Anarchy Release Tour @TheresaDaLayne @EJBookPromos

Anarchy
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Book 4
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: MATURE YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Release: February 23, 2016
About the Book
Jayden’s heart may have stopped beating for good when he was rescued from the underworld, but it can still break…
After an ancient Mayan ceremony goes horribly wrong, Jayden is left to face reality—the girl he once loved is pledged to another. At his breaking point, he steals a cab to leave behind the group of enchanted descendants, this time for good.
When Hawa—a beautiful but lethal acquaintance—decides to call shotgun, his only choice is to take her along for the ride.
He’d be glad to have the company…if it were anyone but her. He only knows her by occasionally sharing a hallway in Renato’s huge estate in Belize. It’s clear she has a perma-chip in her shoulder, and they have absolutely nothing in common. So he thinks…
With no cash and nowhere to stay, Hawa leads him into the heart of Guatemala City to an abandoned hotel of orphaned kids. As more of her tainted past is revealed, an unwelcome memory reappears in flesh and blood, threatening to break her wild spirit.
A mysterious orphan is the only one standing between him and the new queen of hell…
Modem, a spunky twelve-year-old girl with a knack for computers, seems to be keeping her eye on Jay. When his abilities go rogue and pull him back to the underworld, Modem shows she’s more than meets the eye. And as everything spirals out of control, Contessa proves no realm is out of reach…

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Excerpt
Chapter One
The glittering lights of the aurora wrapped around Zanya’s body, spinning in a cyclone of ghostly blue, emerald green, and purple. The light in her chest, signifying her power as the Stone Guardian, beamed with life.
Jayden stepped back into the darkness, nearly tripping over his own feet, unable to tear his gaze from Zanya. The lights bonded souls, both in this world and in the afterlife. If they were touching Zanya, it could only mean one thing.
She was bonding with someone, and that someone wasn’t him.
The crowds near the base of the temples gathered around their sacred fires with offerings of jade and maize. They cheered and chanted, beating on drums and dancing like the aboriginal Mayans once had, carrying out the tradition for thousands of years.
Jayden backed away from Zanya, nearly stumbling on protruding rocks half-buried in the grassy hill. Everyone in their group waited with wide eyes, their chests puffed out as if they held their breath, waiting for her soul mate to be revealed.
Jayden’s gut tightened as the woman he would die for—had died for—reached for Arwan’s hand.
It should have been him holding her close.
It should have been him kissing her.
He swallowed against a dry throat. It didn’t make any sense. Arwan was half underworlder. Bonding with Riyata was forbidden. Hell, it was impossible. The two bloodlines simply weren’t compatible.
Zanya’s mother, Eleuia, trembled with fury. “I mean it,” she demanded, her sharp gaze trained on Zanya. “Choose him,” she jabbed her finger at Arwan, “or us. Because I won’t allow that thing back in my house.”
“For the gods’ sake, Ellie,” Renato pleaded.
“No!” She spun and glared at her brother. “You’ve done enough damage as it is. She is my daughter.”
Jayden watched Zanya. She was so damn beautiful in that dress. He clenched his fists.
“You can’t be serious,” Zanya said, shaking her head. “How can you ask me to do that?” Her chest rose and fell with every quickened breath, her fingers now interlocked with Arwan’s.
She held him so close, as if letting him go would ruin her. For the first time, Jay believed it actually would. She was bonded. Any chance he’d had with Zanya was lost.
A collection of cheers shook the air. Jayden looked at the crowd in the valley below. He’d almost forgotten where he was. With the lights retreating into the sky, the winter solstice celebrations had begun. Newly bonded couples were hugged and congratulated, though the Riyata group was far out of the crowd’s reach.
“How can you guys just stand there and let her do this?” Zanya’s desperate tone brought his focus back to her. It took a moment to realize she was speaking directly to him.
He parted his lips, but couldn’t speak. He couldn’t…wouldn’t stand up for them. Not while everything he wanted was torn away. Not when he still loved her.
Zanya’s gaze shifted to her best friend, Tara, who walked toward the newly bonded pair. “Yeah, this is messed up.” Tara reached Zanya’s side and faced the rest of the group, then crossed her arms over her chest. “They don’t have any control over this stuff.” She stared pointedly at the lights in the sky. “There’s got to be something more going on here. Something you guys missed.”
“Missed?” Eleuia’s tone turned deadly. She stepped toward Zanya, who shifted in front of Arwan as if she were protecting him. “I didn’t spend all this time hiding and running, to return to a piece of underworld garbage like him,” she spat, glaring at Arwan. “He’ll ruin our kind’s only hope at a future. He is the reason I missed you growing up, Zanya. Why your father isn’t here anymore.”
Zanya flinched and dropped her head. Waves of her hair drifted in the warm breeze. “No, Mom.” She lifted her chin, revealing a soft sheen in her eyes. “My father died because you fell in love with someone you weren’t supposed to.” She turned to face Arwan and took both of his hands.
Jayden’s throat tightened and each breath grew harder to take as dread bore deep into his gut. He raked his fingers through his hair. Shit. He had to get the hell away. With Zanya bonded and her mom ready to light a torch and wave a pitchfork, things were about to get ugly. He’d be forced to choose. They all would. It was an impossible ultimatum.
If he chose Eleuia’s side, it would mean turning his back on Zanya forever, because it would mean rejecting her bond with Arwan, and therefore, rejecting everything she was from this moment on.
But if he chose to stand by her, it would mean turning his back on his own heart.
Jayden looked away, at the sky, the ground, anywhere but at Zanya. He caught a glimpse of Hawa studying him. She held his gaze for a split second before he looked away.
He couldn’t stay if he had to watch Zanya be with someone else, and he’d be damned if he spent another second as the pathetic ex-boyfriend who couldn’t win her back.
Jayden analyzed his surroundings. The ruins of Tikal were crowded with parked cars for the celebration. Even the taxi drivers had abandoned their cabs to participate in the solstice.
He slipped away from the group and peered in car windows, one vehicle at a time. If he left on foot, traveling to…anywhere-but-here, would take twice as long. He needed a ride.
He paused when he spotted a pair of keys dangling from the ignition of a taxi. Bingo. He slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the key. The engine roared to life. He took a moment to draw in a deep breath. Leaving was the only answer. Maybe now that his heart no longer beat, he was incapable of a real bond. He had to look out for himself. No one else would. He clutched the steering wheel tighter.
When he glanced in the rearview mirror, he was able to see the others, still crowded in a tight group, none of them realizing he was gone. Zanya backed away from her mother, drawing even closer to Arwan.
He ground his teeth. To hell with this.
Just as he shifted the car into drive, the passenger door flew open and Hawa launched herself inside, then slammed the door behind her. “Where do you think you’re off to?”
He exhaled sharply. “Get out.”
“Uh, not happening. I saw how you looked back there. There’s no way I’m letting you take off alone.”
He scoffed. “What do you care?”
“Who said I do?”
“Then get out.” He leaned over her and pushed the door open.
Hawa bit her lip for a second while she watched him. “Look.” She shut the door a second time. “I know how bad it sucks to watch the person you care about be with someone else.”
Jayden relaxed his grip on the steering wheel. He’d almost forgotten that she and Peter used to be together, and she’d been forced to watch while the healer fell for Tara.
Hawa shrugged. “Plus, it’ll be nice to get the hell out of the jungle for a while.” She gestured to the path of crushed grass that passed for a makeshift road. “Well? Are we going or what?”
He hesitated, glanced once more in the rearview mirror, and then slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The rear end fishtailed before the tires bit into the ground.
He didn’t look back.
A blur of green streaked by as he sped out of the jungle. Anger bubbled inside of him, paired with a deep humiliation. How could he have been so stupid? He never would have gotten Zanya back. It was just his luck. Always the underdog. Always the loser.
The tension in his muscles wound tighter until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He balled his fist and punched the center of the steering wheel as hard as he could, honking the horn several times in the process. “That wasn’t supposed to fucking happen!”
The car swerved and Hawa grabbed the wheel, preventing them from flying into the trees. “Whoa! Either pull over or calm the hell down before you get both of us killed!”
Jayden punched the steering wheel one more time, and then relieved some pressure from the gas. The car slowed to a reasonable speed.
“You good?” Hawa cautiously let go of the wheel.
He nodded, taking back control of the car. Both of them were silent the rest of the drive out of the jungle. He needed the time to think, and thankfully, Hawa wasn’t one of those girls who couldn’t shut up if her life depended on it.
He slowed when they reached a paved road, making the ride smoother and a little easier to keep his shit together. At the moment, everything about the jungle pissed him off.
“You do realize when we get in town, the cops will probably be looking for this taxi, right?” Hawa slouched in the passenger seat and kicked one of her heavy leather boots up onto the dashboard, bobbing her foot left to right. “Unless the owner of the cab is too wasted to realize it’s been taken until tomorrow morning. That would buy us a couple of hours.”
That was the best-case scenario. It would give him enough time to figure out what he was going to do next, because now, all he knew for sure was he wouldn’t go back to Renato’s house. If Zanya was still there, she’d be there with Arwan. And if she wasn’t, there was no reason to stick around anymore. It was a lose-lose scenario—the story of his entire fucking life.
“So, where to, el capitán?”
The muscles in his shoulders tensed at Hawa’s voice. “I don’t really know.”
“Sweet.” She flipped on the FM radio and fiddled with the stations until Latin music thumped from the speakers. She leaned back again, mouthing the lyrics.
He glanced at her. “That’s it? You don’t care that I have no idea where the hell we’re going?”
She shrugged. “Not really. I’m always in for a good adventure.”
“I’m not going back to Renato’s house.”
She yawned. “Let’s roll down the windows.” She leaned forward and used the hand crank to let the night air pour into the cab, then sat back, relaxing into her seat.
Since when did she want to be around him? She’d always just been the sprinter—able to travel at unimaginable speeds. She never cared about him. In fact, she gave off a screw you vibe every second of the day. Suddenly she was up for a road trip? Maybe she’d decide to split when they arrived at the next town…or maybe not. He glanced at her again, slouching with her eyes closed and black hair whipping wildly around her.
He swallowed as his stomach twisted and bubbled. Why was he so freaked out about her being around?
Jayden blinked and shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind.

He had to keep his shit together. He stole a quick look at the gas gauge. Full tank. Good. He’d drive through the night until they reached civilization. At least he didn’t have to worry about getting tired anymore. He settled back in the seat. This whole kinda-dead thing had its advantages.

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About the Author

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

 
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Lights of Aurora Release Tour @TheresaDaLayne @EJBookPromos

Lights of Aurora
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Book #3
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: MATURE YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Release: January 26, 2016
After living her entire life in an orphan asylum, Zanya fears she may actually be losing her mind… 
Following the discovery of her ancient Maya bloodlines, eighteen-year-old Zanya Coreandero is faced with a daunting responsibility. She must protect the relic stone while Sarian, the underworld general, ceaselessly drives her to the brink of insanity. 
With the approach of an ancient bonding ceremony, Zanya struggles to control her abilities—and her desires… 
As the winter solstice approaches, it brings an onslaught of unexpected side effects. While Zanya struggles to seize control over her supercharged powers, she must also face an overwhelming suspicion that her boyfriend, Arwan, is hiding a secret so dark it could destroy them both. And with her powers finally taking root, the struggle to pace their relationship takes on a life of its own. 

Just when she thought life couldn’t get more complicated… 

With the arrival of a surprise houseguest, Zanya’s deepest fears about Arwan are confirmed. And when middleworld deities intercede, the group of gifted Maya descendants are confronted with hardships they never saw coming—including an enemy more deadly than they have ever faced. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And when that woman has no soul and a taste for revenge, they will need the powers of every surviving ancestor simply to stay alive.

Lights of Aurora

Book Three of The Stone Legacy Series
Theresa DaLayne

CHAPTER ONE

Zanya
The scent of dried herbs and fresh rain poured through the open window.
For the rest of her life, with every whiff of sage or wet earth, Zanya would remember Contessa’s quaint home in Moscow and the shock of that day—of losing Jayden.
She might as well have been gone when he needed her most. Zanya could still see Jayden’s bright blue eyes staring back at her while he struggled to hold Sarian off long enough for them all to escape.
She could have saved him if she’d been more focused, more experienced with her abilities. Instead she’d done exactly what Contessa thought they’d do all along. Failed. She couldn’t even heal Jayden. Instead she froze under the pressure.
A tear slipped down her cheek, and she tightened her fists while staring down at Jayden’s body. Someone had to care for him. Even though his spirit had been torn from this world, he deserved his last rites.
Zanya dragged the sheet that covered his body over his face.
Their mission to retrieve his soul could also fail, and the boy she’d first met in the orphanage could be ripped out of her life, leaving an empty hole of memories and regret.
She crouched beside Jayden, placed a kiss on his shrouded forehead, and whispered in his ear. “Hang on. I’m coming for you.” She curled her fingers around the cotton sheet. “I’ll get you back.” Her voice caught in her throat, and she choked back a flood of tears.
Arwan placed his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and saw empathy in his gaze. “We will get him back.” The silky tone of his voice usually comforted her, but not now. Not until Jayden was back, alive and safe. It would happen somehow. She’d make sure of it.
Zanya forced herself to stand. The fabric of her canary-yellow ball gown swooshed with the movement, a badge of blood smeared across the front. Jayden’s blood. Somehow that made it worse.
First she needed to get out of her ridiculous dress. She wouldn’t be able to hike through the caves of Naj Tunich in a gown.
Renato’s dress shoes tapped over the floor as he approached from behind. “I’m calling Peter.” He dialed a number on his phone, stealing the occasional glance at Contessa from the corner of his eye. “I hope he is still at the hotel.”
“Make sure you don’t tell Tara where we’re going,” Zanya said. “She’ll freak out.”
“As she should. This mission of yours may as well be a suicide attempt.” He frowned. “The king of the underworld will never allow you to leave there alive.” Renato walked outside to Contessa’s front step without another word.
He was probably right, but she couldn’t turn her back on Jayden when he needed her the most. Suicide mission or not, she was going after him.
Hawa moaned, tearing Zanya’s attention away from her thoughts. Hawa lay on Contessa’s couch with her leg elevated on a stack of pillows. The break was bad, but she wasn’t crying anymore. That was a good sign—even if Contessa had only healed Hawa to make her shut up. The red-haired witch even had the audacity to say that aloud.
Renato walked back inside, the corners of his mouth sloped into an even deeper frown. “Peter did not react well to our plans. He insists on going with the two of you. He’s coming here right now.”
“No, he can’t come with us. Tara will already be pissed at me for taking off without telling her. I can’t take Peter too.”
“Then you should depart as quickly as possible.” Renato rested a hand on Arwan’s shoulder. “I know you will take good care of her.”
Determination sparked in Arwan’s eyes. Zanya didn’t doubt what Renato said was true. He would protect her, no matter the cost.
Zanya bit her lip. She was touched that he cared so much, but he was risking his life now too.
The cab took nearly an hour to arrive. While the taxi waited by the curb, Zanya stood on Contessa’s doorstep. She and Arwan would drive straight to the airport, but first he’d have to come out of Contessa’s house. No doubt Renato was giving him every precaution to take before their journey.
She gazed lifelessly at the mud-crusted rims and the fogged taxi light while her mind wandered between realms.
Whispers yanked her out of her thoughts.
You will never recover him. You are a failure, just as your mother was. But I have plans for you, and soon you will be mine.
She turned and peered over her shoulder, expecting to see someone there—someone she would promptly punch in the face for being such an asshole. But she was alone on the steps.
Was she seriously going crazy?
The blare of the taxi’s horn made her jump. It must be the stress, or the fact she had barely slept for the last few days. Deprivation played tricks on the mind.
Renato’s voice became louder as he and Arwan walked toward the open door. He handed Arwan a credit card and some cash before they shook hands. The lines on her uncle’s face deepened when he turned to her and pulled her into a hug. As he cradled her against his tailored suit, the rich scent of tobacco surrounded her. All of her life she had wished for someone to care about her the way Renato did, though she’d only known him for a short time. Still, his embrace was enough to make her hesitant to say good-bye.
“You must make it out of this journey alive,” he said in a raspy whisper. “Even if you do not succeed in retrieving Jayden’s spirit, please”—he held her tighter—“return unharmed.”
Zanya nodded and forced a smile. “I’m not planning on dying anytime soon. The stone needs me.”
His grip loosened, and he looked down at her, his familiar brown eyes filled with a mixture of despair and pride. “The stone is not the only one who needs you, Zanya.”
His fear was well founded. She was about to walk straight to the gates of hell with no knowledge of what to expect.
“Now go. Go, and come home safely.”
“Make sure to tell Tara…” Her throat ached. Leaving her best friend behind was something she’d sworn she’d never do. Not in the orphanage. Not after they were taken away from that place. Not ever. Now she was going against every oath she’d ever made to herself—and to Tara.
Zanya reached into her bag and grabbed the pendant Cualli, the middleworld goddess, had given her. The pendant was a gift and an omen of support, and usually it calmed Zanya.
Arwan lifted a duffle bag from the floor. He traced his fingers down her cheek, holding her gaze until she finally allowed a hint of a true smile to break through. His touch was all he could give to comfort her. Showing him it had worked, even a little, was the least she could do in return. After all, he insisted on going with her, and there was nothing she could do to repay that.
The cab’s horn blared again. Zanya jumped and glared at the taxi. “You’d think he’d be happy to just sit there with the meter running.”
Arwan shook Renato’s hand one last time. Her feet were rooted to the ground, contemplating one last hug. When she glanced at her uncle, her eyes stung with more tears. He must have noticed her hesitation. Maybe even understood it.
With a soft smile, Zanya walked straight to the cab without any more good-byes.
* * *
After grabbing some clothes off the rack of a sporting goods store, Zanya continued into the dressing room and checked herself in the mirror, horrified at her reflection. Wet, limp hair stuck to her cheeks and neck. A huge bloodstain spread over the front of her once-beautiful gown, which was now smeared with mud and torn in several places. Her cheeks were burned from the biting cold, and her nose was so red she could pass for Rudolph.
She sighed and worked at removing the pins and ties from her hair until it finally came undone, and then used one of the ties to lock it in a bun. The next thing would be to get out of her dress and change into something warm and dry.
Zanya craned her neck as she fumbled with the strings laced down the back of her gown. The damn thing was threaded so tight there was no way she could do it herself.
Zanya sighed. Perfect.
She grabbed the dressing room curtain and pulled it aside. “Arwan?”
“Hm?” He lifted his head from his hand where it was rested, his eyes half-glazed over with sleep. Her shoulders slumped forward. The poor guy was exhausted. She couldn’t blame him. He’d been through a lot these last few days. They all had.
“I just…” She pointed to her back. “I need some help with this corset thing.” The man sitting two chairs to the left of Arwan gawked at her. Zanya made double sure the curtain hid the stain on her dress.
Arwan stood and eased toward her. “Turn around.”
She noticed more people shopping and several men slumped in the rows of chairs in the waiting area. “Uh, no. Come inside.” The fact she had to ask for help undressing was humiliating enough. There was no way she’d let him undo this thing with everyone around.
He opened the curtain and slipped in, then secured it behind him. He rested his hands on her waist. “Turn around.”
She did and stood with her back straight, watching his reflection in the mirror while he worked at to loosen her bodice.
The pressure around her ribcage eased, and she drew in a deep breath. “Thank you. That thing was killing me.”
The air caressed her skin as the damp corset slowly opened, exposing the curves of her back. She crossed her arms over her chest to prevent the top half of the gown from falling off completely.
Arwan worked to unlace the last of the silk ribbon. His fingers brushed against her lower back, spreading warmth up her spine. She studied him in the mirror. He was soaked and miserable, yet he hadn’t complained—not even once. “You should go get changed. I can handle it from here.”
He rested his hands on her shoulders, and his gaze slid over her bare back.
Besides riding together in the taxi, they hadn’t spent more than a few moments alone since London. The longing she had carried all this time now suddenly overwhelmed her.
He placed a kiss on the curve of her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she gripped her dress tighter, tilting her head to the side and exposing her neck.
“Arwan.” This wasn’t really the best place, never mind the fact she probably smelled like wet dog.
He hooked her elbow and gently spun her around. When they stood face to face, it was clear her heart was no longer hers. It belonged to him completely, and even though they’d only met recently, it seemed as if they’d known each other for a lifetime.
Whatever drew them to each other—whatever made her promise herself to him so completely—they had a bond that would never be broken. And even though it surprised her, she’d made that promise with all of her heart.
He cradled her face. “If anything happened to you…” His jaw flexed. She wanted to press her fingers against his chest and run her hands along the curves of his shoulders, but if she let go of her gown, it would fall to the floor.
He brushed his thumb along her lips, and his gaze flickered to them. “Si algo te hubiera pasado…me hubiera roto el corazόn.
Her chest fluttered. She really, really needed to learn Spanish. Regardless of what he said, hearing him whisper like that made her weak in the knees.
He pulled her close and kissed her, one arm wrapped around her waist, the other caressing her cheek. The light in her chest—the mark of her heritage and power—flickered on and filled her with the cold energy it always brought.
She pried her arms free and wrapped them around his neck. With the top of her gown pinned between their bodies, the sides of the corset fell open, exposing the curves of her waist. He ran his hands along the length of her bare back before resting them on her hips.
The light in her chest brightened, and electricity sparked over her skin. His lips curved into a smile, causing them both to pause.
He pulled away just enough to look her in the eyes. “Your heart’s racing. I can hear it.”
She ran her fingers through his hair and drew him closer, into another kiss. He held her with a tenderness he hadn’t shown before.
Her light dimmed as a new type of passion took over.
She didn’t just want him, she wanted his heart, forever.
“Ahem.” A woman on the other side of the curtain cleared her throat, sounding annoyed. Zanya pulled away and looked down. At the bottom of the curtain, she saw the foot of a store employee tapping impatiently. “Is everything all right in there, or do I need to call security?”
Zanya’s cheeks blazed with heat. “Everything’s fine.”
Arwan clearly wore a crooked grin. “Maybe we should finish getting our supplies.” He slipped out of the dressing room to speak to the woman waiting outside. His tone was apologetic while he explained Zanya’s wardrobe malfunction.
The time is getting closer now, a voice whispered in her mind.
She shut her eyes and tried to block it out. The light in her chest grew warm rather than cold, making her stomach gurgle with a sick heat.
Prepare to rule under me.
Zanya squinted her eyes shut.
You are mine. Don’t ever believe differently.
The whispers started after she’d claimed the ancient Mayan relic and taken it back from Sarian. She suspected this voice was his, reaching through the only link they shared and using one of the few things she loved to drive her mad.
After spending more than she could comprehend at the sporting goods store, Zanya and Arwan loaded all of their new supplies into two hiking packs. With Cualli’s pendant hanging around her neck, Zanya unzipped the front pocket and transferred the very last and most important item.
Her stone.
The only pocket big enough to accommodate the large oval stone was the main compartment. Funny enough, though it was large, it wasn’t heavy. Perhaps a magical quality she hadn’t noticed before.
The stone’s energy scraped against her skin, raw and sharp from Sarian’s partial hold. He may have broken the spell set upon the stone at its creation that made it obey only the guardian, but it still recognized her.
Unfortunately, unlike when she’d bonded with it, her stone no longer spoke to her. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Its colors morphed and pulsed, transforming from its normal hues of white and blue to deep violet and brown. Its polluted energy burned her skin as if she were handling a hot coal. She wanted to flinch away, but ground her teeth and cradled the stone closer. She had to prove it was home, where it belonged. Luckily she could heal after her brief encounters with the stone.
“Are you ready?” Arwan stood and slung his pack over his shoulder.
She rubbed her temples, then blinked to clear her vision.
“What’s wrong?”
“I just have a headache and…” She considered telling him about the whispers but that would only worry him. If she got some rest, her mind would be stronger and maybe more capable of fending off the mental attacks. She stood and slipped on her backpack. “Never mind. It’s not important. Let’s go.”

CHAPTER TWO

Hunkered down in a window seat, Zanya jumped when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She hid it from the flight attendant patrolling the aisle as she read the message from Tara.
Tara: Renato just got back with Hawa. How could you not tell me you’re leaving?
A heavy weight settled in Zanya’s stomach.
“Excuse me, ma’am.” Zanya’s raised her gaze to the brunette flight attendant smiling down at her. “All cell phones need to be powered down in preparation for takeoff, please. You’ll be allowed to turn them back on when we land in Guatemala.”
“Oh, sorry.” She’d have to answer Tara once they landed. Plus, she had no idea what to say. “You’re totally right, I’m a jerk?” That wouldn’t exactly help things.
The flight attendant moved on when Zanya tucked her phone away. She rested her head on Arwan’s shoulder and sighed. “Tara’s mad. You think she’ll forgive me?”
Arwan kissed the top of her head. “Of course. You’re her best friend. She’ll understand.”
She wanted to believe him.
Half an hour after takeoff, the Fasten Seat Belt sign finally pinged off. Zanya unbuckled, reached under the chair, and pulled out a small leather book from her pack. Renato had “borrowed” it from Contessa’s shelves and apparently thought it was important enough that she needed to read it on the flight.
The front cover was engraved with a giant tree inside a circle. There were three levels inside the circle. The first danced above the branches, the second lingered in the middle, and the last—
most ominous of worlds—was trapped beneath the tree’s enormous roots, deep underground.
The title on the first page of the book read Yaxche and Xibalba.
She had read about both of these in the scribe journals from Renato’s library. A smile tugged at her lips. She missed that house. It had only taken a few weeks for her to feel at home there.
Zanya turned her attention back to the book. Yaxche was the tree of life that spanned from the heavens to the middleworld and down to the underworld. Long ago, the Maya had understood that the earth spun on an axis. The ancient enchanted tree was that axis. It secured the planet in place and connected all three worlds. Yaxche was not only earth’s stabilizer, but a portal, and Zanya suspected they would have to eventually travel through the massive trunk to find Houn, the god of death.
“Hey.” She tilted the book toward Arwan. “Do you know much about Yaxche. When he didn’t respond, she looked up and saw he was asleep. Zanya lowered the book into her lap. Some rest would do him good. She yawned. Maybe it would do her some good, too.
She tucked the book under her leg and crossed her arms, then laid her head on Arwan’s shoulder. He drew in a deep, sleepy breath and pressed his cheek against her head. As she rested, her mind drifted into semiconsciousness.
A voice wove through her exhausted mind.
You will be mine, whether by force or compliance. Make no mistake.
She shuddered at the snaky hiss of Sarian’s words. Her dream state deepened, paired with an image of Tara’s bright hazel eyes.
“How could you leave without telling me?” The broken tone of her friend’s voice stabbed at her.
Another image formed behind her lids. A book—the one Zanya had first seen in a dream, then again in her vision when Sarian had broken the obedience spell. Its pages flipped faster and faster until they stopped. Blood seeped from the yellowed parchment.
The image of Renato shaking his head as he stood on the patio in Victorian London.
Sarian in his beastly form fighting against Arwan, who moved with almost inhuman speed and accuracy.
“He does not need help.” Renato’s gaze finally met hers, and the depth of sadness in his eyes nearly took her breath away. “Arwan is not who you think he is.”
Zanya opened her eyes and sat up, rubbing her face. “What the hell was that?” She clutched Cualli’s pendant, running her fingers over the smooth curves until her heartbeat returned to normal.
With her three crutches—her stone, her music, and Cualli’s pendant—she hadn’t had a panic attack in months. But Sarian had clearly broken into her mind and didn’t intend on leaving. Her night terrors—more accurately, Sarian’s blatant intrusions into her dreams—had always been isolated to a deep sleep. Now they were everywhere. His hold on her stone had taken its toll, and unless she figured out a way to stop him, his invasions would undoubtedly become much worse.
* * *
Arwan
Arwan watched out the bus window as trees and small village huts flew past. He and Zanya had been traveling for almost two hours on a route that would bring them to the entrance of the caves.
He frowned at the dark circles casting deep shadows under Zanya’s eyes. She must not have gotten any sleep on the plane. Perhaps she was ill, though that was unlikely for a guardian with the ability to heal. Like Peter, her healing powers made her nearly immune to middleworld sickness.
Still, she hadn’t been acting normally over the last few days. Headaches and lethargy were obvious signs something had happened that she didn’t want to tell him about. Something more serious than her concern over Tara or her heartache over Jayden.
He too carried worry in his heart, and just like Zanya was doing to him now, he hadn’t told her the entire truth either.
Maybe it was just a matter of time for them both.
The bus slowed to a stop, delivering them to their destination. They had taken the route to the back entrance of the caves, surrounded by dense jungle and heavy overgrowth.
The government authorities had restricted tourist access to the front side of the caves years ago, but the area would still be crawling with photographers and small-time archeologists, all of whom would have a watchful eye on the glyphs, and thus anyone going in or out.
Arwan checked his watch. There was still about two hours before sundown. They both needed their strength to hike, especially because it wasn’t Zanya’s strongest skill. He’d packed energy bars in her bag, though he had no idea how long they’d be stuck in the cave.
A cave his mother had once crawled out from.
A cave he wished he could forget.
He pictured the drawings hung on his bedroom wall at home. His mother’s face was calming and somehow torturous at the same time. But he wouldn’t forget her. She was the reason he still lived, while his father was the reason she had been ripped from his life when he was just a boy.
Zanya massaged small circles over her temples, her eyes closed and her skin visibly clammy.
He brushed his hand against her leg. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
She drew in her bottom lip and sat back in her seat. “I’m fine. Just tired.”
The single door at the front of the bus screeched open. They had a long journey ahead, and he had to be mentally prepared for whatever was to come. “We’re up.” He grabbed his bag while Zanya stood, and followed her down the aisle and outside, onto the dusty ground.
It was the wet season, but there hadn’t been rain in weeks. The earth was cracked and the air was dry. Many of the locals probably suspected the gods were angry. Telltale signs proved his suspicion true as they strode down the wide dirt road between huts and small bakeries selling freshly made flatbread. Offerings lay scattered along the ground, some in basins, others lying in beds of banana leaves. What was left of the river lazily flowed downstream, over shiny pebbles and old stumps that hung on to the compacted silt.
The town had changed since he’d last visited. Boxy televisions were propped in the corner of several outdoor market stalls, and many of the villagers had cell phones pressed to their ears. It was as if the life had been drained from the rich culture of their Maya descendants, all of whom had nearly forgotten the honor and greatness of their history. Instead of building great cities, they wove blankets, carved colorful trinkets, and sold small statues of the abandoned temples, once the pride of their nation.
At least this village was one of the few without Catholic churches towering over the ruins. Instead of Christmas, this small community still celebrated winter solstice—and had, since Arwan could remember.
The shortest day of the year marked the beginning of longer days, but more importantly for Riyata, the time in which bonds of the soul were made. He felt it coming, deep in his bones. All the years he had observed the solstice, celebration the coming season. It was the only surviving link to his lineage that he’d kept as part of his life.
A statue of the rain deity, Chaac, stood in the center of the town with offerings scattered around him. Basins of fresh water lay near the statue’s feet, and hand-strung beads hung from the lightning ax gripped in Chaac’s hand.
Some still believed.
An elderly woman sat beside the statue with a wicker basket nestled in her lap, begging for scraps of food. Her meek frame was buried under layers of tattered clothes and a shroud of fabric draped over her hair.
Arwan paused beside her. The painted markings on her hands and forehead meant she was a village elder. When he was part of the community, elders were respected.
He reached in his bag and found an energy bar. If giving it to her meant he’d go hungry, so be it.
He broke away from Zanya and walked toward the woman. Her wrinkled face turned up as he approached, and her gaze followed him down when he crouched beside her.
The emptiness in her eyes told of extended neglect and hunger. He placed the food in her basket. He hadn’t spoken his native tongue in such a long time, but she was a Maya villager from the old tribe—probably one of the last—and most likely didn’t understand anything but Yucatan. Shame weighed on his shoulders. He hung his head, all but having forgotten how to greet her properly.
Her shaky hands reached out and rested on his forearm. His heart weighed heavy to see his people begging on the street. To find her begging beside a statue of Chaac was worse. It was a common practice among beggars to sit beside a statue of a deity in hope those withholding charity would feel guilty and be more compelled to give.
It had come to that.
The people’s hearts had turned cold.
He stood and glanced back at Zanya waiting for him on the far side of the dirt road. Her head was hung, her gaze cast to the ground. It was obvious she understood the elder’s situation was grim.
Arwan gave the woman the respect she deserved by resting his hand on top of her head, wishing her well on her journey through the underworld, to the heavens, once she passed. It probably wouldn’t be long.
She stilled, and her eyes slowly shut. She understood what was happening.
He was telling her good-bye.
As he stood, he dropped a few coins in her basket—as much as he could spare. Perhaps she could buy food, or a good night’s rest in a suitable bed.
Arwan walked back to Zanya’s side. She took his hand. Her warmth was the only remaining link he had to mankind.
“That was really nice of you,” she said with a gentle smile. Her gaze moved to the woman. “It’s so sad.” She squeezed his hand.
He checked his watch. “We have about an hour to be in town. Let’s get something to eat before we start the hike.”
She sighed. “Hiking. Right. I wish I knew where I was going, I could have transported ahead.”
“But you don’t, and I would really rather you stay close. Just in case.” He draped his arm over her shoulder. She had no idea how badly he needed to be close to her, though he still couldn’t explain why. When he’d met her, he hadn’t expected the connection would be so strong. The bond wasn’t just physical but something tangible that linked them together. He just hoped what was soon to come wouldn’t tear them apart.
* * *
Zanya
The uneven ground pushed against the bottom of Zanya’s feet as she followed Arwan over the game path that stretched from the village’s eastern border of the jungle. At least that’s what Arwan had told her. She couldn’t tell east from west if her life depended on it.
“How much longer do we have?” She took a few quick steps to catch up to him.
He tipped his face toward the sky. A bead of sweat ran down his temple. “We have about three miles to go, but the terrain’s going to get more difficult.” He examined the thick foliage on either side of the trail.
She grabbed her water bottle from the side pocket of her backpack and gulped down half of her supply.
Arwan’s eyes narrowed as he came to a complete stop.
Zanya swallowed the rest of her mouthful and poured some into her palm. She patted the back of her neck and fanned at her damp skin. “What’s wrong?”
He pressed his finger to his lips as his gaze darted through the trees.
Zanya froze. The only sounds were the distant screeches of monkeys and a few birds in the branches above them—typical jungle soundtrack.
After a moment, he finally spoke. “I thought I heard something. Let’s keep going.”
“Okay. But what did you think you heard?” She slipped her water bottle back in her backpack and tried to keep up.
“There are a lot of things we need to be careful of. You aren’t used to being out here, so I’m just being cautious.”
She glanced around. “Cautious of what?”
“I’m not trying to scare you.” He guided her over a sudden incline in the path.
“I won’t get freaked out. I promise.” A promise she’d probably break in about five seconds, but she needed to know what they were dealing with. They’d hiked together in Belize, but back then they’d traveled on well-known paths the tribes had used to collect water and visit each other. Now they were on a barely discernible game trail in the middle of nowhere—totally different story.
He exhaled. “Tigers, elephants, snakes…” He paused and turned toward the greenery.
He sensed something was out there. That much was clear.
His grip slid from her hand up to her wrist.
His focus intensified by the second. “Go. Walk ahead of me.”
“Why?” She gripped his arm.
“So I can keep an eye on you.”
She walked ahead, her senses tuned to every noise, every twig that snapped in the trees, every chirping bird—
Zanya paused. The birds. They’d all gone quiet. Something had spooked them, and she had a feeling that whatever it was, it was still close by.

CHAPTER THREE

The twilight skies were streaked with hues of red and pink when Zanya followed Arwan out of the canopy of trees. An area bare of foliage lay straight ahead. They were supposed to make it to the mouth of the cave by nightfall, but considering they hadn’t reached it yet—probably thanks to her short stride—that was probably not going to happen.
“What are we going to do?”
Arwan dropped his pack on the ground. “We need to make camp. It’s almost dark, and we need to collect firewood. This is a good spot for us to spend the night.”
Zanya groaned. “I figured as much.” They didn’t have any real shelter, and there were more bugs than she could fathom, all of them probably waiting for her to doze off so they could crawl over her face. She cringed. “What if it rains? We’ll get soaked.”
“It hasn’t rained in weeks, and I doubt it will rain tonight. The skies are too clear.”
“Oh. Right.” She’d have to learn how to look for signs like that. She rolled her shoulders and let the pack hit the ground with a thud. Throbbing pain pulsed through her neck and upper back. “Ugh.” She reached across her chest and massaged the knot.
“I’ll gather firewood. You can get out your sleeping bag and—” He pointed to some rocks near the path. “If you can gather some stones and make a circle for a fire pit, that would be helpful.” He unzipped his hoodie and tossed it beside his backpack, revealing the muscles packed under his T-shirt.
Heat spread through her body, and she cleared her throat. “Sure, no problem.”
“I won’t be gone for long. Yell if anything happens. I won’t be far.”
She bit her lip in an attempt to suppress a smile. “Thanks for being so worried about me.”
He examined her with a quirky grin. The kind of grin that made her heart skip a beat and her breath hitch. “You’re the guardian. You don’t need me around to protect you. You just think you do.”
An hour later, the sun was all but gone by the time Zanya finished organizing the stones into a circle. She wiped her dusty hands on her pants and unzipped her bag and then spotted Arwan’s pack. He hadn’t returned with the firewood yet. He must have been gathering enough for the whole night.
It would be helpful if she got his sleeping bag out, too. He’d have to build the fire when he returned—God knows she had no clue how to do it.
Twigs cracked behind her, and Zanya spun and fell back on her butt, her palms pressed against the warm earth. She scanned the tree line. Too bad it was dark and she couldn’t see anything but a thick wall of foliage.
“Arwan?” Her voice came out in a squeak. She cleared her throat and slowly stood, her focus never leaving the jungle. “Arwan?” Another crack sounded from in the trees. Zanya scanned the branches until she spotted a huge white owl perched on a branch just above her.
She exhaled and rested her hand on her chest. A smile crept over her lips. “Oh thank God. It’s just an owl.” The creature looked down at her inquisitively, rotating its head from side to side. It was beautiful. Large, with caramel-brown feathers outlining its heart-shaped face. The moonlight shimmered against the bird’s feathers.
It hopped toward her down the branch, seemingly unafraid. Though out here, it probably didn’t have any reason to fear people. Zanya stepped closer, her focus on the bird’s almond-shaped eyes that analyzed her every move.
She smacked her lips and extended her hand, rubbing the tips of her fingers together. “Hey, beautiful. What are you doing here?” Her voice turned to a soft coo as she waited for it to move closer. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”
More twigs snapped behind her and she turned, sure she’d see Arwan walking toward her with a huge stack of wood piled in his arms.
There was only darkness and silence.
Zanya dropped her hand to her side, her eyes wide. A soft growl radiated through the night. She stepped back, her senses on high alert.
She gripped the wicker emblem hung around her neck, and for the first time since London, her stone spoke to her.
Its whispers morphed to static. A spike of adrenaline tore through her. She rushed to her backpack and ripped open the zipper.
With the stone cupped in her hands, she shifted away from the cluster of bushes in front of her. Her breath stalled when her gaze met a pair of pale yellow eyes peering at her from the foliage.
She tried to speak, but her voice was trapped somewhere in her chest. Her stone, scalding scalded the tender skin on her palms. The large cat’s gaze moved down to the pulsing orb in her chest, then to the light that radiated from her stone. It bared its teeth and then relaxed, smoothing the wrinkles in its snout. The animal cocked its head. Its small, perked ears made it look as if it were curious.
“Good job on the fire pit.” Zanya spun around and jumped to her feet. Arwan must have seen her panicked expression because he immediately dropped the firewood and ran to her side. “What happened?”
She pointed to the bushes where the large cat had stood just a moment ago. Now only shadows loomed in the empty space. Arwan must have scared it away. “There was a—wait!” She spun and pointed to the branch where the owl was perched, but the bird, too, was no longer there. “First it was a—it was right there!” She turned back to the bushes and surveyed the empty space. “It was some kind of cat. Maybe a cheetah or something. It had spots.”
Arwan grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer. “Where?”
“There.” She pointed to the empty space where small plants lay crushed into the soil by the beast’s paw.
“What else?”
“An owl. It was huge.” She pointed to the tree. “Right there. It was all white with some caramel feathers on its face and dark eyes.” She drew in a sharp breath. “What if the big cat comes back? Maybe we should sleep in the trees or something.” She gathered her sleeping bag off the ground and hugged it against her chest. She wasn’t Steve freakin’ Irwin. She didn’t jump on gators or tame snakes. She certainly didn’t sit face-to-face with a predator that considered her a snack.
“Sleeping in a tree isn’t a good idea.”
“What? Why?” She clung tighter to her sleeping bag while she scanned the jungle. “At least it would keep us off the ground.”
“Because it was a jaguar, and they drag their prey into the trees to eat. At least normal jaguars do.”
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean ‘normal’?”
“‘Normal’ as in middleworld.”
“Middleworld? You don’t think they’re from here?”
The possibility that the jaguar wasn’t from this realm seemed ten times worse than it being just an ordinary jaguar on the hunt. Especially after being attacked by the demon from the caves near Renato’s house, and then the gargoyle-like beasts on the beach. Suddenly facing a regular big cat didn’t seem so bad. “Well, how do you know it was a jaguar? It could have been a cheetah, right? Or a lynx or something. Something totally middleworld.” She swallowed.
“Cheetahs don’t live in this area, and the jaguar has been stalking us since we wandered into its territory. But I don’t think it wants to hurt us.”
“And how did you come to that conclusion?”
“Because if it did, you’d be dead.”
Arwan started the fire like an old pro. It was too risky to catch something and cook it. The smell of fresh meat would tempt not only the jaguar, but also other predators in the area.
He sat beside Zanya on his sleeping bag, and pulled up his legs, resting one forearm on his knee while using the other hand to poke at the glowing logs with a stick. “As long as we keep the fire going, we should be safe.”
Should be safe?”
“I’m sleeping beside you just in case. Don’t worry.” He tilted his face toward the treetops. “Noises from the other animals will let us know if something is close. The monkeys are good for that.”
Zanya unwrapped an energy bar and took a bite. “Freakin’ monkeys better be on high alert or we’re screwed.”
Arwan let out a chuckle. The flames rose and fell, casting shadows over his face. The jungle atmosphere suited him. He seemed at home.
She sat back and admired the millions of tiny white orbs speckling the night heavens. The sky wasn’t black, rather a deep shade of royal blue. “Look up.”
He followed her prompt, and a faint smile spread his lips. A sad smile—the same kind that graced his face whenever he spoke about his mom.
After a moment of silence, he let out a deep breath. “The cave is only a few miles away.”
She covered her mouth through a deep yawn. Man, she was tired. “Well, that’s good, right?”
He poked at the fire again, causing flames to waver and dance. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
She crinkled her brow. “What do you mean am I sure?”
He stared intensely into the embers. “Once we enter the caves, we can’t turn back. We will need to go through the appropriate channels in order to enter. There are no shortcuts. No free passes.”
She had to be brave. Not for herself, but for her friend. “Jayden only has two days left. If we don’t get his soul from Houn by then, we won’t get it back. We have to keep going.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Maybe he was scared. She didn’t blame him. She was too. But she couldn’t put her own fear ahead of saving Jay. He wouldn’t turn his back on her, and she couldn’t do that to him. Even when he’d left her in the orphanage, he’d thought he would go back to her. That they would be together again. She didn’t love him in that way. Not anymore. She loved Jayden like she loved Tara. That was enough.
Arwan lay down and stared up at the sky. His features were solemn.
He wasn’t the only one with weight on his shoulders. The dream she’d had about Arwan on the plane was something she needed to address. She hadn’t found the right moment to bring the two-ton elephant into the room, but no moment would seem right for something like this.
She gathered her hair and pulled it over her shoulder, playing with strands between her fingers. It was all she could do not to seem obviously nervous. “Renato made a comment I can’t stop thinking about.” When he didn’t react, she continued. “He said you aren’t who I think you are.”
Arwan’s jaw ticked. “He said that?”
Zanya observed his tense shoulders. He was hiding something, and she had a right to know what it was. “Renato isn’t the only person who told me.”
Arwan looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Sarian said the same thing. He said you and him aren’t very different. I just thought he was trying to manipulate me.”
“And you believe him?”
“You’re not giving me a reason not to.” The truth was, she didn’t know what to believe. If he insisted on staying silent, she’d have all the more reason to pry.
“I guess you can believe whatever you want.” He turned his attention to the fire, poking at the burning embers with a stick.
“That’s not fair.”
“Fair or not, that’s all I can tell you.”
“That’s all you will tell me, you mean.”
“Stop prying, Zanya.”
“Or what?”
He stood and stared down at her. “Or you may find something out that you really don’t want to know.”
She pushed to her feet, holding his gaze. “I have a right to know.”
He fisted his hands, his chest heaving with every breath. He paced to the other side of the fire. “I knew eventually it would come to this.”
Zanya wrapped her fingers around Cualli’s medallion as anxiety bubbled in her chest. “Come to what?”
The flames slashed at the air as his piercing gaze bored a hole in her heart. “Are you sure you want to ask me this? Because if you ask, you have to be sure you want to know the answer.”
In reality, she wasn’t so sure. His sudden change in demeanor was so unlike him, and that kind of one-eighty could only be caused by something serious. She shifted her weight. “You’re starting to scare me.”
Anguish washed over his handsome features.
She couldn’t bear seeing him with such a tortured expression for a second longer. She moved beside him and laid her hands on either side of his face. He shut his eyes. The despair radiating from his touch was nearly unbearable.
She understood his longing. She had desired so much in her life—relief, acceptance, courage, peace—and never received any of it. Until she’d met Renato and the others. Being told she was precious was more of a reward than she could have ever hoped for. So she’d give him the acceptance he longed for. She’d give it to him without any more questions or accusations.
Whatever he was hiding wasn’t worth tearing him apart to find out. Not over the word of Sarian. Not even over the word of Renato.
“Listen to me. I won’t push you to tell me anything you don’t want to. I don’t know what could possibly be so bad—”
“Will you still want me?” His voice was ragged.
She furrowed her brow. “What?”
“Just…please.” He buried his fingers in her hair and pressed his forehead against hers. “Tell me you will still want me, no matter who I am.”
She sensed his anger, fear, agony—all radiating through his touch and the desperation in his tone.
“Please believe me. I would never do anything to hurt you. No puedo vivir sin tu amor.
She pushed a strand of hair out of his face and brushed her thumb over his eyebrow. “You know, you’ve got to start translating for me.”
She waited for him to crack a smirk. When it failed to come, she kissed him anyway. The fire warmed her back while a chorus of sounds echoed around them. The jungle was deafening at night, but in that moment, his touch drowned out the noises.
He slid his arms around her and crushed her against his chest. She squeaked, and then melted into him, twisting her fingers in his T-shirt, finding solid muscle underneath. She couldn’t help but push under the material to explore.
His skin was warm, and her fingers brushed against a thin line of hair trailing down his stomach. She followed it until it vanished beneath the buckle of his pants. His chest expanded with a sharp inhale. The subtle fluttering in her stomach exploded into a fierce energy radiating through her body.
His lips slid to the corner of her mouth and down her jaw. She tilted her head back toward the night sky while his mouth ran over her neck.
He pulled away, nearly panting. “Zanya—”
“No.” She rose on her tippy-toes and kissed him again. She wouldn’t have him try to talk reason into her. Not now, when they were finally alone.
When dawn broke, they would risk their lives. This could be their last chance to be together if it all fell apart.
She spread her hands across his back and trailed them over his shoulders. His fingers dug into her hips and he broke their kiss again. “Heavens help me,” he whispered in a raspy breath. “Zanya, please.”
She shifted her weight. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head.
“Don’t you…” The thought of saying it aloud made her blush. Maybe he didn’t want to move forward, though his kiss said otherwise. She hung her head. How could she have been so wrong?
He hooked his fingers under her chin. “I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“Fair? What are you talking about?” She bit her lip, trying not to notice the electrical current that spread over her skin from his touch. What the heck was wrong with her? She’d never acted like this before—wanted anyone so much.
He brushed his finger along her cheek. “Please, trust me.”
She paused, realizing she’d moved her hands under his shirt, and was resting her hands against his solid muscle. The mental haze slowly faded. Being this into him was a little scary.
Zanya slowly pulled away and pressed her hands against her sides. Maybe it was the fresh jungle air, or maybe it was just that they were headed into the unknown the next day. Whatever drew her to him was relentless. Her head spun, and she rested her fingertips on her temple. It was as if something had taken her over. Something with an insatiable need.
She blinked away clouded vision and forced a soft smile. He was right. Waiting was better. She’d sworn she’d take it slow. He’d promised he’d wait. Not push. Not pressure her. And he hadn’t. Not even a little. There was nothing wrong with taking things one step at a time.
Except suddenly she wanted to leap.

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.
Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

 

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Interlude Pre-Release Tour @TheresaDaLayne @EJBookPromos

Interlude
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Book #2
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: MATURE YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Release: January 12, 2016
Tara may have spent years in an asylum, but that doesn’t make her crazy–just fearless.
Dropped in Moscow with a the group of enchanted Mayan descendants, seventeen-year-old Tara is forced to wait on the sideline while her best friend—the Stone Guardian— battles to reclaim a friend’s soul trapped in the underworld.
It sucks being ordinary when everyone else is superhuman…
A mortal girl with a tainted past, Tara is left to deal with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Her boyfriend, Peter, is a healer. Her best friend is The Guardian, and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. Meanwhile, she struggles to leave her childhood of abuse in the past, and while Peter picks her up every time she falls, it becomes clear he deserves better.
When they opened Pandora’s Box, hell came pouring out…
When she’s given a chance to aid in the group’s mission, Tara is eager to pull her own weight, even if it means uncovering buried memories of being held prisoner by the underworld general. Now haunted with flashbacks of torture, Tara wanders from the safety of Peter’s arms into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.
He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground ring of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…

Chapter One

Tara rested her head on Peter’s chest while they lay in his bed, watching TV. She kicked the blanket off of her, and then sighed. She should be happy. She finally had a family of sorts—a boyfriend who would do anything for her, and a best friend who was more like a sister. But she wasn’t happy, and she couldn’t tell anyone.
Peter’s bed was somehow more comfortable than hers, and he seemed to want her there. That didn’t stop her from feeling terrible over waking him up—for the third time that week. Her plush bed looked inviting, but it was home to her horrible nightmares. At least she wished they were nightmares…
She used to find solace in Zanya, back in the orphanage, when they were all each other had. Funny how life had changed so much, so fast. Best friends, they spent their entire lives dreaming of a future outside of the orphanage’s walls, only to be sucked into a reality that surpassed even their idea of insane.
Back then it was Zanya whose dreams were filled with terror.
They’d been taken from the orphanage to Renato’s estate in Belize, where they’d experienced so much, and discovered Zanya’s dreams were real. Then they traveled to Moscow. That’s when things had gone from bad to terrible for Tara.
Her throat tightened. She curled her fingers around Peter’s T-shirt. Half asleep and with the TV on, he didn’t seem to notice.
She fought to stay awake out of fear of reliving her time spent with Sarian, the underworld general. The nightly reminders hadn’t gone away. In fact, they had only gotten worse.
It was just like when she was a kid, before she was taken from her mother by child protective services. Then, the fear of another encounter with her mother’s “boyfriends” had coiled around her in a paralyzing way, stalking her day and night.
Her eyelids grew heavy, and her muscles ached for just a few hours of sleep. Being close to Peter somehow made it all better, for the moment. He chased away her demons and made her forget.
Peter pushed one of her curls aside and placed a soft kiss behind her ear. “How are you feeling?” he said in a groggy whisper.
She shrugged. He nudged her shoulder with his chin and rested his lips on the curve of her neck. His breath teased her skin.
She smiled and cringed away. “Knock it off. You know I’m ticklish.”
Mmm.” He trailed kisses down to her shoulder.
The tickling subsided, and Tara’s eyes fluttered closed. Her lips parted, fingers tightening around the blankets underneath her.
The smell of fresh rain filled the air. God, she loved his scent. The first time Peter had stepped close to her at Renato’s house, it had washed over her like a wave of relief. After that, she just couldn’t stay away.
“You think you can get some sleep?” he whispered. “You need it.”
Tara composed herself and nodded. Even though he didn’t push the issue, a tiny piece of her wished he’d keep kissing her neck to see where it went—see if she felt comfortable, without committing to anything from the beginning. After all, it was she who didn’t want to take the next step in their relationship. Peter, however, would never put her into a situation she didn’t ask for. He loved her too much. It was the first time she had experienced that kind of commitment from anyone. There was no way she’d risk ruining it with sex.
Tara sat up, rubbing the tight muscles in her neck. Every nightmare threw her body into a more tense and agitated state. Her appetite was all but gone, her sense of humor dimmed, and since the flashbacks had become more vivid, she’d nearly lost the ability to smile.
Peter’s hands replaced hers and worked around her shoulders, massaging the knots into submission. Warmth radiated from his fingertips and spread through her body, soothing the tension. His healing ability had come in handy more than once over the last few weeks.
She exhaled and melted into him. “Thanks.” She glanced at the digital clock. It was almost four in the morning. Guilt tore at her. “I really have to stop coming in here every time a memory breaks through. I’m not five.”
“No, what you really have to do is tell Marzena that you’re remembering more.”
Marzena, the group’s dreamwalker, had helped Tara unlock the hidden door in her mind, allowing them to find the memories to locate Sarian. If only she could go back in time and block that door with concrete and chains to seal the memories inside…
“I won’t do that,” Tara said. “Not yet anyway. It’s not that bad.” Only bad enough to wake her in a cold sweat with her stomach knotted and muscles so tender she was achy for days. “Besides, she isn’t even in Moscow, so it’s not like she could do anything about it.”
“She would come back if you needed her.”
“Well, I don’t.” Not if that meant putting her issues on display. “She already reached into my head once. I don’t need her doing it again.”
Peter leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her. “Even if it’ll help?” He kissed her temple. “Come on, Tara. You know you can’t keep doing this.”
He was right, but she couldn’t admit it aloud. She had been so selfish, staggering to his bedroom, shaking like a leaf. Not exactly a romantic midnight rendezvous. “I’m sorry I keep dragging you into this.”
If she could just leave him alone, at least one of them would get some rest and not feel like a zombie.
With her stomach in knots, she scooted to the side of the mattress and stared blankly at the wall. Lights from the TV danced, casting shadows over the room.
“Whatever you’re dealing with, I’m here for you.” His voice was soft and comforting.
She swallowed down the urge to cry.
Zanya was still working to counter Sarian by travelling decades into the past with Renato, Arwan, Hawa, and Jayden, leaving Marzena, Tara, and Peter behind. Tara had tried to curb her bitterness about that, especially since she had nobody to channel it toward. It wasn’t Zanya’s choice to leave them. That’s what she kept telling herself, anyway.
Tara rubbed her throbbing eyes. It was probably good that Marzena had gone back to Belize to manage the workers while they patched up the damage to Renato’s house. It needed to be done before they all went back—if they went back. Renato’s house had already become her home. Her heart ached at the memory of it under attack. And with Marzena gone, no one had to know Tara was steadily losing her mind. Again.
Peter grabbed the remote and flipped through the channels. “There’s nothing on that’s not in Russian.”
She glanced at the screen. Had the actors been speaking Russian? Showed how much she’d been paying attention. He stopped on a news station with a woman speaking English in a heavy Russian accent. Behind her, emergency lights from police cars and ambulances flashed. Tara sighed and slumped her shoulders forward. “The news?”
“There’s nothing else on.” He lifted the remote. “You want me to just turn it off?”
She shook her head. “Nah. Leave it. At least it’s in English.” She tuned in for the first time.
“Officers responded to a call of a suspected gang clash outside of the Moscow Academy of Science. Authorities say a confrontation occurred between a student and an alleged gang member when the student’s younger sister was forced into a gang-marked vehicle. The victim, who was wounded at the scene, was a freshman. Sadly, he died before the ambulance could respond, while the alleged attacker, who was also wounded, is now being treated at the Yakimanka Hospital where he is in critical condition.”
Tara pushed the power button on the remote and the screen winked off. “I changed my mind. Even if it is in English, that’s just depressing.”
“Yeah. Seriously.”
“Poor guy,” she whispered, imagining the look of terror on the brother’s face while his little sister was being dragged away. “I hope they get her back.”
Peter moved to the far side of the bed. “Get who back?”
“The girl who was kidnapped.”
“Yeah.” His yawn deepened her guilt. “Come on.” He patted the mattress. “Lie down next to me.”
It was still dark out. If she left now, he could catch at least a few hours of sleep before the morning. She stood up and walked toward the door.
“Where are you going?”
She paused with her fingers wrapped around the handle. “I’m letting you get some rest. I’ll be fine until morning.”
Whether that would prove true or not, only time would tell.

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.


 

HOSTED BY:

Mayan Blood Release Tour @TheresaDaLayne @EJBookPromos @LimitlessBooks

Mayan Blood
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Book #1
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Release: December 29, 2015
Their empires have fallen, but their mythology lives on…
Zanya Coreandero is a seventeen-year-old orphan with only a single friend and no hope for a normal life. Diagnosed with anxiety and night terrors, no one believes her cuts and bruises are a result of an evil entity, and not a brutal case of self-harm.
With the only home she’s ever known being the isolated institution—where breakfast is a handful of medications, the psychiatry sessions are mandatory, and her every move is watched—the only relief is her red-haired roommate named Tara, who’s more like a little sister than her best friend.
Free will is strong, but destiny is stronger.

When Zanya is kidnapped, she meets a group of gifted Mayan descendants, each with a unique ability. Gone from a nameless castaway to the only hope of mankind, Zanya is forced to make a grueling decision: bond with an enchanted stone and save humanity from rising underworld forces, or watch helplessly as Earth falls victim to a familiar dark deity from her dreams. This time, he’s playing for keeps.

A wicked secret hides behind a handsome face…
When Arwan, a dark-eyed timebender, takes interest in Zanya’s mission, it’s unclear if his intention is to help, or if he’s on a hell-bent mission for revenge. Wary of falling for another guy with major secrets and a tainted past, Zanya fights to keep her distance. If only her heart gave her a choice.
Chapter OneZanya

“Let’s get the formalities over with before we begin.” Dean Nelson shifted through paperwork scattered across the table. “Patient identification number A692. Age, seventeen. Mother, unknown. Father, unknown. No living relatives.” He rubbed his bearded chin. “Hmm, that’s unfortunate. Name, Zzz…” He flipped back through the case file.

Zanya watched everything from her special spot—center stage in the nearly vacant evaluation room, in a single wooden chair—as he butchered her name, yet again. She should have been used to it, considering every dean who had come and gone did exactly the same thing. “Zan-yuh,” she said, “with a short a.”

“Ah.” He nodded. “Right. Well, now that we’ve been introduced, let’s continue. Nice to meet you, Zanya. I’m Dean Nelson.” He smiled, though the deepening creases in his forehead made it seem painful. “How are you feeling today?”

She glanced at him between layers of chestnut brown hair draped along her high-set cheekbones. Squinting, she and blinked under the burning lights, then turned her gaze to the floor. “I’m okay.”

“Just okay?”

She shrugged. Why the hell was he acting like he cared, anyway? He was just one in a long line of interim administrators. The stress of working with a school full of insane teenagers every day ran most of them off pretty quick. This one had that eager zeal—all too happy to pick her brain—and he probably wouldn’t last long either.

Dean Nelson set down the papers. “I know I’m new here, but in order to conduct your evaluation, you need to answer my questions.”

The two board members flanking him shifted in their seats. Zanya’s breath sped up. Damn it. If she didn’t want to be sedated again, she’d have to keep the panic attack at bay.

She shut her eyes and played a classical melody in her mind. Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin concert in D major, Op. 61—Larghetto. That piece always slowed her heart rate. She imagined the sounds pouring out of her violin as she caressed imaginary strings.

Dean Nelson cleared his throat, jarring her out of the moment. Annoyance tugged at her, but at least she could breathe again.

She lifted her chin. “I said I’m fine.”

“How are you managing the panic attacks? Have you had any recently?”

“Yeah. I had one last night…and the night before.”

“They’re becoming more frequent?”

If he had bothered to actually read her case file instead of just skimming through it, he’d already know the answer. “Not really. Pretty much the same.”

“And how are you sleeping?”

“Like usual.”

“It says in your case file you suffer from night terrors. Are you still experiencing them?”

Zanya shrugged.

Dean Nelson frowned. “Okay. Let’s talk a little about The Man. Is he still hurting you?”

The mention of him made the hairs on Zanya’s arms twitch. She pulled her sleeve over the blue and yellow bruise that encompassed her wrist. This team of board-certified, renowned medical professionals didn’t know the first thing about what could be found in her dreams.

They claimed she suffered from severe anxiety and night terrors. They had no idea. The knots in her stomach tightened. She balled her fists, but stayed quiet.

After all, what could she say? If she told them the man in her dreams hurt her almost every night, they would continue to believe she was delusional. If she lied and told them she hurt herself, it would only confirm their misdiagnosis. She’d just tell the truth and prove both theories correct.

“He’s always in my dreams.” Bits and pieces of her nightmares reeled in her head. “He’s always waiting for me.”

“But you do understand that a dream cannot hurt you? Dreams are simply images, feelings, and sensations that collect and pool involuntarily in your mind during sleep. They can seem very real, but once you wake up, they’re gone. A simple figment of your imagination.”

Zanya fidgeted nervously with the sleeve of her uniform, twisting a seam that had come undone.

“And dreams certainly don’t leave bruises or any of the other alarming wounds Nurse Faber has found on you over the years.” He flashed photos taken during Zanya’s countless visits to the hospital.

“I guess.” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, forgetting about the fresh gash on the back of her hand—evidence of last night’s brawl with a demon of some sort.

Nurse Faber leaned forward in her seat and peered at the swollen wound. “Where did you get that cut? I haven’t seen that, and it needs to be treated—maybe with stitches.”

Dean Nelson scribbled a note on her evaluation paper. “Perhaps we should continue this patient’s assessment once we get an updated report of her physical condition.”

The nurse stood and waved Zanya to her feet. “Come on, honey. Let’s get that taken care of.”

* * *

The stone sat high on the altar’s peak, as it always did, glowing like a beacon in the darkness. Its whispers echoed in Zanya’s mind, guiding her blind footsteps. It drew her in with some invisible tether—a connection she couldn’t explain.

She never understood why she searched for it.

Longed for it.

Needed it.

With each careful step, her bare feet padded up the cool, smooth steps. Then another source of light flickered on, casting a soft glow around her.

The light churned out from her chest, pulsing with hues of blue and white—colors of recognition. The stone and the illumination in her chest seemed to be connected; only flickering to life when they were close.

At the temple’s base, she steadily ascended the narrow steps until she reached the peak. Zanya cupped the stone in both hands and lifted it from its perch. Orbs of light twinkled over its smooth surface.

Searing pain tore through her belly. She gasped and jolted forward, then wrapped shaky fingers around a blade protruding from her gut. Scarlet liquid slowly seeped through her shirt. The stone dropped from her hand and thudded to the altar, rolling down one step at a time until it reached the bottom. The blade was yanked out of her, though she couldn’t see by whom. No matter. It was always the same person who watched her die.

Zanya stumbled down the steps while gripping her belly. When she reached the bottom of the temple, she fell to her knees and curled into a fetal position, the pain more than she could bear. The edges of her vision became fuzzy. Darkness closed in while she stared helplessly at the stone lying just feet away.

Warmth cradled her body. Death was warm. She’d always heard passing would be peaceful, like slipping into a pool of serenity. With her cheek rested against the cold ground, hot liquid saturated the dry, cracked dirt.

A slithering creature slinked toward her, its eyes as black as onyx. Thousands of legs stuck into the hard soil, pushing its armored body forward.

It was not a creature Zanya would soon forget, as the last time she encountered it, it had killed her—again.

The Man had to be lingering somewhere nearby. His bitter scent whirled through the air. His footsteps grew louder as he approached.

Not again. She lay like a suffocating fish, gulping in her final breaths.

Zanya jerked awake and shot up in bed, gasping for air. She clawed at her chest where a thin mark etched her skin. It burned, as if someone had pressed a cattle brand to the delicate curve between her breasts. She moaned, willing away the pain. It never took longer than a half hour, but it hurt, and this time, it nearly made her cry.

Zanya glanced at a clock mounted on the far wall. It read three thirty. She wouldn’t be able to sleep for the rest of the night. She lay back down in bed and rolled onto her side, searching for a hint that Tara was awake. Only a few feet separated their beds. Tara was the only person in the world who understood her.

Tara shifted under the covers, and Zanya caught a glimpse of her face—her angelic, freckled cheeks, rosy and flawless, under dark auburn lashes. Tara yanked the thin blanket over her shoulders and under her chin.

Zanya whispered, “Are you awake?” After a moment of silence, she sighed and exercised her only option—to stare at the ceiling and wait for the morning community alarm.

At six o’clock sharp, the bell sounded. Tara blinked open her eyes. With a sleepy stare, her lips tightened and she let out a deep sigh. “Another nightmare?”

“What else is new? That’s the third one this week.” Zanya rolled on her side to face her. “At least it wasn’t accompanied by a midnight panic attack this time.” Zanya touched the now faded mark on her chest. “They’re getting worse.”

“Any real-life damage?”

Zanya shook her head. “Not this time.”

The day unwound as usual. Secular studies followed by a mid-day group therapy session, journal entry writing, and their afternoon dose of medications.

Zanya found her last class of the day and ascended to the fourth row in the music room. Miss Lippard must have been sick. A sub had written his name on the stand-alone chalkboard in the front of the class: Dr. Fitzgerald.

Zanya slouched in her chair, pinching her violin case between her feet.

Great, another doctor. He’d be watching the students during class, assessing, and trying to pick out which students needed more psych work. “Patient B843 has the beginning symptoms of early onset Diogenes Syndrome, and patient A119 seems to be suffering from clinical depression, brought on by early childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect.” Blah, blah, blah. Ugh, she hated doctors.

Tara skipped in, holding her clarinet; an instrument she wasn’t particularly good at. All students were required to take up an instrument. Apparently, music helped to express emotion and heal physiological damage.

Tara sat beside her. “Hey.” She tucked a curl behind her ear. “New teacher?”

“Just a sub. Miss Lippard is out sick. I needed to ask her a question about our sheet music.” Zanya leaned forward and propped her elbows on her knees. “I guess I’ll have to wait.”

“Yeah. The sub probably doesn’t know a thing about music, anyway.”

“Well, just try not to be,” she waved her hand in the air, “yourself. I don’t want him picking your brain.”

Tara grinned. “Afraid he’ll discover what a genius I am?”

“More like what a—”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” Tara puckered her lips, then smiled.

When the bell rang, Dr. Fitzgerald made his way to the center of the room. A tailed sports coat hugged his tall, lean frame. His skin—like toasted caramel—complemented his dark brown eyes. He was handsome for a middle-aged man, and she tried to imagine what he might have looked like twenty years ago.

He locked his hands behind his back and cleared his throat. Zanya sat up straight as the room fell silent.

“Good morning.” He had a charming Spanish accent. “As I’m sure you have already noticed, your teacher is out for the day. Everyone please get your books and arrange into groups.” He pointed to several areas of the large music room as he spoke. “Strings in the upper right corner, percussion in the lower left, and winds in the center. I understand from Miss Lippard’s instructions the advanced strings students are working on a piece, Canon Pachelbel in D Major. Those students, please break off to the lower right corner. Everyone else, practice your sheet music.”

Violin in hand, Zanya descended the stairs, the soles of her shoes catching on the Berber carpet along the way. Canon. She rolled her eyes. If the other advanced students practiced more often, they’d be on to something more challenging by now.

She reached the right corner of the room and took her place at first chair. With the rest of her group ready, she tucked the chinrest in place.

Her fingers relaxed, and she held the bow with balance rather than tension. Her pinkie pinched against the frog, loosely cradling it in her hand, her index finger draped over the top.

Just holding the sleek wooden tool made her breath rhythmic. It was a rare feeling—peace. But with her violin cradled against her and the familiar strings calling out, all her fears melted away.

She drew in a cleansing breath and began to play. The notes pulsed through her body, feeding life to parts of her soul that lay dormant, hiding from the realities of life.

She became lost in the melody while each note stirred her heart and awoke her senses. The darkness, the pain, it all stepped back, overpowered by the light and energy of the notes. Music was always there to fill the space in her heart that she had locked away.

With one final pass over the strings, the vibrato left her with a feeling of drunken satisfaction. Her muscles relaxed as she exhaled and opened her eyes, then lowered her bow to her lap.

Dr. Fitzgerald watched her intently. His gaze did not waver as she sat motionless, returning his stare. He peered into her. Through her.

The bell rang, and she slinked out of the room, avoiding eye contact with the sub.

* * *

Weekends weren’t much fun at the institution. To kill time, Zanya sometimes listened to Tara’s stories about what normal kids did on Friday nights. Parties, bonfires, sleepovers. Teenage girls painting each other’s toenails, their polished feet later dressed in fuzzy slippers, and blushed cheeks that accompanied stories about a boy and a kiss.

None of that happened here. And although religion was only taught for educational purposes in their institution, Zanya often felt like she was stuck in purgatory. Long, terrifying nights. Tedious, drawn-out days that always ended in the same way with lights-out in her assigned bed.

Someday it would be different. Someday, things would change.

“Lights out in fifteen minutes,” the dorm mother announced, shuffling through the sleeping quarters. Her shoes squeaked against the tile with every step. “Let’s go, ladies.” She clapped to gain everyone’s attention. “Get changed and into bed.”

Zanya snatched her pajamas and slipped into the bathroom. When she came out, all but the backlights were switched off. The soft glow cast over the room painted tall shadows of headboards on the walls.

After settling in bed, she braced herself on the edge and leaned over to inspect the dark space beneath her mattress.

“There’s nothing under there,” Tara whispered.

Zanya glanced up. “I know.”

“No, you don’t, or you wouldn’t be checking.”

Zanya’s attention returned to the dark space. If Tara only knew what could be hiding in the darkness, though it was best she didn’t. Zanya was glad her friend wasn’t taunted by the same horrifying images she was every night. It gave her someone to talk to—someone who wasn’t equally paranoid, and who made her feel normal.

A shudder crawled up her arms and down her spine. “There’s no harm in checking.”

“There’s plenty of harm, Zanya.” Tara played with the corner of her pillow. “The board will never place you with a foster family if you don’t show them you’re getting better.”

“Who said I want a foster family? Besides, I have you. You’re all the family I need.” Zanya slipped under the over-starched sheets.

The lights shut off and the room fell silent. Zanya closed her eyes, wishing, praying, that just for one night she would sleep peacefully.

The fire alarm sounded. Bright red-and-white emergency lights cast color over the room. The screaming sirens sent every student shooting out of bed. Staff members flooded the sleeping quarters. They rounded up the children and shouted instructions to form a line and exit the building.

Zanya jumped up and followed Tara to the back door and down a ramp, which lead them outside into the bitterly cold night. She hugged herself as breath flowed from her lips in clouds of white.

Emergency vehicles sped down the gravel driveway. They skidded to a halt, and a team of firemen loaded with gear poured out of the trucks.

While Zanya watched the men in uniform, a strange sensation tugged at the back of her mind. Her eyes narrowed. Shivers quaked her muscles. She blinked and huddled against Tara as a stretcher was unfolded from an ambulance.

“Oh, crap!” Tara’s eyes grew wide. “Do you think someone got hurt? I hope it’s not another suicide attempt. I swear to God…”

As Tara rambled on, Zanya couldn’t shake the feeling someone was watching her. She glanced over her shoulder at the tree line of the forest—aspen and beech trees sprinkled between a thick blanket of fallen leaves. But there was nothing. No one.

She turned back around, the freezing temperatures biting at her toes. She hadn’t thought to put on her slippers, and the soles of her feet were paying a heavy price. She balanced on one foot, then the other.

“I mean, if every kid here who hated their lives tried to kill themselves, we’d have nobody left,” Tara continued to rant. “Just two more years and I’m so outta here.”

A whisper, from what seemed like far away, caressed Zanya’s ears. She glanced over her shoulder at the tops of frail trees swaying under the moonlight. Leaves danced across the soggy ground, blown by gusts of chilled wind. She rubbed her arms.

Maybe it was just the breeze. Through the branches, it could sound like a whisper. Just as she prepared to chalk it up to fatigue and chaos, she spotted a tiny shadow lurking between the trees.

Zanya gripped her arms tighter. She blinked once, twice… Her eyes watered from the cold. When she blinked again, the shadow was gone. She spun back around, determined to ignore any more noises.

The image of the tiny shadow pulsed in her mind. Another whisper. Zanya’s heart raced. The urge to look again grew stronger, and when she finally collected the nerve, she turned around one last time.

The figure stood motionless just beyond the first row of trees.

Not just a figure—a girl in a thin, white nightgown with her hands hanging at her sides.

Zanya tugged on Tara’s sleeve. “Turn around.”

Tara’s attention was solely focused on the broad-chested firemen. Zanya tugged harder. “Turn around and look at this.”

Tara finally obeyed and followed Zanya’s attention toward the trees. She gasped. “What the hell is she doing out there?”

Zanya shook her head. Without saying another word, Tara stalked toward the woods.

“Wha… Where are you going?” Zanya’s voice cracked, her gaze flickering between Tara and the child.

“To get her.” When Zanya didn’t reply, Tara stopped and spun to face her. “Well? Are you coming?”

“Am I coming?” The eerie night suddenly consumed her. “I can’t. You know I hate the dark. And there could be…” She frantically searched her mind for some epic excuse to keep Tara from trekking forward. “Wolves.”

Wolves? That was the best she could come up with?

Tara snorted. “It’s fine, Zanya. I’ll go alone. It’ll only take a sec.”

Zanya shifted her weight as Tara walked toward the shadowed figure standing unnervingly motionless in the woods.

“I…I…” Zanya forced her feet to uproot from the ground and rushed to catch up. “I’ll come with you.”

Tara grinned. “You have to admit, being eaten by a hungry pack of wolves is still better than being stuck in this loony bin by yourself.”

Zanya’s eyes widened. She’d made the wolf thing up, but what if…

Tara rested her hand on her hip and cocked her head. “Oh, come on. I’m just kidding.”

“Definitely not funny.”

“Sorry.” She grabbed Zanya’s hand. “Now come on. The longer we wait, the more likely it is she’ll catch frostbite. Poor thing is out here in nothing but that dress.”

Zanya walked over the damp leaves, pushing muddy water through the moss, between the cracks of her toes.

Now just yards away, Tara reached out to the young girl. “Hey. Come here. We’ll take you back.”

A gust of wind blew, carrying the child’s blonde waves off her shoulders. Her bright green eyes seemed to glow in the silky moonlight.

Tara dropped her arms and sighed. “I guess she likes freezing her ass off in the middle of the night.” When Tara stepped closer, the child darted into the woods. Tara scoffed. “I never want to have kids.”

Zanya blinked at the maze of shuddering trees. “Let’s get out of here.” She stepped back. “Now.”

“We have to get that girl. If she stays out here overnight, she’ll freeze to death.”

Zanya couldn’t feel the cold anymore. Whether that was good or bad, she wasn’t sure.

The little girl carved a deeper path into the forest.

Tara shook her head. “Something’s not right. It’s like she’s running away from us.”

“Maybe she’s one of the more critical psych patients.”

“I don’t know, maybe.” Tara cupped her fingers over her nose and mouth to keep them warm while she searched their surroundings. “You’re right. We shouldn’t have come out here alone. Let’s go back.”

A tiny girl, no older than eight or nine years old, stepped into sight. Her nightgown was damp and smeared with mud.

Tara’s eyebrows crooked downward. “There you are. Now we can get out of here.” Tara held out her hand to the child, who only stared at her reaching fingers.

The child stepped to the side and slid her small hand into Zanya’s. The little girl’s bare feet was covered in pine needles.

“Come on,” Zanya said. “I’ll carry you back. You must be freezing out here with no shoes.” She would know, being in the exact same situation. She lifted the small-framed child to her hip, and the girl wound her legs around Zanya’s body. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

She didn’t reply.

“She’s probably too freaked out to talk,” Tara said. “Let’s just get back.”

Zanya did her best to shield the child from the wind as she followed Tara back toward the orphanage. She hummed the tune to Romance softly in the little girl’s ear. The melody had always calmed her. Maybe it would do the same for the kid.

The girl’s cheek pressed against hers. “Thank you for rescuing me,” she whispered in a tiny, angelic voice.

Her humming must have worked. “You’re welcome, sweetie.”

The girl’s blonde hair bobbed up and down with a subtle nod. “Everything will be fine, Zanya. Do not be afraid.”

Zanya smiled softly. “I’m not scared. Are you?”

“No.” The little girl hugged her tighter. The stars twinkled above them blurred into streaks. Her head spun and her knees buckled. She collapsed onto the damp forest floor.

Trapped in a thick mental fog, she fought to break through. Her eyes fluttered open and closed. Snapshots of what was happening around her filtered through the cerebral haze.

The girl stood over her, staring down with a sweet face and bright eyes. A tiny smile curled the corners of her delicate lips.

Another voice. It was stronger. Deeper. Who… God, she was so tired. She would give anything to be able to just relax her mind and drift off.

A mixture of voices and a shout from Tara sprouted a renewed resolve, and Zanya pushed against the desire to sleep with all her might. When she managed to force open her eyes, a dark-haired man leaned over her. Tara crept toward him with a small log clenched in her hand.

Heavy lids drew over her eyes.

A loud thud followed by scrambling movements forced Zanya’s eyes open one last time.

The man struggled to hold a flailing Tara under his arm like a bag of potatoes while rubbing the back of his head. Was he talking to himself? The child seemed to be paying attention, but didn’t reply. Still, while Tara kicked and punched, he continued to hold what seemed like a one-sided conversation.

A second later he dropped Tara to the ground with a shout, and lifted his shirt to find a crescent bite wound over his ribs.

The young girl loomed over Tara; then, silence.

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

 

HOSTED BY:

The Stone Legacy Series Cover Reveals @TheresaDaLayne @EJBookPromos

Mayan Blood, Interlude, and Lights of Aurora
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Books 1-3
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Their empires have fallen, but their mythology lives on…
Zanya Coreandero is a seventeen-year-old orphan with only a single friend and no hope for a normal life. Diagnosed with anxiety and night terrors, no one believes her cuts and bruises are a result of an evil entity, and not a brutal case of self-harm.
With the only home she’s ever known being the isolated institution—where breakfast is a handful of medications, the psychiatry sessions are mandatory, and her every move is watched—the only relief is her red-haired roommate named Tara, who’s more like a little sister than her best friend.
Free will is strong, but destiny is stronger.

When Zanya is kidnapped, she meets a group of gifted Mayan descendants, each with a unique ability. Gone from a nameless castaway to the only hope of mankind, Zanya is forced to make a grueling decision: bond with an enchanted stone and save humanity from rising underworld forces, or watch helplessly as Earth falls victim to a familiar dark deity from her dreams. This time, he’s playing for keeps.

A wicked secret hides behind a handsome face…

When Arwan, a dark-eyed timebender, takes interest in Zanya’s mission, it’s unclear if his intention is to help, or if he’s on a hell-bent mission for revenge. Wary of falling for another guy with major secrets and a tainted past, Zanya fights to keep her distance. If only her heart gave her a choice.
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 29, 2015

 

 

Tara may have spent years in an asylum, but that doesn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with a the group of enchanted Mayan descendants, seventeen-year-old Tara is forced to wait on the sideline while her best friend—the Stone Guardian— battles to reclaim a friend’s soul trapped in the underworld.
It sucks being ordinary when everyone else is superhuman…

A mortal girl with a tainted past, Tara is left to deal with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Her boyfriend, Peter, is a healer. Her best friend is The Guardian, and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. Meanwhile, she struggles to leave her childhood of abuse in the past, and while Peter picks her up every time she falls, it becomes clear he deserves better.
When they opened Pandora’s Box, hell came pouring out…
When she’s given a chance to aid in the group’s mission, Tara is eager to pull her own weight, even if it means uncovering buried memories of being held prisoner by the underworld general. Now haunted with flashbacks of torture, Tara wanders from the safety of Peter’s arms into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.
He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground ring of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…
RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 12, 2016
After living her entire life in an orphan asylum, Zanya fears she may actually be losing her mind.
Following the discovery of her ancient Maya bloodlines, eighteen-year-old Zanya Coreandero is faced with a daunting responsibility. She must protect the relic stone while Sarian, the underworld general, ceaselessly drives her to the brink of insanity.
With the approach of an ancient bonding ceremony, Zanya struggles to control her abilities—and her desires…
As the winter solstice approaches, it brings an onslaught of unexpected side effects. While Zanya struggles to seize control over her supercharged powers, she must also face an overwhelming suspicion that her boyfriend, Arwan, is hiding a secret so dark it could destroy them both. And with her powers finally taking root, the struggle to pace their relationship takes on a life of its own.
Just when she thought life couldn’t get more complicated…
With the arrival of a surprise houseguest, Zanya’s deepest fears about Arwan are confirmed. And when middleworld deities intercede, the group of gifted Maya descendants are confronted with hardships they never saw coming—including an enemy more deadly than they have ever faced.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And when that woman has no soul and a taste for revenge, they will need the powers of every surviving ancestor simply to stay alive.​
RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 26, 2016

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

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