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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Release Week Blitz- SALT & VENOM by Amy McNulty With An Excerpt & Giveaway!

I am so excited that SALT & VENOM by Amy McNulty is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Amy McNulty, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of Amy and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

About the Book:
Title: SALT & VENOM (Blood, Bloom, & Water #2)
Author: Amy McNulty
Pub. Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing 
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 227
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

An emboldened merman. The daring girl who agreed to be his champion. The upcoming battle that threatens to change everything they believe in.
Ivy Sheppard never wanted the ability to turn into a mermaid—though her wicked ice powers are nothing to sneeze at. Now her step-sister is her enemy, the fairy she once trusted may not be the ally she hoped for, and her new boyfriend wants her to transfer schools to avoid the vampires taking over Union High. Between dodging parents’ concerns, pretending she can stand to even look at the step-sister who sided with the bloodsuckers, and still aiming to end it all without violence, Ivy is in over her head. Unfortunately, these ancient enemies are itching to get the conflict started and Ivy may have no choice but to become the warrior the merfolk need her to be.
The second book in the Blood, Bloom, & Water series starts the war between fangs and fins in earnest as the merfolk plan their assault to bring down the unnatural undead vampires once and for all.

About Book 1:

Title: FANGS & FINS A Paranormal Romance (Blood, Bloom, & Water Book 1)
Author: Amy McNulty
Pub. Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 330
Find it: AmazonGoodreads

A dapper vampire. A sullen merman. Two heirs to a great conflict—and each needs to claim a beloved to become his kindred’s champion.
High school senior Ember Goodwin never had a sister, but after her mom’s remarriage, she now has two. The eldest is no stranger to her—Ivy is a witty girl in her grade who’s almost never spoken to the shy bookworm before—but she’s surprised to find the popular girl quite amiable. Their burgeoning friendship is tested, however, when Dean Horne, a pale, besuited charmer, shows interest in them both and plans to reveal his appetite for blood to the one who’ll stand by his side.
Seventeen-year-old Ivy Sheppard is tired of splitting her time between her dad’s and her mom’s, particularly when her dad uproots their lives to move them in with his new wife and step-daughter. Used to rolling with her parents’ whims, she tries to make the best of it and befriend her nerdy new step-sister. Her hectic life grows more unwieldy when she catches the eye of junior Calder Poole, whom she swears she sees swap well-toned legs for a pair of fins during a dip in a lake. Now she’s fending off suitors left and right, all while trying to get to the bottom of the strange happenings in her town.
The first book in the Blood, Bloom, & Water series sets family against family and friend against friend as an epic, ancient war comes to a head in a supposedly sleepy suburb.


Blossom didn’t often have time for me when Autumn was around. Though the cat was no spring chicken, she still had a youthful spring in her step, and only an eight-year-old with mountains of extra energy was up to the task of satiating the calico’s thirst for prey. Usually in the form of a shoestring or curled-up ball of paper.

But Blossom poked her head up beside my bed and mewed, tapping her paw against my shoulder until I couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle. As I lifted the comforter higher, Blossom snuggled right in against my side.

“At least someone won’t ask what’s wrong with me,” I whispered. “She just knows something is.” My fingers traced circles around one of her soft ears.

Why couldn’t I just tell everyone the truth? Hashtag ImAMermaid. Jokes aside, I was seventeen—albeit almost eighteen—and I didn’t know how to handle this on my own.

I had three parents. Why couldn’t I kick and scream and have a tantrum and wind up coddled in my mom’s or dad’s arms?

My phone buzzed on the nightstand. Shifting so as not to bother Blossom, I grabbed it and saw the message from Calder:

Feeling better? I know last night was… A lot. I’ve got you, though. I promise. I need you more than I’ve ever needed anyone. I’ll try to be a worthy prince, my champion.

A tear slipped down one cheek as I felt my face warming. I put down the phone and wiped the moisture away. Why was I crying? It wasn’t like I was madly in love with the guy.

But apparently, the champion of water was kind of the prince’s fiancĂ©e. So I had a boyfriend now. I’d never had one who’d lasted more than a few dates.

Now I was tied to one—cute, kind of shy though he might be—possibly for the rest of my life. We could one day lay our merbaby eggs in the blood of my fallen step-sister.

No and no. I still wasn’t planning on either happening.

My phone buzzed again and I swiped away another notification from Paisley. The bits of messages I’d read from her and Lyric asked everything I expected them to, like what in the world had happened last night, was it true that Calder had lost his pants in the Homecoming fire, was I feeling all right and how was Ember, and also, back to the second point, was it true Calder had walked around brazenly with his elephant trunk swinging freely?

I tried not to think about that part. My face was flushing at the memory. I bet the vampires didn’t have cause to go pantsless around their champion. At least not a supernatural one. I wasn’t sure if that was a pro or a con, honestly. Dirty Ivy.

Blossom’s purrs grew louder and louder as she snuggled up beside my cheek, nudging the top of her head against my chin.

“I love you too, Furbaby,” I said, rubbing the back of her neck and being reminded how different the cat at my new place was—Ember’s cat was a scaredy-cat if ever there was one.

The thought of going back there now with how things stood between Ember and me… I couldn’t. But I couldn’t very well explain why I couldn’t to Mom and Dad.

Even if Mom apparently had been hypnotized into accepting Orin as a family friend.

That traitorous faery.

“There she is!” screeched a voice from my partially-open door. Autumn came trotting in—the girl had yet to learn boundaries. Thankfully for her, I was an amazing big sister. If I do say so myself.

“Leave us alone,” I said, just a touch of my grumpy side evident in my voice. Okay, not always an amazing sister.

Autumn flicked on the light switch and padded over to the side of my bed. “Are you cramping?” she asked, twirling a strand of her long, brown hair around her finger. She had on a tie-dyed T-shirt and bright purple zebra pants. The girl could clearly not dress herself, but she was too old for my parents to be picking out outfits for her regardless.

I pushed at her gently, my arm jostling and upsetting the cat. “I’m not on my period every time I’m feeling tired,” I said, grunting. “Geez, you’d have me bleeding twenty-nine days out of thirty.”

“Gross.” She scooped the cat out from beside me, carrying her in her arms like a big, fragile bag of groceries. My sister bounced her up and down and Blossom dug her claws into her human captor’s shoulders, her yellow irises like saucers, but Autumn didn’t even flinch. “Are you still sick from last night?”

“Yes,” I muttered, pulling the cover over my head entirely. “Now go away. And don’t forget to shut off the light.”

“How did you create steam?” she asked. “When you touched that warm blanket they gave you, your hand glowed blue and steam rose out—”

“You were seeing things,” I mumbled. “Now go away.”

“Fine,” she snapped. The pounding of her bare feet against the floor was loud even muffled by the threadbare carpet that ran most of the length of Mom’s townhouse. “Keep your secrets.”

“And stay away from Orin!” I snapped.


“Orin! My boss. My date to Homecoming.” I poked my head out from under the blanket. Mom was hovering behind Autumn in the doorway. Great.

Autumn grinned and Blossom saw her chance to jump down, scattering off into the hallway, my little sister hot on her literal tail.

“How are you feeling?” asked Mom, her fist hovering over the open bedroom door as if it weren’t too late to knock and not be invited in at this point.

“Fine,” I lied, burying my head underneath the blanket once more.

She took that as an invitation because I felt her sit down on the edge of the bed. Her hand touched my shoulder through my barrier of cotton and synthetic fibers keeping me from facing reality and the fact that said reality included faeries, vampires, and merpeople. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.

Yes. “No.”

She kept stroking my shoulder in silence.

“Don’t you have work today?” I asked. She always had work and it was supposed to be a Dad day anyway. She’d been a homemaker when she and Dad had been together and though she got some “maintenance,” as they called alimony for some reason, she’d had to take on a minimum-wage job at a superstore to make ends meet. Luckily, she and Dad got along well enough that he pretty much paid any and everything related to Autumn’s or my expenses.

I just didn’t get why they couldn’t have gotten along while they’d been married, then.
Sighing, I buried myself deeper in the blankets, barely hearing Mom’s response. Something about swapping shifts.

She tugged the blanket off my head and I groaned. “Hey, listen to me,” she said.

“I am.” Not true.

She stared hard at me until I was forced to look away.

“Did anyone hurt you last night?”

“No,” I lied again. Not like she was thinking. Not who she was thinking.

“Or Ember?”

“No,” I said again, my nails digging into my palm beneath the blanket. Well, I had hurt her.

“Things just got hectic in the chaos.”

“So hectic that boy lost his pants?” Her eyebrow arched.

“They were wet,” I said. “And on fire,” I added. I supposed the latter would excuse it where the former wouldn’t. Even if that was just a little white lie to add to the mountain of them.

“Wet… and on fire?” Mom asked, her neck bending forward even more.

Don’t test me, woman, I thought. You have no idea… “Wet after being on fire.”

Mom took in a deep, audible breath. “Who was that boy, Ivy?”

“Calder Poole,” I said, the name coming out like a petulant toddler forced to reveal the fact that she’d dug her hand into the cookie jar. “He’s on the swim team. Or he was… He just transferred.”

“Okay…” Mom said. “And is he… Do you know him well? I don’t remember you ever hanging out with him before.”

“That’s because I hang with the baseball team, owing to Paisley’s boyfriend being captain of it. Doesn’t mean I don’t know him.” An itch took over the tip of my nose and I rubbed it into my pillow.

Mom kept patting my shoulder. “He was there with someone else and he just happened to help you and Ember—after his pants caught on fire?”

“He was there with me,” I said, not wanting to get into the debate about why someone from a different school was there without a date from Union High. It wasn’t like he’d transferred that long ago anyway.

“But I thought you and Orin…?” Normally, Mom would be having a fit that I’d dated an “older” guy. Ha, try older than dirt, not a couple of years older. But Orin had made her think he was a dear friend of ours somehow. For some reason.

“He’s just a friend,” I said. “Was a friend. And I’m not working for him anymore.”

Not the right thing to say. “Ivy, I know you might need time off, but I told you it’s important to start working as soon as possible. Look at what happened to me. When your father left—” Her phone rang, playing the Jurassic Park theme song, which I knew meant Dad. They’d gone on their first date to see that movie as freshmen in high school. I didn’t know why Mom would want to be reminded of that.

“Take some time off,” she said, letting the phone continue to ring a moment. “Just keep… what happened to me… in mind. A part-time job would be good for you even throughout college.” Her lips pinched as she stared straight at me, and I flinched. She turned away and answered the call. “Yes?”

I ran a finger over the edge of my nightstand, ignoring the buzz that came from my own phone as I picked up half a conversation between my parents.

“That’s great!” said Mom, a smile on her face. She lowered the phone to whisper to me, “Ember got the all-clear. She’s home and feels fine.”

I flinched. Not that I wanted her to be ill, of course, but… But… She was the enemy now. She’d sealed the deal before I had.

I’d missed some of Mom’s side of the conversation. “He wants you and Autumn to still come over tonight,” she told me, Dad clearly on hold. “They’re going to order in.”

“No!” I shouted, sitting up and practically whapping my poor mother across the face with my blankets.

I could hear the muffled sound of Dad’s voice—he’d probably heard that.

Mom shrank back. “Sunday is usually spent with your dad—”

“Right. Oh, right.” Covering my face with my hands, I winced. My throat was dry. “It’s just… Mom, I barely feel like moving. Maybe Autumn can go and I…” I didn’t say anything more.
Mom turned back to her conversation and spoke in a hushed voice. Then she held the phone out to me. “Your father wants to speak to you.”

“Tell him I’m sick or something,” I said.

“I heard that, young lady,” came Dad’s voice from the speaker.

“Ugh,” I said, bringing my knees up and resting my forehead atop them.

Mom spoke to him again and then hung up a few moments later. “We agreed both you and Autumn can stay here an extra night,” she said. “Ember’s dad is in town anyway. I get the feeling things are… tense between him and Noelle. They thought maybe having a crowd would make things less awkward.”

“They’re inviting him to dinner with them?” I asked. All the more reason not to bother going. Like I needed another awkward thing happening inside my own home when all I wanted to do was sleep for the rest of my life.

“He’s staying at a motel, but yes, he’s coming over for dinner.” Mom sighed as a crash echoed from downstairs—the townhouse was cramped, but there was a kitchen, living room, and half-bath on the first floor. “Autumn?” she called out.

Autumn’s giggling rang out even from a floor and several rooms away.

“We’ll talk more later,” said Mom, patting my shoulder again. She stopped when she reached the hallway, looking back at me over her shoulder. “And you’re at least eating dinner with your sister and me,” she said sternly. “I’m not letting you sleep the whole day away.” She flicked the lights off.

Groaning, I rolled onto my side, nestling myself beneath the covers again. My phone buzzed on the stand beside my head and I reached over, holding the power button and confirming I wanted it turned off so the thing would finally go quiet.

About Amy:
Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 15, 2018

Release Day Blitz- COURT OF SECRETS by Dyan Chick With An Excerpt & Giveaway!

I am so excited that COURT OF SECRETS by Dyan Chick is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Dyan Chick, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of Dyan and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Title: COURT OF SECRETS Reverse Harem Fantasy (Forbidden Queen #1)
Author: Dyan Chick
Pub. Date: October 15, 2018
Publisher: Dyan Chick
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 216
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon

Four Sexy Fae Princes. A Changeling Fae. A Secret that could end them all. 
When Cassia’s wedding is ruined by a monster attack, her whole life changes. Destined for the dull and uneventful life of a Baron’s wife, Cassia always dreamed of more. She never thought it would come in the form of three sexy fae princes. 
When she accidentally uses magic, Cassia discovers that she’s not human. She’s a changeling, a fae hidden in the human world. She no longer belongs in the human realm, but she won’t survive on her own in Faerie. 
Now, her only hope is the three sexy fae princes who saved her life on her wedding day. On the run from the monsters that attacked her, Cassia must help the princes hunt them down. Her life depends on them, and by the time this is over, they might need her as much as she needs them. 
Court of Secrets is a full-length Reverse Harem Fantasy Novel
Book 1 of 4 

I walked into the room and tried not to let the fact that Dane was going to be staying the night in the same room as me get to me. The door shut behind me and I could feel the presence of another person even though I wasn’t looking at him.
Even when I was a young child, I had slept in my own room. When I was very young, I remember Nani occasionally sleeping on the floor near my bed if I had nightmares. But when I woke in the morning, she was never there. So I knew she just stayed for a short time and then went to her own sleeping quarters.
It was strange to know that someone else was in there with me. I looked around the room and felt my chest tighten at the sight of the small bed that took up most of the space. It would be difficult to even find enough floor space to stretch out on for a normal person, not to mention someone as tall and broad as Dane. The bed might even be too short for him, but it was wide enough for two people. My cheeks heated when I realized the only logical sleeping arrangement would be for the two of us to share the bed.
I turned around to ask Dane what he thought and let out a squeak of surprise.
Dane froze halfway through removing one of the legs of his trousers.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"You don't expect me to sleep in these filthy clothes, do you?" he asked.
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open, as I tried to think of something to say. He finished removing his trousers and when he dropped them to the floor, a cloud of dust rose from them.
I had to concede that he was right, our clothes were filthy. As much as I didn't want to sleep in the dust from the road, I wasn't sure I was ready to sleep naked next to Dane.
"Surely you've seen men without their clothes on," Dane said as he lifted his tunic over his head.
I stared at him, blinking in silence, taking in every inch of his bare chest. From the firm chest muscles to the rippling muscles of his abdomen and finally, pausing at the V shaped indent of his hips. Thankfully, he was still wearing some undergarments to cover the lower portion. Yet, I found myself curious to know what he looked like completely naked.
"I've never been with a man. Remember you met me on my wedding day. Nothing really happened after that," I said.
"I forget," he said with a knowing smile, "you humans don't let yourself have very much fun."
"You're the ones who keep saying I'm not human. It's very confusing when you keep lumping me in with them," I said, feeling frustrated.

About Dyan:

My story is probably similar to a lot of other writers out there. As a kid, I was creative, imaginative, and loved to write. I’d write scripts for plays and make my sisters act them out. I got excited about the writing prompts for standardized tests in elementary school. I started writing my first (unfinished) novel in 5th grade. Then started another one in middle school. For a long time, I was a closet writer. I didn’t tell anybody that I had a hard drive full of abandoned stories. After years of not finishing anything, I finally took the plunge and started taking writing, and myself as a writer, seriously. My first novel, Heir of Illaria, published January 23, 2017. Book 2 is right around the corner. It’s gone from closet hobby to full on addiction. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive husband who doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about my characters as if they’re real.

Giveaway Details:
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover & Excerpt Reveal- EARTH QUARANTINED by D.L. Richardson With A Giveaway!

Today D.L. Richardson and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for EARTH QUARANTINED, her new Sci-Fi Book which releases November 15, 2018! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

On to the reveal! 

Title: EARTH QUARANTINED Book 1 of Earth Quarantined series
Author: D.L. Richardson
Pub. Date: November 15, 2018
Publisher: D.L. Richardson
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 330
Find it: Goodreads

World peace came, just not from this world.

The year is 2355. The deadly virus that killed millions of people is gone, thanks to the quarantine measures put in place by the Criterion, an alien species who appeared just in time to save the human race. In exchange for complying with their tough control measures, the Criterion promised us the technology for interstellar travel. We’ve done all they’ve asked, yet we’re still on Earth with no way of getting into deep space. The Criterion are lying to us. What they don’t know is that we’re lying to them.

Kethryn Miller is an award-winning actress, but nothing will prepare her for the role she’ll take on when a strange woman who shouldn’t be alive turns up in the city, threatening to expose the lies that have kept peace on Earth for 200 years.

Exclusive Excerpt!

City Prime glowed at night, its beauty undeniable. Millions of lights in every imaginable color blinked like neon lovers communicating in code. At least until midnight. After midnight, the power conserves came into effect, and buildings disappeared from the skyline as holo-advertisements and electricity mains shut down. Complete darkness lasted no more than the blink of a neon light; like children afraid of the dark, buildings flickered into life as insomniacs reclaimed the night.

Kethryn Miller stood on the balcony of the eighty-fourth floor, gazing out to the other buildings, wondering what kept her fellow insomniacs awake. She would swap her troubles for theirs any day.

A Criterion ship popped into view. Reflexively, Kethryn took a step back. The Divinity was gold and elliptical with sensor arrays that resembled incandescent roots reaching for the ground. One of a hundred border patrols ships, one for each Earth state, this alien hawk followed a pre-plotted course around the ten cities of State Seven. A citizen could tell time by the patrols. Each noon and midnight the Divinity floated over City Prime. Each night when it hovered by, Kethryn sensed the co-operatives inside – humans who worked security detail for the Criterions – watching her watching them.

She reached for the bottle of wine on the table and the movement activated the Visual Imaging Device – VID – pulling her attention to the invitation projected onto the screen. It showed an invitation for the presidential inauguration in two weeks, one she couldn’t avoid since this was her inauguration. Spending twenty-four years trying to dodge the inevitable made the challenge seem useless.

Damn world peace, Kethryn thought. It wasn’t worth her happiness.

About D L:

D L Richardson is writes speculative fictions, which encompasses science fiction, light horror, supernatural fiction, and fantasy. When she's not writing, she can be found wandering in her yard waging war on weeds, watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix, playing her piano or guitar, curled up on the couch reading a book, or walking the dog.

Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will win a $10 Gift Card for Amazon/Kobo/B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Release Day Blitz- THE HALVES OF US by Sydney Paige Richardson With An Excerpt & Giveaway!

I am so excited that THE HALVES OF US by Sydney Paige Richardson is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Sydney Paige Richardson, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of The Parliament House and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

About the Book:

Title: THE HALVES OF US (The Halves of Us Trilogy #1)

Author: Sydney Paige Richardson
Pub. Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 480
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks

Twin Sisters: one destined to rule, one cursed to destroy. 
Some say blood is thicker than water. But for twin sisters, Adie and Aura, their connection runs even deeper than blood.After investigating a surprise attack carried out by dark souls controlled by the Wicked Willow, an evil  residing in a neighboring region, Aura uncovers a family secret: she is the fulfillment of a curse placed upon her family centuries ago.
While Aura is destined to destroy their planet, Thindoral, Adie is fated to follow in their mother’s footsteps and become Ruler, but even Adie’s path comes with revelations. Dangerous premonitions plague her dreams, all depicting Thindoral’s demise at the hand of her sister.
As darkness takes control of her mind, Aura must determine whether defying fate and time is the choice that will seal her destruction, or if self-sacrifice will save all she holds dear. Meanwhile, Adie is faced with an impossible decision: save her sister, or protect their world? 

AGE 12
A  canvas of dark indigo filled Thindoral’s night sky, and the silver light of the stars reflected the mischief in Aura’s eyes. She counted them one by one, waiting for the Guards to finish their rounds. Waiting for the moons to rise high in the sky. Waiting for the right moment, when the palace was asleep and she could use the stolen key.

As the residents of the Dome grew quiet and Aura could no longer hear the hustle and bustle from the Town Square below, she tiptoed toward the door adjoining her room to her sister’s. Reaching into her pocket, she ran her fingertips across the roughly carved key to the Holding Room which she’d stolen from her Uncle Gossamer earlier that evening.

She shivered as the cold brass handle of the door met her palm. The wooden door creaked as she eased it open.

The thin white silk of the bed’s canopy fell in folds as it twirled down the dark wood of the bedposts. Aura tiptoed across the room and looked at her twin. Adie slept peacefully. The moonlight cast through the windows of the double doors leading out to their shared balcony. Aura knelt on the floor beside the bed and tugged on one of her sister’s scarlet braids, a replica of her own. She hid, crouching down as Adie rustled awake.

Adie sat up, her eyes still heavy with sleep. Aura jumped up onto her sister’s bed, giggling.

“Aura!” Adie said, throwing a pillow at her sister. She lay back down and covered her face with another pillow.

“Come on!” Aura pleaded.

“It’s the middle of the night. Let me sleep,” Adie begged, her voice muffled beneath the plush fabric.

“Look what I have . . .” Aura’s voice trailed off as she pulled the key out of her pocket. Chiseled from petrified wood, the key’s intricate design cast shadows from the moonlight onto Adie’s bed.

Adie raised her head, her sleepy eyes growing wide as intrigue filled them. She crawled across the bed, taking the key from Aura. “How did you . . . when did you—” She stopped.

Aura failed at hiding her smile. Adie always made her thieving ways feel like grand accomplishments. “We have to go tonight,” she whispered, taking the key back from Adie and putting it in her pocket.

She motioned for Adie to follow her as she made her way to the door leading out from her sister’s room and into the hall. She could hear Adie’s hesitant footsteps coming up beside her. She signaled Adie to stay back as she reached for the door handle.

Aura tucked a crimson curl behind her ear and tried to steady her breathing before peeking out. Her heartbeat drummed in her ears, nearly drowning out the nearby footsteps as Michael, Security Major of the Guard, paced the hallway as he did every night. The gold emblem of Thindoral’s sacred pendant, the Rokis, shimmered on the back of his dark blue uniform beneath the dim light cast from the lanterns on the walls.

She spun out of view when Michael glanced over his shoulder, and she silently begged Adie to stay quiet. They held their breath, and Aura swore the beating of her heart was now loud enough to give them away. Closing her eyes, she prayed he hadn’t seen her. If he had, he would never leave his post again.

After pleading to Fate herself, Aura’s gaze shifted out her bedroom window as she waited. Two silver rings lined Thindoral’s largest moon, reflecting bright light through her windows and creating a soft hue around a worried Adie in front of her. Michael’s footsteps faded down the granite hallway as he continued the last of his rounds throughout the Dome, and a grin stretched across Aura’s face.

“Are you sure we should do this?” Adie’s voice peaked as she stepped back toward her bed. “Mother always said the Rokis must never be touched by anyone but the Ruler, and—”

Aura stared at her. “Mother says lots of things.”

“What about Michael?” Adie frowned as she stepped out of bed.

“He just finished his rounds. Come on!”

Aura opened the door and searched both directions of the hallway. Michael was nowhere to be seen. She took Adie’s hand as they moved down the lonely hallway, followed only by the sounds of their bare feet pitter-pattering across the granite floors and the light scratching of the designs etching into the walls.

Aura released her grip on Adie’s hand and stopped to watch the pencil-like lines swirl around one another, forming mesmerizing odd shapes and letters. Her mother always told her these were secret messages left by the Designers, the godly beings who created the universe and all life within. Those worthy of their secret messages could decipher them. But to this day, none knew what the messages meant. Some areas of the walls repeated, and some changed as someone touched them.

Aura reached out to touch a design, and a flower bloomed where her fingers had just been. As the petals grew larger, her breath caught when the corners became black and shriveled, ultimately falling away from the stem and fading back into the colors of the wall. Her brow furrowed as she skimmed her hands along the rough lines of the walls. The texture moved under her palm like worms through thick dirt.

“Aura! Come on!” Adie whispered, breaking Aura from her trance as she grabbed her hand, pulling her farther down the dimly lantern-lit hallways.

They peeked down where the corridor ended at the Holding Room.

“No Guards!” Aura smirked, looking to Adie.
They squeezed each other’s hands tighter as they walked toward the towering silver door.

“Are you sure it’s in there tonight?” Adie asked.

Aura nodded. “Every fortnight, Mother leaves it in here for one evening. She says something about it being too heavy to sleep with.”

They stopped in front of the door, looking up as far as they could. Even though the dark of night had taken over the Dome, the door to the Holding Room still glowed. The silver designs carved into its surface reflected in their eyes. An even brighter golden light draped the sacred design of the Rokis which hung above it.

“You did make sure you got the right key, didn’t you?” Adie asked. Her head remained tilted back, examining the door as she fidgeted with her braid.

Aura turned and faced her sister. A mirror image of herself nervously smiled back as she retrieved the key from her pocket.

She handed it to Adie, but she shook her head. “You open it,” Adie insisted.

They walked forward, hand in hand. As they approached the door, Aura broke free from her sister. Adie waited a few steps behind, sneaking glances back down the hallway.
Aura’s hand trembled as she slid the key in the door and twisted. The loud click of the door unlocking hung in the air, and Adie ran toward her.

“Shhh!” Adie hushed. Aura shrugged and grinned as she twisted the handle. They gazed over their shoulders, peering down the hallway. Adie sighed heavily, relieved as she looked back at Aura and nodded. They were still alone.

Together, they gritted their teeth and pulled at the door with all their strength.

“Keep pulling,” Adie whispered as it creaked open and she slipped in.

Aura pushed her way through the opening, and the door closed behind them.

Plush velvet curtains gathered at the sides of the stone walls around the perimeter of the room, revealing exquisite stained-glass windows. The moonlight poured in, bouncing off the tall ceilings, and a deep rush of color danced across the floor. Aura looked at her blue dress, which now took on a deep red, mimicking the lighting. She twirled around and smiled as the ends of her dress broke the kaleidoscope of colors reflecting on the floor.

“Aura!” Adie whispered as she pointed to the stairs in the center of the room, leading up to a pedestal.

Hand in hand they marched up the four giant stone steps. There lay the Rokis given to them by the Designers, who harnessed the power of a star in its center gem to protect them from the evil residing on their planet. The gem radiated a bright blue light, and twelve golden triangles jutted outward around it, reflecting a ray of sapphire on their faces.

“Touch it!” Aura said.

“No! Mother says I have to wait,” Adie replied.

“Come on! We didn’t come here just to look at it. I mean, it’ll be yours one day, anyway.” Aura stood tall and struck a pose, mimicking their mother. “The Rokis belongs to the youngest born, the future Ruler.” She giggled and covered her mouth as the sound echoed throughout the Holding Room. “What’s wrong with touching it now?” she whispered.

Aura watched her sister’s brow crease in thought as she stared at the Rokis, entranced by its beauty. The light of the center gem captured the jade color of her eyes. Adie shivered suddenly and looked back up at Aura with hesitation.

“Together?” Aura asked, taking her sister’s hand.

Adie gulped and nodded slowly.

As they brought their hands above the center of the Rokis, Aura could feel Adie’s tremble below hers. She closed her eyes and lowered their hands onto the blue gem. As soon as she felt their palms reach the center, a surge of light burst throughout the room, throwing Aura down the steps.

The bright light rose higher, climbing up the walls. Pain coursed through Aura’s elbow as it smacked on the floor. Clutching her arm, she tried to stifle her tears. Taking a deep breath, she moved from her stomach to a sitting position and looked around, searching for her sister.

Her bottom lip trembled. “Adie?” she whispered. “Adie!” she whispered louder.

Adie was gone.

A blue light collected around the ceiling, swirling above her. Silent tears fell down her cheeks as her trembling evolved into shakes.

The light came together into a ball in the middle of the ceiling, and Aura froze. It shot down toward the ground, and she shielded her eyes with the back of her hands. Once she felt the light dissipate, she let her hands fall and opened her eyes. Motionless, Adie lay on the floor a few feet in front of her.

“Adie! Adie! Wake up, you must wake up!” Aura ran over to her twin, hushing her voice as she heard the Guards coming down the hallway.

Adie groaned and opened her eyes.

Aura gasped and stepped back. “Adie, your eyes! They’re blue!” She wiped her tears and looked over at the door as the voices on the other side grew closer. “Come on, we have to get you up. We need to go!” Aura said, helping Adie to her feet.

They ran over to the curtains and hid behind them.

“Stand still and don’t make a sound,” Aura begged.

Adie leaned against Aura’s shoulder as they both peeked out from behind the curtains.

“The key. Where’s the key?!” Gossamer shouted from outside the Holding Room door.

“Sir, it’s open . . .” replied one of the Guards as they eased into the room.

Aura pulled the curtain back over them, listening to Adie’s heavy breathing. She tried to calm her down, hoping the Guards wouldn’t discover them.

“I was making my way back to my room, when I saw a bright light come from behind the door. That’s when I discovered my key missing . . .” Gossamer’s deep voice bellowed.

“We were on guard, sir, but saw nothing,” another Guard replied.

Aura peeked out from the curtains once more. Gossamer walked up the tall steps to the pedestal, a puzzled expression on his face.

“The Rokis is still here, unharmed.”

“It could’ve been the stained glass windows reflecting the light, sir,” suggested the short, squatty Guard.

Gossamer spun around to face him, and Aura quickly stepped back behind the curtain.

“Have the other Guards stand directly outside the entrance. We’ll begin a search for the key.”
“Minister, could you have possibly misplac—” the Guard began.

“The keys are always on me.” Gossamer pulled on the iron loop around his belt. Hundreds of keys dangled atop one another and clinked together as he released the loop. “They never leave my side. And remember, no one is to touch the Rokis but the Ruler herself. Its powers are far more than we can comprehend. Have the Guards check all the exits. Make sure everyone is accounted for. The last time this happened . . .” He paused, his hands still in fists. “Double the Guards around the Ruler and Adie and Aura’s chambers.”

Adie gasped, and Aura quickly covered her sister’s mouth. She narrowed her eyes at Adie in a silent plea to keep quiet. She frowned upon seeing her sister’s eyes remained bright blue. They stood perfectly still as Gossamer and the Guards quieted. Aura prayed they didn’t come any closer.

“Sir, I don’t think we should alarm the staff. We haven’t had an intrusion in years.”

“We take no risks!” Gossamer shouted.

Aura peeked out as her uncle walked toward the entrance. His face reddened as he took a few long breaths. She’d never seen him this angry.

“Check the exits. Do not wake the Ruler. I will inform her myself. Keep Guards at the door until the key is recovered,” he ordered.

THE DOOR CLOSED BEHIND THEM, and Adie removed Aura’s hand from her mouth. She peered out into the empty room. “We have to get out of here!” Adie’s stomach churned as her nerves took over.

Aura stepped out from the curtain and ran after Adie, hugging her tightly. “What happened? I thought you were gone!” She pulled away from Adie, wiping away new tears. “And why are your eyes blue?”

“I don’t know . . .” Adie tried to hide the welling in her eyes. “But if Uncle Gossamer finds us in here, we’ll be in terrible trouble. We have to get back to our rooms.”
Aura nodded in agreement. “I’ll leave the key here. He’ll think he dropped it.” She knelt and carefully placed the key on the floor.

“I suggest we pretend this never happened.” Adie bit her lip to hide its trembling.

“Agreed.” She made her way to Adie, hugging her again. “You had me so worried. Where did you go?”

Her sister’s arms clung tightly to her. A warm tear fell down Adie’s cheek. “I don’t know. Let’s worry about getting out of here first.”

Aura pulled away from their embrace, heading toward the entrance of the Holding Room.

“Wait! The Guards?” Adie stepped in front of her, blocking her way toward the door.
Aura tugged Adie’s braid. “Those are the same Guards who were sleeping through their shift. How do you think we got in here without being detected?” Her mouth curled into a mischievous grin.

“No! No! Aura, what if they are on the other side?”

“We can’t hide in here forever,” Aura replied.

“Maybe we just confess . . .”

“And explain to Mother what happened?” Aura said.

Adie froze, holding her breath as Aura cracked the door and glanced through the opening.

She closed the door slowly and turned toward Adie. “There are two Guards with their back to us. We’re going to count to three and make a run straight out of here. Got it?”
Adie nodded back at her and finally breathed.

“Hey,” Aura said as she reached for Adie’s hand. “They’re on the other side of the door, toward the left. We can make it. Count with me. One . . .”

“Two,” Adie replied.

“Three!” they whispered as they slipped out of the tiny opening of the door and darted down the corridor.

“They didn’t see us!” Aura said, but Adie dared not look back.

They continued to run down the hallway and dashed into Adie’s room. Adie shut the door quietly behind her as they heard footsteps coming down the hallway.

“Quick! Into bed!” Aura whispered.

They both jumped into Adie’s bed and huddled together.

“Close your eyes!”
“Shh!” Adie responded.

Her bedroom door creaked opened, allowing a sliver of light halfway into the room. Adie squeezed her eyes shut as she heard Gossamer sigh and close the door.

Aura pushed the covers back and jumped out of bed, listening to his footsteps disappear down the hall. Adie opened her eyes and turned over, clutching one of her pillows as Aura got back in bed with a satisfied grin on her face.

“Adie, your eyes aren’t blue anymore!” she exclaimed. Her smile grew wider.

Adie stood and walked over to the dark wood vanity by her bed. She examined herself in the mirror. Emerald eyes stared back at her. She pulled at the puffy, tired skin beneath them.

“Now are you going to tell me what happened?” Aura asked.

Adie’s hands dropped to her side. She continued to stare at her reflection. She blinked and froze as the whites of her eyes vanished and went black. She blinked again and the emerald color returned. Taking in a deep breath, she walked back over to the bed, shaking her head and lying down.

“I don’t exactly know, but I think we should promise to never talk about it ever again. If Mother were to find out—”

“She won’t, but I must know!” Aura begged. “Adie, you disappeared—”

Adie looked at her sister, frizzy red ringlets framed her face. She sighed, sitting up and facing Aura. “I don’t know where I was, but there was this tall beautiful tree.” Her eyes grew wide at the vivid memory. “It had long, thin branches that swayed in the wind. They filled the space around me. There was so many I couldn’t see past them! I walked closer to the trunk of the tree, but I had to tilt my head to see the top.” She hesitated.

Her sister’s curious expression was opposite of the worry in her own.

“Then there was this gust of wind, and I turned as a black cloud of smoke came straight toward me. The branches started to lose their leaves, and what I could see of the sky was changing to red.” She paused, fearing her heart would beat straight out of her chest. “So I started running. The next thing I knew, you told me to get up . . .” Adie trailed off.

“Why didn’t I see the tree?” Aura asked, looking down at her hands.

“I don’t know. Maybe I just imagined it all.” Adie said, trying to convince herself nothing happened. She looked at Aura, whose eyes remained down, deep in thought. “Now promise,” she said.

“Promise what?”

“We never talk about it to anyone. We pretend it never happened.”

“What if your eyes turn blue again?” she asked.

“They won’t. Just promise, please. Okay?”

“Promise.” Aura agreed.

Adie hugged her sister. She closed her eyes, remembering the dark cloud coming toward her. She could never tell Aura the rest of what she’d seen. She buried her face in her sister’s embrace, trying to remove the image from her mind, but the memory flashed across her eyelids, mocking her.

She remembered hearing Aura’s voice and turning to see her sister standing a few feet away, hiding in the thin branches of the tree. A dark smoke-like cloud came from around Aura, charging toward Adie. Aura’s black eyes and haunting smile made Adie shudder.
She must never tell anyone.

About Sydney:
Even before I could hold a pencil in my hand, I was making up stories in my head. I wrote my first book in the second grade, Girls [sorry Lena Dunham], about me and my best friends in college [because college was super cool when you were 8] who went on treasure hunts and fought bad guys with our super powers. My second grade teacher was so impressed with me, she laminated a cover and bound it. That will forever be the moment I dreamed of holding a copy of my own book and placing it on a shelf.

Now all grown up, my head still stays in the fantasy world, fashioning worlds where the power of a star can be harnessed and used for time travel, flying is just as easy as walking here on earth – and my best friends are fairies. My characters are dark and lost individuals, but your love for them will grow when you realize not everything is black and white. I am represented by Rebecca Angus at Golden Wheat Literary.

I have a three book deal with The Parliament House with Book One of my current trilogy, The Halves of Us, scheduled to be published in 10/9/2018.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

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