Book Excerpt: Holly and Oak by Ash Tough - The Fantasy Review

Book Excerpt: Holly and Oak by Ash Tough

Here at The Fantasy Review, we are very happy to present a book excerpt of Holly and Oak by Ash Tough. A book description and links can be found at the end of the article. Let us know what you think of this excerpt in the comments!

Book Excerpt: Holly and Oak by Ash Tough

book excerpt of Holly and Oak by Ash Tough

Twins: two unique souls united by birth. – Unknown Author


A dark Ford Explorer SUV pulled to a stop outside of a two-storey,  Greek Revival Colonial-style house. The house had been converted into  four condominiums several years earlier. It was perfectly situated in  Capitol Hill in Seattle on a quiet tree-lined street lined between several  other beautiful homes.  

A slimly built woman, with long, luxurious dark brown hair,  captivating emerald green eyes, a strong jawline, alabaster skin and  a charming smile, stepped out of the car and onto the curbside. The  28-year-old was named Rowan Ashley. She was wearing dark blue jeans,  a dark grey shirt under a leather jacket with knee-high, black boots.  

Rowan knew that she had, at various times in her life, been described  as the human equivalent of a golden retriever. While she had initially  been offended by such a description, she had grown to appreciate that the  sentiment was a testament to her loyalty, good-hearted, irresistibly nice,  personable, friendly and positive nature, which was often accompanied  by a tendency to be a little goofy and overly eager at times. 

Just as Rowan shut the door, her mobile phone rang. She stopped to  lean against the side as she fished her mobile phone out of the pocket of  her form-fitting jeans. The name on her phone’s display read ‘Captain  Tomas Montoya’. Captain Montoya, like Rowan, was a member of  Seattle’s Police Department.  

Rowan enjoyed working under Captain Montoya as, on most days, she appreciated his no-nonsense and by-the-book approach. Today was  not one of those days, though, as she needed more than platitudes about  how she followed procedure. For Rowan, following procedure meant  nothing when it resulted in her partner in the hospital fighting for her  life. Rowan needed someone to tell her the truth, or at least what she  wanted to believe was the truth; she needed someone to tell her that  there was something more that she could have done.  

Rowan sighed and rubbed the nape of her neck before she started to  walk towards the door of her ground-floor apartment in the house in  front of her as she answered her phone and placed it on speaker. ‘Hello, Captain.’ 

‘Detective,’ said Captain Montoya in lieu of a greeting. ‘Are you still  at the hospital?’ 

‘I just got home.’ The tight fabric of her jeans enveloped her fingers  as she fished for her keys. ‘I needed to grab a change of clothes before I  head back to the hospital.’ 

‘Was there any news on Eddie before you left?’ 

He was referring to Detective Edana Caulfield, or Eddie as she was  more commonly known. Eddie had been Rowan’s partner for the Seattle  Police Department for the last eighteen months. Rowan had only just,  albeit reluctantly, left the hospital where Eddie was fighting for her  life after being injured during what had started as a routine canvass of  witnesses before it went drastically sideways.  

‘Yes.’ She spun her keychain around her index finger. ‘She has  three broken ribs, a punctured lung, a lacerated spleen and a severe  concussion. They were taking Eddie into surgery when I left.’  

Even Rowan, with all her positivity and optimism, knew that Eddie’s  prognosis sounded grim. However, as grim as that prognosis was, it  was so much better than her initial assessment. There had been several  seconds when she first saw Eddie on the ground that Rowan had been  sure that it was going to be a lot worse. Rowan was not sure whether she had ever been as scared as she had been in that moment when she  was struggling to find Eddie’s pulse. She had even been relieved for a  moment when the emergency room doctor had first given her Eddie’s  prognosis. That relief was short-lived, though, when the gravity of  Eddie’s situation sunk in.  

As Rowan turned the doorknob to open her front door, she felt  someone come up behind her. Before she could react, her head was  slammed into the jamb of her front door. Rowan, slightly dazed,  dropped her phone and keys as she dropped to her knees.  

‘Detective? Rowan?’ asked Captain Montoya in concern as Rowan  reached for her service weapon. 

Before Rowan can pull her service weapon from her holster, the  figure behind her stabbed her twice in the back; one stab between two  ribs into her lung and one stab between two other ribs into her liver.  Rowan continued to hear Captain Montoya dimly asking whether she  was okay as she fell forward against her front door.  

The weight of Rowan’s body pushed the door open, revealing her  living and dining room. It was filled with the assortment of furniture  that Rowan had been able to cobble together over the years. As she  tried to place a hand against her back to staunch the bleeding, her gaze  landed on one of the two things that were more about design than  function. It was a large black-and-white photo of New York’s Brooklyn  Bridge. She had purchased it and another large black-and-white photo  of New York’s Flatiron building when she first felt something calling her  to New York. She only hoped that she had the chance to see them in  person one day. 


Another 28-year-old-woman with the same slim build, as well as the  long, luxurious dark brown hair, captivating emerald green eyes, a  strong jawline, alabaster skin and a charming smile, walked across the  ground floor of the converted condominium apartment in the Greek  Revival Colonial-style house. The apartment was empty of all furniture  and belongings.  

The woman standing in the apartment was wearing a navy lace trimmed blouse and black slacks as she walked across the living and  dining room to look out of the room’s large windows. Her name was  Katherine Matthews.  

Kate knew that people perceived her, and rightly so, to be a  motivated and determined perfectionist with unrealistic expectations  of herself. She also knew that people misconstrued her introversion and  guardedness for an aloof detachment. She felt that this could not be  further from the truth as she had an incredible capacity for kindness,  loyalty and compassion. However, she knew that she preferred to display  such traits through everyday gestures instead of more ostentatious  grand gestures. She also measured these qualities against a responsible  and dutiful nature.  

‘As I was saying,’ said the real estate agent from behind Kate, ‘this  apartment just exudes warmth. It has 931 square feet of living space.  It has a classic open floorplan with oak hardwood floors, high ceilings, large picture windows and pocket doors. The owners would like to have  a new tenant as soon as possible. The owners updated the kitchen about  two years ago. It is through to your left.’ 

Kate turned to look at the real estate agent standing behind her. She  had introduced herself to Kate as Agatha Trueman. Agatha was only a  centimetre shorter than Kate and had wavy blonde hair that came to  just past her shoulders, and warm brown eyes. Kate would have guessed  that Agatha was of a similar age to her, being in her late twenties or early  thirties. Even in the short time that she had been around Agatha, Kate  had realised that the other woman was highly motivated and determined  bordering on stubbornness. Admittedly, Kate thought, those were traits  that well-suited Agatha to her chosen profession.  

Kate wandered away from the window to glance in the kitchen as  Agatha continued. 

‘The master bedroom is back this way. It has double glass French  doors, which open to a rounded balcony.’ 

Slowly, Kate turned back towards Agatha. The apartment suddenly  darkened. The empty spaces filled with an eclectic array of furniture that  suddenly materialised out of thin air. The furniture looked like that odd  mix that one would normally see in someone’s first apartment. On the  wall between the foyer and the doorway to the master bedroom, there  was a large black-and-white photo of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. On  the wall between the doorway to the second bedroom and the kitchen,  behind the couch, there was another large black-and-white photo of  New York’s Flatiron building.  

A woman, wearing a rain jacket, jeans and rubber galoshes, walked  through the front door and hallway before she walked into the living  room. The woman dropped a bag next to the doorway then walked  to the couch and sat down. She picked up a remote from the coffee  table and turned on the television. In the low light from the television,  Kate finally saw the other woman’s face. It was identical to her own. 

The darkened room filled with furniture suddenly dissolved, leaving her  standing in the empty and sunny apartment facing Agatha.  ‘Ms Matthews?’ asked Agatha as she cocked her head slightly to the  left. ‘Is everything all right?’ 

Kate offered Agatha a tight smile to cover her surprise before she  walked past her to look at the master bedroom. ‘What can you tell me  about the owners?’ 

‘An older couple owns the property,’ said Agatha after a brief pause. Kate assumed that the other woman had been waiting on some  explanation as to why she had suddenly spaced out and was slightly  disconcerted when she found that an explanation was not forthcoming. ‘They purchased the property about four years ago when it was  converted into a condo. From memory, they were downsizing. They  lived here until two years ago when they moved to a nearby retirement  community. They have been renting it out to their daughter ever since.’ ‘Please tell me they didn’t evict their daughter,’ said Kate as she tilted  her head slightly in confusion. 

‘No, they didn’t,’ said Agatha softly. ‘Their daughter died. She was  killed about six weeks ago. The owners aren’t sure whether they want to  hold on to the property but they are relying on the rental income until  they can decide.’ 

‘Hence the highly motivated part?’ asked Kate. 


‘Should I be concerned about my safety here or in this neighbourhood?’  ‘No.’ Agatha’s brows knitted together in a frown. ‘Why would you  ask that?’ 

‘You did just say that the woman that lived here was killed less than  two months ago,’ said Kate. 

‘Right, no. She was a cop killed in the line of duty. Her death had  nothing to do with how safe this building or this neighbourhood are,’  said Agatha before she paused. ‘So, would you like a rental application?’

‘Yes, I’d appreciate that,’ said Kate. ‘I’d also like to be notified if the  owners are interested in selling.’ 

‘Would you be interested in buying the property if they are?’ asked  Agatha in surprise.  

Kate only smiled, more genuinely, in response.

Holly and Oak: Description

book excerpt of Holly and Oak by Ash Tough


Running from the life she had built in New York to attempt a new life in Seattle, Kate is determined to run from her demons before they swallow her whole.

Instead of the desired new beginning, Seattle holds the ruins that threaten to overwhelm her once more.

Kate learns of a twin sister, along with her death, and finds the remnants of a decades-long civil war that tore her unknown family apart.

A new world suddenly reveals itself to Kate; one populated by Faeries, wolf-shifters, kitsune and a vast array of other Fae – some determined to protect her and some hellbent on ending her…

Kate must stand against the forces assembling and stop the darkness consuming her or lose even more than she first thought sacred…

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