Authors: Carrie Butler
Cover Photo (Female) by Subbotina Anna
Cover Photo (Male) by Yuri Arcurs
Cover Design by Carrie Butler
"Wow, wow, wow. Carrie Butler has outdone herself. No sophomore slump here—
- Krista’s Dust Jacket
"Butler's writing is flawless and her story takes you on a sweet and suspenseful journey that will leave you craving more."
- Christina Lee, Author of All of You
is a gripping page-turner that exceeded all of my expectations! It pulled at my heartstrings and had enough twists and turns to make it nearly impossible to put down."
- Brittany & Bianca Blab Books
is a great addition to an already great series. It takes everything we love about New Adult and combines it effortlessly with everything we love about paranormal romance. It is a fresh addition to both genres and one that would be a shame to miss."
- Readers Live A Thousand Lives
"It's not often I step away from the contemporary genre but Carrie Butler makes me want to. ... If you are a fan of Paranormal romance with suspense and action thrown in then you must read this series."
- Book Nerds Anonymous
"This second installment in the Mark of Nexus series evokes just about every emotion there is. Butler expertly guides us through twists and turns in the plot that have us cheering one chapter and gasping or crying the next."
- Melissa Maygrove, Historical Romance Author
"Rena and Wallace’s love is beautiful."
- Corrie the Book Crazed Girl
is enigmatic, suspenseful and intriguing all at once. Carrie's ability to carry on the storyline leaves you wanting more, long after you've put down the book."
- The Girl in a Cafe
"The ability that Carrie has to draw you into a story and keep you there is a special talent."
First, a shout-out to God. Without Him, none of this would have been possible.
I would also like to thank:
My parents, who are my best friends. My sister, who is my partner in (non)crime; my brother-in-law, who leads my security detail; my nephew, who serenades me with his trumpet; my niece, who keeps me relatively sane; and the rest of my family and friends who continue to lend their support.
Dave Taylor, who continues to fight the beast; Melissa Maygrove, whom we know as the Goddess of Grammar; Laura Callahan Tom, who shall henceforth be known as Hawkeye McProofer; Lisa Regan, whose books you should buy; Iain Carter and Laura Carter (unrelated), who helped me write from the POV of an English character; Ava Smith and Nadia Hassan, who rocked the beta worksheets; Raina Campbell of Grapevine Book Tours, who is the greatest coordinator in the history of ever, Eric Muss-Barnes, who taught me how to format e-books; and my former publishing family, who still continues to support me.
The rest of my beloved street team, Team CHAOS—Teresa DiLillo, Giulia Esposito, Brittany Ferrell, Taneesha Freidus, Kelly Fox, Ellen Gault, Tobi Helton, Kanettra Holmes, Magen Corrie Lirette-Chambers, Diana Long, Hannah Membrey, Diana Ramsey, Chie Relosa, Farrah Sayyed, Antonietta Nette Silveira, Tracey Spiteri, and Jovon “Junkpuncher” Tucker.
Last, but not least, high fives to the blogging community, my NA Alley family, the #NALitChat crew, and you!
“Almost there,” I coaxed, stumbling on my tiptoes as I struggled to keep my boyfriend’s eyes covered.
Wallace grunted and bent back so I could reach as we walked. “Is this really necessary?”
“I want it to be a surprise.” I frowned, shoving my breasts against his back in an attempt to get closer. So logistics weren’t my strong suit. We’d still make it there. “Just a few more steps.”
“That’s what you said before we ran into the water fountain.”
I rolled my eyes and leaned around his arm to see how close we were. “Are you still going on about that?”
He came to a halt in the middle of the hallway, blindly tilting his head back to address me. “Baby, if you had nuts, you’d be going on about it, too.”
I slipped my hands back, over his shoulders, and gave him a hard shove. “If I had nuts, we’d have bigger problems than this.”
Of course, he didn’t budge.
Wallace is a Dynari—a mortal being with supernatural abilities—and his major gift is strength. Ridiculous, accidentally-bruising strength. For the past two months, we’ve been trying to rein it in, but it hasn’t been an easy task. Whenever he loses focus or can’t keep a grip on his emotions, hours upon hours of practice go right out the window.
Oh, and apparently I make it worse.
Something about me augments his abilities. His, and everyone else’s who carries the Dynari bloodline—which is perfect, given that half of them are batshit insane.
“Can I open my eyes now?” he asked, jarring me from my thoughts.
I leaned sideways and spotted the bulletin board a few feet away. “Yeah, go ahead.”
He scanned the hallway, completely missing the lone flyer tacked to the center.
I sidled up beside him and nodded toward the neon green paper. “Check it out.”
Following my gaze, he took a step forward and snatched the sheet off the wall. “A dance?”
“Not just any dance,” I corrected, pointing at the bottom. “Half of the proceeds go to fund medical research…”
The light swept raven hues over his hair as he jerked his chin back, eyes wide. “Research on clusters? How? Why?”
I could understand his confusion. Hardly anyone on campus knew what cluster headaches were, let alone wanted to donate money toward their research. Hell, I didn’t even know what they were until we met in January. Back then, everyone thought Wallace was some kind of madman. They heard the screams and thuds coming from his room every night and assumed the worst—we all did. But we were wrong.
“I have a friend in charge of one of the sororities,” I told him. “Alpha…chai latte or something. Anyway, she was looking to adopt a cause to help bury some hazing rumors—you know, before someone decides to investigate and revoke their charter—so I gave her the name of a deserving nonprofit.”
He stared at the paper in disbelief. “You did this…for me?”
“Well, yeah.” I squirmed, and the band on my arm cinched tighter and tighter. “Should I not have?”
Despite his superior genetic makeup, Wallace has been a sufferer for years now. Every night at eight thirty, he bangs his head against the floor and writhes in pain like he’d rather blow his brains out than suffer another minute of it. His strength is gone for the better part of an hour, and doctors have yet to effectively treat the condition. Was wanting to help him such a bad thing?
Before I could consider it any further, two strong arms pulled me close and the paper fluttered to the floor. “Thank you.” The words reverberated against my cheek in a low tenor, bringing with them a swell of emotion.
That was the other weird part of our relationship.
One of Wallace’s minor gifts, traced back to his grandmother, is empathy. At any given moment, he could tell you what anyone is feeling. He senses it, feels it in the marrow of his bones, and does his absolute best to ignore it. I guess it gets overwhelming.
My emotions, though—he’s locked on those. Just like I, lowly human that I am, somehow channel his. See, once we figured out how we felt about each other, something crazy happened. One minute we were sharing a nightmare, and the next we were both branded with a tribal tat called the Mark of Nexus.
Seriously. I have a dark band around my right bicep that’s all jagged lines and slick curves. Mostly, it looks like any other tattoo, but every now and then it shifts like oil on water, a glowing myriad of colors twisting over the surface.
Wallace’s is around his left forearm, and it’s the exact inverse of mine. Like a negative image. When we stand beside each other, the two join as if they’d been coiled together. Freaky, right? From what I’ve been told, it’s extremely rare. It brands the
rarest and most powerful of alliances
. Whatever that means.
I’m not sure how much of it I believe, but it
allow me to tap into his power when his crazy great-aunt was trying to kill us…
“It means a lot,” Wallace mumbled, planting a kiss on top of my head.
I smiled and craned my neck back, practically plastered to his chest as he held me there. “If you want to thank me, find someone to take me to the dance and hang on my arm as eye candy.”
“Eye candy, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s not like this is high school and I’m going to take some math geek as a pity date,” I explained, baiting my favorite accounting major. “I need someone fun to look at.”
He regarded me carefully, his cerulean gaze aglow. “And math geeks can’t be eye candy?”
“Hmm…” I pretended to mull it over. “I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t mind finding out.”
The corner of his lips twitched upward. “Is that my cue?”
“You should know by now,” I countered and rose up onto my tiptoes.
He met me halfway, his lips brushing mine in the faintest hint of what was to come. “I don’t know…”
“Wallace!” I laughed and reached up to jerk on his collar.
He complied, this time crushing his mouth to mine. Everything blurred around us in a chaotic haze as I fell back onto my heels, and he followed the movement, never breaking contact.
I ran my hand over the tight muscles in his shoulder and grabbed a fistful of his t-shirt. We’d been together for almost three months, but every kiss felt like the first time. Magnetic, fiery, wanting. I moaned, and it was all I could do to keep from wrapping my legs around him.
“Rena,” he murmured, a smile playing from his lips to mine. “Will you go to the dance with me?”
Butterflies flitted about my stomach in a stupid surge of nerves. We weren’t kids, and this dance wasn’t a big deal, but the man of my dreams was asking me out. That
a big deal. “I—”
Before I could answer, a flash seared my retinas. My heart kick-started a wild rhythm, and a barrage of garbled, underwater sounds deafened my ears.
What the hell?
I blinked, struggling to clear my vision, but it was no use. Each bat of my lashes brought his face in and out of focus, like two different images were fighting for dominance.
I squeezed my eyes shut, inadvertently granting the other side just the power it needed to break through.
Panic set in, and the world went black.