I'm terribly sorry about the delay. I ended up working and re-working the ending until I got it just right. I wasn't anticipating the edits, but I wanted to leave you guys with an end to the book that would do justice to the series.
I know I promised the book almost a week ago. That's what sucks about setting hard deadlines. But I think you'd rather have a good book than one that was rushed.
Anyway, this is it for The Forsaken Saga. Four books, and we're done. I don't have the buy links for you yet.. because I literally just uploaded the books to all the retailers. It should be up on Amazon with 12 hours.. although, maybe sooner. It'll be everywhere within 24 hours.
Now, we just play the waiting game..
...you didn't think I'd just leave you with that, did you? No! To tide you guys over and build excitement a little bit, here's the cover and the first chapter. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Chapter One~A Bitter Mood~A dry wind blew sand across the plain. Nora shielded her eyes to avoid getting stung. That only helped a little. The thin cloth handkerchief that hung around her neck was not much protection against the gusts, no matter what the locals said. Still, it allowed her to breathe the arid air a little easier.
It was not until she got to Egypt that she realized just how pure the air back home had been. After her transformation, and the sensory magnifications that came with it, she should have been more attuned to it. For some reason, she had never really noticed.Maybe it was just because of her transformation, but once she stepped off the plane onto the small, hidden airfield Jacob had somehow gotten access to the assault on her senses began. The air here scratched her throat and dried her skin. Within minutes of exposure, she felt more uncomfortable than she ever had in her life. It was the dry climate that did it, coupled with the monstrous heat. As a Vassiz, she would have thought herself less susceptible to such irritations, but apparently, that wasn’t the case.At least she wasn’t alone. All the others with her had the same reaction. Alexander and Madison, Hunter and Jacob, they all complained of the same ailments. The dry air was just not meant for Vassiz.Yet they’d been here since stepping foot on the parched land nearly three weeks ago. Here, in Egypt, where Rafael had told them the repository of torrial might be. Where the angels later confirmed it was. But, since the last meeting in the dream realm between Alexander, Madison, Rafael, and the angels, the angels had cut off all communication. Something had happened between them and Rafael that time. Because of it, the angels were of no help. Only once they found the repository would the angels deign to meet with them again. It was a frustrating predicament for Nora.Searching for the repository, with absolutely no hints to its whereabouts, was becoming a fool’s errand. It could be anywhere in this blasted country. Despite looking nonstop, day and night, for the better part of three weeks, she and her companions were no closer to discovering it than they were the first day.Which was perhaps why she felt so much on edge, now. Nora picked her way across the sand dunes, angling toward the makeshift tent she now lived in. A lack of progress toward finding the repository, coupled with a dwindling hope that it would even be possible to find it put her in a sour mood. At least the sun’s rays had abated slightly since their peak a few hours ago.She was not looking forward to returning to the tent. It was no larger than her room at home had been once. She wouldn’t have minded it so much, were it not for the fact that the entire space was shared by four other people. Four other Vassiz. Alexander, Madison, Hunter, and Jacob.The only solace she could find in that situation was that Jacob was not always there. After bringing them here, he flew back home so as not to arouse suspicion. But after hearing of their troubles, he returned to lend a hand. He thought he could help, and Madison seemed to trust him. Because of that, they all had to trust him, and so far, he had done nothing to betray that trust. Still, Nora felt a little uneasy discussing things in the open with him listening.She thought the search would have been simple when she first made the trip. Well, maybe not simple, but entirely less frustrating than it was turning out to be. She had naively imagined they would just show up in Egypt, look around a bit, and find the repository all in the space of a few days. She snorted. It was almost comedic how far that was from the truth.As each day slowly stretched by, Nora’s feeling of apprehension about the whole endeavor grew stronger and stronger. They could not hide from the elders forever, and staying in one spot made them more vulnerable. If they didn’t find the repository soon, they would be discovered. Staying in place guaranteed that. That was why they had set up the tent miles away from any form of civilization, with nothing but sand stretching in all direction. If they could avoid notice, perhaps they could stretch their luck a little further.It wouldn’t have been that bad, Nora thought laconically, if they at least knew the repository were close by. As it were, all they had to go on was Rafael’s vague description of where it might be. They were near Cairo and had been searching the swelling city day and night. But as far as they knew, the repository could be in any other of the hundred towns and cities in Egypt.Nora suppressed an angry growl as a speck of sand flew into her eye. She blinked it out. More often than not, she’d been feeling that way recently. Angry. A lack of tangible progress made it so, worsened only by the fact that she felt like she was hanging everyone out to dry, waiting for the elders to come along and find them.Hunter followed her because he loved her. And she loved him back, but they had had precious little time to themselves these last three weeks. Alexander and Madison had followed her, because…well, she wasn’t sure why, exactly. It wasn’t that she didn’t feel thankful for the presence, rather, she felt a horrible feeling of responsibility toward them should anything go wrong. Which was somewhat ridiculous, considering how much older and more experienced they were than her. It had been their decision to come along, to tie themselves onto her in her mission against the elders, after all. Still, she was their leader.That thought sounded ridiculous as well. Although she thought she had started adapting to the role fairly well before they left, her command of it was slowly slipping away. Doubt crept in instead. What kind of leader brought her followers into something so hopeless, so utterly insane? If she had been smart, she should have left everyone in Washington and gone at it alone. At least that way she wouldn’t have to deal with the guilt should anything go wrong.Only a sense of duty kept her here. She had promised Gabrielle and the angels she would seek revenge against the elders for what they did to them. Destroying the elders was also the only way to ensure she could live the rest of her life in peace. Looking for the repository was an absolute necessity, and she would search every rock, structure, and alley by herself if that’s what it took.She stopped to shield her face as another gust of wind blew sand into the air. The sooner they found the repository, the sooner she could get out of this God forsaken land.She noticed the tent in the distance and picked up her pace. Maybe somebody else would have better news than she did.As she approached, she started to make out the sound of voices inside. Despite her augmented hearing, she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying against the wind. Well, she’d find out soon enough.Nora quickly covered the remaining distance and opened the tent flap. Three faces turned to her. Hunter smiled when he saw her, although the expression did not reach his eyes. He was just as stressed as she was. Alexander nodded curtly at her. He looked tired and drawn out. Madison was the only one who had been able to remain composed, although the way she had taken to speaking recently, with short, clipped sentences, betrayed the act.“Any news?” Nora sat down beside Hunter. He moved to put an arm around her, but she shrugged him away. She was in no mood for displays of affection right now.“None,” Alexander replied sourly. “I only got back a few minutes ago.”“Nothing for me, either.” Hunter sighed. His eyes tightened. “And I’ve tried everything I can.”“Well, I have made some progress, although not on the torrial front.” In addition to searching, Madison had been charged with finding out if there was some way to use the herbs they had picked up from the two hunters, Serkhol and Borrak. The mixture had been able to knock a Vassiz out cold, though Madison was trying to figure out if they could use those properties for something else.Since taking blood, neither Nora nor Hunter could fall asleep, so neither could access the dream realm. It was another roadblock they had to overcome. To make use of the angels’ help, they had to fight the elders in the dream realm. But unless Madison could figure out how to use the herbs to help Nora and Hunter fall asleep, without sapping either of them of their powers, there was no telling when the effects of taking blood would fade away.Nora’s first feeding had been on Vassiz blood, which was much stronger, and much more potent, than regular human blood. It was expected that it would take much longer for the effects of her feeding to wear off compared to the effects of Hunter’s.“Well?” Nora asked. “What is it?” In the past week, Madison frequently suggested she’d made some vague sort of progress. Twice she had thought she’d perfected the formula, and twice, upon taking it, Nora discovered she had not. The first time, the thick syrup made all of Nora’s Vassiz senses fade away, but, unlike when Serkhol and Borrak administered it, it did not make her pass out. Instead, a wave of paranoia gripped her, and she spent the better part of two days convinced every shadow moving in the distance was the elders coming for her. The second time, Nora’s senses did not fade away, but she fell instantly into a deep and troubled sleep. Nightmares haunted her mind, more vivid than she could believe, but the dream realm remained inaccessible. At least that time, she had only lost a few hours when she was asleep.“I think,” Madison said slowly, “I know what went wrong last time.”“That’s it?” Nora snapped. “That’s all you have for your progress?”“Do not be so quick to dismiss it,” Madison said, with an icy calm. “Without subjects to test it on, it takes days to figure out even the simplest thing.”“You’re right,” Nora sighed. “I’m sorry. I know you’ve been working hard.”“We all have,” Alexander noted.“I know. It’s just we’ve been here so long, and we haven’t actually accomplished anything…”“Getting here was an accomplishment by itself,” Madison said.“I know. But now that we have, I just… I don’t know, I would have thought the search for the repository would have gone smoother, that’s all.”“Even if we found it earlier, Nora,” Hunter put in gently, “it wouldn’t have mattered before Madison formulated the potion.”“I know,” Nora sighed. “It just feels like we’re sitting ducks here, waiting for the elders to strike.”“They’ll have a hard time finding us in this desert,” Alexander said. “We’ve all been careful not to give ourselves away when going to town.”“But is that enough? What if somebody recognizes one of us?”“Out here?” Alexander barked a cruel laugh. “That’d be quite a feat. There are Vassiz worldwide, yes, but none that we would know. And besides, the disguises…”“Right.” The disguises. They weren’t much, but they made quite a difference. Her own hair was now a streaked blonde, rather than the dark brown she was used to. Every time she caught a look at herself in a mirror, or some other reflective surface, she was startled at how much different she looked. Couple that with the physical changes that came about following her transformation and almost nobody else would pin her as the same girl the elders had shown to the other Vassiz. “So, Madison, what went wrong?”“Too strong a mixture,” Madison answered. “Contaminated with impure ingredients. Only the purest will work, I fear.”“Will you be able to find them here?”“I think I’ll be able to,” she said coyly. “And once I do, the formula will be ready.”“That’s good,” Nora said. “If it works, that means we’ll be ready as soon as we find the repository.”“It’ll work,” Madison confirmed. “I’m sure of it.”“Good. Now then, has anyone heard from Jacob?” He had left that morning without a word, presumably to go look for the repository on his own.“No.” Hunter shook his head. Alexander made the same gesture. Even Madison shrugged.Nora dug her nails into the palm of her hand. She was always the last one to get back to the tent after a day of searching. That was what they agreed upon, because if the elders found the tent it afforded her the best chance of getting away. But now that Jacob had arrived, he had taken to staying out all day and nearly all night before returning to report his progress. None of them knew exactly where he went, either. It put Nora on edge.“Well, nothing we can do but wait, then,” Nora said, in a tight voice. They had all agreed to come back to the tent twice in every twenty-four hour period, once at dawn and once at dusk, to report whatever progress they’d made. And none of them ventured out again before seeing the others.“He’ll be here,” Madison promised. “Soon.”