Last Sneak Peek!

It’s time for our last sneak peek before the release, and I can hardly believe it. This is one of the first scenes where my favorite character really struts her stuff! So without further ado…

Reis crept along the path ahead of us, sticking to the wall as he approached the gate. Paul, Tatiana, and I followed, doing our level best not to be seen or heard. The gate towered above us, built from rough-hewn logs and iron spikes. More spikes lined the top to create a solid row of razor-sharp metal, ensuring that people went through the gate rather than of over it. We slid into the darkness below the wall and I gulped, the eerie silence of the shadow creeping slowly up my spine. The gate to the courtyard was where we’d find the most soldiers, I knew; it was a feature designed to keep intruders out, and was manned as such. But I had no doubt that it was just as effective at keeping prisoners in. And if we couldn’t get out, if we were still here come day break…

We made it through the partially open gate and onto the path outside the castle before we were caught. I heard a sharp gasp behind me, followed by the sound of a struggle, and whirled around to look back the way we’d come. A tall, dirty soldier in a tattered red and white uniform stood behind Tatiana, his arm around her body and his hand across her mouth. He was at least a foot taller than the girl, and marked with the scars of many battles. A rusty, bent sword hung loosely at his side, but he held a sharp dagger in his hand, close to Tatiana’s side.

“A lady shouldn’t be out this late in the day,” he slurred, turning his mouth toward her ear and grinning. “I’ll need to know exactly who you lot are, and what you’re about.”

I sucked my breath in, glancing quickly from the dagger to the sword, then up to the soldier’s face. I saw Reis to my left, moving his hand slowly toward the knife I knew he had in his boot, and heard Paul mumbling under his breath. My gaze flew back to Tatiana’s face, and I caught her wide eyes.

She looked at me for a moment, raised one eyebrow, and then winked.

“Oh no,” I breathed, my voice catching in my throat.

Before anyone else could move, Tatiana threw her hand over her shoulder and grabbed the man’s wrist, crouching down and spinning in the same movement. The soldier flew over her folded body, hitting the ground on the other side with a sickening, bone-crunching thud. He shouted and jumped to his feet, snarling in surprise and anger. Tatiana pressed her lips together in displeasure and circled her opponent, looking for another opening. When she saw him pause, she dove in and grabbed his dangling left arm, shoving it up toward his shoulder. The shoulder popped loudly as it dislocated, and the man screamed. She drove her foot into the soldier’s knee, bringing him to the ground, and finished him off with a solid blow to the head with her other foot. The solder fell on his back, out cold.

Tatiana looked down at the man, her mouth quirked to the side. “The name’s Tatiana, mister,” she said clearly. “I’m no lady, and I stay out as late as I want.”

“What the –” Paul cut his statement short as another soldier came rushing from the wall next to us, armed with a 6-foot lance. Reis swore under his breath and stepped quickly between Tatiana and the second soldier. He sidestepped the soldier’s strike, planted his right foot in the dirt, and swung his left leg up toward the man’s face. His foot connected with the soldier’s temple and sent the man crumbling to the ground, the lance falling harmlessly at his side.

For a moment, no one moved. Then we whirled as one toward the wall, waiting breathlessly for a third attack. Reis kicked the lance away from the unconscious soldier, swung his rifle from his back to his chest, and aimed the weapon at the half-open gate in anticipation. Tatiana remained in a fighting stance, both hands held up in front of her and legs slightly bent. I bent down and picked up two likely looking rocks, trying to remember anything I’d ever learned about throwing. Beside me, Paul stood slack jawed and staring.

No one else emerged from the gate, though, and I wondered how long they would take to notice their missing comrades.

“Let’s not stick around to find out,” Reis mumbled, echoing my thoughts. “Run.”

We broke and ran like startled deer, racing toward the town in the distance and the shelter it offered. No one looked back.

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