In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.
Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.
Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?
Character Spotlight – Commander Reece
The residents of the Core are afraid of me. I can see it in their eyes when I walk the crowded streets. I can hear it in their voices when they dare to speak my name. They whisper and stare and move aside so that I may pass. They know who I am, and it’s in their nature to fear a superior being.
The Academy taught me differently. There, under strict supervision with no means of escape, I was bombarded with the concept of not being enough. Their goal was ultimate perfection of mind and body, and they made it clear they would accept nothing less.
They started my gene therapy at age seven. I remember it all in vivid detail—the lectures, the daily injections, the heavy straps they used to retrain my flailing limbs. I remember my eyes fading to an odd shade of blue. Most of all, I remember the pain.
Everything changed after my Surge. The virus mutated me in ways the doctors could not explain. My appetite was enormous. I barely needed sleep. I could recall everything happening to me, inside and out. When my body outgrew itself, I felt each excruciating bone fracture, each cell replicating at a speed never before recorded in the history of the Core. I became what they wanted. I became strong and unstoppable. Ultimately perfect.
And now, I am feared.
It works to my advantage. My reputation precedes me. I’m offered generous security contracts every week. Prisoners spill information as soon as they see me entering their interrogation units. People maintain a polite distance, and the rebels scatter into hiding when I’m sent after them. No one dares to defy me.
Except the girl. I knew the moment I stepped into the tavern that she would end up being a problem. Her stubborn expression, the tilt of her chin, the way she hissed when I put her father in his place. The little brat barely flinched when I asked for her name. I almost laughed at her nerve. She doesn’t realize who I am. Yet.
But it doesn’t matter. I know who she is, and sooner or later, she will learn to be afraid of me. I’ll make sure of it, because I have no other choice.
It’s the only way to keep us both alive.
About the Author
C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. A former systems analyst, she gave up her nerdy code-writing skills to care for her family (including a son with special needs), and currently lives among the vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois.
Writing stories and posting on The INFJ Café are her biggest passions, along with drinking coffee and watching sci-fi. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and kids, she can usually be found at a library or tucked away in the shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse. She’s also been glimpsed sneaking into her garage, late at night, to work on her time machine.
Her debut novel, Gambit, is the first in a Young Adult dystopian series.