Winter's Wrath: Sacrifice (Winter's Saga #3)
For the love of my life, Dan Luellen, who believed in me.
Special thanks to my daughter Kathryn Ammon, a gifted storyteller in her own right, for reading through my first attempt at this book and helping me come up with an even better storyline. I love you!
Thank you to my fellow authors and dear friends who were kind enough to beta read Winter’s Wrath: Sacrifice.
Lynne Couvier, Elise Marion, Franz McLaren, Madison Moore and Mia Zabriskie, you are the best!
I love you guys, and I owe you!
“Envy and wrath shorten the life.”
Prologue October 12
Location: The Facility, Germany
Two days after the infamous Retribution Match between brothers, Gavil and Creed Young.
Gavil breathed deeply, trying to calm down. It didn’t work. He had refused all pain killers, choosing instead to punish himself for the humiliation still seeping poison into his collapsed pride. His little brother, the golden child who could do no wrong, beat the crap out of him in front of everyone at their Retribution Match. Every time he thought about it, he had to stifle a groan.
Wincing with the effort and breathing through the pain, Gavil gripped the hospital’s side rails to help him gain leverage. He wanted to look out of the recovery room window. Self-loathing mingled equally with self-pity in the metasoldier, even as he forced himself into a sitting position. He breathed through the pain.
Along with dozens of cuts and bruises, Creed had broken six of his ribs and shattered his left cheek bone. One or more of the broken ribs punctured his lung. He could only take shallow breaths and when he did, a strange crackling sound could be heard from his chest.
Gavil waited for the room to stop spinning before gingerly swinging his legs over the side of the hospital bed.
This was the first time his feet had touched the ground in two days, and he was desperate to make it happen, despite the piercing aches and shallow breaths. He yanked off the oxygen mask and used his I.V. stand to help maintain balance as he wobbled toward the window—determined to see the world outside his muted, mint-green hospital room.
The remaining leaves on the trees were crispy with autumn colors, dancing their last in the breeze. The sky was overcast—gray and heavy—matching Gavil’s mood.
A knock came at the door. Gavil didn’t even bother to turn around.
“What?” he said to his own muted reflection looking back at him from the glass window.
“Hello, Gavil. I’m Esther Haverford. Dr. Williams sent me.” A female’s voice spoke from the door way. Gavil still didn’t turn. He was too embarrassed to see anyone, but he would never admit it.
After a silent pause, Esther realized the soldier wasn’t going to speak, so she continued.
“You took off your oxygen mask,” she said with a gentle scolding tone. “And you really shouldn’t be standing without a nurse near you.”
“I don’t want anyone near me,” Gavil growled.
“Yes, I feel like that too sometimes, but we all have to do things we don’t want to do,” she said with compassion.
Gavil heard a scuffling behind him, and then with a practiced hand, the girl reached around his right shoulder and held the oxygen mask over his swollen mouth. “There, at least you’ll be less likely to keel over from oxygen depletion.” Her small hands were soft and warm as they brushed the mask’s elastic straps neatly behind his ears.
Another scraping noise behind him had him curious enough to glance. The female was dressed in the standard issue military fatigues, but her hair was down; it was her flaming red locks that caught his eye instantly. She was pushing a chair up behind Gavil so he could just fall backward and land safely in a seated position. When she looked up to see Gavil watching her, she smiled shyly. The green of her eyes sparkled.
“Autumn is my favorite season,” she offered. “I love the colors on the trees and the cold, crisp air.” She stood beside the soldier and gazed out the window. “There,” she said, “that’s my favorite tree in the whole courtyard. Your room has a perfect view of it.”
Gavil watched her from the corner of his eye. Her face was smooth under a sprinkling of little brown freckles splashed over a pixie nose. She crossed her arms and leaned against the window frame as she continued to gaze at her favorite tree.