Welcome to the sneak peeks countdown. With the third book of the new series, Backfire, soon to be released on December 12, I'll be posting some snippets from the story to whet your whistles :)
This book has been a long time in the making, so if you're still here, thanks for sticking through.
Some notes before we get to the good stuff... my first series, The Cardinal Series is all completed and available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for free. It's also available for purchase. If you're interested in purchasing a hardcopy set of the first two books, The Cardinal Bird and Cardinal Caged, you can buy the first volume here. This volume is also available in the Kindle Unlimited store if you want to purchase or add to your ten-book Unlimited list to help free up a slot for another great book. I know I always have a hard time trying to cull my book limit. Get the Kindle version here. I've also bundled the second volume of the series to include Cardinal of Hope and The Cardinal Sin. That volume is available here for the Kindle version and the hardcopy version. The third and final volume with Cardinal Rose and The Red Cardinal will be available just as soon as I have a cover for it. I'll make sure to announce it on social media.
One more thing before the preview, I've got the fourth book of the series, In the Line of Fire, up on Amazon, so preorder your copy today!
Backfire, Book 3
Men showed up not even ten minutes later to escort me to the meeting. They spoke not a word, and if Corina hadn’t been looking out for me, I’d have no idea what was going on.
I stumbled along at an awkward trot due to the way the shorter man gripped my forearm. With the sharp heels, I towered six inches over him. Either that pissed him off, and he retaliated by yanking me over in an unbecoming hunch, or he was the most oblivious person in the universe.
My soundtrack of cursing and swearing had the taller one laughing, so my gut had me siding with the first option.
Soon enough, we reached two polished cherry doors that stood out among the refuse of the rest of Rossi’s compound. Similarly, his previous headquarters had donned abandoned disrepair chic outside his office. That space felt like crossing through a portal and straight into luxury living.
These new digs were no different.
One would think he’d desire a less blatant sign of “hey, the boss is here” if enemies ever attacked the place.
But hey, I wasn’t the criminal mastermind, so what did I know? Maybe Rossi lacked competitors in his league to worry about.
The taller guard stepped forward and pulled the lacquered door open with great showmanship. Who knew the bad guys possessed a sense of humor? Not this girl.
I tugged and adjusted the odd outfit once more, wondering why it’d been chosen. It didn’t exactly fit with current styles—even my plaid loving, backwoods self understood that much.
That was all I had time to think before the hobbit yanked me inside, heedless of my fawnlike stumbles in the precariously tall heels. Thankfully, they had gladiator wrapping up the calf to keep them on so I didn’t trip over my own feet.
Inside the room, the marble statues of female figures—the very ones that’d been missing from the sawmill he’d abandoned to give Gamma a bone—stood on new pedestals in the corners. That he’d brought them gave further credence to my initial guess of them being original works and not castings or copies.
The other decor followed the same line of opulence, all the more garish juxtaposed so sharply with the decrepit state of the abandoned building. My eyes lingered on plush chairs, thick carpeting, and a grand desk polished enough to toss a reflection. Rossi sat perched behind it—a power move—with his hands steepled under his chin.
Rossi’s younger hotheaded brother, Giovanni, stood beside him, his arms and legs crossed as he leaned back against the wall with a defiant look on his face. Whereas Paolo Rossi collected beauty but did not personally possess it, Giovanni and Corina did. They were the male and female versions of each other, with enough symmetrical bone structure and glowing complexions to be models.
Luca was on the opposite side of the desk, winging his boss in his standard placing as right-hand man and Rossi’s closest confidant. I hadn’t seen Luca since I’d been here, and that was no hardship considering he’d been in charge of my previous torture before I’d pissed Rossi off.
Giovanni ignored me, but Luca’s attention traveled in my direction, running over my body in a nonsexual, assessing way. He only had eyes for Corina, so he must have been curious about how Dai had carried on in his absence.
A handful of other random people sat fanned out in front of Rossi’s desk, and I had a hunch that the notorious visitor was the one reclined back in an armchair with his hands crossed over his flat stomach as if he didn’t have a care in the world, despite how his eyes scanned the surroundings surreptitiously every few seconds.
In fact, I’d bet my restaurant on that assumption.
The newcomers could easily be grouped together, sharing the same dark hair and olive complexion. I couldn’t put my finger on what, but something about them separated them from the Italians in the room—their bone structure perhaps?
All I knew was that I’d guess they were from somewhere Mediterranean, but not Italy.
Rossi—er, Paolo, since his brother was present—looked up at our entrance and a smug, satisfactory gleam shone in his expression. Whatever scheme he’d worked up, his ace in the hole had just arrived, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it being me.
“Ah, right on time. Thank you, boys. We’ll take her from here. Sasha, I’d like you to meet someone. Come in.”
The bookends bowed out at their dismissal, leaving me bereft in the room full of dangerous men. I prided myself on my intelligence and business acumen, so the timing of Dai’s presence yesterday was no coincidence. He’d paid me a visit to remind me to behave for this exact moment.
Despite fear so strong that it clogged my throat and made it impossible to speak, I stepped forward, playing my part.
Of course, with a new addition, the visitors turned to assess the threat my scrawny figure posed—read: none.
“I’d like you to meet Odysseus Papatonis. Mr. Papatonis, this is Sasha.”
For one who prided himself on formalities, even under the unfavorable conditions of the first time we’d met after I was abducted from my childhood home, I found it odd that Paolo failed to mention my last name.
Papatonis turned to me. He’d been studying his surroundings, but he’d also trusted his men to handle me if I’d been a threat. That was an interesting dichotomy.
I glimpsed his profile before he finished his turn, and it showed a classically handsome man in his forties or fifties. If he was Mediterranean, I’d guess fifties. They aged slower from their healthy lifestyles and diets, like Asians. On closer inspection, his hair shone with light red and golden tints, making it a shade lighter than his counterparts around the room.
That was all I observed, because the second he laid his brown eyes on me, he froze, his rich olive tone paling into a sickly pallor. He murmured in a language that most definitely wasn’t Italian, and it took the long seconds that followed for me to realize he’d addressed me.
I fidgeted in place, terrified of messing up and offending Paolo enough to earn a punishment. “I’m sorry, Mr. Papatonis, but I don’t speak…”
“Greek,” he choked out with a heavy accent. “And please, call me… Odysseus. You—I—yes, call me Odysseus.”
My brow rose at that overt familiarity. Since calling a virtual stranger by his first name when Rossi introduced him with a last felt awkward, I just smiled in response.
His breath caught, his eyes taking a quick run up and down my form before lingering on my feet. The prolonged stare combined with the intense emotion in his gaze stirred fear that he was another man prone to obsession.
When his observation settled back on my face, he frowned, scanning my features. I glanced at Paolo, terrified I’d upset his guest and, therefore, him. Unfortunately, Paolo’s expression only further muddled things. He looked amused as his attention bounced between Papatonis and me.
Swallowing down the lump in my throat, I steeled my nerves. If I wasn’t in trouble, I could do this.
Papatonis studied me in contemplation, some of the more powerful emotions dampened. “I’m sorry, but I believe Mr. Rossi failed to mention your last name.”
So I wasn’t the only one to notice.
“Popova,” Paolo replied before I could. It was no skin off my back. I doubted I could vocalize a decent mumble, let alone audible, sensible words.
I hope you enjoyed it!!