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 of the series, Backfire, up on Amazon, so preorder your copy today!
Baptism by Fire, Book 2
Eli frowned, especially when I made no move to protest the action. “Sasha, what’s wrong?”
“Fucking Rossi got to her somehow,” Rory informed him.
I hadn’t confirmed his earlier assumption, but the stubborn redhead had apparently made up his mind on the subject.
Rossi had shot himself in the foot tonight by snatching me when people were expecting me. If the cat got out of the bag after the conversation the guys all seemed to be gearing up for, he’d have no one to blame but himself. After torturing me and fogging my brain to the point of being useless in the verbal sparring these four men relished putting me through, Rossi had all but served me up on a silver platter. It’d be pushing it just to endure the stairs before passing out in Flint’s warm, comfy, cozy…
“Sasha,” Brien queried, his voice reaching me from the darkness. I blinked my eyes open, disoriented and shocked since I hadn’t recalled closing them. Nor did I remember arriving upstairs.
“Alright, spill it, Popova. We already know you went missing. Your waiter called Eli, freaking the fuck out when you didn’t text her that you’d gotten home all safe and sound.”
So that was how they’d known I’d been gone.
“You failed to answer your phone for anyone. We even checked your parents’ house when Eli could not get into your apartment,” Flint added, his silver gaze locked on mine as he lowered me to the couch. “After we determined you were not there, we spread the search farther.”
Rory was scouring the place for something, grumbling the entire time. “Where the fuck do you keep the blankets, Popova?”
“I don’t have a lot of extra blankets lying around. Terry claimed the ones I had and dragged them off somewhere.”
“Fucking menace,” he grumbled with a glare at the curious canine that’d followed us back up. Rory stomped off toward the bedrooms.
The record of my inner dialogue scratched. “Wait, you swung by my parents’ house? Please tell me they are not out there right now, scared over nothing.”
“You let someone carry you without a fight,” Brien interjected. “That’s not nothing. But no, when we saw your dad’s truck was still missing, we didn’t wake them.”
“Good.” I relaxed back into the familiar texture and smell of the couch. “That’s good.” My mind blanked at the sight of a Looney Tunes comforter bunched in a pile in Rory’s arms. He’d raided the guest bedroom since my own bed, boasting a multicolored assortment of unicorns, had been wet. Unable to help myself, I asked, “What was so important about the blanket that you needed to…”
My voice cut off as he bent to wrap the fluffy bedspread around me, tucking and pinning until just my face remained visible. The hazel color of his eyes stood out this close. I could see a rainbow of colors edging his pupils as they assessed his handiwork. It reminded me of the radiant beauty of the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone. Golden yellow ringed the pupil, cycling through the color spectrum of green, blue, and then ruddy brown on the edges.
With a huff, Rory seemed to declare his cocooning acceptable and plopped on the love seat without a word, breaking me from the hypnotic lure of his irises.
“Um…” Words escaped me.
Eli coughed into his fist, his eyes shining.
Rory avoided my gaze, his expression impassive as if he had no clue he’d shifted my entire world with the thoughtful gesture. Brien and Flint exchanged secret smiles, maybe at my speechlessness.
“I… Thank you?”
“That’s a shitty as fuck thanks, Popova. Haven’t you ever thanked someone before?” Rory grumbled, but the tips of his ears turned red as he crossed his arms over his chest, and he still wouldn’t meet anyone’s gaze.
I cleared my throat and snuggled down until only my eyes showed, like an alligator lurking in the water. “You’re right. Rory Lane, thank you for bringing me this blanket. I was cold.”
He snorted. “That ain’t no shit.” The intensity in his eyes locked me in place. I’d expected him to continue dodging eye contact. “How’d they get to you this time? It happened after Kara’s house, or she wouldn’t have freaked the fuck out. And it wasn’t here, because I’ve been sitting on my ass all night, watching the front. Tell us how they hijacked you from your own goddamned vehicle without any hostages to threaten. Couldn’t you just run them over?”
“What makes you so sure I wasn’t lost without cell service?”
“You mean apart from the fat lip?” he sneered.
I’d forgotten about that. The frigid temperatures had numbed the swollen bruising on my face after Giovanni’s hit.
Rory continued. “And before you say something fucking stupid like ‘I tripped and fell,’ you’re dressed like an overzealous prepper expecting the blizzard of the decade, yet somehow Brien still said your skin was icy. Was it water again?”
An involuntary shiver ripped through my frame, rattling my quaking joints. Even huddled deep in the comforter, twitchy as a jackrabbit, it felt like all the blanket did was reflect the cold temperature of my body instead of warming me up.
Flint hefted me up and slipped himself under my body so he could cradle me against his much larger, warmer form. Even if it was a little heat, it alleviated the uncontrollable chattering.
“You would warm up faster in a bath,” Brien commented, having also picked up on my nonstop shivering.
“No water,” I bit out. There was no point in keeping it a secret. Rory had already shared with the class—helpful, that. I cleared the blubbering hysteria from my throat and spoke in a softer, more controlled tone. “Not tonight anyway.”
“I have learned that another way to warm up is to share body heat,” Flint added, squeezing me for a second with his thick, thick arms.
“You’re doing that, Viking,” I said, tilting my head in confusion and wondering if I’d misheard. Could being unbearably cold cause brain malfunction?
Flint’s calloused fingertip kissed the bottom of my chin and tilted my face up to meet his heated gaze. I swallowed at the dark, intense shade in his silver eyes. He’d heated me up without even uttering a word.
“Yes, but it is more effective without the barrier of clothes separating us,” he intoned, his voice deep and luscious, like a complex, aged wine sipped in front of a lit fireplace.
I was at a loss for what to say.
“Fucking flirt on your own time,” Rory groused, nailing that exclusive put-upon tone every teenager everywhere reserved for when they caught their parents being affectionate, whereas Brien’s “Can we focus?” resembled the exasperated parent attempting to wrangle the short attention span of toddlers.
The juxtaposition of the two had an interesting effect on my libido that’d roused herself awake and put out a half-hearted effort, because who could resist Brien Baxter when he looked and sounded like that? It was a paltry effort at best due to my lack of energy. However, the splash of reality doused my poor lust out of existence.
I didn’t like them. They hurt me.
Flint’s sex drive didn’t care that we weren’t alone—fun. I had to avoid looking at his face to keep from growing awkward or embarrassed, which was a feat in itself while sitting on his lap.
“What were we talking about?” I asked.
They all spoke at once. “Rossi.” “Changing your locks.” “Your fucking torturer.” “Getting naked.”
I needed coffee.
I hope you enjoyed it!!