Sunday, 17 July 2016

#samplesunday - Rise from Ash by Michelle Irwin


For our #samplesunday posts this month we're looking at Michelle Irwin's completed Urban Fantasy Romance series: Daughter of Fire. The last book, Igniting the Spark, was released 30 June, and is the incredible finale to this amazing four-book series. Last week we showcased Through the Fire, the first book in the series which is currently free (see details below) and this week we are onto book 2: Rise from Ash.



BLURB

Love has cost Evie Meyers everything. Wounded and alone, she has no choice but to learn how to survive without becoming the monster she is thought to be by the man she loves. When she discovers a cryptic message from that very man, Clay Jacobs, her mind is thrown into turmoil. It’s second nature for Evie to run, but there is no escaping the memories of their time together. While she is certain it’s a trap, she longs to discover the true meaning of his words. With heart battling mind, her choices send her on a collision course with what was once lost, leaving her life hanging in the balance. Can Evie rise from the ashes of her charred dreams, or will she burn in the attempt?



Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 


CHAPTER TWO

THE ADMISSION THAT I couldn’t survive alone burned through me as the failure it was.

When I’d left Detroit, I’d planned for self-sufficiency, but although the epiphany that struck me soon after I escaped Clay had been enough to carry me into the wilderness with the certainty that I would be okay, it hadn’t lasted long. Initially, it had been a desperately needed reminder that I wasn’t helpless. The first time I was alone, after Dad died, I had survived well enough—at least until I’d given up hope before being taken into a fae court—and during our time in Detroit, Clay had only built on the foundation of knowledge that Dad had instilled in me. I’d thought that my epiphany would be my driving force for the rest of my life, and yet, less than two weeks later, I was already failing.

No! I don’t need someone to care for me. I just need medicine. I just have to find a doctor.

Pushing myself back up onto my feet, I took a moment to wait for the dizziness to pass. Even through my hazy thoughts and fever-induced delusions, it was clear I couldn’t stay hidden any longer. I needed to find somewhere to clean off the filth of the road properly and then locate a doctor willing to treat my infected wound.

I started moving again, desperate to escape the fear that the dream had inspired in me, which was increasing with every second I was in the open—fear of the hunter I’d caused Clay to become once more.

Since I’d escaped from him, a little more than a week earlier, there were so many moments when all I wanted to do was rush back to his side. One was almost strong enough to strip me of my remaining willpower: the moment I had returned to the ashes of our life together. Faced with the reminders of what we’d had, my decision to leave became utterly real and completely terrifying. In that mindset, my desire to return to Clay had threatened to stop my escape before it had even really started.


IT HADN’T taken long after I rushed from the hospital before I’d realized that I had nothing but the set of scrubs I’d stolen from the nurse. I had no immediate way to get money or fresh clothing, and the risk of running into Clay or the Rain before I could leave Detroit was impossibly high. There was no doubt in my mind that every operative in the state of Michigan had a copy of my photo from school. Even if I wasn’t already on their hit list just because I wasn’t human, killing one of their members would have put me squarely at the top.

Even though returning to the space we’d shared together felt a little like a suicide mission, there was a small chance some of my belongings had escaped the fire. If that were the case, being able to gather my clothing and take the last of our emergency money would be worth the risk. Regardless, there was part of me that had to know—had to see—what damage I’d caused. Besides, I couldn’t walk away from the place that held some of my happiest memories without saying goodbye in some way—even if Clay would never know I had.

The opportunity was limited though and only available if I acted quickly. I would have to be in and out again before Clay, his family, or the Rain had time to investigate my escape from the hospital. I put faith in the fact that Clay knew me well enough to know it was a choice I would never make—returning for items that held no special sentimentality. Which was exactly the reason I felt safe and justified in choosing to return.

By the time I reached the space, the sun was just rising, flooding the entrance to our building with the sort of light that should have seemed warm and welcoming, but instead flickered orange and red, reminiscent of the flames I’d escaped the day I ran.

I hadn’t even reached our apartment door before I spotted the first evidence of the physical damage caused by the fire that had destroyed the life Clay and I had shared for barely a month. The blaze had blackened the hallway leading to our home, burning and blistering the graffiti on the walls. The fire I’d started when I’d been ambushed, bound and threatened by Clay’s sister, Louise, must have followed me as I’d tried desperately to flee the gasoline-fueled flames.

The sight was a reminder that while I had escaped with my life, Louise hadn’t been so lucky. She’d perished—at my hand.

Pushing the potentially debilitating thought of Louise, Clay—all of the reasons the happiness I’d felt just a few days ago was now lost to me—out of my head, I moved farther down the corridor. The door to our apartment was missing, and a blackened frame stood in its place. Police tape was the only thing that secured our remaining belongings.

I paused at the sight as the memory of the first time Clay lead me through into the apartment rendered me motionless. Just as he had on our first “official” date, when he’d welcomed me into the warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina the first time we’d reunited, he’d asked if I trusted him. Only unlike that first time, I’d answered without pause with an unequivocal, “Yes.”

The moment the words were out his fingers had closed around my eyes and, with laughter on both of our lips, he guided me into our new home. Even after he led me through the entrance though, he left his hands over my eyes.

“I can’t see,” I complained.

“You have to use your imagination,” he replied, pressing his lips to the back of my neck. “There’s nothing here yet, but over there”—he uncovered my eyes and pointed into the open space of the living area—“will be a sofa where I’ll make you mine at least twice daily.” He spun me in a slow circle until we were facing the kitchen. “And there’s the kitchen bench, where I’ll taste you every day.” He grabbed my hips and gently guided me to a closed door. “And through here”—he pushed open a door, revealing an old bed already in the cramped bedroom—“is the place where we’ll spend most of our time.” He spun me around, lifted me up, and carried me to the bed, nuzzling into the crook of my neck as he did.

Taking a deep breath to clear away the memory of a happier time, I tore through the tape and stepped inside. My heart beat loudly against my ribcage as I assessed the damage. The flames had ravaged the living room and kitchen of our apartment, destroying all evidence of the life Clay and I had shared for a few precious weeks.

Holding my breath to avoid breathing in the acrid smell of stale smoke and scorched dreams, I moved through the space without examining anything in detail. The charred frame of our second-hand sofa sat corpse-like in the middle of the living room. Every piece of furniture that had filled the place, most of it now destroyed, contained memories of Clay and me together. Of him wrapping his arms around me, and of sweet words whispered softly against bare skin. I touched the chain around my neck—Clay’s chain—a reminder of the love we’d shared. The words Clay had uttered after he gave it to me echoed in my head. “I’ve got everything I want right here. I don’t need any more good luck.”

The words were evidence of his love—the love that I’d destroyed when I lost control and let the sunbird take over.

When I stepped into our bedroom, I saw that it had largely escaped the flames. The space had provided a temporary sanctuary from the harsh realities of our world and held such precious memories.

Just being near all of the reminders of how it had been until so recently was almost enough to force me back to the hospital to find Clay and beg for his forgiveness. Only one thing stopped me. Nine words, whispered with so much hatred and venom it was almost impossible to reconcile the fact that they came from the same mouth, the same lips and tongue, that had whispered sweet nothings to soothe my nightmares.

“If she doesn’t pull through, I’ll never forgive you.”

They were the last words I’d heard from Clay, and they circled through my head as a warning to run away. To flee the promises of the life we’d shared and that I’d destroyed because of what I was.
Unworthy of his love.

Unwilling to let the thought destroy me, or freeze me in place, I took a deep breath and moved to uncover the hole Clay had made behind the head of the bed. Reaching into the wall cavity, I breathed a sigh of relief when my fingers brushed across the plastic bag we’d stored our funds in. Because of the state of the apartment, and the fact that we’d had nothing of any great value, I didn’t know if any vagrants had ransacked the place while I was in hospital. Nothing seemed to be missing though—my clothes were still in place and so were my sneakers.

Regardless, the small stash of cash that we’d left as well as the cards I’d had in my possession when I’d reunited with Clay—the ones he’d refused to use—were both in the bag and would give me a little freedom. After shoving the plastic bag into the bottom of my backpack, I changed into something more comfortable and pulled on my sneakers before forcing the scrubs into the wall space so they wouldn’t be in the open if the police or the Rain returned to the apartment. I would have taken them with me, but they would only take up valuable space in my bag. Then I collected my clothes, threw them into the backpack, and left the apartment again, certain it would be the last time I would share anything with Clay.


ONCE I LEFT the apartment, I pulled my backpack on and hit the road. Trying to blend into the streets as much as possible, I headed away from the center of town. The first drugstore I spotted, I stopped and used some of the cash I had on bandages and saline wash.

I walked as far as I could and put as many miles as I could between Detroit and myself before I finally stopped to actually assess and treat my injuries. By then, I was beyond fatigued and barely functioning.

When I reached a crossroads, I briefly considered heading straight to New York and begging Aiden for sanctuary at his fae court. He had taken care of me once before after all, saving me from certain death when I’d given up on life. In theory, it was still possible to return to him, but he was beyond my reach this time. Even though I’d left his care with a blessing to call the court home again when I wanted to, I couldn’t. I didn’t deserve the luxury of care and acceptance. Aiden and his family had always treated me as if I wasn’t a monster, as if I’d deserved friendship. At the time, I’d believed them. I knew better now though.

I was a monster.

A killer.

A bitter chill raced through me before the sunbird burned it off.

I’d killed Louise.

I could easily kill Clay too.

To even consider fitting into the place of love and acceptance Aiden’s court was, I would have to admit to the evil that resided within me. I couldn’t in good conscience put their lives in danger by hiding the truth. It was true that I’d never actually felt evil before, but I had no other explanation for the death and damage that I’d caused in the lives of those I encountered.

It was impossible to know how Aiden would react to my revelations, but if he understood just how dark I must be in my core—how much damage I could cause to his loved ones—he would surely turn me away. Seeing rejection in the eyes of yet another person that I’d cared about would finish me off. Even if he was able to look beyond the evil inside me, I didn’t deserve the forgiveness or love it would take to do that. They were concepts reserved for good people.

With my touch, I could destroy anything and anyone. I was better off alone, at least I couldn’t hurt anyone else.

I rubbed my fingers across the pendant around my neck. Ignoring the dove, which symbolized my death warrant, I traced the letters of Clay’s name engraved on the underside. It reminded me that my solitary life was penance for what I’d done to the man who’d once loved me. A man who no longer existed.





Rise from Ash is available in e-book and paperback from all major sellers. 


Bottom Drawer Publications


Also available at:


Amazon US


Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Apple


B&N


Kobo

AllRomance





If you're ready for Igniting the Spark, the final book in the series, check out our website for all available booksellers

If you've not started the series yet, Through the Fire is FREE at these booksellers:


Also available at:





Michelle Irwin has been many things in her life: a hobbit taking a precious item to a fiery mountain; a young child stepping through the back of a wardrobe into another land; the last human stranded not-quite-alone in space three million years in the future; a young girl willing to fight for the love of a vampire; and a time-travelling madman in a box. She achieved all of these feats and many more through her voracious reading habit. Eventually, so much reading had to have an effect and the cast of characters inside her mind took over and spilled out onto the page.

Michelle lives in sunny Queensland in the land down under with her surprisingly patient husband and ever-intriguing daughter, carving out precious moments of writing and reading time around her accounts-based day job. A lover of love and overcoming the odds, she primarily writes paranormal and fantasy romance.


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