Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fire & Ice: Ice Princess Excerpt ~ Spooktacular #Giveaway #Bloghop

October is one of my favorite months of the year! This year is even better because I have a new release coming out at the end of the month. Ice Princess is included in the Fire & Ice Boxed set. Some wonderful paranormal and urban fantasy romances just in time for Halloween!

A little about Ice Princess:

Princess Lily is determined to save her kingdom from the evil influence of the sorcerer in their midst. When she makes her stand, he curses her beloved to turn into a dragon and casts a spell that seals her in a block of ice where she will sleep for all eternity.

Eternity arrives earlier than expected when Rick Stamos tears down a wall to the tavern he's renovating. He never expects to find a woman encased in ice hidden in his basement. After melting the ice, he's more surprised when the woman wakes and claims he is her beloved.

Did the spell that kept Lily frozen for so long also curse Rick? Is he really her beloved or a stranger with the same face?

Here is an excerpt I'd like to share:

The stone crumbled beneath the sledgehammer as if he sliced a knife through a loaf of fresh bread. With each swing, the hole in the wall grew larger and larger until it was wide enough and tall enough for a man to step through. As Rick suspected, there was another room hidden in the basement. If it was large enough, he could utilize this space for storing cases of alcohol. It would give the tavern he planned to open an area to store more product.
Rick paused, set the sledgehammer aside and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“How’s it going?” Pete stomped down the wooden stairs behind him.
“Hey,” Rick said. “You want to save some stairs for the rest of us?”
Pete smirked and ignored his brother’s reprimand. “Did you get it open?”
“Yeah,” Rick said, looking around the many shelves in the basement. “I thought I saw a flashlight down here.”
“It’s over there.” Pete pointed to the corner.
Rick spotted the flashlight and returned to the hole he’d just punched into the wall. He flicked the light on and leaned through the hole, peering cautiously into the dark.
“So, you were right.” Pete chuckled. “There was an empty space. I wonder why they closed it off?”
“I don’t know.” The space on the other side of the wall was filled with nothing but cobwebs and debris. The flashlight shone into the chamber, dust particles swirling in the light’s path. “It looks spacious enough. Like a whole other room. I thought it might be big enough for a closet, but this is larger than I imagined.”
“Anything in there?”
“No,” Rick said with a quick shake of his head, then paused. “Wait. There is something in here.”
The light’s ray fell upon a long box near the center of the chamber. It sat solitary on the ground covered in a thick layer of dust.
“There’s a box in here.” Rick ducked his head low and stepped into the chamber, careful to watch his step around the fallen stone he had crushed to get in here. He heard his brother’s muffled curses as he followed, hitting his head on a large stone that jutted out.
“What is it?” Pete came to stand beside Rick, one hand holding a spot on his head. “Buried treasure, do you think?”
“I highly doubt it,” Rick said, with a laugh. “I don’t think pirates sailed this far inland.”
“You never know.”
Rick stepped closer to the box. It was long and wooden. The hair on the back of his arms rose.
“It looks like a coffin.” Pete’s lowered voice echoed his thoughts.
Rick shook his head. “Why would someone hide a coffin in a secret room in the basement of a tavern?”
“Vampire?” Pete kept his voice low as if he feared waking the supposed creature hidden within the box. “Like that old TV show with the coffin hidden in a secret chamber in the family’s mausoleum. There was a vampire in there.”
Rick raised a quizzical eyebrow at his brother. Pete returned his stare, then shrugged.
“You never know,” he repeated.
“Any other theories, genius?”
“I probably could come up with a few more.”
“I’ll spare you the effort,” Rick said. “We don’t want to overtax your brain with too much thought.”
“Hey,” Pete said indignantly but chuckled all the same.
Rick knelt beside the box, noticing four locks that secured it, two on either side. “Hand me that sledgehammer.”
Pete disappeared for a moment and returned with the sledgehammer. Rick swapped items, taking the sledgehammer and handing Pete the flashlight. With Pete aiming the light at the metal locks, Rick swung the hammer down, crushing the locks with one swing each. When all three were broken and mangled, Rick set the sledgehammer aside and opened the locks.
“Ready?” Rick glanced at Pete but couldn’t see his brother’s face from the light shining in his direction.
“Yeah,” Pete said. “If it’s a vampire, I’ll grab the sledgehammer. That ought to keep it down until you can find a stake.”
“My hero.”
“I thought so.”
Rick shook his head but didn’t wait any longer to open the casket-like box. He lifted the lid which slid off easily with broken locks.
Rick blinked as soon as he gazed upon the contents of the box. The light from the flashlight bounced off the glossy surface of a block of ice, striking him in the face.
“Give me that,” Rick said, swiping the flashlight out of his brother’s hands so he could look more closely at the ice. “What the…?”
One huge, solid block of ice filled the entire area of the box as if the wooden casket had been built around it. He touched the surface with one hand, sliding his fingers along the smooth, cold hardness of the block.
“Look, Rick.” Pete leaned over Rick’s shoulder and pointed to within the ice. “There’s something frozen inside.”
Rick tilted the flashlight, angling it until he could see a flash of color within the icy depths. Shades of purple, blue and gold glimmered within the block. He scanned the flashlight from the middle to the top and sucked in a lungful of musty, dull air.
“Oh,” Pete gasped from his elbow.
A face shimmered within the ice. It was difficult to make out most of the features, but from what Rick could see it looked like a woman’s face. A delicate chin, red lips, high cheekbones surrounded by a mass of black hair.
“What is a woman doing frozen in your basement?” Pete nearly shouted, stepping back from the box.
“I don’t know,” Rick said. “I didn’t put her here.”
“Do you think she’s dead?”
“Well, let me think, genius,” Rick said. “She’s encased in a frozen block of ice and has probably been locked in here for at least a hundred or two hundred years if we go by the state of that wall.” Rick paused and leaned back to look at the entire block of ice again. “How did this stay frozen for all that time? It’s the middle of summer.”
The basement was decidedly cooler than the upper stories in the tavern, but by no means was it cold enough to keep ice frozen for any length of time. Without a refrigeration unit installed down here, any ice stored in the basement would eventually melt.
How was this block of ice still frozen at all?
“Should we call someone?” Pete shoved a hand into his brown hair, pulling at the strands as he stared wide-eyed at the woman in the ice.
“Like who?” Rick leaned back on his haunches, glancing from his brother to the ice.
“The police? The fire brigade? National Geographic? How should I know?”
Rick shook his head and shrugged. “Hell, if I know. I never bargained on finding a body buried in my basement. I only just bought this tavern a month ago. If I had known, I would have renegotiated the price.”
“This isn’t funny,” Pete said. “You’re making jokes.”
“What do you want, Pete?” Rick stood. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I think we should call someone.”
“Like who?” Rick sighed. “This will delay everything. If I call the police, there will be an investigation. We can’t afford that right now. You know that.” Rick raised an eyebrow at his brother.
Pete nodded. “Then what do we do?”
Rick sighed again, glaring at the block of ice. “We can’t just cover it up. I need this space. We’ve got to get her out of here. Maybe we can load the ice onto the truck, drive it a few miles away and dump it. Then we’ll call the cops anonymously and let them know that there’s a body there.”
“Yeah,” Pete said, his voice slightly higher pitched than usual. “Sure. Sounds like a plan.”
Rick leaned over and put the lid back onto the top of the box. Then he bent down to test the weight of the box. He pushed it, leaning his strength against it.
“We might have a problem.” He sighed. “I don’t think we’ll be able to lift it.”
“Let’s try.” Pete set the flashlight onto the box, letting the light beam upward to illuminate the chamber. “You on that side, me on this.”
“Okay.” Rick nodded. “One, two, three.”
They both lifted, grunting with effort. The box nudged to the side a fraction of an inch, knocking the flashlight over. At the same moment, they both released their grip, leaning back to stare at the box. Rick stood with hands on hips, breathing heavily from the exertion.
“What if we melt her?” Pete sat on the ground, looking up at Rick.
The idea had merit. In fact, that was a brilliant solution. Carrying a woman who weighed a buck twenty versus a casket-sized block of ice was much more reasonable.
“Yeah.” Rick nodded. “That’s good.”
“You want me to get some space heaters?”
Rick slanted a look at his brother and shook his head. “I got this.”
He stretched his right arm toward the ice, his fingers splayed wide. He forced his tense muscles to relax, closed his eyes and concentrated on the warmth deep within. A flame flickered there, light in color, hidden deep inside him. Once he located the flame, he stoked it, encouraging it to grow, expand, fueled by his desire to bring the heat to surface. The fire sparked and lengthened, grew until the warmth spread to his chest. He focused the heat to travel through his arm to his right hand where his fingers spread open.
He placed his hand on the ice, closed his eyes and concentrated on heating his hand until he felt the solid block beneath his fingers soften. The ice melted beneath his touch. He blinked his eyes to watch the solid turn to liquid.
“Hey,” Pete said, smiling. “That fire-breathing stuff comes in handy sometimes.”
“Shut up.” Rick forced his concentration back to the heat he controlled with his hands. It was a trick he had discovered when he was a teenager. He’d accidentally burned down the shed in their backyard because Rick’s temper flared when he found out that Pete had ‘borrowed’ his bike and returned it with two flat tires.
Since then, he tried to keep his power under wraps, but on occasion and when no one other than Pete or Steph was around, Rick tested it. It was like a muscle. To keep it under control, he had to use it from time to time, to maintain his discipline so it wouldn’t flare to the surface without warning one day.
It would be more than embarrassing if he burned someone’s car on the highway if they cut him off. Road rage sent to a whole new level with a guy who could spark flame from his fingertips.
It took some time to melt the ice. There was a whole casket full, but after a while the clothing on the woman’s body became visible.
She wore a long white, velvet gown trimmed with lace and satin. Her hands were folded over her chest with a single rose clasped between her bejeweled fingers. She was elegantly dressed as a woman of nobility and placed with great care before her body was in some way submerged in water and frozen.
Rick wondered if she was someone of importance. A woman lost within the pages of history and time.
The ice near her head melted away revealing a face of rare beauty. Perfect, pale skin with red-rose colored lips. Her midnight black hair cascaded in waves around her face and shoulders, dampened by the melting ice. Matching black eyelashes swept down over her cheeks.
Rick wished he’d known the color of her eyes. As he stared at the woman, a humming began in his blood, a strange sense of familiarity itched in his brain.
Had he seen this woman before?
It was obviously not possible. Perhaps he’d seen a woman with her likeness somewhere. An actress on television or a movie. Or someone in the tabloids.
Pete whistled with appreciation from his elbow.
“I have to admit,” Pete said. “She’s hot for a dead girl.”
Rick rolled his eyes.
“What?” Pete said as if seeing his brother’s reaction. “You don’t think?”
“No,” Rick said. “I admit it. She’s beautiful.”
“More than beautiful. She’s exquisite. Like a porcelain doll. And the way she’s posed in the block of ice.” Pete paused and leaned over her for a closer look. “She reminds me of someone.”
“You, too?” Relief swamped Rick. He wasn’t the only one with this nagging sense of familiarity. “She reminds me of someone, too, but I just can’t place her face.”
“Snow White.”
“You know,” Pete sighed. “The fairy tale. Snow White and those dwarfs. Or maybe Sleeping Beauty. I get those two mixed up. There’s a lot of comatose gals in fairy tales.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Rick said, shaking his head. “I meant a real person. Not some imaginary fairy tale girl.”
“Maybe she’s not so imaginary.” Pete waved his head. “Maybe one of us should kiss her.”
“Kiss her to break the spell.”
“You’re insane.”
“You never know.”
“Yeah, you’re right. You never know anything. Ever.”
Rick continued to stare at the woman as the ice melted into puddles of water on the stone floor. He folded his arms across his chest.
“I wonder who she was.”
“A princess. Maybe a queen.”
Rick glanced at Pete with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, she must be someone important. Look at the way she’s dressed.” An exact echo of Rick’s earlier thoughts.
Rick bent over the woman, taking in her beauty once more and the deep suspicion he knew her. His gaze swept over her face and form, then fell to the rose. It was a rose in full bloom. Not wilted with age, neglect or natural decay. A rose with full, blood-red petals on a stem laced with sharp thorns.
How could a flower remain in such perfect condition in these types of circumstances?
The whole situation seemed incredulous. If Rick hadn’t known better, he’d say this whole thing had been set up as some prank.
He pried the rose away from her cold fingers, taking the flower in his hands to inspect more closely.
“I guess she could be nobility,” Rick said. “But she—”
A gasp stopped him from speaking. The sound came from the woman.
Both Rick and his brother stumbled back a few feet, stopping to stare at the now breathing woman on the remaining block of cracked and melting ice.
“Did she?”
“Yeah, I think.”
Rick tilted his head, staring at the woman’s ample bosom rising and falling with each breath.
Then her black eyelashes flickered across her cheeks, sweeping up to reveal the greenest eyes Rick had ever seen on another human being. They were a deep, vibrant emerald color that appeared almost inhuman and yet so beautiful he couldn’t compare them to anything else he’d ever seen.
The woman blinked and took another deep, gasping breath.
The rose fell, forgotten from his fingertips as Rick returned to the woman’s side and knelt beside her.
As soon as her gaze met his, she smiled. Her lips curved and her face brightened with love and warmth and radiance. An electric shock zipped through his arms and legs, settling deep in his chest. Rick knew at that moment he was lost.

“Ashford.” The woman’s voice was like a song of spring. Light, full of hope, happiness and renewal. “You found me.”

Fire and Ice… they are two of the most powerful elements known to man.

From the tiniest of sparks to a blazing inferno, fire is an intense energy that can consume anything in its path.

Ice is it’s unrelenting and frigid counterpart that can startle your senses and make you shiver.
When put together, you’ll find a force that is stronger than anything you’ll ever encounter.

If you love the paranormal and can’t get enough of romance, then this set is exactly what you need in your library.

With mythical creatures, vampires, shapeshifters, and supernatural of all kinds, you’re sure to find something that will awaken your senses and set your soul on fire as you tremble with delight.

Read this story and more in Fire & Ice

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Over 20 stories for only $0.99!

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A special thanks to Bookhounds for hosting this event!
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