Title: The Hunted
Series: The Abandoned Series, Book 1
Author: C.J. Hart
Published: March 31st, 2015
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YAm Paranormal Romance
Content Warning: Mild violence, adult language
Recommended Age: 13+
Just your average boy-meets-girl, boy-kills-people story.The Native American Navajo tribe has stories of a monster so wicked, so blood-thirsty, that they are to be hunted down and slaughtered. But are they just legends? Or is something sinister lurking in the shadows? The Yee Naaldlooshi—skinwalkers—have the ability to transform themselves. And they can be anyone. Anything.The Hunters—a group dedicated to tracking the creatures—are hot on their trail and they won’t stop until every last one is dead. But are they all as evil as foretold? Seb, alpha of the Taylor, Arizona reservation pack, begins to question the acts of their kind. But he’s broken a rule and must choose between killing the girl he loves or risking everything to save her. Cassie must fight for her survival. The pack is after her. And they’re no joke. Cass is about to find out how sadistic they can be.
— Cassie —
I remember the day my mother died. It was cool, the middle of an Aeston, Arizona winter. Dad had soup heating on the stove. Our tabby cat, Lizzy, was curled on her stomach, purring softly. And I was by Mom’s bed—painfully aware of her last breaths, the rattle of her airways, the blue tint to her lips—as she beckoned me closer.
I climbed onto the mattress and clasped her cold, frail hand in mine. “Mommy?”
“Cass,” she said, barely a whisper. “Promise me, you’ll look after your dad.” Her chest heaved as she coughed. Crimson spluttered onto her lips.
I reached for a handkerchief from the side table.
“Cassie.” Her eyes slipped out of focus.
“I promise,” I said. Tears crashed down my six-year-old cheeks as I wiped her mouth.
The monitor’s beeping halted. As the daughter of a doctor, I knew too well what this meant.
I screamed, “Mommy!” Hoping she’d hear my desperate cries and come back to me. She didn’t. I squeezed her hand until my knuckles grew white. “Mommy!” Salt water dribbled over my cheeks.
Dad sprinted into the room. Someone dragged me away from her. Uncle Scott. I caved, let my hand drop from hers—how could I fight someone four times my size? He lifted me into his arms and carried me out. Lizzy scampered behind us.
I would’ve promised her anything, sold my soul even, if it meant she would drift off peacefully. She was my mother. And though she’d been sick for months, at six it was hard to grasp that she was gone and what this meant for my future.
Never again would the kitchen smell of her gingerbread cookies at Christmas or fresh bread on weekends. Never again could I hug her. Hold her. She wouldn’t see me grow up.
Eleven years later, I wrap my arms around myself, hoping she’s there in spirit. Is she watching over me? Is that one of the prestigious, theological questions no one can answer?
One of the many mysteries of life, I guess.
I hear the front door click shut, and then clomping down the hall. Dad’s home. Is it six-thirty already?
His head pokes into the living room, where my homework is migrating over the coffee table. “Hey, kid.” He bends to press his lips to my head.
“How was work?” I concentrate on a math problem.
He blows a sigh as he collapses onto the couch. I can see the weight of the world settle around him.
“Big accident on the highway,” he says. As usual, he spares me the details.
Trying to protect me, I figure. But I always push the boundaries. “Any casualties?”
His chocolate-brown eyes dart to me for a nanosecond, and then back to the mute TV. “Four.”
I gaze at my father, scruffy and beyond exhaustion, already slipping into slumber. Sometimes, I feel sorry for him. Losing his wife to cancer. A high-stress job. And only a boldly curious daughter and an elderly cat to come home to. Other times, I feel as if we’re just roomies. Cordial and distant. Opposites.
Renée Shearer writes young adult fiction under the name of C.J. Hart. Renée is a full-time writer who lives in Sydney, Australia, with a crazy pooch named Abbey and a boisterous, somersaulting rescue budgie named Kaleb. Her days are spent living in her fictional worlds and consuming way too much caffeine. She has an (unhealthy?) obsession with all things cupcake- and coffee-related plus Kerouac and YA dystopia/fantasy books. Renée can often be found surrounded by books, marathoning crime shows and munching on vegan goodies, on Twitter (@Renee_Shearer), Pinterest, or dancing in a rainstorm.
Renée hopes to one day visit Rio and is currently learning Brazilian Portuguese.
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