Presence: August Heat (Presence Series 5)

Written by Charity Becker

Published by Blysster Press

From the back:

Following an anonymous tip left at her office, Mina Jewel begins investigating a bizarre string of random murders. When she finds herself under “The Surgeon’s” blades, she realizes there’s nothing random about the murders at all, and the crazed serial killer has bigger plans for Port Orchard, Washington.

Between a suffocating heatwave, her volatile dealings with Justice, and a difficult physical recovery, Mina’s gifts are going haywire. Without help, she’s afraid she’ll lose control and her Fury will burn everything in its path.

But there’s no time for recovery or fixing her personal problems. When the Surgeon targets Mina’s pack mates, a disturbing pattern begins to emerge. For their safety, the pack is sent away, and it’s up to Mina to stop the killer alone.

Just when she thinks she’s figured it out, her investigation takes her down a path she never imagined possible. A path leading to betrayal, cover-ups, and another piece of the puzzle of her traumatic childhood.

Read on for a free sneak peek of the first chapter!


August Heat

Charity Becker


Chapter One


Blood congealed around me, matting my long curls in a sticky tangle against my face, neck, and shoulders. I’d been here long enough for the blood to begin drying to a tacky, thick consistency, gluing my hair and what was left of my clothes to the floor. Even while I lay here bleeding, drifting in and out of consciousness, I couldn’t help wonder how they would get all that goo out of my hair for the funeral. With a weak, breathy laugh, I wondered if there was even enough of me left to have a funeral. Maybe they’d sop me up with a sponge and present me in a fancy wine glass instead. My silent laugh sent a gush of blood out of my mouth to mingle with the mess on the floor.

This, my final, glorious moment, came as no surprise. I’d known this was a suicide mission before stepping foot in the abandoned storehouse where I’d been grabbed. The other Presence members had tried to reason with me before I came, suggesting alternatives or that I just drop this manhunt and let the police handle it. As was usually the case, especially lately, my stubborn side had come rushing to the forefront, refusing to back down. The inevitable result was me bleeding out on a cold concrete floor in the middle of Nowhere, Washington.

Did I have a death wish? Not a conscious one, but maybe somewhere not so deep in my addled brain I did wish for death. A quick end to my suffering. Maybe there was a part of me that was done with all the painful memories, the physical and emotional scars, my life of failure after failure. Nothing but torment, sadness, desperation, and one big heartache after another.

Okay, there was no maybe about it. I was done with this shit.

Suicidal? No, not quite. That was the coward’s way out, the last stop for the weak, your final selfish act to show the world you don’t care about any of it anymore. I wouldn’t take my own life, but I sure wasn’t avoiding the situations that might take it from me. Perhaps that was cowardly in its own way, but given my track record, how many more years could I really stand all the craziness? At what point is it enough crap and you finally get to rest?

A tear slid down my face, searing heat against shock-chilled skin. My clammy back lay against the floor on the thin fabric of my shredded blouse. He’d sliced me from groin to neck, tugging and pinning my ravaged skin open for the whole world to see what made me tick. Through the pain of the surgery I’d felt his hands inside me, moving vital bits around, rearranging what Mother Nature had so carefully placed. Then, without warning, he’d stopped, leaving me here to writhe and die in a cooling puddle of my own fluids. At least he’d let me keep most of my clothes. Somehow, there was more dignity in dying with your clothes on—if you ignored the fact I was sprawled out like a cheap whore.

The tear shivered on the tragus of my right ear for just a breath, then dropped to my earlobe, and slid to the mess of my hair. I took a shaking, painful breath and closed my eyes, not that it mattered; my vision had given up on me long ago.

How long had I been here waiting for my final breath? If I’d been human, the surgery would have killed me in minutes. But I’m not human. No matter how hard I wish it, no matter how much I pretend, I’m just not human. The Lycanthropy gave me a boost, an extra bit of strength or stamina or oomph to survive horrors like this. At least until I bled to death. Lucky me.

All I knew for sure was that I’d been here long enough to feel death’s slowly tightening grip around my body, my strength and will to live having come to their breaking points.

Some kind of noise tugged at my attention, a shuffling, soft sound that barely registered in my fading consciousness. My eyelids were lead, fused together with dried blood or tears or Lord knew what else that had splashed on my face during this ordeal. Or maybe I was just too exhausted to complete that one small movement. My fingers had gone numb just like my feet and legs. Were they even there any longer, or had the Surgeon taken those, too?

The shuffling grew louder, and I heard a faint, repeating tick-tick, tick-tick drawing nearer. The padding of furred feet and long, sharp claws clicking across the floor sent a shiver of recognition through me. Hot breath against my face brought clarity.

Too late. My heart gave a last quivering beat.

“Finally,” I whispered just before every thought, feeling, and sensation disappeared from my world.

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