Book Blurb: Lenny Morlock’s mortality is a lie. Her life as a shop clerk in the High Country shatters when she uncovers a mystical crystal that sparks the return of her immortal powers and dark memories as the deity Chaos. Whisked away to the fae realm, Lenny unveils secrets about Curtis Collins, an ally she can’t remember. Her dreams are tormented by his cries for help, and Chaos is summoned to save him. But to do so, she’ll have to battle demons hell-bent on destroying her and make a binding deal with Death that risks her humanity.
Chaos was a dark whisper in her mind; the name—her real name—was a distant memory, one of black hollow halls and the soft lulling ping of a crystal music box.
Lenny Morlock slumped outside the door to Mirage Antiques, dizzy. She sat on the steps, leaning her head on the railing as she waited for the blur of cryptic visions to pass.
Chaos was a fitting name for someone whose life had been completely upended in a mere two weeks. Twenty-three years of memories were gone: growing up in Pendleton Valley, life achievements, even family she thought were hers. Everything she’d once cared about…All of it was gone. Her life was a fabrication unveiled, and only the fragmented remnants of the past year and pieces of someone else’s memory remained.
The emptiness ached deep in her chest as she realized she had no one and nothing, not even the familiarity of her own name.
The red blinking light of an OPEN sign across the street came into view as Lenny rubbed her teary eyes. A few early birds filed into Drifter’s diner, hurrying out of a thin mist of rain and fog that rolled down from the Blue Ridge Mountains and crept over downtown Main Street.
Lenny waited for her body to stop buzzing. It happened every time a new memory revealed itself. Like magic, it pulled under her skin, visible electric strands at her fingertips that crackled and popped.
Glass shattered somewhere behind her, and a shuffling inside the shop drew her back to Mirage.
She pulled a key from her jean pocket and slid it into the lock. The bell chimed overhead as Lenny paused in the open doorway, eyes fixed on a figure who went rigid behind the oaken checkout counter. In his black-gloved hand was a broken picture frame. His golden eyes bore into her as she yanked the door shut against the wind and locked it. Fake skeletons shivered above decorative pumpkins in the display window as a passing train shook the glass.
She should have been afraid, but Death had been following her for the last few weeks. He was the only consistent anything in her life, and she’d found a kind of comfort knowing he was real and that she wasn’t, in fact, losing her mind.
Rounding a glass case of antique figurines and gems, Lenny met him by the wall of bookshelves and stared at the broken glass on the floor. She chided him with a sigh. “Are you going to clean that up?”
He narrowed his eyes beneath his dark hooded cloak; it was all she could see save for the gloves on his hands he occasionally pulled out of his deep pockets.
He’d been haunting her since he’d reaped Aunt Millie—or the woman she thought was her Aunt Millie. The memory had a crack through it, and Lenny wasn’t even sure the car accident had happened at all. All she knew was she was left with two scars over both her shoulder blades and that someone named Millie Morlock was dead.
“Well?” Lenny took careful steps around the glass, reaching for a small hand broom and dustpan beneath the counter. She held it out to him, not expecting him to move or say anything, but tried, as she always did, to instigate a reply.
It never worked. He just stood there, waiting. Brooding, normally in the corner. About what she didn’t know. He’d been there at the memorial of Aunt Millie too, under the shadow of a tree looking on, as if anticipating Lenny would do more than sit puffy-eyed and sobbing.
Lenny crouched. “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” Her long dark curls fell over her shoulder as she swept and dumped the glass in a small wastebasket. “You know, if you’re going to keep appearing, you could do something useful around here.” She stood too fast, catching the edge of the counter with the top of her head and yelped.
The dustpan clattered to the floor. A vision formed in her mind, and she shut her eyes.
The crystal music box felt heavy and cold in her hands. It was a deep purple with delicate gold petals and leaves intertwined around the edges. Clicking it open, a familiar lullaby pinged to the twirl of a black rose before a small mirror. The box was empty.
Lenny’s eyes opened to Death crouching in front of her, staring, as if trying to read her. As if he knew what she’d seen, or so Lenny imagined. She couldn’t be sure. But he’d been in the sudden mood to roam the shop since she’d found the journal that sparked the wavering visions, though she hadn’t shared it with him or the crystal embedded in it. She’d left the journal hidden under the loose floorboard in the loft after failing to burn it. It terrified her with dark memories, flooding her with nightmares. But the thing was indestructible.
His gaze softened on the broom handle as he took it from her and picked up the dustpan. To her amazement, he spoke, his voice deep and soft. “Sorry.”
She gaped at him, unable to move or speak against the buzzing of her body.
Death blinked at the electric power crackling at her palms but said nothing. He cleaned up the remaining pieces of glass and returned the dustpan to the counter before offering a gloved hand to help her up when her power had dissipated.
Lenny hesitated. She’d never touched him before. She didn’t know it was possible. He’d often stood outside the window, peering in at her as she worked, and she’d seen plenty of people walk through him. When she reached out, his hand felt very real in hers. She stood and leaned against the counter. He passed her the broken frame.
She stared at him then the photo. “Do you know who this is?” she held up the photo of a handsome young man with a dark shadow of stubble beneath bright hazel eyes.
Death didn’t answer.
“It’s the owner of this shop, Curtis Collins.” His name sent a shiver through her, as it often did when she held Curtis’ journal.
She’d looked at this picture a dozen or more times while she worked, along with the old black and white ones of Curtis’ great-grandparents, who’d built the shop way back when Pendleton was nothing but a small dot on a map. This was the first time, though, Curtis’ cocky smile nagged at her; something familiar on the tip of her memory dwindling as quickly as it formed.
Before it could completely disappear, she ran from the counter and up a winding metal staircase that clacked under her boots to the loft.
Death didn’t follow her as she slid between two bookcases, kneeling in front of a window bench that overlooked the mom-and-pop shops of downtown Pendleton. She popped open a wooden floorboard with her foot. She’d found it by chance one night while stocking books and the journal had called to her ever since, pulling her back to it despite how much she tried to ignore its whispers. She lifted Curtis’ journal and returned to the main floor, eyeing Death, hoping for a reaction—now that she knew he could talk. Lenny placed the picture inside the journal and laid it on the counter.
Death’s eyes were drawn to it, or to the lilac crystal embedded on the cover. It was pretty, rectangular and sharp with a twisted orange flower at its center, but the darkness surrounding it, pulsing from it the closer she was, kept her from touching it again.
She dreaded the visions. Dreaded the cries of a faceless, nameless man who haunted her dreams. Dreaded it more than Death. The dreams were familiar too, but try as she might, she could never see past the bloodied bruises and cuffed shackles on stone. Yet his voice called to her at night, her name soft on his lips turning to cursed and tortured screams. Whenever she reached out to grab it, save it, it disappeared in a black mist.
The crystal crackled with the same violet electricity she felt in her veins, beneath her bones. It wasn’t just some ordinary gem, and if anyone could tell her more about it, Death could. Or so she hoped.
Death backed away from the wall of books, crossing his arms. He sulked through the middle of the shop, his cloak floating over the dark wood. Mazing through cases of antiques, he stopped at an armchair beneath the antique clock on the wall and considered it.
Lenny couldn’t help her fascination as he sat down instead of going to his usual corner to leer over her; she normally would be opening shop now, but it was Sunday and Mirage would be closed till Monday morning.
She palmed the journal and stepped around the counter. “This belongs to Curtis. I found it two weeks ago.”
He didn’t move.
She opened it, careful not to touch the crystal. The small curled handwriting was a language she didn’t understand, however familiar it looked. “Can you read this?”
When he continued to stare at the floor, she stomped over to him. Her face grew warm, agitation rising with the need to know what the hell was happening to her and why it sparked from Curtis’ belongings.
She threw the book down in Death’s lap with a thwack that made him jump, and the sudden change in her demeanor pulled his bright gaze to her scowl.
“Why? Why are you following me? What is that?” She jabbed at the journal. “And what is happening to me?” She raised her hands that jolted violet with her irritation.
“What?” She snapped and shoved her palms closer to his face. They brightened with a warm glow. “Afraid of it?”
He lurched from the chair. The journal thumped to the floor as he disappeared in a cloud of smoke that rippled across the room. His eyes reformed from darkness, reflecting on the glass of the door as he solidified again and crossed his arms.
Lenny huffed. “Yeah, that makes two of us.” She picked up the journal from the ground. The crystal radiated its own sparkle of energy around the leather.
Whatever this was, it couldn’t be good if Death feared it too.
Soft desperation broke over Lenny’s words as she sat in the chair, staring at it. “Please. Tell me something.”
“Where is Curtis?”
“What is Chaos?”
He turned. Eyes hardened as his cloak faded.
She wanted to reach out and grab him, shake him, force him to tell her the truth.
Death’s dark whisper echoed as he disappeared, “You.”
This is Book One of the Veiled Fates series.
Cover Art by Johannus M. Steger
Chapter Edit by Anne Pyle
Dedicated to my High Country sweetheart, Patrick Lynn.
Acknowledgments: A special thanks to Stefanie Simpson, who fell in love with my characters, and helped me cling to my self-esteem through MANY rewrites. Thank you to author r.r.campbell, who provided me with an in-depth manuscript critique that shaped this story. And thank you to all the betas who read the original drafts. You’re amazing and so appreciated!
© 2018 H.A.LYNN
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or modified in any form, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.