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
Ice slithered down, coiling and curling everything into a frosty freeze.
A quick glance showed the rest of the forest suffered from a similar fate. The trunks of the trees were deep indigo, intermixed with swirls of violet. Ice coated their bark, sparkling in the moonlight. Their boughs were weighed down with thousands of unique icicles, twinkling in the beams of light that filtered through the thick canopy of barren branches. The beauty equaled its deadliness.
As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but endless, frozen trees bearing this danger in silence.
It was a winter wonderland.
The need to flee rose within me, but my feet remained planted.
The wind whistled its way between trunks and brambles. It tickled the ice and coaxed it into a mesmerizing, playful dance. A smile pulled at my lips as I watched.
The breeze tugged at the ends of my chestnut locks—tinted purple in the cool hues that only appeared in the dead of night under a pale full moon—making them bounce and frolic.
I laughed and combed my fingers through my hair, hissing at the burn. With a quick intake of breath, I yanked them away and stared down at them. A spike of fear needled my heart at the sight.
The tips glittered blue with fast forming blisters that pulsed with excruciating, blinding pain.
I stumbled back a step as a gasp escaped. The heel of my foot crunched on something spiky—frozen blades of grass as sharp as tacks. Alarm continued to rise. All around, unbearable cold overtook the ground. Crackles and fractures rose in a cacophony of sounds as the frost closed in. It coated the thicket and undergrowth in a translucent, sparkling white layer between one breath and the next.
Awestruck, I watched it encroach closer, wasting precious seconds before I snapped out of my trance and reacted to the danger.
With my heart rate increasing, I turned to run. My bare feet barely made a sound as they pounded the forest floor, scrambling to keep away from the impending ice.
Tangles of briars caught at the flimsy nightgown I wore. Scores and nicks lined my exposed arms, but I didn’t slow.
If I did…
Branches stretched out to block my path, forcing me to hunch to get through. The tiny twigs sliced like razors as they whipped across my forearms. After a particularly rough gauntlet of continuous pain, I broke through the dense copse of trees, finally able to see farther than a yard in front of me.
My breath came in gasping pants. No matter how fast I ran, it wasn’t enough.
Instinctively, I realized I couldn’t let the cold reach me. With more breathing room, I glanced over my shoulder to determine if I’d put some distance between myself and the danger.
The thick gathering of trees I’d just cleared shook and trembled before the frost burst through with a vengeance. My eyes widened as my heart skipped a beat.
I picked up my pace.
The wind grew stronger, howling with ferocity. The playful manners and dancing swirls were long gone, and in its place was a riptide that tangled my lengthy locks and blocked my vision. My shoulder crashed into the frozen trunk of a tree, spinning me from the impact.
With one hand, I swiped my hair away, desperate to see. The wind fought back, though, pulling and tugging on the thin nightgown.
The ominous cracks and creaks of the deadly cold as it overtook the forest in its pursuit gave me the strength to fight through the gale force wind. That seemed to anger the cold weather. It emitted a high-pitched shriek that nearly made my ears bleed. I wanted to muffle the noise with my palms, but if I moved them from my hair, I’d be signing my death warrant.
The wind switched tactics. It targeted the trees higher up instead.
I spared a moment to glance up, cautiously easing my hands away and using them to pump me forward. I knew how to run, having been on the track team in school. My long legs meant I was fast, but no matter how hard I ran, it didn’t seem to be enough.
High in the treetops, something alarming caught my attention. The thousands of icicles that had appeared magical before in the twinkling moonlight now took on a lethal role.
The wind shook and agitated the branches with mighty force. After enough effort, the first icicle dislodged, plummeting down with sharp intent like a knife hurled through the air.
I side-stepped, almost tripped over a gnarled root, and dodged the icicle. Against all odds, it lodged a staggering two inches deep into the frozen dirt. As if it had been the catalyst to rouse all the others, the deadly ice broke free, assaulting the earth with needlelike weapons.
There were too many to avoid. Some hit me, puncturing my skin and making me see starbursts of pain. My arms rose to shield my head, but I still ran. All over, icicles littered the overgrown path like rusted nails sticking hazardously out of a dilapidated floor. Without shoes to protect me, my feet left a trail of blood in the sparkling snow.
I switched course, angling toward an opening in the trees where the brightness of the moon seemed to beckon me.
The wind whistled, and branches clashed against each other, making me deaf to the frost. Gauging how close it was became impossible. Ice shards continued to rain down on me. One hit my temple, and I felt a trickle of warmth as blood trailed down my ear and cheek.
“Come on!” I screamed at the midnight sky, focusing on nothing but getting out of this godforsaken woodland.
Closer to the shaft of light, I realized it was the edge of the woods instead of a small clearing like I’d first assumed. This motivated me and helped block out the pain.
The entity of the frosted forest must have sensed my intent and impending escape. The branches twisted and shifted, interlocking and blocking out my sliver of hope the opening had represented.
“No,” I gritted out.
My will crashed down around my ankles. I spun in a circle, desperate for another solution, but there was none. Only a scant distance of thirty feet separated me from the steadily creeping frost.
I squared my shoulders as determination set in. Either I waited here to die, or I took my chances with the branches.
With renewed vigor, I darted for the edge of the woods. Without slowing, I lowered my head like a charging bull and plowed through the thick vegetation. It was total blackness. Twigs, sharp as a whip, slapped and sliced, but I carried on. Stopping now would be suicide.
At one point, it crossed my mind to worry if I’d gotten turned around or was still angled in the right direction, but the thought didn’t have time to fester. With a gasp, I broke free.
My nightgown was in tatters with blood staining the gossamer material, but I was free.
That elation lasted a fraction of a second.
I backpedaled hard with the realization that I was bolting full speed toward a cliff.
Ice and loose rocks coated the dirt, and traction escaped me. I slipped and slid with my stomach in my throat and my arms windmilling. The wind had chosen that moment to stop pushing against me, so I didn’t have its assistance to avoid my impending demise.
The edge met me, and the view was terrifying. I balanced over a gorge so high that it was impossible to gauge. It had to be thousands of feet deep. Small pebbles broke free and bounced down the cliff, and after ten seconds of free-falling, they still hadn’t reached the bottom.
That last motivating sight gave me the energy to shift my body and collapse backwards to the frozen ground.
Not knowing how thin the shelf was, I scrambled away before standing. Trees blocked the way in all directions, and the other side of the ravine spanned over fifty feet away.
With mounting resignation, I glanced down and took in the steep rock face that formed the icy blue canyon walls. A shimmering glint caught my eye. I squinted. So far down that I’d missed it the first time, a winding river carved its way through the land at the bottom of the gorge. It appeared luminescent under the moonlight.
The moon, which had drawn me here to begin with, seemed to hover right next to me as if I could reach out and touch it. It’d lured me into a trap. I no longer trusted its enticing beauty.
I was stuck.
Cracks and hisses captured my attention from behind, as if the frost had wanted to announce its prowling presence. With trepidation, I turned to face the incoming threat.
It didn’t wait for an invitation. It inched forward, bit by frostbitten bit.
I eased away. My heel caught midair, reminding me of the cliff.
There was nowhere left to go.
If one thing terrified me more than the cold, it was heights. Resigned, I decided to face my fate.
By the time I’d turned around, the frost had reached my bare feet.
Agony shot through my veins and up my ankles, drawing a startled gasp from my throat. If the frost hadn’t rooted me to the chilly dirt, I might have stumbled over the edge despite my resolve.
It was an odd sensation to feel my skin as it iced over, inch by grueling inch.
My veins seized, and my blood stopped flowing in the affected areas, making me lightheaded and breathless. Muscles frosted into brittle strings of sinew that would break with the wrong movement.
The bones in my legs fractured with each section that succumbed to the unstoppable cold. The searing pain felt like someone had dumped liquid fire into my bloodstream. I expected to see the world’s worst case of frostbite when I glanced down at my useless legs, but only more of that deadly, beautiful blue sparkled back at me in the mesmerizing moonlight.
By the time it reached my stomach, I’d begun to hold my breath to avoid shattering into a million glittering pieces.
My fingertips, which had already been burned, pulsed with excruciating pain once more. I lifted them to see the frost had worked its way along my arms as well, spreading so fast that my limbs froze in place where I’d brought them up to examine them.
The cold still pressed forward, struggling to claim my heart, but it encroached on all sides now, dropping from the crown of my head.
My chestnut locks morphed into a silvery purple. The skin on my forehead split and cracked as the chill carried on until it iced over my eyes, making them an even eerier light blue than normal. With my vision robbed, all I could focus on was the pain as the frost continued to battle at the core of my heat—my heart.
It thumped furiously, illogically, since the blood had frozen in my veins, but it carried on, tethering me to life with all its might.
Cracking, louder than before, caught my attention.
The ground lurched, making my icy brain spin in vertigo.
My world tilted back, and I realized that the fragile cliff edge was giving way and taking me with it.
What would kill me first?
My heart jumped as gravity won, and I was free-falling, blind and powerless to turn and look.
The beat picked up, but then it slowed.
Without my vision, I was unable to tell how far I’d fallen. I wasn’t sure if I was praying for the cold or the fall to win the battle.
If my vocal cords hadn’t been a solid chunk of ice, I would have screamed.
With the force of a semitruck, my body crashed into something. It felt so solid that I mistakenly believed I’d struck the side of the cliff. However, as the liquid seeped over, dragging me down, it became clear that I’d landed in the river so far down below.
The violent water sucked me down to the riverbed. It thawed my eyes enough so I could see the distorted light of the moon staring down through the water, as if it’d followed me to the bottom of the ravine to bear witness to my icy death.
The frost slowly overtook my heart. It wouldn’t be long. It had won the battle.
I hope you enjoyed it!!