We’re nearly there! The 30th of January is looming and I’m ultra busy trying to sort out the behind the scenes book bits ahead of release day, but to help you guys share in my excitement I’m posting the first chapter here.
Right now. Online. For free.
And then, next Friday, I’m going to post the second chapter too! So that’s two free chapters… and a third on the eve of the release!
Are you excited yet? I’m so excited!!!
But, of course, Delivering Hope is a much better read if you’ve read both Breaking Cadence and Forgiving Zander already. And if you haven’t then you should check out my release event on Facebook or my release event on Goodreads to help shave a little bit of expense off that first book in the trilogy.
Knotweed City Limits
We should never have started it.
I turned on my side, facing out towards the darkness of the jungle. Zander was still curled against me, the feeling of his naked body hot against my bare back. The soft glow of our fire cast eerie faces in the trees. We were in a kind of strangled forest, overgrown with something he called knotweed. It used to be a village, but the only signs were the occasional paving stone underfoot or a pile of crumbled bricks.
Zander found it fascinating. I didn’t really care.
His fingers played down my side, drawing my arm hair to attention in the golden firelight. We’d made love again. More than once. And not just tonight.
But I still hadn’t told him I was pregnant.
“We’ll find them soon, I promise.”
The gun wound down to my face and I saw her mouth, “They’re all mine…”
“You keep saying that,” I murmured, trying to ignore Xanthia’s words as they repeated in infinite echoes inside my head. Those moments kept replaying over and over again. If only I’d done something different.
Fingers stroked a lock of hair back from my ear, twirling strands loosely in a fashion that had once been soothing to me but now only served to twist my stomach. His words fell hotly against my skin. “We will. It’s not that far now.”
“It would be even less if we’d taken the car…”
His hand stalled. “Neither of us realised when we set off–”
“You were driving,” I interjected, teeth gritting as I tried too late to curb my tone.
His hand withdrew, along with the solid heat of his body at my back. I already missed it. His voice wound upwards as if he was talking to the stars. “Everytime we have sex, you do this. Everytime. It’s like you’re pushing me away.”
Maybe I was.
A non-committal shrug eased over the tension in my shoulders. “I can’t play happy families with you when my brother is being tortured by your ex. I’m sorry.”
Air blew noisily between his teeth followed by a held breath. “Never going to let that go, are you?”
I shrugged again, wishing there was something I could say or do to change the way this was all playing out, but I couldn’t. I was still angry and that fire didn’t want to go out without having its say. Zander rolled away, dead leaves flattening beneath him. His shadow flickered across the trees as he stood up, dancing about as he shoved into his trousers.
“Where are you going?” I murmured, holding myself rock still.
“For a walk.” His shadow moved away and then paused. I watched it turn as if he was looking at me. A guilty shiver tried to jangle my spine. I wanted to turn my head, but there was still that stubborn grip of anger controlling my body. “It’s almost like you’re hiding something from me.”
I swallowed, willing him to keep walking. He was only a tightrope fall away from dangerous territory.
“You’ll tell me what it is, sooner or later.”
Another moment or two passed before his shadow released a long held breath and melted away into the trees. Only the sound of the fire crackling and my own breathing met my ears, but, still, I waited a few more minutes to make sure he’d definitely gone before I sat up and drew the radio transmitter from my bag.
The clunky thing turned over in my hands. Trepidation twisted in my blood. I glanced up to make sure Zander hadn’t come back before I started spinning the dials and pressing buttons on the age old machine.
He didn’t know that I’d brought it. And I wasn’t going to tell him.
It had been ransacked from the Decontamination Suite minutes before we’d set off on Xanthia’s trail. I don’t know why I’d grabbed it. I guess I’d thought that I might be able to contact Kitty and Hollister during the journey, but that turned out to be a stupid idea. Either the thing was out of range or it wasn’t programmed properly. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t really sure how to work it anyway. So now neither of them knew where we’d gone or why. There simply hadn’t been time to make contact and tell them before we’d taken off after that bitch, Xanthia.
Zander would know what to do with the block of plastic. But the last time he’d had one in his hands he’d betrayed me. And I feared that he was still betraying me, even though I didn’t know how.
Static interference crackled from the speaker. A low breath blew between my lips. This was hopeless. I pushed the plastic block back into my bag, tugging shirts over the top of it so Zander couldn’t find it unless he was rifling through my things. Not that the sight of him searching in my stuff would surprise me.
I rolled back onto my side, staring into the small blaze we’d kindled earlier.
My shoulder bleated a dull pain, nothing more. The wound there was healing well, something I was thankful for under the circumstances. I didn’t doubt there’d be more fighting some point soon.
We’d driven for the most part of our journey, escaping the outer edges of the old city and trundling across the Wasteland in pursuit of the helicopter Xanthia had used to abduct my brother. Only, Zander had been driving and he hadn’t checked the fuel gauge.
Or, at least, he said he hadn’t. I still didn’t know if he was lying to me.
“They’re all mine.”
I shuddered, trying to bury Xanthia’s words as they roped themselves around my windpipe, forcing tears to prick my eyes. Damn her.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”
And that was it. That was all she’d had to say to make me doubt Zander again.
Yet, he’d saved my life when I’d mindlessly tried to get to Alex as Xanthia had turned her gun on me. That had to count for something. It had to. So why did I still feel so confused? And why hadn’t I told him about the baby?
Maybe it was the same reason why he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. Neither of us trusted the other to stick around. He’d given me so many reasons, over the years, to doubt everything he said and did. I’d been so close to trusting him again and then Xanthia had said those words and all the old doubts had crept in once more.
Eventually, he returned, settling back in beside me whilst I pretended I was asleep.
His hand brushed my elbow like he wanted to put his arm around me, but I heard him sigh and turn away. The shadows flickering against the trees told me he’d resorted to lying on his back, probably contemplating the stars like we used to, so long ago.
His presence made me feel safe, despite the niggling doubt that he might have traded thirty pieces of silver for me, more or less. If only I knew for certain whether he was playing Judas or not.
My sleep was fitful. Large portions of the night were spent awake, discomfort rolling in my guts and jabbing my pelvis. Sometimes I turned to watch him, blue moonlight painting his features long after the fire’s glow had gone out.
He slept silently for the most part, but occasionally a dream would take hold. His lips moved, forming words that never met the air. I watched his lashes flicker, my heart clenching in fear when his hand grasped mine. I let him hold onto me until his grip relaxed, toying with the idea of pulling away. Instead, I flexed my fingers softly, keeping them twined in his.
I was allowed to have something, right?
Check out chapter two, Long & Winding Road, next Friday! And don’t forget to join the event on:
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