December 26, 2017

Belated Christmas Gift...SHATTER First Chapter Reveal!!


SHATTER (Midnight Ice Book Four) goes on sale on just ONE WEEK!! 

Woohoo!!

I can't believe the Midnight Ice series is already coming to a close! Pandora's story has been a WILD ride and I hope this final installment is everything you all hoped it would be! I'm so excited for you to read it!

As a slightly belated #TeaserTuesday Christmas present, I decided to have a first chapter reveal to whet your appetite :) You can pre-order a copy of Shatter wherever ebooks are sold!

               

Without further ado...the first chapter!


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Shatter 
(Midnight Ice Book Four)


Chapter One


The titans arrived not even twenty-four hours after Sam was dead. Pandora and the rest of the crew were enjoying the cool breeze on a sunny day, the peaceful sound of chirping birds mixed with laughter, and the picnic basket Kira had painstakingly put together as a celebratory feast, when they felt the ground tremble.
“Earthquake?” Kira asked innocently, confused as the grass and dirt shook beneath them.
Pavia raised a heavily arched brow. “In Florida?”
But Pandora knew.
And so did Jax.
And their gazes snapped together in an instant, full of the same realization.
Quakers.
Which could only mean one thing—the titans were there.
Yet as her heart filled with dread at the idea of facing her father, facing the people who’d wished for her death, facing what was sure to be an angry mob, she couldn’t help but notice a strange sort of gleam in the corner of Jax’s eye. As though he were excited. Eager, even.
A piercing crack snapped her from her thoughts.
Lightning.
Bolters.
It was followed by a scream. Then two more.
“I don’t think that’s an earthquake…” Naya trailed off.
Pandora sneered, jumping to her feet. “It’s definitely not.”
Another flash of lightning whipped across the sky. The rest of the group lurched to their feet in one sudden, haphazard move. The grass beneath them began to fissure as the vibrations grew, making them shuffle for balance.
“Okay, Luke and I will go find my grandfather and the rest of the council,” Kira began, shouting over the mounting rumbles to make sure everyone could hear. Though her voice wavered at a high octave, laced with uncertainty, her eyes were determined and focused. “Pavia and Tristan, go find the rest of the cured vamps in your little History of Warfare class, and see if you can gather any weapons. Even if you only have rubber bullets, just the sight of an AK-47 might make the titans pause. Naya and Mateo, go back inside and stay out of sight. You’ve already broken out of jail twice, let’s not make it a hat trick. And Pandora and Jax? Well, why don’t you two go welcome your guests.” Pandora frowned and tossed Kira a pointed look, to which the conduit shrugged. “What? It’s only polite.” 
Before anyone had time to protest, the water in all eight of their glasses began to float, lifting up and above the plastic rims. The droplets danced across the air, swirling into a funnel, pulled by an unseen force. Except, it wasn’t unseen. Not really. It was titan tridents, gathering their power.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned conversation? Pandora thought, watching the water shoot out of sight. The titans weren’t playing around. They were gathering their strength—and though that strength was considerably lessened since yesterday, it was still pretty freaking intimidating. And pretty freaking annoying.
“Are you still shielding us?” Pandora asked Jax as everyone scattered, listening to Kira’s orders and following them without question.
His brows came together. “What?”
“Are you shielding us?” Pandora widened her eyes, pleading. “From the trackers? Do they know where we are?”
“Oh,” he responded quickly, shaking his head as though clearing his confusion. “I stopped. After yesterday, I let the shields drop. I figured there wasn’t a use for them anymore.”
A tremor shot across the grass, aimed directly for their feet. The ground exploded in a cloud of dirt, knocking them to their knees. Pandora glared at Jax.
“Oh, yeah,” she drawled, unable to stop herself as she spit out a wad of debris. “No use at all.”
But instead of him responding how Pandora might have expected—rolling his eyes and tossing his own playful jibe back, or ignoring her and helping her to her feet—his eyes hardened to something lethally sharp, something unexpected. “I’m not afraid of the titans.”
Pandora grabbed his hand and pulled him to standing, not quite sure how to respond. His attention dropped to the spot where their fingers intertwined, and he clutched her tighter before softening his gaze.
“We don’t have to be afraid anymore,” Jax murmured, brushing his thumb across her palm, protective and supportive. Loving. “You don’t have to be afraid.”
Pandora released a breath, finally understanding where that moment of steely aggression had come from. The tension in her chest unlatched and fell away, replaced with a warm sort of sensation that spread to the tips of those very fingers Jax was holding.
“I know, and I’m not,” she told him softly, tugging slightly on his arm so he would meet her eyes. And then she grinned. “But a few more quaker tremors, and Kira and Luke’s house might snap. They’ve been pretty great hosts, so let’s go meet our so-called guests somewhere out in the open. Can you prop the shield? It might give us all a moment to regroup.”
“Let’s just go,” he answered quickly, frowning.
“But it’ll only take—”
She was interrupted by a bolt of lightning exploding a mere five feet from her body, snapping the branch off a tree as it scorched the earth black, leaving an eerie electric crackle in its wake. A warning.
“Come on,” Jax said gruffly, yanking on her arm to pull her along.
She bit her protest back and followed. Because, really, she’d hate to see Kira and Luke’s house totally destroyed right before their wedding. As much as she grumbled about the planning, she’d been meaning to get them a gift when she had time, and setting their new home on fire wasn’t exactly what she’d had in mind.
So she and Jax ran, sprinting from the backyard, around the side of the house, across the street and toward the park in the center of Sonnyville. They stumbled. They fell. They felt the weight of their new mortality as their knees scraped and bloodied with each drop, but they kept on going. A fire hydrant burst, and a suspiciously sinuous gush of water crashed into them both, shooting them off their feet, so they tumbled across grass and concrete. Pandora’s head banged into the pavement, a sharp sting. But she crawled to her knees, gritting her teeth against the pain—after all, the lack of healing was her own damn fault, and now she’d have to deal with it. A metal pole ripped free of its spot beneath the earth just in time to trip her. Another bolt of lightning sent a tree crashing down, close enough that the branches scratched her cheek. Fifty feet away, the town was perfectly calm. But a maelstrom chased after her, oozing with vindictiveness. And though ninety-nine percent of her was absolutely pissed, there was a nagging one percent that was bruised and battered in a way her titan body wasn’t used to that understood their frustration. But that didn’t mean she was going to take it.
“Enough!” Pandora shouted as another tremor made the earth beneath her quiver, propelling her onto her rather sore ass once again.
They’d made it to the park.
They didn’t have to run any farther.
Pandora fell back, collapsing to the trembling ground with a sigh. Her head slipped to the side, gaze darting a few yards away toward the dais where the conduit council met. It was mocking her with its openness. Unlike the titans, the conduit leaders invited their people to listen and join in on their meetings. No secrets. No hiding. Everyone had a voice.
How much could have been avoided if the titans were the same?
But it wasn’t worth it to go down that road. What was done was done, and she’d always known there’d be consequences. Besides, she wasn’t as powerless as she’d once been.
Pandora grinned as blue heat sizzled beneath the tips of her fingers, aching to be used, aching to be woven and threaded and twisted into something powerful. But she kept her newfound weaver magic beneath her skin, biding her time as she stood and turned her focus to the horizon.
She saw the fire first. Blazing flames. Red and orange and yellow waves that burst into the sky, enveloping the field in a scorching haze. They were connected to the conduit bodies beginning to fill the park, responding to a surprise threat in the only way they knew how. But those weren’t vampires, which meant the conduit fire blanketing the space around them had no power to stop what was coming.
Shadowy figures walked through the flames unharmed. The irony wasn’t lost on Pandora. For all their fear of the darkness, that was what the titans looked like now—men and women painted ebony, emerging from the fire like Sam’s beasts once emerged from the mist, ready to wreak havoc. The conduits dropped their flames, realizing they served no purpose against this foe.
All at once, the titans appeared.
Pandora heard footsteps behind her, the groan of old wood, the mumble of softly spoken words, but she was too transfixed to look away as the twelve titan leaders marched forward with their director at the helm. Malcolm Scott held his daughter’s gaze.
“What have you done?” his voice raged across the field.
The air crackled, pulsing with the electric energy of bolters, quakers, tridents, alchemists, and every other titan power surging to full force, but Pandora didn’t flinch. Instead, she calmly reached within herself, to the molten core of blue fire at the center of her soul, and touched her magic. Strands of invisible fire emerged from her fingertips, bright cerulean that only she and maybe the other weaver could see. But she moved far too fast for any alarm to be raised. Pandora’s power was ancient, and she’d had a thousand lifetimes’ experience with how to use it. So she wove the strands, stretching them across the field, encasing the titans in a bubble they couldn’t see as she kept her features coolly defiant.
“Where is he?” her father asked, hands curled into fists at his side. “What have you done?”
Jax moved to step in front of her, to guard her, unaware of her power sizzling through the air, but Pandora stopped him with a touch. She swallowed, finding her voice, making sure it was strong enough to fill the void stretching before her. “Exactly what I always meant to.”
The head quaker, who Pandora realized was no longer Javier, knelt and pressed his fingers to the ground. But the shock wave he tried to send died as soon as it struck the invisible circle of Pandora’s power. The bolter tried next, but the heat fizzled out before it reached the sky. The trident’s wave of water splashed harmlessly against the bubble she’d woven around them.
Titan eyes narrowed, confused.
They turned to her, slightly afraid.
The weaver, she noticed, had his head arched back, swiveling slowly as he finally noticed the blue haze encircling them—his own sort of power but magnified to a level he would never understand.
“I remembered who I was, and I saved the world,” Pandora continued, tone sharper than any sword. “I killed Samael.”
Eleven jaws dropped with pure shock.
One clenched.
“And,” Pandora continued, trying to hide how her throat tightened at that small fact. “If you want to hear how, I suggest you drop the terror act and remember that we’re all on the same side.”
Pandora paused to take a deep breath. The click of two dozen safeties turning off caught her attention, and she glanced behind, realizing for the first time that Tristan had, in fact, gathered his small army of cured vampires. They fanned to either side of her, rifles in hand. And the conduits were standing with them, led by Kira and Luke who stood with flames dancing threateningly across their palms as an act of support. Pavia and Naya were nowhere to be seen, but Jax was right there by her side with a devilish grin across his lips and pride shining from his eyes.
“If you don’t want to talk peacefully,” Pandora continued, meeting the stunned gazes of the eleven titans watching her, landing on her father’s eyes last, “you can get the hell out.”
No one moved.
Time seemed to pause.
And then the archivist stepped forward, stepped in front of her father.
Alison, Pandora remembered. The name stuck on her tongue, bitter and sticky. Alison, who Pandora used to plead with for information about her mother. Alison, who never shared a single memory. Alison, whose ears had been deaf to the cries of a lonely child. Alison, who was finally, finally, listening.
“A truce,” the older woman said softly. But at the sound, the other titans seemed to breathe, exhaling at once, shoulders falling collectively as the tension oozed away. “A truce so we can hear your story, so we can understand what happened.”
But? Pandora heard the word hovering silently at the end of that sentence. But if we don’t like what we hear, what? Game over? Pandora snorted ungracefully and shook her head. Some things never changed, but for now, a truce was enough. Because they could say whatever they wanted, they could act as if they had the upper hand, but the truth was clear as the cloudless sky above their heads, an infinite pool of blue—they didn’t own Pandora any longer. And they never would again.
“A truce,” she agreed, loosening the knot holding the weave of her power together. She pulled the azure fire back beneath her skin.
“Please,” a loud, deep voice boomed from behind Pandora. She turned to find Kira’s grandfather, the lead councilman, spreading his arms wide in invitation. “Join us on the platform. It’s customary for conduits to conduct business out in the open, beneath the warm glow of the sun.”
Her father coughed softly. “We prefer to keep titan business as titan business.”
Kira’s grandfather grinned, wide enough to seem outwardly friendly but sharp enough to have an edge. “Everything Pandora has to tell you has already been told to us, so I apologize, but that ship has sailed.”
Twelve titans glared at her.
Thanks for that… Pandora sighed and rolled her eyes. If they weren’t mad enough already, they’re certainly furious now.
“Then, by all means,” her father practically growled through gritted teeth. But he stepped forward, albeit begrudgingly, and made his way to the platform. The rest of the titans followed his lead, while Pandora and Jax trailed Kira, Luke, and Tristan up onto the wooden stage. The seven leaders of the conduit council took their seats, large wooden thrones that were permanently fixed to the dais. The rest of them sat on stools that were stored beneath the wooden boards for special occasions—which, yeah, this qualified.
So… Pandora thought, gaze jumping from one titan to the next as the silence and the tension seemed to build. Everyone was waiting for someone else to speak. Until finally, the archivist stepped up to the plate, taking over for her father, who sat a little apart from the group with his arms crossed. His calculating gaze absorbed every detail.
“When we felt the prison unravel yesterday night, we assumed the worst,” Alison said, speaking first to the council before turning a somewhat apologetic yet somewhat disbelieving gaze on Pandora. “That Samael had found a way to break free, that you had saved him, that the one thing we’ve been dreading for thousands of years had finally come to pass. It never crossed our minds that you might have found a way to kill him. We had no idea that such a thing could even be done.”
At least one of you did, Pandora thought, sensing her father’s eyes before she glanced up to meet them. Those dark-brown irises snapped to the floor, and an expression passed over his features, one Pandora couldn’t quite understand. But there would be time for that later, time to demand the answers he owed her.
“Two thousand years ago—” Pandora began, then took a deep breath. “—the leaders of the order embarked on a conspiracy to hide the fact that Samael could be killed, because, as you must realize by now, his death would have side effects for the titans. Losing our connection to the prison meant losing our connection to the immortal fire that kept Sam contained, which meant losing our immunity to injury, our incredible strength, our impossible speed, our very invincibility. And two weeks ago, when my friends helped me recover the memories that were stolen from me as a child, I decided that I didn’t really give a rat’s ass about protecting the people who spent the past twenty years plotting to kill me, and I took matters into my own hands.”
Pandora smiled overly sweetly.
Eleven of the titans had the decency to drop their gazes in shame and swallow whatever words had been building in the backs of their throats. But her father maintained his steely reserve, face an unreadable mask she couldn’t bear to look at.
So she didn’t.
She took the hand Jax offered, eying him gratefully as he wrapped his warm fingers around hers, offering strength and support. We won, his seafoam irises seemed to whisper, shining bright. We won. And they lost. And there’s nothing they can do now to change that.
Pandora nodded subtly, breathing in his encouragement.
And then she told them.
The truth.
The whole truth.
That the shadows had never been her power. That she was the original titan weaver. That long ago she’d been the one to create the prison, to lock Sam inside, to form both the titans and the conduits in her last dying breaths.
That two thousand years ago, when she’d decided to finally end the cycle, the leaders of the order had stopped her and had taken matters into their own hands. That they’d lied to their own people, warped the memories the archivists had worked so hard to preserve, and wove an oath of silence into the tattoos that had never been there before. That ever since that fateful day, they’d stolen her memories to keep anyone from realizing the betrayal.
That her past lives had always been woven into her soul, buried too deep to truly be removed. That she’d remembered—everything. Every knife they buried in her chest. Every lie they spread. Every hour she’d agonized over her decision. Every minute she’d lived in ignorance. Most importantly, every detail of how to kill Sam.
And that she’d done it.
She’d buried the sword of immortal fire in his chest.
She’d seen his body burst before her eyes.
“I killed him,” Pandora finished softly. Her heart pinched tight at the words because she’d never wanted to be a murderer. And even after everything he’d done, a part of her still cared, still loved him, still missed him, and always would.
Beside her, Jax swallowed audibly and squeezed her fingers tighter so that his hold was almost painful. Pandora glanced up to find his jaw locked. The muscles in his cheeks were clenched, and his eyes were glazed over, staring at nothing on the horizon yet hard as jade.
Fear, she thought. It must be fear.
Because she’d disappeared and left him alone on the grass, and she knew how hard it must have been for him to sit and wait in the dark, not sure if she would ever come back.
Pandora brushed her thumb across his skin, trying to comfort. Jax blinked. His expression cleared before he looked down at her with pure love, soft and blazing.
“You’re a fool if you think you killed him.”
Malcolm Scott’s words sliced like a blade through the air, striking in that exact spot where she still had a scar, two inches from her heart, nearly fatal.
Jax whipped his head to the side, a sneer crossing his lips as his grip retightened into a fist with her fingers trapped inside.
This time, Pandora couldn’t blame him.
“Excuse me?” she snapped, composure finally cracking. Could he really doubt her? Still? After all this? Would nothing ever be enough? Sure, she wasn’t exactly expecting a hug or a kiss or, god forbid, tears. But maybe a thanks for saving the world, or, gee, a little, I’m so happy you’re alive, and I don’t have to kill you. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask, for some common decency, for some gratitude, for some love from her own father, just once. Hell, even the slightest smile would have made her world.
I’m not exactly shooting for the stars here, Dad. Give me something. Anything.
Instead, Malcolm Scott watched her, jaw set, as he uncrossed his arms and stood slowly. There was no give, no humanity in his gaze.
“I said you’re a fool,” he repeated, tone deliberate and unwavering—a punch to her already bruised gut. “You all are if you think the god of darkness could be so easily killed. And now the only people who stood against him are weak and vulnerable while he is probably free and preparing to unleash a revenge thousands of years in the making. Which means the titans have much to discuss. Alone.”
The eleven other leaders of the order recognized the command in his voice, one that wasn’t meant to be questioned. And they stood, one by one, to follow him off the platform and back to the ground. When Pandora stepped forward, making to join them, one look from her father stopped her in her tracks.
“As of last night, you and Jackson are no longer members of the Order of Othrys,” he said calmly.
You arrogant prick. You self-righteous, self-serving, conniving
“Fine by me,” Pandora retorted before she could stop herself. Breathe, she thought. Don’t let him get to you. Breathe. “But seeing as I’m the only one who’s ever been able to stop Sam, you might want to think twice about pissing me off, especially if you insist on believing he somehow managed to survive.”
He blinked.
That was his only reaction.
One freaking blink.
“Very well,” he said, all business. “I’ll speak with you tonight.”
And then he turned around, as if she were nothing more than another meeting on the agenda, and marched off.
Pandora was speechless.
Stunned.
Struck dumb as she watched all twelve titans walk away.
Really? she thought. Really? What the hell do I have to do?
But before she found her voice, Jax’s deep tenor broke through the silence, strangled and desperate in a way she didn’t understand.
“Wait!”


~~~

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter :)

Like I mentioned above, Shatter is available for pre-order!

               

YAY!! Now back to some holiday reading...



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