Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blog Tour! Spotlight & Giveaway The Final Stand by Rose Garcia

RELEASE: MARCH 24th 2014

Dominique is still alive after killing Tavion, the Tainted who's hunted her for lifetimes. Yet her protectors still fear for her life. They force her to flee Houston and abandon the friends she loves. But they can't protect her from herself. When Dominique starts hearing Tavion's voice in her head, she realizes that her personal connection to the Tainted still exists. And when her car is ambushed, she discovers another frightening truth—someone close to her is a traitor.

Desperate for answers, Dominique seeks the aid of first lifers Trent and Infiniti. With their help, she hopes to find her new enemy. But things get complicated with Trent when she finally accepts her eternal love for Farrell, and even more complicated when the whispers in her head threaten her loved ones. Determined to live, Dominique decides to make a final stand against the forces that want to end her. For good.


Praise for Final Life...

"Rose Garcia will explode your mind with action packed scenes and emotional turmoil.” - Moonlight Book Reviews 
"The whole transhuman concept had the whole Sci-Fi/Fantasy element going on, yet Rose Garcia has written it in a way that is both fresh and believable, with the classic good versus evil theme incorporated." - Always YA at Heart 
"Final Life is filled with magical moments, heart aching moments, action, and suspense. I look forward to the next chapter of Dominique's story." - WinterHavenBooks 

Final Stand
Chapter One
Cold seeped into my tired and achy bones as we drove away from our Houston home for the last time. Rain drizzled against the car windows. Thick, gray clouds filled the sky. The humming of the car lulled my mind until it became lost in the memory of the last two months.
            My parents were Transhumans, or energy beings known as Pures, part of a race of humans that existed before mankind. Tavion, an evil Transhuman and leader of the Tainted, had marked me for death. He had even killed me in each of my past lives, but in this life, my final life, I had defeated him. And even though I had won, I didn't feel like the winner. Instead, I felt empty. Lost. Like I wasn't me anymore. Because I wasn't. Too much had happened. Too many had died—because of me.
“You okay?” Farrell whispered.
I studied his perfectly angular features and sympathetic green eyes before shifting away and staring out the backseat window. According to Farrell, in each of my eight lives he'd fallen in love with me, and I had loved him back. But I didn't remember any of it. Even though flashes of memories of him would come to me now and again, and strong emotions for him had bubbled to the surface, they didn't belong to me. Instead, they belonged to another version of me. Someone who didn't exist anymore.
“I'm fine,” I muttered. I ran my fingertips over the rough bandages that covered my hand, my dry skin catching on the fabric. The only me that existed was the one who had sliced open her hand, covered her dagger with her blood, and plunged it into Tavion’s chest and killed him; the one who had shared a passionate kiss with Trent Avila—a normal guy I'd never see again. I closed my eyes for a moment and pictured his face in my mind. Tan skin, brown hair with long bangs that hung into his deep blue eyes. His grandmother had given me the bloodstone cross that hung around my neck, and without it, I wouldn't have been able to defeat Tavion. Sadly, Trent would never know because Farrell had erased his memory.
Memory erased... That was it! A sliver of hope sprang in me. I'd ask Farrell to do that to me—wipe my mind. After all, he was my protector, and if erasing my life and starting over would help me, he'd have to do it. I snuck a glance his way. He rubbed his hands on his jeans and grabbed his knees. Emotional pain etched across his face. If only he didn't remember our past lives, our lost love, things would be easier for him. But he remembered everything, they all did. I was the only one who didn't. And that's when it hit me. He needed his memory erased, too. Like the Men in Black movies. Flash a bright light in our eyes, insert a new memory, and live happily ever after.
If only…
With a heavy sigh, I wrapped myself in my soft blue blanket. Happily ever after didn't exist. But I did win, and Tavion was dead. Yet here we were, leaving Texas and going back to Michigan and somewhere along the way faking our deaths in order to cut off ties with everyone we had ever known. I knew Mom and Dad wanted to be cautious, but taking off like this didn't seem like something a “safe” person would do. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were keeping something from me. Again.
The busy highway flanked by restaurants, bars, and car dealerships finally evolved into the open road. Flat fields occupied by cows and horses continued for miles and miles. Dad drove while Mom eyed the map, plotting our course home to Michigan. “We'll cross Arkansas and go into Tennessee, stopping just outside Memphis. We'll stay there for the night.” She folded the map on her lap and looked over her shoulder. “You may as well get some rest, Dominique. We've got a long day of driving ahead of us.” 
Rest? How could I? Doubts about my future turned my stomach upside down. Mixed emotions about Farrell and Trent plagued me. And then there was Infiniti—my one true friend who’d soon think I had died in a car crash. I wrapped my arms around my waist and told myself it was better for her to think I was dead. I just hoped she’d be okay.
Even though fatigue had settled deep in me, I had crossed over into that place where your brain can’t shut down no matter how hard you try. And so my thoughts stretched out like an eternity while I watched the world creep past. Cows, fields, cows, fields, over and over. The peaceful solitude of the landscape entranced me. The repetitious thud of the windshield wipers swiping back and forth created the perfect background noise for slumber. After a while, my breathing deepened. My heart rate slowed. Finally, I drifted to sleep. 
Dominique, can you hear me?” 
My body slept. Yet the voice calling out to me rang so clear in my head I could’ve sworn I was awake. A dream, it had to be a dream.
“Dominique, I’m here,” the hoarse voice said again, this time urgent and prodding.
My heavy eyelids refused to open, as if weighted down by bricks and glued shut. Even the muscles in my body ignored my commands to move, get up, and find the voice calling me.
“You know who I am,” the scratchy voice said again, louder this time.
My sleeping body tensed from a zap of fear. Yes, I knew. The voice belonged to Tavion. I’d recognize it anywhere. And it came from within me.
An army of goose bumps dashed across my body. Wake up, I screamed to myself. Now!
“Waking won’t help you, Marked One.”
Panic rushed through me. My body jerked. My eyes flew open. Farrell sat close, his hands on my arm. “Hey, you alright?”
Mom studied me from over her shoulder. Dad peered at me through the rear-view mirror. I rubbed my eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. I was just… having the weirdest dream.”
“You sure, Dominique?” Dad’s eyes shifted from the road back to me. His brow creased with deep worry lines. He had spent his whole life worrying about me, hiding me from the Tainted, and protecting me from the truth that an evil Transhuman wanted me dead—the same evil Transhuman I had killed and who had just now invaded my dreams.
I cleared my throat. “I’m fine, Dad. Seriously. But I could use a bathroom break.”
Mom kept a suspicious eye on me, not really believing my excuse. “We should be coming up on a rest stop in a few minutes. Can you wait?”
It was well past noon, and I had already held my bladder for a few hours. A few more minutes couldn’t hurt. “Yeah, that’s fine.” I peeled off my blanket and combed my hair back with my stiff and achy hands when my stomach growled. “Guess I need some food, too.”
 Farrell kept his eyes on the road. I followed his line of sight out the window, at the fields we were passing. Was he worried about something? Did he know about my dream? I swallowed hard. Maybe I was still in danger and they weren’t telling me.
“There we go,” Mom said.
A gas station up ahead sprang into view. Sparkling white and blue, it housed a Wendy’s and a Taco Bell. Peering at the neon signs, I realized the cloud and rain from the morning had disappeared. I placed my fingertips on the window. Still cold even though the sun shone bright. Dad parked in front of a grassy area with picnic tables. He thrummed his fingers against the steering wheel before turning off the ignition, then turned and looked at Farrell. “Stay close to Dominique.” 
My body tensed. “What? Why does—”
“Dominique,” Mom placed her hand on Dad’s knee, as if to silence him. “Some habits are just hard to break.”
Her words were meant to make me feel better, but fell far short. A nervous laugh escaped my lips. “If I were in danger, you guys would tell me, right? I mean, Tavion is dead. We did win.” Another laugh rushed out of me. “Right?”
Farrell reached out to me. “Yes. Tavion is dead.”
Dead yet invading my mind, I thought to myself, not wanting to tell them I had just heard his voice. It would only worry them more than they already were. They didn’t need that. Plus, I didn’t want them hovering over me.
Dad rubbed his stubbled face and sighed. “I’m sorry Dominique. Your mom is right. Old habits.” He opened his car door. “Come on, stretching our legs and getting a bite will do us good.” 
The cool crisp air filled my lungs, replacing the stuffy air from the car. Even the grassy, earthy scents from the nearby fields smelled good. As we got closer to the entrance of the gas station, we passed a silver car parked at the pump. A golden retriever stretched his head out the back window, nose sniffing the air, tongue hanging out. When he spotted us, his eyes locked on me. His ears lay back. He bared his teeth and growled. I froze, afraid he’d jump out the window and attack.
“Rexie, down!” a woman called out from inside the car.
Farrell stepped in between me and the dog and wrapped his arm around my waist. He pointed at the dog. “It’s okay, boy.” A spark flickered from his fingertip, right at the dog. The retriever let out a whine and sat back.
A man came out of the store and strolled to the car, checking on the pump. The woman praised the dog for calming down. And me? Well, I started to panic. Farrell swiftly ushered me inside.
“What happened?” Mom asked, peering over my shoulder at the car we had just passed.
My breathing had accelerated. “That dog freaked when he saw me.” I didn’t realize how fast my heart was beating until Farrell squeezed my hand. A warm peaceful feeling rushed over me like it always did when he touched me—followed by a deep yearning for him. 
“Some canines are like that,” Farrell explained. “He probably sensed your recent conflict with Tavion.” Another squeeze calmed me even more. “I wouldn’t worry about it, Dominique.”
My breathing steadied. My heart rate slowed. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Farrell held onto my fingertips for a second before letting my hand fall. I almost reached back out for him, but didn’t. “Thanks, Farrell.”
Mom’s worried face relaxed. “Come on, let’s go to the restroom.” She walked to the back of the gas station as if everything was okay. As if I was just her daughter and she was just my mother. As if I hadn’t killed an evil energy being the night before.
My thoughts filled with memories of Tavion as I went to the restroom and washed my hands. As I lathered the soap, mom joined me. I looked up at the mirror, catching our reflection. I was almost her exact replica. Long brown hair, tall and slender. Her eyes sparkled true green while mine were dark olive, sometimes gray. My gaze lingered on hers. True green eyes—the mark of a Pure.
“Why are my eyes different?” I shook the water off my hands and grabbed a paper towel. “I mean, they should be like yours and Dad’s and Farrell’s, right?”
She tugged out some paper towel, too. “Yes, as a descendant of Pures you should have eyes like ours, but you don’t. You never have.” She tossed the paper in the trash. “It’s something we’ve never been able to…understand.”
“I’ve never had eyes like you and Dad? Not in any of my…” I whispered, even though I knew we were alone, “past lives?”
“No,” Mom answered. She turned me to her and held my face. “You’ve always had beautiful olive-colored eyes.”
Tavion’s thin, pale, wrinkled face popped into my mind. His eyes were dark as night. I thought of Fleet, Farrell’s brother, originally a Pure who had turned and joined Tavion’s ranks and who had been killed during our final confrontation. What color were his eyes? I couldn’t remember. “And the Tainted have black eyes?”
“Yes, they do. But sweetheart, it doesn’t matter.” She stroked my hair and tucked a strand behind my ears. “All that matters is this is over. We made it. And we’re all okay.”
Something inside me said not to believe her, but I ignored it. I needed something to hold onto. “I hope you’re right.” 
“Of course, I am.” She smiled. “Now come on, let’s get some food.”
We met up with Dad and Farrell at the burger counter and placed our order. While we waited, people rushed in and out of the station, and each time, Dad and Farrell went on alert. Dad caught my worried glance right away. “Sorry, Dominique. Remember—old habits.”
Yeah, right, I thought. My gaze wandered over to the girl getting our food together. She looked to be around seventeen, like me. She wore tons of make-up and smacked her gum like she didn’t have a care in the world. How lucky to have a simple life. 
“Here’s your order,” she said. Farrell took the bags and thanked her, causing a sigh to escape her lips while her cheeks turned red. Farrell smiled and when he did a sharp pang of jealousy jabbed inside me. I turned away from him, embarrassed and confused about my feelings. I mean, could I really blame her for having that reaction around Farrell? He was drop dead gorgeous. And that’s when I realized I had feelings for him—true emotions of my own and not connected to anything that might’ve been between us. So why was I resisting him?
He positioned himself in front of me and tilted his head. “You feeling okay?”
I grabbed one of the bags, suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable. “Yep,” I huffed, with a hint of irritation in my voice.
Before he could say anything else, I led the way out of the station and to the picnic tables. The cars that had stopped for gas or food had traveled on. It was just us. Alone. Surrounded by a cool breeze and bright sun. And yet, the weight of everything we had been through back in Houston kept me cold and dark inside. I wondered if they felt it, too.
 We laid out our things and ate in silence. I thought of their plan to fake our deaths. How would we pull something like that off? The cheeseburger I nibbled at tasted worse with each bite. The stale bun and bland meat turned my stomach. I washed it down with a gulp of flat lemonade and pushed my food aside. “So, how exactly are we going to fake our deaths?”
Dad wiped his mouth. “The plan is for Colleen to meet up with us tomorrow morning. We’ll ignite our car in such a way that it’ll look like a mechanical explosion. The fire will be so intense there will be no human remains.”
Shivers cascaded up and down my body. Farrell sat closer, his leg touching mine. I almost inched away, but decided I wanted him near, and not just for his calming effect. “And everyone will think it’s us?” My gaze met Mom’s and Dad’s before resting on Farrell. “Is that really going to work?”
Silence hung in the air. I pictured Infiniti and Trent learning about the crash. I knew Infiniti would be devastated. Trent, too. I threw my half-eaten food in the nearby trashcan. “Have we tried this in any other life?”
Farrell angled his body to me. “No, but I’m pretty confident it’ll work. If everything goes as planned.”
Any ounce of hope I had quickly vanished. “Whoa, wait a second. If everything goes as planned? That doesn’t sound very reassuring.”
Dad cleared off the rest of the table. “Well, right now we have no idea where Colleen is.”
Colleen—a Pure who had disguised herself as my teacher. She had a wise air about her, an authority that surpassed that of my mom and dad. Even Farrell. “So what’s up with her? What’s her story? And where is she?”
“She’s the oldest of the Pure and has a lot of power,” Dad said. “And unfortunately we haven’t been able to make contact with her all day.” He rubbed his temples. “If she’s missing, or something has happened to her, it can only mean something bad.”
I shivered. “Something worse than Tavion?”
“For lifetimes we’ve never survived past your confrontation with Tavion,” Farrell explained. “So whatever happens from here on out is completely new.” He touched my fingers. “But nothing can be worse than what we’ve already been through, okay?”
“We’re just all flying blind,” Mom said. “And we’re not used to it.”
“Join the club,” I muttered.
Nobody spoke as we drove the rest of the day and into the night. We were all on equal footing now, and no one knew what our future would hold. But I had to believe Farrell when he said that whatever might happen next couldn’t be bad. After all, what could be worse than being hunted and killed for lifetimes?
Chapter Two
I nuzzled my head into that perfect space between Farrell’s chin and collarbone and inhaled the sweet and spicy smell of him. I had always loved falling asleep in his arms. Not just because his scent was intoxicating, but because here, so close to him, I always felt safe. Like nothing bad could ever happen to me.
Wait! Those weren’t my memories! How could I have let myself fall asleep on him? I jerked away from Farrell so fast my head knocked his chin and his teeth clanked. “Ouch,” he said with a laugh.
“Farrell, I’m, uh, sorry.” I rubbed my head while I caught my bearings. “I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep on you.” The sky had turned dark. We had parked outside a two story yellow motel. Mom and Dad stood inside the double glass doors, no doubt getting us a room.
“No, I’m the one who’s sorry. I should’ve woken you up sooner. But you were sleeping hard and I figured you needed the rest.”
Crusty drool had dried at the corner of my mouth. I wiped it away. “Please don’t tell me I was snoring.”
He laughed. “Well, maybe a little.”
I had never really seen him laugh, and instantly it warmed me. Like he could be a regular guy and I could be a regular girl. And maybe, just maybe, I could let him into my heart. 
Mom and Dad hurried back to the car and jumped in. A blast of cool air rushed in after them. I scooted away from Farrell before they could notice how close we were. When I did, a smile flashed across Farrell’s face. “Our room is in the back,” Dad said. “And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m exhausted.”
When we drove around to the back of the motel, my eyes drifted over the mostly vacant parking lot. Flanked by fields on either side, only two eighteen-wheelers were parked nearby.
Mom unbuckled her seatbelt. “It’s not the best, but it’ll do.” 
Dad handed her a bronze key attached to a big plastic orange circle imprinted with 18. “You and Dominique go on ahead to the room. Farrell and I will get the bags.”
Our beige on beige room had two beds, a couch, a small TV, and a small wood table with one chair. The chill in the room felt almost as cold as the outside air. Mom set her things on the bed closest to the door and made her way to the thermostat. “Your father and I will sleep here. You can take the bed by the bathroom. Farrell can camp on the couch.”
I flopped on my designated bed. The springs creaked under my weight and the bedspread crackled like crusty old vinyl. I was eyeing the couch, thinking it looked more comfortable than the bed, when Dad and Farrell came in.
Too tired even to complain about our accommodations, the four of us got ready for bed as the smell of burnt gas from the heater filtered into the air. After a little while, the odor evaporated. Only the whistling winds outside, the musty scent of the room, and our tired and worn out bodies remained.
Nestling myself under the rough sheets, I imagined they offered me some sort of protection from my fears. The coarse material could be like my own little shield. I tugged the fabric all the way over my head, satisfied that I could safely cave to my exhaustion.
“You are not alone, Marked One.”
 I didn’t have waking dreams very often, but here I was, caught in another nightmare of Tavion’s voice calling out to me. Just like in the car, I tried to wake, but couldn’t. And so I decided to speak to him.
“Go away!”
My words echoed in my mind before silence took over. For a second I thought he was gone, but then he responded.
“I can’t. I’m here with you. Forever.”
My body snapped awake and I flung the covers off the bed with a scream. Farrell dashed over, grabbed me, and held me tight. “What?” he asked, rubbing my back. “What is it?”
Back in Houston, Tavion had invaded my mind through waking visions. Each time he visited me, the birthmark at the nape of neck exploded in pain. The sensation transported me to a red desert—the place where I had been killed in each of my past lives. But this was different—there was no pain, no red desert, just the voice within me.
“Dominique, please don’t shut me out,” Farrell pleaded.
I shimmied around him and flicked on the lamp. I was about to tell him about hearing Tavion’s voice when I noticed my parents were gone. A look of sheer terror must’ve darted across my face. “It’s okay,” he said. “They’re outside, using the pay phone.”
As planned, none of us had used our cell phones since leaving Houston. Even when I wanted to take a sneak peek and see if Trent or Infiniti had tried to contact me, I didn’t. What was the point? We were all about to be branded as dead anyway. So why did my parents need to use the phone? Farrell turned the lamp off. Bits of light from the outside filtered into the room. “I’ll show you.”
We crept to the window and pulled back the thick drapes. Mom and Dad stood together at the far end of the parking lot at a pay phone underneath a flickering light post. Pale yellow light illuminated them. Dancing moths scattered overhead. “Who are they calling?” I asked in a whisper, the dark room forcing me to a hush.
“I think they’re trying to find Colleen. Make sure she’s on track to meet us later.”
Dad held the phone while Mom circled around him. “Pacing is not a good sign,” I muttered.
“No, it’s not,” Farrell agreed.
After another minute or so, Dad hung up. Mom stood in front of him. He cupped her face in his hands, stared into her eyes for a moment, and kissed her for a long time. I wanted to turn away, but couldn’t. I had never seen them kiss like that. When they separated, they stared at each other for a moment before Mom rested her head on his chest and Dad wrapped her in his arms.
I dropped the curtain and stepped away from the window, my heart beating out of control. I twisted a long strand of hair around my index finger. My vision had adjusted enough to the darkness that I could see a questioning and confused look on Farrell’s face—the same look I’m sure must’ve been on mine after seeing my parents like that. I dropped my hand. “That was not a normal kiss.” My voice raised mid-sentence and continued to get higher. “There is something up. I know it!”
Farrell remained cool and calm on the outside, but the look in his eyes told me his thoughts were a million miles away. “If there’s something we need to know, they’ll tell us,” he offered.
I could tell by his tone he wasn’t sure of his own words. I snapped and threw my hands up in frustration. “Seriously? You think they’ll tell us?” As my protector, he was used to following orders. Me? I’d had enough. I flicked the light on. “The three of you have kept me in the dark for months, but not anymore.” I crossed my arms. “Got it?”
Farrell came close, his body just inches away from mine. He rested his hands on my shoulders. A memory of him standing before me like this filled my mind. A flood of emotions surged inside me. Suddenly I wanted him closer, my body screaming for his.
“You’re right, Dominique.”
He moved his fingers in a circular motion, my body melting under his touch. I moved in, closing the gap between us, suddenly knowing I belonged with him. His strong hands travelled up my neck and cupped my face. His eyes searched mine. “What are you thinking?”
It took me a few seconds to find my voice. “I’m thinking that I’m tired of fighting my feelings for you.”
“Then don’t,” he said, the heat coming from his stare sent my head in the clouds.
I moved in even closer and pressed my body up against his.
He looked down on me and studied my lips. “Dominique, I—”
The door swung open. Cool air from outside swept through the room. Farrell backed away from me while the drop in temperature sent shivers down my arms. Or did I shiver from the excitement from being so close to Farrell? I couldn’t tell.
I wrapped my arms around my body and focused on my parents. “So who were you talking to?” Mom paused for a second and eyed Dad. “And no more secrets,” I added. “Okay?”
Dad rubbed his hands together and blew into them. “The days of secrets are long gone.” He double-checked the lock on the door. “I promise.”
“We didn’t want to wake you, Dominique,” Mom explained. “That’s all. Your father and I were going to tell you about the call in the morning. But seeing as we’re all up,” she sat on the couch, “we may as well do it now.”
Everyone took a seat. Dad next to mom, Farrell by the table, and me on the edge of the bed. Mom pinched the bridge of her nose and sick feeling overcame because I knew their phone call outside could only mean something bad. “We still can’t locate Colleen,” Mom said.
Farrell ran his fingers through his messy blonde hair, something he always did when he was worried. “Did you try all the usual channels?” he asked.
“Yes,” Dad said.
My mind worked overtime processing Mom’s news. At first, confusion filled me, but my puzzlement quickly made way for a blast of fear. “We need her for tomorrow, for our big car accident explosion, right?”
“Ideally, yes,” Mom said. She placed her hand on Dad’s bouncing knee. “If she doesn’t show, we’ll just have to make do on our own.”
On our own… Those three words repeated in my head while Mom and Dad explained how we’d pull off the explosion. Mom, Dad and Colleen had already selected a remote town with a small gas station. They’d ignite the fuel pump while the car filled with gas. The explosion would be massive. No one would know we weren’t even in the car. And if Colleen did her part, we’d drive away with her in a second vehicle without being spotted. Without her, the only thing we had to worry about was securing a second car.
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Dad assured.
Doubt over our plan invaded me like a virus and stayed with me as I tried to sleep. It even saturated my thoughts while I got ready in the morning. Suddenly I felt isolated, separated from the rest of the world, helpless even. And then I thought of Tavion. My parents had promised me no more secrets, yet I still hadn’t told them about hearing Tavion’s voice. They needed to know, but not now. First, we had to get back to Michigan.
We continued with our drive early in the morning. “Closer to home,” I whispered. My gaze fixed on the gray sky. The sun struggled to peak through the thick blanket of clouds, but couldn’t quite make it. I wondered if it ever would.  After a few minutes, my focus turned to Mom. She drove while Dad’s eyes stayed on the near-empty road. What was he looking for? Without even realizing it, I had shifted closer to Farrell, and he closer to me.
“There,” Dad said.
I stretched my neck. A gravel farm road twisted to the right. Mom turned down the empty two-lane road. Farmland stretched out for miles. I watched the rolling fields pass by when Farrell’s body stiffened. His jaw clenched.
“Stop!” he yelled.
Fear gripped my chest. A bright light exploded from the sky. Smokey wisps appeared on the horizon. The vapor cleared quickly, revealing three black cloaked figures. Dad hollered a warning. Mom slammed on the brakes. Farrell twisted toward me, smashing one arm across my chest like a shield and tucking my head down with the other. The car spun out of control until it struck the embankment at the side of the road, hurtled up in the air, and flipped. Trapped by our seatbelts, we rolled over and over and over. The crunching of metal and breaking of glass exploded in my ears. After only a few seconds, but what seemed like an eternity, the car rocked to an abrupt stop.
My vision blurred. My body shook. A high-pitched hum filled my ears. My hair hung down, my arms and legs dangled. Shards of glass glittered like little diamonds on the roof of the car. We were upside down, and I couldn’t move.
“Farrell!” Dad called out. “Get her out of here!”
The cross around my neck swung back and forth before my eyes. Thick liquid dripped from my hair. I reached out and caught a splatter on my fingers. I brought my hand to my face. Dark red blood—my blood. But there was no pain. A creaking door shattered the silence. It was Mom, falling out of the car. She scrambled to her feet and rushed over to Dad. She flung his door open.
“Stone!” She pressed her fist to her mouth. “Your legs.”
“Never mind me,” he grunted. “They’re coming.”
My gaze flicked about nervously, trying to see through the cracked windshield, and there they were. The three figures that caused our crash. They closed in on us, moving effortlessly, as if gliding our way in slow motion. Mom made eye contact with me for a split second. Fear and alarm etched on her face. She erased it quick and offered me a nod of encouragement before turning to face them.
I started to call out to her, when another crashing noise filled my ears right beside me. I strained to see Farrell had blasted his door away. He dropped to the roof while dad and I hung upside down by our seatbelts.
“Get...her…out…,” Dad moaned.
Farrell maneuvered his body around, stretching out right under me. Cuts laced across his face and neck. “I’m going to unbuckle you, okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered, while a hard knot formed in my gut.
He reached over me just as blasts of light burst from the road. “Mom,” I managed to get out as I dropped into Farrell’s arms.
“I know,” he said.
He carried me out of the car and placed me on the grass. Then he went back for Dad. Ringing continued to fill my ears. Blood seeped out of a cut on my head and trickled down my face. Farrell returned with Dad and laid him next to me. Bones protruded through ripped and mangled flesh at his knees. I gasped, my stomach wrenching so hard I almost vomited.
Dad jerked his chin at Farrell. “Go to Caris! Now!”
Tears flooded my eyes as Farrell squeezed my hand before dashing for Mom. “It’s going to be okay,” Dad groaned through gritted teeth. But I knew there was no way. “Stay. Close,” he panted. “I’m going to shield us.” He moaned for a second until his silver light, his energy source, radiated from his body. Usually bright and bold, this time it barely filled the air.
Sweat beads formed along his face while his body shook. I scooted close to him, praying he had enough strength to protect us. A metallic taste filled my mouth as drops of my own blood slipped between my lips. I wiped away the trail of blood tracking across my face and spit. For a second, I reached for my injury, but stopped short. I didn’t want to know how bad off I was. Instead, I wrapped my fingers around Dad’s, hoping to give him strength.
“What’s happening with your mother?” Dad managed to ask. “I can’t see.” Another pang of fear stabbed at me as I realized his eyes were clouding over. I had no idea what that meant, but I was pretty sure it had to do with his energy source fading out of him.  
Trying not to sound completely horrified, I said, “I’ll look.”
A twinge of pain zapped my forehead as I positioned myself for a better view. Mom and Farrell stood before the three cloaked Tainted. Like wax figures caught in a face-off, nobody moved. I strained my ears, trying to make out their conversation, but couldn’t hear anything. Before I could tell Dad what was happening, Mom hurled a blast of energy at the figures. A barrage of smoky explosions filled the air.
“Dominique,” Dad urged. “Tell me!”
“Mom just attacked them,” I said. “And there’s a lot of smoke.”
I didn’t know how long Mom and Farrell could fend off the three attackers, when suddenly the figures disappeared. I caught my breath and looked around frantically because I knew they were coming for me.
“Dad,” I warned, “They’re—”
They reappeared—right at my feet and just on the other side of the energized shield my dad had created.
I gasped. “Here.”
With a grunt, he gripped my hand. He tried to pull me closer, but his hold was weak and shaky.
The two bulky figures towered over me while the petite one knelt down. She drew back her black hood. Short-cropped brown hair fell around her pale face. I was shocked to see she couldn’t have been much older than twelve. She leaned in and stared at me, and I caught my breath. Her eyes…they were a dark green, just like mine. My mind reeled.
Who is she?
She opened her hand and ran her fingers across my dad’s thin energy shield, pulling it back like a spider web. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she said with a smile. I flinched, pressing my body back against the grass. Farrell and Mom called out for me in the distance, and I thought I saw them racing to me, but the girl leaned in and blocked them from view. She shot a purple colored mist from her palms, forming her own energy bubble around herself, her two Tainted companions, Dad, and me.
“No!” Farrell slammed his fists against the dome. His hands sizzled as he clawed at her thick barrier. 
“Come,” she said, reaching her slender hand out to me. “You belong with us.”
Dad grasped at my arm. “Fight,” he whispered, his eyes completely clouded over now, his grip so weak he could barely hold on to me.
Everything inside me said not to listen to the girl, to fight like my dad had urged, when Tavion’s imposing voice rasped in my ears. “Go with her.”
Tavion’s command worked its way through me like a slow-moving whisper that magnified until it almost tore through my very soul. I bit down on my lip, fighting to resist him, when I felt my will starting to bend.
Why am I listening to Tavion? He’s the enemy. He’s killed me eight times. I hate him.
“Come, Marked One,” the girl urged. “Don’t be afraid.”
I knew I shouldn’t go with her, I knew I shouldn’t leave my dad, but a little piece of me itched to be with her. My body trembled, my arms stretched out on their own. My fingertips almost met hers when a shudder shook the earth.
“Stop!” Farrell called out. A burst of golden light flooded my sight. Heat sprayed across my face. My skin burned as if a fire ball had rolled over me. And everything faded to black.

Rose Garcia is a lawyer turned writer who's always been fascinated by science fiction and fantasy. From a very young age, she often had her nose buried in books about other-worlds, fantastical creatures, and life and death situations. More recently she's been intrigued by a blend of science fiction and reality, and the idea that some supernatural events are, indeed, very real. Fueled by her imagination, she created The Transhuman Chronicles--a series of books about people who have overcome human limitations.

Rose lives in Houston with her husband and two kids. You can visit Rose at www.rosegarciabooks.com

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TBR said...

Awesome Tour! Thanks!

Victoria Alexander said...

I've been following the tour - thanks for sharing!!!

bn100 said...

nice excerpt

Betul E. said...

Love the cover!! thanks for the giveaway

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