A Bitter Winter – Book Cover Reveal

Hi everyone,

My apologies for the months of silence. I have been hard at work writing The Silver Ninja: A Bitter Winter and didn’t want to share any book cover images until I felt confident the novel was entering the last lap before publication. As of this month, with 10 chapters rewritten and looking solid, I’m quite happy to present to you the book cover reveal for The Silver Ninja: A Bitter Winter.

 

The novel has unfortunately gone two years over its intended release date, but the delay was necessary to ensure the quality of the story. I was not going to re-publish a rewrite of my original book only to have it read worse than my first publication. It’s been a painfully long process, one that I wish would have ended years ago, but I’ve learned a lot and feel confident to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

If you have the time, I have attached Chapter 1 of the new novel rewrite. Let me know if you think this is something you would continue reading or put down. I always appreciate the feedback.

Thanks!

Wilmar

 

Chapter 1: A Lot to Promise

The Police Commissioner of the NYPD was standing amongst a crowd of detectives, smiling, laughing, oblivious to the fact that the woman he hated was stalking him a few feet away. She was standing at a buffet table, stuffing her cheeks with pineapple cubes, careful not to spill juice on her seven hundred dollar black dress.

Cindy rehearsed in her mind what she would say to him, anticipated his reaction, planned her counter argument, and imagined her victory dance once he finally said yes. She was determined to make reality out of fantasy.

A pointy stick jabbed Cindy’s back. She yelped, spun around, and swatted the stick out of her sister’s hand.

“Stop that.”

“Somebody’s nervous.”

“You would be too.”

“Well staring at him like a psycho isn’t going to make things easier.” Jadie leaned in and whispered into Cindy’s ear. “By the way, you should have heard what a nasty old hag said to me.” Jadie grabbed a ceramic plate from the buffet table and spread beluga caviar over a bed of crackers. “I asked that ho where she got her gold dress from.” Jadie pointed to the fireplace where a beautiful -young- woman was laughing with men in tuxedos. “And you know what she said to me? She said, ‘Honey, don’t worry about it. You can’t afford it,’ and laughed in my face.”

“Well what do you expect?” Cindy stuck some strawberries in her mouth. “This is the Upper East Side, at the mayor’s freaking mansion.” Cindy chewed loudly, ignorant of the liquid splashing out of her lips. “We’re rubbing elbows with old money and trust fund babies. We don’t exist in their world.”

Jadie held the caviar filled cracker to her mouth. “If that condescending see you next Tuesday ever fell overboard on a cruise, I wouldn’t save her ass.”

“Yeah you would.”

Jadie bit down on her cracker. Her face puckered as black beads clung to her teeth. Cindy shielded her mouth so Jadie couldn’t see the smile forming behind her hand. Jadie stole a napkin from Cindy and spat until her napkin turned black. “People eat this stuff?”

“You just spit up five hundred and fifty dollars worth of food.”

“Five hundr—what a rip off.” Jadie downed a glass of champagne. “I’d get less salt drinking from the ocean.”

Cindy checked on the commissioner again. He was alone, staring at his phone, looking dapper in his pinstripe suit. With his ginger hair salted on the sides, Commissioner Patrick Gates looked young for a man thirty years her senior.

Jadie poked Cindy with a stick again.

“Ow, stop it!”

“You going to talk to him?”

“I don’t know.” Cindy threw her plate in the collection bin. “What do I tell him?”

“Tell him your credit card got declined and you need a job.”

“He’d punch me in the face if I said that.”

Jadie pushed on Cindy’s back, edging her forward. “You better go before someone else talks to him.”

Cindy walked forward as if a small string were tied to her ankles. “It was a hundred by the way.”

“A hundred what?”

“I had a hundred thousand in my savings account before my card got declined.”

“Hot damn,” Jadie exclaimed. “Good thing Senator Albright was there to pay you’re your donation huh? Nice guy, maybe I’ll vote for him next election.”

“Yeah.” Cindy continued trotting along. “Nice guy.”

Cindy’s ribs shuddered with every breath. She was out of her element in this place they called Gracie Mansion. Dealing with delinquents, dumb asses, and drug dealers was easy. Being surrounded by the educated and privileged was a different skill set she never trained in. Time and time again, as she walked by life-like ice sculptures, dangling Christmas lights, and floating white balloons, she asked herself why she was there.

Commissioner Gates glanced in Cindy’s direction. She froze in front of the open French style doors leading to a white pavilion tent in the mayor’s backyard. A cold wind blew inside, turning Cindy’s blood to ice. She grabbed onto her muscular arms, shivering as she slowly approached the commissioner. Not once did he smile in her direction.

“Hiii,” she said sheepishly. “Funny seeing you here, Sir.”

The Commissioner rolled his tongue as if getting a piece of food out from between his teeth. “Cindy.”

Four men, all with gold shields clipped to their belts, swarmed Cindy. One shoved her by the chest and told her to back off. The Police Commissioner waved them off, but made his point clear.

Cindy brushed off the tinge of anger she felt when the undercover detective laid hands on her. It was time to put what she had rehearsed into action. “I was—I wanted—”

“Out with it, Ames.”

Cindy felt like she was literally shrinking in size. What she had mentally practiced was forgotten. Despite her sturdy frame, she felt puny and weak against the commissioner. “I-I want an opportunity to put Ned behind bars.”

The detectives laughed in her face. Commissioner Gates furiously swatted at his security detail and threatened to relegate them to desk duty. All four of them piped down. The commissioner dismissed them so that he and Cindy could speak in private.

“Is this some kind of joke to you?” Commissioner Gates stuck out his head, growling his words. “You think I would let you have a badge and gun after what you did?”

“I don’t expect anything to be handed to me, Sir. All I want is a chance to finish the job.”

Commissioner Gates didn’t immediately say no. It gave her a false sense of hope that maybe, just maybe he would say yes.

“You blew all your chances!” The Commissioner’s neck reddened brighter than a tomato. “You’re the reason my son is dead.”

The air left Cindy’s lungs as if someone had punched her in the stomach. She backed off, heels tapping on the checker pattern floor. An aide walked up to the Commissioner and reminded him that he had a prior obligation. The Commissioner turned his back to Cindy and walked away. She stood there in her pretty dress, fists balled by her sides, goosebumps rippling her pale skin. Jadie’s warm hand touched Cindy’s sloping shoulder.

“I guess that’s that, huh?”

“No.” Cindy’s knuckles had gone milky white, causing her entire body to tremble. “If he doesn’t want to help, I’ll find some other way to catch Ned.”

“Maybe you should cool off for a bit.”

“Maybe we should go home.”

“Mrs. Ames, Ms. B.” A teenage girl came running to the sisters in a vibrant yellow dress. Cindy swallowed her anger and put on the biggest smile she could muster.

“Heeeeey!” Cindy gave Priscilla a warm hug. “You look so cute in your dress.”

Priscilla twirled and smiled. “Thank you. I’m glad you guys could make it. Come on, I want you to meet my parents.”

Priscilla led them out the French doors to the tent pavilion in the backyard. Socialites clustered around the heat lamps scattered about while keeping their expensive shoes off the snow. Navigating through the crowd was like exploring through a forest, except instead of avoiding poison ivy, it was stumbling drunks.

“Mom, Dad. This is Mrs. Ames and Ms. Brynfire. My gymnastics teachers.”

“Mrs. Ames, it is absolutely delightful to meet you again. This is your sister, Jadie?” Priscilla’s mother extended her hand and Jadie shook it. “Carmen, a pleasure.”

Priscilla’s mother was best described as an ebony queen without a country. There was an aura of regality that surrounded the woman, but never a feeling of snobbery. “My daughter cannot stop raving about your class. You know, I once tried to get Priscilla to play with dolls but all she wanted to do was play superhero. Priscilla would put on her father’s underwear, tie a towel around her neck, and lay in front of a fan pretending to fly.”

“Mom . . .”

“She would lift the furniture and make-believe she had super strength.”

“Mom!”

Carmen waved her hand. “Oh honey, relax.”

Cindy tuned out of the conversation and watched a waiter, dressed in white, float around the pavilion. Of all the attendants, he was the only one with a single drink on a giant tray. Cindy turned her attention back to Priscilla who looked about ready to burst.

“If it makes you feel better. I got muscles so I could be a superhero too.”

“And you look fabulous darling,” Carmen said to Cindy.

Priscilla shook her head. “Please kill me.”

Mayor Manny Montez laughed and extended his hand to Jadie. “I’m really sorry, but what’d you say your name was again? Ms . . .”

“B, I mean, Jadie.” She vigorously shook his hand, probably more than she intended to. “Sorry if I’m kind of clammy. I never met a Mayor before. I also didn’t know that Priscilla was your daughter. I probably wouldn’t have yelled if—”

Cindy bumped Jadie’s thigh which made the mayor laugh again. He was a hearty man with a barrel belly and an immaculately trimmed goatee. Talking to him was like talking to a family member. Mayor Montez also had the distinction of being the first Latino Mayor of Manhattan.

“I’ve met you before haven’t I?” The mayor said to Cindy.

Cindy’s fake smile started to crack. “Yes,” she said flatly.

He pointed and caused the rings on his fingers to rattle. “You were a police officer.”

“Haven’t been for two years now, Sir.”

“That’s a shame. I thought the uniform suited you.”

“Me too.”

The waiter from earlier—the one with the lone champagne flute on a tray­­­­—circled to the front of the mayor. The waiter was a slender, gangly man whose head was similar in shape to a light bulb. There were brown stains and frayed edges on what should have been a pristine white tuxedo jacket. No other employee looked as sloppy as this one. There was also something vaguely familiar about his face, but Cindy couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Mr. Mayor,” the waiter said while reaching for the champagne flute. “Could I interest you in the last sparkling champagne?”

The mayor held up his hand and politely refused.

“I’ll take it,” Jadie said, reaching for the glass.

Cindy pushed Jadie’s hand away. “We have to leave soon.”

The waiter left, but rather than give the drink away, he made for the exit.

Jadie shot Cindy a look, one that implied, if I weren’t in front of the Mayor right now . . .

“Could you excuse me for one second?” Cindy dashed after the waiter who had ignored a group of socialites demanding the last drink from his tray. She wanted to get another look at his face.

The waiter accelerated to a power walk. Cindy lifted her dress so she wouldn’t trip and matched his speed. “Hey,” she said once. The waiter peeked over his shoulder and walked even faster. “Hey,” she said again. The waiter dropped the wine tray into the snow covered grass and burst into a sprint. Cindy kicked off her heels and raced after him. The waiter waved his hands above his head and then there was a sound . . . air being ripped by thunder. A gunshot.

Cindy came to a stuttering stop, kicking up snow with her toes. The massive crowd exploded into a star of tuxedos and thousand dollar dresses running for their lives. The mayor was on his back, wheezing in his wife’s arms. A stream of red squirted from his chest.

Cindy ran back across the snow field, waving her hands above her head. “Go,” she yelled to Jadie. “Get them out of here, now!”

Jadie grabbed Carmen and Priscilla but the teen managed to squirm free. “I’m not leaving him,” Priscilla cried.

Cindy touched Priscilla’s jaw. “Hey, look at me,” she said calmly. The teen’s eyes had become glistening black beads. “Go with Jadie,” Cindy pushed her thumb against Priscilla’s tears. “I will take care of your dad, I promise.”

“We have to go.” Jadie held out her hand. Priscilla took it without a fight. “I’ll be back once they’re safe, Sis.”

Cindy nodded and turned her attention to the mayor. He looked confused as if he didn’t know he had been shot. “Can you hear me?”

There was a sucking, gurgling sound from his chest. Cindy tore open the mayor’s wine stained shirt. A bubble, textured like red wax, popped from a hole. Cindy pushed on it with her palm and felt a warm wetness stick to her hand. “You’re going to be okay. I’m going to call 911 and get you out of here.”

A black van roared into the courtyard. The front grill smashed into the scattering crowd and sent bodies into the air like ragdolls. The van skidded across the lawn, splattering dirt and snow across the tent canvas. The side door opened into the maw where a heavy machine gun emerged from darkness. A man wearing a black mask was sitting behind the gun, grinning maliciously as his thumbs pressed the firing mechanism.

Bolts of fire streaked the air with flashes of light. A young man fell to his knees and clutched his stomach as his guts spilled out. A woman staggered forward like a zombie and fell on her face with rose blooms sprouting from her back. The hag Jadie referenced was torn to shreds along with her golden, overpriced dress. The explosive pounding of machine gun fire silenced their screams. All that was left was the acrid smell of cordite throughout the winter air.

“Oh my God!” Cindy dragged Mayor Montez from his armpits and left a red carpet over the frozen grass. “Come on, come on.”

The van stopped in front of the bodies, its engine grumbling eagerly. Cindy, against her training, hid the mayor under a nearby catering table. She pulled the tablecloth down, praying no one would see them. The mayor groaned. Cindy covered his mouth. The familiar sound of magazines being clicked into their guns made Cindy hold her breath. The mayor continued to moan.

“Shh, you have to be quiet.”

“Give me a gun.” A gravelly voice said. “Spread out and find the mayor. Make sure he’s dead.”

Cindy grabbed onto the hem of her dress and quietly tore off a clean piece of fabric. She dressed the Mayor’s wound and guided his hand to hold it.

 “You’re going to be okay,” she said in a tender voice. “We’re both going to be okay.” Cindy closed her eyes and hoped the police would arrive soon.

“Hey, look at this,” a voice said.

Cindy peeked under the tablecloth and saw a man kick over her purse. Lipstick, makeup, and her cell phone tumbled out of the unzipped opening. A flashlight beamed over the purse and made the gold buckles glint. The spotlight danced atop stained snow and stopped over a trail of muddy red. Slowly it followed the grooved tracks to the catering table. Cindy hyperventilated as the crunching of snow grew louder. She could see the soles of their military style boots under the tablecloth.

The gunman’s shadow projected onto the cloth like shadow puppets on a paper wall. Their black legs bent at the knees. Sweat ran down Cindy’s neck. Adrenaline wracked her body with tremors. The safety on the gun clicked off. The curtain began to rise and a gun peeked inside.

“I found the m—“

Cindy had crawled out to the opposite side. Her biceps bulged as she lifted the table. Plates of food and a chocolate fountain rained on top of the gunman. Cindy threw herself on top of him and reached for his gun. The assassin twisted away from her hands. The butt of his rifle smashed into Cindy’s face, causing her to see a flash of white. Dazed almost to the point of blacking out, Cindy stumbled away, holding her head as blood dripped on the snow.

“Stop,” a voice commanded.

Cindy ignored the voice and the radiating pain in her jaw. The police sirens were getting louder.

“Stop or I’ll shoot.”

Cindy fell on top of Mayor Manny Montez. Her hands joined his while high powered flashlights flattened out the muscles on her back. The mayor clutched onto the piece of Cindy’s dress as if it were safety blanket. The waiter in the white tuxedo was standing behind her with a gun pointed at her back. They exchanged looks and suddenly she remembered where she had recognized him from.

“Hey,” Ned said with a smile. “I remember you.”

Cindy rolled onto her back, shielding the mayor. “Please don’t do this. I’m begging you.”

Cindy’s body jerked as violence tore through her dress and ruptured her organs. Her hazel eyes turned into doll eyes as she stared up into the night sky. Snowflakes began to fall from the clouds above. It was the beginning of a bitter winter.

Wilmar Luna

Wilmar Luna is an author of fictional worlds, empowered women, and the human condition. He is currently working on The Silver Ninja superheroine book series and will share writing tips when he needs a break from thinking. He’s also a secret pop culture junkie . . . oh wait.

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