From New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack, the second in the captivating new YA fantasy/romance Stormheart series, perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard.
Princess or adventurer.
Duty or freedom.
Her Kingdom or the storm hunter she loves.
If Aurora knows anything, it’s that choices have consequences. To set things right, she joins a growing revolution on the streets of Pavan.
In disguise as the rebel Roar, she puts her knowledge of the palace to use to aid the rebellion. But the Rage season is at its peak and not a day passes without the skies raining down destruction. Yet these storms are different…they churn with darkness, and attack with a will that’s desperate and violent.
This feels like more than rage.
It feels like war.
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Two nights later it was time to make their move. They had left the Rock hidden deep in the woods, hoping that would be enough to keep it safe. Aurora had cried as they released their horses to the wilds. Honey had tried to follow her to the remnant camp, but listened when Aurora ordered her to stay. For so long, that horse had been her only company, her only solace. She hated leaving her behind. But it was impossible to take her with them.
The night died a thousand deaths as they waited for the perfect moment. Again and again, the dark sky lit up like the world itself was splitting at the seams. Perhaps it was.
Aurora wore a thick cloak, but when the night was dark be- tween bolts of skyfire, she could still see the faint glow of her own heart beneath the fabric. It flickered faster, reminding her with every frenzied heartbeat that she was about to go home. She was about to get all the answers she had been desiring and dreading. She was not the same girl she had been last time she stood this close to her home. She’d left powerless with nothing more than hope in her hands, and she’d come back with a storm wrapped around her heart.
The skyfire storm approached from the southwest, and while it was not directly upon the city yet, she could already hear the voices of the remnants carrying on the wind, begging at the city gate for admittance. She ached to go back to them, to do something, but as soon as she turned her head in their direction, Kiran was there. His voice was a low whisper as he said, “There’s no time. We must go now, while there’s a distraction.”
She understood that, understood that Kiran and the rest of the hunters were doing this all for her, and she hadn’t even gathered the courage to tell them why. But she had not realized that once she came home with magic, she could still feel as utterly powerless as before.
She opened her mouth to argue, but it was Duke who stopped her this time. “We can’t fight the storm either, Roar. This is Storm- ling territory. We would put everyone in greater danger if we tried to interfere.”
For the thousandth time, she wanted to throw back the hood that covered her hair and declare to the world that she was Stormling, that she was home. That she wanted to make things better.
But just as she had been shaped into something new by the wildlands, Pavan too had changed.
Aurora had done what she could to help in her time among the remnants. Kiran kept scolding her for giving food and supplies away for free rather than trying to barter, arguing it made them stand out too much. But after that display by Casimir, she knew these people had nothing to trade, and even if they did she would not take it from them. Each hour had heaped more guilt upon her shoulders, until she wondered how she could still walk upright. Once they were inside the city, she would tell Kiran the truth. She would tell them all the truth. Even if it meant they all left her behind.
Tonight, she had led them all through what remained of Pavan’s famed wheat fields. They were largely scorched or otherwise destroyed by storms, and in the few untouched areas, they clearly had not been tended to in weeks. The land was overgrown with weeds and other plants.
She could no longer hear the remnants over the rumbling storm by the time they stopped at their destination, a point on the city wall far out of sight from the gate where the soldiers’ attention was now focused. She had been sad to observe in recent days that when a storm hit, the men on duty seemed more concerned with keeping remnants out than being on alert should the storm slip through the city’s Stormling defenses, which meant the only other worry they had were the soldiers stationed in each of the high towers facing the cardinal directions. So they had chosen a spot equidistant from the two nearest towers, and thus their best chance at scaling the wall unseen.
It was a gamble. But no one expected them to have an earth witch on their side.
Jinx knelt in the dirt, and reached into the breast pocket of her leather jacket, pulling out a single seed. She pushed that insignificant seed into the soil, planting each finger around it like the roots of a tree.
It took only a few breaths before a tiny green leaf broke through to open air, unfurling as though taking its first breath. The leaves grew and multiplied, followed by reaching vines that moved quickly over the earth until they found the stone wall that surrounded the city of Pavan. Faster, the vines began to uncurl, reaching higher and higher, winding about each other to reach the top. Roar recognized the plant as Rezna’s rest, the same plant she’d relied on for weeks in the wild to knock her out when she lost her emotions to a storm. The plant seemed to whisper as it climbed, gasping and growing in a way that reminded her too much of the people who were even now grasping the front gates in fear, begging for mercy, hoping just for a reprieve from the onslaught of this dangerous world.
When the vines had grown thick and sturdy, Jinx sat back, her normally tawny face dotted with sweat, and her skin several shades paler than usual. “That should work,” she said in a whisper. Ransom was there a moment later to pull her to her feet. Jinx brushed him off with a cavalier smile and turned to look at the others.
“Who wants to try first? It’s completely safe. Probably.” “Probably?” Bait asked, his eyebrows raised in exaggeration. Roar stepped forward, her voice quiet but firm as she said, “I
will.” She saw Kiran about to object out of the corner of her eye, and she held up a hand. “I’m doing this.” After all, they were all only here because of her, because she asked, and because they now counted her part of their team. Her stomach clenched, and she re- fused to let herself think about how they might feel differently soon.
Before anyone else could object, she marched up to the thick vine and grabbed hold. She lifted her foot, finding a sturdy notch in the vines, and then pulled herself up a little with her arms. She wanted to take it slow, to step cautiously, but she knew there was too much at risk to be anything but quick and efficient. When she reached the top, she was relieved to find that Jinx had grown the vine not only up the wall, but down the other side. For one brief second, she allowed herself to look out over the city of Pavan. There were hardly any lights to be seen, and the streets were de- serted. She knew all the people were likely hiding in shelters, but it didn’t stop the unease she felt at seeing her city so lifeless. If she dared to lower her shields, she could probably feel the souls of the people below, maybe even pick up a bit of their emotions, but it was too dangerous to risk her walls being breached.
She felt the rustle of the vine as someone else began their as- cent, and quickly threw her legs over to continue her climb down. When she was a few feet off the ground, she jumped, the sound of her landing swallowed by a boom of thunder that seemed to shake the skies.
Kiran was there by the time she found steady footing, having dropped from the top without bothering to climb down at all. “And you call me reckless,” she whispered. “You could have bro- ken your leg.”
He didn’t answer, simply closed the distance between them, curled his hand around the nape of her neck, and pulled her for- ward into the softest kiss he had ever given her. It lasted only a moment, but they stayed close, heads bent together, lips a whisper away. And slowly, the frenetic beat of her heart eased, the tension in her fingers loosened, and she felt all her fear slide somewhere farther back in her mind, pushed away by the intensity that always rose up between them.
She could do this. They could do this.
This man had taken down hurricanes and lived through fire- storms, and he loved her. She would tell him the truth, and he would understand. He had to, because she wasn’t sure how she could get through the next few days without him. If she searched for her mother, only to find out the worst . . . she did not know what she would do then.
Kiran whispered, “I can feel you tensing up again.”
A thump signaled another hunter’s arrival on this side of the wall. Roar gave Kiran the best smile she could manage and prom- ised, “Later.”
She had been promising later for days, but this time she meant it. She pulled him down for another hard kiss, and when they pulled apart, he looked more worried, not less.
“I promise I will tell you everything—”
He cut her off. “But first, we have to find your mother. I under- stand, princess.”
She winced, and hoped he did not see it in the dark. “I also need to find out about what has happened since I left.”
“We all do. We need to know what kind of trouble we are in here.”
Trouble she had dragged them into. Goddess, she was selfish. If she had any honor, she would tell them right here, right now and let them leave before they got involved any further. But the greedy part of her was not going to make it any easier for Kiran to leave her. If she could just prepare him, and say the right words at the right time, maybe she did not have to lose everything she had gained in the last few months.
Kiran laid his palm over her heart, and she felt the zing of sky- fire rise up to meet his touch. She didn’t think he could feel it, but it always made her feel as if her heart were too full, as if it might burst under his attention.
“What are you two up to over there?” Bait asked. Roar hadn’t even heard him descend. He continued, “Am I going to see some- thing inappropriate the next time the sky lights up? Because some of us have virgin eyes. Not from lack of effort, mind you.”
Kiran rolled his eyes, and blew out a steady breath before pull- ing away. “Nothing to see. Your purity will remain intact.”
“Too bad.” It was dark, but somehow Roar could feel Kiran’s glare fix on the novice hunter, and by the way the redheaded teen threw up his hands, he could feel it too. “What? I’m only saying you could both stand to loosen up. You act like we’re breaking into a hostile city in the middle of a violent storm during the dead of night and could be caught and jailed at any moment.”
No one replied for a long moment. By skyfire’s streaking light, they saw Jinx step down gracefully from the vine and head toward them.
“What? No laughs for that one?” Bait frowned. “I thought it was clever.”
“Now’s not the time to be clever,” Jinx said. “It’s always a good time to be clever.” “No, it isn’t,” Duke said from halfway up the vine. The old man took longer than all the rest, and Roar watched
him as best she could in the fractured darkness. She would tell him second, after Kiran. She was fairly certain he already suspected her secret, but she would need him on her side if she were going to convince the crew to stay and help her put things right here. If that could even be done—the unknowns were unraveling con- stantly in her mind, threatening to pull her into a panic.
Of course, Duke was not the only one among their group who suspected Roar had been untruthful about aspects of her past. Sly, who had somehow appeared on this side of the wall without Roar ever glimpsing her on the vine, stood leaning against the wall. With her arms crossed over her chest, and her eyes as sharp as ever, Sly scanned the abandoned city around them. Roar was relieved not to have those keen eyes on her for a change.
Ransom was the last to come down the vine, his large body moving with surprising agility. Roar supposed she shouldn’t be shocked—he was a hunter, after all.
Once everyone had cleared the wall, Jinx crossed back to the vine. With a brush of her fingers and a few whispered words of peace, the vine grew dry and brittle, and broke apart in the wind. After a few gusts from the storm, there was no evidence of their break-in to be found.
About the Author
Cora Carmack is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult Romance and YA fantasy. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages around the world. Cora lives in Austin, TX, and on any given day you might find her typing away at her computer, flying to various cities around the world, or just watching Netflix with her kitty Katniss and her dog Sherlock. But she can always be found on Twitter and Instagram (@coracarmack), Facebook (www.facebook.com/coracarmackbooks), and her website (www.coracarmack.com).