Sneak Peek 3 of The Red Cardinal, Book 6 of the Cardinal Series by Mia Smantz

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Hello all!

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


SNEAK PEEK



I had to stop and swallow down the lump that squeezed my throat in a vice before I could continue. “If he pushed the button that ended Karl and Natasia’s lives, I’ll never be able to forgive him. He could tell me that Ivanov himself threatened his grandmother, and I still wouldn’t. That—”


Everything that had been building up crumbled at that point. I broke down into gut-wrenching sobs. It didn’t register when my shaking, trembling form was pulled against a sturdy chest, but my hands wrapped around the person’s neck on their own as I clung on like a life-preserver in the middle of a gale force storm battling an angry ocean.


Anguish, despair, and grief crashed down in tidal waves as I cried and cried and cried.


“They’re dead,” I croaked through my bouts of tears. With the pounding emotions, I barely had time to breathe, so speaking was sketchy at best. I didn’t know if the words had even come out intelligible—or in English, but the person holding me tightened their grip all the same.


I smelled the citrus of Gojo cleaner and hot metal.


“Jace,” I whimpered, scrambling closer as if he could absorb me inside him where I’d feel safe.


“It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let it all out.” He rubbed circles on my back and kept humming soothing words in my ear.


It calmed me enough that I could speak through shaky hiccups and my painfully constricted chest. “I-I d-don’t kn-know if I-I can-n do this.”


“That’s crazy, Callie, and you know it. Of course you can do this.”


I shook my head and buried my face in his chest.


He ran his fingers through my hair. “Callie, I know I joke around about saving you all the time, but you’re so brave. I don’t know anyone twice your age that could handle what you have and kept on rolling.”


“You-You’re jus-ust saying th-that.”


“I promise I’m not. Would I lie to you? I learned my lesson the first time you messed with my phone, thank you very much.”


A sobbing wobble that sounded like a dying laugh escaped. Jace had used the way I’d reprogrammed his phone's keyboard to produce very vulgar language with each hit. He’d mastered the programming and used it to proposition me. I’d blushed beet red every time. “Now I know you’re ly-lying.”


“Yeah, but it made you smile. At least, I think it did. Either that or you pulled the same face you’d make if you saw a clown kill a spider.”


My nose nuzzled into his sternum as my crying slowed. The repetitious motion of his fingers trailing my spine shifted from soothing to pleasurable.


I pulled my head up, using my sleeve to wipe my face. “Jace?”


Jace’s eyes landed on me before he squeezed them shut with a groan. “Damsel.”


“What?” I asked through a stray sniffle.


His arms tightened. “The one time I’m behaving, I swear.” He opened his lids back up and caught me in his gaze. “When you look at me like that with your big, soulful eyes brimming with hope, I really do feel like your hero. And let me tell you, guys like being the hero.”


I cocked my head in confusion. “But you’ve always been my hero.”


His breath whooshed out in a heave as he closed the distance between us, capturing my lips in an all-encompassing, heat-searing kiss.


I broke contact first because after all my crying I couldn’t breathe through my nose very well. He didn’t let that slow him down.


My mind raced at the direction this had turned. I’d gone from grieving and slotted right into making out.


He paused in the vicinity of my belly button and mumbled against my skin. “And don’t you dare try to tell me this isn’t fair to the team. I’m a guy. I know what’s going through their heads. They’re all going to think we did it like bunnies while we were gone, and they’ll steal you away from me—and—”


“Jace.” I cradled his head closer, running my fingers through his impossibly soft curls.


Since I didn’t think the man trying to have sex with me would appreciate being compared to a poodle, I bit back my pleased hum of surprise. With Herculean effort, I stopped from flat out petting him and shifted my grip to his cheeks to lift his face. When his attention focused on me, I said, “I hadn’t planned to.”


After three full seconds of frozen stillness to process, his breath washed over my stomach where he had slyly finagled my shirt up without me noticing. Goosebumps broke over my skin, and my toes curled.


I closed my eyes as a soft smile curled my lips. “Hmm.”


Jace revived his delicious attack with renewed vigor. As if he’d spun the thermostat, the chill that never seemed to leave the air in a Russian winter, no matter what, dissipated from focus. He pulled the covers down with him at the same time he freed me from of my shirt, but I didn’t notice the cold—not when he restarted his descent at the bend of my jaw, laying kisses on everything between Point A to Point B.


He nipped my hipbone, making me shift and wiggle, trying to align him where I wanted. “You know what the best part is?”


I could tell him what the worst part was—talking when he could be doing so many other things. “No,” I whined, shifting my hips again.


His head dropped as he placed a wet, sloppy kiss right at the top of my pants. He curled his fingers in the band and slowly dragged them down, chuckling at the eager enthusiastic noise that slipped from my throat.


When he’d gotten both pants and panties free, he settled himself between my legs, pushing me open with his shoulders. He studied the view before him like he could do it for hours and not grow bored. His eyes lifted to mine after a minute. The dark intent melted the brown into delicious, gooey chocolate—sinful and decadent. I wanted to luxuriate in his heated gaze despite the risk of getting burned. “The last time we started something, the Cardinals and Aleks interrupted us.”


Some haze-filled lust eased back as mischievousness stole over. I flashed an impish grin. “In all fairness, I don’t think either would’ve minded if we’d kept going.”


His jaw dropped. He popped his hand on the outside of my hip with a stinging slap, making me yelp and jerk. “You’re a cheeky one tonight.”


“Mm.” I smiled as the slight pain shifted into pleasure. “I’m only defending their honor since they can’t do it themselves. You accused them of interrupting when I recall at least two of them telling us to carry on.”


Jace pushed up from his elbows and slid his clothed body over mine. Clothing, no matter how fine, always seemed to be rougher than bedding, so by the time his face hovered above mine, I was breathless from the feel of the material rubbing and gliding along all my exposed, tender parts. It’d been akin to being caressed by a dozen calloused hands.


Or maybe sixteen calloused, masculine hands, the devil in my mind purred. My legs clamped around his narrow hips at the lascivious thought.


Jace smirked and leaned down to tug my bottom lip between his teeth. He dragged them over the plump flesh until it popped back out, swollen and about fifty times more sensitive than before.


“So, you’re into exhibition now? Because as I recall it, you were pretty embarrassed back then.” He ran his nose up my cheek and skimmed along the ridge. “In fact, you couldn’t run from the room fast enough.”


“What can I say? I’m a changed woman.”


He stared at me for a second before he shook his and tickled my sides. I squealed and batted at his hands.


“You’re something else. And I’ll keep your new showman tendencies in mind for next time.” Something in his gaze emerged that reminded me of the devious prankster that’d been dormant for a long time. I’d almost forgotten it even existed.


At first, I grew weary, wondering if I was about to put myself in the middle of another prank battle. Corbin and Jace had joined forces before they were on the same team. This time would be any different now that they’d officially merged into one unit.


Then, the same character trait that’d brazenly pranked the two right back, raised its head, and I realized I wouldn’t mind going head to head with those two. My abdominals clenched as my torso lifted from the bed, so I could whisper in his ear. “Promises, promises.”



END EXCERPT




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