She may have spent years in an asylum, but that didn’t make her crazy–just fearless.
Dropped in Moscow with her friends on an impossible mission against underworld forces, Tara is left to her feelings of overwhelming inadequacy. Her boyfriend is a healer, her best friend is “the Guardian,” and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. The only thing she has been able to contribute are her memories, which has left her with nightmares of her time spent at the mercy of the evil Sarian–who everyone has gone to fight.
Alone with her emotions, Tara finds herself falling into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.
He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground rings of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…
Rays of morning sun crept through the windows of Tara’s hotel room. She was already awake, frozen in bed and staring at the entrance. Harsh whispers echoed from the hall paired with rushed footsteps on the carpeted floors beyond the door. She gripped the blanket, her heart pounding in anticipation.
She flung the covers aside and hurried across the room. The knob rattled followed by several sharp pounds. She peered through the peephole before swinging open the door. Renato rushed in with a limp Hawa hanging in his arms.
“Oh my god! What happened?”
Renato laid Hawa on the bed. Black hair spilled over her face as she moaned.
Peter stumbled into the room, his eyes glossed over with sleep. Renato glanced over his shoulder and waved him over. “We need your help.”
Tara’s chest tightened while she stared at them. “Where’s Ashley?” Renato glanced at her and then back to Hawa without a word. Tara stepped forward, a knot forming in her stomach. She gripped the bedpost, her legs beginning to feel like mush. “Mr. Renato, what happened to Ashley?”
“She’ll be fine,” Peter said while examining Hawa’s bandaged leg. “I don’t sense any breaks or fractures. No lesions.” He stared up at Renato. “What the hell happened?”
Renato paced, rubbing the five o’clock shadow that darkened his chin and jawline. “Sarian was much stronger than we anticipated. When Ashley tried to retrieve the stone, he somehow sensed her, even with the masking spell.”
Figures. Tara knew it was bad news when that witch offered to help. She hated the idea from the start, but being outnumbered and a girl with no abilities to contribute, she thought it better to keep her mouth shut and let Renato and Ashley make the final decision. The masking spell could have been a dud. For all they knew, Contessa might have wanted Ashley dead to take her stone. The witch only helped to get revenge on Sarian in the first place. Who knows what other motives she had. Tara still wasn’t sure of the extent of the stone’s power, but since every underworlder seemed to want to get their hands on it, it had to be capable of some unworldly things.
“Who healed Hawa?” Peter asked.
“Contessa. At her home.” Renato glanced at his watch. “We arrived back less than an hour ago.”
“Well, it looks like she did a decent job.” Peter laid the back of his hand against Hawa’s forehead. “No fever. I think she’s just exhausted. We should let her sleep.”
Tara let go of the bedpost, anger peeling away her layers of patience. There was no way she’d let them keep ignoring her. With her fists perched on her hips, she glared at them. “If someone doesn’t answer me in the next two seconds, I swear I’m going to flip the hell out.” They both stopped and stared at her. Tara swallowed. “Where’s Ashley?”
Anger was as good as any other emotion right now—better even, since it kept her blood rushing fast enough to prevent her from passing out if the news was grim.
Renato gave a deep exhale. “Tara.”
The way he said her name sucked the heat right out of her body.
She wound her fingers into her mess of red curls. “Oh God. What?”
“Please don’t panic,” he continued. “She is not hurt.”
Tara exhaled a calming breath and gestured toward the door. “I’m gonna go talk to her.” When she took a step forward, Renato stepped to the side, cutting off her path. She stared up at his tight face. “I’ll be right back. I just want to go see how she’s holding up.”
“Tara.” But when he said her name the second time, his tone hadn’t changed, and the look in his eyes told her something was wrong. He ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing it down. “She’s not here.”
“What do you mean she’s not here? You said she’s all right.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
Tara shifted her weight. “Well, where is she?”
“She and Arwan left to get Jayden back.”
“Back?” Tara scanned the room. In all of the chaos, she hadn’t noticed Jayden wasn’t there. “Is he pulling another stunt to win Ashley over?”
“I don’t think that’s what’s going on this time,” Peter said.
“Sarian is stronger than we realized.”
“But…” Tara shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“Jayden was killed in battle.”
She felt like someone had kicked her in the chest. “What?” She gasped, her bottom lip quivering with her voice. She had known Jayden almost as long as Ashley, and even if they weren’t as close, he was her friend. She swallowed past the ache in her throat.
Peter took her hand.
“She and Arwan rushed to Guatemala,” Renato continued. “To the caves of Naj Tunich.”
She tightened her grip on Peter’s hand while suspicion crawled over her. “Ashley hates caves. Why would she want to go there?”
“Ashley was determined. I attempted to convince her it was a dangerous, reckless idea, but she insisted. She and Arwan traveled to the caves to find Houn—the Guardian of Souls. She has the insane thought that they can get Jayden’s soul back in time.”
Tara pulled away from Peter, grabbed Renato’s collar, and jerked him forward. “Are you trying to tell me that my best friend is going to meet up with the Grim Reaper?”
Renato stared down at Tara’s fingers clenching his shirt.
She let go of his collar. “I want proof. Ashley wouldn’t just take off like that. Not without telling me first.”
Renato straightened his posture while smoothing out the wrinkles in his clothes. “I managed to rent a cold chamber for Jayden’s body in the local morgue.” He paused, watching her skeptical stare. His lips pressed tightly together. “If escorting you to see his body is the only way to convince you I am being honest, that is certainly an option.”
Tara took a step back. “Oh my God. You’re serious.”
“Unfortunately, yes. If Ashley and Arwan cannot retrieve his soul before Houn places it, the morgue is where Jayden’s body belongs. Either way, we need to preserve it the best we can.”
“Preserve?” She choked on the word and slowly lowered herself to the mattress beside Hawa’s feet.
Peter tucked a curl behind Tara’s ear. “It’ll be all right.”
She wanted to believe him, but something in her gut told her it wouldn’t be that simple. “Jayden’s dead and…Ashley didn’t even say goodbye. What if—” Her breath caught in her throat. “What if I never see her again?”
A long time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of young adult and new adult paranormal and contemporary romance.
Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and was repeatedly guilt tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries and explored dozens of U.S. states—including an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. But wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.
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