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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.
The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over 70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.
I’ve recently written a new novella, Hood and Fae, that’s included in this new fantasy bundle, Faery Realms. Hood and Fae will be part of my upcoming Urban Fantasy series, Daughters of Red Riding Hood. Find out more about the Faery Realms set below!
FAERY REALMS: TEN MAGICAL TITLES (Multi-Author Boxed Set, novels & novellas)
*Purchased individually, these books cost over $15 – List price $9.99 – Save 90% – Now on sale for only $0.99 cents!*
Enter the magical realms of Faery with these ten award-winning, bestselling fantasy authors. Each title in this sampler collection offers a new and different world full of mystery, love, and most of all, fae enchantment!
Over 1400 pages of stories, with *exclusive* titles from Alexia Purdy, Tara Maya, and Anthea Sharp! Together, these books have over 250 5-star reviews on Amazon and 150 5-star reviews on B&N.
Best for ages 13 and up.
THE FAERIE GUARDIAN – RACHEL MORGAN
Kickbutt faerie Violet is about to graduate as the top guardian trainee of her class, but when an assignment goes wrong and the human boy she’s meant to be protecting follows her back into the fae realm, a dangerous plot is set in motion. (298 pages)
THE WITHERING PALACE (A Dark Faerie Tale 0.1) – ALEXIA PURDY *Exclusive Content*
Untold darkness rules the Unseelie realm of the Land of Faerie. Hidden in this vast area, Aveta, the future queen of the Unseelie Army, perfects her gifts over lifetimes. Learning that magic isn’t the only way to manipulate the world around her, this naive girl grows into a woman of strength and cunning, ultimately becoming one of the most feared leaders in Faerie.
Rylie’s life is turned upside down when a stranger knocks on the door, claiming to be her real mother. Soon she will have to face the terrifying fact that not only is she a faery, but one that has been promised to the dark prince. (240 pages)
FEYLAND: THE FIRST ADVENTURE – ANTHEA SHARP
High-tech gaming and ancient magic collide when a computer game opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie. Jennet Carter never thought hacking into her dad’s new epic-fantasy sim-game would be so exciting… or dangerous. But behind the interface, dark forces lie in wait, leading her toward a battle that will test her to her limits and cost her more than she ever imagined. (65 pages)
BLOOD FAERIE – INDIA DRUMMOND
Unjustly sentenced to death, Eilidh ran—away from faerie lands to the streets of Perth, Scotland. When she discovers a human murdered by one of her own kind, she must choose: flee, or learn to tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything. (264 pages)
HOOD & FAE (Daughters of Red Riding Hood) – TARA MAYA *Exclusive Content*
Roxy Hood is just trying to make ends meet to pay her mom’s medical bills. Sure, Roxy takes on some jobs of, ahem, dubious integrity, like pretending that she can speak to the dead. But hey, that’s harmless. It’s not like a malignant ghoul is going to attack her. Or a sexy billionaire will show up trying to buy her red jacket. Or a werewolf will attack Granny Rose. Because that would be whacked.
THE DARK FAE – TERRY SPEAR USA Today Bestselling Author
Alicia can recognize the mischievous fae when they show up to “play” with the humans. Only now she’s faced with one highly annoyed dark fae and she’s certain he knows the truth about her. She can see him, which means her life is forfeit. (184 pages)
EHRIAD – JENNA ELIZABETH JOHNSON
Cade MacRoich is Ehríad, an outcast of Eile. While hunting Otherworldly monsters in the mortal world, he discovers Meghan, a young woman whose magic seems very familiar … Three scenes from Faelorehn – Book One of the Otherworld Trilogy, told from Cade’s perspective. (84 pages)
ONCE (Gypsy Fairy Tale) – DANA MICHELLE BURNETT
Harmony’s life will never be the same… Every day is just as normal, and just as boring, as the one before it… And then the Carnival comes to town. Suddenly, Harmony’s small town world is overtaken by the handsome Kieran and she discovers that not all fairy tales are pretend. (140 pages)
FAE HORSE: A Faery Tale – ANTHEA SHARP *Exclusive content*
Accused as witch, Eileen flees for her life. When a strange black horse appears, her only hope of escape, she mounts it—to discover the cost of her ride may be more than any mortal could bear. (20 pages)
“It was fast paced, entertaining, witty, and even swoon-worthy at times. Rachel’s characters were fun to follow, and Violet is sarcastic and strong and a force to be reckoned with—everything I love in a female lead.” –Cover2CoverBlog review of The Faerie Guardian
“Turmoil, heartache and unexpected romance – all three are immersed into this tale of the Fae.”— Craving YA Reads review of Dark Promise
“The plot was fast paced and interesting … I can’t recommend the rest of the trilogy enough.” –The Mad Reviewer on Feyland: The First Adventure
“All in all, this is hands down one of the most unique Fae stories I have ever read before- India Drummond has truly created a beautiful world.” –Avery’s Book Nook review of Blood Faerie
“Enter the World of the Fae: Magical worlds aren’t just for young adults, I enjoyed this tale and look forward to reading the other books in this series.” –ParaNormal Romance Reviews of The Dark Fae
“I thought this was a great, quick summer read! Great story combined with bits of mythology and Irish folklore. I read the entire trilogy in a few days.” –Kristin David on Ehriad
“Once I started this book I could not put it down, I had to know what happened next.” ~ Amazing Book Come To Life review of Once (Gypsy Fairy Tale)
I’m excited to show you all the cover I designed for a new fantasy bundle coming out this week: Faery Realms.
Not only will this collection have lots of great stories from some top indie fantasy authors, but it will have a brand new novella to my upcoming urban fantasy series, The Daughters of Little Red Riding Hood.
Stay tuned for the final release day information and more on my new novella, Hood and Fae!
Discover the fantasy world of The Seedbearing Prince…
Dayn Ro’Halan is a farmer’s son sworn to a life of plowing on his homeworld, Shard. After finding a lost artifact called a Seed, he’s thrust into an ancient conflict between voidwalkers of the hated world Thar’Kur, and Defenders from a floating fortress called the Ring. Dayn must become a Seedbearer and learn to use the Seed’s power to shape worlds before the entire World Belt is lost.
The torrent shifted again, and a thousand shards of onyx flashed to fire as Corian swept through a roiling field of ice and stone. The sheath on his worn black armor held, but would not last much longer. The stream of rock in the space between the worlds drifted slower here, and boasted several floating mountains large enough to hold a layer of air. Green ferns covered the surface of the nearest, providing plenty of cover. Corian was tempted to stop and rest, but crater wolves likely roamed in such thick foliage. The entire World Belt hung on the message he bore to the Ring, and he could rest after his task was done.
A field of red granite stretched in the space above him like the bizarre clouds of some nightmare, the individual boulders careening off each other by the hundreds. Only the hardest minerals and metals endured the endless pounding of the rock flow, and only the most foolish men would brave such a swath of torrent. They were moving the direction he needed to go, into the flow where the rock moved fastest. In the torrent, speed kills, he reminded himself. He was the best courser among the Ring’s Guardians, but the rock never cared.
Corian deftly attached a new talon to what remained of his silver wingline, then heaved it. The metal hook took hold, his wingline snapped taut, and the boulder yanked Corian into the flow. He repeated the process, each time roping a boulder moving faster, until his last guide rock pulled him along at hundreds of spans a second. A layer of white frost appeared on his armor and mask in a blink. He reeled himself in and clung to the red surface, like a flea riding a river bison in the middle of a stampeding herd. He watched every direction at once from his perch, digging his gauntlets into the crumbling surface. The boulder was actually some ancient rusted metal, not granite as he first thought. The torrent here was so thick he could barely see the stars, and it filled his ears with a distant roar.
He sped along this way for some time, until he spied a pockmarked mass of stone and iron, large as a dwarf moon. A cleft right down the middle threatened to split the entire thing in half. A tower in the northern axis had seen more than its fair share of rust, but the light strobing from it pulsed regularly, illuminating the smaller rocks orbiting around it. As a whole, the wayfinder was ugly and old, but the mass of rock was the most blessed sight Corian could imagine after a week of surviving the torrent’s attempts to grind him to powder.
His next wingline took him closer. If the wayfinder was powered as well as he suspected, he could use the array inside it to find out where he was in the torrent, and see how close the Ring lay. He might even find food and water, if peace favored him. A fellow Guardian must stop here often for such an old wayfinder to be this well preserved, he thought.
Smaller debris pelted the wayfinder’s old crust, disintegrating in flashes of light. The surface shone with hundreds of impacts, large and small. Corian chose a crater near the old tower, perhaps seventy spans deep with high walls that would offer good angles to slow himself as he approached.
As he prepared to throw out another talon, dark shapes poured from the wayfinder’s cleft. He stared for a moment, incredulous. There could be no crater wolves on a wayfinder, with no game to hunt, unless they were marooned after striking some other erratic in the torrent. No, those shapes moved with a military precision, more lethal than the deadliest pack. He could see them clearly now, massive men covered in black. “No. Not here!” Corian barely recognized his own weary voice.
The voidwalkers had seen him. A pinprick of light shone on the wayfinder’s surface, brighter than the tower’s regular strobe. He eyed it mistrustfully as he searched for a place to throw his next wingline and change his momentum. He spotted a tumbling boulder half covered with ice, moving away from the wayfinder too fast.
The light near the voidwalkers flashed. A beam of energy rushed into Corian’s path, hot as molten steel. A lifetime of coursing experience kicked in, and he curled his legs up until his knees touched his ears, rolling forward. The strange fire passed underneath him by less than a span. He could feel the heat of it through his protective layer of sheath. The beam burned past, and slammed into a rock fifty spans away. The tumbling boulder barely even slowed in its course, but the spot where the weapon struck—for there was no question that is what it was—glowed red hot at the edges. The glistening center had cooled quick as glass.
Another pinprick of light. He twisted around in the weightlessness of the void to point his feet back toward the wayfinder and make himself a smaller target. It did no good. The beam rushed straight at him, and his world turned red with pain.
An impact jarred him awake. Another. Corian opened his eyes. I’m much too cold. The voidwalker weapon had burned away his sheath. Layers of his black armor were peeling away from the metal plates like paper curled in a fire. He had been caught in a tangle of purple-rooted vines intertwined in a mile long cluster of the floating rock, what Jendini coursers called a knotted forest. The roots were nearly hard as stone in places. Dusty old bones from animals Corian did not even recognize littered the tangles. Debris from the torrent stretched around the forest in every direction, and errant stones pelted the mass of vines, which he immediately recognized. Courser’s nap, the whole forest is covered with it.
Corian reached into a compartment on his armored belt and removed his last flask of sheath. He applied the clear liquid to his ruined armor in quick, smooth motions, not leaving one inch exposed. The sheath locked together in small patches of light, and his body’s heat immediately began to warm the interior of the invisible, protective barrier. Once the sheath was gone, his armor would not prevent the smallest pebble from killing him, if one struck him moving fast enough. For the first time, Corian considered that he may not survive.
This was to be his last circuit as a Guardian for the Ring, and he held the hope that he would look into his grandchildren’s eyes back on Jendini now that his service was finished. Yet his duty hung over him, heavier than ever. In the distance he could see the world of Shard, verdant and green just beyond the torrent’s chaos. His resolve hardened.
He slipped a speechcaster into his mouth and began to speak as he worked himself free of the tangled vines. The small wafer could hold his words in secret for a few days, should things go badly here.
“I am Corian Nightsong, a Guardian of the Ring. There are Thar’Kuri warriors on the world of Nemoc. The voidwalkers have built a device that allows them to…teleport themselves at will through the Belt. They are gathering in numbers, preparing for an attack. There are captives from all over the worlds imprisoned on Nemoc. The voidwalkers have weapons unlike anything known from the Ring. They use energy and can attack over great distances. They must have been made in the age before the Breach.
If you knew where to look for this message, you must deliver it with all haste to Force Lord Adazia on the Ring. The worlds all depend on you, for I have failed them.” The admission filled Corian with bitterness, but he forced a strength he no longer felt into his words. “My sons and daughters live in Denkstone, on Jendini. Tell them…their father served well.”
One of the vines tangled around his torso began to quiver. Corian looked down, fearing a leaf, but instead he saw a voidwalker, climbing toward him. Corian was tall, but the hulking brute easily overtopped him by a head. His glistening black armor looked as if it were melted to his frame, and covered him from head to toe save two dark slits for his eyes. The vines broke like dried mud in the voidwalker’s grasp.
Corian began to climb, scrambling further into the vines. He did not bother to draw his sword, the voidwalker would overpower him in moments if they were to fight.
“So afraid of an old courser?” Corian shouted. He pulled at every vine in his path as he fled, but most of them were stiff and gray. Living vines of the courser’s nap were purple and sticky, but the true danger lay with the leaves.
The voidwalker’s gravelly voice called to Corian, cold as an orphan’s gravestone. “Come to me, degenerate.”
Corian drew his sword, and began slashing his way through the vines. They sparked as his blade struck, but gave way. He leapt through an open space nearly ten spans across. The voidwalker followed without hesitation. So strong. Corian knew the brute meant to take him alive. He could not allow that.
He landed on a solid gray swath, fleshy beneath his feet. He rolled and lunged just as the leaf stirred. A row of spikes slipped out of the edges, thick as Corian’s leg and sharp enough to cleave a horse in two. Corian barely cleared them. The voidwalker was not so lucky. His momentum carried him right into the center of the carnivorous plant, which enveloped him with a twist of blue-veined leaf. Steam issued from the folds near the plant’s edges as it fed.
More pods of the courser’s nap were coming to life, enlivened by the voidwalker’s screams. Corian avoided the leaves wherever they stirred. He climbed and lunged and dived through the vines, soon pulling himself to the edge of the knotted forest. Pure torrent lay before him, an endless landscape of chaotic rock. There was no clear flow in any direction, the individual boulders in the skyscape crashed into each other in a hundred shattering impacts. I’ll leap blind and pray that my sheath holds.
Another voidwalker tore himself out of the vines a few spans away. Peace, but look at the size of him! The voidwalker’s armor looked as chewed up as the oldest rocks of the torrent, endless dents and scratches plastered the black surface.
“I’ve enjoyed hunting you, degenerate.”
Another courser’s leaf reared up behind the voidwalker as he lumbered toward Corian. The leaf lunged and took the voidwalker up, curling round and round as the folds of leaf tightened. Corian allowed himself a moment of elation, but it was short lived. A pale hand appeared on the side of the courser’s nap, and bright green fluid poured out. The leaf whipped back and forth, emitting a piercing shriek as the voidwalker pulled it apart piece by piece from the inside. Corian needed to see no more. He leaped, and prayed the torrent would show him mercy.
Henrietta and the Dragon Stone is a new story of young adult epic fantasy adventure by award-winning author, Beth Barany. Book 2 in The Five Kingdoms series of the continuing adventures of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer. What if everyone you loved was threatened by a force you couldn’t see or fight? Henrietta the legendary dragon slayer wants to return to her village for a heroes’ welcome. But an unknown sorcerer rides after her and her Dragon Stone and aims to destroy everyone she cares about. Can she claim her newfound powers sparked by the Dragon Stone and keep her loved ones safe, or will the sorcerer destroy everyone and everything she loves?
The Dracontias, dra-con-ti-as, emphasis on the second syllable, is the most powerful gem in all the Five Kingdoms, and more powerful than all the other so-called Kingdom Stones. This one and only Dragon Stone unifies the kingdoms and empowers its user. But beware its one fatal flaw.
—from the Fire Wizards Compendium
Early Winter New Moon (Mitte Moon), Oro Islands, One of the Five Kingdoms
King Singfan sucked in a breath, stretched the crossbow, and held it steady, tracking the beast.
Time was of the essence. If he didn’t kill this dragon and obtain the Dragon Stone on the great dragon’s forehead, he’d have to start all over again. Unthinkable. Impossible.
He had to renew this king’s body during this night, while the stars were aligned just so, and the moon hung below the horizon.
The girl Dragon Slayer, that Henrietta, was performing exactly as he’d expected. She’d taken the proffered reward and given him the secret dragon lore, confirming what he needed to know. She crouched nearby, ready to do his bidding.
King Singfan breathed out, steadying his aim, and smiled.
Inside of him, Bjirn Eyvindir smiled, too, at Singfan’s glee. Hidden to everyone, Eyvindir had occupied the body of King Singfan for seventy-five years, a long king’s rule—longer than anyone on the Oro Islands could remember. If they did remember the length of King Singfan’s reign, Eyvindir by King Singfan’s hand had made sure they didn’t remember for long, and didn’t remember anything ever again.
King Singfan had given him free reign to run his magic through the man and control his every move. The man was his best and most perfect servant. Eyvindir wasn’t going to end the arrangement anytime soon. He’d planned this renewal too long for the moment to go awry.
The dragon hovered above the enormous cave floor about to settle, its scales flickering and iridescent in the torchlight. King Singfan held his breath, steadying his strong stance and perfect aim. He readied the powerful crossbow.
Before he could loose the arrow, Henrietta yelled “You can’t!” and shoved him to the hard-packed ground.
The dragon slayer pinned his arms against his torso with her legs, heavy on his chest. He struggled beneath her weight.
“How dare you!” he snarled. “We had an agreement.”
How had she slipped past his guard?
With every second that ticked by, he felt his power draining from him like water down the drain, no doubt shifting his appearance. But his voice held strong and loud. He gathered courage in that. There was still time to kill the dragon and obtain the Dragon Stone.
“I can’t let you!” she shouted, glaring down at him.
Suddenly, her friends appeared at her side.
“Who’s this?” the injured bard, Jaxter, asked.
“The king,” Henrietta growled.
Little did she know who she was truly up against.
“How dare you!” Eyvindir protested again.
But his voice sounded strange. Gurgles, high-pitched clicks and garbled words were all that he could manage.
How did the dragon slayer’s friends arrive at the cave? He’d left them under guard at the castle.
“Magics! I don’t trust my eyes. Franc?” the dragon slayer shouted, as if she were yelling right into his ear.
“I have not ever seen this old man before, but I have heard whispered tales,” Franc, the knight, said. “What is he saying?” The knight he’d sent to retrieve the dragon slayer, crossed his arms, and frowned down at him. The betrayer.
“I don’t know, but we have no time for tales.” Henrietta bound the king’s wrists and ankles together with a rough rope.
He wriggled, but to no avail. Something sharp stabbed his back.
“Don’t move!” Henrietta barked.
Eyvindir glared at her, through King Singfan’s eyes, furious and unable to move his body, his faculty for speech gone. How dare she! He’d miscalculated the girl slayer. He’d waited too long to act. Frantic, he reached in his mind for his power, but it was too late.
The moment when the moon was just so, right below the horizon, was gone. The shine of the rising moon grew brighter.
The dragon spun to settle, flapping its wings. He’d missed his moment. Torches lay on the ground where his cowardly men had fled. The dragon slayer’s friends had had a hand in that, no doubt, yet he’d dismissed them as weak. Another mistake. How could he have so miscalculated? He brushed the thought aside. He didn’t make mistakes. He drew strength from that knowledge.
“You won’t get away with this!” the king hissed and spat, his voice fully recovered. “The dragon must die, or the Five Kingdoms die. The Oro Islands Kingdom is the first kingdom and must be renewed!”
The dragon slayer frowned, confusion and panic written on her face. Good. He drew more strength from her fear and uncertainty. He may be still tied up, but that state couldn’t last long.
She turned to her friends. “Franc, Jaxter, is this true?”
“Whispers only,” the knight said.
“I don’t know,” the bard said. He leaned on his staff for support.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” the dragon slayer said and clenched her fists. Her heart revved up a notch.
Her panic rippled off her in delicious waves. Excellent.
“I didn’t ask for this responsibility! I don’t want this responsibility!” the dragon slayer cried.
The bard coughed and struggled for breath, leaning heavily on his staff. Most excellent.
Eyvindir pulled power from the skinny young bard’s weakness and from the dragon slayer’s doubts.
The weakened bard managed to speak. “It’s been so long, the story’s been told many different ways, but one of the legends says that the dragon must pass every peak of the wave, at the emptiness of the moon, in the year of the waning ruler, by the hand of a dual heart awakened, bounded on all four points.”
“But what does that mean?” the dragon slayer yelled over a loud hum, her panic at a near-fever pitch.
“I don’t know!” the bard shouted.
“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” the dragon slayer said, her voice high-pitched, frantic.
“You never asked,” the bard replied.
“But you knew who I was facing.”
“The legend doesn’t say the name of the dragon. I just realized who it meant.” The bard hung on to his staff.
“But still you should have told me! You know all the tales.”
The dragon slayer sounded at wits end. She was weakening. Perfect. He sucked in more of her fear as sustenance to rebuild his strength.
“You should have asked!” the bard said again. “Besides I thought you knew them as well as I did! What is wrong with you? This is what you do, save people and kingdoms from dragons!” Jaxter coughed.
Eyvindir reveled in the bard’s increasing weakness and in the argument brewing.
“Stop! We don’t have the time to argue!” the fire girl, Paulette, yelled. The sneak somehow saw through his facade back at the castle. She would not last a day under his new reign.
“What?” the dragon slayer said.
“The dragon is changing,” the knight said.
The beast’s crystal scales shifted through the primary color spectrum. A second dragon arose from the first, consisting only of a matrix of rainbow light.
Eyvindir would regain the upper hand. He drew ever more strength from everyone’s confusion and fear. Clarity blossomed anew. The moon wouldn’t rise for another hour. He still had time. The dragon slayer’s surprise betrayal would delay him no more.
“You have to kill it before it disappears for another millennia!” Eyvindir yelled, his strength growing from their pain. He could wriggle in the ropes. Soon his power would reawaken and then he would easily break his flimsy bonds. “You must! I command it!” But his last words were drowned out of his own hearing by a roar from the beast.
“Shut up!” the dragon slayer managed to shout over the din.
How was she able to do that when he couldn’t even hear himself? He yanked the ropes.
“He’s right, or something like it has to happen every millennia so the dragon can come back,” the bard said.
“I can’t,” the dragon slayer said, her voice hoarse.
“What do you mean ‘you can’t’?” the bard asked. “You are the Dragon Slayer!”
“I can’t.” The dragon slayer’s cheeks were wet. Splendid! Her life force was depleting.
Any moment now he’d be renewed and free. He used all his years of experience to yank her life force from her. She had to obey him. All his plans rested on her demise, now that he’d taken what he needed from her.
The dragon nudged the dragon slayer with its large head. The dragon slayer stumbled back. She was weakening. The beast nodded slowly, its Dragon Stone glowing green then red on its forehead.
Was the beast communicating with the dragon slayer? Couldn’t be. The beast was for him only. Power flooded through him hot and molten, anger strengthening him.
“Dragon slayer, you must kill it,” Eyvindir shouted. “The fate of the island is in your hands. The fate of the whole Five Kingdoms!”
“Jaxter?” the dragon slayer turned to the bard as if to confirm his words.
“He may be right. Do you trust me?”
“What kind of question is that?” the dragon slayer asked.
“A question that demands an answer,” the bard said in a voice so soft Eyvindir wasn’t sure he heard correctly.
He glared at the stupid dragon slayer. How could he have miscalculated? He’d planned for every contingency. Nowhere had he predicted that the dragon slayer would be strengthened by the new web of connections around her, her pesky friends. She was a loner. That was to be her downfall. He’d made sure of it.
“What do I need to do?” the dragon slayer asked. Her friends must have answered because after a pause she said, “I need your help.”
Damn the old gods and all the lore of his people.
The dragon slayer barked an order cutting through his curse. “Paulette, get to the dragon’s tail. You’re fire. On my mark!”
“What?” The fire girl shouted too close. She hovered over him. “And leave him?”
“He can’t do anything. Go! Time fades, and so does he,” the dragon slayer ordered.
“You must not! The Dragon Stone is mine!” But his words croaked out in sputter. He felt more than saw the new moon rising and his life-force, his prana, ebbing out of this body.
The King Singfan identity, his soul, had been quiet, letting him take command. Eyvindir rallied King Singfan’s soul to lend him strength.
The dragon’s hum deepened and filled the cavern with a low vibrato. It flapped higher and brightened, both the dragon of light and the real dragon. Its scales shot sparks, which exploded against the cavern walls. Two dragons melded into light, too bright to peer at directly. Fire and wind swirled into a funnel and exploded into a white light and blinding bang.
“No!” He shouted, but he couldn’t hear his own voice.
“Don’t stop!” the dragon slayer yelled above the storm.
From all directions, explosions like a fireworks hammered him. Bound as he was, he managed to bend double to guard against the pain, but his efforts were useless. His skin crawled as if ants wriggled under his skin. Pain pierced all layers of his being—both the body and the magics layers.
“Stop!” Eyvindir tried to yell, but it came out like a series of croaks. No, it couldn’t be. He couldn’t move his body.
Then in breath, he lost all sense of feeling. Impossible.
He was able to sense his life force being jettisoned out of his body and into the night sky, on its way back to where his actual body rested inert in his fortress far to the north and east. Through his cloud of shock, from his vantage point in the sky far above, he spied his body, actually the body of King Singfan who had ruled the Oro Islands for over seventy-five years, burst into flames. He felt nothing. He was frozen in shock. The male body that had been the Oro king’s was now cinders, a miniscule pile of ash.
Panic almost scattered his prana into a million trillion irretrievable bits. Only his mighty skill as the oldest living sorcerer saved him. He’d heard rumors of such things. But no, he could not die. Unacceptable. He mustered his focus. His actual ancient body existed within reach.
He focused on his prana, a faint thread of light, a line leading in a northeasterly direction, through the clouds, across the sea, to his obsidian mountain enclave. He didn’t follow the thread to nestle in his sleeping form in that cold room. Not just yet. To do that would admit defeat. He would not let an upstart dragon slayer ruin his plans.
But she had. He had wits enough to admit that.
For a moment he burned white hot with rage and felt an unbearable pain sear his energy body. His anger, intricate and quite useful, connected to his identity, his soul. But now his anger was burning his life force, his prana connection, to the only body he now had.
He brought his attention back to the island city of Plumaria and hovered over it. He quickly allowed dirty white cloud particulates to drench his rage. He had to focus. He had to retrieve the remnants of power from that flimsy old pile of dust that had been the Oro king. He had to find another body to use and fast. Before she got away with the Dracontias, the precious one and only Dragon Stone.
The search for and habitation of a suitable body only took him an entire day, but he finally accomplished his task. Withdrawing his powers from the dust pile, he spied the body he needed in the Plumaria castle’s sick room. His low simmering fury and tenacity built up over three centuries of scheming had made him strong. With his powerful focus, he propped up the dying soul, revived it, and pushed his will and identity into the young man’s heart.
In a breath, he healed the youngling’s body to temporary vibrancy. The body wouldn’t last, so he had to hurry. There was not the time to pick a more robust body. That took preparation, study, and careful calculations. He didn’t have the time for that. He had to get back what was rightfully his.
Once more in control of a vibrant body and pliable identity, he followed the rumors of the slayer’s departure all the way to the piers. That she-slayer was supposed to do his bidding. Failure hadn’t been an option. Perhaps seventy-five years in the Oro king’s body had made him sloppy and dulled his normally exceptionally high acuity and brilliance.
His complacency must have been how she had tricked him, how she’d deceived and betrayed him. He hadn’t been blindsided by a female since his sister had stolen the royal crown from him over a century ago.
Never mind the mistakes of the past. This dragon slayer, this Henrietta, had destroyed his ambition to rule over the Oro Islands for the next one hundred years and beyond. In that time he had planned to seize control of the other four kingdoms using the might of the Dragon Stone, combined with the other four kingdom’s crystals and stones he’d meticulously collected over the centuries. His life’s calling entailed ruling over all the Five Kingdoms. No one was going to come between him and his destiny again.
She would pay for ruining his plans.
He’d end this before she ever left the city of Plumaria. The child-woman, Henri Etta, was no match for him. He couldn’t be destroyed that easily.
He directed his new body through the marketplace, causing havoc. Then he rushed up the pier and delighted in the feel of youth in his limbs. A crazy thought flitted through his mind—that of the faraway and long ago carefree youth he once was who’d loved the freedom of birds and spent hours watching them in flight.
Then he saw her, waving and nodding to the peons who thought she’d liberated them. He swatted away memories of his flimsy faraway past. His pace quickened. She could not take his dream away. No one could, especially no woman. He was to have complete control of all the Five Kingdoms.
Once he had the last object of power, his plans would click into place.
She’d taken the most powerful gem in all the Five Kingdoms from him, and she would pay. With her life.
For some exciting reading, download Callie Kanno’s first novel in The Threshold Trilogy, The Threshold Child.
Adesina has been trained from childhood to serve her nation as a warrior and a spy. When she is selected to combat a group of seditious magic users, she must summon all of her abilities to defeat her enemies—including talents that have been buried in the deepest part of her.
No one ever looked up.
For this reason, a black clothed figure was crouched in the gnarled arms of an ancient tree. In the sparse moonlight she was invisible against the background, waiting patiently for her prey. Her metallic purple eyes, the only visible feature, scanned the ground searching the darkness for every possible detail.
The minutes ticked by slowly.
The whisper of the breeze was chilled by the promise of winter, but she ignored the dropping temperature. Her intense focus even overshadowed the slight ache in her muscles from maintaining her position for an extended period of time.
Every rustle in the underbrush, every stirring of the leaves, brought her sharp eyes around in search for some sign of her quarry.
Finally, a similarly garbed figure passed beneath her tree, slinking from shadow to shadow. She felt a surge of satisfaction as she shifted her weight to the balls of her feet in preparation for the attack.
She dropped down from the branches and brought her prey to its knees before there was any time for her victim to react. She removed the hood and scarf of her opponent, revealing the pale, narrow face of a young woman with short sandy hair. Her features were harsh but blunt, giving her the brutish appearance of one who delights in violence.
The young woman looked up at the strange metallic eyes that were flecked with gold. She clenched her fists, immediately prepared to lash out, and her face contorted in an expression of pure loathing. “Adesina,” she spat.
Adesina didn’t need to ask how she had been recognized. She knew her eyes made her easily identifiable. “I hoped I would be the one to mark you, Basha.”
“I had hoped to kill you.”
Adesina didn’t doubt it. The two young women were part of a class of students training for an elite and selective military group, commonly known as the Shimat. The competition was fierce, and “accidents” happened.
Basha was an unremarkable student, but she was vindictive and unrelenting, which some teachers mistook for determination and strength of character. From the moment she had laid eyes on Adesina, some ten years ago, Basha had hated her. That hate only grew as Adesina excelled among her peers.
Adesina was unusually gifted, even for a Shimat. She had the uncanny ability to sense her surroundings and knew how to use that to her advantage. She was exceptionally agile and her endurance levels were far above normal. These traits, among others, were the reason why she had begun her training five years earlier than any other student.
Adesina reciprocated Basha’s intense dislike. Not only that, but she was aware of her own gifts and Basha’s shortcomings. It rankled Adesina’s pride to see Basha gain distinction through the misconceptions of certain instructors.
A number of sarcastic retorts rose in Adesina’s fifteen-year-old mind, but she ignored them. Basha saw the scornful quirk to Adesina’s eyebrows, and her own eyes gleamed with the desire for violent revenge.
Instead of voicing her thoughts, Adesina drew the dagger from the belt around her waist. “I have unveiled you, Shi Basha. Yield or be disgraced.”
Basha’s expression twisted as she debated whether it was worth the disgrace to defy the person she despised more than anything in the world. When she spoke, it was between clenched teeth.
Adesina stepped forward so she was facing Basha’s kneeling figure and placed the edge of her blade against her enemy’s cheek.
“I mark you, so that all may know of your first failure.”
Her stroke was perhaps harder than it needed to be. Basha swore, but let it bleed freely. Adesina took a small square of white cloth from a pouch on her belt and stained it with some of Basha’s blood. She held it carefully in her hand and returned Basha’s hood and scarf to her.
Basha took them and got to her feet. “A day will come when I will make you pay for this mark. You will rue the day you came into this world.”
Adesina rolled her eyes. Basha had always tended to be melodramatic. “Come on. We have to return to the school.”
Adesina began to turn, but her eyes caught the movement of a sleek shadow several yards away. It was hard to imagine that there was anything more black than the woods at night, but something darker crouched just out of sight. Two golden orbs gleamed momentarily but then seemed to disappear altogether. When she looked closer she could see only trees.
It must have been some sort of animal, for Adesina seemed to be the only human with odd colored eyes. Given the size of the spheres, it must have been an enormous creature. There had never been any beast so large this close to the fortress.
She considered investigating further, but an impatient movement from Basha brought her head around sharply. Adesina’s learned suspicion of Basha overrode her present curiosity. Frowning to herself, Adesina continued on her way.
The autumn leaves lay thick on the ground, but the footsteps of the two young women were muted by the damp soil. They were merely two silhouettes slipping through the darkness, hidden among the crooked trees that surrounded them.
As they walked, Adesina’s mind turned back over the events of the night. It had been a surprise to be shaken from sleep and told that tonight would be the final test for their year of training. If they passed they would be eligible to advance to the next year. If not, they would be put through a remedial course of training.
They had been individually led to different parts of the forest northwest of the school and told that their one objective was to find and unveil one of their classmates. Those unveiled were to be marked by the victor.
Now Adesina and Basha emerged from the forest and approached a small camp. It consisted of two small tents set up on the hill overlooking the forest. The three instructors of Adesina’s group of students stood waiting, robed in black. In the darkness they took on the spectral appearance of the harbingers of death, and the young student felt a chill run down her spine at the sight. Beside the instructors stood a spidery device similar to a brazier, but with flames instead of coals.
Adesina looked at the faces of the men that had taught and trained her since she was five years old. They regarded her gravely as the two young women approached. She greeted them respectfully in order of seniority, bowing to each. “Shar Breyen. Shar Jareb. Shar Per.”
They bowed back. “Shi Adesina.”
Basha went through the same ceremony, but did not receive any acknowledgment in return. Her pale blue eyes smoldered even though she kept them lowered.
Breyen indicated toward the brazier. Adesina took the stained square of cloth she was holding in her hand and gently laid it on the fire. The flames licked at the corners of the cloth, blackening them and curling them as if it were contorting in agony. Adesina watched it dispassionately and wafted the smoke onto her face before stepping back again.
This was a symbolic ritual of the Shimat. The stained cloth represented the victory won, and all that the victory had cost. The sacrifice, the skill, the lessons learned. By breathing in the smoke, it all became part of you. The ritual was also a way to honor those who made you stronger.
Per nodded approvingly. “Shi Adesina, take your prisoner to the medical wing and then you may retire.”
Both students bowed again before walking past their instructors.
The hill leveled out to become flat ground after a few steps. The grass was greyish-green in color and coarse in texture. In the meager moonlight it took on a sickly appearance. This, in addition to the thin mist swirling over the ground, gave a ghostly feeling to the fortress that served as the school and training facility.
The fortress was set on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. The great outer wall looked harsh and forbidding at night, but during the day it gave a strange sort of comfort in its solitary strength. There were no other cities or villages near the fortress; no other buildings that might call themselves neighbors. The fortress stood alone for many leagues, and it seemed to take power in that seclusion.
The massive gates stood open, which was quite unusual, but several Shimat guards compensated for the lapse of security. Three stood along the wall directly above the gates, and two more stood on the ground on either side. The others were positioned at even intervals along the wall like dark columns, upright and unmoving.
All of them wore the black uniform that Adesina and her peers had been privileged to wear for the night’s activities. Black clothing, knee-high boots, gloves, a high-collared black leather vest, and a hood and scarf that only left the eyes visible. These glittering spheres watched the two young women closely, but the guards remained otherwise still and silent.
Basha fumed inaudibly as they walked. Her burning glare was fixed on the ground and her fists were clenched at her side. When they passed through the gates, she turned to Adesina and said venomously, “I can go to the medical wing by myself.”
Adesina shrugged and walked away. Less time spent in Basha’s presence was always a good thing, and she wanted to get what rest she could before dawn.
Basha took the corridor to the left and Adesina turned right, back to their sleeping quarters.
Each of the rooms that served as sleeping quarters held ten to fifteen students. There were two or three metal washstands per room, and one large mirror on the wall in which they could thoroughly inspect the neatness of their personal appearance.
Every Shi, or student, was instilled with a strict sense of order, which carried over into every aspect of their lives. The uniform had to be meticulous, the hair combed back from the face, proper hygiene attended to, and so forth. All such rules for personal care and general cleanliness were set down in what was casually called “the code.”
Keeping this in mind, Adesina resisted the urge to simply plop into bed fully dressed in spite of her fatigue. She took off the Shimat uniform she had been given for her assignment, folded it carefully, and placed it on the small chest located at the foot of her cot.
Under normal circumstances, a student wasn’t allowed to touch such a uniform. They were only worn by full Shimat, and had to be earned. For certain tests, however, that rule was waived.
Adesina put on her sleeping uniform, unpinned her hair from its tightly braided knot, and climbed carefully into bed. With a weary expression on her face, she settled down for some much needed sleep.
Blood and Iron, the first book in the epic fantasy series The Book of the Black Earth, is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus set in a richly-imagined world.
It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.
Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.
Jirom reeled back with blood pouring into his right eye. He blinked it away as he retreated. He blocked a hard jab and grimaced as the iron spikes protruding from his opponent’s gloves gouged long furrows down his forearm.
Boos rained down from the stands where workaday freemen of the empire stomped and swilled from clay mugs. Their betters sat in shaded wooden boxes along the top of the tiny arena, fanned by slaves and served wine from silver chalices. Jirom would’ve killed for a flagon of beer right now.
A blow to the ribs knocked the air from his lungs and left stinging gashes along his side. Jirom covered up and circled away, and the crowd continued to make its displeasure known. His opponent was called the Lion. He was ferocious, young, and as strong as his namesake. With his light complexion and proud, hawkish nose, he could have passed for a member of the upper caste except for his iron collar and the sigil—three diamonds joined in a triangular pattern—branded on the right side of his face which marked him as a permanent slave, unable to ever regain his freedom again. It was possible his family had sold him into slavery as a child, or he’d insulted the wrong person. There were many ways to end up a slave in Akeshia, as Jirom well knew. Most gladiator bouts—whether fought with sword, spear, or bare-handed—didn’t last long because the fighters were criminals or slaves who had sinned against their masters. They usually died their first time out, fed to the more experienced gladiators. But the Lion was a different breed. Jirom didn’t know his story, save that he’d been brought down from Chiresh for these games. That meant money had been invested in him—a lot of it.
Jirom blocked a right hook which would have caved in his head, and more blood poured down his arms. As he stepped back from a straight-armed jab, his shoulders hit the rough boards of the arena’s eight-foot-high partition. A hard punch to the gut nearly forced him to drop his guard, but he saw the follow-up to the head and slipped away. Something wet and sticky struck his back. Rotten pomegranates and oranges landed around him, making pulpy divots in the sand. Jirom looked into the stands. In one of the private boxes, a portly, middle-aged man with deep brown skin was talking to an equally portly, slightly older patrician. The first man was Jirom’s owner, Thraxes, so engrossed in conversation that he wasn’t even watching the bout.
A grunt warned Jirom in time to cover up before a powerful clout smashed against his temple. He staggered, his vision fading into black and white spots, before righting himself. Through the speckled haze, he saw the Lion drawing back for another blow. Jirom slipped past a punch aimed at his chin and pushed off to make some space between them. More jeers rocked the arena.
“Come on, you dog!” someone in the stands taunted. “Fight!”
Jirom slapped away another punch and continued his slow retreat around the pit. The familiar twinge in his lower back from an old injury climbed up his spine, making every movement that much more painful. He glanced up to the private boxes at the wrong moment, and his opponent charged with a hoarse bellow. Jirom covered his face as he backpedalled, but a couple punches got through, drawing more blood. His feet got tangled up and he fell hard on his backside. A kick to the back as he rolled over sent jangling shocks of pain down his legs. His opponent stood over him with arms raised to the crowd, and the onlookers showered him with adoration. Thraxes was still engrossed in his discussion.
Jirom crawled to his knees as the Lion paraded around the arena. His opponent didn’t give him time to fully recover before charging at him again. Jirom circled away to his left, always the left, and more boos came down from the stands. The people wanted to see death.
His or mine, it doesn’t matter whose.
Another hard blow almost knocked Jirom down again, but he kept his footing. The Lion came after him, relentless and seemingly inexhaustible. If anything, his attacks were getting stronger and more confident. Jirom glanced up. Thraxes was now standing in front of his seat. With a bored expression, the slave owner yawned and scratched his ample belly. That was the signal.
About time, you fat bastard.
The Lion unleashed another straight punch with a growl. His eyes widened as Jirom caught the fist with an open hand. Air exploded from the Lion’s mouth as Jirom drove his other fist into the younger man’s ribs. A punch to the back of the ear dropped the Lion to his knees, and the next one laid him out flat with blood trickling down his branded cheek.
Jirom felt the rage churning inside him like an ill wind. Breathing through his mouth because his nose was clogged with blood, he knelt down and wrapped both arms around the Lion’s neck. With a heave, he twisted until he heard the spine snap with a sharp pop. The crowd roared with approval.
Cheers and a few copper coins fell from the audience as Jirom walked to the gate, but he ignored them. As he traveled down the dark tunnel to the slave cells, scores of feet pounded on the boards above his head.
Let’s start Friday off with a FREE ebook: Kaybree versus the Angels from Harrison Paul.
Kaybree has grown up hearing stories of the Angels, mythical beings who used to defend Nordgard from the creatures of the forest. After leaving mankind without guidance for centuries, they returned fifteen years ago, leaving a fiery swath of destruction.
When Kaybree is called to the outpost by the forest, home to her mother’s mysterious Vormund Order, she stumbles into the latest Angel attack. Soon she learns that she has the unique power to fight them: the ability to transform into a radiant being of fire and lightning.
As she begins to receive visions from Angelic messengers, she delves deeper into her mother’s organization. She starts to wonder: why would Angels, holy messengers of God, attack people? Every answer she finds only sparks more questions. Because Vormund holds a deadly secret—one that could change Nordgard and the human race forever.
If the bards could be believed, Kant Vakt was a magical place, the site of my mother’s great battle with the Angels, where gallant warriors wielded the ancient relics in mankind’s defense. But bards’ tales had a reputation of being slippery, told with a wink and a nod, stretching the truth to impress girls with a clever song.
When I first arrived at the city, I had the haunting feeling that this time, the bards were right.
I stood on the deck of the ship as the Sea Pilgrim approached the docks of Kant Vakt. Icy wind whipped at my cloak and dress, making my scarf to flap in the breeze. I leaned on the railing, gazing out at my mother’s city. The Sydstrom Channel ran alongside the main road, and dozens of arched stone bridges connected the two sides. Oarsmen rowed their longships through the channel, carrying messages and cargo from one end of the city to the other.
The smells of sea brine and pine mingled in the air with the scents of chimney smoke and roasting meat. A carriage drawn by two rangir with long antlers rolled along the cobblestone street, but the crowd of people was sparse. Having come from the capital, I’d expected more of a welcoming party. I looked over at the far end of the city, toward the dense foliage of the forest. The thick cluster of Nordgren spruces was laden with snow, and blocked my view of the world beyond, where unseen horrors could be lurking.
The border wall came into view, or what was left of it. High stone watchtowers with crownlike tops dotted the borders by the forest. The ruins of the city walls remained where they stood, warped stone and eroded fragments that covered the expanse between towers. This was the Kant Vakt of the stories. Fifteen years ago, the walls had been burned away in a brilliant flash of white fire, pieces of stone exploding and raining down on the city. I shuddered thinking about it. The walls had never been rebuilt—probably because the Angels could just destroy them again if they wanted to.
I remembered my mother’s letter. I clutched the parchment close, to keep the ink from smearing. Not that it would have mattered. I’d read the letter enough times to recite it in my sleep. My mother had never sent a letter directly to me, penned in her scribe’s own hand, so I had to make sure I wasn’t reading it wrong. It was a summons to Kant Vakt.
“In Nordgard, Kaybree, everyone works,” my mother had told me each time she’d come to visit. “Peasants labor in the fields. Artisans craft in their workshops. Even kings and princes are expected to undergo rigorous schooling in their youth, followed by an approved apprenticeship. Idleness is not permitted, and all must learn their place. Mine is to defend our borders. Yours is to study at this sagekeep.”
Yet after sending me from the longship ports of Arleon to the frigid tundra of Nordgren to the eastern border of Holmgarde, she had never allowed me to even set foot in her city. Sometimes her excuse was my health, since I had a rare disease and needed special blood treatments weekly. Other times she would say that it was too much of a risk to travel to Kant Vakt, because I might get caught in the next attack. So I hadn’t asked for a few years, and had grown content to let her visit when she found the chance.
What had changed now?
I disembarked from the ship, stepping out onto wooden docks that seemed to shift as I walked. Maybe my sense of balance was still thrown off by the sea voyage. I looked around at the people, but didn’t recognize anyone. My mother’s letter had told me she’d send her assistant to find me, but no one came forward to introduce themselves.
Of course, I thought. The ship had arrived late, and she probably hadn’t bothered to track its progress. I could have a message sent, but knowing her, something of vital importance to defending Nordgard would take precedence. I would have to go straight to her tower at the sagekeep, and let the porters bring my chests of clothes and other belongings up later.
I waved to an oarsman on the channel and stepped into his longship. Its wooden frame was peaked on the ends, and seemed to glide on the water like a swan. It only had six benches for rowing, and was likely bought from a fisherman to use on the channel.
“Where to?” he asked. He wore a heavy gray cloak and had arms of corded muscle. Another bench was occupied by a younger man, his hands tight on the oars.
“The sagekeep,” I said, handing him a few coins. Without a word, he took the coins and began rowing. We passed along the main road, where rangir trotted along with nobles’ carriages in tow. Other longships wove around us in the water, more agile and practical in the city than the newer ships with their towering masts and large cargo holds. The ride took less time than I’d expected, and before I knew it, I was stepping onto the steep slope and toward the sagekeep.
I reached the outer courtyard and gazed up at the soaring figure. The sagekeep of Kant Vakt was legendary. Since it had nearly been demolished by the attack of fifteen years ago, the sages had commanded that we build it up again, a fortress that the creatures of the forest would never overthrow. My mother said it was the Angels who destroyed the city, but the sages still said the dark denizens of the forest were responsible. Now that I was here, I could find out for myself.
Two towers flanked the vaulted keep. Arched black spires reached into the skies, their tops lost in the gray clouds, and the entire southern wall was covered in intricate designs. A great circular window was placed at the top of the keep, giving it the appearance of an eye watching over the city. A statue of Giles the Philosopher, the first of the sages, stood at the top, his granite face turned south toward the forest.
I passed a pair of armored guards through the double doors of the sagekeep, entering the high-ceilinged entrance chamber. It opened into a hall that stretched as far as I could see, and voices and footsteps echoed off of its ceiling like the inside of an underground cavern. This was my mother’s fortress, where she’d earned the warrior’s surname of Staalvoss, or “steel fox.”
Also check out the second and third books of the series: My Very Own Witch Hunter and Girl of Fire and Lightning. The latest versions of all three books are available on Amazon, and soon will be available on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Apple as well. Book 1 is free on all sites, and Books 2 and 3 are $2.99. Book 4 (Steel Fox) will be released this summer.
I’m excited to be a part of the book tour for L. Blankenship’s Disciple Part IV!
Kate can’t avoid the simple truth any longer; as much as she loves Kiefan, he’s now the king and his duties leave him precious little time for her and their newborn son. Kate’s husband Anders, the ne’er-do-well knight, is the one who kisses her cheek every morning and soothes the baby to sleep on his shoulder.
Kiefan’s protective jealousy still casts a shadow over her life. He would gladly throw Anders to the wolves if it will keep alliance negotiations from collapsing. Their homeland desperately needs these allies against the invading Empire. The kingdom barely survived the first wave of the enemy’s monstrous army and more is to come.
But Kate can’t stand by and let Anders become a victim — or let Kiefan suspect she’s falling in love with her husband.
New to Disciple?
When she discovered she was pregnant with Prince Kiefan’s child, Kate had to marry. Her friend Anders volunteered, claiming it would be strictly a marriage of convenience. Over the last several months, Kate has come to question both his feelings and her own — and worries what protective, jealous Kiefan would do…
Rafe burbled against my shoulder. I tossed a quartered log down by the hearth and lifted my son in both hands. “Good-morn, sweetling. Your fourth Saint-day now — what shall we do this time? We’ll go to the disciple’s dance at noon. You’ll get to see everyone during the meal, I’m sure. You were everyone’s favorite last week. But what to do this morning?”
He turned his head, and it lolled to one side. Anders leaned in to kiss his chubby cheek, and Rafe’s mouth gaped open. Meaning to smile, I was sure.
“Come and watch the horses,” Anders said.
“He loves the horses.” I settled him back on my shoulder. “He always kicked when I was riding.”
“Of course he did.”
I looked up; Anders’ flaxen crest hung to one side, loose, and a smile tucked up the corner of his mouth. His hand touched my arm and he leaned closer to kiss my cheek. I turned against his scratchy stubble to kiss him back and slipped one arm around him. A squeeze, warm and close, smelling of horses.
Love him while he’s here. My throat tightened, of a sudden. Anders’ arm loosened, but I kept my grip on him. He hugged me again, easily persuaded, and nuzzled against my temple in place of a question.
So easy to kiss him, if I dared, to be the wife he should have. I wanted to, Mother have mercy. If only Kiefan had seen something in the duchesses. If only he’d sounded more glad to try —
Anders’ mouth touched mine, gently tipping my face up. My breath caught, my heart skipped a beat in fear. I pulled back, my arm around him stiffening to an arm’s length. He went still, tracking me with the calm, unruffled gaze he used on skittish fillies.
“I’ll not put you in danger,” I said. Until I knew Kiefan could be content in a marriage.
Anders’ gentleness shifted to resolve. “I’m not afraid of him.”
I heard a door open; Will was awake. “Let him find a bride,” I got out before Will shuffled into the kitchen. He tossed out muttered greetings, rubbing his eyes.
Anders shot me a measuring glance before he cuffed his brother and started up the talk of horses. It would have to do until we had another chance to talk. Rafe gurgled against my shoulder, fussed a little. “We’ll watch the horses this morning,” I told him.
New to Disciple?
Check out the first book in Kai Strand’s Super Villain Academy series: King of Bad.
Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he’s recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA. He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?
Check out Breaking the Nexus, the first in Lindsay Avalon’s dark fantasy series. Book 2 is coming soon!
A homicide detective out of his element…
Demons? Magic? Strange realms filled with mythical creatures? Connor Flynn had no doubt these things existed…in the pages of fictional books. As a homicide detective, he knew evil, witnessed it every day on the job. Even when a series of ritualistic murders begin appearing, he looks to the evidence, not the supernatural. Until the day he found a mysterious woman sitting right in the middle of his latest crime scene. While he searches for a rational explanation, all signs indicate she materialized out of thin air.
A woman in a foreign land…
Locked in battle with a fierce hellbeast one minute, then lying in a pool of blood the next, Sha Phoenix has no idea what happened. A Sorceri within the Mythrian Realm, magic is a way of life, as she manipulates the elements of fire and water. She understands banshees, blood mages, and dragons, not waking to find a sexy detective accusing her of murder. Trapped in the Human Realm, she can be sure of only one thing: the barrier that separates her world from Connor’s is weakening by the minute.
A world on the brink of destruction…
Thrown together by fate, Sha and Connor must find a way to put a stop to a killer, bent on destroying the world as they know it.
The Nexus is breaking, and all hell is about to unleash…literally.