New Release: Memories Awakened + First Chapter

Today I have a new release out, Memories Awakened. The second book in my new urban fantasy trilogy.

 

About the book

Sometimes finding out who you are comes with a price.

Whilst Zoe struggles with her guardian training, her quest for her missing past continues. The more she looks, the more questions she finds. Impeding her search is the curse that not only protects her from physical harm but seems to prevent her from remembering the very memories she so desperately seeks. As she and her guardian partner, Nick, investigate a recent string of suicides, Zoe must watch her every move.

With a strange entity stalking her that seems connected to her past, unusual abilities and threats from all sides, Zoe knows she must recover her missing memories before it’s too late. But what kind of price will she have to pay? And if she finds her memories, will the answers be the ones she wants to find?

Chapter 1

Zoe Finn pulled her leather jacket tighter around her and shivered against the cool air. She glanced over at Nick Trevelyan, a private investigator, friend, and all-around pain in the arse.

“Remind me why we’re hanging out in a graveyard at 2AM?”

She hated graveyards—they always seemed creepy. But she wanted to keep busy instead of moping around blaming herself for what had happened to Carmel, her foster mum. After their last encounter with the supernatural, Carmel had been possessed by a strange entity. She’d wound up in a coma and hadn’t regained consciousness.

“Because we’re watching for signs of vampires,” he muttered.

“Right. That.” She snorted. After all the things she’d seen and experienced over the past few months, Zoe wasn’t too surprised to learn vampires were real too. “So, guardians kill vamps too?”

“Vamps are a type of under fey. They’re more like zombies as opposed to the walking dead. And they don’t glitter either.”

She laughed. “Good thing I’m not a Twilight fan.” Zoe pushed her long brown hair off her face. She’d lost her hair band again and had nothing else to tie it back with. She rummaged through her pockets in search of one but found only a small compact mirror. When she used her phone’s light to check her face, she noticed her dark eyes had black circles under them.

“Remember the part about being quiet on stakeouts?” Nick said as he turned his attention back to the silent tombstones. His piercing blue eyes looked black in the darkness as he ran a hand through his short tousled black hair.

Zoe rolled her eyes. You’d be bored without me. Staring at tombstones seemed just as creepy as being near graves. She half-expected the graves’ occupants to come jumping up out of the ground at any second.

I’d probably get a lot more done! Nick said in thought.

She gave him a playful shove. Ha, you like having me close by, admit it! I’m the only other guardian around aside from you, she pointed out. Plus, you don’t have to keep watching over me so much now. I can take care of myself.

I still have orders to watch over you, Nick reminded her.

With his short dark hair, chiselled face, and piercing blue eyes, it really wasn’t bad to have him following her around – at least not when he didn’t act like a pain in the arse. However, he watched her because the Circle suspected her of being a serial killer, not necessarily to protect her.

I’ve never killed anyone, she insisted. I don’t have it in me.

Everyone is capable of killing under the right circumstances, but I know you didn’t kill those psychics. It’s not your fault Carmel got hurt either.

Zoe winced at the mention of Carmel’s name and felt tears well up once more, so she rubbed her eyes. She wouldn’t cry again. She needed to stay strong.

“Look, you don’t have to be here,” Nick squeezed her shoulder, murmuring aloud. “You can go home.”

Zoe sniffed, forcing herself to keep it together. “I’m fine.” The last thing she needed was to be stuck at home alone with nothing to think about. She needed to work, and that meant being Nick’s assistant and a newbie guardian. She was slowly adjusting to being a guardian. It’d get easier. Every case she and Nick did together was one step closer to her lost memories and forgotten past.

Zoe glanced at her watch. “What time do vamps usually rise?”

“Any time after sunset,” Nick replied. “I told you, part of this job involves a lot of waiting around.”

“Being a PI or a guardian?”

“Both.”

Zoe took out her phone and scrolled through the fey database. Both Nick and Raf, the former chief of the guardians, had compiled a list of all the different fey and other Magickind. She’d spent hours scrolling through the different races, hoping it might trigger something. She still had no idea what kind of fey she might be, or where she came from. She’d been found wandering around the streets as a ten-year-old, with no memory of her past. Someone had cursed her, preventing her from remembering much of anything about her former life. Though the curse took her childhood memories, it shielded her from other magic and injury. Zoe knew the recent murders of several psychics and the attack on her foster mother were somehow all connected. She just had to find the link.

The cold bit into her skin, making her wish she’d worn warmer clothing. She shivered as a chill ran down her spine, alerting her to another presence. She shoved her phone back into her pocket and hopped off the tombstone she’d been sitting on. The fog crept around the headstones, making it look like the souls of the dead were rising from their graves.

Nick frowned. What’s wrong?

Shut up! I think I felt something. She still found it strange she “sensed” things— as Nick called it —but he kept telling her to trust her instincts.

He jumped down to stand beside her, pulling out his athame from his jacket.

She didn’t like the doubled edged knives much, but she pulled out hers too.

The ground beneath them began to fall away as a black void opened up in the earth. Nick hurriedly grabbed her arm, blurring as he pulled her backward and away from the void.

A man dressed in a suit with glowing red eyes shot upwards from the hole in the ground that Zoe and Nick had narrowly avoided falling into.

He was definitely a vampire and definitely not the sparkly kind.

The vamp lunged at Nick. He blocked the first blow as the vamp swiped his claws at him, then sent it crashing through the air. The vamp sprang straight back up, utterly unfazed.

Zoe froze under its eerie gaze as it turned its attention to her. Maybe I’m not so ready for this. To her amazement, it simply stood staring at her, its eyes burning brighter.

She shook her head, blurred using her guardian speed and shoved her athame through its chest. The blade glanced off of a rib, missing his unbeating heart. Blood seeped down his shirt.

The vamp punched her in the face in retaliation, sending her sprawling to the ground.

Zoe grunted as she hit the floor, feeling like a truck had just ploughed into her face. Her jaw throbbed, but she forced herself to stand back up. Spotting Nick closing in, she mentally called to him. I can do this!

To her relief he held back, dodging the vamp when it flew at him. Hurry up!

Zoe gripped her knife, charging again as she shoved it through the creature’s back, but as before, she missed.

Nick shoved the vamp away again, and it rounded on Zoe. She ducked as it made a grab for her. Beams of golden light shot from her hands, hitting the vampire in the chest. “Rise and shine, mate!”

The vampire howled as the light burned through his chest.

Nick scrambled up. “Kill him!”

She pulled out a second knife from her boot, shoving it through its chest. The vamp exploded in a burst of gold light.

“Yes, I did it! I killed a vampire!” she cried, punching the air.

Zoe!

She covered her mouth. “Sorry! I forgot about the whole exposure thing.”

“Forget it. It made more of a racket than you did.” Nick leaned against a headstone for support, groaning as he clutched his ribs. “Jesus, I forgot how much I hate vamps,” he grumbled. “Good job, but aren’t you forgetting something?”

She swiped away the fallen knives, drew her athame and carved a sigil into the ground.  She muttered words of power to cleanse the area, remove any traces of the vampire, and erase any sign of them being there.

Zoe grinned. “So, am I a real guardian now?”

“You’ve got a long way to go, princess.” He staggered and muttered a curse.

Zoe grabbed her bag and swung over her shoulder. “Are you okay? Maybe we should stop by the castle and get Silver to check you over.”

“I’ll live. Let’s go home.”

“Can you blur, or do you want me to run and grab my car?”

Nick grunted. “I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Are you heading back to the castle or coming home with me?”

“Jeez, enough with the questions. I’m coming home with you.”

He’d been sleeping in her spare room for the past couple of weeks. She hadn’t been keen on the idea of first, but it hadn’t been so bad having him around. It made working on cases a lot easier.

They both blurred out, lights and buildings rushed past. Zoe glanced at Nick, surprised at his keeping pace with her. She reached the front door first, unlocking it, but didn’t open it right away. Instead, she did a scan with her senses to make sure there were no potential threats around, another part of Nick’s training. After being surprised and captured by him not long after they’d first met, it had become a habit. She felt no shivers or tingling sensations warning her of impending danger, so she headed inside.

She yawned and stretched. “I’m heading to bed. Will you be okay?”

Nick slumped onto the sofa. “Yeah.”

Zoe turned toward the stairs. “Who do you think sent that vamp? Do you think it’s connected to the psychic killings and…?” She couldn’t bring herself to say Carmel’s name. The familiar ache formed in her chest, sharp and jagged like a knife cutting through her heart. Carmel hadn’t woken up once in the month since she’d been possessed.

“Well, the vamp didn’t seem interested in you.”

“Aren’t all the nasties supposed to come after a guardian?”

Nick shrugged. “We’ll figure it out.” He rested his head back on the sofa, eyes closing.

“Hey, you should get some sleep. You aren’t sleeping down here again, are you?”

“I’ll be fine. You really need a better mattress in your spare room. Some actual walls would be good too.”

“Hey, I have walls!” She knew the house needed a lot of work, but she hadn’t had time to do much to the place after being forced into guardian training and being stalked by creepy killer spirits.

Once upstairs, Zoe pulled off her clothes, slipped on a sleep shirt, and slumped onto her bed, falling asleep instantly.

 

Zoe’s heart pounded in her ears as she found herself in the all-too familiar room with fire all around her, the smoke filling her lungs. The orange flames licked across the floor and up the walls, surrounding her in every direction.

No, not again!

This was the place her dreams always brought her back to. The heat seared against her flesh, biting at her skin. She pulled back, trying to find an empty place where the flames didn’t reach, but there was none.

No, no, no!

She crouched, wrapping her arms around herself. Next came the screaming that ripped into her very soul.

“Zoe. Zoe, wake up!”

The feeling of someone shaking her made her gasp. When strong arms wrapped around her, she started to struggle and reached for the athame under her pillow.

“Zo, it’s me,” Nick said.

She blinked up at him, letting out a breath. “I told you not to wake me when this happens!” She glanced around the room, saw slivers of moonlight creeping in through the curtains, and guessed she hadn’t been asleep for long.

“You were screaming bloody murder.” He sat down on the edge of the bed.

Zoe pushed the strands of hair that had been sticking to her off her face. And this is why I don’t date or sleep next to anyone. “I’m fine. Go back to sleep.”

Nick cupped her face. “You sure don’t look fine, princess.”

His touch felt oddly soothing, but she wriggled free. “I will be.” She rolled over onto her side, cheeks flushing.

Nick pulled the covers back and slid into bed beside her.

“What are you doing?” she gasped.

“Making sure you don’t stab anyone in your sleep.” He slumped back against the pillow, watching her.

“Look, staying in my house is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you can sleep in my bed!” Given his playboy reputation, she should have known he’d find a way into her bed sooner or later.

“It’s not like anything good is going to happen, princess.” Nick rolled his eyes and closed them. “We both need sleep. So, let’s do that, shall we?”

“You better not snore.” Zoe glared at him, muttering a curse under her breath. Despite not being very good at saying the right thing, she knew he was just trying to comfort her. He might be a bit rough around the edges, but he’d shown a softer side with her.

How the hell can I sleep with him here? She sighed, closing her eyes again. Sleep would be a long time coming.

 

Zoe woke up alone, feeling awkward as she headed downstairs later that morning. Sure, she and Nick had been getting on well now, but sleeping next to each other still felt weird.

She found him in the kitchen making toast, with a fresh pot of coffee on the table.

“Sorry about…” Zoe trailed off and pushed a hand through her hair.

“Stop apologising, I’m getting used to the screaming, and even the wandering around. It’s not a big deal.”

Her cheeks flushed. “Now I know you’re just being nice to me.” She poured a mug of coffee and gulped it down.

“I mean it, we all have problems. Don’t worry about it bothering me.”

She frowned. “Nick, almost every guy I’ve ever slept with is turned off and freaked out by my strange sleeping problems, so don’t…”

He sighed. “I’m not most men, so don’t apologise. You went through hell, so it’s not surprising.”

“Maybe you should start sleeping at the castle again. Don’t you have lady friends vying for your attention?”

Nick chuckled. “Yeah, but you’re the lucky one who gets me all to herself.”

Ah, there it was, his usual cocky self. His brief smile eased some of the tension.

“Did you remember anything from your dream?” he asked.

Zoe shook her head. “Nope, just the usual fire and screaming, but I’m seeing Sabine again later.”

He scowled. “She seems to be making things worse.”

Nick didn’t have a good relationship with the witch, who was also his former flame. Zoe still couldn’t imagine them being together. Sabine was very different from the usual women who hung around him.

“I remembered something at least— that’s more than I’ve remembered in the last two decades.” She put two pieces of bread into the toaster.

“Sabine’s knife was at the crime scene.” He cut his toast so hard the knife screeched against the plate.

“And yet the Circle can’t find any evidence against her, unlike me.” Zoe sipped more coffee.

“There’s no evidence against you either. Just relax at this morning’s meeting, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

We’ll see, she thought.

 

After breakfast, Zoe headed to Colchester Castle, which had once served as the base for the country’s guardians. Now there were only two guardians left, Nick and Zoe, the Circle used it as their base for meetings and other affairs. Some people employed by the Circle also lived or worked there. Zoe’s foster mum, Carmel, had been moved there after she had fallen into a coma.

A few months earlier, Zoe hadn’t known much about supernatural world or her part in it. She’d always known she was different, not just because of her weird memory loss or her discovery of the curse that both prevented her from remembering the first ten years of her life and protected her from harm. She’d stumbled onto the world of fey and guardians by accident after her boss, a dark fey, attacked her. That was how she met Nick—he’d been hunting a serial killer who’d been targeting psychics.

Nick had sensed even then that she was a fey guardian like him. Guardians kept the peace in the supernatural world and handled any of the dark fey who’d been banished to the underworld. The occasional one still managed to escape, and it was a guardian’s job to banish them and stop them from wreaking havoc.

She and Nick hadn’t been able to stop the killer thus far, but they had found out it was a strange entity that somehow seemed connected to Zoe’s missing past.

When the entity had possessed Carmel, it had overloaded her body. Silver, the healer who worked for the Circle, hadn’t been able to bring Carmel out of it, despite the use of many of the Circle’s unlimited resources. Zoe still felt guilty about what happened to Carmel. She’d been the one who suggested summoning the spirit in the first place in an attempt to track down the killer and finally stop it.

The unknown force of evil was something strange and powerful. Zoe had no doubt it would reappear soon, since it seemed to follow her no matter where she went.

Carmel looked peaceful, her blonde hair resting against the pillow as Zoe walked into the small room she’d been staying in. She was hooked up to a machine that read her vital signs and Zoe’s heart twisted just looking at her. She wanted to cry every time she saw her foster mother like this. She had been one of the few people who actually been there for her in her life after winding up in foster care at ten years old.

“Hey, it’s me.” Zoe squeezed Carmel’s hand, warming her cool caramel skin. “I’m due to see the Circle in the next few minutes. They’re going to decide if they’ll lift my probation or not.”

After Zoe had first been introduced to the Circle, they had been adamant she be put on probation after she had almost accidentally exposed the supernatural world. They had insisted she train as a guardian to learn how to fully use her powers instead of punishing her. She had pointed out that she hadn’t known anything about fey or guardians at the time, but the Circle were strict with their rules. She’d had no choice about whether to become a guardian or not. It was either that or the possibility of imprisonment. Regardless of her efforts, the Circle still believed she was responsible for what had happened to Carmel and the psychic killings.

“I fought and banished my first vampire last night. Who knew vampires were actually fey?” She smiled. “Nick and I are getting along better, but he hasn’t found anything about my past yet.” It felt good talking to Carmel like this, but the lack of response made it bittersweet. She had no idea if Carmel could even hear her. “I haven’t sensed that thing following me around since… Well, since the incident.” She glanced at her watch. “I’d better get going, they might punish me for being late.” She kissed Carmel’s forehead. “I promise I’ll come see you again later.”

 

Zoe felt a familiar knot forming in her stomach as she stood outside the doors to the Circle’s meeting chamber. The Circle was a small group of four of the magical community’s most powerful leaders that made the laws. They hadn’t been too happy when a fey with odd powers had appeared, and they considered Zoe to be an anomaly. She had strong abilities, and could force miscreants back into the other world, but the strange curse that apparently shielded her from mind-reading, and physical injury had them all freaked out.

None of them could figure out where she’d come from, much less why anyone would curse her, especially given that the curse didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than keeping her safe. The Circle had been wary of her from the beginning, but after a string of psychics were killed, some also believed she was somehow connected to them. They had her under close watch and would probably have detained her if Nick hadn’t agreed to watch over her. As part of her probation, she’d also been forced to undergo testing every week to make sure her powers hadn’t transformed her into a psycho, and that no outside influences had been affecting her. Zoe hated the tests, and being made to feel like a guinea pig, but she endured them. After all, she couldn’t find a way to save Carmel if she was locked up.

The doors creaked open and the gaze of each Circle member fell on her. All four leaders of the Circle sat around the table: Maeve, leader of the light fey, Dorian, leader of the under fey, Sabine, the leader of the witches, and Lancaster, the shifters’ representative. Raf, a former guardian turned leader of the trackers who enforced the Circle’s laws, sat with them.

Zoe’s heart thudded against her rib cage, but she forced her expression to stay calm. Nick had been nagging her non-stop never to show her true feelings in front of them, and she’d become good at it.

“Miss Finn, you’re to step into the circle and be tested for —” Dorian began. He reminded her of a vampire with his pale skin, dark hair and dark eyes, and always made her feel uneasy when he stared at her.

“Nothing’s changed.” She sighed. “How long until you accept I’m not a threat?” They hadn’t been able to prove that whatever possessed Carmel was connected to her, nor had they been able to figure out who or what it was.

“When we have evidence to tell us otherwise,” Lancaster, the shifters’ representative, answered. He had a mop of unruly red hair and green eyes.

Zoe stepped into the glowing silver circle on the floor. It flared with light as she stood there.

“Zoe has been working with Nick and shows no signs of —” Raf said.

“Nor has she proved trustworthy either,” Dorian interrupted, before fixing his gaze on her again. “For now, you are still on probation until you can prove you had nothing to do with those deaths.”

The tests began again, involving the usual poking, prodding and touching. There were the blood tests, scans, and other magical tests they usually performed to figure out if she was a danger to them.

Again, nothing indicated that she was a psycho killer. Nor did it prove her innocence either.

About Tiffany Shand

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