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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Blog Tour & Giveaway for the Matthew Connor Adventure Series by Carolyn Arnold


City of Gold
Matthew Connor Adventure Series, Book 1
by Carolyn Arnold
Genre: Action, Adventure 
Finding the Incas' lost City of Gold would be the discovery of a lifetime. But failing could mean her death…
Archaeologist Matthew Connor and his friends Cal and Robyn are finally home after a dangerous retrieval expedition in India. While they succeeded in obtaining the priceless Pandu artifact they sought, it almost cost them their lives. Still, Matthew is ready for the next adventure. Yet when new intel surfaces indicating the possible location of the legendary City of Gold, Matthew is hesitant to embark on the quest.
Not only is the evidence questionable but it means looking for the lost city of Paititi far away from where other explorers have concentrated their efforts. As appealing as making the discovery would be, it’s just too risky. But when Cal’s girlfriend, Sophie, is abducted by Matthew’s old nemesis who is dead-set on acquiring the Pandu statue, Matthew may be forced into action. Saving Sophie’s life means either breaking into the Royal Ontario Museum to steal the relic or offering up something no one in his or her right mind would refuse—the City of Gold.
Now Matthew and his two closest friends have to find a city and a treasure that have been lost for centuries. And they only have seven days to do it. As they race against the clock, they quickly discover that the streets they seek aren’t actually paved with gold, but with blood.

What to expect from the Matthew Connor Adventure series:

Action-adventure books for the mystery lover. Does treasure hunting excite you? What about the thought of traveling the globe and exploring remote regions to uncover legends that the world has all but forgotten? If so, strap yourself in for an adventure with modern-day archaeologist Matthew Connor and his two closest friends. Indiana Jones meets the twenty-first century.

This is the perfect book series for fans of Indiana JonesLara CroftNational Treasure, and The Relic Hunter.

Read in any order or follow the series from the beginning.



The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh
Matthew Connor Adventure Series, Book 2

In Egypt’s Western Desert lies the tomb of an unnamed pharaoh that hides a secret so powerful, it could destroy the world as we know it.Archaeologist and adventurer Matthew Connor has made a career of finding legends the world has all but forgotten. Though there’s one in particular that has fascinated him for years—the Emerald Tablets. Myth says that they possess the knowledge of the universe, allowing humankind to traverse Heaven and Earth, and have the power to bestow wealth and wisdom upon whoever possesses them. But if they fall into evil hands, it could cause a global disaster.

So when a former colleague stumbles across an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic map that promises to lead to a pharaoh’s tomb
and the Emerald Tablets, there’s no way he’s turning down her invitation to join the dig. He only has one stipulation: his best friends Robyn Garcia and Cal Myers come with him.

The road ahead isn’t going to be an easy one, and their shared dream of recovering the Emerald Tablets is being crushed at every turn. And just when they think it’s all over, they learn there are a few clues they have overlooked. But they’re no longer the only ones searching for the Tablets. Now, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and soon they’ll find out that when it comes to hunting legends, they can’t trust anyone.



CAROLYN ARNOLD is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives in London, Ontario with her husband and beagles and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!


Blog Tour & Giveaway for The Bedlam Series by Randall Krzak


The Kurdish Connection
The Bedlam Series Book 1
by Randall Krzak
Genre: Action, Adventure Thriller
KURDISH SCAVENGERS UNCOVER A CACHE OF NERVE GAS IN IRAQ AND OFFER THEM TO KURDISH FIGHTERS IN TURKEY. THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS BEDLAM ALPHA TEAM MUST SECURE THE WEAPONS BEFORE THEY CAN BE USED.


In their daily struggle for survival, Iraqi Kurdish scavengers uncover a cache of chemical weapons. They offer the weapons to Kurdish rebels in Turkey and Syria to assist in their quest to free an imprisoned leader and create a unified homeland. After receiving a tip from an unlikely source, the newly formed Special Operations Bedlam team is called to arms. Can the team recover the weapons before it’s too late?


The Kurdish Connection—a compelling read. A story of friendship, danger and intrigue.”—Ann Everett, Amazon Best Selling Author.

... Randall's authentic voice adds a powerful push to keep a reader turning the pages.” —Janet Taylor-Perry, author of The Raiford Chronicles, The Legend of Draconis Saga, and April Chastain Intrigues.

Topical - Engaging - Intriguing – Powerful ... A real page turner.”—Rikon Gaites, author of Mummy's Little Soldier and Darius Odenkirk.

... Randall Krzak brings his wealth of experience living in this troubled part of the world and his military knowledge to bear in this exciting story...”—John L. DeBoer, author of When the Reaper Comes.

"... a journey full of history, suspense, intrigue, and action...a MUST READ for all!”—Les Stahl, Retired NSA Executive.

... Readers need to fasten their seatbelts for a fast-paced tale made believable by a writer who knows what he’s writing about.”—Preston Holtry, author of the Morgan Westphal mystery series and the Arrius trilogy (forthcoming).

A behind the scenes story, ripped from today’s headlines deepening the reader’s understanding of an ancient strife ... filled with the sights and smells of the market place and secret meetings, the reader is admitted to the secret heart, the desperate longings of those that must fight and win, or see continued subjugation by their masters...”—Oliver F. Chase, author of Camelot Games, Levant Mirage, Blind Marsh, and Marsh Island.

Dangerous Alliance
The Bedlam Series Book 2
United Nations’ sanctions are crippling North Korea. China has turned her back on her malevolent partner. The North Korean military machine is crumbling, unable to function. Oil reserves are minimal and the government seeks new alliances.


Cargo and tourist ships are disappearing along the Somali and Kenyan coastline at an alarming rate. Speeches abound, but inaction emboldens Al-Shabab to seek their next prize: Kenya. The terror organization controls land but requires weapons.

Bedlam Bravo team leader Colonel Trevor Franklin (Ret.) leads the small international team into East Africa. Tempers flare as the team is embroiled in a political quagmire. The axis must be stopped to avert an international crisis but at what cost?

Carnage in Singapore
The Bedlam Series Book 3
Terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah have flourished in recent years with new recruits joining them and ISIS-affiliates at an alarming rate. Blended operations by various Asian countries have forced the groups to work together to identify a new operational base.

They seek an island nation to call home, one where they can plot against countries who oppose their ideals. They found a target, a small nation-state, perfect for their needs: The Republic of Singapore.


Before anyone can respond, the ambassadors of the United States, Great Britain, and Australia are kidnapped from their residences in Singapore. Right index fingers of each victim are sent as a warning. Any attempt to recover the ambassadors will result in the removal of additional body parts.


Bedlam Charlie team leader, Evelyn Evinrude, leads the group to rescue the ambassadors and capture the local leaders of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. Can Bedlam succeed or will events escalate, resulting in more deaths?
**Releasing Fall 2019!!**
I'm a U.S. Army veteran and retired senior civil servant, spending thirty years in Europe, Africa, Central America, and the Middle East. My residency abroad qualifies me to build rich worlds in my action-adventure novels and short stories. Familiar with customs, laws, and social norms, I promote these to create authentic characters and scenery.


My first novel, The Kurdish Connection, was published in 2017, and the sequel, Dangerous Alliance, was released in November 2018. Both placed in the 2018 Global Thriller Book Awards sponsored by Chanticleer International Book Awards, with The Kurdish Connection finishing as a semi-finalist and Dangerous Alliance being selected as one of seven first in category winners. I recently signed a contract for the third novel in the series, Carnage in Singapore. Work on my fourth novel in the series, Ultimate Escalation, is underway, as is the first book in a new series, A Cartel's Revenge.

I also penned A Dangerous Occupation, a winning entry in the August 2016 Wild Sound Writing and Film Festival Review short story category.

I hold a general Master in Business Administration (MBA) and a MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Focus, both from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland. My wife, Sylvia, six cats, and I currently reside in Dunfermline, Scotland. I'm originally from Michigan, while Sylvia is a proud Scot.

In addition to writing, I enjoy hiking, reading, candle making, pyrography, and sightseeing. 
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!

Book Blitz & Giveaway for Nine Cocktails by J.V. Speyer


Nine Cocktails
J.V. Speyer
Publication date: July 20th 2019
Genres: Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Suspense
Boston detective and Army vet Abby Morgan got into police work because she wanted to help people, but it seems she only gets to show up after they’re past helping. When a man is murdered outside popular cocktail bar The Gin Barrel, she finds a case that isn’t quite so cut and dry as it seems – and a bartender who arouses more than just her protective instincts.
Paige Lim knows, as soon as she finds out about the body outside her bar, who the killer is. She also knows the police won’t do anything about it. They never took it seriously before, why would they start now? The pretty detective seems sincere, but Paige knows there is a whole system set up to make sure she’ll never be safe – and neither will anyone in her orbit.
Abby is determined not to let the system fail Paige again, but getting the proof they need to arrest the killer is going to take ingenuity and risk. Can they catch a murderer before he kills again?
EXCERPT:
“‘I’ve served my country with my body, now I want to serve my country with my art.’” Abby turned away. “Have you ever heard such pseudo-patriotic nonsense in your life? At these prices the dude isn’t looking to serve his country. He’s looking to serve himself.” She rubbed her temples. “Ugh. I get they have to eat and pay rent and all that. I do. And I’m not a hundred percent sure why that mission statement rubs me so much the wrong way. But it does, so here we are.”
Mark laughed and lifted his head from his computer. “I think it’s probably got something to do with his prior relationship to pretty miss Paige.” He wagged his eyebrows. “I dug into Manda’s stalker. She did not involve the police. She has four brothers, all of whom play hockey. They figured out what was going on and put the guy in the hospital. He had the gall to try to press charges while admitting he was trying to claim his ‘property.’ The DA, needless to say, was not amused.”
Abby tried not to laugh. She was a cop. Vigilantism wasn’t supposed to be funny, not to her. And a case like this only came up because Abby and the system she supported didn’t do their jobs. At the same time, she had to laugh at the stupidity of a stalker who thought he could get away with it when the victim had an active, involved family armed with big clubs. “I can’t imagine she would have been.”
“So it looks like we’re circling back to Paige.” Mark laced his fingers in front of him. “Not that she’s likely to have been able to do it. You’re right. I took a look through the autopsy report while you were digging into her ex. I don’t know a lot of people, of any gender, who would have the upper body strength to strike that kind of blow from that angle without some kind of struggle.”
Abby nodded. “But our boy here, he was in the army. Who knows what kind of training he got, and whether or not he keeps up with it?”
“True. Some of these guys like the physique they came back with and work hard to keep it up.” He rubbed his belly. “Me, I’m not a fan of the six pack abs myself. I wanted to forget the army as soon as I got my discharge paperwork. But hey, more power to them. The thing is, going into the service should have helped him move on from Paige. That’s a huge hole in our theory right there.”
“Not necessarily.” Abby tapped her jaw. “The guy’s obsessed. Stalkers are. It’s a sickness. Going off and getting a bad haircut isn’t going to help.”
“Hey!”
“Oh, don’t you forget, I was there too, buddy.” Abby laughed. “I know just how bad those haircuts are. At any rate, that’s up to the DA. We should dig into Jack a little farther. The murder was related to one of the women at The Gin Barrel, and right now he’s our best bet.”
“Agreed. I’ll look into Private First Class Stalky McStalkerson. Why don’t you go pay Paige a visit and see what else she might have to say?”
Abby’s cheeks burned. She cursed the pale skin that made her embarrassment so visible. “Are you just trying to give me a chance to go see her again?”
“Maybe.” Mark raised his eyebrows. “I’d never suggest you go flirt with a witness or anything. But I do think you’ll have an easier time getting answers out of her than a man will.”
Abby couldn’t be so sure about that one. She’d barely avoided shooting herself in the foot with questions about stalkers. She didn’t point that out, though. She didn’t want to make herself look any more incompetent than she was.
And she couldn’t deny she wanted to see Paige again.

Author Bio:
J. V. Speyer has lived in upstate New York and rural Catalonia before settling in the greater Boston area. She has worked in archaeology, security, accountancy, finance, and non-profit management. She currently lives just south of Boston in a house old enough to remember when her town was a tavern community with a farming problem. (No, really. John Adams complained about it. A lot.)
When not writing, J. V. enjoys watching baseball and seeking out all of New England’s creepiest spots. Her Spawn has turned her into a hockey enthusiast. She can be bribed with gin, tequila, and cats.

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Cover Reveal for A Road More Traveled by Rebekah Dodson


A Road More Traveled
Rebekah Dodson
Publication date: August 17th 2019
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Diana Cumberlin knows one thing: he’s coming for her, and he’s not the only one.
Fleeing a ruined marriage and a mob boss with a vendetta for revenge, Diana will do anything to protect her five-year-old daughter.
From contacting long lost lovers to family she abandoned years ago, Diana is determined to set right her past transgressions on a road more traveled.












Author Bio:
Rebekah Dodson is a prolific author of over 30 romance, fantasy, and science fiction novels. Her works include the series Postcards from Paris, #1 bestselling Curse of Lanval series, Life After Us series, and several stand alone novels and short stories. She has been writing her whole life, with her first published work of historical fiction with 4H Clubs of America at the age of 12, and poetry at the age of 16 with the National Poetry Society. With an extensive academic background including education, history, psychology and English, she currently works as a college professor by day and a writer by night.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Blog Tour & Giveaway for the Surviving Romance Series by Rae B. Lake


His Christmas Cabin
Surviving Romance Book 1
by Rae B. Lake
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Abi is a scared, battered woman who wants nothing more than to just start over. Rebel comes from old money and has spent his entire life guarded and suspicious of anyone who tried to get close to him. 

A freak snowstorm on the brink of the Christmas holiday leaves them stranded in a run-down hunting cabin with very little food and no way of reaching the outside world. Together they fight through the cruelty of mother nature, the uncertainty of their circumstance and the anger of an ex that won't take no for an answer.
Will this be enough for Rebel to open up and see what true love really looks like and will Abi be able to fight past her own fears.

***DISCLAIMER***
STRONG DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TOPICS/TRIGGERS INCLUDED
**Only 99 cents!!**

Fighting a Nightmare
Surviving Romance Book 2
Abi thought she was free. She thought she found true love in a hunting cabin over the Christmas holiday. She thought Rebel Rivers was her future. She was so wrong. After a surprise attack leaves her laid up in the hospital, she has more questions than she does answer. The number one question on her mind. Where is Rebel?

Now Abi is right back where she started. Abused and a prisoner with no one to call on for help. Robert is determined to keep her as his captive no matter the cost. If he can’t have her, no one can.
Will Abi be strong enough to fight even when it seems she is all alone.
**Only 99 cents!!**

Surviving His Romance
Surviving Romance Book 3
Rebel is the monster.
At least that is what the police and lawyers think. They caught him with the gun in his hand and my ex bleeding on the ground from a gunshot wound. They can’t see who the real bad guy is, that don’t know Robert behind the false tears and heartfelt pleas. He is the real monster.
Rebel now has to face the possibility of spending a long time behind bars because they think they know the nightmare that I have had to face. He swears to me that he still loves me and that nothing that Robert could put us through will change the way he feels about me but how can that be true, I have brought nothing but drama, heartache and pain into his gold sparkling world.
Robert thinks that he can manipulate everyone around him to do as he pleases, but not me. Not anymore.
I will survive.
**Only 99 cents!!**
Rae is a daydreamer, nurse, bookworm, nature enthusiast, wife, momma, animal activist and an optimist. She has lived her entire life in NYC and loves to travel with her family. She believes that sweets should have a larger piece of the nutritional pyramid and that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the best TV shows ever invented. When she is not working as a nurse in her community, she can either be found reading, writing, or taking a walk while listening to music. She has been writing books in her mind for as long as she can remember but decided that maybe there were others out in the world that would find joy in the words she would put down on the page.

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!


Book Blitz & Giveaway for Fate of Dragons by Alisha Klapheke


Fate of Dragons
Alisha Klapheke
(Dragons Rising #1)
Publication date: March 27th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
An Earth Queen desperate to wake her magic.
An elven prince fighting a ruthless betrayal.
A flood is coming. The Sea Queen has a mad plan to drown the world.
Only the magic of the Earth Queen can stop her. Vahly, the last human, was born to fill that role and wield the power necessary to battle the rising oceans and save the dragons and elves.
But Vahly is the world’s biggest disappointment. She possesses no magic whatsoever.
When she finds an ancient scroll that mentions a human power ritual conducted deep in the homeland of the elves, she gathers her dragon allies and journeys to see the king of that great forest-dwelling race.
Welcomed by a handsome royal cloaked in dark magic, will Vahly find answers or will a twisted and powerful elven lord destroy her chance at saving the world?
Only 99¢ for a limited time!

Author Bio:
When USA Today Bestselling author Alisha Klapheke isn't busy creating new fantasy worlds, she teaches martial arts (specifically Muay Thai kickboxing, Krav Maga, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), loves on her two amazing kids, and travels the world with her ninja husband. *Alisha made the list November 2, 2017



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Book Blitz & Giveaway for The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach


The Sin Soldiers
Tracy Auerbach
(Fragments, #1)
Publication date: July 23rd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Red compound makes them angry. Yellow exhausts them. Blue drives them into a state of ravenous addiction. The thief Kai knows about the chemically controlled soldiers of the Eastern forces and their savage, deadly nature. When a robbery attempt at Club Seven goes wrong, Kai is captured by a handler and his bestial soldier-boy. She wakes up inside the military base with no idea what happened to her twin brother, Dex.
Things go from bad to worse when Kai is started on a drug and training regimen, and forced to take injections of blue compound. The scientists in charge plan to make her into a working soldier who will mine the mysterious power crystals beneath the desert. Kai becomes a victim of the bully Finn, a handsome but nasty soldier whose years on red compound seem to have erased his humanity. Still, she begins to pity the Seven Soldiers, including the monstrous boy who tried to rip her to shreds at the club. They appear to be nothing more than genetically enhanced, drug-controlled teenagers.
On the outside, Dex and his tech-savvy boyfriend try to crack the soldiers’ chemical code to find a weakness that will break the system. But Kai has already been drawn deep into her new world. Strong feelings for the soldiers she’s come to know have started to cloud her judgment. Can she escape and find Dex without becoming a monster herself?
EXCERPT:
The strobe lights and blaring music made Kai’s pulse beat along to their frantic rhythms. She and Dex had worked for Leo before, but never on a hit this big. To steal the night’s earnings from Club Seven took more than the kind of finesse that she and her brother were famous for; it took balls. She looked over at Dex, who squatted in a small patch of shadow by the three steps leading up to the club’s first marble floor. Only he could make squatting look graceful. She strained to see him clearly while the blue-white lights flashed like a detonated bomb with a pause button. The strobes were replaced by a dim red glow, and she held up two fingers to signal the all-clear.
Dex responded instantly, their timing down to an art form. He hoisted himself onto the cold marble and did a quick military crawl to where she was lying flat on her stomach beside the liquor bar, propped on her elbows. His long, spiky hair brushed against her. He smelled like hair gel, but his closeness brought her comfort. No matter what sort of situation Kai found herself in, Dex made her feel safe. He looked up and smiled broadly, showing off teeth so bleached, they nearly glowed in the dark. She narrowed her eyes in warning, and he quickly closed his mouth. He could always tell what she was thinking. Twin power or something like that.
It was important to stay out of sight until they had scoped out the whole scene and gotten a lay of the land. The small service entrance they had used to access the club was situated directly across from the longer of two bars, which ran the length of the club on one side. This bar wrapped neatly along the perimeter, hugging the large entryway’s shiny black walls. It slunk down two steps and kept going all the way across the dance floor. With its white, rounded stone finish and polished glass casings to hold bottles upon bottles of alcohol, it looked pristine. But where Kai was lying at floor level, its fa├žade was shattered by thick patches of dust and some unpleasant-looking stains.
The crystals that powered the club, bringing it to life in all its pulsing, deafening glory, were housed in a nest of wires under the polished stone. They glowed through a transparent square in the bar’s surface with a soft, pale light that somehow stood out even in the midst of the chaotic strobes. Those crystals were the reason this club existed. The ongoing campaign for power over those precious fragments had made Seven Soldiers necessary. Sevens were the front line of the Eastern Forces; the heavy hand that held the public in place and kept all opposition at bay. At Club Seven they were paraded around as spectacles for citizens to gawk at. Kai glanced up toward the enormous body of a soldier walking by the bar, held tightly by his handler as they shoved through the raucous crowd of inebriated revelers. He was so large, he obscured the light from reaching down to where she lay in wait.
Kai shoved herself closer to the bar as a group of giggling women approached the protruding marble above her hiding spot. They surrounded the soldier and his handler, and she squinted up to see them running their hands all over the Seven’s body before leaning close to the bartender to shout for drinks. Kai pulled her hands out of the way of their high heels as they swayed and stepped in rhythm to the hypnotic movement, gyrating against the zombie-like Seven.
Dex reached a hand into his pocket and brought out the tiny camera he treasured. The crystal shard within it was no larger than a pebble, but it had worked for years. He edged his body along the floor away from the people around them and waited for the strobes to give way to red darkness again. When they did, he launched himself from the ground to his feet, fired off a round of pictures, and sunk back down. His movements were so quick, and so well-timed with the lights, that unless one of the clubgoers or bartenders who stood mere feet away were staring straight at him, they would miss his presence completely. Kai knew that from his vantage point, the arc of his leap gave him a clear shot of the club’s raised central stage. On the dance floor, a mass of writhing bodies clamored for a better view of the soldiers above them.
Kai glanced around to make sure nobody had noticed. In the clear, she gave him a thumbs-up to take another round, this time to the left of the club stage where a smaller bar wrapped around a mirrored pole. Lastly, he took some quick shots of the right side’s wooden buffet tables and then crawled back to the shadows of the entryway steps. Kai joined him, and they opened the heavy stone door just a crack before slipping back out into the night.
“I think you got some good ones,” Kai whispered when they were safely outside the club and leaning against the exterior wall. She could feel the vibrations of the music through the stone, and her hearing seemed to have taken a beating as her ears throbbed. But her pulse relaxed as the cool night air and sky of the desert took the place of the stifling sights and smells of the club’s interior.
“Let me have a look first.”
She studied the open plains before them while she waited for him to check out the shots he had taken. The halo of light that surrounded the throbbing stone edifice grew dimmer and dimmer until it faded into total darkness. The silhouettes of desert plants near the light’s border looked like shadowy sentries guarding the empty expanse of sand. Huge saguaros and short, thickly clumped agave cast a parade of midnight black shadows onto the scarcely-lit areas of sand beyond. Further in the distance, Kai could just make out the dimly twinkling lights of Eastern Pless. It was a few miles away, and night lights were a luxury that most couldn’t afford, but being the only other light for miles gave it the illusion of closeness. Above them, millions of stars blinked in and out of existence; only the small red moon and large orange moon remained constant. She shivered—a mixture of the cold air drying the sweat on her skin, and the thought of what could be lurking in all that darkness.
“Hold on a second,” said Dex, keeping the camera out of her reach as she tried to take it. Only a few inches taller, he was still skilled at taunting her by holding things just out of grabbing distance. He continued casually going through the pictures, one by one.
“I’m serious,” she said with a frown. “Give it to me.”
“Not yet,” he snapped. “I’m in man-candy heaven.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You disapprove, sister?”
“They’re Seven Soldiers, Dex. Barely even human.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not fun to look at,” he protested. “I’m not going to date one. Just having a nice, long stare.”
She tried to glare disapprovingly at him, but he gave her the innocent grin that had always managed to keep him out of trouble. His big, dark eyes seemed to glow in the reflection of the moonlight, and the spikes of his hair cast a funny-looking shadow over his brow. Although they both bore the darker coloring of Northerners, their hair and eyes were so close to true black that their skin paled in comparison. Dex finally relinquished the camera, and she peeked. He wasn’t joking that the soldiers were hot. He nudged her, seeing her expression, and wiggled his eyebrows. She laughed. The two of them very rarely had the same taste in men, thank the Lord, but this was one of those times that it was hard to argue.
“Yeah, well I think the really attractive part of the scene is all the money being thrown at said man-candy,” she retorted. “It looks like the timing will work out in about five minutes. The collection crew should come through to get most of the crystal money out of the way of the dance floor. Clear enough path, right? And dark, so we should be able to blend.”
“Sure,” he agreed.
It was ladies’ night, and the whole thing was super creepy. Kai had known about the club scene forever, but she preferred to stay away. Not that poor-looking thieves like her were allowed in by the bouncers anyway, but it would’ve been easy to pass as a wealthy citizen and have a night out. Dex had done it often, and offered to give her a ‘Club Seven makeover,’ but the whole concept gave her the shivers. Her experience tonight served to confirm her instincts. There was a disturbing aspect to the pictures that sent chills up her spine. She couldn’t decide if it was the predatory, animalistic glare on the faces of the soldiers themselves, or the indifferent smirks of their handlers that unnerved her more.
“Let’s just get this over with,” she sighed. “I don’t like it here.”
“Alright,” agreed Dex, getting serious. He was a great thief because, in the end, he easily shed his usual air of arrogance and got down to business. “Just like we planned with Leo. I’ll go around the side of the smaller liquor bar, and you sneak around to the other wall by the food. That’s likely where a lot of the swept crystals will accumulate since the collection crew hovers around there.”
“Got it,” she said as they slid back through the side door and into the awaiting sensory overload.
This time, Dex walked casually across the stone floor and down the two steps to the dance area. Upon reaching the back of the dance floor, he waited for the strobe lights to give way to dim redness, and ducked into a crouch. He skittered across the last few feet of polished wood, situating himself between the club’s back wall and the smaller, circular bar. Kai watched him disappear behind the smooth rock before she ducked and ran along the nearest wall, cutting close to the guarded front entryway on the right. She slithered through the undulating crowd of eager ladies, and toward the stage.
She paused for a second to look at the young men being held there like circus animals. She had never seen actual Seven Soldiers this close before, and her curiosity got the best of her. Yes, they were attractive; perfectly built and handsome as hell. But they were dauntingly huge, and their eyes were empty; unseeing and unfeeling. Each one had a thick collar around his neck, buzzing with pale blue electrical energy. They were powered by a different sort of crystal, she assumed. Those collars were supposedly the only thing that could keep them docile. She shivered again.
Their handlers, who ranged in appearance from mildly attractive to downright ugly, had a wider range of facial expressions; some attentive and at-the-ready while others were apathetic and bored. The huge throng of screaming women threw small, flat crystals at the performing soldiers on stage, doling out more money than Kai had ever seen just for the chance to interact with a monster. The money they spent allowed them to climb up and pour a glass of liquor down a soldier’s throat or feed him food from the long table to the right of the stage. They could also have a dance with a chained, brain-dampened soldier, or do even less savory things in private rooms upstairs.
Supposedly the young men couldn’t resist the offerings. They were Seven Soldiers, which meant they were sinners, and this was a place to witness their unleashed gluttony. They opened their mouths each time, indifferent but accepting of the food and drink that gorged them through the course of the evening. Their rage, too dangerous to be put on display, was kept in check by the handlers, so supposedly they were as complacent as puppies in this state only. No sex, though. That was too much of a liability. That was the club’s cover story at least, but Kai knew that handlers could be paid off. She had even heard of women scoring tickets for backstage passes to the Eastern Fortress where the soldiers were kept.
She shimmied along the perimeter of the club beside the stage, shaking her hips to the music’s frantic beat, trying to blend in. She darted under the long, beautifully decorated food table once the strobe lights started up again. With quick, fluid movements, she settled herself centrally under the table, where a hanging silvery cloth obscured her from view. She saw Dex across the way, sweeping up handfuls of the crystals that had fallen to the floor, putting them into his cloth sack. Perfect timing was critical, because there had to be enough money to be worth Leo’s while, but not so much that the club collectors noticed something wrong when they came through to bag it up. She pulled out her own sack and started brushing in money that had fallen or been swept under the table by the collectors. Simple.
As she was shoveling the crystals into her take-away bag, the smell of the food on the table above hit her nostrils and her mouth began to water. The soldiers really did get the good stuff. What a waste. There was fresh fruit, cakes and chocolates, and platters of meat and cheese. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten something besides dry bread, and even that had been scarce lately. She continued to absentmindedly shovel money into the sack, but now her eyes were focused on a spot where the tablecloth had accidentally gotten tucked up in the corner, affording her a crooked view of the tabletop. There sat a huge piece of cake that hung precariously over the side, shaking as dancing women jostled by. Her breath caught in her throat as it slid off and landed on the floor about a foot to her left.
As her hand seemed to instinctively reach out and grab for the fallen treasure, she saw Dex shaking his head frantically out of the corner of her eye. She felt a boot-clad foot slam down hard on her hand seconds later, and a wave of pain shot through her body. Her head hit the underside of the table and food spilled all around her. Terror gripped her insides like a live wire, and she froze. Quickly, she shook herself out of it and tried to reclaim her hand, but it was too late. The black boot held tight, and she saw a hand reach under the tablecloth, getting ready to lift it and expose her completely. She had to think fast.
Kai shoved herself sideways, toward whoever was standing on her left hand, and bit into the person’s calf, right above where the boot ended. Her teeth sunk easily through the thin cotton uniform into skin and flesh. She didn’t hear any scream over the blasting music, but the booted foot slid sideways just enough as a hand clasped it defensively. That was all she needed. She saw the face of the person who had caught her for only a second. He was young and gaunt, with pasty skin and pointy features. A handler. He must’ve been in the process of escorting his soldier past the front of the stage when he had spotted her fool attempt to grab the damn cake. She could beat herself up later. Now, she had to run.
She darted past the table and away from the stage, choosing the back door across the dance floor as an exit point. She shoved around several club-goers, knocking a few to the floor as she fled through the crowd. She didn’t dare to glance at Dex as she practically jumped over him on her way out. The last thing she needed was the guilt of getting him busted, too. They could reunite back at the rendezvous point. She slammed into the door in her panic, frantically felt around, grabbed the exit bar and pushed, then bolted out into the night.
She was at least twenty yards from the building, sand rising to resist in slow, messy heaps with each crunch of her shoes, when she stole a glance behind herself. Her heart jumped into her throat. Not only was the handler chasing her; he had brought his soldier, too. The man-beast couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old, but he was huge. He had to be at least seven feet tall and almost as wide, with muscles popping out everywhere as he bounded soundlessly after her. Taut muscles rippled over his entire body, highlighting the contrast of his distended stomach, and making him appear even more savage as he darted across the sand in his bare feet. He was clothed only in the gold loincloth that was his club outfit, but the blankness in his eyes had given way to something far more primal, his snarling face letting her know that the party was definitely over. Whatever the mental switch was that kept him calm—it had been flipped.
“Get back here, you biting little bitch!” yelled the handler.
She froze for a second, hoping his limping from her bite would slow both him and his monstrous soldier-boy down, but to her horror, the glowing chain slipped out of his hand. He cursed and made a grab for it as Kai screamed. She picked up speed as she headed across the desert sand in the direction of the outer wall of the city. Eastern Pless would hide her in its cesspool of overcrowded streets. She could go back to Leo’s place. The soldier might get his hands on a citizen or two, but he would be stopped. They were always taken down if they got loose inside the city’s walls.
Kai still had her heart and eyes set on the safety of the city’s distant lights when the snarling soldier dove and grabbed her around the legs. She screamed as she fell, and tried to claw at his arms, but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingernails ripped her skin as he flipped her over and dragged her toward his waiting mouth.
He’s going to eat me alive.
His face was very close to her now, and even in this dim light, she could see that he had the pale skin of a southerner, and ear-length blond hair. She was surprised again by how very young he looked. Then she saw his eyes. There was no humanity in the heavily dilated pupils; only death. His open-mouthed roar exposed a straight line of teeth, with four unnaturally sharp, piercing incisors. Now face to face, she saw that the tiny rings of iris around his pupils were light brown, but the pupils themselves weren’t black the way they were supposed to be. The spot in the middle of the brown glowed with an odd blue tinge that lit his face.
Flinching, she prepared to be ripped apart. Instead, a huge jolt that rattled through her body, from the base of her spine to the top of her head, making her teeth clamp down on a shriek. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that the handler had regained control. He grabbed the chain leash around his charge’s neck and pressed a button. Waves of electricity rocked the giant, sending his body into spasms. Kai breathed a sigh of relief, even as she felt the power surge pass through him and into her own body. The last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that it was far better to be electrocuted than to be torn to shreds by that monster.


Author Bio:
Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.
Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.
When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

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