About the Books
From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.
About the Author
J. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.
Check out the interview with the author HERE.
Uncloaked? What was that?
Tristan smirked. “Clearly. Family?”
“Noted.” He leaned over Kipper, who cowered like he expected a blow. “Fix it, boy. You’re in our sights.”
Kipper didn’t respond. I detected a tremble in the boy’s hands, but he held a strong gaze. A gaze that seemed somehow familiar in nature. I glanced to Eliza. She was biting her lip as she kept her eyes fixed on Kipper. My view widened, encompassing both of them. His eyes darted to her, and she nodded ever so slightly.
Wait. What just happened? My chest expanded with a fierceness I hadn’t anticipated. I zeroed back in on Eliza, wanting to take her by the arm and pull her to my side. What was this guy doing, looking to Liza for strength? She didn’t have any to spare. And she’s mine.
“What do you expect me to say?” Kipper’s weak voice ripped me out of my Braxtonian-centered universe.
Tristan still hovered over the guy. “Show us a sign of loyalty.”
“What do you want?”
“I think you’ll find life much easier if you comply.” Tristan tapped Kipper’s tab. “Try it. See what happens when you check the correct box.”
My attention dropped to my own tab. The correct box. Not the right box—as in what is true of you, but the correct box—as in PC.
The words burned in my vision.
Check a box. Get on with your life.
My own voice echoed in my ears. Was it really that easy? We were living like impoverished beggars at the Knights’ house, and it could have been avoided by checking the correct box?
“I won’t.” Kipper’s meek voice beckoned my attention again.
The air seemed to turn cold and hard. Eliza pulled in a long breath and held it. I scowled, first at her and then at Kipper. Tristan looked to his right and then to his left. The bulky guys flanking him returned his glance with smirks.
He smacked Kipper on the back of his head, sending the kid’s face toward the desk. “It’s your funeral.”
I assumed that was figurative. Couldn’t be anything but, despite the zinging sense of fear rising in my chest. Not in this country.
Tearing the Veil
Why would she even think about the Pride? Didn’t she understand that I lived in a nightmare? How could two sisters be so completely different anyway?
Hannah was headed for trouble. She needed to leave. Soon. Now.
But for the moment, I had to protect her. I owed Eliza at least that much. No, I owed her so much more than she understood, than anyone understood, and the guilt sat like a slow burn in my stomach every single day.
God, is she still alive? She had to be alive. She still called to me in my dreams.
My attention fell back to Hannah, who sat stiff by my side. The girl was spinning in her head like a tire on a bicycle, and because she was way too much like me, I could guess what she was thinking.
“It isn’t better out there.” I tipped her chin so I could see her eyes—something I usually tried to avoid. They looked like Eliza’s, and I hated the ache that pressed into my chest. But I needed to make sure she was listening. “You’ve got to believe me on this. It’s not what you think. Stay with your family. Go to the Refuge.”
She stared back at me, but not like Eliza would have. Eliza would listen—hear what I was saying and process it intelligently, which was why she could always come up with a logical answer to my dumb schemes. Hannah…well, she processed with emotion, just like me. There was no reasoning with emotion.
I sighed and began transferring the food I’d squirreled away from the Den to her burlap sack. “You’d better get going. Remember, never the same place two times in a row, okay?”
Still stiff, she stood and, with a cool nod, took the sack. Not listening. Not good.
“Hannah, wait.” I couldn’t let this happen. “I need to speak with your dad. Tell him I asked for him to meet me next time. Okay?”
She dipped one curt nod.
“I really need to talk to him…alone,” I said, knowing that last part was going to spark her defiance.
An icy stare was her only response. So not like Eliza.
I pushed my fingers through my hair, stuffing a growl down into my chest. “Do you even know why you’re mad?”
She spun on her worn-out tennis shoe, and I watched her shoulders, jammed straight and rebellious, as she wove through the trees.
Fine. Just as long as she was stomping back to the cellar. She had no business thinking about the Pride.
Charging the Darkness
She leveraged another shove against my chest and then ran.
Who could blame her? How could God let this happen?
I pressed my back against the brick wall lining the hallway so I wouldn’t have to look at Hulk and slid to the floor. He’d taunted her since we were kids. The bully. The beast. He’d targeted her once the Party had taken over, hell bent to see her broken.
And she had broken.
So had he.
We had been right. Hulk had been in DC when the explosion had released the virus. Charlotte must have sent him away when she realized what had been done. But it’d been too late. He’d been exposed. And now here he was, dying alone. No one to mourn his cruel life. No one to care if Eliza interceded for him or not.
I cared though. Something in me knew this decision of hers would chart a new course for her future. The one she was choosing was dark and lonely, and my heart ripped thinking of her chained to that path. The other was steep and difficult, and I resented that it was so unbelievably hard.
But there was life beyond the hard. And if the old Eliza were here, and I was in her place right now, stepping onto the path she was choosing, I knew what she would have done.
She would have fought for me to live.
Tearing the Veil
Charging the Darkness
January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales
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