July 25, 2014

CHAPTER REVEAL: chapter 1 from Out Of The Ashes

NOTE: The book is still going through copy edits, so please pardon any errors. :)

Chapter 1
March 23, 1AE
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Body tense and heart racing, Jake scoured Zoe’s face for any inkling of recognition. He couldn’t allow himself to believe she had no memory of him or all they’d been through together. She’d admitted she loved him only hours earlier. Now, she was scared, casting furtive glances around the room at friends and family she clearly didn’t remember, including him.

In the dying moonlight seeping through the undressed windows, Jake watched her, desperation making it hard for him to breathe. Her eyes…he couldn’t tear his gaze away from her teal eyes.

Zoe studied the two women in front of her, taking in Chris and Dani before settling her gaze on her brother, Jason. Her wide eyes narrowed, and her chest heaved, like she was frantically trying to remember him. Her gaze lingered on him a moment longer without a hint of recognition, and then landed on Jake. He could see the confusion and fear warring within their depths, making his heart ache and his conscience cloud with an undeniable guilt.

He shouldn’t have left her alone on the golf course.

Her head tilted slightly as she considered him, and he prayed there was even the slightest nagging familiarity. Remember, he silently pleaded. But seeing no recognition of him—of them—reflected in her eyes, he knew the Zoe standing in the room, looking at him like he was a complete stranger, was only a shadow of the woman he’d fallen in love with.

His grip on the doorframe tightened so hard he thought the wood might detach from the wall. Zoe was terrified, and for the first time since he’d met her, there was nothing he could do to help her. He fought the instinct to go to her, knowing that if he did, he would frighten her more, and then he might lose her completely.

Unable to stand the tension any longer, Jake turned and strode out of the suffocating room. He couldn’t get away fast enough.

Cooper, his loyal-friend-through-it-all Husky, trailed behind him, panting and trotting to keep up as Jake made his way down the hall. He needed space…needed air. Continuing toward the kitchen, he hoped the fresh air beyond the sliding glass door would give him a clearer head. But regardless of how quickly he strode through the house, the image of Zoe’s fearful eyes remained, permanently projected in his mind, a constant reminder of his failure to protect her.

His hands fisted at his sides. He’d known something wasn’t right when Zoe said she felt strange outside of the Colony, and if he’d just stayed with her instead of leaving her side to help Harper, she might not have run off…she might still be her.

With a roar, Jake spun toward the wall. His fist met the hard, textured surface in unbridled anger. His knuckles cracked beneath his skin as they barreled through a layer of drywall, but he was unfazed. Bracing his hands against the wall, he tried to catch his breath…to stop his mind from spinning out of control.

Hearing Dani and Zoe’s muted voices in the bedroom down the hall, Jake turned away from the hole his fist had made and continued into the small kitchen, but stopped. With a heavy sigh, he leaned against the Formica countertop, not ready to go outside with the others. Not ready to answer questions.

Almost immediately, Jason came through the doorway behind him. In two steps he was at the counter, gripping the ledge, and in the dim light pouring in through the sliding glass door, Jake could see the hard set of his features.

“I can’t blame the Colony this time,” Jake said. “I knew something was wrong.” Zoe was infuriating and stubborn, but she wasn’t stupid; she wouldn’t have just run off for no reason. But without her memory, there was no way to know why she’d done it.

With a heavy sigh, Cooper lay down on the linoleum floor, his eyes angling up to Jake and then to Jason, ensuring that, even in their silence, they were still standing there.

After what felt like a few minutes, Jason grunted and shook his head. His shoulders were tense, and dark emotions clouded his vibrant blue eyes.

Jake couldn’t help but wonder if Gabe—his best friend turned traitor—was to blame. Despite their friendship as children, Gabe had brought soldiers into Jake’s home, ready to take his sister, Becca, away from him, and then he’d lured Dani into the Colony for the General. Had he been just as involved in what had happened to Zoe?

“What a fucking mess,” Jason said, shaking his head. “I guess I’ll just keep nulling her, at least until—”

The sound of footsteps approaching brought both men’s attention to the hall doorway. Chris spoke softly, Zoe’s hand resting in hers as they entered the kitchen, Dani and Jack, her German Shepherd, close behind them. Though Chris and Zoe were both grown women, the image of them walking hand-in-hand resembled that of a mother and child.

Jake’s eyes met Zoe’s as she passed him; hers were shrewd and penetrating. They were the same eyes that had affected him so intensely the first moment he saw her, their brilliance and expressiveness capturing his attention—his soul—in a way no other woman ever had, pulling him in so fully that she’d become his home. Regret and anger gnawed at him; he’d never told her any of that, and now she might never know how he felt.

Her eyes narrowed on him slightly. He could tell from the way Zoe walked—with less fortitude and more uncertainty—that she was a poorly made replica of his Zoe. But she was a version of her, nonetheless, and like always, the endless depths of her eyes housed her every emotion: embarrassment – curiosity – confusion. Jake was grateful she didn’t seem to be afraid, and he knew he had Chris’s Ability to curb Zoe’s unease with a single touch to thank for that.

Chris whispered something inaudible, and Zoe’s gaze shifted to the sliding glass door. They stepped through and outside, heading toward the rest of the group and the horses waiting in the early morning shadows, Dani’s dog traipsing after them.

Dani, however, hung back in the kitchen. She moved closer to Jason, her gaze darting between him and Jake. With her broken arm, swollen and bruised face, and hunched shoulders, she looked like she’d been the General’s punching bag while she’d been held captive in the Colony. The sidelong glance she gave Jake made his blood run cold.

“What is it?” he said.

“There was a letter,” she said tentatively, fingering the edge of the sling holding her left arm. “It’s from one of my Colony contacts. She brought Zo here after finding her in the golf course…with Clara.”

Jake stopped breathing. His anger drained from him, his stomach knotting with fear.


He exhaled slowly and rubbed his hand over his face harsher than was necessary, fighting to maintain what semblance of composure he had left. Clara’d had it out for Zoe from the first moment they’d met. Back at Fort Knox, she’d poisoned Zoe in a desperate attempt to get rid of her, then attempted to kill them all in a barracks fire that had claimed several lives. And now she was here, in Colorado, trying to hurt Zoe again. White, hot rage and self-loathing scorched through him. He should’ve left Clara in the hospital where he’d found her, wandering and scared.

“She’s dead now,” Dani said, but Jake’s anger lessened only slightly.

“Dead,” he repeated hollowly. Clara might’ve been dead, but not before managing to strike one final blow.

Dani’s eyes met Jake’s for a brief moment before settling back onto Jason’s. “Did you tell them about the T-Rs and the memory wiping…?”

Jason nodded.

“It looks like that’s what happened to Zo…sort of. Clara started the process, got interrupted…at least now she’s dead.”

Jake studied Dani, finding it difficult to believe in Clara’s demise through hearsay. “How do you know for sure?” he asked.

Dani smiled weakly and shook her head, wisps of her curly, red hair escaping the braid it was gathered into. “My contact said so,” she said. “I trust her…at least with this.” She glanced between them once more, like she wasn’t quite sure of something. “There’s more, but we should probably get going.”

Jason reached for her, lacing his fingers with those of her good hand, and nodded. “We’ll figure the rest out on the way to Colorado Trails,” he said. “We’ve got to get moving or Ky and the others will think something’s happened to us.”

The sliding glass door opened and Becca stepped into the doorway. She glanced between Jason and Dani, and even though she still didn’t seem to believe that Jake was her brother, her eyes found and locked with his. “We should go,” she said, her voice raspy, as it had been since she was young. “I have had a vision. If we do not leave soon, the General will find us.”

“Shit,” Jason muttered, and Becca turned slowly and exited the kitchen, leaving the door open behind her.

Dani led Jason toward the sliding glass door. His imposing form dwarfing her petite, battered one. Part of Jake wished Zoe’s wounds were as straight forward as bruises and broken bones; those wounds would heal, what Clara had done to her might not.

Once again, Zoe was right in front of him, but as unreachable as though she were miles away; it infuriated him. While Clara’s first attempt to kill the only woman he’d ever loved had inevitably brought Zoe and Jake closer together, Clara’s final attempt might’ve succeeded in tearing them apart completely.


Keep an eye out for chapter 2, coming Friday, August 1! Out Of The Ashes will be released on August 23.

July 24, 2014


Hope brought them together, but it's now fear that drives them...
...and threatens to tear them apart.

Zoe and her companions succeeded in rescuing Dani from the Colony. But not without sacrifice. Beaten and broken, they head west, determined to leave behind the torment and horrors they experienced in Colorado.

As Dani and Zoe make the perilous trek home to Bodega Bay, they learn that danger can take many forms--other survivors, their friends, even themselves--and that things are rarely what they seem. Zoe is desperate to become the woman she sees in others' memories, while Dani struggles to conceal damaging secrets, risking losing herself--her humanity--completely. Together, they must rediscover the true meaning of friendship, love, and trust, and learn just how hard they're willing to fight for what remains of their shattered world.

As relationships are put to the test, second chances are given, and new life emerges, death lurks in the most unlikely of places. To survive, Dani and Zoe must accept that sometimes hope alone isn't enough.

OUT OF THE ASHES will be released on August 23, 2014.

July 19, 2014

The Ending Beginnings: Jake & Clara

After his sister’s death, Jake is determined to seek revenge against his best-friend-turned-enemy. However, after meeting Clara, who's as convincing as she is unnerving, his plans change completely.

Clara has all but given up on finding her Prince Charming, but the moment Jake walks into the hospital, her future becomes much brighter, despite the world-ravaging virus that's turned everything upside down.

But traveling across the country together proves more difficult than either of them expects, and just when they both think the world couldn't get any worse, it does.

The Ending Beginnings:
I - Carlos
II - Mandy
III - Vanessa
IV - Jake
V - Clara
VI - Jake & Clara


Jake sat on an overstuffed couch in the hospital’s rec room, the stark furniture and barren walls brightened by the muted, flashing television. The President’s address looped on the radio at the nurses’ station behind him, and the more the words sank in, the more his mind reeled. A global pandemic? Start over? Build anew? Was that even possible? Amidst his chaotic mind chatter, Jake wondered what the hell he was going to do next.
Rising from the couch, he took three steps toward one of the barred windows across from him, braced his hands against the wall on either side, and let out a long exhale. He stared out at the crashed Cadillac and the few buildings that were visible through the trees across the road. Despite the fact that the city was enshrouded in midnight, it was so changed. It was desolate, like living in the country, but in a more unnatural way. There was no one catching a late night cab…there was no traffic. Street lamps illuminated the haphazardly parked cars on the snow-covered pavement, and a lone, scraggly terrier trotted down the sidewalk, a leash dragging in the snow behind him. The dog stopped and sniffed around the back of the Cadillac, no doubt searching for the remnants of the chips Kyle had left behind, before trotting out of sight.
Choked sobs came from the cafeteria down the hall, breaking Jake’s concentration. The nurse, Roberta, hadn’t been able to calm Kyle down since the kid realized his father was dead, and it was beginning to grate on Jake’s nerves.
As much as he thought he should care about the situation he was in—the disease, the billions dead, the pandemonium—he couldn’t, not really. The memory of Becca, struggling as she took her final breath, was too fresh in his mind, too raw. She was gone; Gabe took her away from him.
Jake’s hands clenched into fists. He needed to stay focused. He needed to get to Peterson Air Force Base. He needed to find Gabe…to hurt Gabe. Emotions boiling, Jake let his hate and anger fuel him into action. He let out a resolute breath and pushed away from the window.
But as suddenly as Jake turned around, he stopped. Clara, the blonde-haired woman whose blue eyes were too assessing, stood in front of him.
Her head was tilted, her lips pursed, and her gaze flicked over his body. “Are you alright?” she asked, her voice light and curious.
Giving her a curt nod, Jake brushed past her with the intention of heading toward the cafeteria.
Clara reached out to him, her hand lightly clasping his biceps.
Body tensing under her touch, Jake froze, looking down at her pale, delicate hand, then into her penetrating eyes.
“It was nice that you tried to help that man,” she said, and a small smile pulled at her lips.
Jake made a derisive noise. “Yeah, well, apparently it wasn’t enough.”
Her brow furrowed, and she let go of his arm. “You did what you could.”
Nodding, he started to take another step.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
Jake frowned and paused again, wondering why she cared one way or the other. “I never should’ve stopped in the first place.”
“No?” Clara’s soft voice turned sharp, and she walked to the window Jake had been staring out of only moments before.
She was scared, he realized. He should be scared. “You’ll be alright here,” he said, his voice carrying a weak attempt at comfort.
Clara muttered something he couldn’t hear.
He tried again. “You have food…Roberta and the other nurse…”
But Clara seemed unfazed by this words, and she turned to face him. “If it’s so safe here, then why won’t you stay? Why leave three helpless women and a child alone?”
Jake shook his head, uncertain why he felt the need to explain anything to this woman. “There are things I have to deal with.”
After a few impatient steps, Clara was directly in front of him. “Take me with you, please?” Her eyebrows lifted and drew together.
“No,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.” He suddenly needed to get out of the room as soon as possible.
“Please.” Like a blade, the word cut into him, threatening to sever his last shred of decency. “Please,” she whispered.
Unable to resist, Jake turned around.
Clara’s eyes were even more pleading than her voice, they were shimmering, and her chest was heaving. “Please,” she repeated. “You have to take me with you. I can’t stay here. You don’t understand, I’ll die if I stay here…”
No. The word was on the tip of his tongue, but it felt leaden and uncooperative. “I have to go to Peterson, alone,” he reminded himself. “I have to go.”
“What’s in Peterson?” she asked, so close that her presence was distracting him. When he didn’t answer her, she continued, “Is it safe there? We need to leave…to go somewhere safe. Please take me somewhere safe, Jake. I can’t bear to be here—in this place, in this city—any longer.”
Slowly, Jake’s eyes shifted to hers, his mind feeling muddled. Words tried to form, and he tried to shake his head, to refuse her pleas, but he couldn’t. There was something about her…something unsettling that made him want to walk away and never look back. But another part of him wanted to give into her…to take her with him…to leave Colorado Springs and find somewhere safe…
Clara reached out to touch his arm again, and Jake flinched away.
Straightening, she seemed to collect herself in a single, fortifying breath. Then, when her eyes met his, it was like they were piercing into his soul. “Please.”