By: Joan Swan
I love a good heart-pounding, adrenalin-pumping, knuckle-whitening read, don’t you? That’s what suspense is all about. And when you wind in a hot love story…there’s just nothing better.
FEVER, my debut novel, is that type of read. I’ve pulled a tense and entertaining piece from FEVER for your reading pleasure in celebration of Amazon’s inclusion of FEVER in their Top 100 program.
That means FEVER is sale priced at $3.99 for the month of May! Now you can try a new-to-you author (me) at very low risk! If you’re interested to know what others think of FEVER, there are many in-depth reviews on Amazon to browse and the entire first chapter on my website.
For everyone (FEVER fans included), I’m happy to offer the chance to win 1 of 3 Amazon Gift Cards ($25, $15 and $10) for your help in spreading the word about this great promotion!
Everyone can enter! All you have to do is follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below.
“Come on, Lys, think.” Her heart pounded hard against her ribs, hands poised to grab the first thing that made sense. Only, nothing made sense. After all, what the hell did she know about breaking up a gun fight? Give her a ruptured aorta, a severed spine, a failed heart—no problem. But, this? She couldn’t even begin to fathom how many things could go wrong in this situation.
She eyed a shovel in the corner—throw it through the window? What if it startled one of them so badly their weapons discharged and she inadvertently started a gun war? Make noise in the barn? What if they simply ignored it?
Alyssa pressed both hands to her forehead and wandered around the darkened space, her gaze searching for something, anything that would pop an idea into place. And dammit, she was desperate.
A crowbar, hammer, lighter, screwdriver, wrench, paint supplies, bag of weed killer, can of gasoline.
Her mind stopped on the gasoline, though she didn’t immediately know why. She bent over and tested the weight. Her arms and ribs flexed with effort. It was full. Thirty awkward pounds full.
The car with government plates so blatantly parked right up next to the house as if it belonged there appeared in Alyssa’s mind. A sinister plan snapped together so perfectly, so clearly. Wrong—legally. Yet right—on so many other levels. And there was a vindictive element that tempted Alyssa in a way she’d never experienced before. She wanted to see the people that had torn Teague’s life apart pay, and she was going to use it to get Teague and Mitch and Luke out of there safely. It was the kind of distraction they couldn’t ignore. The kind they would have to act on. And it was all Alyssa could think of in the moment. Which was all she had. A moment.
She swept the lighter off the workbench and flicked the metal wheel with shaking fingers. It sparked. She tried again, and when she got a flame, Alyssa stuffed the Bic in her pocket and bent to grip the handles on either side of the gas can.
She dragged the awkward metal canister close to her body. Waddled out of the barn. Stumbled down the side of the house. The injury over her ribs pulled as if her healed scar were ripping apart. After two feet, she was sweating. After ten, she was panting. After twenty, she was moaning. Fifty, and she turned the corner of the house.
Overgrown weeds caught her ankle. She tripped and stepped on a piece of downed siding. The wood splintered, shot up and dug into her forearm. A muffled cry lifted from Alyssa’s throat. She dropped the can, instantly trying to grab and right it. Inside, liquid sloshed. Gas fumes burst from the canister and burned Alyssa’s nasal passages, seared her throat.
The metal handles cut into her palms as she repositioned the can, faltered the last fifteen feet and set it down by the sedan’s driver’s door.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she muttered as she swung the door wide and looked over her shoulder. Through the living room window, the men remained shadowed watercolors in the glass.
She hadn’t heard any more shots, which she considered a good sign. If anyone could talk their way out of a situation, it was Mitch. But for some reason, she didn’t expect him to talk his way out of this one, only hoped he could bullshit these guys long enough for her to light up this damn car and get them out of the house.
Crouching, she unscrewed the two-inch diameter pour hole in the lid, lifted the edge of the can to the driver’s seat, grabbed the bottom and tipped it up until gasoline spilled out. The potent liquid sloshed over the seat and spilled onto the floorboard. Alyssa kept tilting the can until it was empty then shoved it into the passenger’s seat.
With a fumbling hand, she drew the lighter out of her pocket, struck the wheel and brought the flame to the driver’s seat before she had time for her conscience to kick in.
The flames whooshed from her hand like a blow torch. Heat scorched her face. She sucked in a breath of supercharged air and shrank from the flames. One arm came up to shield her face as her feet scuttled backward on dirt and gravel. Fire traveled through the car like a windstorm. Within seconds, the vehicle looked like a crazed Halloween pumpkin, fire swirling, eating away the guts.
Alyssa gained her feet and ran back the way she’d come, heart beating hard, but somehow lighter, strangely liberated.
A loud pop sounded behind her, like a gunshot. The shatter of glass rained on gravel. When she reached the barn, Alyssa turned toward the car. Flames licked at the metal frame where the windshield had been. Shards of glass glittered along the hood like diamonds. A line of fire flowed from the open driver’s door and across the ground to the corner of the house where it devoured the old siding board by board like a starving creature. In front of her eyes, the fire jumped from the side boards to the roof and streamed across the tinder-dry shingles as if they were painted in oil.
Fear burned through Alyssa’s chest just as fast. “Oh, shit. No!”
She whirled toward the back of the house and ran up the walk. A window on the opposite side of the house shattered. Charcoal smoke coiled into the dusky sky. By the time she reached the kitchen’s rear door, the interior undulated with shades of neon orange. Black silhouettes lunged against the backdrop. Alyssa cupped her hand around her eyes to peer through the glass, but the smoke obscured her view.
“Mitch!” She yelled as loud as her searing throat allowed. “Teague!”
The back door flung inward. Alyssa jumped back and screamed. Smoke poured out, choking her. Luke appeared, stepping into the middle of the doorway, face bloody, suit jacket burned away in sections. As if the fire knew he was planning escape, flames raced overhead, split at the center of the doorway and traveled around and down the frame.
“Get the hell out of here!” he yelled at Alyssa.
Without waiting to see if she listened, he opened both hands, reached up and planted them, palms down, on the doorframe, directly over the flames.
Alyssa sucked in a breath of horror. “Luke, no!”
The fire sizzled beneath his hands just before smoke plumed out. He continued to run his palms out and down the frame, smothering the flames with his bare skin. Nothing remained of the wood but smoke and char.
Alyssa grabbed one of his hands and turned it over, but all she found was one perfect, intact palm. “Oh, my God.”
Luke grabbed her arms and pushed her back. “I said get out of here.”
Then he turned and disappeared into the smoke and flames.
The first hint of sirens perked Alyssa’s ears. She turned toward the sound with a new fear filling her heart. Firefighters were coming. Cops wouldn’t be far behind.
“Teague!” she called into the house. “Mitch! Luke!”
Grunts sounded in the murky din, amongst the angry roar of fire and pop and crack of old wood. Something flew past the door where Alyssa stood, and she jumped. It hit a wall, bounced off, darted across the floor and stopped at her feet. A gun.
She reached for it. Teague appeared, skidding across the floor. He grabbed the weapon and looked up at her. “Get out of here, goddammit! Don’t you ever listen?”
Vasser walked out of the mist, gun pointed down at Teague’s chest, blood dripping from his forehead. “Didn’t I ask you that once, you stupid sonofabitch?”
Teague tilted his chin to his chest, lifted his foot and kicked at Vasser. The other man dodged, but not completely and went down with a scream. Teague disappeared once again into the swampy darkness.
“No, Teague! Cops are coming.” Alyssa peered through the smoke and stepped further into the house with the tail of her shirt pulled up over her mouth. “Luke!” Smoke invaded her eyes like thousands of tiny needles. Tears poured down her cheeks as she pushed further into the gloom. “Mitch!”
Scuffling sounds came from somewhere to her left. She started that direction, but Teague caught her arm from behind. “You’re not going in there.”
She yanked her arm from his grip and turned on him. “Stop pulling at me and help me get them out.”
Someone rammed into her and she pitched sideways, her breath locked in her chest. Teague caught her as the other person hit the floor. Mitch. Alyssa registered the blood covering his face in the second before Burton pointed a gun at Mitch’s chest.
“No!” Alyssa heard her voice, but didn’t register the sensations of speaking.
Everything beyond that whirled into a successive blur of motion. Teague struck out. The gun flew from Burton’s hand. A scavenge then a struggle for the weapon. A shot.
Alyssa screamed—a rip in her throat and a stab in her heart.
Burton collapsed on top of Mitch.
“Mitch!” She kept screaming his name, coughing, wheezing, screaming. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Couldn’t live without him. “Mitch!”