Book Trailer · First Chapter · Promo

BRANDED by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki ~ Book Trailer Reveal


by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Genre: Mature Young Adult, Dystopian
About Branded:


Twenty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed
him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He
created the Hole where sinners are branded according to
their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been
accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.


Chapter One:

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.
The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down on it,
making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough.
My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down
my back.
Death and I glare at each other through my tears.
I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined
with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No
happy memories here.
I’m ready to go. On the count of three.
I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my
hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father
gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces
me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.
A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance.
My thoughts already muddled, I stand, waiting with the rope around my neck.
Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.
Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and
this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever.
I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.
Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of
armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and
my neighbors point toward my family’s home.
It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.
My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide
to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble
up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is
partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at
the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back
and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets
caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me
forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.
 On hands and knees, I
squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and
now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end,
I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse.
I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the
end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.
Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights
flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the
window harder.
“Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve
been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins
as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy.
They all know what happens to sinners.
Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’
heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without
Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now.
My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and
gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter
of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping
my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.
Gotta keep
“Stop!” Their
voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they
command. They’re gaining on me.
I resist the urge
to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our
high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where
the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing
anything. I’m lost.
     My first instinct is to leap into a
dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it,
watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell soon leaves me vomiting until
nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching
was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me.
Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.
I push myself to
my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their
black, leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I
shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer
until I know I’m trapped.
Never did I
imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them
dragging someone else away that I’d join them.
“You’re a
sinner,” they say. “Time to leave our society.”
I stand defiant.
I refuse to bend or break before them even as I shiver with fear.
“There’s no
reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will
be for everyone,” a guard says.
I cringe into the
blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.
The next instant,
my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and
another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers
grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my
shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me
into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard
stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms. The
handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press
my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. My dignity is all
I have left.
Swallowing hard,
I stare ahead to avoid their eyes.
Did they need
so many guards to capture me?
 I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own
any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like
The driver jerks
the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery
changes too fast. Hours pass and the air grows warmer, more humid, the farther
we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother
blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole.
Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way
in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We
learned about it last year in twelfth grade.
To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to
the life I knew. No one ever does.
“All sinners go
through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates
me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want
to think about the things I’ve been told.
“You won’t last
too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of
my hair up to his face.
 Get your hands off me, you pig. I want
to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and
I’m not positioned to defy him.
     They’re the Guards of the Commander.
They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of
society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard.
Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole.
Few have seen the
commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire
to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and
believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing
fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn
on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no
evidence, nothing but an accusation.
I lose myself in
thoughts of my father.
“Never show fear,
Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.”
His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong.
That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one
person in my life who provided unconditional love.
The vehicle
stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. “Get out,” the guard orders while
pulling me to my feet. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and
out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking
barren in the darkness.
The coolness of
the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled
a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove
me in line and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen
white in fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny
 I follow the man in front of me into the next
room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men
“Spread your
legs,” one of the guards says.
They remove my
outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body.
What do they
think I could possibly be hiding?

I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me.
“MOVE!” a guard
commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.
Five of us sit in
the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the
rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time
passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door
“Lexi Hamilton.”
A guard escorts
me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door
closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks
to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then, they exit in procession,
and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he
“Don’t move. This
will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.”
A wet cloth that
smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal
collar around my neck.
Click. Click.
The collar locks
into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on
the painted black words above me.

The Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust ¾ Blue
Gluttony ¾ Orange
Greed ¾ Yellow
Sloth ¾ Light Blue
Wrath ¾ Red
Envy ¾ Green
Pride ¾ Purple

 “Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if
you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite
Within seconds,
the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my
head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks.
escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the
temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar.
He removes it and
sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me and I’m on the verge of a mental
and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out.
Stainless steel
counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an
observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young
thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around
like it’s business as usual.
I finally find my
voice and turn to the doctor.
“Are you going to
give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire from my neck to my jaw,
making me wince.
He points to a
set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can
and scurry sideways. Grabbing my new clothes, I pull the shirt over my head and
try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants
around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the
doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name.
“Nothing is
allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says.
I hide my right
hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his
“Give it to me,”
he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to
stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg.
 “My father gave this to me. Please, let me
keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the
golden ring to me.
“It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest
woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand. “Lexi,
you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world
changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the
You can overcome anything…
short of death
 “You’re going to take the one thing that
matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes.
“Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?”
A hard blow falls
upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the
wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty
“Look at me,” he
commands.I look up and
he smiles with arrogance.
“What the hell?”
He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your
“Nothing,” I
respond, confused.
“What color are
“Turquoise.” I
glower at him.
“Interesting,” he
says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.”
Reality slaps me
across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can’t take them from me. I twist
the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand.
“Take the damn
ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides
open to the outside.
“You have to wear
your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a
tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail.
My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to
form. Squinting ahead into the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on
the sidewalk.
 “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving
me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his
“Cole, this is
your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new
home.” The guard departs with a salute.
“Let’s move,”
Cole says.
I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The
unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand.
A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.


Author Bios:
Abi Ketner is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the beaches of St. John, and
her Philadelphia Phillies. A talented singer, Abi loves to go running and
spend lots of time with her family. She currently resides in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania with her husband, triplet daughters and two very spoiled dogs.

Melissa Kalicicki received her bachelor’s degree from Millersville University
in 2003. She married, had two boys and currently lives in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. Aside from reading and writing, her interests include running and
mixed martial arts. She also remains an avid Cleveland sports fan.

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been
best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to
their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging
out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What
started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.



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One thought on “BRANDED by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki ~ Book Trailer Reveal

  1. Very powerful blurb and excerpt! I really identified with Lexi when she was being chased and her emotions. Thanks for the spotlight on this book and the reveal of the trailer.

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