Variants, humans whose altered DNA turn them into blood ravaging killers, are attacking en masse around the world. Their leader, Travik, is gathering a force from space to kill every last human.
Auden, king of the Anathergians, has the fate of the world in his hands. His hold is slipping as the threats multiply each day.
Then there’s Auden’s Lifemate, Leah, whom he loves above all others. He struggles to do what he can to ensure her safety while also protecting her from herself.
J’ashidah, the Anathergian gathering, is upon them. There Leah will be introduced to thousands of her people and crowned as the Anathergian queen.
But Leah wants nothing more than to use her newfound Anathergian strength, along with her witch powers, to remove the threat of the Variants and their leader. It doesn’t matter that the villain is her father. She’s had enough of his continual harassment and attacks, especially to those she loves. She will do whatever it takes, including lies and deception, to end this threat.
Travik, one of the last living Anathergian royals, wants to take Auden’s place with his daughter at his side. He will destroy everything, including every precious life on this world, to get what he wants, no matter the cost. First, however, he must convince Leah to agree with his way of thinking. And if she doesn’t… Well, he has no problem hurting, maiming, or killing those she cares for.
~ Bewitching BT
Leah’s breath rang harsh in her ears and her heart pumped wildly in her chest. She dashed behind a wide tree, her feet barely touching the dark soil and rocks beneath her. Pine needles slapped against her warm cheeks, bringing with them the overwhelming scents of pine and sap. She froze, peering down the mountainside, its green depths ethereal in the full moon’s yellow glow. Each leaf, blade of grass, and tree groove came to her in explicit detail.
Her stomach churned as her powers surged through her veins and the left side of her neck burned from the activation of her crescent moon Designation. The blue-silver glow from her eyes shone against the branches as she scanned the area below her, searching the shadows for any signs of those in pursuit. The area had a deceptive calmness. A cool breeze swept up the incline, sweeping strands from her ponytail over her exposed neck and along her cheek.
Leah swallowed in an effort to control her breathing and squinted as a sharp pain lanced through her side.
How long have I been at this?
Judging by the moon’s placement in the cloudless sky, she guessed at least five hours.
A crack echoed to her left. She twisted her head in that direction and caught sight of a branch bouncing back into place two hundred yards to the east of her.
Too close. They’ll be on top of me in seconds.
Turning about, she combed the area to determine a getaway route.
The tree coverage had thinned as she’d ascended the mountain, heading south from where the hunt began. Vegetation had become nearly nonexistent as the terrain became more rocks than dirt.
The tinkling of pebbles came to her, the sound so light even her enhanced hearing barely registered it. They were gaining on her, and her choices for escape were dwindling. She gnashed her teeth and leaped to an outcropping of boulders. Leah pushed her powers higher, forcing herself to jump as fast as she could from rock to rock.
Her witch powers allowed her to levitate, but doing so would be a mistake. The move would put her out in the open, making her vulnerable. Her only option left was to use her Anathergian abilities. She increased her speed, weaving through the obstacle course. Objects stuttered past her like a film in slow motion. Her gaze caught each small detail. A lizard jumped out of her way, its bluish-gray body zipping back and forth. Small white flowers stuck out from a crack in a boulder, proving life found a way even when the odds were insurmountably stacked against it.
Leah’s thigh muscles screamed as she pumped her legs, compelling them to go faster. Sweat dampened the back of her long-sleeved black shirt. It was the middle of summer and, though the elevation made it cooler, she wished for spring or autumn. She darted onto another rock, its reddish-beige surface coming at her fast. The hairs on the nape of her neck prickled as she sensed someone gaining on her. The tracker was good. Her enhanced senses couldn’t even feel him there. Nor could she pick up on the sound of his pursuit.
A heavy weight bashed into her back and her body fell forward, her face aiming for the boulder. Her breathe shot out of her lungs. Strong hands gripped her wrists, spreading her arms wide. Leah struggled to free them, but the assailant was too strong. The ground came closer and she closed her eyes to prepare for the crash landing. She forced her Hiy’kula to the front part of her body. The ripples of silver, like snake skin, blanketed her dermas. It was her ultimate defense mechanism and impermeable. But it used huge amounts of her Ra’juhl, leaving her weak and low on power. At the last moment, the man flipped around, taking the brunt of the fall on his back, while still keeping her hands apart. Her head bounced back against his chest. A whoosh of air escaped from the man, but he made no other sound.
Leah let go of the Hiy’kula, and pushed her powers higher, reaching for her specialty ability, Va’shule. Bolts of lightning arced from her fingers, but without the use of her hands, she couldn’t direct them. She tsked in frustration and kicked backward at the man’s shin.
If I can’t use my powers, I may as well revert to the methods I used prior to becoming full Anathergian.
The man grunted, his voice unrecognizable.
Leah yanked, trying pull her arms free, but the man’s strength was immense. She could taste his power in the air, the frigidness of it nearly stealing her breath.
Amping up more power, she pushed her feet against the hard boulder and rounded her shoulder blades, rolling up and back. She twisted around to loosen her hands. Finally free, she spun around and found her pursuer already on his feet, towering over her like death come for its victim.
Damn he’s fast.
She bared her fangs and hissed as she bent her knees and brought up her fists. Her opponent stood at least six-foot-five, taller than her Lifemate, Auden. Her heart skittered in her chest as she took in the extraordinary wide chest and bald head covered with red skin.
Zonatair. Here to take me. Here to kill all humans and take over Earth.
Leah studied her enemy, determining where to strike first. She feigned with her left, waiting for a slight flinch from the man. When it came, she bashed the man’s left temple with her right hand. She sprang off the balls of her feet and grabbed the man around his neck, and continued her motion to bring down the mammoth body. They fell with an oomph. Her pursuer landed hard on top of her, covered the right side of her body.
Leah lay on the edge of the outcropping, her left leg dangling in the air. She had nowhere to push off from.
The warrior scrambled from her neck hold, gripped her shirt, and pulled her up with him. Leah released blazing streams of her power, and directed it at him. He pulled her against him and she stopped.
She couldn’t hit him with the lightning or it would go through his body and into her. Her mind scrambled for her next move. The man’s scent of clean sweat and forest tickled her nose. “How about another kick, motherfucker? Right where it counts?”
She lifted her knee, but he wrapped his leg around her, stilling her at once. Leah opened her mouth to curse at him, when another interrupted her.
“You’re dead, Leah.”
Leah stilled and angled her head in the direction the voice had come from. A man kneeled on the cliff above her, the light of the moon casting gold streaks along his long, dark brown hair. His powers were in full force so that his right eye beamed blue, while the left gleamed with a burnished silver. The eye of a hawk shone mercury and charcoal beneath his strong jawline.
“Damn it, Nico!” Leah fumed.
He laughed, his straight teeth bright in the darkness. “Don’t damn me. It’s your own fault. This training is supposed to help you improve your night ops. To keep you unseen and unheard. A ghost. You were seen and heard. Not very ghostly of you.”
Leah shook her head and then let it fall against the broad chest in front of her. “Can you please let go?”
The titanic man released her at once. Stars spun in her peripheral vision, but she hid the weakness. There was no way she would let on to Nico she was close to the end of her strength.
Leah examined the large man who had captured her. The red skin stretched over the wide, muscular frame. His lilac eyes stared at her, and memories of the conversation she’d seen of the Zonatair during her ritual returned to haunt her. The beastly aliens had discussed plans to destroy Earth and all its humans, like they had Anathergia. Her Anathergian father would then be in charge of the rest of his race. That is, after he killed Auden, her Lifemate. She swallowed convulsively.
His monstrous sized hand went to his wrist and a beeping sound came to her. The Zonatair illusion dissolved to reveal an Anathergian warrior. She glanced at the device circling his wrist. Gunner, the Anathergian IT pro, had developed it to produce the exterior to assist with Leah’s training.
Gunner and his magic.
She nodded at the tall warrior. “M’sharik.”
The man returned her nod, but said nothing. His bright diamond shard eyes began to diminish into their regular ice blue color and his long hair blazed alabaster in the night. She dampened a shiver and swiveled back to Nico. Leah loosened her grip on her own powers, allowing the burning in her stomach to cool and her fangs to retreat. “One more round?”
Nico jumped down to their level. “Naw. I think it’s time to head back.”
“Already?” She widened her eyes, trying to portray a look of innocence, while inside she was relieved.
He’d diminished his powers, and his gaze, no longer glowing, gave her a once over. “You don’t fool me, Leah.”
She followed him as he stepped down. The large man stayed behind her. A breeze picked up and brought his scents of earth and strength. The icy tinge of his power was still there as well. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been at this over six hours, going full out. I want to help build up your endurance, but I’m not going to let you completely deplete your Ra’juhl.”
“My powers are fine,” she said, quickening her pace to catch up.
“We’ll start over tomorrow.”
“But I want to keep training tonight. I need to be ready for whatever my father has planned.”
Nico stopped and whipped around to stare down at her. Leah’s feet dug into the ground to prevent herself from running into the warrior. M’sharik stepped up beside her, quiet as ever.
“Leah, if you push yourself too hard, you’ll become nothing but a shell, and be so weak your father and the Zonatair could send a human boy to take you. Is that what you want? To be taken again?”
Leah blinked. “Of course not. I just want to be ready.”
“The way to become ready is to build your powers up. That is done by working on your endurance.” When she opened her mouth to argue, he cut her off. “In increments, Leah. Not all at once.”
“But a couple hours of increments isn’t difficult,” she complained.
He took a step closer, making her tilt her head back to look at him. “Do you know how long it took me to build up my endurance so I could be where I need to be, Leah?”
She shook her head. M’sharik’s bright head swiveled back and forth, watching the exchange.
“Close to twenty years. And even then, I wasn’t where I needed to be. You,” he pointed at her and she drew back, “have only weeks. Weeks! So stop complaining and do what I say, all right?”
Leah drew in a deep inhalation, and her damp shirt stretched across her back. “All right.”
Nico studied her for a few more moments. “Race me back to the cabin?”
She smiled. “You’re on.”
“No powers,” he said, and he zipped around and disappeared.
“What?” she gaped. “You sneaky, little…” Leah pushed off, pressing herself as hard as she could to catch up with him.
She laughed when she hit the small clearing behind Gunner’s cabin, situated in a tiny neighborhood in Mt. Charleston. A few feet separated her from Nico. Then her face fell when she noticed M’sharik sitting on the roof, staring up at the stars, without any sign of having ran over five miles through the woods to reach the place before them. Leah’s feet came to a stop and she bent over, kneading at her side.
How the hell did he make it before us?
The warrior freaked her out with his stoic demeanor and how he constantly analyzed everyone.
Nico peered over his shoulder at her and shook his head. He muttered under his breath. She wasn’t sure what he’d said, but is sounded something like “pathetic.” As he entered the back sliding glass door, Leah wanted to stick her tongue out at him, but tamped down the urge.
She regarded his disappearing back and then joy spread through her as she would soon speak to her Lifemate.
Nico had left the door open for her, and she slid inside and made her way to the kitchen. She plucked a bottle of water from the fridge and then climbed the steep stairs to the loft. After grabbing her phone from the nightstand, she landed on her back onto the mattress. Leah opened an app and selected Auden’s name from the list, then laid the phone on her chest. After two rings, an image of her Lifemate’s smiling face floated above the screen. “Q’mara. How are you?”
Leah marveled at his life-like visage.
Gunner is such a genius.
“Tired,” she said. “And sore. How about you?” Leah kicked off her shoes and rubbed her foot along her aching leg muscles.
Auden’s black gaze angled to the side for a moment, and she could barely discern the corridors of the complex in the background. He returned his attention back to her. “We received a report from Sordjic, the chief of the Italian Anathergian headquarters, of Variants raiding Florence. We’ve scheduled an operation with a special ops group to take care of the problem the day after tomorrow.”
She frowned, uneasy with the increasing number of Variants. The humans had received variant strains of Anathergian DNA from her father, along with magical compounds from Daya, his wicked witch cohort, in an effort to make them as powerful as the Anathergians. Most of the time the humans didn’t survive the transition. If they did, they often went crazy, killing and maiming people. Sightings had spiked all over the world. It was as if the mutated humans had all been hoarded in cages and suddenly set free to terrorize the planet.
Leah knew this was the beginning of something much larger to come.
“I’ve scheduled to meet with all of the complex leaders to finalize preparations for the upcoming invasion. The meeting will take place during J’ashidah.”
Leah’s body seemed to turn in on itself. The oncoming threat was so huge, she could barely comprehend it. And soon there would be J’ashidah—a gathering of the Anathergians that happened every ten years. There she would be presented by her Lifemate, the Anathergian king, as the new queen. Her stomach whirled at the thought. Tack on the rigors of her training and being responsible for her foster brother who recently turned fifteen … It was enough to make anyone melt into a puddle.
“You return tomorrow, correct?” he asked.
She nodded. “After we’ve finished the training.”
He tilted his head. “How are you holding up?”
Leah shrugged, her shoulder blade rubbing against the bed. “I’m doing okay. I’ve probably run at least twenty miles, or more, each night, on top of all the specialty training Nico and M’sharik are giving me. My muscles are sore, but I’ll be fine once I see you.”
His white teeth shone bright against his tanned skin as he smiled.
“How is Ceadan?” Her foster brother was the only thing that kept her sane while growing up with her abusive foster parents. Auden had gained guardianship of him at her request, so it was now on them to ensure he was taken care of.
His smile disappeared. “Trianne took him to his first day of summer tech camp and I picked him up. He grumbled incessantly.”
Leah’s lips quivered. “Yeah, he’s pretty good at that.”
They were quiet for a few moments, and the time filled with longing. “I miss you,” Leah whispered.
“And I, you.”
His image dissipated and she held the phone close to her. The warmth of the device seeped through her shirt and she wished the heat came from her Lifemate. Being away from him for just a few days made her ache. Their connection with one another was so entangled, each of them often knew what the other was thinking. Being away was like having a hot poker stabbed into her spine, its iron cross twisting the fragile bone and nerves into tiny fragments.
She sucked in a shaky breath and finally rose to shower.
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
The crazy voices in my head… Seriously! They won’t stop talking – no, make that screaming – at me! Honestly, though, once the voices gave a bit of breathing room so I could think, I realized the Anathergians’ (the immortal powerful species from another planet who came to Earth over five thousand years ago) story was a bit different from you average-everyday vampire/scifi/paranormal book. At least, I think it is.
3. What was the source of inspiration for your protagonist? What about your antagonist?
Leah and Auden, the heroine and hero, were both people in need, though they didn’t think or acted like they required help. They kept it so far hidden, they were under the impression they could do it all on their own. I think this is a trait that many people have, and I wanted to tell the story of how much stronger they’d become when they were together.
I always knew the villain would be related to Leah; I just wasn’t sure how. It came to me as I was writing the story. He is Anathergian, but he had never been part of their society, and therefore, he’s split down the middle. Travik is, but then he isn’t. It’s a very lonely and frustrating place to be.
4. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
I have never had writer’s block. Sometimes when I talk to people about it who have it, I wonder if it’s caused by the writer wanting the change the story, and the characters shut down. During ROYALS, Leah took me for a journey where I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I loosened the reigns and let her have her freedom, knowing I’d bring her back to the range eventually. She wanted some surprises to happen earlier than I had planned. And I allowed her to do it, knowing I’d put it where I wanted in the end. It worked out, but it was a challenge.
5. Your all time favorite book?
Whaaatttt??? Oh, my gosh… Hmmm… I’m a huge fan of the original Jason Bourne series (“Bourne Identity”, “Bourne Supremacy”, and “Bourne Ultimatum”). Ludlum’s writing pulled me into a detailed world where it’s so detailed, I’d swear I could smell the Seine in Paris. His fight scenes (which I’m a huge fan of) were fantastic. Of course, I love the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon, which I’ve read since it came out a loooooonnngg time ago. I also adore Louis L’amore’s “Last of the Breed.” Such a great story!
6. What made you pick that one above all others?
I couldn’t. But, overall, each of the stories I mentioned have a great amount of detail without it being overburdening, and really pull you in to the story.
7. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
My first book, VARIANTS (published just one year before ROYALS) took the longest. Mainly because I went through quite a few critiques with groups and those within my own critique group. Once I polished up my writing techniques, and I had some of my weaknesses strengthened, then I felt better about not having them go through so many people. I still use my small critique group, and I have a wonderful editor who gives me great feedback. My tiny street team give me some great information as well.
8. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
For sure. I really look at TV shows, films, and books a lot differently. I guess it’s kind of like a person who knows how to do CGI; when they look at an effect, they are generally evaluating it to determine how it was done. I now constantly tear apart a storyline to determine why something was done a certain way and what is it leading up to.
9. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Never. Not one time.
10. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
I’m a web/app developer and I do graphics. I work two jobs – one full and the other a few hours a week. I also run a few websites/Facebook pages. So I stay very busy.
11. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
I don’t really believe there are bad reviews. I try to read each review and learn from it. The only time I get a little confused by a bad review is when it was from someone who read the stories out of order, or they thought it was a novel, when it was actually a novella. I’m not quite sure what to do with those.
For other authors, I’d always recommend to learn not to take the reviews (both good and bad) personally. All of us wish for good reviews, but how do we learn if we’re perfect? I want to grow and learn and become better, and the only way I can do that is with an honest review.
12. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
ROYALS is the last book in the Anathergians Trilogy, but it is part of a saga. Next, I’m starting on a YA series for Ceadan, the heroine’s younger brother (I can’t really say little, but he’s big, even though he’s fifteen). It’s going to be a lot of fun! I will eventually be writing novels on many of the Anathergian characters. So, expect to see these books for a long time!
13. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
Besides the Anathergians, there is another book I’m also starting my research on. It’s a time travel romance I started on many years ago, back before I didn’t know how to write at all. I wrote three chapters and let some friends read it. For years, they begged for the rest, but I didn’t have it. Life got in the way. So, I’m doing it now, and I’m so very excited for it!
14. What made you decide to go the self-pub way?
I did a lot of research. The main reason I went self-pub was because my Anathergians were so different, there was no real single genre for them. That becomes very difficult for agents/editors to take on. So I decided to do it on my own and get my toes wet. Plus to prove to myself I could do it. And I did! I published five books in one year!
15. What would you say was the toughest part?
The marketing/business side is by far the most difficult for me. Mainly because I work full time and this side takes a lot of my time, which I don’t always necessarily have.
16. Did you hire professionals for editing, cover design, formatting?
I absolutely hired a professional editor and am very glad I did. She has been invaluable with my work. Since I’ve done graphics for years, along with desktop publishing, I did my own cover designs and formatting.
17. How did you decide who to hire, if you worked with pros?
I was lucky enough to already be involved/friends with people in the publishing world, so I had to decide which of them fit me. Which one thought like me? And I found the perfect person!
18. How long did the production part take, from the moment you began working on the manuscript to self-pub to when you hit ‘Publish’?
That all depends on the size of the book, the amount of research involved, and the availability of my editor. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. I’d say my average is about four months.
19. Where is your work being distributed, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, AllRomanceEbooks/Omnilit, some other distributor? How did you decide which one(s) to go with?
All of my books are on Amazon and CreateSpace. My novella, GUNNER: THE HACKER’S CODE, was just published on Smashwords.
20. If you could turn back in time and do things differently, would you? What would you change?
I probably would’ve bit the bullet and started with this dream a long time ago instead of waiting until my youngest went off to college.
21. If you were to recommend one article, blog, post, or book to someone hoping to self-pub, what would it be?
The Emotional Thesaurus. I won this from the company who published this book. They gave it to me in a printed out little clear folder cover. It’s been invaluable! I also go through books and write down phrases I love on lined paper and add it to the folder. I’m going to have to get a bigger one soon.
22. In retrospect, what was the toughest part of self-pubbing? Was it the part that you thought would be toughest before embarking on this adventure?
Again, the marketing. Even as a web developer and someone who is very IT savvy, it’s been a challenge for me; mainly the time (and often the money) it takes to do the marketing.
23. What’s one characteristic of an author who self-publishes, one word that would describe them?
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for?
The end of hate.
2. If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you?
The compilation of the Song of Ice and Fire series. I can’t just do one!
3. Name your favorite fruit.
4. Coffee or tea?
5. Favorite season?
6. How about fav time of 24 hours?
7. Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
Nope! But, boy did I want to be!
8. Favorite food for breakfast?
9. Latest book you’ve bought and read?
“Michael Vey: The Prisoner in Cell 25” by Richard Paul Evans.
10. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
11. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us!
12. Drama or comedy?
13. Have a fav quote or personal motto?
“Be what you want to seem.” Obi Wan Kenobi
14. Cats or dogs?
15. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?
Dinner (followed by a movie!)
16. What song have you listened to most recently?
More than likely something by Shinedown.
17. What first came to mind after reading question no. 1 of the Fun Facts section? I mean that thing that you reconsidered after giving it more thought 😛
World peace, but then I thought, what is it that we need to cause world peace? So, the end of hate.
1. Your top secret, uber guilty pleasure is…
Eating a big meal that’s very bad for me. Usually has something fried.
2. If you could choose to be someone else for just one day, it would be…
3. Your oldest memory is…
Flying with my great grandma from Vegas to LA in a propeller plane in a lightning storm.
4. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at…
No idea. Lol
5. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid/get out of is…
6. Your favorite part of a date is…
Getting to know someone.
7. If a character from any book could become real and you could spend a day with them, it would be… from the book…
Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, of course.
8. You were/are a hardcore fan of…
9. You’d immediately fall for someone who…
Looked at me like no one in the world mattered.
10. The one thing you could/can never get over is…
Liars and cheats.
11. If you could have any one superpower, it would be…
12. The one thing that always brightens your day is…
Talking to one of my sons.
13. The most awkward moment in your life happened when…
I was auditioning for a lead role in a play and I tripped on the stairs going up to the stage. I still got the part!
14. The awesomest thing in your life is…
My boys. Love them more than life itself.
About the Author & Links:
Michelle C. Reilly is a science fiction romance writer. She’s a single mom of two wonderful boys. She spent ten years in the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman Preventive Medicine Technician, which meant she was actually attached to or stationed with the U.S. Marine Corps. She has a Masters in Science in Public Health, but she is generally an IT geek and a geek of many other things as well. She currently resides in Las Vegas, NV, with her two cats, Meowdy and Moose, and her dog, Katie aka “The Old Lady.”
Make sure to visit her website for more information about her and her upcoming books.
Feel free to visit, ask her questions, and hang out with her on Facebook.