Today on the site, we’re revealing the cover of Bleeding Heart by Brittany M. Willows, the second and final installment in the Cardplay Duology, an anime-inspired YA urban fantasy series that follows four young adults imbued with extraordinary power as they navigate a world where magic has come roaring back from myth to reality. It releases May 11, 2023, and here’s the story that follows up Bloody Spade:
Spade, Heart, Diamond, Club.
Four legendary Suits.
Four chosen Keepers.
One world at stake.
When hell breaks loose, who will be holding all the cards?
After a valiant rescue mission saw to the end of the criminal organization Blackjack, Cardplay has taken advantage of the relative peace following their victory to recuperate. However, no news isn’t necessarily good news.
Two Blackjack operatives are still at large, presumed to have fled with the Warden of the Void and their unmasked leader to his estate in the cliffs—well out of Cardplay’s reach, and safe behind a wall of deceit and strategically-lined pockets. To make matters worse, a revelation about the identity of the Heart’s Keeper has everyone walking on eggshells.
All that stands between the mundane world and untold chaos is a single unbroken seal. One mistake and the futures, dreams, second chances, and fresh starts they’ve all been working towards could be ripped away.
The magical era was lost once already.
Is it doomed to be lost again?
And here’s the anime-inspired cover, done by the author herself!
But wait, there’s more! Check out this excerpt from Bleeding Heart by Brittany M. Willows:
With the bathroom occupied, the shower hissing in the background, Ellen set her brother up on a kitchen stool and broke out the hairdressing kit. The scissors’ pointed tips glinted in the rays streaming in from the patio doors.
“So, what’ll it be? Wanna go back to your old cut, or try something new?” asked Ellen, combing her fingers through his hair. Where once it had been straightened and cropped to the nape of his neck, it now fell past his jawline in loose, shaggy waves.
“Maybe just take a little off the ends. Tidy it up.”
“Yeah. That old cut required too much maintenance.” Not an exaggeration by any measure. He used to spend a whole hour washing and styling it each morning. “Besides,” he said. “I kinda like it long. You could say it’s grown on me.”
Ellen groaned. “The comedy committee should revoke your joking privileges.”
“Hey, come on, that was decent.”
“In a circle of dads, maybe.” Ellen took the scissors and comb and began to trim the excess fringe. “I like it this length, too,” she said. “Makes you look distinguished.”
For several minutes, intermittent snips and cheerful humming filled the kitchen in lieu of conversation. Exciting as a life touched by magic could be, these were the moments she had come to appreciate most—tending to mundane tasks in the company of family and friends, where the purest magic was in the bonds they shared.
No matter how topsy-turvy the world became, she could always rely on them to carry her through it.
Upstairs, the shower squeaked off. Fringe tidied, Ellen moved behind Alexander and noticed over his shoulder that he was twiddling his thumbs.
“Do you want to know why I decided to go back so soon?” he asked quietly. Well-acquainted with her curiosity, he didn’t wait for a response. “All I’ve done the past few months is think. About you, about Cardplay . . .” He puffed a breath. “I can’t be cooped up with my thoughts anymore, Ellen. I need to keep myself busy.”
She’d figured as much. He would always pile on work to distract from his troubles instead of dealing with them proactively, which was precisely why his eagerness worried her. If he bottled up the hurt, the anger, and the trauma Blackjack had inflicted on him, it would inevitably lead to another blowup—like at the charity ball, or the time he almost burned the house to the ground.
However, as he continued, her concern ebbed.
“I’d also prefer to be around people right now. Part of the reason I’m simplifying my routine is so I can devote more time to the things that matter. So I can actually be here, be present, and make sure I don’t miss out on more than I already have.”
“You didn’t miss much,” said Ellen. Nothing he would have wanted to be around for. She took another white lock between her fingers.
“I did, though. It’s small stuff, mostly, but it matters to me. There’ve been changes around HQ, there were interviews I was supposed to do. I also missed just being with you guys. Not to mention, my little sister getting her first boyfriend.”
The scissors skipped upwards, chopping off a significantly larger chunk of hair than intended. Blushing furiously, Ellen did her best to amend the error as she sputtered out a hasty reply. “W-what are you talking about?”
“You and Iori.” Alexander twisted slightly. With her cheeks burning hot as they were, she was grateful he hadn’t turned far enough to see her. “Aren’t you two together?”
“It’s not like that,” she insisted. “We’re friends.”
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed. Seeing how you interacted at dinner made me think something was going on there.” After an awkward beat of silence, he added, “Even if you’re not into him, it’s pretty obvious he’s into you.”
Ellen frowned. “What makes you say that?”
“Because he looks at you the same way Aryel looks at Naomi. The same way Mom and Dad looked at each other.” Now he twisted fully around to face her. “You seriously haven’t noticed?”
She averted her gaze to the clippings on the floor, feeling awfully exposed. “No,” she told him, and it tasted like a lie on her tongue. Maybe because he wasn’t the first to point it out. Her memory rewound to the night of the ball, to her friends ambushing her at the banquet table, teasing her about sparks after she’d waltzed with Iori.
“There’s no denying it; that boy’s got a crush on you . . .”
How could she be so certain?
“. . . and I bet you’ve got a crush on him too.”
At the time, Ellen had shrugged it off as Tatiana being Tatiana, playing matchmaker. But for Alexander of all people to mention it . . .
What could everyone else see that Ellen couldn’t?
Shaking her head to clear it, she forcibly turned her brother’s head away from her. “I don’t know what you think you’re seeing, but there’s nothing else there. Now keep still or you’re going to end up with bald spots.”
Brittany M. Willows is a bisexual/asexual author and digital artist living in rural Ontario, Canada. Inspired initially by video games and the stories they told, she began building her own fictional universes at a young age and has no plans of stopping any time soon. When she’s not writing about post-apocalyptic lands, wild magic, or people gallivanting through the stars, she can be found hunched over a tablet drawing the very same things.