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Staring out of the tinted bulletproof windows of the limo, I can’t tell for sure how gray the clouds are that gather above us. I hope it doesn’t rain again. It’s unsettling to come back here. To see the complete destruction of the California ocean side town that I once called home—Avilene Beach. It’s a ghost-like cemetery of charred, crumbling homes and palm trees turned askew and broken apart. Just like me.
This is the direct result of my decisions.
Wind skitters across the surface of black puddles racing by, reminding me of the oily blood of the Ma’tiok. It’s been just one week since my old life, my human life, ended and this new one exploded into existence. Acid rises in the back of my throat, burning hot, and I crush my jaw together hard until my lips press into a thin line. Why did Eenoki pick me?
“Priestess, do you understand what I said?”
Katok’s sharp telepathic tone startles me out of my immersive guilt. “Stick to the speech the High Priestess provided. Yes. I got it.” I swallow hard against the rising bile being pressed there by the trembling in my gut. What if this press conference makes things worse?
“Allison, don’t worry so much. You’ll be safe.” Stephen reaches out to me and Katok snatches his hand midair, crushing it in his huge taloned palm.
“Ow! Dammit, Katok!” Stephen clutches his wounded limb.
I swear, that’s almost a smirk on the massive Vongjar commander’s leopard-like face. Katok’s lips curl back menacingly to reveal his white fangs and piercing resolve. Stephen knows better than to try and touch me.
I sigh, and can’t help but glare at Stephen who sits across from me. His dark muscular arms are crossed hard against his white Navy button up shirt. Even with the blotchy purple and yellow bruises healing across his tense neck and face, he’s still handsome. But his haircut, shaved in military style, makes me miss his longer tawny surfer hair.
“Stephen, if I can’t be the bridge between the Alliance and Earth, our world won’t survive the Ma’tiok. You understand that, right?”
His angry blue eyes lock on me, softening, and he smiles.
I look away and clench my fists on the cold, empty, black leather seats beside me. We can never make it work. He’ll never understand what I am, or what I have to do. I have to serve the Alliance to have any chance of getting them to fight the Ma’tiok on the ground, instead of glassing the Earth like they have so many other infected worlds.
The blue tint to the air thickens as we get closer to our destination. What if I had just gone with Z’iram and left Earth behind? Maybe he would have spared those who died here.
No. If we left, there would be no hope of the Alliance helping this world fight back. Any other choice would have meant the total destruction of Earth without any chance of survival.
I know Eenoki is right, but the truth still hurts.
The High Priestess will arrive soon, aboard the planet killer Star Fire, to judge and test me. This speech is another test, one that I can’t afford to mess up. If Kiobaan doesn’t publicly declare me a Priestess, of Earth, then there will be no ambassador to the Alliance or protection for our world.
I take a deep breath and straighten the pale gown Tarem made me wear, irritated at how ridiculous I look. Not that I own any clothes besides what the Alliance has provided me. Before we left, my reflection shocked me. The way they pinned up my long auburn waves under a small crystalline hairpiece that stands a few inches high, reminded me of my vision of Aakina. The memory Eenoki shared with me from her last day alive, before she and her world were wiped out by the Ma’tiok.
“How much longer Katok, until there are too many Ma’tiok for your troops to handle”
His golden eyes widen. “They multiply too quick. The ground troops struggle to do more than contain them. Our current calculations project ten Earth days at most. We need Alliance support to do any more.” Katok shakes his head.
Ten days left? It’s only been twenty one since the Ma’tiok arrived!
Stephen leans closer. “He’s not telling you the whole story. Admiral Hurst says that there are over ten thousand Ma’tiok and infected humans on the ground, and that combined kills between Katok’s troops and the US military don’t even equal the rate that they’re multiplying at. We are losing every day.”
Smith slides in beside me and drapes his arm around me, kissing the side of my head.
Ryan glances over his shoulder before backing up. “You guys are coming tonight, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Smith answers for both of us.
The drive to my house is less than five minutes. On the way Smith leans in and whispers in my ear, “Anyone going to be home?”
I shake my head then wonder if I should have lied. Smith’s been hinting more frequently that he wants to have sex. We’ve been dating for three months, but unlike Smith, I’m not ready. Call me old-fashioned, but I want my first time to be special. I like Smith, he’s cute, popular, and funny, but I’m not in love with him. Plus, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t keep secrets from the person you share the most intimate part of yourself with, and I’m keeping a huge secret from Smith.
We pull up in front of my house, and Smith and I hop out, grabbing our stuff from the back.
“I’ll call you later,” Ronny yells as Ryan roars off.
I wave as they turn the corner and disappear, nerves twisting in my belly as Smith takes my hand. I glance at him, my gaze drawn to his crystal blue eyes beneath messy-wild blond hair. Smith moved here last summer and rapidly became one of the most popular guys in our class. He’s always tan and his body is cut, a result of time spent in the pool or surfing in his native Florida. Every single girl in our school, and possibly even a few with boyfriends, would be thrilled to have my problem. I need to figure this out soon before he decides he’s tired of waiting.
Smith guides me up the walkway toward the porch, and I wonder how far I can let him go this time before I put on the brakes.
Our front door opens and two men dressed in black suits, white button-ups, black ties, and sunglasses exit our house. The taller of the two seems to size me up behind his dark lenses before he nods and passes. I turn and watch them get into a black Escalade parked across the street.
My brother, Noah, cruises up and parks his vintage blue Mustang convertible in the driveway. He climbs out, his eyes glued to the SUV as it pulls away from the curb.
Smith snorts. “What are the Blues Brothers doing here?”
I don’t share his humor and instead turn toward my brother, eyebrows raised in silent question.
Noah shakes his head, and inside my own head, I hear, “I don’t know, they were blocking me.”
A chill runs through me starting in the pit of my stomach. It’s not unusual to get a visit from the Men in Black, but my parents should be at work, and Noah should still be at his school for another couple of hours. Something is wrong.
“Don’t panic, AR,” Noah says in my head.
I turn to Smith, “Um, I’ll call you later, okay? Pick me up at eight?”
He leans in and kisses my cheek. “Sure. Wear something sexy.” He smiles and waggles his eyebrows.
“Douchebag,” Noah says only to me before heading inside.
The rain stopped, and the wind outside had settled, leaving an uncomfortable silence in its wake. I didn’t have a problem with the quiet. I liked it, in fact. But this was something a little different. This was uncomfortable. The kind of stillness that came from forced proximity to someone or something that made your skin itch and your stomach roil. The kind of hush that usually set in right before a devastating storm or a natural disaster.
He did this sometimes. Just sat across from me and stared. He usually wouldn’t even say anything. I didn’t think he expected me to say anything, either. He just looked. Sometimes it lasted a few minutes, just long enough to send that chill skittering up and down my spine. Other times it would go on for hours. He’d blink and breathe and fidget, but his eyes…those remained locked on me, his unhealthy mix of sadness and lust and greed and anger crushing me to the point of breathlessness.
We were at it again, and I was just about out of patience. It was one thing to have been ripped away from my home, from my life, by that madwoman, Cora Anderson. It was another to have her poke and prod and use me as a science experiment. She’d altered my mind. Made me forget most of my life before the day I woke up a prisoner on the floor of her cold, dank cell. Those things were all bad, but having been “rescued” by this bastard and forced to stay by his side at all times? That was an entirely new level of torture.
“You’re thinking about him again, aren’t you?” His tone was acidic and his jaw tight. He had a temper, this guy. I’d seen it multiple times. He’d never done anything more than scream at me, but it was only a matter of time with people like this. I wasn’t sure how I knew that, but I felt it in my bones. Maybe I’d known someone like him at home. Maybe it was just intuition.
“Yes,” was all I replied. I found that simple, one-word responses went over the best. Or, more accurately, the worst. When I said too little, he grew agitated. He wanted me to talk to him, yet the things that came out of my mouth weren’t ever what he wanted to hear. I didn’t act like he’d hoped I would, didn’t say the things he longed to hear. Some days he was determined to change me. Others, he was rabid, blaming me for not behaving like myself and demanding that I wake up.
Forget that I had no idea who I was.
“While it’s not okay, I understand.” He offered me a smile—a small, tentative twitch of his lips and gentle shrug of his shoulders. He was making an effort to be kinder today, going out of his way to speak softer and move slower.
That made me even angrier.
“You understand? Then my life is complete. All I’ve ever wanted was the understanding of a serial killer.” Even if I hadn’t been thinking about…someone else, I would have lied. The fact that I wasn’t focused on him, and him alone, drove Dylan—my savior, my captor—crazy. But the truth was, I was thinking of him. That other him. How could I not? Even if I didn’t find myself missing him every moment of every day in an almost physical way, I wouldn’t be able to put him out of my mind because he was technically sitting here across from me.
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HUNGER GAMES meets AVATAR in this spellbinding Young Adult, Science-Fiction series by bestselling author S.J. Pierce.
When Luxxe and I make it into the crowd, they part for us, their cheers and attentions trained on him – the camp’s hunting trainer and star of our monthly hunting expeditions. In other words, their well-respected (and sometimes feared) hero. I’ve seen him hunt enough to know why too. He’s precise and brutal. No holds barred. It’s safe to say he’s the best one here, and I have to admit, though anything violent makes my stomach turn (even for the purpose of food), to see him in his element is like witnessing the athleticism of an Olympian god. This is what he was made for – to kill.
His arm slips from my shoulder as he turns to hug his best friend and training assistant, Cole – another mountain of a teenage boy. He wears his dreads shorter, and his eyes are the color of liquid metal. His markings have harsh angles like bolts of lightning and cover his arms and half his torso. They’ve multiplied since I last saw him.
The cheers around us ebb as they wait for Luxxe to finish his greetings and lead us into the forest; this is the part where I have to fend for myself. Then we’ll part ways into smaller groups and kill whatever we can carry. Our group is usually me, Luxxe, Taylor, and Cole.
While I stand with my hands clasped and looking at the ground, the lonely snowflake in a frenzied bed of coal, I feel some of their eyes on me but pretend not to notice. I know they wonder about me – the blonde, pale girl with no markings who hardly ever comes around; the girl Luxxe is close with even though he has a very committed girlfriend, not that it’s any of their business; the daughter of the former head liaison who met with the President all those years ago. Though most believe my dad is innocent, I think some blame him for starting the war that placed us here, though they don’t say it. At least not to me. I’ve overheard rumblings in the market a time or two about how he went ‘mad’ or ‘rogue’ and secretly planned to take the President out but was taken out instead. And it might be my imagination, but I feel their resentment when they look at me, still fresh after all this time. Like I was somehow in on whatever they assume he did.
Oh, well. Screw them. He was innocent.
by Heather Horst
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Release Date: March 10th 2018
It’s been 12 years since Ella has buried her brother Weston, today she buries her Father. Tomorrow she begins her life as an average University student. Unfortunately, much like Ella’s childhood, things do not go as expected. Before the semester can even begin Ella finds herself intertwined with eccentric peers, family ties, and an alternate universe.
Now Ella is thrust into the responsibility of keeping her personal life in order while saving another Earth from their impending doom, and potentially her own.
The creature is pinned to the ground. The seven harpoons are plunged into its body, but
I can still see it squirming.
“Is it dead?” I whimper.
The boy approaches it, his blade pointed forward. I stay behind, I don’t want to
get anywhere near that thing. The creature flails trying to free itself. The boy stands over
top of it and slashes his sword right into the mid-section of the creature. It lets out one
final cry and stops moving. The boy pulls out a harpoon, it’s made of the same material
as his sword, and he plunges it into the creature's skull.
“What the hell was that?” I see the same black liquid I saw before leaking from its
limp body. I realize its blood. Black blood is dripping from the creature and onto the
ground. A team of people in biohazard suits crash through the door and push toward the
creature. Before I can see what they are doing the boy gently places his hands on my
shoulders and turns me around.
“You won’t want to see this.” He says.
“Tell me what’s going on.” I demand.
“I wish I could but I’m really not the right person for that.”
“Who the hell are you anyways? What is this place? What was-”
I gasp for air and my eyes begin to grow blurry. There’s the same feeling in my
chest and stomach as before when I left the lecture hall. My legs crumple like tissue
paper beneath me. I tumble to the ground. I see the boy crouch down and he’s saying
something, but my ears fail to work. I can see that the he is trying to hold me up but I
can’t feel him. My ears start to pick up some noise.
“It’s going to be okay. I’m sorry that you had to do this.” He tries to comfort me,
but he sounds like he’s so far away.
“Was this real?” My breath is faint.
“Yes.” I look into his sea blue eyes and try to focus. They look so familiar to me.
“My name is Weston by the way, Weston Brandt.”
I feel like I am being pushed to the point of breaking. My stomach is being
stretched out like elastic, letting go and snapping back into place, over and over. But
then it stops.
I swallow the air like I might never be able to do it again and my eyes snap open. I
paw around my surroundings. The sheets of the nurses bed soothe my fear. The stupid
cat poster is a welcomed sight. I am back.
Was that a dream? Did I die and come back to life? Weston… my brother was
there. That’s impossible. He’s dead.
I sit up on the bed, my head is pounding. That must have been a dream. I haven’t
gone anywhere. I’ve been in this room the whole time… I think. My black dress is still
covered in dirt.
“No, no, no.” This must just be from today. There’s dirt everywhere but it
could’ve gotten on me from walking or taking the bus or something. This doesn’t mean
anything. I try wiping off the dirt stuck to my dress and I notice my hand. I turn it over
and see the black smudges on my fingers. I smell my hands hoping that it’s not what I
think it is.
It’s spray paint. The same spray paint from the message that was sprawled on the
ground from wherever I was. That means that whole thing was real. That means my
brother is alive.
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YA Bound Book Tours
When They Came
by Kody Boye
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian
Release date: April 3rd 2017
I was never afraid of monstersâat least, not until They came: the visitors from outer space.
Now They're in our skies, on our streets, always watching, forever waiting.
At seventeen, I'm just about to graduate from the Juvenile Education System and declare my career of choice. The Midnight Guardâwho protect our community from the vicious things that lie outside our wallsâcalls to me.
Itâs hard, dangerous work, with grueling hours that offer little sleep, but itâs the one thing I know will help make a difference in
our ever-changing world.
Riley's War: Phase 1
by Kiersten Jackson
Genre: YA Sci-fi Fantasy
Release date: December 2017
The year’s 2027.
Humanity has split into two halves: First World, the floating plate above that covers ⅓ of the planet built with futuristic technology and home to 56 million First Class citizens, and Second World, the Original Earth below running to ruin from war, famine, and poverty.
Recruited by Second World from jail, Jukebox is taken to their Base, discovering files with dragons, mythical shape shifting snakes from China—even the ghost from his past. And when the dragons actually show up, threatening to destroy humanity within three days, it doesn’t make it any better. Not even the androids and cyborgs that are sent to kill him on an everyday basis. Maybe it’s because they’re looking for his dad that holds all the original secrets and truths behind their world’s destruction, like him.
And when a comet is learned to hit both worlds soon, Jukebox is faced with the decision of fighting for his race or himself when the meteor is established to contain a power that could grant mankind renewed life, or instantaneous death— his power. Both worlds are at a clash to get to him and the comet once learning Jukebox can stop it—on the price of dying, deeming this battle as Second War—Riley’s War. And Jukebox doesn’t even want to stop it.
RILEY’S WAR: PHASE 1 is a powerful explosive sci-fi YA fantasy and action/adventure complete at 38,600 words with undeniable series potential that would appeal to fans of diverse POC with LGBTQIA+ main characters and supporting cast.
About the Author:
Kiersten Jackson is an African-American author born in the United States, from Florida. She is very active in BLACKLIVESMATTER and LGBTQIA+. She currently likes to sleep, eat, and nap as long as she can. Her talents include drawing, writing, and being the Best at what she does. Greatest of All Time. Forever.
Blog Tour Organized by:
We are a group of authors,