Sneak Peek 4 of Setting Fire, Book 1 of the Fire Series by Mia Smantz

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Hello all!

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:



Book 2 of the Fire Series by Mia Smantz Baptism by Fire
Book 2 of the Fire Series by Mia Smantz Baptism by Fire









Setting Fire, Book 1


SNEAK PEEK


I entered the apartment.

I let out a sigh at the warm, floral scent that greeted me. It felt good to be home before dark for once. Kara had been right to force me up here for some relaxation.

A small bowl carved from pine held my keys, but that was about as organized as my personal life got. It was hard enough juggling all the responsibilities of a restaurant with two employees. My orange Converse sneakers were toed off halfway down the entryway, my sweater landed haphazardly over the back of the worn, tattered sofa, and my hair pins ended up strewn across the kitchen island.

I scratched my scalp with my nails as I collapsed back onto the couch.

“This is heaven,” I groaned as all the tension melted away.

I reached for the remote to turn on the TV, not to watch, but for the ambience, when a loud noise caught my attention.

My apartment consisted of a combined kitchen and living room, and two bedrooms with a shared bathroom, so it wasn’t hard to pinpoint where the sound had come from.

I stared down the darkened hall that led to the three rooms I hadn’t been to yet.

My heart raced as I crossed over to the coat rack that never got used and grabbed a Cookie Monster umbrella. I wielded it like a weapon as I approached the hall that seemed to stretch an impossible distance, considering it only had three doors.

I chickened out before entering, slipping to the side and leaning back against the wall. “Come on, get a grip,” I whispered.

It crossed my mind to phone for help or, hell, go downstairs and grab Eli to investigate.

“No, Sasha. Papa’s had a long enough day, as have the rest of the fire department, and Eli will never let you hear the end of it if it turned out to be something stupid.” I gave myself a pep talk, squared my shoulders, and entered the hallway, the Sesame Street umbrella held aloft and ready to take on any attackers.

The bathroom door was open already, so a quick reach in had the lights turning on and robbing my night vision. I blinked and squinted, easily able to tell no one was hiding in there unless they were squatting in the bathtub behind the kitty and butterfly shower curtain.

I adjusted my sweaty grip on the umbrella.

“One down, two to go.”

Deciding to check the guest room next, since it would be a lot neater than my bedroom, I crossed the hall and eased that door open. It creaked like it was auditioning for a part in a cliché horror movie, not helping my nerves at all. I was so jumpy that I leaped into the room and knocked my knee against the wall in my haste to scramble for the light switch.

My eyes ran over the bare walls, the double bed covered in a Looney Tunes bedspread, and the empty nightstand. No one jumped out to stab me, so I figured I was in the clear.

After checking the closet, I trudged back to the hallway and faced the door to my room.

“This is it, Sasha. You can do it. C’mon. And now. Now. And… now.” My feet remained rooted firmly in place.

I shook my head at my overreaction.

“This is stupid,” I declared and decided to return the umbrella to the stand.

In the middle of turning, something loud crashed to the ground behind my bedroom door.

“Fuck!” I cried and bolted for the stairs, fleeing the apartment.

I burst through the door, panting and out of breath, immediately drawing Eli’s attention.

He dropped the plate and spatula to the counter when he read my fear. “What’s wrong?” he demanded, pushing his sleeves up to his elbows and marching my way.

“Up-upstairs. Loud noises. In my bedroom. Some sort of monster, I think.”

Without another word, he took me by the shoulders, pushed me aside, and took the stairs three at a time.

I bit my lip in indecision, wondering if I should call the police.

The revolving door swung open, and Kara stuck her head through. “Hey, Eli, where’s the food? Mrs. Carson and her henpecked husband are getting antsy—Sasha?” Her eyes scanned me up and down, then she peeked out at the diners before stepping fully into the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”

“I went upstairs to relax like you said, and there were these loud noises, and—”

Kara held her hand up. “Whoa, slow down there, Earnhardt Jr. Try that last sentence again, but maybe take breaths between phrases so I can understand it this time.”

I repeated my words, noting the sheepish look that stole over her face. She glanced down at her foot as she toed the cabinet she’d stopped beside.

My eyes narrowed into slits.

“What did you do?” I demanded.

She glanced up, heaving in a big breath to confess to whatever sin she’d committed, but she didn’t get the chance to finish.

Lumbering footsteps descended the stairs, drawing my attention. I turned back to the doorway in time to see Eli exit, cradling a little ball of fluff tucked into one of his elbows.

“I found your terrifying monster,” he rumbled, barely holding back his mirth.

The little black fluff sat up and blinked. Only then did I realize that it had eyes and could move and… had been in my apartment!

I whirled on Kara, pointing my finger in accusation. “This was your doing, wasn’t it?” I demanded, and her half-hearted smile spoke volumes. “Why did you put a dog in my apartment? Wait, how did you get into my apartment? I had it locked!”

“Fun fact,” Kara started, going for a joke. “Did you know that if you jiggle the handle to your apartment enough that the door just, poof, pops on open?”

I folded my arms. “No, I didn’t know that fun little fact, but I’ll be remedying that in the future. I don’t even want to know how you figured that out. All I care about is the dog that nearly gave me a heart attack. Explain. Now.”

“Don’t get mad—”

“Does anyone ever not get mad when someone starts a sentence that way?” Eli asked in amusement, chuckling as the little black ball of fluff jumped to lick his chin.

Kara tilted her head. “You know, that’s a good question—”

“That I don’t care about,” I interrupted. “Talk before Stillwind finds itself missing an art student.”

She let out a nervous laugh. “Well, you see… remember how I was complaining about needing more money, but you said you couldn’t give me any more hours?”

“You better not be trying to blame whatever this is on me,” I cautioned, folding my arms and tapping my foot that I just realized was clad only in a sock. I’d been so scared, I hadn’t bothered with shoes.

“I’m not! Well, not really—just, I asked another student from my painting class if he’d like to move in and split rent with me. It solved my money issue. I didn’t have to get a second job, and you didn’t have to take out another mortgage on the café to pay for more hours.”

“I hadn’t planned to,” I deadpanned. “I’m still failing to see how this all connects to a dog.”

“His name is Terry the Terror,” she supplied rather unhelpfully.

Eli hefted the bread loaf sized dog up with a small laugh. “I think you mean Terry the Terrier.”

Kara scowled at him and opened her mouth before pausing. She nodded as her eyes flicked my way. “Yes, I did mean terrier. Slip of the tongue.”

“I don’t care if you call him the Duke of Earl. What’s he doing in my apartment?”

“Right, well, you see, it turns out that my roommate is allergic to dogs. Who would have figured? And—”

It was my turn to hold up a hand. “No, wait, let me guess. This roommate of yours is really cute, and you don’t want to find a different one.”

“Exactly! I’m glad you understand.”

I shook my head, feeling exhausted. “How long will he be staying?”

“Who? Nolan? Forever, I hope.”

I blinked twice before slapping my forehead. “No! The dog, Terry. How long will he be staying with me?”

“Oh, just until I find someone to adopt him,” she assured me in a rush.

“I’m going to regret this,” I muttered, heading toward Eli to scoop the menace out of his arms.

He snickered at my expression. “Without a doubt.”

“I’m going upstairs now. Unless there’s a fire—and that’s not a challenge, Kara—don’t disturb me.”

I trudged back up the steps, putting the dog on the ground. He gazed up at me with soulful brown eyes as I stared back.

I snorted. “I’m having a staring contest with a dog. Listen here, Terry the Terrier, we need to get one thing straight. I’m the alpha around here. The second you upset me, I’ll have you out schmoozing it up with the alley cats out back faster than you can say bacon strips. Got it?”

At my pause, his jaw bobbed up and down as he chirped a high-pitched bark.

I nodded. “Good, so long as we agree.”



END EXCERPT




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