Mystery at the Ice Hotel by Sara Grant
Today is my stop on the Mystery at the Ice Hotel blog tour and I have for you a few reasons why I think you should be reading this series!
But first, here’s some information on the book.
About the Book
Reasons to Read this Series
No… seriously. Chase is one hell of a kick-ass heroine. She risks her life to save those she loves. She battles against evil over and over again and she does it all with incredible army training. But, as well as all of that, she also goes into things head first without thinking first and can sometimes put herself into more danger than necessary, she is also loves adventure a bit too much. Basically, this is a heroine who is a very rounded character. Both strong and feisty, stubborn and head-strong. Lots of attributes that make her feel very realistic and very easy to read and love.
Both Chasing Danger and Mystery at the Ice Hotel have very exotic and very interesting locations and really help to make the books that much more interesting. It makes the chase scenes more fascinating as the main characters run around an island and get caught on a dog sled gone wild. It creates a vivid backdrop to wild and dangerous adventures that really pull you into the story and make them more exciting to read about too!
Fast-Paced and Action-Filled
This is always an important one for me when it comes to adventure books. And these two books have action leaking from the pages that has you turning the page quickly while your heart races. Will it all go to plan this time? These books really got my heart thumping as I followed Chase and Mackenzie on their journeys. They have you jumping from one threat to the next until the final climax reveals everything for what it was. Add in a few twists a long the way and these books are utterly gripping.
Wonderful Friendship Duo
If you know me, you know that I love when books have good friendships in and these books are perfect for that. When Mackenzie and Chase first meet they do not get along, at all. But soon they form an unbreakable bond and their personalities work so well together. They would do anything for each other and I absolutely love that. They’re incredibly close by the end of the second book and honestly, I just cannot wait to see how much stronger their friendship will become in the next book in this series!
About the Author
Sara Grant was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She has worked as an editor and is also the author of a number of books for young readers and teens. She lives in London and writes full-time. Sara-grant.com
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Have you read this series yet?
Lie Kill Walk Away by Matt Dickinson
Today I am here to share with you all a brilliant guest post by Matt Dickinson to celebrate the release of his newest book, Lie Kill Walk Away! Hope you enjoy.
But first, here’s some info on the book!
About the Book
I check the Range Rover dash. The keys are in there.
The sirens are closing in. There s a police helicopter coming over the hospital
I have to decide. Decide right now. I can keep out of trouble. Not get involved. Just run away through the park and go home and pretend none of this has happened.
Or I can help Becca.
I stare into her eyes. Those deep blue eyes. Just for a split second.
I tell her, get in the car .
Joe and Becca uncover a deadly secret. A lethal bioweapon is about to be unleashed. Millions will suffer a terrible death.
Now they are being hunted down.
And their problems have only just begun …
Guest Post by Matt Dickinson
BUILD A BIO-WEAPON FROM THE SAFETY OF YOUR OWN BEDROOM!? THE TERRIFYING RISE OF DIY KITS WHICH MAY UNLEASH SUPER CHARGED PATHOGENS
Imagine you have a grudge against the world. Imagine you have a pathological desire to get revenge. An agenda to spread mayhem. A burning need to harm.
This is the mindset of Jon Melzack, the antagonist in my new thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.
Melzack is a cult leader, hiding behind a wall of religious rhetoric. But behind the scenes he is working with a lab to create a deadly new bioweapon. A weaponized form of the Ebola virus which can kill in hours. He is the leader of a clandestine terror group.
He wants revenge on the western leaders who have destroyed his life.
And a superweapon may be within his grasp.
During the research for the book I discovered some truly terrifying things.
It is now possible to buy a ‘starter kit’ to mess with the DNA of certain life forms – even if you have no experience and no laboratory of your own.
One example is the CRISP-CAS9 kit which costs about £100. It’s widely available and many medical research organisations are already warning that it is potentially lethal. Google it and you’ll find out more.
You can now play God with the E.Coli bacteria in your own house, giving this potentially dangerous organism the ability to resist antibiotics, or even more dangerous scenarios, which might be completely impossible to predict.
Basically it is a gene-altering kit for a simple bacteria.
It seems harmless perhaps. The new bacteria will just die in the test tube won’t they? Maybe not. The peril is real, as explored in my thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.
The question is: where does this all end? Will it soon be possible to buy a kit to alter the structure of human DNA?
Will commercial organisations begin to market ‘do it yourself bio-terrorism kits’ on the dark net?
This is the brave new world that my two teen heroes Rebecca and Joe are plunged into. Where millions of lives may be at stake from a single vial of a brand new pathogen.
Playing God? Anyone can now do it. We have to wonder where tinkering with genetic information will end.
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Will you be reading this book?
The Elders by Inbali Iserles
Today is my stop on The Elders blog tour and I am here today to tell you some reasons why I think you should be picking this series up – and you really, really should be! But first, here’s some more information on the second book!
About the Book
Skilled though she is, Isla’s grasp of foxcraft is still new. And she’s not alone… A cruel and mysterious fox stalks the forest, with the power to enslave others to his will. In order to survive, Isla must learn to trust in the rustic Wildlands foxes.
But there are tales of others — a council of Elders who are masters of foxcraft, and who warily guard its most potent secrets. If Isla wishes to master her gifts and find her brother, then the Elders may be her only hope.
Reasons To Read Foxcraft Series
I am nothing if not an animal lover. I love how cute they can be, how smart, brave and just purely fascinating they are. So, naturally, I was drawn to this book the minute that I realised it was narrated by a fox. And I am so glad that I read this book because it is a wonderful read. It was fascinating reading from the perspective of a fox, of living in the world through their eyes. I loved every little detail about this book and I would definitely recommend you read it if you’re an animal lover, or even if you’re just curious. It’s definitely worth the read.
Illustrations and Descriptions
Throughout the book each chapter heading has a little illustration like above and they’re so beautifully drawn. They really show and reveal the essence of the books too. I loved how well Inbali has described the world as the Fox sees it. How wonderfully descriptive even the most mundane detail is. I was truly pulled into this story and able to fully imagine the world as Isla sees it. It was incredibly well done and I love when that happens in a book.
Something I absolutely love in books are characters that are strong and powerful as well as weak and small and Isla is all of this. She is fierce and stubborn, powerful and impatient. She is a character with both good and bad qualities and I absolutely loved that but I also just loved her so much. I loved how much she cared for her family, especially her brother, Pirie. I loved that she was feisty and not willing to back down when the going got tough. She’s crafty and sneaky and one in a million. She definitely makes this series a brilliant read.
Alongside a vibrant protagonist and beautiful scenery, these books also have adventure at their core and I really love that about them. You’re witnessing Isla on her journey as she comes across enemies and traitors and potential friends. You witness as she gets out of scrapes and continues moving forward. How she never gives up because she is determined to find her family. I was fully enthralled with the story and the journey she took. It is one of the main reasons that I love adventure books so much. This series should definitely not be dismissed as a simple fox series.
Last, but certainly not least, I cannot tell you how emotional these books have made me. From the very beginning of the book, I was almost in tears. Then I felt Isla’s strength and couldn’t help but urge her onwards, praying for her that things go well. I got completely immersed in the book and let my emotions wrap around me as I drowned in the words. I laughed when she laughed, cried when she wailed and felt afraid when she did too. It was incredible and one of the very best things about reading any book.
About the Author
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Will you be reading this series?
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
To anyone who has met me, this post will probably not come as a major surprise. Even to those who follow me on social media will probably have been expecting a post like this for a long time for I am 100% a Coffee Addict. I basically do not function until I’ve had my first cup of coffee in the morning. You really don’t want to see me before I’ve finished my coffee.
A large part of my addiction to coffee has gotten worse because of my health causing my energy levels to plummet but also it is because I love coffee. I love the smell, I love the taste, I love the cups. I just love everything about it.
So today, I wanted to talk about some of my favourite ways to have coffee and some of my favourite coffees!
The Favourite Coffees
I know, I know. I’m sorry. It’s just that there is something so utterly wonderful about the taste of a Starbucks coffee. Plus, I love being a proud Gold Member. (#braggingrights)
I’ve actually only recently discovered the wonderful taste of Nero. I never wanted to betray my beloved Starbucks and since Costa coffee is so foul I was rather worried. However, I needn’t have worried as Nero is lovely!
LavAzza Coffee Beans
Filtered in a caffetiere for perfection. This coffee is smooth, rich and just wonderfully amazing on the tastebuds. Unfortunately I only have a caffetiere at my mums but maybe that’s what I’ll purchase for myself next month…
Anyone else noticed I’m a brand girl? For me I loove a good Nescafe Gold Instant coffee. There is just something so wonderful in the taste and you know, it’s instant which is awesome.
The Favourite Ways
Strong, two scoops of instant coffee, and black. A few scoops of sugar and voila! What a sensational treat!
The complete opposite of the above! But I love a latte in the morning. It’s the perfect mix of coffee and milk – hot milk too which is the best way to have it!
All the Syrups
Generally I like having Monin Syrups in my coffee with my favourite flavours being Hazlenut and Caramel. I could have coffee with syrups in all day long.
So there you have it. A little bit more about my coffee addiction!
*please note* This is a collaborative post, all content was written by me!
How do you have your coffee? What’s your favourite brand?
The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne
Manipulated by fear and love…could you cut the strings and take back control?
Billie’s hiding from the world, believing it to be the only way to take control of her life as she lives in fear of the man who nearly destroyed her. But what she doesn’t realise is that she’s exactly where he wants her; isolated and afraid. A chance meeting with budding journalist Adam sparks a relationship that could free her from the terror that controls her. But will Adam be able to see the real Billie buried under her terror and pain?
Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives she ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him but as unwanted attraction and feelings blossom between them, Adam is forced to realise that all is not as it seems.
Most of their lives have been unknowingly governed by the desires and needs of someone who considers himself their master. He has influenced and shaped them for years, meticulously weaving a web of lies and control around them. Can Billie and Adam survive the betrayals in store and cut the strings that bind them?
One thing is for sure. The master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.
This is one of those books that even when I was only partway through it, I already wanted to recommend it to people. I was already enamoured with the book that I was thinking of the best ways to push it on people. Abigail has written a very sensitive topic with incredible skill. She’s captured the essence of all the emotions people can go through in a truly magnificent way. Her main protagonist Billie has been through a lot and it shows how talented Abigail is that she has created such a believable and truthful character in Billie. I was awed by how realistic everything was and how Abigail really got to the bottom of every single emotion.
One of the things that I am well aware can make or break a novel is how well a sensitive topic is handled and Abigail has shown that she can handle it perfectly. Repulsion flew off me in waves as I read the story as well as anger and sadness but also jubilance and hope. Abigail has not romanticized or trivalised anything but left it raw and open, like it should be represented. The bare and disturbing truth of it all.
I cannot express how much I loved this book. It was intense, powerful and full of raw emotions. It showed the world as it can be both dark and light, showing that the world isn’t just black and white too. It was just a wonderfully brilliant book and I cannot urge you enough to pick it up and read it. I am 100% sure that you will not regret it.
*please note* There are triggers in this book as it contains violence, manipulation, sexual, domestic and emotional abuse. It also contains PTSD, anxiety and depression.
** I received this copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. **
YA Shot Tour: Alice Oseman
Today is my stop on the YA Shot tour and I’m here to introduce you to Alice Oseman. I’m doing something a little different today wherein I am going to persuade you to read her books!
First though, here’s some information about her two fantastic books!
My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.
Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.
I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.
I really don’t.
This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
Why You Should Read Her Books
Firstly you can find my review of Radio Silence by clicking here.
If you like character driven books, you should read Alice’s books.
If you like diverse books that feature a mix of sexualities and include mental health too, you should read Alice’s books.
If you like books with addictive and enthralling writing, you should read Alice’s books.
If you want to fall in love with the characters, read her books.
If you love coming of age stories, read her books.
If you’re a big contemporary fan, you should really make sure you read her books.
Really, if you just want some amazing books to read that will take your breath away, you should make sure that you pick up her books.
Have I persuaded you?
First up, I know that I’m late to the party. Due to an ancient phone that was basically an old brick, I was incapable of playing the game. So as soon as I got a new phone, the app was one of the first things I downloaded and I’m really glad I did. I love the game. And I do know some people are already bored with it but I’m still loving every aspect of it.
In just under two weeks I have hit level 22 and caught 74 different pokemon and visited over 1000 pokestops. But all of that is fodder. What I really love about this game is the social aspect of it. I love going out on poke-walks and poke-hunts with my friends. I love settling down somewhere and putting a lure on and just waiting for the pokemon to come to us too.
But mostly I love how much of a distraction Pokemon Go is. I love that when I play it, I’m not thinking about anything else. All the worries and fears flop out of my head and all I’m thinking about are pokemon, pokeballs and pokestops. And at this moment in time, that is the kind of distraction that I absolutely need.
I also love that it’s been getting me out of the house and more excited to go to new places too. New places means new pokemon. Walking means hatching eggs and I can’t do much on the game at home. As someone who has been struggling to feel energetic and motivated to get out of bed let alone out of the house, I cannot thank this game enough for this. With the extra walking I feel less tired and I noticed that my muscles aren’t aching anywhere near as much as they did. I’m still tired but at least I’m not aching so much.
But as none of that is particularly exciting for you. I thought I would also share with you my favourite pokemon that I’ve caught so far and some of the ways in which I managed to get to level 22 in under two weeks (as this is supposedly impressive). So… here we go!
First up is Pikachu!
This was the fellow I started with and while he is small and not very mighty, he is my most favourite pokemon. I walked quite a while to catch him and he is just my favourite pokemon of the series too. I would love to catch more of his kind to help power him up to!
Next up is Jigglypuff and Clefairy.
These two pokemon sit high on the cute factor. There’s something so lovely about them and they also both seem to be really hard to find and catch so that just makes them that much more precious to me!
Then we have Wartortle.
This guy was evolved from one of my Squirtles, who I also love! He is fierce and battle ready which I love. I also really want to evolve him so I am continuously on the lookout for more Squirtles to help me do that!
Also high on my list are my Vaporean and Flareon.
These two evolved from the very cute and utterly fierce Eevee’s that I collected and they’re both fierce creatures themselves too. They battle well in the arena but they’re also awesome to look at. I cannot wait to complete this trio!
On the cuter side we have Growlithe.
I caught this guy only the other day and he is awesome. He is both fierce and cute all rolled up into one and looks like the kind of Pokemon that would be your friend for life – and he would protect you with his own too. He is very special.
I had a fair few more pokemon I wanted to talk about but I know this post may become too long if I do so instead here are some other pokemon I love! Persian, Starmie, Porygon, Ponyta and Golduck!
Now though, here are some of the things I have done to get to level 22 quickly.
- Catch everything. You may not need another Rattata, Weedle, or Pidgey, but every time you catch one you get 100xp and you can always just transfer them back to the professor.
- Don’t be afraid to continuously evolve the above pokemon either. Evolves give you 500xp. Then throw away your lowest cp pokemon!
- If you can, do evolves together. Got a Pidgey? Evolve it to a Pidgeot with 62 candies.
- Pokestops give you 50xp whether you need items or not.
- Winning gyms is not only fun but gives you xp too! Training your pokemon in friendly gyms does too!
- If you have a lucky egg to use, be wise about it. I was ready to evolve about 15 pokemon the other day so I put on my lucky egg and did them for the double xp. That made me get at least 15000xp!
- Sitting between two pokestops and putting a lure down on both is a brilliant way to lure lots of pokemon and get you lots of points!
- Walk and hatch those eggs!
So those are my tips. I’m still not really sure how I got to where I am but all I know is that whatever you do, remember to have fun while doing it too!
Do you play Pokemon Go?
Making Arrangements by Ferris Robinson
Today is my stop on the Making Arrangements blog tour! I have for you a great guest post by Ferris Robinson on her favourite things about the book.
About the Book
Devoted to him, she reels from the loss, focusing on her precious granddaughter but struggling with her bossy only child, Teddy, and his aloof girlfriend, Sarah.
With her historical family estate in jeopardy, Lang realizes her husband wasn’t as perfect as she thought.
The secret he carried to his grave can ruin her life.
If she lets it.
Favourite Things about Making Arrangements
by Ferris Robinson
The protagonist is older, has a large behind, and sneaks caramel cake when her fit husband isn’t looking.
The spectacular flower arrangements she makes are with common things growing in her yard.
Lang’s preconceived ideas about a coarse, shallow woman change as the grammar-butchering fashion plate befriends her, and is steady and encouraging and loving.
Lang found romantic interest at older age.
Even though Lang Eldridge was helpless as far as finances and dependent and trusting of her husband on those matters, she figured it all out after his death.
The protagonist makes the best caramel cake in the world, and I have the recipe! (And I share with newsletter subscribers!)
The story touches on what makes a family; sometimes the most unlikely connections can turn into something familial and important.
Just when Lang’s arrangements are absolutely perfect – from the caramel cake in the freezer for her husband’s first birthday without her to the love letter for the anniversary he must mark alone after impending death – they fall completely apart. But sometimes that’s a good thing.
The little mute stray dog that stationed itself at Lang’s front door the day of her husband’s funeral ends up rescuing her, instead of the other way around.
A little six-year-old granddaughter teaches Lang the importance of forgiveness.
About the Author
The author of several cookbooks, including “Never Trust a Hungry Cook,” which she wrote in college and the “Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook,” Ferris was featured on the cover of Women’s World magazine. Promoting her super-easy but healthy recipes, she made numerous television appearances and sold 10,000 copies of the Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook, pre-Internet. Paid subscribers from every state in the U.S. received her newsletter featuring “practically fat-free recipes for super-busy people.”
Her book “Dogs and Love – Sixteen Stories of Fidelity” has 94 reviews on Amazon, and her other books include “Authentic Log Homes.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel.
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Will you be reading Making Arrangements?
The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe
Today is my stop on the The Silence Between Breaths blog tour and I have for you all an excerpt of the very first chapter! Hope you love it as much as I did!
About the Book
Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.
Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .
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What did you think?
Shadow Reaper by Amos Cassidy
Today I am here celebrating the release day of Shadow Reaper by Amos Cassidy!
About the Book
Twenty years ago the barriers between worlds came down and our reality was swallowed up by the Shadowlands. Now we scavenge to survive, until one day there’s nothing left to reap. Starvation is around the corner, but I’m not the roll over and wait-to-die kinda girl. Nope, I’m going further than anyone has ever been and returned to tell the tale. I’m going into the Beyond, and I’m not coming back without a solution.
About the Author
You can find Cassidy hard at work in her fortress of solitude which has eaten up the majority of her garden, and Amos…well he’s still trying to get the invisibility gizmo he got off a friendly alien in exchange for a pair of earphones to work. Funnily enough he hasn’t been seen around much lately…
Frequent doses of Sugary snacks, coupled with regular injections of caffeine aid in their production of a unique brand of cross genre tales. They are always writing, but are happy to take a break to chat to their wonderful readers, so drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just pop over to see what they’re working on at amoscassidyauthor.com and they’ll bust out the biscuit tin.
It was a day like all the others, dark as pitch and cold as ice, most definitely not a day to die. So when I came face to face with the Knightmare, I froze, all my training taking a flying leap out the proverbial window. You didn’t get Knightmares on this side of the Horizon. In fact, it’d been over a year since anyone had seen one at all.
The Knightmare stared at me with its slanted, glowing eyes, steam pluming from its perpetually flared nostrils, its equine body poised to attack and then it opened its mouth and screamed.
I remembered how to run.
I ran on instinct, moving through the underground tunnels from memory alone. I could hear it behind me, its hooves thundering against the cracked concrete, its rumbling breath pressing against my ears.
It shouldn’t be here, couldn’t be here, and yet it was.
I realised that if I ran back to Shelter, then I’d be leading it straight home, so I took a left instead of a right at the next intersection. I ran, losing myself in the burning of my lungs and the screaming of my muscles. It was only a matter of time before it got me, only a matter of minutes, because I was losing momentum. I couldn’t keep up this pace much longer.
My eyes stung, my throat grew tight. Man, I was pissed! Nineteen years I’d survived this hellhole, nineteen, and I was going to get taken out by a Knightmare? No way was I going out like that! Besides, if I croaked, then that thing would be left roaming the tunnels. My people would be in danger. I had no idea how it’d managed to get across the Horizon without being spotted by the Eye. I’d have to report this to Blake, get him to look into the security. The small bitey critters that scuttled across were one thing, those were inevitable. Those we could handle, but this was bad, real bad.
Up ahead, the fallen and rusted body of a huge contraption from the time before came into view. I gave a final burst of speed and leapt up onto its metallic body. The Knightmare reared back. One thing about Knightmares, they’re not big on climbing. I blew tendrils of hair out of my eyes, yanked out my scrunchie and then scraped my hair back up into a tight ponytail.
It paced, back and forth, its eyes glistening in the dark. I crouched, tips of my fingers grazing cool metal, and watched it—waiting.
That’s it, just get bored and piss off, you ugly—
“Mansfield?” A shrill whistle. “Where are you, boy?”
What the hell? There was someone down here.
The sound of slow, leisurely footsteps echoed through the darkness.
The Knightmare turned his head to look back up the tunnel.
Shit! Who could be so stupid as to be out here alone?
You are, you twat!
“Oi! Don’t come any closer,” I yelled. “There’s a Knightmare here. Run!”
The footsteps faltered.
He was probably from the slums, maybe using the tunnels to scavenge like I was. Fuck, I remembered those days, but it was dangerous, too dangerous for someone untrained. I waited, straining to hear the sounds of retreat, yet there was nothing but silence.
Had I imagined the voice?
The Knightmare turned away from me.
No, definitely not my imagination. Those things could smell a human a mile off. Stupid bloody man, boy, whoever it was.
“Bloody run, you idiot! There’s no point hiding! It can bleedin’ smell ya!”
A low chuckle filtered through the air, accompanied by the sound of footsteps.
They were growing closer.
Well, there was no helping some people.
A shape became visible. A man, tall, broad, and slim, wreathed in darkness. My eyes, accustomed to the gloom of the tunnels, could make out only the whites of his eyes surrounding cerulean blue.
“Well, there you are, Mansfield.” The Knightmare whinnied and trotted over to the man, offering his huge head to be petted.
What the crap?
The man tilted his head to look up at me. “Dangerous being out here all alone, little human.” He said the last word as if it were a dirty one.
Mansfield emitted a pleading rumble.
“Mansfield’s hungry.” The man cocked his head and stared at me for a very long time, so long, in fact, that I began to wonder if he’d turned to stone or fallen asleep on his feet with his eyes open. “I don’t think she’ll make a very palatable meal, boy. All skin and bones, that one. Come, we’ll find you something more . . . substantial.”
A chill crawled up my spine. Only one of them could control a Knightmare. A Shadowlander.
He flashed me his even white teeth. “You’re safe for now, human. Crawl off to your hideout and forget this ever happened.”
And just like that, they were gone.
I exhaled sharply and stared at the spot where they had just stood. Something had stood. Something.
What the hell was I doing on top of this rusty contraption?
Climbing down gingerly, I wiped my dirty palms on my trousers and headed home.
I crawled through the hidden passageway that led back into Shelter. I reached the grate that opened up into Corridor 4 and waited, listening. There wasn’t usually anyone about at this time, but you never knew. After long minutes of absolute silence, I knocked aside the grate and slid into the corridor, landing lightly on my feet.
I moved the grate back into place, then pushed in the rusty screws to make them look like they were snug in their holes.
Straightening my shirt and brushing off my trousers, I made my way back to my quarters.
If I thought I’d gotten off scot-free for my little escapade, then I was sadly mistaken.
Clay sat on my bed, his face dark with anger.
“What the hell, Ash? What. The. Hell?”
Crap! Time to do some damage control.
I plastered a contrite expression on my face, ready to do the pleading thing, but he held up his hand.
“Don’t even go there. You’re not sorry. I know it, you know it, and the whole fucking world knows it. What I want to know is why. You got what you wanted. You’re a Reaper, so why take these unnecessary risks?”
I felt the first spark of anger. “Why? Because someone has to! The bimonthly reaps aren’t cutting it. Everyone knows it. Someone has to take the risk. Remember the penicillin, the iodine, the—”
“Yes! I remember. You found some important stuff, but—”
“And I didn’t go over the Horizon to do it. I’m not bleedin’ suicidal. I was careful. Nothing saw me and I didn’t see any of . . . them.” Some memory skittered under the surface of my mind but was gone too quick to catch.
Clay rubbed his face with his hand, his shoulders rising and falling in a heartfelt sigh, and I felt the guilt heavy on my chest. I was his burden. His little sister, the one he’d sworn to protect. I didn’t make it easy.
Older than me by five minutes, Clay had seamlessly stepped into our parents’ shoes after they died five years ago. We’d been barely fourteen at the time. Clay had taken their deaths as an inevitability. He’d said good-bye, buried them, and then turned his attention to taking care of me. Sod that! I’d been pissed off and incensed by the unfairness of it because, as far as I was concerned, they’d chosen to die. Food and shelter had been less than a mile away; all they’d had to do was claim it. All they’d had to do was volunteer for the academy, become Reapers, and we would have been clothed and fed and sheltered. But they’d been afraid, weak, and they’d died. Yes, I’d been angry. So angry that I’d done the one thing that they’d never wanted either Clay or me to do. I’d signed up to be a Reaper.
Reaper status meant food. It meant lodging. It meant safety. It had come too late for my parents, but I was determined not to lose Clay to their skewed convictions. Clay couldn’t bring himself to break the vow we’d made to them, though; thank goodness Shelter needed able-bodied men to train in the tech side of things. Clay always had an affinity for building shit, so here we were five years later—Clay a head Technician and me a seasoned Reaper. The tech we had here was primitive, but he managed to keep the lights on and the heat running, and that’s all we could ask for.
“Go to bed.” He stood and moved toward the door.
He was disappointed in me. I hated it. I couldn’t leave things like this between us. As he brushed past, I turned into him, wrapping my arms around his waist. He tensed and then relaxed. His arms wrapped around me and he squeezed me tight.
“Please, Ash, just follow protocol, ’kay?”
I nodded against his chest, and yes, I really meant to keep my promise. I always do . . . until next time.
He released me and ruffled my hair.
“Say ’night to Blake.” I smiled up at him coquettishly.
He blushed. “Will do.”
It was sweet the way those two were still so gaga over each other. They’d been dating for just over a year now, and they acted like a married couple. Clay had even moved into Blake’s quarters, and yet he still blushed when I mentioned Blake’s name.
He pecked me on the forehead and then left me to it.
A yawn ripped through me, and I stretched and threw myself onto my rumpled bed. My quarters were small and boxy, but they were mine. Pictures from old magazines I’d found on my scavenging trips decorated the walls: cars and paradise settings, gardens and sunsets, and lovers holding hands. These were memories that I’d never have. They lulled me to sleep, and sometimes I’d find myself on a beach somewhere, waves lapping at my toes, or maybe in a beautiful garden, the scent of roses sweet and strong in my nose. I didn’t know if what I dreamt held any similarity to how it used to be. How could I? I’ve never smelled a rose or walked on the beach, but the dreams kept my spirits alive, and sometimes he joined me—the man who didn’t speak.
The first time it happened, I was frightened. I mean, some strange bloke walks into my dream and just hangs out? It was creepy, but I soon started to feel okay with it. In fact, he’d become a kind of friend now . . . I think.
My eyelids were starting to get heavy, so I closed them, exhaling long and deep, and let sleep take me.