The Cereal Box Network is home to some remarkably talented folks! Including a few published authors.
One of them is Kelly Guentner, who authored Scorcher under the penname Kelly Edwards.
Check out the excerpt below, and if you like what you’re reading, get a copy here.
The small plane hovered, and the doors opened to reveal the icy landscape of Antarctica. Under different circumstances, the woman known as Aidan Grey would have appreciated its beauty. Today, she didn’t have the time.
Aidan stood and tugged a fitted hood over her vibrant red hair and then pulled down the accompanying mask, complete with tinted goggles over her eyes. She placed a small voice modifier into the neck of her suit, pulled on a parka, and then turned towards the open doors. The wind whipped at the tiny bit of exposed skin around her mouth, but she ignored it and ran towards the door. She streamlined her body and dove out.
Aidan had always imagined flying to be more exhilarating than this. Instead of soaring through the air with nothing else to do but enjoy the view, she was bogged down with memories as her life raced through her thoughts. As the icy expanse below rushed up to meet her, Christmases and birthdays and lazy Sundays flew through her mind, occasionally punctuated by the dying screams of her parents. She had come a long way from being that little girl that was once found in the ashes of the family home, but there were times when she felt just as lost as she had then.
She pulled the cord on her backpack and a sharp tug yanked through her body. The echoes of laughter and snatches of screams disappeared once the ground’s ascent slowed. Her mind cleared and the past retreated to the hidden corners of her thoughts as she lightly touched to the ground.
Once again, there was only this moment, only this reality. All that remained was the mission. This was as it should be.
She hit the ground and released her parachute. The landing didn’t slow her forward momentum and she began to cross the ground at a rapid pace. A few moments later her partner for the mission touched down nearby. Her fellow agents always hid behind their codenames and Temptress was no exception. Though they had worked together several times, Aidan knew little more than the code name and Temptress’s abilities.
Temptress fell into step beside her without speaking a word. Aidan didn’t mind the silence. She had learned long ago that there was no use in seeking friendships or any other sort of bond with her teammates.
A large rocky hill loomed before them. Aidan studied it with a critical eye. It was a good replica, and if she didn’t know any better she would have walked right by it without noticing anything amiss. The hill was a relatively new addition to the landscape. Despite the evidence otherwise, the formation was anything but natural. Instead, it was extremely good camouflage for a large complex. It was a well-done disguise, but it was hard to hide anything from Iris, the group that employed Aidan and had cornered the market on the superhuman criminal underworld.
Aidan reached the structure and pulled out her rock climbing gear. Temptress followed right behind her. When they came within the area that should contain the entry, Aidan released the rock face with one hand and tapped a button on her goggles. Her vision darkened and the rocks in front of her turned blue. She scanned the rocks and caught sight of something green off to her left.
Aidan maneuvered her way over to the hint of green until it was right before her-a nearly perfect handprint. She grinned and then glanced around the rest of the area. Several handprints were centered on an area just above the first handprint.
“Jackpot,” she muttered, and then waited for Temptress to catch up.
When her partner was right below her, Aidan pulled out a small glob of a solution that was the consistency of chewed gum. She fixed it to the area that must be the hidden door, and then waved her hand over the solution. Flames sprang to life. Below her, Temptress braced herself.
A loud explosion shattered the silence and the door collapsed in on itself. Aidan hoisted herself up into the opening and then dropped down to the ground just below it.
Temptress touched down moments later. They were greeted with an exclamation of surprise. Aidan grinned. The signal jammer must have done its job and blocked the outside surveillance equipment. This was a good start.
Before the two guards that had been surprised in the entryway could react, Temptress stepped in front of Aidan and pulled off her hood. Thick, dark hair tumbled out. Though Aidan couldn’t see her partner’s face, she knew what the guards must be seeing.
When she had first met Temptress Aidan had been stunned by her ethereal beauty. Once she got to know the woman better, she had been able to see past the façade to the true features below. They were severe, hawkish, and nothing resembling attractive. Indeed, Aidan was relieved that most of her time with Temptress was spent with both in masks. The guards stared in awe at Temptress as she advanced on them.
Aidan watched as her partner grabbed the first guard and pressed her lips to him. His knees crumpled and he fell to the ground in a stupor. The second guard backed away only slightly, but Temptress’s lips touched his and he too collapsed.
Aidan suppressed a shudder. Temptress had an unusual control over certain chemical levels in the brain, including pheromones and endorphins. She was able to manipulate the way the world saw her and with a simple kiss, was able to send the brain into overdrive. Her kisses weren’t lethal, though she had weapons stashed in her belt should that need arise. Even so, it was unnerving to watch able-bodied security guards collapse in the face of something as simple as a kiss.
“I’ll need ten minutes to clear a path for you,” Temptress called over her shoulder.
Before Aidan could respond, the other woman darted down the hallway. While she waited, Aidan tapped another button on her goggles. Blueprints of the facility scrolled past her vision, including the route she had highlighted as the most likely path to the treasure.
At least, it was a treasure as far as Iris’s customer was concerned. Aidan wasn’t so certain that a mega-virus was a treasure worth seeking, but it wasn’t her place to question the mission. It was her place to complete it to the satisfaction of Iris’s leaders and collect her pay, which was enough to qualify as a treasure in itself. What became of the goods that she procured along the way was not her business.
As Aidan watched the clock tick away the minutes and waited for her chance to spring into action, she wondered if the fact that it was none of her business where the virus ended up or how it was used absolved her from guilt as to the outcome of her theft. Thankfully, before she could spend too much time thinking the clock changed to 23:11, exactly ten minutes from Temptress’s departure before she could travel down that unsettling line of thinking yet again…
Want a signed copy of this book? Use the form at the bottom of Kelly’s homepage to request one for $20 (including shipping)! Kellyguentner.com