Saturday, November 16, 2013

Branded (Giveaway Included!!!)

Description Provided by Goodreads: Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home. Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain. Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win. The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

To buy the book or learn more about the book click on any of the following links: GoodreadsAmazonBarnes&Noble

Teaser picture:

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams. The rope chafes as I loop it 

around my neck. I pull down, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough. My 

legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back. Death and I 

glare at each other through my tears. I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the 

foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. 

No happy memories here. I’m ready to go. On the count of three. I inhale, preparing myself 

for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the 

last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his 

face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now. A 

door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already 

muddled, I stand waiting with the rope hanging around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize 

creep through the walls. Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and 

this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the 

noose and pull it back over my head. Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a 

large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation

ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home. It hits me. I’ve been accused 

and they’re here to arrest me. My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I 

decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the 

marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it 

exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge 

myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters 

open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline 

pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name. On hands and knees, I 

squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my 

escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, 

twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I 

sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of 

cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder. Reaching the fifth floor, I knock 

on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one 

answers. I bang on the window harder. “Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. 

They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my 

veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. 

They all know what happens to sinners. Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I 

hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without 

trying. Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now. My previous desolation evolves into a 

will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and 

force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. 

I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest. Gotta 

keep going. “Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender 

yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me. I resist the urge to glance back, running 

into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a 

poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me 

from recognizing anything. I’m lost. My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I 

retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The 

abhorrent smell leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation 

overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick 

away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.

   I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against 

their black leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink 

into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m 

trapped. Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I 

heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.

   “You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave.”

   I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear. 

“There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will 

be for everyone,” a guard says. I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but 

they won’t believe me or care.


The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back 

and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip 

my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along 

the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black 

vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my 

shoulders digging into their arms. Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes. My 

dignity is all I have left. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard 

behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. Did they 

need so many guards to capture me? I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I 

don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that. The driver jerks 

the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too 

fast. Hours pass, and the air grows warmer, more humid the farther we drive. The 

landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because 

they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty- foot cement walls encase 

the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the 

Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade. To the 

outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does. 

“All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk 

infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to 

think about the things I’ve been told. “You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like 

you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face. Get your hands off me, you 

pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and 

I’m not positioned to defy him. They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen 

from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent 

methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden 

inside the Hole. Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His 

own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved 

society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing 

fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each 

other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but 

an accusation. I lose myself in thoughts of my father. 

“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against 

you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That 

was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my 

life who provided unconditional love. “Get out,” the guard says while pulling me to my 

feet. The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. The doors slide open and the two 

guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of 

us, looking barren in the darkness. The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This 

is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before 

anyone sees. They shove me in line, and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand 

with faces frozen white with fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on 

a tiny microchip. I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up 

facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying. “Spread your legs,” one of the 

guards says.

   They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body. What do they 

think I can possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what 

they’re doing to me. “MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to 

cover up.





   Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, 

forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time 

passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens. “Lexi 

Hamilton.” A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As 

soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin 

sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then they exit in procession, and I lie on 

the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.

   “Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.” A wet 

cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal 

collar around my neck. Click. Click. Click. The collar locks into place, and I struggle to 

breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.   

The Seven Deadly Sins:


   Lust   Blue

   Gluttony   Orange

   Greed   Yellow

   Sloth   Black

   Wrath   Red

   Envy   Green

   Pride   Purple


“Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens 

my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.” Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to 

scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth 

cracks. “GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to 

pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar. He removes it and sits 

me up. Excruciating pain rips through me, and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical 

breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out. Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in 

on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great 

color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others 

meander around like it’s business as usual. I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.

   “Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire up from my neck to 

my jaw, making me wince. He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover 

myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my clothes and pulling the shirt 

over my head, I try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my 

pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor 

observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name. “Nothing is allowed through the door 

but what we’ve given you,” he says. I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. 

A guard scans my body and opens his hand. “Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip 

off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg. 

“My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the 

moment my father handed the golden ring to me. “It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. 

“She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand 

and said, “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. 

She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned 

the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.  









“You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the 

guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?” A hard 

blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the 

wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist. “Look at 

me,” he commands.

  I look up and he smiles with arrogance. “What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. 

“What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?” “Nothing,” I respond, confused. 

“What color are they?” “Turquoise.” I glower at him. “Interesting,” he says, regaining his 

composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.” Reality slaps me across the face. I have my 

father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in 

his hand. “Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the 

massive door slides open to the outside. “You have to wear your hair back at all times, so 

everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my 

face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs 

that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead in the darkness, I almost run into a 

guard standing on the sidewalk. “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me 

backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.

   “Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new 

home.” The guard departs with a salute. “Let’s move,” Cole says.

   I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the 

scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his 

face for the first time.

2 grand prize winners with photo and notebook of Matt with signed paperback (INT)
5 ecopies of Branded with promo pic of Matt (INT)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Authors:
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

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