July 16, 2018

#Book #Sale: Grab the First Two Ascendant Books for $2.98!

BOOK SALE!!!

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Save $5!

Pick up Return of the Ascendant (Ascendant Series #1) for only 99¢

AND

Rout of the Dem-Shyr (Ascendant Series #2) for just $1.99!!!

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ENDS 8/5

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Buy Return of the Ascendant:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ iBooks ~ Nook ~ Kobo

Buy Rout of the Dem-Shyr:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ iBooks ~ Nook ~ Kobo

Release Day Blitz + #Giveaway: RISE OF THE FAIRE-AMANTI by Raine Thomas

It’s launch day for Rise of the Faire-Amanti (Ascendant Series #3), and I’m is celebrating with a big giveaway! Read on for more details…

 

 

Book Blurb:

Stranded in the desolate Dark Lands, Kyr and Ty share a bittersweet reunion. Alametria lies on the brink of darkness. Their people are still reeling, believing she’s dead at Ty’s hands. With no other choice, many have turned to the Guardians and Advisor Vycor for guidance, never suspecting they’re being led to slaughter.

Kyr and Ty encounter overwhelming challenges in their fight to save their people: a deadly environment, murderous Marauders, and powerful protections preventing them from reaching the palace. When the journey itself could mean their deaths, the one thing that keeps them going is the thought of bringing VycorDane to justice.

Facing a battle on multiple fronts, lacking resources, and significantly outnumbered, Kyr and Ty must rely on each other in the race to save their planet. Will they beat the odds and restore peace to Alametria…or will Vycor’s evil destroy them all?

 

Excerpt:

Turning so he faced Kyr, he lifted a gloved hand to her shoulder. Are you sure you want to do this?

She nodded, but he saw the rapid pulse in her neck belying her fear. They were both struggling to ignore the flight reflex pounding in their minds.

He considered walking to the storage bay and pulling out the sleeping pallets Gren had packed for their use, but he worried that taking even that much time would have them both abandoning this plan and giving in to the protections. Instead, he bent down and kissed her.

The feel and taste of Kyr shoved every other thought to the far corners of his mind. Although it had only been a few days since he last touched her like this, he felt like a starving man being offered a sumptuous buffet. Her soft lips eased open beneath his, begging him to deepen the kiss. He obliged, rubbing his tongue against hers as she tasted him just as thoroughly.

He ached to touch her. He broke away from her long enough to yank off his goggles and gloves. She hastily did the same. As if of one mind, they didn’t stop there, stripping out of their flight gear with quick, purposeful movements. When Ty was done, he helped Kyr remove the rest of her clothing. Then they came together in a mad rush, their mouths once again finding each other in a searing kiss.

Open your mind to me, Kyr thought. Only to me.

Yes. Only you.

He barely processed her demand over the raging need coursing through his body, but understood what she wanted. Since their first time joining here in the Dark Lands, he had learned that he had to keep a barrier between them when they made love. If he didn’t, they ran the risk of their joined power spiraling out of control like it had that time. On the more practical side, there was also the fact that if he allowed himself to feel everything she felt, their lovemaking would be over practically before it started.

Trust in us, she encouraged him as her hands ran along the muscles of his arms and chest.

Heedless of the consequences, he did as she asked, fully opening his mind to hers.

 

Buy Rise of the Faire-Amanti:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ B&N ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

 

Haven’t read the first two books in the series? Start with Return of the Ascendant today!

 

Buy Return of the Ascendant:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ B&N ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

 

WATCH THE SERIES TRAILER

 

About the Author:

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine recently signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Connect with Raine:

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest ~Linkedin ~ Website ~ Blog

Amazon Author Page

 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the launch of Rise of the Faire-Amanti, I’m offering a Kindle Paperwhite to one lucky winner! This giveaway will only run for TWO DAYS (12/14 & 12/15).

To enter, please visit My author page on Facebook and Like, Comment (on the giveaway post), and Share. You could win a Kindle just in time for the holidays!

 

RISE OF THE FAIRE-AMANTI Available for Pre-Order + Exclusive Sneak Peek!

This is a very exciting day for me, my friends! I’ve never had one of my books available for pre-order. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is for me. In my mind, it helps build anticipation. It also put me on a real writing deadline for the first time ever, which was completely nuts. Ultimately, though, I’m so glad I’ve had this experience!

Let’s hop right into the book details so you can get your pre-ordered copy of Rise of the Faire-Amanti…then, as a special “thank you,” I’m posting the entire first chapter for your reading enjoyment. Here we go:

Blurb:

Stranded in the desolate Dark Lands, Kyr and Ty share a bittersweet reunion. Alametria lies on the brink of darkness. Their people are still reeling, believing she’s dead at Ty’s hands. With no other choice, many have turned to the Guardians and Advisor Vycor for guidance, never suspecting they’re being led to slaughter.

Kyr and Ty encounter overwhelming challenges in their fight to save their people: a deadly environment, murderous Marauders, and powerful protections preventing them from reaching the palace. When the journey itself could mean their deaths, the one thing that keeps them going is the thought of bringing VycorDane to justice.

Facing a battle on multiple fronts, lacking resources, and significantly outnumbered, Kyr and Ty must rely on each other in the race to save their planet. Will they beat the odds and restore peace to Alametria…or will Vycor’s evil destroy them all?

Pre-Order Now:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

Add it to your To-Read list on Goodreads

~     ~     ~

And now, a Sneak Peek at Rise of the Faire-Amanti

Chapter One

“Your cousin Sem is dead,” Vycor sneered.

Ty tried to move, but he couldn’t. Vycor’s Mynders had ambushed him. He was strapped to one of the seats in the palace’s Ritual Chamber…the same seat he had sat in while he mentally tortured Vycor just a couple of lunar cycles before.

They had been so close to defeating the Advisor. His demise had been within their grasp. There had been just one misstep.

One deadly misstep.

“He died screaming for mercy,” Vycor said as he laid out implements beside the altar in the center of the chamber. “He cursed your name, TaeDane. He knew it was your fault that he suffered so long before death claimed him.”

“You’re lying,” Ty growled. He knew Sem had gotten out of the palace.

He had to have gotten out.

“Am I?”

At a silent command, one of the Mynder guards standing in the chamber brought forth a basket. Ty’s stomach clenched when he saw the blood leaking out of the basket’s bottom and dripping onto the floor, but he controlled his reaction so Vycor couldn’t see his wariness. Without any preamble, the guard dumped the basket at Ty’s feet. Sem’s head flopped out, splashing gore onto Ty’s boots.

“He was still alive when we dismembered him,” Vycor said conversationally, his gaze on Ty’s face. “In fact, his ‘member’ was one of the first things I cut off. I’ll have to be even more inventive when I kill you.”

Horror blended with rage and grief, gripping Ty around the throat as he stared at Sem’s ghastly expression. Forcing his gaze away from it, he tried to reach out with his mind. He had to connect with Kyr. He had to warn her.

But his thoughts were blank. No one was hearing them.

“Oh, I’m hearing them,” Vycor assured him. “I’m stronger now than you ever were. You’ll admit it before I’m done with you.”

Ty shook his head. This couldn’t be. He was the Faire-Amanti. He and Kyr were paired. They were fated to be together. Their abilities were stronger than Vycor’s. Than anyone’s.

Weren’t they?

“You are such a fool,” Vycor laughed. “I can’t wait to have you pleading and sniveling like your cousin did. I imagine you’ll feel as though you’ve died at least twice once I finish with your amanti. You do feel everything she does, don’t you?”

Ty went utterly still. His heart dropped, then thudded painfully against his breastbone. His palms tingled with panicked sweat. Once again, he sent out a desperate thought to Kyr. He had to protect her.

“She can’t hear your thoughts,” Vycor said, his smile lethal. “But fear not.”

The chamber doors opened, admitting more Mynders. Ty’s head jerked in their direction. Then it moved from side to side in slow denial.

“Ah, here she is,” Vycor said, watching as the Mynders placed Kyr’s unconscious form on the altar. “This will be fun.”

Ty strained against his bonds as Vycor reached for the fastenings of Kyr’s lightweight armor. Although he had vowed not to let Vycor see any signs of weakness, he shouted, “Don’t touch her!”

“Oh, I intend to do much more than just touch her.” Vycor smirked as the first of Kyr’s armor hit the floor. “I intend to take her as many times as I please in whatever ways I please, and I imagine a number of the Mynders in this room would enjoy a turn, too.”

Ty didn’t have to look around to sense the lecherous expressions of the guards over Vycor’s dark promise. His muscles burned and protested as he pulled against his bonds. He watched helplessly as Vycor completely disrobed Kyr and secured her wrists and ankles to the far corners of the altar.

“We can’t enjoy ourselves if she sleeps through it, can we?” Vycor said.

He reached over into the satchel on the side table and pulled out a small snifter. Removing the top, he waved it under Kyr’s nose. Ty’s own nose burned as Kyr jerked away from the source of the pungent smell. Her low moan sent fear clawing through him.

“Leave her alone!” Ty begged. “Take me instead!”

Vycor chuckled. “Oh, we’ll get to that. But first…”

He slapped Kyr. The sharp strike made Ty flinch. Kyr gasped and fully opened her eyes. As realization set in, her gut iced in terror. Ty felt it blend with his own.

“Stop!” he cried hoarsely. He knew it was useless and only served to spur Vycor on, but he couldn’t stop himself. “I’ll do anything you ask!”

“It’s too late for that,” Vycor replied, removing his robe and revealing his heavy state of arousal.

“What are you doing?” Kyr choked out. Chains rattled as she tried to free herself. Her gaze moved to Ty. “Ty, help me!”

I can’t, he thought uselessly, but he pulled hard enough on his own bonds to feel blood trickling along his wrists. His eyes blurred as Vycor climbed up onto the altar.

Now, I’ll finally take everything from you, TaeDane, Vycor thought.

“Help me!” Kyr screamed. “Ty!”

*     *     *

Ty jerked awake. Sweat coated his skin. Moisture that might not have been sweat dripped along his temples onto his pillow. His tensed muscles slowly eased as his mind accepted that he’d been dreaming.

Again.

The dream had started not long after Kyr met up with him in the Dark Lands. At first, it was nothing more than flashes of images and a sense of defeat and powerlessness. With each new incarnation of the dream, though, more details appeared. The sequence of events never changed. It just got more and more vivid and intense.

He reached shakily for Kyr, who still slept soundly beside him. Battling the sharp blade of desolation that threatened to slice into his soul, he pulled her against him and wrapped her in his arms. She slept on, oblivious to his torment.

The light, familiar fragrance of her hair helped calm him, but not much. The fear from the dream haunted him, and would stay with him for a long time to come. There would be no more sleep for him that night.

How could he sleep when he suspected that such a specific recurring scene wasn’t a dream, but a vision of things yet to come?

New Release: ROUT OF THE DEM-SHYR by Raine Thomas

NEW RELEASE!

Title: Rout of the Dem-Shyr

Series: Ascendant Series #2

Author: Raine Thomas

Genre: New Adult Sci-Fi Romance

Audience: Ages 17+

Cover Design by MaeiDesign

Book Blurb:

Touted as the future ruler and savior of worlds, Ascendant KyrVawn is ready to put her growing power to good use. She intends to begin with her home planet of Alametria, where hints of corruption have infiltrated the highest levels of the palace. It’s a monumental task, but one she won’t undertake alone.

By her side is her personal bodyguard and secret lover, Dem-Shyr TaeDane. Together, they’re determined to uncover the truth behind the changes that occurred while they were off-planet…changes that violate long-standing Alametrian laws.

But it’s hard for them to champion the rules when they don’t live by them. Their love is forbidden by official decree, and with every illicit touch, they edge closer and closer to discovery and disaster. Despite their good intentions, they’ll find out that sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

In fact, it might just be the very thing that destroys them.

Buy the Book:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ B&N ~ iBooks ~ Kobo

Add to Goodreads

~     ~     ~

Watch the Ascendant Series Trailer:

About the Author:

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine recently signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Follow Raine

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page ~ Pinterest ~ Linkedin ~ Website ~ Blog

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

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Release Day Blitz + Giveaway: RETURN OF THE ASCENDANT by Raine Thomas

It’s ROTA’s Launch Day!

Today celebrates the release of my latest novel, Return of the Ascendant (The Ascendant Series #1). Some of you may have had the chance to read this book in the Curses, Fates & Soul Mates box set, or the prequel short story in the Take Me to Your Reader anthology. If so, you’ll be excited to know that I’ve written two entirely new chapters that will only appear in this version of ROTA. You won’t want to miss them!

To celebrate ROTA’s launch, I’m offering the novel for only 99 cents until April 15th. I’m also hosting a fun giveaway, so be sure to enter below! First, let’s learn a little more about the book, including how you can grab your copy before the sale ends:

About the Book:

Return of the Ascendant is a thrilling New Adult Sci-Fi Romance

Expecting to enjoy another typical college night at a frat party with friends, Kyra Vaughn’s plans derail when she’s almost killed…twice. Her savior, a tall, sexy stranger who calls himself TaeDane, claims that he’s the personal bodyguard for the Ascendant of Alametria. She’s convinced he’s crazy.

Especially when he insists that she’s the Ascendant.

With dark enemies hunting her down, Kyra has no choice but to trust her supposed bodyguard. Ty vows to help her remember her past and return her safely to Alametria, but someone seems intent on interfering, challenging his abilities at every turn.

As Kyra’s memories emerge, she remembers that Ty is more to her than he’s let on…much more than he’s allowed to be. She’ll also discover that there are many things about her planet and herself that she’d rather forget. In the end, she’ll have to make a choice: cling to the life she knows, or risk it all to become the person she’s destined to be.

Check out the “Teaser” Trailer by Flat-Line Films:

Buy the Book:

Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iBooks (COMING SOON) ~ Kobo

Enter the Giveaway!

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New Release + Giveaway: TAKE ME TO YOUR READER Anthology

I’m beyond honored to be participating in a short story anthology with fellow authors Amy A. Bartol, Tammy Blackwell, Amanda Havard, Heather Hildenbrand, Tiffany King, C.A. Kunz, and Sarah M. Ross. The anthology, titled Take Me to Your Reader, is a collaboration of short stories featuring aliens, and all proceeds will go to benefit the UtopYA Conference in Nashville. We all love the conference’s founder, Janet Wallace, and her amazing team, and since the theme of this year’s conference is aliens, we all decided to create this anthology to show our support.

Regina Wamba with MaeiDesign created the beautiful cover, and K.P. Simmon with Inkslinger PR is helping with the promotion of the anthology. This has been a group effort, but I’d personally like to thank Tiffany King and her awesome hubby, Karl, for putting so much time and effort into making this happen. You both ROCK!

For those of you who know that my next book is Return of the Ascendant (releasing on Monday), you may be interested to note that the prequel short story, The Ascendant, will only appear in this anthology. If you’re ready to learn more about Kyra and Ty’s story, be sure to grab your copy today!

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble (Coming SOON) ~ Smashwords

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

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New Year, New Book: Sneak Peek at RETURN OF THE ASCENDANT

Happy New Year!

I’m sure everyone is busy making their New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m no exception. For me, 2014 will be particularly motivating because it will be my last year as a thirty-something. Might sound strange to some folks, but it would be great to achieve some big goals before my 40th birthday next January. We’ll see how it goes!

My first goal of the year is to finish and publish Return of the Ascendant, a New Adult SciFi Romance. Some of you might be scratching your head over my choice to write a SciFi book, but there’s a story behind it that I’ll share in a future post. Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of the Estilorian books (and you’re 17 or older), I think you’ll love the Ascendant series.

To give you a glimpse into Return of the Ascendant, I wanted to share the first chapter with you. **Please keep in mind that this excerpt is unedited and not necessarily the final version that will appear in the published book.** I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what some of your goals are for 2014. Curious minds want to know…

For now, I’ll wish you a very Happy New Year. Best wishes in 2014!

Return of the Ascendant by Raine Thomas

Chapter One

The screaming started when Kyra was halfway down the hall. She was surprised it had taken this long for things to escalate. She’d been listening to the constant bickering between the two freshmen moving into dorm room 1411 for nearly thirty minutes. Based on past experience, she’d known it was only a matter of time before things got violent.

Picking up her pace, she made it to the open door just as a ceramic figurine flew out and crashed into the opposite wall, missing her nose by inches. One of the resulting shards nicked her right cheek. The brief jab of pain made her temper rise.

“Hey!” she snapped out, rushing into the room and forcing herself between the two females, who were now grappling in an embarrassing display of cat-fighting. “Knock it off!”

It took two solid minutes before she managed to separate them. The fact that they held fistfuls of each other’s hair made it particularly challenging. She wondered where the hell the dorm monitor was and why all of the other girls just stood in the doorway with unhinged jaws. Eventually, she forced the roommates apart and managed to hold them at arm’s length.

She glowered at them. “This is ridiculous. You two have to spend at least a full semester together. You need to get over yourselves and work this out.”

“She’s hoggin’ all the space!” whined the blonde with a nasally southern accent. “These rooms are small enough as it is. Why should she get extra space just ‘cause she claims she needs a mini fridge? No one else is allowed to have one.”

“I’m diabetic,” retorted the brunette with more calm than her red-faced roommate. “My insulin has to be refrigerated.”

Kyra rolled her eyes and turned to the blonde, who had the grace to look down at the floor. “You’re complaining that someone with a life-threatening disease needs extra space to keep her medicines?”

The blonde sniffled, moving quickly from anger to tears. “I just really hoped to fit the storage chest Gran gave me before she died. The fridge makes it impossible.”

Glancing at the brunette, Kyra saw a softening of her expression. She realized the two girls hadn’t discussed the specifics of why space was an issue. They’d just gone straight to arguing. It was a scenario Kyra had seen too many times to count in her two years in the dorms. Young freshmen, especially, were already so stressed out about the many changes in their lives that every little thing set them off.

Lord, she wouldn’t miss this next year.

“I’m sorry that I’m taking up more room than my side allows, Savannah,” the brunette said in a quiet voice. “If I could change things…”

“We can change things,” Kyra said when the brunette drifted off. “First and foremost, we can change the room’s layout.”

Both girls looked at her. The blonde—Savannah—shook her head. “Dorm policy states that the room can’t be altered from the condition we find it in.”

“You’re right,” Kyra agreed in a reasonable tone. “But in situations like these where one roommate has a special condition requiring the room to be altered, changes can be made until both parties are satisfied.”

Savannah’s mouth opened. Hope lit her eyes. “You mean I might be able to fit Gran’s chest after all?”

“We’ll make sure of it.”

Crisis averted, the hallway outside the room quickly cleared. Kyra put a hand on her chin and surveyed the room and its contents. After a short discussion with the roommates about any remaining items they intended to bring into the room, she started directing them on furniture placement. In less than thirty minutes, the room had been arranged in a way that fit both the refrigerator and the chest while leaving room to maneuver.

“Thanks, Kyra,” said the brunette, whose name Kyra had discovered was Patrice. “You’re a life saver.”

Smiling, Kyra shook her head. “Nah. I just don’t like to see two smart young women resorting to aggression and violence in an attempt to get their way.”

“We’ve learned our lesson,” Savannah said, leaning over and giving Patrice a one-armed hug. “From now on, we’ll talk things out.”

Kyra thought they just might. In fact, judging by the way they exchanged grins and the earlier plans she’d heard about using part of the mini fridge to store energy drinks, she thought they’d become life-long friends.

That thought made her think of her own freshman and sophomore roommate, Avana. Kyra was supposed to be going out with her and their mutual friend, Sam, tonight. Her eyes shifted to the single window in the room. She finally noticed that the sunlight was dimming into a deep pink color. Glancing at her watch, she realized she was running late.

“Sorry, ladies,” she said. “I’ve got to go.”

“Oh, sure,” Patrice said. “Thanks again. Sorry we kept you.”

“Are you in one of the neighborin’ rooms?” Savannah asked.

“I was, but I’ve just moved out.”

Savannah’s face fell. “Bummer. Well, it was nice to meet you.”

“It really was,” Kyra said with a smile. “I’m sure we’ll see each other around campus. I start my junior year next semester.”

Both of the girls smiled back. “Yay!” Savannah cheered. “We’ll catch ya at a party or somethin’.”

Waving and giving a vague commitment to see them again soon, Kyra hurried back down the hall to her former dorm room. She hadn’t gone ten feet before she spotted the dorm monitor, Rachel Ferris, stepping off the elevator with a distinct post-coital glow. She wore a self-satisfied smile, an incorrectly buttoned short-sleeved top, and a mussed hairdo. The sight of her had Kyra narrowing her eyes even as she debated whether to talk to her at all. She’d be out of this dorm forever in a few more minutes. It wasn’t like she had to say something.

Her mother’s censuring voice rang in her head, making Kyra sigh. “Hey, Rachel,” she said, halting the other woman’s progress. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“What?” Rachel said, her smile fading. “Surely you can’t have another complaint about the way I monitor the floor. You’re leaving…aren’t you?”

Kyra could tell Rachel was worried she wasn’t about to get rid of the bane of her existence. While others may have turned a blind eye to Rachel’s blatant disregard for campus policies about appropriate dorm room activity, Kyra hadn’t been able to do so. How could the person responsible for upholding the rules disregard them and expect everyone else to respect her?

“While you were out,” Kyra said, not bothering to answer the question put to her, “there was an incident in 1411.”

Rachel didn’t comment as Kyra walked through the basics of the altercation and ultimate resolution. Her posture stiffened, though, as she realized she had missed something significant that had been witnessed by most of the tenants on the floor. Kyra knew she was considering what this might mean for her future as dorm monitor.

“Anyway, it’s all resolved now, but I thought you’d want to know why the room had been rearranged,” Kyra finished.

Rachel’s eyebrow lifted. “That’s it?”

“What do you mean?”

“You aren’t going to spend ten minutes lecturing me on how I should have been here instead of spending time with my fiancé? You’re not going to threaten to report me to the dean? You’re not going to storm off in a huff to vent to your weird roommate?”

Kyra shrugged. “My not-weird roommate is probably waiting for me in the quad, and I think the other things can take a pass in light of the fact that I am, indeed, leaving. But Rachel, these girls are counting on you. College campuses are ripe for drugs, rape, and violence. Don’t let them down.”

Rachel’s eyes widened. She seemed about to say something, then just nodded. Seeing she understood, Kyra nodded back and hurried on to the room she’d shared with Avana for the past two years.

She’d offered to supervise the move-out that afternoon because Avana had to attend a family function. She wanted to do a thorough walk-through of the small space to make sure nothing was overlooked. When she reached the door, she paused in the threshold.

Scanning the nearly empty room, she wondered how she’d ever managed to fit her belongings into half of the tiny space. Hell, she hadn’t even really had half. Avana had all but taken over the room by freshman year’s end. It was a rather accurate reflection of their overall friendship, she couldn’t help but think in an affectionate way.

She eyed the small bed with the rock-hard mattress she’d slept on and pitied the poor soul who would inhabit it next. She’d suffered on that sucker for much too long, but she’d be living the apartment life as a junior. Her new job as an admissions assistant would finally allow her the freedom to live off-campus. Well, that and Avana’s agreement to room with her and split the rent. Unlike Kyra, Avana never had to worry about money. Her parents were made of it. She’d only chosen to room in the dorms for the social element.

Walking over to each bed, Kyra looked underneath them and made sure she didn’t spot anything. She opened each of the drawers on the two small dressers and the shared nightstand, but didn’t find anything there either. Her search complete, she deemed the move-out acceptable and stepped back out of the room, closing the door behind her. An unexpected pang struck her as she realized that this was the last time she’d do so. Despite the hassles and headaches, she’d miss this place.

A faint noise reached her ears. The dull bonging sound of the university’s bell tower striking the hour.

Damn! It’s eight o’clock, she thought, running for the stairs.

She was supposed to meet Avana and Sam in the quad at quarter to eight. She hadn’t realized how much time it took to talk to Rachel and finish her inspection. Pulling her cell out of her purse as she descended the few flights of stairs, she texted Avana.

Sorry. Be there in 5.

The dorms were only steps away from the edge of the quad, but the spot where she’d agreed to meet Avana and Sam was on the far side of the heart of the campus. The three of them were headed to a party hosted by Sam’s fraternity, and she’d dressed before the move was finished to make sure she was ready on time. She was wearing a red and white knee-length sundress and matching red peep-toed heels. The adorable shoes added three inches to her five-foot five height, but greatly hindered her ability to hurry across the grassy ground of the quad.

Her cell buzzed in her hand as she walked. K. C U then.

She smiled. Of course Avana wouldn’t have been worked up over her tardiness. She was a free spirit, more inclined to go where the wind directed her on any given day than to follow a compass or path. Punctuality had never been one of her hang-ups.

Her phone’s screen went dark. Looking up, she realized she was walking in shadow. Typically, the quad was well-lit by tall lamps designed to look like old-fashioned gas lamps. The posts stood about twenty feet apart and surrounded the square area, offering plenty of luminescence and providing a sense of safety. Now, at least three of the lamps along Kyra’s route had gone out.

Her steps faltered. She looked to her right, where the school’s science building stood. Rows of bushes cast deep, uneven shadows along the brick face. A breeze rustled the leaf-covered limbs, generating an eerie scratching sound as they brushed the harsh surface of the wall.

Feeling as though someone was watching her, she cast a furtive look around the quad. On any normal evening, there would be plenty of people walking around the area. Now, however, not another soul was in sight. Kyra supposed they were all either still moving into their dorm rooms or had already left for the big party.

Despite the visual confirmation that she was alone, she had the pressing urge to call out and ask who was there. An image of herself acting like a horror movie cliché kept her lips firmly sealed, however.

Another scraping noise on her right had her starting. She clutched her purse closer to her body and picked up her pace. Surely the shadows were just making her jumpy, she reasoned. That didn’t explain why every hair on her arms and neck now stood on end.

Swallowing her rising fear, she almost broke into a run as she reached the last twenty feet of darkness. Her eyes didn’t move from the gloomy bushes. She couldn’t explain her reaction, as the university was in a small, sleepy town and had a low crime rate. But every instinct in her told her to run.

Just as she neared the halo of light cast by the closest lamppost, it went out. She staggered to a halt.

That was when the darkness moved.

Not possible, she thought.

She watched the shadows take shape, growing ever taller. Five feet, six feet, seven feet tall…like a creature advancing and casting a longer and longer shadow. Her heartbeat accelerated. The voice in her head ordered her to flee.

Run now!

Before she could command her limbs to move, she felt her arm taken in a firm grip. She barely avoided issuing a terrified shriek over the contact. In truth, her fear had escalated to a point where she couldn’t even get a sound past her throat.

Her head whipped to the side. She realized the man who had grabbed her was a good eight or nine inches taller than her, even in her heels. She got a sense of a chiseled profile and broad shoulders as he urged her to move. Her gaze flew to the ground as she tried to avoid breaking an ankle. Only when they emerged from the darkness did her sense of panic begin to ease.

Her unexpected companion’s pace also slowed once they reached the light. She turned her gaze to him once again, wondering if he’d been the one who had cast the shadow. Although she couldn’t tell much about him from his profile, however, she didn’t feel as though he would harm her.

“It is not me you need to worry about,” he said in a deep voice. “You were right to fear the dark.”