Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.
Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love. When an almost-forgotten pact with the devil returns to haunt her, Tina knows she has to go back to the Andes to face her doom.
Caught between misgivings and need, she signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s expeditions. Though he was once the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains. Trapped in a battle of life and death, passion flares, burning hot enough to brand their souls.
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: May 20, 2013
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
A brutal chop of wind sent her sideways. She planted both axes; the snow beneath her gave way. Tina tumbled into blackness. Aw shit, it’s a crevasse, a crevasse, a crevasse, echoed in her mind. She crashed through two snow bridges. The third one held. She was afraid to breathe. Afraid to do anything to weaken her fragile hold on life. In the feeble beam of her headlamp, she glanced upward. Fifty feet. I fell fifty feet. Thank God nothing’s broken.
Snow bridges were always thicker at their ends. She moved ever so cautiously until she was right next to the smooth inner ice wall of her tomb. She slung an axe into the ice. It bounced off. She tried again. Same result. She kicked with her front points. After many attempts, she was sweating and panting. “Goddammit,” she shrieked. “Fuck.”
“Got to get hold of myself,” she muttered. “If I don’t, I’m as good as dead.”
Tina shut her eyes. If she couldn’t climb out with her tools, maybe she could pound in ice screws. They had threads. She wasn’t certain she had enough to make it all the way out, but she’d freeze to death if she didn’t keep moving. It was very cold in the crevasse. Colder than it had been out on the glacier.
It took a long time to twist the first ice screw in. The second one was easier. Using screws, carabineers, her rope, and jumars, she made it about twenty feet from the snow bridge when her headlamp died. “Shit.” She pounded impotently against the ice. “I can’t believe I was this stupid. Shit. Fuck. Damn it all to hell.”
I can curse all I want—I’m going to die here.
She hung limply in her harness. Her sweat-damp body shivered. The doctor part of her wondered how long it would take to die. Freezing to death was a lot like going to sleep. She wasn’t certain what time it was, but it couldn’t be much past four. Dawn was at least two hours away. Maybe she could hold on, but she didn’t think it likely.
A putrid smell filled her nostrils. It got even colder. “Human woman,” sounded deep in her mind in a strangely accented voice.
“Who said that?” Her neck twisted from side to side, but she couldn’t see a thing in the blackness.
“I offer you a chance to live.”
“How could you possibly do that?” Am I losing my mind? Hypoxia? Harness cutting off my wind?
“If I rescue you, you will return to me and live out your days with me in the Cordillera Real. You must give me your word.”
“Huh? What do you mean return? I’m already here.” Tina’s brain felt wrapped in cotton batting. None of this made sense. Maybe she was already dying and her mind was playing tricks on her.
“You will have seven years in your human world. Once it is over, you must return to me. Do you agree?”
What the hell? “Um, sure. If you can get me out of here, go for it.”
“Unlatch that thing holding you to the wall.”
Fear sluiced through her. Her hands tightened on the rope. “Not on your life.”
A macabre chuckle filled the icy hole under Illimani’s glacier. “No, doctor. It is not my life but yours.”
She started to ask how he knew she was a doctor when a high-pitched whistle bounced off the crevasse walls. The infernal screeching stabbed ice picks into her brain. Cold air closed around her. It smelled like a charnel pit, ripe with things dead long enough to rot. Her ice screw popped from the wall; she made a grab for the rope and closed her arms around it. Air currents jockeyed her upward and out onto the glacier.
Tina blinked. The thick cloud cover was gone. Between an almost full moon and a sky full of stars, she could see without her lamp. She started to coil the rope, but the same insistent air pushed her. “Okay, okay.” She held the mass of Perlon against her chest and staggered down the glacier. It was easy to avoid the crevasses now that she could see where they were.
Her mind rebelled at what just happened. Maybe she’d died in the crevasse or maybe she hadn’t fallen into one at all. Maybe she’d hit her head when she’d fallen off the ridge, had a seizure on the glacier, and this was a postictal state. She shook her head sharply, willing a return of rational thought.
“We are not done, doctor. Stop there.”
Tina tried to keep moving but her feet were mired in place. A glowing form took shape next to her. She stared up at it and gasped, surprised she had any adrenaline left to react. This isn’t possible. It can’t be happening. The thing was over seven feet tall; it shimmered so brightly, she couldn’t look directly at it.
An unseen force yanked one of her arms away from her body. The rope fell in a pile at her feet. Bright light descended; it cut through her jacket and the clothing beneath. She tried to twist her body away, but couldn’t. Blood welled and dripped onto the snow. Golden light enveloped her.
“What are you doing?” Terror skittered along her nerves; it made her shake uncontrollably.
“You made me a promise, doctor. I am sealing your word with a blood bond. Seven years. If you break your vow, I will kill you.”
Tina opened her mouth to protest, to tell the thing it hadn’t told her everything before she’d agreed, but the pulsating light vanished. She turned in a circle to make certain she was alone. Blood dripped from her arm, staining the snow crimson. Her tent shone pale yellow in the moonlight not a hundred yards away. She staggered to it, uncertain what had just happened to her.
I can’t think about this now. If I do, it will drive me mad. Inside her tent, she stripped off her jackets and long underwear. She flicked on a lighter and took a look at her arm. It needed stitches, but they’d have to wait. She was just too tired. As a stopgap, she doused her arm with Betadine, wrapped it with a pressure bandage, and fell into an exhausted sleep.
* * * *
Tina glanced around. It took a moment to orient herself. She was still about a mile-and-a-half from home. Colorado sunshine shone warmly on her, but she was chilled to her bones.
After leaving Bolivia, she’d returned to the rental house she shared with Craig Robson in Denver. He’d been guiding clients in Antarctica, so she had the house to herself. At first, she’d thought that was good, but the harder she tried to make sense out of what had happened to her on Illimani, the more tangled things got. She wondered if she were having a late schizophrenic break, or if she’d truly traded away her humanity in a pact with the devil.
Craig had blown through their front door one day in mid-January with a huge smile on his face and a ring in his pocket. Tina grimaced and forced herself to run faster. It was hard to think about the day Craig asked her to marry him. There’d been no way she could be his wife. She had no idea what she’d gotten herself into in Bolivia, no inkling of what the ramifications would be. The whole thing was too weird to even try to explain and she was frightened she’d put Craig at risk if she told him anything. Even without Bolivia, she’d had other reservations as well. She hadn’t been ready to marry anyone—not then, and not in the years since. The look on his face when she’d turned him down still haunted her.
She slammed into her house, blowing hard. Usually, she cooled down. Today she was too edgy, nerves jangling with tension. Maybe she should put in another few miles… Tina poured coffee into an oversized mug and slugged some back. It burned, but its bitterness tasted good. She savored it and waited for the blast of caffeine to hit.
Cup gripped in her hand, she forced herself into her study. No more running today. She had things to do. Reaching down, she booted up her computer. There was no getting around it. She had to go back to Bolivia. If she didn’t, she had no doubt the next supernatural visit would mean her death. Better to die on her feet in a direct confrontation than pinned to her mattress.
The Microsoft menu scrolled across the screen. She brought up the Internet and typed in the URL for Craig’s guiding service. If she got really lucky, he’d have a trip to Bolivia planned in the next couple of months. She wanted to see Craig one last time before she faced whatever had hauled her out of the crevasse and threatened her this morning in her bedroom. She’d signed on as team doctor for his expeditions over the last couple of years, but they’d never talked about anything personal. This time she’d gird her courage and apologize.
Other titles by Ann Gimpel:
Be on the lookout for Ann Gimpel's next book, Roman’s Gold, coming June 2013
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