November 27, 2015

Short Story Collection Announced!

Greetings, Endingers!

In case you haven't heard....

Although The Ending Series saga novels themselves are complete, that doesn't mean we're finished exploring some of the characters or the world before and after. The first collection of character stories, which will explore the lives of certain characters before The Ending Series began and the Virus spread, will be the first compilation published sometime in 2017, most likely. World After stories will follow.

Thank you for all your support and love for The Ending Series so far! We wouldn't keep writing this if it weren't for all of our dedicated and passionate fans.

Happy Reading!

Team Lindsey

November 19, 2015

Before The Dawn is officially available!

It's here! It's here! Your patience has finally paid off:

A year ago, the Virus killed off most people in the world. 

A year ago, strange things started happening to those who survived. Some of them transformed into something dark and sinister, while others evolved, becoming something more, something beyond human.

A year ago, Dani and Zoe were lost. They traversed the country to find one another, losing some of the people dearest to them along the way. They fought for their right to simply live, uncovered long-buried secrets, and discovered irreversible truths. And after everything Dani and Zoe have been through—even with the battle wounds that they bear—they’re still not safe.

It’s time for the struggling to end, for survivors to take back their lives, their families, their safety. It’s time to really begin to live, and to do that, they must wait for the first rays of dawn.

November 14, 2015

Q & A with Team Lindsey - The Co-Author Writing Process and the world of The Ending

Greetings, Endingers!

As promised, we've been answering A LOT of reader questions as we get ready to release the fourth and final book in The Ending Series. Many of you have similar questions, so we thought we'd post some of them here for you to peruse. Depending on what you already know about Team Lindsey, you may or may not be surprised by what our co-authorship looks like...

1. How does the writing process work with two authors?

It's morphed a bit since book one, but essentially we brainstorm together (in person) and then we outline the book by characters and storylines. Sticky notes and google docs are VERY helpful in this. After, we start writing and continue to check in with each other as we write and read each other's chapters. This way we can make sure we're on the "same page" so to speak. 

Also, we both write our own camp of characters. For example, LP writes Zoe chapters and her characters include, Harper, Sanchez, Tavis, Sam, Jake, Becca, Sarah, Clara, etc. and LF writes Dani chapters, Jason, Chris, Carlos, Gabe, Vanessa, animals, Mase, Grayson, Ky, etc.) However, when our characters crossover into each other's chapters, like Jake being in a Dani chapter, for example, LF will write her version of Jake's responses and LP will come in and make sure his reactions and dialogue are true to his character. Now that we're on book four, we know the characters so well and there's generally little altering needed. Then there are characters, like Dr. Wesley and General Herodson, that we both write. They aren't really "one person's" character, as we've created them together.

2. Do you ever disagree on the direction of a character or the plot?

We definitely have different ideas about how things should progress or what should happen in between major plot points now and again, but we talk about them and figure out a compromise--why it would or wouldn't work. Sometimes we leave the questionable pieces of the story in the first draft for beta readers to comment on during the first read-through. If they don't think something fits or works, we change it so that it does. 

3. Do you market the book any differently with it having two authors?

No, not really. It's pretty much the same. We used to have the edge of how "different" we were with two authors, especially with us having the same name, but now it seems more and more common for a book or series to have co-authors. And, writing together is actually a tad more difficult to market in some cases. It helps that we both have our own websites and blogs and author platforms in which we can market our work. But sometimes forms or publishing accounts or listings that we're signing up for only have room for one author's name, so it's difficult to keep both of our names connected to the project at times. Since we decided to list our name in alphabetic order, LF is generally the name that's attached, but LP's gotten used to it over the last four years. It is what it is.

4. Which do you prefer, writing as a sole author or writing with another author?

There are definitely perks to both. When you're co-authoring, there's someone to partner with, who's invested in the project as much as you are. It's nice to have someone helping you celebrate the good and shoulder the bad. But it's also difficult given our different schedules and pace of working. 

We both write our own stories. LF loves writing paranormal, so it's great for her to be able to focus on her solo projects and really spread her wings and get crazy and, well, paranormal. LP is much more conventional in her writing in that she likes to write historical and contemporary romance with a dash of adventure. While we both love The Ending Series, it will be really nice to explore our own stories, the ones that have been on hold over the past few years. As far as preference writing solo or together, they are two very different beasts. We both agree that it's nice to have a break from each once in a while. It's nice to have both options.

5. Does one Author “take the lead” or do you both have equal input into the writing of the book and it’s marketing?

We both have equal say and mostly share the load across the board.

6. How do you decide who writes which part of the book?

We decide what we want our character arcs to be, agree that they work together and fit into the goal of the story, then we pretty much plan our own chapters, as long as we're clear on the overlapping pieces and what we need our characters to accomplish or experience together. Sorry, that was a long sentence :) Again, we plan out our chapters ahead of time, and we read each other's as we go so that we know where to pick up and where the other left off. This is VERY important when our characters are together.

7. Are there certain traits or an interview-type process you go through when choosing authors to co-write with? Or is it a less technical approach with two author friends deciding to co-write?

For us, it was an organic, logical step given our hobbies and friendship at the time, a step that has since turned into something bigger than we had originally expected. There was no formal process, though we have a recommendation for anyone jumping into a project with someone else. We were lucky in many ways, but we've also learned a lot that might help other authors ruminating the idea of co-authorship: pay close attention to a potential co-author's work ethic, their pace, their ability to communicate, their attention and dedication to their projects, etc. because all of those things are important. We wouldn't have been so successful or gotten so far without being able to work together the way we have. It's not easy, so make sure your writing partner is someone you trust and foresee in your writing career long-haul...once you publish a book, you're tied together. 

8. Do you ever get together in the same room to do the writing or is it all done via computers? 

With LP in California and LF in Washington, we try to meet up at least twice during a project--initial brainstorming before we start writing and the final read-through and publishing of the book. Other than that it's all emails and video chats for us.

November 13, 2015

Before The Dawn First Look: Chapter 2 - Dani


In case you missed these jewels:

Chapter 2 - DANI
The Farm, California

With a grunt, I adjusted my hold on the box I was carrying and attempted to reach for the doorknob on the cottage’s front door. The glassware in the box, an amalgam of random glasses, mugs, vases, and bowls I’d collected from the massive—and dusty—storage room in the barn, shifted and clanked in warning.
   “Crap,” I hissed. “Jason?” I called telepathically. Having my Ability firing on all cylinders was useful in so many ways, not the least of which was being able to request aid from pretty much anyone, anywhere, at any time. “Come get the door?”
   “Give me a second.” He was inside the cottage, in what was slowly transforming into our bedroom in the back corner of the small house. I could sense his mind signature there. Stationary. Not rushing toward the door to let me in.
   I pressed my lips together and exhaled with a huff. Clearly, being able to request help telepathically and receiving said help were two entirely different matters.
   Gritting my teeth, I raised my right leg and used my thigh to shift my increasingly precarious hold on the box once more. It certainly didn’t help that the cardboard was damp from the drizzling rain or that, thanks to the chill in the air, I could barely feel my fingers. At least the porch’s shallow eave protected me from getting rained on further. “Unless you want a mountain of broken glass on the stoop, it’d be great if you could come get the door now…”
   I could sense Jason’s movement instantaneously, and seconds later, the door swung open and he plucked a box that had been just shy of way too heavy out of my arms with annoying ease. I flexed my fingers, cringing at the uncomfortable mixture of numbness and sharp, stinging pain.
   “You shouldn’t have tried to carry this in the first place.” Jason gave me a reproachful look—eyebrows raised, chiseled jaw flexed, jagged scar intensifyingeverything about him—before turning and heading through the cozy living room with the box. He set it on the single free corner of the rustic farm table that separated the “kitchen” from the rest of the living area. We’d found the table in the storage room—which, in all reality, put most old attics to shame with all the treasures it contained—and had relocated it to the cottage almost a week ago, during our last “moving day.”
   Days off were rare on our little communal farm, and Jason and I had been setting up the cottage to be our small family’s own comfy, compact, and moderately private home for over a month now. I was more than ready to move out of the farmhouse and settle in here with Jason and Annie and my beloved German shepherd, Jack. To have my own space…to not always be stepping on the toes of every other living person I knew…to make a home with Jason…
   I sighed, and after scanning the combined living room and kitchen and beautiful river-stone hearth, after taking in the columns of boxes and piles of clutter that still needed to be moved out, arranged, or put away, I felt my shoulders slump. It looked like I wouldn’t be settling in to my little piece of domestic paradise on this rainy November day. Maybe next week…
   “Red.” Jason planted himself in front of me and rested his work-roughened hands on my shoulders. “Look at me.”
Unable to resist an order from him, especially one delivered in such a low, silky rumble, I raised my gaze to his and fell in love with him just a little bit more. His sapphire eyes were filled with such warmth, such light and heat and wonder, that I couldn’t help but lose myself in them. Lose myself to him.
   “What did I tell you last night?” he asked, face placid.
   My cheeks flushed and my whole body heated as I remembered things whispered in the cover of darkness. Secret things. Things I was almost certain I couldn’t repeat while it was daylight or while I was staring into his eyes…or ever. “Um…” I drew my bottom lip between my teeth and lowered my eyes and blushed even more. “Well…”
   Jason chuckled, his thumbs tracing the underside of my jaw. “While I think it’s pretty fucking fantastic that your mind went there automatically, I was actually talking about the promise I made about moving. Into the cottage. Today…”
   “Oh!” My eyes flashed up to his, and I smiled shyly. My face and neck were still on fire.
   “Unless you’re planning on spending the rest of the day digging around in that room”—his focus shifted to my hair, and he pulled a clumpy cobweb from my ponytail’s unruly curls—“we’ll have plenty of time to finish up in here.”
   I assessed the chaotic space once again and puckered my lips, attempting to imagine everything arranged just so. And failed. “But—”
   “The bedrooms are all that really matter, anyway.” Jason shrugged a shoulder and looked down the short hallway to both ours and Annie’s future bedrooms. “And those are done.”
   Narrowing my eyes, I scrutinized Jason’s face. He hadn’t shaved today—not yesterday, either, I’d have wagered—and the slightly unkempt cowboy look made his already minimally expressive features harder to read. “What do you mean ‘they’re done’?” I tilted my head to the side. I hadn’t been in either bedroom for days, having spent all of my time working around the farm and most of the morning “shopping” in the storage room in the barn. “Annie’s room still needs furniture, especially a bed, and—”
   Jason shook his head. “She doesn’t want a bed; you know that.”
   I frowned. “She’s just a kid. Don’t you think she needs—”
   “Yeah, she’s a kid, and about as unusual as they get.”
   It was my turn to shake my head. “But still…she needs a bed, Jason. Where’s she going to sleep—er, drift?” My voice rose in pitch. “With us?”
   Again, Jason chuckled. “No way in hell. At night, you belong to me and only me.”
   A splash of my earlier flush returned. “So…?”
   Jason smiled, just a little. “Becca’s been helping her set up her room.” Almost on cue, Annie’s pure, crystalline giggle came from her bedroom.
   Capturing my hand, Jason led me into the short hallway and toward Annie’s room. Another peal of laughter came from within before he opened the door, swinging it inward with a creak.
   Jason glanced at the door, then back at me, and mumbled,   “I’ll have to fix that.”
   My gaze was pulled away from his and into the bedroom. In the dim late morning light coming in through the room’s two small windows, the space resembled a forest clearing as much as a bedroom—a cozy forest clearing, but a forest clearing nonetheless. All four walls were covered with painted trees, some a dark, ashy brown and others fading to smoky gray in the “distance,” but each wall was vastly different, as each represented one of the four seasons. There were silhouetted animals in the shrubbery painted near the floor and birds resting on branches here and there.
   “What—how?” Eyes wide, I stepped into the room and turned in a slow circle, taking in everything. A rough-hewn wooden chest and matching dresser—both looking almost as though they’d simply grown into their current shape—had been placed against one wall. In one corner, what I could only identify as a nest of pillows and blankets spilled out, filling nearly half of the room. I pointed to the furniture, then to the walls and the nest. “How’d this—I don’t understand.”
   Annie giggled, finally drawing my attention to where she sat with Becca and Jack, nestled in her bed-nest-thing and lazily scratching the dog’s side. She threw herself onto her back and pointed to the ceiling.
   I held my breath. I’d yet to look up. And when I did, I exhaled a long, slow, “Whoa…” The moon, larger than life and surrounded by a choir of stars, practically glowed overhead.
   “Did—did Zo do this?” I couldn’t imagine how she could have; she was easily as busy as me with farm work. Everyone was.
   Standing behind me, Jason wrapped his arms around my shoulders and pulled me flush against him. His body heat practically seared through my cool, damp clothing. I hadn’t realized how deeply the chill had settled in from being out in the barn all morning with only a hooded sweatshirt for warmth.
   Slowly, Becca stood and brushed off the front of her jeans.    After a moment, she looked at me. “It was not only Zoe,” she said in that careful way of hers, her voice as raspy as ever. “I helped her paint the room. She wished to surprise you by doing something special to make your home as perfect as possible, but she didn’t have the time to do it all herself.”
   Eyebrows raised, I stared at Becca. “Zo…and you?”
   She clasped her hands together in front of herself and nodded demurely. “My brother tells me I was an artist of a sort, similar to Zoe, but different in that I preferred three-dimensional art. Though I do find the act of painting quite soothing.” I frowned as she glanced around at the walls. I hadn’t realized she’d been an artist, too. “Zoe is an excellent teacher, wouldn’t you say?”
   I blew out my breath, once again taking in the masterful work she and Zoe had done. “Yeah. You guys did an amazing job.” I looked at her. “It’s beautiful.” Glancing from her to Annie and back, I gave her a warm smile. “Thank you for doing this.”
   Becca nodded, eyes downcast, and walked to the dresser. Placing her hand on the surface, she returned my smile. “This and the chest were Tom’s work.”
   I blinked several times, then turned around in Jason’s arms.    “Your dad made them? But when?”
   “He—” Jason took a deep breath, and tension filled him. “His intentions were good, and he swears he only altered perception around him a few times to keep it a surprise for us.”
   I felt some of Jason’s tension seep into me. After everything that had happened at the Colony, I reallyhated the idea of someone—anyone—messing with my mind. Again.
   “He showed me the pieces once he was finished making them.” Jason paused for a moment. “We got into a big fu—” Catching himself, he glanced at Annie, then returned his focus to me. “A big argument. He won’t admit it, but I think it’s hard for him to just live—not changing what those around him perceive to fit his needs. He’s been doing it for so long now that it’s become second nature.”
   “Still…I don’t like it, Jason.” I gave him a meaningful look. “I don’t want anyone messing with my mind.”
   A low grunt hummed in Jason’s throat. “I know.” He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. “He wasn’t fully aware of what the General did to you, but he knows now. He really just wanted to surprise us, that’s all, and he’s taking every precaution to make sure he doesn’t slip back into old habits. It won’t happen again.”
   Awash with relief, I smiled. “Well, that’s something.”Forcing the smile to remain, I approached the dresser and examined the odd combination of gnarled and elegant decorations carved into its surfaces. “Well, kiddo?” I peeked back at Annie, who was still staring up at the painted moon. “What do you think of your new bedroom?”
   Annie flung her arms out akimbo and sighed dramatically. “I love it so much. It’s the best bedroom ever!”
   I grinned at her. “Like, ever ever?”
   She nodded enthusiastically. “Ever ever.” Abruptly, she sat up and stared at me, her face serious and her blonde curls a wild tangle. “But I like yours, too.”
   “You do?” Curious, I turned around to look at Jason. His face was a mask of bland innocence. “You’ve been busy.” As    I considered all that had been accomplished right under my nose—without me suspecting a thing—I realized just how much time and effort I’d been putting into working around the farm. Maybe a smidge too much…
   Jason stuck his hands into his jeans pockets and shrugged.
   I crossed the room to him and smacked him on the arm. “I don’t like it when you keep secrets from me,” I said with mock severity.
   The faintest smirk touched Jason’s lips. “But you like my surprises.”
   “Yeah, but—”
   “You can’t have it both ways, Red.”
   I tried to keep my face stern, but I couldn’t hold back my eager grin. “Grams used to say that surprises always leave behind a trail of secrets; good or bad, if you look hard enough, you’ll find ’em.” My grin faded along with the fond memory, but when I once again focused on Jason’s face, it returned at full force. “Well, are you going to show me, or what?”
   Jason laughed, low and soft, and turned toward the doorway. Annie was up and running before I’d taken my first step to follow. Somehow, the lithe little sprite managed to make it through the doorway before Jason. I watched him follow her out.
   “You love him very much,” Becca said from right behind me.
I yelped and spun around, my hand pressed against my chest in a vain attempt to slow my suddenly racing heart. “Jesus, Becca. You startled me.”
   “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. Her eyes, however, shone with a feverish intensity. They’d changed since Carlos had started administering electrotherapy on her, as had the eyes of the other Re-gens; they were no longer that dull gray I’d come to expect of their kind, but hers a violet-gray that was somehow both eerie and entrancing. The returning vibrancy to the Re-gens’ eyes seemed to mirror their reemerging personalities and emotions, as though their eyes really were windows to their souls.
   Quietly, Becca asked, “What is it like to be in love?”
   Taking a step backward, I frowned. “Um…it’s great. Why?”
   “You and Jason love each other very much.” She took a step toward me, her focus intent on my face. “But doesn’t it scare you?”
   I shook my head, taking another step backward. Sometimes Re-gens could be funny with how they treated personal boundaries—or ignored them. “I don’t understand.”
   Becca took a deep breath, and I had the impression she was struggling with how to voice her thoughts. “It makes you happy, that is obvious, but…if one of you was suddenly gone, the other would be devastated. Love like that seems like a terrible gamble, and I just wanted to know if it’s worth it.”
   Unease took root in my stomach. Was Becca curious because she was interested in someone romantically, or was this something else…something more? “Is it worth what, exactly?”
   She licked her lips. Her eyes were haunted, but intent on me. “The pain it causes. The potential for unimaginable loss. The possibility that one day it might be gone. There’s something…” She shook her head. “I just need to know if the good balances the bad. I need to know if love is worth the fear and the pain.” She swallowed roughly. “Even with my visions, tomorrow is never certain. I just need to know if it’s worth it.”
   Unease was quickly morphing into dread…anxiety. This strange, totally out-of-the-blue behavior was exactly why I never felt completely comfortable around Becca. She was different from the other Re-gens in that she could see the future, or snippets of it, and she was different from the only other person I knew who had a similar Ability—Harper—because she didn’t possess a lifetime’s worth of practice interacting with people and delivering life-changing, potentially devastating news. It made her really hard to relate to and all but impossible to understand, at least for me.
   But part of me could understand her question. We were living in pretty damn uncertain times, even for one with the Ability to see some of what was to come. Whatever she’d seen in her murky view of the future, whatever she’d felt, it seemed to me that she needed reassurance that there was something worth living for, something worth fighting for, something worth hanging onto, no matter what.
   “Yeah,” I said roughly. “I think it’s worth it.” Shaking my head, I amended my answer. “It is worth it. I mean, just look at Jason and Zo’s mom—she’s torn the world apart because she loved them too much to let them go. If that’s not evidence proving that love is more valuable than almost anything else, I don’t know what is.”
   Slowly, Becca’s entire demeanor changed and she was, once again, the slightly withdrawn, awkward Re-gen just trying to find her place in the world. “Thank you for that…for being so honest.” Her gaze sank to the floor. “Sometimes it’s hard to relate. Sometimes we feel so strongly, like you, but other times it seems more like a memory of a feeling. I just needed to know.”
   I cleared my throat. “Sure.” I wanted to know if she was telling the whole truth. I wanted to know if her questions about love were rooted in a deeper motivation, if they stemmed from some secret vision she’d seen. I wanted to know—and I never wanted to find out. Flashing Becca a pathetic excuse for a smile, I added, “Any time.”
   Annie was suddenly in the room, skipping circles around us. “Dani! Dani! Dani! Dani! Dani! Dan—”
   “Alright, little one,” Becca said, expertly capturing Annie’s tiny arm and stopping her whirlwind progress around us. I was always amazed with her ability to handle my adopted wild child with such ease. “Let’s give Dani and Jason some time to explore their new bedroom.” Meeting my eyes briefly, she winked.
   I gaped at her as she led Annie out of the room.Becca winked at me? Becca could wink? Moments later, I heard the sound of the front door opening and shutting.
   “Red,” Jason called from the room opposite Annie’s.
   Bewildered, I made my way down the short hallway, past the compact bathroom, and through the doorway into our bedroom. I felt like a zombie, as if Becca and her odder-than-usual behavior and our unsettling conversation had drained the life out of me. Until I actually saw the bedroom—Jason’s and my bedroom. My mouth fell open.
   The bed appeared to be made of repurposed wood, and it was absolutely stunning. But I’d known about it, as well as the matching armoire, dresser, and simple bedside tables. What I hadn’t known about was the quilt Jason must have snuck onto the farm after a visit to Grams’s house just outside New Bodega’s walls. It was the quilt from Grams’s guest room, made up of interlocking circles of blues and purples, and though it really was a beautiful quilt, it was the fact that Grams had made it that tugged at my heartstrings.
   “Oh, Jason…” I stepped into the bedroom and ran my fingertips over the quilt. Having it in the room made the space smell like Grams’s house in the subtlest ways, hinting at candle wax and at herbs used daily to make teas and tinctures.
   Tears welled in my eyes, and without thinking, I turned and flung myself into Jason’s arms. My mouth sought his, my hands tugging at his clothes to bring him closer to me. And for a little while, I forgot about the knot of anxiety spooling inside me. For a little while, I let Jason remind me why love—our love—was worth it.


I hummed to myself as Jack and I strolled out to the stable to gather the horses’ evening snack. They received plenty of sustenance from grazing out in our abundant pastures, but I still enjoyed the special spike of pleasure they felt when they took a nibble of an apple or a carrot from my hand.
   “I already told you, talk to Mase or Becca,” I heard Carlos say, his voice raised. “If you’ve got a problem with their system, take it up with them.” His voice was filled with frustration, or maybe with exasperation, and when I rounded the corner of the stable and caught my first glimpse of him through the open door, I wasn’t surprised by his tense, almost aggressive stance. He was facing two male Re-gens, one shorter and plumper than him, the other taller and thinner.
I recognized them both as residents of the farm just north of ours. With the Re-gens and the Tahoe folks now residing in our little valley, we’d managed to get two more farms up and running and were putting the physical structures of another two through renovations while we began to cultivate the adjacent land. Our short string of self-sufficient homesteads had come to be known as Hope Valley among our people as well as among the residents of New Bodega, and with each passing week, it seemed more and more likely that our hopes for a better, safer, and more stable future would become a reality.
   I didn’t know the two Re-gens’ names, but they’d both seemed kindly enough the previous times I’d crossed paths with them. Now, not so much; now, they were demonstrating just how much the regular electrotherapy sessions had expanded their emotional ranges. The tall one was pointing his finger at Carlos’s chest, nearly poking him, and the short one had his fists clenched and held at his sides and was practically vibrating with pent-up aggression.
   “Everything okay, guys?” I asked as I approached.
Jack, who’d been walking at my side, trotted forward a few paces, hackles raised and lips retracted. He considered Carlos a part of his pack, and he was more than ready to fight for the teen if and when necessary.
   Carlos swatted the taller Re-gen’s hand away. “Yeah. They were just leaving.” He turned his back to the Re-gens and retreated further into the stable, no doubt heading for his sister’s stall at the end.
   The Re-gens stared after him but didn’t follow.
   “You should go,” I said as I passed them. When they still showed no signs of leaving, I asked Jack to gently—and none-too-gently, if the kinder approach failed—escort them away.
   A slight smile touched my lips as I listened to his warning growls and the snap of his teeth clacking together as he nipped at his temporary charges. When I heard the approaching click-clack-click of dog claws on cement, I peeked over my shoulder. The Re-gens were gone, and Jack was returning to me.
   “Thanks, Sweet Boy.”
   He wagged his tail happily and let out a single yip.
   Ahead, Carlos stood before the sliding door to his sister’s stall, his forehead resting against the barred-off window, his hands gripping two of the bars tightly. I stopped a few feet away and crossed my arms over my chest. Jack, however, continued forward, sitting as close to Carlos as was physically possible without actually sitting on his feet. Inside the stall, Vanessa, Carlos’s eighteen-year-old sister and our resident Crazy, was experiencing a blessed—and rare—moment of quiet.
   “So…what was that all about?” I asked.
   Carlos exhaled heavily. “They were here because Jimmy,   Dan, and Lawrence—” Seeing my blank stare, he clarified,    “They’re Re-gen sparklers, but they’re not as good as me at electrotherapy.” I knewsparklers was his slang for people who could handle electricity like he could.
   I coughed a laugh. “So humble…”
   Carlos shrugged with minimal effort. “It’s true. They’re not as good at controlling the currents. And they’re weaker…and that makes the electrotherapy they give weaker. Maybe in time, after they’ve strengthened their own Abilities by electrotherapizing the shit out of each other, they’ll be way better than me, but now…?” Again, he shrugged.
   “So what? You’re like name-brand electrotherapy and the others are knockoffs?” I glanced back up the empty stable aisle. “And not everybody’s getting Carlos-brand electrotherapy, are they?” I stuck out my bottom lip, just a little.
   Carlos turned his head to look at me, his temple resting against one of the metal bars. “Yeah, and Mase and Becca and Camille have been really cutting down on who I work on—just them and the other sparklers, mostly. Everyone else gets one session with me per month.”
   I was undeniably grateful to Mase, Camille, and Becca for their innate ability to more or less rule over the other Re-gens, as well as for their foresight where Carlos was concerned. Six months ago, when the Re-gens first arrived en masse, seeking our help to stave off their slow death by degeneration, Carlos had tried to help everyone, which had led to overexertion in less than a day and a period of burnout that had lasted for three full days. And when his Ability came back online, had Mase, Camille, and Becca not stepped up and reined in the Re-gen horde, they’d have begged and whined and pleaded and bullied Carlos into doing it all over again.
   “It’s raining…it’s pourrrrring,” Vanessa sang from within her stall. “The old man is snorrrrrring.”
   I eyed the shadows through the bars, uncomfortably grateful that I couldn’t see Carlos’s sister in the dimness. The intermittent rain and cloud cover was making all hours of daylight feel like dusk.
   “He went to bed,” Vanessa continued, “and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morrrrrning.”
   I shivered, and without a word, Carlos slipped his leather coat off and tucked it around my shoulders. “You know, soon it’ll be too cold for her to stay out here all the time,” Carlos said, and I didn’t need Zoe’s Ability to know that having his sister locked up because she was a danger to herself and others was killing him inside.
   We’d loaded Vanessa’s space with all sorts of blankets, but without the electric heat the stable had been designed with, I knew he was right. We all did. What we didn’t know was what the hell to do with her. Could we get by with letting her stay in the house, simply keeping a guard on her day and night? It was a thought…
   “It’s raining…it’s pourrrrring.” Vanessa’s voice was growing shriller with each word.
   “We’ll figure something out,” I told Carlos, giving him a side hug.
   “The brother thief is snorrrrring…”
   I exchanged a look with Carlos. Brother thief was Vanessa’s name for me, we both knew it. We also both knew that whatever was going to come next in her revised version of the old song wouldn’t be overly pleasant.
   “You should go,” Carlos said quickly.
   “You’ll go to bed,” Vanessa sang. “Rosie’ll bash in your head, and you won’t ever get up again!”
   I shivered, and this time it had nothing to do with the damp cold. Deep down, I hoped we never let her out of that stall again.

November 10, 2015

Before The Dawn, Excerpt Extras!

Greetings, Endingers! 

Here are a couple excerpts from Before The Dawn, due out Friday, November 20th. 

What were people’s lives like now that they didn’t have to sit in traffic or be on conference calls? Were they worried about the amount of food in their pantries? About clean water? And as far as I knew, no one—save for the exploration, trading, and scavenging teams—needed to leave the protection of the New Bodega community. Everyone had probably already forgotten what’s out there, hidden in the abandoned alleyways and dark corners of the country. I wasn’t sure which was worse, remembering or not remembering. But given the easy, carefree steps of citizens wandering in and out of the building, it seemed they hadn’t a care in the world.
- Zoe, Before The Dawn, book four of The Ending Series

I barked a laugh and felt a sudden, rush of relief. It always amazed me how laughter could wash misery away like a wave smoothing out footprints in sand. Smiling at Zoe, I fished a handkerchief out of my pocket and handed it to her. “You’ve got some wayward snot…”
Her eyes went wide, and then she smacked my arm. “Smartass!” But she did take the hanky.
- Dani, Before The Dawn, book four of The Ending Series

Don't forget to stop by our Facebook Release Party on November 20th from 3:00-6:00 PST. Team Lindsey will be chatting it up with readers, answering questions, and most importantly GIVING AWAY AMAZING ENDING SERIES PRIZES. You can attend from work, in between washing dishes at home, on your phone... It's easy peasy and always a ton of fun. RSVP Here!

Happy Reading!
Team LindseyTwitter @TheEndingSeries
The Ending Series Website
After The Ending on Facebook
The Series Blog

November 8, 2015

Howdy, Endingers! 

LF and I have been asked to write a guest post as part of the Before The Dawn release kickoff. We could go on and on about a lot of things, but what it is that you want to know about? 

If you could read an extended interview or Q&A session, which questions or processes or fun facts would you like Team Lindsey to elaborate on? What are the nitty-gritty details you're curious about? What have you been wondering all this time?

Post your requests in the comment section below or shoot us an email

And, in case you missed them, here are the links for the Before The Dawn Prologue and Chapter One! Read away and...

only 12 more days and counting...

Team Lindsey

p.s. Don't forget to stop by our Facebook Release Party on November 20th from 3:00-6:00 PST. Team Lindsey will be chatting it up with readers, answering questions, and most importantly GIVING AWAY AMAZING ENDING SERIES PRIZES. You can attend from work, while you're washing dishes at home, on your phone... It's easy peasy and always a ton of fun. RSVP Here!

Twitter @TheEndingSeries
The Ending Series Website
After The Ending on Facebook
The Series Blog

November 7, 2015

Before The Dawn - Chapter One Zoe

If you missed the prologue, you can read it here.

Chapter 1
November 24, 1AE
The Farm, California

Hurrying through the mud and drizzle toward the stable proved detrimental to both staying clean and staying dry. Wet earth squished beneath each footstep, and I couldn’t help but wonder why we hadn’t moved our excess canning supplies out of the house sooner. Only a few steps from the sliding stable door, my right foot slipped in the mud, and it was all I could do not to face-plant in the muddy gravel with an armful of empty jars. “Shit,” I mumbled, letting out my held breath in relief as I regained my balance.
“That’s a bad word,” Annie observed behind me. “We’re not supposed to say bad words.”
I glanced back to find her half lost in concentration with each careful step, her little red rain boots spattered with mud. Muddy boots were better than muddy clothes, which Dani had made me promise to keep clean. Sam only shook his head.
“I know, no bad words,” I said, straining as I used my foot to slide the stable door open wide enough for the three of us to scramble through and out of the rain. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it.” With an oomph, I managed to push the door open, and Annie shuffled inside, Sam and me following behind her.
Although it was chilly inside the stable, it smelled of leather and hay, a pleasant surprise since many of the horses had opted to remain cooped up in their stalls most of the week.
“Why are we bringing the jars in here?” Annie asked, her tiny voice taut as she crept inside. I passed her in search of a place to store our armfuls.
“Over here,” I said, using my chin to point at the table stacked with Vanessa’s tattered and soiled clothes—the few items she’d allowed us to remove from her to be cleaned and mended. It was the table Chris and Carlos had put in Vanessa’s makeshift room during their daily visits to the last stall on the left.
Hearing Annie grunt, I looked down at her and smiled. Each of her steps was strategic and determined as she drew closer to the table, holding the four jars she’d insisted on carrying, like boulders too big for her tiny arms. As always seemed to be the case when I was around cute little crazy Annie, my heart melted a little.
“Why are we putting them in here?” she asked again.
“Because,” Sam grumbled, “we all have to eat inside again.” He set his case of jars on top of mine. “We need the kitchen table for dinner tonight because of the stupid rain.”
“It’ll stop soon,” I said, but I wasn’t sure that was true. We’d been mostly indoors for a couple of days, and none of us were sure when the weather would let up or for how long the break would last once it came, not even Tavis.
“But why aren’t we putting them in the shed,” Annie rattled on, “with the jellies and the pickles and the—”
Sam cut her off. “We’re just storing them in here until Jason and Grandpa Tom can fix the roof on the shed,” he said, sounding bored. “They have to wait for the rain to stop again.”
“Oh, Sam,” I said, nudging him with my elbow. “It’s just a little rain…okay, maybe a lot of rain. But it’ll let up soon.”
With a grunt, Annie finally stopped in front of the table, squeezing the jars so tightly I could hear glass grinding against glass. I held my breath, waiting for them to crash onto the hay-scattered cement floor but hoping they wouldn’t. Vanessa was chatting happily away to herself in her stall, and I didn’t want to send her into a spiraling fit.
Naturally, Sam reached out to help Annie unload her jars, but she turned away from him, her wild blonde hair bouncing despite its damp tendrils. “I can do it,” she said primly.
Sam’s palms flew up, and he stepped away from Annie’s accusatory glare. “Sorry.”
Carefully, Annie placed one jar on the table, her brow furrowed in concentration. She set down another. “They’re all wet and slippery,” she grumbled, smearing a water drop on one with her fingertip.
“That’s what happens when it’s raining,” Sam retorted, ever the older brother he’d seemed to become. “I told you I’d carry them.” Although Sam often feigned annoyance with Annie, I knew she amused him, and like with the rest of us, she often made him smile despite his grumpy mood. She was contagious that way.
With a derisive sound, Annie scrunched her face. “I don’t like the rain anymore,” she said, sounding like Sam, but I knew it wasn’t necessarily true. Annie didn’t like that she had to stay indoors when it rained, but she thoroughly enjoyed the overabundance of puddles that popped up all over the property. More mud meant more fun, at least where Annie was concerned.
Wishing I’d been in less of a hurry and grabbed my jacket, I ignored the visible puff of breath I exhaled as my fingertips felt for the small cubes protruding from my back pocket.
“Tavis should make the rain go away,” Annie said, adamant as she placed the last canning jar expertly on the table. She grinned, triumphant.
“Tavis can’t send the rain away just because we don’t like it, Annie,” I tried to explain.
She looked at Sam, scrunched up her face again, then looked at me. Her bright blue eyes narrowed, but she listened without argument.
“Don’t you like curling up on the couch, reading your animal stories with Mr. Grayson?” Despite how much Annie groaned about having to stay indoors, I knew she loved story time almost as much as she enjoyed romping around with Cooper and Jack in the dirt. And Mr. Grayson, old Bodega Bay’s infamous history teacher and captivating orator—or Daniel, as some called him—was the best man for the job.
Annie huffed, an exaggerated, impatient sound. “Yeah, but—”
“But what? We need the water in the wells and to fill the pond, munchkin. And we need it for our winter garden,” I explained. As if on cue, the encroaching storm above us worsened. Raindrops fell harder, echoing on the stable roof, and a gale of wind made the structure shudder and groan.
Shadow stirred in his stall a few doors down, and when Annie noticed my hand was in my back pocket, she grinned from ear to ear.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to give sugar to the horses,” Sam said wryly. Though he was going for disapproving, I knew he enjoyed our clandestine snack times with the horses as much as I did.
I brought my index finger to my lips. “Dani just said in moderation.” I walked over to Shadow, deciding he might like the company since he was cooped up indoors like the rest of us. Little pattering feet followed, and Annie giggled.
When Shadow’s head bobbed up and he anxiously approached the opened stall window, my grin widened. He looked like an oversized mountain pony with his shaggy, onyx coat, longer from the cool winter weather, and his unruly mane.
“Hey, boy,” I said softly as he stuck his head through the window. Shadow’s eyes were opened wide and bright, and I knew that meant he was growing anxious and ready for exercise. “Sorry, buddy, not today.” A notion suddenly dawned on me. I looked back at Annie. “He’s going to roll in the mud the first chance he gets, isn’t he?”
She simply giggled.
“I knew it.” Patting the side of his face, I put one of the sugar cubes out on my flattened palm for Shadow’s greedy lips to find and gave the rest to Sam and Annie. “It’ll be our little secret.” I winked and pointed toward the other stalls. “Just be careful of the last one,” I said. Annie and Sam both looked at Vanessa’s stall. They nodded, familiar with the drill.
I glanced behind me and saw nothing, though I wasn’t surprised. I’d grown used to Sam hearing things the rest of us couldn’t.
“Kitty!” Annie sang, then she trotted past me to the corner of the stable, where one of the three two-month-old kittens meowed to life and stretched in the doorway of the tack room.
All of us smiled, unable to resist the brown kitten’s sweet mewing while she traipsed toward us in want of attention; her brown fur, blue eyes, and bobbed, fluffy tail looked like—to Annie at least—the Mr. Potato Head doll Ky had given her right before the incident. “Ky liked Mr. Potato Head, and he would’ve liked this name,” Annie had said when she’d named the little kitten Miss Potato. No one had argued with the determined little fireball, even if it was a painful memory. It didn’t matter that Jason had been forced to shoot his best friend in self-defense, to kill Ky—the Monitor the General had placed on him. It was a day we all wished we could forget.
“She’s getting bigger,” Sam said, smiling as he watched Miss Potato spastically frolicking and squeaking as she played in the straw.
Unlike Sam and Annie, my mind was shadowed by darker times. Thinking of Ky made my heart ache, then burn with guilt and regret as my thoughts jumped to memories of Sarah’s suicide. I thought about Biggs and the twins, whom we hadn’t seen in almost six months. They were all gone because of me, because of the tangled, messy web of lies my life consisted of.
Annie giggled and gently stroked Miss Potato’s tawny belly as the kitten flopped and played at her feet.
“Where are the others?” Sam asked, peering back at the tack room, the cats’ secluded safe haven during our coastal storm.
“Bubbles is coming,” Annie explained. “But Doodle is getting a bath.”
With hands in his front pockets, Sam leaned back on his heels and let out a deep exhale, one that exuded incredulity, like he might never be able to completely wrap his mind around Dani and Annie’s animal-speaking Abilities.
“Look who I found crying outside the door,” Tavis said, striding into the barn. His dirty blond hair was matted, and water dripped from his nose as he held out a nearly drowned, squeaky black kitten.
“Bubbles!” Annie exclaimed.
Sam chuffed. “I thought you said she was inside?”
Annie ran over to Tavis and the drenched kitten. “No, I said she was coming.”
“What was she doing outside?” I asked. I made my way over to Tavis and the kitten. “She could’ve gotten washed away.”
Annie greedily snatched Bubbles from Tavis’s hold. He grinned at me and stepped aside to let Annie fawn all over the kitten. “She was exploring, and then it started raining,” Annie explained. “She got scared.”
“Well, I’m glad Tavis found her then,” I said, and crouched down to pet the matted black mess.
I saw a flicker of something in Tavis’s mind, a memory of the past that sent a wave of longing through him—not lustful longing, but something lonelier. He glanced at me.
“Zoe,” Annie said.
I looked down to find her holding Bubbles close to her chest.
She glanced from the crying kitten to me, a mischievous look on her face. “Your hair is the same as Bubble’s is.” She smiled widely, a gaping hole where her right front tooth would’ve been.
“Yeah?” I eyed the kitten’s soggy black fur, dabbled with streaks of white and gray. “I hope not exactly like hers,” I muttered.
I barely heard Sam’s amused grunt over the sound of the dinner triangle clanking and ringing outside. Annie jumped up, startling the kittens when she shouted, “Food!”
“I’m going to eat it all before you get there,” Tavis taunted with a wink in my direction, then he rushed back out into the rain, egging Annie on in their daily bout of catch-me-if-you-can.
“You better hurry,” I goaded her, “or there’ll be nothing left for dinner!” With peals of laughter, Annie handed me the kitten and ran out into the rain, toward the farmhouse. “Stay out of the puddles!” I called after them, hoping the amusement in my voice didn’t drown out my authoritative tone completely.
I set Bubbles and Miss Potato back in the tack room with Mama and Doodle, then stalked toward the slightly opened stable door, anxious to get out of the cold and back into the warm house.
The moment I stepped outside, rain pelted me mercilessly, or at least it felt that way as it soaked what seemed like every inch of me. Quickly I pulled the sliding door shut, squinting through wet lashes toward the house. Apparently my authoritative tone needed some work, because, as I’d expected, Annie seized every opportunity to jump in the puddles on her way to the porch. Tavis smiled at me, winked, and ushered the kids inside, and all I could do was hope that Dani didn’t kill me when she saw how muddy Annie had gotten, despite my best efforts.
After latching the stable door shut, I jogged toward the house.
Heavy, quick footsteps squished behind me, and I couldn’t help the knowing grin that parted my lips. It was Jake. We were connected on so many levels now; I could sense his presence and his mind better than anyone else’s. He was no longer the mystery he’d once been, with walls and armor that kept him distant and apprehensive. Now, he was the warmth to my cold, the strong to my weak. He was the second half of me I had never realized was missing until I’d known what it felt like to lose him—to lose myself and become someone who had no memories at all. At least Gabe, genius that he was, was able to help me get my mind back, the memories that made me me.
“Evening stroll?” Jake asked as he jogged up beside me, squinting into the rain. He lifted part of his flannel jacket to shield me from the downpour.
“Yeah, it’s been such a beautiful day.” I wrapped my arm around his waist, and together we hurried to the shelter of the porch. His heat steadied my cold, trembling bones. He’d become a protective cocoon; I would never grow tired of the warmth and vitality he exuded, always making me feel loved…making me feel safe. With him, I could lose my inhibitions and my fears and, on my favorite occasions, let loose my desires.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked, letting go of him when we reached the porch steps. The wood creaked beneath our urgent footsteps. I stared down at my dirt-splattered jeans and mud-caked boots. “Shit.” Using the edge of the step, I tried to scrape the chunks of mud off the bottom of my right boot. I could picture Annie now, running around the house and rolling all over the furniture, covered in far more mud than I was.
“I was checking the leaks in the shed,” Jake said as he shook out his hair. “The tarp’s holding well enough for now.” A gust of wind picked up, and I shivered. As I scraped the mud from the bottom of my other boot, Jake shrugged off his jacket.
Laughter, dishes clanking, and amiable chatter emanated from inside as everyone no doubt gathered around the dinner table, just as we’d done most nights since the winter weather had worsened. It was a tight fit to have all fifteen of us together—seventeen when Mase and Camille were around, visiting us from the Re-gen homesteads in Hope Valley—but we made it work. We were growing used to it. In the darkening gloom, I could make out bustling silhouettes illuminated behind the thin, drawn curtains.
“Not that meteorologists were right very often,” I said, “but it would be nice to know when the rain is coming and how long it’s planning to stay. A little preparation time would be appreciated.”
“Are you sure the storm wasn’t summoned?” Jake muttered.
I ran my fingers through my damp hair, the shorter strands no longer a shock as they’d grown out a little. “What?” I precariously wiped the water from under my eyes. “Why?” I momentarily opened my mind up to his, wondering his meaning and hoping to catch a glimpse, but then he glanced down at my chest, my gaze following his, and I didn’t need to know what he was thinking; it was written clearly on his face.
Jake handed me his jacket. The front of my white, long-sleeved shirt was wet, leaving to the imagination only what was hidden behind my peach-colored bra.
I glowered at him as I donned his jacket, my head tilted in a silent scold for insinuating that Tavis had brought the rain. “I’m pretty sure he had nothing to do with it,” I said dryly.
Jake’s left eyebrow rose, mirroring my expression, and his mouth quirked at the corner. “Lucky me then,” he said. He stepped closer, and although I’d planned on a reproachful response, the intensity of the base desire that bruned somewhere deep in my belly whenever he was around, prevented the chiding remarks from forming on my tongue.
“I think this is the first time I’ve gotten you alone all week,” he said, his voice quiet while his mind swirled with tantalizing thoughts that made me forget about cold and hunger and our waiting friends inside the house. He wrapped his arms around me, his heat enveloping me, and he pulled me into him. Chills raked through me, making me shiver with pure anticipation.
“What about this morning?” I whispered, vaguely remembering the feel of his lips on my temple when he woke me before the sun was even awake. My eyelids flitted closed as his lips softly brushed against mine. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d been together. Everything had been so crazy, and we’d been so exhausted, it had become a rarity when we were able to lie in bed and lose ourselves in each other’s arms.
Despite the plip-plop of rain on the porch awning and the cacophony of voices inside, I began to give in to my desperation to be alone with him. Just for a little while. His hands were rough but gentle, his lips firm but pliant against mine. His stubble tickled and teased my mouth and cheeks, the sensitive nerve endings tingling to life. A small moan escaped me as his arms tightened around my waist.
“Zo,” Dani’s voice whispered in my mind. “Your dad just asked me where you are. Please don’t make me tell him you’re making out with Jake on the porch…assuming he doesn’t already know.”
With a groan, I leaned my forehead against Jake’s shoulder. “We’d better get inside,” I said and let out a thwarted breath. “Apparently they’re waiting for us.”
Reticent, I pulled away from him and opened my eyes to find Jake’s silhouette washed in a crimson haze. I blinked a few times, encouraging the desirous fog to dissipate, until I could finally refocus. I grinned. He was staring at me with lust-filled eyes, and images of us, upstairs together…alone…filled his mind.
Anxious for what was to come later, I leaned in for a final, promise-filled kiss and entwined my fingers with his before leading him into the house to join the others.


My bedroom was bright and open, the sunshine pouring through the window illuminating my toy-cluttered floor. Hunger rumbled inside my belly. Setting my doll down on my princess comforter, I climbed off my bed, humming as my tummy rumbled again.
Tugging down the hem of my sundress, I walked into the hall and plodded down the stairs on little legs, heading for the kitchen. The carpet tickled the bottoms of my bare feet, making me smile. I didn’t hear the usual clanking of pots and pans that I usually did whenever Daddy was in the kitchen.
“Daddy?” I stopped in the kitchen doorway, expecting to find him fumbling around inside. But he wasn’t there. Still humming, I turned and walked into the living room. He wasn’t in his recliner in front of the television either. “Daddy?” I wondered if he’d gone to pick up Jason. Fear flittered through me, and I wondered if Daddy left me home all alone.
Then I heard angry voices coming from the back porch.
Noticing that the sliding glass door was slightly open, I walked over and peered outside. My humming ceased, and I froze. Daddy was standing on the porch with a pretty woman. Her hair was long and black, like mine. Her face was pink, and she rushed around like she was scared or upset.
Suddenly, I was standing outside with them. The woman was staring at me and looked like she might cry as she reached for me. “Come here, Zoe,” she said.
I tried not to flinch away from her touch, but I couldn’t help it. Scared and confused, I looked up at Daddy. He looked sad, too.
“You look so pretty in your dress,” the woman said. She tried to smile, and I found myself hesitantly smiling back at her. I liked her eyes. They were special and seemed familiar.
“I knew you’d come back here,” a man said. I jumped when I heard his voice, but the woman didn’t seem surprised. Her hands flew to her stomach, and I wondered if she was hurt.
I blinked, and then the man was standing next to me, like he appeared out of nowhere. He had a mustache and a smile that didn’t seem happy.
Daddy looked angry and afraid. Something didn’t feel right, and I wanted to disappear.
“They didn’t know I was coming here, Gregory,” the woman started to say. “I just needed to—”
But the man with the mustache held up the palm of his hand. “Shhh,” he said, staring only at me. I wasn’t sure why I felt scared, but I was trying not to cry. “Look how big you’ve grown,” he said and crouched down before me. He smiled a big smile, his slightly crooked teeth evoking a sudden panic that made my throat tighten. “And you’re beautiful, just like your mommy.” He looked back at the woman gripping the patio table. Her eyes were shimmering, and I noticed her holding Daddy’s arm tightly with her other hand, like she was holding him back.
“Don’t you dare touch her,” Daddy said, and the smile on the man’s face fell a little. I saw something in his eyes that unleashed the tears I’d been trying not to shed. Something bad was happening, I could feel it.
“Daddy…” I began to sob. But it wasn’t Daddy who picked me up, it was the scary man.
“There, there, little Zoe. It’s okay.” He patted my leg and smiled at Daddy and the woman. They said something to him, but I was too stunned to listen. For the first time, I noticed men lining the fence of our backyard. They appeared out of nowhere, like the scary man had. There were a lot of them, but only a few had big guns. Their faces were mad and mean.
I cried louder. I wished Jason was home.
“I told you what would happen if you ever left, Anna. Did you think I was bluffing? That I wouldn’t notice…again?”
Through a veil of tears, I peered back over at Daddy and the woman. Daddy was frowning, angrier than I’d ever seen him. I called for him again, but the man’s grip on me tightened. I shrieked in pain.
“I will kill your son if you hurt her,” the woman growled, and she pointed to her tummy. “I will end your legacy.”
The man’s fingers dug into my leg, and I hit at his hand without thought, trying to get him to let me go. When he finally set me back on the ground, I ran to Daddy.
“You will not harm them, Gregory. Or I won’t hesitate to kill this child. I promise you that.” I stared at her belly. I didn’t see a baby, but her tummy was big.
“You won’t kill an innocent child, Anna,” the man said. “Me, on the other hand…” He stared at me again and smiled. “And then there’s the boy, too.”
“You leave him out of this!” Daddy shouted, and I could feel his body shaking.
The scary man’s face hardened, and I noticed his body stiffen. “Watch yourself, Sergeant. My compassion only goes so far.”
The woman pulled a needle like they used at the doctor’s office from behind her. It was the kind that always poked my skin and pinched me, but just for a minute. “So help me God, Gregory. If you hurt my family, I will kill yours.”
The scary man looked at all of us, and his voice was angrier than before. “Then there’s not much of a reason for me to keep any of you around, is there?”
“I’ll come back with you,” the woman said, reaching for him. “If you’ll just leave my family alone.”
The man pounded his fist on the patio table. “I’m your family!”
“Not if you hurt them,” she said. The woman looked angry, but she still sounded scared.
Daddy bent down to me. “Go inside, sweetheart.” He leaned in for a hug and whispered, “Hide. Until I can make it go away…hide.”
I nodded, not understanding what he meant, but wanting to hide all the same.
I didn’t know why the scary man wanted to hurt us. I didn’t understand why the woman wanted to kill the baby I couldn’t see either. But I knew the man with the mustache was evil, and I was afraid that if I looked away, Daddy would be gone, and I would never see him again.
The scary man shook his head. “I thought we agreed last time that your family was as good as dead if you ever came back. Yet here you are, again.” He clenched his fist. “I trusted you. I thought your word was worth your freedom. Apparently I was wrong.”
The sad woman took a step toward him. “I was just scared, Gregory,” she said, rubbing her belly. “You don’t understand how dangerous this is for me. I just needed to see them, needed to say goodbye.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. She didn’t look scared anymore. “I promise, once I leave, I will never come back.”
The scary man’s eyes narrowed, and he glanced from her swollen cheeks down to her belly. “You have one more chance, darling. If you even try to leave again, if you do anything to undermine me and my mission, or our family…” He glared over at me.
“Go inside, Zoe!” Daddy yelled.
I ran toward the house, but stopped inside the door and listened, waiting. I didn’t want to leave Daddy.
“Regardless of what you do in the future, measures will be taken now,” the scary man said, and when I peeked around the doorframe, the woman looked relieved. “Monitors, in fact. And if you do misstep, even in the most minimal way, I will hurt your children and make Tom, here, watch, and you might never even know it. That, my dear, is my promise to you.”
When my eyes met Daddy’s, wide and sad, everything suddenly faded away. I was in my room, crying in his arms. His familiar eyes were empty as he stared at me. Gently, he brushed a tear from my cheek, and then everything changed again. The memory of the scary man faded away. Then the sad woman started to change. Her special eyes disappeared, her features vanishing one by one until she was faceless and frightening…until she was completely gone, too.
There were no men in the backyard, and Daddy wasn’t upset. There was no reason I could think of for why I’d been crying or why Daddy would look so sad.