Exclusive cover reveal + excerpt: ARK by J.J. Wilder

Anyone in the mood for an epic fantasy?! Jasinda and Jack Wilder are surprising us with just that—a story that thrums with tension and imagination all at once in a world of drama, romance and excitement. I’m thrilled to exclusively share the stunning cover of Ark. The novel is coming this Friday, but I’ve got an amazing sneak peek to tide you over!

Scroll on down below to start reading, and please share using the social media buttons at the bottom of the post!

About Ark

“The Nephilim were on the Earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the heroes of renown.” Genesis 6:4

I am a Nephilim, and a princess.

I do not follow The One God.

I am destined to be a queen, to rule a city beside whichever aged Nephilim king or prince my father betroths me to.

And then I meet Japheth, son of Noah, son of Lamech, and he changes everything.

He changes me, and his father changes the world.

Excerpt chapter

Favor Found

“But Noah found favor with the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, was a frightening man. His beard was long and black, shot with streaks of gray, the tip brushing his belly. His curly black hair, so like Japheth’s but long and unkempt, was tossed in the ever-present breeze, brushing across his eyes as he stood before the mountain-sized construction, a mallet in one hand and a thick, gnarled staff in the other. He wore a short knee-length, sleeveless tunic belted with a thick strap of leather. He was burly and tall, towering nearly half a cubit above Japheth, his shoulders as wide and heavy as an ox’s, his arms thick and hairy, his chest as broad and round as a barrel of wine; he could wrestle an aurochs and win. Noah was an imposing man, even to me, a Nephilim. His eyes were as blue as Japheth’s but immeasurably older and sparking with wisdom. They pierced me like hurled spears.

He did not have to speak a word for me to know he hated me.

I could see this even as we approached. I sat next to Japheth in the wagon’s seat, holding myself erect through sheer force of will. Noah’s eyes narrowed as we neared him, until they were slits of blue that flashed with sparks. I refused to cower underneath his gaze, but I wanted to. Even Japheth kept rolling his shoulders back and straightening his spine, as if he too felt the weight of Noah’s disapproval.

“Your father is . . . fearsome,” I whispered, as we approached.

Japheth sighed. “Yes,” he agreed.

Japheth’s mouth was pressed into a thin line. I was quickly realizing the enmity between him and his father went deeper than he had let on. He wasn’t merely tense—he was afraid. I had seen him face my father’s men without blinking, and I had seen him kill men without so much as flinching, and he prophesied my father’s death without fear, but now, at the prospect of seeing his own father, Japheth seemed to be nothing so much as terrified.

Japheth tugged on the reins and the onagers slowed to a stop in front of Noah. Two other men stood behind Noah, one with a stack of planed and sanded boards in his arms, the other with a bucket of pitch. Both of these men shared Noah’s black curls and blue eyes, making them Japheth’s brothers, I assumed. They paused mid-motion as we approached, shock on their faces.

Stepping down from the wagon, Japheth squared his shoulders and faced his father; neither man spoke for long, tense minutes.

“Father,” Japheth began. “It’s been . . . a long time.”

Noah remained silent, twisting the staff in his fist so the tip dug into the grass. “Japheth.”

It was odd, Noah’s greeting. It was not a welcome, not a greeting, and not a question. It seemed like nothing so much as an empty statement, a bare, spare acknowledgement of his son’s presence.

“I . . . I know there’s much we have to discuss, and I don’t expect an eager welcome, but . . .” Japheth trailed off, ducking his head and toying with the ear of the onager munching grass next to him. “I hope . . . I was hoping we can . . . stay here, for at least a few days. Aresia, she’s hurt . . . she needs time to recuperate.”

Noah’s jaw worked slowly, grinding his jaws together, and his eyes fixed on me, his upper lip curling. “You bring a Nephilim here? To my home? Who is she? Why have you returned after so long?” Noah’s words came in a flood, his voice deep and booming and rough.

Japheth looked back at me, and then to his father, as if wondering what to tell him, suddenly seeming at a loss. Japheth, so deadly and graceful and fearless on the battlefield, was afraid of his father.

I gathered my breath and my courage and stepped out of the wagon. I couldn’t stop the gasp and whimper of pain as my ribs protested the movement. My legs wobbled, and I used the strong, broad backs of the onagers to support myself as I shuffled gingerly next to Japheth. He wrapped his arm around my waist and held me upright.

“I am Aresia, daughter of Emmen-Utu, King of Bad-Tibira,” I said with all the strength I possessed, but it still came out breathless and soft.

Noah’s face contorted in rage. “You bring to me the daughter of that—that godless savage? You sully my lands with the spawn of that monster? Have you gone mad, Japheth?” His voice shook, trembled.

“I know, Father. I know the enmity you harbor for Nephilim, but—”

“No, you foolish child. You don’t know. You know nothing.” Noah spat on the ground, a thick gobbet of saliva splatting into the dust. “Leave now. She is not welcome here and neither are you.”

“Father, please—just listen to me. She’s not like him . . . Aresia is not guilty of the sins of her father.”

“She is a worshipper of the false gods.” Noah turned away from his son. “And so are you, probably.”

“No, Father. I . . . worship Elohim—I found Him, and I have returned to you. Please, Father,” Japheth caught his father’s sleeve, a simple act, but coming from a man so proud as Japheth, it was an abject plea. “Give us a chance.”

I took a wobbling step, shaky as a newborn calf. “Please, Noah. We have nowhere else to go. I will tell you my story if you wish, but . . .” Noah stepped back from me, as if my mere proximity made him ill. “I do not worship my people’s gods any longer. I—I have heard the voice of Elohim. He spoke to me—”

Noah lunged at me, spitting rage. “Do not blaspheme the name of The One God!”

He seemed about to strike me but wrenched himself away. His hatred was palpable and powerful, and I wondered what had happened to cause such ire.

“I speak the truth! I heard His voice. He . . . he spoke to me, when I was dying.” I wavered on my feet, unable to stand any longer. Japheth caught me and lowered me to the ground.

Just then, an older woman approached, her hair as black as her husband’s and sons’, but it was straight and fine, and her eyes were deep brown, kind and wide. She was beautiful, in the faded way of a woman who was once a glorious beauty and had aged well. She strode up to Japheth without pause and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close in a tight embrace. Japheth stood stiff for a moment, and then slowly relaxed, hands finally lifting to return the embrace. He held her for a moment and then attempted to pull away. The woman shook her head and pulled him back in. I heard her murmur something to him. Japheth shook his head, tried again to pull away, and the woman—his mother, obviously—held tight once more, her shoulders trembling.

I expected Japheth to push her away, but he didn’t. He turned his face to the sky, as if beseeching his One God, and I saw a tear trembling in his eyes. He blinked hard, fighting the tears as his mother kissed him on his cheek, first the right and then the left. Then she took his face in her hands and kissed his forehead. Tears coursed down his cheeks.

“You came back. My son has returned.” She rounded on Noah, eyes blazing. “How dare you turn him away, you stubborn old bull? He is our son, our eldest child. He has returned, and we will welcome him with open arms. Now, Japheth, who have you brought with you?”

I tried to rise to my feet but couldn’t.

Japheth knelt down and lifted me up, holding me in his arms like a child.

“Mother, this is Aresia; Aresia, this is my mother, Zara.”

Zara touched my blackened eyes with a gentle, practiced touch, ran her finger down the line of my broken nose, prodded my ribs. “Oh, child. Who did this to you?” The question was rhetorical, it seemed, for she continued speaking without giving me pause to answer. “Bring her into the house, Japheth. Ham, fetch me water and heat it. Shem, slaughter a sheep so we may feast your brother’s return. Noah . . . you go away, and stay away until you can see fit to welcome your son properly. Speak to your God and learn forgiveness.”

Shem and Ham both scurried to do their mother’s bidding, but the glares they shot Japheth as he carried me toward the house suggested they, too, were not pleased about Japheth’s return. They did not even bother to look at me.

The house was a long, low, squat structure built of stone and logs and mud-bricks, a thick plume of smoke rising from the center.

Within, I saw the organized chaos of a busy home. Zara had bustled ahead of Japheth and I, and was barking orders at three other, younger women, who vanished from the house to carry out Zara’s commands.

The younger of Japheth’s brothers—a hawk-nosed man with slim shoulders and a scar on his face pulling his lip into a perpetual sneer—brought two buckets of water on a yoke over his neck, staggering with the awkward gait of someone carrying a heavy load. He set them down by the fire pit at the center of the room, then set a huge copper pot on a stand above the fire and dumped the water in, and returned outside to fetch more. I heard a sheep bleating, a furious, panicked sound, and then silence. A few minutes later the older brother, Shem, came in with a bloody, skinned carcass and set it on a table. He pulled a long knife from a sheath at his side and set about carving the goat with practiced expertise, his hands red with the animal’s blood.

Japheth had set me down near the fire, propping pillows behind me. He sat down beside me. “Don’t worry, Aresia. Mother will set things right. Father will come around, eventually. I know he’s a bit . . . intimidating . . . but he will calm down.” And then, more to himself than to me, he muttered, “I hope.”

“What does he have against my father?” I asked. “I know Father has a history of antagonizing your people, but your father seems to have something . . . personal.”

Japheth looked puzzled. “I don’t know. I know he hates Nephilim, but this is . . . surprising, even to me.”

Zara came over then, juggling pots of herbs and a swath of bandages. “Hush, children. Now is not the time to discuss old memories. Everything in its own time.” She waved Japheth away. “Shoo, child. Help your brother carve the sheep. Better yet, go find your father and make amends. You hurt him deeply, leaving like you did, and the only way he can show his hurt is with anger—this you know, for you are much the same. He has a sensitive heart beneath all that bluff and bluster.”

Japheth nodded, touched me on the forehead, and left the house.

I marveled at Zara. She spoke to Japheth as if he had been gone a matter of days, perhaps weeks, rather than years. She peeled away my robes, examining the bandages the healer had wrapped around me before we had left Bad-Tibira.

“Well, at least the healer knew what she was doing. Your ribs are well on their way to healing. Your nose, though. Whoever set that . . . well . . . we’ll have to re-break it, I’m afraid. You’re far too beautiful to have a crooked nose.” Zara looked down at me, her brown eyes kind but strong. “Are you ready, child?”

She didn’t wait for an answer. She reached up with calloused, powerful hands and gripped my nose between her palms, giving a hard jerk with one hand. Fire bolted through my face, a pain worse than when Sin-Iddim had broken it to begin with. I screamed, choking when blood sluiced down my throat.

“Almost done,” Zara said. “This part will hurt as well. Ready?” Once again, she didn’t give me a chance to respond.

She pressed her palms against my nose again and pulled out, away from my face, peering down at me critically before adjusting the set of my nose. I screamed past grinding teeth when the bones stretched apart, and then slid into place, guided by Zara’s hands. Blood flooded from my nose, salty and hot and thick in my mouth, coating my chin and chest. She wiped my face clean with a rag, folded it, and then pressed it to my nose tenderly, pushing my hand up to hold it in place.

“There, now . . . it is done. I will look over the rest of you.” Zara raised an eyebrow, not asking for permission.

Quick, gentle hands probed my belly, my thighs, slipped up to my womanhood, gently but thoroughly examining.

Knowing eyes met mine. “You’ve miscarried.”

I nodded. “How can you tell?”

“You flinched at my touch, and your belly still seems to be healing. The flesh between your thighs shows evidence of having been . . . brutalized, and your other injuries all speak of a man’s angry attention. Such a thing often leads to pregnancy. You are weak, weaker than you should be, even with such injuries, which means you must have lost a lot of blood not too long past. The herbs that cause miscarriage often lead to excessive bleeding.”

“All true.”

“Who was it that did this to you?”

I hesitated to answer. I wanted to trust this woman, but was not sure how far I could.

“Speak openly, child,” Zara insisted. “You’re safe here, I promise.”

“Sin-Iddim.”

Zara’s hand jerked back from me. “The king of Larsa? Who are you, girl?

I realized she had been absent when I introduced myself to Noah. “My father is the king of Bad-Tibira.”

Zara rubbed her forehead with a knuckle. “Oh, Japheth. What have you gotten yourself into?” This was muttered quietly, not addressed to me. “I see. Well, it’s no wonder my husband reacted so strongly to your presence. So you ran from your husband, and somehow ended up with my son, who brought you here? I assume they will be looking for you?”

I was not ready to speak of what had happened to me, not yet. “There will be men looking for me, yes. I doubt they will know to come here, though. No one knew I was with Japheth, except my maidservant, and she would die rather than give me up.”

Zara shook her head as she re-wrapped the bandages around my torso. “Well, we can only hope they don’t come here. We’ll have to keep watch, just in case.”

When she was done, Zara sat down next me, taking a moment to rest. She glanced at me, then at one of the other women busy preparing the meal, a calculating expression on her face.

“How much do you really know about my son?” she asked me.

“Not much,” I admitted. “He ran away from here when he was young. I know that much. He didn’t get along with his father, he told me. His father—your husband—is a devout and zealous worshipper of Elohim, and that caused a rift between them.”

Zara nodded. “True enough, if lacking in the details. Yes, they disagreed over many things, Elohim especially. Japheth thought his father was too . . . strict. He thought he should be able to do things his own way, and naturally Noah didn’t agree. My husband is . . . very devoted to Elohim, and sometimes he loses sight of how his devotion affects the rest of us, but he means well.” She paused. “The trouble is, they are too much alike. So hardheaded, those men.”

“That’s what Japheth said.” I felt drowsy suddenly, exhausted. “I hope my presence doesn’t cause trouble for your family. Japheth . . . I care about him, very much.”

Zara nodded. “I can see that, and he cares about you as well. Don’t worry yourself, child. Rest. Things will work out, you shall see.”

Before my eyes slid closed, I saw Zara pat the other woman on the shoulder, the same woman to whom she’d glanced earlier. This woman was young, and pretty enough in a plain sort of way, with long, straight brown hair and wide brown eyes. She seemed sad somehow, resigned. I was falling asleep, but a thought niggled at me, keeping me awake for another few minutes.

There was something that didn’t make sense, but I couldn’t place what it was. I forced my eyes to stay open, looking around the room. Both of Japheth’s brothers were in the living area now, along with Zara and the three women. One of them was working with Shem, the older brother, their motions together practiced and comfortable, the way she glanced at him loving, familiar; Shem’s wife then. The next woman was talking with the younger brother, Ham, and they too seemed close and comfortable, obviously married as well. That left Zara and the third woman. Zara was Noah’s wife . . . so who was the third woman?

Zara was speaking to her with familiarity, in close enough proximity to demonstrate comfort with each other. The girl was clearly not a maidservant, but she didn’t resemble any of the men, or Zara, so I didn’t place her as a sister.

I looked again at the three women, and I saw the resemblance then. The three women were all sisters. A wife for Shem, a wife for Ham . . .

The third woman, then, was . . . Japheth’s wife?

He was married?

Follow Jasinda

Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

follow vbb 2

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads | Subscribe by Email

Related Reads:

Exclusive Interview with Jasinda and Jack Wilder

WILDER

Synopsis

captured coverYou go into combat, you fear death. It’s what keeps you careful, keeps you alive. I’ve faced death more times than I can count. I’ve taken bullets. I’ve taken lives. 

But nothing can prepare me for the soul-crushing terror of being captured. 

***

I married a Marine. I knew the risks. Every time my husband shipped out, I knew there was a chance he wouldn’t come back. But Thomas always did. Always. Then one day two officers in full dress uniform knocked on my door and shattered my world. 

How do you keep going when you lose what made life worth living?

Interview with Jasinda and Jack

Tell us about Captured.

Captured is a standalone sequel to Wounded, featuring Hunter Lee’s buddy Derek West. It’s set in and around the war in Afghanistan, dealing in depth with the effects of war on men and women, on relationships, on love. And, like our other books, it’s an homage to the healing power of love.

How did this story come about? Were you inspired immediately after Wounded or did this story come to you guys over time?

We had ideas for a Wounded sequel pretty much right away, and when we started to get a lot of feedback requesting a second book, we knew we had to figure something out.  I *Jasinda* came up with the title and the core notion of a captive soldier and the letter, oh, I think it was in the fall of 2013, actually. Jack and I talked the idea out over the course of several months. So, I guess the answer to your question is both.

Did the story come quickly once the idea took flight?

Yes and no. The original idea took some time to work out. Originally it was a photograph that Derek carried, but then the Zac Efron movie came out and we had to shift tactics, which was propitious, since the letter works so much better for our story anyway. Getting a book from idea to the first word on the Mac is always a process of months. But once we start writing, yes, it goes really fast.

Many think that this book is about war, but it’s really so much more than that. Can you both comment on this. How would you describe the story.

JACK: As with Wounded, a lot of people are scared to pick this book up, thinking it’s a war story. But, as with Wounded, the war is a setting, and catalyzer for events. It’s a means of establishing motive, if you want to get technical. The war itself is not the story. We certainly don’t shy away from depicting war with the devotion to accuracy and unflinching accuracy and realism as we do anything else, because we want the reader to FEEL the book, to be immersed, as that’s when they really connect. You can’t understand where Derek and Reagan are coming from without a strong sense of history, without the war as a very awful reality.

JASINDA: The story dictates all. It’s been said by countless other artists that the act of creation is more like carving away what doesn’t belong from the image, than actually forming something new, and that’s how it is with us. Captured is the story of Derek and Reagan, and what you read is what exists for us as the story. It’s a love story, first and foremost. We write about love, about the capacity for love to heal and mend and bring people past pain.

You have both written books that put our protagonists in situations that are sometimes impossible to process or work through. In this story, both Derek and Reagan struggle so much with their feelings. Guilt. Insecurities. Fear. Their pasts and their presents colliding. What is it about those emotionally impossible situations that call to you?

The impossible is what makes books unputdownable, to us. Life is often impossible. We have both lived through situations that seemed impossible, that had no easy or clear solution, so to us, it’s also just what we know. We don’t want to write about the same situations, the same scenarios or characters. We want our readers to never know what they’re getting into then they open a book, except compelling plots, believable characters, clear and beautiful prose, and professional packaging.

Jasinda, you write books that range from the super steamy to lighthearted romance to emotional powerhouses. How do you adapt your frame of mind from one type of book to another? Is there one type of book you enjoy writing the most?

As I said a couple questions ago, the story dictates what it will be, what will happen and how it will feel to read it. I don’t really have to shift my mindset, i just have to be willing to listen to the story and tell it as it demands to exist. I couldn’t pick one kind of book, no. They’re all fun, and different. I couldn’t write one type over and over, though, I get burnt out and bored, which is why we’re always shifting things up, because we like to feel surprised by what we’re working on as much as our readership does.

Tell us about what’s next after Captured. You’ve got a calendar full of releases — like usual — coming up!

Take a look at what we have up on preorder. That’ll tell you what’s next immediately. BETA, which I can promise you will be super fun, super sexy, and absolutely riveting, but in a different way than ALPHA. There’s TRASHED, which is going to feel a lot like STRIPPED, in terms of character type and emotional punch/sexy-times balance. Falling Away, the fourth book in the Falling series. That one…oh boy. We’re excited for that one. It’s gonna be good. Ben gets his book. that’s all I can say about that one. Beyond that? We have ideas, but nothing I can really hint at yet. Jack has Scavenger’s War on the burner. There’s a project we’re working on that, if it works out right, will be totally unlike anything we’ve ever done before.

Reading Order and Links

Captured can be read as a standalone, but is considered a follow-up to Wounded,
featuring connected characters.

wounded captured cover

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Related Reads:

Review: The Missionary by Jack Wilder

My Thoughts

Harrowing, intense and frighteningly real.
This book sheds light on the dark and vexatious reality of sex trafficking. The story itself… one of survival in the face of paralyzing fear,
of pain that cuts so deep that it permanently scars, and of finding hope
and love in order to begin the difficult process of healing.
A bold and striking debut novel from  Jack Wilder.

4stars

Synopsis

missionaryEx-Navy SEAL Stone Pressfield has a bad feeling about the proposed church missions trip to Manila, Philippines. The college-age church group plans to go to Manila and help victims of the sex-trafficking industry. Stone’s lingering nightmare memories about the sex-trafficking industry have him warning church leaders that the trip is a bad idea. He knows all too well that it could end in violence, and those involved aren’t to be trifled with.

When beautiful Wren Morgan goes missing, he has a sick feeling that he knows exactly who took her, and for what purpose. The problem is, Wren isn’t just any other student. She’s someone he’s close to, someone he cares about. Now she’s in the hands of cruel, evil men, and Stone is the only one who can rescue her before the unthinkable happens.

My Review

“She focused on her physical senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. She could see nothing, not even shadows within shadows. Smell… the stink around her was so clotted she could taste it. Touch? The surface benath her was uneven and gritty. Dirt perhaps. There were sounds, now that she focused. The distant caw of a seagull, the fain amorphous din of a city… Then there was a sixth sense. Or perhaps it was emotion, or memory. Fear. Not just the simple too-fast thumping of her heart and clenching of her stomach. no, this was deeper, powerful beyond comprehension. This was pure unadulterated terror.”

What a daring piece of work from Jack Wilder. Such a harrowing story of a girl whose life is irrevocably changed when she is brutally taken and held captive by sex traffickers in Manila. Wren Morgan goes from a missionary driven to help others to a victim herself, beaten and drugged in order to break her body, her spirits and her hope. Wilder’s description of her dark and derelict surroundings are vivid, her fear is palpable, making it even tougher to process the reality in which Wren finds herself.

“Fear keeps you alert. It keeps you alive. If you’re afraid, you’re still fighting to stay alive.”

With her future unknown, and innately knowing that she will be raped, she holds on to a shred of lingering hope that Stone Pressfield will save her. Stone traveled with her group on the mission trip, despite his incessant warnings for them not to go. Stone is also the man she has feelings for, but he has yet to express his feelings and show interest. Stone does feel, however. He is hardened, pragmatic, hiding behind a steel facade built to show the pain he carries. He’s an ex-Navy seal who knows Manila all too well. So well in fact, that violent memories and frightening nightmares continue to haunt him.

“I’ve never found any answers. I learn to sleep at night, over time. I try to accept that what happened, happened, and nothing I can do can change it.”

What ensues is an action-packed, nail-biting traipse through the dangerous and dirty streets of Manila. With everything that was happening, I was almost nervous to flip the page and see what I was to experience next. The feelings that consume Wren are heart-breaking and I couldn’t help but feel so crushed when I thought of so many real girls actually experiencing these things as I read.

“All of it came up and out. Sobbing wasn’t really the word for it. It was something beyond sobbing. It was the sound of a soul being shattered, of terror and pain finally being given true vent.”

Know that this is not an easy read. It’s shocking and intense. You will read about things that make you uncomfortable… sick to your stomach. Nonetheless, it’s important to shed more light on the subject and I applaud Jack Wilder for urging readers to try and make a difference. At the very least, this taboo subject matter certainly made the book different from what most are currently reading. For me, for some reason, I kept thinking I wanted to read this book in third person narrative… somehow feeling that it would push me more emotionally. Regardless, it was a really great book, one that was hard to get through, but simultaneously, one I couldn’t put down. I look forward to seeing what’s next from the Wilder duo!

addtogoodreads

missionary

Related Reads: