top of page

Sneak Peek 3 of In the Line of Fire, Book 4 of the Stillwind Series by Mia Smantz

Hello all!

Welcome to the sneak peeks countdown. With the fourth book of the new series, In the Line of Fire, soon to be released on May 1st, I'll be posting some snippets from the story to whet your whistles :)

This book was originally going to be released in April, and I have to admit that it's been sitting on my computer waiting for me to go through the edits my amazing editor got back to me so quickly. I try to do a release every four months, and book 3 came out in December...

I apologize in advance. My attention got sucked into a reading spree. It happens.

Because of that, there shouldn't be as long of a wait-time for book 5, On Fire, to release. I'm hoping for an August release if I stay focused this summer.

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 fifth book of the series, On Fire, up on Amazon, so preorder your copy today!

In the Line of Fire, Book 4


With a great sigh, I flopped back onto my bed, and not even a second later, Brien joined me.

“I don’t care if you two have graduated now,” Papa hollered up the stairs. “That door better not be shut, Sasha Li Ruslanova Popova.”

Brien snickered, even though Papa’s random comments like that didn’t bother me anymore. I’d long since given up being embarrassed around Brien. We’d been through too much together.

I didn’t deign to reply to Papa’s warning. He’d either storm upstairs and pointedly open the door, or Mama would wrangle him in line. She’d been giving Brien and me increasing amounts of leeway when we hung out alone.

Come to think of it, so had Mrs. B.

“Can you believe we’re finished with high school? That last semester dragged on,” Brien said, getting up to prop the door open because he was respectful that way. He rejoined me, staring up at the ceiling with the fairy lights we’d strung up one endless, rainy afternoon in sixth grade. They randomly crisscrossed like we’d been recreating a mission impossible laser obstacle for the spindly spiders chilling in the corners of my room.

“Right? It was funny when York flipped his robe up and flashed the gym. Did you see Mr. Tincher’s face? He looked like a sun-dried tomato, all wrinkled and red.”

Brien laughed. “For some reason, when he told me his plans, I didn’t figure he meant he was entirely naked under there.”

“I don’t see why. He never did anything by halves.”

Brien rolled his eyes. “Oh, wise one, how could I forget you know everything in your infinite wisdom? Should I have gotten up and consulted you in the middle of the graduation ceremony as soon as he shared his plans with me?”

“Why, yes. It was lame they wouldn’t let us sit together. If you moved after they started, what would Mr. Tincher have done? Stopped the procession and taken the time to scold you? Pfft. Not with all those parents watching.”

Brien nodded. “Okay, fair point. I kind of wish I had now. That was a missed opportunity.”

“Exactly. Instead, I had to listen to Rory Lane and his friends carry on in the row in front of me. It was awful.”

Brien paused, his hand reaching for mine. “Did they bother you?” His voice barely broke the quiet, but it possessed a menacing quality.

“No,” I admitted, feeling the weight of his gaze. “They acted like I wasn’t even there. Who knows? Maybe they are maturing now that school is over.”

My reply remained carefully neutral. While I had broken down one day and revealed having troubles with them, I’d never shared the full extent of it with Brien. The last thing he needed was the small-minded principal, Mr. Tincher, throwing him out for beating up the group of boys. Despite the zero tolerance for bullying, they’d likely only have gotten a slap on the wrist for being involved in sports, so I kept my recount of Rory and his posse limited to some petty name-calling.

My parents had demanded further explanation since they’d seen me when I came home distraught. I told them Rory’s buddies cornered me and cracked eggs over my head. By some miracle, Brien had been at basketball practice that day—the coach recruited him, assuming he’d be great at the game because Brien was just shy of six feet tall and black. To the coach’s consternation, Brien wasn’t the best player on the team, but he made an excellent captain, so he’d stuck with the extracurricular to add on college applications—fat lot of good that would do now.

If he hadn’t been otherwise engaged, Brien would have taken one look at me and known that wasn’t all that’d happened, especially since the excuse I gave my parents for arriving home late—hanging out with Brien—wouldn’t have flown over too well with the boy in question.

“Good,” Brien said, giving my hand a squeeze. “That’s good to hear.”

“Hmm,” I hummed noncommittally. He’d probably think it was weird if I shared that I was rooting for them to grow up and be divorced, deadbeat alcoholics. Brien would definitely detect something and interrogate me on it. Instead, I studied our clasped hands.

He noticed the focus of my attention and gave another squeeze.

My breath caught at the contained strength in his grip and how his long fingers slotted so easily with mine. Maybe it was the nostalgia of recalling childhood memories, or maybe it was the action of looking ahead to the future that sent my thoughts shifting from friendship to something stronger and a little more heart pounding. Either way, his hand suddenly stood out as so manly.

I lifted my gaze to study him—really study him. While the childish good looks remained, his overall appearance had shifted subtly, as if life had taken an adult filter and amped up his facial features to scream out, “I am man. Hear me roar.”

His jaw, cheeks, nose, and chin had broadened with time. His dark, soulful eyes held the same mirth and amusement, but they’d also acquired a weight to them gained only by experience, tragedy, and time. Losing his dad had aged him in a lot of respects, especially when he had to help care for his mom in the immediate aftermath.

“What?” he asked, wearing an all too familiar half smile on a face that felt unexpectedly strange.

My pulse stuttered.

His voice!

How had I not noticed his voice? When did it get so damned deep?

“I…” My eyes trailed down to his lips, full and plump.

Brien’s frown disappeared. Between one blink and the next, he leapt from the bed and began pacing back and forth while pulling at imaginary hair since he always kept his buzzed close to avoid an afro. “No. No, no, no, no, no. Sasha!” He spun on me. “Why? Why now? You know I enlisted. I leave tomorrow! All this time…” He shook his head. “I waited for some sign from you for so long! Why would you do this to me now?”

He liked me too?

Brien liked me.

My heart pitter-pattered a little dance against my rib cage. Still, his words tempered the rising jitters of excitement. “I’m sorry,” I rasped.

Brien let out an almost animalistic groan before he gave up pacing and closed in on me with unerring precision. I met him halfway so that he was hunched over my prone form when our lips brushed in a slip of a move as old as time itself. The weight of years of interactions and knowledge added to the intensity.

This was Brien!

The kiss stole both our breaths, even though it lasted a handful of seconds.

His hands curled around the nape of my neck as his thumbs traced and tickled the shells of my ears. He propped his forehead against mine, reluctant to put space between this new, fragile thing between us. “How can I possibly leave you now?”

A shaky laugh escaped me, and I tilted my face up to steal another peck just to see if I imagined all the spark. I hadn’t. “Well, for starters, you signed a contract with the government, and I’m pretty sure they court-martial for less. Second, you can go because I’ll still be here when you get back.”

His eyelids closed slowly, as if he were in pain. “You promise?”

“I promise.” My thick voice matched his. He’d only mentioned his fear about dying once, and then he never brought it up again. That didn’t mean I missed the faraway look in his eyes from time to time since making things official with the military and veering off from the collegiate path, so we both understood the unspoken, “What if I don’t return?”

My hands fisted his shirt. “Listen, Brien. You go do what you have to do. You do whatever it takes to get home. Do that, and I’ll be here. Who knows, maybe I’ll open that restaurant I was always joking about.”

He laughed, and if it sounded just a tad bit watery, I didn’t call him out on it. “Okay. Deal. And Sasha? Let’s not tell our parents.”

“Why not? They’ve been colluding together on this for years.”

“It’s hard enough on Mom that I’m leaving in the first place.”

She’d also never fully recovered from losing the love of her life, intending to cherish and carry their love to the grave.

He didn’t have to say that out loud for me to get it.

I squeezed his hand. “Agreed. It’ll be our little secret.”

His returning smile was beautiful. “I can’t believe we shared our first kiss on this god-awful unicorn blanket.”


I hope you enjoyed it!!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page