Title: Dark Dreams and Dead Things
Author: Martina McAtee
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend.
Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.
Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.
An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.
Martina McAtee lives in Jupiter, Florida with her teenage daughter, her best friend, two attack chihuahua’s and two shady looking cats. When she isn’t writing young adult books about worlds with reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures she’s reading or watching shows that involve reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. Her debut novel Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things released in August of 2015. Her second book in the Dead Things series, Dark Dreams and Dead Things, will release July 15, 2016.
“It would appear you owe me a new body, Luv.”
November Lonergan stared at the ghost of her dead pseudo-boyfriend and contemplated how truly screwed up her life had become. Despite everything that happened that night, Mace was there, standing in her window, fading in and out, image static. She sighed from her toes, not sure how she felt about the situation. Of course he was there.
He flickered, image strengthening as she got closer. There was still blood on his torn t-shirt but his silver hair looked cleaner than the last time she’d seen him. The symbols she’d painted on his skin were gone but the of scars layered across his torso remained. His dark brows were smudges over luminous silver eyes. He was beautiful even in death.
She opened her mouth to say something but realized there was nothing at all suitable for this occasion. She’d already endured a blood ritual, two deaths, a knife fight and a resurrection; she didn’t know if she could handle anything else today. Her magic didn’t agree, it stretched and purred at Mace’s presence, reaching out for his power. Even death hadn’t severed their magic’s connection it seemed. She didn’t give in to the temptation to move closer.
The heat of her magic and a bone deep exhaustion had her swaying on her feet. He moved towards her before seeming to remember he was of little use in his present condition. “You don’t look very well. Maybe you should sit down.”
Ember nodded, not so much sitting as collapsing onto her pale pink bedspread. “Or you could lie down.” She heard Mace mutter. She yawned so hard her jaw cracked. She was still fully clothed but undressing seemed as impossible as climbing a mountain. She wiggled her toes. She needed to take her shoes off. She made a halfhearted attempt. “When did my feet get so far away?”
He glanced at her feet. “They appear to be in the same place as always.” He walked back towards the window. “While you’re just lying about perhaps you could enlighten me on how exactly you plan to fix this disaster?”
Ember blinked up at him. Funny how quickly his affections turned. “An hour ago it was ‘do what you have to do, Luv. I could have loved you’ now it’s hurry up and fix this?”
He chuckled at her terrible impression of his accent. “I was trying to be noble and romantic in my final moments of existence. Now that I still exist, I think we’ve wasted enough time on sentiment.”
“Having your soul back obviously hasn’t made you a better person.”
“Did you think it would? I told you not to romanticize me. My soul was tarnished long before I gave it away.” Even as a glitchy apparition, she could see the moment her words sunk in. “Did you say my soul?”
He hadn’t realized what him appearing in her room meant. “Didn’t you wonder why you’re still here?”
“Certainly, but that wasn’t the answer I expected. How?”
Ember yawned again, eyelids drooping. “Can’t we talk about it tomorrow? I’m so tired.”
He gaped at her. “Seriously? You tell me I have a soul and now you want to go to sleep?”
“Yes. I’m tired. I’ve had a rather rough day.”
“Really? Did a witch force you to cut open your own stomach and create a mural with your own entrails? No? Then I win.”
Ember was too tired to play. “Drama queen.”
There was a long pause before he said. “You might consider a shower. You are still covered in blood. My blood specifically. Quite a lot actually.”
Ember groaned, looking down at herself with effort. She was pretty gross. She was so tired though. “If you weren’t a ghost I’d force you to carry me.”
There was a low chuckle. “Inviting me to shower with you? I’m sure that would go over quite well with the little alpha.”
Ember thought about the alpha werewolf currently downstairs cleaning the kitchen. After the night they’d all had, she doubted Isa would be concerning herself with such mundane things as teenage hormones. Could the wolves hear her talking to Mace? Could they hear Mace? See him? Did they think she was in here talking to herself? Could she only see him because she was a reaper? She had so many questions.
She rolled to her feet, grabbing her things and keeping her thoughts to herself. She hurried to the bathroom and locked the door. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and froze. He wasn’t lying. She was covered in blood, and not just his blood. Her bright orange curls were a tangled sweaty mess matted together with blood and who knows what else. There were dark smudges under her eyes, making her already pale skin look chalky under the soft white lights. Her violet eyes glowed–actually, glowed–like the wolves did mid shift. That was new. Had they been glowing since the ritual or was Mace’s presence sending her magic into hyper-drive?
She flipped the water on and stripped down, not even waiting for the water to heat up before stepping beneath the spray. She realized almost immediately her mistake. She muffled a scream, bouncing from one foot to the other under the frigid water, relaxing only when steam finally began to rise.
“So, tell me; how did I get back my soul?”
Ember gasped, slipping and yelping as her back hit the cold tiles. She stuck her head around the curtain. “There is a reason these doors lock.”
His smile was disarming. “There isn’t a lock in the world that would keep me away from you, Luv.”
She rolled her eyes, righting the navy and white shower curtain, absently wondering how much he could see in those white stripes. “That is like the most stalkery thing you’ve ever said to me and you rank really high on the creepy-lurker-stalker-guy meter.”
There was another throaty laugh. “I am starting to think this power has gone to your head. Five hours ago you were weeping at my side like a war widow.”
Her mouth fell open. She yanked the curtain back enough to level a glare at him. “Five hours ago, I thought I’d never see you again. Five hours ago, I thought I needed you. Five hours ago, I hadn’t known you’d been playing me the entire time. Remember? You’re the parasite and I’m the host. You needed me. You lied to me this whole time.”
He shrugged, incredulous. “Of course, I lied. I could hardly tell you the truth. You would have booted me into the abyss, which you ended up doing anyway, I might add.”
She made a noise of disgust. This was Mace with a soul. “I’m such an idiot.” She said, more to herself than him. He tilted his head, a hint of something behind his eyes, regret maybe? She didn’t give in, letting the curtain drop back into place, determined to ignore him.
She scrubbed herself quickly, alarmed at how little it bothered her to have this conversation with him while she was naked.
“I didn’t lie about my feelings for you, Luv; if that means anything?” “Hah.” Like she was going to believe anything he said now.
“I’m serious. If you believe nothing else. Believe I meant what I said.”
“You said you could love me. If you’d been capable. Well, apparently you were capable this whole time. So I don’t even know what to do with your half-assed confession of love.”
Why was she even talking about this? Maybe it was the shower curtain. It was like a confessional. It was so much easier to talk to somebody when you didn’t have to look at them.
“Half-assed?” He said, “I sacrificed myself so that our dear friend, Quinn, could have my body.”
Ember choked on her laugh. “Oh, please. You were kidnapped and tied to a chair with a gaping abdominal wound. It’s not like you volunteered for the job.” Ember’s eyes dropped to her feet, shuddering at the blood spiraling towards the drain.
Mace wasn’t done being offended. “Well, that hardly matters. Quinn’s soul is safely housed in my body and I’m…here? So you could at least tell me how this all came to be.”
Ember rolled her eyes. He was impossible. “Not that you deserve any sort of explanation but Ms. Josephine says I restored your soul the night we met in the cemetery.”
He was quiet for so long she caved and, yet again, pulled the curtain back enough to ensure he was still there. He stared at nothing, jaw slack. “I’ve had my soul the whole time?”
“Yep.” She couldn’t help but feel a bit smug about how wrecked he looked.
She slathered conditioner into her hair. “That’s what Josephine thinks.”
“The swamp witch?”
“Oh, that’s right. You were dead. Josephine the swamp witch isn’t a witch at all. Well, maybe she’s a witch but she’s also an Oracle, because those are apparently a thing too. Oh, and Miller, my boss from the funeral home is actually Josephine’s brother and she’s had him, like, watching me this whole time and Donovan is her grandson.”
He sounded awed as he said, “Good Lord, how long have I been dead? I’ve clearly missed a lot.”
“You have no idea. Allister tried to kill me but Quinn saved me by stabbing Allister but as Allister was dying he forced Quinn to absorb his magic.”
“The human killed his own father to save you? I didn’t think he had it in him.”
“Former human.” She corrected. “Besides, Allister isn’t dead.”
“What? What do you mean? You just said Quinn killed him.”
She hesitated before saying, “I revived him.”
“Revived or resurrected?” Mace asked, leery.
“What’s the difference?” Ember asked, deliberately avoiding answering.
“Reviving is CPR, resurrecting is bringing a soul back across the veil. Stop being evasive, Luv.”
“Fine, I resurrected him.”
“With a spell?”
“No” she said, tone casual. “With my hands.”
She could hear his forced exhalation. “This is all very astonishing, even in our circle.”
Her heart did a strange skip at the word ‘our’. She was pathetic. She snagged the towel and wrapped it around herself.
“Why would they go to all this trouble to orchestrate this elaborate plan?”
She yanked the curtain open and stared at him. His eyes roamed her body, starting at her toes and working their way up. He grinned at her petulant expression. “Sorry, Luv. I’m dead, not blind. I’ve never been so jealous of a piece of cotton.”
She rolled her eyes. “Move, please.”
“Why? You can just walk right through me.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “I encourage it, in fact.”
When she didn’t take the bait he moved, following her back into her bedroom. “You didn’t answer my questions. So, what are you to two witches? Or a witch and an oracle?”
“They have a crazy theory.”
“Which is…?” he prompted in exasperation.
“They believe that Tristin, Kai and I are descendants of some ancient triple goddess.”
“The Morrigan?” Mace said, sounding like the breath had been punched from his lungs.
Ember narrowed her eyes. “Yes, exactly. They say there is some sort of prophecy. It’s insane. They are both insane.”
He watched her for a moment as she wriggled into her t-shirt and sleep shorts without revealing anything. She towel-dried her curls.
“I suppose it makes sense.”
“Nothing about this situation makes sense.” She told him, slipping between the sheets with a moan that bordered on obscene. She didn’t know what sex felt like but she bet it wasn’t as good as cold Egyptian cotton with a 700 thread count. She flipped her light off, amused as his spirit gave off a faint glow allowing her to see his annoyed expression.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“We’ve had this conversation. Going to sleep.”
“You can’t. We have to figure this out.”
“What if I’m not here tomorrow?” He asked quietly.
Ember’s eyes jerked open, pulse tripping. She hadn’t thought about that. Could he cross over?
Would he want that? He’d been immortal for a very long time. “You mean what if you cross over? Could you? Is that something you’d want?”
He sounded sick when he said, “To be tortured for all eternity in the pits of hell? No, Luv, I’ll pass, thank you. Besides, soul or no, sluagh can’t cross over into the spirit world.”
“So why do you look so worried?”
“Because there are things far worse.”
“Worse than hell?”
“Aye. I told you before, nobody gets away with the things I did.”
“We’ll figure something out.” She said without thinking. Why was she still trying to help him? He really wasn’t her problem. All those squishy sad feelings she’d had after he was gone were quickly turning to something else. She didn’t know what to call it but it felt like it was burning a hole through her chest.
She reached out; her hand brushing his. Her magic shocked through her, causing them both to suck in a breath.
Again, that same spooked look. It made her shiver. What the hell could scare Mace?
“But we have to figure this out tonight.”
She wanted to tell him not to worry but she felt drugged, eyelids so heavy. “Tomorrow. I promise.”
“Ember.” Her name sounded like a plea but she was too far gone.
“Tomorrow.” She mumbled, already falling into sleep.