Dec 29 2016 12:00pm

Amanda Bouchet Excerpt: Breath of Fire

Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

“Cat” Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a warrior queen to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin risk sacrificing everything they've fought for. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or die trying.

Get a sneak peek at Amanda Bouchet's Breath of Fire (available January 3, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

The Hydra is real—unfortunately—and judging by the scattered bones, clearly an effective guardian for the narrow entrance to the Phthian Gap. The creature sits half submerged in the shallows of the lake, its gigantic, oblong body only partially visible. At the tops of a dozen towering necks, heads whip and twist and tangle and roar. The snarling gets louder the closer we get. I’m guessing humans aren’t welcome here.

I push my cloak back from my shoulders, already sweating from the balmy temperature. The Hydra is no fool. In a land of snow and ice, it lives in a place riddled with hot springs. No wonder magical creatures winter here. With the Hydra in front and formidable mountains protecting the entrance on either side, the Phthian Gap then descends into a wide, verdant valley. The inviting vista winds its way from where we now stand to not-so-far-off, cloud-capped Mount Olympus, rising majestically in the north.

Nerves jangle in my belly. “I need more heads,” I conclude after conducting a thorough inspection of the Hydra.

Griffin angles himself in front of me. So does Flynn.

Next to me, Carver says, “Do I even want to ask?”

Of course he does. “If we’re going to keep facing creatures with multiple heads, I need more. You know, just to make things fair,” I explain.

“One head is enough.” Griffin stops me with a steely arm in front of my chest when I try to come up next to him again. “And I told you to stay back.”

I stretch up on my toes and whisper for Griffin’s ears only, “I could get creative with my extra mouths.”

He ignores that. The grump.

“You know what I love about you, Cat?” Carver draws his weapon. We all do. It’s for the best—big monster and all.

“Is this a trick question?” I ask.

He smiles. “You can make jokes while looking a creature like that in the eye.”

“Which eye?” I cock my head and study the Hydra. “There are a lot to choose from.”

That earns a chuckle from everyone except Griffin. He’s still being a grump. Probably because he knows I get flippant and verbally reckless when I’m scared.

I nudge his arm. “Do you have a plan, Your Grouchiness?”

Griffin levels a flat look on me. “Do you, Princess?”

I shrug. “Tiptoe? Go around? Quietly?”

“On that?” Flynn eyes the one-person-wide, narrow strip of ledge butting up against a sheer cliff that appears to be the only way around the Hydra and the steaming lake. “You do know it’s already seen us?”

“Plan B, then,” I say.

“Which is?” Kato asks.

I grimace somewhat. “Chop off its heads?”

As if in response to that idea, one huge head disengages from the rest of the whirling, serpentine mass and lunges in our direction. Gargantuan jaws snap way too close for comfort.

Cursing under his breath, Griffin grips my hand and leads me thirty feet back. His glare seems to be some kind of silent, masculine command to stay put.

I glare back. “I’m not a bloody dog.”

“A dog would listen better,” he grates out.

“Five of us. A dozen heads.” Carver looks back and forth between the Hydra and us. “If we consider each head an enemy, we’ve fought our way out of worse odds than that.”

“Except each of those heads is the size of five men grouped together,” Kato says. “Or ten Cats.”

“I heard that,” I mutter indignantly. It doesn’t matter that it’s true.

“Let’s not get technical,” Carver says. “It’s bad for morale.”

“Four of us.” Griffin looks pointedly at me. “You have no magic left to fight with, at least not any magic you know how to control. You will not be foolish.” His deep voice resonates with that authoritative quality I find intriguing in a number of situations, particularly in the bedroom, but which lately, usually coupled with his nearly pathological overprotectiveness, I could do without.

“I have knives,” I counter. “And a sword. I’m not exactly useless.”

“If you throw any blades, do it from back here.” I open my mouth to argue, and Griffin’s eyes narrow. “We both know you’re not too far away to hit your mark.”

I close my mouth with a click.

“Kato, Flynn, take that side.” Griffin points to the left. “Carver, you’re with me. Cat, don’t move.”

They all charge at once, leaving me high up and alone on the spongy bank. I unhook my cloak, drop it, and then race toward the fray. Did Griffin honestly think I wouldn’t?

The fight is a blur, and not one of us even comes close to severing a Hydra neck. I dart away from sharp teeth and whipping heads, getting soaked by the waves the Hydra’s ferocious gyrating generates. Otherwise, I avoid Griffin. He’s spitting mad and won’t stop yelling at me.

Too focused on me, Griffin gets blindsided by a sweeping head. It smashes into his back and propels him into the water. He goes down face-first, and my heart stops dead in my chest. A wave crashes over him, and the strong backward pull drags him into the Hydra’s body.

I bolt forward. This is my fault.

The Hydra snaps and hisses, forcing us to scatter as Griffin staggers to his feet. Wide-open jaws smash into the lake, sending plumes of water jetting into the air. Currents churn around him, pushing and pulling. But Griffin’s agility is his own magic. With strength and coiled efficiency, he spins and brings his sword down hard on the closest neck, severing it.

The Hydra screams. All the mouths shriek at once, and the nightmarish sound echoes off the mountains.

The rising triumph in me crashes the instant two new appendages sprout from the severed stump. The fresh necks and heads grow fast. I blink, and they’re the size of me!

“New plan!” I shout. “Do notchop off its heads!” 

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Bouchet.
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Award-winning author Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001. Her first novel, A Promise of Fire, won several Romance Writers of America chapter contests, including the Orange Rose Contest and the paranormal category of the prestigious Golden Pen.

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