Prologue Reveal + Giveaway: East of Redemption by Molly E. Lee - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Prologue Reveal + Giveaway: East of Redemption by Molly E. Lee

EAST REDEMPTION BANNER

Get ready for East of Redemption—the newest novel coming from author Molly E. Lee. With an addictive mix of romance and adventure, Easton and Rain’s story will hook you from the very beginning. It’s an Indiana Jones-inspired second chance romance that ratchets up the tension while these two scale mountains and delve deep into the caves of Israel in search of treasure… and a way back to each other.

I’m so excited to share with you the prologue for this must-read romance coming June 8th!

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Synopsis

Jun-08Easton Wells has spent years burying his guilt by digging up some of the world’s most renowned treasures while surviving the dangerous terrains in which they’re located—all captured for television. When his producers threaten to axe the show, he has no choice but to turn to the last person he still trusts—the girl he left behind.
Rain Walker has made a name for herself documenting wild and endangered animals, and the last voice she expects to hear while shooting in South Africa is Easton’s. He’s more gorgeous than she remembers, but the pain in her heart is as fresh as ever. They’d once planned on spending the rest of their lives together, but after her father’s tragic death while on expedition in Israel with him, Easton bailed on their future together without an explanation. It’s been nine years, and yet the intense love they shared seems only a moment ago.

When he asks her to film his latest treasure hunt, Rain wants to turn him down instantly. But when he explains it’s to the same cave that swallowed her father, she can’t say no. She wants to experience the last place her father was alive, and she’s beyond curious about what happened to the boy she used to love.

They’ve got two weeks to locate a treasure that’s been lost for centuries, or Easton will lose the one thing in his life he’s come to depend on. As their old passion is reignited—and dark secrets uncovered—they face the extreme terrain of the mountain range that threatens them at every turn. As more than the wildlife and sharp drop-offs tries to kill them, Rain starts to question if the legendary treasure they seek—the same one her father had died trying to unearth—is truly meant to be found, or if some things, including their feelings for each other, are better left buried.

Excerpt

Prologue

Easton

The cave walls were slick with moisture, the water drops chanting the same warning over and over again: One. Wrong. Step. You. Die. One. Wrong. Step. You. Die.

Darkness had a new definition when submerged more than eight hundred meters beneath the ground, and though armed with LED lights on our helmets, they weren’t a force against the pitch-black that swallowed the areas just out of reach. The smell of wet earth, dust, and stagnant air filled my lungs with each deep breath. This wasn’t my first descent into one of the thousands of caves in Israel, but I was still mastering control over my heart rate so I wouldn’t overuse the little air allotted down here.

Harrison, my mentor and the only man I’d ever considered as a father figure, hugged the wall in front me, but I couldn’t hear his breaths. He’d hunted treasure and survived the elements around it since before I was born. Damn fool made it look as easy as running up a steep hill during recess.

He made quick progress ahead of me, sliding against the wet walls and gaining sure footing a yard or so away. The position I held wouldn’t allow for that fast of movement. I’d like to call the tiny excuse for a ledge we stood on a path, but that’d be a lie. It was a spider-web sliver, and we had contemplated turning back when our findings led us to this spot.

That was never really an option, though.

Harrison may have been a well-respected archeologist, but he had a weakness, just as we all did. His obsession led us here, nearly a mile deep beneath a sun-soaked Israel, searching for lost artifacts of King Solomon’s treasure. The rumored ornaments from the Garden of Eden, or equally important religious artifacts from the time period would be the equivalent of his Holy Grail. He had shared his crazed need to find evidence of the treasure when I was only thirteen. Rain had indulged him like the good daughter she was, smiling with a wispy look in her eye and telling him he’d find it one day. But me? I had truly believed he would, and that was the day the prospect of archeology sunk its hooks into me.

That was six years ago, and I’d hunted with him since. Harrison had been the best teacher I’d ever had, and my reasoning for leaving school had been justified through his incredible teachings. He not only instilled a real-world education within me, he earned my respect like no other authority figure ever had in my life, and I wouldn’t let him down. Ever.

He’d taken me in after finding me wandering the back alleys of Oregon, living out of garbage cans after bucking the foster system. I’d never known a family outside of him and Rain, but I’d never called him father, either. He was more than that. I respected him, admired him, wanted to make him proud.

“Easton?” The softness in Harrison’s voice pierced the silence that engulfed the cave, and I jolted slightly as I tracked his line of sight. He held the wall with one hand, pointing across the vast expanse of air between the walls.

My light barely hit it, but my breath stalled in my lungs. A slip of rock connected the walls like a bridge, and on the other side rested a chamber. Not the fancy kind like in the movies, but it was a clear indication of human hands with a mindset to store whatever filled it.

Harrison’s blue eyes went wide as he surveyed the rock between the walls.

“It can’t be stable,” I said, analyzing the structure for weak spots. “There has to be another way across.”

He tilted his head, causing his light to crane just past me. “You see any, kid?”

My muscles ached from plastering myself to the wall, and my bones creaked as I slowly shifted position so the pack on my back pressed against the wall. I scanned the area, searching for a safe way to get to the chamber. “We’ve got two options.”

“And?” Harrison indulged me, as he always did in a way to challenge my thought process. I was sure he’d be pushing my brain to calculate escape routes, survival scenarios, and ancient mindsets and lifestyles for many years to come.

“One means a long trek to our initial entry point, followed by starting over and taking the opposite wall,” I said and pointed across the distance. “Or”—I huffed, the air thin in my lungs as I glanced down into the darkest pit I’d ever seen—“a quick trek across the bridge that could possibly result in a long fall to our deaths.”

His eyes didn’t leave mine, and I already knew his choice. I couldn’t blame him. He’d spent his entire life hunting for chambers exactly like this.

“We can come back tomorrow. Redo the rappel and climb on the right side. It’s doable,” I said.

The chamber taunted him, and his eyes took on a panicked look, like he contemplated flying over there. If he had a grappling gun like Batman, he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. Thank God he didn’t.

“Harrison,” I said, noting his small but noticeable movements as he inched his right foot onto the sliver of rock that hung over nothing but darkness.

“These caves have withstood millions of years of the elements, Easton. It’ll hold our weight. You’ve never doubted me before.”

Fuck. I tore my eyes off the endless pit beneath him and swallowed my heart. I moved in centimeters as opposed to his bold inches. He held his hand palm out, stopping me before I stepped onto the bridge.

“Let me cross first. Don’t want to put too much weight on it.”

“You said it would hold.”

“True. But a cautious man is almost as good as a confident one.”

My heart beat against my chest like a fucking hammer. Each second felt like an hour until he made it across. The breath stalled in my lungs. It was my turn. I hoped he couldn’t tell how hard I tried not to piss my pants. This was by far the craziest stunt we’d ever pulled, and part of me fucking loved it. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and set my blood on fire, shoving the panicked feeling down in my gut and pissing on it.

I moved faster than I thought capable, and slower than I’d like.

Somehow I grabbed Harrison’s outstretched hand and felt fucking invincible as he yanked me the rest of the way onto mercifully solid rock.

We shared a relief-fueled laugh and turned in unison, carefully entering the small chamber in a crouch.

Our lights filled the space, and I glanced down at the GoPro strapped to my wrist, making sure to point it in every direction possible as I scanned the room.

Harrison gasped and I jerked upright, knocking my head against the hard, sharp ceiling.

“Fuck!” I grabbed my head and found Harrison completely safe, his mouth hanging open as he held a barely together wooden box the size of a wine crate.

“Easton,” he chided.

“Sorry, but that hurt! I thought you’d slipped through a hole or something—”

“Easton!”

I shut my mouth and focused my wrist cam on him as I shimmied over to his side. I swallowed a lump in my throat when I peered inside the box. “Is that . . .? That can’t be . . .”

“It is!” Harrison carefully fingered a piece of rolled parchment the length of my forearm out of the deteriorating wood. The thing looked like it was made dust, but the softest of crinkles sounded through the chamber as he unfolded it, and I stopped breathing.

“One of King Solomon’s seals.” He sighed, and I stared at the tears forming in his eyes. He dug in the box again, withdrawing a heavy-looking tablet of bronze.

He’d told Rain and I bedtime stories about the many different seals King Solomon had created when he reigned, most of them depicting verses close to proverbs, or the names of angels.

“Are they real?” I dared to ask.

He sucked in a quick breath and slipped on his archeologist face. “I’m not sure. We’ll have to examine them.” He reached around to his pack and pulled out a cardboard tube he’d carried since before I could remember. He knew he’d find a scroll someday indicating the treasure’s location, or he’d die trying. An excited rush burst through me, honored to be included in this discovery.

After storing the scroll, he ran his hands over the tablet, which had script in near-perfect lines all across it. “This is ancient Hebrew. It’s a record of his possessions—pieces, descriptions, amounts.” His smile grew wider. “Easton, this could prove everything we’ve ever thought about the wealth of Solomon.”

“Look,” I said, pointing just past where the box lay. A worn leather satchel tied with frayed, dust-caked rope sat next to several broken clay pots, now black from dirt and age. I gently scooped up the bag and turned out more than a dozen silver coins. “This looks like another seal,” I said, recognizing the stamp from our studies.

“They’re in pristine condition,” he said, taking a few from my hand. “The myths were true. Solomon’s treasure does exist, and the Babylonians who burglarized the majority of it escaped through the mountains of Israel.” He glanced around the area. “Who knows what else could be hiding down here. The possibilities are endless.”

The gears turned behind his eyes, and my own thoughts matched his—our names in the media, taking over every major news outlet with a discovery that had to be one of the most prized in recent decades. I visualized more excavations in the cave, with sponsors and proper equipment and power. I grabbed his shoulder and shook it.

“You did it, Harrison. You’ve found evidence for King Solomon’s treasure! The Ark could be here!”

“Easy there, Indiana, we still have to authenticate everything.” His silver hair glinted underneath my light, but he looked younger than I’d ever seen him as he secured the satchel in his pack. “And we did it,” he said. “You didn’t think I was crazy when I asked you time and time again to dive into the darkness underneath Israel.”

I pressed my lips together, forcing down the instinct to hug him. We didn’t do that shit.

After exploring the rest of the chamber and turning up only a few more artifacts—some intact pots, a brass dagger, and a gold necklace—we quickly found a fault in our brilliant plan to cross the bridge.

“There is a small ledge on this side, but we’ve got no idea if it’ll get us all the way back to our initial entrance,” Harrison said. “If we tried, and found out the ledge ends in the middle, we’d be stuck backtracking to this spot, and that would use a considerable amount of our already dwindling strength.”

I sighed. “We have to cross again.” I pointed the wrist cam at myself and then to the left and right of the chamber.

“What is done once can be done again, my boy.”

I nodded, less than thrilled to walk the rock-tightrope a second time.

Harrison hesitated at the edge of the chamber before slipping off his pack and handing it to me. “Trade me.”

“What? No.” I shook my head. “That is your find. Your discovery.”

Harrison grabbed the straps of my pack, jerking them off despite my protests. “I know it is, but I’m crossing first. If anything happens, at least the artifacts are safe.”

“Then let me cross first,” I argued.

“Not a chance, son.”

“Stop. Let’s just think for a minute. Maybe we should try the ledge on this side,” I said, scanning the area again, hoping to find a surefire alternate route. “I don’t like your lack of confidence this time around.”

“I’m still confident, just smart. It takes both to survive in our business and one usually outweighs the other. Always choose the right one, okay, Easton?”

I gave him a single nod and secured the pack with a load of treasure that was worth more than my life, and tried to ignore the stab of fear as he slipped on my pack. The ring I intended to give Rain was nestled inside it, and I hadn’t asked for Harrison’s blessing yet. I’d planned to do it after the expedition . . .

“No worries, kid,” Harrison said, slamming my thoughts to a stop as he stepped onto the bridge.

I took a deep breath as he made it safely to the halfway point. Good, just like the first time around. He would make it across, and then I would, and we’d get out of here and show the world what Dr. Walker finally discovered after decades of searching.

A shriek cut off my visions of our picture on the cover of Time magazine. Harrison’s footing slipped, the moisture in the damn cave upping the difficulty level to the nth degree. He windmilled his arms and bent his knees, regaining his balance. He glanced at me, a smirk cracking his otherwise panicked face.

I huffed out a dark laugh. “Not cool.”

He shrugged and took another step. A loud crack filled the space between us, followed by the distinct sound of crumbling rock. Harrison jerked forward and tried to right himself once more, but overcompensated on the unstable structure.

I didn’t think.

I blinked, and I was there, a foot from him. Just enough for an arm’s length reach and a prayer as he lost his footing and fell backward.

I grabbed his hand and the force of his weight snapped my body to the rock, my stomach hitting it like a bad belly-flop in a deep pool. My scream echoed his, and bounced off the walls of the cave, making it sound like there were a thousand men crying out.

The muscles in my shoulder seared and ripped as I struggled to move my other arm to him. Harrison hung beneath me, clutching my hand with one of his. He didn’t flail, he was too practiced for that. He tried to get a hold of the edge with his free hand, but the thing was just out of his reach.

I grunted and struggled to gain purchase on the rock that quickly crumbled beneath me. The structure trembled, vibrating my bones. Chunks of rock closer to the edge of the chamber wall fell off, further weakening the only thing stopping Harrison and me from plummeting to our deaths. A few minutes more and we’d both fall.

I pulled with everything I had, but without leverage, I wasn’t strong enough to lift his full weight more than an inch. Not enough for him to grab hold of the ledge to help.

Tears streaked my face, and I screamed, yanking and pulling until I could barely breathe, all while he tried to reach the bridge, too.

“Easton.” His voice was too calm. “Easton, look at me.”

I opened my eyes, which I’d clenched shut, thinking somehow it would give me more strength. A crack split beneath me to my right, several inches wide and growing. The rock bridge slipped, dropping an inch, forcing my heart into my throat.

“No,” I said.

He didn’t need to say the words. I could read them in his eyes.

“It’s all right, son,” he said as a pile of dust and rock fragments soared past him.

I focused on his face, his tan skin, his blue eyes, so much like Rain’s, because if I looked beyond that, all I could see was the black pit that would swallow us whole in minutes.

“The bridge won’t hold. Too much weight. You have to let go.”

“No,” I repeated. “I can do this.” I pulled again, screaming as my muscles refused to fucking work. The rock dropped another inch as the crack made its way to the right wall, where chunks continued to slough off as it detached from where it’d been secure for who knows how long.

“Tell Rain I love her. Tell her I’m sorry. And you take this find, Easton. You take it and set the bar for your entire career. It’s yours, son. You were meant to do this. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

I gripped his hand harder. “No.”

“Easton!” he snapped as another loud crack echoed beneath me. “Don’t be a fool. Let go, damn it! I need you to take care of Rain, son.” Harrison unwrapped his fingers from around mine, flattening them against my palms.

“Stop!” I screamed, grasping at his slick hands, maintaining my firm hold.

“You have my blessing. Don’t let me down. Now, let go.” He nodded.

I shook my head. I couldn’t do it.

“She can’t lose us both. Let go!” he ordered as the bridge dropped another inch. The motion jarred my hold, and my grip slipped.

I reached and snatched at air as I watched him fall, the darkness engulfing him.

He didn’t scream.

The man didn’t scream.

I scrambled to the other side of the cave just before the bridge split into chunks. It took a full thirty seconds before I heard the sickening crunch of first a body, and then rock, crash against the bottom of the cave floor.

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