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The North Wind

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About The Book

Inspired by Beauty and the Beast and the myth of Hades and Persephone, this lush and enchanting enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Scarlett St. Clair.

Wren of Edgewood is no stranger to suffering. With her parents gone, it’s Wren’s responsibility to ensure she and her sister survive the harsh and endless winter, but if the legends are to be believed, their home may not be safe for much longer.

For three hundred years, the land surrounding Edgewood has been encased in ice as the Shade, a magical barrier that protects the townsfolk from the Deadlands beyond, weakens. Only one thing can stop the Shade’s fall: the blood of a mortal woman bound in wedlock to the North Wind, a dangerous immortal whose heart is said to be as frigid as the land he rules. And the time has come to choose his bride.

When the North Wind sets his eyes on Wren’s sister, Wren will do anything to save her—even if it means sacrificing herself in the process. But mortal or not, Wren won’t go down without a fight…

The North Wind is a stand-alone, enemies-to-lovers slow-burn fantasy romance, the first in a series sprinkled with Greek mythology.

Excerpt

Chapter 1 1
THE SKY FORETELLS A COMING tragedy.

It is the palest of grays, yet a red stain clots the eastern horizon—evidence of the rising sun. The stain expands, sopping the clouds and dripping farther westward. Huddled in the thicket of snow-laden trees, I watch the day waken with fear running cracks through my heart. The sky is red, like bloodshed.

Like revenge.

I have been expecting such a sight for days now. It is as the stories claim: first come the budding cones from the old cypress tree growing in the town square. Three decades the tree has lain dormant, and the emergence of new blooms sent the townsfolk into a frenzy, the women into hysterics, the men stoic with grim-faced defeat. The buds, then the bleeding dawn. At this point, there is little I can do. Because if the sky is correct, Edgewood is expecting a visitor, and soon.

Encased in its white, icy skin, the land lies in muted silence, the snow soft, fresh from the storms that blow in as frequently as the moon cycles. For now, I will not think of what may come. My task lies here, in this uninhabited stretch of wood, with the black trees and their rotting cores, and my stiff, gloved hand clasped around my bow.

Peering around a moonlit trunk, I scan my surroundings. Three days prior, I stumbled across a game trail, still fresh. The tracks led me here, fifteen miles northwest of home, but I’ve yet to spot the elk.

“Where are you?” I whisper.

A harsh wind rattles the bare, finger-bone branches. Despite tugging my patchwork coat tighter around my body, the invading cold manages to slip between the openings. Desperation sent me deeper into the forest’s heart, beyond that small pocket of civilization—north, where the River Les gleams, where no one dares dwell.

Movement snags my eye. The animal limps into sight, alone, separate from any herd. Its slow, laborious gait evidently caused by its twisted left foreleg. The sight sickens me. It’s not the animal’s fault it suffers. That responsibility belongs to the dark god who squats beyond the Shade.

Hardly daring to breathe, I slide an arrow from my quiver. One seamless pull, a full draw, and my hand grazes the underside of my jaw, the string brushing the tip of my nose as an additional reference point. The elk paws at the snow, seeking something green, something that is like hope but that never will be.

But I am not alone.

A deep breath drags traces of the forest into my lungs: ice and wood and a smell of burning. It is a warning, and it comes from the north.

My senses still. My ears strain for any unusual sound. Tension winds knots through my limbs, yet I force my mind to calm, to return to what I know, and what I know is this: the scent is faint. Enough distance separates me from the darkwalker that I have time, but I’ll need to move quickly.

When I return my attention to the elk, I notice it has shifted far enough away that the likelihood of striking its heart has drastically decreased. I can’t risk moving closer. If the animal flees, I’ll never catch it, and I haven’t enough supplies to extend this trip any longer. Back home, the bread grows hard as tack, the last of the jerky reduced to crumbs.

So don’t miss.

Adjusting the angle of my bow, I tilt the arrow a few inches higher. Exhale and—release.

The arrow screams against the frigid air, burying itself deep into living flesh and a still-beating heart.

Today, my sister and I will live to see the morrow.

The last of the elk herds vanished decades ago, yet this one managed to wander back into our realm. The poor animal is naught but old skin and warped bones, and I wonder when it last ate. Little flourishes in the Gray.

Quickly, I begin skinning the animal with the knife I am never without. Steaming chunks of meat hacked from the carcass, packed as tightly into my satchel as I can manage. Blood saturates the hide. Every so often, I glance over my shoulder, scan my surroundings. The sky’s red tinge has cooled to blue.

The smell of a forge still lingers beneath the copper stench. Reaching into the body cavity through the split stomach, I slice another chunk free, pack it with the rest. Hot blood coats me from fingertips to elbows.

I’m severing the liver when a distant howl lifts the hair on my body. I cut faster. With the abdomen hollowed out, I shift my focus to its flanks. I’ve a small pouch of salt hanging from my beltloop, but that will only protect me from one darkwalker, maybe two if they are small. As the howl mutates into a roar, my body stiffens, my pulse careens, on the crest of a black wave.

I’m out of time.

In a single motion, I peel the heavy coat from my sweat-soaked body, then remove my blood-stained gloves. My teeth clench as an agonizing shudder runs through me. It’s too damn cold. A killing cold. I unwrap a dry woolen tunic from around the wine flask inside my pack and tug it over my head in rough pulls. By the gods, I did not travel two weeks in this barren wasteland just to die. If I do not return with this food, Elora will meet a similar fate.

With my soaked clothing removed, I stuff everything beneath the bleeding carcass, then scramble up the highest tree I can find. The frozen bark bites into my chafed palms. Up, up to the tallest branch, which groans beneath my weight. My knuckles crack as I curl them into fists and shove them against the warmth of my gnawing stomach.

The darkwalker lurches into the dell moments later, though I’m not given a clear view of its form. Snatches of shadow, wisps bleeding black against the white. It investigates the fallen elk for a time before prowling the surrounding area. A sloped, uneven back, that wisped, lashing tail. I clench my jaw shut to contain the chattering of my teeth.

The Shade—the barrier separating the Gray from the adjacent Deadlands—is supposed to keep the darkwalkers bound to the afterlife. Yet the townsfolk speak of holes in the barrier, splits that allow the beasts to reenter the land of the living and seek the souls that sustain them.

The beasts are not alive, not truly, but the darkwalker can sense the elk’s newly departed soul. I only hope that this will be enough to distract it from my presence. I had hoped the hide would make a new coat for Elora, never mind the torn seams in mine. But there’s no time to skin the beast.

Eventually, the beast moves off. Ten minutes I wait, breath held, until the burning air clears. Only then do I scramble down the tree.

Steam rises from the elk’s carcass. Half the meat still awaits butchering—two months’ worth of food. As much as it pains me to leave anything behind, I can’t risk finishing the job with the darkwalker so near. One month of food will have to suffice, and if we’re careful, Elora and I can stretch it further. Maybe another half-starved animal will stumble across the remains.

After donning my coat and gloves, I heave the satchel across my back and begin the fifteen-mile return trek to Edgewood, grunting beneath the weight of my cache. By the third mile, my feet, face, and hands have lost sensation. The wind does not relent no matter how many gods I pray to, but they must know of my lost faith.

It takes the day. Evening unfolds and darkens the wood to a violet-rich tapestry. With less than two miles remaining, I hear it. The low, lamenting peal of a ram’s horn climbs through the valley and kicks my pulse into a perilous sprint. The sky foretold a coming tragedy, and it was right.

The North Wind has come.

About The Author

Supplied by the author

Alexandria Warwick is the author of the Four Winds series and the North series. A classically trained violinist, she spends much of her time performing in orchestras. She lives in Florida.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Saga Press (May 21, 2024)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668065167

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