Found in Embers (E-Book)
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I was wrong.
⇒ Hidden Past
⇒ Realm Travel
⇒ Enemies to lovers???
How far would you go to save your only sister?
Astrid has been trying to keep her adopted sister, Lyric, hidden—their mother’s dying wish—but it proves difficult when Lyric attracts unwanted attention from another realm.
After Lyric gets kidnapped by members of the Jalak Brotherhood, Astrid vows to do whatever it takes to bring her home. Stealing a motorcycle and boarding a strange ship, Astrid travels far from Kansas City, to a realm where magic is real. Low on options, she contracts the help of a dangerously attractive dragonborn assassin.
Can Astrid navigate uncertainty and betrayal to save her sister? Or will she break when forced to face her biggest fear?
Found in Embers is the first book in the Astrid Stone Trilogy, an epic Urban Fantasy. If you like fast paced adventure, sexy shifters, and a sprinkling of dry humor, you’ll love the adventure AJ Blanch has crafted in this series.
Chapter One Look Inside
"Order up!” The call bell rang, but I ignored it. My head was fuzzy with another migraine coming on despite having taken my medication this morning. I silently cursed the rainy spring weather which always made the episodes more frequent.
“Order up!” The cook hit the bell twice.
“Okay, I’m coming!” I eased my body up from the box I’d been using as a seat in the corner of the kitchen. I glanced at the clock—just two hours until my shift was over. I mentally calculated the cost of taking an extra dose of meds and how long it would be before I could a!ord to spend grocery money on more.
Just push through it, Astrid.
Grabbing my serving tray, I loaded it up with the food that was waiting in the window, along with a handful of napkins that boasted the slogan “best bbq in KC!” The words blurred, and I grabbed the stainless steel counter to steady myself against the sudden dizziness.
Ugh, please. Not now, not here.
Two deep breaths. I shook my head to clear it. The episode was subsiding, but I didn’t trust myself to move yet, so I played for time by grabbing a squeeze bottle and drizzling sauce artfully onto the food that had been unceremoniously slopped into the serving boats. Art always calmed me—it was both my passion and my coping mechanism.
“It ain’t a gourmet,” growled the cook in my direction from the other side of the window. “Just get it to the customer.” I often wondered if the hair net covering his meticulously trimmed beard was what made him so grumpy at work.
“Presentation is important.” I smiled, though I knew it would irritate him more.
“It’s burnt ends,” he said, slapping his spoon on the counter. “You can play with your food at home.”
Jen, a fellow server, waddled in through the dining room door and dumped a bin of dishes in the sink. “Astrid honey, can you take the order for table 5? They asked for you speci!cally.”
“What? No they didn’t.” I looked between Jen and the swinging metal door in confusion.
Jen put one !st on her large hip. “They asked for, and I quote: ‘That pretty server with dark hair that was here yesterday.’” She looked at me pointedly. “Besides, I gotta get a smoke break ‘fore the boss come up in here.”
She winked and headed towards the back door.
My pounding head searched my memory banks for who had been here yesterday. Hopefully it’s not the couple that didn’t leave a tip.
I picked up my tray and called after her. “If it was anyone but you, Jen...”
“You know you love me!” She waved without looking back.
She was right. She made this job far less miserable.
Two men in military uniform sat on either side of table 5, their heads bent in conversation. One was much older, with salt and pepper hair. The younger soldier was extremely well built and sun kissed—with his sandy hair and sharp jawline—he had a cowboy look about him. They def initely hadn’t sat in my section the day before. I would have remembered serving a hot soldier.
After delivering the burnt ends to the woman at table 12, I pulled the order pad out of my apron and started towards table 5. The cowboy soldier looked up, and his face lit with a smile as I approached. His eyes tracked my movements across the room. I glanced around, uncomfortable with the attention.
I wish I had let Jen take care of her own table. Admiring from across the room, and having to interact with this man were two very di!erent things.
I arrived at the table avoiding eye contact with Cowboy, my eyes landing on his name tag which read MILLER.
They knew what they wanted, so the order didn’t take long, but my migraine episode seemed to be getting worse again. Blind spots in my vision made it tricky to write the words down, and the cacophony in the room started to sound like it was in a tunnel. I blinked a few times, trying to see the pad more clearly. When dizziness overwhelmed me, I put a hand on the back of the closest bench, trying to be casual about it. The blond soldier continued to smile at me from what I could tell. Since my mind was trying to !ll in the gaps of my vision, I couldn’t exactly be sure.
“Astrid?” When Miller said my name, I realized he had been speaking to me. “Are you okay?” Terror clenched in my gut.
How do these strangers know my name?
Then I remembered that I was wearing a name tag and told myself not to panic. I glanced down to reassure myself. I could only see the A that was etched in the plastic because of the spots in my vision. But knowing it was there calmed my frantic heart.
“Are you okay?” Miller asked again.
“Yeah.” It came out breathy. The cold sweat started, a symptom that often came with these episodes. I swiped the back of my hand across my clammy forehead, practically poking my eye with the pen in my hand.
“Um,” I cleared my throat, realizing that I was acting super awkward. “Yeah I just—wondered if I could get you anything else?”
He chuckled a bit. I worried my lingering at their table seemed like I was trying to "irt, but I couldn’t walk away until I felt steadier.
“You, uh, drew on your face a bit with that pen.” The cowboy gestured to his face, which I could hardly see from the blind spot. Embarrassment crashed over me in a wave. I let go of the bench to scrub at my face with my other arm. Bad idea—without the anchor, I felt myself sway. Miller grabbed my pen-wielding arm as he stood, suddenly towering far too close to me. His masculine scent of earthy leather and citrus overwhelmed me. All I could see was his broad chest inches from my face. My heart started racing. There I was, at twenty-three and I’d never been this close to a man before, let alone an attractive one. The feeling in my stomach was strange. I couldn’t tell if it was from the episode or from having a man so close to me. He had both hands now wrapped around my biceps. Afraid of the sudden intimacy of the contact, I !inched and he let me go, his hands up in a surrender gesture.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I would have found the slight drawl in his voice charming if I hadn’t been distracted by an overwhelming need for self-preservation. “It just seemed like you were about to fall.”
The room spun, and I grabbed his arms before I bit the !oor.
“Maybe you need to sit.” The older soldier gestured to a nearby chair.
Sitting or not, I knew from experience what was coming and I stumbled back, mentally kicking myself for not just taking the extra medicine.
Oh my god, I cannot pass out in front of all these people. It was my only clear thought as I bumbled towards the bathroom, using the chairs along the way for support.
The single little unisex bathroom in the back corner of the restaurant was occupied. I cursed. A tremor of nausea accompanied the dizziness. Only a few steps to get to the kitchen, I clutched the wall like it was a lifeline. Beyond the kitchen door hung my bag that contained my medicine. The blind spots still obscured my vision, but I noticed grease residue on the swinging door as someone opened it into my face. Then everything went black.
Terms and Conditions
I write stories for all the badass babes who still believe in holding out for a hero. For the women who know that low-rise jeans should not come back in style. And for all the moms who need to escape from the dirt, and the laundry, and the clutter, and the—well let’s not dwell on all that. Settle in and let me take you on an adventure instead.