My newest story, Into the Forest, is coming out this month as part of the Speed Dating with Authors- Fantasy Novella Edition.
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:
Sawyer touched my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. Heat rushed up my arm, my chest, my face. He took a step closer. My heartbeat was much too fast. For a moment, it was easy to forget everything that worried me. And for a moment, I hoped that—in the end—everything would turn out okay.
Sawyer opened his mouth, but then his eyes widened as he looked over my shoulder. Before I could say anything, he yanked me off the path. We both tumbled to the ground, barely missing the outcrop of rocks as a large white horse thundered past where we’d been standing.
The horse flashed by us, huge blue eyes rolling in its head. A rope was caught around its neck, trailing as it ran, and an arrow shaft stuck out from its shoulder. The horse charged on. He veered off the path and crashed into the golden underbrush of the forest. The arrow caught on a tree and fell to the ground. As soon as the horse passed the trees, he disappeared.
I watched the unmoving trees, looking for some sign that the horse was real. Only silence greeted us.
“We should still be able to hear it.” I peered into the forest, expecting to see a huge gap in the undergrowth where the horse had plowed through, but there was nothing to tell which way it had run. Not even hoof prints.
Sawyer cleared his throat, drawing attention to how we’d landed. I was on top of him, and my skirt had rode up above my knees. My fingers curled around my gift on his chest.
“Oh! Sorry.” I rolled off him. I fastened the necklace around my neck, not wanting to risk losing it. Sawyer stood and dusted the dirt off the back of his pants.
More hooves sounded in the distance. We exchanged a glance and crouched behind the rocks. A group of men burst around the curve in the path. Their metal weapons and armor glinted in the sunlight. One of them carried a flag with the silhouette of a black wolf on it.
“King’s soldiers?” I whispered.
Sawyer put a finger to his lips. I pressed myself closer to the rocks.
The soldiers blew past us down the path, their horses’ mouths foamed, and sweat soaked their sides. We remained hidden until the distant beat of hooves disappeared.
Sawyer stood and looked down the road, hand to his brow, blocking the sun.
“That was strange.”
I wasn’t listening. I’d crept to the edge of the Golden Forest once more. The toes of my boots pressed against the golden line of grass. I picked up the arrow where it had fallen. The arrowhead was still attached. The whole thing had yanked free from the horse’s wound.
“Adeline, what are you doing?” Sawyer’s brow furrowed as he watched me.
“Why would they shoot a horse?”
“Maybe they didn’t know it was a horse. Maybe they thought it was a stag.”
“There hasn’t been a stag in these parts for a decade or more.”
Sawyer stood behind me now. He didn’t have an answer. I continued staring into the trees. Even though the sun was now fully risen, shadows still encased the forest floor. I couldn’t see beyond the first few trees.
It wasn’t like me to be reckless. Maybe the heat had driven me insane. Or maybe it was the fact that I was another year closer to a future I dreaded.
Sawyer grabbed my arm. “Adeline, you can’t be serious.”
Like usual, he guessed what I was about to do almost before I’d thought of it myself. I pulled my arm from his grip. He let go, but he kept that piercing gaze on me.
“You saw that horse. It was hurt. What if that rope gets caught on a tree?”
Sawyer ran a hand through his hair, clearly fighting the desire to grab me and haul me away from the edge of the forest. He didn’t leash his tongue.
“Those were the King’s soldiers. You saw the banner. Going into the forest is a death sentence. And they didn’t look like they’d have any problem doling out the king’s justice.”
I flipped my braid over my shoulder and glanced at Sawyer one more time.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?”
I crossed over the boundary and into the forest.
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Here’s the blurb for Into the Forest.
An injured horse, a lost girl, and the magic that binds them together.
The morning of Adeline’s sixteenth birthday dawns like any other. But while she dreams of spending time with her boyfriend, Sawyer, and planning their future together, a nobleman shows up and Adeline is forced to make good on a contract that was signed when she was a baby.
With the time she thought she had running through her fingertips, Adeline has only days to plan an escape. Meanwhile, she has to worry about her relationship with Sawyer and what to do about her new mistress Katalia.
But when Adeline enters the forbidden Golden Forest to save an injured horse, she never expects to unlock secrets older than the kingdom. Will these secrets lead her to the freedom she desires?
Into the Forest is a fantasy novella that takes place a generation before the events of Gatebreaker.