What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?
In a near-future world a blood war is brewing.
Elite Tactical Team member Gina Santiago has devoted her life to protecting the world by apprehending the most heinous criminals. On the trail of a serial murderer, the clues lead her to a tight-knit town, clinging to the fringes of society. Until Gina can prove otherwise, everyone’s a suspect. Even the sexy as sin sheriff, Morgan Hunter.
The closer Gina gets to discovering the secrets hidden by the sleepy town and its prickly sheriff, the more frightened she becomes…because they aren’t the only ones with a secret to keep. Gina has a secret, too. One that will change her life forever and make her the killer’s next prey.
The Dead World Series — The Story Behind the Story
This whole series started with one simple question: What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?
At the time I asked the question, I had no idea the book would be set in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world. I just kept playing with the question in my mind and eventually Red appeared. I knew once I started writing her story that I wasn’t creating a typical shape-shifter book. The world I created isn’t based on magic or fantasy. It has its roots in science, while embracing the fairytale. On the outside, the world appears perfect, but upon deeper inspection cracks become visible. The cracks are dangerous enough to crumble the utopian society.
‘Nothing is at it appears’ is a theme that runs through many of my books. The Dead World series is no exception.
Red was originally published in mass market paperback on November 4, 2008 by Tor. It has been extensively re-edited and expanded.
What people are saying about the book:
“Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on.”–Lynn Viehl
“Dark, action-filled, and hot!”–Jeaniene Frost
“Dark and dangerous and shivering with possibility. Red’s a temptation worth indulging.”–Melissa Marr
Jordan Summer’s RED is the best novel you’ll read this year! What can I say other than that from the moment I opened her novel I was completely absorbed in it. Her retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is nothing less than brilliant. Her characters and the world she’s designed will keep every reader anxiously glued to the page. No matter what you look for in a great book, you’ll find it in RED. I can’t possibly say enough great things about RED. What I can tell you is that if you read one novel this year make it RED!
Reviewer for Romance Junkies
Complex …world-building combine with a steamy and conflicted romance between a strong heroine and a literal alpha male hero, with plenty of chemistry to fuel future volumes.
The world as we know it has been destroyed in this post-apocalyptic thriller. The thirst for power never dies, but gutsy heroine Gina refuses to let that stop her. Summers does a good job laying out the backstory for her new world order, illustrating the dangerous times her protagonists live in. The first-person rantings from the deranged serial killer add a frightening layer to an already gritty thriller. Very good stuff, indeed!
Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times Booklover’s Magazine
It’s a shape-shifter book with a difference. Several differences, in fact. Not only is it set in a well-drawn futuristic post-apocalyptic world, the main narrative is interspersed with first-person sections from the shape-shifter killer’s POV. These passages were… disturbing. To put it mildly. Incredibly dark and visceral, I was fascinated to see how well Jordan Summers managed to get into the mind of an otherworldly killer. *shudders*
Karen Mahoney, YA urban fantasy author
In RED, Jordan Summers gives her readers an intense story with compelling characters who effortlessly endear themselves to the reader from page one. With a suspenseful plot as important to the story as the romance, the author has crafted a complex story that is easy to love.
I want to stress that there are indeed some very dark passages in the story. We are reading about a serial killer, after all. The parts of the story told from the murderer’s perspective are written in first person point of view, putting you inside his head, showing the reader in no uncertain terms how demented the villain is. I also need to point out for the squeamish that these scenes do include some sexual contact while in shape shifted form while the killer is attacking his victims. There is NO intercourse in these scenes, however, simply some contact designed to demonstrate the twisted way this man views his victims.
Reviewed by Jennifer for Wild on Books
Read an Excerpt (unedited)
Not many people can handle the pain of being ripped apart, of having their limbs twisted and morphed until they are convinced their mind will shatter into a thousand tiny shards.
And I am tired of hiding my true nature so that humans can sleep better at night, convinced they’re actually in control of this tiny blue-brown planet.
It’s time they know the truth.
They need to realize that they are not at the top of the food chain.
A permanent shift in power is necessary and I intend to bring about that change one body at a time…
Pain sears my flesh, flaying it from the bone. I scream and throw my head back as blood sprays across the inside of the car, painting the dirty windshield crimson, moistening it for the first time in months.
Pressure explodes beneath my gums, as a sharp row fangs push out my blunt teeth. My arms and legs snap, breaking bone, tearing sinew, to reshape.
The change feels like it is taking an eternity as I drown in a flaming river of agony, but I know it’s only been seconds. One last cry rips from my raw throat, and then suddenly I am reborn.
Lungs heaving, I sit up and look around. It takes a moment to adjust, when you go from blindness to absolute clarity.
The coppery odor of blood assails my senses, along with something feminine and delicate.
Memory evades me, but the scent intrigues. I try to catch it again, but it’s quickly overwhelmed by the stench of synthetic fabrics. Something in the center console jabs me in the ribs. It looks like a stick, but there are other things protruding out. Things that hinder my movements.
The urge to escape the caged confines is great. In my struggles, a paw hits a latch. There’s a hiss. I bare my teeth and prepare to attack an unseen enemy, then the night air comes rushing in. Claws scrape against the unnatural material as I leap out the newly formed opening. My feet touch the ground with a soft thud and I circle my prison, snarling and growling my displeasure.
Outside the high desert comes alive, as a breeze stirs the air. The musk of scurrying vermin and rusting metal collide until it’s hard to tell one from another. Bare branches groan and creak, their dead arms extended to the sky in supplication.
A twig snaps in the distance. My ears perk up in an attempt to locate the source of the noise.
The sound comes again—louder.
My steps are silent as I lope through the snarled woods to investigate. Nothing green lives here anymore. Not the trees. Not the bushes. Not even grass. It isn’t long before my attention is distracted by something else. The feminine aroma I’d caught earlier is stronger now. Sweet, and delicately alluring. I seek its source.
Quickly scanning my surroundings, I glimpse something running ahead of me.
Something about the unusual sight pricks my memory, reminding me that I am not alone. I came here with a guest—
Her long, curly auburn hair flaps in the wind as she scrambles through the dead underbrush.
Where is she going? She can’t possibly hope to find sanctuary amongst the bones of the trees.
Branches moan in the darkness, their sad voices vacant of life. Ghosts of the leaves rustle, haunting my footsteps as I give chase. Despite her determination to get away, it takes no effort at all to track Lisa’s movements. Even if I couldn’t see her, I could still hear her heart thud and her breath wheeze. It’s obvious she wants me to catch her.
The sun-scorched ground is hard and oddly cool beneath my rough pads, the perfect consistency for hiding my presence from those who wish to discover my kind. I could run for miles, but she can’t.
“Get away from me! Go away!” Lisa screams when she catches sight of me.
The harmonious sound reaches my sensitive ears. The notes soar into the night, then abruptly cut off as she labors for air. I yip excitedly in hope that she’ll cry out again. Lisa doesn’t disappoint me.
Such shrill perfection.
And she’s all mine.
She rushes on without looking at where she’s going. In her haste, Lisa trips over a stone imbedded deep in the ground, sending her crashing to her knees. She cries out, but the pain doesn’t slow her. Lisa claws at the earth, leaving deep furrows behind. Clumps of clay fly up behind her, then rain down like arid teardrops as she tries to regain her footing.
Her ripe ass lifts enticingly. She stays in that position for a few seconds, then pushes off and scrambles forward. I recognize the invitation. Suddenly, the urge to mate supersedes all others.
I thought I’d found my perfect match before, but in the end she failed me. This time will be different. Lisa is different.
A growl rumbles out of my chest like thunder from a distant storm.
Lisa whimpers. “Why are you doing this? I thought you l-l-liked me. We were friends.”
We were meant to be more than friends. Why would she think such a ridiculous thing? I shake my head. If I could laugh in my present form, I would. All I can do is snort in derision.
Lisa has to know what she means to me. Perhaps her coy teasing is a form of human foreplay? In my present state, I can’t remember. Nor can I tell.
The ravaged remains of bushes surround her. Lisa doesn’t slow. She collides with their fragile corpses. They crackle and break under her weight, turning to dust.
Her legs are long-limbed perfection, even with the red welts and scrapes from the bushes forming macabre celestial designs on her skin.
In her panic, Lisa’s heart surges with blood, pumping madly in her chest.
I close my eyes and listen to its melodious cadence.
It’s all I can do to keep from drooling. If I thought Lisa would appreciate the compliment, I would.
Licking my muzzle, I try to recall if I ever saw Lisa in anything other than her navy blue Quadrant Inspector’s uniform. Funny how the details fracture and slip from my mind’s grasp.
Lisa glances over her shoulder and screams in terror.
My tongue lolls out of my mouth in an attempt to convey my affections. My thoughtful expression tells her that it won’t be long now. Lisa needs to prepare herself.
Her oval face turns ashen in the burgeoning moonlight and her shrieks grow even louder.
Too excited to wait, I close the distance between us.
“Get back.” She keeps running.
Lisa’s rejection stings but does little to dampen my desires. I don’t think anything can.
“Stay away from me,” she snarls. “Y-y-you…monster!”
My ears ring with the word. Like a slap across the face, it stops me in my tracks. Shock is short-lived. A wave of anger that’s so consuming I can barely breathe sweeps through me. My vision bleeds red until the world around me turns scarlet.
How dare her! I’m not the one who made me this way. I did not ask to be turned into an Other. The procedure was forced upon me, but I accept what I am. No longer will I cower in the shadows. The days of pretending to be inferior are over.
Lisa’s fear laps over my lightly pelted skin, hardening my shaft. She’s taunted me for the last time. I continue my pursuit.
The distance between us diminishes as quickly as the remaining fragments of her hope. I know this because Lisa’s slowing.
The wind howls, sending the sweet scent of her sweat-covered body to my nostrils.
I’m close, I say.
Lisa darts frantically left and right, her hands out in front of her, as she gropes for a weapon to defend herself. She finds a branch.
She should know I’m not easy to kill.
The branch’s bark breaks off in her grip, crumbling like ash on her fingertips. She drops it with a frustrated cry and keeps running.
My muscles quiver in anticipation. Should I fuck her first or after?
There’s still plenty of time to decide.
I move in.
My long claws extend when I swipe at her. Material rips. The tatters from her blue shirt fall to the ground, but Lisa escapes my taloned grasp. No matter. I’m relishing the chase.
Lisa bounces from tree trunk to tree trunk, then stumbles once more. Her body makes a loud thwack as it hits the earth. She rises, but not fast enough.
Leaping, I cover the ten feet that separates us. My weight instantly throws her to the ground, knocking the breath from her lungs. Lisa’s head smacks the earth, tearing her delicate skin. Blood coats her beautiful auburn hair.
I close my eyes and inhale.
The smell intoxicates.
“Get off me.” Lisa struggles, managing to turn over. She scratches, claws, and bites at my skin like a wild cat. Her long nails break as her attempts to penetrate my thick hide fail.
Doesn’t she realize her actions only excite me?
The urges swirl through my head until I can’t tell which one is stronger. I rip Lisa’s useless skirt and black panties from her body, then quickly toss them aside.
Wrenching her bleeding hands above her head, I hold her still so I can bury my wet nose between her legs. She stiffens, then her body weeps.
For me only.
I’ve wondered what Lisa would smell like for months. It’s better than my wildest imaginings. The musky spice envelops my senses and my body trembles as I fight to maintain control. I give her folds a quick swipe with my long tongue.
I debate where to part Lisa’s succulent flesh first.
So much time, so many orifices to choose from.
With a flick of my jagged talons, I remove the remains of her torn shirt. I need to see every inch of her fervent skin. The nipples I’d only been able to dream about until now, stab skyward. Ripe berries on hills of creamy flesh, waiting to be plucked and harvested. I can’t resist one quick lick.
Lisa trembles. When her gaze focuses on my elongated face, her screams turn to terrified wails. She attacks me with renewed fervor, tearing her hands out of my grip, denying her destiny.
I fend off her blows easily and wait for her to tire, before settling my weight between her ample thighs. We’re now eye-to-eye, nose-to-snout, mate-to-mate.
Tears spill down Lisa’s cheeks, watering the parched ground beneath her. I lap at them, but they continue to flow like salty treats upon my tongue.
Don’t cry, I want to tell her, but I can’t. The words come out garbled like razors have slashed my vocal cords.
Lisa shakes her head back and forth in denial, though I don’t understand why. From the start, she pursued me. I thought she would be happy once I let her ‘catch’ me. But Lisa doesn’t look pleased.
Why does she continue to deny our love?
“I won’t tell anyone your secret. I-I-I promise. Just let me go. I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again.”
Let her go. Why would I want to do that? We’re made for each other. Doesn’t she understand that she’s perfect?
Peering into her tear-blotched face, I watch as acceptance fills her blue eyes. Her full lips part and her tongue darts out to moisten them in preparation for my embrace. It’s all the invitation I need.
I open my mouth and lower my head to taste her. Colors explode behind my eyelids upon contact, a kaleidoscope of emotions whirling in my mind. Disjointed nude images of sprawled limbs cloud my vision, erasing everything but the power gushing through my veins.
So this is love.
My heart swells.
Lisa flinches and twists, arching beneath my expert touch. I raise my head. She gasps for air. One kiss is not enough…for either of us.
All thoughts of sex forgotten, I delve in again. Deeper.
Her cries stop along with her struggles, and she goes limp beneath me. My mate’s submission pleases me. Wanting to remember this moment forever, I sit up to get a better look at her face.
Lisa’s expression seems odd, unnatural. Steam rises from a carotid opening in the darkness. That can’t be right. I nudge her with my moist nose, but Lisa doesn’t move, doesn’t blink.
Sightless blue eyes continue to stare at the star-dappled sky, ignoring the approach of the three-quarter moon. Cocking my head, I wonder why she isn’t moving as my mind struggles to understand what has happened.
Blood drips from my face. My tongue swipes out, catching crimson drops before they can hit the ground. The air around me changes. It no longer smells like parched earth. An enchanting coppery sweet aroma has replaced the arid scent.
I want to bottle it, roll in it, capture it for all time. And it’s all thanks to my exquisite Lisa. I gaze lovingly upon her.
She doesn’t move.
My toothy smile fades as comprehension dawns. Lisa’s dead. I must admit I am disappointed. I chose her to be my one, my only. I had such divine plans for us. Our future all but mapped out.
Perhaps I’m mistaken. It’s possible she’s asleep. I dip my head to check her pulse. Blood runs down my chin and onto my hairy chest, burning my throat in an ecstasy unlike any other.
Hot, sweet, sticky, and delicious. I fight my instincts, but losing is inevitable when confronted with mortally wounded prey.
One claw at a time, I slowly release Lisa’s lifeless hands. There’s only one thing left for me to do. I proceed to gorge myself, taking care to relish each tender bite. My teeth rip and masticate with ease as I feast upon Lisa’s glorious flesh.
This is how it should be.
How it will be again.
The sensory overload sends my body into an unexpected orgasm. I shudder as my essence spills onto the ground, mingling with that of my beloved Lisa’s.
I’m sorry we didn’t get to consummate our relationship, but under the circumstances, it’s probably for the best. I brush a claw over what’s left of her face, then greedily eat more.
Momentarily sated, I ponder the question that has been running through my mind for months. Tonight, I finally have an answer.
Lisa does taste as good as she looks.
* * * * *
Gina “Red” Santiago jackknifed up in her rest pad, her body drenched in sweat. Her heartbeat thundered in her head as she snatched her laser pistol off her side table. Red’s hand jerked wildly as she searched the darkness for an immediate threat.
Shadows leapt from the corners of the room, menacing her befuddled mind. It took a few seconds for her to focus. Home. She was at home. On her rest pad. Alone.
“Dung! Not again.” Red dropped back onto her pillows, the sound of her ragged breathing, echoing off the sterile white walls of her living quarters.
She set the gun back on the metal side table with a clank and shot a quick glance at the clock. Three in the morning. She’d only been asleep a few hours. What had woken her up this time? Nothing obvious.
Red punched her pillow and re-adjusted the mat on top of her rest pad to try to get comfortable, then turned to face the wall. Her feet came together with a heavy thump.
She glanced down, but didn’t trust what her ears were telling her.
“Lights on.” Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) complied, bathing the dormitory room in a cadmium florescent glow.
Red looked around the space, taking in the two-seater gray couch, her clothes locker, and personal food-dispensing unit. A flat-panel blank screen blotted one wall like a blemish on a baby’s face. The viewer was off, just like she’d left it. The twenty-by-twenty area wasn’t big enough for anyone to hide. She was alone, but still she hesitated. Afraid of what she might find.
She took a deep breath and with trembling fingers lifted the covers until she could see her feet. Why was she wearing her combat boots? She shifted to get a better look and sent red clay onto the sheets. Confused, she whipped the bedding off and gaped in disbelief.
When had she gotten dressed?
Her tattered clothes looked as if she’d been fed through a meat grinder. Scratches and cuts marred her golden brown flesh and her muscles ached from overuse. Panic gripped her.
Red replayed the previous evening in her mind. She remembered filing tactical reports, watching the republic news, eating protein-enriched synth-noodles, then getting ready for bed.
The rest of the night was a blank, an endless void in the darkness without beginning or end. Red had assumed she’d spent it in deep REM sleep, but now…
She looked down at her clothes once more. Dried blood dotted her T-shirt. Red frantically pulled the cotton material away from her stomach, then yanked it over her head and tossed it on the floor.
Pressing a splayed hand against her abdomen, she examined her skin. Nothing. No cuts. No scratches. No gunshot wounds. Red stripped out of the rest of her clothes, adding them to the pile destined for the incinerator.
“Mirror!” she commanded.
A full-length mirror appeared on the far wall.
She scanned the rest of her body. There were no obvious signs of injuries. Just dried blood. Lots and lots of blood. Naked and confused, Red swallowed a lump of fear, feeling its icy tendrils claw their way down her throat.
“Identify blood source.” There was a rush of wind that rifled her hair and lifted the clothes off the floor as the A.I. began its analysis. Just as quickly as it started, the unnatural breeze stopped.
“Unknown,” the A.I. said.
She felt the color drain from her face. That wasn’t possible. Everyone and everything had been sampled and catalogued.
“Check again,” Red demanded.
There was a pause. “Unknown,” the A.I. repeated.
Her legs trembled, threatening to give out. Red staggered to her rest pad and pulled her knees against her chest, hugging herself as tremors wracked her body.
She didn’t understand what was happening. Where had she been? She strained to remember, but no answers were forthcoming. Red’s gaze strayed back to the crimson mosaic coloring her discarded shirt.
If the blood wasn’t hers, then whose was it?
* * * * *