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The Brightest Embers is here!

As the subject line says, THE BRIGHTEST EMBERS, the third and final novel in the Broken Destiny series, is now here!

You can run from your destiny, but you can’t hide… 

Ivy thought that she and Adrian had conquered their fates. Yet with thousands of innocents still trapped in the demon realms, she’s determined to locate the final hallowed weapon and harness its unparalleled power to free them. But the last relic nearly put Ivy in the grave—there’s probably no coming back from this one. 

Adrian’s dark lineage has made him the most powerful of his kind, yet even his incredible abilities might not be enough now. Instead, the treacherous fate he has fought so hard to escape might be the only way he can save Ivy. Their scintillating bond has been tested before, but never with so much on the line. Now fate will come head-to-head against true love, and nothing they’ve endured can prepare Ivy and Adrian for the unthinkable choices they’ll face… 

I was so flattered to see that Goodreads chose THE BRIGHTEST EMBERS as one of the Romance Best Books of the Month for November. I don't recall any of my other novels getting this, so allow me a squee, readers :). 

Romantic Times had this to say:  The conclusion to Frost’s Broken Destiny trilogy is, by far, the strongest of the lot and the most fulfilling. There’s been a great deal of thought and care put into the complexity of this world, and it all comes together here in an emotional burst of action, mythology and romance. It’s saying something when the reader comes to care — really care — about the characters, even a monstrous gargoyle with a penchant for raw meat. The ending is unexpected, and is a fitting farewell to Ivy and Adrian.” 4 Stars.

And Chelsea from Vampire Book Club said: "Nonstop adventure with fights that literally bring down the roof down and the kind of romance scenes that you'll want to bookmark for re-reads on cold nights. 5 stars." (full review here)

Once again, squee, squee, squee!

Ahem. Okay, I'll try to wrap this up in a professional way, heh. So, in closing, let me say that I'm so glad to finally be able to share Ivy and Adrian's final story you and I hope you love it. Thank you for going on this journey with them, readers.

You can pick up your copy of THE BRIGHTEST EMBERS at these places or your favorite retailer: 
Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | iBooks | IndieBound | Powells

Also available in audio, read by the fabulous Tavia Gilbert

Audible, Downpour, iTunes or your favorite audio retailer.

And if you haven't seen it before, here is the official book trailer:

 

Special Halloween chat with giveaways

As I mentioned in my last post, I'll be doing a special chat on Halloween (October 31st) to celebrate the 10 year publication anniversary of my very first novel, Halfway to the Grave. I now have a time for this chat. It will be from 3pm - 4pm EST. During this chat, I'll be giving away some books, some gift cards, AND posting some lines from the upcoming first Night Rebel novel (Ian & Veritas). So, if you want to hang out, possibly win some stuff, get a sneak peek at Ian's upcoming book, and ask me some questions, please join me on Halloween from 3 - 4pm EST. You can find me on Twitter at @Jeaniene_Frost or at this link: https://twitter.com/Jeaniene_Frost

As you can see, Loki has his pumpkin and he is ready to help out with this chat 

Hi everyone! First, thanks for all the Ian pic recommendations. I've sent my favorites to my editor. I'll admit: she and I both agreed that combing through many, many, MANY pics of hot guys both from my website blog and the 400+ comments on my Facebook page was a lot more fun than our normal "work" ;). 

But let's jump from hotties to horror, shall we? It's the later part of October, or as I like to call it, Candy and Horror Movie season. I've been a fan of horror movies all the way back to my childhood, when I would sneak to watch them after my parents fell asleep. Since sharing is caring, here are some of my favorites. I tried to keep this list to mostly movies from the past 20 years since if I went all the way back to my first horror loves, I'd be dating myself in a big way, heh. Without further ado, here they are: 

The Babysitter (2017)


The Scream series


Trick r Treat


Tucker and Dale vs Evil


Occulus


It (2017)


Jeepers Creepers 2


Jennifer's Body


The Ring


Paranormal Activity


It Follows


Get Out


The Conjuring


Sinister


28 Days Later


Alien vs Predator


Shaun of the Dead


Friday the 13th 1, 2, and Jason X


Halloween H20


 


And we can't forget the TV shows, right? Here are some of those. Again, as with movie favorites, I know I'm probably missing a few because my memory sucks. Plus, I don't count paranormal shows as "horror," so you won't see paranormal favorites like iZombie, The Originals, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf or Supernatural here. Honestly, Stan Against Evil probably doesn't below because it's more funny than scary, but I love it so much, I had to list it ;). Or, to quote bff Ilona Andrews' recent Tweet to me: "Stan Against Evil. Hulu. Do it!"


The Strain


Stan Against Evil


Penny Dreadful


Stranger Things


Apparitions (check)


American Horror Story (seasons 1 and 3 ONLY)


 


Instead of my usual binge-watching horror movies/shows while munching on my favorite candies, this Halloween, I'll also be doing a Twitter chat. The time is undetermined as of yet, but I'll announce it soon. If you don't already follow me on Twitter yet, here is my page so you can ask me your burning questions about characters/books/writing/plots/etc, or just chat, if you're free: https://twitter.com/Jeaniene_Frost 


or, if you're looking for me while you're on Twitter, I'm at: @Jeaniene_Frost 


And now, what are some of your favorite horror movies/tv shows? I'm always in the market for recommendations :). 

Ian book news and a request

Hello again! Long blog silence, I know. To sum it up, every time I thought I had a moment to blog, something else came up that claimed my attention. But, now I'm back, and I have both Ian book news and a request.

First up, as many of you know, Ian will be the next character to get his own series. This will be called the Night Rebel series and as of now, I'm promising at least two books. Not promising more yet because we all know how bad I am at estimating the number of books in a series (see: my wrong guesses about the Night Huntress and the Night Prince series ;)). Veritas will be the heroine of the Night Rebel series. I've already started writing book one, and I JUST heard from my editor about the release date. So, without further ado...

Night Rebel book one, title to come, will release on October 30th, 2018.

When I announced this on Twitter yesterday, I received a bunch of comments saying (paraphrase) "A year?! Why is the book so FAR AWAY?" It's because I'm nowhere near done writing it yet :). Some of you might remember that I just finished The Brightest Embers (last Broken Destiny book, releasing November 30th, 2017) about three months ago, and finishing a book is not actually the end of a book. There are still lots of revisions to be done, such as making changes according to my two critique partners' notes - thank you Melissa Marr and Ilona Andrews! - then making changes according to my official editor's notes, then revising again according to the copy editor's notes, and then final tweaks on the galley pages. In short, "The End" really just means "Take One." However, I would never want to publish a book without all these steps. Each one makes the book better, and when I put a book out into the world, I want it to be the best that it can be. Not the fastest that it can be.

But enough shop talk, right? Let's get to the request part. My publisher is hiring a male model for the Night Rebel series cover shoot, and they want my input so they can try to match who I have in my mind for Ian when they pick the model. Problem is, I can't think of anyone who really represents Ian to me, so I need your help. Please reply in the comments with a pic of the guy (or guys) who most reminds you of Ian. You can post as many pics as you like. I'll choose my favorites from among them and send them to my editor. Remember: these don't have to be pictures of male book cover models. They can be pictures of actors, magazine models, a hot guy in a perfume ad, etc. These pics are only a guideline to my publisher, so they can say "We want a model that looks most like [insert guy from one of the pictures you reply with]"

Thank you so much in advance!

Reviews redux

I just read author Delilah Dawson’s recent Twitter thread about why she doesn’t read reviews anymore and found myself nodding in agreement to a lot of it. Like her, with my first few books, I had Goggle alerts set on my name so I wouldn’t miss a single review. I did this because (1) seeing people actually talking about my books was the coolest thing ever, and (2) I thought I could fix any mistakes in future books if I knew what I was doing “wrong.” By book four, however, I had turned that Google alert off and stopped reading most reviews.

Why? Didn’t I care what my readers thought? Had I given up trying to fix my books?

None of the above. In fact, the opposite was true. I want to be a better writer with each book, but here’s the thing. Reading reviews, whether they were positive or negative, didn’t help me become a better writer. They only helped me get increasingly varied mood swings. A great review puffed me up. A scathing one cut me down. A thoughtful-yet-critical one made me kick myself for not seeing the thoughtfully-pointed-out flaws earlier. In fact, I can barely stand to re-read my earlier novels because now, all I do is focus on the mistakes instead of enjoying anything about the story.

Furthermore, what one reader loved about a story might have caused another reader to DNF the book, and vice versa. Imagine you’re driving a bus filled with dozens, or even hundreds, of people. You know the address you’re going to, but instead of using your GPS, you choose to get directions from the passengers, and they keep calling out conflicting instructions. Would you expect to arrive at your destination any time soon, let alone in a healthy mental state? ;) Probably not. That’s kinda of what writing books according to input from past reviews is like for me. Not only does it take the joy out of writing, it also made me zigzag all over the place.

When I stopped reading most of my reviews,I stopped losing my way. Don’t get me wrong, other authors’ mileage may vary since there’s practically no one way to do anything in publishing. Plus, I still get feedback: I have critique partners, and of course, I get feedback from my editor(s) and my copy editor(s), too. But I no longer wade through reviews in search of the mythical “right way” to write my books. Perhaps most importantly, something else to remember is that reviews aren’t for authors.

Let me say it again: reviews aren’t for authors. Reviews are readers talking to other readers about a book. Whether or not that talk benefits an author, frustrates an author, cheers an author up, or even enrages an author, is moot. To be blunt, authors aren’t invited to this party. If you’re an author reading reviews, you’re essentially eavesdropping on other peoples’ conversations, and no one welcomes an eavesdroppers’ critique on their own conversation.  

But their conversation is about me, so I have the right to eavesdrop and comment! some author might say.

Actually, it’s not about you. It’s about your product, and no matter how much you love your product, you are not your product. You know the great thing about products? They don’t argue back. If I hate a lipstick, I know it won’t suddenly become sentient and start telling me that I’m not that great, either. Since products can’t argue back, product producers shouldn’t argue, either. Years ago, I wrote a blog post about how much I hated the new Halloween movie remake. Guess what? Director Rob Zombie didn’t show up to refute my opinions because (1) he’s too busy and (2) he knows I’m entitled to my opinions regardless if he agrees with them. If you’re an author arguing with a reader over a review, you’re essentially telling that reader that he/she isn’t allowed to have their own opinion. Not only is that unprofessional and rude – it’s also senseless.

But you don’t know what they said! another author might reply.

I don’t, and I can sympathize when reviews cross the line from content commentary to personal attacks, but you should still stay out of it. Back when I was reading most of my reviews, I saw some slanderous things said about me, my husband, my family, and even how bad of a job my mother must have done while raising me. Thankfully, those type of personal attacks were rare, but still, they were hard to ignore. However, I had friends who held me back from responding, and I’m grateful. If someone is putting personal inflammatory attacks in a review, they’re probably a troll, and we all know not to feed the trolls. It only makes the trolls happy while giving us a migraine.

But I love your books and I want to tell you that! some readers might say.

I have a contact box on my website, plus I’m on various social media sites.

But I hate your books and I want to tell you that! some readers might say.

I have a contact box on my website, plus I’m on various social media sites.

In summary, as an author, I’m grateful that people talk about my books. However, I know it’s not my place to stick my nose into their conversations. I probably go on about this subject, but my husband’s sick and I’m trying to make sure he stays fed and hydrated, so I’m signing off now. Happy Saturday, everyone. Hope you have a lovely remainder of the weekend.

Update salad

Wow, it's been a while since I posted! Sorry for the delay. As you'll soon see, I've been busy.

First up, I finished writing The Brightest Embers, the third and final book in the Broken Destiny series. It never ceases to feel like a miracle whenever I finish a book. From age twelve until thirty, I was great at starting stories, but I could never finish them. I'd usually end up quitting after the third chapter or so. I won't lie, readers - that track record was depressing. It made the thought of finishing a novel seem like an impossible goal. That's why my favorite words to write are "The End." Every time I do, it's a realization of the dream I had back when I was a child, and I am so, so grateful.

I have even more reason to be grateful: The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, hit the USA Today bestseller list in its opening week. Big group hug, readers! Thank you so much for continuing Ivy and Adrian's story with me.

However, where there is sunshine, there will eventually be rain, right? My rain came metaphorically and somewhat literally. Allow me some backstory: I turned in The Brightest Embers on a Friday and had my revision letter the following Wednesday, with a due date to return the revised book nine days later. The tight turnaround time was to make sure we kept its November release date. Revisions are always a thousand times easier for me than new writing, so I didn't mind. Plus, in addition to my editor's notes, I also had critiques from trusted friends Melissa Marr (who also does this freelance, if you're a writer looking for content feedback) and Ilona Andrews. So, I implemented three sets of revision notes at the same time. The result is a MUCH better book, and I can't wait to unveil the ending of the series to everyone in November.

But I digress. The same night I turned my revisions in, I tripped over a step in my house, fell, and sprained my ankle. This surprises no one who knows me since I am klutzy to an almost comical degree. However, now that I had a break in my schedule, I was looking forward to spending time elevating my ankle while watching TV. My husband got everything set up in the bedroom for me, down to having my laptop, snacks, phone and tea on a tray by the bed (he's a keeper, people!) Yet the very next day, a pipe burst in our house, flooding the family room and part of the master bedroom. Since this happened on a Saturday, the insurance company couldn't get plumbers in to fix it right away. Instead, they sent people to shut off all the water in our house, set up huge blowers and de-humidifiers to dry everything out, cut big holes into the ceiling and wall to cap the burst pipes, rip up the soaked carpet, and generally make our house unlivable. We checked into a hotel and waited for the plumber to arrive, which he did yesterday. Now we have water again and the pipes are repaired, so we're back home, but there's lots more to be done. I swear, my family room looks like an angry person with a sledge hammer and a hose spent the weekend in there.

*grins* This is what I get for thinking, "I'm SO glad all the renovations on our house are finally done!" a mere three week ago. I may as well have tapped Fate on the shoulder and said, "Aren't you forgetting something?" ;)

But back on the positive side of things, I get to see Ilona and Gordon Andrews next week when we have our joint signings. Florida residents and/or people who don't mind driving, here are the details:

Thursday, July 27, 2017, 7:00 PM


Book Event & Signing with Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost
BARNES AND NOBLE
2418 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803
 


Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:00 PM EDT


Book Event & Signing with Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost
BOOKMARK
220 First ST
Neptune Beach, FL 32266


That's it from me for now. Hope to see some of you at the signings, and in the meantime, hope you're enjoying your summer, everyone! 

The Sweetest Burn is here!

It's finally here! The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, is now available. Once again, here is the back cover copy:
Conquering a supernatural realm turned out to be easier than getting over a broken heart. But her initial victory has made Ivy a target for revenge, forcing her to reunite with the dangerous – and dangerously sexy – Adrian. Ivy isn’t sure which will be harder: finding the hallowed weapon that will repair the crumbling walls between demon and human realms, or resisting Adrian, who’s decided that come hell or high water, he will make Ivy his.

At first, Adrian tried to resist his feelings for Ivy. Now, determined to break the curse that dooms their love, he’s vowed to save her and to have her. If only he can persuade her to forgive his past sins.  But defying destiny—and surrendering to the smoldering desire between them —will bring consequences and sacrifices they never imagined…

Order your copy:

Here are some early reviews:

“Frost scores another win with the mesmerizing second Broken Destiny super-natural contemporary… The novel thrums with energy, its pacing breakneck from the very start, and piles on the sexual tension.” Publishers Weekly.

"THE SWEETEST BURN is a compelling story of good versus evil and a sensual romance all wrapped up in one. ...like a cross between THE DA VINCI CODE and the paranormal TV show ANGEL!" Fresh Fiction

"A delicious slow burn of a romance that leaves you craving more of everything in the book. Expect to start counting down the days to book three as soon as you finish" Heroes and Heartbreakers

"The heat between the main characters only continues to escalate, and one can't help but root for them...fans of sexy and determined folks involved in a massive struggle between good and evil will enjoy this story." The Romance Reviews

And of course, if you haven't seen it already, here is the book trailer:



I am so excited to share the continuation of Ivy and Adrian's story with you. I hope it becomes one of your favorites! As a reminder, book one, The Beautiful Ashes, is on sale in ebook for only $1.99 from now until Friday, June 30th! Get yours here or at your favorite retailer.

Finally, I will at the following places next month, so please come out if you're in the area!

Thursday, July 27, 2017, 7:00 PM

Joint Book Event & Signing with Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews

BARNES AND NOBLE

2418 E Colonial Drive

Orlando, FL 32803


Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:00 PM EDT

Joint Book Event & Signing with Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews

BOOKMARK

220 First ST

Neptune Beach, FL 32266

The Sweetest Burn chapter four

Tomorrow is the day! The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, will finally be here! As promised, I have been posting a chapter a week leading up to its release. Here is chapter four. If you missed the others, the first chapter is HERE , the second one is HERE, and the third one is HERE.  

USUAL SPOILER WARNING: While The Sweetest Burn can be read as a stand-alone, if you prefer to read in series order and/or you hate spoilers, you might not want to read these new chapters unless you’ve read book one, The Beautiful Ashes, which is on sale in ebook for only $1.99 from now until June 30th! Get yours here or at your favorite retailer. 

And now, happy reading!

CHAPTER FOUR


Costa’s house was a former church, hence the hallowed ground it rested on that demons were unable to cross. The sight of its tall, slanted roof with the cross that Costa hadn’t bothered to take down filled me with a mixture of relief and sadness. I couldn’t say that I’d been happy here, but I’d felt safe, and that counted for a lot in this world. Now, it was time to leave, and I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place again.


Adrian was right; more people were at the house than when I’d left it an hour ago. My sister, Jasmine, seemed startled to see Adrian, but it didn’t escape my notice that Costa didn’t look surprised. I stifled my snort as we came into the kitchen. Had Adrian been in contact with Costa this whole time, too? Was I literally the only person he’d avoided these past couple months?


As I approached the table, Adrian pulled a chair out for me, but I ignored that. “I’ll stand.”


“Are you two fighting again?” Costa cast a knowing glance between us. “Situation normal, then.”


The other person I hadn’t seen in the past two months was Zach, but as Adrian had predicated, the Archon now sat at the kitchen table as casually as if he’d dropped by for breakfast. As with minions and demons, at first glance, you wouldn’t know there was anything unusual about Zach. His jeans and faded-blue hoodie matched his college-age appearance, and his dark brows, closely cropped hair and mocha-colored skin were a great frame for his deep, walnut-brown eyes.


One look into those eyes, however, and I couldn’t imagine anyone not realizing that there was something otherworldly about Zach. His gaze seemed to reach right into your soul, and if he chose to reveal his true nature, the room would be filled with exploding light and deafeningly beautiful voices. The one time Zach had dropped his human disguise to show me that, I’d unwittingly fallen to my knees with tears streaming down my face. You never realized how insignificant you were until confronted with a creature filled with the power and glories of eternity.


Archons—angels—were such creatures, so you’d think I’d be glad to see Zach. Instead, I felt a mildly growing sense of dread. Unlike their Hallmark Chan­nel representations, Archons weren’t cuddly beings who spent their time sprinkling happy dust onto humanity. Instead, they were fearsome warriors who’d been rel­egated to the sidelines during the most important battle of the ages, so they were ready to fight no matter how that turned out for mankind. They were also our only allies against demons, so that made them indispensable to us regardless of their seeming indifference toward the fate of my race.


“I’m out of time, aren’t I?” I said in lieu of a hello.


Zach didn’t take offense. He’d probably invented the custom of not saying hello. “Yes. As the realm walls continue to weaken, new fissures are formed, allowing greater access between the dark worlds and this one. It is only a matter of time until those fissures rupture and parts of the demon world spills out into your realm.”


“I found that out the hard way,” I said with a sigh. “Three minions and a demon tried to nab me on the beach.”


Jasmine’s face paled and she ran over to me. “Are you okay? How did you get away? Did they know who you were?”


I gave my younger sister a reassuring squeeze, a pang hitting me as I looked at her. She’d always had my adoptive mother’s blond hair, but sometime during her hellish captivity, she’d grown a long white streak down the center of her head. Her pale blue eyes were the same color as my adoptive father’s, and seeing them reminded me of him so much, I had to blink back a sud­den surge of tears.


Oh, how I missed my parents! They hadn’t deserved to die at the hands of minions and demons just be­cause they’d been investigating Jasmine’s disappear­ance. Then again, no one deserved to die at the hands of demons and minions for any reason.


“I’m fine,” I reassured Jaz. “I got the first one, Adrian and Brutus took care of the rest. And they didn’t know who I was, at first. They were just looking for new slaves.”


Zach inclined his head in agreement. “The demons grow bolder as they gain more access to this world.”


Maybe it was the fresh wave of grief I’d felt over my parents’ death, maybe it was my fear over what I knew I had to do. Either way, I couldn’t hold back my brusque reply.


“Remind me again why Archons would allow ter­rible things to happen to innocent people when they have the power to stop it?”


The gaze Zach turned on me was hard. “A better rea­son than why your race would rather assign blame to others than work on looking for solutions yourselves.”


Yes, humanity had its flaws, but that didn’t mean we weren’t worth saving, dammit! And I still couldn’t figure out if Zach even wanted us to be saved. Some days, he acted as if he did, yet other days, the Archon seemed just as happy to let humanity burn if it meant finally ending the war between Archons and demons.


“If you truly believe your race is worth saving, then you’ll be eager to get started,” Zach replied, using his mind-reading abilities. How could I forget about those?


I glowered at him. It sucked being reminded that in this case, “somebody” doing something really meant “me.”


“I’m ready,” I said, which was the biggest lie in the world, but what else could I say? We’re all gonna die! seemed too defeatist, even if it was probably true.


Zach rose with his usual grace, then cast a sideways glance at Brutus, who was in the darkest corner of the kitchen. He’d be in his room, if he wasn’t waiting for his breakfast of raw meat.


“Would someone explain why that gargoyle is wear­ing the stone of Solomon around his wrist?” Zach asked.


“The what of who?” Jasmine said.


I wondered the same thing, but Adrian replied to Jasmine before I could ask. “Ivy didn’t like her birth­day present, so she gave it to Brutus,” he told my sister.


“Birthday? Oh crap, Ivy, I forgot your birthday!” Jasmine said with a gasp. Costa seemed shocked for a different reason.


“You gave a three-thousand-year-old diamond with famed mystic qualities to Brutus?” he asked me.


Zach also gave me a look that seemed to question my sanity. I shifted defensively even as this news rocked me. “I just thought it was a normal diamond,” I mumbled.


“It isn’t,” Adrian said, his arched brow implying that I should have given him a chance to say this earlier. “King Solomon stole this diamond from Asmodeus, a demon king, because it was said to shield its wearer from harm. After Solomon’s death, Asmodeus stole it back, and when I was a child, it was given to me because demons wanted to protect the last Judian.”


I was openmouthed discovering the diamond’s his­tory, not to mention its protective qualities. Adrian hadn’t just been trying to buy my forgiveness with an expensive trinket. He’d given me the same talisman he’d had since he was a child. Damn him for making it harder to stay angry with him, I thought, my emotions wrestling anew at this.


“Very well,” Zach replied, although he would have overheard my inner battle. “Ivy, you will leave at once. Adrian and Costa will accompany you on your search for the staff of Moses.”


“Not Adrian,” I burst out.


“Yes, Adrian,” Zach said in his best don’t-argue-with-an-angelic-being tone. “Without him, you won’t discover the map.”


“There’s a map that leads to the staff?” That was a surprise. “One of those would’ve been helpful when we were trying to find the first hallowed weapon.”


Zach shrugged. “It’s a map of sorts, and perhaps if you would have looked closer, you would have discov­ered it when you were searching for the slingshot, too.”


Archons and their cryptic-speak, not to mention their lack of initiative that bordered on apathy. Figures there had been a map back then and Zach hadn’t told me. For all I knew, he had another map in his pocket now, yet couldn’t be bothered to mention that, either. “Or, why don’t you just tell me where the staff is, if you know?” I said to cut through all the crap.


“Because this is your task to succeed or fail at, Da­vidian,” was Zach’s inexorable reply.


Don’t hit the Archon, I reminded myself while clenching my fists. We still needed him.


Zach’s mouth twitched, as if he found my impotent rage amusing. “Adrian is coming with you, Ivy. Don’t bother to list all the reasons why you don’t want him to. The fact remains that he must or you will not only fail, you won’t survive. That’s why I rescinded his ban from seeing you earlier today.”


My gaze swung to Adrian. “What do you mean, he rescinded your ban from seeing me?”


A low, almost growling sound left Adrian. “Zach put a supernatural restraining order on me. I couldn’t get within a mile of you without suddenly becoming para­lyzed, Costa supernaturally forgot every message I tried to send you through him, and if I attempted to call, text or email you, my phone would blow up.”


“Really?” Costa looked bewildered. “You and I have talked several times since then, and I don’t remember that.”


Adrian grunted. “Exactly.”


“Cock-blocked by an angel,” Costa muttered. “That’s new.”


I ignored Costa’s comment in favor of giving Zach a disbelieving look. “First you supernaturally prevent Adrian from so much as texting me, then you insist that he come along on the search for the staff. What kind of game are you playing?”


Zach’s dark brown eyes gave nothing away. “No game. Only fate.”


Fate. My teeth ground. I really hated that word. “Why didn’t you tell me about this on the beach?” I asked Adrian, giving up on getting a more definitive answer out of Zach.


Adrian’s coloring was darker than normal, and when I caught the look he flashed Zach’s way, I realized why. Pride. He’d rather let me think that he was a total jerk than admit that Zach had shut him down so effectively, he’d been helpless. Yes, for longer than I cared to re­member, Adrian had had both minions and demons scurrying to do his bidding. Plus, with his incredible strength, speed and fighting skills, almost no one had been able to stop Adrian from doing something he’d set his mind to. In that light, his bruised-ego silence about the way Zach had shut him down was almost understandable.


Almost. Adrian should have told me why he’d aban­doned me when I needed him the most. The fact that he hadn’t only highlighted that he was thinking more about himself than me. Plus, if he couldn’t admit something so small to me, how could I trust him with the really big things, like our fates?


And Zach. He got the other end of my stink eye. He could have said something before now, too. Men. They were the same whether they were Archons, hu­mans or Judians.


Something else occurred to me. “Zach lifted his restraining order on you the same day I came across the first minions and demon I’ve seen in months?” It couldn’t be a coincidence…


“It isn’t,” Zach said, using his intrusive skills again.


My irritation died away. His inconsideration paled next to making sure that I was still alive.


“Thank you,” I said, hoping for the hundredth time that Archons were more invested in the fate of humanity than they let on. Aside from my bloodline, I wasn’t anyone special, yet Zach had saved me more than a few times. I just wished I understood why so many other people had to suffer and die.


Zach inclined his head, which was his version of “you’re welcome.” “Preparations have been made. You are to start your search for the staff at once.”


“You’re forgetting one thing,” I pointed out. “We have no idea where Moses’s staff might be. This is a big world, and that’s not even counting all the demon realms in it, too.”


Zach glanced at Adrian, and when they exchanged a meaningful look, my hackles rose. “If either of you even think of hiding something from me again—” I began furiously.


“We’re not,” Adrian interrupted, his gaze piercing as it landed on me. “I told you, Ivy, no secrets and no holding back this time. Moses’s staff controls nature, which is why we need it to repair the realm walls and the demons also want it so they can use it to send those same walls crashing down. So, our best bet is to start with places that have natural anomalies. Even while dormant, the staff will affect what’s around it.”


That made sense, but, “I doubt it’ll be as simple as googling places that are known for large congregations of locusts, frogs, lightning bolts or partings of seas,” I said tartly. “If so, demons would’ve found it centu­ries ago.”


Adrian raised a brow. “They’ve spent a lot of time scouring places with unusual natural phenomena, but they can’t sense hallowed objects. Only you can. That’s why we’re going to find the staff and they’re not.”


He sounded completely confident. Then again, he was overlooking the most dangerous part of this mission. It wasn’t whether or not we could find the staff. It’s what could very likely happen if I tried to use it.


“I’m going with you, too,” Jasmine said, her words distracting me from a topic I didn’t want to dwell on.


I turned to my sister. “You’ve been through enough. We’ll find you another place to stay at on hallowed ground, so you’ll be safe—”


“You think I’ll ever feel safe again?” Her voice filled with more pain than any eighteen-year-old should ever have. “I’m barely holding it together with you and Costa around me 24/7. If you leave me by myself, I’ll lose it for sure. And I spent months trapped in a demon realm, so I know what we’re up against.”


“Jasmine,” I tried again.


“I’m going.” She cut me off with a flash of her old stubbornness. “Either help me pack or get out of my way, Ives.”


She hadn’t called me her pet name from our child­hood since we’d rescued her. That, plus the glimpse of her former spunk, melted my resistance away. Who was I to lecture her? She was right. In some ways, she’d been through a lot more than me.


“Fine, then you can help me pack,” I said, trying not to think about how I was going to find the staff while not getting myself killed, my sister hurt or my heart broken again.


“I’ll pull our ride around,” Adrian stated.


I gave him a doubtful look. “You think we can fit four adults and a winged gargoyle into your vintage metal baby?”


His smile was threatening and promising, like a lion licking its prey while deciding whether to eat it now or later. “We’re bringing my Challenger, but we’re not riding in it.”


Huh? “What’s that supposed to mean?”


His smile widened into a grin. “Get packed and you’ll find out.”


***


Hope you enjoyed! You can pre-order your copy of The Sweetest Burn here or at your favorite retailer.

The Sweetest Burn chapter three!

Hi again! As I said before, to celebrate the upcoming release of The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, I’m going to post a chapter a week from now until its release on June 27th. The first chapter is HERE and the second one is HERE, if you missed them.

STANDARD SPOILER WARNING: While The Sweetest Burn can be read as a stand-alone, if you prefer to read in series order and/or you hate spoilers, you might not want to read these new chapters unless you’ve read book one, The Beautiful Ashes, which is on sale in ebook for only $1.99 from now until June 30th! However, if you’re okay with spoilers/reading out of series order or you’ve already read The Beautiful Ashes, then no worries and happy reading! :)

CHAPTER THREE

Since Adrian wasn’t going away, I decided to make him pull his weight. When we reached the spot on the beach where I’d grappled with the minion, I gestured in the general vicinity of where I’d spotted the demon realm. I didn’t see anything now, but that wasn’t a huge surprise. My lineage meant that I was most attuned to hallowed objects, so at best, I only caught random glimpses of dark ones even when I was right on top of them. Adrian’s lineage meant that he was most attuned to dark objects, and a demon realm gateway was about as dark as something could get.

“The realm gateway was over there. Do you see it?”


He walked to the spot I’d indicated. Then he held out his hands as if feeling for a doorway, which, in es­sence, he was.


“It’s strange,” he said after a pause. “I see the realm and I do feel something, but it’s not as strong as a nor­mal gateway would be. Instead of a door, it feels more like…a crack.”


“That’s what I’m worried about,” I said with a fresh sense of dismay. “With the walls between demon realms and our world weakening, cracks are probably turning up all over the place. If it gets worse, those cracks will turn into gaping holes and realms will spill out into this world. And then…”


I stopped speaking because I didn’t want to say what would happen next. The only thing worse than knowing was being the only person who could do something to stop it. That’s why I’d spent the past two months split­ting my time between training and trying to get my sis­ter, Jasmine, through the post-traumatic stress of being a former demon captive. You’d think with all that, I wouldn’t have had the energy to focus on Adrian, yet I had. A broken heart was the slowest wound to heal, it appeared.


“I think we’re safe for the moment,” Adrian said, not addressing my unfinished sentence. “The crack doesn’t feel strong enough to let anyone else through. Maybe the sunlight is weakening it.”


For now. I rubbed my right hand where the outline of a braided rope ran from my finger all the way up to my elbow. The remains of the ancient, hallowed slingshot no longer burned in that odd way, but touching it was a tangible reminder that Adrian and I had destinies to fulfill: me to possibly save those trapped in the demon realms, and him to probably betray me.


“All right, well, minions are dead, the demon’s gone, Brutus should be back any second and I’m almost home, so you can leave. Now,” I added.


A scoff preceded his response and the silver rings around his dark blue eyes seemed to gleam.


“I’m not going anywhere, Ivy. Ready or not, I’m back in your life and I’m here to stay.”


“But I don’t want you to,” I said, fighting the urge to thump him over the head so the words would sink in.


He only smiled, dazzling and so arrogant that I spun around so I didn’t have to look at him anymore. “Yes, I heard you, but while you might not want me—yet—you do need me.”


Then, with his lightning quickness, he appeared in front of me, shoving a small box into my hands. “Speak­ing of things I didn’t get to do before, happy birthday, although one day late.”


Shock made me stand still and stare at the box. Twenty-one was a milestone, but no one else had re­membered. Not my sister, who was also my best friend, or Costa, my roommate who’d become as close as a brother to me, or Zach, the Archon who sorta mentored me and had supernatural knowledge of just about every­thing. Only Adrian, and I’d never told him when it was.


I couldn’t stop myself from opening the unexpected gift. Then I let out a little gasp when I saw the round stone suspended at the end of a long gold chain. The jewel reflected the first rays of sunlight back at me in a rainbow of colors that were so bright, I had to squint while looking at it. Unless it was the most sparkly piece of glass ever, Adrian had just given me a diamond the size of a large marble.


“There’s no way I can accept this,” I almost stut­tered, adding, “Did you steal it?” because how else could he have gotten something that cost as much as several high-end cars?


Hints of darkness colored his laughter. “Former demon prince, remember? I might have left all that be­hind me, but I didn’t leave empty-handed.”


“You’re not a demon, you were just raised by them,” I muttered.


He shrugged. “Honorary demon prince, then. Either way, I can afford it. Besides, you lost your other neck­lace because of me, so don’t say you can’t accept this one to replace it.”


The necklace was so beautiful, a shallow part of me wanted nothing more than to put it on and run to the nearest mirror. I couldn’t, of course. For starters, I hadn’t looked into a mirror since the night I found out the hard way that some demons use mirrors as portals into our world. Plus…


“This feels like a bribe,” I said, holding the necklace out to him. “And you can’t make up for everything that’s happened with a shiny, expensive gift. Things aren’t good between us, Adrian. Not even close, and if I accepted this, I’d be implying that they were.”


He crossed his arms, his posture taking on a very familiar stubbornness. “I’m not trying to bribe you, I’m giving you a birthday gift. Throw it into the surf if you want, but it’s yours, so I am not taking it back.”


My jaw clenched. He might have been raised in an environment where money was no object, but I could no more toss this diamond into the ocean than I could burn a stack of hundred-dollar bills for warmth, and from the challenging curl to his mouth, he knew that. Still, that didn’t mean he was getting his way.


I folded the necklace into my hand and resumed walking. It didn’t take my enhanced peripheral vision to see Adrian’s smirk as he followed. He thought he’d won this round. Think again, I silently told him.


“So, if you’re rich, why did we only stay in crappy motels when we first met?” I asked as I kept walking toward Costa’s house.


He let out a laugh that managed to combine the lure of ecstasy along with the dangers of addiction.


“Because I was doing everything I could to kill the mood, not that it worked. Even in the ugliest surround­ings, I wanted you so much that it almost killed me not to take you in every dingy room those crappy motels had to offer.”


“Stop it,” I muttered. Thankfully, Brutus picked that moment to fly past us and land in the tallest section of beach shrubs. I ran after the gargoyle, trying to soothe him as he attempted to cover himself with beach brush to avoid the sun.


“It’s okay,” I was saying when Adrian said, “Car­parata!” loud enough to snap Brutus’s head up.


The Demonish word turned Brutus from a cringing creature into his usual, formidable self. The gargoyle might be my pet now, but to the bone, he still belonged to Adrian. After all, Adrian was the one who’d given Brutus to me as my protector. The fact that he’d done so when Adrian had thought he was sacrificing his life to save mine was yet another reason why he was so hard to evict from my heart.


Still, I wasn’t about to give up trying. “Here you go, my good Brutus,” I said, pulling out the necklace and latching it around his leathery wrist. Because of his size, it fit like a bracelet. “Something shiny for you.”


The gargoyle held up his arm, looking at the dia­mond next to his grayish-blue skin. Then he chuffed as if in approval.


“See?” I said, with a wide grin at Adrian. “He loves it.”


The glare Adrian gave me was priceless. Then, with a smile that was far too confident for my liking, he waved in the direction of Costa’s house.


“You can give my gift to Brutus and you can keep stomping off to Costa’s, but no matter what, I’m com­ing with you. Realm cracks are appearing and demons and minions are on the move again. You might have killed Demetrius, giving me the vengeance I’d wanted for years, but that didn’t take me out of the fight. I still live to kick demon ass, so I wouldn’t sit this out for the world, and if you know anything about me, you should know that. Besides, Zach’s probably aware of all this the and waiting back at Costa’s for us. As you might re­call, Archons may be nearly immortal, but they’re not very patient.”


***

Hope you enjoyed the third chapter! The fourth and final chapter will be posted on my website blog next week. As a reminder, you can pre-order your copy of The Sweetest Burn here or at your favorite retailer.

 

The Sweetest Burn chapter two!

Hi everyone! As I mentioned in my blog last week, to celebrate the upcoming release of The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, I’m going to post a chapter a week from now until its release on June 27th. The first chapter is HERE, if you missed it, and the second chapter is below. 

SPOILER WARNING: While The Sweetest Burn can be read as a stand-alone, if you prefer to read in series order and/or you hate spoilers, you might not want to read these new chapters unless you've read book one, The Beautiful Ashes. Otherwise, you will be spoiled for some events in that book. If you're okay with spoilers/reading out of series order or you've already read The Beautiful Ashes, then no worries and happy reading! 🙂

CHAPTER TWO

Brutus soared over me, and Adrian almost grazed my back from how close he came. Seconds later, I heard multiple thumps and a scream. I rolled over in time to see the minions fall to the ground. Only bloody holes remained where their heads had been, and when Bru­tus whirled back around, his leathery wings were spat­tered with red.

Then Adrian jumped off Brutus and torpedoed him­self onto the snake-armed demon. Two-hundred-plus pounds of pissed-off male slamming into the demon caused him to plow back into the sand. Adrian’s bulk pinned him down, but those coiling serpents surged to­ward him, gleaming fangs extended to strike.

“Watch out!” I screamed.

Before the first syllable left my lips, Adrian had al­ready grabbed the serpents below their snapping jaws. With a brutal jerk, he ripped their heads off. The demon let out an ear-splitting howl and black blood spurted from where the snakes’ headless bodies still protruded from his wrists.

“Adrian,” the demon spat. “Don’t do this! Your fa­ther—”

“Is dead,” Adrian cut him off, then ripped the de­mon’s throat out. I caught a glimpse of something pulpy before I turned away, my stomach clenching with dis­gusted relief. Demon physiology was different, so what Adrian had just torn out was the equivalent of the de­mon’s heart.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t kill him. Only three weap­ons in the world could kill demons, and one of them had melded into a tattoo on my arm that now hurt as though it had caught fire.

Adrian climbed off the demon. I stared at the snake heads, which, like the demon, weren’t turning to ash because the demon wasn’t really dead. He was just un­conscious, so he wouldn’t disintegrate and neither would his severed serpentine arms, apparently.

“Were they poisonous?” I asked, still trying to re­cover from everything that had just happened.

Adrian glanced at the heads. “Oh yeah,” he said, sounding oddly amused. “Demon poison is the dead­liest there is.”

“Then why did you grab the snakes with your bare hands?”

Fear for him sharpened my voice. It took all the self-control I had not to run over and check to make sure that he hadn’t been nicked by one of those lethal fangs. I wasn’t about to do that, of course. I might be thrilled that he hadn’t been killed, but I was still furious with him over other things.

Adrian let out a contemptuous snort. “I know that demon. Vritra is used to everyone running from his snakes, so he never expected me to go right for them. Sometimes, a person’s most powerful weapon is also their greatest weakness.”

My mind flashed to how close those snakes had come to biting Adrian. “How’s that?” I muttered, trying to ig­nore the roughly lyrical cadence of his accent that was as unusual as he was.

Adrian’s gaze raked over me as he came closer. “Peo­ple count on their most powerful weapon too much, so when it’s gone, they don’t know what to do. The mo­ments before they figure that out is your best chance to kill them.”

A cold-blooded assessment, but his ruthlessness didn’t surprise me. It was to be expected since Adrian had been raised by demons, hence the snake-armed de­mon’s comment about Adrian’s “father.” Foster father would be a more accurate way to describe Demetrius, the demon who’d snatched Adrian up when he was only a child. Demetrius wouldn’t be snatching up any more children. I’d seen to that when I killed him.

“What’s that?” he asked, suddenly lunging toward me. I jumped back, but Adrian had already grabbed me. His large hands slid along the cardigan covering my arms, and I yanked back, refusing to let him touch me. “There’s blood on your clothes,” he said, sounding concerned. “Did one of them hurt you?”

“Nope,” I lied. Yes, I was still hurt, and that counted for more than my physical injuries. “It’s from the other guy, who’s probably blown away by now.”

His dark blue gaze narrowed. “Another minion at­tacked you?”

Brutus didn’t like that idea, either. He stalked over to the ashes of the other two minions, snarling as he clawed them, as if that would make them any more dead. I went over and patted his wing, grateful for the excuse to turn my attention away from Adrian.

“Don’t worry, boy,” I crooned. “You got them.”

His gorilla-like head dipped as he slimed the side of my face with a lick. I hid my wince. If Brutus saw it, his feelings would be hurt. The fearsome two-ton gar­goyle could be as sensitive as a golden retriever at times.

“Where were you, anyway?” I asked, not expecting an answer. Brutus could grunt, chuff, snarl and roar, and while I was getting better at picking up his mood from those, he couldn’t speak a single intelligible word.

“With me,” Adrian replied. “Sorry, we ran late today.”

Today? I stared at him, piecing together the subtext. Adrian couldn’t be bothered to even send me a text message these past couple months, but he’d been hang­ing out with my gargoyle on a regular basis? I glared at Brutus. Just you wait until we get home, I silently promised the gargoyle. Somebody wasn’t getting any raw chuck roast for breakfast after this!

The snake-armed demon’s skin was starting to blacken and burn under the dawn’s brightening rays. After everything demons had taken from me, I’ll admit that the sight pleased me. If I was just a tad more vin­dictive, I would’ve videoed it so that my sister, Jasmine, could enjoy it, too.

“What are we going to do with him?” I said, nod­ding at the demon. “The beach is empty now, but it won’t be for long.”

Adrian’s reply was to say something to Brutus in what I referred to as Demonish. The harsh yet disturb­ingly beautiful language was where Adrian’s unusual accent came from. I only recognized the word for “go,” but Brutus understood all of it. As soon as Adrian fin­ished speaking, the gargoyle grabbed the demon and flew off toward the ocean.

“What’s he doing?”

“Dropping him far enough away that the demon won’t be a threat to any beachgoers,” Adrian replied. “If we’re lucky, his prolonged exposure to daylight will turn him into a withered husk. Demons can’t stand our realm in the sun. I told you that.”

He had, which begged the question, why had the demon risked such exposure by entering this world right before dawn?

“Ivy.” The low, resonant way Adrian said my name made shivers roll over me, although I’d rather die than let him know that. “It’s good to see you.”

I didn’t want to be, but I was glad to see him, too, and for more reasons than him knowing exactly how to take out Snake Arms. I’d tried to talk myself out of feeling anything for Adrian during the two months since he’d admitted that he had betrayed me and then disappeared. Told myself that what I’d thought I felt for him had been due to the extreme circumstances we’d found ourselves in mixed with the temptation of forbidden fruit. Some days, when I only dwelled on the cold logic of the situ­ation, I even believed it. The fact that Adrian had made no attempt to contact me seemed to support that theory. And now, after all this time, he thought that showing up, smiling and flashing me a smoldering look would make everything okay?

“Yeah?” I said, turning my back on him. “Well, now you’ve seen me.” And I walked away from him. “I wouldn’t stay here, if I were you,” I threw over my shoulder at Adrian. “There’s a gateway on the beach. I glimpsed the demon realm only seconds before Snake Arms and his friends came out of it.”

“Where?” he asked, catching up to me all too quickly.

“About four blocks this way,” I said, cursing my­self because now, he had a good reason to keep walk­ing with me.

He reached over, touching my arm. “Ivy, wait—”

“Now, that’s funny,” I interrupted, jerking away. “Is that what you thought? That I’d just wait for you until you felt like showing up again?”

“You asked me to go,” Adrian said, his voice rough­ening with frustration. “In fact, you insisted, remem­ber?”

I began to walk faster. “Who wouldn’t need a little time after finding out that you’d lied to me about my real destiny? Then, you didn’t even try to make up for what you’d done. No, you disappeared for months with­out a single word. You knew when I started this that I thought everything would be fine if I used David’s hal­lowed, Goliath-slaying slingshot to save my sister. But after I almost died doing that, you dropped the bomb that it was only step one in a destiny I couldn’t avoid, remember?”

Don’t even get me started on step two and three of my supposedly unavoidable destiny, where fate said that Adrian would literally be the death of me.

He sighed, running his hand through his hair. The front was still longer than the back, and the ocean breeze tousled those thick, dark gold waves. His silver-ringed eyes were deep blue, and even when he scowled, it highlighted lips both full and completely masculine. Adrian was as gorgeous as he was dangerous; another sign of fate’s cruel sense of humor when it came to our opposing destinies.

I looked away, blaming my staring at him on post-battle temporary insanity. Once, I’d laughed after al­most getting ripped apart by a demon who could turn shadows into weapons. Adrenaline was more sense-depriving than heroin at times.

“Yeah, I remember,” Adrian said shortly. “Saying I’m sorry is worthless, so I won’t. All I can do is promise that it will never happen again.”

I wished it wouldn’t, for a lot of reasons. But how could I believe this promise when he still wouldn’t even apologize for the last time he’d lied to me? And worse, fate predicted that he would betray me again. Twice, and the final one would end in my death, making me just another dead Davidian in a long line of ones killed by Judians.

Except that I was the last descendant of the Biblical King David’s line, and thus the only human capable of wielding the hallowed weapons that could bring down demons. Adrian was the last descendant of Judas, and in addition to his incredible, otherworldly powers, he had also inherited the fate to betray and kill Davidians. When we first met, I had believed that he could beat his fate, if he tried. In fact, I’d believed it so much that I’d fallen in love with him. Now, I wasn’t so sure, but I had other things to worry about. Like the demons who would surely be after me, my sister and Costa now that we’d killed more of their people.

Adrian grabbed my arm. “Would you stop for a sec­ond so we can talk?”

“No,” I replied, yanking away. “And if you touch me again, you’ll regret it.”

“What’s your hurry?” he challenged, switching tac­tics.

I gave him an irritated glance. “I’m worried about my sister and your best friend. Costa’s house is on hal­lowed ground, so it’s safe for now, but three minions and a demon going missing from that realm won’t go unnoticed, as you of all people should know. The rest of the demons will figure out what happened since no human could’ve taken them down. Soon, they’ll be tear­ing this place apart looking for us, so Jasmine, Costa and I need to be gone before they do.”

He arched a brow. “Well, then, I guess it’s a good idea that I stay close to make sure you’re safe.”

“I can take care of myself, as one very dead minion would tell you if he could,” I shot back.

The smile he flashed me was maddening in its cocki­ness. “Seems like you needed a little help with the rest of them.”

He was right, but admitting that would be tantamount to telling him that I wanted him to stay, and I didn’t. “Don’t flatter yourself. I had a plan. Two more blocks, and I’d have been on hallowed ground. The demon couldn’t cross that, and he couldn’t wait me out with the sun coming up. And as you once told me, minions are easy to kill.”

“Not two at a time when you’re still a novice,” he replied.

I spun around, and then clenched my teeth when I saw the triumphant look in his eyes. He’d wanted me to keep talking and I’d let him bait me into it.

I began to hike up my dress as I resumed walking. Adrian watched with interest until I reached the straps around my upper thighs. I gave him a censuring look as I pulled out my cell phone. No, I wasn’t flashing him. I had to give Costa and Jasmine a heads-up that they needed to start packing. Poor Costa. He’d taken me and my sister in because we couldn’t return to our old house—or our old lives—after I’d decimated a demon realm rescuing Jasmine. Now, Costa would be forced to leave his own home, and I had no idea where any of us would go.

But when I looked at my phone, I let out a groan. The front of it was smashed so badly, I could see the plastic casing behind it. Memories of the minion’s fists explained how that had happened. My ribs hadn’t been the only thing he’d bashed as he’d tried to kill me.

“Do you have a phone?” I asked, breaking my new silence.

His mouth tightened. “No.”

“Who goes anywhere without a cell phone?” I mut­tered.

Adrian’s features closed off, as if this was somehow a sore subject. “I’ve been having issues with mine.”

We walked in silence for several moments. The sun was almost fully up, and I felt bad for Brutus flying in those rays while taking the demon far out over the ocean, even though I was ticked at Brutus for sneaking behind my back to see Adrian.

“Do you know the worst part of staying away from you these past months?” Adrian asked. “I thought it would be remembering everything that had happened between us, but instead, it was thinking of everything we didn’t do.”

I still said nothing. If he’d missed me so much, ignor­ing me for months was a real unique way of showing it.

He moved closer, until his big body blocked the wind. I still didn’t look up at him, but kept staring straight ahead as if I could will myself back at Costa’s with sheer mind power.

“I showed you terrible places when I should have shown you beautiful ones,” he went on, his voice deep­ening. “Told you horrible details about my past instead of letting you get to know the person I’d become, and I taught you how to wield that slingshot instead of teach­ing you a thousand different things that we would’ve enjoyed much, much more.”

The way his voice caressed that last part made his meaning explicitly clear. Surprise combined with a rush of heat as a treacherous part of myself started imagining what those things might have been. My lack of expe­rience meant I didn’t have a lot to go on, but my mind seemed up to improvising. Then, with a mental slap, I forced those thoughts back.

“Too late now,” I said in a crisp tone.

Adrian caught me to him, his hands closing like warm steel bands around my arms.

“Ivy, listen. When we met, I didn’t think I could beat my fate. That’s why I kept pushing you away, why I didn’t tell you who I was at first and why I didn’t tell you what I felt until, yes, it was almost too late. But it’s not too late.” He stared at me until his gaze felt al­most palpable with his intensity. “I know what I feel for you, and it’s stronger than any destiny. I told you the last time I saw you that I’d make you believe in us again. I meant that, and regardless of how mad you are at me, if you had a hard time resisting me when I was fighting my feelings for you…you won’t stand a chance now that I’m not.”

My jaw dropped as pride chased away the danger­ous warmth that had caused me to sway the tiniest bit closer to him. I’d practically thrown myself at him the last time circumstances had forced us to spend time together, and what had that gotten me? Betrayed and dumped. Damned if I’d let history repeat itself.

“Don’t be so cocky,” I said, pulling away and start­ing to walk again. “I’m not the same person, either, so save your efforts. My panties aren’t going to fall off just because you’ve finally decided that you want them to.”

His laughter chased after me, sensual and challeng­ing. “Oh, Ivy, they don’t need to fall off. I’m happy to tear them.”

I let out a frustrated sigh. Adrian wasn’t leaving and he wasn’t listening to me; I may as well be reliving the first time we met. Back then, he’d saved me from a min­ion kidnapping while opening my eyes to my “halluci­nations” being real. Whether I liked it or not, if history was repeating itself, then his presence meant my life was about to irrevocably change.

Again.

***

Hope you enjoyed the second chapter! As a reminder, you can pre-order your copy of The Sweetest Burn here or at your favorite retailer.