Title: Dead of Winter (The Beautiful Dead, #2)
Author: Daryl Banner
Release Date: November 6, 2014
Genre: Post – Post Apocalyptic Zombie
No one said being an Undead is easy.
Winter’s Second Life became a lot more complicated when the Living moved into her hometown of Trenton. Undead neighbors fight with their Breathing ones. Food is sparse. And, worst of all, the season is taking a change for the colder.
A desperate plea for help to a neighboring city turns deadly and soon Winter finds herself facing an old friend from her past whose plot to annihilate all life on the planet may have everything to do with her.
And what about the man-with-the-heartbeat in her house? Is there even room for love in such a ruined, unforgiving world?
New friends are made. Others are lost forever. In the dead of winter, no one is safe.
The world is a lot quieter than it used to be.
But there is a sound in the desolate dark tonight; it is the sound of fire burning. The tongue of this great fire stretches up high to lick the silver sky, and its fingers, red with greed, are as long as a lifetime.
The fire is as ugly and as beautiful as an ex-lover.
What it feeds on isn’t the wood of the forest. They’re all dead anyway; the trees. This is a fussy fire that only feeds on things you cannot see. It feeds on happiness. With its little yellow teeth, it eats hope for a midnight snack. It eats dreams and laughter and anything little or pretty.
If you squint, you realize it is not just a fire, but rather an army. Each flame is made of a person, and you realize it is their hope that burns … it is their happiness, their passion and despair and greed, burning, burning, burning.
A man stands at the front of the fire—the leader—and he burns a different color than the rest. He burns green. Furious, jealous, hungry green. He is not a proud creature, so the Green One stands with hunched shoulders and he watches from the top of his head, and though his pale face was once handsome, he can only form a permanent scowl now with his twisted, ruined lips.
With this Third Life of his, he will never smile again.
Kneeling before him, a man begs for his life. A Living man. He’s in tears about a girl he loves and the son or daughter he wants to have someday, and the scowling face we will cautiously refer to as the Green Fire holds him sweetly by the neck, the way one might hold a lover, and he says: “I once loved a woman.”
The Living man begs, imploring, and the Green Flame says: “She set me free, opened my eye to the gift of death.”
The Green Fury whispers: “My green eye.”
But the Living man won’t stop crying and begging, waving his hands everywhere, so the Hungry Green shows him what he means by taking those healthy Living hands and pulling them right off. Over the man’s screams, the Green Inferno says: “These hands, they’ve reached and reached, all your long, tiresome life, clinging to meaningless things. These hands that take so much, yet hold nothing in the end. I free you from them.”
The man’s voice breaks, his shrieks echoing off the bodies of dead trees, so the Burning Green takes his throat too and grips gently, the way one might embrace a friend. He brings his mouth close and says: “This Life, your permanent solitude, the torture of being Human … you are so hungry for a meaning to it all. Let me feed you.”
Something dark as a void passes between them. One might say it’s the man’s Life, or soul, or something called his Anima. Whatever it is, it’s so quick it’s already gone.
What remains is no longer alive, yet he is not dead. The man’s worries are forgotten, his girl is forgotten, his future, his past, his dreams, all of it, and his screaming is ceased. Handless, lifeless, deathless … he stares with stony glass eyes into those of the Green Death.
The Green Death, who says: “It is the dead of winter, and you will never hurt again.
I get up from the table, deciding to go to the sink. I can wash my hands six or seven more times, they won’t feel any more clean, not after what I’ve done.
I stop halfway past the kitchenette, turn to look back at him. He’s still watching me. His brown eyes show fiercely, even from across the room.
After a very long pause, I respond. “Yes, John?”
“I’m alive because of you.”
I press my lips together. I’m not sure what his angle is, what he’s getting at. Even the way he says it, it sounds half an accusation. As though my helping him to survive were yet another bad thing I’ve done. Shame on me.
“Okay,” I say back curtly, needing to hear where he’s going with this. He looks away. I can tell he’s troubled, but I can’t stand waiting for him to speak. “Is there … something I’m supposed to be saying?”
His face is pale and stern, his eyes not able to rest on anything in the room. “There are demons in me, Winter. Demons. Bad, bad demons that I can’t get rid of.” He crosses the room, which is startling because he’s suddenly very close to me. Next to the table now, he starts picking at the wood, pensive, staring down at it. “They don’t let me sleep. They’ve made me … awful.”
Is this an apology? “We all have demons.”
“But yours are a lifetime ago. Literally.” He chuckles without a smile, empty and feeble. “Winter, what I’m trying to say is …” He looks up finally. The effect his eyes have when they burrow into mine is staggering. Those Living earthen orbs of light in his face, they smolder. John and his wet, totally-alive, tear-capable eyes.
“Yeah?” I encourage him.
He takes another step closer to me. I resist an urge to back away, resist another urge to press into his solid, inviting body. “Please don’t mistake my demons for hate. Winter, you’ve shown me so much care … You’ve given me a home … You risked everything. I’ll never be able to repay you, ever. In ten lifetimes. I don’t hate you.”
So many words are caught in my throat suddenly. The only one that escapes is: “Okay.”
In fact, the whole world’s dead. Every single person, apparently. Unburied and reimagined into a beautiful living-dead woman called Winter, she is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in a quaint, peaceful city with no hunger, no sickness and no bills to pay. Her Second Life is perfect in every way possible.
So why is she so bent on destroying it all?
After angering the mayor, befriending rebel headless teenagers and igniting romance with a dark and brooding neighbor, she finds herself wrestling madly with a First Life she cannot remember and this Second Life she cannot accept. Not to mention the maniacal army of rotting corpses who want her dead. Again.
But none of that matters in comparison to an even worse problem. There’s a guest in her house. A rude, good-looking man on the run … a man with a heartbeat.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1CzwUMp
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1C2Rkgd
Coming April 24th
Pre Order on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1F3qrLV
Twelve years have passed since the devastation.
The world is changed. What once was a planet struggling to survive is now a planet bursting to life. The humans are thriving. Gardens are growing. Trees are reaching up to the sky and the Undeadly clutch on the planet is slowly letting go.
But what does that mean for Winter and her friends?
In the wake of spring, the last of the desperate Undead gather, fighting to maintain their place in a world that no longer wants them. Mother Nature slowly but certainly works to purge the planet of the Dead, just when Winter thought she had finally embraced this Second Life.
Her new friends are back and old nemeses return for the final chapter in Winter’s Undead journey.
AMOST ALIVE (Pre Order): http://amzn.to/1F3qrLV
Daryl Banner is a writer and composer who graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Theatre and Psychology. After writing several plays and a musical in college, he started composing for short films and websites, one of which is the Vamplets “Baby Vampyre Dolls” website: (www.vamplets.com)
Interesting tidbits: Daryl is also an obsessive piano player, video game enthusiast, and occasional actor. He’s been remixing video game music for over fifteen years, and is a passionate Final Fantasy fan. You can feed your ears with many of his remixes (as well as his original music) on his YouTube page “www.youtube.com/DarylBanner“. Also, he personally answers all emails he receives, so if you have some strange desire to write him, he may enjoy it. He currently resides in Texas.
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