SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Chasing Shadows by Ashley Townsend

Chasing Shadows

The murder of an ancient king spurs teen Sarah Matthews to travel back in time, putting her life in jeopardy as she races against the clock to solve a thousand-year-old mystery and pick up the pieces of her star-crossed romance. Her return to Serimone reveals that the kingdom is in upheaval, and unable to right the empire alone, Sarah enlists the help of Will, an enigmatic blacksmith who moonlights as the Shadow, Serimone’s vigilante. Together they search for the murderer at the castle, though the fearsome solitude of the stonework prison presses in on Sarah, and her heart is broken when an imposter tragically claims the life of someone close to her. As if in answer to her need for friendship, a dashing Spaniard named Damien swoops in with his kindness and charismatic charm. But as Sarah draws closer to him and to the faceless killer in their midst, she realizes that the severed threads of time and the mystery surrounding Serimone Castle are unraveling rapidly, weaving new tapestries of devastation. Sarah is forced into harm’s way countless times as she races to solve the puzzle before it is too late and Serimone becomes nothing more than a faded memory of the past. . .
And before Sarah herself becomes a permanent fixture in history.

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EXCERPT

Her mouth opened in confusion, and then it hit her. The lake! Her body reacted before she could think, and Sarah lurched forward a step, knowing she had to reach the other side. She froze at the deadening crack that filled her ears, realizing her mistake too late.

The ice she had thought was solid ground splintered and shattered beneath her weight. She shrieked as her right foot slipped through the sheet of frost that was too thin to hold her weight. Needles of pain shot up her leg as it slid into the freezing water, and icy fingers below seemed to grab hold of her foot, pulling her further down. She planted her hands on the ice and tried to jerk herself free, but her frantic movements only caused the surrounding ice to crack and splinter further.

Sarah froze, panic slicing through her as she realized that there was no way out—her thrashing was only forcing her deeper into the water. Her eyes snapped to Will in desperation, but he was still running toward her, toward the shattering lake, and she knew he would never make it in time. She locked onto his panicked gaze, screaming out his name just as the fragile sheet of glass shattered beneath her weight, plunging her into the dark, icy abyss.

“Will!” Her frightened cry tore through him, ringing in his ears and landing in his stomach with a sickening thud of finality. He knew he was too late even as he forced his legs to move faster.
“No!” he yelled when her head disappeared from view, heedless of their pursuers as his shout echoed across the snow-capped hills.

His heart stopped for several beats until she reemerged, choking and gasping and slapping the surface of the water in desperation. “Hold on!” His shout was breathless from terror and exertion. He cried out to her again even after her head went under and it was only the tips of her fingers flailing for a handhold before they vanished, as well. Her dress was pulling her under!

Will felt paralyzed by fear even as his stride lengthened. His feet hit the powdered ice, and he slid several feet, not slowing until the ground began to shudder beneath his feet, threatening to break. And even then he quickly dropped onto his stomach, scuttling across the ice as fast as he could to the hole she had left behind. He gripped the edge of the pit, feeling the shards of ice bite into his palms as he hoisted himself closer. The opening was too small; it wasn’t possible that she had slipped through there.

“Oh, God,” he whispered in dread. The water was too cold—the edges of the hole were already reforming, sealing her in.

Thinking fast, he slammed his fist into the paper-thin sheet of ice closing over the gap, ripping at the edges until the opening widened. He scanned the water, hoping for a glimpse of her, a limb to grab hold of.

But it was too dark, and he had no idea how far she had drifted. His worried gaze traveled over the length of the shining lake, wondering if she might be trapped under a different sheet of ice, fading.

The water stirred gently, lapping against the sides of the crude hole. He whipped his head back and thought he saw a shadow move in the depths. Without pausing, Will drove his hand into the water. The frozen lake stung his skin, and an uncomfortable tingling laced up his arm. What must it be like for her to be completely submerged?

He grimaced, plunging his arm deeper. His fingertips brushed something, quickening his pulse. Will struggled to reach for her, driving his shoulder into the water until his cheek was pressed against the ice.

He could feel her drift past him, unmoving. NO! In a panic, he plunged his head into the water before he could suck in a breath, gripping the edge of the hole with one hand. The fabric of her dress slipped through his fingers, and he clutched at the hold for dear life, his lungs feeling ready to burst. It was a struggle to get his head above water, and when his mouth broke the surface, Will sucked in air like it was his first breath in days. Then he dragged her up, releasing the dress fabric to grab her arms so that he could tug her inert body onto the ice. Groaning, he dragged them both away from the hole and onto solid ground.

Huddled beneath a low embankment, he held her in his arms, shaking her, trying to expel the water from her lungs. Will chafed her back, hoping to see some sign of life. “Please, open your eyes,” he rasped. But her face was so pale, so still, her lips a sickening shade of blue: she wasn’t coming back.

The rubbing motions became more frantic with each passing second that life refused to return to her body.

He jostled her to upset the water she had taken in, but to no avail. He touched her ice-cold skin, rubbing his palm across her cheek, trying to stroke warmth back into her face. What else could he do? He was worthless in medical matters—he needed Uncle Thomas!

The cold air blew around them, and a rime was already starting to form on her wet hair. Will pushed it back from her cheeks, trying to brush away some of the water crystals from the damp strands.

His voice was choked, teeth chattering when he whispered, “I cannot lose you.” He watched her chest for some sign of movement, but it never rose. Had he already lost her? “No. No, no, NO!” he cried at the thought.

Desperate, Will pressed his lips to hers. He pulled back, searching her lifeless face. Nothing. “I will not let you go!” He clutched her to him, willing life back into her frozen body as he smothered her mouth with his own. But never once did he feel her chest rise. It had been foolish to think that she would respond to his kiss, that it would bring her back from the grave.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

.Ashley Townsend
Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the kitchen, and Southern California. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Her first book Rising Shadows is available on ebook formats, and Chasing Shadows is out in paperback. Follow her quirkiness on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and ashley-townsend.com

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