Shadows (by Ilsa J. Bick) blog tour: Excerpt

Hi everyone

As part of Ilsa J. Bick’s Shadows blog tour, I’m very excited about featuring an excerpt and a giveaway on my blog today. I absolutely loved Ashes, the first book in the trilogy, and considering the epic cliffhanger that Ashes ended with, I can’t wait to read Shadows.

For those of you who can’t remember what happened in the first book, Ilsa has a fantastic post up on her blog which chronicles a recap of the most important events, along with a reminder of who the different characters are.

So, before you read the excerpt below, make sure you head on over to her blog for her refresher course on Ashes.

About Shadows:

The Apocalypse does not end. The Changed will grow in numbers. The Spared may not survive.

Even before the EMPs brought down the world, Alex was on the run from the demons of her past and the monster living in her head. After the world was gone, she believed Rule could be a sanctuary for her and those she’d come to love.

But she was wrong.

Now Alex is in the fight of her life against the adults, who would use her, the survivors, who don’t trust her, and the Changed, who would eat her alive.

Welcome to Shadows, the second book in the haunting apocalyptic Ashes Trilogy: where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters.

Read on for an exclusive excerpt below:

Six more ninja-kids trudged from the woods. They were working hard, their breaths coming in white chuffs. Each pulled a long, scalloped, fire-engine-colored plastic sled.

“Oh Lord.” Ruby’s hand fluttered to her mouth. “They’ve got children.”

Twelve in all. Very dead. Girls and boys. Two to a sled, and carelessly sprawled across one another in a tangle of limp arms and legs and dragging hair like corpses from a concentration camp.

She picked out a few head shots. No mistaking that drippy third eye or the misshapen skulls. But most had their throats cut and wore wide bibs of iced blood. Some—most—had died with their eyes wide open, and their mouths, too, frozen in a final, silent scream.

The lingering odor of the dead children’s fear and terror lodged in her throat, but she also smelled a whisper of gun oil, powder. Solvent—and a drift of ashes scraped from a blackened hearth.

Then, she knew: these weren’t only children.

They had been soldiers.

Two more ninja-kids huffed into view. They, too, were dragging something along, working up a real sweat like cattlemen wrestling a bucking bull that just wouldn’t quit.
Which wasn’t far from the truth.

He was tall like Chris and Wolf but had Tom’s muscle. His hair, very blond, was tied back with a twist of leather in a short ponytail.

She pegged him as pretty close to Chris’s age, give or take a year. His parka was torn wide open, and a huge blood-spider was splayed over his shirt, low and on the left. More blood smeared his face and the hollow of his throat. His hands, naked to the cold, were crimson.

“B-bastards.” The boy was fighting, gasping, his breath coming  in hitching, pained sobs.

“Should’ve killed you when I had the chan—”

He let out a high shriek as Acne slammed a fist into the kid’s gut. The boy’s knees jackknifed as the two ninjas let go. Retching, the kid dropped to the snow, trying to brace his injured side with one bloody hand.

“P-please, let him go.” The boy’s face was etched deep with despair and pain. “Please. You can have me, but let—”

“Daniel?” The word was shrill, a spear of sound hurtling from the dark woods. “Dannnniellllll?”

“Oh shit,” Sharon said.

No. A sudden film of tears burned her eyes and splintered the firelight and all those bodies into a smeary rainbow. Please, not another one; not this, too.

The cry came again but was inarticulate this time and not a word but a line of pure sound as thin and bright as a laser. A moment later, one last ninja pushed into the light.

He was hauling something, staggering a little with the effort but grinning fiercely the way a fisherman did when he’d just landed the catch of a lifetime.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Ray said.

When the shot came, Tom was pawing through the tool chest, a small penlight clamped between his teeth to free his hands. At the sound, Tom jumped, his teeth clicking metal. The dog yipped then growled.

What the hell? What is Jed shooting at?

Then he caught the slight separation, the overlapping echoes, and his brain, so conditioned to gunfire, instantly understood: two shots, with only a half-second’s separation, if that. And close.

Jed! The Phillips clattered to the concrete. He killed the penlight, slung off his pack, and unhooked his rifle. Shucking a round into the chamber on the run, he was nearly out the door when he caught himself. Easy. Whatever’s happened has already gone down.

Run into an ambush and you won’t be able to help anyone.

Two shots, three possibilities: two shooters, both firing at Jed at virtually the same moment. Or Jed got a shot off first and the other guy spotted him at the last second. Or Jed squeezed off a round as a warning and then the other guy—

No. Can’t think that, not yet.

“Raleigh, down,” he hissed. The dog obeyed, instantly. Dropping to a crouch, he listened.

Nothing. No shots. No shouting. No Jed.

A hard knuckle of dread dug at his chest. He had to get out of the boathouse. The big slider opened west and onto the lake; the one door was hinged on the right, but that was only good if there was no one already on the trail. The slider, then. Take the ice all the way back to—

Another sound: high, thin. The dog let go of a whimper. Tom’s ears tingled. What was that? A shout? No, a scream and—A distant crack.

A third shot. Further away, to the north. The cabin.

Grace? What air he’d held in his lungs came in a sudden, hard  exhalation close to a sob. He rested his forehead on his rifle. The metal was cold enough to burn. My fault, I shouldn’t have waited.

The shout was so close, Tom nearly vaulted out of his skin. By his side, the dog sprang to its feet and let out a low, menacing ruff. “Kid, we don’t want to hurt you! Just come on out!”

We. So, two men? Three? Or the guy could be bluffing. But he knew now, beyond a shadow of a doubt: Jed was dead, too.

You bastards, I’ll kill you. His lungs were lead. I’ll kill you, I’ll—
“Kid, we can do this hard, or we can do this easy. We don’t want to hurt you, but if you take a shot, we will shoot back. So open the door, then come out slow, hands up.”

Maybe fifty yards away, Tom thought, and from his perspective, a little to the right, which made sense because the woods were there. That decided it.

“What do you want?” He didn’t really care, but he needed to buy just a little more time.
“Just need you to come with us.”

In the next instant, the darkness erupted in yellow light that fired the sliding window above Tom’s head. The light played over the boathouse right and then left and then right again.

They did him a favor because now he saw the machines very well: the wind sled on the right and a little ahead of the snowmobile. Jed’s Road King was tucked further back, across from the cot and propane heater.

The dog whimpered again.

An instant later, he caught the smell, too: a faint char of wood smoke. He knew a fair amount about smoke and fire, and his nose had no trouble teasing apart the odors.

Saturate wood with gas or another accelerant and the smell was very different. Burning cloth and synthetics had a chemical reek. The cabin was going up.

The bastards were smart, trying to get on top of him. They knew he’d have nowhere to go. The boathouse would be next, too. Burn him out.
“Smell that, kid?” The voice was much closer now. “Come on, you’re just making this harder on yourself.”
Scooping up his pack, he moved fast, dumping his gear in the wind sled’s rear seat, sliding the rifle into the footwell, thinking through what he had to do—the exact sequence.

It really came down to how fast they figured it out. And if they could find a way to follow him. He glanced at the snowmobile.

In the grainy light, the hole left when he’d pulled the  ignition assembly was an eyeless socket. But the loop of cord still dangled. So they just might.The snowmobile’s faster. It’s got a light. One can shoot while the other drives.

No choice.
“Come on, kid!” The lights bobbed as the hunters closed in.

The interior of the boathouse was graying now.

“Raleigh, come,” he hissed, patting the rear seat. As the dog scampered into the wind sled, Tom darted to the slider. “Good boy. Stay.” He hooked his right hand through the cast-iron latch, set his feet, braced himself on his stronger left leg. Pulled in a deep  breath. Once done, he was committed.

Do it.

He yanked, almost too hard. The slider rolled easily, thanks to all Jed’s WD-40, the metal wheels whispering over the rails like a  bowling ball over polished wood.

A gust of very cold air ballooned  into the boathouse, pulling with it the stink of burning wood and melting plastics. Then he was pivoting, leaping back toward the sled. Outside, the light suddenly shifted as the hunters caught on.

Five seconds, maybe ten. Vaulting into the Spitfire’s front seat, he jabbed at the ignition, pumping the accelerator to drive fuel into  the engine. There was a millisecond’s delay, and then the engine  ground, coughed, spluttered— And did not catch.

Come on, come on, come on! From outside, there came a shout.

The lights bobbed; he heard the thrash of brambles and icy wood.  They were coming, fast. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to give the engine two precious seconds he did not have and then  tried again.

If it floods, I’m dead. Sweat trickled down his neck. They’ll be  around the corner, and if I’m still sitting here— The engine came to life in a spluttering crescendo roar.

And he began to move.

The little boy was dark-haired and bright-eyed with terror, but Alex  saw the resemblance immediately. There was a splash of crimson  on the boy’s face and more blood on his hands, too, but nowhere  else that she could see. So maybe the blood was his brother’s.

“Daniel!” the little boy cried. “Daniel, are you okay?”

“It’s all right, Jack.” Daniel struggled to his knees. “Stay calm, okay?”

“But what are they going to do to us?” Jack’s voice was tight, and  his lips were drawn back in a bright, hard rictus. He was very young,  no older than Ellie. Huge tears were rolling down his cheeks, where  they mixed with gore, so that it seemed like he was weeping blood.

“Are they going to eat us?”

“No.” Daniel heaved to his feet, pushing up on his thighs. It was  costing him, too; his arms trembled and Alex saw how his breath  grabbed and hitched. “You’re going to be fine. It’s all right.”

It was not all right. Acne was helping Beretta to his feet. Spider  and Leopard and the others were gathering around Daniel and Jack  the same way Wolf and his crew had watched as she and Spider fought.

Of course, Spider had that corn knife, too. Already thick  and feverish and frenzied, the air suddenly bunched and roiled.

“Oh God,” she said.

To her left, Sharon darted a look. “What?”

Alex didn’t reply. She couldn’t. But she had enough experience  with the Changed and knew when she smelled it. Daniel and Jack didn’t have much time.

And neither did they.


This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Angeline, who has won herself a copy of Shadows.


angeline jaime said…
Love this excerpt on shadows!have not heard of this trilogy and after reading this I might find my new reading heaven!
wanda f said…
I want to read it because I love tyhe excerpt it sounds like an amazing book.Thank you for sharing it with us and for the chance to win.Have a fantastic weekend