Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Excerpt: Taming Wilde {Waltzing with the Wallflower #3} - Rachel Van Dyken & Leah Sanders

Lady Maddox cocked an eyebrow and regarded Colin. “Wilde, it sounds suspiciously like you have been reading my husband’s private journal. Tell me you aren’t following in Anthony’s ghastly footsteps.”

Anthony turned crimson.

Lady Maddox giggled. “Oh, yes. I’ve read it. Truly a work of art, darling. Ever think of having it published?”

“Please tell me you did not just admit to reading that piece of—”

“Fine literature,” Lady Maddox finished. “And to be precise, Cordelia and I happened upon it. Quite interesting. I had no idea it was possible for a woman to—”

“Stop.” Anthony held up his hand and looked helplessly around the room. “We are not discussing what is past. We are discussing Wilde’s current path of self-destruction! Look at him!” Anthony pointed. Lady Maddox offered Colin a sympathetic smile and turned back to her husband.

“He is drinking coffee, my dear. He seems fine.” She patted Anthony on the hand and sighed. “Besides, before we were married, every article of clothing in your possession was black or gray. Perhaps he is taking after your impeccable sense of style, hmm?”

Colin laughed at Anthony’s irritated expression. Couldn’t really argue that point, considering Colin was only mimicking Anthony’s own good taste. He leaned forward and drummed his fingers against the table.

“Fine.” Anthony exhaled. “But truly, I wrote those journals when I was but a lad of one-and-twenty. Rules have, er… changed.”

“Have they?” Colin and Lady Maddox asked in unison.

“Of course.” Anthony stared into his coffee.

“And how, my dear, would you know this?” Lady Maddox asked, crossing her arms.

“My dear, up until last year I was…”

“Whoring around,” Colin finished for him. “Yes, we know. Now, will you help me or not? I mean to make certain my name is on the lips of as many women as possible. After all, does not your journal discuss the importance of keeping several mistresses at once?” He left out the part about Gemma’s face last night and how her expression had finally pushed him to desperation. He’d hurt her just like she’d hurt him. Funnily enough, those brief few seconds when their eyes had met, he hadn’t felt a thing. Not a blasted thing. He was finally numb. He’d looked into her eyes and his heart actually seemed to stop beating. He’d finally gone too far. If turning into a rake kept his heart in the same condition as it had felt in those brief minutes, then he would do it and never look back. It hurt too blasted much to continue on in this way. To continue living a life without Gemma in it.

Anthony choked on his coffee. “Apologies, memory’s quite fuzzy on that one.”

“Indeed,” Lady Maddox added. “Shall I leave you to your plans then, gentlemen?”

Colin nodded. “That would be best. After all, your husband has to polish me into the worst sort of rake the ton has ever seen.”

“God help us all,” Anthony muttered.

“Well, if last night was any indication,” Lady Maddox sighed, “you are halfway there. Good luck with your debauchery, gentlemen. I shall pray for your success.”

Anthony cursed. “My dear, that is blasphemous!”

“So is keeping a journal of your rakish escapades in the same location as your Bible, love.”

Colin burst into laughter. “And the point goes to your wife.”

“I—” Anthony grunted. “My dear, if you will excuse us, it seems I have my work cut out for me.”

“Absolutely.” She grinned and quit the room.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Excerpt: Edge of the Past - Jennifer Comeaux

I went inside the small room and pulled the curtain shut. The ivory satin dress hung on the wall. The first time I’d tried on the gown, we all ended up in a mess of tears – me, Mom, Aunt Debbie… even Aubrey, who was the least sentimental person I knew.

Stripping out of my clothes, I stepped into the dress and peeked around the curtain. “Mom, can you help me?”

She maneuvered around the dress’s long train as her fingers carefully made their way up the long row of delicate buttons. When she finished, Mom held my skirt and we moved out into the shop and in front of the huge mirror on the far wall.

My chest tightened as I stared at my reflection. Louann’s final alterations made the dress fit my petite curves perfectly. I ran my hand across the off-the-shoulder neckline and down the draped bodice to the A-line skirt, sliding my fingertips along the cool, silky material. I hadn’t wanted any frills on the dress, so the gown had a simple yet elegant look with only a touch of beading. It was everything I’d dreamed, just like I’d thought my life with Sergei would be. The tightness in my chest rose to my throat, creating a painful lump.

“It’s so beautiful,” Mom said. “I know I say that every time I see it, but it’s true.”

I nodded and attempted to speak, but no words came. Only tears. I tried to breathe them back with quick gasps, but I couldn’t stop them as they seeped from my eyes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Excerpt: Saint Sloan - Kelly Martin

“That’s a good question.” Aaron’s voice boomed from the kitchen entryway. Sloan jumped when she heard it. Ray said he slept until ten, and it was barely eight. Friday night she had been so
appreciative of him. Now, thanks to the testimonies of others, she was nervous to see him. He looked tired with messy hair, wrinkled navy blue work pants, and a day--‐‑old beard. Despite herself, she couldn’t take her eyes off him, specifically his lack of a shirt. Aaron had his arms crossed over his well--‐‑built chest and leaned on the door facing.

“Why did you tell Miss Sloan to stay away from me, brother?”

Sloan tore her eyes away from Aaron’s biceps in time to see Ray lean back in his chair and cross his arms as well, almost as if accepting a challenge. “Because, brother, for all of your good
qualities, you can still be a jerk sometimes.”

“Runs in the family.” Aaron smirked as he walked into the room and grabbed a paper plate. He piled the last remaining pieces of pizza on it and got a soda from the fridge. He turned a seat
around and sat at the head of the table next to Sloan, putting her smack dab in the middle of them. “What ya working on?”

Sloan forced her eyes to stay on his and not venture down his very long, very muscular, very kissable…“Biology,” she said quickly. “We’re studying biology.” Don’t look at his neck… don’t look
at his neck.

“Biology. Not chemistry.” He winked at his brother, who glared.

“What are you doing up so early?”

“Why? Have a special evening planned with your lady friend here?” Aaron grinned at Sloan.

“Not if you count homework as fun.”

“I don’t. That’s why I dropped out.”

“You dropped out?” Sloan asked before she could stop herself.

Aaron wiped his mouth with a paper towel and narrowed his eyes. “Kinda had to after Ma left. Got my GED and never looked back. I guess Ray told you the whole sordid affair.”

“A lot of it, I guess. I’m sorry she left you like that.”

“Don’t be. It was the best thing she’d ever done for us, right, Ray? To answer your question, brother, I have to go into work early tonight, nine instead of eleven. At least it’s overtime. Money.”

“I didn’t know,” Ray said.

Aaron shrugged. “I didn’t tell. But it worked out well. I got to spend time with my little brother and his new woman.”

“I’m not his woman,” Sloan said, then tried to backtrack. “I mean, I don’t mean that I wouldn’t like to be or there is something wrong with him… but we just… met… again… and….”

Aaron laughed and fell back in his chair. “I’m kidding, girl. Don’t read so much into it.”

Her phone vibrated on the table, and Sloan panicked. “Oh, no!”

Everything okay???

It was her mom! She’d forgotten to text her. Sloan prayed with everything she had that her mom hadn’t already called the police. Fine, mom. Sorry. Got carried away talking. Be home soon.

“Your mom didn’t call the cops, I hope,” Ray said.

“The cops? You use the same line on him that you did on me?” Aaron scoffed with his mouth full of pizza. “Man, you’re brutal.”

“Safety first,” Sloan said before her phone vibrated again. Okay. If you’re sure.

She let out a calming breath and put the phone back on the table. “Phew. Mom’s okay with all of this, but I really need to get home. Ray, we got everything finished we intended to do tonight,

“Right. We got the outline done. Now all we have to do is finish writing the blasted thing.”

“Fun times.” Sloan smiled and put her book back into her backpack. Once that was done, she grabbed her phone to text her mom again. “I’ll tell my mom to come pick me up on her way home. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“Why? I’m going that way,” Aaron spoke up as he walked to the trash can with his plate. “I have to be at work at nine anyway. Why don’t I drop you off?”

“I can drive her.” Ray sounded almost defensive.

“That would be silly, Ray. Her house is on my way to work. It only makes sense for me to take her… home.” Aaron glared at Ray, and Ray did the same, with Sloan stuck between them.
“It’s fine, Ray. Really. It’s not like he hasn’t driven me home before,” Sloan said to break the tension. Truthfully, she’d rather ride home with Ray but didn’t want to be a burden to him.

“You’re sure?”

“She’s sure. Come on, my dear.” Aaron stood behind her seat and helped her up. The gesture would have been gentlemanly, even romantic, if he wasn’t doing it just to aggravate Ray. “Don’t
stay up too late, little brother. Remember, it’s a school night.”

Aaron ruffled Ray’s hair before Ray smacked his hand away.

“Be careful,” Ray said slowly.

“I will,” he said, helping Sloan get her backpack on. “Precious cargo and all.”

“Thanks for everything, Ray.” Sloan smiled and hoped he understood how much she meant it. “Supper was delicious.”

“You should see what he can do with spaghetti,” Aaron said from behind her.


“I’m not lying. It’s really good. Maybe you can come back and try it some time.”

“I’d like that,” Sloan said, and she meant it. Except for a few awkward moments, she’d had a good time.

“Tomorrow at school we’ll pick another day for you to come over, if you want,” Ray said as he cleaned up his and Sloan’s plates.

“It’s a date then,” Aaron clapped from the hallway. “Come on, princess. I’ve got to get a shirt on. Let’s get you home.”

Sloan followed Aaron to the hall and tuned around to Ray. He was watching her from the sink and looked sad to see her go. She wondered if it was more because she was going home or
because she was going with Aaron. Sibling rivalry didn’t seem fun, not that she would know anything about it. She was an only child. Taking a deep breath, she walked back to Ray, stood on her tiptoes, and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for supper.”

When she leaned away, he smiled and peeked over her head toward the hallway.

She didn’t have to look to know Aaron was there. Aaron may have won round one (taking her home), but Ray won round two (the first kiss). “You’re welcome. See ya at school tomorrow.”


BUY LINKS (if you need them)
AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Sloan-ebook/dp/B00BMQ9E9O/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

BARNES AND NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/saint-sloan-kelly-martin/1114723748?ean=2940016377308

SMASHWORDS: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/290677

ASTRAEA PRESS: http://www.astraeapress.com/#!/~/product/category=662245&id=20839143

KOBO: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Saint-Sloan/book-wNrqosRRB0i2jU9ym34izg/page1.html?s=4Xoj6XizzUOFvTfhOsZ87Q&r=1

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Promotion: Unconditional - Tanya Eavenson

Chapter One

Elizabeth pushed herself up from the bed. Her gaze swept the dark room and fixed on the hall nightlight. Her hand grazed over her husband’s shoulder when a thought gripped her. Katherine. The baby monitor stood silent. Darkness shrouded the red and green lights that indicated movement.

Her chest tightened. She hurled the covers away and leapt to the floor. Panic made her clumsy as she rushed to her daughter’s room. She lunged over the crib. No sound. No movement. Not even a stirring of air from her tiny nostrils.

“Katherine!” Elizabeth snatched her daughter from the mattress. The infant drew a heavy breath as her eyes flung wide open.

Lord, what’s happening?

Elizabeth’s bare feet pounded the cold tile as she ran back to her husband. “Chris, wake up! Katherine quit breathing again!”

Chris rubbed his eyes and scowled. “What is it?”

“We need to take Katherine to the hospital. She stopped breathing.”

He studied their child. “She seems to be breathing now. Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure.”

“She’s fine.” Chris fell back against the pillow.


“We don’t have the money to take her to the hospital when there’s nothing wrong with her.”

“But there is. She stopped breathing.”

He sat back up. “You’ve been worried about her since before she was born. You’re all worked up because she hasn’t rolled over yet. The doctor said that’s normal for being early.”

She’s called a preemie. She glared into his eyes. “If you were home more often you’d know she’s not fine.”

“I’m home, Elizabeth, and she’s fine.”

Heat flushed her cheeks as tears filled her eyes. “I’m scared. Can’t you see that? I need you to pray for our daughter. I need you to hold me and tell me everything will be all right.”

“Look, she’s sleeping.” His voice softened as his hand ran down her thigh. “Come to bed.”

“How can you care so little? I’m worried about our baby.”

Chris’s hand dropped to the sheets. “Shut the door when you leave.” He turned away from her.

Elizabeth stood for a moment unable to speak. With their baby in her arms, she slowly closed the door behind her and sank her teeth into her lip to keep from crying. If tears came, it would be for her daughter, not for the stranger in her bed.

You can find Tanya on FACEBOOK.

Buy Uncondtional for $2.99 at Astraea Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Author Spotlight//New Release: The Edgemont Series - Brenda Maxfield

Sophomore Emili Jones has had it with being a boring, straight-A student. Itching for excitement, she sees plenty of it in classmate Farah Menin’s life of frequent dates and edgy adventure. Hoping the popularity will rub off, Emili latches onto Farah and manipulates herself into best friend status. The connection helps her land the hot new guy, Lance Jankins, but there’s a catch. Now a pawn in Farah’s dating games, Emili is on a crash course to betrayal. Will she realize it in time to save herself?

When it comes to love, sophomore Emili Jones is famous for brainless decisions. At her new school, she falls for Jordan Lawman but stuffs down her feelings, believing they can only lead to pain. When Laine Meadow, the reigning social queen, sets her sights on Jordan and senses competition in Emili, war is declared.

On top of Laine’s jealous torment, Emili struggles to help her little sister who suffers from selective mutism and will speak only to Emili. Her mother’s suspicious behavior and her father’s job loss add to the turmoil.

Can Emili save them all while learning to love again?

Also! Go HERE and enter Brenda's giveaway on Goodreads!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Excerpt: Feudlings - Wendy Knight

“Shane, I’m tougher than I look. I can handle it,” she said, although she wasn’t sure she wanted to know any more about his magic than she already did. It could get him in trouble. But she couldn’t just leave it alone. Part of her wanted to know. Maybe the monster-killer part of her. She squashed that thought. Shane stopped, studied her. Under his intense blue gaze her heart started to pound and she thought giddily that her favorite color just happened to be the exact color of his eyes. What were the odds? “I’m serious, Ari. There’s this war going on, and knowing anything about it could get you killed.”

“Killed?” Ari tried to look dubious.

Shane glanced around and grabbed her hand, pulling her with him out the front doors. The air was crisp and cool; Ari could see traces of her breath. If Shane was aware that half the student population was watching them speed-walk into the woods, he didn’t show it, and after a final glance back Ari ignored them too. When the school was out of sight, she stopped and pulled her hand away. “Okay Shane. Spill,” she commanded.

She crossed her arms over her chest and tried to look cold. Normals would be cold right now, but because of the flames flowing through their blood, neither she nor Shane could feel it.

Shane sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Where to start? Even the short version is long. We’re sorcerers, and there are two sides to this war… of course, because that’s what makes a war, right?” he rambled. Ari raised an eyebrow at him as she tried to shiver. “I’m a Carules. I have magic that stems from these blue flames that, well, they’re in my blood. Hunter, too. And all other Carules. The other side is Edren, and their magic comes from red flames. Basically, we spend all our time trying to kill each other. It’s a lot of fun,” he said with a bitter frown at the ground.

“So you hide your magic because if an Edren found you...”

“They’d kill me. Or try to, anyway,” Shane finished for her.

Ari flinched at his words, and she knew right then that if she had seen him on that battle field in Adlington, she wouldn’t have been able to kill him. Her eyes widened in shock, her mouth opened into a silent “Oh”, and her heart started to pound. This was a very, very dangerous revelation she’d just made to herself.

She had a weakness. And it was Shane.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Author Spotlight: Rachel Van Dyken

We'd like to congratulate Rachel Van Dyken on her recent success! We're very happy to have her as part of the Astraea Press family and look forward to whatever her future holds in store for her!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Excerpt: Whiskey Whispers of the Past - Lynn Spangler

"I hear someone is looking at the old Donaldson's building."
Kendra peered out the front window of her candle shop, Strafford's Candle Creations, toward the brick façade of the adjacent building. She saw the local real estate agent and her good friend, Nancy Lewis, walking toward the old structure. The converted row house had once contained Donaldson's Hardware Store, which had been a fixture of Main Street, right across from Kendra's establishment.
"Oh, yeah? I wonder what business someone would put in there," her assistant Deanna commented.
Kendra frowned as she sipped the now lukewarm coffee then set the cup on the glass shelf beside her. "I don't know. Rumor has it it's someone new to the area. A guy looking to make a fresh start, from what Nancy told me. She said the buyer told her he needed a change of pace and a new locale. Why he'd end up in such a place as Jonerstown is beyond me. This area isn't known as a hotbed of business like York or Harrisburg."
"I don't know. Jonerstown is a nice town. Perhaps its charm won him over."
Kendra nibbled her lip — a habit of hers when deep in thought. "Maybe." A quick glance at her watch indicated it was nearly time to open the shop. "How's our merchandise looking? Do we need to restock anything?"
"No, we're good. I took care of that chore last night while you were in the dungeon replenishing our inventory."
Kendra stepped to the counter, which was tucked in the back corner of the sales floor. "Really? A dungeon? Where I come from it’s commonly called a basement. Hand me the duster. It's time to open and I haven't completed the dusting yet."
Glancing around her shop, she surveyed the three rows of gleaming glass shelves filling two walls of the sales floor. Floor units graced the center of her shop, reflecting the brilliance of the morning sun against the ceiling of the store. The shelves were stocked with candles in a vast array of sizes, shapes, colors, and scents. She inhaled, marveling at the combination. Oh, how she loved the fruits of her labor. Every day her wares brought a feeling of warmth and pride.
She strode to the storefront, unlocked the door, flipped the Closed sign to Open, and went about dusting the shelves while rearranging a candle or two along the way.
"Wow. You've got to see the guy meeting up with Nancy."
Kendra spun around, gazed out the window again, and was greeted by a pleasant surprise. The man shaking Nancy's hand stood about six feet tall at a guess. He was dressed in well-worn blue jeans and a black t-shirt that fit snugly over his arms and chest. "Hmm. At least we'll have some eye candy to stare at. He reminds me of a boxer with the trim, muscular build."
"I like the spiky hair sticking out in every which direction. Too bad we couldn't see his face."
Yeah, too bad. The body is killer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Short Story: A Secret Seduction - Kristin Vayden

Continuing with our short challenge, Kristin has supplied us with A Secret Seduction as her contribution.

A Secret Seduction
Kristin Vayden

“I’m making the grand assumption that you’ll be in attendance.” His hungry tone whispered between fervent kisses. “Please say you’ll be there.” He begged as he nibbled on her lower lip.
“Perhaps…someone must keep an eye on you.” Sophia whispered breathlessly. If he continued to kiss her like that she’d soon forget herself and agree to anything, especially that which she could never disclose. The sudden reminder of her secret was like chilly water over her head and she gathered her wits. Breaking the adoring kiss, she leaned away and gazed into his hazel eyes. He regarded her for a moment, then backed away just enough for her to get his spicy scent out of the air surrounding them.
“You doubt my intent.” He spoke after a moment, in his thick accent caused a ripple of pleasure to dance down her spine.
“No, I doubt your mother’s.” Sophia confessed. It was long known that Lady Horatio had boasted grandly about the match to be made by her son, the only heir to their fortune and governing family.
“But not I?” He leaned forward and rested his forehead on hers, once again permeating her air with his spicy fragrance.
“No. Never you, Gabriel. But sometimes life has a way of turning places we thought to be straight. I’ll not hold you to your words when the time comes for you to choose in spite of your heart.” Sophia spoke the words bravely, though as they left her mouth it seemed as if her heart was torn in two.
She would leave and never subject herself to such a torture as seeing the man she loved marry another. But the tangled web of loyalty also demanded that she put his good above her own. She would never rule anyone; never have the weight of a crown heavy upon her. She wouldn’t ever hold the fate of a nation in her grasp, but for now she would devote herself to enjoying every stolen moment where she could hold her dearest possession; his heart.
“Promise me you’ll be there...” Gabriel leaned back and gazed intently into her eyes. Gone was the haze of passion and replacing it was a determination backed by the love she knew he held for her. A love she wished were enough to bind them together forever.
“I cannot.” Sophia spoke as a single tear trailed down her face.
The night of the ball arrived and Sophia closed the door to her room with a click that echoed with finality. Tomorrow the land, indeed the world would be buzzing with the news of Gabriel Horatio’s engagement to the English Princess Anne. Though those last few stolen moments in Gabriel’s company were filled with fervent promises that he’d never betray his love for her, she knew that country came first. It was for the best. Even if she had the breeding to offer his family, her secret would shame them all.
“Sophia? You aren’t ready yet, are you?” Her mother’s melodic voice came muffled through the wooden door.
“No. I’m…not well. Why don’t you go on without me? I’m afraid I’ll be needing to stay.” It wasn’t a lie, entirely. Indeed Sophia felt sick, utterly heartsick.
“Very well…” Her mother replied tentatively. Sophia hoped she would enter her room to check on her. The tearstains on her pillow would speak the truth.
She had kept her clandestine adoration of Gabriel a reverent secret. No one would know the pain she harbored when this night was over, no one except the one who truly mattered. The knowledge held a slight comfort, for at least there would be no pitying glances.
“I’ll send up some tea for you.” Her mother called. Soon the sound of her slippered feet walking away let Sophia know she was alone.
The tea arrived shortly after her family departed and the warm comfort of the favored liquid offered a small measure of relief. As she dressed for bed and lit a candle to embroider she strove to keep her mind off of what was surely taking place in the grand Horacio estate.
“Ouch!” Sophia shook her hand as the pain from the needle prick diminished and she closed her eyes and sunk back into the pillows of her bed. It was no use. His hazel eyes haunted her. Over and over her mind continued to replay the stolen glances at parties, the brushing of his fingers over her gloved hand when no one was looking.
“Miss?” A maid called through the door.
“Yes?” Sophia cleared her throat to answer.
“You have a…caller miss. He was quite adamant that I find you.” Her voice was hesitant.
Curious, Sophia opened the door to face the fidgeting maid. She glanced up at her mistress and then down the darkened hall, as if searching for someone.
“This is quite irregular…perhaps the gentlemen is mistaken?”
“No miss. He asked for you by name, but…” She leaned forward and began to whisper. “But he won’t remove his coverings miss. I cannot see his face. I fear for you miss! With your father away and none but the footmen or butler here to defend you!”
A cold shiver ran down Sophia’s spine as she regarded the fearful maid. Yet her curiosity burned against the common sense of turning the stranger away.
“Tell our guest I’ll be down momentarily…but have two footmen and the butler close at hand.”
The maid curtsied then left to do her bidding.
Sophia entered her room and began to put on a simple dress, but paused. Reaching over to her desk she opened a drawer and withdrew a small-sheathed dagger. Carefully she tied it to her calf and then continued to ready herself.
The hall seemed darker, as if the night had consumed what little light the candles offered. Sophia began to feel chilled and her fingers tingled against the cold. When she entered the parlor a warm fire greeted her, along with the silhouette of a heavily cloaked man.
He was broad shouldered and held himself confidently. His head tilted slightly at her entrance, but he didn’t make a sound. Sophia swallowed and tried to find her voice.
“How may I assist you?” Her voice sounded far steadier than was accurate, for this she was thankful.
The stranger turned, but the firelight didn’t reach his hooded face. Rather than speak he took a few steps toward her and then reached into his cloak.
Sophia’s heart pounded. Was he intent on harming her? But he withdrew a letter, rolled and fastened with a scarlet ribbon. He held it out to her. Tentatively, she took it.
Unrolling the missive she began to read the words as they struck fear into her heart.
“What’s the meaning of this?” She asked with a trembling voice.
The man simply nodded and gestured to the letter.
Outlined clearly in the letter were several questions, all relevant to her past, and questioning her future. But one at the bottom was written boldly.
“You want me to answer the question?”
The man nodded and then folded his hands in a relaxed manner.
Sophia read the question once more. If Lord Gabriel Horacio were to give up his position, even knowing your secret and choosing you…would your heart still beat for his alone?
Would her breath catch whenever she saw his hazel eyes watching her? Would her fingers tremble to run through his raven hair? Would her body burn to be next to his? Without the wealth and prestige to accompany him?
“Yes…perhaps more so because then we would be free.” Sophia whispered, knowing that all her secrets would surely be known by morning, but she couldn’t deny the truth in her heart, even to a stranger.
“Then you have chosen well.” A familiar voice called to her as if from a dream. She glanced up through tear-filled eyes as the man began to lower his hood and a pair of familiar hazel eyes gazed at her with a warm intensity.
“Come. There’s not a moment to spare.” Lord Gabriel Horacio, son of one of Spain’s most powerful families strode towards her with determined steps. At once his lips found hers while his fingers dug hungrily through her loosened braid. His mouth savored hers as she lost herself in his own familiar and addicting flavor. He broke their embrace suddenly.
He grasped her hand and wrapped it around his arm and pulled them toward the door. The two footmen and butler gasped as they burst through.
“Halt! You’ll not take—“
“All is well.” Sophia began to speak but Gabriel interrupted.
“Her presence is of the utmost importance this evening.”
All three men halted their approach and turned white in realized who spoke to them.
“Of course, my lord.” The butler stammered while the footmen watched in astounded silence.
A carriage waited outside with two black horses pawing the ground impatiently. Gabriel aided her then entered himself. As the carriage sped away, Gabriel leaned forward and grasped her hand tenderly.
“You should have known I’d not betray you. Even your silence concerning your heritage wasn’t the slightest deterrent. Why did you doubt my love?”
“Because I would not have you sacrifice your destiny for my sake. An alliance with Spain will serve the greater good. How could I remain selfish when so much is at stake?
“I understand. Your humility is only one of the many reasons I love you so deeply. But why did you not trust me with the truth of your birth?” Gabriel’s hazel eyes implored her.
“And burden you?” She questioned, her eyes gazing deeply into his.
“Love is never a burden, regardless of its origin. Love is always a gift to be cherished, shared. It matters not that you were born from love rather than marriage. Your name is not what I love, but you.”
“But my father didn’t marry my mo—“
“I’m aware. And that was his folly. But I will not make the same mistake as my own family and marry for duty when I have the chance for love. Now. We must get you ready.”
The carriage arrived at the Horatio estate and Gabriel surrendered her to the care of several maids who took her to a beautiful room. She was soon dressed in a breathtaking golden gown and powdered. Her hair was quickly attended to and a ruby necklace was placed on her neck as well as ruby colored silk slippers. When Sophia tried to ask any questions her voice was met with silence.
A knock sounded at the door just as she gazed at the transformation in the mirror. Truly she looked like a princess.
“My Lord. She is ready.” A maid broke her silence.
Gabriel strode into the room and grinned. He walked slowly towards her, the intensity in his eyes stealing her breath. “You are breathtaking, thought I thought as much earlier in your parlor with your simple gown.” He reached for her hand and led her down and to a grand staircase.
A voice called from above them and Sophia glanced up to find a million crystals hanging from the ceiling, causing rainbows the dance across the room below them as people began to gather at the base.
“May I present, Lord Gabriel Horatio and his betrothed, Sophia Grace Wellesly!”
Sophia gasped and glanced to Gabriel whose face beamed with a triumphant grin.
“I figured you couldn’t refuse if I announced it to the world rather than ask you in private. I will not let your humility create a barrier that doesn’t exist.” He whispered the words just next to her ear, his warm breath tickling her skin and causing a shiver of delight to run down her back.
“But your mother…”
“Has no other choice. Now, I would love to waltz with my soon to be wife, that is, if you will do me the honor?” He raised an eyebrow and led them down the grand staircase as the orchestra began to play. At the bottom he bowed and pulled her into a tight embrace and began to waltz.
“And that, dear children, is how your father rescued me. Not with a sword, a dagger or force. But he saved me by his love. For after all, love does conquer all.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Release: Legend of the Great Dragon - J.F. Jenkins

The exciting end to the much-loved Dragons Saga!

Mikko always knew she was born for greatness. She had been prophesied about when the holy book was first written by the First Great Dragons in existence. Born of the female dragon with Inero blood, in the city by the sea, Mikko fit the bill of the Great Dragon to a T. But it was a destiny she didn't know anything about.
It is a chance meeting of fate where she meets Ichitaca. While her destiny still confuses her, she knows one thing: he's a part of it. In Ichy's arms, everything feels right, perfect even. All of that chang-es when the nightmares begin. A dark man is waiting for her, challenging her, and she knows that if she doesn't face him the fate of the world will be on her shoulders.

Short Story: Wendy Knight

“Girl, there’s not enough satin in the entire world to make you princess-y enough to get into that ball.” Monique raised a perfectly arched brow, gesturing at Konstanz. Konstanz frowned and pushed her wind-tangled brown curls over her shoulder. “You aren’t helping,” she muttered. With a brief glare, she turned her back on her much-too-honest-for-her-own-good friend and started digging through dresses.
Monique heaved the most dramatic of sighs. “This isn’t a smart idea anyway. Even if we can make you remotely presentable, once you’re inside the cats will kill you.”
Konstanz paused, studying a deep red one. “What do you mean, cats?”
Monique appeared at her side, pushing the red one away. “No, not even close to your color. Cats. Princesses. Royalty. They will eat a little mouse like you alive.”
Konstanz pinched the bridge of her nose, where she felt a headache forming. “I think I can handle it for a couple of hours.”
“Right. Why, exactly, is it so important for you to go to this ball, anyway? You’ve never been interested before.” Monique moved away, digging through more elaborate dresses in her popular boutique.
If you only knew. But Konstanz couldn’t tell her, of course. That would just be crazy. So instead she shrugged. “Are you gonna help me or not?”

It took hours of plucking, tweezing, exfoliating, slathering on makeup and trying to tame her wild curls into submission, but the end result was pretty princess-y, even by Monique’s standard. “You clean up nice, girl. How come we’ve never done this before?”
Konstanz glanced down. Monique had chosen well – the dark turquoise dress did wonders for her skin tone. She twirled, once, because it was mandatory when wearing a dress like this. The layers and layers of tulle cascading to the ground poofed around her, and she almost giggled. Black satin trim accented the dropped waist and lined the corset-like bodice. “It never mattered before,” she said.
Monique raised an eyebrow. “Here. These are perfect.” Monique handed her black elbow length gloves.
Konstanz took them dubiously. Well these could pose a problem. But there was no way to say that without looking suspicious, so she slid them on and twirled again.
“Stop it. You’re going to make the curls go flat before you even get there,” Monique chided but she couldn’t hide a smile.
Impulsively, Konstanz leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Fairy Godmother.”
Monique rolled her big brown eyes. “Don’t start, woman.” She made shooing motions with her hands. “Off with you now.”

There was no fancy carriage to take Konstanz to the ball. That would have been much too conspicuous. Instead she rode her giant black mare, the one every man in the entire state wanted to steal. Luckily, no one could ride Skylla but Konstanz – at least not without risking life and limb. Several yards before the sweeping drive that led to the castle, Konstanz slid off and led Skylla into the trees.“Wait here,” Konstanz told her. The big mare tossed her head before wandering away to eat the lush grass, and Konstanz slipped away through the shadows.
Scaling the castle wall was nearly impossible in a ball gown covered in tulle, sequins, and rhinestones. The gloves barely survived, and she had to drop to the ground twice to pick up a lost shoe.
It took far too long to near the top. She peeked over the ledge, but everyone was still inside, listening to the welcoming speech the King was fond of giving. Silently thanking him for his inability to keep it short and sweet, she swung her leg over the balcony railing, entering the wide glass doors just as the band started playing. Even if she hadn’t known him as well as she did, it was still easy to find the prince – just look for the hordes of swooning princesses. Alec tugged at the tight caveat and failed miserably at smiling politely.
As it always did, Konstanz felt her heart stop, because he was so beyond handsome. But there was no time for that now. She shoved her feelings away, locking them into the recesses of her heart where they were safe, and slid discreetly behind the thick tapestries lining the walls. Hidden, she worked her way quickly around the large ball room and around the crowd surrounding the Prince. Getting out posed a bigger problem, since she was surrounded by people. She bit her lip and twisted a curl around her finger. And then she fell. Stumbling, she landed ungracefully on one knee right at Alek’s feet. It had been planned, but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.
“I’m so sorry. Please, forgive me,” she murmured as he reached down to help her to her feet.
“Don’t worry about it. Here, let me –“ His eyes widened as she raised her face, and his mouth snapped closed.
She tried to tell him to play along, but she’d never been great at telepathy. Luckily, he had always been fantastic at reading her facial expressions. “Dance with me.” He grabbed her elbow and dragged her onto the dance floor. Konstanz could feel the dagger-like glares at her back, but it didn’t matter. They could all kill her later, as long as she saved him first.
“What are you doing here?” He plastered a bright artificial smile on his face and hissed at her through his clenched teeth. “We agreed never to speak again. Right after you slapped me, if I recall correctly.”
“I know. I’m sorry, “ she started, but he cut her off.
“Sorry that you slapped me? And do try to look less like you’re being tortured.”
Konstanz sighed and tried to smile. “No I’m not sorry I slapped you. You deserved it. I’m sorry I’m here, having to speak to you again.”
She saw the pain flash across his face, but he hid it quickly. “Then what do you want?”
“You’re in danger. I’m here to save you.”
If she had said that to anyone else in the world, they would have laughed. She was small, after all. But Alec knew who she really was. He had always known.
One of his father’s top assassins.
“Why? Why do you think I’m in danger?” He had stilled, and she had to tug on his arms to get him to dance again.
“I’ll tell you when we have more time, but for now, we need to get out of here.”
His eyes narrowed, but thankfully he kept dancing, twirling her expertly around the dance floor, despite the fact that the song had ended and a new one began. Princesses everywhere were out for her blood, she could tell. “So, let me get this straight. I ask you to elope with me. You slap me and tell me to never speak to you again. A month later you show up looking like the goddess that has haunted my dreams since I first met you, and you tell me I’m in danger?”
Konstanz opened her mouth, but he cut her off. “The only one I’m in danger from is you.” Abruptly, he let her go and stalked off the dance floor. She could have died of embarrassment right there, if she’d cared. Luckily, he was all that mattered and her reputation wasn’t high on her priorities. He grabbed the nearest woman, a tall, leggy blond with a split in her dress that went clear up to her thigh.
Konstanz couldn’t very well cut in. That would be ridiculous. She hesitated, wondering how she could knock him unconscious and drag him out of the room without anyone noticing, and she almost missed the click of the pistol being cocked nearby.
She was too late.
Grabbing her skirts up, she ran straight at Alek. As the pistol blasted, she dove, tackling him to the ground. The ball shot above their head. “I told you!” she shrieked. She was tangled in her confounded dress, and by the time she fought free he was on his feet. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet for the second time in less than a half-hour. She heard the click again – it was a sound she had been trained to recognize even in her sleep. Reaching down, she grabbed the sword free of Alec’s scabbard and whirled, slicing it up through the air. It hit the ball and shattered. She felt the pieces sting her face but there was no time to acknowledge the pain. She threw the broken sword the ground and grabbed Alek’s hand. “Run!” she screamed, since he seemed frozen, staring across the room.
“Lyon?” he whispered. His best friend. Of course it had come as a surprise, and she would let him mourn later. But now she really just needed to get him out of there.
Konstanz only just noticed the screaming and chaos. Guards were rushing in, people were running, dresses were being ruined. And above it all, she heard Lyon laughing. Mad, hysterical laughter that chilled her to the bone.
“Konstanz!” The Captain of the Royal Guard, who had refused to listen to her earlier, now threw her a belt, her belt, with all her weapons. She caught it and strapped it on, wrenching the knives from their pocket.
Lyon advanced on them, his pistol cocked again and aimed at Alek’s head. “You should have listened to her.” He clucked his tongue in false sympathy. “Too heartsick. That was your undoing.”
The ballroom was nearly empty, except for a few stragglers. Wait…why aren’t they leaving? Konstanz spun, too late realizing they were surrounded. Lyon might have been flanked by castle guards, but the castle guards were ringed by Lyon’s friends, all of whom were armed.
“Oh dear,” she murmured, turning slowly.
“Somehow, you’ve managed to put yourself right between us yet again, Konstanz. I suggest you move. I would hate to mess your beautiful hair by putting a bullet through your skull.” Lyon gave her a look, one she assumed was supposed to be pouty, but it failed miserably.
She rolled her eyes. “We can’t have that, can we? My hair took hours to get like this.” She stepped out of the way with a low bow.
Alek’s eyes widened and Lyon chuckled. “Love is fickle, isn’t –“ He shouldn’t have thrown his head back to laugh. It gave Konstanz a clear shot of his throat, and her knife lodged there before he could finish his sentence.
The room erupted. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lyon fall, but the sight of blood made her gag, and besides, his friends were rushing in now. Her hand went to her stars, but the silk gloves slid right over them. A bullet grazed her bare shoulder and she swore. ”Stupid gloves!” The second try was successful and she threw them, one after another at the Prince’s attackers. Seven men down. The guards seemed to have the rest under control.
“You are…good at what you do.” Alek’s face was pale, his eyes wide.
“I am.” She nodded. “We need to get you out of here until the threat is effectively contained.” She grabbed his hand and started across the floor, but he didn’t move. Maybe he hadn’t heard her over the clanging and clashing of swords? “Alek? We need to get you to safety.”
Konstanz frowned. Clearly the universe had flipped completely upside down. “What do you mean, no? It’s not safe here.”
Alek raised his chin. “You care about my safety?”
She tipped her head at him. Confusion was not something she was overly familiar with. “Of course I care –“
“Fine. Say you’ll marry me. Say you’ll run away with me, say that I can have your heart for the rest of eternity. Heal the damage you’ve done, and then I’ll care enough about my safety to leave.”
Konstanz felt the blood drain from her face. “Alek…”
He folded his arms across his chest and glared at her.
“We can’t…I’m an assassin. And a commoner. You’re a prince!”
He turned away from her. The King had just entered the room, flanked by guards, assessing the damage done to his ballroom. “Father, this is the woman I want. Do I have your blessing?” Alek announced it to the entire room and Konstanz was positive she would sink through the floor at any second. In fact, she prayed for it.
“She’s my finest assassin. What if you ruin her?” The King asked.
Konstanz put a hand to her forehead. All these things were not making sense.
“She broke my heart. And she refuses to mend it on the grounds that I am a prince and she is a commoner.”
“Alek, you have lost your mind.” Konstanz whispered harshly.
Alek smiled, finally turning back to her. “Konstanz, my father has known about us for ages. He has never been anything but pleased. Marry me. Heal this,” he took her hand and placed it on his racing heart.
She looked with wide eyes from the King, who was decidedly smirking, to Alek and back again. “You almost died. Just now. And this is what you’re worried about?”
“It is the only thing that matters. The only thing that ever has mattered, the only thing that ever will matter. Marry me, Konstanz.”
She felt her lips quirk rebelliously into a smile. She couldn’t. It wasn’t proper. She wasn’t a princess. She stepped closer, convinced she would knock him unconscious and drag him from the room. Instead she surprised herself by saying, “I will marry you, Prince Alek.” She gritted her teeth. “If you promise to get. Out. Of. This. Room.” Forcing sweetness into her smile, she said, “Where you’re safe. And then I will marry you.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Short Story: J.F. Jenkins

This is the second installment in our short story series from our authors. Be sure to check back every day to see who's up next!

Normally, Orion did not enjoy tuxes. They were thick and stuffy, but when he saw how Esie's eyes lit up at the sight of him, he was willing to make an exception for the night. He'd never seen her gaze wander over him so much. Perhaps she'll finally come around and accept me. This could be the start of a real relationship for us. And she looked absolutely gorgeous in her dress. The blue, purple, fabric especially brought out the color of her eyes.

He walked her into the ball, enjoying having her decorate his arm. The stares he received from his cousins added on to the fun. For so long they had thought less of him despite being the son of the Great Dragon Lord. Most of them made it clear they expected more from him, though there were a few on his side. No matter what he did, it would never match up to those expectations. He'd gotten a business degree from the university, and had plans to invest in all sorts of new technologies. But that wasn't good enough for them. They didn't see a point in putting so much into a potential product that might not pan out. Automobiles would never replace horses, and electricity wasn't as reliable as a fire. In Orion's eyes, they still lived in the stone age. Because he'd rather read than participate in sports, that made him weak.

Showing up to the Ball of Saints with a beautiful wife proved something at least. Of course, they would give him a hard time for still being pure, but he wanted to make sure things happened the right way. The ritual of the sacrifice was always unpredictable. For some, they had an instant moment of love. Others, a relationship grew over time. It was far more respectable of him to wait than force her into something neither of them was ready for. He wouldn't be the only newly wed man who still maintained his purity there, anyway. At least they could all say he had good taste.

Esie's gaze wandered over the room and settled on something toward the back. “Excuse me, I see some punch.”

“Would you like me to get it for you?” Orion asked.

“No, it's fine. I shouldn't be too long. I'm more than capable of getting it myself. How about you find us a table to sit at. Those seem to be few and far between,” she said and leaned up to kiss his cheek.

He smiled down at her. “Of course.” He watched her go, disappearing into the crowd. The night would be perfect.

* * * * *

Esie made sure she left Orion's side as casually as possible. She didn't want him to follow her around the whole time, and she had to make sure she could get lost in the crowd. When she arrived at the beverage table, she glanced over her shoulder to see if she could spot him and smiled when he was no where to be found. They were both lost in the sea of people.

The Ball of Saints was unlike anything Esie had ever been to before. Women in beautiful dresses sashayed around the room and handsome young men in tuxedos escorted them. Everyone laughed, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, yet there was a strange kind of tension in the air. She noticed the men all had the strange disease in their fingernails that made them black, and she couldn't help but wonder if that meant they were actually dragons rather than men after all. A fact about Orion she was still having a hard time processing.

I have to find Timothy. She scanned the room, looking for the one friend she had left that could hopefully do something for her. It took some time, but she found him lingering toward the back not too far away. He leaned against a door frame and it relaxed her when she noticed he looked bored. That would help her cause greatly.

Taking in a deep breath, she walked over to him. He was just as handsome as ever in his tuxedo. Certainly, Orion was fabulous in his as well. In some ways even more so than Timothy, which startled her to even think. Each step she took closer to him, her heart started to race all the more. From fear or attraction, she couldn't quite figure out, however. Because while he was indeed handsome, she was terrified. And when her gaze met his and he did not smile, her confidence wavered. Timothy was different than the last time she'd seen him, and she couldn't quite figure out why.

She swallowed and walked up to him. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Yes,” he said dryly. “What are you doing here Esie?”

No, “I'm glad you're alive and okay”. In fact, there was no joy present at all in his voice. He knew what had happened, and that confirmed it all for her. Timothy was a dragon.

“I'm here as a guest,” she said flatly. “And yourself?”

“Same, just as I am one every year. I meant, what are you doing here talking to me?”

“I think you know.”

He shook his head. “Go back to your husband.”

She recoiled at the word. “I don't love him.”

“You don't love me either.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No,” he stated. “You don't.” He glanced around him and sighed before grabbing her arm firmly and pulling her outside to the balcony with him. Few guests were out that way. Though it was a little on the cold side, the moonlight and stars made it worthwhile. It was romantic and beautiful, and she loved having to use him for warmth. If only he'd stop moving away from her, so she could enjoy it more.

“You have to stop this,” he said once they were alone. “You need to let me go.”

Esie shook her head, confused. This was not how she imagined their reunion happening. He was supposed to be happy she was alive and well. He was supposed to save her. How could he not care at all? When he tried to leave, she grabbed his arm and pulled him to her body.

“Tell me I've always meant nothing to you. Our relationship has always been special to me. I care for you because of who you are, not because of your family or anything else so superficial. We've had a lot of fond memories. Tell me it all meant nothing and I'll let you go,” she pleaded.

Timothy's blue eyes met her own and he averted his gaze away. “He's my cousin Esmeralda, and on top of that the son of my Great Lord. I can't. I have always thought you kind and beautiful. Things any man would want in a future bride, but if you are looking for me to take you away from him, I won't. It's not right. Besides, I have found another to be my wife. It just wasn't meant to be. You'll understand that some day.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “I don't understand, you're right about that much. You haven't wed this other woman yet, and I haven't consummated mine. Doesn't that mean we could make something work?”

“No, it doesn't.”

“But I don't love him.”

“Have you even tried? Because when it comes to my family, Orion is probably the best husband material you'll find -- especially when it comes to meeting your needs. You're so stubborn.” He shook his head.

“Why should I try? He took me away!” She folded her arms in front of her and she shivered from the cold.

His eyes closed and he exhaled slowly before opening them again. “Regardless of how we feel, I won't betray my kin. My people believe in divine appointment, destiny. The ritual of the sacrifice has its purpose. It's not fair to you, I do understand that, but there is a reason you were chosen for him. Your paths were meant to cross some how. God puts people in our way every day. The smallest of strangers in the simplest of interactions can turn into a huge impacting moment for either one of you. If I try to stake a claim on your heart, I do believe I would be thwarting His plans. Orion is like a brother to me, anyway. He picked you, so he must think you're special too.”

“The priests picked me,” she said.

“And he agreed. For some reason, he wanted you to be his wife.”

She laughed. “He said it was because they told him I had a brain.”

Timothy nodded. “So use it. Don't hurt him by doing this. You're only going to make things harder on us all.”

“Then I suppose I'll have to run away,” she whispered.

“Don't. Please, don't.”

“I will not be a wife to someone I barely know – to someone I don't love,” she said firmly. She picked up the skirts of her dress and turned to leave. Orion stood in the doorway, his face solemn and pale. One look at him and she knew he had heard more than she wanted him to.

* * * * *

Orion stormed back inside, pushing his way through the crowd. My cousin! She wants to be with him! Has that been her plan all along? Because they act as though they've met before. He sighed. Timothy lives near where she grew up. Just my luck. He couldn't decipher just what he was feeling. Anger, jealousy, those two were certain, but there was something else gnawing at him on the inside. His heart was racing, but his stomach was sick and cramping. Was his heart breaking? Did he actually love her? Esie had caught his eye, intrigued him, and he knew she was a woman he could love someday - but had that someday come sooner than he anticipated?

A hand gripped his shoulder, jolting him out of his thoughts and back to reality. He'd been expecting the hand to belong to Timothy, but it was Esie who was touching him.

"If you're going to apologize and try to make up with me, save your breath," he said. Bitterness filled his heart and he hated it. He hated loathing someone as greatly as he did her. In that moment, all he wanted to do was make her regret everything she'd done to cause him pain.

Esie played with her hands in front of her. Why did she have to be so beautiful? That was her weapon against him. She took in a deep breath, then spoke.

"I'm sorry you were hurt by all of this, though I know it would have been impossible to avoid. You're a good man, and you deserve far better than me."

He laughed sourly. "You're right about that."

"I pray you can forgive me some day, but I do mean what I said. I do not wish to be wed to a man I do not love."

Taking her hand firmly in his own, Orion dragged her to the dance floor. When she opened her mouth to protest, he placed a finger to her soft lips. He put a hand on her waist and then raised her right hand with his left. They would share in one waltz. He would have one magical moment with her. With a slight roughness, he pulled her in closer to him, staking his claim upon her in front of everyone, one last time. He gazed into her deep purple/blue eyes and saw the tears pooled in them. The scent of lavender, salt, and plumb mixed inside of his nostrils. Good, she should be sad.

And they danced. Gracefully, he led her around the dance floor, not once looking away from her eyes. Her cheeks flushed, the plumb and lavender started to fade and transform into a rich, potent, cinnamon. When the song ended, and the band began to play another, he let go of her as if she were some kind of a poison. Esie held herself, the tears in her eyes spilling down her face.

Orion leaned into her ear. "Go, and do not show your face to me again. Have the freedom you so desire."

* * * * *

Esie couldn't stop crying. I've really made a mess of things. She should have never thought of doing something so stupid. Of course Timothy wouldn't help her. He was one of them, a dragon, and she imagined his loyalty needed to stay strong with his kin. After all, with such a great secret as being a human as well as a dragon, why would he choose her over his family?

She didn't understand dragons and their politics. What if she'd caused some kind of great rift, or a war? Would Orion really let her go? Wouldn't she be considered a liability?

A handkerchief dropped in front of her face. "Dry your eyes," Timothy said. His voice was much more gentle than she expected.

Taking the handkerchief, she did as she was told, not wanting to cause any more problems. The ball must have just been ending. She had spent most of her night hiding by the entrance. Ideally, she would have left, but she had no where else to go. It was too cold for her to wander the city on her own, and she was terrified of getting lost or hurt. So she stayed at the ball until she could figure out some kind of plan, secretly hoping Orion would return and help her.

"He's gone," she said in-between sniffles.

"I know," Timothy said. "I still stand by my statement of not pursuing this. However, it would be wrong to leave you on your own to fend for yourself. I know a woman who is in need of a live-in maid. She doesn't pay much, but she will provide a warm place to sleep at night. It'll be enough to help you figure out what to do with yourself. She's not far from here, actually. I shall walk you over."

"T-thank you," she whispered.

He nodded and escorted her to the door, keeping himself at a distance. When they were outside, he let out a long breath. "According to the laws of my people, you should be executed before you have the chance to tell of our secret. You have rejected the man who has claimed you. It's happened before. There have been other women who have left their husbands before the consummation of their marriage. These women are easier to hide. A woman who has mated with a dragon goes through a number of changes. To another dragon, they stick out like a sore thumb."

She glanced up at him, shivering, but not from the cold. "So are you going to--"

"I meant what I said about taking you to live with this woman, but no one must know that you are married to Orion. To one of us."

Us, meaning dragon. She nodded. "No, of course not. I will not breathe a word of it to anyone. I swear."

Timothy's blue eyes fixated on her intently. "Keep it and your vows. He may have told you, you were released, but you are still technically his until he formally declares otherwise. Which he won't do because then you may very well be hunted. He will have to wait until the timing is right. Do you understand?"


"Keep your vows. Promise me."

"I promise," she whispered. The wrath of one dragon had already been ignited; she didn't want to fan the flames any higher.

* * * * *

Orion watched Esie get settled into her new home, gazing at her from the outside. He could see her upstairs, basking in the orange light inside of the house where she was safe and warm. His heart still ached, but he knew he had to let her go -- for her sanity as well as his own. Time apart would help both of them to sort through their own feelings. He would let her think he was gone from her life for a little while before approaching her again.

The door to Mrs. Pinkerton's home opened, and Timothy stepped out. He crossed the street, joining Orion under the overhang of a pastry shop. It was closed, and dark, and provided for a nice shelter from the cold wind.

"Did she agree to your terms?" Orion asked.

"You mean your terms disguised as my advice?" Timothy raised an eyebrow.

Orion shrugged. "They aren't a lie, you know this. Did she agree?"

"Yes, she agreed. She will remain pure until you decide her fate."

Orion nodded. "Thank you. Had I escorted her to this arrangement, I fear she would have tried to talk me out of it. Simply out of duty if nothing else. She needs to want me again on her own terms, not out of fear. It hurts, but I respect her desires. I don't want a loveless relationship anymore than she does. I only wish she was more honest."

"I hope you know what you're doing," Timothy said.

"I do, and I will watch her and protect her just like I promised," Orion vowed. Everything would come together at the right moment. Until then, he would watch her and keep her safe from afar.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Short Story Challenge : Late For the Ball - Heather Gray

Last night I gave the authors a challenge - create a short story about attending a ball {no other instructions were given}. We'll be featuring these stories over the next few weeks. ~Angieleigh

Late for the Ball

Oh no! I'm going to be late to the ball! Fashionably late is one thing, but this is beyond the pale!

Myra looked at herself in the mirror and studied what she saw. Her silver-blonde hair was piled high atop her head and decorated with blue feathers. Her gown was the finest French satin a girl could find in London and of the softest sky blue. No evening primrose for me! I've seen animals make messes prettier than that color! Her blue eyes sparkled with… Let's face it. That's dread you see there, girl! Her skin was ivory, and her complexion was smooth. She reached up and pinched her cheeks to add a little color and then studied her lips, full and red. Father always said I had the mouth of a harlot. Too bad I finally got old enough to understand what he meant.

Tonight was the night. She was supposed to meet the Earl of Allegory. Her parents had already signed the betrothal contract. She'd never met the man but had heard much about him. He had black hair, darkly tanned skin, the blackest eyes and was said to be able to see right through a person to their very soul. Myra was sure the stories were untrue. No man could be quite as menacing as the rumors made the Earl seem. Then again…

Myra ran down the stairs, her slippers making no sound on the grand staircase. Jenkins, the butler, was waiting for her and opened the door with a grand bow. "Thank you Jenkins. Say a prayer for me. I'm to meet the devil himself tonight," were her parting words to the faithful servant. Her parents were not accompanying her to the ball. Her father was at his club, and her mother had retired early with another headache. They signed away the rest of her life but couldn't be bothered to introduce her to the man themselves.

When she arrived at the Atelier Ball, the footman opened the door for her and said, "Best wishes, My Lady. I'm sure it'll work out." How she loved her staff! They treated her with all the kindness that her parents failed to do.

"Thank you Lewis. I shall survive it, I'm certain."

As she reached the top of the grand entrance, the Atelier's butler announced her. "Lady Myra Sedulous." His voice rang out across the ballroom as she entered. Her name wasn't important enough to warrant much attention. However, being late as she was, more than a few heads turned in her direction. Not accustomed to the amount of scrutiny she received from the other guests, she quickly made her way over to the refreshments. She was about to reach for a glass of lemonade when a voice stilled her.

"You must be my betrothed."

Myra turned to look at the man. Taller than any other man at the ball, he was also broad-shouldered and fearsome in appearance. Determined to smile, she instead felt the corners of her mouth droop as his eyes burned into her. "And you are?" she asked, a quiver in her voice.

He threw his head back and laughed, but it was not the laugh of a man meeting his betrothed. It was the laugh of a wild animal about to devour its prey. "Why, I am the Earl of Allegory, of course. And you, my dear, are all mine."

Fear sliced through Myra's middle. She reached a hand out to the refreshment table, hoping to steady herself. In the process, she knocked over a cup of lemonade, and her glove became soaked with the sticky mess. How shall I ever escape this madness?

Just then, a cacophony arose from the other side of the ballroom. She could not see what was making the noise, but the sound grew increasingly insistent, drawing her toward it. Leaving the Earl standing at the lemonade table, she ran toward the noise.

With a start, Myra awoke and reached a hand out to silence her alarm only to find it wasn't where she normally left it. No, wait a minute. You're the one who's not in the right place. Looking about her room, she saw her stuffed bear and tiger sitting on her bed. "Good morning Lewis. Good morning Jenkins," she said sleepily. The alarm finally stopped buzzing of its own accord. She'd fallen asleep at her desk again, this time studying for an algebra test. Ooh, gross. I drooled on my math book and my hand. Reaching for a tissue to wipe up the mess, her eyes fell on her clock, and she realized she'd set the alarm for the wrong time. Oh no! I'm going to be late!

Myra's mother poked her head in around her bedroom door. "You can't get out of this algebra test, and I can't go with you. You're going to have to face it alone, but I hope you'll be able to do so with a smile on your face. I'm sure you've done your best to prepare for it."

"You're throwing me to the wolves Mom, and you know it."

Her mother laughed as she moved down the hallway and away from Myra's room. Nonetheless, her singsong voice reached back to where Myra stood, still wiping her hand and book off. "Think of it as a lovely ball or something. I'm sure that'll make it easier to handle."

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Release: The Millionaire Plan - Kay Harborne.

Amber Wynters is on a mission to find a millionaire to marry – and fast. Her parents are nearly bankrupt and forced to sell the family home, a beautiful Tudor house that had been in the family for generations. And it’s all thanks to Amber’s ex-fiancé Rod persuading them to invest in his dodgy shares. So armed with a ‘How to Hook a Millionaire’ Book and a ten point plan, she sets off to hook herself a rich husband. Then she meets the drop-down gorgeous Jed Curtess. The at-traction between them is sizzling but Jed is only a hired hand on one of the millionaire’s yachts. Can Amber ignore her heart and follow her plan?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Release: Something Like A Lady - Kim Bowman & Kay Springsteen

She closed her eyes and twirled, imagining the handsomest prince as her dancing partner. Juliet might think it a child’s tale to dream of true love, but Annabella didn't think that at—
Strong arms caught her in mid-spin and a hand settled at her waist. Annabella’s eyes flew open and she screamed. But the dashing stranger grinned and whirled her around then released her.

There are worse things than hiding in a derelict old cottage, battling field mice, and sucking on one's last lemon. Or so Lady Annabella Price firmly believes. For example, spending the Season in London with her stepbrother and husband-hunting, as her mother has ordered. Instead, Annabella sends her maid in her place and exults in her questionable triumph... until the insufferable Lord Seabrook shows up.

It seems like a simple favor for a friend, something to distract him from his need to find an acceptable wife. Jonathan Durham, Fourth Earl of Seabrook, travels to Haselmere to find the duke's stepsister and make certain no harm has befallen her. But Annabella is no damsel in distress. She's a willful, spirited lady, and the impetuous beauty intrigues Seabrook. When they're caught in a compromising position and forced into a hurried marriage, Seabrook sees it as the perfect answer to both their problems. But how can he convince his unwilling bride to give their marriage a chance when she's determined to have it dissolved?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Release: Beulah the Bull - C. C. Troy

Susan Ann Jones created the perfect, self-sufficient world for herself. She's organized, unattached, childless, and has worked in the same business office for twenty-two years. She's the only child of devout Catholics, but does just fine without spirituality. It's when her life hits a wall---her company is outsourced the same week she turns forty---that she concludes she’s disappointed herself and everyone else by not extending herself more. In a depressed mood late one night, she goes against well-ordered character and lowballs a bid on five acres of vacant ranch land in her native state of Arizona. Times being what they are, she's shocked a few days later to learn her bid was accepted! For the escape she throws herself into “the mistake” and decides to go camping. Yet, it’s here that God will tell her how much she means to Him by sending a unique angel: Beulah, a British White Bull raised by a little girl who died of cancer and whose father became a minister after her loss. With a funny and touching style, Susan tells her story of blossoming faith in herself, in others, and especially in things known only to the soul.

This title is available on Amazon Only for $1.99!