This book has been sitting, ready and waiting for eighteen months now and FINALLY, I have been given the all clear by the powers that be – film producer Mark Roemmich and my agent Italia Gandolfo – to get it ready for publication this summer.
I know, I can’t stop getting excited about the release of this book, it’s an exciting time in the Shadow World series. When I had thought the series would be wrapped up in three books, something happened that I had never anticipated – three more books were born. BUT, until the publication of FIGHTING SHADOWS, I can’t give any spoilers away, because, well, you’d suss me out and I don’t want that just yet. All I can say is you will LOVE where the series is going.
Writing FIGHTING SHADOWS was a whirlwind experience for me. I love how far Giselle has come from the first book. She has grown and in many ways she is the kick-ass heroine so many of my fans/readers wanted her to be. But you have to remember, her transition was never an easy one and most eighteen-year old’s aren’t equipped to be able to make life and death decisions, let alone deciding what they want to do with their lives. But not only has Giselle grown, but I’ve grown alongside her and that makes me a pretty proud author.
So, for all my wonderful readers, here is the exclusive opening of FIGHTING SHADOWS. I hope you enjoy xo
Copyright © 2016 Julieanne Lynch
All rights reserved.
It’s odd to think of Hell as anything other than fire, misery, and well, hellish. But this . . . this place was a vortex of wonder. How I had ever believed in anything other than the macabre was beyond me, but now being here, living in this surreal existence hidden in the shadows, I felt on a constant high.
Maybe it was because of the three little beings bursting with life inside of me. Actually, they were more like pests. Maybe it was the fact that he was by my side. Who knows? All I can say is that as I traveled further and deeper into the abyss of the unknown, something came alive within me, and it wasn’t what I expected at all.
We traveled through vast meadows, roaming canyons, and rivers of peril. The desire to run and disappear became an ever-present entity all around me. More often than not, I struggled to keep myself together. Kaden was constantly on my mind, yet the song that played its haunting melody almost made me lose control of myself.
The sirens could sense my presence, but with the help of Antoine, I was shielded from their prying eyes. Like most things in this world, nothing was what it seemed.
Of course, I was also battling the inner monologues of the three little angels who had taken refuge within me. I constantly found myself battling their invasion of my deepest and rawest thoughts. Yes, I adored them and found their company comforting, but I felt like I was slowly losing sense of who I was. Even they would not be strong enough to stop me from letting the darkness within me grow. I just had to believe, believe in my own strength and the power that was now becoming my strongest asset.
And so, the journey began . . .
Antoine kept looking at me as I clambered from the boat that took us across the River Acheron. I knew he worried about me, and of course, he had every right to. My obsession with finding Kaden and killing Alex were beginning to consume my every waking moment. There was something unusual and bizarre at work down here, and I, for one, could feel the constant pull of darkness feeding on my hatred.
I tried so hard to push the incessant thoughts to the back of my mind, erasing the images of Alex’s bloodied body on the ground in front of me. The more I fought them, the more vivid they became. Trying to blank them out was nearly impossible. Kaden was the driving force behind my every thought and feeling. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for my son, even cold-blooded murder.
Antoine gazed at me as I tried to focus on the task at hand. His lingering looks put to rest the fire inside me, but only momentarily.
“Why do you keep doing that?” I asked, trying my best to avoid the lure of his stare.
His eyes did something to me. At the best of times, I’d have gladly allowed them to swallow me whole, but as things stood, I wasn’t in the mood for his allure.
“Whatever do you mean, sweet princess?” he countered, playing his little games with me, giving me that infamous coy smile of his.
I bit down on my lower lip and shrugged my shoulders, pretending that he was not beginning to get on my nerves. The ever-present thoughts of Aurelia flew through my mind. She was becoming quite the manipulator. Though I loved the little angel dearly, sometimes she more than irritated me.
“You know he adores you, Giselle. Why fight it?” her little voice floated through my mind. “And you know he loves you.”
“Would you please stop doing that?” I snapped at her, bristling with annoyance. “Ever heard of private space?”
Antoine laughed raucously at me and then fell silent. His eyes widened. Gripping my wrists, he flung me hard against the cold stoned wall of the castle. He placed a finger over my lips and looked up above us, holding his breath.
My heart began to beat faster. I could sense the growing chill in the air. Whatever was coming, it had great power and knew I was here. Watching Antoine’s eyes scan the sky above, flashes of red and amber glazed over the once perfect shade of blue, which had pulled me into their mesmerizing trap. He was troubled. I could sense it in his grip, and yet again, I knew I had to trust him.
Whooshing down like lightning, a thunderous roar followed the dark creature descending from the sky. It looped and swept close to the top of the turrets, staring down into the shadows. It screeched out a call into the darkness and tilted its head to the side as if it was listening to something.
I stretched my neck to peer over Antoine’s shoulder, and watched as the dark thing cried out. Its eyes burned red and then it disappeared as if it had never been there.
My heart pounded hard in my chest. I tried not to show the mixture of fear and excitement rippling through me, and I composed myself before asking Antoine what had just happened.
With a devilish grin, Antoine placed a hand over my mouth, as though he knew what I was about to ask. “That, my dear sweet princess, was the Dark One’s huntsman. I believe your scent has been picked up. Of course, I know how enticing that is, but one mustn’t get too comfortable.” He winked and loosened his hold on me.
“So I guess the hunt is on,” I muttered, trying to ignore Aurelia’s thoughts rushing through my head.
Antoine smoothed out his hair and rubbed his chin in contemplation before making eye contact with me. “The deeper we travel, the darker the elements will become. Are you willing to put yourself to the ultimate test?”
“I will do anything to get to my son.”
“Even at the risk of losing yourself?” he asked, walking along the wall of the castle and making his way to a large iron gate. “Because once we enter Limbo, there is no turning back.”
“Limbo!” I bellowed.
He laughed and signaled for me to follow him.
Like an obedient toddler, I moved up beside him and gazed at the giant gateway in awe.
“When one wants to enter Hell and all of her dominions, one must start at the beginning. This, my sweet princess, is the beginning of what promises to be an inspiring journey. Of course, that all depends on you,” he remarked, running his fingers over the etchings on the iron pillars.
“Meaning, whether you can keep your sanity intact and not lose yourself to the temptations that lie ahead.”
“I very much doubt I will lose myself to anything,” I scoffed.
“Hmm, we shall see.”
I rolled my eyes in protest and pushed at the gates, easing them open. For a moment, I thought I’d gained some kind of super strength, but it was Antoine who always burst my bubble.
“I knew the gates would sense your burdens. Those of us who carry the heaviest load always enter this realm with such ease.” He pouted. “This makes for an interesting trip, don’t you agree?” He stepped over the threshold, rubbing his hands together like he’d just won some kind of fortune.
“Idiot,” I whispered under my breath, and walked into the grounds of the gated castle.
The sight that soon met my eyes was like something out of a fantasy. This certainly was unlike anything I’d been taught at Sunday school. Roaming meadows seemed to go on for miles. The air smelled fresh, full of the aromas of vanilla and myrrh. Once inside, the oddest sense of calm came over me.
Without thinking, I started to run through the long strands of grass, letting my fingertips brush against the luscious green stalks as I stared up at the illuminating light that beamed down upon me. It was an odd kind of light and didn’t seem to be coming from a particular source. I shrugged my shoulders and continued to run until I came face-to-face with an old man.
I stood in front of him, frozen and holding my breath. He seemed to look through me, as though I was transparent. The smell that seeped from him was so overwhelming that my head felt light.
“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate,” he said, his eyes boring through me. Then, he glumly walked on, mumbling to himself, holding a pile of scrolls under his arm.
Standing still, I folded my arms, and thought about every word he’d said. Had it been directed at me? I hated feeling paranoid, but it was Antoine who did his usual thing, and tore me from my self-deprecating thoughts.
“Nevermind that old fool. He always had far too much to say,” he replied with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.
“Who is he?” I asked, watching the old man vanish before my eyes.
“Just an old philosopher who knew an awful lot about nothing.”
“We sometimes ought to trust our own paths instead of professing faith in such nonsense like that of the Greeks who think they know it all.” He grew serious momentarily, and then turned on his usual charm. “Besides, shouldn’t you be concentrating on the quest at hand? Or has our dear old Socrates planted the seed of doubt in that pretty little head of yours?”
Disbelief ran across my face. I could feel my mouth open with an odd sense of wonder.
“Hmm, best watch that no flies take refuge in there, Little Darkling.” He sniggered and walked past me in the same direction the old man had taken.
Like a dart, I shot up beside him and tugged on the sleeve of his overcoat. “Seriously? That was Socrates?”
“Oh, come now, Giselle. Surely, you of all people should know that nothing is impossible. We are, after all, in a world where sorrow replaces torment and the lost souls wander. Here, one is expected to live an eternity in misery, but not you, my sweet, sweet princess. No, you are destined for greatness. Of course, that all does depend on how you fair with what lies ahead.”
“Yes.” I sighed. “You keep saying that.”
I could see him watching me from the corner of his eye. A mixture of anger and frustration began to bubble at the surface. Knowing what was about to happen, I closed my eyes and focused on Kaden instead. I could feel the warm sensation of the fire simmering beneath my skin. It danced and twirled itself in knots around my fingertips. My hand felt like it was about to burst. The vision of Kaden’s little face tumbling around in my head stopped me from losing control.
“You know,” Antoine began, “you really need to learn to control those tantrums of yours.”
“What? I didn’t . . .” I stammered.
“Sweetness, it was written all over your face, but let’s forget about that. We have more pressing matters to be getting on with. Right now, we need to evacuate this place before your scent is picked up again.”
He grasped my hand.
I had no time to argue in my defense. In fact, I had no time to catch my breath at all. Before I had the chance to blink, we were slipping down a deep slope at an odd angle. I scraped my fingers through the soil with my free hand, trying to stop my descent. We continued sliding downward until complete darkness surrounded us.
“This is bad,” I whispered.
“Yup, this is bad,” Antoine agreed.