Tue
Feb 14 2017 1:00pm

Cora Carmack Excerpt: Roar

Cora Carmack

Roar by Cora Carmack

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Get a sneak peek at Cora Carmack 's Roar (available June 13, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Aurora’s cheeks hurt from smiling, and her face was hot from what felt like one unending blush. She held Cassius’s elbow, leaning in to him as she tottered like she had drunk her weight in wine. She hadn’t had a single drop, but she felt slightly drunk all the same. He held her both her hands atop his forearm, keeping her steady every time she inevitably tripped over her dress.

Yesterday she had been certain that life as she knew it was coming to an end, with her future resting on a blade’s edge as thin as the half-truths they’d told for years. But now . . . all the world looked different through hope’s glow.

She peeked behind Cassius’s shoulder at the brooding brother who trailed them. He was playing chaperone, king’s orders, as Cassius walked her back to her rooms.

Casimir was nearly as tall as his brother, but his body was leaner, his face a little softer, more pampered, perhaps. His hair was longer with a slight curl to the ends. If she did not already know which was which, she would have assumed that Cassius was the famed elder brother known as Prince Cas. Taller and broader— she assumed him the more powerful, but perhaps that misconception was part of what made Casimir all the more dangerous. He was quicker to smile and joke, and would no doubt make a charismatic ruler, but there was a hint of cunning to him. As if every word was a strategic move on a game board that she could not see.

The three of them made their way down the main stairs onto the ground floor. “Prince Casimir,” she called back, “my mother said that you were also recently engaged to be married.”

Casimir’s eyes flicked to his brother’s back before he answered, “I’m afraid your mother’s information is outdated. That betrothal was dissolved.”

She wasn’t sure whether to offer condolences or ask for more information or remain silent. But she’d never been one to keep her mouth in check for long. Still soaring from her unexpectedly wonderful night, her curiosity got the better of her.

“How does one go about dissolving betrothals?”

She was smiling widely as they entered the north residential wing, and a few moments passed before she noticed the brothers had gone rigid. Cassius’s expression was dark and hard, like the intimidating man he’d been at first sight, and it made the air feel thick in Rora’s throat.

“There’s only one way a betrothal sealed by a royal contract can be broken,” Casimir answered.

It wasn’t the eldest brother who continued, but Cassius. “She died, Aurora.”

She wanted to rip one of the skyfire crystals off her necklace and shove it down her throat.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but she knew the words meant little. They couldn’t change anything, couldn’t unravel time. But he thanked her anyway, and dropped back as they approached the ornate archway that separated the royal chambers from the rest of the wing. Cassius touched the gold-painted, carved wooden frame, but didn’t pass under it. Rora whispered, “I’m sorry I brought up the engagement. I didn’t know. I never would have—”

Cassius cut her off, grasping her chin between his fingers. She went silent and very, very still. His gaze pinned her in place, making her forget her panic.

            “You did not know. Besides, we Lockes don’t dwell on the past. We move forward. Always forward.”

“Does that come from your family creed?”

His brows lifted. “How did you know that?”

Eyes always to the horizon. Is that right?”

The fingers on her chin loosened, and he dragged his thumb along the line of her jaw.

“Smart little bird.”

Her nose crinkled. “I am not even remotely birdlike.”

Cassius reached up and plucked one of many feathers from her headdress, trailing it over her cheek. She opened her mouth, and then closed it, scowling up at him. He laughed, the sound rumbling in his throat. It was the most carefree she had seen him yet.

“The royal chambers are through here,” she said, gesturing beyond the archway.

He looked down and cleared his throat. “It’s probably best if I say good night here.”

His hesitant expression seemed out of place on his sharp features. For the first time, she wondered if he too had been dreading their union, if even now he only charmed her out of a sense of duty. Guilt singed through her like skyfire. What would he say when he learned the truth? When he discovered all her lies?

“Cassius, I know an arranged marriage likely wasn’t something you envisioned for yourself. It’s not what I saw for my future either. But—” She stopped, nerves bleeding back in for the first time in hours. “I think we could—You seem like—”

“Stop worrying, Aurora.”

The words were punctuated by his hands cupping her jaw, fingers splaying down her neck. She did the opposite of what he said. She worried about the powder on her face that would smudge off on his hands. She worried about his closeness and the state of her breath. She worried he would kiss her and that she would be exceptionally bad at it.

“A treaty has nothing to do with what’s between us. I fight for what’s mine, Princess. Whether it’s against storms or my brother or your stubbornness— I fight to win.”

She eased out of his grasp, bumping into the archway behind her. For a moment, he had held her a little too tightly, the growl in his words a little too fierce. She was not sure how she felt about being his, of belonging to him. As a child, she had belonged to her parents, then as new heir, she had belonged to the kingdom. When her magic never manifested, her life belonged to her secrets. She had hoped that when all was said and done, she could finally belong to herself.

He cursed beneath his breath, and when he approached her again, his words and his face had grown softer. “By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that my family is . . . intense. The same is true for our home. We’re battered on both sides—storms from the land and the sea. Our proximity to the latter makes our Slumber season so short it’s barely worth calling it a season. When you live in a place so ruthless, you learn to protect the things that matter. To be ruthless in return. I know the shortness of this life, and when I make a decision, I do not look back.

My decision was made the moment I laid eyes on you.”

His finger slid down one of the skyfire crystals on her necklace like he’d done after he carried her up the stairs. She sucked in a breath, and the rise of her chest caused his finger to brush her collar bone. Then he did it again. Not an accident this time. She was breathing fast, clutching at the archway behind her.

His thumb rubbed over her mouth, smearing away the last of the white on her lips. Her eyes fell to his mouth, once quickly, then again for good. He sighed, warm breath drifting over her skin. “This is where I step away and let you go to bed. Before I’m tempted to walk you directly to your door.”

“And that would be a problem because?”

“I’m a thrill seeker. It’s why I have these.” He took her hand and lifted it over his shoulder, until together their hands surrounded the snow Stormheart at the top of his spine. The movement put their bodies even closer, and an icy draft stole over them. She should have jerked away. But instead she arched into him, seeking his warmth. His gaze appeared black again. “If I walk you to your room, if I know exactly where to find you in the middle of the night when the palace is quiet and I can’t sleep . . . I might be tempted to lure you from your bed for a little adventure. And then we’d both be risking our parents’ anger.”

If he was trying to deter her, he was using the wrong methods. She spent every moment of every day yearning for adventure, and she would gladly take it from his hands.

“What makes you think I’d be so easy to lure from my bed?” she teased.

For the barest moment his body pressed forward against hers—muscles pulled taut, hard as stone. She melted into him, pushing back until their bodies aligned from chest to hip. Then he ripped himself away, leaving her arm hanging in the air and several steps between them.

“I like a challenge, Aurora. Do not offer yourself up as one unless you are prepared for the consequences.”

He nodded his head toward the archway, his muscles tight with tension, and said, “Good night, Princess. Until tomorrow.”

Rora’s body followed his suggestion, slipping through the archway into a wider hallway and out of sight, but her mind was still stuck on the way it felt to be pressed against him. Rora had read of perfect kisses, prompted by perfect words and perfect settings, and she had a feeling she’d just missed a chance at having the real-life version. She moved in a daze, one foot in front of the other, but every step got a little harder, as if a rope around her middle tried to pull her back through that archway to claim that perfect moment she let pass by.

She opened the door to her bedroom, heard the squeak it made, and started to step inside, but her mind was buzzing now. When would they next have a moment this private? The next few days were a series of celebrations and dinners and meetings. There would be people everywhere, always watching them. For all she knew, they wouldn’t have another chance until they were at the altar, and then she would be having her first kiss in front of an audience.

No. She didn’t want to wait. She’d spent years making the cautious choices, swallowing down her most reckless impulses, to protect her secret and the crown. Just this once, Rora wanted something that had nothing to do with storms or being royal. She wanted that kiss.

***
Copyright © 2017 by Cora Carmack.
***
Learn more about or order a copy of Roar by Cora Carmack, available June 13, 2017:

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Cora Carmack has done a multitude of things in her life–boring jobs (retail), fun jobs (theatre), stressful jobs (teaching), and dream jobs (writing). Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and Texas, and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various television shows on Netflix. Her first book,Losing It, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and her subsequent books were also hits.

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