Tag Archive | excerpt

The Divinity Bureau: Author Interview + Excerpt

Title: The Divinity Bureau

Author: Tessa Clare

Date of Publication: September 21st, 2017

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Summary:

The Hunger Games meets Romeo and Juliet in a stunning debut about a forbidden romance between a young activist and a government employee for a corrupt bureau that controls the population by deciding who lives and who dies.

Roman Irvine is a disgruntled IT Technician for the Divinity Bureau, a government agency that uses random selection to decide who lives and who dies. In a world where overpopulation has lead to pollution, a crippled economy, and a world in crisis, he’s accepted the bureau’s activities as a necessity… until he meets April McIntyre.

April has every reason to be suspicious of Roman. He works for the Divinity Bureau, which sent her father to an early grave. But he’s also sweet and loyal, and unbeknownst to her, he saved her life. As Roman and April fall deeper in love, the deeper they’re thrust into the politics of deciding who lives and who dies. Someone wants April dead. And the bureau’s process of random selection may not be so random after all…

 

THE DIVINITY BUREAU – Excerpt

I take the elevator to the third floor, where April’s bedroom is. There are only two rooms on that floor, and April’s room is the one with a door that’s been slammed shut. I give it a knock. “April?”

No answer. I try again.

“April, it’s Roman.”

My only response is silence.

“Listen, I know you’re upset. I know you probably don’t want to talk about it right now…” I pause, listening for a sound from the other side of the door. “But I was hoping that I could change your mind. Or at least get you to talk to me.”

I wait for a response, but none comes.

“Could you at least open the door?”

The door doesn’t bulge. I sigh and slide to the floor. I’m ready to give up when I hear a voice from the other side of the door: “Can you answer one question for me?”

I press my ears against the door, afraid that I might miss something if I stop paying attention for a split second. “Of course,” I answer softly.

April’s voice is so soft that it sounds like a whisper. “Why didn’t you do anything to stop it?”

My mouth falls open. “What?”

“You heard me,” April says, her voice growing louder with newfound determination. “Why didn’t you stop my mother from being elected?”

I press my forehead against the door, wincing at her words.

“You work for The Divinity Bureau,” April continues on. “You have a part in deciding who lives and who dies.”

“April, there wasn’t anything that I could do to stop it.”

“You could have tried,” she hisses.

I don’t know what to say.‘She’s hurting,’ I tell myself. People say awful things when they’re upset. Still, my reasoning doesn’t heal the sting from her words.

“Trust me,” I say, pressing my brows together. “I never wanted this to happen. The last thing I ever wanted was for you – or your family – to get hurt.”

“It’s not just about my family.”

“Then what is this about?” I ask, my voice growing desperate. “Please – tell me, what do I need to do to make this better?”

“How many people have died since you started working for the bureau?”

I’m taken aback by her question. “I…”

I don’t know what to say.

Unfortunately, my silence is the only answer that April needs. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?”

“You sit behind a computer all day,” April says bitterly. “You see a name on your screen – not realizing that this is a person with a life, a family, hopes, and dreams. Then you destroy that life by electing them to die!”

Her words hurt. I wish she’d open the damn door so that she could see.

“I get it,” she continues. “There’s only so much you can do. But once the day is over, you go home, collect a paycheck, and forget about it. That’s what I can’t seem to understand.”

I slam a fist against the door. “It’s not like that! Trust me, April, there is so much that you don’t know – things that I want to tell you…”

I want to tell her everything: the election report, seeing her name on the list, coming to her work, the ruined hack job on her father’s computer, and the research that I had done on her family. I let out a breath. “I’ll tell you everything if you’ll please open the door.”

I press an ear against the door, not caring if I fall over. But I never do.

The last thing I hear from April is a solid, “No.”

 

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Author Interview:

What inspired you to write The Divinity Bureau?

It’s a crazy story! When I was nineteen years old, I was in an unfortunate situation where I was homeless and living in my car. I remember thinking, “There’s no room for me in this world” and just blaming everything I could for my situation, including overpopulation.

During that time, I was also spending a lot of time in the library. The place was the perfect place to be during that period in my life. It was open late, it had heat, but most importantly, it had books to keep me entertained. I was reading a lot of dystopian books. I had also just watched An Inconvenient Truth. On top of that, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. All of those elements came together to form The Divinity Bureau.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

My favorite character is April. Interestingly enough, I had a tough time connecting with her at first. When I started writing The Divinity Bureau, I would skim over writing her parts. She’s the daughter of a wealthy politician, so she’s a brat at times. I also couldn’t relate to some of the problems that she faces throughout the novel.

To make her more relatable to me, I created the storyline of her being cut off from her trust fund. I also gave her a job as a barista, because that’s the job that I was working at the time. And as I started writing more of her scenes, I began to see more of myself in her – from her stubbornness to her innate desire to make an impact on the world. So far, the feedback I’ve gotten is that people like Roman more; but April will always have a special spot in my heart.

What made you want to become a writer?

I started writing when I was seven. I think it’s just something that I was born with. I even attempted to write my first chapter book when I was nine! (I made it to three chapters)

I think I was just born with an expressive personality, and writing is my way of making sense of the world.

What book are you currently reading?

Your book, actually! Just started reading The Bride of Glass!

How many books do you plan to have in this series?

Roman and April’s story is going to be a trilogy, but I’ve had a couple of ideas swirling around for prequels. The world of The Divinity Bureau has so much history, and I’d love to explore the stories behind them.

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is Roman and April’s first fight as a couple. I don’t want to spoil it by giving away the reason for it, but April asks Roman how many people have died since he started working for the bureau. At first, he’s flabbergasted. He doesn’t know because he’s never thought about it. To him, it’s a job. He does his work and collects a paycheck at the end of the day, not thinking about the implications of his work. But people die under his watch. And you can see his mindset shift in that moment and throughout the rest of the story.

What challenges do you face while writing?

I think the biggest challenge is not letting life get in the way of my dreams. I mentioned earlier that I was living in my car when I started writing this story, but I soon began to move up in my career. By the time I was 23, I was promoted to a corporate manager. But I always came back to writing – it was my dream since I was a kid to write a novel, and I didn’t want to leave that behind.

Still, it was challenging when I’d watch people my age spend their weekends at the bar while I was holed up in my apartment working on this book. They’d come back and tell me these crazy stories that I missed out on, and I felt like I was missing out. When the book was done and I finally had time to come out with them, I started to realize that those nights, while fun, didn’t compare to the feeling of accomplishment after a period of hard work.

Favorite color.

Black. Half of my closet is black. If I could, I’d probably even make my book covers black!

What advice do you have for future writers?

As cliché as this might sound, the best advice is to keep writing and to follow your dreams. I listened to Gary Vaynerchuk give a talk about what it means to become an “overnight success.” When he started making it big, he would have friends email him and tell him that he got lucky and became an overnight success. But he spent every weekend from the time he was fifteen until he was thirty honing his craft. And I think writers need to do the same. We hear these stories about new authors debuting on the New York Times Bestseller list and think about how we’ll never get there – but there are two factors here: 1) you don’t need a movie deal and to be on the bestseller list to be a success. I have a friend with an email list of 10,000 subscribers who makes her living writing romance novels. And 2) “overnight success” doesn’t happen overnight. You still have to keep working on your craft, working on your marketing, and learn and grow along the way.

What do you like about dystopian books?

Honestly, the world is constantly evolving. New technology comes out every day. New trends emerge. Cultures shift. All of these things have an impact on the world. What I like about dystopian books is the way authors interpret the things happening today and the impact that they might have in the future – whether it’s the discovery of immortality (as in The Divinity Bureau) or an atomic war (such as in 1984).

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About Tessa:

Tessa Clare is the author of The Divinity Bureau. When she’s not writing, she’s an entrepreneur, an activist, a speaker, and the Managing Director of Asset Creative House.

Born in 1992, she started her early career as a concession stand attendant, a busgirl, a barista, a player’s club representative for a casino, and an administrative assistant. She also spent years working as a corporate manager, where the groundwork for Asset Creative House was inspired.

The Divinity Bureau is Tessa’s debut novel about a forbidden love between a young activist and a government employee working for a corrupt bureau, set in a dystopian world.

Link (including Buy links): www.divinitybureau.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tessaclareofficial/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tessaclareauthor/

 

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Summerlypse: Author Interview + Excerpt

First off, I really liked the style of writing the author used when I read this book. Second off, the teens felt like actual teens.

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Summary:

After his crush rejects him, seventeen-year-old Colton catches a plane to Mexico, hoping to forget all about girls. But a night out at a dance club crowded with long legs in miniskirts doesn’t help, especially when he meets the club’s beautiful DJ, Alex.

In awe of her mixing skills, Colton finds it hard to believe Alex is deaf. As they bond, she asks him to help her win a DJ contest behind her rich, estranged father’s back.

Colton’s not a wimp or anything, but millionaires with armed bodyguards are not his ideal vacation buddies. The only problem—if he helps her, he may fly back home in a body bag.

Excerpt:
 
“Who’s the other girl?” Martin asks.
“Does it matter?”
He puts a hand on my shoulder. “In the matter of beautiful women it matters.”
I roll my eyes. “Chloe,” I say reluctantly, and he’s like, “The…?” and I’m like, “Yup.” And he draws a guitar-shaped girl in the air. “The one with…?” And I point at the imaginary girl. “That’s the one.” He gives me a WTF look. “No way.” And I’m like, “Sí way.”
He does his eyebrow wiggling thing. “I still think you should connect with them, and I mean connect at the metaphysical level without the meta. And—”
“Stop. Can’t you see Miranda broke my heart?”
“Broke your heart? That’s so lame. Sometimes I think you’re the girliest dude friend I’ve ever had.”
“And sometimes I think you’re…you’re…the Mexicanest friend I’ve ever had.”

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Alexa Whitewolf: Author Interview + Excerpt

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Summary:

“It was impossible they had met before – of that she was certain. Yet his hold on her was undisputable, an irrational pull to the utmost recesses of her soul.”

Vivienne du Lac has everything she could wish for – a normal, peaceful life, a good job, cushy nest egg, and a semi-social nightlife. The only problem? She’s clueless to being the reincarnation of the Lady of the Lake, Merlin’s apprentice.

Sebastien Dubois is the bad boy you wouldn’t take home to mom and dad – quite the opposite. The sexual chemistry between them is sizzling from the start – but there’s more to the tall, dark and handsome stranger. When a magical past tumbles into her orderly reality, he is Vivienne’s only hope at survival.

Caught between darkness and light, a battle she has no intention to fight – let alone the knowledge to win – Vivienne quickly finds out not even closest allies can be trusted.

Can she look within and become the enchantress Merlin meant her to be… Or will she lose it all over love, for Sebastien’s salvation? This is a battle between good and evil you don’t want to miss.

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Excerpt from Avalon Wishes

As he walked down the stairs in the tower, Merlin glanced out to the forest, before continuing on his journey.

He passed through the last of the barriers, and out the servants’ exit, finally entering the peace and quiet of the gardens. They were rectangular, about the size of his room, with flowers of every type sparsely across. An oak tree, older than the castle itself, stood in the middle.

It was towards it that Merlin headed, his hands tingling at the prospect of touching magic again. In these three days, he had not had as much time as he wanted, and it was akin to breathing: a need, potent and inquisitive.

He took a seat by the oak, hidden in the tree’s shadow, and pressed both hands to the earth by his side. Imbued by the power of the nature surrounding him, Merlin breathed in deeply. On his second exhale, his hands began glowing, and a faint vibration animated them.

Soon, Merlin was lost in the magic, the back and forth between him and the earth. It felt as though his entire body was re-energizing, replenishing with an elixir far more potent than any human beverage.

He could feel himself reverting back to primal needs, carnal desires, to a part of himself that wished to be freed.

“You must be the new advisor.”

The soft, melodic voice penetrated Merlin’s haze, and he blinked. As he came to, her scent assaulted his senses: sweet, almost overtly so, like a nectar he craved to sample.

Merlin caught the woman’s presence out of the corner of his eyes, and turned his head slowly to the side.

Morgana.

She had not introduced herself, but every fiber of his being felt it. Her alabaster skin was almost translucent in the early morning. Long, straight black hair fell to her waist, cinched by a belt. Her soft blue gown did little to hide the curves of her body, something his eyes lingered on.

“I did not mean to interrupt,” Morgana spoke again, and his eyes settled on her rosebud mouth, and the lips moving ever so softly.

Merlin gulped, then looked away. He could not, would not. A promise had been made, one he had to keep. Something within was emphasizing that he really needed to uphold it.

“You did not interrupt,” he replied hoarsely. His throat felt as though it had been force-fed sand.

Extinguishing the magic, Merlin reluctantly let go of the earth and stood. He had no choice, now, but to turn towards Morgana.

The princess moved a few steps closer, as though pulled closer by the same force he was fighting against. This is not good.Merlin could sense the unseen atmosphere literally yanking him forward, like a magnet unwilling to let go.

Their eyes met – and held – cerulean blue to silver. Then Morgana’s gaze roamed over the wizard in a way that did nothing to appease his unsettled body.

What is this!? Merlin fumed internally.

Such weakness had never struck him around a woman – especially not one as young as her. For though Morgana was very much of age at her two decades of life, there was an innocence still within her eyes that drew him in like a moth to a flame.

“I am Merlin,” he cleared his throat, bowing in greeting. “The new advisor, you are correct. And I presume you are Lady Morgana?”

There was a brief hesitation, as though she wanted to try lying, then Morgana inclined her head in assent. “I am.”

Their gazes locked again and Merlin cursed the fates for putting him on the path of this temptress. Her eyes were not so innocent now. Instead, a burning look shone within, one he very well recognized, for it was surely the same one reflected in his own.

Lust, pure and simple.

“I was surprised,” Morgana spoke again, drawing his gaze to hers, “to hear my father sought you out. Apparently, tales of your exploits reached him from afar.”

Merlin was silent, unsure of how to answer. Morgana peered at him for a few moments longer, before smiling briefly. “At ease, Merlin. I shall leave you to your secrets.”

As she turned to leave, the mage could not help his eyes from roaming her form. He turned away, cursing against his own impulses.

Purchase Avalon Wishes on Amazon

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Author Interview:

What made you want to become a writer?

Growing up, I didn’t have the easiest childhood. I think we all struggle with issues with at least one parent, and for me that was my dad. Writing was a way of escaping the limits he imposed on my life. At the time, everything I was reading in young adult had heroines that always needed saving. I came up with my own, women that are proud, and strong and yes incredibly stubborn, but there is more to them than simply falling in love and living happily ever after (not that there’s anything wrong with that! I love HEAs ). What I mean is, writing started as an escape, maybe even a form of therapy, but it became a lot more. The fact that after years of taking a break from it, and moving forward in my life, I rediscovered the passion for words was enough to decide me that I wanted to make my passion my life’s work. That’s when I truly decided to become a writer.

What do you find the hardest about being an author?

Shutting up the characters in my head? Oops, that wasn’t meant to be a question. But seriously, it’s hard sometimes. Like now, I’m technically done writing for the year. So I should be focusing on marketing, networking, etc. But instead I go and start writing again, because the characters won’t leave me alone. They’re not all like that, honest. Mainly Alistair and Merlin, they bicker a lot… Sorry, rambling probably wasn’t part of this, eh? Marketing! My final answer.

What is your favorite character you have written and why?

That’s HARD. And I mean trying to push a Transformer out of way with puny human hands, hard.

My husband would disagree, but up until recently I would have said my version of Merlin from Avalon Wishes. There’s something about writing him as a younger Mage, and all the crap he gets into… Too much fun. Of course, half the fun of it is Alistair, I mean they’re really two peas in a pod!

But currently, I would have to say Freya, my young heroine from The Sage’s Legacy series. There’s a lot of the younger me in her, and as I re-edited the second novel in the series, I found myself bonding with her all over again.

What is your favorite color?

Green! Not neon, but emerald like the beautiful Ireland I’m about to visit in less than 2 weeks!!! 

What is your writing process?

It’s a mess. And I mean, no heads or tails kind of mess… I get an idea, write it down. It’s usually a sentence or two. At some point, a scene will pop in my head. It could be the beginning, middle or end of the novel, and I write it down. Then keep writing from there. I end up with scenes all over the place, notebooks, napkins, you name it…. Then finally type it all up into a semblance of a rough. That’s when the fun really begins! I dig into the meat of the story, fill in plot holes, dialogue, descriptions. Go through five or six edits, then send to my beta, make changes, and after send to my editor.

What book are you currently reading?

Singularity, by Eldon Farrell.

What’s your favorite book genre?

Thriller. I’m a huge James Patterson and James Rollins fan! 

What kind of scenes do you find hardest to write?

Love scenes? I always wonder if my mom will end up reading them

What are you writing next?

I have Avalon Nightmares and Relics of the Underworld (the last instalments of my two series Avalon Chronicles and Sage’s Legacy) planned for release early 2018, so those are my major projects.

But lately (last 2 weeks) I’ve gotten annoyingly distracted by working on a standalone novel (at least I hope it will be!), hesitantly titled “Blazing in a Storm of Ashes”.

Here’s a little excerpt from the young heroine, Corinna:

“I’m not crazy. But when I start getting these bloody migraines and hearing voices, I’m fairly certain I lost it.

And then they turn out to be two hot-as-hell guardians, here to guide me on my quest to purge the world of evil. Because apparently, that’s my job.

I guess it’s just as well I’m willing to play into their delusional game. Until, of course, I find out it’s no delusion at all.

It’s all the more real, and the Phoenix in me rises to the surface, unbidden, unchallenged… And un-allied with either Light or Darkness.

Like I said, I’m not crazy. But read if you dare, and you can judge for yourself.”

What message do you have for future authors?

Never stop writing. If it makes you happy, do it. But don’t write into the genre and way you think your audience will like. Write what you are passionate about, and the rest will follow!

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About Alexa Whitewolf:

I was born in Romania originally, moved to Canada in my teens and then pretty much all over the place in this vast country. Growing up, writing was an escape, a fun way to get away from the reality of the world around me. I always felt different, and though I fit in almost everywhere, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere.

That changed when I moved to Ottawa for university, at least for a while. But writing was my constant, my always-there escape.

I started writing around 14, The Sage’s Legacy series. I had both book I and II finished by the time I was 16. With university and life getting in the way, I took a break from writing, only dabbling in the occasional contract or fun short stories for my own amusement. It wasn’t until my then-fiancé, now-husband, found one of my notebooks scribbled with scenes from a story, that I got back into it. Avalon Dreams was the product of that long year, followed by its sequel Avalon Wishes this year. My two series, The Avalon Chronicles and The Sage’s Legacy both have strong, stubborn heroines.

Though so far I’ve been writing mainly fantasy/romance/adventure mixes, I have a few projects that will dabble in the paranormal and pure romance coming up J

When I’m not writing, I’m at home with my pups, Zeus and Achilles, out hiking with my husband, or just at my local Starbucks sipping that godly caramel macchiato!

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Website: https://www.alexawhitewolf.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexa_whitewolf

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alexawhitewolf/

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Seduction en Pointe: Excerpt + Author Interview + Giveaway

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Blurb: When successful TV star of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Nicco Castillo, finds his boyfriend in bed with another man, he goes full-on Hollywood trainwreck that lands him in ER. Next thing he knows, the producers are shipping him off to Paris to shape up and learn to dance for the next season’s story arc. But his incredibly tempting Parisian ballet instructor, Isabelle La Croix, makes that all too difficult, especially when he learns about her decadent desires–desires Nicco is all too pleased to indulge in. Against the ballet barre, the balcon railing, and wherever and for however long Isabelle is willing to have him.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seduction-en-Pointe-Gemma-Snow-ebook/dp/B074G39ZW5/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

B & N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seduction-en-pointe-gemma-snow/1126901867?ean=9781682523995

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gemma_Snow_Seduction_en_Pointe?id=fQQvDwAAQBAJ&hl=en

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seduction-en-pointe

Loose Id: http://www.loose-id.com/seduction-en-pointe.html

New Release! (2) copy

Excerpt: 
 

And walking through the door to his producer’s office, he stopped dead. In that moment he absolutely believed that everything happened for a reason.

She faced away from him, but even at a distance he could see the smooth curve of her neck, the beautiful line of her back, arching against the chair. She was a small woman, but a shadow of muscles adorned her shoulders and upper arms where they weren’t hidden behind the waves of white-blonde hair pulled into a tight ponytail. She was something from an erotic fairy tale, all subtle power and ephemeral beauty.

And it wasn’t just that—though there was plenty of that. But it was the way she held herself, too, full of strength and self-possession and confidence. This woman knew exactly who she was in a way that Nicco envied and respected all at the same time.

He schooled his features and checked in with the receptionist for his appointment with the French production team before turning around to face her. If he’d thought her beautiful from the back, he hadn’t been prepared for her face, for the expression in her pale-blue eyes, for the softest, sweetest curve of dusky-rose lips as they parted slightly.

She read a magazine, and Niccolo cursed himself for having let his written French lapse, because he didn’t have a clue which glossy it was.

Still, never hurt to try, and something about this unknown woman made it impossible for him to walk away or pick one of the seats at the far end of the waiting room. She called to him, a modern-day siren, all enticing and impossible to ignore. So he sat beside her, catching a hint of her scent. She smelled like lemons, sweet and fresh, and that seemed to fit her, as did the pointed sharpness of her neck, which grew considerably more rigid once she realized he planned on talking to her.

“What is it you’re reading?” he asked, thickening his Spanish accent. As long as he’d been chasing lovers, the Spanish charm had always worked wonders. Hell, it did wonders for getting him starring roles too.

“Who wants to know?” Her accent was light, as though she’d learned English alongside her French, studied in Sweden or London or New York City. But for all of the softness that came spilling out of those pale-rose lips, there was a steel core that told Nicco she wasn’t having any of his charm. Her words came out strong, self-possessed, and confident, and they made him curious about the woman below the slight frame. Despite appearing so soft, she held her head at a tilt that signified power, kept her neck straight, her shoulders arched. Everything about her stance told Nicco exactly how she felt at his intrusion into her space. Normally, he took his cues and left the obviously uninterested alone, but this woman was enchanting and mysterious, and Nicco found he couldn’t quite look away from her, even as he knew that he tempted the serpent, perhaps because he did.

“Niccolo.” He extended his hand. “Here for a meeting with Monsieur La Montagne.” According to the terms Parker had laid out, Nicco would be working alongside La Montagne’s office on a PR tour of Paris while he took his dance classes, giving a few interviews here and there, a signing or two, onward and upward.

The woman beside him, however, appeared abjectly unimpressed. He liked that, liked that she didn’t buy into his bullshit the way everyone else did, the way he’d been doing for so long.

“That is a remarkable coincidence,” she replied, her eyes taking on a sardonic glint he knew came at his expense, “given that you are in his office, after all.” Feisty, this one. She obviously enjoyed goading him, and Nicco felt a wash of something dangerous at the thought that men probably attempted to charm her quite often. For some reason, his visceral reaction to this strange, nymph-like woman grew stronger each time she stabbed him with her barbed tongue. That was inconvenient, to be certain, but it didn’t stop him from wanting more.

But there was something about his—well, he wouldn’t necessarily call it just an attraction—to this woman that went deeper than lust. Nicco had had lovers, more than his fair share of them since everything with Antonio had gone so royally tits up, and he’d never lacked for a partner if he wanted one. No, whatever had him suddenly desperate to learn more about this mysterious woman went deeper than that, to some fundamental part of himself that might even long for redemption.

“I’d heard about the French,” he said. He should just turn around and leave her to her magazine, but he just couldn’t seem to do so. “Seems the rumors about witches and the smell of cheese aren’t so terribly off.”

She raised an eyebrow, and he took some satisfaction in the small quirk at the corner of her mouth that told of a repressed smile. He’d bet a week’s pay that her smile would light up the city, and he promised himself that at some point, he would be the cause of it. He didn’t know how or why, just that it would happen one way or the other.

“American, is it?” she asked, ignoring his slight.

“Mostly,” he replied. “Spanish sometimes. Occasionally English.”

From her confused expression, Nicco wondered if he had been spending too much time in California. Normally, folks didn’t question his various origins. Of course, the French were reputedly distrusting of anyone who wasn’t French. Still, he had to admit that there was something simple and altogether enjoyable about flirting with a woman who didn’t want to sleep with him just because he was a celebrity or because she angled to get her face in the papers. It felt good to just be himself for what seemed like the first time in a very long time.

“Of course,” she replied, breaking his train of thought. “All that ego can’t be exclusively American, can it?”

Nicco almost laughed out loud.

“You already know me so well,” he said. “Would you care to know me better? Dinner, perhaps?” It was bold, and the moment the words were out of his mouth, Nicco knew it had been too audacious. Something flitted across her eyes, and he could almost see her folding into herself. No, he didn’t like that, didn’t enjoy seeing this confident person turn into something else so quickly. He might be an ass about recognizing the signs in his own life, but someone or something had clearly hurt her—recently, if the ache across those beautiful pale-blue eyes was anything to go by.

“No smart remark,” he commented, hoping to bring back some of the devil he’d seen in her expression. “I’m surprised.”

She squared her jaw, and Nicco found himself happy to see even a little of the fight fill her eyes, even if it was at his expense. And, as he had anticipated, she turned a cold tongue in his direction, murmuring low under her breath.

“You don’t know the first thing about me, so I’ll ask you kindly to take a walk.” Fury, for all it was leashed and low in her whisper. And it made him ache, made him feel some of the hurt in his own chest, because the first week after he’d discovered Tony with his lover, Nicco had lashed out at everyone and everything, taking the whole wide world down to his level of hurt and sadness.

He didn’t doubt that he was nothing more than the proxy for her fury, and it made him feel bad, made him ache for her and for himself a little too.

“Miss La Croix?”

Before she could say anything that might cut him to the quick—would most definitely cut him to the quick—the woman beside him nodded in answer to the receptionist and stood without another word. If he had thought the slope of her neck enticing, he wasn’t prepared for the way her long, powerful legs, visible below her light-blue dress, mesmerized him. She didn’t so much walk down the hall as glide, her body so completely under her command that it made him wonder about putting his body in her hands too. She didn’t give him a second look as she slipped away, and that made Nicco’s heart ache in a way he didn’t want to analyze.

Her magazine still sat on the corner of the table, one of the pages bookmarked with a thick, folded corner, as if she planned on going back to it. Thinking quickly, he pulled out a pen and scribbled a note down on the back cover.

If you ever need a stranger for a friend, give me a call. There are some things we don’t heal from so easily.

Below that, he jotted his e-mail address and then took a short jog down the hallway to catch up with her. The simple note, just like the few extra moments he had spent with his fans outside, felt like color returning to the black-and-white version of himself. He still couldn’t see the full picture, not yet, but just being out of LA helped him focus.

She looked surprised and not all that happy when he drew level with her.

“You left this,” he said, handing her the magazine but not letting go.

She pursed her lips. “And what do you want in exchange for it?” Her tone sounded almost resigned. Bored, almost. He knew better, though. Her expression had a fire—blue and burning—and he rather enjoyed inspiring a reaction in her, whatever it was.

“What’s your name?” he asked her, suddenly desperate to know. By the smallest amount, her expression softened, and Nicco had to wonder what she had expected him to ask. He’d never push a person to do anything they didn’t want to do. He had retained some standards over the last few months of going full-on Hollywood.

“The catch?” she asked, her lips still pointedly pursed in his direction. And what lips they were.

Nicco shook his head. “No catch. I just want to know your name.” He really, really did. She sighed and nodded, sending the white-blonde ponytail swishing across her shoulder. Then she squared her jaw and lifted her chin.

“Isabelle La Croix.” She offered nothing else.

“Isabelle,” he repeated, because he couldn’t seem to stop himself from doing so. “A pleasure.” He handed her the magazine with his note facing down and watched as she gave a sharp nod and continued down the hallway, watched her far after there was nothing left to watch. What about this woman set his body to flame and his mind to far more carnal images than would ever be appropriate for a chance encounter in a producer’s waiting room and so, so much more?

Something hidden that came in bursts of emotion across her pale-blue eyes, something that came in the cut of her shoulders and the grace of her walk.

Miss La Croix. It fit her. She was so utterly French, petite, graceful, sharp around the edges and beautiful beyond the pale. Nicco trod in dangerous waters. He had only just left California behind, and already he panted after a woman he would never see again, unless her facade cracked and she actually decided to contact him. He could hope, kind of had to hope, because there was something about her that was so unlike anyone he had ever met. She had a self-possession, a self-awareness that almost made him envious, would have, if it hadn’t impressed him so.

The whole thing made him…a little relieved. He’d had lovers since Antonio, of course, men and women to waste the lonely nights with, to party with and get drunk with. But to actually find himself feeling a deep, intense connection—and with a person he had only just met—it gave him hope that he might not be on his own forever. Maybe Tony’s infidelities hadn’t completely destroyed who Nicco had been before, after all.

Author Interview:

What made you want to be a writer?

Writing has always been a part of who I am and what I do. I love the idea of storytelling and creating characters from nothing, real emotions from words. I guess I decided to become a working author toward the end of college, because I just realized I couldn’t live without it.

What are you currently reading?

I’m on book 10 of Maya Banks’s KGI series, and listening to The Glass Sword, in the Red Queen Series, also going between Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters, Jill Shalvis’s Animal Magnetism and Hidden Figures.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge when writing?

I usually say that marketing is the hardest part of being an author, but when it comes to actual writing, I have the tendency to try and herd stories in one direction, while they’re making it clear to me that’s not the way to go. I tend toward hyper-organized and Type A, and with writing, sometimes the trick is listening to the story. Also, making major changes on a book that’s already done, like character arc or huge plot alterations, that’s always tricky.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

In Seduction en Pointe, I have to admit that Nicco is my favorite. I love Isabelle, don’t get me wrong, but I think Nicco’s struggle is a little more subtle and human. He’s been hurt, yes, but he’s also grappling with a sense is identity and trying to figure out who he is, and I think that’s something every person in the world go through. Plus, hottie McPirate alert.

What is your favorite color?

Blue! Earth tones all the way, baby. If there’s yellow in it, I look like I have the flu, so I mostly wear blues and greys and I love the calmness of blue hues.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Just keep writing. There will be days you want to quit, it’s inevitable. Sometimes it’s after a rejection, sometimes it’s just because there haven’t been any new sales or reviews on your books in awhile. Whatever the reason, put your fingers to the keyboard and write. Every. Single. Day. The same goes for reading. You can’t write if you don’t read.

When writing, do you do an outline or just write?

To go back to the whole Type A, Ravenclaw thing, I need an outline. I tend to write quickly, and if I don’t have an idea of where the story is going then I can guarantee it’ll end up being 60,000 words of fluffy nonsense. I also like having a really solid grip on my characters before I start playing puppet master.

What are you working on next?

The first book in The Triple Diamond series, The Lovin’ Is Easy, comes out September 29th! It’s my first Montana ranch series and I just had a ton of fun working on the world-building and characters. Since it’s a ménage relationship, as are all the books in the series, I faced some unique challenges, and I’m excited about how it all came together! I also have a new historical BDSM short story series coming up.

Tell us a little about your book.

Seduction en Pointe was a really challenging book for me to write. I originally based it on characters in a short story, and never intended for the book to be full length. But the press that had my short went out of business and I realized that I had a much bigger story in me, so I rewrote it, about four times in full, and now that it’s finished, I thank goodness I did.

Though it was challenging, I had a really great time writing this book. Setting a story in Paris is a dream come true, especially since both Isabelle and Nicco are involved in art and dance, so I really got to emphasize the theater and beautiful culture of the city and fashion and cars. I have a background in art history, so that added a little to the fun discovery of it all. I also had a lot of fun working in the vouyerism and exhibitonism. When I first started the book, I didn’t have a genuine reason why they were both attracted to that sort of lifestyle, but the deeper I delved into their characters, the more I realized it was related to the need to perform and be seen. That was a really cool thing to discover.

Enter Gemma's Raffle

Seduction en Pointe Raffle! 

As a thank you to everyone who checked out Seduction en Pointe, I’m raffling off a stack of fantastic romance novels, bookmarks and other fun treats – and it’s super easy to enter! 

All you have to do is send confirmation of purchase for Seduction en Pointe to GemmaSnowRomance@gmail.com with the subject line Raffle Entry, before11:59 p.m EST on August 31st! It’s that simple! 

More info: https://gemmasnow.com/raffle-entry/

 

Author Bio: 

Gemma Snow is the author of several works of erotic and romantic fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres, and enjoys pushing the limits of freedom, feminism, and fun in her stories.  She has been an avid writer for many years, and recently moved back to her home state of New Jersey from Boston, after completing her education in journalism and creative writing.
 
In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent a semester abroad living in a 14th century castle in the Netherlands. When not exploring the world, she likes dreaming up stories, eating spicy food, driving fast cars, and talking to strangers. 
 
Find her on: 

Continue reading

The Last Dragon Rider: Excerpt + Giveaway

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Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure/ Romance

Novella Release Date: August 9, 2017

TheLastDragonRider Cover

Blurb

Trained as an elite warrior from childhood, the elven crown prince Flintathriël fights to bring a stop to a war that began before he was born. With the aid of his betrothed Sairalindë, a skilled mage and dragon rider in her own right, they must find the Book of Souls – an ancient and mysterious tome rumored to have belonged to the god Hath’Raal.

When the missing book turns up in the hands of Mnuvae, the bastard child of the dead king, Flintathriël finds himself fighting to not only save his people from this new threat but also trying to keep Sairalindë safe when Mnuvae takes over the dragons in her attempt to win back the kingdom she believes is rightfully hers.

The love Flintathriël and Sairalindë share shines pure and true, but when the smoke of the battle clears, will their hearts survive the aftermath of war or will their love become a casualty that cannot be revived?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35090656-the-last-dragon-rider?ac=1&from_search=true

 

Author Pic

Author Bio

Errin Krystal is a fantasy romance writer who has been writing since she was a small child. Her head has always been full of stories. She began work on her first novel when she was sixteen.

She lives with her family in regional Victoria, Australia, and works as a chef. In her quieter moments, she loves to indulge her passion for storytelling, basking in the joy that comes from creating vibrant characters, fantastical worlds and all manner of magical creatures. Dragons and elves, mages and warriors, troubled princes and beautiful princesses, romance, magic, and adventure can all be found in her writing.

Excerpt

She began wrapping the cloth tightly about her, binding her breasts firmly, criss-crossing the gauzy fabric around her torso and across her stomach, tying it off at her hip. She shimmied into a pair of leather leggings and reached for her foot wraps. To other races—like the dwarves and humans—the elves lack of footwear was strange. The elven people had strong ties to the lands, their magic and mystique were inexplicably linked. Even those who did not practice magic felt the connection to nature, and the elven people had maintained the practice throughout their long history.

After binding her feet and leaving only her toes exposed, she tossed an olive green tunic over her head before quickly weaving her tresses into a thick braid.

Sivath was waiting, and Flintathriël was late. Again.

She was reaching for her leather jerkin when he finally appeared in her doorway.

Arms akimbo, he slouched against the frame, all lean muscle and sharp angles beneath his leathers. Silver-white hair fell across his forehead, hiding the dark arches of his brows as he gazed at her with silvery blue eyes. The mop of hair barely touching his shoulders. His coloring typical of the royal family.

Her gaze traced his tattoos. Sweeping vines encompassed runic symbols, curling downward from his bottom lip, winding and weaving their way down his chin and neck. She knew every line that twisted and spread across his shoulders, and across his back. Etchings that disappeared beneath his tunic and reappeared along his arms. She still remembered the day he received the markings, branding him Nuvian. The day she first gave herself to him, the day she truly became his.

Links

Website: http://errinkrystal.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ErrinKrystal/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ErrinKrystal

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/errin.krystal.bookishwriter/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16828644.Errin_Krystal

Blog: https://errinkrystal.wordpress.com/

Facebook Launch Party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1208794462583723/

Amazon pre-order link:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Errin+Krystal&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Errin+Krystal&sort=relevancerank

 

Guest Post

Characters gone wild: How the comic relief became the hero

It’s funny how wildly out of control things can get. I mean, you start out with the intention of simply writing a short 2,000 word character study to help push through the writer’s block you have been struggling with. Short, concise, maybe spend a day or so on it. Just something fresh and new to get the creativity flowing again you know?

That’s not what happened.

What happened was I set aside my novel and spent six months on writing a 30,000 word novella featuring a character who originally only had a small bit part… until I fell in love with him and created a more in depth history.

In his simplest incarnation, Flintathriël, (now the full-fledged hero of The Last Dragon Rider), was basically created to offer snarky and sarcastic comments to the hero and flirt with his love interest. That was pretty much his entire purpose in the beginning. Someone light and fun, someone to stir the proverbial pot.

Until one day his entire past just came crashing through, demanding to be written. So I started jotting down some notes for a short story… It was never meant to be anything serious…

I had this amazing idea, set against the backdrop of an ancient war with love, betrayal, dragons and elves and all those good things. But I only wanted it to be short.

I was determined to finish my other novel in 2015…

I wrote a novella instead…

But Flintathriël was destined to be more than a flat caricature and all too soon he had taken over telling his own story. He wanted more from life so I obliged, turning him into a fully fleshed out character as he demanded, creating something magical in the process.

In getting distracted with my novella, it has enabled me to fill in a few gaps in my novel (which is now book 2). Several characters appear in both stories and writing this novella has allowed me to flesh out those characters and add more depth to a specific story arc.

So while he still maintains that cocky arrogance I originally intended, Flintathriël is now burdened with a few more obstacles and responsibilities (as well as a kick ass love interest), making the transition from comic relief to tortured hero.

 

Giveaway Details:

5 digital copies of the book (Giveaway runs from July 31st to Aug. 9th)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

The Last Dragon Rider Blog Tour Schedule

July 31st

Reads & Reels (Promo) http://readsandreels.com

Nesie’s Place (Promo) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

August 1st

WeeBitWordy (Review) http://weebitwordy.blog

August 2nd

Darling Bear Reviews (Review) https://darlingbearreviews.com

August 3rd

Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com

Thoughts All Sorts (Review) https://thoughtsallsorts.wordpress.com

Brizzle Lass Blog (Review) https://brizzlelass.co.uk

August 4th

The Most Sublime (Promo) https://themostsublime.com

August 7th

Literary Dust (Promo) https://literarydust.wordpress.com

Brickley Jules Blog (Promo) https://brickleyjules.wordpress.com

August 8th

The Protagonist Speaks (Character Interview) https://theprotagonistspeaks.com

 

RR Book Tours Button

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The Castaways: Excerpt + Giveaway

Book Title: The Castaways

Author: Jessika Fleck

Release Date: April 3, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous. Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

 

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing. Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

 

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home. But victory may require more betrayal, sacrifice, and heartbreak than she’s ready for.

 

Goodreads Book Link: http://bit.ly/2mq9DXV

Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.to/2nCN0QW

Barnes & Noble Buy Link: http://bit.ly/2nlhFXc

iBooks Buy Link: http://apple.co/2mpZR9j

Kobo Buy Link: http://bit.ly/2mH9xNu

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2nCCedv

Amazon.ca: http://amzn.to/2lYhctP

Entangled Publishing: http://bit.ly/2lYqJ3U


Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her work verges on fantastical and dark with a touch of realism. She is a regular contributor to the fantastic kidlit blog, Kidliterati, and is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Author Website: www.jessikafleck.com

Author Twitter: @jessikafleck

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessikaFleck/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jessikafleck

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/czxgUv

 

Giveaway Info:

Prize Pack with The Castaways + swag. An Amazon gift card in the case of an international winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

The Excerpt

 

But everything’s clear. I do know where to go. “I’m going to find that boulder—” I suck in shallow breath. “The…hhh…maze.”

“It’s no use. We’ve tried everything. It doesn’t work! Wait!”

But I’m not listening because it has to work. It’s the only way. If it got me in, it’ll get me back out.

I run until my body, my mind, and, mostly, my lungs give up. Because, problem is, Will’s right. I don’t know how to find it.

I stop.

Will stops.

Bent at the waist, hands on my knees, I cough and spew, trying to catch my breath. The hyperventilation has passed, but my insistence on sprinting like I’m a track star when my

lungs and legs have no business running, has taken its toll.

I look up.

Will isn’t fazed. At some point he took off his shirt and now stands with his hands on his hips, chest rising and falling, barely winded. His abs flex with each effortless breath. “Get

it out of your system?”

It’s when my stomach springs that I realize I’m staring at his body. I quickly glance away and completely ignore his question. “Take me there.”

“I told you. It’s no use.”

“Please,” I whimper. Tears race down my face.

Tucking his T-shirt into the back of his pants, Will walks in another direction.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m taking you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

With Will now leading the way, I watch his suntanned back, the sweat beading at his shoulders and slowly, one by one, how the beads roll down the center crease. I’m in a daze

or a haze or a trance because all I see is his back, his muscles contracting and tightening with each step, and, like magic, we’re there.

The mossy boulder stands before us and, I swear, it mocks me in all its ordinary, commonplace glory.

 

Follow the rest of the tour here: http://blogtours.yareads.com/2017/03/17/blog-tour-sign-ups-castaways-jessika-fleck/

 

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How does this book sound to you?

The Great Pursuit: Excerpt + Giveaway

 

I am so
excited that THE GREAT PURSUIT by Wendy
Higgins is available now and that I get to share the news!
 
If you
haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Wendy Higgins, be sure to
check out all the details below.

 

 
This blitz
also includes a giveaway for some amazing prizes! So if you’d like a chance to
win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
 
Title: THE GREAT
PURSUIT (Eurona Duology #2)
Author: Wendy
Higgins
Pub.
Date: 
March 7, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 512
Formats: Hardcover, eBook,
audiobook
In The Great Pursuit, the
dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy
filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a
princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom. 
One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.
The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized
the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful
Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws
prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.
Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make
peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who
took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who
stole her heart and disappeared.
Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war
against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to
her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are
kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s
best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess
Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war
between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.
 
Grab the
eBook 1 THE GREAT HUNT for just $1.99!

Excerpt


CHAPTER ONEA new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.

He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.

Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.

Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.

She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.

When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”

“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”

“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.

Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”

King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.

“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”

Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.

“And his older brother?” the king asked.

“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”

“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.

“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.

The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”

A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.

“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.

The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.

“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”

The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.

“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”

Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.

“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”

Lord Wavecrest scowled.

“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.

“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.

“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”

Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.

“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”

A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.

Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”

“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”

Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.

“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”

“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.

The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”

The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.

“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”

“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”

“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.

The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.

Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”

Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”

Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.

“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”

Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”

Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.

One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”

The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.

“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”

“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”

“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”

“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”

Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.

“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”

He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”

Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.

Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered

down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”

“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.

He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”

“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”

He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”

“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”

Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”

As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

About
Wendy:

 

Wendy Higgins is the
USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen,
the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish
fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes
full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian
husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.

 
Wendy earned
a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in
Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill
Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.
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