Thursday, July 28, 2016

Romance! Confessions of a Wedding Planner (New from Michelle Jo Quinn)

Confessions of a Wedding Planner
Michelle Jo Quinn
(Bliss #1)
Publication date: July 26th 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

He may be the best man, but he’s the worst man for her…
Wedding planner, Veronica Soto-Stewart believes everyone deserves a fairy tale–even her ex-boyfriend. Unable to refuse his request, and with the help of Bliss Events motley crew, she finds herself creating the most magical event for the perfect couple.
But nothing is ever perfect…
And not all happy ever afters can be planned…
Levi Laurent can’t believe his luck. Thanks to his best friend’s wedding, he finally has a shot at the woman he’s always wanted–Veronica. From San Francisco to Paris, and back, he pulls out all the stops, so she knows where she really belongs–with him. But Veronica wants nothing to do with the rich, sexy, irresistible playboy.

Can Levi convince Veronica that her perfect happily ever after is closer than she ever realized?

I couldn’t make myself comfortable. As I continued to shrug, he clasped my shoulders tighter. If I leaned against my car, his hips would press against me. I sagged in defeat and avoided direct contact with his eyes. This was worse than him thinking we could be friends.
“Since you’re big, bad boss of this whole operation, what’s going on with the bachelor party?” The man wriggled his eyebrows at me when I looked up. It was such a laughable action.
Levi was the ultimate bachelor…and rebel. He kept his hair long, rarely shaved, and often dressed in button up shirts with the first three buttons undone and sleeves rolled up, showing off his constant tan. He exuded bad-to-the-bone. And he loved it.
No doubt he had particular ideas on what Jake’s bachelor party should be like. I had more than enough of a fight to deal with, why would I add a few more in the way of silicon-filled strippers?
“What bachelor party? I’m not in charge of that. I’ve never planned one, and don’t intend to start. It’s your job as the best man to figure it out.” I poked my finger at his chest. Hard, warm chest, with a steady fluttering from his heart.
“Is it?” He took my hand in his and flattened my palm on his chest, halting my ministrations. I stared at my fingertips touching his exposed skin. “Maybe you and I can get together soon, just us, and you can give me ideas.” A number of salacious scenes flashed in my mind. I gulped, realizing my mistake, but the heat had ebbed up my neck and cheeks.
Drawing back my hand, I replied, “If you need help, you can call Chase.” I spun around to the back of my car, reached in and took out a card from my purse, ignoring the blush on my cheeks and hoping he would, too. The hand that was squeezing my shoulder smoothed its way down to the small of my back when I faced him again. I tried not to focus on the sudden, pleasant warmth in my belly. This was Levi, Casanova of the Bay area…and beyond!
He took the proffered card. “She’s the expert on all things…naughty.” Chase would kill me if she found out I gave him her number. “I have to go.”
He removed his hand from my back and held my door open for me. As I settled in my seat, he stuck his head in my car and surprised me with a swift kiss on my cheek, rendering me speechless with how pleasant it felt. Levi had never been this close to me before. I’d never allowed it.

After shutting the door closed for me, he leaned his arms over the opened window and cocked his head to one side. Playfulness washed over his face. “Veronica, you may not like me, but whether you like it or not, I will be around whenever Jake asks me to be there. So you’ll have to get used to us being together…a lot.” It felt like he was trying to say more, but I simply nodded my head, and started the car. I waited for him to back away, before I sped off. I was flustered enough to accidentally run over the guy.

About the Author 
Michelle’s love for writing blossomed when her father gave her a diary, but instead of recounting her daily life, she wrote stories of fictional people. Like most of her characters, she believes in Happily Ever After. Naturally, she finds harmony in writing romance. She enjoys creating stories that make readers laugh, cry and fall in love.
An unabashed, self-proclaimed foodie, Michelle loves to try new food whenever she travels. She once had triple crème Brie and duck rillette for lunch on top of Grouse Mountain.
She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two kids and a pup named Scarlet.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Proverbial Mr. Universe Tour (And Giveaway!)

The Proverbial Mr. Universe
Maria La Serra
Publication date: June 27th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Dear girl with the red scarf,
Love was never meant to be conquered;
you have to surrender to it.
Trust me. After all, I am Mr. Universe.

When the universe conveys a message, you listen.
Olivia Montiano just caught her fiancé cheating. Now she is forced to question what she wants out of life and love. Striving to live up to her father’s unrealistic standards for the past twenty-three years, every decision she has ever made was with her father’s wishes in mind—until she finds mysterious, handwritten letters tucked away in places only meant for her. That’s when she realizes she’s been on the wrong path all along and gives her heart to a guy her father thinks is entirely wrong.
Washed-up abstract artist Nick Montgomery has had quite a few setbacks in life. He’s become accustomed to never needing anyone, thinking he’s just fine—until he meets the girl with the red scarf. She’s not his type. But the universe has other ideas. Nick has a secret he’s keeping from her, afraid it will bring their new relationship to a sudden halt.
Will they figure out what the universe holds for them?

Maria Le Serra's Top Ten Traits in a Proverbial Mr. Universe:

1. Passionate
2. Emotional
3. Philosophical
4. Loyal
5. Imaginative
6. Playful
7. Fair-minded
8. Authentic
9. Loveable
10. Warm-hearted

About the Author
Maria La Serra, a fashion designer, turned writer, lives in Montreal with her husband and two children. She will try everything at least once, except for skiing, hiking or camping-okay anything relating to activities done in the great outdoors. The Proverbial Mr. Universe is her first novel.

Partnered with:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016



Title: State of Fear
Series: Collapse Series #8
Author: Summer Lane 
Buy Links: 

About the Book

The world has gone nuclear, and the militias have met their first major defeat. 

Torn and desperate, Cassidy Hart and her team make a difficult decision to relocate their forces to the cold, barren wilderness of Alaska. Yukon City has become a stronghold for survivors of the apocalypse. 

Or has it?

Cassidy is on her own. Commander Chris Young remains in California to combat the shadowy forces of Omega, while Cassidy attempts to rebuild the militia's strength at Yukon City. Uriah True has ideas of his own when it comes to surviving, and the militias are splitting apart. 

Veronica Klaus is unleashing hell upon the west coast. The true, terrifying nature of Omega is revealed at last. A dangerous, desperate move is made to find reinforcements and seize a weapon that could give the militias an upper hand. 
The downside? 
It just might kill everyone on planet earth. 

Cassidy, Chris and their friends have made it this far. 
How much longer can they survive? 
How much longer can the world survive?


FINALLY, THE 8th installment has been released!! This is, as I've been saying, the prologue chapter to the final two installments of the series, and I am SO stoked to share this book with you. SO MUCH hard work and stress went into it! **cries and laughs at the same time** THANK YOU for making this series a hit! There are SO many people involved and participating in this release. Its readers like you that make this publishing world go 'round. So thank you from the bottom of my little writer heart. 

Enter the nation-wide giveaway below to win: 
A Collapse Prize Pack
$40 Amazon Gift Card, Signed Paperback of a Surprise Summer Lane Title, Collectible Collapse Artwork from Oskari Niittymaki - the artist behind The Illustrated Guide. 

$15 Barnes & Noble Gift Card 

Enter below! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

EAT LIKE A GILMORE: Kristi Carlson Talks About Her Gilmore Girls-Inspired Cookbook!

If you haven't watched Gilmore Girls, you should. It's one of the smartest, funniest and most endearing comedy/dramas out there. The hit televsion show centers on the life experiences of Lorelai Gilmore, a fiercely independent single mother of educationally gifted Rory, and their lives in and around Stars Hollow - the cutest, most Mayberry-esque town on planet earth. I personally love the show because the characters are diverse, interesting and well developed. It's also among the most intelligent comedy/dramas out there. It's smart writing, smart acting and smart story premises. And who doesn't love Luke Danes from the diner? Or Emily Gilmore's Friday night dinners? 

Kristi: Picture used with author's permission
Kristi Carlson must have had those same questions, because she wrote an entire cookbook about it. The book, entitled Eat Like A Gilmore, is a guide to the cuisine of Stars Hollow, with recipes inspired by characters like Sookie St. James and Luke Danes. Kristi has been getting some pretty cool press for her book, too. People Magazine says "It’ll bring you just a little bit closer to your dream of watching TV and eating pizza on the couch with Lorelai and Rory.” How cool is that? If you're a super fan of the show *like me* then this is a dream come true. I'll be one of the first in line to buy the book, which is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Even more exciting? As it is now widely known, Gilmore Girls will be making a return to Netflix for several revival episodes. (I'm personally rooting for some vindication for season 7, and if you've watched the show, you know what I'm talking about!)

Kristi took some time to chat with me about her cookbook, her inspiration, and how the fast-talking, witty and spirited world of Lorelai Gilmore influenced Eat Like A Gilmore.

Interview with Kristi Carlson

Summer Lane: I'm a huge fan of Gilmore Girls. One of my friends got me into the show and I'm obsessed with all things Stars Hollow and Luke Danes! How/when did you come up with the inspiration for this cookbook? 

Well, starting from the early days of watching Season 1 - it was clear FOOD was a major player in the show - as two of the main characters are cooks/chefs. Then right out of the gate they added in the obligatory Friday Night Dinners and suddenly food had a starring role. It's tantalizing - hearing about how delicious something is over and over again. So I've been wanting to get my hands on all of these recipes for fifteen years - I kept waiting for a cookbook to come out. It never did. Then last summer I needed a creative outlet and my boyfriend suggested I try to create recipes for the foods from the show - that suggestion lit the pilot light for this whole thing.

Second season dvd cover
SL: I came across your kickstarter for the cookbook. What inspired you to bring your creative idea to the public, and how did it turn out? 

Once I decided to move forward and create the recipes myself, I started thinking - "Hey, there are probably other fans out there who would like these, too. I'll start a blog." But then my list of recipes kept growing and growing....until it was more than 50 recipes long. Once I started thinking in terms of 50+ recipes, I realized I, myself, didn't want to pull recipes off a blog to make these dishes. I wanted something concrete. I wanted a place where I could keep all of the recipes together, organized, and looking fun & Gilmore-ish. Turning it in a book was the only answer. Then I wondered how many others would want the same book - so I launched the Kickstarter as a means to put feelers out. I was hoping there would be some folks out there like me, but I wasn't fully prepared for just how many people have been waiting for and wanting this book - it's amazing! 

SL: You've been getting some pretty awesome press lately! How does that feel? 

It feels great! I remember back many years ago - Season Two or Season 3 - I was standing in line at the market and saw "The Best Show You're Not Watching" was the cover story on one of the magazines - it was a story about Gilmore Girls. I remember during that entire 7 year run of the show - it never seemed like it was as popular as it should have been - it didn't feel to me like it was getting its due.  So now - to see all of these people so excited about this book...about the revival...about Lauren Graham's new makes me so happy.  The show IS getting its due - finally!  
But, seeing my name in these press articles - and feeling the excitement from all of these fans - it's a little overwhelming. Somewhere in my head, I knew it was a possibility, but I wasn't really prepared for it. It has both scared me and boosted me up. So many people have sent me heart-felt notes of encouragement and gratitude - it's been very enriching. I've kept all of those people in mind as I've worked on this book.  I'm not so much doing this for myself anymore. Now I'm doing it for them.

Rights belong to Entertainment Weekly
SL: What's your favorite dish from your Stars Hollow-inspired collection of recipes? 

Oh gosh - that's very hard to say. The writers for the show really knew their food! I guess it depends on what I'm in the mood for at the minute.  At this minute, I'm in the mood for Pot Roast with Roasted Potatoes and gravy and some delicious rolls, fresh from the oven.  Yesterday I was all about cake; Chocolate Praline Crunch Cake, to be exact!  Most days I could go for a great Cheeseburger, or even a Turkey Burger. 

The part that's been most fun has been bringing these foods to life.  Many of them were never even seen on the screen - they were only mentioned or described.  So making things like Mini Lemon Bundt Cakes from Friday Night Dinner and Sookie's Muffin Bottom Pie - seeing and tasting them for the first time has been an incredible experience!

SL: How did you organize the cookbook? Were there any episodes in particular that inspired a recipe? 

The book is organized into 9 chapters plus a 2 "featured" sections - "Coffee" and "Speciality Cakes".  The whole thing kicks off talking about coffee - which seems appropriate. 
Recipe ideas were pulled from a few sources - from my own personal wish list, plus requests from the folks who backed the Kickstarter, plus the more iconic dishes the show is known for.  I organized them in traditional chapters - like drinks, breakfast, desserts, etc. But each recipe will have an icon attributing it to Sookie, Luke or Emily's staff.  The recipes are written with that in mind - Luke's recipes are more basic, Emily's use only the finest ingredients and Sookie's are more detailed. The recipes which don't fall under any of those categories are designated as "Town Favorites" - there are some really fun recipes with that distinction - Founders Day Punch, Chicken Chow Mein Sandwich, Paella - great stuff!

SL: If you could eat a meal cooked by Sookie or Luke, whose meal would you choose?
Personally, I would choose Sookie - just to see what unique thing she'd create for me.  I think it would also be fun to watch her make it - to see her techniques. 
Is it weird to have a fictional culinary hero?  

SL: By extension, who is your favorite character and why? 

Of course, I love them all - the entire ensemble, together, is what brings the magic to the watching experience! Lorelai is the character I relate to most closely - her relationship with her parents, the way she perfectly blends being responsible with being totally nutty, her career - each aspect resonates with me in my own life.  She was the first TV character I could personally relate to - and she showed me it's okay to aggressively guard my right to be who I am, rather than become the person others think I "should" be. 

Revival poster promo. Check out Netflix, guys!
SL: Are you excited about the revival episodes releasing this fall (I know I am!)? 
Heck yeah! I am thrilled! When I started this cookbook thing, I didn't even know the revival was a possibility. Having the buzz of these new episodes going on during the development of the book has been exhilarating.  It's made the whole thing far more fun. 

I'm a purist, though.  I don't want to know any spoilers - I don't want to see photos from the new episodes, or hear storylines or even speculation.  Once the first episode comes out - I just want to sit on my sofa and take it all in, like I did the original series. 

I need a creepy button - "I do not want to know any GG Revival Spoilers".

SL: Where can people pre-order your cookbook? (I'm definitely buying myself a copy!) 

Aw - great! Thank you. 
Folks can preorder at

SL: Why do you think Gilmore Girls is so incredibly beloved by people around the world?

Wow - for so many reasons!  I think it's a very well-made show - attention was paid to details - some of which even may not have been important for the story, but someone behind the scenes recognized they'd be important for the fans to feel the show - to feel like they were part of the town. The story is light - even though sometimes negative things happened, overall, Stars Hollow is a soothing, comfortable place to be. People are real there - quirky, supportive, nosy, and helpful. There isn't anything commercial or superficial about the town - I think people find that refreshing.
To me the aspect that makes this show stand out is its strong, female characters - from Lorelai and Rory to Emily, Paris, Sookie, Lane, and even Liz, Miss Patty, and Babette - each one is authentically herself. Each character's darker traits blend with her positive traits to create a fully-formed person. For this reason, I think the show is very empowering for women. So it's no surprise the majority of the fans are female! 

SL: Thank you so very much for visiting with us, Kristi. So excited for the release of the cookbook - I know I'll be one of the first in line! 

Thanks for your interest in the book, Summer - it's been great talking with you.

Don't forget to pre-order Kristi's rockin' cookbook right here (projected October 25th release!) - it's a cookbook that might even impress Emily Gilmore herself! Pre-Order Link

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Coming Soon. 
Bravo: Blood Road 
The final chapter of Bravo's incredible journey through the apocalypse, divided into a two-part story. 

Bravo and his beloved handler, Lieutenant Nathan Ingalls, are together again amidst the ashes of an apocalyptic California. Together, they are using their skills to help a rebel militia group seek out survivors in the desolation of Death Valley.

But when the Death Brigade - a vicious anarchist group arisen from the dust of a fallen society – rolls into town, tragedy strikes. Someone is taken. Neither Nathan nor Bravo will allow that. The hunt is on – Bravo will not fail in his task to rescue his friend.

The Black Market.

Rescuing the people you love sometimes comes with a price. When Bravo and his friend, India, are taken to Blood Road, they are forced to fight for their lives in a terrifying and vicious society of gambling, deceit and violent entertainment.
Alone and afraid, Bravo is forced to fight for his life every day in an arena while cruel spectators make bets on the odds of his victory. His only allies in this dark place could perish as suddenly as he could.

The bonds of friendship are tested, and the agonizing teeth of loss sink their fangs deep. 
Life or death. Fight or flight. Bravo must choose.
One mission, completed.
One duty, fulfilled.
And now, the Blood Road will wreak its vengeance.

This is the conclusion to Bravo the bomb dog’s thrilling and poignant tale of love, loss and ultimate sacrifice, a #1 bestselling phenomenon. 

Add it to your shelf on GoodReads! 
I will have a release date at the end of the summer. This book is going to be detailed and gritty, so I'm taking my time with its creation. I can't wait to share it with you. Thanks so much! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Something Eternal: Blog Tour and Starbucks, Bath & Body Works, Target Gift Card Giveaway!

Something Eternal
By: Joel T. McGrath
Releasing to Kindle Scout competition July 1 -31, 2016


Life without love is fire without flame....

In our time, wonder has disappeared. Most believe in what is seen, others in what is heard, yet a few know something eternal guides them.

When Vincent steals his older brother’s girl, Noemi, someone is going to die. Three lives, once ascending to greatness, are pitched into chaos. Jak, after months of searching, finds his younger brother, Vincent, while Noemi faces certain death. On one hand, Vincent can save her, yet others will die for their love.

Hearts prided on rational choices waver. Logic conflicts with reality, and emotion, not reason, decides the future.

A Note from the Author:
To breathe life into this book, I am asking for your support. During the month of July, Something Eternal will be in the running for a Kindle Scout publication contract. My book needs your nomination. If Something Eternal wins, you’ll receive a free copy compliments of Amazon. Links for nominating Something Eternal will be made available in July during my month-long nomination period. Please check out the Kindle Scout program and discover how readers are making their voices heard.

Link to Follow Tour:  sign up here! 

About the Author

Joel T. McGrath is a proud member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He is a four-time top 20% choice for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award with four different manuscripts. He has sold foreign rights to his first novel through a literary agent in Turkey. Joel is currently working with a Disney illustrator on a graphic novel and hopes to release portions of the work in summer 2017.

Author Links:  Website | Facebook 

Rafflecopter Giveaway (5 $10 Gift Cards – Winner their pick of the 5 in the order they are drawn.  $10 Bath & Body Works GC,  1 $10 Amazon GC,  1 $10 Target GC, 1 $10 Starbucks GC, $10 Barnes & Noble GC)

(Enter at the bottom of this post!) 

Exclusive Excerpt

Sweating heavily, Vincent threw the blankets off his bed. The room was dark, yet emitted sunny splices of midday heat. Beams of light shot through his blackout curtains. The temperature in the tiny, empty room rose with each passing minute. His eyes shifted back and forth beneath closed lids. He was dreaming, but not just dreaming, something eternal was guiding his dreams, feeding him purposeful, random memories of recent days.
Vincent’s eyes shifted rapidly from side to side.
Random words and pictures of his brother, Jak, his girlfriend, Noemi, and his master, Malum, sped through his mind in echoes along with his own confused thoughts and feelings. Most of all, he dreamt about that terrible night not long ago in the New York City subway station. His bitter memories and sweet dreams merged, returning nightmares upon his unconscious soul.
Vincent dreamt about the golden wheat fields. He was hand in hand with Noemi. She smiled with a sort of playful lust. He grabbed her hips and kissed her inviting lips like a man that wanted something more. He held her by the waist, but she disappeared from his hands. Falling droplets of cold rain descended from a sea of dark clouds. An ominous sky choked out the last remnants of the sun’s glimmering rays, and thunder rolled in on him.
Vincent was suddenly in a foggy haze by himself. Words and pictures floated around on all sides, but none stayed very long.
“I love you more than anything, Noemi.”
“Have you ever wanted something so badly, but no matter what, you couldn’t have it?”
“I’m the one that loved you like no one else ever could.”
“Vincent, help me!”
Suddenly, Vincent found himself in a black room and then in an abandoned subway station. The dream broke from memory for a moment, and whispers cluttered, fading low and loud in a never-ending circle.
“Noemi’s filling your head with lies.”
“She loves me. I bet that just kills you, doesn’t it, bro?”
“Stop being an arrogant little prick.”
“Don’t forget, little brother, I win. I always win!”
“Stop calling me little brother!”
“You are a lost soul in a lost world.”
“I’m not obsessed. The Shroud, the knights, they’re all lying to us.”
“You’re selfish.”
“Don’t go back. Malum will kill you!”
“I’m sick of your empty promises.”
“Malum’s too powerful.”
“I’m risking my life to be with you.”
“I certainly don’t need a man to save me, never mind a boy.”
“What other stuff are you hiding from me?”
“You’ve changed. Jak never treated me like this.”
“Well, I’m sorry I’m not him!”
“I bet you really did kill Jak.”
Vincent’s heart raced. He tossed and turned. His arms and legs kicked and punched the empty bed. He kept dreaming. Some things were clear while others remained jumbled
Out of their proper place and time, random memories mixed with images and insights not previously known by Vincent. It was dark, and then broken lights hummed and blinked on and off inside a deserted subway station. Vincent knew the script, yet was powerless to effect change. He knew what was coming, but he could not stop himself or warn Jak. He was trapped in a memory so real, it was haunting the conscious portion of his unconscious mind.
Vincent, sitting, held his skateboard and looked straight ahead. “Are you still mad about us?”
Jak, in a trench coat and sunglasses, at first, refused to answer. He clenched his teeth and glared sideways at his younger brother, yet took a deep breath as he put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “It is true. I loved her once, as she loved me. However, Noemi’s heart grew cold with deceit. Her treachery became daggers to my soul. This thing she offers you, it is a lie.”
Memories of angry, emotional banter ensued. Vincent’s dreams turned ever more distressing. He felt an upsurge of hate and rage while he slept. Pictures flashed and words shot back and forth between the brothers.
“You’re mad because we’re together now, and that’s eating you up. I can feel it.” Vincent reacted to benign comments with hasty perceptions.
Jak struggled to remain calm. “You don’t actually think you mean anything to Noemi, do you? I was always her first choice you know. She had a crush on you, little brother, but she loved me.”
“That’s a lie!”
“No, Vincent. The Shroud’s evil deceits have twisted your mind. But you are not beyond redemption. You need to be noble and have faith as you were taught by the knighthood.”
“The humans aren’t like us. Lord Malum says they are beneath us. We’re perfect. They’re not.”
“These words are not your own. They are the ramblings of a mad man who would rather see everything burn than have peace. You must see reason, little brother.”
“Poor, poor, Jak. You’ll never change. You always think you’re right about everything.”
“Vincent, your emotions are being manipulated. I feel another immortal’s presence.”
“You’re delusional. It’s all lies, lies, and more lies.”
“It is not. I swear to you.”
“It is. And you have a funny way of apologizing.”
“I cannot ask for forgiveness if you will not tell me why I should ask for it.”
“Noemi said you’d say things like that. I didn’t believe her. How stupid could I be for trusting you?”
The dream became clearer, almost coherent. Vincent wrestled with his sheet as he thrashed about. Yet no matter how much he convulsed, he kept sleeping.
Inside the subway station, Vincent clenched his jaw and flung his skateboard at Jak. He then summoned a pair of translucent red katana swords from nothing.
Jak twisted his body, avoiding the skateboard. “Do not do this. Withdraw your strikers!” he yelled.
Vincent braced for battle. His face devoid of emotion, he wrapped his fingers tightly around the swords he summoned. “You are no longer my brother. You are now my enemy.” Vincent thrust the glowing strikers toward his brother’s stomach.
Jak somersaulted backward. “I will not fight you like this!”
“Why? Is it too real? It’s one thing to play gallant knight in the confines of the temple, but it’s another thing to fight for your life. Now summon your striker or I’ll put you down like a dog.” Vincent waved his pair of translucent red, blazing strikers through the air. The heat from the blades swirled waves of trailing light as they moved.
Jak opened his palms, displaying no weapon. “I will not fight you. Why do you resent me so?”
“Get over yourself. You will fight, or you will die.” Vincent paused. “Wait. I remember. The code. What was it? Oh yeah, how did it go?”
Jak extended his hand toward his brother. “Don’t!”
Vincent smirked. “Until the last enemy…”
“Has been brought to nothing.” Jak hung his head, as he was obligated to finish the rest. “Why did you say that? I have no choice now.”
“One thing I know about the knights, they keep with tradition. Even when it kills them.”
“Tzzzztt.” Vincent’s blades hissed with electric energy.
Jak looked down, closed his eyes, and waited.
Vincent charged with a battle cry and raised strikers.
Jak summoned his translucent blue sword just as Vincent chopped his katana blades down toward his neck.
Vincent huffed. His blade radiated sparks against Jak’s sword.
Jak grit his teeth. His biceps strained from the pressure of two swords against his one. “We are family.” Jak grimaced.
“Stop pretending that you care!” Vincent shouted. “You don’t know anything about me!”
Jak grunted. “You have a choice.” Vincent’s strength pushed him to the ground. “We all have a choice. No matter what others might have us believe.”
“I… I want to…” Vincent felt an emotional tug, and in his heart, there arose a conflict.
Jak’s arms started to weaken from fatigue. “Good, now remove your strikers so we can talk.”
At that moment, Vincent also sensed a presence urging him onward. “Lord Malum will…”
“Do not fear Malum, for he is no lord. His only true power lies in the illusion of fear,” Jak said. “Come now, release your grip,” he urged his brother, “and let us talk of a reunion like in times gone past.”
“I don’t want to talk anymore! You always get your way, and I’m sick of it!” Vincent pressed his strikers harder.
Jak soared backward. “That is enough! I am not indulging you any longer. You are nothing more than an ill-tempered child. I will drag you home if I have to.” Jak charged toward his younger brother with a determined, focused stride.
Vincent braced.
The blades of the brothers clashed together in violent fury, causing an onslaught of blue and red sparks. The mystic currents sizzled and hissed with each violent blow of the swords. A transcendent clash between two immortals began in a mortal world that was ill-prepared for what was secretly unleashed upon it.
Vincent was relentless. He kicked and swung his blades repeatedly.
Jak fended off Vincent’s overcharged, explosive attacks. He coiled his entire body through the air, landing with a knee to his younger brother’s stomach.
Vincent fell on the ground. He cradled his abdomen. He spread his fingers and reached out to the side. He moved his hand toward his brother, causing a trashcan to fly toward Jak, who promptly sliced the solid metal container in two.
“Is that the best you can do, little brother? Because I have to say, I am not impressed.” Jak casually walked toward Vincent who remained sitting on the grimy subway floor. “Why do you not remember all of the good times that we had growing up together? All of this just for a girl…”
Vincent interrupted. “She’s not just a girl to me. Maybe Noemi was just some girl to you, but not to me. And for the record, you had way more good times than I did.” Vincent hid his tears. “Maybe this will impress you!” Lying on his back, he reached into the air, straining his entire body until his skin reddened and quivered. With invisible power, Vincent pulled the broken subway lights and some of the ceiling down on top of Jak. The concrete piled over him with dust and debris several feet high.
“Shrak-ak-ak-a. Screeech. Shrak-ak-ak-a. Screeech” The faint sounds of a distant train broke the eerie silence.
Vincent, shocked by his own powers, withdrew his blades and rushed toward the pile of debris. “Jak, Jak, are you all right? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” The fear in his voice resembled that of a younger brother rather than a mighty equal. He frantically dug through the mess.
A bloody hand reached up and grabbed his arm. Jak emerged from the pile of dust, fragments of ceiling, and shattered glass that covered him. Miniscule drops of crimson red flowed along his sleeve, down his pinky finger, and dripped off his hand as globules of deep rose blush on the ground. Jak seized his brother by the arm, easily lifting him off his feet. Without hesitation, he abruptly threw Vincent across the subway floor.
The momentum carried Vincent until he skidded off the safe confines of the platform and plummeted onto the tracks.
Jak looked down at his trench coat and dismissively flapped it off. Clouds of chalky, powdery dust consumed him. He coughed and hacked from the concentrated residue that engulfed his senses. “If you will not stop this petty rivalry, I will.” Jak, so preoccupied, failed to see how Vincent had fallen onto the tracks and into the path of the oncoming train. “I see the Shroud has taught you a couple of new tricks. But they are simply that, tricks. You are no more a match for me now than before, little brother.” He coughed and kept dusting his clothes off.
“Shrak-ak-ak-a. Shrak-ak-ak-a.”
As the train neared, the sound captured Jak’s attention. He looked up and saw his brother slumped over on the tracks.
Vincent was semi-conscious. “Aeeee. Agggh.” He rolled and moaned.
“Vincent, wake up! Come on, little brother! Get off the tracks!”
The lights of the train filled the dark tunnel ahead.
Vincent groaned. He blinked through a set of blurry eyes. He sluggishly shook his head, but stared idly at the train. Finally recognizing the imminent danger, he staggered to his feet. Yet, he remained between the tracks as the train barreled toward him.
Jak ran to the edge of the platform. “You are injured. Give me your hand!” Jak got down on his hands and knees. “Whatever you do, do not touch the third rail or you will get electrocuted!”
Vincent slowly reached for his brother’s hand as Jak extended it toward him. He squinted at Jak’s hand and then withdrew his. He looked behind at the third rail and up at the oncoming train. His eyes remained fixed on the train’s glaring light. “No, Jak. I can’t let you win again. I’ve worked too hard for this. I won’t let you have Noemi. Unlike you and the other immortals, I’m not afraid to die.” He briefly paused. “That’s why I’ll win this time.”
“Stop it! Just stop it!” Jak shouted, pounding his fist against the concrete platform. “This has gone on long enough! If you want to win so badly, then fine, you win!” His arm nervously shook as he reached his hand out again.
“I can’t win like that. Not like that.” His face lost all emotion. “No, today, I’m taking what’s mine.”
Vincent reached over and gripped the third rail, causing the train to jump its tracks and slam the subway wall. The ground quaked. The lights blacked out in the station. Then they flashed on and off before bursting like sparklers. The lights popped one after another in grand fashion.
Slowly, and with a painful wince, Vincent screamed as he pushed his free hand toward Jak. Seven hundred and fifty volts of electricity exploded from Vincent’s hand, and he directed a thick, electrified current at his brother.
Jak summoned his striker and deflected the massive surge. The electricity parted, blasting the sides of the walls behind him.
“KA-BOOOMMM!” A deafening pop thundered through the station and resonated up to the streets above, shattering windows and tripping car alarms as sound waves pulsed throughout the city.
Vincent released another wave of voltage. It pushed Jak beyond his physical limit, forcing him backward from the platform’s ledge. Beneath Jak’s feet, the cement floor buckled and the ceramic tiles busted like a series of spastic dominos until he was pinned against the far wall at the back end of the station.
“Ha! Do you like that?” Vincent laughed devilishly. “You never respected me! But after today, you’ll never win again!” He pushed even more lightning bolts toward Jak. “You’ll have to go home and tell them that you were beaten by your little brother. Everyone will see that you’re not so perfect after all.”
Jak’s blue striker crystallized from the intense heat of the electric bolts. “Aaaahh!” he screamed. He tried to deflect the powerful torrents.
“You are nothing!” Vincent yelled.
Jak wheezed with the last of his strength. His words strained from the bottom of his diaphragm to the tip of his tongue. “It is a shame. Your first victory will be our last moment as brothers.” His face tightened. His brows merged. Moisture soaked his forehead. His knuckles whitened around his striker. His muscles locked up. “You need to know two things.” Jak paused to catch his breath. “I love you. I always have… Aaaahh!” A chilling scream bellowed forth before he could finish.
Vincent’s anger softened once he had won. He tried to release the rail and stop the flow of electricity, but something from beyond held his hand on the track. He vigorously struggled to let go, but it seemed an invisible force kept his hand there against his will.
Jak’s power met its limits. His striker could no longer take the electrical assault. It exploded into fragments of tiny blue shards. The lightning bolts devoured him.
Everything went dark as Vincent collapsed.
A strange, uneasy silence fell.
Face down, Vincent clumsily groped his way through the pitch-black tunnel. With a remorseful tone, he called out to his brother. “Jak, I’m sorry.” He began to stutter. “I was just… I don’t know… I was being stupid and mad about dumb stuff. I’ve never felt that kind of anger before. I didn’t know what I was doing. I swear. I’m really, really sorry. ANSWER ME!”

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