Someone is killing unmarked souls, and Ru Roberts is the only one that can stop them. That’s a bit of a problem, though, since she has no idea she’s a Keeper.
When the devastatingly handsome Cutter Michaels comes to town and starts filling Ru’s head with all sorts of fantasies, telling her she’s the daughter of a half-angel and half-demon, and the only one who can help them locate and destroy three portals to hell, she thinks he’s nuts. He says he needs her help to stop the Grim Reapers who are using the portals to ferry souls away, and Ru finds herself being sucked into his delusions.
Once she begins having strange dreams and comes face to face with Thanatos, the most powerful Reaper of all, Ru thinks there might be something to Cutter’s claims. Will joining him help Ru to discover the powers coursing through her veins, or will Thanatos claim her as his own?
Targeted Age Group:: YA, adult audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to tell the story of an ordinary woman with a troubled past who realizes she is capable of anything once someone shows they believe in her. Ru's been told her whole life that she "ruins" everything, but once she begins to unravel her own mysterious past, she realizes it's not true. In fact, she might just be able to singlehandedly safe the world.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wondered what it would be like to have a name like Ruin, one that implies you can't do anything right. Would there be circumstances where you could overcome such a fate? It turns out Ru's lot–or the hand she's been dealt–is an important one. I wanted to see her metamorphosis from a fragile young lady to a confident woman who knows she can do anything despite her past and her unfortunate name.
Silence is golden, until it isn’t. The forest was dark, and even though Jim stood just on the edge of it, the fact that not a single, solitary animal seemed to be stirring was even more frightening than the other sound, the one he’d heard a few moments ago that had led him out of his nice warm bed to come and investigate.
Wearing his old flannel robe over his pajama pants and T-shirt, he’d managed to stick his feet into his slippers as he climbed from bed even though he felt as if he was still half asleep. His wife was sound asleep, although he didn’t know how the terrible shriek hadn’t woken her. He’d been in the middle of a dream, a good one, involving Tawny Kitaen—the Whitesnake version, not the reality star mess she’d become—when a noise like none he’d ever heard before had him shooting straight up, knocking the blankets off, and nearly dumping the glass of water he’d left precariously poised on the edge of his nightstand.
He’d turned to Barbara to see if she’d heard it, too, but she was snoring. If the kids upstairs had noticed the noise, he’d hear footsteps soon, and after a moment, he didn’t. Just as he’d begun to think it had somehow been part of his dream, he’d heard it again. It sounded like a scream, the blood-curdling kind you might hear in an Elm Street movie, and if Jim had any sense of direction, it seemed to be coming from the woods right behind their house.
Without thinking too long about what he was doing, Jim accepted the compulsion to go and investigate, something he wouldn’t normally do on his own in the middle of the night, but the sound seemed urgent, beckoning, and despite the fact that the early September air was chilly this time of night in Upstate New York, he’d gone, like a sailor following a song to shore.
The woods were dense, the trees old and tangled, their branches often looking more like the crooked, spindly fingers of witches than the sort of twigs one might imagine on a crisp fall morning. Their leaves never seemed to change to any of the brilliant autumn colors New England was noted for, rather changing from a muddy green to brittle brown. His five acres bumped up against this section of forest which eventually turned into Rockefeller State Park, a beautiful tract of land that ran all the way down by Tarrytown, a few miles away. But here, the trees had morphed into something less inviting than the common area that was always full of bikers, joggers, and children playing in the leaves.
Here, the trees looked so menacing, his teenage children refused to mow the grass right up to the tree line, even on the riding mower, because they said they “felt weird” or like the trees were “staring at them.” He’d chalked it up to nosey neighbors, even though the next house was nearly a quarter of a mile away, and told them to get on with it. But as he’d made this midnight trek to investigate the scream, he’d noticed the grass was significantly higher out here, until he reached the outskirts of the woods where the tree branches stretched their gangly digits out over his property line, where the ground quickly turned from greenish brown grass fighting the last of the sun’s summer rays and into the dirt and debris of the forest floor.
Despite the knowledge that the forest trees were covered in vines with thorns more than an inch long in places, Jim carried on, only allowing himself to wonder what exactly he was doing in the far reaches of his mind. He did hesitate before crossing over, taking that first step from the alleged safety of his own property into the thick black of the forest.
The silence was eerie. He should be hearing something, shouldn’t he? Night animals scurrying about? Birds settling in the trees? Insects approaching to see if he might make a juicy nighttime snack? Even the flicker of bats’ wings would’ve been more comforting than the sound of nothing, but Jim began to make his way slowly through the trees, peering off in the distance, trying to make out anything that might reveal where the noise had come from.
A thin fog began to form as he continued to wind his way through the craggily trees. He couldn’t see the ground in front of him through the darkness, and now that the wispy fog also collected around him, he had to feel his way through. Branches reached out and scratched at him, catching on his clothes, and at one point, he realized his face was bleeding. He reached up to wipe a trickle of blood on the sleeve of his robe.
A sharp pain dug into his right foot, and he pulled it up off of the ground, hopping on his left until he stumbled into a tree. Leaning against its trunk, he grasped his foot with both hands. Though he could hardly see in the dim light, he realized he’d stepped on one of the thorns he’d warned his children about dozens of times. He reached down and grabbed ahold of its thicker end and pulled. As he twisted and wrenched it from his injured foot, he let out a groan of agony. It had to have been embedded into his foot at least an inch, impaling his thin slipper to the sole of his foot. Once he had it out, he noticed a gush of blood oozing through the hole, coating his fingers so that they were sticky. He tossed the thorn away and looked back the direction he had come from. Well off in the distance, he could see the outline of his house. The intelligent thing to do would be to head home, bandage up his foot, and go back to sleep. He’d have to get ready for work in a few hours. Instead, he turned back toward the interior of the forest, and as if beckoned by an unknown force, he continued on his journey.
It had been at least ten, maybe fifteen minutes since he’d heard the second scream, the one that had compelled him to start this chase. And even though there was nothing else present that should’ve made him continue on this futile journey, his feet continued to take him deeper into the forest, despite the searing pain in his right foot and the uncomfortable squishing feeling of his own blood slogging around in his slipper. Barbara was going to be furious when she realized he’d ruined another pair.
Deep in the woods now, and not even sure which direction he’d come from, Jim cast another longing glance behind him. No longer able to see past the tangle of limbs that weaved together, hemming him in, he turned back in the direction he’d been headed, and took a few steps forward through the fog.
An outline caught his attention off in the distance, maybe twenty feet in front of him. It appeared to be a silhouette of some sort, posed between two trees. The trunks curved in opposite directions, creating a frame, and now the moon, which had been slow to make an appearance, began to illuminate the shape of a person standing in the shadows between the twisted trunks.
Jim hesitated, coming to a complete stop and peering at the form. It was unmoving, and Jim imagined, had he been standing next to it, he would’ve been dwarfed by its height. Something about it made him curious, so he slowly began to come closer, watching carefully for any sign of life.
The figure still did not move, though the closer he came, the more aware Jim became of what he was looking at. It appeared to be a man, a tall one, with some sort of stick in his hand. He wore a long black cloak, which pooled at his feet, creating a carpet of ink along the forest floor. His hood was up, covering his face completely, leaving only a hollow space where it should’ve been that somehow seemed even darker than the black cloak surrounding it.
Jim should’ve been terrified, but he was still compelled to walk forward. He needed to discover who this person was; was this the same entity that had screamed into the still night, or was he the cause of someone else’s distress?
The moon shifted, and through the thick clouds, a new beam forced its way through, colliding with the metal on the top of the staff the figure held in his right hand. A glint of light illuminated the object as moonbeam contacted metal, and Jim realized it was a scythe. The ebony figure standing in between scraggly trees in the middle of the night was holding a deadly blade.
Jim continued to approach.
As he reached a distance of less than two paces, he peered into the blackness where the face should’ve been. He could still see nothing, even at this close range. “Who are you?” Jim whispered into the darkness.
The voice that replied was not frightening as Jim had imagined it would be. It was pleasant and soft; it wrapped itself around his mind and soaked into his consciousness, perhaps without ever even having entered his ears. “You know who I am.”
“Show me.” Jim’s voice was calmer than he expected it to be since the realization of who he was looking at was beginning to set in. His feet stood firmly in place.
At first, Jim thought perhaps the figure would not comply, but after a moment, the slightest bit of motion implied he’d reached up to brush back his hood. The moon shifted again, and Jim stared in shock at a face like none he’d ever seen before. With no time to react, no time to suddenly become frightened, Jim stared into emerald green eyes, and when the blow came, he didn’t feel a thing.
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