Category Archives: Book Excerpts

Poisonfeather by Matthew FitzSimmons (Book Excerpt)

Poisonfeather“Excuse me, Mr. Vaughn. May I have a word?”

A slight man in an open-collared pink polo shirt and khakis stepped into Gibson’s line of sight. One of those men who had somehow gone through life without developing a single muscle and looked like he’d been made on a taffy puller. Gibson looked him over. Boat shoes— check. Whale belt—check. Requisite pair of Ray-Bans hanging from the V-neck of his shirt—check. Half man, half preppie flamingo. Gibson took a step to his left to keep the restroom in view.

“Can I help you with something?” Gibson said, making no effort to mask his irritation.

“Mr. Vaughn, my name is Christopher Birk. I was hoping for a minute.” The Flamingo looked to be in his early thirties, although his thinning blond hair had mostly surrendered the fight and retired to the barbershop floor.

“Are you serious right now with this? I’m at a game with my kid.”

“I’m aware, and I sincerely apologize for the intrusion. It couldn’t wait.”

“Maybe you’ve heard of e-mail? It’s pretty snappy these days. Faster than following a guy to a baseball game.”

“We’d prefer to keep this off the record.”

Gibson gave the man a sidelong glance. “Now I’m really not interested. Enjoy the game.”

A second man stepped aggressively into the conversation. Gibson had seen him earlier but hadn’t connected the two men on the busy concourse because, apart from both being white, they could not have been more different. The second man was an inch or two shorter but looked hard where the Flamingo was soft, contemptuous where the Flamingo was conciliatory. He looked quick and wiry strong—a fighter. His DNA was missing the gene for growing an actual beard, but, undeterred, he had let a patchwork scruff grow in that gave him a trashy, feral look. A swirling tattoo emerged from his black T-shirt, ran up his neck, and disappeared behind his left ear. He looked like a broken shard from a shattered glass, the one you missed after sweeping up and found only with your bare feet in the dark on the way to somewhere else. Not a man that Gibson wanted around Ellie, and he hoped to be done with these two before she finished her business in the restroom.

“Just give this prick the envelope,” the Shard said.

“Let me handle it.”

“So handle it.”

“I would if you’d let me.”

The Shard shook his head and rolled his eyes but held his tongue. The Flamingo pretended not to notice and turned back to Gibson.

“Would you take a look? I think it will clarify things.”

Gibson looked at the envelope in the Flamingo’s hand. “What is it?”

“A request—”

“Not interested.”

“Just read the damn thing,” the Shard said.

“Who are you exactly? His secretary?” The Shard locked eyes with him, head cocked to the right, arms hanging away from his sides, as he inflated the way small men did before a fight. “Yeah, I’m his secretary, bitch. Now read it before I feed it to you.”

Gibson would lay money that the man had done time. Not for anything major. Enough to get thrown in with the hard cases but not enough to earn their respect. He’d had to fight to earn that. Gibson knew the type, had known them in jail and in the Marines. Man-boys with the simmering fury of someone with nothing to prove except how few fucks they gave about anything. As if not caring itself were an accomplishment.

“Cool it,” the Flamingo told his partner.

“Where’d you do your bid?” Gibson asked the Shard.

“Buckingham,” he replied with the same pride that another man might announce his alma mater.

Gibson’s eyes went to the bathroom door, but Ellie still hadn’t emerged. Good.

Buckingham was a level-three prison west of Richmond. Not a nice place, and now he really didn’t want his daughter anywhere near these men. When it had looked like his trial would end in a conviction, Gibson had passed the time educating himself about Virginia state prisons. To give a name to the nightmares that plagued him at night in his jail cell. It hadn’t helped.

The Flamingo held out the envelope to Gibson. “Please.”

Gibson looked each man in the eyes before snatching it away. Not because he cared what it said; they had followed him to a baseball game, and he wanted to know why. He glanced down at the pale-blue envelope and felt a jot. He had a stack just like it bound with a thick rubber band back at his apartment. It had been seven or eight years since the last one had arrived, but he would’ve recognized the monogram anywhere: “HBD”—the B twice the size of the other letters. Gibson slipped a single sheet of stationery from the envelope and read the familiar, ornate handwriting. It was signed Hammond Birk.

Gibson glanced up at the two men. “What did you say your name was?”

“Christopher Birk,” said the Flamingo.

“Son?”

The Shard smirked at the question.

“Nephew,” the Flamingo answered.

Ellie ran up and grabbed his hand. “Daddy, I’m hungry.”

“Just a minute, El. Go pick out a hat, okay?” He pointed to a nearby stand. “I’ll be right there.” Gibson turned to Christopher Birk. “Where?”

“Back of the letter.”

Gibson flipped it over. It was an address near Charlottesville.

“Can you come tomorrow?” asked Birk. “It’s time sensitive.”

Gibson shook his head. “I have a thing tomorrow.”

“What thing?” the Shard demanded.

“A none-of-your-damn-business thing.”

The Shard stepped forward, but Birk put a cautioning hand on his shoulder. “The judge would be very grateful,” he said to Gibson.

Gibson knew he should say no—everything about this felt wrong— but he also knew no wasn’t an option. Some debts you paid when they came due. He’d have a few days after he passed the polygraph before work started; he’d drive down to Charlottesville and talk to Hammond Birk. See what he wanted. It was the least that he owed the man.

“Maybe I can come out on Tuesday?” Gibson said, making it a question, not a promise, although that was exactly what it was.

“That would be terrific. Thank you.”

“Maybe.”

“Cute kid,” the Shard said. It was Gibson’s turn to lock eyes with him. “Don’t. I’m only going to tell you the once.”

The Shard laughed. “What? You gonna start something here in front of all these nice people?”

“Yeah. Right here in front of them if you talk about my kid again.”

The Shard moved his jaw soundlessly, testing a reply, but smiled instead. “Relax, Pops. Just saying.”

“Get him away from me,” Gibson said to Birk.

“Of course. Thank you for your time.” Birk tried to lead his companion away, but the Shard twisted back to Gibson.

“See you Tuesday.”

Excerpted from POISONFEATHER © Copyright 2016 by Matthew FitzSimmons. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

    About Poisonfeather

Gibson Vaughn, hero of the bestselling novel The Short Drop, returns in a smoldering thriller.

When jailed billionaire Charles Merrick hints publicly that he has stashed a fortune in an offshore cache, a school of sharks converges upon his release from federal prison.

Among his swindled victims is Judge Hammond Birk, the man who saved Gibson Vaughn’s life when he was a troubled teenager. Now Gibson intends to repay that debt by recovering Merrick’s victims’ money.

But Gibson isn’t the only one on the trail of the hidden fortune.

The promise of billions has drawn a horde of ruthless treasure hunters, including an edgy ex-con, a female bartender with a mysterious history, a Chinese spy with a passion for fly-fishing, and a veritable army of hardened mercenaries. To stay ahead of the sharks and win justice for his mentor, Gibson will need all his formidable skills. But at the end of the road, he’ll still have to face “Poisonfeather”—a geopolitical secret that just might get Gibson killed…or worse.

    About the author

matthewfitzsimmonsMatthew FitzSimmons is the author of the bestselling first novel in the Gibson Vaughn series, The Short Drop. Born in Illinois and raised in London, England, he now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for over a decade. Poisonfeather is his second novel.

Website

Twitter: @MatthewFitz_1

Bury the Living by Jodi McIsaac (Book Excerpt)


Bury the LivingMargaret forced another cup of tea on Nora and closed the photo album, laying it on the coffee table.

“Can I keep this?” Nora asked, still holding the photo of Thomas Heaney. She’d searched through the rest of the album for other pictures of him, but this seemed to be the only one.

“I suppose there’s no harm in it, but are you going to tell me what this is about? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Maybe I have.

“Are you sure you don’t know anything else about this man?”

“I told you, I have no idea, save for what it says on the back. But it seems to me that you know something about him.”

“I don’t,” Nora admitted. “It’s just . . . I saw him in a dream. Several dreams, actually. He looked exactly like this. I’m sure it was him.” The longer she stared at the picture, the more certain she felt. He had the same look of longing in his eyes, as if he were far away . . . or wished to be.

Margaret crossed herself and muttered, “Mary, save us.” She took the photo from Nora and examined it, then handed it back. “’Tis never a good sign to dream of the dead. But perhaps you’ve seen his photo before and have just forgotten.”

Nora shook her head vehemently. “No, I’ve not seen him before. Only I’ve been dreaming about him for months now. He’s even spoken to me.”

Margaret’s gray eyebrows arched. “Oh, aye? And what did your man have to say?”

Haltingly, Nora told her aunt about how the dreams had increased in clarity until the man—Thomas Heaney—had finally spoken to her and told her to find him in Kildare. “I wasn’t even supposed to come back to Ireland—I had planned to go to Kenya for my break. But the same night he told me to go to Kildare, I found out my friend had been killed. So I came home instead.”

Margaret watched her warily but said nothing. “Then in last night’s dream, we were in a stone courtyard, surrounded by high stone walls. There was blood on the ground. There was the sound of guns being fired, and then I woke up.”

“Well, I don’t pretend to know what it means,” Margaret said slowly. “But there’s a fine museum down at Kilmainham Gaol. That’s where many of the political prisoners were kept during the Tan War and the Civil War. They might be able to tell you more about this Thomas Heaney, if he was IRA.”

Nora reread the inscription on the back of Thomas Heaney’s photo. Killed in action, 1923. “Do you think he was killed at Kilmainham? Is that why I had that dream?”

“I’ve no way of knowing, do I? But it’s a possibility, I suppose. The Free State executed dozens of IRA Volunteers. O’course, the IRA killed their fair share of Irishmen, too.” She shook her head and glanced up at Jesus on the wall. “A dark, dark stain on our history, if you ask me. And it’s still going on in the six counties, so it is.”

“It seems pretty far-fetched that I would dream of someone who’s been dead for decades,” Nora said, changing the subject. “Maybe you’re right; maybe I saw this photo in Da’s things when I sold the house.” But would she have remembered his features so perfectly from a single glimpse at a photo? Something told her the explanation wasn’t anything so simple.

“Why don’t you go down to the jail and see if they’ll let you have a look at the records? You can find out if he was a prisoner there,” Margaret suggested.

“Maybe . . .” Nora considered this. “But the records might not even be there. You don’t happen to have a computer, do you?”

“Me?” Margaret laughed. “I’m too old for that.”

“Auntie Margaret, you’re not even sixty,” Nora said reprovingly. “But it doesn’t matter. I can go to the library later on.”

“This has gotten you quite tied up, hasn’t it?” Margaret’s eyebrows were knit together.

Nora blushed and got to her feet. “No . . . I’m just interested, that’s all. It feels strange to know so little about one’s own history. Maybe the dreams were just a sign that I should learn about this man. He could be related to us somehow.”

“And maybe they mean absolutely nothing at all,” her aunt countered. “Why would the Lord put such things into your head?” Nora had been wondering the same thing. Margaret patted her cheek. “I’ll say a prayer for you. But don’t let it upset you too much. You’ve had a lot to deal with lately; it’s no surprise your mind is spinning.”

“I won’t. I should get going, though. Thanks for the tea. And the scone was delicious.”

“Ach, not at all, dear. Come and visit anytime. How long are you on this break?”

“It’s supposed to be a couple of weeks. But I might go back early.”

“Well, you’re welcome to stay here; I hope you know that.”

“I do,” Nora said with a smile. She kissed her aunt’s cheek. “But I’m better off alone just now. I’ll let you know if I find anything more about this Thomas.”

“You do that.”

Nora walked a couple of blocks to the bus stop but then decided to keep walking the rest of the way to the city center. It was an unusually fine summer day—and such weather begged to be enjoyed, particularly in Ireland. Besides, she needed time to think. She kept pulling the picture out of her purse to look at it. She turned it over and over in her mind as she walked, replaying everything she could remember from the dreams, as well as what she knew about the Civil War.

An hour later, she found her way to the public library and logged on to a computer. Her search for “Thomas Heaney IRA” turned up nothing. She scrolled through pages of results, but nothing seemed to match the man and date from the photo. Perhaps her aunt was right, and she’d do best to visit the Kilmainham Gaol museum. She plucked a brochure for the museum out of a stand near the entrance of the library and studied it for a moment. The sun shone on the sidewalk outside the glass doors. Tourists and locals flooded the streets. The economy was thriving, and for the first time in Ireland’s history more people were moving to the country than were leaving it. It really is a beautiful country. I should see more of it.

She was so close to Kildare . . .

Don’t be ridiculous.

She read the Kilmainham brochure again. Maybe the courtyard from her dream had no real-world equivalent. On the other hand, there was a chance the museum would have photos of some of the prisoners. It wouldn’t hurt to check.

Excerpted from BURY THE LIVING © Copyright 2016 by Jodi McIsaac. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

* * *

About the book

“McIsaac puts plenty of history and a little fantasy and romance into this entertaining time travel tale. McIsaac has an undeniable talent for immersing the reader in the plight of the Irish in the 1920s, at the height of the Irish Civil War. Comparisons to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are inevitable.” —Publishers Weekly

Rebellion has always been in the O’Reilly family’s blood. So when faced with the tragic death of her brother during Northern Ireland’s infamous Troubles, a teenage Nora joined the IRA to fight for her country’s freedom. Now, more than a decade later, Nora is haunted by both her past and vivid dreams of a man she has never met.

When she is given a relic belonging to Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of Ireland, the mystical artifact transports her back eighty years—to the height of Ireland’s brutal civil war. There she meets the alluring stranger from her dreams, who has his own secrets—and agenda. Taken out of her own time, Nora has the chance to alter the fortunes of Ireland and maybe even save the ones she loves. In this captivating and adventurous novel from Jodi McIsaac, history belongs to those with the courage to change it.

About the Author

jodiJodi McIsaac is the author of several novels, including A Cure for Madness and the Thin Veil Series. She grew up in New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast. After abandoning her Olympic speed skating dream, she wrote speeches for a politician, volunteered in a refugee camp, waited tables in Belfast, earned a couple of university degrees, and started a boutique copywriting agency. She loves running, geek culture, and whiskey.

Links:

 

Website

Facebook

Twitter: @jodimcisaac

Black Rain by Matthew B.J. Delaney (Book Excerpt)


Black RainThe black unmarked rolled up on the park side of Fifth Avenue, directly across from the Livingston townhouse crime scene. The front curb was still crowded with marked police cars, and uniformed cops milled around with their hats on, playing on their syncs and waiting for somebody to let them go home. Crime scene pulses sectioned off the townhouse, while on the far sidewalk a crowd of people in costume stood together, some of them crying.

Detective Charles Arden sipped cherry meltwater. Arden was a big man, wide across the chest, but now growing soft, a former athlete past his prime. His body spread across the center line of the car, encroaching on the passenger seat where his partner, Detective Dwayne Sanders, sat. Sanders had a runner’s build, tall and slim, the kind of perfect mannequin frame that made even off-the-rack suits look perfectly tailored. He watched NY1 on his sync: the New York Braves had overrun Los Angeles in the invasion of Normandy, the crushers had expired three Synthate rebels in the Brooklyn conurb, and tomorrow’s rain would be six percent acidic.

Arden studied the containment dome that covered the lower portion of Central Park, which had become a tangled mass of overgrown vegetation. Eight years had passed since the dome’s construction by the genetic conglomerate Genico, and the covered area was still too radioactive for habitation. Too expensive and dangerous to ever fully decon, the dome kept the contaminants in place and turned the most expensive real estate on the planet into an overgrown wilderness.

Ahead of them, news trucks lined the block. Sanders flipped off his sync. “Ever get this much coverage in the Synthate Zone?”

“Kidding me. Synthate gets expired, just roll the body up and call the crushers.”

Sanders nodded toward a fat man in a musketeer outfit. “Recognize him?”

“That would be Senator Livingston. Pulled him out of enough midtown pleasure parlors to know.” Arden pointed out another man dressed Gordon Gekko–style with slicked hair and suspenders. He stood away from the crowd, a massive security-model Synthate behind him. “And that’s Harold Lieberman. Number two guy at Genico.”

“How do you know that?”

“Genico built half the Synthates in the Zone. You get to know who owns them. Doesn’t look like he was at the party, though,” Arden said. “Must have come after.”

“Wonder why.”

Senator Livingston’s residence took up the entire corner of the block. Two emergency service trucks had erected light towers at the edge of the park while crime scene units unpacked gear from the back of their vans.

The interior foyer of the townhouse featured pink-and-white marbled floors and columns amid fluxglass 3Deeing Venetian carnival scenes. Detective Rojas, assigned to the Crime Scene Unit, waited for them in front of an oil painting, some sort of large castle with a lightning bolt overhead.

“That painting would look great in your living room,” Arden said.

“It would really complement my da Vinci.”

“Someone’s been studying their art history.” Arden and Sanders both shook hands with Rojas.

“What do we got?”

“Three dead naturals.” Rojas led them toward a waiting elevator. “Two were a married couple, both hacked up, name of Reynolds. The third was security. Guy named Greeley.”

“Sounds pleasant.”

The elevator carried them upward. Arden’s sync chimed a reminder that it was time for his daughter to take her meds. He would call his nanny, Pisces Flyer, when he was done here.

“Some sort of costume party going on at the time,” Rojas continued. “Like a hide-and-seek sort of thing. Around forty guests. Some security people. And maybe fifteen or so maids, chefs, etc., all Synthates. So far they’ve been a little hesitant to talk to us. But their bioprints are all pretty calm. Oceans. Rainbows. Shit like that. I think we can eliminate them as suspects.”

“Maybe. Lot of Synthates learning to control their bioprints, though,” Arden said.

“I say we just pin it on a Synthate and call it case closed.” Sanders looked bored.

“Grab one of the usual suspects.” For many in the squad, that had been an easy way to close open cases. Grab a Synthate with a record and pin whatever had gone down on him or her. The department wanted homicides solved, and Synthates couldn’t defend themselves. You just had to pick one up, call the crushers, and throw some evidence around. Worked out for everyone. Except, of course, in high-profile cases. When the public inconveniently demanded the real killers be brought to justice.

The elevator doors opened to a floor crowded with more uniforms. The trio walked down a long hallway that ended in a luxurious private library. The room had twenty-foot-high ceilings, a gilded fireplace on one wall, and a chandelier the size of Arden’s kitchen table. Windows looked down on Central Park, the abandoned zoo visible through the dome, rusting and overgrown.

A gorgeous brunette natural in a tight calfskin dress with a feather in her hair sat crying in the corner of the room, being comforted by a man in a tricornered hat and breeches.

“Who’s she?” Arden asked.

Sanders snapped his fingers and pointed at the girl. “Pocahontas next to Napoleon.”

Rojas shook his head. “No, no, no. You’re way off. It’s Sacagawea and Thomas Jefferson.”

“No, I meant, who is she? What’s she doing here?”

“Oh,” Rojas responded. “Synthate found the bodies initially. But these two were the first naturals afterward. She and Betty Boop were hiding in the study next door. Thomas Jefferson is—”

“Napoleon,” Sanders interrupted.

“Whoever.” Rojas looked annoyed. “That’s her husband. He was in the billiard room at the time.”

“See anything?”

“Aside from the two dead bodies? Nah, she didn’t see anything.”

Arden studied the room. Opposite a wall with a grandfather clock, broken glass lined the floor. A smaller room was also visible, recessed from the library.

“Looks like our two victims were in some sort of concealed back bedroom. Apparently there was a mirror with one-way glass on the bedroom side. It opened with a remote.” Rojas raised his eyebrows. “Whatever that was about. Anyway, the two victims were found inside there. Some shell casings. Looks like some shots were fired. No weapon recovered, though. Help yourself.”

The Evidence Collection Team, or ECT, was already on scene. One of the officers crouched down as he placed a yellow marker over what appeared to be a shell casing on the floor.

“I suggest it was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the revolver,” Sanders said as they stepped over the broken glass and into the once-hidden bedroom. The bed’s comforter was pulled back and bloodied red. The body of a man in surgical scrubs lay sprawled face-down on the floor. On the bed was a woman dressed as an angel.

“Detectives Arden and Sanders,” Rojas said. “Meet Dr. and Mrs. Reynolds.”

“Doctor?”

“Yeah, Dr. Reynolds. Had a Genico lab identification card in his pocket.”

“What’d he do over there?”

Rojas grimaced and looked at his shoes.

“What?” Arden asked. “What’s with the glum look?”

“Synthate design work. He was also in charge of the Black Rain program.”

“Oh.” Arden exhaled, then scuffed the ground with his shoe. “Well, I guess this guy won’t be coming up with a cure anytime soon.”

Excerpted from BLACK RAIN © Copyright 2016 by Matthew B.J. Delaney. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

About Black Rain (47North, September 2016)

In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.

As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.

About the Author

    delaneyMatthew B.J. Delaney published his first novel, Jinn, in 2003. Winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the novel was optioned for film by Touchstone Pictures, was featured as People magazine’s Page-Turner of the Week, and received a Publishers Weekly Starred Review.

    Delaney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. He has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within police headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated Special Operations Lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. He continues to write in his spare time.

The Last Girl by Joe Hart

Bestsellersworld.com is pleased to share an excerpt from The Last Girl, the first book in Joe Hart’s new Dominion Trilogy. The Last Girl is now available in digital and bound editions from Thomas & Mercer.

The Last GirlA knock.

“Come in,” she says. The door opens, and Simon stands there in the hallway. He wears his usual Cleric uniform—a black button-up shirt, closed tight at the throat, and dark cargo pants above hiking boots. His handsome features are wrinkled by lines on his forehead as well as on either side of his thin mouth. His dark hair, always combed so carefully to the side, seems to have grayed more at the temples overnight.

He looks at her with eyes very blue against the slate concrete, though there’s a softness to them that always reassures her no matter what’s happening at the moment.

“Good morning, Zoey.”

“Good morning, Simon.”

“You rested well?”

She nods.

“Good. Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Sure.”

He holds the door open for her, letting it coast shut when she steps into the hall, the lock hidden in the frame snapping quietly. They walk slowly down the hallway, their steps nearly matched. How many times have we done this? She could do the math, she supposes, but what purpose would it serve? Because she knows why they do it. It’s the same reason for the calendars in all the rooms, it’s why they’re taught to read the months and days only after the rules are memorized. It’s to add another wall around them, knowing how long they’ve been here doing the same thing day after day.

They near the end of the hall and turn a corner. Zoey glances at their strange, bulbous reflections in the curved mirror mounted near the ceiling. She makes a face at herself. The stairs are ahead of them, but she slows as she sees another Cleric standing outside one of the last doors on the left. He’s younger than Simon, but not by much. He has close-cropped blond hair that reveals his scalp beneath the fluorescent lighting. She knows him as Abbot, but most call him Abe. Zoey stops, and Simon halts as well.

“What’s wrong?” Simon asks.

“I was wondering . . .” She blinks and licks her lips. “I wanted to talk to her before she goes.”

Simon tips his head back, his mouth thinning until it’s only a bloodless line. “Zoey, you know you’re not supposed to speak with her in her room. Especially today.”

“I know. But what will it hurt? She’ll be gone this afternoon, and I won’t see her—” She starts to say ever again but corrects herself. “—for quite a while.” Abe has overheard them talking and is watching Simon, unmoving, unaffected. Simon frowns and glances down the hallway at the domed shape jutting from the ceiling. The cameras are everywhere, their opaque eyes always watching, judging.

“Please,” she says, surprising herself. Simon returns his gaze to her before looking at Abe. Abe shrugs, as if to say Fine with me.

“Only a few minutes,” Simon says.

Abe turns and knocks twice on the door. A murmured reply comes from within, and he holds his bracelet up to the reader beside the lock.

The door clacks, and he opens it for Zoey as she steps past him. The room is a duplicate of her own. There is the desk, the chair, the hateful calendar, and the room’s sole occupant sitting on the bed.

Zoey’s struck, as she always is, by how beautiful Terra can be. Her hair is long and blonde, bordering on white. It is straight and will do almost anything Terra wants it to. Now it’s pulled back from her face, accentuating her long nose, high cheekbones, and dark eyes that Zoey has never seen shine with true surprise until now.

“Zoey, what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be in my room.” Her voice is commanding and powerful. She stands from the bed and rises a full three inches above Zoey’s height. It’s not so much that Zoey’s short, but more that Terra is tall. Everything about her cries leader, and that’s why Zoey is so afraid.

“I needed to talk to you. Before the ceremony.”

“About what?”

Zoey hesitates, hovering on the brink of an abyss before stepping off.

“Pretend you’re sick,” she says in a low voice. Terra tips her head and squints at her as if she didn’t hear what Zoey said.

“What? Why?”

“So you don’t have to go.”

Terra sighs. “Zoey, we’ve talked about this. You know it’s what we all want. I’ve been waiting for this day for years and years. For . . .”

Terra’s voice falters, and Zoey sees a sheen appear in her eyes. “. . . for as long as I can remember. The Program isn’t something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace. It’s for the greater good of—”

Zoey turns from her, staring down at the floor, and moves to the desk.

“Please don’t say that to me.”

“Say what?”

“‘The greater good.’ Please don’t say that.”

Terra comes up behind her, places her hands on Zoey’s shoulders. They are strong and sure, radiating strength that seems to be the only thing other than kindness that Terra can produce.

“It’s true, Zoey. Today isn’t something I’m afraid of, and you shouldn’t be afraid either. I’m going to get to see them today. I’m going to see my parents.” Terra’s voice falters again, and Zoey knows that she’s crying behind her, but she can’t bring herself to look at her friend.

“There’s a place outside of these walls that’s safe for us, and after the waiting period I’m going to see it with them.”

Zoey turns then, gazing up at Terra’s tear-streaked face. “I don’t believe it. I think they’re lying to us.”

“How can you say that? They’ve always kept us safe here, sheltered from the plague, those that would hurt us. Why would they protect us
if they were lying?”

Zoey ignores the question. “Pretend to trip, to fall down the stairs. If you’re injured even a little, they’ll send you to the infirmary, and we’ll have a few more days.” Zoey can’t stand the pleading in her voice, but there’s no straining it out.

Terra smiles, and Zoey suddenly hates the expression. It’s full of knowing, and comfort, and regal condescension. “You know I won’t do that. I can’t. Don’t worry, it will only be a little while, and we’ll be in the safe zone together. We’ll get to see Grace and Halie, and we’ll be able to meet each other’s parents.”

Zoey steps away from Terra. “It’s a lie,” she hisses, unable to contain the sudden fury that’s bloomed within her. “I don’t know what’s after induction, but it’s not what they say. It’s all a lie. I can see it on Miss Gwen’s face whenever she tells us about the safe zone. She’s lying, and so is the Director.”

Terra looks like she’s been slapped. One of her hands reaches up to cover her mouth, which has dropped partially open. “Zoey, stop. You don’t know what you’re saying. That’s heresy.”

Zoey shakes her head and realizes she’s trembling all over, like after a long run. “Please, Terra, don’t go.”

Terra draws herself up, becoming once again the leader, the keeper of order that she’s been for the last decade among the other women. Her eyes harden, and she blinks away the last of her tears.

“I love you, Zoey. You’ll see soon that everything is okay. Everything is going to be all right.” Zoey looks at her and feels something shrivel in on itself within her chest.

“Goodbye, Terra,” she says, and moves to the door without looking back.

Excerpted from THE LAST GIRL © Copyright 2016 by Joe Hart. Reprinted with permission by Thomas & Mercer. All rights reserved.

About The Last Girl

A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women.

Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.

Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

About the Author

joehartJoe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota. Having dedicated himself to writing horror and thriller fiction since the tender age of nine, he is now the author of eight novels that include The River Is Dark, Lineage, and EverFall. The Last Girl is the first installment in the highly anticipated Dominion Trilogy and once again showcases Hart’s knack for creating breathtaking futuristic thrillers.

When not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, exploring the great outdoors, and watching movies with his family. For more information on his upcoming novels and access to his blog, visit http://www.joehartbooks.com.

FURIOUS by T. R. Ragan

Bestsellersworld.com is pleased to share an excerpt from Furious by T.R. Ragan. Furious is now available in digital and paperback editions from Thomas & Mercer.

FuriousThe kids unlatched their seatbelts, jumped out of the car, and ran through the garage and into the house before the song ended. Faith sang along until the last verse, then sat there for a moment and soaked in a little peace and quiet. Working full-time and raising two young kids tended to make moments like this rare.

Her cell phone buzzed. It was her sister.

“Hey, what’sup?” Faith asked.

“I’ll tell you what’s up,” Jana said. “Steve is driving me nuts! I quit drinking, I stopped devouring cake and cookies, but now he won’t let me lift anything heavier than a milk carton. This baby is going to be born stressed out if he doesn’t chill.”

Faith smiled. Her sister was a drama queen.

“What time will you be coming tomorrow?”

“Oh, my God, I forgot about the party.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Faith said.

“You were supposed to make six dozen cupcakes. Do you know how much I still have to do before—”

Her sister’s laughter cut her off midsentence.

Faith sighed when she realized Jana had been joking about not making the cupcakes.

“That’s not funny, Jana.”

“You’re such a dweeb. How could I possibly forget to make six dozen cupcakes when you’ve reminded me every single day for the past two weeks?”

“I don’t know, but I have to go.”

“Wait—Have you told Craig the news?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“He’s been busy with work—and, you know, bills stacking up, new tires for the car, busted water heater last month. I haven’t found the right moment to tell him about baby number three.”

“He’ll be thrilled. Don’t wait too long, OK?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Faith disconnected the call and was about to head off for the store when she remembered the grocery list hanging on the refrigerator. She left her purse in the car and climbed out. Weaving around toys and bikes, she headed through the garage door into the kitchen, where it looked as if a tornado had swept through the house. Kitchen drawers had been left open. Papers and broken dishes were scattered across the floor.

Her heart raced. What is going on?

Just as she was about to call out her husband’s name, she stepped into the family room and saw Craig on the floor, bound and gagged.

A man she didn’t recognize hovered over him.

The scene before her made no sense.

Her heart pounded in her chest, making it difficult to breathe as her gaze darted around the room.

And then she spotted them.

Lara and Hudson sat together on the couch. Their hands had been duct-taped behind their backs. More duct tape covered their mouths. Another man stood close by, watching over them.

Time stopped as she tried to figure out what to do.

Craig always said they should buy a gun, but she didn’t want to keep one in the house.

Eyes wide, she looked at the knife drawer. Grab a knife? Or run and alert the neighbors?

The two men exchanged a glance. Their eyes said it all.

She turned and ran.

If she could get inside the car and lock the doors, she could honk the horn or drive the car right through the wall and into the house if she had to. That might get one of the neighbors’ attention.

She flew through the back door leading to the garage and screamed at the top of her lungs before someone grabbed her from behind, twisted her around, and brought her face up close to his.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as she struggled to get free.

He sneered. His eyes were bloodshot, filled with desperation.

He smelled of stale tobacco. Strong arms held her in place. She thought of every show she’d ever seen on getting away from an assailant, but fighting him was useless. “Let us go!” she cried.

He shook her hard enough to make her teeth rattle.

“You have five seconds to tell me where it is!”

This time when she screamed, she dug her heel into his foot and tried to twist out of his grasp.

He slammed her to the ground. Her head hit the cement floor, and her world turned black.

Excerpted from FURIOUS © Copyright 2016 by T.R. Ragan. Reprinted with permission by Thomas & Mercer. All rights reserved.

Assets:

Furious by T.R. Ragan (Thomas & Mercer)

Faith McMann comes home to a nightmare: her husband is killed and her son and daughter are taken. Although the intruders leave her for dead, she survives. Crippling grief and fear for her children make life unbearable. Until her anguish turns to anger…and she trades victimhood for vengeance.
Frustrated with the law’s efforts, she takes action to rescue her children—and wreaks havoc on the brutal criminals who tore them from her. With her family and newfound allies at her side, Faith descends into the hellish underworld of human trafficking, determined to make those who prey on the innocent pray for mercy.

The forces she’s up against have already proven that their ruthlessness knows no bounds. And there’s nothing they won’t do to turn Faith’s crusade into a suicide mission. But they’re about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a mother fighting for her children—especially one who’s earned the nickname Furious.

About the author:

trraganT.R. Ragan (Theresa Ragan) is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. Her exciting Lizzy Gardner series (Abducted, Dead Weight, A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead, and Evil Never Dies) has received tremendous praise. In August 2015 Evil Never Dies hit #7 on the Wall Street Journal Bestselling List. Since publishing in 2011, she has sold two million books and has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, PC Magazine, Huffington Post, andPublishers Weekly.

Theresa grew up in a family of five girls in Lafayette, California. An avid traveler, her wanderings have carried her to Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, China, Thailand, and Nepal, where she narrowly survived being chased by a killer elephant. Before devoting herself to writing fiction, she worked as a legal secretary for a large corporation. Theresa and her husband Joe have four children and live in Sacramento, California.

Furious, the first book in her Faith McMann series was released March 22, 2016, followed by Outrage and Wrath.

Website: Visit Author’s Website