Posted in Dystopian, Spotlight, Young Adult on October 8, 2014

bait cover



An epidemic strikes. The pox hit women hardest, so females are now rare. Healthy girls are worth a fortune. Most live in squalid basement harems. Jackie is the last free girl, chief of a gang of teen boys. To them, she’s the prize, infinitely desirable, the last woman on earth. Competition threatens to tear the crew apart. To make things worse, the boys are starting to think she’s crazy. Jackie is convinced that the same soul shines from the eyes of every infected person, slipping like a demon from one body to the next, stalking her. Is she losing her mind, or could an unseen enemy control the infected?

When rival gangs discover that their little band has one of the last surviving girls, Jackie must make a decision. Will she give herself up to save her crew, or take off alone through the streets?


A child’s high-pitched scream came from inside the store. A cloud of bats passed the big front window, so many that I couldn’t see beyond them. Gunfire thundered from the parking lot, making me flinch. I shrugged off my pack, dumped it on the sidewalk and tore through the contents. Lock picks and coils of rope got pushed aside. One bright yellow lighter lay at the bottom of the bag. I seized it, ripped open the door of the shoe store, and ran inside.

The heavy glass door swung closed behind me. The mob of bats had stopped circling. Their restless wings whispered from the shadows.

Caleb yelled from somewhere in the back of the store. “Help! I’m trapped in the storeroom!”

“Stay put, I’m coming!” I dove for one of the empty shoe boxes that littered the floor. Five seconds with the lighter, and one end of it burned brightly. Gripping the bottom of the box, I held it high.

The lone bat still sat on the top shelf. Flames reflected off her black button eyes. Maybe she was sick. Maybe the pox was eating her up inside, and she didn’t have the strength to fly. Somehow I doubted it.

She bared her teeth at me, revealing rows of miniscule, white needle teeth. One naked, semi-transparent wing arced forward, so I could see the outlines of the bones inside. Thousands of bats fluttered to the front of the store, clinging to the doorframe, the sale posters, to anything they could. Blocking my escape. Their massed bodies dimmed the room to a gray twilight.

The cardboard burned too close to my fingers, and I had to drop it. It glowed feebly from the tile floor as the fire died. I bent to snatch up another carton. The bat on the shelf leaned forward eagerly, eyeing the back of my neck. I spun to face her. Coughing from the smoke, I touched flame to new tinder.

The bat shifted anxiously, watching the flames, but she didn’t fly away. Both wings swept forward, so the pointy tips met. Her colony instantly left the window and swirled around me in a moving cloud. Though I stood near the front of the store, the living tornado completely blocked my path to the door.

I let out a panicked gasp and spun in place, waving fire. That one controls the rest! Normal bats don’t do that. They’re infected for sure. Oh my God, oh my God! What am I gonna do? When I threatened from one direction, more bats darted at me from the other side. Outside, gunfire raged. This can’t last. They’re going to take me!

A grim smile touched my lips. “Fine. We’ll all die together.” I let the flame lick the side of another shoebox. That one had shoes in it. I didn’t care. Black smoke rose around the boss bat’s head.

She snapped her wings open. The cloud of bats split, clearing my path.

“Not that easy. I’m taking my kid with me.” Holding the burning cartons over my head, I walked down the aisle toward the back. The room got darker as I moved farther from the big front window. “Caleb!” I yelled. “Where are you?”

His scared voice came from behind a door. “In here.”

I yanked open the door of the dark room. Caleb’s dirty-blonde head caught the faint light from my fire. He ran to me, a sob catching in his throat, and threw his arms around my waist.

“It’s okay, honey. Careful, take this.” I handed him a burning box. “Stay close. We’re walking out of here.”

“They’re poxy, aren’t they?” Caleb babbled. “The bats.”

I gave him a short nod. We strode to the front of the store. Bats covered the door.

“Clear the door now, or I’m gonna burn this place down,” I bellowed.

The press of dark bodies instantly split. Bats flapped in opposite directions and scattered.

Caleb was awestruck. “They understand English.”

“Only ’cause they’re infected,” I said, head swiveling, looking all around. “Caleb. Get that shopping bag. Take every last sock. We are damn well gettin’ what we came for.”

He held up his burning box, eyebrows raised in a silent question.

“Toss it,” I said.

Caleb hurled the smoldering carton onto a shelf and snatched up the shopping bag. We pounded toward the door as bats took flight. I pushed the kid through first. Then I threw my own burning box, ran out, and slammed the big glass door behind me. Inside the store, flames were already spreading.

The Jeep roared across the parking lot toward us, swerving around the grisly remains of the hunters. Ash slammed on the brakes, laying rubber. Keenan opened the passenger side door, dived out before the car stopped moving, and rolled to his feet in one fluid motion, shotgun ready. Staring open-mouthed at that epic move, I completely missed the hunter coming out of the food court.

A whisper of shoe on pavement alerted me. I leaped sideways, pulling Caleb with me. The hunter was a lot taller than us, with a tangled mat of dark, curly hair clinging to his skull. He was young, in his twenties, and he hadn’t been infected long. Those were the most dangerous kind, with speed and agility intact. I know it sounds crazy, but the pox inside him saw me, and I saw her, too. I recognized her, even disguised as she was in a male body. I’d seen that predatory expression before, behind different eyes. Behind my mother’s eyes.

“You,” I mouthed. No sound came out. “I know you.”

“Jacqueline,” the hunter moaned through lips wet with silver drool.

I’d never heard a hunter speak. I didn’t know they could. He knows my name. He knows my name! How?

I jumped between Caleb and the infected man. “Run! Run for the car!”

Caleb bolted without hesitation. The hunter let him go and came for me instead. I’d stupidly gotten myself trapped between the infected man and the burning shoe store. Plastic-laden smoke filled the air, making me sick. I was in trouble.


amazon buy

About the Author

courtney farrellCourtney Farrell is a biologist who turned her love of books into a career as an author. She has published fourteen nonfiction books and three exciting novels for young people. Courtney lives with her husband and sons on a Colorado ranch where they enjoy a menagerie of horses, dogs, cats, and chickens.

Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Amazon