Friday, March 18, 2016

Chapter reveal for The Paladins by Julie Reece #ya #paranormal #giveaway

I loved the first book, so ready for this one!

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!

Here’s a message from the author.

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.

The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.

On to the reveal! 

Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2)
Author: Julie Reece
Pub. Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook

The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives...or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts. 

In case you missed it here's the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!

Author: Julie Reece
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 300
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?



The Before


It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One


A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane. “Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up. The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.


After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it. The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.


I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.


What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.

Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…

Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult
romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.

Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cover and first chapter reveal! In The Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford #giveaway #ya

Today J. Keller Ford and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING! Book 1 in the Chronicles of Fallhallow Series which releases May 31,  2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a short intro from the author!

Hi there! I’m so excited to share this cover with you. I love the stunning blue background with the silver accents, and the dragon medallion totally captures the personality of the book. I knew I wanted the cover to be classic, timeless, yet dark and enchanting, and boy, did the designers deliver! I couldn’t be more thrilled. Thanks so much for stopping by!

On to the reveal! 

Title: IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING (The Chronicles of Fallhallow #1)
Author: J. Keller Ford
Pub. Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook

Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he's some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He's supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who's too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.


“War is a necessary evil. There is not a day or time when each of us does not battle some sort of enemy either within or around us. The true test of our character lies in the instant when we choose to either ignore or defeat that which seeks to destroy us. It is the same in our kingdom. Hirth has seen its share of battles and this great province has ridden the wings of freedom for many an age; however, there will come a day when an evil so immense will seek to threaten our very existence. It is then the knights of Gyllen Castle will rise to the aid of Hirth and defend all that is dear – our families, our land, and our right to survive. When such a time comes, I will fight with honor and for glory and give my life, if my forfeiture of it will allow Hirth the chance to endure in peace. And while I know that the enemy may prevail and my life be extinguished from this body, my death will not be in vain for what is more honorable than giving one’s life for love of family, country…and freedom.”

Sir Trogsdill Domnall.

Chapter 1

If Eric had known what the daylight would bring after the nightmares ended, he would have remained in bed, the covers pulled over his head.

Instead, he waded through the puddles of the castle’s upper courtyard, each gong from the clock tower further coiling his stomach into knots. Sloshing along beside him, down the aisle of topiaries and statues, was his best friend, a devilish lad with unkempt hair the color of dirt and a cock-eyed grin.

“I don’t know why you’re in such a hurry,” Sestian said, polishing an apple on his sleeve. “Weapons class began fifteen minutes ago. Master Mafi won’t allow us in.” The apple crunched in his teeth.

“You don’t understand, Ses. I have to try.” Eric swatted at the spindly arms of a willow tree. “This will be the third day in a row I missed. If I don’t go, word will get back to Trog and he’ll flog me. You know how he gets.”

“You worry too much. He’d never physically hurt you, however, I do have to admit, he is quite an odd fellow. I saw him make another midnight trek to the fountain last night. He sat there all hunched over like he’d lost his best friend, then he stood, dropped a rose in the water, and left.”

Eric’s muscles bunched under his light shirt, his brow pinched. “That is bizarre, even for him.”

“Want to hear something even more bizarre?” Sestian paused, took another bite of the apple and buried the core in a potted plant. “I overheard Trog and my own headache of a master talking this morning. I believe the exact words out of Farnsworth’s mouth were, ‘Fallhollow is under attack’.”

Eric came to a stop, his eyes wide. “Attack? From who?”

Sestian shrugged. “Don’t know, but members of the Senate and the Mage’s High Council arrived an hour ago, including the Supreme Master himself. They’re meeting with the Order as we speak.”

“What?” Eric’s pulse quickened. “Jared’s here? You saw him?”

The grand mage of all magical beings never involved himself in the affairs of men. Ever.

“No, but I plan to change that.” An impish twinkle glistened in Sestian’s eyes. “Are you game?”

“What? You want to—you mean—you’re joking, right?”

The puckish grin on Sestian’s face answered his question.

Eric shook his head. “Oh, no. There is no way you’re going to get me to eavesdrop on a secret council meeting. I’d rather get hit by lightning than suffer the punishment from anyone sitting in that room.”

“Aww, come on, Eric. Must you always be so dull? Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“That sort of curiosity will land us in the pillory at best.” Eric pushed past his friend through the carved citadel doors. Sestian darted in front of him and stopped.

“Your point?”

“My point is that I value my life.”

“And what of Fallhollow? Don’t you value our home?”

“Of course I do, but—”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Sestian punched Eric’s arm. “Let’s go.”

“Ses, no!” Eric’s protest fell on empty ears. His friend was gone.

Eric brushed past the lapis columns of the marble vestibule into the Great Hall, a wide-open space topped by a domed ceiling so high its ornate detail was almost lost in the darkness. Nobles and servants milled about, coming and going out of the many rooms, laughter echoing off the walls speckled with massive tapestries and oiled paintings. A flock of girls dressed in aristocratic finery stood upon the majestic staircase, twittering like excited canaries. One of them, Lady Emelia, a startling girl with red hair and striking features, waved at him and winked. Eric rolled his eyes and scurried down the hall past the stairs. The last thing he wanted or needed was a flighty girl choking his freedom.

He passed several lavish rooms before spotting his friend at the far end of the music room, leaning on a harp.

“What took you so long?” Sestian grinned, then pushed aside a wall tapestry and vanished through a secret door.

“Drat you, Ses. How do you find these things?” Eric glanced over his shoulder and followed.

Inside, Sestian struck a wooden match against the stone wall and lit a torch he plucked from an iron sconce. They climbed a set of narrow steps. The guttering flame of Sestian’s torch cast shadows on the walls. More than once the passageway twisted and turned as they ascended.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Eric asked.

Sestian laughed. “We’re in the heart of the castle and you’re going to ask that question now?”

They continued upward. After what seemed an eternity, the steps emptied onto the landing of a dark corridor filled with cobwebs. Sestian stopped and thrust the torch at Eric. “Hold this.” He spun a wall sconce in a combination of left and right turns until a latch popped, and a hidden door opened inward, exposing a small room filled with wooden crates.

“What the—?” Eric stepped inside, his mouth open.

Sestian placed his finger to his lips and motioned to a jagged hole the size of a man’s fist in the wall.

Curious, Eric squatted and peered through a banner of delicate silk.

“Dragon’s breath,” he whispered. “That’s the king’s arbitration room!” He flicked a sideways glance at Sestian. “How did you find this?”

“I don’t sleep much, remember?”

“Good heavens, you are crazy.”

A chair scraped across the wood floor below. Four mages, recognizable by their golden skin, turquoise eyes, and sapphire–blue garments, sat on one side of an immense oval table. Four senators clad in similar garments of purple and gold sat across from them. At one head of the table sat Trog and Farnsworth. At the other, a sojourner shrouded in black with silver rings upon his fingers and tattoos etched upon his hands. And at one of the five arched windows stood the sorceress, Slavandria, her thick lavender hair plaited in a single braid to the floor.

“Jared,” Eric said under his breath.

“Yep,” Sestian said. “That’d be my guess.”

Below, Trog leaned forward, his massive hands clasped together, and addressed the cloaked figure opposite him. “We will heed your warnings, Master Jared, and dispatch a legion to His Majesty’s entourage. I also think it wise to notify our neighbors to the north of the encroaching threat. If this enemy’s intentions are to see Hirth fall, he will attack our allies first to render our kingdom helpless.”

“Agreed.” Jared’s voice resonated deep within the chambers, and into Eric’s core. “Master Camden, see to it the kingdoms of Trent and Banning are informed of the possible threat. Also, instruct the shime to dispatch regiments and secure the borders of Hirth.”

“Do you feel that necessary?” replied the bald man clad in blue. “There is no proof the kingdom of Hirth or the realm of Fallhollow, for that matter, is under attack. There have only been a few isolated incidents of bloodshed, nothing that could be construed as acts of war.”

“Master Camden,” Jared said, “several families of barbegazis, nine unicorns, and over a hundred humans are dead all in the course of four days. This morning, patrols rescued a herd of pixies from a crow’s cage in the Elmwithian Marsh. They were swathed in dragon’s blood. Might I remind you a single act of brutality, especially one steeped in black magic as these incidences are, is one violation too many. Our job is to protect this world, and more so this kingdom, from any dark sorcery that may threaten it. If this directive is in any way unclear, I will be more than happy to personally instruct you in the importance of upholding your defensive role.”

A chill crept up Eric’s spine.

“Oh, come on. Instruct him,” Sestian said, a grin stretched across his face.

A palpable silence fell over the room. Master Camden shifted in his seat and wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. “Personal instruction is not necessary, Supreme Master.”

“I find that to be a wise decision.”

Eric exhaled. “Yes, so do I.”

Jared stood and pulled the hood of his cloak forward. “Since we are in agreement, I believe we can dismiss. Sir Trogsdill, if I may, I’d like to speak with my daughter alone.”

“Of course,” Trog said, standing. “The rest of you, follow me to the dining hall where you can feast before your journey home.”

“I don’t believe this, Sestian whispered as Trog ushered the last of the visitors out and closed the door behind him.

“Shh,” Eric said.

Down below, Slavandria, said “What is on your mind, Father?”

Jared strolled past her, his hands tucked into his voluminous sleeves. “I have given this a great deal of thought and I have reached a decision. Considering all that has happened, I am left with no other choice. As queen of the Southern Forest and protector of this realm, you must summon the paladin.”

Her gasp could have ripped leaves from their stems.

“Father, no! I can’t! The paladin is only to be summoned in the direst of circumstances. While these attacks are horrid, they are far from extreme.”


“Father, please. The ramifications will be devastating to all those involved. Together with the shime, we’ll find this enemy and bring him into the light. I beg you. Please do not do this.”

“If that were true, they would have done so by now. As such, your arguing is futile. My decision is made. By sunset within three days, you must fulfill your duties. I will have the document drawn and sealed. Have Mangus deliver it. So it is said?”

Slavandria’s jaw tightened. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“And you are bordering the line of punishment.”

Eric shuddered at the menacing tone.

“Do I have your word?” Jared said.

Slavandria straightened her back and steadied her voice. “Yes, Father. So it is said. So it shall be done, but don’t think for one-minute I won’t improvise when the time presents itself.”

“You have always been my challenge child. I would expect nothing less from you. Now, if you will forgive me, I must go.”

“Where this time?”

“Home, to Felindil for a day. Afterwards, I will be in seclusion, communing with the heavens before taking to the sea.”

“What? And leave me here to set the world right once the paladin arrives?”

Jared’s full-bodied laughter filled the room. “You sound as if the demon of the underworld will rise, spewing fire and ash.”

“And how do you know he won’t?” She paused, her fingers steepled to her lips before continuing. “Father, please. All I ask is for once, in your long, stubborn life, you listen to me. The people of this kingdom and all of Fallhollow are innocent. They need our protection. I fear what the paladin’s presence will do. You can’t bring such devastation upon Fallhollow and then leave me to salvage whatever is left.”

“I bring nothing upon this realm; therefore, I leave you with nothing to clean up. The course of the world is set. Events will unfold as they will. The paladin will not change that which is set in motion.”

“You’re wrong, Father.” Slavandria brushed past him.

“Disagree if you must. You always do. For now, go home. Wait for my summoning papers and prepare the traveler. I will come to you in Chalisdawn three days hence.”

Jared snapped his fingers. White shards of light crackled and zapped around him, and he was gone.

Slavandria shook her head. “You have no idea what you’ve done, Father.” She gathered her cloak from the back of a chair and incanted some strange words. A swift pale-blue mist rose from the floor, swirling, engulfing her in a vortex. The air sizzled and splintered, and she, too, disappeared.

“Whoa,” Sestian said. “This is worse than bad.”

“No kidding,” Eric stood and brushed the dust from his breeches, “and I have a feeling it’s going to get a lot worse.”

Sestian withdrew the torch as they left the room and shut the door. “You do realize we’re going to have to find out who this paladin is, right?”

Eric walked down the steps. “Why is that?”

“Come on. Are you that daft? How else are we going to prove to Trog and Farnsworth that we’re deserving of becoming knights? Right now they think we’re nothing but a pair of imbeciles worthy of nothing more than polishing armor and performing duties of a valet.”

“We’re squires, Ses. That’s what we do.”

“And it’s all we’ll ever do if we don’t prove ourselves. Don’t you get it? When was the last time Gyllen Castle or Hirth saw battle, hmm?”

“You sound as if you want war.”

“No, but I haven’t trained all my life to become a knight only to end up as a fat, lazy, well-paid manservant.”

Eric turned a corner and continued downward, his voice hollow in the muted dark. “I don’t think you’ll ever be fat or lazy.”

“Eric, come on. Why must you be so difficult? Without a skirmish or two, acts of heroism for us are limited to rescuing girls from over-zealous drunkards and protecting the royal dinner from the palace dogs. I want more than that. When I die, I don’t want to be remembered for how well I polished a sword, but for something grand and heroic. Don’t you want the same?”

“Of course I do, but I don’t sit around thinking about what legacy I want to leave behind when I die.”

“Liar. All you ever talk about is how much you want to be a knight like Trog.” Sestian shoved past Eric and blocked his descent. “Think about it. You know as well as I we’ll be relegated to the stables to saddle horses and pack rations and bedrolls if there is the slightest hint of a conflict. They won’t let us anywhere near a battlefield, especially you. It’s like you’re some kind of poster boy for squire school.”

“I know, but—”

“No, there are no buts. Don’t you see? Now is our chance to show our mettle. If we team up with this paladin, we have a chance to prove ourselves. Trog and Farnsworth will have to take notice.”

“Yeah, after they flog, tar and feather us. Besides, what makes you think this paladin will want us, huh? He’s probably some powerful sorcerer like Jared.”

“No one is as powerful as Jared, but I’ll bet you a rooster against a duck this savior dabbles not only in white, but black magic, too. That’s why Jared needs him.”

“Which is all the more reason for us to keep our distance.”

“No! It’s all the more reason for us to find him. He’ll need guides to help him maneuver through our lands. We’ll be heroes for saving Fallhollow from a murderous foe. King Gildore will praise us. Songs will be written about us.”

Eric rolled his eyes.

Sestian snorted. “Don’t think I can’t hear your eyes flipping around in their sockets. You know I’m right. We know every crack in the earth Fallhollow possesses. We’ve been trained by the very best knights in the world. On top of that, I have a knack for getting us in and out of places unseen. You’re extraordinary with a blade. Together, we’re dangerous. We can be his eyes and ears. And when we defeat whatever is out there, Trog and Farnsworth will have no choice but to admit our accomplishments and recommend us for knighthood.”

Sestian’s stance and the set of his eyes conveyed an intensity Eric admired and feared. He sighed aloud. “All right. You win, but we say nothing. If Trog and Farnsworth found out, they’d roll us in dragon dung and set us on fire.”

Sestian punched Eric playfully on the arm and smiled, wide. “Ha! I knew I could break you.”

They hurried from the music room and fell in with other students leaving classrooms. In the sunlit courtyard, Eric stopped short. Sestian plowed into him from behind.

“What’s wrong?”

Eric gritted his teeth. “Do you not see who is standing in front of us?”

Sestian turned his gaze to their masters leaning against the balustrade, their arms folded to their chests, waiting. “Great. Let me handle this.”

Trog stood upright and adjusted the sword on his hip, flexing the intersecting scars on his arms—reminders of dozens of battles fought. He took a step forward, and a gust of wind blew his dark hair back from his weathered, sun-darkened face, exposing a high forehead, square jaw, and intense peridot eyes. Eric gulped as a childhood tale about a sly mouse captured by a blind owl scampered through his brain.

“You’re late,” Trog said, tossing Eric a suede satchel weighed down with sheathed knives. “Where have you been?” He spoke softly, but his voice reverberated through the crisp morning air.

“Listening to Magister Timan’s lecture on ceremonial magic,” Sestian replied. “Did you know there are magical portals that allow us to travel between realms?”

“Did you know I have a magical foot that can disappear up your backside if you don’t get down to the stables right now?” Farnsworth asked. His brow furrowed beneath a curtain of wavy straw-colored hair. He walked toward Sestian, the seams of his green tunic strained over his wide shoulders, his eyes as brown and penetrating as a wolf’s.

“So I’ve heard. Several times.” Sestian grinned and tapped Eric on the arm. “We’ll get together later and go over what we learned today, eh?”

Eric nodded and shuffled his feet under the weight of Trog’s stare. He waited for Sestian and Farnsworth to get far enough away before lifting his head and meeting Trog’s gaze. The knight lifted a brow.

“Are you going to tell me where you really were, or are you going to hold to your story that you were listening to a lecture that ended this time yesterday?”

“Which one will get me in the least amount of trouble?”

Trog placed his hand on Eric’s back and edged him down the stone steps to the lower courtyard. “The truth, Eric. Always the truth.”

“What if I promised not to tell?”

“Secrets are grave burdens to bear.”

“I can’t betray his confidence, sir. I promised.”

Trog nodded. “Then you’ll sleep in the stables tonight as punishment.”

“What? How is that fair?”

“You know the rules as my squire, and you still choose to withhold the truth. Therefore, you shall be punished accordingly.”

“But the rules of knighthood require I not reveal confidences or secrets under any circumstance to anyone at any time, even under pain of death.”

“Nice try, lad, but the last time I looked, you have not been captured nor are you under pain of death.” Trog placed a heavy hand on Eric’s shoulder. “I’m going to give you one more chance. What will it be?”

Eric clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. “With all due respect, sir, I cannot and will not betray my friend.”

Trog removed his hand. “I commend you on your loyalty, son, but you have made your choice. Therefore, you will suffer the consequences of it. Now go on and get busy with your chores. I want each of those blades in your hand sharpened and polished by morning—”

“But, sir—”

“And for protesting when you should not, you will also sharpen and polish Sir Farnsworth’s blades. I’ll see to it they are dropped off.” Eric opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind when Trog dipped his brow in warning. “Would you like me to add Sir Gowran’s and Sir Crohn’s weapons to your load?”

Eric bit back the irritation boiling below the surface. “No, sir.”

“Very well. Bring the blades to the farrier’s stall in the morning around eight. It will be a dual-fold meeting as you can visit your father at the same time.”

Trog paused for a moment, his expression thoughtful, then turned and strolled across the courtyard. He hoisted a young page from a game of marbles and lectured him on the pitfalls of wasting time. Eric snorted at the boy’s bewildered expression and the speed at which he ran once set down upon his feet. Been there, boy. He cursed beneath his breath. What am I talking about? I’m still there.

Eric’s boots clicked on the cobblestones as he plodded toward Crafter’s Row. He passed beneath the archway connecting the cathedral to the knights’ quarters and turned left down the tree-shaded lane toward the royal stables. After informing the stablemaster of his upcoming sleeping arrangements, Eric returned the way he came. At the crossroad, he turned and made his way toward the smithy. Horses clomped and wagons rattled over the pavers while thick clouds gathered overhead, suffocating the sun. A light drizzle set in as he entered a stone building marked by a metal plate engraved with a hammer and anvil. The blacksmith wiped the sweat from his brow and motioned Eric to a table set with vials of oils, and various whetstones.

Eric sighed. Lovely.

He settled into the monotonous task of sharpening and polishing, taking on Farnsworth’s load a few hours later. He finished his arduous task just after dusk. Cursing his sore muscles, he packed up the satchels and shuffled to the stables where a plate of bread, cheese and a pint of goat’s milk waited for him.

Great. Is he trying to starve me, too?

He ate what was given and settled into the hayloft, his stomach a knot of protests. He sighed. Who was this paladin, and from who or what was he destined to save the realm? There was only one way to find out. Tomorrow he and Sestian would devise a plan, and it would be worthy of a knight’s tale. When all was said and done, Trog would have no other choice than to see him as a worthy knight instead of an incompetent fool. An image of Trog groveling for forgiveness appeared in his mind. Eric snuggled into a bed of hay and fell into a blissful dream, a wide grin on his face.

About J. Keller Ford: 
J. (Jenny) Keller Ford grew up as an Army brat, traveling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles. From the time she was old enough to hold a crayon, she wove fantasy tales of dragons, warriors, and princesses.  A former paralegal, she’s the author of several short stories including The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson.  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time overloading on coffee, collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and talking plotlines with anyone who will listen.  She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, two sons, two dogs, and a pretentious orange cat.  Her two daughters and grand-daughter make their homes in Seattle, WA.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eGalley of IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING. International.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Read the first chapter of The Undertakers: The End of the World by Ty Drago #giveaway

Today Ty Drago and Month9Books are revealing the first chapter for THE UNDERTAKERS: THE END OF THE WORLD! Book 5 in the Undertakers Series which releases March 29, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Author: Ty Drago
Pub. Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook

Think the Corpse War was over? So did Will Ritter until he was led through a doorway in time and finds himself in a future where the Earth has been all but destroyed. The Corpses, alien invaders who wear the dead like suits of clothing, have returned in horrific numbers. In the wake of their destructive onslaught, a rag-tag group of survivors with some of Will's now grownup friends among them is all that's left of mankind. Will must take part in a desperate, last ditch effort to rewrite history, prevent the Second Corpse War from ever happening, and defeat this evil that has consumed mankind once and for all. But victory, if such a thing is even possible, carries a heavy cost. 


Chapter 1


Folks don't sweat in dreams, do they?

“Ready?” the dude in the broken glasses asked.

The dreamer nodded, readying her javelin, feeling the familiar cold steel of its shaft in her strong fists. This wasn't the “real” javelin, of course. The dude in the broken glasses, the one who kept bringing her to this strange place while she slept, had told her that the “real” javelin was too unique and important to risk in a training exercise. But he assured her that this one was the same length and weight as the genuine article.

Whatever. It worked well enough. And she was getting good with it.

But then, she'd always had a knack with pointy things like this.

This was her fifth simulation tonight and the sweat of the last four stung her eyes.

Even in her scariest nightmares, and Heaven knew she'd had her share of those, in which she was either running from Corpses or defending the people she cared about from those undead invaders, she never sweated. Oh sure, when she woke up with a gasp of alarm or even a terrified cry, she was often soaked in cold, sticky perspiration.

But never during the actual dream.

Until now.

Her eyes looked everywhere at once as she turned in a slow circle, surveying the dimly lit room. This place had a high ceiling, with walls and a floor all covered in white tile. It was big too, maybe sixty feet by thirty.

But with the lights off, it seemed even bigger.

And more menacing.

That's 'cause I know what hides in this darkness.


The first mechanical monster charged her left flank, just a flash of movement, a shadow against other shadows. She got the impression of something large, with ten legs and a single piercing red eye.

No time to parry. So she dove, rolled, and felt the charging thing rush past her. Then, finding one knee, she thrust one of the javelin's two pointed ends up and out. It was one of the dozen moves that she'd been painstakingly mastering.

In these dreams, that is.

Her thrust struck home, the javelin's point jabbing deeply into the ten-legged monster's flank, knocking it over. The dreamer, still holding the weapon's other end, went with it, using its weight to leverage her to her feet before yanking the javelin free and spinning around, poised for the next assault.

Two of them came at her this time, ten o'clock and one o'clock. Their maws were wide open, rows of teeth shimmering in the darkness.

She went left, running straight at her nearest attacker, only to leap at the last second, putting one bare foot atop the monster's bulbous head and vaulting over it. As she did, she let her body tumble rearward, executing a backflip that allowed her to drive the javelin viciously into the creature's steel spine. As the weapon's point sliced through the thick armor, the dreamer's momentum pulled the javelin along, slicing open the creature's metal plating, exposing rent gears, severed cables and electronic circuitry that sputtered in its death throes.

The monster collapsed.

The dreamer landed smoothly on her feet behind it.

And that's when the other one struck her.

As quick as she'd been, she hadn't been quick enough. She'd stupidly allowed the last monster to anticipate her, and now she was paying for it, her body a mass of pain as she was slammed against the floor and sent sliding along its tiled surface.

Somewhere in the surrounding darkness, she heard the dude with the broken glasses gasp in alarm.

Wincing, the dreamer rolled with the blow, controlled it, and managed to get her feet under her and the javelin up just as the ten-legged thing pounced at her for the killing blow.

This time, the weapon's point rammed straight up under the creature's chin, if you could call that place under its mouth a “chin.” Bracing herself, and ignoring the sharp agony that lanced up her left arm—wrenched, but not broken—the dreamer pushed harder, and harder still, until the javelin exploded out the top of the monster's head.

It toppled over as the other had.

“The crystal!” the man in the broken glasses cried. “There's the crystal!”

The dreamer looked up and saw it.

It shone brightly, high overhead, an enormous construct of glowing glass. It hung there, supported by nothing, pulsing with strange, unnatural energy.

Pure evil.

Pushing away her pain and ignoring the sweat stinging her eyes, the dreamer planted one foot on the last monster's broken, lifeless body and yanked the javelin free. Then she spun, reared back, and hurled the shining shaft of pointed metal upward.

She watched it fly, cutting the air like a laser beam, almost seeming to glow itself.

It slammed into the hateful, malevolent crystal, piercing it deeply, and sending a splintering web of cracks running along the face of it.

“Yes!” the dude in the broken glasses exclaimed. As had often happened before, something in the sound of his voice struck the dreamer as familiar.

I almost get who he is ...

“It didn't break!” the dreamer exclaimed.

“It will,” the dude said, emerging from the shadows to her right. “It'll take a little over four minutes for the harmonic resonance to build up, but then it'll shatter spectacularly. You'll need to be gone by then.”

“Gone from where?” she asked.

He didn't reply.

Abruptly, the crystal vanished. The javelin, she now saw, was buried in the room's high ceiling, having pierced one of the white tiles.

An illusion, as always. “Hologram” was what the dude called it.

But illusion or not, after something like two dozen tries, I finally crushed it!

The lights came on, which was freaky, since there were no visible lamps.

The dreamer regarded the three broken creatures around her. Robots. Just metal and computer chips and what she supposed had to be some pretty hardcore programming. But the dude in the broken glasses had assured her that they were as close to the real thing as he could make them.

And the dreamer, who'd seen the real thing up close and personal, agreed.

The dude in the broken glasses wore a broad, toothy smile. The dreamer was certain that she knew that smile, and not just from her nocturnal visits to this strange place. She knew it from somewhere else, somewhere in the waking world.

But, try as she might, she couldn't—

“That was very well done,” he said.

“Thanks,” the dreamer replied. “Does that mean I graduated? Am I done comin' back here?”

The man's smile faded and he shook his head. “Not yet. You did get hit, after all. We need to practice until you don't. We need to get you to the point where those things don't lay a claw on you. Even so, you're doing wonderfully. Well beyond projections!”

“Thanks,” she said again. “But it'd help if I could practice with the javelin on my own time. These dream sessions are cool and all, but they ain't really enough to let me master a new weapon.”

The dude in the broken glasses shrugged. “They're all we've got.”

“Ain't you ever gonna tell me who you are?” the dreamer asked.

“Probably not,” he replied. “But you'll likely figure it out one day. For now, we should call it a night. Time's short for me this evening. He's coming.”

“Who's coming?”

The dude considered before answering. Then, with a shrug, he replied, “Will Ritter.”

The dreamer blinked in surprise. “Red's coming here?”

“Well, not to this exact room. But he's coming to this place and time.”

“And what place and time is that?” the dreamer demanded, bothered by the fact that poor Will was somehow being dragged into—whatever this was. Though, she supposed it shouldn't surprise her. Will Ritter was always in the thick of things, especially where the Corpse War was concerned.

But, as usual, the dude in the broken glasses didn't reply.

She'd been coming to this strange room for close to a month now, night after night, repeating the same exercise over and over. Each time she would fight the ten-legged monsters and then try to destroy the crystal. She didn't know what it was all for. She didn't know why it was happening, and had never been able to coax a straight answer from the man in the broken glasses, not even to the most obvious question:

Where am I?

Then, suddenly, an alarm sounded.

It rang somewhere outside the room, not blaring but loud enough to be easily heard. The dude in the broken glasses spun around with a startled gasp.

“What's that?” the dreamer asked.

“They've found us!” he replied, and the panic in his voice sent a sharp chill racing down the dreamer's spine. “No! It's too soon!”

“Too soon?” she begged. “For what?”

He looked at her, a little desperately, she thought. But then he steadied himself and said, “You've done great work, but it looks like this is our last session after all. Thank you for your efforts and your patience during this past month. You're as strong as I remember you being. I'll send you home now.”

“Wait!” the dreamer exclaimed as the dude in the broken glasses took a gadget from inside the threadbare white lab coat he wore. Some kind of flashlight. “What’s goin' down? What is all this?”

And, for once, her mystery man gave her an answer.

Sort of.

“It's the end of the world, Sharyn.”

Then he pointed the flashlight thingy at her, and she knew what was coming. For an instant, white light filled her vision. And an instant after that, Sharyn Jefferson, Co-Chief of the Undertakers, awoke on her cot in Haven, and remembered that Hot Dog was dead.

About Ty: Ty Drago does his writing just across the river from Philadelphia, where the Undertakers novels take place.  In addition to The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses, The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead, and The Undertakers: Secret of the Corpse Eater, he is the author of The Franklin Affair and Phobos, as well as short stories and articles that have appeared in numerous publications, including Writer's Digest.  He currently lives in southern New Jersey with his wife and best friend, the real Helene Drago née Boettcher.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of all 3 of Ty Drago’s Undertakers books.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book launch - Paranormal Horror! The Island by Clarissa Johal

Book Details: 
 Genre: Paranormal Horror
 Author: Clarissa Johal
 Editor: Marisa Chenery Booktrope, Forsaken Imprint (2015) ISBN-13: 978-1-5137-0161-5 ASIN: B010TE7W1G
Number of Pages: 210

Check out the buy links below - during this tour, The Island is on sale for $0.99. Visit the book tour list for interviews, reviews, and guest posts!

About THE ISLAND: Exploring a remote island can sometimes get you into trouble. Especially when you stumble upon a cave and awaken two demons. Rumors and superstition. That’s what Emma thinks about local gossip concerning her grandmother’s “cursed” private island. Emma journeys to the island to ready it for sale. While out exploring, she unearths a hidden cave–a cave which holds answers to the island’s dark past. There may be more to the rumors than she thought.

Excerpt from THE ISLAND:
She was jarred awake by a cry. The vestiges of her nightmare dissipated as she orientated herself. Nightmare. Emma let out a sigh of relief. The cry sounded again. A distant sound, high and wailing. A baby’s cry. Her heart quickened. Good god, surely that can’t be a baby?
The fire in the stove had burned down, its embers lending a glow to the living room. Emma looked out the front window. The yard was still. She unlocked the door and opened it a crack. The cry drifted in with the breeze, faint but unmistakable. She ran through her mind what possible bird or animal could make the sound and came up with nothing. Characteristically, the island was blanketed with silence, almost like a vacuum. She stood, uncertain. After several minutes, the sound started again—the unmistakable high wail of a baby. She slipped on her boots and parka.
Fog trailed like cobwebs in her wake. The mournful cry threaded through the trees and came from the direction of the house ruins. In spite of a growing anxiety at what she’d find, she quickened her pace. If that is a baby, it’s still alive, and I need to get to it. If it’s not a baby… She blocked out the possibilities of what else it could be.
She approached the ruins and the sound stopped. Her heart raced. I know it was coming from here. The area held an unnatural heaviness. A branch cracked behind her and she turned with a start. Something dark darted through the trees.
“Hello?” Her voice sounded muffled in the fog. Emma’s attention snapped to the left. The dark figure ducked out of sight. She took one step backward, and fled.
Heavy footsteps echoed from behind as she plunged through the trees. They were catching up with her. Emma pushed herself to run faster, terrified she’d lose her footing on the uneven ground. The cabin loomed large, a haven in the thick fog. Stumbling across the cabin’s porch, she hurdled through the door and slammed it shut, locking it.
Emma rooted her feet to keep from running around in circles. Straining to hear, she was greeted with eerie silence. Several moments passed before the baby’s cry started again. And this time, it sounded from right outside the door.
THE ISLAND Buy Links: Amazon: Amazon UK: Amazon CA: Barnes and Noble:
About the Author: Clarissa Johal is the author of paranormal novels, THE ISLAND, VOICES, STRUCK, and BETWEEN. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s dancing, taking pictures of gargoyles, or swinging from a trapeze. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters, and every stray animal that darkens their doorstep.

Find Clarissa Online: Author Website: Blog: Facebook: Twitter: @ClarissaJohal Goodreads: Amazon Author Page: Pinterest: Google+:

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Cover and first chapter reveal from The Missing by Jerico Lenk #ya #paranormal #giveaway

Today Jerico Lenk and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE MISSING which releases August 30, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!

Here’s a short message from the author.
I’m really partial to the color scheme of the cover. Darker and gloomier blues are my aesthetic, for sure. There’s a sense of mystery about it that feels perfectly phantasmal—and of course, the skyline of London sells me right there!

On to the reveal! 

Author: Jerico Lenk
Pub. Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Seeing is believing, and believing is seeing… London in the year 1890 is smitten with the dark and the curious. Nothing fazes sixteen-year-old Willow Winchester. Not only has she been raised as “Will” instead of “Willow” since her mother’s disappearance, a simple ruse and one that makes life a lot easier most of the time, but for as long as she can remember she’s been the indiscriminate witness to the extracurricular goings-on of what she calls the Missing—ghosts. But no one has ever treated it like a good thing until the Black Cross Ministry of Mysterious Occurrences. After accidentally interrupting a Black Cross ghost hunt, Willow takes up the investigators’ offer to work with them, keeping peace between London’s living and dead. In pursuit of a purpose for her supernatural gifts … and whatever the Black Cross knows about her estranged mother … Willow learns to investigate hauntings with a patchwork team who quickly become her new family. But some of the dead aren’t just Missing—they’re the spirits of murder victims, and they’re missing from public records, too! Together with her teammates, Willow struggles to piece together clues in the victims’ memories. But can they discover the villain’s identity in time to stop him before Willow falls right into his hands, herself? 


Chapter One


My father ran a maison de passé of respectable mistresses for respectable men nicknamed, after himself, Julien’s-off-the-Strand. Under the guise of stylish after-dinner parties, it was a gentlemen’s club right out of our 110 Belgrave Square townhouse—certainly not a place for children.

But I was sixteen, hardly a child anymore, and besides, all the guests loved that I played waiter at the parties, my father’s androgynous little acolyte. They loved it nearly as much as they loved my father’s girls in their lace Oriental robes, and scandalous black stockings.

I made my rounds, weaving to and fro between the back and front drawing rooms, sporting a flashy waistcoat with silver-thread embroidery and carrying propped against my side a tray of treats, Brandy, and smoking pipes laced with the good powder. It was a little too heavy for me to display in one hand. My father had no butler, but nobody cared about proper serving decorum here, and the outrageousness of it all was just part of the fun.

“Look at you, Will, all dapper. But your collar’s crooked—” Mr. Shelby, the editor for a rather popular serial magazine, stretched from a chair to straighten my collar. I paused just long enough to accept his kindness before passing a Brandy his way.

“Make room, make room … ” Dr. Lowells said under a chuckle, parting some other men with whom he mingled near the mantle so I could slip through. One of the men snatched a pipe off my tray.

“Will—you missed it last week, unfortunately—we had Letty Lind on loan from the Gaiety!”

I blushed hot, not because I cared if Baron Berthold’s cabaret had Letty Lind on loan last week, but because I didn’t want my father or his head mistress Miss Valérie overhearing and making inferences about just how much I explored on my own.

Long after dinner now, the townhouse was full of laughter and tobacco smoke, pretty girls and lonely gentlemen. A Berliner in the back drawing room spewed a lighthearted German opera. The violent chatter of billiards echoed from the other reception room, along with bellowing voices sloshing together with ladies’ praise like champagne in glistening stemware. God knew what sort of oppression or repression or depression or humdrum Hyde Park persuasion drove men to rent a night’s companion, but bankers, scholars, bachelors, and even aristocrats sometimes, all paid an awful lot of money for an evening with one my father’s girls.

Then there was the occasional set of eyes that followed me around the place more than they followed any of my father’s girls—like tonight, a man with hair so slicked it looked like polished wood in the lamplight. I caught him staring twice and he looked away as soon as I did. The third time, his hand twitched and I knew he was about to wave me over for refreshment, so I turned sharp on my heel and marched back to the other room before he could do so.

“Here he comes, the little master of the house!”

Agatha, one of my father’s girls, and her most regular visitor waved at me from the corner, at an open window that overlooked the back garden.

“I want one of those cakes, John,” Agatha said, looking so pretty and young with her long dark hair falling casually down the back of her gauzy gown. Her visitor Mr. John Belwether plucked some sweet things from the tray. I liked when Mr. Belwether came to visit Agatha, because he treated her very nicely. They were always exchanging playful glances and secretive laughter, teasing and elbowing like brother and sister.

“Why, Will, your eyes are like a stormy summer sky,” John remarked, mustache dancing as he grinned at me around a sip of his brandywine.

“He always looks that way in the wake of his father’s neglect.” Agatha reached out and affectionately finger-combed the hair around my ears.

“Look what way?” I echoed, brow knotting. “Father’s neglect?”

“Have they always been that blue?” John insisted about my eyes.

“I think so,” I teased back.

Agatha sighed dramatically. “‘A stormy summer sky,’ he says—why can’t the man be as poetic about my eyes? My eyes are plain, then?”

John laughed and hooked an arm around Agatha’s waist, leaning forward against her even as she smiled and avoided his kisses. “Your eyes,” he said, “your eyes, sweet dove, are finer than the Crown Jewels … ”

Nina came up beside us then, prodding me in the side with her closed hand-fan. “She’s giving you that look again,” she muttered into my ear as she gracefully swiped a drink from the tray I’d rested against the side of a table.

She meant Miss Valérie. I turned a little, casting a glance around the rest of the drawing room.

Yes, elegant Miss Valérie was in her usual spot on the floral-print loveseat, smiling and watching with hooded eyes, her feet in bejeweled slippers tucked up on the sofa. My father had six girls—Athena, Agatha, Daphne, Calico, Nina, and Miss Valérie. She was the oldest, and my father’s obvious favorite. She could have been my stepmother if there were any papers to say so. In her heels and Russian sable, Miss Valérie was the head mistress, the unofficial manager of the place. She had her own room in the house while only Daphne and Agatha got a room upstairs across the attic hall from mine. The other three girls just had to show up no later than seven o’clock in the evening.

The look Nina meant was Miss Valérie’s uniquely sharp observation face, at once soft and lofty yet cold, disdaining, and very obviously critical, which could come and go in the blink of an eye. When I looked around, her eyes lingered on me a moment longer—one brow lifted a little at the corner as if she meant to say, Yes, I am looking at you. And then she was greeted by a barrister friend of my father’s so she was back to her carefully sociable character, accepting the kisses he rained on her ringed hand.

“She hates me,” I muttered as I turned around again with a sigh, raising my brows. What else was new? I was sure she thought me mollycoddled and ungrateful, some sort of inconvenience for her and my father. She reminded me of a spoiled family cat, the grumpy and fluffy kind with a ribbon on its throat that never wanted to be held.

John held his drink up as if he meant to toast. “Well!” he said. “One day, this will all be yours, you lucky little chap.”


I leaned to the side just a bit, looking out the doorway and down the hall to the other drawing room, wondering if someone had tripped and fallen. I saw no such scene. In fact, no one else seemed to have heard the sound.

“What do you mean?” I prompted John, distractedly.

“You’ll inherit the business, won’t you?” John said. “You could send Lady Valérie off for good!”

“I suppose … ” I shrugged. I didn’t want to think about that yet. I didn’t really want to inherit the business. I had many other projects in life to which I wanted to attend, like travel or even university or—

Thump, thump-thump.

The thumping came from upstairs, like someone had jumped up and down gently on the floor of the attic room just overhead. My room. I bristled first, wondering if someone had snuck upstairs into my room instead of one of the girls’ rooms.


Agatha heard it. She looked to me sharply, almost demandingly, from around John’s shoulder. It was quite the ruckus, like two children playing tag or chasing hoops—

My heart sank. I realized what it was. “Oh, blast,” I hissed, not angry but a little flustered. I needed to stop the noise before anyone else noticed, especially my father. This was how it always went. I pushed the tray at John, who took it in tipsy confusion. Behind his back, Agatha urged me on with a flap of her hands.

I didn’t really hurry until I hit the stairs, because I didn’t want anyone to notice and ask what was wrong.

On the attic floor were a handful of bedrooms—one for Cook, one for the maid, Madame Zelda, one for Daphne and Agatha to share, and mine which was the largest. I already knew what was going on before I burst in.

Patter of feet, hollow giggles.

I saw them in the mirror across the room under the slanted skylights, felt the gust of air and throb of fast footsteps as Charlie and Colette dashed to and fro before me, playing some game all around the loft room.

“Charlie!” Colette whined because Charlie was cheating per usual, peeking through his fingers. But she should have known better because Charlie always cheated.

Outside the mirror, the room was empty.

“Hey!” I said, very sternly, and the children had moved beyond the scope of the mirror but I could feel them looking at me guiltily. “Could you both kindly hush up?” I pressed, quietly but firmly. The sound of the party downstairs echoed up through the house like their play had echoed down. “You’re being very loud. You can’t have my father’s company hear you.”

“Sorry,” the two of them chorused, voices tiny and warped by the in-between. And then, just like that, they were gone like candles blown out in the wind.

Charlie and Colette were dead, after all.

A friend of their scoundrel brother’s had murdered them in the attic back in 1866. They were still here because the clothes in which they’d died were hidden under the floorboards. My father hadn’t known that when he’d acquired the townhouse, and I surely was not about to tell him, just as I surely was not about to remove the clothes after I found them in candlelight one night two years ago.

I breathed a short sigh, relieved but feeling sort of guilty. I hated telling them to quiet down. They kept Agatha and Daphne up at night a lot—scared them, more often than not—and the fact of the matter was that I felt responsible for them sometimes.

It had always been my solitary curse, anyway, to see and hear the Missing with a hypersensitivity normal men and women didn’t generally possess.

The Missing—ghosts, I mean. Spirits, phantoms, the dead. It was with an odd sense of fondness that I thought of them as the Missing, because they quite obviously weren’t completely gone, just caught somewhere in the in-between, consigned to wander mostly unseen and unnoticed by those who weren’t predisposed like I was.

When I was younger, I didn’t hesitate telling everyone, especially with the way Charlie and Colette used to get naughty and puckish around the house—moving things, playing music boxes, running up and down the stairs or grabbing people’s ankles from under beds and chairs. At first my father’s other girls cooed about my wonderful imagination and pinched my sides because I spooked them with my tales of ghost children in the attic. But very soon they realized I was not full of fancies. Now when anything out of the ordinary happened, they came to me to put a stop to it. They knew my father would fly into a fit about preposterous, illogical fears and how things like demons and ghosts were merely business tricks like the occasional séance parties during which I was banished to my room because I nitpicked the frauds. Miss Valérie was no better, and everyone had witnessed enough of my father lecturing me to know who would believe what.

“Those deplorable fancies and imaginary friends won’t get you anywhere,” my father, the frowning hypocrite, was quick to chastise. “And talking to yourself won’t, either.”

Madame Zelda didn’t lecture me, but when she caught me with books on astral projection and the occult, or found me sneaking out to see West End spirit photography and spiritualist galas, the worried shadow on her face was enough to guilt me into obedience.

“Too dangerous,” she’d whisper. “Too dangerous, Will. Please listen to your father and pay no heed to charlatans and parlor games.”

Well, nobody but Agatha or Daphne believed me, and even they only believed enough to send me off to make Charlie and Colette stop playing pranks.

I didn’t hold it against any of them because they hadn’t grown up observing the extracurricular activities of the Missing like I had. It was my ghastly cross to bear, though for what sins, I was never totally positive.

The attic was finally peaceful. “Be good and don’t cause any more ruckus tonight,” I said to Charlie and Colette, if they were even there to listen anymore. “I mean it.”

Voices muffled and thin, like they’d hidden behind the attic door, full of mischief yet, they chimed, “Yes, Will!”


“What’s the matter, Will?” my father asked as I came down from the attic and back into the noise and splendor.

“Nothing, of course,” I said, letting him tousle my hair and give a loving pat to my shoulder, reminders of fatherly affection that came easily to him after a few drinks but were never enough to distract from his duties as business host and man of the house.

He went off toward the front drawing room and I hurried back to where I’d left Agatha and the others—but just as I stepped through the doorway, a hand closed on my arm and I staggered to a halt, looking around in bristled dismay.

But it was just Athena, only one half of her lit by the drawing room lights and the other draped in the dimness of the hall.

And something wasn’t right.

Athena’s face was white. Her lower lip quivered and a veneer of tears sharpened her owl-eyed stare. The last time she’d looked at me like that, Charlie had chased her down the stairs sometime after midnight, laughing and tugging at the ribbons on her dress.

Yet somehow I knew even before Athena opened her mouth to speak that it had nothing to do with ghost children’s pranks.

“It’s Daphne,” Athena choked out, looking like an overgrown doll with her Empire silhouette and cold, fearful confusion. “Daphne’s left, Will. She told me she was really through with it all this time, and couldn’t even bear the rest of the night—she’s headed to Waterloo—”

My heart fell and some awful intuitive ringing in the ears swallowed all the noise around. Everything except for the German romping from the Berliner in the corner, like a soundtrack to the gnawing dread. I did not even realize until then that Calico had followed Athena over. She looked between Athena and me sharply, as aware as anyone in the house that Daphne was my best friend. Sometimes I felt guilt for how obvious it was, but tonight there wasn’t time for that. The miserable finger of protective terror pierced right through me as I shook loose of Athena’s grip so suddenly, I almost knocked the cigarette out of some gentleman’s hand as he passed by us.

I didn’t even have to ask to understand immediately—but ask I did.

“Do you think she really means it tonight?” I sputtered.

How many times had Daphne said those words empty of action before? And how many times would we continue to fear the worst?

“I watched her leave!” Athena’s face pinched, and then she burst into tears. “Will, I’m scared! I don’t think she’s coming back—”

I shoved my way out of the party, hardly even noticing those I collided with. As Athena hurried after me, I heard Calico simper, “There he goes, little Romeo, after his precious Daphne … ”

But she didn’t get it. Daphne was my best friend. Daphne was my favorite, to be honest. Daphne, who sat by me on cold winter nights to read Fun and Tales of the Dead. Daphne, who went off on long threads with me about Apollo and Dionysus and the fall of Rome when the stars were spinning overhead, and sneaked green fairy was fresh on the tongue. Daphne, who was the most like a sister to me out of all my father’s girls, so close to me in age—Daphne, who never complained and never said bad things about others and who hid a terrible aching sadness behind her dimpled smile—my Daphne, whom I wanted to trust with not just my petty secrets, but my real secrets, because she trusted me with hers, too—

Instinct drove me. I didn’t think to grab my coat, not even when Madame Zelda called down the stairs for me to remember it. How perfect was she? No, I just flew out the door with Athena on my heels, and my father’s demanding voice echoing after us:

“What the devil—the bad deportment—where are you two off to like this? Come back!”

I couldn’t. Daphne was about to do something unspeakable, and I couldn’t let her, so it was straight to the Bridge of Sighs with Athena’s clammy hand tight in mine. I wanted to run, but it was too dark and mucky, and Athena wouldn’t have kept up in her satin slippers. Instead we stole a hansom cab from a group of distracted gentlemen, apologizing out the window.

I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to imagine Daphne really meant to jump from the bridge tonight and end it all. My heart felt like a glass prism waiting to shatter into a million pieces.

“I can’t!” Athena moaned as the cab rattled to a stop at the better end of Waterloo Bridge, which was particularly inhospitable and glum. I was already halfway out and on the ground. “I’m scared, Will! Haven’t you heard about the Wraith at Waterloo?”

Of course, I’d heard the latest gossip about a ghost haunting the despicable Waterloo Bridge. Who hadn’t? It was some of the most popular parlor talk of the season. But even if I wasn’t well-acquainted with the Missing, my fear of Daphne’s demise was greater than the fear of some infamous specter.

“It’s all right, Athena,” I promised. “You wait here for me. I’ll be back with Daphne.”

I hoped. I hoped and prayed I’d be back with Daphne.

Through the fog, I barreled up Waterloo. Athena stayed with the cab. Oddly enough, the bridge was almost vacant, except for a few men in overcoats huddled under a streetlamp. The slap of water distorted the echo of the city around me, making it seem far away from this desperate moment. Horses, coaches, voices …

“Daphne!” I cried, voice hoarse. “Daphne!”

“I’m sorry!” Athena was sobbing now, calling from the cab at the corner. “I’m sorry I told him when I promised not to, Daphne, but I couldn’t let you do it, I couldn’t—”

I saw Daphne’s silhouette through the nighttime mist, standing at the side of the bridge. A numbing sort of relief washed through me. Ah, thank God! She hadn’t jumped—she hadn’t even climbed up yet—she was just looking down into the water, courting unthinkable dangers to be in this place alone at night—

I staggered to a sudden halt, breath ripping from my chest.

No, there she was, on the other side of the road. I blamed the fragile panic for mistaking a stranger for her, my Daphne, whom I recognized every inch of as she clung to the stone of the bridge, midnight wind tugging and yanking at her thin coat and gown. Either she hadn’t heard us yelling for her, or she was that lost to the tides of her worst feelings. I had to get her down. I would never forgive myself if I watched her jump, too late to grab her off the ledge—

I bolted forward, but I tripped over a tight wire and hit the cobbles hard as a series of bells apparently attached to the imperceptible string rang to announce my gracelessness.

I bit my tongue when my chin hit the stone. The pain circled my jaw and the taste of blood bloomed on my tongue. “Christ Almighty!” I howled. “What even is all this?”

I was angry. But I was also a mess of vicious emotions, and so it was very easy to misdirect the feelings as lamplight sparked off a whole web of strings and bells, a perimeter posted on the cobbles of one side of Waterloo Bridge. I hadn’t even noticed them—that is until I’d snagged myself on one. What on earth?


My chin throbbed. I stained my sleeve wiping the blood from my lower lip, spitting a little bit of red at my feet. But those things became trivial concerns as panic seized me again. I looked up and saw Daphne on the stone, barefoot, gauzy skirts dancing about her naked ankles. Her slippers sat discarded at the base of the lamppost.

I stomped on some of the wires so they snapped underfoot, to clear my path. Bells rang shrilly from the broken tension as I bounded across the bridge. Ears ringing, heart pounding, terror gripped me icy and certain—but the moment my fingers closed around Daphne’s wind-chilled wrist, I knew everything was going to be okay.

I pulled her off the ledge, tumbling down all flaring petticoat and pearls. This time when I hit the stone, I had Daphne in my grasp, and her damp hair in my mouth, and the ground bit at my elbows but I didn’t even care. With all the feel of a porcelain figurine falling to shards on the floor, Daphne shattered into tears against my shoulder.

It was hardly a sweet triumph. It felt sore and heavy on the soul, and did it make me selfish to feel so wounded beyond the relief? I couldn’t believe Daphne would have actually gone to end her life without saying goodbye to me—I couldn’t stand to think she was still that unhappy inside, in spite of all the smiles and laughter—

“I almost did it!” Daphne moaned, not really crying, just hiccupping on shocked gasps like she’d been under some sort of spell and my yanking her to the ground had broken it. “I almost did it, Will, oh God, I almost did it—”

There was no time for us to recover from the little adventure.

The men who’d been clustered a few lampposts down suddenly hovered over us, two of them casting hateful scowls and the other pair looking torn between curiosity and obligation in the midst of the crisis—a young bachelor with messy hair whose tetchy countenance ruined his handsome face, another, very tall and broad and fierce-looking even with tiny spectacles perched atop his head, an antsy and nervous third with a knapsack, and a fourth who was only about my size and probably not much older.

“You’re interfering with our investigation!” the messy-haired bachelor roared.

“Are you two all right?” the one about my size sputtered out. He had a dark softness about him that brought to mind paintings of martyred saints and cupids. His eyes were two different colors—that is, one was gray and fogged like there was no color to it at all. “That was quite the fall!”

“You ruined all our bells! Do you know how long it took to set those up?”

“Clement, the ambience compass is going wild—” The nervous one was somewhat skeletal, with that awkward course of motion that long gangly people have.

The tall man with the spectacles helped us off the ground. “Be a gentleman and take your lady home now, sir. She’s safe, and we’re in the middle of something.”

“All our bells, God damn it—”

“Please, go,” the bespectacled man urged again, gruffly. “You’re just in the way now, boy.”

“Daphne!” Athena called from the corner in a ragged sob of relief. She’d watched the entire timely rescue. Daphne pulled away and darted down the bridge, colliding with Athena in a tangle of tears and messy curls at the cab. She left her shoes.

“You set up those bells?” The panic didn’t really subside, just coiled in on itself and sharpened into fury. Real gentlemen wouldn’t have dared turn an almost-crisis back around for their good. But maybe they weren’t real gentlemen. Or maybe my impression of gentlemen was skewed by my father’s line of work. The silhouette of the other girl was there again, only a few lamps up the bridge. Staring at us, it seemed. Ah—there was that familiar feeling. I understood.

The peculiar ladylike shadow was not alive.

I wouldn’t let it distract me. The Missing didn’t know when it was rude to interrupt, and she’d probably leave us alone. I hissed, “Those wires could kill a man who doesn’t know they’re there—”

“Well, you’re not dead, are you?” the grouchy one snorted.

“Clement—the ambience compass—”

“Quinn, tell Clement to let it alone—it is our fault, after all.”

Somewhere beyond the embankment, laughter echoed from crepuscular crowds. The hair rose on the back of my neck and a faint ringing shivered in my ears. I knew what it meant. I knew the shift in the silence too well. Where was that wretched silhouette? Gone again. There was something unsettling about it. Charlie and Colette didn’t give me such a feeling of dread; I tried to avoid any Missing that made the air hard to breathe.

“There’s something else here,” I blurted before even realizing I’d said it aloud, backing away from the arguing men. But I didn’t have a chance to explain and they didn’t have a chance to question me.

Up from the ground sprang that silhouette, right there between us and blocking my view of the messy-haired and loudmouthed one the men had called Clement.

It was a featureless black shape at first, but then the silhouette’s details shivered forth, clear as day. With wide, bloodshot eyes and sunken cheeks, her hair flowed about her face as lusciously and unnaturally as a drop of ink in water. A terrible, shrill wheezing sound rang through my ears, a new and more violent panic clanging its alarm in my heart.

The Wraith at Waterloo!

Just as I managed to look through the ghost again, meeting the startled eyes of Clement, a gust that reeked of the Thames hit me and dissolved into fingers around my neck. I gagged with the blow like I’d been punched in the throat.

It was so cold. I screamed. I tried to breathe, but I couldn’t. My throat was full of water.

I tried desperately to collect my scrambled thoughts, but a breath like a tomb being pried open crept through me like the damn wraith had reached into my gasping mouth and was trying to take over my body. A sensation of doom stirred in me suddenly, an unbridled wave of sadness and fear and emptiness surging through with every throb of my heart. And then all my bearings were utterly ripped away from me, and I tumbled backward—

I opened my eyes. I could breathe again.

I sat on a crooked bed in a dingy, cluttered room where echoes swirled all around, incomprehensible and warped, like they came from under water.

For one blessed instant, I decided I must have passed out and been brought somewhere to recover by the dubious foursome on the bridge.

But then I knew that was not so.

It wasn’t so because I wasn’t myself anymore. When I turned to a smudged little looking-glass sitting next to me, the face I saw was not my own.

It was the dead girl’s, and her name was Kitty.

How did I know that?

I had no explanation. I drew a slow breath, forcing myself to look. Not at my reflection, no—

Her reflection.

But it seemed to be mine, too!

In some inharmonious rush of colors and lights and smells and muffled sounds, this was Kitty’s life, and I knew it because I was Kitty.

I knew hunger and poverty. I knew the burn of being disparaged and browbeaten. I knew too many siblings and not enough love. Mother pitied me. Father hated me. I knew the shiver of cold desperation as it sliced through me and I saw street after street, and man after man, and the business of the bed, lying flat on my back, the air cold on bare skin. The collision of scenes was disorienting, degrading. Every sane bit of me wailed for release. No, no, no, what was all this torment? It felt so dirty and wrong; pray this was some squalid nightmare far from the lovely life my father gave his ladies at Julien’s-off-the-Strand!

Then there was Darcy James and his morphine dreams, and Darcy James’s touch made my heart swell because Kitty’s heart swelled. And when Kitty vomited everything she ate into a rusty pail in the corner, I vomited everything I ate into that same rusty pail, prisoner of the scene.

Help! I tried to scream, but it hurt because my voice got trapped in my throat and went nowhere.

My head was going to explode if this kept up. My eyes would bulge out of my skull, and my mind would ooze bloody from every orifice and … Bethnal Green, dress houses, white powder, Darcy James, whore, whore, whore!

The stone of Waterloo Bridge was icy and slick below my bare feet. I leaned out until there was nothing to hold me, and I fell into the Thames, taking deep breaths and choking on the dirty water because I wanted to die, because Darcy James stopped coming because he was married now. He had moved to the country, and I was tired of being a dirty, lonely, forsaken whore, and there were so many voices, so many buzzing whispering voices closing in on me, all the voices and screams of the more deteriorated Missing as they clawed and tore at the strange void where I was now, somewhere in between the in-between and—

I’m pretty positive that’s when the towering man they called Quinn slapped me across the face.

I sucked in a stuttering breath as my eyes rolled open to the fog and the nighttime sky. This Quinn fellow hovered over me in his leather overcoat, his thin wire spectacles dropped to his nose again. I didn’t even care that Quinn had hit me. This close, I could really see his dark curls and the shadow of his beard. I grabbed for something to hold on to, crouched on unswaying ground but still reeling.

The strange trance-like stream of visions had ceased, and I struggled against shocked tears and heaving gasps.

God, but that had never happened to me before. There was something so personal about it, feeling a spirit’s agony and utter hatred for the living. Something so shaking, so jarring, so traumatic … The Missing could change the feel in an empty room, sure, but—never in my life had I felt it like it was my own before—

Quinn coached me through a few shuddering breaths until I realized I wasn’t actually drowning.

“I saw—” I coughed again. Quinn kept one arm around me. “I saw it all—”

“What did you see?” the nervous-looking one asked, far too spirited for my comfort. His Irish accent wasn’t unsettling, but he was waiting impatiently to write down whatever I said, and I didn’t like that. I tried to push him away.

“O’Brien!” the one my age hissed. “Give him some room, man, for Christ’s sake … ”

Daphne—Athena—they needed to get home now—and Kitty—

“Where’s Kitty?” I demanded, turning roughly against Quinn’s thick shoulder. “Where’d the bloody wench go?”

O’Brien’s face pinched up as if he’d taken offense to that on Kitty’s behalf. I couldn’t care. “Kitty?” he echoed, perplexed.

I writhed out of Quinn’s strong hands, tripping over Daphne’s shoes as I threw myself against the stone to get sick off the side of the bridge.

Spitting a little bit of blood still, this time with the unpleasant tang of vomit, I turned back to the men more meekly than before.

“What just happened?” I croaked, breath quivering on my lower lip. I was utterly lost, but … admittedly galvanized.

“A mild possession,” Quinn grunted casually.

Mild possession! Christ!

Clement seemed to try his very best to mimic Quinn’s previous compassion as he looked me right in the eye and asked in a cool, calculative manner, “What was her full name, boy? Could you discern the year? Can you recall any details whatsoever?”

“Kittredge Ann McGowell,” I husked, eyes wide, and the most frightening part was that I hadn’t even had to think about it. Wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve one last time, I just knew it, and I felt so very violated by the knowledge. “From Bethnal Green. She jumped—”

“Suicides,” Quinn interrupted, nodding his head decisively. “Told you. She’s still here, Clement. Malevolent echo. Knew it wouldn’t be that easy. The ambience compass is going mad, you see?”

I stared dumbly at the tool they’d been calling the ambience compass, its little arrow stuttering and jerking in wild readings. Finally I realized it measured the change in the air that came with the Missing. What a strange little invention—it seemed magical, except that it was all too real. Could it really read what I felt so naturally when the Missing showed up to play?

What came next was an absolute whirlwind.

“What’s going on?” I demanded hoarsely.

Quinn grabbed me by the collar and ordered, “You’re staying until we collect your testimony.”

“What?” I sputtered. “I can’t—I have to get Daphne and Athena home—are you from the press?”

“Kingsley can take them home,” Clement announced, gesturing to the young man about my age. “Can’t you, Kingsley?”

Kingsley’s face pinched. “Ah, I suppose I can … ”

“A malevolent residual,” O’Brien mumbled to himself as he wrote.

“A malevolent echo,” Quinn corrected.

Clement sighed. “Oh, they’re just my favorite,” he complained.

“Sorry, but … ” I almost swallowed my question at all their curt glances. “What does all that mean?”

“A residual is an unintelligent spirit attached to a location by lingering emotion, usually due to the circumstances of their life or death,” Kingsley answered as Quinn ignored me once again and Clement’s lip curled at my ignorance. “An echo is a semi-intelligent residual.”

A system of classification to the Missing was something new to me. Something new and strangely fascinating, sinking its teeth right into the heart of my worst curiosity. Like some strange siren song in the dark, I wasn’t angry anymore—now I was loath to leave. My heart thundered. A cold but revitalizing thrill had infected me. What were these men doing? How did they know that? This was normal to them?

“Malevolent echo, that’s precisely what I thought, too.” Clement heaved a dissatisfied sigh. “Certainly suicide would leave enough bad energy for that.”

“But so many jump so often—”


“What are we to do?” owl-eyed Kingsley urged as a few miserable coaches rattled by. “Mr. Zayne’s, Clement?”

“Yes. Zayne’s it is.”


All four of them halted and looked at me like they’d forgotten I was there. I was shaking. But I was also terribly turned on to the whole affair. They spoke of the Missing like they were a normal thing. They were cool and composed, like interacting with the Missing was hardly surprising. They weren’t afraid, they weren’t judging, and they weren’t rationalizing like skeptics, either, and—

I met Clement’s narrowed eyes grimly, standing my ground. “I must insist I will not be giving you my testimony, whatever you need my testimony for, unless you take me with you to see what you’re doing.” I wanted to know. Oh God, I needed to know. “And I have to return Daphne and Athena home safely first.”

The other three all looked to Clement. Clement gawked at me. For all his rotten attitude, he really was actually quite young. Tired-looking, but young. His jaw tightened, and he squinted at me harder, seemingly resenting my unnegotiable conditions.

“Fine,” he conceded coarsely. “Let’s go.”

I thought maybe they’d part ways with us regardless, but they truly followed us back to Julien’s-off-the-Strand—where the night’s reception was still spinning along like nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all. That hurt a little.

“Will, what are you doing?” Daphne hissed as I handed her shoes back to her on the stoop. There was a strange wide-eyed peace about her now, like she was in shock she’d almost done it. Almost jumped. Almost died … “Your father will not be happy. You don’t know those men. You can’t—”

“You don’t understand,” I insisted, pushing her and Athena to the door. “This is something I must do for myself.”

Yes, something I had to do for myself—to see if there were others like me who were the indiscriminate witnesses to the motions of the Missing, and what might become of someone with a curse like that.

“But Will—”

“I think you owe it to me after that stunt tonight, don’t you, Daphne?”

Daphne’s face hardened. Curls all broken up and windblown about her shoulders, she mumbled, “Abandon your high horse, Will Winchester. We all have our demons.”

What was I supposed to do? What was I to say? That finally I had the chance to talk one-on-one with spiritualists who might actually believe what I said? That I’d finally found spiritualists who were more truth than fraud? Could I even speak words with that dreadful lump in my throat?

“What am I to tell your father, then?” Daphne asked wearily, tearstained and shivering and looking far too fragile for my liking.

“Tell him nothing.” I shrugged. I kissed her cheek. And then I sprinted down the block to where the men from the bridge waited in their cabs.

I was ready.

Jerico Lenk has always been spellbound by the haunting and the historic. He loves ghost stories, romance novels, transgressive fiction, and "fanfic" that's sometimes all of that in one. When not writing, he also dabbles in acting, modeling, and other art which can be seen on his personal blog. Although Seattle is his hometown, he's currently studying English (Creative Writing), History, and Russian Studies at USF Tampa.

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