2015 Wren Michaels
Cover Artist: Jay
Editor: Laurie Temple
WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction.
All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
I dedicate this book to my
husband, who has believed in me from the very start. Without his encouragement
and support, my career would not be possible, and every hero I write is a side
of him. To my BB girls,
, Kristyn, and
, who countless times have restored my soul and talked
me off ledges. They are my spirit animals! Without them, I'd have thrown in the
towel and none of this would have happened. And especially
without her prodding I'd have never attempted a story like this. She is the
reason this book exists. To
, who reads everything I put in front of her and
holds my hand, blood or not, we're sisters for life. To my editor Laurie, who
helped make Rose's story sing, thank you. And of course
Publishing, for taking a chance on me and wanting to share my words with the
world, your professionalism and kindness will never be forgotten.
Copyright © 2015
seeps through my worn leather boots. With each plunge of my feet through the
snowdrifts, icy water squishes between my toes. Flakes continue to fall,
to the ground like white angels around me. If only
they were angels.
toss a glance over my shoulder, dusk hindering the line of sight behind me.
Through the flurries and shadows of nightfall, the sound of his labored
wheezing increases, telling me he closes the distance. Long tendrils of red
hair flow around me like a cloak, billowing on the breeze as I kick up speed.
My chilled fingers barely keep hold of my skirts, hiked to my thighs as I
trudge through the thick snow. The crunch beneath my feet rings in my ears.
The stomp of his ring louder.
assails me through each labored breath pulled into my lungs, and I fight my
weary limbs to keep going. Towering trees snake in my path, their barren
branches bridging together like praying fingers above me. Darkness falls
faster, though I'm not sure if it's around me or just in my mind. Everything
spins and my feet slip from under me as I plummet to the ground.
Skirts of red and white blanket around me, growing heavy as they
soak in melting snow.
I manage to suck in a heaving breath, and I pray
it's not my last.
slows his pace as if knowing he's won. Stalking towards me, a sinister grin
slithers across his bearded face. His long black cloak drapes a tall, willowy
frame. I will my limbs to move, to thrust forward and rise up. They refuse my
orders, tired and weak from an hour's long run. A single tear slides over my
cheek, streaking my chilled skin. Fiery pain slices its way up my legs. My
frozen fingers slip into the crevice of my bodice and curl around the hilt of a
dagger hidden between my breasts.
you tired yet, Rose?” he asks as he lurches forward, gripping his knees with
his hands and panting for breath.
glance up to him. “Perhaps you need to work on your stamina, Tobias. Aren't you
supposed to catch me,
throw me down? I wasn't
supposed to do it myself.”
slash of pain courses through my lower limbs as I push myself up from the
ground and I fear I may have sprained something. I unsheathe my dagger from its
hiding spot, dropping my hand to the billows of my skirts as I turn and face
him. Soaking fabric clings to my legs, chilling me to the bone.
we just go home now? This game isn't fun anymore, Red.” He glances around as
the cry of an owl pierces the chill in the air.
free to go if you want.” I dust my skirts off with one hand and tug my red velvet
cloak tight against my shoulders. “But you won't get your reward.”
beady eyes narrow. “You promised me sex.”
I said if you catch me you could have sex with me. I tripped and fell. And now
you want to go home because you're afraid of an owl. There'll be no sex with
you tonight.” I purse my lips. “I need a man who can take me down, who can bend
my will to his own. You are not that man, Tobias.”
huffs through sallow cheeks, pointing a finger of judgment. “You're a tease and
a whore, Rose Red!”
would you know? You haven't slept with me,” I say and blow him a kiss.
heard stories of the wicked ways in which you lure men to your bed.”
His narrowed eyes burn with a hateful glare.
laugh pops from my throat. “Then why did you agree to play my game?”
lips purse to a thin line and his face deadpans. “I'll make you mine, Rose Red.
And I'll rightly punish you for your wicked games.”
closer to him, my lips hover over his. “No man has ever made me his. No man
ever will. Do you know why I brought you out here, Tobias?”
mouth trembles as he stares into my eyes.
“To fuck you.”
I shake my head and a giggle
erupts from my throat. “I'm going to kill you.” Rage flashes in my eyes as I
plunge my dagger into his soft belly. Flicking my wrist, the knife twists in
his gut before I yank it back out. Blood drips from the tip and dots the white
snow beneath it in crimson. “That's for helping kill my mother, you bastard.”
fills his eyes as they bulge out of his head. His hands clamp down on the wound
and blood seeps through his fingertips. Wobbling knees buckle beneath him as he
drops to the snow, clutching what's left of his stomach.
this will send
the message that I
avenge my mother's death.” Dropping to a squat, I look him in the eyes. “May
you rot in hell,
Don't worry, I'll send
to join you soon enough.” I blow him a kiss, rising
back to a stance.
chest heaves one last breath before he topples face first into the snow. My
throat closes as I cup a hand over my mouth. Though the bastard needed to pay
for his crimes, taking a life never got easier. Tears slip from the heavy pools
in my eyes and I plunge the bloodied knife into the snow. Pulling it back, red
ice drizzles along the steel blade and I stab it once more into the pure snow,
washing away the sin.
is the last name on the list of men who assisted
Now, I go after the dwarf sorcerer himself.
But not tonight.
My weary bones cry out for rest, and I need to check in with my sister, still
wrought with grief over our mother's death. If she ever finds out what I've
been doing, she'll never forgive me. She is too pure to even think about
killing for revenge, or killing anything for that matter. So I must.
though we are not blood kin, her mother raised me like we were. And if Snow
were to share the same fate as her mother, my heart would shatter. She is my
And I must keep her pure. So I do what has to be done in order for her to
remain Snow White.
overshadows the last of the light, casting blackness through the trees. The
slice of crescent moonlight fails to illuminate my path. But I know these woods
like the back of my hand, the ones the townsfolk say are haunted.
For I'm the one that haunts them.
swipe at the remnants of the frozen tears gripping my cheeks like a lifeline.
They are the last bits of my soul not filled with hatred and revenge. The
boning in my corset stabs at me, piercing through the fabric. Sucking in a
sharp breath, I reel in the pain of my legs and stomach. I force a step on
wobbly ankles, fighting to remain upright.
legs crisscross as I stumble through the drifts, now inches deeper than they
were. I must make it to the bridge; there I'm sure to be found by Snow if I
don't make it home. She never ventures farther than the bridge. I've always
warned her not to.
whips through the trees, smothering my face in a mask of flurries that sting my
already icy cheeks. My steps slow, each one languishing as I hobble along,
fighting the wind and my heavy, torn clothing. The dark posts of the bridge
come into view and my heart leaps. Jutting my hands in front of me, I reach for
it like a lifeline, a savior. Blood stains my trembling fingers and I jerk them
back to the safety of the folds in my drenched skirt.
more step and it's within reach. My foot sets down on the rickety planks that
bow beneath my weight. Wind howls in my ears, barking at me to continue on.
Warmth settles in my heart as I place my second foot on the safety of the
bridge. Snow can find me now.
startles my thoughts and I drop my gaze to the wood beneath my feet. Sheets of
ice peek back through the gaps in the boards. Another creak stings my ears,
by a snap sparking tremors
through my body,
and I grip the railing covered in snow. I need to move. I need to run. But my
body refuses and anchors to its spot, willing the bridge to hold.