Kyle Brennan needs a break.
After scouring the earth for his mate, he finally found her in the least convenient place possible. Then she was ripped away from him by forces neither of them could control. But the woman who came back to him isn’t the one who left. Kyle doesn’t know this woman, and he’s not so sure he wants to.
Nicola Miller has a big problem.
She can’t remember a single second of her life before she woke up in a hospital bed in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not just that, but she has a huge, hulking man in her hospital room claiming to be her husband – a man she obviously doesn’t remember – who looks at her as if she’ll strike like a snake at any given moment. She’s not sure how things could get any worse.
But the last shards of Nicola’s life are about to be burned to the ground. Because someone has to pay for the sins of the past, and she’s wearing the face of the woman who committed them.
It looks like the last of their luck has just run out.
Amazon US: http://bit.ly/smoldering-ashes
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NCIBQX7
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01NCIBQX7
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01NCIBQX7
NICOLA – AFTER
Shivering in a towel. No, shivering in a goddamn towel, sitting on a toilet seat in a hospital bathroom when I should be getting as far from Kyle as humanly possible.
Oh, that’s right. You’re not human, a snide voice in my head reminded me. Not that I had any frame of reference on what being human meant, but I bet my lily-pale ass it didn’t mean watching my quasi-husband being gutted by a fucking werewolf. Or having visions about said gutting that made my eyes literally bleed.
I needed clothes. I needed a plan. I needed to not be a brainless fucking idiot and get a damn clue.
Preferably in that order.
A soft knock on the door proceeds Kyle poking his head in, a stack of clothes in his arms. Fabulous, one problem down, five million to go.
“I had clothes here for you just in case you woke up,” he says as he offers the small pile of cloth in his hands to me. “You can get other clothes if you don’t like these – just say the word.”
I try to study the bundle in his arms but can’t seem to tear my eyes away from his hands. I don’t know what it is about them that catches my interest. Is it the rough but long-fingered grace to them? Is it the way they seem to have seen the sun and wind and earth of this world and yet seem so gentle?
I know what it is. It’s the way his hand pressed to his belly in my vision. It’s the way the blood oozed in between the gaps in his fingers, staining the webbings red. It’s the way they laid lifeless on the pavement as that fucking wolf ripped into him, only moving with the force from the jerks of its teeth tearing his body apart.
It takes effort to tear my eyes from them and grab the bundle from his hands, mumbling a quick thank you as I turn away. I have to take deep breaths to quell the nausea in my stomach and the bile coming up my throat.
I am the reason. It will be my fault. I have to go, I have to go, I have to go…
Before he leaves me to it, he asks, “You okay, Shortcake?”
Am I okay? Did he not see me cry fucking blood not ten minutes ago?
“I’m bloody fucking super, alright?” I snap and immediately feel bad for it. He doesn’t know what I saw, and if I have any say at all, he won’t know ever.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, “I’m… not dealing very well, okay?”
I wait for him to yell at me and I assume he might or leave me to my bitchy temper tantrum, but he doesn’t. Kyle heaves a sigh before his heat meets my back and his lips brush the top of my hair. “I can understand that. Get dressed, babe, and we’ll work it out, okay?”
KYLE – AFTER
I need to hit something – a face, a wall, anything. I just slipped into bed with her, let her warmth wrap around me and I forgot she doesn’t remember me. Her half-Sasquatch comment cemented that fact.
She doesn’t remember I’m half-Witch. She doesn’t remember the first time we made love. She doesn’t remember what she sacrificed or what Iva did while wearing her skin. She doesn’t know what Iva herself did to me. She has no idea and I don’t want to be the one to tell her.
So I did what I do best. I left her there in that room to heal up while I scoured the house for a dojo or a workout room or something so I didn’t start ripping apart furniture. I found myself in the living room wondering how mad Mena would be if I ripped apart an overstuffed armchair with my talons.
“I have a bone to pick with you,” Mena calls from the kitchen, her back to me as she kneads bread at the counter. What is with the Constantine women and cooking all the goddamn time?
“What did I do now?” I ask, flippant when I probably shouldn’t be.
“You’re lucky I have flour all over my hands, dipshit, or I’d illustrate just how pissed off I am. Sit your big ass down,” she scolds, her back still to me.
Deciding it was better to sit than risk my hide, I pull a barstool away from the island and plunk down, crossing my arms in defiance.
“I saw the scar on Nicola’s hand. Did you or did you not bind her, Ky?” she asks but it isn’t a question so much as a threat. She already knows the answer; she just wants to see if I’ll admit it.
I’m not ashamed of what I did. I’d do it again.
“Did you actually ask her, or did you just do it on your own? I’d venture a guess you bit her when she couldn’t answer you. Why else would she have a bite on her hand instead of her neck?” she asks, finally looking up at me, her eyes flicking back and forth between green and amber.
“I did it while she was unconscious. I did it when I thought she would either die or never wake up. I would have spent the rest of my life sitting in that hospital chair waiting for her. So you can be pissed at me all you like, I’m still not sorry.”
Defiance suits me best, so I stick with it, unapologetically staring her down. If I hadn’t held her eyes, I wouldn’t know how worried she is.
“What happens when she never remembers? What if this Nicola never loves you? What then?” she asks softly.
I hate that she asks this. I hate that she takes the one fucking thing I’m insecure about and needles it until I want to punch a hole in every single wall I can find.
“Then I have the rest of forever to change her mind. Either way, she’s still mine,” my voice a rumble of possession.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Annie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she’ll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, and old man of a dog.
In her past lives, Annie has been a lifeguard, retail manager, dental lab technician, accountant, and now she writes fast-paced paranormal thrillers with some serious heat.
Social Media Links: