G I V E A W A Y E N D E D
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Welcome to Hell’s Half Acre.
Bryndis Kenneally is an anomaly, which is saying something when you live in a place called Hell.
Despite being born into a family of healers, she is unable to follow in their footsteps since disturbing visions overwhelm her with almost every human touch.
With few allies at her back, she keeps her head down… until she starts to see a man made of shadows, and a crow begins to track her every move.
Now, she can no longer pretend to be a normal woman among a town looking for witches to burn.
That is until a freak sandstorm brings more than she bargained for… and quite possibly her salvation.
Book one in the Clan of Shadows series, a dystopian paranormal romance series.
Bryndis Kenneally had just slipped between the cool sheets of her bed as night relinquished its hold on the small desert town. The sun was just beginning its trek across the sky as it broke over the horizon, but the familiarity of another day ended when the warning horns rang instead of the typical church bells that announced the beginning of morning service.
The only reason for the city guards to sound the horns was one that made her heart pound as her skin grew clammy. Running to her window, she tripped over her bed sheet, catching herself on the sill and earning a splinter in her palm for it. Her concern was not about the small pain, but about what was happening on a much larger scale down on the street below. Something that rarely happened in their small town, and the last time it had, she’d lost her entire world.
The stifling heat radiating from her window did nothing to stop the chills moving along her skin as she took in what the horns meant.
The gate was opening.
Looking through the dirty window, sand having accumulated along the panes, she watched as the last true member of her family, her cousin Jace, stepped out of the church doors.
Just as her father had done ten years ago.
Her mind moving back and forth between two very different times in her life, she watched Jace, the town doctor, donning the same gear her father had to make the same trek.
The exact same type of mask her father had worn ten years ago on his final journey past the gate slipped over a different face. In a tribute to their god, the leather bull mask was adorned with brass horns that glinted in the sun and one glass eye blacked out in tribute.
That same mask now covered the face of the man who was the last of her family.
Her throat tightened as the same brown hood went up over his blond hair, taking all that identified Jace from the rest away as he became a symbol of the end of Bryn’s world.
Identical to what her father had once worn and died in.
The town scrios, the leader of the Church of Baleros, stepped up next to her cousin and nodded as he affixed his own mask, before pulling the hood of his brown cloak up to cover his salt-and-pepper hair.
The two vastly different-looking men were now indistinguishable from each other after having donned the religious regalia.
Uniformity was the town’s unofficial motto.
Bryn tried to move away from the hateful stares and condemning voices. Her heart pounded as she felt like the whole of the town was coming down around her. The voices of the girls whispering about her loud enough for the whole of the town to hear, the chant of “witch” stuck like a bad tune in her mind, all told her very clearly she was nearing an emotional breakdown.
She needed to get somewhere safe before the town saw her tears and knew their cruel words had done the very damage they’d hoped for.
It was a horrible idea to come to the celebration.
A growl stopped Bryn in her tracks. The girls who had been talking and whispering about Bryn loud enough for her to hear quickly dispersed as Finian watched them with the eyes of a predator.
They scampered off, looking over their shoulders at Finian until they found the safety of their parents.
“Honestly, if you were human, I’d marry you.” She laughed as Finian started walking, looking back as he waited for her. Smiling as much as she could, she followed as she blinked away her tears.
A man walking past her used his elbow to knock her to the side, laughing with his friends when she almost fell into the horse trough. Heat flooded her cheeks, and Finian went on the defensive again.
“Damn dog.” The man kicked at Finian, but the hound bit into the top of the man’s boot, lips pulled back as he held on. The man, unable to hold steady, fell backward, his friends catching him as Finian released his bite and backed up to Bryn.
Turning away, Bryn wiped her eyes.
Weak. She felt so damn weak and wished she could leave the town. As always, the questions rose in her mind: Where would she go, and could she leave Jace and her friends behind?
The answer was always the same. She couldn’t leave them. If she asked, perhaps they would leave, but why should they uproot everything for her?
“Dalton!” Justin came up and stood in front of Bryn as he addressed the man who had shoved her.
No. Please, don’t make it worse, Justin!
“Yeah, Sheriff?” The man turned, his two friends looking between her and Justin.
“Watch your step. You knocked a lady over.”
Damn it, Justin.
Caden stopped in the street from where he was walking back into the bar, turned, and put his tray under his arm as he watched.
“Don’t,” she whispered, only earning a look from over his shoulder before Justin turned fully back to the men.
“Ain’t no lady, Sheriff, and you know it. A damn witch, casting spells and killing people. If she wasn’t spreading her legs for the governor’s son, we’d be rid of her by now.” The man spit on the ground near her feet, and Bryn moved away, hugging her middle and curling in on herself. Something she always did to make herself small enough to appear unassuming.
Finian growled a warning as Justin grabbed Dalton by the collar, bringing them both face-to-face.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe or the thoughts you have while sharing that one deranged brain cell between the three of you. That’s none of my business, but I won’t have you physically harming her again, do you hear me?”
Worse and worse. She knew Justin only wanted to help, but he was putting a bigger target on her back. Her eyes caught on the graying blond hair of her aunt, and the seething look she shot Bryn told her she was in for it later. As if her existence, and Justin’s choice to step in, was all her fault.
Great. There would be hell to pay later.
“Gentlemen!” Caden walked up, shoving his tray into one of the men’s chests. Their only option was to put their hands out to hold it. “Let’s have a drink and be on our way.” Throwing his arms around the shoulders of the two men not currently in Justin’s proximity, he turned them away to focus on something else while Justin finished up with Dalton.
Such loyal friends, Bryn thought, regarding the men who left Dalton to Justin’s wrath, but she wouldn’t begrudge the small mercy of there being only one bully now instead of three.
C.D. Britt began her writing journey when her husband told her she needed to use her excessive imagination to write stories as opposed to creating a daily narrative for him. Ever since she penned her first words, life has been a lot more peaceful for him.
She currently resides in Texas where she has yet to adapt to the heat. Her husband thrives in it, so unfortunately they will not be relocating to colder climates anytime soon.
Their two young children would honestly complain either way.
When she is not in her writing cave (hiding from the sun), she enjoys ignoring the world as much as her children will allow with a good book, music, and vast amounts of coffee (until it’s time for wine).
C.D. Britt is the author of Shadows and Vines and the upcoming book, Sirens and Leviathans.
Both books are part of the Reign of Goddesses series.