Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#Giveaway~Everlasting (Night Watchmen #1) by Candace Knoebel ~ #Review ~ #Excerpt

Everlasting (Night Watchmen #1)
by Candace Knoebel
Publication date: February 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult

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What if your destiny lay on the other side of death?
The annual Culling ceremony is a day every coming-of-age novice looks forward to within the Primeval Coven. It’s the start to being initiated into the Night Watchmen, humankind’s protectors, and it’s the long-awaited day when novices discover if they’re a Hunter or a Witch.
But this day is not a happy one for Faye Middleton. Not when she’s known her whole life that she’s a Defect and is about to face banishment in front of her fellow novices. She’s forced to attend the Culling with little hope for her future, but what she discovers about herself is far worse than she could’ve imagined. And far more dangerous.
Thrown into training and separated from her friends, Faye must learn to adjust. She struggles to find her place within the Coven, and with Jaxen Gramm, the darkly handsome and extremely unnerving man assigned to watch and protect her. Emotions run high, and when she discovers a deadly secret about him, her struggles deepen. As corruption within the Coven begins to unravel, Faye pieces together her role in saving the future of her people, and within Jaxen’s life…but will the truth save her, or be her undoing?


Candace Knoebel is the award-winning author of Born in Flames-book one in a young adult fantasy trilogy. She discovered in 2009 through lunch breaks and late nights after putting her kids to bed, a world where she could escape the ever-pressing days of an eight to five Purgatory. And an outlet for all the voices residing in her head.

Published by 48fourteen in 2012, Born in Flames went on to win Turning the Pages Book of the Year award in February of 2013. In January of 2014, the last book in the trilogy, From the Embers, was released, thusly completing the trilogy. She now works on the Night Watchmen Series, while guzzling Red Bulls and pretending to be a ninja on Heelys.

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I really enjoyed this book. I liked the fresh take on the Witches and having the Hunters be a part of it, how they are made to work together. It's a unique concept that I really enjoyed.
I liked our female main character, Faye, she is  strong and not afraid to stick up for herself. She is very likeable for sure.

Jax I really liked alot, and liked how he wasn't overly cocky like alot of our men in books. He has his own insecurities too, like a real guy would. Very nice to see that in this book.
This book is really well written too. I really got to care about these characters. I loved the unexpected twist and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat.

I also like the message that is sent in this, Basically the message is that a guy you may want to fall in love with you, needs to fall in love with the real you, not the primped up you. The natural you. This is something Faye realizes and doesn't over try to get a guys attention. This is a very important message, and love that is was part of this novel. Hats off to the author for doing this, as I am sure it wasn't an accident.

I look forward to the sequel, Evernight, its out Oct 31 last I seen. Going to be checking out Candace Knoebel's other books now, she is brilliant.

I highly recommend this book to the young and even not so young (like me, lol) 5 out of 5 stars for me.
I was provided a copy of this book for my honest review.

This review is also at Amazon and Goodreads
Chapter One
No one in my family has ever been to college. There’s never been a need for it. When you’re born from a powerful bloodline that serves a higher calling, a calling that maintains protection over humankind, college becomes trivial. To my people, only the Defected go to college alongside the humans we protect. It’s a disgrace, a sign of weakness in the bloodline.
So when the metal clink of the mailbox sounds from across the lawn, I jump. I jump because what rests inside that box is my death sentence to shame. It’s the end of my life as a Primeval and the beginning of a life as a human. A life where my people will forever turn their backs on me. A life of unadulterated banishment.
All because I am the very first Defect in my bloodline.
I know my parents are watching me from the window. I can feel their gazes like dripping ice trickling down my back and chilling my blood. They’ve dreaded this day just as much as I have. My mother’s the one who helped me fill out the applications to colleges last year. She wants to see me happy and successful, even if it has to be outside of the Coven. My father, on the other hand, never speaks of it. I think deep down it disappoints him, even though he never shows it.
I shut my eyes against the glaring, orbed sun and try to steady my breathing. It should be raining. Thunderstorms and winds should be ripping through the air the way they rip through my insides, but they’re not. Nature’s mocking me, perching the golden sun in the middle of the sky for all to see like a trophy. Birds sing and kids play in the street, laughing and enjoying the warmth of the sun.
But not me. My bare feet slap against the concrete, carrying me with dreaded steps toward a truth I’ve yet to come to terms with. I know the number of steps it takes to get me there. I’ve practiced this walk a thousand times, each time training myself to do so with pride, the way my people are expected to walk, but all of my careful preparation leaves me the moment the mailman walks away.
Grab the letter. It’s just a piece of paper, Faye. It can’t hurt you, I tell myself as my fingers hesitate over the mailbox. But I know better. It can hurt me; it’s about to hurt me in all the worst ways. I blink, and a million, stifling emotions turn my knees to jelly. A fist of deprecation forms around my throat, and I can’t breathe.
But my father’s watching me with the stern eyes of a Hunter. I can’t let him down. Not again.
With a deep breath, I harden myself, tucking the crushing pain down as far as it will go, and open the box, making sure to smile up at my parents. A swipe of the hand later, and I hold the letter, staring down at the word Columbia on the top left of the envelope. I already know my fate. I made it in. My exceedingly high grades and parents made sure of this, but I don’t feel any relief. All I feel is unyielding shame. Shame that I can’t find even the slightest bit of happiness in knowing I at least excel in something.
I find my footing and trudge back over to the blanket I’d set out on the lawn in front of my parents’ house. I lay down, still clutching the letter against my chest, and stare up at the afternoon sky. It’s a cloudless sort of day; the kind where the vibrant sun feels warm against the fall New York air. I stretch my fingers out from under my navy green jacket, framing what would be the perfect photo. There’s a surety I get when gazing at the sky, a sense of stability that everything is exactly as it should be. No matter what, night is night, and day is day. Clouds are clouds and rain is rain. When the sun sets, the moon will rise. Nothing can change that, not even the most powerful person in the world. The photos I keep pinned on the walls of my room remind me of that day after day. They remind me of exactly who I am.
I am Faye Hadley Middleton, and not a single person can say otherwise.
But when I look away from the sky and over to my best friend Katie, the truth comes crashing down around me. It’s because I’m Faye Middleton that there is a person in this world that can say otherwise. An Elder, to be exact. And that Elder is waiting to deliver my fate tomorrow.
I stare blindly as Katie’s fingers type text messages. She’s probably trying to enjoy her last bit of freedom before it’s all taken away, before she’s wiped off the grid and accepted into the Night Watchmen Academy like our parents and their parents have before us, before she goes from being Katie to just another Watchman. Her phone beeps with another message, probably from a guy who unknowingly doesn’t stand a chance with her. We don’t marry outside of the Coven. It keeps our bloodlines pure.
My hands fall back to the ground as a tide of resentment creeps up the shore of my mind. Katie’s the Thelma to my Louise. You won’t find one of us without the other, and when you mess with one, you get both, but, just like in Thelma and Louise, there is a cliff we’re about to approach, and I’m not sure we’ll survive.
“You’re doing it again,” Katie says, never looking away from her phone.
“Doing what?”
“That squinchy face you make when you’re upset. You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?” She pauses to look at me, raising one insightful brow.
I huff and roll back to stare at the sky. When am I not thinking about it? Tomorrow’s the day of the Culling, the day we’ll be given the quartz that will determine which side of the affinity bond we stand on inside the Primeval Coven; Hunter or Witch, fighter or magic caster. After that, we’ll be inducted into the Night Watchmen Academy for four years where we’ll learn to harness the magic on our side of the bond. We’ll each meet our partner who will be forever linked to us.
But there will be no partner for me. And knowing this has turned me into an empty shell filled with cobwebs of predetermined embarrassment.
She nudges me, loosening the truth stashed in my throat.
“How can I not think about it, Kat? I’m about to shame my parents and the Coven. You don’t know what that feels like. You’ll probably be told you’re a Witch and then be on your merry way to meet your hunky Hunter. But for me, I’ll be told I’m a Defect and then everyone will know. And they’ll laugh. This is proof.” I hold up the letter from Columbia, shutting my eyes to silence the haunting echoes of laughter dwelling on the edges of my mind.
Sadness fills her eyes because she knows I’m right. I’ve known from as far back as I can remember. My mom’s a Witch, and one of her many specialties is in clairvoyance. She saw my future the moment she first held me. She’s known forever that I’d never be a Watchman. The genes cruelly skipped me. No one except for my parents and Katie know. I’ll be neither Witch nor Hunter, while Katie travels down a path I can’t follow. A path that’ll most likely be the death of our friendship, because, like everyone else in our Coven, she’ll be expected to turn her back on me.
“I’ll never turn my back on you. Ever. You can’t think like that,” she says, picking up on my inner thoughts. It’s a sign of being blessed by the Goddess and walking a Witch’s path. She’s been psychically sensitive for over a year now. Signs always begin a year before the Culling; a year before we graduate human high school.
Because our powers don’t progress until after we turn eighteen, we’re expected to follow human traditions and go to school with them. It’s a means to teach us how to blend in with them, to accustom ourselves to their world. We’re simply here to protect them, but they can never know this. Once a year, a Culling ceremony occurs to bring the of-age novices in. Touching the Culling quartz awakens the remaining bits of power and solidifies a place within the Coven.
Even though I hold faith that maybe my mother’s vision was wrong, that maybe the Culling will prove her wrong, I’ve yet to show any signs.
“Don’t ignore me,” she says, putting her phone down.
“You sound like my mom,” I say, trying not to sound upset and failing. “I’m going to be stuck in college, trying to make a normal life for myself amongst humans, all while dreaming about what you’ll be doing at the Academy while learning your craft. It just sucks.” I blow out a deep breath that does nothing to ease the tightness building in my chest. I know I’m being selfish by speaking out about it, because I know it hurts her just as much as it hurts me, but I can’t stop myself.
“I know,” she says quietly, drawing circles with her finger on the blanket.
I roll back to face her, tucking my hands under the side of my face. “I really am happy for you though. No matter what, okay? I don’t want you to worry about me when you go away. I won’t hold it against you.”
A tear forms in the corner of her eye, thickening the lump in my throat. She looks away from me. Just like me, she doesn’t cry. Crying isn’t what our kind does.
She clears her throat. “Why don’t we just think about it as if we’re going off to separate colleges? We’ll find a way to talk to each other, even if it can’t be all the time.” It sounds nice, but we both know better. The affinity partner usually becomes your world. There’s no way around it. Once you bond after the Culling and are given your shared mark that links your powers, there’s no escaping the connection.
“Okay,” I agree for the sake of being a good friend. I wonder what her partner will look like, how he’ll act, if they’ll fall in love the way most affinity partners do.
She rolls back to face me, a glint of mischief forming a smile on her face. She’s picked up on my thoughts again. “And while you’re away at your college, you’re going to find yourself a boyfriend, a human boyfriend who doesn’t come with all the baggage like the affinity bond creates. At least this way, you can choose who you’re with, rather than it already being fated for you.”
The thing about the affinity bond is every partner is predetermined by the power within the Culling quartz, the power imbibed by the Divine. You just don’t meet them and receive your mark until after the Culling. Katie and I always compare it to the way marriages were predetermined in the medieval times. There’s never a choice of who you’ll be bound to for the rest of your life, and our kind lives well past the human age, so the rest of our lives is a long time.
I roll my eyes, laughing despite the fact that I’m not in the mood to laugh. She’s always been able to make a bad day look good. “The opposite sex doesn’t get me,” I say, smiling at her. She’s seen one too many failed attempts throughout our years in grade school. The closest I’ve ever been to an actual relationship was my junior year, and it ended just as quickly as it had started because the guy wanted more than I was willing to give.
“Or maybe it’s the reverse,” she says with one perfectly groomed auburn eyebrow arched.
“Maybe,” I say. “I just haven’t met the right guy yet.”
“You will,” she says surely. “And when you do, wife him up and make a life for yourself, a happy one.” She rolls back to face the sky, and I follow after, trying not to dwell on what’s to come. It won’t change it. Nothing can.
I don’t know how long we lay here watching the sparse clouds pass by, but it feels longer than a lifetime and shorter than a second all in the same. The crisp air whips around us, chilling me to the bones. When her phone beeps again, I know it’s her parents. The sun is quickly setting. The Culling is just around the corner.
“Faye,” she says quietly.
“I’m going to miss you.”
I bite my bottom lip. A fist clenches and jams inside my throat. Don’t break, I command myself. “Me too,” I rush out, blinking back tears. I hear her shuffling and know she has to go. Her parents are waiting for her down the street with dinner spread out in ritualistic fashion. It’s tradition to have a feast the night before the Culling.
Without a goodbye, her feet crunch along the grass, carrying her away from me. She doesn’t believe in goodbyes, and neither do I. Every step feels like another rip in my heart, another tear that will never mend. I’m sure this will be the last time I ever see her. She will be with her parents tomorrow and separated from the other novices until after the Culling is over. If I’m in fact a Defect, I won’t be there to congratulate her, to celebrate with her.
Against my better judgment, I jump up and run after her, meeting her halfway down the street.
She hears me coming and spins around with her arms open, ready for me. I hug her as if my life depends on it, uncaring of the heated wetness that trails down my cheeks. When I let go, I look at her one last time, remembering her features; the bronze of her skin, the clearness of her amber eyes, the way her hair always falls in perfect waves all the way down her back. She’s the sister I never had and the friend I’ll never forget.
She presses her face against my ear. “Be strong,” she says, her voice faltering.
Always the stronger one.
“You too,” I say, wiping away the stream of silent tears. With a final smile, I turn and make my way back down the street to my house. No going back now. All I can think about is what lies ahead of me. They say that, in life, you can only have one destiny, one chosen path to walk. But what happens if the path destined for you is removed, leaving nothing before you? That’s what my life will become.
I never had a choice.

After shutting the front door, I check myself in the mirror hanging on the light blue walls. The flush on my high-boned cheeks can be passed off as the chill from the October evening air, at least to my father. My mother will know better. She always does. Frayed pieces of pale blonde hair stick out of my high bun. I drag my hands over my face, taking in the breath I hope will calm me, but I’m not calm. I’m empty. Broken.
I’m a mess of anorexic wishes starving for the light of shooting stars.
There’s no avoiding my emotions, no matter how hard I try shutting them off. It’s what my father wants. It’s what Hunters do, and so I must. I have to be strong, at least until I have no reason to be any longer.
I quickly re-do my hair just as my mother comes around the corner of the foyer. “Hey, sweetie,” she says, opening her arms. I walk into them and press my face against her shoulder, listening to the quiet beating of her heart. It’s in moments like these that I don’t feel so hopeless. Her smile, so proud, so loving; it can’t be for a Defect. Her arms, so strong and supportive; they can’t hold a disappointment.
“It’ll be okay. I promise,” my mother says.
She draws back, running a smooth hand over my hair, and smiles. Everyone always tells me I’m the spitting image of my mother, even down to the blue-gray of our eyes that are like the color of tranquil river stones, but my mother is naturally beautiful. Cinnamon hair falls out of the pencil holding it half back, tumbling down past her shoulders. Her full lips always offer words of encouragement and love. She’s wearing brown trousers, a soft white blouse that has tiny pearl buttons, and a cropped brown vest. She looks whole, healthy, and kind.
“No matter what, you’ll always have your father and me.”
Her eyes always give her away. We both know this isn’t true. This isn’t possible. Once banished, when I enter the human world as a human, I can never look back, and neither can they. It’s another way of keeping the Coven hidden from human eyes, which is all a part of the deal made with the United Nations.
“Right?” she says, nudging me with her hip.
“Faye,” she says softly, “this isn’t easy for any of us.” There’s a note of guilt in her voice and it wraps around my stomach and squeezes like a noose.
“I know,” I relent, letting her go. I breathe, blink a few times, and then force out somewhat of a smile. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a downer. I just… I want to get this over with.” I don’t add how waiting for the embarrassment sure to come turns my stomach on its axis. She hurts enough for the both of us.
She lets out a relieved breath, seeming to accept my words, and rubs my back. Her hand extends out, and she guides me out of the foyer toward the tantalizing smells coming from the kitchen.
“It has to be this way, you know,” she says at the end of the hall. “It’s our way. You have to be strong for your father and me, and for yourself.”
“I know, mom,” I say, swatting at the potted plants lining the hallway. They swing just at my height. She insists it keeps the air pure.
“Mary, do you know where my whetstone is?” my dad’s deep, baritone voice shouts. He doesn’t realize we’re standing right in front of him. He’s shuffling around, searching frantically for it amongst the clutter of books and papers. The stone is as much his lifeline as his flux is-the dagger he uses to kill with.
Hunters are the opposite end of the affinity bond. They’re the enforcers, the strength behind the mission, whereas the Witch is the power, the magic, the healing they need to remain intact when fighting against paranormal beings. It’s a perfect balance that was set in place by the proclamation after the falling out of the Divine and the uprising from the Demons in the Underground.
My mother’s delicate chin lifts. “Did you check in between the couch cushions?”
He smiles at her and spins around, flipping the cushion over. There it sits, just like she has predicted. Part of me wonders if her magic helped her do that, or if it’s from the years and years of marriage they’ve shared.
He flips the gray stone in his hand, and then looks over at me. He doesn’t look a day over 30 with a strong, square jaw. His nose is a little offset from a break he received in a fight when he was 12. Squared glasses hide the beauty of his hazel eyes with specks of blue in them. Sandy blonde hair is parted to the left. He’s dressed in the Night Watchmen’s uniform; a black, long sleeved t-shirt with the Coven symbol and black jeans.
Watchmen are supposed to blend into the night, to hide within the shadows.
“You okay, kiddo?”
“Yeah,” I say, adding a smile along with it. For him, I’ll always be strong.
“Good,” he says, winking at me. He runs his other hand down the front leg of his pants, wiping the grease off, and then leaves the room, muttering to himself about something he left on in the garage. He’s always tinkering with something.
My mother spins on her heel and makes an attempt to pick up the scattered books that have taken over the tables and floor space, a nervous habit she’s always had. After filling her hands, she sets them down on a shelf with a sigh large enough to blow the brown strands of hair out of her face. Books are everywhere, the way it’s always been. No matter what she picks up, there’s still nowhere to put them.
I reach for her wrist, pulling just enough to make her look at me, when I notice the frown on her face. “Mom, the books are fine. The feast will be perfect.” I raise my brow in expectation, waiting for my words to sink in and calm her.
She hesitates, her eyes wearily roaming over our eclectic home, and then gives in with a sigh. “Still, this night should be perfect. It has to be.” Her arms fall gracefully to her sides.
On the outside, I’m a billboard of confidence, of certainty, but on the inside, I’m a broken down palace left to rot with the decayed dreams of what could have been. It bothers me that she’s more worried about the traditional pre-Culling feast than what is about to tear our family apart and make me the laughing stock of the Coven.
“That’s not true,” she says, giving me the eye. She’s been able to pick up on my thoughts for as long as I can remember. It’s a gift Witches have, a gift I sometimes forget about. “You know exactly how this makes me feel, how much it pains me that you have to go through this. If I could change it, I would. If I could spare you this…”
“But you can’t,” I say, the finality in my voice striking her like a gavel. I look away from her, searching for a safe change of subject, something that will erase the hurt from her eyes, even if just for a moment. A familiar scent catches my nose. “You’re making a roast?”
“It’s your favorite,” she boasts quietly, her hands folding neatly at her waist. My mother makes the best comfort food. I think it’s from the magical touch of herbs she uses from her garden.
“Thanks,” I say, grateful for the small act of kindness.
She shrugs dismissively and looks off in thought. Her hand slides up her other arm, resting at her elbow.
“Are you all right?” I ask.
She looks back at me with a strange expression, one that I’ve never seen on her before. Fear. “I’m just… I hope tomorrow you find everything you need to make you happy. Your father and I…well…that’s all we want for you, to be happy. I know you’re worried about my vision. I am too, but that’s the thing about life…sometimes, no matter how hard we try to pave the path we want for ourselves and for our loved ones, destiny steps in and adds a twist we didn’t prepare for.” She sighs heavily. “I just hope that whatever happens tomorrow, it will be exactly what you need, no matter what your father and I want, and no matter what the Coven wants.”
A weird twisting settles in my stomach. She’s never said anything like this before, and it makes me wonder. It makes me worry. It makes me doubt. “Okay,” I say hesitantly, studying her face.
She inhales, straightens her shoulders, and says, “Now go on and freshen up,” before turning and disappearing into the kitchen.
I head for the bathroom and turn the faucet on, splashing cool water on my face. After toweling off, I grab the small tin with my mother’s lip stain and rub some on. A familiar tingle from the mint she adds to her homemade tincture prickles along my lips. I stare at myself until I begin to fade in the mirror and the life I had so longed for surfaces. What if my mom had read the vision wrong? What if the Culling quartz tells me I’m a part of the Coven? Is that what she was trying to say? I know I’m kidding myself with such wishful thinking, but I don’t want to lose hope.
She has to be wrong.
I tug on the bottom of my yellow, long sleeved v-neck, straightening it out. When I’m satisfied I look decent enough, at least to meet my mother’s standards, I leave the bathroom in search for her. She’s carrying the roast on a teal ceramic platter out to the table.
“It smells amazing,” I say. Hunger waters my mouth.
“That’s because it is amazing,” she admits with no shame, setting the platter in the center of the table. “It’s a mother’s job to fill up the stomachs of their loved ones.” There’s no sign of her earlier distress, not even a glimmer of it.
I don’t like the off feeling that settles over me as I place the silverware around the plates. There’s still something in the air between us, something that smells a lot like deception, but my mother would never lie to me. She wouldn’t.
“Did you know it takes approximately 12 hours for food to digest properly?” I ask, pushing away any thought of deceit.
I have a thing for random facts. It takes the awkwardness out of any situation. Well, sometimes.
She shakes her head, laughing as she waves me off. “You and your facts,” she says. “You’re as bad as your father.”
“No, father likes to spout off random song lyrics that apply to our daily life. I like to use random facts and statistics. That way, not only do I make you laugh, but I teach you something as well,” I say, my finger dotting the end of her pointed nose. For a moment, a small blink in time, nothing else matters but seeing my mother smile.
“Whatever you say, kiddo,” she says, still laughing as she walks back to the kitchen.
After I finish helping her with the finishing touches on the dinner table, my dad walks in and sits at the head of the table. My mother walks out with the last of the sides and takes her seat next to my father. We bow our heads, and she states the prayer to the Divine before we dig in. The food’s exceptional, as expected, and leaves us feeling full and sated. We spend dinner like we do any other night, talking about the hunt the night before. I listen to every single detail as if it’s water and I’m dehydrated.
“And then the Vampire stepped out of the shadows, grabbed the woman, and tried to literally rip her head off,” my father says spiritedly.
“Russell,” my mother scolds. A look passes between them, and I know they’re sharing thoughts; a perk of being bonded with the affinity bond. I can only imagine the warning she’s giving him. She hates when he speaks this way at the dinner table, but he doesn’t care. And neither do I.
“So what did you do?”
“Your father did what he always does. He threw the stake from the opposite end of the alley before the Vampire’s teeth could even get close to the woman’s neck. She screamed, he vanished into ash, and then I worked a spell to clear her memory of it all.”
“You make it sound so dull,” my dad says, smirking at her before taking a long swig of his dark amber beer. He turns to me. “It’s really more exciting than that. I swear. You’re going to love it.”
My mother tenses. I hate that I notice this, and I hate that my dad does too, because his smile vanishes, as does the interesting story and mood. He coughs, finishes off his beer, and excuses himself out to the backyard without another word.
My mother’s eyes drift over the table, and a small frown tugs at her lips. I help her clear the table, and then meet my father in the backyard, leaving her writing a new spell in the family Grimoire. It’s a ritual of his to throw daggers at a target dummy every night before they patrol, and it’s the only time he ever lets me into the world I’m about to be shoved out of.
“Hey,” I say, drying my hands on the front of my jeans.
He’s in mid-throw, crouched down with his hand lifted up to his ear. My eyes trail over his affinity mark, which looks more like an odd-shaped birthmark, that he shares with my mother. It’s what binds their powers to each other, and each paired mark is as unique as a fingerprint. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to not only have powers, but to have them removed if my partner isn’t close enough. I imagine it would feel like being suffocated, at least, that’s how my parents have described it.
He exhales and then releases the blade. It sinks straight through the heart of the dummy, just like it always does. He turns and smiles at me, opening his arms for me to come over. I walk into them.
“Ready for tomorrow?” he asks, resting his chin on the top of my head. Despite what my mother has seen, he refuses to believe I’ll be anything less than a Hunter. I guess denial is his way of dealing with things.
“Yeah,” I lie, hugging him tight.
He pulls out three daggers from one of the many integrated sheaths on his pants and hands them to me. “How about, since it’s the night before the big day, you go all out and hit each dummy in their customary weak spots?”
“Sure, dad,” I say, taking the daggers from him. Usually, we warm up first, but not tonight. Tonight the air is alive with electricity. It’s alive with the anticipation of every parent and novice. I close my eyes and let everything drift away from me, just as my father has instructed time and time again. I don’t need to see to know where the dummies are. I just need to feel, to be fully aware.
With the daggers in my hand, I grab one, position myself, and exhale, preparing myself. As fast as a blink, I throw the three daggers, never once looking at my targets. My heart is a bass drum pounding in my ears. Everything feels right, centered, balanced.
My dad slaps me on the back, nearly knocking me over. “You did it!” he shouts, pulling me over to the dummies.
I did. The daggers hit their mark perfectly; one in the head, one in the heart, and one in the thigh.
“See! You’re going to be a Hunter! The best one yet.”
I can’t help but smile with him as I stare at the daggers. Maybe I will be. Maybe this is my sign. I look up at him, my smile widening, and then pull the daggers out before handing them back to him.
“You make me proud. You’re going to make me proud,” he says, running a hand over my cheek. In a blink, seriousness washes over his features, dimming the smile on my lips. “I want you to remember something…something my father told me the night before my Culling. He said that it isn’t one’s destiny that defines a man, it’s how they choose to walk the path they’ve been given. You’re going to walk your path with pride and make the best of it. Nothing can take that away from you, not even a vision.”
I stare at him, absorbing every word. He never says anything without reason. That means…
“Now, go get some rest. You’re going to need it. You might meet the man of your dreams tomorrow, someone awesome and hip like your old dad.” He slaps me on the back again, and then walks back to the starting point and re-positions himself. “Your mother and I’ll be back before dawn. The Elders have given us a light hunt tonight.”
“Good luck,” I say, knowing they don’t need it. My parents are one of the best at what they do. They have the second highest filled quota of paranormal take-downs in the state of New York, the Gramm brothers having the highest.
“Thanks, kiddo,” he says, and then throws his dagger.
I walk back inside and kiss my mom goodnight, then head up to bed where I fall face first onto my pillow. My brain feels like it’s been through a meat grinder. I don’t want to think anymore. Thinking is exhausting, but three words pulse through my mind, refusing to disappear.
Tomorrow is it.
I repeat this until my eyes grow heavy and my breathing slows, and then drift off to sleep.

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  1. What a great review! I'm so glad you picked up on the message of self-acceptance. :) Thank you for having me!

  2. Oh this sounds like an exciting read and I love it when the twists are unpredictable and keep you turning the page! Great review, Michelle!

  3. Thanks, glad you could stop by, and really look forward to the next book, hope to be able to read it soon. :)