Lieutenant Ashwin Malhotra is a Makhai soldier—genetically engineered to be cold, ruthless. Unfeeling. His commanding officers consider him the perfect operative, and they’re right. Now, he has a simple mission: to infiltrate Gideon’s Riders, the infamous sect of holy warriors that protects the people of Sector One.
He’s never failed to execute an objective, but there’s one thing he didn’t anticipate—running into Dr. Kora Bellamy, the only woman to ever break through his icy exterior.
When Kora fled her life as a military doctor for the Makhai Project, all she wanted was peace—a quiet life where she could heal the sick and injured. The royal Rios family welcomed her like a sister, but she could never forget Ashwin. His sudden reappearance is a second chance—if she can manage to touch his heart.
When the simmering tension between them finally ignites, Kora doesn’t realize she’s playing with fire. Because she’s not just falling in love with a man who may not be able to love her back. Ashwin has too many secrets—and one of them could destroy her.
“The line between monster and hero was so, so thin. And it pivoted around loyalty.”
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
I was nervous? after finishing the Beyond Series because it's possibly my favorite series of all time. And how the heck do you live up to that? But I should have known that Kit Rocha would pull through.
“He let his gaze drift over the crowd. The Riders were dancing and laughing, as if their arms weren’t full of ravens marking the deaths they’d dealt. As if the religion they fought for didn’t curse them for taking those lives. They were walking dead men, martyrs who had embraced damnation.”
Ashwin is set in Sector One, home of the Rios family and Gideon's Riders. It was pretty interesting to go from Sector Four—where Dallas ruled with brute force—to Sector One—where the Rios family rules and there is kind of a religious cult feel to it. I loved reading about the temples and rituals, but my favorite part was reading about the Riders! Zeke and Gideon and Deacon all really caught my attention and I can't freaking wait for their stories!
“For a soldier meant to be free of emotion, he was drowning in impossible feeling.”
It's safe to say that since we met Ashwin back in the beginning of the Beyond Series we've been dying for his book. And we knew the leading lady was going to be Kora—his obsession. The romance between Kora and Ashwin starts off rocky. Kora thought Ashwin was dead after the final battle in eden and 6 months later he shows up. Also Ashwin wasn't "programmed" to feel emotions so he has a hard time dealing with what he feels for Kora. He ended up being soooo sweet and that last chapter? Unf.
“Will you teach me how to do this right?” His expression was so serious. So earnest. “How to love you?”
All in all—I loved the heck out of Ashwin. Bring on Deacon's story!
Excerpt from Ashwin:
Del circled Kora and trailed her fingers down her back. “Do you know the story of the Two Princesses, Kora?”
“Which two?” She grinned at Maricela to break the tension. “This sector is overrun with them.”
“The first two.” Del picked up her sketchpad and a charcoal pencil. “Maricela’s mother, Juana. And her aunt, Adriana.”
“Only what I picked up from the murals at the palace.”
Del’s hand moved quickly, the soft scratch of her pencil as hypnotic as the way her voice sank into an easy rhythm. “Adriana was a warrior. She fought for her people, killed for them if necessary. She fell in love with her bodyguard and challenged the Prophet himself for the right to marry him. In the paintings, she holds the heart of her people in her hands…but if the occasion called for it, Adriana could tear the heart out of an enemy’s chest. Her spine was pure steel.”
The scratching paused as Del glanced at Maricela, a smile curving her full lips. “But Juana was different. She married Adriana’s brother, the Prophet’s only son and heir. She and Adriana became sisters and friends. Juana had no gift for death, but there was nothing she touched that wouldn’t grow. No person she touched who wasn’t moved.” Del nudged Maricela with her foot. “No child she loved who didn’t thrive.”
Maricela nodded, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
Del went back to sketching. “Adriana’s spine was steel, but Juana’s was made of roses. And because men can be fools who only recognize one kind of strength, they underestimated her. When the wars came, Juana bent with the wind. She grew stronger and fiercer as she wrapped herself tight around the people she loved. She became a wall of thorns, and no one could touch the people she called hers without bleeding for their trouble.”
After a moment of silence, Del turned the sketchpad around. The bold design filled the page in a long vertical line—two sets of vines weaving in and around one another, with blooming flowers and tightly furled buds nestled between sharp thorns.
“I think you’re like Juana,” Del said, her voice still a husky murmur. “Your gift is life. There’s power in that.”
Kora’s fingers trembled as she reached out and touched the paper. “It’s beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Del tore the paper free and handed it to her before moving to the table that held her tattooing equipment. “I don’t give the spine of roses often. Not many have a heart big enough to carry the burden.”
“Are you sure that I do?” The question slipped out, unbidden. There were few things in life that Kora had never second-guessed, and her care for others was the biggest. The most important. It had been more than a job, or even her life’s work. It had been a calling.
But now, she questioned everything.
“Of course I’m sure.” Del returned with a marker in her hand and tilted Kora’s chin up. “But that’s not enough for you, because you’re not a believer.”
Kora had tried to study Sector One’s concept of God. But he was nebulous, his message and character changing depending on the situation, on interpretation, even on the person writing or speaking about him. As a scientist, Kora couldn’t reconcile the wild variances, the seemingly human failings in a being who was supposed to be infallible.
But there were some things she understood without hesitation. “I believe in the Rios family, and in your abilities. If you say I deserve to wear Juana’s roses, I’ll wear them.”
Del didn’t release her chin. “You’ve looked into Ashwin’s eyes. Did you see nothingness staring back at you?”
She’d seen confusion, puzzlement. Anger. Terror. And, just once, a need so sharp that she ached to remember it. “No.”
“It takes a big heart to see past the death. I’ve always wondered what Juana would have seen in the eyes of the last Makhai soldier who came to One. Perhaps the same thing you see in Ashwin’s.” Del crouched down so they were on eye level. “And remember, Kora. There was nothing she touched that didn’t grow.”
The words played over and over in Kora’s mind as she settled into the seat Del indicated. She considered them as Del prepared her skin, as the dull buzz of the tattoo machine filled the room, even through the first angry pricks of the needle.
At one time, she would have believed Del without hesitation. If she was talking about healing, about work, then Kora would have had no doubts at all. But emotion was trickier. People were hard to predict.
A Makhai soldier? That was impossible.
You can find out more about the series here, but for now, here are the covers for the first three books in Gideon’s Riders!
About the Authors:
Kit Rocha is the pseudonym for co-writing team Donna Herren and Bree Bridges. After penning dozens of paranormal novels, novellas and stories as Moira Rogers, they branched out into gritty, sexy dystopian romance.
The series has appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and was honored with a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice award. Find out more at kitrocha.com, or sign up to be notified of their next release at bit.ly/kit-rocha-updates