Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Bite of...The Ice Princess



For our very first “A Bite of...” segment, I’d love to introduce Cathleen Ross, with her book, 
The Ice Princess.





Can you describe your book in five words?
Paranormal romance, sexy, alpha hero, possessed heroine



What was your inspiration for the story?
I remember reading about a mountain climber on Mount Everest who passed a dying climber and didn't help him. People were outraged but the climber had spent a fortune to climb and reach the summit and chose to do this instead. When Idid my research I realised that there are bodies of dead climbers littering the mountain because the altitude is too high for helicopters and the bodies are too heavy to carry. I wrote a story about a climber who lost his father on Mount Everest, so he goes back each Spring to give the bodies a decent burial. On one trip he finds a woman and she is alive.



Here’s the snippet!

“We’ve got someone here,” Michael St. Claire, called to his Sherpa team. 

He took his ice pick from his belt and began chipping at the sheer ice. If it weren’t for this forgiving May weather on Mount Everest, he’d never have found this body, which through the wall of clear ice appeared to be curled in a fetal position. It could have lain there for all time if it weren’t for this rescue and burial mission he organized each year.

Blue ice sparkled in the sunshine as he hacked through the glass-like pane, finally opening up a hole large enough to extend his gloved hand. Almost close enough to touch. Could it be his father lost when he was a boy? All these years of wondering where his body lay frozen on the mountain. Muscles straining, Michael chipped away until he’d made a hole large enough to climb through.

His head thumped with the activity and he knew he’d have to use less exertion if he didn’t want to come down with altitude sickness. Behind him, he could hear his Sherpas, their voices an excited hum. At this height, it was impossible to carry anyone down the mountain, but he and his team would cover the body with stones until they made a mound, giving the deceased privacy. Pulling off his oxygen mask, he climbed into the hole.

Edging closer, he could see strands of long, blond hair partially hidden under a black, leather hood. He pushed the stiff fabric away to reveal a delicate face with closed eyes. Her skin was porcelain, her nose petite and tilted upwards and her lush, pale lips slightly open. Her hair was braided in an intricate style he had never seen before and there was a curved symbol tattooed on her forehead. She looked asleep.

Perfect. Her body not ravaged from the excesses of the mountain like he’d expected. Did her eyelids just flicker? His head spun and he took a deep breath from his oxygen mask. In all these years he’d been leading expeditions, he’d never found anyone alive. An hallucination. It had to be.

Thump. Thump. Thump went his heart. He shouldn’t have scaled the last ice wall so fast. It was dangerous to push himself too far on the mountain, but every time he laid a body to rest, a piece of his soul eased, his pain from losing his father lessened. He fingered one of her blond braids. It was even harder when it was a woman. No wonder she had died, he thought, gazing at her unusual, tight black, animal-hide gear that would give her no protection from the sub-zero temperatures. Settling on his knees he brushed his gloved fingers over her cheek. She was strangely ethereal and striking with it.A soft sigh met his ears and the woman’s eyes flickered open. Crystal blue like a frozen lake.

“You’re alive,” his voice came out a hoarse whisper. 

“Alive!” Shock bound his voice but adrenalin seized his body like the rush of a drug. Gloves off, fingers trembling, he touched the soft skin on her cheek. How could the leather, which bound her sylph-like figure, keep her warm enough in this ice cave?

Quickly, he slid his hand back into his gloves knowing what the extreme cold could do to exposed skin and stumbled to the entrance. “She’s alive. We have to get her out. Widen the hole,” he screamed before stumbling back to the woman. She blinked and her lips parted.

“Stay… with me.” He clutched her fragile-gloved fingers in his own.

“I will. I promise.” A rasping crunch at the entrance startled him. When he turned he saw his lead Sherpa staring into the hole. “Dig! Clear the entrance. Help me get her out.” Even with the assistance of the rescue Sherpas, it was near to impossible to carry a person in the high altitude of Everest’s death zone.

Turning back to the woman, Michael unfastened the water bottle at his side and put it to her lips. She drank greedily, covering his hand with hers, but choked on the water unable to consume much. “Careful,” he said, “try a little at a time.”

“Thirsty,” she said. Although the skin on her face was so pale, it was almost translucent, she seemed to have no white patches or purplish skin, signs of frost bite. He put his arm around her shoulder raising her so that he hugged her against his chest.

"What’s your name?”

“Preta,” a strange rasping voice left her lips. Darkness loomed in the blue of her eyes, until the irises changed color to an inky blackness. Michael shook his head, so that his head thumped with oxygen deprivation. He looked again into the woman’s eyes. They were crystal blue again, but cold gripped his spine and a wave of black fear enveloped him. He fought to clear the inexplicable terror.

 Climbing in the death zone did strange things to a man’s mind. He knew he had to move and keep his blood circulating or his mind would continue to play tricks, but he couldn’t leave this young woman here to freeze to death alone like so many others had done before her. Michael raised the flask so that she could drink again but she pushed his hand away.

“No, no,” she groaned. “My name…my name is Maya,” she said, her voice now fluid and soft.

He was sure she had called herself something else.

Behind him, he heard the Sherpas hard at work breaking down the sheer ice wall so that he could see the rock and snow landscape and a glimpse of the dark blue sky above.

“Can you try and stand?”

“I’m so lonely, so afraid.”

“My name’s Michael. I won’t leave you, but you have to get moving or you’ll die.” Dead. Unseeing eyes. Frozen bodies. The images flashed before him, but not this woman. He had a chance to save her and he would do anything to achieve it. A sliver of pain pierced his heart. Perhaps if some stranger had felt the same way about his father, he wouldn’t have grown up without him. His muscles screamed with exertion as he gripped her around her torso and hauled her to her feet.

He felt Maya press her torso against him and she stared into his eyes, her lips parted. An inexplicable urge to kiss her overpowered him. Shame bit hard as a fierce sexual rush followed, so intense that he groaned. It took all his will power not to cover her lips with his.

Six months of dedicated mountain training for this rescue month left him no time for women. Instead it made him lean, hard and edgy, thinking of sex more than was healthy. Women were scarce on the mountain. He wanted to throw her to the ground and drive his cock in hers. Instead, supporting her weight on his body, he started to strap his oxygen mask to her face.

She tried to push it away. “No.”

“The air is thin here. Put it on,” he ordered, fitting it to her face and pulling her hood forward to protect her skin. He wrapped one arm around her slim waist and pulled her arm around the back of his neck so that he could take her weight. “You must walk. The tents are close by. I can get you warm there.” Elation surged through him when Maya took hesitant steps towards the mouth of the ice cave.

When they approached the entrance, Michael turned sideways ducked his head and supporting Maya around the waist pulled her through the entrance. The Sherpas crowded around her, chattering excitedly in their own language. “She can walk,” he cried thrilled to know that she had a good chance of survival if she were mobile.

Behind his group of Sherpas, he noticed that a mist had moved in and he could just make out the tents in the distance. Maya’s life depended on getting her warm and filled with fluids and altitude medication. A shrill cry echoed around him as his lead Sherpa leaned forward and pulled Maya’s hood from her face. Another ripped the oxygen mask from her face before stepping back and talking rapidly to his fellow Sherpas.

“What the hell? Back off,” Michael ordered.

“Preta,” his lead Sherpa cried pointing his finger at Maya. 

All of them edged away. Maya clutched Michael and he could feel her trembling in his arms. 

“Kill Preta,” the head Sherpa jabbed his finger at Maya, his finger poking at the tattoo between her brows. He heard her groan in fear as she buried her face in his chest.

“Touch her again and you’ll regret it,” Michael growled.

What the hell had gotten into his team?

“Put Preta back in cave,” one of the Sherpas cried.

“What the hell is a Preta?” Michael asked, pushing Maya behind him just in case the Sherpas decided to charge en mass.

“Ghost. She ghost,” his lead Sherpa said, his voice trembling. “Make men weak. Drink blood.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Michael said.

“She devil woman,” another Sherpa added, clutching a talisman on his parka.

“No!” Maya cried the terror in her voice reached his ears.

“Put sex magic on man.” The Sherpa put his hand on the front of his pants and gestured crudely. “Give man much sex. Weak man no can fight. Give man pain. Much pain.”

“Kill Preta. Put back in cave before Preta kill you,” the lead Sherpa demanded, waving his fist at her.

Maya walked in front of Michael and straightened her shoulders. “I am the daughter of Mountain Mother.” Her voice sounded clear like bells, her accent strange but intriguing.

“Chomolangma.” Some of the Sherpas muttered the Tibetan name for the mountain.“Trick to kill man. You Preta,” the lead Sherpa said jabbing his finger at her tattoo so that her head jerked backward.

Michael pulled her behind him. “Right. That’s enough. You’re not touching her. Get lost. Get out of here.”

Used to the attitude, the Sherpas strode away, turning occasionally, their faces fearful. Michael pulled Maya close and hugged her.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what has got into them. Don’t worry. I’ll look after you.” Within moments the swirling mist swallowed the Sherpas and the edges of it curled around their feet like tentacles.

“They fear the Preta,” Maya whispered.

“Superstitious bastards,” Michael said, strapping the only oxygen mask back onto her face. Looking into her eyes, the strange erotic pull he’d experienced in the cave, came over him. He wanted to throw off all of his clothes, strip her naked too and pin her under him, grip her long blond braids and slake his lust over and over again. In this light her large eyes changed color to an inky blackness like they had in the cave and he swore the tattoo on her forehead glowed. 

Enticing. Alluring. Darkness.

His head span and he crunched his boots into the snow to ground himself.

Michael focused, trying to clear his mind, disgusted with his thoughts. He was a damn moron to think of having sex like an untamed animal in the snow. Worse, he must be oxygen deprived and susceptible to his Sherpas’ suggestions, given he was seeing things. Death would be his only companion if he stayed outside hallucinating and he couldn’t help Maya then.

“Come on, let’s get going.”He wrapped his arm around her waist, noting her fragility and strode forward half carrying the petite woman clinging to him toward the tents.

With the mist curling around them, he stopped and set his compass in the direction he wanted to go as he could barely see in front of him. Without his oxygen mask he fought for air, his lungs heaving in and out, his breath billowing in front of him like steam. Focus, he told himself.

“Stop,” Maya cried, pointing to something. The ghost-like mist cleared and he saw what she was pointing at. A thin fissure in the snow which widened to a crack. God help them. If they’d stepped on that it could have given way to a deep crevasse.

A sickening, twisting sensation spiraled in his gut.

“How did you know it was there?” he asked, removing the oxygen mask from her face with shaking hands. Putting it to his own he sucked in large gulps of oxygen, aware that his heart was thumping from his near-miss experience.

“I am the Ice Princess of Chomolangma, daughter of the Mother Goddess,” she said, tilting her chin. “My job is to guide climbers to safety.”

Damn it. She had bad altitude sickness, Michael thought.

“The Sherpas did not lie.”

“What are you talking about?”

“A Preta is in my body and I can’t get it out. It’ll make me do things I don’t want to do. Sex magic. You’re a good man, Michael, I don’t want to hurt you,” her words rushed into one another.

“Yeah, right, the Preta again.” Michael slapped the oxygen mask back on Maya’s face. Clearly she needed it more than he did.

Muscles screaming, he veered around the fissure until he reached his tent and pulled aside the flap. All he wanted was to lie in his thick down sleeping bag and feel warmth return to his body and numb feet with Maya beside him. Naked.




If you liked Cathleen’s snippet (and lets face it, who wouldn’t?!) you can find her here:

8 comments:

  1. What a cool idea! Love it Cathleen!

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  2. What a wonderful concept. Lovely, Cathleen.

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  3. You girls will be amused that after all these years of writing erotic romance I was trying to write a BSDM piece. I couldn't do it, so I've decided to leave that up to the experts. I think I just don't get it. Meanwhile Ice Princess became another take on vampirism which I do get. Well sort of. Bite me!
    Best
    Cathleen

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  4. Great snippet, Cathleen. Definitely want to read more.

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  5. Hi Keziah and Eleni
    Thanks for stopping by. I was horrified when I read about the dead bodies, the garbage left on Mt Everest, the way other climbers walk past dying climbers but I was intrigued too. This is like one of the last wildernesses and that got me thinking. What if everything is not as it seems. Great place for something creepy to happen.

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