Behind the Mask Book Tour & Giveaway

Behind the Mask by Marianne Petit Genre: Historical Romance

Author Marianne Petit mixes true life experiences with fiction to create a suspenseful tale of intrigue and romance set in the early days of war-torn France. In 1940’s Paris, both rich and poor are thrust together, a mixed society struggling to survive. American born Yvette Matikunas, one of the privileged few, goes underground with a deathbed promise to her grandfather that has her roaming the streets of France with a dangerous message. She quickly learns that no one is who they seem to be and trust is a thing of the past. Injured in battle while trying to save the life of one of his men, Colonial André Rinaldo is disillusioned by a shell-shocked country and a weak government. Persuaded to go underground and unite his fellow compatriots by forming resistance groups, he meets a beautiful blonde, whose determination to free France from foreign dictatorship is as strong as his. In the middle of espionage and clandestine rendezvous, they form a partnership that deepens under the ever-present threat of arrest. But with America’s interest in the war building in the background all Americans are ordered to leave. Will Yvette return to the States, or will André persuade her to stay and fight for love? Goodreads * Amazon

Marianne Petit is a past President of the Long Island Chapter of the Romance Writers Of America. Her love of writing stems back to high school. She spent hours reading Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and poetry. At the age of fifteen she wrote a short story for children, as well as numerous works of poetry. Her love of history stems from her father, Roger, a Frenchman, whose love of American history greatly influenced her writing interests . She is a past President of the Melville Lions club, a service organization that raises money for the less fortunate – especially the sight and hearing impaired. Newsday and several local newspapers have written articles on Ms. Petit and she was recently interviewed on TV for her time travel. Marianne loves to ski, white water raft, horseback ride, and enjoys the theater. She lives on Long Island is happily married for over 30 years. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

Lord in heaven, the minute André saw Yvette bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun like an
angel in white, the sun shining on her hair like a halo, his anger vanished.
He glanced at her shoeless feet. She had changed in the months since they’d first met. Gone was
the spoiled girl who cared more about her appearance than what happened around her, who had
blinders on her eyes. Now, sat a woman whose beauty shined more brilliantly by her spirited passion to
fight for justice; who, despite her fears, fought him on every step, though he tried to keep her safe. He
didn’t want to fight. Didn’t want to feel… anything. But damned if he didn’t feel lonely after she’d
walked out, despite a cellar full of people and noise.
“You can’t stop me from going. I know the time and the location.” Yvette looked very pleased
with herself and he knew there would be no stopping her.
She wore her hair down and it curled, under resting on her collarbone. The tresses were held
back from her face with two combs. He felt the urge to take the combs out and run his fingers through
the golden mass, letting those silken strands run wild.
“And besides, how do we know the message isn’t rubbish. How well do you know Le Fleur?”
Yvette’s question oozed with smoky jealousy.
Straight-faced, André hid his amusement and jab of pleasure as though he wasn’t in the least
affected. “It’s not false.”
“How do you know? Can her story be verified?” she said indignantly, her polished red lips pursed.
The lively animation in her eyes lit a fire in his belly. She was positively radiant when jealous. Did
those lips taste as luscious as they looked?
“You doubt me?” he asked a little more gruffly than he meant to. “Do you really believe I
wouldn’t verify the information?”
“Well… I guess…” She shrugged. “No. You are quite efficient in your endeavors.” She crossed her
arms in front of her chest and he remembered how it felt when those arms had been wrapped around

He casually stepped closer and she didn’t seem to mind. “Are you cold?’ he asked, despite the
building heat he felt surging between them. Did she feel it? She did. She had to; or was it just his
imagination, his foolish hope there was something tangible between them?
“I am fine. Thank you for the jacket.” She handed him a sketch of a young woman. “Have you
seen her?”
Whatever was happening to him was happening to her. He noticed the flustered movement of
her hand twirling a strand of hair in her fingers, the way her eyes darted from his face to the ground,
into the air and her erratic breathing. Beneath the hesitance in her eyes, he saw desire, stirring in their
depths, the same desire, stirring his body in ways that would be hard to suppress.
“No. Sorry,” he handed her the drawing, “Who is she?”
“My cousin.”
A cool breeze rustled the leaves and tossed a lock of her hair across her eye. He gently brushed
the strand away, his fingers caressing her soft cheek, “You look beautiful tonight.”
“I… that is very kind of you to say.” She gnawed her bottom lip and he wanted to lean in and taste
those tempting lips begging to be kissed.
“I only tell the truth.” She frowned and he figured she knew he’d told many fibs undercover, so he
guessed he earned that. “Ok, so maybe I’ve spoken some mistruths when–”
“Well, occasionally you do fib.” She blushed with embarrassment. “But it’s understandable.”
So, he hadn’t lost his knack for reading a person, despite that his emotions were zinging like a
ball on a string being hit with a bat. “I meant what I said. You look…” Her skin in the warm light
seemed to shine. “… fabulous.”
A throbbing need seemed to resonate throughout his body. Did she have this effect on all men?
An image of Géry came to mind and annoyance tightened his stance. Did she like kissing Géry? Will
she like kissing me? André’s mouth thinned. He knew his thoughts were unreasonable, but his want
for her was driving him crazy and denying his desires wasn’t going to make them go away. Maybe
he’d just find out for himself.
His arm closed around her waist and before she could protest, he drew her toward him. Once I kiss
her, it’ll be done. I can put her out of my mind. Once and for all. Her name fell from his lips moments
before he kissed her. Her body melted against his, soft and curvy and he heard a small sigh of pleasure.
Then her body stiffened, and she jerked away. Wide-eyed panic replaced the dreamy desire of moments

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Exile in Darkness Book Tour & Giveaway

Exile in Darkness by Annalisa Carr Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Heritage and magic matter to the London covens. Aristocratic witch, Isabella Pethany, has heritage but not magic. Underworld powerbroker, amnesiac vampire Maldit, has magic but no heritage. Lukas Sindis, coven sorcerer and famous psychopath, has both. Isabella knows her null magic status makes her an embarrassment to her family, but since Natalie, her sister, was murdered, she is all they have left. Guilt makes her willing to do almost anything to compensate for her lack of value, but her grandmother’s proposal to match her with Lukas, in an attempt to bring strong magic back to their bloodline, is a step too far. When Maldit rescues a strange witch from hunting vampires, his main concern is to limit trouble in his territory. Everyone knows witches are troublesome, and this one is no exception. Her proximity slashes through his damaged memory, allowing him to catch glimpses of his forgotten past. Drugs have suppressed Lukas’s magic for almost twenty years, filling him with a reservoir of trapped power. When he escapes, his magic flies free, washing over Maldit and Isabella, and clearing away the spells paralysing both of them. The dark secrets of the London coven are about to explode into the light of day. Goodreads * Amazon

Annalisa Carr lives in the English Lake District, where she shares a view of the fells with three cats. She spent the early part of her life working as a protein crystallographer, a job she found fascinating. She now spends her time writing, in a variety of genres. Science Fiction, fantasy and fantasy romance are her favourites. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

Isabella? Isabella Pethany?
Whispers of her own name floated through her mind. She pushed the pillow aside and sat up,
pressing her hands against her ears. It didn’t stop the insistent repetition of her name.
Someone called to her, but who would do a thing like that at this hour of the morning? The
family would all be asleep by now, and the only servant awake should be the doorman.
Her imagination was running riot. She lay down, closing her eyes, but the feeling of being
summoned didn’t go away.
Isabella. Isabella. Isabella.
Her name echoed around her skull, louder now.
She sat up abruptly. Next to her, Alfie stirred, growling in his sleep. She ran the palm of her
hand over his shaggy flank and switched the bedside lamp on, before walking to the window and
drawing the curtain back.

Pools of dim light surrounded the bases of the old-fashioned streetlamps. Between them, the
pavement was dark, and the trees in the square cast black shadows over the iron railings. She
opened the window and leaned out.
“Isabella?” The voice was a seductive whisper from below. It was definitely real this time,
vibrating through the air, rather than her mind.
She squinted into the shadows.
The vampire from the bar stood on the opposite pavement, his figure almost hidden in the
Her heart beat faster.
His face tilted upwards towards her second-floor window, green eyes glinting.
“What do you want?” She pressed two fingers to the point in her neck where the skin was
thinnest. Her pulse hammered against them.

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Oh The Places You’ll Go $200 Cash Giveaway

Win big during our $200 Oh! The Places You’ll Go! Cash giveaway event! You have the option of choosing between $200 PayPal Cash OR a Gift Card of choice! Which will you choose? It could definitely come in hand to grab a few things for the kids for school or get an early start on holiday shopping.

This event was organized by The Kids Did It & The Mommy Island and sponsored by the awesome bloggers, authors, and Etsy shop owners! Say goodbye to the kids as they go off to school then relax as you’re entering this great giveaway event!


ONE entrant will be selected by the entry form to win $200 PayPal cash OR a $200 gift card of choice. Open for entry WW, 18 years and older from 08/13/19 at 12:01 a.m. ET thru 08/31/19 at 11:59 p.m. ET. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. A winner will be chosen after/around September 1, 2019. The winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification email to claim their prize or a new winner will be selected. See Rafflecopter for official rules. The Kids Did It & The Mommy Island are responsible for sending the winner their prize via PayPal or e-gift card. The winner has the option of choosing between PayPal and an e-gift card of choice. Prize may be less than $200 if you choose a gift card with fees. Twitter ‘Egg’ profiles and dummy accounts are ineligible for entry and will be blocked. Authentic accounts only are eligible to win. Follow The Kids Did It on Facebook and Twitter then enter for a chance to win!a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Drop of Magic Book Tour & Giveaway

A Drop of Magic The Magicsmith Book 1 by L.R. Braden Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

The war isn’t over . . . With the world clinging to a fragile peace forced on the Fae by humanity after the Faerie Wars, metalsmith Alex Blackwood is plunged into the world of the half-fae who traffick in illegal magical artifacts. Her best friend’s murder and his cryptic last message place her in the crosshairs of a scheme to reignite the decade-old war between humans and fae. Worse, violent attacks against her and the arrival of a fae knight on a mission force Alex to face a devastating revelation of who and what she is. To catch a killer, retrieve a dangerous artifact, and stop a war, Alex will have to accept that she’s an unregistered fae “halfer” with a unique magical talent—a talent that would change everything she believes about her past, her art, and her future. Her world is crumbling around her, and Alex will have to decide who to trust if she and the world are going to survive. “A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series Add to GoodreadsAmazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Kobo

Born and raised in Colorado, L. R. BRADEN makes her home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her wonderful husband, precocious daughter, and psychotic cat. With degrees in both English literature and metalsmithing, she splits her time between writing and art. A Drop of Magic is her first novel. Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads

METAL DUST CLUNG to the sweat on my arms, glittering like shining scales. Even with the studio
door propped open behind me, the uncommonly warm October air did little to temper the heat of the
forge. A shower of sparks erupted as I plunged the carbon steel rod back into the annealing embers and
dragged an arm across my forehead, taking care to avoid the bulky, blackened welding glove. I’d
probably still end up with sooty streaks decorating my otherwise pale face. I always did.
Lost in the beat of my old MP3 player, I started belting out the lyrics of Robert DeLong’s Don’t Wait Up
as I prepared the next rod. Then a touch settled—light and tentative—on my arm, and the bottom fell out
of my stomach.
Tongs clutched in one hand, hammer in the other, I spun.
“Whoa, whoa.” His lips formed the words, though I couldn’t hear them over the music blaring through
my headphones.
An inch shorter than I was, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, I had no reason to think the man was anything
but human. But then, who could tell these days? He took a step back, hands raised, either to show he
meant no harm or to ward off the blow he thought was coming.
Behind him, near the open door, stood a second man. He wore a rumpled brown suit that matched his hair
and eyes. Average height, average build, average looks. Nothing remarkable about him.
Moving to put the anvil between us, I set the hammer down and pulled off my headphones, but kept a
white-knuckled grip on the tongs. The higher-than-average number of violent crimes this summer had me
on edge—along with everyone else—though none of the violence had come so far as my neck of the
woods. It seemed unlikely a murderer would get my attention before attacking, but my heart raced a mile
a minute as I faced the strangers. “Who are you?”
The man nearest me lowered his arms. “We announced ourselves, but it seems you didn’t hear.”
I scowled at his attempt to put the blame back on me. This was my studio, and they were uninvited guests.
“My apologies.” This came from Mr. Unremarkable. The monotone of his voice matched his appearance,
revealing nothing. “You may call me Smith. My associate is Neil. Am I addressing Alyssandra
A muscle under my right eye twitched. Most people only knew me as Alex. Alyssandra hadn’t existed
anywhere but legal documents since I was twelve and traded the name in for something stronger, more
“We’ve come to purchase an item from you, an engraved silver box.”
My shoulders dropped as the tension in them eased a little. Customers didn’t often stop by the studio
unannounced, but it wasn’t unheard of. People sometimes got my address from the Souled Art Gallery
in Boulder where I showed my work, or from previous customers, and came to commission pieces. Most
were courteous enough to call ahead.
“I’m booked on orders right now. I could maybe get to it next month.”
“You misunderstand. We are looking for an object already in your possession.”
“Oh. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have an item like that in stock.”
“We know the box came your way. If you hand it over, we can make it worth your while.” Neil had the
slick, sleazy tone of a used car salesman. Curious though I was about this box, and why they thought I
had it, I’d had enough of the conversation. Even if they weren’t killers, they gave me the creeps. I shook
my head. “You were misinformed.”
“Ms. Blackwood,” Smith said. “Be reasonable. We’re willing to pay handsomely, and considering the
other parties involved, you’re not likely to get a better offer. Surely it isn’t worth the risk?”
My breath caught as the thinly veiled threat hit me like a punch in the gut.
“You need to leave, now.” My voice trembled slightly. The studio only had one door, and they were
between it and me. I was trapped. Shifting my stance, I tightened my grip on the tongs, willing them not
to shake.
Smith raised his hands in a placating manner. “I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. You might not
even realize you have the item we seek. It would look quite common, like a jewelry box.”
“I told you, I haven’t got anything like that. Now get out of here before I call the cops.” It was a bluff, of
course, I’d left my cell phone in the house. Even if I could call, the police would never arrive in time to
help. That was the downside of living so far from town. I was on my own.
“Enough of this.” Neil stepped around the anvil and reached for my arm.
Time slowed.
I didn’t like to fight, I avoided confrontations when I could, but if he thought I was going to roll over, he
was wrong. With a guttural howl, I twisted my wrist out of Neil’s grip and swung the tongs into his face.

His skin split apart like newspaper peeling back from a fire, scorched black and crinkled around the
edges. An unearthly shriek filled the studio, and I stumbled back, shocked at the damage I’d done.
Neil shimmered and seemed to melt. His skin became transparent, and a network of blue veins crawled
beneath its surface. His nose spread and sank into his face, leaving two flared slits. Below that, the mouth
emitting that horrible sound elongated until the gaping, needle-lined hole grew so large I could have put
my whole fist in without scraping my knuckles. When he reached up to cover his face, his fingers had
nearly doubled in length, the webbing between them connecting all the way to the tips. His fingernails
stretched and thickened to claws. The creature before me was straight out of a horror movie, and I added
my own scream to the cacophony.
Wielding my tongs like a baseball bat, I backed away from the writhing shape which had been the man
Neil seconds before. Even at the best of times, my stomach cramped when someone mentioned the
fae. Seeing one in the flesh was like having a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. I shivered from
head to toe, and fought the urge to throw up.
Smith crossed the space between himself and Neil in two steps and pulled Neil’s arms down to expose the
hideous gash burned across his cheek. My stomach lurched at what I’d done. White glinted where bone
showed beneath charred flesh. The eye above had swelled shut and was rapidly turning a sickly greenish
color. Smith placed one palm against Neil’s forehead, and the horrible wail abruptly cut off as Neil
sagged in Smith’s arms.
“It seems we were mistaken.” Smith spoke as he had before, without inflection or emotion. Nothing to
show surprise or concern that he was holding an unconscious, injured faerie in his arms. “Good day, Ms.
My mind went blank as I fumbled for words.
Smith took my stupefied silence in stride. Hefting Neil without visible effort, he gave a small parting nod
and carried his companion out of the studio.
I remained where I was until the sound of car doors closing and the crunch of gravel told me I was alone.
Then, still clutching my tongs, I inched to the door and took a deep breath of the outside air. The
driveway was empty, no cars in sight. No faerie goons either. My knees gave out under the weight of the
panic I’d been keeping in check, and I sank to the ground, tongs still clutched in my shaking hands. The
tea I’d had for breakfast felt like acid in my stomach, threatening to come back up.
A gray tabby with yellow-green eyes peeked around the corner of the shed with a questioning, “Meow?”
Cat had appeared on my doorstep a few months back, begging for scraps, and I’d made the mistake of
giving him some. He’d come around every day since. Despite the fact he’d already stuck around longer
than most of the guys in my life, I’d steadfastly refused to name him.
“Fat lot of good you were.”
Lifting his nose, Cat swished his tail and stalked away.
It was silly to take my anxiety out on Cat, but it was easier than dealing with the panic and adrenaline
threatening to overwhelm me. Anything to distract from the flesh seared to the tongs in my shaking
I couldn’t imagine forging more, so with a wary eye on the door I dampened the coals and stored my
tools, each in its marked place on my pegboard. The gooey tongs went on a shelf, I’d throw them in an
acid bath later.

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The Vaelinel Trilogy Book Tour & Giveaway

Silevethiel The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 1 by Andi O’Connor Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Following her father’s murder, Irewen is betrayed and left for dead in the forests of Mistwood. Rescued by an elf, Irewen awakes an exile with no home, no country, and no people. But as the horrific memories of murder and betrayal return, she realizes the nightmare is only beginning. The world of Vaelinel is failing–its fate bound to her in ways no one fully understands. A mysterious elven prophecy may provide her with some answers, but continuously hunted and fighting for her life, Irewen quickly learns that unearthing the truth will be more difficult than she ever imagined. Can she accept the friendship of the Wood Elves, or will she stand alone against the terrifying evil now threatening to destroy the entire world? Add to Goodreads Amazon * B&N

The Speaker The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 2

The Vaelinel Trilogy continues with this absorbing sequel to Silevethiel! Alone and hunted by the Drulaack, Irewen takes advantage of her only option for survival. Pushing her concerns aside, she lets the dead keep her. But her refuge doesn’t last long. Driven out of their hosts by Laegon, a handful Drulaack have returned to the Spirit World. No longer having the protection of the dead, Irewen is forced to return to Vaelinel. Finally reunited with her companions, the burdens placed on them are taking their toll. Thoughts of suicide and mistrust plague the company. Slowly unravelling, they must conquer their personal battles before standing against the evil threatening the land. For the Corrupter thirsts for revenge. And he’ll stop at nothing to satisfy his hunger. Add to GoodreadsAmazon * B&N

A Prophecy Fulfilled The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 3

Regrouping after their escape from the Light Elves, Irewen and her companions fear the worst after black smoke plumes on the horizon. Allowing compassion to rule over reason, they ignore Finnwyn’s warning and return to Lilendvelle, hoping to help some of the survivors stranded in the city’s wake. Instead, they run into a trap. Completely surrounded by an endless army of Drulaack, they fight for their lives, but their efforts aren’t enough. Irewen is captured and dragged into the heart of the Corrupter’s lair. Having his prize, the others in the company are granted their freedom, but at a great cost: the one named in the prophecy who is meant to unite the elf forces and stand against the Corrupter is lost to the world – trapped beneath the Corrupter’s talons. With the aid of his mother’s spirit, Brendell must now find a way to gather an alliance strong enough to march against the Corrupter and his army, but his time is running out. Each day that passes brings Irewen closer to death. And the world closer to destruction. Add to Goodreads Amazon * B&N

Andi O’Connor is a multi-award winning author of epic fantasy novels and short stories with a healthy dose of paranormal mixed in. She sits in front of her typewriter (yes, typewriter!) every day and loses herself in her worlds and characters in hopes that her readers will fall in love with them as well. When she’s not clacking away, you can find Andi dancing her butt off in the ballet studio. Rest assured, she’s not the next Natalia Osipova, but she has a mean collection of leotards and always finds an excuse to buy more. She loves bats and dreams of turning her yard into a certified bat habitat. She has three dogs who constantly work hard to drive her insane, but their fluffy cuteness outweighs any insanity they can bring. Her husband ‘Honeybee’ is wonderfully supportive of her author life, and her son ‘P’ may or may not have claimed her typewriter as his own on several occasions. Deadpool is her spirit animal, and her motto is Embrace Your Crazy. We’re all unique and crazy in our own ways, and Andi hopes others will join her by being proud of their quirks and embracing their crazy! Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

Excerpt 2 from The Speaker
Irewen turned, searching the darkness. “Father? Where are you?”
Since first communicating with her father, she’d entered the Spirit World
numerous times. Each encounter went smoother than the one before, but she still
wasn’t comfortable being the only living person in the land of the dead. Regardless of
whatever ability led her to this place, she didn’t belong.
“I’m here, Father.” Instinct told her to continue searching through the penetrating

blackness, but experience told her otherwise. This wasn’t her world. She wouldn’t find
him. He had to come to her.
A soft white light appeared before her, barely able to fight against the dark.
“Irewen.” Her father stood only feet away. Shrouded in an eerie violet mist that seemed
to flow through him, the Spirit World didn’t allow her to forget that he was a ghost. No
matter how much she wanted him to be real – to be alive – he wasn’t.
They were standing so close all she had to do was reach out her arms and pull
him toward her in an embrace. But she couldn’t. She’d tried touching him during a
previous visit by running her fingers down his cheek, but her hand had passed through
him. Touching nothing but air, the experience left her with a suffocating sense of
emptiness and a lingering icy pain on her fingertips.
She’d never be able to touch her father again. The pressure of his warm lips
against her forehead would never again greet her in the morning before they sat down
to breakfast. His comforting hugs wouldn’t ever be there to help fight her growing
loneliness. She couldn’t go to him when she needed to ask advice or when she simply
wanted to talk. Not truly. Not while being in a world where they both belonged.
“It’s good to see you, Father.” Irewen said, being sure to keep the distance
between them.
“Likewise, my daughter.”
She smiled, remembering when he’d first tried to speak to her in the Spirit World.
The words wouldn’t come and he’d been forced to show her images in order to help her
understand his message. Now, he spoke in death as effortlessly as he’d done in life.
“What do you wish to tell me, Father?” She didn’t waste any more time with
niceties. Chatting in the Spirit World, even between father and daughter, wasn’t
welcomed among the dead. He’d come to give her information. Nothing more.
“The Drulaack. There are six of them. They passed through Mistwood
undetected, avoiding Silverden completely. The elves sent you to your death. You will
not reach the border of Lündvelle.”
“No!” Irewen insisted even though she’d had that very thought only hours before.
“There must be a way I can defeat them! I did before with the magic of the Sea Elves.”
“That magic is unpredictable and unreliable. Until you are taught how to use it
properly, it is useless. It came to you before out of desperation. It may come again. It
may not. You cannot depend on that to save you.”
“What can I do, Father? I’m alone. My Guardian was ordered to remain behind.
None of the Elven Knights or Protectors were sent to escort me. Thanks to Laegon, I’ve
had some training with weapons, but my skills aren’t great enough to defend myself
against six Drulaack. Their speed alone would see me dead in a matter of minutes. I
can’t outrun them—even with the remarkable speed of Lord Brandir’s horse Melldren
who he was gracious enough to lend me for the journey.”
“You can stand your ground, Irewen, or you can flee. No matter how each choice
is weighed, the outcome will be the same. They will both end in death.”
“I refuse to believe this is the end!” Irewen balled her hands into fists, channeling
her mounting frustration into the fingernails digging into the soft flesh of her palms. “I
refuse to believe my fight is meant to end even before it’s truly begun! Elthad cannot be
left unchallenged, Papa! By his hands, the entire world of Vaelinel will be destroyed!
There must be a way for me to finish what I started!”

Her chest heaved with each quick breath as she tried in vain to control her
frustration. She could hardly believe the words had sprung from her lips. Hours earlier,
she had given up on her convictions, surrendering to the death she knew awaited her.
But hearing her father speak so candidly of her demise as if her existence had never
mattered sparked an intrinsic determination to prove him wrong—to prove herself
Her father’s grey eyes, once vibrant and full of life stared at her from behind the
mist, completely devoid of emotion. “There may be a way.”
She had to fight to control her excitement. “Tell me.”
“It is dangerous and will most likely still end in death.”
“That’s a risk I must take.”
“There is a place where the enemy cannot sense you. There is a place where
Elthad’s bond cannot reach you. Walk in the shadows.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, irritated at her father’s answer and
subsequent silence. “I don’t understand!”
A faint trace of a smile flitted across her father’s lips and disappeared before she
could be sure it ever existed. “Let the dead keep you.”
She didn’t have time to react. Her father’s apparition faded into the darkness,
once again assimilating with the one and the many.
She spun around, hoping to catch a glimpse of her father hovering somewhere
else in the abyss. “Papa! Wait! Don’t leave me!”
Her cries were useless. He was gone. No explanation would come. He’d left her
to figure the rest out on her own.
She sank to her knees, going over his words in her head. It seemed like absolute
drivel. There wasn’t anywhere she could go where Elthad and his army wouldn’t be able
to sense her. Walk in the shadows. Her father’s thin voice seemed to echo throughout
the Spirit World. Let the dead keep you.
“No,” she whispered. “He couldn’t mean…” Her voice trailed off. The penetrating
cold lessened, and a friendly warmth filtered into her body. A faint breeze floated about
her, carrying the soft murmurs of the dead. She couldn’t make out any distinct words or
phrases, but she somehow understood their message.
She studied the blackness, searching for the strange white light and violet mist. It
wasn’t there. No one had come. She remained alone. But for the first time in all of her
visits to the Spirit World, she didn’t feel like an outsider. The dead reached out to her.
Caressing her, they welcomed her into their community. Tears filled the corners of her
Let the dead keep you.
The meaning of her father’s words was suddenly as clear as if he’d written it out
for her and handed it to her in a sealed envelope. The dead were offering her safe
passage through their world.
They were giving her their protection.
Yet, that didn’t feel quite right. Something else her father said tugged at the back
of her mind. Then she felt it—the slight hint of hostility. It only came from a tiny, distant
section of the many, but it was there all the same. Not everyone in the Spirit World felt
she deserved their safekeeping, and rightly so. She was of the living. They owed her

If she accepted her father’s proposal, their hostility would fester and propagate.
Asking for their aid would instigate war among the dead. And her life would be the price
of victory.
The tears finally glided from her eyes, disappearing unnoticed into the blackness.
If she said yes, she would bring war to a world she had no right to enter. If she said no,
the Spirit World would remain untouched, but her death would allow the Drulaack to
roam unchallenged and destroy the world of the living.
Hugging her arms to herself, she tried to control the growing sense of defeat. No
matter how she analyzed the situation, all she saw was death. She didn’t want either
option. But while one was certain, the other gave the people of Vaelinel a slight glimmer
of hope.
“What choice do I have?” she whispered.

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