Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year...2016 in Review!


In 2016 I.....

Read 215 books for a total of 57,994 pages

First book of the year I read was The Alpha Drive by Kristen Martin
Last book of the year I read was Cheating Death by April White

The longest book I read was Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
The shortest book I read was Demon Kissed by Karilyn Bentley

The most popular (on Goodreads) book I read was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The least popular (on Goodreads) book I read was Demon Kissed by Karilyn Bentley

Posted a total of 361 blog posts
with
118 of those being reviews

First review of the year was The Last Dream Keeper by Amber Benson
Last review of the year was Drakon's Promise by  N.J. Walters




Was there anything about UFI in 2016 that sticks out as your favorite? How many books did you read in 2016?

Here's to another fantastic year in 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Drakon's Promise by N.J. Walters

Drakon's Promise
Release Date: December 5, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Select Otherworld
ISBN:  1633758001
ISBN13: 9781633758001
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Review Copy Source: NetGalley
Darius Varkas is a drakon. He's neither human nor dragon.

He's both.

He's also the target of an ancient order who want to capture all drakons for their blood. When fresh, a drakon's blood can cure any illness and prolong a human's life, and the Knights will stop at nothing to get it.

When librarian Sarah Anderson stumbles across a rare book belonging to the Knights of the Dragon, she's quickly thrust into a dangerous world of secrets and shifters and things she never would have believed possible. When the Knights realize Sarah has a secret of her own, she becomes just as much a target as Darius. Her scary dragon shifter just might be her best chance at survival.

I usually find that dragon books are hit or miss with me, but DRAKON'S PROMISE was a hit!

Sarah loves books, so the fact that she is a librarian works well for her. When she starts working on a library of rare books she never imagined that her life would change when she uncovers a rare book that belongs to an evil group. She risks a lot to contact a stranger she knows is in trouble to warn him. I found Sarah to incredibly caring and overall sweet. She stuck to what she thought was right even at expense to herself. Darius is a businessman that is ready to move on to his next adventure in life. He also happens to be a drakon in hiding. He is suspicious of Sarah from the moment he meets her, but also feels a need to protect her. I usually find that the alpha male type can be a dick at first, but I never felt that way about Darius. Darius and Sarah have a ton of chemistry. They have instant attraction and the bond starts to grow from the moment they meet, but there isn't insta-love which is nice. They work well together and I thought Sarah fit well within Darius' world.

DRAKON'S PROMISE was a great introduction to the Blood of the Drakon world and I am excited to see what will come next. I really liked Darius' brother, Tarrant, and it looks like his love interest is heading right for him and I'm sure things will get interesting. I plan to read more of this series and hope that book two will be out sooner rather than later.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Force of Temptation by Suzanne Wright

Force of Temptation
Release Date: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Montlake Romance
ISBN:   1503940489
ISBN13 9781503940482
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Review Copy Source: NetGalley
Harley Vincent is resigned to life in the human world. Sure, being a margay shifter is half her nature, but life among humans gives her the freedom to roam and do as she pleases. That is, until anti-shifter extremists target her, putting her life in immediate danger.

When an old acquaintance and onetime fling, Jesse Dalton, shows up to offer the protection of his pack, Harley hesitates. She may have feelings for Jesse that go beyond their one-night stand, but life among shifters means giving over her independence to the needs of pack. Plus Mercury Pack has its own threat to face: a rich half-shifter is determined to claim their territory at any cost.

Jesse, who lost his true mate as a child, has wanted Harley since their night together, and he’s not letting her go again. They may not be destined for each other, but he knows she belongs to him and with his pack. Even if he can convince her to join him now, can he convince her to stay?

I absolutely love this world and can't get enough of the characters. If you haven't already started The Phoenix Pack series, I would start there first and read both that series and this in release order. You won't be sorry you did.

There has not been one couple from either series that I have not liked. Jesse and Harley are great individually and awesome together.  Both of their personalities complimented the other well and Harley fit right into the pack once everyone got to know her and learned to trust her. The romance was hot and the connection between the two was strong. There was a lot of learning on both sides of the relationship that made things even better.

As always the secondary characters played just as big of a role in the storyline as the couple. I learn more about each pack member with every book and I can honestly say that there isn't one member I don't like and I look forward to each of their love stories in the future.

The conflict in FORCE OF TEMPTATION was filled with drama and danger. I don't want to give anything away, but I think FORCE OF TEMPTATION was a little more dangerous and suspenseful than some of the previous books because of the pack members that ended up being in the most danger. Can't wait to see what comes next for both the Mercury and Phoenix Packs.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN:   0544664450
ISBN13: 9780544664456
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Edelweiss
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

There was a lot involved in EVER THE HUNTED, but Erin Summerill did a great job of setting up the world and pacing out the action.

Britta is only seventeen, but she appeared older to me. I found her to be strong, a little willful, and very determined. I won't go into explanations for fear of spoilers, but Britta experiences a lot of loss in EVER THE HUNTED. I'm not sure how she functioned for half of it, but she is a fighter and did a great job of keeping her head in the game that she was forced to play. Cohen was extremely easy to like after you got to know him and he added a lot to the storyline. Their relationship isn't easy and there is a lot of history, but they worked well together and you can't help but root for them.

I have a tiny complaint. There seem to be a love triangle coming and after everything Cohen and Britta went through, I'm not sure how much I will be able to connect to a new love interest if it is indeed going to happen.

The world building was great. Every scene and location was set up in a way that had me lost in every bit of it. I didn't want to stop reading for fear of losing the flow. The different kingdoms that makes up the world were both interesting and the conflicts that they were facing were easy to understand. EVER THE BRAVE is already on my wishlist and I look forward to seeing how the story ends.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Promo + Giveaway: Silverwolf by Jacey Bedford

Silverwolf
Rowankind #2
 Britain, 1801. King George’s episodic sanity is almost as damaging as his madness. First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte is gathering his forces in France. The disease of democracy is spreading. The world is poised on the brink of the modern era, but the rowankind, long a source of free labor, have shaken off their bonds. Some have returned to Iaru to find freedom with the Fae; others are trying to find a place in the world, looking for fair treatment under the law. The course of the industrial revolution may change forever.

Wild magic is on the rise. Creatures of legend are returning to the world: kelpies, pixies, trolls, hobs and goblins.

Ross and Corwen, she a summoner witch and he a wolf shapechanger, have freed the rowankind from bondage, but now they are caught in the midst of the conflict, while trying their best to avoid the attention of the Mysterium, the government organisation which would see them hanged for their magic.

When an urgent letter calls Corwen back to Yorkshire, he and Ross become embroiled in dark magic, family secrets and industrial treachery. London beckons. There they discover a missing twin, an unexpected friend, and an old enemy—called Walsingham.
Swashbuckling adventure collides with mystical mayhem on land and at sea in this rousing historical fantasy series launch set in a magic-infused England in 1800.” —Publishers Weekly


“Bedford crafts emotionally complex relationships and interesting secondary characters while carefully building an innovative yet familiar world.” —RT Book Reviews

__________________________________

Jacey Bedford has a string of short story publication credits on both sides of the Atlantic. She lives a thouand feet up on the edge of the Yorkshire Pennines in a two hundred year stone house. She has been a librarian, postmistress, rag-doll maker, and a folk singer in an a cappella trio. She can be found at jaceybedford.co.uk or on Twitter at @JaceyBedford.

Find Jacey and her books
__________________________________
US/Canada Only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Week in Review: 12/18 -12/24


Merry Christmas!!

Books Received for Review

I'm out of town, anything I received this past week will go on next week's post!

Books I've Read

I'm out of town, anything I read this past week will go on next week's post!

Reviews Posted

Legend of Love by Lisa Kessler

  ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

* New Releases for the week. Was there anything you were looking forward to reading?

* Monday- Promo + Giveaway for Rulers of Darkness Box Set by Amanda J. Greene

* Wednesday- Guest Blog + Giveaway for Beyond Every Mirror by Christine Church

* Friday- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings....

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

* Did you know you can follow UFI on these other sites?

You can also add me (as in Stacy) to your friends on these sites if you're on them.
 

 * I love comments so if you see something you like (or not) please comment away and let me know.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings....


Warm wishes to all! I hope no matter what holiday you are celebrating this month, that it's filled with family, love and joy.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Legend of Love by Lisa Kessler

Legend of Love
Release Date: October 14, 2016
Publisher: Lisa's Lair
ISBN13: 9780997627411
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Review Copy Source: NetGalley
The Prophecy - “Every generation the nine daughters of Zeus are reborn, and with their rebirth are also nine Guardians. They will be marked by the gods, and given gifts to protect his treasure. Their abilities will only be unlocked when they find their muse.”

Callie O'Connor's life has never been the same since the Muse of Epic Poetry came alive inside of her. Now she's on the other side of the country, working as civilian psychologist for the Navy, and leading her Muse sisters in their quest to reopen the Theater of the Muses.

But nothing could have prepared her for Hunter Armstrong. He's a Navy Seal, driven, confident, and dangerous. And he plans to do more than just protect her.

The gods couldn't have picked a better Guardian. But as Hunter soon discovers, Callie has some skeletons of her own in the closet, and loving her could lead to his destruction.

LEGEND OF LOVE was just as fast paced and full of romance as book one, LURE OF OBSESSION. We learned a lot about the world of the muse chronicles in book one, so book two stuck to the continued storyline and character love story.

Callie is the Muse of Epic Poetry and isn't looking for a relationship, so when Hunter Armstrong walks into her office and starts to flirt she tries very hard to keep him at arms length—even though she is just as drawn to him as he is to her. On top of her pact with her fellow Muse sisters preventing her from jumping into a relationship with Hunter, she has a fear of hurting another man. An old fear that isn't easy for her to get over. Luckily fate has a hand in things and Hunter ends up being her Guardian. I found Callie to be very determined, yet fun when she's able to let go. She is definitely someone I could see myself hanging out with.

Hunter loves his family so much that he joined the military to help take care of them. When he's sent home after a challenging mission that left one of his brothers missing in action, he is sent to a therapist. Hunter doesn't want to talk about it, but he is definitely interested in the therapist. Hunter quickly won my heart. He was loyal, protective and willing to go the extra step for those he cares about.

The relationship was the best part of the book. Hunter and Callie were made for each other. They had plenty of ups and downs, but there relationship felt real and their connection shined through the pages. The secondary characters, especially the Muses, continue to be a strong part of the storyline and I loved seeing them again and continuing their journey to open their theater and inspire everyone. Both Melanie and Nate also play a good part in LEGEND OF LOVE, it was nice seeing them again and seeing that they still have their happily ever after.

There is just something about this world and these characters that draws me in. BREATH OF PASSION—Erica's love story— is up next and I look forward to diving into it.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Guest Blog + Giveaway: Beyond Every Mirror by Christine Church

UFI welcomes Author Christine Church. Thanks for Joining us!!

The Writing Journey

I started writing at nine years old. I know that sounds a tad young, but I wrote picture books that I still have put away somewhere to this day. Reading back on them, they are, as would be expected, “childish,” but still had everything a story requires; a plot, a beginning, middle, end, and main characters.  They are all about horses.

By my teens I had worked up to writing short stories about hot guys. But these were stories of guys that were generally placed in really odd circumstances; paranormal or fantasy. At 15, I wrote a short story about a rock star who was on the road, on tour, and when he was in the hotel bathroom, he saw someone appear in his mirror. He was grabbed and dragged into that “mirror world” where he became a sacrificial pawn of sorts and was tortured. The story ended with them tossing him into a bottomless pit. He awoke, back in his hotel bed. He thought it all a dream until he got up and went into the bathroom. When he looked into the mirror, his body was battered and bruised from the tortures he’d endured behind that mirror. Awhile later, I thought that if I fleshed it out, this could be a great novel. So, in 1996 I wrote “Beyond Every Mirror.”

Unfortunately, back then romantic fantasies were pretty much non-existent unless they were really well written time travels. Dimensional travel through mirrors was not good enough, no matter how well written. I spoke to countless literary agents and editors at numerous writer’s conferences.
In the meantime…

In 1998, my first traditionally published book came out (House Cat; How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Sane & Sound) by Howell Book House.  I had written this book years before, and it had made the rounds of agents and editors (always the same rejection: “there are too many cat books on the market”). 

After several years I was about to put it aside (self publishing was not then what it is today), but had one more card up my sleeve. I asked a highly published pet writer friend if I could send it to her editor at Howell Book House.  I did, and then waited. After three months, I had heard nothing, so I contacted my writer friend. “She changed publishing houses,” I was told. 

I contacted the editor at her new House (TFH Publications) and was told she “rejected my book and it didn’t fit what TFH was looking for at the time.” I asked her if she thought the editor who had replaced her would like it and was told “No, there’s too many cat books on the market!”  If I heard that sentence one more time, I was going to slam my head against a wall. Mine was not “just any cat book,” it was all about the care of indoor-only cats and it was unique, thorough and the indoor cat movement was getting big. I simply was not finding the right editor. So, I put the manuscript away.
The very next day, I received in the mail (snail mail as it is called today) a letter from the NEW editor at Howell Book House. She found my proposal in a slush pile of 200 rejected manuscripts. She loved it. She was a cat person. A year later, with my book just out, the editor who had rejected my manuscript went back to Howell. I was heading to NYC to have lunch with my editor and I met the editor who had rejected my book. She shrugged and said “I was wrong.” I had also received several book assignments from TFH Publications!  ALL of those books are still in publication to this day.

Fast forward to 2012. I was at a writer’s conference. I was talking to a big name literary agent about my novel, Beyond Every Mirror. She was very excited about it and asked me to send her the full manuscript. I did, and a few months later, she emailed to tell me how much she LOVED it and wanted it, BUT (ready??) the market was over-saturated with the genre!!  Oh well, it was still the best rejection I ever got. And that is why I chose to self publish this book.
__________________________________


Christine Church has been writing since she was 9 years old. As a kid, she wrote and drew her own picture books, then moved on to short stories as a teen. By her 20's, she was writing full-length novels, but her first success in publication was a nonfiction book about the care of indoor cats, Housecat, published by Howell Book House in 1998. Several more nonfiction books followed, including the major award winning book, Indoor Cats (TFH publications),  which won the Iams Responsible Cat Ownership in 2001. After a broken hand, she took a hiatus from writing for quite some time, then returned to find everything had changed and her world turned upside down. She decided then to take a stab at self publishing. Her first novella, Sands of Time, Fate of the True Vampires won Finalist status in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her second book, as well as Beyond Every Mirror, have won five-star status on Reader's favorite.

Find Christine and her books
__________________________________

Beyond Every Mirror 
Beside his own image, Dane Bainbridge sees another; a beautiful ginger haired beauty--behind her, red mountains and clouds as if from another world. He's seen her his entire life, a life filled with glamour and fame... and loneliness. For the woman in the mirror is his one true love. But, this he does not know, not until he is dragged into her world--one of beasts and lands beyond imagination. One where his sacrifice is the only thing keeping her and the world in which she resides alive.

Once they are together, he remembers it all, and that knowledge means his doom for all eternity. But if he escapes her world, she will perish as will all others behind the looking glass. He is the key that keeps her alive, and she is the key that gives him hope. Can they break the curse that keeps them separated by torture and death? Can they escape together from a world that exists beyond every mirror?
5 Star Reviews

"I have never read anything quite like it and I loved it. Brilliant and well written. Superb!! And the writing style of the author was amazing." Rabia Tanveer, Readers’ Favorite

"Fans of Lord of the Rings, Anne Rice, and all fantasy novels will really enjoy this book! Truly one of the best books I've ever read!" Bonnie, Amazon Customer

“Christine Church gives readers a lovable protagonist. A wonderful love story. Like a dangerous but beautiful animal, this romance novel comes with some nail-biting moments that are definitely worth reading. I recommend this book to vampire fans."  ~Benjamin Ookami

"I actually fell asleep with the book in my arms and woke up to read it in the morning." Amazon Customer

"Great fantasy and very exciting, a real page turner." Amazon Customer
Five-Star Reader’s Review Favorite

5star-readersfavorite.png

Excerpt:

Love's Grasp
December 20, 2014
He remained perfectly still as the chains were wrapped around his body.  The metal cooled the heated flesh of his bare chest.  All around him echoed a cacophony of screams, bellows and stomping of feet that almost crushed him beneath its weight.  The air tightened with the chains and a rush of collective exhilaration and nervousness swirled through his senses.  He glanced quickly at the red-faced, muscular man standing beside him, who finished fastening the chains and stepped away.
He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. And then he waited, anxiety pounding in his breast. The air was thick with heat and sweat and smoke, but he'd grown accustomed to it through the years, as with the rest of the ritual. The one thing he could never get used to, however, was the flip-flop in the pit of his stomach that occurred as the platform he stood on slowly lifted into the air, revealing him to the anxiously awaiting crowd that crushed nearer. Starving animals before a feast.  He looked straight out, refused to look down, lest the vertigo take him.
How he hated heights.
He listened for the eerie orchestration of strings and organ that marked the beginning of his leisurely descent back to earth. The notes began with a rhythmic resonance that was almost conquered by impatient bellows that quickly turned to a roar of frenzied excitement.  As the platform lowered, a muzzy sensation circled Dane’s mind and his throat felt as though his stomach had been hoisted up into it.  
He held his breath in anticipation.
An amplified voice echoed over the din. “Ladies and Gentlemen.  Through the misty storm they come. Battles rage and blood is spilled and tonight you will feel…the rage of the... Dark Myst!”
    The crescendo of notes rose with the screams and soon the vast crowd, shrouded in the mist of machine smoke and lighting from the trusses above, came into view.  The platform touched the stage simultaneously with a deafening blast of canon fire, blinding light and searing heat from the pyrotechnics.
Dane thrust his arms outward in an ostentatious display of feigned strength and released his long held breath as the chains fell free of his body.  As he leaped forward the crowd crushed against the stage, nearly 20,000 screaming fans all at once a serried mass swarming towards him.
Tingles of excitement clawed at his spine, a feeling that never waned with the years.  He ran to the front of the stage and grabbed up the microphone as Bruce struck the first hard note on his Strat.  The music pounded out its heavy rhythm and the audience's cries warred with its volume. Sharp beams of laser light cut a zigzag through the haze. Dane twirled around and his heart jumped.
Oh what fresh hell!
He was staring at himself!
The stage had been set up like a room in a lover's palace; giant mirrors everywhere—behind, to the sides, even above, stretching as high as the trusses.  Due to a severe snow squall the truck carrying an important part of the band’s stage set had gone off the road and gotten stuck. No one was injured, but the set had not arrived in time to be set up in the sold-out Target Center.  Someone had decided the light show would look better reflected. Dane, however, was aghast. Not only was their stage set designed to coincide with most of their songs, but the effects of the colored lights continuously bouncing from mirror to mirror would inevitably result in the whole band plagued with a throbbing headache by concert’s end.
Their manager had to have approved this—someone had to have approved it. No one had told Dane! The mirrors must have been erected last moment. Everyone associated with the band knew how Dane hated mirrors. But now, no matter which direction he turned, he saw himself in his black costume and ragged-edged cloak; which portrayed him as the yin to the band's yang.  They were the mist, and he the dark storm.
To keep his attention from the mirrors, Dane fixed his gaze on the audience and the speckled glow from thousands of cell phone flashes, resembling a sparkling star-filled evening that stretched out before him. But he knew he would eventually have to turn around.
    By the third song it became maddening, not able to dance around as he normally would for fear of what might be hidden in those mirrors. But, thankfully, half way through the song he spotted one of the girls he'd met the last time he was in town.  At last, something to keep his mind and eyes busy.  In the front row she stood, arms raised toward him.  The bulldozing horde had her pressed against the stage, long auburn hair flittering about as she bobbed her head to the beat of the music.  He smiled in her direction, despite his sudden dread at remembering the promise he'd made to her the year before.  A promise—ashamedly—he had no intention of keeping.
He had never seen her before that night a year ago, so she hadn’t been a regular.  Conquering new territory was always fun. She’d displayed the looks normally reserved by the group of girls who always seem to know just how to be chosen above others and handed backstage passes.  This one, however, had taken a different approach. She had approached him on the floor of his hotel as he made his way to his room. Fortunately he had been alone—a rarity. He had invited her in.  Ample breasts and a nice round bottom offset by a perfectly slender waist. Dane knew he would be having a good time that night.
She had wanted too much, however, a commitment he couldn't give. Teasing him and denying him her favors until he'd made the vow. What else was there to do? And so he had said exactly what she wanted to hear. And, as na├»ve as she was, she had believed him. He couldn’t, after all, say no. Not when she lay there in his hotel bed displaying all her luscious charms. But he couldn't keep his promise, either.  There were plenty of women in countless towns, women the band’s crew knew were his type. Women who would be offered passes just so he could meet them, drink with them, bed them. And there would be more waiting in the next town after that.
Now, a pass with the name of a local radio as sponsor dangled around her neck. So, she had won backstage passes this time. There would be no avoiding her tonight. What would he say to her? He could not even recall her name. As her fiery glare burned through him, he absentmindedly turned away, catching Bruce’s smug grin as he looked from the girl to Dane.  He mouthed the words “there she is,” as he switched guitars with an assistant for the next set of songs.
Dane smirked, shook his head at his friend, then strutted to the other side of the stage as the next song began—one of the band’s trademark tunes that he wrote about a medieval land of lords and knights.  He wielded a sword, one of many from his collection, and proceeded to dance around in choreographed mock swordplay as the hired orchestra played their bit.  
At this point, his disappointment surged that the integral element of their regular stage set had not arrived.  The video wall depiction of a castle and rolling green hills was installed. However, mirrors now replaced the large faux-stone steps that were to lead to the balcony above the stage, giving Dane the appearance of riding atop one of two red-eyed dragons that should, at that moment, be gazing menacingly down at the crowd, smoke, laser and fire effects erupting from the eyes and fanged mouths. Those that came for the show would be fervently disappointed.
During Bruce’s brief guitar solo near mid-song, Dane closed his eyes for a moment and raised the sword high, drawing in the deep odor of sweat and heat. Machine-created fog crept along the stage and curled around his feet like a chill mist in a graveyard.  The lights were so dim he could scarce see even the front row of the audience as the laser lights sliced through the stadium and across his body like sharp-edged blades.
In accordance with his routine, and without second thought, he twirled around—and was suddenly staring right into one of the tall mirrors that littered the stage.  The lights brightened.  His craggy-hemmed cloak billowed as he spun from the ghastly reflection of his own sweat-soaked face only to catch the same image in the mirror beside that one. His gut wrenched and he tried to turn away, back to the front of the stage, back to the audience. But he froze as movement caught his eye and when he turned his head, she was there—the “Mirror Lady.” His illusion. His own delusion.
Onstage.
    As real to him as his own reflection.

    No! Not here!
Her thigh-length ginger hair was loose, rather than pulled back in the usual braid. The shining tresses poured over her shoulders like a rushing waterfall and cascaded down a beautiful gown of burgundy velvet that hugged her slim form. The tears in her golden eyes told a tale of sadness that wrenched at his heart, and he felt himself take an involuntary step forward. More familiar to him than Martha or Lance or Sir Kori, the sight of the “Mirror Lady” twisted his gut, a tornado rampaging through him, a tangled enrapture of perplexity and fear, love and pain—as if he had known her for more years than his life was long. And that familiarity drove him somewhere beyond her presence in some glass.  
    His dilemma with the redhead in the front row disappeared.  The girls he’d met in the past or would meet in the future no longer mattered. It was this stranger, this illusion. She alone meant everything—and she scared the hell out of him.  But deeper than fear lie an unbearable urge to leap into the mirror and gather her into his arms.  
Protective impulses tugged at him relentlessly and he was suddenly frightened not of her but for her. Terror seized his heart, and refused to let go, pounding through him harder than the music that continued to fill the stadium, confusing him profoundly.  Passionate emotions thrashed at his brain and his head ached with the need to bring them to the surface.  But he couldn’t.  A mental barrier walled off the needs screaming for release.  Why couldn’t he just go to her; feel for her the love he’d been missing his entire life?
    Behind him, the glass’ surface reflected a flurry of activity; lambent light bounced from one mirror to the next, heightening the pain in his head.  The small section of audience visible moved and swayed, their images like dancing ghosts in the dark mist of the stadium.  Stephan’s long strawberry hair swayed as he bobbed his head up and down while he plucked away at his bass. He hadn’t seen her.  At the time Dane didn’t think anyone else saw her, but her form was as solid in the mirror as was his own, as she had been in every mirror throughout his life.  
Concentration became impossible. He faltered, his voice cracked and he missed the chorus altogether. Familiar with the music, the mistake must have been quite obvious to the crowd. But he couldn't turn from that damn mirror.
Dane tried to force his mind back to the song when a searing bolt of pain sliced through his head. The clank of the sword and the microphone sounded loud to his ears, even above the music, as they dropped from his hands and crashed to the stage. Feedback screeched from the monitors and the music stopped. The burden of emotion and conflict pressed him downward and, like Alice, he found himself falling. Down. Down. The spotlights swirled like shooting stars and agony screamed through his shoulder as he hit the hard stage floor.  
The fog consumed him.
The stadium went dead silent. Bruce and Stephan rushed towards him. Adrian leapt from behind his drums. Road crew members and strangers circled above. The audience pressed closer to the stage, security guards frantically tried to hold them back.  Their lips moved, their hands pounded the stage. He saw them all, yet he heard nothing. And then he was forced into a vacuum of darkness.



__________________________________
Tour Wide


a Rafflecopter giveaway