To bring the sun back to her cursed kingdom, a warrior and a handsome commander must venture into a monster-ridden fog in the first installment of this sweeping, romantic fantasy by Katherine Quinn. Releasing on November 28, 2023, this book is currently available for pre-order. Find out where to pre-order here.
I should never have picked her.
I thundered down the hallway leading to the officers’ rooms.
She hadn’t known who I was at first, but she sure as hells did now. I wondered if she’d be so bold the next time we spoke. A part of me wished she would. Something had sparked to life in my chest at the challenge in her piercing amber eyes, and a piece of myself I’d long ago believed dead had taken a deep breath.
A pretty name for a lethal fighter. The second I’d seen her toss that bully over her shoulder in Cila, I’d known she’d make a better soldier than her brother. I hadn’t witnessed such fire, such passion, during a brawl in years, and the way she moved, like smoke on the breeze, had my heart thundering in my ears.
I glanced over my shoulder. Isiah quickened his pace to catch up with me, a sheen of sweat lining his brow.
“You could say that,” I grumbled, refraining from rolling my eyes. I’d known the man for years, and he understood me better than any of the other pricks bearing the sacred emblem. He also knew when not to push. Now was such a time.
After the swift killing of Lord Paldyn—a would-be rebel sympathizer—all I’d wanted was to be alone and wash the shame from my body. What I hadn’t expected was to come across her, the damned girl who had thoroughly unsettled me, her shrewd eyes digging into my skin, judging me as if she’d known exactly what I had done but an hour before.
“Tomorrow will be fun, then.” Isiah snickered, slowing his pace before stopping at his door and crossing his broad arms. “Better get some rest, Maddox.” He cocked a dark brow and added, “You look like shit.”
I grunted but said nothing, and Isiah’s laughter followed me down the hall and past the door leading into the commander’s suite.
The room was sparse and neat, just how I liked things. Orderly. Uncomplicated. My life didn’t leave much room for anything other than cold efficiency.
But tonight… Tonight had been the first time in years I’d felt that old and familiar heat flare in my chest, that blissful warmth. It both soothed and pissed me off.
I’d been living in a constant state of numbness since losing all of my men to the Mist last year. After the atrocities I’d committed, after I had allowed the influence of the cursed lands to consume me, I felt like nothing more than a fraud. And in my mind, I hardly deserved the basic decency of feeling anything else.
I didn’t even bother undressing before flinging myself on the
bed, the hinges squeaking beneath me. Tomorrow would be far from fun. And something told me recruiting the defiant fighter would be a mistake I’d rue for years to come.
That evening, well into my second hour of failed sleep, a sweeping rush of soothing frost, a whisper of a breeze, weighed my lids.
A hint of mint and forest skies breathed into my lungs, the scent as familiar as it was startling. Sleep had finally embraced me, although it wasn’t peace I found beneath the veil of unconsciousness.
The Mist scaled the walls of my mind like tendrils of trapped smoke inside a vase. Swirls of ash and silver lightning leaped among the bluish plumes, the current sending shivers up and down my spine.
Why did I always have to come back to this place? I couldn’t even escape it in my dreams.
Bone-white branches rose like gnarled blooms from the ground, leaves of silver and blue glinting in the light of the moon. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it beautiful. But I knew the truth, had lived through the horrors concealed in the thick brush.
I ambled uncertainly ahead, and with every step forward, the burning in my chest heightened, changing and morphing into something new. Something frightening.
Clouds of ash glided away as an ethereal silhouette loomed in the distance. I came to an abrupt halt.
A charcoal hood draped low across her pallid face, the only visible part of her being a pointed chin. A bone-chilling breeze picked up the ends of her cloak, revealing a golden lining that
blinded with brilliance. My feet ceased to move, the sight of the gilded cloak stealing my breath in the most unusual of ways.
Such a shade. Such mesmerizing, golden beauty.
The woman before me, a mixture of shadows and light, tugged gently at the hood that covered her. I ached to see her face, to regard the mysteries that lay beneath the disguise of obscurity. My heart beat impossibly fast, and the heat I began to crave swept into my chest like the welcome touch of a lover.
All around us, the ivory and blue wisps pirouetted and spun like fine spider silk, the clouds flashing as lightning battled to be released. I yearned for the spark, the power I felt coursing between us. Me and this wraith.
A warning, delivered by a voice that was everywhere and nowhere all at once, bellowed into the dying night.
Beware the black heart. For it stings, stings, stings when kissed by a lover’s blade.
My chest rumbled, and a scream fought to be released. The cryptic warning echoed, causing the blood in my veins to freeze.
A death so slow, lips so sweet. One taste, and a thousand deaths you shall receive.
The Mistlands series is best read in order:
* To Kill A Shadow
Katherine Quinn is an adult and young adult fantasy romance author. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in psychology. She resides in Houston with her husband and three children.
Her love for writing began after reading her first fantasy series, Song of the Lioness, by Tamora Pierce. After that, she wanted nothing more than to be a dagger-wielding heroine. Unfortunately, it’s frowned upon to give a child a dagger, so she settled on writing about daring adventures instead.
Coffee is her true love, and she believes anything can be fixed with Starbucks and dark humor.