Redemption (book 3 The Marked Series) Preorder!


Hello Lovely Readers of the World!

I’ve got some great news to share with you. Redemption (book 3 in The Marked Series) is now available for preorder! The final book in the series has been a long time coming (a year since book 2 was published), but I think the wait has been well worth it, as the book — at least to me — has turned out great. Of course I could be bias, it is my baby after all. Check out the cover, blurb, and get a first look at chapter one, below.

redemptioncover

 

My chest fills and deflates rapidly—too rapidly—and a hazy darkness begins to creep around my vision. My hands begin to lift, but I don’t want to look, I really, really don’t want to look, because if I do, then there is no more denying, there is no more pretending what happened didn’t happen.

Hanna Harper did the only thing she could do—she stabbed Jared, the love of her life, through the heart to stop the apocalypse. But she was too late. The Fallen were released, and now that Jared has ascended, they intend on using his blood to complete their plan to end the world.

With The Order now divided, Hanna and her friends must find a way to help Jared become The Savior they believe he is. But when a Guardian who’s always viewed Jared as the enemy throws him in the church dungeon at The Compound, all may be lost.

Will Hanna be able to rescue Jared and convince him he’s not the monster he believes himself to be, or will he give into darkness and despair and truly become The Destroyer?

***

Preorder your copy today for $0.99 for a limited time (the price will go up to $3.99 after release on Feb 21st) at your favorite online retailer!

Amazon

Apple iBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Still need to catch up? No problem, get Marked (book one) on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords for just $0.99. Get Fated (book two) on Amazon, Apple iBooks, KoboBarnes & Noble, and Smashwords for $2.99 (a dollar off it’s regular price of $3.99 for a limited time.)

*** Marked and Fated are also available in paperback if you prefer those over eBooks. Redemption will be coming to paperback soon, as well.***

Now for your first look at chapter one. However, I do want to mention, chapter one picks up right where Fated (book 2) ended, so if you have not yet read book 2 you might want to do so first. 🙂

Still want to read chapter one? Here we go. I hope your Inner Reader Beast enjoys. 🙂

CHAPTER ONE

“Do you want butter on the popcorn?” Jared yells from the kitchen.

“Of course. You can’t have popcorn without butter, silly. It’s unnatural. “I drop the latest rom-com release into the Blu-ray tray, then take my place on the sofa. “And don’t forget to sprinkle on some salt too.”

“Have I ever?” Jared stands in the doorway, a huge bowl of popcorn held between his hands. A goofy smile plasters itself across his face, bringing out the adorable dimple in his cheek. In the same moment my heart flutters at seeing it, he staggers back a step as though he were just struck by some unseen force.

He looks down at his chest, the color draining from his face. “Hanna?” My name is no more than a whisper upon his lips, but it holds the weight of the world.

The bowl falls from his hands, crashing to the floor with a loud bang that echoes throughout the room. Popcorn scatters over the hardwood in slow motion as my eyes settle on a bloom of bright red seeping through his white t-shirt near his heart. With each breath he takes, it spreads further and further over his chest.

“Jared?” My heart freezes in place with forgotten heartbeats as I jump to my feet. “Oh my God, Jared!”

He falls to his knees at the sound of the grandfather clock striking midnight. He looks up at me, a trail of blood running from the corner of his mouth, his hands resting limply in his lap. The look on his face holds me in place, my feet glued to the hard wood, unable to move. His eyes lower a fraction to my hands and I feel the splatter of warmth on my bare feet.

The knowledge of something horrible itches at the back of my mind, causing cracks to split the world around me and I fight it, because I don’t want to know. I don’t want to remember. I just want so badly to go back to the way it was before. Before I knew fallen angels existed. Before I knew my best friend—the boy I fell for—was the chosen one in a prophecy foretelling the end of the world, as we know it. Before I… Before I…

No. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want it to be real.

My chest fills and deflates rapidly—too rapidly—and a hazy darkness begins to creep around my vision. My hands begin to lift, but I don’t want to look, I really, really don’t want to look, because if I do, then there is no more denying, there is no more pretending what happened didn’t happen.

My hands continue to rise and no matter how hard I fight to not look, or how hard I try to squeeze my eyes shut, they stay wide open.

Blood is all I see.

The dream around me begins to pull asunder with every beat of Jared’s heart pumping more and more blood through the fabric of his shirt.

“You’re too late. You were too late the moment he chose against you.” The sound of Blondie’s voice pulls me from the horror of what I see covering my hands and the knowledge of why it’s there. Jared made a choice and I…I did this. The Fallen were coming and I…I… “What’s done cannot be undone,” Blondie singsongs triggering fractured pieces of memory to spring forward. I fight against them because I don’t want them to be true, but I can’t stop myself from seeing Jared’s face when he made his choice, or the moment when I thought I’d saved him, or the moment when I knew it was too late.

When I knew I was too late.

Blondie lifts Jared up by his throat, his eyes black as coal. His smile is pure evil and full of a sadistic sort of glee. It spreads across his face so easily, showing me just how much he’s enjoying watching me suffer. “Time to play a new game Hanna. I can’t wait to watch the world burn around you. It’s going to be so much fun.” Fingers pressed against his lips, Blondie blows me a kiss. Before I even have a chance to blink, he and Jared are gone, leaving nothing behind but an open door to a world on the brink of falling apart.

 

“Hanna!” A burning pain stings the side of my face. “We have to get out of here! Wake up!” Another slap to my face and my eyes pop open to total and utter chaos. Gripping onto my shoulders, Will shakes me like a ragdoll to the sounds of hundreds of voices shouting all around me. I shove him away, my eyes wildly seeking out Jared. I find him still strung up by chains right behind me.

“Jared.” I whisper his name, yet the sound of it rings loudly in my ears.

Unconscious—or dead—God, please say he’s not dead—his head hangs down, chin pressed against his bare chest. The markings Blondie drew over him for the blood ritual are gone leaving no trace behind that they were ever even there. Above his heart the only mark remaining is the one he received the moment he turned eighteen. Pale blue like my own symbol, it rests dormant against his chest.

My whole body aches, every muscle crying out as I stand. Gingerly, I reach out for him, the tips of my fingers barely grazing over his symbol. A jolt of electricity shoots through me as every memory that led to this moment, flashes through my mind unabridged. I remember the alley where it all started with the murder of Sam. I remember all the heinous things Blondie’s done – murder, torture and torment. I remember breaking Jared’s heart and how he sided with Blondie because of it. I remember…I remember…

My hands begin to shake uncontrollably as tears blur my vision.

I remember…I remember having to kill the only boy I’ve ever loved and how my soul tore apart the moment I pushed the blade into his chest.

But he didn’t die.

He didn’t die.

And the angels…

The angels were all freed.

And then there was the flash of images shared between Jared and I that I can’t seem to be able to focus on or clearly remember.

And now Jared…

What if he’s really gone this time?

What if it was all too much and now he’s…

Please still be alive.

I drag my fingers from the symbol on his chest to the side of his neck where I search for a pulse. Faintly it thrums, and I burst into all out sobs, wrapping my arms around his neck.

Bolt cutters! Eric’s supposed to have the bolt cutters!

“Eric!” A burst of erratic energy explodes in my gut and I start to pull and dig at the chains still holding Jared captive. I have to get these stupid chains off. I have to get him out of here. “Eric!” I scream until my throat is raw and a metallic taste settles on my tongue. “Eric!”

“I’m here. I’m here.” Eric grips one of the chains holding Jared’s arm suspended in the mouth of the bolt cutters. His biceps flex, the veins in his forearms protruding as he squeezes down. Jared’s arm swings free and Eric moves on to the next chain and the next until he’s severed them all.

I stumble back, falling hard onto my rear with the weight of Jared held in my arms. I gather him up, brushing away loose strands of hair covering his forehead. His lashes are a dark line drawn across his cheekbones as my thumb moves over the stillness of his lips, smearing the blood spilling from the corner of his mouth. “Jared, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I lean down pressing my lips to his in a soft kiss. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t stop this from happening. I’m so sorry I…” I trail off as my fingers once again seek out the now smooth skin above his heart where I’d stabbed him. A pale white scars rests in its place. A permanent reminder of what I did.

“Is he alive!” A male voice rings out above the chaotic sounds of the crowd at the foot of the rocks where Jared and I are currently sprawled. Reluctantly, I shift my gaze from Jared to the sea of people parting below me. A tall man with dark brown hair peppered with stands of gray and eyes the color of rich chocolate, forces his way through to the front with barely controlled fury rolling off of him in waves. I hug Jared closer to my body as if doing so will somehow keep him protected from this man.

Will steps in front of Jared and I, the knife in his hand held steady. His clothes are torn and bloody, his hair a matted mess of blood and dirt and I can’t help but flash back to what now seems like forever ago, even though in truth it’s only been a handful of minutes that I left him to fend off Blondie. If he’s standing here now, does that mean he defeated him, or did Blondie’s vessel crumble to ash too when The Fallen were released and he’s now out there somewhere in his true form? A shiver races down my spine as I take a quick glance over my shoulder at the cave behind me. No longer alive with the shadowed shapes of The Fallen pushing against the veil of purgatory that had kept them separated from us, the cave yawns open, eerie and quiet.

“Is he alive?” The man demands again, his voice harsh and hateful.

“Back off Thomas. Jared is not your concern.” Will raises his blade a half an inch, daring Thomas to make a move.

Thomas? Sam’s dad? I look at him harder, trying to reconcile the man before me with the man in Sam’s memories. He looks so different now.

Older.

Harsher.

Meaner.

I hug Jared tighter remembering how Thomas’s plan was to have Jared locked up or eliminated to stop the prophecy from happening and now that it has…

A shiver runs over me at the thought of what Thomas might do to him now if he gets his hands on him.

“I think you’ve got that backwards…son,” Thomas says in an air of superiority except for the word ‘son’ which comes out a little softer and a whole lot less mean. I wonder just how close he and Will are, or used to be. Sam was Will’s best friend after all. “Jared is every bit of my concern. Now, I asked you a question. Is he alive?”

Very subtly, Will nods.

Whatever kindness held in Thomas’s eyes towards Will vanishes as his lips pull back in a snarl. “Seize them!”

Pulling out a second blade without hesitation, Will shifts into a defensive position. Joined by Eric, Owen and Luca, they form a barrier around Jared and I in a feeble attempt at keeping us safe, but we all know it’s futile. We’re literally backed into a corner with nothing behind us except a cave that just opened its doors and ended the world, and an inclining hillside full of steep rocks that would be impossible to climb with Jared unconscious.

Seconds tick by; still no one else moves or says a word and all I can hear is the sound of my own rapid breaths wheezing in and out between my lips. And then pandemonium descends into movements, shouts, and blades drawn in the hands of Guardians who must now choose a side: Thomas or us.

Eric moves to the front of the line, his feet at the edge of the rocks, the long knife in his hand pointed squarely at Thomas. “You will not lay a finger on Jared. He is our only hope in saving the world.”

“Saving it? He just ended it!” Thomas snarls. The crowd around him divides itself even further as members of The Order choose their sides. It doesn’t look that great for our side and honestly, I can’t say I blame any of them for choosing Thomas over Eric. But then again they don’t know what I know. And what I know—what I feel deep down in my bones—is that Jared’s destiny isn’t complete. He’s still fated for something more. He may have unwittingly ended the world today, but I have faith he’s going to save it too.

He has to.

“I said seize them!” Thomas raises his blade into the air and the crowd, now fully divided, goes to war.

I rub over the symbol on my wrist hoping and praying there’s still something left inside of me, anything all I can use or do to protect Jared. Because if Thomas gets him…if he takes him away…if he…if he… if he kills—. I cut myself off right there because I will never, ever let that happen.

Never.

Hot tears roll down my cheeks when the realization I’ve got no fight left inside hits me like a speeding truck with no brakes. This whole day has been one craptastic thing after the other with astral projections, repeated fights with Blondie and The Fallen, constant healing, and I’ve just—I’ve got nothing left. I’m drained. No matter how far down I dig, there’s just no energy left to tap into.

But I have to find a way; somehow I have to find a way, because I can’t let them take him. I can’t.

I risk a glance out at the crowd. Thomas is nowhere in sight, friends are fighting against one another, and Will is doing his damnedest to keep anyone from reaching us on the rocks. But I know it’s only a matter of time before they do. Will won’t be able to hold them off forever even though I know he’ll try to.

“Jared, I need you to wake up now.” I shake his shoulder, then smack at his face. “Jared, we have to go.” I need him to open his eyes. I need him to look at me even though I’m absolutely terrified of what I’ll see when he does because of what I did. I try to push it away, but the worst memory of my life enters my mind again and again anyway, as my thoughts flash back to the moment I slid the knife between his ribs. I know he begged me to do it, and I know it was for the right reasons, but I’ll never be able to wash the blood clean from my hands. And I’m worried he’ll hold some kind of blame towards me. Blame for actually going through with stabbing him, or blame because I wasn’t fast enough in doing so and he became the very thing he feared. The Destroyer.

Jared’s lashes flutter, his eyes slowly opening to reveal the deepest, yet brightest green I’ve ever seen. He cups my cheek in his hand, and for just a moment, everything else fades away and it’s just him and me. “Hanna.” A small smile tugs at the corner of his mouth as his eyes roam over my face. “Did we win?”

And then the world comes crashing back in.

“What’s wrong?” Jared asks reading the sullen expression no doubt covering my face, but before I can answer, the symbol on his chest begins to glow a soft blue and without hesitation he touches it. His back arches, his head falling back. A look of intense pain crosses over his face and then just as suddenly his body stills. Tears stream from the outside corners of his eyes, disappearing into his hair. “The Fallen. I can feel them. There’s so many.”

“What do you mean you can feel them?”

A knife whizzes past Jared’s face, leaving a bloody gash across the edge of his cheekbone just under and to the side of his right eye. For a moment his eyes flash a bright, deep, and yet at the same time, an almost translucent green. He touches the gash, smearing away the blood, and I watch as his skin mends instantaneously, leaving behind a pale white scar.

Grabbing ahold of my hand, Jared is on his feet and pulling me to mine in a matter of seconds. He looks around, eyes wildly searching for a way out. The symbol on his chest illuminates, sending waves of energy coursing from his body and into mine where are hands are joined, fueling my own symbol. He looks over at me with a mixture of various emotions playing over his face, and eyes held full of things yet to be said. Full of things I’m afraid to hear, because what if we’re broken now? What if we can’t come back from the things that have happened? From the things I’ve done?

Will crashes into my side with a grunt, ripping my hand out of Jared’s. My shoulder slams into the edge of the cave opening with a loud pop. I bite down on my bottom lip as intense pain shoots up and down my arm.

“Hanna!” Jared yells. He reaches out for me while Will kicks a fellow Guardian in the chest, sending him sailing over the edge of the rocks into the chaos below. “Are you okay?” His hands flutter over me, the look in his eyes worried. A spark of hope bleeds in my chest. If he’s worried, maybe it means he still cares. Maybe we’re not lost to each other after all.

I have to know.

“Do you hate me?” It comes out in a quiet rush, my insides turning into a vibrating mess of fear at the possible outcome of his answer. I don’t think I can take it if he hates me. But I also wouldn’t blame him if he did.

A dark sadness flashes behind his translucent green eyes. “I could never hate you Hanna.” His words are just as quiet as mine as he cups my face. “Never.” But fear has me wondering if he wishes he could, despite what he just said because of the pain I’ve caused him. His hands fall from my face and the little spark of hope harboring in my chest, starts to waver no matter how much I wish it wouldn’t.

Temporarily unencumbered, Will scrambles to my aid. His eyes roam over my dangling arm. “It’s dislocated.” Before I can utter a word he grabs my arm and pops it back into place, his war stained hands warm with healing energy, easing the pain to a dull ache. He glances back over his shoulder quickly then settles his eyes on mine with fierce determination. “I’ll keep them back for as long as I can.” His eyes flick to the rock wall behind me. The only other way out of here other than through the crowd of Guardians below which would be suicide to even attempt. “Get Jared out of here.” He turns, kicking at the hands of someone trying to climb up onto the rocks. “Meet me where I like to go when I want to be alone.”

The cliffs above Lake Haven, I think to myself.

I nod my head and put on a brave face. I take ahold of Jared’s hand once more. Our symbols—mine on my wrist and his on his chest—ripple with a blue iridescence. Energy once again seems to flow from him to me and I start to feel stronger and more confident.

Jared and I share a look knowing full well our escape plan is a Hail Mary more than likely doomed to fail. We’re way out numbered, and we both know it. But still, we have to try.

We have to try.

I have to try.

I made a promise to keep Jared safe and no matter what happens to me, I’m going to do everything I can to keep it.

With a nod to each other, Jared and I begin to climb. Sharp rocks dig into the soft pads of my fingertips, scraping and tearing, and my shoulder, not fully healed, screams in protest. Shoving the pain down, my eyes flick to Jared in amazement at watching him climb. It seems effortless for him and I wonder if it’s because of the enhancements the symbol brings or if it’s just his own natural stamina.

A sharp whooshing cuts through my thoughts and I watch in horror as a silver hilted knife embeds into Jared’s right shoulder blade. His chest slams into the rock face from the force just before he falls backwards, twisting in time to not land directly onto the blade as he hits the ground with a loud crunching thud.

“Jared!” I scream his name so loud it echoes off the hillsides surrounding us. Without thinking, I let go and drop to the ground, my knees buckling under the pressure. Ignoring the pain running ramped throughout my body, I crawl over to him. Blood pours from an open gash at the corner of his forehead that’s slowly beginning to heal. I rip the knife from his back and toss it to the side, a burning anger searing through my veins.

Borrowed energy from Jared, along with my own festering hatred toward anyone who means to do him harm, swirls in my gut. Jaw clenched, my hands squeeze tight at my sides, my nails digging into flesh, as I get to my feet. Storm clouds fill the sky above, the wind blowing my hair over my face. When I feel like I’m about to explode, I let it all go. Energy rushes out of me in waves, like a bomb that’s just been set off. Rocks fall loose collapsing the entrance to the cave, and Guardians fling into the air momentarily suspended before being slammed back to the ground. Trees sway and bend, some breaking in half and toppling over, narrowly missing dazed Guardians trying to scoot out of the way.

I wave my hands out in front of me shoving everyone off to the sides with just a mere thought, leaving a wide berth for Jared and I to make our escape. With raw energy dancing along my skin I grab ahold of Jared’s arm, hauling him to his feet. His eyes squeeze shut in pain where he hasn’t fully healed yet, and I take in his injuries. His arm is twisted at an odd angle and his bottom two ribs look distorted. Placing one hand on is arm and the other on his ribs, I close my eyes and imagine them shifting and moving back into place as though they were never broken at all. Jared exhales a relief filled sigh and I open my eyes.

“Time to go.” I grab ahold of Jared’s hand and together we jump from the rocks to the soft earth below. Without so much as a backwards glance, I take off running, dragging Jared along behind me. But the further I go the more it starts to feel like I’m running through water. Slammed with total and utter exhaustion, my legs turn into lead weights screaming to stay anchored to the ground, but I fight against it looking for that last little bit of adrenaline to carry me through to the end.

Further. I Just need to go a little further, I tell myself.

A leg gives out and I fall, taking Jared down with me. Tangled together, we roll down a small embankment, coming to a stop in a shallow creek. The water is freezing, sending small stabbing jolts through me, which is exactly what I need to keep moving. Otherwise, I think I would just collapse here and never move again. At least not for the next twenty years while I catch my breath and my arms and legs solidify, because right now they feel like wobbly jelly.

Jared and I (with a lot of effort on my part), drag ourselves onto the bank of the creek. His jeans are filthy; the exposed skin of his body caked with a mix of mud, dirt, blood (dried and fresh), and debris from the forest floor. His chest heaves in and out with deep rapid breaths as be brushes wet hair from his eyes, leaving his face now streaked with blood and mud also.

“We have to stop for a minute,” Jared mumbles.

My eyes dart over the trees looking for any sign of a threat. I don’t see anyone and I really want to believe there’s no one chasing us, but now is not the time to let my guard down. I may have seriously abused my telekinetic powers against those meant to protect humanity against The Fallen by blasting them all down, but after witnessing first hand the look of absolute hatred and fear in Thomas’s eyes toward Jared, there’s no way in Hell he’ll ever give up that easily.

“We can’t. We have to keep going.”

I haul myself to my feet as I try to hide the fact everything around me is spinning. “Come on.” I hold my hand out for Jared, wiggling my fingers for him to get a move on.

“Okay.” He takes my hand and together we delve further into the tree line.

I squeeze my eyes shut over and over hoping the blurriness of the trees will come back into focus, but the more I try to will it, the worse it gets. I shake my head as if it will somehow clear it. It doesn’t.

“Hanna we have to stop.” Jared digs the heels of his bare feet into the ground while keeping a strong hold on my arm. I shake my head violently. “We have to stop,” he repeats, his voice soft and whispered. Eyes no longer translucent, but a deep, deep emerald green in the delicate rays of the early morning sun piercing through the branches, roam over my face in concern.

“What is it?” I ask, but then I feel the warmth trailing down from my nose to the edge of my top lip. It takes me a moment to gather enough strength to raise my arm as I wipe the underside of my nose with the back of my hand. Bright red stares up at me. “It’s okay. It’s just a side effect of using so much energy. I’ll be fine. You don’t have worry about me. There will be plenty of time to rest when you’re safe.”

My hand shakes as I wipe the blood off onto the back of my jeans. “We should go now.” I take a few steps and fall to my knees. Jared catches my arm before I fall the rest of the way. His biceps and pectoral muscles flex, his abs tightening into hard lines defining his well-developed six-pack as he lifts me up into his arms and I find myself wanting to blush. We’re surrounded by danger, I’m on the verge of passing out, and I choose now to go all girly and swoon. What is wrong with me? Maybe I’m becoming delusional. The world sways a little as I look up into his face. “You don’t have to carry me. I can walk.”

The edge of his mouth lifts into an incredulous grin with just a hint of his adorable dimple peeking through. “Sure you can,” he says with a playful tone.

“What? I can too. Put me down and I’ll show you.” We both know I’m full of it.

“So where are we going?” Jared asks, as we head further into the woods.

“To the cliffs above Lake Haven.” The gentle swaying of his arms along with the intense exhaustion covering every inch of me threatens to lull me to sleep and I’m finding it hard to keep my thoughts straight. “The lake not the town,” I clarify.

Jared’s whole body suddenly stiffens in a hard jerk. He drops to his knees, his hold on me loosening. I fall from his arms to the ground where a sharp rock jabs into my hip. I shift around until I’m on my knees facing him. His eyes stare ahead confused and glossy.

“Jared?” Tilting my head slightly, I study the vacant look creeping up in his eyes. And then he falls forward straight into me. The brunt of his weight pushes me back a little as I try to lay him onto the ground beside me. Three little black darts protrude out from between his shoulder blades.

“What the—”

The sound of rustling leaves has me turning my head just in time to see the tranquilizer gun in Cassidy’s hand and the butt of Thomas’s knife right before it slams into the side of my head. The warm trickle of blood running down the side of my face is the last thing I feel before everything goes dark.

***

Until Next Time,

T.L. McDonald

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