We have three more of these left before Frost (Midnight Ice Book One) goes on sale on Jan 26th, so I'm going to reveal one chapter a week until that date :) Hopefully this ramps up the excitement, because I need you all to GET ON MY LEVEL!! I CANNOT wait for you guys to fall in love with Pandora and I am seriously so freaking excited for this book to publish!
Here's a little book description refresher before you dive in...
Even the hottest love can turn a girl cold-blooded...
Life's tough for a vampire thief on the run--just ask Pandora Scott, she knows. Four years ago she ran away from home after everyone she loved betrayed her. But now her annoyingly grown up (and handsome) ex boyfriend is stalking her, begging her to return. A mysterious vamp with a particularly dangerous (and sexy) stare keeps popping unexpectedly into her life. The extremely powerful head vampire of New York is hunting her down because she may or may not have broken into his highly-secure, highly-secretive personal vault. And the fate she's been trying to outrun? Well, it's about to catch up. Because even a super-speedy vamp with the ability to disappear can't escape her own destiny.
Available for pre-order now :)
Without further ado...
Check out the first chapter!!
(Midnight Ice Book One)
When Pandora Scott woke on the morning of her twentieth birthday, she knew there’d be no cake, no flickering candles waiting to be blown out with a wish, no presents to rip open, no friendly voices teasing her in song, no cards waiting in the mail slot downstairs.
Because Pandora Scott didn’t have friends.
She didn’t have family.
And even though she was immortal, she didn’t have time for birthdays.
There would, however, be other things she liked. Blood. Threats. Danger. And lots and lots of money. An entire bathtub full. So much she could wipe her butt with the stuff without giving a damn. Not that she’d keep it all, but…
The alarm on her nightstand started beeping.
“I’m up, I’m up,” she grumbled, speaking to herself as she slapped her hand down on the plastic clock, annoyed to be pulled from such a glorious train of thought—on her birthday, no less! But in her haste, she smashed the thing completely to pieces.
Somehow, the broken bits kept beeping.
“Oh, come on.” She groaned, fangs sliding out with her frustration. After forming a fist, she pounded the alarm to dust and then rolled over, opening her eyes just enough to take in the world outside her window.
Two months in New York, and it was the eighth clock she’d smashed.
This city was definitely getting to her.
Pandora smiled, hand still covered in plastic shards as she closed her eyes, blissfully listening to the hustle and bustle taking place outside. New York was loud and busy, especially for a person with supernaturally enhanced hearing. Cars honked every second of the day. Pigeons squawked. People spoke nonstop—in their apartments, in restaurants, walking down the street. There was no peace and no quiet, but Pandora loved it. Because there was so much room to pretend, so many lives to lose herself in, so many places a girl could go to forget.
The enclave had been different.
She’d grown up in the middle of the woods, far off the main roads, tucked in a valley in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. But the enclave had needed to be hidden to keep her people concealed from normal human life, to keep their secrets safe. The ancient Greeks had first called them titans. The original gods. The creators of all things.
They weren't. Not even close. But the name had stuck.
In the ancient times, they'd wanted to be treated as gods among men. Almost every culture referenced them in some way. The Greek god Zeus. The Aztec god Camaxtli. The Roman goddess Minerva. The Celtic god Alator. The Egyptian god Seth. The list went on. They had once been the kings and queens of wars and hunts, of strength and immortality, of power. And they'd let themselves fade into myth, into legend. Because they were never meant to be gods or celebrities or saints. Thousands of years ago, they'd been given power beyond belief for one purpose and one purpose alone—to protect mankind from the evils it didn't even know existed.
And a hundred other supernaturals whispered about in storybooks.
Pandora had been born to protect mankind, raised to use her power for good, bred to join the Order of Othrys—the titan police force that kept the peace all across the globe, in every continent, every country. Not all supernaturals were evil, but as the saying went, when they were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid. If any creature anywhere stepped out of line, threatening people's safety, they'd face a titan soon enough. And they'd lose.
But I’m not a titan, not anymore, Pandora corrected with a frown, sliding her tongue over the sharp canines that extended past her lip, hungry for the only thing her body now craved—blood. She hadn’t been one of them for a long time.
Four years ago, she’d left the enclave—she’d run away, not sparing even a second to glance behind, because she’d never fit with the titans anyway. The Order of Othrys was divided into twelve segments of power. There were trackers, hunters, bolters, and other groups tasked with capturing any misbehaving supernaturals. There were mindbenders and readers, groups responsible for making sure the supernatural world remained totally secret and separate from the human realm. There were others, like the alchemists, who could manipulate the natural world, or the archivists, who could pass memories between generations to keep titan secrets safe. And then, there was Pandora.
She’d never belonged.
Her powers had never fit into any titan category. And because they couldn’t make her fit, they’d turned their backs on her instead—they’d abandoned her long before she’d ever abandoned them. So when she turned sixteen, the official age a titan was supposed to be initiated into the Order of Othrys, she’d done the only thing she could—one final act of rebellion against a people who’d never wanted her anyway. She became one of the very things that titans protected human beings against.
Let’s not think about home, she urged silently, blinking away her dark thoughts, fighting to clear her mind. Only happy things on my birthday, like the informant I’m about to meet, the money I’m about to make, all the people I’m about to piss off. Happy, happy things.
With a deep breath, she stood up, shaking her head, clearing it of all things from her life before. This was her life now. And in this life no one cared that today was her twentieth birthday, no one cared about her sob story, no one cared about excuses. They cared about punctuality and results, which meant she had somewhere she needed to be.
Because Pandora wasn't just a vampire.
She was a vampire thief.
A very good, very in-demand, very infamous vampire thief… At least, she liked to think so. And there was someone she was late to meet, someone who was paying her quite a lot of money to do what she did best—piss a really powerful vampire off.
Who would she be pissing off this time?
Multiple vamps, most likely. She'd only been in New York for about two months, but the list of people who wanted to murder her was already pretty long. Not that it mattered, of course. Plenty of people wanted her dead.
That's just what happens when you break into the Oval Office, steal a painting from the president, and leave an IOU on his personal stationery for the Secret Service to find.
Pandora grinned as she pulled a white cotton T-shirt from where it had been hanging on her bedpost and slid it over her slim ivory shoulders.
And it had been.
Because she'd stolen that painting for the head vampire of Washington, DC, in return for protection against the head vampire of Los Angeles, who, well, wanted to kill her for sneaking into his dungeons and freeing a handful of his prisoners. That particular job had been pro bono, of course. Pandora had been following the LA jerk for a few days, working on a different paid job to steal some ancient something or other from his vault. But when she saw him corner a poor twelve-year-old girl, feed on her, and put her in chains, she'd decided to ditch the paying gig and focus on payback instead. Naturally.
Such an ass, Pandora sneered inwardly, annoyed by even the memory of that slimy vamp. The poor girl had been lost and alone, without anyone to take care of her, probably just another runaway like Pandora had once been, trying to survive in an unforgiving world. Yeah, freeing her and everyone else in that prison had felt good. And stealing from that vamp, taking him down a notch? That had felt even better.
Of course, when she saw the head vampire of DC do nearly the same thing to another lonely soul, she couldn’t help but act accordingly.
Now, both of them wanted to kill her.
Like she'd said—long list.
And, well, it was only a matter of time before the head vampire of New York, Tatsuya, was added to it. Because two months in his city? That was more than enough time to piss him off. And the job she was working on today? On the outside, it was about stealing a very valuable sword from his private collection. But to Pandora, it was about sizing up the competition. Because just like the head vamp of LA and the head vamp of DC and every freaking head vamp in the entire damn world, Tatsuya had a dungeon full of forgotten prisoners somewhere in this city. And Pandora was determined to set each and every one of those innocent people free, to make sure they understood that there was at least one person who hadn’t abandoned them.
Word on the street was that Tatsuya’s high lords were already discussing a coup, saying he was losing his touch, and the time was right to strike. The fact that she'd stolen some pretty jaw-dropping precious gems from one of Tatsuya's personal vaults probably wasn't helping, but she'd needed to test run his security and, well, announce her arrival to the city. Besides, pawning off her cut—a hefty diamond bracelet—had been more than enough to pay for her rent indefinitely. And, come on, New York was expensive—and that wasn’t even including tuition. She’d been looking into maybe taking a few classes at NYU. If, of course, she managed to stay alive for an entire semester.
But I do play the part of a college student well, she thought, looking into the mirror as she tugged an NYU sweatshirt over her head and threw on a pair of grungy jeans. The school year didn’t officially start until next week, but she already had a set of colorful pens and two blank notebooks stuffed into a messenger bag in her closet—just in case.
It was a pipe dream, obviously.
She’d had the same set of pens and notebooks for two years, and they were still blank, still unused. A life on the run wasn’t exactly conducive to higher education or, well, normalcy. Not that her life had ever been normal, with the titans and the enclave and the secret society...
Ugh. Freaking birthdays, she chided, shaking her head, clearing it of all thoughts of home. Three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year, she could pretend everything was all right. But her birthday was the one day when all those darn memories tried to revolt. Which was exactly why she’d planned the meeting with her informant for this morning—she needed a distraction, fast.
And yet, when she opened the closet to pull out a pair of Converse sneakers, completing the stereotypical college ensemble and removing all inklings of her true vampire self, the absolute last thing she needed at that moment happened. A distraction, all right, but the worst one possible.
A picture tumbled out with the shoes.
A picture she’d tried many times to burn but always ended up shoving in the back of her closet instead. Because even though she hadn’t seen him in four years and never planned to see him again, she couldn’t destroy the last little bit of him she had left.
Her best friend. The only boy she'd ever loved.
The one who’d hurt her the most.
I wonder what he looks like now, she thought, unable to pull her gaze away from the photo resting upside down on the floor. Even from this angle, his seafoam eyes jumped out of the frame, capturing her gaze, not letting go. And that smile, the one that used to make her melt, it still made her cold, dead vampire body warm just a little. He’d been scrawny and tall, long limbs with scraps of muscles, a boy still growing into a man. But a lot could change in four years.
Against her better judgment, Pandora kneeled down and scooped the photo off the floor. Gently, she ran her fingers over the glass, still able to recall the smooth touch of his skin, hot and simmering with vibrant energy, so electric his mere presence made her nerves tingle to life. But that was how he’d always made her feel—alive, seen, noticed in a way she’d never been before.
Pandora had been a shy, meek little girl without any friends, but what else was to be expected with strange powers that didn’t fit, a mother who’d killed herself, and a father who treated her as less than dirt, focused only on work, only on the titan mission, instead of on raising a child. During the summer of her eighth birthday, Jax and his family had moved to the enclave, and the first night they met was still burned into her brain—a single, brief moment in time that changed everything.
Jax was playing guitar in his bedroom, softly plucking at strings, searching for notes he didn’t yet understand. And she'd turned her lights off to stare at him under cover of darkness, nose pressed against her bedroom window, mesmerized by the way his fingers moved. After half an hour, he put the instrument down gently. She'd thought he was going to bed, but instead, he reached over to his window and slid it open. Pandora had dropped to the ground, heart skipping wildly in her chest, cursing herself for not going invisible when she'd had the chance—that was her power, of course. The irony of ironies, her gift was knowing how to disappear. And normally, she was very good at it. But not that night.
"I know you're there," Jax had said into the empty space between their houses. "I'm a tracker. I can sense you."
She'd lifted her head just enough to look across the short space between their windows, meeting his saltwater eyes. And even though she'd heard people say there was no such thing as love at first sight, she felt her soul find a match in the depth of his irises. Even at eight, barely a girl, let alone a woman, she’d fallen for the boy next door. Hard.
"What's your name?" he'd asked. "I'm Jax."
She slid her window open a little farther, hesitant and scared, nervous as always. "Pandora," she murmured.
But he heard, and he smiled, nodding as though he enjoyed the sound of it. “So, you know I’m a tracker. Which of the twelve are you?"
Her breath had caught, because in their world, that question was as normal as breathing but her answer wasn’t. Everyone in the enclave fit into one of the twelve sections of the Order of Othrys, everyone except for her.
"I don't know," she'd whispered, shrugging self-consciously.
But instead of rejecting her like everyone else, instead of shying away from her otherness, Jax leaned forward. His bright eyes widened. "Really? I thought everyone knew. What can you do?"
“Um.” She paused, pulling her bottom lip into her mouth, not wanting to ruin the moment. Her throat had been so clogged, so tight she couldn’t speak. So instead, she showed him—she disappeared. To Pandora, not much had changed, but Jax’s jaw dropped open, and his eyes popped wide as he stared at what he saw as completely empty space. Instantly too nervous to focus, Pandora lost her hold on her invisibility. She dropped her gaze to the floor, too afraid to gauge his reaction.
But Jax hadn’t responded with fear the way everyone else in her life had, nor disgust, nor totally weirded out silence. He hadn’t backed away or closed his window or been told by an adult to leave her alone. The second she reappeared, he’d leaned closer and said this, “That is so cool!”
“Really?” Pandora asked, eyes flicking up as she smiled for the barest moment.
“Just think of all the trouble we can get into,” he’d said, hardly noticing her tepid response. “You’ll never get caught. Dory—oh, can I call you Dory?” Pandora nodded eagerly. A nickname! “Well, Dory, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Don’t you?”
But it had been everything.
Because it was the first moment she'd ever felt even an ounce of belonging.
The moment he'd become her best friend.
Until everything changed the summer he turned sixteen.
The summer I decided to stay fifteen forever.
Pandora grimaced, shoving the picture frame back into the farthest corner of her closet, where it had been hidden.
But really, she only had herself to blame. And when she stood up, Pandora paused, eyes caught by the sight of her own reflection. Same blonde hair. Same long legs. Same youthful expression. Not a thing about her appearance had changed.
That was part of the deal, after all.
But other things were unrecognizable. Her spirit, for one. Her attitude, for another. Pandora had once been a meek, soft-spoken girl, one who ached to please, who wanted nothing more than to belong, who would have given anything to feel loved.
But that girl was gone.
She'd died four years ago.
And she was never coming back.
Good riddance, Pandora thought, tearing herself away from the mirror. It was almost noon. And she had somewhere she needed to be—meeting with the vampire who was paying her a lot of money to steal from Tatsuya, getting back to her real life and all the concrete plans she’d made.
Not giving herself another second to think, Pandora crossed the small space of her studio apartment and flung open the door. She stepped outside before closing it resolutely behind her. The hallway was empty, so she took the opportunity to do her favorite thing—disappear.
Taking a deep breath, Pandora called on the shadows. The world around her dimmed as she pulled the darkness closer, fading away from the light, as though she was looking through a black veil, slipping into a void. She had been able to retreat into the shadows, to vanish from sight, for as long as she could remember. And becoming a vampire hadn’t taken the power away—it had enhanced it. Because now, she was faster, quieter, and far more lethal.
And in her own little private sanctuary, Pandora was more than ready to leave the world behind. Surrounded in the shadows, protected by them, she was finally able to shrug off the memories and give in to the present, finally able to forget her birthday and focus on the task at hand.
Glancing toward the camera in the corner of the hall, Pandora smirked, noting the red light was still dark. In an effort to keep the existence of vampires and all things supernatural a secret from her human neighbors, she’d dealt with the security in her building a while ago. And luckily for her, the apartment manager was too cheap to replace all the cameras she’d destroyed. The only footage he'd ever caught of her speed was video of the front door opening and closing on its own. But she was always out so fast it looked like little more than a strong breeze and an insecure lock.
Today would be no different.
In a flash, Pandora launched into hyperspeed, racing down the emergency steps and out the front door, grinning wildly. After a deep breath of late summer air, she let the vampire take over. A wave of adrenaline pumped through her body, the high of invincibility and freedom. Running in New York felt like a video game—jump this way, dodge those pedestrians, leap over that illegally turning taxicab. Every second amped her up. Every moment brought an exalted glow to her eyes, sending her energy into overdrive. By the time she arrived at the Central Park Zoo, her skin was practically buzzing.
I'm in the zone, she thought, slowing her racing steps, returning to a normal speed.
But when she stepped through the front gate of the zoo, her gaze fell on the sea lion exhibit, and all reason for being there fell away. Pandora shifted through pedestrians, giving herself one little birthday present, one little moment of joy. The tank was in the public portion of the zoo, right at the front and extremely crowded, but she found a free spot to rest her forearms against the rail. Leaning over, she watched as a sea lion zipped by beneath the water. It surfaced for a moment before diving like a torpedo back into the blue. Another one chased behind, playing a game of tag, curving and swerving its pliable body, leaping over the rock bridge the zookeepers used for feedings to follow its friend around the tank.
Pandora smiled, laughing softly to herself as she watched. And then she stiffened, frowning as she shook her head. A vampire who likes animals? With a sigh, she pushed herself off the rail, standing tall. I’m pathetic.
Why had she chosen the Central Park Zoo as the meeting point? It'd been months since she'd let herself come to one of these places, let herself reminisce about old dreams that had no hope of ever coming true. Animals used to calm her, used to intrigue her. Back when she thought escaping the supernatural web of her life was possible, she'd dreamed of becoming a vet—and not just for dogs and cats, but for all sorts of exotic animals too. That's why she was always signing up for classes, trying to enroll in a university. That’s why a bag of untouched pens and notebooks sat idle in her closet. That little spark of hope that some dreams were still within grasp was hard to snuff.
Really, really hard.
But her life was vampires and heists and danger. She’d come too far to turn back now, run too far and too fast to ever stop. Besides, there were people depending on her, people the rest of the world had forgotten.
And she had to remember that.
Pandora slid her phone out of her pocket and glanced at the time. Almost noon. She'd wasted too many precious minutes. Now she'd have to rush. Her contact for the job was probably already at the meeting spot, waiting for her.
Still wrapped in the shadows, completely out of sight, she wove through the crowd, making her way to the building where they housed the tropical animals. When she pushed the door open, the air temperature rose about ten degrees, and the humidity stuck to her skin. Of course, the added heat did nothing to warm her. The chill she lived with was bone deep—the icy grasp of living death.
Glancing to the side, Pandora saw a mother with a stroller. Her toddler was running ahead with his gaze focused on a tank in the distance. The little boy pressed his forehead against the glass, eyes going wide, inhaling sharply. His heart sped faster, blood pumping, the inherent reaction of excitement and fear intermixing.
A snake, it's got to be a snake, she thought, trying to distract herself.
But against her will, Pandora's stomach tightened as her teeth pressed to the surface, aching for a bite. Innocent blood always smelled better for some reason, but in all her time as a vampire, she'd never lost control enough to bite a child. The very idea repulsed her.
Hovering just inside the entrance, she listened for more steps, more heartbeats. There were none. There was, however, the stench of stolen blood wafting in from the other end of the hall where it bent to the right, disappearing around a corner. Her mark, it had to be, and luckily, the rest of the exhibit was empty.
Glancing at the family one more time, Pandora stepped purposefully forward. She was careful not to breathe in the scent of the sleeping baby as she walked past the stroller, not even sparing a glance at the still-awestruck little boy. Hopefully, she'd be out before they'd even moved on to the next tank.
She rounded the corner, pausing briefly to take in the vampire waiting by the bat cage at the far side of the room—exactly where she'd told him to be.
A little ironic, sure.
But even vampires had a sense of humor.
Well, some anyway.
Pandora stepped behind him, still hidden in her own private world, cloaked by the darkness. And then she reached her hand up, clasping his neck, so her very sharp fingernails pressed into his supernaturally tough skin, deep enough to nearly draw blood, but not quite.
He didn't even flinch.
He did, however, swallow very slowly.
Pandora grinned, not releasing her grip, holding steady. Vampires only spoke one language—power. And right now, she had it.
"Do you have what I asked for?" she whispered, changing the sound of her voice so he wouldn’t recognize it in the future.
The vamp slid a bag off his shoulder and handed it back to her without attempting to turn around. "One third of the payment, as you asked. It’s all there in cash, and the rest will be delivered when we receive the item you were hired to procure—the katana sword from Tatsuya’s private collection. My employer is very eager to see the deal done."
"So am I," she said with a growl, fusing ice and iron into her voice. Rumor was, the sword was being auctioned off at Tatsuya’s charity ball tomorrow night, and Pandora was more than ready to finally come face-to-face with the head vamp, to finally stare into his evil eyes and know he wouldn’t be so cocky for too much longer. “If everything goes according to plan, I’ll have the sword for you by tomorrow night. Meet me here on Sunday, same time, same rules. Only one vamp, and if I smell any hint of backup, the sword and I will be gone before you have time to blink.”
The vamp twisted his head an inch to the side. She dug her fingers into his throat even deeper, this time drawing a thin line of blood. The only things tough enough to break through vampire skin were the teeth or nails of another vamp—and she intended to make sure he understood exactly what she was. And that she wasn’t playing around.
He stopped trying to peek over his shoulder. "Is there anything else you require?"
"Yeah," she retorted. "Get out of here fast, and don't stop running until you're a mile away. Because if I see you lingering around outside, trying to figure out who I am, you and your employer will find out just how sharp my nails really are."
Pandora released the vamp and shoved him away.
But he was bigger, stronger, most likely a lot older than her four years of being undead. He didn't go very far. Half a second later he spun, hissing, revealing sharp fangs and hungry blue eyes. Vampires didn’t really like being threatened…which was probably why she did it so often. But come on, she couldn't help herself.
Even now, Pandora grinned instead of cringing in fear. If he could see her, maybe she'd be worried. Probably not, but maybe. Now? She couldn't help but laugh silently to herself as he retracted his teeth. His eyes flashed with annoyance as they took in nothing but open space and empty air. He tilted his head, stretching out with his senses, trying to locate her, but the effort was futile. When she was wrapped in the shadows, there wasn't a single thing about her he could trace. So, she stepped brazenly closer, leaned in, and whispered a single word into his ear.
His arm snapped out faster than lightning, but Pandora expected it, ducking easily under his bicep and skipping away. He searched the space one more time, frustration mounting. But the creak of a wheel distracted him. The family was turning the corner, entering the second half of the exhibit. And the vampire finally heeded Pandora's advice. It was time to go.
He walked calmly out the door at the end of the hall. Pandora listened to his footsteps disappear as he transferred to hyperspeed the second he was outside, running as far away as she had told him to. Hopefully farther.
She glanced at the little boy one more time. He was tugging on his mother's hand, urging her to push the stroller faster, smiling freely, practically hopping up and down with so much eagerness to see more and to see it faster.
Have I ever looked so carefree?
Once, maybe, with Jax.
But that was a long time ago—a time she would never get back.
Pandora fled the memories and the family, sneaking through the door, not releasing the shadows until she was huddled in a bathroom stall behind a locked door. Immediately, she reached into the bag the vamp had dropped at her feet. She'd smelled the money well enough to know it was there—cotton fibers mixed with ink, crisp and fresh. She'd expected it was newly printed and pristine, but when she zipped open the bag, her throat still stuck. Staring at over three hundred thousand dollars in bills was a little overwhelming, after all—even for the most experienced vampire thief.
Pandora brushed her fingers over the tightly packed stacks. If she'd had a heartbeat, it would be pounding. Instead, all she felt was hungry, euphoric, and in need of blood. But she swallowed the feeling down, fighting the high as she lifted a wad of hundred-dollar bills and fanned herself with it, smirking.
All about the Benjamins, baby, she thought, grinning.
Hey, she might be a vampire, but she was still a child of the new millennium. So she couldn't help but laugh a little as the image of tossing a wad of cash into the air filtered into her mind.
Make it rain!
Except, she was in a dirty New York bathroom, and to be honest, her super-strong vampire senses weren't doing her any favors in here.
Refocusing, Pandora counted the money, then grabbed one hundred thousand for herself before opening her backpack to reveal the donation envelopes she'd stolen from the front entrance of the zoo a few days ago. Taking each stack one by one, she stuffed the envelopes and wrote anonymous across the form. Maybe she'd keep a little more of the next payment, but for now, her cold, dead heart was thinking of the sea lions in their inescapable tank, forever circling without anywhere to go, and she thought they needed it more.
Before she could change her mind, she lifted her hood and slinked her backpack over one shoulder, then rushed back to the fresh air. A few minutes later, she was standing at the donation drop box, filling it with envelopes, smiling a little more each time she heard one fall like a brick to the bottom.
She should have smelled him.
She should have felt his presence.
But she was too wrapped up in her own pride to notice.
"Becoming a vampire seems to be a pretty lucrative decision these days," a deep voice purred the second the final envelope slipped through her fingers.
Pandora froze, body jerking upright.
Jax was here.
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter :) Check out chapter two here!
And in the meantime, Frost is available for pre-order!