Trust Your Instincts
Rowan Harper is nothing but a smart-mouthed bookstore clerk with a crappy love life on the night she walks into Rosie’s Bar. Most of the drama in her life is borrowed from her best friend’s adventures. But when she meets Gabriel—tall and movie star gorgeous—everything changes. Never mind that she turns down the drink he offers, or that he brims with secrets she can’t begin to guess at. He ignites a desire in her she never suspected—and shows a fascination with her she can’t explain.
He has no family, no job, no bank account; he knows where she lives and her favorite flower. An aura of mystery cloaks him, even as Rowan grasps for facts, even as she fears an answer that could destroy her happiness. Gabriel can guide her through a wonderland of new sensations. But only if Rowan trusts him enough to follow…
Winner of the OKRWA “Finally a Bride” contest.
“I don’t want you to leave,” I told him, my voice a barely audible, husky whisper.
The shadow in his eyes vanished, replaced by something else. Whether it was relief or hope, I couldn’t say.
“Are you sure?” he murmured, taking a step toward me. “I need you to be certain that this – that I – am what you want.”
I had the sense that he was asking me something that went deeper, was more meaningful, but my brain had been through enough for one night. My ability to search for hidden meanings was temporarily lost, and it was more than ready to hitch a ride to Clueless Land. I wasn’t sure about anything, but I trusted my instincts. And they told me this was right. I belonged with Gabriel.
“The only things you can be certain about are death and taxes,” I said, giving him a wry grin, “but if you’re asking me to take a chance, then yes, I will – only,” I paused, “why would you think I wouldn’t want you?” He might not be able to pick up on every emotion I was throwing his way, but surely he could still read how I felt about him?
“Because I wonder,” he said, taking my hand, “if you went back to the very beginning, would you have come searching for me again?”
The silence between us was deafening, and the feeling of déjà vu returned. Only it didn’t feel so strange this time. Whatever Gabriel was referring to was hidden somewhere inside that feeling.
“I wish I knew what you were talking about,” I told him, “because I think it’s important, but I have to tell you that right now you’re making absolutely no sense.” Clueless Land was rapidly expanding into the continent of the Completely Lost in the Dark.
“You need to know the truth about me, Rowan, what I am -”
“No, I don’t, not right now.” I held up my hand and stopped him. I was balanced on a razor-thin wire, and it took all I had not to fall off. “There’s only one issue that’s important right now, and I need you to be truthful with me.”
“Of course, ask me anything.”
“Wife, girlfriend, or significant other?”
The sudden, utter confusion on his face made me want to laugh aloud.
“I don’t understand.”
“Do you have one?”
Gabriel shook his head of glorious white hair. “No, of course not.”
He looked hurt that I was questioning his integrity. “Rowan, I’ve not wanted another woman since the first time I saw you. I never have.”
“That’s good to know,” I whispered.
He let go of my hand and clutched his forehead as though he’d just been afflicted with a brain freeze. Pursing his lips, he blew out a breath. For all intents and purposes, he looked like a man who desperately wanted to speak but was afraid his words would be the wrong ones.
Welcome to the club.
I didn’t want to waste any more time in pointless conversation. It would be an exercise in futility that accomplished nothing. What was about to happen between us right here, right now, was not going to be achieved with words. Unless they were all single syllables used for instructional purposes along with some heavy-duty physical contact. My hands literally itched to get beneath his wet clothing and touch his body.
Something in my life, my luckless romantic aspirations, my failure to successfully seduce a man, had all been pushing me toward this moment. Gabriel was to be my first, perhaps my only lover. I don’t know how I knew this or what turn of fate’s cosmic wheel made it so, but it was true. I had known it eighty-seven nights ago on my front porch, and the conviction was even stronger now. I made it to the staircase before Gabriel’s voice stopped me.
“Give yourself to me, Rowan, and you will take no other.”
I don’t know if other girls have experienced such a declaration, but it didn’t surprise me coming from him. I was almost expecting it, even if I wasn’t completely sure I understood all the implications. Gabriel was telling me exactly what was going to happen. What his intentions were, just in case I hadn’t been paying attention.
I heard myself reply, saying the words that would change my life forever. I just had no idea to what extent.
“Then make me want no other.”
About the Author:
Carla Susan Smith owes her love of literature to her mother, who, after catching her pre-teen daughter reading by flashlight beneath the bed covers, calmly replaced the romance book she had “borrowed” with one that was far less risqué, and much more appropriate! Though she was encouraged to include different genres in her reading tastes, romance – paranormal romance in particular – has always been her first love.
Born and raised in England, she now calls South Carolina home, where she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, awesome son, and a canine critique group (if tails aren’t wagging then the story isn’t working!) When not writing, she can usually be found in the kitchen trying out any recipe that calls for rhubarb, working on her latest tapestry project or playing catch-up with her reading list.
The Vixen Torn
The Vixen Series
J.E. & M. Keep
Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Publisher: Pathforgers Publishing
Date of Publication: November 2, 2013
Number of pages: 166
Word Count: 39000
Cover Artist: M. Keep
Long retired from her life as an assassin, Anjasa amuses herself with seducing handsome, rich men in bars and living life one night at a time.
She’s a rare woman, an elf among humans, a beauty among commoners, and she has no trouble getting the attention of those around her, but it’s only a matter of time before she attracts the wrong kind of men. When she agrees to seduce one noble’s cousin to steal his family fortune, she finds herself witness to mob violence and worse.
Yet she likes her men rough, doesn’t she?
But quickly it gets out of hand, even for her. When he forces her to fulfil his sick needs, and then blackmails her to kill his cousin, she realizes her life hangs in the balance between the affairs of murderous men.
When she reaches her breaking point, Anjasa turns to someone even worse, someone more dangerous than she could imagine, in order to make it through the night. Someone strong, mysterious and deliciously inhuman.
Previously published as: Torn & Seduced
The Vixen Arises
The Vixen Series
J.E. & M. Keep
Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Publisher: Pathforgers Publishing
Date of Publication: May 14, 2014
Number of pages: 135
Word Count: 42000
A cryptic warning from a beautiful man, a desperate need for her blood from her vampire lover, and Anjasa is forced out of her apathy.
For too long, she’d been hedonistic without purpose, and now the elven bombshell is getting her life back together. It’s just too bad that the entire city is working to stop her.
When a gorgeous man warns her about what was to come, she shrugs it off. That is, until Jaral, her lover, warns her about their enemies, and she is forced to take the lead in protecting her new life or risk losing it all. Everything comes to a head as she seeks to balance opposing forces in a game of strategy she’s only just beginning to play.
The Vixen Arises follows The Vixen Torn and the erotic action/adventure fantasy tales of Anjasa.
About the Authors:
J.E. & M. Keep love to combine fantasy, scifi, horror, romance and mystery into exciting and titillating novels.
They are long term, loving partners in a very happy relationship and because of this, they love to torture their characters. Dark romance touches all of their stories in one way or another, from elicit trysts to forbidden love.
Some of their work contains dubious consent and erotic pain, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Their stories are often called twisted and arousing — at the same time.
All work is 18+, trigger warnings available on the second page of every book. If you want to hear about new releases, sign up for the newsletter!
Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting…
After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.
However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…
I can’t be with you anymore. That’s what she’d said. Six words that had become sixty then six hundred then six thousand . . . sixty thousand . . . six million . . . reverberating in his head, bouncing around inside his brain, driving him absolutely mad. There were no other words. No other memories. Only that last one of her. Standing at the edge of the oozy stew of the destroyed keep’s moat, flanked by two Angels, one preternaturally beautiful, the other full of purpose. The same purpose he’d had until those six words stripped him of it.
Flying out, he’d barely cleared the wreckage of the keep. His heart beat against the walls of his massive chest, and his monstrous wings beat against the infinite, empty sky, but the beats were slow and grew slower still. Slower. Until finally . . .
He made it across the river and then dropped like a ten-ton stone, crashing into the brush, breaking tree limbs and a wing. He lay there amongst the blackening scrub refusing to shift back into human form.
Man’s thoughts were unwelcome.
In time, the rogares came. Water wraiths. He killed them all. And then sickened by the smell of blood and meat he couldn’t—wouldn’t—consume, he left his nesting place. By then, the wing had healed, but unnaturally, so that flying straight was impossible. For days, he traveled in circles, never getting far. It wasn’t just the wing. The yearning to return to her was nearly unbearable. The emptiness inside of him an abyss.
Was she still in the Shallows? If he could just . . .
But then he remembered the Angels. And the look on her face when she’d said the six words. And the feelings in her signature. She’d need more than mere weeks for them to abate. She might need months. Hopefully, not years. Years meant nothing to him, but they did to her. And then the reminder that her time was more precious than his drove his yearning to a new level of ferocity. Ruthlessly, he tamped it down. He realized then that it might be best to return to man’s thoughts. After all, she was a woman.
And he wanted her back.
“Glashia calls Noon the ballista.” Waldron Seknecus’ low voice rumbled through the Gridiron, a deep, cavernous underground space used by the upper years at St. Lucifer’s for sparring. “Because of how she fights now. Watch.”
He was speaking to three other spectators: my father, Karanos Onyx, executive of the Demon Council and the man who would ultimately employ all of the magic users who trained here at St. Luck’s; Friedrich Vanderlin, an Archangel who was the dean of Guardians over at the Joshua School, the Angel academy we shared a campus with; and a woman who looked unsettlingly familiar to me, though I couldn’t remember when we’d met or who she was. I cleared my mind and concentrated on my opponent, Ludovicus Mischmetal, who preferred the moniker “Vicious” for short. He was a second year Maegester-in-Training at Euryale University. We were competing against one another in the New Babylon MIT rank matches, which St. Luck’s was hosting this year.
All second-year MITs were required to compete. The top-ranked MITs from each school would then be eligible to compete in the Laurel Crown Race. The object of the race was to bring back an assigned target. Targets were either rogare demons or priceless artifacts that needed to be recovered. Participation in the Laurel Crown Race was voluntary, but the MIT who returned to New Babylon with his (or in my case, her) target before any of the others, won the coveted Laurel Crown. Winning the Laurel Crown often set a future Maegester up for life because winners could choose where they wanted to spend their fourth-semester residency. And ofttimes, those residencies turned into permanent positions. Everyone else would receive offers, but it would be the Council that decided which of those residency positions they accepted.
Last semester, we’d been given our first field assignment. It was an assignment that had been full of rogare demon attacks and other lethal situations. That assignment had lasted a mere three months and I’d barely survived it. My residency would last for twice as long, so I was well aware of how important the residency venue would be. Winning the right to choose where I spent next semester, not to mention who I would be working for, would go far in preserving not just my happiness, but also my life. The Maegester who was judging the match, a middle-aged man with thinning, ginger-colored hair and a near permanent frown, called out for us to begin.
I’d watched Vicious spar with other MITs. He was smart. His infliction of pain would be very calculated, very precise. There was nothing personal about his desire to beat me. He just wanted to win the match so that he could retain his current Primoris ranking at Euryale and compete for the Laurel Crown. Of course, I was similarly motivated.
Vicious gave me a curt bow, his long, black, razor-cut bangs briefly falling forward before he shook them back and used his waning magic to fire up a weapon, a flaming broadsword. It hissed and spit with fury in the damp air of the Gridiron as Vicious raised it toward me in an opening invitation to spar.
As a sparring partner, Vicious looked fairly intimidating. His front teeth were shiny, silver, and sharply pointed (likely, his real ones had been knocked out in fights) and he was much larger than me. He wore the usual black leather training pants and vest, but he’d elected to go shirtless underneath the vest. I guessed it was an intentional show of muscle, literally. He flexed his forearms and grinned at me, his message clear: I might be a woman playing a man’s game, but he wasn’t going to spare me any blows.
That suited me fine. Sparing me blows wouldn’t win me the match.
Jill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Tour giveaway details
$50 Amazon eGift Certificate (or bookseller of winner’s choice) (international)
5 copies of White Heart of Justice (or an earlier book in the series, winner’s choice) (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address)
Dark Light of Day themed SWAG pack (incudes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies) (US only)
Fiery Edge of Steel themed SWAG pack (incudes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies) (US only)
White Heart of Justice themed SWAG pack (incudes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies) (US only)
BONUS: FUN PROMO TWEETS AND TWITTER CONTEST! 😀
Anyone who tweets one of these will be entered to win ANY fantasy book of their choice from Book Depository (so long as Book Depository ships to your address) (up to $10.00). Contest ends on June 3, 2014. Feel free to share the list with your followers!
Finally! I’m looking forward to seeing Noon embrace her fiery magic. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
Ari Carmine is smokin’ hot. I wanna see if Noon can forgive him for that nasty surprise at the end of B2. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
I heard a rumor that Rafe Sinclair makes a wish and I wanna know if it’s granted. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
Nocturo. Tall dark handsome. Heard his scalpel’s put to good use. Is he gonna threaten Brunus w it again? @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
I love the characters, but I’m really just in it for the monsters and magic. Bring on the ice demons! @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
Armageddon is over. The demons won. But it’s not as dark as all that. Parts of it are romantic and sweet. @archer_jill #WHITEHEARTOFJUSTICE
An impossible love as divided as the world around them.
After Addison finds a nearly-dusted vampire in the garbage outside her building, her ability to stay off the supernatural world’s radar is deader than the vamp. Almost as dead as she’ll be if anyone thinks she put him there. Should she finish the job somebody else screwed up or move him somewhere humans won’t find him? To keep the Heights hidden, she may have shoved a stake into her own chest. Just when she thinks her life couldn’t possibly get any more dangerous, she finds out who he is.
As vampire king and Prime to all supernatural beings in the North American zone, Rhyse is accustomed to getting what he wants without asking. But he neither wanted nor asked to be wounded in an ambush, waking up chained to a bed with a hole in his chest. Unfortunately, he needs help to discover who tried to kill him. But worse than that, his only ally is his captor, someone unaware she has the power to destroy their entire world.
As a prophesized war brews in the Heights, Addison and Rhyse must decide which carries more risk—trusting someone who could destroy you or trusting someone who could love you?
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Addison backed up until she hit the counter. It was over. It had been over ever since those chains came off. Ever since she brought him into her apartment. Into her life.
“I saved you. I could’ve left you outside until the sun came up.”
“I imagine you wish you had.”
“Can you…can you not kill me? Just take some, but not all?”
Rhyse brushed her hair behind her shoulder and curled his fingers around the nape of her neck, whispering, “Do you trust me that much?”
“I don’t even trust you a little.” She felt the sting of tears. “I don’t want to be turned. If you drain me, let me die.”
He ran his other hand up her shoulder, to her throat and slowly closed his fingers around it. One move and her neck would break. “To drain you I would have to drink from you. And that, my pet, I will not do.”
She didn’t know what he meant but now seemed like a bad time to argue.
“Did you know what you are? How many of you exist?”
She didn’t answer. Partially because speaking required the air he was cutting off. Then his hands were gone, just like the rest of him.
Was it over?
When one of the women behind the counter moaned, Addison went to make sure they were alright.
Rhyse was on top of one of them, his fangs obviously burrowed in her neck. The woman moaned again, her legs wrapping around him. One hand clutched his shoulder and the other slapped the wall, searching for a hold.
It had to have been shock that made it impossible to look away. Or run away. The woman’s moans got louder, then crested, and her body went limp. Not in a dead way, but in an I-just-had-the-best-orgasm-of-my-life way.
Get out of here.
“Leave and they will die.” His voice stopped her after only two steps. “Stay and they will wake up from a very pleasant, very erotic dream.”
She grinded her teeth when she heard another moan. He must have moved on to the other woman. With two to feed from, there was less of a chance he would drain them, but… “Why should I trust you?”
The woman’s moans stopped and she whined, “No.”
“I do not care if you trust me,” he said. “Only that you obey me.”
“Fuck you.” But she didn’t move. “Are they alive?”
“Of course. It is against the law to kill humans.”
“Then let me go.”
“You are not human, Addison.” His voice came from just over her shoulder.
“I am. I promise. Totally human.” Somehow he’d missed the fact that seers were human, despite her telling him at least five times.
She heard the shuffling of fabric and looked down to see him wrapping his already-bloody shirt around the arm she’d cut. He tied a knot with the sleeves and pulled it tight. There was no part of this that she understood.
She sucked in a breath when he put his hands on her hipbones. Then another as they slid to her belly and down, pressing her back into him. She felt his heat and a vibration on her back as he made a sound similar to a cat’s purr but scarier. Clenching her eyes shut, she waited for death.
“You should thank them.” His voice was all sex. Dangerous, risky, awesome sex. “They just saved your life.”
They did? “Thank you,” she called out with a shaking voice. “Now that your belly’s full, how about you back off a little?”
“I should kill you, Addison.”
“I’m going to have to disagree with you about that.”
After a moment he stepped away, sighing as if he just made a really tough decision and wasn’t sure it was the right one.
“So,” she said, heading for the door, “it seems like you’re feeling better which is great. I’m really happy for you. Since you don’t need me anymore, I’m gonna go now. I’ll see you around.”
“Come to me, Addison.” His eyes were back to their original inhumanly beautiful color. Though he didn’t quite look calm, he looked satisfied.
“Come to me or I will snap your neck.”
“If you had simply brought a human to me, this all could have been avoided.”
“I was just thinking the same thing.” Total lie—she wasn’t thinking a goddamn thing besides, “Shiiiiit!”
“You and I have things to discuss, and a few memories to alter along the way back to your home.”
Damn it on many counts. “Alter or wipe?”
“Alter, of course. Although my strength has returned, wiping that many minds would still be highly taxing. I prefer to save my power for other activities.”
Like…? Nah, she didn’t want to know.
He opened the door and gestured for her to go first. Which he’d probably never done before. Minions opened doors for him and she doubted chivalry ranked high on his list of valuable traits. But she went because when you gotta go, you gotta go.
“Did you know?” he asked.
What was it with that question? “Know what? That your victims come while you feed? Yeah, I heard it happens occasionally.”
“Always. They always come while I feed. If it were possible, I would show you.”
“I just heard more proof than I wanted to, thanks.”
“I have no doubt that it would be far more enjoyable to feel you come than to hear her do it.”
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About the Author:
Lauren Stewart lives in Northern California with two of the most amazing children that the world has ever seen. She reads almost every genre so, naturally, her writing reflects that. With every book, every story, you’ll find elements of other genres–fantasy, mystery, romance, paranormal, suspense, YA, women’s literature, all with a touch of humor because what doesn’t kill us should make us laugh.
Ever since Mackenzie Duncan watched her skin knit together after being ripped apart by a blood thirsty Werewolf, her life has been anything but normal. After being part of a pack with more secrets than the FBI, Mackenzie left and tried not to look back.
Her old pack leader Margaret, a Royal wolf hungry to regain the throne and rule over all the world’s Werewolves, made that impossible. Figuring out who to trust was full of heart break, but moving forward left her with a clear path ahead.
After Mackenzie found out that she, too, is part of the Royal blood line and that she had inadvertently endangered every pack she came into contact with, she feels that it is her duty to help stop Margaret at all costs before any more blood was shed or another life was lost.
Despite traveling the world with Liam, the man she loves, her life is in danger at every turn in her hunt for other Werewolves willing to stand against Margaret. Who better to fight then the blood line that shunned the role of power centuries ago?
Bloody battles surround her at every turn and when Mackenzie thinks all is lost, she has to find a way to embrace her past and accept her future.
About the Author:
Growing up, Adrianne couldn’t get her hands on enough books to satisfy her need for the make believe. If she finished a novel and didn’t have a new one ready and waiting for her, she began to create her own tales of magic and wonder. Now, as an adult, books still make up majority of her free time, and now her tales get written down to be shared with the world.
During the day, Adrianne uses her camera to capture life’s stories for clients of all ages and at night, after her two children are tucked in bed; she devotes herself to her written work. Adrianne is living the life she always wanted, surrounded by art and beauty, the written word and a loving family.
As a young adult and new adult author, Adrianne James has plans to bring stories of growing characters, a little romance, and perhaps a little magic and mythology down the line for her readers to enjoy.
Queen Of The Unknown
The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.
Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.
In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.
For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .
Upcoming books in the trilogy are The Tears of the Rose and The Talon of the Hawk.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in the Facets of Passion series, has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.
She is currently working on Master of the Opera and The Twelve Kingdoms, a fantasy trilogy.
Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.
Date of Publication: May 1, 2014
Word Count: 17,000
Giselle Swenov is a radiant opera star whose beauty is second only to her voice. That is, until a jealous enchantress strips away her talent and looks, transforms her into a mute and haggard old woman, and forces her to leave the man of her dreams at the altar on their wedding day. Now there’s only one person able to reverse the spell: Giselle’s warlock ex-fiancé, Lucian Ivanu.
But three years have passed, and the ever-dashing Lucian seems to have moved on―he’s inherited a vast fortune, forsaken his scandalous powers, and is even set to marry again. Will he recognize his former flame when she shows up at his engagement party and begs for help? Can she recover the powerful magic ring needed to break the curse before it’s too late? Giselle’s plight has a darker twist as she discovers just how far the enchantress’s grasp reaches…
Giselle Swenov adjusted her bridal veil with a smile. At the thought of marrying the most wonderful man in the world, her heart beat melodiously—and as Bucharest’s leading operatic protégé, she nearly belted out a glass-shattering note, too.
Restraining herself, she cracked open the dressing room door and stare into the chapel. She knew her family members wouldn’t be in attendance, but she scoured the pews for them anyway. From day one, her mother and father had disapproved of her groom. What was they’d said? “Are you mad, Giselle? Lucian Ivanu is socially inferior—and his connection to the Dark Arts means he isn’t right for you.”
Giselle’s pulse leapt as she glimpsed Lucian at the altar. Ironically, he looked nothing like a warlock. With flowing white-blond hair, gray eyes that reminded her of storm clouds over the Black Sea, and a knee-buckling grin, he resembled a prince ready to sweep her off her feet.
Although Giselle wanted to stare at him all day, she shut the door before he saw her in her bridal gown. She refused to let bad luck seep into their wedding ceremony.
“You look beautiful, my dear,” Ileana Zǎpǎda, Bucharest National Opera’s premier patron, called out behind her.
“Thank you Doamna Zǎpǎda,” she replied anxiously. At least Ileana was here to help, unlike her mother.
“Come,” the elegant woman urged. “Take a final look at yourself as an unmarried woman.”
Giselle swiveled around to survey her appearance in the mirror. Cascading golden-brown curls framed her carefully made-up face and a sense of optimism lit her eyes. She had become the bride she’d envisioned as a girl and she could hardly contain her excitement.
“You look a stunning.” Ileana Zǎpǎda stepped in beside her and met her gaze in the mirror. “But
you are a little pale.”
“Nerves, I suppose.” Letting out a self-conscious laugh, Giselle studied Doamna Zǎpǎda. Her refinement spoke of the lofty social standing Giselle’s family wished she would reach. She winced.
“Sit with me and have some tea,” the socialite proposed. “Tea studied my nerves before I married my second husband.”
Giselle swept her train off the floor and settled into a chair at a small table. While she laid her bridal bouquet in her lap, Ileana poured two steaming cups.
“Why are you being so nice to me, Doamna Zǎpǎda?” Giselle asked as she accepted the tea cup.
The woman sighed. “It broke my heart to learn that your parents disowned you. Word spreads quickly through the opera house—and because I’m a mother hen to all my celebrated singers, I knew you’d need some moral support on your wedding day.”
“You must be a loving mother to your own children,” Giselle said gently.
Ileana’s expression turned icy. “I never had children of my own. I have a stepdaughter, but we aren’t particularly close.”
“Well, I sincerely appreciate your help.” Giselle smiled. “Clasping the buttons on the back of my dress would have been impossible on my own.”
As she sipped her tea, her entire body warmed instantly and she began to perspire. I must be more nervous than I thought…
Ileana went on. “I greatly admire your vocal talent, Giselle. I also admire your extraordinary beauty. Unfortunately, I’m about to sabotage both of those exceptional attributes.”
Alarm pierced through Giselle. She tried to protest but before she could speak a word, her throat burned as if she’d ingested hot coals. She clawed at it while Ileana studied her the way a snake zeroes in on its prey. Giselle tried to extend her hand, but her limbs prickled with pain. In an instant, her skin shriveled dramatically and her knuckles became hideously gnarled.
“Poor, unknowing girl.” Ileana stood over her. “I’m an enchantress of the Dark Arts and I slipped
an accursed potion into the tea pot when you weren’t looking.”
Giselle opened her mouth to scream, but no sound escaped her lips. With great effort, she crawled to the mirror like an invalid and stared at her reflection. My God! I’m a mute, old woman!
Heart stuttering, she managed to pull herself to her feet. She flung open the door and entered the chapel. All heads jerked in her direction. When she locked eyes with Lucian, he stared at her in astonishment yet without an ounce of recognition.
All hope evaporated from her body as he thundered, “Is that woman wearing my bride’s dress? Somebody find Giselle!”
“The hag must be playing a cruel joke!” a guest accused.
“Escort her outside,” Lucian roared to an usher.
A burly man took Giselle by the arm and dragged her out the front door. Once he disappeared back into the church, another strong arm grabbed her unexpectedly and thrust her inside an awaiting carriage.
Giselle quaked with terror as she stared at the enormous man hovering over her.
“I work for Ileana.” He grunted. “She commands that you become her servant woman—until she grows tired of you and decides to turn you back into your normal self.”
Giselle made another futile attempt to cry out.
The henchman crossed his arms and shook his head. “You won’t be talking, singing, or screaming for a very long time, Miss Swenov. That should make for a quiet ride to Dantel House.”
Although Marina Myles lives under the sunny skies of Arizona, she would reside in a historic manor house in foggy England if she had her way. Her love of books began as soon as she read her first fairy tale, and grew by leaps and bounds when she discovered Nancy Drew/Agatha Christie mysteries and rich, historical romances.
Dreaming of becoming a published author, she wrote her first ‘gothic’ story at age eleven. She went on to study creative writing at Southern Methodist University— where she received degrees in Communications and English Literature. During her time in Dallas, she had the unique experience of being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
Now with her loyal Maltese close by, she relishes the hours she gets to escape into worlds filled with tortured heroes, strong heroines, and their fiery—but not easily attained—love affairs. She’s busy being a wife (to her Italian-born husband) and a mother (to her two beautiful daughters), but she is never too busy to hear from her amazing readers.
Represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency