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First pages

Chapter One

 I am dead.

My eyes cracked open for a moment before I squeezed them shut again. The blazing sunlight ratcheted up my headache from dull to code red. Maybe not dead—not quite yet. I lay on my stomach with my cheek pressed against the sand on a dark, gritty shore.

Waves lapped at my feet, making my one remaining tennis shoe feel tight and cold; I couldn’t feel my other foot. I tried to spit some sand out of my mouth, but failed. The granules remained stuck to my tongue; weakness won.

No, not dead. I just wished I was. 

“Look, Maddie!” said a young voice, maybe nine or ten years old. “A dead body!”

That would be me. Except, I wasn’t quite there yet.

“Cool! I’ve never seen one before. Should we kick it?”

That would not be helpful. I braced myself, waiting for the inevitable pain that would soon follow. I groaned and tried to turn on my side.

“It’s a zombie! Run!”

Sand sprayed in my face as the kids scrambled away. At least, now it was quiet. The only sound was the gentle lapping of the water on the shore. My head ached, my body was wet and freezing, and something warm oozed from my right shoulder. Not good.

 What happened?

I searched, trying to remove the internal block, but came up empty. Almost as if an eraser had wiped all the words from a chalkboard, my mind a blur of colored dust.

 I don’t remember. Not one thing.

 A wrenching pain clamped around my chest with an aching darkness so intense, I could barely breathe. Tears stung, and my heart slowed. Everything stilled. I focused on calming myself, working through the devastating emotional response brought with that one question—what happened?

“We’ve done our bit; just toss her on the shore.” An old man rasped out the words like crackled paper.

A recent memory, I was sure.

“She could die if we leave her. She’s lost a lot of blood,” a younger male voice had said.

“It doesn’t matter. We were paid to deliver her here. It’s only a couple feet deep. Now give her a shove, and let’s get going,” said the old man.

“Sorry,” the younger man had whispered in my ear.

That was the last thing I remembered before hearing the delinquent children contemplating my zombie demise. Blankness stretched before me, a darkness I couldn’t penetrate.

With another groan, I lifted myself up into a sitting position and scanned the beach and surrounding area. I might not know who those men were or why I was dumped here, but I wasn’t going to wait around to find out. A copse of trees and bushes was close, maybe thirty yards away, a suitable place to conceal myself and form a plan.

I took a quick inventory. Torn shirt, jeans with a hole in the left leg, and a missing shoe. Blood seeped from my upper arm. I moved back a little of the fabric, and a small round hole was the cause. The opening appeared jagged—a bullet hole? It was throbbing, but no pain—yet. Sweat formed above my brow. I leaned over to rest my head onto my bent knees.

“I think it’s her,” a deep, male voice said from about two feet away.

Great. I hadn’t moved fast enough. My window to hide—gone.

“It looks like she might be hurt. Should we call for help?” another male voice asked.

“No! No calls. Either the Jacks or the police will find her.”

I rubbed my temples. The police?

“Let’s get her back to the compound and have Doc take a look at her,” the first male voice commanded, sounding irritated.

Compound. That didn’t sound good.

Time to take a look. I raised my head and squinted against the bright sunshine. Two men, around my age, stood looking down at me with hands on hips and furrowed brows.

“Who are you?” I asked in a whisper.

“Friends,” the blond one answered. I blinked a few times, trying to clear my vision. The sun glowed around his sweet and innocent face, the effect halo-like.

 Maybe I died after all.

He sat next to me and touched my hand. Nope, he was real. Inquisitive green eyes and a warm smile lined his face. I should be freaked out, but a sense of comfort replaced my anxiety.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“Not yet,” answered the angelic one.

Oh. I waited for the fear to return, but calmness remained.

“We have to get going,” the other man said, ignoring my question. I glanced in his direction. Every bit as handsome, but he was dark everywhere his friend was light. Dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark expression. He didn’t look friendly—at all. A shiver traveled down my spine.

Two men. One can be trusted, the other not.

Was this a memory? Or was I jumping to conclusions?

The blond man said in a soothing voice, “We’re going to help you. But we need to move you right away.”

“No. I’m not going with you. I don’t know you. I have to go…” Quick, I needed an excuse. Clearing my throat, I added, “I have to go to my Aunt Em’s. She’s expecting me.”

“Good one. Yeah, the tornado that brings you to Oz is a bitch.” A good-humored grin spread across the blond’s face.

Apparently, I needed some practice lying. “Still not going.” I put my head back onto my knees.

The dark-haired man, with his black, accusing eyes, squatted down next to me. “If we wanted to do you harm, don’t you think we would’ve done so by now? This beach is deserted. We could’ve just given you a little push back into the water and waited.”

If I had the energy to roll my eyes, I would. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

The blond one gave the other a punch in the arm. “You’re going to scare her.” He turned back to me. “That’s Devon, my cousin. You don’t have to worry about him. He’s always a little intense.”

I nodded. “Okaaay…”

“Oh, and my name is Archer. I’m the nice one.”

Devon narrowed his eyes and shot Archer a menacing glare. “Can you stop with the chit-chat? This isn’t the time or place. She’s in danger. We need to get her out of here.” He reached down to help me up, but stopped when he noticed my arm. “She’s been shot. Archer, grab my backpack and the blanket from the back seat. We need to keep her warm and start first aid.”

Archer turned and jogged to the same crop of trees where I had planned to escape. My strategy had been doomed from the start.

Devon looked back at me. His dark-lashed, smoky eyes pierced mine as if he were waiting for something.

“What?” I asked.

“I can’t hear you.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

He continued to stare. What was with this guy?

Archer returned, plunking down Devon’s backpack, and placed the blanket over my legs. The chill lessened a bit. He unzipped the main compartment and pulled a first aid kit and a bottle of water.

My tongue swiped against my dry lips, and I almost lunged for it.

Archer squatted next to me. “Do you need help?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Here.” He handed it to me. “It’ll help your headache.”

“How did—”

“You’ve been wincing and rubbing your temples,” Archer said.

Explosions rang through the quiet beach. The backpack split, and pieces of fabric scattered in every direction.

“Gunshots! Go, go go!” Devon yelled.

No way. “What?” I gasped and covered my ears.

“No time,” Archer said as he slipped a hand under my legs and back and picked me up. He carried me, making a dash for the tree line. I looked over my shoulder and saw Devon duck as he grabbed the backpack following close behind.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch.” The numbness left, replaced by a staggering pain in my shoulder. If the bullets didn’t kill me, the rubbing and bouncing against Archer’s chest with my injured arm would.

“Sorry,” Archer whispered.

“What’s happening?” I could barely get the words out with Archer jostling me over the uneven terrain.

“We’ll get you to safety in a minute,” Archer answered. After a chirping sound and a click, he opened the door, dropped me in the back seat, and hopped in next to me.

“Get in, now!” Archer yelled at Devon.

Devon jumped behind the wheel. “Hang on.” He started the Jeep and tore out of the trees and onto a main highway. “We’ll drive to the far side of the island, get her fixed up, and catch the next ferry.”

“What about the Jacks? They’ll be waiting for us at the dock.” Archer’s eyebrows drew together.

“They won’t try anything in a public place. We’ll lose them in Seattle,” Devon answered, and the Jeep lurched forward.

“Okay. We’ll do our usual.” Archer turned to look out the back window.

With my heart about to beat out of my chest, I asked, “Were those gunshots meant for me? Who are these Jacks you keep talking about? Shouldn’t we be calling the police?”

The men shot each other a glance through the rear view mirror.

Archer asked, “How much do you remember?”

 Don’t try to remember yet.

Ugh! Where did that annoying inner voice come from? I must be crazy, because that voice didn’t belong to me.

“Nothing. I remember nothing.” Tears threatened. I blinked to hold them back.

He took my hand and held it in his. I started to pull back, but he tightened his grip.

“Let go of—”

His eyes widened a bit, and he glanced at Devon. “I don’t hear anything.”

“I think she’s blocking.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, finally yanking my hand free.

“Never mind. We don’t have time to explain. We need to get you out of here.” Devon said.

“Why? Who’s after me? Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” Devon answered with a worried glance at me in the mirror. His eyes carefully swept the surrounding area before he turned off onto a deserted road and pulled over. “We really need to bandage your arm. Come on, let’s make this quick.

“Who was shooting at us?”

Devon groaned. “We can talk about this at the compound. Right now, your health and safety are all we care about.”

Archer hopped out of the Jeep and laid a blanket on the ground. He motioned me to come and sit.

I sat and Devon stood next to me, on guard.

More questions spun through my brain. “Would I be in jail in your compound?”

 “No,” Devon answered.

Archer sat next to me. “It’ll be okay.”

Not feeling like it was okay, I rubbed my forehead. “I have more questions.”

“All right,” Archer said. “Ask me anything.”

Devon’s eyes turned toward the sky, his lips moving in a silent dialogue. I’d guess he was either counting or swearing.

“Where is the compound, and why do you call it that?”

“It’s in North Bend, you know, right before you get to the mountain pass,” Archer said.

My mind drew a blank. “I don’t know where that is.”

“These questions could go on all day. I need to cover your wound.” Devon leaned over to rip open the first aid kit, and pulled out the supplies—gauze, scissors, and some anti-bacterial cleanser. “I’ll bandage your arm, then you can drill us with questions later.”

“But—”

“Hold still.” Devon placed his hand on my shoulder and began to cut my shirt. Where he touched, felt warm and tingly. My headache faded, and the tingly feeling moved and swirled around my entire body. I felt almost normal, the pain gone.

“Why does that feel so good?” I asked.

They both froze. Oh dear God, I said that out loud. Where did my filter go? The warmth started at my neck and worked its way up to the top of my head.

Archer, wide-eyed, shoved Devon to the side. “Don’t you dare!”

“I didn’t do anything! She’s just feeling a little better.” He glanced at me and asked, “Right?

“Yes. Um, yeah. Much better. I’m a little light-headed though.”

Archer hesitated and studied Devon for a moment. “I’d better clean her up—just in case.”

Devon raised his hands and said, “She’s all yours.”

Were these two always so competitive?

Archer finished applying the bandage with care. He held out his hand to help me up.

Would I feel the tingles with him, too? I slowly raised my good arm, and he seized my hand. Oh, good. It felt normal.

Although I’d begun to feel better physically, my emotional state was in question. Was I really considering going with them? My choices were limited. I could stay on the beach and dodge gunfire or go back to their compound. Confused and disorientated, I weighed my options. I shouldn’t go with them. But the answer yes started to creep into my consciousness. Did I trust them because they were so beautiful? Ugh. I hoped I wasn’t that superficial. No, they saved me from whoever was shooting at us.

“We have some information about you. We’ve been sent to help you.” Devon paused and looked at Archer.

“You seem to know more about me than I do.”

“We think you’re a Reader,” Archer blurted.

“Oh, God. Now you’re going to have to explain that,” Devon said. “Can we just leave before the Jacks find us again? Come on, let’s get her back into the Jeep.”

I ignored him and closed my eyes for a moment. Reader. That word sparked something in me. I visualized thousands and thousands of books. They were lined up on shelves that took up an entire room—floor to ceiling. The room was safe and warm and beautiful. The memory filled me with a love so intense, it knocked the air from my lungs.

With a shaky breath, I said, “Yes! I read! I remember. Oh, thank goodness. I remembered something.” And then it hit me.

No!

 “You’ve done it now, Archer. She’s going to remember before we get her to the doctor. We’ll need to use a sedative.”

“Why would I need a—” I started.

Two kind, loving faces smiling at me. My mom and dad. Then the picture vanished like a metal door had slammed shut. I held my head and tried to get the memory back, but it was gone.

For some reason, the image filled me with relief and sadness at the same time. A lump formed in my throat, and tears welled. “I think I remember my parents.” I fought the urge to cry, and asked, “Why can’t I remember?” Despite my best efforts, a few tears and a sob escaped.

“Hush,” Archer said. “It’s going to be all right.” He helped me up and looped an arm around my waist.

Get it together. I let him lead me to their Jeep. Once Archer buckled me into the back seat, I calmed down a little. But the tears wouldn’t stop.

Devon got back behind the steering wheel and rattled off instructions. “Make sure she changes out of her bloody shirt. I have an extra sweatshirt in the backpack. When we get to the ferry, put a pillow under her head, and she can pretend she’s taking a nap. Call your dad, tell him we found her and to get Doc ready. Gunshot wound, possible hypothermia and shock. Oh, and get that blanket back on her.”

Distracted by his demands, my crying tapered off. Man, he was bossy. 

Archer gave a little waggle of his eyebrows. “We better do as he says or else he’ll get grumpy.”

“You mean grumpier? Is that possible?” I asked.

 “Yeah.” He rubbed my uninjured arm. “You’re going to be all right.”

Drying my face with my sleeve, I made a decision. I wouldn’t succumb to the tears or the sadness that tried to burrow deep. Somewhere, somehow, I knew I was stronger than this.

“What are you waiting for? Let’s get going,” I called to the front seat.

Devon turned and looked back at me with narrowed eyes. Oh, now he was suspicious?

“The sooner we get to your compound, or whatever you call it, the quicker I can regain my memory and get back home.”

His eyes softened. Wait. He wasn’t the nice one. This couldn’t be good.

“I do have a home to go to, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “You do have a home.” He started the Jeep and reversed out of the trees.

I had a sinking feeling his idea of home and mine wouldn’t be the same.

Chapter Two

The journey from the San Juan Islands to North Bend, Washington passed without incident. Devon announced at the beginning of our trip there would be no more conversation until we arrived at the compound. After drinking water and warming up, I felt well enough to start in with my questions, but they both remained tight-lipped. Even the affable Archer, who looked like it took every bit of restraint not to respond, kept his mouth shut due to threats from Devon to report Archer to his dad.

Devon is a jerk.

We pulled up to a huge, gated community locked behind twelve-foot-high concrete walls and a wrought-iron gate. I peered between the black, metal pickets and spotted a few beige and brown homes sitting on large, ornately landscaped lots.

“So, is your dad the leader of your tribe?” I asked Archer.

“Kind of,” he said.

“Has the question ban been lifted?” I asked.

“No.” Devon’s irritated voice grumbled from the front seat.

Archer gave my arm a pat. “We’re almost there.”

“This looks like a normal neighborhood,” I said.

“We’re back,” Devon shouted to the gatehouse guard. Dressed in a blue military uniform, the stocky male sentry wore a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“I take it back. This is not normal.”

“The guard is here for us. It’s important we have privacy.” Archer unrolled his window and flashed some sort of badge.

I examined the towering walls surrounding the neighborhood. The sun was bright, reflecting off a wire sitting two inches above the wall as far as the eye could see.

Hmm. I’d bet that wire would not be fun to touch. Maybe even deadly?

“Why do you need this much privacy?” I rubbed my sweaty hands down the legs of my tattered jeans.

“All in good time, my pretty.” Archer’s eyes crinkled at the corners.

I groaned. “That again? You plan to use that against me for the duration of my stay here?”

Archer burst out laughing. “You gotta admit—that was lame. Auntie Em’s? Who doesn’t know that line?”

Even though the crying portion of my ordeal was over, I didn’t laugh along.

My shoulders sagged. “I don’t know. I’m a little confused.”

“Oh, that’s right. Sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck and his eyes did this softening thing.

“It’s okay.”

With lips close to my ear, he said, “Don’t worry about anything. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you while you’re with us. If anyone bothers you, just come to me. Okay?”

“What are you two whispering about back there?” Devon asked.

He was bossy and nosy.

“I was just telling her about the hiking paths around here.” Archer smiled and winked.

“There won’t be any hiking for a while. You got that, Archer?”

“Got it,” Archer answered back with crossed arms and a frown.

This was the second time I sensed tension between them. I tried to diffuse it by saying, “I probably won’t feel like hiking for at least a few days.” I turned back toward Archer. “We could go then?”

“No,” Devon’s clipped voice answered for him.

Archer shrugged. “He’s right. We’ll probably need to get you through the initiation first.”

“What initiation?” I asked, but wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Crawling into a soft bed and sleeping for days or weeks sounded like a good plan.

“We’ll get to all that after Doc sees you,” Devon said, giving me a brief glance in the mirror.

I leaned back in my seat and decided to accept my fate…for now. After we passed through the guard station, we crisscrossed through the peaceful neighborhood with its wrought iron fences, large yards and expensive homes.

The unique architecture elevated the neighborhood from generic to eclectic, a mix of Frank Lloyd Wright with a little Le Corbusier thrown in. Contemporary lines, huge window walls, simple millwork with clean, straight lines.

I could remember particular architects and their individual styles, but nothing about myself? That didn’t seem right.

Even with my lack of memory, though, there was something about Archer and Devon that brought me a sense of comfort, maybe even belonging. It was almost like I knew them before. But no, I was sure they would have mentioned it.

“Who owns all these houses?” I asked.

“We all do,” Devon said.

“Really? How many people live here?” I turned toward Archer.

“Three hundred and forty-two,” Devon answered, even though I’d spoken to Archer.

“Hey, you got a little information from the Grinch.” Archer chuckled.

I giggled into my hand, not wanting Devon to shut down the flow of information again.

The neighborhood was quiet as we continued to weave our way through the twisty streets. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s home.”

Wait. Something was off. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but the shades were drawn in every single house. There weren’t garbage cans out at the curb; no bikes or toys littered the lawns. The neighborhood seemed quiet. Too clean and perfect.

“People don’t live in these houses, do they?” I asked.

“Perceptive,” Devon said under his breath.

“I heard that.” I curbed the desire to stick out my tongue, opting for restraint. Instead, I kept up with my questions. “Why are they empty?”

“It’s the privacy issue I mentioned before,” Archer said.

“You need empty houses in order to maintain privacy? These homes had to cost a fortune. How did your compound people pay for this?” I glanced back and forth between them.

Devon brushed his fingers through his unruly hair, making it even messier, and let out a long breath.

“Well?” I asked, trying to keep my voice sweet to coax out the answer.

“I know you’re curious, but we won’t be able to answer all your questions right away,” Devon said.

“Why?”

He slowed the car and turned to look at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Another question. Gotcha.” I bit my lip and decided to busy myself by looking out the back window, memorizing the path we’d taken. Maybe I’d need the information one day.

The last leg of our journey led us down a bumpy, dirt road with a large mountain looming in front of us.

The car came to a halt. “We’re here,” Archer said as he unbuckled his seat belt.

“Deploy the signal,” Devon instructed Archer.

Archer jumped out of the car and bent over a small tree stump. He reached inside, pulled out a metal bar, and twisted. With a push downward, it disappeared back into the ground.

“What did he just do?”

Devon tapped his fingers on the wheel. “You can’t help yourself, can you?”

“You don’t have to be so…so, I don’t know, bratty about it.” I threw my good hand up in frustration.

A smile tugged on his lips. He coughed into his hand.

I saw you smile.

Archer hopped back into the seat next to me. “All set.”

Devon reached over to the glovebox and removed a small, rectangular instrument, pressing lighted buttons at a rapid speed. What now?

A loud crunching and metal scraping sound shifted my attention to the steep embankment. I stared in disbelief as a door slid open in the face of the mountain, with a tunnel that appeared just big enough for the Jeep.

“Wait a minute. What’s that?” I whispered. My heart beat erratically, and I had to remind myself to breathe.

“This is where we live.” Archer’s gaze searched my face. “Welcome to Samara.”

“Samara?”

“Yes. It means mountain home.”

I gripped my chest in an attempt to quiet the loud thudding. My hands began to shake.

“Don’t freak out. It’s really nice in there. You’ll like it.”

“No. I think I have claustrophobia.” I took a few quick breaths. “I take that back. I know I do.” I nodded, hoping to convince them not to drive forward. My stomach sank, and my chest tightened, certain a panic attack was in my near future.

Archer took my hand in his. “It’s open and spacious once you get past the tunnel. We have hundreds of thousands of tube holes built into the mountain so it has natural light. It doesn’t feel cramped or crowded in any way.”

“How big is it? On the inside I mean,” I squeaked out.

“We’ve built three hundred and fifty thousand square feet spread throughout a square mile.” Archer smiled. “It’s huge.”

“Wow.” Maybe I could deal with huge.

“Everyone who lives here has about a thousand square feet of living space,” he added.

“How did you… Never mind. I don’t think you’ll answer anyway.”

“Samara has been here for over five hundred years,” Archer continued.

“What?” My mouth dropped open. “How could that be?”

“Question and answer time is over. You gonna go into meltdown if I drive in there?” Devon asked with his usual impatient tone.

Yes.

“No,” I answered.

Chapter Three

The Jeep jostled over the last few feet of road before the entrance. My sweaty, right hand stayed glued for dear life to the door handle, which ratcheted up the pain in my shoulder tenfold.

Not smart. I relaxed my hold.

Devon turned his head back in my direction again, his eyes resting on my shoulder. “You’d better get some pressure on her wound; it’s starting to bleed again.” He grabbed a package out of his first aid kit and threw it back to Archer. “Make sure to press down firmly.”

“Ann, close your eyes. It’ll make it easier,” Archer said.

“Ann?” The name didn’t sound familiar. “My name is Ann? Are you sure?”

“God, Archer.” Devon glared at Archer before his dark eyes shifted toward me.

“What? She should know her own name. Or is that secret, too?” Archer smacked his fist against the door. The action startled me at first. But I figured Archer was frustrated because he wanted to protect me. With his beautiful green eyes and genuine smile, I would bet any girl would want him as their protector.

“Guys! The name is fine. It just didn’t sound right at first for some reason.”

Archer’s eyes searched mine. “I’m sorry for the slip.”

“It’s okay.”

At least I had one friend.

A buzzing sound overhead had me looking out the window and up toward the sky.

“Just great.” Devon groaned.

“What was that?” I asked

“A drone,” Archer answered.

Devon shouted, “Duck! They’re just over the hill.”

I bent forward. “Who are we hiding from?”

“The Jacks.”

Ugh. Them again?

“Floor it. Let’s get out of here,” Archer shouted.

“Hang on.” Devon yelled as the Jeep sped forward. We went up a small incline and into the opening. Once inside, there was another loud screech of metal against metal as the doors closed, blanketing us in darkness. I let myself relax for a moment before I realized we were inside and I couldn’t see a thing.

“I thought you said there was natural sunlight in here,” I said to Archer as beads of moisture formed on my forehead.

He squeezed my hand. “After the tunnel.”

Floodlights came to life, illuminating the small area. It was impressive for a tunnel. I just didn’t want to have to travel through it. Red bricks covered the semi-circle from top to bottom. The grout between each brick almost sparkled, like they’d just completed an upgrade. It even smelled good, like rain on concrete. I made an internal checklist. Heart rate—good. Breathing—normal. Sweat—under control. Panic attack—not going to happen. Right shoulder—bad.

“Just a few more minutes and we’ll see Doc. He’ll fix you right up,” Archer said.

“Okay.” My first feelings of claustrophobia didn’t follow me, thank goodness. As we traveled through the tunnel, the structure fascinated me. An architectural work of art—perfectly round with bricks spaced evenly. After another couple hundred feet, the Jeep came to a stop. Again, Archer jumped out and walked up to the next set of metal doors. He put his hand on a pad next to the doorframe. An opening in the panel shot out, and a laser light zoomed right into his eyes.

“You guys weren’t kidding about the privacy thing.”

Devon rubbed his forehead.

God, she’s killing me.

“What? Who’s killing you?” I asked.

Devon quit rubbing his head, and his body stilled. He turned slowly and stared at me.

Archer returned to the car and took his seat next to me. “All set. Let’s go see Doc.” He gave my leg a pat and looked up when he noticed Devon wasn’t moving. “Devon, I said let’s go.” When he didn’t get an answer, he asked, “What’s wrong with him? Were you two fighting?”

“No. I just asked him a question. He said someone was killing him, and I asked who.”

“Devon?” Archer asked.

“I have a headache, that’s all. I said it was killing me.”

I gaped at him. Why did he lie?

“Oh, well, maybe you can have Doc take a look at you, too,” Archer offered.

“I’ll be fine.”

After passing through the set of doors, the Jeep made a swerve to the right, and everything opened up. A huge parking garage with fluorescent lighting that illuminated hundreds of cars spread out before us. Devon pulled into a parking space right next to a set of elevators. He rummaged through his backpack and pulled out another electronic device, pushed a button, and spoke into it. “We have her. We’re in.”

“Aren’t you going to add ‘mission accomplished’?” I asked.

Archer turned his face down to look at his hands, his lips pressed together. He gave up and laughed. “Devon, you did sound a little James Bond-ish.”

“Try to remember this isn’t a joke. She’s injured, and we need to get her transported right away.” His piercing gaze studied us both. I hadn’t noticed it before, but his eyes were dark blue, not black like I’d thought. I tried to look closer, but he shut them for a moment and shook his head.

He was right; my shoulder had begun to throb again even though it had stopped bleeding. Once the bullet injury was taken care of, hopefully someone would tell me what had happened—mainly, why I was in this strange place.

First, I had to ask, “Please, I don’t want to go any farther without knowing about the Jacks. Who or what are they?”

They sat stone-faced and didn’t answer. I crossed my arms and stared at each one. A few minutes passed. “Well?” I broke the silence.

Archer glanced at Devon. He gave a slight nod.

“The Jacks want to wipe us off the planet. They send out drones on a regular basis, trying to locate our position.”

“Why?”

“We’ve been at war with them for years. It’s one reason for our compound and our need for security and privacy.”

War with some group named the Jacks. What had I gotten myself into? “Why did you bring me here if these Jack people want to kill you?”

“We believe they want you more than us. Take my word for it—you do not want them to find you.”

My stomach dropped. “Why would anyone be after


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

MK has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she'd like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance - eFestival of Words- August 2014) When she's not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading (!)


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