Scorned Excerpt

I’m ecstatic to announce the release of Scorned, the fourth book in the Demon Within series. Scorned is my favorite thus far because of the shift that takes place in Cami’s life and world. I loved exploring all her different relationships–both the good ones and bad ones–and how they affected her on different levels.

With every release, I usually share the prologue, but I’ve decided to share an excerpt from the first chapter instead. I’ve edited out most spoilers, but I have to warn you, if you haven’t read any of the other books, you may still stumble across some.

I hope you enjoy!

***

Fire glows in Malicevile’s eyes as he directs his anger at me. Raising his hands, he blasts me with a surge of white-hot energy. I don’t have time to react. His power knocks me back into the wall, sending sparks through my vision.

I grind my teeth while he shoots more power at me until I focus enough to absorb it. My hair rises around my face as static clings to me. My soul fills, expanding to the point that I’m pretty sure I’ll combust if he continues, but I won’t give him the satisfaction of asking for mercy.

Standing over me, he smiles. “Had enough?”

Kicking my leg out, I knock his feet out from under him, stopping him from blasting me with another wave of power. If he expects anything less of me, then he doesn’t know me as well as I thought he did.

I levitate from my spot on the floor and land just next to him. “Have you?”

He laughs as his eyes narrow. Without answering me, he handsprings to his feet and removes his suit jacket. It gives me the chance to ready myself for his next move. As he rolls up his sleeves, I shrug from my leather jacket and toss it to Evan.

I roll my shoulders, stepping backwards, not touching the floor as I levitate high enough to be at the same level as Malicevile. He cracks his knuckles like he can somehow intimidate me. It works a little.

Power ignites in his fingers, and it doesn’t take him long to thrust an energy orb at me. As I catch it, he charges forward, slamming his hands into my chest, pushing me back into the wall. His sharp nails dig into my collarbone, stabbing into my skin.

Jerking my leg up, I knee him in the stomach. He doesn’t back down though. He never does. I could fight him all I want, but he only reacts like I’m a pesky fly.

“You’re boring me, Camilla,” he says, sending another bout of energy into me.

I don’t respond. I can’t. His energy comes in faster and hotter than usual. It sinks deep into my soul, threatening to consume me. He’s testing me, making a point. Showing me that I’m nothing. It’ll take me years to ever measure up to him.

“Have you had enough?” he asks again, smiling at my obvious pain.

“No,” I manage to spit out.

“Good.” He drops his hands and steps back to give me a chance to try to best him again. “Now stop thinking and just react.”

Without waiting for him to strike first, I shoot a fireball from my hands instead of the energy he expects. The fire singes the fabric, smoldering his dress shirt. There’s no point in trying to use his power against him.

As he pats the burning fabric with his hand, I rush forward. Another fireball erupts in my fingers, and I chuck it at him again. He’s prepared this time though and drops to the ground before propelling from the floor to knock into me. His arms circle my waist, and he flips me up and over his shoulder. He spins me through the air and launches another bout of energy at me.

I can’t absorb the power and stop my fall at the same time, so when my back hits the hardwood floor of his office, air bursts from my lungs. I skid across the floor, hitting my back on the door. It shakes on its hinges from my force but doesn’t crack like the last time I egged my father on.

I shift, peering at Evan’s boots as he stands over me. Glancing up, I meet his serious eyes. His jaw tenses, and we watch each other for a split second. It’s long enough for Malicevile to shock me again.

I scream out in frustration and thrust my hands out, sending the power I’ve been saving for a special occasion. The lava bomb flies through the air and hits Malicevile in the stomach. Surprise crosses his face, and he rips his shirt off before the acid-like power melts into his skin. He wasn’t quick enough though. His abs glow bright pink.

“Get up, Cami,” Evan whispers.

Malicevile’s already crossing the room before I have a chance to get to my feet. Fire burns in his eyes as he closes the distance. Energy swirls in his hands, and he comes at me with furrowed brows, a look of revenge on his face.

I raise my hands. “I’ve had enough.”

He hovers over me. “I’ll tell you when you’ve had enough.” With those words, he sends a stream of electricity straight into my chest.

The edges of my vision darken as exhaustion consumes me. He hasn’t pushed me like this in weeks. I’m pretty sure I’m being punished.

An angry tear escapes my eye. “Stop!”

“Make me,” Malicevile says with a smile.

But I can’t. All I can do is succumb to the darkness that drags me away from the world.

***

You can pick up your copy of Scorned today from most online retailers.

Links: Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iTunes, KoboSmashwords

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Haunted Prologue

I’ve decided to shake things up and instead of just paste the prologue for Haunted: Demon Within Book 3, I’ve decided to read it via voice over for you. I hope you look forward to Haunted and enjoy it as much as I do!

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Crushed Excerpt

Now with Crushed released in the world, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite non-spoiler scenes featuring Cami, Cadence, and Evan. The Hunter’s Academy is where hunters go to train in slaying demons, and let’s just say, it’s not your ordinary school. Happy reading!


img_5292“If you two will stand up here, I’d love to demonstrate how to get to know your opponents without any fighting demonstrations,” Hunter Miller says.

Cadence saunters to the front of the room, and Evan casually strolls behind her. Like me, Cadence is in a black dress with combat boots. I’d never have worn this dress to class if I’d been able to change. But Cadence is a different story. She is the fashionista of the hunters and can fight in anything, which is an advantage in my book. Her dark purple hair is braided down her back, with a faux black flower pinned behind her ear. Her honey brown eyes shine bright against the dark contrast of her heavy eyeliner. I bet half the boys in the room have already fantasized about kissing her plum lips.

Evan wears a simple button-down shirt and jeans. His blond hair is neatly brushed out of his aqua eyes. He looks absolutely normal. But behind his eyes and easygoing smile lies a predator most don’t know exists. He’s lethal, strong, and a great fighter. I’m excited to see if the class’s observations about my best friends are correct.

Hunter Miller holds a marker in her hand, ready to write on the whiteboard. “I want everyone to imagine the classroom is an alley in the middle of Los Angeles. It’s dark and you’re alone. At the end of the alley, Hunter Dubois is blocking your path. She’s demon-tainted, and the only way past her is to fight. How do you fight what you’re unsure of? Let’s start with clothing. What does Hunter Dubois’s clothing say about her combat skills?”

A boy with a shaved head raises his hand. I should really learn people’s names if I’m going to fit in. “Yes, Sebastian,” Hunter Miller says.

“Her dress says one of two things. She’s either a demi-demon with the ability to heal quickly, or she is stupid and a terrible fighter.”

Cadence smirks, raising a single eyebrow. Nothing anyone says will get to her. Hunter Miller writes a less offensive description on the board.

“Her combat boots lead me to believe she’s a great kicker,” a red headed girl says.

“Her entire ensemble confuses me,” a boy, whose name I think is Adam, says. “She’s hot and scary. I don’t know what to expect.”

I laugh out loud. Adam shrugs his shoulders, unfazed.

“This is good,” Hunter Miller says. “We all know looks can be deceiving. “Now, Hunter Dubois, can you explain to the class why you have chosen to wear a dress instead of more appropriate hunting attire?”

“Sure. I like to look good while I destroy demons. Just because I’m a hunter, doesn’t mean I have to be a fashion victim. I can fight wearing anything. I’m that good.”


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Crushed! You can pick up your copy at all major book retailers.

Buy links: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, Amazon CA, Barnes&Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, BAM.

 

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Crushed: Demon Within Book Two Prologue

crushed-teaser8In only two short days, Crushed releases into the world! The second book in the series was so much fun to write because I got to explore a few characters that we just glimpsed in Tainted. It’s definitely a rollercoaster ride of a book as Cami finds herself amid a world where she doesn’t know who to trust as secrets of her life come to light. If you like young adult stories that explore the areas between good and evil, characters with special abilities, hot book boyfriends, mystery, and the possibility of some intense feelings, you’ll love Crushed.

To celebrate the soon-to-be release of Crushed, I’ve included the prologue for your reading enjoyment. I hope you love the book as much as I loved writing it!

 

And now without further ado…

prologue

 

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
A CRIMSON HAZE shadows my vision as anger rages through me like a fire threatening to burn everything around me to ashes. The bitter, dangerous emotion consuming me keeps me moving forward. It’s the only thing that encourages me to succeed in the one thing I want most in life—the destruction of those who’ve betrayed me by my hands.

I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t always have this overwhelming hunger for death, for devastation. But then everything changed. Everything always changes. My demonic side started controlling me worse than the man who raised me. My father’s obsession with who I should be transformed me from a weak, fragile girl into a blood-thirsty demi-demon. And now it dominates me, controls me. By accepting my heritage as a half-demon, I’ve inherited the evil that comes with it—the evil that forces me to take deep breaths to stay in control.

The evil burns in a good way, my overwhelming power sizzling under my skin. The faces of the Hunter’s Alliance blur as my desire to obliterate them overtakes my soul.

“Calm down,” a surly voice begs. “You’ll only hurt yourself.”

The skin on my wrists stings as I yank at the wired rope binding my hands to the rickety metal chair. My knotted hair falls in my eyes. A scream burns in my throat. I need to get out of here before they discover I’ve lost control of my demon half—before they try to send my soul to where it belongs.

“You have to let me go before it’s too late.” My voice comes out as a whisper like the quiet before a storm. A thundering, demonic storm I know is bound to happen if I can’t force my demonic half to relax.

Icy fear slithers through my veins. No one can save me. I can’t even protect myself. My humanity slowly slips through my fingers. I won’t let the alliance do this to me. I trusted them, helped them, and just like my dad said, they’ve turned their backs on me.

My vision transforms from red to black. A black so dark and devoid of light it feels like I’m being swallowed into a dark cavern of nothingness.

I scream again as I lose control. The demon within me awakens, and I can’t resist its alluring pull any longer. The alliance is going to die.


Thanks for reading! You can pre-order Crushed at any of these retailers in both eBook and paperback.

 

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Tainted Release Giveaway!

As a treat to celebrate the release of Tainted: Demon Within Book One, YA Bound Book Tours is hosting a giveaway on my behalf that includes a $15 Amazon digital gift card. Thanks so much to all those who have made the release of Tainted so special. There are many ways to participate, so just check out the rafflecopter giveaway below. Also, as another treat, I’ve included one of my very favorite scenes that you can check out below. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tainted with FlowersTainted Teaser

I turn on my heels, stomping my way back to the arched doorway that leads to the altar. Footsteps echo behind me. I barely have time to turn before Evan collides into me. We fall to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. I land on my back with Evan pressed on top of me. Heat blossoms in my cheeks. I’m angry and embarrassed I was defeated so easily.

I freeze as he watches me, his nose almost touching mine. I can’t help breathing deeply. He smells like his pillow—hints of golden amber and raw patchouli mixed with his citrus shampoo.

“Never turn your back on a demon.” His deep voice vibrates through me, sending tingles down my spine.

I lie placidly beneath him. “You’re not a de—” I begin to say, and then laugh.

“That’s beside the point.” Evan’s words wipe the smile from my lips. “You can never let your guard down for anyone—not even me.”

He rolls off me, breathing heavily, attempting to regain his composure. I push off the floor, knocking him on his back, determined not to make the same mistake twice. I’m tempted to help him up, but I picture him yanking me back onto the floor and yelling at me again.

I walk backwards, putting distance between us. The corner of his mouth quirks into a half smile. I narrow my eyes, taking longer strides backwards, my right hand behind me, guiding my way so I don’t bump into the wall I know is coming up behind me.

Evan reaches above his head, pressing his palms flat against the floor, and easily handsprings. His body arches in an elegant swooping motion, and he lands smoothly on his feet. He lurches closer, stalking his prey like a hunter. The predator he is dominates his every movement, every gesture, from his graceful strides to the ferocious glint in his eyes reflecting back at me. Crap, he’s going to try and corner me.

I steady my pace, taking each step one at a time, reaching out to the cool emptiness of the room behind me. It’s a relief to my clammy skin and my tightly wound nerves. I’m not trapped…yet.

I straighten my back. Lifting my chin smugly, I curl my lips into my most dazzling smile.

Without saying a word, he charges at me. I side step out of his way seconds before his arms can wrap around me. I run to the opposite side of the room. Alana would be proud of my ability to stay on the edge of danger without jumping into it. I’m a fast opponent when I’m not scared out of my wits. I can defeat the feline in Evan’s game of cat and mouse.

“You can’t run forever. I will catch you.”

“Want to bet on it?”

“Yes.”

 

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Tainted: A Demon Within Novel Chapter One

Tainted by Ginna Moran for web

 

 

 

With the release of Tainted drawing near, I wanted to share with you chapter one to go along with the prologue I had shared a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the prologue yet, you can do so here!

Tainted is available for pre-order at these online retailers: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes&Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.


Chapter 1 header for Tainted

FRIGID DARKNESS COATS my skin in ice, but it doesn’t cool the fire running through my veins. I’m trapped in a world of nightmares, hanging on to my sanity for dear life. I’m disoriented, unsure of which way is up. No matter how hard I kick my legs, I don’t get anywhere. I’m terrified.

My heartbeat resonates in my eardrums. The comforting thump-thump, thump-thump keeps me from giving up. My soul isn’t lost…yet.

“You don’t belong here, Cami.” A soft voice echoes in my mind.

“Who said that?” I must be going crazy. There is no one here.

“I did.” The voice comes from nowhere and everywhere, corking the hopelessness leaking from my soul.

Hazy light shimmers in the distance. Like a shipwreck survivor glimpsing a lighthouse on a faraway shore, it’s miles beyond my reach. The light is my last salvation from this barren, black void.

“Please, get me out of here.” My voice quivers with desperation. I’d do anything to escape this nightmare.

“I can only help you if you let me in.” The voice echoes louder, closer. It’s the voice of a boy, not deep enough to be a man. It’s a beautiful sound, like a symphony of reassuring emotions creating a heartwarming melody.

“How can I let you in if I can’t get out?” I ask.

“It’s simple. Open your soul.”

I jolt upright, startled. My room is lit in the soft glow emanating from my bedside lamp. I can’t believe I fell asleep an hour before sunrise. I haven’t done that in over a year. Alana decided I was old enough to have my own room if I could handle staying awake all night, prepared for any and all demon invasions. She’d freak if she found out I’d been taking a catnap.

I shake the lingering nightmare from my mind. I have enough to worry about, let alone stupid, cryptic dreams. The stench of manure and burning rubber stings my nose, and my heart jumps. I reach for the glass of holy water I have sitting on my bedside table. I can only think of one thing that smells that disgusting—a lower level demon in its true body.

I lean over the side of my bed to peer under it for signs of my childhood monsters, but there’s only a baseball bat. My closet door is wide open, displaying the few shirts and jeans I have. My leather jacket drapes over the back of a folding chair stationed in front of a television tray I use as a desk. My curtains are pulled open, giving me a full view of the walkway outside of my window.

And then I see it.

Beady eyes gawk at me through the glass. The demon looks like a metallic porcupine with sharp, silver spikes protruding from crusty skin. Its body glitters in the soft light emanating from my room. Triangular ears fold against its head and a thin flap of skin sags from its neck, twitching and moving like an antenna. It sits on its haunches like a mangy dog, pressing its flat black nose to the windowpane.

I suppress the scream burning in my throat. The last thing I need is to rile it up and have it smash through my window. I have just one cup of holy water left, and I need to save it for more threatening demons. This one seems content just taunting me.

I scoot to the edge of my bed and give the demon my best death glare. As long as I don’t submit to my fear, I won’t look like easy prey. This kind of demon won’t pick a fight if it knows it’ll lose. It makes choices based on animal instinct rather than intelligence. There’s not much I can do until sunrise except hold my ground.

“You got a lot of nerve being here,” I say. The demon may look like a mutated animal, but I know it can understand me.

The demon’s eyelids close and flash open in response.

I tilt the glass of holy water to my lips and drink a small amount. It’s not that I’m thirsty, but what I’m hoping is that it will protect me in case the demon decides watching me isn’t enough. Blessed water is like acid to demons. A glass of it will distract them long enough to give me time to get a running start. In this case, it will give Alana enough time to come and kill it since she’s only a door away.

“Fine. If you’re going to play this game, then I’m going to give you three choices. You can wait here while I scream for Alana, and then she can kill you. You can wait until the sun comes up and traps you for the entire day, and then Alana can kill you. Or, you can leave now and bother someone else, and never come back here, or Alana will kill you.” I can’t believe I’m negotiating with a demon. People lose their souls dealing with demons, but I’m not leaving room for error. Whatever it decides, I’ll survive until sunrise.

The demon lifts its hand and drags its spiked fingers across the glass, creating a horrible squeaking sound. I cringe, opening my mouth to yell for help, stopping short when it stands up on two legs and walks backwards in slow-motion rewind.

It disappears around the corner of the apartment, and I sigh in relief. It chose option three, sensing I wasn’t joking. I guess the demon was smarter than I thought. It’s hard to tell what a lower level demon’s capabilities are, and I’m really glad one of them wasn’t speech. I still have nightmares from the last demonic animal that could speak. My creep-o-meter almost blew up.

I watch the sky lighten as dawn approaches. My eyes are heavy from my short nap and the demonic stare down.

“Finally,” I say out loud to myself as warm sunlight pours into my room. Even though it’s been three years since I was introduced to the Veiled Realm, the world of demons, I’m still adjusting to the side effects it has on my life.

Being an ordinary human, instead of a kickass demon hunter like Alana, has left me trapped in Purgatory. I can never live like a normal human, and I can never live safely in the Veiled Realm. It’s too dangerous, too foreign. The Veiled Realm is the ridiculous side of life no average human would ever believe in. The exceptions are people like me—those who have become involved with the dark side by accident.

Loud banging outside my door interrupts my thoughts. I step into the narrow hallway of our tiny apartment, maneuvering around stacked boxes that will never be unpacked. Not if we have to move every couple of months. This is the third time we’ve moved this year, and it’s not even halfway over. It’s the only way to avoid demons. If we’re not on the run, they’ll come after us until I’m either dead or tainted by evil. Or worse—they could leave me without a soul.

Alana perches on the kitchen counter, sifting through the top shelf of the junk cabinet. Her shoulder length blond hair hangs in a ponytail, the front half clinging against her cheeks. She swivels sideways and glances over her shoulder.

“Fantastic morning, isn’t it?” she asks. “Another peaceful, uneventful night.” Alana’s fuchsia pajamas look as fresh and unwrinkled as they did last night, and I don’t know why she bothers wearing them. The woman doesn’t sleep at night, only in the morning, and even then she has insomnia most of the time.

“For you, maybe. I spent a good thirty minutes convincing a demon that you’d kill it if it didn’t stop staring at me through the window.” I wince, expecting Alana to start screaming.

She turns on the balls of her feet and jumps from the counter. She looks me up and down, checking for signs of injury.

“You know better than that, Cami,” she says. “If you would’ve told me, I could’ve killed it. This is bad. It might go after an innocent person or come back here.”

“It was only a lower level demon. Not something the average person couldn’t fight off,” I say, despite my better judgment.

“That kind of thinking will get you killed. I’ve spent too long keeping you safe to let that happen. You have to tell me these things.”

“Fine, whatever,” I say. Alana is persuasive when it comes to doing the right thing to protect myself from demons. The promise of injury, death, and the loss of my soul always seems to do the job. It’s still effective, even though I’m now seventeen and no longer the naïve fourteen year old girl she rescued.

I watch Alana pull an empty water jug out of the refrigerator and shake it. Small droplets of water pelt the sides, creating a soft drumming sound. She tosses it into the trash before looking up at me.

She sighs. “Where’s the rest of the holy water?”

“I drank it,” I say.

“What? Oh, never mind. Go get dressed. We have to get more supplies.”

 

***

The California afternoon sun beats down, warming my skin. I use my hand to shade my eyes, not caring about the possibility of getting sunburned. Alana once told me demons are repelled by sunburns because they can feel the sun’s rays emitting from your skin. I’m just not brave enough to test the theory.

“You’re quiet.” Alana shifts on her feet as we wait for the bus to arrive. It’s a nervous habit of hers. She can never be still for longer than a minute.

“I know. I’m just thinking.”

“Thinking’s good. What about?”

“You’ll just get upset.”

“Try me.”

“I’m thinking about the Veiled Realm. How much I still don’t understand,” I say. “If you would tell me the truth, we wouldn’t have to keep having this same stupid conversation.”

“You know I can’t.” Alana sighs, staring at me from under her light blond lashes. “It would make you a target to more than demons. I want us to live normal lives—at least as normal as we can.”

“Hold on. More than demons?”

“Crap. Forget I said anything. Now.”

I narrow my eyes. Alana can’t back out of this. It’s not often that she slips up and says too much. My curiosity is overwhelming. I have to know what other creatures are out there. How will I ever protect myself if I don’t know what to look for? There could be brain-eating zombies for all I know. I don’t know how to kill something that is already dead.

“No. Tell me. The boogeyman doesn’t scare me.”

“He should,” Alana mutters.

My mouth falls open.

“I was being sarcastic. There’s no such thing as the boogeyman…I think.”

I blink, smoothing the frown off my face. I shouldn’t be surprised. If there are demons, why wouldn’t there be other beings like witches and warlocks, even fairies? It’s comforting to think the Veiled Realm isn’t inhabited only by evil.

The scent of fuel and dirt drifts through the air, trapped in a breeze. The bus rumbles as it pulls to the curb; the brakes squeak when it comes to a stop. Alana drops coins into the dispenser, and I stomp on behind her. She strategically sits by the middle door, and I claim the seat across the aisle from her. I’m not getting trapped by the window if something happens.

I gaze at a boy close to my age, boredom masking his face. His complexion is smooth with no signs of acne. His deep set, chocolate brown eyes stare at the ceiling.

I imagine he’s one of the creatures Alana refuses to admit is real. I picture wings sprouting from his back, swooping out like an eagle’s, wrapping me in feathery softness. I can almost feel the light breeze from his imaginary wings ruffling my hair.

The boy arches an eyebrow. My cheeks flush, and I roll my eyes, brushing off my embarrassment. He presses his lips together and turns away.

“Not worth it. Some people can sense when something isn’t right. And you, Cami, dance with the dark side,” Alana says.

“Not by choice,” I say.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“It should. It’s not my fault demons actively seek us out.”

“Or is it…”

“Shut up!”

I shift in my seat and stare at the blurry world flying by. If Alana would buy a car, we wouldn’t be stuck on this stinky bus for over an hour. Where she would find the money, I have no idea.

Alana taps my shoulder; our stop is next. I stand up and grip the back of the seat, jerking when the bus comes to a halt. I shuffle off after her and notice the boy exits the front of the bus.

Alana strides forward, forcing me to keep a fast pace. Her boots are soundless compared to the constant thud-thud-thud of mine. She moves as gracefully as a ballet dancer, her back straight and her bare shoulders showing off her athletic muscles.

A breeze gusts from behind, and I stumble. I jerk my neck to look behind me. The boy from the bus lurks ten feet away. At close range, I notice every aspect of him. He’s tall and built like a swimmer. His muscles are firm, well-defined, but not overbearing. They’re subtle against his slim figure. His chocolate brown eyes shine with mischief and his lips narrow in a cocky grin. His thick black hair lies in loose waves, framing his face, curling around his smooth jawline. A golden halo surrounds him in beautiful, shimmering light. I rub my eyes, clearing away the haze of the sun.

“Cami, get behind me.”

I step back. My eyes never waver from the boy. Alana’s low voice creates a storm of fluttering moths in my stomach. I haven’t seen her act like this during the day since our first day together. I peer over her shoulder, flattening my body against hers.

The boy crosses his arms over his chest and frowns. His boyish face creases in irritation. He curls his lips in an awkward smile, showing a small dimple on his cheek. His posture is relaxed, nonthreatening. He shakes his black curls out of his eyes, and I’m taken aback.

“You’re always so on edge, Alana. Lighten up a bit. I’m not here for a fight,” the boy says. His soft voice perks up with amusement. It sounds really familiar, almost like the voice from my nightmare.

“Then why are you here, Dylan? Are you trying to put my charge at risk?” Alana says.

“You know him?” I say.

Dylan shifts, crossing and uncrossing his arms before placing them on his hips. Confusion lines his eyes. I inch away from Alana and step next to her. I stiffen my shoulders and look him dead in the eyes.

“Poor, poor girl,” Dylan says, shaking his head. “You haven’t told her anything have you, Alana?”

I give Alana a sidelong glance. “No, she hasn’t.”

“For your protection!” Alana exclaims, her soft voice going shrill. “Cami, please believe me. This is for the best.”

“You can’t keep her in the dark forever. She will discover the truth about our world.” Dylan swings his eyes to me. “And when you do, I can help you…if you’re not obliterated first.”

My hands tremble. I clench them into fists, trying to quiet the rolling fear in my mind. Alana always intones that a little fear keeps you alive, too much will be your demise. At the moment, it’s going to be the death of me. The grim reaper will be knocking on my door if I don’t get myself under control.

“I’ll keep you in mind,” I say. “If you have nothing else to say to me, then leave. Nightfall is only a couple hours away and we need to get supplies.”

Dylan purses his lips in thought, shrugging his shoulders. He probably didn’t expect me to speak for Alana. I may be under her care, but she treats me like her equal most of the time.

“Well, if you don’t want to talk, at least let me escort you.” Dylan says. “It would be a shame for something to happen because I’ve kept you from your errands.”

Alana narrows her eyes. “Fine, but if you even breathe a word about the Veiled Realm, you’re going to wish you never got off the bus.”


Thanks so much for reading! I hope you look forward to reading Tainted on June 30, 2016! 

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Tainted First Chapter Sneak Peek

With the release of Tainted a month away, I wanted to share the first chapter of the book, which I shared recently on my newsletter. Tainted follows seventeen-year-old Cami Anders as she struggles to live her life on the run from a demon that killed her parents. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek and look forward to the release of Tainted as much as I do!


Tainted by Ginna Moran for webPrologue

Three Years ago

 

The scent of smoldering fabric assaults my nose. The sudden darkness of my bedroom hangs over me like a thick wool blanket, blocking all traces of light. One second I’m staring at the pages of my book, and in the next, I blink and open my eyes in smoky air. Perspiration drips from my forehead, my chest heaving in agony as I sputter out a raspy cough.

My heart skips a beat as my world slows. I expect the smoke detector to blare and my parents to come running, but nothing happens. Fear grips me, stopping me from moving.

The air reeks with the putrid smell of sulfur—of burning wood—and the scent clings to my skin. My throat aches with every shallow breath I force to circulate through my lungs.

Billowing smoke clouds my room. I roll off my bed, pulling my star-patterned nightgown over my face to keep from suffocating. It’s soaked with sweat and smells like soot, but it filters the ash from the air, protecting my lungs. It’s no air purifier, but it’s better than nothing.

I crawl across the gray carpet, staying below the smoke like my mom taught me to do if there ever was a fire. When I make it to my door, I stand up and use my sleeve to protect my hand against the heat as I twist the doorknob. I jiggle it back and forth, but it’s jammed, and the thin layer of fabric between my hand and the doorknob sizzles from touching the hot metal. My body goes numb, refusing to react to the heat. I feel nothing at all. Terror consumes me from within as the fire devours my room.

Bright flames lick the walls. They eat away at my house as if they’re alive and hungry for revenge. The dense smoke blinds me to everything apart from the ominous light the fire casts upon the disintegrating drywall. I feel like I’ve died and awakened in Hell.

My legs wobble, threatening to buckle under me, halting my ability to move. Blinding tears sting my eyes, blurring my view of the flames in their mesmerizing dance. As I rub my eyes with the back of my hand, I can’t help thinking about how something so beautiful could be so destructive.

“Mo—” My dry tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth as I try to call for my mom. I doubt my parents can hear me over the roar of the fire. Their bedroom is at the other end of the house.

My window shatters, and a shower of glass cascades across the floor. I jump at the explosive sound, and my burning curtains catch my attention.

“Is someone in there?” A masculine voice asks in a smooth tone above the noise of the raging fire.

“Y-yes,” I stammer, my throat aching.

“Come to the window. Let me help you.”

I hop over the carpet to avoid the broken glass and climb onto my warm bed to kneel next to the window. My smoldering curtains rip as I thrust them aside, despite the heat against my fingers. My body still refuses to react.

Strong hands reach through my broken window and clamp onto my shoulders, yanking me up and over the sill. My bare legs graze over the rough remnants of glass. I wince as pain, hot as the fire, slices into my shins.

The dew-dampened grass breaks my fall. I curl my knees to my chin, comforting the side of me that’s begging to break down. I’m afraid I won’t move from this spot if I allow the terror of this night to engulf me.

An unfamiliar figure hovers over me. “Oh, Camilla. This is nothing to cry about.”

Shock stops me from doing anything other than peek through my wet eyelashes at a stranger who knows my name—a man I have never seen in my life. He wears a black suit with a silver silk necktie and holds out his hands, offering to help me up. His bright green eyes reflect the glowing fire behind me as he smiles, flashing his overly-whitened teeth. All I can do is stare at his proffered hand and his sharp, manicured nails.

“Come on now. Let me take you home,” the man says.

I barely manage to shake my head no. “Home? I am home. Please, call for help. My parents—”

“Camilla, look around. How can this be your home if it’s already gone?” He doesn’t mention my parents. My heart rams against my ribcage, but I still can’t move.

“But I—” The words refuse to escape my lips. I can’t answer his question. Instead, I say, “I’m not leaving with you.”

The thought fights with my urge to take his hand. It’s like he’s hypnotizing me. His strange presence somehow feels familiar but not in a good way. I take in his alarmingly handsome features as he waits for me to pull myself together. His dark hair is perfectly gelled into place, severely slicked against his head. His straight Roman nose and narrow lips with the perfect Cupid’s bow mimic that of a classic Renaissance sculpture. My eyes travel down his boxy jaw line, which is clean shaven and blemish free. It takes all the restraint within me to resist the urge to let him help me stand. He looks like a movie star, radiating confidence, yet I can’t shake a nagging gut-feeling warning me not to trust him.

“It wasn’t a suggestion,” the man growls in a menacing tone starkly different from his coos of comfort. I scamper back, cowering under my window, no longer entranced by his façade.

He leans forward, stopping only inches from my face, and I breathe in his scent of cinnamon and clove. As the smell floods my senses, it leaves a fiery taste on my tongue. The distinct aroma causes me to gag as I’m overwhelmed by the mixture of spices, fire, and my own fear.

“I don’t care. I’m not going with you.” My voice squeaks, and I wish I sounded more intimidating. “My parents will be here any second.”

The man laughs a hardy, shoulder-shaking laugh. His skeletal fingers grip under my arms, and I suddenly find myself dangling midair with nothing to hold on to. I kick, wriggling like a fish on a hook, fighting as hard as I can.

He glowers and shakes me until I stop moving, but he doesn’t let me go. His cinnamon breath warms my ear as he leans in and whispers, “Haven’t I made it clear? You have nowhere else to go except with me, and your parents aren’t coming, Camilla. I made sure of it.”

Please, let him be lying.

Unable to contain my panic any longer, I scream, my throat burning from the shrill exertion of air. He fumbles, disoriented by the noise, and I use his distraction to my advantage by shoving my fingers into his eyes as deeply as I can. He jerks his head back, cracking his neck, and he drops me. The world rushes by as I crash to the ground, the air whooshing from my lungs as I collide with the stone path beneath me. I somehow manage to get to my feet and stumble toward the wooden gate that leads out to the street.

I fling it open and break into a sprint even though my body is begging me to give up. Shadows haze my vision. My exhaustion and fear make it hard to hold onto the frayed edges of my consciousness. I sneak glances behind me, searching for the man, as my bare feet pound the sidewalk. Tripping over a crack, I lose my footing. My arms flail like pinwheels as I tumble into the street.

My hands and knees scrape against the rough asphalt. I lift my head to gaze around. Dread presses down on me as I see an old truck barreling down the street, traveling way over the speed limit, and heading directly toward me. Paralyzed by fear, I squeeze my eyes shut and brace myself against the ground, preparing for the impact. The smell of burning rubber assaults my nose just before the ear-piercing squeal of the brakes reaches my ears, and I look up to see the truck stop merely a foot away.

A tall, muscular woman clad in black races from the driver’s seat and charges at me. She yanks me off the ground with enough force to show her strength. I stagger while she drags me to the truck, unable to do much more than shuffle my feet across the loose gravel that sits atop the pavement. In one swift motion, she shoves me up onto the dirty bench seat and slides in behind me. I don’t even have a chance to grab the seatbelt before she accelerates, leaving my burning house and the mysterious man behind in her dust.

As the truck skids around the corner and onto another street, she throws her arm across my chest reflexively in an effort to keep me in my seat. Her other hand grips the steering wheel, although her fingers relax slightly as the road straightens out, and I join in her relief by exhaling a long, painful breath.

“Fu—freaking demon,” the woman mumbles, shaking her messy blond hair. “You’re lucky I arrived when I did. He almost stole your soul.”

My eyes widen, and my mouth falls agape. Oh, God, not another crazy person. “What are you talking about?”

“You know, the creepy man who set your house on fire? He’s not your friendly neighborhood pyromaniac. He’s a demon. And I just saved you from him,” she says.

I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry. This woman’s story is as crazy as her unruly hair. There are no such things as demons—everyone knows that. But if there were, and there aren’t, they wouldn’t be coming after me. I have nothing to offer.

“You’re joking, right? You don’t really believe in demons, do you?” I ask, my hands trembling in my lap.

“You’d be stupid if you didn’t,” she answers, her tone mocking me. She takes a hand off the wheel and offers it to me. “I’m Alana O’Neil, demon hunter extraordinaire.”

Instead of shaking her hand, I scoot closer to the other door, keeping my hands firmly in my lap. “If you’re a demon hunter, and that man really is what you say he is, we have to go back. My parents are trapped back there with him and need help.”

“I’m sorry.” Sadness extinguishes the feistiness in her voice. “They’re already gone.”

She confirms what the man—the demon—told me. It feels like someone has shot me in the chest, shattering my heart to pieces. This is all too much to take in. A demon, a creature I believed to be fictitious my entire life, has attacked my home, and the self-proclaimed demon hunter, Alana, isn’t going to try to save my parents. So now I’m stuck in the car with a crazy demon hunter who won’t actually hunt the demon after me. This isn’t possible—this has to be a nightmare.

I bow my head and hug myself. A series of convulsions shoots throughout my limbs, causing a wave of dizziness. My muscles seize up in response, tightening every part of my body. The pain sends chills down my spine. I’m on the verge of blacking out.

“Talk to me,” Alana says. “I need you to be conscious for a little while longer.”

“What do you want me to say?” My voice sounds muffled to my own ears, like I’m speaking underwater.

“Tell me your name,” she says.

Through gritted teeth and hot tears, I open my mouth and reply, “Cami Anders.” Grief and pain threaten to consume me. It takes every ounce of my will power to stop myself from succumbing to the anguish of knowing the two people I love most in the world are gone.

“Well, Cami, I know this must be hard for you, but eventually you’ll get used to the Veiled Realm. Believe it or not, it’s not always this bad,” Alana says.

Struggling to sit up, I squint toward her in confusion, creasing my forehead. “What is the Veiled Realm? Is it a club for people who abduct strangers, claiming to have saved them from a demon who possibly just killed their loved ones?”

“No, smart a—” She snaps her mouth shut for a second before saying, “Any other questions?”

I want to ask her to elaborate on what the Veiled Realm is, but she’s clearly too focused on driving like a maniac to be bothered by something as silly as offering proof to corroborate her outlandish claims.

Instead, I stay silent, unable to ask the question burning deep inside me—the only question I really care to know the answer to—because I’m terrified of her answer. I peer into the dark sky, holding myself for comfort. How am I ever going to survive this?


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XOXO,

Ginna

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