Only a week and a half until Frost goes on sale on Jan 26th!!! To celebrate, I'm revealing the first few chapters a little bit early :) Chapter One was revealed last week!
And here's Chapter Two!! Enjoy!
(Midnight Ice Book 1)
Pandora didn’t move. Her hand remained hovering over the donation box as the rest of her stood stock still, jarred by shock. His scent filled her flared nostrils, even more overwhelming than the sound of his voice. The subtle hints of saffron and rosemary along the outer edge of his lip, the metallic scratch of steel strings permanently etched into his fingers, and, most recognizable, the lingering traces of bark and dew and fresh morning air clinging desperately to his clothes. Everything about him brought her back to those warm summer nights, to those long lingering gazes, to the days of sweat and sun and smiles, and to the dreams whispered tentatively under cover of starlight.
Back to the world she had left behind.
But there was something new too. Something she had never noticed before. Something that now called out to her senses more brazenly than all the rest.
Sweet and salty, brimming with an undercurrent of undeniable power—titan power. Against her will, her sharp fangs pressed into her lower lip, pushing slowly out from hiding, drawn by the incredible allure of that tantalizing scent.
She should leave.
She should run.
Keep going. Never stopping. Just as she'd been doing for the past four years—always a new place, always a new cover, always a new identity. The order had sent others before him—after all, a titan outcast was still a titan, and they didn’t let their own go so easily. But each time, she slipped away before they even had the chance to get close, even had the chance to spot her.
But this time, she didn't.
This time, she stayed right where she was—frozen.
Because the smell of him brought her back to a place she hadn't been in a long time—a place that felt almost like humanity, almost like home.
It was inevitable the titans would send him. She'd tried to prepare herself to resist the temptation. But now, the lovestruck teen she'd once been was whispering in the back of her mind, wondering how different he looked from the boy in the picture, wondering if he missed her, wondering if he'd ever expected to find her like this.
Jax leaned in closer, completely unafraid as his breath tickled the back of her neck, sending a shiver along her normally lifeless skin. “Happy birthday, Dory.”
Hearing that name tumble from those lips jarred her back to the present.
He’d lost the right to call her that name.
He’d forfeited it.
“My name is Pandora,” she growled, turning on her heels.
But the moment she looked into his seafoam eyes, all the anger vanished, dropped away in an instant. Because just like that, after so many years spent running, she’d finally been found. For the first time since she had woken up alone, cold, and not at all human, her heart jerked into motion, beating once, painful in a cold chest unaccustomed to the warm spark of life. Yet comforting. Exciting. Terrifying.
She stumbled back, overwhelmed.
Those eyes pierced her soul the same way they always had. Well, what was left of it at least. And they didn't look away as he stepped determinedly forward, the slow stalk of a panther at hunt, closing in on its victim.
Jax’s gaze pinned her to the spot.
But hers roamed. The last time she’d seen him, he was scrawny, barely taller than her, barely stronger, merely a boy, and she had still found him beautiful. Now, he was a man. And he wasn't beautiful. He was a force of nature washing over her, melting every iced-over part of her body. His golden-brown skin was even richer than she remembered, sizzling with the heat of the memories she had tried so hard to bury. He was taller and broader, thicker, with muscles defined even through the hug of his clothes. But mostly, there was an air about him that she didn’t recognize, confident and harsh, demanding and arrogant, stronger and more focused than the popular, happy boy who used to live in dreams and sing her sweet lullabies in the dark.
What did he see when he looked at her?
The same fifteen-year-old girl? Just as lost? Just as lonely?
“Dory,” he whispered, deep voice thrumming.
Part of her yearned to whisper his name.
But the other part won.
The part still clinging to his betrayal, perpetually aching from it.
I should have left when I had the chance, she cursed inwardly. Why did I turn around? Why, oh why, did I actually look at him?
Pandora swallowed her rising emotions back down, flipping the switch inside her head, letting the vampire take over. With a cool, crisp voice free of the taint of human feeling, she asked, "What are you doing here?"
His soft green eyes flashed, revealing his surprise. But then he crossed his arms, responding with a challenge of his own. "What are you doing dropping what could be an entire life's savings into an anonymous donation box for a zoo?"
Pandora ignored the question. “Are you alone?”
A lazy smile crawled across his face, one she recognized immediately because it was the same grin he wore in the photograph she’d stuffed in the back of her closet. Carefree and confidently amused. “You really think I need backup to face you?”
She shrugged absently. “None of the other titans came alone.”
"None of the others know you like I do," he murmured, voice silky as he reached across the space between them, a distance that seemed both vast and nonexistent at the same time, gently running his finger over the bare skin of her hand. And again, her pesky heart thumped once, alive for a moment, ignited by his touch. Without even a hint of hesitation, he latched his fingers around her forearm, palm burning hot through her sweatshirt. But his brows came together as he felt the frozen temperature of her skin, confirming what he’d seen with his own eyes—that she was a vampire.
"Let go," Pandora demanded, pushing past him hard enough to make him stumble.
But he just tightened his hold. "Not so fast."
"Jax," she warned.
His entire face brightened, eyes sparkling like the ocean on a sunny day. "So you do remember my name! I was starting to get a complex about spending four years chasing after a girl who'd completely forgotten me."
Pandora took the opening he’d provided. “Four years, huh?” She scoffed, mocking him. “I always wondered when they'd send you. It never crossed my mind you've actually been trying to find me this whole time."
“I haven’t,” he denied.
But Pandora knew the truth—the body didn’t lie, and his was abuzz with feeling. His heart was pounding, a heavy beat of blood that smelled deliciously alluring. His throat was tight as he fought to maintain a relaxed façade, unaware that she could read past any front he put up, could hear his stilted breath and one very slow, purposeful swallow. Jax was overflowing with anticipation—he just didn’t want to admit it.
Before Pandora could retort, he tugged on her arm, dragging her away from the donation box. “Let’s go.”
“No.” She yanked against his hold, but it was no use. Titans were annoyingly powerful and annoyingly similar to vampires. They had all the good stuff like superstrength, superspeed, and superinvulnerability without any of the downsides—the blood sucking, the immortality, the unavoidable frost of death.
Just another thing for Pandora to hate about her former best friend.
"Dory." Jax sighed, lifting their arms so his bicep came around her shoulder, pulling her against his side—a place she’d been many times, under different circumstances, of course. And yet he felt different, solid in a way he hadn’t been before, broader and taller too. She was hyperaware of his flexing muscles, of the heat building in the small space between them, of the way her body seemed to mold perfectly to his—as though after all this time, they’d finally grown up enough to fit.
To the outside viewer, they could be a couple in love. In reality, his fingers were digging into her shoulder blade. All he'd done was secure a more inescapable grasp, yet Pandora still found herself melting the slightest bit in his embrace.
Jax leaned down and whispered in her ear. "If you're not careful, you might actually start acting like my best friend instead of the bitch you're trying so hard to be."
Pandora stiffened, standing tall.
“Let go,” she ordered again, more forcefully this time.
“Not a chance.” Jax clutched even tighter. "We both know the first thing you'll do the second I let go. It's the same trick you pulled on everyone else, and I've waited too damn long to let that happen."
Pandora opened her eyes wide, feigning innocence. "Whatever do you mean?"
He was obviously referring to her pesky little ability to disappear completely from sight, and he was right—the second he let go, that was exactly what she’d be doing. Because she never should have turned around. She never should have looked into his eyes. She never should have talked to him. The second she heard his voice, she should have disappeared and run, the same way she had when every other titan had gotten too close for comfort.
But he wasn’t every other titan.
He was Jax.
And even after four years, apparently, that still made all the difference.
"You have to talk to me, really talk to me," Jax implored, steering her away from the exit, back toward the crowded area of the zoo, where it would be harder for her to escape. "Because you know what? If you run again, I'll just keep looking. I can find you anywhere, any place, any time. And you know as well as I do that I won’t stop. Because the last night I saw you is burned into my mind. I can't erase the look in your eyes, can't erase the memory of you running away from me. So, we're going to talk, whether you want to or not."
Pandora paused, taking a deep breath, thinking back to that last night.
But her mind was blank.
The truth was, she couldn’t remember her last night at the enclave, her last one as a human. She couldn’t recall the way Jax had looked at her right before she'd run away, couldn't envision their final moments together. Because when she'd started this new life, she'd forced herself to forget them. The truth of that night had been too hard to handle. It had broken her, destroyed her. So rather than live with the pain, she'd washed the memories away, leaving only the raw hate and anger behind. Leaving just enough emotion to constantly remind herself that she could never go back. Everyone she loved had betrayed her so deeply that she'd lost who she was, lost everything. Now all that remained was the throbbing pulse of disgust that had taken the place of her heartbeat.
"No, we're not going to talk," Pandora countered. "Because no matter what you say, I don't belong at the enclave. I don’t belong with the titans. I never did. I never will. And I'm never going back. Now, for the last time, let go."
But the moment Pandora tried to shrug free of Jax’s arm, his shirt pulled down, exposing his collarbone—exposing the little brownish-purple spot staining his chest. Immediately, she forgot that she was supposed to be angry with him, supposed to run away, supposed to leave all parts of her former life behind. Pandora reached her hand up, gently skimming her fingers over the outline of the bruise, eyes wide.
Jax inhaled sharply at her touch.
His heartbeat sped up.
His skin grew hot.
His breath came short and fast.
His blood boiled, rushing to a singular spot in his body.
All things a vampire could notice that a titan could not.
Pandora dropped her hand, meeting his soft gaze for a moment before stepping as far away as his hold would allow—so, not very. But the last thing she wanted to notice right now was his unabashed attraction, a painful reminder of all the memories she was trying to forget.
"Why do you have a bruise?" she asked quietly, concern overpowering everything else.
Jax took a deep breath, turning his eyes away, gaze falling to the ground. She didn’t need to be a vampire to notice the way he paused just a second too long, hiding the truth. "Because New Yorkers are a pretty angry bunch. Elbows were flying right and left on the subway.”
Pandora frowned. Why wouldn’t he tell her? Why was he dodging? In her fifteen years at the enclave, she’d never seen a spot on him—on any of them. Titans weren’t immortal, but they were supposed to be indestructible. What had changed while she was gone? "You know what I mean. We're—I mean, you're not supposed to bruise. Titans are supposed to heal."
His brows drew together. "Why do you care if you’re never coming back?"
The gruffness in his voice sounded contrived, almost like a cover-up for something painful, a knife still lodged in his chest. Part of her wanted to heal the imaginary wound. And part of her still wanted to pretend as though she didn’t give a damn.
"You're right, I don't," she snapped.
"You ditched us," he told her, grip digging deeper into her skin. "You ditched me. So you don't get to know my secrets, not yet."
That little not yet concerned her.
Pandora sighed, glancing around, noticing the eyes subtly shifting in their direction. "We're gathering some attention, so if you have something to say, do it quick or leave."
He leaned into her, nose brushing softly against her cheek. The spot burned like wildfire, its effects spreading recklessly across her nerves in frenzied abandon.
I will not shiver. I will not shiver.
Once upon a time, she couldn't control the reaction her body had whenever his was this close. But now she could, and she held her muscles rigid as his breath tickled her cheek and his lips moved precariously close to her skin, another display for watching eyes.
"Smile and walk with me," he whispered.
When he stepped forward, she paused for a moment. She could fight him off. He was strong, but so was she. He was fast, but she could disappear. A few minutes was all it would take to toss him over her shoulder, punch him once or twice until he loosened his hold, and then vanish just as she'd done with all the other titans who’d come before. But the more she glanced around, the less possible escape seemed. The zoo grew more and more crowded by the minute, and a fight between a titan and a vampire would inevitably catch some attention and trap an innocent in the crosshairs. No, she’d have to wait for the perfect moment to strike. He’d always been kind with her, gentle and trusting. His guard would drop eventually.
Pandora eased into his hold, keeping up the pretense of a young couple in love as he led her to the very spot she'd started—the sea lions. He leaned over the rail, gripping her hand tightly and pulling her down beside him.
"You know, as soon as I stepped foot in New York, I had a feeling I’d eventually find you here," he whispered, keeping his eyes focused forward, talking gently, voice melodic. "Not a tracker feeling, a Jax and Dory feeling." And then he looked at her, eyes bright against his dark skin and even darker hair. Pandora stared straight ahead, but it did little to dull the awareness creeping across her skin, sparking her every cell to life. "You always used to go to the woods or to our tree house whenever you were stressed or sad or needed to think. You always wanted to be closer to the animals, to use them to take your mind off things." As he spoke, his grip loosened. The edge of his lip curled into a nostalgic grin. “Do you remember that time we found the bird’s nest?”
Pandora snorted. A smile came to her lips even as she tried to suppress it. “Yeah, it was broken and shattered against the ground, and three of the five eggs had already cracked open, but I was determined to keep the other two alive.”
“So determined you kept them wrapped in your scarf the entire way home and ordered me to get supplies.”
“They needed to stay incubated.”
“You were a slave driver!” he teased, squeezing her hand with affection before releasing his hold a little bit more. “‘Jax, go get me a heating lamp. Jax, find me a thermometer. Jax, print out the twenty pages of research on fledglings I found. Jax, sneak out of training with me to turn the eggs. Jax, stay home from school to watch them hatch.’ I got into so much trouble that week when the teacher called my dad.”
I didn’t, Pandora thought grimly. The teacher had never called her father—the teacher had never even noticed she’d been gone. Because to everyone in the enclave—the other kids, the teachers, the members of the order, her own father—Pandora had been the invisible girl, all too easy to forget. At least until she’d done the one thing they couldn’t abide by—run away and tried to actually disappear.
Pandora lifted her brows as she stared ahead, still not ready to face those eyes that had been the only ones to ever truly see her. “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”
He puckered his lips, amused. “You know what I remember the most?”
“What?” she asked wryly.
Jax kept his gaze pinned on her face, drawing hers from the spot where she’d been purposefully not watching him. But he was magnetic like that, unable to be ignored for very long. And right now, his expression was intense, fueled by a molten undercurrent of suppressed emotions now fighting to reach the surface. “I remember watching you while those two little birds broke their way through those shells, totally transfixed by the gleam in your eyes—it was the most alive, the most excited I’d ever seen you. I didn’t even see them hatch, because I couldn’t tear myself away from you, from the wonder transforming every closed-off corner of your face. I’ll never forget that day because it was the first time I remember thinking, I want to kiss this girl. I want to make her look at me like that.”
And you did, Pandora thought, glancing away. But what do you see in my eyes now?
She couldn’t ask it out loud. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
And when her gaze landed on the sea lions once more, Pandora realized that sometime during their conversation, Jax had stopped clutching her hand. Instead, their fingers were loosely intertwined, holding on to one another equally, comfortably, one person’s grip no stronger than the other.
She subtly slipped her palm free.
I should definitely leave. Vanish. Now, before he notices his mistake.
But she didn’t.
Pandora watched the sea lions take the same path over and over, spinning in the same endless rotation. And before she was even aware what she was doing, the words slipped out. "Why are you here, really? You know I’m a vampire. You know I can’t go back even if I wanted to. So why are you still chasing me?"
Jax didn’t take his gaze from her face. "You know it’s not permanent anymore. I'll admit, I was pissed as hell when I realized you did this to yourself, that you turned into one of them. But there's a way to undo what you did. And you can put up this tough front, but I see right through you, Pandora Scott. This isn’t the life you want for yourself. It’s not the life you always dreamed of. So come with me, get the cure, be the girl I know you want to be.”
Pandora shut her eyes tight, squeezing.
She knew what he was talking about. A few years ago when it was first discovered, it was all anyone was talking about—the cure for vampirism. When she'd first heard the news, she hated herself for the immediate sense of relief that had flooded her heart—maybe she could go back, maybe she could stop running. But then the betrayal sharpened, reminding her there was no home to return to.
And the same thing happened now.
At first, she weakened, shoulders hunching, relieved that Jax hadn't given up on her. And then she hardened, letting the ice freeze her heart, remembering that everything Jax said was just empty sounds, that he’d broken every other promise he’d ever made. Even still, his next perfectly hollow words made the frozen cube in her chest fracture.
"Come home," he whispered, purring, voice so sincere, so honest that it hurt. For a moment, her mind flashed back to the boy who used to sing her songs across the space between their open windows, whose voice once lured her to sleep. "Come back to me."
"I can't," she rasped, feeling the heat in his gaze melt her resolve.
"I can't, Jax, so stop asking."
He reached for her immediately, realizing her hand was no longer wrapped in his, but he was too late. She had already stepped away.
Pandora turned and ran.
He chased after, following close on her heels, but as soon as she got out of sight behind a building, she did what he knew she would.
She vanished without a trace.
Pandora became one with the shadows, watching the world dim as she pulled the darkness closer, wrapping it around her like a shield. Once upon a time, Jax had been able to sense her even when she was out of sight, had been able to locate her in the void when no one else could. But now she was a vampire, and that changed everything. Because before, he'd been able to sense her beating heart, her soul. But now, when she slipped away, there was nothing to trace, nothing to find.
She became nothing.
And even a tracker as good as Jax couldn't find what wasn't there.
"Dory?" he called out.
At the sound of his voice, she paused, pressing her back tight against the side of the building, unable to leave. At least, not yet. Because hearing him shout her name so desperately made her wonder if there maybe was a little something lingering deep down in some hidden part of herself that he could still tap into. If there were a little human morsel struggling to stay alive in her undead body, one only Jax could sense.
Two feet pounded toward her, no longer the slow, graceful saunter of a panther but the desperate slap of a hunter who'd let his prey slip through his fingers.
Pandora made herself small, wrapping the shadows closer as she watched him round the corner. She waited to see if he could still find her in the darkness. But those seafoam eyes that had just made her heart beat for the first time in four years, that had melted a little bit of the ice wrapped around her insides like a protective shield, were now frantically searching for a girl he feared he’d never see again.
And he won’t see me again, she silently promised herself. Never ever again.
“Dory!” he demanded, louder this time, firmer. “Don't disappear on me again. I'll find you. I always have, and I always will. Just talk to me, please. I'll do anything for you to just talk to me."
Pandora pressed her lips tightly shut to keep her dark laughter from slipping out. What do you want to talk about, Jax? What could we possibly have to talk about? You did this to me. You and everyone else I once thought I loved. I trusted you, and you betrayed me. What’s left to talk about?
"I'm going to find you," he said, his voice a growl, frustration mounting. "I won't stop. I can't."
Pandora pushed off the wall and stepped slowly toward him as he continued to scan for a hint of the girl he'd lost. Those panicked irises passed over her once, twice, three times, blind to the body she kept invisible, not sensing her even when she was a foot away. Cautiously, she reached up, stretching her palm toward his face, stopping an inch from his cheek, shivering as the heat from his body brushed against her skin.
She stayed like that for a moment, wishing beyond anything else to close the gap, to pretend even for a second that things were different. Wishing that his eyes would somehow locate hers through the void, wishing he could still find her when no one else could. But her heart was still, her chest was empty, there was nothing there.
And she had to remember that.
So she lowered her hand, wrapped her fingers around his neck, and let the vampire take over. Pandora squeezed, digging her nails into the soft flesh of his throat, choking him.
You shouldn’t have followed me, Pandora thought, grip tightening as the bitterness rose, bubbling up from somewhere dark and dangerous, from the memories of the past that she kept suppressed—too difficult to face, too difficult to remember. But even though she couldn’t remember all the details of that night four long years ago when her entire world changed, she remembered enough. Jax had said he loved her, but he’d still chosen them. He’d still chosen the titans. And the ache of his betrayal was just as strong as ever. You shouldn’t have come, Jax. You should have known better than to piss off a vampire who seriously didn’t want to be found, than to pick a fight with a woman very much scorned. Me.
But as quick as the satisfaction of hearing his sputtering breath came, it was gone. Because she made the mistake of looking into his eyes—his beautiful, woeful eyes. And then she noticed the arms limp by his sides, the crease digging into his forehead, the burn gathering in his heart. And her grip softened.
Jax wasn’t going to fight her.
He wasn’t going to give her what she wanted—another reason to hate him.
"Leave me the hell alone,” Pandora demanded instead.
Then she used her superstrength to throw him like a rag doll across the empty space of the alley. He smacked against the ground, cursing when his chest hit the dirt. Pandora stayed a second longer, watching as he slammed his fist against the earth so hard he left a dent before jumping to his feet, alert.
After this last job, she was leaving New York.
And wherever she went next, one thing was certain.
Jackson Rodriguez would never find her. Because leaving him once was tough, twice doubly difficult, and a third time might be too much to bear.
Taking one last moment, she breathed in his scent.
And then she really did disappear.
I hope you enjoyed the second chapter :) Keep reading and enjoy the third chapter here!
And in the meantime, Frost is available for pre-order!