Welcome to the sneak peeks countdown. With the 6th (and last) book, The Red Cardinal, soon to be released near the end of April, I'll be posting some snippets from the story to whet your whistles :)
I'm sure everyone has a lot going on right now with the upcoming holidays, so if you've made it this far, then I thank you for being here and tuning in.
Now, if you're here, then you are getting excited for the release of The Red Cardinal, book 6 of the Cardinal Series!
Also, as a reminder--if you're interested in purchasing a new 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-books. Get the Kindle version here. Both versions save you some money by bundling :) Plus, it has an amazing new cover design. 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.
Just some old business to bring up, 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 series:
We're finished with the series--for now. People have asked if I'll be making another series with these characters in it, and my answer is undecided. With the finish of each book in my first ever series, the feeling has gone from relief to bittersweet. I know some of you feel the same way. Which is why I can't completely close the lid on further series with Callie and her boys. I've been laying small Easter eggs that would pave the way for further plot, but not be so pressing as to leave us hanging at the end of this book.
But for now, be sure to check out the new series, The Fire Series, with a new cast of characters to learn to love or hate--or both!
The Red Cardinal, Book 6
The truck sprang forward like a pouncing lion. It turned around on the narrow road, offering me a long enough glimpse to see the other man get in the little silver car to follow us.
If they took me far away and ditched the car, Jace and the agents would have no way to track me beyond that—at least, not quickly.
My heart leapt to my throat. “Who are you people?”
“Ah, ah, ah. We’ll be asking the questions here, and we’ll get to that, believe you me, so just sit back and hold onto your belts. This is gonna’ be a bumpy ride.” Not much later, he pulled back onto the driveway I’d just left—the one that led back to Veseli’s cabin.
“What the…” I trailed off before whipping around to him. “Are you Veseli’s guys? The father and the son?”
For the first time, the lunatic version of St. Nick lost his jolly joy. His head jerked my way, and his voice came out sharp. “How do you know about that?”
The CB radio cut me off.
“Yo, Schäfer. We’ve got problems. I found her phone in the floorboard. She was in the middle of a phone call. I hung up, but now this person won’t stop calling her.”
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know. It’s not listed.”
With a penchant for numbers, I thought it’d be safer to not program any of the contacts, but it could only be Jace calling me.
“Who’s calling you?” Schäfer demanded. When I didn’t elaborate, he punched the horn and repeated his question in a pane-rattling volume.
“A friend. He’s just a friend!” I yelped.
“I don’t believe you.” He picked up the microphone. “Nordholm, how many times has he called her?”
Static came through the line. He must’ve been using a portable device to have such a low-quality response right on our tail. “Seven missed calls.”
“You’re fucking with me, right? He’s called damn near ten times in the last four minutes?” He turned to me. “Just a friend, huh?”
“He heard the crash. He’s worried about me.”
I paused before steeling myself. “You’re right. I’m lying. He’s my boyfriend—one of eight to be specific. He’s calling because I’ve been kidnapped so many times that I think he might have PTSD from it. In the next ten minutes or so—likely less due to the PTSD—he’ll show up here with some friends. The car your buddy is driving is a CIA cocktail, loaded to the gills with tracking devices.”
He raised a bushy salt and pepper eyebrow. “You are bullshitting me, but don’t worry. We’ll get the answers outta’ ya.”
The cabin came into view.
“Listen, I’m telling the truth. Your friend could even answer my phone and ask them. They’ll tell you the same thing.”
He slammed the truck in park and studied my expression. After a minute, he swore and jumped out to confer with his partner. With my hands bound in front, I wiggled around to pop my door open.
Their angry voices raised as loud Russian met my ears. They were arguing and blaming each other. The slimmer, younger one, Nordholm from Sweden, talked about changing locations and questioning me there. Bad Santa, Schäfer, jumped right to disposing of me and skipping the country.
“Listen to me!” I yelled.
They paused, turning to face me.
“It’s obvious you’re unrelated, so you’re not the guys that were supposed to meet me here.” The two weren’t even of the same nationality, let alone similar enough to be father and son. “So, how did you find out about this cabin?”
In a blink, Bad Santa went from cherry-faced raging to holding his bowl full of jelly while he laughed. “You think you are in a position to question us? That’s—” he cut himself off as if he couldn’t find a suitably outlandish word to describe my audacity. He turned to his partner. “Can you believe this pint-sized blondie?” He angled his gaze back, all traces of amusement gone. “Listen girlie, how exactly do you know about that father-son bit? And talk fast before the CIA agents get here.”
From the mocking tone, I could tell he didn’t believe me one iota on that last part. “Veseli told me that in Chernobyl, right before he was killed. I’m Callie Jensen.”
Both of their expressions darkened as they exchanged a wordless look.
Nordholm spoke up this time, Swedish accent like a thin coating of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate atop a smooth, caramel voice. “Now see, we have a problem here because there is no father-son duo. It was a gambit Veseli created.”
My head snapped back. “What?”
“You speak English, yes?” Nordholm demanded, switching over seamlessly. His accent was less pronounced in this language. “We’d come up with a thousand strategies over the years as we built our plan. When Veseli knew we’d need more people to help, we came up with this ploy to test traitors.”
Schäfer jumped in to explain this time, speaking slower with slightly less fluent English. “Ivanov has one father-son duo in ranks, Dimitri and Michail Falin.” He growled their names and spit on the snow.
It hit me suddenly that he could be the fifty-something version of Aleks. My heart panged with a breathtaking ache, but I focused through the pain. “I take it that they aren’t good people?”
“Not in the least,” Nordholm promised. “We were certainly happy to set them up as the scapegoats.”
My mind connected the dots. “And because of Ivanov’s burning distrust of familial ties, he wouldn’t hesitate to take them out if someone ratted you out to him.”
Schäfer hooted. “Oh, you are certain to be Callie Jensen. Veseli talk with fondly of you.”
I ignored the clench in my chest at his misuse of the English language. It wouldn’t do to be distracted with thoughts of my Russian. “But why would Veseli tell me that? I don’t understand.”
“That’s where the issue is,” Nordholm answered. “Either he suspected you might be with Ivanov, or he suspected that someone watching you was. And he was right too because Dimitri and Michail are both dead. Ivanov tossed two of his most demented, loyal lapdogs in the tank.”
“So, question is…” Schäfer stepped closer. “Is traitor you or someone else?”
Goosebumps settled over my skin as fear prickled my mind.
If I couldn't convince them that I hadn't betrayed Veseli, what would they do to me?
I hope you enjoyed it!!