Dienstag, 23. April 2013

Release Day Blitz: Into the Light by HK Savage

Title: Into the Light
Author: HK Savage (Book 2, The Admiral's Elite)         
Genre: Adult
Publisher: Staccato Publishing
Blitz Host: Lady Amber's Tours


A vicious serial killer is on the loose in Wisconsin and it's up to the Admiral's Elite to stop him. Admiral Black's second in command, Captain Michael Rossi, has been tasked with finding out who or what the killer is and put an end to his reign of bloodshed while avoiding some pitfalls of his own. Like hiding the fact that he's falling in love with Becca from the admiral who would be sure to use it against them. Ghosts from Gabrielle's past threaten her place with her unit and Ryan's bed.

Local police are puzzled and the town is terrified. The Admiral's Elite must find a killer, stop him without anyone finding out their true identities, and not be torn apart in the process.

Author Bio:

HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box.

Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman she uses for therapy dog work and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working or whatever else.

In addition to editing for the past ten years in advertising, HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years; her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her skills are being focused on clients in the writing world.

Paranormal is her favorite genre and science fiction because both address the possibilities we have not yet realized and the darker things we have. Her favorite premise: “what if?”

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4522217.HK_Savage
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/HK-Savage/181388721888556
Publisher: http://www.staccatopublishing.com/Staccato_Publishing/HK_Savage.html
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/HK-Savage/e/B004OU2LV8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1366143311&sr=1-1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HKSavage

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Light-HK-Savage/dp/0989202720/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1366143287&sr=8-10&keywords=hk+savage
Smashwords: Link unavailable at this time
Barnes&Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/into-the-light-hk-savage/1115118084?ean=9780989202725

“Tell me, Captain, did you get what you needed?”
“I thought we were past that whole ‘captain’ thing.” He captured a drop of sweat on the back of her shoulder and brought it to his mouth. A slow lick and it was gone.
“Fine then, Michael.” She shuddered, feeling a stir in her stomach and lower despite her exhaustion from their activities. Her voice was lower, husky. “Answer my question.  Did you get what you came for?”
He chuckled. The vibration where their bodies touched sent another shiver down her spine. “I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy all that.” His hand, back to tracing her curves, glided over the tiny silver scars that crisscrossed her body. Most humans would never see them they were so light. Michael’s wandering hand dipped below the sheet he’d pulled over her cooling body. “But that’s not actually why I came to see you.”

Montag, 22. April 2013

Blogtourpost: Enlightened by Melissa Lummis ~ A guest post by Melissa herself

Here is the guest post by Melissa Lummis.
I asked her: "Why is the husband of Loti ill of cancer? Why not a different disease?"
And this is her answer!
"I specifically chose lung cancer because the disease has touched my life.  The emotional parts of what I write come straight from my heart, and I lost my grandfather to lung cancer when I was 18 years old.  He smoked Lucky Strikes, filter- less, all his life, as well as worked for FireStone making brakes before asbestos laws were put into place. He was also a World War II veteran.  It was frightening to watch him die of the disease, basically slowly suffocating to death.  He lugged around an oxygen tank for a while until the cancer sapped his strength to the point he was bed ridden.  He quite literally wasted away to skin and bones before he passed.  You would think I would have wanted nothing to do with cigarettes after witnessing such a horrible death, but no, I picked up the habit about the same time he passed away.  Go figure.
I smoked over the next 10 years, sometimes quitting for a few months.  When I met my husband, we were both smokers and for whatever reason, I didn’t let myself think too much about the choices I was making to smoke and to marry a smoker.  After we were married for a few years, we decided to start a family and after almost 2 years of no luck conceiving, I decided I needed to overhaul my health.  The first thing that had to go was the cigarettes, but it was much harder to quit than I had imagined.  I eventually did and we conceived and now have two beautiful children.  I never picked up the smoking habit again, so I am happy to say I have been smoke-free for over 13 years now.  My husband, however, never quit.
Now, my grandfather’s slow death haunts me and I am afraid that I may lose my husband in the same manner to the same disease:  lung cancer.  Writing about Loti’s husband dying of cancer was a type of therapy for me.  It’s helped me face my worst nightmare:  the idea that I could lose my husband to lung cancer.  What Loti goes through is the worst of what I imagine: guilt, anger, hopelessness, and an aching void where the love of my life used to be in my heart.  So, like most writers, I suppose, I’ve taken a piece of my soul and bared it all over the written page for the world to see."

Thank you Melissa for that honest answer and thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with the readers of your book! ♥

Blogtourpost: Enlightened by Melissa Lummis

Title: Enlightened
Author: Melissa Lummis       
Genre: Paranormal
Tour Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Loti Dupree’s meager healing abilities have been more a curse than a blessing.  What’s the point if she can’t even save her husband from cancer?  Harboring a painful secret, Loti flees the life they had in a small Appalachian town for the ashram, the spiritual retreat where she trained to be a yogini.  But she finds herself running from more than grief when an ominous nightmare sets her on a dangerous path of self-discovery that challenges everything she believes, and threatens her life.
While dodging psychic attacks from an unknown assailant, Loti races to understand who and what she is before her enemy can catch up with her. To make matters worse, events throw her into the arms of a handsome but frustrating vampire.  Love and light are waiting for her—if she can only figure out how to stay alive.

Loti Dupree fears she may have lost her soul.  Harboring a painful secret, she flees her life in a small Appalachian town for the spiritual retreat where she trained to be a yogini. But an ominous nightmare sets her on a dangerous path of self-discovery that challenges everything she believes, threatens her life, and throws her into the arms of a handsome but frustrating vampire.  Love and light are waiting for her—if she can only figure out how to stay alive.
Tag Lines
What do you get when you mix vampires, yogis and healers? Enlightened!

Vampires and healers and yogis, OH MY!  There’s light and love waiting for Loti Dupree, if only she can figure out how to stay alive.

Author Bio:
Melissa Lummis considers herself a truth seeker, a peaceful warrior, a paranormal and fantasy writer, an avid reader, a thru-hiker GA
àME ’98, a wife, a mother, and a free thinker.  She believes the universe conspires to help an adventurer.  And if we live our lives as if it is a daring adventure (and it is!), then everything we need will find its way to us.
The author lives in rural Virginia with her husband, two children, an Alaskan Malamute and a myriad of forest creatures.  The nature of her mind dictates that she write to stay sane.  Otherwise, her fertile imagination takes off on tangents of its own accord, creating scenarios and worlds that confuse the space-time continuum. Namaste, dear friends.

Author Links   - Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Blog


As the moon rose over the trees, Rachel wondered how far away Wolf was. She sat on the porch swing her father helped her install last summer, her apprehension growing. So much water under the bridge, she mused. Although the effects of the blood bond had gone away, she never stopped caring about her uncle or worrying about him for that matter. It was an hour before Wolf’s Fat Boy thundered through the tranquil night. She smirked; what a drama-king. He could run, or fly, faster than that stupid bike. Still not wearing a helmet, he parked by her blue truck. She steeled herself, ready to confront him. But as he turned toward her, his eyes glowing with the moonlight, her breath caught at just how beautiful he was.  Reaching around to his back, he slid the hairband off and shook his jet black hair loose from the braid.
“Much better,” he grumbled.
Rachel never forgot how deep his voice was or the way it vibrated in her chest. He’s vampire; never forget that.
“Rachel.” He smiled and held out his hands.
She ran down the three steps and into his arms. He lifted her off the ground and spun her around like she was eighteen again. Giggling, she braced her hands on his shoulders, and like the years apart had never happened, she was light inside. He lowered her down and kissed the back of her hand. Tears glistened on her cheeks.
“Sweet, Rachel, don’t cry,” Wolf soothed, tucking his knuckles under her chin and tilting her face up so he could wipe the tears away with his thumbs.
“I’m just. . .happy. . .sad. . . oh, hell.” She jerked away. “I missed you, okay?”
“I missed you too, sweet Rachel.”
“Oh stop with the ‘sweet Rachel’.” She rubbed her cheek. “It’s corny.”
Wolf burst out laughing. “Good to see you haven’t lost your spark.” He grabbed the fleshy part of her arms and crushed her to his chest. “It’s good to see you.”
And as many times as she’d rehearsed their first meeting over the years—reprimanding him for taking advantage of her when she was so young, for staying away so long, extracting a promise from him that he would never do anything like it again—she couldn’t follow the script. It all was unexpectedly moot because now that he returned she was acutely aware there was still a bond between them. Not of blood, but forged by the little and big life moments they shared. Like when her high school boyfriend broke up with her before the prom, and Wolf had taken her to Paris to show her there was a much bigger world. He was her protector, her rock when the rest of the world fell apart. At least he had been until he left.
“Why did you stay away so long?” she murmured into his chest.
Wolf held her a moment before unwrapping his arms, the leather jacket creaking. “I’m sorry about that.” He rubbed the side of his nose, his eyes contrite. “I lost track of time.”
Rachel punched him in the sternum.
“Ow.” He rubbed the spot, flinching as he stepped back, trying to look wounded.  “You’ve gotten stronger.” It was almost endearing.
“Have you been to see Nan? She’s missed you too. You didn’t have to stay away from her.” Rachel stuck out her bottom lip, very aware she was acting childish but not able to stop.
“Yes, I did have to stay away from her. She was pretty pissed.” His eyes twinkled, and he threw her over his shoulder and strode toward the house with Rachel kicking and protesting the entire time.

Sonntag, 21. April 2013

Book Blitz of Magic School USA by Charlie Fey

Title: Magic School USA: Easy "A"
Author: Li Chaka
Genre: Paranormal Comedy
Blitz Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Book Description:
Harry Potter meets Animal House in this magical comedy about a school crazier then any other!

Richard "Vegas" Beltran is an underachiever. That’s bad for any student, but it’s especially bad when you go to a wizardry school. Black Magic is something to be taken very seriously, but Vegas has been caught smoking “eye of newt” in the boys’ bathroom, and all of his bubbling cauldrons seem to contain ice and alcohol…

The principal, Professor Diaz, is ready to drop Vegas into a slower-paced magic class. But Vegas would rather die, Houdini-style, in a botched escape act than have to suffer through “remedial magic.” After all, Vegas only came to Absolution High, school for the “Special Sciences,” to learn a spell that would bring his girlfriend, Katherine, back from the dead.

Unfortunately, now that his tuition's been paid, he finds that resurrecting the dead is an act of Godslaughter—a forbidden form of magic—and at Absolution Academy, an illegal activity.
But “illegal” is a funny word…and one among many that Vegas doesn’t know the meaning of…

Author Bio:
Li Chaka is spends her time dreaming about drunken wizards, music obsessed necromancers and Bill Murray movies (Ghostbusters 2 being the FAV!). Sometimes she writes down these strange ideas just for her own enjoyment. Then she heard that some people actually make MONEY off of writing and selling their strange ideas. Lord have Mercy! Will wonders ever cease !? Magic School U.S.A is her first published book but it won't be her last.


There were only a few lights on in the hallways, but other than that, the coast was clear. The adrenaline was pumping in Vegas's body and, in a way, he felt awesome. Exhilarating! It probably wasn't good that he got such a rush from being bad, but it was what it was. He pulled a beer out of the pouch of his hoodie, cracked it open and started chugging it. More awesome!   He knew there had to be security cameras mounted up all over the dormitory, especially the little lounge area with the big screen TV. Magicians were known for stealing, right? As if half of magic isn't about making expensive shit disappear. The guards were probably half-asleep or jerking off to videos of the girls’ volleyball practice. Either way, he prayed they'd be too preoccupied to care what he was up too. Once he got outside, though, there would be other problems. The Tommy Walkers were being placed around the school grounds. He remembered what Wesley had said about them being created to restrict unauthorized magic. Those Illuminati death machines were made just for bad little monkeys like Vegas.
He felt the nice cool air blast his face as soon as he opened the heavy double doors. The cold of this island was something a California boy like Vegas was not yet accustomed to. But, as he wandered around the back end of the dormitories, he admitted that the Menzai nights were even more beautiful than the California nights. The sky was filled with stars and they seemed almost close enough to reach for. He'd been on earth for sixteen years, but night and day was still an amazing concept for him.
He wanted to break into Allen Allens’ lab, but he had to make it halfway across campus to do so. The box carrying Vladimir was clutched to his chest as he snuck around the back. He saw the guard station and ducked behind a tree. Dwight was inside the booth fast asleep. Vegas wanted to conjure up a spell to mess with him a little, maybe hex him a nice wet dream starring Barney, one of the other guards. Shenanigans like that would have to wait though. Vegas was on an important mission. He was gonna have to go stealth ninja mode and creep his way across campus.
"So I creep…yeah-aah. Just keep it on da down low…" Vegas sang the old T.L.C. song silently to himself, running and ducking behind another tree. "Nobody is supposed to know...yeah-ah…"
He shot from that tree and dived behind another. He went a little go hard and almost crushed Vladimir's box underneath him. Pushing twigs and nature crap out of his way, Vegas heard a low grumbling as he started crawling on the ground like a marine.
Yeah, we're effin' pumped! Absolution Academy security probably didn't call for this much stealth warrior-ness, but the Corona he'd been sipping was making Vegas action ready. Let's milk this adventure for all it's worth!
"Yeah, I CREEP…yeah-ah, so Dwight won't know what I do..." Vegas continued as he moved through the darkened grass. The grass felt moist, cool and amazing against his skin. He imagined that the bright, white lights shining from poles around the campus were moving, searching for him. They weren't; nobody cared. But this was fun; he was a big kid using his imagination, running around in the grassy night world like he was trying to escape from prison.
A squirrel darted out at him, and Vegas let out a surprised scream. The little furry jackass landed on his back, ran down his ass between his legs and then shot straight ahead, flying up a tree at sonic speed.
"Little fucker!" Vegas shouted at it. Even the wild life in this place was psycho.
"Creeping through the grass, squirrelly seems to like my ass..." Vegas rapped. "Squirrelly wants some nuts, what a kick! It's late on a school night, he wants to get romantic!"
He laughed, wondering how much he'd get paid to ghost write for Waka Flocka Flame, when something suddenly grabbed hold of his leg.
What the Fuck?! He let out a fart from pure excitement as another hand reached out of the ground and took hold of his neck.
"Aaaaaahhhhhh!!" Vegas yelled, struggling to pull himself up. Before he could break free, two more hands grabbed his shoulders, pulling him back down to the grass and dirt.
"DWIGHT! DWIGHT!" Vegas yelled. The hand around his throat squeezed tighter, but it couldn't get a strong enough grip to stop Vegas from yelling. Not that it made much difference; Dwight was in the security booth, napping away, as Vegas's nighttime assault continued on the security cam in front of him.
Vegas pulled his neck away from the hand. "DWIIIIGGHT!!!"
His attention turned to the spot in front of him, his green eyes growing wide as saucers, when two hands, one male and one with bright nail polish like a girls, sprouted from the ground like corn stalks. He watched as the arms reached four feet tall and continued to grow.
Frozen in shock, Vegas's eyes rolled up to gaze at the sprouting hands. Like sunflowers in a nightmarish inverse world, they remained high above him, illuminated by the moonlight. The fingers spread and easy, like flower petals.
Then, they bent at the elbow, palms slapping the ground. Whatever this creature was, it was trying to pull itself out of the dirt.
Please somebody, shoot me in the head! Gouge out my eyes! I don't want to see this!  He silently begged.
The horror flushed all thoughts of escape away as the soil in front of him moved and pulled apart. A human head unearthed itself, its black, hollow eye sockets turned to face Vegas. Mort immediately came to Vegas's mind, except this cadaver was so much more terrible. There was intelligence behind those eye sockets that couldn't be driven by anything but pure evil.
The creature finally made it out of the soil only to reveal its true form. It wasn't a rotting, smelly corpse after all---it was several rotting, smelly corpses all sewn together to make a Zombie Spider!
The arms that sprouted out of the ground were the creature’s long, spider legs. Its head was stitched onto the front of its body, barely erect, but able to turn and move around. Its abdomen was made of two human ones sewn together.
Vegas had never seen anything so disgusting in his life, not even in his drunken wet dreams. It was more than he could handle, and he began to feel a strange calm wash over him. By the time he realized he was about to pass out, there was nothing he could do to sto-...
The zombie spider moved towards Vegas as the unseen monster that had snared the boy began to pull him under. The earth rumbled again as the soft soil spread apart like water. And Vegas, trapped in the quiet dark of his unconsciousness, went down, down, down. As if being dragged to hell.

Freitag, 19. April 2013

Book Blitz: Remember The Stars by Natalie-Nicole Bates

Title: Remember The Stars
Author: Natalie-Nicole Bates       
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Blitz Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Book Description:

For Leah Rhodes life as she knows it has just changed forever.
Waking in a gutter in the dark surroundings of her distant past, a familiar man stands out in her confusion.
But Remy Moreland has been dead for years.
It soon becomes apparent to Leah that both she and Remy are trapped in a hell of their own making.
Can one night together not only lead to the way out, but to love as well?

Author Bio:

Natalie-Nicole Bates is a book reviewer and author.

Her passions in life include books and hockey along with Victorian and Edwardian era photography and antique poison bottles. Natalie contributes her uncharacteristic love of hockey to being born in Russia.

She currently resides in the UK where she is working on her next book and adding to her collection of 19th century post-mortem photos.

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5241593.Natalie_Nicole_Bates
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Natalie-Nicole-Bates/e/B0071MP0DC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1365403118&sr=8-1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BatesNatalie
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-Nicole-Bates/352610728138768?ref=ts&fref=ts

Barefoot, she crossed the dark street and began making her way in the direction of the police station. If she remembered correctly, it was three blocks away. A chill rose on her skin as she tried to remain focused. She concentrated on taking one agonizing footstep in front of the other.
     When she crossed over the first street, she stopped to rest beneath a street light. Leaning up against the side of a brick house, she took notice of how eerily quiet her surroundings were. The only sound was her own breathing. There simply was nothing, and no one. Was she truly alone? She wondered.
     She shook off the intrusive thought. Of course she wasn’t alone. Remy Moreland was real. Well, the late Remy Moreland was sort of real.  Maybe surreal was a better word.
     He had spun some tale of purgatory, of languishing between life and death. Then a thought struck her like a blow from above.
     What if he was telling the truth?

Promised little wonderful extra: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Here it is... wooohooooo thanks Abi & Missy for that wonderful opportunity to read .........


wooohoo let's start ♥

Chapter One

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.
The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down on it, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough.
My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.
Death and I glare at each other through my tears.
I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.
I’m ready to go. On the count of three.
I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.
A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand, waiting with the rope around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.
Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.
Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.
It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.
My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.
 On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.
Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder.
“Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners.
Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying.
Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now.
My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.
Gotta keep going.
“Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me.
I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost.
     My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell soon leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.
I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black, leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped.
Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.
“You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave our society.”
I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them even as I shiver with fear.
“There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says.
I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.
The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. My dignity is all I have left.
Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes.
Did they need so many guards to capture me?
 I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that.
The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass and the air grows warmer, more humid, the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade.
To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does.
“All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told.
“You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face.
 Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him.
     They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole.
Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation.
I lose myself in thoughts of my father.
“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love.
The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. “Get out,” the guard orders while pulling me to my feet. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness.
The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white in fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip.
 I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying.
“Spread your legs,” one of the guards says.
They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body.
What do they think I could possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me.
“MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.
Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens.
“Lexi Hamilton.”
A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then, they exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.
“Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.”
A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck.
Click. Click. Click.
The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.

The Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust ¾ Blue
Gluttony ¾ Orange
Greed ¾ Yellow
Sloth ¾ Light Blue
Wrath ¾ Red
Envy ¾ Green
Pride ¾ Purple

 “Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.”
Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks.
“GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar.
He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out.
Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual.
I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.
“Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire from my neck to my jaw, making me wince.
He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my new clothes, I pull the shirt over my head and try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name.
“Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says.
I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his hand.
“Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg.
 “My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me.
“It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand. “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.
You can overcome anything… short of death.
 “You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?”
A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist.
“Look at me,” he commands. I look up and he smiles with arrogance.
“What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“Nothing,” I respond, confused.
“What color are they?”
“Turquoise.” I glower at him.
“Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.”
Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand.
“Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside.
“You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead into the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk.
 “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.
“Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute.
“Let’s move,” Cole says.
I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.