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Excerpt

Excerpt

Risen (Blood Eternal)

The big baby of a dog is freaking out again.

Jax tilts his head to the side, big ears twitching. He lifts his nose in the air, his body going rigid. After several deep sniffs, he turns to me and whimpers.

Sighing, I trudge up to him. “I swear you worry more than Aunt Rachel. Whatever you’re smelling—it’s probably just a deer.” I stop beside the German Shepherd and search the trees for whatever has him upset. The dirt path we’ve been hiking is worn from deer, raccoons, and even my own nature walks, so it’s far too narrow to make out much. A branch claws my leg—almost as if it’s trying to pull me off the path and deeper into the woods. I consider letting it. As reclusive as Aunt Rachel is, living in a cave would feel like a vacation.

Whining, Jax whips his head around and stares at something over his shoulder.

“I thought German Shepherds were supposed to be brave,” I tell him. “If Aunt Rachel bribed you with extra cookies to end our walk early, I’m going to be pissed.”

He blinks.

Squinting, I follow his line of sight. I’m not surprised when nothing moves. Still, it is strange how quiet the woods are this early in the evening. There are no cicadas humming. No rodents scurrying. And no nocturnal birds flapping through the trees. The phrase deathly silent swirls in my head.

I can’t fight the tremor of unease that pulses through me as I stand still, waiting for the slightest rustle of leaves or snap of a branch.

Nothing.

“Ugh.” I give myself a mental shake. “Look at me, freaking out for no reason. You and Aunt Rachel really are rubbing off on me.”

Jax nudges my hand, his eyes trained on something ahead. The cold of his nose seeps through my skin, chilling me. A low growl emits from deep inside his chest.

In the three years since I found Jax, when he was a softball-sized ball of fur in a cardboard box outside a gas station bathroom, I’ve never heard him growl. I didn’t think he knew how. I place my hand on his back, weaving my fingers through the coarse fur to touch his skin, just so I can feel the vibration to be sure the noise is really coming from him.

The heat from his body does nothing to warm me. “Dork,” I mutter. “When we get back, you’re getting a drop of Aunt Rachel’s lavender oil to calm your furry butt down. You’re acting ridiculous.” I clench the opening of my knitted cardigan closed. The mustard yellow sweater was last year’s handmade Christmas present from Aunt Rachel. It’s about a size too large, and drapes over my small frame, making it one of my most comfortable—and favorite— pieces of clothing. Wisps of cold breeze wind through the gaps of yarn and rake across my arms. I shudder. “Let’s go.” I tug gently on Jax’s faded blue collar.

He doesn’t budge. Instead, his lip ripples, revealing his long, white clenched teeth.

Or not.

“Maybe it’s time to get your ears checked.” I give a nervous chuckle.

Jax’s eyes are fixated on something I can’t make out. There are no bears in these woods. But there are hikers. Maybe someone wandered away from a trail. “Hello?” I call out. “Anyone there?”

The silence, growing heavier by the second, is the only thing that answers.

Risen (Blood Eternal)
by by Cole Gibsen