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First pages

Chapter 1

Dreams

Warm, light seeped into the small room. A single mattress was pushed against the side wall covered in mismatched sheets, and a cheap plastic box of drawers held a few simple clothes. Killian Thomas breathed deeply trying to slow his heart as the happy sunrise shook him from his fitful sleep. The dark, lurking figures from his nightmare had hissed and argued angrily in a damp, moss ridden hallway. Their conversation was wicked to the core, but the most upsetting part of their devious plans involved his death.

Rolling from the old mattress he wiped the sweat off his face and pushed back his thick mud-colored hair. The nightmares were getting worse, and the two mystery villains seemed to be creeping into his mind more often, as if it were something Killian needed to know. He didn't know why he was being haunted with dreams filled with people seeking to kill him, he was no threat to anyone. In fact he felt quite the opposite. There was nothing extraordinary about him, just a young man with no family, few friends—mediocre in every sense.

The thoughts toppled through his mind as he rubbed his sky-blue eyes trying to wipe the memories of the distant corridor from his mind.

“Killian! Come eat, you’re going to be late!”

The wooden steps echoed as he bounded down the narrow stairway. Stepping into the bright blue and white kitchen, he brushed his wavy hair out of his eyes before Laura, his foster mother, could do it for him.

“Sorry Laura, I overslept,” Killian breathed as he plopped down in front of his cereal.

He glanced at the graying, blonde woman and immediately pursed his lips as the sun caught the side of her face. A hideous, purple bruise covered her high cheek bone underneath her thin wire-rimmed glasses. He could tell she had crudely tried to hide it with make-up, but the swollen lump reared its ugly head on her thin face. Killian angrily dug his spoon into his cereal and shoveled the cardboard-like flakes into his mouth. He didn't know why he felt guilty about the bruise; he didn't give it to her. He scanned over the lean definition in his upper arms underneath his T-shirt. Inwardly, he vowed to protect Laura better. As if she knew what he was thinking, Laura put a hand gently on his arm, until he looked at her again.

“Did you have another dream? Those have been keeping you up a lot lately. If you don’t get some sleep Donna is going to start thinking we’re neglecting you and she’ll take you outta here.” She gave him a kind, motherly smile.

He smirked. As of last month Donna, his family service worker, no longer had a say where Killian ended up. He often wondered why he stayed. After aging out, legally there was no reason to stay. He cared about Laura; she had taken good care of him for ten years. Richard was the reason he would leave and never look back. Ironically, he was also the reason Killian wanted to stay. If he left no one would protect Laura from his rages.

“Now that you mention it, I did have a strange dream,” he finally answered, trying to push his thoughts back down inside him. “I was trapped in a cold stone hallway. As I tried to escape I overheard a conversation...I think it was two men, I'm not sure." Killian waved his hand in front of his face. "It’s hard to remember everything now that I’m awake,” he said, shoving another spoonful into his mouth. Killian omitted the dream figure inclinations toward killing him. Laura would spend the afternoon pouring over The Meaning of Dreams, her favorite book. Since he'd come to live with the Petersons the dreams had taken place, almost as if they were reminding him of his past, or warning him of his future. Laura had taken a keen interest in it, and often tried to uncover their hidden meanings.

Laura opened her mouth to inquire more on the subject, but was stopped by a knock at the door.

“That’ll be Blake, I suppose,” she said, an edge of disappointment at the interruption in her voice. "I'll read over some pages in my book while you're out. We'll get to the bottom of your dream. The part with you being trapped in darkness must mean something."

Killian rolled his eyes and slurped one last bite of cereal.

“What time will you be back?” Laura asked when Killian stood up.

“We’ll be gone for a while, I’d guess,” he answered while shrugging his shoulders. “We’re hoping to have a bonfire with some people on the beach.”

Killian and Laura both turned their heads toward the front door that had creaked open.

“Laura, my love! You look more gorgeous than ever!” the young man said overly dramatic. His collared shirt was unfolded upward, hitting just below his jaw line, but the strange black inked, double-moon tattoo was still visible on his neck.

“Blake, now there is no need for your sappy sucking up, Killian’s coming,” Laura chuckled turning toward the flaxen-haired young man. Blake winced slightly when he glanced at the fading bruise. Laura, feeling self-conscious, hung her head and began gathering the dishes from the table. “Well, you kids take care, and pick up some salt water taffy for me.”

Killian smiled. Laura gave the request each time he went to the boardwalk in Seaside. He'd determined she believed the taffy was only available at that location.

“Don’t worry Laura we’ll bring you a huge bag. Take care of yourself okay,” Blake said sounding sincere. Killian waved at the woman and walked out the door.

“Man, he made a mess of her this time didn’t he?” Blake huffed, as they drove toward the boardwalk.

“I don’t know how much more I can stand, Blake. Why does she just put up with it? Me, I can take it, but Laura? She’s just too good, too forgiving,” Killian said bitterly.

Richard had often roughed him up as a younger boy, though he had always been careful about pounding him in easy to conceal areas in order to keep the abuse hidden from Child Protective Services. In recent years, however, Killian had grown significantly larger than the man and the rages had subsided. The downside was now his pent up anger was doubled against Laura.

“Laura was joking this morning about my case worker taking me away cause I’m not sleeping. To be honest, some days, I want to leave and never look back.” Killian finished as he looked out the window. His hand found the gold charm he had worn around his neck for as long as he could remember. Blake simply nodded.

They sat in a tense silence for a moment before Blake finally asked, “Why don’t you leave?”

“What?” He was annoyed that Blake had the courage to point out the obvious— that he could leave. He had no reason to stay and endure the hidden abuse.

“I mean, why don't you leave? You’re old enough to be on your own, dude. You can finish school somewhere else. How long have you been with them anyway?”

“Ten years. I was with a lot of different families for three years, then placed with Richard and Laura.”

“So why do you stay?”

Killian scoffed. Blake was trying to make him feel better about leaving, but the fact that it was true and he was out of the system made his gut twist in knots. Donna hadn't cared what he decided to do when he turned eighteen. She had seemed relieved when he said he was going to stay put. It made for less work and scholarship programs she was required to provide when kids stepped into the big world alone after growing up in the system. Laura had pleaded with him to stay. Wanting to see him graduate was her reasoning, but he figured she was afraid to be alone with Richard. Killian had agreed because he didn’t feel right leaving Laura alone.

Laura had mentioned numerous times the idea of adopting Killian, but Richard never agreed. It was his subtle insult to Killian— he would never be good enough to be his son.

Richard was a respectable business owner in Seaside. He owned several sandwich franchises and often donated to non-profits. Richard's status painted a loving image in the community. Killian thought Donna rather naive. She had mentioned on numerous occasions he was fortunate to live in such a home, even if they didn't adopt him. If only she knew, he thought bitterly.

“I still can’t believe you don’t remember your family, you weren't placed in the system until you were what—five or something?” Blake asked.

“I just don’t remember. I’ve had weird dreams about a red-headed woman before—sometimes I’ve wondered if the dream was a memory but…” Killian trailed off for a moment before gathering his thoughts. “Why would I want to live with a family that just ditched me anyway? Obviously they kept me for five years then decided to call it quits.” His tone of voice came out bitter and angry, which seemed to surprise Blake.

“I get it I guess. They might be dead, though," Blake said. "I'm not trying to be crass. I just think if you found out they were alive, living with them would be better than Richard. Anything would.”

“I guess not everyone can live the high life like you, Blake. How much did good ol’ grandpa dish out today just to get you out of the house?” Killian teased trying to change the direction of the conversation.

“You can’t put a price on the love we share Kill!” Blake laughed. “Besides, it’s the only way you get to hang out with the pretty girls! I can only help you out so much, though. You’ve got to leave your pretty jewelry alone Kill.” Blake laughed nodding toward his incessant rubbing of the charm.

Killian gave Blake’s shoulder a hard punch, causing their car to swerve slightly into the other lane. Even so, he obeyed and tucked the circular charm back underneath his shirt. He always wore it—in truth the idea of taking it off made him physically sick. He didn’t understand where the connection came from. It was tacky and unattractive. The faded gold looked ancient and the circle had a hideous crack fissuring to the top of the charm.

“What?” Blake was laughing, his face lit up in his typical mischievous manner. “It's true dude, you’ve got to hide the necklace. And don’t joke about my grandparents. I guess they give me stuff to keep me busy; I can’t help it if my antics exhaust them!” Blake paused for a moment waiting for the street light to change to green.

“You know Kill, I have to admit, I'm glad you hang around. Us parentless kids gotta stick together.”

“Thanks, Blake,” Killian said, touched by the statement.

“Whoa, don’t sound so gushy dude. I don’t want to organize a club or anything,” Blake’s eyes widened. “Hey, wait! Maybe we should. I know a little girl down the street who makes awesome elastic bracelets! We could have matching ones. Let’s do it!”

“Shut up!” Killian said, shoving him again. Blake started laughing so hard tears formed in the corners of his eyes. Killian just shook his head. Despite the joking, he often wished he could convey how much he envied Blake and his odd, but loving relationship with his elderly grandparents.

“I need some gas; while I fill up, will you go buy me some gum? Amanda is going to be there tonight—I better be prepared,” Blake chuckled as he pulled into the gas station.

Within a half hour they sauntered along the beach where several other people were standing around a charcoal barbeque laughing and holding roasting sticks. Killian didn’t recognize many of them, but knew some were from school. Blake scanned the small group apparently looking for Amanda. She hadn’t arrived yet and Blake’s disappointment was painted all across his face.

Blake was always the exuberant one, even though he’d only moved to Seaside a few years earlier he had more friends and acquaintances than Killian could ever dream. The rushing tide and crashing waves along the rocky shore calmed Killian’s nerves he experienced every time he was pushed into a crowd, especially when it was people he didn’t know well.

“Blake!” a high voice called from up the beach. Spinning around Blake and Killian watched as Amanda and her brunette side kick marched up the beach, swinging two packs of beer in each hand. Killian groaned in his throat, Blake turned and gave his shoulder a friendly punch.

“Don’t worry Kill, it won’t get out of control,” Blake whispered, trying to keep Killian’s disgust for alcohol a secret from the others.

Killian rolled his eyes and walked toward the shore. He’d learned from experience with the Petersons, nothing could change a person more than those drinks Amanda swung around playfully.

Killian found himself standing behind a couple as Amanda passed around the drinks. The young man next to the girl with long chestnut-colored hair took two cans and offered one to the her. Killian watched as she shook her head and looked away.

“More for me,” her date shrugged and laughed gulping down a large amount. The girl turned around, disappointment written in her smooth brown skin. Killian was instantly captivated. Her features were bright, yet also dark and fierce and her emerald-colored eyes glistened in the sunlight forcing him to keep staring at her.

To his embarrassment the girl met his gazing eye and scanned him up and down. Killian’s palms started sweating when she stepped off the log, glancing back at the young man she was with, who was already working on his third can. She rolled her eyes and walked toward Killian.

“Hi,” she said sweetly. “I don’t think I’ve seen you at school before.”

Killian shrugged stupidly. His stomach turned in knots when the girl’s perfect smile spread across her face. “I’m Killian,” he whispered.

“Good to meet you Killian. I’m Merc…”

“Dezzy! Dez,” the slurred voice of the young man interrupted her. “Come on lets go have some fun.” He pulled her closer to him and planted loud, wet kisses along her neck. Killian shuddered at the awkward display.

“Ugh, Kevin stop. You’re a sloppy drunk.” Her voice was angry and frustrated as she tried to push him away. The tone made Killian’s heart pound in frustration. Kevin’s face darkened and he gripped her upper arm hard.

“We’re going. Now.” He pulled her away back toward the boardwalk. Killian knew she didn’t want to go with him. His skin burned as he yearned to keep her from drunk Kevin.

“Hey,” he called after the two, but was drowned out by a loud shout of disgust.

“Ahhhh! Gross!” Blake was slowly picking up each foot and looking on in horror. “Kill! We have to go…NOW!” Killian watched as a swaying Amanda leaned in toward Blake’s face. Disgusted Blake pushed her away gently and marched over to Killian.

The strong smell of vomit burned his nostrils when Blake stood next to him.

“We’re outta here,” Blake huffed. Killian looked to see if the emerald-eyed girl was still close, but she was gone. His heart sunk, but he still laughed at Blake and his vomit soaked shoes.

***

Blake pulled into Killian’s driveway and let out an exaggerated sigh. “Sorry man, this was supposed to be an all-day thing,” he pouted.

“Tell Mandy not to chug so many drinks next time, okay. Its nasty stuff anyway.” Killian teased Blake. He was amused by what had happened, but his thoughts often drifted to concern for the girl drug away by blubbering Kevin.

"Amanda didn't know you have a weird issue with alcohol," Blake said defensively.

"I told her at school I hate the stuff. Come on Blake you don't honestly like her do you?"

"Why do you say it as if it’s a bad thing?" he asked, looking confused.

"Blake," Killian laughed and covered his face with his hands, "the girl thought she could chug five beers! She threw up on your shoes and then tried to kiss you!"

Blake squirmed in his seat, but didn’t say anything more about Amanda. “Well, have an awesome evening hanging out with Mama Laura! I've got to go wash this smell out of my shoes. Maybe you guys can watch a nice Cary Grant.” Blake laughed at his own sarcasm. Killian scoffed, but couldn’t help but smile at the reference to Laura’s obsession.

Perhaps it was her escape from Richard, Killian wondered to himself. She loved to run back in time to the simplicity of the classics.

The house was dark inside, which was surprising since it was so early in the evening. Killian saw all the blinds were pulled shut and that made his hair stand on end. Setting the brown paper bag full of taffy on the kitchen table he knew something was wrong.

“Laura?” he called out as he began to traipse the halls of the large house. He heard a thud upstairs toward her bedroom. Killian ran up the stairs two at a time, he hadn’t seen Richard’s car—unless…

Killian rushed down the hallway even faster to the master bedroom. Often times Richard would leave his car at the office, and lock his door so his employees would think he was in a meeting, then slip out on the bus when he felt a rage coming on. If anyone ever saw a battered Laura, he would have an alibi to clear his involvement. The eccentric strategy had worked numerous times; it made Killian hate the man even more. It revealed how premeditated and deliberate all his attacks had been.

The door to the master bedroom was cracked open. Killian paused, unsure if he dared enter the shadowed room until the hall was filled with a loud SMACK followed by a gurgled groan. Killian burst into the room—the sight before him made his stomach churn and he was afraid he would lose the contents on the soft Italian carpet.

Richard stood over his wife, holding a clump of her light hair in his hand. His athletic build heaving from the exertion of beating her down. The French cuffed, perfectly pressed, white shirt was splattered in fresh blood. Laura lay on the floor with her eyes closed; at least Killian imagined they were. Her face was plastered with thick, streams of blood and swelling had already started to set in. The room smelled metallic and it made Killian feel certain he would be sick.

Richard reeled around at the sound of the door opening and glared at Killian, his black eyes seething with anger and power. He smirked at the younger man as if to prove how out of his hands the situation was.

“Looking to be a hero?" Richard hissed. "You—are—the most insig...insignificant waste of space I have 'er seen.” The words slipped out of his mouth so slurred the insult was barely audible—the man was obviously drunk.

The ridiculous statement boiled beneath Killian’s skin. A strange sensation overwhelmed him; he felt his insides being split in two. A strange rage filled him, followed by a seething hate. It was almost as if Killian was feeling emotions that were not his own—emotions that matched the expression on Richard’s face. He hated the man to be sure, but not with such passion and viciousness as he was feeling. The sensation made Killian’s head spin—he couldn’t understand the strangeness of the feeling, but he quickly acted on the feeling of rage, even if it was causing discomfort. The anger built up inside him until his body seemed to perform of its own accord.

Killian immediately rushed between the two people, causing Richard to stumble for a moment. He stood over the battered, moaning woman in an attempt to protect her. Richard stumbled toward him, tripping on his feet, but caught himself. This attack was unlike others, Richard's eyes were pure black—there was no light. Killian had to protect Laura, or she may not live through the night. A strange sensation pooled in his chest, almost as if his desire to defend formed into physical matter. He coughed and weakened slightly as the feeling seeped through his pores and toward Laura. It was an insane thought, but he could almost see a barrier forming around Laura, leaving her protected for the time being. Shaking his head, he focused again on a drunken Richard. The man was attempting a charge again, and without thought, the fire that burned through his blood pushed his fist toward the side of Richard’s taught jaw.

Richard stumbled backward from the blow and fell against the couple’s dresser, slicing the side of his head. A clean trail of blood trickled down his temple from his scalp. Richard’s mouth fell open dumbly, a flash of anger ripped through his vicious eyes. Killian recognized the hate. He had lived with it most of his life, but he also saw hesitation now that his foster father had witnessed a greater strength. Richard lifted his head toward his closet and Killian’s heart pounded—he knew he kept his 9mm on the top shelf.

Killian rushed in front of his line of sight and pushed Richard back against the wall.

“Don’t bother Richard, I’m leaving, you won’t see me again. Just remember every time you beat her down, you are nothing—nothing but a worthless, sorry excuse for a man.” Killian spat at the stunned man’s feet then rushed out of the room.

His heart panged. Perhaps I should stay and protect Laura, he thought to himself. He quickly talked himself out of the idea, believing that Richard may kill them both if he tried to take her. Something inside him urged him to leave, he knew the attack on Laura was over—though he didn't know how he knew it. Rushing down the stairs he quickly dialed 9-1-1 on the phone in the kitchen. His breath grew ragged as he heard Richard scuffling off the floor above him.

"9-1-1 what is your emergency?" the calm female voice sounded on the other end.

"He attacked her," he breathed into the phone. Before the operator could answer, Killian left the call on the line and abandoned it to the counter. He heard Laura's sobs, but Richard’s sloshing feet on the stairs urged him to move. He had to leave now, or he wouldn't leave at all. Killian rushed out the front door and ran—he knew there was only one place he would be safe.

A half hour later, Blake shoved Killian down the stairs to his grandparents’ basement.

“You really hit him Kill? Are you crazy?” Blake breathed quietly.

“You should’ve seen her, Blake. He was going to kill her, I know he would’ve.” Killian was still reeling from the adrenaline rush of the entire ordeal.

“You should’ve called the cops man, Richard will never let you live now.”

“I tried, but…” Killian didn’t finish and swallowed a lump built up in his throat. Blake didn’t know how true he believed that statement was. Richard was violent, and had no love in his heart for Killian. His life as he had known it was over.

The two boys rested on the soft leather couch. They sat in silence, neither knowing what to say.

A knock came to the front door and Blake shuffled upstairs to answer it. Killian recognized that Blake did a lot of work for his grandparents around the house. In truth, Killian had never met the two elderly people. Blake said they spent the majority of their days at the country club spending their vast retirement fund. He knew at this time of night they were most likely in bed, although it was still early for their grandson.

“Kill, uh—you gotta come here dude,” he heard Blake’s nervous voice call from the top of the stairs. He swallowed hard, readying himself to face Richard, who he was certain had sniffed him out to Blake’s house.

To his surprise, he was met at the front door by a hefty dark man in a police uniform. His lanky partner leaned against the side of the house, putting on a stern, serious face that meant he was in no mood for delinquent behavior.

“Killian Thomas?” the officer asked.

“Yes.”

“Killian Thomas you are under arrest for the assault on a Mrs. Laura Peterson, you have the right to remain silent…”

The man’s voice blurred as he continued to read him his rights. This was not happening. He hadn’t touched Laura. The police officer reached for his wrist to place the cold handcuffs around it, but Killian yanked it away.

“No, this isn’t right! I stopped it! It was Richard, I called you,” Killian was shouting and desperately fighting against the officer.

Blake had a hand on his forehead and just stared, not knowing what to do for his friend. The hefty officer gripped his wrist so hard Killian shouted out in pain. The second, lanky officer had joined his partner and was helping detain Killian.

“It's okay, Kill. It will work out,” Blake shouted, trying to reassure him. “Laura will tell them what really happened! I’ll talk to my Grandpa, we’ll straighten this out for you! I promise.” Blake’s voice faded as the police officers walked Killian to their patrol car. They pushed his head briskly so he didn’t hit the side and shut the door on his face.

Killian was sure he was going to be sick. His shoulders heaved up and down. "I didn't do it," he whispered obsessively under his breath. "How is this be happening?" Killian glared out the patrol car as he held firm to a single moment of clarity. "Richard," he hissed. Inside he knew it was over— no one would ever believe him over Richard.

 

***

Killian looked over his shoulder. Blake and several other kids from his school sat behind him, certainly recruited by his friend. Blake gave him a thumbs up as Laura made her way to the witness box. Killian was dressed in a bright, pumpkin colored jumpsuit—his hands were still cuffed in his lap.

This was his moment. Laura was going to tell the judge what happened and it would match with the statement he had given the police. Blake had testified of his character, and he was certain the 9-1-1 call would help his case. He would finally be able to walk free of the prison and Richard would be trading places with him.

“Mrs. Peterson, what happened on the seventh of July, the night of the assault?” a neatly pressed lawyer asked a nervous Laura.

Laura glanced quickly at a Killian, making brief eye contact. Her eyes were glazed with pain and fear. Killian’s heart sunk and he shook his head. He felt a wave of emotion overcome him. The sensation was thick and encompassing. It was guilt as he had never felt before. He believed he was going mad, but he knew the feeling was not his own. He had felt guilty for leaving Laura that night, but not in such a deep, agonizing way. He knew what was going to happen even before Laura opened her mouth.

“I was alone in my room, cleaning up before my husband came home from work. My foster son came in—he was angry I hadn’t let him stay out with his friends longer,” Laura began quietly, she hiccupped with emotion before continuing. “Killian, began to hit me. I don’t know what would’ve happened if Richard hadn’t come home. Killian pushed Richard against the dresser when he tried to stop him. Then he ran.” She sniffled into the microphone. Killian believed his heart would rip in two. He knew Laura wasn't his mother, but she had told him many times she wanted to be. How could she slander him in such a way? His pain and disbelief were broken by a loud shout coming from several rows behind.

“THAT'S A LIE! Richard did this and you know it, Laura!” Blake shouted, coming to his feet. The judge pounded the gavel at the commotion that had rippled through the courtroom until the bailiff forcibly led a ranting Blake from the room.

Laura had stepped down and returned to her seat next to Richard, who looked directly at Killian. His face was smug as he smiled in victory. The blackness in his eyes was filled with pure hatred.

Killian stared at the man’s face and physically felt the stone wall build itself around his heart. These people had, in technicality, raised him. Yet, there they were—one controlled by fear, the other by power, sentencing him to a life of banishment. He knew he would never forget this moment—Killian Thomas knew his faith in love and trust would be forever tainted and damaged.


Chapter 2

The Attack

One Year Later

Killian sat upright on his hard, rickety cot gasping for breath. Instinctively, he reached for the comfort of his gold charm, but his hands came up empty. He cursed remembering the small trinket had been missing for the last two days.

Laura, after his sentencing, had made a special deal with the judge, explaining his troubled childhood. She expressed the charm was a keepsake from his biological family. Eventually, he was allowed to keep the charm with him. He scowled as the memories from the trial cursed his mind. Brushing his hand through his hair he shook Laura’s painful ghost from his mind.

His hands brushed against his sweat drenched T-shirt, as he rehashed images from his dream.

The little boy needed help! Killian had experienced the cold breeze and the smell of ash in the cramped, dark room where the child held his small knees against his chest. It had been so real. The red-headed woman had tried to keep him, to protect him; but the haunting, dark figures had taken the small boy from her. His brain wildly recounted the dream that had been recurring for the last month. He remembered the dream, like a ghost from his past. The same dream had come to him many times when he'd lived with Richard and Laura, but since coming to the prison, most of his dreams repeated the horrible night that had landed him in jail.

Killian flipped his legs over the side of his makeshift bed and slowly took several deep breaths. His feet crushed the shoebox that had once been filled with smutty pictures and cookies Blake had sent. He smiled remembering what Blake had told him at his sentencing hearing.

"As long as you're locked up, just think of me as your mistress, waiting to greet you on the outside! You'll get so many care packages you won't even know you're in a cage—it'll be a vacation!"

The latest package had been intercepted by Killian's rough cellmate, Nicco. He staked his claim on the pictures and passed the cookies to Alex in the cell over. Alex had, in turn, given them to Brooks, the vicious work release guard. Killian scoffed. Alex was the biggest brown nose in the prison but it often paid off. He received less degrading comments from the cantankerous guard and lighter workloads.

"If I have to listen to your insane ramblings one more night, I promise you, sin valor, you will regret it!" Nicco said after several moments glaring at Killian as he stared absently at the package. His face was coated with numerous tattoos and scars. The appearance was used as a scare tactic for other inmates, although Nicco had never acted upon his threats. Killian had long ago outgrown his strategy and simply blocked him out.

"GET UP MORONS!" a voice shouted down the long corridor. Killian's skin crawled hearing Brooks' voice. "I don't have time to waste getting you trash to the worksite!"

For the last month, Killian had been involved in the work release program and was able to leave the prison three days out of the week to work his way into society before his upcoming release.

Seven inmates were selected to go to Central Oregon Community College for landscaping duty. They filed out of their cells and lined up against the bars. Nicco stood next to Killian smirking at Alex who stood straight and tall, intently listening to what Brooks had to say. Brooks paced back and forth looking each of the seven men up and down with contempt.

"You are all a waste of my time; I'm amazed the prison board believes you will make useful members of society. If I had my way, none of you would ever get out there on my streets. Unfortunately, until then I have to babysit you losers," Brooks spat out each word, until a string of saliva dangled from his chin. Alex was nodding, vigilant in his attention of the guard's tirade. "I want all of you to get out to the van in a single file line. Do not raise a hand or say a word. If you do, you'll wish you never were assigned to my crew! MOVE OUT!"

Killian couldn't help but laugh inwardly at the ridiculous speeches the guard shouted as often as possible.

The ride to the campus was uneventful; none of the men spoke to one another. The few guards assigned to their small crew sat at the front of the van at strong attention, awaiting Brooks' orders. As Killian waited for the other crew members and group of guards to pile out the door, upon arrival, he looked out the window at the bright campus across the street. The college was clean and busy, surrounded by beautiful wooded areas full of trails and picnic spots. Students and staff shuffled by the neatly hedged bushes next to the college marquee.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

L. J. Andrews has been reading since she was five, and writing since she was six. L.J. lives with her husband, three children, two dogs and two pet rats…yes rats, in a small town nestled in the mountains of Utah. She enjoys playing with Legos, Batman action figures, toy cheetahs, making chocolate chip cookies, and of course writing stories when all her little people are sleeping.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
The story came to me one day as I was attempting to write a different book. I imagined a world with other people whose bloodlines made up our world. The whole idea developed from the image of people who lived in a dark climate with stunning silver eyes. So the land of Cimmerian was imagined first.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Making the fantasy elements make sense. When you create made up elements you still have to have some logic behind it. I always tried to have a reason my made up creation, or world would be there. I had the desire to make sure everything and everyone had a purpose, not just random elements.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
Writing is an amazing outlet to stress, just like reading. I've found it is incredibly rewarding to stare at a blank page then fill it with words that have never been written before. For me it also shows me what I'm capable of. Many days I say I can't do this, then I start writing and see that I can

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