***Under My Skin(The Immortality Strain, #1)
By Shawntelle Madison
Release Date: 12/09/14
Everyone wants to either be a member of the Guild or work for them. Little does the populace know that the Guild hides sinister secrets…For Tate Sullivan, life in her small, coastal town is far from glamorous. The affluent lives of the Guild members and their servants isn’t something she has ever wanted. But all sixteen year-olds must take a simple test, and Tate’s result thrusts her into the Guild’s world, one where they hide horrible plans for those they select. Tate must fight the relentless General Dagon for control of her mind, body, and soul to keep the one precious thing she has always taken for granted: herself.Her only ally is the same handsome boy she is pitted against in General Dagon’s deadly game. Quinn desires nothing more than to end the life of General Dagon who has taken over Tate’s mind. While romance blooms between Tate and Quinn, General Dagon plots to eventually take over Tate’s body, and love might end before it even begins.
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Today would end in failure, but at least it didn’t start out that way.
“Tate, do you think Paul will pass the test today?” my cousin, Zoe, asked me with a grin.
My mom, dad, and younger brother shifted ahead in line. Zoe and I trailed behind, occupying ourselves with conversation. Many families formed a line along the sidewalk. Others would be mulling about in front of similar buildings all over the vast island of Myria. Waiting. Hoping. I didn’t recognize anyone else from my small coastal town. Just face after face of other sixteen-year-olds with their parents. It was almost like registering for classes.
Zoe poked me again. “Do you?”
“I doubt it.” He better not pass the test. Paul had asked me out this morning. I couldn’t help smiling, thinking about how he stumbled over his words. In a week, I’d meet him at the pier to eat lunch. That is, if we both failed the test.
Another girl, with light brown skin like my brother and me, leaned toward us with a question. “Ever been to North City before?” she asked.
“This is my first time.” Even though I smiled back at her, my hand went up to my mouth. My fingers brushed against the scar above my lips. A cleft lip scar. The skin was soft, but the lines of the ridge always made me self-conscious.
“I’ve been here before a few years ago.” Her gaze took in my lime-colored long-sleeved shirt and cotton pants. Zoe wore the same. Our clothes didn’t look as fashionable as her crimson jumpsuit, but I was quite comfortable for early spring weather like today.
Dad shuffled forward on his cane. “Keep moving.” He looked over his shoulder in our direction. The faint sounds of him wheezing hit my ears. Like wind blowing through the cracks in the walls of our house, small pockets of breath entered his middle-aged body to satisfy starved tissue.
My thirteen-year-old brother Danny followed Dad, momentarily preoccupied by the passing of a gigantic transport ship. Soon enough, he caught up, but we still had plenty of time. Far ahead, the door into the ten-story building waited.
A drizzle swept in, nice and cool. Mom offered us umbrellas. Even with the light rain, everything in North City buzzed around us—beckoning us to watch the shining cars, street-cleaning bots, and—most fascinating of all—skyscrapers covered with a gleaming sheen of solar plates.
Compared to home, this place was amazing. My family could never afford to vacation here, but I planned to move to some place like this after I graduated from high school and got my business certificate. The whole city felt alive. Even Danny and Zoe could sense it. We all probably looked like tourists.
The closer we came to the door, the more I expected to see others coming out. But those who might’ve failed the test didn’t emerge. Did that mean everyone passed the test?
Mom must’ve sensed my skepticism. “Stop worrying, sweetheart. Not a single Sullivan has passed.” She grinned and ran her fingers through a few strands of my black hair. A spiral curled around her finger. “In a few hours, we’ll be on our way back home.”
Shawntelle Madison is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. She’d never admit it, but if asked she’d say she covets and collects source code. After losing her first summer job detasseling corn, Shawntelle performed various jobs—from fast-food clerk to grunt programmer to university webmaster. Writing eccentric characters is her most favorite job of them all. On any particular day when she’s not surgically attached to her computer, she can be found watching cheesy horror movies or the latest action-packed anime. She lives in Missouri with her husband and children.