Only one more week until In Ice We Burn is released! I can't wait for you all to read it, so here's an excerpt from the first chapter to get you started...
The timing couldn’t have been worse, of that, Sloane was certain. Her years of training at the Academy had prepared her to be cautious, to be wary, and to fight like hell when it was necessary, but they hadn’t readied her for this.
The man’s helmet weighed heavily in her hands as she watched his frozen, distorted face peering out at her from the cryochamber. She turned from him and stepped her feet into his space suit. He would live. At least, he should live. She’d never put someone into cryostatus before, but her options had been limited when she’d cornered him and that needle had been the closest weapon at hand. He didn’t deserve what she’d done to him, but she didn’t have time to worry about that now.
A voice echoed off the walls in the room as it sounded out over the intercom. ‘Will the first response team please make their way to the drop pod. Ten minutes until launch.’
Sloane cursed. She thought she had more time than that. With one swift movement, she had the suit zipper up. She slammed the helmet down on her head and ran into the hallway. Ten minutes wasn’t much time, but it did give her long enough to get to her sister before the pod departed—not that she’d approve of what Sloane was up to.
Rowena took her time opening her door. When she did, her hair was hung over her face and, as usual, her eyes were focused on the ground. There was a time when the twin girls had looked so alike, not even their mother could tell them apart. But that was a long time ago, and the only similarity most people now saw was their waist-length, white blonde hair and vivid green eyes.
‘Can I help you?’ Rowena asked, shying back from the light that spilled into her room.
‘Rowe, it’s me,’ said Sloane, quickly pulling the helmet from her head.
Sloane checked over her shoulder and moved past her sister, into her quarters. The quarters were small, like all sleeping chambers in the ship, with only a plinth to sleep on that stretched from one wall to the other and a small cupboard to house personal effects. The circular mirror that hung on the wall of most rooms was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Rowe had one of the few rooms with a porthole that looked out at the dark abyss of space. Even from the centre of the room, Sloane could see tiny stars twinkling brightly in the distance through the small circular window.
Sloane tucked the helmet under her arm and faced Rowe. ‘I haven’t got long.’
‘Why are you in a space suit?’ she asked, pursing her lips as she looked Sloane up and down. Her eyes were curious and calculating, like she had already guessed what trouble Sloane was getting into.
Sloane followed her gaze down to the massive white suit she wore and shook her head. ‘There isn’t time to explain. Something’s happened and I need to get on the drop pod going to Aeris.’
‘But you’re not in the first response team…’
‘I should be,’ she muttered. ‘But that’s not why I’m going. Ash and his team have disappeared.’
‘What?’ Rowe’s eyes darted up to meet her sister’s, causing her hair to fall back and reveal her face. Most people would recoil from the ugly scars that marred her once perfect features, but Sloane never noticed them. When she looked into Rowe’s bright green eyes, all Sloane saw was her kind and gentle soul shining through. Despite the scars, Sloane saw much more beauty in Rowe than in her own unflawed reflection.
‘Our brother has always been a bit impulsive, and he’s headstrong as hell, but he’s not stupid. Something bad must have happened for him and his team to be gone without a trace. It was only pure luck that I overheard one of the crew talking about it.’ Sloane shook her head again. ‘The Captain should have told us.’
‘I’m sure there’s a reason we weren’t told.’ Rowe spoke softly, as though her words alone could inflict pain by merely being said too loud.
Sloane’s eyes hardened and she gazed out the small window and into the dark chasm of space beyond. They’d been staring at that same view for months since they’d left Earth, and the sight of it turned Sloane’s stomach. She knew perfectly well why she wasn’t told. The Captain despised her, but she couldn’t say that aloud. It would only upset Rowe, who was clearly already struggling with Ash’s disappearance and Sloane’s imminent departure.
Sloane wished she could see some fight in her sister’s eyes, but it was like she had already accepted Ash’s fate. He may not have been around much when they were younger, but their older brother adored Rowe and always went out of his way to look after her.
Sloane didn’t have the same relationship with Ash—their interactions were always civil at best. They were both stubborn and butted heads on everything. He saw the world in shades of black and white, while she ignored the colour spectrum completely.
He was her brother though. Rowe needed Ash, and Sloane was his best chance at being found. There was no way she was leaving that up to the first response team. Those guys were a pack of morons. She’d seen them training on the trip out there and couldn’t understand how they’d even been picked for this mission. The fact she’d taken the space suit she wore with such ease only proved her doubts.
Rowe’s eyes dropped to the floor again. ‘So, you’re leaving.’
Sloane nodded, sharing her sister’s unease. There was no way she could protect her once she was gone, and she didn’t trust the Captain to look out for her either. Rowe was just so fragile, and it felt wrong to leave her behind. But finding Ash was more important right now, and Rowe would last a few days without her.
‘The team they’re sending have other tasks aside from the missing team. I’m not even certain they’re looking for them, so I have to go. Ash would do the same for either of us.’
‘You’re right,’ Rowe said, her shoulders slouching with begrudging acceptance.
‘Here,’ Sloane said, pulling the silver necklace from around her neck and placing it in Rowe’s hand. Their mother had given it to her when she was a child, saying it would protect her, and so far it had kept Sloane safe. She wasn’t certain if she believed the necklace was to thank for that, but if it gave Rowe some comfort then she’d rather it stayed with her. ‘You should look after this.’
Rowe glanced down at the burnished silver pendant and shook her head. ‘I can’t,’ she replied, trying to pass it back.
Sloane took Rowe by the wrist and folded her fingers around the necklace. ‘Please keep it. I’ll be happier knowing it’s safe here with you.’
‘Fine.’ Rowe sighed and looked down at the pendant, twisting it in her delicate fingers. ‘What should I tell Father?’ she asked, looking back up.
The sound of his name caused the hairs on Sloane’s neck to rise. It invoked images of blood, death and torment. ‘Tell the Captain nothing.’ Her teeth ground out his name. ‘It’s better if he doesn’t know I’m gone until we’ve landed on Aeris. By then, he won’t be able to stop me.’
Rowe rolled her eyes. ‘You really need to stop calling him that. He can be trusted, you know.’
‘Our mother trusted him and look where that led her,’ Sloane fired back.
Rowe raised one eyebrow at her. ‘Fine, I won’t tell him, but you know he’ll find out soon enough.’
‘Not soon enough to stop me.’
‘Five minutes until launch,’ a voice announced over the speaker.
‘Time to go.’ Sloane pulled her sister into a rough hug. ‘Be safe, Rowe,’ she whispered into her hair before leaving without another word. She was never good at goodbyes.
If you would like to keep reading, make sure you pre-order In Ice We Burn Now!
It's currently available at a special pre-order price, which will go up on release.