Welcome to the sneak peeks countdown. With the second book of the new series, Baptism by Fire, soon to be released on July 1st, 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 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've got the third book, Backfire, up on Amazon, so preorder your copy today!
Baptism by Fire, Book 2
Kara flashed a shit-eating grin. “Hey, I can’t help that we both figured out that the way to get past your walls is by being annoyingly persistent. If you don’t like it, you should just give in easier.”
“Spoken like a true sexual predator,” I ribbed with a laugh.
She shrugged, her robe slipping inches apart. “I am what I am and proud of it. Be careful on those roads, Sash. I know you didn’t drink any of the wine—”
“Despite your best annoyingly persistent efforts.”
“—but these roads are tricky.”
“Text me when you reach the café.”
“I’m serious, Sasha Li! And if you don’t let me know you made it home alright, I’ll call the police. Or maybe the fire station. Is that idea embarrassing enough to get my point across?”
“Sasha.” Her head whipped back as if I’d punched her in the gut, and then in a very sincere voice, she said, “You know me better than that.”
Yes, unfortunately, I did. “I’ll text you.”
Her grin spread with a devilish flair. “I know you will. Imagine me calling all your guy pals down at the fire department just because you got lost like a little kid wandering the store. They’d never let you live that down.”
“And you wonder why I don’t hang out with you more,” I teased before climbing into the truck.
She watched me reverse and waved once I pulled onto the winding driveway leading down the mountain.
It’d been dark on our journey up since the café closed so late on Fridays, but it felt even darker now with the moon settled comfortably on its throne in the sky, denoting the late hour. The pines hugging both sides of the pavement had the white orb playing peekaboo, flashing in and out of sight.
Headlights behind me ruined my night vision, and I had to squint as they lined up with the rearview mirror.
“Heck, dude, turn off your brights,” I griped.
My mutterings didn’t miraculously reach him, and the vehicle only bore down even closer as I navigated one of several hairpin turns we’d taken on the way up.
“Or ease the hell off,” I added uselessly.
I was so busy watching how close the lifted pickup—and that’s what it was because I could make it out with its own beams close enough to reflect back at it from the rear window of Papa’s truck—that I nearly missed the next ninety-degree curve.
I swore and pumped the brakes while veering back into the lane. “Son of a—”
Just around the corner, another massive vehicle sat blocking the way. My lights crossed it at the last second and lit it up like a blaring beacon, flashing across its polished surface.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I screamed. Papa’s brakes held up, barely, and the old juggernaut ground to a juddering stop less than a foot from the person’s tailgate. My hands shook from the force of the two-handed grip I’d taken on the cracked leather steering wheel. Lungs working double-time, I shouted another sincere punctuated, “Fuck!”
I tossed in a couple beeps of the horn for good measure.
A full minute passed before I recognized that my phone had been ringing and I had half a dozen missed calls. It took me three attempts to steady my finger enough for the thumbprint reader to scan. “H-Hello?”
It was Luca. “I want you to follow the truck in front of you.”
My breath wheezed out, and my body couldn’t decide whether to calm down or wire itself up even more. “Rossi’s men! These are Rossi’s guys? You could have gotten me killed! What if I’d swerved to miss him and went over the mountain—again? I bet there’s no conveniently placed river to stop me this time. What then, huh? What then, Luca?”
“You might want to watch your tone.”
“I’m sorry, but would you be able to control your voice if you were almost in a car accident? Shit!”
“Well, excuse the hell out of me for not being a stone-cold killer.”
“Is this more of the American sarcasm you like hiding behind?”
“No, you’re right. I just, shit, don’t pull this stuff on me. My nerves can’t handle it.”
“Rossi wanted your company tonight. He doesn’t care if you’re scared in the process. In truth, he prefers it. He likes to remind people of their place and obligations.”
The good mood Kara had instilled after a few hours of soaking and bantering surrounded by gorgeous mountain views evaporated as if Luca had flipped a switch. “Rossi wants my company? You know how that sounds, right?”
“Would it matter if it was exactly like it sounded? I don’t know if you’ve gotten relaxed in your time since meeting him, and he doesn’t either, which is why he demands that you follow the person in front of you to his new headquarters. The other vehicle will tail you and ensure that you don’t get lost.”
I glanced at the mirror, unable to see much beyond the glaring lights. “Rossi wants to talk about what he needs from me at the fire station tomorrow night, right?”
“Do as you are told.”
It didn’t slip my notice that Luca hadn’t answered my question. Surely Rossi didn’t need me for “company.” As sick as it sounded, a man like him had to have people for that. But, like Luca said, did it matter? What choice did I have?
What a great night this was shaping up to be.