could get to the van, Jack stepped in front of me. He grabbed ahold of my arm and sneered, “Not so fast, Mina-Bear.” I stood in between the people who I thought were my parents, the people that I had been willing to lay my life down for. I was scared and angry. I didn’t mind dying when I knew that they were there with me. But to die by their hand, that was something I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I was terrified. I pleaded, looking at Stephanie, “Please Stop! How could you do this to me?” I couldn’t help but to want to know why. She looked at me as if I was nothing to her. She then plainly said “Because I was instructed to do so.” She showed no hurt or regret. She sounded like she was a robot.
   I looked to Jack and asked, “Are you really going to kill me?” He placed his hand on my shoulder and answered, “I am afraid so. One life isn’t anything compared to the power we will receive once you are disposed of.” I closed my eyes preparing myself to say goodbye to the world.  I then heard a loud snapping noise. I opened my eyes and saw that Stephanie lay dead at my feet. Her neck had been snapped. I screeched with pain. Even though she wasn’t my mother, I had thought she was for thirteen years. She had been like a best friend to me. I turned to see Knoll and Jack fighting. I screamed for them to stop. “No one else has to die please.”  Knoll looked at me as he tasseled with my so-called father and instructed me to get into the van. He stated, “No matter how this turns out know that I will always be sorry that it has taken me this long to find you.” He said with sorrow filled eyes, and once more he commanded me to get in the van and lock the doors.  If Jack killed him, I was to drive to the nearest coffee shop where I should call the number on the piece of paper he threw to me as he knocked Jack onto his back. I looked at Jack once more before I headed to the van, he rose from the ground quickly. I began pleading with him once more not to do this. He looked at me and said, “Once I am done killing him, you’re next, you abomination.”
    I raced to the van and hopped in quickly, locking all of the doors. I knew that there was nothing I could do besides watch the gruesome scene that played out in front of me. I was completely numb. I couldn’t believe what had happened. All I knew was if Knoll died, so did my chances of staying alive. I watched as they slammed each other into the ground. Jack had Knolls’ neck in his hands and was fiercely twisting it. I did what I could and honked the horn. Which made Jack look up and that’s all it took. Knoll had jumped to his feet and snapped Jack’s neck just like he did Stephanie’s. I watched as Jack’s body hit the ground and I couldn’t help but to scream. I had loved them. They were all I had ever known, and now they were nothing but bodies lying on the cold, snow covered road.
    Knoll stood there for a moment and then solemnly headed to the van. I unlocked the door and let him in. He looked at my grief stricken face and said, “I am so sorry you had to witness that. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you.” I just shook my head in agreement and thought to myself that my life, as I knew it, was over. I had just assisted a stranger into killing my parents, well; my pretend-kidnapping-parents that was.  I decided that was what I was going to call them from here on out. I shuddered at the thought.

About the Author:

Julie lives in Bloomington Indiana; she is twenty one years old, and recently has attended Ivy Tech community College. When she is not listening to music or getting lost in reading, or writing. She is spending time with her family, or cuddled up watching a movie with her fiancé. Julie is an avid book lover, and enjoys reading every day; she reads anything from paranormal romance to biographies.

She loves to go against the grain and to be different. Julie is also an animal lover, and when she is not reading or spending quality time with her family, she is spending time with her cat lily. She is hoping one day to become a full time writer, and is currently working on her next great book!