Jess, Redeemed: Guardians of Salt Creek 3

JessRedeemedKindEdIt’s here!!

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Jess, Redeemed is the electrifying conclusion to the Guardians of Salt Creek trilogy, a magical, super-powered teen mystery series for fans of Beautiful Creatures, X-men, Twilight, and Cassandra Clare.

Jess Flowers is the sole surviving guardian, sworn by oath and fate to protect the residents of the sleepy, isolated town of Salt Creek. But she’s failing. Innocent blood has been shed. Despite her best efforts, the killing hasn’t stopped. Bodies are piling up, and the other two guardians are dead, murdered by a killer who’s always one step ahead, always just out of reach. 

Jess is a theikos, a race of people born with superhuman gifts, a race of people who have hidden safely in Salt Creek and isolated communities just like it for centuries. The safe days are over, and time is running out. The fate of the town and the lives of Jess’ friends, her family, and her one true love are on the line as a frightening truth suddenly becomes clear: The killing won’t stop until all the theikos are dead, driven to extinction. Someone has discovered their secret and is hunting them. The killer knows who they are, what they can do, and exactly where to find them.

Get the ebook now: Amazon USKobo, Nook, Google Play, Apple, Smashwords, and more

Get the paperback now: Barnes & Noble and Amazon

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read past here if you haven’t read the first two books in the series!!

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. —Nietzsche

Chapter 1 Amends

My fingers tightened around the wad of bills in my coat pocket as I mustered the nerve to knock on Grif’s door. Sixteen hundred dollars. All the money I had in the world.

It was a peace offering and a lifeline. At least, I hoped it would be. Grif and his mom, Sam, were barely getting by before she’d gone to jail for trying to kill me. Grif had somehow made it this long without her, but I’d be damned if he ended up homeless or hungry again because of her terrible decisions. I’d been trying to slip him the money for weeks, but Grif avoided me like I was small pox.

I took a deep breath and rapt my knuckles against the door. There was about a zero percent chance he would open it, but I had to try. We were friends once, and we were theikos, a race of people with super human abilities. A killer was picking our kind off one by one, so whether Grif liked me or not, we needed to stick together.

The dingy red door shook under my fist, barely held in its frame by rusty hinges. Grif lived in the run-down apartment above the Hillbilly Lounge Bar and Grill. The stench of deep-fryer grease and stale beer saturated the air. Every pluck of the guitarist tuning strings on the stage downstairs reverberated through the gaps in the floorboards.

I pounded on the door again. I heard empty bottles clank to the floor as someone moved inside the apartment. Then I heard whispers.

Put your clothes on.

Don’t answer it.

It’s probably Earl. He wants the rent. I can’t put him off again.

Do you have the money?

No. Not even close. I need more time.

Let me handle it. Wait here.

The door swung open, and my mouth dropped. Sybil’s red hair was knotted in a fiery halo around her face. She wore nothing but a wrinkled plaid button-down shirt, unbuttoned and open, exposing miles of smooth, milky white skin. She and Grif had clearly been engaging in some extra curricular activities. She rolled her eyes. “You’re either really brave or dumber than I thought.”

“But…” It wasn’t my fault Grif’s mom tried to kill me. She knew that.

“Hey, Earl!” Grif yelled. I caught a glimpse of him shuffling across the room, pulling his jeans up over a bare bottom. “I’ll get the money. I swear. I got some hustles lined up. I just need another week, man.”

“It’s not Earl,” Sybil said. “It’s Jess.”

Grif stopped moving, but didn’t look at me. “Tell her to leave.”

“Leave,” Sybil said to me. She shrugged. “Nothing personal. His house, his rules.”

“I’m not leaving.”

She huffed. “Jesus, Jess. Honestly, what did you expect? It’s too soon. Way too soon.”

It’d been about two months since Sam had buried me alive and left me for dead in the woods behind the diner. She’d had one court hearing. Denied bond. Flight risk.

“Tell her to get the hell out of here already,” Grif growled.

“I did, babe, but she didn’t listen.”

“Then make her leave.”

“Yeah, right. You know what she is. You know I can’t make her do anything.” Sybil didn’t break eye contact with me.

“Then touch her,” Grif said. “She hates that.”

My heart kicked up a notch. He was right. Touch was my weakness. I acquired the gifts of other theikos through skin-to-skin contact, and Grif knew it. Sybil spoke to the dead in dreams and in violent visions. I sure as hell didn’t want that.

“Please, Jess. Go home. For me?” she asked. “I’ve been in love with him since third grade, and I finally got my break. I really want to go back to bed, if you know what I mean.”

“It’s been long enough,” I said. “We need to stick together. The killer¬

“Yeah yeah, I know,” Sybil said. “We’ll be careful. But right now, he needs time to heal.”

“Fine. I’ll go.” I pulled the fat wad of bills out of my pocket and held it out to her. “If you give him this.”

“Holy crap.” Sybil eyed the money. “What’s that?”

“Rent.” I pushed the wad of bills into her hand.

I stomped down the stairs, leaving Sybil speechless and half-naked in the doorway. A weight lifted off my heart. At least Grif would have food, an apartment, for a little while longer.

At the bottom of the stairs, I hit a wall of bodies. The only way in or out of Grif’s apartment was through the bar, and the place was absolutely packed full tonight. Sweaty bodies melted into a wall. The room reeked of whiskey, armpits, and cheap perfume. The guitarist struck a chord, and a voice, low and haunting, began to sing.

“Excuse me.” I tried to slip past a man with a beard down to his waist, but he didn’t budge. “Um, excuse me?”

He stared at the stage, transfixed, oblivious to me. I looked around. Everyone in the room swayed gently, watching the band as if they were under some kind of spell. On the stage, a tiny woman with pink dreads popped the bass, a bearded fat man pounded the drums, and a lanky blond ground out riffs on his guitar. Then there was the singer. Wow. He’s beautiful. His cheekbones were high and sharp. He was lithe, with thick dark hair down to his waist. His tight leather pants clung to his hips. He was shirtless. Tattoos and tight muscles dotted his body. He pressed his lips to the mic and sang over a throbbing bass line.

I’ve been searching for you, searching for all my life.

I’ve been dying for you, haunted by you, needing you all this time.

I couldn’t move. He sang, smooth and low. His voice wrapped me up tight, each word a rope, sweet and deadly. My heart rattled against my ribs. Heat rose inside me. His voice. It was bewitching. It set me on fire. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

I’ve been searching for you, searching for all my life. I’ve been dying for you, haunted by you, needing you all this time.

He caressed the microphone. Sweat glistened on his body, bare and red under the stage lights. He pulled the mic from the stand and stepped off stage, pushing through the mesmerized crowd, still singing.

I’ve been searching for you, searching for all my life

I’ve been dying for you, haunted by you, needing you all this time.

He waded through the undulating women in tight jeans and tiny tank tops who smacked their pink lips and angled for a chance to run their hands over his body. He ignored the hulking bikers and hipsters in cuffed blue jeans. He stopped right in front of me, looked deep into my eyes, and for a moment I felt like his song was just for me.

Don’t run away. I can’t lose you tonight.

Don’t run away. I can’t lose you tonight.

My heart raced. I wanted to turn and run, but I couldn’t move.

Don’t run away. I can’t lose you tonight.

Don’t run away. I can’t lose you tonight.

Suddenly, the mic dropped from his lips. He leaned in close to me and touched my cheek. The second his skin touched mine, the world stood still. The music faded, like it’d been pushed through a wall of cotton balls. The people around us stopped moving, as if they were frozen solid. My breath caught.

“Can it be true? Have I finally found you?” His voice was deep and soothing. He ran his thumb softly across my cheek. “I’ve searched for you for so long. I knew you were alive. I felt it. Dreamed it. I wanted it so badly I wasn’t sure if it were real, but here you are.”

Then he kissed me. His warm soft lips landed smack on mine and suddenly the spell broke. No. Not my skin. No! I pushed him away. He looked at me for a long time, examining me like a slide under a microscope, as the world turned in slow motion around us.

“You aren’t her, are you?” He frowned. “Of course not. I’m a fool. You couldn’t be, could you? I’m sorry. Forgive me. My mistake. It’s just…you look so much like her. I am so sorry. Then again, fate did bring us together, didn’t it?”

His thumb traced the pale white scar of the guardian’s sun that had burned into my chest the night I died and was reborn. I tried to push his hand away, but he snatched mine and planted a gentle kiss on my palm. “You must be the one who called me home.”

That’s when I noticed the tattoo on his chest. A sun with sixteen points and a circle with a cross in the center. Gramma’s sun. The guardian’s sun. My sun.

I yanked my hand out of his. I was a fool. His magical sway over the crowd wasn’t a magic at all. He was a theikos. He was a guardian. “Who are you?” I asked, breathless.

He winked. I blinked, and in that split second, time seemed to rewind. The music kicked up loud, the crowd swayed, and the singer was back on stage caressing the microphone stand as if he’d never stood before me at all.

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