Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas with the Oracles Giveaway - Day Two!

Day Two

Scroll to the bottom of the page for the giveaway!

Soul Quest, The Soul Quest Trilogy, Book One

Chapter One
Time - February 14, 2015
Place - Forest Hills High School parking lot
Queens, New York

"It is not in the stars
to hold our destiny
but in ourselves."

- William Shakespeare

Jedd sensed something was wrong tonight. Darn it! Why did he have to be so perceptive?
"You can trust me, you know?" he said. "There isn't anything I can't handle and there definitely isn't anything that I wouldn't do for you. You know that, Liv" he continued.
"Jedd, I know you care for me and I hope you know that I care for you. You should go home. We shouldn't be together tonight. I want to do what is right and I don't know what that is. This isn't fair to you anymore." I said.
Why was it so hard to let him go? Logically it made perfect sense but it felt so wrong. I needed him. I relied on him when I was weak and unsure of myself. Jedd made me feel like I could do anything, be anything. If he ever knew exactly what that sometimes involved he might change his mind. What if he did know? What would he think of me? How would he feel about me after he knew the truth? Would he think I was a freak? I couldn't handle the idea of him shunning me and yet it seemed I suddenly had to know if he could accept me for me. He immediately recognized the look of insecurity and doubt in my face. Naturally he assumed the fear and doubt was somehow directed at him. He raised an eyebrow at me as if to say, take your best shot.
"You'll think I'm a freak!" I protested.
"Try me. I'm not a sissy." he challenged back.
Could he handle it? I certainly wouldn't think he was a sissy if he couldn't. This little train wreck that was my life was definitely not for the feint of heart. He just sat there staring at me. The cool winter wind played in his jet black curly hair, his skin was a pretty olive color. It heavily contrasted with the steel blue hues of his eyes. His teeth were pearly white and straight. He had a killer smile, my weakness of course. His eyes looked like stars against the midnight sky. He was easily the best looking guy at Forest Hills High School, even if he was only a freshman.
We were more than half way through our freshman year. Spring time would arrive before we knew it. Everyone was looking forward to trips to the shore and the city, unless of course you were me or one of my companions. I'd never imagined the type of responsibility that would come to mean for me, not even close. Less than six months ago I was a carefree kid. My biggest worry was surviving my freshman year in high school. It was all so ironic. Most kids were busy contemplating trips and parties over the spring break. Instead I looked into the eyes of the boy I cared for, maybe even loved, and contemplated whether or not I could trust him with my secret. What would I even say? Well Jedd, I'm a human Oracle of Earth, commanded by the Great Spirit. Yeah Liv, that will go over great! Still, I had to do something. I found myself gazing into his eyes again searching for the answer to my dilemma. Suddenly a little voice in the back of my head told me to go for it. There has always been something about Jedd that makes me feel brave, confident even, whether I should be or not. I decided this fact was a good sign, a good omen of sorts. I made the decision to trust him. He has always been there for me, a constant stand by. He deserved to know what he was getting into. It simply was not fair to allow him to become any more attached to me, or myself to him, when I was more than the person he imagined me to be. I have to do this. I took a deep breath.
"Do you remember when Mr. Marshall was talking to us about the 911 attacks in Social Studies class?"
Jedd looked at me with a confused expression. He raised his eyebrows and cocked his head to the side with a tiny smile playing on his lips. He looked like an adorable, cuddly, innocent puppy.
"And?" he pressed when I didn't continue. Be brave! I chanted to myself.
"Tell me what you remember about it." I said, still not really sure where I was going with this. It was all so complicated.
"Well, I believe I remember him saying something about 911 being a series of suicide attacks by Al-Qaeda against the United States on September 11, 2001. A bunch of Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes. They intentionally crashed two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Everyone on both planes died and many more people in the towers and surrounding buildings lost their lives as a result of the attacks. Oh yeah, and I remember he said that both buildings had collapsed within two hours. Man... I couldn't believe that. Those buildings were so huge. I mean, at least they appeared to be in pictures I've seen of them." he said looking at me.
"Yeah, my Mom said they were really huge." I agreed.
"Anyway, he said the terrorists crashed a third plane into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed into a field somewhere in Pennsylvania. I can't remember all of the details about that one." he finished.
"Some of its passengers and crew tried to regain control of the plane. The terrorists were headed toward Washington DC and you're right, there were no survivors on any of the planes." I added.
"So what does any of this have to do with you, Liv?" he asked.
"Actually, it has to do with all of us, everyone, every where. It's about being human and human nature... and making the right choices." I said.
"It sounds serious. Hey, this isn't about Melissa Small's house getting toilet papered last weekend is it? I told you I had nothing to do with that. I swear!" he said defensively.
His nose wrinkled. He was lying. Then he mumbled something under his breath, probably thinking I couldn't hear him, " ...not that she didn't deserve it, the liar."
"No Jedd! This has nothing to do with Melissa Small or toilet paper." I complained.
"Sorry, just checking." he said. He was either embarrassed or ashamed, I'm not sure which.
Melissa Small is the biggest gossip in the whole entire school, maybe the whole entire world, possibly even the entire universe. OK, so maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but trust me, you do not want to get on her bad side. If you do you will suffer with endless, merciless, social life-murdering rumors about you and anyone you hang out with forever! Have you ever seen the movie 'Mean Girls?' I'll just say this. Melissa Small makes 'the plastics' Regina George look like an angelic saint. She absolutely terrifies me.
"OK, so forget Melissa." he suggested. "What is this all about?" he asked. I thought about my first conversation with Beau before I answered.
Beau is my Guardian Spirit, my mentor. I would have to consider my words carefully or Jedd might be too overwhelmed. Too much too soon could be bad. Although, Jedd is very athletic, he's in really great shape physically. Surely he wouldn't have a heart attack or anything like that. No, of course he wouldn't. I'm being crazy! Of course, he may think I'm crazy. That would not be good either. OK, enough with the self - induced psycho - babble.
"Jedd, our world is changing. We live in a day and age where seeing means believing. More often than not people are turning away from the good that life has to offer. They are blinded by what they want and think is good for them." I said firmly. “It may appear to be easier to give in to temptation than it is to fight against it sometimes, but you must remember that giving in always comes with a price." I tried to explain.
"Exactly," he said. "I know exactly what you mean, Liv. Like I was saying before about Melissa Small, I was not involved in the toilet paper incident but I don't feel sorry for her. Ms. Queen Bee got all jealous because Ray asked Meena to the Valentine's Day dance and not her. I swear she is completely bi-polar! Before that happened she and Ray were the best of friends, then Ray asks Meena to be his date and wham! Psycho city! Ray doesn't care about the lies she spreads about him, but he's getting really sick and tired of the crappy stuff she keeps saying about Meena. I am too. She's our friend. It's not right. Anyway, that's why Ray toilet papered her house last weekend." He vented looking guilty about something.
"You know, Meena doesn't care about the things Melissa is saying about her. She knows this is about Melissa's jealousy over Ray and nothing to do with her. Although, she would be upset if a couple of short tempered, dumb boys got themselves in trouble trying to defend her reputation irresponsibly." I snapped at him.
He looked so guilty that I almost felt sorry for him. He was quiet for a moment. He looked as if he were considering something.
"Are you mad at me Liv? You know... because I helped Ray toilet paper Melissa's house? Is that what this is about?" he asked looking ashamed.
"That depends… are you apologizing?" I asked.
"Yes, I apologize." he said with out any hesitation.
"You apologize for what?" I countered.
"I apologize for doing something petty and irresponsible, and for lying to you about it. Although, you always seem to know when I lie to you, so... isn't that kind of like not really lying?" he asked.
"Yes it is still lying, anything less than the truth is a lie. Anyway, I accept your apology, but you should know that Melissa's new lawn decor is not what this is about." I replied.
It is true that I always know when Jedd is lying to me. It is not a result of magical intuition however, just a wrinkled nose. Lying is unpleasant for Jedd. He actually winces when he has to do it. The wrinkled nose is the result of this wincing. Jedd is not ordinarily one to tell tall tales. Usually his lies have to do with protecting someone else, avoiding embarrassment or fear of disappointing me. I can understand that. I'm not perfect either.
"At any rate you should know that Laith was the one who had to clean up your mess." I informed him.
Laith is Melissa's step brother. Jedd and Laith are good friends. We all are. Jedd looked very remorseful when he learned Laith had to clean up the yard.
"What I was referring to extends well beyond the walls of Forest Hills High School or Melissa Small's lawn." I returned to my point. "Have you ever heard the expression you should never judge a book by its cover? Sometimes things are far from what they appear to be Jedd. What if I said there were angels walking the earth? What would you think? Good or bad?" I said waiting for his predictable response.
"Good, of course." he replied easily, confirming my assumptions.
"Are you sure?" I pressed further. "Are you positive that all angels are good? Is it possible that some angels might be bad? Remember Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness? Was he not a fallen angel?" I challenged.
"Angels aren't bad Liv. Like you said Lucifer was a fallen angel. He wasn't one of the good guys." he chuckled as if we were discussing comic book villains and heroes.
"How do you know this? Are all angels the same?" I asked.
"All I really know is that you're my angel, Liv and you are definitely not bad." he smiled at me with a wink, easily distracting me from my resolve to resolve this situation.
I could feel the blush spreading across my face so I took a deep breath, shook my head and re - centered myself.
"I'm being serious Jedd. How do you know?" I demanded. He refocused noticing the seriousness in my expression.
"I just know. I have... faith." he said with certainty. I could see that he meant it.
It was not just the three words he spoke that convinced me. It was the way he spoke them. He took this faith he spoke of seriously.
"Faith…" I breathed after him, relieved at his response.
"That's very good." I continued. "We all need faith, something to believe in." I said with the hope that others felt the same way he did.
"Well yeah, but why do you say it like that?" he asked noticing my distraction.
"Faith is good Jedd, but Aengels, A - E -N - G - E - L - S, Aengels are bad. Aengels are pure evil!" I said in a low voice.
He just stared at me, concern growing in his face. It was not the kind of concern that made me think he feared for my sanity. It was more like looking into a mirror and seeing your fears reflected back at you. He grasped that something was wrong. Again I had to ask myself, could he handle this? Was it fair for me to want him to?
"Well, what is it that they want? The Aengels, I mean." he asked nervously before I could contemplate redirecting the path of the conversation.
Well, he asked so I couldn't lie to him. I replied very calm and evenly, "Our souls."

Chapter Two
Aengels and Daevas
Time - September 10, 2001 (the eve of 911)
Place - The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Manhattan, New York

"Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary
the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about seeking
whom he may devour."

- Bible, 1 Peter v. 8

Etheline frowned at herself in the mirror. She was never exactly beautiful in her human form but now she was morbidly grotesque. Her hair was once a shiny, softly curling, platinum blond. Now it looked stringy, bleached and brittle. She remembered how interesting her hazel eyes looked when the sunlight spilled into them. Now they took on a dull flat black. Her skin was always fair but now her pale skin could make a corpse look healthy. Avna noticed her scowling at herself in the large mirror in the foyer of the hotel suite.
"Don't fret my sweet. It won't last forever. I was even uglier than you in my Aengel form. I'd compare the process to the life cycle of a butterfly. You are no longer a lowly larva. You are changing, a chrysalis of evil. Once you have taken enough human souls to complete the change you will become a Daeva, beautiful and powerful, just like yours truly." she laughed wickedly, sweeping her lovely, fiery red ringlets behind her shoulder as she admired herself in the mirror.
She was more than beautiful now. Her porcelain skin glowed against her dazzling, onyx eyes and flaming red curls. Yes, she remembered Etheline's gruesome plight well. She remembered a dull gray face with charcoal for eyes framed with limp, orange, wiry hair. Ew! All is well that ends well, she thought. Etheline glared at her.
"See!" Avna gestured toward herself in the mirror. "No worries." she bragged.
"Not for you." Etheline spat back. "Did you infect me just so you could torture me until my transition is complete?" Etheline whined.
"Don't be like that, my pet." she purred. Etheline hated it when Avna referred to her as her pet. It was degrading to her.
 "Besides, we have far more important matters to concern ourselves with, my dear, do we not?" she prompted.
"Yes Avna. I know that. Has Shyam received confirmation from the humans yet?" Etheline asked.
"Not yet, but it shouldn't be much longer." Avna replied. "If this plays out the way we suspect those incompetent humans will end up doing half the job for us." Avna snickered.
"Do you really think they will take the bait so easily Avna?" Etheline wondered.
"Of course they will. The stupid humans haven't even an inkling of suspicion about our kind. They will blame each other for this 'so called' tragedy." she sneered. "They will go to war and blow each other to kingdom come. Afterward we can devour the aftermath, a buffet of souls practically served to us on a silver platter." Avna cackled wildly. Etheline joined in her laughter. This was going to be so easy. "Where is Lefu?" Avna asked suddenly, realizing she hadn't seen him in awhile.
"He’s hunting. There is a group of drunks in the alley behind the hotel, a mere appetizer to tide us over until the main course that you have described comes to pass." Etheline said in anticipation.
"Good. I'm in need of some refreshment. They will have to do for now." Avna approved.
"I'll raise five souls to your one." Lefu wagered Etheline around a hand of poker.
Shyam still awaited confirmation from the humans. He paced back and forth in front of the bar, brandy in hand. All would have seemed utterly normal had the two not been wagering the souls of humans. They kept tally on a tablet of paper because they could not think of anything significant enough to symbolize a human soul. There was no amount of money, rare jewels, real estate or any material possession that could outweigh the worth of a human soul. Lefu was every bit as eager to complete the transition as Etheline. As Etheline pondered his wager he recalled the tedious efforts necessary to lure the handful of homeless humans to their hotel suite earlier that evening. It wasn't too difficult. After all, they were without shelter and food. It had been raining so he had tempted them back to the room with promises of new, dry clothes, a warm meal and wine. Sadly, he probably could have just offered the wine and they still would have come. Alcoholism... he thought. He'd put them out of their misery, not that he cared. Yes they were desperate, he'd thought. Even after taking in the sight of him they had still agreed to come. Lefu wasn't nearly as put off with his Aengel appearance as Etheline was. He was used to being looked upon as homly, or even worse. During his human years he had been in an accident as a small child that left him scarred, disfigured and crippled. True, his once jet black silky hair was now a dull gray and his deep chocolate brown eyes and skin looked of chalky soot. Now however, the hump in his back and the limp in his walk seemed less pronounced. In fact, with every human soul he consumed he grew stronger. His body seemed to be righting itself. Yes he looked forward to the day when he could glide in a walk with his back straight and his shoulders pulled back. He was sick and tired of feeling old and haggard. He would not be a victim anymore. No one would pity him ever again. Shyam promised him this and so he'd agreed to the infection. Good thing too because now he realized had he not Shyam would have killed him and consumed his soul instead.
"I'll raise you eight souls to your five." Etheline interrupted.
"Damn!" he cursed. Was she bluffing he wondered.
Avna heard his cursing and strolled into the room, curious to the situation. She found them wagering souls in the sitting area. The patio doors that led out to the balcony were open allowing a light, cool breeze to sweep into the room. It felt nice so she relaxed a bit. The waiting for confirmation was beginning to take its toll on everyone's nerves.
"Lefu, I was very impressed with your catch earlier this evening." she teased. "Perhaps you used a bit of compulsion?" she laughed.
She was making fun of him. They all knew he would not gain the compulsion ability until he completed the transition. A smirk drew on Etheline's lips as well.
"Yeah, you're all so damned hilarious! Why don't you send your resume and head shot over to ‘Stand Up New York’ while you're at it? You could be the next Chevy Chase." he retorted. "Of course the head shot would probably guarantee your application being designated to the bottom of the circular file Etheline." he sneered gesturing to the round waste basket beside the desk.
Everyone boasted a laugh except Etheline. They were quickly silenced by the sound of Shyam's ring tone, Back in Black by ACDC. This was it.
Shyam continued to pace back and forth in front of the bar as he nodded and grunted into his cell phone. He was a dangerously handsome man with sleek, black hair and the same glowing porcelain skin of Avna. His eyes too were a radiant onyx, mesmerizing and enticing in all their mystery. No person, human or otherwise, could deny him his desires. This was what they did, he and Avna. They used compulsion to delude the humans. Their beauty would lure them in allowing them to compel them into whatever task they required of them. The Aengels were merely their servants while they forged toward their completed transition. Etheline and Lefu brought them souls for consumption, fuel for energy. They were all young in appearance, but Shyam and Avna were centuries old. Etheline and Lefu would join their ranks one day if they succeeded in completing the transition. The Aengels were more vulnerable. True they were stronger and faster than humans but nothing compared to Shyam and Avna, true Daevas. They could slash through flesh and bone, even metal with their teeth and fingernails, but their bodies were closer to the fragility of a human. Unlike Shyam and Avna, nothing human could threaten them. Even human weaponry was not fast or powerful enough to destroy them. This is why it was their job to manipulate the humans. It had been all too easy for them to set up the disastrous event planned for the next day. A militia of compelled humans would hijack four airplanes and cause a global disaster that would induce doubt, fear, and weakened faith into the hearts of millions for years to come. This was their real plan. As overwhelming as it would seem to the humans the death toll from 911’s events would be next to nothing to the Daevas. However, it would plant the seed of evil. It would seal the fate of the humans dipping the scales from good to evil. This would allow them more power, more control, an expansion of rank. They would rule the world at last. Shyam snapped his cell phone closed.
He turned to face his accomplices and with a wicked edge to voice he announced firmly, "We are ready." 

Now for the Giveaway!!!

Books available in the Soulless Giveaway:

Amy Maurer Jones - Soul Quest
CA Kunz – The Childe and The Modified
Willow Cross – Birthright and Inheritance
KA Tucker –  Asylum and Allegiance
Amy Miles – Forbidden 
Nancy Straight
 – One digital copy from Smashwords of any of her books - Blood Debt, Centaur Legacy, Destiny's Revenge or Destiny's WrathMeeting Destiny is FREE on all sites.
Georgia Cates - Blood of Anteros and Blood Jewel
Anne M. Hargrove - Survival, Resurrection, and Determinant

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