After an eventful first semester of college, Miranda Schaffer is looking forward to winter break. Guilt eats at her, leftover from the terrifying sight of her best friend lying unconscious on her bed. She’s distanced herself from those around her, but that doesn’t last long—the battle over the fate of the Earth doesn’t take a break for the holidays, after all.

With Cole hounding her about learning to defend herself, and her ever-growing relationship with Caleb, she’s got a lot going on. On top of that, the next semester is right around the corner, and one of her new professors is connected to the battle in an unexpected way.

As the Keeper of the Gateway, Miranda’s choice should be obvious, but she’s witnessed the good and bad of both sides of the battle…

How can she officially dedicate herself to the Guardians’ cause when she’s falling for one of the Horsemen?

Brimstone Series Book Two | New Adult Urban Fantasy

Chapter One

My phone chirps, the noise shrilly. The sky is still a deep, dark midnight blue, confirming the 4:32 am I glimpsed on the clock before staring out the window above it. I clench my eyes shut in frustration. “Ugh…” I roll over and blindly grab for my phone over the side of my bed. For some reason, my phone winds up on the floor in the mornings nowadays.

Merry Christmas, my Mira.

Despite my racing heartbeat, I wish Caleb wouldn’t text me. It’s only been a week—I need more time. So I put my phone back down and roll back over, but it goes off again, demanding more of my attention.

Do you really intend to ignore me forever? I don’t think you want that…

He’s right; I don’t want to keep away from him. I’m pretty sure we could have had a good relationship. I’m pretty sure it makes me an evil person since his brothers chloroformed my roommate and completed the first of nine rituals to raise Hell.

It’s just that everything with him was beautiful… You know, except for the part where it all went to Hell, I think.

Once again, I don’t reply to Caleb, but my phone goes off in my hand, and I glance down at it. This time, it’s Cole.

When are we going to talk about this?

I see I’m not going back to sleep. With a grunt, I set my phone on my nightstand and drag myself out of bed. Only then do I notice the noise coming from down the hall. “What the…?”

Why can’t I have an uneventful morning for once in my life? I finally screwed up bad enough that even I’m still reeling from it; don’t I deserve a little recovery time? I need at least two weeks, with a majority of that saved for self-pity, seeing as my would-be boyfriend has officially begun to accomplish his lifelong goal: to raise Hell, one layer at a time.

I sure can pick ‘em, huh?

I open my bedroom door, intent on finding out why the front of my house is so noisy at this ungodly hour. Then, I remember that it’s Christmas. The noise is coming from Thelma and my parents, probably.

As expected, when I round the corner to enter the living room, the three of them are sitting on the couch, chatting. What catches me by surprise, though, is that Cole is sitting in the armchair across from them, laughing along with the conversation.

Yikes. He must be desperate if he’s showing up here. Then again, I have been avoiding him… But if he’s here, why did he just text me?

Thelma notices me first, subtly angling her head in my direction. My parents follow her gaze almost immediately. They’re so in tune with her.

“Merry Christmas!” The three of them shouting together is deafening. Even Cole looks scared, eyeballing them like they’re crazy. He scowls at them playfully, but draws his gaze toward me, an intense look replacing the previous childlike sparkle in his hazel eyes. His gaze trails from my head to my toes.

Just when I feel a blush rising, he smirks and crosses his muscular arms over his chest. I can’t help but notice the extra strain his body puts on his red T-shirt, and my cheeks heat in response. “Cute PJs,” Cole says.

Mom and Thelma both giggle behind their hands, and even Dad chuckles.

Confused, I glance down. I’ve got a pink camisole on for a night shirt, but my shorts are ancient Disney Princess PJ cutoffs! I could die from embarrassment right now.

Instead, I cross my arms over my chest and inch toward the hallway once more, intent on changing into something a little less childish and revealing, Cole hops up from his seat. ‘Don’t you dare,’ his eyes warn. He holds up his phone out for me to see. “Had to get you up somehow. Who sleeps in on Christmas, anyway?” His tone is teasing, but his eyes are still so intense I can hardly breathe. “Come on; don’t run away now,” he says, his voice sweet now; it’s probably for my parents’ benefit.

If looks could kill, though… Or, in my case, melt.

Without my consent, my feet take me in his direction. When I get close enough, he wraps his arm around my shoulders and guides me toward his seat, which I hesitantly take. He pulls a soft black sweater off the back of the chair and holds it out to me wordlessly.

The heat behind his gaze warms me right up, but I pull on the sweater anyway, leaving the too-long sleeves covering my hands. His scent surrounds me.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” Thelma says. “Cole came by to wish us well, and Dawn invited him in.” Thelma’s voice has a soft warning in it. Maybe Cole really is here to talk to me about everything.

He lowers himself onto the arm of the chair casually, slinging one arm over the back of it. If he notices my confused expression at his behavior, he doesn’t let on. “Now that Sleeping Beauty is here,” he says, smirking down at me, “the real festivities can begin.”

“What?” I ask rather dumbly. “Fest—? What festivities?”

Dad huffs, drawing my eyes to him. He pouts. “Cole is taking you from us after we exchange gifts.” He mumbles something else under his breath, and Mom scowls.

“I did not make you agree!” She crosses her arms over her chest. “Cole is such a nice young man! I thought it might cheer Miranda up to go out with a friend,” she mutters.

I try to conceal my surprise. She’s noticed that I’ve been distracted for the past few days? I wanted to hide it from her so she wouldn’t worry… I guess that’s easier to do when she’s on another continent entirely. It’s a lot harder to hide my woes from her now that she and Dad are back from their second honeymoon.

See you on the next page!