Author : Stacey Rourke
Genre: YA Paranormal
Audience: 13 +
Formats: E-book and Print
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing
Editor: Melissa Ringsted
Title: The Conduit
Date Published: November 2011 (rereleased November 13, 2013)
All 18-year-old Celeste Garrett wants is to head off to college and make those fun, yet ill-advised, choices college kids are known for. And maybe to spend some time with the hot cameraman she just met. Instead, because of a pact her ancestors made in the 17th century with a mythical creature, she has to save the world. While normal kids are slamming energy drinks and cramming for exams, Celeste will get her adrenaline rush fighting a fire breathing dragon. She wants to meet friends in the quad to exchange lecture notes, but first she must exchange blows with a shapeshifting demon on the rooftop. Life isn’t always fair for a superhero, but at least she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her brother and sister as sidekicks, they alternate between saving lives and getting on each others’ nerves. Together the trio encounters unspeakable odds, mystical forces and comes face-to-face with an image that will haunt them forever—their grandmother in a leopard print bikini.
At certain moments in life reflection is mandatory. I found being squeezed in the scaly claw of a three story dragon to be one of them. As he shook me like an uncooperative toy, my rattled brain wondered how life had led me here. Could I have done anything differently to maybe not die horribly at the hands of Mr. Big-Green-and-Ugly?
But as my constricted lungs burned and ached for even a whisper of a breath, I knew there was no way I could’ve avoided this. No matter where I went. No matter what I did. They would’ve found me. It was inevitable.
A searing pain in my side signaled that my recently mended rib had cracked again. I opened my mouth to scream but could manage no sound. My head wobbled so hard it felt like it might snap off my neck. Black spots danced before my eyes. With them came flashes from a life that wasn’t mine.
With tentative steps the girl walks through the smoldering, charred remains of her tiny village. Her bare feet are burned and blackened, but she doesn’t waver. She lays a delicate hand on the shoulder of the half-eagle/half-lion creature that saved them all. Well…most of them. Some of the blood spilled in this emerald Ireland valley had been fatal.
His rants turned into nothing more than a ringing in my ears. One by one, my senses gave up. They retreated into the dark abyss and waited for me to join them there.
A look of steely determination overcame the girl’s dainty features. “You didn’t let us stand alone, and I will not let you.”
The Gryphon snapped his beak and shook his enormous head. “No. This war will rage on long after your mortal life has ended. I have foreseen it.”
“Then my heirs shall take up the cause as well!” She lifted her soot-covered nightgown enough to allow herself the movement needed to go down on one knee. Her glorious, ivory wings stretched out wide behind her as she pressed her fist over her heart. “It is my pledge to you that the O’Garren family will join you in this crusade. My people will be your warriors until we find victory or death.”
The pain lessened. Peace replaced it. That pledge, made centuries ago, is what led me here. If the break-ins hadn’t happened. If I had stayed in Michigan. I’d still find myself here, losing my grip on whatever tied my spirit to this world. Of course, now I knew that those break-ins were them looking for me. And they followed me to Gainesboro. As the last of my strength and energy drained from my body, the thought of my new home made me smile.
Gainesboro, Tennessee. That’s where it all happened. That’s where I learned the truth. That’s where everything changed. That’s where my destiny found me. And now, it’s where I would die.
Date Published: March 2012, rereleased November 13, 2013
RONE Award Winner Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012
Whether she likes it or not, eighteen year old Celeste Garrett has come to terms with being the Chosen One. She knew having a “normal life” would be tricky, between intense training sessions and epic demonic battles, but she didn’t know at what cost it would come. That is, until a dear friend is harmed by the malicious forces hunting her. Now, she’d like nothing more than to retreat into a hermit lifestyle to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. But startling revelations, amazing new abilities, and mortifying moments in front of insanely hot guys won’t allow time for that. Soon, Celeste finds herself surrounded by darkness and wondering who she can trust—if anyone.
The next night’s patrol up into the mountains was all kinds of awkward due to how incredibly peeved Gabe still was despite my attempts to make amends. As we walked, he intentionally allowed a branch to snap back at my face. I caught it a split second before it impaled my eyeball. Kendall, with her sweet nature, easily forgave me and we hugged it out. Gabe told me where I could shove my apology. Maybe I had been somewhat out of line with the things I said, but he had been lying to me for months. Therefore, I’d had about all of his nasty attitude I could tolerate.
“Don’t worry about that branch, Gabe,” I snapped. “I got it. Thanks.”
Gabe halted. He kept his broad back to me as he let out a low, menacing growl.
I put my hand on my hip and shined my flashlight at him. “Oh, I don’t even think so! I don’t care how big and bad you think you are, you’re not gonna growl at me.”
His head whipped around. The light from my flashlight reflected off of his yellow cat eyes. That sight wasn’t new to me, yet it still gave me chills.
“Demon,” he rumbled, in a barely human tremor, then fell to the ground in a low crouch. His clawed hands dug into the dirt as his back arched in preparation for his change.
A rush of air behind me and Keni’s wings were deployed. She and I scanned the landscape in front of us with our flashlights. Trees. Light fog. Rocks. The occasional critter, but no demon. Then—not twenty feet in front of us—the brush rustled. A black shadow darted past us.
“Did you see that?” I followed it with the light, but it vanished before I could catch up.
Before either of them could answer, a shrill cackle echoed through the night. The shapeless form flew by in another pass. We spun to follow it but again failed to get a glimpse.
“Where’d it go?” Keni’s feathers tickled my shoulder as she curled her wing protectively around me. “I lost it.”
Pebbles kicked up as the demon skidded to a stop in front of us. Like matching spotlights our flashlight beams captured the creature.
Kendall giggled and put her wings away.
Gabe paused in the early stages of his transformation, stood up, and reverted back to human.
I screamed for all I was worth and dropped my flashlight.
Before us stood a gruesome, two-foot tall hobgoblin with green wart covered skin that hung off its tiny frame. Long, wiry black hair draped down passed the snarling, spitting creature’s itty, bitty shoulders. With beady little eyes, a snout for a nose, and a mouth full of shark-like teeth, this thing was straight out of my worst nightmares.
“Aww, it’s kinda cute!” Kendall gushed and bent down to extended her hand to it like it was a friendly pooch.
Then it charged. Its tiny legs blurred as it sped toward us with snapping jaws. I flew onto Gabe’s shoulders like a cat up a tree. Kendall released her wings just in time to lob the hobgoblin back where it started. That didn’t slow it down. It hopped right back up and ran at us again.
“Get off me!” Gabe ordered, but couldn’t shake my death grip from around his neck.
“NO! Not until you get rid of it!” I screamed. “Turn into a lion and eat it! Or shred it! I don’t care, just make it go away!”
Once again, Kendall hit it like a well-served tennis ball and sent it careening through the air.
“What do you need my help for?” Gabe asked, in what I considered to be an overly mocking tone, as he grappled to pry my arms and legs off of him. “You’re the “Chosen One” and I’m just your sidekick. Seems to me you should be able to handle this all on your own, oh-mighty one.”
“Gabe! Now is not the time to get into this!” I pleaded as I clung to him like a frightened koala bear. “Just kill it!”
“No.” While I couldn’t see his face, I could hear the smirk in his voice. “I think now is the perfect time to talk about this. You need to admit that you need both of us.”
The demon whizzed past Keni. I squealed and squeezed my eyes shut as Gabe casually punted it away from us. “I need you! I need you! Please! Get rid of that thing!”
“Now apologize for calling me your sidekick. That was very offensive.”
“You’re not my sidekick!” I whimpered. “You’re my sentry! Which is mythical, and heroic. Please make that horrible thing go away!”
“And you’ll never take us for granted again, right?”
“Oh, for the love of all that’s good and pure! Yes! I’m an awful person that took you for granted. It’ll never happen again!”
“Good,” Gabe relented. “Now climb down, and I’ll take care of the toddler-sized demon for you.”
Just as I attempted to scale my way down my building-sized brother, the mini-goblin zipped at us again. I screeched, lost my hold, and thudded to the ground. Right into the path of the incoming two-foot terror.
Yelling, “Celeste look out,” was all Gabe and Keni had time to do.
In utter panic, I brought one arm up to shield my face and held the other out to block the attack. With my eyes clamped shut I tensed for the moment when those gruesome teeth would shred me to the bone.
No shredding, biting, or nipping of any sort came. Nothing did.
“Uh, Celeste?” Keni’s tone was a question mark.
“What?” I squeaked my response through a locked jaw, but didn’t dare open my eyes.
“I think you got a new power.”
Date Published: November 2012, rereleased November 13, 2013
Celeste Garrett has finally found a happy balance in her life as the Chosen One, thanks in large part to a certain hunky Irishman. But if there’s any lesson she should heed since receiving her calling it’s that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Soon a terrible new threat, unlike anything she’s ever encountered, causes her to make a gut-wrenching choice that will strip her of someone she holds dear. As much as she’d like to have a pity party for one, there’s no time for that now because wedding bells are ringing in Gainesboro! In between dress fittings and rehearsal dinners Celeste will have to fend off attacking demons and leering pirates. As if the Dark Army wasn’t scary enough our heroine is faced with the horrifying trauma of attending a bachelorette party with her mom and watching Grams do Jell-o shots. Is a walk down the aisle even possible for a member of the Garrett family when the Dark Army is out to destroy them? More importantly, will the Dark Army Glee Club sing at the reception? Raise your glass to the happy couple, and get ready for a wedding…Conduit-style.
“You can, and should, make this decision for him. But you won’t because of your feelings for him.”
“We are not having this conversation again. Besides, this isn’t even you talking. It’s Alaina. When did you become her overly hairy messenger?”
“I’m not her messenger. We’re a couple, and couples should communicate and make their decisions as a team.”
“I see she’s still making you watch The View.”
“Shut up. Some of those women make very good points.”
“Sure they do. Now please keep your voice down. You’re going to blow our cover.” I shifted on the balls of my feet and peeked out the window of the lifeguard shack. Sand blew and churned outside with enough force to leave welts on skin. What civilians thought was nothing more than a nasty storm ravaged the Florida Gulf Coast line. Waves slammed against the shore, each swell larger than the last. But this was no normal tropical storm. Another Titan could be thanked for this onslaught, one that held power over the water.
These situations had been commonplace ever since that night at Grams when Caleb and I had a massive fight over his humanity. Much screaming occurred and no resolution whatsoever was reached. It ended when he claimed I was a, “Stubborn woman that let her emotions override common sense.”
I came back with the rebuttal of, “Yeah? So’s your face.”
Unable to form any kind of rebuttal to that, Caleb threw his hands in the air and stomped off.
Over the next two weeks Gabe, Keni, and I traveled to various spots around the globe to deal with natural disasters caused by Titans. Caleb joined us as soon as he healed enough to fight. Together we stopped a tsunami in Thailand, an earthquake in Oklahoma, a tornado in Texas, and a wildfire in California. Our latest thwarting mission led us to a hurricane in the Sunshine state. It worked in our favor that the local media blamed these freak weather related bouts on climate issues caused by global warming. We saved the world and inadvertently raised awareness. Go us!
Rarely were we allowed the luxury of rest. No sooner would we get one matter under control than another would pop up. I missed sleep, a wonderfully delightful task I sincerely hoped to get reacquainted with soon.
“Blow our cover?” Gabe snorted and yanked off his t-shirt to prepare for his change. “We’re hiding. The Chosen One is hunkered down out of sight like a scared little kid. We should be killing these things. Not subduing them until Bernard comes along and blinks them off to God only knows where.”
I ducked back down and leaned my forehead against the window ledge. A few deep breaths helped me regain control of my rapidly rising blood pressure. To keep Caleb safe we went for the knockout instead of the kill. I hated holding back during battles, but if it kept Caleb alive it was worth it. Bernard agreed to help us by transporting the demons to a plane where they couldn’t harm anyone. Yet everyday a new wave of them came at us with no signs of the onslaught slowing or stopping.
I glanced over my shoulder at Gabe and gave him an easy to read ‘drop it’ look. “I’m respecting Caleb’s wishes. You should tell his sister to give it a try.”
“Actually, his wish was to be human, but you gave him the death stare and clucked at him like a demented hen for even suggesting that.”
“Human isn’t an option, not with the chaos going on right now. And we’re done talking about this.” I glared at my brother and hoped that would be the moment the Gryphon bestowed death-ray laser vision on me.
He held his hands up in surrender. “Hey, I’m just stating the facts. No need to call forth the PMS Queen.”
A fireball blazed into the sky from a shack further down the beach. It saved Gabe from getting a punch to the throat for that remark. “There’s the signal. Time to go.”
Instantly we became all business. The savage roar of the wind muted the sickening snaps and pops of Gabe’s transformation. I shuffled on my hands and knees to the door. It took both hands and a fair amount of super strength to pry it open. What I saw on the other side made my jaw swing open and my bladder control threaten to fail.
“Celeste, look out!” someone screamed. There’s a high likelihood it was me.
I shook my head in an attempt to erase the unbelievable image before me. A shark surfed toward me on top of a wave. Sharks can’t surf, I know that. But—terrifying as it was—this one excelled at it. The wide open mouth of a Great White, if I had to guess, soared my way ready to devour me. My legs forgot how to move and my brain switched into an operating speed the equivalent of a hamster running on an exercise wheel. Fear paralyzed me where I stood.
The black eyes of the gigantic fish rolled back in their sockets as its rows of razor sharp teeth extended out, hungry for my flesh. A mighty roar pierced the air as my lion sentry soared over my head and intercepted the killer fish. He hit it head on and the two rolled across the sand in a frenzied explosion of gnashing teeth and snapping jaws. Only then did I realize the shark sported legs.
So that’s what a Water Titan looks like—pants wetting terrifying.
The two savage beasts clung together. Both sets of bone-crushing teeth snarled and grappled to tear into the other’s flesh. Wet sand clung to them as they blurred together in their violent flurry. A flash of a silver fin. The swipe of a tawny claw. The flip of a long tail fin. Flying chunks of chestnut fur.
Caleb and Kendall ran across the beach. Keni’s wings shielded them from the hammering winds and sea spray. They didn’t need to hurry. None of us could do anything. Getting between the shark and lion would mean a loss of limbs … or a nasty flare up of deadness. I tried to part them with my telepathy, but even mental means couldn’t get between them. I could do nothing but watch—until the unthinkable happened.
The shark flung its head to the side and sunk its teeth deep into Gabe’s hip. Our lion roared in pain. Blood bubbled and poured from his gaping wound. Muscle and tissue ripped from bone and hung off him like limp spaghetti noodles. Bile rose in my throat and I slapped my hand over my mouth. Instinct prompted my feet into action. I rushed to my brother’s aid but quickly found he had no need for me. His lip curled up and he lunged on the shark. The pupils of his feline eyes dilated and blood lust took over. Claws and teeth shredded and devoured the fish’s course skin in a violent fury. Blood sprayed through the air and splattered me from head to toe.
“Gabe! Stop!” If he heard me my warning failed to resonate. Instinct had dragged him to a dark place where only one thought got through—kill or be killed.
The land shark’s blood soaked into the sand and stained Gabe-lion’s muzzle a deep rust color. With one last twitch the massive fish fell to the ground—lifeless. Seconds later nothing remained but black tar.
Only then did Gabe glance up. His eyes blinked back to human. Pain and shock forced his change. “Celeste, I’m sorry. I … I couldn’t stop.”
Blood loss quickly claimed its spoils. Gabe sat down hard in the sand, his skin ghostly pale and covered in blood. His head lolled to the side and his eyes rolled back. In a flap of feathers, Kendall stood by his side, easing him to the ground and pouring healing warmth into him.
Icy prickles ran down my spine. Caleb wasn’t with her.
I spun in a circle and found nothing except empty beach. The storm stilled as if holding its breath.
Caleb was … gone. My breath came short and shallow. The world whipped around me like a crazy carnival ride. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I deserved a split second to try to save him. How dare I be denied that? Lack of oxygen caused black spots to dance before my eyes. The ground rose up to meet me as my knees buckled.
I didn’t even get a chance …
A pair of arms caught me, manifesting out of black smoke. “Lovey! I’m here! I’m right here! It’s okay!”
Grasping his shirt in tight fists, I clung hard to Caleb as my heart struggled to find its rhythm. I buried my face into his chest and desperately breathed in his scent. Despite his proclamation, things were far from okay. The universe just showed me how easily it could steal him from me. Nothing would ever be okay again.
Date Published: November 18, 2013
From bestselling and award winning author Stacey Rourke comes the heart-pounding continuation of the acclaimed Gryphon Series. The turning point of the Gryphon saga is at hand … Battle looms. Three unstoppable forces prepare to clash in a colossal explosion that could wipe Gainesboro off the map. Fate and a sacred calling have landed nineteen year old Celeste Garrett in the middle with nowhere to run. Her trust wavers as she uncovers dark secrets of the Council, powerful enough to test her loyalty and turn her against those she swore to protect. Playing to the longing of her heart, a malevolent enemy uses her weakness against her to form an alliance. With the trumpets of war about to sound, which side will the Conduit choose, and who will be left standing?
Somewhere between asleep and awake he came to me. The mattress shifted under his weight as he settled in beside me.
Warm breath teased against my ear. “I could ne’er leave you, lovey.”
His wandering hands gripped my waist and rolled me to face him. This warbled land governed by sleep couldn’t conjure his whole essence—too much time had passed for that. Instead, it teased me with glimpses of what I’d been missing. Silky hair caressing my cheek. Hot kisses traveling down my neck. Emerald eyes filled with an insatiable hunger. The sensual awakening that jolted through me when his mouth found mine.
“I’m always with you,” Caleb whispered against my lips.
I twined my arms around his neck and pulled him closer, a move that garnered a low groan of appreciation. His hands roamed up my arms and encircled my wrists. In a sudden, shockingly violent move, he forced them down against the mattress and pinned me there.
I gaped in confusion as green eyes blinked to sapphire blue. His seductive stare twisted into visible disgust and hatred. Like ink dumped from a bottle, the black drained from Caleb’s hair. The dripping color leaked away to reveal long, strawberry blond hair, pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. Alec. Not the latest version of him currently possessed by a three-hundred-year-old demon, but the Alec I first met while rolling a tire. The carefree boy I had started to fall for before fate intervened. Yet the look that darkened his gaze was more murderous than welcoming. I thrashed and bucked beneath him but couldn’t seem to summon one iota of strength. His grip on my wrists tightened to the point of pain.
“Is he worth it?” he hissed in my face. “Is he worth the blood on your hands?”
Crimson red blood bubbled up Alec’s throat. It seeped between his teeth and dribbled down his chin. “Will he still want you when he knows what you’ve done and what it cost?”
Squeezing my eyes shut, I cringed further into the mattress as blood rained down. The warm stickiness, with its pungent rusty smell, dripped on my face and soaked my shirt.
I risked a glance up to see Alec’s lips curl in an evil grin. “Now, how ‘bout a kiss?”
He bowed his head and crammed his blood soaked lips to mine. My muffled scream quickly turned into a gurgled gasp for air as I fought not to drown in this crimson hell.
The Gryphon Series is written by Stacey Rourke. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant, drooly dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. She is currently hard at work on the continuations of this series as well as other literary projects. The Gryphon Series is available wherever fine books are sold.
Contact Info: Visit the author at www.staceyrourke.com
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/staceyrourkeauthor