VAMPIRE DOWN is now available!

The wait is over!

VAMPIRE DOWN, the final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, is now available!

And through July 4th, volumes 2-6 are all on sale for just $2.99 each on Amazon.com, so if you don’t own them already go get ‘em now!

Also be sure to check out the VAMPIRE DOWN Blog Tour (see schedule below)!

vampire_down_final_rgb

Who ever knew the end would come so soon?

In this final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, Eric Cross and Danica Black find themselves facing impossible odds in the desolate ruins of the world they once knew.  Hunted by the mercenary forces of the newly formed East Claw Coalition and desperate to find the elusive White Mother, the two refugees will be pushed to the limits of their abilities and sanity as they struggle to survive.

Meanwhile, in the near future, the undead hunter called Reaver searches for the lost city of Bloodhollow, the place where humankind will make its final stand, while the undead of New Koth and the rebellious White Children make their push to end the reign of the Ebon Kingdoms once and for all.

As timelines collide and the spider weaves her web, the battle for the fate of the riven world will come to its violent conclusion in the depths of a forgotten city, where unlikely heroes will emerge and hidden evils shall finally be revealed…

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

 

THE VAMPIRE DOWN BLOG TOUR

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Vampire Down Tour Schedule

 

June 25th – Kelly at Paperback Cowgirl Reviews – Review Blood Skies

June 26th – Jasmine at Book Groupies – Soundtrack, Spotlight, Dreamcast

June 27th – Meg at Heart on Fire – Guest Post

June 28th – Toni at My Book Addiction – Guest Post

June 29th – Megan at Megan’s Blog – Author Interview

June 30th – Danielle at Consuming Worlds – Character Guest Post

July 1st – Scott Moon at Scott Moon Writer Blog – Review Blood Skies

July 1st – Katheryn The Perks of Being a Book Nerd – Spotlight

July 2nd – Lou at Relaxed Reads – Review Crown of Ash

July 3rd – Stephanie at The Book Hipster – Author Interview

July 4th Michelle at In Libris Veritas – Top Ten

 ****

About the Author

Steven Montano was something terrifying in his previous life.  Now he’s an accountant, so not much has changed.

An avid hiker, reader, San Antonio Spurs fan, goofball husband and father of two, Steven writes novels (the seven volume Blood Skies series, the Skullborn Trilogy, something black…, and the upcoming thrillers Blood Angel Rising and Colder) and drinks a lot of wine when he isn’t busy pulling his hair out over payroll or trying to balance the company books.

Visit the author’s website.

 

Epic Fantasy New Release!

by Autumn Birt

A story three years in the making has reached its conclusion with the release of Spirit of Life, book 3 in my epic fantasy trilogy on elemental magic the Rise of the Fifth Order!

And to celebrate, I’m having an epic sale!

Born of Water, book 1, will be free on Amazon US, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes until June 2nd – and maybe longer if Amazon US doesn’t notice the sale is over. 😉  Rule of Fire, book 2, is on sale for only 99 cents until June 2nd as well. Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo. AND the final book, newly released Spirit of Life, will be only 99 cents for its new release weekend! It is already live on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and should be available on Kobo soon!

Begin the adventure… and discover its end.

Would you protect a girl whose forbidden abilities condemn her to death?

Welcome to the world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. But there exists another gift, dubbed magic, which is considered an aberration by the Church. To be born with the powers of magic is to be condemned to death. To be born with the ability to control an element is to born to a life serving the Church… and obeying its rules

Seventeen year old Ria has mastered her forbidden gift of magic despite the Church’s pursuit. But for those who have protected her, the price will be paid in blood. War threatens those who have given her and others, who harbor the power of magic, refuge. As High Priest Sinika gathers the might of the Church, friends in the forest of the Kith prepare to fight, while a few join Ria to take on a greater challenge – a race to avert the coming war.

Return to the world of Myrrah with Spirit of Life, the final book in the Rise of the Fifth Order series!

It is time for the story to end.


What people are saying about the Rise of the Fifth Order Series!

“Just finished Born of Water book 1. Amazing, can’t wait to read the next one. Instant fan, keep up the amazing work!!!” – Edward Brady

“I read a lot of fantasy and I’d rate this as a great new author and a great new story! I can not WAIT for the next book and will check back often for it!” – Katy Reany 5 stars on Amazon

“I would recommend it to fantasy adventure fans, those who like a little romance, and anyone who is a fan of magic! I know I will read the next installment!” – W. Stuart 4 stars on Amazon

“I loved two battle scenes in particular. The battle at the Temple of Dust and the battle at the Temple of Wind. Fire versus water. Air versus Earth. Thrilling!” – Futureboy 4 stars on Amazon

“I’m biased, because this is exactly my sort of book. But maybe that bias should make me more critical…but there is absolutely nothing to dislike about Born Of Water…We’re not simply reading about this quest…we’re there with them.” – Stewart Bint 5 stars on Smashwords

“I’m halfway through Rule of Fire and I’m already looking for news of the next book. I’ll admit to being a fantasy addict, which means I’ve read an awful lot of books over the years from Tolkien onwards and I can honestly say your storytelling and character development are up there with the best of them. Keep writing (please!).” – Ian Leggatt

 


 

AutumnAutumn (also known as Weifarer) is a travel and fiction writer currently based in Maine where she lives in a small cottage lost in the woods, which she built with her husband with the supervision (and approval) of two Cairn terriers.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University in Studio Arts and English, Autumn once considered a career in illustration. However, an ecology course at Virginia Tech led to a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine in Orono. Since graduating with her M.S., Autumn has worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. This is a great job that not only lets her help the environment and protect local agriculture, but also gives her a paycheck big enough to support her writing habit!

You can learn more about her and her many writing projects on Autumn’s blog and website AutumnWriting.com.

You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+. Stop by and say Hi!

Book Release: PATH OF BONES

Available now!

path_of_bones

Cover Art by Barry Currey

Return to the world of Malzaria in the highly anticipated sequel to the best-selling epic fantasy adventure CITY OF SCARS.

Hunted by Empires and crime lords alike, Ijanna Taivorkan and the young warrior Kath Cardrezhej make their way north through the dire Bonelands, a twisted wastelands populated by unnatural terrors. Hoping to find the answers to her dark destiny and driven by a need to escape her fate, Ijanna won’t rest until she locates the last of the Skullborn.

Azander Dane, fallen Dawn Knight, pursues Ijanna to help her as a way of making amends for the crimes of his past. Aided by an exiled giant and gripped by a magical disease that is slowly driving him mad, Dane must brave the dangers of the Phage-controlled city of Kaldrak Iyres in order to reach the Dream Witch in time.

Beset at every turn by evil magic, powerful assassins and dark revelations, Dane and Ijanna will ultimately find themselves in the ruined city of Corinth, where ancient artifacts may hold the key to the world’s salvation…or its untimely doom.

E-Book: $4.99

Grab a copy now!

Amazon
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Smashwords
Barnes & Noble

Another Book Release: The Darkness Comes

by Bruce Blake

Contrary to the way indie authors are taught to do things, I snuck the release for THE DARKNESS COMES (The Second Book of the Small Gods) completely under the radar. It’s already been out for five days with no promotion, no fanfare, and no hoopla. Since that didn’t seem to really do the trick, I thought it was time to tell everyone it was out. Read on to find out more…

—–

When shadows fall, the darkness comes…

A disgraced Goddess Mother wanders blind and alone, praying for her agony to end. When aa helpful apostle finds her, could it really be salvation, or does worse torment lie ahead?

A sister struggles to understand a prophecy that may not be meant for her while her brother fights for his life. If the firstborn child of the rightful king dies, will it spell the end for everyone?

Darkness and shadow creep across the land in the form of a fierce clay golem animated by its sculptor’s blood. It seeks a mythical creature whose sacrifice portends the return of ancient evil banished from the world long ago. With its return will come the fall of man.

As the game unfolds, the Small Gods watch from the sky, waiting for their time to come and for their chance to rise again. They wait for he fall of shadows, the coming of the darkness.

They wait for night to descend

THE DARKNESS COMES

dark_full—–

Available on:

Kindle

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Read a review of THE DARKNESS COMES on Ella Medler’s blog

***Please Note*** THE DARKNESS COMES is the Second Book of the Small Gods. It is required to read WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods) first to understand the book’s storyline.

—–

WHEN SHADOWS FALL is available from Kindle for only 99 cents until Jan. 6/14

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

Read a review of WHEN SHADOWS FALLon Ms. Nose in a Book’s Blog.

—–

Bruce Blake if the author of nine novels and a collection of short stories. Follow him on his blog for occasional musings.

CHAIN OF SHADOWS is Now Available!

The big day is here – CHAIN OF SHADOWS is now available!

And for a limited time, if you buy a copy of the book you can also enter to win a free coffee cup!  That’s right, sip your java in your very own Cup O’ Darkness!

cup

To enter, just e-mail your receipt/purchase confirmation to daezarkian@bloodskies.com.  I’ll enter your name into a giant spreadsheet, and on November 8th, using sophisticated technology (most likely consisting of one or more 20-sided dice), I’ll select 1 winner who’ll get a complimentary CHAIN OF SHADOWS coffee cup mailed directly to their home.

To qualify, your CHAIN OF SHADOWS purchase must be made and the receipt submitted no later than November 1st 2013!  I’ll announce the winners the following week and get your cup right out to you!

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The barrier between worlds has been broken, and the invasion is about to begin.

Eric Cross, burdened by the loss of those who’ve died under his command, must lead his recently reunited mercenary team against the shadow wolf sorcerers known as the Maloj.  Bound to dire artifact blades and charged with protecting the Kindred, Cross seeks help from the enigmatic White Mother, leader of the Southern Claw.

But sinister forces bring his vessel down in a strange and distant land, and soon Cross and his allies are beset by undead armies vying for control of the deadly region called the Chain of Shadows.  Trapped in a desert waste where wielding magic is dangerous and nothing is as it seems, Cross’s team will pay the ultimate price in their battle to finally get home…

Return to the world After the Black in this pivotal 6th book of the BLOOD SKIES saga!

Ebook: $3.99

Print Edition: $11.99

Purchase Links:

Amazon US (Kindle)

Amazon UK (Kindle)

Amazon (Paperback)

Barnes & Noble (EPUB)

Smashwords (all Ebook formats)

New Release: WHEN SHADOWS FALL by Bruce Blake

by Bruce Blake

I’m excited to have my newest book out–WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods). This is the book I wrote in fourteen days (the first draft), which caused a bit of a stir and prompted this post on writing quickly. I guess that means it’s up to the readers now to decide if a first draft written quickly can lead to a good book. Just so you have an opportunity, too, you can scroll down to  find the links.

—–

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)

—–

A hundred hundred seasons have turned since the Goddess banished the Small Gods to the sky, leaving the land to mankind alone.

For Prince Teryk, life behind the castle walls is boring and uneventful until he stumbles upon an arcane scroll in a long-forgotten chamber. The parchment speaks of Small Gods, the fall of man, and the kingdom’s savior—the firstborn child of the rightful king. It’s his opportunity to prove himself to his father, the king, and assure his place in history. All he needs to do is find the man from across the sea—a man who can’t possibly exist—and save mankind.

But ancient magic has been put in motion by a mysterious cult determined to see the Small Gods reborn. Powerful forces clash, uncaring for the lives of mortals in their struggle to prevent the return of the banished ones, or aid in their rebirth.

Named in a prophecy or not, what chance does a cocky prince who barely understands the task laid before him stand in a battle with the gods?

—–

Read the Prologue free on WATTPAD

Buy it here:

Kindle

Kobo

Barnes & Noble Nook

Smashwords

Paperback

 

A DIFFICULT MIRROR – On Sale Now

Benjamin X. Wretlind,

author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors &
Sketches from the Spanish Mustang,
in association with Independent Authors International
Presents the 1st in an epic series of the Maskiyl el Hanephesh…

A Difficult Mirror

A Difficult Mirror

A Difficult Mirror, by Benjamin X. Wretlind

Four-year-old Justine has been lost to the world and with her an ability feared by many. But the balance of power has been shifting for years, and Justine may be able to tip those scales for good…if someone can find her in a pitiless place of sorrow and pain.

When Marie Evans meets a strange man on a deserted road and a body is found mutilated in the desert, a deep resentment teetering on the edge of release is about to explode. Someone, somewhere has drawn a line in the sand, and when Harlan Reese, Marie’s ex-lover, enters a forest in central Arizona looking for his daughter, that line will be crossed.

In a world between Heaven and Hell, the past becomes the present as Harlan and Marie find each other once again. Their journey across an unforgiving land to find a way home with Justine by their side will be wrought with both pain and triumph.

Life is, after all, A Difficult Mirror.

Available Today!

Amazon.com Store Link

Get a Paperback Copy from the Amazon.com Store

Kindle Link

Get A Difficult Mirror for the Kindle


5 Stars – “Combining horror, fantasy & mystery with elements of the traditional hero’s journey, A Difficult Mirror contains a unique & detailed plot, rich characterization & a very real sense of danger…”

5 Stars – “…Wretlind conjures visions beyond your wildest nightmares”


Check out the contest on Benjamin’s Blog!

How To: Write a Book in Just Under 20 Years

A Difficult Mirror

On September 23, 2013, A Difficult Mirror will be released for your consumption (and, hopefully, joy). That the novel took a while to write is no secret. Those who have followed this blog or otherwise read things I posted here or there know that A Difficult Mirror has been around for a long time.

It even had a different name for nearly 10 of those years. (That’s a contest entry for later, though.)

So, how do you end up taking nearly 20 years to write a novel when your last novel only took a year?

That’s not really an easy question to answer without getting into things that are entirely too personal, but I’ll give you some background into the process. (By the way, I don’t recommend trying this at home.)

Step 1: Find yourself in a hooch in central Honduras without phones, the Internet or television that isn’t in Spanish.

Step 2: Get yourself a journal. Not a fancy journal, either, just one you could have picked up in the stationary section in Walmart. (In fact, I think that’s where that journal came from the day before I left for Honduras…back in 1994.)

Step 3: Write something. Anything. Your thoughts, your dreams, what you had for dinner. Or write a chapter in a novel you’ve been thinking about but haven’t outlined past the first three or so chapters. Scribble, scratch and erase whatever sounds stupid.

Step 4: Return to the real world with the aforementioned journal and stuff it in a drawer. Welcome the Internet with open arms. Explore life for a year or two and have “experiences.”

Step 5: Dig that journal out of the drawer you put it in and type up what you’ve written. Add another chapter and a few more characters. Write things that may or may not be in the final version of the book. Know, for a fact, that what you’ve written is good, but may not be good enough to share.

Step 6: Get cocky. I don’t mean slightly cocky, but really cocky. Build a website that will house the novel as you write it. Invite people you know (and those you don’t know) to add their thoughts or make corrections for you. (This was in 2002, I think. I actually had a website where people could register and read a chapter at a time as I wrote it. It didn’t last very long, but it is interesting to think back on that and know it was years before this became commonplace.)

Step 7: Write frantically while drinking vodka. Do this for about six months. Realize as you read back on what you’ve written in your less sober state that you really shouldn’t write anything while drinking vodka.

Step 8: Keep at it. Raise some kids. Move around to many different places. Have some adventures…or “experiences.”

Step 9: Finish the first draft after only–only–12 years.

Step 10: Write query letters. Read rejection letters. Send it off to a few agents who sounded interested but never respond.

Step 11: Become despondent. Return to the bottle of vodka you once gave up, but transform that bottle into rum…and then whiskey.

Step 12: Move again. Stop drinking. Write other stuff. Sell other stuff. Fiddle with the novel you once thought was good. Delete a few passages. Add a few others. Rearrange the chapters. Erase entire characters.

Step 13: Repeat Step 12.

Step 14: After 19 years, look at that novel again with a fresh perspective. Modernize some passages. Edit it. Send it off to editors for them to bleed all over it. Keep doing this until it’s ready.

Step 15: Let the world have at it.

You see, it’s really not that hard if you try to stretch your creativity to that kind of limit. However, if you follow this pattern, you may only have 2 or 3 novels written and published before you pass on.

All of that said, get ready to read A Difficult Mirror. I know you’ll love it.

And don’t forget the giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Difficult Mirror by Benjamin X. Wretlind

A Difficult Mirror

by Benjamin X. Wretlind

Giveaway ends September 23, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

New Release: Momentum

Momentum by Emily Ann WardMomentum by Emily Ann Ward is now available!

What’s a cruel ex-boyfriend compared with a government organization out for your powers?

Aaron and Anna have fallen in love, despite an ex that threatened to tear them apart. When they start zapping evil cheerleaders with their powers over electricity, they’re forced to break off their relationship to avoid attention from the Agency. A part of the Department of Defense that studies Pairs like Aaron and Anna, the Agency is searching for the source of the Pairs’ powers and doesn’t care who gets in the way.

Anna tries to blend in at the camp where she and Aaron start working for the summer, but it’s not easy when touching your not-boyfriend invites lightning storms. Only weeks pass before a dark secret and an attack from the Agency tear apart their temporary place of refuge. If the camp isn’t safe, where is?

This is the sequel to Connection, but you can jump into the Le Garde series with this fun YA scifi!

Buy it today on Amazon or Smashwords!

You can also check out the first book, Connection, here on my website.

Read part of the first chapter after the jump:

1. danser (to dance)

Anna

I should have known this whole prom thing was going to get out of hand. Sam and her mom ordering a limo should have tipped me off. Or how Sam talked her cheerleading friend Jessie into going with the rest of us. Or maybe, just maybe, when Aaron and I decided to go together.

I mean, seriously. How were we going to get through a dance without ruining something?

We had a lot more control over our powers than a couple months ago, yes, but we were also getting more powerful. We’d nearly fried the circuits in the old house with our blast of voltage while practicing last week. Kissing was out of the question, much to our chagrin.

Continue reading

A Difficult Mirror – Preview

A Difficult Mirror by Benjamin X. WretlindWell, it’s getting closer to the time when I release A DIFFICULT MIRROR to the masses. When will that be? When I’m ready, of course. The book may have been written for decades and then edited for nearly as long, but I want to be sure it’s the product I envisioned. (Heck, even if it’s not the product I envisioned, I would like it to be nothing less than darn-tooting good.)

To give you a glimpse at the novel, here’s an excerpt. This portion doesn’t open the book, but it’s near the front. Enjoy…and keep your eyes peeled for the release of the novel. Coming! Soon! Very! (“Like” my Facebook author page for constant updates/badgering: http://www.facebook.com/bxwretlind/)


The headlights of the car illuminated a naked man standing in a puddle of water. He raised his arms up in the glare of the lights then collapsed. The blue Honda swerved as Marie Evans jerked the steering wheel to the right and stomped on the brake pedal. Gravel flew, and the car came to a rest with a soft jolt. The engine let out a sigh of relief, a sputter of agony, and finally fell silent.

Marie gripped the steering wheel of the car, too terrified to move. Shaking, she peered through the windshield. One of her hands left the wheel and mechanically pushed away a tangle of blond hair to wipe away the drool running from the corner of her open mouth.

As she stared, swirling thoughts in her mind coalesced into some form that made no sense whatsoever. Had she hit him? Was he dead? She could barely see the man in front of her, just a dark shape curled in a fetal position.

Breathe.

Okay.

Dark, gravel road, trees, and a naked man in a puddle of water.

Breathe. That’s better. I see the trees.

Naked man.

Crazy people.

Did I hit him?

Pretty trees.

Marie pushed back another strand of hair and tucked it behind her ear. She bit her lip. Naked men lying in puddles in the middle of nowhere may not be friendly naked men.

Breathe.

This sounds like a movie: The Naked Man.

What to do? What to do? What to…

The Naked Man moved. He lifted his head up from the puddle and looked at Marie. His eyes squinted at the light blazing from the front of the car. He pushed himself up on his hands, appeared to give up trying to stand as his arms buckled, then rolled over onto his back. From where Marie sat, the man looked pale—almost as pale as the knuckles on her hands, which now crushed the steering wheel. She thought she could see a small trail of blood mixed with rainwater trickle down his face.

The Naked Man looked like he just woke up from a long nap. He brought his hands up and rubbed his eyes. A tiny ring on his right little finger caught the headlights for a moment.

Marie relaxed her grip on the steering wheel and sighed. Her mind struggled to find a safe, sound solution to get her out of this situation, but between the trees and the Naked Man, she kept drawing blanks as to what should be done.

Breathe.

The Naked Man sat up and screamed, his face contorted in pain.

Marie jumped in her seat and let loose a squeal of her own. Quickly, she covered her mouth to prevent additional outbursts from startling the Naked Man. She drew a deep breath, afraid to let it out. Her heart pounded faster and faster.

Okay. The Naked Man lying in the puddle is screaming.

Breathe, Marie. Breathe.

Marie let her breath out slowly. She could try to restart the car, turn around, and drive like crazy to get away, but the Naked Man looked injured and might need help. She had taken her share of first-aid classes and was prepared to offer help to injured strangers, but none of them covered how to help Screaming Naked Men in puddles.

I don’t know, she thought, but inside something told her to get out of the car, walk over to the Screaming Naked Man and discover the problem. Her mind battled back and forth, until she finally mustered enough courage to step out and face her fears.

Do what you fear. Silly mantra.

The Naked Man stopped screaming as the car door opened. Marie watched him wipe his face and look in her direction.

“Are you okay?” Marie found her voice weak, almost lost in the lump in her throat. She slowly walked closer, size 5 boots crunching the gravel underfoot.

The Naked Man closed his eyes. Aside from the strangeness of it all, he looked like she really had hit him. Blood mixed with muddy water and trickled from wounds unseen. A feeling of guilt rushed through Marie as she edged a little closer.

Another step forward and the Naked Man opened his eyes. Marie found herself within six feet. As she squatted down, he looked up at her.

“Are you okay?” Marie asked again, with the same waver in her voice. Uncertainty hung in the air for a few seconds, and the man stared back at her with bright blue eyes.

The Naked Man opened his mouth to speak, but stopped short. He hung his head, closed his eyes again, and finally mustered enough strength to get his words out. “I think so.”

Marie’s mind whirled through every scenario which would put her in immediate danger, both by being out of the car and by offering help. She studied him a little closer, looking for any sign of fractures or joints out of place. She could see nothing but the blood trickling down his pale skin.

“I know a little first-aid,” she said. “Are you hurt?”

God that sounded stupid. Surely that was the right pick up line you practiced on lifeless manikins in the classroom.

The Naked Man wiped his forehead with a muddy forearm and looked back at Marie. She caught those eyes with her own and found herself locked, as if the man’s bright blue could beckon her to a peaceful world away from the nightmare world of her own life. Those eyes spoke to her—paragraphs describing wonders she couldn’t understand, words punctuated by vast emotion. In that brief moment as their eyes met, she began to relax and feel comforted by his presence… as if she had known him all her life.

“I need some water,” the Naked Man whispered, drawing Marie out of her trance.

A smile crept across Marie’s face. “How about a blanket, too? You can’t be all that comfortable sitting naked in a puddle in southern Alaska.”

The Naked Man nodded, then turned and looked the other way, toward the lights of a city not too far away. “Where did you say I was?”

Marie opened her mouth to answer but paused first. Maybe he was just delirious. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. “Alaska. Just north of Anchorage.”

The Naked Man seemed to digest the information. Slowly, he pushed himself up on his knees, placed a foot forward, and tried to stand.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Marie asked. “You look a little beaten.”

“Fine.”

“I know it may not be my place, but… what happened?”

The Naked Man stood up straight and brushed some mud and blood off his arms and chest. He was built, so much so that Marie reveled in that fact. She caught herself, and turned her eyes up, her cheeks warm.

The Naked Man looked at Marie, and cocked his head to the right. He repeated the gesture to the left, like a giant rising from a nap on a tiny couch. “I fell.”

Marie’s stomach sank as the tone of the man’s voice changed. It was now clear and powerful, as if he hadn’t been injured at all. She looked into his eyes to find the comfort she thought was there, but the longer she stared, the more the eyes turned dark, then empty. As her heart quickened, the eyes dug deep into Marie and ripped out any feeling of relaxation she might have briefly felt, replacing it with sheer terror.

She took a step back. The car was her only salvation. If she could get inside, she could lock the door and get out of there as quickly as possible.

“I forgot my place for a moment,” the Naked Man said, his voice clear and distinct. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve introduced myself.” He put his hand out in greeting. “My name is David.”

Marie took another step back, mentally counting the distance to the safety of her car. One more step? Two? Ten?

“Correct me if I’m wrong here,” David said, inching forward. “Your name is Marie, right?”

Seven steps. Marie turned and ran, thankful the door was still open. Her trembling hands fumbled with the key still in the ignition.

She slammed the door shut and turned the key. “Come on…”

With a sputter of agony, her little car came to life. The Naked Man—now David—took another step forward, directly in front of Marie’s getaway.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” David called out over the rumble of the car.

Instinctively, Marie’s foot left the clutch as she stomped on the accelerator. The front tires spun in the loose gravel then finally caught hold.