Welcome to the sneak peeks countdown. With the first book of the new series, Setting Fire, soon to be released on September 30th, I'll be posting some snippets from the story to whet your whistles :)
If you're here, then you are getting excited for the release of Setting Fire, book 1 of the Fire Series!
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 ten-book limit. Get the Kindle version here. Soon, I'll be bundling the second volume of the series to include Cardinal of Hope and The Cardinal Sin as well as Cardinal Rose and The Red Cardinal. I'll make sure to announce it on social media.
One more thing before the preview, I created the pre-order for the next book so that I could include the link within the current book, but I haven't been promoting it. But, here it is, the next book in the series:
Setting Fire, Book 1
This was bad.
Who could I call? Who could I trust?
A lightbulb went off in my head.
“I—you know, Evelyn, I think I will call your son. You’ve convinced me. Is his phone number the same?”
Mrs. Baxter looked startled. Her mouth bobbed open and shut like a fish. “I—why, yes. It is the same.”
I got up to make my way to the kitchen, instructing one of the regulars to holler at Eli if someone needed me.
Eli glanced at the familiar sound of the revolving door swishing open and swinging shut. I held up my phone in response to his silent inquiry.
Outside in the alley, I made sure to look around before tucking myself into a small alcove between two of the buildings.
With shaking fingers, I dialed a number I’d deleted from my phone but still recalled by heart.
It rang through to voicemail.
A frown marred my features. I hung up before it asked me to leave a message. My teeth gnawed on my bottom lip in indecision.
“To hell with it,” I declared and dialed him again.
The phone rang four times, and just when I figured that it would go through to the messaging service once more, it was answered, though not by the person I’d been hoping for.
“Sasha Popova. Well, you’ve got some brass balls calling this line. I have to admit, I didn’t think you’d do it.” The devil-may-care voice grated on my nerves. “Why don’t you just leave Brien alone so he can move on from you?”
I knew that voice almost as well as Brien’s. I should have guessed he might be hanging around. He came to the café to eat lunch with Brien every single day. What had Kara called him? The mean redhead.
A sigh escaped me. “Rory, I don’t have time for this. I need you to put Brien on the line, now.”
My head jerked back as if physically struck. “What?”
“You heard me, doll.”
“Don’t call me doll.”
“Don’t call me Rory.”
“It’s your name.”
“Not anymore. Got it official and everything. It’s Roy now.”
“Whatever secures your masculinity.”
“Fuck you too, Sasha.”
I ignored his quip. “I’m being serious though. Put Brien on the line.”
“I was being serious too. I’m not putting him on. No dice, ain’t happenin’.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. I could almost picture Rory—sorry, Roy—across from me, wearing that infuriating lopsided smirk as he flashed a condescending look my way that belied the playfulness of his deep dimples and smattering of freckles.
“Look, I’m sorry, Roy. I was abrupt earlier. I know we don’t like each other—”
“Understatement of the year, considering the cold shoulder you’ve been giving my boy.”
I looked heavenward and prayed for patience.
“Listen here, you jerk. Put Brien on right now, or I swear that every meal you eat at the café from now on will be served with a side of something extra.”
“Ooh, tell me more.”
“Just put him on!” I snapped, tensing as my voice echoed up and down the alley.
My eyes darted around to see if anyone had heard my outburst. Would a gang of smugglers rain down on me in a hail of gunfire?
I let out a small breath when that didn’t happen.
“Listen here, doll, my answer is nooo. Got it? Do you need me to repeat it again? Because I can. I like telling your spoiled ass no. N-o, no. I will not be putting Brien on the phone.”
“It’s Roy,” he gritted out. “Look, we’ll be there in thirty minutes for our normal lunchtime anyway. Just grow some class and talk to him face-to-face then.”
“Besides, even if I was willing to give him the phone—which I’m not—he’s busy right now taking care of something important. It’s the reason I have his phone in the first place. So buzz off.”
He ended the call before I could splutter out a response.
I stared at the phone in shock for a minute or two before I stuffed it in my pocket.
My back hit the damp wall as I pushed my hair out of my face.
I couldn’t call the police.
If I called my dad, he might ignore my protests and go directly to the sheriff.
No one else in town worked with the government except for Brien, Rory, and their Viking god friend, as Kara had dubbed him.
I had no choice.
Yanking my phone back out, I gritted my teeth and dialed the number once more.
It barely rang once before it was answered.
I’d made him angry.
Good, then we matched.
I didn’t give him a chance to talk.
“Listen the fuck up!” I barked. “There are some bad people in my café right now, and I don’t know who else to call. They were throwing around names from the police department, so I couldn’t call 911. And not that I trust you—like, at all—but you at least work for the government in some capacity or another.”
I took a deep breath before continuing my rant.
“Now, you seem to care about Brien, at least as much as you can care about anyone but yourself, so I should tell you that Brien’s mom happens to be sitting not ten feet from these dangerous men. I…”
My tirade trailed off as I picked up on the sound of laughter filtering through the speaker.
The phone shifted and became muffled as if he were talking to someone else. “Oh man, you should hear this chick. You know the one Brien is always moping over? She’s gone off the deep end. I swear. It’s the most hilarious thing ever.”
“Here,” Rory continued, his voice still somewhat muffled but clearly intelligible. “I’ll put it on speaker. Listen.”
The clicking of someone tapping at the screen sounded before Rory spoke up once more, his voice much clearer now. “I’m sorry, doll. Could you repeat that? We’ve got some bad reception. You must have cut out on that last part.”
“Listen, I know you don’t believe me, but I can name names. I heard—”
“No offense, Sasha, but why would any criminals, as you called them, speak about something like that in the middle of your café of all places? It makes no sense.”
“Because they didn’t realize anyone would understand them! They were speaking in Mandarin.”
That earned a moment of hesitation from Rory’s end of the line, but then he laughed it off. “Oh, right. How’d I forget? The adopted kid with a Chinese mom and Russian dad.”
“Don’t be an asshole, Rory Lane. Are you going to put Brien on or what?”
“Look, even if I believed you weren’t overreacting—like always—let’s say I bought into the fact that there might be—what were they?”
“I don’t know. They sound like gang members. They have a boss, and one mentioned they left the Triad.”
Someone snorted and tried to hide it behind a cough. I thought it was Rory, but I didn’t know who he had listening on speakerphone, so it could have been from them just as easily.
“Right,” Rory said in a mock-serious voice. “The Triad. Members of the Triad, China’s most bloodthirsty and organized gangs just so happened to drop into the middle of your small-town café?”
“Ex-members,” I corrected lamely, realizing how outlandish it sounded now that he was mocking me.
“Anyway, say I believed you. Brien’s still busy at the moment. I wasn’t lying. That’s not my jam.”
“No, you just put on a charade and leave when things get too deep for your delicate state.”
“I’m going to hang up,” he warned in a dead voice. “You can either tell me everything you heard, and if I think it’s plausible, I’ll pass along the message, or you can hang up and tell Brien yourself when we show up for lunch in twenty.”
The back door opened, drawing a curse from me as I spun to face it. I held the phone to my shoulder.
It was just Eli. He tilted his head. “Hey, I got an order ready for you. You okay, boss?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just leave it at the pick-up window, and I’ll be inside in a second.”
“Sure thing.” He ducked back inside the café, allowing my heart to settle a little.
I half expected the call to have ended during the short exchange. Rory didn’t have the most patience in the world. To my immense surprise, though, the call was still connected. “Rory? You there?”
“What’s wrong, Sasha? Were you scared that it was the big, bad Triad coming to get you?”
“No,” I denied hotly, though it was definitely the truth. “It was just my cook, Eli.”
That seemed to give Rory some pause. “Wait, Sasha, where are you exactly?”
“I’m in the alley out back. I didn’t want anyone to overhear.”
His tone sounded perturbed. “Why in the love of all that’s holy are you out cowering behind your own restaurant? That’s not the bold as brass Sasha Popova I know.”
How well did you really know me when you left me high and dry in the middle of my first date?
I didn’t voice that out loud though. Instead, I picked up where I left off. “Anyway, the two guys were talking about how they left the Triad to join this guy, Paolo” —I sent a mental thank you to my memorizing strategy— “and—”
“Whoa, back up the truck there, doll. Repeat that name for me one more time.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.” He paused and then swore. “Fuck.”
I hope you enjoyed it!!