Torin (Hope City #9) - Maryann Jordan Page 0,1

went slack, his eyes still open but no longer seeing.

“John!” she screamed, her arms scooting under his neck and body, pulling him close. “No, no, no,” she cried over and over as her tears fell and mixed with the dirt and sweat and blood.

Blood. So much blood. Rivers, lakes, oceans of blood.

She felt herself slipping under the waves of red just before she began to claw and gasp for air.

Waking with a start, Erin McBride kicked out, the sheets tangled around her legs as she tried to fight her way up from the recurring nightmare. Finally disentangling herself from the bed linens, she swung her legs over the side of the bed. Sucking in air, she forced her eyes to stay open so that she would not retreat back into the dream. Her body was slick with sweat, and the room smelled of fear.

“Christ, I hate this fuckin’ shit.”

Glancing at the clock on her nightstand, she observed it was almost four a.m. Earlier than she wanted to get up but not early enough that she wanted to try to go back to sleep. She stood, padding on bare feet across the floor into the bathroom. Quickly using the toilet, she washed her hands then lifted her face to stare into the large mirror. Deep blue eyes, the trait each of her siblings shared. Dark hair, another shared trait, only now the tendrils around her face were wavy from sweat.

Standing in panties and a camisole, her gaze moved over her reflection. Graced with an athletic build, she was much thinner than she used to be, something she knew bothered her family. For months, food tasted like the Afghanistan dust, so unpalatable that she rarely ate. She’d recently managed to start tasting again but still found it a struggle to eat a full meal.

As her gaze continued to take in her reflection, she snorted. Head to toe, there was nothing spectacular. She was completely, overwhelmingly mediocre.

Close with all of her siblings, she didn’t have a shred of jealousy with any of them but was honest enough to know how special each of them was. Her oldest sister, Tara, was gorgeous with a curvy figure, a kind heart, and was one of the best women she knew. Her younger sister, Caitlyn, was smart and witty, with cute, never-changing cheerleader happiness about her. Even her three brothers with their different personalities had the type of looks that made women stop and stare wherever they went.

Me? Not so much.

She bent and splashed cold water on her face before walking back into her bedroom. I might as well go for a run. Running had always been a pleasure for her. High school cross-country and track. And she sure as hell had run while in the Army. But when she first left the service, running had been the furthest thing from her mind. Now, it seemed to be her salvation. It was Tara who suggested she find something to do to help take her mind off the past when it threatened to overwhelm her. As a social worker, it’d been natural for Tara to be the one she turned to when she finally realized the nightmares were pulling her under.

She moved to the dresser and grabbed her clothes. Pulling on running shorts and a racerback tank, she sat on the edge of the bed to lace up her running shoes.

Noiselessly slipping down the stairs and out the back door, she stretched on the patio. Looking up, she noticed the cloudless, star-filled sky. Her father used to point out the constellations to her and her siblings. She still found herself searching the sky with him some nights, and while he spouted facts, she wondered if there was such a thing as one’s fate being written in the stars.

Dismissing the flight of fancy, she warmed up and soon her feet were pounding the pavement as she ran on the sidewalks of the dark street. The neighborhood was familiar. After all, it was where she was raised. Every brick home. Every tree. Every bump on the sidewalk. Every street lamp. Little had changed in the old, established neighborhood in the north part of Hope City during the years she’d been in the Army. Including her parents’ home. All the siblings have left. All but me. She’d long since gotten over being embarrassed that she was in her late twenties and had moved back in with her parents when she returned from the military. For a while, her twin brother, Rory,