Sep 20, 2018

Demons Lie

Demons Lie
by Sherry Ficklin

Book: A Girls Guide to Witchcraft and Demon Hunting #1
Publisher: Sherry Ficklin
Pub Date: October 31, 2018
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Author
Format: ARC
Book Links: Goodreads  Amazon  

Rule #1 Demons Lie

Orphaned by an unspeakable evil, Aria Dupree is the last of her line. A powerful witch tasked with guarding the boundaries between our world and the world of demons who prey on humankind, Aria has gone rogue. Now she’s out to find and destroy every single gateway into our world and kill every demon that she can find — including the one who murdered her mother. 

But, as it turns out, hunting is the easy part; it’s graduating high school that might kill her. Red Prairie Texas isn’t just another stop on her demon hunting world tour and an unlikely alliance might be exactly what she needs to keep from becoming a slave to the very darkness she’s been fighting against. 

Because the devil is coming down to Texas — and only Aria can keep all hell from breaking loose.

My Review: 
Sherry has once again sucked me into a wonderful world that you'll never want to leave.

Aria is a badass chick. Just chilling, waiting for the demon to show up. Acts like she needs a little car help. Next thing you know, shes hopping on the hood, getting on top of this evil being and then slices it.  All done in a blink of an eye! 

Of course, it's not to say that she doesn't get hurt along the way. But a night in black salt water and she's nearly good as new. 

Sadly, her short nap has led her to miss one..... one who managed to get a girl in the early morning. 

On top of everything, Aria is enrolling in the local High School. She'll get the chance to graduate just like everyone else. What she didn't expect was finding a half-demon and another Witch with the gift to heal. 

This first book was jam packed with details, action, emotion, and every single thing you can think about in an amazing Demon/Witch series. I can't wait for the next book!!!




My Rating:
✪✪✪✪✪

Sep 18, 2018

The Treatment

The Treatment
by Suzanne Young


Book: The Program #2
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub Date: April 29, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Print
Source: Bought
Book Links: Goodreads  Amazon  Book Depository


Can Sloane and James survive the lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end? Find out in this sequel to The Program, which Publishers Weekly called “chilling and suspenseful.”

How do you stop an epidemic?

Sloane and James are on the run after barely surviving the suicide epidemic and The Program. But they’re not out of danger. Huge pieces of their memories are still missing, and although Sloane and James have found their way back to each other, The Program isn’t ready to let them go.

Escaping with a group of troubled rebels, Sloane and James will have to figure out who they can trust, and how to take down The Program. But for as far as they’ve come, there’s still a lot Sloane and James can’t remember. The key to unlocking their past lies with the Treatment—a pill that can bring back forgotten memories, but at a high cost. And there’s only one dose.

Ultimately when the stakes are at their highest, can Sloane and James survive the many lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end?



My Review: Sloane, James, and the rest of the group are taking a moment to go to the club. Its supposed to be a good night. However, Lacey and Cas stay behind. Once Sloane and James return it was supposed to end on a good note. Until it was a note that got Sloane's attention and made her run down to go see Lacey. Once they got to her room, everyone notices that she is gone....she is gone and she may never come back. Now that the Program has her, everyone else must hurry to pack up their things.

Once packed, they quickly drive off to another location. Someplace they can stay and lay low for a while before they make their next move. In the meantime they get a hold of files from the program, including Jame's. After going through his file, Sloane wasn't happy and unsure what to believe right now. Was Jams trying to cover up and protect her or did he mean everything he said.....

As the story progressed, more things unfold and you'll be hooked onto each word until the very end. 





My Rating:
✪✪✪✪

Extra Innings







Title: Extra Innings
Author: Lynn Stevens
Genre: YA Sports Romance
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Siren Press
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
Victoria Hudson is a seventeen-year-old with a passion for baseball. When her grandmother buys a new house in the city, Vic discovers a way to play the game for the first time since getting kicked out of little league. She just has to move in with her hippie grandmother and make sure her father, a U.S. Senator and prospective Presidential candidate, doesn’t find out what she’s up to over the summer break.

After proving her abilities on the field, she catches the attention of Daniel Cho, the team’s catcher. Everything seems to be falling apart, and yet falling into place. Vic settles into a life she’s always wanted, that of a normal teenage girl. But Victoria Hudson is anything but normal. Once the press learns that the potential First Daughter is crossing the gender line to play baseball, Vic is thrust back into the spotlight and making headlines. The life she tries so hard to get away from simply won’t leave her alone.



Lynn Stevens flunked out of college writing her first novel. Yes, she still has it and no, you can't read it. Surprisingly, she graduated with honors at her third school. A former farm girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite, Lynn lives in the Midwest where she drinks coffee and sips tea when she's out of coffee. She’s the author of Full Count and Game On..

Author Links:

Buy Link: 
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2vLNHxW

Top of the 1st

Acid waved in my stomach, reaching for the peak of my throat.
Stop it. You can do this. Just go at it like you own the place. Stride up to the coach like Mom does when she’s on the donation hunt.
The fields sat at the southern end of Jackson Memorial Park: one for softball, one for baseball. I had parked on the baseball side by a beat-up orange truck. The boys were already there, tossing balls and joking loud enough that I heard them through the closed windows of my car. Thankfully, the softball field was empty. Taking a deep breath, I climbed out of the car, pulling my equipment from the backseat.
Maybe it was my BMW, or maybe it was me, but the only sound I heard as I stalked toward the field were birds chirping to one another. No doubt the guys recognized a girl when they saw one. Mother Nature blessed me a bit too much in the boob department for anybody to mistake me as a boy.
I strode onto the soft dirt of the field and straight toward the older man with the clipboard. Coach Bernie Strauss stared back at me. He was easily six-eight with tree trunk legs and arms that UFC fighters would die for. He looked more like a Marine Corps drill instructor than a summer league baseball coach. I totally wanted to test him by shouting “Semper Fi.”           
 I stopped in front of him, waiting for what I knew was coming.
“Softball practice ended about twenty minutes ago.” He sounded like he ate gravel for breakfast.
“I’m not here to play softball, Coach.” I straightened my back and channeled my mother’s unbending confidence. “I’m here to help you win the city championship this year.”
No one laughed like I expected. So I exhaled, relaxed. Big mistake.
“Get off my field. I ain’t got time for this,” he shouted loud enough that birds scattered from a nearby tree. Coach Strauss turned his back to me and continued to bark at the team. “If you don’t get back to practice, you’ll be running laps in three … two …” His slight Texan accent made the “you’s” sound like “ya’s”.
The boys started throwing and stretching again, but they didn’t stop watching us.
“Coach –” I began.
“I ain’t your coach.”
I lost my cool, just like my father. “This is bullcrap. Look at your registration sheet.” He didn’t, so I snatched the clipboard from him and pointed. “See the name Vic Hudson? Well, that’s me. I paid to play. And I fully intend to. It isn’t against the rules.”
Coach ripped the clipboard from my fingers and flipped to another page. I waited. He read. I tapped my foot. That’s not nearly as dramatic on a dirt infield. The boys stopped warming up again.
He looked me up and down. “Fine. I’ll give you a shot, Hudson. You suck and you’re gone.”
“I can deal with that.”
“Get out there.” He pointed at a tall, super skinny boy. “Delvin, warm her up.”
I tossed my bag into the dugout and jogged onto the field. It didn’t take me long to figure out why Coach Strauss told Delvin to warm up with me. He kicked his leg like a pitcher and tossed a pretty nasty fastball. If I had to guess, he could hit ninety from the mound on a good day. It would’ve been stupid if I said anything, even though every ball he threw at me stung my fingers like tiny pricks of a hundred safety pins. I didn’t even try to throw my hardest. I warmed up like it was any other day.
Then he began stepping back. One step here, then another.
Idiot.
I threw hard and high to make my point. Delvin had to reach to get it. He may throw harder, but I can throw farther.
“Alrigh’, get in here,” Coach yelled. He raised his eyes at Delvin, who shrugged. “I know most of you from last year. We only got two potential newbies. One’s a girl. Anyone got a problem with that?”
If they did, they sure as hell weren’t going to tell Coach Strauss.
“Good. I expect you to treat her like you’d treat anybody else.” He looked at me and softened his tone. “What position do you play, honey?”
“Third.” I glared at him. He smirked then turned back to the team. Before he could open his mouth, I said, “And I’m not your honey.”
His head snapped back like he’d taken a right hook to the cheek. “Excuse me?”
I pointed at Delvin. “Do you call him ‘honey’?”
Delvin’s cheeks glowed light pink with either rage or embarrassment. I didn’t know which and really didn’t care.
Coach didn’t answer me though. His chin grew beet red, which crept up his cheeks all the way to his pale yellow crew cut. Steam came out of every clogged pore on his face as he yelled, “Everybody at third. Jayden, get your ass to first.” He sneered at me and I expected to get kicked off the field. “We’re going to field some grounders and see who handles them best. I’ll hit you three then rotate. Hudson, ladies first.”
Crap. Me and my big mouth. He’s going to either hit me a line drive at a hundred miles an hour or make me go so far out of range that I make an ass of myself.
I jogged to third and dug my cleats into the stubborn dirt. The rest of the guys lined up along the fence, amused grins matching Strauss’s own jack-o-lantern expression. Coach tossed the ball into the air.
Crack.
I jumped spread eagle and dropped my glove between my legs, catching the line drive. I came down ready to throw to first, but Jayden wasn’t on the bag. He stood three steps off with his mouth open. Smiling, I rolled the ball back to home plate.
Coach didn’t give me time to get back into position when he hit a grounder to my left. In a game, the shortstop would’ve played it, but this was a different type of game. I dove and knocked it down. My throw to first was in the dirt, but I was on my butt when I whipped it across the infield. That shouldn’t be held against me. It was an almost impossible play.
The last ball went up the line. I hustled and would’ve had it clean until it hit the bag. It took a nasty bounce that was nearly out of reach. I jumped and brought it down barehanded, throwing to first off balance as I fell into foul territory.
I stood up without looking to see if Jayden caught it and walked to the fence to wait for my next turn. The guys gawked at me as I leaned against the fence, ignoring them. I’d made my point. I could field. My next time up, Coach hit some routine grounders.
After rotating through every infield position, it was time for batting practice.
 “You’re up,” Coach announced as he pointed his chunky finger my way. “Delvin, pitch to her.”
While Delvin threw some warm up tosses, I pulled my large batting gloves on, stretching them over my long fingers. The shin guard came loose as I walked to the plate, but I didn’t dare adjust it. Not yet anyway. I’m a switch hitter in softball but more natural from the right side. So that’s where I started when I stepped into the box. I wasn’t entirely certain I could hit a fastball from the left anyway.
Delvin dug at the rubber. I did the same at the plate. Kicked some rocks out from under my right foot. Buried my left foot in the front of the box. Right arm cocked at a ninety degree angle, my bat perched above my shoulder, I waited. A trickle of sweat ran down my cheek. This felt more like a playoff game than a practice.
My swing was graceful as I rocked the fastball over Jayden. He stretched, revealing his dark walnut skin. His long braids smacked his back as he dropped to the ground. Jayden could jump for a big guy.
“Nice,” Coach said.
The Asian boy behind the plate whistled low and said, “Sweet.”
Delvin tossed a few more pitches before Coach snapped at me to get to third. I didn’t hesitate, grabbing my glove and hustling onto the field.  
“Get in the dugout,” Coach commanded after everyone had hit.
I stood at the end of the bench, waiting for the axe to drop. I’d played well enough to warrant sticking around, but I was still lacking the mandatory testosterone. If Coach told me to go, I would. It was his team and I wasn’t about to make things worse by throwing an epic hissy.
“We got a tough schedule this year. Last year, the Rebels kicked our ass to take the district. Well, half those boys can’t play no more. Hell, we’re missing three of our own. It’s time we take our game to the next level. The Rebels need to rebuild more than we do. We can take ‘em. Now get outta here. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He glanced my way. “All of you.”
I grabbed my gear and practically bounced out of the dugout when Coach called me and Shane Anders back.
Shane was short, plump, and had a face pot-marked by zits and craters. Something told me that his dad made him play to get him out of the basement. Coach Strauss towered over him. Shane tremored a little.
“Alright. Vic, what’s your real name?”
“Vic.”
He sighed, sending a poof of peppermint my way that didn’t conceal his bad breath. It smelled like he didn’t bother to brush his teeth in the morning. Ever. “Don’t bullshit me, girl.”
“I’m not, Coach. Vic’s short for Victoria.”
He stared at me and shook his head. “Fine. Here’s the drill. We practice every day at the same time, at the same place until the first game. Ain’t hard to remember. No excuses for tardiness or missin’ a game. Miss a practice, you don’t play the next game. Bring your own equipment. Forget your glove or your cleats, you don’t play.
“Games start next week. Your jersey will be clean. If it ain’t, you ain’t playin’. We play on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for six weeks. Team that wins their district plays in the city championship tourney. I don’t know nothin’ about either one of you, but there are a couple of boys here that could move on to college ball. Scouts look at summer programs, too, especially if they’re already interested in a player. Neither one of you is goin’ to play baseball at the next level. I just ask that you don’t screw it up for everyone else.
“Now get out of here. Today’s practice was a short one. Tomorrow’s not gonna be this easy.”
Shane took off in a hurry. It was obvious he was scared of Coach. We watched him run to a small pickup truck and scamper in.
“Can I ask you something, Vic?” Coach crossed his arms and glared at me.
“Yeah, sure.”
“Why’re you here?” He nodded toward the empty softball field. “You could be playin’ ball over there. Tell me the truth.”
I knew the question was coming, but I didn’t expect any sincerity behind it. “Softball isn’t baseball, Coach. It may seem similar, but it isn’t the same. I wanted to play ball one more time. That’s all.”
He nodded, then turned away from me and started gathering his bats.
“Am I really on the team?” I asked. I needed absolute confirmation.
“Yeah, got no choice.” He straightened up and smiled at me. “Looked at the regs. Doesn’t say this team is for boys sixteen to seventeen. Just says players. But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
I smiled. Of course I did. “See you tomorrow, Coach Strauss.”
He grunted and I took off to my car, trying not to skip like a ten-year-old.
I’m in. I’m going to play ball again.

Sep 17, 2018

Weekly Spotlight - Ann R. Stampler




Where It Began
Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving—and without a single memory of the accident that landed her there. But what she can recall, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the crash.

As Gabby describes her transformation from Invisible Girl to Trendy Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why has Gabby been left to take the fall?

As she peels back the layers of her life, Gabby begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex... and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be. 



Afterparty
Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle. 

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop... 

This explosive, sexy, and harrowing follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler's spectacular teen debut, Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.



How to  Disappear
This electric cross-country thriller follows the game of cat and mouse between a girl on the run from a murder she witnessed—or committed?—and the boy who’s sent to kill her.

Nicolette Holland is the girl everyone likes. Up for adventure. Loyal to a fault. And she’s pretty sure she can get away with anything...until a young woman is brutally murdered in the woods near Nicolette’s house. Which is why she has to disappear.

Jack Manx has always been the stand-up guy with the killer last name. But straight A’s and athletic trophies can’t make people forget that his father was a hit man and his brother is doing time for armed assault. Just when Jack is about to graduate from his Las Vegas high school and head east for college, his brother pulls him into the family business with inescapable instructions: find this ruthless Nicolette Holland and get rid of her. Or else Jack and everyone he loves will pay the price.

As Nicolette and Jack race to outsmart each other, tensions—and attractions—run high. Told in alternating voices, this tightly plotted mystery and tense love story challenges our assumptions about right and wrong, guilt and innocence, truth and lies.


Sep 13, 2018

Dead Beautiful

Dead Beautiful
by Yvonne Woon

Book: Dead Beautiful #1
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Pub Date: September 21, 2010
Genre: Young Adult
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Book LinksGoodreads  Amazon  Book Depository


On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.

After the funeral Renée’s wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the “Crude Sciences.”

It’s there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can’t stop herself from falling in love. It’s only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried’s past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.

Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.

Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.


My Review: Loved this book! 

Renee is just a typical teenager. Sneaking off to the beach for her birthday, having a wonderful day with her best friend Ann. They pack up to leave and head home to beat her parents. But something tells her they should take a certain street. And that's when Renee's normal life changed. 

On her 16th birthday Renee found her parents in the forest dead in an unusual way. Now she spends days just mourning their loss, not sure whats to come next. Then her grampa comes to be her guardian. It's been years since she has seen him. And sudden her life is changed again. He makes her go to this school on the opposite coast. Its a school that her parents went to and she should go.

Her grampa wouldn't really give into details but once Renee arrived to her school. She will realize things aren't what they seem. Soon she will learn there are undead around her and the one she loves is one of them. 

As the ending comes, the pace speeds up, the details get even better, and you'll be hooked until the very last word.


I can't wait to read the next book! 






My Rating:
✪✪✪✪✪

Sep 11, 2018

Reached

Reached
by Ally Condie

Book: Matched #3
Publisher: Speak
Pub Date: November 13, 2012
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Print
Source: Bought
Book Links: Goodreads  Amazon  Book Depository


After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.


My Review: I was really hoping this series would end on a high note. The first book was AMAZING, however, the last two were disappointing. 

The Rising has arrived and slowly taking over. Showing everyone that they have the cure for the sick and will take care of them all. Cassia is trading, Xander is helping the sick, Ky and Indie outside the borders. 

However, about halfway through, I got tired of the story. It moved so slow that I lost interest and couldn't move on with the story. Sadly what started off as a great series, ended up being disappointing. 



My Rating:
✪✪

Sep 10, 2018

Weekly Spotlight - The Reaper Diaries


  
  
Undeadly
The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she's shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. 

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another...except, there's something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly's got an undeadly knack for finding trouble....






Unchosen
I thought the worst of my reaper training was behind me… turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong. 

Molly Bartolucci has done a lot of growing up but after being accused of using illegal magic at her school for necromancers, reaper-in-training Molly is treading lightly. As the destined leader of Anubis’s Chosen, she needs to study hard, train harder, and stay out of trouble. 

Uh, right. 

It doesn’t help that she’s feeling more than academic about her melt-your-bones hot reaping instructor, Rath. And if her relationship drama isn’t enough to drive her over the edge, she has to deal with mother issues, nosy little sisters, suspicious friends, and an unnamed force stalking her at school. 

Then her family is attacked, and her bio-dad ends up comatose in the hospital. Now, Molly has to uncover who’s trying to hurt her loved ones—and all without the help of Anubis.








Sep 7, 2018

Carbon Replacements







Title: Carbon Replacements
Author: Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Publication Date: September 9th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
The killer held a knife to her throat—the ultimate decision locked within a dark and deviant gaze.

Determined and dedicated, forensic pathologist Remie Tallin validates her talent by detailing a victim’s last moments of life. Returning to Portland signified her new beginning where a psychopathic stalker designates her a pawn in a seductive game of intrigue.

The lines between predator and prey blur in hunting a medical genius bent on resetting the laws of nature. Evidence has never failed to point Remie in the right direction, yet conflicting discoveries mock the legal system and defy the scientific arena for clarification.

Detective McAllister’s return from leave includes a new assignment along with a partner well versed in subtle sarcasm and innuendos. Discovering the new medical examiner unconscious at the scene of a grisly murder forces him to unite with his brothers against a world of chaos where reality shifts according to a psychopath’s desire.


Reily is a West Coast girl transplanted to the opposite shore. When she’s not working with her dogs, you can find her curled up with a book or writing her next story. Past employment as an ICU nurse, private investigator, and work in the military police has given her countless experiences in a host of different environments to add a real world feel to her fiction.

Over time, and several careers, many incidents have flavored the plots of her stories. Man’s cruelty and ingenuity for torment and torture is boundless, not contained by an infinite imagination. Witnessing the after-effects of a teenager mugged at knifepoint for a pair of tennis shoes, or an elderly woman stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver for no apparent reason, left an indelible impression that will forever haunt her subconscious. In counterpoint, she has observed a woman stop her vehicle in severe, snowy weather to offer her own winter coat to a stranger, a teenager wearing a threadbare hoodie. Life’s diversities are endless.

Though her kids are her life, writing is Reily’s life after. The one enjoyed after the kids are in bed or after they’re in school and the house is quiet. This is the time she kicks back with laptop and lapdog to give her imagination free rein.

In reading, take pleasure in a mental pause as you root for your favorite hero/heroine and bask in their accomplishments, then share your opinions of them over a coffee with your best friend (even if he’s four-legged). Life is short. Cherish your time.

Author Links:
Reily blog  http://bit.ly/22HIwrk

Buy Link:
Digital Velocity: https://amzn.to/2wwz8yO
Bound by Shadows: https://amzn.to/2C3PiEV
Inconclusive Evidence: https://amzn.to/2PSOHsA
Carbon Replacements: https://amzn.to/2NDUgJQ

“Wendy, I’m t-tellin’ you, the man’s a serial killer. He has the body of a Greek God, but his mind is full of squirming maggots.” Gena stifled a sob with a shaking hand, her body wedging back against the driver’s door after twisting to face her roommate beside her. “He’s more depraved than any fucker we’ve ever crossed, and he’s going to find me.” Aftereffects of the adrenaline rush magnified tremors in her fingers and lips while increasingly shallow breaths expelled carbon dioxide faster than her body could produce it. No doubt, the by-products of dizziness, cramps, and weakness crept into her awareness. Fear-sweat on her forehead glistened from distant flashes of lightning.
“Hey, slow down. Take a deep breath. You’re new to this and easily spooked. Just because men are pigs doesn’t mean they’re murderers. Take the money he gave you and don’t see him again. Change your number. Lay low for a bit.” Wendy startled with the repetitive crash of thunder reverberating in the Honda’s dark and eerie confines. “Can I at least see what’s got your panties in a twist?” She reached for the black cloth covering her friend’s evidence only to be pushed away.
“Oh God, Wendy. I shouldn’t have dragged you and Remie out here tonight. The creep knows I’m a sophomore, but I didn’t tell him which college. I don’t want him to find either of you.”
“Shit, Gena. I may be a student, but I can take care of myself.” A note of uncertainty snaked through Wendy’s voice.
From the back seat, Remie contemplated the wind’s increasing fury, so like her own, sweeping, all encompassing, erratic. Parked along a deserted back road hours before dawn didn’t equate to a tranquil setting when listening to accusations of murder. I should’ve brought my dog. Buckeye would’ve waited in the SUV. She’d just moved back to Portland and lacked the normal discreet channels of investigation derived from time-developed working relationships. Not that I’ve figured out what the problem is yet.
Small raindrops pattering the passenger window progressed to a heavy deluge that silvered with the dashboard’s ambient light. It was a perfect night to snuggle under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and a scary book. Living the scenario brought the rancid taste of bile scalding Remie’s throat.
“Girls, you know I’m a doctor, not a cop, right? What happened to toning life down to live like normal human beings? No more adrenaline junkie. Gena, it’s not like you need the money for tuition. Jesus, if your parents knew what you were doing for thrills, it would kill them both.” Years of schooling in forensic pathology aged Remie decades in the eyes of college girls too naïve to avoid such foolish and dangerous behavior. More than ten years difference thrust her into the role of adopted mentor to the neighborhood wild child with crazy tattooed on her brain.
“Jesus. I’m so sorry, Remie. You spent a night in the hospital last week after wrecking your car. You don’t need this.” Unspoken recriminations gathered around Gena like a smoldering blanket, the flameless combustion withering her resolve.
“I’m fine. The few scrapes and bruises have already healed.”
“I figured a few tricks for kicks, no harm. It’s not like I don’t use condoms, and we’ve only done it a couple times.”
“The harm is that there are real nutjobs out there. Deranged people you do not want to meet. Trust me. I see the results of their work every day during necropsies. It’s what I do… remember?” Visions of Gena lying on a cold slab while an ME separated the upper part of her cranium to create a removable skullcap strengthened Remie’s determination to see the situation resolved.
“Roomie, what makes you think he was a killer? Did he threaten you? Did you see a gun?” Wendy laid a calming hand on her roommate’s arm. “Hell, everybody has guns these days. I’ve got a .357 stashed in my bedside table. Let some psycho come to my dorm looking for easy targets—he’ll get a hollow-point surprise.”
Gena, the cute little kid from the farm next door with wide hazel eyes and curly brown hair had grown up with a nose for trouble, yet usually lacked affiliation with high drama. With the start of the spring semester, the risky escapades should’ve ceased.
 “While he was in the can, I picked the lock on his briefcase, thinking he was some kind of lawyer or something.” If not for the frightened gaze bouncing between the proof clenched in her fingers and the nebulous woods on either side of the lonely road, Gena could’ve been any college student recounting a dicey hazing ritual. The tone and pitch of her voice increased when she unfolded the fabric covering her stolen treasure. “I saw syringes full of something, along with empty containers, and these. I also found alcohol swabs and betadine solution. Who carries betadine in a briefcase?”
“You stole from a John? Are you crazy?” Wendy snatched the wooden box with a huff and a groan.
Detailing around the container’s top edge included an intricate inlay bearing a darker grain. Similar designs decorated urns. “You better hope we can return them before he notices they’re gone. Where did you hook up?”
Wendy slid the lid back on the six-by-six inch square. The smooth glide on concealed grooves further testament to the boosted prize’s value.
Shadows shielded the contents from Remie’s view.
Wendy’s high-pitched scream rendered the burgeoning storm to white noise, instinctual awareness hurling the box’s contents against the windshield. Their arc proved too fast to visually track. Two pink lumps, small and irregularly shaped, formed the basis for a new nightmare.
The rattle and thump of the container ended when it landed perched on the steering wheel, upside down.
“Fuck! What the hell are those?” First medical school, then forensic pathology, enlightened Remie to evil’s worst-case scenarios. Her mom once said that after indoctrination, nothing new would appear under the sun. Whoever created this mayhem transcended anything evolved from humanity’s convoluted gene pool.
A sudden gust of wind and rain blew in as the driver’s door flew open. Gena lurched forward and hunched away from the torrent of slashing storm riding the invading cool blast. Her descent into hell included a flash of silver and guttural laugh.