Welcome to Fall YA Scavenger Hunt 2014! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to bring together readers and authors to connect and gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors and a chance to win spectacular prizes!
During the hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a NUMBER for the hunt. Add up the clues for each team, and you can enter the total for the team–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team!
Amber Argyle is the #1 bestselling author of Witch Song and Fairy Queen series. Her books have been nominated for and won awards in addition to being translated into French and Indonesian.
She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in English and physical education, a husband, and a two-year old. Since then, she and her husband have added two more children, which they are actively trying to transform from crazy small people into less crazy larger people.
But she can’t run from who she is. And when her secret is revealed, the only thing that can save her is her song. It’s time to rise up and become what she was always meant to be: the most powerful witch ever born.
Ashley couldn’t remember a time when she’d been in such total and complete darkness. In the city, there was always light. Opening her eyes wider didn’t help. She turned around and let the shower spray rinse the conditioner from her long, dark hair. She waited for the lights to come back on. When they didn’t, she turned the water off.
“This company retreat is a disaster,” she mumbled.
“A week in the mountains,” her boss had said, “enjoying the solitude and colors of fall.” Instead, Ashley had been stuck in a conference room for ten hours.
She jerked back the shower curtain and felt around for the towel she’d set on top of the toilet. She rubbed the rough terry cloth across her face. Without the sound of the water, something sounded out of place. Subconsciously pressing the towel against her chest, she listened hard. Were those screams?
She padded off of the cold bathroom tile and onto the carpet of the bedroom, hoping some light would filter in from the open window, but then she remembered the thick clouds that had rolled in sometime while she was stuck in the windowless conference room. This better not be some kind of Halloween prank, Ashley thought.
She grabbed the first piece of clothing her hand touched, a white button-up shirt she’d worn to the meeting today. Without bothering to dry off, she yanked it on and shoved the buttons through the holes, not really caring if she got them right or not. The shirt clung to her wet skin as she hiked a pair of jeans over her damp hips.
Screams echoed up and down the hall now. Not the “you just scared me” kind of screams, but the terrified, “please don’t kill me” kind.
Ashley jerked the hotel phone out of its cradle. The line was dead. She stumbled around, trying to find her cell phone. This has to be a prank,she tried to convince herself. I hate Halloween. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.
Someone pounded on the door, making her jump. “Ashley!” a man called. “We have to get out of here! Ashley!”
The coworker she’d been dating under her boss’s nose for months. Ashley ran for the door. Her shin smacked into the dresser. “Stupid dead tree!” Clutching her leg and mouthing silent curses, she hobbled forward. Something slammed against the door. She heard a man’s mangled scream.
Ashley froze, too terrified to move or breathe. There was a swift rushing sound, as if whatever had been on the other side of her door had just left.
“Blake?” her lips formed his name, but no sound came out. Reaching blindly, she felt for the door. Her fingers grasped the handle, yet she hesitated. Do it fast! You can’t just leave him out there! She jerked it open to pitch black. Weren’t there supposed to be emergency lights? Exit signs?
“Blake!” she whispered desperately. Distant screams punctuated the silence. “Blake?” This time her voice was pleading. She inched forward,shutting the door carefully so it didn’t latch and lock her out. Her bare foot stepped on something squishy and wet. Warm fluid bubbled up between her toes. Bending down, she felt the outline of a man’s stubbly face.
“Blake, are you okay?” she whisper-shouted.
But when she tried to feel for a pulse, her hands went through where his throat should have been, her fingers skidding on the bloody ridges of his spine. She ripped her hand away in sick realization. The fluid under her feet, between her toes, was his blood.
“No!” she wailed as she stumbled back.
“Be quiet!” a woman hissed a few doors away.
Something rushed past Ashley in the hallway, like a car speeding by. There was a primal, animal-like scream from the direction of the woman’s voice, then a garbled gurgling and a sound like swallowing. Was it eating her?
Choking back sobs, Ashley felt for the door behind her.
Suddenly, the gurgling was replaced by an unearthly low growl and a split-second flash of yellow eyes.
It had noticed her.
Ashley pushed and the door gave way. She stumbled backward into the room. Terror tore through her as she hit the floor and kicked the door shut. Something crashed into the heavy metal door, making it jump on its hinges. She scrambled to her feet, slid the bolt home, and braced her body against the door. Something sharp screeched down the other side. The vibrations screamed through her body.
The metal door bulged beneath her.
The hinges groaned. Ashley scrambled to the other side of the room, pressed herself flat against the wall, and waited for the next hit.The hit that would bring the door down and let whatever it was into the room.
But then another woman screamed, “Help!” The banging stopped.The cries for help intensified before turning to screams of pain. Ashley considered pushing the bed and the dressers against the door.But then it would hear her.And furniture wasn’t going to stop it.
Her hands were sticky with Blake’s blood. At the thought, her stomach heaved. She longed to wash off the blood but dared not risk the noise of the water. Her feet stuck to the carpet, making her want to gag again. She felt her way along the bed until she reached the nightstand. Her fingers brushed across her keys, eliciting a clinking sound.She froze, listening, but the feast going on outside didn’t pause. She gripped her phone, her fingers slippery with blood, and pressed a button. Blue light washed through the room. No signal. Ashley blinked in disbelief.
She found her running shoes and pulled them on with hands that shook so hard she could barely tie the laces. She peered out the window.The darkness had eased. Stars appeared, outlined against the clouds. There was no fire escape—nothing but a three-story drop. She made a decision, and it surprised her how calm she suddenly felt. For now, she would hide. But if it came into her room, she would jump. She would rather be crushed in a fall than be slaughtered by a monster.
Ashley pressed her back into the corner and slid down to the floor, then removed a single key and held it like a weapon. The phone and its light were her saving grace. She would never know how long she sat, huddled in the corner, her hands and feet covered in blood that smelled of copper and salt, praying the monster out there wouldn’t find her.
If she hadn’t been in the shower, she would have run out the door, just like everyone else had. Then she would be one of them, the ones who were screaming or dead. Sweat ran down her face, but she didn’t dare brush it away. Didn’t dare move more than it took for a shallow breath.
The night continued with terrified screams followed by silence.Sometimes she was close enough to hear the scrape of teeth against bone, swallowing. And no matter how hard she pressed her fists against her ears, she couldn’t block out the sound.
And as she unwillingly listened, she realized the screams overlapped, which meant there was more than one of them—the monsters who were killing her coworkers. What were they? Some kind of cult? Psychotic serial killers tripped out on meth? But that didn’t explain the flash of eyes Ashley had seen, nor the speed the thing had possessed as it rushed past her.
The screams quieted. But Ashley didn’t relax, didn’t fool herself into thinking it was over. They were searching for those—like her—who were hiding.
There was a crash, the sound of metal groaning and wood shattering. Another scream erupted, much closer than the last one. So close Ashley jumped and pressed her hands harder against her ears, clenching her eyes shut. They were breaking down the doors.
Steeling herself, she rose to her feet, her legs shaking. It was time to jump. But a scraping sound outside her window made her freeze. She gripped her largest key in her right hand and held her phone out like a flashlight with the other. The window glass shattered, sending shards everywhere.
Bathed in blue light, a man swung into the room and landed in a crouch two steps away from Ashley, his eyes fixed on her door. Over designer jeans he wore a leather dress coat that reached to his thighs. His dark hair was shorn short, his eyes almond shaped. He turned toward Ashley suddenly and his pupils flashed yellow—like a cat’s eyes catching a stray bit of light. And she knew. He might look like a man, but he was really one of the monsters.
He was blocking her escape to the window, which left one only option. She lunged at him with her key. He caught her wrist and held it as if she were no stronger than a child. She threw her phone at his face, then attempted to rake her fingernails down his face. He caught that hand too, holding her by the forearms, and said, “Not the face! I’m too pretty to damage.”
She gaped at him. He can speak? And why wasn’t he tearing her to shreds and devouring her flesh? He had even cracked a joke. “You’re not that good-looking,” The words were out of her mouth before she could think better of them. Also, they were true. He wasn’t ugly by any means, but he wasn’t beautiful either. Just another average . . . whatever he was.
He snorted in amusement before suddenly darting forward. Before she knew what had happened, she was pressed against the wall with his body flush against hers.
In the next instant her door screeched off its hinges and careened into the space they’d just vacated. A woman stood there, her skin glowing and shifting like the reflection of the moon over water. She was slightly pudgy, in her mid-forties with a short bob of what would have been a fashionable hairstyle if it hadn’t been matted with blood.
But it was her eyes that held Ashley’s gaze in captive horror. They were rabid, empty of any emotion save murder. Their gazes locked, and Ashley knew she was going to die.
The monster holding her whipped out a gun and fired five shots into the woman’s body before she staggered out of sight. He wrapped his arms around Ashley and threw himself toward the wall.
She didn’t have time to scream before the wall shattered and they fell, the pavement rising up to meet them. She pinched her eyes shut, unwilling to watch death coming for her.She tensed for the impact.But the monster absorbed it easily.
Before she could blink, her legs were around his waist, her arms around his neck as he ran through the forest, trees blurring past at an unbelievable speed. And he still wasn’t trying to eat her. In fact, she was pretty sure he’d just saved her life.
Also, somewhere during the hunt, you can find the sneak peek into Fierce Kinda Love — Hudson and Blake’s story.
And don’t forget to enter the contest below–which is outside of what you can win during the scavenger hunt! 1 Winner takes all.