Thursday teaser: Flame Road

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Scorch series book 5

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

CHAPTER ONE

Woman

Panic fluttered at the edges of the woman’s mind. How did she get here?

Nothing would come.

She simply was, and it all hurt.

Throbbing pain radiated from her forehead as she drew her knees up to lie on her side. She blinked as bright light filtering through pine boughs stung her eyes. She raised a heavy white arm. Whose arm was it? She had no idea.

She touched the sore spot on her head. A shock of pain thundered through her skull, down her neck, vibrating through her entire body, clenching her stomach.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the pain pass.

Where was she?

The woman rolled onto her knees and wet brown leaves squished beneath her. Her gaze fell to hands riddled with scratches and scrapes and traveled up her arms to her chest. She wore a long-sleeved, ripped white top, mottled with dirt and dried blood, probably from the wound on her head. A jagged, sharp rock marked with an oily dark stain of blood lay directly in front of her.

She must have fallen and hit her head.

The insight was a clue to what was going on. She could solve this mystery. Hope gave her the energy to push herself up, clinging to a nearby sapling. She rose to stand, her pulse pounding as her head swam.

Alone with amnesia in the middle of a forest.

Another insight, but this one brought fresh terror. She looked down and around her, searching for more clues.

The shirt was actually a dress. The garment’s ankle-length skirt was pockmarked with small tears, as if she’d run through the woods, the loose material catching and ripping on underbrush. Towering trees surrounding her were almost bare: late fall.

The woman looked down at her body again, but no spark of recognition ignited as she examined the full breasts and wide hips straining her ill-fitting dress. She turned her head, feeling stinging at the crown of it.

Raising her hand, the woman gently probed shorn hair to find a large scab, tender but healing. She traced the lines of it on the back of her head. Some kind of symbol.

Her head had recently been shaved and something carved into her scalp.

Why?

The woman looked around the forest, scanning the trees, hearing birds and the scuffling of small creatures in the leaves. The sound of bubbling water filtered through the air.

She was thirsty. Very thirsty.

The woman’s legs quivered, and placing weight on her left ankle made her wince. She pulled up the skirt and looked down at the milky skin of her legs, slashed with scratches that must’ve happened as she ran through the woods.

Sturdy hiking boots covered her feet. They didn’t make sense with the dress.

None of it made sense.

Thirst drove her forward. She headed toward the sound of the water, leaning on trees to support her wobbly steps.

Glimmers of light twinkled on a river glimpsed through the trees. She hurried forward and broke from the forest onto a pebbly shore. Water rushed over colored pebbles under a blue sky. She stumbled to the stream’s edge, dropping to her knees and scooping the crystal clear liquid up in her hands.

It might not be safe to drink. She should boil it first.

How did she know that? No clue.

But she didn’t have the luxury of worrying about parasites.

She drank deeply, bringing the cold water to her parched mouth until it filled her stomach. She was hungry, but hunger was nothing compared to the thirst and pain in her head.

The woman pushed the sleeves of the dress up and splashed to her elbows, rinsing away the dirt and blood. She washed her face and unknown scratches stung. Dipping the hem of her skirt into the water, she gently dabbed at the wound on her forehead, hissing between her teeth at the sharp pain.

She must’ve been running from something or someone. Five dark spots marked where someone had grabbed her forearm.

She unbuttoned the dress. Large breasts were cradled in a matronly bra. She pulled the garment aside and examined the full, creamy white round with its pink nipple. Why didn’t she recognize her own body?

She lifted her skirt, exposing pale, fleshy thighs. Clearly, she had not spent much time in the sun but it felt good now, warming her as the chill water refreshed her.

The woman couldn’t see through the fog of lost memory to the clear peaks of who she was and how she got to this place, but the information existed somewhere in her mind, as solid and real as a mountain range hidden in cloud.

She scooped up another handful of sweet water, but a low growl jerked her attention up.

On the other side of the shallow river, less than twenty yards away, stood a gray wolf. Lean, long-legged, shaggy and rough, standing as tall as the woman’s waist, the predator’s black lip lifted above razor teeth. Menace emanated from its chest.

Fear and adrenaline surged through her and froze the woman as cold as the crystal-clear water rushing over the bright stones.

The wolf’s head lowered and its ruff raised. The animal stalked toward her, entering the water.

She had fled from something terrible, and now she was about to die.

About Flame Road

From award-winning, bestselling authors whose writing Kirkus Reviews calls “persistently riveting,” comes the Scorch Series, romantic action adventure for fans of romance thrillers, apocalyptic and family romance sagas.

The Scorch Flu pandemic sweeps through Colorado, forcing commitment-phobic firefighter and sports adrenaline junkie Cosimo “Cash” Luciano to begin hiking his way through the wilderness toward his family’s survival compound in Idaho, the Haven.

A traumatized woman awakens in the woods with no idea who she is or how she got there, and no way to survive. Lost and vulnerable, she is easy prey until Cash and his giant bear dog, Tiny, offer her protection . . . and a nickname, Sunshine.

Together, they must forge a way through the wilderness and unravel the mystery of who she is, and why a band of deadly skinheads are relentlessly hunting her.

Can Cash and Sunshine make it through the peril that pursues them and find a way to each other’s hearts?

About the authors

Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling Sydney Rye Series, which feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery!

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime series featuring Maui police detective Lei Texeira, the Paradise Crime series featuring security specialist Sophie Ang, the Michaels Family Romance series, and the new Scorch Series romantic thrillers with Emily Kimelman.

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