Welcome to New Adult Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was inspired as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for a short time!
Go to the New Adult Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the TEAM BLUE–but there is also a TEAM GREEN for a chance to win a whole different set of books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the New Adult Scavenger Hunt page.
LET THE HUNT BEGIN!
A native of Detroit, Michigan and a graduate of Western Michigan University, SF has fed her creative brain through a variety of jobs from customer service to working with animals. Although the work title has changed, one thing remained true—her desire to be a writer. As a kid she could often be found writing stories or with a book in her hand. It didn’t matter where the location, SF could be found reading (even at the beach).
Her debut novel, Regress—a dystopian set in her home state—developed from a dream. When she’s not concocting tales in her sleep, SF has been known to come up with entire dialogues in the shower.
SF prefers writing stories which answer the “what if” question in life. Her protagonists are strong and diverse set in post-apocalyptic or paranormal worlds.
Exclusive Content: Original Chapter 1
The winner is the one who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
—from “An Introspective on Combative Strategies” by Dawa Zhu
The cacophonic action that comes next overwhelms my senses. Men and women in hospital scrubs rush past me through a set of glass double doors. The noxious smell of antiseptic mixed with blood, flowing like water down a waterfall, assaults my nose. Frantic beeps from a heart rate monitor punctuate the room. The hum of a defibrillator being charged joins it. It’s soon followed by the sharp hiss of a curtain jerked closed.
“We’re losing him!” a man barks and then, “Charge.”
Those were the last words I heard before darkness claimed my body and mind.
I awakened in a sterile room—pale walls, blinding fluorescent lighting, and a bed covered with too-tight white sheets—just moments ago. A distant voice over an intercom, the indistinguishable smell of bland food, and the lingering odor of too strong disinfectant jar my senses and confirm that I’m in the medical wing of North Woods, a prison for those exiled by the New Order. An ache settles in the back of my throat and acts as a reminder of the horrors, things best forgotten, preceding my waking up here.
My raspy voice cries out, “Zared?”
A shadowy figure sits on the edge of the bed. My vision wanes for a few minutes before it clears and I can see it’s Ko, my best friend and former Riza cadet. She rests a hand on my arm and tells me, “He’s still in surgery.”
“What?” I sit up and bring a hand to my forehead. A couple of small bandages cover a lumpy wound there. My mind is foggy, but little by little it reconstructs the sequence of events which landed us here.
Without warning the door swung open and Holden Pratt—the man who held me captive after Riza soldiers apprehended me—stormed into the room brandishing a gun. His beady eyes were wild.
“There you are, my dear,” the lanky man hissed and approached me. “Did you think you could leave me, leave this place without me?”
I held my chin high and said boldly, “That was my plan, Holden.”
Zared, standing next to Asher, was behind his mother, Taa Aoki. I stood between Mark, a friend of Asher’s and also a Riza soldier, and an unknown female soldier with blonde hair. She was the only other person in the room with a weapon.
“No. It wasn’t your plan,” he drawled and made eye contact with Taa. “This was your doing, Dr. Aoki.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” her voice shook, and she took a step backward.
Holden pushed past me and headed for Taa. “You engineered the switch between Tru and her clone.”
“Where’s Shara?” I shouted. My clone, a brave girl who took my place so that I could escape, disappeared with Holden and no one knew where she was.
But my question went unanswered.
“Who’s side are you on, doctor?” Holden continued. “How long have you been working against me?”
Taa folded her arms across her chest and said in a trembling voice, “Dr. Pratt, you’re delusional. I received orders that Tru is to be transported to New Belle—”
“Stop lying!” Holden shouted, raised his arm, and cocked the weapon.
“Dr. Pratt, you don’t want to do this,” Taa pleaded.
He said, “No, but it’s necessary.”
There was a pop.
Zared fell down on top of Taa.
My heart raced.
“Seems like I’ve missed,” Holden mocked. “Oh well, we didn’t need him around anyway.”
My eyes locked on the grip of the weapon jutting out of the female soldier’s holster. I grasped it, without a second thought, and aimed at Holden.
“Love, you’re not going to shoot me.” His lips curled around the words.
I squeezed the trigger. The slug tore a hole in his chest. Crimson bubbles erupted from his lips. Holden’s body slumped to the ground and the blood continued to flow from the wound.
I tore my eyes away from the sight of the dying man, my tormentor. Zared lay on the floor with Taa by his side.
“No, no, no, no,” I cried out and dropped to my knees.
Taa applied pressure to his chest. “We’ve got to get him to the medical wing. Too much blood… too much…”
I screamed out, “Somebody call for help!”
The female soldier tapped a device in her ear and called for medics.
Tears fell from my eyes. I grasped Zared’s hand. His eyes fluttered open. “Hey, babe.”
“Hey, yourself,” I choked out. “We’re getting help.”
He inhaled with difficulty. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Don’t talk. Save your strength.”
“What about…?” He tried to squeeze my hand.
Zared didn’t have to tell me who he meant. “Holden’s dead. He won’t hurt anyone else.”
All of a sudden the room shook. I covered Zared’s body with mine. Dust from the ceiling rained down on us. A heavy plastic smell filled my nose. My head and ears, which wouldn’t stop ringing, felt like they were stuffed with cotton. Something warm trickled down my face. I raised my hand. Blood.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I lifted myself off Zared and checked for a pulse. It was still there, but getting weaker by the minute. My shirt was soaked with blood. Mine or his?
I knocked pieces of drywall off of him.
Asher crawled over to Ko. He said something to her, but I couldn’t make out the words. He turned to me.
I pointed to my ear.
Asher said something and left the room. Seconds later, he returned with a medic team. They placed Zared on a stretcher and started checking his vitals.
My eyes darted around the room. Taa stood near the medics and cried. Leon braced himself against a wall and held his bloody head. Griffin and Gliese stepped over fallen objects.
The fog in my ears dispersed just in time for another explosion. I covered my head as more dust and plaster fell from the ceiling. When the debris settled and my vision cleared, I saw we had a problem. Rebar and concrete blocked our only exit out of Taa’s room.
“The door was blocked. Ko, how did we get out?”
“There was another exit behind a set of bookcases. We got Zared out just in time. He’d lost a lot of blood by the time we made it here.”
I gasp and touch my chest. Before Zared was brought to the medical wing, my top was covered in blood. Someone was kind enough to change me out of the garment. I’m wondering who put me in the plain, dark T-shirt.
“You’re welcome,” Ko states. “I asked one of the nurses for a clean top for you.”
“Thanks.” I dread my next words, but I have to know how he’s doing. “How is Zared?”
Ko’s eyes glisten and she speaks softly, “I won’t lie to you. He’s in bad shape, Tru. I heard the doctor mention something about internal bleeding, no exit wound.”
I’d hoped my memory was a dream. Pain grips my chest and I can’t breathe. Please God, no panic attack. I lay my cheek against the cool, soft pillow.
The torture I endured at North Woods doesn’t compare to the agony my body experiences. I fought hard to stay sane through the mental torture Holden put me through—pumping me full of truth serum, his heinous attempt to get me to talk by unleashing a room full of spiders, and then leaving me cold and wet in a frigid room trying to freeze the truth from me. My only thought, every day in captivity, was being reunited with Zared. And now… No. It can’t…it won’t end this way.
“Tru?” Ko’s voice sounds so small, so distant. “You doing okay? You were out cold when Asher brought you in here.”
I shrug. The tears burning my throat keep me from speaking.
“The doctor said you have a concussion. That’s why you’re in this room.”
“I’m fine, Ko.” I sniff. “I just have a headache.”
“Yeah, about that… Taa wouldn’t let the doctor give you anything for it. Is there something you want to talk about?”
Taa must think I’m allergic to aspirin, but they could have given me a fucking Tylenol. Okay, that’s a little harsh. Her mind is with her son’s well-being. The world doesn’t revolve around me.
Regarding Ko’s offer… There’s absolutely nothing I want to talk about. The man I love might die, I’m not a hundred percent sure about his mother, and according to the latest news stream, the country is on the verge of chaos. Why would I want to talk about any of that? My limbs shake and my stomach lurches. A sudden wave of nausea rocks my core. I leap off the bed and run for a wastebasket in the corner.
The door to the room creaks open. A pair of high heels click across the vinyl floor. Orange blossoms mixed with sweat tickle my nose, and I’m puking again.
“Ko, can you give us a minute alone please?” asks Taa.
“Tru?” A hand lands on my shoulder. I slump against the wall and notice Ko standing beside me. My friend’s dark, almond-shaped eyes search my face for an answer.
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand before I realize how gross that is, and then wipe my hand on my leg. Shit, that’s not any better. “It’s okay. See if you can get an update on Zared for me?”
“Sure,” she answers and leaves me alone with the woman I’m beginning to believe might be more dubious than my mother ever was. Although she seemed to have my best interests at heart before I escaped North Woods, her constant asking about the SIM card keeps me perplexed.
As soon as the door clicks shut, Taa pounces on me. A flicker of irritation shines in her eyes. “Throwing up again?”
Right now is not the time for her veiled accusations. I’ve already begun connecting the dots on my own. “I don’t want to hear it.”
“Sorry. You don’t get to make that decision. This is what I tried to warn you about before I injected you.”
For a brief moment, my thoughts drift back to the night Holden assaulted me. Taa did me a favor and administered a Plan BII injection to prevent a pregnancy by him. But she cautioned that the emergency contraceptive might not have an effect if I was already pregnant. At the time, I had faith in the fact that Zared and I took precautions. We only had sex once so I assumed that stress was playing havoc with my body. Now I have my doubts. A baby would complicate our lives too much.
Taa continues her rant, “Tru, if you’re pregnant, what do you plan on doing about it?”
I lift my head and glare at her. The woman’s cold eyes and stiff posture remind me of a dog ready to strike. The pounding in my head makes me wish for something, anything, to quiet her down.
I push myself off the wall and walk back to the bed. “Not now, Taa. Can I focus on Zared’s recovery before making any decisions?”
Taa ignores my request and persists on pushing me for an answer like I’m the only one responsible for my pregnancy. Last time I checked, the New Order hasn’t found a way for women to impregnate themselves. “When was your last period?”
Good question. I haven’t given it much thought other than I hadn’t had one in quite some time. The last one was before I ran into Zared. “How long was I locked up for?”
“A month,” she responds flatly with her arms folded over her chest.
I drop my head in my hands. Hard to believe that so much time has passed since I entered the abandoned military compound turned prison. Halloween, my favorite holiday, and possibly Thanksgiving have passed. It seems like only yesterday when Zared and I started this foolhardy mission together. Another wave of nausea, like hot lava, threatens to erupt and I lie down wishing it would fade away. Of course, it doesn’t and I’m back with my head over the wastebasket.
This time I don’t use my hand. Taa gives me a towel.
“So, when was your last period?” she asks again.
“At least a month. If your timeline is right, it would have been September.”
“It’s still early. You have options since you’re in the first trimester,” she insists.
I know what she’s getting at, but as far as I’m concerned there are no options if Zared dies. He’s my priority, not someone I’ve never met. I turn my head and regard her for a moment. It occurs to me that Taa could care less about this baby and what Zared and I want to do about it. I have no idea, though, why my decision is so important to her.
“Taa, do me a huge favor and get the hell out.”
Her eyes blaze with disbelief. “What did you say?”
I face her and square my shoulders. Listening to her badger me at this moment is making my headache worse. “I don’t need to hear ‘I told you so’. My only concern is Zared getting better. Until that happens nothing else matters. You and I? We have nothing to discuss. So once again… Get. The. Hell. Out.”
Taa flinches and reaches for the doorknob. She turns to me before leaving. “Contrary to your belief we have plenty to discuss. When you’re ready, come find me.”
She steps out and Ko pushes back into the room.
“You okay?” Concern is all over her face. I wonder if she overheard any of my conversation with Taa.
“Yeah. Just peachy.” I flop down on the bed. I’m not ready to share a possibility with Ko. For once, I’ll keep my problem to myself. But I have to wonder is it really a problem? After all, Zared loves me. He’ll recover and we can have our happily ever after.
I close my eyes and try to picture the three of us as a family—a chubby faced, little boy with Zared’s handsome features would be nice, or a talkative, little girl who would be her daddy’s little princess. Normalcy. Something I’ve wanted for a long time and something we both need.
Hell, who am I kidding? I drop my head, clasp my hands together, and stare at the floor. My picture-perfect family won’t happen in the AR, not as long as the New Order rules. This is a country where happiness can no longer thrive, where people struggle just to make it each day.
Ko pads toward the bed and asks in a careful tone, “Are you—”
“Shhh.” I hold my hand up.
Taa’s slightly accented voice drifts in from the hall. “I thought you would like to know what happened today… I was nearly killed…”
Her voice fades off as she moves away from the door.
“Didn’t that sound like a phone call to you?”
“Possibly,” Ko says.
“Think you can find out who she’s talking to?”
“I’ll try,” she answers and ducks out of the room.
My lucky number is 11. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on Team Blue and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
To keep going on your quest, you need to check out the next author, Paula Stokes!
***BEFORE YOU GO***
- One e-book copy of TOUCH OF FONDNESS, a NA steamy contemporary romance
- One e-book copy of TOUCH OF HEARTACHE, a NA steamy contemporary romance
- One e-book copy of A LOVE FOR THE PAGES, my NA sweet contemporary romance
- One digital audiobook copy of A LOVE FOR THE PAGES
- One digital audiobook copy of TOUCH OF FONDNESS
(If you already have the prize you win, you’re welcome to select another one of my books as a substitution.)