A sneak peek of MARKED: then get it FREE!

April 2, 2017: Today.  Only.

markedYou can get my new release, MARKED, free as part of the Dark Fates Collection.  But it’s only for today.  And there are limited copies available.  I hate peddling my books like a copier salesman, but I really want you guys to read Marked.  I had so much fun writing it and, honestly, I think it’s the best I’ve ever written.  Also:

  • Sebastian Stan, AKA the Winter Soldier, was the basis for the character Max.  I’d bang him like a screen door in a hurricane
  • Sex, history, and, paranormal thriller/creepy goodness.  These are a few of my favorite things.
  • It’s free.

For the entire box set–MARKED, plus 21 other paranormal/urban fantasy novels–just click here.  But, legit, guys.  You have to act fast.  I overslept and it’s today only.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Here’s a sneak peek of MARKED.  Enjoy!

_________________________

Awake.

I opened my eyes to darkness.  My nostrils flared at the putrid stench and I scrambled upward into a sitting position.  Death.  I knew that smell: the sweet coppery smell of blood, the tangy odor of rotted flesh.

And I knew…I remembered…

Nothing.

I groped my hands around me, fumbling through the dark until my fingertips brushed against cool stone.  It was damp.  A chill ran through my body and I shivered; my body trembled so violently that I almost lost my footing.

As I stood, half-hunched over and half-slumped against the wall, my eyes were drawn to a flicker of light in across the stretch of dark in front of me.  Fading fast; dying.

Dying.

It dawned on me that I wasn’t bound or chained.  But was I alone?  How did I get here?  I had no recollection of anything; where I was, who I was.  Who I’d been.

I crept forward, edging my way across what I assumed was a room or a cell until I got closer to the light.  Wrapping my arms around my body and hugging myself I reached forward.

A candle.  It was burned down almost to a nub of off color wax and crammed into a loosely soldered tin holder.  I glanced down; it had been on a tall, wax covered stool—it seemed familiar—and next to it was an empty box.  Narrow.  Wooden.

And as I moved the candle downward to see the box better, I saw the bottom of a foot: dirty and bare, the skin calloused and flaked with dried blood.

The scream that bubbled up in my throat was choked and garbled, pain seared from my windpipe to my chest.  My knees buckled underneath me and I sank to the floor.  The candle dropped to the ground before me and rolled forward.  I cursed.

But the flame stayed lit.

I was still, immobile like a stone.  The figure never moved and, after I took a moment to gather my thoughts, I crawled forward.  As I lifted the holder, the flame danced at shimmied on what was left of the wick; I was shaking.  I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe.

I lowered the candle.  The figure was slumped on the floor, dressed in a filthy blue skirt.  It was torn away somewhat at her waist and the bodice was gone, revealing a gold hued corset.  Her skin was mottled; her hair soaked with blood.

No more.  I covered my mouth and nose with my hand, gagging and the stench of rot.  God.  What was left of her face was familiar.  I’d seen her before, I knew it.  She was dead and I was alive—but that fact brought more questions than answers.

I leaned over again, prying the pistol from her death grip.  The gun was heavy, with a long barrel.  I wasn’t sure I actually knew how to shoot a gun or if this one was even loaded.  It was better than nothing.

Swinging my arm outward as I turned, I slowly moved it in an arch, from one side of my body to the other.  The candle was small and shone hardly enough light to illuminate the dead girl’s corner, but it was enough.  It looked like a cellar.  The ground was hard pressed dirt and the walls stone; other than the stool and the corpse, it was empty.

And directly across from me, was a staircase.

My body trembled.  We’d been sent down here for a reason, my brain ached to remember.  It was there, it was right at the forefront of my mind…but I couldn’t grasp it.  How long where we down here?  The girl’s body was well into decomposition, but the candle remained lit.  She must have lit it right before she pulled the trigger.

Assuming we were the only two down here.

I bristled.  I’d assumed I was alone before I found her and I assumed we were the only two now.  I could be wrong.  My stomach turned; I had a sense of being wrong before, of something happening that I—that we’d—tried to stop.  To shut out.

I still had no clue what it was.

Holding the gun out in front of me, I made my way around the cellar, from the dead girl’s corner to where I’d started from.  Whipping around, I shone the light behind me.  Nothing.  One step forward and then another, creeping; clawing my fingers into the rock wall beside me.  There was nothing.  I’d been sprawled on the ground when I woke and the girl had nothing but the stool, the gun, and the empty box.

I walked back to her, holding the candle near the body.  The flame flickered; I was running out of time.

“Who are you?”  My voice sounded foreign to my ears.  “Why was it you and not me?”

A glint of light reflected off her chest as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other.  I kneeled down and looked closer.  She was wearing an amulet, a simple oval shaped black stone in a silver setting, a strange scar across the front facet.  Something about the necklace made my heart sprint to a rapid cadence.  It was familiar; it was something we’d been looking for, something we needed.  That’s why they’d followed us…

…Healed…

I leaned over and grabbed the necklace, yanking on the chain until it pulled away from her neck.  It was important—I didn’t know why, but I wasn’t about to leave it behind.

Holding the candle out in front of me, I made my way to the staircase and slowly began my ascent.  Anything could be at the top; someone could be waiting for me to stir or, worse, they could have barricaded it.

I’d have to take my chances.  One foot and then the next: creeping, climbing.  It was like a tryst with a lover, shyly sliding up the steps in anticipation.  It ended abruptly; my skull slammed into the wood above me and I squealed.  Damn it.

Bracing my shoulders and upper back against the wood, I thrust my body upward and flipped the cellar door open.  It was easier than I expected.  The force of my movement threw me off balance; I fumbled with the candle and the gun, trying not to lose either.  It was impossible—or I was flawed.  The candlewick smashed against my forearm, extinguishing the flame.  I bit back a shriek.  I dropped to the step: it clattered, dully thudding back to the dirt floor below.

Light filtered down from the trap door.  It was muted; I realized something heavy was matted down across it.  Easing the hatch back the rest of the way, I scrambled upward and out, my body tangling up in fabric…scratchy, well worn fabric.  Sunlight, though dim, seared my ears and I squeezed my eyes closed.  A rug.  Someone had laid a rug over the cellar door.

I opened my eyes, fluttering my lids against the pierce of light into my retina.  After a moment, I pushed myself up and out of the cellar.  The room looked like a parlor or sitting room, with muted green drapes and dull lavender fabric wallpaper. There was a stained horsehair couch to one side of the room and, to the other, an open doorway.  An end table was turned over across the threshold.  The window was shattered.

Easing up to my feet, I held the pistol out in front of me.  Other than the color scheme and what appeared to be well used furniture, there was nothing personal about the room.  No pictures.  No family Bible or muck covered shoes.  I moved into the next room: the kitchen.  It was in similar disarray: the table was knocked askew and the chairs turned over.  The dry sink’s cabinets were flung open and a sack of flour was overturned, spilling out to the shelf below.  Something had happened here.  Something bad.

As I walked through the kitchen and into the next room, I stopped short.  In front of me was a girl; the skin underneath her mouth was tattooed in blue ink: five vertical lines down from her bottom lip and, from two end most lines, two, pointed horizontal lines.  She had a gun.

It took me several moments—I almost laughed.  It was a mirror.  I was looking at myself.

I walked further into the room and up to the mirror, tucking a strand of dark brown hair behind my ear.  It was like looking at a stranger.  I had high cheekbones and blue eyes, framed with thick, dark lashes.  My hair was glossy and hung loose around my shoulders; the deep brown color made my skin look paler.  I touched my fingertip to the tattoos on my chin.  It was almost like a muzzle.  The horizontal lines only extended about as far as the outer corner of my eyes, but were thick.  I was marked; I was a broken soul.  I knew horrible things had happened to me, things that could—had—killed girls who weren’t as strong as I was.  I just couldn’t remember.

Maybe that was a blessing.

I was dressed like the dead girl in the basement: a pale blue corset over a dingy chemise.  There was no skirt over my petticoat and, looking down, I saw worn leather boots on my feet.  My brow furrowed; where had she and I come from?  What had happened?

As I straightened, my eyes focused on something behind the lace edging on the chemise’s neckline.  I frowned again.  Leaning closer to the mirror, I slid the fabric down.  One word was tattooed beneath my collarbone.

Healed.

I stared at my reflection in the mirror.  Healed.  Was I?  And from what?  Nothing made sense; the more I found in the unfamiliar world, the less I understood.  Who was I?  What happened to me.

And then I saw movement.

I whirled around, thrusting the pistol out in front of me.  It shook.

A man was standing in the doorway, pointing a rifle at my chest.  “Who the fuck are you?”

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