Those of you who are in Facebook fan group have gotten a couple of snippets already, but today I’m posting the first two chapters of Destined for Shadows. I thought I’d hold off until now so you wouldn’t have long to wait until the rest of the novel came out. Hope you enjoy!
Cori used to have a cranky old lady for a neighbor who nagged her incessantly about her numerous faults, but Ms. Callahan had recently been replaced by a cranky immortal with a lack of social skills who rarely made an appearance outside of his cabin. She should have appreciated the change. Truly, she should have been happy that her one and only neighbor for miles in the Alaskan wilderness kept to himself. Except the immortal was half angel—also known as a nephilim—who’d just come from a hundred-year prison sentence in Purgatory. And yeah, it was the same Purgatory from religious texts that most people thought was only a myth. A place in some other plane of existence where souls were tortured for their crimes on Earth.
Bartol, the nephilim, needed someone to bring him out of his shell and show him how to live again. Cori believed she was the right woman for the job. Not that she was looking to get into a relationship or anything. Neither of them was in a place where they were ready for that, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t give Bartol the kick-start he needed to get going again, and they could have a little fun along the way. She liked focusing on other people’s problems, rather than her own. Especially since her problems were in the past and not exactly fixable.
Cori headed for the kitchen, entering the only part of her two-bedroom cabin she’d remodeled since moving into the place a few years ago. It had black marble counters, dark wood cabinets, and stainless steel appliances. A window was set over the sink so she could view the forest behind her place and a bit of the blue sky above. She loved cooking in the kitchen even if she had to eat alone most of the time. Her regular customers at the tattoo studio would have never guessed she enjoyed preparing meals as much as permanently marking people’s skin with artwork.
The lasagna she’d baked sat cooling on the stovetop. The aroma wafted from the dish, overwhelming her senses and making her stomach growl. She grabbed a spatula, cut through the pasta, and scooped out a large chunk to put in a plastic container. Then she took a few slices of the garlic bread she’d also made and put them into a plastic baggy. Bartol would eat at least a couple of decent meals a week if she had anything to say about it. Left to his own devices, he only ate baked potatoes or canned soup. As a man who was born when the Roman Empire was still around, and who’d missed out on the biggest technological changes in modern history, he had a lot of catching up to do if he wanted to survive in this era.
After grabbing a pre-made bowl of salad from the fridge as the final piece of the meal, Cori put everything into a plastic bag and left the house. Cool air touched her face as she stepped outside. Though it was mid-September and the days were still long, autumn had already arrived to the Alaskan interior. She had lived in the state her whole life and was used to the weather being colder than most other places. Forty degrees might seem a bit cool to southern folks, but she had no problem wearing jeans and a tank top until it hit below freezing.
She carried the food bag as she walked down a narrow dirt road lined with evergreen trees. The rutted path ran for about half a mile until it reached the highway. Bartol’s cabin—a smaller one-bedroom place—wasn’t quite as deep in the woods as hers, but it only took a few minutes to reach. She caught the smoke from the chimney before she saw the actual home. Only during the warmest days of summer had she not seen it going.
According to Cori’s friend, Melena, the bowels of Purgatory where Bartol had been imprisoned were freezing cold. The ice set into the bones of whoever stayed there, so that the inhabitants could never truly feel warm. Melena had gotten over her stay fairly quickly, but she’d only been confined there a few months. Bartol, whose stay was longer than most people’s life spans, acted as if anything below seventy degrees was too cold for him and kept his fireplace blazing day and night. The poor guy probably should have moved to Florida, but his friends had talked him into living in Alaska instead. He had a lot of catching up to do in the modern world, and at least here he could ease into it a little slower.
Cori skipped up the wooden steps to his front porch and knocked on the door.
“Bartol!” she yelled. “I’ve got dinner for you.”
Curses and grunts came from inside. A minute later, the door flew open and an annoyed man with golden eyes filled the opening. Cori couldn’t help dropping her gaze to his bare chest where he’d filled out over the past few months—mostly thanks to her cooking. A healthy nephilim tended to be large and strong due to the angelic half of their DNA, but years of wasting away in Purgatory had left Bartol unnaturally lean. He’d grown to a healthier weight recently, and his muscles were more defined now. Black sweatpants covered his long legs, and he had a pair of thick socks on his feet. For all that he complained about the cold, he didn’t like wearing shirts for some reason. Cori didn’t mind that little quirk at all.
“Here.” She shoved the bag of food at him. If she wasn’t brusque and demanding about it, he’d try to refuse her. “I cooked more than I can eat again.”
Bartol took hold of the bag, sparing it a brief glance. “Then why don’t you try cooking less?”
And the game resumed with him pretending a complete lack of interest in her food, but she wasn’t fooled. The containers always appeared on her porch the next morning empty and freshly washed. He liked her cooking, but he’d never admit it.
“Because most of my recipes were designed to feed a family.” She didn’t dare admit she’d had a family once and that was how she’d picked up her love of cooking. It wasn’t something she ever wanted to discuss, not even with her closest friends.
He narrowed his eyes. “If you knew what was good for you, you’d stay away from me.”
“About the only thing I do that might be considered good for me is take long walks through the woods.” With a rifle, just in case a bear or other wild animal made an appearance. “Bringing food to you doesn’t even rate on my list of bad.”
He set the bag on a side table next to the entryway and braced his hands on the door frame, leaning closer to her. “Look at me. Do I look friendly or nice to you?”
Cori swallowed. She had a knack for pretending not to notice the burn scars on the left side of his face. If she ignored that half, he was stunningly beautiful, but if she stared at the part where a guardian from Purgatory had burned Bartol from his hairline down to his chin—only leaving the area around his eye intact—then his skin bordered on grotesque. Everything from next to his nose to just before his ear appeared to have melted, begun to heal, and then got locked in place by some sort of magical spell.
That was the story she’d been told by others, anyway, since Bartol would never talk about it. Nephilim could normally recover from any injury, but what happened to him was an exception to the rule. His wounds couldn’t be fixed, and he would have to live with the scars for the rest of his life. He didn’t even have the glamour capabilities some of his kind had to cover it up. At best, he could make himself invisible, but then no one would notice him at all. It was kind of sad since she had a feeling there was so much more to him that he kept hidden away.
“I see you,” Cori said, forcing herself to stare at the damaged half of his face. He’d grown a light beard that obscured some of the scarring, but not all of it. “So what?” Continue reading