Lifeblood by Gena Showalter

The light Expands and the darkness Narrows

I’ve heard it said your entire life f lashes before your eyes as you die. The words comfort those who have loved and been loved but torment those who have failed and been failed.

I say: Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?

My Firstlife is over, but my Everlife is only now beginning.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…

The shadows will scatter…and every life will matter…

It’s time to do what I was born to do. It’s time to arise and shine.

Whatever I face—be it war, persecution, hunger, simple threats or my Second-death—I will not be deterred. Night will be replaced by day, and those who cry in the dark will rejoice in the morning.

The day is about to dawn. Time is short. Let the battle begin.

Chapter One

“Tribulation reveals your greatest strength…or greatest weakness.” —Troika

Sand in the hourglass falls, one grain at a time…time…one second bleeds into two…three.

I try to piece together my fragmented thoughts, but it’s difficult, my mind hazy. Four…

Numbers. My greatest obsession. Numbers never lie, and they always tell a story.

Five…

Five! Five minutes and fourteen seconds ago, I died.

From now on, there will be no second chances. No doovers.

Everything I do matters. Every word I say. Every action

I take. Every person I befriend, and every enemy I slay.

Welcome to the Everlife.

The words drift through me, a whisper of wind or perhaps my first breath as the spirit inside my broken body awakens.

Arise! Arise and Shine!

Six…seven…

Seventeen. I’m seventeen years old. I was born on the tenth day of the tenth month at 10:10 a.m., and I died on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 10:14 a.m.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 4 = 10

A shadow laughs at me, proclaiming, “Ah ha! The work of Fate!”

Even dead, I sneer. Fate is a myth. An excuse. A way to cast blame. I’ll never believe everything happens for a divine reason, or that nothing we do or say will change the course of our lives. Bottom line: our present is the sum total of decisions made in the past. Our decisions, and the decisions made by others.

Responsibility counts.

Eight, nine… Ten! My name is Tenley Lockwood…

“Ten” to my friends.

5 + 5 = 10. Representative of equal parts of two exact opposites.

The shadow trembles and f lees, and a beam of light strokes over me, tender and sweet. I bask in the warmth and light…and the knowledge…yes, oh yes, the knowledge… the beginning and the end and the new beginning are finally crystal clear. My body lies on a blood-drenched street in the heart of LA, where Troika and Myriad are locked in a fierce and brutal battle.

Troika fought to save my Firstlife while Myriad fought to end it.

Myriad proved successful, but they lost more than they won. With my last breath, I pledged my allegiance to Troika, evermore, evermore. I’m a Troikan now. A solider in the war between realms.

I have enemies. Fierce enemies. Beautiful enemies. Like Killian, a top Laborer in Myriad.

Killian, the boy I…like. Except, I’m supposed to hate him, and he’s supposed to hate me.

Every fiber of my being f linches in revulsion. I would rather die—again—than harm him. He means too much to me and—

He means too much to me!

My feelings for him haven’t changed.

“Is she dead?” The harsh, unfamiliar voice claims my attention. “Did she sign with Troika?”

“Aye and aye.” That voice I know. An Irish lilt accompanied by a husky rasp. Excitement spills through me. Killian.

Killian is here. With me!

“Better than the alternative, I suppose,” Unfamiliar continues. In the distance, the clank and clank of dueling swords rings out. “If she’d gotten inside Many Ends again…” A tension-laden pause while—I imagine—he shudders. “Dispose of her body before the Troikans can free her spirit. I’ll alert the troops, and we’ll prevent anyone from—”

A pained gasp. A hard thump.

The speaker just…fell? After being attacked? By Killian?

But…he’s on the same side as Killian. Why would Killian harm his brother-by-realm?

For me. Only ever for me.

The answer drifts through me, tossing kindling on the fuel of my excitement.

When he had the chance to finally seal the deal with Myriad—and ultimately save himself from the sting of failure— he urged me to sigh with Troika. Because that’s where I belong, and we both knew it. My needs were more important to him than his own wants.

Then Unfamiliar’s speech worms its way into my awareness, and I wilt. She. Meaning me. He hoped to keep my spirit trapped inside my body.

Trapped… I’m trapped. The reason I can hear but not see.

I have to break free. And fast! Because flesh and bone make up an outer casing, my spirit should have an easy in, easy out, but I punch and kick to no avail.

Panic rushes through me, a tidal wave, nearly choking me. Desperate for a distraction, I replay my final moments. A poisoned spear pierced my chest. The instrument of my demise. No, no, that’s not true. The instrument of my demise was the girl who’d thrown the spear. Sloan Aubuchon. Once a dear friend, now a sworn enemy.

Her final words to me: I hate him more than I love you. I’m sorry.

Him. Dr. Vans, the monster who’d overseen every facet of our torture at Prynne Asylum for over a year. Myriad vowed to help her punish Vans in the Everlife—but only if she killed me.

Granted, the things he’d done to her were far worse than the things he’d done to me.

Excuses, excuses. Decisions, decisions. I decided to trust her. She decided to betray me.

Killian had then yanked the spear out of me to impale Sloan. An act of vengeance and rage, the darkness inside him bubbling over.

Killed one of his own. For me. The sworn enemy. He’ll be punished.

Must help him.

My struggles start up again, more intense this time, but even still, I remain trapped. Panic returns, quickly catching fire. The flames spread over the rest of me.

Stop. Stop! Fear is my enemy, the great destroyer of everything right in a world gone wrong. I fight for calm. Deep breath in…out…

Good, good…my heartbeat is slowing…

Wait. My spirit needs to breathe? A new heart is beating inside my chest?

“Where is she?” Another voice penetrates my awareness, this one as recognizable as Killian’s.

Deacon, a TL. My friend. From our first introduction to our last interaction, he’s always reminded me of a diehard warrior of old, his sense of honor as much as part of him as his muscle and brawn.

“Over here,” Killian responds. “She’s already…it’s too late to save…” Agony drips from the words, making my stomach clench.

A spirit-hand ghosts through what should be tangible to shackle what should be intangible, except the opposite is true. In seconds, my spirit is yanked from the motionless husk of my body, like a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon. Suddenly I’m steady on my feet, and I can see.

The world around me slows for my perusal. My gaze widens as I drink in the realm I’ve only ever seen in glimpses—the spirit realm. Sunlight is magnificent, more radiant than I ever could have imagined, dappled golden rays cascading from a sky of sapphire silk, clouds sprinkling the land below with a breathtaking rain of diamond dust.

No, not really clouds, after all, but massive crystals that form the foundation for multi-tiered castles. Armed soldiers march along the parapets.

Guard towers, from which humans are watched and spiritual battles are often fought.

The knowledge fills me…surprises me. I’ve never been taught about guard towers, and yet I now know all about them?

Wait. Wait! I have been taught. Years ago. I was five, and it was during a realm-history class.

My mind…a shroud has been lifted, giving me access to memories I’d forgotten I possessed. And oh, wow, how can I concentrate? I’m being bathed by drugging warmth, my head fogging with the most delectable scents: wild flowers, fruit trees and newly ripened berries. I inhale deeply, savoring.

“Don’t let anyone near her until she’s hooked,” Killian says, jolting me from my own personal fairytale.

My gaze locks with his. His eyes are a soulful gold with flecks of electric blue.

In one, there are five flecks. In the other, there are three. At our first meeting, I compared those flecks to an octave. The fifth and third note create the basic foundation for all chords, and whenever he looks at me, my blood sings.

I experience another jolt as he leaps into motion, stabbing a fellow Myriadian in the neck to stop the soldier from approaching me. The body falls to the ground and doesn’t even twitch. Killian walks to me, my heart racing all over again. The violence of his actions disconcerts me, but I root my feet in place, unwilling to move.

“Stop hurting your people on my behalf,” I say.

“I’ll protect you however I see fit, lass.” He drops his sword and reaches for me with calloused hands.

When he cups my face, I gasp with delight. I’ve longed to feel him this way for so long. Skin-to-skin, nothing between us. Not flesh, not Shell. Not life or death.

He studies me, and I study him right back. Shadows cling to him, but they do nothing to detract from his otherworldly beauty. Ebony silk hangs over a strong brow and swoops to one side, creating a roguish frame for equally roguish features. His eyebrows are thick and black, his skin bronzed and poreless, as if his flesh has been painted on.

His nose is blade sharp, but leads to soft lips that could almost be classified as feminine but on him, those lips are pure, male aggression. His triangular jaw is dusted with stubble my fingers long to caress.

Tingles roll down my spine, and I like it…at first. They heat…and heat…until I’m burning up—dying again? I tremble, droplets of sweat sliding between my shoulder blades.

I must be dying again, and this time, life as I know it will end. I’ll enter into the Rest, forever separated from the spirit and natural realms. But at least I’ll be with Archer, my TL. The boy I loved like a brother. He died trying to save me. He died today.

Sorrow swamps me. He died for nothing!

I clasp Killian’s wrists and croak, “Help me.”

“You’re tense. Relax.” A rough demand he expects me to heed without question. A tone he uses for others, but not for me. Not anymore.

You relax!” Pain claws through my throat, and hot coals fill my stomach. “I don’t know what’s… I can’t… I’m…”

“You’re being hooked to your Grid.”

Grid? “I think something’s wrong,” I manage to push past the barbed lump growing in my throat.

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything is finally right.”

I breathe in and out with purpose. Then I hold my breath. Then I allow myself to pant. Nothing helps, my every cell flaming to ash. A thousand pinpricks of agony have taken residence inside me, and they’re having a block party, serving roasted Ten. Music blares through my head— my screams. I can’t stop screaming though my ears detect

only silence.

Bright light shines through me, and emotions I had unwittingly hidden in dark corners of my mind are suddenly exposed, as if rocks have been kicked over and bugs are scrambling to escape. Hatred for my father. Rage for circumstances beyond my control. More sorrow.

Nothing can hide, and I hiss.

In an instant, the burn collects in three distinct places. The Troikan symbol—a circle with three leaves—appears in the centre of both my palms while three sets of numbers appear along my right arm. Spiritual brands.

Finally, blessedly, the pain subsides, and I whimper with relief.

“The numbers…they’re your Key.” Killian gently brushes his fingers over the first set.

Where we touch, my skin grows ice-cold. I gasp.

He curses and steps away from me, severing contact.

Frowning, I flatten my hand over his heart. The cold once again spreads over me, from the tips of my fingers to the tops of my shoulders. A cold that is bone-deep.

“Zero!” I utter my favourite curse word as I step away from him. Just like that, the cold leaves me.

A muscle tics beneath his eye. “And so it has begun.”

Chapter Two

“Tribulation merely proves you lack a protector.” —Myriad

As I gaze into Killian’s eyes, I don’t have to ask what “it” is. More than once, he warned me. If I sided with Troika, our relationship would crumble. I disregarded him every time. Now I get it, and I want to weep. Physically, our bodies will forever reject each other. Darkness and light cannot coexist. One will always chase the other away.

But…but…why is one realm dark and one realm light? Why are the people in each so inherently different?

“All right.” Deacon latches on to my wrist, and my body welcomes the connection, warming rather than chilling. Of course. Light will always complement light. “This reunion is now officially over.”

As he urges me backward, Killian gives me a stiff nod and finally breaks eye contact, turning away to slip inside his Shell. No longer held captive by siren song of his gaze, my surroundings zoom into focus, and I swallow hard.

Countless spirits and Shells who fought to save me or kill me are in pieces, severed limbs scattered in every direction.

Death is never supposed to be pretty, especially such brutal, violent death, and yet the sight is somehow glorious. Lifeblood, the source of any spirit’s strength, glitters like the clearest, purest gold that’s been mixed with flecks from a rainbow.

As a human, I was never able to tell the difference between a human and the humanoid outer casing that makes a spirit tangible to the physical world. Now? I can tell with a single glance. Spirits are luminescent. Shells are dense with a plastic-like appearance I never before noticed. I can even tell the difference between Troikans and Myriadians. Every Troikan is a sunrise while every Myriadian is a sunset.

Light versus shadow. Bright versus gloom.

I snap out of my revere as Killian grabs a spear. The one Sloan used to kill me. The one that still lodged inside her chest. Her body jerks, only to slink from the column propping it up to lie on the ground, motionless. A Myriadian soldier rushes over, reaches through her torso and

pulls out her spirit—

And there she is, the real Sloan. She looks the same, and yet somehow completely different. Before, she was a model-pretty blonde. Now she’s exquisite, an incomparable beauty.

With hair as white as snow and lips as red as wine, she will lure you closer…and on your heart she will dine.

My hands ball into fists, the urge to lash out at her bombarding me. This girl betrayed me, killed me, and now she’s being given a second chance?

She gazes around with wide eyes the colour of a morning sky, distracted and unaware of the danger. No better time to strike…

I wrench free of Deacon and take a step toward her, but those shadows…oily and black…they thicken around her and only a few seconds later, she vanishes.

My anger escalates. “Where did she go?”

“Where else? Myriad.” He latches on to me once again and tugs. “You need to go to Troika.”

My gaze slides to him at last. He appears to be my age, though he’s infinitely older. He’s black and beautiful, his dark hair shorn to his scalp, his green eyes like the very heartbeat of summer. His nose is a smidge too long and his mouth a smidge too thin, but neither matters. He looks like the bad boy he once accused Killian of being. Rough, tough and buff.

He’s wearing a black leather vest with small silver blades acting as buttons. His matching leather pants have five zippers on each leg.

5 + 5 = 10

Wait. I saw him only minutes before I died, and he’d been wearing a white robe with white trim. My brow furrows with confusion. Changing during the heat of battle isn’t impossible, but it also isn’t likely.

Then the answer hits me, and I sigh. Right. His spirit was encased inside a Shell he has since shed as easily as I shed my body.

“You’re too vulnerable here,” he adds.

Vulnerable…yes. The war still rages, Troikan and Myriadian soldiers cutting each other down with fiery swords and shooting each other with laser guns. Shells are disintegrating left and right, shouts of fury and pain echoing.

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I want to stay.” I want to help. I’m not the type of person to stand on the sidelines or run from a fight.

But… I’m also not the type of person to fight for no reason. Who—or what—will I be combating today? Those who are against me, or those who are against Killian?

Deacon yanks me to the side as an arrow soars past me. I blink in astonishment.

“Go, Ten! Now!” Killian swings the spear he still holds and stabs the Troikan in the process of sneaking up behind him. “Before you’re killed and everything we did to help you is in vain!”

His actions feed the anger Sloan unearthed inside me, and I step toward him, intending to…what? I don’t want to hurt him, but I don’t want him to kill another Troikan.

My new brothers and sisters. My people.

Such affinity for people I’ve never met? And so quickly?

Yes! They’re here because of me. To help me. They’re in danger because of me.

Deacon tightens his hold, keeping me in place. “I can’t take you away from the Land of the Harvest without your permission, Ten. Say yes.”

So. Free will matters, even now, in a war zone…where more and more Troikans are gathering around Killian, attacking him en masse. He’s strong, but is he strong enough to survive?

Fear for him—and for everyone he’s fighting—stabs me in the heart. “I’m not ready to leave. Not yet.” Again I try to vault forward, but Deacon proves stronger. “Please. Let me go.”

“Be smart about this. These soldiers are using shadowbullets. Cartridges filled with a chemical able to suck the Light right out of you. You don’t have much Light right now and you’ll die quickly, easily.”

I don’t care. “Let me go, Deacon. Now.”

“Very well.” He obeys, free will important, even now.

I spring forward, determined to save the Troikans… while also aiding Killian. I lost my mom and brother. I watched as my dad was gunned down. I lost Archer. I can’t lose Killian, too. Along the way, I bend down to swipe up a sword of my own…but the weapon is ten times heavier than I expected, and I’m barely able to lift it. My arm begins to shake.

I shout a command to stand down as a Troikan notches an arrow, aims at Killian—and releases the bow. Killian uses the spear to block, the arrow pinging and falling to the Lifeblood-splattered ground. Thank the Firstking!

Two more arrows quickly follow, but Killian is fast enough to block them both. Not that his speed will save him in the end. At his left, another Troikan is coming in hot.

I have a choice. Help Killian, who is now supposed to be my enemy, by stopping—possibly hurting—the Troikan, who is in the process of aiming a Stag at him. For a Shell, the weapon is the worst of the worst, shooting darts that trap the spirit inside and prevent any sort of mobility. At least until the dart is removed. The spirit is left vulnerable to every kind of attack.

Closing in…must decide…

Maybe I can save him without harming her?

I drop the sword and dive in front of Killian, pushing him down, the action based solely on instinct. I’m a spirit. I have no idea what a Stag dart will do to me. But it’s too late to stop and ask. The dart flies through me—what is tangible to a Shell is intangible to a spirit—leaving a blaze of fire in its path before embedding in the column behind me.

A scream of pain slips my lips, my body seizing as volts of lightning arc through my veins.

When I crash to the ground, the girl who pulled the trigger stares at me with horror. She just shot one of her own, and I just saved the enemy. Her distraction puts her at a disadvantage, allowing a Myriadian to race in, swing a sword, and nearly remove her head. Another Troikan dives on her, shoving her out the way. The sword slices through his shoulder, removing the arm of his Shell.

My horror redoubles. Was his spirit arm removed, as well?

Killian stands and glares down at me. “I told you to go.”

That’s what he says to me? Where’s my Thank you, Ten?

He turns his glare to Deacon, who is fending off a Myriadian soldier. “If she’s killed today, I’ll blame you, aye.

Then I’ll retaliate, ending you and everyone you love.”

He is cold, uncaring and merciless. And he’s not done. He all but spits rocks at me as he helps me stand. “Say yes to Deacon. From this moment on, every death I deliver is on your hands, not mine.”

My knees are jelly, and I can’t stand without help. He holds me up with one hand, using the other to quickly and brutally swing the spear, stopping the contingent of Myriadian soldiers who’d rushed over to finish me off.

He’s defending me from his own people, only adding to the punishments he will suffer. My heart shrivels into a tiny ball of self-recrimination. By staying, I’m doing far more harm than good.

“Yes,” I finally rush out. “Yes, yes, yes.”

Deacon finishes off his attacker, closes the distance and drops his weapon to lift me up and cradle me against his chest. He’s injured, Lifeblood leaking from a wound in his shoulder, leaving a clear, glittery wet spot. I blame myself, my newly shriveled heart aching.

He says something in a language I don’t understand. A second later, we’re standing atop the parapet of one of the guard towers. Troikans border us on every side, facing away from us and at the ready.

As I look them over, I’m set adrift in a sea of helplessness and despair, waves crashing over me, doing their best to drown me. I have no life raft. No anchor.

Archer should be here.

Myriadians suddenly appear, their shadow-tipped arrows notched…arching through the sky. The Troikans swing their fiery swords to block, and the arrows burn to ash.

As the two armies leap forward and clash together, Deacon drops me. I crash land, still too weak to stand on my own. He scowls as he yanks a necklace from his neck, uncorks the top and bends down to pour the contents down my throat. Liquid manna—spirit food as well as medicine. It’s warm and amazingly sweet, and as it sweeps through me, the fire dies and my strength returns.

“You got anymore?” I ask. He needs a dose or two himself.

“No.”

Zero! I lumber to my feet and blow the hair from my eyes, intending to shake him for wasting every drop on me. Only I stop, frown, and grab a fistful of strands to hold up to the light. They are cobalt blue.

As a human, my hair was black and yes, it had sometimes appeared blue, but it hadn’t actually been blue.

“My hair!”

“You should see the other changes,” Deacon says, reaching for me. “Time to go.”

Go? “Shouldn’t we help the others?” Killian isn’t here. I don’t have to worry about him or his actions.

“You’re that eager to die again?”

Hey! “I’ve got skills.” And I’m feisty.

“You don’t have a single skill. Like an infant, you can cry for help and crap your pants.”

Lovely.

“Now. If her majesty is ready to continue her travels…” he snaps, waving his fingers.

I frown. He blames me for everything that happened today, doesn’t he?

Well, why not? I blame myself. I requested the Troikan army, because I hoped to save Killian and Sloan. I put Archer in the line of fire.

Drowning again… “Yes,” I say softly. Let’s go.”

In a move too fast for me to track, Deacon slings an arm around my waist. Tension radiates from him. We dematerialize and reappear—

I gasp. We’re underneath a rainbow comprised of colours I’ve never before seen. Their closest counterparts are probably found within the many different shades of topaz, jasper, and beryl. And the peace…

There are no other Troikans, and no Myriadians either.

No battle. Just me and Deacon and the cool mist kissing my cheeks. The sweet scents I noticed before are amplified.

“This place…it’s beautiful.”

“It’s better than you deserve.” Deacon releases me, snapping,

“Your first day as a Troikan, you helped our adversary and nearly got two of my soldiers killed. Soldiers who put their lives on the line to help you.”

The sense of peace crumbles like a condemned building, a deluge of shame nearly sending me slamming back onto the ground. “I’m sorry.” Now that we’re safe, he’s unleashing, and I can’t blame him.

“Save your apologies for someone who wants to listen. I lost my best friend today. And why did I lose him? Because you convinced him to save your boyfriend from his own people—people he choose. And in return, your boyfriend killed more of my friends.”

“I lost Archer, too,” I whisper. I loved Archer. I wanted more days with him. More seconds. More numbers to add to the calendar charting our relationship. But he’s gone, now just a scar on my heart. I’ll never see him again. Never talk to him. Never hug him or laugh with him. “I believe—”

“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, Ten. Your actions do.”

Sorrow joins my shame, and I wrap trembling arms around my torso. At both the best and worst of times in my life, my mind does one of two things: obsesses over numbers or drafts a poem. My death, as it turns out, is no different.

I am Ten, the completion of a cycle. Composed of two numbers. 1 and 0. One: in the English language, strengths is the longest word with only a single vowel. Zero: neither a negative nor a positive.

Ten out of ten people will die during their lifetime.

The sarcastic fact fails to do the job, and my mind continues to race with numerical facts.

The two most popular numbers in the world add up to ten. 3 + 7 = 10. Three, the trinity…or troika. Spirit, soul and body. Seven, known as the perfect number. The number of continents, layers of skin—there are three main layers, as well as four other layers—the number of colors in a rainbow, notes of sound, dimensions and directions. Two opposite directions for each dimension, plus the centre… the static…the one that never changes.

Deacon scrubs a hand down his face. “At least the battle ended the moment you cleared the guard tower.”

“I’m glad.” No more deaths because of the decisions I made.

“Here’s what is going to happen now,” he says. “I’m taking you into Troika, where your family and friends are waiting to greet you. You will spend a week exploring the realm, getting to know the people then you will attend a welcome party for all who recently experienced Firstdeath. The next day, you’ll begin your training.”

I’m to become a General. A Conduit. The best of the best.

There are six main positions in Troika—General, Leader, Scout, Laborer, Messenger and Healer—with hundreds of sub-positions under each.

Six positions, just as there are six fundamental virtues: love, wisdom, truth, goodness, mercy and justice.

“Through it all,” he adds, “you’ll stay away from me.”

A lump grows in my throat, but I nod. “All right.” I owe him. I’ll respect his wishes—even if I can’t respect his attitude. Troikans praise the merits of forgiveness and lament the hazards of retaliation.

Troikans. I sigh. I mean We. I’m part of the family now, even if I feel set apart.

Feelings very rarely provide a realistic picture.

“Take me into Troika,” I say.

He clasps my shoulder and spins me around. I come face-to-face with a crimson-colored waterfall framed by a wall of glistening ruby geodes; the crystals are layered, like feathers, and stretch out on both sides, creating the illusion of wings.

I’m standing in the center of a crystal bridge that stretches underneath the water, and the beauty takes my breath away.

“This is the Veil of Wings,” he says. “The way into Troika. The only way in, though there are nine other exits. Only Troikans are able to pass through it. If a Myriadian tries, he dies.”

Message received. If I attempt to bring Killian inside, I’ll kill him.

All of a sudden, the weight of my decision to stand with one realm and rise against the other…to put everything I have, everything I am, into a single cause…to abandon the boy willing to kill for me, to die for me…assails me. Panic slays my calm.

I distract myself with a new poem.

 

Happiness is not obtainable.

And I will never believe that.

Love and light will lead the way.

Again and again, I’ve been shown that.

Pain and darkness always win.

It is a lie that.

Happiness…joy…they are a choice like any other.

The truth is.

There’s no way out of the abyss.

I will never be convinced that.

“Something better this way comes.”

“You just have to stand and fight the good fight.”

Actually.

I will say—

“Even worse is on the way.”

Because there is no way that.

We can escape the abyss.

 

Read down, it depresses me. Read up, I’m given hope…hope…yes, I cling to hope. Right now, it’s all I have.

“Come on.” Deacon marches across the bridge.

Resigned, I follow after him. I’m about to see my new— eternal—home for the first time. I’m about to meet the people I’ll be sharing space with. My new family. The ones I’ll be fighting to protect.

I picked them…but what if they don’t pick me?

The question haunts me as I step underneath the spray of water.


We hope you enjoyed this sample of Lifeblood by Gena Showalter!

Available from March 2017 - click here to learn more!

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