by Camela Thompson
Edited 5/5 to reflect Kindle sale end
Things are happening! The past few months have been outwardly quiet, but a lot has been in the works and now I can finally talk about it. Book two of The Hunted is being released by Booktrope on May 7th!! Haven't read All the Pretty Bones yet? You should get on that. Go here to get your very own copy.
Want free stuff? Okay! (See how easy that was?) Get the FREE Companion Stories for The Hunted series by signing up for my newsletter here. Newsletter members get early announcements and exclusive free content. I even hold contests from time to time. Emails go out at most twice per month and you can unsubscribe at any time (at the risk of missing out on awesomeness).
Back to book two. Greg Simanson has done a great job keeping Blood, Spirit, and Bone in line with his first design for book one of The Hunted series, All the Pretty Bones. He impresses me so much. Here it is:
Do you love it? I hope so! Book two dives deeper into the supernatural world, and we really wanted that to come through.
Join us for the Facebook bash on May 7th! It runs from 9AM-2PM PST. Stop by to meet new authors and a chance to win some cool prizes like Blood, Spirit, and Bone. In fact, there's already a contest running! Check it out:
Because I'm so excited about the upcoming launch, I'm posting a free chapter. After a lot of deliberation, I've selected one that will not contain spoilers for book one.
Warning: Adult language and content ahead. Only proceed if you are over the age of 18.
Winter was Theodore Oswald’s least favorite season in the cemetery. After parking the golf cart behind the maintenance shed on the north side of the grounds, he hunkered down in his seat and patted at his substantial arms. He had an unlikely composition for a security guard, with his sleeves of tattoos and long, black hair, but it was hard to find people willing to work the night shift, and he showed up on time. Theo was supposed to keep moving around the perimeter, but the shed helped break the wind and take the sting off his ears. The graveyard under a blanket of darkness was not new to him, but he preferred the summers. Besides being warmer, it stayed light until almost ten. He shone his flashlight over the stunted grass and a withered bunch of flowers next to one of the stones lying flush in the ground, and he shuddered. There was something that spoke to him about line after line of headstones without a single decent bouquet.
Working security at a cemetery wasn’t a bad job. It paid the bills, unlike the gigs his heavy metal band landed. Theo didn’t believe in ghosts. When life was over, it was oblivion for everyone, but he appreciated the silence. There was a symmetry that appealed to the artist in him. The weather was cold and the bodies were buried deep, rotting underground as they were supposed to. It didn’t matter how old the person was when they were put in the ground; the days and months that followed progressed pretty much the same for all of them. He understood what took place around him. When he had first landed the job, he had spent a little time researching the process of decomposition. He didn’t want to watch over something that was a mystery.
Theo unzipped his jacket and slid his thick finger into the front pocket of his shirt. He pulled out a blunt and grabbed his lighter. The flame temporarily blinded him in the darkness, but it was worth the burn that sat in his chest after a long drag. Another upside to working in a graveyard: The dead didn’t care if you killed time by getting blazed.
He held onto the toke as long as he could, but the burn got to be too much. His body shook as his breath jerked out in spasms with puffs of smoke escaping his nose and mouth. It took several moments of fighting the squeeze at his chest, made worse by the icy air, before he could take in a full breath.
“This shit,” Theo paused as another staccato burst of hacks shook his body, “is righteous.”
Within minutes, Theo’s chin numbed and warmth spread throughout his body. The crisp winter breeze felt good as a heat bloomed in his chest and cheeks. He tipped his head up toward the sky, marveling at stars and a sliver of the moon between puffy clouds. It was beautiful.
A faint rustling prompted Theo to lean out of his cart and look up to the branches above him. A black bird stared down at him in the moonlight, its head tilted with an eerie intelligence.
“Nevermore.” The Poe inspired quote sent Theo into a wheezing fit of laughter. Tears welled at the corners of his eyes before he realized he couldn’t remember what he had found so funny. “This is some serious weed.” Feathers rustled, recapturing his attention. “Right. The raven.” The bird tilted its head in the opposite direction, opened its beak, and shut it with a snap. It was an oddly threatening gesture, giving Theo visions of the creepy animal swooping down and clawing at his eyes. To ease some of his paranoia, he sat back in his seat to put the cart’s small canopy between himself and the bird.
Despite the barrier between them, Theo was uneasy. The atmosphere had shifted—something ominous hung in the air. It was possible that the marijuana had made him paranoid, but Theo shrugged off the suspicion. His normal reaction was couch lock and a profound need for cheese. As time ticked on, his anxiety intensified. He flipped the golf cart’s ignition and pulled forward so his vision wasn’t hampered by the tool shed. The cart was electric, but he switched it off out of habit to prevent any additional noise. A feeling of foreboding crawled up his back like a giant spider, making him sit up straight and squint into the night.
What Theo saw next nearly had him falling out of his seat onto the narrow asphalt path. A small patch of ground heaved near one of the grave markers. A ripping noise carried to him, although he couldn’t be certain whether it was from grass roots tearing or his own gasps. He convinced himself that he had gotten a bad batch of weed. Mold or something extra mixed in could cause hallucinations.
In the beam of the Maglite the ground moved. Was it a mole?
The theory died as quickly as it had been born—the small patch of heaving earth turned into a mound the size of a soccer ball.
Theo’s eyes were as dry as his mouth, but he couldn’t bring himself to blink. It was like passing an accident: Despite the fear of seeing something horrible, he couldn’t look away. The rustle of fabric made him jump and realize he had his hand hovering over the key to start the cart back up. As if the noise had caught the burrowing creature’s attention, the heaving stopped. This time Theo blinked twice, hoping to end the strange vision. As he was about to blow out a shaky exhale, the earth moved again, sending a small rock falling end over end down the mound.
His voice seemed to make the thing more frantic. Earth shifted and split, falling over to reveal a fissure. A hand, rotted with pieces of bone exposed at the end of the frayed fingertips, shot through the surface.
Theo didn’t wait for the rest of the creature to claw out of the ground. Whatever was digging its way up to the surface didn’t belong there. He hit the gas pedal to the floor and his eyes finally watered with the wind slashing at his face. White knuckles strained under his tattoos. He wished he had skipped the pot. Something rustled behind him. He risked a look back. Nothing but gravestones. When he faced forward he let out a scream, nearly tipping the cart as he swerved to avoid a marble statue. He had driven off the path and was bouncing over graves. What would have been dismissed as superstition minutes before had Theo praying that he wasn’t disturbing the bodies underneath.
“I shouldn’t have smoked! Shit!”
Theo sped for the parking lot. It seemed to take hours to drive the half mile down the winding hill. When he finally reached the front gate, he mashed his foot into the brake. The cart lurched as it skid to a stop. He risked a glance over his shoulder, expecting to see the gaping mouth of a monster. Instead, there was movement in the lowest branches of the closest tree. One lone crow landed and sat with its feathers puffed, watching, its eye gleaming in the moonlight.
Compared to the thing digging out of the ground, a crow was a welcome sight. Theo grasped at the keycard on his belt and slid it through the lock. A red light flashed and he swore. He flipped the card so the magnetic strip was facing the correct direction and the gate slowly slid open.
Once Theo was on the parking lot side of the gate, he turned and entered the code to close and lock it behind him. “I may be a coward, but I can’t unleash the zombie apocalypse on the world.” He nearly whimpered watching the metal fence first finish opening all the way before jolting forward to close. As the mechanism squeaked, he looked up at the hill. Branches hampered his view, but shadows moved in the distance. It was too dark to be certain whether a figure was looming, and the beam of his flashlight was too weak to bring clarity.
The gate had another foot to go when Theo yelled, “Zombies be damned!” He ran to his little car, opened the door, and crammed his key into the ignition. The dilapidated beater sputtered and wheezed, dying out several times before the motor finally caught. A cry of joy was followed by a frown. Driving a golf cart down a hill was one thing, but operating a car while high was something he had never done and didn’t believe in. After a furtive glance at the graveyard, Theo put the car in reverse and pulled a K-turn to face the highway. He spent several moments with his hands squeezing the steering wheel as he debated whether or not to proceed. He could call the cops, but he was scared he would be arrested or harassed. Marijuana was legal, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t lose his job. Furthermore, it was still possible the whole thing was a drug-fueled hallucination. Theo turned in his seat and looked at the cemetery again. No movement caught his eye, but he didn’t feel like getting out of the car to take a better look.
After much internal debate, Theo decided to drive a mile up the road and have a drink at the bar. It was still early enough that he could nurse a beer for two hours and then come back to see whether or not it was all in his head. His employer would never miss him and he could keep his job. Perhaps the late-night horror flicks and internet searches on decomposition had finally caught up to him. He leaned forward to check to the left and then to the right. It was as if darkness had descended on the car, burning out the street lights and obscuring the world around him. His arms felt fuzzy and his head was full. Theo double checked the traffic and leaned out further to see to the right before pulling onto the street and making a left turn.
Looking back to the left, the fog of darkness dissipated like the flip of a light switch. He was blinded by two giant beams of light and a bellow like a foghorn rattled his teeth. For Theo it all ended in a flash of pain.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.