• Malorie Nilson

READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Ender by Heather Kindt



Most villains meet a likely doom by the end of their book… most villains are not Enders.


With the power of the codex, the Wanderer sends most of the Golden Recluse into their books and Laney must rush to save them from their own writing. With William, she crosses the page into a horror novel filled with bloodthirsty birds, a romance paperback where, to their dismay, they become the main characters, and a children’s picture book that’s not as innocent as it seems. With each second that passes, the threat of the Wanderer’s pen threatens to end the Weavers.


With everything at stake, Laney realizes that she’s part of something bigger, and it all comes down to a choice that the Wanderer has always wanted her to make: Will she save the man she loves, or the family she’s only just discovered?


Immerse yourself in the ravishing world of The Weaver Trilogy in this, the third installment, THE ENDER by Heather Kindt—out TUESDAY. Pre-order your copy NOW!


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CHAPTER ONE


The end.


The words always nailed the coffin on a really great story. Laney shuddered with the thought of scrawling them on any paper. It was as if she could bring a close to the world outside her window. No more life. No more love. Just darkness.


And now she knew what it meant when things came to an end in this world. First, it was her grandmother, before Laney had any knowledge of the supernatural world that existed around her. After that, it was Jason, who never should have been brought into it in the first place. And now, David. At sixteen, his life had just begun. His sacrifice could not and would not be in vain if Laney had anything to do with it.


She stared up at the ceiling as thoughts swirled through her mind.


“Is that your boyfriend sleeping in the lounge?” The face of her roommate, Missy, was inches from hers, waking her from her thoughts.


The sun’s rays crossed the room. Laney squinted at the clock. Ten thirty. She groaned, throwing her pillow over her head.


“I know he’s been MIA and all, but it can’t be that bad.” Missy lifted Laney’s pillow from her head. “I mean…look at him.”


She rolled onto her back again, raising an eyebrow at her roommate. She wore a pink sweater and her favorite jeans, ready to face her day of frivolous flirting. Laney used to envy her looks and outgoing personality. Now she envied her total cluelessness to what was going on around her.


“I’m back with Brian.” Missy plopped down on the end of Laney’s bed, bouncing up and down. “We’re going to Boston today to some fancy restaurant and a concert at the Garden.”


“That’s awesome.” Laney tried really hard to keep the sarcasm out of her voice but felt as if she were failing miserably.


“So…what’s going on with William?” She rubbed Laney’s feet from on top of her blanket. “How long is he visiting for?”


“He’s not sure yet.” Laney stretched her arms above her head. She had told Missy that William transferred to a college in California while in reality he’d been sent back into her historical fiction novel. “They’ve got kind of a long winter break in California. I think it’s like a couple of months.”


“I want to transfer to his college.” She picked up Laney’s pillow and hugged it on her lap.


“I know. Pretty perfect, I’d say.” Her mind drifted again to David and the creature from the night before. She slipped her feet away from Missy and got out of bed. Still clothed, she went straight for the door.


“Where are you going?” Missy furrowed her eyebrows.


“To see William.”


“But you can’t go like that.” She grabbed a hairbrush and her makeup bag. “You’re a wreck.”


Laney leaned against the door, not willing to go through a makeover. “I’ve got to talk to him. He’s not going to care what I look like.” She turned the knob and headed out.


It was a rare sight to see William sleeping so late into the morning. The events of the night before must’ve worn him out. Many of the students left for winter break, so the upstairs common room was empty except for her Watcher. His light brown hair encircled his face, except for a rebel strand that crossed his forehead. His breath was even and steady. If it weren’t for the urgency of the task ahead of them, Laney would have let him sleep and found a place to sit and observe from a distance. But David was dead, and the rest of the Recluse was in dire need of their help.


She crouched down and ran her fingers through the hair on his forehead. “Good morning.”


William’s eyelids lifted, revealing his deep green eyes. His smile warm on his face. His endearing creases formed by his eyes. “I was having a dream. And it looks like I’m still in the middle of it.”


She sighed. The ease of staying in their bubble tempted her romantic side. They were finally together again after months of being apart. Wasn’t it their time to be happy? Her heart constricted as she thought about David’s sacrifice. He didn’t do it to save them. He did it to save Natalie and Mark and Harriet.


“I wish it were a dream.” She bent forward and brushed her lips against his. “But we need to make it through the Wanderer’s nightmare first.”


“Do you think she knows you have the books?” He folded the blanket he borrowed from Laney’s bed and shrugged his jacket on. “If she does, we don’t have a lot of time.”


“You’ve spent more time with her than I have. It seems like she’s capable of just about anything she sets her cold, stone heart on doing.” She emptied the bag of the Weavers’ manuscripts onto the couch.

William thumbed through Harriet’s manuscript, Foreplay on Friday, and cringed. “I hate to ask you which of the Weavers we should save first.”


“It has to be Mark. He’s in the most immediate danger without the Wanderer calling the shots. We’ve already seen the product of his imagination.” Laney opened the laptop and scrolled through the files. “His latest work is called Sky Devils. I’ll read some of it so we know what we’re dealing with.”


“And what about the Gate?” He settled back onto the couch, Harriet’s book opened in his hands.


“I can’t believe you’re reading that.” She threw a pillow at him.


“What? You said we had to research what we’re dealing with. Who knows what I’ll learn in this book.”


Heat rushed to her face. “I’m not even going to give you the pleasure of acknowledging your research.”


“Anyway, you didn’t answer my question. How are we going to get the Gate to cooperate?” He flipped a page in the trashy novel.


“Brian will never willingly send us into any of the books. It took a lot of convincing to let me save you.” She walked over to the window and stared at the empty quad and then turned back to William. “We’ll get Nick. He’ll help us.”


“But we still need Brian to send us into your book.” He scanned another page.


“He’s sure to help us with that. We left Nick behind, and he has to come back here. Even Brian would agree that a Madison College student doesn’t belong in the seventeen hundreds.”


“That’s true…” His voice trailed off before his face blushed a bright scarlet.


Laney jumped on top of William, tossing the notebook onto the floor. “You’ve got to stop reading that trash. It’s too much for your colonial mind.” She bent down and kissed him, but when she stopped, he drew her back in, entwining his fingers into her hair.


With one swift movement, he had her on the bottom, and his lips explored her neck. Blood rushed through her veins, her heart pounding against her chest. He sat up, and she grasped for him. He smiled while he removed his jacket. She reached for his shirt again and this time was successful in grabbing the material between her fingers.


His lips found hers, and he groaned. Their separation was too long. When William was sent back into the book last year, their relationship was new, even though they already loved each other. He moved up to Laney’s ear and nipped it with his teeth.


Laney gasped, “Did you get that move from Harriet’s book?”


“Was it that obvious?” He chuckled and nibbled her ear again.


The door to the room opened, and Missy stormed in, followed by Brian. She had her hands on her hips and an incredulous look on her face. “Can’t leave the two of you alone for two seconds, can I?”


William backed off Laney and put his jacket on. “We were just talking about you.”


“I hate to point out the obvious.” Brian draped his arm around Missy. “But I don’t think you were talking about us.”


This was their chance. Laney shoved the books back into the bag, shooting a knowing glance at William. He nodded.


“We were coming up to see if the two of you wanted to double date in Boston tonight.” Missy twirled a piece of her blonde hair around her finger. “That’s if you’re not too tired.”


“That’d be fun.” William took the bag from Laney. “I’ll be right back. Need to use the restroom.” He skirted around the couple and blocked the door behind them.


“Do you have extra tickets for the concert?” Laney distracted them, moving closer.


“My other friends ditched us at the last moment. The tickets are up for grabs. Do you have them, Brian?” Missy touched his pocket.


“Right here, babe.” He reached into his coat.


At the same moment, William lunged from behind, Laney grabbed Brian from the front.


Nothing happened.


“What the hell are you doing? Get your hands off me.” Brian backed away, holding his hands out in front of him.


Concern crossed Missy’s face. “Is there something I don’t know here? Are you two okay?”


Laney shot a look at William and then back at Brian. “Why isn’t it working?”


Brian crossed the room and snatched the bag out of William’s hand. He dumped the contents onto the coffee table. He covered his mouth with his hand and let out a breath. “Do you think this is the best way to save them?”


“What other choice do we have?” Laney picked up Natalie’s notebook and shoved it back in the bag. “Why isn’t it working?”


“You can’t cross another Weaver’s manuscript through the gate. It doesn’t fit into that world. If you’re so bent on going on this suicide mission, you’ll have to leave the books here.”


“But what if the Wanderer finds the stories?” William reloaded the bag with the books. “She’ll kill all of us.”


Missy crossed her arms and frowned. “I know none of you are aware that I’m in the room, but I’d like to know what’s going on. Who’s going to kill you?”


Brian paced the room, still working through something in his head. “Keeping them with me is impossible. The only other person who knows…who could help…”


Laney was dizzy. He was the one person she didn’t want involved in any of this, but Brian was right. “Grady.”

*****

“You lived here last year?” The Wanderer glanced around Jonas’s home in the woods in disgust. “It’s literally a cave.”


“Beggars can’t be choosers,” he grumbled under his breath. She makes him become an Ender and expects him to live in a mansion. Not exactly a job with upper-level management positions.


A nagging thought worked its way through his brain like a cancer. All his anger, his resentment, targeted Delaney. It was her fault that he was an alcoholic. It was her fault that he was an Ender.


His mother shook out the blanket covered with leaves. “How am I supposed to sleep here tonight? You need to find me better accommodations.”


But it wasn’t her fault. Delaney wasn’t the reason that Jonas was in the book. It was his mother’s fault. She cared more about her revengeful plan to get to the Weavers than she did about her own son.


“I don’t have anything better.” He bent down and brushed out the fire pit with his hands. The leaves were dry and could be used as fuel. “Your looks would stand out on this campus. We need to stay hidden.”


He brooded as he foraged for kindling in the woods. What was he going to do? This woman was not to be trusted. While the Weavers weren’t his favorite people, they didn’t deserve to be victims of her revenge.


“Our plan won’t work without the manuscripts.” Her eyes closed. She lay across the floor of the cave, the wool blanket over her cloak. “You’ll get them from Delaney.”


“Delaney? Why would she have the manuscripts? If anyone has them, it’s that teenage punk. He lived there with the rest of those filthy authors.” He crossed his arms and leaned against the cold wall of the cave.


“He’s dead.” She threw out the words as if she were saying he’s sleeping or he’s eating.

“What happened?” And how the hell did she know he was dead? They’d been together since they left the pier.


“An Ender got him. One of the other Weaver’s horror stories.” She rolled to her side, failing at her attempt to pull the blanket tighter around her. “Apparently, he tried to be brave trying to fight off the beast while Delaney and her Watcher escaped. Another casualty. That girl has so much blood on her hands. I’m sure he handed the stories off to her.”


“And she’s too noble to leave them to meet their doom.” He paced the floor of the cave. “When William and Delaney enter the books, you want me to find the manuscripts. You’ll have them trapped.”


“Precisely.” Her red lips curled. She sat up, removing her codex pendant from under her clothing. All four of the pendants melded into one supernatural power. She warmed her hands by the fire. “There’ll be no escape for them. And as I see it, they have three Weavers to save, and I have three chances to squash them.”


Beads of sweat formed on Jonas’s brow. There was something bothering him about the Wanderer’s plan. There was something bothering him about the Wanderer, and he wasn’t quite sure how he’d deal with it yet.




CHAPTER TWO



“My parents are here.” Laney swung her leg off the bike. Her legs felt unsteady, so she rested her hand on William’s shoulder to settle her nerves. The thought of showing up on a motorcycle and introducing her boyfriend to her father, all in one day, scared her more than the Wanderer.


He bent forward and kissed her forehead. His lips felt warm and lifted her courage slightly. “You’ve met my father and sister. It’s only fair that I meet your family.”


“Yes.” She rolled her eyes, finding the comparison laughable. “But your father won’t hang me by my toes from a bridge.”


“And your father will do this to you?” His eyes swam with humor. It was obvious that he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.


“No, but you’re fair game.” She brushed past him and took the stairs two at a time, ready to face the consequences that awaited them behind the front door.


The door was unlocked, and from the front entrance hall they could hear voices coming from the back of the house. Laney stopped short in the kitchen when the voices formed actual words in her head.


“Where is she, Grady?” Frustration rolled off her father’s voice, filling her with tension. “You know the only reason I allowed her to come to this school was that you were here to watch over her. And now she’s turned up missing.”


Her heart constricted with her father’s words. Grady shouldn’t be taking heat for this. William leaned his forehead against her temple. He touched her fingertips.


“Tim, don’t be so hard on him. He loves her as much as we do.” Mom. Always the voice of reason.

“All I know is we went to pick her up for break and she’s nowhere to be found. We can’t even reach her on her damn phone.” There was a loud bang. A door slamming?


Laney crept forward and entered the back porch. Light from a tall candle flickered, making her mother’s hair glow. Seeing her daughter, her mother gasped and jumped up to hug her.


She looked up from her mother’s shoulder at her grandfather. He appeared to have been through the ringer, with his gray hair sticking out in multiple directions, but offered her his warm smile before his eyes fell on William.


Her mother pulled back but kept her hands on Laney’s arms. “Where have you been? Your dad’s even called the police.”


Laney’s heart beat faster, anticipating the confrontation with her father. “I’m sorry, Mom. William and I went on a road trip. We should’ve told you.”


Her mother raised an eyebrow. “And this is William?”


“Yes, ma’am.” He stood up straight—maybe not sure how he fit in with her family yet.


“Come here.” She enveloped him in her arms. “I know she’s mentioned you before. I’m glad we finally get to meet you. I just wish it were under better circumstances.” She let go of him. “I’m afraid your dad’s pissed.”


“Maybe I should go talk to him first.” Laney didn’t want her dad to meet William when he was angry.

Her footsteps crunched through the snow that blanketed Grady’s backyard. The sound of each step reminded her that she was one step closer to doomsday. She could see his outline in the screened gazebo. His back was to her.


She opened the creaky door, and when her dad saw her, his face relaxed, making him look ten years younger. She reached down and took his hands in hers before snuggling her head into his chest. His heart beat rapidly beneath his sweatshirt. He ran his fingers through her hair.


They remained like this for several minutes before he spoke. “Are you trying to kill me?” His voice was calm, but shaken.


How could she tell him there was so much more going on? He’d lock her in a tower and throw away the key. It would be years before her hair would be long enough for William to scale it.


“The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you,” Laney whispered the words, keeping her head on his chest. “I didn’t think it was a big deal. Christmas isn’t for another week. We’d be home in plenty of time.”


“We?” He shifted his body away from her. “Who’s we?”


She bit her lip. “William’s here. You know—my boyfriend.”


Her father’s face turned red, lifting himself out of the lawn chair.


“I really think you’ll like him. He’s not anything like Jason.” The words slipped out, and she regretted them.


“You went away together?” He stared out into the yard, his breath visible in the cold night air. “Did you stay together, like, in the same hotel room?”


“It’s not like that. I told you last year. Nothing’s changed.” She crossed the gazebo to put her hand on his arm. “He’s back for winter break. I haven’t seen him for a year. We wanted to spend some time alone, to get to know each other better.”


He drew in a breath and stared out at the moon as if contemplating her words. He faced Laney, leaned in, and kissed her hairline. “I’m just glad you’re home. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to give this guy of yours hell.”


“I know.”


Tim was pleasant enough with William when he shook his hand and provided all the normal formalities. It wasn’t until dinner that the bombs began to drop.


“So, William. What are your intentions with my daughter?” Her father wiped his mouth with his napkin and placed it back on his lap. “After all, you live in California and have the appearance of a beach bum.”


Laney choked on the piece of chicken in her mouth. She kicked her father under the table.

“I only visit the beach at night, sir. I’m not sure if that qualifies me as a beach bum.” William took Laney’s hand beneath the tablecloth. “And as far as your daughter is concerned, my intentions are honorable. For now, we’re getting to know each other.”


“Where do your parents live?” Shelly must’ve known the interrogation would continue, so she tried to turn the conversation to a lighter topic.


“My father and sister live in Lexington.” He traced Laney’s hand with his finger. “And my mother died a few years ago.”


“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Shelly lowered her head. “How’s your family holding up?” It was her typical counselor mode that she used with Jason’s mom. Laney’s friend took his own life her first year of college, as far as her parents were concerned. He really died in an accident during a confrontation with Jonas, her Ender.


“We’re getting by. Sarah has taken over my mother’s duties in the home.”


Before Shelly could comment on his old-fashioned statement, Tim piped back in. “What’s the plan, William? Because Laney has a plan, and it’s not to end up pregnant at nineteen.” Her dad bore his eyes into William. The tiny veins that only appeared when he was angry popped out on his forehead.

Grady shook his head.


“Dad! Not every guy thinks that way.” Why was every male with a pulse just like Jason in his mind? “You think you have him all figured out, and you haven’t even spent five minutes having a normal conversation with him. And have you thought for a minute, even one minute, about what I want?”


“No, I guess I haven’t, Delaney.” He ripped his eyes away from William. “But I thought you wanted to be a writer, not the owner of a surf shop in Malibu. I guess my image of you was built a little too high.”


Grady cleared his throat. “If I may interrupt.” He pushed out his chair and walked over to William. He placed both of his hands on his shoulders. “I had the privilege of spending time with this young man last school year. He has my full endorsement. And, Tim, I was in your shoes at one time when you asked for my daughter’s hand in marriage.” He raised his eyebrows at Laney’s father.


“He better not be…” Her father’s jawline was rigid, and his eyes darted nervously from her grandfather to William.


Grady cut him off. “Whatever his intentions are for Laney are none of your damn business. They’re her business. And believe it or not, you and Shelly have raised an intelligent, confident, and loving daughter. She knows what she’s doing. You don’t have to figure it out for her.”


Tim sulked. His arms crossed against his chest. It was his retreat mode. She had seen it many times before, when he knew he’d been put in his place.


*****


After dinner, Laney and her mom washed the dishes, and Tim headed to the living room. William seized the opportunity to chat with Grady on the back deck. There was a chill in the air, but the space heater warmed the area. The older man smoked a pipe and gazed up at the stars through the high elms in the yard.


“I was hoping you’d join me.” Grady patted the chair next to him.


William sat down, directing his attention to the sky. It held the same stars he saw at home. Orion’s belt stood clear in the winter sky like a mighty hunter. He’d spent many nights on the porch of his home, gazing. Would he be able to give up everything for Laney? It wasn’t a subject they’d talked about before. But it consumed him at times. He wasn’t moving from New York to Los Angeles. He was moving from one time to another—from one way of life to another. Sure, he did it last year for a while to protect her. But when this was all over, they’d have to make a choice to be together.


“Cat’s got your tongue?” Grady puffed a ring of smoke into the air.


“Pardon me?” Even though Brian’s power translated many things in this world for him, there were still some phrases and concepts that presented themselves that were like trying to understand something through a bunch of static on the radio.


“What’s going on? I haven’t seen or heard from Laney since she injured her ankle. I’m assuming she came to get you.”


“She did.” William stretched out his beanie in his hands. He felt ashamed that Laney had to rescue him. Perhaps it was his old-fashioned soul wanting to be the hero. “My pendant was stolen.”


Grady kept his eyes on the stars. “She told me. I warned her to stay out of the book.” He turned his face to William. “What if she had been killed between the pages? I’d never know… Tim wouldn’t have any idea what happened to her.”


William sighed. “Don’t you know her well enough to understand that she can’t be controlled? Her stubbornness is part of who she is—it makes me love her more.”


“I know. She gets it from her grandmother.” Grady chuckled, placing a hand on the younger man’s arm. “We’re in the same boat. In love with strong-willed women.”


“She needs to be protected from the Wanderer.” His voice took on a serious tone. Fear filled him knowing what Laney intended to do. “The Weavers were sent into their books by the Wanderer. This woman is blinded by revenge. She wants to kill them.”


“How?” Grady scratched his head and put down his pipe. “How can this Wanderer have the power to send people into their books and kill them?”


“She has all four stones. I guess it’s called a codex.” William took a sip of water to wash down the bile rising in his throat. “Once she’s killed the other three Weavers, she’ll come after Laney.”


Grady was silent for a moment. He glanced at William before staring at his pipe. “Then, you know what you have to do?”


“Protect her with my life.” He sat up straighter in the chair, wanting to finally play the hero. “It’s my duty as her Watcher and as the man who loves her.”


The older man pushed out of his chair and stood by the railing of the deck. “And knowing Laney, she has some elaborate plan to rescue the other Weavers.”


William took the comment as a question. “She’s—well, we—are going to enter their books and get them out.”


“What?” Grady paced the length of the deck. “Don’t be foolish. The two of you have no idea what to expect when you enter the book of another Weaver. At least Laney knew her book inside and out.”


“She’ll go, with or without me.” William flipped his beanie in his hand. “I have no choice but to protect her. And I will not be separated from her again.”


“That I understand.” Grady’s voice lowered as he tapped his pipe on the railing. “How can I help in all this?”


“That’s why we came here today. We need you to hold on to the manuscripts. If the Wanderer gets ahold of them, there’s no telling how long we have.” He reached down and handed the bag to Grady. “We’re going to enter the most dangerous one first—Mark’s book. This way, you can keep track of us.”


“And after that?” Grady stared at the kitchen window where his daughter and granddaughter washed and dried the dishes.


“Harriet, and then Natalie.” William held up the notebook covered with stickers.


“I will hold the books for you and protect them if need be, but you must promise me one thing.” Grady lifted the strap of the bag to his shoulder.


“What’s that?”


“My granddaughter comes home, alive and well.”


*****


Laney kept an eye on William and Grady on the back porch. He was asking Grady to protect the manuscripts. He was the only person they could trust who understood the gravity of the situation.


Her own heart was heavy with the conversation she was about to have with her mother. “Mom, can I ask you a question about Christopher?”


Shelly’s hands stopped their vigorous scrubbing of a frying pan. “Why are you bringing him up?”


“You never talk about him. I just want to know more about what happened.” She stepped closer to her mother to put a hand on her arm.


Shelly’s blonde curls were piled on top of her head. A couple of strands hung loosely on her forehead.

“How did he die? You never told me, and it was like the topic was taboo growing up.”


Tears welled in her eyes as she shook the water off her hands before drying them on a dish towel. “Asphyxiation.”


“He suffocated? Like, in his crib?”


“Yes.” Her mother leaned her hands on the counter. “Now I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”


Laney dried a handful of silverware and placed them in their proper places in the drawer. “I don’t think you’re telling the truth.”


“What do you mean, I’m not telling the truth?” Her mother’s voice raised to a level Laney hadn’t heard in a long time. “I lost my son.”


“I’m not saying that you didn’t lose your son, but I don’t think he died.” She treaded the waters carefully, lowering her voice, “I think he was kidnapped.”


“What makes you say that?” Shelly’s eyes grew wide. She leaned against the edge of the counter with the dish towel in her hand. “Who told you?”


Laney wasn’t sure what she should reveal to her mother. She hoped to get this kind of reaction as the last piece of evidence. Jonas Webb was her brother, and his real name was Christopher Grady Holden. She dragged two chairs over and had her mom sit down before disclosing anything to her.


“What if I told you that Christopher is alive?” She reached out and touched her mother’s knee.


“Then I’d tell you that you’re crazy. He’s been gone for over twenty years. It’s a cold case.” Her mother lifted a dishrag to her eyes, blotting her mascara. “Are you trying to hurt me?”


Laney ignored her question. “Because I’ve seen him. I’ve met him. He’s alive, and he needs us right now.”


“Where did you see him? How did you know it was Christopher?”


“I met the woman who raised him—who kidnapped him.” Laney stared into her mother’s eyes.


“What? Who?” Shelly buried her hand into her blonde curls. It was too much for her.


“It doesn’t matter.” She wondered if she should’ve even brought up the whole subject.


“Of course, it matters.” Shelly slammed her hand down on the counter. “If what you’re saying is true, this woman robbed us of our son. She robbed him of his family and should be locked away.”


Laney leaned forward to hug her mom. Her body shook beneath her arms. Soft sobs came from Shelly’s chest.


“I’m going to bring him to you soon. I want you to meet him. It took me some time to discover his true character, but now I know he’s someone who’s conflicted, not evil.”


“Evil? What does that mean?” Shelly pulled back from Laney with her brows furrowed.


“It’s hard to explain.” Laney bit her lip, realizing her mistake. “But someday soon, you’ll be together.”

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