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The Eyes of the Dead
Ryker Townsend/Omega Team crossover novella
Now available

The Eyes of the Dead
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In the throes of PTSD, FBI profiler Ryker Townsend is plagued by haunting nightmares from a case that nearly cost him his life. But when a dead girl breaks through his recurring dream—with a lurid vision of her charred corpse—Ryker braces for the horror to come.

On the eve of Halloween under a rare Blood moon, Ryker and his team are called to investigate the mysterious deaths of four teens in Brownsville, a small Texas border town. He believes the deaths are linked, a sick prelude of a diabolical killer. With Dia de los Muertos only days away, Ryker fights against time before a ritualistic serial killer culminates his masterpiece by butchering during a celebration to honor the dead.

One strong willed woman stands in Ryker's way.

Athena Madero, Omega Team co-founder of the private security agency, has a personal stake in Ryker's case—her precious niece is his top suspect. Athena will stop at nothing to defend her family and uncover the truth, even if it means taking on the FBI. But a powerful influence of the dark side of Santeria—born from across the Mexican border—stands at the heart of a sinister conspiracy. A mysterious holy man and his devoted followers force Ryker and Athena to join forces to uncover a tragic truth.


Excerpt

Woodbridge, Virginia
Ryker Townsend

A sinister whisper filled my head. In the dark, I couldn't see anything. My shallow raspy breaths grew more frantic. The weight of desperation crushed down on me until I couldn't fill my lungs.

'I slept next to you...and dreamed of carving into your body.'

It wasn't a dream.

'I have a knife in my hand. I make my first cut and hear you scream.'

My hands were tied and my leg was in pain, the one I'd injured. The wound was raw as if it just happened.

"No. Don't!" I cried.

Hot sweat rolled off my skin, even as chills battered me. I clenched my teeth and endured the grueling thrashing of my heart that wouldn't let up.

'Look at me,' the voice screamed.

"No. I can't. I won't!"

I couldn't see. Couldn't move. Fear paralyzed me.

'I have to see it...when your soul leaves your body. It's my right. Do it!'

The stench of death filled my nostrils. It smothered me.

"...can't...b-breathe."

A light pierced the dark. I winced with its stabbing pain, but I forced my eyes to see.

A fireball exploded and sent ripples of heat over me. I flung a hand up to cover my face. This time, I wasn't bound. Fire seared my skin like acid. It spread over my body. I couldn't escape it.

But through the unrelenting agony of my scorched and blistering skin, I caught a glimpse of soothing white in the distance. When it swept over me, the light cut through the pain to cool my face and put the fire out. I willed the light to stay, but something else happened.

The weight of my body lifted without effort. I didn't fight my vision. I closed my eyes and relaxed into a roll as the burning pain drained from my body. I let the momentum take me until I tumbled to a stop.

I opened my eyes and came face to face with a charred body.

Oh, God. I gasped.

The abrupt stop shocked me. I braced my arms to push off the smoking corpse, but I couldn't move. My vision wasn't done.

The stench of burned skin and body gases forced me to hold my breath, but I kept my eyes open. Bloody peels of charred flesh clung to bone, with teeth exposed. I fought the urge to look away from the repulsive sight. I had to use my gift. I'd been given my ability for a reason.

I never turn away from the dead. I have to speak for them.

Once I took in every detail of the charred face, a serene calm oozed through me. The blackened remains faded as if in a fog, swallowed by a bright light. The blinding glow had severed my link to the body until I couldn't see the corpse anymore.

In an instant, I stood alone, awash in the light and filled with a euphoria I had never felt before.

Is this death, I wondered. Is this—?

Vivid, orange flowers poured down on me in a soothing rain. They glowed as if they were lit in neon. At my feet, crystalline skulls glistened in the light like heaps of hard packed snow. I raised my arms and turned my face to the heavens.

Death had saved me.

*   *   *

I awoke—panting—and sat bolt upright in bed. I stared down at my hands and ran fingers over my face and through my hair. Nothing hurt, except for the ache of emptiness. The euphoria had gone, but what did it all mean?

I didn't know why the dream had been different this time, but a sense of menace had stayed with me. I had touched something evil in my dream this time. Usually the dead drew me into their last horrific moments. Not this time.

Had the killer reached out to me? Had evil found me in my sleep? The very thought made me shiver. That had never happened to me before.

Through shadows I stared at my bookshelves and my gaze shifted across my loft in Woodbridge, yet I knew a part of me had lingered behind, caught between the horror of a nightmare I couldn't shake and something new. Even though I felt certain the vision had passed, the sensation of the flowers still washed over me. Petals brushed against my skin and I embraced the feeling, but I didn't trust it.

My worst nightmares were back—the hellish visions from when I'd come too close to a prolific killer and nearly became a victim.

I wasn't gullible enough to believe death had done me any favors. My recurring dream that mirrored what happened to me on the Prince of Wales Island in Alaska—when I'd come too close to death myself—had changed for the first time in over a year. But the metamorphosis into something different, with its portent of evil, didn't feel like a reward.

Death had a cruel streak. It teased a reassuring glimpse to the other side, but I knew better than most. Death expected a price for discovering what dwelled beyond the veil.

You had to die to find out.


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