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COMING SOON!

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Serenity Love, a renowned celebrity talk show host of Perception, boasts a podcast with over 500 million followers. Her unique angle involves exposing the secrets of those she encounters to craft captivating stories. As her climb to success continues, haunting memories from her past surface, casting doubt on her reality and jeopardizing her status. Stricken by an inexplicable illness that triggers electromagnetic sensations, she fears the hand of karma closing in. Unaware

of the consequences, she employs her newfound abilities, catching the attention of her trusted physician, Dr. Cruz, who recognizes her as the linchpin to a citywide puzzle.

A prominent divorce attorney, Haylee Santiago, stands at the center of a complex love triangle. Engaged to billionaire real estate magnate Logan Prescott, she navigates a complicated dynamic relationship with her soon-to-be ex-husband, career criminal Nico Cortez. Balancing her concealed truths for survival, she's drawn into a web of intrigue to aid her friend Serenity in outsmarting the architects of an unprecedented heist. In a shocking revelation, Haylee becomes the ultimate pawn in Dr. Cruz's plan to unveil her extraordinary gift to the world.

Monroe Rivers, a distinguished Wall Street advisor, finds herself entangled in the schemes of her friends Serenity and Haylee. Entrusted with orchestrating a scam targeting Nico's crew, Dr. Cruz, and The Secret Service, she's tasked with siphoning billions from high-profile accounts without detection. As she grapples with her lack of supernatural abilities, resentment festers, driving her

to pursue revenge and seize control over their status and fortunes.

 

As tensions mount, The Secret Service uncovers the trio's hidden truths, leveraging this knowledge to undermine Dr. Cruz and Nico's team. In a bid to secure cooperation, they conspire to orchestrate an audacious heist involving diamonds, drugs, and money laundering on an unprecedented scale. The resulting chaos leads to an inevitable unraveling of their facades, thrusting their once-glamourous lives into a tumultuous and unavoidable descent.

Tainted Blood

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Serenity

 

“There have been unusual sightings of some paranormal activity. Businesses, as well as homes, have been partially destroyed. Even the local police department has yet to learn who the culprits are. There will be a full investigation from the Secret Service. They will have all the staff to uncover what is happening in this city. We pray it is not witchcraft, as certain witnesses state they have seen supernatural behaviors in people. The only place in the city that would harbor anyone of that nature would be The Glass Institute. The infamous Dr. Leonardo Cruz manages that institution. He is a scientific mastermind that would change your life forever. Would you dare to interfere with his unethical healing methods? Serenity Love of Perception.”

I couldn't wait to end this segment. If the viewers only knew what I had to do to get this position, they would all be worried about their well-being. Trying to control my emotions is difficult because the anger overpowers me. Dr. Cruz portrays himself in the public eye as a high-profile doctor who can fix all ailments. He is like a mad scientist who loves messing with people's minds. What would you do to survive? I grabbed my lukewarm herbal green tea off the end of the makeup table. I plopped down in the executive black plush leather swivel chair. Having this podcast has made me an icon in every household. I love to stir up drama and find a way to filter it out in lies. I leaned over my makeup counter and admired the picture of my parents. Deep down, I desperately missed them so much. I remember bits and pieces of it as thoughts of my past weighed heavy on my mind. My mind drifted off to when I was a patient at Dr. Cruz's Glass Institute.

At the same time every day, I peek out of my window, hoping to be free one day. I noticed the same black bird with a bright red trim land on the cross-shaped object. The brightness of The Glass Institute glared in the sky. I had an eerie feeling every time it stared in my direction. Sometimes, I wondered if he could read my mind. I admired how free it was. I would do anything to flee this place. I became agitated at the thought of being trapped. I paced my bedroom floor. The area was so small there was enough space for a twin-size bed and toilet. I was sitting on my bed when I heard a drizzle of raindrops hit the windowpane. I was feeling anxious and restless.

My mind was idling a million ways to escape as it spiraled out of control with random thoughts. Dr. Cruz had the power to control minds. Being trapped in my thoughts was painful. All the medication I was on was not effective. Dr. Cruz increased my dosage. He felt I had a wild imagination that could harm me and others. Dr. Cruz instilled in me that I was unique and had a fantastic gift. He hoped that one day, he would be able to be a witness. I toss and turn on my bed, finally feeling comfortable lying on my back. My eyes fell in line with the motion of the white ceiling fan. I had a habit of daydreaming because that was all I could do before I was free. What I admired about life was having the freedom to roam the earth and the power to become whoever I wanted. I could have taken my life years ago, but something inside me was still soul-searching for my purpose. When I had a psychotic episode, everyone in the institution thought I was severely depressed. Deep down, I knew I had to find a way to free myself. I stopped in my tracks when I saw tiny, small lime-green-like particles activate on both wrists. At first, when I saw them, I would try to cut them out. Dr. Cruz's team gave me intense therapy to understand my special gift. He was the only one who knew of my secret. Then, I could hear a commotion in the hallway. I leaped to my feet and darted for the steel door with a window big enough to slide a tray of food through. My eyes lit up when I saw the flashing red lights because I hadn't seen it in a while. The last time I saw it, a random patient escaped. I began to feel an urge for hope as I banged on the cemented door, and then suddenly, the door came ajar. I hesitated for a moment. If I remember correctly, the last one was injected with a sedative once they crossed the threshold of their room. Every hallway had a distinct color-shaped glass to determine which level of patient you were. I stared into it before I looked both ways and ran down the hallway. I knew exactly where the staff stored their keys. My therapist takes me there on my way to therapy sessions.

I grabbed a set of keys that were on the hook. I heard patients screaming and the nursing staff trying to console them. I was not going back when I heard over the loudspeaker to trap patient 117. I hated being called a number. My name is Serenity Love. I couldn't wait to escape this time because I planned every movement. I slid out of the nearest unlocked window. I carefully hopped down to the ground and headed for the parking lot. I hit every button on the key chain until the lights flashed on a gorgeous, majestic white Infiniti QX55 Luxe SUV. I had no clue how to drive this vehicle, but my powers took over, and it drove the car for me. I pulled out of the lot with hopes of a fresh start. 

I cruised down the interstate, checking the rearview mirror. No one was following me, and then I knew Dr. Cruz was finally giving me another opportunity to be free. The last time I was free, I was a young girl exploring life when I came across a wooded trail in the woods. It was not like any other I had ever seen; it was lit like a rainbow as I walked carefully down the middle, not touching any glowing stones. I stopped abruptly at my colored gem. I knelt as my eyes lit up, and then the rock lifted off the ground and filtered the midnight sky. Dr. Cruz’s team came and discovered that I was using my powers. They had to find a way to contain it because he realized that my colored stone was a dominant color and, if misused, could activate other patient's powers. Dr. Cruz would lose everything if the city knew he had his patients committing petty crimes for him and then trying to erase their memories. So, he kept me captive. My wet tears dripping profusely on my face made me come to a screeching halt. I pulled over on the side of the empty interstate and slid out the driver's side. I was hesitant to leave it, but my eyes fell upon an area of tall trees. A glimmer of light flickered when I reached the desired location in the abandoned field. The ground began to shake like a small earthquake. I spun around, and suddenly, my arms extended out. My palms shook as tiny lime-green crystals formed into a horizontal shape. On each hand, there was a vision of me in the future. I was mesmerized as my eyes zeroed in on both spinning objects and screamed, "That is not what I perceived my life to be!" as I fell to the ground. Tears fell freely on the dirt as it brought life to it. I whispered, "What is happening to me?" I dug my fingers into the soiled area. Then, random thoughts of my parents filtered through my mind. I had been trying to find them for years as I tried to close my hands, but the energy was too vital.

I remember seeing my dad wearing black wire-rimmed glasses, being so inconspicuous as he studied in the lab he had in the kitchen. It was filled with different colored liquids, and then he would load up syringes with each color or blend. My curiosity sent me after him as he carefully entered the basement steps. I peeked under the door and saw a man and two women in cages. They were bound to a chair in a sleep-like state. My dad injected chemicals into each IV. I thought I was seeing things because my mother was one of the women. I instantly became afraid and had nowhere to go or anyone to speak with. Then I remembered Haylee, but her father saved her. I stood and grabbed the key to the cage that had my mother in it. I ran to my room and pretended to be asleep. My parents left the following day, and they have yet to return. That's how I ended up in The Glass Institute. I knew if I could make it to my parent's home. I would find all my answers. Was I ready for what I would discover? Will it be enough to keep me from going back to the institution? I thought as I hopped in the SUV and noticed my hands were still glowing in the dark. The electromagnet current revved the engine as I pulled up at the top of my parents' horseshoe driveway.

I searched the backseat and reached for the white jacket resting on the seat. I slid it on and stepped outside of the truck. I could feel the temperature drop as it felt like fall weather. A chill ran through my body when I approached the structure. The darkness made the all-marble brick high-rise mansion look like a ghost town. It appeared dreary and lifeless, not how I remembered. Hearing the tree branches knock against the shudders of the house made me more persistent in entering. Then I recalled where my mother kept the hidden extra key as I eagerly ran for the steps and searched under the yellow flowerpot on the second step. I was so thrilled knowing that I would sleep in my comfortable bed. Once I entered the house, it was quiet. I heard the sink drip in the nearby bathroom. I made my way down the hallway towards the flickering light. Dr. Cruz told me there was an evil spirit in the house and that I was unsafe there. The glow on my hands calmed down. I wondered why my parents let Dr. Cruz use me and my mother as a science experiment, or were we?

I heard my jewelry box play the simple lullaby that I vaguely remembered. I panicked. I headed toward my room in search of the purple jewelry box. Who would have opened it? A million thoughts filtered through my brain. It stopped playing. I scanned the room in fear of the unknown. When I arrived, I carefully picked up the box as my hands trembled in fear. Once I opened the lid, the music did not play. I noticed there was a shiny silver key taped to the bottom. I removed it and wondered why I hid it. I thought it had to open something in this house or somewhere else. I decided to change out of this jumpsuit. I opened my wardrobe, and dust particles were all over my clothes. I must have been gone a long time because they were too small. So, I grabbed the key off the bed and slipped it in my shoe. I turned towards my pink, oval mirror over my dresser. I touched my face as tears fell freely down my cheeks. I understand now that whatever Dr. Cruz created for me has changed my life forever. I have to control my powers. A flashy red light drew my eyes to the white bookshelf beside my bed. I wiped my tears from my wet face. I touched the beautiful gold pendant necklace pinned to a pretty, purple, fluffy butterfly pillow. My wrists activated as I tried to pick it up, but the glare from my hands was so powerful that I could not lift it. I had enough of this madness. I darted in the direction of my parent's room. When I reached for the door handle, some force pushed me back into the hallway. 

I was so upset I flew in a rage and screamed, “Let me in.” 

Then, the door creaked open. There, my parents lie, resting peacefully in their king-sized wood oak canopy bed surrounded by lighted candles. The expensive linen draped around the bed's top rim was blowing out of control, like a window was ajar. When I turned around, I felt a cold draft. Then, the strength of the force was so powerful it pulled me into their walk-in closet and slammed the door. I was frightened. I knocked hard on the door to hopefully awaken my sleeping parents. The door came ajar, to my surprise, and flashlights glared at me. Two men grabbed me, brought me to my feet, and carried me out of the house. I wondered why my parents didn't stop them. Then, I realized that Dr. Cruz is more powerful than I imagined. The group of men didn't say a word. All I know is their jackets had Secret Service embedded on the arm sleeves. I felt a panic attack arising as my head was pounding out of fear. I looked for my vehicle, and that mysteriously disappeared. The doors to the unmarked undercover Cadillac SUV's doors opened abruptly. I entered the backseat, and one of the agents slid next to me. I felt a sharp pinch on the right side of my neck, and I collapsed.

    

Ten Years Later

My cell vibrating in the vanity drawer snapped me out of the trance of my horrific past. Dr. Cruz had intense therapy with me to help control my anger urges that would trigger my gift. He wanted me to blend in with the world. I finally made it to the top, and nothing could stop me. I received a text alert from Dr. Cruz to visit the police precinct. They needed my expertise to help them with a high-profile undercover case. When I arrived, I hesitated for a moment before entering. For some reason, I could feel an eerie presence overcome me. I took several deep breaths before the officer led me to the meeting room where Captain Sultan was. Dr. Cruz must have told him about my history. Why else would he be here? He must have wanted me to break down as evil thoughts filtered through my mind. Sitting in the secluded room with no windows and a secret sliding door was building my anxiety. I had no clue how to escape, even if I wanted to. Then Dr. Cruz entered the room. He has aged as the gray hair surrounds his face.  He smiled at me as he sat down in the empty chair across from me. He reached for my hands as he gently cradled them in his. I felt safe with him as my nerves calmed down. 

"Ms. Love, we need your help on a special assignment, and you can't share this with anyone. Do you understand?"

I stuttered, "Is this a joke? Because if it is, I don't want any parts of it. I love my rich and fabulous life. I am a social media icon with over 500 million viewers on my podcast Perception. Do you expect me not to share any of this with them? That is how I get my ratings and drive my red Rolls Royce."

He just sat there with a look of disappointment as he slid a lime-green sealed envelope in front of me. Captain Sultan rushed over and slammed his hand hard on the note.

“Let’s make this the last resort, shall we.”

“Last resort, we don’t have that kind of time. We have deadlines,” whispered Dr. Cruz

He turned his focus back to me as he took a deep breath to relax and said, "If you don't help us, then we will have to take extreme measures to get what we want. You want to play games with us, then we will play with you." He stood and stormed out of the sliding metal door.

    I couldn't wait to get home as I pressed the button on the remote to activate the three-car garage doors attached to my all-glass ranch-style custom-built home, and the doors lifted slowly. I was startled to see two men in black jackets with Secret Service on their hats. What in the world is going on today? I can't catch a break. I put the car in reverse as I stared in my rearview mirror. An army of vehicles surrounded me, so I had no choice but to turn the car off. One of the agents opened my door before I could and pulled me out as he took me to my living room. They just stared at me until a cell phone ringing captured our attention. The unit officer relayed the message to me with a vengeance.

    “It appears that you are not happy with your present life. Didn't you ever wonder how you became this icon?"

    "I don't care. I earned this spotlight, and no one is taking it away."

    "Not so fast, Serenity. We all want the same thing, and you are the only one who can accomplish it without any complications.

    "Once they instruct you what you need to do, then you will inform us so that we are all on the same page."

    “So, are you with Dr. Cruz?”

    “Do we look like we are with his team?”

    "No. I vaguely remember you years ago when you injected me with something." I immediately put my right hand on the right side of my neck.

    "Please, Ms. Love, do not make this harder. We don't have time for you to play detective."

    Out of anger, I yelled, "You want me to jeopardize my life? Which means that I will be a snitch and a target for death."

    “Well, that outcome is totally up to you. You are a smart woman,” as he snapped his fingers through the phone receiver, the crowd of men disappeared as fast as they arrived.

SNEAK PEEK

*unedited*

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