Murder was a messy business; torture even less clean. As Hutch walked through the inn’s lobby, taking care to avoid the streams of dried blood that had drained from [the woman’s] body, he struggled to swallow. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen such a thing and he doubted it would be the last. But seeing the most evil side of human nature was never easy.
Each fingernail had been wrenched from [her] hands, as were the front teeth from her upper jaw. One eye was sealed shut, lost beneath a contusion the size of a lemon. A clean split opened her lower lip, giving her mouth an un-natural ‘V’ shape. As he looked at her features, it was hard for him to see where her nostrils had been, as dried blood had caked in clumps around her unrecognizable nose.
He kneeled at her side and touched the wire binding that strung her wrists and ankles together. The woman hadn’t been kind to them, not exactly, but hers was a fate undeserved. Hutch didn’t doubt a bag of coins would have opened her mouth freely to the comings and goings of A’ris and Hutch, and yet the level of torture the middle-aged woman endured wasn’t just unnecessary, it was brutal beyond reason. As if whoever committed the crime did so with the pure intent to kill, regardless of what information they extracted.
He smoothed the hair from her face and pulled a nearby throw off a wooden chair, draping it over her still body. She’d been bled dry, and though the entire room would forever show signs of her demise on the floors, walls and counters, he could at the very least give her soul respect by covering her violated body.
Someone out there was angry.
As Hutch took the stairs up to the room he’d shared with A’ris just days before, and found it cleaned out and empty, he could only hope that the dead man behind the Gear Maker’s shop was the man who had gone through the town, eliminating all who breathed. Either all signs of A’ris were being wiped clean, or any and all who crossed her path were struck dead simply for seeing her. Hutch knew A’ris was in trouble or soon would be.
The kind of trouble that drew blood in lethal amounts.
“A’ris, please be safe,” he whispered into the fresh sky.
His boots sank into the damp earth as he set off to the west with a pack of supplies he pillaged from [the inn’s] kitchen. Hutch didn’t even bother to change his muddy clothes, just slung a coat over his shoulder in case it should rain again. The bartender wouldn’t need it anymore. He, along with his patrons, had been shot dead.
Unsure if the hole in his heart was truly mended or would only heal once he set eyes upon the girl again, living and unharmed, he set out for the town of Calypso, determined to find what he had lost…
– Chapter 18 from The Dry Lands, a Hutch and A’ris novel
First kisses can never be repeated. The butterfly sensation in your stomach, the happy panic that teases your nerve endings, the wonder about what the taste and feel of the other person’s lips on yours will be like; none of it can be reproduced a second time. But kisses that reunite lovers are almost as good. There’s a promise in those kinds of kisses, a promise that the kiss is only the beginning, and that more will follow. Unlike the first kiss, there’s no doubt or fear, just love. And a promise of more to come. – Piper Willow, Dying to Return
Dying to Forget, the first book of The Station series, is totally free. You can start it today by finding your preferred retailer HERE. You can also click directly on some of the links below. Piper Willow is hoping to meet you soon!
For those who love books but might not have the time to read as often as they’d like, Dying to Forget is also available in audio form via Audible. Though not completely free, the price is lower for those who already have the ebook (which IS free). Such a great way to listen and save money in the process!
*Suitable for mature teens and older, however, parents of younger teens are encouraged to read these titles before their children do in order to discuss some of the heavier subject matter.
Please don’t miss the last December Giveaway! You can win the entire Station series book, signed and delivered, for free!
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*Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t read the first two books of The Station Series*
DYING TO RETURN
“You have really upset them,” Rush laughs. We’ve circled the Station three times, strolling aimlessly in a figure eight as Rush allows me to take in the scenery and practice blocking out the murmur of the crowd, focusing on only a few people at a time. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be, and I agree with him that it’s smart we came to a Station full of strangers before returning to my own.
“Me?” I mock.
“You know you did. The whole place is brimming now with gossip of our arrival. Usually I tend to hide in the background. You know…blend in with the locals. Not on this visit,” he groans.
“Oh please, you know you love being the center of the universe.”
“Which universe do you speak of?” He feigns a shocked expression and I elbow him in the side.
“All of them.”
With a snort, he doesn’t argue. Probably because I’m right. We’re making our way through a group of women with white hair who seem quite taken by Rush when a stabbing pain pulls at my temples. My stomach lurches and for a moment I think I might vomit. Not that anything is in there to come up.
“Piper, what’s wrong?” Rush asks, gripping my elbow with one hand to steady me.
“I don’t…I don’t know.”
The pain spreads along the back of my head like I’ve been struck with a mallet and the air stops in my lungs. The women with white hair shuffle away, afraid, leaving a gap between us and one other person. A young man.
“Holy shit,” he says to no one in particular.
With a final breath before I collapse to my knees onto the pearly floor, I mutter two words I never thought I’d say again, “Ryan Burke.”
The fourth book in The Station Series, DYING to KNOW, is coming soon!
COMING SOON…KERRY-ANNE on AUDIBLE!
Some people think that when a loved one is in a coma, you should talk to them and touch them, so as to let them know you are there. This way the person doesn’t feel alone. And just maybe, they’ll fight to come back – back from death. But no one really gets what it’s like. Being stuck in the middle of where you were and where you’re going – it’s not a choice the person can make. I know this now, because today I realized that the hazy memory fog I’ve been trapped in is a coma. As the Doctor stood over me, explaining to my parents what their choices were, I heard it all.
“No chance of recovery,” he’d said. Brain-dead. Gone.
But the Doctor was wrong. I’m still here – trapped. Screaming. Crying. Hurting. But they can’t hear me. They can’t feel me. Those experts have it all backwards – it’s me who needs to talk to them, to touch them, to let them know I’m here. But I can’t. Even if I was awake, I know my fingers are gone. And my tongue. The flames melted half my flesh away. I know my brain can’t work anymore – the connections that used to fire from one cell to the other are frozen in place – but I’m still here. Like my soul is stuck in time, waiting for permission to move on. I guess that means they’ll have to unplug me.
When you have the sort of empty time I do now, the mistakes you’ve made are all you can think about. And I guess I’ve made some big ones. Setting myself on fire probably tops the list of stupid things I’ve done. I don’t think about that moment much. Not because it’s so unpleasant, but because I just can’t remember it all. I was in the bathroom, the matches in my hand, the lower half of my dress drenched in Daddy’s BBQ lighter fluid, my eyes red from crying, staring back at me in the mirror. I know what I did. And I remember I tried to put myself out with the shower curtain, but it wrapped around me and the plastic melted to me and acted like a funnel, sending the uncontrollable flames licking up my body. Eating at my skin. Devouring me. And then the memory sort of fades to an endless dark nothing.
Dark, like the inside of my no longer working mind.
I know I’m wrapped up with strips of fabric and gauze and dosed with medications, because every once in a while, someone pries open what is left of my eyelids, and for the briefest moment, I can see again. But the damaged skin of my lids is heavy with blisters, and they slide closed when released, and the world around me vanishes once more. It’s the way things go for a long time. A very long time. So long, in fact, that I’m sure I’ve hallucinated my entire life. All fifteen years of it.
Maybe I wasn’t adopted. Maybe Lavinia wasn’t one of those hard-core mothers with a martini constantly in her right hand who pushed her only daughter to be as exceptional as her sister’s adopted kid. Maybe Luke wasn’t one of those fathers who cared only about what everyone else thought of him and his golf swing. Maybe none of it was real, not one single minute. For a while I even thought that I’m a fetus, growing inside some strange woman’s womb, ready to be reborn into a different life. But I know I’m not that lucky…
The third Station Series Novelette is coming to audio! Releasing soon on Audible.com and Amazon – narrated by Kadee Coppinger. If you haven’t read KERRY-ANNE just yet, no worries – you’ll be able to listen to it soon! Stationers won’t want to miss the insight into Piper Willow’s best Station friend’s life…and death. A story about redemption and second chances. Keep an eye out for this release. *wink*
NILES is also available on Audible (for only $3.95!) and Amazon for your listening pleasure. You can find it HERE.
If you’re new to The Station Series, start the first book for FREE!
Sometimes the day you die, is only the beginning…
NOOK (updated version)
“Not every moment here is a pleasure,” his gruff voice says above my head.
I shrug. “Right. But, it’s not meant to be a pleasure though, is it?”
“No, I suppose not,” Rush answers.
We both stare at the wall, and he reaches out to touch the picture of Mallory’s face as it comes up. “She’s a good friend.”
I shrug again. “Yeah. And a good volunteer, even though things didn’t go so great with me, obviously. That’s not her fault though.” I pause to take a long sigh, bringing the air deep into my lungs before letting it back out in a loud puff. “I don’t know how she can stand to look at my face after what I did. Maybe Sloan’s right – volunteers really shouldn’t be friends with their failed cases.”
Rush nods. “I can see how that makes things…difficult. In a perfect world, none of you would be here. And I’ll admit with more than a little embarrassment, that sometimes I wonder how different both our lives would be if you’d not arrived at the Station at all.” His voice is quiet, pensive. Whatever else is going on inside his mind, he’s keeping it to himself.
My own thoughts are racing circles around its own silent track. “You know, I think about things like that all the time. Part of me wishes I’d never woken up here, but then I feel grateful to have this place. The Station is a second chance for those of us who felt no chances were left.”
– Dying to Know, Coming Soon
If you haven’t read The Station Series yet – you can start the first book for FREE.